Changes in Latitudes

April, 2002


With reports this months from Illusion on a final ocean crossing; from Maverick on the Maldives; from Scarlett O'Hara on the Agua Verde Goat Fest; from Theresa II on having done the Milk Run to New Zealand; from Polly Brooks on boring Brunei and cool Kuching; from Tranquilo on surfing mainland Mexico; from Sailor's Run on last year's Puddle Jump; and Cruise Notes.

Illusion - N/A
Jim & Mary Haagenson
English Harbor, Antigua

Once we got to Antigua after crossing the Atlantic from the Cape Verde Islands, we began to hear a lot of scary stories, so maybe we had an easy crossing. After all, at the worst we ever had were two rolly nights when Jim and Mary had trouble sleeping. Ding and Helen, our crew, did fine.

We left the Cape Verdes in mid-December, and on our first day underway were escorted by a mob of whales and dolphins, who seemed delighted that we were making eight knots. When our speed dropped to five knots, the whales and dolphins left us to chase fish. In the following days, we saw wind from all directions - in what should have been a downwind passage - including strong westerlies on Christmas and the following day! One day we only made 50 miles, but overall we had no storms or dramatic scenes. We did lose the use of our transmission due to low oil for the last week, which meant we had to sail the last 1,000 miles. Then again, we have a sailboat, and that's what she's supposed to do.

After seeing more whales, dolphins and turtles, the lighthouse on the south side of Antigua finally came into view - at which time the trades went light. We spent the last 18 hours coasting along at two knots and having to sail against a northerly to enter the harbor. But working as a now well-drilled team, we tacked again and again through the crowded anchorage to drop the hook in nearly the most ideal spot. Those who watched were duly impressed! By the way, once the transmission was topped off with oil, it started working fine once again.

All during the crossing, I kept praying - as usual - and routinely asked for nice seas and fair winds. When it didn't seem to always work out as well as I might have hoped, I would wonder what was up? Well, when we got to Antigua, we started to hear horrific stories from other boats that had gotten in just ahead of us. It was scary to hear about all the disasters! Some boats suffered substantial damage from high winds and waves; one boat had her cockpit flooded twice by breaking waves; others had crew washed overboard only to be saved by their harnesses. In retrospect, I guess that we'd had it pretty good - and that therefore prayers really do work!

Antigua is nice, and beautiful like you would expect of a Caribbean paradise - but it's a bit expensive. Still, we haven't been out much lately, so we can afford a few treats. We'll be off to the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida in a few more days to put our old girl up for sale. Someone else can have the fun from now on.

- jim & mary

Readers - To get a quantitative idea of the possible problems with transatlantic crossings, let's take a look at this year's Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia. There were 219 entries and approximately 1,000 sailors who took an average of 16 days to cover a cumulative total of 600,000 ocean miles. Thanks to hurricane Olga, the winds were strong - although not stormy - at the beginning, which meant there were confused seas for an unusually long time. Then it went light toward the end. While crew had their share of adventures, the main dramas were three: one yacht lost her rudder 250 miles out; one crewmember was evacuated because of kidney stones; and a French sailor who wasn't a member of the ARC was rescued after his boat sank in the middle of the Atlantic. What happened in this year's ARC is naturally no guarantee of what might happen in future Atlantic crossings, but it sheds some insight on what might be expected.

Maverick - Ericson 39
Tony Johnson And Terry Shrode
Yankees In Oman
(San Francisco)

We left Galle, Sri Lanka, on January 25, and had a 3.5-day passage to the island of Uligan in the Maldives. It was mostly upwind sailing in moderate wind. Many cruisers choose to call on the Maldives while enroute from Sri Lanka to Oman, as it's a convenient and lovely rest stop where fuel and water are available.

The Maldives is an independent country southwest of India that is comprised of many small island groups that have the geological structure of atolls, but unlike those in the South Pacific, don't have a sheltering barrier reef. Uligan, which is the second most northerly of the Maldives, is not very far from being on a direct line between Sri Lanka and Oman.

We hadn't given the Maldives much thought, as our stop was going to be brief, and by now we'd seen enough beautiful tropical islands to not expect much novelty. But it has turned out to be a memorable waypoint for two reasons - the island's village and the nature of fellow cruisers.

The Maldives is a Muslim country of a little over 250,000 people. The customs, immigration, and other officials who came out to Maverick to complete the formalities before we could disembark, were the most professional and courteous we have encountered since Australia. They were very warm and extended their condolences for the events of September 11. "Terrorism is a very bad thing," they told us. As I later found out, this was not to be confused with the notion that they agree with the way America has dealt with the World Trade Center event, but was simply meant to extend their sympathies.

Interestingly enough, the Maldives had an experience in the late '80s that involved some players that had recently become more familiar to the crew of Maverick - The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. The Tigers took over Male, the capital of the Maldives for one day, and attempted to capture the president. Locals told me that the two countries most instrumental in repelling the attack were India and the United States - under the orders from the elder Bush. So they generally don't have a bad impression of the United States. But some of them do feel - and they may have a point - that if France rather than Afghanistan had refused to turn over a person suspected of a terrorist attack, France would not have been bombed. This opinion was stated in the most gentle and reasonable tone, as though from one thoughtful person to another, without any underlying hostility.

The village on the small island of Uligan is home to 420 people - but it has no cars or municipal electricity. Some homes had generators. There are no bars or restaurants. In fact, it was impossible to buy alcohol - and not very easy to buy food! The village had a biblical look. The houses are made of bricks cut from coral and mortar - although some buildings are made of thatched palm leaves. The streets - the traffic on which is pedestrians, bicycles and wheelbarrows - are hard sand. Every day the area around each house is raked and swept by its owner, and each week the beaches and public spaces are cleaned by everyone. The result is that it would be hard to find a tidier island in all of the tropics - that wasn't a resort being kept that way for tourists. The residents say all the islands of the Maldives are similar in this respect.

Aside from the cruisers, there are no tourists or tourist facilities here. To get here, you would have to fly to Male, perhaps take a ferry to an island to the north, where you would have to hire a fisherman to take you the rest of the way. Since we had neglected the outlying islands of Fiji and Vanuatu in a rush to keep up with our itinerary, this is the most remote place we've been. Most anchorages are a little more enclosed than this one, as we're merely in the lee of an island, and it's normally necessary to douse one's sails before entering them. But here the passes between the islands are large enough so that it's possible to sail in and out of the anchorage, and this lends a touch of romance to the arrivals and departures of the boats - especially when we see them fade over the horizon.

The sailors aboard the 20 or so cruising boats in the shelter of Uligan are all on long distance voyages. There are no local or regional cruisers, and no charter boats on these islands. Every boat here is going around the world, and there is intense concern - not to say paranoia - about what we all face in the near future in the Red Sea. I don't know if this makes for a special camaraderie or not, but it's interesting to see who these folks are. The majority of the boats are from five countries: Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, France, and the United States. Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries are also represented, but the former seafaring powers of Greece, Italy, and Spain make a cumulatively meagre showing. You'd wait a long time before seeing a flag from Brazil, Mexico, Japan, India, or Egypt.

