Latitude home Latitude 38


Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
January 2017

Missing the pictures? See our January 2017 eBook!
Bookmark and Share

With reports this month from Moontide on completing the Salty Dawg Rally; from Pelagic on the Guyanas in South America as well as the Windward Islands; from Sea Loone on passing Culpepper Island on the way to the Marquesas; from Quixotic on a woman's view of catamarans;
and Cruise Notes.

Moontide — Lagoon 47
Bill Lilly
The Salty Dawg and the BVI
(Newport Beach)

"We sailors on the West Coast don't know what 'real weather' is," insists Bill Lilly, who sailed his Newport Beach-based Lagoon 47 Moontide in November's Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, Virginia, to the British Virgins. "The wind and seas come from all directions at all different speeds, and there are a lot more fronts."

By saying this, Lilly echoes last month's comments of Jim Fair of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake, who has sailed most of the way around the world, and who also did the 1,400-mile Salty Dawg Rally with Linda Powers.
"The Salty Dawg is a much looser version of the Baja Ha-Ha," says Lilly. "Looser in the sense that only about half of the 81 entries started from Hampton, Virginia; looser in the sense that while most boats headed to the BVI, a number went to different destinations; looser in the sense boats started over a two-week period rather than on the official November 2 starting date."

Boats started either before or after the 2nd in order to avoid a front coming down from the north. The last thing anybody wants is to be in the northward-flowing Gulf Stream when it clashes with a front coming down from the north.

Lilly and his two female crew motored for the first 27 hours, something he's never done before, to get across the Gulf Stream before the front hit. They made it. After that they had six days of every kind of weather possible, from calms, to 12 hours of 35+ knots of wind, to an ideal final 48 hours of sailing south on 'Highway 65' trade winds on a beam reach in 15 to 18 knots.

Thanks to the cover on Moontide's two-year-old main halyard wearing off, midway in the passage Lilly decided that safety demanded he go to the top of the mast to replace it. Forty-eight hours after collecting a number of boat bites from going aloft in even calm conditions, Lilly got his reward. He was able to tuck in a much-needed third reef — for the first time ever — when the wind really came up. The boat had already hit a record 18 knots careening down a particularly steep wave with a double-reefed main.

The unusual thing about Moontide's eight-day trip is that the crew never got cold. "Normally Salty Dawg Rally crews freeze their asses off in the beginning of the trip," says Lilly. "Not this time."

"The Salty Dawg was very different from all the Ha-Ha's I've done," said Lilly, "in that we only saw two boats in eight days. During the Ha-Ha, we often saw eight or more boats at a time."

Nonetheless, a good percentage of the fleet, which included Eric Witte and Annie Gardner's San Diego-based Catana 47 El Gato, met up at the Bitter End YC in Virgin Gorda. One of the benefits of paying for a 'Premium' upgrade entry in the Salty Dawg was getting free moorings in Gorda Sound until December 19, when the Caribbean season really starts. Otherwise moorings are $30 a night, although it's possible to anchor, too.

"Another good deal," says Lilly, "was taking a mooring at nearby Leverick Bay or Saba Rock. Moorings are $30/night, but you also get a bag of ice and 250 gallons of water."

After about a week in Gorda Sound, Lilly wanted to hit some of the other spots: The Baths, Norman Island, the Willie T, the Soggy Dollar Bar on Tortola, Soper's Hole at the West End, Foxy's on Jost van Dyke, and Cane Garden Bay. If you've chartered in the British Virgins, you know the spots. It was early December when we talked with Bill, so the howling Christmas Trades hadn't kicked in yet.

"The vibe in the British Virgins is so much different than in Mexico," says Lilly, who has a lot of experience in the latter. "This is charter country, and most of the people come down for a wild week. If I spent three years here I still don't think that I'd have time to visit every beach bar. And given the thousands of charter boats here, the locals are a little jaded. Unlike Mexico, the typical beach bar hamburger is $14. And they drink rum rather than tequila in the Caribbean."

Getting Internet in the British Virgins has been more problematic for Lilly than along much of coastal Mexico. "I have T-Mobile with free unlimited 2G in 122 countries," says Bill. "It's very slow, of course, but sometimes I can get email. Some of the beach restaurants have Internet, but a lot of them don't."

One interesting quality about the British Virgins is how close the islands are. "My longest passage since getting here has been 5.2 miles," laughs Bill.

Bill's longer-term plans are to hit St. Barth and maybe Antigua for the big racing events, then Bermuda for the America's Cup in June, and then the Northeast.

— latitude/rs 12/01/2016

Pelagic — Hallberg Rassy 42
Michael and Amy Bradford Family
Heading Home After Europe

[Continued from last month.]

After our Atlantic crossing from the Cape Verdes and our visit to Devil's Island, French Guiana, we — with our kids Zander, 13; Porter, 11; and Anakena, 6 — sailed up the Maroni River to the French town of St. Laurent. The river forms the border between Suriname and French Guiana. From here we rented a car and drove across the small country to watch a 4 a.m. launch of a Soyuz rocket as it blasted off from the Guiana Space Center. The successful launch put two more new GPS satellites into orbit. The Space Center launches a rocket about once a month.

