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May 2017

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With reports this month on Quark cruising in high winds and snow; from Hotel California, Too on cat cruisers successfully racing a monohull in St. Barth; from Taiga on Alaskans retirement cruising in the Caribbean; from Snowflake on cruising a charter boat in the Caribbean; and Cruise Notes.

Quark — Farallon 29
David Case and J.C. Neale
Sailing and Snow?

In the late 1970s I finished a Chuck Burns-designed Farallon 29 from a hull and deck. Starting in 1979, my wife Vicki and I circumnavigated the Pacific with this hell-for-stout pocket cruiser.

I later sold the boat to Dave Symonds, who sailed her to New Zealand and back. He then sold her to another guy named Dave who, it's my understanding, sailed her to Tahiti and back.

That was all before 2005. I recently got a letter from Quark's current owner, J.C. Neale, who wrote us about a recent sail he made with my old boat. It proves yet again what a hell-for-stout boat she still is.

"I recently sailed Quark from Seattle to Portland,"" wrote J.C. "We went through some of the roughest seas I've ever sailed in, yet Quark remained vigilant and stiff. Like you once told me, the boat usually does better than the crew.

"The roughest leg was from Cape Flattery to La Push, Washington. We'd set out from Neah Bay riding a 25+ knot easterly. Flying just a small staysail and a little bit of the furling jib, we were averaging about 6.5 knots. It was a blue sky winter day.

"As the day turned to night, the wind steadily began rising, as did the swell. We rolled in the headsail and went with the staysail alone, and were thus only making three knots. But we were getting hit by an easterly gale with 35-knot winds and gusts to 50 knots.

"It was surreal that the swell was coming from shore. We stayed as close to shore as our nerves could stand in order to limit the fetch, but still wanted be in 60 feet of water. Even so, the swell was seven feet and it was wet.

"I thought about raising the main in the triple-reef configuration, but fearing a knockdown, blown-out sail, or worse, I decided against it. But it made me wish that I'd put the third reef much higher on the sail when I had it built. I also wished I had a staysail on a separate track.

"We finally turned on the engine and made for the nearest harbor, which was 10 miles away. Our average speed was three knots in a very uncomfortable seaway, with tons of weather helm. I had to keep angling the boat to the oncoming waves to keep the prop from cavitating too much.

"Due to the waves and rolling motion, the raw water thru-hull for the engine, located beneath the sink, kept coming out of the water. So there was a danger the engine would overheat. As if things couldn't get any worse, the laptop chart plotter power cable kept malfunctioning, so we had to jury rig it with tape. After it finally quit for good, we fired up the radar. Fortunately, that still worked.

"After a long four hours of being battered and slammed, we approached the entrance to La Push, a very small harbor that can be challenging to enter. Cruising guides warn not to enter at night unless you have local knowledge, which I fortunately had. I knew that you have to hug the channel markers up along a mammoth rock; then turn to port, avoiding the surf break; then shoot the gap between the rock and the jetty. Entering La Push was perhaps the most challenging sailing experience of my life.

"The next day the sky was blue and there was no wind. We ended up motoring the entire day and into the evening before crossing the Columbia River Bar. We got hit with a 15-knot easterly wind upon entering the river, which created a swell and sprayed water on the deck. But it was nothing compared to the day before.

"Did I mention that it was cold? When we finally docked in Astoria at around 4 a.m., there were sheets of ice on the decks and dodger. It made docking very difficult, to say the least.

"It took several more days for us to traverse the 88 miles upriver to Portland, going through sleet, hail and, near the end of the trip, a foot of snow on deck!"

— dave 03/15/2017

Hotel California, Too — SC70
Steve Schmidt
Racing the Voiles de St. Barth

As crew boss for Hotel California, Too in mid-April's Voiles de St. Barth, the Wanderer had to like the boat's odds Sure, the competition in the 'Champagne Regatta of the Caribbean' were all top-of-the-line. They ranged from three Melges 24s to the Farr 115 Sojana. It also included 15 maxis, among them Rambler 88, one of the two most technically sophicated racing boats in the world, the 92-ft R/P Highland Fling, three Volvo 70s, and the 72-ft Bella Mente, which had kicked ass and taken names all over the Med last summer. Naturally all the boats had the latest in carbon sails and all-professional crews.

Unlike other Caribbean regattas, the Voiles fleet isn't fattened-up with charter boats from The Moorings or Sunsail.

What Hotel had going for her was that she was, at 26 years, the oldest boat in the fleet; she had the oldest sails, nine- year-old Dacron, no less; she had broken primary winches; she had one fully functional winch handle; she had the lowest budget in the 65-boat fleet; and her crew of cruising sailors was slapped together two days before the start.

