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January 2016

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With reports this month on Sea Loone starting a fourth circumnavigation;
from El Gato on great sailing in the ARC+ and in the Med; from Nereida in Mexico after three circumnavigations; from Family Circus on a surprisingly great sail from Fiji to New Zealand; from Sea Level on the inland waterway north of Bahia Santa Maria; from Geja on yet another summer in the Adriatic;
and Cruise Notes.

Sea Loone — 33-ft Ferro sloop
Roy Starkey
Back Out Where He Belongs
(Liverpool, England, and The World)

We first heard about Roy Starkey last year when he was looking for publicity for Round and Round and Round, the 500-page book he wrote about his 39 years of nearly nonstop sailing adventures. The good news, we suppose, is that he's taken off again on yet another circumnavigation. Starkey's story is so unusual and inspiratonal, we decided to republish the letter he sent to us last year:

"My story starts in 1971, when at age 25, and with no money, no boatbuilding skills, and no sailing knowledge, I found a site in Liverpool where I could start building a 33-ft ferrocement sailboat. I launched Sea Loone in 1976, and set sail for the Caribbean. That cruise was not a great success, as I ran out of money, couldn't find work, got dismasted, and just before getting home was battered by the Fastnet Storm of 1979 that claimed the lives of 18 sailors. I was penniless when we got back to Liverpool.

"Despite that unsuccessful start, in the last 39 years I've completed three convoluted circumnavigations with the same humble boat. When I started out, my boat had paraffin lights and I navigated using a vernier sextant and Norries tables — although I did have an unreliable SatNav, too. Now I've got GPS and AIS, the latter being a dream for the singlehanded sailor.

"When I started out, Sea Loone's engine was a Lister diesel that I'd taken from a cement mixer. She was first replaced by a cast iron Volvo diesel with a gearbox and alternator. Now my boat has a three-cylinder Yanmar diesel. Sea Loone's solar panels provide reliable electricity, but I still don't have refrigeration. I do, however, have a pressure cooker and lots of mason jars.

"Believe it or not, I've never had Sea Loone in a marina. She's almost always been on the move, and I've never left her for more than a few weeks.

"Why have I been cruising since 1976? It's the combination of the adventure of arriving in strange places, meeting new people, hearing different languages, and getting to know unusual cultures.

"Having to find work, or at least ways to make money, proved to add spice to the mix. I did pile driving in the United States and papermaking in Australia, and fabricated mining machinery in South Africa. I've also bought stuff — tagua nuts, rum, Makonda carvings, tapa cloth and Brazilian bikinis — in one place and sold them for a profit in another. I've also made and sold jewelry. All to keep the crew fed and the boat sailing.

"It was — and still is — an interesting life that I've really enjoyed. Thinking some people might want to read about it, I wrote Round and Round and Round about my adventures. There are 70 color photos — including a few with tits and bums for the older sailors. Using my name and the title, you can find and buy the book at Amazon."

— latitude/rs 12/05/2015

El Gato — Catana 472
Annie Gardner and Eric Witte
Eat Sail Love
(San Diego)

"We effing killed it!" exclaimed Annie Gardner after El Gato crossed the ARC+ (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) finish line in St. Lucia in late October, fourth boat-for-boat in a fleet of 59 boats. The first boat was the X-612 Nix, which completed the 2,100-mile course in 10 days, 4 hours and 51 minutes. Second to finish by about an hour was the Gib Sea 51 Adrienne II. Third by another hour was the F/P Victoria 67 catamaran Lir, with El Gato just another hour back.

If the standings were based on a speed/least damage basis, El Gato would have been first. "We kept it safe," says Gardner, "so when the bigger yachts were barreling down the course with spinnakers up trying to dodge squalls, we took ours down. This allowed the two monohulls and Lir, a cat with 20 more feet of waterline than ours, to stretch their leads. But they had kites rip in half, poles snap, mainsails split (they carried a spare), genoas tear, blocks blow up and so forth. Our damage? Hmmmm — oh yeah, the autopilot stopped functioning. We worked hard to prevent problems and it paid off."

"Ten days, 9 hours, 10 minutes to cross the Atlantic on our home on the water!" enthused Gardner. "It was fast and furious, as we had our first 200-mile day and then a bunch more. El Gato's top speed was 19.7 knots, not bad for a luxurious 47-ft cat. It took tons of preparation and a lot of hard work, of course, but it was totally worth it."

[Editor’s note: The 10 day, 9 hour time is a little confusing because that was for the 2,100 miles from the Cape Verdes, not the 2,700 miles from Gran Canaria. The source of the confusion will be explained shortly.]

Gardner — who was the navigator for the 1995 Women's America's Cup team, and who has won countless regattas and held countless world sailing titles, including a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics — and Eric, who has taught sailing for decades, picked the 'right' ARC to do this year. Let us explain.

Because the 225 ARC slots had been oversubscribed year after year, three years ago World Cruising Ltd., which puts on the ARC and other cruising rallies, created an additional event to accommodate everyone. That event is the ARC+. The difference between ARC+ and the ARC is that the ARC+ started from Gran Canaria on November 8, and the fleet sailed south to the Cape Verdes and stopped for a few days. They then continued 2,100 miles across the Atlantic to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. The 'regular' ARC boats started from Gran Canaria on November 22 and sailed 2,700 nonstop miles to St. Lucia.

In theory, the boats from both fleets would arrive in St. Lucia in time for the December 9 hullabaloo of a combined party. Theory doesn’t always work out in sailing, and there was different wind for the two events. The ARC+ had a lot of wind while the ARC didn't. In fact, many of the ARC boats didn't make it to St. Lucia in time for their awards party.

