May, 2004

With reports from Idle Queen nearing a second circumnavigation; from Maude I. Jones on nearing the end of a near 11-year circumnavigation; from Breila on moving on from Mexico after three seasons; from Geja, on late season adventures in the Med; from Sisiutl on the Northwest to Mexico to Polynesia to Hawaii; from Sanderling on the hard battle to get from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean; and lots of Cruise Notes.

Idle Queen - Dreadnought 32
Harry Heikel
California To Costa Rica
(Chesapeake Bay)

[Many Latitude readers will recall that the amazing 88-year-old Heikel, who is closing in on completing his second circumnavigation, was the subject of a feature article in the December 2003 edition.]

My passage south this last winter and spring proved to be a most disconcerting affair compared to the time 22 years earlier when Faido was with me. The December winds initially pushed IQ along at speed - 903 miles in nine days - but south of Cabo San Lucas the winds stalled and adverse currents took over. From then on I travelled slowly, motoring just three hours a day because I don't have an autopilot and didn't want to be sitting in the sun and steering for longer than that.

My plan had been to skip Mexico altogether, but as I approached the Gulf of Tehuantepec well south of Acapulco, water and steam started spurting from a ruptured water jacket gasket, putting an end to my motoring. I sailed as best I could back toward Acapulco, but was unable to make it into the harbor itself. In fact, as I reached my point of closest approach, a midday squall drove me back from the narrow entrance. Unable to raise the port captain or a marina manager on VHF, the sails flapped as I lay down below pondering my options. A couple of toots brought me up on deck. A woman aboard the sleek, modern maxi motoryacht My Pastime shouted, "Are you all right?"

I explained my situation to Alan and Marla Palash, who were headed for Costa Rica and hadn't planned on stopping in Acapulco. They contacted the Mexican Navy, and arranged for me to be towed in from nine miles out. But then the Palashes decided to tow me. Two hours later, at 8 p.m., I was anchored in 70 feet of water off the Acapulco YC. The Palashes, to whom I am greatly indebted for coming along at just the right time, then turned around and headed back out to sea.

While the water jacket gasket was being replaced, Faith, my younger daughter, arrived to do all the heavy-lifting in restocking the boat. She agrees with me that Acapulco, particularly at night, is one of the most beautiful cities we've ever seen.

The winds came up marginally after I left Acapulco, then returned full of spite in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I was held up for a week in Huatulco by a gale in the gulf. South of the gulf, the light winds were punctuated now and again by Papagayos - which aren't as strong as Tehuantepecker's - all the way down to Costa Rica.

On the way to Costa Rica, I pulled in at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. This is not a recommended stop, as it's inchoate and expensive. The poorly designed marina is near the town of San Jose, a slovenly place hardly meeting standards of a Middle Eastern city.

I finally anchored at Costa Rica's Bahia Portrero, 2,400 miles and 90 sailing days out of San Diego. I arrived to find that Flamingo Marina, my intended destination in Costa Rica, had been declared illegal on environmental grounds - and had officially been closed! Nonetheless, it somehow continues to operate, probably because it provides so many jobs to locals, who take tourists from the two nearby luxury hotels on cruises and sportfishing trips. In any event, the friendly marina has welcomed me, and I am now well-established.

The frustration of my slow passage - I averaged just over one knot - had its compensations. The sunsets along the Central American coast were the most spectacular I have ever seen. Some were blood red, but all the colors from yellow to mauve and beyond were there. And they were bright, not pastels. Because of the slow speed, the sea life was more apparent to me. On some calm nights the sea was brilliantly illuminated by the bright white flashes of darting fish - an underwater Fourth of July display! On four occasions large turtles crossed my path. And I watched sharks and mahi-mahi chase off schools of small fish. Two large whales passed me close aboard on their way south, and a smaller whale swam back and forth under my boat several times. Athletic dolphins frequently showed off their jumping ability.

Brown, red-footed, and masked boobies were in plentiful - and aggravating - supply. A rare least petrel spent one foggy night in my cockpit. I also entertained Forester's terns and red-necked phalaropes.

The hills of Guanacaste are a lovely brown, with medium-sized deciduous trees covering the slopes more sparsely than they do the lowlands. In a few weeks the rains will come and the hills will suddenly turn green. I will remain in Costa Rica for my allotted six months, working on the boat, welcoming interruptions, and exploring the countryside.

- harry 4/15/04

Maude I. Jones - Finch 46
Rob & Mary Messenger
Most Of The Way Around
(Sacramento & Houston)

[Part One of this story appeared in the April Changes.]

The Messengers started their second cruise in January of '94, just three days after - and not far from the epicenter of - the Northridge earthquake in Southern California. They messed around the Southland, cruised up to San Francisco, and had a blast fooling around in the Delta - not far from Mary's parents' home in Sacramento. "We loved the Delta."

A few months later, they became one of the 30-some pioneering boats to sail in the first ever Baja Ha-Ha. Following that, they kicked around the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Central America and Panama, not wanting to get too far away from Costa Rica until they received final payment for the small resort they'd just sold. As you can imagine, they had plenty of great adventures - including towing a guy's 35-ft sportfishing boat from Costa Rica to Panama.

It was also here they had some health issues. While in Costa Rica, Mary got leishmaniasis, which is a parasitic disease carried by sand fleas, but only in certain parts of Costa Rica, Egypt, and India. As a result of being misdiagnosed twice, she had to spend 3.5 weeks in Colon, Panama - "the colon of the world" - getting antimony injections. Because the serum is so thick, each shot takes 30 minutes. "It wasn't the best place to receive health care," sighs Mary, "as the cab driver who took me to the clinic carried a 9mm Glock." Interestingly enough, the health system of impoverished Panama picked up the entire bill, which came to about $2,000.

While in Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side of Panama, Rob got a mild case of the same stuff on his finger. And here's where the story gets a little funny. Rob told us that Mary had a relapse, so while on their way from Panama to the Marquesas, he had to give her a very painful intramuscular shot every day for 15 days. Mary insisted that it was she who had to give Rob the painful shots for 15 days. They both agree that Costa Rica gave them the serum for free.

The couple spent the next five or six years in the South Pacific, with over two years in both New Zealand, and Australia and Tasmania. The couple is most proud of their 1,400-mile passage - "with our lead mine" - from Tonga to New Zealand in 7.5 days. The wind was just aft of the beam the entire way at 35 to 55 knots, and they had to enter the Bay of Islands at night - not a very pleasant prospect - with the wind just below hurricane force.

Rob and Mary spent '96-'99 in New Zealand - along with a surprising number of other Ha-Ha 1 vets. They loved it. However, they won't tell us about their favorite spots because they don't want them to become overcrowded, but we can say they're at the southern part of the South Island where most cruisers don't go. "Yes, it's cold down there," admits Rob, "but we had a diesel heater and had installed an enclosed dodger. We were warm as hell. And the fishing and seafood were spectacular!" They almost drooled when they spoke of all the green mussels and the huge scallops covering the ocean floor waiting to be taken."

