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December 2011

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  With reports this month from X on a full year in Palau; from Swell on hauling at a new yard in the remote Tuamotus; from Thumbs Up on the inaugural Sabang International Regatta in Malaysia; from Viva! on a wild catamaran passage from Guanaja to Cayo Largo, Cuba; from Cadence on a futile 'beer stop' in the Admiralty Islands during a passage from Palau to New Guinea; and Cruise Notes.

X — Santa Cruz 50
David Addleman
Being Pulled East and West

I've been following the 'most excellent adventure' of this year's Ha-Ha fleet. I wish I had been there for the fun. Mexico calls to me.

As for myself, I've been messing around with boats and women. Drinking beer, too. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary of arriving in the Republic of Palau, which is 500 miles east of the Philippines.

For awhile I was suffering from a very nasty bacterial infection in my knee. A small bug bite got infected, probably because I was swimming in salt water. My knee swelled up and things just kept getting worse. I was given IV antibiotics during five doctor visits, was on pills for two weeks, and had bandages to control all the oozing. It was the whole deal, but fortunately I'm better now, and no longer limping.

The most remarkable part of my medical problem is how well I was treated. Despite just walking in without an appointment, I didn't have to wait to see a doctor, and mine was trained at the University of Hawaii, no less. There were no forms to fill out before I got care, and not knowing any more than my name and the fact that I wasn't allergic to antibiotics, they got right to work. The bill was $185. Sheesh! It wasn't even worth reporting to my insurance carrier. On the other hand, the five friggin' taxi rides to the doctor cost $40. But at least the driver stopped at the mini-mart for me, so it worked out okay.

As for X, she's getting a big new present — a new diesel. It should be arriving soon by ship from Oakland. Removing the 30-year-old VW diesel is going to be a big mess, but once I get the new engine installed, it's going to be sweet. I won't miss the oily bilge water or the host of other engine-related problems.

So everything is swell. What's more, I now have firm plans. At some unknown time in the future, I will either sail east toward Hawaii and North America, or sail west to play in the Philippines. I'm being pulled in both directions.

My regards to the gang in Mexico.

— david 11/11/11

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
Hauling in the Tuamotus
(Santa Barbara)

Swell and I escaped back up to the Tuamotus for nearly four months earlier this year. In April I got the unexpected news that Barry Schuyler of Santa Barbara, a major patron of mine, had passed away. I needing to get back to California right away for the memorial service, Swell and I received great care from the local Lau family, who own and operate the new Apataki Carenage boatyard. This allowed me to get the boat hauled and squared away ASAP so I could hop onto a plane to Tahiti and another to California.

I was so sad, but so glad, to be with Barry’s family and friends to celebrate his life. It's still hard for me to fully grasp what he did for me. He empowered me to fulfill my dream by giving me the tools I needed, then letting me go free to test my strengths and learn by myself. I only hope to be able to do the same for someone else someday.

While at the memorial, I learned that I was far from the only person Barry helped to find their way. What a great legacy. I miss him dearly, but I know that he is sailing with me any time he wishes, and pain-free.

Once back in Tahiti, I gathered necessary supplies in Papeete and hopped onto a cargo ship back out to the Tuamotus. Swell was waiting patiently in the lovely Apataki boatyard. The yard is quite remote, but Pauline Lau is fluent in English, and the yard is a great new cruising resource for French Polynesia. This is especially true for Americans who want to do French Polynesia in two seasons rather than the usual three months officials try to give you. The deal is that you can spend three months in the Marquesas and Tuamotus, haul out in Apataki, fly home, and then come back after cyclone season to finish out the Societies in less of a hurry before continuing west. You can find photos and info for Apataki Carenage on the net.

Although provisioning and internet access are hard to come by here in the Tuamotus in general and Apataki in particular, Swell and I have been more then happy spreading our wings again after the seemingly interminable boatyard session in Raiatea. And now that I have obtained my long-stay visa for French Polynesia, I don’t have to dodge Immigration for a while. My plan is to keep heading southeast against the Trades to some of the lesser-visited atolls, and then once I have enough of an angle, or a good south or west wind, shoot up to the Marquesas for most of cyclone season.

On a personal level, I'm trying to stay in the present, and am doing lots of yoga. Because there are sometimes long gaps between swells, I've also gotten into free diving. And as always, I'm hoping the world will wake up to our environmental crisis, stop draining what’s left of our natural world, and start loving one another! By the way, you should see how much plastic there is out here, even on the most remote atolls.

I also had a rough bout of ciguatera, but I now know which fish are always safe to eat. The locals say another good test is to leave the fish for about an hour before filleting it. If it stiffens up like normal, it’s ok. If it stays supple and floppy, feed it to the sharks. As for Swell, she's in great shape. And now that her mystery leak has been taken care of, I have time to maintain the rest of her.

— liz 10/20/11

Thumbs Up — Catalina 42
Ivan and Cheryl Orgee
Sabang International Regatta
(Oakland YC)

We were kicking up our heels in Penang, Malaysia, wondering where to go next. We'd left San Francisco in October of '08 and done the Ha-Ha. We did the Pacific Puddle Jump to French Polynesia in '09. In '10, we'd done the Sail Indonesia from Darwin to Batam and the Sail Malaysia Johor Bahru to Penang. Backpacking in Nepal was something we thought about doing, but then we learned about the inaugural Sabang International Regatta.

