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April 2009

Missing the pictures? See the April 2009 eBook!

 With reports this month from Cocokai on heading to Palmyra to resume cruising; from Beach House on careening their cat in El Salvador; from Swell on Liz Clark finally finishing her refit; from Honeymoon on preparing for a Canal transit; from the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run on Banderas Bay; from Sailors Run on replacing a diesel in Buenos Aires; and lots of Cruise Notes.

Cocokai — 67-ft Schooner
Greg King, Jennifer and Coco
Leaving Hawaii
(Long Beach)

We started cruising with the '06 Ha-Ha and are still going strong. After cruising down the west coast of the Americas as far south as Ecuador, we sailed to the South Pacific, then last year we took a little break in Hawaii. After five months in the Hawaiian Islands, we left Kauai in early March for the 1,100-mile passage to Palmyra Atoll. As I write this, we are a third of the way there and are drying out after 24 hours of steady rain. So much for having fixed all the leaks in the deck! And Greg has a new pet — our first cockroach. He must have come aboard the docklines in Kauai. We're hoping he's a he, is alone, and that he won't survive the head and torso injuries he suffered during his encounter with Greg.

We enjoyed our time in Hawaii, but after the so-called "reinforced" tradewinds kicked our keester in Nawiliwili Bay on Kauai, we're happy to have moved on to warmer climes. During the reinforced trades, Greg and I were awoken by a crunch, followed by a CRUNCH!, in the wee hours of Saturday. We rushed on deck to find that the mighty Cocokai T-boned herself on the bowsprit of a ketch on a mooring. We'd dragged in the 30- to 35-knot winds. Waking up would be the start of a seven-hour misadventure that included exhaust smoke and raw water pouring out of the engine, accompanied by only slight movement forward. We grounded a few feet from a rocky breakwater, and finally had to winch our big beast 300 yards to the dock. I think I mentioned that it was blowing 35 knots at the time. Needless to say, it was our most exciting experience so far.

Some of our more pleasant experiences included exploring Kauai with our new friends from sailing vessel Minke. We visited waterfalls and secret beaches, and spent the night at a cabin up in the rainforest. We also enjoyed Oahu and being docked at the Hawaii YC. Having been members for years, it was fun to finally visit. With friends from an authentic Chinese junk, we even ended up in the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown. Plus we had lots of friends visit from the mainland.

Prior to Oahu, we spend an idyllic week in Molokai — but then Greg had to be "air-vac'ed" to Oahu for surgery after a "minor" heart attack. Two stents later, he is doing great and has fully recovered. He actually had the heart attack while surfing in Maui the week before. He was still "feeling funny" when we got him to the clinic in Molokai. They initially misdiagnosed him as having a bruised sternum, but after he insisted, they went ahead with an EKG. The local docs thought the EKG looked fine, but as an extra precaution they faxed it to a cardiologist in Maui. To make a long story short, they called us the next day, and before we knew it, Greg was on a plane to Oahu to have the stents put in. But as I said, he's fully recovered.

Prior to Greg's incident, Maui had been fun. We were visited by lots of friends, and even got in on another parade — the kiddy Halloween parade. It was a blast. Coco looked so cute dressed up in her colorful Peruvian outfit we'd gotten at Machu Picchu when we were cruising in Ecuador. She also had a large blow-up dragon masquerading as her pet llama.

Before Maui, we spent six weeks or so on the Big Island, getting our transmission fixed. After getting it "fixed" for the second time on the Big Island, we finally replaced it on Oahu. We enjoyed being moored out in the main bay in Kona, with easy access to town. We ended up being there for the Iron Man Triathlon, with Coco getting us some backstage passes to the staging area at the pier. So we were front and center for the action. The swimmers went right under the bowsprit of our boat, the transitions for the bike and run were on the pier, and the finish line right out front. It was a fun day. We also enjoyed meeting a number of sailors who had sailed on Cocokai back when she was Waterworld and based out of Kona. After all these years, we finally learned that she'd been built at a small yard in the South of France.

While it was fun to be in Hawaii, it's good to be on our way to warmer — Hawaii has a surprisingly blustery winter — and less civilized places.

— jennifer 03/09/09

Beach House — Switch 51
Scott and Cindy Stolnitz
A Careening Good Time
(Marina del Rey)

It was a fine state of affairs that we found ourselves in at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. The transmission on our port engine had gone out — at least we'd thought that's what had gone out — while crossing Mexico's Gulf of Tehuantepec some 300 miles to the north. With the help of our friend Carmina Robles of Guatemala City and DHL Express, we got a new transmission shipped from the States to Guatemala in less than three days. Then we learned that the haul-out promised to us at Puerto Queztal, Guatemala, wasn't going to happen anytime soon. The boat already on the rails was expected to be there for three more months.

So we picked up our transmission and motored on one engine to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, where we were told that we'd have no problems using Island Marine's tire-grid for careening. After all, more than 50 boats had already gotten out of the water that way before. The basic idea was that we'd drive our cat up onto the beach at high tide, and when the tide went out, she'd be sitting high and dry, giving us a four-hour window in which to replace the transmission. When the tide came in, we'd float back off into deeper water and be good to go.

Unfortunately, the tire-grid system at Bahia del Sol wasn't going to get us high enough out of the water to do the work we needed. But then we noticed a trimaran careened on a sandbar in the middle of the estuary not more than 100 yards away. That led to Plan B, and here's how it went down on March 2:

We'd been anxious, so neither of us slept well. Scott got up at 4 a.m. to go over his checklist. Just before 5 a.m., Alex the mechanic arrived. He and his panga were going to tow us to the careening site, and his panga would be one of three holding us in position as the tide went out. This would be an important job, as the current would run at up to three knots perpendicular to our hulls. As for the careening site, we'd marked it the day before with bamboo poles.

While it was still early, Scott and Alex took our dinghy to the careening site to preset two anchors for Beach House. We would have set them out the day before, but Carlos, another helper with a panga, cautioned that the locals would probably steal them during the night. A short time later, Beach House was pulled to her careening site, as identified by the GPS track we'd made the day before with our dinghy.