They then spent over two years in Australia and Tasmania, the latter being a particular favorite. "It's so fun down there," says Mary, "and the people treat you so well. If only people in the tropics were as nice. And other than right after the Sydney to Hobart Race, there are hardly any boats there."

After enjoying the Millenium fireworks in Sydney, the couple took off on a 2,000+ mile trip across the bottom of the Australian continent. "Not many cruisers do it," says Rob, "so the yacht clubs in the Australian Bight are very generous with free berthing. And when we got to the big city of Perth on the west coast of Australia, we were given a free berth for an entire month."

Doing the Bight wasn't the easiest trip, as the weather was often rough and the anchorages weren't always as well protected as they'd been lead to believe. "Once we had to flee an anchorage poorly protected by a sandbar, forcing us to go out into close together 20-ft seas. It was the first time our autopilot couldn't cope, and we had to handsteer for 14 hours."

Their 1,200-mile trip from Fremantle to Cocos-Keeling took 11 days and was one of their most unpleasant ever. They found Cocos-Keeling to be about as strange as it was unusual. All the Aussies live on one island, all the Muslims are on another island, and all the yachties anchor off a third island. "Plus it was unusual to see these 300-lb Muslim women get on Honda quads for a 100-yard ride to the store to buy food." The place was full of Iranians, Iraqis, Bosnians - people coming, or being smuggled, from many of the troubled spots of the world."

Their next stops were Thailand followed by the Chagos Archipelago. The latter was "absolute Nirvana," and uninhabited because the residents of the British Overseas Territory were forced to leave in order to accommodate the creation of a giant U.S. military base at Diego Garcia, a short distance to the south.

"The fishing was incredible," remembers Rob, "with giant barracuda and red snapper everywhere. It was no problem catching 25 coral trout at a time, or four or five bonehead tuna. Some of the cruisers didn't know how to fish, so I set them up with a hook, line and sinker - and they were catching fish before their lines could get to the bottom."

Rob and Mary were at the extremely remote Chagos with about seven other boats when 9/11 happened. "It was a most eerie feeling listening to the BBC and VOA report on the terrorist attacks, and then have to try to explain it to boats just arriving." Rob could barely contain himself when the patriarch of an Italian anarchist family told him that Americans "deserved" the attacks. Two months later, Rob saved the anarchist's new dinghy and outboard from floating away after his 'drunk knot' failed.

Although the times were strange because of the attacks, Rob and Mary still enjoyed the Chagos. Some of the oddest sights were when British Commandos - outfitted in flak jackets, with camo grease on their faces, and armed with automatic weapons - came roaring up in inflatables to collect the $1/day cruising fee. When Afghanistan was attacked, Rob and Mary could see the planes taking off from Diego Garcia for the 2,000-mile run due north. "We even talked to the Aussie pilots in the P3 Orions over the VHF," says Rob. "They'd go out with four engines running and come back much lighter, with just two engines on and the props feathered.

[Next month: Nearly two years on the East Coast of Africa.]

-latitude 3/15/04

Breila - Contessa 38
Michael & Catherine Whitby
Finally Leaving Mexico
(Vancouver, British Colombia)

After three enjoyable seasons, we have finally broken out of Mexico. We started by heading to Huatulco to wait for a window to cross the potentially dangerous Gulf of Tehuantepec. We recommend that southbound cruisers be sure to stop at the new Marina Chahue in Huatulco, as it's a great place to leave one's boat for a few days in order to go inland and visit the beautiful colonial city of Oaxaca. The marina is only 15 months old and has great concrete docks, power, and potable water. It's ably managed by Enrique Laclette, who goes out of his way to make his guests feel as comfortable as possible.

Following a false start caused by an errant NOAA weather report of high winds in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, we, in company with Indra, headed straight across the gulf. Aided by an almost two-knot current for more than half the distance across the gulf, we completed our passage to El Salvador in 3.5 days. We made good time on the other five boats in our 'fleet' who had followed tradition by keeping 'one foot on the beach', which resulted in their having to battle adverse currents for the first two days.

Thanks to reports of expensive ship's agents being required to check out of Puerto Madero, Mexico, and rumors of new $200 in and out fees for Guatemala, it was an easy decision for all the boats in our group to skip both those places and head directly to El Salvador. We and Indra went to Bahia del Sol, while Lady Galadriel, Lady B., Ocean Child, Katie Rose, and Perceptions all continued another 35 miles to Barillias Marina.

We're also happy to recommend Bahia del Sol. Clearing in was simple, as Armada arrived within half an hour of our anchoring, and Migracion paged us from the pool at the hotel! It's a $20 cab ride to the airport, and $60 from Marina Barillas.

What amazes us about El Salvador is that although it's still obviously very poor, the people are trying extremely hard to pull themselves out of the ravages of 12 years of civil war. While in Mexico we were told you can't get anything in El Salvador. What B.S.! It's easier to find just about everything here than in Mexico, and wine and beer are cheaper than in manañaland. The fuel is about the same as in San Diego, which means it's still less than Mexico.

Access to the two main yachtie spots - Bahia del Sol and Marina Barillas - is not easy, as both require crossing bars at high flood, and guides are required. That said, any well-found yacht doesn't need to worry about the bars.

By the way, we've heard rumors that a new 35-ton Travel-Lift is already on its way to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. Cruisers Murray and Collette of Terazed have five acres of waterfront property and are creating a boatyard for folks who want to do work or store their boat on the hard. Finally, a place to haul out between Mexico and Costa Rica!

We plan to spend the next few months in Central America - inland to Guatemala and Honduras - as well as to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama by boat. We need to be in Ecuador by the middle of July, as we have to travel to Toronto via Quito for Cath's folks' 50th wedding anniversary. When we return, we'll spend some time exploring Ecuador and Peru. We've been in touch with Bob Willman of the Islander 37 Viva, who has been in Bahia de Caraquez for some time. He says it's great. We also hear that Puerto Lucia near Santa Cruz is an equally good place to leave the boat for inland travel.

When we're done with Ecuador and Peru, we'll be heading down to Chile. We haven't decided which route we'll take - and we blame that on Jimmy Cornell. He advises one of two routes - 1) Motoring against the current all the way past Peru, or 2) Making a long egg-shaped jump into the South Pacific, all of it close reaching. The latter is apparently quite wet for boats under 50 feet, which would include our 40-footer. Regardless, we're really looking forward to Chile, both inland and the canals to Cabo de Hornos. We finally sourced insurance at a reasonable price, so we're clear to go. Armada now requires that all vessels, private and commercial, carry full insurance from an "A" rated company while in their waters.

A postscript on Mexico. Much has been written about the increasing costs of cruising in Mexico, In particular, the onerous clearing in and out procedures, exacerbated by the growing number of port captains who now require cruisers to hire agents for this simple but time-consuming process. For the last two years, we made a point of legally avoiding having to check in by bypassing ports with port captains. We traveled in excess of 2,500 miles in Mexico each year, and managed to limit our having to check in to just three times each year. We visited many old favorite anchorages as well as many new ones without breaking any laws. It takes control and planning, but it can be done. Just don't expect to be able to hop from marina to marina.

