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March 2011

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With reports this month from Queen Emma on repowering in the Caribbean; on Edulis in the British Virgins; from Convergence on a safe run up 'Pirate Alley' in the Arabian Sea; from the Wanderer on surfing Pt. Mita's 'north shore'; from Zeppelin on things to do in the La Cruz area; from Sailors' Run on the Recife (Brazil) to Fernando de Noronha Race; from Carinthia's Kurt Roll on surfing from sailboats; and Cruise Notes.

Queen Emma — Oyster 45
Lance Batten & Susie Bowman
Still Lovin' the Caribbean

We haven't checked in for quite a while, but here goes. We are still — since '02 — cruising the Eastern Caribbean, and still think it's the best winter cruising ground. After all, the water is warm, the breezes fresh, and there is little or no adult supervision.

In '08, we decided to look for a larger and more solid boat, and most importantly, one that Lance could stand up in. Here's how to expand your social circle in three easy steps: 1) Approach interesting boat. 2) Explain that you're thinking of buying such a boat. 3) Enjoy a guided tour, and also get advice and libations in the process!

The net result for us was Queen Emma, a new-to-us Oyster 45 that we came across in Bequia. Eaux Vives, our Beneteau 40, originally part of The Moorings fleet, sold in St. Martin, and we've been learning all about Queen Emma ever since.

We spent our first summer in the Caribbean on the new boat thinking that we'd complete some of the more time-consuming jobs during the off-season. But it was too hot and too buggy to get much done. Furthermore, we got caught on the edge of hurricane Tomas while in Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Nothing bad happened to us, but one boat went up on the rocks and another lost her mast. Mostly we worried about all the charter boats dragging around with the famously bogus Bequia moorings in their teeth. Tomas was such a wobbler that it defeated our 'run south from the hurricane' plan. Our new plan is to go back to our old plan: leave our boat on the hard and spend the summer sailing other people's boats on San Francisco Bay.

We recently had family and friends visit, and caught up with several issues of Latitude that they had brought down. In the January issue, there was a letter about diesel engines being hard to come by, and bad boat repair services in the Caribbean. They were interesting reports, but they weren't true of everywhere down here. We know, because in March of last year we repowered Queen Emma with a Volvo D2-55 diesel in Le Marin, Martinique. Mecanique Plaisance had two of these engines on the shelf — in addition to a couple of 75-hp Volvos and a collection of other engines and generators. They did an excellent job installing the engine in seven days, and stuck to their written estimate. We have also had equally professional results from Caraibe Greement, the riggers, and Diginav, the electronics guys.

A lot of cruisers ignore the French islands, fearing the language barrier. Our experience is that the gulf can be greater on the small Anglo islands. The problem is that most of the craftsmen on the small islands haven't had the practice or seen the volume of jobs to meet the American expectations. I'm convinced that the typical bargain hunter who goes to Trinidad ends up spending more — and getting 'vex' to boot — than if he/she just paid First World rates for First World service in Martinique.
As to the toilet paper in the head controversy, we haven't had such a good laugh in a long while. If someone is that squeamish about bodies, body fluids, body smells, and so on, they should book a cruise and skip the sailing. If, on the other hand, they relish life, they should go cruising.

For those who don't remember, eight years ago we came down to the Caribbean planning to charter for a month or so. We then realized that we could buy a boat, and if we found that we didn't like cruising, we could just sell her. In other words, we had no plan and no clue. We continue to amaze ourselves with how little we know, yet we're still having a great time. Fortunately, most of the people you read about in Latitude, and the people you meet out cruising, are regular folks who are generally willing to help new cruisers.

By the way, we recently came under the drawbridge at Sint Maarten behind Laura Dekker, the 15-year old Dutch girl who hopes to become the youngest circumnavigator ever. She got a warm welcome from her fellow countrymen — half the island is French and half is Dutch — upon the completion of her transAtlantic leg. She's now cruising Down Island. As for ourselves, we spent a few days enjoying St. Barth — it still doesn't cost anything to anchor at Anse Columbier — and then sailed to Jolly Harbour, Antigua. The guy checking in before us was solo circumnavigator Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3. Mike has recovered well from the injuries he suffered at the hands of thieves in St. Martin, and continues to enjoy sailing.

We recently took friends Sarah and Quincy of Mostly Harmless up to Barbuda, where we anchored off Eleven-Mile Beach. We had 11 miles of pink-tinged beach off the bow, and a beautiful sunset off the stern. It kinda puts the TP issue in perspective, and explains why we, the 'Accidental Cruisers', are still at it.

— lance 10/15/11

Edulis — Jumbo Open 40
Philippe, Marie and Yann
Leeward Islands
(Brittany, France)

One of the last places you'd expect to come across an adventuresome cruising family, let alone an adventuresome French cruising family, is the The Baths at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Although the giant granite boulders that make up The Baths are a justifiably worthy scenic and dive stop, they are as much a mass tourist destination in the British Virgins as Fisherman's Wharf is in San Francisco. In fact, when we cleared out of the British Virgins at Spanishtown a day later, the woman at Immigration said we wouldn't be allowed to leave the country until we'd visited The Baths.

And visit The Baths we did, although not really because we wanted to see it for the umpteenth time. It was rather because it was late in the day, most everyone had left, and nobody seemed to be charging for the moorings. Edulis, the only other boat in the area, arrived at the same time we did. A Pierre Rolland designed Open Class 40 Jumbo design, she was the antithesis of the BVI charterboat. She looked like an Olson or Santa Cruz 40 on steroids, but with much greater beam carried all the way aft, and an extra rudder. Other than a two-foot sugar scoop that had been added later, she was a boat without frills. She also flew a faded French flag, and it was clear that her crew consisted of a middle-aged couple and a young boy.

