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April 2013

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With reports this month from Serendipity on a boatyard run by women in Mazatlan; from Moonshadow on watching the schooner Raindancer perish on a reef in Grenada; from Curare on taking Latitude around Cape Horn; from Alant of Court on a long sailing life in the Caribbean; from the Celebration crew on excitement in the Bahamas; from Pacific Star on an Atlantic crossing; from Cocokai on a return to Plan A; and a double helping of Cruise Notes.

Serendipity — Peterson 44
Barritt and Renee Neal
Women In Charge In The Boatyard
(San Diego)

Just before taking a skiing break in California, we took our boat to Marina Fonatur Mazatlan to get a new bottom. After 33 years, we decided she finally has more blisters than we like.

The Marina Fonatur boatyard operation runs smoothly and is clean as a whistle. We don't want to be sexist, but we suspect the reason for this is that the entire operation — from the marina management to the Travelift itself — is run entirely by women! My wife Renee and I have cruised both Mexico and the Caribbean for many years, but never before have we looked up to see an attractive and attentive woman operating the Travelift. It's very cool indeed.

There are two separate operations at the facility in Mazatlan. Fonatur runs the haulouts and the small marina, while Total Yacht Works does the work in the yard. So Total is doing the bottom of our boat. From what we've seen, the two organizations work well together.

Total Yacht Works is owned by Canadian Bob Buchanan, who has been in Mazatlan for 10 years, and Raffa Serrano. Both are certified Yanmar mechanics, and Total Yacht Services claims to "install and service more Yanmar engines than anyone from Southern California to Cape Horn." While they work on all brands of engines, they stock lots of Yanmar parts.

Anyway, we're now off to Copper Canyon, and hope our bottom job will be completed by the time we get back.

— barritt 02/18/13

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
John and Debbie Rogers
The Loss of Schooner Raindancer
(San Diego)

We were at Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada, for the South Grenada Regatta on February 20. The regatta events started with a concert based on a barge anchored in the middle of the bay. You attended by coming in your dinghy. There were maybe 100 dinghies rafted around the barge for the live music. The beautiful 75-ft staysail schooner Raindancer, built by Stevens in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, was front and center for the festivities. Nobody could suspect that she was just hours away from her demise.

After the concert, we watched Raindancer make her way out through the reef in the direction of the Le Phare Bleu Marina, which is in the next bay to the east. To tell you the truth, I was glad that I didn't have to navigate Moonshadow through the reef at night, because I wasn't sure that I would make it. Unfortunately, Raindancer, which has been based out of Grenada for years, didn't make it through the narrow passage. She hit the reef and was driven hard onto it.

Pumps were quickly started and more brought out to the stricken schooner, and fingers were crossed that she could be pulled free during the next high tide. It was gut-wrenching to see such a beautiful boat in distress.

The owners attempted to refloat her the next day by pulling her off the reef with a tug. But she began to break up under the strain. They had no choice but to abandon the salvage attempt. So it looks as though Raindancer will stay on the reef until there is nothing left of her.

— john 02/24/13

Readers — According to Raindancer's website, she's been working out of south Grenada for about five years, and had "prospered" under two captains: owner John Whitsett and his associate Kevin Dakin. We're not sure if either was in command when she went on the reef.

The website noted that Whitsett started sailing while growing up in Southern California. After a tour in the Navy, he moved up to Northern California, and "eventually purchased the famous Stone Boat Yard in Alameda." During his tenure the yard built six boats, including one of the last wooden 6 Meters, and three cold-molded yachts — including Whitsett's own racing boat, the 36-ft Chuck Burns -designed
Rolling Stone. After leaving the marine industry for a time, Whitsett returned to the Stone Yard to help in the restoration of the 103-ft schooner Eros, now owned by Bill and Grace Bodle of Pt. Richmond. It was during the reconstruction of Eros that Whitsett located Raindancer in Grenada, purchased her, and began her restoration."

Whitsett and Dakin met in Grenada during the restoration of
Raindancer. Both men, with the help of a boatbuilder from Trinidad, spent close to a year rebuilding her. Since her refurbishment, the schooner had logged more than 6,000 miles in classic regattas and on various charters.

Curare — Bowman 36
Geoff and Linda Goodall
Latitude Rounds Cape Horn

Since the publisher of Latitude has several times mentioned a lack of fondness for high-latitude sailing, we had a pretty good idea that he wouldn't be rounding the Horn anytime soon. So we decided to take Latitude with us on our recent rounding. Or at least an electronic version of it.

After a three-month trip south down the channels of Chile, we arrived in Puerto Williams, the gateway to the Horn. While resting up at the Micalvi YC there, we were able to download the February issue of Latitude. We soon had a reasonable weather window for rounding the 70-mile distant Horn. There are only three anchorages on the way that are authorized for foreign vessels by the Chilean Armada.

The first night we stopped at Puerto Toro, which has a small dock for fishing vessels. We rafted to a fishing boat. The next morning we were off early in order to cross 25-mile-wide Bahia Nassau before the forecast westerlies picked up. For this part of the world the winds were light — 15 to 20 knots out of the southwest. But by the time we made it to Canal Franklin, the tide had turned, so the last hour of this leg was quite choppy and slow. We anchored in a small cove at Puerto Maxwell, complete with two shore lines to keep us close into the beach, and a healthy length of chain out on our kelp-digging Fortress anchor. The winds kicked up pretty good that night, so we were again thankful for the extra security of shore lines. The winds the following day were stronger, 35 knots and gusting well into the 40s, so we stayed at anchor all day, and took a couple of shore excursions with our dog Jessie.

