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September 2009

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 With reports this month from Renaissance on cruising with a dog in Mexico; from Daydream on adventures at Suwarrow; from Fleetwood on a visit to a fifth continent; from Moonshadow on adventures in Sicily; from Greetings on a three-year circumnavigation; and Cruise Notes.

Renaissance — CT-37
Paul and Judy DeMeire
Sailing With A Dog In Mexico
(Scappoose, Oregon)

My wife and I sailed down Baja and to mainland Mexico last season with Sam the Seadog, our very mellow and highly agile 24-lb Puggle. When we checked in with the port captain in Ensenada, we brought Puggle's required International Health Certificate. But even though Sam was with us, we were not asked for it.

We spent a month in La Paz and Mazatlan, and almost two months on Banderas Bay. There were some inconveniences because of Sam. For example, we were usually limited to sidewalk seating at restaurants, and when my wife shopped at grocery stores Sam and I had to wait outside. Sam was allowed on all the local buses, but was not normally permitted on the first class buses that run between the cities. The exception was when we were in La Cruz and had the local bus drop us off on the main highway heading north. A cross-country bus stopped for us and took us to a great open air market in Rincon de Guayabitos, which is north of Sayulita.

We had planned to stay at Paradise Marina, but after visiting and being told to leave Sam outside the mall and restaurant by the marina, we decided to pass on the Paradise Resort complex. The marina at La Cruz was more dog-friendly, so we stayed for about seven weeks before having Renaissance hauled at Opequimar for the summer.

Our biggest hassle was finding a dog-friendly hotel room in Puerto Vallarta while the boat was hauled and before we flew home. I checked out a few pet-friendly hotel websites, but all the listings turned us down — even when they claimed to be pet-friendly. We finally did find a little hotel in Bucerias — the one with an English bookstore — that accepted us. The cab to the airport from there was only $20. It's much easier to find hotels in the United States that accept small dogs like Sam.

When we arrived in San Francisco, Customs wasn't at all interested in how many bottles of tequila I'd brought back, but they did take away the Zip-Loc bag with Sam's dog food. They said they were worried that it might be contaminated. We'd brought enough food to feed him until we got to Oregon. By the way, Customs didn't check the health certificate we got for Sam from the vet in La Cruz.

Judy and I agree that having Sam with us was one of the great joys of our cruise. When you are with your spouse 24/7, having a four-legged comedian onboard is great entertainment.

— paul 08/10/09

Daydream — Selestra 50
Wayne Wilson and Susan Leader
Suwarrow Atoll
(Ladysmith, B.C.)

We’ve just arrived in Pago Pago, American Samoa, after spending three-and-a-half wonderful weeks at Suwarrow. Also known as Suwarrow National Park, the atoll is part of the Cook Islands. If you take the northern route from Bora Bora to Samoa, Suwarrow is conveniently located along the way. Our stay at Suwarrow in July was nothing short of spectacular. In fact, if the season hadn’t rushed us along, we'd still be there.

In good light, the entrance into the lagoon at Suwarrow is surprisingly easy, as it's wide, deep and there's a maximum current — which is almost always ebbing — of three knots. The charts also appear to be accurate. The park ranger has put a buoy on South Reef, but given the severity of storms during tropical cyclone season, it's unlikely to be in the right place next year.

Cruisers are required to anchor on the west side of Anchorage Island. While it's protected from the prevailing trades, most of it is 50 feet deep or more, and there are lots of coral heads just waiting to foul your chain. If you allow a little time to untangle your rode before leaving, it's usually not a problem. But it can be interesting to see where the boats end up after big windshifts.

John is the park ranger, and a nicer guy couldn't have been found for the job. He lives on Suwarrow with his wife Veronica and their four wonderful boys, all of whom enhanced our visit and who gave us unique insight into rustic island life. Because John and his family stay at Suwarrow for six months at a time without reprovisioning, gifts of fresh fruit, veggies and meat are understandably appreciated. Nobody should feel obligated to bring such food, but those who do will likely see their favor returned in fresh fish, as John is a consummate fisherman. In fact, he fishes most days, and is happy to take you along if you'd like to improve your skills.

John and Veronica were kind enough to welcome us all into their home to visit, play games, and learn about Cook Island life. They also hosted social gatherings for cruisers. During periods of settled weather, John arranged day-trips to the surrounding islands. Veronica is a bit shy, but once you get to know her, you’ll never forget her infectious laugh and her kindness. She taught Susan some local palm frond weaving techniques, especially how to make palm frond boxes.

Because Suwarrow is a national park, there is a one-time entrance fee of $50, and some rules have to be observed. The most important rule is that spear fishing is not allowed in the lagoon. John feels very strongly about this rule, and for good reason. There are many sharks in the area, and they are instantly drawn to injured fish. Since his kids and visitors swim in the lagoon almost every day, the last thing he wants is a shark attack. In addition, John asks that all fish parts be dumped on the pass side of Anchorage Island, since the sharks like them as well. Most days the kids host a small gut-dumping ceremony at about 5 p.m. This is well worth seeing, as sharks ranging from two to seven feet boil the surface just a few feet from shore. Usually you’ll see black tips, white tips and a few bigger and more aggressive grey sharks.

John tells us that most of the island rules were suggested by cruisers over the years, so some may reflect the pet peeves of long gone sailors. However, John enforces them in a very rational way, so if there is some issue that seems to require a little rule-bending, it's possible to discuss it with him.

