With reports this month from
Jubilee at the first marina in Nicaragua;
Force Five on a big transition in
the Caribbean; from Saltaire on life
in American Samoa; from Feet on a
triple-reefed delivery trip to Ventura; from Darcy
Whitney on a wild catch in the Caribbean; from Tropicbird
on going cruising once again in Malaysia; from Topaz
on a new cruising guide to Tonga; and lots of Cruise
Jubilee - Catalina 36
Linda & Jude Wheeler
The Forgotten Middle
We were honored to be the first boat to arrive and dock at Nicaragua's
first and only marina, Puesta Del Sol. It's located inside the
entrance of the Arredores River a few miles north of Corinto
at 12°36'21", 87°21'54". We arrived here on
January 24 with two other boats, Larry and Joanie's Synergy,
and Dick and Vickie's Chimere.
As of March 1, the marina was almost complete and the official
dedication was set for March 15. The marina will have all cruiser
amenities, including docks with power and water, moorings, fuel
and pumpout stations, a restaurant, showers, a laundry, and Internet
access. Immigration and Port Captain officials are already on
site to handle check in/out procedures. Clearing officials were
friendly and it was inexpensive - just $7 each for 90-day visas.
Immigration officials were pleased when we said that we intended
to stay for months, and said it would be no problema to extend
We have been warmly welcomed by the marina owners, Robert and
Maria Laura Membreno, who are well known in the Mexico cruising
community. Many Banderas Bay Regatta participants have raced
with or against them on their Kelley-Peterson 46 Puesta Del
We had an easy 110-mile trip in 23 hours to here from Bahia Del
Sol in El Salvador. The entrance here is a flashing white light,
highly visible at night. As you approach it, the red/green flashing
channel markers clearly guide you to a calm and easily followed
entrance to the lagoon and marina. We stayed one to two miles
offshore most of the way down from El Salvador, and went seven
miles offshore for the last 20 miles as recommended by Robert
to avoid rocks and a reef on the northern approach. Boats approaching
from the south do not have to stay seven miles out.
There is daily bus service from the marina to Chinendega, the
closest town, which is approximately 20 miles away. It has well-stocked
supermercados and open air fruit and vegetable markets, as well
as banks, Internet cafes, and frequent bus service to the 80-mile
distant capital of Managua.
We feel so secure about leaving Jubilee here at Puesto
del Sol Marina that we have decided to fly back to the States
for a month. The roundtrip airfare from Managua to Miami is $336.
To backtrack a little, we left Huatulco, Mexico, on December
17 - the day their new marina opened. Although it was very calm
in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, we still followed the recommendation
of never going more than a mile or two offshore. Upon reaching
El Salvador four days later, we were assisted into the Rio Lempa
- at 13°16'41" 88°52'80" - by other cruisers
who guided us through breaking surf. We were warmly welcomed
at Bahia Del Sol Hotel by the El Salvadoran Navy and Immigration
Officials. They came to our boat and their first words were,
"Welcome to our country!" They had big smiles and easy
forms, so we were quickly checked in. We paid $10 each for a
90-day visa. As is the case in Panama, the dollar is the official
currency in El Salvador.
Bahia Del Sol welcomes cruisers, and we found it to be inexpensive.
For example, a hamburger with really good fries was $4.50. The
hotel gives cruisers a 30% discount on all food, beverages, and
laundry. They have a happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Monday through
Friday. Buses run outside the hotel to San Salvador, the capital.
It takes 90 minutes.
We left Jubilee anchored in front of Bahia Del Sol while
we took two inland trips to Honduras and Guatemala. We've found
all four Central American countries we've visited to be beautiful
and home to very friendly people. We have been very impressed
and are therefore so glad that we stopped to explore. We left
Bahia Del Sol at high tide, and did not have to deal with breaking
surf. It was a calm and easy exit.
We enjoyed our three years in Mexico, but are glad to be now
in Central America. This is our fourth year of cruising, and
we're taking it slowly, enjoying every place that we stop. Rushing
is not a word in our schedule. We will stay in Nicaragua a few
months, then head to Costa Rica in the fall.
- linda & jude 3/10/03
- Holiday 34
S.F. 'Marina Chick' Sets Sail
My boyfriend Curt and I have been cruising here in the Caribbean
since May of 2002. What a treat to have San Francisco - in the
form of a recent Latitude 38 - pay us a little visit here
in the Caribbean. A neighbor in the anchorage here at Anegada
saw our San Francisco hailing port and brought us the latest
issue. Reading about the sailing scene in the City I love reminded
me of how I got here and the crazy path we seem to be taking.
I am a San Francisco 'Marina Girl' turned 'Cruiser', and it came
about in a rather reckless way. You see, I had never sailed before
we bought our boat in Sint Maarten and set sail south for hurricane
season. My transformation from Marina Girl to a Cruiser hasn't
always been easy. Swapping my Kenneth Cole loafers and Kate Spade
bag for flip-flops and a backpack was the beginning of a long
initiation. Although I can now confidently say I'm a happy member
of the 'cruising club', on Sunday mornings when I sit in our
cockpit not far from yet another white sand beach fronted by
gin clear waters - which longingly remind me of martinis - my
heart aches for brunch at my favorite spot on Lombard Street
with a San Francisco Chronicle in one hand and a decaf
latte in the other.
Here's how the strange transformation came about. With true metropolitan
city dweller bravado, I fell dramatically in love with Curt Sojka
on New Year's Eve 2002 up in Tahoe. It was with passion and both
feet first. We mused about sailing off into the sunset, throwing
convention and our cares to the wind. Somewhere along the line,
the starry-eyed idea began being discussed seriously. Neither
of us, we discovered, wanted to be 'those people' who talked
about doing adventurous things, but then never did.
It sounded perfect - adventuring to exotic destinations in the
Caribbean, sailing from port to port while our Bay Area pallor
gave way to golden glows. Never mind that I had no idea how to
sail, for I had been to plenty of parties at the St. Francis
YC and had spent even more Saturday afternoons on the dock of
Sam's in Tiburon. They had to count for something, right? Besides,
I just loved the idea of trading in my all-black city wardrobe
for a bright palette of Caribbean-style sailing attire. I'm jesting
- at least a little.
Since I didn't have a clue how to sail or cruise, I invited sailing
gurus Lin and Larry Pardey into my life. "I did well as
an undergrad," I thought to myself, "so surely there
are enough books out there to help me find my way through life
on a sailboat." And the Pardeys seemed to have written just
the books for my coursework: Self-Sufficient Sailor, Cost
Conscious Cruiser, The Capable Cruiser, and the like. It
wasn't until later I realized that I'd read all the wrong books!
Thanks to my 'Pardey U.' education, I assumed that Curt and I
would be cruising with other folks on 28-footers that didn't
have engines, watermakers, refrigerators, or showers. Foregoing
modern amenities such as proper showers is one thing if your
cruising brethren are all in the same boat, but it's quite another
when everyone else around us - mostly retirees - had 45-ft R.V.-like
boats with all the conveniences of living on land. I felt as
though I'd been had! I wanted to dinghy over to these other cruisers,
shake my copy of The Self-Sufficient Sailor at them, and
tell them they hadn't done their homework! Didn't they know they
weren't cruising the way it was supposed to be done?
Adjusting to life onboard involved more than downsizing from
a San Francisco studio apartment - who ever thought that would
be possible? - to a Lavranos-designed 34-ft Holiday racer/cruiser.
The world around the walls of our new home - or hull, as the
case may be - was drastically different as well. There were no
Whole Foods, Molly Stones, or Trader Joes at which to provision.