Because we're now closing in on the Red Sea, we're able to get a rough sense of how many people are currently cruising around the world. It's not precise, of course, because circumnavigators start from different places and move at different speeds. Some folks - such as the Pik's on Mara from the Torres Stait - have only gotten a quarter of the way around in 17 years, while we aboard Maverick are on a pretty fast pace.

But here's our calculation. All boats must either go up the Red Sea or around the Cape of Good Hope, and our guess is that 80% or more go by way of the Red Sea. Of the boats that go up the Red Sea, an insignificant number are not going all the way around the world. There are about 80-120 boats that go up the Red Sea each year, which means there are 20-30 that go around the Cape of Good Hope, for a total of 100-150 boats a year. If these boats average 2.5 crew, something like 250 and 375 people a year are doing circumnavigations. I should mention that unless the crew are a nuclear family, it's unusual for more than two people per boat to make the entire circumnavigation. Additional crew usually do a leg or two. Perhaps a fifth of the circumnavigators are Americans, which means 50-75 of your fellow citizens a year are sailing around the world. In other words, it's not that unusual.

- terry 2/1/02

Readers - Terry is mistaken when he says "there are no charterboats in these islands". Sunsail has a base in the Maldives, which are very popular with the French and others who enjoy sailing and diving.

Scarlett O'Hara - Serendipity 43
John & Renee Prentice
Agua Verde Goat Fest
(San Diego)

This is a 'better late than never' report. Last Thanksgiving, we were proud to be involved in the First Annual Thanksgiving Goat Fest at Agua Verde in the Sea of Cortez.

After enjoying a wonderful summer in the Sea of Cortez, we stuck around for hurricane Juliette - which was less than fun! But otherwise, the Sea of Cortez weather was very nice this fall, so many of us cruisers stayed on the Baja side until December. Buddyboating with friends Les and Diane Sutton aboard Gemini, we all decided that Agua Verde - a picturesque but remote anchorage about 90 miles northwest of La Paz - would be our destination for Thanksgiving. In addition to an anchorage, Agua Verde has about 300 residents - not including all the goats and pigs.

There is just one small tienda in Agua Verde, and it's only stocked once a week. As you might expect, it only stocks the basics - which does not include a butterball turkey. So Les suggested we have a goat for Thanksgiving. A goat? You go cruising to enjoy different cruising experiences, so why not? John and Les spent three days looking for Yayo, the goat man. Unfortunately, it took three days to find him - only to be told that all of the village's goats were either pregnant or needed for breeding. Yayo finally agreed to get us a goat from another rancho.

As Thanksgiving approached, we and Gemini kept inviting friends to join our Thanksgiving Goat Fest, so it looked as though there would be 17 boats and as many as 50 people. We kept hoping that Yayo wouldn't disappoint us. As luck would have it, a shrimper anchored in the bay and agreed to sell Alouette de Mer, one of our group, a large amount of shrimp, so we wouldn't starve. And Yayo finally did show up with the goat.

When the big day came, we selected the beach off the north anchorage as our dining room. Tables were set up, and soon cruisers bearing dishes began arriving by dinghy. The pot luck spread included ham, turkey, chicken, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberries, stuffing, gravy, breads, pumpkin and pecan pies, cookies and much more! Perhaps the biggest culinary hit was Maureen Durkin and Riley Besand's seven kilos of shrimp prepared Cajun style as an appetizer. It was the most delicious shrimp that most of us had ever tasted! The goat was slaughtered and prepared carne asada style, as per our agreement with Yayo. It was better than all right, but less than great.

As our group of cruisers gathered to toast our good fortune and strong bonds of friendship, the spirit of Thanksgiving was palpable. We all reflected on how precious life is, and how particularly beautiful it was in this little part of Baja. The crews from the following boats participated: Alouette de Mer, Chewbacca, Desperado, Dream Weaver, Espresso, Fanache, Gemini, Katie Lee, Mildred, Nintai, Sea Bud, Scarlett O'Hara, Simple Pleasures, UFO, Wild Spirit, and Wanderlust.

- renee

Theresa II - Aloha 34
Wolf & Jan Berg
Milk Run Recap
(Campbell River, B.C.)

Our 'puddle jump' from Mexico to the Marquesas was basically uneventful and took 22 days. There wasn't much wind, so we actually had to work quite hard to do the passage that quickly. We never did find the trades - in fact, we're no longer sure they even exist.

The only significant incident is when I burned my leg very badly with hot coffee and coffee grounds. It was a relatively calm day, and we were just standing around making coffee. But we were hit by an odd wave just as I was pouring the boiling water into the filter, and the pot I was pouring from got knocked over onto my leg. I suffered second degree burns and a large blister. I didn't want to break the blister, so I was laid up in the V-berth for most of the week. Fortunately, the wound has healed well and there isn't any scaring. It was a good thing that Wolf's brother was with us, or Wolf would have gotten exhausted from having to spend a week on watch by himself.

Our favorite stops between Mexico and New Zealand were, with the favorites first, the Tuamotus, Nuie, Tonga, Huahine, and Tahaa. The places that we didn't care for were Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, and Bora Bora. The ones I didn't mention were in the middle.

But we are enjoying New Zealand big time - in fact, we love it! For one thing, the people are so outgoing and friendly. In addition, the scenery is so amazing that we don't tire of just driving in the country or being out in the Bay of Islands. Many cruisers have moved south to Whangarei, Auckland, and Taruranga, but Opua up here in the Bay of Islands suits us best. It's a very small community, with just a post office, general store, cruising club, marina and chandlery, but it is relaxing and there aren't a bunch of people in condos looking down on you.

We are only five kilometers from Pahia, which is a tourist town, but nonetheless has the essentials. We're only one hour from Whangari, which has more than what we need.

Some bits of advice: Some cruisers have the, 'I can get parts shipped anywhere' attitude. In reality, you can't get parts shipped anywhere, so they have suffered as a result. Alternators? We suggest that puddle jumpers bring at least two spares. Speaking of 'spare parts', bring along as much toilet paper and paper towels as you can for French Polynesia, as the stuff they have is of poor quality and expensive.

We also recommend watermakers, as water is hard to find. Based on our experience, wind generators do not do the job. When it comes to money and getting it, have a credit on your credit card, as U.S. and Canadian ATM cards do not work in the South Pacific until you get to Tonga. I was pulling money out on my MasterCard, and didn't have to pay the high interest because I had a credit on it.

When dealing with officials, always be polite. Don't hurry them, and things will get done quicker. Be an ass, and you will suffer!

We're loving New Zealand and plan to be here for another year before returning to Tonga and Fiji.

