Changes in Latitudes

June, 2001

With reports this month from the Virgin Vigilantes on stopping dinghy thefts; from Capricorn Cat on their latest Pacific crossing; from Coyote on the good times and places in Panama; from Irie on four years of cruising with two dogs on a 36-ft boat; from Rose Tattoo on flipping while at anchor; from the schooner Latitude on cruising Sicily; from Pelagian on first-class cat food and being 'warm weather wimps'; from Catofun on the tough passage from Tonga to New Zealand; and Cruise Notes.

Virgin Island Vigilantes
Ineka Davies
Stopping Dinghy Theft
(Trellis Bay, British Virgin Islands)

Over a period of three weeks, dinghies on Tortola had been stolen from dinghy docks, and boats without dinghies tied to their stern were broken into. Although the dinghies were eventually found, they were invariably damaged. And although the stuff stolen from inside of the boats wasn't great in value, the thefts were becoming more frequent. Although the police were aware of the situation, there was little they could do. When the thefts began to occur every evening, a concerned group of mariners felt that something had to be done.

So one Sunday morning at the bar of the De Loose Mongoose restaurant, a sting operation - formulated after studiously reading CIA/MI6/KGB paperbacks - was formulated. It was decided that two dinghies would be used as bait in Trellis Bay, with their owners seeming to have come ashore and gone off to dinner. In fact, the two of them - code named L1 and L2 - would double back to watch the beach. Another part of the group, B1, would be offshore on a trawler watching the dinghy docks with night vision binoculars. A fast chase boat, dubbed B2, was tied to the back of the trawler to give chase if necessary. Another fast dinghy would be made available to the (boatless) police after they were called. Everything would be coordinated over Channel 8 on the VHF.

My husband Mike duly left our yacht Conari at 7:15 p.m., giving me instructions to leave lights on - something I'm not normally given the luxury to do, as it's a 'battery thing'. He also put our large spotlight and air horn within easy reach. Our dinghy was to be used as bait.

Channel 8 came alive just 15 minutes later, as our dinghy had been taken! The chase was on! In the excitement, the various people giving chase forgot their designated codes signs, so it was confusing trying to figure out what was going on. But it was desperately thrilling! Unfortunately for the thieves, Mike had taken the precaution of switching off the fuel to the outboard motor before leaving it at the dock. So the dinghy only had the fuel in its line. Sure enough, it wasn't long before he heard the engine falter and stop. Then there was the sound of oars being unshipped. It was pitch black out.

The chase boat - now calling itself L2 for some reason - was dispatched. But before they could reach our now disabled dinghy, one of the thieves jumped overboard and swam for shore. "L1, L1, watch the shore - one of them is swimming!" rang out over the VHF. "Has someone called the police?" asked another.

Mike and Ed - who had a CD player stolen - lay in wait. Soon the suspect - a young, fit male - emerged from the water and made a dash for freedom. As luck would have it, he made the mistake of running into the mangroves, and tripped on the roots. This allowed Mike and Ed to catch up with him and sit on him. Ed's wife soon arrived with a length of rope, and before long they'd employed a number of nautical knots to bind the suspect. Before long our dinghy was retrieved, missing one newly varnished oar. It was later found in the chase boat, as the other culprit had apparently used it as a weapon to try to avoid being apprehended.

After the police took the offenders away, the vigilantes met at De Loose Mongoose for a bit of mutual backslapping. Apparently, the folks who had the most fun were the non-vigilantes who listened in with great interest on Channel 8. The heat of the chase was apparently great to hear live over the radio, made all the better by all the 'over and outs', code name screwups, and general confusion. Everyone was sitting on the edge of their bunks listening to the radio.

The suspects were seen in the lockup of the East End police station. Mike, who had to go there to give a statement the following day - said it wasn't such a great place. In any event, we hope that Trellis Bay will now be a safer place for mariners. Aside from the above problem, the British Virgin Islands are a wonderful place to visit. The people are friendly and helpful, and the scenery is stunning.

- ineka davies 5/1/01

Readers - This article originally appeared in All At Sea.

Capricorn Cat - 45-ft Custom Cat
Blair & Joan Grinols
Pacific Crossing

What kind of Pacific crossing did Blair and Joan Grinols have this year? "We covered the 3,300 miles from Puerto Vallarta to Kiribati - formerly Christmas Island - in 18.5 days, an average of 178 miles a day," the couple report. "We were a little gun-shy, dropping the chute whenever we saw a black cloud, so we didn't cross as fast as we might have. The day before landfall we were at 03º N and 156.5º W, and could really tell that we were in the tropics as it was 87 degrees in the cabin - and out in the sun it felt like it was 100 degrees. The humidity is now about 80%. Maybe it's because it rained on us at least 20 times in the last two days, but everything on the boat feels damp.