The format for the regatta was to be simple: all contestants converge on the Royal Langkawi YC in Malaysia by September 16, have a big feast, then race 300 miles across the top of the Malacca Straits to Sabang on the Indonesian island of Weh. This would be followed by three races around the cans at Weh and a big celebration. The benefits of entering? No entry fee, a free Indonesian cruising permit (CAIT), free grub — and 250 liters of diesel. Free diesel? Who could resist an offer like that?

Twenty-one boats, ranging from a TP52, to various other monohulls, to some catamarans, to a Corsair 37 tri, and a handful of motoryachts, converged on Langkawi for the event. The start was in light air, which dropped to 0 knots after about five miles. In the absence of any wind, motoring was permitted, but the time of engine use was to be multiplied by 1.5. After just a few miles we had to leap over the side to clear our prop of an abandoned fishing line.

We have the feeling — because they disappeared so quickly — that most of the fleet motored from the start. We and several others motored through the night until midday, when the wind started to fill in from the west. This wasn't good, as it was a header that was destined to build to 35 knots. It was really nice to sail at 7.5 knots, but we were 40 degrees off the wind. The jib sheets got hung up on the dinghy we had strapped to the foredeck, so that hampered tacking.

In the dark of the second night, while surrounded by monster freighters, our Autohelm decided to pack it up. We didn't like that. With so much shipping in the area, we started up the iron genny to be safe. When we arrived in Sabang 20 hours later, in pitch black, we were knackered and making simple mistakes such as saying, “I’m sure this rock is where the moorings are."

However the next morning brought bright sunshine and blue sky, and revealed a beautiful jungle-covered island surrounded by clear water. After the grubby Straits of Malacca, this was a pleasant change. It turns out that Weh is a sunken volcano, and all that is left is the caldera. The waters of the bay were mostly deep, but there was coral and great diving, too.

Weh is in the Indonesian province of Aceh on the northernmost tip of Sumatra. It's just a stone's throw from Banda Aceh, where 230,000 people lost their lives in the horrible tsunami of December of '04. Until the tsunami disaster brought a reconciliation between the mostly Muslim population of Aceh, who were fighting for independence, and the government of Indonesia, Aceh was an isolated and a not very desirable tourist destination. The regatta we were participating in is one of several brave attempts by Aceh Province to re-open the region to tourism, building on its unique culture, its outstanding marine environment, and sympathy for tsunami victims.

The hospitality shown to us was outstanding. New moorings had been installed at the little resort of Gapang for the regatta, a satellite Customs/Immigration office was set up at the dock, and the local village was galvanized into action to hook up electrical and plumbing systems and to staff the kitchen.

The next day was a bright and breezy race around the cans, with IRC, multihull, and cruising divisions. Our steering gear was in bits, so we hitched a ride on the New Zealand-based Farr 40 Island Time. We managed to take an easy first place in the cruising division. At one point we wondered if we could catch the TP52 being raced by the B Team of the Malaysian Navy. They didn't seem to have a handle on the course, and amusingly most of the other contestants followed their wayward path like sheep.

Of course the Navy cleaned up in the awards, as they should with a TP52. Nonetheless, their occasional broaches were entertaining for all. The Corsair 37 was as fast as expected, and took the multihull division. We couldn't fathom how a Hunter 49 ended up in the same class as the TP52, but it didn't matter, as it was all just good fun. By the way, the Malaysian Navy has two TP52s, and we understand that the Indonesian Navy is getting into the act, too.

The next day three bus loads of us participants, decked out in new shirts provided by the organizers, were treated to a tour of Banda Aceh, which was a ferry ride away. The Tsunami Museum was graphic, particularly the eerie 45-foot-tall water tunnel representing the tidal wave. Everyone we met had lost members of their family, but all were grateful to the international community for their help. There were no beggars on the streets, and life seemed back to normal.

There were more trophies handed out at the awards ceremony than there was room for on boats. And on the last night, we were guests at a concert and fireworks display that was a big celebration for everyone on the island. So ended a very brave — and expensive — week of sailing for the organizers. Their intent is to establish this regatta as an event to rival the famous ones in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. All of these events welcome cruisers to participate in what might be seen as a large floating party. Sound familiar?

We stayed in Weh for another week, hoping to get some diving in. We did, but the weather wasn’t brilliant. With our Autohelm repaired — the electric motor had failed — we set off back to Penang under a reefed main. It's not that we're chicken, but the squalls around here can be severe. The puffs stopped after 14 hours, so we had to motor the rest of the way through a spectacular thunder and lightning storm. We also had to go over the side two more times to clear the prop.

We have an AIS receiver integrated into our chartplotter, which we feel is essential here because of the number of ships charging around. Just because we can see ships doesn't mean, however, that they can see us. So we had to call several of them. In daytime it’s not so worrisome, but at night, it's surprising how many near misses the AIS will plot. Our next purchase will be an AIS transponder, not that it will be a guarantee against getting rammed, but it’s something.