One of the rules is that you must obtain permission to anchor anywhere except Anchorage Island. This anchorage provides good protection in tradewind weather, but when there was a forecast for a blow from the south and southwest, the crews of Daydream and Whisper asked for permission to move to the Seven Islands area on the east side of the atoll. John gave us permission, but asked us to be as careful as possible around the coral, to try not to disturb the nesting birds on the islands, and to remember not to spear any fish.

Although anchoring a keelboat among dense coral pillars that rise straight up from 30 feet down was challenging, our stay at Seven Islands was a highlight. The water visibility in the area was approximately 100 feet, and the coral formations are the most fantastic we've seen anywhere in the world. Plus, the fish are friendly and the sharks timid. Needless to say, we enjoyed every minute we spent snorkeling.

We ended up spending several days at this alternate anchorage while the wind blew from the south and southwest. While there, it was our good fortune to witness a near total eclipse of the sun. The end of the eclipse coincided with sunset, so we had the unique experience of watching the sun — which looked like a crescent moon on its back — descend into the sea. We were even able to snap a startling photograph of the two tips of the sun's 'crescent' setting simultaneously.

There’s also an old steel shipwreck on the outer reef near the Seven Islands. The wreck is sitting in about three inches of water at low tide approximately 500 feet from the outer edge of the reef. We marvel at the force of the waves required to move it that far. The Seven Islands area is about three miles from Anchorage Island, so it's within dinghy range during calm conditions, or John may arrange a trip on his boat if several people want to go.

If you ever get to Suwarrow, don’t forget to ask John’s kids if they’ll find you a coconut crab. Since these crabs are endangered, you can't eat them, but John and Veronica’s eight year-old twins were happy to find us one so we could take some great photos. These monstrosities are big and colorful, and have pincers that are powerful enough to crush your finger. They look like a wild combination of lobster and crab outfitted in tie-dye colors. After the crab's photo shoot, we released him, and he disappeared up a coconut palm in record time.

Suwarrow has a reputation for having lots of aggressive sharks. We saw plenty of sharks, but didn't see any that were aggressive. The ones in the main anchorage are used to humans, so it was normal to have two to six of the black tip reef sharks cruising lazily by our boat. When you went for a swim, they let us close in on them a bit before turning away. While we never felt threatened, we didn't take our eyes off of them. If one headed toward us, we would always swim directly at it.

We know sharks can be dangerous, because when John's boys caught a fish from the dinghy, one of the 'friendly' little sharks took about a five-pound bite out of it as a 'shark tax' before it could be landed.

One day the crews of Whisper and Daydream were snorkeling near Entrance Island, when 10-year old Timothy from Whisper noticed an unusual lump out near the outer reef. After a long slog through knee and thigh-deep water, we reached the lump, which turned out to be a 51-ft long sperm whale, with a beam of only six feet and a draft of 10 feet. From the condition of the flesh, we estimated that it had only been on the reef about two days. The find was reported to John, who gave us permission to attempt to remove the whale's lower jaw for transport back to Rarotonga. So the next morning, John’s son Jeremiah, Scott from Whisper, and Wayne from Daydream headed out early the next morning with wood saws, fillet knives, and an axe, and returned to the whale. A jar of Vick's VapoRub was also brought along to combat the stench of the rotting whale meat, which had gotten worse in just one day.

In wasn't an ideal working environment, as large surf frequently came over the reef and threatened to push us under the whale or down its throat. But after seven hours of hard work, we managed to remove a significant part — 250 pounds — of the whale's jaw. The water around the whale varied in depth from one to four feet depending on the tide, but for some reason no sharks were attracted to the bloody mess. Jeremiah pointed out there were shark bites on the whale that must have been inflicted while he was adrift, leading us to believe that the whale had died prior to grounding on the reef.

Returning the jaw to park headquarters at Anchorage Island proved much more difficult than expected because the park’s backup boat, an aluminum dinghy named Boring that was carrying the jaw, was suffering from several leaks. Between the dinghy filling up with blood, the incoming seawater, the incredible perfume, and the near-constant bailing, it was a pretty exciting four miles of motoring back across the atoll.

The jaw is now ashore near the park headquarters, and we expect the flesh will rot out over the next several months. That means it will be possible for John to take the bones and teeth to Rarotonga at the end of the season. We stank so badly after the operation that we briefly considered lighting ourselves on fire to get rid of the smell, but settled for multiple baths.

We had originally planned to stay at Suwarrow for a week, but one day turned into the next with new and interesting things to do every time we turned around. Before we knew it, three weeks had passed. There are still a number of beautiful reefs that we didn’t have time to snorkel, and some electrical work on park headquarters that we would have liked to complete. But eventually we were dipping the same onion over and over to make coffee, and decided that it really was time to go. Having become such good friends with John and Veronica and the kids, and knowing it's unlikely that we'll ever see them again, it was hard to leave. We now think that Suwarrow is the most interesting place that we have been to in the South Pacific, and recommend it to everyone.

