'Lectronic Index

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Cruising Community Rallies Support for Sea Ya

December 2 - La Paz, Mexico

A horde of cruisers, some newly arrived from Cabo, assist in the salvage of Sea Ya's gear at La Paz.

Whether it be in Mexico, the South Pacific or the Caribbean, one thing that's universal about the international cruising community is that cruisers always open their hearts to help other sailors in need.

The latest illustration occured earlier this week in La Paz, Mexico, when dozens of sailors turned out to help Alex Heller salvage equipment and personal possessions from his battered Long Beach-based Newport 30 Sea Ya. As reported earlier, the boat was grounded, floated free, then lost steerage and was grounded again late Sunday night.

Since her keel was ripped off and she was holed elsewhere, Heller was forced to make the heart-breaking decision to scrap her. He will hold a dockside sale of his gear today. Hopefully he'll find an affordable replacement boat soon.

Photos Alex Heller

And Now, Inflatable Surfboards

December 2 - Chacala, Mexico

"Check out my new surfboard, it's full of air," Diane Day of the Long Beach-based Mao Ta 42 Aquarelle said when the crew of Profligate shared the Chacala anchorage with her and her husband Ken.

Diane and Ken show off their inflatable surfboard by Uli.
Photo Latitude/Richard

The surfboard, made of Hypalon, the same material better inflatable dinghies are made of, was surprisingly rigid. As you might expect, there are certain rather blunt limitations to the shape of the board and particularly the rails, meaning that such boards are never going to be suitable for more accomplished surfers. But as a learner's board, or for just paddling around - which is what Diane was looking to do - it looks fine.

The 'board' rolls up to a small package, costs about $400, and is marketed by Uli. Cowabunga!

Canadian Kayaker Killed in Sea of Cortez Norther

December 2 - Loreto, Baja California

In the last 'Lectronic, we reported that the first big Sea of Cortez Norther of the year was a factor in the loss of the Newport 30 Sea Ya at La Paz, which was correct. We also reported that the Norther "nearly killed three women kayakers" up by Loreto. In fact, one of the three women, Victoria Seay of Vancouver, was killed.

Connie McWilliam of the Hidden Port YC reports that on November 27 a mayday was received from Seay, who reported that she and two other women had started from Isla Carmen heading for the mainland of Baja, got separated in the big waves, and that she had capsized and was in the water. Sonna Anne Base in Loreto was the first to respond, and coordinated a rescue attempt from land. Baja California was the first boat to start an on-the-water search, and was later joined by Sea Venture and Ozark Lady. The seas have variously been reported at eight to 10 feet, and 27 feet, either of which would have made it nearly impossible to spot anything low in the water. Freestyle attempted to calculate a drift position.

Ozark Lady eventually managed to find and rescue two of the women, Christine Richardson and Pamela Fennell, lifelong friends of Seay. Not having a radio, they didn't realize anybody was looking for them. They gave encouragement to Seay over the radio, who would transmit for 12 hours after first being capsized.

As dark came, people and boats along that area of the Baja coast turned on lights, hoping to give points of reference and encouragement. By 8:15 p.m., the last of the search boats had run perilously low on fuel and had to return to port. The following morning, Sea Venture spotted the Seay's kayak near the southern point of Isla Carmen. There has been no sign of her since, and she's presumed lost at sea. The cold and windy night, combined with the large and steep waves, apparently proved to be too much for her.

Those who attempted the rescue are encouraging kayak companies and manufacturers to put reflective striping on the kayaks so they can be better seen, and to better prepare kayakers for rough weather conditions.

The Sea of Cortez is often very calm - deceptively so. In the winter, the big winds and waves of the Northers can be killers.

Cayard's Volvo 70 Pirates of the Caribbean a Huge Hit in Cape Town

December 2 - Cape Town, South Africa

In fact, reports photographer Tom Zinn of Sausalito, when the plane carrying Pirates - which had been damaged during the first day of the first leg - landed at the airport in Cape Town, it hit so hard that it put a hole in the runway. The airport had to shut down for repairs, and other flights rerouted all the way to 'JoBurg'. Pirates was subsequently taken to a new shed under high security, where she's been kept out of public view. Cayard seems to still have the old America's Cup mindset.