Hotel was also one of only two boats in the fleet not to have a downwind sail, and the only boat to not even have a spinnaker pole for sailing DDW.

What the Hotel did have was a unity of purpose — 'Let's have fun!' — and joie de vivre. Since the regatta was held in France, the joie was the secret weapon.
Hotel California came to the Caribbean 24 years ago when high-ranking Silicon Valley executive Steve Schmidt decided to take an early retirement and go cruising. When Schmidt ordered the boat, complete with a stubby mast and a giant back porch for a dinghy, designer/builder Bill Lee made him promise that he wouldn't race the boat. Lee didn't want the brand name diminished. Ironically, and not with any ill will toward Lee, Hotel has become the most frequently raced Santa Cruz 70 ever.

Schmidt started breaking the 'promise' in 1993 when he got to the Caribbean and started racing to increase his social circle.

"For my first 12 or 15 years in the Caribbean," Steve recalls, "I'd race Hotel in just about every race there was, down to the club level. I might have done 30 or more races a year, but I know for sure I had more than 500 crew a year."
We don't think anybody has raced a big boat in the Caribbean more than Schmidt in the last 20 years. Schmidt thinks we're probably right.

Between races, Schmidt has cruised his boat up and down the Eastern Caribbean and to the ABC Islands, frequently singlehanded. This is impressive, because the boat has never had a windlass and he mostly anchors out. Furthermore, when Hotel's transmission was out for a couple of years, Schmidt continued to race and cruise the boat, again often singlehanded.

Think about that. Singlehanding your 70-ft boat off and onto the hook in the Caribbean trades without a windlass.

The Wanderer had done the Voiles on Hotel a few years ago, during which time she'd hit her all-time top speed of 22 knots — despite having only white sails. Schmidt contacted the Wanderer about a week before this year's Voiles, and said if the weather forecast was for less than 18 knots, and if the Wanderer could find five or six decent sailors, he would enter Hotel. But Schmidt insisted that all potential crew had to understand that Hotel California wasn't in top condition and certainly would not be competitive.

Despite those provisos, the Wanderer had no trouble finding a crew of about 18, not all of whom sailed every day. Most of the core crew were California owners of cruising catamarans that had never been to California. The one thing most cat sailors recognize is that it's almost always more fun to race a monohull, particularly a long and light one, rather than a cruising catamaran.

Among this cat group were Annie Gardner and Eric Witt of the Pt. Loma, San Diego-based El Gato, a Catana 47 they'd bought in France a couple of years ago and have cruised in the Med, across the Atlantic, in the Caribbean, and up to New England and back down to the Caribbean. Annie has a long history of notable sailing accomplishments with everything from sailboards to America's Cup boats. Eric has long been in the sailing industry, had a part in designing the Hobie 33, and is an excellent beach-cat sailor. Annie would be Hotel's tactician-plus in the Voiles, while Eric would be half of the mainsheet team.

Matt and Christine Mitchell of Austin bought their Catana 47 sistership Sugar Shack in Europe in 2010, and then sailed her to the Caribbean. After just six weeks a year of cruising since then, they have just started full-time cruising. Their California connection is that Christine grew up in Glendale. Matt helped Eric with the main, while Christine was quick on the preventer and vang — and looked smashing in her bikini.

Steve Tull of Perth bought his Lagoon 421 La Mischief in France in 2013, and not long after that hooked up with DeAnne Trigg of Huntington Beach in Turkey. They've been a great team for three years now. Steve was part of the bow crew on Hotel, while after one race DeAnne abandoned competition for the pleasures of St. Barth boutiques and beachfront restaurants.

Bill Lilly, whose Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide has actually been to California — although he's now cruising her in the Caribbean — was great at sorting things out on the bow and calling sail trim.

The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca, who live aboard the Leopard 45 'ti Profligate three months a year in St. Barth during the spring, rounded out Hotel's cat crew. They were keepers of the vibe.

Hotel did have some non-catamaran crew, including young Anna and JJ, who did a great job handling the genoa during tacks. There were others, who mostly served as all-important rail meat.

While the 26-year-old Hotel wasn't going to be sailing against the best of the big boats, she still had plenty of competition: two Volvo 60s, a Cookson 60, a Swan 65 with a $300,000 taller custom carbon rig, and two almost-new boats. Furthermore, only Hotel and Spirit wouldn't be flying downwind sails, and only Hotel wouldn't even use a spinnaker pole for getting DDW. Realistically, nobody on Hotel thought she had a chance.

Thanks to Gardner's calm but authoritative demeanor next to Schmidt at the helm, Steve could relax and drive, and Hotel quickly became a happy boat. The wind was never over 17 knots in the first race, or 12 in the second race, which suited everyone on Hotel fine. Yes, the boat was badly underpowered off the wind, but afèter two races everyone was shocked to find Hotel in third place.
After an ultra-light eight-hour third race, Hotel was in second place. In all honesty, it wasn't that Hotel was sailing that fast, but that three of the other boats in the seven-boat division foolishly penalized themselves out of contention.

