April, 2004

With reports this month from Rhapsodie on the end of a five-year family cruise through the Pacific; from Maude I. Jones on 10.5 years of cruising after Ha-Ha I; from Shayna on the Club Nautico in Cartagena; from Windrunner on fun in the Marshall Islands; from Lone Fox on being restored in Ventura and the Caribbean; from Luna Sea on adventures in Mexico; from Mad River on going on the rocks at Barbados after 10 years of cruising; and Cruise Notes.

Rhapsodie - Marquesas 53 Cat
Sam, Caren, Rachael, Dana Edwards
The End of Our Cruise - For Now
(Portola Valley)

Cruising is the best! We're really enjoying ourselves here at the Ko Olina Marina on Oahu, but are very sad at coming to the end of our cruise. We hope to get out here again when the kids are off to college, but meanwhile we have many great tales to tell.

Yes, after five years of fabulous family cruising across the Pacific, high school and finances have conspired to bring us back to land-based living. Not too many people talk about the culture shock cruisers experience upon returning to the 'real world' after such an incredible experience, but it's quite real! We will miss the freedom of cruising, the exotic places, and the wonderful people who have blessed our life. We will also miss Rhapsodie, our very comfortable and reliable home on the ocean. But the sea is in our blood now, and we will always find a way to be on the water.

To recap our most recent adventures, after two seasons cruising Australia and Papua New Guinea, we departed Australia last June on our way east back across the Pacific to Costa Rica. We sailed first to New Caledonia, and then on to Fiji. But we were delayed in Fiji a month waiting for a replacement forestay. The delay ultimately changed our places, as in October we set sail north for Wallis, Futuna, Tokelau, and Palmyra. We found the counter-equatorial current, as hoped, outside of Palmyra, and made 220-mile days heading due east. Not bad for the doldrums! However, there was no way that we would make Costa Rica by Christmas in time to meet our daughter for her vacation. So we headed north to Hawaii, which is why we're now enjoying Ko Olina Marina - which is outstanding. This summer we'll sail Rhapsodie back to San Francisco to complete the last lap of our wonderful journey. We'll see everyone on the Bay!

Readers - How time flies and people change! It seems like just yesterday we were giving the Edwards tips on catamarans and cruising in general. After five years the roles are reversed, as we're sure they can give us plenty of insight.

Maude I. Jones - Finch 46
Rob & Mary Messenger
10.5 Years of Cruising
(Dallas & Sacramento)

Seven years into what has now become a 10.5-year cruise, Rob and Mary decided cruising wasn't fun anymore and put their boat up for sale. There were three specific events that lead to this decision.

The first was the weather upon leaving Gladstone, Australia. The forecast called for 20 to 30 knots from the southeast - a favorable force and direction for their trip to the Lousiades. But once they got outside the Great Barrier Reef, the wind blew stronger than forecast and backed around to come out of the east. They were trapped outside the GBR with nowhere within 500 miles to duck back inside for shelter. "We got the crap beat out of us for a long time," remembers Rob.

When they later got to Budi-Budi Atoll in Papua New Guinea, they entered a bay with a crooked and tricky entrance to the anchorage. Just for fun they plotted waypoints for an escape on their new GPS. It was lucky they did, because a big storm came up and would have wrecked their boat if they couldn't get out. The only reason they made it out to the open sea and safety that black night was that they'd plotted escape waypoints. Even with the waypoints, they nearly lost their boat.

But it was the 15-ft croc that was the last straw. While at the Morovo Lagoon area in the Solomon Islands, Rob went snorkeling with his friend Larry. Since a Swiss yachtie had been eaten by a croc in the general region a year before, the two had confirmed with locals the area was croc free. They also were careful to avoid croc hangouts such as mangroves and rivermouths. Nonetheless, while swim-ming in 20 feet of ultra clear water, Rob turned his head - and found himself staring into the open mouth of a 15-ft croc! "I can tell you that there's a sphincter-like hole at the very back of a croc's throat," says Rob. He let out a bloodcurdling scream that he claims was loud enough for Mary to hear belowdecks on Maude 150 yards away.

In response to his scream, the huge croc turned away, hitting Rob in the face with his tail. At that point Larry wanted to get out of the water, but Rob insisted they stay put, back to back, to protect each other until Mary arrived with the dinghy. Having heard the urgency in Rob's scream, Mary arrived quickly, having not even bothered to get dressed. Although Larry was a "robust fellow", Rob claims he had no trouble throwing him into the dinghy. "I've never been so frightened in my life," he says.

When they bumped into some locals again, Rob somewhat indignantly inquired why they hadn't been warned about the croc. "Oh, that's old Fred," people responded. "Everybody knows he doesn't bother anybody!"

Nonetheless, the two storms and the croc encounter bothered Rob and Mary enough that they took Maude to Australia and put her up for sale. Cruising wasn't as fun as it had been before.

That sentiment lasted all of six weeks of being back in Sacramento and Dallas, where they have family. At the end of that short period, Rob announced, "I'd rather be eaten by a goddamn croc than have to put up with all this crap back here in the States." He got no argument from Mary, who famously replied, "I'd also rather have you eaten by a croc than have to live this Stateside life anymore."

So they took Maude off the market, outfitted her with a new headsail and radar, and set sail for Tasmania. They've been cruising ever since - and loving it. In fact, now that they are running low on money and are sailing to Florida in order to resume work for a few years, they are very seriously bummed out.

Rob, who never went to college, has lived an 'outside the box' existence for most of his adult life. He owned and operated an oil field supply business in Texas until the late '70s, when he came across an ad for a Vagabond 47 ketch. After swapping his business for the ketch, Rob, who had never been cruising before, set sail for New Zealand. His boat was Shannon Marie and the year was 1979.

It was during this cruise that he met Mary. She'd been living in Hawaii when she joined some friends on a sailing trip to Tahiti. While in the Society Islands, she signed on with Marvin and Chieko Miller's 54-ft schooner Endurance for the trip to New Zealand. Rob and Mary met in the Cook Islands, where Rob tried to entice Mary to jump ship and join him. "She wouldn't believe my bullshit," laughs Rob, "so I wasn't able to half-ass convince her to join me until we got to New Zealand."

They didn't arrive back in San Francisco until a night in November of '93 - one that you might remember. It was the evening that it blew so hard that Golden Gate Bridge officials closed the bridge because it was swinging back and forth so much. It was so nasty down on the Bay that Rob, accompanied by Mary and three Kiwi crew, had to wear a mask and snorkel in order to see and breathe on their way to their berth at Oyster Point Marina.

After a couple of years of this and that, the two found themselves in Costa Rica, via Florida, managing a big macadamia nut farm. While there, they bought property on the lower Pacific Coast, and started a small fishing and diving resort. By January of '93, they received an unsolicited offer for the property that was so good they couldn't refuse.

