With reports this month from
Örnaerie on the hard in Spain;
Cappuccino on trucking a boat home
from Mexico; Free Spirit on the long
slog between New Zealand and Hawaii; Chewbacca
on homeschooling onboard; Annapurna
on cruising between the Maldives and Oman; from Saga
on Bahia del Sol, El Salvador; Miki G.
on Key West; and plenty of Cruise Notes.
Örnaerie -Hallberg 31
On The Hard In Spain
Here I am, sipping a glass of vino rojo at my favorite little
bar in Puerto Sherry, Cadiz, Spain. You can't get a bad glass
of red in this country! Anyway, I just got done talking with
this young couple from northern Europe, and the girl gave me
this "environmentally correct" piece of paper to write
my Changes on. Ah, Spain, what a great place to be stuck in for
18 months! My Õrnaerie is being repaired after
getting beat up on a reef south of Cadiz. The story of that incident
will be retold in my homemade book about my many encounters with
luck. Unfortunately, most of that book got soaked in my latest
case of misfortune.
My daughter, Laurie, and her husband Don recently visited with
me for 10 days to make sure my lifestyle here was all right.
She'd been worried, but the two of them were impressed with how
beautiful, warm, and inexpensive it is here, and how friendly
the people are. I will be here for another 18 months or so while
my boat gets restored, but for only six of those months will
she be out of the water. For fun and necessity, I'm learning
to read and speak Spanish, and hope to become fluent before long.
Only about 10% of the locals, most of them the younger ones,
It's common for the levante winds from the Sahara to blow up
here for days at a time, filling the air with hot and gritty
sand. It's hard to wash that stuff off. At least we've been getting
a little rain, which is good for the mahogany planking on my
boat, as it swells and closes the seams. That means I can put
the primer on and then do the bottom paint.
Although I'm planning on flying home for Christmas and the Super
Bowl - I spent the last two Christmases in Spain - I still plan
to eventually sail the Med and visit Turkey, Greece, Malta, Mallorca,
and the other great spots. My health isn't a problem, as I'm
eating well and get exercise riding my folding Belgian bike.
The Spanish streets aren't very friendly to cyclists, however,
as there are no bike lanes and everybody has a motorbike or small
I don't like to say bad things about people, but the locals to
tend to be fat and have beer bellies, bad teeth, and talk all
at once, yelling to be heard over the existing din. But the señoritas
are pretty. In fact, I'm trying to teach a pretty señorita
in a music store to whisper responses to my questions about flamenco
music, which is a loud wail with an Arab influence and guitar
Andalucia has many beautiful cities to visit - Seville, Cadiz,
Grenada, and others. With a new passport to replace the one lost
in my wreck, I hope to see more of them soon.
- ivan 10/15/03
Ivan - As much as we admire a charmer
such as yourself who takes up sailing in his seventh decade,
and then doublehands his boat from California to Scandanavia,
we think it's time you make a realistic assessment of your ability
to singlehand safely. As most Latitude
readers know, even before your most recent mishap near Cadiz,
you had to be rescued so many times on both sides of the English
Channel that the British tabloids dubbed you "Ivan the Terrible".
And no less a sailing icon than Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of
the first singlehanded around-the-world race, felt compelled
to devote his Yachting World column to condemning your
seemingly never-ending series of mishaps.
It's not something we say lightly, but you and your family need
to seriously consider your swallowing the anchor. It's not just
your life that you're risking, but that of others, too.
Cappucino - Ericson 38
Don & Mary Lou Oliver
Boat Transport Home From Mexico
Although it's just the start of the cruising season in Mexico,
it's never too early for cruisers to think about how they are
going to get their boats home at the end of the season. We had
ours trucked back from San Carlos, and want to share our experience
so others don't repeat our mistakes.
Knowing that June is a hectic time for the staff at Marina Seca,
we called in March to get an early trucking date. That was our
first mistake, as it was already too late to get an early date.
The first time they had open was June 9, but in the end we selected
June 23. As it turned out, problems at the border meant the boat
didn't even leave until later than that.
Having previously worked with Marina Seca and knowing the staff,
we had a lot of confidence in their abilities. So we hauled our
boat ahead of schedule and packed her for the trip home. We ended
up returning to the Bay Area a full week before Cappucino
left San Carlos for Tucson, where she'd be switched to another
At the appropriate time, we called Tucson to confirm that Cappucino
had arrived there on time. She had. According to the schedule,
she was supposed to be picked up 24 hours later by Kevin's Quality
Marine Boat Transport and taken to a Bay Area boatyard. We called
Kevin's many times to confirm that things were on schedule -
but nobody ever answered. Ultimately, we had to call Jesus at
Marina Seca to get a number for Kevin's that would go through.
When we finally did talk to Sean at the transport company, he
told us that due to a variety of factors - including truck trouble
- they would pick up our boat on July 3 and drop her off in Alameda
on July 7. Shortly before the promised arrival date, we eagerly
awaited the call telling us to meet the truck. But the call never
When Kevin's once again didn't return our calls, we contacted
the yard in Tucson. Sure enough, our boat was still in the yard
in Tucson! One of Kevin's trucks had been there, but had taken
off with some other boat. After many more phone calls, we finally
learned that the boat had left Tucson on the 10th, but would
be in Sacramento for the weekend and not delivered to Alameda
until the 14th. It was then we were told that we had to meet
the boat with a cashier's check . . . but they couldn't tell
us how much.
When we packed up the boat in Mexico, we had no idea that she
would be spending two weeks under the hot Arizona sun where the
daily temperatures were from 103° to 113°. And we'd closed
her up tight because they said it was the start of what is now
called the 'monsoon season' and we had to expect rain. But it
didn't rain. Had we known the boat was going to sit closed up
under the brutal sun for so long, we would have taken things
such as our computers and CDs home on the plane. We also would
have removed many more items that would usually be considered
non-perishable - except in intense heat situations. We also would
have insulated the ports and hatches more securely. The insulation
in one of the overhead hatches fell down, exposing some of the
electronics to the sunlight.
Cappucino finally arrived in Alameda in the afternoon
of July 14 - 15 days after leaving San Carlos. There was some
cosmetic damage to the hull finish from the tie-downs, but for
the most part things inside - under all the dust - looked pretty
good. We had been given wrong information about how high our
boat could be on the trailer, which meant that some underpasses
had to be bypassed - and we got stuck with a higher bill. Had
we known, we could have removed the bow pulpit and saved $600.
We understand there are lots of things in the transport business
that can cause delays, but not being able to get in touch with
our trucking company made us feel very insecure about the safety
of our boat and our belongings. Just a few timely phone calls
to update us on the status of our boat would have relieved our
All in all, we would have our boat trucked home from San Carlos
again, but would take more care in packing those things that
are sensitive to heat. And once the boat left Mexico, we wouldn't
count on any adherence to promised schedules. If anyone who is
planning to have their boat trucked back has any questions, we'd
be happy to answer them. We can be reached by .
