March, 2006

With reports this month from Dawn Treader on taking the offshore route from Mexico back to California; from Banderas Bay on all the many things that are happening down there; from SailFest in Zihuatanejo; from Laelia on clearing into French Polynesia, and lots of Cruise Notes.

Dawn Treader - Jeanneau 40
Marty Gilmore & Marta Krissovich
Baja Non-Bash
(Great Salt Lake, Utah)

Dawn Treader is in Puerto Vallarta, where we are spending our second season enjoying the wonderful cruising grounds of Mexico. Since we are already hearing about people's plans for the end of this season, we wanted to write about the good trip north we had at the end of last year's cruise.

We had to bring our boat back to California, and not wanting to have to do the notorious Baja Bash, we decided to make the trip offshore. We left Cabo on May 27, and then sailed approximately the rhumb line in westerlies as far north as Mag Bay. When the usual northwesterlies filled in, we sailed away from the coast on starboard tack. When we were still far southwest of Cedros, we saw that the GRIB files were forecasting westerlies to the north of us. So we tacked, ate a header for a day, then sailed on port tack in west and WNW winds the rest of the way to San Diego. We arrived on June 5.

We were out for nine days, almost all of which we spent sailing. We used a total of 43 gallons of diesel - mostly the first night out of Cabo and the last night before San Diego. We used the rest of the fuel to charge our very weak batteries. We had one rough night between Mag Bay and Cedros, with the winds building to the high 20s and a mixed swell. But we mostly had winds between eight and 20 knots, with a gentle northwest swell. We covered a total distance of 1,032 nautical miles. The furthest offshore we got was about 200 miles out, and we passed about 90 miles to the west of Cedros Island.

Dawn Treader is a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40 sloop that is rigged for cruising. We are a married couple who do three-hour watches - so we didn't push it. If we'd wanted to push it, we probably could have saved six hours over the course of the passage. The worst parts of the trip were the grey skies after six months of Mexican sun, and the fact that we didn't catch any fish.

Weather info is essential for this trip, both for route planning and to avoid nasty stuff. We got GRIB and text files via SSB, and we listened to Don on Summer Passage for the big picture in the North Pacific. We also listened to boats close to shore reporting getting beaten up in 35-knot winds and steep seas. It reminded us why we'd gone offshore. If we go north again, we'll go offshore again.

P.S. We used to live in Corte Madera and Marina del Rey.

- marty and marta 02/01/06

Banderas Bay
What's Shaking This Winter

They must not have big saltwater crocs at Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottingham, England. That's the only explanation we can come up with for why Ha-Ha vets Dennis and Janet Knight of the Oyster 435 Shilling of Hamble got so worked up about the presence of Pedro, one of the 12-ft crocs who calls the Nuevo Vallarta lagoon home. "He's this big!" said the Knights, extending their bodies across the width of their dock to provide a good visual reference.

Actually, there are countless crocs in the lagoons of mainland Mexico, from Mazatlan at least as far south as Acapulco. The biggest concentration we've seen was at little Manzanilla on Tenacatita Bay, where there must be two dozen lounging around in the mangroves at the end of the main street. Waiters at restaurants on the beach down at Zihuatanejo - where there are also plenty of crocs, some as big as 15 feet - tried to assure us that Mexican crocs don't eat humans. "They prefer the taste of cats and dogs, which is why you don't see many of them on our beach," one waiter told us. It sounds like a ridiculous claim, but it might be true. After all, you see big crocs cruising around in the Nuevo Vallarta lagoon, the very same lagoon in which fishermen are always standing knee-deep in the water casting their nets. Maybe humans and crocs really do peacefully coexist in Mexico.

Unable to make it all the way to Zihua for SailFest because of work related to our flood-damaged editorial offices in Mill Valley, we did manage to squeeze in a trip to Banderas Bay to see Profligate and what's new in that area. Our cat was looking very good indeed, thanks to the great paint job by David and his conscientious crew. We had all the exterior surfaces painted except for the sides of the hull. The price was so reasonable that we almost thought we were in Colombia. We would have had the hulls done also, but then the port captain announced - quite rightly, we think - that he would not allow any more sanding of boat hulls in the lagoon. So now we're thinking about taking our boat up to Mazatlan - one of the few places that can haul a cat with a 30-foot beam - and bringing David's crew with us.

Behind us in line to get his multihull painted was Bruce Balan of the red-hulled Cross 46 Mk II trimaran Migration. Originally from the South Bay, Balan did a Baja Ha-Ha, then sailed back to Southern California for a few more years of work, and is now cruising permanently. In addition to getting his boat painted, Balan had some work done where the chainplates attach to the hulls.

The slips at Paradise Marina were jam-packed, with Harbormaster Dick Markie going way beyond the call of duty to squeeze in as many cruising boats as possible. Several cruisers told us how appreciative they were of his extra efforts.

Jerry and Kathy McGraw of the Newport Beach-based Kelly-Peterson Po'oino Roa told us they think that the actions of the California Legislature are the reason Paradise Marina - and other marinas in Mexico - are so crowded. "Up until last year, a guy buying an expensive motoryacht in California could take it to Ensenada for 90 days, then bring her home and not owe any taxes," said Jerry. "But after the Legislature passed a new law increasing the necessary out-of-state time to one year, many new boat buyers said the heck with Ensenada. If they had to keep the boat out of state for a year, they figured they might as well go all the way down to Puerto Vallarta."

We don't know if McGraw's theory is true, but we do know there are more big motoryachts in Paradise Marina than ever before - despite Markie's efforts to keep as many berths as possible open for transient cruisers. On a different subject, we also know that the McGraws spent a month or so as part of the 40 to 50-boat cruising community in Tenacatita Bay this winter, and reported having a fabulous time. It would be great if someone would send us a relatively thorough report on the scene at Tenacatita, because it's pretty special - even for Mexico. The McGraws bought their Peterson 44 on the East Coast a few years back, sailed her through the Canal and up to their home in Newport Beach to do a refit, and are now eager to head across to French Polynesia. For what it's worth, Jerry enjoyed a career as part of the Newport Beach Harbor Patrol, while Kathy is a licensed captain.

About a year ago, there were indications that the acute slip shortage in Nuevo Vallarta might be relieved a bit, as it was reported that the rights to the broken-down and bankrupt Nuevo Vallarta Marina had been acquired by a new company. The new outfit announced that they were immediately going to begin construction of a magnificent new and larger world-class marina. Alas, a lawsuit was filed by others who had been interested in the marina concession and claimed they hadn't been given an opportunity to bid on it. These plaintiffs won their suit against the government, so it might be another six months before the rights to the marina concession come up for bid again.

