Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
May 2008

Missing the pictures? See our May 2008 eBook! 

With reports this month from the World ARC in French Polynesia; from Boomerang on a long-term small boat cruise; from Alan Olson on the Clipper Route alternative to the Baja Bash; from Swell at unnamed surf spots in the Pacific; from Freewind on reasons not to bypass Cochin, India; from Warren Peace on two boats in Mexico with the same name; from Nuevo Vallarta on converting to a luxury marina; and Cruise Notes.

World ARC '08 & '10
World Cruising Limited

In 1986, after a six-year, 68,000-mile circumnavigation with his wife and two children aboard the Van de Stadt 36 Aventura, during which time he wrote for the BBC World Service, Romanian-born Jimmy Cornell founded the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). It was the world's first long distance cruising rally, nearly 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Barbados — and more recently to St. Lucia. A smash from the outset, the ARC continues to regularly attract well in excess of 200 boats. Between '91 and '00, Cornell also organized five around the world cruising rallies, most of them taking two or three years.

In '99, rights to the ARC were acquired by the Isle of Wight-based World Cruising Ltd., which has continued to run successful ARCs and around-the-world rallies. Their current around-the-world event is the one-year World ARC '08, which left the Caribbean earlier this year. The fleet of 41 boats from 13 nations is now making its way through French Polynesia. There are but three American entries, which is terribly embarrassing, since their are also three entries from the sparsely populated country to the north whose loonie has been pounding our once-mighty dollar. The American entries are Don and Anne Myers' Syracuse, New York-based Amel Super Maramu 52 Harmonie, Jim and Mimi Logan's Sarasota-based Outremer 55 catamaran Candela, and Suzan Nettleship and Michael Bell's Seattle-based Avatar 52 Maamalni. The latter boat, beset by mechanical issues, dropped three weeks behind in the Galapagos, so they are skipping the Marquesas and Tuamotus in an attempt to catch the rest of the fleet in Tahiti.

The Myers offered the following facts on their 2,980-mile Galapagos-to-Marquesas passage: It took 17 days and 9 hours, which included nearly 36 hours of motoring, meaning they averaged a credible 7.14 knots. The highest wind speed they encountered was 29 knots, while the lowest was three knots. The biggest seas were eight feet. It got as hot as 90.8 degrees and as low as 78.8 degrees.

Based on the popularity of the ARC '08, and how well things have been going this time around, World Cruising Ltd. has announced ARC '10, a similar event that will depart the Caribbean in January of '10 and take 14 months to circle the globe. Monohulls must be over 40 feet, while multihulls, for reasons that escape us, must be between 40 and 60 feet. We're sure the event will sell out despite a considerable obstacle — the price. Based on the size of the boat, this year's entries paid between $8,000 and $10,000 per boat, with an extra $1,000 per crew. Such a rally is not the kind of way everyone would like to go around the world, but for some, it's just the thing. If you're one of the latter, visit their website at

— latitude 04/15/08

Boomerang — Corsair 31
Chuck and Elaine Vanderboom
Small Tri Cruising
(Lake Havasu, Arizona)

When people think of going cruising, they rarely think of doing it aboard a small trimaran. But that was not the case with Chuck and Elaine, whose good looks and fine physiques belie the fact they're about to celebrate their 32nd anniversary. The two have been cruising Mexico since the start of the Ha-Ha in late October, and they still have two months to go. In all, they will have cruised the tri for seven months. "We'll have overstayed our visa by a month," laughs Chuck, "so we'll have to take care of that somehow."

The Lake Havasu couple — he's a contractor, she's a realtor and in property management — have only been sailing for four years. They started with a Hobie Cat, then moved up to a Corsair 24, a small tri that Elaine inadvertently managed to hit 20 knots with on Lake Tahoe. Two-and-a-half years ago, they bought the Ultimate Cruiser model of the Corsair 31 tri, which features a small aft cabin instead of a somewhat longer cockpit.

The couple have gone all over with Boomerang — including Lake Tahoe, Catalina, and San Diego multiple times. They report that their Corsair has been easy to tow with a Chevy Half-Ton Silverado pick-up with a 6.0 liter engine. Once they get to a destination, it takes them about 90 minutes to get the boat ready to cast off. "You raise the mast with a 'gin pole' using the trailer winch and a halyard," says Chuck. "We've probably done it 20 times and never had a problem."

By pure coincidence, the Vanderbooms used to take a land vacation in Cabo each year at the same time that the Ha-Ha fleet would pull in. After 'crashing' the Ha-Ha party in '06, they decided to do last year's giggle with Boomerang, which turned out to be one of three Corsair 31s in the event.

"The Ha-Ha was a real blast," says Elaine, "but it was really wet on the windy first leg. We were lucky to have our 24-year-old son Kevin along as crew. He's not that experienced a sailor, but he's an athletic water guy and learned fast."

"We did a lot of surfing at 14 to 18 knots," remembers Chuck. "It was lucky that it was too dark to see the waves that first night, because we were a little shocked when we saw how large they were the next morning. So we reefed the main, and still hit 14 knots with just that and the jib.

It's no surprise that Boomerang could hit such speeds, because she has plenty of sail area, yet only displaces about 4,000 pounds. Her light displacement also means she's quick in zephyrs, too. In fact, she's easily been one of the fastest true cruising boats in Mexico this winter, and was the top first-to-finish boat in the recent Sea of Cortez Sailing Week.

The compromise, of course, is that Boomerang is not always as dry or luxurious as most other cruising boats. The only sheltered accommodation is in the main hull, which has about six feet of headroom. While nothing is very spacious, the interior still has a galley, head, and shower. 'Luxury camping' would be a good way to describe it. The Vanderboom's boat is impeccably clean, with everything — by necessity — in its proper place.

The cockpit is comfortable for two, and, thanks to the tri's 22.5-ft beam, there is plenty of room to stretch out on the tramps under the shade of the boom tent that was designed specifically for Corsair 31s at anchor.

Because the boat is so light, she's also sensitive to weight. Chuck says he can easily tell when they've added 200 pounds of whatever. As such, they don't have a watermaker, and having to schlepp water and ice every couple of days has been one of the downsides of cruising on this type of boat.

The couple carry 30 gallons of water in a tank, plus six one-gallon jugs, and four 10-liter bottles of drinking water. "A gallon of water a day per person is about right," Chuck says. Getting water and ice every couple of days wasn't too hard on the mainland, but now that they are heading north of La Paz into the much less populated areas of the Sea of Cortez, they realize they may be moving into more of a "backpacking mode." But no worries, they're experienced campers, too.

Chuck and Elaine report they've spent about 30% of the season in marinas, where they get to scratch their greatest itch — long and hot showers, preferably in spacious stalls. "It's our luxury," admits Elaine. The only time they felt a need to get off the boat was in February in Ixtapa, after three months aboard. They took a hotel room for a week, but have been back aboard ever since.

