With reports this month from Toujours on there not being the best
weather on the Milk Run last year; from Annita
on finally achieving 'cruising speed'; from Seapluplus
on youthful wild times in the South Pacific; from Catmandu
on cruising with a dog; from Final Frontier
on picking up crew; from Lady Guinevere
on being eight years into a five-year circumnavigation; from Ghost on Panama's Bocas del Toro; from
Native Dancer on cruising from Mexico
to New Zealand; from Grace on a surprise
cruise to Ecuador; from Moonshadow
on the difficulties in taking a pet to New Zealand; and lots of
Toujours - Amel Mango
Tom & Bonnie Steinhoff
Gulf Harbor, New Zealand
(Incline Village, Nevada)
We spent the last South Pacific cruising season sailing from Raiatea to New Zealand - and generally speaking, it wasn't so hot. In fact, it was cold and wet. To start from the beginning, we picked our boat up at Raiatea Marine on Raiatea, where we'd hauled her at the end of the '99 season. We'd hauled her there because there was no more room at the adjacent Raiatea Carenage. In our opinion, both these yards are professionally run. None of the 30 boats hauled at the two yards last year had any kind of problem - not even bug infestations.
By the time we got to Rarotonga, however, the weather had turned awful - and stayed that way for four weeks! The provisioning was extraordinary - although the prices were incredibly high - the people were wonderful, but the weather stunk! So we left for Beveridge Reef at the end of June, and ended up entering the barely above water atoll in 30 knots of wind. Fortunately, we'd been given great instructions for entering the reef by the harbormaster at Rarotonga. We ended up being stuck at Beveridge for seven days. We did some snorkeling there, but it looks as though fishermen have pillaged it.
Our next stop was Niue - the most incredible place we've been to so far. What a wonderful place, with fantastic things to see, superb diving, and friendly people. We'd return in a flash. We then spent almost four months in Tonga. Vava'u is a remarkable cruising ground, worthy of an entire article. Unfortunately, once again the weather stunk. According to weather guru Bob McDavitt, the South Pacific convergence zone was stuck over Tonga and Fiji, causing the bad weather.
When both Russell Radio and McDavitt gave the 'green light' on a weather window, we began the 1,100-mile - and sometimes perilous - passage to New Zealand. We had two days of bashing into 20 to 25 knots of wind - no big deal - after which time the wind died and we had a motorboat ride. Hooooray! We're back in the States for Thanksgiving, but can't wait to return to New Zealand, a place so great words can't describe it!
- tom & bonnie 12/02/00
Annita - Hallberg-Rassy Ketch
Robert & Barbara Cesana
Reaching Cruising Speed
We're temporarily back in San Francisco, eating in the land of good and plenty. While here, we laugh with other cruisers about how we started cruising three years ago, the mistakes we made, and the storms we endured. Most of all, we bask in the hard-won confidence we've built up through our cruising experiences.
When we bought our ketch in '95, our plan was to take off two years later. We did, too - after 24 months of intense work. During that time, we lived aboard to save money and pay off the loan, to fix up the boat, and to adjust to our new lifestyle. As this was going on, we went armchair cruising with the Hiscocks, Pardeys and others.
When we left San Francisco in April of '97 - our first mistake, as it was late in the season - we had little experience. But we did have our wonderful Hallberg-Rassy, which although 20 years old still sailed like a swan. Our boat was full of spare parts and 120 pounds of pasta - after all, we are Italian. We figured we'd find out what kind of cruisers we were in the first year. My cabbie husband had bought into a romantic dream of Costa Rica that one of his customers had painted, so we headed south quickly. In fact, we covered the 2,000 miles down to Z-town in just the first month!
During those first four weeks of cruising, we were given some good advice by a couple of sailors. While in Cabo, Serge Testa - who had circumnavigated aboard a 12-foot boat and a 60-foot boat - advised us to sail within 100 miles of the coast so that we could duck into a port in case of a storm. And while in Z-town, another very experienced captain told us since the ocean temperature was already over 90º in the month of May, it might be another El Niño year. He advised that we wait two weeks and monitor the weather before heading south across the breeding ground of Eastern Pacific hurricanes. Sure enough, within the next two weeks there were two tropical storms, Andres and Blanco. The latter even threatened Z-town.
So, after sampling the charms of Z-town and enjoying the unusually warm water, we headed north along the majestic coast of mainland Mexico, our tails between our legs. As it was so late in the season, each time we arrived at another lovely anchorage we'd have it all to ourselves. In any event, after just two months of cruising, we'd sailed all the way to Z-town and back up to La Paz - a distance of 3,000 miles!
The Sea of Cortez was very hot in the summer of '97, and we met up with many other sailors lusting to go south - while we enjoyed the blue skies, turquoise waters, desert scenery, and the flash of sea life jumping from the water. As many recommended, we tried to 'smell the roses', but it was hard. So on November 1, the 'official' end of hurricane season, we headed south toward Z-town once again. But 12-foot seas generated by post-season tropical storm Rick drove us into a small bay north of Z-town to ride it out.
That year we celebrated Thanksgiving swimming in the pool at the Acapulco YC and enjoying a turkey purchased from Wal-Mart. Christmas and New Years were celebrated on a land trip to Guatemala, where my husband decided, "They don't understand what mañana means down here." Having been in Mexico for seven months, it was a sharp contrast. A week later we were anchored off Playa del Coco, Costa Rica. The papagayo winds made it tough getting there, and it took us weeks to rest up and regain our normal sleeping cycles.
By the end of March of '98, we'd transited the Panama Canal and were laying in the Flats off Colon, Panama. This had been one of my husband's lifelong dreams. By this time we learned that most cruisers seek a dreamy series of anchorages in which to slow down. Not us. Our cruising alternates between quiet rests, offshore dashes, foreign ports, and work trips back to San Francisco. When our families ask if we're bored with cruising yet, we just laugh.
