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May 2012

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  With reports this month on the 20th Banderas Bay Regatta; from Spindrift on getting plugged into the St. Barth sailing scene; from Palau on the apparent loss of Frank Ohlinger in an aviation accident; from Latitude, on being overwhelmed by all the big sailing events in the Caribbean; from Knee Deep on crossing the bar at El Salvador; from Curare on following their dog to southern Chile; and Cruise Notes.

The 20th Banderas Bay Regatta
Paradise Marina, Nuevo Vallarta

Why is the Banderas Bay Regatta so much fun, and what makes it different from other sailing regattas?

"Because the Banderas Bay has all the challenges and excitement of a big-time regatta," answers Keith Levy of the Catalina 470 C'est La Vie, "but is nonetheless primarily a cruisers' regatta. Plus, it takes place in one of the finest sailing venues in the world."

The BBR is a regatta that truly honors the cruiser. Not only is there no entry fee, but it's not at all about million-dollar yachts and paid crew. Rather it's about strapping down the bimini, removing the extra anchors, tying up the dinghy, and emptying the water tanks. The last things you do are take off the BBQ, bust out the spinnaker, and prepare to have you and your friends push your floating home to her limits.

As ones who flew down to race on someone else's boat, there are advantages for us fly-in crewmembers from California, too. Not only are the air and water warm in Banderas Bay in March, but the sailing conditions are excellent. Did I mention there are low-cost direct flights from the States and Tijuana?

Greg Retkowski, my husband, cruised into Banderas Bay for the first time in '01 on his Morgan Out-Island Scirocco. He says he feels as though his "favorite place to sail is now all grown up." He's referring to the fact that Banderas Bay now regularly hosts world-class events for sailboats of all sizes and types. And how the facilities around the bay have changed! When at La Cruz back in '01, Greg used to have to carefully motor his dinghy through rebar and fish guts, drag his inflatable onto the beach, and tie it to a tree. Ten years later, La Cruz has a world-class marina with hundreds of boats, and another 50 or so anchored just outside. The nice thing is that while Banderas Bay may be all grown up, it's not spoiled.

This year's BBR drew 35 boats, which were divided into seven divisions. The yachts in this year's fleet ranged from sleds such as Nashville residents and frequent BBR competitors Ken and Cheryl Sears' J/160 Blue, to full-on cruising boats such as Robin Kirkcaldie's 50-year-old Rhodes Bounty II Red Witch II.

As for the sailing conditions, the owners of the multimillon-dollar boats that competed in this year's St. Barth Bucket and Les Voiles de St. Barth would have died for them. Participants raced in a steady 14-18 knots of warm breeze — and the famous flat waters of Banderas Bay.

Good-natured gamesmanship is part of the fun of the Banderas Bay Regatta. For example, Bill Lilly, a troublemaking crewmember aboard Patsy Verhoeven's Gulfstar 50 Talion, offered to pick up a $1,000 bar tab for the crew of a competing boat the night before the final race. The catch was the crew had to down the $1,000 worth of booze that night.

Division A honors went to Blue. Division B, which was for J/80s, was claimed by #5, with Tom Kase, Greg Neeley, and Tom Petric from Ontario, Canada. Division C was won by Our Shangri-La, George Ulrich's Catana 431, a cat known for slow starts and fast finishes. Division D was a virtual three-way tie for first, won by the Jeanneau 43DS Cupcake. (There was no Division E.) Division F was taken by Befana, Randy Hough's Vallarta-based Catalina 30. Division G went to Joel Gerber's Crystal Bay, Minnesota-based Hunter Legend 40 Love. Division H was claimed by Conor and Lanea Riley's Redwood City-based Islander 36 Moondance. The Rileys attributed their success to frequently moving the beer in the bilge to balance the boat properly.

You certainly don't need to win your division to have fun in the BBR, however. Charlie Simon, who raced aboard Dorr Anderson's Bright Star, which sailed to a respectable 4th place finish in Division A, said, “I've cruised thousands of miles from Alaska to Annapolis, and the Banderas Bay Regatta was about as much fun as I've had on a boat!" Charlie's wife Cathy, who couldn't race due to a knee injury, enjoyed the four-days of social events that surrounded the regatta. “It was great, as the friendly, festive atmosphere continued on all week."

Friends with boats playing with friends on other boats — that's the Banderas Bay Regatta for you. The event is turns 21 next year, so you know you won't want to miss it.

— cherie sogsti & richard williams

Spindrift — Irwin 37
Ross Devlin
An American In St. Barth
(Santa Barbara)

What's it take for a youngish California guy to get plugged into the sailing scene in St. Barth? We put the question to Ross Devlin, who spent his formative years racing motorcycles at the highest AMA levels and worked for Toyota F1 Racing Development in Newport Beach. Then, tiring of the corporate world, he started his own construction company in Santa Barbara's wine country. A hard-working, hands-on kind of guy, Devlin left California in disgust after being a victim of identity theft, a legal system that seems to exist primarily to enrich lawyers, and a general loathing for a culture he feels is being dominated by greed.

The 35-year-old arrived in St. Barth a year ago on a beat-up Newick 42 trimaran that his reserved dad had bought in Scotland. She's an unusual tri because while her hulls are typically ultralight, her builder, having previously owned a 100-year-old boat, gave her heavy teak decks and even more inexplicably, a heavy wood mast and boom. After a seemingly never-ending chain of expensive mishaps and problems along the Atlantic coast of Europe, where Ross had to wear every bit of clothing he owned to stay warm, the two had a grueling 26-day crossing from Agadir, Morocco to the Columbie anchorage in St. Barth. Mind you, this was on a tri that regularly hits 18 knots in a good breeze.

