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Changes in Latitudes

November, 2000

With reports this month from Mahina Tiare III on a six-month cruise from Seattle to Sweden; from Sailors Run on great summer cruising in the Sea of Cortez; from Velella on a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island; from Annapurna on the last half of a cruise in the Louisiades Archipelago of P.N.G.; from Saga on getting FM3 permits in Mexico; from Tucumcari on a slow and somewhat unpleasant crossing from Mexico to the Marquesas; and lots and lots of Cruise Notes.

Mahina Tiare - Hallberg-Rassy 46
John Neal & Amanda Swan-Neal
Seattle To Sweden In Six Months
(Friday Harbor, Washington)

Is it crazy to think you could comfortably cruise 11,000 miles from British Columbia to Sweden - with stops at eight other countries - in six months? That's the question we put to John Neal, who along with Amanda Swan-Neal, did exactly that between March and September of this year. It was part of John's 12th year of Offshore Sail Training Seminars.

"Six months is a quicker pace than some cruisers might want to travel," said John, "but it's not too far to go in a season. For instance, we took a week off between each of our eight sessions, plus another two weeks in the Azores." If someone only wanted to sail from San Francisco to the Med, it would be significantly shorter and easier.

John and Amanda's March start was dictated by avoiding the summer hurricanes seasons in Mexico and the Atlantic, as well as winter in the North Atlantic. Even then, we wondered how the weather was on the long voyage over long expanses of open water.

"Awesome!" says John. "In terms of rain, we only had two days during the whole six months. We had great wind, too, except for a couple of minor exceptions. During our 4.5 day sail from Victoria to San Francisco, we had up to 45 knots of wind, but since it was from aft it gave us a chance to practice heavy weather gybes. From San Francisco to Panama was pretty mellow, with a few gusts over 30 just south of San Diego and lots of motoring between Costa Rica's Cocos Island and the Canal. From Panama to Puerto Rico, it was the expected rough slog almost dead upwind in an average of about 25 knots. It was rough, but that's what the students on that leg had come for.

"We started our transatlantic from Foxy's at Jost van Dyke in the British Virgins," John continues. "Our goal was the Azores, and we made use of David Jones' Caribbean weather forecasts and routing. He was great. We had a very fast trip, covering the 2,300 miles to Flores in the Azores in 15 days. We had fair winds and it was warm, too. We had great wind from Grassiosa to Ireland also, which allowed us to cover the 1,250 miles in just days, once again with nothing but fair winds. The surprising thing is that it was warm all the way to Ireland, too. In fact, we'd hove to each day to go swimming, and it was 83° when we arrived in Kinsale. Most people don't realize it, but the Gulfstream brings warm water all the way across the Atlantic. Not everyone was as lucky with their crossing, however. Boats that started and continued to the north of us got hit with some pretty bad weather.

"While in Kinsale, we got pinned to the dock with 45 knots of wind. When we finally got off, we had a blast surfing past famous Fastnet Rock in 40 knots of breeze. But once we'd sailed around to the west coast of Ireland, we were back in the Gulfstream and warm weather and water predominated. When most people think of Ireland, they don't think of white sand beaches, palm trees and surfers, but we've got pictures to prove it!"

Except for one 45-knot low, John and Amanda had more gorgeous weather sailing up the west coast of Ireland. Having gotten a good forecast, they sailed to some uninhabited offshore islands between Ireland and Scotland. Had there been bad weather, there would have been plenty of places to tuck in for shelter. They then crossed the Scottish Highlands using the Loch Ness and the Caledonia Canal, which is really something special. After coming out at Inverness and stopping at the Orkney Islands, they made the 350-mile crossing across the heavily trafficked and shallow North Sea. It was their first consistent dose of nasty weather, and it was almost on the nose. For their final leg down Norway and across to Sweden, it was even worse, as they faced strong winds nearly on the nose and adverse currents. This was hardly unexpected, as it was so late in the season they only saw one other boat and many of the docks had been taken in. But John and Amanda have sailed around Cape Horn five times or more, so this wasn't anything they or their boat wasn't up to.

"In addition to almost all great weather, we visited wonderful places," says John. "We'd really like to spend some more time in the Azores. And Ireland and Scotland were really special. Everybody was very friendly, and they all love Americans. The yacht clubs aren't stuffy at all, and everybody is welcome. When we tried to clear Customs in Kinsale, the folks at the yacht club wouldn't hear of it. 'We'll fill out the forms and give them to Customs the next time they come around,' they told us. The Irish just love to have fun and aren't very serious at all. Scotland was terrific, too, as you'd see castles everywhere you went. And when we stopped at night, there was always a bar with live music nearby. We loved it."

We'll have more on John and Amanda's adventures in the next issue. Their cruise for next year starts in Sweden, goes as far north as Spitsbergen, which is as close to the North Pole as you can get, and ends in Kona, Hawaii, nine months later. Sailboats are intrinsically pretty slow, but as John and Amanda have proved, if you keep moving, you can really cover a lot of ground. For lots of great photos and text, visit

- latitude 38 10/15/2000

Sailors Run - Baba 40 Ketch
Jeff & Debbie Hartjoy
Wonders Of The Sea Of Cortez

Debbie and I departed Mazatlan right on the heels of Hurricane Camilla, and enjoyed a great sail into the Sea of Cortez. We eventually dropped the hook at the south anchorage of Isla San Jose, which is about 20 miles north of La Paz. What we found was an abundance of stark beauty - and fishing unlike any we'd experienced elsewhere in Mexico. However, we have to admit that visitors need to heed the warnings about no-see-ums. They show up from time to time - and when they do, they'll eat you alive if you're not careful to use screens and products such as OFF! We were also astounded by the fiery sunsets that we saw on about half the evenings during the six months we spent in the Sea. An infinite number of shades of purples and oranges. In addition, the sailing was superb! When we sailed north, the southeasterlies dominated. When it came time to start heading south again in mid-September, the northerlies started blowing. Nothing like always having the wind from behind.

Debbie, who is much better looking than most Mexican fishermen, does the fishing for us and has become quite proficient. The largest fish she landed was a 43-inch dorado, but she hooked and lost a five-foot male dorado. He was the most beautiful blue you can imagine! Debbie lost him right at the boat when he made a final leap and snapped our 40-lb line.

The reports of high temperatures in the Sea of Cortez are not exaggerations. During the month of July, we had several days where it hit 120°. It dropped to 90° at night, but the Sea was 93° day and night. Since the only relief was the water, we spent two to four hours a day it in. Cooler temperatures in August brought some relief, and we also found cooler water in the northern part of the Sea near Bahia de Los Angeles.