- don and mary lou 9/15/03
- Pearson 424
Jerry and Barbara Phillips
The Long Trip Up From New Zealand
After doing the Ha-Ha to Cabo in late '99 and being part of the
Latitude-organized Puddle Jump to the Marquesas in March
of 2001, we took one season to go through the South Pacific and
south to New Zealand. Free Spirit was then placed on "hardstanding"
at Dockland 5 in Whangerai for a year. We have nothing but praise
for this well-run establishment and Charlie, the manager. It's
definitely cruiser friendly.
We then traveled the North and South Islands by bus and rental
car for two months in January and February of this year, then
came home to spend a month with our family. Returning to our
boat in April, we had Free Spirit's rigging, lines, and
motor checked in readiness for the long trip through the Pacific
back to Hawaii. We took a little side trip to beautiful Great
Barrier Island, then picked up my brother Tom in Auckland where
we did our final provisioning. When we left New Zealand on April
22, there was a beautiful 146-ft ketch in front of us at the
Customs Dock. It was Mari Cha III, which was headed non-stop,
with a crew of 12, for the Panama Canal. Wow!
We waved good-bye to New Zealand at Cuvier Island early the next
morning. Two hours later, the wind was blowing at 30 knots and
more from the southwest. That afternoon, one of the 10 to 12-ft
swells broke over our starboard bow, washed over the dodger,
half-filling our cockpit, ripping the dodger and bending the
frame. Solid water is powerful stuff!
During that first week, we experienced winds to 40 knots and
more, and after a bit of experimenting, learned how to best manage
the sails. We finally discovered that all we needed was a bit
of jib pulled out from our roller furling. This gave our boat
direction but didn't let her become overpowered. Even in the
8-10 foot swell, the ride was relatively smooth - with a slight
vibration resulting from the heavy winds.
It was during that time I was particularly thankful that Jerry
had had the boat re-rigged with heavier rigging before we left
San Francisco. Were we scared during that week? At times, yes.
In fact, there was a time at night when I just wanted to get
into a fetal position in our bunk and pretend I was back on land.
The shrieking of the wind in the rigging was pretty disturbing
On the seventh day, I made the following entry in our log: "The
winds have been at 20-25 knots, but now just gusting to 35 knots.
We have a double reefed main and a small bit of jib showing.
The seas are three meters, foaming on the tops, and carry us
along like a toy boat. When a wave carries us along, the GPS
reads more than 10 knots, then it drops down to 2.9 as we settle
into a trough. It's hard to figure out our average speed. Jerry
thinks we'll be halfway there tomorrow, our eighth day out. It
can't be soon enough, for it's been a bit of a rough trip."
On the ninth day out, the winds abated to 15-20 knots from the
SW. By day 11, the wind started to shift from the SE and then
E. We reduced sail from two reefs in the main and a bit of jib,
to just a bit of jib.
From April 30 to May 2, Des, our weather man at Russell Radio
in the Bay of Islands, had us moving south in order to avoid
a heavy weather system coming through. When the winds became
easterly, we resumed our northerly heading, since we were headed
directly for what Des was describing as a "vicious"
low. We could actually see the blackness ahead of our boat.
We were finally able to continue due north because the winds
remained easterly, so we decided to head for Rarotonga in the
Cook Islands. It was also the closest land, and by now we were
eager to set foot on some green stuff. From Day 12 to our landing
on Rarotonga on the 17th day, we had a great sail and motoring
trip. The winds calmed down to 15-20 knots from the east, with
We arrived in Rarotonga on May 8, and tied up to the familiar
seawall. We had stopped in Rarotonga on our westerly trip through
the South Pacific, and it felt like coming home. The trip had
been quite an initiation for my brother, who decided that he'd
had enough of the open ocean for awhile. So he flew home to his
beautiful acreage in Fiddletown, California. It was great to
have had an extra person to take a section of the night shift.
To be able to sleep for six hours at a time was something we'd
not experienced before, as we'd doublehanded across the Pacific.
Rarotonga was busier than before with commercial fishing boats,
so the few cruising boats there had to anchor out in this tiny
harbor. At times we would have to move our boats in order that
a larger trading freighter could turn in the harbor. There were
three other cruising sailing vessels in the harbor. There was
the Westsail 32 Saraband, which had become famous in the
Pacific Cup. Dave and Ruth were taking her from New Zealand to
Portland. Different Worlds was there with Al and Debbie,
heading west to Fuji to bury their boat in the ground for the
cyclone season. Finally, there was Chyka with Henry, a
singlehander, who was just heading west.
After six beautiful days in Rarotonga, we took advantage of light
winds and motorsailed ENE to Raiatea/Tahaa in French Polynesia.
The trip took four days. The Immigration Department in Raiatea
didn't know how to handle our paperwork, since it is seldom that
they have a boat cruising east checking into the country.
On the way to Raiatea, we'd lost our autopilot. Not wanting to
handsteer Free Spirit all the way to Hawaii, we started
the process of ordering a new Alpha autopilot drive arm. It ended
up taking 3.5 weeks. Customs in Tahiti was very helpful, even
to the point of letting us know on which plane the part was to
arrive on. They were aware that the marina at which we were staying
would tack on a hefty sum just to go one-and-a-half miles to
the airport and pick up the part.
On June 14 we left Raiatea for Hilo, Hawaii. Most of the trip
was fraught with rain cells and little wind, but the ICTZ was
unusually wide. We did not get good northwest trades until 10°N,
so we spent over 140 hours powering at 1500 rpm. When we did
get to the trades, they were beautiful, giving us 15 to 25 knots
under clear and sunny skies. What a ride! We arrived in Hilo
on July 3, a day before the fireworks. Our passage had taken
us 19 days.
Free Spirit is now residing at Ko Olina Marina on Oahu,
a beautiful four-year old marina, hotel, and golf course resort.
All that is missing to make it like Paradise Village in Nuevo
Vallarta is a zoo. Our ketch will be our 'condo' in Hawaii this
year, and next June we plan to sail to Washington and British
- jerry & barbara 9/15/03
Chewbacca - Crowther 30 Cat
The Winship Family
Home Schooling While Cruising
When people find that we've been cruising with two kids for several
years - we're now at Puerto Pedregal in Western Panama - they
often ask how we handle schooling. It's been an evolutionary
process, so we'll describe it hoping to help other folks cruising
with school age kids.
When we left California with the 2000 Ha-Ha, we'd only lived
aboard our 30-ft catamaran for a total of one month, and we had
never home schooled our girls, then ages 5 and 7. All at once
we were in for some major life changes! Our first year was truly
a dizzying time. But with time, practice, and patience, onboard
life gradually fell into place. It's been four years now, we're
still cruising, still home schooling, and still having fun!
A year before our departure, I'd started reading books on home
schooling and collecting articles on the subject from sailing
magazines. I also perused the internet, where there are literally
hundreds of home schooling sites. Talk about information overload!
We finally decided not to buy a correspondence course nor a complete
packaged curriculum. Instead, we went to Costco and purchased
one grade-level workbook appropriate for each girl.
