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November 2010

Missing the pictures? See the November 2010 eBook!

  With reports this month from Lazy Daze on a 24-day crossing to Hawaii; from
Azure II
on the Pimentel Family's continuing adventures in the Med; from Flashgirl on Mooloolaba, Australia; from Don Quixote on the Conger family giving up on giving up cruising; from Scarlett O'Hara on the good and the bad of the Sail Indonesia Rally; and Cruise Notes.

Lazy Daze — Ericson 41
Rick Daniels
Straight To Hawaii
(San Diego)

I finally sailed to Hawaii! I departed San Diego on July 9, and thought we made it in 24 days — but the log says it was only 23 days. No matter, as it was quite a ride and quite a sailing adventure!

I normally singlehand, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable with my boat sailing for long periods without anyone on deck. As much as I didn't want to have crew, it's such a long way to Hawaii that I decided I needed some. Taking crew turned out to be the right decision for me.

In order to find crew, I put a listing on Latitude's ‘Captains Looking for Crew’ list and also sent quite a few emails to people who had posted under ‘Crew Looking for Boats’. The first woman who responded and could fit my schedule sounded great when we communicated by email and chatted on the phone. As I was planning to do some glasswork on my foredeck at Catalina, I invited her along for a tryout of sorts. She showed up the day before we were to take off, and loaded her gear onboard. We had a pleasant evening until she pulled out a bag of 'ice'.

“Is this a problem?” she asked when she saw the alarmed look on my face.

“Drugs are a deal-breaker on my boat,” I replied as we offloaded her gear.

I went back to the list and found Bryan, a nice young guy, and his girlfriend. She decided not to go, but didn’t mind if Bryan did. When Tim answered my ad and we got on, we had our crew of three.

The first five or six days were frustrating. We got so close to San Clemente Island in the light winds that a patrol boat made us backtrack eight miles and turn south! Then we had days of no wind to speak of. Six days out, however, we got hit by such a strong blow that we were forced to run with the big swells for three days. Then we ‘squall surfed’ for a day. We’d be sailing in 5 to 10 knots of wind, see a squall, and track it down. Once in the squall, we’d have 20 knots of wind, so we’d run along the face of it. Once we'd sailed out of it, we’d look for another.

Once the weather cleared for a few days, we sailed with two poled-out headsails — during which time we caught two yellowfin tuna and three dorado. Before we made it to the islands, we’d set every sail combination possible on my boat — including flying the spinnaker.

Our original destination was Honolua Bay on Maui, but for the last five days we had 25 to 35 knots of wind, along with 10-ft waves stacking up on 15-ft swells. We sailed with all four reefs in the main for the remainder of the trip, and set the baby stay to provide additional support for the mast. Despite carrying so little sail, we ran at 6 to 8 knots most of the time. Nonetheless, the noise inside the boat was deafening, so none of us got much sleep. Since the weather was so bad and we weren’t getting much rest, we decided to divert to Kahului, Maui, which was closer than Honolua Bay.

Most of the equipment on Lazy Daze held up fine. To save money, I have a wheel-mounted autopilot rather than one mounted belowdecks. It performed well in all but high speed dead-downwind conditions. The belt finally broke 60 miles out, forcing us to hand-steer the rest of the way to port. The electric toilet broke almost immediately. I’m not sure why, but I’ll be replacing it with a manual one. Simple is best. The line for the boom vang broke, but that’s easy to replace. The cover for the starboard side jib sheet frayed badly, and ended up looking twice as old as the one on the port side. The shower sump quit — probably because I forgot to open the drain thru-hull while it was being used. But the damage and wear weren't bad.

My vintage Ericson stayed dry — except for the one sneaker wave that got us. The wave came from just off the bow and hit the side of the boat with such force that she was knocked 10 feet sideways. The wave rolled completely over the boat, and we took 20 or 30 gallons under the forward edge of the dodger and down the open hatch. We’d had the companionway boards in place, but the hatch had been left open to get air down below.

I was at the helm when the wave hit, and I estimate that it was no bigger than any of the others we'd been seeing. The difference is that it came from a different direction, and was very steep and nearly breaking at the top. It seemed to me that the wave was moving two or three times as fast as all the others. The sound of the wave hitting the hull was startling, but there was no damage.

My crew took a ferry to Honolulu the day after we arrived. Tim had no problem taking the rented EPIRB back, but the rented liferaft proved to be a big problem. It couldn’t go by air because the full cylinder qualified it as dangerous cargo. We ultimately had to use a freight forwarder to get the job done — at twice the price we’d figured. If anyone is going to rent a liferaft for a trip to Hawaii, make sure you first make arrangements to have it shipped back.

After saying good-bye to the crew in Kahului, I hung around for two weeks of recuperation before sailing to Lahaina on the backside of Maui. I stayed on a mooring belonging to a friendly and accommodating member of the Lahaina YC until I completed arrangements to sublet a mooring. It’s possible to anchor off Lahaina, but thanks to only a thin layer of sand over lava, it’s hard to get an anchor to really set, and boats frequently drag. The water is crystal clear out at the mooring, and it’s so warm that you can comfortably stay in until you ‘prune up’. I’ve also enjoyed being visited by two sea turtles.

My plan is to get a job here — slim pickings so far — for the winter in order to save money so that I can really check out the islands next summer. I’ll let you know what I find.

— rick 09/15/10

Azure II — Leopard 47
The Pimentel Family
Spain and Italy

When Rodney and I sailed to Mexico, the South Pacific, and New Zealand 10 years ago aboard our Jeanneau 36 Azure, we were younger and RJ and Leo hadn’t been born yet. As a result, we were willing to run the risks of going without boat or health insurance. Now that we have two children and a more expensive boat, we decided that both health and boat insurance are necessities for our current cruise to and around the Med.

