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September 2014

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With reports this months from Angel Louise at Baiona, Spain; Savannah getting spectacularly rebuilt in Seattle for a future second cruise; Beau Soleil on decades of cruising all over — and around, twice — the world (on $500/month); from Joy of Tahoe on getting from Texas to France, and Schengen problems and solutions; from R&R Kedger on the El Salvador Rally; and Cruise Notes.

Angel Louise — Catalac 41 Cat
Ed & Sue Kelly
Snagged on Fishing Gear
(Des Moines, Iowa)

We are now in Baiona, Spain, where Chris Columbus first made landfall back in Europe in 1493. A replica of the vessel he sailed to the Caribbean and back 521 years ago sits in the harbor. We have now personally floated on the waters Columbus left from, the Rio Tinto on Spain's south coast east of Gibraltar, as well as the bay he returned to.

Last week we had a bit of an adventure, as we managed to get a heavy 100-ft line wrapped around the shaft and prop of our port engine, stopping the engine. It happened while we were transiting a tidal cut between a point and some offshore rocks.

Because the line was attached to fishing gear and a submerged float 100 feet behind us, it actually pulled us backward and to port. We were only able to get out of the jam by applying full power to the starboard engine and steering with 18 degrees of right rudder. We only managed to do two knots. Without the load we would have done five.

We continued on to San Francisco Beach, not far east of Muros, where we were able to set our Spade anchor in 35 feet of water. We were being blown parallel to the beach in a 12-knot wind, but nose toward the beach because the load on the port prop acted like a second anchor, holding our stern into the wind.

Ed got out the wetsuit, mask and snorkel, and jumped overboard with a knife. It was a poor imitation of what Lloyd Bridges used to do on the old Sea Hunt TV show. After six dives, I managed to cut the line. The boat was under so much tension that it literally 'jumped' when the line was severed, and quickly turned 90 degrees clockwise to align with the anchor rode.

The rest off the mess on the prop was so tight, and the line so hard, that we elected to continue on to Muros and engage the services of a professional diver. All ended fine, and Angel Louise and her happy crew moved on. We were incredibly moved to be escorted by a great pod of dolphins, and this time got one of the better dolphin shots ever.

Life is good! But would be even better if a rain leak hadn't doused part of our MacBook Pro laptop keyboard overnight. It was turned off at the time, so we're hoping that if we let it dry for a couple of days, it will work again.

We're slowly making our way down to the Cape Verdes Islands for a winter crossing of the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

— ed & sue 08/04/2014

Savannah — Featherlight 43 Cat
Teal, Linh and Emma, 7, Goben
Working Toward a Second Cruise
(Ellensburg, WA)

You really do meet some of the most interesting people on a Ha-Ha. Consider the case of Teal and Linh Goben, who were 38 and 23 respectively when they did the 2004 Ha-Ha with their Lauren Williams 41 trimaran Savannah. They had a little excitement during the event, as they were hit by a whale that put a small crack in one of the hulls. Teal was able to make repairs during the stop in Turtle Bay.

Following the Ha-Ha, we met up with the Gobens in Mazatlan and later Banderas Bay. In fact, lovely Linh became the first commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club. "I missed out," she laughs, "because back then the commodore didn't get to initiate new members with a whack on the bottom with a paddle."

After two years of cruising on the mainland and in the Sea, the couple decided it was time to return home and get on with their life. One of their goals on returning was to earn enough money to buy a larger multihull, this time a catamaran. They sold Savannah to Julia Brown — who has entered her in this year's Ha-Ha — to buy a house in the small eastern Washington town of Ellensburg.

Before long, Linh was surprised to find that she was pregnant. With a child on the way, Teal, whose work experience had pretty much been limited to working in a lumberyard, didn't seem to have the brightest prospects. But the great thing about people is that sometimes they can really surprise you. Despite the fact that the economy was just entering the Great Recession, Teal had no building experience, and contracting jobs in small towns supposedly only go to locals, he decided to become a contractor.

"People thought he was crazy," says Linh. One can only imagine how the young couple had to struggle, right?

"Within a week he had a couple of jobs," says Linh, "and he's been busy ever since. For the last couple of years, he's built $3 to $5 million luxury homes."

Who knew there were such things east of the Cascades?

Before long Linh was busy taking care of their lovely daughter Emma, while Teal was not only working hard as a contractor, he even started a millworks supply company. With the young family so occupied, sailing naturally got put on the back burner.

"Although things were going really well," Linh remembers, "after a couple of years we got the sense that something was missing in our lives. We discovered what it was during a little vacation trip to Whidbey Island. We saw all the boats and it reminded us how much we missed sailing. We needed the catamaran we'd been dreaming about when we left Mexico.

"We were on the cusp of buying a Wildcat 35 cat," Linh continues. "But Teal got on the Internet and read all the negatives posted about them by the owners of Bumfuzzle, novice sailors who had done a circumnavigation on one. Their cat had taken them halfway across the Pacific before they realized what a two-speed winch was, but they still seemed to complain about a lot of things. Our broker told us he felt their comments had really driven down the value of the Wildcats. So we passed."

Linh finally asked Teal why they were only looking for cats in the Caribbean. She knew cats were few and far between in the Northwest, but it couldn't hurt to look. So they found a broker and told him to keep an eye out for a project.