Ross has a love/hate relationship with the chic little island of St. Barth. "It's a gorgeous place, has fabulous sailing, and the women are beautiful. But if you arrive here with just five euros to your name, it can be a little rough. When I got here, it was a special treat to be able to afford a single cold beer. And food."

Although Ross is a guy with a wealth of skills from engines to carpentry to welding, and has a strong work ethic, life isn't easy for Americans looking to make their way on the French island. For one thing, it's illegal to work unless an employer files papers on your behalf, and that's a complicated and time-consuming process. And naturally there is jealousy among the local population, who are also looking for work on the expensive island.

"The only way I was able to survive was to have what every sailor must have plenty of — patience," says Ross. "You can't come here and be a loud and obnoxious American. You have to lay low, eat humble pie, and wait your turn."

That said, he says Californians seem to have it a little better in St. Barth than most other Americans. "I'm not sure why, but I suspect it's because the West Coast surfing culture is appreciated, and because of the mystique of Hollywood. Apparently there is a show on French television called Santa Barbara, and as a result, the French are particularly taken with all people and things that have to do with Santa Barbara.

Devlin also notes that the Californians and the few Aussies on the island seem to get along with each other and the locals better than sailors from the Northeast. "There are a lot of really great guys from the Northeast," he says, "but some of them are more uptight and less easy-going."

When Ross got to the island, he moved aboard Spindrift, the 39-year-old Irwin 37 that his father had sailed to the Caribbean in the '90s. An 'old school' sailor, Ross's dad shuns publicity as much as he does use of an engine. He once cruised Spindrift for three years in the Caribbean without the benefit of an engine. "It's kind of ironic because my dad and I are totally into engines," says Ross, "but just not when sailing. In fact, Spindrift still has most of the diesel that she had in her tanks five years ago."

When Ross arrived at St. Barth, he lived the simple life out of economic necessity. Now he does it more because of his outlook on life. For example, his dinghy outboard died from lack of use because he prefers to row his Walker dinghy ashore each day. And instead of paying $20 every couple of weeks to fill up his water tanks, he collects rain water. Electricity? It all comes from solar panels.

Ross got his initial sailing and work opportunity about a month after arriving in St. Barth. "I was hanging out on the docks before the start of the West Indies Regatta for Carriacou Sloops and Island Schooners, and thought if I could get on one of the boats, I might get something to eat. So I told one of the skippers that I wanted to race with them. I wasn't much of a racer at the time, but before long I was trimming the main, an important position on a work boat."

With a foot in the door, Ross got a bunch of jobs — mostly paid for in meals and travel expenses — after the regatta helping deliver the various boats — some of which had no engines — to places such as Antigua, Anguilla and St. Martin.

With Ross having put in hard miles and demonstrated that he wasn't a slacker, Tom Reardon, skipper of the legendary Herreshoff 72 Ticonderoga, asked him to be part of his delivery crew up to Newport. Despite knowing there wouldn't be much pay, Ross jumped at the opportunity, because having Ticonderoga on your resume, along with the recommendation of Tom Reardon, is the ticket to the inner circles of Newport/St. Barth sailing. "When you wear a Ticonderoga t-shirt," laughs Ross, "you get instant credibility."

(For those wanting to get into inner the St. Barth/Newport inner circles, Devlin recommends Newport as a better place to start than St. Barth. "There are more opportunities, there is a common language, and it's less expensive.")

Back in St. Barth for the quiet summer after the delivery north, Ross was left to try to scratch out a living doing odd jobs. But the off-season was to have its good moments, too. One afternoon, one of the world's elite super models — we've can't reveal her name, but she's been on the cover of every major fashion magazine — paddled out to Spindrift, which was on the hook at Shell Beach. Ross was more than a little intimidated. After all, the gal was a rich and famous model, while his boat was both 39 years old and a little rough, and he only had five euros to his name. But the supermodel didn't seem to mind.

"I see from your hailing port that you're from Southern California," she said, striking up a conversation. "I'm from Malibu." One thing led to another, and she ended up buying dinner. And for the next three nights, she brought other models and friends out to Spindrift, bringing all the food and drink. "It was such a random thing," laughs Ross of the memory.

As he's good-looking and fit, we quizzed Ross on the all-important subject of relations between poor American sailors and eligible French ladies.

"First off, I'm from Santa Barbara, which has a few good-looking women," he replied, "but nothing like St. Barth. Yet I have a love/hate relationship with the women here. I love the way they walk like cats, but they tend to be so picky that they drive you crazy. I had a French girlfriend, but after four months I just couldn't take it anymore."

Ross says that it's also important to realize that many women come to St. Barth in the hope of landing a billionaire, so sailors of modest means such as himself need to limit their efforts to gals who come to St. Barth to sail and surf.

Although Ross finds that French women can often be difficult, he is also sympathetic to their situation. "They all tell me their boyfriends cheat on them." Indeed, one woman told us of a lengthy relationship she had with a Frenchman that was as exciting as she thought it was solid. But when she called his office one day, his secretary, with whom she was friends, matter-of-factly told her that he was on the phone with his wife. When she angrily confronted the man in person, he tried to mollify her with champagne, and argued that she should "accept the fact that our bodies love each other" and not worry about the wife.