Everything was quiet the following morning. The forecast was for calm conditions. This was confirmed by a VHF call to the crew at the Cabo de Hornos lighthouse, which replied, "mas calmas". So at 7 a.m. we untied our shore lines, raised anchor, and went to go have a look at the famous cape. It was a 27-mile trip from secure anchorage to secure anchorage, and as the winds were from the west, our easterly course was downwind. Nonetheless, the seas were still quite sloppy from two weeks of nearly constant stormy conditions. We had to make eight miles to the south to clear the rocks off the Cape, and that meant a rolly ride in 12-foot seas for a couple of hours. But once we could run off with the wind and seas, it calmed down, even though the wind increased to a little over 20 knots. This is Cape Horn and "mas calmas" is a relative term.

In fact, it was 'calm' enough for us to anchor in Caleta Leones on the northern lee side of the island. Linda was able to take the dinghy ashore, have a look at the sailor's monument, and get our logbook stamped. But it wasn't calm enough for Geoff and Jessie to risk leaving Curare on her own.

After a couple of hours of basking in the unprecedented sunshine, we set off again for 12-mile-distant Caleta Martial. There we anchored off a beautiful white sandy beach — something like you'd find in Mexico. This gave Jessie a chance to run around after a tedious day aboard.

The wind came up from the east at 3 a.m., leaving us totally exposed to a big swell coming in off the Atlantic. So we had another early start to return to Puerto Toro, and then on to Puerto Williams the following day, thus completing our circuit of Cape Horn.

A week later, the wind was in our favor for making what is generally an upwind trek 35 miles west from Puerto Williams to Ushuaia, Argentina. And there, at the AFASyN YC library, we pulled a September 2012 issue of Latitude out of the stack. So you see, Latitude really does get around.

— linda 02/15/13

Readers may remember that Geoff and Linda decided to cruise South America rather than the South Pacific because the latter was not going to be welcoming to their dog.

Alant of Court — Gallant 53
Ron Arens and Carol King
The Sailing Life is the Long Life
(The Caribbean)

The Caribbean winter office of Latitude had been open for but a few hours when we stumbled across Ron Arens at the welcome party for the Sweethearts of the Caribbean Regatta at Nanny Cay in the British Virgin Islands. Originally from San Francisco, Ron sailed to the Caribbean long ago in pursuit of a long life. As you'll learn in the following mini-interview, he found it.

38: You came from a sailing family?

Ron: Paul Arens, my dad, was a member of the St. Francis YC and owned both Marilen, a 65-ft cruising ketch built by the Stone Yard in Alameda in 1931, then one of the finest yards on the West Coast, and the 53-ft Alden racing cutter the Yo Ho Ho.

38: We remember the Yo Ho Ho being tied to a dock at a then scruffy area of the Sausalito waterfront back in the '70s. She was already in pretty bad shape.

Ron: My dad had owned her decades before then, so she was already a pretty old boat. I'm nearly 70, and I have photos of myself as a young boy at the helm of the Yo Ho Ho. My dad later sold Marilen to Denny Jordan, a well-known developer who was also a member of the St. Francis YC. My dad also owned the Gang Plank Bar and Restaurant on the ground floor of the St. Francis Hotel, then one of The City's finest.

38: So you went to UC Santa Barbara in the early '60s, a few years before we did. How did you end up in the Caribbean?

Ron: I learned some big lessons relatively early in life, as my dad died when he was in his early 40s. I was then raised by my uncle, who also died in his early 40s. "That's not one lesson," I said to myself, "that's two. I'm going sailing now, and if I have to work later in life, I will."

So when I was 35 — this was in the early '80s and I was living in Olympia, Washington — I took off cruising aboard an old 40-ft Newporter ketch — the hulls were made of plywood. After transiting the Canal, I sailed up to the U.S. Virgins. When I got to American Yacht Harbor in St. Thomas, I said to myself, "Time to get back to work."

I got back to work by founding the Latitude 18 Bareboat Charter company at American Yacht Harbor. It started with my taking care of boats for about 12 owners who wanted to leave them at St. Thomas while they returned to the States for hurricane season. I made a proposal to keep them under my management. Then I incorporated what had been CQR Charters, and later what had been a J/World facility.

Early on, there was no place to even get a cold beer at American Yacht Harbor. So I put together a couple of sawhorses, a cooler full of beer, and a bucket for people to put money in. That was the start of what would become Latitude 18° Bar and Restaurant. I owned it a couple of different times, and she's still doing great — since the current owners brought back my original formula and some of the old employees. They've even brought back some of the original musicians. We had a lot of good musicians play over the years, including Spencer Davis. We had a great run with that restaurant.

38: So what other boats did you own?

Ron: There were a bunch. Since I took over the J/World facility, we did a lot of racing in J/24s and J/30s and other J/Boats. But for the last 19 years I've owned a Gallant 53.

38: We know that design well, as she's sort of the baby sister of the Ocean 71s. Like the 71s, she was designed by van de Stadt and built by Southern Ocean Shipyard in England.

