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January 2013

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With reports this month from X on avoiding Super Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines; from Hana Hou on the passage from Tonga to New Zealand's Bay of Islands; from Beach House on crossing the Indian Ocean to South Africa; from Dreamcatcher on sailing to Thailand; from Harmony on a hot summer in the Sea of Cortez;
and Cruise Notes.

X — Santa Cruz 50
David Addleman
Just Missed By A Super Typhoon

I'd never been near a typhoon before, let alone a Super Typhoon. But then along came Bopha at the end of November and early December while we were moored at Puerto Galera, Mindoro, which is 80 miles south of Manila in the Philippines. The early forecast was for Bopha and her 140 knots — wow! — to blow right through Galera. But then it went south. Good for us. Bad for the Filipinos on the island of Mindanao.

Really bad for the Filipinos on Mindanao. The early death toll was over 400, with many people still unaccounted for. Thousands of homes were wiped out by a combination of 120-knot winds and substantial tidal surge. The amazing thing is that it wasn't as bad as the super typhoon that hit the Philippines the previous December, claiming 1,200 lives.

The Bopha scare did give me some experience getting X tidied up, and she now looks like a proper race boat. But getting ready for a typhoon was a little more work than I expected. Put all the sails away. Take all the canvas down. Find a place to hide the dinghy. Check the mooring. Fit all the chafing gear.

After all that work, we had only one breezy night and no rain at all. The weather is back to sparkly spectacular now. Puerto Galera is thought to be safe in a typhoon, even though plenty of boats have been damaged here in the past. But almost all of the damage was due to failed mooring lines rather than boats dragging.

I wish I were back in Mexico for all the events on Banderas Bay and along the Riviera Nayarit. I miss them and all the good people. And the food is waaaaay better in Mexico than in the Philippines. The Filipino cuisine, if you can call it that, is a bit narrow, as the Filipinos aren't big on flavors. And here in Puerto Galera, a big tourist area with the best beach in the Philippines, most of the restaurants are run by Germans.

Nonetheless, I've been having a good time, even if Shayne, my pretty young Filipino girlfriend, is making me a little chubby with her cooking. In fact, she's making me lunch right now, dressed in nothing but lace panties. What a life.

— david 12/15/12

Readers — When writing this, David had just sailed to the Philippines from Palau, which also got nailed by Bopha. Richard and Leora Roll of Seattle, who are five years into their Pacific cruise, were at Palau with their Beneteau 45. Prior to Bopha's roaring through, the couple laid out all four of their anchors, two off the bow and two astern. "We took the lines ashore above the tide line away from rocks, and tied them to the bases of the trees," they wrote. "Everything on the boat was stripped or lashed. When we learned that Bopha was to be a direct hit as a Cat 3 or Cat 4, we figured there was nothing helpful we could do staying on the boat. So we loaded up our dinghy with essential documents, clothing, and fuel, and made the 10-mile crossing back to Sam’s Tours, a dive operation in Malakal Harbor, Koror. Fortunately, it blew only 50 to 60 knots, and the hardest part proved to be getting our anchors up after the typhoon had passed through."

Interesting note: The Rolls also did a Pacific circuit — the Marquesas, Palau, and Japan — in the '80s. With a Catalina 30!

Hana Hou — Norseman 445
George Deane and JoAnne Clarke
Tonga to New Zealand
(Nawiliwili, Kauai)

It's often not easy to make it the 1,100 miles from Tonga or Fiji to New Zealand to avoid the South Pacific tropical cyclone season, but we did it. And no, it wasn't easy for us or for many others.

We departed Tonga on October 28, and since our departure was very early in the tropical cyclone season, our main concern was the possibility of getting hit by a nasty cold front as we neared New Zealand. Wow, did we get it backward!

After motoring south in light winds for a couple of days, we sailed into the lagoon at Minerva Reef, which is 250 miles south of Tongatapu, Tonga. Minerva is an unusual — and mostly-submerged — mid-ocean reef, which provides good protection from ocean swells. There were nine other boats anchored in the lagoon at Minerva when we got there, all engaged in the time-honored tradition of trying to decide when to start on the remaining 750 miles to New Zealand.

Everyone's thinking was clarified when we learned that the first tropical storm of the season had formed over Fiji and would be heading our way! We left Minerva for New Zealand the next day, and by the following day everyone else had left, too, hoping to stay out of the path of the storm. Most of the boats still in Tonga elected to stay put.

After forming, the tropical storm headed south and east, and was supposed to cross the Dateline and pass to the east of us. But tropical storms do whatever they feel like doing, so this one basically tracked down the Dateline some 200 to 300 miles to the east of us. While we didn't get hit with hurricane force winds, we did get stuck in a 'squash zone' between the storm and the high that was behind it. As such, we saw 30- to 35-knot winds, with gusts to 40 knots, and seas to 15 feet, for 60 hours. Our trusty Monitor windvane did almost all of the steering, allowing us to stay below most of the time, trying to keep from getting thrown around.

The boats that didn't head as far west as we did really got smacked. One of the boats, Aussie-born Brit Steve Jones's 36-ft Windago, was rolled and suffered severe damage. Both Jones and Tania Davies, his 43-year-old Kiwi crew, suffered moderate head and other injuries. They set off their EPIRB, and eventually had to hang on to a thick rope as they were winched aboard the Chinese freighter Chengtu. Jones said credit needed to be given to the crew of the Tasmania-based Adventure Bound, which had bravely sailed north into the tropical storm to stand by his disabled boat.

