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February 2018

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With reports this month from Migration's Pacific Rim circumnavigation, Alsager's maiden voyage south, the cruising situation in the Gulf of Thailand, the adventures of Mexican sailor Tulia Gonzalez, and Cruise Notes.

Migration — Cross 46 Trimaran
Bruce Balan and Alene Rice
Tying The Pacific Rim Knot
(Long Beach)

We begin this month's Changes in Latitudes with a doff of the editorial hat to Bruce Balan and Alene Rice of the Cross 46 Migration, who are (briefly) back in the Bay Area after completing a 12-year, 50,000-mile circumnavigation of the Pacific via Japan and the Aleutians.

It was way back in June 2005 that Migration sailed to the Bay Area from her homeport of Long Beach. She departed our local waters that September, and crossed her outbound track at Point Reyes on December 13, 2017. In between, Bruce and Alene visited 27 countries by boat ("That includes Alaska," says Bruce, "which is really its own country"), and a few more by land travel.

The farthest they got 'down under' was 41.38°S — in Cook Strait off New Zealand — and the farthest north at the top of the world, Prince William Sound, Alaska. To the east, 98.20°E in Thailand, and 78°W in the Rio Sabana, Panama.
Favorite stops included Easter Island, the Tuamotus and Japan (where Migration was built in 1969).

A not-so-favorite one? Thailand, where Migration went through a two-year refit that should have taken half that long. (The litany of collapsing tents, crooked contractors, stolen paint, a military coup(!) and other trials were partially chronicled in past Changes.) But in the end, the job gave new life (and a new Gram Schweikert-designed rudder) to the now 49-year-old boat.

No matter how many hulls you sail, if you dream of cruising, Migration's website ( is a good read — with one caveat: The newest entry is from mid-2016!

"We have found that living this life is more fun than writing about it," says Bruce. Spoken like a true cruiser!

As you read this, Migration will have been hauled in Napa for routine maintenance and paint. Bruce and Alene have used these past couple of months to catch up with friends. But not for long. Sometime this month, they'll be heading back out — for Southern California, Mexico this fall and back to French Polynesia in the spring of 2019.

— latitude/jr 1/8/18

Alsager — 42-ft steel sloop
Stolze Family
Starting the Cruising Dream

Our cruise started in Sausalito in the middle of October, and since my wife, Tanja, and 3½-year-old son Mats (and dog, Noah) are new to coastal sailing, we made a point of harbor hopping. Our steel ex-racer-turned-cruising-boat Alsager turns 50 in 2018, and since her old engine looks the part, we try to sail whenever possible. Fortunately, she does that very well.

My greenhorns fared well, though no one enjoyed the breezeless mornings because of the rolling. We are all much happier with some cloth up.

We are also all happier with my decision to invite my old friend 'Kruiser' along, since he has some passagemaking experience. It helps smooth out those times when Mats requires Tanja's attention and I'm left to tend Alsager alone. Kruiser is an expat Canadian currently based in Nicaragua. He is a former professional athlete turned pro gambler. He is also an avid surfer, fisherman — and chef.

We really enjoyed the trip down the California coast. We had no moon and the phosphorescence was amazing. At times it looked like we were being torpedoed by dolphins, which helped to take Tanja's mind off her fear of night sailing. We had some engine overheating issues, which we were able to sort out in San Diego, but have been plagued with an ignition switch that chooses when it wants to work — which was better than the replacement we got that never worked at all.

We had planned to do the Baja Ha-Ha, but changed our minds since our primary goal is to take it easy, enjoy the trip, and stop at any anchorages along the way that offer the possibility of good waves. However, we ended up doing a straight shot to Turtle Bay from San Diego, since heading offshore promised more wind. Based on our conversations with some Ha-Ha boats, this turned out to be a good call, since we were able to sail 75% of the leg vs. the 90% motoring we were told they experienced near shore.

Noah was very happy to arrive — despite our encouragement, it took him until day three to 'do his business' on the foredeck!

The fishing was fantastic — we landed dorado and yellowfin tuna thanks to Kruiser's efforts and expertise. We then enjoyed his seared ahi and amazing tacos, along with sashimi.

By coincidence, we pulled into Turtle Bay as the first Ha-ha boats were arriving. It was great to see so many cruisers in one place. We departed with them and enjoyed being in some wind with other boats for the first time. This was short- lived, since we broke off to head for Asuncion, followed by Punta Abreojos and then Scorpion Bay.

