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September 2013

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With reports this month from Ichiban on making it to the Marquesas from San Diego; from Esprit on cruising the French Riviera; from Black Pearl on finding a replacement mast on a remote island in the South Pacific; from Points Beyond on cruising the Bahamas; from Larrakin on a Pacific crossing; from Iris on the passing of Alex Rust; from Profligate on a refit in La Cruz; and Cruise Notes.

Ichiban — Columbia 34 Mk II
Justin Jenkins and Anna Wiley
Big Cruise on a Small Budget
(San Diego)

I've never felt such a great sense of accomplishment as after making the 32-day, 3,000-mile passage from San Diego to Controller Bay, Nuku Hiva, with my girlfriend Anna Wiley. It was both the scariest thing I've ever done and the most rewarding. It feels as though we've ascended to the top of the highest nautical mountain.

Anna and I are not like most cruisers. We're both just 30 years old and don't have much money. But we didn't see much of a future for ourselves in the United States right now, so we decided to buy the best boat we could with our limited funds and take off.

The boat turned out to be a surprisingly spacious Columbia 34 Mk II, which we got for just $2,000. The small outboard wasn't going to cut it as an auxiliary in the South Pacific, so I bought and installed a rebuilt Atomic 4. I know a gas engine isn't ideal for cruising, but it was what we could afford. Ichiban also needed sails, so I bought a used main and a used jib for $100 each. Naturally the boat needed lots of other work, which took up most of my time for the last year.

Our original plan was to start by cruising Mexico, but we weren't ready to leave in time for the season. So when we didn't leave San Diego until May 11, our destination became the Marquesas in the South Pacific rather than Mexico. After all the repairs and provisioning, our cruising kitty was down to just $400. But it was time to walk the walk, so we left.

Other than getting hit by 30 knots of wind near Guadalupe Island, and getting thrashed in the doldrums, our crossing was surprisingly uneventful. We had a solid 15 knots on the quarter until we hit the doldrums at about 10°N. It was pretty squally in the ITCZ, with wind from five to 30 knots, and strong currents. We never knew which way the wind or current would come from, and it was like being in a washing machine. It took us six days to get down to 4°N, which is where we finally escaped the ITCZ.

The doldrums was the most nerve-wracking part of the trip. One night the wind died and the current pushed us 20 miles back. That wasn't fun. But then the southeast trades filled in and carried us to Nuku Hiva's Controller Bay at a steady five knots.

Ichiban handled very well during the long crossing and, thank God, nothing broke. We didn't have a spinnaker pole, so we recently made one out of bamboo.

As soon as we arrived, we began to meet lots of cruisers. They've been wonderful about sharing their knowledge of sailing and cruising. What a great bunch of people! Igor and Louise, our new cruising friends from Australia, just had their first baby pop out last night. We're about to go to the local hospital to see what she looks like.

Starting out with such a small cruising kitty, we were lucky to find some jobs — repairing sails and cleaning boats — almost right away. As a result, we were able to nearly double the size of our kitty. We've also been playing a lot of music, and have received quite a bit of free fruit from our gracious listeners.

The weekends here have been filled with the sounds of Marquesan drums, the sight of Polynesians dancing, and the taste of Hinano beer.

We're all checked in with the Gendarmerie, which has taken a load off our minds. But as we'd like to spend more time exploring French Polynesia, we're hoping to get a one-year extension to our visas.

Anna and I are so glad that we went cruising. What a life it is! We're hoping to encourage other young folks with not so much money to join us in this adventurous lifestyle.

— justin 07/31/2013

Esprit — Peterson 46
Chay, Katie and Jaime McWilliam
Monaco to Menorca
(Boulder City, Nevada)

After our stop in Monte Carlo, we day-hopped along the French Riviera and the Côte d'Azur coast of France. We made stops at Antibes, Cannes and St. Tropez before stopping for a few days at Île de Porquerolles, an island just south of Toulon.

The stop in Antibes was a must once Chay spotted the 289-ft Maltese Falcon — which had been built for Belvedere's Tom Perkins — anchored in the bay. As Jaime puts it, "With her towering, silver Dyna-Rig spreaders, the Maltese Falcon is the world's largest privately-owned sailing yacht. From her graceful bow to her sloping, blue stern, her deck spans nearly the length of a football field, and her size is matched only by her sleek elegance."

Jamie and Chay have been intrigued with the Maltese Falcon for several years, so it was awesome that we were able to see her up close and personal, and to share an anchorage with her. She is a beautiful yacht, and the photos in the magazines do not do her justice.

The next morning a thunderstorm came up, causing rough seas and putting us on a lee shore. So after one more close look at Maltese Falcon, we took off for Cannes and anchored in front of Fort Royal at Île Sainte-Marguerite. The next day we toured the fort and museum. The fort is famous because it is where 'the man in the iron mask' was kept prisoner.

We stopped at St. Tropez for one night, but the anchorage was very rolly due to all the superyacht traffic. In fact, it looked like a superyacht freeway at rush hour.

The anchorage at Porquerolles, on the other hand, was one of the nicest we've had in a while. The water was clear and refreshing, but anchoring was tricky due to large domes of grass interspersed between valleys of sand. Jamie was able to dive in and set our anchor in sand, so we were confident we weren't going anywhere. Although the anchorage was fairly crowded and we had one close call with a boat anchored a little too close, it was decent enough — except for the ferry wakes during the day. At night it was quiet. The small town was very busy with tourists, but we were able to pick up some spare parts we needed.

After a few days we decided to move on to the Balearic Islands of Spain, about 200 miles to the south. The passage was okay — winds on the nose with slightly uncomfortable seas — but we managed to sail a good portion of the way. And as is typical with Esprit, we had the best sail the last six hours of the trip.

