March, 2004

With reports this month from Starship in Colombia; Far Niente in the Caribbean after several trips across the Med; C'est La Vie on getting smacked by a slimy ray in the Pacific; Saga on the lack of cruiser facilities in Panama; Indigo on a second cruising boat in the Caribbean; Viva! on Ecuador; Sun Dazzler on Cartagena; from the Zihua SailFest in Mexico; and lots of Cruise Notes.

Starship - 50-ft Trimaran
Darci Bogdan
Cartagena, Colombia
(Kona, Hawaii)

I'm 15 years old, and I live with my parents aboard Starship, our 50-ft by 28-ft trimaran. We started cruising from California, and have been out for 3.5 years now. Most recently we travelled to Cartagena, Colombia, to get some work done on the bottom. Twenty miles before Cartagena, we visited the beautiful Rosario Islands. These islands are home to a big aquarium and pens with lots of fish. There are also quite a few sharks and dolphins. I got to feed the dolphins almost every morning, and swim with them, too. The aquarium staff are very open, and welcome anyone who takes an interest in their work.

A week later, we arrived at historic Cartagena, a large and lovely city with Spanish heritage. While there, I convinced my parents to send me to a school for three months so I could practice my Spanish. But just between us, the real reason I wanted to go to school was to work on my social skills. I know I'm not alone in saying that life on a boat can be exciting and educational - but for kids, it has boring and lonely times, too.

My parents finally gave in, so I enrolled at the private Collegio Montessori School. I made friends, had fun, and learned to speak Spanish better than both my parents. I found most of the kids at the school in Cartegena to be welcoming and friendly, and they made me feel at home.

Also while in Cartagena, we explored the city and went emerald shopping. Colombia is famous for its green stones.

Even though Colombia has a bad reputation for violence, Cartegena has been one of my favorite stops to date. Many people judge Colombia solely on the stories about the poverty of the interior and from all the terrorist reports in the media. But the Colombians we met have been friendly, welcoming, and very eager to meet foreign visitors. They also have an amazing variety of fruit! Cartagena, it's a very interesting and lovely city that's a must see for cruisers of all ages.

- darci bogdan 2/15/04

Far Niente - Catana 431 Cat
Kevin & Lynn Pearson
The Med & Caribbean
(San Diego)

What do bankers do during their work day? If they are like Kevin Pearson was, they spend an hour or more searching the internet for their dream cruising boat. For Kevin and wife Lynn, the decision was more momentous than for most couples because it would be their first boat. The couple weren't entirely new to sailing, however, as Kevin long crewed aboard the San Diego-based ILC 46 Xtreme. "She's a sistership to the San Francisco-based Wasabi, but they always beat us because they had much better crew."

For nearly all of the couple's more than one year boat search, they focused almost exclusively on monohulls, including those by popular builders such as Pacific Seacraft, Island Packet, and Hallberg-Rassy. But as they honed down the qualities they wanted most in a boat, their broker at Yachtfinders in San Diego suggested they seemed to be describing a catamaran. In almost no time, they were off to the Med to buy Far Niente. When they did, their total time aboard a cat consisted of about two hours on a slightly larger sistership on the gentle waters off San Diego!

When we first spotted Far Niente in the Gustavia anchorage off St. Barths in the French West Indies, we had reason to believe that the couple were from San Francisco. After all, that's the hailing port painted on their transom. "We were going to change it when we bought the boat two years ago," Kevin laughed, "but have never gotten around to it."

The 'San Francisco' hailing port is there because the cat had been purchased new in the South of France by Rob and Christine Curry of San Francisco. Although Christine became pregnant shortly after they ordered the boat, they nonetheless took delivery of the boat, sailed her around the Med some, then crossed the Atlantic as part of the 2002 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. But when Christine became pregnant for a second time, the couple put the boat up for sale, having decided that cruising with two very young children was going to be too difficult. Nonetheless, they had the cat shipped back across the Atlantic to Barcelona, where Rob entered an MBA program. Barcelona is where the Pearson's would buy the boat.

Kevin and Lynn's first sail on their new cat was a classic baptism by fire. Sailing across the notoriously rough Gulf of Lyon where the winds funnel down the Rhone River valley, they were nailed by 45-knot winds and boisterous seas. Although they were very pleased with how their cat handled boisterous conditions, Lynn made her feelings clear. "If this is what it's going to be like, I don't want to do it." But it hasn't been anything like that since.

As for having selected a catamaran, and the Catana 431 in particular, the couple could be proselytizers. We were in a rush to catch a plane so we didn't have time to quote Kevin precisely, but he said something to the effect that Far Niente was the best possible cruising boat for two people, because she was fast, comfortable in even the roughest weather, and easy for two people to handle."

After nodding her head in agreement to everything Kevin said, Lynn praised their boat for having the galley 'up' in the salon, the tremendous all-around visibility, and for having so much space. "We had three folks crew with us on our Atlantic crossing a short time ago, and there was always plenty of room for everyone."

About the only disagreement the couple have is whether it's fun or not to sail the boat at the highest speeds. "We once hit 20 knots while sailing down a wave off Spain's Costa Brava," remembered Kevin with pride. "I love the fact that in 20 to 25 knots of true wind, we'll always be doing at least 10 knots, and that the boat is very comfortable doing 15 knots."

"But we're not going to do 20 knots again," Lynn firmly reminded him with a smile.

We've known a lot of sailors who have been pleased with their boats, but when it comes to the Pearsons, we're not sure we could pry them away with a hydraulic ram.

The couple spent most of the past two summers cruising the Med, basically sailing the width of it three times and as far south as Tunisia on the African continent. They enjoyed all the sights, particularly Lynn, who is a history buff. Kevin liked that aspect too, but confessed that he "hated" the sailing, as there was rarely a good sailing breeze. Looking down in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, and at the whitecaps a half mile offshore, Kevin said he was eager to sample Caribbean sailing.

In addition to raving about the great places they visited - Italy, Sicily, Greece, Spain, as well as just about everywhere else - the couple mentioned they took great pleasure from the people they met. "Everybody was so wonderful!" they said, a sentiment not often heard back home. They told about meeting several Italian families who as much as adopted them, taking them to their houses for homecooked meals. Their single greatest experience, however, involved a Scandinavian couple they met in Gibraltar. The couple spoke so glowingly of sailing in Scandinavia that the Pearsons decided they'd sail to Norway for their second summer rather than doing the Med again. Alas, the weather was so brutal going north from Gibraltar - one boat even sank - that they just couldn't make it, so they sailed all the way across the Med to Greece.