Although it's not clear what's going to happen to Nuevo Vallarta Marina, Paradise Marina, which is located just across the channel, is not standing around waiting for the depth of the channel to increase all by itself. Dick Markie showed us plans for Graziano, the owner of Paradise, to almost double the length the breakwaters extend out into the ocean. "We'll do whatever it takes to get a sustained depth of 15 feet," Markie said. In addition, Paradise has gone to great expense to place a series of 240-ft long 'geo bags' on their beachfront to try and prevent sand from migrating south and into the channel. Maintaining a deep channel is an expensive but necessary proposition.

The other big hope for more marina slips in Banderas Bay is the Yacht Club Marina currently under construction at La Cruz. Initially everybody seemed to be behind the project because it would create much-needed jobs, stimulate the local economy, and clean up the town's inexplicably messy waterfront, which is littered with several trashed sailboats. But when construction started on the marina's perimeter, a number of Americans were horrified to discover that their waterfront homes were no longer going to be on the water, but separated by a malecon and a row of buildings. This has prompted a lawsuit with the allegations that the project doesn't have the proper building or environmental permits, and that it has infringed on the property rights of others.

Things went from bad to worse at the marina site in late December, when a big swell rolled through, washing away a temporary breakwater - and reportedly rolling a floating crane so badly that the boom bent as a result of smashing into the operator's compartment. The barge with the crane was then towed out to the middle of the anchored cruising fleet and secured to the bottom with two seemingly undersized anchors. Cruisers were said to have been a little freaked. Knowledgeable folks around Banderas Bay tell us that they don't know for sure what the outcome of the lawsuit will be, but most think that the marina complex has the potential to create so many jobs that it can't be stopped - at least not for long. Construction was moving ahead full steam when we visited in early February.

Not worrying at all about the lack of marina slips on Banderas Bay was Renee Prentice of the San Diego-based Serendipity 43 Scarlett O'Hara. We bumped into her as she was about to go on a laundry run, so she was happy to pause to tell us all about the boat's new rudder. Scarlett, once owned and raced at the zenith of international competition by Monroe Wingate of St. Francis YC, came with two rudders when Renee and her husband John bought her a number of years ago. Only needing one rudder, they sold the spare to Minney's Marine Surplus in Costa Mesa. Shortly after departing Mexico for the Marquesas two years ago, their rudder broke off, so they returned to Mexico. They also had to find a replacement rudder, as Minney's had sold their backup. Fortunately, Ernie and crew just happened to have the old carbon fiber rudder from the SC 70 Mongoose. John Prentice tells us that not only did Mongoose's rudder fit almost perfectly, but it only cost $300. Ordered new, it would have been about $15,000.

Jean was also excited to show us the $7 solar-powered lights that a friend had bought at Costco and brought down from the States. "These new ones are even better than the amber-colored solar lights we used to have - and one night those lights prevented a lot of damage down in Tenacatita Bay. We were all ashore when a big thunderhead came through with 30-knot winds. It was so black out that nobody could see their boats. The only points of reference were our amber lights. There was some anchor-dragging and boats bumping as it was, but it would have been much worse had the cruisers not had the lights to help them quickly find their boats."

We have mixed feelings about the shopping mall at Paradise Resort. On the one hand, it has everything you need, from a grocery store to a lavandaria to a place that makes great mango shakes, to a terrific inexpensive Mexican restaurant. On the other hand, such a shopping mall is way too much like regular life back in the States as opposed to real cruising. Nonetheless, while having breakfast in the shopping center one morning, we bumped into singlehander Bernard Bouis of the Berkeley-based Trinton 29 Honu, who is working his way down to Ecuador. A very pleasant guy, he told us about a strange experience he had up at the Ensenada Grande anchorage at Isla Partida in the Sea of Cortez late last year.

It was a very rough outside the anchorages one day, so Bouis was happy to be tucked into the eastern corner of Ensenada Grande. Then the 100+ foot motoryacht Lady Zelda showed up. They told Bouis that they were doing some kind of photo shoot, and would appreciate it very much if he would move for an hour or so. Bouis was inclined to go along with the inconvenience - until he was informed that he'd actually have to move for a number of hours. At that point Bouis explained that he was happy where he was given the conditions, and wasn't going to move. So the Lady Zelda crew decided to more or less pretend that he and his Triton weren't there. They kept getting closer, and closer, and closer. When Bouis felt they'd come just a little too close, the ballsy singlehander fired a flare gun across the megayacht's bow! When they still kept coming, he fired a second flare. Sensing the level of the singlehander's determination, the Lady Zelda skipper retreated. The incident nonetheless left such a bad taste in Bouis' mouth that he left the area the following day.

After having breakfast with Bouis, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca headed out toward Punta Mita in search of a nice sailing breeze and some surf. We didn't find either. However, we did find plenty of sun, and saw no less than six whales, each off on their own doing their own thing. One big guy surprised us by surfacing about 150 feet off our starboard bow and pacing us on a parallel course. There are international laws that protect whales from being stalked too closely by boats. These rules weren't being adhered to by a group of about five turkeys on a 30-ft powerboat, who spent half an hour trailing one whale at distance of about 50 feet. Where was Bouis and his flare gun when we really needed him?

If you had been going out to Punta Mita on a regular basis for the last six or so years, you would have noticed a staggering transformation - sort of like Cabo in the mid-90s. For a long time there had been nothing but a couple of modest palapa restaurants on the beach at El Anclote near the beginners' surf break. Then, about six years ago, some developer started building what became the not-particularly-attractive Anclote Condominiums on a three-story bluff across the street from the beach. About a year after that, another developer put up an eight-unit condo project on the bluff on the beach about an eighth of a mile to the east at the village of Emiliano Zapata. About the same time, construction began on the gated Four Seasons complex that encompasses the entire point at the tip of the bay. Development has been on an increasingly fast roll ever since, with constuction about to begin on a St. Regis Hotel at the point, more condos at Anclote and Emiliano Zapata, and a big public plaza behind all the palapa restaurants.

We view such developments with mixed emotions. It would be best for us relatively affluent cruisers if there was never any development at Punta Mita. But we suppose that you have to be realistic, as Mexico very much needs the foreign investment, jobs, and tourism that come with such projects. We suppose the most we can realistically hope for is that they do a good job - unlike at downtown Cabo San Lucas. So far we're reasonably optimistic, as most of the area is zoned for low-density development. Right now the vegetation out by the point looks as though it were just given a mohawk, but perhaps in a year or so the tropical landscaping will leave it looking reasonably nice.

From a cruiser's point of view, the nice thing about Punta Mita is that, in many ways, things are only going to get better. Right now it's common for anywhere from five to 25 boats to be anchored out - in a place that could easily accomodate hundreds of boats at anchor. There's only one good place to bring a dinghy ashore, and it's kind of a pain. But there's beginning to be enough cruiser dinghy traffic that the owner of the nearest restaurant has inquired about starting a 'dinghy valet' service such as has proven so popular in Zihua. That would be nice.