After exchanging pleasantries that evening, the next morning we decided to paddle over to Edulis to sea trial our 11-ft Uli inflatable surfboard. We were enthusiastically invited aboard for coffee by Philippe Maugan, a Frenchman with an Irish name, Marie-Gabrille Capodano, an Italian who has lived most of her life in France, and Yann, their 4½-year-old son.

Even though Edulis wasn't glossed off to a high standard, hadn't been given any make-up, and had gear, food, and equipment strewn about, she still exuded a raw sailing sexuality. She had a powerful rig, her twin rudder tiller bar extended all the way across the large cockpit, and there was a large covered area at the back of the cabin where one could find shelter from green waves blasting over the cabin-top. Like all Open 40s, this boat was designed to be pushed hard offshore.

"Edulis is a fine sailing boat," agreed Philippe. "She regularly hits 15 and 16 knots. And displacing just six tons, she once hit 21 knots under main and jib alone." As we said, she's not your average Caribbean charter boat. And she did make our heart go pitter-pat.

The couple - who with their son live most of the year at Norbhon, near La Trinite-sur-Mer, in southern Brittany, a region that has produced many of France's top offshore sailors - have an interesting history. In '85, Marie was living in Isles de Saintes, the lovely group of islands just off Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. In fact, she, her mother, and four brothers were renting a beautiful piece of property on the beach next to Pan de Sucre, where they operated a small beach restaurant. This just happened to be at the same time that Philippe, a fisheries student, needed to do his field studies. Most of his classmates elected to go out on big fishing ships. but Philippe wanted to work and study with the fishermen who went out in small boats and pulled their catch in by hand with nets.

We don't know how well Philippe and Marie got to know each other, but we do know it was the last time they'd see each other for 17 years. Both would marry and have children, he three and she two.

In '02, Philippe became partners with a fellow who was building a Jumbo Open 40 that would become Edulis. Later that year, Philippe sailed her across the Atlantic in company with the Route du Rhum fleet, which finished in Guadeloupe that year. "When I said goodbye to my then-wife," he laughs, "it really was goodbye."

Early on in that crossing, he must have wondered if by saying goodbye he had somehow crossed the gods. The weather turned so bad that 17 boats, skippered by some of the best sailors in Europe either flipped, sank or otherwise were knocked out of action by a storm. "It was really terrible out there. At one point I had the very large cockpit filled to within one inch of overflowing into the salon."

But when he got to Guadeloupe, there was Marie, whom he hadn't seen in 15 years. While she knew Philippe was coming to Guadeloupe, it was by a fluke — needing to come to the island from her home in Paris to sign some family real estate papers — that she was there at all. But sparks must have flown, for the two immediately began cruising together on Edulis.

A year later, Philippe, a pregnant Marie, and the five kids from their now combined families, cruised Brazil. While not well appointed, Edulis is a rather cavernous and beamy boat, so at least there was space for everyone to sleep.

"When we got to Rio, we came around the corner of the Pan de Sucre, and pulled into the very fancy Rio de Janeiro YC," recalls Marie. "It's a very exclusive club, and the men were smoking big cigars and the women wearing beautiful clothes. But you can't imagine how friendly and hospitable they were."

"I think it was because we were a big family on a relatively small boat, because we weren't ostentatious, and because Marie was pregnant," says Philippe. "After staying for something like three days, I asked what we owed them. 'Nothing,' they said. 'We've been honored to have had you as guests.' They were magnifique!"

The couple would return to cruise in Brazil the following year with Yann, who was then but a few months old. They loved it. While a lot of people complain about crime in Brazil, the folks on Edulis didn't have any problems.

Late last year, their boat partner sailed the Open 40 across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe, at which time they took over the boat for their annual six-week cruise. Says Marie, "We visited Guadelouple, Antigua, Barbuda . . ."

"Shush!" laughs Philippe. "We didn't check into Barbuda."

After joining in the laughter, Marie continued the list. "Then St. Barth, Anguila, here in the British Virgins, and soon we'll end up in the U.S. Virgins. From there, the boat will be taken to Antigua, where friends will sail her in Antigua Sailing Week. Then she'll be sailed to New York, then another friend will sail her to Brittany."

"In September," Philippe picks up, "Edulis will again be a mother boat for the 20-ft Mini Transatlantic Race fleet. So we'll be cruising her in Brazil again next year.

Talk about your busy boats.

"My recent stop in St. Barth was interesting," says Marie, "because I lived there back in '75 when I was just six years old. Back then the island wasn't even on the map. In fact, my mother started the first restaurant on the island in '75. It was called the Coffee Shop, and it was in the corner of the harbor at the current location of the Route du Boucaniers restaurant. My mother had a one-year lease, but after one year the restaurant was so popular the owner took it over instead of renewing my mother's lease." Marie laughs at the absurdity of it all.

"We left St. Barth because my father didn't like it. My mother loved it, and wished she'd never left. My not having been there in 36 years, it was obvious that it had changed a great deal. But I still think it's wonderful. I'm not bothered by the rich people, who in any event don't destroy the beauty of the island and the water."

With their cruising time for this year almost expired, the couple began musing about returning to work. "We have an oyster hatchery," explains Philippe. "We put the male and female together, and make the little oyster. This is all done in a laboratory. When they grow to half a millimeter, we sell them to the people who do the aquaculture."

— latitude/rs 02/16/11

Convergence — Wylie 65
Randy Repass and Family
Transiting 'Pirate Alley'
(Santa Cruz)

My wife Sally-Christine and son Kent-Harris have cruised our Wylie 65 across the South Pacific to Australia three or four months a year since leaving Santa Cruz in June of '04. This past summer we sailed from Darwin through Indonesia, then by Singapore up the Malacca Straits to Langkawi, Malaysia, and finally to Phuket, Thailand, where we left Convergence in October.