We paid $5,250 to Willis Insurance for our first year of boat insurance, which covered everywhere in the world — except for Colombia and Cuba — as well as our transatlantic crossing. Since we're only cruising the Western Med this year, we managed to get insurance with well-respected Pantaenius for just $2,400/year. You almost have to have insurance to cruise the Med, as most marinas require proof of it, and sometimes it’s just not feasible to anchor out.

Our family of four pays $2,200 a year to Blue Water Insurance for health insurance — as long as we live outside of the United States for six months a year. There is a $5,000 deductible with the policy.

When you reach a country that is part of the European Union, you only have to check in that one time for the whole E.U. zone. You check in by bringing all your paperwork to a marina office, so you don't have to make a visit to Customs or Immigration. When you do check in, you get an authorization to keep your boat in the European Union zone for up to 18 months. If you stay longer than that, you either have to pay value added tax (VAT) on your boat, which is expensive, or simply check out to a non-EU country such as Croatia, Turkey, Malta or Tunisia. Once you check into a non-E.U. country, you can return to the European Union zone, at which point the 18-month clock starts ticking from scratch again. Of course, the non-E.U. countries have their own sets of rules and fees, so it takes some planning. For instance, other cruisers have told us that Croatia has become so popular that it's instituted fees for cruising, for hotel beds, and most recently for anchoring. As a result, we’re trying to decide whether we really want to go there.

The one thing that makes cruising the Med more expensive than other places is the high cost of marina slips. While we usually try to anchor out, we've had to stay at marinas in Portugal (the Azores), Spain and Italy. On the other hand, we were always able to anchor out on Mallorca, the biggest of Spain's Balearic Islands.

From June through September, we needed to stay in marinas about 30% of the time. Our 47-foot cat has a relatively large footprint, so we’ve had to pay anywhere from $40 to $110 a night. And we purposely avoided the most expensive places. Nonetheless, we’ve had a couple of things in our favor. First, the dollar was strong against the euro — although recently it’s taken a tumble. Second, the economic slowdown resulted in marinas not being full, giving us the opportunity to negotiate for lower rates. Some marinas even had ‘cat specials’, where we were able to pay the same price as a monohull.

We’re going to keep our boat in a marina in southern Italy for the rainy winter because the long term rates are much lower — about $550 a month — than in other places. This will allow us to return to the Bay Area for the holidays to visit family and friends without having to worry about our boat.

We’ve found the price of food and fuel to be reasonable in the Western Med. When we get to Greece and Turkey next summer, we’ll be able to anchor out almost all the time, and hopefully that will put us back on budget.

One disappointment has been trying to get reliable internet access on our boat — even in the marinas. It wasn’t until we got to Italy that we were able to buy a data card that allows us to use our iPhone as a tethering device.

We’ve found people in the Med to be friendly and helpful. While we always attempt to communicate in the local language, we thankfully have almost always been able to find people who speak English.

To catch up on our travels, we spent the last two weeks of August in magnificent Mallorca. The steep hills, clear water, and the capital of Palma were all wonderful. We primarily visited the south and west sides of the island: first, Porto Andraitx, then the little island of Dragonera, and lastly Porto de Soller. Dragonera is a nature preserve with no inhabitants. We were drawn to the top of the high hills, and were rewarded for our three-hour trek with beautiful views.

We then left the southern part of the island and went around to Port Soller on the northwest coast. Boats filled the anchorage, but we were able to squeeze into a great spot. From the port, we were able to take a 20-minute open-air tram ride to the quaint town of Soller. If you ever get to Soller, you must try an Orange Soller! They use organic oranges grown on the island to make a sorbet, then add fresh squeezed orange juice, light whipped cream, a dash of chocolate sauce, and a cookie. Mmmmm! And you enjoy the treat while sitting around a charming European plaza, making life very good indeed. We loved these Orange Sollers so much that we once walked the 1.5 miles into Soller to get more!

From Soller, we rode the historic 1912 Victorian train over the mountains to the capital of Palma. The old and mostly wooden train chugged over mountains and through tunnels, and had us hanging on during the twists and turns. It was way better than a Disney ride. We like our tasty beverages, so while in Palma we visited an old dairy cafe that has the best hot chocolate in Spain. It was like drinking a candy bar.
While in Porto de Soller, we finally met a few other American boats, and the English boat Revolution with Wesley, a nine-year-old whom our boys could relate to. Although it was fun meeting the locals, it was still great to enjoy some camaraderie with other Americans.

We then spent almost two weeks around Menorca, the second largest of the four Balearic Islands, which is only a short distance to the east of Mallorca. Cruisers we’d met raved about Menorca, saying it is less touristy and offers anchorages that aren’t surrounded by developments. There is a good reason Menorca is less developed than Mallora and Ibiza. When General Franco took power after the atrocious Spanish Civil War (1936-'39), he rewarded the loyalty of Mallorca and Ibiza with lots of development money. Menorca, which had sided with the Republicans, was punished by not getting any development funds. But today Menorca is having the last laugh, because the lack of high-rises and unchecked development is what makes the island so special and so different from the other Balearics.

Menorca lived up to its nickname of ‘the windy island’. Although we enjoyed the island, we didn’t like having to move from one side to the other because of the wind. We did, however, meet some great new friends aboard Juno and Time Warp, two American boats with boys onboard. So there were Monopoly parties, sleep-overs, and movies on Azure II, aka ‘the party palace’. It was sad to part ways, since these boats were leaving the Med as we were entering it.

We were thrilled to have Southern California friends Greg and Linda visit us as part of their two-week tour of Spain. And it wasn’t just because they brought us Peet’s coffee, Trader Joe’s peanut butter, school books, and two new faucets. By the time they arrived, we knew the ways of the Menorcan winds, and were familiar with the island. The timing of their visit happened to coincide with the wild and fantastic Jaleo de Menorca festival. We also spent two days at one of the many attractive anchorages, where we kayaked, hiked, and did some scuba diving. When their visit came to an end, we dropped them off at the dock in Mahon — where mayonnaise was created. Since there was a perfect weather window, we said goodbye to them and Spain, and set out for the big Italian island of Sardinia.

