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Changes in Latitudes

October, 2000

With reports this month from Wandering Star on getting boat work done in Mazatlan; from La Roja on the exquisite cruising pleasures from the Sea of Cortez to Costa Rica; from Polly Brooks on the Micronesian State of Yap; from Coastbuster on taxi tribulations in Loreto; from Annapurna on adventures in the Louisiades Archipelago of Papua New Guinea; from Saga on returning home with the kids after two years of cruising; and lots of Cruise Notes.

Wandering Star - Irwin 43
Bob & Renee Miller
Boat Work In Mazatlan
(Pt. Richmond)

Prior to our departure in the '99 Ha-Ha, we focused on upgrading systems, electronics, rigging, and safety gear. Since we didn't have the time or budget, we deferred a lot of interior cosmetic maintenance. Besides, since cruising is really just working on your boat in exotic locations, we figured we could start on the interior in Mexico. Well, after four years of looking at wood that cried out for replacement, Renee found a boat maintenance company that makes house calls: Mazatlan Yacht Service. The company's owner, Claus, comes by every day and asks Renee what she'd like done to make her boat more beautiful.

Things are done differently in Mexico, and here's an example. Claus took us to a lumberyard where, instead of finding various moldings to choose from, there were huge chunks of wood - mostly cedar with some mahogany, stacked on a dirt floor. They actually rip the wood - right before your eyes - into the pieces you want. Then Claus's master carpenter, Joel - his name is pronounced to rhyme with 'noel' - brings his chisels and planes to our boat, and makes strips of molding right on the spot. He can whittle corner moldings out of a piece of wood in just a few minutes. So far, he's replaced countertops, sinks, shower walls, paneling and trim. Ricardo, Claus's lead varnisher, is a true artist with a two-inch and has made our interior look almost new again. Although both Joel and Ricardo are really talented and very well paid by Mexican standards, the cost is a fraction of boatyard rates in the States.

One problem is that supplies are hard to find in Mexico. The guys are always asking for epoxy, blue tape, foam brushes and varnish. If you don't bring these things with you, you have to buy them from the local chandlery - for about double U.S. prices. We've been thinking about bashing back to California and loading up with teak, epoxy, varnish, nylon zippers and chardonnay, but before we get that desperate, I'm going to see if I can get a spot crewing on a Ha-Ha boat in exchange for a small amount of cargo space. Let's see, the Classy Classified should read, "Two time Ha-Ha vet will crew for cargo space."

If anyone wants to contact Claus at Mazatlan Yacht Service, they can phone or fax (69) 82-4414. When in Mazatlan, they can call his boat Elaine on 68. Anyone who is looking for Ha-Ha crew can reach me by .

- bob 8/22/2000

La Roja - Roberts 44
Bob & Marjorie Lambert
The Joy of Sailing South
(Channel Islands)

We left our homeport of Anacapa Island Marina in Channel Islands Harbor in April of last year and have slowly been making our way south. We arrived in beautiful Costa Rica in June and plan on hanging out here through the end of hurricane season. As with most every other cruiser we've been privileged to meet, getting a copy of 'Latitude' 'out here' is a real treat. And it's even more fun to read now because so many of the contributors are folks we've met along the way. Anyway, we thought it was time for La Roja to add her tales.

Our agenda for the last 18 months has been to take it real slow and enjoy each place as we go - and this has proven to be a magical formula. We spent last summer in the Sea of Cortez. The abundance of sea life along with the beauty and tranquility of the area was awesome. Almost every night we fed ourselves as though dining at a smorgasbord of the sea. We often had choices: triggerfish, grouper, mullet, yellowtail, dorado, sierra, as well as many varieties of rock fish. The shellfish menu was equally abundant, with lobster, clams, oysters, pinheads and scallops. We often would discuss what we wanted for dinner before heading out so we could be selective in our kill, and we almost never came back empty handed.

We sailed - yes, sailed, which is what we try to do at every opportunity - as far north as Refugio above Bahia de Los Angeles. All along the way we enjoyed the friendliness and hospitality of the people. In Agua Verde, we were invited to a quincinero, which is a coming-out party for young ladies. In Santa Rosalia, we sat in the street watching the De La Hoya/Montoyo title fight on a television propped up on a fence. In Bahia del Los Angeles we attended a pig roast. At Lemona we swam with whale sharks. At Refugio, we delighted in the sights and sounds of huge numbers of sea lions. And throughout the sea we often sat mesmerized by the beautiful sunsets as manta rays and pelicans played in the background. We reluctantly took our leave in September, promising the locals - and ourselves - that we would return the next summer.

Once we made the crossing to the mainland, however, we found more magic! We spent the next seven months enjoying the beauty of mainland Mexico and the warmth of her people. We stopped at isolated anchorages where we were the only boat, and we also stayed at luxurious marinas where we were totally pampered. When we travelled by bus, we often found ourselves sitting next to chickens or buckets of fish while being serenaded by a guitar-playing singer. We attended many a street party, and marveled at the colorful parades with many simple but well-decorated floats depicting the Christ child - while the masked demons danced alongside. We were invited to local houses for meals, and marveled at the generosity of our hosts. We dined at wonderful restaurants, but also had food from street vendors that was equally delicious. At one cockfight we were the only gringos, and learned how to bet on the different games. We rode a panga through the jungle to a crocodile farm; took local children and their parents sailing; rode in the back of pickup trucks; and laughed and danced at many a fiesta until the early hours of the morning. We were awakened by the music of bands playing on the beaches in small towns, practicing for yet another fiesta. We sat atop fences enjoying rodeos and cheered at many a local soccer game. When we finally left Mexico - after making our way through the dreaded Tehuantepec unscathed - we were filled with wonderful memories of incredible people and places - and again vowed to return soon.

