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April 2017

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With reports this month on Chesapeake completing her eight-year circumnavigation; from the Wanderer on 'racing the house' in St. Barth; Part II on Ceilydh's eight-year circumnavigation; from Anna Mary and Heron on wild times in the Northeast; and Cruise Notes.

Chesapeake — Outbound 46
Jim Fair and Linda Powers
Circumnavigation Completed!

Transiting the Panama Canal on March 1 was the exclamation point at the end of our circumnavigation. Over a period of eight years, Jim and I have covered 51,000 miles and visited 41 countries.

The Panama Canal transit had been on our minds for two years before we got there. As we look back on the transit, there was a lot of waiting involved and patience required. And we had many decisions to make before we even got to Panama.

For example, should we use an agent for checking into Panama and for transiting the Canal, or do all the running around and work ourselves? We opted to use Erick Galvez of Centenario Consulting. He was helpful with all the paperwork, permits, admeasuring inspection, lines, fenders, handlers and advisors.

As soon as we arrived at Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of the Canal, we got our registry number and had our admeasurement inspection to ensure that Chesapeake complied with regulations for transit — holding tanks, AIS, head for use by the advisor and line handlers, adequate fuel, and the ability to make 5-8 knots at all times.

We also had to choose our position inside the lock. Outside near the wall? No way! Rafted to a tugboat? Too much backwash. Or rafted up with other sailboats, preferably as the middle boat? We opted for rafting with other sailboats.

Requirements for feeding the crew were explained: Provide two lunches, dinner and breakfast for all on board, along with water and snacks.

The mechanics of how the Canal works are simple. At its highest point, Lake Gatun to the Gaillard Cut, the Canal is 85 feet above sea level. There is a total of three sets of locks. The three-chamber Lake Gatun Lock on the Caribbean side; the one-chamber Pedro Miguel Lock almost on the Pacific side; and the two-chamber Miraflores Lock on the Pacific end. Using the locks, a boat is lifted up to the lake at one end, and lowered back down at the other end.

We naturally had to wait until Carnival was over before we could get an advisor and transit date. On February 28, four young men, who spoke no English, came aboard with eight rented mooring fenders and four sets of 125-ft-long 7/8-inch diameter polypropylene line.

At 12:40 p.m. we headed to The Flats, the area before the Lake Gatun Lock at the start of the Canal, and waited for our advisor. Moses arrived at 4:30 p.m., at which time we rafted up with another sailboat and motored into the first chamber of the Gatun Lock. There we waited for a big tug and a tanker to join us.

Canal workers on shore threw weighted lines onto our boat that were used to keep Chesapeake in the center of the chamber. The men then walked along the side of the chamber, holding the lines to keep us centered as we motored forward. The doors then closed, and the water in the chamber, fed by gravity, lifted us about 27 feet. We passed through two more chambers, lifting us 27 feet again each time, before exiting the Gatun Lock.

While the Canal operates 24 hours a day, ours was the last sailboat through the lock that day. We departed Gatun Lock in the dark at 5:30 p.m., and motored a mile to Gatun Lake where we would spend the night. No mooring balls were available, so we rafted up with three other boats, getting settled by 8:30 p.m. After dinner had been served, Moses was picked up and taken to shore. The line-handlers slept all over the boat. It was the end to a long and exhausting day.

Our next morning, March 1, started just after sunrise as breakfast was made for the line handlers before the next advisor came aboard. At 9:50 a.m., well after the other boats had departed, Francisco, our new advisor, arrived. We traveled 25.5 miles across Lake Gatun — the largest part of the Canal — to a waiting area outside the Pedro Miguel Lock. There we rafted up with two other sailboats. And we waited again before we got to go through.

At 4:00 p.m. we went into the first chamber of the Miraflores Lock, closely followed by a barge and tanker. We exited the lock at 4:40 p.m. with the same barge and tanker. After the last gate at Miraflores opened, our transit and circumnavigation were complete, and we went out into the dark to unraft.

There was no time to celebrate, as we had to drift near Balboa YC so the line handlers, lines and fenders could be offloaded. We continued to wait for Erick to bring us our zarpe and pick up Francisco. At 5:30 p.m., we cautiously made our way over to La Playita to anchor. Thankfully we still had our track from seven years before.

Jim and I were both too wired yet too exhausted to fully comprehend our accomplishment, but eventually a calm overcame us.

Our next stop was Fish Hook Marina at Golfito, Costa Rica. We are now waiting for our boat to be put on a ship to Ensenada, where we'll leave her for a few months. Then we'll cruise Southern California for a few months in the summer before returning to Berkeley.