All three were great, but despite the small swell, we opted to go to shore by panga in Punta Abreojos. It was also there that something rather large gave Alsager a literal "bump in the night." We rushed on deck to catch a glimpse of whatever it was, but there was nothing to be seen.

Scorpion Bay was amazing and we stayed over a week. We timed our arrival to coincide with a building south swell, so the surf was fun. Mats caught his first wave on a boogie board, and had a blast playing in the waves. We also managed to nail down our dinghy surf landing and launching techniques. Although we never had a real problem, at times it was still intimidating to launch and get back to Alsager in the pitch black. Tanja, who grew up far from water in a small village in Northern Germany, challenged herself (yet again, as for a landlubber the trip itself is a very big deal for her) and paddled out and caught some good waves on my SUP as all of us cheered her on.

We departed Scorpion Bay with some sore muscles, intending to stop in Santa Maria. But en route I was contacted about a delivery job bringing a large motor yacht from San Diego to Cabo. Being on a tight budget, I grabbed the opportunity. We then sailed straight to Cabo and checked in. The next day I got on a plane. Three days later, I was back in Cabo checking in again! The delivery was a piece of cake, although we lost a nice marlin a few feet from the boat.

Cabo had its highs and lows. The former included the exciting Extreme Sailing Series that was going on when we were there. But each time we tried to leave, either weather or engine gremlins held us back. After being calm for a couple of weeks, the anchorage turned nasty with onshore wind and swell. Several boats bailed out, but the timing was not right for us, so we set two anchors and I monitored the boat while taking the family to shore for a stay in a resort. Alsager fared well, while some other boats suffered minor damage like broken anchor bridles and bow rollers, etc. We finally took off, only to beat to weather in 18 knots to get to San Jose.

From here we will work our way around the East Cape to meet friends and do some kitesurfing. Tanja is really excited for that, and Kruiser is eager to try his hand at it again, having started it in 2001 but stopped when he moved to San Diego. Then comes some island cruising, and off to Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita for more waves. From there options include bashing back, the Pacific Puddle Jump or (more likely) a Hawaii to Victoria/Alaska loop. Time will tell. I'm very proud of my family for supporting my dream and making it happen. We are "To Sail or Not to Be!"

— Evan 12/20/17

Readers — Alsager's crew (who also go by the moniker Captain Teem) also happened to be close to some breaking news, which we'll bring to you in Cruise Notes.)

We've also been enjoying Evan's take on the cruising life. It's one thing to dream about sailing for the horizon, but finding the time and money to make it happen is the real trick. From the outside, most people think that sailing is a rich person's sport and lifestyle, and while there are certainly plenty of blue blazers and mega-yachts out there, most cruisers are working- class people with rich, extravagant dreams.

After Evan sent us the update on Alsager's travels, he wrote the following on, talking about the realities of making the time to take a few years at sea:

We're three months into our adventure, and I'd like to share some thoughts and observations regarding our boat and the lifestyle that comes along with it.

First, some background. Alsager is in her 50th year, but we trust her entirely. She is Dutch built in Corten steel, and co-designed by the late Frans Maas and Dick Carter. She is one of two sister ships to Rabbit II, which took second in class in the '67 Fastnet. She has tens of thousands of sea miles under her belt. Her systems are very basic and just what is necessary.

We are what I like to call 'upper class pikeys'. We own a couple of old boats and vehicles and a small apartment in Canada, and beyond the small mortgage remaining on that, we have no debts. We currently have no income, and are using our savings to fund our cruise. We live aboard our 1972 motor yacht in Sausalito.

I work as an independent contractor in the marine industry doing some boat work, but primarily as a captain on various yachts. I jump on deliveries when I get the chance, and up until the Kiwis won the America's Cup in Bermuda last summer, I worked intermittently for ACRM as a mark layer since 2011. By industry standards I do well, but the income fluctuates with the work, and we live in a very expensive place.

Tanja quit working when Mats was born and raises him full time. I wanted him shaped by his mom, rather than a stranger. Whether by nature or nurture, he is an amazing little human who is a joy to have around — at least 95% of the time anyway! He spends days at sea without serious complainant, and has a very calm demeanor. By SF Bay Area standards we are poor — something I find quite amusing. How many people there can raise a child on one inconsistent income and are free to take off on a great adventure of indeterminate length? By global standards, I consider us to be very well off. Perhaps it's because neither of us care about acquiring shiny new things. I made a choice long ago to spend my days doing what I love while being responsible, rather than beat to someone else's drum.

