With reports this month from Hawaii on the new Ko Olina Marina; from Native Dancer on enjoying Ecuador; from Pilgrim on the pleasures of Turkey; from Seeadler on completing a TransAtlantic crossing to Europe; from Triumph on great medical attention in San Blas; from LaRive on colliding with a mysterious boat in the Western Caribbean; from Lyon Around on the great new facilities in El Salvador; from Ilha Azul on sailing from the Azores to Portugal; from Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz on life in that city; and Cruise Notes.
Ko Olina Marina
On March 16, something shocking happened in Hawaii - a brand new 270-berth marina opened for business. It was the first time that a significant new marina had opened in the Islands since Nixon was President. Since the state of Hawaii seems to view boat owners as a couple of steps beneath child molesters, it comes as no surprise that the marina is privately owned.
The Ko Olina Marina is part of the new Ko Olina Resort, which is located on the leeward side of Oahu about a half hour's drive from the Honolulu Airport. The resort features seven great lagoons open to the ocean, a five-star hotel, private residences, an 18-hole championship golf course, a 35,000 square foot spa, several miles of beautiful shoreline, and the marina.
The marina features beautiful landscaping and concrete floating docks to accommodate boats from 30 to 150 feet. At $9 a foot for all but end-ties, it's actually quite a bargain compared to similar facilities in California and Mexico. Guest slips, however, are $1.50/foot/day - although a special rate is being offered to participants in July's West Marine Pacific Cup. As you might expect, the gated docks feature electricity, water, telephone and cable TV. In addition, there are several BBQ areas, nice restrooms, a laundry, a small store, waste disposal and fuel.
According to R.D. Doane, the assistant harbormaster, the sailing conditions just outside the marina are great. Because it's on the leeward side of Oahu, it's normally flatwater sailing, and the winds aren't quite as strong or gusty as they are off Waikiki. In addition to being nice for sailing, the fishing is said to be great. This is the mostly undeveloped side of the island, however, so don't anticipate the twinkling lights of high-rises when going for sunset sails.
According to Doane, the slips are going quite fast as many boatowners are bailing from the typically decrepit state-owned marinas around Oahu. "We had a group of six boats come down from the Ala Wai recently," he said, "but only five of them went back. The other guy said the Ko Olina was too good to leave." While there has been no announcement yet, we're sure there will be a Waikiki to Ko Olina race in the offing.
With any luck, the Ko Olina should finally convince Governor Cayetano - who was at the grand opening - and legislators that the state is not capable of running marinas that are worthy of the Islands. Hawaii's marinas are about as bad as we've ever seen anywhere, starting with the defoilated, paved over, crumbling mess in Honolulu that is the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. The Ala Wai is a disgrace, not one of the great marinas of the world that it could and should be.
For information on the Ko Olina, call (808) 679-1050 or check out their website at www.koolina.com.
- latitude 38
Native Dancer - Nor'West 33
Simon & Lori Elphick
(Half Moon Bay)
Thanks for leading us astray! If it hadn't been for 'Latitude', we'd be leading normal lives right now. We got into sailing by accident five years ago, then started reading 'Latitude'. Before long, we wanted to 'live' Changes, so we really learned to sail. A bareboat course at Tradewinds Sailing School in Richmond was followed by a year of sailing their club fleet every weekend - for pennies, what a deal! - and we were hooked.
We left Half Moon Bay in October of '98, and since then have visited Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador. We're writing this letter from Isla San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. Like most cruisers bound from Panama for the Galapagos, we'd planned to sail non-stop, bypassing Ecuador. These plans were changed under gentle pressure - over the SSB radio - from Chris and Gerrie of the Seattle-based Tahirih, and Gary and Amy of the Tacoma-based Quartersplash. Both crews were in Ecuador and enjoying it.
By the time we finally made the 500-mile trip to Ecuador, Tahirih - having already spent several months in Ecuador - had continued on. Fortunately, Gary and Amy of 'Quartersplash' were still there to show us around the country that is the size of California and located right on the equator. We were directed to Bahia de Caráquez, a charming but ramshackle beach town with a shallow and tricky bar. Tito, the recommended pilot, got us in safely via a serpentine route that at times left only two feet of water under our keel. His services were necessary, but he charged us $25 each way - which in Ecuador is a tremendous amount of money. It turns out that we arrived just in time for Carnival. There was a halfhearted parade, but also lots of loud music and dancing into the night. We also attended a dance at the nearby surfing beach of Canoa - and were treated like honored guests. The Ecuadorians were really friendly!
Gary and Amy had made arrangements to rent a car, so we all set off for five days of inland travelling. We left our boats snug in the sheltered tidal river anchorage off the town of Bahia. It was recommended that we have security for our boats, so we paid guards $2 a night to sleep in the cockpits of our boats.
Ecuador, which has a population of 12 million, is roughly divided into three geographical parts: the tropical coast, the inter-Andean central highlands, and the flat to rolling eastern jungle. Our first stop was at Quito, the cold and rainy capital that is located at 9,000 feet. It's a typical Latin American big city that sprawls around a historic colonial center. There is a smattering of attractive buildings, parks, museums and good restaurants to enliven the congested city. Quito is surrounded by tall green peaks that are visible throughout the city. In the clear mornings before the afternoon rains, we could see snow-capped volcanic peaks in the distance. Cotopaxi, which is just 30 miles to the south, is more than 19,000 feet tall, making it the highest active volcano in the world.
We stayed at the inexpensive but clean Posado del Maple hostel, which is located in the Mariscal Sucre district - also known as 'Gringolandia'. It's a district with lots of hostels, good restaurants, upmarket stores, and dollar-per-hour Internet cafes. We later travelled two hours north to Otavalo, the site of Ecuador's most popular Indian market. On Saturdays, the center of this small town fills with people who set up stalls to sell high quality local products - mostly knitted and woven items. The prices were rock bottom. Gary and Amy stayed over in Otavalo to visit the excellent leather goods market the next day in the nearby city of Cotacachi. Meanwhile, back in Quito, Lori and I found most of the same Otavalo crafts for sale in the large El Ejido park near our hostel.