We've managed to spend quite a bit of time in Indonesia. The checking in/out is laborious, but patience and a case of Tiger beer and Coca Cola can be helpful. The people are friendly, and we've never felt anything but welcome. If you get into a jam, there is always somebody around who speaks English. Our only problem on the island was the lack of an international ATM and a money changer who wanted euros, which resulted in our not having any cash. Fortunately, things were inexpensive.

Thus ended the First Annual Sabang International Regatta, A great many people tried very hard to make the event a success, and we hope it lasts.

— ivan & cheryl 10/17/11

Viva! — Casamance 44/47
Bob Willmann
Easy Caribbean Passage
(Golden, Colorado)

[We first received this Changes in March of '10, shortly after the events described happened. We've been trying to get Bob to send us photos to illustrate the story ever since, but with little luck. So we're running it anyway, believing that it doesn't need good photos for support.]

Good morning from the 'Forbidden Island' of Cuba in the Caribbean. Today's report is especially for those who think they might enjoy a tropical ocean passage on a sailing catamaran.

It's 400 miles from Guanaja, in the Bay of Islands of Honduras, to Cayo Largo, the nearest place mariners are allowed to clear into Cuba. It's also due northeast, which is exactly where the Trades normally come from. A sailboat can only point 45 degrees into the wind, and few cats can come anywhere close to that. So in order for my friend Elaine and me to sail a direct course from Guanaja to Cuba, we needed to choose a time when the wind was forecast to clock around to the east and southeast, in which case we would have a nice three -to four-day passage on a close reach.

We finally got the weather forecast we were looking for. On Tuesday the winds would be the standard NE at 10-15 knots with 3-5-foot seas. We’d have a perfect day sailing due north. On Wednesday, when the wind clocked to the east and then southeast, we could slowly alter course until we could lay Cuba. Perfect.


Departing at 7 a.m., we had a good first 24 hours, as we actually made a little east of north. And because the wind was blowing five to 10 knots more than forecast, we covered more distance than we'd anticipated. There was a penalty, of course, as stronger winds meant bigger seas. So we got bounced around more than we'd expected.

Wednesday morning the winds started clocking to the east as predicted, but at 25 knots and with eight-foot seas, which was more than predicted. The good news was that we were able to lay a NNE course. The bad news was that despite furling half the jib, we were bashing and bouncing along at 8-9 knots, when Viva! is most comfortable at six knots. Most monohull sailors probably don't understand this, but we just weren't able to slow my cat down to six knots.

Before dark on Wednesday we realized that the weather guys had either lied or didn't know what they were talking about, for the wind had built to 30 knots and the seas were eight-foot with lots of breaking 10-footers thrown in for good measure. Yikes and double yikes! We were then bashing and slamming at 9 to 12 knots, which was way too fast and uncomfortable.

But things were about to get worse.

About midnight the waves tore most of the trampoline off the boat, leaving it hanging by just one edge.

But things were about to get worse still. About 3 am, I discovered that the floorboards in the port hull were floating in salt water. Triple yikes! We were taking on water at an amazing rate, certainly faster than the bilge pump could get rid of it. In short order I ripped out the head and found that a thru-hull had failed. I wasn’t able to close the valve because the rusty handle broke off in my hand, but I was able to route the attached hose up above the waterline so no more ocean came into the boat.

By the time I'd done this, Elaine, who had pumped the manual head pump with one hand and pressed the button for the shower bilge pump with the other, was standing knee-deep in water. I got some wire and bypassed the 'press' switch so the pump would run continuously. I then ran new wires to the main bilge pump — the one on the old one had broken off with all the bashing and bouncing and water sloshing around — and got it working. We finally started to get the water level to come down.

I can't tell you how great Elaine was in the tough situation! Having spent 20 years in life-or-death operating room situations, she calmly sailed the boat while I messed with the wiring. She’d leave the cockpit to come down into the hull, and splash back and forth bringing me tools. She even tried to catch all the flotsam — floorboards and soaked books — and secure them someplace.

But we hadn't seen the end of our tribulations, as I was soon to take a swim inside my own boat ­— while doing electrical work.

Viva's bilge is sloped so that the lowest part is in the stern, which, of course, is where the bilge pump is located. By 4 a.m., it was dry at the stern — but we still had a foot of water at the bow. Hmmmmm, something wasn't right. Something was obviously keeping the bow down, so we dropped the mainsail completely. I then put on a harness, rigged a safety line, and crawled forward on deck to check the bow storage locker. I discovered that the hatch to the compartment had been broken open by the waves, no doubt due to Viva's many attempts to imitate a submarine. The 10-foot long forward storage locker was seven feet deep in water! I had a bilge pump up in the supposedly watertight compartment, but it had failed. More yikes.

So there we were, in the pitch dark, lying ahull under bare poles in 30+ knots of wind and 10+ -foot seas — and I was swimming inside a locker with my multi-meter and wiring tools. Elaine was trying to keep the boat into the waves just so, in an attempt to keep them from breaking over me and flooding the compartment even more.

