May, 2007

Missing the pictures? See the May 2007 eBook!

With reports this month from Velera and her not-dead skipper in Panama's San Blas Islands; from Sea Angel on the tribulations of leaving your lady for six months a year; from Sea Wolf on an engineless trip down the coast of Baja and one to come across the Pacific; from the March Sailing Madness on Banderas Bay, including a big photo spread; from Aquarelle on getting knocked down three times off New Zealand; and an extra large serving of Cruise Notes.

Velera - Tartan 37
Ray Durkee
I'm Not Dead

Some of my friends might be wondering what has become of me and my Tartan 37 Velera. I was going to truck my Tartan from California to my summer home in Maine, but decided to sail her around via Panama instead. This made for my first dilemma - was I on a delivery or a cruise? The two are very different, as one has an objective and involves speed toward a destination while the other is about taking your time and the journey being more important than the destination. I've learned that the two don't mix, as I've either had to pass up places to make a schedule or fell hopelessly behind in making any progress toward my destination. I'm behind right now, but I am making progress.

I left Alameda on December 2 of '05, and made my way south, stopping at all the usual places - Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Zihua, Huatulco, Barillas in El Salvador, Golfito in Costa Rica, and Balboa in Panama - as well as a lot of nice stops in between. I transited the Canal in May of last year, then left the boat at Bocas del Toro, Panama, for the rainy season. I'm now at Chichime Cay in the San Blas Islands, where the aquamarine-colored water, white sand beaches and palm trees are right out of a photo calendar. I'm besieged daily by kids wanting candy or Kuna women wanting to sell molas - oops, there's someone knocking on my hull as I write.

I've had a lot of adventures. Among the highs were the 34+ knot winds that took us from San Diego almost all the way to Cabo San Lucas in just a few days; nice evenings in Mazatlan, Zihua, and Panama City; but nothing beats the San Blas Islands and the nice Kuna people who have somehow managed to preserve their culture despite welcoming visitors. The biggest lows have been equipment failures. If you can possibly carry a Hypalon hard-dinghy bottom, do it, as lesser dinghies are a real liability. And don't buy a Satphone before checking with other cruisers that it will work in Central America. Some don't - no matter what kind of coverage the manufacturer claims. My other equipment failures probably should have been expected. The 4,200 miles from San Francisco Bay to Panama is no daysail. We did more motoring than I had expected, but we did have some glorious sailing.

Another major factor in how enjoyable a cruise will be is how well things go between you and your crew on longer passages. I had very good luck with the folks who joined me, but getting to places to meet their airplanes - coming and going - makes you tempt the weather gods and pass up nice spots. I've decided that I would prefer to take my chances singlehanding - with the 20-minute kitchen timer to periodically wake me - than to force myself into a finite schedule. Based on my experience, it's safer - and more enjoyable. But I do want to give special thanks to Jim Ballou, who has done the trip more than once aboard his own boat, as well as others, who gave me a lot of guidance on where to stop and where to avoid.

There haven't been any really big surprises on the trip - as long as you don't count the crazy French sailor aboard the very nice Amel sailboat in Portobello, Panama. He rammed three boats and then tried to set them on fire two nights after I anchored next to him there. So some dangers aren't what you would imagine.

I will be starting north to Florida in April, and hope to reach Maine by June. I'm going via the islands of San Andreas, Providencia, Guanaja, and Isla Mujeres to Florida. It will be a major slog for a singlehander. I will stop on the East Coast, but my goal is to be in Maine by June. I've done about 4,500 miles, and figure I have less than 2,700 to go, so I have that in my favor. What's my rush? I'm going to be the new harbormaster in Castine, Maine, for the summer. I think it's one of the most beautiful harbors in the world - although I'm naturally prejudiced.

By the way, there was talk going around back home that I was dead. I was just out of touch, and am fine, thank you.

- ray 04/05/07

Sea Angel - Peterson 44
Marc Hachey
'Girl Problems' In The Caribbean

It seems that the longer that I leave my girl Sea Angel, the more problems she gives me. I had her high and dry in the yard at Peakes Yacht Services in Trinidad for last season's June to November hurricane season, making it the fourth in a row that I've done that. I didn't splash her again until November 10th, which means that she was out of the water almost six months to the day. Just to prove that cruising isn't all fun, I'm going to tell you about the work I did to get her ready for the new season.

It's much more comfortable to do as many projects as possible while the boat is in the water as opposed to being on the hard - especially in the tropics. First off, it's much cooler without the radiant heat from all that dirt surrounding the keel, and I can run my water-cooled refrigeration so I'm not having to buy bags of ice every day for the cooler. In addition, the beer is much colder next to the cold plate, not to mention the fact that there's plenty of space to keep a good supply of healthy food stores. Both beer and healthy food are essential to long, hard days of working on a boat. And in the early morning hours, when Mother Nature calls, it's so much nicer to simply step off the stern rather than have to climb down a 12-ft ladder.

Upon my return to Trinidad, I spent the first couple of days cleaning and airing out Sea Angel. I had to wipe down the complete interior with a solution of water, bleach and vinegar to kill the mold. I also discovered that over the course of the summer, her 15 tons had caused the large wood blocks under her keel to settle into the dirt - which, of course, turned to mud because of all the rain that falls in Trinidad. As a result, the bow settled slightly, so the rainwater which had found its way down the mast and into the bilge did not all flow aft to the bilge pump in the engine room. This standing water in the bilge added to the humidity level inside the boat, which made for an environment more conducive to the formation of mold.

I had left my boat with four 110-volt fans set on a timer to run 18 hours a day to prevent the mold. Alas, the motors on all four of them burned out. My fans had worked perfectly the previous two years, so I suspect that there was a power surge that damaged the motors. I also left bowls of bleach around the inside of the boat to inhibit the growth of mold. But last year I learned not to use stainless steel bowls for bleach, because when I did, the bleach literally dissolved the bottom of the bowls, damaging the teak shelf on which they had been sitting. Living this cruising lifestyle is definitely a learning experience!

Some cruisers choose to leave an air-conditioner or dehumidifier running while on the hard, although it increases the cost of storage by about $1/day for electricity, plus the cost of renting or purchasing a machine. If you have something like this running on your boat, you must then hire someone to look after it on a regular basis. Locating a dependable person to undertake this task is not easy in Trinidad - at least based on what fellow cruisers have told me.