Ron: Right. In 1978, the then-29-year-old Naomi James, a one-time Kiwi hairdresser, used the Gallant 53 Express Crusader to become the first woman to sail nonstop around the world. It was actually Chay Blyth's Spirit of Cutty Sark, which he loaned to James. Despite her being a novice sailor, she bested Sir Francis Chichester's record of 274 days by two days.

A total of 22 Gallant 53s were built, and my Alant of Court is the third one I tried to buy over a six-year period. It took that long for me to get one!

One of the first ones I looked at was owned by a German doctor who had raced her at Antigua Sailing Week. When I tried to negotiate with the guy on the boat to buy her, he couldn't come up with any boat papers, so I became suspicious. I found a list of previous owners, and called the last one on it, which was the doctor. He told me that having done Antigua Sailing Week, the boat was all provisioned for the sail back to Europe. But when they went down to the boat the next morning to take off, she'd been stolen, and he never saw her again.

When I told him that I knew where his boat was, he said he didn't care because he'd already been paid off by the insurance company. When I called the insurance company, they wouldn't release her to me either because she'd already been charged off. Since I couldn't get papers, I couldn't buy her.

38: There are still plenty of pirates in the Caribbean, aren't there?

Ron: Oh yes. Alant of Court, the Gallant 53 I ultimately ended up with, was first owned by the Governor of Bermuda. But it wasn't easy buying her, either. First of all, she'd been busted for having been used to smuggle drugs, so she sat in St. Barth for years in the late '80s and early '90s. But in the early '90s I had some moorings in American Yacht Harbor, and therefore worked with marine surveyors. One day a surveyor asked if I would help tow in a boat that had been seized by the U.S. Marshal. "Sure," I said. When I went out to get her, she was a Gallant 53. "Thank you, Lord," I said.

38: That sure was easy.

Ron: Actually, it wasn't. (Laughter.) It took several years for the court case to play out, so she didn't come up for auction until then. And when she did, an airline pilot who didn't know what he was doing bid way too much money for her, beating out my reasonable offer. A year or two later, she almost sank out in the harbor from neglect. I pumped the boat out and then called the owner's wife. "My husband's off flying somewhere," she said. "You should have let the damn thing sink." A short time later I became the owner.

38: So you sail 12 months a year here in the Caribbean?

Ron: Yes. But we move all around. We had a wonderful summer last year in Grenada. We did Bocas del Toro, Panama the year before. There is so much to see. During the season we do a few day charters to help cover expenses and so we can write them off.

38: Has your wife been with you during this whole adventure?

Ron: My wife's name is Carol King — not the singer — and no, she joined me later. She's from the Manhattan Beach - Redondo area of Southern California. We later discovered that we'd cruised Baja at the same time. We never met, but knew many of the same people. Anyway, she was the notary public for the bill of sale of Alant of Court in St. Thomas 19 years ago. "You're buying a nice boat," she said. We've been together ever since. But I had known her for 11 years before that.

38: So was it worth leaving the fast-paced life of the 'real world' on the West Coast in order to do what you've been doing and live a longer life?

Ron: Oh yes! Why die of a heart attack when you're young? I'm 68 now, and don't feel bad at all.

38: What are your favorite places in the Caribbean, or is that a silly question?

Ron: There are so many great places. We still love St. Barth, but it's almost gotten too Gucci for us. We had a great time in Grenada. And the British Virgins are always beautiful. The one thing that bugs me about the British Virgins is that they've put in so many moorings that it's becoming harder and harder to find a place to anchor. If you're semi-retired and trying to stick to a budget as Carol and I are, we don't think it's fair to have to pay $30/night for a mooring.

— latitude/rs 02/15/13

Celebration — Taswell 58
Cherie Sogsti and Greg Retkowski
Crewing For 'C&C'
(San Jose)

Falling in love with a sailor has consequences. My husband Greg and I met in 2001 at a Ha-Ha Crew Party in Alameda. Since then, we've sailed over 10,000 miles together on our own Morgan 41 and while crewing for friends on their yachts. Last month, we joined fellow sailing fanatics Charlie and Cathy Simon, whom we met sailing in Puerto Vallarta. Our destination was the warm winds and clear waters of the Bahamas.

Charlie and Cathy — whom we affectionately call 'C&C' — recently purchased a Taswell 58 and signed up for the World ARC, the 15-month Around-the-World Rally, which begins in the Caribbean in January of next year. Greg and I met up with them in Ft. Lauderdale for a shakedown cruise of their new boat.

Our two-week sail included unexpected gusts to 50 knots, swimming with pigs, diving on plane wrecks, chasing lobster, standing knee deep in a school of big sharks, and a curious octopus. Most people don't think you can take a boat with a 7-ft draft to the Bahamas, but we had an incredible time exploring the Exumas. And who knew there would be pigs in paradise?

The four resident pigs on Big Major Cay eagerly greet cruisers who dinghy up to the beach, because they know they're going to be fed. They were so darned cute that I couldn't resist jumping in with them when I went snorkeling. For $6 — the cost of a loaf of bread at the local 'grocery' — you get the least expensive great entertainment in the Bahamas.

When we were done swimming with the pigs, we headed over to Staniel Cay, where dozens of sharks swim in the clear waters near the yacht club. Although nurse sharks can grow to 14 feet and over 700 pounds, they rarely bother humans. So it was a perfect opportunity to squelch my fear of sharks.

