May 11, 2011

Is the Hangman’s Noose the New Symbol of Puerto Escondido?

Welcome to Puerto Escondido?

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We’re told that the air and water temperatures aren’t the only things that have been heating up at cruiser favorite Puerto Escondido on Baja. Apparently there has been a lot of friction over the last few months between American cruisers and American boat service providers; between American boat service providers and other American boat service providers; between American boat service providers and some Mexicans workers who were allegedly told they couldn’t work in the Mexican boatyard; and even between one American service provider and the staff of the Fonatur/Singlar facility. While we’re told no blows have been thrown yet, we’re also told there have been several angry confrontations and there’s a tension in Puerto Escondido that never existed before.

For instance, we received several reports that one American service provider sent a letter to Fonatur headquarters in Mexico City criticizing some of the staff at the Fonatur/Singlar office in Puerto Escondido — who we’ve generally heard very good things about. We’re not sure if there was a cause-and-effect relationship, but we’re told that a short time later, the provider was banned from the Singlar property — including the fuel dock! He nonetheless reportedly returned during Loreto Fest to try to get people to sign a petition asking that he be allowed to return. At this point we’re unclear on his status.

The one thing we do know for sure is that Puerto Escondido’s once-excellent reputation among cruisers is taking a drubbing. For example, we’ve seen a letter from one long-time cruiser in Mexico who always loved Puerto Escondido, but who now vows not to return until it becomes a more friendly and less hostile place. He wrote that he was very unhappy with what he percevied to be price-gouging and "predatory", "bullying" and "extortion"-like business practices by some American service providers at what many describe as an otherwise very nice Singlar facility. And with what he felt was very poor quality of work. According to this individual’s letter, increasing cruiser discontent with the situation in Puerto Escondido is being broadcast from one end of Mexico to the other on the various cruiser nets. This doesn’t bode well for Puerto Escondido or the Singlar facility, as it’s generally thought to take 100 good reports to counteract just one bad one.

And it’s not as if it’s just problems between American service providers and American boatowners, but apparently also between various American service providers. For example, we’re told that one morning a 13-knot noose — the famous Hangman’s Knot — was hung at the door of one provider’s office. While nobody has any proof who put it there, people have told us it’s widely believed to have been a ‘back off’ warning by one American service provider who is under the impression that another American service provider threatened to report him or his friends to Mexican Immigration for some real or imagined violation. In a somewhat similar vein, it was reported to us that a cruiser whose boat was hauled out was told by an American provider that it was illegal for one of his relatives to help him do simple jobs on his boat!

"With that kind of ugly vibe in Puerto Escondido," one veteran Sea of Cortez cruiser told us, "I couldn’t wait to leave the minute Loreto Fest was over. I sure hope those people don’t come down to La Paz."

As a lot of people are thinking about spending the summer in Puerto Escondido, it might be helpful if people share their experiences of what’s going on at that beautiful spot, and whether or not they would recommend visiting or spending the summer there, and why. If you just want to provide background on the situation there — or fear retaliation — we can withhold your name. But what we’re looking for are facts, not rumors or second-hand information. We’re also looking for suggestions on what might be done to bring the good old vibe back.

Spotlight on Southern Cal Cruising

Although we’ve sailed along parts of the Southern California coast more times than we can count, we don’t claim to be experts on all aspects of cruising there. So we’re asking you, our loyal readers, to share your tips and insights on exploring both the Channel Islands and the Southern California coast — especially if you’ve chartered a boat to do so.

Not everyone can get away to cruise the world, but there are plenty of grand adventures to be had right here, along the California coast.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In an upcoming edition we plan to run a special World of Chartering article on summer sailing in SoCal which will include both our own suggestions and those of our readers. As an incentive for helping us out, several contributors will be selected randomly to receive some official Latitude 38 gear!

Naturally, we’d love to see some of your favorite photos shot in Southern California sailing destinations. And if you’ve chartered a boat anywhere along the SoCal coast, we’d love to hear your suggestions for a memorable, trouble-free cruise. Please email us here.

Catalina Island’s Avalon Harbor is the favorite anchorage of many Southern Cal boaters. But those who relish quiet and solitude would be wise to avoid it.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Washington Bans Copper Bottom Paint

On May 4, Washington governor Chris Gregoire sounded the death knell for copper-based bottom paint in her state by signing into law a ban on the use of the product on recreational boats under 65 feet — the first state to do so. The law prohibits the sale of new boats with copper paint after January 1, 2018, and no paint with more than a half a percent of copper can be used starting in 2020.

California is close on our northern neighbor’s heels with Senate Bill 623, which would put into place a similar ban. On May 2, the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality approved the ban and sent it to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration. If made into law, the legislation would ban the sale of new boats with copper paint as of January 1, 2015, and ban the paint outright starting in 2019.

We’ve had three different Econea-based test paints on the bottom of our boat over the last few years, and all have performed as well as or better than the 67% copper control paint.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For what it’s worth, paint companies have made huge strides in developing alternatives to copper — we’ve been very satisfied with the Econea-based test paints that have been on our boat’s bottom for the last few years — but Boat U.S. has expressed concern that, since the ban applies only to rec boats and not commercial or military vessels, it "may not provide a large enough market to stimulate research and development on alternative coatings."

Cirque’s Unbeaten Path

Louis Kruk and Laura Willerton’s San Leandro-based Cirque enjoying Animas Slot all alone.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Louis Kruk and Laura Willerton of the San Leandro-based Beneteau 42s7 Cirque left the Bay to cruise Mexico for a winter four years ago. Now on their fourth season of cruising, the duo has expanded their range.

Louis and Laura found quietude in Northern Sea of Cortez.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"The past several weeks have found us traveling a greater distance up into the Sea of Cortez than we had previously attained," Kruk reports. "We went as far north as Bahia de Los Angeles — 29°N. We found cold water, anchorages devoid of boats, and relatively barren land free of people. It was spectacular. But, we suddenly found, at least temporarily, a fascination with the multitude of sea birds.

A byproduct of their trip has been a burgeoning fascination with sea birds. Ninety percent of the population of Heermann’s gulls, like this one, breed and nest on Isla Rasa in the Sea.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"The passage into the wilderness of the Sea began in Santa Rosalia, the last relatively large village on the Baja Peninsula. Santa Rosalia is a curious community with a great deal of French influence. The town essentially grew up around the French copper mining operation Boleo. Most of Mexico builds with concrete, but Santa Rosalia is built with wood, with French architecture. The church is a Gustave Eiffel creation, and the French bakery, from the mining days, is still in its original building."

The Gustave Eiffel-designed steel church has served Santa Rosalia’s residents since 1897.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Kruk and Willerton are on their way back down the Sea to Mazatalan, where they’ll haul out for a quick bottom job before delivering the boat to Banderas Bay for the summer. Their northern foray acquainted them with pecularities like the 3 a.m., 40-plus knot Katabatic winds and a 90-year-old expat gold prospector, but for more about those you’ll have to wait for Changes in Latitudes in the June issue of Latitude 38.

Renowned yacht designer and naval architect William ‘Bill’ Garden passed away on April 29 near Sydney, B.C.
Latitude 38 needs an Olson 30 boom in good condition ASAP. Contact Richard if you have one to spare.
"The pilots who steer the big ships in and out of the Bay have been green-lighted for a rate hike that could have them making upward of $432,000 a year by 2015," reported Phil Matier and Andrew Ross in the May 7 San Francisco Chronicle / S.F.