The best time for a passage from Thailand to the Med, our next destination, is January through April. Partly because of the potential for attacks by pirates, and partly because of the amount of time Kent-Harris would miss school, we decided to do the passage with friends and not the family crew.

Brother-in-law and Santa Cruz marine surveyor Joseph Rodgers and friend Kelly Waterhouse - who recently completed his circumnavigation aboard his and wife Kelly's (husband and wife are both named Kelly) Dufour 35 - and I arrived at Convergence in Thailand's Boat Lagoon on January 12. We spent nine days working with the service people there to finish the boat projects that we'd hoped would have been completed when we arrived. Work was delayed due to the holidays — but it always seems that work gets done faster when the owner is around. The work was generally very good and reasonably priced, and the workers very helpful.

We left Phuket on the 20th for the 1,552-mile passage to Uligan, Northern Maldives. We arrived on the 27th. Except for 36 hours of squally weather, the sailing conditions were ideal, with 10 knots or so of wind on the beam and smooth seas. The day before we got to Uligan, the anchorage was empty. We arrived the same day as four other boats headed to the Red Sea. When we left three days later, there were 20 boats in the anchorage! Uligan is a small and very clean Muslim island village with friendly and helpful people.

We knew that piracy had spread as far as 1,000 miles from Somalia, and from the previous center of activity, the Gulf of Aden, which had gotten the name 'Pirate Alley'. The good news was that in recent years no cruisers had been attacked on their way to the Red Sea — presumably because the pirates were after more lucrative prizes in the form of cargo vessels and tankers. In addition, the Arabian Sea is a big one, with 2,000 vessels on it, almost all of them bigger and easier than Convergence for pirates to see. So while we were concerned about piracy, kept a close lookout, and had a plan if an attack did occur, we thought the odds of being attacked were very low.

We left on January 31 on a direct route to the eastern edge of the 500-mile International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) through what used to be the worst of the pirate waters. Our route was several hundred miles south of the very busy main shipping lanes. We had excellent sailing conditions on this 1,200-mile leg to the IRTC, with the true wind just aft of the beam at 8 to 14 knots, and small seas all the way to the IRTC. If all sailing were this good, there would be more sailors!

We made good time, with 200+ mile days and a best 24-hour run of 227 miles. We saw fewer than 15 ships all the way to the IRTC, but neither saw nor had contact with coalition war ships. The wind lightened and came aft once we were in the IRTC, so we motored the entire 500-mile length of it — and then most of the way to the Bab-el-Mandeb, the narrow southern entrance of the Red Sea. At this so-called 'Gates of Hell', the wind picked up to 25 knots, as predicted, in the narrows.

There had been, of course, plenty of ship traffic in the IRTC. As suggested by the UK Marine Trade Operations, we went straight down the center of the two-mile-wide separation zone, so ships going our direction passed us on our starboard, and ships coming the other way passed on our port. We saw a number of NATO/EU/Coalition war ships on patrol, and were contacted by two. We did get a sense that the IRTC was being watched by the good guys.

Within a few miles of the end of the IRTC, and about 100 miles before entering the Red Sea, we spotted what looked like a skiff about 1.5 miles off our starboard bow that was on course to cross near us. Skiffs are what pirates use to attack, and this was the first non-commercial vessel we'd seen since leaving the Maldives, so we were concerned. We didn't know if this was a pirate skiff or not, but I immediately put out an informational, “securite, securite” call on the VHF hoping that a war ship would hear it. A cargo ship answered, wished us luck, and called for a war ship. None responded. We changed course to head in the opposite direction from the skiff's, and were relieved to see that it kept on course.

We had notified UKMTO, Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa and the Maritime Liaison Office — three groups that monitor shipping in pirate waters, and also coordinate war ship patrols and pirate intervention — of our plans and sent them daily position reports, which we also copied to the cruisers in the Maldives. After we notified them of our intended passage, UKMTO and MSCHOA emailed a list of attacks in the prior 30 days, which we plotted. There had been very few on the route we chose.

We were very relieved to enter the Red Sea and be free of the threat of piracy. As one hears many reports of attacks on commercial ships each month — there were more than 30 in January alone — we empathize with those cruisers debating whether to sail through the pirate waters, go around Africa, ship their boat to the Med, or return to Thailand. It's a tough decision that has to be made on an individual basis.

Because strong northerlies were predicted for the next several days for the entire Red Sea, we headed for Port Sudan, halfway to the Suez Canal. We made the 2,429-mile passage from Uligan to Port Sudan in 12 days and three hours, which included about six hours at anchor behind reefs in the Red Sea for minor repairs. That's an average of 200 miles a day. Convergence, our pilothouse/salon-up Wylie 65 is fast, comfortable and easy-to-sail. Thank you designer Tom Wylie, and builder Westerly Marine.

After three days in Port Sudan, which I found to be a fascinating, very Third-World city with friendly people, we took off, having changed from a 'pirates are our primary concern' mode to a 'weather concern' mode. The GRIB files downloaded from SailDocs have been pretty accurate the whole trip, and show favorable conditions for the next few days. Our immediate destination is the Suez Canal 460 miles to the north, with our ultimate destination this passage being Marmaris, Turkey, a total of 950 miles away.

— randy 02/15/11

Readers — As most readers know, Randy is the founder and chairman of West Marine Products.

Surfin' the North Shore
(Punta Mita)

When surfers talk about riding waves on the 'North Shore', they are inevitably referring to the northern shores of the Hawaiian Islands and all the famous world-class breaks there.