Buongiorno! We are loving our first days in Italy, as the people are friendly, the Sardinian countryside beautiful, and the wine and cheese delicious and inexpensive. It took us two days to sail to Sardinia from Menorca. The only downside in Carloforte was that it was the most expensive marina to date — over $100 — and that was with the low-season rate! We subsequently moved to the spectacular large bay of Porto Malfatano at the southern tip of the island, where we could anchor for free. We would have been happy to stay in Sardinia longer — it’s that lovely — but we needed to continue east. So we had another two-day sail to Sicily, which is where we are now. We’re enjoying yet another local festival, although this one doesn’t have horses that dance through the middle of packed crowds as in Menorca. But the couscous and fish are delicious in Sicily, and everyone we've met has been so warm and welcoming! I think we’re going to stay in Italy a while!

— rodney and jane 09/25/10

Flashgirl — Wylie 38+
Warwick and Nancy Tompkins
Mooloolaba, Queensland, Oz
(Mill Valley)

We’re here at Mooloolaba, a resort town of fewer than 10,000 some 60 miles northeast of Brisbane. It’s an all-weather harbor with marinas and residences fronting the entire inland waterway. Some of the houses are quite grand, but even the lesser ones have a gangway or float with some sort of water toy — be it a Jet Ski, paddleboard, outrigger canoe, launch, or yacht. Everybody seems to be water-oriented. Flashgirl is currently anchored in what’s known as the ‘town basin’, the only place with enough depth so that she — with her 9-ft draft — can float on all tides. Given the thin water, it’s no wonder there are so many catamarans in the area.

Lawrie’s is the only facility for hauling yachts in Mooloolaba, but it's a good one — and one familiar to many West Coast cruisers who have come this way. I think the prices are reasonable: $4.45/ft to haul, $30 for hardstand props, and $1.55/ft for lay days. The prices are probably 40% lower than in big population centers such as Sydney and Brisbane.

The yard did a superior job of painting Flashgirl’s topsides with Alexseal, a paint formulated by the same fellow who created Awlgrip those many years ago. It’s an improvement, we hear, and very much favored by the ‘mega-slut’ yachts that seem to be proliferating. The bottom was stripped to the original gel coat and painted with an anti-fouling made by the same company that produces Alexseal. In my opinion Micron 66 is the preferred product because it's easy to spray on smoothly, is good at preventing growth, and is durable. Micron 66 is also the most expensive.

Having finally gotten the last bit of painting done during a break in 10 days of intermittent rain, we're therefore ready to head to the Great Barrier Reef, which starts about 200 miles north.

I get my overall sense of the weather in this part of Queensland from Alan Lucas’ Cruising the Coral Coast, as well as those old standbys, the pilot charts. Thank you, Matthew Fontaine Maury, who inadvertently became the father of oceanography as the result of a stagecoach accident that ended his career on navy ships. It was Maury who began utilizing all the ships' logs to create the ships' pilot charts. I can’t help but wonder if anyone besides us has a complete set of pilot charts for both the North and South Pacific.

The pilot charts and Lucas agree that the cyclone season along this coast doesn’t begin until the end of December or early January. As for now, early October, Lucas speaks of predominant southeasterlies some 1,400 miles to Cape York, which is the northeastern tip of the continent. At this point in the season, however, the southeasterlies are likely to come and go, interspersed with northerlies which can blow for 30-48 hours. These northers sometimes blow fresh, which I take to mean 25 to 35 knots. One would want to take shelter while these were blowing. Lucas doesn’t speak much about temperatures, but my pilot charts tell me that here at 27°S, the mean temperature is about 71°, with the sea temp about the same. At Cape York and the Torres Strait, we’re expecting air and water temperatures of about 82°.

Along the east coast of Australia there is a strong south-setting current that occasionally reaches four knots, and comes with eddies and meanders. This adverse current makes the north-bound passage a coast-hugging business, so the navigator doesn’t get a lot of sleep. When we came north to Mooloolaba from Sydney, a passage of about 550 miles, we were seldom more than a few miles offshore at night, and frequently much closer during the day. This East Australian Current is also present inside the Great Barrier Reef, but with lesser velocity.

The width of the ‘protected’ water diminishes as one goes north inside the Barrier Reef, which shuts off all the open ocean swell. One sails in wind chop, with restricted fetch. At the south end of the reef, that fetch is about 80 miles east-west, but it’s much less as one approaches the Torres Strait. If the wind blows hard parallel to the coast, a sea will naturally rise because of the much longer fetch in those directions. Fortunately, one can usually expect either SE or NW winds, which are somewhat athwart the waterways. Once in the Barrier Reef area, there are countless anchorages.

We’ve met numerous boats from Northern California during our last few years of cruising. While in Tonga, we visited with the Easterlys, of the Santa Cruz 50 Red Sky, who subsequently sold the boat to David Addleman in Malaysia. While in Tonga we also met Jim Fryer, who was sailing his Wylie 34 Cheyenne. He and his boat have returned to San Francisco. Over the last few days we have befriended Steve and Dorothy Darden sailing — cripes! — the 52-ft catamaran Adagio that was designed by M&M with much consultation from Carl Schumacher. The Dardens, who lived in Tiburon for a number of years, are citizens of the world, with berths in Hobart, Tasmania, and San Francisco — among other places. While in New Zealand, we met with former Bay Area resident Glen Andert on his N/M 55 Learjet. He doesn't seem as if he's headed back to the States anytime soon. While in Darwin, we met Bill and Janet Wickman, two former airline pilots from McKinleyville, CA, sailing something called Airstream. What great folks! Also among our favorite people are Dave and Anna Fourie, he of South Africa, she of England. The couple bought the Hughes 38 Thula Mama in Oregon, sailed her down the coast, spent a lot of time in San Francisco, then took off across the Pacific. We met them in Tahiti, and sailed to several islands in company with them. They ended up in Brisbane, Australia, where they obtained permanent residence. After selling their Hughes, they bought a Radford 46, and are about to depart Darwin for Singapore with a new crewman — their nearly year-old son. There are cruisers out here from all over the world, and they are going everywhere you can imagine.