— wayne and susan 08/05/09

Fleetwood — Naja 29
Jack Van Ommen
Crossing The Atlantic
(Gig Harbor, Washington)

Jack reports that he made it from Beaufort, North Carolina, to Loctudy, France, in a total of 38 sailing days. He took 8 days for the 600 miles to Bermuda, 18 days for the 1,800-mile passage to the Azores, and 12 days from the Azores to France. He described the second leg as "a very nice sail." His last leg across the Atlantic is the first time he's had crew — other than for 10 days — since starting his circumnavigation in '05. The former Singlehanded TransPac participant has now sailed to six of the seven continents in the world — he's in no hurry to sail to Antarctica — with the 29-footer he completed from a kit in the early '80s. His Atlantic crossing was made much easier by the weather guidance of the well-known Canadian Herb Hilgenberg of Southbound.

From Jack's blog:

"My emotions at being back on the European continent, where I was born, are so numerous I don't know where to begin. France has always been one of my favorite countries, and was one of my sales territories in the late '60s when I sold wood for Weyerhauser out of the Brussels office. The architecture, the smells, the language, the baguettes — Bretagne has special charms, particularly when one is privileged to share its close interaction with the Atlantic. I've always had a soft spot for the French because some of the best cruising friends I've made are French.

Loctudy doesn't often see American sailors, particularly not ones in bright red West Marine klapfiets riding back to the boat with fresh baguettes clamped under their arms. Breakfast today was with fresh brown eggs with deep red-orange yokes, and hard butter instead of the runny margarine I've been getting used to in the my refrigeration-less galley. For dinner, I found a great chunk of leg of lamb that was on special. My two deckhands loved it.

Yesterday I was totally surprised and delighted to receive mail from Sylvestre Langevin, the father of the Naja. Years ago I tried in vain to correspond with him, so I concluded that he'd left this world. But he hadn't, and now wanted to know how well his design had stood the test of my 35,000-mile — to date — voyage. He jests that he hopes that not too many others will follow my bad example in using a mouille-cul — or "wet ass" boat — for ocean voyages, because it would put most naval architects in the poor house. By mouille-cul, he means a small boat with low freeboard.

It's wonderful how you meet up with old cruising friends from different parts of the world. Yesterday Klaus Kroemer stopped by. I first met him and his wife in the Marquesas in June of '05, and frequently crossed paths until I headed farther across the South Pacific. Klaus and Florence, who had spent two summers in the South Pacific, sailed the other direction, to Honolulu, where they sold their boat. To show how international cruising is, Klaus is from Bremen, Germany, and Florence is from French Guyana. The two met when he was working on Ariadne satellite launches.
Klaus is going to help me with my navigation skills here on the French coast, where the tides can run in the narrows and around the capes at twice the speed my engine can drive my boat. The weather has been cold and rainy, so we may need to wait for a better weather window to head for Amsterdam.

— jack 08/10/09

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
George Backhus and Merima
Message From The Med
(Sausalito / Auckland)

The next morning we splashed the dinghy and made our way into town. A small corner of the marina had been allocated for dinghy landing, making visits to the city convenient for those of us anchored out. The marina was a bit ramshackle, and lacking any sort of breakwater or wave attenuator, it afforded no more protection than the anchorage. We were told that it would cost nearly $200, plus power and water, to berth there for just one night! And it wasn't even high season. Someone was definitely capitalizing on the closure of the 500-meter long Grand Harbour quay, which normally offers free berthing to visiting yachts.

Siracusa was once considered the most beautiful city of the ancient world, and we thought it lived up to that reputation. Along its narrow marble streets are an impressive array of buildings, many of which have been beautifully restored, and which showcase the varying architectural styles of its long history. Staking out a table at a cafe on the Piazza, we enjoyed an Italian coffee and some excellent people-watching. It was a Saturday, and at least four groups of newlyweds and their wedding parties came down to the Piazza to have wedding photos taken in front of the town’s spectacular Duomo. It was quite the fashion show!

The next day we found the local market, which is located on a street at the edge of the Old Town. There on a street lined with crumbling buildings, were stalls with vendors hawking fruits and vegetables, cheeses and sausages, meats and fish, herbs and spices, and clothing and homewares. It was loud and crowded, and all the different aromas combined into an olfactory assault. The market probably hasn't changed much in hundreds of years. We picked up some provisions, including some fresh tuna and swordfish caught in the nearby Strait of Messina.

We returned to town for dinner at Il Cenacolo, a lovely garden restaurant that filled with locals shortly after we arrived. We enjoyed an incredible meal of fish soup and beef couscous, two of the local specialties. The prices were very reasonable, and the portions so huge we couldn’t finish them.

The fuel dock at Siracusa was all but inaccessible to a boat Moonshadow's length, so we continued north to Augusta to take on diesel. It was Sunday, so nobody was at the fuel dock. One of the local men rang up the proprietor of the fuel service, who came down to turn the pump on. She caters to the local fishing fleet, so didn't have the ability to process a credit card purchase. But she was kind enough to drive me up to an ATM machine — the only one in town — so I could pull out some cash. She even made us an espresso while we were pumping diesel.

While we were swimming and bathing off the swim step, I managed to whack my melon on the emergency rudder gudgeon, opening up an inch-and-a-half cut just below my hairline. Dr. Merima applied butterfly bandages, after which I self-prescribed two martinis to ease the pain. Another boat bite and battle scar.

