Latitude home Latitude 38


Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
May 2014

Missing the pictures? See our May 2014 eBook!
Bookmark and Share

With reports this month from Beach House in the Caribbean after completing most of a circumnavigation; from Cherokee Rose on the Marshall Islands, where they hid from cyclones; from Peregrine on a thumbnail review of their 14-year circumnavigation; from Maya on problems south of Bequia; a mini-interview with Precious Metal's Pamela Bendall; from Latitude on the silly cruiser restrictions in Europe; from Cirque on the San Blas Islands; and Cruise Notes.

Beach House — Switch 51 Cat
Scott Stolnitz and Nikki Woodrow
The Caribbean
(Marina del Rey)

We ran into Scott Stolnitz of the Switch 51 catamaran Beach House while at St. Barth during the Bucket. Scott and his wife Cindy had taken off from Marina del Rey on Christmas Day 2007, and slowly made their way across the Pacific, taking lots of excellent underwater photos along the way. Cindy unexpectedly passed away in March 2011, but as indicated on Beach House's website, Scott's continuing circumnavigation is dedicated to her.

The following year, Scott advertised for crew, which is how he met Nikki Woodrow. She later did a second segment and has pretty much been crewing with him ever since.

Scott and Nikki spent most of 2013 sailing across the Indian Ocean, down around the tip of South Africa, and up to the Caribbean. It was a year of long passages and, except for the pleasant South Atlantic crossing, rough weather. This year they started from the lower Caribbean and have been heading up the island chain. While it's been a breezy winter, 25 miles has been a long passage.

When you cruise for many years, you learn a lot of things about your boat. Some things have taken Scott longer to learn than he would have liked — such as how to keep the cat's hydraulically operated rudders from 'snow plowing' or 'pizza-pie-ing'. After the frustrations of having to reset the rudders every day or so for years, and replacing a number of hydraulic pumps, last year Scott came up with what appears to be the solution — isolation valves. We don't completely understand the concept, but the isolation valves have a way of re-equalizing things after they get out of whack.

"Every maker of hydraulic cylinders sells them," says Scott. "The amazing thing is that none of many hydraulic techs I've had look at my system suggested them. When I finally called the dealer to order them, he said, "You must own a catamaran"."

Beach House is also equipped with saildrives, which are notorious for two problems. The first is that the clutch cones get smooth over time, which prevents the engine from engaging the transmission. Initially it was believed that you had to haul the boat to replace them, and the cones had to be replaced rather than reworked. Both are expensive propositions.

Years ago, however, it was found that you could not only remove and replace the clutch cones while the boat was in the water, you could have the old cones fixed to as good as new. "I've had mine relapped," reports Scott, "and they've worked as good as new ones."

The other saildrive issue is that the seals on the bottom of the unit eventually fail, allowing sea water into the transmission. Originally, Scott believed that the only solution was to haul the boat to replace the seals. Usually you haul out on rails or a Travelift, but early in his trip Scott put the Beach House on a mud bank in El Salvador, replaced the seals when the tide was out, then floated her when the tide came back in.

Since that's not always feasible, he came up with an easier solution. He's installed a transmission oil reservoir tank three feet higher than the oil fill cap on the saildrive. The result is that when a seal starts to leak, instead of a little sea water seeping into the transmission, a little transmission oil seeps out into the ocean.

Not unlike a lot of circumnavigators we've interviewed, Scott and Nikki have been "disappointed" in the Caribbean. They cited the normal complaints, such as there being so many charter boats, and the fact that dining out is often quite expensive for the quality of the food. But their biggest surprise is how concerned they've been about their personal safety. "We actually felt safer in South Africa." Even if that's just a perception, it's a nasty indictment.

Their safety concerns actually began in Guyana, South America. They had been advised that Bartica, a town of about 15,000 where the Cuyuni and Mazaruni Rivers meet up with the Essequibo River, was a new 'hot spot'. Bartica might indeed be the 'Gateway to the Interior', where people work in the bush and hunt for gold and diamonds, but Scott and Nikki felt like walking targets.

Scott's future plans are unclear, but they don't seem to include returning to California with the boat on a long-term basis. "There are too few places in California to berth a cat like mine," he says. Besides, once you've spent years cruising some of the most exotic places of the world, Catalina doesn't have the allure that it once did.

— latitude 03/15/2014

Cherokee Rose — Alajuela 48
Michael and Anita Moyer
The Marshall Islands
(Newport Beach)

We're burning up the rest of the Southern Hemisphere cyclone season to the north in the safety of the Marshall Islands. We've enjoyed our time here so much that I even applied for a job. Half-heartedly, but I did apply.

We arrived in the Marshalls after American Samoa, Samoa, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. The Marshalls — which are just north of the equator about halfway between Honolulu and Cairns, Australia — are definitely off the cruisers' 'beaten path'. We know of only one other 2013 Puddle Jump boat — Robert and Sherry Bennatts' Northwest-based Hans Christian 52 Wings of Dawn — that subsequently sailed up the island chains in this direction, too. We did meet a few cruising boats heading north, but it wasn't anybody else's first season. Every other boat we met while in Mexico and French Polynesia went south, and they're currently commenting about how beautiful — and expensive! — it is in New Zealand.