With cash in their pockets, they decided to shop for another cruising boat. They began their search by buying a Cherokee 235 airplane in Costa Rica, which they flew up through Central America, the east coast of Mexico, and to a total of 40 of the states in the U.S. "Thanks to Mary's penchant for staying in touch with friends," laughs Rob, "we only had to stay in a motel once."

In the fall of '93, they saw an ad for Maude I. Jones and inquired about her. The owner said that she'd been sold, so the couple went to Seattle for a week. By the time they returned, there was a message saying the deal had fallen through and wondering if they were still interested. They flew to L.A. to see the boat, and after just 15 minutes made an offer that was accepted.

The 46-ft Finch design is interesting in that she was cold-molded by the same guys who cold-molded the wings for Howard Hughes' legendary Spruce Goose. This was done in the late '60s and early '70s in a Culver City vacant lot that has since become part of Universal Studios. The boat wasn't completed until '73, and was only put into the water then because that insurance company had declared she was 'an attractive' nuisance on the vacant lot.

Maude had been built for Karl and Maize Duge of Venice Beach and the Windjammer's YC of Marina del Rey. They lived on the boat as well as cruised her to San Francisco and down to Mexico. She only came up for sale because Karl - who is still alive and often in contact with the Messengers - suffered a stroke just days before he and his wife were to take off on a big cruise.

[Editor's note: Rob and Mary started their second cruise in January of '94, and have been at it ever since. We'll tell you about it in next month's Changes. Meanwhile, it's worth knowing that their annual budget - absolutely everything included - is $25,000. They claim to live very well on this, although they do eat 95% of their meals onboard "because we can make better food than restaurants."]

- latitude 38 03/12/04

Shayna - Hylas 45.5
Dorothy Taylor & Larry Hirsch
Club Nautico, Cartagena
(San Diego)

Much has been written about the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia, but we're not sure how much has been written in Latitude about the 'Club Nautico experience'. Club Nautico is maybe best defined as "a loony bin more or less run by the yachtie inmates, with the forbearance of the management". Sort of a Hotel California, where all who arrive either stay on and on - or wish they could.

We made the jump from Curaçao directly to Cartagena, and had the usual 30 to 40-knot winds and big seas as we flew toward our hoped-for destination. That part was all right, it was the gremlins that exhausted us. Our GPS had a loose connection somewhere, so it beeped every 15 minutes - disturbing any sleep we tried to get. Then some kind of electrical surge blew our inverter, radar and alternator, sending black smoke through two of the multi receptacles.

We limped into Cartagena and requested docking space at Club Nautico. In the midst of the normal chaos, John Halley, the unflappable ex-pat Brit who is the dockmaster, answered our plea. He told us to get two 100-ft docklines ready. Almost immediately, two marineros came out in a dinghy, jumped aboard our boat, and steered us toward the dock. There was a diver in the water who grabbed our lines, then dove underwater to secure them to the anchor blocks. John and four other men were ready on the dock to take lines, fend off, and generally secure our boat. It was a bit dicey, as the wind was howling, but we never had such service.

We wandered down the dock to the Club Nautico restaurant, where Harry from Shiloh, Jan and Dorsey from Sun Dazzler, and Jan and Kelly from Refuge were having the Almuerzo Special - which is soup, a main plate, and a drink for 6,000 Colombian pesos. That's $2 U.S. Then John sat us down and oriented us to the city, giving us directions to the banks, bars, and supermarkets, and giving us a copy of the Cruiser's Guide that lists all the services.

Club Nautico - one of two 'yacht clubs' in Cartagena, and by far the most popular with cruisers - is owned by Candelaria and her husband Norman Bennett. Norman is sort of a phantom, since he is on the lam, possibly in Panama, as a result of what many believe were trumped-up charges against him.

Candelaria is a great lady with a fantastic wardrobe - which she enjoys showing off by parading around the restaurant. She does imbibe a bit, as everyone can see during the afternoon and evenings. About 20 members of her extended family work at or at least hang out around the club. We're told that Candelaria loves parties, and that she even did a striptease for everyone over Halloween! Her birthday is in mid-December, and everybody is invited to the huge bash, complete with mariachis, a DJ, and a brunch that would rival what's put out by some of the fancier hotels in the States.

Candelaria's aged mother adds to the charm of the place, as she talks to the television. In fact, if someone on the tube says something she disagrees with, she bangs on the set. She also enjoys wandering around singing to herself. On our last day at Club Nautico, somebody stole her parrot, and she kept banging on her grandsons thinking that would help her find the bird.

Candelaria is assisted in management by Millennium, a fat, stray, beige mongrel who seems to know who belongs at the club. She snarls at those who don't. When not guarding the club, Millennium sleeps curled up on one of the chairs - and woe be to anyone who tries to move her to sit down.

Dockmaster John is married to a beautiful Colombian woman. When you marry a Colombian woman, her whole family usually moves in with you. Fortunately, John has a sailboat to which he can escape to when all the beds in his home are full.

The club and restaurant - it's just an open-air place with movable tables and a thatch roof - are a central meeting and activity place for both yachties and locals. Meals and drinks at the club are very inexpensive. Everyone runs a tab for meals and drinks, and these tabs are payable on Wednesday - or else!

Andy is one of the tour guides who waits outside the club for cruiser fares. If he enters the club, Candelaria usually flies into a Latin rage. I guess she has relatives in the taxi business and resents what she sees as his infringing on her business. Apparently Andy has a tour guide license, but not a taxi license. But since he speaks English well, he still gets lots of yachtie business. Not only does Andy know where to find anything and everything, he's an ordained minister, so his fares are subject to being sermonized while getting a ride.

Walking down the Club Nautico docks to your boat is another interesting experience - especially after dark. You're likely to find just about anything - chains, crossed docklines, bikes, boarding planks, buckets, anchors, bodies, shoes, and so forth - laying around. And the wakes from the water taxis speeding outside the dock send the boats rocking. As John the Dockmaster says, "This is not a marina for wimps." So far the city hasn't committed to an extension on the lease for the marina. If they did, it would make sense for the management to spend money improving the docks.

Because the Club Nautico docks are often full, many boats anchor just outside the facility. The crews pay $2/day for use of the dinghy dock, which includes free water, showers, trash disposal, and fax and phone services.

Despite all the unusual features and unusual characters - or perhaps because of them - Club Nautico is a fun place to stay. There is always something happening. It's too bad that so many cruisers miss visiting Cartagena because their insurance won't cover them. We've found it to be one of the safest places, in terms of weather and security, in our 11 years of cruising between California and the Med.

We also spent two weeks in Ferro Cem Boatyard giving Shayna a facelift. We got a new gelcoat on the hull, polished the topsides, and got the best bottom job we've ever had - all at unbelievably reasonable prices. The cost and workmanship put both Venezuela and Trinidad to shame!