When we lowered the Mexican flag and raised the Guatemalan flag, it was almost a year to the day that we had left the United States. Some of the boats leaving Mexican waters elected to head straight for Costa Rica and bypass the 'forgotten middle'. In retrospect, we're so glad that we decided to continue trekking slowly and thus stop at Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. They are not to be missed. In Guatemala, we took the bus from Bahia Naval to Guatemala City, which while very busy, has a number of historical buildings and museums. Our next stop was Antigua, which was like stepping back in time. We stayed there for three days, and will visit again from the Caribbean side.

We add our voices to cruiser chorus praising the loveliness of Barillas Marina in El Salvador, and the generosity of its owner, Juan Wright. There is only one word to describe our experience there: "Wow!" From even before we arrived, we were treated with love and respect. Somehow word had reached them that we were experiencing engine trouble, so Ameritas, one of Wright's employees who speaks fluent English, worked on her day off just to be able to assist us! She was genuinely concerned, and actually contacted us by radio before we contacted her. She did not relax until we were safely tied to one of their moorings. When we dinghied over to meet her, she tearfully welcomed us. I know this will sound overly dramatic, but I feel that Ameritas exemplifies what all of humanity should strive for: unconditional love. She treats each and every cruiser that comes through with the same level of love, concern and graciousness. And she is just one of Wright's many employees who share that attitude.

Our stay at Barillas Marina lasted a month. We were flown back and forth to the capital of San Salvador in Juan Wright's personal plane; stayed at his condo and were treated to an incredible dinner with five waiters anxiously waiting to fill every cup and plate; and were assigned a personal driver to chauffeur us around town. The driver, Hector, then took us to Juan's beautiful lakeside home high in the mountains, where we spent a week. We felt like royalty - but protested that we couldn't continue to accept all his generosity. "Do you want me to lose my job?" he responded. So we sat back and enjoyed ourselves, as to do anything else would have been insulting. We later rode in a caravan through the jungle to watch a man call monkeys out of the trees; we attended a native's 100th birthday party, and were honored to be one of the first Americans the townspeople had ever seen. We also rode in a high speed panga to a beautiful white sand island, where we basked in the sun and we were also privileged to meet the President of El Salvador!

When we were finally able to pull ourselves away, we decided to bypass Nicaragua and head straight for Costa Rica. As we set out under perfect sailing conditions, we jokingly asked each other, "Wonder what the traffic is like on the 405 today?" Within hours the sailing conditions took a turn for the worse, as we had strong wind and current on the nose with occasional squalls. At times we were down to two knots and less. Two days of battling these conditions wore us out, so we decided to pull into the 'No Name' anchorage in Nicaragua. We hadn't heard great things about the anchorage, but figured it would at least give us a break. However, adverse winds and current were so strong that it took us nine hours of tacking to make the final 20 miles! By that time we both agreed that the 405 would have been preferable that day. We finally made it into the No Name - and were delighted to find a calm and pristine anchorage. We sat on deck that night watching the thunder and lightning in the distance, sipping our boat drinks and repeating, "Aren't we lucky not to be out there!" We ended up staying at the No Name anchorage for three days. There were a few locals fishing, and they were very pleasant. Two teenage boys showed us how to hunt octopus, then gave us one - along with detailed instructions on how to prepare it - for dinner.

After heading back out, we decided to stop at Bahia del Sur, the last anchorage in Nicaragua. It was a 20 mile sail to get there, and we had one of our most exhilarating sails to date! With 20 knot winds forward of the port beam and flat seas, we occasionally hit 8.5 knots. Along the way we played tag with the Passage 52 High Drama, and marveled at the beautiful coastline. We dropped anchor in Bahia del Sur in less than three hours.

Despite rumors to the contrary, the Port Captain turned out to be most helpful. He told us that if we stayed right in town, he would sign our zarpes from El Salvador as a stopover, and not make us go through the entire check-in process. While the town of Bahia del Sur was charming - colonial architecture and very clean - it was quite rolly out on the bay and lots of boats were on questionable moorings. In fact, we watched one sink. So we left after two nights. But we promised that we'd return - by land - as it's easily accessible from Costa Rica.

We left Nicaragua on May 31, and while having a beautiful wing-on-wing sail, entered Costa Rica. What a jewel! We stayed in Bahia Elena for a week, enjoying the sounds of monkeys and parrots, and swimming in the beautiful water. Some fishermen came up to the boat and gave us eight lobster tails. When we asked them what they wanted in return, they said a jug of water. When we threw in some baseball caps, their smiles of delight lit up the anchorage - and our hearts. We were hooked!

We're now in Playa Panama, Bahia Culebra, anchored off of Hiram and China's Costa Cangrejo restaurant. Hiram and China operate a poor man's version of Juan Wright's Barillas Marina in El Salvador. Not only do they offer wonderful hospitality and fantastic food, but they also arrange different activities - such as horseback riding, trips to the river with catered food, canopy rides and so forth. They also make diesel and gas runs, and have water, showers and laundry facilities. The anchorage is so calm and protected that locals bring their boats here for shelter during papagayos. Each morning we've been entertained by dolphins, and dorado literally swim around our boat. We haven't figured out how to catch them yet, but we will! It rains about 40 inches a year here, which is about a fifth as much as it does further south. China gives the cruisers Spanish lessons on Friday mornings for the price of desayuno, and salsa lessons at night. They also have cable TV, so we get our CNN fix. There just doesn't seem to be any reason to hurry along!

