Changes in Latitudes

May, 2002

With reports this month from Tai Tam II on an unsatisfactory marina experience in Costa Rica; from Estrellita on cruising north of La Paz; from Maverick on sailing from the Maldives to Oman; from Mahina Tiare on the current situation in the Panama Canal; from Ariel on the passage from San Francisco to the Pacific Northwest; from Reflections on sailing from Panama to the Galapagos; and more Cruise Notes than ever before.

Tai Tam II - Island Packet 40
Tom & Kathy Knueppel
Los Suenos, Costa Rica
(San Francisco)

After doing the 2000 Ha-Ha and cruising in Mexico, we more or less successfully made it down to Costa Rica's Gulf of Nicoya. We did have a bit of a rough time with the Papagayos, as we had relentless winds of 30 knots or more plus confused seas. But it appears that Papagayo season is coming to an end and that we've moved beyond its geographical range.

Having suffered a ripped mainsail and with our boat coated in salt, we decided to pull into the new Los Suenos Marina, which is attached to the new Marriott Hotel Resort in the southeast end of the Gulf of Nicoya. It's a very beautiful area. The marina boasts that it has teak docks and "sophisticated" amenities, but as far as we're concerned, cruisers should give Los Suenos Marina a pass for several reasons. We're not alone in our opinion, as the skipper of the nearby cruising yacht Horner's Corner agrees.

Our problems start with the berth fees, which are $2/foot per night! If you stay more than 30 days, you have to come up with a $2,000+ deposit, depending on the length of your boat. Despite being charged the high rates, this doesn't even entitle you to access to the hotel facilities. This wouldn't be so bad except that the marina's restrooms and showers are borderline at best. For example, there are two men's showers, neither one of which has hot water or a door, and one of which was missing a water spout. What's worse is that the showers are also used by the many locals who work on the big power yachts in the marina, so you sometimes have to wait to use these substandard facilities. This is what they call "sophisticated"?

Los Suenos is clearly not used to having cruisers as guests, and apparently isn't much interested in dealing with them. We were put in a slip that only has 50-amp power, which is only used by large yachts. When we asked about this, we were told that we could move into a 30-ft slip with 30-amp power - but that we would still have to pay for the larger slip. After a long debate, they gave in and lent us a power cord adapter - after we left a $150 deposit. When we asked if we could use the dock or some other area to repair our mainsail, we were told we could not because it would spoil the appearance of the marina. We finally managed to find space at a nearby repair shop.

So we're checking out of Los Suenos Marina as soon as we complete our chores. This is not a place that we could recommend to other yachties - except those with a particular interest in teak docks.

- tom & kathy 4/15/02

Estrellita - Krogen 38 Cutter
Chuck Riley
Sea Of Cortez
(San Francisco)

Many years ago, I left the Great Lakes aboard Firefly, a 36-foot wooden cutter crewed by my wife and three children - Dawn, Dana and Todd. We cruised to the East Coast as far north as Maine, then south to Florida, and finally though the West Indies all the way to Grenada. By the time we got back to Michigan, we'd covered 10,000 miles and had had a terrific time.

Firefly had no refrigeration, no pressure water system, and no fancy electronics. Our navigation was done with the aid of the taff rail log, depthsounder, sextant, and radio direction finder. Kids, can you say 'RDF'? I'm amused by some of today's experienced sailors who look at my RDF and can't figure out what it is. For those who started sailing after the advent of SatNav and later GPS, the concept is simple - find a navigation station or even a commercial AM radio station, rotate the antenna until there was a 'null', then measure the angle from the boat to the antenna. You then knew you were on a line along that compass angle. I carry my homebuilt RDF and a white linen sport coat aboard Estrellita - in case either one of them ever come back in style.

Since we didn't have a fridge, we had what Jimmy Buffet sings about, "warm beer and bread" - and plenty of it. The kids' mom did a great job of cooking on a two-burner, non-gimbaled kerosene stove. We baked bread in a pressure cooker - with gaskets removed - and got along very well, thank you, without ice or other luxuries. But that was then and this is now.

Enter my good friend Steve Ulrich of Magewind. Steve is a computer and electronics wizard, so his boat challenges the International Space Station for electrical and electronic gear. His boat is equipped with a watermaker, two satellite communications systems, automatically timed central heating, DVD and VHS movie systems, autopilot, and I'm not sure what else. Over the last three years, Steve dragged me into the 20th century by helping me install a fridge/freezer, solar panels, new charging system, electronic charts on my PowerBook linked to the GPS, and meters to see how many amps all this stuff consumes. I never believed a head-in-the-sand traditionalist such as myself would ever be having cocktails in the cockpit discussing how many amps my fridge used and if the solar panels were keeping up. If you have all this complex stuff aboard, of course, you'd better be prepared to fix it. I'm not, but fortunately, Steve is. So the fun he's had getting me to cave in to the new technological world is periodically interrupted by my quiet voice asking, "Got a minute, Steve? Something isn't working quite right."

After I got to Cabo, my crew moved on, so it was just me aboard a very big flush deck 38-footer with bunks for seven, pressure hot and cold water, a separate shower stall, and all the electrics and electronics. It's great when all this stuff works. So far, there have been few breakdowns, and right now the digital computer tells me that I have used 29.9 amps during the night in the process of keeping a few chickens, chops and other stuff frozen, the cerveza cold, and the PowerBook batteries charged.  The sun is just beginning to hit the solar panels, so in a few hours I should be recharged. Pretty exciting stuff!

There was some unnecessary concern among friends that I might become too attached to the city life of La Paz. Although La Paz has lots of conveniences such as running water, showers, gringo bars, and Internet cafes, it's hardly a city such as San Francisco that you become hopelessly attached to. There is, however, a large group of cruisers who make it to La Paz but seldom move on. Most are a part of the 0830 radio net, and nice and helpful. Marina de La Paz is a great cruisers' hangout, with a clubhouse, book exchange, and waterfront bar frequented by boating people. Many boats anchor out just outside the marina and dinghy ashore for drinks, showers, and food. The marina charges a small landing fee.

There were several cruising boats in the marina that had done the Ha-Ha from San Diego to Cabo, and were trying to figure out the best way home. Most don't relish the thought of the 'Baja Bash' back up the coast to California, and neither do I. Other options include sailing to Hawaii and then back to the U.S., which is much longer but has better weather; keeping the boat in Mexico over the summer and resuming cruising in the fall; or head west across the Pacific toward New Zealand. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm trying not to worry about it.

Since I'm still taking Interferon, singlehanding north may be beyond my current physical capabilities. Getting crew for the northbound trip ain't easy, either. I did try local crew - Lillia, a friend of Steve's friends here in La Paz - on my last venture to the islands. She's a very nice girl, but had never sailed, doesn't know how to swim, doesn't drive a car, and knows very little English. She does know French, however, so we sort of communicated in a mixture of three languages. It actually helped my Spanish considerably. I was surprised at how well Lillia took to the helm and to my cryptic directions in Spanish. The only concept she didn't seem to grasp was that if you don't change course when you're headed toward some rocks, you're going to hit them. Eventually, I learned how to tell her - in Spanish - to go between red and green buoys, and between islands and rocks, rather than directly at them. But when we entered an anchorage, it didn't matter what language I used, I wasn't able to get her to understand, "Would you please get the windlass crank handle from the port cockpit seat locker." She just looked confused.