- wolf & jan 2/15/'01

Polly Brooks - Islander 37 PH
Kirk & Catherine McGeorge
South China Sea

The island of Pulau Tiga was the setting used in the original version of the television show Survivor, and CBS had finished filming just two weeks prior to our arrival last summer. The show was described as a modern-day Robinson Crusoe adventure series in which contestants could only bring one tool and would have to find their own food and build their own shelter. The supposedly fittest among them would win $1,000,000.

It was also claimed that the island had been "untouched by humans for centuries." If that was the case, word must have gotten out quickly, because when we arrived at Pulau Tiga, we were immediately attacked by tourists on noisy jet skis from two air-conditioned resorts - which must have been built in record time. The truth is that Pulau Tiga is only six miles off the coast of Borneo, and the brochures for the island describe nature walks, fishing, diving, and helicopter rides. The brochures also included the newest tourist attraction on that pristine island, the "ancient stone temple" - made of plastic and styrofoam - to make the place even more exotic. There was so much noise and plastic at the anchorage that we left the following day for 40-mile distant Labuan, which is a territory of Malaysia.

We arrived in Victoria Harbor that evening, and took a berth - our first time since leaving Guam - at the Waterfront Marina. The first things we did were jump into the pool and take a hot shower. Then we had a rat come aboard and sample all of our dry food and juice paks! Finally, we enjoyed a tasty meal with our friends from the yacht Grey Gull, who had already been at Labuan for three weeks. The next day we checked in, moved Polly to a more comfortable and more rat free berth, then settled in for two weeks of five-star resort living.

Labuan has one of the best and safest harbors in the South China Sea, so it has a rich maritime history. The duty-free port is located 10 miles off the coast of Brunei. We found the hospitality to be excellent, and the food as inexpensive as it was delicious. The marina manager offered us the use of his welding machine, which we used to repair and modify our stern railing as well as to build a chain stripper for our new anchor windlass. The jobs would have set us back a few hundred bucks in the States. As usual, we made some great new friends with yachties and oil tycoons, and stayed up 'til dawn a few times too many. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and with only hours remaining in our Labuan adventure, I bagged my first - and only - rat! I thought about taking the beast to a taxidermist for mounting, but the steel Chinese trap had nearly chopped the rodent in half!

After two weeks at Labuan, we motored across the narrow straits to Brunei Darussalam, one of the smallest countries in the world, and home to the Sultan of Brunei. Not too long ago, the Sultan was believed to be the richest man in the world. He's still fabulously wealthy, but as a result in the drop of oil prices, he had to liquidate some of his wretched excess. The 250,000 residents of the country, however, still have close to the highest per capita income in the world. Maintained as a Muslim paradise, there is no nightlife, no alcohol, and few points of interest in Brunei. We found it to be as described - "the most boring city in the world". Nonetheless, it was also more expensive than we expected.

After motoring up the river, we took an empty mooring at the Royal Brunei YC. As a rule, I generally avoid any yacht club whose name begins with the word 'Royal', but the Royal Brunei was the only suitable facility that was available. The club was quite nice, complete with a swimming pool, hot showers, repair facilities, manicured lawns, and an extensive menu. However, we found the members - and this was before 9/11 - to be very standoffish. Not one person offered a 'welcome' after we signed the guest log. The most fun we had was joining a party being thrown by the visiting Kiwi rugby team, and a later half-hour river taxi ride through the extensive water village.

During our visit, the Religous Affairs Police conducted a vice raid, and arrested 14 couples for "adultery" and/or "close proximity". According to a newspaper story, one guy was a "member of a uniformed organization and was not charged because he was with a transvestite!" The Borneo Bulletin article concluded that "67 Religious Enforcement officers and 14 police officers had gone undercover at several popular beach parking areas, and had been instructed to prevent the rising vice in the country. And they said Brunei was boring!

The official check-in process of dealing with customs, immigration and port officials was such a snafu, that we decided to leave three days later without bothering to check out. Brunei - I'd give it a miss. But if you do go there and wish to get in close proximity with another man's wife, do yourself a favor and make sure that she's a tranny!

Having had our fill of Brunei, we plotted a course to 380-mile distant Sarawak, the western-most Malay state in Borneo. The passage took us through a hundred miles of oil fields, and the night horizon was ablaze with the lights and burning flare booms from countless offshore installations - which made for some dicey navigation. This was where our new radar paid for itself, because many of the platforms were uncharted and unlit. Before getting the radar, I would have plotted a course to take us completely outside of hazards such as this, adding many extra miles and hours to the passage.

After an uneventful passage of exactly 70 hours - including a fantastic day of sailing - we motored a few miles up from the mouth of the Santubong River and dropped the hook beneath the towering pinnacle of Mt. Sontubong. The next morning we dinghied ashore and hitched a ride in a dump truck into Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, 10 miles inland near the junction of the Santubong and Sarawak Rivers.

Kuching is, without a doubt, among the most pleasant and interesting cities that I've visited in Southeast Asia - if not the world. It has a rich and colorful history that includes Malay pirates, Chinese slave traders, gold, opium wars, tigers, crocodiles, and headhunters. The region was 'civilized' around 1840 with the arrival of Capt. James Brooke, a wealthy British adventurer who commanded the schooner Royalist - the largest vessel armed with the largest cannon the pirates had ever faced. Brooke quickly brought order to the region, and as a reward, the then Sultan of Brunei declared Brooke to be the Rajah of Sarawak. The region was the personal kingdom of the Brooke family 'White Rajahs' until the Japanese invaded near the start of World War II. Kuching is one of the few cities in Borneo that was untouched by the ravages of war, and it retains many old buildings, forts, and old world charm.

The Kuching region is as interesting as Brunei is boring, as the area has an abundance of museums, parks, exotic wildlife, diverse cultures, and nice people. The first thing we did was visit one of the tourist information centers, which made us aware of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for orangutans, monkeys, hornbills, and honey bears, which have been either orphaned or kept illegally by locals. Arriving just before feeding time, we were able to get so close to the semi-wild orangutans that we were literally eye to eye with each other.

One female and her daughter took such a liking to me that they kept smelling my hand and lightly chewing on my fingers. When it was time to go, she and her baby accompanied Cath and me all the way back to the parking lot, often holding our hands. None of the other orangutans took interest in any of the other visitors to the park that afternoon, and I reckoned the reason she felt so at ease with me was my long whiskers. But Cath was quick to point out the fact that I hadn't had a proper shower in the four days since leaving Brunei, and perhaps the orangutan was experiencing an olfactory attraction, perhaps thinking I was a long lost cousin. Nonetheless, it was a touching moment.

We were so impressed with the city of Kuching, that we decided to weigh anchor and backtrack 52 miles and try to bring Polly Brooks up the Sarawak River and into the heart of the city. We'd heard that there had been extensive changes made to the river recently, and weren't sure if we could make it all the way upstream to the city, but we were determined to try. We ultimately made it, having to transit a barrage lock, ducking beneath a low bridge, picking our way through an even lower bridge construction site, and navigating the final few miles upriver in darkness. Once again, our radar was an enormous help in getting us all the way up to a floating dock in the heart of the city.