"Yesterday we made about five sail changes. We put up the spinnaker, so a rain squall with 45-knot winds hit us 30 minutes later. We had to let the sheets fly to get it down. Then the wind blew from the south on the port beam, so we put up the main. Thirty minutes later it clocked around to the northeast right on the stern. So we just gave up and ran with the genoa for the rest of the day and night - but still covered 160 miles.

A couple of days ago, we caught the biggest cotton pickin' fish we've ever had on Capricorn Cat. He was a 40-50 pound wahoo. I tow little lures, thinking little fish will strike at them, but I guess this guy liked small bites. You can imagine the fun we had trying to get the cat to stand still in eight-foot seas and 20+ knots of wind long enough for us to wrestle that guy onboard. While Joannie was hanging onto the gaff, I cut off about a quarter of one side and gave the rest to the sharks."

For details, visit their website at:

- latitude 38

Coyote - Freedom 44 Ketch
Fred Evans & Diana Redwing
Loving Panama

We sailed south with the '95 Ha-Ha, then enjoyed a year in Mexico and Costa Rica - until a direct lightning strike destroyed all of our electrics and electronics. We had the boat repaired at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake in Panama, and then started really enjoying the country. We began by having wonderful times in the Perlas Islands on the Pacific side, then made three trips totalling almost a year to Kuna Yala- more commonly known as the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side. While there, Diana created a 1,000-word Kuna dictionary and became fluent in about 600 of those words. Thanks to her language efforts and ability, she became quite good friends with the Kuna women in what is a matriarchal society.

Lots of cruisers overlook or rush through Panama, but that's a mistake, as many old Caribbean hands refer to it as "the last best place in the Caribbean". Our original plan was to sail down to the Canal and then up the Eastern Caribbean to the East Coast of the United States - basically move right through Panama. But after we visited the Perlas Islands and met various indigenous peoples, we became more interested in the country. After three transits of the Canal as well as three long stays in the San Blas Islands, we came to like Panama even more.

Although we've tried to move on, we just haven't been able to leave Panama. Most recently, we've been based out of the Boca de Toros region of the country, which is on the Caribbean side up by the Costa Rican border. There are 40 jungle rivers in the region, but so far we've only had time to go up four or five. There's great surfing in the area, too, as my three brothers can tell you. The Boca del Toros is an area in transition, however. It used to be very cheap and only popular with backpackers, surfers and a few cruisers. It's still pretty inexpensive, but some of it's starting to get built up.

Even some cruisers bought land. I myself was going to do it until Diana cautioned me against it. She was smart, because we soon discovered that most cruisers who buy land end up regretting it. When they're cruising, they live relatively carefree and easy lives, and enjoy going ashore. But once they bought some land, they hated going ashore, for they had to start dealing with red tape, officials, and having to hire people to work on their farms. Before long, they were up to their necks in hassles and wishing they were just back on their boats and free of the land. We've seen it happen over and over again.

We've made a number of trips back and forth between our boat and Mendocino. We used to leave her at the Panama Canal YC on the Caribbean side of the Canal, but now it's hard to find space there. More recently, we've been leaving her at Marina Carenero, an 18-berth marina in Boca del Toros owned and run by a couple of Americans. It costs about $300 a month for a 44-footer, but they usually have a waiting list. Fortunately, there's also a new marina with about 100 slips, many of them empty the last time we were there.

The weather in the Boca del Toros region is a little different than the rest of Panama, as the rainy and dry seasons aren't so well defined. Plus, we were delighted with how cool it is - relatively speaking, of course. During the day it doesn't get much above 90 degrees, and in the evening it can drop all the way down to the upper 70s.

As far as we're concerned, the whole Bocas area is pretty amazing. On the way up from the Canal, you pass by Escudo de Varaguas, which we and others think is the most beautiful island we've ever seen. Located 11 miles offshore and away from everything else, the water is clear. About four miles long and wide, the lush island has a beautiful bay with cove after cove. But it also has a barrier reef on the windward side, which protects it from the ocean swells. A couple of local families have moved out to the island and are encouraging others to settle out there. It seems as though they are trying to start an 'Indian Nation' - sort of like the Kunas did - where they would be mostly anonymous from Panama. We also heard that a rich Italian is hoping to build a huge resort on the island.

The one thing we regret having not done in Panama is going up the river on the Pacific side and into the Darien Jungle. It's an extremely wide and primitive area. Some cruisers took their boat up the river and wrote a rough cruising guide. The jist of it was they wouldn't do it again with their boat, but would go halfway up and then transfer to a canoe. But if you like real wilderness cruising - such as we do - going up into the Darien Jungle would surely qualify.