In a previous Changes, one cruising couple said that everyone they'd met in Costa Rica had either had things stolen or knew some that had. We have six boats in the anchorage right now and we all leave our dinghies on shore unattended - and not one of us has had anything stolen. And we don't know of anybody that has. Not only that, but we left La Roja on the hook for six weeks while we flew back to the States on business. Dog Beach and No Komis also left their boats for several weeks for trips back home. Another cruising couple has rented an apartment nearby and has left their boat on the hook while local people work on the engine. At one point, there were three unattended boats here for one reason or another and no one bothered any of them. I'm sure bad things can happen here, but no more so than anywhere else. We have also found the Tico's - what the Costa Ricans call themselves - are incredibly friendly and helpful.

As they say in Costa Rica: Pura Vida! Thank you for letting us share La Roja's story!

- bob & marjorie 8/10/2000

Bob & Marjorie - Thanks for your terrific Changes. We think you've got the perfect cruising attitude. However, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that Costa Rica has a long history of petty crime such as theft. This may not be the case up at Playa Panama, but it has been further south in more populated areas such as Puntarenas, the capital of San Jose, and Golfito.

Polly Brooks - Islander 37
Kirk & Cath McGeorge
Guam To Yap

After over two years of slaving and saving in the United States Territory of Guam, my mate and I decided that we should drum in the new millennium free of the burden of employment - so we walked away from our jobs on the last day of the 20th century. Then we turned our focus on preparing Polly Brooks for an extended voyage that we would begin two months later.

On the evening of February 28, a motley assembly of marina neighbors, friends, strangers and wharf rats bid us bon voyage as we steered off into the sunset. We were accompanied by our old friend Barney, having shanghaied him from a Marianas YC party only several hours before! As for Polly Brooks, she was in the best shape ever, with new solar panels, refrigeration, head, engine, stove, autopilot, GPS, EPIRB, ham radio, computer, inverter, breaker panel, chain plates, barrier coat, bottom paint, anchors, dinghy, gas BBQ and much, much more. Guam had been good to us economically, professionally and spiritually. I have the feeling we'll be returning there some day - as long as a typhoon or earthquake doesn't knock it into the Pacific.

When Guam had diminished to nothing more than a twinkle astern, we took notice of a pair of white lights far in the distance on our starboard beam. I figured it might be a large motor vessel coming into a crossing situation, so I flicked on the new radar and plotted our first moving target. It was just over eight miles away. As I continued to monitor the situation, the other vessel changed course slightly to put us in a classic collision course. Since we were motorsailing, we were the burdened vessel, so I reduced our speed by half and switched on our foredeck lights. I figured the other vessel to be one of the many Chinese longliners that fish these waters, and expected that our reduction in speed would allow the other vessel to pass in front. But they stayed on a collision course. When we got within two miles, I decided it was time to take significant action, and made a big right hand turn to show them our red light. When we eventually passed port to port under a full moon, our new binoculars revealed the other vessel to be a U.S. Coast Guard Buoy Tender!

I hailed them on 16 and informed them that we were a yacht bound from Guam to 480-mile distant Yap. They gave us the once over on the radio and admitted they'd been tracking us. They said they were investigating why we'd been "sailing erratically and showing improper lights". I told them we had only taken the necessary steps to avoid a collision, but was in no mood to get in a debate with them. They shadowed us for the next two hours, showing us their red sidelight the entire time. I expected an armed boarding party at any time, but they finally turned away to leave us in peace under the stars once again.

It turned blustery the following morning as we charged ahead under full sail in rolling seas. It was Cath's first offshore passage on a monohull, and she woke up looking seven on a green scale of 10. She fought hard to stay horizontal while Barney and I swapped watches for the next 24 hours, catching a few winks and a few fish while marching along at a steady six knots. Polly rolled like a drunkard in slow motion for the entire downwind passage.

We arrived at Yap just before dawn three days later. We were a bit bruised from flying about inside of the boat, but were nonetheless in good spirits for having survived our first 'trial by water'. For those keeping score, we hooked eight mahi mahi, but lost five, threw one back and ate two during the 80-hour tropical sleighride. But most important, nothing broke!

The channel into Yap is - like that of most ports - lined with a scattering of new and old shipwrecks. These always serve as a testament to the value of good seamanship. After hailing Yap Harbor Control, we were instructed to drop the hook right in the middle of downtown at the Marina Restaurant. Believe me, it's the place to be in Yap. We dinghied ashore and met Capt. Serfer Single, the Harbormaster. Clearing into Yap, one of the Federated States of Micronesia, was a comfortable process conducted over fresh brewed coffee in the restaurant. The total cost was a onetime fee of $25 - which was good for all of FSM. The marina restaurant facility had a pair of dinghy docks, a shower, a dive shop, cold beer and great food. Also within staggering distance of the anchorage are a bank, hardware store, fuel dock, grocery, visitor's center, and the famous O'Keefe's Pub.