The dock was situated on a manicured, riverfront park, so there was a constant flow of locals and tourists strolling by. They were as curious about us as we were about them. We were asked a hundred questions a thousand times. "You come on that boat from America? Just you two? How many days?" I told them that it had taken us seven years, which naturally seemed to confuse them. But the locals were as nice as could be, and we quickly acquired many new friends - who brought gifts of spices, coffee, woven baskets, ceramic pieces, and drinks! Kuching is one of those kinds of ports in which the only way to get rest is to put to sea.

We shared the floating dock with Capt. Harry Heckel, Jr. of Virginia, who we'd met on our way up the river to Kuching. We'd noticed him struggling with his oars trying to row his inflatable upcurrent to his boat, so we positioned Polly in his path. When we offered him a tow, he readily accepted, instantly putting down his oars, picking up a cold beer, and putting on a big smile!

The following day, we joined Harry in town for lunch, during which time we learned what a piece of work he really is. Despite being 84-years old, the retired research chemist from Virginia is a hell on wheels who is in the midst of his second solo circumnavigation aboard Idle Queen, his 32-ft Tahiti sloop. He's a real pleasure to be around, but hard to keep up with when he's after ice cream! What a gem of a man and an accomplished sailor! While in Kuching, the three of us masqueraded as guests of the Hilton and Holiday Inn in order to gain daily access to the swimming pools and showers.

We also caught the first lines from Simon and Nicola, a proper British couple sailing in from Hong Kong aboard Tootsie II. A get-together that night on their boat lasted well into the early morning hours. We drank so much scotch that I must admit the last shot had me making a run for the lifelines! Such is life in a popular cruising port.

We enjoyed life to the fullest for more than two weeks in Kuching, and could have easily come up with a few more boat projects in order to stay longer. But with the dock space $45 a week, we decided to continue west. Our now dear friend Harry was there to cast off our lines and bid us a fond farewell. Since Harry is eastabout this time, it's sad to know that it's unlikely we'll ever see him again.

We departed the Kuching waterfront with the afternoon tide on July 10 with our newest crewmember, Cindy, an adventuresome American who had never been sailing before. Nonetheless, she was eager to sail into the sunset with us, heading 400 miles to Singapore. As we left, we couldn't help but reflect on what a wonderful 2.5 month adventure we'd had in Borneo, a beautiful place with a rich history and culture. We hope to return some day.

- kirk & cathy 8/10/'01

Tranquilo - Vanguard 32
Neil & Debra McQueen
San Blas To Z-Town
(Santa Cruz)

For the last three months, we've been enjoying the cruising between San Blas, which is about 70 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, and Z-town, which is about 400 miles south of P.V.

As was the case last season, we had a great time in San Blas and stayed more than twice as long as we'd intended. I've got the scars from jejene bites to prove it, too. I got to spend a lot of time with my Scottish friend Rachel, who is married to Chuy Primitivo, a local San Blas surfer. They are the parents of two adorable and fast-growing daughters.

We met this terrific family purely by accident a year ago, when we made our first trip into San Blas via taxi from nearby Matanchen Bay. Neil was reminiscing with Hector, the cab driver, about his many prior visits to this wonderful place, and at some point mentioned that he had befriended a surfista nicknamed Chuy many years before. Hearing this, Hector asked a vendor in the zocalo about Chuy's whereabouts, then drove us right to his house.

When Chuy came outside, he suspiciously looked into the cab at us gringos, while Hector explained why he'd brought us there. After Chuy and Neil had looked at each other, asked each other a few questions, and scratched their chins, they were certain they'd met before - but didn't really recognize each other. The question was finally settled when Neil asked if he'd ever worked at Juan de Platano, the banana bread baker in town. Chuy smiled and shook his head. No, it hadn't been him. But he still invited us into his house for something to drink. That's how we became friends.

Nowadays, Chuy and Rachel have a rad ramada on the main beach in San Blas, called Stoner's Beach Café. It is right in front of the beach break, where Rachel and I surfed glassy waves one rainy afternoon, while Neil helped entertain little Sophie and Georgina under the palapa at Stoner's. The food is also delicious and inexpensive at their place, and since they cater to international travellers, there are always interesting people around.

We also attended the festival of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a celebration of Mexico's ubiquitous patron. The Virgin of Guadalupe bears a striking resemblance to Mother Mary, and after she appeared to an indigenous man named Juan Diego almost 500 years ago, it almost singlehandedly clinched the Catholic faith in Mexico. The Virgin is celebrated in a big way in San Blas, with a week of activities, parades, dancing, music, and mayhem. Late on the afternoon of December 12, a hundred women gathered - with a few of their husbands and all of their children - at the arched entrance to San Blas. Each family carried its own statue of the Virgin; some were small and others were big, and some were mounted on elaborately decorated stands. Little boys were dressed as Juan Diego, little girls as native maidens or in white communion dresses. They marched the five blocks to the plaza and sang songs in beautifully harmonious voices. When they got to the cathedral, they lined up to be blessed with holy water by the priest. Then they moved into the church for evening Mass.

The emotional experience was capped off at 10 p.m. that evening. For many hours - and perhaps days - a multi-story maze of bamboo, sticks, wires, and fuses had been under construction in the town square. At the appointed hour, this castillo was propped up and its fuses lit. What followed was a pyrotechnic display that would be banned anywhere in the United States, a display that thrilled and terrified the assembled masses in a decidedly spiritual way. The ultimate firework - at the very top of the castillo - featured a spinning, fuschia-colored Virgin and lime green crucifix that exploded in a wild riot of white, blinding light. A corona then shot off the top of the castillo and spiraled like a space pod over the plaza, disappearing into a distant neighborhood! Lots of screaming children ran after it. The experience made me appreciate the Virgin of Guadalupe in a whole new, ahem, light.

It was also in San Blas that we reconnected with Jason and Nicole, a couple who sailed south from Sitka, Alaska, aboard the 26-ft Bristol Channel Cutter Baggywrinkle, a wooden boat we'd admired the year before. Their traditionally-rigged gaffer with tanbark sails has a beautifully varnished nine-foot bowsprit and a handsome little house. She looks like a small version of a 19th century tallship, and is a visual treat to sail alongside. Since we share a mutual quest for good waves, a quest that will take us to Central America next, it's fun for us to hang out together.

After scoring some great waves in Banderas Bay after New Years, we started making our way south. We spent a couple of weeks in popular Tenacatita Bay, although there were only 10 boats when we arrived. When we left, there were over 40 boats! We didn't find any surf to speak of between Cabo Corrientes and Manzanillo, but after leaving Bahia de Santiago, our luck took a turn for the better. We scored waves in unlikely places that nobody seemed to know about, and for that reason we're bound by the Surfer Code - don't tell anyone about secret spots. Diehard surfers with sailboats will find these places, on that you can rely. Nobody else needs to know about them, because the anchorages are so rolly that it's nearly impossible to sleep - even with flopper stoppers!