Things were tense at 7 a.m., as everybody was trying to hold Beach House in line with the bamboo poles, in particular, keeping the strain from getting too great on the starboard side anchors. We used our dinghy to help push against the tide. The fore and aft positioning was crucial, too, for if Beach House inched too far forward, much of the weight of the cat would be on her vulnerable rudders and saildrives.

At 8 a.m., Alex gamely jumped into the murky estuary waters to see how close Beach House was to touching down, and what part would touch first. Once she touched, we'd have very little time to reposition her. As we waited for the tide to drop, I served bean and cheese burritos and Gatorade for breakfast. Yum.

Beach House bounced on the bottom for the first time at 8:30 a.m., and began to make ever more increasing contact. The rudder skegs, which are very strong, touched first. Both the rudder and the saildrives looked as though they'd have adequate clearance. Fifteen minutes later, Scott jumped in with a mask to confirm that our positioning was good. Alex then dove underwater and used his bare hands to dig four holes in the soft mud, making sure there would be plenty of clearance for the rudders and saildrives if the boat settled in the mud farther than we expected.

By 9:15 a.m., Beach House was securely resting on the hard pack sand bottom. Although the area of the hulls we needed to work on wasn't then fully exposed, Alex got down into the muck and started removing as much as he could. For example, there is a thin fiberglass 'skirt' screwed and glued to each hull around the saildrives, and it needed to be removed and replaced. After the screws were taken out and the glue chiseled off, Scott decided we needed new skirts. We gave Alex the materials to take to his mile-distant shop.

Shortly after 10 a.m., the water level had dropped enough for Scott and Alex to take off the propeller, the necessary first step to lifting the saildrive up and out of the engine room. But there was a curious problem. One of the screws on the propeller that should have been fixed turned easily. It was the first clue that our problem hadn't been with the saildrive transmission at all, but rather with our Jprop.

Using our satphone, we called the Canadian dealer for the Jprop. He told us that neither he nor anyone else in North America represented the company anymore, and he no longer thought very highly of the product. Oh joy! We then made a satphone call to Yanmar Technical Support to see what propeller brands they were recommending. Tech Support was out to lunch for 40 minutes.

Getting back into the mud, Scott and Alex finally succeeded in wrestling the propeller off the saildrive without doing too much damage. After another 15 minutes, the old saildrive had been lifted out of the engine room and onto the deck. The installation of the new saildrive didn't take long at all. In fact, the most time-consuming job was fabricating and installing the skirts.

By 1:20 p.m., things were going so well that Scott took the opportunity to drain all the oil from the starboard — or good — transmission. When our cat is in the water, it's only possible to change some of the oil. While all this was going on, I tried to keep the two greasy and muddy men from messing up the boat too much as they wandered around.
At 4 p.m., Scott called Yanmar again for specifications and recommendations on replacement props. But there is no way we'll be getting them anytime soon.

By 5:30 p.m., Carlos and the others had arrived with their pangas to take Beach House away from the sandbar. The rising tide was flowing from port to starboard, meaning that this time the port anchors had to take all the strain. It was now blowing 20+ knots down at deck level, with the mangroves providing little protection. We'd wanted to move to an interior slip in the marina, but because of our limited ability to maneuver, we opted for a more accessible end-tie. The wind blowing hard on our beam resulted in a bit of a crash landing, cushioned to some extent by some brave people on the dock.

Scott thought the careening had been a huge success. That's a good thing, because it looks like we'll be doing it again at 2:30 a.m. on March 25 so we can install the new German-made VariProps. Normally, it would be possible to install the propellers while the boat was in the water, but the estuary water is so murky that Scott doesn't want to risk the possibility of dropping some critical part that then couldn't be found. Besides, careening had proven to be so easy, why not do it again?

— cindy 03/05/09

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
Out Into The Blue Again
(Santa Barbara)

After a weekend of full immersion surfing, I greeted the last several items on my boatyard 'to do' list with a sunburned smile. After all the many long and hard months, the end was at last in sight. Let's see, I needed to hoist the recut headsail; go to the masthead to see how it fit; search my hardware extras to find the perfect piece to lash it to the masthead at a better halyard-to-sail angle; go back up the mast to install the lashing; and on the way back down, fill all the holes with sealant. Then I needed to measure the new halyard for where the cable would lay on the winch; cut the halyard and clamp the new Nicopress fitting, using every last bit of my strength, all the while being harassed by wasps angry that I'd taped over the holes leading to their home inside the spinnaker pole. Then lash the sail to the furler and raise it for, hopefully, the last time before I use it. Yea, I was all done with that! Oops, not quite. I'd put too many wraps on the furler. Sail down, unlash, unwrap, relash, and back up again. All right kitty, I know it's time for you to eat.

The next day I was up before dawn to catch a ride to town. I needed to buy 14 meters of 10-gauge wire, get my visa extended, and find a 50-amp fuse for the wind generator. The first two jobs were not a problem, but the third was not even a possibility, at least not on this island. I'd have to use a 30-amp fuse for now, hoping it would be adequate. While mounting the wind generator on my newly soldered stainless sleeve pole and running the wires through it, I became aware that I had a new neighbor in the marina. Okay, Mr. Ol' Supertan French Singlehander Dude, could you please stop staring? I know that Swell is beautiful, but do you mind, I'm trying to get some work done over here. And no, please don't offer to help. Just keep smoking your cigarette and sunning your upper thighs while watching me struggle. I'd rather be crushed by the wind generator pole than accept help from you.

"Oh, salut Sylvain! Est-ce que tu peux m'aider por une moment?"

With Sylvain's assistance, the wind generator post went up . . . up . . . up. After we stood back and looked at it, we agreed, trop haut. It was too high and would vibrate too much. The sun was already going down, why couldn't it just be right? So we lowered the pole, I took off the wind generator once more and took a hacksaw to the pole.