There are about 25 cruising boats here in Majuro, which is the capital of the Marshalls. It's been easy to ship items here via the U.S. Postal Service, English is widely spoken, and the U.S. dollar is the currency, so life has been relatively uncomplicated. The prices are comparable to those in Hawaii, as everything but coconuts and fish has to be imported. Most of the common 'fix it' parts cruisers need can be found around town.

There is a small yacht club — the Mieco Beach YC — at Majuro, with 'yachtie' get-togethers at least once a week. The yacht club has put in 12 moorings — with the permission of the local property owners — out of town along Enemanet and Eneko, two of the barrier islands. The moorings help protect the reef and allow more boats to fit. Locals use the area as a getaway.

On the downside, all land, even the tidelands, is privately-owned, so you need to ask permission to anchor or land your dinghy when outside 'the city'. Majuro is also on the edge of the ITCZ, so it's windy and showery just about every day. That's bad for exterior work and painting, but great for the wind generator and filling water tanks. Going north to the outer islands will reward you with even nicer weather and beautiful, laid back tropical islands. If we had a seal of approval, this place would earn a stamp.

I know it's shocking, but we've changed our plans. Instead of continuing west to Asia, we are going to turn around and head back south and do the Tonga/Fiji area. Everyone has just been raving about how great it is, so south we go!

— michael 04/15/2014

Peregrine — Serendipity 43
Gene and Sue Osier
14-Year Circumnavigation
(Newport Beach)

When I met Sue I had a Yankee 30 in Newport Harbor, and she got seasick on the dinghy ride out to the mooring. Not a good start on a relationship that I was excited about. After we got married, we moved to a house in Costa Mesa, a few miles from the beach. After living there for 10 years, Sue said, "Why don't we go cruising?" Little did I know that all she really wanted was to get out from under John Wayne Airport, as planes constantly took off right over our house.

"Our Yankee 30 is strong enough, but she won't carry many provisions for distance sailing," I smugly replied. I was actually content with weekend sails and the odd trip to Catalina.

"No problem, we'll just get a bigger boat" she responded.

Two years later, we bought our Serendipity 43 in Seattle, and delivered her to Newport Beach with a friend, Mike Burke, as crew. Eighteen months later we were sailing in the 2000 Baja Ha-Ha. Upon arriving in Cabo, I thought "What do we do now?" Our fate was decided by the simple fact that we didn't want to Bash back up to California!

We left Zihuatanejo in April 2001 on a 21-day crossing to the Marquesas. We made it all the way to Fiji before the southern cyclone season began, so we then headed to New Zealand, arriving at the Bay of Islands at night in a memorable blinding rainstorm. The following (Southern Hemisphere) autumn we returned to Fiji, and worked our way to Bundaberg, Australia for the next cyclone season.

Aussie officials kicked us out after two years, so we joined the Darwin to Kupang (Indonesia) Rally, and got to Phuket, Thailand just in time for the deadly Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. We crossed the Indian Ocean amid the flotsam left over from the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands, broke our boom in a jibe during a squall, and after repairing it in the Maldives continued on to Oman.

Mohammed, our agent in Oman — all agents in Islamic countries seem to be named Mohammed — assured us that there were no pirates on the trip down to Aden. As we left he gave us a hug and whispered, "Stay 50 miles offshore!" After buddy-boating with three others, we arrived in Aden one day ahead of Mahdi and Gandalf, two steel sailboats that got shot up by pirates. The cruisers shot back with a 12-gauge, wounding or possibly killing two of the bandits. They had only stayed 25 miles offshore!

After an eventful Red Sea passage, we spent a year at Abu Tig Marina on the Red Sea coast of Egypt. The Red Sea adventure is chronicled in Sue's four-part writeup Seeing Red, originally published in the Aussie sailing rag The Coastal Passage.

We spent another year in Turkey at the downtown marina in Marmaris, touring as we saw fit. After a Mediterranean winter in Ostia, Rome's seaport, we wandered to the Balearic Islands, Gib, and the Canaries.

Our Atlantic crossing in December 2008 featured our share of wind — and the ARC's share, too. We were three weeks behind them. It took us a year to get from St. Lucia to the San Blas Islands of Panama, where we arrived on Christmas Day 2009. We spent a total of three years in Panama at Shelter Bay Marina, which is on the Caribbean side of Panama, allowing Sue to bird to her heart's content.

After the Panama Canal transit in 2013, we meandered up the Central American coast, crossing our outbound track at Z-town in March of this year.

We were very fortunate to enjoy mostly good health, and had few boat breakdowns. The exceptions were as follows: I hit a reef outside a marina in Malaysia, and the sudden stop caused Sue to be flung down our very steep companionway ladder, fracturing her spine. Thankfully, she recovered nicely. Then I got a staph infection in my shin in Old Suakin, Sudan that came close to costing me a leg. Fortunately, a Sudanese doctor and nurse came to the rescue. I recovered nicely, too.

Many people were of great help in the 14 years we have been out, but special mention must be made of my late father-in-law, Miles Lewis, who acted as banker, agent, advocate, legal eagle, cheerleader and friend until his passing last September.