We arrived in Menorca, the second largest of the Balearics after Mallorca, at 10:30 p.m., anchored in the dark, ate dinner, and had our celebratory beer before going to bed at midnight to the sound of karaoke from the shore.

The anchorage at which we made landfall was not exactly what we were expecting, so we moved over into a cala anchorage — a long, river-like bay — three miles east, which is where we are now. It appears that most of the good anchorages in the Balearics aren't so great anymore due to the installation of swim moorings and ropes that prohibit anchoring in close to the beach. But it's hard to get anything done when we're on the move, so it's nice to have found a spot to stay for a few days. Chay is taking the opportunity to continue his varnish work in the cockpit, while Jamie catches up on school.

After a long spell of light breezes, the winds have returned. Yesterday we saw 27 knots in the anchorage. The bottom is mud, but due to the number of boats that anchor here, it's very soft. We watched many boats drag during the blow. Luckily we had read about the potential problem in our cruising guide, so we gently put our anchor in and slowly let it sink into the mud before setting.

The temperatures are in the 80s now and it's become very muggy. With the wind expected to veer north in the next day or two, we'll move around to the south side of the island and explore the anchorages there.

— the mcwilliams 08/15/2013

Black Pearl — Cal 30
Arthur Miller and James Lewis
Miracle on Hiva Oa

We can all get dismasted thousands of miles into a Pacific crossing, but how many of us can find a replacement mast at the first tiny island we reach?

After loading up with fresh fruit and veggies at Cabo, we set sail for the 2,800-mile-distant Marquesas on March 21. Two miles into our trip we were hit by wind from the northeast and swells from all directions. It made no sense, as having done research on the Internet, having read sailors' blogs, and having chatted with other yachties, we'd been expecting lovely ocean swells, continuous trades and a relaxing crossing. Ha! We hoped that the initial unpleasant conditions would last only briefly, but after 200 miles we came to the realization that this was how it was going to be most of the way. Sailing the Pacific Ocean isn't anything like sailing in the Sea of Cortez.

We alternated the two night watches: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m, then 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. During the day it was both of our responsibilities to watch out for boats, ships and debris. We didn't see much, just three fishing boats and two ships. But the sunsets were great. I was surprised that the reality of our isolation didn't register with me. Our next waypoint was the horizon, and that was only four miles away.

At 10 a.m. on our 30th day at sea, I was sitting on the transom, periodically reading Maiden Voyage, a book about an 18-year-old girl who sailed around the world in 1982. With the wind blowing less than 10 knots, I allowed myself to fantasize about the sights and experiences that awaited us just 350 miles ahead at Hiva Oa. Then it happened.

I heard a big crack and crash, and turned to see only sky where the mast and sails had been just seconds before. We'd been dismasted, and the mast, boom, main, headstay and furling system were all dragging in the ocean. "This is going to really slow us down," I thought to myself. I also worried that if we didn't get the stuff out of the water pretty soon, it was going to put a hole in the hull.

The first order of business was to retrieve the sails. Considering the swell, it didn't go too badly. Unfortunately, getting the mast out of the water required that we set upon the headstay and furling system with the bolt-cutters and other tools. Six hours and two jellyfish stings later, we had the then-'L'-shaped mast on deck.

The next order of business was getting to land. Having used 80 liters of diesel to get through the doldrums, we had 60 liters left. If the ocean were as calm as a lake, we figured we could motor for 250 miles before we ran out of fuel. The only problem was that the nearest patch of land, the northern tip of Hiva Oa, was 360 miles away.

Having no choice but to jury rig a mast out of the what was left of the mast and boom, we set the main horizontally. We did quite a good job of it, and could even tack. Our GPS showed us doing a very decent 1.8 to 2.8 knots. When we ran the 3-cylinder Universal diesel at the lowest revs, we achieved a steady three to four knots.

After 150 miles, our fuel situation looked bad. The shifting winds and adverse ocean current had hurt our fuel economy. We shut the engine down with 203 miles remaining, and resumed at 1.6 to 2.5 knots under sail alone. It was going to take awhile.

Three days later, it was "Land ho!" After 35 days at sea, we limped into Hiva Oa's port of Atuona just before noon, and dropped the hook in a quiet spot at the far end of the fleet. After half an hour of making sure the anchor was set, it was time for a burger and a pint.

The following day we began walking around the island looking for inspiration to repair or replace the mast. As you might imagine, there is no sparmaker or boatyard on the remote island with a population of less than 2,000. With such slim pickings, we looked at wooden pylons, galvanized lamp posts — anything that had a remote chance of serving as a mast. Soon we began to think that we'd have to somehow repair the bent mast in order to get to Tahiti. In order to repair the mast, we had to get it, as well as the boom and the furling gear, ashore. How were we going to do that? Then a light went off — we'd float them on our abundance of empty diesel jugs. It sounds crazy, but it worked.

Upon closer inspection, it became clear that the stainless tang on the port side just below the spreader had failed, starting a chain reaction of the spreader failing and then the mast folding over. So what to do? We thought about straghtening the mast and fitting the broken spot with a wooden core. With the few tools we had available to us, we began to wonder if duct tape, Elastoplast and epoxy resin would actually hold it all together.

Then our first knight in shining armor appeared. It was KI, a German guy anchored just behind us. He not only helped us out to no end, but he had everything on his boat — aluminum plates, tap and die sets, drill motors and drill bits, a generator — even vernier calipers! You have to love the Germans.

Arthur and I began to strip down the mast. We had to make it as light as possible, as we were going to have to carry it the three or four miles in the tropical heat to the welding machine at the local college. Every pound we could remove would make the trek easier.