When the last race was canceled for lack of wind, Hotel finished second in class, a result not much less surprising than the US amateur hockey team's beating the Russian pros at the Olympics in 1980. Since Hotel couldn't be first, it was nice that she was beaten in class by San Franciscan Kenneth Howery's Solaris 50 Fortunata, a boat helped greatly by Tommaso Chieffi, a vet of both America's Cups and Olympics. She had three bullets.

The one thing that Steve, Annie and the Wanderer agreed on was that Hotel's surprising finish wasn't as important as the good time everyone had had on the boat. And what wasn't there to enjoy? The island is beautiful. The courses were gorgeous coastal courses rather than boring sausages. The weather was warm. The slower boats started first, which meant that everybody got to enjoy being rolled by some of the greatest racing yachts in the world. And the members of the crew were great.

The Voiles is world famous for its festive après-race atmosphere. From nightly live music, to risqué cabaret and provocative pole dancing, to fireworks, the fun never seemed to stop. And for those not exhausted by the racing, there was the great evening Crew Party at Shell Beach and the Lay Day fun and games at Nikki Beach. To summarize, we hardly slept all week.

If you like your sailing fun warm and wild, and enjoy sizzling social life, the Wanderer believes you'd have to be a fool to miss next year's Voiles de St. Barth, which will feature one more day of racing. You could do like Vee Hoff of Santa Cruz, who was part of a women's team on a charter boat. Or Paul Never Got His Last Name from the Bay Area, who snagged a crew position on the Bordeaux 60 Nina on his way to try to find the Wanderer for a spot on Hotel.

When the Voiles was over, the many cruising-cat sailors who'd raced on her were of one opinion — cruise the cat and race the monohull. But with only one proviso. Be careful when racing on a monohull, because those boats are so damn tippy!

Visit the Voiles website for a video review of the week.

— latitude/rs 04/20/2017

Taiga — Catana 44
Jack and Sherri Hayden
Retirement Cruising (Alaska)

Jack and Sherri, a very enthusiastic cruising couple, explain that it all started with the 1999 Baja Ha-Ha. They did the event with Taiga, the Morgan 38-2 they had bought only one month before, and with only Sherri seeing the boat before the purchase. Their only real sailing experience had been with a Lido 14 on a lake in Alaska.

Despite their lack of sailing experience, the Ha-Ha proved to be no problem for the couple. One of the reasons is that Jack and Sherri both had decades of outdoor experience.

"I was mining gold in Alaska when I met Sherri in 1976," says Jack. "After a year of teaching high school, I was a bush pilot for 40 years, and then Sherri and I built a wilderness lodge and ran it for 23 years. I've operated every kind of heavy equipment, and by necessity became a mechanic."

After the 1999 Ha-Ha, the couple kept the Morgan in the Sea of Cortez for 10 years, mostly basing her out of Puerto Escondido. "We'd spend three months a year cruising her," says Sherri, "and then leave her on a mooring."

After selling their lodge in 2003, the couple went to work for her father's construction company. It proved to be a lucrative move, and after about five years allowed them to start dreaming about retirement and a larger boat. Jack did most of their research, focusing on catamarans.

Almost comically, they'd only spent a day or two looking at cats at the dock, and never sailing one, before pulling the trigger on a 1997 Catana 44. "What really got our attention was how big she was," remembers Jack.

Despite the cat's massive size compared to their former boat, the couple made an offer so low that the broker only forwarded it to the owner because he was obligated to. On their way home to Alaska, Jack and Sherri learned that the owner had countered with an offer that was fine with them.

Despite something less than due diligence in searching for the new-to-them Taiga, the couple — who have now been married for 40 years — are almost deliriously happy with their cat.

"She's just the boat we wanted, and we love her!" says Jack. "She's fast, she sails upwind — she's just great."

Having never been out of the harbor or operated anything like the Catana 44, in the beginning the two were intimidated by the cat's size. Plus, the only lock on the Intracoastal Waterway is right outside Norfolk, and it only had two feet of clearance on each side of their boat.

"But I grew up working heavy equipment, and like all bush pilots can walk on water, so I quickly learned how to handle the boat," says Jack. "With two engines 25 feet apart, you can make her do anything. And when it comes to sailing a cat, it's exactly like flying a float plane — you have to know your shit."

But the ICW bridge heights were an issue. "Taiga's mast is 64 feet tall," says Sherri, "and while the ICW authority 'guarantees' 65 feet clearance, you don't always get it. On the advice of our broker, we took the light off the top of our mast — and it was a good thing we did."