After a few weeks in French Guiana, we sailed downriver and then up the coast past Suriname to the Essequibo River in Guyana. The Essequibo is the third-largest river in South America, draining some of the vast Amazon watershed. We motored 40 miles upriver against the river flow to the booming gold-mining town of Bartica. The town had a Wild West feel about it, where cattle and large mining vehicles share the streets.

Gold is accepted as currency in most shops in Bartica. We befriended one gold merchant who let us watch as he purchased a sack of raw gold from a miner, melted it with a blow torch, poured it into a mold, and then instantly cooled the bar in a tub. He let us hold the $40,000 bar!

Despite the threat of piranha, snakes and electric eels, we swam in both the Maroni and the Essequibo Rivers. Although technically fresh water, the tannin-rich, coffee-colored river waters were not nearly as inviting as the sea. And we were never quite sure what was lurking right below the surface. Luckily, the dangerous residents of the various Amazon rivers are usually found in the slower-moving headwaters and tributaries. So if we saw local people swimming and emerging with all their limbs intact, we went in also.

The jungle wildlife was fascinating, with ocelots, blue morpho butterflies, toucans and ever-present screeching parrots.

The high temperatures and frequent rain, however, got old. The one good thing about the rain is that we never had to run our watermaker. We just opened the water fill port in the deck and fresh water ran straight into the tanks. Fifteen minutes of rain was enough to put 75 gallons of water in our tank. The unlimited water was nice, but we were forever trying to dry things out and keep the mold at bay.

Visiting the Guyanas — French Guiana and Guyana — is not for everyone, but they are uncrowded and safe alternatives for the hurricane season.
From the Guyanas we had a fast sail to Tobago, taking advantage of an almost three-knot equatorial current. Tobago was a pleasant surprise, and to date our favorite Caribbean island. The islanders were friendly, the snorkeling and fishing — spear fishing is allowed — was great, and there were only a handful of cruisers who ventured that far southeast. From Tobago we sailed north to St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada before heading back south to Trinidad to get some much- needed TLC for Pelagic.

To get to Trinidad from Grenada, you have to sail close to Venezuela. Thanks to the legacy of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela is in dire economic straits at the moment. We have heard that they have even run out of beer and toilet paper. There have been several acts of piracy in and around Trinidad.

The most recent boarding, perpetrated by desperate Venezuelans, had been more than six months before, so we didn't feel as if we were taking undue risk making the 80-mile passage. But to be safe, we made the trip from Grenada in the dark, without running lights and AIS. We also convoyed with four other boats. While we maintained radio silence, it was reassuring to know they were out there, too. The Trinidadian Coast Guard is also taking steps to monitor the waters.

We are currently back in Grenada enjoying the company of many other cruisers who are also hiding out from the hurricanes. There are numerous 'kid boats' here, and activities are usually organized for every day. The older kids have been learning to free dive, snare lobsters, and sail the small dinghy we just acquired. Ana, our youngest, is enjoying the multitude of other six-year-old girls on boats in the anchorage.

After a month in Grenada, Mike is itching to weigh anchor and get going again. He wants to head to the Dutch Antilles, Cartagena, and the San Blas Islands of Panama. Until then, he is keeping busy fixing things. In the last week, a wayward child broke the radiator hose while playing hide-and-seek in the engine compartment, and someone primed the outboard fuel bulb so many times that the gasoline backed up and filled the oil pan. But we aren't quite ready to give up the social activities and easy life here at anchor in Grenada.

Mind you, it's not all easy living. We do still have three growing kids and are feeling a little cramped on our 42-foot boat. We envy those parents on the spacious catamarans we see at anchor all around us. The three small children we started our voyage with have been growing and are needing more space — and, a tremendous amount of food!

We've enjoyed great luck in all things important on our two-year cruise from San Francisco, through the Canal, to Europe, and back across the Atlantic. The important things are good health, safety and fun. But we have not been without our setbacks. Sailing with a 32-year-old boat, we've had a few — but not many — things break. And a bicycle was stolen from our decks. Mike also got to enjoy all the hospitality that a night in a Spanish jail entails. But that's a whole different story.

That said, on the eve of our two-year cruising anniversary, we feel very blessed to have found this lifestyle, with its simplicity and the amazing opportunity to spend it together as a family. Borrowing a favorite quote from our Tzortzis family friends who recently completed a two-year cruise on their San Francisco-based Lagoon 470 Family Circus, "Thus far, we have no regrets!"

— amy 10/15/2016

Sea Loone — 33-ft Ferro Sloop
Roy Starkey
40 Nonstop Years of Cruising
(Liverpool, England/The World)

[Editor's Note: For a full appreciation of this Changes, we recommend that you first jump to the back end of Cruise Notes to get the full background on the incredible sailing life of Roy Starkey.]