I'm always amazed at how filthy Sea Angel's decks get after she's been in a boatyard for a period of time. I leave her with a canvas cover from bow to stern, but the area between the lifelines and the toe-rail is open for ventilation. This area allows dirt in the air as well as debris from other boats to settle on my deck in the cockpit. About one day has to be invested to clean this mess so part of it isn't tracked into the just-cleaned interior.

With that done, I'm ready to start on some real projects - ones where I will be able to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. For example, this year I decided to replace my original Combi wind and speed instruments with new B&G equipment. That's because I could not find parts for the damaged windspeed and direction sensors on the masthead a few years ago while still in Mexico. I also decided to install an Interphase forward-scanning depthsounder. To do so, I removed all the old wiring in the bilge, removed the old transducers for the speed and depth sensors, and filled the hole for the depth transducer. I then had to enlarge the hole for the new speed transducer, so I first filled the hole with a two-part epoxy putty. After this hardened, I was able to locate a new center hole for the hole saw, the latter a tool I brought with me from the States.

With the new transducer installed and the old depth transducer hole filled, faired and sealed with waterproof epoxy, I was ready to start giving my boat a fresh bottom job. But first I needed to polish my hull to protect what is left of my original and worn gel coat. This is a task I complete each year by hand. It takes about one day per side of polish-on, polish-off, over and over again. At the end of those work days something a little stronger than beer is required to mask the pain emanating from the shoulders. Thank god for rum!

Sea Angel's bottom is in very good condition, so all I had to do was lightly wet sand before applying new bottom paint. The reason I choose to wet sand is to avoid toxic dust, which means I don't have to wear a respirator. Although I know better, this year I only wore a pair of work shorts, a tank top, head wrap and tennis shoes while doing the messy task. I thought I was doing a good job of rinsing off any drops of water and bottom paint, but I discovered otherwise that night after my evening shower. I had a rash on my arms, legs and face - especially around my eyes - which felt like I had a particle of fiberglass in every little bump. They hurt and itched at the same time, making it impossible to sleep in my hot and humid aft cabin. It took at least three days for this rash to settle down, so believe me, I won't make that mistake again.

After 10 long days of hard and unpleasant work, Sea Angel was ready to go back in the water. Launch day is always both exciting and nerve-wracking, the latter because you always worry there will be some leak or some mechanical problem will pop up because the boat hasn't been used in six months. I had connected a water hose to my raw water intake and started the engine while on the hard, so I was confident my Perkins would perform - and she did. But last year I had discovered that my raw water impeller was damaged prior to being picked up by the Travel-Lift. As a result, I was able to replace the impeller and remove the pieces from the heat exchanger tube in advance.

After a successful launch and getting my boat secured to the jetty, I was now ready to begin my next list of projects, those which could only be completed while in the water. I had just removed my canvas covers the day before, so I was able to get serious about cleaning the decks, cabin tops and dinghy, the latter having been stored upside down on the foredeck.

A few years ago, I had repainted the smooth areas of my decks with Petit Easypoxy. I decided it was time to repaint, as that was the only way I could get rid of the unsightly stains. In a country where it rains just about every day, any kind of painting is difficult, but especially the decks and cabin tops. I had learned this lesson the hard way my first year in Trinidad. What I discovered was that if I did a small section each day, and started very early in the morning, the surface had a chance to dry before the rain started. Fortunately, there is usually a brief shower, and that's it for the day, but such showers are just enough to damage any fresh paint.

I was lucky on my first day of painting, as I had great weather. I was able to paint the entire forward cabin top, being careful to cut in around all the teak handholds, portholes, hatches and miscellaneous deck hardware. It was very time consuming and required lots of concentration, as I brush the paint on without masking anything off. Alas, when I checked the job the next day, it wasn't the bright white it was supposed to be, but had a slight peach tint. Apparently, the can of unopened paint I'd kept dry and dust free in my paint locker had gone bad! So it took another week to get that job done right.

After a few trips to the top of the mast with my new wind instruments and a custom on-site fabricated mounting bracket, the cables were installed and my new instruments were working. I had not yet installed my new speed transducer in its thru-hull because I didn't want it to get fouled at the dock. Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad, is notorious for oil spills, as the adjacent commercial shipyard is known for simply pumping the bilge water of large ships directly into the bay. This year was no exception, and within two days of being on the jetty I had a black and gooey stain above the waterline on my just-polished hull. Oh good, another project! So I got to go around the entire hull with a degreaser to clean off the stains - which appeared to remove most of the new wax I'd just put on. Then one of my four 8D gel batteries was defective after being replaced just 2.5 year ago, so I decided to replace it while under warranty. That's turned out to be a full day's project and - thanks to the Marine Wherehouse, where I purchased them originally - the replacements cost almost the same as what I'd originally paid for the batteries. Some warranty!

After re-tuning my standing rigging, installing my sails, provisioning Sea Angel with food supplies for the upcoming months, including dry goods and filling the freezer, I was about ready to untie my docklines. I'd been working every day for 34 days. My first trip was to be a short one, just a three-mile motor to Scotland Bay. But before I made it, I'd destroyed the cutlass bearing. I'm trying to figure out if Sea Angel has been infected with some kind of gremlin or she just doesn't want me to leave her for so long, as this has been the hardest start-up in years.

- marc 02/15/07

Sea Wolf - Warner Cutter
Adam Stone & Jessica Adams
Migration down the Coast of Baja

Hurricane Katrina drove us from our home of New Orleans in the fall of '05, so we decided to transform our lives by taking advantage of the qualities that we liked best about ourselves. We moved to the Bay Area, but it was while we were in Astoria, Oregon, that we found Sea Wolf, a beautifully maintained 32-ft gaff cutter without an engine. She'd been designed by Winthrop Warner and built in Port Townsend in the late '80s. We bought her and set off for Mexico and beyond in November of last year.