Having subsequently sailed to Cartagena, the Cayman Islands and Key West, Annita is currently resting in Jacksonville, Florida - a fine refuge from hurricanes. We've also made two long land trips with backpacks and boots. The first was to the Andes in Peru and Bolivia, and then to Patagonia and Brazil. The cruising looks yummy in all these places, but this winter we'll be sailing to Cuba.
We know that we're lucky to be able to cruise, because not everyone gets the chance. Nonetheless, we think people should consider making big changes in their lives - and imagine the possibly wonderful results. Our general outlook is this: You can't have everything in life - but if you keep busy enough, you probably won't notice! As for the answer to 'the question' most women ask me, the wife, the answer is, yes, it has improved.
While the winds and storms howl in San Francisco, we pass along the recipe for an old but effective Caribbean drink, the Painkiller: One part sour - lemon juice. Two parts sweet - a solution consisting of a cup of sugar in a cup of water. Three parts liquor - rum. Four parts neat - water, to all but non-Brits. It keeps the scurvy away and one's cruising dreams alive.
- barbara 10/15/2000
Seapluplus - Tayana 52
Christopher & Catherine Miller
The Young & The Wild Cruisers
Thanks for posting the correction for the Christopher/Stephen photo mix-up that had appeared in 'Lectronic Latitude. As requested, I sent along some high-resolution photos of the party games we played on Seaplusplus during our Pacific Puddle Jump during '99.
The particular night that led to the photographs on the previous page started out with the crews of Starship - more on them later - and Yannekke having an impromptu party on Seaplusplus while at anchor off Huahine in French Polynesia. What's the best ice-breaker for a tropical party in paradise? Strip Twister, of course - followed by a group swim. This was later followed by a rousing game of strip poker to continue the fun. When everybody was naked, we switched to body painting with the 'losers' expressing their artistic skills on the 'winners'. In the above photo, Janet of Starship paints a reptile on Captain Stephen Mann's derriere. After her stint aboard Starship, Janet, who is working on her PhD in Vulcanology, and her husband Rudy, a video cameraman, later spent the New Year's Eve 2000 with us on Seaplusplus in Auckland. They're back in Germany now.
Speaking of Starship, Latitude readers who are adventurous, hard-working, and ocean-loving, should check out crew applications for Michael Poliza's Starship at www.ms-starship.com. The motoryacht is on a three-year mission "to document the state of our planet at the end of this millennium and share its discoveries with millions of people around the globe via satellite and the world wide web. With photographers and filmmakers onboard, Starship is traveling to many extremely remote places that can only be reached by ship." They know how to have fun, too!
Say, I found some additional photos from our Puddle Jump. The group shot below is of the crews of Jamala, Rainbow Voyager, Freya, Illusion, Seaplusplus, and Endless Summer while in Tonga. The snorkeling shot is of the Seaplusplus crew snorkeling off Rangiroa in the Tuamotus.
- christopher 11/15/00
Christopher - We second your recommendation about Starship - even though it's a motoryacht. We've visited their website several times, and were absolutely dazzled by the quality of their photography. We're delighted that Michael Poliza has graciously given us permission to reprint the photos - naturally giving proper credit and a link to their website.
Catmandu - Beneteau 40 CC
Glenn & Linda Jurczyk (With Ajax)
Cruising With A Dog
We hadn't seen a Latitude in months, and were therefore thrilled to have the September and October issues bestowed on us by a fellow cruiser while at San Andreas Island in the southwestern Caribbean. The letter asking for information about cruising with pets in the South Pacific brought back memories of our concerns about cruising with a pet, as we were determined to bring our schipperke Ajax along with us. So we not only obtained the required health certificates, but also visited the various consulates in San Francisco to have the certificates stamped before our April '99 departure.
It's turned out to be a bit of overkill, as we've yet to be asked for Ajax's health certificate. They didn't even ask to see it in Panama, where we expected there might be a problem. The only time any official asked to see paperwork on Ajax was at Isla de Providencia. The customs official there was checking our passports, and jokingly asked to see a passport for the pero. He was amazed and started laughing when we produced a silly replica passport - it even had his picture - that we'd bought in a pet store.
While at Panama's San Blas Islands, we noticed a definite lack of dogs and cats, so Ajax was a natural curiosity. A family of Kuna Indians came by in their ulu selling - what else? - molas, and their little girl started crying when she saw our 'little black devil'. We don't think she'd ever seen a dog before!
We must warn everyone that we've had no personal experience with a pet in the South Pacific. We did, however, have a Kiwi student aboard for our Canal transit, and he confirmed that it was still difficult to bring a pet into New Zealand and Australia. Nonetheless, travelling down the west coast of Central America and halfway up the east coast with a dog has been a lot easier than we expected. But we'd like to hear firsthand accounts from pet owners in the Pacific.
On a more serious note, we'd like to comment on the September letter regarding the offshore collision between La Rive and an unlit fishing boat in the western Caribbean. We are underway to Roatan with Island Time and Breathless - hoping there is safety in numbers - and are currently anchored at Cayo Vivorillo off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. During our overnight passage from Quita Sueno Bank - which is like being anchored in the middle of the ocean - we encountered about four fishing boats at the south end of Gorda Bank. One of them decided to play a game of 'chicken' with us, and later did a close circle around Island Time. They had their lights on, so we assumed they were jerks as opposed to pirates. We haven't had a chance to read the June article in which the skipper of La Rive explained the details, but it wouldn't surprise us to learn that the fishing boat had been the cause of the collision. The only 'rule of the road' in this part of the Caribbean is to stay out of their way!