- michael and catherine 4/11/04

GeJa - Islander 36
Dick & Shirley Sandys
Italy, Sardinia, Corsica & France
(Palo Alto)

We got a late start on our continuing westward voyage last year, but were hurried along when our $8/day winter berthing rate jumped to the summer rate of $65/day in August. As such, we left without thorough maintenance. We first cruised to Italy's Aeolian Islands, where we saw excellent maritime museums at Lipari. One of the main displays showed how ancient trading ships stocked the wine/olive oil in Etruscan vessels for shipping. It's amazing what the ancient seafarers accomplished. We didn't stop at Stromboli, though its volcano was smoking. After all, it was late in the season and we needed to move along while the weather was still nice.

We headed for Agropoli along the western coast of Italy, where we would be travelling into winds predicted for force 5-6. Fortunately, a westerly came up, so we were able to continue north to the lovely harbor at Camerota. From there we sailed to Acciaroli, which has a crumbling old village - of which there are many in Italy - surrounding the marina. Acciaroli is said to have been one of Hemingway's favorite places in Italy, and we were charmed by it.

Walking along the breakwater after breakfast one morning, the sea was so calm that we decided to take off for the next port. But as soon as we started sailing around Point Secosia, we found that the wind had come up, and we were pitching heavily. Suddenly there was a horrible sound from the bow. We looked at each other and Dick said, "The anchor!"

He was right, the anchor had broken free and all the chain run out. So there we were, anchored as if for a picnic, but in high winds with a reef not far to leeward. We tried motoring up on the anchor, but after two hours of trying to get the hook up, and a large gash on Dick's arm, we decided to cut the anchor and chain loose and motor on. We lost the anchor and rode because we'd forgotten to secure the chain after taking it off its cleat while tying a layline in Acciaroli. "To err is human."

We were not happy campers as we motored on to Agropoli, but the rocky promontory on which that medieval town is built soothed our spirits. Our next stop was Salerno, where we found that shopping for a replacement anchor and chain wasn't as easy as walking into a West Marine. Eventually we found a shop that had what we wanted - and they even had a car to deliver it back to our boat. After our maintenance chores were taken care of, we took a train to Pompeii, which was only 20 miles away. We got to enjoy it in the wonderful company of new friends Don and Alice of Island Princess.

From Salerno we cruised along the Amalfi coast, which is very lovely. We then moved on to the island of Capri, which was more lovely because by then many of the tourists were gone. Our next stop was Ishia, another island not far from crowded Naples, where we found several nice anchorages and enjoyed exploring ashore.

How do all the boats fit into the crowded little harbors of Italy when there's a big blow? Not very well. When we got to the Pontine Islands, we found they had no room for us because a storm was expected and everybody had brought their boats in. Fortunately, we were allowed to tie up at the dock for the night. In the morning it was too rough for us to get off the boat, so the nice lady at the cafe brought us fresh croissants!

That evening we heard someone on shore tell the punch line to a dirty joke, and we just knew it had to be Dot of Neliander, who we hadn't seen since Australia! Sure enough, she and her husband Victor had their boat anchored with another Aussie boat, Christine Anne, with Russell and Christine, in the bay across the ridge. We decided to put out in the rough seas, and that night anchored in the protected bay behind Ponza Harbor. That night the six of us got together for a few bottles of wine. We planned a big party for the next night, but it never happened. The 'problem' was that there was a fair wind blowing toward Rome and Sardinia the next morning, so we parted without really testing our drinking skills. That's cruising!

Our path took us to Olbia, Sardinia, an easy place to berth and walk ashore. We found ourselves in several private anchorages along the east coast of Sardinia, which is part of Italy, and the west coast of Corsica, which is part of France. These anchorages were pretty, remote, and had majestic scenery rising from the water's edge. Corsica was considered as a filming location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is spectacular, and we enjoyed waking up to breathtaking views.

By the end of September, we wanted to leave Corsica for France's Cote d'Azur, but heavy headwinds were predicted. We finally left anyway, and our autopilot couldn't handle the heavier wind and waves. Having to handsteer for 12 hours made us realize that at our ages we're vulnerable to adverse conditions. As such, we have to think seriously about future ocean crossings. Oh, well, the Med is a nice place to hang out. After sailing all night under just a jib in 12 foot sea, the coastal lights of France looked lovely.

Exhausted, we tied up to the visitors dock at Port de Golfe Juan - and collapsed. A woman in the port captain's office was very helpful, and the next day moved us into a crowded marina. She also helped us in foxing other marinas along the coast.

From Juan we took the train to Antibes, about 15 minutes away, and explored the old town with the lovely Picasso Museum. We also enjoyed Valauri, a small village above Juan, with exquisite pottery and another Picasso pottery museum. By now it was late in the season, and a gale came through. We were somewhat protected in the marina as our Islander 36 was squished between bigger boats on both sides.

It wasn't far to Cannes, so we asked all the marinas if there was any space to leave our boat for 4-5 months. Negative. So from Juan we continued to Bormes Mimosa and Lavandou, two marinas with a boardwalk in between. At Lavandou, the capitainerie told us about La Gapeau, where we could have the boat hauled out at a small marina. It sounded great and not too expensive. There were moments of disaster when we had to send faxes in French, but finally we rejoiced, for they said they would take us.

Knowing that GeJa had a winter home starting in December, we sailed to Cavalaire, 18 miles southwest of St. Tropez, on the recommendation of friends from Sicily. We're sure it's mobbed in summer, but we were there in late fall. It wasn't crowded and they gave us a berth right away. The place had showers a half block from the boat, laundry facilities along the sea front, and every cafe you could hope for. Mussels in wine for 11 euros. The people were friendly, the local tabac carried the Herald Tribune, and warm croissants were a short walk away. This lovely town also provided music - Petit Concert de Musique - with more people in the ensemble than the audience! It was November 7 and there was a little rain, but we didn't care.

The bus system in the area was wonderfully efficient, so we could take trips to St. Tropez, Ramatoulle, Gassin, Bormes Mimosa, have lunch in a medieval town and be back on the boat by evening. Many times we took the bus, then walked along the roads among vineyards and monasteries. Friendly townspeople began to recognize us at cafes and invite us to see the world cup soccer games. We stayed in Cavalaire for a total of five weeks, during which time we took French lessons at the local library complex for free. It would be our luck, of course, to enter the class when they were on Lesson 21, and when some of the members of the class had been in the same class for four years! The French are crazy, but they are gutsy, too. One cold and windy morning we saw 100 Lasers on the beach getting ready to be sailed.

We left our boat at La Gapeau, but it was so windy one night before we left that we had to stay in the workman's bathroom! We traveled inland to Lyon by bus and train, and just happened to arrive on December 8, when the entire city was celebrating the Festival of the Lights. It was marvelous! We went to visit friends in Roanne, Karen and Barry on the canal barge Eleanor. There was a wonderful community of barges all hunkered down for the winter in Roanne, and there's lots of social life. Monday night is American football, Tuesday night is happy hour in a delightful bar across from the barges, and so forth.