Sue adds the following:

"Latitude was instrumental in getting us off the dime. Gene is so cheap that after paying for entry in the Ha-Ha, we left Newport Beach even though the boat was not ready."

— gene and sue 04/15/2014

Maya — LaFitte 44
Rick Meyerhoff
Problems South of Bequia

As I reported last month, Audrey and I found that Bequia has it all — culture, safety and convenience. Alas, we didn't find the same things as we headed south to Grenada to put Maya away after our four-month winter season in the southern Caribbean.

The first stop on our way south was Mayreau's Salt Whistle Bay, a former favorite. I say 'former' because the place was inundated with French catamarans. I counted over 13 of them. Being so beamy, they really crowded up the small anchorage. Then I saw something I hadn't seen before: a charter cat with 14 drunk dancing girls and prancing guys, each following the other as if in a conga line. I thought you only see stuff like that at Squid Roe in Cabo.

Anyway, I hit the bunk and slept until I was awoken by a bat flying around the inside of Maya — which I thought was kinda cool. One bat? No big deal, nature at her best. A while later Audrey awoke me — it's a platonic relationship so we sleep in separate cabins — to tell me that there were half a dozen of the cuddly critters flying around the main saloon in the dark. Still no problem. We just sat there, in a half daze, watching them. We didn't realize what they were capable of.

What they were capable of, we discovered the next morning, was peeing and pooping all over the insides of my boat! And I mean everywhere. Audrey then informed me that we would have to use industrial-strength gloves when cleaning the stuff off the walls, floors and cushions, because bat poop is toxic to humans. It was not a fun job, as we had to start with diluted bleach, go to soapy water, then finish with fresh water. I can't believe how much those little turds relieve themselves.

After cowboying up and doing the cleaning, we went to the beach, where a local told us bat poop wasn't the thing to be worried about. It was rabies! And we're still finding pieces of their poop.

Anyway, we took off for Union Island's Chatham Bay. What a peaceful place to drop an anchor in about 11 feet of water! Chatham Bay has five pleasantly ramshackle bar/restaurants along the beach serving drinks and food. The area is tranquil because it's hard to get to it other than by boat. We had turtles swimming around the boat, and could hear splashes as the tuna hunted in packs for fish farther down the food chain. Ah, the Caribbean at its finest!

Our next stop was Petit St Vincent, a privately-owned island where Audrey spent a lot of time trying to remove sea urchin spines from both my feet. I'd inadvertently stepped on the nasty critters as I entered the water after an idyllic beach walk at Chatham Bay. I felt a bit of an urchin myself when I first tried the traditional Hawaiian urchin spine remedy — soaking my feet in urine. Maybe it works in Hawaii, but not the Caribbean.

Audrey wouldn't work on my feet until I 'd thoroughly washed them. So after cleaning her hands in bleach and whatever other nasty stuff she could find under the sink — perhaps boric acid — she put on the same industrial strength gloves and went to work. Poor girl!

So there I sat in the cockpit for a long and painful time, under scalpel and tweezers. Yes, it was undignified for a male skipper such as myself to be at the mercy of a female crew who had the power to extract just about anything from me under penalty of pain.

We ran into more trouble at Tyrell Bay, Carriacou because we'd stopped at Union Island and PSV prior to clearing into Grenada. The fascist — at least I thought them so — Customs and Immigration functionaries informed me that they could have fined me $10,000 EC — $3,700 in real dollars — and thrown me in jail because I hadn't cleared out of St. Vincent & the Grenadines properly. Or into Grenada properly. Whatever!

This was getting old, because when I cleared out of Grenada last November, they made me pay $500 EC — nearly 200 real dollars — because they said I hadn't cleared into Grenada properly. Actually, I had. But it was Carnival, and the official who took my money and issued my clearance did so improperly, and thus I only thought I'd cleared into Grenada. I must look like an easy mark. Anyway, I had a meltdown when those low-level clerical types accused me of lying and intentionally breaking the law.

I had another meltdown this time, as the same young guys "just doing their job" hassled me unmercifully. It was the dates on the clearance forms that told them that we had cleared out of Bequia (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) a lot more than 24 hours before, and suggested that we'd illegally spent a couple of delightful days enjoying Salt Whistle Bay, Chatham Bay, and Petit St Vincent, all of which are part of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and not Grenada. Are you confused yet? I was. When they say you have 24 hours to leave after you clear out of Bequia, they mean you have to leave all of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, not just Bequia. It's hard being a hippie in the 21st century.

Chris Parker, who runs the daily Caribbean weather net on SSB, then said that the weather had been most unusual this year in that it's been windy since December 10 with nary a letup. He said the 'Christmas Winds' started blowing early, and had been blowing at 20 knots every day and night for weeks. No kidding.

On our way to Grenada once again, we gave Kick 'em Jenny, which is on the rhumbline, a wide berth. It's an undersea volcano that I don't want to be anywhere nearby when it starts doing its thing. As for the subsequent gentle reach in following seas down the leeward coast of Grenada, it was one of the most delightful sails I've ever had. It was the perfect culmination to a winter's voyage.