- glenn, linda and ajax 11/15/2000
Glenn & Linda - See this months' Changes from Moonshadow to get the lowdown on cruising with pets in the Pacific.
Final Frontier - MacGregor 65
Steven & Aleta Hansen
Picking Up Crew
Two issues ago we wrote about our travels in the South Pacific last season. Now we'll tell you a little about the crews we had.
From Fiji to Vanuatu our crew was Hideyuki, a Japanese national and licensed pilot. He was hoping to explore opportunities as an inter-island pilot. He had no open ocean sailing experience, but was great on night watches. But after our 'E ticket' ride through tropical depression 23F, we weren't sure he wanted to ever crew on a boat again. But while in Vanuatu we found him a berth on a boat headed to Papua New Guinea. Once he got to PNG, he'd find plenty of work flying light planes between islands - while dodging ground fire from anti-government rebels.
We had Gaelle - an investment banker from France, and our first female crewmember - sail with us from Vanuatu to New Caledonia. Gaelle was on her way around the world on every available mode of transportation, and wanted a 'ride' to Noumea. When we got to the Loyalty Islands and New Caledonia, Steve's use of hand signals for communication didn't always work, so Gaelle's translating skills were a big asset.
We had two Kiwis - David, a carpenter, and Paul, a landscaper - crew with us from New Caledonia to Oz. Both had sailed from New Zealand to New Caledonia aboard Cho Cho San, a 28-footer with a total of four people aboard. It had been a little crowded! Both of them wanted to go to Oz to find work. Lots of Kiwis go to Oz for work because the pay is better. Neither David nor Paul had sailed before Cho Cho San, but proved to be natural ocean sailors on a 'winds from hell' trip. We had 25 to 35 knot winds on the nose - none of which had been forecast - for the entire six days. These two guys were so mentally and physically tough that they almost made it fun! They chose to do day and night watches, climbed the mast, and bathed in 63° seawater to help us save freshwater. They even washed their clothes - hello, crotch rot! - in seawater. Despite the cold nights and rough seas, David and Paul were always ready to help out and really enjoyed the journey. What great crew!
Our last travel update included a bit of our activities in Vanuatu up to our departure from Santo Island. While in Luganville, the main city on Santo Island, we saw jungle tribesmen in loinclothes walking the street along with people wearing western dress. Of course, they got to see the clothing worn by international cruisers such as ourselves - which we upgraded in secondhand stores. The streets in Luganville are laid out like they are in the U.S. - which shouldn't be a surprise, as Americans built the city during World War II. Luganville has living proof of how enduring American products are as the original quonset huts are still in use. In fact, sometimes we felt as though we were on the set of McHale's Navy.
From Santo we sailed to Wala Island. The island's natural beauty was remarkable - what we always imagined a tropical paradise to look like. We anchored in 12 feet of crystal clear water, swam off the boat, snorkeled the coral garden 50 meters away, walked the long white sand beach with the native kids following along, and read.
On nearby Malakula, we hiked up to a village where people lived like they did 100 years ago and still wore the traditional dress. The men, for instance, only wore banana leaves wrapped around their penis. The bare-breasted women wore nothing but palm leaf skirts. Despite the great differences in culture and traditions, these people welcomed us, cracking open coconuts and making straws from bamboo so we could enjoy the fresh juice. They also showed us how they celebrate the yam harvest, and even let us take photographs. When we reciprocated with some lawn chairs that were rusting up our boat, they put on a chant-dance.
We left Malakula after a few days and sailed back to Port Vila. It rained for several days, and the wind blew hard. Fortunately, we were moored in the harbor where the water was relatively calm. This meant we could still dinghy to town and not worry about the anchor dragging in the middle of the night. We spent more than a week waiting for a weather window to leave for the Loyalty Islands and Noumea. As far as we're concerned, Vanuatu is probably the prettiest, most unspoiled island chain that we've visited.
New Caledonia is French Overseas Territory, the people are French citizens, and most local customs seem to have been lost or eradicated. The communities are like French villages/towns. Nonetheless, we enjoyed exploring Noumea and the surrounding area. The people were very friendly, and the food - particularly the baguettes - were delicious. The municipal marketplace was a mixture of the tropical and French foods. The best market days were the weekends, when the musicians and artists also showed up. The most popular market in the city was just steps from the Port Moselle marina where we were berthed.
We arrived in Oz at Bundaberg, 200 nautical miles north of our planned destination of Brisbane. It was a matter of the prevailing wind and swell preventing us from getting to where we'd planned to go. We rented a car shortly after we arrived, and drove down the coast looking at all the marinas between Bundaberg and the New South Wales/Queensland border. We decided on the five-star Marina Mirage which is part of the Sheraton Mirage complex - and a destination in itself. We enjoy it here, but find it hard to believe it's on Australia's Gold Coast - It seems like it ought to be on Spain's Costa del Sol or maybe even Miami.
- steven & aleta 12/4/2000
Lady Guinevere - Hans Christian 43
Keith & Diane Holmes
Eight Years And Half Way Around
(San Francisco and Malaysia)
We're now eight years into a five-year circumnavigation, and find ourselves in Langkawi, Malaysia, which is about halfway around the world. Our boat, Lady Guinevere, is a Hans Christian 43T homeported in San Francisco. I used to live aboard her in Grand Marina, Alameda - in fact, I was the very first boat in that lovely marina. Come to think of it, I was there before they actually opened. The fact that they had no water or power at the time prepared me for the cruising life!
I started my circumnavigation singlehanding, enjoying the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico. But while in Tenacatita Bay, I met Diane, a French Canadian woman who was cruising with friends on a Westsail 32. I told her I was looking for a really nice female to circumnavigate with me, and she replied, "Well, you've just found her!" She jumped ship right then, and the rest is history. We got married in Langkawi last year. The way I figure it, anybody who could put up with this old curmudgeon 24 hours a day for so long deserved what she got!