Gardner and Witte did not do the ARC+ alone. For the first leg to the Cape Verdes, which they also 'killed', they had two other sailors along as crew: Lewie Wake and Betsy Crowfoot of Southern California. Work obligations prevented Crowfoot from doing the second leg. Fourth crewmember Niza Brown, who suffered bouts of food poisoning and seasickness, was a dedicated cook. That meant when the autopilot crapped out in the middle of the Atlantic, Annie, Eric and Lewie had to hand-steer eight hours a day each. You might not think it, but it was hardest on their feet.

"This journey will be one to share with each other for years to come, and a good tale to tell to the grandkids someday," reflected Gardner. "The nice thing is that we're now in the Caribbean, which is where we want to stay for as long as possible."

This 30th anniversary of the first ARC attracted a total of 254 entries, an all-time record. There were 12 entries from the United States, about half of them multihulls. About one third of the entries sailed the Canaries-Cape Verdes-St. Lucia ARC+ course. We suspect the percentage of boats taking that ARC+ route over the traditional ARC course will grow in coming years, as there tend to be more consistent trades farther south, and the boats get to stop instead of sailing nonstop. It is, however, a longer course.

Although Gardner is one of the most accomplished women sailors in the world, the ARC+ was her — and Witte’s — first ocean crossing. The couple, married less than a year, purchased El Gato in France in December 2014 and cruised her as far east as Greece during the summer of 2015. Toward the end of summer, they made their way west across the Med and down to the Canaries for the start of the ARC+. Annie writes a great blog and takes terrific photos, so if you’re curious about cruising in the Med and crossing the Atlantic, we recommend that you visit Here are some snippets of the kind of info you'll find:

Red Tape and VAT: "We’re not exactly cruising yet, as there is so much to do, so much red tape, and the language barriers don't help. The latest issue is that our equipment shipment from West Marine is stuck in Paris. Officials want all kinds of proof that we own our boat, that we are leaving the country with the boat, and that we won’t resell the goods in France. If we can't prove this, we'll have to pay 20% VAT. The idea behind our buying stuff at West was to save money and know what we were buying. We were assured it would be easy breezy if West followed French instructions to a 'T', which they assured us they did. By the way, everything in France except food is hit with 20% VAT."

Paperwork: "Another problem is completing the paperwork needed to delete El Pato from French documentation and getting her documented as El Gato with the U.S. Officials tell us it’s different here, and each day the friends who are helping us ask for more papers. We have no idea what's going on, so it's a mess, but someday it will be over. Meanwhile, we have to register the VHF radios, EPIRBS, AIS and Iridium Go!"

The French way: "We're thankful we're at the Catana Yard, as anything and everything can and will be fixed. It’s just hard to communicate, and the culture and pace of work are different. For example, nobody can work more than 35 hours a week, and they take such long lunch breaks that they actually go home to eat. The workmanship is great, but the work takes longer than we could have ever imagined. Since Eric is 'McGiver', we ultimately told Catana that we would just take off and finish the work ourselves."

Not the only ones new to cruising: "We've met couples from various countries who have bought boats to go cruising. Some are in their 60s and don't even know how to sail. For example, Michella and Patricio, a French couple, learned to sail last year, bought a Lagoon 380 cat, and now live aboard. Our Aussie friends, on the other hand, took a four-day — (!) — sailing class and then bought a very expensive 50-ft Saba cat. The stories we hear are amazing."

If novices can do it: "As we hoped, the cruising community is very friendly and helpful. Despite our decades of sailing experience, these novice sailors inspire us, for if they can do it, surely we can also."

A different kind of Christmas: "Eric and I spent Christmas 2014 working on El Gato, then rode our new fold-up bikes around the local towns. The bikes have seven speeds, lights front and back, racks in back, and fit down the forward hatches. We love them. The Catana factory is in a rural area with farms, vineyards and chateaus, and it's mostly flat and thus great for riding. The beach towns are desolate at this time of year."

No Christmas turkey: "Our Christmas dinner was duck. The Italian who previously owned and loved our cat had a real thing for ducks, which is why the boat is named El Pato. So Eric and I figure we should eat lots of duck before we change the boat's name."

How come we didn't think of that?!: "When we bought our boat in December 2014, we thought we had a great cruising plan. We'd sail over to the Caribbean as soon as we got the boat ready. But life has a way of changing plans. With still no papers from Customs, our radar and chartplotter stuck in Customs, and friends continually asking us when we'll arrive in the Caribbean so they can make plane reservations, we started listening to people who asked us why we were in such a rush to leave the Med."

“Have you thought about staying and cruising the Med for a season before crossing the Atlantic?" they asked us. We hadn't, but suddenly it made a lot of sense. Eric and I discussed it and then made the call — we'd spend a summer cruising the Med! And boy did it feel right. Suddenly there was no more stress about when the boat would be ready, when we would have everything together, and so forth. The lists are still long, but the pressure is off."

Where to?: "We're buying all the cruising publications and charts for the Med. How cool is that? We're hoping to be able to sail to Spain in a few weeks, as even a few degrees warmer would be nicer than it is here in France. And who would guess that we’d want less wind, not more, than we've been having. The other day it gusted to 51 knots at the Catana yard. Later we'll sail back up through France, then over to Corsica, Sardinia, mainland Italy, Greece, Croatia and Turkey. Wow, are we psyched!"

