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April 2011

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  With reports this month from Endless Summer on good surf in the Tuamotus; from Eros on a return to the days of early chartering; from Swell on Liz Clark's five years of cruising — and her battles with hoses; from Rachel Hurn on an impulsive post graduation sail in the Med; from the biggest ever Banderas Bay Regatta; and Cruise Notes.

Endless Summer — F/41 Cat
Steve May
Surf & Sail
(Gualala / Emery Cove)

I want to thank Latitude for the great March issue discussion of surfing Punta Mita, Mexico. I very well remember some great sessions I had out at the point there. The locals would all show up in the afternoon after work, but earlier in the day I could get a couple of sessions alone or with one other guy. And what a fun wave! The farther down the line you get, the faster the wave peels.

I've enclosed a few photos of some waves we found in the Tuamotus after coming to French Polynesia. The other guys in the water were super-friendly locals from the village, which has a population of 75. A couple had surfboards, but most were on boogie boards. But they ripped!

I know surfers like to keep spots such as this secret, but I think some of our cruiser friends would have a great time here. So I'm going to spill the beans — the shots are from the pass at Faaiti Atoll. The atoll is 12 miles south of the very popular south pass at Fakarava Atoll.

Our pals Jim and Kent Milski aboard their Schionning 49 cat Sea Level, along with a Dutch family aboard their 47-foot aluminum boat Elena, accompanied us to this atoll. We were happy to be the only boats in the lagoon as, thanks to the many coral heads, the anchoring was very challenging. But Faaiti has a peculiar quality — there are no sharks in the lagoon or at the pass. The locals confirmed this. We rafted the two cats together and enjoyed the mahi mahi that Adam from Elena had caught on the way over.

My girlfriend Manjula and I are on our way back to our cat in Australia. After a cruise of the Great Barrier Reef area, we plan to visit New Guinea and Indonesia before parking our boat in the Philippines for our next trip home later this summer. We are having an absolutely great time cruising, and I would encourage everyone to get on it and go! Go to Mexico, the South Pacific, anywhere! Just get going!

Further, I think Latitude and other cruisers need to get the word out that the world is overflowing with wonderful, open-hearted people. And the poorer the people, the sweeter they usually are. Nonetheless, thanks to all the media coverage of narco violence in certain parts of Mexico, pirates in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, and shark attacks in Australia, Manjula and I find that our families and friends are becoming more frightened for us. We think there is a real danger of Americans becoming afraid to set foot outside their own country. This would be a real tragedy, as it's a completely incorrect view of the world — at least based on our experience of cruising Mexico, crossing the Pacific, and visiting Bhutan and India. Over and over, we have experienced the kindness and goodness of local people.

We'll soon be sending you a report on our cruising this season, which will be through New Guinea and Indonesia, and up to the Philippines."

— steve 03/05/11

Eros — 103-ft Schooner
Bill and Grace Bodle
Return To The Caribbean

Having been gone from the Caribbean for nearly 25 years, Bill and Grace are back, with a 103-ft schooner no less. Although they've always been residents of Berkeley, they were part of the charter scene in the Caribbean and the Med from the very beginning.

For example, they not only knew Commander Nicholson, who started the charter trade in Antigua — and the Caribbean — with the schooner Mollyhawk, they eventually became good friends with him and knew his back story.

"When we arrived in Antigua in the late '60s with the 70-ft-on-deck schooner Nordlys," Bill remembers, "we Americans were not initially included in the English social scene. But eventually Grace's social skills won the Commander over. As a result, we were invited to the Powder Bunker, where he and his wife lived, for sherry on Friday afternoons. That signified that we were among the privileged ones who had been accepted.

"Eventually, the Commander told us a great story of his youth and the start of the chartering business. When he was just 16, he and his best school chum from Dartmouth — England's equivalent of Annapolis — had been chauffeured down to their ship in his father's Rolls-Royce. The chauffeur placed their bags on the ground, and the two young gentlemen patiently waited for the help to pick up the bags and take them up the gangplank. After a while, the bosun set them straight. "Pick up those bags and get your butts on this ship.""

"Days later, the two 16-year-olds were leaning on the rail when two women paraded by. Vernon, the future Commander, fancied the short one, while his chum fancied the taller one. They engineered meeting the women, and before long — and before the start of World War I — married them. Vernon's chum was killed in the war, widowing his wife. Vernon survived and went on to become a commander in World War II. Given his position, his family — wife Lisa and two sons — were provided with simple quarters in London. But it came with no furniture whatsoever. However, there was a schooner on the Thames that, because of the onset of the war, nobody wanted. But she had furniture, so the Commander bought her solely for the furniture — which was quickly moved into the family quarters.

Prospects were dim in England after the war, as the economy was in a shambles and there wasn't much food. So the adventurous Commander loaded the furniture back onto the schooner — which, of course, was Mollyhawk — piled his wife and two kids on, and set sail for the West Indies. They found a home in the abandoned but historic English navy base at English Harbor, Antigua. And with their arrival began the charter industry in Antigua and the Caribbean.

There's more. When Lisa, the Commander's wife, passed away in the late '70s, everybody worried how well he would get on without his wife of 60 years. He returned to his hometown of Cork, Ireland, but a year later he returned to Antigua — with a new bride. She was the widow of his chum on the ship was he was 16.

The Nordlys, a small Bluenose schooner, was the first of four big schooners Bill and Grace sailed in the Caribbean and the Med. They sailed Nordlys across the Atlantic five times. That's nothing compared to Grace, their 98-ft-on-deck Camper-Nicholson schooner, which they sailed across the Atlantic nine times. Then they bought Panda, which at 129 ft overall and 117 ft on deck, would be their largest schooner. They did a four-year circumnavigation with her in the early '80s.

