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Changes in Latitudes

May, 2001

With reports this month from Also II on being boarded by the Coast Guard on the way to French Polynesia; from Geja, on enjoying cruising in the Med; from Avatar on 12 years of cruising; from Gaia, on a possible rehabilitation of Colon; from the big schooner Latitude on cruising from Minorca to Tunisia; from Under Repair, on repair work and cruising at Vancouver Island; from Papillon on an unusual encounter with a dolphin; from Second Wind on recovering from a lightning strike in Mexico; from Hae Twen on cruising from Italy to Turkey; and Cruise Notes.

Also II - Passport 42
Jim & Kyoko Bandy
Mid-Pacific Boarding
(San Francisco)

We departed Marina del Rey in November of '99, and spent 16 months enjoying Mexico from the Sea of Cortez down to Z-town. We're now on our way across to French Polynesia, and thought you might be interested in some early details of our passage.

We left Banderas Bay on March 20, and on Day Two were at 19°30'N, 107°47'W - about 150 miles southwest of Punta de Mita. At this point Kyoko said, "It's kind of scary to think that we may not see anyone for the next 24 days or so." Thanks to my old friends the Coast Guard, she need not have worried - for before long the Coast Guard Cutter Alert was standing about 50 yards off our port beam! Her officers observed us through their powerful binoculars, took photographs of us, and asked us questions over the radio for almost an hour. And they still decided to board us!

Once the boarding party - which consisted of three Coasties, with three other armed ones at the ready in a RIB - were onboard, they initiated what turned out to be a two-hour 'safety inspection'. Most of the time was spent filling out paperwork. We received a warning for a couple of things: First, our PFDs not being accessible enough. I had to make two of them more handy on the spot, as they told us our Stearns inflatable PFDs were not Coast Guard approved. Second, out of date flares. The ones I'd bought before leaving California in November of '99 were out of date already. I carry all the flares I've purchased since 1985, so I'm sure one or more of them would have worked. In fact, one of the guys remarked that he thought 90% of the them would still work.

At this point, the Coasties told us they were "doing us a favor", because we were in violation on two other counts that they decided to cross out. One was not having a trash placard posted! They gave me one, which I posted. The second was not having a "waste management plan at the ready". I'd made one several years before, but couldn't produce it in the time allowed. They even wanted to see our copy of the "Navigation Rules". Fortunately, I was able to produce that!

In any event, we were informed that if they had written us up for three violations or more, they would have had to give us a citation that comes with a fine and possible jail time! All this when we were in international waters on our way from Puerto Vallarta to the Gambier Islands in the South Pacific. And more than 1,000 miles from the United States, and sailing even further away. Furthermore, all the information they gathered had already been established over the radio before they even boarded. The long arm of U.S. law sure got us!

When I was in the Bay Area, Also II seemed to get boarded more than other boats. So when I went to the Maritime Institute to prepare for my captain's license, I asked Ron, who had been in the Coast Guard for 20 years, why my boat always seemed to get boarded. After seeing a photo of my boat, he said, "I would have always chosen to board your boat because she has a black hull and is a 'go anywhere' boat. I'd be wanting to know why you are trying to hide in the night, and where you have been." But the only problem with this explanation is that we'd had Also II painted white because black would have been too hot a color in the tropics. And that we were in international waters cruising away from the United States!

The next day a Coast Guard plane did a flyby about 100 feet off the water. I was asleep at the time, but it frightened Kyoko, who was on watch, because she thought they might hit the mast. She screamed - scaring the crap out of me. I banged my head and stubbed my toe in the process of scrambling on deck to find out what the problem was. One of my friends speculated that the flyby was to let us know that the Coast Guard had heard us discussing the boarding on the radio with other cruisers. I am the net controller for the 'Pacific Puddle Jump 2001 Odyssey' group.

The thing that bothers us most about the incident is that we were treated as though we'd done something wrong. In addition, they demanded things rather than asking for them, and lectured us as if we were already convicted of some kind of crime. They tried to make us believe the only reason we didn't get a citation was because they were nice.

Interestingly enough, the commanding officer of the boarding party, a woman, told Kyoko it was the first time she had ever boarded a sailboat. I guess we are their training ground! It was obvious that the woman in charge was learning on the job, as she was unfamiliar with many of the terms, and had to keep asking one of the male Coasties for assistance. He was the one who made all of the demands. Kyoto and I were deliberately kept apart for most of the boarding process.

In any event, this harassment sure ruined a beautiful day. The rest of the trip has gone well except for occasional periods of no wind early on - but that's another story.

- jim and kyoko 3/23/01

Jim & Kyoko - Most readers are aware that the Coast Guard enjoyed a golden reputation with mariners until the '80s, at which point they were instructed - for inexplicable reasons - to harass innocent recreational mariners with tough guy military-style boardings under the phony guise of 'safety inspections'. Thanks to this misguided policy, the Coast Guard's reputation with mariners went most of the way down the toilet. There was a dramatic change about five years ago, when guys such as Captain Larry Hall, former Group Commander San Francisco, had his people reach out to mariners as friends and even "customers", and many of the more absurd 'safety inspections' were eliminated. We can only hope that your boarding was an isolated incident and not indicative of a revival of the previous policy. For if the Coasties are going to once again treat recreational mariners as hardened criminals, they are bound for stormy waters.

Geja - Islander 36
Dick & Shirley Sandys
Cyprus To Turkey
(Palo Alto)

It's been 11 years since we sent our first Changes - and we're still sailing around the world. We've slowed down recently, however, for two reasons. First, we're not as young as we used to be. Second, the Med is such a cruisers' dream that we can't find any reason to push westward. Lovely anchorages, crystal clear water, and historical ruins are the norm in the places we've visited in the Med.