Lillia seemed somewhat depressed when she came aboard. The language barriers are huge when you get beyond the basics, but eventually I came to understand that she had four things on her mind: divorce, house, attorney, and medical operation. I was familiar with the first three problems, but not the last one. All I know is that we had a beautiful 20-mile sail, and that Lillia spent much of the time smiling while perched at the end of the bowspirt as Estrellita cut through the sparkling water at seven knots. She seemed much happier when she disembarked in La Paz, another soul touched by the magic of sailing.

In late January, Hans and Theresa on Stella Mare, and Steve on Magewind, decided to head to some islands north of La Paz for a couple of weeks. I met them at Isla Partida's Ensenada Grande anchorage the next day, where we had a three boat raft-up, and enjoyed another of Theresa's great dinners. It was flat calm until 3 a.m., when it started to blow from exactly the wrong direction for this cove. This was the troublesome Coromuel wind that only comes up in the middle of the night.

With everything crashing and banging around, I decided to anchor in another part of the cove. I got away from Stella Mare all right, and re-anchored a safe distance apart. My anchor had barely touched bottom when I noticed that my dinghy, hanging from the side of my boat on a bridle, was on her side and dumping her contents into the water. It would have been nice to have another person aboard, as I watched the gas hose and fuel tank float away along with one of the oars and various other items. I managed to grab an oar with a foot before it got away, and my outboard stayed attached to the dinghy. I lowered my dinghy into the water and started one-oar rowing downwind. I captured the fuel tank, which was floating upside down. When I attached it to the motor via the hose, the engine actually started, so I could begin searching for the rest of my stuff. One sock sank before I could reach it, but I couldn't see anything else - except an America True water bottle from my daughter's America's Cup campaign. I hit the bunk for what was left of the rest of the night, thinking I'd have to dive for the rest of the gear the next morning. When I awoke the next morning, I got back in the dinghy to search for my stuff. I couldn't see anything at first, but when I got to the beach a half-mile away, I found both sandals. After walking even further down the beach, I came across my reef runners. I left my socks to the fish.

Our little group made Isla San Francisco, about 20 miles to the north, our next anchorage. It's a beautiful spot, but also open to the south, so we sailed on to San Evaristo, a cove with a small fish camp on the Baja peninsula. We anchored separately for the night with a soft breeze and bright moon overhead. I was exhausted from a lack of sleep the night before. Weather forecasts are hard to come by in these parts, but as we left Ensenada Grande, a cruising couple said they'd heard a second hand report that the ham nets were calling for a Norther in a day or two.

At 3 a.m., the Norther hit with a vengeance. The wind howled, waves built, and Estrellita tugged violently on her all chain anchor rode. Despite my fatigue, sleep was again nearly impossible. One particularly violent gust drove Estrellita backwards, snapping the nylon snubber used to absorb shock loads on the chain. At first light, I weighed anchor and motored to the north side of the harbor. The wind was still howling, but the water was flat. Two days later, I found the $3 snubber chain hook laying on the bottom - proving there is much to be said for cruising in clear water!

By January 25, the huge Norther had dissipated, so we pushed on to some more remote anchorages, including one next to a hot springs. By this time, the water in the Sea was down to 66°, which is quite chilly. The hot springs we found were 115°. From this natural hot tub we had a terrific view of eagles' nests, mountains, and the sparkling waters of the Sea. The Baja landscape is quite different from what I expected. It is desert, which I assumed meant it was all dry, flat, and brown. But Baja is not that way at all. There are dramatic mountains in various shades of reds, yellows, and browns, and there was more than a little greenery. In fact, since hurricane Julliette had come through only months before with two feet of rain in a day or two, there was lots of rather lush scenery. All in all, it was spectacular, and each new cove that we 'discovered' became one of my favorites.

As for the sailing in the Sea, it reminded me of the Great Lakes - although not as predictable. The winter pattern of light southerlies is interrupted every few days by a howling Norther that creates large, steep, and uncomfortable waves. Between systems, the wind can be light and variable.

My next stop was further north at a beautiful cove on Isla Danzante. Although the wind had been very light and on the nose, I sailed most of the way. The way Estrellita silently glided along among the tall mountains and deep blue waters put a smile on my face. As I entered the cove under sail, I looked back and my smile waned, for right on my stern was a French boat whose skipper had been so incredibly rude to our three boats a short time before in another anchorage. Based on my experience, 99.9% of the cruisers I've met are great people - even the French. This particularly troublesome guy was the exception. Magewind and Stella Mare were already anchored in the best part of the bay, so the rude French guy had to go elsewhere. Yes!

We'd been away from civilization for 10 days, but we still hadn't had to resort to the hard tack and water rations. While anchored in the beautiful cove, Theresa and Hans cooked up a fantastic dinner - brie and chips, a juicy BBQ rack of lamb, a potato and onion dish cooked in foil on the barbie, homemade bread, and avocado salad, all served with a very nice cabernet from the couple's Lazy Creek Winery. Our little three boat community works out well. Stella Mare usually becomes our group dining room, and Steve and I help Hans and Theresa with navigation, anchoring, sailing tips, and boat repairs.

While at San Evaristo on February 4, it was windy and cold, and we had a rainstorm! This is the desert? As a first-timer in these parts, I started to hear neighbors say things like, "I've been cruising these waters for 50 years, and I ain't never seen anything like this rain!" Sure. Estrellita got a nice fresh water bath from the mast truck to step, and lots of sand was washed over the side. There's not a cloud in the sky today, and I'm sailing wing-and-wing back to La Paz. My self-steering is handling the helm, so I'm just along for the ride, napping in the sun and writing this.

Despite satellites, sat phones, and other stuff, cruisers in the Sea of Cortez are still largely out of touch with the world. We're constantly asking each other what day it is. We wonder if bin Laden has been found, what the market is doing, and what the weather is like back home. I guess we'll have plenty of time to catch up and worry about that stuff when we all return to 'normal' lives. But for now, it's time for another margarita!

- chuck 3/15/02

Maverick - Ericson 39
Tony Johnson And Terry Shrode
Yankees In Oman
(San Francisco)

If, about a month ago, you had taken a pencil and drawn a line between the northernmost Maldives and Salalah, Oman, you would have had the location of a string of about 30 boats that were getting their brains beaten out. The beatings was being administered by the seas that had been created by several days of 25 to 35 knot winds. As if tight reaching in such conditions weren't bad enough, there were periodic squalls to 45 knots that lasted for several hours.

Maverick was one of the boats in the group. It would be hard to convey how unpleasant the motion was to someone not accustomed to being in car wrecks. Standing was impossible, and crawling was merely treacherous each time Maverick rolled her lee rail under. One boat in our group lost her backstay, another lost an upper mizzen shroud. Through a combination of luck and good seamanship, both boats kept their rigs aloft. Earlier - and unrelated to the weather conditions - we had lost the use of our engine because of a leak in the oil cooler. Terry Shrode, Master Shade Tree Fix-it Man, improvised a repair using bubblegum and rubber bands. We then emailed Theresa back home, and with her help, hope to have the proper replacement parts waiting when we arrive in Oman.