Armed with a book, we figured we were pretty much there. For
surely the girls would love having their own mom as a teacher.
And surely I was competent enough to improvise and make school
fun. Was I ever wrong on both counts! Just using work books was
a real disaster because there was too much busy work and too
little substance. Before long, I began to lose confidence and
wonder whether I would be able to be a 'real' teacher to them. With
all the other cruising skills I was having to learn, how was
I going to be able to find time to learn to take charge of the
As we began to cruise, we soon learned that some seemingly simple
things - such as making phone calls, getting money, and even
making it to shore without getting dumped in the surf - could
be challenges. We also were faced with adapting to a new culture,
language, currency, climate, food - and sometimes sleep deprivation.
When adding the responsibility of schooling on top of all these,
it was quite stressful!
However, with time, patience, and practice, our family gradually
came to feel more comfortable at sea and at anchor - despite
being elbow-to-elbow on a 30-footer - and began to develop new
indentities. As life onboard become smoother and more relaxed,
we fell into the groove of cruising . . . and schooling.
Nonetheless, after the first year, we bought a 'complete' home
schooling curriculum called Oak Meadow. Another curriculum
widely used by cruising kids is the Calvert School. These
programs come with lesson plans, a teacher's manual, text books,
and even craft and science supplies. What a positive difference
this made for all of us! It meant that I had a guideline to follow,
and the girls had real textbooks. Similarly, the expectations
of what they were supposed to learn was not set by mom, but by
Our school day goes something like this: We start somewhere around
9-10 a.m. with 15 minutes of 'circle time', which can be reading,
free writing, memorizing a poem or song, talking about a recent
trip, reading aloud, drawing, or penmanship exercises. It's a
time that signals the end of play and the beginning of school. Now
that Kendall is 10 years old, she plans our circle time each
week. This is followed by one hour of either language arts or
social studies; an hour for lunch, free time, or boat chores;
30 minutes of math; and 30 minutes of science. We also have leisure-time
reading every day.
Our school day is typically 3.5 hours long. Some subjects are
taught two or three days a week, while others - such as math
- are every day. We find that consistently having school five
days in a row is necessary to establish and maintain an acceptable
level of learning. If this is not done, the learning is too sporadic
and piecemeal. Our school year is 36 weeks-worth of lessons.
Some years we complete it in nine months, but this past year
it took us 11 months. When we are making a passage, reading and
writing are favorite pastimes. We don't do any book work
while underway. Our passages are times of wildlife observations,
navigation practice, and practical boat handling lessons. The
girls also stand a short watch with each of us.
Obviously, the whole act of cruising is a learning experience,
with lots of 'field trips' ashore that we incorporate into our
Social Studies and/or Geography lessons. For instance, we sometimes
supplement our curriculum with separate unit studies that relate
to where we are. When we visited the Mayan ruins of Copan in
Honduras, we did a mini-lesson on the Mayan Indians. When hurricane
Juliette decided to visit the Sea of Cortez, we studied hurricanes
and associated weather. In each country we visit, we have the
girls write short books about them. Since animals are all around
us, they also make natural subjects to write about. Imaginative
play, help with errands and the maintenance, and everyday operation
of our 'house on the water' are considered viable subjects aboard
Even though our curriculum gives a weekly lesson plan, I still
spend two hours every weekend planning for the upcoming week,
and may add worksheets or ideas of my own, or delete things that
are not possible for us to do on the boat. At the beginning of
each 12-week segment, I make a checklist of skills that will
be covered - and periodically check it - to make sure I don't
In the beginning, I did all the teaching. For the past two years,
however, Bruce and I have shared the responsibility. Bruce teaches
math and music, while I teach language arts, science, and social
studies. Having two teachers has added variety and spice to the
schoolweek, making it more fun and rewarding. The girls like
seeing us work as a team, and they are smart enough to realize
we form a united front. It's not so easy to wear down two parents!
As the girls get older, the curriculum has become more intensive
and requires more hours to complete. As such, we've spent less
time traveling and more time sitting tight in places for longer
periods. Since we have an open-ended cruising plan, we are not
pressed for time and have the luxury of traveling at whatever
pace we like. We believe that this style greatly enhances the
girls' schooling experiences - on board as well as ashore.
The following are some of the most helpful online resources I've
come across: www.homeschooling.about.com;
I hope this information makes the path less rugged for any parents
just starting out on their home schooling adventure. I feel that
with commitment, practice and patience, cruising and home schooling
can give your children and your family shared years of wonder
and happiness. By the way, we have set up a website for cruising
kids to keep in touch online. This can also be used as an
open forum for potential cruising kids and parents to ask questions
about home schooling, and cruising as a family. Many cruising
parents and different-aged kids are available to answer particular
questions. The 'Cruising Kids Message Board' address is
- april, bruce, kendall
Annapurna - Hans Christian 48
Buddy & Ruth Ellison
Cruising Arab World During Wartime
[Continued from last month, when the Ellisons reported on their
trip from Thailand to the Maldives.]
As those of us on 15 cruising boats in the Maldives got ready
for the next leg of our trip, the 1,256 miles to Oman, our first
bonafide Arab and Muslim country, our thoughts and emotions were
understandably going crazy. It wasn't just a long ocean passage
and pirates that we were worried about, but the fact that our
country had sent hundreds of thousands of troops to the Middle
East in anticipation of attacking Iraq. Even after we reached
Oman, it would be another 600 miles to the southern mouth of
the Red Sea, then about 1,500 more miles north to the Suez Canal.
It would be at least a month before we left the Arab world again.
I wish I could better describe the pre-departure anxiety we felt.
Only the women, emotional creatures that we are, would admit
to our fears. The guys were tough and didn't show it, but we
knew better. The piracy issue was a concern, but with such a
major military presence, we didn't think it would be a problem.
But what if war broke out while we were sailing up the Red Sea?
We might be escorted, we might be turned around - who knew what
I'm not sure anyone in the 'real world' can appreciate the control
over our lives we were about to relinquish. When we return to
to the real world again someday, I can assure you that we certainly
won't complain as much about the insignificant things in life.
There is no question but that we are very different people from
when we left - which, it's hard to believe, was almost seven
Losing control of our lives was certainly the bad side, but there
was a good side. For one thing, there was the phenomenal camaraderie
among the yachties of all nations. It was wonderful. Then too,
there were the incredible experiences we had visiting each country.
Indeed, we were looking forward to the stops along the way up
the Red Sea - if the weather, imminent war, and politics allowed
Our group of 15 boats travelled close together, but not necessarily
in eyeball range. Every morning and night we'd check into the
net - which I ran, much to my surprise - so we knew where everybody
was. As it turned out, we had a wonderful eight-day trip, a '9'
on a scale of one to 10, and arrived in Oman on February 16.