Last October we sailed from Cyprus to Turkey, and had a lovely two-day crossing. There were soft winds and a full moon, and Dick played every song he knew on his guitar that made a reference to the moon. Our first landfall was Cineviz Limani, which has awe-inspiring sheer cliffs that rise up from the sea. For some reason, first landfalls in new countries always seem to be special. Anyway, this well-protected hidden harbor had clear water and friendly fishermen happy to take our stern line to the beach for a Med-style mooring. Taking a line to shore is the standard method of mooring in Turkish anchorages, as there is generally little room for several boats to swing on the hook. When we do this maneuver, Shirley normally takes the helm while Dick lets out the anchor. Then a stern line is taken ashore to either a tree or a pier. If you have a stern anchor that's big enough, it's possible to set that first and have the bow closest to shore and tied to a tree or piling.

Our port of entry to Turkey was actually Kemer, a little to the north. As is the case in much of southwest Turkey, Kemer has a nice marina with full services and a very friendly staff. The marina office even did all the paperwork necessary to check us into the country. While there, we bumped into old friends King Harald from Australia and Topaz from Connecticut. We had drinks and reminisced.

We left our boat in the security of Kemer while we took the bus to Cappadocia, which has surreal Tufa formations and caves. Over the centuries, locals carved homes, churches and even cities out of the relatively soft but sturdy stone. The main idea was to be able to resist invaders. At about 1000 A.D., one of these cities, Kaymakli, had eight levels that provided homes for 2,000 residents!

We sailed from Kemer along the famous Turquoise Coast, and for the first time enjoyed the luxury of refrigeration! But the sights were even more spectacular. We particularly enjoyed Cinevez Limanai again; Gemilar Adasi, where we could see both our anchor and ancient ruins in 60 feet of water; Skopia Limina and Wall Bay, where a full moon rose over our private outdoor restaurant; and Ekincik and the ancient river delta with Lycian Tombs and the ruins of Roman castles.

We then left our boat in Marmaris, and will return this spring for our next westward mini cruise.

- dick & sandy 3/15/01

Avatar - 45-ft Custom Cutter
George & Brenda Milum
A Dozen Years Of Cruising
(Squaw Valley/San Francisco)

In April of '89, you wrote about our then relatively new Gary Mull-designed custom cutter Avatar. She had been built by the Millerick Brothers in Cotati, and we finished the interior - with a lot of help from Bruce Brudvig, a great carpenter. It's now 12 years and 30,000 miles later - and time for an update.

We spent six years full time on the boat in Mexico, the Panama Canal, the Western Caribbean, and the East Coast of the United States, going as far north as Baltimore. But then George got tired of the seemingly constant breakdowns and repairs, and the both of us decided that we really missed skiing. We'd met 40 years earlier on a double chairlift at Alta, Utah. So we decided to trying cruising half time. As such, we've spent the last six winters skiing almost every day at Squaw Valley, and the summers sailing in the southern Caribbean. As most Latitude readers know, summer is the hurricane and off-season in the Caribbean.

Since our first trip down the island chain in '95, we have only made two early season forays - when the threat of hurricanes is lowest - to the north. One was to Antigua and the other to St. Croix. Mostly we've stayed south of 12°40'N in order to avoid the threat of hurricanes. So far, Avatar has spent the winters hauled out at Power Boats Ltd., in Trinidad. But we're now tired of the 600-mile upwind slog back east from Bonaire and Aves Island every fall, so next year we plan to leave our boat in the water at Seru Boca Marina in Curaçao. We'll let you know how it works out. There are plans for a larger marina with haul-out facilities in Curaçao, but that project is not yet underway.

We recently met a young couple who are planning a one-year(!) cruise from San Francisco to the East Coast, and they asked about our favorite places along the way. First of all, we advised them to slow down, and suggested they spend more time in Mexico. If necessary, they could leave their boat in Mexico while they returned to work in the U.S. to make more money before continuing on. It has been said before - and we want to reiterate it to all new cruisers - don't cut short your time in Mexico! Our 2.5 years we spent there in the early '90s were by far the most fun we've had cruising. Cruisers will never again experience the camaraderie found among cruisers throughout Mexico. Certainly not in the Caribbean and, friends tell us, not in the South Pacific or Med either. Maybe things have changed in Mexico during the last 10 years because there are so many more cruisers and a plethora of fancy new marinas, but we doubt it. So savor Mexico and don't be in a hurry to move on.

Another point we want to stress for couples is to be sure that cruising is a dream that both of you share. We have met very few happy boats where one person was going along just because it was the others' dream. Nobody should count on an 'iffy' relationship to improve, as it's very unlikely. The cruising life is not easy, and the many problems and challenges are exacerbated by close quarters and 24-hour-a-day togetherness. Many years ago, Latitude ran an article titled Water Soluble Marriages. We have seen many cases that could be included in a sequel.

Finally, we recommend that folks don't set their goals too high. Of the myriad cruisers we met in our first few years, a majority planned to circumnavigate - or at least go on to the South Pacific. Ourselves included. Very few made it. And there are precious few of us still out here.

P.S. Too bad that Randy and Lourae's notes on the Cartagena to Bonaire passage was too late for Big O. We remember when Big O tried to make it and had to give up and go by way of Puerto Rico.

- george & brenda 4/10/01

George & Brenda - Thanks for sharing the wisdom of your many years of cruising. Two comments. First, we think that Mexico remains by far the most enjoyed cruising ground in the Pacific - and perhaps all the world. The cruisers' camaraderie is almost as strong as it's ever been. Second, we have no hard numbers, but it's our impression that a much higher percentage of today's cruisers actually continue on to the South Pacific and beyond. In this year's semi-organized Puddle Jump, there were about 50 boats, and many others just went on their own. We think the biggest contributing factors are the ease of GPS navigation and the ability to keep in touch with family and friends through things as satellite phones and SailMail.

