September, 2006

With reports this month from Sailor's Run on a seven-year loop around the Pacific; from Mahina Tiare in the Azores; from Trvth on getting a ride through the Panama Canal; from Interlude on cruising Kiribati; from the Wanderer on cruising cuisine in the South of France; from Moonshadow on being run aground in Ecuador; from Bluefin on a sad last passage; and a generous serving of Cruise Notes.

Sailor's Run - Baba 40 Ketch
Jeff & Debbie Hartjoy
Seven Years In The Pacific
(Longbranch, WA)

We two vets of the '99 Baja Ha-Ha concluded our 7-year, 35,000-mile Pacific Loop on June 30 in San Francisco. But let's not forget that we're actually from Longbranch, Washington, which, after our time in the tropical Pacific, might even seem colder to us than San Francisco. But even though we're back, we're not done cruising. In fact, we'll be doing the Ha-Ha again starting at the end of October.

Our Pacific Loop took us to many magical places. We sailed through French Polynesia, the Line Islands, the Samoas, Fiji, New Zealand, Tonga, Kiribati, Funafuti, the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Australia, the Loyalties, and the Hawaiian Islands. Several places - such as Fiji and Samoa - we visited three times. Oh, we almost forgot, we also spent 18 months in Mexico!

Like all cruisers, we're frequently asked what our favorite spots have been. Our answer goes something like this: Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas was the most beautiful island. Mexico had the best weather - and is the place we'd eventually like to settle. Bora Bora is where we had the most fun in a beautiful anchorage. Our most exciting time with locals was at Raioria in the Tuamotus, where one night we hunted lobster and wild boar until 3 a.m. The people of Kiribati - particularly of the group formerly known as The Gilberts - were the most friendly. The geography of New Zealand reminded us most of home. The Marshall Islands had the best diving, but we think that Fiji had the most interesting culture and government. Vanuatu was the most primitive. Our most memorable experience was the two months we spent with the 40 Kiribati people who live on Canton Island. Samoa has the best-preserved Polynesian culture.

Our hardest passage was the 16 days we spent beating into the trades for 1,600 miles between the Marshall Islands and Samoa. Our luckiest passage was the 1,500-mile passage from New Caledonia to Samoa, as we had to sail hard to weather all the way. But thanks to being able to just barely make it in one tack, it only took 11 days. Our best sail was the 800 miles from Palmyra to Canton - five days under spinnaker. Our best catch was a 65-lb yellowfin tuna off Moorea.

Uvea in the Loyalties was the most beautiful atoll, and also home to the most spiritually advanced people. They have moved beyond Christianity to their old spiritual beliefs. The Catholic and Methodist churches are falling down, but the local church is well attended. We weren't really sure how to view all this.

After seven years of cruising, people wonder if we've had our fill. Actually, it's just wetted our whistle. We figure we'll do another two years in Mexico, then Central America and beyond. We have some work to do on Sailor's Run while we're in the Bay Area, but we should still be able to make the Ha-Ha this fall.

Our experience has taught us that everything we've done cruising beats life ashore. Nature is big, but she's good. Sometimes man thinks he rules, but if you go cruising for just a little while, you'll discover that's nothing but an illusion. The two of us will work with Nature to continue having fun sailing our boat wherever she takes us, and we'll try to share our happiness with all those around us.

- jeff & debbie 07/15/06

Mahina Tiare - Hallberg-Rassy 46
John & Amanda Neal
The Azores
(All Over The World)

We're now halfway to Ireland after an outrageously great three weeks in the Azores. We didn't want to leave those wonderful islands and, in fact, are already planning the places we'll anchor at and visit when we return next November.

We visited five of the seven islands, and found that each one has a totally different feel, as the architecture and agriculture are unique, and each one was settled by people from different countries. Many new retirement and summer homes have been built by Azoreans who immigrated to the U.S. - Boston and California's Central Valley in particular - but have now returned home after having successful careers.

Few cruisers stop anywhere other than Horta, which is on the island of Faial. But since there is very little tourism on the other islands - just locals who moved to the States returning for the summer holidays, and a few German hikers - the prices are surprisingly low. That, along with very outgoing and friendly populations, and wonderful island histories, make them a dream for cruisers.

We attempted - and succeeded - in completing a three-day, 75-mile circumnavigation of Pico Island. Talk about getting sore butts! That's because we did it aboard our little Dahon Helios folding bikes. Every time that Amanda stopped to take a picture of anything - a cow, a vineyard, a field of corn, salted fish drying in the sun, whatever - locals would show up and want to visit. They are so proud of their little houses, farms, and villages, and therefore they wanted to show us everything. On our last day on Pico, we found a two-story house with two additional outbuildings across the street that was for sale - for just $40,000! And it was right above a cove. We were very tempted to buy it, especially when we met a guy down the street who had just opened a boat building museum in his family's boatyard. It turned out that he'd just retired - after 38 years of working at Alden Yachts in Rhode Island!

Our last stop was at the historic city of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira. This stunning city was founded in 1474 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The new 260-slip marina was hosting 47 sailboats that were competing in a race from Lisbon to Horta, with stops in Ponta Delgada and Angra. The marina was totally packed with people! We thought that we would just scope out the marina and then anchor outside, but the harbormaster wouldn't hear of it. Insisting that they never turned boats away, he shifted a few boats around and found us a slip for the night.

The new marina there is a showcase, as the building that's home to the showers, Internet, jacuzzi and laundry looks like part of a five-star hotel! When we asked if the marina was self-supporting, the harbormaster laughed - and then told us that it would only be $16/night for our 46-footer. He explained that the marina is owned by the Camara, or town council, and that the business leaders had decided that if they built the nicest marina around, it would attract lots of sailors and other visitors. Not content with just a marina, they are nearing completion of a $6 million euro - about $8 million U.S. - boatyard for their new 50-ton Travelift. The yard will be able to handle fiberglass, diesel, electronic, and sail repairs, and will also have a restaurant.

When we told the harbormaster that we had planned to leave Mahina Tiare at Ponta Delgada for the winter of '07, he started listing all the reasons why his new facility was better - and succeeded in convincing us! We later figured out that in the 1700s and 1800s, the different villages and towns used to compete to see who could build the biggest and most ornate Catholic churches. There are countless churches on the islands - even the tiny villages have them. Now it's the marinas, not the churches, that seem to be the showcases. This is especially true because the towns can apply for matching E.C. funds for construction. Horta, for example, just expanded their marina by 120 berths, Ponta Delgada is doing a major expansion, Praia do Vittoria just opened a new marina and boatyard, and even Pico is building a new breakwater for a marina. The beneficiaries are adventuresome cruisers, bars, restaurants, and other businesses.