Ultimately, we made it to one of Neil's favorite cobblestone points, Rio Nexpa. Thanks to a fresh offshore breeze, we and Baggywrinkle sailed right up to the break and dropped out picks. Rio Nexpa is no secret. Ai caramaba - there were 30 surfers in the water from North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and Mexico! The waves marched toward shore, head-high, with perfect shape. When we paddled over, the vibe was surprisingly friendly, in part because the surfers had been awed by our rather showy arrival. We'd feared they would be a little hostile, seeing that we hadn't had to brave the gnarly shorepound to get out into the lineup.

I, Debra, rode the biggest left I have ever ridden - and lived to tell about it! Normally, I favor mushy waves better suited for longboards. By noon, the crowd had cleared out, but the waves were still glassy, so Neil and Jason stayed in the water until their arms were like noodles. For a few nights, we anchored in Caleta de Campos, where a major military presence - muscular dudes, in green, armed with machine guns lining the beach. The evening offshore breeze brought the smell of burning grass that reminded us that, yes, this was Michoacan. So we were on our best behavior.

From Caleta de Campos, we more or less drifted in light air down towards Zihuatanejo, where we have been hanging out for most of February. Surfing friends from Oregon flew down for a week, and we surfed our brains out at Playa Linda. This 'pretty beach' lined with palm trees and littered with coconuts, features some fairly consistent and excellent waves. There's a fun, shoulder-high, cobblestone right slide, with a slightly faster left down the beach a ways. There's something for everyone, and the 75+ degree water makes it easy to stay out for hours at a time. Cabs from Bahia de Zihuatanejo are cheap, or you can anchor your boat at Isla Grande, just seven miles north of the bay, and dinghy over to the line-up. Even with Playa Linda being popular and often crowded, I was able to find a nice mushy peak all to myself a couple of times a week!

Tomorrow we start our southern migration, aiming to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec in late March. Centroamerica, here we come!

- debra 3/2/'02

Sailor's Run - Baba 40 Ketch
Jeff & Debbie Hartjoy
Last Year's Puddle Jump
(Longview, Washington)

After 25 days of doublehanding, I tugged at the genoa sheet more out of instinct than conscious thought. I was tired and weary, a feeling that starts to grip you after a week or more at sea. Then off the starboard bow I suddenly spotted a dark and rugged mass emerging on the horizon. "Land ho!" I yelled, suddenly understanding the true meaning of those words. Debbie joined me on deck, and we both stood there staring, tears welling up in our eyes, the scent of hibiscus beginning to reach us.

Yes, we had made the 2,800 miles - never once resorting to the engine for power. Our passage had been slower than expected, but we'd never felt threatened or in danger. And, we had stretched our personal limits for living in a confined space 24/7.

It was April 10 of last year that the anchor chain on Sailor's Run rattled to the bottom of Atuona Bay at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. We rested a full day before making the 1.5-mile hike on the quaint road into town. Many of the friendly locals offered us rides, but we needed to stretch our sea legs.

Checking in at the gendarmiere was a pleasant experience. When the gendarmes later saw us walking with groceries in hand, they gave us a ride back to our dinghy. You immediately feel the warmth of the Polynesians. It may be their smile, or possibly the patience they exhibit as you attempt to communicate, but it's there.

The climate was a near perfect 80 degrees, there was ample water and fruit on the island, and plenty of fish from the sea. As long as you're not a heavy drinker, the good life doesn't cost much in the Marquesas. The lifestyle is slow and easy there, as are the Polynesians.

The Marquesas Islands offered many rugged, lush mountain vistas, but Debbie and I agree that Fatu Hiva is the most beautiful. One day we hiked to a beautiful waterfall on the island - with a dozen local children leading the way. As we hiked along, the kids would offer us various fruits they foraged along the way. Once at the waterfall, I treated the kids to a dive, the likes of which they had never seen before and most likely will never have the desire to duplicate. It knocked the crap out of me.

Nuka Hiva was the last island in the Marquesas that we visited, and it warrants at least a month's visit. The size and strength of the Marquesans was never more apparent than there. While at Daniel's Bay, we traded line off the boat for fruit in order to be adequately provisioned for our time in the Tuamotus.

While at Daniel's Bay, we made the beautiful hike to the waterfalls - but were caught off guard by a heavy downpour around noon. The rain made both the trail and the falls very dangerous, as loose rocks began tumbling 2,000 feet down the steep mountains. It was frightening listening to the numerous boulders, some of them two feet in diameter, tumble down. Debbie was panic-stricken as plummeting rocks landed within a few feet of me. We beat a hasty retreat down the trail, listening for falling rocks before negotiating the more perilous portions of the trail. Once into the lower valley, we were somewhat shocked to find ourselves wading in knee-deep streams where there had been a trail only hours before. Once safely back in our dinghy, we decided that all our future waterfall trips would be undertaken during dry and stable weather.

Our 500-mile passage to Raroia in the Tuamotus was by the less travelled easterly route. We had several days of southeast trades at 25 knots, meaning we had to sail close hauled. But Raroia turned out to be a treasured stop for us in the Tuamotus. It was here that we obtained our first pearls from Gills and his family.

Makemo Atoll, a short overnight sail, was our next stop. After securing much needed fuel and some provisions, we were pinned down with 25 to 35-knot winds creating five foot waves. Makemo has a lot of nice beaches and good diving, but we chose to move on to the less visited Faaite Atoll. We spent a few days at the village just inside the pass, where Debbie was given the gift of a near perfect blue green pearl. It was later appraised at a jewelry shop in Papeete as being worth over $2,000!

After taking greater protection on the east side of the atoll, we learned about a bizarre incident that had happened here only 10 years before. It seems two missionaries came from Papeete, and before long it was determined that one individual there was possessed by an evil demon. The person was bound and burned alive. Over a period of days or weeks, a total of six 'possessed' residents perished in flames. Although the French officials were notified, it was two months before they showed up. Eventually, they took several people into custody.

Debbie found a great deal of solitude and pristine beaches on the east side of the atoll. We were later joined by our friends Dennis and Tina aboard Alii Kai. Together we befriended another Gills and his family, who owned and operated a small pearl farm here. Gills and his wife Anne Lisse invited us to lunch, and later Gills and others demonstrated their skill at throwing spears. We watched in awe as they threw the spears 75 yards with such accuracy that they would either stick, or nearly stick, coconuts placed atop 30-foot poles. Not wanting to be outdone, Dennis and I tried our hands at spear throwing. We could just barely make the base of the pole with our best throws, a far cry from sticking the coconut at the top of the tall pole.

That night Gills and two of his workers invited Dennis and I out for a lobster hunt on a reef on the ocean side of the atoll. Using our flashlights, Dennis and I stumbled along the uneven surface of the reef, catching only one lobster. Our friends, who could scurry along the reef, caught 23! They laughed when we compared catches, but agreed they would share the catch.