The publisher of Latitude had some questions for me about Flashgirl that I’ll now attempt to answer. I haven’t kept close count, but she has about 25,000 miles beneath her keel since her launching 10 years ago. After crossing the Pacific, we have spent rather a lot of time alongshore in both New Zealand and Australia, and in addition did a 5,000-mile delivery of an awful yellow catamaran to Japan.

I truly enjoy Flashgirl. Her sailing characteristics are above reproach. I could not possibly be so happy with what most would describe as a ‘true cruising boat’! Our boat — like so many — is a trifle too small to live in with great facility, or for the longer ocean crossings. She is, by design from the outset, the largest boat I could hope to afford to build myself and to maintain. I think it a great error to involve oneself with a vessel beyond one’s means, and spend one’s time scrimping and saving, establishing priorities as to what will be repaired or replaced, and what will not. I’ve been at sea since I was in diapers nearly 80 years ago, and I know that real safety at sea does not come from a number of PFDs or a satphone, but rather from the finest gear, all in working order and vigilance on the part of the operator, coupled with enough experience to know how to operate both the vessel and the gear.

I entered a form of trap when I built Flashgirl, for I decided that I would design and fabricate parts that would be aesthetically satisfying as well as functional. This entailed much extra work and time, along with some additional expense. But now I can greatly enjoy our boat merely by looking at many of those parts. As such, the ‘trap’ was a huge success.

Like most boats, Flashgirl is a collection of compromises. In my case, I leaned heavily toward performance, and tried for simplicity. Thank God for the latter, as I find the electronics and mechanics to be plenty daunting and complex!

Flashgirl’s rig, her sails, and all allied gear have worked nearly flawlessly. Hanked-on headsails have been just right, although we are almost always the only boat around not carrying what Jim Jessie — the retired surveyor and circumnavigator from Alameda — once called ‘roller failing’ headsails. As I approach my 80th birthday, I occasionally wonder if that will change.

Flashgirl is unusual in that she was designed and built with a lifting keel. Deep draft is a great thing for sailing efficiency, while shoal draft is great for getting alongshore. Our keel is presently fixed in the down position, as I failed to properly understand and apply the correct engineering at the outset. I yearn for the lifting keel, have a design for it, and hope to implement it one day. Meanwhile, we sail with over 9-foot draft on a 38-ft boat, which is extremely inconvenient along the east coast of Australia. With close attention to tidal issues, we are managing adequately, even here in Mooloolaba where the water is quite thin indeed!

I truly love the way Flashgirl looks and the way she feels under sail. The water-ballast is wonderful, most often good to keep her upright and comfortable, and to give us an extra half-knot or so of speed. A new and different boat is not imaginable — short of our winning a very large lottery. But if it were, I would have Tom Wylie draw me a 46-footer, similar to Ahava, but a cutter, sporting a big enough rig so that there would be no need for overlapping sails. The shrouds would be PBO with chainplates at the sheer, making the side-decks more pleasant. The rig would be fractional, and I would have a ‘gull-wing’ boom of carbon fiber. She would have a power-driven anchor windlass, and the hull would have an inch or more of coring for insulation in the tropics. She would have a lifting keel, very much like the one currently in Flashgirl, but I would spend much time and money on the engineering. The sailing characteristics of a deep, narrow fin are wonderful!

— warwick 10/05/10

Don Quixote — Lagoon 380
The Conger Family
Back from NZ to Puddle Jump
(Seattle / New Zealand / Mexico)

The girls are coming back — then taking off again! We’re referring to the well-known-in-Mexico Conger girls, Jaime, 15, Mera, 12, and Aeron, 10. The Seattle-based girls did the ‘08 Ha-Ha with their parents Dean and Toast, then cruised Mexico for two very active seasons. Toast and the girls even had some big excitement, for after a trip home to Seattle, they returned to Don Quixote in Santa Rosalia, minus Dean, who was still working, just in time to get whacked by hurricane Jimena. Scary stuff.

After two seasons in Mexico, the family decided to relocate in New Zealand. Rather than sail there on Don Quixote, they put their cat up for sale in La Paz and flew to the Land of the Long White Cloud aboard a 777. They received a warm welcome in Auckland, as virtually all their stuff was stolen the first week.

We recently learned that the Conger gals will be returning to Don Quixote at the beginning of Feburary, followed by Dean a month later. For they've changed their plans once again, and now intend to depart La Paz in mid-March on a Puddle Jump. We asked Toast for an explanation.

"We’ve had mixed feelings about New Zealand. It’s very much like Seattle, which is probably why we’re restless and not particularly enthusiastic about staying there. If we wanted to live a normal Pacific Northwest sort of life, we’d do it in the real Pacific Northwest, where we could make more money and buy cheap romano at Costco. New Zealand is beautiful, green, lush, and friendly — just like the Pacific Northwest. When we were in Mexico, at least we knew we were in a foreign country, and were having new experiences. It's hasn't been so much that way here in New Zealand, for within a matter of months even the roads and place names didn’t sound strange. When you get right down to it, there isn’t much difference between Pukekohe and Issaquah. A native place name is a native place name, and the towns pretty much look identical, with lovely little main streets, dollar stores, cafes and restaurants with the gas stations, and the big box stores on the highway leading into town.

"We don’t want to give anyone the impression we’re bitter or disappointed with New Zealand. It’s just that if asked to recommend a place that's exotic and interesting to visit, New Zealand wouldn’t be at the top of our list. That said, New Zealand is a very good place to plump the cruising kitty. It would be ‘great’, not just 'good', except that Kiwi businesses don't pay as well as they do in the U.K., United States, or Australia. Nonetheless, well-trained Americans and Canadians can get a good job in pretty much all the white collar sectors, and many of the blue collar ones, too. Of interest to some readers, boat riggers and mechanics are — as can be seen on the Kiwi immigration website — short-listed for New Zealand visas.