Before it came time to lift anything, Ben, from the Alaska-based Kyanos, our second knight in shining armor, showed up. With Arthur and me working, heads-down on the mast, Ben, to whom we hadn't been introduced, said, "Hey chaps, you might want to take a look at this."

Ben had done some exploring on Hiva Oa, and as exploring can be tiring in the tropics, he found a place to sit down. He'd sat down on something among the tall grass, and it turned out to be an old mast. Having brought a camera with him, he took a photo of it, which is what he wanted to show us.

The mast in the photo looked so similar to our bent one that we immediately took off to have a look. “Oh my goodness!” Arthur and I said in unison when we saw the mast, "it looks pretty close to the same length as our broken one."

Out came the tape measure and — it couldn't be! After triple-checking our notes, we realized that in the high grass in front of us, on remote Hiva Oa, was a mast identical to the one that had broken on Black Pearl! Trying to calculate the odds of this made my head hurt.

Within the hour, we had found the owner, bought the mast, and got it delivered to the port — for a total of just $300!

With the acquisition of the new-to-us mast came the work, such as removing the fittings, mast steps and all the rest. I wish I could say that none of the stuff on the "new" old mast had rusted or seized up, but I'd be a liar. But we weren't about to complain.

After six days of sweat — which is what you do in 85 degrees and 70% humidity — and lots of blood but no tears, our new-to-us mast, boom, rigging and much modified furling system were set for installation. Our jury rig, which we'd installed 380 miles off the coast of Hiva Oa, had chafed multiple slashes in our mainsail; however. Ben stepped in again, this time with his sewing machine to make the repairs. We handed him our storm jib in appreciation for his mammoth efforts!!

With no nearby boatyard where we could step the mast, we thought about trying to find two obliging — and maybe slightly stupid — skippers who would be willing to maneuver their yachts to either side of the Pearl, and using their halyards to winch our new mast up. I say 'slightly stupid', because while this has been done, Atuona gets a pretty good swell. So we put that idea on the back burner and took off in search of a crane.

This is when we met a very friendly local woman by the name of Moo’e. Making use of the minute amount of French I learned by listening to language CDs while sailing across the Pacific, I managed to convey the fact that we needed a crane. And she managed to convey that she could arrange for one for $100/hour.

But we were soon joined on the dock by Taki — "As in 'take it easy'", he told us — to survey the situation. The crane was quoted at $100 an hour, but Taki was convinced that a JCB — a piece of heavy equipment — could do the job for only $50 an hour. Half the price!

After the arrangements had been made, and the delivery ferry that serves Atuona moved out of the way, we moored Black Pearl to the concrete dock, with our bow and stern anchors set to keep her as steady as possible in the swell. Before long, Mr. Digger turned up with his JCB and crew, found a good hoisting point, and sprang into action.

To say the installation went well would be a massive understatement. Less than an hour later, Black Pearl had her new mast up and was looking like her old self. She just needed her sails to be fitted on to be ready for a test sail.

— james 08/15/2013

Readers — Unfortunately, we've received no follow-up report from Black Pearl, so we have no idea how the replacement mast has worked out.

Points Beyond — Shannon 38
Devan, Alisa, Brady, 11, Jamie, 8
Key West to Georgetown, Bahamas
(Newport Beach)

After keeping our boat in Key West — which for the geographically challenged is on the opposite side of the United States from Newport Beach — for the better part of 10 years, our family decided to do a little cruising and end up with the boat a little closer to home.

After making the passage to Bimini, the shortest hop across the sloppy Gulf Stream from Florida, we made our landfall in the Bahamas. Bimini is a delightful destination, with clear water ranging in color, depending on the depth, from iridescent teal to deep blue.

North and South Bimini are small but frequently visited by boats from South Florida, which is only 45 miles away. The one main street of Alice Town is picturesque. Developers, however, have begun building a casino, along with another marina and a housing development. Hopefully Bimini won’t lose all of its charm.

We snorkeled the Sapona, a partially submerged ferrocement ship used during World War II for bombing practice. We'd been anchored at the same spot in 1983 when, in broad daylight, 21 bales of drugs were tossed out of a passing Cessna. The bales were promptly retrieved by some guys with guns in a cigarette boat. We acted like Sergeant Schultz, and calmly sailed past a fortune in dope.

By now it was the last of June, and our plan was to continue down through the Exumas district of the Bahamas, which has an island for every day of the year. Ah, the Exumaaaaahs. Think quintessential palm-studded beaches and unbelievably transparent turquoise waters. It doesn’t get much better. But getting to the Exumas wouldn't be fun.

We departed Bimini heading east for Chub Cay in the Berry Islands, another district of the Bahamas. We got away later than we had hoped, with the unpleasant consequence that we made landfall after dark. The Northwest Channel Light is the critical waypoint in safely making it through the reef-strewn waters to Chub Cay, but the light was nowhere to be seen. We had sailed charter boats here a lot in the 1980s, and had always relied on this light when crossing the Great Bahama bank at night.

Were we off course? Was the light not functioning? We slowly inched forward using GPS toward where we thought the light should be, but never did see it. Despite some tense moments, we made it. Meanwhile, the wind and waves had continued to increase from the wrong direction, which would have made anchoring at Chub Cay a dicey proposition even if it were daylight. So we decided to continue on through the night to 40-mile distant Nassau.

Continuing was the prudent decision, but not the comfortable one. We pounded into sloppy seas all the way to Nassau, trying to dodge the lightning storms as we went. It was not only a brutal passage, it took us four hours longer than expected. We are putting that passage right up there with our five worst ever. The only upside is that it made our crossing of the lumpy Gulf Stream seem almost enjoyable by comparison. We immediately crashed as soon as we got into a cheap little marina in the grimy city of Nassau.