"It was the worst in Florida," continues Jack. "The bridge tide boards in Florida show that you have a foot more of clearance than you actually do. As a result, we had our VHF antenna bent back a number of times."

As the couple were still working nine months a year in Alaska, they would cruise the Bahamas for three months each winter for the next three years. They kept the cat in Charleston in the off season.

"We loved the Bahamas," says Sherri. "I thought we would just breeze through them on the way to the Eastern Caribbean, but we loved them so much that we just kept going back."

"The reefs in the Bahamas haven't been destroyed, so they have the best snorkeling and diving of anywhere we've been," says Jack. "The diving was so good that we installed a compressor on the boat to refill our tanks."

The only downside, admits Sherri, is that the cyclical weather in the Bahamas isn't as user-friendly as the weather is in the Eastern Caribbean.

"The prevailing wind is from the northeast, but every week or so a low works its way east from Texas and across Florida," explains Jack. "At that point the wind begins to clock and everything changes in the anchorages. But you get used to dealing with it."

After the last of their three seasons in the Bahamas, Jack, the couple's daughter Katie, and Katie's boyfriend visited Cuba. Sherri's mother was ill, so Sherri had to miss this part of the trip.

As you might expect of a free-thinking, independent sort, Jack didn't ask permission from the US or Cuban governments before visiting for two weeks. "We just went," he said.

They got to Cuba shortly after Hurricane Sandy, and were shocked at the destruction. "The sea wall at Baracoa was destroyed, and we went up in the hills and saw that 100-year-old trees had been uprooted," says Jack, who is the son of a Humboldt County logger. "Some older Cubans told us they'd never experienced a storm like that in their lives."

The three stopped at the nice Puerto de Vita Marina, where the friendly female marina manager told them she makes $25 a month. Just like her husband, who 'officially' makes $25 a month as the DJ at a tourist hotel. The woman's brother is a doctor who makes $25 a month — not counting the couple of hundred more he makes per month driving a taxi.

In Santiago, the group stayed at a casa particular, which they soon discovered was booked almost exclusively by Italian males on sex tours. It's unclear how much the owner of the hotel or the girls made, but surely more than $25 a month.

The trade-off for not being able to talk freely, travel freely, or even leave Cuba, is free medical care, free education, and subsidized food and clothing — such as the latter two are. When the Wanderer visited Cuba 20 years ago, it struck him as being a modern-day slave plantation. Jack got the same impression, which doesn't stop him — or the Wanderer — from highly recommending a trip to Cuba. It would make any American develop a greater appreciation for the States, as imperfect as they are.

After retiring, in late 2013 Jack and Sherri left Georgetown, aka 'Chickentown', in the Bahamas and sailed down through the Turks & Caicos to Luperon in the Dominican Republic.

"What a shithole!" says Jack of Luperon. This is a significant comment, as he and Sherri have really enjoyed almost everywhere they've been. They continued on, following the method outlined in Bruce van Sant's The Thornless Path cruising guide.

"His method really works," says Jack. "I say that even though Bruce — I didn't know who he was — threatened to bloody my nose one time after he completely misunderstood a comment I made about something he took to be political."

After crossing the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico, the couple anchored at little Bahia Puerto Real on the southwest coast instead of the much more popular Boqueron. They continued on to Ponce and Salinas in the south of Puerto Rico.
"There sure are a lot of expats anchored long-term at Salinas," says Sherri.

"The Puerto Ricans are really friendly, and ask you to join them in everything," says Jack. "But one thing we noticed about Puerto Rico is that everyone has some big-ass dog protecting their property."

"We used to run 85 dogs in Alaska," says Sherri, "so we know dogs, and we know how to control them. But not in Puerto Rico, where the dogs are very aggressive. Some even went after our 18-lb Bichon Frise that I was holding in my arms."

"Despite the macho culture, we liked Puerto Rico and spent a lot of time there," says Jack. "Vieques in the Spanish Virgins, to the east of Puerto Rico, was good, too. There is a lovely bay there at the old missile range. Signs warn you not to come ashore because of possibly unexploded ordnance. But we saw wild horses running all over, so we figured it was safe for humans, too. There was a lot of ordnance on the bottom of the bay, but also lobsters."

The couple breezed through Culebra, another part of the Spanish Virgins, and both the US and British Virgins, on their way to St. Martin, and ultimately their end-of-season haulout destination of Trinidad, far to the south.

Before ending Part One for this month, the couple were nice enough to share their cruising budget with Latitude.

"Sherri looked up our total boat expenses since we bought Taiga," says Jack. Including full-coverage insurance, haulout and storage, all maintenance and parts, fuel, shore excursions, food, booze, a new $13,000 Dave Calvert Spectra weave main, and an $8,000 Spectra weave genoa, it came to $36,000 a year. This is based on cruising four to six months a year since 2010. The only thing not included was flights home."