I had set the alarm for 5 a.m., and by the time I had drunk my first cup of coffee it was light enough to start weighing anchor. The scarlet macaws of Costa Rica had awoken at the same time as I did and were squawking loudly as they flew high over the boat in pairs heading for the jungle island opposite Golfito. The tide was still flooding, so I motored against the flow to the old banana-boat dock, and then turned to starboard to pick up the leading markers on the hillside. These led me out into the Golfo Dulce. There was little or no wind.

The autopilot wasn't keen on working, but eventually settled down and we headed west into the Pacific bound for the Marquesas. We were met by huge rolling swells and a breeze as we got into deep water. So with all sails set and the windvane taking over from the autopilot, we — my old boat and I — made our way offshore. Unless we clipped the Galapagos 500 miles to the southwest, we wouldn't see land until we got to the Marquesas 3,500 miles later.

I knew the first 500 miles were going to be frustrating. Heading southwest against the current and the wind, it was slow going — except when we were hit by nasty thunder squalls. The lightning only got really close once, with a simultaneous flash and terrifying boom.

The temperature and humidity dropped after the first week, but we still had to tack. The seas got bigger in the cold Humboldt Current, and even with all the hatches dogged down we still got the odd dollop of seawater below. The foredeck was often buried, and water poured down the hawsepipe even though it was jammed with rags. As it got even colder, I dug out an old pair of jeans and a pullover.

As we approached the equator, I realized we could easily make a slight detour and have a look at Culpepper Island, the northernmost of the Galapagos Islands. But it was heavy going, and when one massive sea pounded the boat a large section of the toe rail got pulled away and the capping was torn off. I spent a wet and miserable hour pulling the timber back into place with four large C-clamps.

Late on the evening of the 24th, I hove to within 12 miles of Culpepper, which was just visible as a dark lump in the murk. Seventy miles north of the equator, we had scudding clouds and drizzle.

I was hoping to get a short break anchored in the lee of the island, which would give me a chance to play with the sea lions, penguins and other sea life. Since Culpepper is so far north of the main islands of the Galapagos, I didn't expect anybody else to be there.

I was disappointed on all counts. Culpepper has steep cliffs all around. And there were two tourist dive boats anchored in the one place that offered some protection. Since they were willing to dive in such freezing water, there must have been something worth seeing below the surface. But I didn't see any sea lions, iguanas or penguins on the surface. All I saw were a load of screaming booby birds and the odd frigate.

The one redeeming feature of Culpepper is an amazing rock arch, as big as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, just to the south of the island. It was surrounded by a rock reef that made it impossible to get close enough for a decent photo. The seas crashing on it were humongous.

I sailed in, hove to close to the cliffs, made a cup of coffee, and had another look at my poor toe rail. I then decided to carry on. I still had 2,940 miles to go, but at last I could free the sheets and the Sea Loone would speed up.

Before leaving Golfito I had found a wall to dry the boat out during a spring tide. I bought a gallon of local anti-fouling paint, and also using a half gallon I already had, painted the bottom. It looked a bit strange with half of the bottom blue and half of it red, but only the fish would see it.

As we left Culpepper, the bottom was still clean, although thanks to our being heeled over for two weeks, a few barnacles had started to attach themselves well above the waterline. Anyway, we shot out from behind the island, and trimmed the sails for reaching just south of east. Over the next 48 hours we did an amazing 350 miles. Sea Loone had never gone so fast before! In the first four days off the wind we covered more ground than we had in the previous two weeks.

On the 29th of August we crossed the equator. It was still cold and the sea was a darker blue than normal. At night we left a trail of phosphorescence, and the odd squid landed on deck during the night and squirted ink everywhere.

The wind remained east or south of east, but then slowly turned more behind us, so I dropped the genoa and with some difficulty managed to raise one of the nylon downwind sails I had made. The idea had been to raise the other in the spare groove in the roller furling, but with the wind quite strong it wasn't going to work. So I put the inner forestay back in place and raised the second sail on that. Then I had twin headsails and no main. We were going well, but the wind moved back south and I had to drop the starboard sail. That's sailing.

In the end, the wind was too strong for the clew on the port sail. It tore all the way up the luff as I tried to get it down. No matter, as I unrolled the other sail. But a few days later that also showed signs of the clew tearing out, so I dropped it and put the genoa back up. All of this sounds very simple, but messing around on the foredeck in breaking seas is not fun. The nylon sails are slippery and fly all over the place, and the genoa is stiff and heavy. If the flapping clew hit you in the face, it would take your head off.

We continued to lose speed as the barnacles on the bottom of the boat got bigger. The barnacles along the waterline were almost mature, and there were some monsters on the self-steering paddle, so I was sure that the underside of the boat was well-covered. But we were still doing 100 miles a day, which was good enough for me.

I put all the spuds and onions out on deck again, and only a few onions had gone bad. The potatoes had dried up and were quite spongy. They were unlikely to rot, but weren't easy to peel. One big mango remained in the fridge, along with a few tomatoes, limes and cheese. My bottled pork, chicken and ground beef were good — except for two bottles that had hairline cracks and had lost their vacuum.