Some cruisers have the impression that Panama is dangerous or home to lots of crime. That hasn't been our experience. In fact, we think Panama is far better for cruising than Costa Rica, and that there is much less crime. For example, while having some Kuna Indians do a bottom job on our boat at the Panama Canal YC, I dropped my wallet with $400 cash in it. Four hours later it was returned - with all the money still in it. On another occasion, our dinghy drifted away in the middle of the night. It was later returned. We did have some stuff taken from a rental car once, but that happens everywhere. Besides, we like wilderness cruising, so if anyone steals anything in the places we go, everybody knows about it. We haven't had any problems.

Despite the historical difficulties between our countries in the past, Panamanians really like Americans. In fact, we have yet to find a Panamanian who is happy that the U.S. pulled out, because they trust our government more than they trust theirs. Most of the people thought we were bluffing when we said we were going to pull our troops out. Like the United States, Panama is actually a very diverse country. It's ruled by Hispanics, but there are lots of Chinese, blacks from Jamaica and the British Virgins, indigenous indians, Indians from India, Russians - people from all over the world.

A couple of health cautions. No-see-ums can be a problem in parts of Panama. So can parasites. I got some and then neglected to treat them. As a result, I became severely anemic for a while.

We're now enjoying a Northern California spring before we return to our boat, which we left at Marina Carenero in Boca del Toros. We look forward to more information from Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of Pizazz, since we're considering an eastward passage along the top of South America.

We'd also like to put in a good word for our cat-rigged Freedom ketch. She's quite fast, very easy to sail, and so maneuverable that we usually sail in and out of anchorages. We love her.

- fred & diana 3/15/01

Irie - Cascade 36
Richard McKay & Karen Peterson
Cruising With Two Dogs
(Shoreline, Washington)

Mexico is a great place to cruise with dogs. We left Washington in '97 aboard our Cascade 36 sloop with Denali and Sedona, our two female German Shepards, and have been down here ever since. We've spent two summers up in the Sea of Cortez, have traveled as far south as Z-town three times, and have visited most places in between. Quite a few cruisers have dogs on their boats. Most of the dogs are smaller than ours, but a few are larger. Since so many people ask us how it works cruising with two large dogs, we thought we'd explain.

We purchased our 1973 Cascade 36 - which wasn't expensive even though she's built like a tank - with our dogs in mind. For one thing, her companionway isn't too steep, and she's got low enough freeboard that the dogs can jump on and off by themselves. The cockpit is big enough for all four of us to relax, and has a fully enclosable bimini, which is like having an extra room when the weather is bad. We also reconfigured the interior, making spaces where our dogs could be comfortable. In addition, we insulated the hull to help keep it cool during hot weather, and bought a large 'shadetree' awning to keep sun off the decks. When we're in a marina during the hot summer months, an air conditioner ducted into the forward hatch is essential. When we're up in the Sea during the hot summer, I put wet T-shirts into the refrigerator as they make a cool treat for the dogs to wear when they really start to pant.

The 'dog areas' inside our boat are covered in bombproof material that can be wiped off. We also put up with a lot of dog hair, sand and dirt, so the only carpets we have are those that I can shake out. Usually they are remnants made for dogs anyway. We even made a special fin that holds 160 pounds of dog food.

We take our dogs out for exercise two to three times a day whenever possible. When at an anchorage, we're always the first ones with our dinghy in the water so we can take "our girls" to play on the beach. Since I, Karen, am a morning person who gets up at first light, I take the first shift. I lower the dinghy into the water, grab the doggy dinghy bag - which holds leashes, water bowl, ball, bug spray and plastic bags - and the water jug, open the lifelines and let the dogs jump into our Avon inflatable with wood floorboards and a 10 hp Johnson. Our rig will plane with both of us and both the dogs. We then head for the beach, where we spend the next two hours or so - depending on where we are and what else we might have to do. El Magote in La Paz is one of our favorites spots, as it has miles of beaches yet very few people.

The last half hour ashore is usually rest time, so the girls can dry some before going back on the boat. I towel dry them as much as possible before they get into the dinghy. We have a large supply of 'doggy towels' purchased from second-hand stores. When clean, we keep them in velcroed fabric pillowcases that we use for backrests in the cockpit. The dogs get one more towel off in the cockpit before they can go inside the boat for breakfast. We feed them smaller portions twice a day. Then it's rest time, so they virtually disappear into their cubby holes - which they love. They have the quarterberth to themselves, which is also where they stay when the weather gets rough. It's padded all around, and they can see us in the cockpit. Dick does the late afternoon shift on the beach with the dogs, which is sort of a repeat of the morning.