But not so fast, as we still had to round Pt. Saline at the south end of the island. We had a horrible beat in short, choppy seas that were the result of the water's being only 18 feet deep. It's an area where boats are susceptible to getting hit by sneaker waves. Because it's less deep than San Francisco's Potato Patch, it can be much more dangerous. It's more like trying to get out of Tomales Bay when there is a big sea running — except you have to run into it for a couple of miles instead of a couple of hundred yards.

We finally made it to Prickly Bay, home to Spice Island Marina, where Maya was to be hauled for the off season. We anchored in a pleasant spot in gusty winds for the night. I could finally relax. Or so I thought. In the middle of the night it seemed as though my 75-lb CQR was beginning to drag for the first time ever, as we were getting close to the cat behind us. Fortunately Audrey is an insomniac, so she stood most of the anchor watch until dawn. We then re-anchored before any of our neighbors awoke to the travesty of having obvious newbies right in front of them who didn't know how to anchor.

You know what I'm thinking now? The Pacific.

— rick 03/15/2014

Precious Metal — Kristen 46
Pamela Bendall
After 100,000 Ocean Miles
(Canoe Cove, B.C.)

[Latitude has known Pamela since she did the 2008 Ha-Ha, But having not yet had time to read her book What Was I Thinking?, we didn't really know that much of her story. So when we crossed paths with her and Mr. X, her companion, at the Octopus' Garden in La Cruz in December, we decided to remedy that deficiency with a mini interview.]

38: We know that you love cruising, but how did you get started?

P.B. My former husband was a sailor, so in 1986 we — which means including our children, then 10 and 4 — departed Canada aboard our Beneteau First 38 to cruise the South Pacific, the Sea of Japan, and back to Canada. This was back in the days of navigating with sextants. To show you how times have changed, we thought our Beneteau 38 was an 'ultimate cruising boat'.

As a result of the cruise, my then-husband fell out of love with cruising, while I fell completely in love with it. So I vowed to return to Canada and make a lot of money in order to build the boat that I wanted. So I kept a list of things I wanted on the new boat in the back of the log book.

38: What did you do to make money for a new boat?

P.B. I became a stockbroker when we returned to Canada in 1989. I was a conservative investor, but did do some investments in precious metals, which became the perfect name for my boat. After 10 years of working, I was able to launch the cruising boat of my dreams in 1999. She even has a bathtub.

38: Did you start cruising immediately?

P.B. No. I did three years of chartering in northern British Columbia, during which time I covered 35,000 ocean miles.

38: Was it successful?

P.B. It was great, really great. And it took my seamanship to another level. I did 108 charters of five to seven days' duration in a three-year period. My 109th charter was the charter from hell, so I decided that I would follow my passion by going cruising instead.

38: Did you charter around Comox?

P.B. Mostly to the north of that, near Alaska.

38: Did you ever see a big ketch named Ocean Light that specialized in seeing spirit bears?

P.B. Sure.

38: That's Latitude's old Ocean 71 Big O, which we sold to Caribbean buyers while in the Caribbean.

P.B. That's funny! Ocean Light and Precious Metal worked the same region, with spirit bears as a focus of our charters. I did more high-end charters, while they put lots of bunks in Ocean Light.

38: You mentioned that your three years of doing charters were "successful". Does that mean they were also lucrative?

P.B. No, as in that region you only have a three-month charter season, and you still have 12 months of expenses. But it did allow me to buy the equipment I needed for offshore cruising, and I became a much better seawoman. It was a lot of work, however, as I was the captain, cook, bottlewasher, engineer, mechanic, cleaning lady — everything.

38: Where did you go when you took off cruising in 2008?

P.B. I headed south from Canada to San Diego to participate in the 2008 Ha-Ha, and then cruised Mexico until 2010. In 2010, I set sail for Central America, the Galapagos and Peru. People should read my book, which explains it all. I promise they will laugh out loud at some of the adventures.

38: Not many people cruise to Peru. What did you think of it?

P.B. I loved Peru! In fact, it leapfrogged to the top of the list of my favorite countries in the world. After Peru, I kept running back and forth between Zihua for SailFest in late January and Peru or Panama. It was kind of crazy going back and forth.

38: So how did you meet Mr. X?

P.B. I was coming back to southern Mexico three years ago with one guest aboard when Precious Metal was struck by lightning 200 miles off the coast of El Salvador. The lightning came in through the engine water intake, and fried every wire and everything any wire was attached to. I had shorts everywhere. All I had was a handheld compass and a handheld GPS. We managed to make it to Bahia del Sol, and as planned all along, my guest left the next day.

Unfortunately, I'd gotten fried myself shortly after my boat got hit by lightning. There were continuing shorts in the enclosed stand-up engine room, and I had to be in there for hours cutting wires to prevent fires. It turns out that I ingested a lot of the toxic chemicals from the wires and got poisoned. But there was nothing I could do at the time, as I had to deal with the results of the strike.

My skin later broke out with symptoms similar to chicken pox. My limbs were numb for six months, and partially numb for another six months. I had to get all kinds of injections, as my entire immune system was compromised.

38: Did you have insurance, and how did they treat you?

P.B. I had Seaworthy Insurance through Mariner's General, and Craig Chamberlain, my broker, was great. They did me good. But I could have gotten a lot more money, as problems from lightning strikes continue to show up for years. But I was worried I wouldn't get anything at all, so I wanted a check right away. Since I signed a disclaimer, I was out of luck for future problems.

