With reports this month
from Secret O' Life on the latest
in Mexico; from Velella on receiving
news of terrorist attacks while enroute from Bora Bora to Rarotonga;
from Tranquilo on the free anchorage
in Mazatlan; from Dolphin Spirit
on skipper responsibility and proper anchoring; from Estrellita
on a last-minute decision to do Mexico; from Suntrekka
on the downwind sail from Trinidad to Panama; from Silhouette
on the Ha-Ha; and Cruise Notes.
Life - Union 36
Latest From Mexico
(Eagle Harbor, Washington)
Here's some of the latest - mid-November - news from Mexico.
San Blas: We visited there a week ago, and after contacting Norm
Goldie, had it confirmed that the Port Captain continues to require
the use of a ship's agent. So in addition to having to pay 290
pesos - about $30 - for checking in, you also have to pay 200
pesos - more than $20 - for the ship's agent. Fortunately for
us, the ship's agent was out of town for a few days, so the Port
Captain allowed us to do our own paperwork. While our boat was
anchored at Mantanchen Bay, we took a road trip to the Mexcaltitan
Island, near Santiago, which is inland and supposedly the birthplace
of the ancient Aztecs. It was interesting - and since we went
by bus, inexpensive.
Playa Chacala: There are new palapas on the beach - which is
cleaner than the last time I visited - a Telmex phone in the
center of the village, and lots of activity. There's also a huge
new communications tower on the hill just above the Governor's
mansion. We were the only boat at anchor for the day that we
were there, and enjoyed the solitude. Chacala is still a wonderful
Puerto Vallarta: When it comes to anchoring in the traditional
spot at the Entrada to Puerto Vallarta's port, the answer is
definitely nada! Having heard from some cruisers in La Paz that
the Entrada was once again 'open', we went in, dropped the hook,
and spent a couple of hours rigging two secure stern lines ashore.
We were relaxing and anticipating the sunset, when the Port Captain's
boat approached. His stern - but polite - message was "No
anchoring here". He insisted that we leave right then, not
the next day. When we asked where it was possible to anchor,
he pointed across the channel to an area packed with about 25
pangas in four feet of water. "Over there, in the marina,
or over at La Cruz," he said. So we're now in the comfortable
anchorage off La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, reporting that as of November
15, it and Punta de Mita are the only available anchorages inside
In another week we'll be heading to Tenacatita Bay and then on
to Zihuatanejo for the winter.
- terry 11/15/01
Readers - Terry did the '99 Ha-Ha, then
sailed off to Hawaii, San Francisco, and back to San Diego. He
left for Mexico again at the end of 2000. He's also written an
article on a pleasant way to renew one's six-month Mexican visa,
an article we hope to run in the next few months.
In other recent news from Mexico, the post Ha-Ha cruising in
the Sea of Cortez was delightful, as the air and water temperatures
were still very, very warm, and there wasn't even a threat of
a Norther. Although there were still some hurricane Juliette
damaged boats on the beach, all the boats at Astilleros Marina
were upright again. Over in Mazatlan, Mazatlan Marina was still
closed, and their Cruiser Thanksgiving Party that had supposedly
been moved to Marina Vallarta was called off entirely. The Thanksgiving
Party at Marina Paradise - which is packed despite the addition
of 68 new berths - went off as scheduled. Harbormaster Dick Markie
reports that Paradise is a little behind schedule in opening
their boatyard and fuel dock because they made the mistake of
applying for both permits at once, but both will be welcome additions.
Markie also observed that there appears to be a large number
of boats headed to Z-town for the Christmas Holidays this year.
It's another 400 miles south of P.V., but every few years a large
number of boats get the urge to go the extra distance. Apparently
this is one of those years.
The continuing bad news is that very expensive and time-consuming
check-in procedures are still in effect in Mexico. When Profligate checked into Cabo, it cost almost
$400 in fees - although we did have 11 people aboard. In any
event, our campaign to get Mexico to switch to an annual cruising
fee with no checking in nonsense begins in earnest next month.
We hope you'll join us. And there is hope, because there's a
new honcho at the SCT, the agency which has jurisdiction over
the agencies involved.
Velella - Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
(Port Ludlow, Washington)
We departed Bora Bora on a Sunday for Rarotonga, and started
out with two days of pleasant windward sailing under sunny skies
and flat seas. But then the wind gradually started to build,
and so did the seas. From then on, we reached in high winds and
crashed through large seas, with water steadily streaming down
the leeward decks. We were buttoned up tight to keep the water
out, of course, which made us long for ventilation down below.
There was no moon, so the night watches were very dark. We'd
departed buddyboating with our friends Ken and Cath aboard Felicity,
so we set up a VHF radio sked every three hours to match our
change of watch. It was nice to be in contact with another boat,
although we temporarily got out of radio range during the middle
of the trip.
I was on watch and listening to the morning net on Tuesday morning
when someone came on with the news about the terrorist attacks
on the United States. We were all shocked! There was a quick
discussion about which short wave radio programs might have more
information. We found some through the static on the BBC and
Radio Australia, and it was interesting to hear the perspectives
from different countries. We also got snippets of news from cruisers
on various radio nets, but the lack of information was very frustrating,
and we still faced several more days at sea.
We were fortunate to reach Rarotonga shortly before dark on Friday,
and to discover that there was a spot for us on the quay in the
tiny harbor. We were pretty exhausted and relieved to have stopped.
We were also starving, so our friends - who had made the same
trip in rougher weather the week before - herded us into town
for dinner. On our way, we passed a beautiful memorial that had
been spontaneously erected with American flags, mounds of flowers,
poems and letters. Having been out of touch with the news, what
happened still hadn't really sunk in.
Even on Rarotonga it was hard to get much more news. We found
a dated New Zealand paper that had some information, but still
hadn't seen any television coverage. Prior to our arrival, the
Harbormaster had generously arranged for a television to be set
up in a conference room so the cruisers could watch the news
as it was happening.
The next day we visited a morning market that reminded us of
various weekend fairs back home, as there was fresh produce,
food, crafts booths, and entertainment. The Red Cross was there
very actively collecting money to help people in the United States!
We contributed our emergency cash. The outpouring of love and
support for those who had suffered in America was very touching.
All the flags were at half mast, and when people realized that
we were Americans, they expressed their sympathy.