You never know what to expect when you're cruising, from swimming pigs, to plane wrecks in shallow water, to harmless sharks — which is one of the reasons we like it so much.

— cherie 03/15/13

Pacific Star — Island Packet 35
Julia and Horst Shovein
Our Atlantic Crossing

[Continued from the previous two months.]

We chose Kinsale, Ireland, as the departure point for the first leg of our transatlantic passage to the Caribbean. Making a good decision when to leave for the Azores is crucial, as frequent gales and southerly windshifts can turn this 1,000-mile leg into a miserable passage. After watching the weather for weeks, we decided to call on the professionals at Commander Weather to help us. For about $100, they suggested a best departure date. Despite its being the best date, we left Kinsale in thick fog and rain, and thus had to use radar, AIS, and the good electronic charts from C-Map to navigate. The northwest-to-westerly winds lasted five days until a southwesterly gale — accurately predicted by Commander's — impeded our progress. We had to heave-to for about 24 hours before resuming our course.

Our landfall in the Azores was the town of Praia on the island of Terceira. It was a great choice because it was beautiful — and because they had just begun their 10-day Gastronomique Festival. There was a huge parade every night at midnight, and the young guys loved the 'running of the bulls' on the beach — which was just a few meters across the water from our slip in the marina. Since the slip fees were less than $10/night, the marina was full of long-term — and very friendly — cruisers. We spent a month exploring three of the nine islands in the archipelago, and found them to be relaxing and charming.

We then made a four-day passage to Madeira, another archipelago that is an autonomous region of Portugal. It was there that we began meeting other cruisers who were getting ready to 'cross the pond'. Some would begin their crossing in the Canaries, including some who were part of the 225-boat Atlantic Rally for Cruisers fleet.

From Madeira we had a fast two-day downwind sail to Tenerife in the Canaries. Even though we were in the process of making an east-to-west passage of the Atlantic, we'd sailed southeast from both the Azores to Madeira and from Madeira to the Canaries.

While at Tenerife, we took a berth at Dársena Pesquera, a fishing harbor that is about five miles north of Santa Cruz. The town had a small boatyard where we hauled Pacific Star for a couple of coats of bottom paint. The yard was delightful and the staff as friendly as they were helpful.

Santa Cruz, the nearby capital city, was buzzing with traffic and tourists. Indicative of the masses of tourists that visit, there were 94 check-in stations at the airport. And this doesn't even take into account those who arrive by cruise ship. But unlike the warm welcome we got in the Azores, the people of the Canaries seemed weary of tourists.

We then had another routing decision to make. If we sailed directly from Tenerife to Grenada, it would be an open-ocean passage of about 2,900 miles. But if we sailed from Tenerife 800 miles SSW to the Cape Verdes, it would reduce our nonstop Atlantic crossing to just 2,300 miles. The latter also improves the wind angle, as well as offering a greater chance of finding tradewinds early in the winter.

We took the Cape Verdes option and ended up having a fast and boisterous downwind sail. Thanks to favorable currents in big and confused seas, we covered 850 miles in five days — our fastest pace ever.

While in the Cape Verdes, we were happily reunited with folks on Cyan, whom we'd met in Darwin and had last seen in Thailand, and Southern Cross, whose Aussie crew had shared a rental car with us while touring Israel. On the beach near Mindelo, the crews of a dozen boats came together for a potluck — and a chance to put faces to the names we'd be hearing on the informal Westward SSB radio net during the crossing.

Twice a day during our 18-day crossing, we communicated with each other to check in, share weather info, and cheer each other on. In the evening, we talked with Herb Hilgenberg, the legendary weatherman who has long served the Atlantic cruising community from his Southbound II. His routing advice was very helpful.

We had NE winds for the first half of our crossing, were becalmed for about five days in the middle, and then finished strong. The predominant wind direction shifted from NE to E in moderate to light tradewind conditions. The seas, however, were always about six to 10 feet from the north, and short and steep at times. It was never comfortable, even though we had no discernible swell until we closed on the Caribbean. We much prefer the sea state of the Pacific to that of the Atlantic.

As we sailed across the Atlantic only about 900 miles north of the equator, there was lots of convection. This meant evening squalls were common. After a sudden increase in the strength of the wind and 15 minutes of downpour, it would be all over. We had our whisker pole permanently set up with a topping lift and secured with fore and after guys. The genoa sheets ran freely through the outboard end of the pole, making it easy for us to furl the headsail to adjust to the wind conditions, and the main was secured with a boom preventer. As a result, we never had any problems getting ready for squalls or adjusting quickly to the conditions.

For about a week when we only had about 6 to 15 knots of apparent wind, we flew our large 1.5-oz spinnaker. But we always took it down at night because most squalls hit late in the day or early at night.

Despite the unusually light winds, we made the 2,450-mile crossing to Grenada in 18 days. We'd been at sea for so long that we wobbled when we walked to dinner at Prickly Bay, Grenada.

There were dozens of boats in the anchorage at Prickly Bay, and there was a well-established cruising community with a morning radio net. We smiled when one guy came on the net to exclaim, “We're in the Caribbean, man, that means stay cool and laid back, and don’t be so organized, man.” The net controller thanked him for his input. Many folks we met spend years in the Caribbean, going home for six months of the year during hurricane season.