The wind was light the next morning, so we motored up the east coast of Sicily towards the enclave of Taormina. It was an uncharacteristically clear day, so along the way we were able to see the whole of Mt. Etna. As we approached Taormina, we saw an unusually large mega-yacht at anchor. It looked a bit familiar, and as I drew closer, I recognized her as Tatoosh, owned by Paul Allen, the 'other' co-founder of Microsoft. Tatoosh is about 200 feet long, and has the full complement of toys — including a 40-ft powerboat and a 40-ft sailboat strapped to her side, and a helicopter aft. We anchored between Tatoosh and several other megayachts at the foot of the cliff below Taormina, so there went the neighborhood.

— george 08/20/09

Readers — George is uncharacteristically off on the length of Tatoosh, which is actually 420-ft. She might be more than 100 feet shorter than Roman Abramovitch's new Eclipse, but she's still a big one.

Greetings — Beneteau 473
Greg and Teri Weeger
Sierra, 13, Behlmer
(Huntington Beach)

When it came to choosing what boat to buy for a three-year circumnavigation, Greg and Teri Weeger of Huntington Beach didn't spend much time looking or second-guessing their choice. That's because they have a world of sailing experience and are confident on the water.

The 53-year-old Greg has long been a crew and helmsman on A-list offshore racing boats from Farr 40s to TransPac 52s to Doug Baker's 80-ft Magnitude. Indeed, just weeks after completing the circumnavigation, Greg was part of the Magnitude crew that finished the TransPac in record time for an American-owned boat.

Teri had raced in Southern California for many years aboard Melges 24s, J/105s and other boats, and a few years ago did the TransPac aboard the Olson 40 Uproarious. It's not surprising that she met Greg at a racing event, nor that they were eventually married aboard Teri's Grand Banks 32 at Catalina's Cherry Cove. Since returning home, Teri has become "the girl behind the scenes" at Dickson Racing, which is managing John MacLaurin's new 69-ft Pendragon VI.

So what kind of boat did these experienced sailors pick for their circumnavigation? A '02 South Carolina-built Beneteau 473 designed by Group Finot of France. If you're thinking, "Isn't the 'Bennie 473' one of the most common charter boats in the world?", you would be right. In which case, Greg and Teri either made a questionable choice, or today's off-the-shelf charter boats are pretty damn good for ocean cruising.

According to Greg and Teri, it's the latter. "She's been an excellent boat, and we had no major problems with the hull, rig or anything else," says Greg. Not that it surprised them. Back in '04, the couple did the 600-mile Sydney-to-Hobart Race, perhaps the world's consistently nasty middle distance race aboard a mini maxi Helsal II. The '04 race turned out to be so rough that the 100-ft maxi Skandia had to be abandoned, all the ribs were broken on the 90-ft Nicorette when she crossed the finish line first, and the mini maxi the Weegers were on broke and had to drop out. But, the Weegers took note, all five of the Bennie 473s in the race not only finished, but did well in the standings.

So when the couple came across a used owner's version rather than a charter version of the 473, they didn't hesitate. "When you know what you want," says Teri, "you just get it." The original owner of Greetings had installed a Fisher-Panda generator and a Spectra watermaker prior to a cruise to Tahiti, but she was otherwise pretty much stock. After buying her, the Weegers did little more than replace the extra water tankage with extra fuel capacity — something they would be glad they did.

When we were told that a boat, name and type unknown, had just completed a three-year trip around the world and was now moored along the fairway at Catalina's Isthmus Cove, we figured we'd have no trouble picking her out. But when we looked at the 10 or so possibilities, we didn't see one that even remotely fit the bill. None had a windvane, solar panels, jerry jugs or other accessories found on almost all cruising boats. Indeed, despite a three-year, two-month circumnavigation, Greetings looked just like the four or five sisterships that had sailed over from the mainland for the weekend.

The Weegers didn't outfit Greetings like a typical cruising boat for two reasons. First, Greg doesn't care for the "jerry jugs on the rail look." Second, the couple didn't think of themselves as cruisers, but rather as sailors with a specific goal. "We were on a mission to sail around the world before my now 13-year-old daughter Sierra was of age to start high school," says Teri. "We envy the cruisers, and wished we could have been out there for a couple of more years, but that's not possible at this point in our lives."

According to Greg, among accessories that were key to the success of their circumnavigation were the 75-hp Yanmar turbo — which is an option to the standard Westerbeke diesel — that "performed flawlessly"; the Fisher-Panda generator that worked reasonably well, the Raymarine autopilot that was so reliable that they never had to pull out the spare, and the standard refrig/freezer that still works fine today. Indeed, it seemed as though the biggest work the couple did on the boat was to replace the cushions in Panama just before coming home. Even so, both the interior and exterior of the boat are in fine condition.

The couple started their adventure in March of '06 with a 21-day nonstop shot to the Marquesas. "It would be the best sailing of our entire trip," says Greg. They were met in French Polynesia by Sierra, who would periodically join them for a total of about one third of the trip. The vivacious Sierra claims that by the time the trip was over, she'd become something of an authority on the airlines of the world. She rates Qantas at the top of the heap.

After arriving in the Marquesas, the Weegers had a pretty standard hip hop across the South Pacific to New Zealand. When Greetings arrived, Greg jumped headlong into the extremely active Auckland racing scene. "He hooked up with the Dickson family, both Roy, who is Chris's dad, and Chris, former BMW Oracle helmsman, who thanks to smart property investments is now one of the wealthiest people in Auckland," says Teri. "Greg raced almost every single day, including in the New Zealand Match Racing Championships, which are a big thing."

