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March 2017

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With reports this month from Tivoli on getting ready to recross the Atlantic; from El Gato on loving Antigua; from Quixotic about repowering with two new diesels; from Fleetwood on continuing down the Pacific Coast; from Ceilydh on completing an eight-year circumnavigation, and Cruise Notes.

Tivoli — Beneteau 42s7
Torben and Judy Bentsen
Scandinavia to the Canary Islands
(Point Richmond)

December 23 — By Christmas we'd been back in Northern California for two months, having put our boat to bed in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in October. Although we'd only been back in California for two months, it felt as if we'd been back for a year! Busy, busy, busy, describes the difference between a life without keys on a boat to full-on work life in a crowded city.

In our six-month 2016 season, we'd sailed 4,500 nautical miles, from Scandinavia to the Canary Islands. 'Euro cruising' is very different from the 'swinging on anchor' cruising that we'd gotten so used to in the Caribbean. Last season we spent 98 days in port, only 36 on the hook, and 16 underway. The best nights were the ones when we traveled.

Some of the sailing was awesome, the highlight being a super-quick reach across the sometimes-stormy Bay of Biscay. Also great were some fabulous downwind stretches along the coast of Portugal and a perfect four-day passage to Lanzarote to end our season.

We saw some great places on our 2016 cruise: London, Porto, Lisbon, Finisterre, Trafalgar, Gibraltar, Mallorca, beautiful Menorca, and Barcelona. Number One was the trip up the Guadalquivir River to Seville.

Our first goal of 2017 is to get Tivoli back to the Americas. Our plan is to be at Saba Rock, North Sound, Virgin Gorda, British Virgins by March 1.

January 29 — It took 10 hours for us to fly from Oakland to London, then another three hours to Lanzarote following an overnight in London.

We found Tivoli to be in pristine condition. Some years of experience in putting her away, combined with Judy's super hydrogen peroxide anti-mold treatment, did the trick.

Tivoli was covered in a layer of pink Sahara dust, but that washed off with a spray hose. Inside she was dry and smelled pretty good. Even the bottom looked better than when we'd left!

Judy and I have never come back to a better place than Tivoli.

After a 12-hour overnight snooze, we unpacked our 135 pounds of parts and a few clothes. Then I went shopping for basics such as cheese, eggs, bread and Iberian ham. When I came back from the showers in the late afternoon, I was greeted by a tantalizing smell at the gangway. I soon realized that it was coming from Tivoli.

When I got onto the boat, I could see that Judy was following the directions of some Spanish/British dude on a Yo uTube video showing how to properly cook a three-pound octopus. Oh yeah, octopus, garlic, onion, and hot sauce! Judy is experimenting with how to cook like the locals. Viva España!

January 31 — The sun rises at 8:30 a.m. here and sets around 8 p.m., so we have slow mornings. That has not prevented us from dropping a lot of acid — as a matter of fact, Judy claims that there is a new study out indicating that a little LSD daily might be good for you. But the acid we are talking about is hydrochloric acid, which takes rust off stainless, brown spots on the deck, and cleans up the teak toe rails.

We have also mounted and wired some new solar panels, assembled the newly-serviced wind generator, done some minor shopping for nourishment, gotten the engine back in running order, and started the offshore 'we-don't-need-that-so-lets-vacuum-pack-or-toss-it' process.

Judy is in charge of the 'toss it' part, and has so far disposed of one old stiff varnish brush, some dried up Epifanes varnish, and a slightly rusty toenail clipper. The vacuum packing sees more action.

Tomorrow we get the watermaker going again, re-hang the wind generator, finish the shopping list for food, and identify more stuff for the 'toss it' column.

— torben 02/02/2017

El Gato — Catana 472
Eric Witte and Annie Gardner
Antigua Love
(Point Loma, San Diego)

"Wa gwarn. Cool, cool, cool. Wa gwarn. Me CF (safe).”

This is how the locals greet you in Antigua. I felt like the first non-local to use such terms, because when I did the response I got was tremendous. There were always huge smiles — and a bit of bewilderment — that a white woman would speak in their patois.

I like to learn about the local customs, foods and such as we travel. So on our first night in Antigua our waiter gave me a small list of words and phrases to try out. I was a little shy — yes me, shy — in the beginning. But my attempts were answered so enthusiastically that now I haven't been able to stop.

Need a break from the fear and hate that is spreading like wildfire in the US? I recommend coming to Antigua and saying "Wa gwarn" to a local. At that point you'll let all that negative shit go. It’s One world after all. Sometimes you just can’t see it because you're inundated with fearful news.