We took the train back to Lyon, then an overnight bus to Barcelona, Spain. We found a great pension next to the railroad station at Nueva Colon 42E - make a note of it. We loved Barcelona, especially the old city and the Opera at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. We arrived back in California on December 17 to provide Christmas for our wonderful grandchildren and friends. We hope to continue cruising in the summer of '04, exploring the French Canals and meeting our great friends on their huge barges.

- shirley & dick 3/15/04

Sisiutl - Gulfstar 44
Bob & Laurie Bechler
Last Year's Cruising
(Edmunds, Washington)

Last year was quite a year for us - and Arnold, our Sea Dog - as our various passages added up to about 10,000 miles. In late 2002, we travelled from Seattle to Cabo San Lucas to start our adventure. We spent the early months of 2003 cruising around Mexico, visiting anchorages, towns, and villages. While doing so, we learned the joys of having to check in and out of just about every port, which involved lots of paperwork and fees.

On April 6, we headed across the Pacific on what we expected would be a three to four-week passage to the Marquesas. We didn't, however, arrive for 39 days. We had some equipment problems, the most difficult being the loss of our autopilot just several days into the passage. We actually turned back, hoping to get it repaired in Mexico, but couldn't make enough progress back upwind. So we continued on to the South Pacific, hand-steering 24/7. The good news is that we both became better helmspersons, but we could have done without the extra experience.

The length of the passage, the loss of our autopilot, and contrary weather all took their toll on us. We even found that taking 'days off' here and there for our mental health didn't relieve the strain of such a long passage.

Some days it was so calm that there wasn't even a ripple on the ocean. During one such calm we went overboard to swim and clean the bottom a little. Laurie suddenly swam up behind me to tell me there was a "large fish" in the water nearby. I couldn't make out what it was because I wasn't wearing goggles, but when Laurie got out she could tell it was a shark! Once out of the water, we were able to determine that it was an oceanic whitetip shark - which ranks right up there with tiger sharks and great whites in bothering people. That was the end of bottom cleaning for that day.

On other days we were bothered by squalls, and had some full-blown storms that lasted a day or two. Only occasionally did we find steady winds blowing from the right direction.

We didn't do very well fishing, either. Laurie had enjoyed great success catching mahi and tuna while in Mexico, but during our crossing we saw more fish swimming beside our boat than we were able to land. The mid-ocean fish must be smarter than their coastal cousins.

We had a celebration when we crossed the equator on May 8, and looked forward to the end of our passage. Unfortunately, we still had a few hundred more miles to go. Five miles from our landfall at Hiva Oa, we ran out of fuel. And as we rounded the last point, we were hit by squalls from four different directions and needed to use our last reserve fuel to keep off the rocks. A friend in the harbor had a local boat bring us five more gallons of diesel so we could make it in before dark. What a fitting end to our first ocean crossing!

We then continued on to the Tuamotus, a series of low atolls, many uninhabited, that are also part of French Polynesia. One of our favorites was the uninhabited atoll of Tahanea, where we spent a lot of time diving and snorkeling. It was here that Laurie was able to snorkel to within 20 feet of a humpback whale.

Finding dinner wasn't hard, as Bob would usually go to the 'fish market' - the local reef - and spear a grouper for dinner. Cleaning the grouper always brought the black tip sharks to the boat for their part of the catch.

Tahanea is also where our anchor platform broke. It happened when our chain snagged on a piece of coral while we were ashore and the wind came up strong. The chain snapped off the support, so we ran a line from the platform to the top of the mast to keep it from falling on our way to Hawaii.

After visiting several of the other atolls in the Tuamotus, we continued on to the Society Islands, our last stop in French Polynesia. Finally, a grocery store! Our final stop was Bora Bora, one of our favorite anchorages. The water was crystal clear and the jagged peaks made for a spectacular backdrop. While at Bora Bora we snorkeled just about every day. The water was so clear and the tropical fish plentiful. Bob dove with the lemon sharks, and we often saw eels. The sunsets were spectacular.

Bora Bora was a hard place to leave, but we needed to travel 2,000 miles to Hawaii. We did it in two legs, the first being the 1,000 miles to Fanning Island, the second being the remaining 1,000 miles to Hawaii.

Our trip to Fanning Island was against contrary winds much of the time - which seems to have been the norm for us. Since the loss of our autopilot, we had to handsteer, but with the wind from forward, we could often balance the boat and lock off the wheel. It was easier on us, but it also meant that our boat pounded more in the waves. Nothing seems easy.

During this passage we crossed the International Date Line five times! Kiribati has gerrymandered the line to encircle their country, and because of the irregular shape, we were never quite sure what day it was.

Fanning Island is about as far on the other side of the economic spectrum as possible from French Polynesia, and is probably more typical of the other islands of the South Pacific. The residents of Fanning face several major problems on a daily basis. For instance, they have no reliable source of fresh water. The well water is so brackish that they flavor it with sugar - which leads to tooth decay and diabetes. Beer is one substitute, but it brings its own problems. Because of a lack of refrigeration there are no vaccines for the children. Two children had gone blind from the measles In the month before we arrived. It's difficult to accept these problems when easy solutions are so close at hand.

The water in the lagoon at Fanning was over 90°, but it was too cloudy for good snorkeling. We did drift snorkel in the pass with the incoming tide, and saw lots of fish and several manta rays.

Having gotten enough rest and enjoyed a spectacular sunset, we continued on to Hawaii. The trip out of Fanning was familiar - good weather at the beginning, followed by squalls and storms. We used all of our fuel getting past the calm stretches as we were anxious to get to Hawaii.

We've been here in the Islands for a month now, enjoying life back in the States. We're not certain of our plans for 2004. We'll either go back to the Pacific Northwest for a visit before heading down the coast again to Central America, or just sail south from Hawaii and continue across the Pacific. In either event, we'll be better outfitted for these passages as we'll have a windvane, the refrigeration has been insulated and upgraded, and we now have two spinnaker poles for downwind sailing. In addition, the anchor platform will be replaced, and more solar panels installed. All-in-all, future sailing should be more comfortable for the crew of Sisiutl.

- laurie, bob, and arnold 12/25/03

Sanderling - Cabo Rico 38
John Anderton
Retirement Cruising In The Caribbean

Finding it difficult to enjoy your retirement on a social security check? Maybe you're living life the wrong way. John Anderton, 63, tells us he's been doing all right for the last couple of years on about $1,400 a month, everything included. He's also has a modest savings/investment portfolio, which financed the first two years of his cruise and is there for any major expenses that come along. And rather than merely existing in some sleepy low-cost retirement community, he's been living a very active and adventuresome life cruising his boat in the Caribbean.

"Cruising is not the easiest life in the world," he cautions, "because it can be a lot of work." This is particularly true in the Caribbean, where the winter winds are often quite strong and the seas large. "When I began sailing on the Caribbean side of the Panama, I quickly discovered that my sailing skills were going to be tested," he said. "The average cruiser in Mexico has no idea how much more challenging the Caribbean is than Mexico and Central America."

John didn't come to cruising through a family history of sailing. He lived on a dairy farm in Idaho until he was 29. He then made his way to San Jose, where he took a job running the old IBM card machines doing accounting functions. He would end his career working on a very large liquid-cooled mainframe as a computer programmer/database administrator on the Stanford University campus.

