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January 2018

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With reports this month from Alkahest's Northwest passage; Dogfish's first year of cruising; Cinderella's carbon-free electrification; an overdue Part II of Trolling to Mexico with Mojo; La Cuna's first Baja Ha-Ha, and Cruise Notes.

Alkahest — Tartan 42
Ray Jason
Juggling Ice in a NW Passage
(Archipelago of Bliss)

When you last heard from me, I was writing a regular series for Latitude 38 called "Ray Jason's Sea Gypsy Vignettes." In those articles, I shared some around-the–bar tales describing the humorous misadventures of cruisers I met while meandering from sea to shining sea. But for reasons that will remain a secret, known only to my confessor, that ended several years ago.

That does not mean I gave up the sublime lunacy that is the sea gypsy life. Indeed, I still relish it and have now lived onboard my small but sweet Golden Gate 30, Aventura, for 25 years. Recently, I have homeported in an exquisite spot that I call The Archipelago of Bliss. It is 9.10° N and 82.10° W. I am being coy about the exact location, lest we be inundated with Waterbago cruisers.

However, life in the Banana Latitudes can become so intoxicating that you suddenly are stuck in a Velcro port. And so, sensing that I had been south of several borders for too long, I again cast my fate to the wind — in this case, the northern wind. I joined a great cruising couple who asked me to crew for them on an attempt to sail the Northwest Passage!

This would be a particularly noteworthy quest because we would be doing it in a fiberglass production boat — the Tartan 42 Alkahest. I flew to St. John's, Newfoundland, and joined Danica Richard and Jay Tremblay, who had started their voyage way back in Seattle. I had met them a few years ago and we got along very well. But we had never sailed together — much less in the way-high latitudes.

Our first leg of about 1,000 miles from St. John's to Nuuk, Greenland, went well. The wind conditions were largely favorable and we managed to weave through the fog without hitting any of the Burger King-sized icebergs. By the way, some of them do not show up on radar, which makes watchkeeping as tense an experience as being Harvey Weinstein's limo driver.

On the Fourth of July, we arrived in Nuuk, but instead of a sky filled with fireworks it was actually snowing! There, we were joined by Greg Reed and Michael Hoffman. My vision of our voyage was sort of "Explorers Against the Elements," whereas theirs was more like a "Seagoing Frat Party." It certainly added unexpected dimensions to the adventure — particularly with five of us aboard a 42-footer. We cruised up the spectacular west coast of Greenland viewing scenic wonders during the day and watching action movies at night.

From the east there is only one entrance to the Northwest Passage. It is called Lancaster Sound and it is where we presumed that our battle with the ice would begin. But a full week before we arrived there, we got a sobering preview of the fun ahead. As we motored through a very manageable field of ice, we suddenly found ourselves in a narrow channel with lots of ice and very little water. It was now as manageable as a fish market full of hungry cats.

This was Intense with a capital 'I'. Since ice moves with wind and current, it was shifting and closing in behind us. Involuntarily, we swiftly learned ice pilotage. I drove, while Michael perched on the boom calling out course changes. The others stood by with ice poles to help keep our experience from going titanic. We often had only a foot of clearance between the floes. After two hours of laser focus, we made it through. We Rejoiced with a Capital 'R'.

Once we arrived in the Canadian Arctic, this experience proved very helpful. The few other sailboats that were attempting the NWP this season would approach an ice field and decide that it was impassable.But we would muster all hands on deck and find a route through. This always took many hours of constipation-inducing concentration, but the high afterwards was as powerful as a Humboldt harvest.

Aside from combat with the ice demons, we had other foes. When the glow plugs would no longer glow, the diesel would no longer go. But the transmission certainly would — once it locked itself into forward. Amazingly, we traveled over 2,000 miles with this "minor inconvenience." Plus, five husky sailors against one toilet is not a fair match.