Our dogs learned to pee and poop on the boat, although it took a lot of work. Actually, it was as hard on us as it was on them, and took a long time. What really helped was a chunk of sod about 18"x30" on a plastic mat. The sod worked because the dogs were most comfortable peeing on grass. Once they learned that we wouldn't punish them for peeing on the boat, the rest was relatively easy. After they did it a couple of times on the sod, we were able to chuck it over the side. They made the final adjustment with little stress. Nonetheless, they still prefer to go on land whenever possible.

Our dogs are well trained, and obey vocal commands and hand signals. But dogs and circumstances are unpredictable, so we always keep the leashes and the plastic poop bags handy. When in towns, we keep our dogs leashed - mostly for their own protection. There are many stray Mexican dogs that can be aggressive, and there's lots of stuff on the ground that we don't want them to eat. Many more Mexicans are uneasy around big dogs than are gringos. Seeing that the dog is leashed helps. However, there are also many Mexicans who appreciate a beautiful dog, and canine theft is common. We're often asked if we will have puppies or if we want to sell our dogs.

Dog food is now easier to find in Mexico than ever before. The good stuff is more expensive than it is in the States, but it's not as bad as it used to be. There are some Mexican brands that are cheaper, but we weren't happy with them, so we pay for better stuff such as sold by Purina, Waltham and others. One of our dogs has an allergy to beef protein and preservatives, and therefore needs lamb and rice or chicken and rice type food. We keep a large supply onboard, but have been surprised to find it in even the smaller towns.

Cruisers have to be careful when bringing bags of dog food aboard, as sometimes it's infested with bugs. We transfer the food into strong plastic zipper-close bags that we purchased from the Bradley Bag Company in Cupertino just for this purpose. The bags are larger and stronger than can be found in most stores. Putting the food into the plastic bags gives us the chance to inspect it for bugs before it's brought on the boat. If we find bugs, we put it in the microwave to kill them. I also make 'doggy stew' in my pressure cooker to supplement their dry food. I make it out of chicken, rice and vegetables. Our dogs also love fish, so whatever we catch is shared by the four of us.

We can leave the dogs on the boat while we go away without worry. They keep each other company, and are a great deterrent to would-be thieves. They aren't barkers, so they don't annoy folks on nearby boats. Sound travels so well on the water that a noisy dog is a major annoyance - and even more so in a marina.

Just like kids, dogs always seem to have some small medical problem, so we know veterinarians up and down the coast of Mexico. Luckily, the cost of care is about one-tenth of that in the States. We also keep a doggy healthcare and first-aid kit for everyday stuff. Heartworm medication and flea drops are also less expensive in Mexico, though still dear. We have found some excellent vets in Mexico, and have found that you normally don't need an appointment - although it's good if you can make one. El Temporal (Thomas) in La Paz is wonderful, and he even monitors the cruiser VHF hailing channel. Saloman in San Carlos cares so deeply for his dogs that he has their names written on the golf cart he drives around town. And Rafael in Mazatlan will come to the marina to see an animal - and also keeps a boat there. These are not the only vets in these places, but they stand out as some of the best we have encountered - anywhere!

We never planned to cross oceans, as we know that bringing dogs to many counties is difficult. So we decided that Mexico and perhaps the Caribbean would be fine for us. We bought an old VW camper a while back, and travel up to the States for a 'vacation', sometimes with the dogs. They are great travel companions. Pets crossing between the U.S. and Mexico supposedly must have a document of health from a veterinarian that is obtained within 30 days of crossing the border. we used to get the documents, but quit after nobody asked for them. When crossing into Mexico at Nogales last October, we were asked for the dogs' papers. We showed the record of shots which we had gotten in Mazatlan the June before, and that was enough. Rabies shots are required yearly in Mexico, not every three years as in the United States.

There are advantages to traveling with two big dogs. We are never afraid for our safety, and have never been searched. The only time that our dogs bark is when someone unknown gets near our boat or van. The federales would much rather send us through than open the door and let those two big barking German Shepherds out. Can't say as I blame them.

We have had a great four years in Mexico so far. Because of the dogs, we are instantly recognized and welcomed back to places we've been before. The children run to play ball with them on the beach in Zihuatanejo. And at Ipala, Campeon, a male Shepherd belonging to the owner of the restaurant at the landing, waits for his girlfriends to return. Sometimes I think that we are only here to escort our dogs on their cruising adventure. Thank goodness it's so much fun.

- richard & karen 3/15/01

Rose Tattoo - Cross 26 Trimaran
Dave Coiner
Upside Down
(Two Harbors, Catalina)

The gentleman in the photo is Dave Coiner, who is the Assistant Harbormaster at Two Harbors on Catalina. For about six months, Dave has owned the blue Cross 26 trimaran you see in the other photograph. When Dave bought the little tri, she was right side up, and he wished that she still was. Unfortunately, on February 12 of this year, Two Harbors was hit by very strong winds at a time when the tri was anchored in Cat Harbor and Dave was aboard. He explains what happened.