Capt. Single insisted that we stay for the Yap Days Celebration the following week. It didn't take much to convince us. Plus, I reckoned that it was a good idea to start off on the right foot by falling behind schedule right away as opposed to putting it off.

Yap is a clean and lovely island, and the locals are very hospitable. The Yappese cling proudly to their ancient cultural traditions. As such, it was not uncommon to see men and women of all ages at the post office and markets dressed in simple outfits. The men, for example, in just loin clothes. And the ladies wearing little more than a grass skirt and a flower lei. Everyone wore flowers in their hair and chewed betel nuts, which resulted in friendly - but bloody red - smiles. The Yappese have a long history of canoe building and living from the sea, so they really warm up to you when they learn you have arrived by boat.

The island has a state-run haulout facility - which can handle vessels up to 90 tons - and it's a bargain. Capt. Single says it's a one time charge of $75, but no fee for extra days. You just have to be sure you bring your own supplies, as bottom paint and epoxies are in limited supply on Yap.

The Yap Day celebrations turned out to be a simple celebration of the peoples' ancient ways. This year the festivities were held in a tree-lined park at the site of an old Men's Long House. I have to admit that I became noticeably flustered when offered a pair of young coconuts by a young island girl wearing little more than a grass skirt and smile. Everywhere we turned there was delicious food to eat. Throughout the day there were spear throwing, stick fighting, basket weaving and coconut tree climbing competitions. The highlights, however, were the traditional dances performed for the assembly of chiefs from the outer islands. There were war dances, children's dances, and chanting dances depicting their seafaring past. In one dance, there were 100 women swaying, clapping and chanting the heroic tales of loved ones returning home after treacherous voyages to islands far beyond the horizon.

With full tanks and bellies, we weighed anchor on the afternoon of March 2. After a week of recovery from the noise, grime and crime of Guam, we continued sailing into the sunset further away from Western society toward adventures in the Philippines and Borneo.

- kirk & cath 9/15/2000

Coastbuster - Lagoon 410 Cat
Russ & Sandy Elsner
Loreto - Puerto Escondido
(Huntington Beach)

Thanks for publishing our letter about electrical problems with our boat and then our haulout from hell in Mazatlan. If it seems as though we've had nothing but problems, cruising is a mixture of good times and trying times. But from the beginning, we've considered this an adventure, and we're better cruisers for our experiences, as it's made us enjoy the good times even more.

Speaking of good times, let us tell you about going to 'taxi jail' in Loreto, Baja. David and Kathy from Takeitez borrowed a truck from a local cruiser to take them and us the 20 or so miles from Puerto Escondido to Loreto. We knew that the one-way taxi fare for the 15-minute trip was $15, which we thought was a lot of money. We also had heard that some of the local taxi drivers, fearing a loss of fares, had the local police haul cruisers in for not using the local taxi service. We never thought we'd get stopped, and besides, what kind of law was that anyway?

Well, after we'd been in Loreto for about an hour and stopped at five or six places to spend our pesos, a male and female police officer kindly invited us to the police station to talk to the chief! They were nice enough, however, to let us finish our fish tacos. A local norteamericano fluent in Spanish offered to accompany us, and we accepted.

Our meeting with the chief was a little confusing as he didn't really seem to have his heart in it, but he suggested that local cruisers were not supposed to have their friends drive them into Loreto in their own cars, but should use taxis. David wanted our interpreter to push the issue a little to find out what law we had supposedly broken, but she refused to rock the boat. It might have been the smart thing to do. We also skirted the fact that we'd contributed money for our ride to town. We must point out that the police never asked for money and were very courteous. We didn't feel threatened and we didn't see the inside of the jail.

Locals tell us that being encouraged by officials to take the taxis is nothing new - it supposedly also happened two or three years ago - and it can be stopped by going to the Department of Tourism. But ours was apparently the third incident of the year, and we heard there was yet another one after we left. We consider this to have been just another adventure for Coastbuster, and I am sure Takeitez feels the same way! Loreto is a great town and Puerto Escondido is full of very helpful cruisers. We are just beginning to enjoy the outer islands and will have no problem getting another ride into Loreto. The adventure continues!

- russ & sandy 8/15/2000

Annapurna - Hans Christian 48
Buddy and Ruth Ellison
The Louisiades Archipelago, P.N.G.

We're not leaving for Indonesia until 2001, so we're travelling around Australia this year and next having a great time. For instance, we visited Rubyvale to go 'fossicking' - which is the Aussie term for prospecting. But we could have also gone to Emerald or Sapphire, two neighboring towns supposedly teeming with sapphires. Sapphires are mined here, and in addition to blue, come in pink, yellow, green, and a mixture of greens and blues. At Forever Mines we paid $15 for four buckets of dirt that was supposedly heaping with sapphires that would be ours to keep. We sifted through the dirt, washed it, then picked through the rocks with large tweezers. At the end of four hours we'd come up with about 20 little sapphires. None were good enough to cut and polish, and one miner told us "they'd be perfect to put in a fish tank". But we'd had fun.

Our final Australian destination for the year was to be Townsville, about 800 nautical miles north of Brisbane, where we started. We stopped at some wonderful anchorages on the way, but basically rushed up because we'd been told that the Whitsundays are the premiere resort and beach area of Queensland. But we were disappointed in the Whitsundays, as the weather wasn't warm enough to enjoy snorkeling or diving - or even dinghy rides, for that matter.