At the moment we're at the San Blas Islands in Panama, waiting out a blow. We plan to transit the Canal in about a month, then head north. It will be great to be back in the Pacific.

P.S. We're still married, and still in our 70s.

- dorothy & larry 02/10/04

Windrunner - Pearson 385
Christe & Martin Edwards
Loving Life in the Marshall Islands
(San Francisco)

When I realized that we'd been here in the Marshalls for almost three months, I figured that I'd better exercise my fingers by writing a report. "Oh, she's gone tropo, living on island time," you might think. But in fact, Majuro has been a beehive of activity for cruisers. I don't have exact numbers, but I'm guessing that there have been about 25 boats in and out of Majuro so far this year, which makes it one of the busiest years for cruisers so far. There's no need to worry about it getting too crowded, however, as its 29 coral atolls and five main islands are spread across the nearly million square miles of its exclusive 'economic zone' in the Pacific.

Clearing with the Marshall Islands Immigration, Customs, and Quarantine was the fastest - five minutes - and easiest - if you have copies of all your documents - of any place we've been to so far. Americans are basically allowed to stay as long as they want. Most other nationalities are given 30 days, but can usually work things out to stay as long as they want also. Because my husband Martin is a British citizen, he was given 90 days to start with. We'll see what Immigration says when that time period expires.

Majuro has just about everything that we need - but with a big bonus. What isn't available here can be shipped from the U.S. via the U.S. Postal Service, and at regular U.S. rates. This also works for shipping home all the excess stuff that gets accumulated on a boat.

Our grocery bills here are similar to those back in the States - even though fresh fruits and veggies have to be flown in. Here's a sample of other prices: $1.25/minute for calls to the States; $.08/minute for the Internet; $1.20/gallon for diesel when bought by the barrel; $2.50/gallon for gas; $1.00/lb for propane. Shared air-conditioned taxis will pick you up and drop you anywhere on the main downtown traffic islands for 50 cents each way. Those who don't like to anchor can take a mooring for $1/day.

In addition to the transient cruising yachts, last year several boats - Kaimana, Seal, and Karmaladen among them - took up residency. The folks on these boats have been a wealth of information for the rest of us, and have also been instrumental in organizing many group activities, including the Mieco Beach YC, now three months new! Like many others, Martin and I paid the $25 membership fee, which is good for one year and a free T-shirt. Among other things, the club organizes a monthly race inside Majuro Lagoon. With many of the local businesses sponsoring fabulous prizes for these events, the club membership is growing rapidly.

The Valentine's Day Race held on February 15 brought out a fleet of nine boats. We had Jeff and Debbie of Sailor's Run, 'soul sailors' from the Ha-Ha, crew for us. All the participants had a good time - even though it was raining and the wind hooted hard enough for us to get up to 7.8 knots. Unfortunately, the rain meant we didn't get any hot photographs of the racing.

Here's how the boats - all but one from the United States, and several familiar to cruisers from Mexico and the South Pacific - corrected out: 1) NaviGator, Mikado 56, with Kaye & Joe; 2) WindRunner, Pearson 385, with Christe & Martin; 3) Seal, Atkins Ingrid 38, with Karin & Carey; 4) Roxanne, Custom Wylie 65 with Tom, Lynn, and kids Jack and Tristan; 5) KarmaLaden, Aragosa 60 with Rixenne & Ash; 6) Libby Lane, Catana 42-S, with Monique, Drew, Celeste and Grace; 7) Queen Jane, Shannon 50, with Kate, Jorden and Jonah; 8) Kaimana, Beneteau 461, with Liz & Ron; and 9) Stardancer II, Beneteau 44, with Shale & Keith.

'To the victor go the spoils' in most sailboat races. Not at the Mieco Beach YC, where prizes were awarded based on what numbers participants pulled from a hat! I picked a barrel of diesel while Martin picked a refill of propane. These were considered two of the best prizes, and both had been donated by MEC (Marshall's Energy Company). Other prizes included a free night at the Outrigger Hotel, some nice fold-up beach chairs, ice cream, six-packs of beer, and so forth.

A karaoke machine was set up after the awards, and everyone had fun pretending to be singing stars. Martin did his impression of Tom Jones, and is now affectionately known as 'Mike Hog', as he did most of the singing. A reporter from the Reuter's office in Washington was here to cover the 50th anniversary of the blast on Bikini Atoll. He stumbled upon our show, and decided to put together a human interest feature on the cruiser lifestyle.

The day before the big race, we had backward dinghy races, with about 10 boats participating. Everyone started waterfights before the race even got going, so I have no idea who won. But it was a blast! The Marshallese people watching were practically falling in the water with laughter, as I don't think they'd ever seen such silly foreigners.

We also had a great month out at Maloelap, so I'll write about that next time. Meanwhile, everyone should know that we're having a great time out here.

- christe & martin 2/30/04

Lone Fox - Clark 65
Chris Von Trampe
West Coast Woodies
(Ventura / St. Barth)

It's hard for us to believe, but there are some sailors who actually prefer working on their boats to sailing them - even when the conditions are perfect. For example, on an idyllic sailing day in the Caribbean, we asked Chris Von Trampe of Lone Fox if he wanted to sail around St. Barth with us.

"No," he replied. "I like racing, but when it comes to regular afternoon sails, I prefer working on my boat." This is nothing new for Chris, who has restored three wood boats in 30 years, and has his eye on a fourth. (If the past is any guide, it won't be long before the third of the boats he's owned will find a home at the San Diego YC.)

As you might expect, Chris has had an interesting life. The son of an American father and a Swedish mother, he grew up in Sweden and then went to university in Germany to be a ceramic artist. When his parents decided to move back to Sweden in '70, he happened to be chasing a girl from Pennsylvania, so he followed her to the States. He's been in the U.S. much of the time since, having lived in no less than 15 states. "I've been a cowboy in Montana, a truck driver in Minnesota, a ski bum in Vail, and way back, a car washer in Vegas for the likes of Liberace. I always did what sounded good at the time."

Opening up businesses often sounded like a good thing to do. "I had a cabinet shop in Ojai, exported exotic cars to Europe, had a Caribbean restaurant in Santa Monica, and a Scandinavian antique shop at the Design Center in L.A."

While all this was going on, he somehow found time to restore #162 of the 32-ft Kettenberg PCs, and race her out of Marina del Rey. "We had a fleet of about 18 of them, and there was another big fleet in San Diego. In addition to the weekly races, the national championship would alternate between Marina del Rey and San Diego. I finally sold my Slick Stick to Dennis Conner and a partner, who now race her out of San Diego."

Chris's next wood boat project was the 48-ft yawl Jucunda from the venerable German yard of Abeking & Rasmussen in Germany. He kept her in Ventura where he maintained - and still maintains - a wood and metal shop. After her restoration was complete, he raced her in a number of classic sailing events in Southern California, such as the McNish Classic, the Ancient Mariners in San Diego, and the Classic Regatta out of Marina del Rey.