We knew of several cruisers who were touched by the tragedy,
some of them directly. One cruiser lost a family member in the
World Trade Center, while another couple's son safely escaped
the same burning buildings. Another cruiser had to fly home for
a funeral, and didn't know when she'd be back. All mail was stopped,
of course, which created all kinds of logistical problems for
a group of folks normally on the move. Onboard email was down
for 10 days for a few cruisers whose servers had been located
in the basement of the WTC.
On Sunday, the town scheduled a large memorial service in the
auditorium. A bartender lent us his motorcycle so that we could
attend. The speeches and music were beautiful, and the people
extremely sincere in their condolences. The event was mostly
a local one, but the hall was pretty full. Everyone lit a candle
and shared their prayers. It brought tears to our eyes. It was
hard to be away from home at a time like that.
That the people of Rarotonga were very warm and welcoming made
it a little easier to absorb the impact of such devastating news
- although the continuing lack of information was frustrating
and made it all seem surreal. While many folks back in the U.S.
were no doubt trying to get a break from coverage, we struggled
to get more. The gravity of the situation also made for a stark
contrast to the somewhat carefree lifestyle that we'd been leading.
During the rest of our stay in Rarotonga, we were relieved to
discover that we could afford some special treats that we'd had
to forego in French Polynesia. The New Zealand dollar went pretty
far, so we indulged in regular hot showers, dining out, seeing
movies, renting a sailboard, playing golf, and having our laundry
done for us. We also rented a motorcycle, which prompted a need
for a Cook Islands drivers license. So Garth got to learn how
to drive a motorcycle - on the wrong side of the road and at
night! Another Rarotonga treat that we enjoyed was being able
to have deep conversations in English with locals - something
we hadn't been able to do in over a year.
During our stay, we had the opportunity to enjoy a tasty cocktail
called a 'Fuzzy Frog': one part gin, one part tequila, and two
parts lime and ginger ale. Unlike French Polynesia where liquor
is very expensive, it's duty free and reasonably-priced in Rarotonga
- so we were able to replace beverages that we'd long since run
out of. We were also amused at the type of prizes to be won at
the local golf tournaments: things such as frozen meats and sausages,
and cans of corned beef. We were also surprised to learn that
Rarotonga has a big recycling program.
Rarotonga was a wonderful place to visit, although the tiny harbor
is less than ideal. While we were stern tied to it, a nearby
boat regularly blew engine exhaust into our boat! Nonetheless,
we did enjoy the cruiser camaraderie on the quay, getting to
know some cruisers we hadn't yet met and catching up with several
friends. As the wind shifted more to the east, waves in the tiny
harbor reverberated off the concrete walls and the anchorage
became a little rolly. With northeasteries predicted, we decided
it was time for us to continue our passage west. We have about
580 miles to Nuie, with a possible stop three-quarters of the
way there at Beveridge Reef - if the conditions allow. Before
departing, we had an opportunity to test our creativity as we
were asked to decorate a page in the cruisers' logbook - a tradition
for all cruisers who visit the island.
- wendy & garth 10/15/01
Tranquilo - Pearson Vanguard 32
Neil & Debra McQueen
If cruisers want to stay in one of the marinas in Mazatlan, they
can - as long as they're willing to spend what seems to us to
be big bucks. And most do. The magnificent El Cid - which bills
itself as a 'mega resort' - is very popular. Surrounded by luxurious
condominiums, two big swimming pools, bars, restaurants, and
folkloric entertainment every night, it's for cruisers with pesos
to burn. It's also close to the Gold Zone, Señor Frogs
and Valentino's - all the upscale stuff - but it's kind of a
long bus ride to the real city, Old Mazatlan.
Budget cruisers such as ourselves tend to find their way to the
fisherman's harbor, where sportfishing boats, ferries, and cruise
ships dock, but which also has a small but sheltered anchorage.
The free anchorage is virtually in the shadow of Isla Creston,
on which stands the highest manned lighthouse in the world. There
are drawbacks to the anchorage. Sometimes it's kind of smelly,
and it isn't the sort of place where you'd want to dive overboard
each morning. But it's still great to have a free place to drop
the pick in a city of 302,000 people.
Three buses - the Playa Sur, the Morelos and the Sabalo Centro
- run along the road in front of the anchorage, so for three
pesos - a mere 35 cents - you can be whisked away to the delights
of the Old City. Or if you're looking for exercise, it's less
than a 30-minute walk - all of it along the seawall through the
scenic Olas Altas neighborhood.
The best part about the old harbor is the strange but helpful
outfit called Club Nautico. You get the feeling Club Nautico
used to be something special, something more than just a dinghy
dock and a place to buy a six-pack of beer. The grandeur of its
tile pavilion is the first clue. It's supported by a circle of
14 concrete columns, textured to look like palm trunks and painted
white. It has a domed ceiling and a bar decorated with glossy
white bathroom tiles. The upper row of tiles features a design
of nautical red and blue burgees.
But the pavilion now stands empty, just a big, slick circle you
have to cross to get to the bathrooms. Rooms with three stalls
- two with toilet seats, one with toilet paper - a shower, harsh
fluorescent lighting, and a beat-up sink dotted with mouse turds.
Okay, so it ain't purdy. Although you definitely want to wear
shower shoes when using Club Nautico's facilities, there's plenty
of hot water - at least on the women's side.
The pavilion is a ghostly reminder of headier, bygone times when
live music, laughter, clinking glasses and twinkling lights were
- according to veteran cruisers - a feature of anchoring here.
Now the vacant pavilion is inhabited by a bevy of cats. Not your
standard, scruffy, flea-bitten Mexican cats, these gatos are
robust and cheerful, with silky coats and all of their teeth.
"Ese gatos son finicos," the night guard told us as
he poured expensive, store-bought food into their bowls. These
cats may be finicky, but they are also loved.
Presumably, it's the Club Nautico management who loves them.
They are friendly and helpful people who don't ask for much from
yachties in exchange for the services provided. Rumor is that
daily use of Club Nautico runs 30 pesos per boat, but they never
ask for money unless you raise the subject yourself. They seem
to consider it a fair trade if you buy your diesel and gasoline
from them. They'll arrange for a truck to deliver purified water,
and sell you chips, sodas, ice and nuts at inexpensive prices.