"Some assembly required . . . " I mutter to myself. And why do you have to be so close to me and Swell, Mr. Staring Frenchman? The marina is nearly empty. Meanwhile, Sylvain, despite being finished for the day, went and got his 220-volt jigsaw so we could cut the unwanted piece of the pole lengthwise, thereby saving me from having to cut the wires and do all the connections again. He and I share a disregard for personal safety when the job just needs to get done. I held the pole against the boom while standing on the arch over the steering station, toes curled over the stainless bar like a bird on a perch. Meanwhile Sylvain balanced on the lifeline and cut toward his body. Metal shards flew everywhere as the tired blade slowly made its way down the length of the pole, but neither of us bothered with eye protection. We then wedged screwdrivers into the cut to free the wires. After I remounted the generator again, the pole went back up. Voila! Without anybody losing any digits, Sylvain had saved the day.

I just needed to connect the wind generator to the batteries. Just before midnight I was still tucked in the port 'torpedo tube', wiring away, listening to Dire Straits. I mounted the switch on the electrical board, put a fuse between the switch and the positive terminal, stripped the wires, slid on the heat shrink, crimped the butt connector, melted the heat shrink over the connection — all stuff I remembered from the Above The Waterline crash course I took in electrical systems back at Marina 4 in Santa Barbara in '05. That was enough for that night, as the next day I got to start on the solar panels.

I watched with glee the next morning as the ammeter showed the amps being driven into the batteries by each gust of wind. I couldn't believe it, I'd done the wiring correctly! Without further celebration, I got back to work to remount and rewire the solar panels. My albatross arrived in timely fashion in the form of the solar charge controller, so I got to spend the blazingly hot day climbing in and out of the back lazarette and port torpedo tube with wire ties, my new multimeter (thanks, Dad!), side-cutters, crimper and torch. As I hooked up the last wire to the charge controller, the little green LED light went on as if to say, "You did it!" The gigantic 'to do' list was finally completed!

A moment later, I heard the sound of an outboard. It was Maui and Aymeric in their dinghy. I crawled out of the cabin, half delirious, my grimy clothes soaked through with sweat and covered in filth. "Tu veux aller au surf?" they asked. "Mais, oui!" I answered.

When they dropped me back at Swell that evening, I was sporting a kiss on my left cheek from the reef. It showed as three little gouges and a rising bruise, which I accepted as a congratulatory offering from the reef. I'd gone left at the right. Duh. But I guess the reef, too, was excited to celebrate my accomplishment. Returning to Swell, I felt a surge of excitement — until I stepped aboard and looked around. I realized that I wasn't quite done yet, as Swell needed to be transformed from a stationary floating tool barge back into a dynamic sailing yacht and seaworthy home. It would be no small task, as the last two weeks of projects in the marina had seen the inside of Swell accumulate with wood and metal scraps, half-used glues and caulking, bits of wires, dirty rags, random screws, washers and nuts, broken and assorted drill bits, frayed ends of ropes, cans of paint, varnish, thinners and resins, fiberglass, cat food, sandpaper — and tools, tools, and more tools.

It took me two full days to sort through the mayhem. Finally I could see the cabin sole, and then I could actually walk through the cabin. But it wasn't until I pulled the long cushion out of the forepeak and placed it on the bench in the cabin, dressed it with its cover, and lay on it beneath the fan, that it began to feel real. The projects really were over. When the tools were put away, Swell stopped listing to port. I swept and cleaned the floors, filled the water tanks, scrubbed down the decks, and carried a heap of things to the dock that I'd had aboard Swell for three years but had never used. Maybe others could find a use for them. At 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, I unplugged from shorepower and quietly cast off my lines, leaving a surprise for the boatyard crew to find the next day.

I may only have sailed a few miles across the lagoon that afternoon, but the magnitude of the passage couldn't be measured in distance. I'd completed a list of tasks that had seemed virtually without end. Not only was Swell as strong and fit a sea princess as she'd ever been, but I'd gathered an array of new shipwright knowledge and skills. It was during this time that I really learned to speak French, too. Having conquered new frontiers on Swell, I'd come away with a crew of new friends that I now love like family. I'd earned the respect of many who had initially doubted me. In fact, a few of the French sailors who have been scouring the South Pacific for 25 years even decided to share the coordinates of some of their favorite off-the-beaten path discoveries. These were immeasurable rewards for my tenacious efforts. I broke a bottle of champagne over Swell's bow to properly rechristen her after the major overhaul, and to share a toast to our adventures in '09. A rainbow off to starboard was the only witness.

I give a heartfelt thank you to Taputu, Cesar, Sylvain, Thierry, Amandine, August, Wil, and Bernadette, as well as the additional advice, wisdom and support of many others. Thanks to all of them, and an enormous amount of my sweat, blood, love and tears, Swell and I are ready for the open sea once again. Where will we head? I don't have any idea.

— liz 03/05/09

Honeymoon — Lagoon 380
Seth and Elizabeth Hynes
Panama Canal Transit
(San Francisco)

I remember sitting in my office a year ago with Nicole, my coordinator, and looking at the Panama Canal from Google Earth. I had just finished telling her why I had quit my job, and Nicole was perhaps as excited as I was about the journey — where it would take my bride Elizabeth and me, what we would see, and where we would go from there. But a Canal transit was going to be a milestone, and we focused the screen on that location. Back then I hadn't the faintest idea as to how the Canal worked, and what we would have to do to get from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side. But now I can safely say that Elizabeth and I are as prepared as we will ever be for the transit.