A few days later we headed for Norman Cay, formerly a popular staging area for drug smugglers. The wind continued to be farther forward than we liked, but it was only a 50-mile passage, so we were able to complete it in daylight. What a difference daylight makes!

After a night on the hook and a morning snorkel of a drowned DC-3 at Norman Cay, we set off for Shroud Cay, which was the first of a number of islands that are a part of the Exumas Land and Sea Park. Shroud Cay did not disappoint. We dinghied to a pristine beach, snorkeled a bit, and spied a huge helmet conch amidst all the other conch shells. Later we motored up a mangrove-lined creek to a to-die-for spit of sand at the base of a hill. We climbed the hill to take in the gorgeous 360-degree view, where we toasted our 25th anniversary.

The next day we trekked farther into the park to Warderick Wells, which may be the most beautiful anchorage I've ever seen. We hiked to Boo-Boo Hill, saw lots of sea life while snorkeling, and did more wandering. The place is stunning. On the evening of the Fourth of July we were treated to a fireworks display rivaling any we’ve ever seen — courtesy of some rich guy with a nearby private island.

Our next stop was Staniel Cay and Big Major Spot, home of the swimming pigs. Yep, swimming pigs. We screamed in delight — and a bit of terror — as the huge pigs swam out to greet us when we dinghied ashore. Hilarious! The anchorage was gorgeous, with spectacularly light blue-green water.

Just around the corner is the town of Staniel Cay, home to some of the most kind and friendly people we've ever come across. Within minutes of landing, we were given a ride to the village on a golf cart. Later, my son Jamie and I passed a group of six workmen going in the opposite direction. It was late afternoon, hot, and the men had clearly been doing manual labor all day. "I'm thirsty, mom", said Jaime. One of the men stopped in his tracks, turned, and called out, “Do you want my drink?” He smilingly gave Jamie his unopened bottle of juice. We weren't in Kansas/California anymore.

Staniel Cay is also home to Thunderball Grotto, where part of the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed. It is a surreal space, with beams of sunshine coming through cracks in the 'roof', lighting up the water in the center of the friendly fish-filled grotto, while the edges of the domed space remain in darkness. I looked around, but I didn't see 007. Or even Sean Connery.

After the porcine delights of Staniel Cay we headed southeast to Georgetown. During the 'season' Georgetown becomes a ginormous cruiser mecca, with hundreds of boats, complete with regattas, potlucks and volleyball on the beach. But by the time we arrived, the place had become a bit of a ghost town, with just a few dozen cruising boats. We didn’t mind the quiet though, as it meant the Chat & Chill Bar and Grill beachside hangout offered faster service and the dinghy dock in Lake Victoria was no longer overflowing. We hiked along the beautiful beaches on both sides of Stocking Island, one of which is several miles long.

Georgetown is sometimes known as 'Chickentown', because it's where so many U.S.-based cruisers give up the dream of continuing to the Eastern Caribbean. Granted, the upwind slog to the Dominican Republic and/or the Windward Islands is a bit daunting. While there, three boats that we know of headed east only to return a short time later.

But rather than going to the Eastern Caribbean, our next destination would be 1,000 miles to the south, Cartagena, Colombia, famous for being a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and where members of the U.S. Secret Service refuse to overpay for hookers.

— alisa 08/15/2013

Larrakin — Catalina 42
Peter and Gabriela Verdon
Crossing to French Polynesia

We made it to the Marquesas after an amazing 24-day passage from Mexico. We started on May 1, very late in the season, because we were waiting for parts. If the parts came any later, we weren't going to leave. After all, May 15 is the official start of the hurricane season, and with Paul having gotten so close last season, we weren't going to take any chances.

We'd done the 2,850-mile Pacific crossing before, but while running big boats with unlimited fuel, huge freezers, marble toilets and six crew. This time it was just our Catalina 42, the two of us, and our prayers to Buddha.

Larrakin has major fuel capacity by cruising boat standards, but the Captain was still anal about making sure we had plenty. So what happened? We started our crossing in some of the glassiest conditions we'd seen in our decades of ocean sailing. With hurricane season coming on, we couldn't wait for a breezier weather window. The initial mild conditions made it easy to get acclimatized to life onboard, however. Three hours on, three hours off — that would be our routine for a month.

Twelve days out we noticed that the temp in the fridge was rising and that the unit was not cycling off. The Captain re-gassed the system and we crossed our fingers. Alas, the condenser still wasn't happy. We had a replacement, but at sea wasn't the place to do a swap-out. So we consolidated some of the fridge food in the less-cold part of the freezer and turned the fridge off. The drop in power consumption made for one happy captain, as running two compressors requires a bunch of fuel when there is not a lot of sun on the solar panels.

It was about then that Jody Perry, who was checking the different weather sites for us, spotted a tropical low forming off Nicaragua. A hurricane forming with us in the zone was just what we didn't need, so it was pedal to the metal to get away from it. The low became Alvin, which headed northwest as a tropical storm. It wasn't until Day 15 that we were sure we were out of his path.

Even though we weren't directly affected by Alvin, by that time the bastard had spent enough time in the lower latitudes to throw off the normal pattern in the ITCZ. So all of a sudden we were heading into southerlies instead of the doldrums, and that hadn't been in the brochure Verdo had shown me. We made as much westing as we could, but still had an uncomfortable three days of bashing before we finally got below 5°N and back into the normal pattern. What a relief to get free, as motorsailing into big seas and squalls to 40 knots was not fun. And there went our exercise sessions, our French lessons, and all the other activities we’d been on a roll with.

