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Photo of the Day: A 'School' of Southbound Cruisers

December 6 - Bahia Santa Maria, BCS

A fine cluster of 'fishies' at Bahia Santa Maria
Photo John Gorton

Talk about a big school of fish! Check out this image taken from electronic equipment aboard the S&S 80 Kialoa III during the recent Baja Ha-Ha rally.

Wait a minute. That image is off the radar, not the fish finder - those aren't fish, they're Ha-Ha boats clustered along the northwest side of Bahia Santa Maria, which lies roughly 180 miles north of Cabo San Lucas.

While not every boat heading south carries radar, you can see by this illustration why it might come in handy, at least occasionally. Believe it or not, we entered this anchorage during Baja Ha-Ha III through fog so thick that we could barely see beyond the bow.

- latitude / aet


Golden Gate Midwinters

December 6 - San Francisco

A cotillion of competitors does the pre-start dance.

The second installment of Golden Gate YC's popular Seaweed Soup series was sailed Saturday under sunny skies in a steady easterly and ripping ebb. The windward mark was an inflatable off Fort Mason, after which racers got on the 5-knot ebbtide expressway for a quick run down to Blackaller. On the beat back up to windward, tacking teams got a real workout and beachcombers got a good show, as skippers short-tacked up the shore to stay out of the worst of the current.

Most of the 66 participants hugged the shore to work up to windward against the ebb.

One design fleets included these six IODs, plus Knarrs, Folkboats and Catalina 34s.
Photos Jim Demetrio/GGYC

Complete results of this and last month's races are available at http://www.ggyc.com/raceresults.php.

- latitude / cw

Drama on the Atlantic

December 6 - Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, a 2,800-mile rally from Las Palmas de Gran Caneria to St. Lucia which began on November 26, saw some drama on Sunday when the crew of the Nicholson 32 Compromise called a mayday. The owner/skipper, Jos Brosnan, suffers from bi-polar disorder, and a combination of exhaustion, stress and apparent confusion in his med schedule caused him to have a psychotic episode. The crew, including doctor Sophie Quinney, fearing for his - and their - health and safety, requested help.

The 247-ft Mirabella V, the largest sloop in the world, answered the call and came to their rescue. It was decided the entire crew should abandon ship since Quinney would have to accompany Brosnan and the remaining crewmember didn't have the skills to complete the trip singlehanded. Before climbing into the liferaft - the conditions were too dangerous for Mirabella to effect the rescue from Compromise directly - the crew left a note on the chart table and the masthead light burning.

The rest of the ARC fleet are enjoying steady tradewinds but aren't pleased with the accompanying rollers. Minor breakages are common at this stage of the rally, as are wildlife sightings, both of which the crew of the Beneteau First 47.7 Yo Yo! experienced at the same time, according to skipper Spencer Whitworth: "During the early hours of December 4 we broached under spinnaker in 30 knots and damaged the headstay and halyard. At dawn I was sent up the mast to repair the damage (a bit rich given that I am the owner!). From the top of the rig, I looked down and saw a 30-ft whale diving and weaving under the bow much like a dolphin. The whale was about 20 feet down and was invisible from deck level. It was extraordinary! At no time could the crew see it. It makes you think that this can't be an isolated incident - how many times have we had these enormous creatures under our bows without realizing?"

- latitude / ld

They'd Rather Be Sailing than Baking

December 6 - Punta Mita, Mexico

One of the most enjoyable aspects of covering the world of sailing is the variety of people we get to meet. For example, earlier this year we got to meet venture capitalist Tom Perkins during the debut of his 289-ft Maltese Falcon in Italy. At the other end of the spectrum, yesterday we got to spend time with Rafael Hemphill and Nicole Bachmann, who cruise Banderas Bay and other parts of Mexico aboard the humble San Juan 24 Wenonah they rescued from a tree - but don't even own.

Rafael and Nicole

For some reason, a lot of folks are under the impression that Hemphill, who has lived in Punta Mita since '01, is French or German. Although he spent time in L.A. and, for a period, was an interpreter for the state of Oregon, he's actually a Chilango, which means he's from Mexico City. Bachmann, on the other hand, came to Punta Mita on vacation from Switzerland in '03. Hating the cold of Bern and loving the heat of Mexico, she hooked up with Hemphill and decided to stay.

We met the couple while they were pushing a cart down Avenue de las Pangas in Punta Mita one night at 9 p.m., ringing a bell to attract customers to the pizzas and breads they sell. The couple have been bakers for three years but aren't particularly happy about it. "We'd much rather be sailing all the time," says Bachmann.