Ross says that Californians have one big advantage when it comes to French women. "They absolutely love it when a guy with a California accent tries to speak French. You may get it all wrong, but something about your accent melts them."

Despite the love/hate with St. Barth and with French girls, Ross has never considered relocating to any other Caribbean island. "I went Down Island with my dad once, and couldn't wait to get back. The food wasn't any good down there, the women weren't as pretty, and the islands weren't as safe."

Having been in St. Barth for a year, Ross is now totally plugged in. He not only has lots of local friends, but he's getting rides on great boats. For example, he did the Voiles on Carlo Falcone's 79-ft classic Mariella. And this summer he will be flown to the Med several times to assist at the bow on a 170-footer with a friend from St. Barth/Newport. And later in the summer he's slated for a series of expenses-paid regattas in Rhode Island and Maine.

While Ross plans to return to St. Barth in the fall, and hopes to get status to work legally, he and his dad have long term plans. "We're trying to sell both our boats and buy an Open 60 — not to race, but for fast cruising through the South Pacific."

Ross advises potential hard-core sailors to make sure they take enough time off their boats. "If you don't, you'll burn yourself out on sailing. I go back to California from time to time, where my dad and I have a rural place where we keep all our race cars and Harleys and racing bikes. We're hoping to get a similarly remote place in the Pyrenees of southwestern France, another great place to ride bikes."

What does his miss about California? "The surfing, skiing and motorcycle riding. But that's about it. The thing I don't miss about Californians — and Americans in general — is that they have tunnel vision, and think our way of doing things is the only way. Americans need to get out more."

— latitude/04/20/12

Frank Ohlinger
Ex-Cadence, Apache 40 Cat
Lost In Aviation Accident

The U.S. Coast Guard search for former Monterey resident Frank Ohlinger, as well as Palau police officers Willy Towai and Earl Decherong, was suspended on April 9. This was a week after Ohlinger, a veteran South Pacific cruiser and periodic contributor to Latitude, attempted to land his Cessna 182 on the sea at night.

Originally from Monterey, Ohlinger first wrote Latitude in '02 to report that it had been seven years since his wife Rose and their young daughter Constance had returned from an 18-month South Pacific cruise aboard their Apache 40 catamaran Cadence. "We're now firmly bedded down in suburban America," he wrote, "but the memories keep calling me back. I hoard them like gold, and I dig daily for the tangible bit of color that keeps me going."

In that decade-old letter, Ohlinger proudly described how his daughter had done research to determine the validity of the theory that the wind is stronger during full moons. Based on evidence she collected from around the world, she — and Frank — concluded that it was scientific fact. Displaying a characteristic sense of humor, Frank called it the 'Werewolf Effect'.

Ohlinger also sent a report from Subic Bay in the Philippines in March of '07 about doing a refit on Cadence at an unusual boatyard. In April of '10, he wrote about the curious Filipino Christmas traditions in Cebu. In December of '11 and January of '12, he wrote about making a delivery to Cairns with the cat's new Australian owner.

As an author, Ohlinger always had an interesting take on things, and his reports delighted us with their insight and understated humor. Although we never met him, we wrote to tell him that we felt a bond through his writing style.

The chain of events that would lead to the loss of Ohlinger's life, as well as those of two police officers, began when six Chinese fisherman were observed diving for giant clams in Palau's Ngeruangel Atoll Marine Reserve. When Palau Fish & Wildlife officers went to the conservation area to apprehend the Chinese fishermen, the Chinese tried to escape. The police fired at the boat’s engines in an attempt to disable the vessel that was trying to ram them, but one bullet ricocheted off the engine, mortally wounding a Chinese fisherman.

Ohlinger and his Cessna 182 were sent to assist in the police mission by finding and identifying the mothership. After being spotted by Ohlinger, the mothership made a run for it, but was overtaken by Remeliik, Palau’s patrol boat. Realizing they couldn't outrun the patrol boat, the desperate Chinese set fire to the mothership and then took off in the smaller support boats. Palau officers were unable to put the fire out before the ship sank.

On April 1, two of Palau’s Criminal Investigation Officers joined Ohlinger on a second police mission. Their job was to document the fact that the mothership had been scuttled, and where.

Ohlinger and the officers took off at 3 p.m., but returned immediately because the plane's GPS malfunctioned. The Cessna took off again at 3:25 p.m., and was slated to return at 5 p.m. However, the plane missed the scheduled rendevous point 175 miles northwest of Palau. While both the Palau Aerodrome Flight Information Base Service and officers with VHF radios were able to make periodic contact with Ohlinger and his passengers, there was no consistently clear communication.

Ohlinger issued a Mayday shortly after 8 p.m., three hours overdue. He said they were lost, didn't know their speed or heading, and were down to their last drops of fuel. All Palau emergency vehicles were sent to the highest point of Koror and instructed to flash their lights. Apparently Ohlinger was too far away to see them. Immediate search assistance was provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, local resources, and even Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's 410-ft yacht Octopus. After a week of searching in near-ideal conditions, no traces of Ohlinger or the officers had been found.

— latitude 04/05/12

Overwhelmed In The Caribbean
Latitude 38

We planned to run a review of the winter's great Caribbean sailing events in this issue of Latitude — minus the Antigua Classic Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week, because they haven't happened yet. But we're not, for two reasons.