Looking to the future, the couple have decided that seven months on a Corsair 31 is perhaps a little longer than they'd like to do every year. With the real estate market having cooled, it's been the perfect time for a contractor and a realtor to take a career break, but in the future they'll probably limit their Corsair 31 cruises to no more than four months at a time.

In the rare instances when there is not enough wind to sail, Boomerang is powered by a four-stroke Honda 15 outboard. "We can motor at up to eight knots," says Chuck, "but we only use half the gas when we throttle back to 6.5 knots." They also carry an 8-ft dinghy powered by a 2 hp Honda.

Boomerang's four small solar panels provide most of their modest electrical needs.

With Boomerang and Latitude's 63-ft catamaran Profligate both competing in the recent Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, it was a great opportunity to see two completely different cruising multihulls in action. In the first and fourth races, which were dominated by winds of less than five knots, Boomerang was very fast and Profligate might as well have been anchored. The third race, a 20-miler that featured 22-knot winds easing off to about 12 knots near the finish, was much more interesting. It took our crew of four on Profligate about 15 minutes after starting the rest of the fleet to set the main and a Santa Cruz 70 chute. Under that sail plan, we were able to top out at 16 knots and sail quickly through the rest of the fleet. But, as we neared the finish line in a good but diminishing breeze, we noticed a smaller boat not that far behind periodically gaining ground. "Who is that?" we wondered. It was Chuck and Elaine, who'd hit a top speed of 15.9 knots, and looked fine doing it. Two entirely different multihulls, one displacing one-tenth of the other, but nearly the same result.

— latitude 04/05/08

The Clipper Route
Alan Olson

We've heard from several folks who have done a Clipper Route passage from Mexico back to Northern California or the Pacific Northwest, but Alan Olson of Sausalito has done it eight times himself, and been closely associated with boats that have done four others. He thinks more cruisers ought to at least be aware of the option.

The course is simplicity itself. You set sail from mainland Mexico in what are predominantly northwesterlies, and sail as far west as necessary to reach the easterly trades. While the wind is light and the weather mild, it's a little spooky, because at best you're sailing due west, but more than likely south of west. In other words, away from your ultimate destination. You have to have faith that the shortest second sailing distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line — or even the rhumb line or great circle.

Once you get about 400 miles out, the wind will clock around to the north, northeast, and finally become the easterly trades so popular for blowing mariners to Hawaii. As you sail into the easterly trades, you don't change your sail trim, but simply continue to ride the increasing lift. "The easterlies blow at 10 to 20 knots," says Olson, "and the seas aren't too big — 4 to 9 feet. Because of the current, which is unfortunately adverse, the waves are more regular and separated than in other places.

Eventually, you'll find yourself about 600 miles west of the U.S. - Mexico border, at which point you begin to sail into a north wind — and then the northwesterlies that predominate off the coast of California. There may be a half or full day of transition between the easterly and northwesterly when you make a few tacks, but it won't last long. Once into the northwestely winds, it's going to be quite a bit cooler, but you should be able to hold that tack all the way to San Francisco Bay. If you want to go further north, you do more reaching in the easterlies so as not to get into the northwesterly as soon.

Here's Olson's record with doing the Clipper Route:

He made two trips from Puerto Escondido, far south on the Mexican mainland, to San Francisco aboard Stone Witch, a 54-ft O.D. ferro cement brigantine that he built in Alviso. Both times were in April. The first time he did the nearly 3,000-mile passage, it was without an engine, so the best he could do was sail a little south of west in the northerly winds found off the coast of Mexico. It wasn't until he was about 400 miles offshore, and due south of Los Angeles, that he got into the easterly trades, and gradually started getting lifted. Eventually — hundreds of miles off the U.S. - Mexico border — he was able to flop back over into the north/northwesterlies and lay San Francisco. The entire trip took five weeks.

Stone Witch had a working engine for the second trip, so they were able to motorsail offshore in the light northwesterlies off Mexico. Inexplicably, the trip still took five weeks.

Olson later acquired Maramel, a 45-ft William Hand-designed wooden staysail schooner. The boat did a total of eight Mexico-to-San Francisco trips via the Clipper Route, and Olson was skipper for six of them.

"All of my trips started from Puerto Vallarta," says Olson, "which isn't a bad place to jump off from. Our fastest time was 17 days, and our slowest was 19 days, so it's pretty consistent. It was always warm and mild getting out to the easterlies, at which point the water and air became much cooler. But it's a nice close reach in the easterly trades, and there's no real advantage in pointing as high as you can. At some point between 32 and 35 degrees, and about 400 miles off the coast, we worked into northerlies that became northwesterlies. From there we layed San Francisco. On the chart it looks like one long tack offshore, followed by one long tack into San Francisco."

Olson has most recently been associated with Seaward, the 65-ft O.D. steel schooner that's owned by the non-profit Call of the Sea. Although Olson hasn't made either passage, Seaward started two Clipper Route passages back from Mexico. The first one was disrupted by a medical issue that required the boat to put in at Santa Barbara. But on March 12 of this year, Capt. T.C. Sheridan and seven crew left Puerto Vallarta, arriving in San Francisco 14.5 days later.

(By the way, Seaward is a Bay Area-based educational vessel that serves youth and at risk youth, with daytrips, one-to-three-week trips with teenagers, and sometimes adult education trips to Mexico. For further information, or to support this program, visit or call (415) 331-3214.)

Olson admits that there are three downsides to the Clipper Route. The first is that once you start, there's no turning back. For instance, if you sail 300 miles out from Mexico and decide to change your mind, you've wasted more than 600 miles of sailing, because you were simply setting yourself up for the second half of the voyage, and now have to return to the coast. "It's all or nothing," admits Olson, "for if you 'break passage', you're going to lose time, money, and crew. If you give up, your entire offshore investment is lost, and you're worse off than if you were back in Puerto Vallarta again.

The second negative is that you have to expect some bad weather — almost always as you close on the coast of California near the end of the passage. "Everyone has to expect three to four days of tough weather in 'gale alley' coming in toward San Francisco," says Olson. "I did one trip where the worst weather was 40 knots, but did another where we had 45 knots of wind for three days. That was tough!"

Finally, if you look at a chart you can see that there is no place to take shelter far out in the Pacific. The Baja Bash has always been the more popular option because, while crews are likely to also have a bout or two of bad weather, at least they have many places to duck in and get out of it.

­— latitude 04/15/08

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
Places That Can't Be Named
(Santa Barbara)

'Is there a limit to how much fun I’m allowed to have on this solo sailing surfing safari of mine?' I wondered to myself as I laughed wildly into the wind, unfettered by schedules or commitments.