Fortunately, all storms pass, and a couple of days later there was no wind at all. We were still a couple of hundred miles from New Zealand, so we started to motor in relatively calm seas. But 24 hours later, and just 100 miles from our Bay of Islands destination, our engine punked out. We were bummed, because we were just bobbing around, and a front was supposed to hit New Zealand 72 hours later — a front with the potential to whack us again. We used the morning to retie all the stuff on deck that had been blown loose by the previous storm. We'd already lost a boat hook, JoAnne's kayak paddle and a deck brush, and had had some of the canvas torn.

But then JoAnne's karma kicked in, as the wind filled in from just the right direction to allow us to sail directly to the Bay of Islands. Indeed, we managed to sail to within 100 yards of the Quarantine Dock at Opua, and were towed the final 100 yards by a friendly Kiwi. We cleared customs on November 11, spent the night on the Q Dock, and were towed to the boatyard the next morning.

Our diesel injector pump needed to be rebuilt, so we spent the first couple of weeks at the boatyard in Opua. But there probably wasn't a better place in the South Pacific for two sailors to recuperate for a week. The Island Cruising Association, a Kiwi group that fosters cruising in the South Pacific, was having a 'welcome to New Zealand' event the whole week. There were seminars about New Zealand; boat part repair guys hawking their services — and boy, did they get fully employed by the cruisers who had been in the storm; Bob McDavitt, the retired New Zealand Met Service weather guru, who gave a talk on why it's so hard to predict the weather in the South Pacific; and BBQs every night.

The get-togethers gave the crews of the 20 to 30 boats that came down through the storm plenty of time to talk story while licking their wounds. But what a great group of resilient people! It was fun for us to come face to face with lots of folks we had only 'met' on the radio. We also got a chance to reunite with crews from boats we'd met at Fanning, Suwarrow, Pago Pago and Nuku'alofa. What a good time!

Boats that had stayed in Tonga for the storm started to show up in the Bay of Islands the second week we were there, and they reported having an entirely different experience. They'd had very little wind. That meant a lot of motoring, but also very little damage. We did Thanksgiving at the Opua Cruising Club with about 80 cruisers from all over the world, enjoying an American excuse for another party.

On November 27, with our engine repaired, we took off on a beautiful motorsail south to Whangerei (that's fong-ger-ay for you non Kiwis). The Bay of Islands and the east coast of New Zealand's North Island are spectacularly beautiful and green cruising areas. We hope to hit a few more anchorages when we pass north on our way back in April. We anchored for the night at Urquarts Bay, and then we were up at dawn to catch the flood up the river to Whangarei's Town Basin, our home for the season.

We got checked in and the boat secured by noon, so you'd think we'd have settled in and relaxed for awhile. But nooooo! We rented a car and drove north back to Pahia for a party — surprise, surprise — for Russell and Karin, who had left the Bay of Islands seven years before on a long circumnavigation. They arrived back with a new crew, Brisa, now two years old. What a big party at their hometown, with many cruisers they had met along the way. It was like a South Mission Beach party, but on steroids.

About two-thirds of this year's Pacific Puddle Jump Fleet were at the party, including the entire Fanning Island YC. The latter is a group of cruisers who had all left from Honolulu, and had all stopped at Fanning at some point before joining up with the Milk Run somewhere along the way. YC members included Privateer, Radiance, Evangeline and our Hana Hou. Latitude's Banjo Andy, the honcho of the Pacific Puddle Jump, is going to have to set up a Northbound Puddle Jump at some point.

This weekend our friends John Neal and Amanda Swan of the Friday Harbor-based Hallberg Rassy 42 Mahina Tiare III will be in Whangarei to visit Amanda's folks. John and Amanda just completed their 22nd year of sail training. Our plan is to get together for a tall tale or two at one of the many pubs within walking distance of the Town Basin.

We're getting ready to fly back to San Francisco for holiday parties in the City, San Diego, and Gig Harbor. We also plan to get our 'slope- side chalet' — i.e. our RV — up and running for some skiing. We'll return to New Zealand around the end of January.

— george and joanne 11/27/12

Beach House — Switch 51 Cat
Scott Stolnitz
10,000 Indian Ocean Miles
(Marina del Rey)

I keep finding myself humming the Joni Mitchell lyric " . . . the wind is in from Africa" — even though she was singing about the wind blowing into Crete from North Africa while I'm inspired by the Indian Ocean breeze that brought us to South Africa.

We arrived at Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, on the heels of 20 to 25 knots of blustery winds from the northeast. It's lucky we got in when we did, because we subsequently saw 38 knots in the harbor, and were told that it later blew like stink outside. The southeast coast of Africa has a reputation for strong winds and huge seas. But it all depends on the time of year. When Beach House leaves for 900-mile distant Cape Town in late January, I'm told to expect to have to motor much of the time.

Our arrival at Richard's Bay marked the end of 10,000 miles of sailing for the year. My current sailing partner is Nicola Woodrow, originally from Holt/Norfolk in the United Kingdom, but who now resides in Perth. It's been her lifelong dream to follow in the path of Robin Lee Graham. Unfortunately, several members of her family have health issues, so it's unlikely she'll be able to join me when I leave Africa, but perhaps later. Many Latitude readers know that my wife Cindy passed away earlier in the cruise, the victim of depression. This cruise is lovingly dedicated to her memory.