First, the weather conditions for the two main events we covered, the St. Barth Bucket and Les Voiles de St. Barth, were, if we may be candid, less than stellar. Not only did it blow much harder at this year's Banderas Bay Regatta in normally more placid Mexico, but the sun didn't come out very often during the Caribbean regattas. Not much wind and not much sun resulted in middling photos compared to previous years.

Second, we don't have about 100 pages of editorial space we need to give the events the coverage they deserve. The result is that we're going to briefly review all the major events in the Caribbean, with an eye toward how worthy they are of your attendance next year. The biggie events, in order, were:

Superyacht Challenge Antigua, late January — Having lost the event's primary sponsor, the potential participants asked themselves what the big deal was about putting on a few races, and if they really needed another fancy awards party. The answers were that it wasn't a big deal and they didn't need another big party. While it's true that only 11 superyachts showed up, they were good ones, and the wind blew like stink. The event turned out to be a smashing success. The other good news out of Antigua is that English and Falmouth Harbors seem to be more fun and safer than in years past. While Antigua isn't a bad place to bareboat charter, it's not the best either, and it often howls in January. We give it a 5.

32nd Heineken Regatta, St. Martin, early March — It blew hard for this huge event that's even more popular with charterboats than privately-owned yachts. Given the strong winds, it's not surprising that San Francisco-based boats did well. Matt and Pam Brooks' 80-year-old S&S 52 Dorade from the St. Francis YC took class honors, while Rick Wesslund of Tiburon and his crew on the J/120 El Ocaso not only took class honors, but were declared to have had "The Most Worthy Performance Overall". In addition, Paradox, Peter Aschenbrener's cruising version of a 60-ft racing trimaran, which apparently has some connection with Redwood City, took class honors, too.

The 'Heinie' is a monster event, and the whole island goes nuts with parties and other festivities in support of it. The sailing is great, and thanks to the big fleets, the competition is stiff. We give this one a 9+ for those wanting to race their own boats or a charer boat.

BVI Spring Regatta, early April — Wesslund and his El Ocaso crew kicked butt again, winning six of nine races. Paradox had three bullets in three races. And Justin Barton of the Corinthian YC in Tiburon took honors in the 18-boat Bareboat A division with an Oceanis 473. A little farther off the pace in another division was Steve Schmidt's Hotel California, a well-travelled cruising version of a Santa Cruz 70 that has been in the Caribbean forever. (Read about all the action in this month's The Racing Sheet.) While not as big or competitive as the Heineken, the BVI Spring Regatta is a super-fun event that features some great boats, less crowded charterboat fleets, and flatter waters. We give it a 9.

St. Barth Bucket — If you want to see spectacular and gigantic yachts — 100 to 200-ft plus — there is nothing that comes close to the Bucket. It's so spectacular that Yachting World, the most prestigious English language sailing magazine, runs photos and basic information on each yacht in one of their issues. And as the six great charter guests with us on 'ti Profligate will tell you, you just have to see these boats in action to believe them. Naturally, these huge boats need hundreds upon hundreds of crew, so if you look the part, there is a decent chance you can get on a boat. That said, this is the one sailing orgy where we think it's actually more fun to be a spectator than a participant. If you enjoy really big boats, really big parties, and a really festive scene on a great island, this is it. We give it an 11 for spectating.

Les Voiles de St. Barth — early April. Following closely on the heels of the Bucket, this event still has some big boats, but is designed for more serious racing and less formal partying. This year's fleet was a bit of a mish-mash, and the conditions on the course were lighter than anyone wanted. Nonetheless, both Dorade and Paradox walked away with class honors again. Canadian Ashley Wolfe, who keeps her TP52 Mayhem in San Francisco, and who — assisted by her dad and her brother — drives her own boat, took class honors, with Ken Keefe and the guys on the TP52 Vesper second, and former J/29 Bay racer Peter Cunningham's Powerplay, now of the Cayman Islands, coming in third. A few weeks before, Cunningham had taken honors in the much bigger TP52 competition at the St. Thomas Rolex Regatta.

Nobody does race associated partying and festivities like the Voiles. We're not talking about falling face-down drunk parties, but everybody-dancing-on-the tables-of-waterfront-restaurants and champagne-showers partying. It's also a great place to catch up with old friends, such as former Northern California sailing stars Dee Smith and Jeff Madrigali, now of Annapolis and Whidbey Island, respectively. If you're a decent sailor looking to race, we'd give the Voiles a 7 in that you can probably get a ride. If you're a fun-loving gal looking to meet a sailor boy, or just love to have sailing fun, we'd give it a 10.

Want to go sailing crazy? Charter a boat from St. Martin for three weeks and be part of both the Bucket and the Voiles. Oo-la-la!

We can't report on this year's Antigua Classic Regatta, but frequent participants say it's by far the best classic regatta in the Caribbean, and give it a 10. Lone Fox, the Robert Clark 65 owned by Ira Fox of Bolinas and St. Barth, was back this year to defend winning the overall title last year, while Matt and Pam Brooks were looking to take it from him with Dorade.

Our having done six Antigua Sailing Weeks with our Ocean 71 Big O back in the days when it attracted as many as 230 entries, the event still holds a special place in our heart. It faltered badly in the last bunch of years, but seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Friends currently give it a 5, and we wish it the best of futures.