I’m currently on my third stop enroute from the Tuamotus in French Polynesia to the Republic of Kiribati — which is between French Polynesia and the Marshall Islands, and consists of just 32 atolls and one raised coral island in some 1.5 million square miles of the Central Pacific. My goal in going to Kirabati is to avoid tropical cyclone season in the South Pacific. So far I've caught back-to-back swells in glorious board surfing conditions at each of my stops, and met wonderful people in the process. During my four weeks at these three magical stops, I've surfed more than I had in the previous three months — which is why I can't reveal their names. The waves are still pouring in, but have to go unridden as my body simply won't move anymore.

I’ve been warmly accepted into the tiny community at this, my third stop. We laugh and eat together, and share the simple joy that is life on this island. Life is so simple that I haven’t launched my dinghy in a week. Instead, I paddle ashore on my longboard, wearing my new backpack, with my shortboard in tow.

Every time I lug this gear up the beach, I’m greeted by Rocky, the little orange and white dog that has become my faithful companion. No matter if I'm searching for a good coconut tree to climb, prowling the reef for shells, or resting in the shade of the palm frond shack on the point, Rocky is at my side. After a long session in the surf, I keep thinking that he'll have wandered home. But no, when I crawl up the coral I find him sleeping inches from my sandals. When I paddle back to Swell, he swims alongside me. I ultimately have to ignore him so he'll turn back for land.

A few months ago I was back in California — the 'land of much and many' — for my brother's wedding. It was a magical event, and I miraculously managed to stay upright in my bridesmaid’s high heels. But since I'd been in the South Pacific for nearly a year, returning to Southern California was a shock. For the first time I felt like a foreigner in my native land and culture.

When alone at sea, I often think of things that I miss about California — the more sophisticated restaurant food, all the consumer choices, and the live music. But when I actually get back to California, I'm overwhelmed by the options. For example, when I wander the aisles of the produce departments of large grocery stores, I'm dumbfounded at the quality and variety of the fruit and vegetables. And when I try to pick up some green tea for my dad, I'm thrown by the dazzling packaging and nuances. Does he want green tea with jasmine, a hint of mint, apple blossom, lemon essence — and with or without caffeine?

I also can't help but marvel at the social scene while shopping. A businessman bellows into his phone headset about some "merger" while he bags a handful of bean sprouts. In the dairy department, a flustered mother peels her kids away from a stand of discounted fruit roll-ups, while a skinny middle-aged woman in a velour jumpsuit frantically thrusts her cart past them as if the containers of fat free cottage cheese on the other side of the aisle are about to run away. It’s a very different world than I’ve been used to in the South Pacific.

After a week or so, however, the American way of life begins to become routine again, but in my cruising-altered perspective, what once seemed normal now still seems weird. Having been so far removed from media bombardment makes it all the more confusing — and appalling. It's made me realize that being on my own boat is like ruling my own little kingdom. As I can pretty much control who and what is allowed to enter, it allows me to create my own reality. My oceanic moat shields me from the influences and distractions of the contemporary world that I'd rather be without right now. Despite what I feel is my enlightened perspective on it all, it wasn't long before the forces of consumerism convinced me that I needed this or that product in order to feel adequate if not desirable.

I then returned to the South Pacific loaded down with two duffel bags and a board bag stuffed with a new J7 board, using my gorgeous new Feisty bikinis and a variety of Luna bars as packing material. I was quite a circus act getting from the airport at Papeete to my boat, the highlight being when everything fell off my push-cart in the middle of the crosswalk at 5 a.m.

I was delighted to see Swell again, and set to work preparing her for sea and provisioning her for what was to be a long stint away from traditional grocery stores. I had two problems with the engine waiting for me — a bad impeller and a slipping packing gland collar. But both were solved with relative ease.

In the rare moments between shopping and schlepping, I was entertained by the crew of Pearl Hunter, the rugged beast of a vessel that was next to me. Captain Pat, who slipped into the role of my big brother, drove me around Papeete to chase down provisions and propane. Since the door on the passenger side of his vehicle was broken, I got to get in and out through the window — just like the guys in the Dukes of Hazzard television show. Pat also came up with a brilliant way to fix my galley sink, which had rotted out from below, and was the one who came to my rescue when the packing gland began to resemble a waterfall.

As individuals, Pat and his crew of Pedro and Piper were great. So after a day of slaving under the tropical sun, I'd often join them beneath their awning. I must admit that their conversations made me feel dumber by the word, and I marveled at the way their lives could revolve so completely around the swells, wind, and women. As crude, lazy and immature as the three could be, they eased me into my first week back aboard — the time when I miss my family and friends the most. Plus they were surfers who lived and breathed it, so we shared the common goal of wanting to surf hard.

I'd never experienced anything like the Tahitian custom in the surf line-up, where everyone — even me! — who paddled through the crowd was greeted by the others with a Laorana — 'hello' in Tahitian — and a hand-slap-bump. Back in California, you're lucky if someone so much as makes friendly eye contact. I found this Tahitian practice to be delightful — although not universal, thanks to more than a few snooty French surfers.

The reef pass nearest to the marina in Papeete is a mecca for every possible display of Tahitian water prowess. Not only was there a great diversity of wave-riding tools — longboards, shortboards, outriggers, etc — but the average Tahitian knew how to excel with them. No matter what the tool, they'd not only ride it, they'd get barreled with it.

One morning I paddled out and joined a solitary Tahitian man on an open kayak. The surf had come up enough and was throwing square, so I pulled out my step-up board. While I skittishly scrapped for the horizon at the first sign of a set, this guy took off on the biggest waves — and stuffed himself and his kayak deep in the barrel. I was in awe! A kayaker who shows up in a California line-up is generally both a nuisance and a hazard, but this guy was amazing. I saw many things like this around Tahiti, as these people are made for the water. The only thing I found puzzling was the lack of local girls and women in the surf. But looking down at my scarred body, I decided it might partly be because of the painful consequences of falling on reefs.

Stirring beneath the backdrop of Tahiti's somber peaks and cavernous green valleys is the city of Papeete. Although the word Tahiti conjures up visions of ripe tropical fruit, gorgeous women draped in leis and pareus, and palm frond bungalows over turquoise lagoons, Papeete has its share of the unbecoming characteristics common to any urban area. Traffic clogs the highways at rush hour, for example, while trash lies forgotten in the gutters, and stacks of new but dull condos seem to be crawling up the verdant hillsides.

The mix of Polynesian and French cultures makes it interesting, of course. But at times I found the blend of cultures to be odd, as I'm not sure if either cares much for the other. Many of the French, for instance, carry on as if the Tahitians don’t exist, while the Tahitians seem to tolerate the antics of the French — while continuing to live by their own set of cultural rules.

Nonetheless, the inner and outer beauty of the Polynesian people, the clear blue sea, the reef, and the salubrious climate eased my transition back to life in the South Pacific. I delighted in ripe roadside fruit, and soon cringed at the thought of eating another damn — but delicious! — baguette. Although I wouldn’t want to stay in Papeete forever, I did find pockets of charm. There are two things I'd never get used to, however: the exorbitant price of just about everything, and the appalling sight of old Frenchmen in Speedos!