"We were surprised when just a week later he told us to come to Friday Harbor, less than a three-hour ferry ride from Seattle, to look at a Featherlight 43 that had been built by Mastermold in Florida in 1993. Her owner had bought her in the Caribbean, brought her through the Canal, replaced her single outboard on a sled with two 30-hp Yanmar diesels, and got her to the Pacific Northwest. But when his uninterested wife got pregnant, the cat had to go.

"That was 4 ½ years ago, and we bought the cat that first weekend we saw her. When we did the sea trial, her jib looked like the one Kevin Costner had on his trimaran in Waterworld, the main was tired and didn't have full battens, and the boat was loaded down with years' worth of accumulated stuff. But there was a nice breeze, and we hit 18 knots. Teal was just tickled."

You can do 18 knots when your 43-ft cat only displaces 8,000 pounds.

After buying the boat, the family moved her to Seattle's Lake Washington, where she has a view of the Space Needle and has been ever since.

"It took Teal an entire year to gut the boat. It's a long time, but he was only able to work on weekends, and it's a two-hour drive to the boat from our house. In addition, Teal is meticulous, he took out everything that wasn't structural, including all the electrical and plumbing. All we wanted was the shell, as we're not fans of the traditional look. We wanted to make her as clean and modern-looking as possible. Low maintenance and very light weight have been two other major considerations."

So far Teal, with some assistance from Linh and Emma, has completed the main saloon and main cockpit, Emma's stateroom, and two other main staterooms. "He's used a lot of honeycomb and other light materials," says Linh, "and carefully weighs everything before bringing it aboard. It's rubbed off on Emma."

"Now seven, Emma knows all about the importance of keeping the boat light. So when it came time for her to select a musical instrument to play, she chose a violin over the piano. And she loves the boat and helping her dad. She hops on and off the boat on her own, and knows more correct nautical terms than do a lot of other sailors on our dock. In fact, Emma has replaced me as cocaptain. I've been demoted to cook."

Linh tells us that Emma is enthusiastic about becoming a marine biologist. She's certainly not afraid of even cold Lake Union water. "It's about 65 degrees, but she still spends as much time as she can in the water. If I have to punish her, I don't go in. I like my ocean water to be over 80 degrees."

The Gobens got Emma interested in travel early. "We kept her watching the Travel Channel, and she really enjoyed it. So she's the one who has mapped out all our future travels. With Emma, I don't need a son, too.

"I love to cook and entertain, so I asked Teal for indoor and outdoor galleys. I know I'm spoiled," she laughs, "but I really needed both. Nonetheless, I'm keeping things really simple and light. All I need to make delicious food outside is the grill, a sink, and one spatula."

Linh got into cooking fresh and natural foods during their first cruise. "Teal, who often dove for dinner, lost 20 unneeded pounds in the first month, and kept it off. "And it's not like we don't drink. Emma has eaten only good food from when she was born. She sneers at Chicken McNuggets and hamburgers, saying they aren't real food.

"We learned a lot from our first cruise," says Linh, "such as we brought 50% more stuff than we needed or ultimately wanted. So now we're keeping things very simple. Nonetheless, in order to be happy cruising, you need to have a few things that are really important to you. For Teal, it's tools, spare parts, and his beautiful nav station."

What about for Linh?

"We all have wants and needs. I want a lot of luxury, but know that I only needed three things: The two galleys and my own head, are the first two. I'd had a shoe locker on our trimaran, but on our new cat I needed my own shoe display."

It turns out that the past commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club has an Imelda Marcos-type shoe fetish.

"Before we went cruising the first time, I had 102 pairs of shoes. I cut that down to 75 pairs for our trip. Some men don't know that a woman needs different shoes for the different seasons. Because we need to keep the new boat as light as possible, I'm going to limit myself to 50 pairs when we move aboard. I'll have two pairs of Topsiders and 48 pairs of high heels.

High heels?!

"People laugh when they see me walking down the dock in high heels, but I can walk better in high heels. The only times I've gotten hurt walking is when I wore flip-flops."

What kind of shoes does she wear on the boat?

"High heels. At least I do about 80% of the time. But I'm careful to buy high heels that don't scuff." A nice big hat, a bikini, and high heels. That's Linh's nautical look. It could catch on.

"It's taken us longer than we expected for our cat to be ready for us to live aboard," says Linh, but we know why, and neither of us are willing to compromise superb quality for getting the boat ready a little earlier. And we do have big plans. We expect to move aboard next summer, and living aboard should make it easier for Teal to get jobs done more quickly. We've already bought everything we need to finish her."

Linh says living aboard is important to the family because "we know we'll be happy there, and happiness is more important than money — although we're confident we could make money anywhere." After being a stay-at-home mom, Linh has gone back to work at a title company.

"We'll certainly do another Ha-Ha and go cruising again, but not right away," says Linh. "Sometimes I hear people who haven't done a Ha-Ha dismiss it as a bunch of party people. I tell them to bite their tongue, as the Ha-Ha is a great community. Many of our best friends are people we did the Ha-Ha with, and even though it was 10 years ago, we keep in touch. Half of them are still cruising in other parts of the world, while half of them are in the Pacific Northwest and we have reunions. I wouldn't trade my Ha-Ha and cruising friends for any of my land neighbors. When you do a Ha-Ha and cruise, you discover that you make better friends in a week than you do with land people in years."

— latitude/rs 08/04/2014

Beau Soleil — Dickerson 47
Mike & Karen Riley
Cruising on $500/Month

I don't know how cruisers spend so much money. I say this as someone who has cruised for 40 years, most of it with my wife, and much of it with our son Falcon, on today's equivalent of $500 a month. We have twice circumnavigated, and recently crossed the Pacific a third time.