If anyone were to ask us which was our favorite island in the Caribbean, this month we'd say it was Antigua. Why? Antigua has plentiful harbors, 365 beautiful beaches of all sizes, decent stores, good restaurants — and most importantly, great people. Everyone has been friendly and greeted us with genuine smiles.

I asked the taxi driver why Antiguans were so friendly. He said it's because they are content with what they have. If they don't have something, someone shares what they have. It sounds like a good plan for happiness to me!

I found Antigua's outdoor markets to be lovely. The ladies wear dresses and hats when they step out, something that warmed my heart. Respect, mon!

Once a British Territory, Antigua & Barbuda, the latter 35 miles to the north, became an independent state of the British Commonwealth in 1981. Antigua is a hilly island about seven by seven miles, with a population of about 100,000.

The only downside we've found is that the reefs aren't as good for snorkeling as at some other islands. They've suffered quite a bit of damage from hurricanes over the years. And during our visit, at least, the water was quite silty. Even though the color was gorgeous, we often couldn't clearly see our hands in front of us. Not that it stops the tourists, who are only here for a week, from booking snorkel trips each day.

To sailors, Antigua is famous for historic English Harbour, Falmouth Harbour, and Sailing Week's being the granddaddy of fun regattas in the Caribbean. One of the big local traditions is hiking — or taking a taxi — up to Shirley Heights for the big BBQ, steel band, and rock 'n roll music on Sunday nights. The view looking down on the boats stern tied at English Harbor and anchored in Falmouth Harbour, as well as the island of Montserrat in the distance, is spectacular.

We did our first charter of 2017 with friends Tim and Jen, who were getting their first break from their five kids in some time. We did our best to help them kick back. Deep Bay and Shirley Heights were good stops for them.

Eric and I then had a few days alone to relax and unwind from the hectic pace. After all, we'd recently sailed 1,500 miles from the Northeast to the Caribbean, gone home for holidays, made our way upwind from the Virgins to Antigua, and done a charter. So we made our way to quiet Barbuda. While there we had dinner from Al and Margie Slater of Sweet Dreams, whom we'd met in Maine.

Since Eric had to fly home for a week to finish selling his house, I had a 'girl's week' on El Gato with Teri, Christy and Sarah. The gals and I windsurfed, snorkeled, and crossed paths with another cat from California. Her crew was mostly made up of women, and they were skilled kiters. They were inspiring.

From Nonsuch Bay, Sarah, Christy and I sailed around the top of Antigua to St Johns, and then to Deep Bay for the night. I had learned where to go on our charter, so it was easy to repeat and play tour guide.

Later we sailed to Barbuda, where we got a tour of the frigate rookery. While walking on a dirt road surrounded by wild horses and donkeys, we hitchhiked in the hot sun. Our destination was the caves on the other side of the island.

The Antiguans who picked us up already had four people in their four-seat vehicle, so we had to squeeze. But they shared their beers, knew where to go, and even gave us a ride back to town. They were another example of how nice the people from Antigua can be.

The girls left on the same plane that brought Eric back, so the two of us got some down time in Antigua to do repairs, blog, and hang out watching the Superyacht Regatta. Several sailing friends were here for the superyacht races, so Eric and I sailboarded out to the starting line. It was blowing 15 to 20 knots, so it was Zen time for me. But my body is no longer in shape for long sails, so I was spent when we got back to the boat. We obviously have to do more of that.

Most of our spare time in Antigua has been spent in Jolly Harbour, where we’ve reunited with a number of friends. Some whom we'd met in the Canaries, some whom we met on the Salty Dawg, and others from cruising clubs we've joined. We've enjoyed sharing dinners and stories of adventures. And we're naturally making plenty of new friends.

This world of cruising keeps getting smaller for us as we traverse the seas. And that feels good. When in the Med we knew not a soul, saw no American flags, and didn’t speak the languages. Looking back, it's amazing that we did as much as we did.

Eric keeps trying to figure out ways to get back to the Med — meaning sail around the world. I’m not ready to make that commitment, as the world keeps getting scarier. But then I meet people who have not only gone around, but have done it more than once. Dinner tonight was with a couple from Alaska who owned and operated dogsled and fishing camps in Alaska and Chile, and who homeschool their kids. Adventurous souls abound in the world of cruising.

For now I am as happy as I’ve ever been sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling and swimming in warm turquoise waters. They say you go back to the things you loved as a child, and this is my happy place. Growing up in Miami with parents who loved the water and took us kids cruising to the Bahamas and Keys, it doesn’t get much better for this 'southern girl'.

Soon we will head south to Guadalupe and then Dominica for a rendezvous with other cruisers. After that, it's Martinique for Carnival and another awesome charter!