No matter how many times I've set sail, or how many miles I've added to Swell's log, leaving the safety and comfort of port for the open sea always rattles my nerves. After the ultimate pre-departure preparations, I piddle around, shuffle gear here and there, and procrastinate like there absolutely has to be some reason to stay in port for yet another day. But finally the day comes where there could be no more excuses for leaving. I make four trips to Carrefour, the Tahitian version of Wal-Mart that is located a half mile away, stowed everything, and sleep in anticipation of setting sail the next morning.

— liz 10/09/07

Freewind — Gulfstar 50
Frank and Janice Balmer
Cochin, India

Cochin is another of those stops that are overlooked by most cruisers. Frankly, we find it startling that so many cruisers, once past Thailand, skip so many interesting places. It seems that most are in a big hurry to get to the Red Sea and into the Med, or down to South Africa. So they just sail on by.

Our passage from Sri Lanka to Cochin was not particularly long, but it was full of weather and traffic surprises. The trip took us across the Gulf of Mannar, where the winds funnel down the Polk Straits that separate Sri Lanka from India, and then around Cape Comorin at the southern tip of India. The Gulf winds blow hard and build up some good-sized seas.

On our second night out, the wind was blowing to 35 knots and we had up to 12-ft seas on our starboard beam, so we sailed with just a reefed jib and mizzen. What a ride! All the while we were trying to identify and miss the hundreds of small fishing boats, most of which weren't lit, as well as the heavy ship and tanker traffic. At one point I was so busy trying to dodge fishing boats that I didn't even notice a 300-foot tanker that wove its way through the fishing fleet and passed within 100 yards of us! It's shocking how quiet such a huge ship can be!

We arrived at the outer buoy for Cochin Harbor 3.5 days after leaving Galle, and called the port captain for permission to enter. He asked us to lay off until a large container ship came out, after which we made our way down the 5-mile fairway to the first of our anchorages. On the way into the harbor, we passed the famous Chinese fishing nets that line both sides of the river and are nearly 200 years old. These net systems are giant wooden structures that are lowered in and out of the water by stone-weighted counterbalances. They were originally brought to Cochin by Kubla Khan, the Chinese emperor of the Yuan dynasty, and are still used today — albeit mostly for the benefit of tourists.

We were instructed to anchor in front of the Malabar Hotel and wait there for Customs and a representative from the Port Control. While waiting, we prepared for our inevitable collision with the much-ballyhooed Indian bureaucracy — and we would not be disappointed. Prior to our arrival, we'd heard that we'd be asked for lists of everything we had on the boat — and we mean everything! Friends have told us that Customs can — and has — confiscated things such as cameras and binoculars that they found on the boat but had been overlooked by those making lists. So we'd spent the day before making a complete list of all our stores, fuel, equipment, spare parts, medical supplies, and so forth, and we had those lists ready.

Customs came aboard and, after giving us a cursory once over, started asking for gifts. We had carefully hidden all the liquor and cigarettes that we'd bought to use as baksheesh in the Suez. But we did have a couple open bottles of spirits as well as a case of beer and a cask of wine to show. The Customs folks helped themselves to about a third of the beer, a couple six packs of sodas — and then asked if we had any whiskey for a gift! Although we're not new to this part of the world, it still irritates us to be shaken down — particularly when the shakedown artist is a government official. After we got rid of the Customs folks, the Port Authority people came aboard, but they didn't strong-arm us. We then proceeded to Immigration, back to the Port Authority, and again to Customs, where we had to surrender our boat registration.

It's often said that India got its penchant for bureaucratic paperwork from the British — and then perfected it. We only wish we could have taken a photo of the Customs office, as there were piles of paper everywhere. In fact, it was stacked 10 feet tall, and huge sacks of it lined the hallways! We had dreams of never seeing our boat papers again. There wasn't a computer is sight. We later learned that the Communist Party, which governs the State of Kerala, has resisted computers so that more of the population will have jobs.

After all this and 36 hours of waiting, we were given permission to move to our permanent anchorage at the Bolgatty Hotel. This is a river anchorage that is perfect in all seasons. However, there are really no services — with the exception of water being available at a tap on shore near the hotel. For a fee of 100 rupees — or about $2.50 U.S. — you can get all the water you want for a month. It's potable and doesn't require treatment. Contrary to the information in the cruising guides, the hotel will not accept mail. At the present time, moorage is on your own anchor in about 10 feet of water with a mud bottom. It's best to approach the well-marked channel on a rising tide. A cornerstone for a new 50-berth marina was laid last year. It's supposed to be completed in 2010, but this is India, so only time will tell.

We'd both been to India before, but were pleasantly surprised by Cochin and Kerala. The north of India is steeped in overcrowding, poverty, pollution, and thousands of urinating cows doing their thing on every street and sidewalk. There are hundreds of thousands of people sleeping on the streets and sidewalks in the north, and more beggars than can be imagined. We saw none of this in Cochin. While the people here are poor, they are not destitute, and still have a sense of dignity. With the rare exception, we saw no one who looked as though they were starving, and they were all hard workers.

When we first arrived, we were approached by two individuals in boats who offered their services to help us with the paperwork, laundry, fuel, and so forth. Both were named Nazzar! One was Nazzar 76 and the other Nazzar 25 — the numbers being their boat numbers. Although Nazzar 75 had been recommended by someone on the Jimmy Cornell's Noonsite web page, he cheated us on tuk-tuk fees at the beginning, and later took some of our friends on laundry and fuel charges. But all he could talk about was how important he was.

We recommend Nazzer 25, whom we came to use exclusively. He had no outboard for his boat, but every day he rowed two miles to our boat to see if we needed any help. When he returned with our laundry on time, he brought his two children with him, as they wanted to see our boat. They got the most surprised expressions on their faces when they came below and saw our living space — as they don't have their own home. We were so impressed by Nazzer 25 that we gave him our spare outboard, hoping that it would make it easier for him to make a living. You should have seen the total look of surprise on his face, as well as the thanks that he heaped upon us. It will be one of the great memories of our entire cruise.

There is plenty to see and do in Cochin. The city is actually a collection of several towns built on islands, a peninsula, and the mainland. Fort Cochin is the original settlement established by the Portuguese, and the famous explorer Vasco de Gama was buried here for many years before his body was taken back to Portugal. Cochin was later controlled by the Dutch and then the British, although the Portuguese were firmly entrenched in this part of India until the 1960s — at which point they were forcibly removed by the Indian military. There are beautiful old Dutch and Portuguese buildings, houses, and churches on every street.

Wandering the streets of Fort Cochin can take days, as there are many fine antique shops, galleries, restaurants, and so forth. Probably the best meal in the whole of Cochin is to go down to the fish mongers by the Chinese nets and purchase fish, shrimp, squid, or whatever, then take it to one of the restaurants where they will cook it to order.