It was a moonless night as we worked our way back along the beach on the lagoon side of the atoll, and eventually had to cross a cut in the reef that meant wading into chest high water.

Suddenly, the seven village dogs started raising a fuss, and took off crashing through the brush towards the interior of the island. Gills told Dennis and I that we might have pig as well as lobster the next day. Indeed, the locals charged off through the brush, hot on the dogs' trail, while Dennis and I laughed as we tried to keep up with Gills rushing through the brush.

After about 15 minutes, we reached the scene where the dogs had trapped the boar in some heavy brush. Dennis and I looked at each other in utter amazement, as this was just way too cool. Leon, Gills brother, came running up from a nearby village, and began chopping down four trees about three inches in diameter. He then hacked the ends of two of them into sharp points for spears. Machetes were lashed to the ends of the other two. Then Gills and Leon climbed atop the brush, looking for a spot above the boar from which to spear him. Dennis and I lay on our bellies, trying to inch in closer with our lights so we could see the boar. Gills cautioned us that a boar is very dangerous and could do much damage with his tusks.

The mosquitoes were out in force, so Dennis and I were getting eaten up, but for some reason it didn't seem important. We finally saw the boar as it charged the dogs. Wow, were we shocked at its size. Gills estimated that he weighed over 350 pounds! The boar had gotten to within 20 feet of us, at which time we backed up.

It had been two hours, and the tiring dogs were dropping back to our position for words of encouragement - and no doubt wondering when we were going to kill the boar. Several of the dogs limped and/or had blood running from severe gouges in their coats. After one of the charges by the boar, the tired dogs were sluggish getting back to the attack - at which point Gills began to holler at them. They wearily began to respond, at which time it was discovered that the boar had given them the slip! Yes, after two hours the boar had escaped. We were not disappointed, for it had been a real adventure. Our adrenaline was still on high as we clawed our way back to the beach.

The locals had been impressed by the boar's size, and were sure they would get him the next time. As we enjoyed our lobster feast the next day, I couldn't help but admire the gallantry shown by the dogs, who were still tired and licking their wounds.

Our allotted time in the Tuamotus passed rapidly, and we were soon on our way to Papeete, Tahiti. During the passage, we decided to sink an empty Kahlua bottle. As it got about 30 feet down, a six-foot long white shark appeared out of nowhere and grabbed it with his mouth! He then spit it out. Debbie and I didn't feel like a swim just then. When we arrived in Papeete - just in time for the three-week Heiva Festival - we were informed that this particular open ocean shark is a man-eater and should be avoided.

Not all cruisers like Papeete, but Debbie and I found the people to be beautiful and fun. Sailors Run was stern-tied to the shore in Papeete Harbor, right in front of hundreds of outrigger canoes. We were pleasantly surprised to be invited aboard a chase boat for one of the more popular girl's teams. The hospitality was great and the beers were literally flying. The girls raced out of the harbor to Point Venus and back, a distance of over 20 miles that they covered in slightly over two hours. The race was exciting and the girls put out an incredible effort the entire way.

We explored many beautiful places through out The Society Islands. Everyone says that the grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence. Well, here in French Polynesia, it looks as though it might raise hell with the lawn mower!

Debbie and I are presently anchored in the lagoon at Fanning Island, Kiribati. We plan to spend the hurricane season in the Kiribati Islands before sailing to American Samoa in early May, where we will leave the boat so we can return to the States to visit family and friends. We would like to thank Latitude 38 for their support of the Puddle Jumpers get-together in Puerto Vallarta. We found that the group had a wealth of information to offer, and was a great help in preparing such a diverse group of sailors for the long and interesting passage to and through French Polynesia.

- jeff & debbie l/l/02

Jeff and Debbie - Tired and weary after a week at sea? We suspect it's from sailing shorthanded, and wouldn't happen if you had more crew. For example, when we sailed Big O across the Atlantic, the first two days featured the normal problems of acclimatizing, but after that it just got better and better. By the time we reached the Caribbean 16 days later, we all wished we could have continued on to Panama and the South Pacific. Naturally, there are drawbacks to additional crew, particularly on smaller boats.

Cruise Notes:

"While at anchor on the north side of Coronado Island on February 9, we were surprised by a sudden Norther," reports Alex Malaccorto of the Northern California-based Beneteau First 42 Rocinante. "In a few minutes, we found ourselves being pushed toward a lee shore by six foot waves. In the process of trying to raise the anchor quickly, I nearly had my little finger severed by the gypsy. With my finger wrapped in paper towels, I was able to get the hook up. As my wife drove the boat toward port, I contacted the Loreto Port Captain on VHF and asked if he could arrange for a panga to take me to Loreto for treatment. By this time, the Norther was fully developed and gusting to 40 knots. Twenty minutes after my call, the Loreto rescue boat was alongside, so I was in the Loreto Clinic's emergency room within an hour of the accident. After suturing, Tetanus shots, splinting, prescriptions for antibiotics, and follow up paperwork for the hospital at Constitucion, I was presented with a bill for 60 pesos - about $7 U.S! I made a more appropriate donation to the hospital. As for the Port Captain, he refused any compensation. Nor did he ask that I check in or out of Loreto. After all my years in Baja, I have nothing but praise for the port captains and the Mexican medical system - and now I owe the little finger on my left hand to both of them!"

Another cruising couple who have really taken to the people of Mexico are John Decker and Lillian Conrad of the Northern California-based Mason 43 Windraker. "My wife and I had no idea how much we'd come to love it," says John. "We've travelled all over the world - Europe, Nepal, India, and countless other places - and nowhere have we found the people to be as genuinely friendly as the Mexicans in the non-tourist areas. They are wonderful. We know that the sailing and clear waters in the Caribbean are great, but on one island the people are friendly, and on the next they are surly, mean, and unpleasant. So rather than continuing on this year, we'll be heading up into the Sea of Cortez, leaving the boat for the hottest summer months, and then returning for another winter season in Mexico. By the way, we took an intensive Spanish class up in Cuernavaca - a fantastic experience all around that we highly recommend."

(Our apologies to John - who took second in division in the Banderas Bay Regatta - and others for not being able to take their photos because our camera had run desperately low on juice. We walked halfway to 'Tepic' to try to find you on your boat the next day, but struck out each time. Next year!)

"We're headed up to the Sea of Cortez for the summer," report Jimmie Zinn and Jane Hanawalt aboard Dry Martini, "and we're trying to contact Bill Peacock, who used to work at Richmond Boat Works. As far as we're concerned, he's the best diesel mechanic on the West Coast, and he has intimate knowledge of our good old Perkins. If anyone knows where he is or how to reach him, please have him contact us . It would mean a lot to us." Normally we wouldn't be able to do something like this, but Jimmie and Jane were instrumental in the Zihua Fest that raised so much money for the school that serves children from five impoverished Indian tribes.

