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Pacific Puddle Jumpers Setting Sail for Marquesas

March 4 - Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Many of this year's Pacific Puddle Jumpers met for the first time at our Paradise Village event.

For generations, sailors have set sail for French Polynesia from the West Coast during March and April, as springtime has long been considered the best weather window for making that 3,000-mile passage. At this writing, roughly 40 boats are poised for departure at various ports along the Mexican mainland.

On Monday, Latitude 38 honored many of this year's 'Puddle Jumpers' with a kick-off party at the Vallarta Yacht Club, located in Nuevo Vallarta within the beautiful Paradise Village Resort Complex. (Both the YC and the Resort were event co-sponsors.)

In our opinion, one of the best things to come out of the '50s was the party game called Pass the Orange. While others were being interviewed for their '15 minutes of fame' in the pages of Latitude 38, a line of game participants attempted to pass the orange to one another, holding it only with their chins. It's not easy. But, as Gary Cook of Navigator and Lauren Kutschka of Velocity learned, it's a great way to make new friends!

Although few, if any, of these boats will sail in tandem, they will keep in touch during the crossing via HF radio, with the leaders relaying weather info back down the line. Look for a two-part report on this year's Puddle Jump fleet in the April and May issues of Latitude 38.

Brent and Susan Lowe of the Royal Passport 476 Akauahelo flew down to P.V. from Hawaii to meet this year's Puddle Jumpers. After dismasting last year, they will set sail for French Polynesia this season from the 50th state.

Meet the Dean family: (left to right) Jackson, 12, Naomi, 9, Bill and Karryn. Having cruised for more than three years already, they're now eager to begin a South Pacific circuit.

Bill and John McKnight of Sage, a Beneteau Oceanis 461, have been sailing together since their first date, many, many moons ago. They've loved their time in ol' Mexico, but are now anxious to see the South Pacific islands.
Photos Latitude/Andy & Julie Turpin

Are Unions in L.A. Partly Responsible for Holding Up Your Canal Transit?

March 4 - Los Angeles County

Why does it sometimes take so long to transit the Panama Canal? It's a combination of surging trade between China and the U.S., plus the fact that the ports of Long Beach and L.A., which receive nearly 80% of West Coast shipping traffic, have become major bottlenecks. According to a report in the Financial Times, "The ports, with their powerful labor unions, limited working hours, and outdated technology" need to increase productivity to avoid further disruptions and added costs.

The Port of Los Angeles
Photo Courtesy www.portoflosangeles.org

What do productivity problems in L.A. and Long Beach have to do with the Canal? With ships unable to unload efficiently in L.A.- Long Beach, it's often becoming more efficient for companies to bypass the West Coast and ship their goods through the Panama Canal to East Coast ports such as Savannah and New York. This increased traffic, in addition to the traffic arising from the global economic boom, have the Panama Canal often operating at maximum capacity. And when it comes to priorities, your cruising boat, which pays $500 to $750 to transit the Canal, is way down the list compared to a big ship that might pay $100,000 or more.

Other West Coast ports, such as Seattle, Vancouver, and a couple in Mexico, have been able take up some of the load on the West Coast, but not much. This is why a huge shipping port is being considered for Punta Colnett, about 100 miles south of Ensenada. It's also why it now almost makes sense to send ships from Asia through the Suez Canal and across the Atlantic to East Coast ports rather than to L.A.-Long Beach.

What effect does the unloading of a big ship have on traffic in the L.A. - Long Beach area? A lot. The biggest container ships carry enough cargo to fill a row of trucks 60 miles long. No wonder the 405 is like it is.

Silver Anniversary Heineken Regatta Starts Today

March 4 - St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

The Heineken Regatta, now in its 25th year, is pumping stronger than ever, as 261 boats (5 more than ever before) are officially entered to compete in the three-day event in St. Maarten. It won't be quite as glamorous as last year, when the MaxZ86s Pyewacket and Morning Glory made their debuts, but the Heinie is all about racing your own boat rather than being in awe of someone else's. The Heinie is just as much about wild partying as it is about racing. Jimmy Cliff will be the headliner. In order to prevent accidents resulting from broken beer bottles, Heineken creates special cans of beer just for this event. If you lined up all the cans of Heineken that were consumed last year, it would stretch for seven miles! That's a lot, considering many of us were drinking Mt. Gay and tonic or other brands of beer.

Our best wishes for the 25th Heineken Regatta to be the best in history. See www.heinekenregatta.com to follow the event.

Orange II Rudder Is All Right

March 4 - Atlantic Ocean

Bruno Peyron and his maxi cat Orange II were becalmed yesterday, which gave the crew a two-hour opportunity to completely check out their boat - and particularly the port rudder which had violently collided with an orca. The boat and the rudder look fine. As for Orange II's chance at the around-the-world record, she's more than 10 days ahead of Steve Fossett's record time with Cheyenne, and the margin was expected to build because Cheyenne had three slow days in a row at this juncture.

(As for Fossett, you surely know he just completed his solo, non-stop around-the-world flight.)

Orange II's incredible record pace has to be satisfying for Peyron, for it comes at a time when bitter rival Tracy Edward's Oryx Cup is looking quite weak. There were only four boats that started, and Oliver de Kersauson's Geronimo, the glamor entry, has had to drop out because of the forward beam delaminating.

Free Defibrillators for TransPac

March 4 - Los Angeles

AED Institute Inc. has agreed to provide a free automatic external defibrillator to every boat in this year's TransPac Race that requests one and will qualify with a minimum of two crew members trained and certified in its use. Defibrillation is the definitive treatment for returning a normal heartbeat. The battery powered device delivers an electrical current to stop ineffective heart action and allow a normal heartbeat to return. It has an 80-90% survival rate if used within the first few minutes of sudden cardiac arrest. A training session takes 4 to 6 hours and costs $75 per person.

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