Anyway, the two of us left Puerto Vallarta in April '94, and went on to the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti - where I almost lost my leg from infection - Moorea, Bora Bora, Suvarov (magnificent!), American Samoa, Western Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. We took a big knockdown on the way to New Zealand, causing a lot of damage. So we stayed in New Zealand for 16 months while we fixed the boat and prepared her for the next leg, which included stops at New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Banks and Torres, the Solomons, the Louisiades, and down to Australia.
We spent nine months in Oz, including a great sail to Sydney where I had some business friends from my previous life. As a result, we lived in the lap of luxury on my friend's mooring at the bottom of his garden in Pittwater! From there we were driven everywhere and wined and dined on every occasion! One of the highlights of the Sydney trip was a race on the Xerox sponsored 18-footer. When it was over, the skipper apologized because we only did 20 knots - because of the extra weight - rather than the normal 35! But soon it was time to continue on, so we wound our way up the east coast of Oz and 'over the top' to Darwin.
During our first day in Darwin, we had our inflatable stolen! Friends at the Dinah Beach Cruising Club lent me a little Tinker with a 2 hp outboard while I searched for a replacement inflatable. Big inflatables aren't easy to come by in that part of the world. In fact, they call them 'crocodile meat' because of the number that get chewed up! On the third day of my search, I was rowing - the little outboard wouldn't start! - back to Lady Guinevere when a young lady offered me a tow . . . in my own dinghy! As she came alongside I, mouthing a few unmentionable words, told her that it was my dinghy, and insisted that she get up front while I drove. I towed the Tinker back to Lady and called the police. It seemed that the lady had found the dinghy on the beach, asked someone to help her start it, and was just joy riding. Both the canvas cover for the engine and the dinghy were missing, so police theorized that when the thieves took off the covers and saw all the decals on the engine and Sir Lancelot stencilled on the inflatable itself, they decided that they weren't saleable and just left them.
From Darwin we sailed to Kupang, West Timor, and then took the 'southern route' to Bali, stopping at Komodo Island on the way to check out the famous Komodo dragons. We spent nine days in Bali and didn't see a thing! A Swedish boat had sat on a bommie and driven their sail drive right up through the bottom of the boat, so we spent all our time helping them.
From Bali we continued on to Sebana Cove and Johore, Malaysia, with a visit to Singapore. We had a long motorboat trip up the Malacca Straits, as there was not a breath of wind the whole way. We're now in Langkawi, were the duty free beer is $7 U.S. a case and a bottle of scotch goes for the same! This is our third season in the region, as we divide our time between Thailand and Malaysia. It's been great, but it's time to move on - or else I'll be 'too long in the tooth' to enjoy the Sea of Cortez once again. Our plan is to leave here in late December and go straight to Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where we will spend five months. From there we'll sail to the Seychelles, Tanzania, Mayotte, Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa. From Cape Town, we plan to visit St. Helena, Trinidad - it's a long haul, but we want to arrive in time for Carnival - Venezuela, the ABC Islands, Colombia, the San Blas Islands, through the Canal, and back up to the Sea of Cortez.
During our stay in this area, we acquired two cats: Penang and Matsi. They seem to love the life at sea. Of course, they don't know anything else.
P.S. Many thanks for your email with Mary Shroyer's address. I have already received a reply from her with regard to trying to locate an old friend, and she's put a notice on the board and requested ham help. Many thanks.
- keith & diane 11/15/00
Ghost - N/A
Bocas Del Toro, Panama
I'm responding to your request for more information on the Bocas del Toro region in Panama. I can fill in a few voids, as Ghost arrived there in January of this year after - to the best of my knowledge - being the first yacht to do a Pacific to Caribbean canal transit under Panamanian control. Here's the story.
When we arrived in Balboa on the Pacific side, I decided to do my own paperwork in order to save a little money. I grabbed a cab, told the driver my plans, and it turned out to be very easy. Ghost was admeasured the next morning. When the Admeasurers' office gave me my transit card, the guy said, "Save this, as it's the last one being issued under American authority. The Panamanians are taking over control right now!"
I was then told to go pay my transit fees at the Citibank office. But when I got there, nobody was sure how to process my paperwork. One lady finally admitted, "I have no idea how much to charge you, as nobody told us you were coming, and you're the first one I have processed." The admeasurer had told me the transit fee and damage deposit would come to $1,300. I told the lady it was supposed to be $1,000. She said that was fine with her - and that I would get the $500 deposit back in the mail. It was all done on my Citibank card.
My transit itself was a semi-nightmare, as my 'advisor' arrived late and hung over. Furthermore, he didn't have a clue how to handle a boat, and was very tense because of his ignorance. Fortunately, we had three line-handlers on the boat. We missed getting to the last lock during daylight by 45 minutes, and since they don't let small boats transit at night, we had to spend the night on the hook in Lake Gatun. As Ghost has no refrigeration, the rations were a bit dull, and the natives became a little restless. Everyone was happy the next morning when Ghost locked through to the Caribbean.
The next day, we set off for Bocas Del Toro, about 120 miles to the northwest. I had been told to stand off the coast, as a powerful current runs right down the shore between Bocas and Colon. We went about 20 miles out and had a decent sail.
Bocas is a very funky little town. The only access is by ferry or airplane from the mainland. The small airport is very efficient and has excellent service to Panama City. Tickets are about $50. Forget trying to make reservations, as they never seem to have any idea how many people are going to be there. Just show up early, ready to go, and hope for the best. The atmosphere in Bocas is very relaxed, as there is a combination of European backpackers, Americans, and the locals. The locals - a mix of Indians, Caribbean blacks, and Kunas - are extremely friendly. The town is clean and the supplies are plentiful.