"It was in the middle of the night, and despite steady winds of 60 knots with gusts to 80, my tri and I were holding fine using a #25 Bruce and a Danforth. Although we were holding, the boat was sailing from one side to the other, and at 0130 it made such a violent change in direction that I was thrown out of my bunk. Still, everything seemed to be under control. But a short time later, the boat started sailing to starboard and started to lift. The next thing I knew, I was standing on the overhead, which meant the boat had flipped and surely been dismasted in the process."

According to an eyewitness, the bow of Coiner's tri apparently lifted 20 feet into the air, with the transom about eight feet in the air, before it flipped. "All I know is that it was violent and that it happened in a heartbeat," Coiner told us. "Nonetheless, I didn't panic. It was pitch black inside the boat as I tried to work my way aft to the companionway hatch, but it was waist deep in water back there. So I went forward, and thanks to a little bit of light in the water, I was able to see the anchor hatch flopping open and shut. Before I made an attempt to escape, I went aft again to retrieve my backpack and important stuff. Then I sat on the edge of the hatch with my feet dangling in the water - which, at 59° was very cold. I calmly thought about what I had to do, which was swim out beneath the boat, staying clear of all the anchor lines and rigging from the dismasting. I knew my best chance to was to swim forward and to the side, and that I'd only get one chance. After carefully thinking things over, I slipped into the water and swam in the direction I planned. I was under for about 30 seconds, but didn't have any problem getting caught in the rigging. I then swam over to a patrol boat. It was really, really cold."

Coiner, who had previously owned a Piver 31 for seven years - "a great boat" - thinks the small Cross tri would not have flipped if it had been on the ocean and free to move as opposed to being held in place by two anchors. And there's no doubting the terrific force of the wind, as a short distance away, two large trees had been uprooted by the blow. The future of the upturned tri is uncertain, as replacing the rigging would cost almost as much as the boat is worth. So for the time being, Rose Tattoo remains upside down.

- latitude 3/17/01

Latitude - 60-ft Schooner
Paul & Suzie Zupan
[Continued from last month.]

Having spent the winter sailing from Minorca, Spain, to Sardinia, Italy, to Bizerte, Tunisia, we continued on up to Favignana, a small island in the Straits of Sicily. Favignana is so well known for tuna fishing, that films and documentaries have been made about it. We were the only tourists in this wonderful place, and found the 1,500 or so residents to be very friendly. Naturally, we stood out from everyone else, and it didn't help that we had "the 60-foot yacht" sitting at the foot of the town's main street. It was a wonderful - but windy - four days.

After the wind died, we sailed over to the small marina at Capo San Vito, which is 30 miles west of Palermo, Sicily. It was our first sail after the gale, and Suzie was a little jumpy. She looked very concerned every time the swells got over a foot or two, but it wasn't bad at all. San Vito is an unremarkable place that was designed mostly for Italians on summer vacations - and it is best left to them. After a night, we continued on to Aquasanta Marina, which is just outside of Palermo.

Aquasanto is a wonderful marina, with an excellent staff, well-stocked chandlery and great restaurants. The marina isn't cheap, however, as the rates are about the same as the most expensive in Sausalito. Right above the marina is the five-star Villa Igiea Grand Hotel. It's a really beautiful place with a perfect location - and quite reasonable rates. Despite the fact that we wandered in several times wearing Levi's and tennis shoes, and weren't even staying in the hotel, they treated us like royalty! They allowed us to use their business services for email, and wander around their gardens all we wanted. The Italians have been nothing but kind and generous at every stop.

Both Suzie and I were pleasantly surprised with Palermo, which hadn't been high on our list of destinations. In fact, we very nearly went south around Sicily - in which case we would have missed Palermo entirely. Nonetheless, we quickly discovered that Palermo has some beautiful architecture and wonderful old buildings - not all of which were bombed out in World War II. Ironically, there still are some bombed out buildings from more than 50 years ago! Palmero has some very interesting markets in the old part of the city, great restaurants, good transportation, theatres and even an opera. It's the cultural center for southern Italy.

Nonetheless, Palermo is not going to appeal to all tastes. The city is generally noisy and dirty, with the dreaded Italian motor scooter operators scaring tourists with their daring maneuvers. Pickpockets are common as are small time tourist scams. But when viewed as a fairly poor southern Italian city with a very diverse history, it certainly is a nice place to visit. And anyone interested in the history of the Mafia or their current status should take time to talk to the locals - although discreetly!