I started cruising with Time Out, a humble, engineless 24-ft Columbia Challenger. I made it from Coronado to the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean. More than halfway around the world, I ran into a freighter, and knocked three feet off the bow of my boat in the process. I sailed the wreck back to the Comoros Islands, where I sold her.

After returning to Coronado, I became broken-hearted because I hadn't even attempted to repair my brave little boat. Seeking redemption, I bought a Columbia 24 — the one with the raised cabin and two big ports — and christened her TOLA, meaning Time Out Lives Again. I circumnavigated with her via the Red Sea and Panama.

It was while passing through Papua New Guinea on my second circumnavigation that I met Karen. We would be married in Australia. Our son Falcon was born in Malta. The three of us continued across the Med, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Pacific to Hawaii on our little boat. We finally sold TOLA in Hawaii because Falcon had outgrown his berth.

We returned to Coronado to work for a year, then we bought the Dickerson 41 Beau Soleil. We circumnavigated with her via the Cape of Good Hope and Panama. Subsequently we spent three years in Maryland so Falcon could complete high school. After he graduated, we sent him off to Coronado for college, and we took off again.

We're still on our Dickerson, but cruise around at a slower pace. We sailed up to Maine, then down to the West Indies and the Western Caribbean. After a couple of years in the Sea of Cortez, we crossed the Pacific, sailing down to New Zealand. Karen, by the way, is a Connecticut/Kiwi. Last year we sailed up to Fiji and New Caledonia, then returned to Whangarei, New Zealand, where we left Beau Soleil. We are currently in Coronado, caring for my 92-year-old mother.

I've written 13 books — mostly non-fiction — during the course of our cruising. All of them are available at Amazon. I'm even more proud of the fact that I built my own printing press, and sold my books 'off the back of my boat'. I haven't been able to pay for our cruising habit through writing, but it's kept me in rum and beer. There's not much money in writing, but you do meet a lot of people.

As I said earlier, I really don't understand how people can spend so much money cruising. I can only imagine they wake up in the morning and make a plan to spend it all. It just doesn't cost that much to go cruising. Of course, Karen and I do things differently.

For instance, we do dine out, although only for lunches, because they are much less expensive than dinners. The exceptions are birthdays and anniversaries. When we 'dine out', we tend to eat street food, because we've fallen ill too many times after eating in regular restaurants. My theory is that families who sell food on the street eat all the leftovers at the end of the day. Sit-down restaurants shove their leftovers into the fridge to be served later.

We have also developed a system of 'buy prices' for food that we normally use to stock the boat. Unless we are desperate for something, we never buy over our 'buy price'. When we do find the right price, we buy cases of whatever it might be. For example, cream of mushroom soup, 3/$1. Beans, four 15-ounce cans for $1. Rice, 20 pounds for $7. These are rock-bottom prices, but you can find them. Often you can find them in one country but not others. It does help that our current boat has huge lockers compared to the ones on the 24-footer we went around on twice.

We brew our own beer, we decant toddy from coconut trees, and we make our own rum. Others might call it 'white lightning', but I prefer the term 'rum'. It's my bottle, so I call it what I want!

Despite our being frugal when it comes to food, food and beverages are still our greatest expense.

We also believe that boat insurance is a pyramid scheme. Instead of paying insurance premiums, we buy heavy gear for anchoring and are eternally vigilant. Furthermore, we never leave our boat in hurricanes. Many boats are lost in hurricanes because the owner doesn't attend to the anchor lines.

Lest anyone think that we're shouting through our hat, we have been through the eye wall of four Category 5 hurricanes in 40 years. The eye wall is where the most vicious mini tornados lurk. We're ridden out storms with mini tornadoes that added 100 to 150 knots to the wind speed.

When we were younger, we used a 15-hp outboard. But gas is very dear in most of the world, so now we either row or use an electric outboard.

Our solar panels give us half a kilowatt a day, allowing all our tools, galley gear, and audio/visual toys to be driven by inverters.

We avoid hospitals. Most ports have shipping pharmacies, where the boat's captain, armed with departure papers, can buy any medicine. We stock up. We also carry medical books, such as Where There is No Doctor.

There is plenty of entertainment in our lives. It's easy to organize parties and potlucks. We trade DVDs. And the world is full of great books. I know, because I wrote 13 of them!

We do fly back to the 'real world' every two or three years, but only after exhaustive Internet searches for the lowest prices. Cheap tickets can be found — although they usually involve flying through Communist countries. When in the Third World, a bit of currency adaptation can keep the price down.

The other side of spending on any budget is making money. It's not hard while cruising. Really! But you want to be smart, which means earning money in expensive countries, where the pay is good, and spending it in cheap countries, where everything is cheap. This isn't rocket science, right?

I hold a 100-ton license, but so do many other cruisers, so what's my trick to getting the gigs? I tell the owner that I'm coming to see him and his boat at his dock, and will be arriving on my own boat by myself. Commercial docks are rarely easy, so I check for currents and windshifts before arriving. Then I make sure I make a great landing in front of my potential employer. If you make a good landing, you'll at least get a job trial. You are never paid for the first few days of driving a commercial vessel; that's just the way it is. Make sure you don't break the boat during the trial period, and you should have a lasting job.