Nicola and I started this sailing season 6½ months ago on the East Coast of Australia, then continued on up to Gove and over to Darwin. We were the first boat to finish the Darwin to Kupang, Indonesia Rally — an event I have mixed feelings about. We continued on to the Komodo dragon parks at Rindja and Komodo, and the Gili Islands off Lombok, and Bali. To be honest, I found Indonesia to be a giant marine toilet, and thus didn't care for it at all.

We continued on to Christmas Island, Cocos-Keeling, the Chagos Archipelago (Salomon and Peros Banhos Atolls), and then made the long passage to the north of Madagascar. It was a thrill to see lemurs running wild on one of the beaches. We dropped anchor at Mozambique, but didn't go ashore, then completed the 10,000 miles by sailing down to Richards Bay.

Latitude reported that some cruisers say their crossing of the Indian Ocean was their roughest sailing to date. I've heard some of those reports, too. We might have had a little more wind than normal, but not that much. We were on the ITCZ from Cocos to the Chagos, so that wasn't too bad, and we sailed farther north than the traditional route, which may have given us less challenging conditions than those experienced by other cruisers. Sailors who go by way of Mauritius apparently always have some tales to tell. The situation in the Indian Ocean is that you get a cross swell from the Southern Ocean — just as you do in the South Pacific. The difference is that there are fewer places in the Indian Ocean that block your exposure to the swell.

We did have a brush with tropical cyclone Anais, which was not only a Category 3 storm, but was also the earliest — mid-October — major cyclone in the northwest Indian Ocean. Anais started near Diego Garcia, unusually far to the east for a tropical cyclone, and then headed WSW. We got a 40-knot gust when she was still a depression. Fortunately, she headed away from us. Tropical cyclones in this part of the Indian Ocean are most frequent and intense from January through March, but they don't reach South Africa.

I would estimate that 80% of the cruisers we've met in South Africa would have liked to go up the Red Sea to the Med, but decided against it because of the Somali pirates. The incident in which the two owners and two crew of the Marina del Rey-based Davidson 59 Quest were murdered by pirates was the most talked about. The fact that nearly all circumnavigators are going around via South Africa instead of the Med has made for a shortage of slips in South Africa, but they seem to be adjusting.

As per NATO's Ship Watch program, our route across the Indian Ocean was outside the HRA — aka 'high risk area'. No vessels have been attacked south of 6° in more than eight months, and that one was close to the Seychelles. The Somali pirates have found that it's less expensive and less dangerous to cross the border into Tanzania and Kenya, and kidnap land tourists. Special forces are 'in country' and cutting on the problem. Coalition forces are also using unmanned drones out of the Seychelles, making a big 'ship presence' felt in much of the Indian Ocean. The thing that caught my attention was looking at AIS 'destination' pages for large commercial vessels and seeing the notation "Armed Guards ONBD".

Another consideration for cruisers is that South Africa is tremendously less expensive than the Med. For example, it's costing me just $150/month to put my 51-ft catamaran in a slip at Richards Bay while I visit the United Kingdom and return to the States. By the way, I've already found my 'boat guy', a Zulu chap named Hebron who came highly recommended by Geoff and Chris of Shambala.

I was also lucky because the boat across from me had the fuel polisher guys up from Durban, a two-hour drive. Unless you pay a big fee, they only come up a couple of times a year. Some $220 later, Beach House's fuel has been polished down to one micron. My fuel was black, apparently because of the fuel I'd purchased in either Indonesia or Nosy Be, Madagascar. Fuel companies add paraffin to the fuel, which saves them money, but turns the fuel brown and isn't particularly good for diesels. So Beach House's engine problems — an inexplicable loss of 25% of normal power — have probably been a result of a combination of water, dirt, and paraffin.

Richards Bay is about one hour south of Cape St. Lucia, an upscale town where hippos roam the streets at dusk. We've been warned not to mess with the hippos or the Cape buffalo, as they kill more humans per year than all other animals combined. It's funny, because hippos aren't aggressive and they don't eat meat. But if you scare, threaten, or corner them, they attack. One of the locals in St. Lucia recently startled a hippo, and had his leg taken off!

After Cape St. Lucia, we'll drive to the Umfolozi Game Park, which has lots of all the big animals except for big cats. When I return in January, I will do four days in eight-hour distant Kruger National Park, which has all the big cats. Not long after that, I will head up the Atlantic.

— scott 12/01/12

Dreamcatcher — Cal 46
Glenys Henry, Harry Mellegers
Thailand and India
(Singapore / ex-Oakland YC)

[Editor's Note: Due to internal issues, this is a continuation of a Changes that appeared several months ago, and about events that occured a year ago. But no reason to fret, it's timeless material.]

After our successful haulout at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia, we set sail for 150-mile-distant Phuket, Thailand. After losing the wind, we had to motor through the most densely populated fishing fleet we've ever encountered. My having done many trips up and down the Malacca Straits, that's saying something.

The squid fleet uses white and green lights that are so bright they blind you. Because they do, and because they don't use nets, they are relatively safe sea companions. The same can't be said for the others who fish – the purse seiners, net draggers and individual fishermen – who are also out in force. The most dangerous of the lot are the paired trawlers, who drag a more than half-mile-long net between them in tightening circles.

Dawn found us adjacent to the lovely Phi Phi Island group of Thailand. We carried on for another six hours in 12 to 15 knots of wind that kept us on the rhumbline almost all the way to Ao Po Marina in north Phuket. When we tied up at the fuel dock, we were told that, thanks to the imminent start of the popular Phang Na Bay Regatta, there was 'no room at the inn'.