But their Scandinavians friends weren't about to let some bad weather prevent their American friends from seeing their homeland, so they invited them to spend three weeks cruising with them aboard their Farr 50. "It was such a fantastic experience," remembers Lynn. "In particular, the sailing waters and little towns between Oslo and Malmö were so beautiful. And everything up there is so clean."

"We were there for Mid-summer's Eve, which is a huge holiday in that part of the world," says Kevin, "and had a wonderful time. So in essence, we ended up having Scandinavian and Mediterranean cruises that summer."

While in the Med, the couple spent about 80% of the time on the hook. This is a good thing, because they say it could cost about 500 euros - or almost $700 U.S. - a month to keep the boat in a slip. "Finding room in marinas and the cost of slips are the only downsides of owning a cat," says Kevin.

Far Niente - which means 'sweet do nothing', 'kick back', or 'chill out' in Italian - has a third crewmember in Tia, a small dog they adopted while in Greece. "She had broken legs, broken hips, and was days from death," reports Lynn, an avowed animal lover. "If you've got a Visa card, modern medicine can do just about anything," says Kevin.

After their two summers in the Med, the Pearsons sailed across the Atlantic from the Canaries to Antigua. It looked as though they were going to make it in 16 days - and then they were becalmed for three days. "At least we caught a lot of mahi mahi and wahoo during that time," says Kevin.

In a final note that brought a smile to our face, the couple reported that "Latitudes bring a high price in Barcelona. People are always asking to read it when others get done with their copy."

- latitude 2/14/04

C'est La Vie - Catalina 470
Keith & Susan Levy
One Ray Of A Story
(Pt. Richmond)

We were in Funafuti, Tuvalu, in the Marshall Islands, one moonlit night, when after a work day on the boat, we decided to take the dinghy ashore to observe some singing and dancing in celebration of Tuvalu's 25th anniversary of independence from Great Britain. I was tending the outboard while Susan sat on the seat forward. I brought the dinghy up to planing speed for the quarter-mile ride to shore, when all of a sudden I heard Susan scream. Something wet and slimy glanced off her face - and a nanosecond later hit me in the chest!

It all happened so fast and in such dim light that I thought we'd run into something or someone - perhaps another dinghy. Then I heard the thrashing - and looked down on the fiberglass floor of our dinghy to see what must have been a 40-lb spotted eagle ray! It had jumped out of the water - as we have observed rays to do on many occasions - and we just happened to get under its flight path. What are the odds?

I wish that I'd had the presence of mind to snap a photo, but at the time all we could think of was getting the thing out of the dinghy before we got hurt. After all, the ray has a thorny barbed tail that could cause a lot of damage. Susan first held the ray down with one of the paddles, and then I grabbed the other paddle and tried to shovel it up and over the side. That didn't work. Next, we each grabbed one wing and tried to throw it overboard. That didn't work either, as the ray was too heavy, squirmy, and slippery. I finally bent my knees and extended my arms - like a fork lift - under the ray's body, and with all my strength lifted him onto the starboard tube and rolled him overboard. He took off like a dart.

Exhausted and relieved, we couldn't believe what had happened. Needing to return to our boat to freshen up, we then noticed that the tube on the port side of our inflatable was losing air. We later found that 10 small holes had been poked in the tube by the ray's barbs. We were sure glad it was the dinghy that got it and not us.

It all just went to prove that the cruising life is stranger than fiction!

- keith & susan 2/10/04

Saga - Alberg 35
Nancy Birnbaum & Jann Hedrick
Panama City, Panama
(Pt. Richmond)

We and Saga have been in Panama since before Thanksgiving, enjoying the islands and the northern coast of the Pacific side. We've spent the last month on a mooring ball at Flamenco Marina making engine repairs. We regret to say it, but in our opinion Panama has surprisingly few facilities for cruisers. Considering the number who come through Panama, it's amazing there is so little. Furthermore, some of the people who operate these facilities have, in our opinion, an atrocious attitude toward their cruiser clients.

There are exceptions, of course. Such as David Cooper, the ex-manager of the Flamenco Marina, who seemed as though he had to work under unreasonable restraints imposed by the owner. But like us, he finally had enough, and last week moved on to a 'bluer marina'.

We strongly recommend that cruisers coming down the Pacific Coast spend more of their time in the islands to the north, such as Parida and Gamez in the Chiriqui Gulf, and the Bahia Honda and Secas areas. Finally, cruise the Pearlas Islands, leaving yourself just enough time in the former Canal Zone to reprovision and, if you're headed to the Caribbean, to take care of arrangements for your Canal transit.

Here's our little guide to facilities on the Pacific side of Panama:

Anchorages: There are two anchorages near the former Canal Zone, located to the northwest and southwest of the causeway that runs out to Flamenco Island. Depending on the direction of the wind, one side might be better than the other. But both have their problems.

Although the Southeast anchorage is located close to the entrance to Flamenco Marina, it's usually a rough and wet dinghy ride to shore. Unless you fill a fuel jug, the marina charges $5/day for use of the dinghy dock. The alternate anchorage is just around the island, and although it is generally calmer, is still subject to the wakes of all the pilot boats and ship traffic headed in and out of the canal. To top it off, at least once a month some men on an official-looking boat come by to tell people on the anchored boats that they have to move on. It's apparently illegal for boats to anchor anywhere in the area - but few boats seem to move.

Marinas: Currently, there are no slips available in Panama City. Although Flamenco Marina has some, they are filled with power yachts. It became clear to us during our month-long stay on one of their mooring balls, that the Flamenco management would prefer to avoid having to deal with cruisers. The mooring balls are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but there are only a few that aren't occupied full time. Although construction is still underway, the marina facilities are minimal. For example, there is a cold water shower in the marina office, and a small bar overlooking the marina. The dinghy dock is not to be believed, as it's peculiar design makes it accessible only from the dock and one side. The other two sides are blocked by a railing, forcing you to either limbo under or climb over it. This becomes most fun when the winds are blowing out of the north/northwest, and the chop in the marina is like that on San Francisco Bay. We experienced waves inside the marina that were just like the waves outside the breakwater.

On the positive side, the nearby Fuerte Amador Plaza is home to a multitude of fine restaurants and tourist shops. This is a big draw for the throngs of local and foreign tourists, and the place really hums when a cruise ship pulls in. Unfortunately, the subsequent noise is a real problem for folks in the marina, especially at night and during weekends.

The only other place to secure your boat is the Balboa YC, closer to the entrance to the Canal. As of January 31, the club closed until at least March. The mooring balls are still there, but what few facilities there were after the clubhouse burned down four years ago are no more. A new owner has taken over the land where the Balboa YC had it's small restaurant/bar, and showers and pool. It remains to be seen what will be built in its place. The yacht club intends to rebuild the restaurant/bar on the ruins of the original yacht club. Nonetheless, that leaves even fewer facilities for cruisers in Panama. There is a very tiny shower under the yacht club office on the dock where the launch departs for the moorings. That's it! Oh yes, there is a TGI Friday's located in the County Suites Hotel next door. We are going to talk to the manager of the bar to discuss some possible cruiser specials to fill the void.