But our greatest challenge led to a downright miraculous victory. The cutlass bearing slid out of the skeg and we sailed 700 miles to Tuktoyaktuk, which is on the north side of nowhere, wondering how we could repair it in this frigid water. Up where the polar bears roam, there are no boatyards and we had no cold-water dive gear.

Then along comes a 100-ft expedition sailboat emblazoned with decals that said "Under The Pole." These French adventurers had just been scuba diving under the North Pole. When they learned of our situation, they sent over two of their best divers. In about 90 minutes, these scuba Samaritans fixed our unsolvable problem. This reinforced my long-held belief that people will care for each other — if you just get the politicians out of the way.

Another couple of thousand miles across the Beaufort Sea and through the Bering Strait, and we pulled into Nome, Alaska. Logging over 5,100 miles, we had triumphed. If that seems a bit overly self-congratulatory, don't forget that men tried to sail the Northwest Passage for over 400 years before the first boat made it through.

— ray jason, 11/29/17

Readers — Those of you who don't know Ray Jason might actually know Ray Jason. For years he was a street performer in the City, juggling all manner of hot, sharp, heavy, dangerous items for your entertainment. If that still doesn't ring a bell, he's the only guy we know of who could juggle bowling balls. Ray sailed Aventura to Hawaii in the 1990 Singlehanded TransPac, and basically never looked back. He has lived the sea gypsy life ever since. You can find his books Tales of a Sea Gypsy and The Sea Gypsy Philosopher at

Dogfish — Peterson 44
Marga Pretorius & Greg O'Toole
First Year Debrief

So what has the first year of cruising been like?

You met us one year ago in the Bay Area (Sightings, Jan. 2017), struggling under the weight of so many projects, toiling between downpours, frantically racing to tie up loose ends and final must-do's. Would we ever leave on our two-year sailing trip? The anticipated departure date was a crumpled and mangled traffic cone in the rear view mirror, taken down at 60 miles an hour as we exclaimed, "We're not ready yet!"

Finally, one day we reached the outskirts of Perhaps Good Enough, took an exit, and veered south.

We made it some 400-odd miles — where it all came to a stop. Ay Dios Mio! Did the boat break? Was the dream lost? Oh no, the relationship crumbled?!

None of these. For us young cruisers, the snake in the grass was of a medical variety: big cut. Lots of blood. Bad diagnosis. Surgery. Bandages in value packs. Uber receipts to physical therapists. Copays. More copays. Turns out when insurance says "copay" really it's more like, "Umm . . . no, why don't you pay?"

Jobs necessarily followed.

And so as the winter of 2017 rained its way all through spring, we toiled once more, only a few hundred miles from home. But when the Southern California wildflowers finally emerged, a newly bastioned Dogfish, ready for take two, also blossomed. On with the trip! Bring me that horizon!

We set our sights on anchorage number two. Where would it be? A prudent crew decided easily: San Diego for a medical training course. Then, a quick zip south around Baja before hurricanes started in earnest.

Here is the point in this tiny narrative when things slow down and melt, like a stick of butter making its way down a hot elote. Southing began to happen as advertised: under a spinnaker, through warming climes, taco in belly, beer in hand. Our old cares bobbed distantly behind our smiling phosphorescent wake. We were weightless, unstoppable, sailing so fast down the coast of ecstasy and delight that it became impossible to believe that the contents of our holding tank smelled any different than the sweet desert perfume of cardon cacti mixed with the salty fresh spray of dolphins jumping into sunsets. We were in it. We were hot.

And if some was good, more should be better. So we tried more. More sailing, up into the Sea of Cortez. More anchorages. More fish and birds, reefs and corals. More islands and beaches and rocky points. More three-hour-long dinners. More dark nights. More solitude. More hikes. More towns. More people. More foods. More, more, more and more.

Fast forward through summer and fall and it turns out more has been great. We have become busy — our days are stuffed full of adventures, chores and all the wonderful messes of floating life. At night poblano peppers are stuffed full of onions, chorizo, and fresh tuna before being thrown onto the grill. Living stuffed has suited us. We have been feasting.