They'll also arrange to have your laundry done and delivered,
and your mail forwarded to their office. At sunset they lock
the gates and a guard is posted, so your dinghy will be secure
if you go out for a night on the town.
Since we planned to stay in Mazatlan for two weeks, I decided
to take Spanish lessons at the Centro de Idiomas in Old Town.
This 28-year-old language center offers intensive, semi-intensive,
and private lessons for students serious about improving their
Spanish. Every Saturday between 9 am and noon you can register
for the following week. Prices range from $120 for two hours
daily, Monday-Friday, in a classroom limited to six students,
to $360 for five hours a day of private lessons.
I signed up for an intensive group class and lucked out: there
was only one other student at my level. The five hours each day
were divided into three parts: an hour of pronunciation and listening
comprehension; two hours of grammar, and two hours of conversation.
Somewhere in the middle there was a half-hour break, during which
I usually studied and read Spanish. At night there's both reading
and composition homework. The intensive program is not for the
faint of heart.
My days were as exhausting as they were satisfying. It's been
a long time since I've been in school, and the demands of studying
a language are almost physically draining. Often I would return
to Tranquilo with my head so full of vocabulary and verb
conjugations that I thought it would split right open. I'd collapse
on the bunk muttering imaginary dialogue. While in the classroom,
I spoke in Spanish, and on the street, I listened to Spanish.
By the end of day two, I was thinking, dreaming and plotting
in Spanish. When they say intensive, they mean it!
Since we're planning to spend three years in Latin America, I
thought it was worth investing in my language skills. I knew
for certain that I'd made the right choice when Neil and I spent
an evening out at the historic Angela Peralta Theater. This 141-year-old
national monument near the artsy Plazuela Machado features cultural
events of all kinds. We bought tickets to Jesu Cristo Super
Estrella, the Andrew Lloyd Weber rock opera translated into
Spanish. We were the only gringos in the packed house, and it
was a night to remember.
The performance itself was puro Mexico - sometimes fantastic,
other times apocalyptic. It was also irreverent, bawdy, sensually
religious and symbolic. King Herod's number was a vision of sparkling
blues and golds and great dancing. Maria Magdalena had a deep,
throaty voice - I suspect she's got a future as a Mexican pop
idol. Every time Judas opened his mouth, I cringed, as he was
a troll-like screecher with an untrained voice. As was predictable,
Jesus was easy on the eyes, but a middling singer without range.
One needn't speak Spanish to watch Jesus Christ Superstar
en Español: the music's familiar enough and the story
- well, we all know this chronicle of a death foretold. My Spanish
lessons factored into the evening because every time Pontius
Pilate had a scene, the sweet-smelling lady in the next seat
hit my arm and whispered, "Es mi hijo! Es mi hijo!"
Imagine, me sitting next to the mother of Pontius Pilate! During
the intermissions, my neighbor and I engaged in a lively discussion
of the theater, the actors - many of whom were her children,
nieces or nephews - and she was shocked and surprised that I
could understand Spanish. "Muy bien," my neighbor said,
nodding her approval. "Hablas como una Mexicana." That's
when I knew my time and money were being well spent.
Cruisers in Mazatlan wanting Spanish lessons can find the Centro
de Idiomas at Calle Belisario Dominguez 1908. Telephone 011-52
(6) 985-5606 in the morning. On Friday nights, they have a free
conversation club from 7-9 pm. The Centro de Idiomas is just
a couple of blocks away from all of downtown's main attractions:
the Cathedral, the main plaza, and the central mercado. And if
you stay in the old harbor, you can start every morning with
an easy - and scenic - walk to school.
- debra 10/15/01
Debra - Nice report. The biggest marina
in Mazatlan, of course, is Marina Mazatlan, which at last report
was closed pending efforts to sell it. Say, doesn't Neil have
a surf report for Mazatlan?
- Mason 54
Laurie, Carole, and Ryan (13) Pane
Anchoring Tips From On High
Some six years, 40,000 miles, and 54 countries since we left
Los Angeles - and my last regular reading of Latitude
- I was stunned to recently see an October 2001 edition of your
magazine at the Club Nautico book swap in Cartagena, Colombia.
Obviously it was the product of fast travel and even faster reading.
It is reassuring to me to find that in this otherwise ever-changing
world, the subjects so hotly debated in your pages have remained
relatively the same over the years.
The High Adventure In The Low Latitudes article in World of
Chartering section caught my attention, as it concerned the
Whitsunday Islands and I am Australian. Further, you published
an article of mine on the same area some years ago. Whilst you
did editorially address certain glaring problems of boat handling
and seamanship contained in the story, I would like to raise
another problem - using my wonderful hindsight and long-term
cruiser superiority as justification.
The author's catamaran was dragging down on another boat, so
she went by dinghy to alert him. Showing remarkable restraint,
the other skipper pulled up anchor and moved to another position
to re-anchor - even though it was clearly the duty of the dragging
boat to correct the problem. A second boat was also asked to
move out of the drag-path, and they did, proving that Australians
must be super-tolerant. By then, the catamaran had belatedly
started one engine, but still felt that they had to issue a Mayday.
Although not specified, the wind and sea conditions must not
have been excessive, as the author was able to dinghy around
and two boats were able to move and re-anchor. It isn't clear
why assistance wasn't sought from the two vessels that had moved
before issuing the ultimate distress signal.
The purpose of this letter is not to heap scorn or derision on
the author and her husband, but to point out that no matter whether
you're on your own vessel or are chartering one, 'the buck stops
with you'. This means that everyone is responsible for the effects
of their actions - or inactions. Clearly defined plans for certain
everyday problems - and dragging anchor certainly falls into
this category - need to be considered beforehand. The authors
were warned during the afternoon that they were going to be on
a lee shore, but decided to stay. Having made that decision,
it was their responsibility to consider what to do in case the
anchor dragged in the night. As they proved, making decisions
when sleep-fuddled is not wise.
Letting out more scope before dark should have been an immediate
task. Checking for lines over the side and then starting the
engines immediately would have been be Step 1 on my drag list.
Letting out more scope would have been Step 2. Pulling up the
anchor and re-anchoring - even with only one engine - would have
been Step 3. At worst, one engine would have held the boat in
place. Calling Mayday when one has a fully functional engine
and operational sails would not have been anywhere on my list.