Before the couple started their circumnavigation with Panda, she was being watched over in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, U.S. Virgins, by Warren Stryker. A longtime friend of Latitude, Stryker had sailed his Sausalito-based Bounty II Fifties Girl from California to the U.S. Virgins. "When I left Warren in charge of Panda," remembers Bill, "he was told in no uncertain terms that absolutely nobody was to be allowed onboard. Not my brother, not anyone! So Grace and I were sitting in our home in Berkeley one day, and I opened the most recent issue of Latitude — and there was a story and photos of Warren, his friend the publisher of Latitude, and others on Panda. 'What the hell is this?!' I roared." Despite all that, they are still friends.

Panda would tragically burn and sink after a haulout at Fort de France, Martinique. "We were both just devastated by the loss of Panda," remembers Grace. "We'd sailed her around the world, and she was everything to us."

After 18 years of chartering in the Caribbean and the Med, the Bodles settled down by purchasing the historic Stone Boatyard in Alameda. One of their projects was to replace the decks on the 212-ft schooner Adix. They probably had an inside track on the work because Paul Goss, the schooner's captain and one of the most famous of all modern sailing captains, got his first sailing job with the Bodles on one of their schooners many years before.

One of the last big projects at Stone's was the restoration of the 103-ft Fair Sarae, a yacht that had been owned by Lucy Bancroft, one of Bill's relatives. After her husband died, Lucy sold the yacht to a wealthy German.

"Fair Sarae was of composite construction by Brookes Motor Craft of Burnham on Crouch, England, and had been commissioned in '39," explains Bill. "Back then, composite construction meant a boat was built of steel frames, beams and floors, and her hull, decks and houses were built of Burma teak. The wood structure was attached to the steel frame with bolts. Such boats are only good for 40 or 50 years, after which time they get scale on the steel frame. Fair Sarae's time was not only up, but she hadn't been as well maintained as she could have been. You see, Scots such as Lucy and I don't like to spend money. In fact," laughs Bill, "it's said that copper wire was created when two Scots got into a dispute over who owned a penny."

Alas, the German aristocrat quickly tired of paying for the 30-man crew — who had disassembled the yacht to her steel frame so it could be sandblasted — and walked away from her. In thousands of pieces, with her masts down and machinery spread all over, there was no value to the once-proud schooner. Either the Bodles could sell the lead in her keel, or they could finish the rebuild.

They chose the latter option, of course, which started in the early '90s and wasn't completed until the fall of '09. One can only imagine what it cost. Bill laughingly put it at "everything we had." To give you a hint, each of the 20,000 new bolts needed to secure the steel frame to the planks and decks cost $3. Fortunately, none of the 70-year-old planks needed replacing. Then again, the deck houses had to be replaced, and the interior redone.

What's Bill's attraction for large, classic, labor-intensive schooners? "You have to have something to do," he replies.

The Bodles did a "breakdown sail" to Mexico in the winter of '09-'10. They loved La Cruz and the rest of Banderas Bay, as well as Las Hadas, and felt completely safe. The only negative was their once-beloved Acapulco YC, which for decades they'd used as a fueling stop when coming up from Panama. They suspect that the club has been taken over by the narcos. Unlike before, they were not welcomed to the once very welcoming club, and noted a sign at the entrance that asked that all bodyguards be left outside. "They told us our schooner was to big and heavy for their fuel dock," recalls Bill, "which is ridiculous because we'd refueled there with Panda, which was a bigger schooner."

The couple and Eros just missed the start of last October's Ha-Ha because they were a couple of days late getting out of the yard. Nonetheless, they cast off from San Diego on October 28th, Bill's 76th birthday, for the Canal and the Eastern Caribbean. "Seventy used to be old," laughs Grace, "but it's not anymore. It would seem not to be, with the two of them sailing the 200,000-pound schooner assisted by just one deckhand. Further, they won the Sweethearts of the Caribbean Regatta in the British Virgins with a crew of just six.

"Eros is easy to sail. Actually, she's very easy to sail," insists Bill.

We visited Eros on the hook off St. Barth, an island that the Bodles first visited in the late '60s. Back then it was not only not 'the St. Tropez of the Caribbean', it wasn't anything at all.

"We first came to St. Barth in '67, when it was a smuggler's place, and became friends with Alexander Magras, who had been a president of the island. Alexander, who is now 93 and still opens his little dress shop every day, came out to our yacht every time we visited. In fact, it was something of an event. St. Barth was terribly poor back then, as they had no soil to farm on, little water, and few other resources. In fact, in order to survive, a lot of Bartians had to move to what is now the Frenchtown section of St. Thomas. But those who stayed did what they could to stay alive — including selling food to the German submarines during World War II! There were no yachts at the island back then, just cargo schooners. Alexander would sell their captains booze and cigarettes, and they would smuggle them into the islands to the south. As for us, we'd start every season by stocking up on Mt. Gay rum at $6 a case. Wine was $2 bottle, and we'd buy 30 or 40 cases."

Magras had three sons, one of them being Lulu, who ran a chandlery across the street from the then sleepy Le Select, and who later became well-known as a good but somewhat eccentric sailor. "One day Alexander came to us and asked if we would take Lulu the next time we crossed the Atlantic," remembers Bill. "Sure we will," he said, "but why?" Alexander explained that Lulu had named his little 23-foot sloop Ché, and often wore a Ché t-shirt. "I think he's becoming a communist!" Although the Bodles and Lulu never talked politics on their trip across the Pond, the couple was thanked by Alexander the next time they came through. "Lulu isn't a communist anymore," Alexander explained.