I determined that the pump worked, but the electronic float switch had failed. So I dove down enough times to get all the parts above water. I then rewired them and bypassed the switch. Some day I’ll tell you how much fun it is to twist hot bare wires together while standing chest deep in cold water. But I got it working. The length of wire between the pump and the bare connections was only a couple of feet, so I had to stand in there and hold the wires above the water as the water level went down.

By dawn I was back in the cockpit, somewhat dryer and warmer. For some reason I decided to have my first cigarettes in a year. But we had raised the reefed main and were sailing in the right direction at 10 knots. We calculated that we could reach Cayo Largo a few hours before dark, even at a reasonable seven knots, so we swung the boom farther out in an effort to slow down.

Alas, we hadn't seen the end of our troubles.

After we swung the boom farther out, the winds built to 35 knots — and just blew the main right off the mast! At least five yikes! It took a long half hour for Elaine and me to get the sail back on the boat. I had to tie myself to the boom while Elaine wrestled with the head of the sail, which was trailing astern.

We decided to just drift under bare poles and get some sleep. No way were we going to get anywhere before dawn. Besides, we were not in any danger of sinking or hitting land, so all we had to do was take turns waking up every 20 minutes to look for shipping and check around the boat for the next surprise.

When dawn came, we unfurled a little handkerchief of jib and sailed at 5 knots all day and most of the night. At some point we furled the jib again and drifted ahull for another six hours because we didn't want to get too close to Cuba in the dark.

At 2 a.m. on Friday we did the jib trick again and got to the Cayo Largo at dawn. We’d done it! We'd survived an exciting passage more or less intact. We motored across the reef without incident, found the red and green buoys marking the channel entrance, and finally started to relax.

But we were premature.

Just as we passed between the buoys, we ran aground! Right in the middle of the channel, right between the markers. I made a note to talk to Fidel or Raul about the channels not being deep enough to accomodate even shallow-draft cats. The excuse was that the wind, which was still at around 25 knots, had moved enough ocean floor to fill the recently-dredged channel. Running aground in soft sand in a catamaran is no big deal, and we were able to wriggle ourselves free in a half-hour or so. We then peacefully motored into the marina — even though it wasn’t where the Cuban/Russian charts said it was. After about 10 attempts, we were able to back into a crosswind slip and start the process of living all over again. After a few breakfast beers, we were boarded by nine uniformed Cuban officials and a drug dog.

— bob 03/10/10

Cadence — Apache 40 Cat
Frank Ohlinger
Delivery With New Owner
(Monterey / Koror Palau)

Jim, the Aussie gentleman to whom I recently sold my catamaran and I, were six days into a 10-day passage from Palau to Kavieng, Papua New Guinea, when, during the midnight watch, he informed me that we were diverting to Lorengau in the Admiralty Islands. "We’re out of beer," he said by way of explanation. It seemed sensible enough to me at the time. We had caught the Equatorial Counter Current on the second day out of Palau and had been riding it east, getting a glorious boost of 2-3 knots. Now at 2°N, we were being headed by the west-setting Equatorial Current, and our speed over the ground was a miserable 2 knots at best. The mind can’t really comprehend the kind of progress where the last noon fix starts to touch the next noon fix on the chart. One grasps for alternatives.

There are historic precedents for course changes due to a shortage of beer. In 1620, the Mayflower dropped anchor off a forbidding stretch of coast in Massachusetts “because our stores are greatly diminished, especially our beer.” Who knows, with a couple more six packs the Pilgrims might have found Boston Harbor and spared themselves some serious deprivation.

No complaints. We have had unseasonably fair weather so far. The winds were easterly at 5-10 knots with the occasional northerly or southerly shift. We were amazed at the amount of plastic trash in the water in the Counter Current, presumably carried east from the Philippines, along with many trees and logs from the recent typhoons. Now in the Equatorial Current, we have seen no trash or trees. Here the flotsam from Panama had sunk or was otherwise dispersed, to be replaced by abundant marine life. We’ve had pods of dolphin and whale check us out every day, and our fishing has much improved.

Long distance sailing is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. If Freud had been a sailor, I’m sure he would have understood offshore cruising in sexual terms. The vessel, an obvious phallus, moves toward a place of solace and safety with all the frustrations and rewards that entails. It’s certainly not coincidence that the old Palauan language uses the same word for both 'harbor' and a woman’s private parts. For the isolated island communities, the need to sail was directly related to the need to widen the gene pool. If Man evolved in the tropics, it was probably on a beach somewhere. So I figure the lure of sailing must be genetically imprinted, like the migration of the lemmings or monarch butterflies. Why else would we submit ourselves to such deprivation?

The southwest corner of the Pacific is one of the loneliest stretches of water in the world. Very little marine traffic comes this way. Even fishing boats are rare. One day out of Lorengau we sighted a coal barge coming up from Australia on its way to Vietnam, with a zero CPA (closest point of approach) for us. We hailed them on VHF. After some initial hesitation, the watchstander turned chatty and was as curious about us as we were them. And obviously as bored.