I only offer this basic sort of primer because Latitude
is read by so many charterers and potential charterers, and hopefully
some will think more pro-actively as a result. "We know
all that, you supercilious bastard," is also an acceptable
reaction - providing the reader's actions match the knowledge.
To our dismay we have often found - as you editorialized - that
the lack of anchoring expertise is a major problem with charterers
the world over. In several countries where chartering is popular,
we've been told that people knew we were cruisers because we
anchored so far away from everyone else. Self-preservation is
the name of the game.
The Letters section of the same issue contained John Hodgson's
Are We Dupes To Have CQR Anchors? missive. My Mason 54 is fitted
with a 105-lb CQR with 400 feet of chain. Also permanently mounted
on the bow is a 75-lb CQR with 50 feet of chain and 400 feet
of rode. On the stern we have a 44-lb Bruce with 300 feet of
chain. Most long range cruisers we have met have CQRs as their
main anchors, and most of the rest have Bruces. The Mediterranean
charter fleet seems to be predominantly CQR.
For the record, we have dragged twice in the past six years.
Once in Bodrum, Turkey, and again at Bequia in the Caribbean.
We also dragged in Cefelu, Sicily, but only because I misread
the markings on my anchor chain and thought I had a lot more
scope out than I actually did. Complacency played a large part
here, as did the distractions of the surroundings. Even the gods
Part of Mr. Hodgson's problem may be the 'one pound of plow anchor
per foot of boat length' rule, which seems to be promulgated
throughout the boating community. I believe the minimum should
actually be two pounds per foot. The extra weight on the bow
means nothing to a loaded cruising boat while underway, but it
means everything when it's on the bottom. Another important factor
is scope. Anchor chain does no good in the anchor locker, and
it's not whimpy to put out 200 feet of chain in 20 feet of water.
Still another factor is how the anchor is set. Too many times
we have seen boats careening all over harbors after adopting
the full reverse mode of setting an anchor. There are times when
an anchor cannot be set, but if the anchor is of the proper size
and there is adequate scope, it can still provide absolute security.
An example of this is when there is a thin sand covering over
a coral shelf. We encountered such conditions in Indonesia, and
since we had a proper anchor and enough scope, we were easily
able to ride out 50 knots.
A friend introduced me to the concept of 'aging' an anchor. When
anchoring on a bottom covered with heavy weed, do not attempt
to set the anchor. Rather we let out a lot of chain and wait.
What appears to happen is that over a few hours - assuming the
boat has lowered a heavy plow type anchor - the hook gradually
wiggles its way down through the weed. When a pull comes, the
anchor then is in a position under the weed to set. Whatever
the theory, it has worked many times for us.
One final pontification from on high. An anchor must not only
be able to be set well and hold, but to be reset immediately
after being pulled out by a windshift or some other reason. The
CQR does this to perfection. The newer designs appear - at least
to my thinking - to still be in the 'yet to be proved' category.
Dolphin Spirit is crewed by myself, my wife Carole, and
our now 13-year-old son Ryan - who has been with us for the whole
trip. We are planning to complete our circumnavigation in Los
Angeles in April of next year so Ryan can attend a land-based
high school. I have had several articles published in Sail,
Sailing, and Cruising World magazines, and prior to
1996, a couple in Latitude. This marks my second letter
to you, and for the life of me, I cannot recall the reason for
the first or if you published it. It must have been traumatic.
Oops! Just one more pontification. Reading through the October
issue information bios on some of the participants in the Baja
Ha-Ha showed a high proportion intending to head out into the
South Pacific. I should like to advise that the demands on boats,
equipment, and crew in the Pacific are far different from those
encountered while coastal cruising in Mexico. When in Mexico,
you are only hours away from marinas, service facilities, spare
parts, airports with easy access to the U.S. medical facilities,
and so on. So what if they are not as good as at home, they are
there. Everyone should cruise the South Pacific as it is wonderful,
but a season of cruising Mexico is not all the preparation that
is necessary. I have separately sent you an article on this subject.
- laurie 11/10/01
Laurie - We have a lot in common. Not
only do we agree with virtually everything that you've written,
but we have also dragged Big O's
CQR at both Bodrum and Bequia.
Estrellita - Custom Ketch
Chuck Riley & Crew
When I attended Latitude's Mexico Only Crew List Party
at the Encinal YC in early October, I was only about 30% convinced
that I'd actually sail south this winter. But finding good crew
at the party put me over the top. Although we didn't make the
Ha-Ha, we're now on our way. Thanks!
We've been on the move, albeit slowly, since sailing out the
Gate on November 3. Preparations for the trip were hectic, as
expected. My crew arrived just in time for a very nice send off
party organized by my daughters Dana and Dawn, and graciously
hosted by Don and Cyn Wieneke at their beautiful home overlooking
With crew Tom Salvo, Coco Hess and Dylan Higgins aboard, we got
underway at 1:30 pm on November 3, and motorsailed under the
Golden Gate Bridge. It would have been a beautiful sight had
anybody been able to see anything, but there was dense fog. We
tacked out the Gate using GPS, and didn't see another fixed object
until the buoy off Half Moon Bay. Sailing friends Al and Sandy
Fricke live right at the beach there, and treated us to a wonderful
salmon dinner that Al caught from his sailboat Pegasus.
On Sunday, Steve Ulrich, singlehandling the Peterson 34 Magewind,
and the Catalina 36 Stella Mare, crewed by owners Hans
and Theresa Kolber, plus one crew, joined us in Half Moon Bay.
Hans and Theresa are quite a couple. Both are Swiss, and Hans
used to be the maitre 'd at Jacks in San Francisco. He also owned
Lazy Creek Winery in Philo for several years, where he won numerous
winemaking awards. A couple of years ago - when Hans and Theresa
were well into their 70s - they sold the winery and decided to
take up sailing. Ulrich helped them find and equip a capable
Catalina 36, and now Stella Mare is sailing with Magewind
and Estrellita to Mexico.
Our overnight sail from Half Moon Bay to Morro Bay was pleasant
but quite cold, with plenty of moonlight on the water. Stella
Mare didn't have quite as pleasurable a trip. Their autopilot
quit; they split the main from leach to luff; and their crew
attached the whisker pole directly to the clew of the headsail
so when the sail was eased out, it hit some rigging and bent
the pole. They motored for awhile, but then the diesel died.