After five months in New Zealand, which would be their longest stop anywhere, Greg and Teri continued on up to New Caledonia, through the Torres Straits to Darwin, then up to Timor and Indonesia. It will no doubt surprise some readers, but like many other circumnavigators, the Weegers found Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, to have the most friendly people. "The people of Indonesia have nothing, but they are so generous and helpful," marveled Teri. Then she, Sierra and Greg enjoyed a laugh-filled memory, recalling the time a bunch of smiling middle-aged Muslim women lifted the bottoms of their burkas in order to wade out into the surf to help them with a more difficult than normal dinghy landing.

Because a fair-skinned girl like Sierra is so rare in Indonesia, she was quite the curiosity. "Everybody wanted to touch my skin and hair," Sierra says with a laugh. The three spent most of their time on the less-visited south coast of the Indonesian Islands, because this was the place where Greg, a dedicated surfer, would be likely to find the most waves. As it turned out, he'd come across better surf in French Polynesia, including a 'secret spot' with perfect waves and nobody around.

The odd island out in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia is, of course, Bali, because it's mostly Hindu. "While the Indonesians on all the other islands are very nice and friendly," remembers Teri, "they are sort of beige compared to the colorful people and culture of Bali."

Greetings then crossed the Flores Sea to Borneo, so Greg, Teri and Sierra could travel up the Mahakam River to visit with the orangutans. "Seeing them after a hike into the thick jungle was truly a 'pinch yourself' moment," says Teri.

"After the South Pacific and Indonesia, Singapore, our next stop, was a big change," says Greg. "Everything worked and it was so multicultural." It was also much more expensive. "Whereas a slip in Malaysia might cost $12/night," says Greg, "slips at Raffles Marina in Singapore — where facilities are great and your every need is catered to — were $80 a night.

Latitude often reports how inexpensive it can be to cruise — and it surely can be if you're thrifty. But there are also cruisers who figure that if they only have three years, they are going to see it all and do it all rather than be frugal. The Weegers are among the latter group, and figured they spent about $80,000 a year. Things that jacked up their expenses were airline tickets, and while in places like Thailand, using the boat as a base from which to tour Malaysia and other nearby countries. "We loved Thailand and Malaysia — the latter another Muslim country — but found them to be much more sophisticated than we expected," says Greg. Boat insurance made another considerable dent. "That cost about $9,000 a year," says Teri.

Fawn, Teri's 28-year-old daughter, was working at a Club Med in Thailand when they arrived, so it was only natural that they spent quite a few months at this stopping point. "While in Phuket," Sierra says, "we enjoyed the most delicious Chinese food ever. And, in fact, two of the three best Italian meals we had were in Thailand rather than Italy. Not every country is the best at doing their own cuisine!"

Teri has what seems to us to be a curious take on the dangers posed by pirates on the approach to the Red Sea. "We were in a convoy with three other boats that kept within half a mile of each other," she remembers. "We passed through the worst area on April 4, 2007, and were just 10 miles away when that 129-ft French luxury yacht was seized by pirates. Once we got further along, the delivery skipper of another boat told us that he'd been chased, and the next week five more boats had pirate incidents. But I'd go through again without worrying, because I don't think pirates care about boats as small as ours. In fact, I think we'd have a greater chance of being crime victims here in the United States."

Greg laughed and said, "During the trip we had two surfboards and a kayak out on deck at all times, and were not religious about locking our boat. Nonetheless, we never had anything stolen — until we got back to Long Beach and discovered somebody had taken the nozzle to our hose!"

Indeed, the Weegers were quick to blow off many of the fears some cruisers — or at least their friends and relatives — have about cruising. "We heard stories of boats being assessed big fines and having to deal with crooked officials in places like Indonesia," says Teri, "but we never experienced any of it. In fact, the officials couldn't have been nicer. It wasn't long before we stopped listening to the reports and rumors being passed along by cruisers, and ignored the cruising guides, too. There just isn't the drama out there that lots of people would like you to believe. We found that if you travel with good humor and humility, use common sense and are nice, you won't have a problem."

Prior to taking off, the couple had decided that when they got to Muslim countries, they'd tell everyone they were Canadians, thinking it would make them less likely targets. "We soon discovered that people love Americans — even Muslims in places like the Sudan, Oman and Egypt." Not everyone may like American foreign policy, but most everyone loves Americans because we're friendlier than most and tip better.

That's not to say there weren't a couple of incidents that initially left them wondering. For example, while stopped on their way up the Red Sea, some fishermen — "big guys" — boarded their boat without asking permission. "They were nice enough," remembers Teri, "and pantomimed that they wanted two of the lobster that we had. Not sure what to do, we gave them the lobster. A couple of days later they returned, and we figured they might want something more. But no, they returned with two lobster to pay us back. We think they were just hungry the first time they visited us."

Teri says that they "had enough bad weather during the trip to tell some good stories, but not enough to ever be frightened." For example, they were hit with a tramanta near the end of their passage from Sardinia to Barcelona, when the wind quickly kicked up from 14 knots to 50-knot gusts. Curiously, the only time they felt the need to abandon their boat because of weather was when they were tied up to the dock! It happened at Queen's Quay Marina in Gibraltar in October of '08. Wind gusts of up to 80 knots were reported at the nearby airport, which had to shut down operations. Over at the marina, docklines were snapping. It got so bad that Greg removed halyards to use as back up docklines. "We packed up all our passports and important documents and got off the boat because it was so dangerous," Teri remembers.