As I write this, I'm sitting under an indoor tent fabricated from garbage bags and tape - in case we get a splash. It's wet belowdecks, as we have a bad leak at the mast partners. The water ultimately collects on the cabin sole, where it has combined with the carpet to create a marsh type environment. We have to do our best to keep the water out, but given the hot and humid conditions, there is a festering ambience inside the boat.

Adding to the adventure is the presence of Iranian drift net fishing boats. This method of fishing enrages nature lovers worldwide, as it catches and kills everything in the path of the nets, which cover a wide area. As we have learned, it also catches cruising sailboats, which can't see the nets at night. Four sailboats have been caught so far, and in three of the cases crewmembers had to get into the raging sea to free the trapped boats. As you might imagine, this is extremely dangerous. It's getting dark, so we'll soon be running the fishing boat gauntlet again. But we're fetching our waypoint, so in the main we're not doing too badly.

Update: Yesterday we arrived at Salalah, Oman, and are currently rafted up to Stitches Explorer in Raysut. After the rough stuff in the early going on the way up from the Maldives, things mellowed out, and we had a comfortable beam reach for the last two days. We crossed the 58th meridian during the passage, which means we have sailed half way around the world from San Francisco. We're now officially on our way home - although we've basically been on our way home since the day we left. To get to this point, we have travelled 16,326 nautical miles. Of the 335 days that we've been gone, 135 - about 40% - have been spent underway.

The harbor here is crowded with about 25 yachts, which is causing the harbormaster some stress. It's a commercial and military port, so we cruisers really just get in the way. The Omani's have nevertheless always been friendly. We have to check in and out of a security gate and guardhouse, and get day passes to go to the nearby city of Salalah.

Yesterday, there was a cruiser's model boat regatta in the harbor. The only rule was that the hulls had to be constructed of no more than six beer cans. The Maverick crew immediately visited a distant bar, one of the few places in this Muslim country where one can be served alcohol. We consumed the necessary quantity of beer to meet our boat construction requirements, making sure to order the larger cans of Foster's to maximize our waterline of our design to be.

Ship's Naval Architect Terry Shrode and the Captain produced a trimaran, using four beer cans for the main hull and one beer can on each side for amas. Tongue depressors from the epoxy kit were used to connect the structure. Since the race was to be downwind, the main design issues were sail area, initial stability, and directional stability. We created two masts using more tongue depressors taped together with duct tape, and mounted these spars on the amas. We made a sail from spinnaker cloth in the repair kit, and hoisted the sail between the two masts. Our keels came from a paper plate and were attached with more duct tape. We partially filled the aft beer can to create a clever water ballast system, as our sea trials indicated that our trimaran's prodigious sail area tended to make the vessel pitchpole.

With our boat shook down, we dominated the first two races and were ahead in the third - when a very angry port captain demanded we quit. He claimed that we were creating a navigation hazard in the harbor! We nonetheless claimed our prize, with Mr. Shrode exalting. The Captain was a little more reserved, given the realization that none of our competitors had passed their 10th birthday. But hey, we won fair and square. If their parents didn't like it, they should get a life.

There has been some organizing of convoys to run the Yemeni and Somali coasts, where cruisers have been attacked by pirates. The threat here is a bit more serious than in the South China Sea or the Straits of Malacca. Cruisers who have given the problem the most thought feel the best idea is to have perhaps five boats of similar speed stay quite close together. If one is approached, the others are to converge, but probably not do anything confrontational.

We're afraid that all this careful planning may mean nothing, as there is not much help another boat can give, and indeed, it might increase one's chances of being the next victim. But as you might imagine, there are many different opinions on the subject. Terry, the Ship's Chief of Intelligence, and the Captain are weighing their defensive options. It seems there is some prudence in a convoy, and if we can get our engine fixed in time and match up with a group, we might join.

- tony and terry 3/15/02

Mahina Tiare - Hallberg-Rassy 46
John Neal & Amanda Swan-Neal
Panama Canal
(Friday Harbor, Washington)

Twenty months ago we transited the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Carribean/Atlantic on our way to Norway. On December 20, 2001, we returned and transited the Canal the other way. Latitude readers may be interested in the latest on the Canal and cruiser facilities in Panama.

We had a good experience with Tina McBride as our Canal agent last time, so we decided to use her services again. For $500, Tina clears you in and out of Panama and arranges your Canal transit. The use of an agent is not required, but since we had three sets of crew to clear in and out, and since we wanted to transit on a certain day because of our sail-training voyages, Tina's help proved invaluable. She scheduled the admeasurer to visit our boat in Colon at 0900 on our stated day of arrival - the only trouble being that we were 35 miles to the south at Portobello. So we had to leave Portobello at 0400 to keep our appointment.

As we rounded Cristobal Signal Station, we were surprised to see only nine yachts anchored in 'The Flats', which is the designated Colon anchorage for yachts. Alas, The Flats are a long and wet dinghy ride from the only dinghy dock in the area, which is at the friendly Panama Canal YC (507-441-5882, fax 507-441-7752, ). We were even more surprised to see empty slips at the club, where the dockmaster assigned us a slip. I then called the Canal's Cristobal Control on 12 and advised them of our location.

We'd barely gotten tied up when the admeasurer arrived. Within 30 minutes, we were checked in and given the tentative transit date - eight days ahead - that we had requested. The admeasurer told us that there were considerably fewer yachts in Panama than in previous years, but he didn't know why. (We later learned that the situation had changed dramatically by March 1, as all the club's slips were taken, many boats were anchored in The Flats, and there was a four-day and 55-boat backlog to transit the Canal.) Approximately 500 pleasure boats transit the Canal each year, with February through April being the busiest months.

When the yacht club office opened, we paid $207 for eight days of berthing - and were delighted to find the club had two new Internet access computers for cruisers. The facilities at the Panama Canal YC are modest: a bar that reminds us of the one in Star Wars, a restaurant where the average meal is still $5, two washing machines and dryers, trash disposal, showers and an immigration office. In addition, some Kuna women come every day, spreading their molas for sale out on the hallway floor. Tina joined us for lunch aboard, then took us on a whirlwind tour of immigration and port captain offices to complete our check in and purchase our cruising permit. We then visited Citibank to pay our Canal transit fees.

Last year we got a chuckle when Panamanians told us their country was gearing up for cruise ships and tourism - especially the Colon side, which has long been infamous for a high incidence of muggings. The Captain's Guide to Transiting the Panama Canal states, "Anywhere outside the gates of PCYC can be very dangerous. Thieves and pickpockets are a big problem."

This year we were delighted to see two cruise ships tied up to one of the new cruise terminals, and that Colon had dozens of new police on mountain bikes. The police were everywhere, even in the yacht club. The government is trying to clean up the worst parts of Colon, and when we went running each morning, we never encountered anything but smiles and waves from the people we passed. The taxi drivers based at the Panama Canal YC are knowledgeable about where to find stuff cruisers need, and helpful about explaining where yachties shouldn't go on their own. We found Carlos Solano (Cell: 697-8776, home 449-0889) to be a most helpful driver and good at explaining the history of the area. Carlos also brought us 10 tires for $30 - freshly wrapped in garbage bags - to use as fenders in the Canal. Once we completed our transit, we were able to sell them for the same price.

