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Carnival, French Creole Style

February 6, 2008 – St. Barth, French West Indies

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

During the troupe's first pass through Gustavia in the afternoon, the crowds were relatively thin and sober. That would change by evening. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

No two Carnivals are the same. Even though Carnival historically begins 12 days after Christmas and ends on Mardi Gras, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, not everyone keeps with this tradition. On St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins, for example, they're celebrating the final day of Carnival on April 26 this year. Most everywhere else, the big Mardi Gras celebration was yesterday, although in the French Islands, the fun doesn't end until Vaval is burned tonight.

While Carnival is important in most of Europe except the United Kingdom, as well as much of Latin America and the Caribbean, the size of the celebrations vary tremendously. The most famous Mardi Gras blowout is in Rio, of course, which goes on intensely for three days and draws millions of people. Other big ones are in Venice, Trinidad and New Orleans. Interestingly, you can sail to all three.

About 15 years ago, we sailed down to Port of Spain for the Trini Mardi Gras, and had a great time. The Trinis are intense about Carnival, and invest great amounts of time and money in their music, costumes and routines. Some of the big troops might include hundreds of spectacularly dressed dancers and/or pan musicians, and hundreds of thousands of people participate in one way or the other.

This year we happened to be in St. Barth for Carnival, where the celebrations couldn't begin to match the ones at Rio, Venice and Trinidad. But like the island, Carnival here was small, safe and intimate. Even if you just got here, it was like having a big party with friends. The following are a selection of photos to show what it looked like.

Le Select
Thanks to the help of Michel and other bartenders at Le Select, the sobriety issue was addressed - although in a typically incredibly inefficient French manner. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Dress up
Some of the costumes represented island traditions from the plantation days - although St. Barth was always too hilly and rocky for planting sugar cane. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Dance toop
But Carnival being Carnival, sensuous costumes and dances were as common as confetti. When darkness fell, the wings on these dancers lit up. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Of course some folks, such as our friend Lucky, are such good dancers they could keep crowds entertained dancing solo in their street clothes. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Mark 'da Juice', captain of Mischievous, didn't let sailing friends down with his hair-raising costume. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Katia and Chris
Chris van Trampe, who completely restored the 65-ft Lone Fox while living in Ventura a few years ago, with 'Kotten' Katia. Katia's drink of choice for Carnival? Wool-ite. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A couple of hours into Carnival, the streets were packed and the whole island was pretty well lubed. Still, no problems at all. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The more modern look of Carnival. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Like Carnival itself, Flora seemed to fly right by. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

- latitude / rs

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Singlehander Finds Calmer Seas

February 6, 2008 – Middle of the Pacific

In last Friday's 'Lectronic, we reported that singlehander Robert Botha, who'd left the Bay on January 9 aboard his Alberg 30 Flyer bound for his native New Zealand, was having a tough time dealing with heavy weather in the middle of the Pacific after his windvane broke. We're happy to report that the bungee cord jury rig Botha set up successfully steered Flyer to calmer waters and he's still on course for the Marquesas. "Been resting," he wrote in an email to his wife Lydia. "Boat is charging along — warm night, gentle sea & a clear sky completely filled with stars. So amazing."

- latitude / ld

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Sea of Cortez Sailing Week

February 6, 2008 – La Paz and Espiritu Santo, B.C.S.

Jim Forquer's Catana 52 Legato, as seen during the Banderas Bay Blast, will be participating in Sea of Cortez Sailing Week. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We hear that you guys are planning some sort of revival of La Paz Race Week to be held a week before La Paz Bay Fest," write Tom Wurfl and Helen Downs, vets of the '06 Baja Ha-Ha with the San Diego-based Lagoon 42 cat Catatude. "If this is true, we'd sure like to get in on it. We've had our boat in Marina de La Paz since doing the Lucky 13 Ha-Ha in '06, and have been 'commuter cruising'. We plan to be down there from March to May. We'll also be driving a truck down, so might be able to bring down any stuff you'd need."

It's true, Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, an event we founded in the early '80s, is being revived. The big difference between then and now is that, in order to reduce the impact on the island environment, we'd like to limit the event to 30 boats and about 100 people. This would mean that we could have most of the social events aboard Profligate and perhaps one or two other rafted-up multihulls, instead of having to set up a big encampment on the beaches like in the old days.

The folks we'd like to participate are those who are really into sailing, and thus would be open to the idea of holding races when there is wind, as opposed to according to an exact schedule. The inconsistent nature of the wind at the islands is a problem we remember from the old days. For folks who are less interested in sailing and more interested in social activities, we'd recommend the Club Cruceros' Bay Fest instead, to be held in La Paz the following week.

As it stands now, Sea of Cortez Sailing Week will be leaving La Paz on April 1 — the April Fool's Day angle really appeals to us — with a race up to Caleta Partida. Depending on the weather, we'll either race locally until racing back to La Paz on the 6th, or might even do a race up to Isla San Francisco and back a day or two later. We'll certainly have a least one, if not two, lay days. By the way, when we talk about racing, we're talking about 'serious fun' racing, as in beer can races or the Ha-Ha.

