October, 2003

With reports this month from Starship on kids' play in the San Blas Islands; from Punk Dolphin on problems with mega-yachts in Polynesia; from Souverain on cruising from Spain to France; from Chesapeake on cruising from San Blas to San Francisco; on raising Fleur de Mer in La Paz - and more Cruise Notes than we've ever run before.

Starship - 50-ft Trimaran
Darci Boddan & Family
San Blas Islands, Panama

My name is Darci, and I've been in Panama's San Blas Islands for over five months with my parents, Don and Deborah, and my dog Daisy, aboard our trimaran Starship. We started our cruise from California 3.5 years ago, and are having the time of our lives here in the San Blas.

It's not always easy being a kid on a boat, because most of the time you pretty much have to entertain yourself. But when there are other kids around, it can be a blast! So far, I have met a wide variety of kids from countries such as France, Canada, South Africa, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, and various places in Latin America.

When the water in the San Blas is warm and clear, and the sun is bright and hot, kids on boats can never have too much fun. We wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day - only to have to put off play for a few hours until we've finished our homework! But after that, it's time for fun in the sun.

When I meet new kids, the first thing I usually do is take them skurfing. Skurfing is a sport where you get on a board and are pulled by a small boat or dinghy. It's much like wake-boarding because you can stand up and do tricks, but you use a surfboard. Since there's not much surf out here in the San Blas, we skurf instead of surf. I learned to skurf with about six other kids while in the Galapagos Islands.

There are many other things that kids in the San Blas do besides skurfing. I remember once when I first got to the San Blas some of my friends from Canada and I went to the BBQ Island in the swimming pool and dressed up as Indians. We took paint and mixed it with mud, then spread it all over our bodies. We then took palm fronds and other plants to use as clothing. After that, we dove in the water and swam all the way back to our boats. When we got out, we were clean and fresh again.

The typical things we kids on boats do in the San Blas are diving, snorkeling, and swimming. There are so many wonderful dives out here, and we don't miss a one. Many of my friends and I make it a game to see who can dive down the deepest or hold their breath the longest. We also make bets on who can get closest to a shark or a big fish. We didn't do stuff like that back home in the city.

When a day is done, my friends and I will either head home for a shower, or we will all find ourselves on one of our boats playing board games, listening to music, and watching an occasional movie. Being a kid on a boat can be hard work, but when it comes to having fun, we are the acclaimed masters.

- darci 8/1/03

Punk Dolphin - Wylie 38
Bird Livingston & Suzie Grubler
Pleasure And Anger In Polynesia
(Point Richmond)

I've got a cold Hinano beer in my hand, and each time I take a sip it's followed by a popcorn tracer. The tropical sun is setting to the west, and we just put the hook down in a blue lagoon. When I jumped into the warm water to make sure the hook was set, two buried rays fluttered out of their hiding places on the sandy bottom. We started the day from Tahiti, thinking we would sail to Huahine, but when the wind went northwest and started to die, we bore off to Moorea. That's how life can be down here, your alternative destination is one of the most beautiful islands in the world.

But all is not pleasure in paradise. We get pissed off, too.

On our way over here, for example, we were passed by Ipanema, the 100-plus foot mega-slut billion dollar carbon sailing machine. My wife Suzie is a very cool and understanding woman - unless you behave like a stuck up primadonna, which ignites her fire. Well, Ipanema's on her shit list. Before I explain Ipanema's crime, let me explain the situation here in French Polynesia.

Papeete has been invaded by the same mega-slut machines that had descended upon New Zealand for the last America's Cup hoe-down. Well, the Cup is over and it's bloody cold down in New Zealand right now, so many of these megayachts have migrated north to Tahiti on their way back to the Caribbean and the Med. When you go to Papeete to get ripped-off shopping and deal with the Immigration dudes, you can't help but anchor near these beasts.

The anchorage at Papeete is on either side of a channel about 50 meters wide, between the outer fringe reef and the shore. Most normal size boats are courteous, and anchor out of the ship channel where it's safe. Ipanema actually did this and was all right, but then Charlton, another megaslut, anchored abeam of Punk - but smack dab in the middle of the channel! Such inconsiderate acts is what gives these megayachts such a bad reputation among cruisers.

Since it was a Saturday morning, all the sportboats, fishing boats, jet skis, and other pleasure craft were blasting up and down the channel at warp speed. Since the unsuspecting powerboat skipper tooling along at 25 knots eventually sees the megaslut yacht in the channel and needs to alter course to avoid a collision, he squeezes past the Punk at 25 knots - swamping her in their wake! So, as a class, these platinum-plated megaslut assholes were already high on our shit list.

Then it got worse.

After Suzie and I fueled up Punk, I noticed that my beloved wife hadn't made the leap onto the foredeck and was still standing on the dock. She didn't look happy. Shocked and embarrassed, I put Punk into fast forward to retrieve her. Alas, this is when the linkage decided to fail, leaving Punk charging toward the dock at seven knots! You should have seen the look on the faces of all the Frenchies! "What the hell are you doing!?" shouted my wife. As I carved a huge wake and spun the Punk away from the dock, I casually mentioned the throttle was stuck. I dodged the freaked-out French powerboats on my way out of the harbor, where I would be able to sort things out.

That, of course, left Suzie at the dock needing a ride back out to Punk. It turned out that the megaslut tender for the megaslut yacht Ipanema, whose crew had witnessed the unfortunate mishap, were right there on the dock. So Suzie asked the woman who was loading the groceries/gold bullion into the bilge if she would be so kind as to give her a ride back out to Punk. Get this - the woman said no! She wasn't just a bitch, she was a megabitch! Suzie was so stunned that it took her a while to get really pissed off.

Moving on to a different subject, I'm an architect and have been rather outspoken about the architecture in Papeete. I quote myself: "Let me tell you Papeete has the worst architecture in the world. The French have invested billions here over the years, especially after the nuke testing. I guess the billions they invested went into other pockets besides redevelopment funding. The Islanders are on the dole and have brand-new SUVs, but the city they call the capitol is withering away in the wake of the French modernist movement. There is nothing more drab and lackluster than a dying modernist building, with its sooty and corroded aluminum windows, and rotting ornamentation. Yuck!"

Well, today I read a great book called Blue Latitude about Captain Cook's explorations. In the book, the author recalls a visit to Papeete to see all the historical sites - and calls the capital of French Polynesia "an utter shitbox." So I'm not the only one who feels that way. So brace yourself if you're coming this way. Papeete might be butt ugly, but the rest of the island and the people are fantastic.

But yesterday something really interesting happened! After searching for 23 years, I finally relocated an old girlfriend of mine. You see, more than two decades ago I sailed to Tahiti in my previous boat, the Heaving Pig. The engine blew up, and I was forced to temporarily work for one of those unemployable French architects who destroy cities. During my tour of duty, I met a Tahitian woman who wanted to sail to Hawaii with me. I was reluctant, but finally agreed after I made it clear that I was not interested in a relationship - yada, yada, yada.