We celebrated a very quiet Christmas aboard Mahina Tiare at the yacht club, and then had a fun Christmas dinner with crews of four other cruising boats.

On the afternoon before were scheduled to transit, we checked in with Cristobal Signal Station, and they instantly replied that we were to be in The Flats at 0430 the next morning, ready to take a Pilot Advisor aboard. After dinner at the yacht club with our new crew, we anchored in The Flats and spent several hours tying five fenders and 10 plastic-wrapped tires to the lower lifelines, and preparing the four 150-ft lines that are required of any boat making a transit.

Victor, our Pilot Advisor, came aboard at 0445. Three hundred applicants had recently signed up for six openings to train as a tug captain and Canal pilot, and Victor had been one of the lucky ones selected. He had studied at the maritime academy in Mexico, where he had also learned to sail. The first thing he told us was that our request to transit side-tied to a Canal Commission tug had been approved, and that we needed to slowly motor behind a Greek tanker to the first set of locks.

It was starting to get light as we entered the first locks. The tug, tied to the Canal wall behind the ship, was ready to accept our lines. The first three up-locks went quickly and smoothly. We were not surprised by the initial turbulence that occurs when a tanker first engages its prop, as this was our second transit. Upon exiting the third lock, we entered the gorgeous tropical man-made Gatun Lake. Victor took us on the 'shortcut', and as we powered along at 7.8 knots through narrow banks, we became avid nature watchers. We spotted howler monkeys overhead, as the top of our mast nearly touched the trees, and searched the muddy shore for crocodiles. Then Victor, who had awakened at 0130 to start work, went to sleep on the settee in the main saloon. We were a little shocked, but continued to follow the tanker in front of us, and didn't need to wake him until we approached the Pedro Miguel Locks.

Upon exiting the Pedro Miguel Locks - which are almost all the way to the Pacific side - we could see the Pedro Miguel Boat Club (507-232-4509, fax 507-232-4165) was 'chocka' with cruising boats from the world over. Everybody was enjoying this quiet and friendly spot, just as we had 20 months earlier. Heather and Jim Hood, the new manager, are doing a great job for cruisers, who always enjoy the funky and friendly club.

Now that we were downlocking to get back down to sea level, we went in front of the tanker and were sidetied to a landing craft. This meant we didn't have to ease our lines out as the water level of the chamber was dropping. By 1400 we exited the final lock, and minutes later a pilot launch collected Victor, who was pleased the transit had gone so quickly. Our crew was stunned that we'd gone from the Atlantic/Caribbean to the Pacific so quickly. It was much easier and less expensive than going around South America.

As we motored beneath the Bridge of the America's and past the Balboa YC (507-228-5794), which had previously been one of the few places to moor on this side of the Canal. We were surprised to see many empty moorings and only a handful of visiting yachts using their facilities. The club still charges a $25 membership fee to be able to purchase fuel or to rent a mooring for $.50/foot/night. Just shoreside of the club is the new Panama Canal Country Inn Suites Hotel (, fax 507-236-9320) which we would recommend to anyone visiting the Canal. Had we known about it, we would have used it for our crews.

Fuerte Amador Marina - aka the Flamenco YC (507-314-0665, - is located at Flamenco Island, which is at the end of the four-mile breakwater from Balboa. It's another new and exciting development for cruisers. The master plan calls for a large self-contained resort and marina, with two hotels, duty-free shops, casinos, boutiques, restaurants, and a cruise ship pier. When we were there, the huge duty-free building had been finished but was unoccupied, and there was a row of buildings with a restaurant and some designer boutiques.

Construction in the marina area was progressing, although it appeared a little disorganized. Eventually, the marina will be an excellent R&R stop with good security - meaning that cruisers won't have to worry about their dinghies or boats while ashore. The boatyard should also prove popular for cruisers looking for a safe place to leave their boats on the hard while returning to the States. The 150-ton Travelift is already operational, as are two fuel docks capable of handling boats up to 150 feet, and 15 moorings. The marina floats, showers, and laundry facilities, are yet to come, however. Junior, the marina manager, does his best to accommodate passing yachties - despite his currently limited resources.

We were pleased to fuel up at $1.25/gallon, and get a wash down and mooring for $.30/foot/night. The moorings were mostly occupied by large sport fishing boats, and there were a dozen cruising yachts anchored outside - including Gregg and Cindy Robertson of the Hallberg-Rassy 42 Angel. They joined us for dinner at Mi Ranchita, a fun and inexpensive beachside restaurant a short walk down the road. Cindy had sailed with us on an interisland sail training expedition in Fiji, and both she and Gregg had taken one of our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminars. A year later Cindy spoke at our Seattle seminar, talking about downsizing from shore life to the cruising life. Two years out of Seattle, the couple are slowly working their way toward the Med. They return home annually where Gregg, an artist, paints, while Cindy catches up with family and friends.
Along the four-mile causeway to the marina - which was created with dirt taken from the Canal's Gaillard Cut, is a long park with palm trees and benches. It offers a stunning view of Panama City's skyline, and has become a happening place for Panamanians. We estimate that there were 1,000 people out picnicking, rollerblading and cycling at sunset. When we went out for our morning runs - 0630 to avoid the heat - there would be dozens of folks, young and old, walking, bicycling and running.
After a New Year's sail out to explore the tranquil Perlas Islands, we set out for Hilo, Hawaii. Favorable winds and currents meant that we sailed 4,741 miles in 29 days - including a stop at Cocos Island and a sail by Clipperton Atoll.

- john and amanda 3/15/02

Ariel - Islander 36
Jim Hill & Son
San Francisco To Vancouver
(San Francisco)

Last summer my son and I sailed - motored, actually - our Islander 36 from San Francisco to the Northwest. Our original goal had been Ketchikan, Alaska, but with so much to see and do along the way, we got no further than Vancouver. At the end of summer, we left the boat at Port Townsend. We'll continue north this summer.

Sailors headed north from San Francisco have three options: 1) Sail to Hawaii and from there to the Northwest, eliminating most of the windward work. 2) Sail a few hundred miles out, then head NNE to Cape Flattery. This route is actually plotted on the Pacific Pilot charts. Or 3) Hug the coast and harbor hop north. We chose the latter, with the deciding factor being unusually calm conditions outside the Gate on June 26.

I'll refrain from reciting the details about each harbor on the way north, as this can be found in Charlie's Charts. Besides, why should I detract from the delight you will experience when visiting a new harbor for the first time? But I do have some recommendations and thoughts about the voyage:

Radar and GPS are absolute essentials. You should also have the Coast Pilot, Charlie's Charts, and all the charts that Charlie recommends. You will encounter fog. I like to keep data, so I used two GPS units - one for recording our track, the other for speed, direction, distance to waypoint, time of sunset, and so forth. During each stop, I downloaded track data into my laptop using Garmin's PCX5 DOS program. (When in the heck is Garmin going to update this program for Windows?)