With 500 miles to go I still hadn't caught a fish. A few days before a helicopter had visited me, so I knew there were big tuna boats around. Another night I saw lights on the horizon, which meant there was another fishing boat. They were obviously pretty efficient, as I still hadn't caught anything. I finally landed a 10-lb wahoo, which lasted me for days. But I didn't catch another fish.

During the passage I read a load of books and did my crossword and jigsaw puzzles. Running west with a big southeast swell meant we rolled, sometimes quite dramatically. So I lived my life well-cushioned on all sides, but still found it hard to even make a cup of coffee. Making dinner of meat and two veggies required a major balancing act.

I was off the Marquesas on the 19th, and the next morning we were off the southeast corner of Nuku Hiva. I sailed in close to the coast and rounded into Taiohae Bay. I started the engine, but the saltwater pump gave out, so it took another frustrating hour to beat into the bay and anchor.

So I had a 40-odd-day passage with no major problems, and I was happy to be back in the Marquesas.

— roy 11/15/2016

Quixotic — Voyager 43 Cat
Alyssa Alexopulous
Cruising on the Dark Side
(Redwood City)

Having done the Ha-Ha and the Puddle Jump, and cruised in the South Pacific with our Tartan 37 monohull Eleutheria, Lewis and I salvaged and restored the Voyager 430 catamaran Quixotic that is now our cruising home. Fellow sailors ask us what it's like to go over to 'the dark side'. As a woman, these are my views of the pros and cons.

Space and motion. We have room to move around and stretch our legs while underway on our cat. On the other hand, we find the cat's motion to be more jerky and less predictable. Because there is so much more space on a cat, it's more difficult to brace yourself, as the next grab spot sometimes feels just out of reach.

Space for family and visitors. There is plenty of space for everyone on our cat. But that also means that everyone and their mother wants to visit. It can be a lot of work.

Sailing flat. We don't heel over when sailing on our cat, and she's very stable when on the hook or motoring. We can set a glass down everywhere except the salon table and it won't get knocked over. But since the boat is so stable, it's harder to tell how much stress there is on the rig when sailing. As a result, we sail very conservatively — which I should probably count as a 'pro'.

Ocean motion: In certain conditions waves slam under the bridgedeck — 'bombs' — and against the leeward hull. It's so different from the graceful swaying and slicing motion of our monohull.

Galley with a view: With a salon-level galley, I can cook while entertaining and the ventilation is fantastic. Whenever I cooked on our monohull, I felt as if I was in a sauna, and it made the living quarters unbearable. If I was going to bake a quiche or a loaf of bread or boil pasta, I had to kick Lewis off the boat because of the heat. If we were underway, Lewis would rather hang out in the salt spray and rain than be below.

Sorry, but I can't find any reasons not to like the 'galley up'. Some may argue that galley down is better for passages because you have a narrower area in which to brace yourself. I can see their point, but I've had no issue with our Y-shaped galley, using the same bracing technique against the counter's edge. I'm sure there are many boats that do less entertaining and much less cooking than we do, so the space could go to better use — such as for a forward-facing navigation station. We do miss that. But when the nav station takes up half the salon, a boat feels more like a bachelor pad than a floating home.

The aft-facing navigation station. The good part of an aft-facing nav station is that the wiring is centrally located and the back of the instruments and autopilot chain are easily accessible. Having had to rewire much of the cat after the port hull was underwater, I've gained an appreciation for easy access.

But when you're in rough seas you really don't want to be looking backwards when navigating. Of course, when it's rough you should probably be outside managing the sails anyway. In reality, at night we reef the sails way ahead of the squall or low, so I'm at the nav table with my eyes glued to the radar, AIS, and nav equipment, as the only way to 'see' in the rain and dark is with instruments.

Storage space. I now have plenty of space for all of the provisions we need for long passages. In fact, we now have designated cabinets for spares, and there is still space for more stuff. We no longer have to unload an entire v-berth just to get the one piece of spare hose or special oil-filter wrench.

The negative of having massive storage space is that it's tempting to fill it up. Our trick is to keep reminding ourselves that all we need is the same stuff we had on our 37-ft monohull, and to remember to distribute it evenly through our cat. 'Less is more' has become our mantra despite having a much bigger boat.
Twin engines. The obvious benefit is if one engine goes out — overheating, bad injector, line wrapped in prop — you still have another engine. Engine redundancy gives me peace of mind.

However, having two engines rather than one means you have twice as many engine issues and twice as much maintenance, and you need more spares.
Sailing downwind. The majority of time when you sail west across the Pacific, you sail downwind, and it's a dream on our cat. There is no slamming or rolling, and if it gets boisterous enough, maybe there is some fun surfing.