Using this technique, I have driven vessels in many parts of the world. I particularly like driving ferries, as I enjoy the challenge of stressful landings with less-than-nimble vessels. Plus, ferry docks are usually located on points, where the current and wind are about the worst. If you aren't ready for that much stress, maybe you should get more practice first.

Sometimes you can only find normal types of jobs. I worked as a carpenter in Noumea, a truck helper in Australia, an ore wheelbarrow man in Australia, a boatwright in Tunisia, and a backpacker transporter between the San Blas Islands of Panama and Cartagena, Colombia. It's true that none of these jobs were legal, but nobody cared. For instance, I had to walk past an immigration officer each morning to go to work in Noumea. He didn't mind, as I wasn't taking a 'good job' away from a local.

I have also worked on cruising boats as a rigger, a refrigeration mechanic, a delivery captain — you know the drill. Work isn't hard to find if you let people know that you are looking for it. Most boatowners assume that you are as rich as they are. There is no shame in letting them know that you are not, and that you need to make money.

Karen is a wizard with a sewing machine. She has rescued many a sailor in far ports by repairing trashed sails, and has been rewarded for her work.

When it comes to work, our son Falcon has put both his parents to shame. He delivered ice to boats in Malaysia, used our dinghy to be a ferry captain in Phuket, delivered the morning coffee and newspapers in the Seychelles, and taught kids to rock climb in South Africa. In these cases there hadn't been legal jobs for him, so he created them.

Making money is easy. But if you're not used to getting jobs by your wits and using your hands, I recommend getting some experience before taking off on a world cruise. That's right, quit your high-paying job and learn to use your wits and passion to find work. Really.

So how much does it cost for us to cruise? It comes to about $500 a month, plus diesel, plus a haulout every couple years. If we are feeling too poor for a regular haulout, we lean our boat against a dock while the tide goes out or careen her on a beach.

Far from being embarrassed, we feel as though we are living like kings. We fill our cockpit with friends, booze them up, and have a great time. Or we go to all the beach parties, where Karen competes in the game of who makes the best food. When cruising, we eat fish three nights a week, meat three times a week, and have one night of 'who knows what' experiment. I have learned to love the results of the experiments — or else!

Can a couple really cruise for so little. Absolutely! We do it with a Dickerson 41, which is actually 47 feet long because I added a 'surfing bustle'. It costs a lot of money to maintain a 47-foot boat — which is why we do all our own boat work. Can you? Will you?

Some cruisers work and save half their lives for their cruising adventure. We've seen too many who have spent their savings as quickly as they could in their first port. When they are out of money, they have to go home.

Some cruisers are more careful with their money, and get over to New Zealand or Australia or Singapore. But then they lose their courage and/or desire to sail home.

Other cruisers fall in love with the cruising lifestyle, which is based on freedom, joy, laughter, terror, and victory.

Did I mention freedom? Freedom in every sense of the word. Complete and utter freedom. As far as we're concerned, there isn't a drug that can compete with that. We're not the only cruisers who can't seem to give up the sea, as we've met plenty of others who have been out cruising for decades. They might stop for a bit, but the call of the sea lures them back. They are addicted, but to a new, non-polluting, non-global warming, totally free, fabulous lifestyle.

So $500 a month for freedom, joy and happiness. Most of you probably have the boat and enough money in the bank to get started already. What's to stop you? Lack of ambition? The important commercials you might be missing on television?

Got kids? I say take them out of school so they can get a real-world education. They'll make new friends. So will you. People out cruising are like your long-lost brothers. They want to cross oceans as you do. They want to stare at the far horizons with steel in their eyes, as you do. They want to laugh with the full body laughter only possible to those who have succeeded against near-impossible odds.

Or do you want to stay ashore, waste money, get old and fat, and go to an early grave? Life should be more than a slow plod to the grave. Live your life as though it's the only one that you have. Live as if you only have a couple of years left. Draw a few more boxes on your Bucket List.

The one thing you shouldn't do is make the excuse that you don't have the money. Five hundred bucks a month. Anyone can do that. We've been living proof for 40 years.

— mike 06/15/2014

Joy of Tahoe — Lagoon 440 Cat
Walt & Joy Kass
The Schengen Situation
(Tahoe City, California)

Bonjour from Port Chantereyne, Cherbourg, France. Joy and I should not be placed in the 'he-man, old salt, pirate-slaying, cruiser class. We believe in calm passages with friendly winds and currents, where the wine glasses don't break and the espresso machine works every day. And we want to thank Latitude for all the years of great reading, and for being such a great inspiration and source of knowledge.

After living in Tahoe City and owning Barifot Photography for 40+ years, we were motivated to visit some different and older cultures. So in 2006 we took delivery of our Lagoon 44 catamaran Joy of Tahoe at Kemah, Texas. The cat had come directly from the factory as deck cargo. We had Capt Bill Olson sail JOT around the tip of Florida and up to the Chesapeake in November 2008 so we could learn how to sail. Twenty-five years of Ski Nautique-ing around Lake Tahoe, and a two-week-long Captain's Course at California Maritime Academy, had qualified me for a Masters 25 Ton Inland USCG license. It's the lowest of the low of these licenses, but above the 'Six Pak'.

We liked the Chesapeake — specifically Tracy's Landing, south of Annapolis and a half hour from D.C. — so much that we decided to stay for three years. The highlights were history, overdosing on soft-shell crabs, the many friends we made, and our trip with said friends to New York on our way to Mystic Seaport. We motored past the Statue of Liberty on July 6, 2012, glad to be on the water as it was 104° on the streets of NYC.