But when West Coast sailor-surfers talk about the 'North Shore', they are sometimes referring to the Pita Mita area of the north shore of Banderas Bay, which is about 15 miles from Puerto Vallarta. While the waves may not be as big or as consistent as on Hawaii's North Shore, Mexico's North Shore does have some advantages: 1) You can easily paddle to any of about 10 spots from your safely anchored boat; 2) You can get lots of waves to yourself; 3) You won't get no 'stink eye' from a Big Bruddah when you go for a wave.

We're not going to claim that Punta Mita and the North Shore get consistently great waves — and that's probably a good thing, or it would surely end up as crowded and as youth-, surfer-, hippie- and dog-oriented as Sayulita. But check out the accompanying photos from one two-hour period on January 25.

When a decent swell hits Mexico's North Shore, all kinds of great breaks appear, seemingly out of nowhere. So while the most crowded spots had perhaps 20 people, you could still pick a break and have every single wave to yourself. Lots of waves went to waste, even at the most crowded breaks.

If any other sailor-surfers have been catching some good waves, we'd like to hear from you and see some photos. And no, you don't have to identify the spot.

— latitude/rs 01/30/11

Zeppelin — Stan Huntingford 47
Wayne & Elly Smith
Sightseeing Around La Cruz
(Vancouver, B.C.)

We've been at Marina La Cruz since December 18 and, between boat jobs and guests, we've managed to take in a few of the nearby sights. Every Tuesday morning in Puerto Vallarta, local gallery owner Gary Thompson guides a two-hour walking tour along the malécon which is dotted with about 15 marine-inspired bronze sculptures from local artists. Even down on the beach are the sand sculptors, making incredible art with sand, spritzing their creations with salt water to stay intact, and a guy that does an amazing job of balancing of boulders. The best part is that the whole thing is free, all they ask for is a donation to the local library.

Dozens of art galleries — I would say more than 20 galleries in the central downtown area alone — are tucked into the side streets, and it's great fun to just wander up from the malécon a block or two and browse. The town also has a weekly 'Art Walk' for a couple hours just before sunset in which you can stroll around the neighborhood galleries and meet with the artists.

We rented a car and drove up the Sierra (4,600 feet) for a couple of hours to see historic San Sebastián del Oeste. On the way to the town we stopped at a Raicilla distillery called Hacienda San Sebastian, where we learned the whole distilling process (in Spanish, of course) and had a taste of true Mexican moonshine. A nice bolt at 11:00 a.m.!

The Church of San Sebastian, originally built in the 1600s, is dedicated to the town’s patron saint and was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1868. We also stopped by La Quinta Café de Altura, a local organic coffee grower and roaster owned by Sanchez Alvarado and his family for the past five generations. He let us tour around in the back orchards to look at the coffee plants. We then found an awesome Italian restaurant called Montebello, run by Coco, her husband and chef, Walter, along with their two sons as our servers. Andrea Bocelli was playing in the background, while we were served the most fantastic fresh made pasta surrounded by gardens of orchids, rose bushes and fruit trees.

On our way out of the town we stopped in at the Hacienda Jalisco Museum & Guesthouse, an historic 1840s era structure that has been restored to it’s original state. Way up in the mountains, huge space, a variety of fruit trees — avocado, lemon and lime. Truly blissful!

Each Sunday here in La Cruz, we look forward to the local farmer’s market. Filled with organic veggies and baked goods, along with local artists, jewelry and crafts, it's a fun place to people watch and pick up a few goodies. Afterward we mosey over to Abalon, the local coffee roaster/café & Huichol Indian art gallery (supporters of indigenous weaving) for live jazz and brunch. Such a great way to spend a Sunday morning. You can always count on running into fellow cruisers along the way.

During the evenings you have a choice of more great jazz at La Cascada or Abalon, or you can go back to the '70s at Anna Bananas for rock’n’roll, or Philo’s Bar for great ribs or pizza. Three nights a week Philo and his band play a sort of country hoedown/folk music. Another institution here is Taco’s on the Street, which is an open-air restaurant. You can have tacos, quesadillas or tostadas at prices ranging from $1.00 to $1.60 each. You bring your own beer or wine and all three dishes have the same main filling — skirt steak with different extras. There are several other excellent restaurants, including Masala, which has an Asian/Mediterranean fusion menu that is outstanding, and Frascati for great Italian food.

One day we took the 10-minute bus ride to Bucerias and walked around the town for a few hours. It's a touristy place with a number of timeshares and condos, but it has one of the best beaches in Banderas Bay. They have a few streets dedicated to local arts and crafts, along with the usual t-shirt and tourist trap stuff. A number of restaurants line the beach so, after touring around, we sat on the beach under an umbrella with dos margaritas and watched the surf roll in while constantly saying ”No, gracias” to the beach vendors.

On January 24, we hauled Zeppelin at the La Cruz shipyard to have the bottom stripped down to the bare fiberglass and start from scratch. The quote was about 35% cheaper than the same work in Canada or the U.S., and they seem to do excellent work. After we relaunch, we plan to finish off our boat jobs, provision and head out of La Cruz en route to warmer waters and some much needed scuba diving.

— elly 2/17/11

Sailors' Run — Baba 40 Ketch
Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy
Recife to Fernando de Noronha
(Longbranch, WA)

Debbie and I have done some unusual offshore sailing in our 12 years of cruising. While doing last year's Recife to Fernando de Noronha Race wasn't as unusual as my singlehanding Cape Horn, it's not an event that attracts many West Coast sailors.
The bustling metropolitan area of Recife has a population of five million, and it gets its name from the coral reefs that line the city's shore. It's also known as the 'Brazilian Venice' because there are 50 bridges in the city center alone needed to cross the many rivers and connect the many small islands with the mainland.