As I write this, we are 130 miles north of North Cape, New Zealand, heading south. We have just finished motoring through the high, and brisk north winds have filled in at 20 knots. We have the full jib out and are cruising at 8.5 knots while my tall mug of hot tea sits on the salon table next to the laptop I'm typing on. It's as stable as if we were in a slip.

We were constantly rolling from side to side when going dead downwind with our monohull. We used our telescoping spinnaker pole to keep the headsail far enough out, but it was still unstable.

Furthermore, I absolutely hated flying the asymmetrical spinnaker on our monohull because there was such a limited range where it worked. Either there was not enough wind, in which case I would constantly have to trim because the sail would either collapse or flog in the seaway — and there is always a seaway on the open ocean. If there was enough wind, say 12 knots, that was enough to keep our 140% genoa flying wing-on-wing with the main, and way less trouble.

It's completely different on our Quixotic. Because she rocks less, we use the asymmetrical all the time. I don't see any negatives sailing our cat downwind.

Sailing upwind. We've found three negatives when sailing Quixotic upwind. Like all cruising cats, she can't point as well as our Tartan 37 did. To be honest, she tacks in about 120 degrees when on the open ocean — just like most cruising cats. Second, the previously mentioned 'bombs' can knock anything off the salon table. Lastly, unless we take the plastic windshield between our hard top and the deck down, we lose almost a knot of upwind speed.

Keeping it cool. I finally have a huge in-counter freezer, so it's goodbye to Costco canned chicken and hello, bacon! We had a surprisingly gigantic in-counter fridge/freezer on our Tartan 37, but the freezer part was no bigger than a tiny shoebox, and that part chilled the rest of the cooler. We primarily used it for making a single vertical tray of ice for those very important sundowners. Now I can ask Cap'n Lew if he would prefer a steak or leg of lamb for dinner! I also started making frozen smoothie popsicles for snacks on midnight watches.
We also have a front-loading refridge on Quixotic. It's tiny and all the cool air escapes as soon as I open the door.

Heads up! We have three heads to choose from on our cat. One is a designated shower, but all are lined with gel coat and are thus easy to wipe down. We only had one head on our Tartan, and it was trimmed in wood, so I was constantly wiping away mold and fogging up the main cabin. I dreamed of a separate stall shower with better ventilation on our next boat. My dream came true!

Having three times as many toilets, of course, means having to clean three times as many toilets. Actually that's not so bad. What is bad is having to rebuild three toilets! But as Lewis and I were elbows-deep in replumbing the cat, Lewis and I joked that we would much rather have to deal with poo than do more fiberglass work. We are so tired of being covered head to toe with fiberglass dust!

More toilets mean more thru-hulls. It's my job to exercise the fittings before and after every passage to make sure they aren't seized up, something that happens frequently. Be sure to carry a Y-valve for your head, as it never gets exercised after leaving the U.S. and before getting to New Zealand or Australia.

A man's-man workshop. Yes, Lewis finally has his own workshop. That means that my galley countertop, which had been the only work surface available on our monohull, is no longer used for repair projects.

The downside is that his workshop is in one of four cabins in the hulls, and the weight of tools and spares in one place starts to put the boat out of balance. We work very hard to distribute weight equally in the cabins and hulls, keeping the weight as low as possible.

Triple deck space! Our cat has bow seats and a lovely trampoline net up forward, as is featured in every ad for the dream sailing vacation. It's hot in the tropics, and the breeze up through the nets makes it the coolest place to lounge. We haven't tried it yet, but we understand the huge amount of deck space is perfect for yoga and folding sails.

Unfortunately, there is no shade on the foredeck, so when signaling where to drop the anchor I look like a grandmother, wearing long sleeves, a giant, stiff-brimmed gardening hat and rash guard pants. Instead of dinghy davits, we have a dinghy crane arm that extends out of the boom. It's sleek, has plenty of purchase, and stows the dinghy with motor on the transom nicely.

With a two-to-one purchase on the main halyard and no electric winch, it does take twice as long to grind half the distance, so it feels a if it takes forever to raise the dinghy the necessary seven feet. But it's a good workout. And it's waaaay easier than it was removing the gas can and the dinghy motor, and the dinghy seat and the oars, and using the spinnaker halyard to raise the dinghy onto the foredeck of our Tartan 37. After we did that, we still had to deflate it and fold it into the dinghy bag, then strap it down to the foredeck. We had to do this before and after every passage with Eleutheria.

Don't get me wrong, we were very happy aboard our Tartan 37. We would have continued to sail her around the world had we not come across Quixotic in a salvage situation. A catamaran had always been a pipe dream for us, a 'one day' scenario where we might save up for a Farrier 42 or similar fast cat. But we didn't want to go back to work for as long as it would have taken to afford one, not when we could have been just as happy and capable, and arguably safer, on a bluewater monohull for a fraction of the cost.

Lewis and I have learned so much that's specific to catamarans since acquiring Quixotic. As all cruisers should do, we prepare, prepare and prepare. We've learned how to slow our cat down, how to set up her sea anchor or drogue, and how to put in the third reef.