That fall we passed through Charleston on our way to winter in Fort Lauderdale. Spring Break is for the physically young. JOT has an air draft of 73 feet, which precludes her from using much of the Intercoastal Waterway, where bridges are a standard 66 feet tall. Getting around Cape Hatteras was an experience we hope not to repeat.

Capt Bill sailed JOT to Lymington, England for us, as we didn't want to do 30 days at sea. He arrived on July 1, 2013. We've been 'sort of cruising' since, as we're using our cat as a floating apartment.

There are two additional concerns for U.S. mariners cruising in the United Kingdom and Europe; immigration regulations and the threat of the 20% Value Added Tax (VAT).

There were reports in the July Latitude from Jim and Debbie Gregory on the Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus, and Ed and Sue Kelly on the Des Moines-based Catalac 41 cat Angel Louise, on the immigration issue. In particular, the 'Schengen Area' rules that make it difficult if not impossible for Americans to stay in Schengen Area countries — meaning most of the E.U. — for more than 90 days without having to leave for another 90 days. Based on our experience, everything written about the subject in Latitude has been accurate.

Here's the short version of our Schengen adventures. Keep in mind that we made every effort to be legal, as our boat is our home. The United Kingdom — except perhaps for the dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey — allows U.S. tourists only six months in the country. According to much research and face-to-face discussions with three UK immigration officers, we learned no extensions are possible, and that we must leave for six months before we can return for another six months. That's the law.

The reality is somewhat different from the law. One couple we know has stayed on their boat in London for a few years. Each time upon returning from normal return-to-home-type trips, they were granted an additional six months in the UK. The decision to allow visitors back in less than the six months away required by law is apparently left to the immigration officer you get on your return. He/she can ignore the law or not. We were repeatedly told this was the case.

Rather than risk back-and-forth trips only to be turned down by a UK immigration officer, we decided to try something else based on the advice of three French embassy agents in London. They assured us that all we had to do was show up in France, where we could apply for a year-long French Long Stay Visa. So we crossed the English Channel in mid-January — having become illegal aliens in England for two weeks as a result of waiting for suitable weather. We still missed the weather window by 12 hours, and bashed into 20-knot winds that gusted to 30. The sounds that an overloaded cruising cat can make in such conditions are amazing, but we had no problems other than mal de mer and speed over ground of just three knots.

We ended up in Cherbourg, Normandy, which is perfect for us. The local prefecture lady was extremely apologetic, but said that no matter what the embassy agents in London had told us, we couldn't apply for a Long Stay Visa while in France. We ended up having to fly to the French consulate in San Francisco, where they spent five-minutes taking our fingerprints and photos, as well as confirming our income, and health and repatriation insurance. A week after the appointment, we got our passports back with the LSV glued in.

The second step of the LSV is to have a medical exam here in France within 90 days of our return. This involved a two-hour trip to Caen on the Normandy coast for a 241-euro each medical exam, including x-rays and a fairly complete physical. The examining doctor was a little past prime, but very nice, and needed only a black and white filter and a Gauloises hanging from his lips while dusting ashes off the x-rays to fit into a film noir scene.

The confirming LSV sticker was duly pasted and stamped into our passports the same afternoon, making us legal in France for a year. We can travel anywhere we want, with the proviso that we cannot be out of France for more than 90 days in a row, or we are considered not interested in the LSVs. We would have to forfeit them, with the penalty of having to reapply in San Francisco. We can renew our LSV in France two months before expiration.

UK friends have told us they are hearing that both the UK and Schengen Area countries — the latter require you to leave the Schengen area for 90 days after every 90 days — are talking about making visitor visas less restrictive. They also told us not to hold our breath. But for right now, the French LSV seems like the best approach for us.

Before any Americans get too huffy about UK and Schengen Area restrictions on tourists, don't forget that the U.S. also has a 90-day rule for foreign visitors.
Then there is the major matter of VAT. We'll discuss that, and our favorite places, in the next Latitude.

— joy & walt 08/07/2014

R & R Kedger — Hunter 460
Rob and Rose Benson
El Salvador Rally
(San Diego)

We'd like to share our fond remembrances of this year's Cruisers Rally to El Salvador. We'd started our cruising with a wonderful Baja Ha-Ha in 2013, then jumped across the Sea of Cortez south to Banderas Bay. Lunch plans with fellow cruisers resulted in our attending an El Salvador Rally presentation by Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Hawaii-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu. They are the organizers and hosts of the event.

Originally we had no plans to stop in El Salvador, as we were going to sail right past that small Central American country on our way to the Panama Canal. But Bill and Jean's presentation opened up our minds and got us excited about El Salvador, so we changed our plans. Besides, it was right on our way to Panama.

It’s a bit of a jump from Banderas Bay to El Salvador's Bahia del Sol — a little over 1,200 miles. As the rally doesn't have a defined starting place or starting date, we took our time and made many stops in Mexico. But knowing the rally was out there, we kept sailing. It was a good thing, for otherwise we might have gotten stuck somewhere in Mexico and then returned to San Diego for the hurricane season. As it was, we were able to pick our weather windows so we that had superb conditions all the way down. It wasn’t hard, as the weather was almost always accommodating.

We arrived at the Bahia del Sol rally site on the first day, and stayed through the final day, a full month later. We met many Salvadorans and the most amazing fellow cruisers. The cruisers who were headed north proved to be excellent sources of current information on the places we were headed to.