While in Palermo, we were able to repair some of the damage we incurred in the gale. We were also able to get the autopilot fixed. I know the purists will criticize my dependence on an autopilot, but I am very fond of being able to set the course and turn my attentions elsewhere. It is our third crewmember, and having to drive the boat for the last month has really only increased the value of the device in my mind. I love standing watch when it means I'm able to wander around the boat, watch the wildlife, trim sails, and retrieve my own beer. However, I must admit that Latitude is not as exciting to drive as some race boats or performance cruising boats.

As was the case in Tunisia, Suzie and the boat stayed in Palmero while I travelled for work. When I returned, we then sailed on to Cefalu, which is in every tourist guide because of the exceptional Norman Cathedral. It's also an incredibly charming town situated on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Although it has its share of tourist shops and restaurants, it was perhaps the most charming city we visited in southern Italy.

We cannot, however, recommend the marina at Cefalu, as it's open to the east and waves roll in as if there was no protection at all. Our friends on Nordic Saga snapped five docklines and broke a cleat off their deck trying to stay tied to the dock. They finally gave up and left before suffering any serious damage. We tied up in very shallow water right next to shore with our bow facing into the waves, and didn't fare much better. Our boat rolled around like she was in a storm, but at least we didn't break anything. The fisherman weren't too happy with us, however, as we were taking up the space of three or four of their fishing boats. They got their revenge by tying up around us, and forcing us to make some interesting maneuvers when it came time to leave. We lost a fender over the side - the fisherman did help retrieve it - and I almost left Suzie standing at the dock trying to get out.

We're now in Portarosa, just 30 miles west of Messina. While the modern marina in this vacation area is well-maintained, it has no real charm, and there are no towns or services in the area. The kids aboard Nordic Saga are happy because there is a Go Cart track here, but I'm afraid Suzie and I don't appreciate the Go Carts with the same zeal as do youngsters. The Go Cart track is a good mascot for this marina, however, as it properly represents the cultural significance of this location. Suzie is busy with varnish and maintenance, while I'm away again travelling for work.

Our plan is to leave Portarosa within the next few days, sail through the Straits of Messina - we're looking forward to greeting Scylla and Charybdis - then head for Greece as soon as the weather allows. We are greatly looking forward to the Corinth Channel, grilled octopus, and ouzo.

- paul & suzie 4/15/01

Pelagian - Hans Christian 38
Bill & Sharon Jensen
A Cat's Life

Some cats have all the luck. Take Leif, who sails aboard Bill and Sharon Jensen's Seattle-based Pelagian. As you can see from the photo, it's not chopped liver for her meals, not when there's Mexican lobster around. The Jensens are currently in La Paz, where they discovered a leak in their bowsprit, and turnbuckle problems, which prevented them from heading off to the South Pacific. While in La Paz, they also experienced the typical 90+ average heat, and came to the realization that they are WWWs - warm weather wimps. As a result, they're having their boat shipped back up to the Pacific Northwest for cooler summer cruising in Alaska and Canada.

The other two photographs are of Sharon and Leif during the ever-popular 0400 to 0800 watch, and Bill with Gregorio Sanchez, the port captain for Man O War Cove in Mag Bay. We'll have more on the Jensens and their lobster loving cat in the June issue of
Latitude 38.

Catofun - 44-ft St Francis Cat
Paul & Terry Wiener
Tonga to New Zealand

My wife Terry and I are flying back to our boat in New Zealand tonight to continue our cruising. It more or less began in 1993, when we sold our business in Ventura and took our car-racing 'on the road' for awhile. After taking sailing lessons in Ventura, in '96 we flew to South Africa to take delivery of our new St. Francis catamaran from the factory. Our first offshore sail was from Cape Town to Miami - about 6,000 miles. We've just kept going ever since.

Last November, we were part of the 'Milk Run' migration from the South Pacific to New Zealand to avoid the tropical cyclone season. We made the 1,100-mile passage from Tonga to Opua, New Zealand, in about five days. We were lucky, as we arrived behind a trio of boats that had gotten their butts kicked by 48 hours of 50-knot winds and 30 foot seas from the wrong direction. Since the sail to New Zealand is potentially one of the roughest and most dangerous passages that west coast cruisers commonly make - there is nowhere to hide and the weather changes quickly - we thought we'd describe our trip in some detail:

10/25 - Brian from Loafer - a family of five we met on the radio while crossing to French Polynesia in March, and also from Ventura - and his pal Dick, who flew in for the crossing, came by our boat at noon. Having both sailed and raced since they were born, Brian and Dick ragged on us about how dirty our bottom was. This is critical, as even a slightly dirty bottom significantly slows a boat down and destroys fuel economy. Fortunately, they helped arrange for two young Danish budget cruisers to clean it for $40. It was a bargain price and they did a great job. Thank God, as speed would prove to be a valuable commodity on the upcoming passage.