Every now and again, when the bill comes, we think, "Not bad: we'll take it." We do our share of maintenance. We work on finishing that project list that never gets shorter. We make lots of mistakes — luckily, none of them too costly. We rebalance. We buy parts. We save for catastrophes. We have learned from our long winter and pick up jobs where they fit.

In the blink of an eye a year has passed. We are still in Mexico, only just licking the icing on our originally planned two-year route. It's obvious now that we will go for longer than that.

— marga pretorius 11/30/17

Cinderella — Ericson 35
Pajo Gazibara and Ava Ryerson
Carbon-Free Cruising

A few months ago, Ava and I set off from Seattle in pursuit of a dream shared by most sailors — to sail around the world. We also plan to do it using 100% renewable energy, right down to the electric motor that powers Cinderella.

The adventure started with an "enlightened moment" a couple of years ago. I was working remotely from Stoneway Café in Seattle, once again hunched over the old laptop, when I made up my mind to quit the 9-to-5, untie the docklines, and aim for the BLT (Big Left Turn) out the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

My plan was to work for two more years, then start looking for a boat. However, it just so happens that a short time later, a friend asked me to go with him to look at a 1971 Ericson 35 over in Ballard.

My first thought when I saw Cinderella was, "What a project!" But I was somehow drawn to it. The friend wasn't interested, but I put in a $6,000 offer. It was immediately rejected. A month later, the sellers called to say it was accepted!

I soon found out Cinderella had a racy past. That explained her Spartan, almost gutted interior. Except for the diesel engine in the center of the cabin, a modest galley, and a couple settees, she was bare fiberglass inside.

The boat had raced to Hawaii twice in the Pacific Cup, and had numerous trophies from racing on Lake Washington. One of the previous owners had done a complete overhaul, so structurally she was in good shape.

Around this same time, I met and fell in love with an amazing gal, Ava. On one of our first dates, I asked what her five-year plan was. I had already told her mine, which was to leave in two years to sail around the world.

Her thoughts? This guy is cute, but wow, is he a dreamer.

Two years later, she was selling her car, scooter and vinyl collection. She found a new home for Jennifer the cat, and moved aboard Cinderella. We spent 2017 rigorously preparing while both working full- time jobs and picking up odd jobs to save money. We had a monster to-do list to get our boat ready to go (and we're still checking off items along the way).

Our limited budget means I rebuild or custom-build whatever the boat needs. So it was never hard for Ava to track me down — I was either at Fisheries Supply, or at the boat, buried deep in power tools and fiberglass.

Among the jobs we did during that time were installing a new interior with custom cabinetry, extra berths, new plumbing and a functioning head, adding roller furling, re-habbing and installing an old Aries windvane, and installing a solar power system.

And then there was the engine. I did the usual oil and filter changes, but after it failed us twice — hydrolocking both times due to exhaust system issues — I was motivated to replace it with something simpler, cheaper and 'greener'.

Did I say "cheaper?" When I began my research, I was shocked to see how much the few electric drive conversions on the market cost — as much as or more than repowering with a new diesel!

After much more research, I discovered Sailing Uma on YouTube ( It chronicles a couple who had come up with an inventive DIY electric boat. They showed me that a conversion to electric drive for Cinderella was not only feasible, but affordable. I was inspired and dove into researching and piecing components together — all the while still working my day job.

Cinderella's electric drive uses the motor half of a Briggs & Stratton 10hp generator . . . with some odd golf cart add-ons. (An electric motor and generator are basically the same thing — as a motor, it spins when you put power to it; in generator mode, it puts out power when you spin it). Due to our budget battery bank, our range is limited — about 15 miles at 3-4 knots (it can push the boat at hull speed for an hour) — so we usually save our 'motoring' for getting into and out of harbors or any other situations where we need to move. Despite its limitations, this has been one of the most trouble-free systems aboard. While it does get frustrating watching sails flog in windless conditions, I will take that any day over dealing with the breakdowns and maintenance required by its petroleum-driven counterpart. Luckily, Cinderella is a fantastic light-wind boat.