We arrived in Colon last Thursday, nearly 180 days into our 'honeymoon cruise', and had our boat 'admeasured' by the Canal Authority on Friday. While measuring our boat, they had us confirm that we'd be capable of doing eight knots so as not to cause any delays in the tight Canal schedule. We later learned that it's alright if a boat can average as little as six knots. Once that was finished, the next step was to go to Citibank in Colon to pay the various transit fees. Our cost was $650, which is the same for all boats under 50 feet, and a deposit of $850 against any delays or damage we might cause. Mariners have the option of getting an agent to take care of paperwork and paying the fee, and we took that option. Once this was done, we received our transit date, which could have been anywhere from two days to one month from the day we paid our fees. As it turned out, we were given a transit date five days later, giving us plenty of time to get our boat ready without having to wait around forever. A year ago boats were having to wait much longer to transit the Canal, but the slump in the global economy has meant a drop in the number of ships coming through the Canal.

With the historic Panama Canal YC in Cristobal having suddenly been bulldozed a week before, Shelter Bay Marina, located two miles across the water to the west of Colon, was the only marina left in the area. Having had to take so many new boats, Shelter Bay Marina was operating at over 100% capacity. They did this by allowing yachts to anchor behind their D Dock as well as tie up to the floating barge near the marina entrance. The charge for anchoring in the marina was 40% less than the cost for a regular slip.

Already really low on food, we had to make two trips to the El Rey grocery store, where we managed to spend $1,550 on food. We also prepared our boat for the potentially dangerous tying-up processes when going through the Canal. Our preparations consisted of wrapping used car tires in black trash bags to serve as super sturdy extra fenders. Tires cost about $3 each, and the amount of steel belting protruding from them had no effect on the price. But thanks to Terry Heil of the Glen Cove-based Island Packet 38 Living Water, who was heading in the opposite direction, we got our tires from him for free.

The Canal administration requires each boat to have a captain, a Canal Advisor and four line-handlers. Fortunately, Elizabeth and I had two sailing friends from buddyboats — Mike from Arielle and Tyrone from Gillaroo — along with us as line-handlers. Through our agent, we hired two more local line-handlers for $65 each. Included in their price were the four 125-ft docklines the Canal requires. It would have cost about $20 to just rent the lines.

So tomorrow is the big day. We'll pick up our crew at 4 p.m. and then head to The Flats, an anchorage a couple of miles from the first locks on the Caribbean side. It's there that our advisor will come aboard to provide me with navigational and other instructions. We'll probably go into each lock with a massive container ship, but also tie up to some other small boats. After fighting with the currents and prop wash from the container ship in a series of three locks, we'll hopefully emerge unscathed some 85 feet above sea level on Lake Gatun. After motoring about 45 miles across Panama on the lake and the rest of the 'canal', we'll reach another series of three locks, where we'll be lowered to sea level once again. But this time Honeymoon will be in the Pacific Ocean. If it all goes smoothly, we'll continue on from there to the Galapagos Islands.
While we're waiting to transit, here's Elizabeth's report on our last stop, the San Blas Islands:

The San Blas Islands — there are 365 of them located within 10 miles off the north coast of Panama in the Caribbean Sea — were absolutely incredible. The water around the mostly tiny islands was crystal clear, and there were white sand beaches and palm trees galore. In some ways, these islands were completely disconnected from the outside world: there were no real grocery stores, no restaurants and no wireless internet connections. But at the same time, we met many people living cruising lives similar to ours, and felt very connected to them. Despite the lack of supplies and services, the San Blas Islands are heaven for cruisers, in part because most of them are protected from the big swells of the Caribbean by a system of reefs. There were cruising boats everywhere, and we shared stories, books, movies — and more than a few of our last precious beers — with our new and old sailing friends. It was a fantastic week!

The San Blas Islands are, of course, the home of the indigenous Kuna Indians, who have a lot of autonomy from the government of Panama, and who, for the most part, have preserved their culture and traditions. Upon anchoring, we'd be surrounded by Kunas in their primitive dugout canoes. Entire families or groups of women would try to sell us molas. Unfortunately, they're all trying to sell the same basic thing. Although the quality and workmanship varied, it was hard to justify buying more than a few. Over the years, the Kunas have begun to expect certain things from cruisers, and freely ask for magazines, chocolate or candy, and favors, such as filling a large water jug or charging the battery on their cell phones. It seemed ironic to me that someone living in a hut without running water, electricity or even a toilet would have a cell phone, especially without a way of charging it, but the Kunas do.

Our feelings toward the Kuna Indians vacillated from pity to annoyance over the course of the week. It's hard, of course, to see children wearing tattered clothing, and some with rotting teeth and stomachs distended from malnutrition. On the other hand, the constant barrage of women peddling molas and beggars asking for things got old really fast. The simple Kuna way of life is not without merit, as overall the Kunas seemed to be happy and friendly, and they seem to put their families above all. On the other hand, I wish they had better nutrition and education, and perhaps some MBA advice on ways to create and market additional products that visitors might want to buy. Seth and I have been cruising for half a year now, and at times we've both felt guilt at cruising our moderately sized yacht through impoverished areas. But who is to say who has the better life?

One thing that bothered me greatly about our travels among the San Blas Islands is the physical and psychological effects we cruisers have had on the islands and the people. For example, we have trashed their beaches. While it is true the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, on closer inspection there is a lot of "modern" trash that has washed up on shore. The Kunas do not have the infrastructure to manage all of this waste, nor is it really theirs to manage. I was disheartened to see this, and at having so many Kunas want to be given stuff as opposed to earning things. Hopefully they can find a way to work for a better future.

— seth and elizabeth 03/09/09

Pirates For Pupils Run
Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club
Vallarta YC
(Banderas Bay)

A record 30,000 pesos — including $500 U.S. donated by part of last year's Ha-Ha fleet — was raised in the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity, which was held March 15 on the beautiful waters of Banderas Bay. After a Saturday night dinner for some of the 90 participants at the Bluewater Grill in Punta Mita, the skippers and crews of nine sailboats, accompanied by five powerboats, started the 12-mile run to Paradise Marina in light winds and pirate costumes. Before long the wind was in the mid-teens and the boats were flying. There are few places in the world that regularly provide sailing conditions that are as cruiser-friendly as Banderas Bay.