For us, the highlight of our trip to inland Ecuador was our journey back over the Andean pass. Our poor rental car took a terrible beating, as we bumped and rattled 70 miles in six hours over mostly unpaved roads from Latacunga to Quevedo. We crested the Andes at an elevation of 13,000 feet - or more than twice as high as when driving over the Sierras. The quality of the road is so poor that it deters most casual travellers. Beside, the occasional hard-charging bus - one of which had live sheep tethered on the roof - we had the road and the majesty of the Andean highlands to ourselves. We saw beautiful vistas of hand-tilled patchwork fields stretching up toward jagged peaks, cheerful and colorful Indians and their happily ragamuffin kids, laden beasts of burden such as llamas and little old ladies, fast-rushing mountain streams and waterfalls, and tiny thatched houses. It was magical.
While stopping at a little village store, I spotted a dusty bottle high on the shelf. It turned out to be John McKenzie scotch whiskey. Judging from the style of the label and the crust of dirt covering the bottle, I figured it had to have been there for 30 to 40 years. One thing we can say with certainty is that it's a very nice whiskey - particularly for just $3 a bottle. We're not going to say where the store is because someday we're returning for more!
If you're a gringo with dollars, everything in Ecuador is cheap. A filet mignon dinner in a good restaurant, for example, runs about $3, while a beer to go with it is just 30 cents. A two-hour trip by luxury bus is just 60 cents because in Ecuador diesel sells for just 30 cents a gallon. While at the Otavalo Market, we bought beautiful alpaca wool scarves for $2 each. Everything is cheap because the economy, unfortunately, is in ruins. Banks have collapsed, the government froze accounts, and unemployment is high. A typical rural wage is $1 a day. The buildings, roads and towns are pretty frayed around the edges.
Ecuador has had some terrible luck recently, as Murphy seemed to have taken up residence about five years ago. It started when El Niño brought two years of devastating floods, which hurt the bananas - the second largest export after petroleum. Later, a 7.1 earthquake devastated parts of the country. Last year Ecuador's number three export, farmed shrimp, was all but wiped out by disease.
Understandably, there is social unrest. Fifty-five percent of the population is mestizo, 25% are Amerindian, and 10% are Spanish. The growing percentage of the indigenous people - most of whom live below the poverty line - are rebelling against the traditional Latin system that has long concentrated power and wealth in the hands of the few 'old families'. A general strike resulted in a coup in February, bringing down the president. But the vice president stepped in, so the old order seems to have survived that challenge. But more strife seems inevitable. Despite the turmoil, we found Ecuador to be the friendliest country we've visited.
Our mechanical luck took a turn for the better while in Ecuador. We wrote to 'Latitude' last year to describe our experience importing a replacement diesel engine to Mexico. Now we had more engine trouble. Our Nissan outboard had been out of commission for three months - resulting in our having to 'row through' Central America. A mechanic in Costa Rica diagnosed the problem as a blown head gasket. Unfortunately, there are no Nissan outboard parts to be found in Costa Rica - or Panama or Ecuador - so we had to order the head gasket from the States. For the record, parts for Yamaha outboards were available everywhere that we've been so far.
The bad news is that when the new head gasket arrived in Panama, it didn't fit the motor. Bummer! We feared another budget-busting engine replacement, but waited until getting to Ecuador to have the engine stripped and rebuilt. This was all done in one day while we watched. Our Nissan was in bad shape, but the necessary bearing and oil seals were universal parts available in town, and we were able to have the gaskets - including yet another metal-lined head gasket - made custom. Our Nissan outboard now runs beautifully once again. The total cost for all the parts and labor? Just $47 U.S. dollars!
Since the beginning of the year, about a dozen cruising boats have visited Ecuador. If you stop in Ecuador, the normal 900-mile leg from Panama to the Galapagos becomes two legs of 650 and 550 miles. In an area notorious for light winds and counter currents, two shorter legs with a stop for amazingly cheap fuel makes a lot of sense to us.
Most cruising boats use the fishing port of Manta as their base. The other choices are Bahia de Caràquez, which lacks facilities; Guayaquil, a large city even further south with a reputation for being dangerous; and Salinas. The stylish Manta YC offers some buoys, a dinghy dock, restaurant, swimming pool and showers for $5 a day. The yacht club in Salinas offers the same kind of facilities - but wants $25 a day. What are they thinking?
Manta is the largest tuna fishing port in the Pacific. The fleet is enormous, from the 500 or so pangas at the low end, to a dozen or so sleek, state-of-the art 150-footers at the top end. There are even scores of old wooden sailing boats used for fishing - although they are now equipped with outboards. The entire fleet anchors in a basin sheltered by an enormous breakwater. The densely-packed anchorage is alive with activity, and water taxis are driven with all the calm and care of the four-wheeled taxis ashore.
We were surprised and charmed by Ecuador, and want to recommend it to cruisers who would be able to appreciate it - despite some significant limitations. Ecuador is not a full-service marina kind of destination, the country is in some degree of turmoil, and theft is widespread. It is better to provision for the South Pacific while in Panama, where there is a much better selection. The supermarkets in Ecuador cater to the rich locals and price accordingly. The leading brand of canned veggies is 'Snob', which fits. The only marine items available are those that would also be used by the fishing fleet. Ecuador changed one of our behavior patterns, as it's hard to eat aboard when you can have a large pizza made for only $2.50. We'd better lose this dining out habit quickly, however, as we're headed for French Polynesia!