— annie 02/07/2017

Quixotic — Voyager 43
Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous
Replacing the Diesels
(Redwood City / New Zealand

Despite the fact that we were running out of money a year ago, somehow our salvaged catamaran Quixotic is being treated to a full refit — while we survive on beans and rice. Ah, the priorities of the brainwashed bluewater sailors. The good news is that our boat is going to be sailing out of New Zealand in incredible shape!

Our refit policy is simple: everything that isn’t likely to last 10+ years needs to be replaced. The '10-year rule' is what changed my mind about rebuilding the engines. A rebuild would have bought us another three to five years. But even if the diesels were still running well, after that long I would be constantly worried about when — not if — they were going to have a major failure.

It was when I was in the engine compartment staring at yet another leaking seal on the saildrive that I made the decision to do a complete repower. As everybody knows, replacing diesels is very expensive. But I managed to take advantage of the strong dollar and utilize our duty-free import status to get an excellent deal on new engines from Australia.

After selling the old engines, the net cost of the complete two-engine repower was only $17,000. And we still have the old saildrives. By the time we replaced everything remotely related to the engine systems — including propellers — it cost $21,000.

Here's a breakdown of the costs: The new engines are 30-hp Yanmar 3YM30AEs with SD25 saildrives. We bought each package — panels, wiring, and mounts — for $8,500. It cost $1,000 to have them air-freighted to New Zealand. It took 10 days to get them after placing our order. Most of the wait was for New Zealand customs to verify our duty-free status.

The four-day haulout on the slipway, followed by a week on the dock, cost another $1,000. We estimate we spent another $1,000 at the local chandlery on installation-related parts. It would have cost more if Alyssa hadn't gotten a nice employee discount. We paid a local mechanic $50 for one hour to review my work. Throw in another $1,000 for miscellaneous foreign transaction fees, mandatory customs processing fees, local services, tows, fluids, and it came to around $21,000.

On the positive side, we sold our old engines complete with rebuild kits and spares, for $4,000. The timing was perfect, as the buyer came with a trailer the day after we pulled the engines from the boat. We used the boom crane to lift them onto his trailer. We used the cash to pay for our new unsinkable plastic dinghy and put toward the parts we bought from the chandlery.

Had we bought the engines here in New Zealand and had them installed professionally, it would have cost twice as much. The lowest quote I was able to get in New Zealand was $12,500 for the engine/saildrive combo. So importing the engines from Ozwas a no-brainer.

Let me tell you, the local Yanmar guys were sure pissed off about it. One was even on hand to take pictures when I unloaded the engines from the delivery truck. The Yanmar guy said to me, "I still don't know how you managed to get those engines so cheap. They came from the exact same source that I use, and even I can't get them that cheap."

Even though Alyssa and I did all the work, the engine swap went smoothly and there were no big surprises. We came out on a slipway over a long weekend and used our boom crane to do the swap. The new engines and saildrives bolted straight in to the original beds without any modification required.

Make no mistake, we worked our asses off for a week straight, with long hours in the engine compartments. But that time also includes running all new fuel lines, Racor filters and valves. We also deep-cleaned the engine compartments, installed all new exhaust hoses, waterlocks, anti-siphons, sea strainers, and so forth.

The guys at the yard were surprised when we said we were on time and ready to be splashed the morning after the long weekend. They confessed that they had all chuckled when we said we were installing the engines ourselves over the weekend. We proved them wrong, just as we proved all the naysayers wrong in Savusavu, who thought it would take us 18 months to get Quixotic floating again.

Pushing those new start buttons and hearing the engines fire right up and purr will have us smiling for a very long time. Now we just have to book some charters so we can pay off the credit card debt we took on.

— lewis and alyssa 02/10/2017

Fleetwood — Nadja 30
Jack van Ommen
Countries 54-56
(Gig Harbor, Washington)

I left Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala after the agent brought me my zarpe and returned my passport. I ended up having to pay $180, not the $160 spoken about before, plus another $35. What a racket! I hadn't spent much money on my trip to Antigua, but what I saved was eaten up by clearance costs and food at the very expensive restaurant at Marina Pez Vela. The food cost twice as much as in Mexico and more than in the U.S.

The forecast for my passage to Nicaragua, the 56th country on my circumnavigation, was for between two and six knots. So I decided to bring out the tired 150% Mylar genoa, which is 20% larger than the Dacron genoa I'd been using. As it turned out, the wind strengthened while I was on a close reach. When I checked my speed over the ground, I couldn't believe my eyes. We were doing seven-plus knots, and hit 8.5 knots at times. It is the fastest I can remember Fleetwood's ever going without the chute up or without a lot of favorable current.

