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November 29 - The Tropics

The December issue of Latitude 38, which will hit the streets tomorrow, features Part III of our interview with Mark Harker. Here are some color photos that go with the material that covers from the Eastern Caribbean to the Galapagos.

Mike and his Hunter 466 Wanderlust depart English Harbor, Antigua.

Carla, an experienced sailor from Namibia, asked if she could be the cook from Antigua to Panama.

Harker's shipmates for a cruise to Panama's Perlas Islands were Fabio, in the center, who would sail with him extensively, and two Dutch girls who happened to be in Panama. The girls offered to buy all the food and prepare all the meals if Mike and Fabio would take them to the Perlas for a week.

Above and below: sealife at the Galapagos

Photos Mike Harker

She's Off!

November 29 - Ushant, France

Yesterday at 08:10:44 GMT Ellen MacArthur began her quest for the solo non-stop circumnavigation record. The trimaran B&Q crossed the start line off Ushant, an island off the north coast of France in 28-30 knot NNW winds. MacArthur will attempt to break the current 72 day, 22 hour, 54 minute and 22 second record set by Francis Joyon on IDEC. As of this writing, B&Q was off the coast of Portugal and 43 minutes ahead of the record. To keep track of MacArthur's endeavor, see www.teamellen.com.

"I Only Bare My Bottom for Good Causes"

November 29 - British Virgin Islands

Inspired by the movie Calendar Girls, some of the most attractive and fun-loving cooks on charter boats in the British Virgin Islands have posed naked, naked, naked in a calendar to raise funds for VISAR - Virgin Islands Search And Rescue. In the Virgins, the boating industry tries to handle its own search and rescue rather than rely on the Coast Guard - particularly in the British Virgins.

Among the cooks happy to pose for the fund-raiser was Lynn Ringeis of Novato, who runs the Lagoon 41 cat Moonshine out of the British Virgins. For complete information on how to order, visit www.bvicharteryachtchefcalendargirls.com. We hope they raise a lot of money. All the photos are by Vlada Bromfield.

The 365-Day Yacht Clubs

November 29 - West Coast

Until recently, if you were a Californian and you bought a boat 'offshore' and kept it out of the state for 90 days, you didn't need to pay sales or use tax. This also held true for airplanes and motorhomes. That law was changed a short time ago, with primarily Democrats fantasizing that it would result in $54 million more a year in taxes ending up in the state's general fund. Alas, it's nowhere near quite that simple.

As a November 25 article in the Business section of the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the marine industry in the state of Washington is trying to get their laws changed - to entice Californians to avoid boat sales and use tax in our state by buying and using their boats in Washington. The way it stands now, out-of-state folks can keep their boats in Washington for six months before that state demands use tax. So the state of Washington marine industry suggests Californians buy their boats in Washington, use them there for six months, then take them to British Columbia for another six months before returning to Washington for six more months of spending. By doing this, California boatbuyers would not have to pay California sales or use tax. The way the folks in Washington see it, they should change their laws so that out-of-staters wouldn't have to pay use tax for a full year, thereby keeping Californians spending their money in Washington rather than sharing it with British Columbia. The big loser in both these schemes, of course, is California, which not only doesn't get to collect sales or use tax, but loses out on all the jobs and taxes that are generated by Californians using their boats in other states to avoid taxes.

Do people really do that? The Chronicle quoted a Californian who bought a $3.5 million yacht in Washington and kept it there to avoid $300,000 in taxes he'd have to pay to California. The man vows that if he were to buy another yacht, he'd do it all over again.

Detained at a Mexican Prison Island

November 29 - Tres Marias, Mexico

When Profligate sailed from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta a couple of weeks ago, we weren't sure how far we needed to stay clear of the prison islands of Tres Marias, which are about 75 miles northwest of Banderas Bay. Some of the guidebooks said 20 miles, some were non-specific. Well, we bumped into Ha-Ha vet Bob Grimes aboard the J/41 Air Power who got it from highest authority that you need to stay 12 miles off.

Grimes, you see, was so tired from not having an autopilot on the crossing from Cabo that one night he pulled in and anchored at the prison island, where the prisoners are allowed to run free. Shortly after dropping the hook, men with guns in pangas came and directed him to the island's main wharf. Concerned because he and his crew were being separated, he activated his EPIRB, which he covered with a jacket so the Mexicans wouldn't see the strobe. Its signal was never picked up - probably because it was belowdeck - by the time he decided he wasn't in danger and canceled it. After meeting with all the honchos, who except for the head of security were very friendly, he asked if you could anchor for the night. "You leave right now!" he was told. He didn't have to be told twice. Details in the next issue of Latitude 38.

Banderas Bay Is Booming

November 29 - Banderas Bay, Mexico

We hadn't been to Paradise Resort and Marina in two years, and found it, as well as the rest of Banderas Bay, particularly the north side, to be booming, with lots of new buildings and lots more tourists. The real shocker is Punta de Mita, on the northwest corner of the bay. We all laughed when it was reported they were selling homesites for $1 million. Well, just a ways inside the bay, homesites are selling for several million each, and homes have been built. If you're a surfer and you know the La Lancha break, there are big homes that have gone up around it and will soon be built right in front of it. They are nice homes, but it's ugly what's happening to this formerly untouched area.

The recent weather has been fabulous. About 85 during the day, with the water 80 degrees. Alas, there hasn't been a good breeze or good swell for several days.

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