When we told the couple that Roman Abramovich had spent $6 million to buy his UCSB-educated girlfriend a crumbling 100+-year-old pre-fab home from France on the St. Barth waterfront so she could open an art gallery, they laughed. "When we were here in the '60s," Bill says, "I told Grace that I wouldn't mind owning a little stone house that was right on the waterfront. But when we asked how much the two spinsters wanted for it, they said $10,000 U.S. We laughed at how much they were asking.

The Bodles plans are pretty open. They might keep the boat in the Caribbean for hurricane season. They might sail back to San Francisco. They might return to Las Hadas, Mexico. "We don't have anything pressing, so we're just going to make sure that we make it to the British Virgins for Foxy's Wooden Boat Regatta."

Did we mention that a very young Foxy sailed across the Alantic with the Bodles in the early '70s, and they are directly responsible — in the most improbable way — for his meeting Tess, his wife of, what, 40 years or so? Wait until next month, because that's a wild story that's so typical of the old days in the Caribbean.

— latitude/rs

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
Five Years Together
(Santa Barbara)

On January 30th, Swell and I celebrated five years of voyaging together. The top five lessons I've learned are:

1) Be grateful for what's good, and find the positive.

2) Try first, then decide if you can or can't do something.

3) Hard work will almost always get you there.

4) Even when it all seems impossible, trust that everything will work out.

5) Nature is the source of all, so love it, spend time with it, and fight for it!

Some of the lessons came into play during an incident I call 'The Bilge Babe Versus the Sanitation Hose'. How bad could my opponent, the marine sanitation hose, really be? After all, it's a blandly white, 1 3/4-inch wire-reinforced plastic hose. Despite its beneficial qualities, the task of removing it or quickly placing it onto plumbing fittings, instantly makes me forget all its charms.

Sanitation hoses are the most stubborn on earth! It’s as if they're intentionally made slightly too small for the fittings in order to — I don't know, maybe weed out the weak? But dealing with this hose is a task that makes me yearn for Marine Man, my fantasy boat-fixing Superhero. The idea is that he'll descend from the clouds to wrestle the dastardly hose into submission while I make him a sandwich.

Excuses and grudges aside, my bilge pumps had to be fixed. There was corrosion in the wiring somewhere, and one of the hoses was blocked. My wonderful dad and I had tried to fix them when he was here, but we didn’t have all the necessary parts for the job. I’d now rounded them up, and seeing as neither Dad nor ‘Mr. Right’ nor ‘Marine Man’ was anywhere in sight, I found myself having to face my most detested foe alone.

The hose problem went back to the complication of my hull leak and the broken motor mounts. In short, my engine now sits lower than before, and was therefore pinching one of the two bilge pump hoses that ran underneath it toward the exit points at the stern. Since removing and replacing the crushed hose was going to be a very difficult job, I figured I’d wait until my next haulout, by which time Marine Man would have hopefully made an appearance. But I devised an interim plan. I used a Y-connector to link the pump that was connected to the crushed hose into the freely flowing hose of the other pump. This would make them both push water out the same open hose, right, Marine Man?

Wrong. Hours later, I’d dismantled half the boat and was caked in bilge slime. I’d nonetheless managed to wrestle only one of the hoses free from one of the pumps, and sat amongst my filth and tools, staring at the wiring diagram for the automatic float switch. The instructions made it look as if a kindergartener could do it, but nothing, I repeat nothing on a boat is simple. Except, maybe a bucket for a toilet.

But Bilge Babe kept at it, running, connecting, and testing the wiring configurations until the pumps whirled when the switches were flipped. I sealed the connections, so all that remained was to cut the hoses and force them onto the Y-fittings. Unfortunately, that is more easily said than done.

It took all my strength, determination and wit to will their insubordinate, white plasticness onto each fitting, one by one. I used heat, dish soap, grease, mean words, my favorite music ‘Playlist’ on repeat, and force from my Mula Bandha to get those hoses on. Then I secured them with double hose clamps. Yeah, I did it! I did some muscle flexin’ and a victory dance to some M.I.A.! Yow!

Thinking the battle was over, I shoved the hoses back down into the bilge for proof that they worked. But no, no, no, nooooooo! The auto switches worked and the pumps turned, but they just pushed the water out of the other pump and back into the bilge — because there were no one-way valves in the pumps. So much for my great idea. After a deep breath, I told myself, "It's just a little more manual labor. Turn up the music and get back at it.”

So I hauled the pumps back out, wrestled the hoses off again, removed the Y-connector, and put the good hose directly onto the new pump with the new float switch. Simple. So much for the redundancy of a back-up pump, but one newly-purchased, newly-wired pump would have to do.

After four more wrestling matches with the hose, it was nearly 8 p.m. By the time the tools were put away and the salon restored to order, it was after 9 p.m, and my black slimed limbs and back ached. I wasn't really sure who had won the battle, the Bilge Babe or the hose.

I went out on the dock and found a water hose, then rigged it to hang from a nearby tree. Sitting beneath it, I let the cool water splash over me in the darkness, and scrubbed at myself with Monoi oil, Vaseline and soap. As for the bikini I'd been wearing, the official Bilge Babe’s uniform, it was covered with grease. Never mind all that, I looked up to see the clouds parting on the eastern horizon and saw the full moon rising out of the sea. Nature rewards!

The trades sang through the masts and trees, not a soul was stirring on the other sailboats, and the fresh, cool water restored me. ”It’s lovely, it’s perfect, it’s absolutely spectacular,” I thought. Just me, this tree, the sea, and the round, ginger moon.