Why is this relevant? Because it speaks to our way of life, how we cruise, and how Alsager is equipped.

Being old, and made from steel and wood, she requires a fair share of maintenance, and I try to do whatever I can. Since we want our cruise to be about enjoying sailing and the places we go and the things we do there, I have chosen to keep her very basic. This minimizes the time I spend fixing things and the costs.

We have no watermaker, since they are expensive and require a lot of energy and maintenance. Instead, we carry 90 gallons of fresh water. This lasts four people and one large dog about two months. How do we do it? We use our saltwater sink pump for washing dishes, and bathe on deck with buckets or in the ocean. We use a little fresh water for a quick rinse sometimes. The water in most places we are going is warm, crystal clear and teeming with sea life. Granted, if we were somewhere cooler with less inviting water, we'd use our portable propane shower.

Coming from life in a marina and working in the sailing industry, I'm used to rinsing a boat down with fresh water immediately after each use, so it was a bit hard to get used to the idea of washing Alsager in saltwater. Yet, after three months and 1,800 miles, she doesn't look any different than the day we left the dock. With all of the time we spend on beaches, it's an effort to keep the sand out, but it's actually quite simple and the boat looks great inside and out. I like to say that "A little effort up front saves a lot of work on the back end." It really makes me think about all of the fresh water I've used endlessly rinsing down the boats I work on back home, not to mention the harsh chemicals that are used to keep them looking shiny.

Other essential systems include our depthsounder for uncharted anchorages, backed up by a handheld unit and then lead line. We also rely heavily on our old Simrad autopilot (and spare parts). While I love sailing, I don't like hand steering on long hauls. The autopilot makes shorthanded sail handling much easier. We have plenty of ground tackle on board, as we spend 99% of our nights at anchor. We back our primary anchor up with a large secondary Danforth, and, if in doubt, we set both off the bow. We also use our stern anchor frequently to keep us bow into the swell in what would otherwise be rolly anchorages.

Since our safety is at stake and the boat is not insured for loss, I take anchoring very seriously. That being said, if the anchoring is done well, I'm not afraid to leave Alsager unattended for a night or two so we can go have fun elsewhere. Our folding tender Gooey also plays a vital role, carrying all of us safely through many surf landings (except one). Gooey stores easily on deck, and powers well with only a 6hp outboard. Unless we are making a passage, Gooey is used daily to get to shore and to go surfing, when we anchor her just outside the break.

Is there anything I would change? Not really, though the old lady would look a little nicer with new topside paint (next haulout). I'll also be happier when we get an overheating issue sorted. Of course I'd love to repower, but when it came to deciding whether to use our funds for that or going cruising, it was an easy choice. The freedom is unbeatable, and that's why I'm out here doing it instead of reading and dreaming about it like I have for years.

How long will we carry on? Perhaps another month or two, perhaps another year. Time will tell. It's great, but we also really enjoy long camping trips in our old van and want to go to Germany again, so maybe we'll put Alsager to bed for a while somewhere and come back to her next fall. And at some point, I'll need to earn a few bucks again, too.

Wishing for a Boat
John A
Cruising Cambodia

On a (non-sailing) trip to Southeast Asia late last year, we spent a few days on the small island of Koh Rong Sanloem off the southern coast of Cambodia. Despite classic tropical sailing conditions, there was a distinct shortage of sailing activity. The country's 270-mile coastline, wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, includes about 30 offshore islands.

As with several of them, Koh Rong Sanloem has a number of sandy coves with small cabin beach resorts — and ideal trade-wind sailing conditions from early November to late May. During our brief stay, the wind blew onshore every day at a steady 15 knots — conditions that, we're told, are typical that time of year.
Which made us all the more surprised to find — or rather, not find — a single sailboat to rent or borrow! In exploring the small island by foot, we spotted only one sailboat, about 50 feet long, anchored well offshore from the gently shoaling
Lazy Beach.

Of course, US history in the region doesn't exactly bring up the best of memories, and current politics in the area remain complicated. In early December, the US imposed travel restrictions on senior Cambodian diplomats due to a backsliding toward dictatorship.