Our initial thought was to make a quick trip to the Mexican mainland, making only the normal cruiser stops at Turtle Bay, Mag Bay, and finally Cabo - the latter rumored to have 80-degree water even in January. We wanted to get south fast because it was so cold in Ensenada that there was snow on the low mountain at the edge of town. The locals said they hadn't seen snow on Punto Banderas in 30 years. We got another surprise - we were expecting a baby.

Instead of a fast cruise down the coast of Baja, we ended up taking 45 days to cover the 750 miles, and we did it daysailing with three other boats that formed our 'Armada': Petra, from Tacoma, Madeline from Portland, and Folie Douce, from San Francisco. There are so many great places to stop along the Baja coast, but one of our favorites was the Benitos Islands, which are outside of Cedros Island not quite halfway from San Diego to Cabo. We anchored near a camp where abalone divers and langosteros live for the months of their shifts before returning to their homes on Isla Cedros, which is visible in the distance. Initially, three men came up in a panga to chat and offer us fresh lobster and dried abalone. One gregarious fisherman told us the lobster they'd given us were too small to be sold, but they wouldn't survive anyway because the fish had bitten their legs off while they were in the traps. "Lobster legs are like candy to fish," he said. The fisherman spoke English wonderfully, having learned from magazines, visiting cruisers - and the music of Huey Lewis!

The Benitos Island beaches favored by elephant seals were littered with the rotting bodies of dead baby seals. Italian students, who wear beautifully coordinated clothes and clean shoes, and who sleep in elegant tents pitched at even intervals among the rocks overlooking the anchorage, have come to study the problem. It is they who have, using hydrogen peroxide, written Italian names on the hides of the seals.

During a visit to the lighthouse, the local jefe points to one of the graves in a nearby graveyard, and tells us that's where the architect of the lighthouse is buried. He was murdered by his two laborers - "Indians like me." The architect had apparently been as cruel as he was talented, and one evening the three of them had been sitting around a card table on which a loaded pistol lay. The architect apparently said something, causing one laborer to pick up the pistol and fire. The architect remains on this windswept and forlorn island, unmourned by abalone divers and langosteros, but remembered by the lighthouse keeper.

The lighthouse keeper told us that he has felt the presence of the workmen who, like the architect, are buried beneath the floor of the old lighthouse. The widening cracks at the edges of the grave, he says, were made by the hands of dead laborers clawing at the dirt, their anger at the architect still unappeased. We went into his brightly colored kitchen, where he offered us abalone that had been drying under the hot sun for a long time, protected from the birds by netting. A clock radio played in in the background.

Climbing the peak above the fish camp, we looked out over the anchorage at our armada - a cutter, a yawl, a sloop and a ketch. The boats were 26 to 48 feet in length. Ours was the smallest and the only one without an engine. But in the 20 to 40-mile days our armada typically did, Sea Wolf sometimes took the lead, and was never far behind.

By February we'd reached Turtle Bay, where we anticipated an abundance of grocery stores and restaurants. Far from the beaten track, the little fishing village is more humble than we expected, and the one restaurant we'd heard about was mediocre. But when we asked the owner of the deposito where to find a comida buen precio, he did us a favor by directing us to a taqueria near the baseball field. They served delicious carnitas and carne asada.

While at Asuncion, we bought huge fragrant local oranges. We also saw a long, low building with a tin roof where villagers, working for a Japanese company, make clamshell buttons. Broken windows in the building revealed a mountain of shells with uniform holes. We were told that nobody would be working at the factory until May when the surf clams have grown large enough to harvest.

We learned about our next stop, Abreoejos, from a friend who loves to surf. Something about the place seemed instantly familiar. Maybe it was all the Americans living in trucks and campers on the hill, who spent most of their time in wetsuits sliding along in the waves. There was also a cantina with wireless internet full of ex-pats eating hamburgers. One part of Abreojos is a posh - relatively - gringo settlement and the other is a basic fishing village. One morning the guys from our armada stopped to visit a fishing boat, which had taken shelter from the high winds. They were invited aboard for lunch prepared by the captain. Later, the same captain made them a present of pounds of fresh fish that he himself had cleaned.

After an overnight in Bahia Santa Maria, we headed south to Cabo, which we'd heard was awful, which made us determined to enjoy it. After weeks along the sparsely populated Baja coast, it was a shock to see all the fishing boats rushing about, the fake schooner Buccaneer Queen packed with tourists speeding past, and a small boat pulling a paraglider. Once we were ashore, the time-share folks solicited us from their kiosks. What the heck, in exchange for several hours of our time, plus a couple of hard sells, we received prizes, got to enjoy elaborate breakfast buffets, cash - and even hot showers. We love Cabo! At least we did for a few days. Before long, the haranguing vendors and jet ski operators wore us out.

Before leaving Cabo, Jessica found an inexpensive but competent obstetrician, who said all was well. We then sailed down to Banderas Bay, and are now about to set sail for the Marquesas - with fond memories of the serene anchorages and stark landscapes of the Baja coast.

- adam & jessica

March Sailing Madness
Banderas Bay, Mexico

If you thought your bottle of cerveza was half empty, everything was wrong with this year's 15th Annual Banderas Bay Regatta. The wind didn't blow hard enough to sail the long courses, the skies were overcast, the local Catalina 37 fleet decided to play with themselves on another part of the bay, and nowhere near as many cruisers participated as should have. If, however, your bottle of cerveza was half full, everything was right for the 15th annual BBR. The wind was more consistent than for the America's Cup, the racing in almost all six divisions was very close, the overcast skies prevented anyone from getting sunburned, and the regatta was so intimate that, by the time Philo Hayward and his band blew the doors off the Vallarta YC during the awards ceremony, just about everybody knew everybody else.

The BBR was, as usual, based out of the wonderful facilities at Paradise Resort and Marina, and was managed by the Vallarta YC, located in Paradise Marina, in conjunction with the Regates Y Deportes Maritimos. Before we get any further, we've got to pause to salute these folks for having made their mark in hosting everything from local to top international regattas. In February, they put on Mexico's J/24 Nationals and the Governor's Cup, and in early March they hosted the prestigious J/24 Worlds, with over 70 boats from 17 countries. Despite the fact that it was a huge production, the yacht club and marina combined to put on what many veterans of previous J/24 Worlds said was the best one ever. Despite everyone being a little burned out, they still rallied to host the 15th annual Banderas Bay Regatta, and this July will be hosting the Optimist Worlds, with over 200 young sailors from 20 countries. Of course, none of this would have been possible with out the great cooperation of Graziano, owner of Paradise Resort and Marina; Harbormaster Dick Markie and his staff; and the Vallarta YC and its many volunteers. On behalf of everyone who benefited from all your tireless efforts, thank you!