Fernando de Noronha, 300 miles to the NNE, couldn't be more different. While there are 21 islands and islets in the archipelago, the largest is only seven miles by two miles, and has a population of just 3,000. But it's a spectacular natural environment, with great beaches, tropical diving and proflific sea life. At one time it was covered in forests, but the trees were all cut down to prevent prisoners — it used to be a prison island — from building rafts to try to escape.

Sailors' Run was the first of the 20 boats in our division to be subjected to the mandatory inspection by the Brazilian Navy. They had issues with my somewhat out-of-date flares, one of which had a 'use by' date of '86. Oops. They found it necessary to point out to me that it was now '10. They also wanted to see my captain's license. When I explained that no license is required in the U.S. for the operation of private yachts of less than 100 tons, they didn't believe me. I ended up gathering all my old log books, pictures of me sailing from as far back as '72, and showed them all the places we'd been. Even my proving that I had rounded Cape Horn singlehanded might not have done the trick were it not for the fine performance by Debbie. She not only threatened to pull our boat out of the race, but she shed tears. Unable to take the latter, they signed us off.

Although we're in our 60s, Debbie and I were feeling pretty good about our physical condition for the race. After all, I'd been running daily for a month, and she'd been running one day and swimming the next. But my good feeling ended suddenly one morning when I tripped over a concrete block — in the middle of the sidewalk! — that had been used to hold down a politician's campaign sign. It wasn't the first time I'd fallen running, but it was the first time I'd fallen on a very rough aggregate surface and wasn't able to slide or keep my face out of it.

I'd tumbled next to a busy six-lane highway, and a driver who had seen what happened pulled over to give me a ride. I was going to get in, but then I realized how heavily I was bleeding from around my eye. As a result, I was too embarassed to accept a ride, and waved him off. I ended up stumbling the 1½ miles back to the yacht club, blood running down my arm from the saturated paper towel that I'd been holding to my bleeding head. The guards at the yacht club were horrified, thinking I'd been mugged.

Once back on the boat, I cleaned the cuts and a deep gouge, then applied the largest bandage ever to my head. When Debbie saw that I'd been hurt, she stopped her laps and rushed out of the pool. But as soon as she realized that I could be my own doctor and would live, she got back to her laps.

Hector and Patricia, two very special Argentinians who were to be our crew, arrived on September 23rd, which meant they only got in two days of pre-race partying. The last pre-race party was special, as the yacht club was decked out in linen and they put out a great spread. We even got all dressed up, with Debbie in heels. As you might expect, we got up on front of the crowd and sang, I Got You Babe, which is our song. We were even interviewed by a big television station, and were asked all about being married for 25 years and having been living on our boat for 12 years.

We were a little tired by the time the gun went off for our start at 3 p.m. That's because we'd had to leave the marina at 5 a.m. due to depth and tide issues. Nonetheless, we had a perfect start in a 30-boat group that included the Open Division and Open B Division. After three hours, we were seeing 25 knots of wind and hitting speeds of over 9 knots.

It proved to be an exhilarating race. The previous year's winner had sailed the course in 56 hours. But that was in much lighter air, so I was hoping to break 48 hours. As it was, we crossed the finish line after 14 hours, and were 33rd out of 150 boats across the line. We beat not only a bunch of racing boats, but some catamarans, too. Not bad for a cruising ketch! It turns out we finished second in our division — to a twin-wheeled French racing boat that floated high in the water. What's more, we set a new boat record of 178 miles in 24 hours, five more miles than the old record we set in '01 on our way to the Marquesas. The amazing thing is that the wind was never aft of a beam reach.

We enjoyed the eight hours after we finished, as we got to watch all the other boats come in, many with skippers who never figured they would be beaten by an "old overloaded ketch with baggy-wrinkles in the rigging." I take my hat off to Hector and Patricia, our crew, who gave it all they had. As much as Debbie and I like Hector and Patricia, we have to admit that we weren't sure what it was going to be like sharing our home with another couple for 17 days. But it worked out great, so Hector and Patricia will always be welcome to spend time with us wherever we go.

We must also take our hats off to Bob Perry, our boat's Seattle-based naval architect. Thanks Bob, as it's great to have a traditionally beautiful boat that performs like the Baba 40 can.

Fernando Noronha Island was beautiful, and the people from the Cabanga YC who put the event together treated us wonderfully. There were lots of great beverages, food, and swag. As for Debbie, my first mate, she sang at all the parties and was no doubt the inspirational winner of the regatta, proving once again that she loves life and all the people who enter it.

We sailed with our crew from Noronha to Fortaleza, where we spent five days hanging out at the pool before Hector and Patricia had to fly home. That left Debbie and me to prepare to leave the wonderful country of Brazil for the 1,600+ mile passage to Scarborough Bay, Tobago, on the southern end of the Caribbean.

— jeff

Carinthia - Lagoon 440
Kurt Roll
Surfing From Your Boat
(San Diego)

I loved the Wanderer's January 26th 'Lectronic about being able to paddle from one's boat to the surf breaks at Punta Mita, Mexico. [Editor's note: That 'Lectronic is reprinted earlier in this edition of Changes.] I crewed aboard Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzanne Dubose's Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 Carinthia on the Puddle Jump a year ago. While getting the cat, which was berthed in La Cruz, ready for the crossing, I would sometimes dinghy the six miles out to Punta Mita to get waves. My only complaint was that I often found myself surfing some great stuff all by myself.

It also reminds me of the winter of '00. My wife and I had our new Catalina 320 berthed at the '90-Day Yacht Club' in Ensenada to legally avoid having to pay California sales tax. I would drive down from San Diego each weekend, sail out to Todos Santos, anchor, then hit the waves. In late October, the waves would come in at about five feet with perfect shape. It was more consistent in November, with five- to eight-foot waves. In December, we often had 8-12 foot sets, with some bigger.