And I have yet to find a single recipe for calabash or salt fish
in my monthly edition of Food & Wine Magazine. We'd
literally gone from the sophistication of Sonoma to the primitive
life of St. Vincent. How was this Bay Area couple to get by without
our wine country neighbors to fuel our sundowner cocktails? Something
felt terribly awry.
After 10 months without a Starbucks or a shopping spree at Union
Square, I had an eye-opening experience. Having just arrived
in the British Virgins after a 500-mile sail north from Venezuela
- take that all you racers turned island-hopping cruisers with
your 45-footers - we walked from North Sound of Virgin Gorda
over the hill to Spanish Town to clear-in with Customs. Notice
that we walked rather than took a taxi despite the fact that
there was a big hill involved? Upon handing the immigration officer
our paperwork, he read it over and passed it back through the
slot in the glass window.
"Your occupation, please."
"We don't work."
"No, what do you do back home?"
"We don't have jobs."
"Yes, but what do you do?"
"Well, we sail around on our boat."
"Okay, so then you're a 'sailor'."
Me, a sailor? I had to laugh out loud! What would my girlfriends
back home say to that? But upon reflection, I decided I must
really be a sailor! Marina Girl turned sailor - who would have
ever thought? Along our path from Sint Maarten to Trinidad, and
from Trinidad to Venezuela, and from Venezuela back up to the
Virgins, I somehow must have earned my 'cruiser wings'. Perhaps
I was too busy hauling water jerry jugs, adventuring off to find
a little market, or plotting our course for an island five days
away, to notice.
Just because I've become a sailor doesn't mean that I can't still
miss the home we call San Francisco, and it doesn't mean I can't
long for just one brisk afternoon hike in Muir Woods or along
the Marin Headlands. And it certainly doesn't mean that after
everything we've seen and done, we don't wholeheartedly believe
San Francisco is our favorite city in the world - all something
wanna-be cruisers should remember as they revel in their most
recent issue of Latitude 38 while at their Bay Area base.
But at least for this afternoon I'll continue to put together
our plans for our next big adventure - Cuba.
For armchair cruisers who might be interested in following my
cruiser initiation and Curt's endless capacity for patience,
our travel log is located at www.forcefiveadventures.com.
- allison & curt 3/05/03
Saltaire - Cal 30
Bill Morris & Marilu Flores
The Cruising Life In Samoa
Our nine months of living aboard our 36-year-old Cal 30 Saltaire
were finally coming to a close. I had spent eight of those months
teaching English at Tafuna High School while my girlfriend Marilu
had worked as an office manager for a small trucking company.
Although we both had made a sincere attempt to adapt to Samoan
culture, it had not been easy.
On the fun side, wearing a lava lava to work and attending impromptu
after-school barbecues/drink-a-thons with my fellow teachers
made me feel like a character in a Robert Louis Stevenson novel.
But the lackadaisical attitude of the Samoan people - students,
parents, faculty, administrators, and politicians alike - toward
formal education would take many years for a palagi - or outsider
- to understand. Marilu also had a difficult time adjusting to
the casual, unstructured manner of business in the territory.
Nonetheless, our long stop in American Samoa had definitely paid
off. We equipped the boat well enough to get us to Fiji, where
we would eventually haul out. And we saved enough money to see
us through another year of cruising.
In late June, Marilu returned from a month-long visit to Southern
California with a big box of goodies - including canned food,
wine, cigars, Scotch, and rigging tape. We were ready to sail!
A few days before our departure for Western Samoa, some Filiipino
friends threw a bash in our honor. On the way to the party we
bumped into recent French arrival Michel Codol, and took the
liberty of inviting him along. Soon we all dined on a mountain
of charbroiled swordfish and drank Tanduay rum well into the
evening. And for the last time, Jess' nephew Jong royally kicked
my ass in a game of chess.
After the hugs and tears at the end of the party, Michel, Marilu
and I ambled our way past the taxi station and the historic but
newly renovated Sadie Thompson's Hotel to Mercury Joe's Bar and
Grill, formally the infamous Wong's Bar and Recreation Center.
We wanted to continue celebrating. I practiced my now slurred
French while our bon ami Michel laughed and shared his observations
of American Samoa.
"So thees ees America!" he said. Slightly stung by
his remark, I had to explain to him that I could just as easily
walk through a seedy district of Papeete and call it France.
Michel is an Anglo-European singlehander in the tradition of
Chichester, Moitessier, and Tabarly. He's arrogant and tough,
but also a visionary. Born in Marseilles in 1952, Michel started
to work as an artisan soon after finishing elementary school.
Today he is a master sheet metal worker who taught the craft
in Tahiti for many years. He'd left France because he considered
it tres complique with beaucoups des problemes. Boy, where have
we heard that before?
Michel has done two circumnavigations, mostly singlehanded, on
boats just over 30 feet. Then, drawing from his sheet metal experience,
he spent two years building and outfitting his 53-foot steel
ketch Quand On n'a Que l'Amour - which means 'where there
is only love'. His intention is to circumnavigate the Pacific
Rim, visiting Vanuatu, the Solomons, the Philippines, Japan,
Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, the Aleutians, and North and Central
America. In very broken French I said that I would be hesistant
to do a complete orbit of the Pacific under sail. He slammed
his beer mug on the table and admonished me - "Non, Billy!
C'est necessaire pour l'esprit!"
After we closed down Mercury Joe's, Marilu guided us back to
the Customs Dock, where we paused to contemplate the woefully
rough dinghy trip ahead of us. When Michel had come ashore that
afternoon, he had left his vessel anchored with 60 meters of
chain, 100 meters of nylon rode, and a large plow anchor sunk
securely in the sticky Pago Pago mud. Or so he thought. What
he did not know was that a steel tube chair and 20 feet of nylon
cord had wrapped themselves around his anchor, allowing his ketch
to drag when the wind kicked up to 35 knots.
Had we been only half as drunk, perhaps we would have noticed
the two worried port officials standing on the dock and watching
a near disaster unfold across the harbor. The harbor captain
asked Marilu if she had seen the captain of some boat, the name
of which he could not pronounce. "No," she responded,
tired and perplexed. We oozed down the dilapidated concrete dock
steps and slumped into our dinghies. Since I didn't have the
energy to row, Michel towed us through the heavy chop with his
10-ft outboard powered skiff.
"La bonne vie!" I shouted.
"Oui, la bonne heur!" Michel sounded off with gusto.
Ah, yes, zee good life.
Only 150 yards away, on the north side of the harbor, Dan, on
50-foot Windwalker II, was finishing his third hour of
fending off Michel's 25-ton black behemoth as it bounced against
Dan's boat. Acting quickly to prevent serious damage to either
vessel, Dan was able to slip some big fenders between the two
hulls, preventing anything more serious than a few scuffs. Bystanders
on the road looked on as a huge tugboat maneuvered to take Quand
in tow to the main commercial dock in Fagatogo. Tres intoxique,
Michel returned to his vessel in horror and disbelief, and began
screaming at Dan, the harbor police, and the tugboat crew.
"Zees ees French Territory!" hollered Michel, who understood
little English and was not in the proper frame of mind to assess
the situation. "Get off zee boat now!"
The all-too-patient harbor police acquiesced, permitting a hysterical
Michel to pay out more rode and wait until morning before moving
his vessel. Bewildered, exhausted, but cautiously relieved, Dan
retired to his cabin. Michel passed out, and the authorities
left the scene. Marilu and I, having been previously dropped
off, did not hear word one of the mess until the following morning.