We'd like people to know we can be reached at: elphick at pocketmail.com
- simon and lori 4/20/00
Pilgrim - Panda 38
Sue Angus & Steve Whitmore
(Pier 39, San Francisco)
We came to love Turkey so much during our winter over that it was hard for us to cast off our docklines and head back out to sea to begin another sailing season. We especially loved our winter home at Netsel Marina in Marmaris, with its swimming pool, unlimited water, electricity and washing machines. Yes, there's no doubt that we've become a little soft. It's hard to imagine that about a year ago we were clawing our way up the Red Sea against tough seas and headwinds. But now, after just a few days of 15 knots on the beam while wandering through the islands of southern Greece, we realize once again that cruising is the cherry on the whipped cream of life!
This year's eastern Mediterranean fleet is spreading far and wide. Common destinations include Greece, Italy, Spain, Tunisia and Malta. As usual, at one time or another we had decided on each of these destinations - plus the Black Sea. At the last minute, we decided that we would do a clockwise circumnavigation of the Aegean, so we're headed up the Greek side of the Aegean. Toward the middle of the season, we'll start heading down the Turkish side of the Aegean and then spend a second winter in Turkey.
For months, rumors had been floating around the yachtie community about new and much higher fees for cruising Greece. There was even talk of boycotts and petitions. All the usual yachtie stuff. When we checked into Simi, our first Greek island, we were charged $24.50 by Customs and given a six-month 'Transit Log'. We later heard that European Union and British Commonwealth country registered boats weren't required to have a Transit Log. The next fee was $1.75 per foot for all boats, also good for six months. Finally, there is a daily port fee of $0.11 per foot, payable each day in every port that has a Port Authority.
As we said, we love Turkey so much we'll be doing a second winter there. Naturally, we've done all the usual top ten tourist attractions - plus one extra: camel wrestling. This is a yearly event starring the country's best wrestlers, and is held in a field surrounded by hills. The spectators, competitors - and we suspect, the bookies - start arriving several days before to check out the big guys as they parade though town accompanied by gypsy bands that make a hell of a racket. Every night is party night, with belly dancers, singing and gallons of raki, the Turkish national liquor. The wrestlers spit at each other as they pass, groaning and growling. These camels are nothing like the ones we'd seen before in Egypt, the Sudan or even Oman. They are huge, with enormous bellies and thick necks. They are truly the sumo wrestlers of camels.
In the wrestling arena, the officials walk a dainty lady camel flirtatiously past two well-secured bulls - who are then released. But they charge each other rather than the female, so it seems the guys prefer fighting to sex. To a lot of us, however, the 'fighting' looked suspiciously like foreplay. Anyway, after a while an official would blow a whistle and declare one of the camels the winner. The Gypsies would make a racket, everyone would chug raki, and the party would continue until dusk. Forget Ephesus, Istanbul and Topkapi. When in Turkey, go to the wrestling matches.
So until next winter, we'll be 'doing' the Greek isles. If we see someone famous, we'll be sure to ignore him/her. They tend to hate that.
- sue & steve 5/5/00
Seeadler - Valiant 40
Ingo & Espie Jeve
Azores To Almerimar, Spain
[Continued from last month.]
Having sailed from Florida to the Azores and gotten some rest, on June 14 of last year we departed Horta. There was a stiff breeze that turned into a night of 20 knots of windy rain on the nose until we cleared the channel between Pico and Sao George Island. We'd tried to find refuge at the small harbor of Sao George before nightfall, but the wind and swells poured right in, making it impossible to stay. So we had to head out into the bad weather again. Just about that time our second GPS broke, so we were down to just a Garmin 48. We needed it, too, as we spent the night having to tack up a fairly narrow channel. By the next afternoon we were abeam of the island of Terceira, which was the last land we'd see until we reached Spain some 800 miles later. Someday we'd like to return to explore all nine of the beautiful islands in the Azores.
Our trip from Horta to Cadiz was no pleasure cruise as we mostly had 20 to 25 knots of wind right on the nose. So we were either always headed way north or to Africa! Before it was over, we'd sailed as much as 300 miles off the rhumbline. After three days of bad stuff, we finally got a windshift that allowed us to make easting - although we were still hard on the wind.
Then, seven days into the passage we got hit by a strong gale that lasted for 36 hours. At the beginning of the gale, the 15-foot seas were close together and the tops were breaking. Then nightfall came. Sleep was impossible, as we just lay down trying to rest and hoping the wind wouldn't get any stronger. By morning we could see that the seas were even bigger and that more of them were breaking. The only good news was that the wind was supposed to drop to 25 knots by the afternoon - which it did. But during the worst of the gale was the first time we'd had water into the cockpit of 'Seeadler', as every once in a while the top of a wave would crash against the hull and a wall of water and spray would hit the dodger so hard that I was afraid it was going to break. We were all very glad when that storm ended.
A day later there was no wind at all - but there were birds working. So we got out the fishing pole and in half an hour had caught our first two tuna. What a difference a day makes!
As we closed on Punta Vicente and the Portuguese coast, we encountered very busy shipping lanes. Thank goodness for radar! Dieter and John navigated right through all the mess of ship traffic. I'd intended to wake up early to help them out, but by the time I'd finally gotten up it was daylight and the danger had passed. Espie was great, as she prepared a delicious mushroom omelet for breakfast.
With just 80 miles to go to Cadiz, we knew it was our last night at sea so everyone was in such an exhilirated mood that they couldn't sleep. On the 24th of June - 10 days out of Horta - we arrived safe and sound at Cadiz's Marina Americano, which came complete with floating docks and hot showers. At this point Dieter had to return to his job in Berlin, but John's wife Myra was able to join us.