Both monohulls and catamarans circumnavigate. But I have to admit that for the reasons I've outlined, I'm happy to be on our 20-year-old cat.

— alyssa 11/15/2016

Cruise Notes:

"There is not much happening in La Paz, which is why I think it's a great place to live," reports Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven, now back from the South Pacific and her 10th Ha-Ha with her La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion. "Marine- related businesses report it was a slow summer, although business picked up tremendously with the mid-November arrival of folks who had recently finished the Ha-Ha. The Baja Ha-Ha Welcome Party thrown by the local marinas, businesses and Tourism Board, was terrific, with traditional dancers, music and food. Raffle prizes ranged anywhere from a week in a marina to tequila.

"Everyone is taking advantage of the great dollar-to-peso exchange rate — more than 20 pesos to the dollar — at favorite restaurants, boatyards and with marine service folks," continues La Reina. "Some are taking advantage of the exchange rate for long-dreamed-of elective surgeries. I'm not mentioning any names, but the cruising fleet is looking younger, if you catch my drift.

"The first La Paz sailboat race of the season was held in early December, and we had some crazy weather the night before. In December it's very unusual for La Paz to get thunder, lightning and rain, to say nothing of hail, all of which we had. The temperatures have been cooling off at night as winter has come on, but still a far cry from the snow expected in the Northwest. The days still warm up to around 80 degrees, so it is a perfect time to be in La Paz, the City of Peace."

Patsy is messing with everyone, as there is plenty to do in La Paz, to say nothing of the beautiful offshore islands, which is why it's so popular.

An urgent request for type A-negative blood was broadcast to the Banderas Bay cruising fleet via VHF on Sunday, November 26, by Dick Markie, Harbormaster at Paradise Village Marina. The blood was desperately needed for Liz Barrow, wife of former Vallarta YC Commodore Andy Barrow. Eight hours before Liz had some veins in her throat 'explode' while at the couple's land-based home near the marina. Doctors had previously warned Liz that this was a possibility, but Andy says they "had been in denial".

What couldn't be denied was that Liz, who had looked healthy as could be when the Wanderer saw her a week before, was suddenly in a life-and-death situation, as there was blood all over the bathroom walls. "It looked like a scene from a horror movie," said Andy.

Fortunately, it was only a few blocks to the modern San Javier Hospital that is part of the Paradise Marina complex. Upon arrival at 1 a.m., Liz's blood pressure was 65 over 30. Close to death, she needed blood transfusions immediately. Liz has A-negative blood, which is only found in one of 16 people. San Javier had two pints on hand, which she got, but she needed more.

As soon as Markie put out the call for A-negative blood, cruisers responded. By noon the San Javier Hospital had enough blood. Doctors also performed an esophagostomy on Liz so they could repair the veins. According to Andy, who was thankful beyond words to the cruisers who had donated blood, the doctors at San Javier did a fabulous job. Liz was released from the hospital a few days later, almost as good as new, with an admonition to stay away from tortilla chips.

Following the Ha-Ha and the early- season races in La Paz, the next event on the cruiser calendar was the Sailors' Splash Welcome to Banderas Bay for Ha-Ha boats by the Riviera Nayarit Tourism Department, followed by the three-day Ha-Ha style Banderas Bay Blast, including the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity. While the first 'race' was lacking in wind, the second race, up to the famed Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club featured up to 20 knots of breeze in flat water. After that second race, new Surf & Yacht Club Commodore Donna Melville of the Gabriola Island, B.C.-based Baltic 42DP Northwest Passage showed excellent form and unbridled enthusiasm in initiating new members into the club with a whack on their bottoms with a SUP paddle. Pirates for Pupils had seven to nine knots of wind, which was pleasant and gave novices a chance to learn to fly their chutes in mellow conditions. Over $1,500 was raised from the small group of sailors and others.

First overall in the Blast, not that it mattered, was Fred Roswold and Judy Jensen's Serendipity 43 Wings, an old San Francisco Bay warhorse that the couple have sailed around the world for 18 years. Latitude would also like to give a special shout-out to Greig and Leslie Olson of the Santa Cruz-based Brown Searunner 40 trimaran Doggone, and Gerald and Margaret McNobe of the Long Beach-based Sceptre 41 Aeolian. Both couples did the SoCal Ta-Ta, the Baja Ha-Ha, and the Banderas Bay Blast. What a trifecta for making friends with great people!

The next big event on the cruiser calendar is the Zihua SailFest, the phenomenally successful charity event in Zihuatanejo from February 6 to 12. If anyone is sailing south past Mazanillo, you don't want to miss it.