We went from the lush and tropically green Grenada to the barren and rocky Bonaire, where we could snorkel right off the boat moored in a national marine park. We spent Christmas in this world-class dive area, and where hymns were sung in joyful harmony accompanied by drums and dance moves in the pews during Mass.

We wrote this report from Willemstad, Curaçao, Dutch Antilles. After a brief stint home in Paradise, California to pick up some boat supplies and have a look at our house, we will be off to Cartagena and Panama's San Blas Islands. After transiting the Canal, we'll head up to Mexico, where we'll complete our six-year circumnavigation. It's been a great journey around the world, but we look forward to returning home, too.

— julia and horst 02/15/13

Cocokai — 65-ft Schooner
The 'Coco Nuts"
Back to Plan B. Er, Plan A
(Long Beach)

I am happy to report that we 'Coco Nuts' — Greg King, my daughter Coco, and I, Jennifer Sanders — are officially on to Plan B. Which used to be Plan A before Plan B became Plan A — if you follow me.

After listing my 67-ft schooner Cocokai for sale last fall in distant Phuket, Thailand with no success, Capt Greg and I decided to return to our original circumnavigation plan. As a result, Greg returned to Phuket yesterday to supervise preparation for a quick 'second half'. After crossing the Indian Ocean to Mauritius this summer — from which Coco and I will return to the U.S. from South Africa so my daughter can continue her schooling in September — Greg will sail around South Africa and across the Atlantic to Brazil by next spring with crew. Anybody looking to sail across the South Atlantic? So maybe we'll see the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca in the Caribbean sooner than you think.

When putting Cocokai up for sale, we were not intending to abandon the cruising lifestyle. We were just looking to trade her in for a — gasp! — catamaran closer to home. And also to enjoy a little 'land yachting' across the United States while Coco has four more years of schooling. This plan would have allowed us all to be together most of the time. And as the Wanderer knows, it is difficult and expensive to leave a large yacht unattended halfway around the world. The only real downside of the new plan is that Greg will be gone for most of the year. But we are looking forward to a Christmas safari in South Africa during Coco's school break.

One of the silver linings of Plan B is we are taking advantage of Cocokai's current location to have beautiful new teak decks put on the ol' gal. After the leaky deck problem is solved, we can finally install those headliners and finish up the interior. We expect to get this done at a fraction — 20% — of what it would cost in the States. And new teak decks will really doll her up.

When we reach the East Coast of the Americas next spring, we will make the decision to 'love her or list her'. We're looking forward to cruising the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States over the next few years.

We had a fun time last summer sailing from Langkawi, Malaysia, to Phuket, Thailand, then had an amazing road trip through Cambodia and Vietnam. I will send you a proper update on that soon, as it was such an amazing experience. With Greg off sweating in Phuket and Coco sweating out 8th grade, I'm going to get back to writing. My inspiration was the Latitude interview with Fatty Goodlander and the advent of inexpensive ePublishing. Wish me luck!

— jennifer 03/15/13

Cruise Notes:

You know when you're in the Caribbean . . . when one of the biggest displays in the frozen food section of the grocery store is "beef feet". Just $1.14 a pound in Road Town, British Virgins. Anybody know how you prepare them?

"There was excitement in the La Cruz, Mexico, anchorage a few days ago when a boat got loose," reports Patsy Verhoeven of the Gulfstar 50 Talion, who was down from La Paz to get ready for the Banderas Bay Regatta. "The Cal 29 Duct Tape — which I believe belongs to 2010 Ha-Ha vets Sig and Phyllis Horneman of Berkeley — had been anchored right next to me. With the afternoon breeze up to 15 knots, with Talion a little close to the boats around us, and with a rocky lee shore, I decided to re-anchor somewhere else. I was just about to weigh anchor when I noticed that Duct Tape, which had been anchored on quite a bit of rode, was gone. Their rode had parted just below the surface, and the boat was quickly drifting to the rocks. I whistled as loud as I could, which brought a head out of the cabin. "You have no anchor, start your motor!" I shouted to what appeared to be a skipper who had just awoken from a nap.

"He got the motor started," Patsy continues, "got his crew to the helm, and he went forward to retrieve what was left of his anchor line. But Duct Tape was drifting toward the rocks so fast that the helmsperson's efforts to steer her clear were in vain. Crash! The boat went on the rocky shore, bumping, dragging, and heeling way over. It was ugly.

"My crew jumped into my dinghy," Patsy continues, "as did Arjan Bok of RotKat, Bill of Amaranth, and lots of other cruisers from the anchorage. But it seemed as if they were moving in slow motion, as the surf continued to pound the fiberglass boat on the rocks. Once the little dinghies arrived on scene, they pulled and pushed, and they heeled the boat over by pulling on her spinnaker halyard. But to no avail. After 45 minutes of the old girl being beaten on the rocks, a panga full of fishermen showed up and pulled. They didn't get anywhere either. Then a second panga showed — and ran over the tow line! After untangling his prop, the panganero pulled from one angle while the other panga pulled from another angle. When the swell lifted the sloop, they gave a mighty pull and dragged Duct Tape off. I don't know how badly she was damaged, but they were able to tow her to a slip. As Capt. Ron said, 'If anything is gonna happen, it's gonna happen out here.'"