I'd never actually checked Ghost into Panama, as the customs official on the Pacific side had gotten a little too greedy. He was hoping to 'cover his expenses', but I've got expenses of my own. So, I just did the regular check in and planned to head for cheaper waters. So, yes, Ghost was able to transit the Canal without a Zarpe Nacional or stamped passport! When I got to Bocas, the port captain didn't seem to mind in the least, and happily issued, stamped, and signed my papers in a magnanimous fashion. The interesting thing is that he fined the shit out of Ghost three months later. The reason is that we'd kept the same casual attitude about paperwork a second time by not renewing the paperwork until a week after it had expired. All things considered, the Port Captain is very accommodating to cruisers.
The Bocas region is an outstanding cruising ground, and will no doubt soon become popular. The scenery is spectacular, the water is clean and clear, and it's all south of the hurricane zone. In addition, there are many anchorages within just a short distance of each other. This area is subject to substantial swell during the winter months when the Caribbean trades blow the strongest, but there's enough fetch to clean up the swell by the time it reaches shore. In other words, there's good surf on a regular basis. It's mostly reef breaks, some of it is excellent, and faces are up to 20 feet high! There are many islands and reefs, most of which can only be reached by boat. There are many years left of surf exploration in this area.
Ghost was left at Marina Carinero under the care of Mack and Mary, while her crew returned to the states for business. Upon return, we found our boat in excellent condition - in fact, better than when we left her! Mack and Mary kept her dry, aired and safe. What a great spot. I hope this inspires other to make the trip and check it out. By the way, we eventually got our $500 deposit back from Citibank.
- web 10/25/2000
Native Dancer - Nor'West 33
Simon & Lori Elphick
Opua, New Zealand
We arrived in Opua, New Zealand, on what was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. But thanks to the international dateline, it was already the day after in New Zealand, so all the cruisers were done feasting. Knowing this would be the case, we celebrated Thanksgiving at sea with canned chicken.
It's hard to believe, but last Turkey Day we were in Z-town, Mexico. It's been a wonderful year since then, as all our cruising stops have been good ones. Our route across the South Pacific took us to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Societies, the Cooks, Niue, Tonga and New Zealand. It's amazing all the wonderful things that we've seen. In Rarotonga, for example, it was a 'full house', with 25 cruising boats plus freighters in the tiny harbor. We spent a fortune there 'saving money' - on restaurants, movies, motorcycle rentals, ice cream and so forth. It's a lovely place to 'vacation' after the prices of French Polynesia. Plus, the locals speak English.
It was also interesting to observe the difference in dress. While in Tonga, the businessmen waiting for the king to pass after the closing of parliament wore the most interesting outfits that were a cross between native and western dress. The pace of life was often very different, too. Main Street on Palmerston, for example, is nothing like a Main Street in California. But what a great place for people-watching, as the five remaining branches of the Marsters family compete to host visiting cruisers! Our family hosted eight boats including ours - which meant they made dinner for all of us every night! There's an explanation for this. Back in 1936, a tropical cyclone wiped out all the houses and food supplies on the island, and everyone was threatened with starvation. Shortly thereafter, a large private yacht off-loaded almost all their stores to help the islanders - thus starting the 'cruisers are family' tradition that still endures.
As most readers are aware, the 1,200-mile trip from the South Pacific to New Zealand can be a very dangerous one. Our trip down from Tonga was uneventful, as the worst weather we had was 35 knots. At the time, we were gorging on lobster at South Minerva Reef, a reef in the middle of the ocean that's barely above sea level - even at high tide. Some other boats had it worse. A 103-footer lost a sailboard from their deck, and the crew of a 38-footer reported doing 14 knots for hours while under bare poles. Thankfully, there have been no cruiser casualties on the crossing this year.
Cruisers newly arrived to New Zealand were all walking around with silly 'we made it' grins. It certainly has been a wacky year for weather. For instance, it rained nearly every day for six weeks in September and October in Rarotonga and Tonga. The consensus among cruisers in Opua is that five-day forecasts are nonsense down here - or at least were nonsense this year. Even the Met Service forecasts from New Zealand and Oz have been wildly inaccurate. The weather systems have been behaving like pinballs, spinning, stalling, merging and moving in confounding patterns. If anyone has doubts about the hole in the ozone layer, consider this: Our solar panels are putting out 30% more power here during New Zealand's chilly spring than they did during the blistering heat of a Sea of Cortez summer!
Having travelled so far so quickly, we're ready for a rest. We'll be in New Zealand for the next six months or so, and will take full advantage of the luxuries we've been missing. Our Nor'West 33 never faltered, but after 13,000 miles some things are looking a little tatty. We need new canvas, a windvane rebuild, and that kind of thing. Fortunately, New Zealand has great boat services and the Kiwi dollar is very low.
We're still emailing with Pocketmail. We had spotty results across the South Pacific, with only the French Polynesian satellite phones being good enough to use it. Elsewhere, we accessed our Pocketmail email through the Mailstart website. Internet access costs ranged from free in Niue, to $30 an hour (!) in Vavu'a, Tonga. Calls from here in New Zealand to the States are just 12-cents a minute, so Pocketmail is very cost effective again.
Earlier this year, our bank account was emptied - to the last penny - by the California State Board of Equalization. And the board was 100% in error. We had paid sales tax when we bought our boat five years ago, but the Board of Equalization lost the records! How many 'Elphicks' do you suppose have ever bought boats in California? Anyway, the Board mailed us one letter, then served liens six weeks later. The letter they sent was not registered, so they had no idea whether or not we received it. We were cruising in the Marquesas and Tuamotus when the letter was sent, so we didn't know anything about it. We got our money back about a month later, but so far have only received $60 of the $300 it cost us to prove that we were 'innocent though presumed guilty'.