As for Randy and Lourae's notes from Pizazz on getting from Cartagena to Bonaire along the north shore of South America, they wouldn't have helped Big O. She tried to make the upwind passage there in '95, when the coastline was still controlled by drug, tobacco and appliance smugglers. Back then, it was still a case of having to try to make the whole passage in one go - something unlikely in the windy month of February.

Gaia - Morgan 38
William Gloege
Colon, Panama
(San Jose)

Located at the Caribbean/Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, and home to the Panama Canal YC, the city of Colon is an inevitable stop for many world cruisers. In The Path Between Seas, the wonderful book by David McCullough about the building of the Canal, the author describes Colon as having been dirty and unpleasant during the days when the Canal was being built. Although there are still vestiges of wonderful colonial buildings, McCullough's description of the city remains pretty accurate today.

Cruisers seem to love to hate Colon, mentioning it as a place they stop only because they have to in order to transit the Canal. And they express the desire to leave as soon as possible. Others - the Wanderer included - think it's the most dangerous city they've been to. But having been cruising between California and the Caribbean for nearly five years now, and having stopped in Colon many times, we have a slightly different and evolving opinion. We never thought it would happen, but Colon is actually beginning to grow on us! True, it's still dirty and there are piles of garbage throughout the city. And many residents of the downtown area live in disgusting tenements that are falling apart.

But we must give credit where it's due, and the Colon city fathers have been making an effort to create a renaissance - yes, a renaissance - at the Caribbean end of the Canal. For one thing, there is a much stronger and more visible police presence on the streets than when we were first visited in '99, so it's now much safer to walk the streets. In fact, we now see cruisers walking the three blocks from the Panama Canal YC to downtown - something always warned against in the past. And the buildings - well, some of them have even been painted.

There is also new life in Colon. For instance, the newly opened Colon 2000 shopping center, complete with a shiny, new Super 99 supermarket that is every bit as good as most American markets. The old Espinar U. S. military area three miles outside Colon is in the process of being turned into an upscale housing development with its own supermarket, six-plex movie theater, swimming pool - albeit in need of attention - and a bowling alley. The Melia Hotel chain has also opened a magnificent five-star hotel in Espinar, with perhaps the best and largest resort swimming pool we have seen in all our travels. The hotel is situated on a peninsula that juts into beautiful Lake Gatun, and swarms of bright colored tropical birds fly over the hotel grounds and call out from the surrounding primary forests. The hotel offers kayaks and tour boats so guests can explore the nearby parts of this huge lake.

The people of Colon are friendly, and seem eager to please visitors. Even downtown Colon has good restaurants, email cafes, and several reasonably-stocked hardware stores - with some marine supplies. Perhaps one of the reasons for the change is that there are now two large new terminals for cruise ships, each with their own shopping center. Given the money that pours out of cruise ships, the city fathers realized that the personal safety of tourists was going to be of utmost importance. Colon also has a Duty-Free Zone with over 100 stores that offer everything from outboards to Gucci.

So we suggest that cruisers give old Colon a break, as the city may finally be on the brink of working its way out of a long history of bad times and bad behavior.

- william 03/09/01

Latitude - 60-ft Schooner
Paul & Suzie Zupan
Sardinia, Tunisia, Sicily

It's been a while since we've sent an update on our winter travels here in the Med, so we thought we'd fill everyone in. At the end of January, we left the Spanish island of Minorca and sailed a couple of hundred miles east to the Italian island of Sardinia. Although we'd only been on Minorca for a short time, it was very difficult to leave our new friends. It didn't help when they all gathered on the dock to wave good-bye. Fortunately, just before we left Mahon, our base in Minorca, some Swedish folks arrived on a Formosa ketch about the same size as our boat, and told us they were also headed for Sardinia. So we joined them for the crossing. This was the second time we crossed the area of the Med known for the dreaded mistrals, but we had no bad weather.

We made landfall at Carloforte, a beautiful little Italian village on an island just off the southwest coast of Sardinia. Suzie was there for two weeks, while I had to make a business trip to New York. The people were exceptionally friendly - and we were surprised at just how Italian they were. In fact, I couldn't keep from busting out laughing when a fisherman on our dock yelled to his buddy, "Hey, Guissepi!" with such a thick Italian accent. I couldn't help myself, and the fisherman couldn't understand why I was laughing so hard. Even Suzie had to turn away because she was also laughing so much. Neither of us meant any disrespect, but it seemed like part of an over the top skit from Saturday Night Live. We also took a real liking to the Italian food, especially after being in Spain for so many months.

We did travel around Sardinia a bit, driving up to the north coast and visiting Porto Cervo. During the summer, Porto Cervo is a very glamorous and expensive summer hangout for the wealthy, but during the winter it's just a very lovely village. We were surprised by how mountainous and sparsely populated Sardinia is. The island has quite a few ruins from ancient civilizations, as well as those from the Romans, Spanish, British, French and whoever else happened to conquer the Med at various points in history.

After Sardinia, we parted company with the Swedish boat and left for Tunisia, Africa. The weather was perfect, and it was the first time we really had all the sails up on Latitude. What a pleasure it was to sail her! Late in the afternoon we came across several American warships on maneuvers just a short distance away. Naturally, we were flying our American flag from the transom. Before long, a huge Hercules class helicopter came toward us from Sardinia, circled us once at fairly close range, and then took off in the direction of one of the warships. Ten minutes later, this Navy helicopter was back circling us, with those aboard taking photos and waving out the windows. It made us feel pretty patriotic - not to mention safe, since we were just approaching the northwest corner of the Gulf of Libya.

Our trip to Tunisia wasn't as pleasant as our previous passage, as the compass died on the autopilot, requiring us to hand-steer the entire way. The wind came up in the middle of the night, and we started sailing along at nine knots. This was fun until the wind came from further aft, which made steering difficult - even after reducing sail.