Pink and blue jobs: "Eric and I conquer tasks by dividing them up. There are pink jobs and blue jobs, and all sorts of jobs that overlap. Eric is Chief Engineer, I am the Communicator. Eric makes sure all things are running smoothly, while I cook. I drive when we anchor or dock, and he climbs out on the spinnaker pole to lower the last bit of anchor chain or throws lines around the cleats. I navigate. He teaches me new tricks on our B&G systems."

It's not all cocktails at sunset: "Despite the idea that we're 'cruising', there is actually a lot of work to be done. We're generally up at 7 a.m. and not done until 9 p.m. It's good the summer days are long, but then we realize it's almost 10 p.m. and we haven't eaten yet! But we love it, as the jobs are rewarding."

Two drifters off to see the world: "Eric and I are a good team. We respect each other and our strengths are complementary. We are learning who does what, when and how, and it's working very well."

[Editor's note: We'll have a second installment of El Gato in the Med next month. Meanwhile, Annie and Eric are starting to do crewed charters in the Caribbean. If you are interested in sailing with a couple who have a wealth of sailing experience, from the America's Cup to cruising the Med and the Atlantic, you can contact them at]

— annie / latitude 12/05/2015

Nereida — Najad 380
Jeanne Socrates
Loving Mexico
(Vancouver, B.C.)

I thought you might enjoy an update on my whereabouts, since it’s been a long time since I reported in with you! I left British Columbia for San Francisco in September 2013 so I could enjoy ambling down the coast of California. I reached Ensenada by the end of 2013, continued down the coast of Baja, and made my way up to San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez by late February 2014. Then I had a heavy travel schedule — visits to Austin, New York City for the Cruising Club of America's Blue Water Medal, London for the OCC's Barton Cup and the Royal Cruising Club's Seamanship Medal, Maine and New Hampshire, and Phoenix.

All that traveling was a bit hectic, but I finally got back to Nereida in April last year. I planned to do a lot of work on the boat, but breaking my collarbone put paid to that. Three times around in the Southern Ocean in four years takes a toll on a boat, and I had lots to replace or mend, in addition to a long list of the normal maintenance jobs. Plus, I wanted to make a few additions for the future cruising I have in mind. The big new thing was having a fiberglass hardtop made to replace the canvas awning.

Anyway, after several months on the hard, it was finally time to get underway again and sail down to La Cruz on Banderas Bay. It was a typical cruiser set-up — meeting old friends and making new ones while enjoying the lovely, friendly Mexican village, working on my Spanish, enjoying the live music everywhere. I enjoyed it so much that I stayed several months before returning to San Carlos by way of Mazatlan. Mazatlan proved to be another great place full of history and friendly people.

I love Mexico and the people of Mexico — but how frustrating it can be trying to get any work done in a reasonable time-frame! Two lessons I learned: 1) They go out of their way not to say 'no'; and 2) 'Mañana' does not mean 'tomorrow', it simply means 'not today!'

I spent a hot August in the Sea of Cortez, which is a wild and beautiful place. I anchored in deserted coves; I enjoyed vivid sunsets highlighting the rose-pink rocks and mountains and contrasting with the blue water; I gazed up at clear starlit night skies as the Space Station passed overhead; I breathed sighs of relief when chubascos kept at a safe distance; I snorkeled among beautiful big and little fish, many of them beautifully marked, each day. Rays jumping out of the water were a daily sight, dolphins came close, and whales were frequently close by. Thirsty bees came searching for fresh water, so I soon learned that taking a shower or running any water on board before sunset brings a swarm of them!

I returned to the Sea in October, hoping to explore new places before the Northers set in, but got away rather late in the month. Ensenada Julio Villa turned out to be not such a good spot for a boat of Nereida’s size when a Norther blew. It's too small and too shallow to be able to get an anchor to set well with enough chain for a big blow.

In the pitch dark soon after sunset, the wind suddenly started to blow at 30 knots from the northwest. My boat was dragged onto the rocks by the entrance to the cove. I was lucky, for after what seemed like an eternity of not moving, I eventually succeeded in powering off the rocks and away from the cove. I ultimately was able to retrieve my chain and anchor in the safety of deep water, but in very rough conditions. It’s good to have a sturdily-built boat, as the damage to the rudder proved to be limited to the very lowest section, leaving most of it undamaged and usable. Thank God! By 3 a.m. I had made my way back to San Carlos.

Back on the hard in late November in San Carlos, we had even more work to do. Oh well, it was time for the annual haulout anyway. Another learning curve — how to reconstruct a rudder using closed-cell foam. It's easy to forget just how sociable the work yard can be, as you meet friends, lend and borrow tools, discuss the best ways to do a particular job, occasionally go out in the evenings to relax before early bed, and so forth. I'm pleased to say that I 'splashed' last Saturday with a lovely-looking rudder. The Mexicans are excellent workers in fiberglass, and they've done a good job.

If it's any consolation to you people in the Bay Area, the weather here in the Sea turned quite cold by November, especially at night. I need to move south soon to get into warmer climes.

— jeanne 12/04/2015

Family Circus — Lagoon 470
The Tzortzis Family
Fiji to New Zealand
(San Francisco)

Thanks to the reports of other cruisers and the weather history of the route, we were more anxious about our pending 1,150-mile passage from Fiji to New Zealand than any other since we left Sausalito. We decided to stay longer in Fiji than planned, as we hadn't gotten around to the eastern side. We're thankful that we did stay, as the snorkeling/diving and waterfalls were spectacular. Most boats leave the tropics for New Zealand by late October to avoid the chance of tropical cyclones, so we were one of the last.