- simon & lori 11/30/2000
Grace - Kelly-Peterson 44
Jerry & Ellen King
Once in awhile we make our home in Las Vegas. It's where Jerry 'I've gone from 500 mph to 5 mph' retired from flying for TWA as a captain, and where I, Ellen, retired from teaching. But our trips home to Vegas are getting further apart, as we find it increasingly difficult to leave our 44 foot cutter-rigged sloop.
After sailing down the west coast and stopping at places like Guatemala and El Salvador, we got to Panama and told our cruising friends that we'd be transiting the Canal and going into the Caribbean. We even got to the Balboa YC and got excited about our big transit day. But after touring Panama City and its environs, and line-handling on two boats making the Canal transit, we told ourselves we had plenty of time to sail to the Caribbean - and headed off to Ecuador!
One of the big things that prompted us was meeting an Ecuadorian couple who told us that their home was our home. In addition, we needed to cross the equator somewhere, and decided that doing it on the way to Ecuador was as good a place as any. As it turned out, the day we crossed the equator, it was blowing 30 knots on the nose and the waves were such that sometimes we weren't making any progress over the bottom! Nonetheless, we dug out the bottle of wine Jerry had bought in Paris 26 years before just for the occasion! He then donned his green mop beard, tin foil crown, took up his tin foil trident - and waited. Then we counted down; he with his GPS up in the cockpit, and me with my GPS down in the cabin. The winner would be the first one to see the 'S' on the GPS for south of the equator. My GPS won by one second. It was quite a thrill to be south of the equator, and to soon claim another continent and country for Grace.
As for Ecuador, what a surprise! The people are so friendly and helpful, and the country is just wonderful - an adjective I've overused ever since I started cruising. We started our visit by setting the hook at the Puerto Manta YC and then backing up to the buoys right in front of the yacht club - and next to our friends aboard Wayward Cru, Liberte, and Atua. The yacht club is new and beautiful, and has a lovely restaurant and a swimming pool. Visiting cruisers are charged $5/day, although we're not sure if it will be raised when they finish the showers and other improvements. Puerto Manta is a major port, and there were hundreds of boats and ships anchored in the large harbor. In fact, both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force made their presence known. We met some of 'our guys' in a restaurant, and were thrilled to later get a tour of their ship.
Metropolitan Touring of Ecuador put together a trip down the spine of the Andes so we could see Ecuador. We started by flying up to Quito, which we loved for its many art galleries and outstanding museums - especially the Central Banco in the Casa de Cultura. We timed our flight to Quito in order to catch the Jacchigua Ecuadorian Folklore Ballet, which was worth the effort. Later, we travelled south by autobus to Riobamba, where we boarded an autoferril - which is kind of a bus on tracks - to travel down the Nariz de la Diablo (Devil's Nose) at Alausi. Unfortunately, a truck had overturned on the tracks, so we had to take a bus travelling the Pan American Highway to Alausi. We ended up making the trip down the Devil's Nose on an ancient train of some sort. It would be a gross understatement to say it was exciting.
We then stopped at Ingapirca, the site of Ecuador's major Inca ruins, before continuing on to Cuenca. In addition to being the country's third largest city, Cuenca was our favorite city. It's divided into the colonial and modern districts, with the Tumebamba River being the dividing line. After visiting a convent on the outside, I bought radish juice - through a little turnstile in the wall - from the cloistered sisters. The stuff is supposed to improve memory, but I haven't remembered to drink it yet.
After cooking our Ecuadorian turkey for Thanksgiving, we will take our leftovers and head for the Galapagos. Getting to Ecuador is a bit of a challenge, but the rewards are such that it should be on every adventurous cruiser's itinerary. We invite people to look at photographs of our cruise to date at www.grace44.com.
- jerry & ellen 11/30/2000
Moonshadow - Deerfoot 62
Pets In The South Pacific
Gidday, from sunny Sydney! It has been great to return to civilization, get my 'care package' from mom with the last few issues of Latitude, and get on the web and check out 'Lectronic Latitude. Good work, gang! I'm writing this particular Changes for Silvia of Sonrisa - and anyone else cruising with pets that may be heading to the South Pacific.
We just completed our third season in the South Pacific with my cat MaiTai aboard. Cruising with pets is a great pleasure - but can be challenging and expensive. Nonetheless, with some research and planning, one can get through it all without any serious drama.
Virtually all the South Pacific Islands call themselves "rabies free", and do not allow foreign animals to be landed without an extensive quarantine period. Most countries - with the exceptions of Australia and New Zealand - will allow the animal into the country provided that it remain on board the vessel at all times. This is not too difficult for a little kitty, but good luck if you're sailing with your pet Labrador. In most cases, the penalty for landing a foreign animal without permission is euthanizing the animal, so it's not worth taking chances.
New Zealand is by far the strictest when it comes to animal control. When we checked into Auckland, an agent from MAF - Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - was on the dock waiting. The owner of a licensed quarantine facility was standing right next to him - in fact, he caught our dock lines. MaiTai was whisked off to 'kitty jail' before she could get her 'land paws'. Normal quarantine for foreign animals imported into New Zealand is six months. One can quarantine their animal aboard their yacht, but then movements are severely restricted and regular inspection visits from an MAF agent - at your expense - are required. This would not have been a viable option for us.
However, one can 'pre-quarantine' their animal. This involves some blood testing and positive identification in the form of a tattoo or a microchip installed on the animal. My MaiTai, for example, now has 'Intel inside'. The blood testing and initial examination can be performed by a vet in Tahiti in time to qualify the animal for landfall in New Zealand at the end of the season. For complete details of the importation procedure for New Zealand, contact Kerry Mulqueen of the MAF . I found the MAF people to be professional, concerned, efficient and flexible. These are not words that are usually found in the same sentence as government workers.