Von Trampe's life underwent a major change in '91, after his brother went to work in Sweden for a company that used massive $20 million machines to turn trees into paper pulp. While there, the brother created an automated welding process to keep the expensive machines in line, and started his own company. Chris was given the responsibility of promoting the niche market welding process in North America, and thus started Industrial Welding in Ventura. After a couple of years, he bought out his brother and began a life that involved travelling as many as 250 days a year to both the Americas, Europe, and Africa. It was harder work than he expected, but the company became so successful that it was bought out three years ago by the Austrian company whose machines the process repairs.

"Since I sold the company, I've been working half the time and restoring my wood boats half the time. It's a good life, which is why I normally have a big smile on my face."

The boat Von Trampe is almost completely done restoring is Lone Fox, a boat with a history almost as interesting as his own. A Robert Clark-designed 65 footer, she was built in '56-57 for Colonel Whitbread, owner of the Whitbread Brewery that sponsored the famous around-the-world races of that name for so many years. Built of teak planking on a steel frame with teak decks in Sandbanks, Scotland, Lone Fox did all of her sailing in the River Clyde area. After Whitbread died, she was sold to a Brit who moved her to the South Coast of England.

In 1987, Keith Ehlert, then of Palos Verdes, bought Lone Fox and sailed her to the Caribbean with dreams of running her as a charter yacht out of the St. James Club in Antigua. It didn't go that well. First, the skipper and crew reportedly pocketed most of the proceeds for whatever charters there were. Then the skipper and crew ran off to Venezuela with the boat and put her up for sale. The only way Ehlert found out about it was when a potential buyer from Spain noticed his business card, figured he was a previous owner, and called for more information.

With the owner having soured on the Caribbean, Lone Fox was brought to Marina del Rey - where Von Trampe was racing his PC and restoring Jucunda. By this time the Clark design was in sad shape, largely taken apart, with none of her systems working. When Chris moved to Ventura and opened up a wood and metal shop, he encouraged Ehlert to move Lone Fox up there, too, and use his shop facilities. Ehlert did so in '92, but the drive from Palos Verdes seem to drain what interest he had left in the boat. In '97 he put her up for sale.

As a favor, Chris began to show the boat to potential buyers, such as a nonprofit group that wanted to completely gut her, put in lots of bunks and igloo coolers, and use her to take at-risk inner city kids on sails. Having grown fond of Lone Fox over the years, Chris didn't want the yacht to suffer such a fate. So with the Jucunda restoration almost complete, he bought Lone Fox in '97. He was the owner of two big wood boats until 2001, when Jucunda was purchased by a member of the San Diego YC.

Chris threw himself into the Lone Fox project, refastening her hull to the waterline, rebuilding her engine, rerigging her, and replacing much of the wood and metal work. There were always two or three people working on her, with girlfriends, relatives, and others all pitching in. Some were paid and some did it out of love. "It took five years, and it was extremely satisfying to me because we had restored an almost completely gutted 65-footer to about 98% of her original condition." One of the major exceptions is that she now has aluminum masts.

Two years ago, the same Swedish guy who helped save her from a bogus sale in Venezuela helped Chris sail Lone Fox back to the Caribbean. She's now based out of St. Barth, where she's available for charter. So far, the boat has been most successful with charters for fashion shoots. "She's been used by Harper's Bazaar, Spiegel, Glamour, and others. We charge $1,500 and $1,800 a day, depending on food and service required. We're working on a three-day shoot with GQ."

"I'm happy with the boat in St. Barth, in part because I have my buddies here. As for the upcoming hurricane season, we don't know if we'll go north or south. Maybe we'll sail back to Sweden."

As for "my buddies", Chris is referring to Alf Andersson and P.G. Johansson, with whom he has a history. He'd gone to grade school with them in Växjö, Sweden. They went on to found Gecko Marine in Sweden, and built 40 of the Gecko 39s, which were Swan-like boats. They built the last one for themselves, sailing her around the world. They ended up at the Pier 39 Boatyard in Marina del Rey - where they bumped into Chris and ultimately helped him rebuild his PC! So now, many years later again, guess who runs Two Swedes Carpentry in St. Barth, not far from where Lone Fox is moored? That's right, old friends Alf and P.G.

"I'm enjoying life, working and traveling as a consultant for my old company about half the time, and spending about half the time in the Caribbean with Lone Fox. The half-and-half thing works out really well for me."

With some exceptions. Last year, Lone Fox had gone to Antigua for the Antigua Classic Regatta, when Chris got called away for work. He nonetheless told skipper D. Randy West that it would be all right if he showed the boat around, and if the conditions were nice, take some friends out for a daysail. When Chris called a few days later, he got D. Randy on the cell phone at a bad time.

"Let me call you back in half an hour, boss," said D. Randy, "we're just crossing the finish line here at the Classic Regatta, and I think we got second in class!"

"That's the Caribbean for you," shrugs Chris, who clearly hadn't expected his boat to be entered in a regatta when he wasn't there.

In any event, with the Lone Fox restoration complete, Chris is ready to sell her. She's in pristine shape, and the asking price is $475,000. If you're interested, we'll be happy to put you in contact with Chris. Although Von Trampe is ready to sell Lone Fox, he's certainly not ready to quit restoring big wooden boats. In fact, he's got his eye on an even more famous wooden yacht, one with ties to both the Caribbean and the West Coast.

- latitude 38 2/12/04

Luna Sea - Irwin 37
Tim & Julie Harmon
Big Blow at Las Hadas

Julie, the Admiral, and I, the Deck Ape, are doing well cruising Mexico after a great trip down in the 2003 Ha-Ha. We've had some excitement since, including beating up to Los Frailes in up to 28 knots of wind, then sailing down to Mazatlan, Chacala, the 'bubble' at Paradise Village, and going as far south as Manzanillo. We had planned on continuing down to Zihua, but a big storm came through that knocked us off schedule, and then we had to be in Barra de Navidad by February 20th to meet up with visitors. We'll never let ourselves get in a schedule bind like that again!

Our most dramatic experience took place in the Las Hadas anchorage in January, where we and seven other boats had to ride out a nasty storm. The day started dark, and by 3 p.m. the wind had picked up to 30 knots. By sunset there was a kind of darkness we'd never seen before, and shortly thereafter the thunder and lightning started. There were lightning strikes all around us, including one that hit the jetty with a loud crack of thunder!

Afraid that our boat would be hit by lightning, we unhooked all the electronics. But the lightning got even worse, so we were sure we were going to get hit any second. All we could think about was staying as far away from the mast as possible. I tried to keep the Admiral safe in the aft stateroom, but she kept coming out and asking why I kept telling her to stay aft!