One of the world's deepest mysteries - other than peoples' interest in Paris Hilton - is why more cruisers don't participate in the fun and free Banderas Bay Regatta. As it was, there were only 28 entries in six divisions. They ranged in size from a San Juan 24 that is a hurricane Kenna survivor, to Latitude's 63-ft catamaran. Even though the winds and participation were light, the close competition and the fact all the competitors became good friends made for an event that punched well above its weight.

For the record, Kevin Reath's Something Wicked, a Beneteau 40.7, ran away with Class 1, with Frank Glassner's J/120 J/World finishing second. In Class 2, John Haste's Perry/Antrim 52 cat Little Wing bested Eric and Dana Jones' Seawings tri Seawings. In Class 3, Platinum, Mark and Clair's N/M 45, tied with Craig Alger's Beneteau 42 Page One, but took honors via the tie-breaker. In Class 4, the "one and only" Eugenie Russell, and her crew of Greg Dean, Molly McMahon, and Mark Passis on J/80 #5 bested the other two J/80s. In Class 5, Charles Naslund's Catalina 30 Saber Vivir 30 nipped Paul Whitfield's Islander 36 Casablanca by just a few seconds to earn a quarter point victory. In Class 6, Jody Ward's lovely wood Lapworth 36 Eros, sailing with local kids, bested Nicole Bachmann's San Juan 24 Mita'z Pizza for top honors.

As usual, the Banderas Bay Regatta was preceded by two days with Latitude's Pirates for Pupils fundraising spinnaker run from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina. About 10 boats participated in ideal conditions, with nice wind, brilliant blue skies and typically flat seas. About $1,000 was raised by folks who came aboard the various boats, and another $1,000 was chipped in by members of last year's Ha-Ha. Thanks to everyone for their contributions. And wasn't the 'first day of spring' parade, with all the local kindergarteners dressed up in gaudy prom outfits, a hoot?

With the opening of the 450-berth La Cruz Marina expected for about December of this year, Banderas Bay, one of the best places to pleasure sail in the entire world because of reliable wind, flat water and great nearby sailing destinations, will have three major marinas within a 10-mile stretch. If there isn't an increase in cruiser racing and cruiser cruising on the bay, plus growing rivalries between the marinas, we'll be surprised. We've also learned that Eugenie Russell, Commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht and Surf Club, and Latitude 38 have decided that the Pirates for Pupils fundraiser will become a three-day North Shore Cruisers' Rally on December 6, 7 and 8. The first night will be to La Cruz for a noisy night of music and dancing at Philo's, followed by a cruise the next day to Punta Mita for surfing and more music and dancing at the Punta Mita Y&S Club, followed on Saturday by the traditional spinnaker run back to Paradise Marina. Best of all, the event will feature three days of racing between the destinations, pitting John Haste's Perry 52 cat Little Wing and Lisa Zittel's J/80 J/World representing the Vallarta YC, against Latitude's Profligate and Eugenie Russell's J/80 J/World 2, representing the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club. If you like fun, you might want to be there.

The Banderas Bay Regatta will be held in early March.

- latitude 04/15/07

Aquarelle - MT-42 Cutter
Ken and Diane Kay
Heavy Weather
(Long Beach)

We had to return to Nelson, New Zealand, after departing for Australia and running into bad weather that caused a lot of problems. Here's what happened:

We finished with Kiwi Customs early on April 12 and, along with our crew Graeme, headed for 1,000-mile-distant Sydney in calm conditions. The forecast had been for15 knots until Friday - the 13th - afternoon when winds were to peak at 30 knots along with 10-ft swells. Late that night it was supposed to ease back to 15 knots.

The 30-knot winds arrived early Friday evening, so we decided to furl the staysail and put a triple reef in our main. Despite the forecast of winds to just 30 knots, it built to gusts of 40 knots with 12-ft seas. Ken took the helm at 11 p.m., at which point the wind increased to 55 knots with ever-growing seas. Two hours later, he was violenty ill, vomiting every few minutes until he was down to the dry heaves.

Graeme came on watch at 3 a.m., at which time the wind was blowing 58 knots and the seas were upwards of 30 feet. An hour later, our Taiwan-built Ted Brewer design took her first knockdown. The sound was unbelievable! The wind had been howling so loud that we could barely hear each other inside the salon, and out in the cockpit it was horrendous. The wave that broadsided us had sounded like a bomb going off! We couldn't believe that our rig - a new mast, LeisureFurl boom, and two furlers that we put on before leaving California - was still standing.

By then Ken was lying helpless in the dinette, stuffed in between some pillows. At least when he was on his side he stopped wretching. But even for Graeme and me, it was impossible to stand - and even crawling was extremely difficult. I had taken a few pills during my early evening watch, but about the time of the first knockdown I'd become violently seasick myself. Even though our companionway had been closed, the knockdown flooded our boat via hatches and the Vetus vents. And unknown to us at the time, a port up in the V-berth area had burst open, allowing water to continually pour into the boat.

Because Aquarelle had been on a port tack at the time of the knockdown, gallons of water had flooded the instrument/electrical panel and much of everything else. It was a real mess, as the cupboards had all opened up and emptied their contents out. The sole of the boat was covered with a watery mess that included food - a dozen broken eggs plus other stuff - charts, the contents of the cupboards, and, of course, vomit. By this time there wasn't one dry thing on the boat. Every cushion, mattress, book, piece of clothing, blanklet and towel had been drenched.

When I clipped into my harness at 7 a.m. on Friday morning, I was experiencing sheer pee-in-my-pants terror, as the sea was just a series of frothy white mountains of breaking water. Wave after wave pounded Aquarelle, and the way she shuddered unnerved me. I began to shake and felt as though I was going to become hysterical. By then we were approximately 100 miles off New Plymouth, and I shouted down to Ken and Graeme that I wanted to turn back.