Development is also bringing a greater variety of restaurants and better quality food. There are about 10 palapa restaurants on the beach. Several of them are relatively basic and rustic, such as you'd find up the coast at Chacala or down at Chemela. Almost all have free showers and unusually nice restrooms. The palapa furthest to the east even has a swimming pool. Hector, son of the owner of the nearby Dorado Restaurant, has opened his own Margarita restaurant, which on some occasions will double as the home of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club. In fact, the founding celebration will be on March 27, the night before the Pirates For Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity to Paradise Marina. Margarita's will also be the base for high speed internet access sent out to the anchorage.

Where does Margarita's get their fish for dinner? About 15 miles offshore. Hector tells us that about 30 tuna weighing over 200 pounds have been caught in the last two months. He was aboard a panga when a four-hour battle was waged before a 295-lb tuna was landed. No wonder his seared tuna filets are almost too big.

The two most upscale places on the beach are Tino's and Chef Rogers. Tino's is a little fancier, but Chef Roger's Mañana Restaurant has a South of France ambience that we think is just wonderful. You pay close to U.S. prices at Tino's and Chef Rogers, but given the quality of the food, the ambience, and the salubrious evening weather, we think they are bargains for those special nights out.

The cool thing about the Punta Mita area is that everybody walks the same half-mile stretch of beach, eats at the same places, and surfs the same waves - so you can't help but get to know a lot of people quickly. For instance, we were having lunch at Margaritas when a fellow walked over and introduced himself as Bill Makepeace of the Boulder-based Lord Nelson 35 Grey Max. So the next morning we paid a visit by dinghy to Bill and his wife Mary Jane's boat out in the anchorage. When they bought their boat in the Pacific Northwest, she came with a large bimini with all kinds of stuff on it - including something like eight solar panels and a series of black pipes that made for a great solar water heater. "When we're out here on the hook, the solar panels provide us with all the power we need," said Bill. "We make ice, make water, keep our food cold, and have all the warm water we want - and never have to turn the engine on." How great is that?

The Makepeaces, who cruise six months and spend six months at their home in the Colorado foothills, tell us they really don't care where they cruise, they just love being on the water. Nonetheless, they are yet another couple who raved about Mazatlan, a place that doesn't have as much obvious charm as some other Mexican coastal cities, but nonetheless seems to seduce those who visit. "The various cruising communities in Mazatlan were so great that we ended up spending four years there," says Bill. "We just couldn't believe that we could be having so much fun at our age, so it was hard to move on." And it's not like the couple are senior citizens.

Ashore at Punta Mita that afternoon, we bumped into Dan Girdner. He and his wife Ana are the sales managers of the soon-to-be-built Punta Mita Beach Club and Spa, which is an 18-unit fractional ownership luxury condo project that will take up the last vacant spot on the beach at El Ancolte village. "My wife Ana, who is from El Salvador and who has helped open up a lot of new hotels for Marriott, took a trip down here and decided - like a lot of other Americans - that this is where our future is," says Don. They report that the first top-floor unit sold for the month of January to a vintner from Napa who owns a large sailboat. That didn't come as a surprise for us, as four of the units in an 18-unit condo project less than a quarter-mile down the beach at Emiliano Zapata are owned by people who sailed their boats in the last Ha-Ha. Punta Mita offers a terrific water-lovers trifecta - great sailing, great surfing, and a place where you can securely anchor your boat for the winter for free.

About a week after we came home, Girdner called to ask if we knew a guy named Rich Everest, who he'd been surfing with that afternoon. "You mean Rich Everett, the recently retired president of West Marine Products?" Yeah, that's who he meant.

It's great staying on land at St. Barth in the Caribbean, but it's even better when you live there on your boat. Countless cruisers will tell you that the same thing is true at Punta Mita. When living on the hook you can't help but become more attuned to nature. You're aware of the slight changes in the weather, the size and direction of the swell, and the phases of the moon. You're surrounded by countless different kinds of birds and fish, and rarely an hour goes by when you don't see a couple of whales breeching. When we were there, a three-day-old whale spent the afternoon cruising the anchorage. If you want a little socializing, you can either go to shore for a drink or a meal - or you can visit with folks in the anchorage. Since Punta Mita is a crossroads for people heading north, south, and west, there are always new boats coming through.

One morning, for example, we noticed a new small cat in the anchorage, so we motored over to introduce ourselves. The cat turned out to be the Seattle-based Edel 35 Sisiutl, owned by Philip Attneave and Patty Berk. They told us they'd first seen the unusual cat - the salon doesn't extend all the way out to the hulls - 10 years ago in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, they were so intrigued at their first sight of the cat that they chased her for 15 miles to tell the owners to call if they ever wanted to sell. It was then that they learned the cat had been sailed across the Atlantic in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), and was then disassembled into three pieces for shipment to the Pacific Northwest. A year after the meeting, the owners decided they wanted to sell, and Philip and Penny became the owners of a new boat. Were they thrilled?

"For the first six months, we thought buying Sisiutl was the worst decision we'd made in our lives. She needed a little more work than we thought, and there was this and that." But as time has gone by, we've come to appreciate what a great boat she is. "A couple of years ago, we looked at larger cats. When we realized that buying one of them would require that we continue working for another 10 years, we decided to keep this cat and go right away. And now we love her." They must love her, because they managed to liveaboard in the Pacific Northwest for a year without a heater! They are now headed to Costa Rica and Panama, which means they'll need an air-conditioner more than a heater. And they'll be heading south with confidence, because the little cat proved to be very seaworthy in the 35-knot winds and 25-ft seas they encountered coming down the coast of Northern California. "She never buried a bow, and she never got pooped."

We'd hardly finished talking with the folks on Sisiutl when we noticed the Peterson 75 Zulu had arrived in the anchorage. She's owned by Peter Smiley of Malibu, and our boats had first crossed paths in the Caribbean, and then because both owners like to surf, again the following year at Punta Mita. With two rambunctious 6-year-olds preventing Smiley from doing long passages, he has paid crew taking his boat to French Polynesia, where the family will rejoin the boat for the South Pacific. After Fiji, the crew will take Zulu to New Zealand for a refit. It was fun meeting Smiley's crew, because they are from the Med and Caribbean, and we have so many mutual friends. One of the great things about the world of sailing is that it's so small, and there are so few degrees of separation between friends.