Changing filters didn't help, so in the early morning we offered
them a tow. The wind and waves weren't bad, but the swell was
running at about 10 feet. Even with a very long towline, it put
a terrific strain on our cleats.
Finally the wind picked up, so we asked Stella Mare to
sail on with genoa only. Once under sail, we asked their crewmember
to drop the towline. He did so, but didn't wait for us to begin
to retrieve it. As a result, Stella Mare sailed over the
towline and it caught around their rudder! Consequently, we ended
up in a very interesting situation: I was sailing Estrellita
at about six knots dead downwind under main and genoa - while
towing Stella Mare backwards by her rudder! I didn't want
to slow us down by using the engine for fear of getting the towline
caught around our own propeller, so I ran forward and dropped
both of our sails. As I did this, the Stella Mare crew
made a serious but often committed mistake among sailing novices
- they started their engine. It ran just long enough to wrap
my towline around their propeller about 50 times. Once we got
untied from them, they had a pleasant sail on to Morro Bay.
Upon reaching the sometimes dangerous entrance to Morro Bay,
Estrellita towed Stella Mare in - but not before
two whales put on a terrific show about 50 feet off our beam.
They flipped, sounded, blew and breached.
The Morro Bay YC is a great little organization, and welcomed
us with open arms at their dock. We found a local canvasmaker
to sew Stella Mare's main back together. Steve and Tom
repaired Hans' whisker pole, and they got their engine running
again. I couldn't believe it when Hans suggested another overnight
passage to Monterey, but everyone from the three boats agreed
that we'd shove off in the middle of the night. On the way out,
I got a call from Steve telling us that Stella Mare's
engine had quit again. We doubled back and towed them back to
the club. Steve and I tracked down the culprit, a leaky fuel
filter. Later, Hans told me that when the engine quit again,
he was ready to throw in the towel and quit the trip. I wouldn't
have blamed him a bit.
But once they got the engine running again, they bravely powered
out of Morro Bay into a very big sea and darkness. Now it was
our turn for some bad luck. With Estrellita pitching into
very large seas, the two bolts holding our self-steering rudder
fractured. This allowed the rudder to swing up astern so that
the top of the rudder post tried to rip the top bracket off of
our newly-repaired teak taff rail. At some point in all this,
the windvane also decided to take flight. So for the sake of
about $5 worth of bolts, we had a fairly expensive repair ahead
of us. We also had to hand steer the boat all the way to Oxnard.
The next day we elected to sail to Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel
Island, while the other two boats continued on to Oxnard. Cuyler
looked very protected on the charts, but once we got the hook
down the boat swung beam to the seas and rolled big time. I put
out a stern anchor very early the next morning, and it worked
wonders for keeping Estrellita pointed into the swells.
So we settled in for a great day. We later went to a delightful
tiny cove on Santa Cruz Island, and the next day our crew climbed
the cliffs and got some great photos of the boat.
Speaking of crew, Tom, Dylan and Coco have worked out fantastically
well. I'd known Tom for years and have sailed numerous races
with him aboard Sceptre. What I didn't know was how handy
he is at repairing everything from engines to holding tanks.
And he's great on the foredeck. Dylan has far less experience,
but absorbs knowledge like a sponge, is willing to help with
anything, and is a super nice person. Coco, whom I first met
when she was a volunteer for my daughter's America True USA 51
dedication, is the most upbeat person I've ever sailed with.
No matter if she's waking up for the 0300 watch, she has a huge
smile on her face. She's also a good sailor and great cook.
I hadn't seen Coco between the America True dedication several
years ago and the Latitude Crew Party - at which, as I
mentioned, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be sailing south this
winter. But meeting Coco and Dylan at the party changed my mind,
and I'm sure going to miss them when they get off the boat in
La Paz. Three times a week I have to give myself injections of
Interferon, after which I'm fairly worthless on deck and spend
lots of time sleeping. So it's been great having crew that I
can depend on.
We're now at Anacapa Marine in Oxnard's Channel Islands, and
Estrellita is out of the water for maintenance. Coco and
Dylan painted her bottom, Steve's uncle welded up a brand new
stainless steel bracket for our self-steering, a new windvane
should be ready tomorrow, we've had all the thru-hull fittings
serviced or repaired, and a new depth-sounder installed. I've
been in lots of boatyards in my life, but this is one of the
cleanest, best-equipped, and most friendly-staffed ever.
- chuck 11/15/01
Readers - Over the years we've had a
lot of experience taking boats south from San Francisco for the
cruising season in Mexico. If at all possible, we recommend that
it be done prior to October 15 - for the probability of better
weather, warmer temperatures, and more daylight.
Suntrekka - Endurance 36
Trinidad To Panama
With about 20% of my circumnavigation left to go, I departed
Trinidad on May 28 bound for Aruba and then the Panama Canal.
The first day was rough, with an easterly wind that built to
30 knots, but things eased off for the rest of the trip. I had
angled north to about 12°N in order to stay above the coast
of Venezuela and some of her islands. Initially I had thought
about stopping along the way to Aruba, but recent reports of
piracy in the Trinidad and Isla Margarita areas changed my mind.
As I got close to Oranjestad, Aruba, I encountered a cruise ship
loitering in circles waiting for daylight to enter the harbor.
Since they didn't pay any attention to me, I called them on the
radio and asked if they could kindly keep an eye out. They sounded
embarrassed, and admitted that they didn't have me visually or
on radar until I gave them my position - which was only two miles
away. So much for navigation lights and radar reflectors, on
even calm and clear nights!
Oranjestad was an easy harbor to enter in daylight. The Harbormaster
directed me to tie up along the quay near his office and wait
for the clearance officials. This was at 8 am. Seven hours passed
and still nobody had arrived - which was actually fine with me,
as I needed the time to tidy up the chaos that comes with any
passage. Finally, I walked up to the office and learned there
had been a breakdown in communications. They were pleasant and
we got everything squared away before sunset. After a hot meal
- dehydrated, of course - and a nightcap, I was down and out
for the count. No sleep is as sound as the first one in a safe
harbor after a long passage. It's the sleep of the dead.