When the day came for us to leave, she came to the boat in a war canoe escorted by five other canoes filled with gifts and fruit for the voyage! It was just like the days of Captain Cook. As it turned out, she was the only daughter of a very powerful Tahitian Queen and a popular singer. To make a long story short, she proved to be a handful. Everything was her way or no way. I guess that Tahitian women are the boss in French Polynesia. I found out how pissed-off she could get when she did not get her way, and felt blessed to arrive in Hilo without her having managed to kill me. But it wasn't over.

A few months later, she informed me that she was pregnant! Did I love her, she wanted to know. Oh my, what was I to do? I decided that it must have been my fate, so I tried to call her back, but couldn't reach her. Well, after 23 years, I did find her. Or rather, she found me. Suzie and I were climbing aboard the Punk when we heard a loud "Yahoo!" from the other side of the boat. It was her, and she was adorned with flowers, shell headdress, flowing floral print dress, and a big smile. We endured her six hours of nonstop yapping, but in the end learned that I wasn't the daddy after all. So everybody has lived happily ever after.

P.S. We're now anchored off Tahiti-iti, which is on the southern end of Tahiti. This place is way cool, and the surfing is epic. The passes are huge, and the lagoons are big, deep, and calm. The waves from the Southern Ocean are hitting the reef, and it's attracting the best surfers in the world.

- bird 9/1/03

Bird - For what it's worth, Ipanema is a Frers 112 that was built by the renowed McMullen & Wing yard in New Zealand. Although she only sailed four times prior to the 2003 Millennium Cup, she corrected out first among the scores of other magnificent megayachts in that event.

As infuriating as the cook's refusal was to give Suzie a ride back out to the
Punk, you might have been more compassionate if you better understood her situation. Crews on megayachts usually work for very demanding bosses, be they the owners or the captains, and they know full well it's not their place to give rides - except in emergency situations - on the ship's immaculate tender. Something like that could get the cook in a pile of trouble, and being the cook on a megayacht is a difficult enough job as it is. For example, we know one owner's wife who asked the cook to serve the shrimp straight as opposed to in their normal curled-up shape!

On the other hand, sometimes the crew of megayachts forget they are mere employees with almost zero freedom, and take on the imperious attitude of the billionaire owner. So who knows, maybe the cook really was a megabitch.

Souverain - Hallberg-Rassy 53
John & Sharon Warren, Crew
Spain To France
(Northern California)

Who would pass up the opportunity to help deliver a beautiful new Hallberg-Rassy 53 from Spain's Balearic Islands to France? We were invited by our friends and owners of the new boat, Phil and Debra Stolp, to meet them on the island of Menorca in late April, sail around the island, make the short overnight passage to Barcelona, then continue on to the French Riviera. We anticipated that the weather would be very similar to the that in the Bay Area. That would be our first surprise.

Phil met us at the airport, and after taking a taxi to a quay at Mahon at the east end of Menorca, we found that Souverain was, yes, Med-tied. It was our first experience at boarding a boat from the dock and onto the stern. It's amazing what different kinds of gangways cruisers buy or build to get aboard this way. Some are just plain boards that they lift on or off - the tides are minimal - but there are also fabulous teak gangplanks, held aloft by halyards, that are works of art. The French call them passerelles. We celebrated being aboard with some California merlot.

A couple of miles long and more than a half-mile wide, Mahon is the largest natural harbor in the Med. Because of its strategic location in the Med, it's been a stronghold for many nations over the years, and thus has a rich history.

The following day we walked to town to reprovision in a beautiful open air market that is typical of Europe. It had separate stores for meat, fish, chicken, fruits, and vegetables. We then sailed out of the historic harbor past centuries old Spanish, Portuguese, and Moorish fortresses and into the inky blue of the Med. Shortly after rounding the point, we anchored at the base of an old fort at picturesque Cala Taulera. There were eight other boats on the hook. Since it was sunset, we celebrated with a couple of bottles of California zinfandel.

The next day we began our sail around Menorca, which is 30 miles by nine miles, and just 25 miles to the east of the much larger island of Mallorca. The winds were very light, so John got into the dinghy and took the first photos of Souverain under sail in the Med. We later pulled into a summer resort called Cala Addaya. Since it was still off-season, the red channel marker hadn't been set, so we ran aground. By the way, it's not 'red, right, returning' in France, but the opposite! Fortunately, we were able to back off and find a nice anchorage between two lush cliffs. Most of the other boats were on mooring balls and unoccupied. Before long, we were joined on the hook by a French and a German boat. Everyone waves and says 'hello', 'bon jour', 'guten morgan'.

After some Peet's Coffee in the a.m., we raised anchor and motorsailed to Ciudadella, the most beautiful Spanish town on Menorca. While Mahon on the east end of the island has one of the largest natural harbors in the Med, Ciudadella, on the western end, has one of the smallest natural harbors - it's long and very narrow, and goes straight into the island. The narrow entrance to the harbor is guarded by more historic forts and buttresses, but once deep in the harbor you side-tie rather than Med-tie. It's not wide enough for most boats to Med-tie.

We walked down the quay into the waterfront town that was sparkling with a jillion twinkling lights, and enjoyed dinner al fresco, watching the ferries arrive from the mainland. These ferries are huge, and some of them carry cars. It was quite a scene watching them try to turn around in the channel without hitting any of the other boats. In the high season, Ciudedella is known for its nightlife. As in all of Spain, nobody starts dinner until after 10 p.m., and the nightlife doesn't get going until after 3 a.m.

When we walked back down the quay, the boats were bobbing around like corks in a hot tub with the jets on full blast. The unexpected surge from the Med caused havoc at the quay. It was very scary and dangerous, and there was lots of screaming in many different languages. We all pealed off one after another. Souverain was lucky to suffer nothing more than black tire marks along her rubrail and have part of her name scrapped off. We motored to the ferry dock, then left at sunrise before the first ferry of the day.

We motored up and down the Menorcan coastline to time a mid-morning arrival at Barcelona, the pulsating city of 1.5 million on the mainland. We had an uneventful crossing, as we sailed, counted stars, and dodged the many cruise ships, tankers, and fishing boats. Since we had two couples aboard, we did two-hour watches with the spouses overlapping, so everyone had lots of company through the night.

Tying up in downtown Barcelona was like a dream. There were boats from all over the world, and mostly sailboats. Life is good - no, make that life is great! The Barcelona Formula One Grand Prix just happened to be in town that weekend, and there were some megayachts in the harbor owned by F1 drivers. What a sight! The ambiance, food, architecture, people and the history of Barcelona were all pretty overwhelming. There were a few 'No War' signs hanging from buildings, and we weren't sure how we Americans would be received. It turned out that everyone was polite. While in Spain - and later France - we asked locals how they felt about the war in Iraq. They said they loved Americans, but not necessarily our government's policies.

After several days of touring Barcelona, we started thinking about our upcoming passage across the Gulf of Lyon on our way to France. After leaving Barcelona, we motorsailed to Cala Ligat on the eastern tip of Spain to reposition ourselves for the crossing, and anchored near Salvador Dali's summer home. We were concerned about the crossing because the weather in the Gulf of Lyon is almost always bad at that time of year. Our crossing was rough and wet, as expected, with wind between 5 and 6 on the Beaufort Scale. But halfway across, the wind started to subside, and we had a very nice sail for the remainder of our way to France.