Hiking proved to be one of our best outlets for cabin fever and one of the best ways to get in some conditioning. While hiking with the crews of Maluhia and Gemini at San Fransquito, we hiked in and around some caves and cliffs. At one point I got a little too close to a cactus and took a cactus needle in the head - and I don't mean the head on top of my shoulders! Feeling pretty embarrassed, I didn't let on that anything was wrong, but having been pricked in that sensitive spot, the spirit of adventure had gone right out of me. It wasn't long before we were back aboard Sailors Run and I was stripped down and gingerly investigating my problem. Wow! I found out you can't just pull those things out! It had barbs, and the only way to get it out was to push it all the way through, clip the barbs, and pull it back out. Without a doubt, it was the strangest injury of our trip.

We kept moving further north into the Sea looking for a good hurricane hole if we needed to take shelter. Based on our looking around, Puerto Don Juan would probably offer the best holding and protection. Puerto Don Juan is also a great place to careen your boat and paint the bottom. Having decided to paint the boat, we made several careful preparations. Since the boat might heel as much as 50°, we were careful to close all the through hulls and made sure the fuel and water vents were sealed off against the sea. By the time our boat was heeled 40°, it had become a completely alien place belowdecks, and doing anything became a gymnastic feat. So it was good that we had gathered all our painting materials beforehand. We'd also cleaned the bottom.

During the day, we carefully checked out the anchorage on radar so it would look familiar when we went ashore at night. At 0230, just before the tide was all the way out, we raised the anchor and switched on the running lights. A panga was going by at that time, and stopped to try to figure out what we were doing. He then watched in bewilderment as we powered the boat straight to the beach! After flashing their light at us a few times, they realized it had been an intentional grounding.

In our case, going straight onto the beach at a previously scouted area was as easy as falling off a log. We had previously trimmed our boat to heel about five degrees so she would lay down on the side we wanted. The miracle of tidal hydraulics laid Sailors Run down so softly that we didn't even feel the contact between the hull and sand. With six hours to dry and paint one side, there seemed like an abundance of time to Scotch-Pad the hull and get her painted. Debbie and I had been apprehensive at first, but were quite confident the next day when we careened our Baba 40 on her other side.

With a freshly painted bottom, we continued north and visited many fine anchorages. We made it as far north as San Felipe - which isn't all that far from San Diego - and were impressed with the friendliness of the locals and the relative prosperity of the town. While there, we had our electric windlass rebuilt and were given a spare set of brushes - all for $35. The only downside was a 430 peso fee - about $50 U.S. - for checking in and out. The Port Captain would not accept the normal despacho for checking out, and made us use a ship's agent for checking in and out. This was very different than our experience at every other port in Mexico.

We only encountered one good blow during our season in the Sea of Cortez, and that was during our 120-mile trip from San Felipe to Refugio on Angel de La Guardia Island. It blew 25 to 40 knots from the southeast for 14 hours, and the seas built to about eight feet. This had been the hardest we had been hit in over a year, and was a great opportunity to find a few of those leaks and weak spots. We seemed to have plenty of leaks, and discovered that we definitely needed to secure the chain locker if we didn't want the chain ending up on our vee-berth.

The Sea of Cortez fed us well and opened our eyes to many new discoveries. We truly enjoyed our time in the Sea, although we believe it would take several season to see all the wonders. Although we must now say good-bye to the Sea and then to mainland Mexico in March when we leave for the Marquesas, we'll be headed to more adventures in another part of paradise.

- jeff & debbie 10/15/2000

Velella - Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
Vancouver Island, B.C.

Prior to heading down the west coast of the United States to Mexico and beyond, we decided to do an approximately 1,000-mile circumnavigation of Van-couver Island. We're really glad we did, since it provided an excellent opportunity to shake out the cobwebs and test our cruising systems before leaving the convenience of local stores and repair facilities - as well as the comfort of family and friends. It's not as though we're new to sailing. We've raced for years, but that often draws upon a different set of skills. And, though we've owned our boat for two years and have been living aboard for a year, a cruise such as the one we took provided a more accurate idea of how we'll really use the boat before we're actually put to the test. Going farther afield than normal, where there were ocean swells and the weather can be more dicey, has gotten us to stretch a little - and shake some bad habits we've developed from sailing on the relatively calm waters around Seattle. Setting things on the counter and expecting them to stay, for example, or not doing a proper job of stowing things.

Although we worked right up until the day before we were scheduled to leave, we managed to get away pretty much as planned. When we got to Victoria, Canadian customs wanted to do a thorough search to find all our liquor. But after taking a look at all the stuff we had stacked high in the vee-berth, the two officers just looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. It was kind of amusing. I think customs wanted to search our boat because we'd declared that we had no beer aboard - something they apparently found hard to believe. But we'd decided to drink hard liquor instead of beer because the latter is so heavy and takes up so much fridge space. We later learned that if we'd called customs, they probably wouldn't have even bothered to search our boat. One good outcome of their declining to search our boat is that we realized that we had too much stuff aboard. We did our provisioning just north of Victoria at Nanaimo, which has excellent stores and reasonable prices.

On our way north, we detoured over to the mainland to visit famous Princess Louisa Inlet, a mecca for mariners that we have wanted to see since we first arrived in this beautiful region. We had an ideal sail 40 miles up a narrow fiord, and were awed by our surroundings along the way - and even more so upon arrival. What a photographer's paradise! The rainforest next to Chatterbox Falls, which is at the head of the inlet, was so green and lush with moss that it literally dripped off the trees. And the mile-high granite mountains dropped almost vertically to the water, with dramatic falls and torrents of water all around. We tied up to a free float next to the falls for a couple of days, then moved to a free mooring buoy for a different perspective. We were there in early June and the place was nearly deserted. We saw only a few boats arriving and departing Malibu Rapids, which are a few miles shy of the falls and guard the entrance to the cathedral-like setting. Princess Louisa Provincial Park is completely natural, so there are no facilities - but there is beauty to spare.

We meandered our way north through Desolation Sound on our way to the top of Vancouver Island, stopping to enjoy some of the many nice anchorages along the way. We stopped in Melanie Cove, mentioned in the book Curve of Time, and tried to locate the old apple orchard. We motored close to the falls at Teakarne Arm, and rowed around the lagoon at Squirrel Cove. The guidebooks kept warning us how crowded it would be in Desolation Sound, but we saw relatively few other boats. High season apparently doesn't start until July, so the local stores weren't even fully stocked. The June weather was pretty nice, however.

During one long day heading northwest, we passed through a set of five rapids, timing our progress carefully so we could take each one at relatively slack water. Checking the tide tables and scheduling our passages accordingly was mandatory. The weather service had posted gale warnings for Johnstone Strait since the start of our trip, but local knowledge suggested that we make the passage in the morning before the wind came up. Taking that advice, we had a nice sail in an area where it can get ugly if the wind turns against the tide. North of Johnstone Strait we found several good spots to anchor and - despite some clear cutting - some great scenery. Mild conditions and a tight schedule forced us to push on despite our interest in the pretty little islets along the eastern side of Queen Charlotte Strait.