The biggest problem I had was with the outfit in El Salvador that sold and installed Garmin electronics. They fraudulently installed stuff on my 46-ft steel sailboat that was specifically intended for smaller sportfishing boats. They knew it was the wrong stuff — I have all the emails between them and Garmin — but they installed it anyway.

As a result of getting the wrong equipment, I had to go for a year without an autopilot or any other electronics. That included a 500-mile singlehanded trip to Panama, with my boat and personal health compromised. Fortunately, Mr. X buddy-boated with me the entire way. X and I were each on our own boat, but because my boat and I were in less than perfect operating condition, we'd stop every afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and drop the hook for the night.

38: We need to back up for a minute. Who is 'Mr. X' and how did you meet him?

P.B. He's a sailor from Northern California who has been cruising the F/P 43 cat Rapscallion for the last 10 years. But he doesn't like any kind of publicity. He was already at Bahia del Sol getting one of his diesels rebuilt for $500. I needed rides to town to the doctor and help with getting parts and doing other things. I was single, he was single, and the rest is history. But it really meant something to me that somebody was willing to buddy-boat all the way to Panama with me.

38: How long were you in Panama?

P.B. About a year. I finally got so fed up with Garmin that I wrote all the company executives around the world and told them I was going to report what had happened to all the sailing magazines. A week later they had the correct autopilot installed on my boat — even though it required their getting a custom pump made in Seattle. But I still wasn't very happy, as I'd had to hand-steer for a year, and I'd paid full price for the autopilot.

38: Where did you stay while you were in Panama?

P.B. The Perlas Islands, which are on the Pacific side. We'd commute back and forth between the Perlas and Panama City when we needed food and supplies. My boat became my office, fitness center and spa. Remember, she has a bathtub. After a full day of doing my stuff, I'd join Mr. X for dinner and then spend the night on his cat.

38: How did you like Panama?

P.B. It's a great place and you can get just about everything done there. But it's a corrupt society, and I always felt like I had to keep looking over my shoulder. This was especially true when it came to the nitty gritty of a blonde woman trying to buy boat gear. For example, I needed new chain badly, but I just didn't believe that I could trust any of the vendors in Panama to sell me good quality chain.

38: Did you think about going through the Canal to the Caribbean?

P.B. Yes, but we decided that we didn't want to take two boats through the Canal. And I decided that I wanted to return to Canada for at least part of the year to work on my speaking business. So we singlehanded both boats north, stopping every night. I loved stopping at every harbor between Panama and British Columbia. Mr. X joined me for several of the legs, and Vicky from Roscinante joined me for another two weeks.

38: Wait a minute, you're telling us that you anchored every night!?

P.B. Yes. In the case of my boat, all the way from Panama to Canada. Mr. X took his boat to Puerto Escondido in the Sea of Cortez. If there weren't harbors or anchorages, we'd just look for places to drop the hook. We didn't anchor in places where there were rocks, but when we found some sand, we'd drop the hook in 40 feet and spend the night. If it was too close to shore, we'd anchor in 50 feet.

38: How much chain did you have?

P.B. About 250 feet. But when I left Panama, my chain had lost so much galvanizing that the links would stick together. I didn't get new chain in Panama because I didn't feel I could trust the quality, so I waited until I got to Mexico. So between Panama and Mexico, we'd get to a roadstead at 4:30 p.m, and Mr. X would drop his anchor. I, on the other hand, would have to go up to the windlass with a hammer and chisel and break the links apart. [Laughter.]

38: Having spent a lot of time on a monohull and on a multihull, which do you prefer?

P.B. I'd like to have a monohull to sail across oceans. I found it to be very unnatural to be on Mr. X's cat, as the seas would be going, bong, bong, bong, bong against the hulls. My monohull plowed through the waves serenely, without the discombobulating noise made by the cat. It wasn't 'bombs' on the bottom of the cat's bridgedeck that bothered me, but rather the seas slamming on both sides of the hulls. I couldn't find anyplace comfortable to sleep on Mr. X's boat when at sea. I've crossed between Baja and the Mexican mainland several times on Mr. X's cat in beam seas, and I didn't like it.

38: Beam-to seas are the worst for cats, but wouldn't Precious Metal be rolling quite a bit in beam seas, too?

P.B. Yeah, my boat rolls in beam seas and I don't like that either.

Doing a major ocean crossing in serious seas is the only time I'd prefer a monohull. And the truth is that most cruisers spend 90% of their time at anchor or sailing in relatively smooth seas. I think multihulls are the right boats for tropical waters, while farther south and north, I think monohulls are best. For one thing, it's hard to find moorage for a cat in the northern latitudes. Secondly, people don't live on boats as much in the north, so monohulls still make sense.

38: You still like the tropics?

P.B. I love the tropics, and I love the cruising life! I'm also doing a lot of work on behalf of the oceans. My personal passion is to raise awareness about the crises the oceans face in terms of garbage, overfishing, climate change, acidity, dead zones, water temperatures and other serious stuff. I'm about to leave for the Toronto Boat Show to speak about it.