It got out of hand two weekends in January, with waves in the 20-ft range. I quit after dropping in on an 18-footer, making the bottom turn with my Linden gun, but not being able to outrun the curl. I was held down for two waves, and remember hearing the rocks clanking around on the bottom. After finally catching my breath, I was more than happy to film the "young guys" eating it while enjoying a beer on my boat. It got to where the only ones making the waves were the tow-in guys. Watching these huge waves was so mesmerizing and awe-inspiring that I will never forget it.

This year was my 20th year racing the Newport to Ensenada Race, and I've always looked at Todos when passing and thought of the amazing times I've had out there. The hiking and kayaking are awesome, too. So was trading beer for lobsters with the super friendly fishermen. The lighthouse keeper used to live out there with his German shepherd, and loved it when I brought him Marlboros and goat milk caramel suckers.

I can think of at least five other places in Mexico I've surfed while sailing, but those are other stories. From all reports I heard, last year's Ha-Ha was another great one. As for myself, I'm soon heading off to New Zealand to sail with Dietmar and Suzanne on Carinthia again. We're headed to either Australia or Fiji. Either destination would be fine with me.

— kurt 02/13/11

Cruise Notes:

Twelve tourists and one Vietnamese tour guide drowned after the large tourist 'sailboat' they were sleeping on at Halong Bay, Vietnam, sank at 5 a.m. on February 17. According to Colonel Vu Chi Thuc of the Public Security Agency, two Americans, two Swedes, two Russians, one Scot, one Japanese, one French, one Swiss, one Australian, along with a Vietnamese tour guide, were victims of 21-year-old captain Nguyen Van Minh and 27-year-old chief mechanic Do Van Thang "neglecting their responsibilites." When the boat was at anchor, the mechanic was supposed allow water in to cool the engine — but shut off the flow before the boat sank. He didn't do the latter. And the captain was supposed to oversee the night watch duties of other crewmembers. Nine foreign tourists survived and — you'll find this disgusting — so did all six crew.

We did a day-trip on one of the Halong Bay 'sailboats' last winter, and can report they are not typical charterboats. They are huge, boxy, crudely-built wood structures without functioning sails, and there are literally hundreds of them to handle the mobs of tourists who are funneled through the experience. Furthermore, they all follow the exact same route as though they were on rails, and often at a distance of less than 100 feet from each other. The limestone islands of Halong Bay — some of which have multiple interior lakes — are spectacular, but the 'sailing' is a joke. And as demonstrated, if anything goes wrong, it's every man, woman and child for him-/herself. We're not slamming the Vietnamese or Vietnam, as we thought the people, the country and the culture were all fantastic. We're just noting they are in the early stages of their evolution toward satisfactory public safety.

The stink between Tonga and Fiji over the ownership of tiny and mostly underwater Minerva Reef — with cruisers caught in the middle — continues. Samiu Vaipulu, the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, advises cruisers that, "The best thing to do is not to go there until we get our differences solved with Fiji," Minerva Reef is part of Fiji's Exclusive Economic Zone, but has been claimed by Tonga for decades. In recent months Fijian naval vessels have ordered cruisers to leave unless they have specific written permission to stop there from Fiji. This is a pisser, because authorities say that more than 400 boats a year travel the often rough waters between New Zealand and Tonga and/or Fiji, and about half of them stop at Minerva to take shelter from the weather or to catch up on sleep. There is no other place to stop between New Zealand and the South Pacific. The beef between to two countries is believed to be over fishing and underwater mineral rights.

"When is the last time you had a member of law enforcement — who probably inadvertently had a machine gun pointed at your crotch — ask you to fill out a form evaluating his performance?" So ask Steve and Pam Lannen of the San Francisco-based Beneteau 405 First Full Quiver. "Do I have to fill it out while all of you are aboard our boat?" I asked. He smiled and nodded 'Yes'. This happened on February 2, when a Mexican naval vessel pulled into Chamela Bay and tag-teamed the entire fleet. Two fully-armed groups went from boat to boat, checking all our paperwork and asking what kind of electronic equipment we had. They took pictures of our wind instruments, GPS and depthsounder, and did the same with all the other boats. The day before they'd done the same thing in Tenacatita Bay. How would we have filled out the evaluation if I hadn't had a machine gun pointing at my crotch and a man standing behind me with another machine gun? They were as professional as could be, and had good senses of humor. When they first came aboard our boat, they asked if anyone spoke Spanish. My wife Pam, a former Spanish teacher, took over and you could see the relief on the officer’s face. He was so happy he could do the interview in Spanish. If I had any complaint at all, it would be that they should wear Topsiders next time.

The Lannens report that the week before, Immigration officers came around to, but not onto, all the boats in the lagoon at Barra to check for proper papers. The moral is to check in with the port captains where you are supposed to, and keep your paperwork up to date. It doesn’t take much time, and it can sure save you a lot of trouble.

In last month's Changes, we reported that St. Brendan's Isle Mail Service of Florida provides low cost mail services and street addresses. This allows California cruisers wishing to escape the Golden State's income and personal property taxes to easily and legally establish permanent residence in a state that doesn't have income tax. Cruisers say they've been pleased with the service. Now Dave Benjamin of Island Planet Sails and the Alameda-based Amel Maramu Exit Strategy reports that he uses a similar service offered by Earth Class Mail. In fact, this company offers mail receiving addresses in 19 cities across the country, and legal street addresses in a number of others — including Florida. You can find both outfits, and other similar ones, via the internet.