One of the treats of a visit to Cochin is a trip on the Kerala backwaters. For $15, this day-long trip takes you through the villages and waterways of the state of Kerala. A great Keralan lunch is served at midday. The vegetable markets of Ernakulum are a feast to behold, with the best veggies and fruit we have seen since French Polynesia.
We left Cochin for Salalah, Oman, on February 20. It turned out to be the passage from hell — but that's another story.

— frank and janice 03/10/08

Warren Peace — Passport 47
John and Sharon Warren
Two Boats, One Name

Cruising Mexico has more than exceeded our expectations! Sharon and I did Baja Ha-Ha in '00, then I did it again with the 'Four Amigos' in '02. The third time we sailed down the Baja coast, we had to do it several weeks after the Ha-Ha because of scheduling issues. Nonetheless, our Passport 47 has been in Mexico since late '06.
I remember the day — November 12 — that we cast off from the Corinthian YC in Tiburon. We were sad because we'd be leaving behind so many close friends in the Bay Area, but we knew we'd be starting a great adventure and making new friends in the cruising community. We just never realized how close knit a cruising community it would be!

Last year we spent six months on the boat and cruised from the Baja on down to Las Hadas and Santiago Bay near Manzanillo. We met so many other cruisers, heard so many stories, and had so many wonderful experiences — it was fabulous! As for the people of Mexico, they have been so kind to us — and so generous when we needed their help. And we must say, the cruising community is very generous to the Mexicans, too. So it's definitely 'give and take', and in a very nice way.

One thing we decided after last year's cruising was that the Sea of Cortez had more to offer us than did the mainland. The water was clearer and the water temperatures were higher, so the scuba diving and snorkeling were more fun. And the mountain scenery was so much more dramatic, making the many remote anchorages unusually picturesque.

We only had time for a very short cruising season this year, so we decided to stay in the Sea of Cortez. Nonetheless, we still had that same sense of cruising community because of the Amigo Net and local VHF nets, all of which allow you to reach out to, on any given day, say 'hello' to many fellow cruisers. Just as last year, we were frequently meeting new people while saying good-bye to those whom we had befriended. Such is the cruising life when you move from port to port.

But there was also something a little different this year. We were hailed on the VHF just as we were leaving La Paz to head north for Isla Partida. I couldn’t make out who hailed, so we responded, "Vessel calling Warren Peace, please come back." Another boat responded by asking for Steve on Warren Peace. We answered that it was John and Sharon on Warren Peace, and explained there was no Steve aboard. This happened several more times, confusing us even more.

After some discussion, Sharon and I decided to call ourselves on VHF — and see if anyone would answer. "Warren Peace, Warren Peace, Warren Peace," I called, "this is Warren Peace, do you copy?" To our astonishment, a voice responded, "This is Warren Peace, come back." I looked at Sharon and she looked at me — and we started laughing! As it turned out, there were two cruising sailboats named Warren Peace within 15 miles of each other, and we were getting each other's radio traffic! Muy confusing.

We started talking to each other on the radio, and decided that their VHF traffic would be called 'Warren Peace Steve', and ours would be 'Warren Peace John'. A few days later we ended up in the same anchorage, where we introduced ourselves to Steve and Linda Warren on the British Columbia-based Tayana 37 Warren Peace. We saw them again at Isla Danzante, San Juanico — where 50% of the anchored boats were named Warren Peace! — and at San Carlos. Both our boats are now hauled out at Marina Seca, and who knows, maybe they'll get our bill?! Next year we both plan on cruising down to Z-town, then back into the Sea in the spring. We're sure there will be more confusion on the radio, but it's all fun as we meet more friendly cruisers.

­— john and sharon 04/15/08

Nuevo Vallarta Marina Rebuild
(Banderas Bay, Mexico)

One of the most familiar consumer axioms is 'when businesses compete, the customer wins'. Unfortunately, when it comes to marinas in Mexico, the new ones don't always compete. For example, the lovely new Nayarit Riviera Marina in La Cruz has less than 20% occupancy, but the owners insist on having among the highest slip fees on the West Coast. The owners of a Catalina 42, for instance, were told that a slip would run them $1,200 a month, taxes included. We Americans are perplexed by such a business model. Doesn't the marina understand they could generate a far higher yield by lowering prices and filling the marina? And once it was filled, they could gradually raise prices to reflect the market.

While some businesses in Mexico don't see the benefits of competition, others do — and fortunately that includes the owners of the soon to be rebuilt and greatly expanded Nuevo Vallarta Marina. Located directly across from Paradise Marina and sharing the same channel to the bay, the original version of Nuevo Vallarta Marina was a disaster. Not only were all the slips just 30 feet long and made of wood, there was never any maintenance. As it stands now, mostly larger boats are haphazardly crammed in, often at odd angles, or laying between two pilings whose docks have drifted away.

Emilio Oyarzabal Garcia, the professional and pleasant fellow who is the Director General of the project, and the son of one of the Monterey, Mexico-based partners, tells us they are tearing everything down and will be putting in a total of 230 slips. Of these, 65 will be less than 30 feet, while there will be 39 41-ft slips, 24 46-ft slips, 25 56-ft slips, and a bunch of larger ones.

Here's the good part. Oyarzabal tells us that slip fees for a 44-footer — the average size of boats in the Ha-Ha — will be just $649 a month, plus 15% tax. That's 25 to 30% less than the other marinas in the bay. So not only is Banderas Bay getting another 150 berths it didn't have before, the pricing is going to put pressure on some of the other marinas not to raise their prices — and who knows, maybe even lower them a bit.
Marina Nuevo Vallarta may not have as many on-site facilities as Paradise Marina, be as convenient to town as Marina Vallarta, or be located next to such a cool town as the Nayarit Riviera Marina, but we think that lots of cruisers — particularly commuter cruisers — will jump at the chance to get a big discount on a slip at a brand new luxury facility. One that is also going to have a fuel dock.

While Oyarzabal plans to be at the Ha-Ha Kick-off Party in October, you can make reservations right now by . During our recent visit with Emilio, he also told us that boatowners will soon be able to make reservations online — "just like at a hotel." If you're planning on coming to Banderas Bay next season, and particularly if you will be a commuter cruiser, we suggest you email Emilio immediately. One reason is because 190-berth Marina Paradise, despite Harbormaster Dick Markie's drive to accommodate as many cruising boats as possible, was jammed this season. A second reason is that Marina Vallarta, with 350 berths, was also jammed all this season. A third reason is that Marina Riviera Nayarit, the only other option, is the most expensive marina on Banderas Bay.

Oyarzabal showed us the molds for the docks, which will soon be made by the same outfit that built all the docks for the Marina Riviera Nayarit. We're told that the marina will be done in two stages, with most of the larger slips to be ready in time for the start of the next cruising season. We can't guarantee that will happen, but we have seen what lightning fast progress was made by the contractor at Marina Nayarit, and the folks at Nuevo Vallarta don't have to build a breakwater or even dredge. But even if the whole marina won't be ready for a year, we can see that many of the slips, particularly the larger ones, will be ready by November.