— linda 03/15/2017

St. Barth Bucket
The Wanderer
Racing the Home
(The World of Cruising)

One of the things that has always discouraged the Wanderer is how averse most cruisers, particularly cruising wives, are to 'racing the house'. We sort of understand, as stuff has to be put away, things can be broken, and it can be scary if you don't race often. Yet we've raced our various floating homes many times over the years, and think the downsides were always outweighed by the fun and camaraderie that comes with racing.

One place they don't have any trouble fielding a fleet of true cruising yachts for spirited racing is the St. Barth Bucket, the 30th version of which concluded in mid-March. There were 38 entries — although it's true that they weren't the run-of-the-mill cruising boats. All had to be over 100 feet, and the biggest was the 289-ft Maltese Falcon that had been built for the late Tom Perkins of Belvedere.

Although they all have sumptuous interiors, the six spectacular J Class boats, between 135 and 143 feet, are more for racing than cruising. For the most part, they raced separately from the other boats. The Bucket was the largest gathering of the J Class boats in history.

The other 32 boats were pure cruising boats, and many of them have every luxury known to man. When aboard, it's not unusual to come across world-class art, grand pianos, gigantic flat screen televisions, enormous hot tubs, and five-star hotel-style accomodations.

These boats ranged in style from the sleek, performance-oriented Farr 100 Leopard of London and the Baltic 145 Visione to the classic gaff schooners Elena of London, 180 feet, and Adela, 186 ft. In between was everything from the likes of the Swan 100 Varsovie, captained by Patrick Adam of Mill Valley for the last dozen years, and the incredibly spacious Perini-Navis.

You need world-class sailors in the key positions to race these enormous yachts with any kind of safety, and we can only wonder at the amount of money that it took to fly the hundreds upon hundreds of crew in from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Europe, and the United States. And then feed and house them. The 190-ft Rosehearty, for example, was driven by multi around-the-world skipper Skip Novak of Cape Town, with Paul Cayard, around-the-world race winner and multi America's Cup skipper, calling tactics.

Just about everyone who is anyone in the world of sailing was at the Bucket.
The J Class fleet, the members of which are having the most competitive J Class sailing in history, raced two days of windward-leeward sausages, then did two 'coastal races'. Going into the last race, Jim Clark's Hanuman had to win both of the coastal races to overtake the always strong Velsheda. Thanks to the driving of Ken Read and the tactics and navigation of the Bay Area's Stan Honey, they got the bullets needed and won the tie-breaker to take honors. Given the incredible physical effort required, the crew was ecstatic.

The other 32 magnificant boats sailed three races of 18 to 30 miles, away from the J Class boats. For us, these boats were actually the main attraction. We can't remember who won, for as spectators — and this is one event in which we prefer to be a voyeur rather than a participant — it was all about enjoying the spectacle. And no matter which of the five classes the boats were in, they looked stunning. The boats were all in immaculate condition, the sails were cut perfectly, and the sail trim was spot-on. Watching these boats was a thrill for sailors and non-sailors alike.

With the wind blowing up to 20 knots for the first two races, there was broken gear and torn sails. Crewmembers went overboard from both Unfurled and Ganesha, but both were picked up by trailing powerboats. There was also a broken leg suffered on a J Class boat. But the damage to crew, boats and gear could have been much worse. And unlike previous years, none of the boats, which draw as much as 40 feet (!) with their boards down, left any lead on the ocean floor.

The nice thing about these extremely expensive boats is that because they are so well designed, built and crewed, nothing ever goes wrong on them as it does on small cruising boats. Yeah, right.

'Ticonderoga Tom' Reardon, who ran the great Herreshoff 72 for more than two decades, and who now flies in from Panama to race on the 196-ft Perseus 3, told us about some problems they'd had racing in the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta the week before in the British Islands.

"The steering gave out during the spinnaker start of one race, so we had two uncontrolled gybes before the engineer got the steering working again. But we managed to keep the spinnaker — which at 28,000 feet is the largest in the world, and would cover more than half an acre — from collapsing. Then the captive winches failed near the end of the race, so we had to drop the headsail."

It's not all racing work and no play at the Bucket. There were plenty of social events before, during and after the racing. Friday night, for example, was designated 'yacht hop' night, where those with the appropriate bracelets were allowed to tour and party on certain yachts tied to the quai. Between Perseus 3 and Rosehearty, two big Perini-Navis, there must have been 400 people dancing on the three decks of each. And they battled as on the racecourse, but with the stadium-quality sound systems.

The buildup to the races at the end of the week was almost as intense as the racing itself, as the tiny island gets overwhelmed. But early in the week the Wanderer was able to sneak away for a little late-night tea at Baz Bar. Before long, in walked Jimmy Buffett and his friend of many years, artist David Wegman. We've seen Jimmy a bunch of times before at free mini concerts on the island, but this was the first time we were formally introduced. David told Jimmy about Latitude, and we told Jimmy that we had a mutual friend in Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell. She'd sung backup for him in Bora Bora, and later they went surfing together.