38: Thank you for your time.

— latitude/rs 01/15/2014

Europe Has Nothing On Mexico
More Bureaucrats Gone Wild

Lest anyone think that Mexico's recent self-destructive 'auditing' of foreign-owned boats was a unique governmental brain fart, consider the oppressive situation for foreign mariners wanting to cruise — and spread money — in 'Schnegen Area' countries.

What countries constitute the Schnegen Area? It's actually quite simple: "Twenty-two of the 28 European Union (EU) member states, and all four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states. Of the six EU members that do not form part of the Schnegen Area, four — Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania — are legally obliged to join the area, while the other two — Ireland (reluctantly) and the United Kingdom — are opt-outs. Four non-members of the EU, but members of EFTA — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland — participate, while three European microstates — Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican — are de facto parts of the Schnegen Area." Got that?

Maybe it would be easier if we listed the countries close to but not part of the Schnegen Area. These would include the United Kingdom, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, and the cruising paradise of Croatia — although Croatia joins the Schnegen Area next year. In other words, if you're an American who wants to cruise the western Med, you've got a big Schnegen problem.

The idea behind the Schnegen Treaty was to allow citizens of all 26 Schnegen countries free passage to and in all Schnegen countries. Wonderful! The problem is that the same treaty prohibits nationals of non-Schnegen countries from staying in Schnegen countries for more than 90 days in any 180-day period. The mariners primarily affected are from the 'Schnegen-friendly' countries of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

While in St. Barth, we met the owners of two very nice Northern California yachts who are very interested in taking their boats to the Med. But given the shocking limitations on their potential visits — "That's impossible; you must not understand the law," said one — it would make cruising in the Med difficult if not out of the question.

The terms for boats themselves aren't anywhere as severe. Boats can be kept in the 26 countries for 18 months. With documentation that they've been taken out of the area for just one day, they can be brought back in for another 18 months.

There are a couple of potential ways to try to work around the problem. The most reliable way is to get a Resident Permit in advance. But this can be difficult unless you can prove you have a fixed address, which would be hard if you were cruising around on your boat.

Another tactic has been to alternate spending three months in Schnegen countries and three months outside them. But for people who want to enjoy a leisurely summer cruising from, for example, Spain to France to Italy, it would require two unwanted trips across the Med to either Morocco or Tunisia. It's no big deal crossing from southern Spain to Morocco, but if you cross from any of the other parts of Spain, France or Italy, particularly in the spring or fall, you could be in for a lot of unpleasantness.

What a ridiculous situation! If anybody could explain how making life miserable for visiting affluent non-Schnegeners in any way benefits Schnegeners, we'd like to hear it.

Having come to the realization that draconian 'visa' restrictions on non-Schnegen mariners make no sense, members of the European Commission recently put forward a proposal to revise the EU's visa code for third-country visitors. The aim is to shorten and simplify the procedures for those wanting to come to the EU for short stays, with the objective of boosting economic activity and job creation. Approval is not expected before next year, if then. And at this point, it's unclear what would be meant by a "short stay". Nine months in, three months out, is the minimum that we think would be in the best interest of Schnegen Area countries.

— latitude/rs 04/15/2014

Cirque — Beneteau First 42s7
Louis Kruk
Pickup Crew in Panama
(East Bay)

My Cirque had not been out of Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of Panama since May 2012, so I'm happy to report that the 'circus' went on 'tour' for five weeks starting on March 9. I'm not sure if I should be lamenting or reveling in the fact that none of my sailing friends from California were able to join me, so I had to resort to advertising for crew on marina bulletin boards. Given the results, I might try it again sometime.

The first one to sign on was Tess, a beautiful 6-ft, 23-year-old Dutch girl who could easily be a fashion model. Although she graduated with a degree in photography from the University of Holland, she belongs on the other side of the camera modeling. As it was, the daughter of a KLM pilot spent most of the time modeling bikinis on Cirque. Did I mention that she speaks three languages better than I speak English?

My second pickup crew was Adriano, a similarly multilingual 28-year-old from Italy. He'd worked on small charter boats in the Guna Yala — more popularly known as the San Blas Islands — so he had a feel for making passages through reefs and knew some of the locals. What a gregarious and articulate guy! Not only did he serve as Cirque's anchor windlass — I don't want the weight of a windlass in the bow — he also took a great deal of pride in the Italian delicacies he prepared in the galley. That guy can cook.

The three of us had a great time sailing in the reliable northeast trades and flat water in the lee of the islands. The only time we used the diesel for propulsion was to leave the marina or a tricky anchorage. After that, we sailed everywhere. Contrast this to Mexico, where even the most determined sailors often have to motor just to get from Point A to Point B. Sailing just doesn't get any better than down here!

I'm looking for crew for my next stint sailing in the Guna Yala. If I can't find any from California, I guess — sigh — that I'll just have to resort to marina bulletin boards again. Once we get to Bocas del Toro, I plan to put Cirque in a slip at the Red Frog Marina for the foreseeable future.