Haulouts: After we completed the repairs to our engine cooling system, we discovered yet another problem that required a haulout. After talking with other cruisers and watching our friends haul Kolo on the rails at the Balboa YC, we decided to use the Travel-Lift at Marina Flamenco. It was more expensive to haul at Flamenco, but given the work we needed to do on the shaft and rudder, we decided it was the better option. Then we discovered that the crew at Flamenco didn't have much experience with smaller sailboats, as the blocking process for our boat took all day! The biggest problem was they'd run out of the primitive supports they use for blocking boats. When I inquired why they didn't have normal boatyard jacks, I was told it's because at $100 each, they cost too much. This at a yard that charged $300 to haul our 35-footer, plus $1.50/foot per layday, plus $10/month each for electricity and water! The price for laydays goes up after a week.

I spent our first night on the hard listening - from midnight to 2 a.m. - to a very loud bulldozer noisily going back and forth across the yard. It was the night manager collecting garbage. We were sure relieived when we managed to get our work completed and boat back in the water after just three days. But on our boat's way back into the water, one of the line-handlers controlling her had his back turned and wasn't paying attention. Geez! It's hard to believe that there is now a better marina in Nicaragua than here in Panama, but we think it's true. We understand that Ecuador also has better and less expensive facilities, but we weren't headed there.

Provisioning: Panama City does offer a large variety of shopping and provisioning opportunities. If you don't know where to get something - be it a boat part or a can of mandarin oranges - we recommend seeking out Enrique Plummer. This ever-friendly and ever-helpful ship's agent can handle everything from checking in/out, to Canal transits, to locating and importing parts. From personal experience, we know that he's big on service and low on price. Contact Enrique on VHF 69 or by cell at 507-674-2086.

It's just 15 minutes by bus or taxi from the anchorages to the new Allbrook Mall next to the Gran Terminal. While the Super 99 there may not be the best large supermarket, it's the closest. Spread throughout Panama City are a number of El Rey supermarkets, which are very good. Then there's the huge, five-story El Machetazo market located on Ave. Cinco de Mayo. It's not the best part of town, but this place has everything from auto accessories to sewing machine parts - and even good produce.

We're happy that we've had time to explore Panama City, which is great. We just wish that somebody there would decide that it's worth catering to cruisers.

- nancy & jann 2/05/04

Nancy & Jann - We're sorry you had such a bad experience with the marine services in Panama. With the almost complete shutdown of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, facilities are indeed limited. However, we do know of cruisers who've been happy with their experience using the rails at the Balboa YC, which, like the mooring operation, will continue to be in service. As for Flamenco Marina, they were very kind and helpful when Profligate limped in late last December with a broken saildrive - even though her 30-ft beam meant she had to haul out at Vacamonte for repairs.

Indigo - Sceptre 41
Mike Sheats & Hillair Bell
Second Cruising Boat

Mike and Hillair are a couple who have had a lot of different places to call home in the last few years. When they decided to retire after 2000 - he an architect for Kaiser Medical, she an administrator for Kaiser Medical - they chose to downsize from their big house in Berkeley to a houseboat in Sausalito. But after just six weeks, they rented the houseboat out to a "rock 'n roller" so they could travel to the East Coast to buy a cruising boat. After a year, they found that the 39-footer they bought in New Jersey wasn't going to work out. So they left her on the East Coast, and in 2003 travelled down to Grenada and bought and restored a 41-footer more suitable to cruising, which they've been happily sailing in the Caribbean and Venezuela ever since.

When it comes to cruisers, Mike and Hillair both have better than average sailing skills, thanks in a large part to their considerable amount of racing experience. Way back when, Mike was very successful with his Thunderbird Ouzel. The couple have done a lot of sailing with John Clauser and Bobbi Tosse aboard the Farr 40 Bodacious, and have done Pacific Cups on that boat as well as Petard. In addition, the couple owned the Wylie 34 Echo for four years.

Given their performance sailing background, it's understandable they would lean toward a high-performance cruising boat - such as Lorelei, a Finngulf 39, "a racer we thought we could cruise." During their four months of cruising the boat in the Abacos, the 'performance' aspect of their boat was sometimes good and sometimes bad. The good times included having a boat that sailed very well. Well enough, in fact, to beat the J/80 Grumpy Old Men to win the Hopetown Regatta. On the less good side, because of the boat's deep draft, they ran aground no less than 20 times. In addition, the lack of tankage turned out to be very inconvenient. The boat only carried 30 gallons of water and just 18 gallons of fuel. That's fine for day racing, but not for serious cruising.

During the first year of ownership, they kept telling themselves that this little modification and that would render the Finngulf an acceptable cruising boat. For example, cutting a foot off the bottom of the keel, or putting a 100-gallon water tank in the bow. Ultimately, however, they decided these modifications would be going against the nature of the boat. On the other hand, no longer kids, they didn't want to do 'backpack cruising' in retirement. So Lorelei is currently listed with the Finngulf dealer in Connecticut at $89,000. "She's really a great boat," says Hillair, "and would actually make a wonderful performance cruiser for younger cruisers. She sails great - in fact, it had been our intention to race her in the West Marine Pacific Cup"

Having crawled through over 200 boats in the last couple of years, in May of 2002 they bought the Sceptre 41 Indigo, whose previous Bay Area owners had sailed her as far away as the Med. But when Mike and Hillair moved aboard, she was in Grenada - and in need of six months of work. Summer is not the best time to do interior boat work in the tropics. Indeed, while the people were friendly, they found the conditions to be "beastly". And this was before Mike suffered an appendicitis attack.

Initially unsure of the medical care available in little Grenada - where voodoo and such is still in style in some areas - they were surprised at the quality of medical care Mike received. He was admitted to a 16-room private hospital run by a West Indian doctor, who had been trained in England and Ireland, and his wife. The doctor and several others are intent on raising the quality of medical care on the island.

"I felt very comfortable having the operation there," said Mike. "I could tell that the surgeon - who also happened to be a very enthusiastic racer with his own Beneteau 38 Windborn - was well-trained and I was impressed by the modern anesthesiology equipment." The hospital didn't have the latest in recovery room equipment, but a nurse came by every 10 minutes to monitor his condition.