Anyone who tells you battery technology isn't there yet (or that it's not practical) has not properly educated themselves. After overhauling the energy vampires, we have enough renewable energy to power our floating home comfortably. We are able to charge all of our devices, pressurize our water, run our LED lights, rice cooker, and power tools — and not once have to start a generator (which we don't have anyway). In addition to solar power, we are able to charge the batteries with the turning prop shaft.

However, the golf cart controller that runs things only lets this happen in a narrow range between 5 to 5.7 knots. Since we are either sailing faster or slower, we don't use it very much. One day, if we can find funds, it might be nice to play with that and use the excess power to run a freezer for the fish we catch, or hot water if we ever decide to go back to cold climates.

We untied from our dock at Fremont Boat Co. on September 3, 2017, at 2 a.m. to catch the morning ebb. As I write this, we are approaching Cabo San Lucas. We've logged nearly 2,600 miles and we've sailed just about all of it.

So far cruising is everything I imagined and more. After a bumpy ride down the Washington and Oregon coasts, we were escorted into California by a pod of dolphins. We have seen so many whales we've lost count. Believe me, watching the sunset from your 'back deck', cold beer in hand, never gets old.

We spent a festive Thanksgiving in Bahia Santa Maria, complete with a potluck and beach bonfire with some fellow gringos. In Bahia Tortuga, we were invited to go surfing with the locals at their favorite spot. We scrambled to say, "Heck yeah!" in español.

It's not all glamor out here as you can imagine. We pitchpoled our sailing dinghy in rough surf in the Channel Islands after a harrowing passage around Point Conception. We've also been caught numerous times bobbing for hours in zero wind.

Needless to say, sailing an electric boat certainly requires a special brand of patience, foresight and tenacity at times.

We've learned that the wind will always start blowing again sooner or later. And hey, we are at home. The experiences and places we've discovered so far seem to erase those frustrating times. The payoffs are incredibly worth it and we wouldn't trade anything for it.

Looking forward, we are studying weather patterns south to Costa Rica, where we would like to spend some time with family and friends. Although we were a little too late to join the Baja Ha-Ha, we do hope to be part of the 2018 Puddle Jump fleet headed to the Marquesas and onward through the South Pacific this spring . . . and after that, onward around the world.

— pajo, 11/28/17

Mojo — Jeanneau 36
David Kramer
Trolling to Mexico, Part 2
(Santa Barbara)

(Readers — Better late than never. This is the second part of a fishing-from-the-boat story that we ran in Changes in the October issue. The first half detailed what gear you need and how to fish; this is what to do after you have a fish on the line. If you've been waiting for this part before trying your hand, we apologize for all the fish you haven't caught.)

Before you touch the trolling line to pull your fish aboard, you need to prepare the boat. If you do it well you'll avoid getting any blood or scales in the cockpit. I use a 5-gallon bucket with a lid. A bigger bucket would be better if you have one, but every boat has a 5-gallon bucket — right? A lid is important, so make sure you have one before you leave the dock.

You'll also need some diagonal cutters or a sharp knife, and a small towel. We call the latter the "fish towel." It gets a bit nasty after a while, so you probably shouldn't use it for anything other than handling fish! Fill the bucket about 1/3 full of sea water.

It makes things easier if you slow the boat down at this point, but if that's a hassle, then don't bother. It might just take a bit more muscle to get the fish onto a fast-moving boat, but it'll work out.

At this point, the fish will either be skipping along the surface or still fighting. Either way, stand on the stern and start pulling the line in hand-over-hand. Be very careful not to put a loop of line around your hand. Depending on what you've caught, a large, powerful fish can put a huge strain on that line — and your hand. Gloves also help if you have them.