Moments later Aquarelle was knocked down a second time. Again the boat filled with water. Ken managed to crawl from his berth to the radio, where he attempted to call Maritime Radio for a weather update. It was then that we realized that we'd lost all our electronics. The computer was gone, too, sloshing around in the saltwater slop on the sole. The SSB, radar, and all the other electronics in our nav station had been knocked out. Only our old VHF radio had managed to survive, but the signal from Maritime Radio was very weak.

The three of us agreed that we should head back to Nelson. Ken, Graeme and I all gathered in the cockpit in our foulies, which by this time we'd been sleeping in. We'd been under power for a number of hours, and Ken noticed that a running backstay line was dragging in the water. Clipping into a jackline, Graeme volunteered to leave the cockpit and get the line before it fouled in the prop, which would have left us helpless in the massive seas. After successfully retrieving the line, Graeme started to return to the cockpit. But just as he unclipped his tether and leaned over the coaming, Aquarelle was knocked down a third time - and Grame was washed head-over-heels off the boat! Ken scrambled to grab onto Graeme, who was hanging onto the lifeline as the boat rolled once more. Somehow, he was able to pull Graeme back aboard as Aquarelle righted herself. It was incredible!

By then we were all scared out of our wits. The wind was gusting to well over 60 knots and there were 35-ft swells - Force 12. The following hours were pure hell. With no navigation equipment, our paper charts lost to the sloshing slop, and the storm still raging, we crawled into our small and wet holes to wait out another terrifying night. Ken and Graeme 'stood' their watches by lying on the floor of the pilothouse in full foul-weather gear, sliding back and forth as Aquarelle was punished by the seas for hour after hour. Every 20 minutes they'd crawl up the companionway to make sure we still had a rig. By this time I was in a state of shock, shaking with fear and vomiting violently.

Saturday dawned with lighter winds - just 48 knots - and Ken and I were no longer sick. We were all still badly shaken from the ordeal, particularly Graeme going overboard, but we were beginning to think we might actually make it back to New Zealand. We made more attempts to reach Maritime Radio for waypoints, which we were able to put into our handheld GPS, our only remaining piece bit of electronic navigation equipment.

We finally approached the Nelson breakwater shortly after 9 p.m. on Saturday. But when we asked for a heading into the harbor, the officials declined to give it to us! They said it would be "illegal" for them to do so. Thus we bumped along the breakwater wall in the dark until we found the right spot. Fortunately, I was able to recall the layout of the harbor and get us back to the dock. New Zealand Customs was, naturally, right there to greet us and made us go through the entire clearing procedure again. At this time we are cleaning up the boat and taking stock of the damage, but will be flying back to the States to decide where we want to go from here. But at least we're still alive and Aquarelle's rig is still up.

- diane 04/18/07

Diane - Three knockdowns in just a couple of hours? We can't remember the last time a cruising boat reported conditions that bad to Latitude. We're glad that you and your boat made it through so well.

Cruise Notes:

"We've survived 'Pirate Alley' and the Bab el Mandeb (Gates of Hell) at the southern end of the Red Sea, and are now north of Massawa, Eritrea, making our way north toward the Med," report Sam and Bill Fleetwood of the Monterey-based Gulfstar 50 ketch Blue Banana. "We went through the 'Bab' in 35 knots of wind and huge seas, but at least they were from aft. Ever since then, we've been sailing into northerlies. Sometimes it's light enough that we can sail, but often we're up against 25 knots and big, close-together seas that almost bring our 20-ton boat to a halt. Sometimes we venture out for a few hours, and make a few miles, but have to turn back. After we had our paint job/refit done in Phuket, we suffered from terrible leaks during heavy rains or when pounding into big seas. We weren't sure where the water was getting in, but after seeping through the lockers, there were actual rivulets of water running across our new teak sole! We lost a lot of clothes, food and books. So while in Aden, Yemen, we took all 14 chainplates apart and dug out all the Sikaflex. We put new Sikaflex in, covered it with a slice of Bill's old neoprene wetsuit, then put the chainplates back on. We haven't had any leaks since. We hope this tip might help some Latitude readers.

While at Strictly Sail in Oakland last month, we bumped into Jerry Morgan of the San Francisco-based Trintella 53 Sumatra. He looked significantly leaner, healthier and younger than he did during the Ha-Ha two years ago. "It's the cruising life," he laughed. "Originally we were going to go to Europe, but it's so expensive over there that we cruised down to Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador, instead. It's fabulous! The people are wonderful, we anchor out for free, and all the food and restaurants are very inexpensive. It costs us less to cruise than it did for us to live and work back in the States. In addition to our travels on the water, we've made a number of inland trips to the capital of Quito, Peru's Machupicchu, and other great places."

For the last decade, Ecuador has had a new president about every 35 minutes, and right now it has parallel groups claiming to be Congress. Morgan says that kind of political infighting two miles high in the capital hasn't had any effect on life at sea level. He also reports that everybody flying to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands now has to pay $100 as soon as they step off the plane, as the government is trying to reduce tourism to stop its deleterious effects on those fabled islands. Yachties, however, haven't yet had to pay the $100/person fee and have been allowed to stay for two weeks. After a visit to the Galapagos, Sumatra will cross to the Marquesas.

While cruisers are still being welcomed at the Galapagos Islands, it's hard to tell what the future holds. Under pressure from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Ecuador's new President Rafael Correa is considering various options, including limiting tourist permits, to fight the environmental degradation of the islands. There's no doubt that the Galapagos, located 620 miles off the coast of South America and famed for inspiring Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution, are facing major ecological problems. And small wonder. When we first started Latitude, hardly anybody went to the Galapagos by any means, and hardly anybody lived there. Massive tourism and the jobs it creates have changed all that. The Galapagos are now home to 25,000 not-very-neat residents, including 5,000 people who are there illegally, and including some government officials and military officers who have allowed illegal fishing. Although yachts are still being welcomed to the Galapagos with limited restrictions, don't count on that being the case for much longer.