By nightfall, we had anchored at Isles du Frioul and could see Marseille in the distance. Our first stop at a town in France was at Cassis, home of the famous berry and liquor. It's a breathtakingly beautiful little town that we consider to have been the highlight of our trip. The marina - which is the center of activity - was filled with colorful little fishing boats painted to perfection, and the sidewalk shops were brightly painted, surrounded by flowers in full bloom, and packed with people enjoying life.

In summary, the weather was much warmer than expected for May, the winds were lighter, and the Spanish and French people kinder. Based on this short experience, we'd sure like to return to the Med someday - with our Passport 47 Warren Peace.

P.S. The day after we flew home, Phil and Debra learned that the winds aren't always light in the Med, as it blew very hard in the quay. They spent the next week motorsailing to and enjoying both the Porquerrolle Islands and St. Tropez - but while in St. Tropez, it blew as much as 65 knots for two days!

- john & sharon

Chesapeake - Catana 44 Cat
Marvin & Ruth Stark
France To Sacto In Five Years
[Editor's note: This is a continuation of last month's report.]

Although we were headed to California to complete our five-year delivery of our catamaran from France to Sacramento, we temporarily headed away from the Panama Canal toward the renowned San Blas Islands. The first day we motorsailed part of the way, stopping for the night at Isla Grande. The following day we had a fine upwind sail at eight knots, which put us in the San Blas Islands by early in the afternoon. When we dropped the hook in 40 feet of water, it was so clear that we could see the bottom.

I can't say enough good things about the San Blas Islands. The native Kuna Indians live in thatched huts without electricity or running water, and sail or paddle around in cayucos - just like they've been doing for as long as they've been around. The Kuna women are all smiley and friendly while trying to sell you their famous molas, and we bought fish and lobster from the Kuna men. We swam everyday in the extremely clear and warm water while anchored off picture perfect palm-lined little islands.

Most of the 365 San Blas Islands are sparsely inhabited - if at all. We visited Carti Island, one of the few densely populated islands, to see how the people live. The island is elbow to elbow with people, all living in thatched huts on the sand. There is no water on the island, so they have to bring it a couple of miles from the mainland - in their dugout canoes. It's a wet ride. Most canoes have a long stick for a mast and a bedsheet for a sail. The Kunas are marvelous sailors, steering with a paddle and hiking out for stability.

After a couple of weeks of pleasant lazing around, we sailed to the old Spanish city of Portobello, which still has the remnants of the four forts that guarded the bay. Portobello is famous for pirates and the battles between the British and Spanish, as the Inca gold was brought here overland from the Pacific on mule trains to be loaded onto galleons bound for Spain. The pirates got their share, then went to some of the nearby islands to live it up. But eventually they established some communities. For example, in Roatan you'll find fair-skinned people who still speak a type of pirate English with a lot of "aar matey, ho, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum." At least I think that's what they were saying.

We returned to the mainland of Panama and transited the Canal - what a tremendous experience! Tens of thousands of people died building the Canal, which is truly one of mankind's great engineering feats. The Canal looks like it could use some maintenance, but it still works. Our transit went smoothly, and as we motored along at nine knots, we saw freshwater alligators and a few monkeys. Our one day transit cost $650.

Once on the Pacific side, we took a mooring at Balboa YC, which is just a few yards from the shipping channel that leads to the Canal. From that excellent vantage point, we were entertained day and night by the passing of huge ships from every part of the world, carrying every type of cargo. We can now tell the difference between a car carrier, a tanker, and a container ship. The ships passed so close that their wakes almost knocked us out of the bunks on our catamaran. It must be really tough on monohulls.

Panama City, on the south side of the Canal, is a busy, bustling city that's a great place to provision at low prices. We didn't want to hang around long, however, so we quickly headed for Costa Rica via Panama's Pacific islands.

The islands on the Pacific Coast of Panama were great. We'd often sail 30 miles to a small group of islands, take an afternoon swim and explore the island, then head off to yet another group of islands the next day. Other times we'd just laze around for a day or two. The water was clear and warm, and the fishing was great. We caught dorado and yellow fin tuna, both of which were delicious coming off the BBQ. We didn't go to the mainland very often, as it was too hot and there was too little wind. In the Caribbean, we had more than enough wind; on the Pacific side, there didn't seem to be any wind at all.

We motored up to Golfito, Costa Rica, anchored at the very hospitable Land & Sea Marina, and went inland for a week to visit the highest mountain range in Central America. We didn't climb 12,000-ft Mt. Chirippo, but apparently you can see both the Pacific and the Caribbean from the summit. Our trip inland was beautiful and well worth the effort, as we did a lot of hiking and soaked in the natural hot springs. Our experiences traveling inland by bus in Central America have been very good, as it's been inexpensive and very worthwhile.

After our refreshing trip inland, we continued on up the coast to Bahia del Coco, the most northern checkout point in Costa Rica. After provisioning, we set sail on the 4,500-mile trip to Hawaii - which we elected to do mostly to avoid the Baja Bash. Bahia del Coco is an easy checkout point and has decent provisions, but there is no place to land a dink except through the surf. But you need to be on your toes. With four people aboard our small inflatable, we didn't pay enough attention to the waves and got dumped big time - with the outboard running! I now have seven permanent prop marks across my back. Fortunately, the prop didn't hit my head, or it might have damaged the prop.

We started our long offshore passage to Hawaii in April. We drifted, motored, and motorsailed toward Hawaii for two weeks. One day while drifting with the spinnaker up, we all went over the side for a swim - and were able to keep up with the boat. That's really light wind. During this time, we reread the cruising guide for Hawaii, and remembered that other cruisers said Hawaii wasn't that cruiser friendly. So we changed our plans and decided to head to Mexico instead, having already passed Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and a good part of Mexico. In fact, we were only 150 miles from Puerto Vallarta. So we motored in, arriving on fumes. We'd covered 1,400 miles looking for wind!

We enjoyed Puerto Vallarta, but had been spoiled by the great provisioning and low prices in Panama. A week later, we drifted into Cabo San Lucas, where we were truly amazed by the amount of development and swanky hotels. The marina slips were $2/ft/night - or $88 a night for us. We stayed one night, filled our tanks with water and diesel, and anchored in the outer harbor waiting for a good weather window to start the Bash north.

Our sail up the coast to San Diego was mostly done in 12 to 22 knots of wind on the nose. Our cat has daggerboards in each hull, so she sails to windward better than most catamarans - but not as well as a good monohull. It took us two nights to get to Mag Bay, two more nights to Turtle Bay, and another two nights to Ensenada. It seemed that each afternoon the winds would increase and shift a bit to the west, giving us a bit of a lift. So we found it advantageous to tack offshore on starboard in the early hours, then flop back on port later on. We sailed at 6-8 knots, feathering into the wind to keep the speed down to minimize the smashing and bashing. We managed to average 3.8 knots for the whole trip. That's not great, but it beats motoring.

It was great being back in the good ol' USA, but the air and water temperatures were cold due to a persistent overcast known as the 'June Gloom'. San Diego was a great stop, as we were able to stay at the Police Dock on Shelter Island for 10 days at $10/day for the first five days, and $20/day for the next five days. Visitors are allowed to stay at the Police Dock 10 days maximum, renewable every 40 days. We highly recommend it! We also anchored off Balboa Island in Newport, and enjoyed getting around on our bikes. The harbormasters at Marina del Rey and Channel Islands Marinas were hospitable, with guest slips for $20/day - not bad for a 44-foot cat.