We arrived at Bizerte, Tunisia, about 0800. The Immigration officer was on the dock to meet us, and has us cleared within the hour. I immediately went to sleep for hours, but Suzie couldn't wait to do some exploring. Bizerte is not a large city, but it's very North African, and very Third World. By the time I woke up after my rest, Suzie was prepared to be the world guide and show me the city she had already explored. We both loved Bizerte as much as we'd loved Morocco.

A short time later, I took a louge, which is a shared taxi, to the airport at Tunis. What an experience! We took off down the highway waving through traffic in a sketchy car full of people listening to Arabic music blaring over the radio. Actually, it sounds more scary that it actually was. But I rate it right up there with our Italian fisherman friend on the dock; just one of those experiences we'll always remember.

I'm working in Madrid right now, while Suzie is still with the boat in Bizerte. I'll rejoin her at the end of the week to get ready to sail to Sicily. We're hoping to be there before the first of March to catch up with the Swedish boat somewhere around Palermo. We are making progress toward our goal of being in Turkey by May. Yes, we originally planned to be there by Christmas, but the schedule has slipped just a little.

- paul & suzie 3/15/01

Under Repair - Hunter Passage 42
John & Felicity Christensen
Port of Sidney Marina, Sidney B.C.
(San Francisco)

Except for four months in the summer of '99 cruising the San Juan Islands and six weeks exploring the southeast side of Vancover Island, we have spent the rest of the last two years upgrading our boat to make her a safer and a more suitable home. We planned on spending the Winter of '99-'00 in La Conner, Washington, but the planned three months for upgrading the boat took 10 months - and she still wasn't finished. Nonetheless, I just cut the docklines and we took off for Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We traveled up and down the east coast from Victoria to French Creek, then back again.

When October arrived to end the season, we decided to stay in the nicest place we had visited - which was Sidney, British Columbia. About 10 miles northeast of Victoria, Sidney is a wonderful mixture of small town ambience yet still has the cosmopolitan benefits normally found in much larger cities. For example, it has three large supermarkets, eight good bookstores, four good marine stores, and much more. Hungry? It has four Greek restaurants, two Chinese, two Japanese, as well as about 15 other eating establishments and two pubs. How do so many stores and businesses survive in a small town? It's because they are so good. People think nothing of driving from Victoria to shop for books in Sidney, which is known as 'Book Town'. Tanners, for instance, has more than 3,500 different magazines. I didn't know there were that many in print.

The locals are also very friendly. For instance, when the manager saw me looking for Panko brand breadcrumbs at Sidney Super Foods, he asked if he could help. When I told him what I was looking for, he said they didn't have them - but would order them so they'd arrive two days later. Two days later the manager took me over to the shelf where they were then on display! Similar things have happened several times already. The absolute frosting on the cake, however, is that the prices look about the same as in the States, but they are in Canadian dollars which are only worth about 65 cents!

I'm sorry if I sound like the Sidney Chamber of Commerce, but I'm temporarily in Silicon Valley and the contrast is overwhelming. We expect to depart the lovely small town of Sidney before too long - right after we finish the remaining upgrades, fix the plugged toilet, finish installing the heater, and reinstall the failed inverter - and then spend the summer sailing up the Inside Passage.

By the way, we had an odd thing happen at a Tacoma marina, where we were charged double the published rate. When I asked the reason, I was told that I "was taking too long and they wanted to hurry me along." When I asked why he hadn't bothered to tell me, he said he'd been "too busy!"

- john 3/15/01

Papillon - Catana 38 Cat
Steve & Sharon Merrill
Dolphins & Anchor Rodes

Since completing the Baja Ha-Ha last November, we've had some really fun experiences and really fearful experiences - but the following one is probably the most unique.

It happened on March 25 - coincidentally our 34th wedding anniversary - at Bahia de Chamela - which is between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo - at 0234. We awoke to what seemed to be the sound of people boarding our boat! Steve, the brave one, rushed topsides to immediately discover that it was only several dolphins playing around our catamaran, specifically around the anchor rode and bridle. We'd heard that this isn't uncommon, so we watched for awhile. Later we went below to our berth, where we could continue watching from our large inboard escape hatch.

Suddenly the thrashing became louder. When we took a closer look, we saw that one of the dolphins had somehow gotten its tail tangled in our anchor rode! We were in 30 feet of water at the time, and had 30 feet of nylon line and 100 feet of chain out. We rushed topsides again, flashlights in hand, and turned on the radar, GPS, engines, and deck lights. First, we tried to use a boathook from the bow to untangle the poor mammal. Then we could see that he had loops of our rode and bridle wrapped around his tail. You can't believe how scared we were for that poor dolphin, as he was struggling fiercely for his life, and his friend or mate was thrashing about between our hulls in an apparent attempt to help. Steve, who I already mentioned is the brave one, jumped into the water to try to disentangle the rode and free the dolphin. When Steve got close, he realized he wouldn't be able to pull the lines free since the dolphin kept pulling downward with its tail in an attempt to go forward. We also noted that because of the pull on the anchor lines, we were drifting toward Juandra, the boat anchored nearest us.

At that point, Steve came back aboard and sounded five blasts with the airhorn to warn Juandra of possible danger. Immediately Murray and his wife came topside. We explained the situation and asked for suggestions, help or just moral support. Murray dinghied over. Meanwhile, the dolphin started to really labor, and we feared he was going to die. We started to pull up on the bridle on the starboard side, hoping that would help. We couldn't tell one way or the other. Steve then jumped back into the water. About that time we noticed that we couldn't see the dolphin or hear his heavy breathing. We also we noticed that his dolphin friend had left. We pulled up on the anchor slowly with the windlass, fearful that the dolphin might have died. Happily, we soon learned that he had managed to finally free himself, for all that was left was a mess of anchor rode and bridle.