Think of it, 550 new slips will have been added to Banderas Bay over an 18-month period. It couldn't have happened in a better place. But even better still, there are still places on the bay for hundreds of boats to anchor for free.

— latitude 04/05/08

Cruise Notes:

Good news out of Zihua! Rick Carpenter of Rick's Bar, who has long been a great friend of cruisers and the Zihua SailFest, is not getting kicked out of the country because of visa issues. Apparently there had been some jealousy issues with a few other local restaurants, whose owners then tried to lean on Immigration. But it's been all cleared up. Carpenter has returned to California, as he always does for the off season, but will be back rolling out the welcome mat for cruisers in November.

"The Wanderer may remember that we last crossed paths at the Bank of Baghdad in St. Barth," writes Janet Hein of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based 34-ft gaff ketch Woodwind. "We were all recovering from a hellish day — the Wanderer's hell being that the internet had gone down all over the island on the last day of his deadline for Latitude. Anyway, in the fall of '06, my husband Bruce Smith and I were waiting for the green light to go south into Mexico, down to the Canal, and across the Caribbean to the West Indies. As we moved from anchorage to anchorage in San Diego Bay, we discovered the thrill of picking up wireless signals on our boat. Our knowledge of the subject couldn't fill a shot glass, so we combed through back issues of Latitude looking for anything on the subject — and even started bothering our neighbors. Among them was B'hajans, a 40-ft trimaran owned by a very helpful Frenchman named Bruno. I know Latitude is a stickler for complete names and boat types, but Bruno is like Oprah and Cher — he only needs one name. As for his trimaran, there had been a lot of inbreeding, so she wasn't really one kind or another. Anyway, Bruno was busy for days buying new computer bits to hook up to his wireless receiving thing, an invention that consisted of a large metal cooking wok and a USB cable! The parabola collected the wireless signal, sent it through the cord to the computer, and he swore that it worked.

"After we left the Wanderer in St. Barth," Hein continues, "we sailed to Anguilla, where only sometimes did wireless signals reach our boat. In an act of desperation, Bruce tied up his tenor pan — what steel drummers beat on — and aimed it toward the router onshore. He then put his laptop in front of it — and darned if it didn't seem to help! Well, sort of. We're still in the testing phase, but if this works, West Marine will be selling steel pans at rock bottom prices and we'll become bazillionaires!"

"I'm currently at the new and lovely Marina Zar Par in the Dominican Republic, which was developed by New Yorker Frank Virgintino," reports Vincente Pastori of the St. Francis 44 catamaran Birdwind. "Virgintino wrote a Dominican Republic cruising guide that is available for free at The 'DR' — which is what everybody calls it — appears to be relatively cheap and safe. For instance, my Immigration and port fees for six months were $170 U.S. And if you want to travel inland a bit, there is so much to see and do. My current plan is to sail west and leave my cat on the Guatemala's Rio Dulce for the hurricane season — while I fly home to work so I can pay off the repair bills that I ran up in St. Martin. Then I plan to continue cruising next winter. If anyone is interested in chartering — or possibly boatsitting a very lovely St Francis 44 in the Rio Dulce this summer — they should ."

"I believe that somebody reported that I was missing in Mexico," writes Giles Douglas Finlayson of the Oceanside-based Newport 41 Petrel. "Describing himself as a "sailor, surfer, paddler, and adventurer," he says that he hasn't been missing at all. "I'd probably just sailed west. I'm currently in Mooloolaba, Australia, and can report that, since I left in '05, I've visited many beautiful places, surfed incredible waves, got hammered by some insane weather, and been chased by sharks while on my paddleboard. Now I'm getting ready to sail north to the Whitsundays for some fun in the sun." As if Giles Douglas Finlayson's name isn't formidable enough, he says he's also known as 'Nailed in the butt with an EPIRB'. That begs for an explanation, but not from us.

Hermy and Jack aboard Iwa advised friends that they have some discouraging news from Boca Chica in Western Panama. They say they were enjoying a peaceful day at Isla Gamez, a little island detached from Isla Parida in the Western Islands of Panama, when a fancy panga with two ANAM park officials came alongside. The officials told them that Isla Gamez was now considered to be, along with Parida, part of the national park, and therefore there was a $25/night fee to anchor. The park officials told them that the only islands that aren't part of any park are Islas Secas, Isla Medidor and Isla Cebaco. "It's such a shame," they wrote, "as there are so many beautiful islands out here, but now only a few left where we can anchor for free. There are a few nice anchorages along the mainland that we can enjoy at no cost, but we can't help but wonder how much longer they'll be free. Not many cruisers will pay such ridiculous fees, so just about everyone will bypass the area — and that would be a shame." Apparently, the law permitting the fees was passed two years ago, but officials have only recently gotten the fancy pangas and outboards they need to patrol the islands."

Is there anyone out there who believes that Panamanian officials will collect enough in fees from cruisers to offset their employee, equipment, and fuel costs? We doubt it.

"SailMail has totally changed cruising for me," reports singlehander Wayne Meretsky from mid-Pacific aboard his Alameda-based S&S 47 Moonduster. "When I did the Mexico-Hawaii-Alaska loop singlehanded 10 years ago, I used high-seas radio to keep in touch with but one person on a regular basis. Now it's so easy to get high quality weather, keep friends posted, share highs and lows, that it's a completely different experience. Hell, I'm even getting technical support from B&G while 500 miles offshore. My boat is doing great as I sail across to the Marquesas, and, thanks to Costco, Wal-Mart, and Mega big box stories in Puerto Vallarta, I've got more delicious fresh food than you can imagine: brie, Roquefort, chevre, sereno ham, fresh chicken, pork and steak, grapefruit, oranges and limes. You name it, I've got it!"

Meretsky ultimately made the 2,725-mile rhumbline course from Punta Mita to the Marquesas in 20 days, having actually sailed 2,965 miles and averaged 148 miles a day. His best day was 187 miles or a 7.8-knot average, while his worst was 100 miles or 4.2 knots. He motored a total of 24 hours, all but seven of them in the light air on his way to Isla Clarion off Mexico, and burned a total of just 15 gallons. Among other things, he consumed two pounds of bacon, a half pound of brie, and a grapefruit a day. Remarkably, he still had some crisp lettuce from Mexico for a potluck in the Marquesas!