Speaking of Ecuador, Dave Crane of the Oceanside-based Freeport 41 Revenir reports that Saiananda is a new facility for cruisers and others in the Bahia Caraquez area. "The facility is run by Alfredo Harmsen, a biologist who has turned his rambling riverfront home into a B&B eco resort, and amenities include moorings, a floating dinghy dock, hot showers, and lots of animals on the grounds. Sainanda is located six miles up the estuary from the mooring buoys at the established Puerto Amistad cruisers' yacht club, and the owners have recently installed new helical screw anchors directly into the river bottom so the moorings can handle boats from 30 to 60 feet. When we first arrived, we moored Revenir at Puerto Amistad, but moved up to Saiananda two years ago. It's more isolated from the sometimes all-night noise of boisterous Bahia, yet is only an 18-cent, 15-minute bus ride from the heart of the city. Harmsen can be contacted by . We've been in and out of Bahia Caraquez for three years now, enjoying the San Diego-like climate, and the location's ease of crossing to and from Panama and Costa Rica and its proximity to the Galapagos.

Does anybody remember Eli and Sara Bottrell, the young San Francisco couple who bought Geja, the Bay Area-based Islander 36 that Dick and Sandy Shirley sailed most of the way around the world over a period of 15 years? What made the deal interesting is that the price was low, just $10,000, if we remember correctly. What made the deal more interesting is that the boat was on the hard in Spain, so most folks who were going to bid on the boat were going to have to do it sight unseen. We at Latitude thought that even if Geja was pretty badly trashed, she'd still make a great deal for a young couple seeking a low-cost sailing adventure in the Med. The Bottrells agreed and immediately bought the boat. They've now been in Spain for a few weeks, and despite a mountain of work and cleaning up that has to be done, have gotten lots of help from locals and the members of the San Francisco Bay Islander 36 Association, and are very happy with the deal. They hoped to get the boat back in the water before the beginning of May, and we hope to have a report in the next issue.

It's rare for a cruising cat to flip, but even rarer for one to be flipped twice. Nonetheless, that's apparently what happened to Paradox, a cat that started life in '96 as an F/P Tobago 35, and was most recently owned by Tom and Stanna Galbraith of Durango, Colorado. We're not sure how the cat came to be upside down in Belize's Rio Hondo in '01, but it's our understanding from some fascinating video on the couple's website that, using a small tug, they managed to have the cat righted. As the boat had been upside down long enough for there to be growth several inches long throughout the interior and on the deck of the boat, it was a disgusting-looking mess, and you can imagine the condition of the wiring and electronics. But the Galbraiths obviously saw possibilities and, after what had to be endless months of dreadful work, ended up with a cat, stretched to 38 feet, that looked smashing. And based on other photos on their website, they had a ball cruising the western Caribbean.

However, according to reports on the web and from the Coast Guard, things went south on April 11 when the couple were sailing from Key West to Tampa. They were hit by a squall which increased the windspeed from 11 to 48 knots, immediately flipping the cat. The 60-year-old Tom grabbed his wife and pulled her into the hull where they kept the tools and wetsuits. While it had to be creepy inside the overturned hull, they knew the cat wasn't going to sink, and there was plenty of air. Having heard only one ping from the EPIRB, Tom realized that the EPIRB signal wasn't getting out. So the next day he drilled a hole in the bottom of the hull - which was now above their heads - and stuck the EPIRB antenna out. The EPIRB immediately started pinging away. Coast Guard Miami got the signal and launched a search plane at 5 p.m., finding the overturned cat an hour later some 171 miles southwest of Tampa. A rescue helicopter arrived on the scene at 8:30 p.m. and hoisted the couple aboard. Neither Tom nor Stanna were in need of medical treatment, but had only managed to come away with $1,500 and some papers. Family members report they have no interest in restoring the cat a second time.

The last six months have been hard on the reputation of catamarans. Last December, the Voyager 440 Catshot was flipped and beached during a furious storm - that was forecast well in advance - during a delivery from San Francisco to Seattle. None of the three crew were found. A short time later, a 45-ft catamaran being delivered from France to Annapolis was flipped in another very bad storm, this time near Bermuda. The delivery skipper died of hypothermia as a rescue helicopter arrived, but the two crew survived. And now Paradox is flipped and likely lost. If you're thinking of buying a catamaran, we, who have owned a catamaran for more than a decade, want to leave you with two thoughts. First, the size of a cat really does contribute to stability. According to multihull designer Chris White's book on multihulls, if you double the size of a cat, the stability increases 16 fold, all else being equal. Second, if you're on a cat and the wind is very strong or a squall is approaching, somebody must have their hand on the mainsheet and/or traveller, ready to ease at a second's notice. Being badly overpowered on a monohull can result in a knockdown that might bruise you and make a mess of the interior of your boat, but being badly overpowered on a cat can turn your whole world upside down.

Despite the rash of well-publicized reports of problems with cruising cats, the desire for catamarans continues to increase. Charter companies around the world are increasing the percentage of cats in their fleets, and more private parties on the west coast and elsewhere continue to express an interest in moving over to the dark side.

"We just submitted an ad to Latitude that starts off: Jellybean is for sale!" writes Marlene Verdery, co-captain of the Sausalito-based Pearson 36 Jellybean. "We're buying a Manta 40 cat, currently located in St. Augustine, Florida, and are flying back there to bring her down to Panama, through the Canal, and up to La Paz by late June. We've obviously been bitten by the cruising bug, and hope to be 'out there' indefinitely - except for summers when Roy will continue working as a hospitalist."

Congratulations on your new boat! We know you didn't ask, but delivering a new-to-you 40-ft cat from Florida to La Paz in two months is a very ambitious plan, particularly when the second of those two months is in part of hurricane season in Mexico. If we might be so bold, we suggest that you consider sailing your cat to Panama and leaving her at Bocas del Toro for the summer while Roy works. Then, in October or November, you can cruise to the San Blas Islands, a place we bet you'd love to spend a month or more, then begin working your way north to Central America, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.