My destination was the Puesta del Sol Marina, Nicaragua's first and only marina. As the crow flies, it's about 12 miles northwest of Corinto, the main Nicaraguan port.

When I turned the corner at the unexpected opening in the shoreline, I passed through some mild tidal rapids, and soon felt as though I were entering into a new world. The water was flat and there was no sign of human presence. After another bend in the tranquil slough, the marina and resort suddenly appeared. They are at the end of a seldom-traveled road 20 miles from the nearest village.
The Puesta del Sol Resort and Marina was developed by Robert Membreno, who came to California from Nicaragua with his parents at age seven. He was born in 1932 but doesn't look his age. He has sailed in many parts of the world, and for a long time raced his boat out of the Puerto Vallarta area. It was while cruising Nicaragua in 2002 that he discovered the vast mangrove sloughs where his marina now stands.

The marina and resort are first-class. There is a swimming pool, an excellent restaurant and bar, and the personnel are professional. The showers and bathrooms are much better than what I have come to expect since leaving the St. Francis YC on San Francsico Bay. In fact, the only place in the world I've come across better bathrooms and showers was at Grand Harbour Marina in Valletta, Malta. The marina also has great wi-fi, which saves me a lot of time and money.

Membreno owns vast stretches of the estuary, but is not planning to develop them. The small fishing settlement next to the resort goes on just as before he showed up, but the residents benefit from job opportunities and the school he built for the children.

After a weekend meeting some wonderful people at Puesta del Sol, on January 9 I waited for the 6:15 a.m. bus to 24-mile-distant Chinandega, home to the closest ATM. Fortunately, the marina had advanced me $72, which allowed me to check into Nicaragua.

The half-hour-late bus took me through fairly flat countryside that is mostly used for raising either sugarcane or cows, although there was a small teak plantation, too. Buses in Central America commonly play loud and annoying videos. You see lots of female flesh dancing to dumb songs, and you see a lot of macho men engaged in gratuitous gun violence.

Thanks to lots of trash and squalor, Chinandega isn't a very attractive town. I wasn't any more impressed with the Bank of America. I wanted both US dollars and córdobas, which resulted in the BofA automatically blocking my account. They sent me an email saying they would unblock it when I proved the account was mine. I did, but two hours later I still couldn't use my debit card. Fortunately, I did manage to get $20 worth of córdobas before my account was blocked. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pay for transportation back to my boat!

But not getting the money I needed meant I had to catch the 6:15 a.m. bus again the next day, and take another back to Puesta del Sol later in the day. That meant I had to spend much of my day being forced to watch porno and violent movies.

Once I got my money, I had to wait for the customs/immigration/port captain delegation to show up. They finally did late on Wednesday morning, so I couldn't clear out of Puesta del Sol and Nicaragua before 1:30 p.m. It looks as if my slogan will have to change from 'Around the World Before 80 Years' to "Around the World In 80 Years'.

That evening the wind picked up out of the southeast. I tried to work my way back toward the coast where there was less fetch, but I couldn't point high enough. Soon conditions became uncomfortable, and I had no choice but to cut across the windiest part of the Golfo de Papagayao. The Gulf of Papagayo isn't as notorious as the Gulf of Tehuntepec, but as I would find out, it can be almost as nasty.

Before long it was blowing 40 knots, with frequent gusts to 50 knots. The conditions were similar to those of the storm in the Med that cost me my first Fleetwood.

Waves would frequently slam across the port beam. And any time I had to do a sail change or re-tie the genoa, I would get hosed with saltwater. There were a few short times when I got a chance to lie down or get some food during the next four days, but it wasn't until I got close to Ballena Bay in the Gulf of Nicoya that the seas calmed down. Don't underestimate the Gulf of Papagayo!

While hunting down a can of clams for a linguine a la vongole dinner, I noticed a lot of water in the bilges. After getting the water out on Saturday, there were five more gallons on Sunday. This worried me. Had the heavy pounding loosened the keel bolts? I pumped and blotted both sides, and came to the conclusion that most likely the water had come in from following seas through the hand bilge pump. I will keep an eye on it.

The next day I had a terrific sail to Puntarenas. From my days in the late 1950s working as a clerk — at 6th and Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, at the agency for the joint service of Holland America Line, Royal Mail Lines and Furness Lines, I knew Puntarenas used to be the main seaport for Costa Rica. The ships we worked with loaded bananas, coffee and other goods in Puntarenas on their way from Europe to Vancouver, B.C. But the port became too shallow for the newer ships and a new container port was built at Caldera just to the south.

[More next month.]