We ribbed Jimmy about the just-announced Latitude Margaritaville retirement communities that he is starting. Jimmy said his partner had come up with the idea, but he knew it was a winner as soon as he heard about it. "We received 60,000 inquries in the first week!" he laughed.

We told him he needed to go to the natural conclusion, with a Parrothead Cemetery. He laughed and said a friend had suggested the same thing. We told him the way to sell the plots quickly was to guarantee buyers that a girl in a bikini would come around every evening at 5 p.m. and pour a frosty margarita on every grave. Jimmy thought it was a fine idea.

Because of the enormous number of crew required for each boat, as well as family and friends, the Bucket is the busiest week of the year on St. Barth. Even busier than Christmas/New Year's. Nonetheless, there is a way that you can enjoy it, and at a reasonable cost. You rent a boat at St. Martin and sail her 18 miles over to St. Barth. If you know what you're doing and are very careful, you can get your boat within 200 feet or so of 200-ft boats doing nearly 20 knots. It's a breathtaking experience.

Our old Northern Californian friend Jim 'Twinger' Tantillo, who had done the Ha-Ha on Profligate back in 1999, had always wanted to charter a boat to take in the Bucket. This was the year for the spry and enthusiastic 84-year-old and his friends to check the Bucket off their 'bucket list'. We had them on 'ti Profligate for the second day of spectating, and they had a blast in fabulous conditions. The day before we'd had Mike and Robin Stout of the Redondo Beach-based Aleutian 51 Mermaid onboard for first-race photos and fun. Initially, they'd only planned to spend one day at the Bucket. But they stayed the whole time, and are now planning on returning next year.

The nice thing about the Bucket is that you can enjoy as much or as little of the festivities as you want. If the action gets too much, you just go around the corner to the anchorage at Colombier for peace and quiet.
One last word to the ladies. It's about 20 very fit men to every woman.

— latitude/rs 03/20/2017

Ceilydh — Modified Woods 40 Cat
Evan Gatehouse, Diane
Selkirk, and Maia (15)
Eight-Year Circumnavigation
(Vancouver, B.C., Canada)

At the end of Part One of our report on Ceilydh, Evan, Diane and young Maia said that while Madagascar was their favorite stop in their eight-year circumnavigation, they also had a "fine time" at the Chagos Archipelago.

Located at the 300 miles south of the Maldives in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and 300 miles south of the equator, the Chagos comprises seven atolls and 60 islands. It's part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, and it was the Brits who evicted all the inhabitants by 1973 to allow the United States to build the massive military base at Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos atolls.

The family agrees that the Chagos would be a lot better for cruisers if some proper moorings were installed, because in a typical year one or two cruising boats are lost on the reefs. They suggest a Chagoan ranger manage the moorings, sort of like the Cook Islands does at Suwarrow in the South Pacific.
Evan was part of a group of cruisers who helped with the miraculous save of a Wauquiez pilothouse 48 that was caught on the reef. "The boat had already been struck by lightning three times, so maybe there were some karma issues," notes Diane.

"We used three anchors to kedge her off the reef," remembers Evan. "First we had to snorkel and scuba to find a route out. But even once we did, we had to continually move the kedges. It was six inches forward, three inches to the side, 18 inches the other way. That kind of thing."

But they got the boat back to deep water, at which point they had to remove and repair the broken rudder.

"We had to ballast the bow down with a couple of thousand pounds of outboards and other stuff to get the lower rudder bearing out of the water," says Evan. "Then we had to stuff something in the opening to keep the water out. Somebody came up with the brilliant idea of shoving a Nerf rugby ball into the opening, and that allowed us to drop the rudder without sinking the boat."

With fenders tied to the rudder to keep it from sinking, the rudder was towed to shore. The cruisers set up a portable genset, got out the angle grinder, and got to work. As there isn't a marine store — or any store — on the Chagos, there wasn't enough foam for a rudder. "So one guy came up with the idea of using coconut husks as filler," says Evan. "Pretty soon we had all the kids shredding coconut husks, which we mixed with epoxy. Then I gave a fiberglassing lesson."

After five days the owners of the Wauquiez were able to begin the 1,000-mile passage to the Seychelles. There were cruising boats in front and behind them in case they needed additional help.

Cruisers can visit the Chagos for one month on a 'necessary stop' basis. They are not allowed to visit as tourists. And some years no permits are issued.
The Ceilydh family reports they spent about $25,000 a year in low-cost years during their eight-year cruise, and $50,000 a year in more expensive years.

"We were in our 20s during our first cruise, so we watched our pennies and got by on $500 a month," recalls Evan. "This time we had more money coming in, so we felt comfortable renting cars, doing land excursions, buying clothes for Maia as she grew . . . [Laughter.]