Another sailor who has gone over to the dark side is Bob Willman of Golden, Colorado. He did the '00 Ha-Ha board his Islander 37 Viva!, then often cruised in company with Steve Cherry of Witch of Endor, taking four years to reach Ecuador. Two years ago, both of them came through the Ditch to visit the Caribbean side of Panama, the San Blas Islands, and Cartagena. But five years to the day after Willman started his sailing career, Viva! fell victim to a hurricane that formed over Isla Providencia, where he and Cherry were anchored. Willman spent the next six months as a "privileged guest" aboard the Witch. "I finally left the Witch in Florida to begin a full-time search for a catamaran, and found the right boat, an '89 F/P Casamanse 44 that had been stretched to 47 feet. I love the cat - but it did take me awhile to learn to feel the wind without heeling. The new Viva! is more performance-oriented than most of the catamarans on the market, and definitely a better sailor than I am - which isn't saying that much. Eventually I will introduce my new Viva! to the Sea of Cortez - the best cruising grounds I've ever found. And a place where I can get my Latitudes regularly."

We became green with envy when we received this report. Annibale 'Ni' Orsi, formerly of Stockton, reports that he is now on his way from Aracaju, Brazil, where his new Dolphin 460 catamaran Finalmente was built and fitted out with air-conditioning and other stuff, to Italy by way of the Azores. Along for the lengthy trip and Atlantic crossing are Ray Hawkins of Modesto, Randy Sparks of Santa Cruz, and Roberto Lux Teixeira of Sao Paulo. While in the Azores, they will be joined by Urban Gomes of Angel's Camp. Upon reaching the Med, they will drop by Valencia to try to catch some of the America's Cup action, then continue on to Santa Margherita, gateway to Portofino, Ni's new home, which they expect to reach by May 17th. At that point, they'll have the entire summer before them on the Italian Riveira. La dolce vita, baby! Ni says he plans to stay in Italian waters for two years.

To be honest, we had no idea if Annibale was a man or woman, so we had to sheepishly inquire. "My Italian name comes from Hannible, the man who rode elephants over the Alps," Ni responded, "and my wife is Krissy. Although I was a member of the '60 U.S. Waterski Team, and placed the highest of any American in the '64 Winter Olympics in downhill racing, I've had boats my whole life. Jeff Canepa got me started in Hobie 14s, 16s and 18s, Ray Hawkins and I are longtime Columbia 5.5 racers from the Stockton Sailing Club, and my Cal 27 pop-top is a past winner of the Stockton to South Tower Race. And I still own Miss Pam, a Garwood Commodore 20 classic speedboat that my father bought new in 1946. Ciao!"

"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz!" writes Steve Cherry of the San Diego-based big Witch of Endor, a Vagabond 47. "Yesterday was a red-letter day for me. First, little Witch of Endor, the Formosa 41 that I cruised for so many years, finally sold. It's a relief to be back to only owning one cruising boat again. I hated to see the Little Witch sitting on the hard, exposed to the ravages of the Northeastern weather, and now she'll get back in the water and get the attention she deserves. Second, the results from my mid-term cat scans showed no indication of any kind of cancer. After four more biweekly chemo infusions, all my treatment will be history. Third, my new boat, Big Witch, is sitting on the hard at Indian River Boatworks in Fort Pierce, Florida, and the engine has been overhauled, she's gotten a new shaft, new cutlass bearing, and new motor mounts have been installed. The new dodger is almost on, the masts have been pulled and painted, and a new Muir windlass will soon be installed. Also coming are the refrigeration, radar, roller furling staysail and a lot of other odds and ends. When that's all done, I'll be expecting to meet up with my longtime buddyboating friend Bob Willmen as he sails north to the Chesapeake Bay in May or June aboard his new-to-him catamaran. We'll muster again in November or December, maybe in Beaufort, South Carolina, then head down to the Caribbean via the Bahamas, Luperon in the D.R., then down the Eastern Caribbean to Venezuela, then Cartagena - where I'll get a new gelcoat put on - to Bocas del Toro, Panama, then through the Canal to the Pacific. Once there, we'll bounce back and forth between Panama and Mexico as the hurricane seasons dictate. Hey everyone, get that colonoscopy!"

The first of this year's Puddle Jump group turned out to be the father and son team of David Kelly and his 20-year-old son Patrick, assisted by the self-described "boat wench" Carly Dennis of the Cal 30 No Regrets. Up until two years ago, David and Patrick were longtime powerboaters who had honed their skills in the Santa Cruz Sea Scouts. Nonetheless, they made the P.V. to Marquesas passage in 23 days.

Puddle Jumpers Steve and Susan Chamberlin, along with crew A.J. Benham and John Gillespie, set a rapid crossing standard with their Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 46 Surprise. The veterans of five crossings with the boat already, they completed the 2,800 or so miles to the Marquesas in 16 days. "Our whomper, a 165% jib top, had us sailing as fast as the wind in light reaching off the coast, as we made 189 miles in 24 hours in just 8 to 10 knots of wind." The boat had no real problems until after they anchored at Tahauku on Hiva Oa, While they were anchored to check in and get provisions, the rudder slammed down hard on the bottom during a large swell at night. The impact shattered the master link in the steering gear and badly twisted the autopilot mounting bracket. The rudder, which has many layers of carbon fiber, was undamaged and, using the emergency tiller, the Chamberlins were able to motor to a calmer anchorage and make repairs.

Jonesy and Terry Morris of the Chula Vista-based Gulfstar Sailmaster 50 Niki Wiki report there is apparently a new marina in the offing near Zihua. Miami-based Related International announced they will be building a resort on a three-mile stretch of beach between the Zihua airport and downtown that will include "a 180-room hotel, 400 residences, an 18-hole golf course and a marina." There was no word on the size of the marina, which is one part of Related's $1 billion investment in Mexican coastal properties.

"One of the best-kept secrets in the Zihua area is the haulout facility at Marina Ixtapa and its 130-ton Travel-Lift," reports Dick Locke of the Walnut Creek-based Tayana 47 Tanoshii. "I'd been in Zihua for three weeks before I'd ever heard of it. I have a friend who was about to make a pre-Puddle Jump trip all the way back up to Puerto Vallarta because he hadn't heard about the yard either! The yard, operated by Performance Marine, just opened, and there's not much more there than the level concrete surface, jackstands, and the Travel-Lift. But they have hired a few workers away from the Opeqimar yard in Puerto Vallarta, and seem to be making a serious effort to become a success. It's great to have another pleasure boat- oriented yard on the west coast of Mexico."