The Med turned out to be something of a disappointment to the Weegers. They picked up Sierra in Greece in early June along with Brooke, her 27-year old sister. They then covered some 1,500 miles of culture-studded waters in just three months. It was such a dash that while they did stop at wild Ibiza, they didn't even have time to get off the boat.
"The marinas were very crowded and incredibly expensive in the Med," says Greg. "I think it would be better to do the Med by land, particularly since the wind either doesn't blow at all or it's too windy to sail," says Teri."

Three years has long been considered the normal amount of time needed to do a circumnavigation. The Weegers feel it should be more like six years. Part of the reason is that large chunks of time have to be set aside to wait out seasons of bad weather. "We had to spend five months in New Zealand, four months in Thailand, and two months in the Canaries," says Greg. That was 11 months out of 38 merely waiting for the seasons to change.

A long time racer, Greg says he's spent a lot of time working on performance polars. "For this trip," he laughs, "I made a set of cruising polars. If we weren't making 5.5 knots toward our destination, we turned on the engine. We had to because we were on a schedule. As a result, we actually spent more time with the engine on than we did under sail only."

The Weegers' second best passage of the circumnavigation was the 19-day downwind crossing from the Canaries to Grenada. Small wonder there, as west across the Atlantic in the tropics is almost always good.

Greg didn't go overboard equipping the boat with spares, but did carry a spare autopilot, spare alternator, and spare engine impellers, filters, hoses and the like. "It's easy to get stuff shipped to you quickly," he says. "For instance, we lost the radar between Aruba and Panama's San Blas Islands. It only took us three days to get a replacement. Ironically, it seems like Mexico is the only place where it's hard to get stuff shipped."

There are only two things the couple would change if they could do the trip over. "I'd have davits for the dinghy," says Greg. "And we'd take three more years," says Teri.

What did they miss most about California? "California surfing," says Greg. "There's nowhere else like Huntington Beach, because there's always something to ride." He's also missing work. "If anyone needs someone in a supervisory position on a school or other public project, I'm their guy."

— latitude 08/05/09

Cruise Notes:

"Does your dog do foredeck? We met one that does," write Eveleyn and Terry Drew of Santa Cruz and the St. Lucia-based Kirie Feeling 446 Aquarelle. "I was sitting in our dinghy near the starting line of the second race of the Bequia Easter Regatta earlier this year," reports Evelyn, "when I saw the 45-ft, 16-ton Hogfish Maximus headed right at me. When they got alarmingly close, I found myself looking up at their dog, Bequia, who was peering over the foredeck down at me. "Don't worry," shouted skipper Christopher Morejohne, "I haven’t hit a boat yet!” Chris, his wife Rachel, daughter Lilly, and their dog Bequia race the boat themselves. Chris built the boat in the Bahamas, and she's rather unusual thanks to having a flat bottom with internal lead ballast and water storage, and a daggerboard that allows her to draw as little as two feet. I was briefly told that Bequia never falls overboard, but wasn't able to learn much more, as a furious Chris took off looking for his cherished hand-built dinghy. It, along with their outboard, had been stolen from the dock of the Frangipani Hotel during the after-race party the night before."

The Bequia Easter Regatta is one of the bigger sailing events in the Caribbean, and attracted a total of 50 boats this year, including everything from the local double-enders and J/24s to an 80-footer. Among the participants was Don Radcliffe of the Santa Cruz-based Beneteau First 456 Klondike, who seems as though he has been out cruising forever with his wife Katie. Radcliffe won the Singlehanded Race handily, as the only other entry dropped out. If it seems incredibly late to be reporting on an Easter Regatta, you're correct, and we apologize for having not gotten to it earlier.

"I just finished a 10-day trip around the north end of Vancouver Island aboard Evening Star, a C&C 43 owned by my friends Dave and Mary Utley of Bainbridge Island, Washington," reports Mike Currie of the "highly modified" Poulsbo, Washington-based Newport 30 Voyager. "I had never been around this part of the island before, and really enjoyed the trip. We saw lots of fog and wildlife, and while we did have some rain, we had a surprisingly limited amount of wind. The accompanying photo of a whale coming out of the water was one of those special and lucky moments. I took it while we were motoring around the north side of the Brooks Peninsula. I thought I saw a log in the water and veered to port to miss it. But when we got to within about 80 feet of the 'log', it disappeared — to be replaced by a very large humpback whale coming out of the water and heading directly toward our bow! The whale jumped three more times behind us, then waved goodbye with a flipper. The weather may not be always conducive to shirt-sleeve sailing up here, but the wildlife is something else."

And it's no croc! "After an eight-hour trip north of Townsville on the Queensland Coast of northeast Australia, we dropped the hook at Little Pioneer Bay, Orpheus Island," report Chay, Katie and son Jamie McWilliam of the San Diego-based Kelly-Peterson 46 Esprit, vets of the '03 Ha-Ha. "Despite a pretty strong current and a little bit of sea, we managed to clean a good portion of the bottom of the boat. Unfortunately, Chay got seasick in the process. It may sound funny, but it's not uncommon for cruisers to get sick while underwater cleaning the bottom of their boat when it's rough. The job had to be done, however, as Esprit's bottom had developed a mini forest that was slowing her way down. Since we were headed further north along the Queensland coast, and would soon be in crocodile country, the job couldn't wait. Two days later, we were heading for Hinchinbrook Channel, which we had to reach at high tide if we were going to not hit bottom. We anchored behind little Haycock Island, which is about a third of the way up the channel. It's sort of like being on a jungle river ride at Disneyland or Tenacatita Bay — except instead of being in the dinghy, we were on our 46-ft sailboat. We hear the tropical birds talking here, just like in the old Tarzan movies. But we have to be extra careful around here, as it's known to be home to large 'salties' — the big saltwater crocodiles that enjoy dining on humans. We raise our dinghy out of the water every night, not because we're worried about it being stolen, but because the locals tell us that crocs sometimes use inflatables at teething rings!"