It wasn’t always so. During the early campaigns of World War II in the Pacific, there were thousands of ships anchored off Lorengau in wide Seeadler Harbor. General Douglas MacArthur had his picture taken here as Allied troops fought skirmishes with the Japanese, and the Seabees built the infrastructure to support the estimated one million men who were to pass through here to engagements farther north. Some of the infrastructure is still here in the bushes — Quonset huts, concrete foundations, seawalls, and whole islands bulldozed into landing fields. A lone Japanese AA gun stands sentinel on the waterfront, its 6-inch-diameter steel barrel still pointing skyward. The barrel, however, has been nearly sliced in half by a 50-cal. round, mute but vivid testimony to the intensity of that long, costly conflict.

We anchored off the market in Lorengau and dinghied ashore. This section in the Davies and Morgan Cruising Guide is long overdue for revision. And the cruisers' blogs don’t describe the area well either. The threat of violence or robbery is no greater here than in any other small town in the world ­— and much less than in urban areas such as Port Moresby or Lae. That said, Lorengau has its problems. It is noticeably poorer than other areas of PNG, the streets are broken, there is no public water system, and the electric service is fitful. Under-employment is rife and most industry is subsistence-oriented.

Nonetheless, the people are far from miserable. They are a remarkably healthy people, and seemingly happy and generous. We saw no one hungry or homeless, and there is an obvious sense of community. We struck up many casual conversations in the shady grove above the boat beach.

An older gentleman, Rafa Salli, walked home to bring back photos of the town in '43. He was 8 years old when the Americans came, and although the airfield they built on his island ruined the agriculture forever, he has fond memories of the time. Apparently he befriended and continued to correspond with one of the servicemen until just recently.

Two uniformed agents from Customs and Immigration came out to the boat and formally cleared us into PNG. They were friendly, professional and, at $35 U.S., reasonable. We bought fuel at $8/U.S. gallon and a few provisions at the local market. That night we attended an open-air disco and danced barefoot with just about everybody. It was fun.

Most people go barefoot here, and it is amazing how casually it is done. While there is very little litter or broken glass, there are still sharp stones and roots around. In a lifetime without shoes, the soles of the feet become amazingly thick and calloused. The toes splay and the foot becomes nearly as wide as it is long. Observing their confident stride, I was reminded of the soft, somewhat flatfooted tread of a camel. The footpad is placed firmly and evenly on the ground, and the sum of the movement takes place in the region of the ankle. Stubbed toes are always a problem, so there’s a tendency to keep them lifted throughout the step, a trait I’d seen in firewalkers in Fiji years ago. Jim saw some schoolchildren walking home carrying their shoes. Apparently shoes are required in school, but are unnecessary for everyday walk-about.

In the morning we dinghied a half mile or so up a nearby creek and took showers in a waterfall spilling off the banks. There’s something about jungle freshwater that cleans like nothing else.Huge butterflies and flowering bushes concealed the crocodiles watching from the shallows.

Ironically, the one thing we came to Lorengau to get was the one thing we couldn’t get. The beer barge was three weeks overdue, and there was no beer to be had. None! However Warrior, a brand of local rum, left a lasting impression on all of us.

We resumed our sail the next day east across the Bismark Sea for Kavieng. The coastal islands in the Admiralty group, like many areas of Papua New Guinea, are essentially uncharted. No concerted survey work has been done since the Germans took possession of the region in the late 1880s. “Reported to lie 1.6 nm east” and “Unsurveyed” are common notes on all the charts. To add to the navigator’s worry, we passed two large unlit FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) moored in about 2000 meters of water in the open stretch between Manus Island and New Hanover.

Charts are not just charts, they are also history books of sorts. The fringing islands around Seeadler Harbor are named Hawaii, New York and Chicago, no doubt each the legacy of a homesick soldier. There’s an offshore island group comprising Bat, Rat, Mouse and Mole Islands. I imagine there’s a German fairytale in there somewhere. And then there’s Weh Weh Island and Watem Island, which mean 'where' and 'what' in the local pidgin.

Having lived and worked in PNG, Jim is fluent in Tok Pisin, the lingua franca of the island. It is the most common language heard, followed by English and whichever of the 700 mutually unintelligible PNG dialects is used locally. According to experts, Tok Pisin is an authentic if gritty pidgin language created when the 19th century whalers and traders met the many different tribes and had to do business.

The example most often used to describe the language is the word for 'piano', which translates as “em i bokis bilong whitepela, i gat 36 blakpela ki na 52 waitpela ki o i gat 88 ki olgeta”. Or more literally, “box belong white fella, it got 36 black keys and 52 white keys or 88 keys altogether”. And anything broken is “all buggered up”.

All languages evolve, however. Seeing a helicopter over the Kavieng airport, I asked a young man how to say helicopter in Pisin. He looked at me, smiled wanly, and said “helicopter.” And in perhaps a sign of the times, 'condom' used to be 'gumi blong kok', but is now just 'kondom'. And they are given away free in PNG. Speaking of languages, the word 'papua', as in Papua New Guinea, is Old Dutch for “fuzzy headed ones”, a veritable if politically insensitive observation. Don King could have close family ties anywhere in PNG.