Thanks for the report. The only downside for do-it-yourselfers hauling their boats in Marina Ixtapa, as opposed to P.V., Mazatlan or La Paz, is that Marina Ixtapa, tucked back from the sea, is very hot and humid, even in the dead of winter.

"What brings former cruisers the warmest memories of their cruising years?" rhetorically ask Jan and Signe Twardowski of the Gig Harbor-based Sundeer 64 Raven. "For most of us, it wasn't so much the places we went - although they were wonderful - but the people we met along the way. We have such fond memories of Jean-Marie and Emiliane and their family in Makemo in the Tuamotus; Teata, our dinner hostess in Fatu Hiva; Becko the pearl carver; and so many others. As for our fellow cruisers, they became like family, as we shared exotic adventures, joyous celebrations - as well as difficulties at sea, illness and injury. For us, that was our 'real world', never to be forgotten, and always a pleasure to recall with close friends.

"Our Puddle Jump Class of '02 was a pretty tight group," continue the Twardowskis. "We got organized in P.V. before jumping off and going our own ways through the islands, but had reunions all over the South Pacific - Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Fakarava, Moorea, Vava'u, Auckland during the America's Cup, and at Musket Cove. Heck, we had reunions at just about every other island through the South Pacific. Five wonderful years later, almost all of us have or are heading back to the West Coast, either by sailing uphill, Dockwise-ing, or selling our boats in New Zealand or Australia. Two of the best-known exceptions are Pete and Susan Wolcott of Hawaii, who have replaced their SC52 Kiapa with a new M&M 52 custom cat built by Schooner Creek in Portland, and who, after cruising Alaska this summer, will be heading across the Pacific again. And, Keith and Susan Levy of the Richmond-based Catalina 47 C'est La Vie, who can't wait to get back to their boat in Australia early next year to resume cruising.

"Those enjoying the festivities in San Diego included Paul Zack and Mary Taylor of the Long Beach-based Tayana 37 Avventura; John and Arianna Flook of the Passport 40 By Chance; Keith and Susan Levy of the previously mentioned C'est La Vie; Debbie and Al Farner of the Richmond-based Valiant 40 Different Worlds; Clark and Suzie Straw of the San Diego-based Mason 54 Final Straw; Adrian and Paula Fournier of L'Eau Life; Dave and Gay Rutter of the Seattle-based Perry 57 Mobisle; John and Diane Anderson of Rag'n Dragon; John and Lynette Flynn of the Grand Soleil 46 White Hawk, and us. We all loved the cruising life and vow to keep the reunions going in the future. We relish every copy of Latitude to help us continue leading this 'real life', even if vicariously, and thank you for all the information, encouragement and support that you provided. By the way, we sold our Raven to a Tucson couple who are friends of Steve and Linda Dashew, and she's still cruising the South Pacific."

"I thought I'd say 'hello' to let everyone know that I'm off on another sailing trip," writes Quinn Closson of the San Diego-based Roberts 53 Tequila. "I sailed her to Australia two years ago after the Ha-Ha, and soon I'll be sailing her home. In fact, if you know any cute girls looking for some adventure, I'm their guy. I've already been down to the boat for 10 days to survey her for the trip, although while there, I bumped into some local girls and somehow a lot of rum got consumed. By the way, I'm sure many of the folks who did the '05 Ha-Ha with us will remember Mike. He not only played a key role in all our shenanigans, but sailed all the way to Australia with me."

Closson is one of those folks who was pretty much a sailing novice before the start of the '04 Ha-Ha. In fact, once he and Tequila were almost to the first stop at Turtle Bay, their experienced crew claimed it was too rough, and made him turn around and sail all the way back to Ensenada to drop them off. But Quinn and Mike were undeterred and, despite having to sail about 300 extra miles, managed to catch up with the fleet as it was about to depart Turtle Bay.

We always love to hear about folks making great voyages in small boats. By the time you read this, singlehander Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Naja 30 Fleetwood should be far past St. Helena in the South Atlantic and have made landfall at Brazil. He doesn't have that far to go to complete a circumnavigation.

From bikes to boats for the Bash. We bumped into Richard Owens of Mill Valley, who was getting ready to do a bash from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego with his Norseman 525. Knowing it would be cold north of Cabo, he'd bought a biker's electric heating vest - the kind that normally gets plugged into a motorcycle's electric system. "I put a 12-volt plug into my cockpit console, so when I'm in the cockpit I've got my heated vest, my Ipod and my autopilot." We think that noise is Bernard Moitessier rolling over in his grave. By the way, when not sailing, Owens is into golf, not bikes.

If you're going to be keeping your boat in Venezuela for the hurricane season, you'd better keep your eye out for inflation - and meat! President Chavez's so-called 'Bolivarian Socialism' has raised the real incomes of the poor - who comprise 58% of the population - by 135%. That's a wonderful thing. However, thanks to foreign exchange controls, inflation, and to a tiny degree the fact that President C is giving fuel subsidies to some poor Americans, inflation is rampant and has therefore provoked conspiculous consumption. The results are sometimes humorous, such as Govenor Luis Acosta Corlez, a Chavez supporting, blasting critics by saying, "Don't revolutionaries have the right to own Hummers, too?" The noise you hear this time is Che rolling over in his grave. A Hummer, by the way, costs $180,000 U.S. in Venezuela. The not-so-funny part of inflation and price controls is that beef is almost impossible to find in the stores. Why? Because butchers can sell it on the black market for four times the official price. That's the downside of un-free markets. We wonder if there are shortages of bottom paint, too.

Tom Perkins of Belvedere took Maltese Falcon, his 289-ft Dyna-Rigged giga-yacht, to St. Barth for the 'Bucket' in early April to duke it out - in friendly fashion - with 30 other yachts, most of which were well over 100 feet. He reports that he was very pleased with his boat's 'wow factor', but even more so with her starts. Perkins reports his football field-long yacht was never more than two seconds late in crossing the line. "If we do say so for ourselves, we think that's awesome!" But what we really would have liked to see in person was Falcon crossing the finish line doing 18.8 knots! Maltese Falcon is already on her way back to the Med, where she'll race in the Palma Superyacht Regatta in June.

Missing the pictures? See the May 2007 eBook!

Top / Subscriptions / Classifieds / Home

©2007 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.