Having primarily based our cat out of Paradise Marina for the last several years, we've written frequently about Banderas Bay and Punta Mita. As such, we'd like to assure everyone that we're not trying to suggest that it's the only great place in Mexico. Indeed, there is much much to recommend up at La Paz and the Islands, Loreto and further north in the Sea of Cortez, San Carlos, Mazatlan and the Jungle Coast, the Gold Coast down to Mazanillo, Zihua and Acapulco. There is so, so much for cruisers to love in Mexico, and so many great folks to meet - and that's no croc!

- latitude 38 2/28/06

Zihua SailFest
The Cruiser Fund-Raiser
Steve & Susan Tolle
(Zihuatanejo, Mexico)

The Zihua Sailfest - the fun cruiser fund-raiser for deserving students in Zihuatanejo - continued its amazing roll in early February, as for the fifth straight year a record amount of money - $56,400 - was raised. That's an astonishing figure when you consider that the event was started on a lark in 2001, and to a large extent relies on the volunteer services of a new group of cruisers each year.

It must be noted that half of the $56,400 came in matching funds from the Bill and Gloria Bellack Foundation of San Diego, which has doubled funds from the outset of the event; from Bill Underwood of Catalina, who has helped match funds for the last several years; and this year's new 'matcher', Pete Boyce of the Northern California-based Sabre 42 Edelweiss II.

Although it's not clear how many cruisers participated, some 550 SailFest shirts were sold, as well as 250 hats and 250 beer coozies. A total of 99 cruising boats officially registered for the event.

When SailFest started, the sole beneficiary of the fund-raising was the Netza School for orphaned indigenous and other deserving children. But with such large sums of money being raised - the total is nearly $150,000 in five years - it was decided that the money needed to be spread around a little more. As such, Por Los Niños de Zihuatanejo, a Mexican non-profit corporation, was established to administer the funds raised by SailFest-related activities. There is a nine-member international advisory committee that includes doctors, lawyers, educators, philanthropists, and representatives of other nonprofit organizations such as Rotary International. Los Niños, a U.S. tax exempt charity, was also created to make donations tax deductible for Americans. Lawrence Marbut is the administrator of both Por Los Niños and Los Niños.

Although the official dates of the event were February 1-5, cruisers couldn't wait to get started, so there was an 'unofficial kickoff' on January 31st when the M-Docs, a band from Illinois, showed up once again at Rick's Bar, the cruiser headquarters in Zihua, and raised over $300.

Sailfest 2006 officially began on February 1, with seminars running all day. No matter if they were going to be headed south, north, or west, cruisers could ask questions of a panel of cruisers who had already been there. Social activities kicked off Wednesday night, with a hosted cocktail party prior to the always-popular Live Auction. Local merchants have always been big supporters of SailFest, and this year they donated over 440 goods and services to be auctioned and/or raffled. With the amount of free tequila and beer passed out, the crowd was well-lubricated when bidding began at 8 p.m. Before it was over, auctioneer Dewey McMillan, a resident of nearby Tronconnes, had sold goods and services for a total of $4,800.

Thursday's activities began with an Alternative Energy Seminar put on by John McEwan, who had flown down from the States to instruct cruisers on the benefits of solar panels and how to get the most out of them. This was followed by an Inland Travel Seminar presented by a group of cruisers who had experience travelling the interior of Mexico.

Following the seminars, the cruisers gathered at M.J. Richies on Madera Beach for Beach Games Day. Over 150 kids from the schools that Sailfest supports were able to join in on the fun, thanks in part to the fact that a local transportation company donated buses to bring the kids to the beach. Carolina, who used to be the Activities Director at Paradise Resort and Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, and who now works at Rick's Bar in Zihua, ran both the local and cruiser kids through many games and social activities. Meanwhile, volunteers fed and watered the kids before they returned home, tired and dirty, but quite happy. It was a great opportunity for cruisers to meet and interact with the local children.

What would Zihua SailFest be without a Flare Shoot-Off? After dark on Thursday, the Port Captain gathered several cruiser dinghies around his boat, and encouraged cruisers to experiment with their expired flares. As the flares were fired, Rick Carpenter of Rick's Bar announced over the VHF what kind of flares they were and what the expiration dates were. It was fun and informative. Equally important, no boats or homes were set ablaze.

Friday started off with a Medical Seminar hosted by Dr. Roy Verdery of the Northern California-based Pearson 36 Jellybean. Verdery invited a local doctor to join him, so it was an informative two hours for the audience of cruisers. Noon that same day was the start of SailFest's big sailing event, the Pursuit Race. Thirteen boats entered the 'no complaining' event, and were rewarded with some of the better sailing breezes of the week.

The first three boats were Elysium, an Andrews 72 - with a half-naked crew; Alsumar, a 70-ft S&S yawl that was built way back in 1934; and Gone Again, a J/44. First across the starting line and last across the finish line was John aboard the Northstar 40 ketch Pelagic, so he got a special prize. This year's pursuit race was one of the more serious in the history of Zihua SailFest. Although nobody complained, some thought that Elysium should have been penalized, as their bare-breasted crew demoralized competitors and left the race committee cross-eyed.

Saturday's activities started with a Dinghy Poker Run and a Kid's Poker Run. That afternoon was time for the popular Street Fair/Chili Cook-Off and Silent Auction. Seventeen chili chefs lined the street outside of Rick's with their creations, and got support from all the local merchants. Kids from the Netza school and Nuevo Creacion learned to make bracelets - and then sold over $1,000 worth - with all the money donated to Sailfest. Other cruisers sold cakes, and Jo of Jenny raised $100 by reading palms. Prizes for the chili were awarded based on popular vote. Dave and Jane Saunderson of Dream On won top honors.

Most folks headed home early in order to get ready for Sunday's Sail Parade and ride-along day. With over 250 people to get aboard the 50 boats, it took a great organizational effort on the part of Roger and Karen of Meridien, Bill and Linda of Creola, and Pat and Kerry of Terra Firma. The parade turned out to be a spectacular show for the residents and tourists of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Once the fleet reached Ixtapa, boats were free to sail Zihuat - and a number took advantage of the great afternoon breeze that came up.

The Wrap-up BBQ, which featured five local restaurants offering their most popular dishes, was well-attended by cruisers and tourists alike. Final awards were given out and the total of money raised was announced. In addition to the official SailFest activities, there was plenty of great cruiser socializing and terrific cruiser music each night at Rick's.

None of this great stuff would have happened without the gracious participation of all the local merchants of Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, the amazing participation of transient cruisers on the various committees, and, of course, Rick's Bar. Zihua SailFest is slated for the first weekend of February next year. Don't miss it, because you want to be part of cruiser fund-raising history!

- steve & susan tolle
2006 sailfest chairpersons

Laelia - Kennex 420
Howard and Judy Wang
Paperwork In Polynesia

We made it to New Zealand in late October - exactly one year after we departed Ventura for the start of the Ha-Ha. We hope the following clearing information might be of interest to Puddle Jumpers about to set sail for the Marquesas from Mexico, because we sure were confused when we arrived there in the spring of '05. Of course, we've also been told that clearing procedures in French Polynesia can change from year to year.