The only good thing was that after one of those mother squalls went through, there was nothing dirty left on the boat. It was the first really good washing the rig had in a year.

The last 1,000 miles of our trip flew by, as we had some of our fastest runs. Our best 24 hours was 190 miles, while our worst had been 65 during the bashing part. Despite being loaded down, Larrakin has performed beautifully. If there is a whiff of breeze, she's off. And the runs with the kite have been exhilarating. We couldn't be happier with her. Even the captain has stopped prefacing his comments with, "For a production boat . . ." He's been impressed.

The day before landfall was surreal. There was no sight of land and we'd been at sea for nearly a month, but the next day we'd be enjoying fresh baguettes, cafe au lait, and speaking frog. My French is coming along, and the Captain's will get better in time. Our French tapes sucked, as the instructor's voice grated so badly that the tapes went into the same drawer as Verdo's Spanish tapes. We stuck with the books.

After all this time out here on a small boat, I have developed an even greater admiration for singlehanders. Jessica Watson, the Aussie girl who circumnavigated at age 16, is my new hero. To have done what she did at such a young age, and to have not gone batty, is beyond me. As they say, more people have gone to the moon than have sailed solo around the world nonstop. Watson is a class act — although Verdo tells me that she's a terrible dancer.

The next three months will see us continue through the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society islands. All are absolutely beautiful, and hopefully they won't be too crowded, as we're always searching for hideaways. Most other cruisers seem to prefer to stick together.

We’ll soon get the fridge sorted out, as well as the SSB, which also crapped out. It's sad not having the BBC World Service, which is normally a huge part of our day. Luckily, we have an Iridium phone, so we have gotten daily updates out to our families to keep them less worried. We've also gotten daily GRIBs for Verdo's weather routing.

Not too many photos this month because it was a clothes optional crossing and we can't have anyone getting sick.

The longest passage of our cruise was passed with flying colors, for after being alone together at sea for a month, the Captain and the Wench are still mad for each other. Life is good.

— gabriela 06/12/2013

Iris — Hylas 42
John and Janet Colby
Remembering Alex Rust

I want to thank Latitude for noting the passing of 28-year-old circumnavigator Alex Rust of Indiana, who died in his sleep at a guest house in India. He had been stricken with typhoid fever, but was thought to be recovering.

I first met Alex, who went around on the Fast Passage Bubbles, while I was sailing alone at Rodrigues Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He and two crew had made the long passage from Indonesia without a working engine or a windvane, which meant they had to hand-steer all the way.

When Bubbles and our Iris tied near each other at the cement quay in downtown Port Louis, Mauritius, I watched as Rust worked through the night re-assembling his diesel engine after he had retrieved it — in parts — from local mechanics who failed to complete the job. The next day the engine was lowered through the hatch and hooked up, and ran.

I next saw Bubbles, Alex, and his crew in Richards Bay, South Africa. Bubbles' hatchboard was missing, allowing monkeys to 'tour' the boat while Alex and crew were touring game parks.

It was in Durban where Alex got serious about refitting Bubbles. It was a good thing, as the headstay and foil had failed off Madagascar, and the mast was being partially supported by halyards. There was also the matter of Rust's rusted out stove.

After Durban, we both docked in Simon's Town on the Cape Peninsula. Our paths didn't cross again until four months later, when we unexpectedly anchored near each other at Barbados. There Alex told me he was without dinghy and outboard, as they had been stolen in Guyana. "No worries," he said.

He also invited me to his 'last port before completion of a circumnavigation' party to be held in St Martin. I wasn't going to attend, but after being lent a crewmember for the 120-mile passage from Guadaloupe to St Martin I changed my mind. As I was much older than most of the twenty-somethings at Alex's party, I only lasted part of the first night. But I didn't leave before toasting Alex in front of the 28 people assembled in Bubbles' main salon, drinking Madagascar rum from a 5-gallon jerry can. I told everyone that Alex had been an inspiration to me, and we hugged.

I'd meant what I said. Not only did Rust do the repairs necessary to Bubbles at every port, but he also hit every tourist attraction in sight, and never stopped partying. Nothing seemed to get him down. His only concern seemed to be what he would do once he completed his circumnavigation.

I initially thought of Alex and Bubbles as the sailing version of the movie Animal House. But Alex had a heart of gold and went much deeper. He was bigger than life. Few will ever fit so much life into 28 short years. Sail on Alex!

— john 09/15/2013

Profligate — Surfin '63
The Wanderer and de Mallorca
Refit At the La Cruz Shipyard
(Punta Mita, Mexico)

The Profligate refit project started at Driscoll's Boat Yard in San Diego a couple of years ago when they rebuilt the cat's 12-ft by 18-ft cockpit sole, which had been in danger of failure. Maybe 50 people partying on it at once had been too many. And it continued with the yard fortifying the aft bulkhead of the salon, which was showing stress cracks as a result of absorbing much of the loads from the spinnaker halyards.

We wanted more work done on Profligate, but yards that can handle boats with a beam of 30 feet are hard to find between San Francisco and Panama. By happenstance, we ended up at La Cruz Ship Yard in La Cruz Mexico, one of the few yards that could accommodate the cat. Just as important, it was June, the start of the slow season for Peter Vargas and his Sea Tek team of workers.

Vargas is well-known in Southern California, as he worked with Sea Tek founder Allen Blunt for many years, building and tweaking rigs for the big sleds. He later bought the company, then six years ago moved to Mexico to do all manner of boat projects.

As we continued to make change orders to the initial refit, the one-month Profligate project stretched to two months. But in the end we got exactly what we wanted: much stronger decks that are painted more attractively than before. Fifty-five feet of the inside of both hulls beefed up by much thicker skins and additional frames. And all new soles in both hulls.