The next morning I scouted out a new marina run by a helpful
South African couple. They only had Med-style moorings available,
so I decided to stay on the hook. It was a longer walk to shops,
but it was free and secure among the commercial wharfs. The Arubans
I met were friendly and warm, but the island is obviously geared
to fly-in tourists. The big attractions are duty-free shops and
bars. After five days of rest, I was ready to shove off on the
often boisterous 850-mile passage to the Panama Canal.
When I left on June 5, my only waypoint was just north of the
Peninsula de Guajira, the northernmost point of Colombia. The
second day out the winds kicked up to 25 knots with gusts to
30. The third day it blew 30 with gusts to 35 knots. Fortunately,
there was no rain, although the blowing spray made it wet enough.
Since there was so much wind, I slowed Suntrekka down
to four knots carrying just a bit of unrolled headsail on the
pole, and made lots of amps on the wind generator. The winds
tapered off on the fourth day and then went light.
About that time, I received an email message from a retired Navy
friend of my father's. He warned me about the particularly windy
stretch of Caribbean along the northern coast of Colombia. He'd
been on patrol aboard a destroyer in those waters during his
naval career, and remembered frequently getting beat up by the
weather. He knew where I was because every day I sent a position
report to my dad using my Magellan GSC 100 Satellite Transceiver,
and my dad shared the info with family and friends.
I enjoyed 12 to 15-knot winds until I got about seven miles from
Colon, at which time I was zapped by a huge thunderstorm accompanied
by 40-knot gusts and blinding rain for an hour. So I slowed my
boat down by carrying only a few feet of unrolled headsail -
and prayed that none of the many ships converging on the Canal
would hit me. I came out of the rain on a collision course with
a French freighter, so I went through a few antics to avoid them.
They tooted and waved in appreciation. When I made contact with
the radio operator at Panama's Cristobal Control, I found him
to be very professional. He allowed me to skip through the breakwater
between ships, and I dropped the hook at Anchorage F, 'The Flats',
six days out of Aruba.
In a hurry to get cleared in, I lost no time in chucking the
dinghy over the side and rowing to the Panama Canal YC. As I
staggered up the rickety dinghy dock, Rudy, one of several Panamanian
taxi drivers who hangs out at the club, introduced himself. He
immediately saw that I was in my usual post-passage state of
sleep deprivation-induced stupidity, and showed me where to go
for the first step of checking in. It turned out to be an office
in the yacht club, as an Immigration official and a representative
of the Port Captain are on duty in the club. Since I didn't have
a visa, I was directed to go to the downtown Colon Immigration
Office. Thank heavens that Rudy was there and knew enough to
take me to a copy shop to get the required copies of all my papers,
to the bank to get the stamp for something, and then walked me
through all the offices. He spoke to the various clerks - it
was obvious that he knew them all - on my behalf, filled out
all of my forms in the requisite Spanish, and in less than one
hour I was checked in. Rudy was terrific - and a bargain. He
charged me just $10 an hour, and that included his cab rides!
He was such a big help that I tried to give him all my business
in Colon - and also used him and one of his friends as my line-handlers
for my Canal transit.
I stayed out in The Flats for a week, during which I transited
the Canal twice as a line-handler for other boats. The first
was the Dutch boat Teranoua, while the second, Morning
Glory, was from South Africa. Both transits were lots of
fun and good experience for my own trip. The only bad thing was
almost getting mugged walking from the bus depot back to the
Panama Canal YC. Had Neils - the owner of the South African boat
- not been with me, it might have turned out badly.
It was dark and Neils and I were loaded up with piles of line
over our shoulders. The mugger jumped out of the bushes, and
as he came after us we both started moving faster. We beat him
to the last corner before the final 100 yards to the yacht club
gate. As we ran, the mugger was calling to his compañeros
for help. By then the adrenaline had kicked in, and Neils and
I were setting a speed record for both a middle-aged South African
man and an amputee. I figured the mugger started laughing too
hard to effectively pursue us two gringos, our kneecaps and elbows
flapping, eyes as big as tea cups, huffing and puffing under
a mountain of one inch nylon line. As we entered the yacht club
gate, we were greeted by the barrel of a .45 automatic - and
the toothy smile of a young soldier moonlighting as a night watchman.
"Buenas noches," he said with a grin.
By this time it was nearly midnight, and Neils and I both had
a cold beer to settle our nerves. We spent the next three hours
in a comedy of errors trying to get out to our boats. I vowed
that I would never go into Colon again at night.
- robert 6/15/01
Silhouette - Cabo Rico 38
Years ago we decided that we'd begin our cruising adventure by
being part of the Baja Ha-Ha fleet. So when we sailed under the
Golden Gate on September 25, we had a definite time and place
from which to start our cruise in Mexico: October 30, 11:00 a.m.,
from San Diego. We expected to meet other sailors in the Ha-Ha
who shared our passion for the adventure, although their boats
might be bigger (what an understatement), faster (no question
about that), more expensive (in some cases beyond reason), and
even a few powerboats (which we previously referred to as 'stink-pots').
As it turned out, a number of the Ha-Ha boats were some or all
of the above, but many others were similar to ours. We liked
being part of a group, because if the weather got out of hand
and we became anxious - particularly at night - we'd know that
many others would be experiencing similar fates.
As I write this paragraph, all that's left of the Ha-Ha is tonight's
awards ceremony, after which the fleet of 106 boats and 420 sailors
will begin to take off in many different directions. But for
our family, I can say that the Ha-Ha lived up to our wildest
dreams, and has instilled in us the confidence to sail on! We
greatly enjoyed the event, as we made friends with many cruisers
that we're sure we'll stay in touch with throughout our cruising
lives. In addition, the experience greatly elevated our confidence
in our sailing abilities. As a group, the Ha-Ha fleet pretty
much faced the same conditions, but had experiences as different
as night and day. Some boats had problems with things like engines,
sails, charging systems and even steering. A few folks had physical
problems, such as thrown out backs, bruised ribs, mal de mer,
and the flu. However, the majority of us Ha-Ha'ed with gusto
and much joy! We arrived at the southern tip of Baja looking
forward to the end of night watches and rolly seas, some boredom
and the lack of sleep, changed diets and no showers, and fears
of the unknown.
For us, the end of the Ha-Ha means our cruising adventure has
just begun, and we're now confident that we'll enjoy this lifestyle.