Heading further north, we anchored for one evening at the Cojo anchorage in the lee of Pt. Conception. It was pleasant, but a large swell rolled beneath us. We had an easy day run to Morro Bay where, as usual, it was foggy. We stayed for three pleasant but foggy days. We dropped the hook for two nights another 20 miles up the coast at San Simeon, taking time to visit Hearst Castle. We left at midnight hoping to be able to motor past Piedras Blancas and Point Sur in the early hours before the wind piped up, but didn't make it. The wind came early - along with steep and 'square' waves - making it very unpleasant. Motoring hard most of the day, we arrived in Monterey on July 1, covered in salt.

We were lucky to get the last side tie at the municipal marina in Monterey - next to the sea lions - during sthe long Fourth of July weekend. The weather, restaurants, fireworks, and ambiance were great! We stayed for two weeks, then had a tough time leaving. The first time we tried to leave was at 6 p.m. for a proposed overnight motorsail to San Francisco. The weather report said 5 to 15 knots of wind, but just six miles out we were hammered with gusty 17-28 knot winds and steep seas. Except for a storm near Cape Hatteras, these were the ugliest seas we have ever encountered! We promptly returned to the marina and got a good night's sleep.

Three days later, we decided that if this trip was to be that rough, we would cut it into small bits. We left at 5 a.m. and motored to Santa Cruz, where we anchored for the day, had lunch, and rode our bikes around. We left again at 8 p.m. - and still got pounded until about midnight when the winds dropped from 27 to about 12 knots. Very early the next morning saw us at Half Moon Bay, where it was so foggy that we couldn't see the bow of our own boat! By midday, we were safely under the Golden Gate Bridge and had a great downwind sail to the Delta. After 4,000 miles of drifting, motoring, and slogging northwest, it was great to be able to enjoy a spinnaker run again!

We couldn't find an affordable berth in the Bay Area, so we're now berthed at Bruno's Marina in the Delta. Where do we go from here? Well, my lovely First Mate doesn't particularly like sailing, but originally agreed to go with me for two years. That was 5+ years and 35,000 miles ago, so now perhaps we're going to build a house and stay put for a while. But we have seen some wonderful sights, visited some great places, and are so glad to have had the opportunity! The world would be a different place if more people sailed.

- marvin & ruth 7/1/03

Readers - A couple of months after we received this Changes from Marvin and Ruth, they wrote: "We're already thinking that maybe we should sail to Mexico this winter."

Raising Fleur de Mer
Following Hurricane Ignacio
(La Paz)

When it dawned on September 1, following the nighttime arrival of hurricane Ignacio in La Paz, a few boats were found in places they didn't belong. Two of them, Kenny Mackie's La Paz-based Rawson 30 Inertia, and an unidentified Catalina 30, were on the beach between Vista Coral and the Racing Club (formerly the Estrella del Mar restaurant). Inertia had gone up on the same beach during Juliette two years before. The next day trenches were dug for the boat's keels at low tide, and they were pulled back into deep water during a very high tide that night.

Jerry and Candy Wendel's Portland-based Cheoy Lee 36 Makai was found resting on her port side just inside the surf line. With the help of folks on the beach, on the boat, and in the water, as well as with the assistance of the Mexican Navy, Makai was turned and floated on her side to deeper water, where she was safely re-anchored. During this rescue effort, people just walking by on the street jumped in to help with extra muscle.

One boat, the Ensenada-based Gitano, had gone up on the rocks at the Navy Base. She was declared a total loss.

Out on El Mogote, several boats were found to have dragged, which wasn't serious, but all that could be seen of Doug and Rachel Reynolds' Lapworth 36 Fleur de Mer was her mast sticking out of the water. With Doug in Hawaii about to begin a boat delivery and Rachel on the East Coast taking care of their five-month old baby Zoe, a plan began to evolve on how to save their boat.

Paradise Found YC and Tim and Kat of Rendezvous started organizing a committee to raise Fleur de Mer. A call went out for donations over the VHF net. Several local businesses offered their services, the Club Cruceros donated $100 from their Cruiser Emergency Fund, and Coast Marine furnished the haul out, a week of yard time, and relaunching. Initially, the Mexican Navy said that they would raise the boat just for the experience, but began to balk when they found out they'd have to rent more air bags. So the Raise Fleur de Mer Committee had to come up with $600 U.S. Friends of Doug and Rachel who had returned to the states for the summer wired money, and cruisers with the 'there but for the grace of God go I' attitude also pitched in, either with money or labor. Both cruisers and the Navy dove on the sunken boat to determine the best way to salvage the boat.

A week after Fleur de Mer sank, the Navy was on station to start the salvage effort. There was almost a party atmosphere as dinghies gathered to watch what everyone hoped would be a once in a lifetime experience. After the airbags were fastened around the hull, air began being pumped into them. The onlookers started counting the rungs of the ratlines as Fleur's waterline slowly rose toward the surface. Two gas-powered 'oh my god' water pumps finished the job, and soon Fleur was floating again.

Skip of Brioso then came alongside, tied to Fleur de Mer, and towed her to Marina de La Paz for the night. The next morning, Skip, Tim from Rendezvous, and Commodore Slade from PFYC and Moonshadow, took the boat down to Marina Palmira for a haulout. Peter from Wanderlust 5 epoxied the hole in the planking and replaced bungs. Other cruisers then sorted through the stuff that had been removed from the boat to determine what could be saved. It was a very difficult task in that nobody wanted to throw away items with great sentimental value.

The business community in La Paz really pitched in. In addition to Marina de La Paz and Coast Marine, Marina Aboroa gave dock space to let things dry out, the PFYC donated food to feed divers and workers, Marina Santa Cruz donated the use of their panga to ferry stuff back and forth, and Carlos of Carlos' Waterworks has donated the use of a mooring ball until Doug and Rachel can return in October.

As of today, Fleur de Mer is on a mooring ball and not taking on water. She is covered with barnacles inside and out, so Doug and Rachel have a big job ahead of them when they return. But at least they'll have a boat that's floating. A big muchas gracias to everyone who helped.

Incidentally, all of the boats that dragged/sank were unattended, and most were on moorings. If you leave a boat in a hurricane zone during hurricane season, a responsible boat-sitter should be a high priority for boats on a mooring. Ignacio packed a good punch, but fortunately he moved on quickly or else more boats would have been damaged.

- tonya rickman and slade ogletree

Cruise Notes:

Everyone can be thankful that hurricane Ignacio, which swept up along the west coast of the Sea of Cortez August 22-27, maxed out at 95 knots and wasn't as destructive as feared. To give you an idea of how common hurricanes are in the Sea of Cortez, we checked the records for the last 10 years. A total of five hurricanes have made it into the Sea of Cortez during that period, never more than one a year - which means, of course, that there weren't any hurricanes half of those years. Of the five hurricanes, two would not have affected normal cruising areas, and none would have seriously affected cruisers at or north of Bahia de Los Angeles.