Ashore, there was no shortage of travelers from Europe, Australia and New Zealand, along with a few fellow Americans. In a quick Google search, we did find a couple of one-boat charter operators — Yachting Cambodia and Sail Cambodia — that offer day- or week-long skippered or bareboat opportunities from the mainland. But there was next to nothing on the rules and regs of sailing in on your own boat. We're wondering if anyone has insights on cruising the Cambodian coast and the Gulf of Thailand.

— latitude / john 12/12/17

Readers — Shortly after this piece ran in 'Lectronic Latitude in mid-December, we received a note from Al Moran, a former Bay Area sailor who lived for a time in Thailand and Cambodia and now makes his home in Viet Nam. Al sailed this area extensively until an aviation accident in 2015 left him partially paralyzed and relegated to a wheelchair. He hasn't sailed since then, "so some of this information might be a bit outdated," he says. He still keeps an interest and weather eye out for maritime goings-on. Here are some highlights from his report (edited for space limitations) on all three countries bordering the Gulf of Thailand:

Thailand is the most Westernized: fast food joints, 7-Elevens, and armed police everywhere. There are modern marinas with modern services that are easy for Westerners to understand. The clearing-in and clearing-out procedures are also fairly comprehensible, but probably best done with the assistance of a local agent.

I believe a foreign vessel gets six months and needs to post a bond. Not sure of current fees but most costs in Thailand (payable in Thai baht; $1 US = about 32 baht) are reasonable. There is an immigration office near the marina in Pattaya. Tourist visas are also inexpensive. For longer stays, again, go through an agent.

It's important to keep tabs on the political climates of all these countries in your planning. The recently deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a nautical enthusiast, hence the Phuket King's Cup Regatta (held in early December) over on the Andaman side. He even designed and registered his own class of sailboat. The current monarch is still finding his way, and the country is ruled by the military these days — for how long, who knows? I have personally seen a few coups during my years there.

Cambodia is a kingdom like Thailand, but the government is Communist . . . with a capitalist tinge. The Chinese government is pouring billions into Cambodian infrastructure and politics. They are building warm-weather Chinese beach resorts and casinos at an alarming rate.

In addition to the Chinese tourists, English, European and Australian backpackers and expats are the norm. There are a few of us Yanks there as well. The food is great, and you will find many Western-style restaurants.
The cost of living in Cambodia is the most inexpensive in the region. The local currency is the riel ($1 US = 4,000 riel), although the dollar is common currency (available at all ATMs). You can obtain an inexpensive visa and stay as long as you wish, unlike other countries in the region.

Cambodia is also the most remote and undeveloped country in terms of marine services — or any Western conveniences, for that matter. I know of no marinas outside the very small Sailing Club near the Sihanoukville Autonomous Zone (deep- water port) in Kampong Som. I also don't know the regulations — if there are any — to clear a foreign vessel into Cambodian waters.

However, there are decent supermarkets in Sihanoukville, and hotels are widely available. The Khmer people are friendly, helpful and easy to get to know.
I've seen a few sailboats anchored out from time to time. I was never able to make contact with anyone aboard, and assume they were just stopping briefly on their way to somewhere else.

Heading east, you enter the waters of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The first port you'll come to is Vung Tau. This area is currently a base for offshore oil exploration, mostly a joint effort between Vietnamese and Australian concerns, although you will find immigration and limited marine services. Viet Nam is a rapidly modernizing country, and though it is still ruled by the Communist Party, it is very capitalist-oriented and by far the most stable government in the region. The local currency is the VN dong ($1 US = 22,000 dong).

Viet Nam has a large coastline with many exotic islands (think of California facing east instead of west). All the main ports have immigration offices. Viet Nam has great natural beauty with a booming tourist industry catering mostly to Russian, Chinese and Australian visitors. There are many hotels and resorts under construction. In past years, it was difficult to obtain a visa. Now Viet Nam openly and enthusiastically welcomes visitors and the visa process is much more user-friendly.

As late as 2004, the Vietnamese government only granted entrance to yachts in emergency situations, and boats could only stay for long as it took for repairs to be completed. By 2008, Sunsail Yacht charters had a base in Nha Trang with about a half-dozen Beneteaus moored off the beach. They offered only fully crewed and provisioned boats, and for Nha Trang Bay only. Only a few weeks later, the Sunsail office was closed. I later found out that, due to government regulations at that time, they closed abruptly in the middle of the night and sailed the boats under cover of darkness out of Vietnamese waters.