Then came the operation and four days in the hospital, which cost $3,200 U.S. - or the price of an aspirin at some U.S. hospitals. What's more, while Mike had to come up with the money himself, his old employer Kaiser, with whom he and Hillair maintained their health insurance, reimbursed him for 100% of the bills. By the way, while neither Mike or Hillair work for Kaiser anymore, they both had very complimentary things to says about the Kaiser program and medical care.

Having worked on the boat since June, in December they took off for Carriacou, where they bumped into frequent Latitude contributor Ray Jason. They spent New Years' Eve at lovely little Bequia, and as they worked north made stops at St. Lucia, Martinque, and Antigua - "skipping all the islands that might be unfriendly to dogs". The third crewmember on Indigo is Tyson, their 12-year-old poodle. "I'm Mike, he's Tyson," is the way Sheats likes to introduce himself and his dog. Tyson looks as though he might be a terrific watchdog, but in reality is too old. He doesn't even bother to bark, but he's much loved.

With the approach of hurricane season, they started south again. During their May stop in Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin, they had to ride out a 50-knot blow. Getting further south, they stopped at Carriacou again, where they were thrilled to take honors in the Around The Island Race.

Having sailed up the Caribbean chain again this winter, they're not sure where they are headed next, if indeed they are headed anywhere new, but at some time in the future they'd like to do the Western Caribbean. Before then, however, it looks as though they'll be crewing aboard Profligate for the BVI Spring Festival.

"Of course we miss our families back home, but the Caribbean has more than lived up to our expectations. And there's also the bittersweet part of cruising, which is that you're always meeting these really wonderful people - and then sailing away from them."

- latitude 38 1/18/04

Viva - Islander 37
Bob Willmann
Bahia De Caráquez, Ecuador
(San Diego)

Bahía de Caráquez is not for all cruisers. Some of the reasons why you might not want to visit include the fact there are no boat slips, no boatyards, no marine-oriented businesses, no dedicated cruiser bars or discos, and no big supermarkets. In addition, the anchorage becomes very rolly twice a day for an hour or so around the high tides.

But there are lots of positives, too. As the Ecuadorian Department of Tourism notes, Bahía de Caráquez is one of the major Ecuadorian beach resorts, and is located on the Rio Chone Estuary. They correctly claim that it's a small and laid-back place with nice gardens and well-maintained beaches. In fact, it's been declared an 'eco-city', as it has lots of organic gardens, eco-clubs, and recycling projects. It's also the first city in the world with a shrimp farm that's been certified as organic.

On more personal terms, I've found Bahía to be a quiet and simple small town, with friendly and peaceful people who are sometimes a little shy. The cost of living is wonderfully low. For instance, the standard lunch - which consists of a large bowl of thin soup with vegetables and some kind of meat in it, a plate with rice, fried plantains, salad, a piece of either fish, beef or chicken, and a fruit drink or cola - is only $1.50 U.S.! A 21-oz. bottle of beer sells for between $.50 and $1. A large loaf of freshly baked bread costs $.50, and if you spend $5 on fresh fruit and veggies at the market, you'll need somebody to help you carry it all back to your boat. Fresh shrimp runs about $2/lb, while whole chickens are $.70/lb. Diesel is $1.03/gallon, while a haircut costs all of $2. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, as well as gallons and pounds as forms of measurement.

There is a bar between the ocean and the anchorage on the Rio Chone, so you have to hang out at the 'waiting room' until the tide is high. The channel is unmarked, but if you , I can send you the 10 GPS waypoints that will safely take you to the anchorage. But you'll feel much more confident if, when you get here, you call one of your fellow cruisers on CH 18A - that's 18 Alpha USA/Canada, not 18 International - to pilot you in. Initiate your VHF call when you are still 10 miles out, because the peninsula that Bahía is on prevents good transmission between the 'waiting room' and the anchorage.

There's a free dinghy dock for cruisers with boats on moorings or anchored out, but for $10/month you can also use the dinghy dock, swimming pool, and outdoor shower at the Bahia YC. Within three blocks of the dinghy dock are Internet cafes, a laundry service, a couple of surprisingly well-stocked hardware stores, and just about anything else you would normally want. If you need boat stuff, you'll have to take a 2.5-hour bus ride to Manta, the largest fishing port on the west coast of South America.

The cruisers who visit Bahía fall into two categories: 1) Those who are enroute from Panama to the South Pacific, and 2) Those who are exploring the South American continent by land. For those sailing west, a stop at Bahía breaks up the trip and results in better sailing angles to the Galapagos. As for those who want to see the continent, what could be better than a safe, free anchorage - or a $100/month mooring - right in front of the Port Captain's office? At any given time, half of the cruising boats here are unattended, with their owners in Quito, the Amazon Basin, surfing the great waves of Ecuador, mountain climbing in the Andes, or visiting Machu Picchu and Cuzco in Peru, or even Santiago, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.

Bahía is not for everyone, but those of us cruisers who are here are certainly enjoying it.

- bob 2/14/04

Sun Dazzler - Mariner 48
Dorsey & Janice Warren
The Holidays In Cartagena
(Tahoe City)

Here's a 'better late then never' report from Cartagena, Colombia.

When last Thanksgiving rolled around, about 60 of us cruisers were hoping for a proper Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey. So, the wonderful folks at Club Nautico gave us the run of their kitchen to cook four turkeys and prepare a giant Thanksgiving potluck. In addition to giving us a place to cook our four turkeys, they laid out a grand table with beautiful place settings, and had two waiters serve us a feast at their expense. What other marina would do that for cruisers?

Here's a list of boats and folks who attended the Thanksgiving dinner: Andiamo, Silvaro, Donn and Bill; Asylum, Katie and Jim; Carol Ann, Rachel and Barney; Circe, Birthe and Jorgen; Fair Winds, John; Fairwyn, Nancy and Steven; GPA III, Donna and Sam; Kiwi, Julie and Tom; Little Bit, Sandy and Del; Lisa, Liz and Roy; Melodye, Paola, Mark, Harmony, and Stacy; My C Lady, Buddy and Worth; Olive Oil, Chris and Ann; Picasso, Diane and Claude; Raven, Clyde and Josette; Refuge, Jan and Kelley; Saltwhistle, Fran and Chris; Sea Bride, Ruth and Bill; Shilo, Harry and Sonja; Snake Oil, Tammy and Stan; Spicy Lady, Pierre and Caroline; Sun Dazzler, Janice and Dorsey; Tahiarti, Deya and Chuck; Vikja, Gladys and Joe; The W.C. Fields, Debbie and Dennis; Candalaria, the Club Nautico Marina owner, and John Lourdes, the Dockmaster, and his children.

The overall hospitality in Cartagena has been just great, and we're all enjoying our stays in this beautiful Spanish colonial city. Christmas was special, too, as all the extra lights in the old town district made the city look great, and there was lots of extra entertainment.