We'd torn the leech of our headsail coming up from Malaysia, so we hired a car to drop it off at the massive Rolly Tasker Sail loft, which is located in a building the size of a 747 hangar. We also took care of some other boat chores, including clearing into Thailand.

If you thought carbon paper — young ones won't even know what it is — is dead, you're wrong. It was alive and thriving at the port captain’s/immigration offices in Phuket, just as it had been in Langkawi. Fortunately, a generous dose of forbearance worked well in both Langkawi and Phuket. Few countries have officials as efficient as Singapore's, something we needed to remind ourselves, as we were heading to the Andaman Islands of India. Nowhere is government less efficient than in India.

While at Ao Po Marina, we moved aboard our friend's boat Rusalka for the five-day Phang Na Bay Regatta. Our plan was to beat our other friends on the Hallberg 53 Rascal, which we had crewed on when the boat won her division in November's Raja Muda Regatta in Malaysia. When it comes to racing, we check our loyalty at the dock!

By the time the Phang Na Bay Regatta — our sixth — was over, we were raced out! But we'd taken second in our class, losing the tie-breaker to the winning boat Rascal, at least keeping the top spots 'in the family'.

The regatta winds had been great, the scenery beautiful to the point of distraction, and the parties typically full-on. We try not to drink too much, as trying to reboard your boat in the pitch dark from Thai long-tail boats is dangerous. But the launch party at the Coconut Island Resort, located off the main bay in Phuket, was nothing short of movie-glam fabulous, and the Sheraton Krabi party was every bit as good as in previous years. The portions of food, drink, and live entertainment were hard to believe!

Unfortunately, there was some food poisoning resulting from the party at Paradise Resort on the second night, and both Henry and I suffered. I'll spare you the gory details, but it was ugly. Sick crew meant lots of other boats had to sail the regatta shorthanded.

Nonetheless, it was a fabulous event, and gave us a chance to catch up with our pals in the Phuket sailing community, as we'd had to miss their regatta last year.

After the regatta in early February, we spent three days at the Ao Po Marina with a long errand list in hand: pick up the repaired sail; pick up the repaired Honda outboard (the fools in Singapore had put two-stroke fuel in our four-stroke engine, messing up the carburetor); provision for five weeks at three different supermarkets; get a generator part welded; do the laundry; wash the boat and everything on her — and on and on. It was a frantic three days.

While leaving the marina, we hit the bow anchor of a large motoryacht with our solar panel. So our lovely 20-mile sail to Nai Harn Bay was peppered by phone calls around Phuket to try to find a replacement solar panel. We couldn't go to India with a compromised ability to keep our beer cold! Octopus Marine came to the rescue with a panel they delivered to the Phuket YC Resort the next morning. We must have looked pretty incongruous on lovely Nai Harn Beach — two yachties carrying a 2 x 4-foot cardboard box, standing ankle deep in the shallows amongst the semi-naked sun worshippers, waiting for a long-tail boat.

Our 'passage to India' — specifically's India's Andaman Islands — took a smidge under 72 hours. It wasn't entirely comfortable, but we did have a lovely dolphin escort on the second morning.

As you might expect, cruising in India, even just India's Andaman Islands, will require another month's installment.

— glenys 04/15/12

Harmony — Tayana 42
Terry and Diane Emigh
The Sea Of Cortez
(Anacortes, WA)

Some people have a hard time adjusting from the cool, wet, gray weather of the Pacific Northwest — such as Anacortes, daytime summer highs in the low 70s — to the sizzling, steamy summers of the Sea of Cortez, where even the water temperature reaches 90 degrees. But not Terry or Diane.

"My daughter is having her first baby, and we have a condo in Anacortes," says Terry, "otherwise I would never go back. When I'm here in Mexico, I sometimes check out the Anacortes weather on my computer — and then I really don't miss it!"

The couple sailed to Mexico with the '11 Ha-Ha, then continued over to the mainland, spending Christmas and New Year's in La Cruz. They made it as far south as Las Hadas/Manzanillo before heading north toward the Sea.

"We made landfall at Isla San Francisco — about 40 miles north of La Paz — in early May," says Terry."From there we sailed north to Bahia Concepcion in company with Ha-Ha vets Rick and Gina Phillips, and their 13-year old twins James and Sydney, on their Vancouver, WA-based Taswell 49 Endeavor. After Concepcion, the Phillips headed home for the summer while we continued north to Santa Rosalia."

The couple anchored inside the breakwater at Santa Rosalia, spent time at Sweet Pea anchorage on San Marcos Island, and then backtracked to Concepcion Bay for weather guru Geary Ritchie's famous Fourth of July party.

"We then swam with the whale sharks at Punta Chivato," remembers Terry, "reprovisioned at Santa Rosalia, and spent four or five days at gorgeous San Francisquito."

After Animas Slot, they found themselves at Bahia de Los Angeles (BLA) at the end of July, well ahead of the pack. By 'pack', Terry means the 25 or so cruising boats that spent last summer in the Sea. For whatever reason, this was about 15 fewer boats than had spent the previous summer in the Sea.

Having enjoyed the Don Juan anchorage just outside BLA, the couple decided they should continue north to Refugio, and ultimately San Felipe. At 600 miles north of the southern tip of Baja, and 60 miles south of the U.S. border, San Felipe is about as far north in the Sea as you can go. Only two other boats, Beyond Reason and Albion, did it as well.