We took on fuel like an oil tanker so we'd be able to motor 90% of the way, if needed. Then we waited for a weather window. We were in our 16th month of cruising since leaving San Francisco, but we still rely on weather routers for the long passages. We are still learning about meteorology, and know enough to know that we don't know anything at all. In the big scheme of things the weather routing — about $65 for this crossing — is dirt cheap. In addition, getting professional routing advice promotes marital harmony and absolves blame if things go wrong.

Bob McDavitt, our weather guy, gave us the green light on November 22. So after checking out of Levuka, the old capital of Fiji on the eastern side, we headed out into some bumpy seas and moderate breeze. We were double-reefed and were flying a jib, as we knew the first few days would be a bit rough. They were, but it also meant we really moved along.

All seven of us — we had a friend's 17-year-old son, George, on as 'super crew' — took bets on when we would arrive. Aline, our seven-year-old, came up with 6 days, 8 hours, the shortest time.

After 48 hours of fast sailing, the winds and seas eased a little bit and the wind went forward of the beam. I was worried about the seas on the beam and the wind angle, but everything spaced out far enough so that we had an unbelievably fast ride for our 'house'. Family Circus generated enough apparent wind in the 12-16 knots of breeze that we were doing 8s and 9s — with a smooth ride. The fun lasted for two and a half days until the wind went aft and died down. We finally had to motor the last 180 miles.

We pulled in to Opua, Bay of Islands in just under six days — 5 days, 22 hours, to be exact. That was even faster than Aline's guess. We averaged 8.05 knots for the 1,150-mile trip. As folks in the 2014 Ha-Ha probably saw, Family Circus is heavily laden with school books, cruising swag, toys and other stuff. Nonetheless, I was still amazed at how well our 12-year-old cruising cat performs.

For comparison, on our Puddle Jump from La Cruz to the Marquesas, we only averaged seven knots.

After all that pre-trip anxiety, Fiji to New Zealand was probably our best passage to date. Oddly enough, we had our strongest winds and biggest seas just two days out of San Francisco as we rounded Point Conception. We were surfing downwind in 30-ish knots of wind. It was then that we set our all-time boat speed record of 19.4 knots.

We will stay in New Zealand over the cyclone season and do some land cruising, as well as making short visits to Australia and back to the U.S. We only have eight short months left on our two-year cruising agenda, and thus will put our cat up for sale before too long.

But it's been an amazing family experience so far. Thanks again to the publisher of Latitude 38, as the stories and photos are what got us started on this idea and got us off the dock.

—chris and heather 12/05/2015

Sea Level — Schionning 49
Jim and Kent Milski
Up The Waterway from BSM
(Lake City, Colorado)

Seven times we have bypassed Mag Bay and its estuaries when traveling up or down the Baja Peninsula. This year, after completing our fourth wonderful Ha-Ha, we decided that we wanted to explore that area more. We were joined by three old friends, and headed back up to Mag Bay with the intent of exploration and good times.

We got lucky on the 125-mile way back up from Cabo, as we caught a northeasterly, which allowed us to beat our way up to the southern entrance to Bahia Almejas (Bay of Clams). The sail wasn't too bad, as we stayed close to shore, which limited the fetch and also gave us some relief from the southbound current.

We arrived outside the bay at 0700, two hours before high tide. We had good light and the swell was small, so the entrance wasn't too difficult to see. We proceeded with caution and never saw less than nine feet of water. We anchored just inside the entrance to go beachcombing and enjoy the first day of our mini adventure.

This was the second time we'd crossed this entrance into the bay, the first time being four years ago. The first thing we noticed this time was the increased number of pangas. This area is teeming with aquatic life, so we'd also known it would just be a matter of time before it would be exploited. Fish camps have greatly increased in number.

To give you an idea of the size of the three-bay combination of Magdalena Bay, Bahia Almejas and Bahia Santa Maria, think of San Francisco Bay from San Jose to Vallejo. Mag Bay has an inland waterway that continues 60 miles north from the Bahia Almejas entrance, often just a short distance in from the Pacific. Transiting this was our main goal, as we've heard stories about the waterway for years. We wanted to know if it was navigable, and whether it was possible to exit back into the Pacific at the northern end.

The second day we traveled to Man O' War Cove, and checked in with the harbormaster. It's a nice little fishing village. If you are in need of fuel, it can be arranged, as someone will make a quick run over to San Carlos with fuel jugs.

Early the next morning we headed up the estuary to Lopez Mateos. We thought we would be able to 'read' the water using the variations in color. We soon discovered this was impossible because of cloudy water and the ripples created by the wind. So we employed what Captain Ron recommended: We asked every fisherman we saw for directions.

One fisherman offered to guide us north, but he got bored when he realized how slowly we travel. Most of the fisherman we saw were drag-netting for shrimp. They have developed an ingenious way of attaching dragnets to their pangas using a couple of outriggers, either fore and aft or port and starboard, and drifting with the current or motoring slowly. The waterway is too shallow for the big shrimp boats, so if they don't over-fish or pollute the waters, they have an efficient industry.

We proceeded slowly up the waterway, mostly favoring the ocean side. Sometimes it was a bit confusing and, of course, one person was constantly monitoring the depthsounder. The bottom is all mud or sand so it wasn't like when we were in the South Pacific and had to worry because striking the coral bottom could be disastrous. We never did hit bottom, although we came very close. With the boards up, our 49-ft cat only draws about two feet, so we're not sure deeper draft boats would have done as well.