At about 0830, I called Dan's wife Marianne on VHF 68 to thank
her for the two new pillows they had left for us early the previous
evening. "Where were you guys?" she asked, a bit annoyed.
"I tried all night to call you. We did an all-nighter fending
off Michel's boat. The harbor police were here and everything,
but you're the only one around here who can talk to him in French!"
Although we were not a party in any way to the affair, Michel's
hanging out with us the night before, and my ability to speak
a tad of French, somehow made me feel partially responsible.
I told Marianne where we'd been the night before and how Michel
and I had gotten so drunk that we could barely walk. But I emphasized,
"Yes, Michel is our friend, and yes, I speak some French,
but I do not speak for Michel, nor do I condone any aberrant
behavior that he may have displayed."
A short while later, five harbor police officers boarded and
thoroughly searched Michel's vessel, checked his papers, and
left. Because we were already two days past our checkout date,
I decided not to row over to see Michel until after the authorities
were well out of sight. When I later rowed over to Quand
and listened to Michel's account of what happened, it was virtually
the same as Marianne's. Same account, different perspective.
With Quand still swinging precariously among 52-foot Windwalker
II, the 24-foot Mowana, and the 30-foot Desperado,
Michel and I agreed that first on the list of priorities was
to fix a pot of coffee and roll a couple of cigarettes. We calmly
discussed the previous evening's events, from the superb swordfish
to the continuation of festivities at Mercury Joe's, to the melee
between Michel and the Samoan authorities. Ready for battle,
we gulped the last of our coffee, snuffed our cigarettes, and
sprang to the deck.
Michel started the engine and took the wheel while I started
hauling up the nylon rode, first by hand, then by manual windlass.
'Crazy Cal' from Desperado leaped up on deck to help me
recover the anchor. With the extra rode Michel had paid out the
night before, Cal and I figured we had hauled up at least 700
feet of anchor line by the time the fouled anchor broke the water's
surface. It was a great workout - especially since it was still
blowing 18-20 knots. After we had reset the hook in deeper water
away from the other boats, Michel dinghied over to Windwalker
II and apologized to Dan and Marianne, bringing the episode
to an end. Fortunately, there was no damage to either vessel.
The same could not be said for egos.
On the morning of our departure two days later, we broke the
fast with a delightful bowl of canned menudo, fresh tortillas
that Marilu brought back on the plane from L.A., and freshly
brewed coffee. Michel joined us for the little repast before
we cranked on the engine, slipped our mooring lines, and headed
out. Friends on other boats poked their heads out of hatches
and smiled as we passed, and Jong stood on the Customs Dock,
waving as we aimed for the buoy marker off the Rainmaker Hotel
and finally the open sea.
Five months later, one day after we arrived in Noumea, New Caledonia,
we had the unexpected pleasure of running into our friend Michel.
He supposedly had been more northerly bound, but had found a
good paying job in Noumea and decided to hang around for a while.
The following evening he joined us for a spaghetti dinner on
Saltaire, and we caught up with each other's adventures
from the intervening months. Since we had left only a couple
of days after the incident between Quand and Windwalker
II, we were just finding out about the $800 tugboat bill
that Michel was forced to pay before leaving Pago Pago Harbor.
Ouch! As many cruising sailors eventually find out, getting a
boat towed doesn't come cheap. We finally said au revoir to our
unusual French friend and New Caledonia as we set off on the
last leg of our Pacific crossing to Australia.
- bill & marilu 06/01/03
Feet - Hughes 39 Catamaran
S.F. To New Home In Ventura
I did the trip from San Francisco to my homebuilt catamaran's
new home in Ventura, a distance of 300 odd miles in just under
50 hours. That doesn't seem very fast, but I did the first 100
miles with just the jib and triple-reefed main, and the last
200 miles with just a triple-reefed main.
Three crew and I motored out the Gate in early March due to light
wind. By the time we cleared the South Bar, it was blowing 20
to 25 knots and the sea was lumpy. Since it would be hard to
reef the main while sailing downwind, I played it conservative
and went with just the jib and a triple-reefed main.
The forecast called for 10 to 20 knots, so we expected things
to lighten up. Our plan was to stay two to five miles offshore
and enjoy the ride. The wind was consistent and stronger than
forecast, so we continued on through the day averaging seven
to eight knots while sailing with the triple-reefed main and
jib set wing on wing. We didn't stand watches during the day,
but at night we did four on, four on standby, and four off.
As I came on for the 0200-0600 watch, we were almost abeam of
Pt. Sur. My new-to-me TillerMaster amazed me with its ability
to steer the boat while sailing downwind, and it would end up
driving 90% of the trip. During this time we had one surf in
the darkness up to 17 knots, but we didn't feel as though we
The forecast for south of Sur was for 15 to 30 knots. Before
long, we ran over a big patch of kelp that wrapped around the
port daggerboard and trailed all the way back to the rudder.
Talk about putting on the brakes! It was still blowing over 20
and the seas were steep and close together, so turning upwind
and drifting backward to try to shake the kelp off wasn't a very
attractive option. Because of the kelp, the boatspeed was down
to six knots and I wasn't sure we could even come around into
the wind. We let the jib out to help balance the drag from the
kelp and let the TillerMaster drive while we went over our options.
One possibility was to head into the anchorage at San Simeon
until the weather blew over and where we could remove the kelp
in comfort. Another was to try to get the kelp off while sailing.
But Mark Axen, having harnessed up and climbed out onto the transom,
was able to grab big clumps of kelp and haul them up to deck
level where I was able to cut the ends of them off. This freed
up the steering a little, and we stopped to talk over the next
Meanwhile, a big wave came along while there was still lots of
kelp wrapped around the daggerboard, and we did about 10+ knots.
Suddenly, the kelp came off the daggerboard and Feet instantly
accelerated to what seemed like warp speed. Even worse, the autopilot
had us pointed to the bottom of a big trough. Scrambling, we
managed to disengage the autopilot and steer across the face
of the wave to keep the bows from digging into the wave in front.
We then sheeted the jib to the centerline and dropped it on the
net to reduce sail. Back to just the triple-reefed main, it was
a more practical rig that resulted in less stressful speeds.
After we caught our collective breath, we checked the instruments
- 21.8 had been our top speed.
We ran the rest of the day under triple-reefed main alone, and
still averaged seven knots. So we decided to carry on past San
Simeon. By noon it was clear that we'd be reaching Point Conception
by early evening, so we thought it was a good time to try my
tire drag device. We deployed it by dropping it off the back
of the cat with a few coils of line and secured it to the winch,
which we used to feed it out. We positioned the tire a couple
of waves back and worked great - in fact, it saved my ass. We
would still do eight to 12 knots down the front of waves, but
then the drag line to the tire would tighten and pull us back
off the face of the wave. On the back of the wave we'd slow down
to two to five knots. The TillerMaster continued to steer just
We rounded Conception just before midnight in eight foot seas
at eight foot intervals with about 30 knots of wind. About an
hour later, the wind and seas began to drop as they usually do
past Conception. We finally shook out the reefs and rolled out
the screecher. Then the wind died completely, followed by wind
on the nose. We tacked into it awhile, had a pod of about 200
dolphins come by to say hello, and also saw some whales. When
it looked like our ETA would be pushed back until the next day,
we started the outboard and motored the rest of the way to Ventura.
After covering 310 miles in 50 hours under greatly reduced sail,
we tied up for much appreciated hot showers and dinner out. After
a good night's sleep, we went out sailing again the next day.
- bill 3/5/03
Readers - There is great variety even
among cruising catamarans. At one extreme you have the typical
heavy French charter cats in the Caribbean, most of which sail
only marginally faster - if that - then similar-sized monohulls.