It was also on a short passage from a Whitsunday's marina to a safe anchorage from the southeasterlies that were blowing 30 knots that we had a huge mishap. Having been out cruising for nearly four years, you'd think we'd get things right, but it seems that on every passage there is something we forget to close, lock or put away. This time we didn't lock the overhead hatches in the salon, so when a monster wave hit us from starboard, we not only got drenched in the cockpit, but the force of the wave knocked the dinghy off its cradle, sent a few gas cans aft and blew open the hatch. The gallons of water down the hatch splashed all over our new cushions and everything else. What a mess! Luckily the wave had come from starboard rather than port, otherwise all the navigation instruments - including my computer - would have been ruined. I guess we need to sail a few thousand more miles before we think of everything.

While at the Breakwater Marina in Townsville, we met up with some old cruising friends and also heaps of Australians planning to cruise to the Louisiades Archipelago in Papua New Guinea that winter (northern hemisphere summer.) We thought we were going to be alone. In June we checked out of Oz and sailed 600 miles northeast to the Louisiades. The trip wasn't the worst or the best, but we - and especially Ruth - have come to the conclusion that passagemaking isn't our favorite activity. The end result, however, is definitely worth the effort.

It blew 25 to 30 knots until we turned into Panasea, our first PNG anchorage. There was no one else in the anchorage - or for 20 miles. The weather was wonderful, and the water crystal clear and calm. We didn't do too much swimming, however, as our friends from Seattle Star, who had been there the previous week, had spotted two crocs close to where we dropped the hook. That quelled our interest in snorkeling and swimming. Nonetheless, it was wonderful to be back in cruising mode on the hook in the tropics: no towns, no phones and no television. We enjoyed being self-sufficient, baking our own bread, hand-washing what little clothes we wore, making our own water, and conserving as much of the boat's energy as possible. We might have been living simply, but the locals had it far worse: dirty water, sores that won't heal, lots of disease, and destructive cyclones.

After four peaceful days at Panasea, we sailed the short distance to Motorina and met up with our friends on Seattle Star. This anchorage, like all the rest, had a little village right on the beach. We dinghied ashore to pay our respects and bring in some bags of goodies such as books, plastic containers, paper and clothes. The locals were very different from those we'd seen in Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji. The men, in particular, were appalling to look at. They chew betel nut, which turns their mouths, teeth and gums a bright orange color. At first glance it looks like blood.

First, they bite off hunks of betel nut, chewing it to a pulp. Then they tear off a small piece of pepper plant and dip that into powdered lime they make by grinding up coral. They throw it all in their mouth and chew some more, getting a mild narcotic buzz - and perhaps staving off hunger. It's the Asian equivalent of smoking a joint. Some of the women and teenage boys also chew. An old fellow by the name of Elijah had the most gruesome set of teeth - or what was left of them. He had no gums that we could see, and the few teeth he had left seemed to grow right out of his face like fangs, above and below where his gums used to be. But his smile was a mile wide!

Although these people had no material possessions to speak of - their clothes, for instance, were mostly hand-me-downs from yachties - their houses were built on stilts and were quite sophisticated. As we had done at other villages, we brought prescription eyeglasses to pass out. Those with bad vision were thrilled to be able to see better and read - mostly the Bible - once again.

Things were completely different at Bagaman Island, our next stop. We'd been warned that Chief Gulo would show up with outrigger canoes the minute we dropped the hook - or even sooner. He was indeed punctual and brought a model of an outrigger canoe that he had carved. Money is of no use to these villagers, so we gave him a pack of cigarettes, some sugar and a box of matches. About an hour later Samuel, a young man from another village, brought us an outrigger canoe that he had carved. He said he didn't want anything in return. The catch was that he returned every day after, asking for something. Later on we learned that there was considerable hostility between Chief Gulo and Samuel's clan that lived through the bush, over a hill, and down a beach on the windward side. Fortunately, none of us yachties got caught in the middle.

Trading is a way of life with these people, and both we and they enjoyed it immensely. We always came out on the short end of the stick, not that it mattered. But the locals never wanted anything for free. If we did something for someone in their village, they felt it was necessary for them to reciprocate with fruit, vegetables, lobster, crab, baggi necklaces - whatever they had.

Our third stop was Misima, our official port of entry into Papua New Guinea. Technically speaking, you're supposed to go straight to a port of entry and check in. But everyone told us not to worry, so we made two stops and took two weeks to reach Misima. When we arrived on Friday at 3:00 p.m., the Quarantine dude and the Customs guy came to our boat - but not until 4:30 p.m. We were charged an extra 14 kina - the PNG currency - because they said they closed at 4:00 p.m. When they asked if we had any garbage they could dump for us, we said we did. Gotcha! They hit us up for another 50 kina to dump it! Luckily, Seattle Star had lots of kina to loan us, or else we would have had to sit in the harbor all weekend - and pay for that, too. As it was, we still had to go to the bank on Monday to pay the extortion and go to the market. This was our first jabbing by officials of a Third World country. We'd had our check-in hassles in Mexico, but it never cost us anything extra.

We continued on to other islands in the Calvados chain, and until July had mostly overcast weather. But all of the anchorages were calm and very pretty. While visiting Gigila, we met Bernard and Elizabeth, who live on a typically gorgeous, sheltered, palm fringed island with a white sand beach. It's just like a magazine photo of paradise. Once again, the whole village is one big extended family. Surprisingly, we didn't notice any evidence of inbreeding.