As it was nearly 0430 and our anchor was still holding fine, we decided that we'd sort the anchor line mess out in the morning. Once back in our berth, we still had too much adrenaline pumping to go back to sleep. It took us over an hour later on to get the wraps out, but we were happy, as it all ended well for us, our neighbor's boat Juandra - and especially for that dolphin. Needless to say, we were the talk of the anchorage for the whole day. It was an anniversary to remember!

- steve & sharon 4/1/01

Second Wind - Morgan 44
Ken & Lynn Swanson
Lightning Strikes
(Incline Village, Nevada)

We've found the Gold Coast of Mexico - which is from Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo - and Z-town, to be every bit as good as we read it was in the past 20 years of Latitude. We were a little late getting here, however, because our boat received a nasty lightning strike in Puerto Vallarta last October 16. It cost us $6,000 and six weeks of the cruising season. With lots of folks getting ready to leave their boats in Mexico for the summer, they might be interested in what happened.

We were in Montana in the middle of October when we received an email from Marina Vallarta and Oscar Camacho, our highly-recommended boat-sitter. They reported that the lightning had apparently hit the masthead wind sensor, traveled down the mast and into the engine room, and then out the shore power cord - blowing up the electrical outlet in the dock box! Witnesses report that it "rained" ball-bearings and washers for several seconds. While on its path through our boat, the electrical bolt took out the stereo, VHF, radar, nav instruments, inverter, alternator, alternator regulator, battery management system, many of the lamps, and numerous fuses. The main GPS and the ham radio, which we had stored in the aft cabin, were not damaged. We initially thought that the alternator was all right, but it only lasted until Tenacatita Bay before failing. We took it to a servious autoelectronicos in Melaque, where the mechanic replaced the stator on our Canadian-made alternator in three hours. The charge? An incredibly low $18 U.S.

Before we left Puerto Vallarta, we counted three other boats that had been hit over the summer. Since we guess there were about 400 cruising boats summering over in the P.V. area, we figure boats have about a 1 in 100 chance of getting hit.

We made some mistakes that will be corrected before we leave the boat this summer. First, we have already spent $80 for a Forespar ion dissipater. Who knows if it really works, but at $80 it seems worth a try. We will also hang battery cables from our shrouds to the water, thus giving some of the energy a chance to go to ground outside of the boat. Several sailors have recommended that all the electronics be removed and stored in the oven or microwave. Our VHF and stereo were disconnected and left in the nav station - and didn't make it. We are also lowering our insurance deductible and making sure our policy covers electronics.

We've learned two other things. First, fuses can't be checked visually; you need to use a meter. Secondly, marine electronics have improved dramatically in the last 10 years. We, however, we were in such a hurry to get things repaired that we didn't upgrade what we'd had. Dumb!

Ken went down to the boat on November 1 to disassemble everything and bring the broken stuff home. When he returned to Mexico, he had to go through Customs with nine duffel bags and a radar array. It was no problemo, however, because we had taken the time to get the right paperwork when we brought all the stuff home for repair. Ken spent most of January getting everything put back together and working on the boat. The hardest part was pulling a new radar cable through the mast.

We are now on our way to Panama and the Caribbean, but may not make it all the way this season. It doesn't really matter though, because we're here!

- ken & lynn swanson 3/15/01

Hae Twen - Taswell 43
Peter Smith & Chen Liang-Hsia
Kemer Antalya, Turkey

We and our boat Hae Twen - veterans of the '95 Ha-Ha - are spending the winter at a marina in Kemer, Turkey, a little town on the Mediterranean coast. As we look out before us, we see long, sandy beaches backed by a coastal plain of orange groves and pine forests. The mountains behind us are over a mile high and covered in snow.

There's an active social life here in Kemer for the small community of cruisers. We enjoy attending the concerts of the young and enthusiastic orchestra in nearby Antalya, and have toured the markets, bazaars and ruins of ancient empires. We also joined a small band of trekkers to do some hiking along the Lycian Way, the ancient trail that links the farms and villages along 500 kilometers of the rugged and often mountainous Turkish coast. In order to do so, we had to wade across trout streams and climb the mountains where the flames of the Chimera still burn.

Actually, we began our cruising early last May in Italy. The chill of late spring gave us an excuse to fire up our diesel furnace as we sailed past the island of Procida and through the Bay of Naples, leaving the island of Capri to starboard and the Amalfi coast to port. It was warm by the time we arrived at the port of Maratea, the town of which is perched on a mountainside above. The port has cafes on the waterfront, bougainvillea and cactus climbing the cliffs, and villas with gardens of bergamot, artichoke and poppies. The town above the port is a relic of the Middle Ages, full of interesting alleys and piazzas. As we sailed south, we passed Scilla and Charybdis, then sailed through the narrow Strait of Messina and under the arch of the 'boot' of Italy. While in the port town of Crotone, we had a surprise meeting with a woman we'd met on a French quay several years ago. "Uno piccolo mondo," said our acquaintance.

Despite every depredation, the Med still has some sealife, for we saw dolphins and turtles as we sailed across the Ionian and the Adriatic Seas. We also saw strange little boats with long bowsprits, from which men harpooned swordfish. The ruthless overfishing has depleted the stocks of fish that used to be common in these waters, so aquaculture now provides most of the fish served in restaurants. In fact, many Mediterranean coves are now equipped with floating fish farms.

Like everywhere, the kids in Italy were charming. While walking through the old part of the big Italian city of Bari on the Adriatic, three little Italian girls clapped their hands in delight at the sight of the lovely Ms. Chen. "Si bella cinese," they giggled.

As we sailed north up the Adriatic coast of Italy, we discovered that while each little town has its own character, in many ways they're all the same. When we walked along the street in any town in southern Italy, we got the feeling that we hadn't actually gone anywhere, but were on the same treadmill where each street has the same bakery, vegetable stand, tobacco shop and pizzeria. But there is a certain pleasantness to this predictability.