10/26 - Our 'passage anxiety' started as soon as we weighed anchor, for we had to pick our way westward out of Nukualofa Harbor through the coral in an uncharted and unmarked channel. A couple of hours later we were in deep water and heading southwest for Opua, some 1,036 miles distant. That afternoon and night we had 22 knots of wind and 10 foot seas, which resulted in tons of water over the deck, lots of leaks, and everything inside getting rearranged. We even had some topped off diesel get slopped around. Taking the beating was worth it, however, because we did eight to 11 knots and really covered ground fast.

Two-hundred-and-fifty miles into the passage is Minerva Reef, which despite being awash at high tide, affords the only shelter between Tonga and New Zealand. When you get to Minerva, you have to decide whether to stop and wait for a weather window, or press on and take what comes. Since there was a good forecast when we got to Minerva the next day, we kept going.

Onboard life falls into a pattern on a long passage. For this passage, it included a lot of scheduled meetings on HF radio that could be sorted into three categories: 1) Organized nets operated by the yachties with volunteer net controllers. 2) Land-based weather forecasting organizations that require paid subscriptions or donations, most of whom work closely with the local maritime officials. 3) Private skeds organized by yachties who are friends and/or are traveling in close proximity.

On this particular passage south, there were a bunch of us cruising boats that could be broken into two groups: Catofun, Loafer and Ingrid (with Chris and Jennie), and a couple of others, then another group of six boats we referred to as Outlandish after one of the boats in the group. Our two groups often crossed over into each other's radio meetings. No matter what kind of radio meeting there would be, each boat reported her position, course and speed, wind and sea state, and any other information wanted or needed. Then net control would give everyone updated weather information.

Aboard Catofun, a typical day would go something like this: At 0600 Paul would wake up to take the 0600 to 1200 watch, at which time Terry would try to sleep as much as possible. At 0700, the Outlandish group had their radio sked. At 0730, Des on Russell Radio in New Zealand - a good example of the second type of radio net - would start his session. He'd be on different frequencies during the day to accommodate boats at different distances out, as he serves from New Zealand west to Oz, as well as north to Fiji and northeast to Tonga. At 0745 our group would meet. At 0800 was the Coconut Milk Run Net, a type one net. At 0830 there was more Russell Radio.

At 1100, Terry would wake up and we'd have a breakfast or lunch. At noon she'd take over the watch and the Outlandish group would meet again on the radio. At 1300, Nighthawk from the Outlandish group would host a game of Jeopardy over the radio. At 1330, Paul would start a two-hour nap. At 1535, our net group would meet again. At 1600, Russell Radio came back on. At 1700, we had dinner and the Outlandish group met once again.

At 1900, it was time for Russell Radio again, followed 15 minutes later by our net. Fifteen minutes later, Terry would go to bed. At 1030, Paul had a radio sked with Walter of Whirlwind, a good friend we cruised with in the Caribbean in '97 and have been with or near since leaving Mexico. He's a good amateur weatherman. At midnight, Terry would wake up for her watch. After the Outlandish group met yet again, Paul would go to bed. Mixed into this schedule was regular and unplanned chores such as cleaning, fixing things, changing the sails - and a million more, which messed heavily with the basic plan.

To resume our tale, on the night of the 26th, the wind had still been blowing in the low 20s and gusting to 28 knots. We flew, hitting as high as 12.5 knots. If the wind came up any more, we knew we'd have to reef.

10/27 - We calculated that we'd been averaging an incredible 8.25 knots, so we had just 682 miles to go. We wanted to maintain our excellent speed, but we finally decided that we had to reef both the main and jib. Cruisers joke that the best way to kill a good wind is to reef. Sure enough, an hour later the wind settled in at a steady 22 knots. We unreefed the jib and had another very fast day.

10/28 - In the wee hours of the morning the wind dropped to below 15 knots. Our strategy for this potentially dangerous passage was to maintain a boat speed of at least seven knots, so we started the engine. Purists be damned, speed, not fuel conservation, is of utmost importance on a potentially dangerous passage.

10/28, 0800 - After doing the math, we found that we'd had another great 24 hour run of nearly 200 miles. That meant we only had 496 left to go.