By the way, those hoses are in still in the bilge. So I won! Marine Man must have known that I could do it

— liz 03/05/11

Reflections — Perry 47
Rachel Hurn, Crew
The Med On $5/Day
(Brooklyn, New York)

People are always asking what possessed me, a 21-year-old single female, to crew on a random sailboat in the Med the summer after I graduated from college. First, I desperately needed to have something to say to people who asked, "So what's after graduation?" Each cocktail party with my parents posed a new threat in the form of those 'only-in-your-best-interest' questions posed by those 'only-asking-because-I'm-friends-with-your-parents' people. Little did they know their questions were making me want to scratch my eyes out.

So when my applications for a newspaper internship didn't pan out — I hadn't even taken Journalism 101, so go figure — I hopefully placed my future into the hands of Google. But really, what young person hasn't done this? Especially a 21-year-old, single female with no job prospects. And if it isn't Google, it's Craigslist. And if it isn't sailing, it's nannying in France or being a personal assistant in L.A.. Everyone in my generation seems to need to do something cooler than everyone else. The grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence mindset has, because of the internet, become more real.

Surprisingly, my Google search panned out. I typed “Crew Needed - Comma - Mediterranean Sea” into the search engine. Listings sprang into view, so right then, between my Victorian Literature papers and my Linguistics exams, I began the long process of reading and responding to ads.

Initially, I thought I’d be able to use the trip as an opportunity to make money — my version of an adventurous summer job. But I quickly found that most “female crew wanted” listings that paid cash seemed as though they would involve — how can I put it delicately? — my grinding more than just winches. One man in particular, a Spaniard with a 40-ft wooden schooner, was willing to pay $2,000 a month for my work onboard. “But,” he explained in his responding email, “There are no extra beds, and you will have to sleep in my cabin.”

How convenient. For him.

Strangely enough, the boat I ultimately chose to crew on — a Perry 47 owned by by Max Young of Antioch, CA — sort of looked like a floating brothel in the photos. And at any one time there were seven women and two men aboard. I anticipated the questions forming in my friends’ conservative heads. Questions such as, “What are all these women doing on a boat with this old man?" As it turned out, Capt. Max would become like a father to me.

Cap published an online ad stating that he needed non-paid crew. At the same time, we, his future flock of wanderers, were responding to ads for free travel. When I emailed Max to ask him about the cost, he responded simply, “Five bucks a day.”

Who is crazy enough to join an online party boat? Vagabonds, hippies, sailors? Sailors at heart, I suppose, but none of us were very experienced sailors. But we responded to Max's request for crew from computers plugged in at various places around the world. Terri, for example, was living in London and trying to find a way out of her 60-hour-a-week temp job. Rosie, living in England's verdant countryside, was in search of adventures outside her mother’s kitchen. Karin, who would become 'Karinina of the Sea', was a wise and weathered 60-year-old from New Mexico. But apparently our tomato paste and cheese sandwiches were a little immature for her taste, and she left after little more than a week.

Rommy, my friend from Los Angeles, called me late one night while I was working at J Crew to say his mother had bought his plane ticket as a graduation gift, and he would be joining me and the others on Reflections. I had to do a little dance in the backroom to celebrate that my eternally flaky friend was committing to this huge adventure. While I was at least "small-boat certified", Rommy had never been on a sailboat in his life.

When Rommy and I joined Reflections at Milos, a tiny Greek island in the southern Aegean, we both felt a sense of relief. After all, Max wasn't a creepy old man and the rest of the crew appeared sane. As for Milos, it was sheer beauty. We felt excitement, too. In fact, as I unpacked the contents of my duffel into any available locker and cubby, I distinctly remember thinking, "This is the coolest thing I've ever done!"

After a few days on the island, Rommy and I gained our sea legs and were officially ready to set out into open water. We women folk helped dog down the hatches and rig the sails, while Cap and Rommy shouted orders back and forth. I kept looking at Terri, who skipped in and out of the pilothouse for an interpretation of the commands. “Cap is not very clear with instructions,” she assured me. “Don’t worry if you mess up!”

Surprisingly, Day One on the water passed with ease. No one got sick, which was especially surprising since we sat around staring at each other and asking, "Do you feel sick?” People would reply, “I don't know, do you?"

After a few hours of calm sailing, Cap slowed the boat down for our first swim off the bow. Terri plunged into the pristine water, and I followed quickly. A cold shiver ran down my back, as the water a few feet down was shockingly cold. Glancing up at bobbing white hull of Reflections, I chose to ignore the parental warnings of my youth. So I grabbed a pair of goggles from Rommy's outstretched arm, took Terri’s hand in mine, inhaled, and dove. We swam down, down, down, as far as we could go until our ears ached from pressure and our lungs seemed about to explode. We swam until the water in front of our eyes was dark. We swam until I was no longer afraid.

That night Terri, whom we adopted as the boat's official chef, made a dinner of stir-fry veggies and pasta. She strapped herself onto the stove with a harness, and juggled wooden spoons and took small tastes of sauce with her pinky while the boat rocked back and forth. Rommy volunteered to help in the galley, a daily routine that sparked their romantic relationship. Terri and Rommy are now married and living in Los Angeles! After I'd scraped the last bit of pasta from my small wooden bowl, Terri and I changed into our PJs to get ready for our four-hour, 8 p.m. to midnight watch. Cap fastened us into our life-vests, and connected lines from our chests to the helm. “Just in case you fall overboard,” he said. It was an explanation I found less than comforting.

By 10 pm, with the cabin lights switched to red for night vision, the rest of the crew was below in their bunks catching some sleep. The only thing besides Terri’s weak hot chocolate that kept us awake was the radio. We tuned in, turned up, and eavesdropped on conversations going on across the Med.