The last two hurricanes, Juliette in 2001, and Ignacio this year, were the strongest of all, with maximum winds of 125 knots and 95 knots respectively. All but one of the other hurricanes were in the just-barely-a-hurricane status, and only for a short time. It's noteworthy that four of the five hurricanes were in September, three of them smack in the middle of the month. If we were to try to make any reason out of these 10 hurricane seasons, it would be that September is the most dangerous month, but you'd have still been fine if you were up in Bahia de Los Angeles. To do your own research, visit www.weather.unisys.com/hurricane.

One of the nice things about this hurricane season is that most people in La Paz seemed to have learned from getting hit by Juliette in 2001, the most destructive Sea of Cortez hurricane of the last 10 years. Rene Pittsey explains:

"When Juliette hit two years ago, we were in Europe and our sailboat Morning Star was in the Astilleros Marina Dry Storage in La Paz. The boat next to ours fell into her, breaking both starboard spreaders and denting the main mast. The other boat was hung up in our boat's rigging for two weeks. The yard never alerted us to the hurricane or the fact that our boat had been damaged - we learned about it from fellow cruisers. As you'll remember from the Latitude story, a large number of boats fell over and were damaged in that yard. In fact, you editorialized that boatowners are foolish to leave their boats in a yard where the surface is dirt or fill, the boat stands have no feet, and the boat stands aren't secured to one another. You were correct."

"We finally finished with the repairs to Morning Star last year," continues Pittsey, "and put her back in dry storage at Astilleros Marina for this summer. This might seem foolish, but it wasn't, as Raul and Sharon of Shiloh - fellow cruisers and our dock neighbors at Marina Palmira - had taken over Coast Marina and the management of Astilleros. As a result, now the boat stands at Astilleros have welded steel pads on the bottom of the legs to keep them from sinking in the dirt. More importantly, when Ignacio came through, their crew worked around the clock tightening stands and looking after the boats - something that wasn't done during Juliette. After Ignacio passed, we received an email telling us our boat was okay. No boats in the yard suffered any damage, so we feel our faith in Raul and Sharon was well-placed. We want to thank our cruiser friends from La Otra, Blue Pearl and Autumn, who emailed us and sent photos to reassure us that Morning Star was all right. We also want to thank Guadalupe of the French Bakery at Palmira, who also emailed us the good news."

"I noted that the Boone Camp photo of the boats on the beach during hurricane Ignacio that you ran in the August 26 'Lectronic Latitude has, as the background, the buildings on the point where the so-called 'Virtual Marina' used to be," writes Dave Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops. "That's obviously a tough part of the La Paz Bay in which to anchor, and I know from experience that the holding is not very good - even when there aren't hurricane force winds. But what a strange storm Ignacio was, going from nothing to a hurricane in 24 hours."

Actually, Ignacio didn't exactly come from nowhere in just 24 hours. In an article Gwen Hamlin and Don Wilson of the St. Thomas-based CSY 44 Tackless II have written about getting 34 boats in the same anchorage to coordinate hurricane preparations - which we hope to run next month - they report that they first became aware of what would become Ignacio six days before it would have reached them near Bahia de Los Angeles. On August 20, they became aware of it as a tropical disturbance down at 19°N, 106°W - which was about 700 miles away. It wasn't for three more days that it officially become tropical depression 9e, still 135 miles from even Cabo. The next day it had grown to hurricane force, but it still hadn't hit La Paz, and was still several hundred miles south of Bahia de Los Angeles. In other words, thank god for modern weather forecasting, which almost always senses tropical storm development with a decent amount of time to prepare.

Uh-oh. As we were about to close this section, Gwen Hamlin reported that hurricane Marty, which is fortunately still at about the latitude of Puerto Vallarta, is projected to come up the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez, once again threatening most of the cruisers in the Sea of Cortez. Hopefully he'll fizzle in the mountains of Baja.

Flash! Tragically, hurricane Marty did not fizzle, and tore a path of destruction through La Paz. For details, including the near total destruction of Marina de La Paz and Abaroa Marina, see this month's Sightings and current 'Lectronic Latitudes.

We're very sorry to have to report the death last month of our friend and Ha-Ha vet Volker Dolch of Belvedere. He and his wife Mai kept their Marquesas 56 catamaran Dolce Vita at a dock behind their Belvedere home. A brilliant German-born electrical engineer, Dolch won the Rudolph Diesel Engineering Award, and started, grew, and sold three engineering and computer companies. After retiring, he and Mai joined the 2001 Ha-Ha and did a cruise of Mexico in preparation for a circumnavigation. Alas, they had to return home so Volker could be treated for the cancer that would ultimately claim his life. Volker and Mai were an extremely close couple, and she hopes to take their boat to Mexico for another cruise next winter. If you see Mai, ask to see a copy of La Dolce Vita, The Sweet Life of Cruising the Mexican Gold Coast, November 2001 through May 2002, A Journal of Happiness and Love for the Sea. In our opinion, it's the gold standard of cruising journals.

Ron Lussier of Sausalito reports that he'll be joining his father's Bristol, Rhode Island-based Jeanneau 45 Phoenix on a cruise to Sausalito starting in November. His report is a cautionary tale about trying to deny a person's lifelong dream:

"A year ago, my father stepped aboard his Catalina 30 Laura in Falmouth, Massachusetts, headed down the Child's River, and entered the North Atlantic between Falmouth and Martha's Vineyard. Sailing southwest along the New England coast, he was trying to fulfill his lifelong dream of sailing to the Bahamas for the winter aboard his own boat. Dad sailed through icy October seas and chilly rains, anchoring out every night. A week later, he sailed along the docks of New York City, and saluted the Statue of Liberty from the helm of his own boat. But that was as far south as he got, as his second wife, angry about his trip, wouldn't return his nightly calls. She had never warmed to the vessel which bore her name, distrusting the wind in the sails and not liking the confines of shipboard life. In any event, my dad returned home. He continued sailing the cold New England waters into the winter, however, although his wife forbade him to sail when there was the slightest breeze, lest his ship capsize and leave her a widow. That was the last straw, so my dad continued to sail while the lawyers dealt with the divorce proceedings. He used his share of the settlement to buy a Jeanneau 45, which in light of his situation, he christened Phoenix. Now my dad is the captain, I'm the first mate, and my uncle Donald and Aunt Paulette will be the crew on our trip to Sausalito. Neither Donald or Paulette have ever sailed, so they'll be learning everything from tying a half-hitch to gybing as we go."

"I have been sailing seasonally in Mexico the past three years - hopefully my boat Basta! is still intact on the hard at the Abaroa Yard in La Paz - and am always interested in new places to sail," writes Doug Nicholson of Idaho. "So I recently wrote Norm Goldie in San Blas, telling him that I'd heard that the prisoners on the Tres Marias prison islands - about 65 miles north of Banderas Bay - had been transferred to the mainland, and that the Tres Marias may at some point become open to the public. I asked him what he knew. His reply - which is not what most of us would like to hear, although maybe it should be taken with a grain of salt - follows in the next paragraph. By the way, I did talk with a small group of Mexican fisherman who were on Isla Isabella last January, and they told me that they will occasionally slip over to the Tres Marias after the Navy has made its morning overflight of the islands."