"I saw the March 18 'Lectronic about the pleasant Pacific to Caribbean Canal transit Richard Owens and his crew had with his Sausalito-based Norseman 535 Meredith," writes Benjamin Doolittle of the Sacramento-based Catalina 38 Knee Deep. "Well, my family — wife Molly, sons Mickey and JP, as well as my mom Sally and Molly's dad Jerry, and crew Michael Bell of Epiphany — had an entirely different experience. And a very different one from the transit I'd made years before with my Ericson 29.

"To make a long story short," Ben continues, "we had a ferry come off a chamber wall while still rafted to us and another sailboat, and nearly crush both our boats on a far wall of the chamber.Then in Lock 2, a tug captain took off as if he'd stolen the thing, and nearly flushed us out of the back of the chamber. The last lock that day and Lock 1 on the other side of the Canal the following morning went all right, but the last two locks on Day 2 were also a mess. Let me emphasize that 95% of all transits are drama-free, but ours was wild. The lesson we learned is that you have to be on guard at all times, and things can get crazy fast."

Details on that transit next month.

As Latitude has been asking for the last 10 years, why in the world do sailboats use the Panama Canal locks at all? After all, a Canal transit mostly consists of motoring across a man-made lake that's nearly the width of Panama. The locks on both sides could be bypassed quickly and easily by recreational boats using either hydraulic trailers or a Sea Lift — as seen in the accompanying spread at The Shipyard in St. Martin. The latter sucker can easily lift boats up to 90 feet and 65 tons. To our thinking, recreational boats bypassing the locks would be cheaper and faster, and save billions of gallons of fresh water needed for the Canal to operate.

"My wife Cathy and I signed up for the 26,000-mile World ARC Rally 2014/15 circumnavigation and have just received our 'welcome packet' from the organizers," writes Charlie Simon of the Spokane, WA-based Taswell 58 Celebration. As readers know, the Simons have a Puerto Vallarta connection, too, but have been on the East Coast and the Bahamas since buying their Taswell. "We'll be one of 35 entries for the 15-month adventure, and for us the countdown has already begun."

Other U.S entries includes Altair, Rick and Julie Palm's Saga 48; American Spirit II, Brian Fox's Beneteau 40; Chez Nous, Jonathan and Donna Robinson's Leopard 40 cat; Golden Eye, John Calvin's Waterline 47; Audeacious Tommie Aude's Contest 48DS; Russ and Laurie Owen's 50-ft Custom cat yet to be named; and ViVo Michael Robert's F/P 65 cat. We're sorry that hailing ports were not listed, so we don't know where in the United States the other entries are from.

If the number of entries in the World ARC doesn't surprise you, maybe this will. Oyster Yachts, the luxury Brit brand, has just started its first around-the-world rally for Oyster yachts only. They originally planned to have just 30 boats, but thanks to such great demand, they had to add three more slots — and another Oyster Round the World Rally to start in 2015.

The body of William Hoffman was found aboard his Ilwaco, WA-based Cal 34 Dark Star on March 6 at the Perula anchorage in Chamela Bay on Mexico's Gold Coast. Other cruisers had alerted the Mexican Navy to the lack of activity on the boat and a strong odor emanating from her. The navy secured the boat, then towed her to Barra de Navidad. At last word, the death was being considered a suicide based on the facts that there was no sign of a struggle, Hoffman's wrists were cut, nothing seems to have been taken from the boat, the boat was not in disarray, and there was a partially completed suicide note.

In more upbeat news from Chamela Bay, Glenn Twitchell of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 380 Beach Access reports that the bay's Isla Pajarera has become his girlfriend Debbie's "newest favorite spot in Mexico". Apparently it appealed to her culinary muse because she prepared a spectacular — but inexpensive — little feast.

"We had Mediterranean chicken with sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, with a mixed green salad and Dijon vinaigrette dressing," reports Glenn. "For dessert I made bread pudding, but it didn't last long enough for photos. We had the terrific anchorage to ourselves for two days — and would probably still be there had a SW wind not come up and made a trip up to and around Cabo Corrientes so inviting. Since we arrived back in Banderas Bay a week earlier than planned, we divided our time between Punta Mita, Chacala and Yelapa."

Not everyone is hot on the tropics. Mike Johnson has been cruising to far-flung corners of the earth with little fanfare for decades. Although his exploits could easily be the focus of a series of National Geographic features, he travels to and explores remote destinations aboard his 44-ft fiberglass schooner Gitana — and previously aboard his Westsail 32 Aissa — for personal satisfaction. The former Army paratrooper with a masters in psychology has been around Cape Horn three times, up to Greenland, Iceland, Spitzbergen, and through the Gulf of Aden, having wonderful and sometimes terrifying experiences along the way. The worst was a 360° rollover in his Westsail in the Southern Ocean with Californian Becky Walker aboard as his only crew. Although Mike, now 68, is not from the West Coast, we’ve gotten to know him because he says his most effective way of recruiting crew has been through Latitude's Classy Classifieds. He recently dropped by our Mill Valley offices to show us his next planned adventure: doing the Northwest Passage, east-to-west, with two crew this summer.

As Johnson pointed out the route on a chart, it was clear that it will take him through a maze of potentially ice-covered waterways, so there’s no guaranteeing that Gitana will even make it. As he explained to a potential crew, “There are four possible outcomes: We’ll: 1) Make it all the way; 2) Haul out halfway across and winter over at an Inuit village; 3) Turn back; 4) Disappear and never be heard from again.”