Port Hardy, at the northwest corner of Vancouver Island, turned out to be a fine port for provisioning and a good jumping off point for rounding Cape Scott. Leaving early in the morning with the tide, we were able to motor past Nahwitti Bar and around the Cape - a potentially hazardous area with tide rips, particularly in windy conditions - in calm conditions and flat seas. The first place to stop after the rounding was Sea Otter Cove, which is quite dramatic but has a rather dicey entrance. Between the tight quarters and gusts of wind, it's a difficult place to anchor. We enjoyed hiking out to see the Pacific waves crashing against the rocks outside the entrance.

Along the Pacific side of Vancouver Island, there are four sizeable sounds and some other smaller inlets to explore. The northernmost, Quatsino Sound, is little visited but peaceful, and there are several nice anchorages. To our surprise, we found a rock in Smith Cove, so wouldn't suggest a visit there, except at low tide. In Kyuquot Sound, the next one to the south, we found several places to enjoy: Bunsby Islands, on the north side; Dixie Cove, an almost landlocked bay smelling of evergreen; and Rugged Point, a delightful sandy beach on both the sound and Pacific sides of the point that is connected by a boardwalk through the woods. I used a roll and a half of film here alone!

Nootka Sound is steeped in history, features picturesque beaches on two sides of a point, and has a lighthouse at Friendly Cove. As we continued south from here, sportfishing boats became more numerous since the area is accessible by road. South of Nootka Sound is Clayquot Sound, which is much more shallow and has vivid blue water on the west side, and Tofino, a charming little town, on the east side. Hot Springs Cove, on the north side of Clayquot Sound, is another incredibly beautiful spot that is also a mecca for cruisers. A two-mile boardwalk hike through the rainforest leads to the springs, and the boardwalk alone is worth the visit. The views are terrific, and many boardwalk planks are carved with the names of people and boats that have been there before.

The springs at the end of the trail are quite a treat, as there are natural high stone walls on either side, a waterfall at the head, and a series of cascading pools that lead toward the sea. The springs are pretty hot, and after a short time warm you to the core. Tour boats bring tourists from Tofino during the middle of the day, but during the morning and evenings it's not crowded. Sometimes we had the springs all to ourselves, sometimes we met other boaters who seemed to appear out of the forest. It was fun chatting with folks from boats we'd already seen along the way.

Barclay Sound, the southernmost sound, is the most popular sound on the west side of Vancouver Island, with many kayakers and every type of boat. There is a sprinkling of islands to explore in the sound, many of which are part of a marine park.

There aren't many facilities on Vancouver Island, particularly on the western coast. It's not easy, for example, to find places to provision or to bathe. Even pay phones are somewhat scarce. The proper disposal of garbage presented a continual challenge, so we tried to generate as little as possible by eating a minimum of packaged foods. Various parts of Vancouver Island have been subjected to clear-cutting, which is ugly because the peaks look as though they'd gotten really bad haircuts. Despite this, we saw many lovely spots - even in the clear-cut areas. We also saw wildlife not usually found at our backyard feeder: seals, sea otters, eagles and many other birds. We also saw whales breeching, and someone from another boat told us that they'd seen a bear munch on shellfish some 40 yards from the float at Princess Louisa Inlet. We were sleeping at the time. We also enjoyed hiking onshore, and paddling around in the dinghy to explore sea caves and tidal pools.

When our detour to Princess Louisa is included, we estimate we covered about 1,000 miles from Seattle. We had good weather in the mornings for rounding the capes and points, but there was still a bit of slop where the Pacific swell meets the land. We didn't see much fog until mid-July, at which time we also saw more cruisers and fishing boats. Adverse weather could be an issue around Vancouver Island, but we were pretty lucky and spent extremely little time waiting for conditions to improve. We motored more during the trip than we'd have liked because there was often little wind, because it's usually right on the nose in the narrow, and because we were frequently rushing to time our arrival at one or more rapids. Although our eight weeks is almost double the time many cruisers take for the circumnavigation, it hardly seemed like enough. We definitely need to return someday

- wendy & garth 10/15/2000

Annapurna - Hans Christian 48
Buddy & Ruth Ellison
The Louisiades Archipelago, P.N.G.
[Cont'd from last month.]

Further east in the chain, at Hessessi Bay on Pana Tinani, the people were very different from those in the Calvados group. We didn't feel put upon every time an outrigger came out to our boat or when we went ashore to visit. They still needed things, of course, so we willingly gave up supplies that we could replenish when we returned to Oz. But it was a delight to be able to go ashore and just 'tell lies' - the Aussie term for shooting the breeze - with everyone. One day I went ashore and played the guitar while another cruiser played the mandolin. The locals genuinely seemed interested in us and the music.

From then on the weather improved. So Buddy and John Martin, who lived in one of the villages, went on several lobstering trips. The local fishing gear is primitive, so Buddy let John use his triple-banded spear gun. You'd have thought John had died and gone to heaven! He wanted to know if we could bring him one. All in all, Buddy has had good luck lobster hunting, with nice size bugs. He's also caught a record breaking three fish, two of them on the way into Hessessi. He gave both to the locals and we were immediately their new best friends.

After about a month in the Louisiades, we ran out of everything fresh, including eggs and veggies. So we started trading in earnest for lobsters, mud crabs, shells, paw-paw, bananas, eggs, yams and potatoes. Yes, we went native. Luckily we still had a freezer full of meat. It's hard to believe that it's possible to get tired of eating lobster and crab, but it happened to us. They're just everywhere, and we ate it fried, boiled, broiled, barbecued - you name it!

Before leaving Hessessi, one of the elders passed away. We were asked to come to the funeral, film it, and send the film back to them. It turned out to be both gruesome and very interesting, and we took photos of the unfortunate soul in the coffin and all the mourners. We were honored with a gift of two baggi, which are shell necklaces that have been used throughout the area for barter and gifts. They start with the shell, cut it up into small pieces, grind them into tiny little circles, drill a hole in the middle, shine them, and then string them into a necklace. The process took them about three days. Apparently it is very special to be given one, and after seeing how they are made, we quite understand.

After that finale, we continued to move east through the Louisiades chain, travelling in company with David and Carol on Darsi, and John and Sandra on True Blue. We all flew our American flags and wherever we went kept joking that 'the Yanks are coming'!

Around the corner from Hessessi on the same island is Hata Lawi, a beautiful bay with no villages. So we had a week of quiet. Unfortunately, Buddy slipped on some coral while walking around a small island at low tide, and scratched his feet and knees. Coral cuts are nasty if not taken care of right away. We thought we cleaned the cuts correctly, but Buddy got in the water the next day, which is a no-no. The cuts started getting infected. Everyone we spoke to on the radio had a remedy, of course. Put the wound in as hot water as you can stand for 20 minutes; clean with soap and water; apply vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, Betadine, hydrogen peroxide or camphophenique; open a tetracycline capsule and put the powder on the wound; elevate the wounds above the heart, amputate; pour diesel on the wound; set the foot afire; blah, blah, blah.