The folks at Club Nautico are a big part of the city's hospitality to cruisers, as they go all out to make us feel welcome, right from the moment you step onto the dock where John Halley, a Brit now living here, welcomes you. Candalaria, the owner, does a good job of making sure all the local owners of boats get along with the cruisers. How popular is it at Club Nautico? There aren't any open spots, and about 40 boats are anchored off.

Sun Dazzler spent the last summer here while we returned home to Tahoe. Everything was fine, so after we return for another winter in the San Blas Islands of Panama, we'll probably return to Cartagena and Club Nautico.

- janice and dorsey 1/30/04

Zihua SailFest 2004
30K Raised For Indian School
Lisa Martin
(Zihuatanejo, Mexico)

There were fewer boats than last year at the Third Annual Zihua SailFest, but even more money was raised during the January 29 to February 1 event. In the course of four days of parades, beach parties, sailboat races, and music, over $30,284 U.S. was raised for the Netzahualcoyotl School for Indigenous Children and other educational projects in Zihuatanejo. As before, half of the money came as matching funds from Richard and Gloria Bellack of the San Diego based Bellack Foundation, and a new supporter, Bill Underwood of the Underwood Family Foundation.

Forty-six boats participated, ranging in size from Mario Durnas' 21-ft trailerable El Pacifico, to Russell and Joanne's MacGregor 65 Northern Dancer. Land-based 'cruisers' and landlubbers in Zihuatanejo pitched in to help, too, with seven 'virtual cruisers' working on the committees and events.

SailFest had a new committee this year, which nonetheless followed the template of last year's very successful event. This year's committee members included Dennis and Susan Ross of Two Can Play, Mike Clark and Kimberly Eko of Pacific Jade, David Smith and Jane Sanderson of Dream On, David and Mollie Spaulding of Tumbleweed, Bob and Judy Zemore of Katie Rose, Mike and Jill Gottlieb of Bright Angel, J.P., Linda, and Jordon Mase of Genesis, Michael Fitzgerald of Sabbatical, Jerry and Sandy Zaslow of Romanc'n the Zea, Kurt and Nancy Bischoff of Gumbo Ya-Ya, Christopher Emery and Dawn Rehbock of Alaskason, and Rick and Heike of Rick's Bar, who served as community coordinators.

Even before the official festivities began, cruisers helped put together bags of school supplies - contributed from folks from all over the world - for all 327 kids at the Indian school. In addition, cruisers and other foreign visitors put in several very productive 'work days' at the school, fixing electrical problems, installing fans, cleaning, landscaping, and installing basketball backboards.

This year's SailFest started with the traditional kickoff party Wednesday night at Rick's Bar, with many notables on hand - including Netza School Director Marina Sanchez Hernandez, Zihua Mayor "Presidente" Amador Campos, Director of Tourism Raul Chavez Marino, and Miriam Cordova of the Ixtapa-Zihua Office of Conventions & Visitors. And although they weren't all present, the help of the Zihua business community was also evident, as more than 125 local businesses combined to donate goods and services worth in excess of $10,000.

On Thursday morning, Bob and Judy Zemore of Katie Rose put on a seminar for northbound cruisers headed to the Sea of Cortez for the summer or a Baja Bash. In the afternoon, most cruisers went to La Ropa Beach for an afternoon of all the silly beach games that make cruisers wish video cameras had never been invented. There was a slight casualty in the Fabulous Flipper Race, however, as Christine of Kula threw out her hip while floundering down the course.

On Friday, a fleet of 11 boats raced around Roca Negra, a stark outcropping two miles from Zihua's La Ropa Beach. Unfortunately, it was the calmest day inside the bay in a month. Fortunately, once the fleet rounded the weather rocks, the wind picked up. Wilderness, an Aerodyne 38 skippered by Jeff Rothermull, took first. Edelweiss, Pete Boyce's Sabre 42 from San Francisco, came in second, and the Santa Cruz-based Pegasus claimed third.

The lack of wind during the race didn't dampen the cruisers' fun, but when it started to pour during the afternoon dinghy raft-up, people began to wonder if they were really in Zihua. At least the rain was warm and the 10 cases of donated beer were cold. It was amazing how a simple afternoon of cocktail snacks passed dinghy to dinghy turned into a major buffet - complete with hot food. Ron and Cheryl Roberts of Lazy Days provided the mooring for 36 dinghies in the raft-up.

There were two events on Saturday: a morning 'poker chase', with 12 dinghies and one kayak participating, followed by an afternoon chili cook-off and street fair. David and Mollie Spaulding of Tumbleweeds organized the poker chase, which had participants zipping all over the three-mile wide Zihua Bay to pick up poker cards. The highest and lowest hands won.

The street fair, organized by Dawn Rehbock of Alaskason, was the high point of the day, as more than a dozen cruisers and others served up chili with exotic names like 'Pauline's Poole Chili', made by sponsor Gloria Bellack's sister Pauline Padley of England. Also hailing from the continent was Graham Borne, offering 'Her Majesty's Olde English Recipe'. And, of course, more than a few entrants tried to sway the judges with free tequila shots and other gimmicks. Local Zihua singer Josie Kuhn took top honors by conserving her portions and staying until the last. When she's not crooning at Rick's, Josie is a folksinger in Nashville.

The festive street fair gave local people, tourists and cruisers a chance to gather together. Vendors, local organizations, and tour outfits set up tables - along with families of the school children showing their traditional Indian crafts.

The annual SailFest Parade of Sail drew 27 cruising boats, plus some local boats that saw the parade and fell in line. So much wind came up that most of participants said it was the best sailing they'd had in a year. "We sailed more in the sail parade than we did all the way from Victoria, British Columbia," said J.P. Masse of Genesis. The fleet was even visited by several southbound gray whales. And at the halfway point, a planeload of skydivers floated down to greet the arrival of the parade at Ixtapa. Nineteen of the parade boats took a total of 150 passengers, each of whom donated $25 to the fund-raiser.

By the wrap-up BBQ on Sunday, most of the participants were wondering if they could withstand any more fun. Nonetheless, over 200 folks rallied for a festive two hours of great food by four local vendors, awards for the racing, parade, and other events, and the eventual balancing of the books to see how much was raised. "We had a good time and it's for a great cause," said Avon Dawson, hailing from Poole, England. Dawson sang Love is Everything to raise a few extra dollars and capture the spirit of the entire week. Twelve children from the Indian school sang the classic Celito Lindo in Nahuatl, their native language.

"We had a superb time and it's for a great cause," said Mike Clark and wife Kimberly Eko of Pacific Jade, who were very involved as donation co-chairs on the organizing committee. "It was wonderful that the activities went as smoothly as they did," said Susan Ross of Two Can Play, "considering that Pacific Jade and Dennis and I began organizing the committees only three weeks before the event."