At times we'd all been wet, cold, tired and hungry, but we knew
that was just part of the territory. Our vessel also served us
well, and we didn't have any incidents that caused us to doubt
her seaworthiness. Although we have a multi-year cruising adventure
ahead of us, we'll always look back on the Ha-Ha as the true
beginning - as well as a special time and event in our lives.
So here we are, tied up in a slip, getting our 'land legs' back,
visiting and partying with new friends, sharing stories, and
cleaning up our salty boats and dirty clothes. As much as we're
looking forward to the next adventure, we're mostly wallowing
in the utter joy of having 'made it'. Our foulies are dried out
and packed away, as we're far enough south to sail in shorts
at night. It may be cool back home, but down here the blankets
have come off the beds and the sun awning has to be up to protect
us from the heat of the day. Silhouette has had all the salt
washed off and is looking shiny. We're at peace, and have little
care for the rest of the world's problems.
I also want to wholeheartedly thank the Wanderer/Poobah, publisher
of Latitude and founder of the Ha-Ha for running such
a successful event. The formula has been well thought out, and
the daily radio check-ins were both educational and provided
- alan 11/10/01
Alan - Thanks for the kind words. In
our estimation, this was one of the easiest and most pleasant
Ha-Ha's to date, characterized by mild and consistent winds,
generally flat seas, unusually warm weather, and bright moonlight.
If some folks with relatively little offshore experience found
it more challenging than that, we believe it's because they were
just getting their feet wet. The first time people go down a
bunny hill on skis, it seems like a big challenge because it's
all new and unfamiliar. But after a couple of days on the easy
slopes, they realize it's not a big deal. Similarly, after folks
get some more offshore experience, we think they'll understand
how mellow Ha-Ha VIII was. We also suspect they'll come to appreciate
that night sailing - at least in the tropics - is perhaps the
most fun sailing of all.
We were thrilled to have Grant Todd drop by the Ha-Ha Kick-Off
Party in San Diego on October 28. As some of you might remember,
a year or so ago Grant's Hans Christian 48 Kookaburra
exploded and sank off El Salvador. Were it not for two nearby
buddyboats, he surely would have perished. As it was, the burns
he suffered put his life in jeopardy for several months. Fortunately,
Grant tells us he has nearly fully recovered and is about ready
to look for a replacement boat. As to what caused the explosion
on his former boat, he's not completely sure, as he has no memory
of the incident. But he suspects that it had something to do
with a diesel fuel leak catching fire, eventually reaching the
hoses to the propane tanks, and ultimately causing the propane
tanks to explode. It's unlikely anything else could have caused
such a massive explosion.
"We're back in Brisbane, Australia, working on our boat,"
report Sally Andrew and Foster Goodfellow of the Alameda-based
Yamaha 33 Fellowship. "After many years of cruising
from San Francisco to the Northwest to the South Pacific, Foster
began having some inner ear problems. We've waited 18 months
for the symptoms to stop or stabilize, but all they've done is
change tack and get wackier. So rather than risk more ocean voyaging,
we're regretfully going to have to sell Fellowship and
will probably buy a canal boat in France. It's going to be very
difficult to part with our boat after so many miles - and because
Foster has been busy with varnish and various upgrades making
her look great. For anyone interested in a proven long-range
cruising boat that's ready to go, Fellowship is a 1981
Yamaha 33 with a double spreader tall rig mast, lead keel, vane,
solar panels, propane stove, and is fully equipped for cruising.
We're asking $35,000, and if necessary, I would be willing to
help deliver her back to the South Pacific islands after cyclone
season. We can be reached by ."
"We have completed our first year of cruising in Mexico,"
report Rick and Lyn Parnell of the Seattle-based Crealock 37
Sapphire, which is currently in Puerto Vallarta. "Our
summer in the Sea of Cortez has definitely been the highlight
of our cruising in Mexico so far. We almost skipped 'the Sea',
but are delighted that we decided to extend our visit to Mexico
to include it. Our advice to new cruisers is to not rush through
Mexico, but take the time to enjoy this wonderful country. Our
plans are to continue south to Panama this spring."
"Sundance is now 'in the ground' at Vuda Point Marina
in Lautoka, Fiji," reports Michael Stitt and crew Chaz of
the Aspen-based Bayfield 40. "I decided to park the boat
on the hard in Fiji rather than make the run to New Zealand just
to store her for cyclone season - and then have to bring her
1,200 miles back to Fiji again next April. Vuda Point appears
to be a good place to ride out the South Pacific tropical cyclone
season. Sundance looks strange - but safe - in a hole in the
ground. I hope all my cruising friends made it safely to New
"We have been spending hurricane season in Norfolk, Virginia,"
report John Bringetto and Amanda Berks of the Half Moon Bay-based
King's Legend 41 Gingi. "Come November, we'll head
south to Florida and then on to the Bahamas."
"I've married my Thai girlfriend Tisama, swallowed the anchor,
and have bought a house in Sisaket, northeast Thailand,"
reports Gene Schenk, formerly of San Diego. Our 'crew' are Boom
and Bang - and yes, those really are their names. Cruisers headed
this way should be informed that they can enter Thailand at Krabi,
which is an excellent base for land excursions. If anyone has
questions about cruising in Thailand, ."
"In 1996 we began a slow westbound circumnavigation aboard
our 1980 Alden 44 Lyric," report Tad and Joyce Lhamon
of Bainbridge Island, Washington. "All the way we have enjoyed
our copies of Latitude that have been sent from home at
irregular intervals. Attached is a photo of Joyce reading the
August 2001 edition at Cascais Marina in Lisbon, Portugal, while
waiting for weather to clear for a southwest passage to Madiera.
Note the 17th Century fort in the background, protecting the
harbor. Thanks for keeping the West Coast news coming."
"I'm fulfilling my promise to write more about my cruising
experiences in Malaysia, which is 60% Muslim," writes John
Keen of the San Francisco-based Gulf 32 pilothouse Knot Yet,
currently in Lumut, Malaysia. "I travelled to Kuala Lumpur,
the capital, with four other yachties - two Americans and two
Swedes - and we were joined by yet another American couple during
our visit. We enjoyed Kuala Lumpur so much that we extended our
stay another night. For many in our group, a big attraction was
purchasing Video Compact Discs (VCDs) that contain movies that
can be played on a PC as well as a VCD player. The movies retail
for about $1 each, and are bound to become prized trading items
as they are much handier than videotapes. One couple purchased
nearly 100 movies!