— jack 02/15/2017

Ceilydh — Modified Woods 40 Cat
Evan Gatehouse, Diane Selkirk, and Maia (15)
Eight-Year Circumnavigation
(Vancouver, B.C., Canada)

It’s not often that a family does a circumnavigation with a catamaran that was built for daysailing, but that's what Evan, Diane and Maia did with Ceilydh. Not only did they do a circumnavigation, it was a lengthy eight-year trip around.

("By the way, it's pronounced 'Kay-Lee', exactly how it's spelled," jokes Diane.)

This wasn’t Evan and Diane’s first cruise. When they were in their 20s they did a 3½-year cruise from Vancouver to Mexico, Central America, the Western Caribbean, and up to Annapolis. That was aboard their Stan Huntingford-designed Fortune 30 monohull. When they got to Annapolis, Evan, a naval architect, started working for Bruce Farr Yacht Design.

"I got to work on America’s Cup boats, around-the-world boats, and all kinds of high-end yachts, so that was fun," Evan says.

But when it came time to go cruising again, the couple, now with young daughter Maia, decided to buy a 40-ft daysailing cat that was built on Gabriola Island near Vancouver in 1987. She was designed by Brit Richard Woods, who spends half the year on nearby Saturna Island.

"When we bought her she had a tiny cuddy that four people, with knees touching, could sit inside," says Evan. "So I got out a chainsaw and started cutting her to pieces."

"People think it's inappropriate to take a chainsaw to a boat," laughs Diane, "but there is nothing wrong with it."

A friend lent them his garage, so Evan was able to start putting the boat back together using various amounts of Corecell and Nomex with carbon fiber skins that was Boeing surplus. The result was a spacious if not super-sleek superstructure, and a light cat that sails well in light air.

There were two reasons that the family decided to install a single Yanmar 27 diesel rather than two. "First, we had a limited budget. Second, 95% of the time most owners of catamarans only use one engine anyway."

"The truth is that our cat sails faster than she motors," says Diane.

Ceilydh appears low-slung, but she has a deceptively high bridgedeck clearance of 28 inches. "She slams much less than other cats her length because of a combination of the bridgedeck clearance and the fact that the lowest part of her bridgedeck doesn't start until 20 feet aft of the bow," explains Evan.

Diane says Ceilydh handled just fine in heavy weather.

Evan disagreed in the sense he didn't think they really had any heavy weather. "From Seychelles to Comoros Islands we had three days of beating into 20 to 25 knots with gusts to 30, and we had similar conditions on the way from Borneo to Singapore. Nothing bad."

"It was a little rougher than that," Diane corrected. "Remember the boat that sank?"

Maia tends to side with Diane on the heavy weather issue.

After crossing the Pacific, the family spent four years in Australia, where Evan worked as a naval architect.

"It was surprisingly easy to get work," says Evan, "because they were having a mining boom at the time. Foreigners could get work visas up to four years, and the company didn't even have to try to hire Aussies for the job first."

The big issue for circumnavigators these days is what route to take west after Thailand. The traditional route, north to the Red Sed and the Med, lost favor after a number of cruisers were attacked, and some killed, by Somali pirates a few years ago. Diane reports that two years ago 16 boats nonetheless opted for that route, although many of them paid $10,000 each for machine gun-toting guards, and some had as many as three.

The second route is across the Indian Ocean, a notoriously long and rough trip. Despite an often-nasty final 1,200 miles from Mauritus to South Africa, it is still the most popular route these days.

About 25% of the 100 boats headed west across the Indian Ocean at about the latitude of the equator, which is the route Ceilydh took. This included stops at Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Chagos, the Seychelles, the Comoros, and over the top of Madagascar to Mozambique. Boats were able to take this route because the area of the route just approaching Mozambique had finaly been declared free of danger from Somali pirates.

"We also took the equatorial route because it was the most popular with kid boats," adds Maia.

While Diane is open-minded about the Red Sea route, Evan is not. "I'm not going to cruise an area when people think they need guards with machine guns! Lots of the commercial vessels have their decks lined with concertina wire."

Among the advantages of the the equatorial route across the Indian Ocean are better weather, the seas getting knocked down in the lee of Madagascar, and Madagascar itself!

"Oh gosh, if you haven't been to Madagascar, you must go!" says Evan.
"He's right!" says Diane.

"The people are as poor as can be, but they are the best sailors because there are no roads, so they have to go everywhere by boat," says Evan.

"They are really fun and playful sailors, too," says Diane.

"They use tarps, sacks, sheets — anything they can for sails," says Maia.

While Madagascar was the favorite stop of their circumnavigation, they had a fine time and a boat-saving adventure in the Chagos, too.