Because of the pre-quarantine work I did, MaiTai only did 31 days in the slammer at the Pussycat Lodge in Avondale, a suburb of Auckland. The facility was austere but clean, professionally run, and I had full visitation privileges. The total cost was around US $550. After this, MaiTai was considered a New Zealand cat.
This last season - which just ended, we cruised from New Zealand to Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia. We had no problems with Mai Tai in any of the South Pacific Islands. But it was the same story, we had to keep her aboard.
Normally an animal coming directly from New Zealand to Australia is not required to go through quarantine. You can get more details regarding pets going to the land of Oz on the web from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) at www.aqis.gov.au. We did get documentation indicating that MaiTai hadn't been landed in any of the countries we visited, something that helped us when we reached Australia. In our advance contacts, Australia was non committal about quarantine due to our island-hopping. But when we arrived and they examined MaiTai and all of our documentation, they waived quarantine altogether. Our friends on Bossanova, had the same luck with their dog Skipper. Both animals now have triple citizenship!
The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to cruise with an animal is to keep up with your pet's vaccinations, save all the documentation, and do your research a season ahead of your landfall in any country. Between cruising guides, the web, and information from other cruisers, you should be able to get good scoop.
- george 12/05/00
"Well, we made it to Kiwiland," write Sam and Caren Edwards of the Portola Valley-based Marquesas 56 Rhapsodie. "The passage from New Caledonia to Norfolk Island was pretty rough, with the wind on the nose the whole way. But the bad weather made it possible for us to hide - with five other boats, which the locals say was a record - in the lee for a couple of days and enjoy the sights. By the end of our stay, the locals were driving us around in the wooden boats they use to ferry freight from ship to shore. We even watched them unload a bus onto two of these wooden boats strapped together - during a big swell! Did Latitude readers know that Norfolk Island is home to a large number of descendants of the Bounty mutineers? They emigrated from Pitcairn years ago after it started to get too crowded. Norfolk is a beautiful and fascinating place.
"Our sail from Norfolk to New Zealand was a lot more fun, and included a 200-mile day. We arrived in Opua just before a big gale, and had one hell of a time winching ourselves into our end-tie - while the tides and winds did their best to wish us a Kiwi welcome. It rained and hailed and sleeted the next two weeks - and then decided it was summer. It's not Fiji, but we're almost warm and dry again. We're currently living in a little 'batch' - or cottage - in the Bay of Islands, and purchased an ancient Mitsubishi diesel van with 230,000 kilometers under its belt. With our kids Rachael and Dana enrolled in the local schools, we've started work on Rhapsodie: New mainsail and jib, new rigging, diesel overhaul, Reef-Rite in-boom roller furling, new hull paint job - you name it, we want it! We drew the line at a self-tacking jib track, however, but only because it looked like it would be a big deal. The prices down here seem incredibly cheap - the in-boom furler is costing us about 25% of what we were quoted in the States - and the workmanship is very high. I wish we'd known about this place before buying Rhapsodie in the Caribbean, as we'd have had a custom cat built here for less money instead."
"I'm now in Cartagena, Colombia, enjoying the great weather and beautiful surroundings," reports John Brannigan of Shoshin. "I know I keep repeating myself, but this is the most beautiful place that I've been to so far. The old city and forts of the Spanish Main are everything I'd hoped they would be, and the wonderful people are very friendly. Viva Colombia! I had a rough four-day crossing to get here from Panama, but it was worth every hour. I wish all my friends could be here, and I'll be staying for at least another two months. My boat has turned out to be as good a sea boat as advertised, so my only problem with being in port is that I'd also like to be out sailing."
What a strange world. The country of Colombia is absolutely falling apart, but everybody still loves the relatively safe and historic city of Cartagena. We'll have much more on Cartagena from Judy White of Speck - who took the photos at right - in the February issue.
"I'm in La Paz, and think I may have fallen into the black hole of a cruisers' paradise," writes Peter Lavoie of Oakland, who crewed aboard the Cal 40 Sayula in the Ha-Ha. "Skipper Charlie Grasia, crewman Bob Soling and I had a blast sailing to Cabo, as the Cal 40 is a great boat! When I got to Cabo, I was hoping to catch a ride on a boat heading south - my ultimate goal is to reach Z-town or do some serious bluewater sailing - but it didn't work out. I'm now in La Paz, where most cruisers with boats seem to have flown back to the States for the holidays. So I've enrolled in a immersion Spanish school, and am living with a Mexican family that doesn't speak any English. It's a great experience, but very exhausting! Meanwhile, I'm enjoying La Paz. Why didn't I ever pay attention to all the reports in Latitude about how great it is here? Something tells me that I'm going to have to force myself to leave while I still can, as there's an amazing number of cruisers who have been here for years and years. Somebody throw me a line! In fact, if anybody is looking for a very experienced crew - and good cook - I can be reached ."
La Paz is wonderful - but it's also dangerous in the sense that it's where so many cruising dreams die in their infancy. People who have spent years and fortunes preparing to cruise, fall into the 'good life', lose their cruising resolve, and allow their boats to fall into disrepair. Despite the fantastic cruising grounds less than 25 miles away, these now houseboaters never leave the harbor or raise a sail. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course, as long as people realize that it's happening to them. La Paz is a terrific gateway to some of the world's best cruising, but we've always been disappointed by two aspects of the 'cruising' community: 1) The drinking to sailing ratio is the opposite of what we prefer, and 2) For unknown reasons, it's long been the cruiser whining capital of the universe.