After a day of going up this fascinating waterway, we came upon the Devil's Elbow. It is marked, but we didn't understand how. We finally figured it out using common sense, and managed to get back on course.

We decided to drop anchor here and do a bit of exploring. We had a constant breeze, so no-see-ums were not a problem. But if it had been a calm and damp night, I think screens would have been needed. We hiked the dunes and saw shell mounds were almost everywhere we looked. I have no idea how many people lived here in the past, but based on what we saw, it must have been a considerable number.

From our vantage point atop one of the dunes, we could see for miles and miles. It was nothing but beautiful wilderness, one of our best anchorages ever. While having afternoon cocktails and patting ourselves on the back for making it up this 'dangerous' waterway, and thinking we were like Humphrey and Hepburn in Africa, along came not one, but two big sardine boats, steaming along at eight knots. They passed by close to us and we whistled — not realizing how this shattered their Latino egos — and waved.

I thought that shrimpers might only make the journey to Lopez Mateos, where there is a sardine processing station, at high tide. Lo and behold, another one came up the waterway at low tide, telling us that the waterway is wide and deep — if you know where to go.

The next morning we continued on to Lopez Mateos, a pleasant little town with all services. It's a popular base for whale watching. Bob Hoyt of Mag Bay Outfitters was on the dock when we arrived, and I caught up with him early the next day to get a little more information about the estuary and the history.

Bob runs several services in the area, and can be contacted easily by going to his website at A Southern Californian, he told me he's been down in Lopez Mateos for 12 years, so he knows the people and the area really well. Bob also gave us information on how to exit Boca de Soledad, which is about five miles north of Lopez Mateos, to get back into the Pacific.

We spent a couple of days in Lopez Mateos bird-watching and meeting some of the locals. We were also waiting for the surf to subside a little for our exit into the Pacific. Bob kept us informed about the surf at the end. Boats go out there into the Pacific all the time, but it was a little frightening for us because it's hard to figure where the deepest channel is.

I got a little off course by trying to cross the bar a little early, and got in some really shallow water. Again fortune was with us, and we managed to get back into the channel quickly. We proceeded with caution, and waited for a lull in the sets of waves. Except during my little blunder, we never saw less than 16 feet of water. But this passage is much harder to read than the entrance to Bahia Almejas. Once through the pass, we set sail to Bahia Santa Maria, which is one of our favorite anchorages on the west coast of Mexico.

If your boat is too deep for the inland waterway, you could still enjoy the beautiful experience by anchoring in Man O' War Cove and going up by dinghy. It would be a long ride — 40 miles — and you'd want to carry extra fuel, but it would be well worth the effort.

— jim and kent 12/15/2015

Geja — Islander 36
Andrew Vik
A Scorching Summer in The Med
(San Francisco)

I had another fantastic cruise in the Med last summer, my eighth in a row since buying Geja through the pages of Latitude 38 back in 2008. I was underway for seven fun-filled weeks, joined as usual by friends — and friends of friends ­­— for weeklong legs.

Not one to mind crowds and late, loud music from shoreside bars and clubs, I sail during the peak of the peak season, namely mid-July to late August. This summer’s cruise took me on a party-filled adventure from Geja’s winter home near Split, Croatia, to the southern end of Montenegro, and back.

With seven seasons under my belt, I've become accustomed to the Mediterranean cruising experience — crowded anchorages, tricky Med-mooring, inexperienced charter skippers, surly government officials (in the east), expensive marinas, inexpensive food and drinks (in the east), the summer party vibe, fun-loving locals and tourists, and more. Nonetheless, there were still plenty of 'firsts' for me this year.

— A super-strong dollar compared to the euro. For the first summer since I purchased Geja, a euro cost less than $1.20 U.S. Typically it’s been at about $1.35, but this summer it hovered right around $1.10. I’ll take the 20% discount, thank you.

— In the Pakleni Islands near Hvar, Remi was the first crewmate to ever swim back from shore with a precious bag of ice in one hand — and a gin & tonic in the other!

— Croatia is no stranger to wildfires, but this was the first time that one threatened a town near where we were anchored. A horribly hot night wind fanned massive visible flames on the ridges above the village of Brna on the island of Korcula. The town’s annual festival was canceled, as all local men were summoned to fight the fire. Brna was spared, but the fire raged until dawn, when three water-scooping airplanes arrived, skimming seawater from the bay just 100 yards from Geja.

— This and other devastating wildfires afflicted Croatia this summer, and for the first time we woke up to decks covered in ash from distant fires.

— It was a scorching-hot summer! As a result, for the first time ever my crews and I sought out air-conditioned indoor spots for coffee, ice cream, meals — and even lodging. It was so hot that I spent two nights in hotels just to escape the heat. Usually air temperatures are around 90° — plenty warm, in my opinion — but this summer we had 95°-100° for weeks in a row. Sea temperatures, usually around 80°, remained pleasantly above 85° for most of the summer.

— In Cavtat, Croatia’s southernmost port of entry/exit, it was the first time that I was ever charged for “line handling.” The customs dock there is a chaotic joke, with 150-foot megayachts and private sailboats trying to med-moor, usually in crosswinds, to a very short and specific section of quay. (Don’t even think of 'borrowing' the adjacent overnight berths while getting your exit paperwork processed.)

The 'official' who catches your stern lines is really a concessionaire who charges 13 euros (!) for the favor. At nearly every other customs dock in Croatia, you may tie up alongside on your own. In Cavtat, “it is forbidden to jump from the vessel until it is securely moored.” Therefore the concessionaire is 'needed'.