"In addition to shopping and eating," Keen continues,
"we took a city tour and did a fair amount of walking around.
We never encountered any hostility, overt or covert. Malaysia
emphasizes that their Muslim, Chinese and Indian populations
live in harmony, and that appears to be the case. Since leaving
Port Dickson, I've been singlehanding and have twice anchored
near the mouths of rivers, so I've been passed by many fishermen,
both underway and while at anchor. As usual, we just exchange
waves - although I was once asked for cigarettes. Then last night
one fishing boat came alongside and the crew yelled, "Americans
O.K.!" while giving the thumbs up. Nonetheless, most cruisers
are still unsure of their plans for the new year. My guess is
that a number of boats will ignore all the hostilities and transit
the Red Sea in groups. I hope this is the case, because I'd really
like to spend some time in the Med on Knot Yet. And if I had
to avoid the Red Sea and go by way of South Africa, I'd have
to sail across the Atlantic to South America and Panama, bypassing
both the Med and the Caribbean. And that would be a shame! But
we'll see. I'm off to Langkawi in a few days and hope to be in
Phuket by mid-November."
We're confused, John, why you think you'd miss the Caribbean
if you had to go around South Africa. Only about 15 miles separate
Trinidad from the South American continent, and when you're in
Trinidad, you're at the bottom of the 600-mile crescent that
is the sweet sailing area of the sunny Caribbee.
"We have been cruising in Costa Rica since June, and have
almost finished a detailed account of the anchorages that we
visited, mostly in the Gulf of Nicoya," report Dorsey and
Janice Warren of the Tahoe City-based Mariner 48 Sun Dazzler.
"We also have several digital photos from Isla Gitana -
you may remember publishing a Changes by the last owner
in the spring of '89. Carl died a few years ago, and we have
spent some time putting the word out and getting other cruisers
to visit the place. We also helped the caretakers fix some things.
Isla Gitana is funky but great. One question: How do you like
to receive the photos? A friend could carry back a disc with
the shots and the text in Word 6.0, or must we send it to you
through the web? Sending it from some of the funky little cybercafes
is sometimes a problem, as they have hiccups when trying to upload
and download files. We hope everyone is keeping the faith up
there with all the negative stuff we're hearing in the news.
We love Latitude - you started us on this, you know!"
Having somebody bring a disc with photos and text in Word is
fine, as is having the text and high resolution photos sent by
email. We're quite anxious to get your report, as Costa Rica
seems to have fallen out of the cruising news lately.
"In the last several years we have seen many improvements
and additional yacht services added to our small port of Golfito,
Costa Rica," reports Bruce Blevins of Banana Bay Marina
in Golfito. "We now offer a wide variety of mechanical and
repair services, such as refrigeration, electronics, engine and
transmission, canvas, and wood. Many of the local yacht facilities
have made security a priority, so the theft problems have been
kept in check. We know that Golfito has had its problems in the
past with port clearance procedures. Today, all but one of our
port officials are courteous and friendly professionals who welcome
visitors to our community. We now always have two officials working
in the port captains office, so service is much improved. However,
one notorious individual still causes problems and unnecessary
expense to visiting yachts. Our community is starting to appreciate
the importance of yachting tourism, so everybody here wishes
to remove this last vestige of corruption and rudeness from our
'welcoming committee'. As such, we would be grateful for any
copies of old articles in Latitude about the corruption
and difficulties with the port officials in Golfito. I remember
a sarcastic one titled The Delightful Port Captain of Golfito.
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.
We look forward to any assistance that may help us make Golfito
a better port of call."
Unfortunately, Bruce, we don't have the time to research all
the articles and Changes that have been written over the
years, so we're going to suggest that anybody who has ever had
problems with the port captain in Golfito - and we know there
have been a bunch - write a brief account and send it to you
We appreciate the effort you're making and wish you success.
Most cruisers have a good idea of how difficult the Baja Bash
from Cabo to San Diego is aboard a typical monohull. If you're
one of them, you'd probably shudder at the prospect of singlehanding
a 40-ft, 7,500-lb catamaran from Puerto Vallarta to Vancouver,
British Columbia. It turns out it's not so bad - at least that's
what Bob Smith claims after having done it last summer with his
homebuilt cat Pantera.
"In the last couple of months there have been some reports
on using Randy and Lourae Kenoffel's - they're on the Beneteau
510 Pizazz - route for making the often difficult passage
from Panana or Cartagena to the Eastern Caribbean," writes
David Wilson of Panama. "I recently helped deliver a Baba
30 from Cartagena to Trinidad, and had a relatively easy trip
using some of the excellent anchorages the Kenoffels recommended.
The trip was mostly like travelling 900 miles to weather at a
slow walk. By the way, the Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside Miraflores
Lake - which is inside the Panama Canal - continues to operate
at or near capacity. In other news, the Balboa YC now has significant
competition from the new marina east of Flamenco Island. In addition,
there are three other marina projects hoping to get approval
from the Panamanian government - and these don't include either
of the marinas Latitude has reported on in Bocas del Toro."
"For the last three months - between having to return home
for business commitments - we've been working our way south from
Portland," report Michael and Catharine Whitby of the Vancouver
and Portland-based Contessa 38 Breila. "We, along
with our Jack Russell terrier Rosey, are now in San Diego and
plan to leave for Mexico and South America at the beginning of
"Sorry that we missed the Baja Ha-Ha, but we're nursing a failed
dodger - the trip down from Washington was hard on the old girl
- our gel-cells finally needed replacing, and our fridge &
freezer died and may need the same," report Bill and Mary
Makepeace of the Boulder-based Lord Nelson 35 Grey Max.
"It's one of those 'when it rains, it pours' situations.
At least Ventura West Marina, where we are now, is a great place
to be slowed down. We're hoping that all's well with the Ha-Ha
fleet and everyone had a great cruise." Everyone did have
a great Ha-Ha, we're sorry you missed it. But there will be more.
Happy winter cruising to everyone! Don't forget to write - and
above all, don't forget to send or email high resolution photos.