Bill's Feet - excuse the play
on words - being very light for her length and sail area, is
at the other end of the spectrum. We took the accompanying photograph
the second day he took his new boat sailing, and from the way
she accelerated with even a moderate puff of wind on the Bay,
we knew she was the kind of cat that would need to be constantly
throttled back when sailing in big winds and seas. When you have
a cat that will do nearly 22 knots with greatly reduced sail
while sailing deep in not particularly strong winds, you know
you've got a boat that has the potential to get out of control.
We know you're going to have a lot of fun, Bill, but please be
careful out there! By the way, we hope you join us at the starting
line of the Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race the first weekend
N/A - Moorings 48 Cat
(Lake Tahoe / British Virgins)
It was a beautiful Sunday morning off Buck Island, St. Croix,
in the U.S. Virgins, when Peter and I decided to set off on the
six-hour sail back to Tortola in the British Virgins. In preparation
for the tradewind beam seas we would encounter, I put the designer
fish bowl - home of Killer, my beloved bata fish - into the galley
sink. I surrounded the bowl with a bath towel to cushion it in
case we slammed against some seas. Then, after weighing anchor,
I got out The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love by Jill
Conner Browne and settled in for a good read. By the way girls,
you must read Browne's book, as it's my new favorite.
We run a crewed charter catamaran for The Moorings, so during
the crossing we hoped to catch a fish to serve to our upcoming
charter guests. As soon as we hit what we call 'bluewater', Peter
let out the fishing line, It was a beautiful day with about 15
knots of wind and just a few rain squalls, and we were sailing
about seven to eight knots, before a fish hit our bright pink
and purple lure. Peter hopped over the cockpit to grab the line
while I ran down below to grab a bottle of alcohol and a garbage
bag. The alcohol wasn't for me, but to pour into the fish's gills,
to almost immediately send him to la-la land.
After bringing in 150 feet of line from the blue Caribbean, we
could see that we'd caught a good sized tuna. After bringing
the fish close to the boat and giving him his shot of alcohol,
we jammed him into the garbage bag. Bundle in hand, I hurried
inside to prepare the fish for storage in the refrigerator. I
temporarily put the fish, still tightly secured in the garbage
bag, on the galley counter in order to reach for a second garbage
bag. Fish need to be double-bagged or they give off a fish stink
that permeates everything.
It was when I grabbed for the second bag that all hell broke
loose, for all of a sudden the tuna spasmed so much he broke
through the side of the bag! I guess he could hold his liquor
better than I thought. I swore a couple of times and screamed
for Peter. The fish continued to bounce and flap on the counter
with surprising force. Try as I might, I was unable to hold him
down. He then flopped down the counter, onto the dish drying
rack, and then into the double sink. By this time there were
bits of fish blood and goo everywhere, and after his tail hit
the faucet handle, water started spraying all over the salon
sole. Despite having been out of the water for some time, the
not-quite-drunk-enough tuna kept going ballistic.
I shouted for Peter again in horror as the fish jumped from one
part of the sink into the other where I had Killer in his fish
bowl! I thought the stupid tuna was going to eat my pet. Oh my
God, I didn't know what to do. Finally, I hit the fish so hard
that he landed on the other counter, and then continued over
to the top of the stove. "How convenient," I thought
to myself, "now all I have to do is light the stove."
Just then Peter, finally having decided to look into the cause
of all the yelling, stuck his head through the cockpit door.
And you know what he did, girls? He just laughed at me! I told
him to come in and hold the stupid ass fish down. Still laughing,
he grabbed the fish while he surveyed the blood and guts all
over the galley, ceiling, floors, and even in our cabin. My husband's
eyes were bright with laughter and he had a big smirk on his
face. I'd have liked to just . . . well, you know.
I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning fish bits and smells from
the galley while we continued on our way. If you're trying to
help someone get seasick, having him/her pick up fish blood and
guts while you bounce across the ocean is a good way to do it.
But all's well that ends well, as I made fish stock out of the
stupid ass fish, and it was delicious. Love to everyone from
the British Virgin Islands, home of the Original Stupid Ass Fish
- darcy 3/17/03
Tropicbird - Wilderness 40
(Santa Fe, New Mexico)
After a land visit to Penang, Malaysia, on my way to my boat,
I took a ferry to Langkawi Island, caught a taxi from the dock
over to Langasuka, where the hotel's boat shuttled me out to
Rebak Marina, which is on another island. Having left Tropicbird
on the hard for a year, I was pleased to see that she was still
in decent shape. It's true that some wasps and mozzies had set
up housekeeping, but I wouldn't have been surprised if some monkeys
hadn't taken up residence. Fortunately, the hotel had started
trapping the more inquisitive and aggressive monkeys the year
before and shipping them off to one of the many unpopulated islands
in the archipelago.
In the course of cleaning the boat and putting her back together,
it was obvious that the tropic sun had caused a lot of wear and
damage. The worst was to the solar panel, as the plastic covering
the silicon cells failed, ruining the panel. Thus the batteries
were dead. I really can't complain about the solar panel, which
has been on the boat since '95, or the batteries, which date
from early '97.
Between the many trips up the boatyard ladder to Tropicbird
and then down again, I enjoyed some refreshing swims in the pool.
I also met the crowd of yachties who were keeping their boats
in the marina. Now that I'm back at this wonderful place, I wonder
why I ever leave. It's warm, the scenery is wonderful, the cost
of living is low, and the standards are high. The only negatives
are that this marina is a little isolated and that the hotel
food is a little boring compared to what you get in Penang. To
get an idea of how lovely it is here, readers should visit www.rebakmarina.com.
When I say it was warm at Rebak Marina, it's not overly so. It
got to the high '80s, which meant it was pretty hot in the sun,
but fine in the shade. The pool is so warm that when I got out
of the water after an evening swim, the air seemed cold by comparison.
After spending a week cleaning the boat, putting everything back
together, and freeing up stuff that had seized, I kept finding
more things that 25 months of disuse had not been good for. Initially,
the most scary thing was that the motor wouldn't start once Tropicbird
was put back in the water. Peter, the 'engine guy' among the
yachties, figured out why the engine would turn over but not
catch. The switch that controls the relay for the glow plugs
had become so corroded that it was a 'no glow' situation. Further,
all the fuel had drained out of the system and back into the
tank. The fixes were simple - emery paper and lots of WD-40.
The diagnosis was worth Peter's rate of 60 RM an hour - which
comes out to about $15.50 U.S. It would have been more if I had
watched, and heaps more if I'd tried to fix it first. The sun
also split the stitching on my awning - an item that's a necessity
in this part of the world. Ben, the local canvas guy, zig-zag
stitched a webbing patch over the split for $15 U.S.
I also got some help getting the boat back in top shape from
Kirstie, a young Aussie girl with a backpack, spiky bleached
hair, and bits of metal here and there. Other than the really
little kids, she's the youngest person among the yachtie types
at Rebak. She was pleasant enough, and in return for a berth,
food, Tiger beers, and regular dips in resort pools, she was
quite willing to organize, scrub, and go at things with metal
polish. And did the stuff need polishing! She spent most of one
day working on the stove, and several hours another day on the
sink. Then there were all the deck fittings, shackles, and stanchions.
Meanwhile, I spent a couple of hours with WD-40 just to get the
clamps that hold the outboard to the dinghy transom to loosen
up. Then there was another couple of hours freeing the head,
which had frozen. I soaked it in vinegar first, followed by fresh
water and salad oil. I also had to replace the regulator for
the propane system, but wasn't able to find a safety solenoid,
which had frozen, too. In the interim, we did without.