Upon arrival in the Marquesas, cruisers must check in at either Hiva Oa or at Nuku Hiva. At Nuku Hiva, however, cruisers have the option of using the Polynesia Yacht Services, which answers on VHF 17, to do their clearing for them. That's what we did. For those who checked in on their own, it was necessary to immediately buy a bond equivalent to the cost of a one-way ticket back to their home country for everybody aboard. It made no difference if they had a visa or not.

The bonds are expensive in more ways that one. For a family of four, the bond itself could add up to several thousand dollars. The banks also charge a fee of about $40/person to process the bond. And if you pay for the bond in U.S. dollars, it first has to be exchanged to French Polynesian francs - so you take a hit there. And when you turn the bond in, it's in francs that you probably want changed back to dollars, so you get hit a third time.

Cruisers who paid for their bonds when the dollar was at an all-time low were shocked at how little money they got back - particularly if they redeemed the bonds just after the French Polynesian franc had been devalued and the dollar was back on the rise. A boat with three people told us they'd lost $850 in the process. Of course, a devaluation of the franc presumably won't happen every year - and one could theoretically benefit from the right fluctuations in currency.

One family got really stressed out trying to come up with bond money because the ATM machine had a daily limit well below what they needed. They had to go to the ATM multiple times over several days to get what they needed. Most ATMs we used in French Polynesia allowed only one transaction a day, and the maximum limit was lower than our normal daily limit in the States. We later learned that our Wells Fargo Express ATM card is also a kind of a debit card, and that we could have taken it inside the bank and drawn funds directly from our checking account. But you can still only use a card once a day.

In any event, PYS at Nuku Hiva provided us with a letter guaranteeing our repatriation to the States, so we didn't have to post a bond. In addition, PYS got us a 90-day visa extension right away - which meant we didn't have to settle for a 30-day visa and then face the uncertainty of whether we could get an extension at all. Several years ago, French Polynesian officials surprised arriving cruisers by refusing to give them more than 30-day visas, ruining many carefully made plans.

Last year some cruisers were able to get a 90-day visa on their own upon arrival, while others only got 30 days. The amount of time one got seemed to be a matter of the luck of the draw as to whether they came up before a French gendarme, who was unlikely to give 90 days, and a Marquesan gendarme, who was more friendly and, in most cases, gave 90 days.

We got a French gendarme who was a royal pain in the neck. Initially, he wouldn't give us more than a 30-day visa. This meant we had to call the PYS agent who, in half an hour, got our visa extended to 90 days. This was the only time we had to deal with a gendarme until the checking out at Bora Bora. (The official entry/clearance in French Polynesia is done at Papeete - which PYS took care of for us - but all boats had to informally check out of Bora Bora if they were about to depart French Polynesia). We did stop by at the gendarmerie with our passports on some other Marquesan Islands, but that was more a courtesy than a requirement.

Initially, it seemed as though we were paying PYS a lot of money for something that we could have done ourselves. However, some of the services we got in addition to not having to pay the bond right away made me feel as though we did all right. For example, mail forwarding by PYS was very reliable, as we had boat parts shipped to Papeete in care of their agent there. The shipment had been delayed in California, but the agent made sure the package was forwarded to us in Moorea - and even had it delivered to our boat at the anchorage in Cook's Bay! We also had prescription medicines shipped from the U.S. to Papeete, which inexplicably took two months to arrive. The PYS agent forwarded the medicine to us in Bora Bora via Tahiti Air just days before we left French Polynesia. The medicine was something that we couldn't have done without. We also needed a fiberglass door made for the boat to replace the one that was washed away by a big wave somewhere around the Tuamotus. The cost of labor in Tahiti was prohibitive - and outrageous! But the PYS agent located a cruiser in Moorea who did the job at a fair price. The PYS fees that we paid in the Marquesas at check-in covered all the official paperwork in Papeete - although I'm not sure if it included the mail forwarding. For services other than checking in and out at Papeete - such as getting someone to carry out repairs - an additional fee will be charged. Always discuss it in advance with the agent to avoid misunderstandings.

PYS's services included a separate fee for each of the following: 1) Checking in/out; 2) Bond exemption letter; 3) Visa extension; and 4) Papers for duty-free fuel. As we recall, the fees came to about $50 to $70/person for each of the items - although it would be best if everyone checked the current fee schedule .

We would be remiss if we didn't point out that the PYS agents in French Polynesia are not to be confused with 'papermen' in Mexico. The PYS agents are professionals who genuinely try to help. Alain, the new PYS agent in Nuku Hiva, has been a cruiser for 30 years, so he can empathize with whatever problems you might have. When he noticed that the surge made us reluctant to back our catamaran up to his concrete wall to get fuel, he - a cat owner and cat charterer - came on our boat and showed us how easy it was. He said it was a personal favor, not part of his professional services. We certainly appreciated the lesson - and the fact that he cared. We subsequently met him by chance in another anchorage, and enjoyed a fabulous picnic with him and his wife. We now consider them friends.

We feel very fortunate to have met someone like Alain upon landfall, as it certainly set an upbeat tone for us for the rest of the cruise. Laurent, the PYS agent in Papeete, was never a cruiser, but he was always willing to help.

- howard and judy 01/28/06

Cruise Notes:

If you've ever cruised Mexico and fished, you've almost certainly hooked a boobie, certainly one of the dumbest species of bird in existence. Most cruisers reel the flailing birds in, remove the hook, and let the bird go. But if you're celebrated French chef Stephan Demichelis of Les Templiers restaurant in the famous artist's town of Vence between Nice and Cannes, and you make such a catch while on a sailing charter on Banderas Bay, you take a professional interest.

There's bad news and good news from San Diego cruisers Bob Willmann of the Islander 37 Viva! and Steve Cherry of the Formosa 41 ketch Witch of Endor. For much of the last five years or so, the two have more or less cruised in company, from Central America down to Ecuador, and last year through the Canal to Cartagena. Last October they sailed to Isla Providencia which, despite being located off the east coast of Nicaragua, belongs to the much more distant Colombia. The duo arrived just in time for last fall's bizarre weather - six weeks of westerlies instead of the normal easterly Caribbean trades. Then Tropical Storm Beta "center-punched," to use Cherry's description, Providencia at the end of October. Witch of Endor was just one of three boats to survive in the anchorage, but the uninsured Viva! was blown up on the rocks. Before the storm had subsided, Willmann's trusty boat had been stripped by locals. Willmann joined Cherry on the Witch for the trip to Guatemala's Rio Dulce, where Cherry was informed that the Vagabond 47 ketch Mystique that he'd been lusting after had come up for sale at the right price in Carriacou. So now he's working to get both his boats to Jacksonville to swap gear before he continues cruising, while Willmann is looking for a boat to replace Viva! We'll have more details next month - including Cherry's somewhat surprising assessment of the residents of Isla Providencia.