Since it was only 236 more land miles to San Diego, Terry and Diane decided to travel to California for parts and gear for themselves and their cruising friends.

"We brought 170 pounds of stuff with us on the Greyhound-like — or perhaps -affiliated — bus from San Diego to Mexicali," remembers Terry. "It wasn't a bad bus, and the tickets didn't cost much. All the other passengers got off on the U.S. side. When we crossed the border, we were surprised that none of the officials were the least bit interested in what we had in our 170 pounds of baggage."

It was at Mexicali that the Emighs got a higher education in the unpredictability and inconsistencies of Mexican law enforcement. When they arrived in Cabo at the end of the Ha-Ha, they'd gotten the normal 6-month tourist visa. By Mexican law, after six months those with tourist visas have to leave the country for at least one day before applying for a new one. But immigration officials at the Puerto Vallarta Airport either didn't know or didn't care about that law, and gave the Emighs new six-month visas.

When tourists leave Mexico, officials are supposed to collect the visas. But nobody did when they crossed the border at Mexicali on their way to California. When the Emighs got back to Mexicali, Immigration gave them new six-month visas. But since the local bank was closed, they asked Terry and Diane if they would kindly stop at the bank when they got to San Felipe and pay for their visas there! Unless you're anal retentive, you gotta love Mexico.

Before leaving San Felipe, the Emighs needed diesel, but there is no fuel facility at the dock. But in Mexico, the bigger your problem, the more people seem to like to help. "The Fonatur folks at San Felipe had a 55-gallon drum, which they put in their pickup, then filled up with diesel at the local Pemex station," remembers Terry. "Then they drove the drum down to the dock, and using a garden hose and an air-compressor, pumped the fuel into Harmony."

There was no charge for the help. Yeah, you gotta love Mexico.

The Emighs made it back down to BLA in time for the end of September full moon party. "It was like Christmas," remembers Terry, "as we had presents for many of the boats. There were head parts for one boat, sunglasses for another, a VHF radio for yet another, and engine parts for a fourth."

The couple were at Santa Rosalia in mid-October when Fonatur Marina officials advised everyone that hurricane Paul was on the way, and was expected to hit with 100-knot winds. The cruisers stripped their boats, and Fonatur gave them room to store their stuff. Terry and Diane anchored a little to the north, and never saw more than 40 knots. Santa Rosalia Marina, however, had gusts to 62 knots, enough to tear some of the docks apart. But Paul thankfully wasn't as bad as everyone had feared.

After Paul, the Emighs continued south and crossed over to the mainland. When we visited with Terry in mid-November in La Cruz, he told us that he and Diane were headed as far south as Zihua, after which time they would work their way north for another summer in the Sea of Cortez. Of course, two summers in a row in the Sea won't be close to a record, as Jake and Sharon Howard of the Hunter Legend 45 Jake have spent the last five summers in the Sea — and are planning to make this summer their sixth!

If you're considering spending a summer in the Sea, Terry has some information and tips for you:

Provisioning — La Paz is the last place going north with big box stores. There are decent stores for provisioning at Loreto and Santa Rosalia, but none after that until the big new grocery at San Felipe some 270 miles to the north of the latter. BLA does have tiendas, but the prices, as in the restaurants, are very high.

The Beer And Rum Index — "We could buy 24 cans of Pacifico for 210 pesos, or about 75 cents each, in Santa Rosalia. Beers in restaurants in admittedly remote BLA were about $3.30 U.S. However, government stores in BLA sold liters of Ron Costello — a good dark rum — for 66 pesos or about $5."

The Sea Will Provide — While Terry eats bacon, eggs and hash browns for breakfast every morning, he says "the Sea feeds you" and that parrotfish is his and Diane's favorite. Fishing in the Sea during the summer is world-class. While it's illegal for foreigners to take shellfish, it's no secret that many cruisers do take and eat lots of clams, which are fortunately plentiful.

Banks — There is no bank between Santa Rosalia and San Felipe, something that caused a few cruisers big problems. It's a cash, rather than a credit card, economy in the middle and upper Sea.

Cost of Cruising — Terry and Diane set aside 10,000 pesos — about $800 U.S. — for each month. It was all they needed. The $800 included the cost of fuel, dining out at a restaurant about once a week, and drinking "copious amounts of Pacifico beer".

The MVP of Boat Gear — "Our Honda 2000 portable generator. It powered the 5,000 btu window air conditioner we'd bought at Home Depot in Mexico, our computers, which we used all the time, our refrigerator and freezer, and our VHF and SSB radios." Terry, who, like his wife, was in the marine electronics business before retiring, says that computers require a lot of power. "Our inexpensive Toshibas with 15-amp screens drew six amps each."

Solar Panels — "We had two 135-amp solar panels and two 85s, but even in the brilliant sun of the Sea they weren't nearly enough to keep up with our electrical needs. Everybody told us that wind generators would be a waste in the Sea of Cortez, but I think they're wrong, as there always seemed to be plenty of wind. Nonetheless, we're going to continue to rely on our Honda. We ran it an average of four hours a day, during which time it burned a half-gallon of gas."

Air Conditioners — "Our air conditioner kept the cabin about 10 degrees cooler than outside, but it was still warm. The biggest benefit of the air conditioner is that it got rid of the humidity, which is the most unpleasant thing."

Refrigerator and Freezer — "We had a Adler-Barbour refrigeration system for our 10-cubic-ft refrigerator, and an Engel stand-alone unit for our frozen foods."