During the passage to Oman, we'd read Nine Parts of Desire,
the Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks. The
author is a journalist who lived in the Middle East in the '80s
and '90s, and her book provided us with excellent insight into
the Arab/Muslim perspective - especially their attitude toward
Muslim and non-Muslim women. We cruising women knew right away
we wouldn't be wandering Arab streets without our men, and in
any event wouldn't be dressing in shorts and tank tops.
Despite our anxieties, Oman proved to be one of our favorite
places, as the people were unbelievably friendly. "Where
are you from?" everyone asked us. We said we were from the
U.S. - unless we felt uncomfortable, in which case we claimed
to be Canadian! But we always had a good feeling about the people
of Oman, as they welcomed us and tripped over each other to show
us their country.
While in Oman, we had our first camel experience. They were everywhere,
from blocking our path in the middle of the streets to being
in herds alongside the road. Unlike the people, the camels didn't
make us feel so welcome. Oman had some great restaurants, serving
local and Lebanese food, and incredible grocery stores with every
product you might need. Although the prices weren't the best,
we used the old cruiser dictum of "if you see it, buy it".
Our driver took a real liking to me and called me "my sister",
so I called him "my brother". It was great.
There were quite a few warships - French, Spanish, and American
- in the harbor. While having dinner at a very Western and ex-pat
hangout, we talked to some American military during dinner. We
couldn't get too much information out of them, but we knew they
were diving the waterfront area to check for underwater explosives.
One night they slipped a little by telling us, "The shit
is going to hit the fan the next full moon." We all knew
exactly what they were talking about, and sure enough, the U.S.
attacked Iraq on March 19th, the day after the full moon.
We formed a convoy of six boats - Max Grody II, Ocean Flyer,
Regina, Excess Lines, and Carillion - when we departed
Salalah, Oman. Our game plan was to try not to attract attention
by staying off the VHF - a plan that lasted almost an hour. Too
many people wanted to talk along the way. There was also some
thought given to not having running lights on. Buddy liked the
idea, but the majority said it was more important not to run
into each other. We kept a half mile away from each other during
the day, and no more than a mile apart at night. We agreed on
a maximum speed of six knots under power, and five knots under
sail - which almost never happened.
Our plan was to close ranks quickly if any of us was approached
by a small boat. When the first fishing boats came close to us,
I thought my heart was going to stop. Out came the baseball bat,
spearguns, and flare gun. "Boat approaching, boat approaching,"
I bellowed into the VHF. But it turned out to be some friendly
Another time Mary on Carillion yelled on the radio, "Hostile
Indians, hostile Indians approaching!".
"No, no, we are Pakistani!" they replied. "Want
to trade cigarettes for fish?"
We all got a good laugh out of that one. Some of the yachties
- mostly crazy Americans and Aussies - wanted to attack first
and show'em who was boss. "Let's storm the beach in Yemen,"
some said, believing that the best defense is a good offense.
That certainly would have confused the pirates. These comments
were probably made in jest to relieve some of the tension, as
we were all on edge. We talked about using weapons if approached,
but nobody had any - or at least not any they were willing to
admit to. Having weapons is against the law. But we did get out
our spear guns, sling shots, machetes, baseball bats, and the
About 200 miles from Oman, Carillion lost her engine.
It was a huge problem because there wasn't any wind to sail.
So Regina, having the largest engine, towed them the rest
of the way to Aden. We were planning on stopping there anyway
because we all needed fuel. It ended up being an impressive formation,
with Regina and Carillion in the middle separated
by a 200-ft tow line, with Excess Line and Annapurna
on either side to stop fishing boats from going in-between them.
Max Grody II and Ocean Flyer brought up the rear.
While we were in the area, there was one pirate attack and another
attempted attack off the coast of Yemen. These were attempted
by folks who primarily smuggle Somalians, but who try to pick
up a few extra bucks by robbing yachts! During the first attack,
money and electronic equipment were stolen from the yacht Bambola.
The second attempt was thwarted when the yachts outran the pirates!
We arrived in Aden, Yemen, on March 1, two weeks before the start
of hostilities in Iraq. We know you're all saying, "Now
we know you're really nuts!" The truth is that we had the
same experience there as everywhere else - almost everyone was
extremely friendly and welcoming. The one exception was at a
gas station when Buddy filled up a can of dinghy fuel. When asked
where he was from, Buddy replied "America".
"Oh," replied the attendant, "America bad."
The real problem there was poverty, which was exacerbated by
its close proximity to Somalia. We also felt a little uncomfortable
because Aden is where the USS Cole was attacked by a small
boat with bombs, but it turned out to be another Arab country
where we didn't have any problems.
A couple of days later, we left Aden for the 100-mile trip to
the Straits of Bab el Mandeb, the southern entrance to the Red
[To be continued next month.]
- ruth 09/15/03
Saga - Alberg 35
Nancy Birnbaum & Jann Hedrick
Costa del Sol, El Salvador
Much has been written in these pages about the Costa del Sol,
and especially the hotel Bahia del Sol, yet we wanted to share
some of the greater aspects of the place. For anyone looking
for a safe, secure, and mas tranquillo atmosphere, this is the
place. Whether you plan to leave your boat and travel back home
for a visit, or tour inland Central America, Bahia del Sol is
your spot. The best part is that it's free! That's right, you
can leave your boat for nothing. And it only costs a small amount
to have Carlos from the hotel or another cruiser keep any eye
on your boat while you're gone. Keep this in mind when hearing
how expensive the marinas are in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua.
For cruisers like us on a tight budget, it was perfect. In fact,
we left Saga for two weeks to do some inland touring in
the Guatemalan Highlands, to see the Mayan Ruins at Copan, and
to visit more of El Salvador.
Upon our return, however, we had to get serious about boat projects
before we could head down the coast. So we were fortunate to
met Santos Torres, who lives just across the estuary from the
hotel. For the regular boat rate of $10 U.S. a day, he worked
on Saga for almost three weeks. We coached him in the
finer points of wood care on our 40-year-old Alberg. He scraped,
sanded, and varnished our caprail and cockpit combing, which
had been sorely neglected in the heat of two San Carlos, Mexico,
summers. Santos also cleaned our entire chain, and the hull and
prop. By the way, you really have to stay on top of the growth
here. We recommend cleaning the bottom every three weeks, and
rotating the chain so that some part of it drags in the sand
and cleans itself. Anyway, Santos' work was fabulous and his
English improved daily. Our praise for Santos is endless!
We are so glad to have Santos and his family. Instead of having
lunch with us aboard Saga, on some days he'd invite us
to his house for some of his mother Dena Elizabeth's homemade
tamales. What a treat. By the way, Santini, Santos' father, is
well-known around here for being a magician with outboards. He
can fix anything, and his prices are very modest. We think any
boat coming to Bahia del Sol should consider having Santos for
the difficult projects that you've been putting off. Santos can
be reached at 821-1051 or 780-8902.
Incidentally, we found marine quality varnish, outdoor type plywood,
and lots of other necessities at the closest ferreteria at the
corner of the road to Costa del Sol and Zacate. It's an easy
bus ride. It was harder to find epoxy resin to remake our dinghy
floorboards. We finally located some at Marinsa, the marine store
owned by the ever-friendly and helpful Gabrielle in San Salvador.