John got started in sailing by taking lessons over a four-year period from Dave Garrett in the South Bay. He also did charters on the coast of California and in the Pacific Northwest. A short time later, he made such a low offer on a Cabo Rico 38 that he was sure the owner would never accept it. But he did. Anderton, then divorced, became a boatowner. In order to survive in the expensive Bay Area, he became a liveaboard, starting with two years at Oyster Point Marina, then at Grand Marina in Alameda. From these locations he sailed every month, taking friends or people from the Crew List as crew, and also singlehanding. Several times he assisted on boat deliveries to and from Southern California, and also cruised his boat to Half Moon Bay and Drakes Bay.

In October of 2000, Anderton sailed to San Diego to start his current cruise. Downwind Marine hooked him up with Miriam, a woman who needed to get to La Paz for a boat-sitting gig. "She was in her 60s, and had been living in a hostel with a sleeping bag and duffel bag," says Anderton, "so I didn't know what to expect. "She wasn't the best sailor in the world, but she could stand her watch, was good company, and made some fine meals. All in all, she was a terrific crew!"

Anderton had a less satisfactory experience with a male crewmember from La Paz to Mazatlan, and has been singlehanding ever since - although his preference would be to have a female crew.

John continued down the coasts of Mexico and Central America, but when he arrived in David, Panama's second largest city, he was diagnosed as having a blocked bladder. Fortunately, it was nothing too serious, and a week's stay in the hospital - including x-rays, surgery, meds, and everything - came to $300. No, that's not a typo. Anderton has insurance for catastrophic health problems that's good for everywhere in the world - except the United States! This fact is what subsequently prevented him from cruising up the IntraCoastal Waterway on the East Coast.

One of the things John enjoys most about cruising is learning about different places and hearing different points of view. In Panama, for example, he was interested to hear a taxi driver tell him that life had been better when Noriega was dictator. "You knew who the crooks were back then," he explained. "Plus, Noreiga made coke too expensive for regular people. Now, even poor Panamanians can afford it, and that's not good."

After a stay in the Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside the Canal, where Anderton left his boat for a month to return to the States, he made what he now laughingly refers to as his "Big Mistake" - trying to sail across the Eastern Caribbean after the winter trades had kicked in. His plan was to sail from Panama to Jamaica, but after nine days - including a day to change a roller furling jib on the bowsprit in 12-foot seas, and a day lying a hull to sleep, shower, and eat a cooked meal - he'd hardly made any of the 1,200 miles of easting necessary to reach the Eastern Caribbean.

"The problem with making your way east across the Caribbean is that you're battling the wind, the seas, and the equatorial current. For example, my compass would say that I was on a heading of 20° true, which wouldn't have been bad. But my GPS, which is what really tells you how well you're doing, indicated that I was only making 340° true - which was terrible. A good day for my boat is 100 to 125 miles. But trying to cross the Eastern Caribbean, I sometimes only made 20 miles good a day toward Jamaica." He finally had to give up on Jamaica, and fall off to Grand Cayman Island.

On the positive side, Anderton had a good boat that could take care of him in rough weather, and an Autohelm 6000 autopilot that never let him down.

Leaving Grand Cayman, John sailed hard on the wind for 140 miles north before he felt he could flop over to port and lay Jamaica. But given the adversities of trying to get east in those rough waters, he ended up having to tack north two more times before reaching Montego Bay.

So he tacked back and made Kingston, Jamaica. In Kingston, he learned that Jamaican crack dealers having an interesting way of marketing crack. They throw little bags of it at your feet, hoping you'll pick it up.

From there Anderton worked the south coast of Hispanola, pulling into the D.R. just a few miles east of the border with Haiti. "They were smuggling cocaine out of the Haitian side, and pot out of the D.R. side. You'd see things like small planes taking off from highways at 4 a.m."

John made an all-day bus trip with his shredded sails to the FedEx office in Santo Domingo to ship them back to the States for repair. A week later he got a message from U.S. Customs saying they'd been returned to the D.R. because he'd neglected to indicate what the sails were made of. So he had to reship them. When they were ultimately returned after the repairs had been made, D.R. Customs tried to assess him $3,000 in duty.

"I threw a real snit," John admits. "The agent finally called his supervisor, who, after listening to me rant for five minutes, told me that I didn't have to pay anything."

Having spent more than a month in the D.R., Anderton found the locals to be very nice - but says "they'll stick it to you if they get the chance." For example, he had a guy come to his boat to remove and repair the leaking raw water pump on his diesel. Later, while in the middle of the Mona Passage, he found that the repair consisted of plugging up both the water intake and outtake with 5200 sealant! He laughs about the absurdity of it now, but it wasn't funny then.

John's stay in the D.R. was made easier because he was befriended by an older D.R. man who helped by explaining the ways of the country. For example, the prices printed on restaurant menus are just an asking price to be negotiated lower. The man told Anderton that he'd left home at the age of five(!) to make his way in the world, and spent most of his career working on cruise ships.

By the time Anderton made it to St. Thomas, it was already hurricane season. So he headed directly for Martinique - the first time in nine months he wasn't sailing hard on the wind - and Trinidad.

By this time it was almost summer, which meant it was almost hurricane season. So John rushed down to Trinidad and actually enjoyed some of the sailing, as it was the first time in nine months that he wasn't beating!

Having had to battle to get to the Eastern Caribbean, Anderton has developed some firm opinions. "West Coast cruisers have no idea how easy they have it getting to the tropics in Mexico. Getting to the Eastern Caribbean is very difficult, no matter if you're coming from Panama, or if you're coming down from somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. Have you heard of 'Chickentown'? That's the nickname for Georgetown in the Bahamas, because it's full of cruisers who got that far but didn't have the guts to stick it out the rest of the way. If I wanted to get from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean again, I'd take another year to do it, and would go by way of Guatemala, Florida, and then employ the 'Thorny Path' strategy. I'd never do it the way I did it again."

Anderton has since been up and down the Eastern Caribbean chain from Trinidad to the Virgin Islands two more times. His two favorite places so far have been Trinidad and the south coast of Martinique. His least favorite has been the British Virgins. "All the good anchorages are filled with $25/night mooring buoys. Come morning, the folks on charter boats don't go sailing, but rather race off to the next mooring field to make sure they have a spot for the night. It doesn't help that charterers are on vacation, and therefore not adverse to overpaying for everything. It makes it hard for cruisers on a budget."

When we spoke to John on a steamy day - "a glass of water would be like champagne" - aboard Profligate in St. Barth, he was about to head south of the hurricane zone again for the summer. His plan of going the IntraCoastal Waterway wrecked because it would void his catastrophic health insurance, he's considering buddyboating with another guy to Brazil. Having battled the winds and currents to get from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean, John and the other guy know that, as improbable as it might seem, the fastest and easiest way to get to Rio from the Caribbean is by way of Portugal.