[Part Two next month.}

— latitude/rs 03/15/2017

Snowflake — Island Packet 440
Kipp and Mari Hammon
Boat Size Matters for Charters
(Eugene, Oregon)

"The concept back in 2007," says Kipp, "was to buy a boat in the Caribbean and put her in a yacht management program for income and some personal use. So when I retired from being an oral surgeon 10 years later, this year, we would have a great boat that we still wanted and I would know how to sail her well."

The couple bought an Island Packet 440 and put her in charter at Island Yacht Charters based out of Red Hook, St. Thomas, in the US Virgins. Kipp and Mari have been very happy with their boat, the managment, and the way the boat has been maintained. But there have been two problems.

"Thanks to the financial crash of 2008," says Kipp, "we bought our boat at the perfect time not to get charters."

The second problem was that the mid-sized 440 seemed to be the wrong size. Kipp says that the smaller and less expensive Island Packet 370s are in such great demand that the owners can hardly get time to use their own boats. And the Island Packet 480s, at the other end of the size spectrum, are also very busy.

"The 440 is in the somewhat-neglected middle range," says Kipp. "Of course there is a downside of the constant use of the 370s, which is that they get beat up more. Our boat doesn't look anywhere near nine years old."

One nice feature of the Island Yachts program is that the couple have been able to use the boat whenever they want, even in the high season. "We just have to give the managmeent enough notice," says Kipp."

Late last year Kipp got in three weeks of sailing in November with some guy friends, and two months again this spring, part of it with male friends and a month of it with Mari.

A retired nurse who became an administrator in Kipp's oral surgery practice, Mari prefers to go upwind in a jet.

Up until the early months of this year, Kipp and Mari, and Kipp and friends, had done most of the their cruising in either the Spanish Virgins or the British Virgins. The advantage and disadvantage of the Spanish Virgins — which are between the US Virgins and Puerto Rico — is that there is nobody there and therefore no services. "There isn't even a place to get water," says Kipp.

One of Kipp and Mari's big thrills in the British Virgins was being at Virgin Gorda during last year's Superyacht Regatta. "We watched the megayachts racing, thinking, 'They're not that big'," remembers Kipp. "It wasn't until we saw them at the docks that we realized how massive they really are. I couldn't lift one of the fenders!"
This is the first year that Kipp, joined by male friends, has sailed south of the British Virgins, visiting St. Martin, Nevis and St. Kitts. It was open-water sailing, and the seas on the reach from Nevis to St. Barth were a little larger than Kipp and Mari were used to or prefer.

Kipp and Mari are both big on exercise back in Eugene, and try to get in as much exercise as possible in the Caribbean, too. "We live to get off the boat and exercise," says Mari, "be it running, walking or swimming."

"Hopefully before 6 a.m.," says Kipp, "because later on it gets too hot."

It's not always easy to find safe and convenient places to run/walk in the Eastern Caribbean, as the roads are often in poor condition and some drivers are crazy.

"In St. Barth, for example, we'd hike up the big hill from the Columbie anchorage, then continue up and down other hills into Gustavia, and then back," says Kipp. "But compared to St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Martin, St. Barth has the most maniacal drivers!"

He's right about the drivers on St. Barth. Nobody driving cars obeys the island's maxium speed limit of 30 mph, and those with motor scooters and motorcycles use the island's 30 or so miles of road as a race course. As a result, more motorists and pedestrians get killed or maimed on the island than on St. Martin, which has a population that's 10 times greater.

"St. Martin is perhaps the best island for running," says Kipp.

"The causeway is one of the best places because it has a slight hill and sidewalks, so you won't get run over," says Mari. "We also rode bikes around Nevis. "The cars weren't a danger, but the cement trucks were."

The one thing Kipp and Mari don't miss when they're in the Caribbean is the weather back in Eugene. "It's beautiful here in the Columbie anchorage today," says Kipp, "while it's snowing back home."

— latitude/rs 03/17/2017

Cruise Notes:

Three weeks?! According to Greg Slyngstad of the Seattle-based Bieker 53 catamaran Fujin, his agent in Panama is telling him that as of mid-April there was a three-week wait for recreational boats to get through the Panama Canal. Other boat owners have confirmed this. The delay is of great concern to Slyngstad, because after a couple of great years cruising and racing in the Caribbean, his goal is to do July's Transpac from Los Angeles to Honolulu. If there is a three-week wait to get through the Canal, Fujin will have to 'race' to get to the starting line of the Transpac.

For what it's worth, when the Wanderer 'had' to get Profligate through the Canal immediately in 2005, he was able to pay an extra $2,000 to go through the next day. We don't know if that's still an option.