By 2010, on the same beach, you could rent Hobie Cats from large hotels. Now in 2018, modern marinas are being built. I have spotted a few masts on the water but I've yet to get a close-up look.

Your readers probably already know about the 673-mile Hong Kong to Viet Nam Race, which had its inaugural running in October last year. It is part of the Volvo China Coast Race Week — just a few examples of how things have changed in Viet Nam over the years.

Nautical charts for the entire Gulf are available online these days. The ones I've seen are pretty good, and certainly adequate when combined with good seamanship practices and local knowledge, if you can find it.

To sum up, this continuous coastline offers excellent bluewater cruising to an abundance of islands, great diving and terrific fishing. Unfortunately, access is currently limited in certain areas, and the places you can go will take more effort and pre-planning (and monitoring of the political climate) than most destinations on your travels. For those willing to go that extra mile, this area will more than satisfy your cruising dreams.

— al moran 1/7/18

Various Boats
Tulia Gonzalez
In Praise of Mexican Crew
Mexico City

Every sailor dreams about sailing to the South Seas. But what if the dream actually finds you, and not the other way around? That's what happened to me. One moment I was a total sailing novice, the next I was untying En Pointe's docklines in Puerto Vallarta to start a nonstop, almost 4,000-mile voyage across the Pacific.

Exactly how I got into sailing is a mystery that remains unsolved. I'm from the very center of Mexico — the state of Guanajuato — where most of my first 23 years were spent a safe 300 miles away from the shorelines of the Pacific. Even during my semester at UCSF in the Bay Area, I barely noticed sailboats in the distance.

In 2012, when I was 25, I was working at the World Health Organization in Geneva. I thought that so many great achievements in public health and research were going to come. Politics, both inside and outside the organization, soon made me think otherwise.

It wasn't that I was totally disillusioned with the Western health system. I just felt I needed to step aside for awhile to reconsider the world, the idea of 'success' and the direction of my life. So I quit the job and headed out to see more of Europe. In Prague, after having dinner with friends, it came to me — I will sail the world! And I will start by watching YouTube tutorials!

I can't explain how or why this decision happened that night. It was as though the idea of sailing came flying around the dinner table and found me. But there I was, fully welcoming this idea of the risky unknown with an open heart.
I had never sailed before. That did not slow me down. I was so certain this was the dream I would pursue that, months later back in Mexico, I packed my bags, told my mother I would come back in a couple of months, and took off to Puerto Vallarta.

I would not see her again for almost three years.

In Puerto Vallarta, I registered on a website that matches sailors seeking crew with people looking for boats. Here I met Paul 'Pablo' Moore, who owned an Ohlson 38 called Romany Star. Pablo is an American sailor with such an interesting life story and 25 years of sailing experience. His crew had gone home and he needed help going through Cabo Corrientes. I came aboard for the first time, and learned the very basics of sailing. Soon, I sailed overnight (also for the first time in my life), with 20 knots of wind. Pablo was proud of my ability to sleep when the boat was flying over two-meter waves. He said if I could do that, I was capable of living and traveling on any sailboat.

At the dock at La Cruz, Pablo gave me some advice on finding another boat. I was already putting notes on the boards in the Marina and searching websites. He suggested writing a short script and reading it during the morning Net. When he asked to hear what I had come up with, the conversation went like this:

"Hello, I am Tulia Gonzalez, looking for a boat sailing to South America . . ."
Pablo interrupted. "Why you don't add 'South Pacific?' the season is coming and many boats are heading in that direction."

I had no clue what adding South Pacific meant or how far it was. But I added it.
When my little broadcast finished, the VHF came alive: "Romany Star, Romany Star, this is En Pointe, over."

Here was Captain Tom answering my call — and the real sailing story began.
En Pointe is a 31-ft Searunner trimaran, and Tom VanDyke is a very talented photojournalist from California. After just a few days of preparation, I was untying the docklines mentioned earlier. We left Paradise Village Marina on a very windy day in March, 2013. The next day the wind died completely, something that I actually enjoyed — after a rough first night, I appreciated the chance to relax and get accustomed to the movement. But after a few days of light or no wind, Tom was getting a bit worried about our lack of progress — and all the water and food we were consuming. Our voyage to the South Seas was planned for up to 30 days, so I thought the food wasn't a problem.