We've had very mellow conditions on our trip from the Azores to Ireland so far, with southwest - following winds - averaging about 10 knots. We're near the center of the high pressure now and the wind has dropped off, but hopefully we'll get the chute back up tomorrow!

- john & amanda 08/15/06

Trvth - Gulfstar 43 CC
Harmon Heed
Everybody Wants To Do The Canal
(San Francisco / Sarasota)

Last year I put 7,500 miles under the keel of my Gulfstar 43 enroute from San Francisco Bay to Sarasota Bay. Of all these miles, my friends only wanted to do the 55 needed to complete a Panama Canal Transit.

For all of you who just want to do a Canal transit, here's how: Take a flight to Tocuman Airport in Panama City, then grab a cab to the Country Inn, which is an American-style hotel on the Amador in Balboa. This is west of the Bridge of the Americas, and overlooks the Pacific entrance to the Canal. Then about sundown, walk over to the nearby Balboa YC and order a beer. Don't worry about being a member or having reciprocal privileges, as there's only one wall to the club. Finally, in a loud voice announce, "I can handle lines." That's all there is to it, as you'll get offers to crew from the folks in the club who are off the many cruising boats moored just 100 yards away and awaiting transit.

In order to do a transit, a boat must have at least four reasonably strong crew to handle the 7/8-inch lines that keep the boat away from the cement walls of the locks. Since it takes about two weeks from the time a boat arrives in Panama to get a transit date, many skippers and crews crew on boats with transit dates prior to theirs. This way they'll know what to expect when they go through on their own boats. Nonetheless, there aren't enough people to handle lines for every boat every day, so there are plenty of opportunities to crew.

At the time I was in Panama, Pacific to Atlantic transits were being done in one day. After going through the three locks on the Pacific side, across long Lake Gatun, and through the two locks on the Caribbean side, you need to have the skipper drop you off at the Panama YC. It has two walls. When you get in, order beer and again announce in a loud voice that you can handle lines. You'll almost certainly get an offer to be a line-handler going back to the Pacific side the next day. If things haven't changed, an Atlantic to Pacific transit will take two days, with an overnight on Lake Gatun. If you didn't want to do a second transit, you could simply hop on an air-conditioned bus with movies back to Panama City for just $5. Whatever you do, don't venture outside the yacht club and into the wilds of Colon - unless in a cab the club has called for you. You can also take a train back to the Pacific side. It's much more expensive than the bus, but you'll actually meet a lot more locals.

If for some reason you didn't get a line-handler position at the Balboa YC on the first day, you can walk the mile down the romantic Amador to Isla Flamenco, where on Monday night all kinds of cruisers gather for two-for-one pizza night. The pizzas are eaten outdoors with a grand view of all the ships at anchor. The yachties come from not only the Balboa YC, but also the nearby Marina Fuerte Amador and Flamenco anchorage. Among this group will surely be somebody who will want a line-handler.

One mozzarella Monday night someone asked, "Who is going to the concert?"

"What concert?" many replied.

"Santana is playing at the Figali tonight, and the tickets are just $21."

Well, the whole pizza party got up and walked the 3/4 mile up to the Figali Convention Center. It was, as Jimmy Buffet has sung, "a Latin crime of passion," as the Panamanian ladies shook and swayed to the hot, pulsating beats of Carlos Santana.

No matter if you come to Panama on your own boat or to crew for a transit, don't be in a rush, because Panama City is a romantic place. I particularly liked meandering the narrow, cobble-stone streets of the old Casco Antiguo, and seeing the historic Presidential Palace, National Theater, Panama City Cathedral, and the Panama Canal Museum. When at the Canal Museum, you'll learn that the lowest transit fee ever paid was 36 cents by Richard Haliburton, who swam the length of the Canal in 1928. The most was $226,200 by the cruise ship Princess Coral when she went through in '03.

You can also cab over to the glitzy Punta Paitilla and El Congrejo, where the glass-walled, high-rise office buildings, hotels and apartment towers shimmer in the tropical sun. It's the Rodeo Drive and St. Armand's Circle of the isthmus. Or perhaps you'd like to explore the islands in the Gulf of Panama aboard the boat you'll be line-handling for while they await their transit date. Quaint Isla Tobago is only a couple of hours away, yet its colorful little town of Las Flores is from another century. Out in the middle of the gulf are the Las Perlas Islands, where you will probably be the only sailboat in the anchorages.

Make sure you visit the APC (Autoridad del Panama de Canal) headquarters up on Ancon Hill, as it's very much like it was almost 100 years ago when the Canal first opened. We went twice, the second time on a weekend when the workers and bureaucrats were gone and the guards had time to graciously show us around. It's a monument in itself to one of the modern wonders of the world. You'll recall that over 27,500 workers died building the Canal, mostly from malaria and yellow fever.

There's been some discouraging news for cruisers coming out of Panama in recent years, as the Pedro Miguel Boat Club will probably never be rebuilt, anchoring space has been lost, and there probably will always be the mindless muck of having to navigate the many ACP agencies that don't talk to each other. But on the positive side, I was recently told that the Balboa YC will soon have more moorings than they ever had before, and that the clubhouse that burned down in the '90s may be rebuilt.

- harmon 07/15/06

Interlude - Deerfoot 74
Kurt & Katie Braun
(Alameda / New Zealand)

We've got some catching up to do. After leaving Fiji in mid-October, our next landfall was Onotoa Atoll in the Gilbert Island group of the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kiri-bahs). We were on our way north to the Marshall Islands in order to escape the southern hemisphere cyclone (hurricane) season. Most South Pacific cruisers avoid the tropical cyclones by sailing south to New Zealand for the winter, but we'd wanted an endless summer. For our trip north from Fiji, we wanted to avoid wind forward of the beam on our way through Kiribati, which meant we needed to arrive at Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, before the end of December. That was going to be convenient, because by celebrating the holidays in Majuro, we'd be around more cruisers and there would be more festivities.

After a slow, squally, seven-day passage from Fiji to Onotoa, we dropped anchor just outside a break in the reef about two miles from the main village. According to our 'cruising mission statement', we're to visit places that would be hard or impossible to get to without one's own boat - and Onotoa met the criteria. Four other yachts had run the gauntlet of coral heads and shoals to anchor inside the lagoon closer to the village, but all the skippers agreed that it would be too difficult for a boat the size of our Interlude to do the same. As such, we were glad to have our 12-ft RIB dinghy with its 18-hp outboard to make the long trip. A pod of about 50 dolphins would escort us each time we went to town. Having caught a 50-lb tuna the day before we arrived, that first night we came bearing gifts of sushi.