Internet Access — "Diane likes to go to church once a week, so we were often near churches or villages. I'd say we had Internet access about half the time. Our Rogue Wave antenna helped pick up weak Internet signals.

The Locality of Elephantes — "Unlike most other cruisers, we didn't see one elephante, and the most wind we saw during the summer was 39 knots. Many other boats saw nearly nightly elephantes, with wind from the 20s to the mid-30s. But it all depended on where you were. Boats could be seeing 35 knots in one place, and boats five miles away had no wind.

Join Me For An Ice Cream? While at BLA, Terry met an interesting 92-year-old prospector named Herman Hill who has been living in the area for 30 years. Terry accepted Hill's invitation to join him on a 2½-hour drive to Guerrero Negro — to buy a gallon of ice cream.

Did Somebody Say Shark? While at BLA, Terry and Diane saw tour boats taking tourists to see the whale sharks — and getting closer than they are supposed to. When the tour boats left, the couple let Harmony drift, her engine off, among 10 to 15 of the magnificent 25- to 35-ft creatures.

The Hottest of the Hot — "Bahia de la Concepcion and nearby Mulege seemed to be the hottest places in the Sea, with daytime highs to 105° and lots of humidity. We saw 92° water temps in the bay, so you didn't get much refreshment jumping in."

It Was A Wet Summer — "Three major deluges ended a four-year drought. When we headed north toward San Felipe early in the summer, the only plants we saw were cactus. On the way back down, after the rains, it was green and lush. San Juanico didn't even look like the same place. Early in the season we were troubled by honeybees looking for water. We didn't see any more bees after the heavy rains, but the boo-boos, tiny little flies that don't bite, were out by the thousands."

Given the high heat of the Sea in the summer, you might assume that Terry and Diane lived in the water. But no. "I got nailed by a stingray during the full moon party at BLA, and it took three months for it to finally heal," says Terry, "so I hardly swam at all because I was worried about an infection. The stingray spine, hurt, but not that much. The thing that hurt like holy hell for nearly two hours was stepping on a sea urchin at Muertos."

Anyway, Terry and Diane loved the Sea so much they can't wait to get back, and they highly recommend it to others: "People need to do the Sea before they jump across the Pacific," says Terry.

— latitude/rs 12/05/12

Cruise Notes:

"I left my boat at Grenada Marine in Grenada for the hurricane season in the Eastern Caribbean," writes Rick Meyerhoff of the Sausalito-based LaFitte 44 Maya, "and came back down in early November — about the same time the Ha-Ha fleet was on its way to Mexico. Having done the Ha-Ha with both my Westsail 32 and my LaFitte 44, I enjoyed following this year's event on 'Lectronic while getting my boat ready to splash for the season. After a week of work, we launched on November 7, hung around Clark's Bay until the 15th, and are now cruising. By the way, I can't say enough good things about Audrey Urista, our third crewmember, who met us through the Latitude 38 Crew List. She's been an incredible crew as we've adventured through the Grenadines. We're now at Union Island, and are heading to Mayreau's Saltwhistle Bay. Tomorrow we're off to the Tobago Cays. For those curious about Down Island prices, diesel is $9/gal, gas is $7.20/gal, soft drinks are $1.80, and beer is $2.60. It's more expensive than Mexico," says Meyerhoff, "but we're still having fun."

A tip of the Latitude hat to Bruce and Marcelle Parsons of the Tasmania-based Adventure Bound, which we believe is a Tayana 37. After Stephen Jones and Tania Davies of the Australia-based 37-ft Windago reported they'd been rolled by tropical storm winds between Fiji and New Zealand, and needed help, the Tasmanian couple reversed course. They sailed north into the tropical storm to stand by for two days until a Chinese ship could rescue Jones and Davies. According to George Deane of the Kauai-based Norseman 445 Hana Hou, Bruce and Marcelle received a much deserved hero's welcome from gathered Puddle Jumpers when they arrived in Opua, New Zealand. "Bruce and Marcelle did what the rest of us hope we would have the courage to do," said Deane.

Speaking of Opua, Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins of the Mill Valley-based Wylie 38+ Flashgirl reports that while doing his laundry at the Opua Marina on a Friday afternoon, he popped into the busy Opua Cruising Club for a fish & chips lunch. With his steaming platter in hand, Commodore searched the crowded club for a place to sit, and finally found a spot with two men. The three got to talking, as sailors do, and Commodore learned that the younger and more talkative of the two was Jesse Smith of the Chesapeake-based Skye 51 Obelisk. Smith had doubled Cape Horn, then spent 18 months cruising Chile before continuing west to New Zealand. The other gentleman was Andrzes Plewil of Poland, who didn't say much because he's not fluent in English. Smith advised Commodore that Plewil had doubled Cape Horn with his 38-ft Plonika.

"What are the chances that three random people could sit down for a meal at the Opua Cruising Club, and all three had doubled Cape Horn going the wrong way?," asks Commodore. Not very good — particularly since the 'wrong way' means east to west, and against the wind and seas rather than the much easier west to east with the wind and seas. Commodore had sailed the 1,000-mile 50° South to 50° South stretch as a young boy aboard his parents' 85-ft LOD schooner Wanderbird. They were in the process of making the 120-day trip from Gloucester to San Francisco. If you haven't seen the short film 50° South to 50° South that Commodore's father made about the trip, you must Google it. You will be boggled by the 60-ft seas, but even more so at how Commodore and his young sister used the schooner as a giant playground while underway. If today's Child Protective Services could have seen the young kids at the end of the long bowsprit without PFDs, scrambling to the top of the masts, or swinging in the rigging, they'd be apoplectic.