We finally departed Italy to sail across the Adriatic to Croatia. Although the coasts of Italy and Croatia are less than 100 miles apart, there is a world of difference between the two. The coast is flat and without many features or greenery on the Italian side. But some of Croatia's rocky, pine-covered islands reminded us of Puget Sound. Other Croatian islands are tilted up toward the sky like granite playing cards stuck in the bottom of a pond.

On Croatia's mainland coast, we sailed past an ancient fort into the Krka River, which is at the bottom of a steep ravine. Navigation on the river terminates near a series of rapids and waterfalls. There are also quiet pools alive with fish and frogs, and the willowy green forest is full of iridescent blue dragonflies. Near the falls is a sleepy town called Skradin, which was on the frontline during the recent civil war. Most of the houses are pocked with bullet holes and the village chapel was bombed. When we asked the priest why the church was a target, he gave a sad but simple explanation: "We Croats are Catholic, the Serbs are Orthodox."

In August, Ms. Chen flew from Dubrovnik to Los Angeles to visit her brother and to attend her high school class reunion, while Peter did penitential boat work and attended the Dubrovnik Music Festival. All the concerts were al fresco; some on the quay of the old harbor, some in the piazzas, and some in the atrium of the medieval rector's palace. The wonderful old city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by a wall with moats and gates. None of these defenses seem to have deterred invasions, as Dubrovnik has frequently changed 'ownership'. It was once an independent republic, then Venetian, later Austro-Hungarian, and currently it's proudly Croatian.

One morning at the end of August, we left our mooring in Dubrovnik and motored down the peaceful Rijeka Dubrovacka. After passing under the new highway bridge and past an American naval frigate refueling in the commercial harbor, we continued on through a sprinkle of rocky islets into a red dawn and flat sea. We had plotted a course to keep us 20 miles off the Albanian coast on our way to a 210-mile distant Corfu, Greece. But when a near-gale was forecast for Corfu, we decided to head almost due south - which took us back across the Adriatic to Brindisi on the Italian side.

Brindisi does not enjoy a good reputation among cruisers, but we had a good experience there. Arriving at 0300, we slowly motored past the bright lights of fishermen along the quay of the huge new outer harbor, past the castle into the old commercial harbor, and through a narrow channel into the ancient inner harbor. Surprisingly, we found plenty of room to side-tie to the stone quay on the north shore in a peaceful area of villas and gardens. The next morning a water taxi took us into town to restock the parmigiano.

Once we set out again for Corfu, we had to motorsail through an endless stream of northbound yachts, ocean-going ships, coastal tramps and passenger ferries. We alternated watches through a calm night until just before dawn when we approached the channel - which is less than a mile wide - that separates the coasts of Greece and Albania. A ferry on a reciprocal course unnerved us by altering its course to cross our bow at the last minute.

We reentered the waters of the Ionian at Corfu. The Ionian islands are very green and are full of protected anchorages -which was a good thing because we had to weather a few storms before entering the Gulf of Corinth. The Gulf is the artery that connects the Ionian to the Aegean, eliminating the long trip around the Peloponnese Peninsula. The Gulf is home to the little island of Trizonia, which has a protected harbor, several pleasant beaches, and nice paths through the olive groves and under the almond trees. There are no cars and few tourists. Twenty miles further along on the mainland is Galaxhidi, which in addition to many tourists has a nice anchorage where it was safe for us to leave the boat for a bus trip up the mountain to consult the Oracle at Delphi. The town of Corinth has a free public quay in the heart of town. While there, we couldn't resist the allure of a traveling one-ring circus with acrobats, jugglers and a brass band.

The Corinth Canal is an expensive shortcut, as it cost $120 for Hae Twen to travel just three miles through the narrow cut. We sailed through the Saronic Gulf to the Cyclades Islands of the Aegean on October 1, and were rewarded with light winds and none of the dreaded meltemis that plague cruisers during the summer months. The air temperature in October was a pleasant 75°, and the water was still warm enough for swimming.

The Cyclades are as barren and desiccated as any other group of rocks, so it's easy to understand why they have been steadily losing population for centuries. Half of all Greeks now live in Athens. Fishing and agriculture are no longer viable ways of making a living on the islands, so tourism drives the economy and just about everything is imported. The lamb is from New Zealand, for instance, and the feta cheese from Holland! For us the jewel of the Cyclades is Santorini. We approached this famous island from the north, sailing into the flooded caldera of an eruption that split the island in half. There is an unfinished harbor at the southeast tip of the crescent island. Although Santorini exists for tourism, the island is somehow still fascinating, beautiful and worthy of admiration. The village of Ia has developed from cave dwellings dug in the soft pumice, and over the centuries the caves have acquired facades of whitewashed stone and painted accents of deep blue. In Thira town, the splendid museum has a fresco of blue monkeys and a delicate small ibex of pure gold.

On the easternmost Dodecanese island of Astipalaia, the water was so clear and the sandy bottom so smooth that we watched from our deck as a silky octopus hunted below us on the sandy bottom. The octopus grabbed a bit of fat on the end of our jig, and 10 minutes later was in our pot being prepared for lunch! We continued on to Rhodes, then along Turkey's 'Turquoise Coast' and the small bays near Fethiye. The natural harbors are unspoiled and lovely, although you almost always have to swim ashore to tie a stern line to a tree. In Kekova, the ancient ruins of the Lycians line the coast. A sarcophagus stands in the shallows along the shore.

After a visit to the States, we'll return to our boat to enjoy the spring flowers in Turkey. Our cruising season will resume in May, and our options are either to move east to Syria, Lebanon and Israel, or to sail north through the Bosporus to the Black Sea ports of Russia. Update: P.S. We have just decided to join the Black Sea Rally leaving Istanbul in June, 2001.