The metal rings on my bosun's chair had rusted away, so we borrowed
one from Michelle, the skipper of Simpatico. Michelle
made the first trip up to the masthead to take off the cover
I'd put up there. A couple of days later Kirstie got the spreader
tips taped and the Windex back atop the mast. With that, we were
a sailboat again.
I've had Tropicbird out three times now. First, for a
few hours motorboat ride after Peter got the motor started. Then,
for a gentle sail reaching back and forth between the west end
of Rebak Island and the far western tip of Langkawi Island -
where we could see the cable cars that go to the top of the peak,
and also a bunch of little red-roofed bungalows on stilts out
over the water, all of which are part of some resort complex.
And yesterday, we sailed all the way up Kuah Harbor (also known
as Bass Harbor) to Kuah Town and the Royal Langkawi YC.
The sailing is great here. It blew 10-15 knots all afternoon
during our sail up the harbor. On the way, there were steep limestone
cliffs with forested peaks off to the sides, and lots of little
islands sticking up out of the water. With the exception of a
couple of marked rocks and shallow spots, the harbor has good
depth. The wind - which flows over and between the mountains
and islands - has fluctuations in direction and velocity, making
the sailing challenging and fun. During the day, the colorful
little Malaysian fishing boats - with their long nets out, marked
at the ends by a pair of matching flags - are just another mark
of the course. It's too pretty to sail around here at night .
. . and have to worry about the unlit nets.
We pulled into the Royal Langkawi YC an hour before sunset. I
hadn't been back since 2001, and found that it had really grown.
For example, a breakwater has been added to accommodate 150 new
slips. It's a pretty nice facility, with a pool - too small for
laps - overlooking the water, and an open air bar and grill at
the water's edge. It's pretty, but potentially mozzie country
Despite the new breakwater, there is unfortunately surge at the
docks. The yacht club is only a few hundred meters from the main
ferry dock in Kuah, and there is a lot of ferry and other boat
traffic all day and throughout the night. It's nowhere near as
bad as the Republic of Singapore YC, but it's pretty much constant
motion. Yet one can adapt. You leave the wine bottle standing
in the sink, not on the counter. And rather than cooking onboard,
you dine out. You know, real hardship adaptations.
The yacht club is right off one end of Kuah Town, which is a
pleasant change from the isolation of Rebak. It's an easy walk
from the club to a big park with lots of street food vendors,
and to Langkawi Fair, a cruise ship mall with all that that entails.
An easy walk or $1 U.S. taxi ride further along is the commercial
center, with banks, shops, laundries, hardware stores, travel
agents, and so forth. I sent this report from a kid's gaming
and internet place in the commercial center.
By the way, Sunsail has a charter base here. Visit www.sunsail.co.uk
to check out the possibilities.
- leslie 2/10/03
Topaz - C&C 38
Tonga Cruising Guide
My late 2001 cruising season in Tonga was the perfect tonic for
the post 9/11 blues that took the fun out of what had, up until
then been, a perfect Coconut Milk Run across the Pacific. My
memories of Samoa will always be colored by the day I spent in
front of the big screen television at the Pago Pago YC following
the tragic events on the East Coast of the United States. After
a short stop in Apia, Samoa, I continued to Niuatoputapu, Tonga.
I cannot imagine a better place to begin my return to normalcy.
Nuiatoputapu is where my cruising fantasies came true. It's mostly
untouched by Western influences and those of the southern groups
of Tonga - Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Tongatapu. 'Niua' is visually
dramatic, as the volcano cone of Tafahi looms five miles in the
distance, and making an imaginary trip back in time is as easy
as opening one's eyes. The locals and their traditional lifestyle
support the mental time travel, as the residents of Niua and
Tafahi fill their lives with fishing, weaving, and tending to
their plantations. They are an incredibly friendly people, and
the infrequent arrival of a cruising boat always creates a stir.
Until I travelled 160 miles south to Neiafu - which is Tonga's
'cruiser central' - in the Vava'u Group, I would never have imagined
Tonga was host to a place so vastly different from Niua. Neiafu
is home to bases for The Moorings and Sunsail charter outfits,
and hundreds of cruisers on their own boats spend time in Neiafu
each year. Waterfront bars and restaurants line the shore, and
all have dinghy docks. If I had to describe Neiafu in one phrase,
it would be, "Too much fun!," as I can't remember hearing
Betty Ford mentioned more times than I did that season. In any
event, Neiafu has been forever changed by its appeal to sailors.
Although I'd visited Niua, which most cruisers don't, and although
I'd spent a month in Tonga, which is more than most cruisers,
I, like the other cruisers, had to leave for New Zealand by November
1 or face the threat of tropical cyclones. It's not that any
of us wanted to spend so little time in Tonga, it's just that
French Polynesia is assumed to be the big thing in the South
Pacific, so most cruisers treat Tonga as a last quick stop on
their way to New Zealand. This is unfortunate. I fell in love
with Tonga and knew that I would return. At the time, however,
I had no idea that I would return to spend all of the 2002 cruising
season in 'The Friendly Isles'.
The combination of spending six months between the 2001 and 2002
South Pacific cruising seasons living the high life in New Zealand
and watching the economic downturn in the United States inspired
my money-making fantasies. While in a Kiwi bookstore looking
for a cruising guide to Tonga's fabulous but sometimes feared
Ha'apai Group, I discovered there was no cruising guide for all
of Tonga. The Moorings has its guide to Vava'u, and other guides
include parts and pieces of Tonga, but a comprehensive guide
did not exist. Further, even The Moorings' guide to the most
popular cruisers' spot lacked the kind of basic information most
cruisers expect when choosing a cruising guide. So I decided
that I would spend all of the 2002 cruising season in Tonga creating
the definitive cruising guide to that country.
I must confess the project was a result of both inspiration and
desperation. I knew that by the end of my six months in New Zealand
I would be out of money. The guide needed to get done, and I
needed somehow to get it published and sold. I had no idea how
it was going to happen, just that it would. Having made the decision
that this was something I was determined to see through, I set
aside enough money for a plane ticket and set sail for Tonga.
Although my return to Tonga began as a scheme to make money,
it evolved into a passionate personal mission to help share all
of Tonga with future cruisers.
You have no idea how much work is involved in creating a cruising
guide. You will never hear me complaining about Charlie's
Charts again. So what if he blew a waypoint? My guide ended
up with well over a hundred waypoints, and regardless of how
hard I tried, I can't imagine that there wasn't an error or two.
It's simply a lot of digits. Recording the waypoints confirmed
the advice seen on most all charts - never rely on just one aid
In some ways it was a miracle the guide got completed at all.
I documented over 90 anchorages, and this can be hazardous work.
Topaz's keel carries the scars of the unintentional discovery
of several coral heads. My dependence on electronics also made
the guide's completion tenuous. The digital camera I was using
to photograph each anchorage succumbed to a rainstorm. I overcame
the loss with a film camera and a scanner. A wayward splash took
out my laptop's keyboard, but fortunately I carried a spare.
A slippery coffee cup tried to kill my laptop monitor, but a
quick disassembly and drying saved the day. Friends wisely suggested
backups, and a mothballed zip drive was recommissioned, so I
treated disks with the 150 mg of cruising guide with as much
care as I'd give to an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Although the project was more work than I ever imagined, it also
forced me to see more of Tonga than I would have otherwise. This
was a very good thing, for the more I saw, the more I realized
how magnificent Tonga really is! From the remote and topographically
dramatic Nuiato-putapu, through the island wonderland of Vava'u,
amongst the reefs shoals and lagoons of the Ha'apai, to the often
missed beauty of Tongatapu, Tonga is truly one of the most interesting
and rewarding cruising grounds in the Pacific. No two anchorages
are the same, and all have something to offer. Nowhere else in
the Pacific are the islands more varied and remote without being
so far apart.