In a world where governments such as the State of California pay a graduate of an Afghanistan university over $820,000 a year — Google it, it's true — to be an on-call prison psychiatrist, our heart skips a beat when we learn about a low-income person who is living and cruising well within his modest means. We're talking about Bill Anderson of the Banderas Bay-based Hughes 39 catamaran Feet. Anderson was a long time ski instructor at Squaw Valley, a job he says that doesn't pay much unless you teach celebrities. "The only celebrity I ever taught was Sonny Bono, and he killed himself by skiing into a tree." After suffering back problems, Anderson decided to start building his cat in January of '95. Before it was over, he'd put in $120,000 and 9,000 man hours — "a tenth of my life" — into finishing his boat. But Feet is cool, and weighing just 6,000 pounds, is a little hot rod. Anyway, Anderson tells us that he's been enjoying life on his boat in Mexico for years while living on just $300 a month — which is less than half of what he collects from social security. To put that in context, that's $68,200 less per month than California taxpayers paid for the on-call psychiatric services of one Mohammed Safi. It makes us wonder who is more in need of having their heads examined, California prisoners or California voters.

Jimmy Cornell, who founded the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), and who has managed some 30 other long distance cruiser rallies, is at it again, this time with the Blue Planet Odyssey. It's the most ambitious undertaking of his career.

"Blue Planet Odyssey will call at some of the most threatened islands in every ocean, including Tuvalu, Tokelau, the Tuamotus, the San Blas, the Maldives, Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshalls, and India's Andaman Islands," says Cornell. "Participants will be able to start and finish from a port on their own continent, or join the event at any point along its route. Blue Planet Odyssey will sail westabout around the world along the classic tradewind route via the Panama Canal and Torres Strait. For those who prefer to sail a more challenging route, there will be the option of a northern route via the Northwest Passage or a southern route via Easter Island."

We're not sure how anyone can effectively coordinate an event that has starts in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, Australia, Asia, and also features two Northwest Passage Routes and an Easter Island Route. But if anyone can, it's the irrepressible Cornell. It must be noted that the Romanian-born former reporter for the BBC is much more than a prolific organizer and author, as he as also sailed 200,000 ocean miles, which has included three circumnavigations as well as trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. The primary start for the Blue Planet Odyssey will be in August of '14 from a yet-to-be-specified port in southern Europe. Entry fees have yet to be determined.

Speaking of the ARC, for the first time since '89, the Canary Islands start of the granddaddy of all cruising rallies was delayed several days due to the forecast of high winds on the nose. Participants roared their approval when the announcement was made.

In a stunning surprise, the Class 40 Vaquita from landlocked Austria was the first of 226 ARC boats to finish, covering the 2,700 miles to St. Lucia in just 12 days and one hour — an average of over nine knots. They'd taken an extreme northern route for the third year in a row, which despite adding 600 miles to their crossing, enabled them to beat a Swan 80 and other large racing boats to the finish. Vaquita was one of the fleet's few racing boats, so most of the event's 1,269 participants couldn't care less how fast she sailed, only that they and their many new friends had made it across safely. The cruisers in this overwhelmingly cruising event had strong winds — meaning lots of double- and even triple-reefed mains — for the first half of the crossing, and light winds for the second half. The ARC is one of the great cruising events in the world.

While we're on the subject of cruising rallies, John and Lyn Martin, directors of New Zealand's Island Cruising Association, inquired if Latitude and/or the Ha-Ha might be interested in joining forces for a 'Return to the States' cruising rally for Puddle Jumpers. They're thinking of an 8-month event that would see the fleet leave from New Zealand and stop at the Australs, Tuamotus, Line Islands, Hawaii, and Seattle. We wish them well with the concept, but it's too long and grand an event for what we would be able to be involved in.

Pierre Belanger of the Canadian Beneteau 411 Coulicou reported that his wife was jumped on December 10 by two black males — approximately 16 years of age — as she was returning to their boat after checking in on the French side of St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean. Although the assailants weren't armed, they beat the woman badly enough around the head that she had to be taken to the hospital. The two youths managed to make off with the woman's purse, which contained the couples' boat papers, passports, and cash. Two suspects were later arrested, but nothing has been recovered. The woman had gone ashore after lunch, and left her dinghy at the the Budget Marine dock, which is on the canal on the French side of Simpson Bay Lagoon, a short walk from Marigot. Her path to and from the official offices in Marigot would have taken her along one of the most heavily traveled streets on St. Martin, and in the middle of the day. The woman was jumped near the lagoon bridge. Not long before the incident Coulicou had completed the Caribbean 1500 rally.

We've said it before, but those of you who think cruising in Mexico is more dangerous than cruising in the Caribbean have no idea what you're talking about. We say this based on having had boats in both places for more than 15 years. St. Martin, Latitude readers will remember, is where several assailants boarded Manhattan Beach-based circumnavigator Mike Harker's Hunter 49 Wanderer III, and repeatedly kicked him in the head. He died of a stroke not long afterward, we suspect from complications caused by being kicked in the head so many times. St. Martin is a gorgeous island with great sailing, great beaches, great Indian food, and some great people. But you must be on guard, because it can be a dangerous place, too. Unless you look and act like a local, it's best not to walk alone except in tourist areas, and stay in groups and lighted areas after dark.