Next year's SailFest is already on the calendar for February 2-6, 2005. For info on the Indian School and educational causes helped by SailFest see

- lisa martin 2/10/04

Readers - Everyone who participated in this year's SailFest should be proud of themselves for being part of such a tremendous success for such a terrific cause. After last year's group raised $22,000 - more than four times the amount of the year before - we figured the third SailFest might be a comparative flop because of the lack of continuity in the organizing committee due to the transitory nature of cruising. Then you folks in this year's group raised last year's fund-raising by 50%. Fantastic!

Cruise Notes:

We have a confession to make. We think that paying $500 to have an agent do a boatowner's paperwork for a Panama Canal transit is one hell of a lot of money. Particularly in a country where the cost of living is very low, and where certain knowledgeable cab drivers will, many cruisers have told us, walk you through the process for about $30 - their cab fees included. Heck, the first time that Big O, our old Ocean 71 ketch, came through the Canal, we and our Spanish-speaking captain Antonio did all the paperwork without anybody's help. It was easy and only took about two hours. Puzzled by the prices agents charge - and are set by the agents themselves - we asked Tina McBride about the need for an agent and what she and others charge. McBride has been a ship's agent for about 13 years, was the agent for Big O when she went through the Canal for the second time, and is a very nice person.

"Agents are for boatowners and/or captains who are too busy or are in too much of a hurry to do it themselves. Or for those who don't speak the language, or who want a guarantee their transit will be when they want it to be. Sailors who don't use agents are probably the kind of people who don't hire people to help them do things. If I had a yacht and was headed to Cristobal, and could afford it, I would want to use an agent because of the hostile nature of the town. I would say that it's risky using a taxi driver to do the Canal paperwork, because if for some unforeseen reason the yacht breaks down or there's some kind of problem, an agent would provide major assistance while the taxi driver would be at a loss. I admit that some taxi drivers can be very helpful and know a lot - I work closely with a lot of them - but in the end, the agent is going to fight for the boatowner to get his/her boat through the Canal, and make sure the transit is safe and speedy. After all, we know the ins and outs of the Canal, and have all the right contacts. In the end, you get what you pay for.

"I charge $500 to do the complete package - entry, exit, permits, transit coordination, travel arrangements, immigration, help with repairs, lines, finding line-handlers, and so forth," McBride continues. "I am the eyes and the ears of my clients while in Panama. I even supply them with a cell phone so they contact me whenever they need to - and vice versa. When I have a client, I normally send them info and try to get them to understand what transiting and Panama is all about - from both coasts, as it can seem like different worlds within the same country."

But still, $500? So when the folks aboard Saga mentioned that Enrique Plummer had been a huge help to them in Panama, and that he also arranges for Canal transits, we decided to give him a ring. He answered his phone immediately, spoke English well enough, and advised that he charges $200 to do the same things for which Tina McBride and Pete Stevens, among others, charge $500. "I've been doing this for three years, and have arranged for the transit of about 250 boats. My goal is to be the agent for smaller boats, not the megayachts whose owners and captains don't care about $500. If there are any problems before or doing a Canal transit, I can help with them. For example, if anybody needs parts sent down from the States, I have an address in Miami they can be shipped to, and I'll get them here and through customs in 48 hours."

We decided to throw Plummer a little bit of a trick question by asking if Cristobal/Colon had become safer in the last five years. "No sir," Plummer responded firmly, "Colon is not safe. In fact, I recommend that nobody stay there for more than two days. As soon as possible, they should continue on to Portebello, the San Blas Islands, or Bocas del Toro. There is nothing to see in Colon anyway."

When Plummer mentioned that a few months ago he'd done the paperwork for John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing, we emailed Haste for a review of Plummer's work. Haste replied as follows: "Enrique is over the top in service. He used to work in the service industry in the United States, and it shows. He's trying to build a reputation among the regular cruisers, and I hope as he gets more business he'll be able to maintain his high level of service while charging less than half the price of the other agents. In addition, Enrique will drive you anywhere for $8/hour."

If anyone else wants to share their Canal paperwork experiences, we'd love to hear about them.

Speaking of John Haste, we think he deserves the nickname 'Jinxed John'. As you'll recall, while his boat was in Nicaragua last summer, she was hit by lightning, which did terrible things to all the electronics as well as equipment with electronic parts inside them. Then he was held up aboard his cat in Cartagena by three guys armed with a homemade shotgun, and lost much of his replacement electronics. When he got to the Eastern Caribbean, his mainsail delaminated, and then the port transom steps got bashed on the dock during a big blow in Grenada. And just the other day he reported the dinghy he lifts out of the water every night was stolen - while he was aboard - in Marigot Bay, St. Martin. Surprisingly, after he reported the theft to the police, they found the dinghy, outboard, and everything - except for the gas tank. Leave it to somebody in St. Martin to steal a dinghy for just the gas tank! Anyway, Jinxed John can thank his lucky stars that he recovered what he did, and is semi-eager to participate in early March's Heineken Regatta. Assuming, of course, his boat doesn't get hit by an asteroid or something.

While we're in the Leeward Islands, we might as well report that John Anderton of the Alameda-based Cabo Rico 38 Sanderling tells us that he left Trinidad on November 6 and has been "meandering back up the islands ever since". The singlehander most recently sailed from Antigua to Nevis, St. Kitts, and St. Martin, where he's now anchored in the lagoon and awaiting the Heineken Regatta festivities.

"After being dismasted on our way from the Marquesas to Hawaii, limping back to the Marquesas, and installing a replacement rudder, we have now completed the sail up to Hawaii," reports Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 466 Wanderlust. "While it was quite rough in the first week or so, with 25 to 30-knot winds and 12-foot seas, the last six days were easy, with good wind and no problems. The 2,200-mile passage took 14 days, which is four to six days faster than the average time for a similar cruising boat. We're now in a small yacht basin at Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. It gets noisy a couple of times a week when the cruise ships come in, but it allows us the chance to sneak on their free shuttle buses for rides to Wal-Mart and stuff. One neat place to go is Old Town Hilo, where there are lots of friendly and easy-going people.

"My problem," Harker continues, "is that there are no yacht repair facilities or long term moorings around Hilo. So we either have to go all the way to the Ala Wai Marina in Honolulu or a small marina I was told about on the Kona side of the Big Island. I'm going to rent a car and drive over to Kona-Kailua and see the small marina. If they have a spot open for Wanderlust, we'll leave the boat there while I fly home for awhile. Since the rudder broke, I decided that I want to haul the boat and check the hull and keel before making the sail back to California. I expect to make the trip back to Marina del Rey - where I have a slip waiting - in late May or early June."