From our welcome cocktail through the final dinner, Bill and Jean went out of their way to make the event terrific, keeping all the participants engaged and entertained. We learned how to make empanadas and papusas, paddled a cayuco, visited colonial cities, and even swam in a pool ­— with large blocks of ice — with our new best cruising buddies.

For those who wanted to do more land travel in Central America, Bill and Jean either led the way or hooked us up with locals who knew the way. We quickly learned that it's easy to visit a lot of places without too much effort. We truly enjoyed our trips all around El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The people, history and culture were mesmerizing.

A great thing about the rally, aside from the wonderful people at the marina and hotel, is that you could participate as little or as much as you wanted. Activities were planned for most days, but if you wanted, you could pass. As a result, we could catch up on planning, boat projects, and the always important relaxing.

Another plus of the rally was that it didn't matter if you arrived days late or needed to depart before it ended. You could arrive when you liked, stay as long as you wanted, and depart when you wanted to or had to.

We liked El Salvador so much that we stayed at Bahia del Sol for an additional month. We honestly thought about staying there even longer, but knew it was time to head toward the Panama Canal.

We most likely will return to Bahia del Sol when we head north in the Pacific again. It won’t matter if the rally is happening or not; we will return to see our Salvadorian friends, and we're sure that Bill and Jean will insure “the fun will continue.”

— rose and rob 08/08/2014

Readers — "This was the fifth year of the El Salvador Rally," report organizers Bill Yeargen and Jean Strain. "Entries start from anywhere they want when they want, and the Bahia del Sol activities start in mid-March and continue for about a month. The entry fee is $76. We had 32 entries the first year, with a 40% increase the next two years. The next two years it dropped to about 25, but picked up again this year. The number of non-rally arrivals has increased each year from 14 in 2012 to 37 in 2014. The majority of these boats say they heard about El Salvador from former rally entrants who recommended us as a 'must stop' destination. Also encouraging is more boaters are finding that this is a good place to stay during hurricane season. Twenty-one boats are summering over this year. While a couple of boats have had exciting bar crossings over the years, most have been 'Ho-hum, what's the big deal?' crossings."

Cruise Notes:

We can't believe it, but Mexico's 'Nautical Stairway' idea is back. About 30 years ago, a private marina company came up with the concept of a 'stairway' of harbors and marinas between California and the Pacific Coast of tropical Mexico. It got nowhere. About a dozen years later, Fonatur, Mexico's tourist development agency, not only revived the idea, they acted on it with tons of money. One of the first things they did was build a breakwater at remote Santa Rosalillita on the Pacific Coast of Baja, which was to be the terminus of a 'land canal' for boats from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific. Once the breakwater was finished, it started filling with sand, and to our knowledge has never been used.

The rest of the project was to consist of high-end resorts with golf courses and about a dozen new marinas located near similarly new airports. It was a brilliant idea — assuming everybody in California with a boat over 30 feet was going to bring them down to Mexico every year. In the end, all that got built were nine marinas, the best known of them at Puerto Escondido, La Paz, Guaymas, Mazatlan and San Blas. Except for Mazatlan, most of them have been under achievers, to put it mildly.

Previous 'Stairway' failures notwithstanding, during a recent tourism festival at Cancun, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled plans for a new $174 million peso 'Nautical Stairway' from Baja Norte as far south as Nayarit (Banderas Bay) "to make of the Sea of Cortez a safe and attractive spot for the practice of sailing and yachting." Isn't it attractive enough already? We hate to be a killjoy, but mariners haven't been crying out for such facilities.

There is a lot more tourism investment money headed to Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit over the next five years, too. Some $500 million pesos are earmarked for a new marine terminal in P.V., another $500 million pesos to upgrade the old colonial city center and malecon, and $50 million pesos for a new terminal at the airport. San Blas, in Nayarit, will get $500 million pesos for tourist development, with the main focus being the historic port. You'll remember that last month the Governor of Nayarit announced that ground would be broken this November to make tiny San Blas the biggest container port in Latin America. All we can say is only time will tell.

Cherchez la femme! "There is this giant government Customs boat that comes and searches your boat in the Marquesas to see if you have anything you haven't declared," report the crew of the Channel Islands-based Hughes 58 cat Lil' Explorers. "They searched our boat in Nuku Hiva. We heard that the boat came to Tahiti, where her crew got drunk and hooked up with some fun-loving women. No doubt seeking to impress the ladies, the crew took the customs vessel out for a little spin — and hit a reef, sinking the boat."

"I've been in La Paz for seven years and had never seen a chubasco, but we've already had half a dozen of them this year," reports Shelley Ward of La Paz Yachts. Chubascos are powerful but short-lived storms that normally hit farther up in the Sea of Cortez in the summer and fall. Perhaps caused by very warm air and ocean temperatures, one came up through Cabo on July 24 with 80-knot winds, glanced La Paz with just 35 knots, and then nailed the anchorages of San Evaristo and Puerto Escondido with what was estimated as up to 60 knots of wind.

One of the victims was Cyber, Bill Grinder's Yorktown 35. A failed weld on a Sampson post apparently started a chain of failures that put the boat on the beach at Evaristo with a large hole. "It's really sad for a couple of reasons," says Ward. "First, Bill, who had been our Friday net controller, had spent three years fixing up the boat, which he'd bought without a mast from a boatyard. Second, it was his first little cruise on her, with his Mexican wife, kids and dogs."