We sailed for 27 days into dead calms, little storms, squalls, a shortage of electricity, great meals and tons of amazing sunsets. The silence of the ocean and the lack of distractions served as the perfect place to reconsider all my life. We arrived at Nuku Hiva on a Sunday, and the landfall in the Marquesas was the most amazing thing. By then Captain Tom (a total stranger before we left) had come to be a great friend.

Captain Tom and I went our separate ways in Fiji, he to Australia and me to New Zealand on the Lagoon 47 Miss Goodnight with Franz, Svetlana and their two young children. I ended up spending months on the boat as both crew and nanny. There were other boats, other harbors and other friends. I wrote daily and have edited those writings into a book.

Sailing the Pacific has changed me. I had read and heard this sort of thing before, but now I understand. We are no longer the same person after all those islands and experiences, all those friends and adventures, all those mangos and coconuts, bonfires and beautiful people. We look back, trying to remember and hold on to all that we were, but it vanishes, little by little. What remains is the feeling of freedom, and the sense of really knowing yourself when you are away from all the distractions of the shore.

Many things changed for me after my sea travels. I changed the focus of my work (to anthropology). I met my partner, Luz Savinon, while in New Zealand, and we are currently in the mid-stages of building a house by the Teotihuacan pyramids near Mexico City.

Luz and I finally came up to San Diego last October for the Baja Ha-Ha on Terry Raven's Oceanis 50 Sweptaway. The ride down was quite rough and cold, with 25 knots most of the way to Turtle Bay. This was the first cruising experience for Luz! However, the days after that were beautiful and seemed easy in comparison. We skipped Bahia Santa Maria and sailed directly to Los Cabos, then kept going in an 11-day journey to La Paz.

We look forward to our next sailing adventure!

— tulia 12/7/17

Cruise Notes:

Ian and Karin Deas of Walnut Creek spent the summer sailing the Mediterranean aboard their Hanse 445 True Blue. Ian reports more yacht traffic in the Western Med, likely due to the political climate in Turkey and points east. They are wintering over in Palma de Mallorca, and plan to do more cruising in the Med this summer. In September, they'll head to the Canaries, then cross over to the Caribbean sometime in early 2019.

For the last 16 years, England's Philip James has kept his Leopard 45 cat Tsabalok (Bantu for 'he who travels without a destination') at his waterfront home on a lagoon in Panama near the San Blas Islands. The boat and home are now up for sale. Thinking of cruising this area? Phil highly recommended The Panama Cruising Guide, now in its fifth edition, for its aerial photos and detailed cruising insights. The Guide is about $50 at Landfall Navigation.

"This year, cruisers in Barra are joining forces with the local residents for the Second Annual Barra de Navidad Mexican Fiesta," writes Pat McIntosh of the Cheoy Lee 35 Encore. The Fiesta, which raises money to aid local school programs, is slated for the weekend of February 16-18 — the dates chosen to coincide with sailors heading north after SailFest in Zihuatanejo the week before. As well as a wide range of culinary delights ashore, this year's Fiesta will include a boat parade, and boat rides provided by who else? — cruisers.

The sailing part of the event will take place on Friday, February 16, on beautiful Christmas Bay, between Barra and Melaque. It will be similar to the annual boat parade that has been part of SailFest since that event started in 2002. "We're hoping the boat rides will be particularly fun for local residents and other land-based visitors who have watched boats come and go, but have never seen Barra from the water," says McIntosh. "It will also provide cruisers with an opportunity to give something back to the local community that has welcomed us warmly for so many years."

For more information, contact Pat McIntosh (Ha-Ha class of '06) at

Speaking of SailFest at Z-Town, festivities for the 17th annual event are scheduled to kick off on Monday, February 5, and run through Sunday the 11th. We encourage any cruisers in the area to take part. For a little perspective on how events like this benefit local communities, here's an abbreviated rundown from Since 2002, nearly 5,000 young scholars have benefited from the annual Zihua SailFest. In partnership with the local community, some 102 classrooms, playgrounds and other facilities for disadvantaged children have been built at more than 30 schools — including 14 brand-new schools.

SailFest 2016 raised 1,394,000 pesos ($73,000). Local and international Rotary Clubs contributed an additional $44,250 in support of SailFest's vision of providing an educational opportunity to all of Zihuatanejo's children, regardless of income level or social status. More than 100 scholarships have been awarded to deserving teachers and other educators.