Since we were replacing 50 feet of soles in both hulls, we decided to turn the bilges into numerous watertight chambers. To a large extent, Profligate is now a double-bottom vessel. This isn't something that we planned on or felt was needed, but since the opportunity was staring us in the face at virtually no additional cost, why not? Besides, we never used the bilges for anything but collecting dust.

During the course of our daily project inspections, we came to know and respect the Sea Tek work crew. They worked hard in the tropical heat, and didn't cut corners — even when the 'corner' was grinding off the last couple of square feet of deck paint at the end of a long work day. We would have lasted half an hour trying to do their jobs. And they always had a smile.

All things considered, we feel pretty fortunate with Profligate. When Dencho built her in Long Beach 16 years ago, we got a massive cat — minus the mast, sails and winches — for not much more than the price of a new Valiant 40. Profligate had more than a few teething problems — most to do with the hydraulic steering that we eventually chucked, and her first mast, which we replaced — but she was still a huge bang for the buck.

Profligate was perhaps more lightly constructed than ideal, but maybe that's what enabled her to hit as much as 25 knots while loaded down with literally tons of cruising gear. But now that we're officially an Old Fart, and having done 16 Ha-Ha's and a round-trip to the Caribbean, and taken thousands of people sailing for free on Profligate, we're more interested in longevity than speed. So while it's true that a ton of additional epoxy and hundreds of yards of cloth aren't going to make Profligate any faster, we don't care. After all, she's not only stiffer now, she's still floating six inches above her lines. Besides, with just a little effort we could probably remove 2,000 pounds of junk that's accumulated on her over the years.

So in a way, we've gotten two cats for the price of one, each one appropriate for our stage in life. A lighter, faster cat for when we were younger, and a sturdier, comfortable cat for when we're older.

By the way, having spent an unplanned summer on Banderas Bay between La Cruz and Punta Mita, we've found it to be entirely different than in winter, and fabulous. Yeah, there is lightning and some rain, and from the end of July on you'll want access to air-conditioning. But if you love a warm ocean devoid of seaweed and tar that's perfect for sailing, swimming, surfing and SUP-ing, Banderas Bay is terrific.

— wanderer 08/20/2013

Cruise Notes:

You know how most Americans feel they can't cruise the Med anymore because it's so expensive? According to Chay, Katie and Jamie McWilliam, who have been cruising the world six months a year or so since doing the 2003 Ha-Ha aboard their Kelly-Peterson 46 Esprit, and who have been spending this summer cruising from Turkey west to Spain, it actually doesn't cost much more to cruise the Med than anywhere else.

"We were able to anchor out more often when cruising the South Pacific than here in the Med," writes Chay, "but most of the marinas here have charged less than $100/night. At least until the start of high season, when the prices can rise exponentially. For example, we paid 50 euros at Porto Cervo, Sardinia, on the night of June 30th. But when high season rates kicked in the next night, July 1, it went up to 250 euros/night! That said, we paid less than $100 a night at Monte Carlo in the high season. The bottom line is that some costs are higher here in the Med, some costs are lower, but in the end we seem to spend $2,000 a month regardless of where we are."

According U.S. Federal guidelines, a family of three living on $19,530 a year, or $1,627 a month, is living in poverty. We're trying to wrap our heads around the idea that you can cruise the Med — assuming that you already own your boat — for just over the level of impoverishment in the States. And mind you, the McWilliams are not just surviving, they are seeing everything.

Another Northern California couple who decided to brave the allegedly high cost of cruising in Europe are Jim and Debra Gregory, who at last word were cruising the Med aboard their Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus. This after several seasons of cruising the Northeast United States and the Caribbean. Jim's crew for the St. Martin-to-Portugal crossing, with a stop at the Azores, consisted of Bob Branley and Michael Wallach of the Richmond YC, and Kim Comfort of the New York YC. Debra sat out the April 24 to May 20 trip.

While it was mostly a very fine passage, Wallach injured his arm and ribs a couple of days out of Portugal while going to heat water. He describes the accident in the accompanying three-panel cartoon. Wallach was examined at a private clinic for about $300. One doctor suggested rotator cuff surgery. Wallach decided to hold off until he got home, 'Dr. Bob' prescribed red wine and cheese at a sidewalk cafe. The cure has been taking.

Who remembers Linh Goben, the first ever Commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club? A better question might be how anyone could forget her. She and her husband Teal did the 2004 Ha-Ha with their Seattle-based Williams 41 trimaran Savannah, during which time a whale even put a little crack in one hull. They continued cruising the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico for a couple of years, then returned to Seattle with two goals: 1) Start a family, and 2) Get a larger multihull. It's been about six years since we last heard from the couple, but we're happy to report they are achieving both their goals. Most importantly, they have a lovely daughter, Emma, who we're told loves the boat and sailing, and who has already mapped out their cruising destinations. Secondarily, they bought a used Featherlite 43 catamaran.

"Teal proceeded to strip the cat to bare hulls and has been rebuilding her himself," says Linh. "He loves doing it. He has been working on the cockpit and galley, and this past summer he finished adding sugar scoops. He's gotten particularly good at adding curves to the boat, telling me that every man appreciates curves. We saw the article on Profligate's refit in Mexico, and we're using lots of the same honeycomb panels. After Teal finishes the refit — he's about 70% done — we're going to play in the Pacific Northwest for a few years before heading south and doing another Ha-Ha. We can't wait to return to the cruising life!"