Overall, a season in the Caribbean is something every sailor needs to experience, no matter if you participate in the races with your own boat, crew on someone else's boat — or even if you avoid all the races and parties. The Caribbean simply has great sailing conditions, particularly from mid-February on. Just ask Greg and Debbie Dorland of the Lake Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade, who will be back for their third season next winter. Or their guests for the Bucket, Traci and Jaime of the Tiburon Peninsula. Or Jim and Debbie Gregory of the of the Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus, who will be coming back for their second winter season.

— latitude

Knee Deep — Catalina 38
Ben Doolittle Family
Crossing The Bar

When my husband Ben and I, along with our two young sons, Mickey and J.P., decided to go cruising on our 30-year-old Catalina 38, we were met with the standard reaction most cruisers experience. Disbelief, shock and awe were at the top of the list. My favorite was an encounter in the produce aisle of the supermarket in our hometown of Sacramento. A friend who had heard the news cornered me near the tomatoes and repeatedly shrieked: “THAT'S JUST CRAZY!!!"

“Yeah, but it’s gonna be awesome!” was my intellectual rebuttal.

When I was younger I was crazy enough to partake in some questionable activities. A favorite was climbing out of a Cessna and hurling myself off the wing. As I fell 10,000 feet, I alternated between full-throated laughter and screaming, "This is awesome!" I only regret not paying another $50 to get the video.

I've also shot automatic weapons in Vegas, flown an airplane in Petaluma, rappeled down the side of an apartment building in Chico, partied at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, eaten from a chicken carcass at Munich’s Oktoberfest, and hung upside down by boot-straps in Mexico while doing tequila shots. (Before you cut me out of the will, dad, I want you to understand that all these things were the fault of my older brothers.)

Having recently crossed the bar that leads from the Pacific Ocean to the Bahia del Sol Marina in El Salvador aboard Knee Deep, I have a new experience that tops my previous adrenaline-inducing activities — and makes me realize how much I miss them. Sure, having two kids has made me more cautious. And middle-age had convinced me that mortality is real and that I will die someday. Nonetheless, as character Andy Dufresne said in Shawshank Redemption, one of my favorite movies, "It all comes down to a simple choice. Either get busy living, or get busy dying."

The decision to go cruising forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Yet little did I know that after seven months of cruising we would be surfing seven-foot waves to cross the bar to get to the estuary that is the home to the Bahia del Sol. When we decided to join the 50+ other sailboats in this year’s El Salvador Rally, we were well aware that the entrance to the lagoon would be "challenging", at least in my mind, although it would be "no problem" in my husband's mind.

We arrived outside the Bahia del Sol bar at 3 a.m. and anchored in 40 feet of water. Ben promptly fell asleep in the cockpit, while I stayed up to watch for other boats. We decided that I would drive our five-ton boat across the bar ­— because there was a prize for women who did it! While I got more nervous as the 8 a.m. crossing time approached, I was relaxed enough to dress for the occasion: a cute, striped sundress and a Hawaiian visor.

When the sun came up, we cleared the cockpit of any loose items, tucked things away down below, put on our PFDs, and harnessed in. J.P., our 8-year-old cowardly — or wisely — decided to go below with a book. Mickey, our oldest son, volunteered to be our official photographer, so he snuggled in against the companionway. I took the wheel with Ben standing near me.

Rogelio, who has been piloting boats into the estuary for years, along with Bill, the leader of the El Salvador Rally, soon appeared on a Jet Ski to guide us in. Ben informed me that Rogelio had his dream job. Bill told us to approach a set of waves, then stop. I was not comforted by the fact we were headed for big waves. As we got close, I did what any sane, brave, adrenaline-junkie mother of two would do. I bailed! The clicking sound came from my undoing my harness and getting away from the helm. This was followed by 10-year-old Mickey stating, "I'm sooooo out of here!" He left his photographer's post at the companionway faster than I've ever seen him move before — except for the time he spotted a crocodile while body-surfing at Tenacatita. Dutifully, Ben the Dad took over at the helm, a huge smile plastered on his face. All was as it should be.

"This isn't so bad," I said quietly as the first wave passed beneath us. The next wave was different. As I fearfully watched it develop, I was convinced it would crash over our transom and flood the cabin with water. Amazingly, the wave picked us up and broke perfectly, allowing us to surf it, hitting a top speed of 13.65 knots! Keep in mind our average speed is 5 knots, with our max hull speed being about 7. After surfing a third wave, we were across the bar and out of trouble. Well, we were after Bill guided us back toward the center of the channel.

"Welcome to El Salvador!" Bill said as he pulled alongside, and while Ben and I were yelling and dancing about in our cockpit. "I think they're having fun," said Rogelio the pilot. He was right.

— molly 04/20/12

Curare — Bowman 36
Geoff and Linda Goodall
Valdivia to Puerto Montt, Chile
(Vancouver, B.C.)

We have just arrived at Puerto Montt, Chile, about 1,200 miles north of Cape Horn, from Valdivia, Chile, where we'd spent much of last year. Why have we headed south toward the bottom of South America as opposed to across the Pacific? It's simple — we do everything for our dog. Since she can’t easily go to the South Pacific because of the various laws and regulations, we've decided to go to those places where she'll be welcome. It's actually not a bother, because if so many countries didn't prohibit dogs, we'd never be able to decide where to go next. We’ll be here in the Puerto Montt area for the next few months before heading south to experience the wilds of the Patagonia canals.