It's often been said that sailors are safer in mid-ocean than near shore. That was certainly the case one night in August, when an out-of-control speedboat slammed into two Pacific Puddle Jump boats that were moored at the Bora Bora YC — normally, one of the most tranquil places imaginable. The first boat hit was the Cape Mendocino-based Nor 'Sea 31 Eva, sailed by skipper Michael Traum and his dad, Gerald.

"We were below, sitting at the settee," recalls Michael. "I heard the launch coming fast through the anchorage. I could tell he was going to come close to us, and I thought, 'Another crazy pangero planing through a crowded anchorage at night.'" (The Traums had been in the La Cruz, Mexico, anchorage in February of '07 when a pangero slammed into an anchored sailboat and was killed.) "Then wham! The impact was intense, as it heeled us over and spun us around a bit. Some items that had stayed in place for all our ocean passages were knocked off the shelves."

The sturdy cruiser was holed near the rub rail, but is certainly repairable. By the time Mike and his dad scrambled up on deck, the driver had restarted his powerful outboard and tore off into the blackness. Seconds later, however, the lightweight speedboat T-boned the Seattle-based Baba 40 Yohelah, notching its bow over the heavily laid-up cruiser's caprail. The driver, who is suspected to have been drunk, was launched into the small boat's windshield, badly lacerating his arm.

At this writing, the process of repairing both boats has begun, and the French gendarmes are completing their investigation. Rob and Teresa have been impressed by the professionalism of the local authorities and want to stress that, "The Bora Bora Yacht Club is not a dangerous place to moor. This was hopefully a very isolated incident by a single person using exceptionally bad judgment."

"For cruisers who might be looking for an alternative to the usual inflatable or RIB dinghy, we suggest they consider a Walker Bay rigid dinghy," suggest Ken and Katie Stuber of the Honolulu-based Bristol 32 Sand Dollar, which is currently at Majuro in the Marshall Islands. "We bought our 8-ft model second-hand for a couple of hundred dollars several years ago, and we think it's been one of our best cruising purchases. Since we use ours as a work boat, we bought the gaff rig sail kit for it, then tricked it out with a boom and vang. The boat’s light weight — only about 50 pounds — makes it easy to get on deck or up a beach. The hull is just about indestructible, and is impervious to just about anything — including UV rays. Our Walker Bay rows, sails and tows very well. We don’t have an outboard motor, but we’ve seen them motor very well with a small outboard. If you feel that you need extra stability, you can add one of their tube options. Ours stores very nicely on our foredeck."

If we're not mistaken, this is the same Ken Stuber who did the first Ha-Ha in '94 aboard the Olympic Valley-based Bristol 35.5 True Blue.

How have cruising boats in the South Pacific changed in the last nine years? According to Steve and Dorothy Darden, former Tiburon residents who have been cruising the higher latitudes of the Pacific for the last 12 years aboard their M&M 52 catamaran Adagio, "cruising boats are an average of 10 to 15 feet longer, many more of them are catamarans, and the longer monohulls have bow thrusters." Last month the couple sailed 3,623 miles in 23 days from Hawaii to New Caledonia, having a short time before sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii. "The first question officials asked us when we tied up at the visitors pontoon in Port de Moselle Marina, Noumea, was if we had swine flu. There are 600 confirmed cases in New Caledonia. Quarantine took most of our meat, fruits and vegetables — except for carrots — but left enough for two nights' dinner because we had arrived on a holiday weekend. We'd gotten hit by a nasty squall as we short tacked up Canal Woodin to the marina, but have had beautiful weather since. Our French language skills are most useful, as most of the tradesmen only speak a little English. The staff in the harbormaster's office bends over backwards to be helpful, and there are yacht services companies available to assist. We are enjoying numerous festivals and special events while we make boat repairs. We will motorsail south to the Isle of Pines while we wait for a new main sail to be shipped to us from New Zealand."

"We left Florida 18 months ago, took the 'Thorny Path' through the islands to the Eastern Caribbean, and then spent hurricane season in Trinidad," report the Hagen family of the Rico, Colorado Prout 37 Snowgoose catamaran Toucan. The Hagen family includes parents Mike and Mary, and children Noah, 11, Lydia, 8, and Ava, 5. "We then traveled up the Macareo River in Venezuela, which turned out to be a really beautiful trip. Further travels took us to Cartagena, Colombia, and Panama's San Blas Islands. We later sailed back to Cartagena to put Toucan on the hard while we returned to the Colorado mountains to work. It was a great trip, and we met lots of other 'kid boats'. We'll be headed back to Toucan in the spring — and might even enroll the kids in school in Cartagena."