On our second night at Onotoa, we were invited ashore to a gathering of the entire village - about 80 people - to welcome the cruisers. Previous to the arrival of our group of five yachts, the villagers could only remember two other yachts having visited - ever! We sat down on woven pandanus mats under the thatched roof of a traditional maneaba or village meeting house, and were handed drinking coconuts and floral head leis. A master of ceremonies laid out the evening's program, which began with the village elders introducing themselves, and then the yachties doing the same.

The entertainment began with a local girl in a very elaborate costume performing three traditional dances. Then the Catholic missionary gave a blessing, and we were presented with a huge spread of traditional food - including pandanus, breadfruit, taro, shellfish and Spam. Singing and dancing followed, with natives choosing I Matang (foreign) dance partners and vice versa. Everyone ended up in a big conga line. All in all, it was a great honor and a lot of fun. It also has encouraged us to keep practicing with our guitars, as playing music is something that we can share with all the different cultures we meet.

The islanders on Onotoa are known throughout Kiribati for being hard workers. Their maneabas are built entirely of natural materials, including hand-hewn coral block columns, palm beams tied with coconut fiber lashings, and thatched pandanus roofs. They still fish and get around using outrigger sailing canoes, eliminating the need for outboard mechanics and gasoline - two things so many other island cultures have become dependent on.

After a 30-hour passage, we arrived in Abemama, where it was a typical 90+ degrees and sunny. We were invited ashore to a middle school graduation ceremony for about 50 kids, and sat on the mats reserved for honored guests and elders. We were fed a ton of food, including lobster and turtle. It was a potluck, and all the women who had children graduating brought food for the several hundred people. The following year's class provided the entertainment to send off the graduating class, so all their families were present as well.

These festivities lasted about six hours, with everyone sitting cross-legged on mats. About every 30 minutes they would fire up the generator and P.A. system and play disco music! It was like prom and graduation in one event. Every time they played music, we were all asked to dance by the graduates. Nonetheless, Kurt and Rod, our 72-year-old friend, were the big hits. Although polygamy is still practised on the island - usually a man marries sisters within the same family - Kurt was informed that under no circumstances was he going to go beyond monogamy. Interestingly, body powder and spray deodorant were applied to everyone - even us - who performed in front of the group. They supposedly give courage and ward off evil spirits!

After 17 days at Abemama, we had an easy overnight sail to Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. Unlike the outer islands, which are mostly unspoiled and charming, Tarawa is a true stinkhole. Kiribati is comprised of 33 coral atolls that are sprinkled across an area of the Pacific roughly equal to that between Los Angeles and New York City, yet it only has a population of 100,000. One third of the population lives in south Tarawa on some low islands just a few hundred feet wide and connected by causeways. The result is that these low islands - including the main island of Betio - are crowded and dirty, and lack in the basic municipal services such as water, sewers, trash pickup, and so forth.

There are only two reasons to visit Tarawa. One is to check in or out, process visas, and provision. The other is to tour the World War II sites and relics. Admiral Nimitz wanted to secure Tarawa because it was the closest Japanese occupied territory to Hawaii. In striking Tarawa, the Allies began the strategy of capturing important islands while the navy advanced towards Japan severing critical supply lines. Tarawa was the first real test of American amphibious assault tactics, and it proved to be valuable but very painful. The U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of Betio in November of 1943, and after 72 hours of fighting had won an area of land the size of New York's Central Park. A total of 1,113 U.S. Marines were killed, and another 2,290 wounded. All but 100 of the 4,600 Japanese defenders were killed.

Despite the islands of Kiribati being spread over such a large area of ocean, the officials on Tarawa claimed that a boat's first stop in Kiribati must be Tarawa. However, the High Commissioner at the Kiribati embassy in Fiji had told numerous cruisers they could stop at the outer islands - if they obtained their visas ahead of time - before checking into Tarawa. This was the information we acted on, and because we received it firsthand and from an official representative of the Kiribati government, we assumed it was correct and current. This turned out not to be the case, and when we arrived in Tarawa some yachties had gotten into trouble for stopping at other Kiribati islands first. We didn't have any problem with the officials because we didn't volunteer the information that we'd done the same. And because we'd obtained three-month visas in advance at Fiji, the local police on the outer islands also assumed that it was fine for us to be there.

Even if you are officially checked into Kiribati, it's important to check in with the local police on every island you visit and show them your visa. We found that inviting officials aboard our tidy boat for an hour and offering them soda and snacks, and giving them an idea of our character, was valuable. Hospitality is very important in the Kiribati culture. And the police are very serious about monitoring visitor activity in the villages, as they have a very peaceful tribal lifestyle where the children are very open with other villagers and even strangers. An atoll might also have a Quarantine Officer, who might ask to visit your yacht to see if you have any plants or animals aboard.

Our unofficial check-ins before Tarawa were similar to stopping in the Marquesas or Tuamotus and going to see the local gendarme before arriving at Papeete, which is the only real port of entry in French Polynesia. On arrival in Tarawa, we received a one-month visitor's permit free for the first month, with one-month extensions available for $60/person - although not available in advance. This charge is in addition to the $60 three-month visa or $80 one-year multiple entry visa that starts ticking when it's issued at the embassy in Fiji. The one-year multiple entry visa may come in handy on our trip south back through Kiribati.

On checking out of Tarawa, you can get permission to stop briefly - three days - at one atoll of your choice. Butaritari was the most popular. This request must be made in writing and takes a few days to process. We submitted ours on check-in, and our permission slip was ready for us when we checked out after our visit to Abaiang. The police on Butaritari permitted us to stay well over the three days allowed, and some yachts were there up to two weeks.

It may seem like yachties were doing a lot of rule-bending in Kiribati in '05, but we were just following the rules given to us by those who appeared to be in charge at the time. Our personal beliefs were also considered when deciding whether the national government in Tarawa, or the local government represented by the police, knew best regarding the interactions between yachties and villagers on the outer atolls. We are not advocating disregard for the laws of Kiribati, but we think the locals rather than the bureaucrats and politicians in Tarawa, should be allowed to interpret and enforce the laws. You will have to follow your own cues as to what the appropriate path through Kiribati would be.

Anyway, after our quick tour of Betio, we spent one night at Bikeman Island, a sand spit in the middle of the lagoon that has beautiful pink sand and great shelling. It was a nice reprise from the filth of Betio.

The following day we had a nice beam reach in 12 knots of breeze for the 20-mile sail to Abaiang. That evening we had another round of sushi, as our friends had caught two wahoo along the way. The next night we had 20 to 30-knot winds, so we stayed anchored in front of the main village for Thanksgiving. We invited our Canadian friends to join us, and although we missed our turkey, we were able to have fresh pie made from locally grown pumpkin - one of the few vegetables that will grow in the poor soil on these atolls. Unfortunately, a lack of fresh vegetables and an overabundance of processed carbohydrates are resulting in vitamin deficiencies, obesity and diabetes. The government is currently trying to educate the people on the dangers of adult onset diabetes. It's proving to be quite difficult, as the Kiribati culture is very food centric. Every time we visited a new atoll, we were greeted with an offer to sit and drink coconut juice, and were often invited to a local feast!