A very old seaport, Cadiz is a fascinating town with great restaurants. From there we took a train to Sevilla, and everywhere we could see the influence of the Moors who ruled Spain for many centuries. The Alcazar Palace, with its beautiful bath, was just fantastic! When the Christians regained power, baths were outlawed and considered a sin - which is perhaps why the French invented perfume and body powder. I also had a quick look at the archives of the Indios, where Mel Fisher, the treasure diver, had done his research on the Spanish galleon 'Atocha'. Fisher found the ship - and her $500 million in treasure - in the early '80s, and later gave one of the 'Atocha's bronze cannons to the archives. The Plaza de Espana is another sight to see, with nearly 1,900 hand-painted tiles.
On July 3, we headed for Gibraltar, just 70 miles away. When at Gibraltar, it's only eight miles between Europe and Africa, so the currents can be very strong. As a result, we had to leave Cadiz at 0500 to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar at a favorable time, but at least our planning worked out well. For the next 10 days we were anchored right next to the airport runway. Fortunately, there aren't that many planes that land there. The anchorage had good holding, but we got a little uncomfortable when it blew more than 25 knots from the west. There was another anchorage on the Spanish side with a breakwater, so we anchored there for the last two days. While there, we rescued two different boats. One had lost her engine during strong winds, so we towed him off the rocks with our dinghy. The crew of a second small sailboat at anchor had problems bringing up their hook. First, they were out of gas, so they had to raise their main and jib for power. Then their tiller broke into three pieces while the skipper's girlfriend tried to raise the hook! After we gave them some gas and suggested they drop their sails, they got their anchor up and made it into the marina.
We continued 30 miles to the east to Estepona, an inexpensive marina where we had our first experience mooring 'Med style'. We just happened to be there on the day the fishing fleet got its annual blessing. There was some irony, however, as in the middle of the blessing a 30-foot powerboat caught fire, burned to the waterline, and sank!
On a day so clear that we could look back to see Gibraltar and Africa, we moved on to Torre del Mar for one night on the hook, then to Almerimar, where we would leave the boat for the rest of the year and winter. From what we know, Almerimar's haulout fees and $116/month winter rate on the hard are the best deal in the Med.
So just 2.5 months after leaving Fort Lauderdale, we'd crossed the Atlantic and more or less settled in at a Spanish Marina. John and Myra left us after a week to visit Barcelona, Paris and Madrid. But we just hung around and got to know our neighbors from England, Germany, France and Holland. There were four Valiant 40s in the marina - including Stewart and Anne aboard the San Francisco-based 'Annie's Song', and Steve Salmon and Tina Olton aboard the Berkeley-based 'Another Horizon'. We had several happy hours and dinners together, but they were on their way to the Caribbean.
We stayed at the marina for five weeks, working on the boat, playing and reading. Near the end of August, we took the bus to Barcelona, and from there through France and Switzerland to Berlin. We finished the trip doing 160 mph on the ICE train! After spending time in Berlin - which has much to offer - and getting spoiled by my mother and sister, we'll return to our boat and continue exploring the Med.
- ingo & espie 02/00
Triumph - 60-ft Motorsailor
Hollis March & Paula Tielsch
My partner Paula and I - and Maggie, the ship's dog - were finally enjoying our much anticipated Mexican cruise when our worst fears became a reality. On our way from Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan, after a rough and sloppy stretch, we were delighted to be able to drop our hook in sunny and calm Matenchen Bay, just south of San Blas. We planned to stay two nights, but soon I awoke with uncontrollable shivering and a high fever.
I'm not overly fond of doctor visits, so I did my usual bullheaded "I'm not going to the doctor" routine - hoping that I'd get better on my own. By the end of the third day, I was still sicker than the proverbial dog has ever been. In perfect hindsight, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to tough it out through this one. So we put out a call on the San Blas VHF net - and were immediately hooked up with Norm Goldie of 'Jamma', who was net control. A concerned Norm proved to be extremely helpful, as he quickly helped us arrange a dinghy ride to a 'ramada' on the beach, and then a ride to the doctor in town that he recommended.
Dr. Alejandro Davalos Valdez - an excellent Navy-trained physician who also happened to be the Mayor of San Blas - agreed to see me immediately. His obvious professionalism put me completely at ease. After examining me, Dr. Davalos prescribed antibiotics and two other medications - all of which he supplied for a total cost of $150 pesos. That's less than $17 U.S.!
When I'd first become ill, our 'Triumph' was the only boat in the anchorage, and we'd felt quite isolated and alone. But when Paula and I returned to our boat at 3:30 pm after visiting the doctor, there were four new boats in the bay. Having heard of our predicament over the VHF, these cruisers - who were complete strangers - quickly made offers of food, boat help and other support. Paula and I were overwhelmed with gratitude. In addition, Norm checked up on us via the VHF three times a day during my recuperation.
'Triumph', our beloved motorsailor, is a handful for even two healthy people, so Paula and I were concerned that we might not be able to handle her the rest of the way back to Mazatlan. At my request, Norm was even able to organize local help in delivering 'Triumph' up to Mazatlan. I want to thank Norm and his lovely wife Janet for all their help. The couple have lived in San Blas for over 30 years, and have volunteered their time and energy helping travelers, both on land and at sea. They welcome all cruisers to stop in San Blas.
I also want to thank Malcolm and Jackie on 'Aolus', John on 'Gratitude', Wynona and Roy on 'Saucy Lady', Mitch and Risa on 'Komfy', and Teddy and Jeanie on 'Pepina' for all their help. Also Pam for the SSB relays.
- hollis 3/00
LaRive - Hunter 40.5
Home For The Summer
While in Colon, Panama, I was joined by Frank of 'Chardonnay' for the trip north to Roatan. While 40 miles off the coast of Honduras, we managed to T-bone a fishing vessel in the middle of the night! The vessel was showing no lights - despite the fact that there was no moon and it was so cloudy that we couldn't see 50 feet. We'd had our running lights on. After the collision, one light came on aboard the fishing boat, but no attempt was made to contact us by radio or any other means.