In contrast to Lorengau, Kavieng on New Ireland is a tidy, prosperous town. Most of the locals wear shoes, there are lots of new Japanese cars, and the roads are all paved. Without too much of a stretch, the town could be mistaken for a rural town on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We anchored across the harbor near Nusalik Island, and went ashore to the resort. Shannon is the manager of this very laid back, very eco-sensitive, very 'thatched huts out over the water' kind of place. Under her care, the resort also doubles as a bird sanctuary. Eagles, parrots, and cockatiels will join you for breakfast. They are playful and personable companions to any meal. After a few sips out of your coffee mug, some of them will even dominate the conversation.

Largest of the flock, the hornbill, is the most ungainly bird I have ever had the pleasure of shaking hands — or rather beak — with. Actually, it turned into a bit of a tug of war. This bird tends to wrestle like a dog, biting fingers and hands just hard enough to hang on, all the while staring eyeball to eyeball — and a heavily mascara-eyelashed eyeball at that. With its black and white plumage and hopping gait, it is the Toulouse Lautrec of the bird world. It was midmorning before I could get away.

There is a fisheries college in Kavieng, and yachts are welcome alongside the pier when there is room. They have potable water, ice, and fresh frozen fish on the dock. We even bought sashimi-quality tuna for about $4 U.S. a pound. The fuel station will deliver gasoline ($7/gal) and diesel, and a couple of well-stocked grocery stores are just down the road. If a yacht needs provisioning in PNG this is the place to do it.

— frank 10/15/11

Readers — More from Cadence in the Southwest Pacific next month.

Cruise Notes:

Lock your dinghy! Lock your dinghy! Lock your dinghy! If we've given this warning once, we've given it a million times. Nonetheless, at least two unlocked Ha-Ha dinghies with outboards went missing in Cabo following the arrival of the Ha-Ha fleet. Bill Burr and Brenda McNair of the Vancouver-based Spencer 1330 Tahnoo tell us their RIB with a 15-hp Yamaha outboard was gone when they returned to their boat following the Ha-Ha awards ceremony. Bill admits it's possible he tied a bad knot and the dinghy drifted away, but suspects it was more likely that it had been pinched.

The next night, 20-year-old Keene Bartlett of the San Francisco-based Columbia 38 ShantiAna, which was berthed in the Cabo San Lucas Marina, was given permission to use the 'family car' (i.e. the dinghy) at 8 p.m. to meet friends. He returned at midnight to report he'd pulled the dinghy about eight feet up past the surf line on the main beach, and then gone off to find his friends. When he returned 20 minutes later, the dinghy was nowhere to be found. Once again, it's unclear if the dinghy was stolen, as pulling a dinghy up eight feet from the surf line often wouldn't be enough. Furthermore, small dinghies with small outboards are of little value in Cabo, where locals need a panga and a big outboard to go into business. But we'll probably never know what happened for sure.

Losing a boat's dinghy in Mexico is not just monumentally inconvenient, it's expensive, too. The duty on inflatables and outboards is high, and the selection is limited. It breaks our hearts to hear about the loss of these dinghies, so please be careful. But do you still need to lock your dinghy in tres chere and tres chic islands such as St. Barths? Oh yeah. Everybody locks up there, too. So lock your dinghy! Lock your dinghy! Lock your dinghy!

By the way, the story of what happened to the ShantiAna crew after they reported the loss of their dinghy to the police and navy in Cabo is so long and colorful, that it will have to wait until next month.

Caribbean friend and legend D. Randy West drove John Winter's Florida-based vintage Morelli 80 Fat Cat to line honors in the 22nd annual Virginia to British Virgins Caribbean 1500. In the process, they bested 62 other entries, including the very fast Tripp 78 monohull Blackbird. Fat Cat is a highly modified and stretched version of David Crowe's Ha-Ha vet and Paradise Marina-based Morrelli & Choy 70 Humu-Humu.

Has anyone noticed how many cruising women are or have been nurses? And in many cases emergency room nurses. They are everywhere in cruising fleets. And given the fact that they are smart, don't freak in emergencies, and have an altruistic streak, we say the more, the better!

Loving language. We can't recall from whom we learned it, but while in Cabo we picked up a bit of interesting and new-to-us Spanish. If you're a male who has finished your meal in a restaurant, it's common for you to say "terminado" to the waiter, which means "I'm finished with my meal." However, if you're a woman, you want to stay away from saying "terminada". Yes, it would seem to be the proper feminine response, but it's not. That's because terminada doesn't mean you're "finished" with your meal, but rather than you're "finished" sexually, and if you have just one more orgasm you're doing to lose your mind. So watch your language.