"As for Jaime, our oldest, she likes New Zealand so much that she plans to return and become a citizen. She’s going to graduate — which you are allowed to do here any time after age 16 — and apply for college in New Zealand. Mera and Aeron like New Zealand well enough, but they would much rather return to Don Quixote and home-schooling. The girls have become world citizens, however, so don’t hold your breath on any of them voluntarily returning to live in the United States. In fact, it’s their restlessness as much as Dean’s and my own that is pushing the family out of our Kiwi suburban nest. All of us are super enthusiastic about doing the Puddle Jump in the spring.

"As for myself, I'm soooo looking forward to being back on our catamaran.

"I see that Heather Bansmer and Shawn Breeding, the folks who produced the terrific Sea of Cortez, A Cruiser's Guide, have just released their new book, Pacific Mexico, A Cruiser's Guide. This is good news for cruisers in Mexico, but also brings me to my latest news. I am so frickin’ frustrated with the quality — or lack thereof — of the cruising guides for the Puddle Jumpers that I’ve started writing my own. I’ve got notions of 'crowd-sourcing' it, so it would basically be Active Captain without all the heavy overhead or the necessity to connect to the internet. As you know, I’m a internet social network geek, but I’m also a technical writer by trade. So I’ve got the chops to put this together. We’ll see how far I go with it.

"But, I will have a free hard copy of the draft that I’ll be happy to share with all of next year’s Puddle Jumpers. I’ll worry about a revenue-sustaining model for the next season. Heh, that makes me just about as stupid as every other blogger on the internet. At least I’m in good company.

"We’re all eager to return to Don Quixote, although she's completely empty because we were trying to sell her. That means we're to going to have to do a complete reprovisioning in La Paz in the month before we Puddle Jump. Shopping. Ugh. My least favorite thing to do.

— toast 10/10/10

Scarlett O’Hara
John and Renee Prentice
Indonesia Rally Review
(San Diego)

The Darwin to Indonesia Rally appealed to us mostly because it would save us time and trouble going through the complicated paperwork process for Indonesia, and because it meant we wouldn’t have to pay for a bond for our boat while she was in the country. In these respects, the rally did what it claimed it would do. Obtaining our CAIT (cruising permit), visas, and clearance papers in Darwin was a snap. In addition, the parties in Darwin were well-organized, and the communication with the fleet was excellent. The Darwin Sailing Club went out of its way to assist us with everything from bus schedules to information about where to find what in Darwin.

The provisioning in Darwin was great. I can’t stress enough how how very important provisioning is before sailing on to Indonesia. During our first six weeks there, we found very little to supplement our provisions. The Indonesians must not eat much meat, as it was terribly hard to find any. The only chickens we saw were alive — although people readily offered to kill them for us. This, of course, took us some getting used to. Where was Costco when we needed it? I've always provisioned extensively, and this is one time that it really paid off.

Sail Indonesia had two courses, one to Kupang and the other to Banda. We went to Kupang and had an uneventful passage of three days. The officials in Kupang were ready for us, and the organization, once again, was terrific. A mass check-in/check-out was held, and all seemed to go well. From there, the rally once again offered different routes, and we chose to go to the island of Roti. This is where the rally started to go downhill.

It soon became all too apparent that the rally stops hadn't been chosen because they had good anchorages, but rather because of what the town had apparently offered the organizers in return for bringing the fleet to them. The town of Baa, for instance, expected 100 boats, yet only 10 showed up. The anchorage was very poor, and couldn’t have held more than 10 boats anyway. We spent two unpleasant nights there before we bailed out and went to the southern part of Roti — where we found a most incredible anchorage off the Nemberala Beach Resort. What a great place! It sits on a prime piece of beachfront overlooking the famous surf break of the same name. We met surfers from all over the world who had come just for the fabulous surf. The bar was stocked with cold — for once — beer, the owners were friendly, and the atmosphere was great.

There is not much in the way of cruising guides for Indonesia. We had a hardbound copy of Southeast Asia Cruising Guide, Volume II, but it was just a very general guide to a huge area of ocean dotted with countless islands. Based on the rave reviews of the rally staff, we, like many others, also purchased a copy of 101 Anchorages Within the Indonesian Archipelago that organizers had been flogging. Unfortunately, it would seem that the author must not have been a sailor, and worse, had obviously never been to some of the so-called anchorages. A lot of our cruising friends had similar experiences with the other places the 101 guide sent them.

As a result, we’d make a passage to what was supposed to be a great anchorage, only to find the bottom was either covered in coral or so deep that anchoring was all but impossible. The only option was to continue on through the night — which is downright dangerous in Indonesian waters because of unlit fishing boats, and fishing boats illuminated with strange lights, as well as large floating bamboo structures that rarely showed up on radar. We eventually hit one such bamboo structure, but luckily suffered no major damage to our boat.

We also found that the 101 book had many errors, such as listing the same GPS coordinates for more than one anchorage, claiming sandy bottoms where there was coral, and so forth. Despite this, we used the guide, as we had nothing else to go by.

By the third rally stop, most of the fleet was upset about the terrible places that had been chosen for stops. On the other hand, most enjoyed the festivities ashore, for the towns that hosted rally stops really went out of their way to entertain and feed us. But it was sad, because most of the towns were dirty, the people very poor, and supplies extremely limited. So despite having put up money and having made a big effort to attract future tourists, they aren't going to get them. Given the poor anchoring conditions, even sailors won't be returning. We felt as though towns got gypped by the organizers.

It wasn’t until we got to the Lombok/Bali area that we finally found things like meat and chicken breasts. Don’t laugh, eating is important out here! Given the previous anchorages, the one at Lovina Beach, Bali, was surprisingly good. The locals were very helpful, too, as they ran down diesel, gas, water, and anything else we needed. And the shopping in the nearby large city was very good.