Yachties are the only outsiders these people see, and they get no help from the PNG government. So we certainly didn't mind exchanging things such as matches, books, flour, and sugar for fruit or a particularly beautiful shell. During cyclone season, there are no yachts around to furnish these people with the essentials. So when they don't have matches, they have to - we're not making this up - rub two sticks together to start a fire. In fact, their entire day revolves around getting food to eat. They get things such as bananas, yams, tapioca, taro, a leafy vegetable they call spinach - but looked like weeds to us - from their gardens. And they get fish from the sea. A few of the villages had pigs. Lots of them had mangy-looking dogs that probably end up on the menus when they run out of pigs.
[Continued next month.]

- buddy & ruth 9/15/2000

Saga - Wylie 65
The Stone Family
Back Home After Two Years

The 'Champs' - Caleb, Hayden, Addie, and parents Matt and Polly - are back in Marin almost two years to the day after we left. In our last Changes - November of last year - we were in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala. From there we made fairly quick work of the trip thru Belize and then on to Key West via Isla Mujeres. After Easter in Miami amidst the Elian furor and a quick haulout in Lauderdale, we had a wonderful four-day ride up the Gulfstream to the Chesapeake Bay. We averaged nine knots over the ground all the way, and never tacked once!

We then parked for the better part of three months enjoying WIlliamsburg, Yorktown and D.C. Then we travelled up to Manhattan for the Opsail/4th of July celebration. We continued down Long Island Sound to Stonington, Connecticut, and the long chore of lowering the waterline, as we unstowed two-years worth of stuff into our 'sub-human' Suburban 'land yacht' and trailer. Four days later, we were at least temporarily out of the cruising life and totally reimmersed into the frenetic pace of Marin County.

We would be happy to share our thoughts on our experience of cruising with kids, home-schooling, best and worst places, best and worst gear, if it would be of interest. Reluctantly, Saga is now on the market on the East Coast, but unless we're really lucky, I suspect we'll be moving her to Florida and the Bahamas for the winter - meaning we should get at least a couple of months onboard when the weather looks the bleakest around here!

- champs 9/15/2000

Cruise Notes

"Diann Hedstrom, my wife of 20 years, died of cancer last year," reports Arthur R. Hedstrom of the Seattle-based Hans Christian 43 Liberté. His boat is currently in Golfito, Costa Rica. "Prior to her death, Diann and I were fortunate to have lived and cruised aboard Liberté for five years. We enjoyed cruising California, Baja, the Sea of Cortez and then Puerto Vallarta before I had to fly her back to Seattle for the last time. I then returned to a quiet and empty Liberté, and have since continued on to Costa Rica, picking up crew for the longer legs. I now have crew willing to sail with me to Panama and Ecuador. After that, I will probably transit the Canal and experience the Caribbean side for a few years. Cruising onboard Liberté with Diann provided me with a life filled with great joy; it was a life she loved, too. I continue in her memory."

Bless both you and Diann's memory, Arthur. If any cruising friends want to contact him, he'd love to get correspondence by .

"I last saw the Wanderer in Puerto Vallarta in early '94 when I was preparing for a five-year singlehanded circumnavigation," writes Keith Holmes of the Alameda-based Hans Christian 43T Lady Guinevere - which is currently at the Langkasuka Boat Club in Langkawi, Malaysia. "Obviously things changed! Having gotten married, I am no longer singlehanding, and as you can tell, I'm only halfway through my circumnavigation. I've meant to write, but when you're cruising there is so much to see and do - and fix on the boat. I occasionally see copies of Latitude in this part of the world, and even got the May 2000 edition in May - a record. When I got to the end of the August '98 Changes and read about John Newbould of Barnacle, I had to believe it was the John 'Long Count' Newbould formerly of Wraith at Grand Marina in Alameda. I've been trying to reach him since I left there in November of '92 - and would be grateful if he'd contact me by . We plan to leave here in December for Indian Ocean stops such as the Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Mayotte, Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa. Eventually, we hope to get back to the wonderful cruising grounds of Mexico."

If your boat is on the East Coast and you can't do the Ha-Ha, how about the 11th annual West Marine Caribbean 1500, the 1,500-mile rally from Hampton, Virginia, to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgins. Honcho Steve Black advises they have 50 boats signed up for the November 5th event, lead by Steve and Linda Dashew's 84-foot Beowulf. Black expects that 65 boats will make the start. The entry fee is $800 per boat. Although this is more than four times as expensive as the Ha-Ha, they have many seminars before and after the event. For further information, visit

The last of the originals? "We're still in Mexico," write John and Julie Kinney of the Islander Freeport 41 Wanderin' Star. "In fact, we think we're probably the last of the original Ha-Ha Class of '94 to still be down here. We just never found a reason to leave. We're based out of Lakeside, Arizona, but are getting ready to start yet another winter season in Mexico." A couple of others from the original Ha-Ha are still out cruising - Maude I. Jones comes to mind - but we think you're the only ones to still be in mañanaland.

"After finishing the Ha-Ha last year," writes Terry Bingham of the Union 36 Secret 'O Life, "I spent the winter on the mainland going as far south as Manzanillo. I then returned to La Paz to provision for a 2,800-mile solo passage to Hilo, Hawaii. Although my boat was heavily laden, I made it in 24 days. After a quick tour through the islands, I spent more than three weeks at Hanalei Bay on Kauai, and gave my youngest daughter away at a beautiful ceremony on Annini Beach, east of Princeville. Leaving Hanalei after most of the Singlehanded TransPac racers finished, I spent another 23 days alone while sailing over the top of the high on my way to the Golden Gate. After a few weeks in Sausalito working on boat projects, I did a week up to Stockton. I'm on my way back to San Diego - and then Mexico for at least another 18 months. Fair winds to everyone!"