From the cruising life to facing life in prison. That's the story for accused Spanish drug smugglers Ivan Valea and Julia Fernandez of the 55-ft ketch Friday Freedom, who were high-profile participants in the recent 85-boat Port2Port Yacht Rally from Port Vila, Vanuatu, to Bundaberg, Australia. Indeed, the two had recently won first prize in the pirate costume contest. But after they'd been in port in Bundaberg for three weeks, all hell broke loose. Sydney-based Spaniard Jose Herrero-Calvo, 38, an alleged drug kingpin, and fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Sanchez Barrocal, 39, of Australia's Gold Coast, were stopped by authorities when they attempted to drive away from the marina with two suitcases taken from Friday Freedom. Suitcases that contained more than 200 pounds of coke. Another 400 pounds were found on the boat, bringing the total street value of the haul to $78 million. The smugglers are believed to be part of a global drug ring, and the coke is thought to have come from South America. The investigation began with a money-laundering probe, and the ketch had been under close survelliance since she was in Vanuatu.

Here's the latest on the horrible October 9 murder of athletic German cruiser Stefan Ramin, 41, of the 40-ft aluminum catamaran Baju. As of November 4, Marquesan murder suspect Henri Haiti, 31, still had not been found, despite a manhunt by his family, all the local gendarmes, and an army contingent from Papeete. Heike Dorsch, 37, Ramin's girlfriend of 17 years, told the German magazine Bunte that Haiti, a hunting guide, had invited Ramin on an expedition to kill a wild goat. Haiti returned that evening to tell Dorsch that Ramin needed help. Dorsch says she grabbed a flashlight and followed him into the forest. But then Haiti suddenly turned on her, held a gun to her face, and said, "Va à mouriré!" ("You're going to die!"). She grabbed the barrel of the gun, pushed it into the air, and shouted that she was not going to die. Dorsch was eventually bound to a tree with a chain, and assumed she was going to be raped. Struggling with all her might, she says she managed to get free, and took off through the pitch-black jungle, losing her shoes in the process. Hearing the ocean, she ran for it and jumped in. She was able to swim to a Dutch boat, the only one besides Baju anchored in the bay, and call for help.

Following a week-long search, the remains of Ramin's body — confirmed by dental records — including his teeth and cut-up bones, were found at a remote campsite along with animal bones. It's been reported that the plants as much as 30 feet from the fire's center had been scorched. There was immediate speculation, particularly in Germany, that Ramin might have been the victim of cannibalism. The practice was rife in the islands in the 19th century, and there is photographic proof that Haiti had a tatoo on his shoulder of one of the most notorious cannibal tribes. The people of the Marquesas and Tahiti reject the cannibalism claim, saying that the Marquesans have come to prefer the taste of hot dogs and hamburgers to that of human flesh, and that the Germans who make the claim are racists. Others say the residents of Nuku Hiva just don't want to lose all the tourist money expected from a big festival in mid-December.

Every cruiser we've talked to who has been to the Marquesas, and Nuku Hiva in particular, has told us that the murder — to say nothing of the idea of cannibalism — is absolutely out of character with the people they have met. They've told us Nuku Hiva is one of the most friendly and safest places they can imagine.

The one exception is Pedro Fernandez, one of the owners of the Marina Riviera Nayarit, who sailed to Nuku Hiva earlier this year on his uncle's Jeanneau 54 San Souci II. "The five crew and I were walking down a trail in Nuku Hiva, when we came across a big Marquesan man on a horse who was accompanied by three dogs. He had bones in his nose and ears, and gave off such bad vibes that none of us even wanted to make eye contact with him. Everyone else at Nuku Hiva was very friendly, but we were later told that the guy on the horse was the "renegade" nephew of a big landowner. Not that it means he has commited any crime."

Would we sail to the Marquesas and Nuku Hiva, population 2,000, this spring? Yes we would. But as Haiti hasn't been caught yet, we'd be more than normally careful.

Looking for truly exotic cruising? Try New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, which is located just north of Australia's Cape York. Home to nearly 800 tribes and nearly as many distinct languages, New Guinea is about as 'out there' as you can get. Steve and Manjeula May of the Gualala-based Farrier 41 catamaran Endless Summer, vets of the '08 Ha-Ha, made a movie of the time they spent there during the 3,500 miles of cruising they did this year. Check it out at There is even footage of Steve surfing a place believed to have never been surfed before.

Our only caution is that the Mays' video suggests that New Guinea is all sweetness and light, but that's not necessarily so. According to Lonely Planet, there is so little travel infrastructure in New Guinea that it can be "like stepping into the great unknown." And it's dangerous. "Papua New Guinea is troubled by a high level of serious crime, particularly in the urban centres of Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Travel to the Highlands region should be reconsidered because of high levels of crime and violence."

Caren Edwards of Redwood City, who spent months cruising PNG with her family about seven years ago aboard their Marquesas 53 Rhapsody, agrees that Papua New Guinea can be dangerous. There are lots of situations, for example, where one tribe would sabotage another tribe's truck full of rice, and that the first tribe's houses would be knocked down in retaliation. There is a high level of domestic violence, too. Edwards says when her family anchored, they would immediately ask the village chief for permission to stay in 'his' waters, and ask what they could do for his village. This would usually entail helping with some community project or contributing $20 a week. Then they would be under the chief's protection. When it came time to move on, the chief would give them careful instructions on where to visit next, and where to avoid. Somehow the news of Rhapsody's arrival would make it along the coconut telegraph to their next stop before they got there.