The participating sailboats featured four multihulls — Greg Dorland and Debbie McCrorie's Lake Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade, Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly's Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat, Steve May's Emeryville-based Farrier Endless Summer, Jim Milski's Lake City, Colorado-based Schionning 49 Sea Level — and six monohulls — Jim Casey's Tahoe-based Jeanneau 43DS Tomatillo, Tom Jones' Puerto Vallarta-based Charissa, the Mike Danielson-driven and Puerto Vallarta-based J/145 Blue, Don Von Tress' Island Trader 46 Sugar Bird, Interlude, and Jim and Chris Machado's Puerto Vallarta-based Jeanneau 41 La Ballona. Also, three powerboats — The Dark Side, Oso Blanco and an unknown third — participated. In the Pirates for Pupils, all participants are winners.

The P for P was founded a number of years ago by Latitude as a fun fundraiser before the much larger Banderas Bay Regatta that is held every March. For the last two years, we've also held a Pirates for Pupils in December as part of the Banderas Bay Blast. The most recent P for P was hosted by the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club — with Commodore Heather Corsaro helping with the fundraising and Doña de Mallorca coordinating the Punta Mita logistics — and Vallarta YC, whose Mike Danielson and Andy Barrow ran the Lucha Libre fundraising segment of the event.

But the person who has made the Pirates for Pupils what it is since the beginning is Ronnie 'Tea Lady', who has been tireless in rounding up participants, collecting donations, and making sure the collected money is wisely spent by charities serving children. When a deadline conflict made it impossible for Latitude and Profligate to participate this year, it was unclear if there would even be a spring Pirates for Pupils. But Ronnie stepped in and made it happen. Indeed, she, along with those who helped her, brought in the most money ever. Here's to you, Ronnie!

— latitude 03/16/09

Sailors Run — Baba 40
Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy
After Cape Horn
(Longbranch, WA)

Debbie and I have been enjoying our spare time here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But that time has been a little difficult to come by, as the engine replacement project has proved to be most challenging. Working on your boat in a foreign port is a big part of cruising, and replacing our engine was going to be really big.

After I'd arrived here alone and pretty battered after my 46-day passage from Callao, Peru, to Buenos Aires via Cape Horn, the thought of installing a new engine initially seemed overwhelming. Fortunately, a local fellow came to my aid, and spent hours driving me around to locate a new Yanmar diesel. Debbie arrived several days later, and my loneliness disappeared and I began to feel more confident. I did have a health issue, however, as my left hand had been at least fractured from a fall I'd taken on the boat. So I ended up walking around with a splint on my hand, hoping it would heal enough in time for the engine project.

The first major obstacle to putting in a new engine was the fact that our money was in the United States and the engine was in Buenos Aires. The engine source said we had to pay for the engine in cash, as he couldn't sell directly to us without the government's tying up his money for about three months. Plus there would be an additional 30% added on to the $10,600 price tag. My bank, unfortunately, wouldn't even wire me the $10,600, saying they couldn't be sure it was me requesting the money! What they could do was up my credit limit and let me put a one-time purchase on my credit card. But the supplier needed cash.

After a full week of exploring alternatives, we finally came up with a solution. The Argentinian supplier gets his engines from New York, so all we'd have to do is wire the money into the New York firm's account, and they would credit the account of the company in Argentina. Pretty cool, right? But when I called my bank to ask them to send a money wire, they said they couldn't because I wasn't in the U.S. So I called the manager at the Bank of America where I'd first opened up my account, explained who I was, and listed all the people that I knew in that community. He agreed that all I would have to do was fax him the instructions for the wire and sign it. Great!

But the next day my Bank of America branch informed me that they'd lost my signature card, and therefore couldn't send the wire! I wrote back saying that all the people in Argentina were laughing at me and my world famous bank for its inability to get anything done. Believe it or not, that shamed them into action. The bank manager got in contact with my sister in the States, who had the power of attorney we'd signed before taking off cruising. Although it wasn't registered with the courts, it was good enough to get BofA to wire the funds to Yanmar. Many thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, who have been great supporters of our adventures.

Once the money was transferred, the new Yanmar was delivered to the Yacht Club Argentino. Debbie and I had already hoisted the old engine and transmission out using the halyards, and they were sitting in the cockpit. The yacht club shuttle boat pulled Sailors Run over to the yacht club crane to lift the old engine off and set the new one on our boat. Then they towed us back to our buoy, where Debbie and I toiled for two weeks. We made wooden models of new rear motor mounts, and an 8.5-inch jack shaft that would have to be machined in order to couple the engine with the shorter transmission. We also had steel mounts made to raise the engine to align with the shaft.

The yacht club has its own house mechanic, and when I took my models to Louis and asked him if he could steer me to a machinist, he just laughed. He picked up the phone and called his machinist, who appeared at the club 30 minutes later. After looking at my models and drawings, he had little to say. He knew what I needed and he knew how to make it. First, however, he came out to our boat to verify some dimensions. Two days later he was back with all the parts, and his bill was below my lowest estimate. The alignment required several modifications, and there were many other hangups along the way. But after two weeks of turning wrenches and skinning arms and knuckles, Debbie and I had a brand new 54-hp Yanmar purring in our boat.

The help and friendship we received from the Yacht Club Argentino were wonderful. We offered to pay for using their crane and all the support they'd given us, but they wouldn't hear of it. They said if they were in the U.S. with their boats and needed help, they hoped they'd be treated the same way.

Another major task was trying to retrieve our 60-lb CQR and 300-ft of chain. I'd dumped it 63 miles southeast of Buenos Aires when the engine was shot and I was unable to raise the anchor and chain in strong winds and steep seas. That had been six weeks before. Debbie and I headed out for the spot harboring doubts about finding the anchor gear. After all, I'd tried to tie float balls to the chain before I dumped it, but I was so busy trying to raise sail that I never saw any of the floats after I threw them overboard. The trip down the river was an ideal time to break-in the engine, as it's good to run a new engine under different loads, most of them heavy.