For those who may follow in our wake, fresh food was virtually nonexistent in the outer atolls, the exceptions being coconut, breadfruit and sometimes banana, papaya and pumpkin. Tarawa did have a monthly cargo delivery arrive while we were there, with prices about 30% higher than in the States. We justified our purchases by reminding ourselves that we are saving money by cooking on board due to the lack of restaurants. As always, if you see something you want, buy as much of it as you can store. Katie is known for buying 30 of whatever she sees that we like to eat - such as black olives, dill pickles, Pringles, and so forth. It's like Harrison Ford said to Anne Heche in Six Days, Seven Nights: "It's an island, babe. If you don't bring it here, you won't find it here."

On the other hand, the fishing was extraordinary. Everyone we talked to caught tuna and wahoo, with an occasional - and not really wanted - marlin. But be sure to have plenty of lures with steel leaders and a 300-lb hand-line - or a really good pole and reel rig. If you enjoy sushi and sashimi as much as we do, stock up on wasabi, pickled ginger, nori and Japanese rice. Have several good filet knives, as one tends to permanently live in the cockpit for initial cleaning, and another in the galley for final prep. They also make great gifts.

We do not catch reef fish, but other cruisers had good luck spearfishing and dinghy trolling in the atolls. We limit our fishing to open water pelagic species to minimize our impact on the local food supply and possible exposure to ciguatera.

- kurt & katie 04/15/06

Cruising Cuisine In France

One of the most lovely places to cruise in the Med is the Esterel, which is the relatively sparsely populated 24 miles of the Côte d'Azur between St. Raphaël in the west and La Napoule in the east. What makes the area unusual are the distinctive red cliffs, and what makes it nice are the many coves and the general lack of crowds. The coves are sprinkled with boats, including the occasional megayacht that has come from the more chic and hectic parts of the Côte d'Azur such as St. Tropez and Cannes. The red rocks lining the shore of the Esterel are also sprinkled, but with the bodies of sunbathers who drove the windy coastal road to get there.

After being anchored in an Esterel cove for a day or two, the serenity of the Med might inspire you to climb the cliffs to one of the Le Snack shops along the coastal highway. We were thinking of home when we called at one such establishment, so we ordered Le Hot Dog - although the Académie Française would probably prefer that we call it a chaud chien or something more French.

Call it what you may, the French recipe for this American classic is just a little different. Their secret appears to be to start with a stale bun. Why a stale bun in a country known for its excellent fresh breads and other baked goods is a mystery to us, but further research seemed to confirm that a stale bun is an integral quality of Le Hot Dog.

The other thing about the buns is that they are solid rather than sliced open. Since it's impossible to slip the weiner into the bun, the chef impales the stale bun on a - no fooling - dildoe-shaped stainless steel kitchen appliance the diameter of a German brockwurst in order to create room in the bun for the dog. We didn't find this quasi sexual act to be very appetizing. Once the hole has been made in the bun, a little watery catsup and runny mayonnaise are squirted in. Then the piece de resistance, a weiner ordinaire the diameter of a Slim Jim, is slipped into the opening, and sort of rattles around in the oversized hole. If you're thinking that this doesn't sound too good, it tastes even worse.

In a country where the love of food is at least as great as the love of sex, and where every village has a charcuterie, what could be the problem? We think it's merely indifference on the part of the French to the product they are serving. For when we inquired about some tomato, onions, a variety of relishes, and sauerkraut, we didn't get a very satisfactory reply.

"Pfffft! Alain Ducasse's Louis XV Restaurant is located inside the Hotel de Paris in Monaco," replied the chef.

We had a somewhat better experience at La Rochelle, which is on the Atlantic coast, and whose 3,500-boat Les Liminimes Marina is the largest pleasure boat harbor in all of Europe. Since it's such a boating center, it's no surprise that it's also a hub of boatbuilding and boat repair. In fact, we saw the maxi Kialoa V, which used to be based out of Los Angeles and belonged to Jim Kilroy, up on the hard. Sporting a roller furling headsail and a big three-bladed prop, she was in full cruising mode. Alas, she was in very poor cosmetic shape, unlike Kialoa III, which will be doing the Ha-Ha this fall.

La Rochelle is historic and picturesque. Thanks to trade in wine and salt, it was France's largest port in the 15th century. Things took a turn for the worse when the local Huguenots embraced Protestantism, causing Cardinal Richelieu to blockade the city for 14 months. La Rochelle had its heyday during the 'triangular trade' - slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, Caribbean sugar to Canada, and Canadian furs to France. La Rochelle was also the last French city under German control during World War II, and the submarine pens are still used as sets for many movies.

Now known for boating and tourism, La Rochelle's most prominent features are the two ancient towers which guard the entrance to the old harbor and are beautifully illuminated in the evening. This stretch of the Atlantic Coast has extreme tides, so while two of the four marina docks go way up and down with the tides, two of them are behind locks and therefore don't rise and fall much. Imagine only being able to leave and return to your marina within about 90 minutes of mid-tide.

From St. Martin to Martinique, Tahiti to La Rochelle, there are few things the French enjoy as much as dining next to a marina full of boats. It's catnip to them! In La Rochelle, like many other places, many of these restaurants butt up to each other, and there's a promenade so everyone can people watch. It's all very festive, everybody dresses up, and the wine and champagne flow as though there will be no tomorrow.

Like the French, we love raw seafood. So we ordered one of the larger combination platters of the uncooked stuff - and were most impressed. There were clams, mussels, scallops, sea snails, a bit of lobster, tiny prawns, and a bunch of other slimy stuff we can't recall. It's such a lot of work to get all your food out of the little shells that we've often thought cute French dental hygienists, with their tools, ought to be made available to assist the diner. Otherwise, we had no complaints.

Doña de Mallorca's white fish, on the other hand, was so overcooked that it nearly could have passed for fish jerky. This was surprising, as we were dining at the biggest fish restaurant in a city full of fish restaurants. But she wasn't the only one to get overcooked fish. The Finns at the table next to us had a similar problem.

Our other complaint with French food is French fries - although they refer to them as pommes frites. At even relatively nice and expensive restaurants, the entrées are almost always accompanied by a heaping portion of this unpleasant staple. Yeech.

If you plan on cruising France, we have two dining tips. The first is to order raw, for no matter if it's beef or seafood, it's hard to ruin the stuff. The second is to eat aboard your boat, as it's much less expensive and you can often get a better meal.