Lots of folks - not just the crews of Windraker and Dry Martini - are heading into the Sea of Cortez for the summer. If you're adventurous and don't mind solitary cruising, Guy and Deborah Bunting of the Vista-based M&M 46 Èlan, who have spent three summers in the Sea, recommend Gonzaga Bay, which is way north between Bahia del Los Angeles and San Felipe. "It's fantastic," says Guy, "but you have to watch out during the periods of 22-foot tides, as islands suddenly appear out of nowhere at low tide."

In addition to being spectacularly beautiful and having fabulous sealife, it's easy to live on very little money in the Sea of Cortez. For example, in the four-month period from August through November of last year, Guy and Deborah spent a grand total of $801 for the two of them - and we're talking about living and dining in fine style. Just try surviving in the United States on $100/person/month. We'll have more on the Bunting's good but thrifty life in the next issue.

"Our otherwise delightful days in San Blas were marred by getting conned by an American girl," report Mike and Lee Brown of the Seattle-based Little Harbor 53 Wings. "I, Lee, was sitting in the zocalo waiting for the others in our group, when a hysterical young - 28 to 30 - American woman came up to me crying. She said that she was sorry to bother me, but I was the only other American around, and that her purse had been stolen. She'd wired home for funds, but the Western Union office - is there even a Western Union these days? - was closed, and now she didn't even have the 10 pesos she needed to get back to the village where she had a room and all her stuff. She seemed a bit stupid but sincere, and was convincingly red-faced and hysterical. I told her to find Norm Goldie, the local cruiser support guy and the self-appointed Chamber of Commerce for San Blas - he would certainly find her a room until Western Union opened in the morning. She walked off in the direction of Norm's when my husband Mike and the crews of The Great Escape and Red Sky returned. When I told them her story, they collected 100 pesos - not 10 - among themselves and told me to give them to the girl. So I trotted down the street and gave her the money."

"No good deed goes unpunished," Lee continues, "because on the cruisers' net the next morning, Norm Goldie reported that a pathetic American girl had come sobbing to his door the night before, saying that we'd sent her - and that he had given her 100 pesos also! This was right after we'd left her at the bus station. How about them apples? I wonder how many times she asked for 10 pesos and got 100? I just want to alert others to this kind of con. The rest of San Blas was just great, as the jungle tour is better than anything that Disney could come up with. By the way, having a guide and going in his panga is the best way to do it. Our Sunday afternoon meal in the fish palapa was delicious, and we had a heart-warming time watching all the Mexican families - who are so close - play on the beach. So don't avoid San Blas, just beware."

"Fiji has great cruising," report Glenn and Glenna Owens of the Sacramento-based 46-ft wood cutter Califia, which is currently at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji. "The prices here are similar to Mexico, and you can have your boat hauled at a reasonable price. Air travel is inexpensive. It's very hot and humid here from December through March, but there are unlimited anchorages, and they are mostly empty because everyone goes to New Zealand to avoid hurricanes. There is great diving and snorkeling. The people are friendly and the authorities are relatively easy to get along with. We'll be here for one more year."

Now that's something unusual - a wood cruising boat in the South Pacific. We'd love to hear from more of you folks cruising on wood boats.

"The Panama Canal is changing the game a bit," reports Craig Owings, Commodore of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club and skipper of the CSY 44 Pogo II. "If a yacht took two days to do a Canal transit in the old days, she was charged a standard transit fee. If she broke down, a "pilot delay fee" was assessed. But now the Canal Commission has enacted a rule that a yacht must complete her transit in one day or be subject to the "pilot delay fee" - currently $440 for small boats with a Canal advisor aboard, and $2,250 for yachts valued over $1 million, which have a Canal pilot aboard. Please visit the Pedro Miguel Boat Club website to learn more about the issues and implementation. As always the Pedro Miguel BC will remain the yachties' voice at the Panama Canal, crying in the night for fair prices and treatment of yachts that use the Canal."

When Big O went through the Canal a couple of times in the mid-'90s, small vessels were virtually prohibited from doing a transit in one day. Big O was only able to do so one time, and only then because our captain, the Basque wild man Antonio dos Muertos, refused the Canal's orders to return to Lake Gatun. Antonio, bold as they come, had a way with Canal officials. When we'd earlier accompanied him to the administration office in Colon to take care of paperwork, he said 'hello' to several of the officials. "Do you remember when I came through with my boat Scorpion?" Antonio asked them. The officials scratched their heads for a minute, frowned, and asked when he'd been through. When Antonio told them it had been about four years before, the officials burst out laughing, and gave him a sneer that said, 'Hey, turkey, don't you have any idea how many ships and boats come through here a year?' Basque men don't appreciate being laughed at, so Antonio, always as quick with his tongue as his feet, responded warmly: "Well, I remember all of you." All three officials brightened at the thought they would be remembered for so long. "Yeah," Antonio continued, unsheathing the verbal dagger, "all of you were a lot thinner and had more hair back then." The room suddenly filled with Latin tension. After about 30 seconds of strained silence, the officials burst into laughter, saluting Antonio's bravado and quick wit. As you might imagine, it was never boring when Antonio was captain of Big O."

"We're planning an extended cruise to Mexico," reports Cherie Valentine of the ketch Farallon, "and want to know if dogs are allowed into Mexico and/or if there is a quarantine period? And do you have any information regarding current entry requirements?" Many cruisers in Mexico have dogs, and even more have cats. There is no quarantine - but you might want to keep your pet away from most Mexican dogs, as many of them aren't in the best health. We're not up on the latest entry requirements, however, so perhaps one of the dog owning cruisers in Mexico can provide the latest details and pet tips.

"Yes, I'll be 'jumping the puddle' - but not until December," writes Tim Schaaf of the Cabo Isle Marina-based Hunter 37 Casual Water. Many Ha-Ha vets will remember Schaaf as the guy who assigned berths and tried to squeeze everyone into marina slips in Cabo. "Before people deem my December plan insane," Schaaf continues, "I should report that a friend who has spent quite a few years sailing the South Pacific told me that December was the best time to go. He says that South Pacific hurricanes almost never make it as far east as the Marquesas, and as best I can ascertain from down here, he's correct. They hit the Societies, of course, and also the Tuamotus, but veer south before they get to the Marquesas. The Marquesas are sort of like Isla Cedros in Mexico in that they seldom get hit. Apparently, Daniel's Bay is also an exceptionally good hurricane hole. So in this guy's opinion, it's better to head to the Marquesas in December rather than waiting until March or April, because you get more time there and because there are less no-see-ums. Any comments?"

Tropical cyclones aren't common anywhere in French Polynesia. Prior to 1983, the Marquesas had never been hit, the Tuamotus had only been hit three times, and Tahiti hadn't been hit in 75 years. Of course, 1993 was the big El Niño year, so everything changed. Tropical cyclone - the name for hurricanes in the South Pacific - Nano hit the Tuamotos and Marquesas with 130-knot winds and 30-ft seas in January; Reva hit Tahiti and the Tuamotus in February; and the extremely destructive Veena created massive destruction and destroyed many yachts in Tahiti in late April. There has been nothing like that since - although Raiatea was hit by a strong tropical cyclone a few years ago, one that damaged many boats.