If we didn't specify resina epoxia, they would assume we wanted
Getting to the city was always a pleasure in Jose's taxi - 747-2104.
It cost $35 plus lunch for the whole day, but since we weren't
spending any money for berthing, it was worth it. Jose knows
where to find everything - and we mean everything. His English
is good, and when we weren't singing Beatles' songs with him,
we were teaching him fun phrases.
Carlos and his crew at the hotel were extremely helpful with
just about everything. He runs the marina for the hotel. Having
studied in the States, he's fluent in English. His crew, Mario
and Jorge, are available for hire for bottom jobs.
All in all, we're really glad we stopped over in El Salvador.
They locals are shy at first - what a change from mainland Mexico!
- but are so nice and friendly that you can't help but love it
here. We'll be sad to say good-bye, but Costa Rica and Panama
are calling, and we're ready to sail once again.
-nancy birnbaum & jann
Miki G - Gemini 105 Catamaran
Michael Beattie & Layne Goldman
Key West, Florida
Layne and I have been living aboard our Gemini catamaran in Key
West for more than a year. We arrived here from Santa Cruz after
doing the '98 Ha-Ha, transiting the Panama Canal, and sailing
up to Florida. We passed through Key West on our way to Fort
Myers, which turned out to be dull, so we returned to Key West
to settle down for a while.
Key West is as close to a bowl of 'California granola' as we've
been able to find on the East Coast, as the city of 27,000 prides
itself on being funky, laid back, and non-judgemental. One fifth
of the full-time population is gay, and not for nothing is the
city's official motto "We Are All One Family". While
it reads well, putting such a philosophy into practice tries
the patience of the police department, the locals, the homeless,
the RV people, the anchor-outs, and supporters of the - I'm not
making this up - wild chicken population, who frequently end
up at loggerheads. Cruisers who can't cope with the free-spirited
nature of Key West retire in disgust 50 miles up the Keys at
Marathon, a solid working-class town. That is home to Boot Key
Harbor, the most protected - and polluted - anchorage in all
West Coast cruisers would probably be approaching Key West from
Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a distance of 335 miles, or possibly Cuba,
about 90 miles. When arriving late in the day, I suggest anchoring
discreetly and waiting for regular office hours before starting
to make phone calls to check in. The only legal place to get
clearance in the Keys is Key West. Your boat must be docked someplace
to be cleared, and I suggest the Chevron Fuel Dock. If it's after
8 a.m. and before 4 p.m., the Dry Tortugas ferry leaves a huge
hole on the dock and you won't be blocking the fuel pumps. Once
tied up, call the National Customs number - 800 432-1216 - from
a pay phone with your decal number in hand. If you don't have
an annual Customs decal, you'll have to present yourself and
25 of your dollars at the local Customs Office within 24 hours.
The local Customs Office number is 305-294-3877 - but they can't
clear you in as they only serve the cruise ships.
After you call National Customs, call Immigration at 305-296-2233.
If they're busy with a cruise ship - "Honey I'm alone in
the office," one nice woman told us after our trip back
from the Bahamas last year - they tell you to report to their
Simonton Street office within 24 hours. Sometimes they'll come
to your boat and bring the Agriculture Inspector with them. We've
found all the officials to be unfailingly polite and easy to
deal with - unless you've been to Cuba or try to clear in from
someplace down in the Keys. If you do the latter, you'll have
to rent a car and drive to Key West Immigration within 24 hours
- and you may still get a tongue-lashing.
Those wanting slips in Key West between December and April can
expect to find the marinas full. If you happen to luck into a
short term - less than three months - slip, get ready for East
Coast slip fee shock. They run about $2/foot/night! The state
of Florida has no income tax, but they make up for it by Key
West charging 7.75% tax on slips. Ex-military personnel can use
the nice marina at Boca Chica eight miles north of Key West for
just 29 cents/ft/night.
For those looking to anchor out, there are three free anchorages
visitors can use not far from downtown. Christmas Tree Island,
called Wisteria Island on the charts thanks to the abundance
of Australian pines, is deserted and makes an excellent place
to walk your dog(s) when you first arrive. Despite the chart,
there's plenty of water around the island except on the north
side. Protection is all right except for southerly to northwesterly
winds - which honk in the winter when periodic cold fronts come
through town. Most visitors prefer the anchorage west of Fleming
Key north of town, but it's also badly exposed to the south through
northwest. Although there is a maximum tidal range of just three
feet, Key West has ferocious tidal currents. Combine an ebb tide
with a strong prefrontal southerly, and your neighbors' boats
will drag even as you're being bounced out of your bunk.
While you can anchor out for free, you have to pay to tie your
dinghy to a dock. Dockage for dinghies up to 12 feet is available
one dock over from the fuel dock at $4 a day, $20 a week or $60
a month - including water and garbage. Showers are $30 a month
per person. 'Dinghy rage' is a common phenomenon at the overcrowded
dinghy dock during the winter.
Key West also operates a mooring field north of Garrison Bight
for boats up to 40 feet. The fee is $130/month. The moorings
are exposed to the north, but the fee includes the use of a floating
dinghy dock inside the bight on the southwestern seawall.
Layne and I live in a modern marina on the north side of Stock
Island with floating docks and excellent protection. We pay $500/month
for our 34-foot slip, $100 for electricity, plus $60 a month
for four pump-outs. When you add the tax in, it comes to about
$700 a month - so let's not hear any complaining from you folks
back home in the Bay Area!
Key West has all the facilities a sailor might need - although
it may take a bit of a struggle to find them. There is an excellent
bus service around the island that will take you as far north
as Stock Island - home to the fishing fleet and several haul-out
yards - for one dollar. It also makes for a much cheaper, though
less informative, scenic tour than the tourist Conch Train Tour.
That costs $20!
By the way, 'conch' is pronounced 'konk'. While it used to mean
a rubbery kind of mollusk, it now means a long term resident
of Key West. There is Greyhound service to Miami, which is about
3.5 hours away by car - if there aren't any accidents blocking
Highway One aka 'the Overseas Highway'. Key West International
airport has no international flights, but does connect to Miami,
Orlando and Atlanta.
To put aside some misconceptions, Key West is neither in the
Caribbean nor in the tropics. At 24°30' north, it's 120 miles
north of the Tropic of Cancer. Indeed, the island has two distinct
seasons. Summers, which starts in May, are windless, rainy, humid,
and have many thunderstorms. Winters, starting in November, are
gloriously dry and sunny - except when occasional gray and windy
fronts blow through. Most winter days are like the best summer
days in California, with temperatures around 80° and low
humidity. But beware of cold fronts, which can drop temperatures
30° in less than an hour! Last winter a record low of 41
degrees was recorded. When there's a northwesterly howling at
45 knots, 41° is real cold.