Jim and Kent Milski of the Lake City, Colorado-based Schionning 49 Sea Level did the Ha-Ha and later a lot of buddyboating in the South Pacific with Steve and Manjula. Indeed, if you check out the Endless Summer video of New Guinea, you'll also be able to find video of Sea Level screaming along in the high teens off Moorea. Beautiful! Anyway, Jim and Kent were back in Colorado and the Bay Area to touch base with family and friends for a few months, but have just headed back to their cat which — it wasn't clear to us — is in either Singapore, Jakarta or Bali.

Since we seem to be on a cat craze, we should report that Greg and Debbie Dorland of the Squaw Valley-based Catana 52 Escapade have made it back down to St. Barth from the Northeast. Not that it wasn't without thrills and challenges.

"As was the case when we sailed north from St. Barth 18 months ago, we found ourselves trying to skirt an "unnamed sub-tropical depression". When we came north 18 months ago, we saw 35 to 45 knots for most of the four days it took us to make the 870 miles from St. Barth to Bermuda. On our way down this time, we had to sail our way out of solid 40-50- knot winds with 20-foot seas.

"Given the conditions we've been in," Greg continues, "Debbie and I are really glad that our Catana 52 Escapade is a big and heavy cat. We can't understand how our friends Jim and Kent Milski on Sea Level, and especially Steve and Manjuela May of the Gualala-based Farrier 41 Endless Summer, can cruise across the Pacific on such light cats. By the way, the really great thing about having done the Ha-Ha was getting the opportunity to make friends with people like Jim and Kent, and Steve and Manjuela. The Ha-Ha crowd is certainly more friendly than the one back here on the East Coast, so we really appreciate the Ha-Ha vibe established by the Grand Poobah."

Escapade managed to avoid tropical storm Sean, which delayed the start of the Caribbean 1500 for five days, and actually had good sailing. Despite sailing much more conservatively than when they'd come north — sometimes double reefing the main and always furling the Solent in squalls — they still managed a bunch of 220+ -mile days. And yes, they made it to St. Barth for Debbie's birthday.

"I just returned from Barra de Navidad," reports Joe Day of the Pearson 385 Daydreams. Since Barra is one of my my favorite places on Mexico's Gold Coast, I'm glad to be able to report that she's recovering well from hurricane Jova. The waterfront got pounded pretty hard, and a couple of restaurants with poor foundations were destroyed. But the main street now looks like it always did, and people are working 12 hours a day cleaning up and getting ready for the season. Once you leave the waterfront, you wouldn't even know that a hurricane had hit several weeks before. The Grand Bay Marina was unscathed, and only one boat went ashore in the lagoon. My recommendation is Barra for Christmas. After all, it is Barra De Navidad. And they are expecting you."

Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Honolulu-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu report that "slightly irreverent but always fun" Picante SSB Net is up and running again and being managed by Radio Rob Ladner and Bob O'Hara, a couple of cruisers who have swallowed the anchor and now live in Vallarta. "If you are new to SSB or just a little shy," the couple say, "then this is your kind of net, and you can talk all you want." Bill and Jean are big supporters of the net, because it becomes the official net of their popular Cruiser's Rally to El Salvador that starts on February 1. The Picante Net runs from 1300 UTC to 1400 UTC on 6212 USB.

"We arrived at Los Muertos, halfway up the eastern tip of Baja from Cabo to La Paz, on a beautiful day and were anxious to get ashore for some refreshment," writes Darrell Erickson of the San Francisco-based Tayana 47 El Tiburon. "When we came ashore, we noticed that the restaurant that once used to be named Giggling Marlin seemed to be vacant. The folks on the boat next to us advised us that the restaurant had been shut down the night before — in the middle of the Monday Night Football game! That's because the staff had to leave because the access road was being closed. So we decided to go to the Grand Sueños Hotel for dinner instead. After beaching our dinghy, we walked up to the hotel. There was no one — and I mean no one — to be found on the premises until we came across a solitary gringo lying on a restaurant couch watching television. He advised us that there was a land dispute, and the original owners — something like 'jitos' — closed the road to the whole area. Everyone had left that morning, including all the guests, so the place was a ghost town. A very weird experience indeed."

What Erickson is talking about is 'ejido' or communally-owned land, which accounts for nearly half of the land in Mexico. It only affects cruisers who are foolish enough to buy ejido land. Speaking of buying land in the tropics, did you hear that Cubans are now allowed to buy and sell land? "What the hell kind of communism is that, Fidel?" Karl Marx is asking from the grave.

The cruising season is now in full swing in Mexico, and the weather has been fabulous. If you're lucky enough to be cruising south of the border, here are some events you might want to include in your itinerary. Zihua Sail Fest, February 7-12. Pacific Puddle Jump Party, Paradise Marina, first week of March. Cruisers Rally from Mexico to El Salvador, March 10. Banderas Bay Regatta, March 20-24. Club Cruceros La Paz Bay Fest, early April. Loreto Fest, May 4-6. Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, right after Loreto Fest. You can find more information on these events on the internet or in 'Lectronic as the event dates approach.

Missing the pictures? See the December 2011 eBook!


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