After 10 hours of motoring, we arrived at the GPS position. We cruised through the area looking for the orange floats, but saw nothing. It was beginning to look like a wild goose chase that had led to a lost cause, but I nonetheless threw a grappling hook over the side and started dragging the area in an S-pattern. It was during the third pass that eagle-eye Debbie, on the bow, hollered that she saw a float. Motoring 100 yards out of our search area, sure enough, we saw an orange float. Even with an engine, it was no easy feat getting the chain to the windlass, thanks to a two-knot current. But after what seemed like a long time, we had it all aboard and the celebration started. Sometimes you just get lucky!

Now we can start having fun in Buenos Aires, surely one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.

— jeff 03/07/09

Cruise Notes:

If you're returning to California after a season or two of cruising in Mexico, you might wonder where you can anchor your boat for free while you rest up after the Baja Bash. Or maybe even where you can anchor for free for an extended period to refit your boat before heading south again. One of our top suggestions would be the A-9 (Convair Lagoon) Anchorage in San Diego, which is just to the east of Harbor Island and next to the Coast Guard station. Unofficially known as the 'Ha-Ha Anchorage' in October of each year, it is available up to three months in any given year as long as you don't live in San Diego County and don't have your boat registered in San Diego County. You will have to get your boat inspected by the San Diego Harbor Police at Shelter Island to obtain the necessary permit, but it is free. Located about a quarter mile walk from the San Diego Airport, it's only about a mile walk from downtown, and just a little more from the fun Gaslight District. If you have a bike, it's just a three-mile ride to all the marine services on Shelter Island. San Diego has nice weather, is a good place for everything from surfing to jogging, and has every kind of marine service you might want.

Newport Beach has a free anchorage just to the east-southeast of Linda Isle, but it's limited to 72 hours. If you'd like a longer stay, you can get a mooring for up to three weeks, but at only $5 a night, it's still quite a bargain. As is the case with San Diego, you can get every marine product and service in Newport Beach. If you've got a bike, you can have a heck of a good time in Newport.

If, however, you're having a hard time readjusting to the madness of California after the tranquility of Mexico, may we suggest either Catalina or Santa Cruz Island? While the former has plenty of places you can anchor for free, its also has stores, restaurants, bars and internet access. Santa Cruz Island has none of these. The downside of all of these places is that the June Gloom, which means fog almost every day along the coast, often lingers into July. To a body used to the warmth of Mexico, it can be a horrific shock. So maybe it's best if you stay down south a month or two longer than you planned.

"We think we've found a very cool surf spot for you," write John and Amanda Neal of the Friday Harbor-based Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare III. "It's Clipperton Atoll, which is about 1,500 miles west of Costa Rica and 900 miles south of Cabo San Lucas — in the middle of nowhere. We anchored off the 3.5-sq-mile island for the morning while en route from Panama to Cocos Island to Hilo. The surf was way too big to attempt to go ashore. We dropped our hook offshore of a large French flag next to a painted white monument with 'RF' — Republic of France — painted on it in big black letters. It's kind of cheeky of France to still be claiming an island located less than 600 miles from Mexico's Socorro Island as one of their own.

"We're in the trades and have been flying along at nearly 200 miles per day toward Hawaii. We have a great crew, but after 2,300 miles have only landed one fish. We'll leave Mahina Tiare in Hawaii and fly to Oakland in April to give seminars at Strictly Sail Pacific."

Clipperton Atoll is the answer to the question we use to stump even the most knowledgeable cruisers. The question being, what is the closest French Atoll to the West Coast of the United States? After people make all the wrong guesses, we torture them with a series of hints: 1) It's in the North Pacific; 2) It's the easternmost French coral atoll; 3) It used to be owned by Mexico, and probably should still be owned by them; 4) It was a strategic U.S. military base in World War II, and was twice visited by F.D.R. Try the question on your cruising friends, because they'll never get it.

As for John and Amanda, get this: They have a combined 66 years of ocean sailing experience, during which time they have covered 502,000 ocean miles! We stand in awe of what they've done with their Mahina Tiare Expeditions, as they not only often sail some of the roughest passages in the world, but they do it while instructing six students.

Another sailor we're in complete awe of is Glenn Tieman, who built his latest cat, the traditional 38-ft Manu Rere, in Ventura County for just $14,000. Tieman, who previously cruised a 26-ft cat across the Pacific to Southeast Asia over a 10-year period, would certainly be our candidate for World's Most Thrifty Cruiser. For the first six years, he lived on about $1 a day, everything included. The last four years he became something of a spendthrift, shelling out close to $3 a day. That's over $1,000 a year, for god's sake! Anyway, here's his latest report from Costa Rica:

"Floating in the sea that seems as warm as my body temperature, with hotter swirls licking over my back, I gaze up through the fronds and hardwood branches. I see two foot-long scarlet macaws fighting in the canopy, then dropping and sweeping away in unnaturally spectacular pairs. Manu Rere rides alone at anchor in the calm, sweet and clear waters of the Gulfo Dulce at Puerto Jimenez. This normally popular beach has heavily forested mountains as a backdrop. I've been here more than a month, but school vacation is over, so the beach is now rarely brightened by children wading into the water giggling "Que rico!" Since my visa is nearing its end, it's almost time for me to go as well. I spent one week of my time here on the grass behind the beach, hand-sewing a new mizzen. It was a great way to meet the locals. Some of the gregarious young men, who work as tour guides to the neighboring Corcovado National Park, helped me procure used water jugs, which I'll use to carry water while I cross the Pacific. My next project was another improvement to my cat's rudder mounts, which will be the key to control and comfort during the coming weeks of running down the trades in following seas. Finally, I beached Manu Rere for three days in order to give her a coat of bottom paint. I've cleaned my boat's bottom when far offshore before, but it's something I'd like to avoid. The trickiest part of beaching my cat is keeping her from digging a hole for herself in the sand. I've yet to come up with a technique to prevent that. Fortunately, an American spending the winter here brought a shovel down to the beach and helped me out. When I set sail for the Marquesas in a few days, I'll sail most of the way at latitude 10 in order to benefit from the tradewinds and favorable current, and to avoid the contrary winds and extra wide doldrums closer to the Americas. This will also allow me to at least sight, if not visit, the very isolated Clipperton Atoll, which surely would be a welcome break in the otherwise almost 4,000 miles of uninterrupted sea and sky. Polynesia, here I come!"