Anderton is pleased to report that he's not been the victim of theft or violence, and thinks that the Caribbean Security Net perhaps overstates the dangers. "There are a lot of places in the Bay Area that are just as risky," he notes. In fact, the biggest incident he's experienced so far was when he was - as reported in a previous Latitude - hit in plain daylight by a 140-megayacht. The captain happily paid $20,000 out of his pocket to take care of the damages and keep the incident from his owner and insurance company.

Like most sailors, John wouldn't mind having a bigger boat and more gear, but he's quite content with what he's got. "My boat is a little heavy and slow, but she's fine. If I had a lot more money, I'd get a watermaker, refrigeration, and a generator - but I get along fine without them. Plus, with the way things are, I can enjoy myself living on as little as $500 a month."

John's advice to future cruisers? "You can't learn about cruising from books or seminars. You just have to go out and do it. It's hard work, but it's a great life. And the cruising community is the only place that I've found that has the rural feeling of my youth in Idaho, where people are open, caring, and willing to listen to different opinions."

- latitude 3/15/04

Cruise Notes:

"Only idiots live aboard iced-in boats," advises Christine Watson of the Wickford, Rhode Island-based Cal 36 Clarity. "Normally Latitude is my salvation during the cold winter months, but this year's cold exceeded even Latitude's ability to warm me - no matter how many issues I wrapped around my neck and stuffed into my boots. My boat and I did escape the slip for a last sail of the year on December 29, and we got to enjoy all of Narragansett Bay in a 15-knot breeze. The temps were mild enough to lull me into thinking that it might not be that cold a winter - but then it turned out to be the coldest winter in 100 years! A week after my last sail, the ice in the harbor became so thick that all my thru-hulls - as well as bilge pump, water tank, and whale gusher pumps - froze solid. And I thought I'd done a good job of tending to them! I took the warming lamp off the batteries long enough to use it to try to thaw the bilge pump - and the batteries froze. Despite the electric blanket, my frozen bedding still had to be peeled off the walls on a regular basis. This was especially disheartening considering that I'd glued up two layers of Reflectix insulation in the v-berth area, and then covered it with foam-backed vinyl."

Deciding that she'd have to be insane to live aboard for the rest of the winter, Christine, minus her boat, headed to Florida to thaw out. She spent a lot of her time in Key West. "The funky mix of people and boats was a treat after staid old New England. There were expensive yachts mixed in with craft that could hardly stay afloat. Mallory Square was the mixing pot for people from all walks of life - including cruise ship and land-based tourists, the homeless, street performers, artists, and punk kids. Plus there were a lot of cats and dogs. The chickens, however, seemed to prefer the less-crowded parts of town. I enjoyed the lack of frozen saltwater, the variety of people, and the more relaxed pace of life in the Keys - but my overall impression remains one of lots of garbage scattered everywhere. In any event, next fall my boat will be heading south with the rest of the smart cruisers. I've said it before, and I'll say it again until it sticks: No more ice on my boat - unless it's in my cocktail."

How folks from the frozen areas of the country can take the icy cold is beyond us, as we can barely stand winter in Northern California. But we're polar bears, comparatively speaking, to the locals in St. Barth. We're told that many of them won't swim in the ocean in the winter because the water temperature drops all the way down to 79 degrees. Imagine that, swimming in 79-degree water!

Having seen Christine's item and photo in 'Lectronic, Alan Kristal of the San Rafael-based Cal 36 Metaphor sent us a photo of crewmember David Aucella 'cooking' in the tropics while reading a Latitude on the way to Hawaii. "This proves," he wrote, "that Latitude 38 and Cal 36s can and do provide all the warmth a person may need - as long as one remembers the real estate maxim of location! location! location!"

And when sending photos to Latitude, Alan, remember the photographic maxim of high resolution! high resolution! high resolution! The low-res stuff is adequate for the web, but not for print.

We much regret - for the first time in five years - missing the three-race Banderas Bay Regatta in late March. It's just our luck, too, as it reportedly had some of the best sailing conditions in years. On two of the three days the wind gusted up to 20 knots, and the other day it blew 12 knots. During the past five years, the lack of consistent wind over 10 knots had been the only knock on this otherwise terrific cruisers' event. R. G. Rienks reports that 46 boats participated in the regatta this year, ranging in size from 23 feet to Doug Baker's new Andrews water-ballasted maxi Magnitude 80. Division winners were David Crowe's Morrelli-Choy 70 cat Humu-Humu; Dan Colangelo's Swan 55 Swan Fun; Rudy Heessel's Beneteau First 36s7 Wind Child; Gene Gearhart's Discovery 37 Moody Blues; Ivan Murphy's S2 7.9 Escape Velocity; Bill Semeyn's Discovery 32 L'Escapada; and James Sobolewski's Catalina 30 Bella Luna. It should be noted that Magnitude 80 and Humu-Humu were the only boats in their fleets. A flat-out racing machine, Magnitude sailed only for fun and to add to the stature of the event, not for regatta honors.

As has always been the case, the socializing at the Banderas Bay Regatta was at least as important as the racing itself. It all started in the Paradise Resort Amphitheatre on Thursday night, with drinks, snacks, and a great hula performance - that's right, hula - by the Nayarit Ballet Folklorico. Friday and Saturday night, the festivities moved to the Vallarta YC clubhouse near the Paradise Marina docks, where both nights over 200 people jammed inside to libate and trade war stories. Sunday evening's awards banquet was held, as always, around the Paradise Resort pool. Once again, there was no entry fee for the boats, and the venue was near perfect. Next year's Banderas Bay Regatta will be on March 26 - and no matter if you're a boatowner or crew who has to fly down from California, you don't want to miss it.

Speaking of Paradise Marina, Harbormaster Dick Markie reports they've had another great season. Several bigger boats from places such as Cabo and Acapulco have moved in full time, and quite a few cruisers who used to return to the States for the summer say they're staying this year. Lots of folks simply can't take the tension, traffic, and hostility in California any more. Because of the continued demand for berths, Paradise is creating 125 more docks on the other side of the bridge. Naturally sailboats won't be able to use them, but powerboats to about 28 feet will, freeing up some of the docks on the ocean side of the bridge. Markie also reports that since a significant contingent of boats from the Mazatlan area came down for the Banderas Bay Regatta, next year there will be a 150-mile race/cruise up to Mazatlan following year. With most cruisers headed up to the Sea of Cortez anyway, it sounds like an excellent idea.

The Paradise Found YC of La Paz - which was actually more of a bar and restaurant than traditional yacht club - is no more. According to the Baja Insider website, the enterprise was hurt by a weakened U.S. economy, last summer's hurricanes, and Alaska Airlines terminating service to La Paz shortly after 9/11. The outfit's last big party was St. Patrick's Day, and there was only enough beer left to keep the lights on until March 19.

The passing of the Paradise Found YC apparently also means the passing of the Island Madness cruiser week at Isla Partida. That event had gone almost head-to-head with Sea of Cortez Sailing Week two years ago, and then last year pushed the 20-year-old event into extinction. Now both events are history, leaving Loreto Fest, held at Puerto Escondido in early May, as the only remaining big cruiser event in the Sea of Cortez. Loreto Fest is such a powerhouse that there's no danger of it going under.