- peter & chen 2/10/01

Peter & Chen - We're confused by your reference to the "flames of the Chimera." According to our reference books, in Greek mythology, a chimera is a "fire-breathing female monster resembling a lion in the forepart, a goat in the middle, and a dragon behind. She devastated Caria and Lycia until she was slain by Bellerophon." What are we missing?

Cruise Notes:

While at Marina Paradise for the Banderas Bay Regatta, we ran into Peter and Nancy Bennett of the Swan 46 Destiny, friends from the '96 Ha-Ha. Formerly of Moraga, the couple have been out cruising ever since. "We still like it," admits Nancy. They began by heading down to the Canal, and then sailed as far up the East Coast of the United States as Maine. Three of the places they've come to consider "five star" are the San Blas Islands, Venezuela and Cartagena. Over the years, the couple have found that the ideal situation for them is to cruise about nine months a year, then spend the other three months land-cruising. One of their most enjoyable land adventures was south through Peru and Chile to Patagonia. "It's fabulous down there," they say, "but too cold for sailing." Last year they brought their boat back to the Pacific and sailed up to La Paz. "When it got too hot, we drove over 4,000 miles through the Mexican highlands. What a fabulous experience, as the weather was wonderful, so were the people, and we learned much about the culture that you don't find along the coast. We recommend it to all cruisers, particularly since it beats becoming beef jerky during the summer in the Sea." The Bennetts have just left Mexico on their way back to the Caribbean. "We've never had the desire to go to the South Pacific, let alone circumnavigate," they say. "It seems to us that once cruisers get halfway around the world, they feel like turning on the burners and rushing home."

"We finally made it to Z-town," advise Paul Moench and Glenn Aitkens of the Sausalito-based Hans Christian 38 Endeavour, "having flown the spinnaker most of the way from Puerto Vallarta. The boat has been performing perfectly, our health is great, and Glenn says we've reached our 'tan limit' because we can't possibly get any darker. We have been day-sailing to Ipala; Chamela; Tenacatita; Melaque; Punta Carazal, which was superb; Cabeza Negra, which we would suggest avoiding; Maruata; Caleta de Campos; and the biggest surprise of them all, Lazaro Cardenas for a quick overnight rest. Yes, Lazaro is an industrial city, but it's an easy and quick stop. Ever since November in Mag Bay, we've been buddyboating with Gordon and Lynn and their sons Colin and Aiden aboard Elakha, their Victoria, B.C.-based Spencer 1330. They've been a great source of support, and we like to think that we've been the same for them. In about two weeks we take off on what we hope will be a quick trip to Nuku Hiva."

"We're in El Salvador at the Barillas Marina Club," report Monte and Shari Cottrell and their two daughters on the San Diego-based Kennex 445 Sea Life. "There are a couple of other Ha-Ha boats here with us, including Robert and Bonnie White of the Clovis-based C&L 45 Fancy Free and Charles Grassia of the Seattle-based Cal 40 Sayula. We are really enjoying the tranquility of the river and the friendliness of the people. We spent Holy Week in Antigua, Guatemala, which was amazing. Tomorrow we're going to check out Lourdes, a village the cruisers adopted after the earthquake. I've already done one fund-raiser by giving a seminar in cutting hair, and hope to raise more money by contacting my church, family and friends back home. Things are great, but Monte is still working on a letter about the storm that hit us in Z-town. What a doozy!"

More catamaran people! The three folks - David, Kim and 12-year-old Kanoa - you see in the photo at left are the Wegesend family of the Hawaii-based Catana 42 Maluhia. Appearances can be deceiving, because the Hawaiian-looking Kim was raised in Southern California, while the Californian-looking David was raised in Hawaii. Thanks to a relatively minor medical disability that means David can no longer pilot 777s for American Airlines, the Wegesends have been cruising full time as a family. And Kanoa has been getting his schooling from mom. Most folks say it's too hot, humid and rainy to spend the summer in Puerto Vallarta, but Kim disagrees. "It is warmer and more humid," admits Kim, "but we absolutely loved it. And it doesn't rain that much at all." Nonetheless, after four wonderful years of cruising in Mexico, they're headed for Panama and the Caribbean.

Speaking of Cuba . . ."The Hemingway International YC of Cuba has the pleasure to invite all the sailing sea lovers to participate in the 8th edition of the Morro Castle to Havana Race on May 30," writes our pal Lic. Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, Commodore of the Hemingway International YC. "This nautical sporting event is open to boats and crews from the world over. The course will take the boats between Rio Almendares and Morro Castle, then on to the finish at Marina Hemingway. The members of the Hemingway International YC will later host a big party to strengthen the friendly relationship among the international nautical community."

One warning about Americans visiting Cuba these days: You won't be in any physical danger, but you're going to be confronted with hard-core propaganda the likes of which hasn't been seen in years. In the early '90s, with Cuba in deep financial trouble, Castro toyed around with a limited amount of soft-core capitalism. As a result, billboards along the Havana waterfront featured ads for things like beer and other consumer products. But in his old age, Castro has reverted to his old hard-line self, going so far as accusing Argentina of "licking the boots of the United States" and snarling at Mexico's complaints about human rights in the 'workers' paradise. As a result, the beer ads on the billboards have been replaced with tired slogans such as "Socialism or Death".