"I crossed the Atlantic singlehanded in the summer of '99," reports Stephen Faustina of the Oakland-based Barnett 42 Solitaire, "having left from Fort Launderdale, and having made stops at Bermuda and the Azores. It was a very pleasant and uneventful crossing all the way to Gibraltar. I wintered in Barcelona, Spain, until April 2000. Since then I've been cruising the Med, and enjoyed stops at Mallorca, Sardinia, Tunis, Malta, Crete, numerous Greek islands in the Aegean and now the Turkish coast - my favorite. I will be stopping in Cyprus and Israel before heading onto the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Everyone says that I'm going around the world the wrong way, but I haven't found that to be the case - especially now that I get to sail 'down' the Red Sea. Even though I have been singlehanding most of this trip, I have had crew for certain stretches, and friends and family visit at times. I am open to accepting crew, especially for the trip down the Red Sea to Sri Lanka. If anyone is interested, contact me by .

We at Latitude want to salute both you and Terry Bingham of Secret 'O Life for your singlehanded passages, they're impressive. By the way, careful when you get down to the bottom of the Red Sea and off Yemen, as pirates recently gave chase to the 135-foot J Class boat Velsheda and sprayed a 154-ft Perini Navi ketch with machine gun fire.

Also reporting in from the Med are Paul and Suzie Zupan of Sausalito aboard their 52-foot full keel schooner. Regretably, the couple neglected to include their boat's name. They are currently in Barcelona, Spain, a great city if there ever was one.

"We have returned to the Bay Area, and our Cal 39 Joy Ride should arrive from the Cheasepeake tomorrow by truck," report Jim and Margaret Ballou of Sausalito. "It was a great two years and we enjoyed it all. One recommendation: Listen to what other cruisers have to say about a location, but remember that your experience will often be very different."

"We're back in Hermosa Beach waiting for the summer heat of Baja to go away," report John and Cynthia Tindle, who have their Jeanneau 40 Utopia in storage in Mazatlan. "We're heading back to Mazatlan on October 18, and after some yard work will continue on to Paradise Marina near Puerto Vallarta for Thanksgiving. But we'll be down at Z-town in time for the holidays. We were part of the '99 Ha-Ha."

Mel and Rebecca Shapiro of the Dover, Delaware-based Taswell 43 Ricka - who are currently in Tauranga, New Zealand - have some advice for folks about to start cruising: "Don't bother trying to do every last thing on your boat or buy every last gadget you see. If you do, you'll find there are many things that you won't need or use, and there are other things you hadn't thought about that you'll really want. And sometimes you'll find you can buy things cheaper elsewhere. Take New Zealand, for example. The Kiwi dollar costs just 43-cents U.S. This is how a strong U.S. buck can work for a cruiser: We just bought a brand new Harken #44 electric winch, which has a Stateside retail price of around $5,000 and a 'good deal' price of about $4,000. We paid $2,150 here in New Zealand. It was the same story for Profurl furling gear and many other things. Not everything is a bargain, but overall the savings are great enough to make the trip down well worth the effort. We've had a dodger built, stainless steel work done, the cushions reupholstered, and some painting and rechroming done. It was all faultlessly executed, and at a fraction of U.S. prices. So if you need motivation to stop spending money and start cruising, wait until you've done some cruising to find out what you really need - and if you can't get it at a lower price."

"I'm back in Los Angeles, and the quality of life has gotten much worse," is the evaluation of Jim Barden of the Morgan Out-Island 28 Ann-Marie. Jim lists "the world" as the boat's hailing port, but she's currently berthed in Guaymas, Mexico. "I've found that there are more attorneys in L.A. running ads to solicit businesses to sue one's brother, and the prices for cell phones and other associated 'me things' have gone up. Did I lose my way? I expect to be back aboard Ann-Marie in November and running into my old cruising friends. At that time I'll be rejoining the real 'real world'."

"In two to three weeks, we'll be leaving Land Sea Service here in Golfito, Costa Rica, for the Galapagos via Panama and Ecuador," advise Jerry and Ellen King of Grace, the San Francisco / Las Vegas based Kelly-Peterson 44. "We will spend about a month in Ecuador and about two weeks touring the Galapagos - but you know how that goes. We always take longer than expected because every place has more to see and do than we could have ever dreamed. We left San Francisco in October of '98 with stops in San Diego, La Paz, many wonderful bahias in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador's Bahia Jiquilisco, Nicaragua, and last but certainly not the least, Costa Rica. It has been difficult to tear ourselves away from each exotic place - as all cruisers understand. We have a Web site at

"Our refit is complete," reports Ralph Johnson of the Corpus Christi, Texas, based Hans Christian 41T, Our Country Home. When they reported in, their boat was in Coos Bay, Oregon. "So now we can leave soon for Washington, Canada and Alaska. People can reach us by ." Geez, we hope you're not headed for Alaska at this time of year.