— Noonsite advises the few yachts that visit mysterious Albania to expect local kids to treat your anchored boat like a diving platform. Ulcinj, a town in the south of Montenegro, is ethnically more Albanian than Montenegrin, and it was in Ulcinj that I watched from shore as two grown men climbed Geja’s anchor chain and lounged around on the foredeck. I quickly summoned a jet ski to race me out to confront the pair. One hopped off right away, while the other assured me that he hadn’t 'nicked' anything — despite living in London and being a thief. Then he hopped off. Geja had never been boarded like this before. Anywhere north of there, I wouldn’t even hesitate to leave the swim ladder down while away from the boat. In this case, the ladder had been up and the companionway locked.

— Ever been anchored out at night in a wild thunderstorm while a call to prayer was broadcast from a nearby mosque? It was a surreal first for me this summer, again in Ulcinj. Montenegro is primarily an Orthodox Christian country, but the south is dominated by muslims of Albanian affiliation.

— A stomach bug ravaged Geja this summer. A Swedish crewmate brought the bug with him and managed to infect me on my birthday! Two weeks later three new crewmates all caught a similar bug in consecutive days. Prior to this summer, food illness had been mostly nonexistent during my voyages.

— My crew usually turns over each weekend, and it’s never difficult to get them to a spot within a ferry or bus ride from a town with an airport. From the town of Jelsa, my final crew was supposed to take an early-morning ferry to Split on the mainland. But a seaplane joined us on our approach to Jelsa, and a quick search online revealed it had 11-minute scheduled flights to Split. The next day I joined my crew on their flight to Split, splurging on an 85-euro round-trip excursion, my first-ever seaplane ride.

— I did a week of singlehanding for the first time. No friends seemed interested in my final leg, not that I pushed very hard to get it filled. I’d planned to be pretty close to 'home' by that time anyway, so I didn’t have much distance to cover. It was a great feeling of independence to wander about at whichever pace I felt like, wearing as little as I wished. I managed to get several nagging boat projects done. With tools and parts scattered about on deck, I must have resembled some kind of derelict hippie boat while anchored for three days in front of the upscale Laganini Beach Club near the island of Hvar. While I do prefer to have friends around, I may arrange more 'days off' in the future.

[Editor's Note: Part Two will appear in the February issue.]

— andrew 12/12/2015

Cruise Notes:

As mentioned earlier in this issue, the Grand Poobah has made a change in the starting date of the 2016 Baja Ha-Ha. Normally this year's cruisers' rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas would have started on October 23. But because of what are likely to be continuing elevated ocean temperatures, which are conducive to later-season tropical storms, the Poobah has moved the starting date back to October 31 — which just happens to be Halloween. A second consideration was that there will likely be many more slips available in the marina at Cabo because there won't be a fishing tournament at the same time. The later date is not a good thing for the Poobah trying to make the deadline for the December issue of Latitude, but that's near the bottom of the priority list and he doesn't expect any sympathy.

When cruising, 'school' is often where you find it. Heather Tsortzis of the Layfayette-based Lagoon 470 Family Circus cited one such example:

"My husband Chris was out walking around with the girls at Savu Savu, Fiji and they found a geothermal puddle near the water's edge. The girls wondered if the water was hot enough to boil an egg. Yay, science experiment! They learned how thermal water is created, and by placing eggs in the water, learned firsthand that it could indeed boil an egg. Five minutes for soft, 10 minutes for hard. They also learned that the water was hotter than 220 degrees, as that's as high as our meat thermometer would read. Going for extra credit, daughter Alina made a dam to stop the water that ran out of the puddle — and learned that such hot water will burn you if you touch it. "I'm OK, I'm OK," she shouted, "but wow, it's really hot!"

In a later discussion of which was better, home schooling or regular schooling, Heather, the mother of three, said that based on her experience, they both had their advantages.

When Mike and Deanna Ruel of the Delaware-based Manta 42 R Sea Kat reported that the saildrive transmission on their starboard engine had failed — no forward or reverse — when leaving Richard's Bay, South Africa for Durban, the Wanderer wrote to tell them it wasn't that hard to fix the somewhat common problem on the Yanmar saildrives. But it turned out that they have Volvo saildrives. And it wasn't a cone clutch issue as on many Yanmars, but a failed damper, a damper being the rubber piece that goes between the flywheel and the transmission to absorb the torque shock when shifting gears. Mike was able to get a new damper the next day as well as have the flywheel fixed at a machine shop. He then not only repaired the problem, he replaced the difficult-to-get-at rear engine seals, too.

On a roll, the Ruels decided they would replace the propeller seals, which required they be out of the water. Since there is no haulout facility at Durban, they had to let R Sea Kat rest on her keels on a ramp as the tide went out. Because of the tides, they had to get to and onto the grid at 3 a.m. Alas, the low tide wasn't low enough by two silly centimeters! We believe they were successful a few days later.

"Captain Ramos of the Port Captain's Office in Mazatlan has decreed that skippers on vessels in Mazatlan, Isla Mazatlan, Fonatur and El Cid marinas can use VHF 72," reports Mike Wilson of the Mazatlan-based S&S 44 Tortue. "This change is due to the constant interference on Channel 22. Naturally, Channel 16 remains the hailing channel in case of an emergency."