Ordinarily, we would have gone back, but this part of the Western Caribbean is full of pirates. We'd also been warned that unlit fishing boats hover in this area waiting to refuel the drug boats that sprint north from Colombia to Mexico and the States. Incidentally, our excitement took place about 10 days before pirates wounded the young boy on the cruising boat from the Netherlands.
As a result of the collision, my Hunter 40.5 took on water for the next two days as we continued on to Roatan, the nearest place to get repairs. In order to stem the inflow of water, we put a 'diaper' on the bow and packed the holes with strips of towel. The repairs to the boat were made by Lionel Arch, who along with his brothers does most of the boat repairs on the island. They do very nice work, and I was really pleased to have him help out so much. 'La Rive' is now at Fantasy Island, where she is looked after by local yachties.
It turns out that Roatan meets my 80-80-80 rule for diving: 80º ambient, 80º water temperature, and 80 feet of visibility. As such, I'm planning on having all the reefs lowered to make sailing less hazardous. But now that I'm back home for the summer, I have to start looking for crew for the many weeks of sailing in the upcoming season. The two fellows I took on the last trip hadn't sailed before, and assumed it would be as easy as it's portrayed on television and in the movies. They left the boat wondering why there hadn't been lots of girls in bikinis and why they'd had to help around the boat! From now on, I'm going to get crew that know what they're doing.
By the way, my March Canal transit was held up for four days awaiting an Advisor. We were told that most of the men had taken early retirement when the Canal changed hands, and that there is now a severe shortage of Advisors for small boats. Other than the wait at the beautiful Balboa YC, the transit was easy. We got a side-tie to a research vessel and went through the locks with no problem.
Of all the countries in Latin America, I'd have to put Panama at the bottom of my list. Four days in Panama City and two days in Colon were enough for me. Somebody needs to buy them a trash can and show them how to use it. On the other hand, just clearing in and out of Roatan is really something. I had to make two trips to the frontier for the paperwork. Puntarenas, Costa Rica, gets my vote as being the most difficult place to clear and get a zarpe on the Pacific Coast.
- joe 5/5/00
Lyon Around - Island Packet 40
Judy & Bob Lyon
Bahia de Jiquilisco, El Salvador
We've been cruising for 18 months now, and have had some wonderful experiences. But we had an experience this week that topped them all - so we'd like to share it with your readers and encourage others to visit this lovely oasis in Central America. We're referring to Marina de Barillas in Bahia de Jiquilisco (he-key-lees-co), El Salvador. It's not on any current charts.
The marina has only been open since March, and the 31 boats that have visited so far this year all stopped as a result of word of mouth. We first heard about it from Jim and Nancy Tracey of 'Windance' - who couldn't say enough good things about it. So we left Guatemala, and 27 hours later arrived near the offshore waypoint at high tide - which is highly recommended. One of our buddyboats had already called the marina on VHF 16, and they told him that a panga would soon be out to guide us in. While there are plans to buoy the channel in the future, right now you absolutely need a guide to take you across the bar - and between the breaking waves. Before long, Luis had arrived in a small boat and patiently led us across the bar and through the estuary to the marina. We say 'patiently' because we were doing six knots and his rig was capable of 50 knots!
Two hours later, after traveling through what reminded us of the California Delta - but without dikes - we arrived at lovely Marina de Barillas, which is surrounded by mangroves and palm trees. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Juan and Carolina Wright, the owners of the marina, as well as two of their three children and their very accommodating staff. This in itself would have made the stop worthwhile, but the hospitality they were to show us made the experience even more memorable.
Marina de Barillas has immaculately tended grounds, lovely restrooms, a tienda, a restaurant with some of the best traditional El Salvadoran food ever, fuel - and even an airstrip. Before long, they hope to offer laundry services and have a telephone. For the time being, cell phones have to be used. Here's something different: When you check in, the Port Captain and Immigration officials come to the marina. When you want to check out, a panga takes you on a 45-minute ride to their offices! The marina is located 45 miles from Usulatan, the nearest town.
On our second day at Marina de Barillas, eight of us cruisers were driven to town so we could provision, do some communications at a cyber cafe, and take care of miscellanous errands. In the afternoon we were taken on a jungle ride to a small village where we could observe some monkeys. The next day one of our cruising friends developed a medical condition that caused him great concern. He was immediately driven to a local doctor, who suggested he see a specialist in San Salvador. So the marina owner had the cruiser flown to the capital aboard his own plane! The specialist quickly diagnosed the problem and the cruiser was soon on the mend.
We happened to visit El Salvador during Samana Santa - Holy Week - so the marina owner's family invited us to join them on their beach outing. We all piled into two pangas and were taken about 35 miles away to a secluded area where we swam in the surf and collected clams that were later delicately prepared by Carolina. On another occasion, we had dinner with the Wright family. Having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we now need to diet as we've never been fed so well!
The Wrights speak excellent English, so we were able to have many informative and interesting discussions about El Salvador. Today, eight of us cruisers will take a tour to the east, and then to San Salvador. This tour was made possible because the Wrights had a travel agent drive two hours from San Salvador to give us a presentation of the various tourist options. Talk about hospitality and service!
We encourage all cruisers who come this way to stop at Marina de Barillas, and recommend Central America as a great place to tour and travel. Interestingly enough, the rest of the world seems to already be aware of this, as when we visited volcanos and historic towns, we noticed tourists from all over the world. Our recommendation is that cruisers no longer ignore the 'Forgotten Middle'.