Bon appetit!

- latitude 38

Moonshadow - 50-ft Sloop
Howard Hudson
Pilot Negligence, Bahia de Caraquez

Ater a 15-hour motorsail, we arrived at the 'Waiting Room' at Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador, on July 4, and waited for the mandatory pilot to take us across the bar and into the Rio Chone anchorage. Wanting to be safe, we got confirmation that our boat's draft of 6'6" wouldn't be a problem. In fact, Vision, a boat that draws 7'6", had entered the day before at the same stage of the tide and hadn't hit bottom.

The moment our pilot, Mariano, stepped aboard, he had us weigh anchor and take off at five knots. It seemed excessively fast to us, but he told us to remain "tranquilo." We touched a bit, but assumed that was to be expected. But then there was a tremendous jolt followed by near constant hitting of the bottom. It caused our mast to rock around, things to fall all over the cabin, and frightened our kids. Not knowing where the channel was, we had no choice but to trust the pilot. He didn't seem concerned, and kept insisting that we be tranquilo.

After managing to get our boat back up to six knots, Mariano slammed her into hard packed sand, causing the mast to pitch forward and aft so much that the deck-level mast wedges fell out! So I ran below to alert the anchored cruising fleet that we were having difficulty. Right after telling the fleet that we didn't need any immediate help, the pilot slammed our boat onto the bottom even harder. Then he put the boat in reverse, and slammed our bottom, stern first, once again! By this time we were heeled so far over that our rail was nearly under.

We got a line to the panga driver who had brought the pilot to our boat, but he obviously didn't have any idea how to help us get off and couldn't even secure the line. Then a fisheries boat offered to tie a line to our stern. We didn't want that, fearing for our rudder and self steering. Besides, that operator didn't know how to secure a line either. By this time other cruisers showed up in their dinghies, as did Frank 'Tripp' Martin from Puerto Amistad Marina, acting as a liaison with the port captain. Tripp came aboard for our final turn into the channel. We still hit bottom, but not as hard as before.

As best we can tell, Mariano missed the crucial turn on the approach to the channel, and continued off course for much of the bar crossing. His excessive speed and lack of regard for our well-founded concerns really disturbed us. Nonetheless, we paid him $30, and he and Trip went ashore.

At high tide on the 7th, I was able to dive and inspect the keel. Our boat's rudder had been crushed and splayed open beyond the lower rudder bearing. We're gong to have to haul the boat and get that repaired as soon as possible. We also need a rigger to check for damage to our mast. The boatyard in Salinas has given us an initial estimate of $3,000 to have our boat hauled and repairs made to the rudder. We're seeking financial compensation from the pilot, the company that employs the pilot, and the Ecuadoran Navy. We'll report on what happens as soon as it happens. In any event, cruisers need to be very careful when allowing mandatory pilots to bring their boats across the bar here.

- howard 07/08/06

Bluefin - Swan 46
David McGuire
Oahu to Sausalito

We were sailing to the Marquesas in '01 when I last wrote to Latitude. At the time, we were at the beginning of an extended voyage through the islands of the Pacific, and happened to be carrying a spinnaker on a light air tight reach. Everything is different now. We're sailing close-hauled with a full main and 130% genoa, and are 800 miles from Oahu on our way back to the mainland. Given the conditions, we're fortunate to be aboard this Frers-designed 46-footer, as she's such a fine sailing boat. Bluey just loves to sail upwind in the light to moderate trades we're having, and is eating up the miles.

After the usual pandemonium of provisioning, packing and repairing, we started our trip home by sailing along the leeward side of Oahu, then anchoring off the Makua coast in the lee of Kaena Point. It's one of the seldom-used anchorages in Hawaii that's just fine given the proper weather conditions. It was there that we settled in for our last night, enjoying a good meal and a full night's sleep. The next morning, Rich, John, Alex and I jumped in the warm water for a last swim. As we wiped the bottom, sea turtles took a curious interest in our antics. After lashing and securing everything, we departed in the typically turbulent island conditions.

By the end of our first day at sea, the entire crew had been reduced to glassy-eyed zombies. Before long, however, the tranquility of what had temporarily turned into a singlehanded sail was broken by the heckles and jokes of a crew that had become acclimatized to the sea.

Having gotten atypical weather - light southeasterlies and easterlies instead of northwesterlies - we committed to sailing below the high early on. So far it's paid off with good boat speed. Skirting the 1022 isobar, the course would have us making landfall just south of San Francisco. Helped by Hurricane Daniel to the south, the high has been nicely squeezed north, and the south swell gives us a gentle push upwind in the 10-15 knot breezes. Two days' time will tell if the gods are really smiling on us, and we can tack over and reach up to the Golden Gate in one long board.

Since I hate to motor, we are concentrating on our sailing, working the vectors and generating as much apparent wind as possible. At one point our boatspeed dropped to 3.5 knots, so Alex, our youngest crewmember, performed the wind dance for us. We're now sailing famously at seven knots. Well versed in the classics as well as the performing arts, Alex also did a fish dance - which produced a beautiful mahi mahi for supper. It was quickly transformed into a work of culinary art. As the rest of the crew was sitting around talking last night, it was decided that Alex ought to add a mermaid dance to his repertoire!

This passage will conclude a journey that took Bluey and us to hundreds of islands between the Marquesas and New Zealand. We spent much of the trip in the remote atolls, where we filmed a coral reef and shark conservation documentary titled Sharks: Stewards of the Reef. It's to be aired this fall. While we returned to California to assemble the documentary over the last year, Bluey was kept at a berth at Ko Olina Marina - arguably Hawaii's finest - being refit and getting cosmetic work in preparation for her being put up for sale.

It's with mixed feelings that I make this last voyage aboard Bluey, both because it is my last in over 20,000 miles of ocean voyaging on this boat, and because the owner, my good friend Chris Johnson, can't be aboard for the last passage. As I continue east, the dances and surf of the Marquesas, the deep reefs of Niue, the savu savu ceremony of Fiji, and many other fond memories resonate in our minds. I hope to share some of these experiences with Latitude readers in upcoming articles, and also share with you our upcoming voyages aboard the gaff-rigged staysail schooner Kaiulani. Until then, it's four on, four off, and water on the decks.

- david 7/28/06

Cruise Notes:

It's been confirmed that you can now get a Mexican Temporary Import Permit for your boat over the Internet - and quickly, too. "One of our marina guests tried it, and it was fast and easy," reports Antonio Cevallos of Marina Mazatlan. "Within four days of applying, the original document arrived at the boatowner's home in Denver, Colorado! The site to go to is: The only problem is that there is no 'other' in the list of makes and models of boats. So if someone has a boat that is not in the list, I suggest picking the closest generic description offered. Our tenant has a Tiara fishing boat, so he chose 'sports fisher'. The most important thing is that the serial number be correct. The folks at Customs and the Banjercito are telling folks to write the correct boat brand and model name on the original document when they get it."