"Even though it's the dry season, Costa Rica has been beautiful," advise David Hernley, Seaneen, and Angel of the Washington-based Angel 50 Mystic Spirit. "We'll soon be heading south to Panama with We Three, Orion and Harmony - all of which are from Washington. Right now, however, we're anchored off the Oasis del Pacifico Hotel in Playa Naranjo, Costa Rica, waiting the return of the injectors which are being serviced in Puntarenas. Fortunately, the owners of the hotel told us we could arrange to have the mechanic come to the boat on the ferry versus us having to take Mystic Spirit into Puntarenas. We also have dreams of having our windlass repaired. It broke - bent shaft and fried motor, we think - about a month ago. Although the 'armstrong method' has worked so for, we'd like to get back to pushing a button. We also would like to put in a good word about the hotel, as the anchorage here is excellent, with good holding in about 18 feet of water. There is a beautiful beach with a pier, and it's easy to beach your dink on either side of the pier. Hotel owners Aggie and Lucky are very nice, and enjoy catering to cruisers. Their property includes pools, beautifully landscaped grounds, wild and tame birds in the trees, howler monkeys, excellent coffee, a restaurant, and access to transportation. We encourage everyone headed this way to stop in and say 'hello'. The new Charlies Charts for Costa Rica says that ferry service to Puntarenas has been discontinued, but this is not true. The ferrys still run about three times a day, and the hotel is a great place to leave your boat if you have to make a trip to Puntarenas."

"I thought you'd like a photo of the great yacht Bolero and me, Mr. Mexico, taken on the Delaware-Chesapeake Canal," writes John 'Mr. Mexico' Williamson of the San Francisco-based Little Harbor 61 Pericus. The other photo [see to the left] is of our Pericus on the United Yacht Transport ship getting ready to be taken from Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico to Fort Lauderdale. That was a year ago February. We subsequently went as far north on the East Coast as Blue Hill, Maine, and down to Key West. We're now headed back to Ixtapa, Mexico."

(Good hearing from you, John. Would you please give us a call when you get a chance?)

"If Don Littau - who wrote in last month asking about cruising in Texas - would like to contact us, we'd be glad to fill him in," advise Bob and Peggy Taylor of the Westsail 42 Adagio. "Sailing is alive and well down here. In fact, my wife and I plan to use Texas as our home base after taking off later this year. Please don't tell anyone that south Texas makes a great place to retire on a boat, because we don't want too many people discovering our neck of the woods. We can be reached sbadagio at

"We're taking time off from cruising for a new baby girl," report Mike and Mary Hagan of the Rockport, Texas-based Alajuela 33 Muirgheal. "Then we'll be off to Cuba." If we understand the couple correctly, they already have a son named Noah.

A Cape Town to Caribbean Challenge for singlehanders in boats under 40 feet. Why not? South African Garth Goodwin and Wight Flight, his atrociously-named Farr 38, were given a start by the Royal Cape YC as they took off for Trinidad in the southern Caribbean. When he arrived in Trinidad some 36 days and 17 hours later, he claimed the record. Given the fact that the Cape Town to Caribbean voyage is generally considerated to be the most consistent and pleasant off-the-wind passage in the world, the 5.4 knot average for 4,600 miles seems relatively soft. Maybe someone else should take a crack at it. And as far as we're concerned, there's no reason to limit it to folks in boats under 40 feet. If anyone breaks the current mark, Don Stollmeyer of Power Boats Ltd. in Trinidad promises a free haulout. By the way, despite the name of Stollmeyer's yard, it's full of cruising sailboats, and he's a great guy.

"I just sailed 200 miles from Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan," reports Lynne Stevens of the Juneau-based Islander Freeport 36 Wild Flower. "It was my first singlehanded trip." We're proud of Lynn, who was one of our crew aboard Profligate in the Banderas Bay Regatta.

Here's a 'cruise note' from a couple that already have a Changes in this issue: "We arrived here at beautiful Puerto Angel on March 21," report Ken and Lynn Swanson of the Incline Village-based Morgan 44 Second Wind, "and presented Polo and Veronica with a copy of the March Latitude - the one with the story and photo about their Vepo Grill Restaurant. They were overjoyed to see their picture in the magazine and read the positive comments by Joss and Mildrid K . They were very distraught, however, by the report from the "anonymous singlehander" who wrote that his boat had been robbed while he slept aboard her in the anchorage. Polo and Veronica believe their beautiful and peaceful village is no more or less affected by crime than other places. Nonetheless, they took the magazine over to the port captain. He made a copy and sent it to his brother in Mexico City, who is apparently the head of all port captains. The port captain did note that it's hard for local authorities to take action if such crimes aren't reported. By the way, it cost us 282 pesos - about $25 - plus a five-mile cab ride to Pochutia to check in and out of Puerto Angel - even though we were in transit from Acapulco to Huatulco. The port captain was not about to let us get by without checking in, as an assistant came out to our boat early the first morning, collected our documents, and told us the hours the office was open. Polo and some of the other merchants feel the fees are excessive, and are therefore writing to Mexico City to complain. We would also like to echo Joss and Mildred K's comments about the anchorage situation in Puerto Escondido. It is no longer an option, as it's been entirely taken over by the panga fleet. As for Puerto Angel, we found it to be a warm and friendly village in a beautiful tropical setting. Polo and Veronica are great hosts, and serve up great meals. Don't miss it!"

"It's mid-April, and most cruisers have left Zihuatanejo," report Brent and Susan Lowe of the Royal Passport 47 Akauahelo. "Unlike last year when we rushed down to Z-town, this year we decided to travel more slowly down the coast, anchoring just about everywhere for a few days. We're glad we did. But just like everyone else, we wanted to spend at least two months in Z-town - what a great place and what great people - which is why we're still here in the middle of April. But it's quiet. In January there are usually more than 80 boats anchored in the bay, but now there are only four - with a couple more over at Marina Ixtapa.

"With the big Mexican Holy Week celebrations in full swing," Brent and Susan continue, "Z-town has truly returned to the Mexicans. But we few cruisers left we are really enjoying the tranquility. Rick's Bar still has good entertainment almost every night, and folks still gather on Tuesday and Friday afternoons for Mexican Train Dominoes - the game that seemed to have taken the cruising world by storm this year. Sunday nights around the central basketball court are still a blast, as we listen to local talent and 'graze' through the food tables. We will be leaving in a week or so to follow the northbounders."

Headed north? Have a good 'bash'.

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