- judy & bob 4/10/00
Ilha Azul - Gulfstar 50
Charles Weidmer, Crew
Azores to Portugal
We had several pleasant surprises last July while in the Azores preparing for a passage to Lagos on the southern coast of Portugal. The first occurred while admiring the boat 'calling cards' artfully painted on the dock wall in Horta, Faial - and we discovered that we were tied near the artwork painted by the crew of 'Latitude's former boat, 'Big O'! The painting, nearly four feet tall, appeared to be a replica of a 'Latitude' cover. It was dated May '95 and included the names of the crew. It was very well done and has survived the elements nicely.
I was fortunate to be in Horta at the invitation of Northern California sailors Alvin Marshall and his son Paul, for the passage to Lagos. We spent 15 days prior to the passage relaxing, exploring the island, and attending to some chores on Alvin's Gulfstar 50 - which had been on the hard for two years. The name of the boat is Ilha Azul or 'Island Blue'. This is the nickname for Faial, which is known for its endless hedges of hydrangeas, which flourish at the higher elevations and fill in with color when they bloom in June and July.
In another pleasant surprise, on our Air Azores flight, we discovered the name of their inflight magazine is 'Paralelo 39'. The magazine's cover featured two girls painting a boat 'calling card' on the marina wall! A subsequent look at the charts revealed that several of the islands in the Azores could properly lay claim to being at Paralelo 38.
What was I doing in the Azores? In the early '60s, Alvin and his family - which includes three lovely daughters - emigrated from the Azores to next door to me in Sacramento. The oldest of the daughters is named Maria, and the rest is history. She was a gracious hostess during our stay in Horta and opened up their summer condo - which overlooks the marina, the Faial Channel, and the spectacular island of Pico.
The Azores Archipelago is comprised of nine islands which are spread over some 400 miles, the most easterly being about 800 miles west of Portugal. They are volcanic in origin, and the 7,700-foot summit of Pico's volcano is the highest mountain in Portugal. The Azores are truly a delight, with volcanic mountains, rugged headlands, lush valleys, cows grazing lazily in little hillside plots cordoned by bamboo and hydrangeas hedges, the clearest of waters and skies, tiny bays, little villages, and friendly people.
The tiny port city of Horta, with its exciting international atmosphere, overlooks the picturesque Faial Channel and the Island of Pico less than five miles to the east. The view of the 7,700 foot mountain on Pico is spectacular. The sun and the moon rise over its shoulder, and the cloud formations, which frequently fringe the mountain, are continually changing in size, shape and character. The moods of the sea in the channel are ever changing as well. It was very enjoyable to relax on the deck of the condo, enjoy the city, the mountain and the sea, and watch the great variety of craft - inlcuding sailboats from the world over - entering and leaving the harbor.
Horta was a port of call for New England merchant ships that stopped to take on fruit and wine. Whaling ships, out of New Bedford - which today is Horta's sister city - called for additional crewmen, supplies, and to offload oil for shipment home. A flourishing scrimshaw craft began as a spin-off of the whaling industry, and the Museu do Scrimshaw exhibits engraved whalebones and teeth dating back to 1884. The museum is located in the upstairs rooms of the renowned yachtie bar, Peter's Cafe Sport.
Horta became a major coaling station for steam merchant shipping in the early 20th century. Beginning in 1900, the city served as a relay station for Trans-Atlantic messages sent by cable, and by the 1930s, some fifteen cables routed through Horta relay stations linked European cities with the eastern United States. The classic Pan Am Clippers used Horta as a mid-Atlantic stopover from 1939 until 1945.
Preparations were well underway for the 'Week of the Sea' when we departed for Lagos. The 'week' is celebrated each August and is the biggest festival of the year. It includes seven days of festivities including sea parades, exhibitions of traditional dancing, Portuguese rock bands, and boat racing by all manner of craft - including traditional whaleboats under oar and under sail. A group of French boats participating in the Regatta Atlantic Cup arrived from Brittany two weeks prior to Sea Week, and each night their crews laid claim to the few tables at Peter's. During the course of the evenings, members of different crews would lead the group in patriotic songs.
When we finally sat down to look seriously at the charts for the passage to Portugal, we were pleased to learn that our first waypoint on the continent was the Sagres - coincidentally the brand name of the excellent Portuguese beer we enjoyed during our stay. Henry the Navigator built a fortress on the Sagres headland in the early 1400s, and laid out a 140-foot diameter compass rose on the ground - which can still be seen. Legend has it that he founded a great school of navigation at either Sagres or nearby Lagos. As Master of the wealthy Order of Christ, he was able to finance the first expeditions along the African Coast, and sent his fear-stricken sailors into unknown waters.
En route to Lagos, we spent a few days in Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel, some 100 miles east of Faial. Ponta Delgada is the Azorean capital, and is a busy and exciting city with numerous beautiful buildings built during the 19th century. Unfortunately we were occupied with boat chores and weren't able to tour the island. Our guidebook described green mountainous terrain, dramatic volcanic scenery, gardens of hibiscus and hydrangeas, turquoise waters of crater lakes, and hot spring spas.
Our six-day passage to Lagos was off the wind with good breezes and following seas. We were happy to approach the coast of Portugal during daylight hours, as the shipping lanes along the continent and to and from the Med are heavily traveled. Lagos is located at the 'Gateway to the Mediterranean' on the south coast of Portugal. This tiny historic European city, which bustled with summer visitors, still retains its cosmopolitan air. It was here that Prince Henry dispatched the tiny caravals to explore the African coast.
After an enjoyable week in Lagos, we put the boat to bed for the winter in their first class marina, then caught a quaint little train for Lisbon and a plane home. Lisbon is a grand city and sits on the north bank of the Tagus River estuary, 10 miles in from the Atlantic. Our Golden Gate Bridge inspired its mile long suspension bridge that was completed in 1966. We visited their maritime museum, rich in the history of the time of discovery, and the beautifully restored frigate D Fernando Gloria, built in Portuguese India, and launched in 1843. She sailed for 33 years between Portugal and the Portuguese possessions in India.