I am in San Jose while Topaz swings on a mooring in Neiafu. I
have managed to raise money to get the guide printed, and it's
now available online from www.cruisetonga.com
and will soon be available at all the usual places that carry
cruising guides. Thanks to both friends and family - and a lot
of begging on my part - I have been able to make the guide available
to those headed across the Pacific this season. As for myself,
I plan to return to Tonga before May, pick up Topaz and
continue west. I have hopes of making Cape Town in a year, but
one never knows when one is cruising. See you out there!
- ken 1/15/03
Readers - David Kennedy, an expert on
cruising guides, advises that Hellewell did a good job.
The bad news is that five yachts - including one from Sausalito
- were shot at off the coast of Yemen. The good news is that
nobody was hurt. We got the report from Don and Katie Radcliffe
of the Santa Cruz-based Beneteau 456 Klondike, currently
racing in Royal Langkawi International Regatta in Malaysia, who
received it from their Aussie friends on Penyllan. The following
is an edited version.
"At 0800 on March 9, we were in the company of four other
yachts 50 miles off the coast of Yemen, about 100 miles from
Somalia. The other yachts were Sea Dove with Rod and Karyn
from Brisbane; Gypsy Days with Brian and Margaret Horwell
from Melbourne; Narena, with Bruce and Cheryle Matthew
from Phillip Island, and Imani, with Mark and Doreen,
and children Maya and Tristan from Sausalito. As I was about
to give a routine position report to a SSB net, we spotted three
fast motorized dhows coming across our track from the direction
of Somalia. By chance, Mike, skipper of Bambola, a yacht
which had been attacked near our position the week before, happened
to be on that SSB net describing the attack on him. I broke into
his conversation and asked for a quick description of the pirate's
boats. His description was consistent with that of the ones approaching
us - local dhows, 20 meters long, probably made of wood, inboard
powered, and covered with bright blue and orange plastic sheeting,
possibly to conceal their identity or their cargo. By this time
the boats in our group had formed a very tight circle and increased
our speed to 6.5 knots, the maximum we could sustain as a group.
One of the three dhows diverted from their original course and
began heading directly for our port quarter. When it was about
half a mile away, we could hear shots being fired. We immediately
put out a Mayday; Karyn on Sea Dove via VHF, while I called
the skippers of Skive and Bambola, who were in direct communication
with the German Navy headquarters in Djibouti. They informed
us that help was on its way, but that it would take several hours.
Further repeated calls of Mayday on other channels brought no
"The dhow that shot at us was only very slowly overtaking
us, so an anxious 10 or 15 minutes followed. There were no further
shots. As we tried to coax more speed from our engines, the one
dhow remained in pursuit, but the others, appearing to be heavily
laden with people, did not. Our continuing barrage of Maydays
resulted in a response from a Panamanian registered freighter,
which said it was turning toward our position. Then a U.S. warship
reported they would be at our position in three hours. The attacking
dhow finally gave up the chase. Maybe it was because it was going
to take him a long time to catch us, or because we were grouped
close together, or because of the appearance of the merchant
vessel Royal Pescadores.
"Less than 90 minutes after the shots were fired, a Coalition
Forces four engine Orion Navy aircraft made contact. Ultimately
he was unable to tell the pirates from other small boat traffic
in the region. Thankfully, we escaped attack unscathed and will
pass the worst danger zone by tonight. We have two to three days
to go before we enter the 'Gates of Sorrow' at the southern end
of the Red Sea and near the relative safety of Eritrea. As you
can imagine, our adrenaline is up, but we are all pleased that
we all handled things well under pressure, and are very grateful
that we have been so lucky."
As most Latitude readers know, historically, the Gulf
of Aden has been the scene of a number of violent attacks on
yachts, some of which resulted in injury and death, and several
which left boats riddled with bullet holes. As such, yacht convoys
are common. There was fear that there would be many more attacks
after 9/11, but there were not - at least until very recently.
As for the Radcliffes, they're having a ball at the Regatta in
Muslim Malaysia. "Even without a spinnaker we're doing well
in Cruising Class B, and can hardly keep up with all the parties!
It's just like the King's Cup in Phuket, Thailand."
"Latitude was a great help in getting me prepared
to cruise Mexico for the last two years," reports Larry
Pascoe of the Del Mar-based Catalina 36 Sabbatical. "I
left with the 2001 Ha-Ha fleet and have had a great time cruising
the Sea of Cortez and as far south as Barra de Navidad. During
this time the Mexican officials and people have been very kind
and generous - except for a recent incident at the El Cid Marina
fuel dock in Mazatlan. I topped off my fuel tanks there in February
- but was politely told that I could not take on water! When
I stopped at El Cid again while heading north, they still had
the same policy. The manager told me they'd had problems with
boaters taking on too much water, so they currently weren't allowing
it. When I suggested they should limit the amount of water or
even charge for it, he said he thought all cruising boats had
watermakers. He may install a water meter to control usage. I
was disappointed with their poor attitude and will limit my fuel
purchases to more friendly sources - such as the nearby Isla
Mazatlan Marina, which has fuel and water for cruisers."
Taking on unlimited water is a given when buying fuel in the
United States, but it's not the case elsewhere, particularly
in dry areas. Some marinas in Mexico - probably including the
El Cid - make all their water, so it's not free. Maybe they have
a quota for the marina that keeps being exceeded. There's also
the problem with ultra thrifty cruisers who will buy $5 of gas
as an excuse to try to take on 200 gallons of machine-made freshwater.
If the El Cid folks were polite - as you say they were - it's
their business if they don't want to give out water. But they'll
soon learn that it's bad business once the word gets out and
everybody starts buying their fuel at Isla Mazatlan Marina. This
is an example in a nutshell of why free markets are so much better
"We're sending some photos of February 24 Cruiser Appreciation
Day at the Nextahualcotyl School in Zihuatanejo," write
Paul and Kathi Marak of Ryokosha. "This event was
held in appreciation of the $23,000 raised by cruisers during
the recent Zihua Sail Fest. Appreciation Day was wonderful and
lively, and the children were very grateful.
"A belated Happy New Years!" write John, Cynthia, and
Mattie the boat dog in the Bahamas aboard the Jeanneau 45 Utopia
- which replaced the Utopia they'd cruised in Mexico for
three years. "After spending the month of January outfitting
our new Utopia, we had a great sail across the Gulfstream
to the Bahamas. We're currently holed up in Georgetown due to
the weather. The air and water temperatures here are perfect,
and it's very different from our three years of (motor)sailing
on the west coast of Mexico. In the Bahamas, you pay $100 for
a one-year cruising permit, which includes a fishing license
for the boat and crew. After that, you don't have to check in
again. What's crazy is that they will only give you a visa for
90 days. They can be renewed, but not for a total of a year.
I guess they want to keep the airlines going, as you have to
leave and then come back. Nothing is perfect."
"We were among those who felt Mexico was starting to cost
too much," continue John and Cynthia. "How wrong we
were! Gasoline is $3.44 a gallon in the Bahamas, while diesel
is $2.41 a gallon. It's $3 U.S. for a beer, and $36 for a case.
You can take the stateside price of any food item and count on
it being double here. A roll of good toilet paper costs $1.35,
a roll of bad paper towels is $1.95. The one good surprise came
when we needed to buy a new outboard - just $1,600 for a new
Johnson 15 hp. Good sailing to all our friends!"