"I ran into a little problem that may be of interest to other cruisers," reports Steve Cherry of the San Diego-based Formosa 41 Witch of Endor. Last September I left the Witch at Banana Bay Marina in Golfito, Costa Rica, and returned to the States for a little R&R. The 'Banana Bunch' tackled my worklist, which included a couple of coats of varnish on the masts - and in the process discovered some dry-rot in the area of the inner forestay fitting. This required immediate repair, so my options were to pull and repair the mast at the muelle in Golfito; take the boat 350 miles to Balboa, Panama; take the boat over 600 miles of open ocean to Bahía de Caráquez; or 150 miles up to Puntarenas and a workforce I had experience with. I decided on Puntarenas, and motored up to the Costa Rica YC - a private business - to get the problem fixed. Removing the Witches' 55-ft box construction spruce mast was not for the faint of heart, as it required attaching Travel-Lift slings to the winches on the mast, and using a combination of steadying lines and the yard tractor to unstep the mast and then set her down on the ground. To restep the mast, we had to reverse the process - although we also needed to use the winches on my mizzen mast.

"Upon removal of the inner forestay fitting, it was apparent that the sealant that had been liberally applied to the inner surfaces of the fitting when it was installed about five years ago didn't properly seal around the mounting screws. Water got in and the deterioration started. Carpenter Carlos Fallas removed 15 linear feet of bad wood on the face of the mast, and six feet on each side panel, then fitted, glued, fastened, and shaped the new material. He then stripped and coated the entire mast with an epoxy sealer, and applied three coats of paint. I was very impressed with the repair and finished product. While I took advantage of the club's recreational facilities, I had the yard strip and repaint the underwater parts of the hull, paint the mizzen mast, and do a few other odd jobs. For anyone who needs major or minor maintenance while in Central America, I recommend the Costa Rica YC. As for the Witch and I, we're on our way to Golfito for a short visit with the Banana Bunch, after which we'll take off for Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador, to catch up with my sailing buddies on Viva! and La Vie Danzante. We've got some serious story-telling to do."

We're sure a lot of our readers are curious to know how much the repair job cost - or at least how much the yard charges per hour.

"After all my troubles getting to La Paz, being held captive there for seven months, and my problems getting to Mazatlan, I'm beginning to feel like Capt. Ron," writes Susan Meckley of the Challenger 32 Dharma. "The day before I left La Paz, I had the waterpump rebuilt. It failed again 100 miles out to sea. When I got to Mazatlan, I had it rebuilt again, but it failed after 10 minutes. The problem was the guy who rebuilt the pump didn't replace the impeller - which no longer had any blades. I couldn't find a replacement impeller in Mazatlan, but the Alameda-based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monroe just happened to be in town. I approached them not knowing if I would be mistaken for a terrorist, but they allowed me to show them my retired military I.D. card - I had 32 years in the Army. With that, the engineering department went to work fabricating a new impeller for me. It took them two hours. Now that's what I call 'above and beyond'. The Coasties were there, and they helped. Thank you, Coast Guard! But now I don't know what to do. I hadn't figured that cruising was so lonely. I need a companion, partner, lover - whatever! Is there anyone out there who wants to cruise - I don't care where, just somewhere - with a 70-year-old woman who acts - and looks - 52? How about it, anyone interested?"

One of the few things we know about engines is that each time you run one, you need to check the exhaust to make sure there's plenty of water that's gotten through and cooled the block. If there isn't, you must shut the engine down immediately - or get ready to fork over thousands of dollars for an engine rebuild. There are two primary causes of cooling water not getting to and through the engine: 1) The raw water intake or filter is clogged by a plastic bag, seaweed, or new crab habitat, and 2) The water pump has a broken impeller. The water pump impeller is so critical to the life of an engine, that at least two of the correct ones for your engine - there are scores of different sizes and types - must be carried onboard at all times. In addition, it's critical to know how to install one, and what direction it has to be oriented. Of course, life would be a breeze if finding compatible mates was as easy as replacing impellers. Keep your chin up and good luck.

And the rocket's red glare . . . is not what the Federales wanted to see! Lisa Martin reports that after the sun set one night after beach games during Zihua SailFest, a dozen cruisers on dinghies putted out to the middle of Zihua Bay and began shooting off their expired flares. "The people who manufacture Solas flares should snap up a videotape of that event," says Martin, "as the standard small flares that most people carry for emergencies were pathetic compared to the Solas units, which went up hundreds of feet high and illuminated the sky." The 'Great Flare Shootout' had been approved in advance by the port captain - don't you just love Mexico? - who apparently hadn't checked with other authorities. For almost immediately, three dark-hulled Mexican drug enforcement boats roared out to ask what was going on. It seems they had been standing by waiting for a boat drug deal to go down, and wondered if the flares weren't some sort of signal!

If Martin was a sailor, she'd probably know that SOLAS is not a brand name, but stands for the Safety of Life At Sea, an international organization that establishes minimum standards for marine safety equipment. There are many different kinds of SOLAS-approved flares to meet the various needs of mariners. The brightest and highest-flying is not always the most appropriate.

It's getting to be the highest of the high season at Paradise Marina just north of Puerto Vallarta, what with the Puddle Jump Party for cruisers heading across the Pacific on February 24, and the big Banderas Bay Regatta March 25-28. It's too late to make this year's Puddle Jump Party, but if you get this issue early in the month, you'll have no excuse for missing the Banderas Bay Regatta. This will be the first time in six years that we and Profligate have missed it, and we're not happy about it. It's a for-cruisers-only fun regatta, where the many social activities are at least as important as the not-that-serious racing. We urge you not to miss it!

As visitors to Paradise Marina no doubt notice, more and more owners of large and megayachts have come to discover the many pleasures of Banderas Bay and of Paradise Marina. Nonetheless, Harbormaster Dick Markie wants everyone to know that the marina hasn't forgotten its cruiser background, and therefore is proud to continue to be home to Puddle Jumper meetings, Southbounder get-togethers, the Banderas Bay Regatta, dock parties, blessings of the fleet, as well as meetings with port captains, customs, immigration, and the American consulate. Markie is also proud to report that Paradise "is the only marina in Mexico with the full cooperation of the Navy to present a seminar on boarding procedures, and to open a patrol boat for cruisers to inspect."

Another skipper who did Banderas Bay Regatta for about six years and is really missing it, is Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn Cat. After something like six Banderas Bay Regattas, last winter Blair headed off to the Marshall Islands, which he found much to his liking. After leaving his boat there for the fall, he's recently returned, and is once again having a great time.