[More next month.]

— latitude/rs 02/15/2017

Cruise Notes:

McDonald's serves about 250 million hamburgers a year. But big deal, because how many lives do they save? According to NOAA, the COSPAS-SARSAT system contributed to more than 300 successful rescues in America last year. COSPAS-SARSAT is, of course, the international satellite system that receives EPIRB distress signals and then forwards them to the authorities via a ground station. In the United States, EPIRB distress signals go to NOAA’s SARSAT Mission Control Center in Suitland, Maryland. Signals on land are forwarded to the Air Force, and typically passed on to local authorities. Signals at sea or on the water are forwarded to the Coast Guard.

In 2016, the system assisted in 205 waterborne rescues, 79 rescues on shore, and an additional 23 rescues resulting from an aviation incident. The biggest EPIRB-assisted rescue of the year was the response to the sinking of the Alaska Juris. First responders saved 46 fishermen from the Juris — the largest SAR success story in the history of NOAA's COSPAS-SARSAT operations.

| So, do you think your cruising boat ought to have an EPIRB or similar electronic emergency signal? We do. And two may be better than one.

Cruiser Jim Van Cleve of Kalokalo, type of boat and hailing port unknown, was attacked by two men while anchored off Suva, Fiji, at 11 p.m. on January 25. According to reports from people on boats near Kalokalo, two men armed with at least one cane knife confronted Van Cleve in the cockpit of his boat and then attacked him. In the course of defending himself, Van Cleve received severe lacerations on one hand. Doctors weren’t sure if they’d be able to save the thumb, but were ultimately able to so.

Authorities reported they had apprehended one of the two attackers, and believe they were going to catch the other. It's unknown if Van Cleve knew the attackers or if he had any contact with them beforehand. Fiji has always been considered to be very safe for cruisers, and attacks such as the one on Van Cleve are all but unheard-of.

The Friday Night Outboard Miracle at Falmouth Harbour: After a sleepless red-eye flight to Miami, a draining afternoon flight to Antigua, and checking out of Jolly Harbour, the Wanderer found himself at Falmouth Harbour with two big problems. First, 'ti Profligate's Yamaha 15-hp outboard wasn't working. Second, he had no Internet on the boat, so being able to get to shore was critical to his meeting deadline and social obligations.

The Wanderer called on his old Ocean 71 fellow skipper Joe Hutchens, who is now in the superyacht-concierge business in Antigua. Despite the fact it was the highest of high season in Antigua, Hutchens answered the phone at a bloody comedy club on Drury Lane in London. The best he could do was recommend West Indian 'Greg Outboard' as the best man for the job. But given the many shortcoming of DigiCell, contacting anyone on Antigua is problematic.

Bill 'the Wrench' Lilly of the Newport Beach-based catamaran Moontide was anchored nearby, and took his best crack at the outboard. But the problem was over Lilly's register. At least he towed the Wanderer and de Mallorca to shore, where there was a faint hope that Greg Outboard might actually meet them at the dinghy dock at 6 p.m. Get an outboard repaired on a Friday night in Antigua? Good luck mate.

Well, Greg did show up at 6 pm, and immediately diagnosed the problem as a carburetor gummed up by fuel that had gone bad. Despite the fact that it was already growing dark, Greg wasted no time in attacking the carburetor with uncommon speed and dexterity. Having worked on outboards for 20 years, he didn't even have to look at the carburetor to disassemble, clean, and reassemble it. Despite the speed, he took great care in what he was doing, and checked and rechecked to make sure everything was just as it should be.

Having had his ass saved by Greg, the Wanderer would have been happy to pay just about any amount for the overtime emergency work. Greg said, "Let's see, I charge $40 an hour, but I didn't work a full hour so . . ." Before he could finish, the Wanderer shoved a hundred-dollar bill into his hand. "You take this, as I consider it to be the best $100 I've spent on a boat. Thank you sooo much!"

"About 10 years ago I purchased the 1986 Valiant 40 Valiant Lady from her original owners as she was lying in Antigua," writes Thomas Shafter of Oakland. "Even though that boat got my feet wet in sailing the Caribbean, it didn't turn out so well. I'd purchased the boat with a partner, and the partnership fell through. I'm now writing to report about my triumphant return to Antigua aboard my second Valiant 40, a 1975 pre-blister beauty named Road Less Traveled. I found her in Annapolis and purchased her without a partner. I brought her down through to Intracoastal Waterway after the usual months of survey work, delays, and heartbreaking discoveries.