John and Lainey Volk of San Diego used the submisson form on the Latitude website to report that on November 10 they were at Garrison Bay, San Juan Islands, Washington, aboard their Passport 51, Silas Talbot. Similarly, Tom and Lydia Terry of the Playas del Coco, Costa Rica-based Passport 42 Rapariga filled out a form to say that as of November 20, they were at Vuda Point, Fiji. We appreciate you folks making the effort, but we, our readers, and your friends would appreciate just a little more information. Here's an example:
"After a 24-day crossing from Costa Rica to the Marquesas - it was a little rougher than we expected - we visited Tahiti and Rarotoga, before arriving here in Fiji. One of the highlights was eating at the 'roach coaches' along the Papeete waterfront. With the onset of cyclone season in the South Pacific, we're hunkering down here at Vuda Point with the following other west coast boats: Joe & Betty Smith's Cal 36 Sea Breeze from San Diego; Sally and Sue's Samsom's Sea Wolf 41 Fish Without A Bicycle from San Francisco; and singlehander Joe Harley's J/24 Adios from Morro Bay." Just those few extra lines would make your reports so much more interesting and informative for our readers.
"My fianceé and I had a wonderful time in the Ha-Ha crewing aboard our friend Robert's Challenger 32 Luna Sea II, writes Kelli Van Gorden of the San Diego-based Explorer 45 Morning Light. "When it was over, we had to do the Baja Bash back to San Diego -which actually wasn't too bad. Maybe it didn't seem so bad because we were eager to get back to Morning Light, which we'd only bought last September. Anyway, our plans are to be married on March 10 - then take off cruising on March 12! My daughter will have just turned five, so her entire education is going to be through home schooling. I'm having a little problem in that most recognized schools require face-to-face meetings every two weeks or so, which obviously won't be possible. Does anybody know of any online schooling programs? What do other cruisers do to educate their children?
"After sailing my trimaran from Key Largo to Trinidad," writes the owner of the trimaran Jacamar - whose name we managed to lose - "I'm hoping to enjoy a season in the Windward Islands. After that, I hope to sail her to the Panama Canal and into the Pacific. I liked your recent review of marinas in Mexico, and am wondering what you can tell me about marina facilities between the Canal and Mexico."
At this time, our first choice would be the Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside the Canal on Miraflores Lake. Banana Bay Marina in Costa Rica would be another possibility, as would Marina Barillas in El Salvador. But the Pedro Miguel has the best location, total protection from inclement weather, and easy access to most parts as well as international transportation.
Jimmy Cornell, the father of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) as well as cruising rallies in general, has been a busy man. "As you know, I sold World Cruising Ltd. to Chay Blyth so I can do more cruising. Two years ago, I sailed my 43-foot aluminum sloop Ovni from Antarctica to Alaska. Last year I cruised the Med. This year I'll be making my way west, eventually to Spitsbergen and Greenland."
We don't know about the rest of you, but we've never really understood the attraction of high latitude sailing. Maybe we'll ask Jimmy when he's in town in late February to be part of John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal's Weekend Cruising Seminars.
Dates for cruisers in Mexico to remember: Banderas Bay Regatta, March 22-25, at Marina Paradise. Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, April 27 to May 5, at La Paz and Isla Partida. And Loreto Fest, May 18-19 at Puerto Escondido, Baja. All these events are for cruisers, free, and fun!
"After three great years of cruising Mexico - starting with the '97 Ha-Ha - most of our new cruising friends had headed west, south or back home," write Henry and Suzanne Schwake of Ketchum, Idaho, who currently have their Islander Freeport 36 Pied a Mer in Blaine, Washington. "So we sailed our boat to San Carlos and had her trucked to the Northwest for some summer cruising. There were two big surprises on the way north. The first was when our northbound bus pulled into a Mexican truck stop at 4 a.m. What were all those girls in leather skirts doing there at that hour? The second was the fact that no U.S. Customs agents so much as touched our boat when it came across the border. They x-rayed it! Yes, they have a large x-ray machine on tracks that moves the entire length of the truck and boat. I can't imagine what they could have seen, as we had everything off the deck of our boat - including the boom, outboard, dinghy, fuel cans, BBQ, dodger frame, lines, sails, fishing poles and everything else we owned - stuffed inside for the road trip to the Northwest. But it only took a few minutes, and we were on our way. "A few weeks later, we met Pied a Mer in Tacoma, and spent the summer cruising Puget Sound and the San Juans. It was quite a switch from Mexico. We left the boat up north while we're spending the winter in the desert, but we'll be heading north on the boat next spring for the coast of British Colombia and maybe Alaska. A big 'hello' to all our cruising pals, wherever they might be."
There's so much left to report and so little space, that we're going to have to squeeze: Steve and Sharon of Poet's Place warned Rene and Dorie of Morning Star that the San Blas Port Captain had been illegally making everyone use a ship's agent to check in. Forewarned, Rene and Dorie visited the Port Captain's office with buddyboaters Don and Judie of Orioco. When the Port Captain brought up the agent, Don responded in Spanish with words to the effect that captains of pleasure boats don't need to use agents. The port Captain backed down, meaning Steve and Sharon had saved them 200 pesos - about $20 U.S."
In the heartwarming department, cruisers in several parts of Mexico have been raising money for less fortunate locals. The SUBASTA put on by the Club Cruceros and others in La Paz was expected to have raised close to $10,000 U.S. - $500 of it from Ha-Ha'ers who bought photos of their boats at the start. There was also a chili cookoff at Paradise Marina so cruisers could raise money for kids who live in the Puerto Vallarta dump. More than $2,000 U.S. was raised. Finally, a Profligate charter in Bahia Santa Maria during the Ha-Ha raised $420 for Norm Goldie to buy warm clothes for the children who live up in the cold mountains behind San Blas. Good on everyone who contributed to these and other holiday fund-raisers in Mexico.
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