With the cuts infected, it was already too late. Buddy started getting pains up his leg, red circles around the nasty buggers, and a swollen foot. So we put him on antibiotics and I forbade him from getting into the water until they healed - which wasn't until we left the islands! That kind of put a damper on the water festivities, such as diving for lobster. We spent the rest of our time visiting the villages, reading, and playing Mexican dominoes with our buddyboating friends.

Around the middle of August, we parted company with our friends and headed for Tagula, the southeasternmost island, and waited for a weather window to sail back to Townsville. We stopped at two anchorages on Tagula, Lyin and Lijiliji. The cruising guide said that Lijiliji is an ideal anchorage for departure through the pass, but to stay well offshore because of the crocs. We didn't see any crocs while we were there, but we didn't get off the boat to visit the beautiful sandy beach, either! Because of the threat of crocs and the fact that the weather had become overcast and rainy, we only stayed four days before heading back to Oz.

A number of things during our visit to the Louisiades made us abnormally aware of our vulnerability and dependency on one another: we ran out of all our fresh food and most of our other food; Buddy couldn't go into the water the last 2.5 weeks because of his infections, and we would have had trouble if the rode had gotten wrapped around a coral head; neither of us got any exercise the last week because of the fear of crocs on the beach; we attended one funeral, and heard that another five locals perished when a canoe flipped and threw nine of them into the water. It may sound silly, but it made us realize even more how precious life is and what's really important. Some little things that used to bother us now don't seem like much. We also thought about all the stuff we brought to trade, how it didn't amount to a hill of beans to us, but how important it was to the wonderful and very gentle islanders. Especially the 25 or so who are able to see again because of the used eyeglasses we were able to give away.

Enough of the emotional stuff! Our plans now are to go get our car in Brisbane and drive to the center of Australia for a few months. We'll fly back to the States early next year, then return to Oz in March. After boat guests in March and April, we'll head up the East Coast to Darwin, then set sail for Indonesia.

- buddy & ruth 8/2000

Saga - Alberg 35
Jann Hedrick & Nancy Birnbaum
Mexican Visas

Before we started cruising, we were told that Mexico had some of the best cruising grounds in the world. After more than a year down here, we'd have to agree. It also has a great community of cruisers who are different and wonderful - and have different opinions on how to handle things, such as the issue of visas.

Many cruisers who haven't completely severed their docklines return to the States every six months or so and automatically get new fresh visas when they return to Mexico. Others opt to go through the bureaucracy rat's nest and get their 'FM3'. which allows them to travel back and forth to the States within a year without a new visa. This can also be renewed annually. The cost of an FM3 varies, although we were told it ranges from $200 to $500 a person. The difficulty of the process varies also, depending on where you apply for the permit and/or if you pay a service to do it for you. For example, one friend got the Crew's Quarters in Banderas Bay to get him a 180-day visa, which is the maximum, for an unknown price. Here in La Paz, we've been told that it's virtually impossible to get an extension on a 180-day visa, and if you do, it would only be good for another 30 days. We're also told it's easier to get one in Cabo, where officials are more tolerant of long-term tourists.

After weighing the various options, we decided to rent a cheap car - with air-conditioning, of course - and drive up to San Diego and get new visas. It also turned out to be a good opportunity to help our fellow cruisers, as we got on the La Paz Net and announced that we could pick up mail and stuff from Downwind Marine in San Diego. And that if people wanted, they could donate a few pesos to our gas fund. So along with another cruiser, we piled into the rental car and started the nearly 24 hour drive. Despite the stern warnings from everyone, we drove straight through the night. Although we encountered many cows and a few horses by the side of the road, we fortunately didn't hit any. Five times the Federales stopped us at designated check points, each time probing under the wheel wells, presumably looking for guns or drugs. They were always very nice. We used these opportunities as rest stops to stretch a little and get some drinks. When we asked the Federales where the bathrooms were, they always laughed and pointed to the dark scrub along the side of the road. It's a long drive from La Paz to San Diego, but the views are incredible, and we also enjoyed a nice dinner stop at Santa Rosalia.

We arrived in San Diego mid-morning the following day and went straight to the consulate to get our new visas. It was easy. Our next stop was Downwind Marine, and they were thrilled to give us mail to deliver and a few bits of gear folks in La Paz had ordered. Naturally we bought some stuff we needed, too. After all the shopping was done, we visited old friends at Sun Harbor Marina, which had been our home for three months while waiting for hurricane season to end last year. Finally, we got a room and a very restful night's sleep.

With our truck loaded to capacity, we headed back to the border and La Paz the next day. Our border crossing was easy, as we declared the stuff we had picked up and were sent on our way in a short time. I think we enjoyed the scenery on the return trip even more than on the way up. We saw the huge park that spans almost the entire middle of the Baja California del Norte. It was a surreal sight, with miles and miles of huge rocks and boulders, interlaced with tall cacti that sprout new blossoms in the spring. Each part of Baja offers different desert scapes. The northern part is green and hilly, the middle is rocky and otherworldly, and the lower part has fantastic views of the Sea. The total cost, including rental car, came to less than $150 per person. It seemed a long way to go for a day, but we were thrilled by the scenery and glad that we had made the trip to see some of inland Baja.

- jann & nancy 7/15/2000

Jann & Nancy - Two hundred to $500 for FM3 permits?! If anybody has paid that kind of money, they've gotten screwed. We suggest our readers check out Mike and Anne Kelty's report in the October Letters - find it at - on how they got their FM3 at the consulate in San Diego for just $80. It would be muy loco to pay $500 for a FM3.

On the other hand, far be it for us to discourage anyone from making the drive up and down the Baja Peninsula, which is a trip on any number of levels. About 10 years ago we bought a Cal 25 and singlehanded the boat on a trailer from Marin County to Puerto Escondido in 34 hours, including a rest stop at Guerro Negro. It was a spectacular drive, the two highlights of which were pulling into the oasis at San Ignacio and dropping out of the brown desert mountains to the glistening blue Sea of Cortez just north of Santa Rosalia. After we threw the boat in the water, we singlehanded back in just 29 hours, much of it at night. Like you, we'd been told not to drive at night because of the danger of cattle sleeping on the warm pavement. The good part of driving at night is that you have the road almost to yourself and you can usually see oncoming traffic from miles away.

Tucumcari - 33-ft Custom Sloop
Bob Starr & Cyn Terra-Starr
Cyn's Puddle Jump Review
(Toledo, Oregon)

Bob and I have different versions of our crossing from Mexico to the Marquesas this spring. This isn't surprising, since he built the boat and had already sailed her from the West Coast to Australia and back. Meanwhile, I feel that oceans are slightly malevolent and that boats are mere toothpicks that only manage to stay afloat thanks to the help of electronics and other unreliable gear. There, I've confessed to my pollo del mar status once again. I'm not ashamed - except that I really should be farther along in my personal 'therapy' to gain confidence in being on the water. Confronting a 2,700-mile passage to a tiny speck in the middle of the ocean certainly provided plenty of opportunity for conquering my fears, but they still exist. But I am getting better at ignoring and hiding them.