Each harbor we stopped at was different and delightful. The people were friendly and helpful, and in addition to plenty of good advice, some people even offered us the use of their cars! When travelling north, it's best to stay close to shore where the prevailing northwesterlies seem to be lighter. Unfortunately, this put us right in the middle of the crab pot area, of which there are plenty on each side of the 20-fathom line, particularly off the coasts of Oregon and Washington. We only got caught once.

I knew I wasn't in San Francisco anymore when I went ashore at Winchester Bay, Oregon. Noticing an espresso machine in a coffee shop, I asked for a cappucino - at which point the lovely young lady behind the counter picked up the phone to call someone for directions on how to make one. So I settled for a regular coffee.

We covered 950 miles from San Francisco to John Wayne Marina in Sequim, Washington, during which time we burned 235 gallons of diesel. I told you we motored there. The most fuel we used between refills was 31 gallons.

After a couple of weeks of doing family things in Sequim, we started our exploration of the San Juan and Gulf Islands, and of Puget Sound. What a glorious place to spend the summer on a boat!! It may not be ideal with a sailboat, however, for no matter what direction we were headed, the wind was always on the nose. We found that the weather forecasts were almost useless for detailed planning, as you must be ready for anything. When sailing in these waters, current charts are an essential. I suggest having a tide and current program in the computer, because the chart books can be difficult if you have to apply multiple corrections for your position.

Highlights of our expedition include the Ballard Locks into Lake Union on a weekend; the Tacoma Narrows where the tidal current only flows one direction on the east side of the stream; visiting Butchard Gardens by dinghy, especially on Saturday nights when there are fireworks; any anchorage on any island; and saving best for last, the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. The latter made us wish that fiberglass hadn't been invented. I shot several rolls of film, especially each afternoon during the parade of wooden boats.

If anyone would like to discuss such a trip north, I would be happy to answer questions. I will also welcome offers from crew this coming summer for between Port Townsend and Anchorage. I can be reached by .

- jim

Reflections - Esprit 37
Gene & Sheri Seybold
Wreck Bay, Galapagos Islands

After a wonderful three-week visit with family and friends back home, we returned to Panama with bags full of stuff from West Marine. Our plan was to spend a week or so installing all the new stuff, another week leisurely provisioning for the long trip to the Marquesas, then make a hop down to mainland Ecuador for a couple weeks of sightseeing before heading out to the Galapagos Islands. Right!

We returned to Panama pumped up with a renewed U.S. work ethic, and immediately got busy installing all the new stuff. This included a new backup autopilot, a new winch, new spinnaker halyards, a new bilge blower, and much more. After working 10 to 12 hours a day for the next three weeks, we had all the new stuff installed, and had also completed an incredible amount of 'deferred maintenance'. At the top of the deferred list was fixing all the known leaky ports, chainplates, and stanchion bases. After all, with the rainy season over, it was a good time to deal with such things. With every known leak in the boat stopped, it should give us plenty of opportunity to identify and start working on the unknown leaks.

Provisioning in Panama proved to be almost as much fun. Our intent was to provision for six months to avoid the outrageous prices in French Polynesia. It took at least six provisioning runs to accomplish the task, and we spent more money than I'm ready to admit. I think we have enough provisions for a year. Our waterline and boot stripe disappeared after the second large load, and continued dropping from there. With bags of stuff lying all over the place, moving around inside our boat is not as easy as it used to be.

With four weeks having flown by, it became clear that our proposed trip to mainland Ecuador was out of the question, and that we'd have to sail directly to the Galapagos from Panama. After leaving Panama City, we stopped at the Las Perlas Islands for a day's rest and to finish last minute boat projects, then headed out on the 875-mile trip to the Galapagos.

We planned our departure to catch the falling tide coming out of the Bay of Panama - where the range is over 20 feet. Leaving in the early morning, we had a comfortable 10 knots of wind coming from the north, so we set the chute and headed off to the fabled Galapagos Islands. Our pleasant sailing was short lived, however, for after three hours the wind died and the ocean surface became like a mountain lake at sunrise. With plenty of fuel aboard, we fired up Miss Yanmar and began motoring. The amazing part was discovering that we had an unbelievably favorable - for once! - current pushing us along. The current rarely dropped below one knot and quite often exceeded two knots, and stayed with us for the entire 875-mile trip! We felt that we were being repaid for all the adverse current that we had had to deal with in the past.

On the third morning, the winds filled back in from the southeast at about eight knots, so we hoisted the chute again. For the next 48 hours, we had some of our fastest and most comfortable sailing to date. Thanks to the current, we set a new 24-hour run, covering 179 miles. That's not bad for an extremely overloaded 37-footer.

As we got closer to the islands, we realized we had a good chance of getting into the anchorage before sunset on day six. The winds held up until we were about 25 miles from our destination, but the current kept on. We completed the 875-mile passage in five days, 11 hours. We knew we had made a good crossing, but didn't realize how good it was until we started talking with other boats. Most took nine days to make the same passage, and some took 14 days! The stories they told of having wind and current on the nose the entire way made us wonder if we were talking about the same ocean. In any event, it seems that we now hold the unofficial record for this passage.

Arriving in Wreck Bay was quite a surprise. When we sailed to Cocos Island, Costa Roca, we had arrived at a place that was basically uninhabited. But Wreck Bay was totally different. It's a regular town, with bakeries, restaurants, stores, bars, and even a disco. There were also boobies all over the place. I'm not talking about the blue-footed ones, but the ones on the women on the French boats. Does anyone know if they wear clothes in France? By the way, there were some blue-footed boobies around also.

Shortly after setting anchor, other cruisers warned us against leaving our dinghy in the water overnight. They told us that it would be confiscated and that we'd have a hard time getting it back - from the sea lions. These guys are all over the Galapagos, commandeer dinghies, and get testy if you try to reclaim yours.

The weather here is absolutely beautiful, and the water is that wonderful turquoise blue you dream about. The water temperature is about 82° - the same temperature as the wonderful current that pushed us here.

The various radio nets on the west coast have way too much discussion as to how long cruisers can stay in the Galapagos. According to various sources on the nets, the maximum allowable stay was anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 years. When we checked in, we were given 20 days here on San Cristobal, but told that since we came from Panama, we can't visit any of the other islands. Other cruisers told us that the port captain tells everyone the same thing, but nobody pays any attention to him. It seems the port captains - which we cruisers know think of themselves as God - have a different set of rules on every island. We hope to go to Academy Bay on Isla Santa Cruz, home of the Darwin Center. Unfortunately, it seems if you go there you must hire an agent to check in, and the fees can run upwards of $200 for a three-day stay. We might have to skip that one. But over at Isla Isabel, the port captain has decided that cruisers are good for the economy - so he doesn't charge any fees at all. In fact, he allows cruisers to check in by radio and stay for as long as they like. He must have been an economics major. In any event, we'll be sure to stop at that island before heading on.

We expect to be here in the Galapagos for two to three weeks before heading off on the 3,055-mile trip to the Marquesas Islands. We plan to do some diving here, as it seems they have lots of hammerhead sharks. We're also very interested in the other wildlife. Although we have been to some very interesting places over the past two years, the Galapagos seems to be the most exciting, in part because very few other people have the opportunity to come this way. In any event, it's sure good to be out cruising again.