From time to time, we've made the statement that sailing catamarans often make better motoryachts than do most monohull motoryachts. Willing to back us up based on their experience are Tim and Marsha Schaaf of the Tortola-based Leopard 45 crewed charter cat Jetstream. Many Mexico cruisers will remember Tim as the dockmaster at Marina Cabo San Lucas about 12 to 15 years ago, and as one of the heroes who saved a number of cruising sailboats that were driven ashore at Puerto Escondido by hurricane Marty in September '03. Having done crewed charters for the last five winters or so in the British Virgins, Tim and Marsha decided to take their cat and cruise the Chesapeake. It would also give them a chance to replace the standing rigging while they visited with Tim's aged mother. Delays in getting boat parts prevented them from getting in as much Chesapeake cruising as they wanted. But with their cat's mast already down, they decided to put it on deck and motor down the IntraCoastal Waterway to Florida. It turned out to be such a fantastic experience that Tim has promised to write a Changes about it. Alas, he and Marsha have had such a busy charter season in Tortola this winter that he hasn't had time. But he said that spacious and shoal draft Jetstream made her the perfect boat for doing the IntraCoastal Waterway.

"We were so low that we could go under low bridges without waiting for them to be raised — something most powerboats and trawlers couldn't do." Tim says the best time to head down the IntraCoastal is "right after bug season but just before the first frost". In other words, late October or early November. And he says to figure on a month if you really want to enjoy yourself.

Tim also raved about their cruising through the Bahamas on their way up to the Chesapeake. "The people in the more remote islands of the Bahamas are as friendly as the people in Mexico," he says. "Too bad the same can't be said for the people in the Eastern Caribbean, too many of whom aren't nearly as friendly to visitors as is in their own self-interest."

"We're enroute to Central America, and as Latitude recently wrote, there is nothing better for a surfer/sailor than to be able to jump off their boat and paddle into the line-up," write Mike and Leilani Costello of the Oxnard-based Saga 43 Lanikai. "I'm an avid surfer, so I'm constantly on the hunt for anchorages near surf spots — or at least within a five-mile dinghy ride of them. Wanting to be close to surfable waves sometimes means having to anchor in less comfortable places, so God bless my wife for putting up with it. But a stern anchor set to orient the bow into the swell usually makes a huge difference. We're currently lying at Bahias de Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico."

"I have an opportunity to purchase a 30-ft Wharram catamaran, but she is located in Huatulco, Mexico," writes Jake Thornberry. "I was considering sailing her south along the coast to the Canal, transiting it, and then sailing her up to Texas and eventually North Carolina. Do you have a feel for safety-related issues along the coast of Central America, given all the drug smuggling? By the way, I used to live in the Bay Area, during which time I owned a Folkboat. Latitude was always our 'bible'."

Thanks for the kind words. The 'bible' says that the drug-related safety issues along the route you propose — which, except for going to Texas, is a common one — are just about non-existent. It seems to us that the bigger question for you is whether it makes financial sense to deliver such a small boat all that distance. If you're in it for the adventure, that's one thing, but even if she was nearly given to you, it still might not make financial sense. In fact, there's a Sightings to that effect in this month's issue.

There are four big events left in the sailing season for cruisers in Mexico. First, the Vallarta YC's 19th Annual Banderas Bay Regatta March 8-12, which is three days of 'nothing too serious' racing for cruisers, plus two days of social activites, based out of Paradise Marina. Given that the BBR has one of the greatest cruiser racing venues and environments in the world, it's hard to believe there is no entry fee — and that hundreds of boats don't participate. If you're up north and have cruising friends who are going to enter, this is when you want to hit them up to be crew. For more info, Google 'Banderas Bay Regatta'.

Second, the La Paz Bay Fest, put on by the Club Cruceros de La Paz, will be held April 9-12. There will be all kinds of social events, with one day of racing around the bay. For details, check out, which will have more info as the event draws closer.

Third, the 15th Annual Loreto Fest, the longtime most popular cruiser event in the Sea of Cortez, will be held at Puerto Escondido April 29 - May 1. Sponsored by the Hidden Port YC, this is more of a general social gathering than a sailing event, but it's still very popular with cruisers. There will be all kinds of games, entertainment, workshops, food, raffles, live music, swap meets, cook-offs, spahetti dinners — and what started it all, an above- and below-water clean-up of Puerto Escondido. All proceeds benefit the educational needs of deserving Mexican youth. For details, visit

Fourth, the revived Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, for semi hard-core sailors, will be held very shortly after Loreto Fest starting in the Puerto Escondido area. The dates have been pushed back from last year so the water will be warmer. Details to come. Of course, it's free, but it's also a fundraiser for youth charities in La Paz.

"A cruiser friend of mine in San Carlos, Mexico, reports that he had a 9.9-hp Yamaha stolen off the back of his 40-ft trimaran — again!" writes John Hulburd of the Port Townsend-based catamaran Sunshine. "There have been several reports of outboard motor thefts like this in the last two years. It's a shame, because San Carlos is otherwise a sweet, quiet town in paradise."

Thefts of dinghies, outboards, and outboard-powered dinghies are unfortunately common in most cruising regions. In fact, our sense is that it's less of a problem in Mexico than in many other cruising areas of the world — especially places such as Cartagena and the Eastern Caribbean. And if one thought cruisers visiting chic and ultra expensive St. Barth, for example, would be immune to dinghy thefts, they'd be wrong. In fact, it's not unusual for even modest dinghies in St. Barth to be secured with a big lock and thick stainless steel chain — and for good reason. We'll once again remind readers that cruisers are, unfortunately, every bit as suspect in dinghy thefts as are locals. We know, because we've caught cruisers in the act of stealing dinghies.