"I left Annapolis at the end of October with the goal of outrunning winter. I was able to do that — and I was also able to meet a sweet sailorette by the name of Robbyn from Buffalo, New York. Don't let looks fool you, as she's the mother of five grown daughters, owns an Endeavour 33, does sailboat deliveries, and can cook hot meals in the worst of conditions. We touched bottom four times on the ICW, but always got off without assistance. Anybody who says they did the ICW without touching bottom is lying.

"Once we departed the States, we hit all the islands along the way, seeing the swimming pigs of the Exumas, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Virgins before eventually making it to Antigua. The trip took about six months, after which the boat was put on the hard at the Slipway in English Harbour. I soon learned that Deion was still running the place, and that my original Valiant was still being stored there in the off-season.

"Some dreams just don't fade away," concludes Shafter. "I did have several boats and did lots of sailing in between the Valiants. I even had an Ericson 38-200 called Surface Charge that three friends and I sailed in the 20th Baja Ha-Ha back in 2013. But all along my Caribbean dream remained strong. I now cruise my second Valiant six months a year in the Caribbean."

Shortly after Jack van Ommen made this month's report in Changes, he transited the Panama Canal. While in the Lake Gatun part of the Canal, the newly minted 80-year-old noticed a Guayacan tree.

"They bloom in January/February," he wrote, "and produce the lignum vitae that has a natural lubricant. My grandfather in the Netherlands used Guayacan wood for the sheaves in wooden rigging blocks. When I worked for a hardwood importer in California, we sold lumber from Guayacan trees to the White Brothers in San Francisco. They used the wood to make billy clubs for the San Francisco Police Department."

The mast and boom on Mike and Deanna Ruel's Marina del Rey-based Manta 42 R Sea Kat survived a long circumnavigation with no problems. But not the 80-knot winds of an East Coast hurricane last fall.

"We had 15 tornado watches and warnings during the hurricane," reports Mike. "I believe the damage to the mast and boom was probably caused by some kind of rotational force or torquing from the very strong winds."

Berkeley's Jim Fair and Linda Powers got a new head gasket put on the diesel of their Outbound 46 Chesapeake while in Martinique, after which they headed to Dominica, the next island north, for Carnival. They'd never seen so many Jumbie Men before. At last report, they were headed toward Panama, coming ever closer to completing what will be something like a nine-year circumnavigation.

One of the most colorful Northern California cruising couples that we can remember, with one of the most colorful cruising boats, was Peter and Antonia Murphy and their Point Richmond-based Mariner 36 Sereia. They took off in 2006 with their ketch painted in wild colors. From time to time they reported in to Latitude with their unique perspectives on their adventures as they made their way down the coast and across the Pacific. The couple later split up, and we don’t know what happened to Peter.

Antonia, on the other hand, is continuing to lead an unusual life as she is now the co-owner of The Bach in Whangarei, New Zealand. She describes The Bach as "a one-room ethical brothel intended to bring prostitution out of the shadows."
Born and raised in San Francisco, Murphy graduated from Columbia University with a degree in European history and comparative politics. Following graduation, she spent years traveling and doing odd jobs ­ before taking off cruising with Peter. She arrived in New Zealand 10 years ago, where after much controversy prostitution had been legalized four years before. Murphy’s philosophy is that women own their bodies, and thus it's their business if they want to 'monetize' them — as long as they are not under pressure to do so.

You think the water is Mexico is bad? Christian Lauducci of the Sausalito-based Stevens 40 Shawnigan drank some creek water downstream of some horses in Woodacre, California. We're not exactly sure what it did to him, but it made him sick for months. He was barely able to sail the boat from San Carlos to La Cruz with kids Nina, 13, Ellamae, 8, and Taj, 3. They were joined in La Cruz by wife/mother Josie, who was earning cruising chips at her old job as a nurse at UCSF. Christian is quite a bit better now, but the family have decided to postpone their Puddle Jump for a year. Besides, they are having a great time in Mexico.

One of the many reasons it's easy to have a great time cruising in Mexico is that the cost of living is so low. For example, the Wanderer, now in Antigua with a leaking inflatable, would love to be able to buy a nice quality — seriously — inflatable dinghy with an aluminum floor such as on sale for less than $800 at Costco in Vallarta. Anything similar costs three times as much in Antigua.
But the biggest difference between Mexico and the Caribbean is the quality/variety and price of food, both in stores and in restaurants. In Mexico, there is a great selection of food in the stores, and prices are usually very low. In Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean, the food selection is poor and the prices are often very high. But nothing like the prices of restaurant meals.