We almost forgot about another big event of the trip - crossing the equator. We first crossed at about 0100, and I was off watch, so I missed the GPS showing all zeros for the latitude. Upon awakening and seeing the tiny 'S' next to the latitude, I went to the head and flushed it to confirm that we were indeed in the southern hemisphere. The water in the bowl was supposed to spin in the other direction, but didn't! Concerned that my GPS might be malfunctioning, I filled the sink with water - and lo and behold, the water circulated in the opposite direction before going down the drain. Relieved to know that my GPS was working correctly, I did some research on the head and learned that it had been designed to assist the laws of physics, and induces its own spin on the water. Obviously, I have a 'northern hemisphere toilet'.

- gene & sheri 2/15/02

Cruise Notes:

"We had a great 'puddle jump' from Mexico to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas," reports Clark Straw of the Mason 54 Final Straw, "as we had eight to 16 knots of wind and made the crossing in just under 17 days. We've since been joined here at Taahuku Bay, Atuona, by fellow Puddle Jumpers Keith and Susan Levy aboard the Catalina 47 C'est La Vie, Jan and Signe aboard the Deerfoot 64 Raven, and Pacific Bliss. But we have some bad news also, as two nights ago the wonderful Australian family that sailed here from La Paz lost their boat Veritas. They and their radar were blinded by a heavy squall as they arrived at Hiva Oa, got disoriented, and ended up on the rocks. A four-foot by six-foot hole in the hull meant she had to be abandoned. The couple and their 10 and 12-year old daughters made it safely to a spot on shore, but weren't rescued for another six hours. It's not that the family weren't experienced sailors, as they'd already circumnavigated most of the Pacific. The international cruising community as well as the locals in the Marquesas have rallied to their aid. In fact, we just spent the day at the home of a Dutch artist who was auctioning off everything that was salvaged from the boat. The unfortunate Aussie family was most grateful. Anyway, we're glad to be here, and are now enjoying the good life in the Marquesas. By the way, somebody brought down an April Latitude, so we're all enjoying the Puddle Jump feature and photos from the Banderas Bay Regatta."

That you had such light winds on your Puddle Jump is interesting, as it would be consistent with the development of El Niño conditions.

Cruisers who have to return to California from Mexico are always trying to figure out a good option to the 'Baja Bash'. Rich Mullinax of the Martinez-based Beneteau Oceanis 440 Still Searching, decided to try the 'clipper ship route', which means sailing far out into the Pacific, then flopping back to lay some part of California in one tack. "I made it in 12 days from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego and had a great trip," Rich reports. We'll have details in a future issue.

"The port captain's office in San Blas has sure managed to fix themselves," report Lynn Stephens and her friend Rick aboard the Islander Freeport 36 Wild Flowers at Matenchen Bay, Mexico. "We're the only boat here in what had always been a popular bay with cruisers. But nobody's stopping here any more because the port captain seems to be working a scam by requiring everyone to use the ship's agent to check-in. We arrived at the start of a holiday weekend, haven't checked in, and won't turn the radio on. Yesterday, we went to the beach and caught a taxi to the pangas that take you on a trip through the extensive mangroves. Although the pangas are really souped up and noisy, I still managed to get some beautiful photos of crocodiles, birds, turtles, fish - and farm animals in nearby fields. We also went to the crocodile farm at the head of one estuary, and the swimming hole at the head of another. The estuaries are fed by an artesian well, so the water is very clear. They have a great place for lunch, and while we were enjoying some shrimp ceviche and a beer, the granddaddy of all crocodiles - over 12 feet long - lazily swam up to the nearby steps! Obviously, he is well fed here - perhaps the toes of tourists - on a regular basis. As he came over, the swimmers were advised to get out of the water. There is a fence around the area, but it's down in one spot and has a gaping hole in another. Later we caught the bus into San Blas, where we saw many beautiful things to buy and people to see, as it was market day. After two months in Puerto Vallarta, I felt like I was actually back in Mexico again. Many families are here for the holiday, and there is a festive atmosphere. What a shame that cruisers don't stop in the bay and come to San Blas any more. We wouldn't have stopped if I hadn't wanted to take the mangrove trip, and after we weigh anchor this morning, we won't be coming back by boat again. P.S.: Naturally, there were no-see-ums, but we got out the Skin So Soft and stayed inside for the evening."

"We're currently at Simpson Bay Marina, Sint Maarten, and are getting some work done before we go north for the summer," report Bob and Kristin Beltrano of the Swan 53 Nai'a. We don't know where to say the couple are from, because he's a 767 pilot based out of Miami and she drives the new 777 out of New York. "Where in the Leeward Islands would you keep a boat for hurricane season?" they ask. "We don't want to go back to Trinidad - ever - or Grenada, and may not be able to put the time together to take the boat north to Newport, Rhode Island, as we originally planned. We're considering on the hard in Puerto Rico or Anse Marcel here on the French side of St. Martin. But nothing really sticks out, so we're wondering if you have an opinion. By the way, we had our teak decks done in Grenada. They came out great, but at quite a cost - it's a long story for anyone who wants teak decks - or anything else done in the Caribbean. The decks are hot - both to walk on and look at!"

We're a little out of touch with the Caribbean, but we suggested that the Beltranos think about Virgin Gorda Marina at Spanish-town in the British Virgins, where Big O rode out hurricane Hugo on the hard, or Jolly Harbor, Antigua. The one nice thing about it being an El Niño year is that it's likely there will be fewer hurricanes in the Caribbean this summer. In any event, the Beltranos replied to our advice as follows:

"We hadn't looked at the boatyard at Spanishtown, but we remember that a friend with a brand new Swan 44 kept his boat there year round, so we'll check it out. We're also told that Puerto Del Rey has large marina and boatyard in Puerto Rico. We spent a month at Jolly Harbor, Antigua, last season, and thought the people were nice. You asked about things in Sint Maarten/St. Martin. They are different here, yet the same - if you know what we mean. We're having a bunch of boat work done here, where most of the skilled labor is European and the quality rather high. We consider the work here to be as good, and in some cases better, than in Florida - and certainly better than anywhere else in the Caribbean. One thing that surprised us was the cost of parts. Being a Euro boat, we have found that many of our replacement parts are much cheaper than in the States. Our B&G displays, which are made in England, retail for $1,200 in the States, but just $700 US here. And our Mastervolt stuff was nearly 33% less expensive here. We did spend a week in nearby St. Barts - dinner ashore every night, of course - and had a great time. The anchorage was a little crowded and rolly. We came here from Barbuda, however, which was really great. There were only two boats near us for a week along the 11-mile beach, where the turquoise water was so clear. It was all the Caribbean sailing brochures promised. So we didn't enjoy St. Barts as much as if we'd come from somewhere else. We'll be back in Mexico and the Bay Area sometime next year. Or maybe the year after - you know how it goes."