Anyone willing to help an Italian furniture-maker who wants to change his life? "My name is Luciano Angeli, and I'm a 57-year-old Italian who lives in Treviso, a small town near Venice. I've worked around the world, first as a buyer, then as a seller, of furniture and hotel furniture. But I want to change my life, and sailing is my biggest passion. Every year I've been able to take time to go to sea, but now I want to exploit my passion by becoming a full-time skipper. I'm especially looking for people who do not have time for long trips, but who want their boat in a certain place at a certain time. I've already done this work on a part-time basis. I can speak English and French quite fluently, also Spanish, and obviously Italian. I'm also a great cook who has no family ties. I can be reached at ."

"Simple snorkeling around the reefs of Palau is unbelievable," writes David Addleman of the Monterey-based Santa Cruz 50 X. "In fact, it reminded me of experiments with LSD. The healthy coral, the fish, the sharks, the turtles, the powerful currents, the vertical reef walls falling into the abyss. It's hard to believe that the diving in the Micronesian islands to the east, one of my future destinations, might be even better. Alas, I've recently been here in California doing chores: legal problems, taxes, engineering, piracy-induced fiberglass repair, buying new sails, attempting to recruit yummy 'crew', and best of all, hanging out with my fabulous high school senior daughter Chloe. But I'll be flying back to Palau before this issue of Latitude hits the streets."

"We're hosting a Kiwi who has been all up and down the coast looking for a good cruising boat," writes a woman from Sausalito. "He's been having a tough time finding one that fits his needs and budget, but he has a line on one in Grenada in the Eastern Caribbean that needs a little work. He can do the work, but he's concerned about finding marine supplies such as epoxy, fiberglass, and so forth. Does Grenada have that stuff and/or can it be brought into the country easily?"

There are probably more medium to large sailboats in the Eastern Caribbean than there are in California, so naturally there are many more boatyards and marine supply stores. Budget Marine, which has 12 stores on 10 islands in the Eastern Caribbean, has a store at Spice Island Boatyard in Grenada that has all the basic stuff in stock. If they don't have something, they can get it right away. Another option is Chaguaramas, Trinidad, which is less than 100 miles to the SSE, and has everything. The import duty varies widely on islands in the Caribbean. In places like the British Virgins, it's pretty high. In Sint Maarten and St. Barth — where a few years ago Barritt Neal of the San Diego-based Peterson 44 Serendipity bought a new Carib inflatable and a new Yamaha outboard for a combined price of $2,500 — it's non-existent or very low. Can you imagine where mariners, even those in the British Virgins, try to buy their marine supplies and gear? We think it would be worth calling Budget Marine in Grenada and a chandlery in Trinidad to compare the prices of basic materials. By the way, one needs to be careful investing too much money looking for promising-sounding boats in distant places. Having just gone through an moderately expensive 'Olson 30 Quest' to Puerto Rico, we speak from firsthand experience."

"Hello from the Arabian Sea," write Chay, Katie and Jamie McWilliam of the Colorado-based Peterson 46 Esprit. "After our tour of Sri Lanka, we spent a few days getting Esprit repaired, refueled, and cleaned up in Galle, and then left for India. It was a very rambunctious sail for the first 36 hours, with 20 to 25 knots of winds, with gusts to 35, and seas of 10 to 15 feet. It's hard work to keep yourself steady and upright when the boat is heeling 30 degrees! None of our tummies felt too good, but we survived and are now in much lighter winds and calmer seas. It was our roughest trip since sailing to New Zealand. We're now seeing a lot of ships and fishermen in pangas similar to those in Mexico. One of the fishermen got upset because he got Chay's fishing line caught in his prop. We wouldn't give him anything, so he cut the lure off Chay's line and took it! Most of the other fishermen just smile and wave as they go by. We expect to arrive in Cochin, India, sometime tomorrow."

When you get to live and work on the hook on an island with a heavily seasonal sailing population — such as we are unbelieveably fortunate to be able to do several months a year on St. Barth in the French West Indies - 'catchin' up' at the beginning of the season is always packed with surprises. There's all the local news, then there is all the news about boats and crews who took off for the summer, mostly to the Northeast United States or the Med. In this category belongs the sad tale of Ira Epstein of Bolinas.

Ira has been a St. Barth regular, often of the inner harbor 'trailer park', for about five years now aboard Lone Fox, his 65-ft Robert Clark classic wood ketch. For the second summer in a row, Ira took his ketch to New England for the lucrative charter trade. While we're hearing the story secondhand, it's our understanding that Ira chartered his boat to some America's Cup vet for a race, and for some reason the boat was driven beyond a warning mark and run aground onto a reef at about four knots. As if that weren't bad enough, the engine was turned on, and we're told that Lone Fox was driven onto the same reef again, but this time at a very destructive seven knots! In fact, one of Lone Fox's former owners tells us that the big yacht's keel had to be removed — and remelted back into the original shape! Apparently Lone Fox is ready to be splashed, but there's a dispute about the insurance settlement. Everybody on St. Barth is hoping that Ira can make it back for the busy last months of the season, because he's such a hardworking, hard-core wood boat owner, and there aren't enough of those around anymore.

Blessed with big bucks and exchange surpluses, China has lots of forward vision. And among the things they are looking into are alternatives to the Panama Canal. Previously, the most frequently proposed alternative to Panama has been a canal across Nicaragua, which was originally going to be the site of the canal — before U.S. interests decided to create Panama from Colombia so we could build a canal there. But China is pouring big bucks into the idea of a 'land canal' across Colombia. Ships would run from China to the Pacific Coast of Colombia, where the containers of consumer goods would be put on trains for shipment to the Caribbean coast. They would then be loaded onto ships for distribution, primarily to the United States. Experts have staked out positions on both sides, with some saying such an idea is a joke, while others saying it's a no-brainer. The only certainty is that China is spending big bucks exploring the concept.

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