Marina Cabo San Lucas has been sold, reports Randy Short of Almar Marinas. "There won't be any changes in staff, and Guti and Enrique will be there ready to welcome the Baja Ha-Ha and Newport to Cabo Race fleets."

The dredging crew at Puerto Los Cabos, the 500-berth marina that's under construction about 25 miles to the east of Cabo San Lucas at San Jose del Cabo, is reportedly on their third dredge trying to connect the marina to the ocean in time for the November start of the season. It's not an easy job, and more than a few observers don't expect boats to be able to enter the marina until early in '07. In any event, only 100 slips will be ready in the first stage, and they've all been spoken for by owners of motoryachts.

"I was part of the Ha-Ha Class of '05," reports Glen Read of the Edmonds, Washington-based Island Packet 40 Nootka, "and after Mexico I singlehanded to Hawaii and then Sitka, Alaska. It took me 21 days to get to Hawaii, and another 18 days to Sitka. Upon arrival in Sitka, I looked up the mast to discover a hood ornament - the bald eagle, our national symbol. Even though the eagle kept most of his considerable weight on the center shaft, he still managed to bend it a few degrees."

"The Banderas Bay Cruisers Guide, which we have published for 10 years, is expanding into a full-color magazine called Vallarta Nautica, and will be available in October," report Lew and Anneke Jennings of the P.V.-based Mantaray. "Vallarta Nautica will be an annual publication describing all the exciting nautical activities on, in, and under the waters of beautiful Banderas Bay. The magazine will include articles, maps and photography of anchorages and other locations around the bay, and a racing and regatta schedule - which this year will include the Marina Del Rey to Puerto Vallarta Race and the J/24 Worlds. The Banderas Bay Cruisers Guide will be featured in the magazine as an extensive resource directory of goods and services available to visiting boaters and guests. The publication will be priced at just 50 pesos - or $5 U.S. - and a major portion of the proceeds will continue to support local charities."

Another sailor who did the Hawaii to Sitka run is singlehander Jeanne Socrates aboard the England-based Najad 361 Nereida. After taking delivery of the boat from the Swedish yard in '97, she and her husband George cruised Scandinavia, most of the Caribbean, and the East Coast of the United States. Then cancer claimed George in '03. Jeanne decided to continue the dream alone and, finding herself in San Francisco just before the start of the Singlehanded TransPac in June, signed up at the last minute. Despite an agonizingly slow race, she took third in her division. Then she decided to continue on to Alaska, which had been her original destination. Jeanne, who is one of those people who radiate good cheer like a lightbulb radiates light, left Kaneohe Bay, Kauai, in late July and arrived in Sitka on August 15.

"Twenty-two days out of Hawaii and the engine failed as I was coming into the dock!" Socrates laughs. "So I had to drop anchor and wait for the harbor staff to tow me into a slip. The problem turned out to be nothing more than a clogged secondary water filter. The weather has been typically rainy up here. From what I gather, they've only seen the sun a few days this summer. I'm celebrating my birthday tomorrow by going salmon fishing, as my current claim to notoriety up here is that I'm the only person in Alaska who has never caught a fish. I'll soon be heading up to Glacier Bay, then start heading south via Ketchikan, the west coast of Vancouver Island, San Francisco, and on to Mexico for the winter. I need some warm weather!"

"We're hoping to head to the San Blas Islands of Panama after hurricane season ends this year," write Jan and David Irons of the Florida-based Passport 37 Interlude, "and have been looking for something we could take that would help the Kuna inhabitants of those islands. Bernadette and Douglas Bernon on Ithaka take old sails for the local's ulas, but they take up a lot of space and we're flying back down to our boat in Guatemala. So we decided we're going to take used reading glasses - which are more compact than sails - to hand out to the older Kuna women who have a hard time seeing the itty-bitty stitches they make when creating molas. If anyone wants to forward their old glasses for us to distribute, mail them to us at RR #1, Box 226C, Neoga, IL 62447."

We imagine you'll get a lot of responses from sailors over 45, most of whom are all too aware of how difficult it is to get by without being able to see clearly.

"All is going well with our repowering our boat in Ensenada," report Les Sutton and Diane Grant of the Alameda-based Albin Nimbus 42 Gemini. "With that job getting completed, we've just sent in our application and check for the Baja Ha-Ha XIII. Thanks a million for putting on the event. Speaking of millions, check out the accompanying photo of the cash we paid to the boatyard in Colombia after we had a bunch of work done down there. It's 7,000,000 pesos, which sounds like a lot, but is only $3,000 U.S. But if we'd had the same work done in the States, it would have cost 10 times that much."

Why should you carry a knife in your dinghy? Bill Lilly of the Long Beach-based Lagoon 47 cat Moonbeam will tell you: "In the wee hours of the morning, a friend and I were motoring our dinghy from Cat Harbor to Little Harbor on the back side of Catalina, when the painter slipped overboard and got tightly wound up in the prop. Because it was wrapped so tight, it was all but impossible to untie the line and free the prop, and I had nothing to cut it with. We did have a VHF radio, but there's nobody to contact on the back side of the island in the middle of the night. So we were either going to spend a long night drifting offshore, or we were going to have to do the near impossible by getting the knot undone. The latter seemed like the better option, and after about 45 minutes of heavy finger work, we managed to finally undo the knot and get the painter out of the prop. Even a rusty knife would have made life a lot easier."

"The kelp was so thick out at Harbor Reef off Two Harbors, Catalina, a few months ago that we couldn't find water shallow enough to anchor in," report Scott and Cindy Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 cat Beach House. "We haven't been to the reef in two months, however, so it might have died off in the record - and we mean record - water temperatures. How about 78 degrees at the Isthmus? And no, that's not a misprint. I've been going to Catalina for 40 years, and I've never seen water over 68 degrees. Could it be El Niño? If so, it could be a very wet winter in Southern California. We were also at Catalina when lightning started the big fire. 'Scary' was the word, but it wasn't because of the fire, but rather the 40-knot mamantus - clouds with 40-knot gusts from every direction of the compass. A lot of the big powerboats pulled their moorings out of the ground."

When we were at the island in mid-August, people were still talking about that unusual summer storm and the fire. As for the water, it had to be in the mid-'70s when we swam up at Emerald Cove. In fact, everybody was raving about how wonderful it all was. "I've been here a month," said one sailor, "and it's been the best consistent weather I've ever seen at Catalina. If this is what they mean by climate change, we're all for it!" As for the kelp at Harbor Reef, after we pulled up our hook - and about two tons of kelp with it - there can't be much left.