Then all of a sudden a blast of wind heeled our boat way over, and we had to grab something to hang onto! When I went up the companionway, all I could see was horizontal rain and a blur of a boat next to ours. I got on the VHF and called the other boats to make sure everyone was all right. Rick on Magic Places said he was in the cockpit, had his engine running, and was ready to head out if he started to drag or his anchor broke free.

We were now in a serious blow, and the anchorage had become a lee shore. Rick's boat was only 100 feet from the beach. I thought for sure we'd break free, too, and end up on the shore. So I started our engine, too. But I stayed in the companionway in case of a lightning strike, watching to make sure we weren't dragging.

For the duration of the storm, the Deck Ape had become bewildered, and the Admiral became both scared shitless and bewildered.

Fortunately, the wind finally settled down and the lightning moved away. But we could see that all the lights in the hotels and in Manzanillo were out. All of the awnings on the hotel to our west had blown away. The only damage we had was that the sail cover had been blown half off and three sail ties had come undone and were laying in the cockpit. The next day the fellow on the catamaran next to us said the top gust registered 58 knots on his instruments. I later read more about this kind of weather and believe it must have been a microburst.

We ended up going back to Barra Navidad, and staying between there and 10-mile distant Tenacatita Bay for 2.5 months. We loved that area and will return for sure.

We heard reports of problems with theft at Chemela, which is a little further north than Tenacatita. After Bob on Yamaya lost their dinghy and motor, the local sheriff appeared with it, saying he recovered it in Tenacatita Bay and wanted to be paid 3,500 pesos - about $350 - for bringing it back. Since Bob's deductible was $500, he paid the money. The same sheriff tried to sell another boatowner his small outboard, which had been taken from his dinghy while it was on the beach. This cruiser declined and bought a new outboard. A third cruiser lost his kayak at Chemela - although he did leave it on the beach overnight.

- tim 03/20/04

Mad River - N/A
Richard & Patricia Payne
Beaching in Barbados
(Shelburne, Vermont)

[Editor's note: This is a heavily edited version of a letter forwarded to us by friends of the owners of Mad River, which went on the beach in Barbados some 10 years into the couple's cruise. We can't help but wonder if the boat dragging wasn't a function of their being fatigued when they set the hook.]

On December 27, we made landfall in Barbados after a trouble-plagued 26-day passage from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. The combination of a cross swell, inconsistent wind speeds, and gear failures, resulted in our having a less than enjoyable crossing. After we made landfall, a swell around the island made it difficult to sleep, and it wasn't until 3 a.m. the second night that we finally dropped off.

An hour later I was up, feeling that something was wrong. And it was. As I got to the companionway, Mad River came down into the trough of a swell and bounced on the reef! I started the engine immediately, and applied full throttle in an attempt to get her back to deep water. But the swells continued to lift our boat higher and further onto the reef.

There were screams of panic as we pounded on the bottom. Patricia got on the radio and issued desperate pleas for help. We put on PFDs and threw what we thought was important into a waterproof bag. This included the 30 minutes of video we'd filmed of our Atlantic crossing for our grandchildren. But we couldn't possibly save the approximately 30 pounds of photos that we'd accumulated since waving good-bye to two crying daughters 10 years ago, as they watched their mother and father depart Shelburne, Vermont, on a cruise to fulfill the dream of a lifetime.

Our nightmare ride across the reef seemed to take forever, but in reality only lasted about 30 minutes before we were beached. But that was just the beginning, as our home of many years was pounded on the rocks for the next 10 hours! It was horrible.

We were helped by many kind people, both locals and cruisers. We finally got a line to an ocean-going tug that is capable of pulling super tankers. The captain used just one engine at its lowest speed to pull our 34,000 pound boat back across the reef at a speed of about three knots. It's impossible for me to describe the violence that was involved, but it was like dragging the boat over a boulder-strewn moonscape, while the boat was continually being lifted and then dropped back on the rocks! The hull slammed, the rigging and mast shuddered, and there was the unforgettably horrible sound of fiberglass grinding on rock.

There was no doubt whatsoever in our minds that Mad River would sink as soon as she reached deep enough water. But she didn't! There were loud cheers from the onlookers, but we were in such shock that we heard nothing. Our boat was then towed to Bridgetown, where it was hauled to assess the damage. Nobody who witnessed the rescue could believe how well she survived! We did lose the rudder, and fiberglass had been ripped away from the outer skin of our balsa-cored composite, but the inner skin was never violated. Our fuel tank, located under the engine bed, was ruptured. And there was lots more minor damage. We repaired what we could in Barbados, then continued on to have the rest of the work done in Trinidad.

The nightmare that we lived through is now in the past. But five weeks have passed since the grounding, and I still can't hold back the tears when I recall the kindness and help that we received that dreadful day.

- richard & patricia 3/24/04

Cruise Notes:

If you've seen Pirates of the Caribbean starring Johnny Depp - a great way to pass the time when flying to the Caribbean - you're familiar with the gorgeous waters of the Tobago Cays, which are part of the country of St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Cays have a pristine anchorage, palm-lined white sand beaches, unique island formations, a coral reef system of great environmental importance - and no human residents! Although the Cays are a Wildlife Reserve and Marine Conservation Area, as well as a National Marine Park, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is currently entertaining a proposal that would hand the management of this pristine area over to Palm Island Resorts Ltd., which seeks to develop the area for financial gain. Many consider the proposed arrangement to be a threat to the environment of the Cays, as well as to the livelihood of many in the local marine tourism industry. In response to this threat, local individuals - with the support of regional and international experts and organizations - have formed the Friends of the Tobago Cays. This apolitical, non-governmental organization intends to ensure the protection of the Tobago Cays as a sustainable national heritage, and to ensure that the area is managed in a way that satisfies public rather than private interests. To learn more about this issue and join the effort to keep the Cays public, visit [email protected]. We support their efforts.

The accompanying aerial photo of the Tobago Cays comes from the new Grenada To The Virgin Islands, A Cruising Guide To The Lesser Antilles, written by Jacques Patuelli. The original is in French, but Imray Publications now offers an English translation. Previously, most English-speaking cruisers have used three cruising guides for these waters - The Virgin Islands Cruising Guide, the Windward Islands Cruising Guide, and the Leeward Islands Cruising Guide - published by Cruising Guide Publications of Florida. As we've written several times before, these are terrific guides and offer unusually good coverage of what goods and services are available onshore. Patuelli's guide, on the other hand, doesn't have advertising and is much more of a traditional pilot, one that's extremely thorough and features over 500 aerial color photographs. Booksellers should should provide potential cruisers and charters to the area the guide covers with hankies, for they won't be able to keep from drooling when reading it. We'll have a more detailed review on this excellent guide in a future issue. But in our opinion, Patuelli's guide and the three Cruising Publications Guides complement rather than overlap one another. We wouldn't cruise the Eastern Caribbean without any of them.