"There are at least 20-30% more cruising boats in the South Pacific this year," reports John Neal of the Victoria, B.C.-based Hallberg-Rassy 48 Mahina Tiare III, "so we've been having some great potlucks and beach BBQs along the way. This year's 9,000-mile expedition, a circle of the southwestern Pacific starting and ending in New Zealand, has featured lots of wind so far. We're excited about returning to Savu Savu, Fiji, where Amanda's parents are waiting for us. They, 71 and 66 respectively, report they had a pretty good passage up from New Zealand. This will be the second year that we've gotten to cruise together."

Just over a year ago, Max Young of the Antioch-based Reflections was singlehanding up the coast of Baja at the end of an 11-year circumnavigation, when his Perry 47/52 was hit by a whale. He didn't think much of the initial impact, but it wasn't that many hours later that he had to be rescued from the sinking ketch he'd owned since new.

Young always carried two anti-whale devices. One was a large pipe filled with stainless bearings that he'd drag off the side of his boat when he was sailing to alert whales of his presence. The other was a cassette tape of killer whale noises, the theory being they would scare other whales away. Alas, the cassette was no good because his new stereo doesn't work with cassettes, and the pipe with bearings wasn't employed because he was motoring at two knots. Why so slow? To avoid entering an unfamiliar harbor at night, something he'd only done twice in 11 years. It's not clear if either 'anti-whale' device would have kept the whale from ramming his boat anyway.

Like all smart cruisers, Young carried an EPIRB. In fact, he carried two. The Coast Guard initially received signals from both EPIRBs. But by the time their C-130 arrived on scene halfway down the coast of Baja from its Sacramento base, the old batteries in the EPIRBs had given out. Fortunately, the C-130's radar was able to spot Young's sinking boat — 30 miles from the original position indicated by the EPIRBs! The Coast Guard advised Young to get into his liferaft. Although he'd purchased the most expensive Canadian model available, he couldn't get it to inflate. When he tried to pump up his West Marine dinghy, he knocked the pump into the water, rending that option useless also.

At least the Coast Guard knew where he was, and told him that a ship would be alongside in six hours. Six hours?! Young didn't know why it would take so long as he could see a ship on the horizon. The Coasties explained that the nearby German ship didn't want to stop, so he'd have to wait for a bulk carrier that was 60 miles away. When Ocean Bargo finally did arrive, it bumped into the liferaft between the ship and the sinking sailboat — causing the liferaft to finally inflate! Young was taken aboard and let off at the ship's next stop, Panama.

"The circumnavigation was an amazing trip that I would do again in a heartbeat if I were younger," says Young, who noted that he prefers flotilla cruising. But he suspects it's more likely he'll get a slightly smaller boat, maybe a 45-footer, and just do a loop of the South Pacific.

For decades the most bustling cruiser stop between the Eastern Caribbean and the Panama Canal has been Cartagena, Colombia, and specifically Club Nautico, owned and run by Candelaria 'the Dragon Lady'. The club had everything and was hugely popular with cruisers — but not the mayor and some of the local power brokers. In fact, they forced the clubhouse to be torn down a few years ago, leaving only the docks. But after a nearly interminable "hellish battle", the Dragon Lady came out on top, and the new clubhouse is supposed to be open again in time for Christmas. We're not sure in exactly what capacity they helped, but we're told that Greg and Sheryl Daily of the Jeanneau 47 Uno Mas, a Northern California couple, have provided major assistance. Greg teaches English locally, while Sheryl works with special needs children.

If you think the cruising life is easy as opposed to an active adventure, consider the report from Greg King of the 65-ft Long Beach-based schooner Coco Kai:

"We're here at Australia's Cocos-Keeling Islands, which are midway between Australia and Sri Lanka, and I needed Internet access so I could send some photos and reports to family and friends. All that I needed to do to get that access was: 1) Dinghy two miles into 20 knots of wind and chop to get from Direction Island to Turtle Beach on Home Island. 2) Walk a mile to the pier to catch the 7 a.m. ferry. 3) And after the 10-mile ferry ride, take a four-mile bus ride to the Internet place."

Then, of course, he had to get back to the boat. As most Latitude readers know, King spent months in the heat and humidity of Thailand doing a fabulous refit on the schooner. Owner Jennifer Sanders of Los Angeles, and daughter Coco, are now aboard, and in a week they'll start the 4,000-mile trek to Cape Town, with stops at Rodrigues Island, Mauritius, Reunion Island and Durban.

"It's going to be a fast and wet ride, with the biggest waves we've seen in years," predicts King. "Readers can follow our track at, login kf60id, hit satellite, and zoom in."

"Stephi and I are well and have been enjoying the Bay of Los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez for the last two months," reports Robin Kirkcaldie of the Santa Barbara-based Bounty II Red Witch II. "We're due to head south in a week or two, and are looking forward to signing up for the 2014 Pacific Puddle Jump. Although she was built in the late 1950s in Sausalito, and was one of the first sizeable fiberglass boats ever built, Red Witch continues to surprise us with her wonderful sailing qualities."

If you were going to make a movie based on James Michener's Bali Hai, where would you film it? Thanks to Nancy and Burger Zapf of the Berlin, GER-based Alden 50 Halekai, we now know that parts of it were filmed at Portinax Beach and Es Vedrà, which are on the Spanish island of Ibiza in the Med. If that's not weird enough for you, Michener admitted that he based the fictional South Pacific paradise on a "miserable village" on Mono Island in the Solomon Islands, and Aoba, a "steaming, savage island" in what is now Vanuatu. Michener said the islands were so off-putting that no sane person would willingly visit them, so he "took the privilege of dressing them up a little." Geez, first you can't believe everything you read, now we can't even believe the movies. What next, lying politicians?