Speaking of Catalina, we're told that a 14-ft oar fish, a prehistoric-looking beast that has only been seen a few times, toured Catalina on August 18. "It swam into Little Fisherman's Cove, where my friend's five-year-old jumped in and swam alongside it while it did a couple of laps around the cove," reports Craig Chamberlain of Newport Beach. "Unfortunately, it then died. The USC guys apparently grabbed it and took it to the lab to study."

"Having set sail from Puerto Vallarta in early April, we made landfall at Eaio (wah-poe), the largest of the northwestern Marquesas Islands 21 days later," reports Dave Kane of the Seattle-based Beneteau 405 La Vie. "The island has the most amazing rock formations, with incredibly sheer 4,000-ft rock spires towering over the bay. It also has to have one of the most beautiful harbors on the planet! The residents of Ua Pau are super friendly - a trait I believe is associated with their lack of tourism. Surprisingly, there were more shops and they were better stocked than on Nuku Hiva."

"While ashore during a stop in our cruise of the Western Caribbean aboard our Puerto Vallarta-based Catana 47 Moon And Stars," writes Lupe Dipp, "I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with the word 'Guess' embroidered across her chest. So I said, 'Implants?' She hit me!"

"The accompanying photo is from one of the more than dozen a 'movie nights' we've had aboard our trimaran in Baja," writes Bruce Balan of the Northern and Southern California-based Cross 46 Migration. "The photo was taken in mid-July at Agua Verde, where we presented Casablanca. That night we had a relatively small audience of 10, including folks from Liberty Call II, Our Country Home, Guenevere, plus a local couple from Agua Verde. We had 21 folks show up for our screening of School of Rock at Marquer on Isla Carmen. It was great fun, as there is nothing like watching a movie and munching popcorn on a warm night under the stars. We use our boat awning for the screen, and show the film using a multimedia projector connected to a portable DVD player. We run the sound through the auxiliary input of our Altec Lansing iPod speaker system. It makes for a lot of wires, but it's well worth it. A two-hour movie usually uses 70-amp hours of juice."

"We were Puddle Jumpers this year, and are currently at Tahaa, the island in French Polynesia that shares the same lagoon as Raiatea," report Paddy and Alison Barry of the San Diego-based Baltic 42 Zafarse. "The weather appears to be about a month late this year, so we've been having squalls about once a week. But it's good to get a free boat wash whenever you can. We highly recommend the trip to French Polynesia, although if we had it to do again, we'd probably spend less time in the Marquesas and more time in the Tuamotus. As Americans, we're allowed 30 days in French Polynesia, but getting extensions has been easy, and it's fairly inexpensive to get a 90-day visa. But once you get to Tahiti, it's almost impossible to get anymore time. My visa runs out tomorrow, and we haven't even been to Bora Bora yet! Fortunately - or unfortunately - my Balmar alternator gave up yesterday on the way to Uturoa. I went to the Gendarmerie to clear out for the final time, but they were closed. So I stopped at Immigration across the street, told Adele, the nice administrator, about our alternator problem, and voila - 30 more days! That would never have happened in Tahiti. French Polynesia is a wonderful and beautiful place, although it is a little expensive. One exception is a 20-oz Hinano beer for 180 Central Pacific Francs - about $2 U.S. - in the stores. Baguettes are, of course, excellent and cheap.

"Now for the dark side of paradise," Paddy and Alison continue. "Several boats have had dinghies, outboards, and surfboards stolen. The 68-year-old circumnavigator on Shoestring had his dinghy and 15-hp Johnson stolen from his boat in Cook's Bay on Moorea. His dinghy had been in the water and the line was cut. Thieves apparently prefer outboards of 15 hp or more, as the research center run by UC Berkeley has had two runabouts with 25-hp outboards stolen already this year. A boat anchored off Fare, Huahine, had thieves come aboard during an evening rainstorm and steal two surfboards - while four young men slept below! Another boat lost surfboards later in the week at the same spot. Huahine is a beautiful island, and the theft problem seems to be centered just around town."

As many cruisers know, thieves prefer to strike at night during noisy squalls. This is true from French Polynesia to the Eastern Caribbean.

"Trinidad is becoming an unsafe place for cruisers to stay during the Caribbean hurricane season," reports Alameda's John Anderton from his Trinidad-based Cabo Rico 38 Sanderling. "This is the fifth hurricane season that I've spent down here, as most insurance companies require boats to stay south of 10 degrees 50 minutes north - which leaves Trinidad and Venezuela. I return to Trinidad each year to have a medical procedure done as the result of an operation I had on the island in '04, and in the five years I've been here, I've seen many changes. Most of the changes have been good, but not all of them. One problem is the lawlessness and the apparent lack of concern on the part of the police and Coast Guard. There have been 26 dinghy thefts from the main anchorage in the last three months! And each one of them has been reported. If you raise your dinghy at night to try to thwart the thieves, they will sometimes board your boat and cut the lines. If you lock your boat, they'll use bolt-cutters. There have also been three armed boardings, but so far no loss of life. Another problem is that it's legal for Trinidadians to carry guns, but cruisers must turn their guns over to Customs when they arrive. I anchor one bay over about a quarter of a mile from the Coast Guard station. Hopefully, it will be safe enough. The second problem is that Immigration has been making it increasingly difficult to obtain visa extensions to stay for longer than 90 days. The hurricane season is 180 days long, but in order to qualify for a second 90-day visa, boatowners are forced to get a written letter from a contractor stating that they need to stay in Trinidad to complete some work in progress. A third extension is almost impossible. I obtained one such letter, but also a letter from my doctor claiming that I needed to remain under observation for six months. Others aren't so lucky, however. One singlehandler was forced to leave Trinidad in a boat that wasn't seaworthy, and she sank on the way back to Grenada."

Anderton more recently wrote that cruisers had initiated night watches in the anchorage and started communicating by cell phone, that the boatyards were directing their lights over the anchorage, and that the Trini Coast Guard has been making random passes through the anchorage a couple of times a night. So far, it's cut way down on the crime. Nonetheless, it's only a few months to the end of the hurricane season, and Anderton is saying, "St. Barth or bust!"

Speaking of hurricanes, as of August 21 it has been a very quiet season in the Atlantic-Caribbean. But it's far too early for anyone to breath a sigh of relief, as the prime hurricane months in that part of the world are September and October, and everything can change in a matter of days.