Don and Katie Radcliffe of the Santa Cruz-based Beneteau First 456 Klondike report that they believe two different boats with pirates chased them while they were transitting the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen. The area has been the scene of a number of pirate attacks on private yachts in recent years. The couple report they were first chased shortly after sunset on February 23 while about 60 miles off the coast. A 30-35 foot boat with several men on board continued to stalk them no matter how radical the changes they made in their course. Although the pursuing boat managed to come within 150 feet, Klondike was barely able to pull away, and the other vessel eventually broke off the chase. Although no weapons were brandished, the couple are convinced the men intended to board their boat and rob them.

Their second incident occurred about 11 p.m. that same night, when a larger boat began stalking them from about five miles away. Once again, their dramatic changes in course had no effect, as the boat continued to track wherever they went. After about 40 minutes, the other vessel had closed to within two miles. Don and Katie changed their heading to take better advantage of the wind on their main, and managed to maintain that separation. Eventually that boat gave up the chase also.

"Was the first boat manned by innocent and curious fishermen?" the Radcliffes wonder. "Was the crew of the second vessel unable to understand English, and trying to come to our aid after we set off flares? Did we overreact? We'll never know for sure, but when a boat tries to intercept your boat at night in the lonely waters 60 miles offshore in the Gulf of Aden, we believe it's prudent to assume the worst. Our fears were confirmed to some degree by reports of successful attacks on yachts in the following days."

The first reported attack was on the French yacht Le Notre Dame, which was boarded and robbed by armed fishermen/pirates on February 27 at 13°30'N, 47°51E. The yacht was approached at 1 p.m. about 30 miles off the coast of Yemen by a small fishing boat with five men aboard. The men were armed with knives and automatic rifles, and took cameras, binoculars, alcohol, and other easily accessible valuables. The crew was shaken but unharmed, and proceeded to Aden. In this instance, a Coalition warship heard the relayed distress message on VHF, asked commercial shipping to assist, and responded with a helicopter some six hours later.

The second attack was on March 5, when the American singlehander on Salt Air was boarded at 13°13'N, 48°33'E - or some 50 miles southeast of the attack on Le Notre Dame. He was approached at 6 p.m. by a 50-foot boat, whose crew fired three shots in the air from about 75 yards as a warning to stop. Three men boarded Salt Air, and while one of them held the American skipper at gunpoint, the others took his VHF and HF radios, plus cameras and $20 from a 'decoy' wallet. The men left with smiles and goodbye waves - and then fired another shot into the air. The black pirate boat with yellow trim was loaded with people - mostly women - and was likely smuggling Somalis into Yemen. A final suspicious incident took place on March 7, when the yacht Silver Girl was chased for 20 minutes by a 50-foot fishing boat at 14°26'N, 52°E. A big boat, Silver Girl was able to outrun the presumed pirates.

The Radcliffe's complete account of the incidents can be read in the
March 22 edition of 'Lectronic Latitude, which can be accessed by going to www.latitude38.com.

How long do watermakers last? In a little tidbit that didn't make the Maude I. Jones Changes earlier in this section, Rob Messenger told us that their boat has had the same HRO watermaker since the '70s. "Owner Karl Duge was a member of an engineering society, where he became good friends with the guy who started HRO Watermakers, so he installed one of those," says Rob. "It's worked great ever since, as all I've done is change the valves once six years ago and replace the membrane twice. The secret to the longevity of watermakers is to use them. Like so much in life, it's 'use it or lose it'."

"We were in Florida when Latitude published the letter from Valhalla that was critical of Club Nautico in Cartagena, Colombia, so we're a little late responding," write Ralph and Johanna Felten of the Stockton-based Newport 41 El Sueño. "We spent five very happy months at Club Nautico, enjoying the best of times. Candelaria, the owner, as well as Mavis and Mayelis practically adopted us, so we felt like family. In fact, all of the Club Nautico staff were genuinely gracious and really went the distance to make everyone feel welcome. The relaxed atmosphere and many social activities made our stay way too short, so we'd love to return next year. The individuals who are attempting to take over the concession at Club Nautico are examples of the true 'ugly Americans' who go to a foreign country and try to impose their will and agendas. By the way, we're from the Ha-Ha class of '99, which was an unforgettable party. Thanks for launching us on the adventure of our lifetime."

You're most welcome about the Ha-Ha, we're glad you enjoyed it and that the cruising life has worked out so well since.

If you've followed his adventures in Latitude and 'Lectronic Latitude, you know that Mike Harker and his Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 466 Wanderlust have been cruising all over the western world at a furious pace for the last two years or so. And that a few months ago, Wanderlust's rudder - not her mast as we mistakenly reported once - broke en route from the Tuamotus to Hawaii. Hunter made a new rudder which, like all the ones for the 466s after hull #6, is wrapped in Kevlar, and sent it to Mike in the Tuamotus. Door-to-door shipping cost $1,100, which doesn't seem all that bad since the rudder is so big and the destination so unusual. Anyway, Mike and Fabio put the rudder on and successfully sailed the boat to Hawaii. As we write this, Wanderlust should be on her way to Northern California in plenty of time to be at the Hunter display at Sail Expo in Oakland this month.

We don't know who 'Julie' is, or how we got on her mailing list, but we enjoyed the passion in her message: "Sorry about the mass email, but I don't have much time. I just wanted to let everyone know that I've had a change in plans. As most of you know, I finished up my MBA program and was hoping to go full time with Sun, but there were no openings. I'm now putting the job hunt on hold while I become crew on a 37-ft cat sailing in the Caribbean and Central America for the next six months. I'm leaving soon and counting the seconds. Keep in touch!"

We'd love to, Julie, but we don't know who you are or how to get in touch with you. You've got the rest of your life to work, so enjoy your six months of sailing. Of course, you'd better be careful, for more than a few folks who've taken a break between getting their master's and joining the corporate world went 'tropo' and never came back.

The Darwin to Bali Race is back on, as is the Darwin to Kupang Race. The former - which is the classic sailing event in Indonesia - starts on July 31st. The latter will have started a week earlier, July 24, but because of space limitations in Kupang, West Timor, will be limited to just 25 boats. These are a couple of very interesting events, so if you're interested, visit www.darwinbalirace.com [this URL was 'not found' when we tried it].

After Bali and Kupang, many cruisers continue on to Malaysia, where 60% of the 30 million population are Muslim, making it the largest Muslim country in the world. Most Americans will be cheered to learn the results of Malaysia's election in late March. Parti Islam, representing Muslim fundamentalists, lost much of their clout. The biggest humiliation was that Ulama Hadi Awang, head of the party, was one of those who lost his seat in parliament.