If the line gets jerked out of your hand, don't worry, just start again. You'll find that if you can get the fish onto the surface, it's a lot easier to pull it in quickly because it has no leverage. If it goes deep and is too hard to handle, either wait a while for it to tire, or wrap the line around a winch and grind it in!

When you get the fish to the transom, a large fish landing net comes in handy, but if you don't have one, don't worry. You might lose a fish or two and make a bit more of a mess, but that's how you learn what works best. We don't use a gaff because it leaves blood everywhere and you can't release a fish that you've stabbed.

Pull up on the leader to lift the fish out of the water. If it's a big one, this might take a couple of people and some coordination. Typically they're small enough that one person should be enough.

(If you're squeamish or not really that into fishing, you can skip this next part.)

Holding the fish by the leader in one hand, take the towel in the other hand and grab the base of the tail. Suspend the fish head-down over the bucket. At this point you need to decide if you're going to keep the fish. Assuming "yes," take the diagonal cutters or knife and make deep incisions into the fish's gills on both sides. If you do this correctly, arterial blood will start pouring into the bucket. Drop the fish head-first into the bucket and get the lid on as best you can. This is where a bigger bucket is useful. The fish will struggle for a minute or two but it will usually bleed out very quickly. This is a (relatively) humane way to kill the fish and bleeding results in top quality meat. We carry a fish bat to stun the fish, but it's not necessary. If you're uncomfortable with watching the fish struggle, squirt alcohol into the gills before making the cuts. This anesthetizes the fish. You'll obviously need a squirt bottle for this and some high-proof alcohol on board.

Leave the fish in the bucket for a few minutes after it has stopped struggling, just to make sure that it's dead.

Most people fillet large fish. You can also steak them or cook them whole if you have a big enough barbecue, or are doing it on the beach. The best way to learn to fillet is to watch someone do it. (There are plenty of examples on YouTube.) You'll mangle the first few you try but you'll get it with practice. The most important part is to use a very sharp knife. We carry a knife sharpening tool on board just for this.

Our favorite technique for filleting requires newspapers — lots of newspapers. We fillet on top of our sink because that's the largest flat space we have. We line the surface and all adjacent vertical surfaces with several layers of newspaper. The point here is to avoid any fish bits splashing around onto the boat surfaces. Have some large Ziplock bags handy, along with some paper towels to wipe your hands.

Put the fish onto the newspaper and cut off the fillets. Drop them into the Ziplock bags, and put those into the fridge. Fold the newspapers over the carcass of the fish and toss the whole bundle overboard. If you've done this right, it shouldn't take more than about 10 minutes from the moment you hooked the fish, and should leave you without a drop of fish guts or blood on the boat. Don't worry if it seems a bit chaotic the first few times, or you get blood and fish bits everywhere. You'll get it eventually.

How you prepare the fish is up to you. We carry sushi fixings on board for a fun meal. We also grill, bake, pan fry or barbecue a lot of fish. And we love ceviche. Whatever you do, keep the fish cold until you are ready to prepare it. Remember it will never taste better than the moment it comes out of the water, so the sooner you eat it the better.

Lemme See Some ID
We don't fish just to fish, and we respect the fish that we catch. When we have enough fish on board, we stop fishing. We also don't kill fish that we are not going to eat. So it's important to us to know what we're catching so we can release it if necessary.

On last year's trip down and back up Baja, we caught a lot of bonito and skipjack. The bonito have diagonal stripes and the skipjack have horizontal stripes with spots on their bellies. We don't keep either of these small tunas. Some folks might like their dark, often 'fishy' tasting meat, but not us.

In the northern reaches of Baja, you'll often catch yellowtail (hamachi), yellowfin, or, if you're very lucky, a bluefin tuna. All of these fish are delicious. When the water temperature gets into the mid-70s you'll start catching dorado (mahi mahi) and wahoo. If you don't know what all of these fish look like, take a few minutes to look online and maybe take some printouts along with you to remind you. Our personal favorite fish identification book is Fishes of the Pacific Coast by Gar Goodson. I don't think it's still in print but if you can find a used copy, it's a great book for sailing fishermen. Not only does it have pictures of the fish, it also tells you how good they are to eat. The book itself is small and weighs practically nothing —perfect for a sailboat! Of course, there are many other good fishing and fish identification books out there, too. Once you start catching you'll very quickly become familiar with the various fish species. Good luck!