We had a grueling, seemingly interminable passage that I only occasionally found exhilarating. I sort of felt as though we were confined to a motorhome crossing America, one that dipped, rocked and lurched while we tried to cook, eat and wash up. All at the breakneck speed of five knots. And we could never get off. I found it nerve wracking.

Our trip had an inauspicious beginning, as we had to burn precious fuel to get out of normally windy Banderas Bay. Ideal conditions on the ocean are 15 knots and flat seas - but we rarely saw them. You have to sail with the wind you get, and we mostly had fluky stuff. After a few days of frustrating winds, we realized that we'd forgotten to toast Mr. Neptune. So we poured the rest of our rum - which we only use for such occasions - into the ocean. We only covered 20 miles during the next 24 hours, so I'm not sure how much it helped.

The upside of that dismal pace was that bobbing about on a glassy surface was surreal. And the horizon dished up scenes finer than a Disneyland surround-a-view attraction, with dolphins playing at the bow, and our being able to more closely inspect the actual blue color of the ocean. Actually, they need a better name for the color of the ocean, as it was mesmerizing.

Perhaps my problem is that I started the trip with excessive expectations. I expected to zip merrily across to the Marquesas in three weeks, pushed along by steady trades and only having to motor to cross the doldrums. The goal of three weeks was based on the fact that Bob had made the same crossing in the same boat in that time some 15 years before. But on this trip, we unfortunately had maddening winds and the area of doldrums was poorly defined. So we degenerated into sub-humans. Our crossing took 28 days - or nearly a month of what the Eagles would have described as a "prison of our own device".

Naturally, I'd made lofty plans for the free time enroute: I would study French every day, bone up on celestial navigation, enjoy contemplative moments under starry skies, and become at one with the elements. Yeah, sure. First of all, I never got more than three hours of undisturbed sleep - and usually much less - for weeks on end. The lack of sleep turned both of us into lurching zombies. It was like we were new parents - except that we had to stay up and be semi-alert before getting our reward of going back to bed. Some reward! A bed in which I had to prop pillows around my sweaty body in order to not be tossed against the hull. A bed in which I had to endure the sound of constant banging in the rigging or the slatting of sails. I think sleep deprivation was the primary cause of my descent into a cranky, listless, raw existence.

Secondly, I lost my appetites. Who cared about food? Sex? You've got to be kidding! Pleasures of conversation or reading? Whatever. The main impediment was lack of REM time, but other things contributed to it - such as the difficulty of just moving around and/or executing any task aboard a rocking vessel. Bob and I ended up wearing the same clothes day after day. All right, we did change underwear - when we realized that one day had turned into the next. But our routines got messed up. I couldn't remember if I had just brushed my teeth or merely dreamed it. We didn't take many showers because it took too much energy to gather everything together and struggle to the foredeck to sit under a wildly swinging Sun Shower nozzle for a couple of minutes. Although I managed to avoid the worst consequences of mal de mer, I nonetheless felt slightly ill whenever we had the kind of seas that accompany the kind of wind necessary for fast sailing. Why hadn't Mother Nature seen to it that you could have good wind and flat seas at the same time? I popped a Bonine every once in a while, but it seemed a useless gesture. What I needed were gimbaled legs.

Finally, I always felt a little anxious, and that wore me down. It's never comfortable aboard a moving boat, and the 24-hour-a-day effort to keep Tuc going as fast as possible in the right direction had me mentally and physically tense. Although we didn't have any major breakdowns, there were always little mechanical chores for Bob to attend to. Plus the windvane seemed to require lots of tweaking. And I always worried that a hangnail might become a life-threatening infection, that our appendices might simultaneously burst, or . . . well, see how crazed you can get when you're 1,000 miles from nowhere?

So, other than figuring out what sail combo would perform best given the existing wind conditions, what else was interesting? Drop dead sunsets and sunrises. Spectacular opportunities to be an integral part of all the natural surroundings. Boat baths for Tuc. A break from the pressures of communicating with family and friends. A month of going braless and shoeless. Not spending any money for nearly a month. The pride of accomplishment for undertaking and completing such a trip. And a perfect chance to practice cognitive therapy to work on my fears.

What distinguished the days from one another - besides plotting our position on the charts - were our radio skeds. What a comfort to know that there were 20 or 30 other boats all plunging through the same ocean to reach the very same dot as us. We checked into two nets - an informal one which we set up with other cruisers before leaving P.V., and a more formal one for hamsters only. The latter, called the Pacific Seafarer's Net, recorded our position and passed it on to a website map - a great service for those who wanted to track our passage on the Internet. The radio was our lifeline.

Hold on a minute! This is Bob, and Cyn has been rambling on about the passage ad-nauseam, so she finally fell asleep over on the port settee. So now it's my turn to speak up. As she mentioned, this trip took a week longer than the last one, so we'd set ourselves up for disappointment. That, combined with the frustration of constantly looking for nonexistent wind, made this the worst passage I've ever been on. And I spent four years cruising this boat in the South Pacific. My sentiment about the poor sailing conditions was echoed by a few other sailing vets who did the passage at the same time we did. Cyn and I both had our ups and downs during the trip, but the bottom line is that we made it, we're in fine shape, and so is Tucumcari. We're now having a great time in the Marquesas eating more fruit than you can imagine, seeing lots of wonderful scenery, and meeting lots of both Marquesans and other cruisers.

This is Cyn, and I'm back. Bob and I had our differences during the trip, the most irksome for him being that he felt I was always wanting to slow the boat down for more comfort. Despite these counterpurposes, true love conquers all.

I had imagined our landfall would be on a brilliant day with the island of Hiva Oa majestically rising from a speck to a miracle of verdant green. Landbirds would be soaring around us. Reality was once again different - although dramatic in its own way. We arrived too early in the morning due to 35-knot winds, so we had to heave-to until first light. Hiva Oa's jagged mountains appeared in the gray mist when we were about 10 miles off, the wind decreased to a decent range, and we sailed into the harbor triumphant - although depleted.

The Marquesas are a chain of six inhabited islands and several other uninhabited ones. I'd never heard of this part of French Polynesia before meeting Bob, figuring that Tahiti and Fiji were all that were down here in the South Pacific. Anyway, we're now having a super time visiting the villages and downing a multitude of fruit - which is so plentiful that it literally falls into our waiting bags from the trees. The stores sell no fruit and only a veggie or two - onions, maybe a potato and sometimes tomatoes - so obviously the natives all have community gardens. They also have trees laden with guavas, papayas, grapefruit, limes, oranges, soursop, avocados, bananas and others fruits which are new to us. The villages exude a sheen of prosperity that is so different from the Mexican towns. Everything is green and manicured, and there aren't any plastic bags blowing in the wind.

It must be the abundance of flowering trees and bushes, plus expanses of mown grass, that changes the perspective of poverty, because the people here are probably only a bit 'richer' than the typical Mexican. Or maybe I don't know squat and all the locals are on the dole from the French. Prices are definitely on the high side, but it doesn't make any difference because we have lots leftover from Mexico. We join with other cruisers for a restaurant meal when there is a restaurant, otherwise we have the usual potlucks and cockpit get-togethers.