Add Tieman to the list of sailors you don't want to try to stump with the question about Clipperton Atoll.

"We are currently at Nayarit Riviera Marina in La Cruz, and want to start our Puddle Jump from Huatulco," write Russ Nason and Marilyn Marais of the Seattle-based 44-ft Gibbons aluminum cutter Zulu. "This will be our second Puddle Jump — although there wasn't anything as organized as the Puddle Jump when we did it in the late '70s with our hard-chine plywood Myron Spaulding sloop, a boat we bought from delivery skipper Robert Flowerman in Sausalito."

Although it was in the early days of this magazine, we remember that you folks went across the Pacific on that Spaulding-built boat. We're sure you heard the news about Latitude's Andy Turpin successfully working with the government in French Polynesia to get bond exemptions for all Puddle Jump boats. Is that great or what!?

"Believe it or not, the Columbia River, as far up as Portland, is affected by tides as much as three feet," writes Stephen Estes, who owns the Portland-based Nautitech 47 cat Mahina Girl — and whose late father Jack owned the office building next to Latitude in Mill Valley. "Like Scott and Cindy Stolnitz with their Switch 52 Beach House, we've pulled our cat up on a sandbar in the river to do work on the props and change the zincs. And it all went smoothly. It helped that our cat has mini-keels instead of daggerboards. We bought Mahina Girl in Hawaii last September, then made it from Hawaii to Astoria in 16 days. The weather pattern was pretty broken up then, giving us several days of no wind and several days of headwinds. But we did have really good wind for about 36 hours, during which time we covered 275 miles in a 24-hour period. And that was with 18-inch three-bladed props slowing us down. We can't wait to get rid of them. Our next step is to find a place that can refurbish our '96 charterboat and get her ready for cruising. She's a solid boat, but could use some freshening up. Our tentative plans call for doing the Ha-Ha in '10."

"You know it's never a good feeling when the captain dives under the boat and comes up asking for a hacksaw," writes Carol Baggerly of the Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat that she and Wayne 'the Mango Man' Hendryx co-own. "We were coasting along the beach near La Cruz on Banderas Bay in about 12 feet of water, when we suddenly heard BAM! CRUNCH! and GRIND! 'What the hell was that?!' we asked ourselves. When Wayne dove in the water, he discovered that the bottom foot of our port rudder was dangling by the fiberglass skins. Having inherited previous owner Blair Grinols' penchant for fun and games — and broken rudders — we're seriously thinking about hauling out."

Capricorn Cat wasn't the only Northern California-based cat that had a major failure on Banderas Bay last month. While Jim Milski's Schionning 49 Sea Level was lying to the anchor in mild conditions one night, the turnbuckle for one of the upper shrouds came apart on its own, surprising the heck out of everyone. Fortunately, the mast still stood without the shroud and a replacement was quickly ordered.

Two months ago we reported on Floyd Tassigny's St. Barth-based Venezia 42 catamaran Courtship being damaged so badly by a breaching whale that she had to be abandoned several hundred miles from Bermuda. And in late February, something similar happened to the 60-ft Newport Beach-based fishing boat Badger. The 40-ton fishing boat was doing 22 knots at the time she was hit, at a 90° angle, by what some of the crew think was probably a 40-ton gray whale. The impact was so strong that one of the boat's crew reported being thrown four feet into the air. Fortunately, none of the crew was hurt. Nobody is sure how badly the whale was hurt. Based on the damage to the fishing boat, it's believed the whale was just about to breech before colliding with the boat. So be careful out there!

"What is the latest news on the legality of U.S. sailors cruising to and in Cuba?" ask William and Soon Gloege of the Santa Maria-based Morgan 38 Gaia. "Can we finally visit Cuba aboard with our cruising boats without the risk of being imprisoned for it — by our own government? As Americans, we feel somewhat foolish having to tell fellow cruisers from Europe, Canada, Brazil and other 'free' countries that we are forbidden to experience the culture, food and music of Cuba. Now would be a good time for Latitude to use its considerable influence to get the silly restrictions done away with."

The snag with us U.S. cruisers traveling to Cuba is that we cruisers would have to spend at least a little money, and would therefore be in violation of Treasury Department laws that prohibit "trading with the enemy." As we've said countless times before, we think this is idiotic and, in fact, think all Americans should have to visit Cuba in order to better appreciate all the freedoms we enjoy but don't appreciate. We're flattered that you think Latitude has so much pull, but we're nobodies in the big scheme of things. We also think that President Barak 'Consensus Builder' Obama would dearly love to get rid of those restrictions on travel to Cuba but, as he's finding on so many other issues, the ship of state is one big mother to try to turn. Besides, both he and the Treasury Department have more important issues to deal with right now, such as the furor over things like AIG bonuses and getting the economy back on track.

Lots of Americans fly to Cuba from other countries, such as the Cayman Islands or Mexico, and get away with it because the Cubans don't stamp their passports. Alas, it's not so easy to 'fly under the radar' with a boat. As many readers know, we did a two-week trip along the north shore of Cuba with our Ocean 71 Big O in the mid-'90s, back when the Clinton Administration turned a blind eye toward such things. It was a very, very interesting trip, but repulsive, too, as we we got a firsthand look at what it was like for people to have to live their entire lives under the thumb of a world-class tyrant.