Les Sutton and Diane Grant of the Northern California-based Albin Nimbus 42 Gemini report that the Pathfinder engine rebuild they had done in Panama didn't work out quite as well as they'd hoped. So rather than burn a quart of oil for every 12 hours trying to make it back to California with a dicey engine, they'll be putting Gemini on a Dockwise Yacht Transport Ship in Golfito, Costa Rica, for shipping to Ensenada. "The only problem we've had so far with Dockwise is they haven't been very responsive about changes in the scheduling. There has been delay after delay - which wouldn't be so bad if they kept us better informed."

Having spent a lot of time in both Panama and Costa Rica, Sutton says there's at least as much crime in Costa Rica. "But it's non-confrontational crime, such as the theft of dinghies and outboards, the stealing of luggage from the racks of crowded buses, and pickpocketing. The dinghy and outboard thieves in Costa Rica are very clever, as they wait until there is a big and noisy squall at night to do their dirty work. The noise of the heavy rain cancels out any noise they might make using bolt-cutters to snip the wire cables securing dinghies to boats. The only solution is to lift your dinghy out of the water every night, and to get up - like I do - to look around every time there is a squall."

After replacing Gemini's Pathfinder with a Yanmar in California, Sutton and Grant will return to their favorite cruising grounds in Mexico. If they can get everything done in time, they'll head south to Mexico in June. If there are delays, they'll wait until late October and join the Ha-Ha fleet.

Speaking of both Dockwise Yacht Transport and the Ha-Ha, we know of two Ha-Ha vets with big boats that will be doing the Ha-Ha again this fall, spend the winter season in Mexico, then have Dockwise deliver their boats to Vancouver to get an early start on the summer season in the Pacific Northwest. It's not cheap, but it sure is an efficient way to enjoy two very different cruising experiences in just one year.

For those who would like at least an option to having their boat shipped by Dockwise Yacht Transport, Bill and Sue Houlihan of San Diego report they had an excellent experience when a Yacht Path ship delivered their new-to-them Fountaine-Pajot 38 cat Limerick from Ft. Lauderdale to Ensenada. The couple report that Yacht Path's regular price was the same as the discounted price for Dockwise. We'll have a more detailed report on their experience next month.

We've been under the impression that dinghy and outboard thefts have been rare in Mexico, but recently we received the following disturbing report from Anders Billred, who neglected to identify his boat:

"Just before Christmas we anchored at Chacala. It's a very nice place, but in the middle of the night I heard the sound of a nearby motor - and got up to check it out. There was a panga behind our boat, but when I came on deck it moved on. About 10 minutes later, I heard screaming from Wind Dancer, the boat next to us. The guys in the panga had stolen their outboard-powered dinghy and were heading full speed out to sea! The next day another cruising boat came in towing the stolen dinghy. The outboard was gone, and the inflatable tubes had been stabbed in four places."

If you're in Mexico - or anywhere else in the world of cruising - we'd appreciate a report on the dinghy and outboard theft situation in your area.

They know Jack! "The Coral Marina office in Ensenada has been our source of Latitudes for the past couple of months, and it was a pleasant surprise to find the article about Jack van Ommen and his Naja 30 Fleetwood in your November issue," report Wayne and Margot Hamilton of the Cascade 42 Makai. "We met him when we kept our Seawind I at the Gig Harbor Marina back in the '80s, during which time van Ommen kept Fleetwood's mahogany hull looking like a Steinway piano. After moving to Port Angeles with our larger sloop, we lost touch with him, so we hope to read more about his trip across the Pacific back to Vietnam."

As of early January, van Ommen, a vet of the '82 Singlehanded TransPac, reported that he was crossing the equator on his way from Papua New Guinea to Palau. At the time he was having a little trouble, having had to set his 1.5 chute in light winds because he'd ripped his .75 during a squall. We've been trying to arrange a phone interview with him, but haven't been able to pull it off. Until we do, you can follow his adventures at

"We got spoiled by Tradewinds Sailing in Richmond," report Gerald and Sandy Canning, formerly of Northern California. "We moved to Florida and looked around for a sailing club where we could take advanced courses and use boats, but there's just nothing like Tradewinds. So we bought a new Catalina 40 MK II from the dealer in Palmetto and christened her Rum Daze. Our maiden voyage was about 100 miles to Cape Coral. We miss Tradewinds - but not the cool temperatures of San Francisco Bay. We love the tropical weather and are making plans to sail to the Caribbean."

For the second year in a row, Rick and Jen Fleischman, who charter their Catalina 50 Bob in Alaska during the summer, have spent the winter caretaking a resort at Warm Springs, Alaska. It's not like the tropics up there in the winter. Between early October and the end of January they had 80 inches of rain. And in January, they had 45 inches of snow, including three feet in one week. The couple claim they love it, but after looking at the photo of Rick shoveling several feet of snow off the deck of Bob, we think they'd have to pass a lie-detector test before we'd believe them.

"When we arrived in Nuevo Vallarta from San Francisco at the end of November, we rowed over to the Port Captain's office to make sure we were properly checked in," write Mike and Eileen Siewert of the Truckee-based Columbia 10.7 Impulse. "In perfect English, I was told that it was not mandatory for us to physically come to the port captain's office, and that we could just contact him on Channel 16. However, he encouraged us to make a habit of physically showing up at all the other port captain offices because not all harbormasters are fluent in English, and therefore might not understand that we were checking in. He gave us a short form to fill out, but we didn't have to pay anything."

As of February, we were told that everybody was supposed to make a brief appearance at the port captain's office in Nuevo Vallarta. So who knows? As has always been the case, every port captain seems to have different requirements. In San Carlos, you can 'inform' them of your presence by calling the San Carlos Marina or by filling out a form the marina leaves on its door. In La Paz, you can log in at the marinas and sometimes over the radio with the port captain. In Nuevo Vallarta, you are supposed to stop in and see the port captain. When you check into a marina, the staff obviously knows what the local port captain wants. But if you're anchored out, how are you supposed to know what to do? The Mexican government would do well to institute a consistent policy for the entire country. Nonetheless, we haven't heard of any problems to date, and this year's domestic clearing procedures are certainly much less expensive and more user-friendly than ever.

With President Fox having been in office for six years, this July Mexico will be electing a new President. There are three contenders with very different political programs, and experts say it will be a very tight race and that any of the three candidates could win. But no matter who wins, it's unlikely there will be any immediate major changes, as no candidate is expected to win even 40% of the vote, and any winner will face lots of opposition in Congress.