In 2002, three guys just out of school in Minnesota pooled their resources, bought a San Juan 24, trucked her to Santa Cruz and launched her. They then cruised down the coast of California and Mexico, eventually making it to Punta Mita, where they left the boat unattended on the hook. On October 25 of '02, the very powerful Hurricane Kenna, on her way to San Blas, threw the little San Juan up on the very rocky shore. She eventually came to rest halfway up a tree on the 7th fairway of the Jack Nicklaus signature golf course at the Four Seasons Resort (which, for you duffers, was just voted the top resort golf course in the world.)

Hemphill eventually got the boat out of the tree and, using a crane, up on the beach. He discovered that her keel had been tweaked, her rudder post slightly damaged and her spreaders a little bent. He offered the owners $1,000 for the boat where she was, as she was. When they turned his offer down, Hemphill did some research on marine salvage law, and discovered that he had a claim on the boat. In fact, he took it to the port captain and made it official.

We're not sure that Hemphill had the right to do it, but he continued to fix the boat up and, on May 10 of '03, relaunched her. This was a great time for Hemphill and Bachmann, because they went sailing every day for six months, exploring every nook and cranny of Banderas Bay. Hemphill is proud of the fact that he'd added no extra gear to the boat and that she doesn't have a motor. "We do have oars," says Bachmann, "but we can't row her very quickly."

A while later, the guys from Minnesota returned, planning to cruise the boat to Costa Rica. According to Hemphill, they sanded the bottom by picking up beach sand and rubbing it against the hull with their bare hands. "They slapped some black bottom paint on using the same 'tools'," he laughs. But the guys didn't get very far with their project and cruise, as there was a good swell and they were more interested in surfing than fixing the boat up and heading south. Soon they returned home to the Gopher state.

Interested in doing a little cruising on the boat, Hemphill and Bachmann went to the port captain in La Cruz hoping to clear out for a cruise down the coast to Chemela. The port captain refused to clear them out because they didn't have any papers indicating that they owned the boat or the authority to use her. So the couple said the heck with clearing and just went on their cruise anyway. Ah, Mexico! They had a wonderful 11-day trip before returning to Banderas Bay.

Like everyone, the couple face the classic work-play dilemma. In order for their baking business to succeed, they realize they have to maintain regular business hours. But they're not very happy about it because it cuts into their sailing fun. "I'd like to be sailing on that boat every day," says Bachmann, "and sleeping on her every night." They still go sailing frequently, just not quite as much as before.

As for the guys from Minnesota who still own the boat, they and Hemphill and Bachmann trade Christmas cards each year, and everyone is apparently satisfied for the time being with this most unusual ownership-use arrangement.

If you stop at Punta Mita, you'll no doubt see the red San Juan 24 on the hook. If you go ashore, we recommend that you make the short walk up the hill to Mita'z Pizza, "the Panaderia Punta Mita Bakery" at Marlin 119 Corral. You especially want to do this if your bowels are plugged up, because Bachmann swears that her Integral 6 Granos bread will loosen you right up.

Speaking of Food at Punta Mita . . .

With much of the area having gone way upscale for the folks at the Four Seasons and other very high end resorts, it's no longer possible to get a budget meal from one of the palapa restaurants on the beach. We love those places - Mañana, Margarita (which sometimes serves at the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club), Tinos, El Dorado, and all the rest - but their business models have changed to please a much more affluent clientele. Fortunately, there's an alternative - the Cafe Luna, just a half a block away. It was recently opened by Art, a chef/musician from Texas. His plan is to offer just two dinner choices a night, but for under $9, including soup/salad, coffee/tea and dessert.

The following three photos shows a typical meal that Art is offering - although we forgot to get a photo of the cup of soup starter.

The second course was Vietnamese pork and shrimp rolls.

The tuna salad main course consisted of a huge piece of seared tuna on a bed of fresh vegetables.

Dessert was a rum cake.
Photos Latitude/Richard

What a killer meal at a reasonable price. Art's philosophy is fresh everything. Check it out.

And if you're cruising Mexico and find a great but inexpensive place to eat, how about a mini review?

- latitude / rs

Montana Sailors Vow to Set Sail Again after Losing Boat off Baja

December 6 - Baja California

Although their Islander 41, Christabella, sank off the Baja coast last month, Dennis and Leslie Downing's dreams of cruising have not been abandoned. Although they will not be getting a fat insurance check for their loss, they are determined to buy another boat and try again. In fact, they intend to participate in the 2007 Baja Ha-Ha rally, and have requested to be the first sign-up on that event's fleet roster.

The mast of the Islander 41 Christabella can be seen offshore, after sinking near Punta Colonette.
Photo Dennis Downing

As with many maritime tragedies, the loss of Christabella resulted from a combination of problems which we'll describe in the January issue of Latitude 38, which will come out on December 29. In addition to many lessons learned, the Downings were most impressed with the boundless hospitality and assistance from Mexican villagers, several of whom risked their lives trying in vain to save the boat.

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