They're giving it away?! While in St. Martin last month, we had to pay about $12 for 45 minutes of Internet access. But Charlie Bloomer tells us that as long as you buy something like a beer or a coffee, no fewer than three businesses in San Carlos, Mexico, are providing free wireless DSL Internet access. The three businesses are Marina Cantina, Evie's Simply Coffee, and JC's Cafe. As you might expect, this is putting some economic pressure on the Internet cafes in town that actually charge for the access.

Bloomer is in San Carlos with Marisa Velasco, where he has opened up San Carlos Yachts / Mazatlan Marine Center, and reports there are considerable changes taking place. For one thing, the Grossman family - which owns Marina San Carlos and Marina Seca - has apparently bought all the land and buildings around Marina San Carlos, which were formerly owned by bankrupt Grupo Sidek. (Repeated attempts to get confirmation of this from the Grossmans were to no avail.) But now that access to the marina and title to the land surrounding it are no longer clouded, there have been improvements. For instance, in addition to the new yacht brokerage, Marina San Carlos now has the "most up-to-date fuel dock in Mexico," and will be opening a chandlery soon. There is also progress in town, where a second bank and second Pemex station have opened, as well as that lighthouse of progress, a Domino's Pizza. There is also a VHF Cruisers Net on 72 at 0800 that is going strong with about 35 boats checking in. So if you're in the Sea of Cortez, check San Carlos out.

"In a recent 'Lectronic," Rob Spakowski writes, "the Wanderer jokingly wrote about not wanting to trade places with a crewmember on Roy Disney's maxZ86 Pyewacket because he was '. . . headed to the beautiful blue waters of Baie St. Jean [St. Barth], where the big turtles swim and the young girls walk topless on the beach.' Topless young girls on the beach - no doubt he's making this up. I don't believe it for a minute - or until you produce photographic evidence."

The young girls aren't just topless on the beach, Rob, some of them also come to lunch that way. And from time to time, bits of butter from their lobster lunches drops on their boobs, so it's almost erotic. Ah, the hard life in the French West Indies! However, it's uncouth of you to suggest that we violate the sanctity of the experience by taking photos of these young ladies. At Orient Bay on St. Martin, sure. But on St. Barth? You could be banished from the island for not understanding the basic rules of the game.

"I'm late with my story," writes Gary Higdon of the 30-ft hard-chine steel sloop Faraway, "but I think it's still worth telling. While in dry storage at Marina Seca in San Carlos last summer, my 11,000-lb boat was blown over by hurricane Marty. The headsail and main had been stowed, so the obvious scapegoats had an alibi. One theory as to why she went over is that not enough weight was borne by the keel, allowing her to slip to port while the topsides went to starboard and over the top of the stands. In any event, a starboard panel was dented severely enough to break some interior plywood frames and, although the standing rigging held the mast, it did yank the port deck out of shape a bit.

"The real story, however, was Marina Seca's response," Higdon continues. "Although I had previously been in contact with the yard by email, their computer was knocked out by the storm. So the first time I learned about the damage was in January, when I arrived with plans to launch my boat! Here's how I found her: The yard, having decided to pay for and make the repairs, had done most of the work when I arrived. They had lifted the boat onto the stands, the interior was removed to a storage facility, and a 3 x 6-ft section of steel plate was cut out and replaced. After the initial shock and grateful recognition of all the work the yard had done, we teamed up to finish the job. I launched on February 5, only a half-moon after my initial target!

"Marina Seca has been in operation for a number of years. Boatowners are allowed to live aboard, and the storage area doubles as a work yard. They have built nice new restrooms with hot showers - they sank a huge tank and truck the water in. Haulouts are currently handled by the very large Travel-Lift operated by the Cozar Boatyard. It's somewhat expensive, but it's partially offset by the low rates for storage. Gabriel, the proprietor of Cozar, and Arnulfo, his assistant, both speak English fairly well and are eager for new clients. They are located on the south side of the bay on the Paraje bus route near Las Playitas."

While in St. Barth early last month, Antonio des Mortes, the self-proclaimed 'Terrorist of the Caribbean', and former captain of Big O from time to time, banged on the hull of Profligate one night to insist we visit "this incredible sailor friend from my hometown on the Galacian coast of Spain". When we learned the fellow's name was Javier Babe, we began to think it might be a waste of time. It wasn't. It turns out that the 55-year-old Babe has sailed across the Atlantic 23 times and has sailed around the Horn twice - always on his own boats. His wife Christina - the first girl des Mortes dated back in the 'old country' - has been across the Atlantic 17 times. Heck, even Babe's 13-year-old son Oscar has been across 13 times - and not against his will. "The sailing life is la buena vida," he told us.

Initially a captain in the merchant marine, Babe became frustrated with not being able to stop and enjoy the exotic ports he called on, and the fact that he rarely got to dive. "I'm passionate about sailing, diving and the sea," he told us. So he bought and ran a three-masted 110-ft schooner. After several years, it had just about broken him financially but, thanks to the help of Mary Crowley of Ocean Voyages in Sausalito, he sold the schooner and acquired the 65-ft Frers-designed Argentinian-built steel schooner Peregrina, meaning 'female pilgrim'. In recent years he's been sailing back and forth across the Atlantic doing sailing and diving charters.

But not next year. Babe and five other fishermen will be sailing across the Atlantic on a 26-ft traditional Galacian open fishing boat. Absolutely everything used for the boat and voyage will have been available in the 1700s. So not only will Babe and his friends not have a GPS or radar, they won't even have a sextant. When we asked how he plans to navigate, Babe pulled out a crude astrolabe-like device he'd made from - we're not making this up - the side of a box that contained a case of beer. "With this I can get our position to within 60 miles - without a watch or any tables," Babe pronounced. We believe him, too. Babe looks forward to this risky expedition as much as a 5-year-old looks forward to Christmas morning. We're looking forward to crossing paths with him in the British Virgins this month to get a more in-depth story. For rarely have we seen a man so joyful about sailing and the ocean.

According to the Pacific Pearl publication in Mazatlan, the long dormant $550 million dollar Marina Mazatlan project is back on line, with dirt to start flying in April. Alas, most of the development will be of golf courses, houses, hotels, condos, and such. We're not sure that any more berths will be built. The project is not slated to be completed for 10 years, at which time it's expected to provide direct and indirect employment for as many as 55,000 workers. Jack Jandreau of the Portland-based Stealaway, who sent us this item, says he's been watching engineers and survey crews working around the marina malecon.

Development seems to continue unchecked on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, as Harbormaster Dick Markie reports Marina Paradise is in the process of building 500 more condos on the beach just to the north of their two six-story hotels. They're also building a 600-person convention center.