Oh no, not the Capricorn Cat girls again! Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There are no stores or facilities at the islands, so everyone will have to be self-sufficient — which we think will add to the fun of it all. We expect lots of potlucks and such. It goes without saying that no whining will be allowed.

Since Sea of Cortez Sailing Week is now only three months away, and we intend to limit the boats to 30, we suppose it's time to start an entry list. The following is a list of boats that we can recall having confirmed they want to participate. If we forgot your name or want to be added to the list, and you meet the criteria — really love to sail, know how to play well with others, don't whine — let us know that you're interested, too.

1) Profligate, Surfin' 63 cat, Doña de Mallorca, Colony Emiliano Zapata, Mexico

2) Capricorn Cat, Hughes 45 cat, Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly, Brisbane

3) Moonshine, Lagoon 470, Bill Lilly and gals, Newport Beach

4) Legato, Catana 52, Jim Forquer, Newport Beach

5) Catatude, Lagoon 42, Tom Wurfl and Helen Downs, San Diego

6) Dolce Vita, Marquesas 56, Mai Dolch, Belvedere

Although we're starting with six big cats, this event is by no means limited to multihulls or bigger boats. The size and type of your boat is not important to Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, but the spirit and attitude of the skipper and crew are.

Caleta Partida
While Caleta Partida is big enough to easily accommodate 100 boats, that many boats can have a negative effect on the environment. Photo Courtesy Google Earth
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We know a lot of others have expressed interest. With a limited number of participation slots, now is the time to confirm by emailing Richard. The entry fee? A big smile and a great attitude.

- latitude / rs

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Groupama 3 Losing Breeze, Maybe Lead

February 6, 2008 – Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Groupama 3
The 'Indian Summer' Groupama 3 has been enjoying may also cost them the record. Photo Courtesy Team Groupama
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Franck Cammas and the rest of the 10-man crew aboard Groupama 3 are at risk of losing the southern ocean front they've been riding and the lead they've built in their Jules Verne Record attempt. Due to a series of weather-induced jibes in the South Atlantic, Groupama 3 has only gained about two-and-a-half hours on Orange II's 2005 record pace since the equator. Now the team is faced with an unfavorable forecast and the likelihood that within the next two days, they will lose up to as much as a day-and-a-half against Orange II's pace.

"A high pressure system is climbing up on us!" Cammas relayed over the satphone. "We won't have enough speed to get ahead of it . . ."

A depression to the west of the St. Helena High has forced the high in a southeasterly direction toward Groupama 3, threatening to smother the 105-ft trimaran with an area of little breeze, while simultaneously pushing away the front they've been riding. Cammas and navigator Yves Parlier have elected to sail a more northerly route — they're currently sailing just north of 40° S and just past the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope — in order to avoid the large seas and their undesirable angle to Groupama 3's south.

"Groupama 3 is rather quick in the light airs and the medium wind, and in the Atlantic we can play with the pressure and get close to the calm zones, but in the South, we'll be better off seeking out the downwind conditions with a good sea state," Cammas said. "We won't stop ourselves from going into the strong wind but it will have to be well oriented."

Groupama 3 reportedly cannot be driven as hard as the 125-ft catamaran Orange II in large waves. While Cammas did not allude to it, the possibility of icebergs, which Thomas Coville encountered at 48° S aboard his 105-ft trimaran Sodeb'O during his recently aborted solo record attempt, could also be weighing on the minds of Cammas and Parlier.

Check out their regular reports at

- latitude / rg

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Easy-Going Retirement Is in the Past

February 6, 2008 – Opua, New Zealand

Wait a minute, Dan and Carol don't seem to be in the Delta in this photo. And doesn't that look like a Gemini catamaran behind them. © 2018 Al Pagel

"Retired life was easy-going and good," write Northern Californians Dan and Carol Seifers, "and we were enjoying sailing our Gemini 105 catamaran in the Bay and Delta. But in September of '06, while cruising home from the Delta with fellow members of the Richmond YC, a little thing happened that has changed our lives. While tied up at the Rio Vista Marina, we saw a Seawind 1000 catamaran with a sign in the window denoting the owner's years of adventures with her: taking delivery in Australia, sailing to New Zealand, then the islands of Polynesia, Hawaii, and so forth.

A Seawind catamaran. You don't suppose this could be Dan and Carol's? © 2018 Al Pagel

"Wham! All of a sudden Carol started thinking about the possibility of buying a new catamaran to tour the South Pacific. In fact, she became obsessed with the idea. After returning home, she spent hours researching catamarans on the internet, and shoved articles about sailing in the South Pacific under my nose. There was no stopping her now, as she was hooked on buying a Seawind 1160 built in Australia."

We're sure of it now, this is the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, not Fisherman's Cut in the Delta. So the couple indeed went ahead with their capricious plan. More in the March issue of Latitude. © 2018 Al Pagel

- latitude / rs

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