Layne and I are doing what our friend the Wanderer hates - using
our cat almost exclusively as a home. But Layne is working as
a juvenile probation officer, and her office is literally across
from Sunset Marina. Compared to her former job of being an attorney,
it's very low stress. As for myself, I commute five miles to
downtown Key West by bicycle or Moped to my job as a charter
captain. I get paid very well, thank you, to take cruise ship
passengers 'racing' on one of the four 27-foot Stilletto catamarans
owned by my very laid-back boss. I'm also earning my associates
degree in marine engineering at Florida Keys Community College,
where I'm learning all about repairing diesels and outboards,
as well as doing fiberglass work. It's an extremely comprehensive
and hands-on course.
Emma, our well-traveled yellow Lab, is growing old and stiff,
and is weary of travel by boat. So while I face the day with
dread, we aren't going to go cruising until she passes on.
Our big regret about our trip from California to Florida is that
we had but $15,000 and couldn't be out longer. Next time, we
hope to set off with a five-year budget so we can sail to more
distant horizons - say Europe via the Caribbean. That should
take a few bucks. We'd also like to sail back to the Pacific
Coast of Mexico.
Our original cruising plan called for a 2006 departure from California
when 'everything was ready'. That's all changed, but we still
have our (mortgaged) Santa Cruz home to retire to, and even though
we are glued to the dock, we are still very much 'out cruising'
- mentally at least, keeping an eye on the horizon like cruisers
should! If any West Coast cruisers arrive in Key West and need
a hand, we have a splendid car, filled with dog hair, and would
be happy to ferry you around. Feel free to give us a call at
305-296-1865, or .
Lastly, I want to say that setting off in the 1998 Baja Ha-Ha launched
us into a whole new life that has increased our self confidence
in our survival skills. We both now know that we can earn money
doing pretty much anything, and when the boat breaks, we are
far less panicked or annoyed than we - or I - used to be!
- michael 10/15/03
Murder most foul. "Captain Lucky Wilhelm, who along with
his wife Aggie owned the Oasis del Pacifico Resort Hotel on the
water in Costa Rica, was murdered by robbers at his home last
month," reports William R. Carr. "It was a great loss
all yachtsmen who have called on the west coast of Costa Rica,
as Lucky was a great friend to them, and they often used his
We didn't know Lucky, who was in his mid-70s, but Carr's tribute
proves he lead a most interesting life. A captain in the merchant
marine for more than half a century, Lucky spent considerable
time around Viet Nam during the war, and later opened up a marina
in Jeddeh, Saudia Arabia! There is even a report that he met
Osama bin Laden long before 9/11. Based on the number of letters
we've received lamenting Lucky's death, we can tell that he will
be greatly missed by his many cruising friends. By the way, this
is not the first time an elderly American landowner in Costa
Rica has been brutally murdered.
"I'm a 13-year-old girl sailing down to Mexico with my parents,"
writes Kate Reid of the Santa Cruz-based Kelly Peterson 44 Carmelita.
"We're currently in San Diego, and I thought I would meet
some other cruising kids my age - but so far they have all been
considerably younger. I'd really like to meet other cruising
kids my age, so if anyone can help, I can be reached through
my parents' .
We're also on the SSB, and our call sign is WCW 7952. My parents
are Paul and Carol."
It's too bad you couldn't have made the Ha-Ha, Kate, as there
were a bunch of kids in that fleet. But don't worry, once you
get into tropical Mexico and hit the nets, you'll find kids your
age. From then on it should be easier, as boats with kids tend
to cruise together for obvious reasons.
"We're having the best of times and the worst of times,"
report Robert and Virginia Glesers of the Alameda-based Islander
Freeport 41 Harmony. "We're bombing down the San
Jose Channel about 50 miles north of La Paz in 18 to 25 knots
of wind from aft. It's rolly but grand, considering what wind
we've had trying to sail south in the Sea of Cortez so far. Harmony
needs real wind and is loving the conditions. We were going to
Evaristo to visit some friends, but at the last minute decided
to push on since the sailing was so good. It's only eight miles
ahead to Isla San Francisco, and since we started from Los Gatos
at the crack of dawn this morning, that's where we'll stop for
"We're now at 'The Hook', as Isla San Francisco is affectionately
known," the Glesers continue. "With the wind blowing,
it's a delightful anchorage with fine protection and the most
beautiful turquoise water - we jumped in as soon as we arrived.
Although sailing down here was wonderful and the anchorage is
pristine, there is a big problem - the no-see-ums. Ever since
the wind backed off, the ferocious little bugs - which, despite
their name, you can easily see - pack a ferocious bite. And cruisers
are their preferred fare. Virginia, who was recently stung by
some jellies, got some more red marks on her lovely white skin
from the no-see-ums."
Bill Claypool of Sausalito forwarded this latest report from
friend Larry Jacobson of the Stevens 51 Julia, who left
San Francisco two years ago December:
"We're off from Vanuatu to see the wizard, the wonderful
wizard of Oztralia! We departed at noon in clouds and rain, and
headed out to sea. What a wonderful feeling to head offshore,
knowing that the land will soon disappear and it will be just
us and the sea! One's concentration gets focused, senses become
more keen, and the heart gets lifted with each rising swell.
The rain was a trough of weather that packed a punch of 25-30
knots, and within two hours of departure we had ripped our heavy
spinnaker. As with any passage, the first day consists of getting
used to being back at sea, the motion of the boat, and keeping
some simple food down. By tomorrow, we'll be 'old salts' again!
It's evening now, and the spinnaker has been stuffed away until
we can get it to a sailmaker - but we're still making 6.5 knots
with just our mainsail and yankee. We're headed downwind with
the 15-20 knot southeast trades right behind us. Our route will
take us over the top of New Caledonia and Huon Reef to Chesterfield
Reef, where we may stop. But if the good wind holds, we'll turn
south again, and head between Frederick Reef and Kenn Reef, after
which we'll be off to Bundaberg on the east coast of Australia.
At this rate we should be there in six days. There's been a lot
of radio talk tonight, as about half a dozen other boats also
left Vanuatu for Australia. Everybody reports their position
and weather so the boats further back know what to expect. Cyclone
season is fast approaching up here, and so it's time for all
of us to get south!"
"We're back on our boat in Bonaire," report Larry Hirsch
and Dorothy Taylor of the San Diego-based Hylas 45.5 Shayna.
The very active mid-70s cruising couple say they'd love to "sink"
their generator, a unit they'd had little trouble with during
their years in Europe, but which has apparently become a major
source of frustration. The couple expect to head for the Panama
Canal and Mexico soon.
"We arrived in Grenada a short time ago, having come east
from Aruba," reports John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry
52 catamaran Little Wing. "The last two days were
not very pleasant, as we chose to go north above the islands
to make a nonstop sail from Bonaire to Trinidad. The wind actually
came in from the southeast at tradewind strength, and we could
have gone north on a reach, but had to go to Grenada to avoid
visa problems with a Colombian crewmember. But all in all, our
easting all the way from Panama was quite favorable. Getting
to Cartagena wasn't too bad, and then it took just 8.5 days from
Cartagena to Grenada - including a two-day stop in Aruba, and
two days in Bonaire. While in Cartagena, I was able to sign on
Charlie Collins, Julian Amery, and Sugey to join John Folvig
of Elysium in crewing for me on what had the potential
to be a miserable trip to Aruba. But it turned out to be a pleasant
one. In my last email, I forgot to mention that while we were
off Colombia's Rio Magdelana one night, we heard a loud bang.