— david, 8/18/17

La Cuna
PJ Landresse
Baja Ha-Ha First Timers
Austin, TX

I have been reading about the Baja Ha-Ha, and dreaming of taking part, for decades. 2017 was finally the year. Conditions for the 24th Ha-Ha meant that we ended up motoring much more than I'd expected, but, as with all cruising, the important thing is to relax and go with the flow! My crew, Jeff, and I did just that.

As a result, some of the night watches were planned to be two to three hours, while others were significantly longer: If the person on watch was awake and comfortable, we often let the off-watch guy sleep longer. This made for a much easier and fun trip.

The stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria were quite enjoyable and relaxing. Cabo was enjoyable in a much different way, but we were glad to leave — way too much like partying in L.A.

The trip north to La Paz — and the post-Ha-Ha party there — had interesting wind: on the nose the whole way.

I've been in La Paz for several days now and re-joined the Cruceros cruising club that I had hooked up with a few years ago. I had a great Thanksgiving dinner with the group. The birds were cooked at a restaurant and everything else was pot-luck. Lots of fun!

I've had several things done on the boat since it's been south of the border. The genset water pump got fixed, my watermaker got new membranes, and some dinghy repairs got done after a bad leak. Replacing the genset water pump in the US would have been around $800 (yikes!) and its official rebuild kit is more than half that (yikes again). The guy who rebuilt it here had to substitute some parts, but, hey, this is Mexico, and so far everything is working fine. After taking it all apart, he also found some things on the case that needed welding and that was included in his price, along with a bunch of time helping to take it out and do the reinstall. All in all, it turned out to be a bargain considering all the work, especially compared with just the rebuild kit price (which does not include any labor).

The watermaker was interesting . . . A good brand, but the parent company had been sold sometime before my unit had been purchased. The new company reduced the size of the membrane holders/pressure vessels slightly to make them proprietary — and then greatly increased the cost of replacements! I found someone here in La Paz who does lots of work on watermakers: Bill on Ocean Quest. He was able to replace the holders on my unit with standard-size ones, which means my watermaker will not only produce more water, but the cost of replacing a membrane will be significantly less.

The dinghy problem was probably the most frustrating, mostly because the guy in Chula Vista, who had been recommended to me, kept putting the work off and never showed, despite repeated promises. Bob of Baja Inflatables finally got the job done, and I was very happy with his work.

I bought my boat out of Dick Markie's Paradise Village Marina in early 2014 and will be returning there shortly. At the time, I had asked some friends who were in their timeshare to do the first look-see and they told me it would be worth my time to come down. The rest, as they say, is history!

— pj 11/19/17

Cruise Notes:

"It is with a heavy heart that I report the loss of Rise and Shine, my home since 1987 and my traveling companion for the last 22 years," writes Nick Pepper. "She was lost on the coast of Mozambique while seeking shelter from what has been called the Durban Storm of 2017, a weather event that killed eight people, put two 125,000-ton cargo ships ashore, and damaged scores of yachts in Durban."

Rise and Shine (whose reports have appeared regularly in Changes — the last one just this past November) had departed Moramba Bay on Madagascar with a good 10-day weather forecast for a passage to Richard's Bay. Unfortunately, it would take the well-traveled Ingrid 38 about two weeks to make the passage. Those last four days are when their fortunes took a decided turn for the worse.
By then the forecasts were calling for 45 to 75 knots out of the northeast, which meant they could not make their original destination. Their only viable option (other than riding out the storm, which was blowing against the infamous Alguhas/Mozambique Current) was to try to make it behind the Linga Linga Peninsula in the upper part of Mozambique's Inhambane Bay. To do that, they had to get over the bar at the mouth of the bay.