— louis 04/12/2014

Cruise Notes:

Lest anybody think that the U.S. is easy on foreign sailors wanting to cruise in our country, it is not. For instance, Frenchman Luc Poupon of St. Barth tells us that if he wanted to go from the British Virgin Islands to St. John in the U.S. Virgins on a French boat, he would first have to fly to the U.S. embassy in Barbados and get a visa! In the case of a French TP52 that went from the British Virgins to the U.S. Virgins for the Rolex, if the French crew wanted to go on the 52, they all would have to fly to Barbados ­— a very expensive proposition — wait a couple of weeks for visas, then fly back to the boat for the one-mile crossing. But there is an alternative that they used. They could take the ferry, instead of the boat, from the British Virgins to the U.S. Virgins without a visa. Ferry or French boat, what's the dif? It's inconsistencies such as this, plus the fact that U.S. borders are porous, that make cynics such as ourselves wonder if the Border Patrol isn't effectively just a ridiculously expensive government welfare program.

Craig Shaw and Jane Roy of the Portland-based oldie-but-goodie Columbia 43 Adios report that they are about to start their fourth Bash back up to Portland "after a wonderful season cruising Mexico as far south as Zihua." That got us to thinking how much farther folks who live north of San Diego have to Bash than those who live in San Diego. According to our Navionics charts, it's about 1,000 miles from Puerto Vallarta, which we'll consider to be our reference point in Mexico, to San Diego. Here are the extra straight-line miles, roughly, for those having to continue farther north: Santa Barbara, 160. San Francisco, 430. Portland, 975. Seattle/Vancouver, 1160.

At the end of our interview with Precious Metal's Pamela Bendall, we got in one question to the mysterious Mr. X.:

38: Is there anything that you think a monohull does better than a cat?

Mr. X: No. A cat does everything better than a monohull. But that's because I live on my boat and cruise. If I were a racer, I'd get a monohull. But you can't beat a cat for living aboard. Yes, sometimes I get slamming on the bottom of the bridgedeck, and on my cat the sides of the hulls, too. But you get used to it.

"The tourist visa expiration date is the norm for the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) expiration date on the new sticker-type TIPs as issued in most places!" John Hards of the formerly Nuevo Vallarta-based Idylle 36 Pelican was quoted as saying in Latitude. "Not true!" writes Dave Wallace of the Sea of Cortez-based Amel 52 Air Ops. "We just got a new TIP in Pichilingue last week, and the expiration date is 2024."

One of the biggest stumbling blocks Mexico has toward progress is the fact that the interpretation of laws and policies is often left to local officials, so we suspect that both Hards and Wallace are accurately reporting their experiences. It would not surprise us if the tourist visa expiration date is the Temporary Import Permit expiration date in Salina Cruz, but that's not the case when you get a TIP in Pichilingue. Mexico needs to get consistent.

If a 'picture is worth a thousand words', what's a video worth? No matter how many times mariners are warned about the dangers of not wearing an outboard kill switch cord when operating their outboard-powered inflatables, the message doesn't seem to get through. Perhaps the Tribo Surfo video of an Australia surf rescue team's near-disastrous experience — Google — will change all that, as it illustrates better than words ever could how dangerous an outboard dinghy on the loose can be. And for how long one can be on the loose. In this case, the dinghy/outboard combo was lethal for nearly three minutes. Fortunately nobody was killed, but as you can see, that was just a matter of luck. Latitude readers will remember that cruiser John Spicher of the Anacortes-based custom Coast 34 Time Piece lost his foot and part of his leg in late February as the result of being hit by the outboard prop of a runaway dinghy in La Paz. The dinghy operator had reportedly been thrown from his dinghy and hadn't been wearing a kill switch cord, which allowed the dinghy to keep roaring around. Northern California professional sailor Ashley Perrin tells Latitude that it's more effective to wear the kill switch cord around one's leg than wrist, as it's less likely to slip off. Cruiser Bill Lilly of the Lagoon 470 Moontide recommends that people not overtighten the throttle lock screw, so if they go over without a kill switch, the outboard will only be going at a slow idle.

One sailor who knows all about getting hit by a boat prop is Giles Findlayson of the Encinitas-based Newport 41 Petrel. In 2009, the then-59-year-old Findlayson, four years into a sailing/surfing safari, was run down by a fishing boat near the popular cruiser stop of Langkawi, Malaysia. The singlehander was left in the water for dead by the fishermen who had hit him, his arms attached by little more than skin. Fortunately, the guy in the dinghy with Giles was able to keep him from drowning and get him to a doctor. After a long recuperation and recent surgery, Findlayson is cruising again. "Sailing around Indoneisa was an incredible experience," he wrote, "The people, food, coffee, nature, wind, and so much more. A couple of months of the adventure was way too short."

"We've made it to Costa Rica, where everything is expensive," report Mike and Robin Stout of the Redondo Beach-based Aleutian 51 Mermaid. "But it's not like this everywhere in Central America. For while at Bahia del Sol in El Salvador, a pizza like the one in the accompanying photo cost just $4.50, and beer was a dollar. We could also get pupusas for anywhere from 35 to 75 cents. We'd eat five between us, so it was another very inexpensive meal."