It turned out to be a 10-inch diameter tree, complete with roots,
passing between the hulls! The Magdalena is notorious for spreading
its debris miles into the Caribbean Sea. Even cars have been
spotted drifting offshore."
The big one began on November 23. We're referring to the granddaddy
of all cruiser rallies, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which
takes the fleet 2,750 miles from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands
to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, in the Eastern Caribbean. Although
this is the 18th year, the ARC is more popular than ever, with
all 225 slots having sold out - it's not cheap - in May. The
boats range in size from English-owned Rustler 31 Eumenides
to the Swiss-owned Swan 86 Aspiration. Fifteen of the
entries are catamarans, eight of them having been built by Catana
- ironic for a company that was reportedly bought this summer
for just one euro. Far more than half of the entries are from
England and Germany. There are, however, 15 entries from the
United States. The only one we're familiar with is the Catana
581 Aurora, which is owned by Northern Californians Mark
and David Bernhard, who also did the ARC last winter. The fast
rally boats should finish in about 12 days, the slow ones in
about three weeks. If you're interested in what kinds of boats
the Brits and Europeans sail across oceans, check the entry list
ARC boats tend to be well equipped and maintained.
With the ARC having sold out and there still being demand for
rally spots across the Atlantic, the World Cruising Ltd. folks
started a companion event, the Rubicon Antigua Challenge. This
event starts in another of the Canary Islands, also on November
23, and finishes in - you guessed it - Antigua, a couple of islands
north of St. Lucia. So far 16 boats have signed up, three of
them owned by Americans. The only one we recognize will be skippered
by Steve Pettengill, who will be aboard the Hunter 50 Hunters
Good luck and safe sailing to all! It will be remembered that
in last year's ARC there was one death from drowning after a
man went overboard in his harness but couldn't be brought back
aboard. Another boat had to be scuttled in the mid-Atlantic after
the rudder broke twice.
While it was another easy year for the Baha Ha-Ha - see the feature
story earlier in this issue - it was a very difficult one for
the West Marine Caribbean 1500 from Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola
in the British Virgins. After the early November start, the weather
began to deteriorate. The Wormwood 55 catamaran Avalon
was dismasted, and about a third of the 33-boat fleet took refuge
in Bermuda. With the bad weather continuing, they were stuck
there for nearly a week, throwing almost everybody's schedules
off. In fact, most of these boats didn't depart Bermuda until
about the time the crews of the other 22 boats were celebrating
the awards ceremony in Tortola! We'll have more details next
month, but can tell you that Dr. Ian Gordon of Bethesda, Maryland,
who has participated in four previous 1500s, took first with
his Tayana 65 Bravado.
For what it's worth, West Coast cruisers should be thankful that
it's so much easier to get to the tropics from the Left Coast
than the East Coast, which can be very challenging. Anybody who
thinks it's hard to sail to and in the Sea of Cortez should spend
a season sailing from the East Coast to and around the Caribbean.
Glyn Frost, writing the Lagoon Lines column in the Caribbean
Compass, had a line we liked about the financial ups and
downs in St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean: "Waiting for
the boats to come, like characters in a play by Becket, or adherents
of some South Seas Island cargo-cult, we cheer each other with
tales of vast, gleaming palaces floating into the lagoon with
largesse for all, and times when a hundred dollars will be a
tip rather than half a week's salary." Yes, it's boom or
bust with the high and low seasons in the sunny Caribbean.
Since we're talking about that area of the world, we should advise
that entries for the wildly festive Heineken Regatta in St. Martin
the first week in March are starting to come in, and officials
say they've already received entries from 11 boats over 60 feet
- including Roy Disney's new Pyewacket and Hasso Plattner's
new Morning Glory, both of which are MaxZ86s with canting
keels. The 11 entries over 60-ft don't include Latitude's
63-ft cat Profligate, which we're going to use to try
to attract the biggest fleet of cruising cats ever in that event.
If you've got a cat in the Caribbean or are going to charter
one at that time of the year, and if you like great sailing and
wild partying, don't miss it. For further information, visit
the Heineken Regatta website - www.heinekenregatta.com.
By the way, it's expected to be a great sailing year in the Caribbean,
with all the great yachts finally back from New Zealand, and
a host of new ones - such as the brilliant 144-ft Mari Cha
IV - making their debuts in events such as the Heinie, the
British Virgins Spring Festival in late March, and Antigua Sailing
Week in late April.
"As of February 2003, Customs in Australia is charging all
foreign boats less than 50-ft as much as $5,000 to be "fumigated",
plus another $1,000 to be guarded for 24 hours," reports
a cruiser who asks that his name not be published for fear of
retribution. "The Aussies are also getting tough on foreign
boats by making them leave the country for at least a couple
of days each year - or pay import duty on their boat. This is
even true with cruisers holding two-year and four-year visas.
Import duty is 5% of the value of the boat, and GST is another
8%, making for a total of 13%. So how do they stick it to you
if you leave the country once a year to avoid the import duty?
The 'fumigating fee'! If someone were emigrating to Australia,
I could see how such a fee might be justified, but it can't be
for visiting cruisers. Legislators in Canberra must have gone
nuts, for the only thing the 'fumigation fee' will exterminate
is the desire of cruisers - who leave lots of money behind -
to visit Australia."
There's sad news out of the Caribbean, as David 'The Caribbean
Weatherman' Jones passed away in British Virgins hospital at
age 62 on November 7. His weather reports and weather website
had been extremely popular throughout the Caribbean Basin.
On the subject of Caribbean weather, Kirk and Catherine McGeorge,
who have a new son Stuart, as well as a new to them Hylas 47
Gallivanter in addition to the custom 37 pilothouse Polly
Brooks they sailed most of the way around the world, report
that it was a bone-chilling 75 degrees last month - a 20-year
low according to the local newspaper. It was so cold, they were
even thinking of putting on some shoes. In other Virgin Island
records, they report sport fishing boat Black Pearl set
a record for catching a 91-pound wahoo in a tournament, so in
addition to all the normal prizes, they won a pickup truck. This
pleased the owner and captain, who a couple of months before
had been fined and the boat confiscated for fishing in British
Virgin Island waters without a license! So, you don't want to
mess with those guys.
No matter if you believe the Eastern Pacific hurricane season
runs from June to the end of November - like the Atlantic/Caribbean
hurricane season - or just until the end of October, now is a
good time to look back to evaluate the storm season in both regions.