"I was searching the internet looking for advice on sailing my new-to-me Mikado 56 ketch from Florida to Seattle via the Panama Canal when I came across your First Timers' Guide to Mexico," writes Jeff Weiss of the Pacific Northwest. "I had initially decided that my best option was to enlist the help of a qualified captain and sail my boat to Seattle, but it started looking as though the trip was going to take several weeks longer than I had assumed. Then I heard there were options besides going through the Panama Canal, options that would save time and money. These options involved having the boat trucked from the Caribbean to the Pacific, either across Costa Rica or Mexico. Do you have any advice?"

Even if there was some way to truck your boat across Costa Rica or Mexico - and there isn't - it still wouldn't be a very good idea. Why? It's easy to get from Florida to the Canal because the wind is from aft, and up to Costa Rica and even Cabo San Lucas because the winds are light. The hard part is getting from Cabo to the Pacific Northwest. As such, the only smart alternatives would be to have your boat trucked from Florida to Seattle - assuming that she's not too big, or have her delivered by ship. For what it's worth, Doña de Mallorca - who did her first Atlantic crossing aboard a Mikado 56, and has made a Caribbean to California delivery - estimates the fastest you could hope to make that trip on your Mikado's bottom is 40 days. If there were any problems or stretches of adverse weather, it could easily take 60 days. Good luck.

"The following is a list of boats and folks who were in Zihuatanejo or Huatulco in early February, and were committed Southbounders, intending to make it at least as far as El Salvador before hurricane season," reports Terry Bingham of Secret O' Life. "There are obviously other boats and crews who are ahead or behind this group."

Barefoot, an Irwin 43, with Patrick and Paula Gallagher of Honolulu; Barraveigh, a Jeanneau 43 with Robert Friedman and crew Colin from Parts Unknown; Blue Moon, a Fantasia 35 with Barry and Stacey from San Diego; Creola, a Hylas 49 with Bill and Linda McKeever of Navassa Island; Dreamweaver III, a Hudson 44 with Rick and Judith Turrell of New Zealand; Hurrah, a Tayana 37 with Gary and Barbara Miller of Reedsport, OR; Kingsway, a Cal 2-46 with Bob Ryan and Scott Rhodes of Newport Beach; Last Resort, a Tayana 37 with Steve and Susan Tolle of Seattle; Loon III, a Brent Swain 39 with Iain Leckie and Alyson Markert of Edmonton, Canada; Mustang Sally, a Pro Kennex 38 cat with Rae and Sharon Simpson of Vancouver; Secret O' Life, a Union 36 with Terry Bingham and Tammy Woodmansee of Eagle Harbor, WA; Slipaway, an Islander 41 with Rich Crowell and Jan Schwab of Jacksonville; Sol Surfin', a Seawind 1000 cat with Gary Oelze and Celestine de La Victoria of San Diego; Sumatra, a Trintella 53 with Jerry Morgan, Libby and Audrey from San Francisco; Terra Firma, an Island Packet 380 with Pat and Carrie Kinnison of San Diego; Tide N Knots, a Tayana 48 with Ken and Jorie Friedkin of San Francisco; and Victoria, a Sea Raker 50 with Jeff and Freda Thompson of Portland.

In the fall of '02, Peter and Glenora Dougherty sailed south to San Francisco aboard their homebuilt ketch Wanderlust V in company with a bunch of other boats from the Canadian Bluewater Cruising Association. Peters and others created the Bluewater SSB Net for safety on the way down to San Francisco. It proved so popular that Peter kept it going all the way down to Cabo San Lucas and then up into the Sea of Cortez. Once cruising in the Sea, it became extremely popular, with as many as 100 boats checking in per session. As Net Control, Peter became very well known. As cruisers moved on or returned home, the Bluewater Net thinned out, and finally grew silent when Peter returned to Canada to deal with heart problems. Friends regret to report that Dougherty passed away in Canada last year following heart surgery. He'll be missed.

"We recently bought the Mariner 31 ketch Scandia Dream in Moss Landing," writes Matt Djos, "and although we have trailer-sailed the Southern California coast, including the Channel Islands, Pt. Conception poses a whole new challenge. What's the safest and easiest way to handle the beast?"

The first thing to realize is that it's not just Pt. Conception that poses a potential problem, but Pt. Sur, which can often be as rough if not rougher than Conception, and the whole Central California coast. Given the often strong northwesterly winds and seas, the biggest danger with a boat like a Mariner 31 is probably getting pooped. From Moss Landing, you won't have any problem harbor-hopping to Monterey or Carmel, at which point you have to make a go/no-go decision about Sur. Monitor the weather forecast carefully, and if it calls for peak winds of 20 knots or less out of the northwest, just go for it. It's not uncommon for forecasts along the Central Coast to underestimate peak winds, so be ready to reef down, and know where the nearest shelter is. Between San Simeon, Morro Bay, and Port San Luis, you're never too far between safe harbors.

When we took Profligate south last year, we didn't have more than five knots of wind from San Francisco to Pt. Arguello. But in the 11 or so miles from Arguello to Conception, the wind rapidly built from five knots to nearly 30 knots. Once we 'turned the corner' at Conception, we could choose how much wind we wanted, from 10 to 25 knots, depending on how far offshore we went. It was a great sail, as the coastline just southeast of Conception is undeveloped and gorgeous.

"Last fall a Cal 34 with three really great Canadians aboard was T-boned by a panga at full speed at San Juanico, Baja," reports Steve Winn of the San Diego-based Challenger 32 Shangri-La. "The Canadians told me that their boat was holed down to just above the waterline, and that the deck had been lifted off the hull-to-deck joint. I know they had to rebuild a bulkhead and do extensive fiberglass work, so I gave them some wood and cutting facilities to help out. I know that many other San Juanicans helped out, too. If cruisers come up this way, they should say 'hello'. We monitor the VHF - which we also use to order pizza."

Every winter when we go to St. Barth, we bump into our friends Jeff and Kitty Gardner, who are from the greater Chicago area, and who generally spend a couple of months each winter at a rented villa on the island. Why are they smiling in the accompanying photo? One reason is because they'd just bought a round of drinks for everyone at the famous Le Select Bar, including one for its 82-year-old owner Marius Stakelbough, whose continued good health has become a personal project for the couple. They are also smiling because they'd just made the surprise announcement that they had bought a Robertson & Caine 47 cat to put into The Moorings yacht management program at nearby St. Martin. The cat, christened Latitude Found, had just arrived after a 40-day passage from South Africa. The Gardners were pleased with the cat's much taller 70-ft rig, and by the fact that all the cushions and stove had been kept wrapped in plastic during the delivery.