We're not fluent in French, so we might have some details wrong, but apparently the French owner of what appears to be a F/P 56 cat died, along with his four French crew, on the night of November 12 after his catamaran Love Love went on the beach near Saidia, Morocco. The cat was slated to sail across the Atlantic to Brazil, but her boom had broken, so she was being taken back to Gibraltar for repairs. With the winds said to be blowing 15 to 20 knots, the crew attempted to motor the cat into the resort port at night to get fuel. Some claim the entrance to the port is littered with fishing nets, and apparently one or both of the cat's props and rudders got fouled in the nets, rendering her helpless. It's unclear how it happened, but the cat somehow flipped, and ended up on the beach, all her crew dead. The daughter of the cat's owner is furious about the incident, saying that her father was an extremely meticulous and experienced sailor, and that sailors have long complained that the poorly marked nets are a severe navigation hazard.

On December 7 James Blackford found himself making an unexpected visit to Japan aboard the motor vessel Global Explorer. This was a result of his sailboat, Makalii — type and hailing port unknown — having been dismasted and taking on water 85 miles northwest of Palmyra in a lonely part of the Pacific. Blackford's setting off his EPIRB activated the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) System. This brought a Coast Guard aircraft to the scene to make sure he was stable. After two days of drifting, Blackford was picked up, but had to abandon his boat.

Still think EPIRBs aren't worth the money? Just three weeks before, the 56-ft sailboat Island Breeze, with four people aboard, lost her steering 170 miles off the coast of Virginia. The crew set off their EPIRB, which activated the AMVER system, which resulted in a Coast Guard H-130 aircraft and a Jayhawk helicopter arriving on the scene. The four crew were safely picked up a short time later by the 753-ft bulk carrier Eptalofos.

John and Cynthia Tindle of Hermosa Beach are saddened to report the loss of the Jeanneau 45 Utopia, a boat that brought them 10 years of cruising pleasure in the Caribbean. The couple had sold Utopia in April of '11 to a man from Venezuela. For some reason the new relationship didn't take, so in August of last year the boat was being delivered up to St. Martin to be sold. August is hurricane season in the Caribbean, and Tropical Storm Isaac blew through while Utopia was lying on a mooring off the Purple Turtle Beach, Prince Rupert’s Bay, Dominica. Utopia's two delivery crew said they were aware of the approaching storm, but figured they were in good shape on the mooring. Alas, something failed in the early hours of August 22, and by the time the crew realized it, the boat was on rocky Point Glou-Glou. She was soon destroyed. We don't know if there was anything wrong with the mooring, but we do know that a lot of boats been have been lost over the years after captains put their faith in unfamiliar moorings.

Indonesia need not pay Latitude a huge consulting fee to have us explain why their dream of attracting 20,000 boats a year is delusional. There aren't that many boats sailing around the world, let alone sailors interested in cruising Indonesia. It's that simple, so do your country a favor and forget the 'get rich quick' scheme. However, if Indonesia wants to see a sustainable increase in the number of visiting cruising boats, and the money they leave behind, there are two simple and obvious steps they need to take: 1) Stop making it so horribly difficult and expensive to get visas and cruising permits; and 2) Have veterans of the Australian-owned Sail Indonesia Rally explain why the event gets such poor reviews, and then make the appropriate changes.

"Our arrival in Fort Lauderdale marked the completion of our 12-year circumnavigation with our Deerfoot 74 Interlude," report Kurt and Katie Braun of Alameda. "We spent nine months in Lauderdale doing a refit — including painting her a different color, in case anybody is looking for us. After that, we spent the summer cruising New England. We are now slowly making our way back to the Bay Area. Currently we're in Aruba, but plan to spend a month in the San Blas Islands before transiting the Canal. We'll be on the Bay for the America's Cup."

Well done! For anyone looking for an intelligent and thorough sailing blog, we highly recommend the Brauns'.

"Just a quick update from the South Pacific," writes David Kane of the Atlantic 42 cat Lightspeed, with which he did the '05 Ha-Ha and '06 Puddle Jump, and with which he and his wife Kathy did the '11 Ha-Ha and '12 Puddle Jump. "It looks like developing cyclone Evan will be the first of the season, and is expected to strike the Samoan Islands in the next 24 hours, then double back for Fiji and Tonga. Fifteen cruising boats are hunkered down here in Pago Pago, American Samoa, to ride out the blow."

As we went to press, we were still trying to get details of the destruction caused by Evan. According to some experts, Evan turned out to be the most powerful tropical cyclone in the South Pacific in 20 years, and it tore through Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, American Samoa, Western Samoa and Fiji, with winds to 140 knots. Those in American Samoa, like the Kanes, seemed to have dodged a bullet, as Evan took an unexpected turn at the last moment. We've also heard that boats in storage at Vuda Point, Fiji, did quite well. Nonetheless, we can only assume that many boats were lost to this terrible storm. A number of people were killed, and thousands were left homeless, in a large part due to storm surges and flooding.

We apologize for having to report so much bad news in this issue of Cruise Notes. But please don't get the wrong impression, as there are thousands upon thousands of folks out there cruising and having a great time. Us, for example. And everybody else we've talked to in Mexico this season.

Speaking of Mexico, there are some great events coming up, including the Zihua SailFest, the Banderas Bay Regatta, the La Paz BayFest, and Loreto Fest. Then there's the Caribbean, where there are too many great events to list. Get out and enjoy them! And don't forget to write.

Missing the pictures? See the January 2013 eBook!


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