"After enjoying a five-month cruise through Baja and part of mainland Mexico last winter, we left the boat in La Paz and returned home to Walnut Creek at the end of May," report Tom and Ann Edwards of the Modesto-based Olympic 34 Pelican. "We have managed to jump - with both feet - back into the rat race, and have quickly discovered that the rats are still winning. But seriously, we had to cut our cruise short to come home to work to finance repowering our boat."

It gets hotter than a chili pepper in the Sea of Cortez during the summer, so cruisers get thirsty. That's why John Vermette of U Betcha can be seen navigating his dinghy - which is close to swamping from all the Modelo Beer - back to his boat. This took place when he and wife Stephanie were provisioning at Santa Rosalia for a couple of months in the northern Sea of Cortez. When it got too hot, the couple left their boat on the mainland at Marina Real.

George Perrochet of Bahia Luminosa in Costa Rica's Gulf of Nicoya reports that both Rancho Gigante and Isla Gitana - identified on the charts as 'Muertos' - are currently closed. Bahia Luminosa remains open for business, although it's relatively quiet during the wet summer months.

"I'm trying to locate Bill and Gail Place, who left Chula Vista Marina in October of '94 aboard the custom steel ketch Bright Wing," writes Aaron Lederfine of Brass Ring. "I know they made it to New Zealand, but then I lost track of them. If anyone knows their whereabouts and/or how to contact them, please let me know by ."

"We just returned from a 375-mile cruise down the coast of Texas," report Fred and Debbie Lowe of the Seabrook, Texas, based Morgan 382 Too Much Fun. "Some of it was in the IntraCoastal Waterway, some of it was offshore. There were some great marinas along the way and some even better anchorages." We at Latitude are totally unclear on what it's like cruising the Texas coast, and would love to get a more detailed report.

"Many years ago I sailed to Mexico with some friends," writes Jay Mancuso of Jacenta. "We enjoyed stops in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta, then continued south to the small fishing village of Barra de Navidad, where we had a great time for nearly two weeks. The cruiser gathering place ashore was Los Pelicanos Restaurant, which was run by a very interesting American woman named Phil and her Mexican husband. The two were friends to cruisers and served great food and generous drinks at reasonable prices. When we went by last winter, the restaurant was closed. What happened?"
Several years ago Philomena - who truly was a great friend of cruisers and threw the best St. Patrick's Day parties in all of Mexico - fell ill. Some cruisers raised money to help pay for operations, but we haven't heard anything since. The restaurant was sold and temporarily reopened without her, but it was never the same. Bless you Phil, wherever you are.

"To answer your questions about Tucumcari and her crew," writes Bob Starr of Toledo, Oregon, "she's a a 33-ft cold-molded cutter that I built in a barn in Oregon and launched in 1982. She is a Ken Hankinsen design built of three layers of 1/4 inch fir plywood - door skins, actually - and WEST epoxy. In '84 my ex and I sailed her from Oregon to Mexico and did the Milk Run across the South Pacific to Australia. We then turned around and sailed back to the Bay Area to replenish the kitty, arriving back almost four years to the day from when we left. Ten years later, in '98, Tucumcari sailed out the Gate and turned left with myself and my new wife Cyn Terra-Starr aboard. Cyn has had very little sailing experience and wasn't afraid to admit that she was nervous. It's now been 21 months and we're in Raiatea waiting for some good weather to head further west on our planned circumnavigation."

"I need your assistance in helping me find marina information for my upcoming season," writes Joe Larive of the Hunter 40 LaRive. "My boat is currently at Brick Bay Marina in Roatan, and I plan to sail on to Belize, Cancun, Cozumel for Christmas, Cuba, and then back to the Rio Dulce at the end of the season. I would like to set up marina locations to change crews, but haven't had any luck on getting information except on Hemingway Marina in Cuba. Can anybody help?"

We hate to admit this, but the only marina we have firsthand knowledge on anywhere in that region is Varadero Marina just east of Havana. Maybe some other readers can help us out with which places would be good for swapping crews.

Jim Hughes of Baja Coast Seafaris in La Paz wants something to clear the air about safety issues in La Paz - and his name: "Mary Shroyer just brought to my attention an item you published on page 245 of the May Changes. Apparently, you had received it as a fax signed "J. Hughes from Baja." Well, my named is Jim Hughes, I've lived here in La Paz for the past 16 years, and three years ago started a company called Baja Coast Seafaris. We do liveaboard trips on the 50-ft sailboat Irish Mist and the 63-ft power vessel Marco Polo. Anyway, I just read the article and heard about a few of the muggings that occured last winter. I also heard that they caught a few of the crooked cops and dealt with them. But I've never had a problem here in La Paz, and I just wanted to make the record clear that I'm not the 'J. Hughes' that sent that fax. Nor do I know of any other 'J. Hughes' here in La Paz. While I genuinely sympathize with anyone who has had a problem in La Paz, I always remind our guests to use common sense as you would in any U.S. city. In other words, don't leave your brain at the border."

As the Wanderer and Profligate prepare for another winter of cruising in Mexico, we agree with the real Jim Hughes. We've probably made 35 sailing trips in Mexico, and have yet to have had a bad incident. But then - as in big U.S. cities - we take care to watch what's going on around us and to avoid situations that might turn sour. Indeed, one of the true pleasures of Mexico is being able to stroll around cities on warm nights with thousands of other people - young children to grandmothers - with=out a safety concern in the world. It's wonderful!

If you're new to cruising Mexico, check out Latitude's First Timer's Guide to Mexico. It's online at We hope to see all of you in Mexico this winter!

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