After clearing into French Polynesia, Meretsky shared the following information:

1) Nobody was asked for their Mexican zarpe. 2) The document you receive and must show as you proceed through French Polynesia, the Customs declaration form, which is printed in both French and English, has no number, no signature, and no stamp! 3) No officials boarded my boat — or even saw her from a distance. 4) I was never asked when I arrived. The officials presumed that it was the day that I cleared in. 5) I wrote "Ship's Stores" where the form asked for items requiring duty. The officials didn't say a word. 6) U.S. and Canadian citizens — and presumably all non-EU citizens — must have either an air ticket or post bond. Bond was $1,630 U.S. 7) Bond can be posted on a credit card, but will be refunded in cash in French Polynesian francs — although the bank will be happy to exchange those francs for U.S. dollars ­— for which you'll pay dearly. "Clearing in is a drag and a mess," he concluded, "but that's how petty politics run, so it sorta goes with the territory."

Also coming with the territory in French Polynesia are some high prices. "The charge for my laundry — two sheets, four pillow cases, two tea towels, and about 10 face towels, to be washed, line dried, and folded — was $25 U.S. Because I used an agent, I was able to buy deeply discounted diesel fuel — for $4.88/gallon! While at the hardware store, I saw one of those firesticks you use to light a grill for $33. Rite-Aid has them at two for $5. The 50-micron water filter element I bought for $3 each at Home Depot in San Diego is on sale here for — hold your breath, drum roll — $62.88!"

Those prices are high, but while in St. Barth this winter we saw a single peach for sale at the Match supermarket for $92. How can that be, you wonder? It's simple. If the owner or a guest on a 250-ft powerboat wants a peach, they're not interested in knowing how much the damn thing costs, they just want it. Besides, $92 a peach is less expensive than having to take the jet back to Miami to buy them.

We made our first visit ever to Singlar's Fidepaz Marina in La Paz last month, and were discouraged to see that it had all the hallmarks of a government project. A ton of money had been dumped into it, but the entrance will need frequent dredging. It's quite a way from the city center and about as far from the islands as you can get, and many of the expensive trimmings are unused and already going to seed. During our visit, there were only three boats in the whole marina — which inexplicably had slip rates almost as high as the luxurious Costa Baja Resort marina on the other end of town. Fidepaz also had a fancy new Travel Lift and a spanking new fuel dock, but neither were getting much use. The only place that hummed with activity was the boatyard, which is being run by a branch of the Abaroa family. We're not saying that the marina will never be needed, as the constantly growing number of cruising boats in La Paz seems to be absorbing most of the slips in the winter, but rather that private money wouldn't have built this kind of elaborate facility — lap pool, hot tub, and 'yacht club' on the second floor — until there was a market for it. On the positive side, Rodrigo, the marina manager, is a very pleasant fellow who is happy to help in any way he can — including taking your berth reservation. His number is one that you might keep for the height of the season next winter, if you find that you absolutely must leave your boat in La Paz, and all the other marinas are full.

Unfortunately, we never got the time to visit Marina Palmira, but we did stop by Marina de La Paz and Costa Baja Marina. These two marinas are both excellent, but couldn't be more different. The Shroyer family runs the homey Marina de La Paz in a very warm and personal manner, and it's definitely the regular cruiser social hub of La Paz. The Costa Baja Marina is the opposite, a corporate run, high-end marina with lots of really big boats, and is located a few miles outside of town as part of a big resort. But boy, do Gabriel and his crew do a terrific job! The place sparkles, and the office and dock staff are as pleasant and professional as they can be. No wonder both these marinas sell out in the winter — and are darn near at capacity in the summer, too.

Billy Lilly's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide and Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly's Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat are but two of the boats that travelled north of Mazatlan to Altata in order to make an easier crossing of the Sea of Cortez to La Paz. Altata is located on a 30-mile long lagoon, and serves as a workingman's weekend beach destination for the residents of 30-mile distant Culiacan. While most of the bay has deep enough water once you get inside, the channel leading in and out is subject to strong current, moves around, and is lined by very shallow water. In fact, both cats had exciting times getting in and out. Moontide's transit was actually more than a little exciting, as she was knocked sideways, and the unusually strong pressure on her rudder may have caused the cast aluminum collar for starboard rudderpost to crack. Lilly, who was singlehanding, set the emergency tiller on top of the quadrant in a semipermanent basis in case he ever needed it. Having one rudder wasn't that odd on the boat, as one blade of his three-bladed folding prop had whipped off, too! He still made it solo across the Sea in time for Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, and had a great time.

In the unlikely event — given the terrible dollar to euro exchange rate — that you'll be cruising to Barcelona this summer, you better make sure that your watermaker is working. The problem is that the great Catalonian city, which is the second largest in Spain, is nearly out of water thanks to 18 months of record drought. Oddly enough, Barcelona sits atop a major aquifer. In fact, they have to pump millions of gallons of water out of the subway system each year. Alas, the water isn't clean enough for drinking. The city government has ordered that all her famous fountains be shut down, and made it illegal to fill swimming pools. In addition, they have hired 10 ships to bring water in from Marseille. But you, with your trusty watermaker, don't have to worry about anything — except the price of fuel to run your watermaker. It's almost $8 U.S. a gallon!

We don't put much stock in hurricane forecasts, but hurricane experts at landlocked Colorado State University are upping the number of hurricanes they are forecasting for the June 1 through November 30 season in the Atlantic and Caribbean. They now foretell an above average hurricane season, with 15 named storms and eight hurricanes, four of them major. The chance of the U.S. being hit is put at about 50%. For the last two years, the many yachts in the Eastern Caribbean have gotten away all but unscathed. Let's hope they get away again this year.

We've been remiss in not reporting on the passing this January of Gamelle of St. Barth, perhaps the most famous dog in the Leeward Islands. Described as a "well-hung Gustavian low-rider," Gamelle loved sailing fast boats, catching lobsters, and putting a move on long-legged female dogs. He hated chickens! According to his touching epitapth, penned by author D. Randy West, another lover of long-legged females, "Gamelle, the celebrated hitchhiking dog, aka Snoopy, aka Nasty Dog, aka Bullet, passed on last week due to old age and joie de vivre. He was well known for riding on motorcycles, taking vacations in Burgundy, rousting chickens, embarrassing much larger dogs, and delighting females of all breeds across the island. Gamelle had adopted English Steve as his mentor, and put Philou in his restaurant business. Survived by four sons, Steve, Marion, and many friends, he will be missed by all. God bless Gamelle!"

The restaurant story is kinda funny. Gamelle originally roomed with Gaston the contractor, who had "traded" his girlfriend for the dog. Gamelle was later adopted by English Steve, whose then-girlfriend Marion would maintain joint custody of the dog until the very end, despite the fact she and Steve separated. When terrible hurricane Luis came through in '95, it blew away Eddy's Ghetto, a very popular restaurant where Philou had been the chef. That meant Philou, a magician in the galley, was out of a job. With no post hurricane income, he was soon reduced to living under a house, with few prospects of employment. Concerned about Philou's deteriorating condition, Steve arranged for him to get his own little restaurant — if they could only come up with $20,000 in 'key' money. While Steve was walking Gamelle on Shell Beach one day, the Gustavian low-rider uncovered a Rolex watch worth . . . $20,000! The money was used to open La Gamelle, a most unusual little restaurant behind the Totem Surf Shop, one that is reminiscent of 'old St. Barth'. On certain nights it is home to the best food, sailors, and ambience in the Caribbean. If you ever visit St. Barth during the season, be sure to have a meal at La Gamelle, and tell Philou and Mimi that Latitude sent you. And if we're there, make sure we buy you a pastis in memory of a much loved dog.