Unfortunately, this is also where — in our view — the rally simply fell apart. The organizers and Indonesian representatives had promised many participants that their visas would be renewed promptly — for a fee, of course. And that these visa renewals would be ready when they arrived in Lovina. But they were not ready. Many boatowners didn’t get their renewals until the end of our time in Bali, at which point we got the news that our paperwork had been done incorrectly at Kupang and would have to be redone in Lovina!

What made it worse was that the rally representatives failed to explain what was going on. This mess lasted for three days, during which time the grapevine seemed to suggest that something new and different would be required. Some boats had left before finding out about the errors, so we can only hope they were able to check out of Indonesia without any huge problems. The Indonesian organizers were simply incompetent.

The highlights of our time in Indonesia were at the Komodo Islands, where we saw the dragons on the beach, and had fabulous snorkeling. We loved the Kumai River, where we went into the jungle to see the orangutans. We also came across some of the most wonderful anchorages we’ve ever been to. When we found a good one, we tried to spend a week. Among our favorites were at the northeast part of Adunara Island, Teluk Ginggo, North Komodo Island, and Gili Air.

Although some people thought the air temps were too hot, we thought they were exceptionally nice. In fact, we enjoyed more evenings on our aft deck than we did in Mexico! The downside of the pleasant weather was that there wasn’t much wind. As a result, we motored more than we have ever motored before. It is unfortunate that the distances are so great, because we had to make some overnight passages. For the final 500 miles or so of our cruise through Indonesia, we had to dodge fishing boats and freighters on a regular basis. Watches were very stressful due to the traffic and the fact that the weather became more unstable as we neared the equator.

Yes, we would do the rally again, but only for the paperwork. For although it got messed up, it eventually was corrected. We’re not sure anybody could have gotten the paperwork done without outside help. In our opinion, the biggest problem with the rally is that the organizers and rally representatives are promoters, not sailors. We also feel sorry for the many Indonesian towns that didn’t seem to get anywhere near what they had been promised by the promoters. We would like to thank all the host towns for their hospitality, and we’d like to tell the organizers, "It’s time to get your act together!

— renee 10/08/10

Cruise Notes:

When you hear cruisers say they feel safer in Mexico than they do in the United States, you shouldn't roll your eyes. Despite the fear-mongering, fact-ignoring stories by the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and CNN, there is good reason for cruisers to feel the way they do. For yes, despite the highly-publicized narco violence in certain well-known areas of Mexico, the rate of death by firearms is actually higher — often much higher — in the United States.

For Mexico as a whole, the death by firearms rate for the first half of ‘10 was 5.36 per 100,000. For the United States as a whole, it was 10.2 per 100,000 — or nearly twice as high! Not exactly common knowledge, is it? If the U.S. media truly want to warn American travelers about going to dangerous places, where are their warnings about the U.S. Virgin Islands, 'America's Caribbean Paradise'? In ‘07, the U.S. Virgin Islands' death by firearm rate was 37.6 per 100,000 — more than six times as great as the rate in Mexico. Let’s not kid ourselves, as there are some very dangerous places in Mexico, too. The northern state of Chihuahua, where notoriously violent Ciudad Juarez is located, is the worst of them all. But even it has a lower rate of death by firearms than do the U.S. Virgins.

Going to cruise to Puerto Vallarta this winter? You have reason to feel safe. So far this year, Jalisco, the Mexican state in which P.V. is located, has had a death by firearm rate of just 2.92 per 100,000, which is about 40% of the rate in California, about 30% of the rate in the southwestern United States, and about 8% of the rate in the U.S. Virgins. Would anyone like to offer any theories on why the U.S. press so greatly exaggerates the violent death story in Mexico, and so under-reports it in the United States?

No matter if you’re in the States or in Mexico, the key to safety is staying away from the well-known dangerous areas, not looking for drugs, and not flashing wealth. In other words, don't be an idiot. To the best of our knowledge, the only narco violence along the Pacific Coast of Mexico has been in the megalopolis of Acapulco, where there has been some terrible narco-on-narco violence. Nonetheless, we wouldn't avoid Acapulco any more than we'd avoid San Francisco or Oakland because of their drug violence. We'd be particularly careful, to be sure, but we wouldn't avoid them. So as we're about to cast off for another season in Mexico, from the bottom of our hearts, we believe that we’re going to a safer place than the United States. And the facts support our belief. If that changes, we'll be the first to let you know.

Here's a taste of upcoming events for cruisers in Mexico this winter with a list of some of them:

Nov. 11 — Governor’s Cup, a four-day, casual rally from Cabo to La Paz right after the finish of the Ha-Ha, sponsored by Veleros de Baja. The group also puts on one themed race each month out of La Paz through the month of June to “get boats off the dock.” Everyone welcome.

Nov. 25 — Turkey Day. Although there was no Mayflower to Mexico, everywhere American cruisers gather, there will be turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

Nov. 30 - Dec. 3 — Banderas Bay Blast and Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run from Punta Mita to Puerto Vallarta. This is ‘nothing serious’ racing — no handicaps or finish times, so everybody is a winner — that coincides with the annual opening of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, the Water Balloon Drop from the Nayarit Riviera Marina Sky Bar, the Pirate’s Costume Ball, and much other silly stuff. There is no entry fee, but Blast t-shirts are sold to raise money for local charities. Sponsored by the Punta Mita Y&SC and Vallarta YC.

Dec. 4 — Vallarta YC Chili Cook-Off. The club’s biggest charity event of the year is a gas, if you catch our drift, attracting upward of 500 people, many of them cruisers or retired cruisers.

Dec. 25 — Christmas. Feliz Navidad, no matter if you’re up at Loreto or down at Bahia Navidad.

Feb. 4 — Puddle Jump Kick-Off Party, Paradise Marina, Nuevo Vallarta. Latitude’s Andy ‘Mr. Puddle Jump’ Turpin and representatives from French Polynesia will be on hand to answer all your questions and help you avoid having to post the normal bond that is so expensive.