"We had a great trip from Z-town to Academy Bay in the Galapagos, with John Allen and Clare Koznek aboard as crew," report Chuck Fisher and Karen Jacobsen (in absentia) of the Portland-based Cascade 36 Ursa. "Our crew for the next leg to the Marquesas will be Dave and Marili Reilly. Marili is the daughter of Tom Green, one of the founders of Yacht Constructors, which has built the Cascade 27, 29, 36, and 42. Our Monitor windvane and Spectra watermaker have been invaluable. Cruiser commerce and the water taxi situation are well organized here in the islands, and the Ecuadorians have been fabulously friendly."

"Sorry I missed all my friends at the Banderas Bay Regatta," writes Mike Miller of the Ventura-based Vanguard 33 Uhuru, "but the surfing further south was too good to leave. I'm about to head north from Tenacatita Bay, where the owners of the cruising catamarans Maluhia, a Catana 42; Èlan, a Morrelli & Melvin 46; Bright Wing, a Catana 43; and Crazy Cat, a Corsair 36, rafted-up for a 'boat show' and lunch during Semana Santa. This was great for me, as I'm looking to buy a cat - probably a used Catana 42 - in the next 18 months, with an eye toward taking off on my ultimate cruise in another seven years. Meanwhile, I'm slowly working my way up to the Sea of Cortez for another season, after which I have a new job waiting for me in Ventura."

When we first ran the above item in 'Lectronic, we misidentified the cat on the far left. It's not Chuck and Ellie Longenecker's Sausalito-based Cat Ballou, but rather the Wegesand family's sistership Maluhia. The Aiea-based family were planning on going to the Caribbean this summer, but son Kanoa decided he'd rather attend high school in Puerto Vallarta.

"It's 0530, and the first faint colors of the rising sun are cresting the mountains behind Huatulco here in southern Mexico," report the Winship family aboard the Alameda-based Crowther 33 Chewbacca, "so the teeth-jarring disco music that had been blaring from the beach all night has finally stopped. It's time to enjoy a first cup of coffee before the jet skis swarm around and the 'banana boats' begin pulling shrieking tourists on a weaving course through the anchorage. For our safety, the port captain finally ruled that the jet skis and pangas pulling inflatable toys must clear anchored yachts by at least six feet! Of the nine cruising boats at anchor, only one has actually been hit by a jet ski, the rest of us have only been sprayed or had our anchor bridles nicked. It all seems in good fun, as we get lots of friendly smiles and waves from the Mexican operators, but they don't seem to realize the wakes they leave behind. I guess this is my purgatory for having once owned a jet ski of my own.

"Huatulco isn't the quaint village that John Raines wrote about," the Winships continue, "but rather a Fonatur 'dream resort' that was created by displacing the local population and building a town attractive enough for cruise ship passengers. Oh yes, the pile-driving going on during the day is for the cruise ship pier that will stretch out into the bay - and eliminate most of the anchoring in this small but pretty harbor. As a jumping off port for crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Huatulco offers a well-protected bay in which to wait out high winds. The option of leaving Huatulco to anchor at a nearby bay is limited by the fact they are generally untenable during storm surge, and because they are mostly overrun by tour boat operations. Huatulco is a great meeting place for the cruisers to talk strategies and weather before crossing the Tehuantepec, which we'll do today - after I take another Prozac.

"We began thinking our report on Huatulco was overly harsh," the Winships wrote in a follow up message, "so after a week of cooling off, we spoke with other cruisers who had stopped there. We found that our opinion had been on the milder side! Fortunately, we've moved on down to Puerto Quetzel, Guatemala, where we have spent two weeks enjoying this beautiful and friendly country. In a couple of days we head off for El Salvador."

"After the events of September 11, we cruisers in Thailand and other places in southern Asia were warned against travelling up the Red Sea to the Med, as it meant we would have to run the gauntlet of Muslim countries," writes Tony Johnson of the Richmond-based Ericson 39 Maverick, which is currently in Egypt. "But so far no cruisers have had trouble with pirates, and nobody has had unpleasant encounters with Muslims - except for the normal stuff with touts around the Pyramids. And that stuff didn't have anything to do with politics. Two cruising boats were lost coming up the Red Sea, and one was hit by lightning - but none were American boats. I'm working on getting the details. There is still time for events to contradict the above generalizations, but so far, so good."

"If you read Charlie's Charts or Jack Williams' Baja Boater's Guide, you would think that it's either unwise or impossible to cross the bar at Bahia San Quintin, Baja, and then navigate the upper bay all the way to the Old Mill," reports Robert Montgomery of the Fales 38 Explorer Corrie Doon. "But during my three months in Ensenada, where I finished preparations for my extended cruise - and avoided California state taxes - I heard that it was possible at high tide. When we finally got there, my crew of Dave Gardner and Jim Thyfault were the ones responsible for me giving it a try - and for surprising the locals by dropping our hook in this gorgeous upper bay. I nearly turned back as a result of the slow and nerve-wracking search for the channel - especially after receiving a distress call from a stranded sailor wanting to know when it would be high tide again. If other sailors do locate that channel and make it to the Old Mill, they will be treated to great hospitality from Tony, the son of the owner of Don Eddie's motel, restaurant, bar and sport fishing center. Lots of cruisers have tried to convince me that there's nothing worth seeing between Ensenada and Mag Bay. Horse manure! My crew and I are going to stop at as many of the anchorages as we can on our way to La Paz, as the natural beauty and tranquility make it worth the effort. I admit that a good marina can be a joy for a short time, but give me the anchorages - and the challenge of trying to take a boat with five feet of draft up a channel that shoals to six feet in places. Besides, there's not many port captains around the anchorages."

You're right, there's lot of great stuff between Ensenada and Mag Bay. Especially if you carry a couple of surfboards on your boat.

"After a number of months on mainland Mexico, three days ago I arrived at Los Frailes on the Baja side - which I consider to be the 'real' Mexico," advises Adam Sadeg of the Morgan 38 Blarney3. "Frailes means 'friars', and if you squint hard at the nearby rocks after drinking 15 tequilas, you can 'see' a group of friars. Anyway, it took me two days of sailing from Isla Isabella to get here, but I'm glad to be here. Two days later, I headed north in the direction of La Paz, passing Buena Vista and Bahia de Palmas, before anchoring at Bahia de los Muertos - Bay of the Dead. The name has nothing to do with dead people; 'dead man' is the style of anchor that was used to secure barges here years ago. Yesterday I made the long trip over the top and into La Paz. The fishing was no better, but I did see a giant manta ray basking on the surface. A big whale was doing the same thing, just staying in the same spot blowing his spout. I did hook six skipjack, which are larger and less edible than the bonita I'd caught before."

"In the March issue, you mentioned sailing Profligate by Tamarindo Cove on the south shore of Tenacatita Bay, and asked if anyone knew what the bottom was like," write Brent and Susan Lowe from northern Panama aboard the Royal Passport 47 Akauahelo. "During our two years cruising Mexico, we anchored off Tamarindo - 19°15.732 N, 104°48.177 W - several times and dinked around with our handheld depthsounder to check the bottom for hazards. The only ones we found were off to port near the obvious rocks as you enter the anchorage. We favored the starboard shore when we entered the cove, then headed directly toward the resort's sport shack and small pier. The bottom has excellent holding in sand 25 feet down. We think Tamarindo is one of the more beautiful anchorages along the Mexican coast, but it should only be used during southerly weather. When those southerly spring swells make the main anchorage in Tenacatita a surfers' paradise, Tamarindo is usually calm and comfortable. The resort itself is small, exclusive, and expensive - but they do welcome cruisers to visit their restaurant. We often wondered why so few cruisers stopped at Tamarindo. We guess they figured if it wasn't on the guidebook, they shouldn't stop. As for anchoring off La Manzanilla - also in Tenacatita Bay - we wouldn't do it and leave our boat unattended. The bottom is gravel, and several boats have dragged in the afternoon winds."