On our way down here, we enjoyed two amazing months cruising the many islands to the east of of Isla Chiloé in the Golfo Corcovado and the Golfo Ancud. Puerto Montt is at the north end of the gulfs, which are a combined 50 miles long and 20 miles wide. Check out the area on Google Earth and you'll understand what makes them so great.

The cruising here has been very easy and comfortable, as the anchorages have been easy daysails apart. There has been good provisioning at the few small villages along the way, too. As it is now fall in the southern hemisphere, we have picked lots of berries and apples for baking pies and crumbles onboard.

The weather has been excellent for people like us from British Columbia. It's been sunny, but with the highs only between 50 and 68 degrees. We've had mostly southerly breezes, so our crossings of Golfo Corcovado and Golfo Ancud have consisted of pleasant beam- to broad reaches. In fact, we've enjoyed the sailing so much that we made a couple of extra trips across the gulfs.

There is wonderful bird life down here, including the Magellanic penguin, and dolphins are everywhere. What we've rarely seen are boats in the anchorages. The scenery has been gorgeous. We spent a few days at some isolated hot springs carved into the rock at the water's edge inside a steep-walled fjord. Beautiful!

— geoff and linda 04/14/12

Cruise Notes:

Now that 31-year-old Matt Rutherford has completed his epic 27,000-mile, 309-day solo circumnavigation of the Americas aboard his humble 36-year-old Vega 27 St. Brendan, we at Latitude have just one question: How did he manage to cram nearly a year's worth of food aboard such a little boat? Either he's a great packer or a great fisherman, or he carried a lot of freeze-dried food and had a reliable watermaker. The Albin Vega, as indicated by her Cal 20-like PHRF rating of 240, is no rocketship, but she's a solid little boat. John Neal — who has since done more than a quarter of a million ocean miles of offshore sailing instruction, started his offshore life on the Vega 27 Mahina Tiare. As we recall, he experienced some of the worst weather ever on his first passage, from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco. Don Keenan, a resident of Santa Cruz many years ago, did one of the early Singlehanded TransPacs with the Vega 27 Lani Kai. He and a lady crew — was it Eileen Sundet? — boldly doublehanded her back to California — and got rolled for their troubles. Having learned from experience, Keenan raced the Olson 30 Hanalei Express in the next Singlehanded TransPac, and had her shipped home from Hawaii. In any event, hats off to Matt Rutherford to his major accomplishment with his humble boat.

"My wife Manjula and I just got back from five months aboard our Farrier 41 catamaran Endless Summer in the Far East," reports Steve May of Gualala. "We spent three months in Palau, which is known for spectacular diving and has giant clams that weigh up to 500 pounds. Then we sailed south to Raja Ampat at the northeastern part of Indonesia, which is famed for having the greatest marine diversity in the world. The Malukus — originally known as the Spice Islands — were our next stop, None of these places were much like California, so we continued on to Darwin where we parked Endless Summer so we could return to work.

Just for kicks, a Farrier 41 rates 46 under PHRF — or more than three minutes a mile faster than a Vega 27.

When we asked whether others have as much trouble seeing the navigation lights on cruise ships as we sometimes do — the responses will appear in the June issue — we got an email from Fred Roswold and Judy Jensen in Brazil. This is what they've been up to:

"My wife Judy Jensen has been my equal partner in our Serendipity 43 Wings, and in life, for 24 years. We've lived aboard for all that time, first in Seattle, and since '96 in ports and harbors around the Pacific, Asia, and Africa. Judy was a sailor when I met her, and I'm descended from a Norwegian sea captain grandfather. The two of us have cruised over 38,000 miles, crossing oceans, visiting countries, occasionally racing, and living aboard in a variety of places. After 24 years, our approach to cruising is changing, as we no longer have the bodies or temperament to easily face all the challenges of cruising. So we now take crew when we cross oceans, and we are more open to other new paths which may come before us. We only hope to take them together. We are currently in Brazil. P.S. Although we've not been very good at keeping up, Latitude is still the best sailing magazine anywhere."

What a nice thing to say! If you want to see cruising through the eyes of folks who have been at it for nearly a quarter of a century, visit

Jim and Ann Cate of the Sayer 46 Insatiable II are a Bay Area couple who have been out cruising almost as long as Fred and Judy. And they are still at it. "We're lying at Eden, Twofold Bay, NSW, Australia. We're northbound, having spent another great summer in Tasmania. In fact, it's one of our all-time favorite cruising grounds. If it didn't get so bloody cold there in the winter, we'd never leave!"

"If things went as scheduled, my Casamance 45/47 catamaran Viva! and I transited the Panama Canal on April 21, concluding eight years in the Caribbean and Atlantic," writes Bob Willmann, long ago of Golden, Colorado. He's a vet of the '00 Ha-Ha with his Islander 37, also named Viva!, which was eventually lost to a Caribbean hurricane. "While on this side of the Canal, I visited the East Coast of the United States from Florida to Pennsylvania, and just about every island in the Caribbean — except Haiti, which was too poor, and Grand Cayman, which was too rich. I've had lots of wonderful experiences in the 30 countries, and a few — hurricanes, explosions, and dismastings — that I'll be happy to leave behind. But now it's time to return to the lighter winds, flatter seas and better fishing on the leeward side of Central America. I'll probably stay in Costa Rica until the winds change around Thanksgiving, and then slowly make my way back to the Sea of Cortez. It's about 3,000 nautical miles in all, and there are lots of old friends and beautiful and interesting places to visit on the way, so it will probably take me a year or so. I hope the Pacific Coast hasn't changed too much in the 12 years since I left San Diego. I met way too many interesting people in the Atlantic/Caribbean to remember. The worst thing about cruising is that you're always saying goodbye to people and places you love."