“I will destroy you!” someone's voice came through the speaker loud and clear. Terri and I looked at each other in surprise. Two boats seemed to be threatening one another! Perhaps it was the dredging up of the old Greek versus Turk rivalry.

“What in the world is going on in this place?” Terri asked with a snicker.

“I’ll tell you what," said Cap, his eyes catching a glimmer of red light from the overhead lamp. "Crazy things happen at night."

Perhaps Cap was right, and crazy things really do happen. After all, my life had suddenly become very un-routine. What did I expect? Normality? Not during a summer of sailing in the Med.

In all, I would spend 44 days aboard Reflections, sailing from Milos to Monemvasia, Kythira, Kalamata in Greece. And on to Siracuse, Licata, Sciacca on Sicily, and finally, Tunis, Tunisia. I boarded Reflections as one person, but was completely different when I stepped off. Yes, I had a better tan, but it was more than that. I was also more open-minded, more ready to experience new cultures, and more open to new people — particularly, the ones aboard Reflections.

On my last day of sailing on the boat, Rommy and I sat on the bow eating chocolates and oranges, and talking about the next chapters in our lives. We'd been traveling for six weeks, and I expressed my fear of the fact that soon thereafter I would be in grad school, and just 16 weeks later, done with that, too.

“Just don’t forget to breathe,” Rommy said. That sound advice, given to me by someone who had become like my brother, on the bow of a 50-ft sailboat sailing in the sunset toward the coast of Africa, has stood me well.

— rachel 11/10/10

Banderas Bay Regatta
Vallarta YC
(Banderas Bay, Mexico)

This was the third year in a row that a new record was set for entrants in the Banderas Bay Regatta. Sixty boats registered, and 57 actually raced. It was a diverse group, with boats from California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, as well as Canada and four different areas of Mexico.

Thanks to the tsunami, the second race of the three-race series had to be cancelled. The division winners were as follows:

A — Cirque, Beneteau 42S7, Louis Kruk, San Leandro. This is the third straight year Cirque has won her division.

B — Dream Chaser, home-built Farrier F-9 RXT, Cam McCannel, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

C — Tabati, Jeanneau/Farr 50, Fred Delaney, San Diego.

D — J World, J/80, Puerto Vallarta.

E — Wave Goodbye, Hunter 44, Pablo Garcia, Guadalajara, Mexico.

F — Poco Loco Dos, Catalina 38, Keith Sangster, Vernon, British Columbia.

G — Pika, Pretorien 35, Lauren and Lauren Bucholz, Seattle.

For complete results and photos, visit the Vallarta YC website.

Lee Pryor and Cathy Sweet of the Oceanside-based J/130 Sirocco offered the following review of the event:

"I told my wife that we had to join the '10 Ha-Ha in October in order to get Sirocco to Banderas Bay in time for March's Banderas Bay Regatta. It was not too severe a burden spending November to March on Mexico's Gold Coast waiting for the regatta to begin. True, there were dozens of whales to see and avoid, numerous coves to tempt with a deep draft vessel, several jungle-like lagoons with iguanas and crocodiles to get lost in, and decisions to be made such as which palapa bar had the coldest beer, cheapest tacos, and best bands. But the Banderas Bay Regatta proved to be worth the wait.

"Despite the loss of one day of racing out of three scheduled, the regatta was fun and offered good competition — especially in the 'A' division. Almost the entire division consisted of accomplished racing skippers and crews — who happened to be cruising in Mexico. Despite handicaps that ranged from -19 to 84, only one point separated the boats from second to sixth place.

I've raced sailboats for over 40 years, and based on that experience, can say that the Vallarta YC and the race committee did a superb job. Not only did they manage the race well, but they were great at communicating with the fleet — including those whose racing skills weren't that polished. As for the awards party on the beach at Paradise Resort, we had Philo’s Shuffle Band, the space station flying overhead, and a chamber-of-commerce sunset. You wanted to pinch yourself to make sure you weren’t dreaming up such a perfect setting.

Yes, we'll be back for next year's Banderas Bay Regatta.

— latitude 03/18/11

Cruise Notes:

We regret to have to report the tragic news from Scott Stolnitz that his wife Cindy recently lost her courageous battle with depression. The couple have been cruising their Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House from California to the South Pacific over the last several years, devoting much of their time to taking some of the most spectacular underwater photographs and videos we've seen. People with no experience with depression often mistakenly dismiss it as either being not real or not serious, and foolishly suggest that the victims just 'snap out of it'. Depression is, of course, a devastating disease, every bit as hard to combat as the worst cancers. Our most heartfelt sympathies to the Stolnitz family — and everyone else who suffers from depression.

"I have a slightly unusual request," writes Steve Pope. "Down here in New Zealand, the only available flares are handheld ones, no matter if they are for dinghies or Category 1. Flare pistols and flare launchers are not available except for a prohibitively expensive Europeanmetal model. I'm wondering if I might prevail on one of the Puddle Jumpers headed to New Zealand to bring a spare flare gun set. I would be happy to pay them in advance." Steve can be contacted at . By the way, some of the first Puddle Jumpers have already arrived in French Polynesia.

"It's really been blowing in the Windwards this season," reports Terry Drew, who lives with his wife Evelyn in Aptos, but who for the last nine years has kept Aquarelle, their Kirie-Feeling 446 ex-charterboat, in St. Lucia. "I got to the boat in late January to start on the annual bottom job, and there was lots of rain and wind. Evelyn arrived on February 14th, by which time my yard work was completed. I'd also installed a Spectra watermaker, because after last year's drought in the area, we wanted a reliable source of water. But the wind kept blowing at between 20 and 25 knots, with 35 knots in some of the channels between the islands. It seemed as though there was a weekly dismasting or broken boom between St. Lucia and St. Vincent. And you should see what our French flag looks like after three weeks at St. Anne, Martinique, which is normally a peaceful anchorage. Fortunately, the winds have died down to 10-15 knots since March 1, and it looks as though they'll stay that way for awhile.