"Latitude reported that I'd dived down 30 feet to free Kailani's anchor in Turtle Bay during the Ha-Ha," writes 74-year-old Tom Carr of the Santa Cruz-based Mirror 10 Blue Bird. "My hookah was a sort of last-minute addition, as for several weeks I'd been trying to adapt a firefighters' emergency composite 72 cfm air bottle, which only weighs 11 pounds, to scuba gear. The bottle fittings were different, so finding an adapter was challenging. I finally had my partner/friend fabricate one out of a 1½" stainless steel prop shaft from the 'archives'. That, in addition to my standard two-stage regulator, and a 'Kayak Hookah' kit purchased online, made up my dive gear. I stowed it unassembled and untried on Blue Bird prior to leaving home. In the moment of need, the final assembly took all of 10 minutes. I just had to replace the intermediate pressure hose with the extended 40-foot 'kayak hose' kit. In addition to its being a dive apparatus, I was going to use this to quickly inflate my rubber boat in the case of an emergency.

"I also want to apologize for not specifying which Kailani I meant — as there were two in the Ha-Ha — when referring to our 'buddy boat'. She's the F-31 trimaran of Santa Cruz owned by Brian and Patti Martin."

"On December 4, almost exactly one month after the end of the Baja Ha-Ha, we dropped our hook at La Raza Cove, Espiritu Santo Island, not far from La Paz," report Lesley Johnstone and Hartley Gardner of the Phoenix-based Tayana 48DS Atsa. "After enjoying a fantastic star-studded sky that night, the next day we went on a group hike with John and Julie King of the Long Beach-based Moody 44 MyLa, Bill Schmid of the Everett-based Corbin 39 Anakina, and Jason and Vicki Hite of the Long Beach-based Herreshoff Caribbean 50 Volaré, all of whom also did the 2015 Ha-Ha. We saw other boats in the cove, but we homed in on those with Ha-Ha flags because we had a shared experience.

"Perry and Patty Chrisler of the Scottsdale-based Beneteau 46 C'est Si Bon were also there, but opted out of the hike because they'd been kayaking all morning. But that evening the couple hosted a cocktail hour on their boat to watch the sun set over the beautiful cove. We all had a great time talking about our past adventures and contemplated future ones. If we had not been part of the Ha-Ha, we might have all just sat there by ourselves and spent the evening wondering who the people on the other boats in the anchorage were and if they'd like to get together for a hike or cocktails. Doing the Ha-Ha just made it easier, so thanks for helping us make lifelong friends."

"Well, she's all ours," report Jeff and Judy Wahl of Yankton, South Dakota. By 'she' they are referring to the 1995 Sundeer 60 that was known as Dutch Torch during a recent circumnavigation. For better or worse, they have rechristened her Just Passing Wind. They were planning to head south to Mexico at the end of December. Two-boat owners, they report that their Wellington 47 Island Mistress is seriously for sale.

With all due respect to our dear friends Jeff and Judy, some folks wonder if their boat's new name will make other cruisers hesitant to hail them. As in "Just Passing Wind, Just Passing Wind, Just Passing Wind, this is Dreamtime."

"The battle against barnacles never ends," reports Vicki Westphal, who contributed the photo at right. "The 'knights preparing to do battle against them at El Mero Marina in Guaymas are, on the left, Mike Westphal of Rhiannon and Lucas of Neeltje. Not in the photo, but also ready to do battle was Sylvia of Delirio."

The fact that the 'knights' are outfitted in wetsuit 'armor' on November 23 is indicative of just how quickly the water cools that far north in the Sea.

"We made the 1,000 miles from Puerto Vallarta to Ensenada in six days," reports Mark McNulty, crew aboard Wahoo!, Bill Gibb's Ventura-based Schionning G Force 1400 catamaran. "We had mostly good weather with a lot of offshore winds, and thus only had about 10 total hours of true Bashing. We didn't catch any fish until the day before Ensenada, when we caught a 25-pound yellowtail — more than we could eat." It's been a long trip from South Africa for Wahoo!, which is almost home.

Many boat buyers are under the impression that if they buy a boat outside of California and keep her outside the state for more than 12 months, they won't have to pay state use/sales tax. That's not quite correct. The state says that you have to be "using" the boat outside of the state for 12 months, not just owning it. So keep records.

Various sources report that Tenacatita Beach, a small bay on the northwest corner of cruiser favorite Tenacatita Bay, was reopened to the public on November 21, as Aristotle Sandoval, governor of the state of Jalisco, followed through with one of his campaign promises. The land at the beach, long popular with Mexicans and Americans, has been in dispute for decades. Three years ago a judge ruled in favor of the Rodenas Corporation, which immediately tore down the many beachfront palapas, fenced the area off, and brought in security guards.

The reopened section, which is known to cruisers as 'The Aquarium', is just one small part of Tenacatita Bay. The majority of cruisers anchor at the next bay to the east, known as Blue Bay. Whatever you call it, this seems like good news.

Robert and Virginia Gleser, Mayor and First Lady of Tenacatita Bay, of the Alameda-based Freeport 41 Harmony, confirm that Tenacatita Beach is once again open. "There aren't any beachfront palapas selling food, but much of the 'jungle ride' through the mangroves is open again," they report.

Who are you calling 'motor mouth'? In an unrelated matter, Robert recently received the coveted 'Green T-shirt' from Geary Ritchie, the Concepcion Bay-based weatherman for the Sonrisa Net. The Green T-shirt, which has "Help, I've started talking and can't shut up" written across the front, is indicative of being a radio 'motor mouth'.