Long story short, they made it to the bar, but with the rising wind, it was impossible to tell the breaking surf on top of the bar from whitecaps. They soft-grounded four times. The fifth time, Rise and Shine stuck, and was soon rolled on her beam ends as waves started breaking over her. The propeller struck the hard sand, bending the shaft. The engine seized when it lost oil pressure, and the rudder was sheared off. They were only a mile off the seaward shore of the Linga Linga Peninsula.

Believe it or not, that was just the beginning of the adventure they were in for — which includes 'sailing' the boat over the bar and back into deeper water. We'll bring you the whole story in a future issue. In the meantime, we are thankful that Nick and Bonnie survived, but our hearts go out to them over the loss of their beloved and well-traveled boat. (Nick left Ventura in the mid-'90s as part of Latitude's "Some Like It Hot" migration. Bonnie joined him in Tonga in 2006 via our Crew List postings, and the two were married in 2009.)

"In 2015 I crewed on a Baja Bash aboard the Sausalito-based SC50 Bay Wolf," writes Rich Morse, one of the folks who responded to our request in last month's column (and 'Lectronic Latitude) for stories of memorable holidays spent cruising.

"We cast off from Los Cabos as soon as all the crew arrived in order to avoid an approaching storm. We had an uneventful first leg and arrived in Turtle Bay a few days before Thanksgiving.

"What little weather forecast we could get via the limited Internet did not look promising for continuing north. Our support crew back home responded to our forecast inquiries with, "Is there someplace down there we can send a Christmas card?" So we hunkered down to enjoy the beautiful local weather. Over the next few days, more and more boats arrived and anchored to avoid the bad weather now north and south of Turtle Bay.

"One afternoon, a couple dinghied over and invited us to a potluck the next night . . . You know, for Thanksgiving.

"We met up with a substantial and eclectic group at Maria's on the beach (well known to Baja Ha-Ha veterans). Maria allowed us to take over the whole place, baked us a cake and even cooked some snacks. All we paid for was beer. "I will never forget this day!" she proclaimed. An expat friend of hers played guitar and sang American songs for us.

"It was a really nice day and one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. A weather window opened the next day and we and most of the other boats made a break for it."

After learning to sail about four years ago, Elana Connor bought her Sabre 34, Windfola, quit her job, and sailed under the Gate in early July for Hawaii. After 26 days at sea, Connor — along with her dog Jadzia ('Zia') Dax — arrived in Hilo. Elana's been staying busy with repairs, fishing, and meeting fellow sailors.

"Visiting a country home up by Volcanoes National Park," Connor wrote on her Instagram (@peregrinasails). "Had my first fresh lilikoi (passion fruit), saw the ripening bananas and every shade of plumeria; it was followed by drinks and dinner, first with all of us at our Canadian neighbor's catamaran for wine, and then at our Québécois neighbors' sloop to chat about anchorages on the island while examining the chart. Then we enjoyed a delicious meal."

Connor paid homage to other singlehanded transpacific sailors whom she called mentors who helped improve her sailing skills and boost her confidence. "We (Zia and Windfola, too) are truly lucky to have had their help with everything from veterinary care at sea to canvas/sailmaking knowledge, to singlehanding advice and moral support at sea . . . the list goes on and on. We are honored to know them and call them friends."

Connor explored the Big Island, including dry forests and arid landscapes that were "amazingly" just a few dozen miles from rainforests.

Connor went from Reeds Bay in Hilo, relocated to Kealakekua Bay south of Kona, and then went on to Honokohau Harbor "for a few weeks so we can make repairs that require dry weather and a calm boat." In October, Connor dropped the hook off Lahaina in Maui, then went on to Kaneohe Bay on Oahu (and apparently made a quick trip to Moloka'i). A few days before going to press, Elana had dreamy, smooth conditions across Alenuihaha (the Maui Channel) on her way back to the Big Island.