Doing considerably better in La Paz, despite the terrible destruction from two hurricanes last summer, is Mac and Mary Shroyer's venerable Marina de La Paz. During a telephone interview, Mary told us they have boats in about 60 slips - pre-hurricane they had about 120 - not all of which have water, electricity or even all the planks nailed down. Nonetheless, she says they've been "as full as we could be over the winter". They've replaced the floating breakwaters that were overwhelmed by hurricane Marty, putting in twice as many pilings as before. In addition, they have plans for a 'piling and sheet pile breakwater', whatever that is, to double the protection on the exposed sides of the marina. That, however, won't be ready for this hurricane season, which runs from June to November. Mary is reconciled to having a slow summer, but says their main goal is to have their 120 slips fully operational for next November and the start of the winter cruising season.

As for the upcoming hurricane season, there will be some new rules for boatowners who leave their boats at Marina de La Paz to fly home to the states. For example, all roller furling head-sails, sailcovers, and other canvas will have to be removed and stored inside. Inflatables will have to be deflated and stored below. Anchors - as well as anything else that might stick off the bow or stern - will have to be removed. These measures and more are being instituted as a result of lessons learned from Marty. Mary notes that many marine insurance policies are voided if the roller furling sails are left on during hurricane season.

On that subject, one owner whose boat had a roller furling sail on and was destroyed, did get the insurance company to pay up because he had a copy of a video that showed the roller furling sail had nothing to do with the boat being damaged. By the way, the response of insurance companies was apparently all over the map. Some paid their clients in full within weeks, while some didn't pay until attorneys brought pressure - and others still haven't paid.

We hope everyone with a boat in Mexico for the summer learns some lessons from last year's destruction. Perhaps the biggest lesson is the terrific risks posed by unattended boats. For instance, in Puerto Escondido last year, Marty drove something like 25% of the unattended boats ashore - endangering many of the attended boats in the process - while none of the attended boats went ashore. Further, it was left to the folks on the attended boats to make heroic efforts to salvage the unattended boats that had been driven onto beaches. So if you're not going to be on your boat, and she's going to be on a mooring or on her own hook, you bear a tremendous responsibility not just for your boat, but all the other boats around her. As for folks leaving their boats in a marina, you should strip the exterior, both because it's the right thing to do, but also because not doing so may void your insurance policy.

Having said that, if the normal odds prevail - one hurricane in the Sea of Cortez every two years - nobody should have too much to worry about. One last thing on Mexico. Even if you're going to leave your boat on a mooring, in a marina, or on the hard for the summer, do yourself a favor and check out the condition of things that might be a risk to your boat. Mexican standards aren't up to American standards, and your boat can be at risk. We say this based on several letters sent to us by folks who have summered over in the Sea of Cortez.

The woman in the photo at left is - well, let's just call her 'the girl from Ipanema'. The megayacht Ipanema. We bumped into her at St. Barth during the Bucket because she's an old friend of Doña de Mallorca's from working on boats in the Med. When she heard the Wanderer publishes Latitude, she became . . . well, livid doesn't even to begin to describe it. Fortunately, not livid at the Wanderer. You might remember a letter a number of months ago from Jonathan Livingston and Suzie Grubler of the Pt. Richmond-based Wylie 38 Punk Dolphin, in which Livingston repeatedly referred to Ipanema as a "mega-slut yacht" because their crew didn't give Suzie a ride in their dinghy from the quay at Papeete out to Punk Dolphin. Suzi needed a ride because there had been a transmission linkage problem on the Punk, preventing the boat from getting to the quay. The girl from Ipanema says that of course they didn't give Suzi a ride right away, couldn't she see that their dink was so full of food that needed to be rushed out to their boat that they couldn't even get any of their own crew in? She says they would have happily given Suzie a ride a little later or under other circumstances. Indeed, Bear, Ipanema's captain, said they gave one of Jonathan's old Polynesian girlfriends a ride out to Punk, and had been on a regular, 'Hi, how are you doing?' basis with the Punk crew. "It was obvious," said the girl from Ipanema, "that this man was a complete novice cruiser who didn't have any idea what he was doing. And not only did he libel our fine boat, crew, and owner, he has an extremely filthy mouth."

If you're a racing sailor, April in Antigua is a time and place with a lot of appeal. They have the Mega-Yacht Regatta, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, and the start of Antigua Sailing Week. But lots of cruisers in the area making a point of stopping by, too, particularly the Classic Regatta, where they can watch many of the world's finest yachts under sail in ideal conditions. For example, check out the accompanying photo by Joe Rinehart, in which the 175-ft schooner Fleurtje is starting to move on the 375-ft tallship Sea Cloud. Isn't that a lovely sight?

According to Joel 'the voice of Antigua' Byerly, the Classic Yacht Regatta was one of the most spectacular sailing events he's seen in a lifetime of following yachting. A total of 58 yachts, from a 28-ft Falmouth key punt built in 1890 (!), to the 130-ft Ranger, a modern reproduction of what's believed to be the fastest J Class yacht ever, went at it in a variety of conditions for three races. It was a pleasant 15 knots the first day, 20 knots the second day, and up to 27 knots true for the third race. The last race was a reach out and a reach back, and thanks to the strong winds and a highly unusual easterly current, the seas were tremendous. Byerly claims the spray caused by the heavy boats slamming into swells often flew over the mastheads of the boats. He says it was a credit to the owners and crews that not a boat dropped her rig. David Glenn, the assistant editor of England's respected Yachting World magazine, told Byerly it was the finest sailing event he'd ever seen.

Other famous yachts that participated were J Class yachts Velsheda, Cambria, and Endeavour, although the latter - until recently owned by Dennis Kozlowski, indicted former head of Tyco, didn't race. The smaller Velsheda finished first in all three J Class races, despite being owed time by the other yachts. All the boats, particularly Ranger, were sailing with top crew, many of them vets of America's Cup campaigns. While the 120-ft Cambria, under new ownership, didn't win on the course, she won the Concours d'Elegance, which is perhaps even more important. With the Classic Regatta over, Antigua was bracing for the onslaught of Antigua Sailing Week, which was to feature an unusually strong all-star cast. Once Sailing Week is over, however, Antigua becomes a ghost town until early next December.

"When I read stories about cruisers getting attached to some of the villagers where they are anchored, I now understand," writes Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft cat Capricorn Cat, currently in Majuro in the Marshall Islands. "I'd made great friends and established some terrific relationships with the folks on Aur Atoll, so it was really sad when our group of six boats left for Majuro and the Coconut Cup. I gave the other boats a handicap of two hours in sailing to Majuro, and we all entered the pass about the same time. It was a friendly little race, with everyone chatting on the radio and having a good time. I recently flew back to California, and upon my return to the Marshalls, had several bags weighing 70 pounds each, full of goodies for my cat and other boats. I'm now about to head out to Tonga and Samoa."