For instance, if the Wanderer and de Mallorca wanted a simple but filling meal in La Cruz, we'd get a big, delicious bowl of chicken pozole at La Caves de Familia Martinez for $3.50. The pozole was so good that we once had it three nights in a row. If we wanted a more fancy/smancy dinner, we'd go to Marsala, where the special three-course meal, including an artisan dessert, came to $20 each. Fish tacos on the beach? You get three big Baja-style ones for about $5 at the waterfront La Cabana restaurant in Punta Mita. A huge chicken Parmesan dinner at El Coral is $10.

The other night the Wanderer had spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, while de Mallorca had lasagna, at an Italian place at Jolly Harbour, Antigua. Despite being airline-size portions, and with absolutely nothing else on the plate, they were about $20 each. Honestly, there wasn't more than $1.50 of food in either one of them. But that's the way it goes at most any kind of restaurant in the Caribbean. If you want a nice steak at the Antigua YC, it's stateside prices — which oddly enough are twice as much as in Paris. The saving grace in Antigua is the inexpensive and often delicious meals on the side of the road by locals.

Big M&M cats on the prowl in the Caribbean! According to Gino Morrelli of Morrelli & Melvin Yacht Design in Newport Beach, no fewer than 10 of their big catamaran designs are racing in the Caribbean this year. They are Gunboat 62s Tribe, Zenyatta, and Elvis. Gunboat 66s Coco de Mer, Moondoggie, and Extreme H2O. The Gunboat 90 Sunshine. Others are HH 66s R-Six and Nala, and the M&M 65 Gizmo.

However, we don't know if any of these cats has as intense a six-month racing schedule as the one planned for Greg Slyngstad's unusual looking Bieker 53 cat Fujin. For the Seattle-based cat, which has kicked around the Caribbean since her birth three years ago, will have done the Caribbean 600 before this issue went to press. In early March she'll do another Heineken Regatta, in late March she'll do the St. Thomas International Regatta, and on April 10 she'll do her third Voiles de St. Barth.

But wait, there is more! Following the Voiles, all the cruising gear in storage in St. Martin will be piled back on and she'll begin the 4,000-mile trip to Long Beach, with a cruising stop at the San Blas Islands. Why Long Beach? Because she's going to compete in the Los Angeles-to-Honolulu Transpac in July. Only after the Transpac will she finally get a chance to see her nominal homeport of Seattle.

Two other multihulls spending the season racing in the Caribbean are also intending to do the Transpac. They are the lightning-fast MOD70 trimarans Phaedo3 and Maserati, owned by Lloyd Thornburg and Giovanni Soldini, respectively. Both boats are capable of 40 knots and setting a new Transpac elapsed-time record. The Phaedo crew is really nuts, however, because after finishing the Caribbean 600 they have but 18 days to cover the 4,000 miles — and make a Canal transit — in order to make the start of the Newport to Cabo Race. That's not cruising!

It hasn't been the best of seasons for Latitude friend/hero Jeanne Socrates of the Victoria, B.C.-based Najad 380 Nereida. It started when a series of storms thwarted the start of the 74-year-old's attempt at yet another singlehanded around-the-world record. Early on, fortunately, in her second attempt a critical part of her genset's cooling system failed. Repairing it took so long that any record attempt was out of the question for this year. So she decided she'd sail to La Cruz to rest, relax and regroup. She was chased all the way down Baja by some of the worst weather to hit south of Point Conception in years. And she had issues with the top of her roller furler. But she made it.

Chuck Naslund of the Mazatlan-based Catalina 36 Alhambra was recently honored by other mariners in the area for providing "clear and concise" daily weather reports for the last seven years. Chuck and his wife Diana were given a certificate for "El Chayito, the great Sinaloan restaurant."

Well done, Chuck! We still remember the time you brought Alhambra down to the Banderas Bay Regatta and took class honors.

Jason Hite of the Long Beach-based Caribbean 50 Volare reports that a group of locals and cruisers managed to free a whale shark that had gotten stranded on a sandbar in Bahia de La Paz. Swimming with whale sharks is one of the favorite cruiser attractions in Baja.

The Wanderer is pleased to announce that the Latitude winter office in St. Barth will be open from March 1 through the end of April. 'Ti Profligate will generally be anchored next to the last green buoy off Corossol. de Mallorca sundowns at Le Select, while the Wanderer normally keeps tabs on her and the rest of the riff-raff while enjoying a bottle of Pellegrino at L' Oubli. Stop by and say 'hello'.

The Wanderer is delighted to learn that Jim 'Twinger' Tantillo, one of his all-time favorite Profligate crewmembers, has chartered a boat to come to St. Barth to watch the Bucket. Can't wait to see you, Jim. And all the rest of you!

Missing the pictures? See the March 2017 eBook!


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