It's a hoot when you see cruising folks again after years, but in an entirely different part of the world. We had that experience in St. Barth in March, when we cruised through the Columbie anchorage and saw David and Helen Peoples on their Portland-based Catalina 42 Jammin'. We hadn't seen them since the '07 Ha-Ha. Judging by the way they wildly embraced each other for a drive by photo, they're still having a grand time. Alas, we never had the opportunity to sit down and catch up. Maybe when we cross paths in another five years in some other part of the world.

The folks at World Cruising Ltd have announced that the 27th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, set to start from the Canary Islands on November 25, has all 230 slots spoken for already. In fact, the ARC was sold out in early February, less than two months after the previous one finished in St. Lucia. The entries range in size from 28 to 80 feet, and come from 33 countries. The 23 catamarans will make up the second largest cat contingent ever, following last year's record of 29. Didn't get an entry slot? There is a waiting list.

You know what else is doing well? Tourism to Mexico. Yep, it's up 8% over the previous year. What's more, big international companies continue to invest heavily in Mexico. In just the last year, Mazda, Honda, and Nissan have all announced plans to build new factories in Mexico, and Ford has announced it's going to invest an additional $1.3 billion in their facility. At least as important, Audi just announced that it will build its luxury SUVs in Mexico for the global market. On July 1, the citizens of Mexico will cast ballots for a president to serve a new six-year term. We're not holding our breath, but can you imagine how Mexico could blossom if a new president were somehow able to get a handle on the narco-violence?

Forecasters are saying there is a chance that this will be an El Niño year in the Pacific, which would be nice since the water temperatures have been unusually cool for the last several years. Warmer temperatures in the Pacific are one factor associated with fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic/Caribbean, which is one reason why scientists are predicting only 10 named storms there, half of last year's total. Four storms are predicted to reach hurricane force, but only two of them major hurricanes. Remember about eight years ago when everybody on the Gulf and East Coast was going to sell their waterfront homes because of the tremendous increase in hurricane activity? Well, we're now in the longest stretch in recorded history when a major hurricane hasn't hit the States.

"I've just had some good times at Santiago Bay - Manzanillo," reports Stefan Ries of the Banderas Bay-based Triton 29 Mintaka. "I rented a SUP before the weekend swell and explored the lagoon. I even took some kids on the SUP and we surfed little waves tandem style. The waves never got that big — chest to shoulder high — but they were clean and it wasn't crowded. I later met a nice family from Colorado, and they invited me to lunch at their beach house. Then I shared the anchorage with the folks on Barefoot, who left for the Galapagos yesterday, and Dave on Camanoe, who will be singlehanding to Hawaii soon. As for myself, I'm going to head to Bahia Maruata, Michoacan."

"We're at Tenacatita Bay for a few days of surfing, and have two questions," writes Gabriela Verdon of the Queensland-based Catalina 42 Larrikin. "First, it's April, so why is the water still so cold? We've even had morning fog. And second, why is the water so murky? Mates at Isla Muertos on the Caribbean side of Mexico say the water is crystal clear there. But we're still having a ball. And having just read Edward Vernon's Maritime History of Baja, we can't wait to get up into the Sea."

And what's this? John Foy of the La Cruz-based Catalina 42 Destiny reports it was so foggy that at 10:30 p.m. on April 21, he couldn't see any of the six boats anchored out at Punta Mita. "This is a first," he writes.

The explanations we've heard for the murky water on the Pacific side of Mexico have all had to do with the rich volcanic soil and frequent rain. But it rains like crazy on volcanic islands such as Dominica and Grenada in the Caribbean, and the water is still clearer than clear. As for the cool waters, it seems to us there are more water temperature fluctuations off the Pacific Coast of Mexico than in the Eastern Caribbean and Bahamas. El Niño and La Niña are no doubt part of it, but we really don't know why the water is so cold. But you might want to enjoy the cooler waters while you can, because the water temps will hit the 90 degree mark in the Sea of Cortez this summer.

What was described as the "first serious attack on a yachtie in Colon, Panama, this year" took place on the night of March 28. Frank Peeters' African Fastcat 35 African Seawing was boarded at Club Nautico by "three brown-skinned males about 30 years of age". Peeters was onboard alone because his two crew had left to be line-handlers for a yacht doing a transit. Although Peeters was tied up and his wallet, the contents of his safe, and other valuables were taken, he wasn't beaten. He was eventually able to get free and call police. His dinghy was found abandoned a short distance away on the beach near the cruise ship terminal.

Cruisers in Panama warn that hold-ups and snatch & run thefts from tourists remain an all-too-common occurrence in Colon. They advise that the Club Nautico anchorage is not patrolled, and boats are easy to reach from shore. While Anchorage F may not be as convenient, it's recommended as being much safer.