Jake Howard of the Seattle-based Hunter 40 Jake reports that they had 38 knots gusting to 42 at Puerto Escondido. Three boats had dinghies with outboards flip over. "Boats to the south at Candeleros Bay had 50-knot gusts." Saltshaker went onto the rocks at Ensenada Blanca, and is apparently a lost cause. Carpe Iam was blown onto the rocks at Isla Coronado. While she was left unguarded for the night, many things were taken. Big surprise. She was hauled at Puerto Escondido, declared a total loss, and will be sold as salvage.

Speaking of strong winds, Joy of Tahoe, Walt and Joy Kass's Tahoe-based Lagoon 440 cat, has seen her share of powerful winds in the last eight years.

"Despite three hurricanes and one night of 99-mph winds, our experiences have been very anticlimactic," reports Walt. "JOT was docked near Kemah, Texas in a well-protected marina with 25-foot-rise pilings on floating docks with condos all around. We weren't aboard when hurricane Ike hit in 2008. After a week of no word and nail-biting, we learned that JOT was fine despite damage to Kemah. The boatyard she'd been in just before had been blown 30 miles inland!

"JOT was berthed at Tracy's Landing, Maryland when hurricane Irene came through in 2008. We were in Tahoe and she was spider-webbed in the marina. Once again, nobody was aboard and there was no damage.

"We were aboard JOT in the Chesapeake when hurricane Sandy came calling in 2012. The usual spider web of lines was deployed, and she sat out 60+ knot winds in the marina. We watched from a few blocks away. Although Sandy devastated large areas, the Chesapeake was mostly spared. Having a generator and watermaker made us a little smug.

"The last wind event was at Lymington on the south coast of England near the Isle of Wight. We heard predictions of 100-mph winds two days before, and had JOT tied to a 150-foot pontoon between two pilings near the town center. As a precaution, we ran extra lines to the pontoon before going to bed. There were 99-mph winds at the Needles, and we woke the next morning to find the pontoon had a 90-degree angle. Our lines and that of other boats were all that were holding it together! No damage to JOT."

"For a visiting cruiser to describe the boats in the Waiting Room anchorage just outside Puerto Escondido, Baja as "squatters" is simply wrong," reports Mike Wilson of the S&S 44 Tortue. For one thing, it's a tough place to anchor. Second, each of the vessels is legally moored there and pays a monthly or daily fee to A.P.I. (Integral Ports Authority). It's just like people paying to have a boat on a mooring in Newport Beach. This fee includes garbage disposal and a water supply.

"We've been making a summer cruise to the Sea of Cortez from our base in Mazatlan for the last several years," continues Wilson. "Normally we cross in late June or early July, when the winds have switched to the southerly monsoon, and most always when there is a full moon. It's normally a lovely sail, and we usually make landfall at Isla San Francisco or Agua Verde. When the northers return late in the summer, we reach south and east back to the mainland.

"Melissa and I never take a mooring," Wilson goes on, "as we prefer to rely on our own tackle, knowing it's in good condition. We've enjoyed our time in the Middle Sea, and have found the folks who have chosen to make it their home to be friendly, decent, extremely helpful — and yes, a bit different. The latter is part of the flavor. As for Elvin Shultz of P.E.M.S. in Puerto Escondido, who was suspected of 'borrowing' a dinghy, he's as honest as the day is long. If he says he took someone's dinghy by mistake, we believe him."

"We sailed from New Zealand to Fiji, arriving at the end of May, report Bruce and Laura Masterson of the St. John, USVI-based Davidson 44 Pacific Highway. "Fiji has quickly become our favorite cruising ground. The Fijians are incredibly friendly, the snorkeling has been the best ever, the beaches are spectacular, and the food and fishing great. Best of all, the cost of living is easy on a cruiser's budget. We were adopted by a village in the Lau Group, where we found a good home for our 2012 Baja Ha-Ha frisbee!

"Having left our Nor'West 33 Brio in Chiapas Marina, Mexico for hurricane season, we arrived at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador both excited and nervous about the bar crossing," report and Leah and Jonathan Kruger of Vancouver. "Frankly, we were disappointed in our bar crossing, as there were no breakers. Bill Yeargen and Jean Strain of the Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu were at the Bahia del Sol dock to greet us with slushy rum drinks. Check-in with customs and immigration took less than 30 minutes. Our only regret is that we didn't leave the boat in El Salvador for hurricane season the year before, as we could have had the wonderful locals varnishing and painting while we were gone." The couple have recently passed through New York City on their way to Jonathan's home in Maine.

Who liked the El Salvador Rally and El Salvador? Among many was Kevin 'CB' Midkiff of the Seattle-based Hans Christian 38T Palarran. "We signed up for the El Salvador Cruisers Rally on the recommendation of friends who did it in 2011. We're glad we did. We got here mid-April, and four months later are still here. On a cruiser's budget — and not very good at sticking to it — staying in El Salvador would have been way more economical than staying in Costa Rica."

"Since leaving the Galapagos for the South Pacific, we have had two days of motoring with no wind and the current against us, followed by three days of over 200 miles per day," blogs Al Wigginton of the Indianapolis/Livermore-based Hughes 65 catamaran Dragonfly. "Yesterday it looked as though we would exceed 240 miles in 24 hours, but oh no, my wife Jill, the referee, blew the whistle and called for a reduction in sail so it would be easier for people to sleep. My view is what we have on the boat are not people, but crew, and they should not expect to sleep when a few more bumps and crashes at 13 knots would get us over the 240-mile-per day hurdle. What Jill did was the football equivalent of calling offensive pass interference on a touchdown, assessing a 15-yard penalty, and giving the other team possession. I will be filing an official protest with the Pacific Puddle Jump to overturn the call and ask for sanctions against the ref.