"It was almost exactly five years ago that I sailed out of Vancouver Harbor aboard my Kristen 46 Precious Metal," writes Pamela Bendall. "I've had many cruising adventures since then, in Mexico, Central America, and South America. But today Precious Metal and I are safe and sound back in False Creek, and the sun is out and the skies are blue. Victoria, with the surrounding mountains and scenery, is so beautiful, Home sweet home!"

Pamela recently authored a book titled What Was I Thinking? about her many sailing adventures. It's pure specculation on our part, but we think six months from now, when Victoria's been cold, dark and gloomy for months, our friend Pamela is going to start writing a sequel titled What Was I Thinking, II? It's going to be about how much more pleasant and less expensive it is to be cruising in the tropics than being stuck in a high-latitude winter.

In one of the most pleasant bits of news we've gotten in ages, we've learned that Caribbean legend D. Randy West and his sweetheart H.Q., after years of longing, have acquired the 70-ft Spronk catamaran Ppalu. Built in the early 1970s of ply and epoxy, she's ketch rigged and has deep v hulls. D. Randy has memories galore from sailing and racing her in the old days, so he's been happily laboring to bring her back up to snuff at the St. Kitts Boatyard. In addition to Ppalu, West has owned two other smaller Spronk cats, the 45-ft Skyjack and the 60-foot Shadowfax. So he knows how to make these light and low-riding cats fly. While D. Randy, who has millions of friends up and down the Antilles, to say nothing of the United States, will no doubt be hitting all the islands showing off his new prize, she'll be based out of Gustavia, St. Barth.

Both Doña de Mallorca and the Wanderer go way back with D. Randy. As a single gal in the '80s, de Mallorca raced with him on Skyjack, and two of the Wanderer's first sails on catamarans were aboard Shadowfax off Antigua and off St. Barth. Indeed, before we had Profligate built, D. Randy had lobbied for us to buy Ppalu. So when D. Randy offered us the chance to race with him in next April's Voiles de St. Barth on Ppalu, we couldn't wait to confirm.

Continuing to have a great time in the South Pacific are Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzane Dubose of the Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 Carinthia. After they did the 2008 Ha-Ha, they cruised Mexico a bit, sailed across to New Zealand with Kurt Roll, and then stayed in New Zealand for a few years. The couple are now on their way through Vanuatu, where cruising boats are few and far between. "We hogged the anchorage at Hog Harbour, Santo, Vanuatu," Dietmar jokes, "as there have only been three boats here since June. We get provisions from Luganville by way of the local resort, so all we have to do is keep the ice trays filled."

Dietmar and Suzanne did stop in Luganville long enough to dive at Million Dollar Point, which is where countless millions of dollars of equipment were dumped into the water following the end of World War II. The couple like to think they are easier on the environment, having used just 88 gallons of fuel in two months for all their propulsion, water-making and energy needs. "That's just $8/day.

Kirk McGeorge of the Brisbane, Australia-based Hylas 49 Gallivanter, soon to be based out of the U.S. Virgins once again, has taken off. Kirk and crewmate Joe are currently in Cairns, headed for Lizard Island inside the Great Barrier Reef, Darwin, Bali, South Africa, the Atlantic Ocean . . . and St. Thomas. If you're looking to do some ocean sailing, Kirk, who has been around the world before, is open to taking more crew.

Chico's John Franklin, owner of the East Coast- and Caribbean-based Atlantic 55 Spirit, gave us some additional details on his 13th and most recent passage between the Caribbean and the Northeast.

"This year we made the 855 miles from the U.S. Virgins to Bermuda in just under four days, and we never ran the engine until we entered The Cut at St. George's. It was our fastest time ever, although we didn't plan or want to set any speed records. Five days — i.e. a smooth passage — would have been fine with me. We left Bermuda with the usual Bermuda High — eight knots and calm like a lake — making its presence known. We crossed the Gulf Stream three days later with no wind and even fewer waves — a very rare occurrence. After leaving the beauty and wonderful warm temperatures of Bermuda, our last day into Nova Scotia was shockingly cold and foggy. There wasn't any reason to step outside the pilothouse, as you could barely see the light at the top of the mast. But two days after arriving at Mahone Bay, the sun was out and we were again sailing in the beautiful protected waters."

What's the best turista cure? While Profligate was getting a major refit at the La Cruz Shipyard, we came down with a low-grade — 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 — case of turista. While we just gutted it out, a couple of people recommended "surefire cures". Peter Vargas of Sea Tek, the company doing work on Profligate, suggested three shots of tequila. Maybe four. "It will cure you quickly," he assured us. Dan Orlando of the Vallarta-based Maple Leaf 48 Echoes of Summer insisted that the best cure was "the juice of four lemons, straight." The next time we get a touch of turista, we might try combining their cures. Anybody else have a cure they'd like to recommend?

"Peters & May, Ltd, a yacht transport company based out of the United Kingdom, has added La Paz-to-Victoria, British Columbia, to their schedule," report Dennis and Susan Ross of Two Can Play and Ross Marine Services and Consulting in La Paz. "They will fill the void that was created when Yacht Path International went bankrupt and halted their West Coast Service.

Peters & May has been in business for many years, but has focused on the Atlantic and Asian markets. They had a West Coast sailing from Manzanillo, but we finally got them to include La Paz. Their service might be of interest to Ha-Ha'ers and other boats wanting to get to the Pacific Northwest quickly after the winter cruising season is over in Mexico. Although we have no clue why anybody would want to leave La Paz for the Pacific Northwest. As is/was the case with Dockwise and Yacht Path, Peters & May cannot pick up and drop off in the same country, so they can't load in La Paz and drop off in Ensenada. As such, the service won't be good for those who just want to avoid a Baja Bash.

Are you out cruising? Good on you! Don't forget to write and send a few photos.

Missing the pictures? See the September 2013 eBook!


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