Why is it that outboards are so cheap in the Bahamas and Caribbean
when compared to the United States and Mexico? A 15 hp Mercury
two-stroke in the West Marine Catalog is about $2,100, which
after tax comes to nearly $2,300. Since there's no tax at many
places in the Caribbean, that's almost $700 more.
What does it cost if you're afflicted with a serious medical
condition and need to be airlifted back to the United States
immediately from the Eastern Caribbean? Try $50,000. A couple
of years ago it was about $25,000 from Puerto Vallarta to San
Jose. By the way, if you've got an ultra gold-rimmed platinum
American Express or other super credit card that you think entitles
you to a medevac flight, read the fine print first. You can't
just call up a jet on your own and have them pay for it. You
have to get approval first. Judging by the time it sometimes
takes to get through to credit card companies, you'll probably
die before you get approval.
"In the February issue you wrote about our wonderful trip
to Isla Soccoro in the Revillagigedo Islands off Mexico,"
writes Pete Boyce of the Northern California-based Sabre 402
Edelweiss III. "You mentioned that a permit is required,
but not how to get one. We got ours - it cost $600 U.S. - through
John Riffe in La Paz. His phone/fax number is 011-52-112-55108,
and people can . Riffe is also a member of Sea Watch, an
organization dedicated to a healthy Sea of Cortez. Their website
Thanks for the info. The Sea Watch website is an excellent one
that all Mexico-bound cruisers should check out. Among other
things, it explains how longliners fish the Revillagigedos, even
though it's a Marine Reserve. Unfortunately, Mexico doesn't have
the resources necessary to effectively patrol their offshore
islands or the Sea of Cortez.
"While in Mexico last year, I met Jerry Lumbard, owner of
the Lagoon 38 cat Beyond Reason," reports Bernard
Slabeck of San Francisco. "I later sailed with him from
Cabo to La Paz, then down to Puerto Vallarta. I just now - after
some flight delays and missed connections - joined him again,
this time in Roatan, Honduras. It blew 25 to 35 knots the first
few days, so we stayed in the marina at what is called the French
Harbor YC. Like a lot of 'yacht clubs' outside of the United
States, it's not a yacht club at all but rather a private hotel,
restaurant, and marina. From what I've seen, it's typical Third
World down here - a mix of local shack life and beautiful beaches.
Of course, I haven't been to the big city or the bigger resorts.
A couple of days ago we went on a scuba dive - what a mind blower!
I had heard that the diving was incredible, and it's no exaggeration.
The guy at the marina dive center said the water was a little
stirred up from all the wind but that it was still "okay".
I figured they would never want to say the diving is bad in order
not to lose any business. But as soon as I entered the water
and experienced 60-foot visibility, I thought 'this is just okay?'
I saw some sponges that were as big as garbage cans! I went 90
feet down a wall - I only wish I had a dive camera. Yesterday
we left the marina for a sail around the lee side of the island.
It was a lovely sail in 15 to 18 knots of wind. We did a little
snorkeling around the boat before sunset, then had stir fry chicken
and veggies for dinner. It's the good life!"
"My husband Ben and I met you and Doña de Mallorca
in Careyes last month," writes Lisa Newton of the Berkeley-based
Cooper 416 Waking Dream. "You took some photos of
us, and some others of Michael and Mary Brooks of the San Francisco-based
Ericson 38 Danseuse de la Mer, as we were all planning
on going to the South Pacific in March. We've had a change in
plans. Waking Dream will be heading into the Sea of Cortez for
the summer season. Come October, we'll be putting the boat up
on the hard in San Carlos or Mazatlan, and will spend the hurricane
season backpacking through coastal Central America, especially
Costa Rica and Peru. In March of 2004, we'll head across the
Pacific for French Polynesia and ultimately New Zealand."
Since you and Ben are on a 10-year cruise, it's smart to take
your time. But may we make a suggestion? July, August, and September
are hotter than Hades in the Sea, and therefore the best time
to be travelling elsewhere. By early October the temperatures
have dropped and it's actually one of the best months in the
Sea. So to our thinking, it would be better to take your vacation
from cruising earlier rather than later. True, October is still
hurricane season, but they are relatively rare in the Sea and
you generally get plenty of warning - particularly if you are
in the upper Sea. No matter what you do, have fun.
Under the heading of great minds think alike . . .
"We met you last month in Careyes with Ben and Lisa on Waking
Dream," write Michael and Mary Brooks of the Ericson
38 Danseuse de la Mer. "Because of insurance problems,
we're going to spend the season in the Sea of Cortez and cross
the Pacific next spring."
"Here's some good news from Mazatlan," report Jan Loomis
and Geoff Wickes of the Valiant 40 Meridian Passage. "The
entire cruising community here has been involved in a major fund-raising
effort for the Bomberos de Mazatlan, better known as the Volunteer
Fire Department. It's hard to believe, but this city of over
500,000 has only two fire stations, 10 hydrants, and 60 volunteer
fire-fighters. Thanks to fund-raising activities such as fire
extinguisher demonstrations and certification, photos with Santa,
a Chili Cook-Off, a Bake Sale, an auction, and sales of shirts
embroidered with 'Amigos de Bomberos, Mazatlan' on the back,
cruisers raised $2,300. Fund-raising efforts will continue through
Carnival until we reach our goal of $4,000 so they can buy a
'Jaws of Life' apparatus used to extricate accident victims from
inside crumpled cars. The Fire Department in Mazatlan's sister
city of Santa Monica has agreed to match whatever funds we raise."
"When I last wrote, I was worried about the oil spill in
Trinidad," writes John Anderton of the Alameda-based Sanderling.
"But now I've spent the last two weeks in Sint Maarten enjoying
the pre, during, and post Heineken Regatta parties. As you probably
know, the bridge into the Simpson Bay Lagoon has been enlarged
for the megayachts of the rich. To pay for the expansion, Dutch
Sint Maarten has decided to implement a tax on all boats, "creating
a hole" in Sint Maarten waters, both inside and outside
the lagoon. Currently it's not known when the fees will be instituted
or how they will be collected. But the fees will be $40 U.S.
a month for up to a 40-ft boat, $60 for boats between 45 and
63 feet, on up to $300 a month for boats over 90 feet. The French
or St. Martin side of the lagoon is free, so it's a no brainer
where boats will congregate. However, the Dutch may consider
the whole lagoon to be theirs. I leave tomorrow for St. Barts
to continue island hopping south for hurricane season."
Earlier in this issue there's a Changes from Allison 'Marina
Chick' Mahan about sailing the Caribbean with her boyfriend Curt
aboard Force Five. During a followup email, she mentioned
they were in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, a place we kicked
around a bit back in the early '90s. During the day, the downtown
area was crowded with shoppers. But when the shops closed at
5 p.m., people fled as if leaving a war zone. We asked her if
it was still as dangerous. "Charlotte Amalie is still pretty
rough after dark," Allison said. "Curt and I went looking
for a watering hole one night when we first arrived, and when
we finally found one, they looked at us as though we were nuts.
On another subject, the Virgins - meaning both the U.S. and British
- have a lot of 'charter boat anchorages', such as Foxys at Jost
van Dyke, and then 'cruiser anchorages' that are more out of
the way. We liked the islands, but are definitely happy to be
back in some grittier spots with salty-dog ex-pat types. We've
since moved down to Culebra, which, along with Carriacou in the
southern Caribbean, has become one of our favorites. The characters
here are right out of a movie. We're next off to Isla Culebrita
for a few days, then maybe to Vieques, all in the 'Spanish Virgins'.