"Our crossing from Panama to the Galapagos, and on to the Marquesas, was nice except for breakages. We broke a main halyard just before getting to the Galapagos. Fortunately it was at the crane, so we only lost 18 inches, but it was a pain to re-run. Four days after leaving the Galapagos, one autopilot quit. Three days later, the new back-up autopilot quit, so it was hand-steering from then on. Our rudders have a hydraulic link instead of a bar between them, and we had a problem with one cylinder leaking past the ram. So after a few hours one rudder would go out of alignment. In half an hour it would be badly misaligned, so I closed the bypass valve, meaning we could only steer with one rudder. This was all right when we were on one tack, but we had difficulty sailing on the other tack, as the weather helm would overcome the rudder and the boat would head into the wind. So we stayed further south than we wanted, then made some northing back when the wind dropped and we were close to Fatu Hiva.

"We got repairs done and a new cylinder in Nuku Hiva. A control head had gone bad on one autopilot and a pump/motor unit in the other. Everything is fine now except for a recently broken Reefurl unit. Although it was new in 1999, the folks at Reefurl said they would cover it under warranty! We have done four weeks of rotations with the Sea Mercy folks and are waiting to start the next eight weeks of non-stop travel in the Lau Group of Fiji. So far it has been great fun and very rewarding."

"We have spent two months in New Caledonia, and love it," report Steve and Dorothy Darden, long ago of Tiburon, of the M&M 52 Adagio. "There are a few things Puddle Jumpers heading this way need to know about.

The first is about checking in with customs and immigration at New Caledonia, as misleading information is given on both the Puddle Jumper's PDF and the Port Moselle Marina's website. While there are five ports of entry — Lifou, Koumac, Hienghe, Touho, and Noumea — the truth of the matter is that you can only fully check in at Noumea without incurring a large and unnecessary expense. There have been cases where cruisers who have landed in Lifou, for instance, have had to pay for an immigration official to fly round-trip, plus hotel and meal expenses, to avoid big problems.

"Second, the Puddle Jump Guide seems to suggest that Port Moselle Marina and Port du Sud Marina are somehow one facility, but they are two.

"Cruisers also need to be aware of the changing political climate in New Caledonia," continue the Dardens. "The locals are friendly in most places, but not in some of the outlying areas. For instance, two cruising boats in the lovely Bay of Oro on the Isle of Pines were told to leave by locals in a small boat. When you cruise New Caledonia waters, it is important to be sensitive to changing attitudes."

It's getting toward the cruising rally time of year, so let's review them. We'll start with the 2,700-mile ARC from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia that starts in late November. There are 215 entries, 14 from the States: Antares, Island Packet 380, Joe Novotnak; Aphrodite, Swan 46, Christopher Otorowksi; Balikcil, Jeanneau 45, Mustafa Yurtbulmus; Bikini, Bavaria 49, Dmitri Sokolov; Ekaterina, Sabre 386, Michael Bull; Euphoria, EC-42, Len Borjeson; Hanuman, Oyster 54, Morris Schindler; Imagine, Najad 355, Ben Kaliwoda; Libeccio, Leopard 44, Kevin Rush; Maravilha, Hanse 430e, Victor Pinheiro; North, Hallberg-Rassy 43, Nejat Avci; Sojourner, Shannon 37, Ken Small; Perseverance, Swan 56, Tom Puett; Constanter, Swan 62RS, Willem Mesdag.

The ARC became so overcrowded a few years back that they had to add the ARC+, which starts a little earlier, stops at the Cape Verde Islands, then continues to finish in St. Lucia at the same time as the original ARC. There are currently 63 entries with a big waiting list. The U.S. entries are: Archer, Outremer 51, Rick & Julie Palm; Asylum, Bavaria 39, Thane Paulsen; Azzurra, Tayana 55, Ray Veatch; Bonnie Lass, Catalina 440, Bill Alexander; Carrick, Rustler 42, Allan Dobson; Makena, Lagoon 620, Luc Barthelet; Purr-fect, Lagoon 380, David and Linda Witham; Wipaca, Lagoon 450, Oscar Rabeiro Bonome. It's fun to see what people are cruising on these days.

There are also three rallies from the Northeast to the Caribbean: The NARC (North American Rally to the Caribbean); the Caribbean 1500; and the newest and biggest of them all, the Salty Dawg Rally. More on them next month.

Sixteen years ago, Clive Green, a former utility worker who is now 62, and Jane Green, a former hospital microbiologist, now 60, left Wales on what was intended to be a weekend cruise to Ireland and Spain. They didn't return for 16 years, having now completed a 56-country, 60,000-mile circumnavigation with the Trident Challenger they bought for $30,000. They spent another $36,000 outfitting the boat. While cruising, they lived on just under $1,000/month, most of which came from two small rental properties. One time they ran short of funds in Fiji, and had to trade one of her bras for fruits and veggies! The couple say they saw a lot of great places, but the most rewarding were the people they met along the way. No surprise there.

We'd love to hear from YOU!

Missing the pictures? See the September 2014 eBook!


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