Having said that, the real threat to having a good time in French Polynesia from December through April is that it's the wet season. For example, at Atuona in the Marquesas, there is 100 times more rain in December and January than there is in May, June, July, and August. The difference is not quite so pronounced in the Tuamotus and Tahiti, but it's there. Furthermore, the November to April wet season is known for short and violent storms, cloudy skies, and high humidity. There are numerous good reasons that most cruisers don't want to be in French Polynesia during the wet season.

Doing the Baja Bash and looking forward to tying up at the San Diego Police Docks for a week or two? Better not. The docks were torn down at the end of November and are in the process of being rebuilt. The bad news is that they won't be finished until May or June; the good news is that there will be five more of them. We'll keep you up to date. Chris Frost of Downwind Marine reports that unlike last fall, there are now a few marina slips available in San Diego.

More doing good while having fun. One of the Wanderer's favorite sails is the always pleasant 12-mile spinnaker run from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina on Banderas Bay. So he thought it would be neat to hold a fundraiser - which became the Spinnaker Charity Cup - for a local charity. Blair Grinols was in from the start with his Capricorn Cat, as was John Haste with his Perry 52 cat Little Wing. The day of the event, we were joined by Guy Bunting's M&M 46 cat Élan, Glenn Andert's N/M 55 Lear Jet, John and Marilyn Folvig's Perry 72 Elysian, Peter and Susan Wolcott's Santa Cruz 52 Kiapa - and for all we know, a couple of other boats. Sixty folks - cruisers, locals, and resort guests - made contributions, had lunch at the El Dorada palapa at Punta Mita, were divided up onto the three cats, and the race was on. The conditions were ideal, with an eight knot wind building to 15 knots before the finish. There was no winner, as the purpose was to raise money and have fun sailing more or less in company.

All the proceeds of the Spinnaker Charity Cup went to Nayarit's La Escuela de Las Estrellas (School of Stars), a new institution for youngsters with Special Education needs. These children, 4 to 17, suffer from a variety of tribulations such as Down's Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, speech and hearing problems, and so forth. Many of them will never be able to join mainstream life, but Lupe Dipp, the wonderful Mexican woman who owns the sailboat Moon And The Stars, and Veronica Baker - who together started the School of Stars charity - hope to at least make their lives better. The school has also been the recipient of other fundraising efforts by cruisers in Banderas Bay. Although the school is new, there are already success stories. One young girl was unable to speak because she was literally 'tongue-tied'. Dr. Peter Gordon performed an on-the-spot surgery, and the girl is expected to be able to talk soon. This is a most deserving charity, where even a few dollars go a long way for people who live in genuine poverty. If you want more information or wish to make a donation, contact Lupe .

"In the February issue, Archie Ackart wrote in asking about a list of radio nets," write 1999 Ha-Ha vets Jerry and Jan Tankersley of the Aiken, South Carolina-based Golden Hinde 32 Sunchaser. "It's too bad he didn't stop in at Downwind Marine in San Diego to pick up a copy of their Cruising Guide, which lists all of the SSB and Ham nets. Like Latitude's First Timer's Guide To Mexico, Downwind's Cruising Guide has much information. We look forward to each issue of Latitude here in Aiken, as it's our only connection with what's going on in Mexico - where we cruised from '95 to 2000."

Steve and Linda Dashew of the Southern California-based 79-ft Beowulf reported they'll be leaving the Caribbean in May for Europe. "We'll spend the summer there," says Steve, "then do the ARC from the Canaries to St. Lucia in November. Following that, we'll be bringing the boat back to California. It's a long way commuting from our home in Tucson to our boat when she's on the East Coast and in the Caribbean. And after being gone for a while, we've decided that cruising in California and Mexico isn't bad after all."

"Our Mexican cruise is drawing to a close," report Peter and Susan Wolcott of the Hawaii-based Santa Cruz 52 Kiapa, "so while enjoying one of our last bottles of chardonnay for a sundowner here at Isla Colorado near Chamela, we voted on our favorite 'paradise in Mexico'. It was unanimous for Tenacatita Bay, which has an incredible mix of natural beauty, clean water, a smoother anchorage than most marinas, superb cruiser comraderie, non-stop cruiser activities, a scream of a jungle trip, the Casa de Pirates, the weekly produce truck, the bus to Melaque, and the short run to Barra de Navidad. And, there are no jet-skis. We know Latitude doesn't do poetry, but we incorporated all of the boat names of our Tenacatita friends into one paragraph and hope that you'll publish it:"

"This is Kiapa, with Sue and Pete, finally making our Great Escape like Snow Birds escaping the cold to the south and east across the next Meridian Passage, hopefully to Z-town. It was only a week ago that we were following Charlie's Charts, where it advised "sail down the Sea, Turn left into Tenacatitia Bay, that L'il Gem of a bay, so full of Magic, so full of Harmony, where the cruisers handle themselves with Amazing Grace. Good Medicine is a tall Sol Ana quesadilla, and food at Casa de Pirates esta muy Sabrosa. It has only been a few months since we left the home of the Fre An Da brave. And we cannot compare our previous Krew's Inn experiences to the Rapture One feels with the Hook down, you see Mithrandir Silhouette'd against a Red Skye over La Manzanilla. Clearly, only Breilant planning would get one to such a Mystic place. We really Lev it here. Whether you arrive Via Harry downwind norther or a gentle trip to Windward, Luv of the sea brings us altogether - Indarractive of the spirits of the sailor, the love of the Dolphin, Quest for the World Dream, Catcher of fish. Dutifully leaving the Wet Bar and other creature comforts behind, the only Question remaining is whether we will see you again Manana. Adios, nos amigos."

Our apologies, as some things obviously got screwed up in the translation. But please, no more poetry, and despite all the effort you put into it, no more of whatever you call the paragraph above.

"After having to tend to an ill parent in Florida, we're now on our way back to California and then to our boat in San Carlos, Mexico," report Jann Hedrick and Nancy Birnbaum, of the Alberg 35 Saga. We met while crewing aboard Mike Hibbett's CT-49 Orion in the '98 Baja Ha-Ha and have been together ever since. After the Ha-Ha, we returned to California, sailed south with Saga, but had our cruise interrupted. We should be back on our boat and cruising in the Sea of Cortez by May."

We hear that Mike and Heather Hibbetts finally have their CT-49 Orion back in the water in La Paz, where she had been damaged as a result of falling from her stands during hurricane Julliette last October. Mike met Heather, who was crewing on Profligate, in the '98 Ha-Ha, and they subsequently got married. We're delighted to hear they finally got Orion back in her element.

Happy cruising to you all!

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