Our final pleasant surprise occurred at the maritime museum when we encountered a beautifully rendered painting of the 'Gloria' participating in a naval battle with the Sagres light and headland in the background.
- chuck 5/05/00
Lowdown In La Paz
Marina de La Paz
(La Paz, Baja California Sur)
Thank you, 'Latitude', for what I feel was a balanced and responsible response to the letters about the 'safety inspections' in La Paz. As we might have guessed, the inspections seem to have faded into the sunset. The law the Port Captain was basing the inspections on is still on the books, so I don't know why he stopped fussing about it - and, of course, I won't ask. It could be that he heard about the international agreement of which Mexico is a signee, or it became obvious that the one federal inspector wasn't enough for the whole state, or maybe he just decided to stop on his own.
During Easter week, the Port Captain's office actually had their boat out in the channel checking to see if all the cruising boats had their despachos. A couple didn't, so they were sent back to La Paz to get straight with the law. Right now, the Port Captain's boat is hauled out, so there haven't been any more safety inspections. It comes and it goes down here in Mexico.
With regard to fees in La Paz, the Port Administration - a state-owned corporation of which my son Neil is the local jefe - fee for port use is 50 pesos for boats up to about 40 tons. That's about $5 U.S. This fee is charged only when a boat checks in. There is also an anchoring fee for the few areas in La Paz Bay not covered by people with concessions and moorings. The fee is about $7.70/day for most of the cruising fleet, but higher for even larger boats. The prices include value added tax. The Port Administration has provided a free dinghy dock at the side of the Municipal Pier, but not many people seem to use it.
I also want to expand on Jim Hughes' comment on muggings in La Paz. They have all been late at night and outside of bars, so it hasn't affected most responsible cruisers. Connie Hinton's situation was a little different, but there is more to the story. When her purse was grabbed in the street just outside Marina de La Paz, she screamed so loud the owners of the bar upstairs across the street - who happened to be on the phone to the police at the time - thought she was being raped. They ran down the stairs to help, and the neighbors in the house next door also took up the chase. When the thief ran past the Abaroa Boatyard, workers there jumped over the fence and joined in, too. The guy was caught, the police arrived a short time later, and he was hauled away. We've got good folks in this neighborhood!
Lastly, Las Mascotas, which is the local SPCA, is taking care of the stray bunch of dogs that have been hanging out between our marina and Abaroa's, spaying and neutering right and left. It turns out that Oregon is short on little dogs, so the pups are being flown - compliments of Alaska Airlines and a cruiser who works as cabin staff for them - to Oregon for adoption. I love living in La Paz as there's a new twist on life everyday!"
- mary 05/10/00
Sailors who expected to participate in the Auckland to Fiji Race/Rally - which were to include West Coast sailors Tim Modder and Cynthia Wilkes of the Beneteau 50 'Total Devotion', Tom and Pam Howell of the Farr 58 'Imagine', and George Backhus of the Deerfoot 62 'Moonshadow' - were left in limbo nine days before the start. It seems there had been a coup in Fiji. Businessman George Speight, who along with seven others armed with AK-47s had stormed the parliament and seized the prime minister and seven cabinet ministers, announced that he had taken control of Fiji and revoked the constitution. It was not entirely unexpected, as there has long been tension between the Fijians, who make up 51% of the population, and ethnic Indians, who make up 43% of the population and are much better at business and commerce. The coup came on the one-year anniversary of the election of a Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, an Indian who Fijian nationalists accuse of being pro-Indian. There were two coups in Fiji in 1987 over this same issue. Cruisers in Fiji probably weren't at much risk - although mobs of youths were running through Suva looting shops.
Butchie and Bitchie of the Sausalito-based Lapworth 39 Contenta figured they'd have sailed around the world by now, "but we're stuck in the Fiji to New Zealand commute." Back home in Sausalito for the Kiwi winter, they report they've left their boat in the water at Whangarei for a fee of $450 - a year, not a month! The fee includes very nice restrooms, a laundry, a lounge with a TV, and great locals. 'Contenta' is one of the few wood boats out cruising, and for only a short time longer will still be one of the few without roller furling. When a flaying jib almost pulled Butchie overboard, he began to appreciate some of the advantages of roller furling. The couple share captain's duties by the year. "Next year will be Bitchie's turn to be captain," says Butchie with a smile, "which means she'll be responsible for picking all the anchorages and everything else."
"Here's our postscript to the Banderas Bay Regatta," write Fred and Patti Pratley of the Dana Point-based Cheoy Lee 41 Adagio. The postscript they're referring to is actually the above photograph of their happy crew. From the left: Don Hossack of 'Windward Luv'; Bev Dresen of 'Pelagic'; Heather Donnell of 'Thistle', Patti and Fred Pratley, and Karl Dresen. It's a good thing Canvas Connection sponsored the boat, for the women appeared not to own any clothing. We're delighted that Fred and Patti sent the photo in, because they were about the only winners in the Banderas Bay Regatta that we didn't get a chance to interview for our May story. And they not only won their class, but took top corrected time honors among the entire monohull fleet. Congratulations!
Martin and Elaine Bender of the Catalina 34 Sun Star, who served on the Banderas Bay Regatta committee and even sent us a nice photo of 'Profligate', are quitting cruising. But just for the summer. "We've left 'Sun Star' at Opequimar Boat Yard in Puerto Vallarta, but will return to her in the fall for our seventh season in Mexico." When sending in news like this, folks, it would be nice if you could include some basic information, such as what it costs to keep your boat in the yard for the summer.