"I'm sorry to inform you," replied Norm Goldie, "that all your information is false, and I beg that you get the following letter published in Latitude ASAP so no cruisers go there and get their boats confiscated. The four islands of the Tres Marias group are part of the Mexican Federal Penal System, and no replacement facility has been built to house the prisoners if they were taken off the island. I have been contacted by numerous cruisers asking for information about the islands, but have told them all that it is dangerous to go there. The Mexican Navy patrols these islands, and if you are caught there, you would lose your vessel and be jailed. I want to stress that the Mexican government will violently oppose any vessel that comes within 20 nautical miles of any of the islands, as any vessel found there will be considered to be involved in a prison break. About 40 years ago, a group of fisherman made a beach landing on the Cleophus, where escaped prisoners awaited them. The fishermen were all murdered, and the prisoners used their vessels to escape to the mainland. They were found in the San Blas area and killed by the Mexican police. The sad thing is that some time in the future, the islands will be open to mariners who obtain special permits in San Blas. But seeing how current cruisers don't do their paperwork in San Blas, but nonetheless come ashore to shop and have fun without respect for Mexican Maritime Law, I'm certain that no cruisers will be getting one."

There are a lot of gray areas with Mexican law, but when it comes to the Tres Marias, Norm Goldie is correct and cruisers should stay the hell away. If you get caught out there, you could be in mucho trouble. About 15 years ago, one of the racing boats - if we remember correctly it was Irv Loube's Bravura - got too close to the islands on a delivery north. The boat and crew were taken to the island, interrogated, and detained. They and the boat were released before too long, but it may have been because Loube, having helped Ramon Carlin get his Swan 65 Sayula prepared to win the first ever Whitbread Around the World Race, had some powerful contacts in Mexico. When it comes to drug lords versus government crime, things are worse than ever in Mexico, so you don't want to get even remotely involved with maximum security prisons.

"After completing a six-plus year, 40,000 mile, 56-country circumnavigation in April of 2002," writes Laurie Pane of the Newport Beach and Brisbane, Australia-based Dolphin Spirit, "I thought that getting back into the 'real world' would be difficult - but it wasn't supposed to be this bloody hard! Like me, my wife Carole, and my son Ryan - who was eight-years-old when we left - desperately want to get back to the pleasures of cruising. But right now, Ryan has to put up with the pleasures of high school, where he has just started the 11th grade. Something he has in common with most other kids who have been cruising for a long time is that he's at least two years ahead of his age group academically - and light years ahead socially and in general knowledge. It's therefore been hard for him to make friends. Carole has become a Math Coach for the local school district, and has gradually overcome her disappointment in discovering that most people aren't interested in our adventures. The conservations go like this: "You sailed around the world?! Were you in any storms? Did pirates attack you? Well, we went to Disneyland last weekend, and did you know there's a big sale at Macy's?"

"Initially, I first thought that we would be the only family to have sailed around the world and not written a book," continues Paine, "but I changed my mind, so I'm in the middle of that project. I also started up my consulting company, and am busy assisting Australian companies get established in the United States. It's all very humdrum, and that's the problem. Even when we were in the same place for a while during our circumnavigation, there was always something new, and we always knew we could up anchor and move to somewhere else at a moment's notice. But for the next two years, we're stuck. By the way, I did an informal survey in Mexico when on our way home, and noted that half the boats about to head across the Pacific in 2002 had what I consider to be inadequate size anchors. I'm sure they'll all survive, but at what cost to the relationship of the couples and their future plans?

That reminds us of Steve and Linda Dashew's way of sizing anchors for their boats. They way they tell it, if someone walking down the dock sees their anchor and breaks out laughing at how big it is, they figure they've about got it about right. By the way, the Dashews sold their 79-ft Beowulf earlier this year and are having yet another new boat built. We're honor bound not to reveal what kind she is, but you might be surprised.

"Latitude readers might be interested in what's new with my pal Jorja Patten," writes Lucie van Breen of Berkeley. "You'll remember that Jorja's partner Harvey Selasky was lost from a J/29 in the Doublehanded Farallones race a few years back. Realizing that life is short, Jorja decided that it was time to get on with the cruising she and Harvey had planned to do on their Pacific Seacraft 37 Rocinante. With a crew of John Wilson, his daughter Sonia, and a friend from Berkeley YC, Jorja set out for Hawaii just after the start of the 2000 West Marine Pacific Cup - their trip having been delayed by her battle with breast cancer. This was the race in which hurricane Daniel came through the tail end of the fleet. Jorja said if that was the 'hurricane card' she was dealt, she could deal with it, as the winds had pretty much died by the time it reached her. But as I write, it looks as though she's been dealt a second 'hurricane card'. Having moved to a cottage inside Pamlico Sound in John's homestate of North Carolina, and having enjoyed sailing the local waterways this summer, hurricane Isabel is now headed their way. At last word, John is taking Rocinante south to search for a good creek/hurricane hole, and Jorja and the dog have gone west, hoping that Isabel loses steam before her projected landfall tomorrow."

Isabel turned out to be not quite as severe a destroyer of boats as first feared, so we're hoping that Rocinante probably did all right. By the way, we understand that Steve Fossett's maxi cat Cheyenne, formerly known as PlayStation, was on a mooring buoy in that part of the world when the hurricane came through. We believe she made it through all right.

Just because most boats now have superb navigation equipment doesn't mean the human element still isn't critical. While motoring past Long Point on Catalina in early September, we came across two Vessel Assist boats trying to refloat a Bertram 42 sportfisher. The way we heard it, a guy, some friends, and his two youngsters, set out for Catalina from Newport at 3 a.m., and a little more than an hour later, the boat had driven herself onto the rocks about 100 yards northwest of Long Point. We don't know how it happened, because it was a perfectly clear night, and it meant motoring right past the navigation light at Long Point, one of the brightest on the island. We suppose a lot of mariners in the White's Landing vicinity can thank their lucky stars the Bertram didn't have a little more southerly course, for she would have been like a cue ball breaking up a rack of boats in a nautical version of Eight-Ball. In any event, the Vessel Assist boats pulled the Bertram off the rocks in the hope of dragging her to a nearby beach to stabilize her. Alas, the Bertram sunk before they were able to get her to the beach, leaving the salvors scratching their heads trying to figure out how they were going to get her off the bottom.

"Getting married on the Ha-Ha is much easier than you think - if you're a little clever," advises Michael Murphy. "Many notary publics are certified wedding celebrants, and can obtain a confidential marriage license with no waiting period, no blood tests, and no witnesses required. The law says you have to appear before them to get married, so you show up and they begin the ceremony. But here's the trick - they then temporarily suspend the ceremony, to be completed later by cell phone from on the hill overlooking Bahia Santa Maria - or wherever. Your marriage license will show you were married on the date you said "I do", and it will show you were married in the U.S. In truth, you were married on the Ha-Ha, because until you complete the ceremony and say the magic words, one of the two could have backed out, right? I used this method to get married at the Taj Mahal in India two years ago. Well, we were actually just outside as the Taj doesn't allow cell phones on the grounds. You may think that completing the ceremony by Nokia cell phone would take some of the romance out of it, but I suspect that standing with your friends on the peaks at Punta Hughes would make it as special as it can get!"