"Lots of cruising kids don't wear anything but hand-me-downs," says Maia, with something less than equanimity.

Evan is a naval architect, and had no trouble getting a job in Australia for three years in the middle of their cruise. "Usually I work on metal boats. Things like giant 50,000-gallon-a-minute fireboats for L.A., Long Beach and New York. It's interesting stuff."

Diane is a writer. "I started writing on our first cruise, when Cruising World paid me $800 for an article. "This is the easiest thing ever," I thought to myself. It's not been that way since. But I continue to write for the likes of National Geo Traveler, BBC Travel and such, usually about unusual places we've visited."

"For example, we were at remote St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic when the first 'big' jet, a 737, landed there. The airport gets a lot of wind action, so they are going to have to use smaller Embraer jets that can fly back to Johannesburg, South Africa, if it's too windy to land."

"St. Helena was another of our favorite places," says Evan, "as it's a cool place to hang out. It's an easy sail there from South Africa, so a lot of South Africans get their ocean sailing certificates by sailing there. It's also a popular place to change crew, as it's a long passage to get there and a long passage after you leave."

Evan and Diane disagree about whether it's now safe to go around the world via the Red Sea as opposed to South Africa. He is against it, in part because they have their daughter with them. Diane is open to it. But this was before Somali pirates hijacked, then released, the oil tanker Ari 13 in March.

In any event, both agree that an Indian Ocean crossing, on the way to South Africa, should be treated like the Pacific Ocean crossing — meaning as something to be enjoyed with lots of stops, not just something to be endured.

"The Indian Ocean stops are beautiful," says Diane, "although the weather is a little more challenging on this route."

Evan didn't recall the weather being that challenging, other than having to beat to weather for three days.

"It was either strong wind or no wind," Diane countered.

The trio never hove to during their trip around. Evan attributes it to the fact that the weather was never dramatic enough to require it, while Diane contends it was because they were "patient" and "picky" about when they took off.

Initially, Evan got the weather using a SSB with a Pactor modem and SailMail. Then they got an Iridium Go!

"I love the Go!" says Diane.

"The Go's killer feature is an unlimited data plan for $125 a month, says Evan. "Although at only 9600 baud, it's slow."

"But I got Facebook," says Diane.

"We read the New York Times in the middle of the ocean, too." says Evan.

"Which, by the way," says Diane, "isn't very healthy."

"The main reason we got Go! is because of the SailMail gaps in the middle of the Indian Ocean," says Diane, "where we really wanted weather reports. They have a station in Brunei and one in Mozambique, but nothing in between."

"If we were going around again, we'd skip the SSB and SailMail," says Evan.

"Oh, I'd still want the SSB for the nets on the Puddle Jump," says Diane. "They are a hugely important part of the trip, both socially and for safety. Remember that we lost out rudder three days before the Marquesas, and being able to talk with other boats over the SSB was helpful and comforting."

"Kids love the SSB for talking with kids on other boats," adds Maia. "We'd also play games, such as 'Worst Case Scenario', which was about the worst possible situations we could imagine."

"It was a War of the Worlds-type thing, and some adults thought the diasters the kids were talking about were actually happening," says Diane.

"For long-term cruising it's far cheaper to go with an SSB, a Pactor modem, and SailMail," says Evan.

"For long term, I'd still want Iridium Go!," says Diane.

What's up next doesn't make Evan too happy. "Sell the boat and go back to work in the Vancouver area," he says.

"Maia and I have a bet going about how long we'll be boatless," says Diane.

"I'm thinking five months," says Maia.

"Oh no, it won't be that long!" says Diane. "I'm thinking three or four months. We do have a 'one boat at a time rule', but Evan hasn't been very good about following it."

"I'm thinking an F-27 trimaran," says Evan.

"I'm thinking a canal boat in Europe," says Diane.

The family had an Autohelm 4000 that worked the entire way around the world. "That's because I had three back-ups," explains Evan.

Their most valuable piece of cruising gear was a Dyna Jet wringer, such as used at commercial car washes for drying towels. "Best bit of cruiser gear ever," says Diane. "It truly makes washing and drying clothes by hand possible."

The professional- grade wringer, which they bought from Amazon, is so valuable it's permanently mounted in the cockpit. "Beward of cheap imitations that have become so popular with hipsters," warns Diane. "They are crap quality."

"The Dyna Jet wringer is self lubricating and superior," agrees Evan.

The family was also very happy with their low-power-draw 'little black box' with an Intel Core 5 chip. "It runs off 12 volts, and including the monitor draws only 3.5 amps," says Evan. "Our solar panel provided all the power we needed. We only ran the engine about 20 hours a year to charge the batteries."