Mariners are used to coming to the rescue of other mariners, but pilots and airplanes? "Puerto Escondido cruisers and local residents responded quickly on April 19 when there was a report over the VHF radio that a small plane had crashed near Juancalito Beach in Bahia Chuenque," advises Bob Norquist, who had been staying aboard his boat The DarkSide at Singlar Marina in Puerto Escondido. "The two-passenger Challenger float plane had crashed about one mile offshore. The Mexican pilot, who was uninjured except for his pride, said he'd been flying at a low altitude when a downdraft caused an unexpected loss in altitude. Then a wing tip hit the water, tore up the plane, and caused it to start sinking immediately. As soon as the rescuers arrived on jet skis, pangas, and dinghies, lines were quickly attached to the plane, which by that time was already beneath the surface. The banged-up plane was then towed to shore by three pangas and a cruiser's dinghy, at which time a four-wheel drive took over and pulled it up the beach." Norquist, a longtime cruiser, said it was just an example of why people should keep their VHF radios on all the time.

Sure, you have to assume that a cruising boat will be a depreciating asset, but there seems to be an increasing number of exceptions — particularly as everything in dollars seems dirt cheap to those with pockets full of euros. When we bumped into George Cathey at the San Francisco Airport on his way to Profligate in La Paz for the delivery back to California, he told us that he'd just sold his San Francisco-based Dragonfly 1200 folding trimaran Impulse, which he'd sailed in the '05 Ha-Ha and later cruised around Mexico. He tells us that he sold the 36-footer for — get this — $320,000, which is more than he'd paid for her. "I'd gotten interest in her from all over the place, too," he said.

It reminds us that while in St. Barth this winter, we looked down from one of the hills and saw a beautiful site — a large catamaran motoring along in the blue waters just north of Baie St. Jean. Son of a gun if it wasn't the Catana 581 Aurora, originally purchased by the Bernhard brothers, Mark and David, who with their family and friends sailed her across the Atlantic several times and cruised the Med for two summers. This was all about five years ago, and then they sold the boat. Thanks to having bought the big cat when the euro was worth less than the dollar, and then selling her when just the reverse was true, we suspect they broke even or even made a profit on their adventures. We wonder if Mark and David ever miss their cat?

"My husband and I cruised Mexico from '97 to '03, at which time we brought our boat back to San Francisco," writes Keri Hendricks of the Northern California-based Catalina 36 Ramblin'. "While in La Paz in '97, we purchased a Temporary Import Permit, which doesn't expire until '19. We miss the cruising life, so we'll be heading back to Mexico in the fall. We're wondering if, having taken our boat out of Mexico, our TIP is still good?"

We got our Temporary Import Permit for Profligate about the same time, take her between California and Mexico every year, and have never had a problem with it. Based on that, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.

Speaking of paperwork, it's so much easier in Mexico now that the old expensive and time-consuming check-ins aren't required when going from Mexican port captain district to Mexican port captain district. But this doesn't necessarily mean there is no check-in at all. At some places — notably Nuevo Vallarta — the port captain still requires that you stop by and fill out a form when you arrive and when you depart. If you don't, the port captain won't be happy. We know, because somehow Profligate didn't get checked in when arriving early this winter, a fact the port captain discovered when we tried to check out. It was an honest mistake, but a mistake nonetheless — and one we won't make again. So when arriving in a new port captain's district, always listen on the net or call the port captain to find out what he requires. Whatever it might be, it's free and won't take but a few minutes.

"I'm looking for information on life on the hook during the winter in Mexico, probably around Puerto Vallarta," writes Louie Riel of the Nanaimo, B.C.-based Hot Dog Bob. "Do cruisers get hassled? What's the internet access like? Can I leave my boat in a yard for six months I'm not there?"

The living in populated North America, while just minding your own damn business, would score about a 10 on the 1 to 10 Hassle-o-Meter. Living on the hook in Mexico during the winter, on the other hand, would score about a .01. The biggest potential hassle would be trying to find enough room on the dance floor at ex-cruiser Philo's totally laid-back music studio, bar and pizza palace during live music nights in La Cruz. For once the Baby Boomer cruisers have reached Mexico, they've ditched 95% of their cares, so they hit the dance floor with a vengeance. No matter where more than a few cruisers gather, there will be internet access. It's usually pretty fast, and often you can get it for free. Yes, you can leave your boat in a boatyard, and for as long as you want. In summary, if you love sailing, and the simple and thrifty outdoor life, and you don't have strong job or family commitments in North America, you'd have to be nuts not to spend winters on your boat in Mexico.

Speaking of Mexico, we're always amazed at how there is no single favorite place. It used to seem as though Zihua was the favorite of the majority, but no longer. During the season, we heard a number of people rave about Chacala. This was something of a surprise, because when we were there last a few years ago, we couldn't even get a margarita, just beer. Apparently, that's all changed. Despite the lack of nearby sailing destinations, Mazatlan is also a super favorite with cruisers, although it's never been one of our favorites. People have also been raving about Barra and, of course Tenacatita. La Paz has many hardcore adherents, as does our favorite, Banderas Bay. If you've cruised Mexico in the last year or two, we'd love to hear your top three places, with a short paragraph with specifically what you like about it. Here's ours:

"We like Banderas Bay because there are so many great and different sailing destinations — P.V., Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz, Punta Mita, and Yelapa — and they are just five and 15 miles apart, and because they range from the urbanity of P.V. to the jungle of Yelapa. We also love the consistent wind, the fact that you can anchor for free in a number of places, that bus service is cheap and frequent, and that it's only a three-hour flight between San Francisco and there. Did we mention the surf?

Something like that, but please, not much more than 100 words.

"My husband Jeff Robbins and I set sail from the Pacific Northwest in '01, and are a cruising couple currently living, working, and yes(!) still sailing, in New Zealand," writes Deirdre Schleigh of the Nordic 40 Vesper. In the last 18 months, Jeff developed, proto-typed, and sea-trialed a collision warning alarm based on the AIS system. We've since taken the big step to manufacture and distribute these units. The unit has extremely low power consumption, and other features that differentiate it from other AIS options available through chartplotters and computers. It also have a number of unique filtering and prioritizing capabilities that helps any navigator, but especially those with short or singlehanded crews. Please check it out at

After another great winter season of cruising, the summer cruising season is here. We would love to hear from you!

Missing the pictures? See our May 2008 eBook!


'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2015 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.