Feb. 1-6 —Zihua SailFest. This is the 9th year for the hugely successful cruiser fund-raiser that includes a fun race, a boat parade, and countless other cruiser and community events. SailFest supports four schools and 400 grateful students, and attracts matching funds. A truly free and worthy cause.

Feb. 12 — Puddle Jump Kick-Off Party at the Balboa YC in Panama City, Panama. Latitude’s Andy ‘Mr. Puddle Jump’ Turpin and officials from French Polynesia will again be on hand to answer everyone's questions and explain the various programs.

March 3-8 — Carnival in Mazatlan. It may not rank with Rio, but Mazatlan’s festive Carnival is the best in Mexico and shouldn’t be missed.

March 12 - April 1 — El Salvador Rally. This one starts in Mexico and meanders rally style to the Bahia del Sol Hotel in El Salvador, where owner Marco Zablah is again putting up $1,800 in prizes. Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Hawaii-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu started the event last year to raise awareness of the rewards of cruising El Salvador.

April 28-30, Loreto Fest. Hundreds of attendees, some even from boats, attend this very popular fund-raiser for local schools.

May 1-7 — Sea of Cortez Sailing Week. This year’s event will be a month later than in prior years to take advantage of warmer water. In addition, the event will start from Loreto and cover the 125 miles to the finish at La Paz. Lots of fun racing with friends, but no entry fee.

For those lucky enough to have their boat or be able to charter a boat in the Caribbean, we’ve got some other suggestions:

March 4-7 —Heineken Regatta, St. Martin. Charter a boat and have a go — but only if you have no objection to competitive racing with several hundred other boats, and heavy drinking fueling wild partying. One of the most popular regattas in the Caribbean, this one is not for sissies.

March 7-8 — Carnival! The biggest is in Trinidad, but there are also great celebrations on all the other islands. Sometimes smaller is more fun, too. On the French Islands, they burn an effigy of Vaval the plantation owner on March 9 for one last evening of fun.

March 24-27 —St. Barth Bucket, where owners of boats over 100 feet long battle to win one of the 40 coveted slots in the fun regatta. The event offers the opportunity to see great yachts, modern and classic, in spectacular sailing conditions. The social scene in the intimate harbor sizzles, too.

March 28 - April 3 —BVI Spring Regatta. Charter a bareboat and let the rum and good times roll. Once again, drinking, partying and sailing go together in the Caribbean, so be prepared.

April 4-9 —Voiles de St. Barth. Antigua Sailing Week as done by the French. C’est tres bien, non?

April 14-19 —Antigua Classic Regatta, for classic and spirit of tradition yachts only. For spectators and/or folks wanting to crew on boats, this is one of the best events in the Caribbean.

April 21-25 —Bequia Easter Regatta. Small island, small regatta, but huge fun! Nothing-serious racing in all kinds of boats, plus countless other activities on one of the best little islands in the Caribbean.

April 24-29 —Antigua Sailing Week. This is the wild and crazy tropical sailing event that launched the concept of sailing weeks for the rest of the world. Although now shortened to just four days and nowhere near as wild as it once was, it’s still a prestige event in the Caribbean.

Given all the different islands, cultures and boats in the Caribbean, there is no end to sailing events, particularly in the winter and spring months. All At Sea magazine and Caribbean Compass are two good sources of information.

No whining about the wines in Mexico — that’s the word from Pete and Susan Wolcott of the Kauai-based M&M 52 cat Kiapa. “If you want really good wine in Mexico, you’ll want to bring a whole supply from California. But we found lots of very acceptable wines from the Baja region, and even a handful of exquisite wines, and at great values. Our two favorite labels are Santo Tomas and L.A. Cetto. We found barbera, nebbiolo, (dry) rose, and chardonnay that were muy muy sabrosa. Ensenada is a great place to sample and load up. Once you’ve identified your favorites, you can find them at the bigger retail outlets in Cabo, La Paz, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.”

"Several folks panned Mexican tuna in 'Lectronic as being 'pet food'," note Bruce and Alean Balan of the California-based Cross 45 trimaran Migration. "They are doing folks a disservice. Haven't they ever tried chipotle tuna? Delicious! You also talk about Delo 400 being expensive in Mexico. Well, it's very expensive in New Zealand, as in $24 to $34 U.S. a gallon. We wished we'd lugged 10 gallons across the Pacific. Our great season in Tonga is coming to an end. We're heading back to New Zealand in November, but we'll be stopping at Minerva Reef, where we'll celebrate getting married there a year ago."

"I just read the 'Lectronic about myths of Mexico," writes Dick Dueck of the Mazatlan-based Cal 2-46 Blue. "One of the myths that needs dispelling is that Delo 400 has to be expensive in Mexico. Total Yacht Works in Mazatlan sells it for $16 U.S. a gallon, plus IVA of 16%. That's about $5 more expensive than at Costco in the States, but I'm happy to pay the extra money so I don't have to lug it around and so I can help keep Total's owner, Robert Buchanan, in business. He's truly one of the really great engine guys in Mexico, and he won't rip you off, do shoddy work, or use substandard parts."

Originally from Canada, Buchanan has earned an excellent reputation over the years.

"Having left my cat in the Sea of Cortez for the summer, I'll be picking her up and heading down to Banderas Bay soon," reports fun-loving Arjan Bok, who spent five years building his Lidgard 43 cat RotKat on the San Francisco waterfront. "I'm thinking about stopping at Altata, which is on the mainland coast of the Sea of Cortez, on the way down. It looks like an interesting place, what with the locals using sails on their pangas to catch shrimp. The bar entrance will, of course, be challenging, but after San Blas, I found that cats like mine love surfing into new places!"