Playing one country off the other for fun and thrift. When one small island is divided and administered by two governments, you have options. Dutch Sint Maarten / French St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean is a good example. If you check in on the computer on the French side at Marigot, it's quick and costs only $5. If you check in at Simpson Bay on the Dutch side, you never know what kind of hassle you're going to get from the mercurial officials. And no matter if you use their bridge into the lagoon or not, they charge you $40 a week to anchor. Nobody would check in on the Dutch side if it weren't for the fact it's on 'the highway' from the BVIs to St. Barth and St. Kitts. The clever way around the Dutch? You go through the bridge on the Dutch side, motor over to the French side of the lagoon, and check in at Marigot. Yes, the Dutch take a photo of every boat passing through the bridge opening, but as long as you never check in on the Dutch side, they have no way of collecting it. Our friend Stan the Man apparently owes the Dutch hundreds of dollars, but as long as he never checks in on that side, he's good.

Ice is nice on a boat in the tropics. Real nice. At least that's our opinion. Doña de Mallorca drinks everything at room temperature, so not everyone agrees with us. For years we've seen all these ads for ice makers that cost just over $100. They seemed so cheap we assumed they had to be rubbish. While visiting with John and Debbie Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow, we noticed they had one, so we asked about it.

"We've had them on our boats for years, and they work great." said John. "You can run them off an invertor and get a bunch of cubes in about 20 minutes. They claim to make 27 pounds in 24 hours. Two things to remember: First, they are not a freezer, so once you make the cubes you have to put them in your freezer or they melt. Second, the cubes have holes in the middle, so if you're pouring a sundowner, you're going to get a lot more alcohol than if you use solid cubes."

Twenty-three trips between the Northeast or Nova Scotia and the Caribbean? By a sailor from Chico? Herb Clark told us we ought to get in touch with fellow Chico YC member John Franklin, and suggested that Franklin contact us. As a result, we got the following letter from John:

"Like most people who have boats and use them, I always have time to talk about sailing and passage-making. At this point in my sailing life, I don't think most of my stories are all that interesting or different from any of the other million stories out there. I no longer bother to read any sailing magazines except Latitude — and sometimes All At Sea just to see what Fatty Goodlander has dreamed up. Anyway, the following is a short history of my sailing.

"I was raised around Balboa YC at the same time as Kim Desenberg, Argyle Cambell, Dave Ullman, and my good friend Carl Schumacher. After college I moved to Chico, where I started a construction company. That took me away from sailing for about 10 years. Carl and I then bought an Express 27. We later sold the 27 and bought a Mercury, and later talked about getting an Express 37. Carl's unexpected death at a young age ended my desire to sail on the Bay. In 2000, my wife Jane and I bought the Atlantic 42 catamaran Lightspeed to explore the East Coast and the Caribbean. In 2004 we purchased an Atlantic 55 catamaran Spirit and sailed to Nova Scotia. I think it was around 2006 that Jane decided we should buy a house in Nova Scotia. That ended our exploring, but I continue to sail between Nova Scotia and St. John in the U.S. Virgins. So far I have made 23 trips between somewhere on the East Coast or Nova Scotia and the Caribbean. I have departed from the north as early as September and as late as December. It doesn't matter which month you pick, they all have their good points and bad points. For me, I'll take the hurricanes over the big lows that blow off the coast in the fall. This last trip, we were concerned with three hurricanes — Raphael, Sandy and Tony. It was not a happy time, but they were all avoidable, which is more than I can say about winter storms."

Twenty-three trips between the Northeast and the Caribbean by someone who lives in Chico? We're impressed! As we've reported countless times, getting to the Eastern Caribbean from the Northeast is exceedingly more difficult and dangerous than it is getting to the tropics from the West Coast.

If the name Lightspeed sounds familiar, it might be because David and Kathy Kane, who have been full-time cruisers since 2005, and who did the 2011 Ha-Ha, now own an Atlantic 42 named Lightspeed. We're confused, however, as to whether theirs was the one once owned by Franklin.

"We're currently anchored in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, the Marquesas after doing a 'Reverse Puddle Jump this past cyclone season. Dissatisfied with Pago Pago, American Samoa as a cyclone hole after a near-miss by Evan back in December, we decided to embark on an unconventional easterly sail through the tropics. Utilizing the disruptive winds associated with approaching cyclone Garry, we set sail for Penrhyn atoll in the northern Cook Islands in mid-January. The first 500 miles of the 900-mile trip were a little dicey as Garry spun up behind us, but we made it. After a few amazing weeks at Penryhn reuniting with friends from our last visit in 2006, we again used the tradewind disrupting effects of yet another approaching tropical depression for a 750-mile sail SE to Rangiroa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. That was followed by a short 750-mile sail to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, where we're staging for a sail to Hawaii and then Alaska. Our goal is to catch a few months of summer in Alaska, and then jam down the coast to San Francisco in time for the America's Cup. It will sort of be our grand finale of cruising, as we wrap up eight years and 55,000 miles at sea. As planned, we've pretty much spent every last cent of our savings, and now need to find a 42' x 23' slip in the Bay Area and get back to work. I'd love a job where I could talk boats and share our cruising experiences, maybe as a marine manufacturer's product rep, or put my USCG captain's license to use on the Bay.