The water has been warm so far, but too murky for snorkeling. That's the speciality of our next stop, the Tuamotus, which are exclusively coral atolls teeming with fish. Thus far, the notorious no-see-ums have only been present on Nuku Hiva, so I have only collected a dozen or so maddening bites. I think these guys are immune to bug sprays!

Quite enough for now, n'est-ce pas?

- cyn & bob 8/15/2000

Readers - Don't let anybody fool you: 1) Long passages are not for everyone - and the 2,700 miles from Mexico to the Marquesas is one of the longest in cruising. 2) Small boats tend to be slower, bumpier and generally less comfortable than larger boats. 3) If there are only two crew, the lack of sleep is almost sure to be a problem.

As such, nobody embarking on a 2,700-mile doublehanded voyage on a 33-foot boat should be looking forward to a pleasure cruise. Such a trip would be a blast for a couple of young bucks who are totally comfortable on the ocean, love tweaking a boat, and get their rocks off trying to carry a chute in 35 knot squalls. But for someone who doesn't understand the workings of a boat, who fears the ocean, and who can't get into the Zen of sailing, it's likely to be a month of misery. And for what? It seems to us there are many cases in which everyone would be a lot happier if the skipper - usually a guy - were to find another enthusiastic ocean voyager or two for the long ocean passage, and have the relucant person, often the woman, fly over to meet the boat.

Cruise Notes

"Mulegé (moo-la-hay) is a great place to leave your boat in the Sea of Cortez if you need to go north for a few days or a few months," reports Garth Jones de Camacho and Kayanne Tate of the Alberg 37 Inclination. "You Med-tie to a stone wharf below the office of Miguel, the Port Captain, who will keep a close eye on your boat. The fee is $3/day at the current rate of exchange. Crossing the bar from the Sea of Cortez into the river requires some local knowledge or prior checking out in a dinghy. Our Alberg draws 6'1", and I can get in and out at least once a day almost all of the time. The longest period I can't cross the bar is about 10 days, but that only happens twice a year. There is a rock in the middle of the channel that only shows on minus tides. I'm on the Sonrisa and Chubasco nets many mornings from October thru May, so people can call me for assistance. Channel 22 is the local hailing channel. Gringo, who is actually a Mexican who runs the outboard repair concession on the starboard side up the river, can bring you in if I'm not around. The best anchorage in the area during the winter is behind the hotel at Punta St. Inez or down in Bahia Concepcion. I prefer Hornitos, improperly listed as Santa Domingo on recent charts, because there's excellent diving there and because my Mexican grandpa has a fish camp there. I was blown into Mulegé during a nasty Norther way back in '88 when I was pretty broke. The Mexican divers took me home, fed me, bathed me and kept me. Now I teach lots of cruisers to dive and fish - and not be afraid of the Mexicans. In addition to my Alberg 37 in Mulegé, I keep a Catalina 22, also named Inclination, set up for cruising in Friday Harbor, Washington, and a panga that's usually out on shares to the family. Hope to see everyone in Mulegé sometime."

We haven't been there in about 10 years, but we remember Mulegé as a neat little oasis on the sea with a population of about 3,500. Most cruisers ignore it because of the greater number of attractions at nearby Bahia Concepcion. Mulegé is perhaps most famous for the old 'prison with no doors' that is now a museum, and for a long-running feud between land-owners and ejido members over land rights to the most popular tourist areas.

"Another hugely successful Fiji Regatta Week was held September 8-16 at the Musket Cove YC at Malolo Lailai Island, Fiji," reports Don Mundell of New Zealand. Sixty boats and their crews were on hand to enjoy a week of fun activities and yacht racing. Sixteen Kiwi boats and 11 Aussie boats provided the basis of the fleet, while boats from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Northern Europe added a broader international flavor. The first event after the welcoming party was the 10-mile cruising race to Dan and Annette Costello's Beachcomber Island for Pirate's Day. Light winds and calm seas made the conditions ideal for a first event. Cats were favored, and Kiwi Tony Lugg's Crystal Harmony, a Ron Givens 50-footer, took line honors. The next day provided a chance for doublehanders to demonstrate their skills in the Hobie 16 Challenge, a two-day match racing event around a triangular course. Thirty-two teams hotly contested for the title, and a large crowd was on hand later in the week to watch the finals. Bradley and Scott Farrand of the the Kiwi cruiser Irene beat Thomas Howell of the U.S. based Farr 55 Imagine by a score of 2-0. Anne Aylesworth of the American boat Ferric Star was third. Monday's race to Namotu Island - sponsored by Oram's Marine - provided another great day of racing fun and shoreside excitement. American Jim Maloney won the race, which was held in the morning, with Hijacker. The afternoon activities included a buffet lunch and the famous wet T-shirt and hairy chest competitions around the pool. Makerta, a Musket Cove staffmember, won the wet T-shirt, while Roy of the Kiwi boat Barnstorm had the hairiest chest. Tuesday was a day of sports and absurd beachside games for both young and old. These included coconut throwing, petanque, and the tossing of the palm trunk - which sort of resembles the Scottish caber.

The more serious Ansett Airlines Around Malolo Race was held the next day. All boats got off to a good start, with Hijacker taking a flyer. A few boats laid through on the wind to the top of the island, but many paid a price for poor pointing ability - especially the cats. With light running conditions through the back of Malolo, big spinnakers insured that it would be a race for the monohulls. Jim and Loretta Maloney's Lidgard 44 Hijacker from the U.S. took first, Andrew Stranski's Adams 43 Long Nose from Australia was second, and Keith McKenzie's Crowther 48 cat What's Up Doc from Canada was third. The race was for the Sir Ian and Lady McFarlane Trophy, and the winners got major prizes from Musket Cove Resort and BP Oil. The list of previous winners is quite impressive: Kiwi Ross Carpenter's Outward Bound in '84; Kiwi Richard Olsen's Blizzard in '88; Americans Jim and Sue Corenman with Heart of Gold in '95; and Kiwi Graeme Woodroffe's Emotional Rescue in '97, '98 and '99. The final two days of the regatta included the previously mentioned finals of the Hobie Cat Challenge; the Best Dressed Yacht Contest, which brought the bay and marina ablaze with color; the Live Figurehead Contest, which resulted in numerous creative, imaginative - and in some cases, scantily-clad - entries; and a traditional Fijian meke with a pig on the spit. Friday was the massive cocktail party, dinner, and prizegiving. It was another great week of sailing competiton and family fun!" It's also amazing that it came off at all, what with the coup just a few months earlier.