Very clever. However, somebody would have to use a Sat Phone rather than a Nokia, as they don't have regular cell service in that remote area of Mexico.

"Is Frank Guerney lost forever?" asks Carey Chronis. Readers may remember that Guerney, a Redondo Beach sailor in his '60s who had made several long ocean voyages in small boats, set out late last summer on what was to be a 10,000-mile voyage to Cape Town, South Africa, via Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean. What made the voyage unusual is that Guerney set sail in a Pearson 22 - which has a small cuddy cabin, a large open cockpit, and was designed for daysailing. To our knowledge, Guerney hasn't been heard from since calling his wife from Catalina about a year ago. We presume he was lost at sea. For one thing, his projected path would have put him on a collision course with hurricane Kenna, the biggest hurricane along the coast of Mexico in 50 years. Secondly, if Guernsey somehow made it to Cape Horn, we seriously doubt anyone could survive Southern Ocean conditions for very long in a Pearson 22. Guerney reportedly told his wife that he wasn't going to carry an EPIRB because he didn't want others to risk their lives trying to save his. In other words, he had a reasonable idea of the risk he was taking.

"An acquaintance of mine is planning on sailing his 32-ft boat to Hawaii, starting from San Francisco on December 9," writes Scott Keck. "I questioned his choice of departure times, but he seems to think, "Oh, it might be a little rainy, but it's the good kind of rain." What do most weather gurus suggest as a good time frame for making the run down to Hawaii?"

It's no coincidence that the TransPac, the West Marine Pacific Cup, the Singlehanded TransPac, and the Vic-Maui Race are all held in the summer rather than in the winter. That's because it's the warmest in the summer, there are the most hours of daylight - but primarily because it's when the Pacific High is well-established and in a favorable position. This high is the key to the reliable northwest trades that result in the great downwind sailing conditions. Come winter, it's cold as hell, dark more hours than light, and the jetstream drops down and makes a mess out of the high - and the trades. As a result, in December it's likely to be calm along the coast - unless, of course, there's a northerly or southerly gale. After that, it's hard to say which direction the wind will come from, but it's almost certain there will be a series of fronts with wind on the nose. Many years ago Doug Wilde sailed the 70-ft modern schooner New World to Hawaii in December. As we recall, it took 14 days, most of it beating into strong winds and big seas. That's not fun. If somebody held a gun to our head and made us do the trip, we'd go by way of Acapulco, sailing the last miles to Hawaii from the southeast.

Have you sailed to Hawaii in the middle of winter? If so, what was your trip like?

Blair Grinols of the 46-ft Capricorn Cat is back home in Vallejo, dealing with the culture shock caused by nearly a year of cruising to and around the Marshall Islands and to and around Fiji. He loved the Marshalls but did not particularly care for Fiji. Come January, he plans to return to his boat for more fun in the Marshalls.

"The caption for the photo spread on page 202-3 of last month's Changes describes the scene as 'Anse de Fosse, France', writes Jack Grenard of the San Diego based Columbia 30 Dreamtime. "But unless France has changed the name recently - perhaps in retaliation for 'Freedom fries' - this harbor is in fact Villefranche sur Mer. Anse de Fosse is a tiny bay on the little Pt. St. Hospice peninsula about a mile southeast of Villefranche. I know this because in the late '50s my Navy cruiser Salem, flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, homeported at Villefranche. Nice is just around the Pte. des Sans Culottes to the west - or in the upper right in the photo."

Thanks for the correction. We know the photo is of Villefranche sur Mer, having anchored there with our old boat Big O a number of years ago. We didn't completely understand Ken Burnap and Nancy Gaffney's description of where Anse de Fosse was, and we finally - mistakenly - decided that it was a small bay within the larger bay. Alas, now we know that small bay is Anse de Espalmador. As you say, Anse de Fosse is actually around the tip of St. Jean Cap Ferrat Peninsula in the middle of the eastern sub-peninsula. We apologize for the mistake. But what a great part of the world of cruising, no? It was the backdrop for what we thought was the very funny Steve Martin and Michael Caine movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a comedy about con artists being conned in the South of France.

"Our stay in Fiji has been wonderful, and our boat managed to keep away from the reefs that are seemingly scattered everywhere," write Ken Machtley and Cathi Siegismund of the Seattle-based Tashiba 31 Felicity. "Highlights of our last few months include a week of diving in Kadavu, another week of diving onboard the liveaboard dive boat Aggressor, and hanging out at the yacht-friendly Musket Cove Resort. We also spent a couple of weeks exploring the Yasawas in the northwest corner of Fiji. Our next destination is Vanuatu, and we'll be there through early October. We're looking forward to walking to the rim of an active volcano, swimming with dugongs, diving the wreck of the President Coolidge, seeing nambas (penis sheaths), and adding to our wood carving collection. We plan to leave for Australia by mid-October, and will head for Mooloolaba after checking into Oz."

"We've only been in Vanuatu for a couple of weeks so far, but wow, what a place!" write Ken and Cathy in an update. "Our first stop was Tanna, where we visited an active volcano up close, attended a Jon Frum 'cargo cult' service, and spent time with islanders not used to seeing tourists. After Tanna, we moved up to the big city of Port Vila, where we've found great grocery stores and friendly locals."

Great minds think alike. "We're leaving Fiji tomorrow for the erupting volcano on Tanna, Vanuatu," write Wendy Hinman and Garth Wilcox of the Seattle based Wylie 31 Vellela. "Then, over the next nine months, we'll head to the Solomons, Micronesia, the Marianas, and Japan. We're looking forward to exploring places off the beaten path."

"I think I'm going to try to join all the rest of the West Coast-based catamarans at St. Barth on New Year's," writes Glenn Kotara of Bend, Oregon, who has his Robertson & Caine Leopard 47 catamaran Max Z Cat at the Royal Marsh Harbour YC in the Abacos. "I'm hoping to have Dockwise Transport put her on one of their ships from Florida to St. Thomas - it's $11,000 if I sign up early - or have a crew sail her down for me."

"Thanks for putting a link to the video of the M&M designed Gunboat 62 catamaran Safari blowing by the R/P 80 Carerra at nearly 30 knots in the
September 15 'Lectronic Latitude," writes Peter Johnstone. "The boat is owned by Clint Clemens, who shot the video from a helicopter. I've got to get the owners of Spirit, which is my old Gunboat 62 Tribe, down to St. Barth to play with you West Coast cats. They'll be down in the Islands chartering anyway."

"Thanks to turning us on to the Safari video in 'Lectronic Latitude - it was giant!" writes "JC and crew" of Lake Tahoe. "Having found a Catana 471 catamaran to buy on the East Coast, we're not going to be able to join the Ha-Ha this year - maybe in 2004 - but hopefully we'll cross paths with Profligate in the Caribbean this winter. Since I plan to install a screecher, retrofit the jib to be self-tacking, and add some electronics for our cruise while still in Annapolis, I don't think we'll be able to make the November 2 start of the West Marine Caribbean 1500 from Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Nonetheless, we'll try to get to the Caribbean as soon as we can."