"It's 0400, and I'm sending this from the Peterson 34 Surfer Girl half way to the Marquesas," reports Ali, formerly of the 26-ft Blue Dragon. "I'm sailing with friend Rob Jones now, and thought I'd say hello and give a thumbs up for this little GSC 100 pocket satellite emailer. It works like a champ. We're sailing with twin headsails and seeking the trades, waltzing downwind."

"We recently had engine trouble that was wonderfully taken care of by a mechanic in Mazatlan," report Roy and Darlene Rutland of the Galveston-based Hampton 43 pilothouse cutter Scrimshaw. "On a Tuesday morning, Claus Petzke of Mazatlan Yacht Services introduced us to diesel mechanic Victor Gamboa, whom we took to our boat on the hook in Mazatlan's old harbor. Within 15 minutes, Gamboa had correctly diagnosed the problem with our Perkins as a malfunctioning injector fuel pump. He removed the injector pump and the four injectors, and took them to his shop. A short time later, he returned to show us the broken shaft inside the pump. He told us not to worry, as he'd already located replacement parts that could be shipped overnight from Mexico City. Early Thursday afternoon, Victor returned to our boat with the repaired fuel injector pump and four rebuilt injectors. In a very short time he had our diesel running perfectly again. Considering the difficulty one sometimes has locating replacement parts in Mexico, we thought the 48-hour start-to-finish repair was a miracle. In addition to being a gifted mechanic, Gamboa is a great guy who charges reasonable rates. We found this to be a refreshing change from the experience we had in Mazatlan last year, when we hired what we believe were incompetent and mean-spirited gringo 'experts', who did more harm than good to our boat. We finally did the repair ourselves - under the direction of some talented fellow cruisers who were good enough to donate their time and expertise. Gamboa's business is called Servicio Diesel y Refacciones, S.A. de C.V., and is located in Bonfil Industrial Park in front of the railroad station. His telephone number is 82.80.87."

"I thought your readers might be interested in the latest news from Venezuela and Trinidad," writes R.W. Catlette, former rail meat from the Benicia YC, and currently the captain of the Brazilian flagged Highlander Rio, which is enroute to Martinique and the Med. "First Venezuela. In April, several boats from Trinidad went over to Venezuela with the intent of going up the Orinoco and Macarero Rivers - and to buy inexpensive Venezuelan diesel. The fuel turned out not to be so inexpensive, as they were charged $90 per boat for clearing - which is nearly double what it costs in Trinidad, even if there are overtime charges. What's more, they were robbed at gunpoint with a shot fired, apparently while returning from dinner in town. Later that night, a man swam out to try to steal a dinghy, but they chased him away. At this point, a number of the skippers in the group became discouraged and headed back to Trinidad. The rest of the boats were warned not to go more than 60 miles up the Macereo, because it's all jungle and there is no police to control the 'river rats' - which is what the bandits are called. Nonetheless, the boats that continued upriver had a good time and no untoward incidents.

"Here in Chaguaramus," Catlette continues, "there were two dinghy thefts within a few days this April. One was a locked and cabled dinghy stolen from in front of Powerboats Ltd at about 11 p.m. The other dinghy taken was taken from the Crews Inn dinghy dock - which is more surprising, because they have high profile security - at 9 p.m. by two locals. It was unlocked, as are a lot of dinghies at Crews Inn. The sad part for me is that I was in charge of the dinghy at the time, and was therefore responsible. Because of my bad judgement and carelessness, I offered the owner $4,000 in compensation, to be deducted from my upcoming paychecks. We then went out and replaced the dinghy and outboard. When it finally came time for me to get paid for the trip up from Brazil, I told the owner to deduct a portion so I could start paying off the stolen dinghy. He refused. 'You owe me nothing,' he said. 'What you have told me now is more important.' According to the Boca, the local paper, another dinghy was stolen from Crews Inn. Some guys robbed a bank, then hijacked a dinghy to flee to a waiting car at Hummingbird Marina. Anyway, I'm off to celebrate my owner's generosity with a rhum. But I'm walking to the bar rather than taking the dinghy."

"It was nice to see the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca aboard Profligate at Yelapa a few days before the Banderas Bay Regatta, and we were excited that you might publish one of the photos you took of us in passing," write Gary Liddy and Linda Jackson of the South Beach YC (San Francisco) based Shock 34 PC Wild Wild West. "I was thrilled to see the photo you took of us in a March 'Lectronic Latitude - but imagine my dismay to find the text was not only about Yelapa, but also about women who wear mini skirts in New York during the winter getting fat thighs! I am a dedicated distance runner, and my thighs are anything but fat! We hope you'll fulfill your promise to publish our photo in the mag. We're currently in Mazatlan on our way to La Paz."

Our sincere apologies, as the photo was meant to depict a cruising boat at Yelapa and nothing more. And trust us, when you sailed in as we sailed out, you looked terrific in your two-piece suit. 'Who is the babe?' we wondered. Indeed, the photograph on the previous page doesn't begin to do you justice, because we were hoisting the main on our way out and didn't have the time or mobility to compose a flattering shot, nor did we have the long lens available for getting a close up. So the next time we cross paths, we promise to shoot a proper set of shots of you to document the many benefits of maintaining a good exercise program while cruising.

"Hey, you've got our friends confused as to where we are and where we are going," write Mike and Gail Cannady of the Longview, Washington, based Cal 34 Wild Rover. "As of April 2002, we were in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, which is 50 miles south of Cancun on the east coast, not the west coast. We're headed north to the East Coast of the U.S., and then will return to the Caribbean after hurricane season. By the way, the enclosed photo is of our "non-robust" Cal 34 doing 8.5 knots in the Caribbean - helped with two knots of current off Cozumel."

"There's a bunch of cruising boats here at Isla Isabella heading north," reports Blair Grinols of the 46-ft catamaran Capricorn Cat, "including John Haste and a friend on the Perry 52 cat Little Wing, Herm and Nancy on Sea Tern, and six other boats. On the way here yesterday, my crew Bernard and I caught five fish. The only one we kept was a sierra. When I stuck my fingers through his gills, he started fighting so hard that my fingers went way in, and I got cuts on three of them! But we all had dinner on Little Wing. This morning a fisherman came by and sold us a dozen lobster for 25 pesos each. So Sea Tern, Loncia and us will be dining again on Little Wing. Last Friday, we had six catamarans parked at Punta de Mita: Out of Africa, Bright Wing, Crazy Kid, Maluhia, Little Wing, and Capricorn Cat. There are more cruising cats out here all the time."

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