About 15 years ago, Richard and Sheri Crowe of Newport Beach - who often skippers Orange Coast College's Alaska Eagle to the far corners of the globe - built the Farr 44 Confetti. As we recall, they took the boat on one daysail, after which they made nonstop passages to Acapulco, Lima, and Cape Horn. Their rudder broke on their way to ultra remote South Georgia Island, so they retreated up to the Caribbean - which is where we first met them. After a number of years, the Crowes sold the boat to Northern California owners, who subsequently sold her again. Richard and Sheri must have really liked that design, for as we write this, they are feverishly laboring away on a new sistership in Newport Beach. It's rare enough for a couple to build a boat, but we've never heard of a couple who have built the same design twice. As excellent a yacht as Confetti was, we're confident that the new one will be even better, for these folks are very talented. Come to think of it, they also built the 54-ft aluminum sloop Polar Mist.

"We regret to report that the days of free anchoring are pretty much over in Mazatlan," report Steve Hersey and Rita Acciacca of the Union 32 SeaScape. "The port captain has put fees on anchoring in the old harbor, and at $9/night U.S., plus $3/day for the dinghy dock, it's not cheap. In fact, you can get a berth at Isla Marina on the north side of town in the same estuary as Marina Mazatlan and Marina El Cid for less on a monthly basis. In addition, the port captain now requires that an agent be used to check in and out. So where are budget cruisers to go? There are a couple of free anchorages that are fine for a few days of rest between passages - but they have few if any services. One such free anchorage is behind Isla Chivos, which is actually part of the eastern side of Mazatlan harbor. There is a small town with very limited supplies within walking distance of the beach, and the palapa restaurants give the cook a chance to enjoy a meal ashore. The holding is good, and as long as the wind is from the northern quadrant and there isn't too much of a swell, it can be a pleasant anchorage. It's also possible to anchor behind Isla Venados, which has rock outcroppings and is also open to the south. But there are no services. Mazatlan is a nice place to visit, and you can get good boatwork and other marine services at reasonable prices. But if you expect to stay on the cheap, you may have to restrict your visit to a few days."

We hate to hear news like that. In the past, Mexican port fees always seemed to be quite reasonable. But over $300/month, if you include dinghy dock privileges, verges on being outrageous. We pay less than that to anchor Profligate off Gustavia, St. Barth - which is about as upscale a little harbor as there is this side of St. Tropez. Included in that fee is the use of three dinghy docks and lots of clean showers and toilets reserved for mariners. For your 32-ft boat, the monthly fee would be less than $100/month. Plus, you can clear in and out yourself, for nothing, in about 10 minutes of fun with the port captain or his staff. You almost wonder if Mexican officials are trying to drive boat tourists away.

"I'm Chris Havel of Oakland, and just wanted to introduce myself and my family, and to share our plans for the future. First, after years of waiting, watching and learning - with much inspiration coming from the Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley and Latitude - my wife and I have decided to go cruising for one year with our two sons, who are 10 and 8. For a bunch of reasons, we've decided to start on the East Coast and end up back in California. We considered joining the West Marine Caribbean 1500 to get to the Caribbean, but compared to something like the much less expensive Ha-Ha, it's too pricey for us. So you'll understand that the reports you've been posting on 'Lectronic since December about cruising in the Caribbean couldn't have been more timely and worthwhile for us, as we intend to visit most of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Will you be covering other islands as well, such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other 'down islands'?

"Given our initial East Coast itinerary, we purchased a Stevens 47 that is currently in Annapolis," continues Havel. "We made an offer, had her surveyed, and bought her - all between Thanksgiving and New Years. We've only seen our boat for six hours! Our new-to-us boat is currently wrapped up and freezing her transom off on the East Coast while we finish the kids' school year and our jobs. We leave California in early June, spend the summer in New England, and then head southeast, south, then west, and finally northwest. I'll be writing more details on the various aspects of our trip - kids and schooling, a year without working, preparations for the jump offshore, budget, getting through the Canal, and so forth."

Congratulations on your new boat, and thanks for checking in with us. Alas, we won't be going 'down island' this year, as for once in our life we're trying to cruise a small area slowly rather than a big area quickly. And we're loving it. In fact, you won't believe our plans for next year. One caution about cruising in the Northeast: berthing ins the more popular areas can be ferociously expensive - as in up to $5/foot/night. So if you're on a budget, plan ahead. By the way, when the time comes for you to make the passage from the East Coast to the Eastern Caribbean, we can put you in touch with people who do it every year and who can give you some tips. Unlike sailing from California to Mexico, from the East Coast to the Caribbean can be complicated, and can be subject to rough weather.

Here's an usual exchange that was passed along to us:

From William Servais, Commodore of the Ross Island YC of Antartica to former Redwood City resident Bob Rowland: "Received your note regarding membership in the Ross Island YC of Antarctica. How in the world did you hear about us? To join our exclusive ranks there are a couple requirements. First, that you have been to Ross Island. Second, our bylaws clearly state that we do not accept convicted pirates. If you can give me some assurance that you meet this standard, I will mail you a membership card."

To which Rowland responded: "I learned about the Ross Island YC from a short note that appeared in the December issue of Latitude 38, a sailing magazine published in the San Francisco area. I think it's the most informative and readable sailing publication in the U.S., and I continue to subscribe even though I shipped my sailboat from Redwood City to Annapolis in '86. I took early retirement from the U.S. Geological Survey, and planned to sail to Australia. By the time I'd sailed as far as Fiji, however, I had more experience and ended up circumnavigating. You are correct about my having spent time at Ross Island. I was there, during the summers of 1962-63 and 1963-64, for the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab. As for a piracy conviction, negative, I never engaged in piracy or barratry. I will look forward to receiving an RIYC membership card in the mail. Let me know if I can do anything to help out fellow members who might be planning long distance, small boat, low-profile ocean sailing."

Also looking forward to going cruising - although it won't be for a couple of years - is Jim Kerrigan. "Here's a photo of the current status of the Chris White-designed Atlantic 42 catamaran we're building in our shop in Ferndale. We've been at it for two years, and will be done in the spring of next year. We'll probably be headed south with the Ha-Ha in a couple of years."

It looks as though Kerrigan is doing a fine job. We learned about it when he wrote us inquiring about Profligate's original 74-ft mast, which is still safe, sound - and for sale - on a roof in the Santa Barbara Harbor.

As we close out this month's Changes, we'd like to remind you how much we enjoy hearing from all of you - and know that your friends feel the same. A short note is always fine, but please, please, please, always remember to include your boat name, type, hailing port, and your full name. And when possible, include a high resolution head and shoulders photo of yourselves. Gracias. Merci beaucoups. Thank you.

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