Longtime Great Lakes sailors and racers, the Gardeners decided they wanted to spend most of their winters ashore in the Caribbean, but some of the time afloat, too. They made their first offer on a 50-ft monohull they were going to own privately. All set to hand over the money, the seller proved to be so obstreperous that they backed away from the deal. After some more shopping, they decided that putting a cat in The Moorings yacht management program was the best deal for them. "We're putting up about $120,000, but because we'll be putting all our charter income back into payments for the boat, we'll be able to own a succession of new boats for the rest of our lives without having to put up another dollar for insurance, maintenance, berthing or repairs. Its might not be the right deal for everyone because there is a limit on how much time you can spend on your boat, but we think it's right for us."

Only about 10 days after arriving from South Africa, the Gardener's new cat went out on a three-week charter - at $13,000/week! The couple plan to do some sailing on their boat in the Caribbean, but thanks to a popular feature of the program, can trade for time on similar boats at any of the other Moorings locations in the world.

Interested in alternative loving? If you're a careful reader of the Classy Classifieds, you'll remember the following ad from the December issue: "Honest: We are an attractive, fit, happy sailing couple seeking one fit, attractive female for loving companionship and adventure. Sail warm coastal Mexican waters with us December thru June aboard our truly lovely sailing yacht. You can contact us ."

While in Mexico last month, we ran into half of the couple that placed the ad, and asked what kind of response they'd been getting. "Great," he said. "We've experimented with a couple of possibilities that were fun, but still haven't found the right one. But I can assure you that triads are the wave of the future, because everybody gets what they're looking for in a relationship." We're not sure how you feel about triads, but we can tell you that the couple who placed the ad are indeed attractive, have a nice and spacious boat, and are well travelled. Honest.

"Twenty-six-year-old singlehander Staale Jordan lost his 34-ft gaff rigged ketch Rozinante off Cape Horn in mid-February," reports Robert Reed of the Pacific Seafarer's Net. Jordan had sailed the Norwegian-built gaffer from South America to Cape Town, to Tasmania, and then Cape Horn - most of a circumnavigation of Antarctica - before a large wave hit and broke the boat's rudder near the Horn. Unable to steer, he had to abandoned his boat in 30 to 45-ft seas and board a Polish cargo ship. Rozinante suffered serious damage when her owner jumped from his boat to the ship, so it's likely the ketch has been lost.

If you were going to cruise southeast along the coast from the United States to the Panama Canal, you probably wouldn't have any trouble naming the countries on the way. They are Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, right? Wrong. Lots of people don't know or forget there's about 50 miles of Honduras on the Pacific Coast between Guatemala and El Salvador. It's tucked in there along the shores of the Gulf of Fonseca. John and Barbara Gayford of the Portsmouth, U.K.-based Island Packet 40 Songline offer the following report about Honduras:

"We loved all of the Gulf of Fonseca, and feel that it's very much under-cruised. Unlike at El Salvador, the only bar you'll encounter at San Lorenzo is the kind that sells the appropriately-named local cerveza, Salva Vida. Located in the northeastern corner of the gulf, San Lorenzo is reached via a well-buoyed shipping channel up a smooth mangrove-lined estuary. It's an invitingly easy entry after the sand bars of El Salvador, and one that boats cruising the Pacific coast of Central America shouldn't miss. Yet only about three cruising boats a year stop here. The way we recorded it, you enter the buoyed channel to Puerto Henecan at 13°12.398N; 087° 34.936W. You turn off to port from the buoyed channel at 13°23.269N; 087°25.651W. Then turn off to starboard towards the town at 13°24.466N; 087°26.651W. Don't anchor immediately opposite the pink Miramar Hotel, as there is foul ground roughly mid-channel. Once your anchor has set in the sand and mud bottom of the anchorage - which remains nearly unruffled even if it's blowing 35 knots - it's time to dinghy to the free and secure dinghy dock at the Portal del Golfo restaurant and deal with the formalities. Checking in to Honduras is easy. It's a short walk to the Immigration office, where you pay $3 a head. Then it's a 10-minute ($2) taxi ride to the Port Captain's office at Puerto Henecan, where he will issue you a cruising permit - for free! Then it's time to explore.

"San Lorenzo," the couple continue, "has most things that cruisers are looking for - banks with ATMs, hardware stores, diesel, gas and propane refills, cheap phone facilities (10 cents a minute to the U.S. and U.K.), supermarkets, and a fresh fruit and veggie market. And yes, there are bars and restaurants to suit every budget. The daily lunch special at the Portal del Golfo will set you back about $2. But if you try hard, cocktails and lunch at one of the smarter establishments could be as much as $12. When you've seen enough of San Lorenzo proper, we suggest that you go to the northern edge of the town and hop on one of the many buses that run along the Pan American Highway. Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, is only two hours to the north, and the bus goes past the international airport that has daily flights back to the States. And Nicaragua is just a couple of hours to the east. If you want to leave your boat for a while and go travelling, there are plenty of night watchmen available to boat-sit. Antonio Cover, general manager of the Portal del Golfo, has a cruisers' guide with recommendations and contacts. He will even put your frozen stuff in his freezer if you want to shut your fridge down while you're away. When you're ready to leave Honduras, checking out is as easy as checking in. You pay another $3/head at the Immigration office, and 35 Lempiras - about $1.75 in 'real' money - to customs at the port captain's office for your international zarpe, and you're good to go. Don't bypass Honduras!

Next month is March, which means it's time for the Nautico Festival in Banderas Bay, with all kinds of great activities for cruisers, wrapping up at the end of the month with the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run and the Banderas Bay Regatta. The best and most recent listing of events can be found at, but the events of most interest to sailors will be as follows:

March 4 - Governor's Big Boat Parade, and Governor's Cup Yacht Race

March 3-5 - WesMex Optimist Dinghy Regatta

March 5-10 - MEXORC, an event for serious racing boats on which cruisers often like to crew.

March 11 - Big Cat Dinghy Raft-Up. A bunch of cats, including Profligate, will be anchored out in Nuevo Vallarta Lagoon, and organizers will try to assemble a world record number of dinghies around the cats. This is very serious stuff.

March 17-18 - St. Paddy's fun cruise to La Cruz and back.

March 28 - Latitude's Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity, from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina. Don't forget those pirate costumes.

March 30-April 2 - The 14th Annual Banderas Bay Regatta - this is a nothing too serious cruiser regatta for cruising boats, so don't worry about 'racing your home'. No matter if you sail your own boat or crew with someone else, don't miss it, as it's a great sailing and social event at an outstanding venue. We'll see you there!

Meanwhile, don't forget to write. We and your friends want to hear from you!

Top / Subscriptions / Classifieds / Home

©2006 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.