Despite a relatively active Atlantic/Caribbean season - eight
tropical storms and six hurricanes - the Eastern Caribbean was
virtually untouched, making it one of the most relaxed seasons
there in many years. The East Coast wasn't quite so lucky, as
hurricane Isabel, at one time a Category 5 hurricane, nailed
the Annapolis area in September just a couple of weeks before
the start of the big boat show. Fortunately, it had lost much
of its strength shortly before making landfall or the damage
would have been much worse. The other damaging hurricane in the
Atlantic was Juan, also in September, which destroyed many boats
in Bermuda before moving north and creating waterfront havoc
in Nova Scotia. Hurricanes in Nova Scotia, which is as far north
as Oregon? That's what the warm waters of the Gulf Stream will
do for you.
While it could have been much worse in the Atlantic/Caribbean,
it was a terrible year for hurricanes in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico's
summer cruising grounds. The nine tropical storms and seven hurricanes
aren't huge numbers for Mexico, but two of them, Ignacio and
Marty, headed for the Sea of Cortez rather than wandering northwest
into the Pacific as most do. Ignacio hit La Paz in late August,
but did little more than give everyone a big scare. Marty, about
a month later, was the real deal, destroying the breakwater and
many boats at Marina del La Paz, sinking or driving 15 unoccupied
boats ashore in Puerto Escondido, and doing proportionally less
damage further north and over at San Carlos on the mainland.
Longtime locals said Marty was the strongest hurricane to have
hit La Paz in 20 years, and did the most damage ever to cruising
boats in the Sea - in part because the number of cruising boats
in the Sea has dramatically increased in recent years.
If you were in La Paz for both Ignacio and Marty and want to
lose your faith in weather records, be advised that some records
say Ignacio was the stronger of the two, and that Marty, which
caused far more destruction, peaked at only 85 knots. We're certain
that everyone who was in La Paz will strongly disagree with these
Despite the damage done by hurricane Marty a couple of months
back, things are happening in La Paz. "Among the many cruiser
activities in La Paz is a Paradise Found YC-sponsored trash cleanup
day December 8 at El Mogote," reports Slade Ogletree. "A
local plastics company is donating kilos of trash bags, Tecate
is donating beer to keep the troops hydrated and happy, and the
city of La Paz will haul the garbage away. We expect support
from both the cruising and local communities. There will be a
happy hour and food specials at PFYC after the cleanup. And after
the Monday Night Football game, the La Cachana band - which performed
for the Ha-Ha fleet at Bahia Santa Maria - will play."
"It's a bit cool and windy here in La Paz," reports
Greg Retkowski, who is with Cherie Sogstie, Anne Blunden, and
Renne Waxlax aboard the Swan 65 Casseopeia in La Paz following
the Ha-Ha. "There are lots of signs of hurricane damage
around. We're in Marina Palmira, which fared well, but down the
street at Marina de La Paz, the docks are still in a shambles
and masts are sticking out of the water at strange angles. There
is a channel inside the marina marked by plastic bottles to show
where it's navigable and where there are still hulls on the bottom."
"The Mexican sailing season got off to a good start in Mazatlan
on November 11 with a margarita party sponsored by Marina Mazatlan
and Costa Mariner Restaurant," report Rick Cummings and
Bob and Liana Buchanan of Mazatlan-based Total Yacht Services.
"Many cruisers showed up, as did Harbormaster Gerardo Sanchez
and his assistant Sylvia, to sip tequila-based cocktails, listen
to the band, and make new friends. But it's just the start, as
many more activities are planned for December: A Full Moon Howl
party on the 8th, the Marina Mazatlan Potluck on the 12th, a
Lighted Boat Contest on the 23rd, and a non-denominational holiday
service on the 24th. Mazatlan is a great place for cruisers,
the locals and officials are friendly, so stop by and spend some
time with us!"
If you're in Mexico, you've got a great cruising season ahead
of you. Here are some important events and dates to remember:
Zihua Sail Fest, which for the last couple of years has been
held at the end of January; Carnival in Mazatlan, February 19-24; Banderas Bay Regatta at Paradise Marina, March 25-28;
Island Madness at La Paz and and the nearby islands, April 18-25,
and Loreto Fest, the first weekend in May at Puerto Escondido.
If there are other events, official and otherwise, that cruisers
in Mexico should know about, please let us know so we can publicize
Owners of boats 60 feet and longer planning to go through the
Panama Canal after next July need to prepare themselves to shell
out big bucks for a piece of equipment they don't really need.
Pete Stevens, whom Profligate used as a ship's agent in
Panama during the recent 'festivities', says that after July
1, the Canal Commission will require all boats over 60 feet to
carry a transponder like the ones big boats carry can currently
rent for $150/transit. But after July, you won't be able to rent
the $5,000 units, you'll have to have it permanently installed
in your boat! The word from Panama is that ever since the Panamanians
took over, they're squeezing every cent they can out of the Canal.
We're not sure how requiring transponders accomplishes that goal,
unless, of course, some commissioner's cousin has a monopoly
on the transponder concession. By the way, the transponders are
not required on boats under 60 feet.
As many of you are aware, Profligate left Cabo November
7, the morning after the end of the Baja Ha-Ha, on a blue streak for
Panama in the hope of being able to cross the Caribbean Sea before
the winter trades started blowing the dogs off their chains.
The cat made the approximately 2,300-mile trip in 13 days, with
short fuel stops at Barra de Navidad, Acapulco, and Puesto del
Sol, Nicaragua. Just 50 miles from the Canal, the progress was
looking terrific, and there was a great 72-hour forecast in the
Caribbean, suggesting Profligate might get a great start
east. But then disaster struck, as on Wednesday the 19th one
saildrive failed and the other started to sound like an old washing
That necessitated about 150 phone calls across North America
to various Yanmar dealers and distributors regarding the availability
of saildrives, whether or not the new and more rugged SD-40 version
could replace the SD-31s we had, whether or not it would require
modifications to the engine bed, and whether or not it would
require new props. As much as we'd have liked to have gotten
the same answers from everyone, there initially was lots of conflicting
information. Then there were all the issues about getting the
saildrives to Panama quickly, through Customs, and taking care
of all the other red tape. Finally, there was the matter of finding
a place in Panama to haul a 63-ft cat. The good news is that
just four days after the saildrive had broke, the boat had been
hauled, the more rugged saildrives delivered from Florida, the
engine beds modified, and the saildrives installed. The cat will
be relaunched on Monday the 24th, and if the installation checks
out, will hopefully transit the Canal on Tuesday the 25th.
There have been two lessons of the trip so far, one new, another
a reminder. First, too much pitch on the props is as bad for
the saildrive as it is for the engine. Second, trying to meet
tight schedules with a cruising boat is frustrating and expensive.
You have no idea how we envy those of you who don't have to be
in a rush.
Help! No matter where you'll be for the winter - New Zealand
or Australia, Thailand, the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America
- we'd love to hear from you, and so would your cruising friends
and folks back home. So won't you drop us a short email? For
bonus points, include a high res digital photo. But above all,
have a great winter cruising season!