"I would like to say a public 'thank you' to Stan Honey, Jim Corenman, and everyone else involved with SailMail for its development and continued improvements," writes Jeanette Denby of 'Dancer', which is currently in the Ha Apai Group of Tonga. It's the best thing to happen to cruising since GPS and good water makers!" We and hundreds of others concur with your sentiments, Jeanette; SailMail is really terrific. By the way, as this is being keyboarded late in May, Honey is co-navigating Steve Fossett's 105-foot catamaran 'Playstation' across the Atlantic. Despite often hitting in excess of 30 knots and having to dodge icebergs, a lack of wind thwarted their record attempt. As for Jim Corenman, we saw him and his wife Sue at Sail Expo in Oakland at the end of April. We asked them if they've had their fill of sailing after a long, long circumnavigation with 'Heart of Gold', their Schumacher 50 from Alameda. "As a matter of fact, we haven't," they replied. "After the long motoring trip from Panama to Puerto Vallarta, what we'd like more than anything else is a long ocean passage."
"We sold our home, stashed our stuff with friends and relatives, and found homes for our four cockatiels and beloved pooch," report Rob and Chris Skrotsky of Northern California. "Then we packed our Bronco for the cross-country trip to Rhode Island, where we picked up our new-to-us aft cockpit Freedom 45 Navicula. We're starting our cruise on the East Coast. Thanks for the inspiration!" You're welcome, folks. Have a great time - but don't forget to write.
"After the 1988 Ha-Ha, we went to La Paz and Z-town before returning to Puerto Vallarta for the summer," report Michael and Susan Ulrich of the Leucadia-based Vagabond 47 Alsvid. "During the '99-'00 season, we headed south to Costa Rica for a month, to Panama for three months, and then left 'Alsvid' at Bocas de Toro so we could return home for the summer. For details, people can check out our Website at www.n2.net/diving/alsvid." Just one question, Michael and Susan: Where in the Bocas de Toro - which is on the Caribbean side of Panama - did you leave your boat? We're not familiar with the facilities there.
By the way, readers, the Ulrichs were among the first people to take advantage of the 'cruiser check-in' we now have at our Website. If you're out cruising and have a little information to share or just want to check-in, visit us by clicking on the link in the previous sentence.
"Thanks to everyone for their support when Phil, my husband, was overcome with a perforated duodenal ulcer on March 11," writes Jana Graves of Sea Mint. Following surgery in Mazatlan, he was flown to the V.A. Medical Center in La Jolla, where he was treated for a massive infection and had more extensive surgery. After some major set-backs, he was released on May 10 and is back home in Mazatlan recuperating. We wish we could thank each and everyone for their overwhelming support and all the good deeds that were done behind the scenes while we were busy with doctors and such. Mike, Beth and Josh, formerly of 'Zugvogel', expressed it best: "it's so nice to hear how well past and present cruisers are bonding together to form a protective fabric for those in need. In this day and age of pessimism and distrust, help is hard to come by from strangers. But cruisers have somehow bottled the formula for compassion and mixed it with a little salt so that it can be spread about freely. Let's always be cruisers." Our sentiments exactly, as Phil and I always plan to be cruisers!"
On several occasions we've written to ask if anyone knew whether the San Juan River in Nicaragua, which flows from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean, is still navigable. After all, more than a century ago it was the site of major naval battles. And if the San Juan were still navigable, it would mean that you could take a sailboat all the way from the Caribbean to within about 15 miles of the Pacific. Alas, it appears it is no longer navigable, at least in the normal sense. "You are right about the battleships and William Walker's armada on San Juan River in Nicaragua," writes Yvonne Szymanski. "In March my husband and I explored the San Carlos area of the San Juan triver by truck, and were told by locals that the river is no longer navigable because of low water levels, numerous sand banks, low power lines and temporary bridges. Local pangas, however, do navigate the stretch from Lake Nicaragua to San Juan del Norte, so I think it still may be possible to go from the Caribbean to Lake Nicaragua in a low powerboat. What an interesting challenge it would be!"
"We're in Antigua checking out Antigua Sailing Week, and today is the wet T-shirt contest," report Steve and Linda Dashew of the Marina del Rey based 84-footer Beowulf. "But having seen Tom Perkins' 135-ft Mariette and the 135-foot J Class Endeavour smoking along in the earlier Antigua Classic Regatta made the nasty beat from Panama to Curaçao worth it. We took the Wanderer's advice and didn't race in Sailing Week, but next year might give the cruising class a try - those guys look a little less dangerous than the professionals. We did, however, do the Guadeloupe to Antigua Race, and with my son-in-law Todd driving, broke 'Mari Cha III's record from last year. With the wind on the beam at 18 knots true, we covered the distance in 3 hours and 57 seconds. We decided against Europe this year, so will be heading for Bermuda and the East Coast as soon as the Atlantic high forms up again. We need a good passage to make up for the hassle of getting here."
With the dollar up 25% against the Euro, now is definitely the most economical time to go to Europe - or buy a boat there. If you're big on joie de vivre but can't make it all the way to France, there's always Martinique's Regates de Juin. "To be held for the fourth year on May 28 to June 3," says the press release, "the regatta once again promises a week of spirited races around the island, with a series of festive parties every night in the towns and villages and on the beaches. Last year there were 30 teams from the United States and Europe, and even more are expected this year. There's nothing like yacht racing, music, dancing, creole food and ti-punch to add up to a great time. Martinique is home to four marinas and 18 charter companies. For more information, contact Le Club Nautique du Marin, tel. (596) 749248, fax. (596) 748383."
"I just went sailing with my old friend Richard Steinke aboard Isobar around Phang Nga Bay and Phuket,Thailand," reports Pam Brown. "My week was too short, but we had a great time. Richard is planning to sail to Malaysia, Bali, and the Phillipines before January, although he's not sure when. When he does go, he'll be needing one to three crew to join him. Anyone who might be interested should email him at: resteinke at hotmail.com."
Sweet sailing 'til next month.
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