"I've been following the Wanderer and Dona de Mallorca's Caribbean capers on 'Lectronic, and can't wait to get back there," writes Bob Smith of the Vancouver, B.C.-based 45-ft custom carbon cat Pantera. Smith, incidentally, has been threatening to continue on south of Banderas Bay, Mexico, for about the last five years, and has finally made it to Huatulco in southern Mexico. "My heart went out to the people of Japan after what I saw on television here. I'd spent the previous six weeks on the hook in Los Sietes Bahias de Huatulco — which is an absolutely wonderful area with really nice people. Anyway, I'd moved into the marina the night before the tsunami so I could return to Canada for a month. The morning we got the tsunami alert, the port captain closed the harbor. Had I not already spider-tied Pantera in and had a flight to catch, I would have gotten out to deep water no matter what the port captain said. Putting to sea and deep water — which I'd done from Laguna de Navidad last year after the earthquake in Chile — defines tsunami avoidance to me. But except for the tsunami parties, which were great, it was a non-event where I was."

"We're hoping that you'll be able to provide detailed information on the tsunami damage to ports and marinas between Mexico and Oregon, as we'll soon be doing the Baja Bash," write Randy and Sheri Schneider of the Sunriver, Oregon-based Gozzard 44 Procyon. "Luckily, we had left Punta Mita heading north the day of the tsunami, so we didn't have to worry. But we hope that anyone who cared about their boat would have gone to sea rather than stay in port — no matter what the authorities said."

To our knowledge, the only ports that suffered enough damage to affect your being able to stop at them on the way north are Santa Cruz and Crescent City. So you shouldn't have much trouble.

With respect to the Baja Bash, there's are three age-old tips for making it as easy as possible: 1) Don't be in a hurry. 2) Don't be in a hurry. 3) Don't be in a hurry. Any questions?

Anybody familiar with Voile et Voiliers? It's not just a French sailing magazine; it may be the best sailing magazine on the planet. As a result, we at Latitude were chuffed to see that they devoted a 5.5-page spread in their March edition to a story by Amélie Padioleau on last fall's Baja Ha-Ha. We can't read French well enough to understand it, but we we're lead to believe it's highly complimentary.On the other hand, we're a bit puzzled by the editor's choice of photos. He/she went big on photos of people in costumes instead of on the great Baja scenery and sailing shots. Oh well, C'est la vi.

Heading back to their Leopard 47 Azure II in Italy are Alamedans Rodney and Jane Pimentel, with their sons RJ and Leo. Knowing that after this summer in the eastern Med, including Greece and Turkey, they'll be back to California for the grind for a quite a few years, they are hitting all the spots on the way to their boat. For example, they passed through London where they recreated the Beatles' famous walk across Abbey Road. It's hilarious, so it's too bad the resolution is so small.

Speaking of London, if you've been there in the last few years, you know that the cost is staggering for even half-decent accomodations. So when Ed and Sue Kelly of the Ames, Iowa-based Catalac 41 Angel Louise reported they'd be sailing across the Atlantic to spend the winter at St. Katherine Dock near Tower Bridge, we couldn't help wondering what it was going to cost.

"The six-month rate for St. Katherine is around $800 U.S. per month — if I did a good job of converting pounds to dollars," responded Ed. "Their best rate requires paying all six months in advance. I read somewhere that their winter rates are something like 30% more than their summer rates. But we want to do it whatever the cost. As an uappreciative student earlier in life, I daydreamed through too many classes on English history and the like. But now that I'm 65, I will attempt to redeem myself by visiting every museum, library, and walking tour I can find."

Based on our currency calculations, the berth fee for St. Katherines would be more like $1,200/month. Nonetheless, it's still a heck of a bargain. Color us jealous.

When we receive self-published books from friends, we invariably wince. First of all, we don't have the time to read most of them. Second, too often they aren't very interesting or well written. So it was that we didn't great around to reading friend and Caribbean legend D. Randy West's 184-page tome, The Hurricane Book, A Sailing Captain's Memoirs, until after it came out in print. We're haunted by our procrastination, because it's a pretty good, and very entertaining, book. It's basically D. Randy — who can happily tell stories for days if not weeks — recounting his experiences with, count 'em, 18 hurricanes. The worst of all was Luis, which hit D. Randy and his "11" then-girlfriend Michelle with up to 175 knots of wind while they were aboard his 60-ft catamaran Shadowfax at St. Martin. As D. Randy tells it, they and the cat ended up 119 feet from the water's edge — on top of a seaweed-covered bulldozer! And yeah, he's got the photos. After patching nine holes in one hull, he threw a huge party and got all his friends to carry the cat back into the water. The book is full of stories like that. You can buy The Hurricane Book from Amazon.

When your boat and mooring go floating down the channel in Bahia de La Paz, it's usually your fault. But not always. As Bill Lilly of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide explains, "The API — port authority folks — in La Paz attached their big channel marker to my mooring instead of theirs! Not only that, they used too short a chain, so when the wind came in with the tide, my cat and the mooring went floating down the channel."

Where to get boatwork done, Mexico or the Caribbean? According to Bill Bodle of the 103-ft schooner Eros — see the Changes item toward the beginning of this section — there's a slight financial advantage to having the work done in Mexico. "We were able to find good workers for basic jobs in Mazatlan for $30 U.S. a day. When we got to Antigua and had the same work done, the labor rate was $30 U.S. — an hour! Antigua, of course, is a megayacht center with some very skilled and experienced workers. Alas, the less skilled workers think they should be paid as much as the best craftsmen.