"We found our new boat!" exclaim Justin Jenkins and Anna Wiley of San Diego. "She's a 1970 Cheoy Lee Luders Offshore 36 that's in San Francisco. She's in beautiful shape and has all the goodies. By the time you read this, we'll be driving across country from Florida, where I've been driving nails, to take ownership of her. It's a big step for us, and we are very happy."

Some readers will remember Justin as the guy who paid $2,000 for the Columbia 34 MkII Ichi Ban, fixed her up, and cruised to and through French Polynesia with his gal Anna.

The Wanderer doesn't mind when his petit dejuener and Internet news search at Patisserie Choisy in St. Barth — February through the end of April — is interrupted by cruisers. Among the most recent to say hello were John and Elizabeth Freeman of the Seattle-based, but hasn't been there, Outremer 45 Pelican.

"We purchased Pelican in Cannes, France, taking possesion of her in May 2013, during the wettest Cannes Film Festival ever," Elizabeth reports. "We then stopped at the Outremer factory in La Grande-Motte to have a little work done, and sailed down the east coast of Spain. Tying up at the old port in the center of Barcelona — always pronounced with a lisp — was a highlight for me. Our next stop, Gibraltar, was not a highlight. I don't like monkeys."

From there, Pelican continued out into the Atlantic and down to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. In November 2013, John and three others sailed Pelican across the Atlantic to St. Martin, taking 18 days.

"Since January 2014, we have sailed the Eastern Caribbean chain from Trinidad to Puerto Rico," continues Elizabeth. "We love the French islands for food and the anchorages. We love how we can get everything fixed in St. Martin, where I also I enjoy the the Ladies' Luncheons. John and I spend at least six months a year cruising our cat, and feel very lucky because we get to live in Seattle during the off season."

The Wanderer can't believe the number of West Coast sailors he's seen this winter in St. Barth with cats they bought in Europe. As you've read earlier in Changes, many of the Hotel California, Too crew were Californians from cats they'd bought in Europe and sailed to the Caribbean. With the euro hovering at 1.07 to the dollar, the exchange rate isn't bad for buying in Europe. If you do, the Wanderer, along with others who have bought cats in the Med, highly recommends you spend at least one full summer in the Med. Although two would be better.

Light at the end of the tunnel? Perhaps. During last year's Baja Ha-Ha, a number of skippers discovered that when they turned on their Lunasea running light, or running light with a Lunasea 'bulb', about half of the targets on their AIS units disappeared. Naturally, this is a very serious problem.

Our current understanding is that Lunasea has finally accepted that it's a legitimate problem and have come up with what they believe is a solution. A couple of prototypes are currently being tested. We'll keep you up to date.
For many 'six and six' cruisers in the Caribbean, early May is when they put their boats away for the season. The irony is that May and June are perhaps the two best weather months of the year for pleasure sailing, with more moderate winds and seas. Similarly, a lot of folks are putting their boats away in the Sea of Cortez, just when the weather is getting great.

A number of readers were curious to read that Jim Fair and Linda Powers of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake, after completing a nearly nine-year circumnavigation, opted to ship their boat from Costa Rica to Ensenada.

"It's a long bash — over 3,000 miles — to weather that's hard on the boat and skipper," explained Jim. "And I'm not getting any younger. We also did the trip down that coast, so we have seen it before. We also want to spend some time in Southern California, espcially cruising the Channel Islands, before getting back to Berkeley."

We're pretty sure the fact that the Eastern Pacific hurricane season starts on May 15 was also a consideration. In any event, Chesapeake made it safety to Ensenada, and was unloaded and taken to Marina Coral. Then, after a 13-hour motor trip, was back in San Diego, where the couple checked in with Customs by phone. "It was good to be back," said Jim.

"You can take the girl out of the island, but you can't take the island out of the girl," is the observation of David Addleman of the Monterey-based Santa Cruz 50 X. This after seeing Nehcterg Shayne De Loreto, his Filipina wife, scramble up a tree to get a coconut.

David bought his SC50 in Jahor Bahru, Malaysia, near Singapore, and later met Nehcterg during an extended stay in the Philippines on his way back to Monterey. Addleman did the Ha-Ha with X last year, although Nehcterg wasn't able to make it. David says X will be doing the Ha-Ha again this year, so hopefully his wife will be along.

Who else will be doing the Ha-Ha for a second year in a row? The ones who have let us know so far are Kenny and Donna Knoll of the Irwin 65 Jersey Girl — he proposed to her during last year's awards ceremony — Jim and Jeanette Drake on the Bavaria 42 Boo's Blue 2, Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion, Robert Day of the Newport Beach-based J/122 Day Dream, and a boat representing Ullman Sails of Puerto Vallarta. There certainly will be others.