The family was happy with the cat concept, as Diane is subject to seasickness on monohulls, and there was so much room that they all had a work space, be it for CAD work, writing or homework. The boat's design also meant they didn't even need foul weather gear.

"I got mine before Maia was born 15 years ago," says Diane, "and they're still crisp."

As the family is sprucing Ceilydh for sale, they wanted to make a correction of our description of the boat in the last issue.

"Please don't call Ceilydh an 'ex-daysailer'. She isn't. All the interior was in the hulls, just as in most Wharram cats. She even went to Alaska with the first owner! She was also very spartan inside, but thanks to Evan's modifications, now has all kinds of interior and headroom."

— latitude/rs 03/12/2017

Anna Mary and Heron
Anthony Sosinski and Cameron McLellan
The Stories They Can Tell
(Montauk, New York/Maine)

People often ask the Wanderer why he spends so much time at St. Barth at the expense of the many other islands in the Eastern Caribbean.

The fact that it’s the cleanest and safest of all the islands in the Caribbean doesn't hurt, but the main reason is that all the great boats and most of the great sailors stop by St. Barth from time to time. We could sail all over the Eastern Caribbean trying to chase these boats and sailors down, and we still wouldn’t see half as many as if we just stayed on the hook at St. Barth and let them come to us. There is just no end to the people and stories.

For example, the first Monday night in March we were having a pastis while working at the Bar de L‘Oubli when we were summoned to the Le Select Bar across the street by Doña de Mallorca and artist David Wegman. They wanted us to meet Cameron McLellan and Anthony Sosinski, from Maine and from Montauk, New York, respectively.

Both of them had been lifelong fishermen in the Northeast, and knew each other because it seems that all fishermen in the region get to know each other, if only by radio. Both Cameron and Sosinski have other gigs going on right now, but both remember when catching a 200-lb tuna in the 1970s was hardly worth the effort: Even at 15 cents a pound, you'd have to throw most of it away because all anyone wanted was cod or flounder. Sushi bars changed that.

Cameron had worked on and owned big fishing boats for 37 years, often doing long trips to the Grand Banks. But he’d always loved sailing, and in 2007 decided he wanted to run a charter boat. So he got a gig as the captain of a charter boat in Key West. But the very day he got the job, his brother, also a commercial fisherman, was killed on his boat. Cameron had to run the boat for his brother’s wife’s family until the boat could be sold nine months later.

Sometime later Cameron contacted the owner of a 63-ft sea-foam-green Chris White-designed ketch-rigged catamaran Heron, and let him know that his boat, which had been beautifully built of spruce in Dayton, Ohio, of all places, was deteriorating before her time. The odd thing was that over a period of about eight years, Cameron had never seen the boat out sailing once.

A lover of beautiful boats, Cameron offered to fix the cat up a bit. The way Cameron tells the story, the owner was so wealthy and has so much stuff that “he'd forgoten he even owned the boat”. After a few months the owner, who was passionate about other interests, “just signed the boat's Coast Guard document over" to Cameron. We're talking about a boat that's worth well over a half million.
Heron is Coast Guard certified to carry 38 passengers, and Cameron says over the course of the last seven years she's become the most successful charter boat on Long Island. She does as many as four charters a day out of Montauk and Sag Harbor. When the short Northeast season is over, Cameron and his wife Shannon have headed to Bermuda, St. Barth and the Caribbean to recover from the heavy personal toll of running a busy 'cattlemaran'.

Anthony’s story is even more dramatic. He and lifelong friend and fishing partner John Aldridge had gone out fishing in 2013 with another crewmember, and while Anthony and the crew were off watch, Aldridge disappeared overboard. He didn't have a PFD and they were more than 30 miles offshore. The story of how Aldridge managed to survive, and how Anthony, who was directing 21 boats searching, managed to help the Coast Guard find him after 12 hours, was front-page news in the New York Times. Eventually the story came to the attention of Harvey Weinstein, the very successful co-founder of the Miramax film studio, who contacted Anthony and Aldridge.

In the end, Weinstein paid big bucks for the film rights to what is now called A Speck in the Sea. You never know when films go into production, but this one is tentatively slated for May. If it doesn't, the two guys get another big chunk of money anyway.

After Weinstein bought the rights to the book, too, — it's coming out in late April — Anthony and Aldridge went on a dog and pony show for a group of about 100 book buyers, including those from Wal-Mart and other big chains.The others presenting books at the event were Caitlyn Jenner, Kobe Bryant, and Prince's belly dancer and baby mama.

We haven’t had a chance to read the pre-publication draft of A Speck in the Sea, but we were fascinated by many of the odd details of the incident. For example, how Aldridge's ultra heavy-duty fishing boots, rated for use to 51 degrees below zero, came close to killing him, but ended up helping save his life.