Before heading south to Panama after a number of years in Mexico. Louis Kruk and Laura Willerton of the San Leandro-based Beneteau First 42 Cirque decided they wanted protection from thieves such as those who attacked African Seawing. So while still in Puerto Vallarta, they had Salvador 'Chava' Covarrubias create a 'security hatch' out of stainless steel. "The idea was a hatch that would allow for good ventilation, yet could be secured from the inside or out, and was strong enough to keep bad guys out," writes Louis. "And would still fit under a bunk cushion. The hatch was created by first fabricating the perimeter of 1/2” solid bar stainless to match the outline of the original acrylic hatch. Then a piece of stainless sheet was cut to fit inside the rod frame, and had ventilation holes cut in it. The hatch turned out lighter than Cirque's original half-inch-thick solid acrylic hatch. The cost was about $350." Salvador Covarrubias Sandoval can be reached at Taller de Torno y Soldadura Neptuno, Fco. J. Echeverria No. 141,Col. Guadalupe Victoria, in Puerto Vallarta; or by phone at 01 (322) 2213414 (322) 2212930; or via .

If you're ever in the Caribbean, or want to feel like you're in the Caribbean, we suggest that you either pick up a copy of the Caribbean Compass or check out the online version. Based out of little Bequia, Sally Erdle and her crew have just put out issue 200. While it's impossible to cover the entire Caribbean — or even just the Eastern Caribbean — in detail, we think the Compass does a good job. And they often get interesting letters from readers. For example, German cruiser Angelika Gruener of the vessel Angelos wrote in to complain that she had to fill out — by hand — 23 pages of paperwork to check out of Chaguaramas, Trinidad!

What did we find interesting in issue 199? First, the report that the BVIs have declared Gun Creek in Gorda Sound a Port of Entry. It's about time. And, they say they'll have the ESeaClear clearing process in effect. On the next page, the Compass reported that the vessel Pampero, which looked to be a modern 47-footer, was knocked down by a large wave on the southeast coast of Grenada on the morning of February 27, and that all four crew were washed overboard. Fortunately, they all managed to swim ashore. Four days later the boat was found off the Los Testigos Islands by the Venezuelan Coast Guard, her engine still running. It all sounds just a little bit curious to us. The day after the Pampero crew was washed overboard, Dick and Ann Oliver's Tayana 37 Chinook Wind was wrecked on a reef at Las Aves de Barlovento, Venezuela. Unable to launch their dinghy or liferaft, the couple, who had spent the last two years cruising around the world, managed to swim to a Venezuelan Coast Guard vessel. Stuff happens in the Caribbean. Because there are lots of boats, lots of stuff happens.

"I just spent some wonderful days in the Galapagos with the most tame sea life I've ever encountered," writes young Rachel Edwards of California, who is helping deliver the Beneteau 50 Irene to New Zealand. "Seal pups would lick my toes, turtles would let me pet them, but the iguanas were a little more skittish. We sailed Irene through Kicker Island, a most amazing 300-ft tall island that looks as though it was sliced in half. Check it out on Goggle Earth. We leave tomorrow on a 20-day-plus passage to the Marquesas."

"Superstitious people say that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day," writes Diana Frizzell of the Alameda and now Mexico-based Catalina 470 Di's Dream. "Well, Friday the 13th in March of this year sure was an unlucky day for the fish in our path while we made the crossing from the mainland to La Paz. The fishing was absolutely fabulous! 'Wally the Wahoo' was the catch of the day. We didn't have a scale to weigh him, but he was just under six feet long. In addition, we landed a pair of 25-lb yellowfin. The last catch of the day was a huge dorado. These fish would have tasted great, but we were in catch & release mode, as our freezer was already packed full of fish for the spring season up in the Sea.

"We had quite a storm here at Bahia del Sol last night," report Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain, organizers of the El Salvador Cruisers', "one similar to the surprise storm that hit La Cruz three years ago. There was intense rain, wind and waves that lasted for about 30 minutes. One boat clocked 60-knot winds. The three anchored boats all dragged The Doolittle family managed to bring their Catalina 38 Knee Deep to the marina after the wind subsided. Nobody was aboard Panache when she dragged, but her anchor luckily snagged one of the dock anchors. Tolerance wasn't as lucky, as one of the piers stove in a one-foot by two-foot hole only inches above the waterline. The rest of the starboard side of the hull sustained serious damage, and she may be a total loss. Two boats broke off of Santos' moorings. The crew of Sundancer was aboard and managed to anchor quickly. The Talaria crew was also aboard, but unfortunately she dragged and appeared to hit Hotspur, causing a fair amount of mostly cosmetic damage. Talaria bent four stanchions and their dinghy davit, and broke a 130-watt solar panel. She is in the marina licking her wounds. Five boats on Colette's moorings dragged their moorings about 200 yards, and a couple of boats collided. The dock at Colette’s blew away in the wind, and the moorings are being relocated. We had waves as high as our hips at the Bahia del Sol docks, and waves washed many flotation barrels from under the docks. But thanks to boatowners and the entire hotel staff, the damage was limited. Except for the damage to the boats, life is pretty much back to normal.

"Thanks to the efforts of Nick Humphries of the West Marine store in Henderson, Nevada, John McGinnis of West Marine International Retail Operations, and Neslihan Karayel, Manager of the West Marine stores in Marmaris — yes! — Turkey, we successfully received a substantial order from West Marine at Netsel Marina in Marmaris," reports Chay McWilliam of the Kelly-Peterson 46 Esprit. "We thank all these West Marine folks for all their efforts." Having been cruising on and off since starting with the '03 Ha-Ha, Chay, along with wife Catherine and son Jamie, are now immersing themselves in the historical wonders of Turkey.

Missing the pictures? See the May 2012 eBook!


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