What's it like cruising Mexico? "We've had a ball down here!" report Matt and Debbie of the Seattle-based Tayana 37 Aeventyr. "The cruising is very easy and warm, and all the people we've met have been friendly and helpful. After being on the mainland, we've just finished a terrific summer in the Sea of Cortez, where the fishing, diving and sea life were all fantastic. We're surprised that there were so few cruisers in the Sea, but it made a nice change from the busy mainland. We will be in San Carlos for a month or so, hauling Aeventyr to paint the bottom. When the work is done, we'll travel inland to visit the Copper Canyon, do another month of cruising on the Baja side, then sail down to Mazatlan for Christmas. After a brief visit home, we'll return to Mexico, then depart the Mazanillo area a couple of months later for the Galapagos, South Pacific and New Zealand."

For those without a worldwide perspective, Mexico is truly one of the great cruising grounds of the world, particularly for those who prefer it warm, easy and inexpensive. We're not sure what we Americans did to be so lucky. We're also delighted to report that we're getting many reports that the sea life in the Sea of Cortez seems to have rebounded.

"We're planning on making the big Puddle Jump from Mexico to the South Pacific this coming spring," write Terri and Heidi Kotas of the Gig Harbor-based Fantasia 35 Cetus, who are cruising with their 14-year-old daughter Carly and their cat Cali. "We know that last year Latitude and Paradise Marina near Puerto Vallarta held a party for everyone that was going across, and wonder if we can assume that you'll be doing it again this coming year. We plan on starting our crossing from La Paz, so also wonder if there is any way we can get information on the radio skeds and such? In addition, we would like to leave our boat in French Polynesia for an extended period of time when we return home to the States in June. We know there is a boatyard in Raiatea, but have heard there's also a new yard near Papeete. Do you have any information on either of these yards and how long Americans can leave their boats there? We're hoping for 10 months."

When Marina Paradise Harbormaster Dick Markie was up in Alameda for the Mexico-Only Crew List Party last month, he confirmed that Paradise Marina would be delighted to once again co-host the Pacific Puddle Jump Party with Latitude in early March. This means free burgees and other goodies for all those who are able to attend. For others - such as yourself - who prefer to start their crossing from another location, rest assured that you'll be included to the fullest extent possible. We'll have all the details in Latitude and 'Lectronic Latitude shortly after the start of the year. Just so everyone is clear on the concept, Latitude and Marina Paradise aren't organizing group meetings, the list of the boats that are going, the radio skeds or anything like that, we're just throwing a party and trying to help facilitate the group effort. As for leaving your boat in French Polynesia, new customs rules allow foreign boats to be left there forever - although the owners are only allowed to cruise six months a year. We don't have the information to evaluate the yard in Papeete versus the ones in Raiatea, but Raiatea Carenage has historically been the most popular. For lots of excellent information, visit their Web site at

By the way, when we emailed our response to the Kotas, we noted that it's also possible to leave a boat at one of the marinas in Fiji - although they are subject to more tropical cyclones. This was their response: "We're familiar with the situation in Fiji from our previous trip to the South Pacific in '92-'94 with our Golden Gate 30 Cassiopeia. We started that trip from Hawaii, so this is our first visit to Mexico, and will be our first chance to see the Marquesas and Tuamotus. We can't wait."

"We're hoping to leave for Mexico on November 1, then depart Mexico on March 15 for the South Pacific," writes Al Wheatman of the Marina del Rey-based Ericson 35 Sea Dancer. "My crew will be Chris Nielsen and Mike. It will be the first time for me, and I'm wondering if you have any advice or comments."

Our biggest advice would be to keep your priorities straight. Number one is making sure that your boat's basic systems - rigging, rudder, sails, and engine - are in good shape. After all, you can have a great Puddle Jump without luxuries such as a freezer, but it's hard to have fun if you lose an essential such as your rig, rudder or mainsail. Not having an engine isn't the end of the world, but it's nice if that works, too. Secondly, in order to have a more enjoyable passage, make sure that you and your crew have your sailing skills up to snuff. For example, if you've reefed your boat enough times during high winds and rough seas in the middle of the night, you won't get overly stressed if you have to do it in the middle of the Pacific. Finally, try to become part of the informal Puddle Jump Class of '01, as there is additional comfort and safety in numbers and radio skeds.

"We just wanted to let you know that after we left Huatulco, Mexico, the Port Captain straightened out," report Sid and Manuela Olshefski of the Ericson Cruising 36 Paradise, currently in Colon, Panama. "All the cruisers now get charged the right amount and pay it directly to the bank instead of the port captain - as is required by law. We just completed our Canal transit after spending a month at the beautifully rustic Pedro Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake inside the Canal. While at the Pedro Miguel, I learned some great ways to call home for free. So, cruisers might want to check out the following Web; www.msn.messanger, which actually works better and faster than Dialpad; and, which you can use to call 30 different countries [note: this last site was dark last time we checked, 9/30/03]. If your computer doesn't have a built-in speaker and microphone, you'll need a headset and microphone to be able to make calls. But all of the Internet cafes here in Panama have the headsets, and they're included in the rental fee of about $2 hour. That's not bad, considering it allows you to make all the free phone calls you want. Our final bit of good news is about Colon, Panama. If you need to provision in somewhat dangerous Colon, you no longer need a taxi, as Super 99 mercado will pick you up and drop you off in their own bus. I couldn't believe my eyes when this red school bus with "Super 99" written all over it pulled up to get me. Two kids greeted me and escorted me around the store. When checking out at the register, one of the kids gave me his discount card so that I'd save money. He made big points there! Then they drove me back and carried all the groceries to the boat! Just call them at 449-3460 or 449-3461. Life aboard Paradise is like being in paradise."

"Panama has several fine new improvements for those wanting to leave their boats here for a few days or a few months," report John and Karen of the San Francisco-based Vagabond 47 Windsong. "The Balboa YC on the Pacific side has reopened the swimming pool and restaurant, but they still haven't replaced the clubhouse that burned down. The taxi drivers that work out of the club will take you through check-in for $10/hour. The Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside the Canal can hold 20 or so boats and has room on the hard. And now for something entirely new: Marina Cardiner and the Bocas YC up at the Boca de Toros region, which is 140 miles north of the Canal on the Caribbean side. Cardiner has room for 30 boats in the water and more on the hard. You have to reserve and pay for space 90 days in advance. The Bocas YC has 100 boats on a combination of great docks, some Med-moorings, and some fingers. Boca is the safest little backwater town we've ever been to, and has 15 restaurants and bars and two Internet cafes. We're now at San Andreas, a great place with a safe harbor and new navigation lights for the entrance. It's a large town with movies and lots of parts available. But if you need to have parts shipped in, FedEx them to San Jose, Costa Rica, then pay $100 for a round trip flight to pick them up. If you wait for them to be sent to San Andreas, figure on two months for them to clear in Bogata. Although near Costa Rica and Nicaragua, San Andreas belongs to Colombia."