We also enjoyed Anthony and Cameron’s picture of the fishing life in the Northeast. We had no idea, for example, that LORAN is still a really big tool for fishermen because, among other things, it delinates 'lanes' that can keep draggers and lobster fisherman apart. Or that fishermen liked to sail so much.
Anyway, it’s the visits by the likes of Cameron and Anthony to St. Barth, and their stories, that keep us coming back for more.

By the way, Anthony insists he's not going to get spoiled by the money he's going to make. "I got the best life in the world. I got a great family, plenty of love, an old truck, an old Volkswagen, a fishing boat, a sailboat, and I get to spend three months each year in the Caribbean. What more could I want?"

When we last saw him, he was setting sail for the US Virgins aboard a 110-ft, 118-year-old, three-masted former ice- rated tugboat that the owner couple have lived aboard for 30 years. Yeah, that's just one of the many other St. Barth sailing stories.

— latitude/rs 03/15/2017

Cruise Notes:

Torben and Judy Bentsen of the Pt. Richmond-based Beneteau 42s7 Tivoli didn't have the easiest transatlantic passage from the Canary Islands to the British Virgins.

"Our doublehanded crossing took 21 days, and we had to hand steer the last 1,700 miles after a nylon bushing on the autopilot pump started leaking," reports Torben. "So instead of hanging out in the companionway when on watch, we got to steer by the stars. We are now on our way to Puerto Rico to haul Tivoli for the summer."

This is right out of Cyra McFadden's The Serial, which chronicled the unconventional social mores and personal relationships in Marin County in the 1980s. Kevin and Laura Davis used to be married and live aboard the Bounty II Grace in Santa Barbara, but decided to amicably split up. So as reported last month, Laura put some ads on Latitude's Crew List last year, and as a result had an excellent time cruising all winter from the Bahamas down to Trinidad. So she put her name on the List again this year.

Through this year's List she met John Larsen of the beautiful Alaska-based Danika, a Westsail 42 that he's been "completing" for 40 years. Laura flew down to join John on Danika in La Cruz to get ready for the Puddle Jump to the South Pacific. The two decided that it would be nice to have an additional crewmember. When John asked Laura if she knew anybody, she suggested her ex-husband Kevin.

"Kevin and I are no longer sweethearts," Laura says, "but we're family, and he's the best sailor I've ever been on a boat with." John, who is a navigator on cruise ships in Alaska during the summer, didn't have a problem with the idea. So by the time you read this, Kevin should have flown to La Cruz to join Danika not only for the trip across the Pond, but also for 90 days in French Polynesia. How civilized.

By the way, Grace is still for sale for $29,000 in Santa Barbara. She is the Bounty II that Latitude 38 was founded on 40 years ago in Sausalito. Lovely ocean-going boat.

The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca were in St. Barth for its glorified high- school-style Carnival on Fat Tuesday. It was great fun. But Michael and Wendy Scheck of the San Francisco-based Jeanneau 45.2 No Worries, and others, report that Carnival in La Paz was much bigger. "A huge six-day street fair with five musical stages, 20 colorful floats, a midway, and music going on until 2 a.m." We're sure Carnival was the same or bigger in Mazatlan.

The one Carnival 'extra' that St. Barth and most of the French Islands in the Eastern Caribbean have is the 'burning of Vaval' on the evening after Fat Tuesday. Vaval has always been a poorly disguised effigy of a plantation owner. This year, however, they decided to burn President Trump, instead of Vaval, in front of thousands on Shell Beach. As usual, the fire department had a hell of a time getting the fire to start. But when it did, just about everybody cheered. Ironically, among those cheering the loudest were more than a couple of trust-fund beneficiaries who have seen a big jump in the value of their stock holdings since the election of Trump. By the way, if the first rule of markets is that they hate uncertainty, why has the US market soared in such uncertain times?

Looking for more irony? Many cruisers we talk to in the Caribbean, and in St. Barth in particular, think Havana is going to be the new 'in' spot in the hemisphere. Apparently there is some talk of marina development in Havana's currently dilapidated main harbor. But at the same time, the New York Times has reported that a rare survey of Cubans reveals that half the population wants to leave the 'worker's paradise'! Two guesses where they'd like to go.

Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington, Najad 30 Fleetwood celebrated his 80th birthday by crossing the 80th meridian west at noon.
"I arrived at George Town in the Cayman Islands after a very fast 220-mile sail, in which I outsailed my two German friends on their much bigger boats," reports Jack. "I had to sail onto a mooring, however, as the starter for my diesel was out. I then received my United States Coast Guard permit to enter Cuban waters for two weeks."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait just a minute!!! What business is it of the Coast Guard and the US government if and for how long an America citizen visits Cuba? When the Wanderer, Doña de Mallorca and others sailed his Ocean 71 Big O to Cuba 21 years ago, we paid no attention to the US government's saying it was illegal. And if we sailed to Cuba now, we sure wouldn't limit our stay because of anything the US government said. We'll not be treated by our government the way Cubans have been treated by theirs.