Call out the Marines!

December 2 - Banderas Bay, Mexico

A few weeks ago, Karen Milleson looked out the window of the six-story El Faro condo project that her husband Russ is developing near Punta Mita on the northeast tip of Banderas Bay, and was shocked to find that an unseen large turtle had come ashore in the night and had laid about 90 eggs. Karen was also distressed, because she could see that the workers at the adjacent condo project were salivating at the sight of the eggs. Mexicans love turtle eggs, a major reason why the turtle population has been decimated in many areas of Mexico.
Not wanting the eggs to be taken, Karen placed a phone call to the Mexican Marines, who just happen to maintain a small detachment a few blocks away. They guarded the eggs until some folks from a turtle protection center near Paradise Marina could come to get them. Once the eggs are hatched in that protected environment, about a third of them will be brought back to the Punta Mita condo for 'relaunching'. This should help ensure that the females will return to the same spot to lay their eggs.

Armed marines came to protect the turtle eggs.

There were 95 eggs in all.

What was mama turtle thinking when she chose a condo project site as a place to lay her eggs?
Photos Karen Milleson

We're not in a position to give a factual evaluation on the overall health of the Pacific Ocean between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, but based on what we've seen in the last week or so, it seems pretty darn good. For example, every time we walked by this one slip way up the channel at Mazatlan Marina, there were about 250 relatively large fish thrashing about. And if you gazed over the marina's turning basin around dusk, it wasn't more than a minute before you'd see a couple of relatively large fish jumping high out of the water for some tasty bug. And mind you, about half of the estuary is in the process of being developed. The other half has been designated a nature preserve.

In addition, we saw so many whales between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta that the crew soon lost interest in even getting up to have a look. A couple of the whales were heavily into 'spanking', slapping the water with their flukes. We don't know if they were stirring up dinner or engaged in some kind of mating ritual, but they weren't messing around.

Sea life seems to be having a whale of time between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay.
Photo Latitude/Richard

Over this same stretch of water, we saw about 150 rays jump out of the water and do flips. Admittedly, these weren't the ones with the 10-ft wing-spans we used to see flipping in the Sea or Cortez many years ago, but there sure were lots of them.

The night we rounded Punta Mita and dropped the hook, the boat was surrounded by many hundreds of fish, who seemed to have been attracted by the boat. And the next day, folks on shore were telling us that all manner of surf fishing had been terrific recently.

While we're sure things could always be better, they certainly could be worse on this stretch of coast.

Domestic Clearing in Mexico

December 2 - Chacala, Mexico

We've been getting additional reports on how the new domestic clearing regulations are being administered in Mexico. The bottom line seems to be that while there are a lot of differences between how and if port captains want to be 'informed', it's been quick and free everywhere. Indeed, no port captains seem interested if you bring any addition paperwork from your last port . . . making one wonder why anybody bothers with it.

This is the form that Marina Mazatlan prepares - for free - for all cruisers leaving for a new port. But if no port captain wants to see it, you have to wonder why they even bother.
Photo Latitude/Richard

Our most recent stops have been at Matenchan Bay, near San Blas, and Chacala, two places we specifically avoided the past eight or so years because of the waste of time and money required to clear. Since it was a weekend and the port captain's office was closed, we merely tried to reach that office by VHF. When we got no response, we called it a day and set off on what became a lovely sail along the coast to Chacala. Some folks from another boat did go to the port captain's office on a weekday when it was open, and a girl had them start filling out some forms. A minute later, another woman in the office told her they were no longer needed.

When we got to Chacala, we tried to radio the port captain to 'inform' him of our arrival, and then later we stopped by his office. There was no answer on the radio and nobody was in the office. When it came time for us to leave that afternoon at 2 p.m., we could see that the port captain was in his office, which directly overlooks the bay. Having decided that we'd made reasonable efforts to 'inform' him, we decided to experiment by taking off right under his nose and see if he did anything. He didn't.

If anybody has been given a bad time clearing domestically, we'd like to hear about it. But so far everyone we've talked to is thrilled with the change. Not only is it a big savings in time and money, but folks are stopping at places - i.e. San Blas - that have been otherwise avoided for years.

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