"For this year's Puddle Jumpers continuing on to New Zealand, there is a great deal on used cars in Opua close to the marina," report Marie and Don Irvin, who did Ha-Ha's in 2004 and 2011, and the Puddle Jump in 2010 with their Gig Harbor, WA-based Hallberg-Rassy 46 Freezing Rain. "You buy a car to land-travel around New Zealand, then you sell it back for $1,500 to $2,000 less than you paid for it. This makes it way cheaper than a rental. Contact Jake and Rosemary at . We've dealt with them both times we were in New Zealand, and it was a super deal." The Irvins are planning on a 'Reverse Puddle Jump' from New Zealand, through the Gambiers and Marquesas, to Hawaii, then the Northwest. We wish them luck, because — as recounted in recent Latitudes — it can be a rough trip.

Missing at sea. Friends report that Dutch sailor Sietse Hagen left Tenerife in the Canary Islands on January 15 aboard his boat Pokerface and has not been heard from since. The "very experienced sailor" was aboard his Gib’Sea 27, which is described as "small, but well-prepared for long voyages." Hagen was not carrying a SSB or a sat phone. Why sailors don't carry at least some kind of long-range communication equipment is a mystery to us.

About the last boat design we'd think of for cruising would be a Doug Peterson-designed Serendipity 43, such as Peregrine, the one Gene and Sue Osier used to complete a 14-year circumnavigation — see their Changes this month. The originally flush or wedge-deck IOR boats were great early-1980s racing machines. Monroe Wingate's Scarlett O'Hara from the St. Francis YC, for example, participated in England's Admiral's Cup when it was then the pinnacle of yacht racing. And 35 years ago James Wagenheim chartered the Northern California-based Wings to win her class in the TransPac.

As it turns out, Fred Roswald and Judy Jensen of Seattle have been cruising Wings for more than 20 years, including in the Queen's Birthday Storm of 1994. The Osiers saw them in Vanuatu in 2000. If we're not mistaken, Fred and Judy are in South America now. As for Scarlett O'Hara, San Diego's John and Renee Prentice cruised her for many years before selling her in Thailand. Peregrine and Scarlett also crossed paths during their cruising days.

The Serendipitys were built in Southern California by Bob Moe, who lived in Tiburon's Paradise Cay. But get this — Moe and Ray Pingree, his right-hand man, used to commute back and forth to Orange County five days a week to oversee construction of the boats. Naturally, this was before today's airport security.

In this month's Changes, Rick Meyerhoff of Maya wrote, "Then I saw something I hadn't seen before: a charter cat with 14 drunk dancing girls and prancing guys, each following the other as if in a conga line. I thought 'you only see stuff like that at Squid Roe in Cabo'."

Our reaction: Only 14 drunk dancing girls? Back when Latitude's Ocean 71 Big O was in the middle of winning three straight Party Boat of the Week honors at Antigua Sailing Week, we'd have 35 dancing girls and 35 prancing guys, some wearing clothing, 'conga line' a lap or two around the deck of Big O in the middle of the night, then plunge into the warm waters of Falmouth Harbor. We can't recall, but alcohol may have been involved. We always believed that you could be wild and crazy — but responsible — at the same time. And nobody ever did get hurt. While we're unduly proud of our wild past, that was nearly 20 years ago. We're much more dignified and sophisticated these days.

Speaking of Ocean 71s, which were the first large production yachts, we saw a maroon one that came through St. Barth in March. Then we bumped into Thomas Holvoetvermaut of Belgium, who has been aboard the Ocean 71 Trina for the last seven years, during which time he's sailed over 80,000 miles on her. "The most wind we had was off Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. It blew 80 knots for two hours, shredding the mainsail and literally ripping the liferaft off the boat. But we felt perfectly safe down below." Thomas has been the captain of Trina for the last 18 months, and gets four months off per year to cruise the Caribbean aboard his Carter 33. Trina, which was first owned by Graham 'the Galloping Gourmet' Kerr of the New York Times, and later became Darwin Sound, during which time her Pacific Northwest owners chartered her all over the world. Thomas says she looks better than ever now, as they spent a year redoing the interior in Phuket, "She's part of my soul."

Whatever happened to Elmo's Fire, the Ocean 71 that was sold at auction in San Rafael for $110,000 about 15 years ago, then berthed in Sausalito, and later in La Paz? She's now owned by Giovanni Soldini, the famous Italian singlehander, who sails her out of Venice. Soldini won two Around Alone races, and in 2012 set a new New York to San Francisco record.

April is the month when cruisers in New Zealand head back to the South Pacific. Lionel and Irene Bass of the Perth-based M&M 52 Kiapa — but who spent quite a bit of time in Mexico — report that cruisers in Whangarei had a "fabulous farewell party" thrown for them. "The party was hosted by Whangarei Marine Promotions, a group of local businesses who in one way or another have helped us get our boats ready for the next cruising season," says Irene. "Not only did we swap stories of our cruising and land-based travel adventures while enjoying a delicious meal, but we were treated to a traditional Kapahaka performance, where we were 'sent off' with a Maori blessing for a safe passage back north. A most enjoyable evening for sure! Those in attendance were from the following boats: My Mews, Sel Citron, Kereu, Andromeda, Storm Vogel, Mariposa, Perla Alba, La Medianoche, Anico, Oda, Freezing Rain and Kiapa.

Missing the pictures? See the May 2014 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.