In this month's Changes, Elizabeth Hynes of the San Francisco-based Lagoon 380 Honeymoon, writing about the San Blas Islands, makes the charge that cruiser have trashed the beaches belonging to the Kuna Indians. We have to respectfully disagree. For in the two times we've been to the San Blas Islands with our boats, it was our observation that the Kunas, not cruisers, were the most likely to indiscriminately toss trash over their shoulders and walk away. It's true that many of the dwellings and yards in the martriarchal society were quite clean, but the public areas and waters surrounding Porvenir — yeech! The last time we were in the San Blas was in '05, after we sailed 1,100 miles down from Antigua with a crew of 13. When permitted by international law, we tossed whatever legal garbage we could overboard. But as the trip consisted of almost 80 'people days', we arrived in the San Blas with a lot of garbage that we couldn't have legally disposed of at sea. Realizing that the five or six big bags of trash would have been an imposition on the San Blas Islands, which are relatively small in size, we held onto the stinky stuff for several more days until we reached mainland Panama. Most of the cruisers we know would have done the same thing — at least we'd like to think they would. It's our belief that polluting is usually a matter of a lack of education. As cruisers are more educated than most people in Third World countries, we think they pollute less. Anybody with a different point of view?

Each year when the Banderas Bay Regatta rolls around — see our report in next month's issue — we wonder what's up with John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 Little Wing. Over the years, Little Wing and our cat Profligate had many enjoyable battles in various Ha-Ha's, BBRs, Pirates for Pupils — and even a Heineken Regatta in the Caribbean. As luck would have it, in the middle of this year's BBR we learned that the 65-year-old Haste has been busy living in Cartagena, Colombia — where he was once hijacked bringing his boat back from the boatyard — and becoming a father again. His son Brandon is now eight months old, and seems to enjoy crawling around on dad's catamaran. The boy's mom is Yesika, a lovely Colombian woman about 43 years John's junior. John, Yesika, and Max, the couple's 80-lb husky, were in Mexico until early in '08, then headed off to Panama. During the passage, Yesika was often sick with what was presumed to be mal de mer. In reality, it was probably morning sickness. May the three Hastes, and their dog, enjoy much great sailing together.

"After reading articles in Letters referring to wasted produce, I thought it wise to introduce your readers to the wonders of Debbie Meyers Green Bags," writes Jerry McNeil of the Marina del Rey-based Contessa 43 Rocketeer. "I use them for fruits, veggies, bread and any number of items which benefit from their protection. It seems that the out-gassing of ethylene gas, which happens after a fruit or vegetable is picked, causes them to ripen, age and rot more quickly. Green Bags absorb the damaging gas, thereby dramatically extending the life of fruits, veggies and even flowers. I’ve tried the green bags and they really do work. When I buy bananas and leave them in the open, they start to go bad after three or four days. But with Green Bags, they last a week to 10 days. In my experience, you can expect the same results with basil, lettuce, onions, celery, avocados, mangoes, limes, lemons and other fruits and veggies. By going to the website, you can get 20 bags for $10, and it’s said the bags can be effectively reused about 10 times. I think Latitude should make these a private label product and sell them to cruisers. As for myself, I plan to be part of the class of ‘10 headed for warmer latitudes . . . and with plenty of green bags on my red boat."

For the record, members of the Latitude staff have tried Green Bags, but weren't very impressed. Anyone else want to share their Green Bag experience?

"There is a great new Cruisers' Guide To Mazatlan," reports Mike Latta of the 22-ft Falmouth Channel Cutter Narwhal in Mazatlan. "Over the past 10 years, many sailors here in Marina Mazatlan have written for and contributed to the local mariner’s guide. It had become the definitive answer to what is what and where is where in town. All the proceeds went directly to an orphanage here in town. Two years ago, we updated the guide, which continued to sell at the marina office. But for reasons that were never made clear, no money made it to the orphanage. Things changed when George and Jackie Krakie, local delivery skippers on Aimee Sean, put together a colorful updated guide — one that's selling like tacos at dinnertime at the only two places that sell it, the office for Total Yacht Works and Captain George's boat. The good news is that the proceeds are going straight to the Orfenato de Mazatlan, and they are going there like clockwork at the end of every month. Over 6,000 pesos have been turned over so far. Way to go George and Jackie!"

Way to go indeed! We've learned from doing a number of fundraisers in Mexico that collecting the money is often the easy part. Making sure the money is used for the charity in question, and that it's spent wisely, are often more difficult.

T.C. Gerrard, a Past Commodore of the Bay View Boat Club in San Francisco, and Vanessa Workman, a BVBC member as well as a Plastic Classic Latitude 38 T-Mark Girl, report they got a bit of a surprise when they crewed on the NZ46 Bad Habits during early January's Royal Langkawi YC Regatta in Malaysia. The former San Franciscans, who are now living in Kuala Teriang, Langkawi, got a call from local friend, Dutchman Jerry Bolen, who reported that Bad Habit's Australian co-owner and some of her crew had gotten stuck in Thailand and wouldn't be able to make the regetta. "Can you be on the dock tomorrow for practice?" he asked them.

"Monday afternoon found Vanessa and me on the deck of Bad Habits preparing the boat for a day of practice," remembers Gerrard. "I then went down below to move some gear when, much to my surprise and delight, I noticed a race plaque from the '82 Big Boat Series. I later learned that the syndicate-owned Bad Habits, a design of Alamedan Gary Mull, had been built for Clyde Colson and Team New Zealand for the '82 Pan Am Clipper Cup in Hawaii. After the Clipper Cup, Bad Habits went on to race in the Big Boat Series, then was sailed back across the Pacific where she competed in many races, including the '94 Darwin to Ambon Rally. Current owners Jerry Bolen and Des Kearns found her neglected in a shipyard in Satun, Thailand, in '06. They spared no expense to have the boat refitted for racing in the Southeast Asian Circuit. She's now based out of the Royal Langkawi YC. The weather for this year’s regatta was partly cloudy with the wind blowing from 15 to 20 knots with gusts to 25. The six races in five days included two days of inland channel racing. We took third place overall in the series, and also took part in the consumption of copious amounts of food and drink while Malay singers and tribal dancers added to the festivities. It was a great series with a great crew, so we'll be looking forward to taking first place next year."

Missing the pictures? See the April 2009 eBook!


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