When we spoke to her in March, Connor told us that she hopes to eventually carry on into the South Pacific, and would like to start a business around her interests in food, culture and travel.

You might recall our story about a Santa Cruz skipper featured in last month's Sightings. Captain Jim Holm spearheaded Clean Oceans International, an organization that aims to reduce plastic pollution via conversion of refuse to diesel fuel. Holm dropped us a letter from Malta, and said that his Fountaine Pajot Eleuthera 60 catamaran Pono is 'evolving'. "At first it was a dream, then it became a bit of a maintenance nightmare as we missed the summer cruising season working out the bugs from years of little use."

Holm said that Pono is becoming his workhorse, home and office, and has been putting in some serious miles recently. "Leaving West France at the end of September, we made an 800-mile dash to Malta for the opportunity to attend the Our Oceans Conference. 'Dash' is descriptive of the trip. With our equipment delayed by French Customs and damaged by FedEx, we were a week behind schedule and had to keep up a pace to ensure on-time arrival.

"Nevertheless, we had wonderful dawn and dusk light shows; sperm whales and dolphins blessed our path, and we had a hitchhiking sparrow south of Sardinia. The wind rarely cooperated on this course, but we have been sailing long enough to count our blessings, too.

"Our timing was further questioned when arrival coincided with what the locals called the worst weather in a generation. This was made interesting by some dirty fuel issues that kept our engines from providing peace of mind while riding out a gale on a mooring in a crowded harbor.

"The day of the conference, Pono was warmly received at Portomaso Marina, under the shadow of the Hilton Tower. This marina was not cheap, but it was spotless and the service was amazing. David and Kenneth are a father/son team that provide family attention to customers. The crew was helpful and more. Their mechanic, Chris, was a pleasure to have on board as he polished our fuel of rust from what must have been the end of a tank on a previous fill-up.

"My panel discussion at the conference seated me next to the president of the Port of Rome, and his invitation became our next destination. The legends of Scylla and Charybdis were tame at the head of the Strait of Messina, but an hour north of that we were spanked by a 35-knot squall that stretched for 10 miles across our track. By good fortune, my daughter was on holiday in Positano and we were blessed with calm weather to have her and her husband on board for a few hours at anchor in front of their hotel. This was some of our rare time off.

"In Rome, we found the tourist harbor to be convenient and reasonable despite the fact that our cat has to pay for two berths because of her beam. Jet noise belied the convenience of the nearby Rome airport. Losing one crew and regaining another rounded out our time here, and we are on our way west. Hurricane Ophelia reminded us not to be in a hurry. The weather has been challenging to say the least. Fortunately, there are places to hide, and Cabrera Island south of Majorca is a National Park with sturdy moorings for $25/night and free Wi-Fi at the bar. This is the de facto hangout for the rangers and island residents, and the tapas are a delightful assortment of options. I'm a fool for not getting the recipe for the chickpea dish."

Mexican tourism statistics all showed upticks for the first half of 2017 when compared to the January-July 2016 numbers.

According to Datatur, (Analisis Integral del Turismo), all sectors of tourism — arrivals by air, arrivals by sea, hotel occupancy, dollars spent — show double-digit increases. As far as we know, those 'arrivals by sea' mean cruise ships, not cruising yachts. Any guesses as to which port boasts the highest number of shipborne turistas? That would be Cozumel, by a long shot — almost 2.5 million folks disembarked there in the first six months of this year — five times more than second-place Mahahual (the former sleepy fishing village just north of Belize that has become the new, hip destination), whose 540,000 arrivals showed a whopping 58.6% increase over last year. Rounding out the top five are Ensenada (368K), Cabo (223K) and Puerto Vallarta (188K).

While cruisers might not glean a lot from these stats, at least those seeking quieter or more natural surroundings will know where not to go.

Missing the pictures? See the January 2018 eBook!


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