The Ha-Ha — like the SoCal Ta-Ta — will begin accepting entries at noon on May 9. If you hope to be assured of getting a berth in Cabo, sign up on the first day. Details can be found at

Charlie and Cathy Simon of the Spokane- and Nuevo Vallarta-based Taswell 56 Celebration are continuing preparations for an attempt at a Northwest Passage this summer. The latest addition made by the circumnavigators is a Phantom 4 drone. They showed some video of their first landing, on the solar panels on the back of their boat.

Having had five drones, it's the Wanderer's opinion that drone landings are most dangerous to drones. Which is why he always catches his with his hands rather than landing it. It's more dangerous to the operator, but less dangerous to the drone. Proceed with caution.

The bad and good news out of St. Barth is that Don Antonio des Mortes and D Randy West, two Caribbean sailing legends, suffered strokes within weeks of each other. Don Antonio, who was often the captain of the Wanderer's Ocean 71 Big O, was well enough to be dancing his brains out a few weeks later at the final Voiles de St. Barth party. D Randy Man, who had just released his second book, A Sunny Place for Shady Characters; Tales from St. Barth's Le Select Bar, was still in a hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. What you do there, Randy? But he was eating solid food again and his prognosis was good.

Let the strokes of the Caribbean sailing legends be wake-up calls to all us sailors of a certain age, who need to eat more plants and eschew more of the bad stuff.

By the way, D Randy's Sunny Place for Shady People is pretty damn good, with tales told only as D Randy could tell them of a more freewheeling time.

The problem with sticking a fork in it. Pressure cookers are one of the great tools on cruising boats because they: 1) Reduce the use of propane, 2) Are great for one-pot meals, and 3) Cook things a lot faster than conventional pots, meaning the boat interior doesn't get as hot for as long. But like all tools, pressure cookers must be used properly to prevent problems, and it's not good to lose critical parts.

While cruising in Mexico with his kids last month, Brian Charette of the Jackson, Wyoming-based 40-ft Cat 2 Fold misused his pressure cooker with explosive results.

"I decided to cook three chicken breasts and a bunch of potatoes in the pressure cooker," he writes. "Since the weighted thing that goes on the top of the pressure hole got lost, I'd been solving the problem by shoving a prong of a wooken fork into the hole. This is not recommended by the manufacturer, but I did it anyway.

"I got distracted teaching my kids how to play cribbage until . . . BOOM!!! I'm not sure how, but about half the potatoes, already mashed, and the chicken, already shredded, managed to be blasted out of that tiny relief valve hole. The pot ended up on the floor, but the entire hull was 'painted' with chicken and potatoes. What a mess! And this after I stayed up all night during a 30-hour passage with my kids. Luckily we were able to salvage all the food that remained in the pot, and ended up with a decent meal."

With tropical cyclone season over in the South Pacific, cruisers who have holed up in New Zealand were getting ready to head back to Fiji and Tonga in early April. Among them were John and Debbie Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow. But wait, just after getting their boat launched after five months on the hard, a tropical cyclone warning was issued for the North Island. It turned out to be nothing, but it reminded them that tropical disturbances don't have calendars.

Having seen the postings of the Wanderer singlehandedly sunset sailing his Olson 30 La Gamelle off St. Barth, former cruiser Peter Cullum of New York wrote, "I ogled La Gamelle when she was in the yard in the St. Martin Shipyard in 2013, because I owned the Olson 30 Mas Rapido in the early 1990s. Among other events, I raced her doublehanded in the Pacific Cup to Hawaii. I envy the Wanderer threefold: 1) Our family sabbatical year in the Caribbean ended while he's still sailing there. 2) We loved St. Barth, too. 3) I really miss my Olson 30. The Wanderer is living well!"

"Living well," George Herbert famously said, "is the best revenge." But having been born to loving parents in California, and having two wonderful offspring, the Wanderer has absolutely nothing to seek revenge for. So he just tries to help others have a little fun in life.

By the way, having the Olson 30 in St. Barth was not only a lot of fun, it was inexpensive, too. The Wanderer's share of expenses for last year came to less than $1,500.

Thanks to the announcement that Dorothy is having an art opening for her paintings, Latitude learned that former Tiburon residents Steve and Dorothy Darden are still out cruising in the Southern Hemisphere on their M&M-designed 52-ft catamaran Adagio. They cruised their New Zealand-built boat in the Southern Hemisphere for a number of years, then sailed her up to Alaska and around the Pacific Northwest for a few years. Having returned to the Southern Hemisphere, they spend most of their time in Hobart, Tasmania. Dorothy's show will be at the Derwent Sailing Squad, but her work is also available online.
The most shocking thing to the Wanderer is that the couple, now in their 70s, have been out cruising for 17 years now. Time really does fly when you're having fun.