"Lucky me," says Robert, "as this year my call sign was the newest addition to a short but illustrious list on the shirt. The tradition began with a group of hamsters in Tenacatita in 1995, and has been going on ever since. The Sonrisa Net has actually been around since 1984, and is a service to the cruising community that features excellent weather reports (usually) and a relaxed forum to connect with your buddies. It starts at 7:30 a.m. Baja Sur time on 3.968 LSB."

Mark Schneider aboard the Portland-based Norseman 447 Wendaway, currently in Cabo San Lucas, reports that the Southbound has been fired up again.

"As many will recall, the 'SB Net' was the only regular evening net covering coastal and offshore waters from San Diego to the Gulf of Tehuantepec. Let's get it going again. We're going to start a series of test calls at 8.122 mHz at 0000. For those in the central Sea of Cortez south to Cabo and east to Mazatlan, local time will be 5 p.m. From Vallarta south to Tehuantepec, it should be 6 p.m."

Speaking of Tenacatita Bay, it is also home to the village of La Manzanilla, not to be confused with the nearby big city of Manzanillo. The eye of October's extremely powerful hurricane Patricia came within 10 miles of La Manzanilla, and while the damage wasn't anywhere near what people expected, there was some. So the Grand Poobah bought 288 hot dogs and buns to give away during the Ha-Ha's Turtle Bay Beach Party in hopes of collecting donations for hurricane relief. Thanks to many contributors, in particular Paul Hofer of the Delaware-based Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509 Scarlet Fever, nearly $1,500 was raised.

When the Poobah got to the mainland, he contacted Ronnie Tea Lady to find out how to best distribute the money. Ronnie contacted three relief agencies in the La Manzanilla area. Two didn't reply and the third said that the Mexican Army had done a great job providing everybody with everything they needed! We didn't expect that. As a result, the Grand Poobah is looking for another good charity on the Mexican mainland.

Over the last year we've raved about how much we like the hardtop that we had put on Profligate about a year ago. Made in the shade, baby. We've also made a second major improvement to the 63-ft cat that's almost as delightful — a new dinghy lift. Most cats are easily fitted with dinghy davits, but that wouldn't work with Profligate, as she's got a big 'back porch' that precludes them. So for 18 years we've lifted and lowered the dinghy using a complicated system that involved a beam sliding out of the back of the boom, a topping lift, a spinnaker halyard, the main halyard, a screwdriver, sometimes a jar of peanut butter — and lots of running around. It's the same basic system they use on the big Voyager catamarans from South Africa. It worked, but it took at least 15 minutes to get the dinghy up or down.

We were stumped on how to improve on this until we noticed that Chris White's Atlantic 55/57s have a similar back porch. We met up with Chris while his 55 Javelin was hauled out at the La Cruz Shipyard, and he showed us how easily the clever system works on his and other big Atlantic cats. It's hard to describe, but our modified version utilizes a nearly beam-wide 'flattened arch' made of 3-inch diameter aluminum that rotates on the aft beam. You lower this arch until it's almost parallel with the water, then using blocks attached to the bottom of the arch, lift the dinghy a couple of feet out of the water. Then, using an electric winch, you pull the entire arch up — with the dinghy below it — until the dinghy is right above the back porch. They you use blocks to lower it. To launch the dinghy, you do the reverse. Very clever that Chris White.

"We have completed our crossing of the Indian Ocean and are now tucked safely into Tuzi Gazi marina in Richard's Bay, South Africa," report Jim Fair and Linda Powers of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake. "It was a good trip except for a front with winds in excess of 50 knots and 13-foot seas — normal stuff for an Indian Ocean crossing. Much thanks to Bob Walden for helping us on the last leg, as he made life much more enjoyable."

Zihua SailFest, by far the most successful cruiser charity event in Mexico, now in its 15th year, runs from February 8 to February 14th. If you're on the coast of mainland Mexico, it's really worth the effort to make it to this terrific six-day festival that mixes "fun and games, heart-felt volunteerism, and an outpouring of international friendship." Volunteers are always needed. If you fit the bill, contact Carol Romain at . You'll be glad you did.

The Ha-Ha isn't the only West Coast cruising event that is going to start later this year. "Entries are now open for the 7th Annual Cruisers Rally to El Salvador," report organizers Bill Yeargen and Jean Strain of the Honolulu-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu. "A number of cruisers requested that we make the start date later in March so they could enjoy Z-Fest without having to then rush down the coast to El Salvador, so we delayed the opening 10 days to March 28." The El Salvador Rally is a destination event, so participants get there at their own pace, then enjoy countless free or low-cost activities from March 28 until April 27. For details, visit

We don't mean to sound like a broken record, but thanks to the increasing strength of the U.S. dollar and the weakening of the Mexican peso, Mexico is getting even less expensive for cruisers. The peso is now 17.4 to the dollar, 4% less to the dollar than it was just one month ago!

During a recent visit back to the States, the Wanderer joined a friend for breakfast at the corner coffee shop in Mill Valley. A two-egg breakfast, an extra order of toast, and one coffee came to $21 before the tip. That's about four times as much as it would have cost in Mexico. Dinner, sans cocktail but with one glass of wine, at Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley came to about $60 before the tip.

Last night we enjoyed a delicious mahi dinner at El Coral restaurant at Punta Mita in front of the 'Mexican Malibu' surf spot and the Punta Mita anchorage. It cost $7.50. Margaritas were $2.80. The spectacular view at sunset and perfect temperature were free. It's all right, you can eat your heart out.

Missing the pictures? See the January 2016 eBook!


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