Having never been to the Boca de Toros region of Panama, we asked Craig Owings, who is stepping down after 13 years as the commodore of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, about Marina Cardiner and the Boca YC. "Both businesses are off to a good start, as I've yet to hear a bad report from cruisers who have been there. The businesses are apparently working closely with the cruisers to insure there are no rip-offs by government officials - which had been my reason for not liking it as recently as '97. Boca de Toros is a charming little area with good gunkholing - although the fishing is not as good as other parts of Panama. Visitors should be careful to drink bottled water as much of the ground water was contaminated by fertilizer from banana farm runoff. The stuff is high in organic phosphorus and not good to drink. When we did medical readiness exercises a few years back with the U.S. Army in the Boca area, we found indications of low levels of mental retardation from the contaminated water. Supposedly there is a new water system being installed, but I would ship a sample back to the States before I'd trust it. A small quantity would probably not bother you, but chronic exposure is not good."

If you're looking for an undiscovered cruising place, Boca de Toros is worth a try. We've not been there, but traveller guides give good marks to the town of 2,500 that is mostly populated by English-speaking blacks from the Antilles. It's also a great base for exploring the pristine islands of the Archipelago de Bocas del Toro and Parque Nacional Bastimentos, the latter being Panama's first - and excellent - maritime park. If you're looking for great white sand beaches lined by coconut palms, with terrific reef diving and tons of wildlife, this may be the place. If someone would like to provide us with a more detailed report and some photographs, we'd be most appreciative.

Want your friends and family to be able to watch you transit the Panama Canal? Thanks to the Internet, it's just a matter of a couple of clicks on a computer. Simply go to, and you'll see that a relatively high resolution camera is directed from the Miraflores Lock toward the Pedro Miguel Locks and the Pedro Miguel Boat Club - although it sometimes zooms in on the Miraflores Locks. We know cam shots have been around forever in Internet terms, but for some reason this one boggles our mind.

Walter and Joyce Birkenheier of the Salem, Oregon-based Cal 40 Just Do It report they spent a little over two years in Guam working to build up the cruising kitty. "Joyce, who has more sense than I, then flew to Japan, while I sailed there singlehanded," says Walter, who is currently in Sasebo, Kyushu, Japan. "Anyone who wants more information regarding Japan or any of the other places we've cruised - which include Mexico, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Pohnpei and Guam - should us. If I find any requests too obnoxious, I'll just block those addresses."

"The 2000 cruising season for the San Francisco-based MacGregor 65 Final Frontier was a short one," report Steven and Aleta Hansen. "We only sailed 2,800 miles while continuing our journey westward from Fiji to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia. We had intended to visit the Solomon Islands - which has excellent dive sites - but armed militants took over the government so there was too much civil unrest. The highlights of our season were getting caught in the center of Tropical Depression 23F - this is just below hurricane/cyclone force - between Fiji and Vanuatu, which did in our faith in weather forecasts and weather routers; diving on the luxury liner S.S. Coolidge, which was sunk by U.S. Navy mines during World War II at Santo Island; enjoying the restaurants in the Latin Quarter of Noumea, New Caledonia, where three-course gourmet meals go for just $15. Our favorite was La Chaumiere. We're currently at Southport, Gold Coast, Australia."

"I'm on the threshold of bringing a Union Polaris 36 back to San Francisco from La Paz," writes John Greenman. "Any suggestions are welcome as I want to learn all I can about this trip." The good news is that November is traditionally the best time to head north, as the northwesterlies and accompanying seas are very light compared to the spring and summer. If you have a little patience, you can probably motor all the way north in mostly flat conditions. While fueling up in Cabo, visit Jim Elfers at Coast Chandlery, who literally wrote the book on the 'Baja Bash'.

Hello? Quite a few people headed to Mexico this fall have equipped their boats with Qualcomm phones that can also use the Globalstar satellite system. The only fly in the ointment was that they could only receive text but not voice in Mexico. It was a political rather than technical problem. Anyway, just 10 days before the start of the Ha-Ha - for which Qualcomm and Globalstar are the official communications suppliers - the problem was solved and now Qualcomm-Globalstar phone owners can now call out of Mexico and receive calls in Mexico.

"We expect to make it to Z-town by Christmas," report Lionel and Patricia Botting of the Cambell River, British Columbia-based Folkes 39 cutter Ankle Deep. "When we do, we'll be crossing the outbound track we started in 1995, and therefore will have completed our circumnavigation." As of September, the couple were still in Panama.

"We have to be careful what we say," report Rick and Liz Strand of the Sonoma-based Ericson 38 Sarah Elizabeth, "because the old-timers around here - meaning those who have been here two or more summers - blame the influx of cruisers in the Puerto Escondido area of Baja on the glowing Changes Liz wrote about the area earlier this year. Nonetheless, we want to put in a good word for the Hidden Port YC here, which really does a great job for cruisers. The club maintains a lighted dinghy dock, provides trash disposal, helps keep the great tasting water flowing free, and supplies free video checkouts. The club also puts on the Loreto Fest each May, which is not only fun, but features the annual beach clean-up. We haven't had a chance to attend one of the club's Sunday potluck brunches, but we hear that they are a big hit. True, nobody has to pay $10 for an annual membership, but we hope to make everyone who uses their facilities but doesn't join feel guilty! So please join and fly your burgee!

For those who didn't know, Rick and Liz were the King and Queen of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week - an annual cruiser event since the early '80s that almost didn't happen this year because of the same kind of La Paz cruiser politics that have repeatedly almost done in the event since its inception. According to the website of the sponsoring Club Cruceros de La Paz - - Carolyn Scott of Wind Dancer, who is the current commodore of Club Cruceros, took over the reins of Sailing Week with just two weeks to go and, with the help of many volunteers, managed to attract 55 boats and put on an enjoyable event. If the La Paz cruisers and former cruisers can keep from each others' throats, there should be another Sailing Week about the third week in April.

If you're going to La Paz and have any questions about: staying longer than six months; importing goods; port clearances; port and harbor fees; mail service; cars; mordida; money; medical and dental services; and language, visit the FAQ section of the Club Cruceros web page. The answers were written by Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz - who knows what she's talking about. Most answers apply to all of Mexico, not just La Paz.

Another 650 slips for the Sea of Cortez? Gary Rigdon of San Diego writes, "I am a principal in Bahia Kino Resorts at Bahia Kino on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez. This resort was started in the late 70's and halted in '82 with the fall of the Mexican economy. We will be restarting it soon, and have a presidential decree for at least 650 slips. Ours will be the most northerly recreational boat marina in the Sea of Cortez. In addition to being sheltered by the bay, it will be out of the hurricane zone and have tides similar to San Diego Bay. One of our associates, Paul Cote, well-known to West Coast cruisers and one of the founders of Greenpeace, did a study about the need for future marinas from Cabo up to Kino, and we know the demand is great. Nonetheless, we'd still like input from Latitude readers. They can contact me by ." Bahia Kino is about 80 miles north of Santa Rosalia and about 80 miles east of Bahia de Los Angeles. Kino is on the mainland side of Baja, of course, while Rosalia and B.L.A. are both on the Baja side.

It's November 1, let the Mexican cruising season begin! Bon voyage, everyone.

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