"Wow, was it ever fun to see ourselves in last month's Changes!" write Michael Sheats, Hillair Bell, and Tyson the Poodle of the Sausalito-based Sceptre 41 Indigo, which is currently in the British Virgin Islands. "The photo of our boat under sail was as good as we hoped she looked - thanks so much to the Wanderer for going out in his dinghy to take it. We have one small but significant correction to the story you wrote. Windbourne, the Beneteau First 38, belongs to Roy and Susan Hopper of Carriacou, and it was she who won the serious racing division of the Carriacou Regatta last summer. The boat belonging to the surgeon who extricated Michael's appendix is also a Beneteau, Blew By You, based out of Grenada. Latitude's continuous message - just do it! - resounds in our ears. The diversity among the community of sailors is enormous, the creativity is unmatched, and the inspiration unequalled. Thanks for bringing such wonderful examples to us each month; we never tire of them."

Thanks for the kind words, but don't try to pin the 'Just do it!' slogan on us. The last thing we need is a bunch of lawyers flying down from Eugene with 'swooshes' on their legal briefs.

Given all the tumult in the Middle East, it's hard to believe organizers keep running the Eastern Med Cruising Rally - which goes from Turkey to Cyprus, to Syria, to Lebanon, to Israel, to Egypt - but they do. We mistakenly reported that it was cancelled last year, but in fact 44 boats participated - albeit on a shortened course because of security concerns. By the middle of March, 44 boats had already signed up for this year's event, which starts from Istanbul on April 27 and then has an 'international restart' from Park Kemer Marina in Turkey on May 15. As in the past, organizers reserve the right to make changes to the rally - which everyone who has done it tells us is terrific - if the political situation dictates it.

"My friend has recently come from Russia to the States, and later this year we'd like to do some sailing to places throughout the Pacific," writes Vish Widmer of Sausalito. How hard is it for someone to get visas while sailing? I know it was hard for him to get one to fly here to the States."

For Americans it's pretty easy to get visas on the go, although in some places, such as French Polynesia, it's better to get them in advance because you can usually stay longer. As for the regulations regarding Russian citizens, it could be very different. You might check Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Handbook, as it covers this kind of information - although perhaps not for Russians - or visit each country's tourist website.

"We're both here in St. Lucia and retired or semi-retired, we're not sure which," report Terry and Evelyn Drew of the Santa Cruz-based Kirie Feeling 446 Aquarelle, which they purchased out of a charter program. "Terry came down a week earlier than I and has been working hard to put the boat together. He's installing a new battery charger, since the old one and batteries died while we were gone, and is also installing a new ham radio, tuner, antenna and ground system so we can use Winlink - and as a result has had to run all kinds of cables. We went back in the water a few days ago, and are now in a berth at Marina in St. Lucia. There is much to do with a former charter boat. We have the aft water tank out of the boat and sitting in the cockpit, where we'll attempt to fix a leak for a second time. Terry has also discovered a leak between the forward and aft tank - right under the nav station. We looked into having the bimini repaired, but were told it would make more sense to make a new one. You sure do need a bimini here in the Caribbean! We'll be in the Grenadines until May 18.

"I'm writing to let everyone know that I've arrived safely in La Paz, writes Kevin Meeks of the King Harbor-based Renaissance, (type of boat not reported). "On my passage up from Cabo San Lucas, I encountered near-gale conditions my first night out and, while on the foredeck trying to claw the jib down, had one of those icy moments of fear when I realized that my tether had come unsnapped. Talk about a close shave, with the deck pitching violently in the 8 to 10-foot seas and some serious wind blowing. I was never so glad to crawl back into the relative safety of the cockpit. Bahia de los Muertos - now known locally as the Bay of Dreams - has a great palapa-style Giggling Marlin restaurant that opens at 6 a.m. for breakfast. It's worth a stop, as the bay offers a very comfortable overnight anchorage."

"We would like to head for Mexico, but are concerned about the availability of CNG for our stove," writes John J. Meyer of Mill Valley. Is there a list of locations that offer it?

Others can correct us if we're wrong, but it's our understanding that CNG, which is theoretically much safer than propane, is not available in Mexico at all. At least not along the coast. Propane, on the other hand, which lasts much longer and is explosive, is universally available in Mexico.

"The reports from people who've had problems with getting stuff shipped to them in Mexico via DHL hit home with me," writes Bill Steagall of Inspiration in Marina Don Jose in La Paz. "My parts were sent through Mexico City, and after many telephone calls and with the help - yes, help - of Aduana (Mexican Customs), I finally did get them. But I've found a better way to get small parts to La Paz. The post office here accepts boxes that weigh under one kilogram without involving the Aduana/Customs. And I have found that things like engine pistons and such can be sent one to a box. This requires finding a cooperative dealer in the U.S., of course, and not all will cooperate. You may have to send an explicit statement that you accept the risk of having them sent that way. Post office boxes can be rented for a few pesos a month in La Paz. I hope this helps."

"Two days ago I took four other people with me for the 80-mile sail down to Majuro. . . and picked the three windiest days to do it," writes Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn Cat. "But with my heel ailing and nothing else to do, I didn't want to wait to pick up my new sail and get some provisions. Plus, Rixzene had five new 8D batteries waiting that she needed badly. Everyone in the anchorage here - six boats - was overloaded with garbage needing dispoal, and also needed provisions. Keith and Susan Levy of the Pt. Richmond-based Catalina 47 C'est La Vie came along to get propane and provisions. When we came back today, we were loaded down with five 170 lb-batteries, 13 jerry jugs of fuel, my fridge and freezer packed solid, and provisions jammed in everywhere. My new mainsail, which had arrived by air the night before, was rolled up on the salon floor. We had 25 knots of wind on a broad reach going down, and averaged 10 knots, with a top speed of 17.09 knots. When we sailed back today, we have apparent winds of 27 to 39 knots on a close reach. Capricorn Cat handled it fine, although I did have to throttle her back by reefs to reduce the speed to 8-9 knots and keep the boat and crew in one piece. The seas were about 12 feet."

From the Cruising Is Always Just One Fun Moment After Another Department, here's a further update from Grinols: "The weather here in the Marshalls is rainy today, but it doesn't really matter as my heel looks so raw and ugly that I couldn't do anything anyway. They still didn't have the new electrical part for the outboard when I was in Majuro the other day, so I can't use my dinghy. Rixzene was nice enough to loan me her spare if I need one. The rope stopper on the davit that holds the back of the dinghy broke the other day on the way back from Majuro, allowing the front of the dinghy to swing into the barbecue and get a hole punched in the nose. While trying to haul the dinghy on the foredeck in rough seas, we broke one of the lifeline stanchions loose, so there's another repair job. The wind blew the grommets out of the sun screens on the front windows, but I fixed those yesterday also, along with the tabs on the dinghy that tore loose. In my spare time I defrosted the refrigerator. Oh boy! We had a fish barbecue on the beach last night, and the guys had to carry me up the beach to keep my heel from getting wet. It sure is fun cruising out here."

For those who don't know Blair, who must be 70 by now, he absolutely loves the cruising life - including fixing all the things that break.

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