Debra and Phil Perfitt of the Victoria, B.C.-based Folkes 42 Coastal Drifter wrote in to ask when registration opens for the 2017 Pacific Puddle Jump, as this is their year to 'jump'. A lot of others have been wondering, too. You can register right now — for free — at

Most first-time Mexico cruisers don't realize how different Mexico can be from the States. We were reminded of how great the difference can be during a dinner out with Chuck Skewes and Rodrigo 'Pollo' Cuellar Dipp of the Puerto Vallarta-based Varianta 44 Ullman Sails. Readers may remember that the duo repaired sails for 37 boats during the Ha-Ha. It was a long dinner because we spent most of the time rolling around on the floor of a Bucerias restaurant laughing at all the funny memories of the Ha-Ha. For example, speaking as the Grand Poobah, we had no idea what a steamy singles scene there was.

The thing we found to be the most amusing was Pollo telling us that as their boat was one of the first to arrive in Turtle Bay, they were the first crew to go up to Maria's pink-themed restaurant on the bluff. After ordering from the menu, the waitress told them it would be a while because she needed to go to the store to get the ingredients.

"You're the first customers we've had in six weeks," she explained.

You're not going to find many restaurants in the U.S. that are going to remain open for six weeks if they don't have any customers. Before the night was over, there were about 40 Ha-Ha people at Maria's, eating, drinking, flirting and dancing with the waitresses.

"As Latitude probably knows, about 10 years ago a huge company took over the entire Marina Mazatlan complex," report Don and Lenna Hossack of the Mazatlan-based Wazoo. "As they developed condos, hotels, and housing developments, they paid very little attention to the upkeep of the marina. Fortunately, the man who developed the new golf course took over as manager of the marina last January and has been making progress.

"For example, the ramps to the docks had been falling apart," say the Hossacks. "They are being replaced one by one with stainless and pressure-treated wood. Wi-Ffi service has always been a disaster, so it was replaced with a new system with a main tower at the office and smaller towers at every other dock. The trouble is that the provider sucks, so the manager is in the process of replacing that company. The previous security system at the gates was worthless, and it's been changed to a more secure bracelet system. Currently tenants' bracelets only work on their docks, but that is being fixed.

"One of the biggest drawbacks to Marina Mazatlan was that there weren't really any amenities," the couple continue. "But now tenants are welcome at the beautiful new Beach Club, which has a huge infinity pool, cabanas, and food and drink. In addition, tenants get 50% off on golf. Because the marina area north of the main part of Mazatlan is the fastest growing part of town, there are some drawbacks. One of them is the existence of one of the hottest new nightclubs — complete with velvet ropes, bouncers and hours from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. — by the marina. They are only open Thursday to Saturday, but it's still a problem. Nonetheless, things have been getting better at Marina Mazatlan."

Shelly Rothery Ward and Mike Rickman of the formerly La Paz-based Peterson 44 Avatar report that they are now the net controllers for the Polynesian Magellan SSB net out of Tahiti. "We listen in on 8.1730 every morning at 1800 Zulu and every evening at 0400 Zulu," writes the former commodore of the Club Cruceros de La Paz, "and we're looking forward to Puddle Jumpers starting to check in soon."

Shelly has three tips for Puddle Jumpers: "1) Get a good wind generator to keep the batteries charged through the night. The only place the wind dies is the anchorage by Marina Taina, which is in the lee of the mountains just around from Papeete. 2) Bring plenty of fans. We have an awning, but sometimes we have to 'reef' it, and we'd swelter without the fans. That's particularly true now that it's summer and it's warmer with more rain. 3) If people have the time, they should go to the trouble to get a Long Stay Visa, because three months in French Polynesia is just not enough. After dreaming of sailing here for 28 years, I wasn't going to stay just 90 days. We're loving it."

While Shelly and Mike are very happy with their Peterson 44, which is paid off and which they completely refit before Puddle Jumping, they confess that it seems as if a catamaran would be the best kind of boat for French Polynesia. "You can't believe how many of them there are down here, and given their shallow draft, they can anchor in all kinds of places that we can't."

The best news of all, however, is that upon arrival in the Marquesas Mike asked for Shelly's hand in marriage, and she happily accepted. They will tie the knot in Moorea on December 22. Congratulations to them.

Greg Slygnstad of the Seattle-based Bieker 53 catamaran Fujin reports that he and his crew of Andrew McCorquodale, Gina Borza, and Fritz Johnston did the 991-mile delivery from Bermuda to St. Martin in just four days. Fast!

"It was mostly light winds with lots of motoring," says Greg. He's now hauling his cat to get her prepped for the February 20 start of the Caribbean 600 in Antigua.

After several years of cruising in the Med, Jim and Deb Gregory were going to sail their Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus back to the Caribbean this winter. But they lost two months of what was to be their last summer in the Med because of the passing of Jim's mother, so they decided they'll spend another summer in the Med. But that hasn't kept the couple from enjoying the Caribbean this winter.

First, Jim helped deliver a friend's Swan 66, Bounty, from the Northeast to the British Virgins. And in early December, Jim and Deb got the enviable job of boat-sitting the gorgeous blue-hulled boat in Virgin Gorda Sound.

"After Christmas we'll visit our boat in Barcelona," says Jim, "then I'll do the Caribbean 600 and BVI's Rolex Swan Regatta aboard Bounty. Next we'll fly back to Morpheus for a summer of cruising around the Balearics, Sardinia and Corsica, followed by a winter Atlantic crossing to the Caribbean."