"Enthusiasm to join sailing rallies, whether as a boatowner or crew, continues to grow," according to the World Cruising Club. For example, despite the fact that their 26th annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) doesn't start until late November, they've already exceeded their limit of 225 entries. Lord knows how many entries they'd get if they weren't limited by dock space in the Canary Islands and at the finish in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. Twenty-five multihulls have signed up, the largest number ever. The oldest entry is Cruinneag III, a Campbells & Dickies ketch built in '36. Thirty-eight of the entries are less than 40 feet, and the smallest is Sibilation, a Sigma 33. With the ARC selling out every year, it's going to be interesting to see if there is greater participation in the Caribbean 1500, from Virginia to the British Virgins, now that World Cruising has purchased it from founder Steve Black.

By the way, entry for this fall's Baja Ha-Ha won't be possible until early May, as the staff is still in winter hibernation.

In this month's letters, Tom and Judy Blandford of the motor vessel Imagine Me and You, asked about the price of diesel fuel in various places such as Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. These are some of the reports we got:

"It's a little over $5 U.S. a gallon for diesel in Belize," reports former San Francisco sailor Cliff Wilson on the Lagoon 47 Aubisque.

"Diesel was $4.40 U.S. a gallon in El Salvador," report Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Honolulu-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu. The couple founded and manage the El Salvador Rally.

"I paid $5.10/gallon for diesel last week in Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgins," reports Kipp Hammon of the Island Packet 440 Snowflake.

"Diesel at the fuel dock in La Cruz, Mexico, is 10.99 pesos/liter, which at the current exchange rate equals $3.52/gal. U.S." reports John Foy of the Alameda-based Catalina 42 Destiny. "This does not include the 'docking fee', which is commonly assessed all over Mexico. Interestingly enough, the Pemex station in La Cruz charges $2.95/gal U.S., which is nearly 20% less than at the fuel dock a few blocks away, and that doesn't include the docking fee."

"I paid about $3.40/gal U.S. at Las Hadas in Manzanillo," reports Alan Jacob of the motorvessel Beverly.

Tom Perry and Marion Dallond of St. Barth, and their crew Edmund Murray, were sailing the 10-year-old luxury — $25,000/week — CNB 77 sloop Four Devils 25 miles NNE of St. Martin on their way to Martinique on March 2, when Marion noticed water over the floorboards. Tom and Marion couldn't have been more shocked, as they'd been running the boat for three years, and over the last 10 months had sailed her across the Atlantic to Sweden, to the Med and Croatia, did a long haulout, then sailed her back across the Atlantic to St. Barth. That the incident happened so close to help was a good thing, because they were never to find the source of the leak, let alone stem it, and the aluminum boat went down in a matter of hours. Fortunately — and uncharacteristcally — there was little wind and a small sea as the boat was sinking, and the Dutch navy ship Rotterdam quickly responded to the mayday with a helicopter and and the ship itself. Even a salvage vessel appeared, but by then it was too late, and the mighty yacht went down 2,000 feet to the bottom.

With 25 years of experience, Perry is one of the most experienced and competent big sailing yacht skippers around. We asked him if sinkings like the Four Devils' happen very often. "I've heard of maybe five or six in my time. Big motoryachts sink more frequently than big sailboats. For example, Big Eagle sank in the Med, Miss Turnberry sank off St. Martin, and there was another big motoryacht that went down off Puerto Rico. Aluminum boats tend to fail catastrophically. But we have absolutely no idea what happened to Four Devils, as we've been actively sailing her for a long time, and had just sailed her across the Atlantic. We can only speculate that she must have hit something that caused major damage to the hull."

"After 1,000 miles of sailing from Tarawa, I arrived at the harbor of the Micronesian island of Kosrae," reports Glenn Tieman of the Southern California based Manu Rere, a replica of an ancient 38-foot Polynesian catamaran. "I was sailing in a hard gale under two small crab claw sails and pulling the drogue. The harbor entrance is narrow and faces directly into the wind, so I first let my cat round up and nearly stop with foresail backed, making it easy to pull the drogue aboard. Then I brailed the mizzen and used only the small mainsail for a controlled run down into the harbor. Had it been necessary for me to suddenly beat back into the wind, I could have easily snapped open the mizzen. When abeam of the spot where I wanted to place my first anchor, I opened the mizzen and put the helm over to bring her right around up into the wind, then quickly brailed the mainsail and lowered the hook. With the mizzen centered, Manu Rere backed straight down from the first anchor. But I did have to use my canoe to place the second anchor for a proper and reliable Bahamian mooring. I had been asked how I would get out of this harbor without an engine. In practice it wasn't hard, and simply required a bit of short tacking.

"After that," Tieman continues, "I had a fast 150-mile sail to Pingalap Atoll. Although I prefer to visit new places compared to walks down memory lane, how could I bypass the best place I ever stopped during my 10 years of cruising on my 26-ft cat Peregrine? One of the reasons I liked Pingalap was the challenge, as it has no pass into the lagoon. Further, it has only a very hazardous indentation that has been blasted in the steep barrier reef, where a yacht can sometimes briefly and perilously anchor. I had sighted the island from 10 miles upwind in the late afternoon, so hove to to await dawn. The GPS showed that I was still moving about a knot to leeward toward the island, which could shipwreck me again before daybreak. So I set the mainsail to get Manu Rere forereaching against the current and keeping her distance from the reefs. After I anchored in the morning, I walked around with some young men. When one of them said, "Before I was born, a man named Glenn brought his catamaran over the reef and into the lagoon, and anchored right over there for quite some time. Then one day the people here looked out, and he was gone." It's as though the young man was talking about a legend, not me.