Cruisers love Thailand, and Thailand loves cruisers. But sometimes there are communication issues. That’s why the Tourism Authority of Thailand created Speak Thai, a free mobile phone app that “let’s you visit Thailand worry-free with over 2,500 words and phrases for all your needs.” The press release claims “you can communicate with the Thai people anywhere, anytime, with a few touches. Install this app on your phone, and you’ll have the power to speak Thai at your fingertips.”

To suggest that one really would have the power to speak Thai at one's fingertips is overselling the app just a smidgen, but it can be very helpful, particularly with understanding the proper way to pronounce common niceties such as ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘where is the bathroom’, as well as assist in asking more probing questions, such as, ‘Why does the government allow the taxi mafia to rip off all the tourists?' As most people know, there are similar phone apps for all major languages, and they can make life in foreign countries a little easier and a lot more fun.

We intended to run Part Two of Geja’s third season in the Med this month, but ran out of space. Since there are lots of lovely photos to go with his report, it will make for even more fun reading in December, wouldn't you agree?

Caribbean 1500 organizers report that as of early October, they had 75 paid entries for the November 1 cruiser rally from Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola in the British Virgins. That’s a healthy jump in entries from last year, and if we’re not mistaken, an all time record fleet. While most 1500 entries are from the East Coast, a few are from out West. These include Tom and Diane Might of the Scottsdale-based Hallberg-Rassy 62 Between the Sheets; Mike and Sharon Dow of the Gold River, CA-based Beneteau 49 Charmed Life; and Art Urbin of the San Jose-based Catalina-Morgan 440 Destiny.

This 21st running of the 1500 will be the last for founder Steve Black, who has guided the crews of more than 2,000 boats along this route, which is normally much more challenging than the Ha-Ha. Starting next year, the event will be run by World Cruising Ltd, who manage the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and other cruising rallies. As for Black, he’s tuning up a nearly new Pacer 42 for cruising in the Caribbean. He deserves it for a job well done over two decades.

“My Virgin Islands-based Hunter 54 Botox Barbie lost her stick in hurricane Earl, and about 12 large boats went up in just Crown Bay, Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands,” reports Warren Stryker, “I’ve seen a lot of hurricanes down here, including the one that sank Fifties Girl, the Bounty II I sailed here from Sausalito nearly 30 years ago. But Earl was a weird one. He barely reached hurricane strength until well after he’d passed us to the north. But then a standing wave and a big gust came out of the west, and 10 or so boats were dispatched to destruction. I’d been onshore watching the area until about 30 minutes before this happened, and everthing looked fine. But there were a lot of folks who stayed around to witness the wave, and they swear that it looked like a tsunami.”

“A couple of hours later,” Stryker continues, “I was diving in zero visibility looking for Barbie’s mast, trying to get it from under my mooring, where it was rudely prodding my Barbie’s bottom. A couple of days later, John Phillip, my son, dove and found the sunken remains of a friend’s boat. The friend generously offered us anything we wanted off her. So the second generation member of Piranha Yacht Renewables sunk his teeth into the heart-breaking remains of an incredibly equipped singlehanded ocean racer. Her 70-ft carbon spar was shattered into multiple pieces with no hope of restoration, so I’m still looking for a replacement stick. But the Piranha was not to go hungry, and the booty will help Barbie find a new mast and get her groove back. Despite all inevitable staph issues after storm diving, breathing all the compressed air seems to have renewed me. I feel like I’m 30 years younger, and will no doubt get it up — the new mast, that is — by Christmas.

“Having had my Cabo Rico 38 Sanderling so badly damaged by being hit while underway by another vessel one night in the Bahamas, I’m no longer ‘out there’,” writes John Anderson, who had nearly 10 good years of cruising the Caribbean after starting out from Alameda. “But a cruising forum is reporting that there will be some changes at very popular Elizabeth Harbor at Georgetown in the Exumas. The anchorage will no longer be free, as every boat will have to pay the harbormaster $30 a week. There may even be a $2/bag charge for garbage. Because of an overabundance of lazy, rude and inconsiderate floating squatters who pumped their waste overboard, everyone will now be required to use a pump-out service, too. So get ready to ‘pay to play’. It’s one more free anchorage down the tubes. On the other hand, I’ve got a feeling that the quality of the ‘10-’11 cruising fleet will be exponentially improved there.”

At the southern end of the Bahamas, Georgetown is often the turnaround point for folks doing a winter cruise from Florida. It’s also known as ‘Chickentown’, for it’s here that folks who had planned to continue on to the Eastern Caribbean are faced with some potentially tough open water passages, and more than a few chicken out. We're told that it's not uncommon for there to be 400 boats in Georgetown at the height of the season.

As reported a few months back, Richard and Lori Boren of the Morro Bay-based Pearson 365 Third Day flew up from Mexico in June to buy a Hudson 52 ketch so they’d have a larger cruising boat for what they say will be their family’s last season in Mexico. We asked for a comparison of the two boats.

“The good points are that there are now two wooden doors between the kids and us, and her bowsprit is intimidating enough to frighten others from anchoring right in front of us. The downside is that our fuel consumption went up along with our slip fees, and the amount of external teak went from almost none on the Pearson to the equivalent of a Taiwanese teak forest on our new-to-us ketch. But overall, our whole crew loves the new floating house that happens to have sails.”

Officials were stunned when tourism in Mexico jumped 20% this summer over last summer. The increase is expected to continue through the winter, as last winter Mexico tourism was savaged by a combination of the H1N1 flu hysteria — remember that mostly non-event? — and fears of narco violence. Americans and Canadians have apparently realized that narco violence in Mexico has so far been restricted to certain known areas — just the way it is in American cities. As a result, Americans and Canadians have been flocking back, to the beach resorts in particular. It’s also interesting to note that the Mexican stock market hit an all-time high in mid-October, the peso has risen 5.5% against the dollar in the last few months, and despite the narco violence, major international companies are continuing to make major investments in what is, after all, Latin America’s second largest economy after Brazil. Viva Mexico!

Here's to a great new season!

Missing the pictures? See the November 2010 eBook!


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