'We'll swim right over and help.' The crew of the vessel Somnium was awarded the Spirit of the ARC+ award in St. Lucia last month for "contributing to the rally in a special way". What was special was the way they assisted fellow ARC+ boat Scallywag in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The boats were near each other and got to chatting over the VHF about the rally and life in general. Near the end of the conversation the crew of Scallywag mentioned their gennaker halyard had parted five days before, and because there were just two of them, they'd been unable to replace it.

Somnium crew Sven and Mart volunteered to do something about it. They swam over — it was calm — to the partially disabled boat, and one of them went aloft and ran a new gennaker halyard. Nice.

Those of you who, like the Wanderer, were lucky enough to be able to take Latin back when it was offered in California junior high schools, will remember that 'somnium' means dream. It's a comment on the times that Somnium is now better known as being a brand name for lorazepam, a medication for people who suffer from debilitating forms of anxiety.

Reading this month's Changes, we were a little surprised to read that the Bradford family on Pelagic visited the Tobago part of Trinidad & Tobago — and were themselves surprised to find there weren't more cruisers there. The reason Tobago is not more popular with cruisers is that Bloody Bay, Tobago — what an apt name — was the scene of several senselessly brutal attacks on elderly cruisers. As such, many cruisers consider Tobago to be off-limits.

The Wanderer is good friends with Tony and Charlotte, a couple of adventurous surfers from Montauk, New York, who have a winter home in Tobago. Charlotte, a very attractive blonde woman, refuses to even visit their house because she no longer feels safe anywhere on the island.

A recent report from the Caribbean Safety Net offers another reason that many cruisers avoid Tobago: "At approximately 9:45 p.m., four adult family members were returning from the weekly Sunday school dancing event and were about to launch their beached dinghy when they were accosted by two young men with machetes. The men demanded cash and grabbed one of the bags that had been put into the dinghy. The captain grabbed a paddle and the group started yelling loudly, at which point the men fled into the woods."

Offseason is prime time for thefts and violence in the Caribbean. Cruisers can keep track of criminal trends by following the Caribbean Safety Net. They'll learn, for example, that offseason theft of gear from stored cruising boats is rampant in Grenada. When it comes to safety and theft, cruisers are much safer in Mexico than in the Eastern Caribbean, and it seems to us, in the Leewards as opposed to the southern Windwards.

We're not suggesting there is no theft in Mexico. In fact, Nancy Morrison of the Santa Cruz-based Catalina 42 Aldabra reports that she had her dinghy and outboard stolen while anchored at Matanchen Bay, which is just a couple of miles south of San Blas. "It was the only night I didn't lock my dinghy to the boat," she told Latitude.

Nancy was just one of a couple of female owner/skippers in November's Baja Ha-Ha and in December's Banderas Bay Blast. She told the Poobah that she loved both events.

We have frequently cautioned cruisers that it's very expensive to replace a dinghy and outboard in Mexico. Nancy ended up having to pay about $7,000 for the combo at Zaragoza in Vallarta. She believes that her loss will be covered by insurance, and we hope she's right.

If you want to get south from Virginia on the East Coast, an alternative to the potentially dangerous offshore route is the Intracoastal Waterway. But for folks such as the Gifford family of the Eagle Harbor, Washington-based Stevens 47 Totem, the ICW has its own set of problems — bridge heights of about 65 feet. That's just inches above the height of their mast — after all the masthead stuff has been removed.

The 65-ft bridge clearance is an approximation, because in some parts of the ICW the water level is affected more by the wind on the water than the tides. In view of this, the Giffords have loaded their boat with ballast and are making plans to heel the boat over, if necessary. While it's stressful, Jamie, Behan and their three kids have been out cruising the world for eight years, so we're confident they'll pull it off.

In the second feature of this month's Changes, we recommended that readers jump to this part of Cruise Notes to get a bit of background on Roy Starkey of Sea Loone. Well, here it is:

"My story starts in 1971, when at age 25, but with no money, no boatbuilding skills, and no sailing knowledge, I built a 33-ft ferrocement sailboat in Liverpool. I launched Sea Loone in 1976, and set sail for the Caribbean. 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.

"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 Nories tables. Now I've got GPS and AIS, the latter being a dream for the singlehanded sailor. Sea Loone's first engine was a Lister diesel that I'd taken from a cement mixer. That was first replaced by a cast-iron Volvo diesel with a gearbox and alternator and more recently with 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.

"Having to find ways to make money has added spice to my adventure. I did pile driving in the United States, paper- making in Australia, and fabricated mining machinery in South Africa. I've also bought stuff — tagua nuts, rum, Makonde 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.

"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."

It all goes to prove that if there is a cruising will, there is a cruising way.

Missing the pictures? See the January 2017 eBook!


'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2017 Latitude 38 Media, LLC. All rights reserved.