Carol's Beans & Rice program (co-funded by our sister foundation, Los Niños, Inc. in the US) fed more than 30,000 nutritious meals to the very poorest of our students who would otherwise go hungry. Grade point averages increased dramatically.

The State Secretary of Education has declared that the Zihua SailFest is the most successful educational fundraiser in Guerrero. Our Municipal Director of Education estimates that approximately 2,500 disadvantaged children are attending school each year because of the cruisers' dedication to Zihua's bright-eyed young scholars.

Webb Chiles' plans have changed. The 76-year old sailor and author is still looking to complete his, ahem, sixth circumnavigation — this latest one aboard his Moore 24, Gannet. It just won't be this year. I had originally planned to head for Panama this spring," he writes from Marathon, Florida. "Then to San Diego to complete the circumnavigation I began in May 2014. I have now decided to defer sailing for Panama and San Diego until 2019."

Why? He and wife Carol are buying a waterfront condo on South Carolina's Hilton Head Island, and, says Chiles, "The process has been excruciatingly drawn out.

"Hilton Head is not my first choice for what is likely my last land home," he continues. "New Zealand's Bay of Islands is, but immigration rules prohibit my living there permanently. Hilton Head is too hot in the summer, has the occasional alligator walk across a golf course, and is subject to hurricanes, but it has serene beauty and many virtues, among them that I might integrate my wife and my boat."

So later this month, he'll sail from Marathon to the Skull Creek Marina (right outside the condo's balcony), where the boat will live for the next year while they undertake renovations for the condo.

Why doesn't Chiles just stop now? "While it makes no economic sense to sail from Hilton Head to San Diego via Panama, and then spend thousands to truck her back across the country, that is the plan. The annual contract for the Skull Creek Marina slip will end on February 1, 2019, consistent with a January departure for Panama.

"There are those who will say that I am through. They may be right. I am 76 years old. I should have been through long, long ago. Everyone else is. But I am not everyone else and I am not yet used up. I have more to do, and it is my firm intention to complete this circumnavigation, time and chance permitting.

"You may recall that there were those who said before I left San Diego that I would quit when I reached Hawaii. That was 22,000 miles ago. I wish you a splendid 2018."

In Mexico, a sailboat found itself on the reef just north of Punta Mita. We first heard about the boat from our friends on Alsager (who snapped the photo on this page). The boat has been identified as Maluhia, a 1992 Pacific Seacraft Crealock 37, owned by James Richards. It's not clear how the boat ended up on the rocks. "Some fellow cruisers ran into the owner who had singlehanded the boat," read a blog post on To Sail or Not to Be. "[He] seemed to be fine except for a black eye. However, he did go to a hospital to get treated for face injury."

"Modern African pirates prefer machetes, machine guns and ransoms to cutlasses and parrots," the Economist said in a recent blog post. Less than 10 years ago, Somalia was the "the center of the maritime-hijacking world," and while most of us associate that piracy with such high-profile cases as the Maersk Alabama, a number of cruising sailors were also taken hostage. In 2008, German cruisers Jürgen Kantner and his partner Sabine Merz were held for 52 days in Somalia "before their captors freed them, reportedly after a six-figure ransom had been paid," according to the New York Times. In 2011, Jean and Scott Adam and two of their crew were killed by Somali pirates, and weeks later, a Danish family of five (including three teenagers) were taken hostage.

But things have improved on the Horn of Africa. Once a failed state, Somalia has a new government and enjoys relative stability (though it certainly faces new challenges with the rise of the terrorist group Al-Shabab).

"But 2017 was not a good year for buccaneers," the Economist wrote. "According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors crime at sea, global piracy and robbery at sea dipped to their lowest points in over two decades. So what is happening to Africa's pirates?"

The IMB said that 'only' nine vessels were hijacked off the Somali coast last year, a reduction credited to an improvement in regional security, which in turn is credited, in part, to an anti-piracy effort in 2008. While the waters off Eastern Africa are considered to be safer, "The world's seas are getting more dangerous," according to Gerry Northwood, a retired Royal Navy captain who was interviewed by Yachting Monthly in 2016.

Current hotspots include Southeast Asia, the eastern Indian Ocean and West Africa, which are considered 'red-light' areas, or places that cruisers should avoid.

Missing the pictures? See the February 2018 eBook!


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