"I saw a couple of references in the September issue about a fun race around St. Barth on New Year's," writes Rex Conn of the Annapolis area, "and I'm interested because I'll be taking my Newick Traveler 48 trimaran Alacrity down to the Islands this fall looking for races. Right now she's in Walter Greene's yard getting a new mast, and a new bow to stretch her to 50 feet. I bought her with the plan of doing the Singlehanded Transatlantic Race next summer. I'm going to be sailing her down to the Virgins in the West Marine Caribbean 1500, then I'll be looking for whatever racing I can get in to work her up for the STAR. My trimaran is not a 100% racer, but she definitely comes down heavily on the racing side of 'racer/cruiser'. She's my fifth big multihull so far - 36 cat, 38 tri, 43 cat, and 51 cat. I got her for racing while we plan our next boat, a 55-58 foot cruising cat. We live on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake about 30 miles north of Annapolis. I'm a faithful reader of Latitude, picking up my copies at the West Marine in Annapolis."

We've heard from about a dozen cruising catamaran sailors who say they plan to be in St. Barth for the New Year's Eve around the island Race/Parade, so it could be a lot of fun - assuming we can get Profligate from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean. After that, we're going to try to put together a little circuit of fast and fun Caribbean cruising cat races - although we certainly wouldn't think of excluding trimarans or monohulls. A Bitter End YC to Foxy's Race in the British Virgins in late January sounds like a hoot, as does the Heineken Regatta in St. Martin in early March, the BVI Festival back in the British Virgins in late March, and a catamaran event concurrent with the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in the middle of March. Tell your cruising cat friends, and read Latitude and 'Lectronic Latitude for updates.

If you're the owner of one of the 130 boats that paid up for the Ha-Ha, or will be following to Cabo shortly thereafter, you'll almost certainly want to quickly move on from that expensive and raucous sportfishing-dominated area. Fortunately, there are at least three destinations that are eager to be your next port of call. The closest is La Paz, about 130 miles to the north. Although we haven't heard of any formal plans yet, we're sure that the Paradise Found YC, Marina del La Paz, and Marina Palmira will be planning some special activities to welcome this year's class of cruisers. When we hear what they've planned, we'll post it on 'Lectronic Latitude.

The second closest major destination is Mazatlan, 200 miles across the Sea of Cortez. Rick Cummings and Bob and Leana Buchanan of Total Yacht Services are determined to help the city regain its rightful status among the cruising community. "When Marina Mazatlan closed down for nine months two years ago, many cruisers bypassed it," they say. "Last year we only had 20 Ha-Ha boats come over, largely because they assumed that the marina was still closed. Well, it's open, and our goal is to let everyone know what a great place the authentic Mexican city of Mazatlan is. We'll be having big cruiser dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's the Christmas Light Up, and no cruiser should miss spectacular Carnival in Mazatlan or the Carnival Regatta. We have three marinas - Marina Mazatlan, Isla Marina, and the El Cid Marina, with a total of 375 berths - with some of the lowest berth rates in Mexico. For example, if you don't need power or water, and don't mind taking your dinghy to your boat, it's as low as 11 cents/foot/night on a daily basis. Regular slips with power and water start at 25 cents/foot/night on a daily rate. When nearing Mazatlan, cruisers can contact any of the three marinas on channel 16, or hail anyone on 72. We're here to help you enjoy yourselves."

Nobody, however, is more organized to welcome Ha-Ha participants and other new cruisers than the folks in Banderas Bay, 300 miles southeast of Cabo. Here's the way they put it: "The Paradise Village Resort and Marina invites you to the Banderas Bay Cruising Season Kick-Off Fiesta Week on November 17-23, as we have a week of excitement, fun and entertainment for you at the gateway to Mexico's Gold Coast. The Banderas Bay Cruising Fiesta will feature lots of free or discounted food, entertainment, and daily 'poker runs' to great events. There will be wonderful prizes for eligible participants, including a free haul out at Opequimar Boat Yard for a boat up to 60 feet, a new Mercury Outboard Motor from Zaragoza Marine Hardware, three night's accommodation at the Five-Star Paradise Village Resort, a $100 gift certificate for purchases at Desparado Marine, and much more! And you sure won't want to miss the Moon Howl or bonfire on the beach. Participation in the Banderas Bay Cruising Fiesta is limited to Baja Ha-Ha entrants and other newly arrived boats and crews. The Fiesta is organized by cruisers for cruisers to introduce new and returning cruisers to the outstanding activities and support facilities around the bay. Oh yeah, did we mention there will be fuel discounts for participants all week at the Opequimar Fuel Dock in Puerto Vallarta, and special in-store discounts at Zaragosa Marine Hardware?" Dick Markie is the man in charge, and he'll be at the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party at Cabrillo Isle Marina in San Diego on Sunday, October 26 to pass out flyers.

Looking for info on Mexico? Dick Markie will be giving a presentation at the West Marine store in San Diego on afternoon of October 25. In addition, Downwind Marine of San Diego has a long schedule of evening seminars from October 9 to November 2. Visit www.downwindmarine.com for details.

Speaking of the Ha-Ha, Paul Plotts of the magnificent 71-ft schooner Dauntless has inquired if it would be all right if he sailed his yacht with the Ha-Ha fleet as far as the Coronado Islands. Heck, we'd consider it an honor. In fact, everyone is welcome to join the Ha-Ha fleet for as long as they want.

"I finally saw the February issue with the nude photos of Cathi and I," writes Noel G. of the Outremer 45 cat Laia from Grand Mott, France. "Excellent. I was glad to see you found a spot for the photos. Just a few corrections about your postscript: I used to own a Hans Christian 33, not a Union 36; and my new Outremer catamaran is 45 feet, not 43 feet. Details, just details. I'm now back in Corsica, but Sardinia was great. There was good wind, but just moderate waves as the bays don't permit much fetch. Obviously there was big money all around and the prices were high, but there were also many wonderful yachts - modern and classic - in the many anchorages to make up for it."

"I guess the Long Beach-based Mariner 35 Freedom, which had been lying in the surf at Zihuatanejo's main beach since a year ago September, had her luck finally run out," reports Craig Gottschalk of Scorpion. "About a month ago, two cranes and a piece of heavy equipment were sent by the government to raise the wooden ketch and bring her to shore. Apparently she was just too stuck in the muck, as she came out in pieces. All that remains is a chunk of the transom, with the nameboard and homeport intact."

"I finally put my 70-ft Morrelli-Choy catamaran Humu-Humu up for sale for $750,000," reports David Crowe of the South Bay. Crowe originally bought the boat in Singapore, sailed her back to the West Coast, and has cruised her in Mexico in recent years. "The sooner I sell her, the better," he says, "as the concept for my new multihull is gelling in my mind."

Capt. Fatty Goodlander of the St. Thomas, Virgin Islands-based Hughes 38 Wildcard explains why so few boats cruise India: "Clearing into Cochin, India, is a bit like entering hell - hot, painful, nonsensical, highly irritating, and nearly endless. As a foretaste of what is to come, you have to get a tourist visa in advance. We applied for ours at the Indian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It cost us hundreds of dollars, took a couple of weeks, and required four days of train travel and two days of embassy visits." Despite the bureaucratic hassles in India, Fatty claims that he and his wife are having such a great time cruising, that once they get back home to the Virgin Islands, it will only be a short time before they take off again.

Can you believe the Mexico cruising season is almost upon us? Let's get it on!

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