The Queensland coast of northeast Australia was hit by Tropical Cyclone Debbie, a Category 4 and the strongest to his Australia in 40 years, on March 29-30. There was tremendous destruction to boats and marine interests. Unfortunately, Debbie smashed its way through the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland's famous sailing and tourist destination, with winds exceeding 140 miles per hour. She left a trail of destruction on Hamilton Island and the mainland towns of Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour and Proserpine. Boaters from the famed sailing destination — which may be familiar to Pacific Puddle Jumpers — are now facing the daunting task of salvaging vessels from damaged marinas and harbors.

Let Debbie be a warning to all cruisers about to leave their boats in Northern Hemisphere tropical zones that boats need to be put away with the assumption that they will be hit by a tropical storm.

We're pleased to report that while Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Nadja 30 Fleetwood made it 'around the world in 80 years'. Originally he planned to make it around in less than 80 years, but what's a month? Jack didn't start cruising until after he was 60, but he's now visited 60 countries with his boat. One of the countries he visited recently, and will soon return to, is Cuba. We'll have more from Jack in the next issue.

For a change of pace, Jason and Vicki Hite of the Long Beach-based Caribbean 50 Volare, now completely repainted and looking beautiful, go to the movies in La Paz.

"We just got back from seeing Rapido y Furioso 8," reports Jason. "What a great movie! I wouldn't pay US prices to see it in a crowded theater, but at the Cinemex Platino here in La Paz, with the Barcoloungers, it's just $3.25 a person. I'd probably spend all summer in the theater if I wasn't on a boat! The Rock is a great action star, probably my favorite since Arnold Schwarzenegger."

You know how you're always supposed to run your diesel under load to ensure its long life? Especially if it has a turbocharger. Well, Steve Schmidt of the SC70 Hotel California, Too tells us that in the last 20+ years, he's almost always used his Yanmar 75, with a turbocharger, for nothing but charging batteries. Almost never for propulsion. That diesel now has close to 19,000 hours, and other than burning a little oil, is still running fine.

Most marine diesels crap out after about 4,000 hours from a lack of use. The Wanderer's Leopard 45 'ti Profligate, which saw 10 years in a charter fleet, with three hours a day of running the engine mostly for the batteries and refrigeration, has two Yanmar 56-hp diesel engines. Knock on wood, but they both have over 10,000 hours and don't burn oil. Based on this limited information, we think the key to diesel longevity is using the diesel as often as possible.

"I'm in Singapore researching some business," reports Giles Finlayson of the Encinitas-based Newport 41 Petrel. "I will be leaving for Phuket later on. I'm sailing around the border of Myanmar and Northern Thailand discovering a lot of different things. I'm flying home to Encinitas in April to purchase some new rod rigging and to rent my house on the beach."

Some Latitude readers will remember that in 2009, the then 59-year-old Finlayson, four years into a sailing/surfing safari, was run down by a fishing boat and left for dead at Langkawi, Malaysia. His arms remained attached to the rest of his body by little more than skin.

"My arms are 70% now and my life changed radically," says Finlayson, "but I charge ahead as much as i can through the ongoing pain."

Most of us, the Wanderer included, need to be reminded constantly how lucky we are and how grateful we should be.

You can change your life for the much better. In the middle of their second circumnavigation aboard their Green Cove Springs, Florida-based CSY44 Tiger Lilly, Tom and Lilly Service are taking time out to "be grateful" for Tom's 35 years of sobriety.

Now 70, 35 years ago Tom made the decision to follow the AA path to sobriety, a decision that has had a tremendously positive impact on his life and that of fellow family members.

"We have made so many extraordinary friends in the rooms of AA all over the world," write the couple, "and it has been such a blessing to us both as we explore the Blue Planet together aboard Tiger Lilly. The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is a wonderful gift from God.

"We are currently hauled-out at the PSS Shipyard in Chebilang, Thailand, where we are working very hard in the tropical heat of Southeast Asia to get Tiger Lilly ready for her Indian Ocean crossing.

Also cruising around in beautiful Southeast Asia are Gene and Sheri Seybold on the Honolulu/Stockton-based Esprit 37 Reflections. In the middle of April they set sail from Langkawi, Malaysia, for 266-mile-distant Sabang in the Aceh Province of Sabang on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

"I'm looking forward to clear water," said Sheri. "As it turned out, it was a light-air trip — except for a squall that came through with 42 knots of wind. But everything worked fine, so we're now off on tours."

With all the bad news we hear constantly, sometimes we forget what a wonderful world it is, and how many great people are in it. "Get out and enjoy it!" is the Wanderer's advice.

Missing the pictures? See the May 2017 eBook!


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