"If anybody wants a boat review of our Atlantic 42, hull #3, she was designed by Chris White, built by Lombardi, and was Cruising World's Multihull of the Year in 1998. John and his crew poured their hearts into building boats as though they were going to be their own, and Lightspeed is a spectacular example of craftsmanship. She's been a great ocean cruiser."

The Kanes' 'Reverse Puddle Jump' strategy of using periods of disrupted trades to make their way east was interesting. That's exactly the same strategy often employed to get fron Panama to the Eastern Caribbean. You wait until something — anything — screws up the normal weather pattern, and then you make a run for it.

It's hard to figure out how food can be so expensive and medical care so inexpensive in St. Barth. A 'friend' was afflicted by a nasty rash on his upper right thigh. When it didn't go away after a few days, he visited the emergency room at little DeBruyn Hopital. After he'd waited for about three hours, the doctor took a three-second look, declared the problem to be contact dermatitis — caused by anything from detergent to epoxy to dyes — and prescribed an antihistamine and topical ointment. The cost for the emergency room visit came to $36 U.S. The medicines were another $14. Heck, if you order a cheeseburger and rosé at Hotel Isle de France on Flamands Beach, $50 isn't going to cover it. And the hotel is owned by the vicar's family! As for dental care, a good friend from Martha's Vineyard whose husband runs a schooner out of St. Barth in the winter says her St. Barth dentist as good as or better than the one in the Vineyard, and less expensive, too. Curious.

"I flew to New Zealand early in March to join Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzanne Dubose, vets of the 2008 Ha-Ha, for seven months of cruising in New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Indonesia aboard their Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 catamaran Carpenthia," reports Kurt Roll of San Diego. "I'd previously sailed across the Pacific with them. For this trip I bought a DJI Phantom Quadcopter — range of 1,000 feet — equipped with a new GoPro video camera. You can go to YouTube and see the stuff I've shot while skiing. It's great. My plan is to make a lot of five-minute videos of our sailing adventures. I'm dying to take aerial shots of Carpenthia, the crater mouth of the volcano at Vanuatu, and stuff like that. In fact, I hope to get AC72 footage off Auckland later this week."

It's a brave new world, because now personal drones ­— the manufacturer describes the Phantom as a "drone" — can be had, with a GoPro video/still camera, for a total of about $1,000. And check our these features:

— Ready to fly and film in minutes from delivery.

— Advanced Autopilot Naza M + GPS + Altitude hold.

And get this one:

— Fail-safe auto go-home and landing function.

The mind reels at the potential peaceful — and hostile — uses of the Phantom and other drones.

"Magic Island Petroleum at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, aka 'The Fuel Dock' and 'The Poor Boyz Yacht Club', closed for business on March 31 after a long run," report Eric Willbur and Emmy Newbould of the Brickyard Cove-based Flying Dutchman 37 Nataraja. The land is still owned by the State of Hawaii, but it is now going to be developed by a Japanese wedding chapel company, and it's unclear when they might reopen or what services they may offer. For years a Japanese wedding chapel company tried to get in at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. What their interest is in being near marinas, and not very attractive ones, is a mystery to us.

"U.S. Passports are good for 10 years, but if you don't have any more blank pages, countries can refuse you entrance," report Ed and Sue Kelly of the Iowa-based Catalac catamaran Angel Louise. "So we just got back from applying for new passports at the US Consulate in Izmir, Turkey. If things go well, we'll have our new passports in a couple of weeks. The passports will be completely new, but at a price of $110 each, so the federal debt crisis will have eased a bit. We're both suffering from terrible colds right now, so we are ready to say goodbye to winter and the colds that go with that season. Angel Louise will be on the hard in Marmaris in late March to get her ready to start a new season on April 1. Having decided that we won't be rushed into early cruising this year, we've withdrawn from the Eastern Med Cruising Rally. This means we'll have a lot more time to explore some of the bays of the old Greek Empire. By the way, the Wylie 65 Convergence, owned by West Marine founder Randy Repass, just went back into the water a few hundred yards from our boat. Convergence has been on the hard here for 18 months after she came to the Med from Asia. I'm a former part-time employee of West Marine from the days when I worked in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. I must confess that I made off with the official employee shirt. I'll have to put it on when I introduce myself to Randy. But if he demands it back, I'll be shirtless."

We always love to hear from thrifty small boat cruisers. "I had my last day of work in early March and am out of here!" gushes Stephan Ries, a German who has been working, surfing and sailing on the north shore of Banderas Bay for the last bunch of years. Ries previously lived on a 25-ft boat in front of the Palladium all-inclusive resort where he worked. But after she was blown on the rocks and destroyed, he picked up — and fixed up — the Triton 29 Mintaka for $5,000. He's already made two summer cruises down to Central America with her — including the one where a needlefish flew all the way through his thigh. "I'm going to spend six more weeks in Mexico," he writes, "then I'll be off to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica — and this time I want to visit Panama, too. I got the Zydler's cruising guide and the locations of some great surf breaks."

The Banderas Bay Regatta for cruisers happened right before we went to press. (See reports on pages 79 and 80.) The event attracted over 50 entries, and for the first race at least, a great breeze. Tom Siebel's SIG 45 catamaran Vamanos! blistered the fleet by averaging just under 10 knots for the entire course.

Remember, we'd love to hear from you, no matter where you are cruising. A paragraph or two, plus a high res photo or two, are all we need.

Missing the pictures? See the April 2013 eBook!


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