"This time I brought Manu Rere into the lagoon again, at spring tide. This was only barely possible because my cat draws only 22 inches and I was willing to hit rocks on the way in. Anchoring in the 20-ft wide indentation outside the barrier reef was only temporarily acceptable, with an anchor off each beam onto the reefs on each side, as well as an anchor forward. And even then, when the wind came westerly, I had to sail off at a moment's notice. leaving my anchors and tender behind for the night. I stayed for a month. Unfortunately, Pingalap had changed for the worse over the years."

Mexico has a vibrant social life for cruisers, but can anywhere compare with Georgetown, Great Exuma, in the Bahamas? Steve and June Jones, who after many years of working in the Bay Area, bought Windrose, a Tatoosh 42, in Florida, and resumed the cruising life they had interrupted for decades. They have recently been anchored off Stocking Island for a month to participate — with 300 other cruising boats! — in the Georgetown Cruising Regatta. We'll have a detailed report from them next month.

It's already April, but there are still several events to go in the Mexico cruising season. For example, the great folks at the Club Cruceros in La Paz will be hosting Bay Fest April 7-10, with lots of social activities and a day of fun racing. The Hidden Port YC will be hosting the very popular Loreto Fest from April 29 to May 1. This will be the 15th year for the fundraiser for great local causes. Loreto Fest will be followed by the Second Annual Charity Rally, starting from Puerto Escondido the day after Loreto Fest, with stops at San Juanico, Punta Domingo, Bahia Concepcion, and Santa Rosalia, and ending at San Carlos on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez on May 8. Unlike the other events, there is a $175 entry fee. But, we're assured that this is a Lion's Club-sponsored event, with all proceeds going to support local charities. What if you want to head south to La Paz after Loreto Fest? There's Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, the starting date and stops of which are still being determined by Patsy Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion, following consultations with interested parties. Information on all these events can be obtained on the various cruising nets and on the internet. Have fun, everyone!

The European cruising season is about to resume. We know this because Jack Van Ommen of the Gig Harbor- and world-based Najad 29 Fleetwood reports he's about to resume his unusual 64-lock canal and river passage from the North Sea to Romania and the Black Sea. He was stalled with engine problems last fall, so Fleetwood is currently high and dry on the banks of the Danube in Zimnicea, Romania. "I should be going down the rest of the Danube in June, and sailing the Med this summer," he writes. Van Ommen's goal, which he could have accomplished years ago, is "Around the World In Less Than 80 Years".

In the March 4 'Lectronic, we published the following item — which seemed to bother some of our more squeamish readers:

"We were just about to jump off the transom of our Leopard 45 catamaran 'ti Profligate, anchored off Gustavia, St. Barth, when we got a terrible shock. For there, floating on the blue, blue waters, right where we had intended to jump in, was a huge 'Lincoln Log'! We're not squeamish, but it was disgusting. Our suspicions immediately turned to Doña de Mallorca, who, minutes before, had disappeared into one of the four heads. But no, this was one big log, and anything that goes through a marine head comes out in little pieces that fish seem to find irresistable. 'Wegman!' we cursed, knowing that the singlehanded circumnavigator uses a bucket, not a marine head, on his 32-ft ketch A Friggin' Queen. But then we remembered he was still in the British Virgins. When Mallorca came out of the head, we cautioned her not to jump in.

'Are you sure it's not a sweet potato?' she asked. 'Two of them went bad, so I just chucked them over the side.'

'We don't think so,' we responded, 'cause it sure looked like the real thing to us.' Five minutes later we were swimming in the blue, blue water, knowing that sweet potatoes, from a distance of 10 to 15 feet, do indeed look exactly like Lincoln Logs."

We thought the incident — and photo — was humorous not because it was about poop, but because of the hilarity of mistaken identity. As one reader wrote, "It brought back memories of the movie Caddyshack, when the kid sees what looks like a log in the crowded pool during Caddy Swim Day at the Bushwood Country Club. After everyone is cleared out and the pool drained, Bill Murray picks 'it' up, examines it, and proclaims "Baby Ruth!" — before eating it." We liked the movie, too, so that gives you a frame of reference.

"If you ever get bored paddling around on your SUP, you can always ski behind my cat like Joe Cool," writes Arjan Bok of the San Francisco-based Lidgard 43 cat RotKat.

The SUP boards are a lot of fun, but they are pretty large — in many cases too large for most sailboats. That's when the option of inflatable SUPs comes into play. We use an 11-ft Uli inflatable that can be pumped up to nearly 20 psi to keep it stiff. And you can drag it all over the decks without ruining the board or your boat. Check 'em out.

It's never too late for good news, and Pamela Bendall of the Port Hardy, B.C.-based Kristen 46 Precious Metal happily reports that this year's 10th Annual Zihua Sail Fest raised over 430,000 pesos for the education of Zihua’s poorest children. That's more than $35,000 U.S. "Over 50 boats were in Zihuatanejo Bay for the event, which is more than double the past two years, and everyone who participated certainly gave it their all," says Bendall. "After three years of being the chairperson for the cruising activities, the thing that amazes me the most is the instantaneous cohesiveness of our cruising community. Most boats arrive in the Bay within the week of the event, many not really knowing what Sail Fest is, many not knowing each other, and no one really knowing the hidden talents aboard each boat. But within a week, we all combine enthusiasm, energy and talent, and remarkably host two noteworthy events almost flawlessly. If we all put the same energy and talent toward a business, I’m confident we would give Carlos Slim ­— richest man in the world — some competition!

Missing the pictures? See the April 2011 eBook!


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