"We're retired and currently spending hurricane season in the Dominican Republic aboard our boat," write Randy and Ellen Hasness of the Washington, D.C.-based Island Packet 370 Kwanesum. "We're corresponding members of the Oakland YC, and about six years ago were transferred to D.C. So we sold our Bay Area-based Wauquiez 33 Moonglade, and bought a brand new Island Packet on the East Coast. We're headed back to the Bay Area the slow way."

A Swiss couple's 35-day ordeal finally came to an end last month, as Avatar, their 37-ft sloop, was successfully towed the final 17 miles to Pago Pago by a U.S. Fish & Game boat. A day after setting sail from Bora Bora, Avatar's rudder snapped off, and the couple's attempts to jury-rig a replacement were unsuccessful. With no means of returning upwind to French Polynesian waters, the pair, Beat and Lola, last names not known, were left with no alternative but to drift with the prevailing current until they reached landfall somewhere downwind. Fortunately, they had some good luck, as Samoa was 1,000 miles directly downwind. Also, fellow cruisers Patrick and Rebecca Childress of the Rhode Island-based Valiant 40 Brick House, executed a mid-ocean rendezvous with the disabled boat, transferring materials to make a jury-rigged rudder. Alas, none of the improvised rudders worked.

So for the next two weeks, Avatar inched along at roughly 1.5 knots toward Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa. "Avatar was amusingly out-of-control on the end of the tow line," says cruiser Wayne Wilson, who went along on the Fish & Game boat to tow the stricken boat in. "When Beat and Lola hung several hundred feet of line off the stern with ventilated jerry jugs attached, it helped a little, but it still broke the tow line five or six times. Avatar would surf down a wave, suddenly turn 90 degrees, then stop. When this happened, the tow line would go slack, then slam taut again, jerking the tow boat backwards." Despite enduring this painfully slow process for eight hours, the Fish & Game crew never uttered a cranky word all day long.

"The Puesta del Sol Marina in Nicaragua is very nice, but isolated," reports William Nokes of the Brookings, Oregon-based Gulfstar 41 Someday. "So every Wednesday they send a van to Chinandega so all the folks on boats can sightsee and do their major shopping. A visit to Chinandega would be a good primer for anyone planning to drive in Rome or Mexico City, as the drivers are awful. Horns are the only accessory anyone seems to need on cars there, as nobody seems to bother using the steering wheel, brakes — or common courtesy. Drivers are constantly trying to go faster than everyone else, and are always willing to make life-threatening moves to pass a car ahead — even if they'll immediately be stuck behind another car. It's all about this being the first generation of Nicaraguans who have driven, so they have no guidance from the previous generation and are still learning about the deadly consequences of bad driving from experience. Fortunately, most drive little Hyundais, which weigh less than a horse and do less damage. Chinandega was a fine town, with well-organized and fully stocked stores. I've found that both El Salvador and Nicaragua have better stores than can be found in southern Mexico. Even the Wal-Mart stores in Mexican cities south of P.V. were horribly disorganized and had incompetent help — although very friendly help. 'Contra'-antly — only those who remember the early 80s will get the pun — the stores in El Salvador and Nicaragua actually have stocked shelves and are organized in a logical manner. Plus, the employees know what items they carry. In fact, shopping in San Salvador and Chinandega isn't much different that shopping in similar sized cities in the U.S.

Viva a new revolution in Nicaragua? Two years into his presidential term, Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinista Nationalist movement in '80s, is being harshly criticized by former close associates and brothers-in-arms for having become distant and dictatorial. Over 70% of Nicaraguans say they have become poorer and less hopeful since Ortega took office.

We at Latitude think now would be a great time to sail to Cuba. It's not because the Obama Administration has reversed the Treasury Department's silly prohibition against "trading with the enemy", but rather — as we predicted — has gone back to the Clinton Administration's policy of not enforcing that law. Some 270 Americans in two groups travelled by air to Cuba in July. When they returned to the States at either Buffalo, New York, or McAllen, Texas, they demanded to be charged with breaking the law. The Treasury Department refused. Hilariously, Treasury Department spokeperson Marti West said, "As a general matter, should laws be obeyed? Yes. Should laws be enforced. Yes. But we're a government of limited resources and we have to make priorities." Busting Americans for travelling to where they want to travel is obviously not a top priority. West did note that fines of up to $250,000 per infraction are still possible. But let's face it, with the Obama Administration bogged down in health care, cap and trade, and awful unemployment figures, the last thing they are going to want to do is infuriate the base by coming across as regressive. And if by some remote chance you did get charged for taking your boat to Cuba, there would still be plenty of upside — you'd be seen as an international martyr for liberty, and would be asked to do all the talk shows and write a book. But still, a word of warning to keep expectations low. Cuba isn't even semi-developed and the poverty will shock you. So if you're going for adventure, that's one thing, but if you go hoping for any kind of luxury or comfort, you'll be bummed.

"We haven't communicated for a few years," write John and Cynthia Tindle, and Mattie, their "famous boat dog" of the San Diego-based Jeanneau 45 Utopia." Old Mexico hands may recall that the couple cruised Mexico for three years prior to buying a different boat and taking up Caribbean sailing in '02. "We always miss the Wanderer and Dona de Mallorca when we're in St. Barths, but we're still loving it here. We noticed that a few months ago you ran a photo of Darwin, the boat dog on the Tobago 35 Irie. We'd like to know if they ran into any problems with Darwin in Antigua or on their way farther south. They can reach us at . I would appreciate it."

Missing the pictures? See the September 2009 eBook!


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