The Wanderer remains skeptical about the future of Havana and Cuba. If you think the US government is screwed up and repressive, which it is, the Cuban government is in a whole different league of being screwed up and repressive. And when Cubans see visitors these days, too many of them are now seeing money rather than humans.

Just when more cruisers were thinking the approach to the Red Sea was safe from Somali pirates, and were thus doing circumnavigations via the Red Sea and the Med instead of South Africa, pirates have struck again. On March 13 they hijacked the oil tanker Ari 13 with her eight Sri Lankan crew. The Ari 13 had been carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia's capital of Mogadishu. After its tracking system was turned off, Ari 13 was taken to the Somali port of Alula. There were an incredible 237 vessel hijackings in Somali waters in 2011. This prompted a coalition of governments to create a naval task force to eliminate it. Up until now, there hadn't been a hijacking of a commercial vessel in five years.

Update: For reasons unknown, the Ari 13 and her crew were released without any ransom's being paid. Not that this will make cruisers feel any more confident about risking a trip through the Socotra Strait.

In more tragic hijacking news, German cruiser Jurgen Gustav Kanter was beheaded by the Philippine terror group Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to the Islamic state. This after the group didn't receive the $600,000 they demanded for his release. In November last year, Abu Sayyaf claimed that its gunman had kidnapped Kanter and killed Sabine Merz, the woman who was cruising with Kantner off Malaysia's Sabah state. Her body was later found in the southern Philippines.

Kantner and Merz are unusual in that they had previously been held hostage — by Somali pirates in 2008 for almost a year. The pirates demanded that Kantner beg the German government to pay a huge ransom, but the defiant Kantner insisted that the German government not pay ransom. He was nonetheless released a few months later. A year or so after being freed, he returned to Somalia, found his boat and her parts, and put her back together. He then resumed cruising.

Suppose you wanted to do this fall's Baja Ha-Ha and your boat is currently in Annapolis, Maryland. How would you get her to San Diego? The two easiest ways would be to: 1) Put her on a truck to San Diego, or 2) Sail her to San Diego via the Panama Canal. But when you are Charlie and Cathy Simon, who have already done a circumnavigation with their Spokane- and Nuevo Vallarta-based Taswell 56 Celebration, most of it doublehanded, that would be too easy. Their plan is to get to the Ha-Ha starting line via the Northwest Passage.

"Our official send-off from Annapolis will be on April 27," reports Charlie. "We'll have two additional crew aboard, then three more will be joining us in Greenland."

Charlie and Cathy are planning to be the communication clearinghouse for boats doing the Northwest Passage this summer. "We don't know how many other boats will be doing it, but we expect there will be a handful."

The Sea of Cortez has been alive with whales! Scott Doran and Laurie Ritchie of the Sidney, British Columbia-based Lagoon 400 S2 Muskoka report that they saw a number of blue whales in the channel between Loreto and Isla Carmen in the Sea of Cortez. Blue whales, which can be up to 100 feet in length and weigh 200 tons, are the largest animals ever on earth.

About the same time, Michael and Linda Britt of the Roy, New Mexico-based Catana 47 Footloose, who like Scott and Laurie also did last year's Ha-Ha, reported they were anchored off Loreto and must have had 100 whales pass them in the night.

"We could hear them breathe, and heard as many as 20 'blows' a minute for over an hour. Before the sun went down we could see them over by Isla Carmen. Amazing!"

What would really be amazing is if somebody could finally invent a way to prevent collisions between whales and boats.

Greg Slygnstad and his Seattle-based Bieker 53 catamaran Fujin finally got the wind they wanted In March's St. Martin Heineken Regatta. They left various big Gunboat and H&H catamarans in the dust, and even had a faster time in the around-the-island race than any monohulls. Lucky Poupon, who has raced multihulls across the Atlantic something like 55 times, and who was racing on the victorious VOR (Volvo Ocean Race) 70 SFS, told Latitude he was very impressed with Fujin. Slyngstad and his cat will be sailing in the Voiles de St. Barth in mid-April, their last Caribbean appearance before heading to the West Coast for the Transpac in July.

Meanwhile, the Paradise Village-based Vallarta YC held its 25th annual Banderas Bay Regatta. Andy Barrow reports that "as usual, they had a party and a yacht race broke out’. The spirit of the BBR was invoked by event chair Guadalupe Dipp, who ended the Skipper’s Meeting with instructions on the proper way to drink tequila.
A total of 21 skippers signed up for the regatta. Even though BBR is a ‘cruiser’s regatta’, participation by true cruising boats was lighter this year than in the past. There were just two boats in the Cruising Multihull class, two in the Cruiser class, and four boats in a Combined class that included Doublehanded and White Sail competitors. Despite the low number of participants, competition was spirited but friendly.

