Photos of the Day

December 19 - Cape Town and Near Australia

The Photos of the Day are from the second leg of the Volvo Around the World Race. Wow!

Amer Sports One at the finish
Photo Carlo Borlenghi

All Photos Rick Tomlinson except as noted

Canadian Cruisers Attacked at Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

December 19 - Rabaul, PNG

"We received some bad news about a Canadian cruising couple that we briefly met about six months ago in Scarborough, Australia," reports Sally Andrew of the Alameda-based Yamaha 33 Fellowship currently in Australia. "According to admittedly sketchy reports, in early December the husband and wife crew of the Canadian yacht Rio Nimpkish were beaten up and robbed while ashore in Rabaul. This weekend - a week after the incident - reports over the ham radio are that he remained in a coma the hospital, having suffered a fractured skull and the loss of an eye. He is to be med-evacuated to Australia this week for further care. Volunteers will deliver the couple's boat to Cairns."

Cruisers Fined $4,000 (Almost) in Mexico for Not Checking in!

December 19 - Zihuatanejo, Mexico

The current system for checking into Mexican ports is both expensive and extremely time-consuming, which is why some cruisers go to great lengths - some of them legal, some of them perhaps not so legal - to avoid having to do it. As the following story shows, if you don't follow the law exactly, there may be consequences.

Earlier this month, Paraquina and Saucy Lady pulled into Barra de Navidad. Representatives of the Port Captain came over and told them they had to check in. The cruisers responded by saying it was their understanding that if they didn't stay longer than 24 hours, they didn't have to check in. Not true, said the reps for the Port Captain. The cruisers asked if they could just stop to pick up some food and leave in a couple of hours. No, they were told. So they headed south for Z-town, thinking that was the end of that. It wasn't, as Anne Kelty of the Whitby 42 Michaelanne reports:

"The two boats checked in at Zihuatanejo two days later - to learn that the Barra de Navidad Port Captain had sent a fax stating that the two boats had left Barra without properly checking in and out. The Zihuatanejo Port Captain was polite, but after collecting their boat papers told them to return at 11 am the following day - which was yesterday. Upon returning, they were told that they would be fined $4,000 U.S. - that's right, $4,000 U.S. - for having not checked in. At that point, Memo and Rick of Rick's Bar - a cruiser favorite - interceded by translating the explanations by the skippers of Paraquina and Saucy Lady. Specifically, that they had departed Barra under the impression that they were not required to stay or check in at Barra. Some negotiation went on before the Port Captain in Z-town allowed Rick to fax the two boats' papers to Barra de Navidad to have them processed in/out, stamped, and faxed back. This should end the incident. Fees for all this have not been divulged as of this writing. In the meantime, there have been reports on the Amigo Net of other boats having problems in Barra de Navidad. Viva stopped for fuel, where they were met by the Port Captain's boat. They told them they had to check in and could not leave until they did so. It took Viva two days to get it straightened out.

"Some cruisers," Anne continues, "are saying they've been told that they have 24 hours in any port without having to check in. Here in Zihuatanejo, the Capitania says that if you come into an intermediate point - puntos intermedios - you need only present the local Port Captain with a letter, written in Spanish, stating why you are stopping there: fuel, provisions, medical care, mechanical problems, etc. They will then stamp your letter/papers - not clear what, actually - and you are then free to go without going through the complete check in/out process. Barra de Navidad's Capitania never mentioned that to anyone, for all we know."

We think the cruisers who believe they have "24 hours in any port without having to check in" are confused or more likely guilty of wishful thinking. As we understand it, in most Mexican ports, mariners are allowed 24 hours within which to check in, not 24 hours before they have to check in. In the old days, and this might still technically be true, nobody could leave the boat until the captain had gone ashore and completed the check-in. But if there is widespread confusion over checking in policies, we have to lay the blame at the feet of the Mexican government. The laws aren't clear, and they are not uniformly enforced. Starting in the January issue, Latitude 38 is beginning a campaign to get the checking in procedures changed - hopefully to an annual cruising permit with no check-in required. We hope you'll support our efforts.

Meanwhile, not all cruisers are sympathetic to other cruisers who try to avoid clearing in. Take Terry Bingham of the Eagle Harbor, Washington-based Secret Life, who is on his third cruise of Mexico:

"My bitch of the week is that where I'm anchored, the lagoon at Barra de Navidad, there are only five boats. Two years ago there were 20 or 25 boats. At the nearby anchorage of Melaque, there are no boats. Nada! And over in Tenacatita, there are a number of boats - all claiming they would rather stay there than come to Melaque or Barra which, of course, would require checking in and paying a fee of $16 U.S. This is my third season cruising mainland Mexico, and my second since the 'new' fees were established. I'm getting tired of hearing cruisers complain about the port fees. They hang out at an anchorage such as Tenacatita where they don't have to check in, but they take a bus over to Melaque to shop or use the ATM. Or, they bring their boats over on the weekend when the Port Captain is closed.

"I was at Cesar & Charlie's on the beach in Melaque the other day, enjoying a cold one and the beautiful view. Cesar came by and made the comment that a few years ago there were 25+ boats anchored in the bight, but that day there were none. He asked why. I explained as I did above. A lot of the cruisers in Mexico are like me, on a limited budget and tight with cash. But quite a few - who think nothing of spending big bucks on watermakers, SSB e-mail systems, and DVD movie players - still go out of their way to try and beat the Mexican government out of $16! Even with my small budget, if I'm staying in an area that is within a Port Captain's jurisdiction, I check in and pay the fees. How would this play out if we were in the Estados Unitos and the roles were reversed?"

Terry, we at Latitude have to disagree with you. In our opinion, the Mexican government, not cruisers, deserve the blame. We normally base Profligate out of Marina Paradise on Banderas Bay for most of the winter. Within a 10-mile distance in Banderas Bay, there are no less than three port captains: Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, and La Cruz. Technically, each time you go from one of these places to another, you have to pay almost $20 for in as well as out, and do a dance back and forth between a bank and a port captain that takes the better part of a day. It's as though you were on San Francisco Bay and had to check out of Sausalito, in and out of San Francisco, then in and out of Alameda before returning to Sausalito to check back in. It would cost $120 and take a couple of days. Rubbish! That's why there are only two places we won't take our boat on Banderas Bay: La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta. It's not because we're cheap, it's because the Mexican government doesn't appreciate how ridiculously time-consuming and expensive their checking-in process can be. That's why it's time Mexico - for its own good - establish an annual cruising permit with a single fee - maybe $200 - and drop the nonsense of having to check in with every port captain. After all, if RVs in Mexico don't have to check in and pay a fee each time they leave and arrive at a new town, why should boats? Lastly, the Mexican government is investing $220 million in their Nautical Stairway to lure what they believe will be 50,000 American boats a year in 10 years. Fools. If they don't change the clearance procedures, they'll be less than the 2,500 or so boats a year that are currently visiting.


December 19 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? Check out YOTREPS - 'yacht reports' - at

Weather Updates

December 19 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.:

Pacific Winds and Pressure

The University of Hawaii Dept. of Meteorology page posts a daily map of the NE Pacific Ocean barometric pressure and winds.

Pacific Sea State

Check out the Pacific Ocean sea states at:
For another view, see

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