"I did the '99 Ha-Ha with my boat, crewed aboard Profligate in the Zihua Race in '02, and am now in Trinidad," reports Brian Randolph of the Alamitos Bay-based Kelly-Peterson 46 Wasabi. I've been in contact with a woman who is thinking about crewing with me, and I wrote her to explain that the cruising lifestyle isn't quite as carefree as a lot of people assume it is. The woman insisted that I send the letter to you, so here it is:"

"I hope you know what kind of lifestyle it is being a cruiser. Everyone back home thinks that all we do is sit around and relax. The truth is that there just isn't enough time in the day to get it all done. A lot of this comes from being spoiled back in the States, where all the parts and services are easy to get, so jobs get done quickly. It's not like that in much of the cruising world, and everything takes a little more effort. When I was a new cruiser, I used to get so frustrated because nothing ever seemed to get done, but I've learned that it just takes time in paradise."

We think yours is a pretty honest assessment, although a lot of how much work you have to do depends on how complicated your boat is and how good you are at keeping up with maintenance. The other side of the coin is that most boatowners quickly get to know their boat and systems, and doing things the second and third time is a lot easier than the first.

Au naturel or not? "I've been a professional who has dyed her hair for the past 20 years," writes Debbie 'no pun intended' Dye of the Channel Islands-based Lovely Reta, "but now that I'm going cruising, I'm not sure if I should keep it up. So I'd love to hear from some of the cruising ladies out there who dye their hair, or used to dye their hair, to see if they feel it's worth it to keep it up. Or are they happy to let their hair go back to its natural colors?"

"We recently sailed from Ensenada to La Paz via Turtle Bay and Cabo, and during that time our computer had a mental breakdown," reports Steve Howard of the Bloomington, Indiana-based Shannon 38 Adventure, which is currently in La Paz. "The loss of the computer killed off our Plan A for email, navigation, and obtaining weather information. So we shifted to Plan B. The lesson we learned is not to leave the paper charts and navigation tools at home. Life went on, of course, and perhaps even improved by not having email. However, there was the risk that those following our voyage by email would overreact when they didn't get our daily email via Skymate saying that we were fine. Fortunately, weather guru Don Anderson called a representative of ours, who notified everyone that we hadn't been lost at sea. While we were in Cabo, Dana Jazmin Estrada Ornelas, who runs F2A Sistemas out of her Internet café located on the top of the Cabo shopping center, referred us to José Alfredo Pérez Méndez, the director of Hardware Software, Ingenieros en Sistemas. She even gave me and our computer a ride to the store. Jose fixed our computer very quickly on short notice. Contact Sra. Ornelas at 624-129-9157 and Sr. Mendez at 624 143 45 40."

The first three or four times we sailed our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary to Mexico, we didn't have any electronic navigation, had no way to get weather, and our outside communication was limited to the VHF radio's range of about 20 miles. We navigated entirely by dead reckoning, took whatever weather that came our way, and didn't have any outside communication. We not only survived, it was wonderful. By the way, what was your Plan B?

Mike Harker reports that he's sold his Hunter 466 Wanderlust II - which as a novice he pretty much singlehanded across the Atlantic twice, around the Med, to French Polynesia, Hawaii, and San Francisco - to David Madera and his girlfriend Monika Kaufman of the Santa Monica area. Madera and Kaufman plan on sailing the boat to Mexico this fall, then will Puddle Jump across to French Polynesia in the spring.

As for Harker, he's eagerly awaiting the delivery of the first 'Bluewater Version' of the Hunter 49, which will come with a 9-ft taller than standard mast, deeper keel, and all the other goodies, and will be named Wanderlust III. After she debuts at the St. Petersburg boat show in November, Harker will sail her to St. Barth for the Around The Island Parade on New Year's as a shakedown for a fast circumnavigation. During the latter, he'll be podcasting and reporting to Latitude.

With a population of 18 million, Mumbai - once known as Bombay - is not only the commercial and entertainment center of India, it's also the second largest metropolitan area in the world after Tokyo. It has 1,250 distinct slums that are home to about six million people, where the ratio of people to toilets is a not-so-sweet 1,500 to 1. But it's not as if the woefully infrastructure-deficient city is about to stop growing. Ground is about to be broken on a new part of Mumbai across the bay that, in less in 10 years, will be home to five million workers and two million residents. As such, we were somewhat surprised to get the following letter from Neil Tangri:

"It's now the monsoon season here in Mumbai, and that discourages sailing, but things should pick up again in a few months. I'm hoping to buy a boat that's already in the neighborhood - by which I mean India, Sri Lanka or the Maldives - to do some Indian Ocean cruising. However, there's no Latitude out here, so I'm having a hard time figuring out where all the sailors are. Any suggestions?"

We suggested that he visit Penang, Malaysia, during the Raja Muda Regatta in November, Thailand during the King's Cup in December, or Singapore's Changi Marina just about any time. Thailand would probably be the most promising, as many cruisers gather there just before New Year's Eve to have one last big bash prior to heading across the Indian Ocean. However, sailing is growing all over Asia, with more races to once-improbable destinations such as Vietnam, and with builders such as Hunter and Catalina reportedly shipping boats to buyers in China. But if anyone else has any better suggestions for Tangri, please .

Here's the final log entry, by Harley and Jennifer Earl of Berkeley, for their Hans Christian 41 Manu Kai: "On the afternoon of July 29, Manu Kai passed beneath the middle span of the Golden Gate Bridge and plied her home waters of San Francisco Bay for the first time since sailing away a little over two years ago. We are now berthed snugly in our old slip at the Berkeley Marina, and are working furiously to put Manu Kai in good nick so that her next owner, whoever he/she might be, can take her back out and continue the adventure. But all good things must come to an end, and our run of fun on the open ocean is over for now. We hope all of you have enjoyed reading some of our log entries as much we have enjoyed writing them. There were many long night watches where the mere act of writing for you made us feel that we were not just a lonely speck of light on a vast dark ocean. We particularly appreciate the effort many of you made to keep in touch with us, sharing the news of your lives and the world at large. Without you we would never have known the winner of the Stanley Cup, the outcome of the '04 elections, or that the Red Sox won the World Series. Although, we're still not sure the last two weren't hoaxes."

"So what's up for us?" the couple continue. "After living quite comfortably within the confines of a 40-ft boat for two years, we've decided to downsize our lives. Within 48 hours of tying up at the dock, we put an offer in on a small house in Sausalito a block from the marina and within walking distance of pretty much everything. Built a hundred years ago by a shipwright - there is a certain symmetry in this fact - the house combines beauty with function and is the perfect landfall for a couple of itinerant sailors. We'll no doubt be working hard - the price of getting to live in the Bay Area - but we'll keep one foot on the water for balance. And someday, who knows, there are a whole lot of places we never got to and a fair number we'd like to return to and spend more time. And there is always another boat out there waiting for the right crew to take her beyond the horizon. While we don't pretend to know any more about life than when we left, we do have one piece of advice: If you have a dream, chase it down. You'll never regret it." So get chasing!

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