After 15 years of cruising aboard Aztec, Bob and Ginnie
Towle, originally from Mill Valley, have swallowed the anchor
in La Paz. Bob, an architect who had wearied of corporate management
in the mid-'80s, and Ginnie decided to chuck it all by flying
to Europe and buying a cruising boat. As we recall, they ultimately
ended up purchasing the first one they looked at, a 46-footer
vaguely similar to a Peterson 44. We first met them in Antigua
seven years later, where we remember them saying, "Our seven
years in Europe was just scratching the surface." In more
recent years, they've been cruising in Mexico. In '99, they lived
aboard Aztec while building Casa Axteca at Comitan on
inner La Paz Bay. Their boat Aztec was finally sold in
Long Beach in January. "We are enjoying our life in Mexico,
playing tennis several times a week, gardening, finishing the
house, and watching sunsets over our margaritas." The Towles
are wonderful folks, we wish them all the best.
"We have an update from our February report on the marina
situation in Cartagena, Colombia," report Tom and Kathy
Knueppel of the San Francisco-based Island Packet 40 Tai Tam.
Effective January 1, the Club de Pesca - the other marina close
to the more cruiser-oriented Club Nautico - has raised its slip
fees as follows: 1 to 15 days, .80 foot/day; 16 to 30 days, .60
foot/day; 31 days or more, .45 foot/day. Prior to January 1,
it was just .35/foot, and it's still that if you were here before
the price increase. We've been unable to determine why these
rates were raised to such an unreasonable level, but suspect
it's the old supply and demand coupled with greed. The Club Nautico
continues to charge a reasonable .25/ft per day plus $ 2.00/day
for water and electricity - which works out to be about .30 foot/day
for a typical 40-ft boat. They deserve all the business they
get. It is unfortunate that Club de Pesca has seen fit to start
charging such exorbitant rates, and we feel that this will eliminate
one of the options for cruisers to stay in this wonderful city,
and as such will possibly impact the number of boats coming to
Cartagena, a place we really enjoy."
What's it like aboard a small boat on the ocean during heavy
weather? Tony Johnson of the Richmond-based Ericson 39 Maverick,
now most of the way through his circumnavigation with Terry Shrode,
offers the following description:
"Imagine a carousel that, instead of horses, has platforms
that go up and down about 12 feet every eight seconds. On top
of one of these platforms is a playground merry-go-round being
swung back and forth like the motion of a washing machine. On
top of the merry-go-round is a rocking chair that has its back
cut off so another rocking chair, oriented at a 90° angle
to the lower one, can sit on top of it. You're in the top rocking
chair. Each stage of this tower is remotely controlled by a nine-year-old
boy. He is told to jerk his control back and forth in a manner
calculated to produce the most discomfort possible to the passenger.
He is told he is allowed to have no mercy, and that in fact the
passenger is his six-year-old brother. Heavy metal music is being
played at a deafening volume. This pattern needs to be sustained
for about three days. The nine-year-olds may get tired before
then, but the sea doesn't."
It's not surprising that this topic crossed Johnson's mind, as
he's recently been sailing from the Eastern Caribbean to Panama
during a time of year when the trades usually blow hard. He continues:
"We were on the radio to the famous Herb of Southbound
II, the weather guru who helped a lot of people, including
ourselves, cross the Atlantic. We were saying to Herb, "Please
make it stop." So he says, "Well, you sail this-a-way
and that-a-way and pretty soon or in a day or so when you hit
longitude 76, you should see some moderation of the conditions."
Herb's a genius, almost, but he told us we'd see 20-25 knots
out there and we were seeing 30-35. The funny thing was, he seemed
not to believe us. He had predicted 20-25 knots, so that's what
it was, and anyway you know how those sailor guys lie. But we
were down to a double-reefed main with about four feet of headsail
showing, and Maverick was never seeing the south side
of eight knots, but surfing to 12, 13, and even 14 knots. I don't
think it was even blowing 20 knots, it was going down the waves.
At least we were going fast. The first three days out of Grenada
heading west, Maverick turned in days of 158, 177, and
170 miles. After leaving Aruba, we did 204, 175, and on the third
day, the last half of which saw us in somewhat lighter winds,
155 miles. We're now anchored in the storied San Blas Islands
on the north coast of Panama at the very end of the Atlantic
Ocean. We're also at the end of another phase of the voyage,
one that had a little more adventure to offer than we would have
"We're sailing once again, and it sure feels good!"
reports Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft catamaran Capricorn
Cat, currently in the Marshall Islands. The cat had partially
gone on a coral reef about a month ago after a severe windshift
in the middle of the night. Both rudders and daggerboards were
damaged. Having built the boat, Grinols knew how to fix them.
"We reinstalled the rudder late yesterday afternoon, provisioned
the boat, and got underway this afternoon about 1 pm. The wind
is about 10 knots across the deck from the starboard quarter,
so it's cool and we're making about eight knots under the small
spinnaker. The seas are moderate so we're very comfortable. It
also sure feels great not to be itching all the time from working
with fiberglass. It's been a busy couple of weeks, but now I
finally may be able to open a book again."
"I've enclosed a photo of my new trimaran Even Kiehl,"
reports Stuart Kiehl of Santa Rosa. "I bought her not far
from the Alaskan border. Her diesel stove will be removed in
San Diego, hopefully just in time so I can enter her in Baja
Ha-Ha X in late October."
Dear Readers, please keep the Cruise Notes editor from
going nuts. If you send in a photo, make sure it's reasonably
high resolution. We can't use photos that go jaggy when bigger
than one inch by one inch. In addition, remember that the essential
elements to any report, no matter how short, are who, what, where,
when, and why. Thus, the editor would have greatly appreciated
it if our friend Stuart had written a report like this:
"I'm Stuart Kiehl of Santa Rosa, and am proud to announce
that on March 1, I purchased a 1987 Brown Searunner 36 trimaran
- renamed Even Kiehl - in Juneau, Alaska. Between now
and the end of October I hope to sail her to San Diego for the
start of Baja Ha-Ha X, which I've done three times before."
It's all there - who, what, why, when, and where - in just two
short sentences. Thanks for remembering.
Looking to go cruising? Leslie King, who sent in the Changes
on Tropicbird earlier in this issue, is looking for
a "40-ish sailing partner to join me for the rest of the
year in Asia and then after Christmas up the Red Sea to the Med."
King wouldn't be looking for crew were his ladyfriend in San
Diego still not afraid to travel after 9/11. King does have experience.
In addition to having done the Singlehanded TransPac, since '93
he's sailed his Wilderness 40 to Mexico, then did a 10,000-mile
summer from Pensacola to Key West to Isla Mujeres to Panama to
the Galapagos to Hawaii to California. In '99, he sailed from
San Diego to Hawaii to Fiji to Bribane. In the summer of '00,
he and his ladyfriend sailed up the coast of Oz to Gove, Bali,
Singapaore, and Langkawi. So he's not a novice. He can be reached .
If you've never done the Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers' Rally from San
Diego to Cabo San Lucas, consider attending the Grand Poobah's
Sail Expo Ha-Ha Seminar at 4:30 p.m., Friday, April 25, in Tent
B. You'll come away with an understanding of what to expect in
the upcoming Ha-Ha X, and you'll meet plenty of Ha-Ha vets.
Note also that the Wanderer/Poobah invites all Rally vets (and
others who are interested in the event) to join us at Latitude's
Sail Expo Ha-Ha party, Friday, April 25 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
in Seminar Tent "B." There's guaranteed to be a whole
lotta Ha-Ha'in' goin' on.