Martin and Criste Edwards of the San Francisco-based Pearson 365 Windrunner report that the Seventh Annual Coconut Cup Race was held at Majuro at the end of March and that everyone had a great time. "Twelve yachts, 15 outrigger canoes - which are sometimes sailed on one hull like Hobie Cats - and one dinghy participated. The outrigger canoes, which start with their sails laying in the water, started first in 15 to 18 knots of wind, followed an hour later by the yachts. The fleet wasn't handicapped, so it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that that battle for first would be among the Tom Petty family's Wylie 65 Roxanne from Pt. Richmond, the 65-ft Cantola trimaran Windswept, and Blair Grinoles' 46-ft Capricorn Cat. They finished in that order, with Capricorn Cat only about a minute behind Windswept for second. But in reality there were no losers because it was so much fun - and since the winners in the yacht class were picked from a hat. The top finishers in outrigger canoes won cash prizes - $600 going to the winner. The prizes were handed out by a lovely young Miss Coconut Cup. The social activities went on for days, and concluded with a wonderful buffet at the Outrigger Hotel put on by the Kwajalein YC. With the season in the Marshalls over, most of the yachts have moved on. But we've decided that we've only scratched the surface of this great cruising area, and will - along with three or four other boats - stay for the entire year."

"Profligate's winter in the Caribbean sounded really great," write Loure and Randy Kenoffel of the Northern California-based Moorings 50 Pizzaz. We wish we were there. In fact, we plan to go back through the Canal within a year, as Mexico has not been as enjoyable for us. We just like the Caribbean better."

The Wanderer gave a seminar at Pacific Sail Expo about Mexico versus the Caribbean - well he ultimately did, after Pat Henry so graciously provided a back-up projector half an hour into the visuals-dominated presentation. His thesis was that there is so much to like about both of them, it would be a shame to miss either one. Three things in favor of Mexico are that the locals are so much warmer and more friendly, that it's much less expensive, and there's so much better and less expensive food. Three things in favor of the Caribbean are superior sailing conditions, better underwater conditions, and greater diversity. We hope to have an article on the topic within the next few months.

"I agree with you about the attitude of some of the islanders in the Caribbean," wrote Shep of Deltaville, Virginia. "There is some of that, 'Get off my island you honky bastard' attitude, but it's not all that way. Just think about Sunshine on Nevis."

We spent a little time with Sunshine, who runs a great beachfront restaurant/bar next to the Four Seasons on Nevis, to which all the celebrities - such as Ms. Spears - flee to from time to time. Sunshine and his crew are great. Most of the people in the Caribbean are great. Unfortunately, it only takes about 10% of them to be hostile to poison a tourist's experience. There's a minority of bad people making life much more miserable for the majority of good people. But there's nothing new about that, is there?

John Tindle of the Hermosa Beach-based Jeanneau 45 Utopia, reports that he and his wife Cynthia, as well as Mattie "the famous boat dog", were in St. Martin and Tortola, and hoping to see Profligate. Alas, our paths didn't cross. John and Cynthia would be good to ask about the difference between Mexico and the Caribbean, as they've cruised in both areas for a number of years, on different boats named Utopia. The couple report they'd love to hear from John Haste of the San Diego-based Perry 52 Little Wing, and Michael Sheats and Hillair Bell of the Sausalito-based Sceptre 41 Indigo. The Tindles can be reached .

While walking through the Budget Marine store in St. Martin about a month ago, we spotted a fellow wearing a Zihua 2003 Sail Fest T-shirt. It turned out to be Ray Huggins, with his wife Eileen, Ha-Ha vets with the J/35 Bodacia from Mercer Island, Washington. We had a great talk about how they made their way from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean - they're going to send us a synopsis, and how they are planning to sail up the East Coast and find their way to Chicago before trucking the boat back to Seattle.

"Those of you who aren't guinea pig lovers will probably appreciate the accompanying photo of an oil painting that graces the wall in the main Basillica in Cuzco, Peru, capital of the Incan empire," writes Bob Willman of the Islander 37 Viva! "It seems Pizarro's priests ordered the local artists to paint religious scenes, and the guy who did this one figured Jesus would order the local Incan speciality cuy - pronounced (KOO-ee) - for his Last Supper. Many of the other paintings in Peruvian churches show sword-wielding conquistadors astride their charges trampling the Incas to death. As such, it's difficult to comprehend how the current Inca population can possibly worship in the Catholic church. I guess the reason I'm cruising is to try to understand how such things can be. As for myself, I didn't try cuy - or, for that matter, llama or any of the other Peruvian specialties. It was mostly because they are only served in expensive tourist restaurants, but partly because they probably just taste like chicken anyway."

For what it's worth, we can't remember a year in which more West Coast cruisers have been cruising - or are planning to start cruising - the west coast of South America. Ecuador, Peru, and Chile seem to have a growing appeal.

"There was an error in the April issue Changes with regard to Marina Seca," writes John of Adia. Starting on page 226, there are a few paragraphs that describe the damage and repair of Faraway at Marina Seca in San Carlos. As the story continued, it described improvements, such as the new Travelift and so on, at Marina Seca. The author was actually talking about a different place, Marina Seca de Guaymas."

Thanks for the correction. We're also told there were some errors in the report about San Carlos, Mexico, so please ignore what was said about there, too.

If you're about to do a Baja Bash, be advised that Shari Bondi, a Canadian who married a lobster Mexican fisherman, welcomes all yachties to Bahia Asuncion. She says they've got a great little place with all the basics a cruiser could need - including internet service. They can also tell you the best place to anchor, which is not the most obvious. Just call Shari on VHF 16 at any time.

"Having made eight previous stops at Turtle Bay - halfway between Cabo and San Diego - in the last few years, I was well aware of the possible delays in refueling there," writes Wayne Engel of the Mazatlan-based Magellan 36 Sentisco.

"On this trip, a northbound delivery of the Golden Wave Ma Kai from Mazatlan to San Diego, crew Jerry Lawrence of Elegante and I were hoping for a fast fuel and departure, as we had a great northbound weather window. But since it was 10 a.m. on a Sunday, we didn't know how quickly we'd be able to find Ernesto - who traditionally runs fuel in and out - and how quickly he'd be able to get the job done. But as I looked around the anchorage, I saw this strangely-proportioned tender headed our way - with the word 'Diesel' painted on the side. They said they had fuel and were ready to pump. Starting their generator, they passed across the fuel nozzle, handed us clean rags in case of spills, set the pump to all zeros, and started pumping. In less than 20 minutes we'd filled our tanks and jugs without spilling a drop and without having to move any of the jugs - and were on our way again. What's more, the amount shown on the pump came to within a few litres of the amount of fuel I expected we'd need - another happy surprise from some of my past fueling epxeirences in Turtle Bay.

"Carolos and Antonio, the two friendly and courteous young men in the fuel tender, explained that they weren't associated with Gordo's fuel concession at the end of the pier, but rather the Pemex station in town. They cruise the anchorage and can be hailed on VHF 16 under the name of Servicio Anabell. Having been in business for five months now, it looks as though Gordo's will have to come up with something pretty big to top the service provided by Servicio Anabell."

With the summer cruising season upon us, we'd love to hear what you're up to. It only has to be a short paragraph, but make sure to include your full name, your boat name and type, and your hailing port. Photos - high-res please - are also always welcome and encouraged. Email the 'who, what, why, where, and when' to . Thank you very much.

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