Multihull honors went to Thomas Brown’s Corsair 31 Wind Trekker, the Cruising Class trophy went to Andy Barrow’s Beneteau 390 Hey Ya, and the White-Sails/Double Handed trophy went to Joel Gerber’s Hunter 40 40-Love.

The biggest class in this year’s BBR was the Performance Class. Bart Smit’s J/105 Symfonica Nautica used two bullets to take top honors, while BBR vet Dorr Anderson’s Jeanneau 38 Bright Star took second. There was a great battle between Linda Sweet's Olas Lindas and Guadalupe Dipp’s Nuevo Luna, nearly identical Varianta 44s, with Sweet’s boat prevailing.

The five-boat ‘Twenty-Something’ class was very competitive, with three J/80s fielded by J/World Performance Sailing School and crewed by students, another J/80, and Bart Goodel’s Santa Cruz 27. Rush Faville’s Shiva, crewed by J-World students, took honors.

Banderas Bay is one of the world’s greatest cruising- yacht ‘nothing serious’ racing venues. We know a lot of cruisers are fearful of ‘racing the house', but the BBR makes it fun and easy. Latitude recommends those cruisers who are in the area next year give it a try.

Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion reports that her home port has been "jumping with activity all spring." "Carnival was the big thing, of course, but there have also been cruisers' races and many social activities.

"Now all energy is going into gearing up for La Paz Bayfest, March 29 - April 2," continues La Reina. "This is the Sea of Cortez cruisers' last hurrah of the season, where friends party and say goodbye. Bayfest features many activities including seminars, sailboat racing, wine tasting and dinner dances. As for me, I'm singlehanding north into the Sea for a month, then Bashing my way back to California in late June to escape the summer heat and get ready for another Baja Ha-Ha — and maybe even another SoCal Ta-Ta."

Vicki Westphal has a thing about deaf Australian cattle dogs and Morgan Out-Island 41s.

"I adopted Kracken, my second deaf Australian cattle dog, when he was eight weeks old. This was after my last deaf Australian cattle dog, who grew up on the Morgan Out-Island 41 I owned in Alameda, passed away. I bought Rhiannon, my current Out-Island 41, in San Carlos two years ago. Kracken, who makes a great Second Mate, and I will sail the northern part of Sea of Cortez this summer with him.

Westphal reports that she's just getting back on her feet. "After many surgeries for diverticulitis, I got breast cancer. Sixteen days after my last surgery, I was rear-ended by a UPS truck and suffered a broken neck. I had my back fused at C5/6. After that, I sold or gave away everything I had, loaded up the dog in my truck, and drove down to Guaymas. James and Dominga of Nomatia, and Douglas Nordby of Charity, took me under their wings and buddy boated with me to La Paz. I learned a lot over the VHF radio."

Here's hoping that Vicki has better fortune in the next few years.

In early March the European Parliament in Brussels threw a hissy fit by passing a resolution — non-binding, mind you — calling for US citizens to be required to get visa before visiting European Union countries. Unless, that is, the US changes its rules and allows all members of the EU to visit the US without having to get a visa.

Currently there are five EU countries whose citizens are required to get a visa before visiting the US They are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. This is not something President Trump dreamed up, but a holdover policy from the Obama Administration.

The threat is rather hollow, however, as Europe is not about to cut off its nose to spite its face by making it harder for Americans to unload heaps of much- needed dollars in Europe.

(By the way, both the euro and peso have recovered somewhat against the dollar. As of late March, the peso was at 19.02 to the dollar, up about 5% from a recent low. The euro is up a couple of percent to 1.08 to the dollar.)

The proposed visa has nothing to do with the Schengen Area rule — the Schengen Area meaning most but not all of the European Union countries — supposedly limiting non-Schengen citizens to just 90 days in the Schengen Area before having to leave for 90 days. This law is routinely ignored by many cruisers, but every now and then someone get snagged.

For example, a Pt. Richmond woman who has been cruising the Med with her husband for years — we'll leave their names out — told us she was stopped when trying to fly out of a Schengen Area country after having overstayed her 90 days. Her husband had already made it through immigration, so she was lucky to have her little dog with her. She engaged the dog in animal affection games with the dog-loving official, and got away with just a warning.

We hope you're as lucky with your cruising problems this season.

The Wanderer, your Changes editor, loves to hear from you. Scribble a few notes, take a few photos, and we'll put you in Latitude.

Missing the pictures? See the April 2017 eBook!


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