10/28, 1550 - Although the wind was 12 to 15 knots from aft of the beam, we were still motoring to maintain our average speed. During a radio sked for our group, Brian reported receiving a SailMail from Bob McDavitt's private weather service forecasting a gale force low - 35 to 50 knots - moving south from New Caledonia towards New Zealand. It wasn't on any charts yet, but McDavitt predicted that it would wallop New Zealand's North Island in four days. He therefore advised everyone to get to New Zealand before the gale did. This wasn't going to be a problem for us or anyone else in our group - except for the 36-foot sloop Ingrid. She was already 150 miles behind us and had limited fuel capacity. We figured she wouldn't make it to the North Island until the morning after the gale did, and that wasn't going to be good.

Meanwhile, we began cooking everything we could on Catofun, knowing that the agricultural inspectors in New Zealand would confiscate all our meat, fresh fruits, veggies, beans and such as soon as we reached land. So we ate well. In fact, for lunch we enjoyed the last rib-eye steak we'd bought many months before at Costco.

10/29, 0230 - This was going to be a very busy day, and it started just after midnight when Terry woke Paul because the wind had died. We pulled in the jib, centered the main, and increased the rpms to maintain a minimum speed. With a gale coming, we sure didn't want to slow down.

10/29, 0600 - We calculated that we had just 309 miles to go, but the wind was down to five knots from aft. So we started our second engine to maintain a 7.5 knot average. Chris on Ingrid was 180 miles behind us, but he was also 180 miles past Minerva Reef. He sounded very nervous about the projected storm when we talked on the Outlandish meet, and even more so during our later group meeting.

10/29, 0800. Chris discussed the forecast on the Coconut Milk Run net with Steve of Sojourner, who many consider to be the best amateur weatherman in the South Pacific. But it still wasn't on the weather charts - meaning the faxes received on radio from the U.S., New Zealand and Australian weather services - so Steve couldn't offer an opinion.

10/29, 0840. Des of Russell Radio reported that he spoke to Chris of Ingrid a few minutes before, and that Chris had decided to turn back and make a run for the protection at Minerva Reef. Des told us that we wouldn't get much wind for the next 30 hours, but we would get some rain squalls.

10/29, 0845. We interrupted the Coconut Milk Run Net to try to get Whirlwind, Sojourner, Loafer and Chris and Jennie on Ingrid to meet on the radio to discuss Chris and Jennies's options, but they aren't on frequency. We finally reach Walter on Whirlwind, who thought Chris would be better off pushing hard for New Zealand. We agreed, as did Loafer when he came on. Even Des said that "McDavitt is sometimes wrong with his forecasts!" Nonetheless, we all remembered that the ultimate decision of what to do belonged to Chris, the skipper of Ingrid. But none of us could find him on the radio. We gave up looking for Chris and kept pushing on, but we were really worried about him. Terry hadn't slept because of all the radio activity, and Paul had been up all night making sail changes. We were both really tired. Fortunately, the weather looked good ahead, for if the poop hit the fan, it would have been difficult for us to make and execute good decisions.

10/29, 1700 - Nobody had been able to reach Chris all day! He hadn't come up on any of the nets or meets, not even his usual Russell Radio check-in at 1600. Finally he came up on the Outlandish meet and confirmed that he and Jennie were going north back to Minerva. He said that after the storm passed, they'd head up to Fiji and spend the cyclone season there instead of New Zealand. We all hoped he was doing the right thing.

10/29, 2030. Walter was out to dinner in Nukualofa, but Brian and Chris both came up. Chris was very nervous and emotional, and thanked us over and over for our help.

10/30, 0800. We figured we only had 128 miles to go and would be in late that night. The previous night had been uneventful, as we motored into a light wind. Sojourner reported on the Coconut Milk Run Net that 'McDavitt's storm' is now on all the weather faxes! He advised Chris to haul ass to Minerva. He still had 120 miles to go to decent, but not perfect, protection.

10/30, 0900. Just as Des predicted during his morning forecast, the wind slowly clocked to the west. So we reduced the engine rpm, let the main and jib out, and did over seven knots. We steered slightly west of the direct line so we could turn down later and go faster. A couple of hours later, the wind had picked up to 12 knots and clocked about 60 degrees off to starboard, so we had 18 knots at about 40 degrees apparent. We shut down one motor and were still doing over seven knots. It was kind of a bumpy ride, but it was a beautiful day - although at 72 degrees it seemed very chilly to our tropically conditioned bodies.

10/30, 1900. We listened to Chris check in to Russell Radio, reporting being 120 miles south of Minerva. Des cautioned him about the big storm due in two days. At least two other boats at 28-29°S were also in peril. Their options were to go like hell to the south to try and beat it, which was unlikely, or go northeast as fast as possible and sit on the edge as it passed. Neither option was attractive.

10/30, 1915. Just 32 miles out, we checked with Russell Radio and got our final entering and moorage instructions. We got all excited. At midnight we'd made it inside the Bay of Islands, and watched a large white beacon ahead as we had just eight miles to our final turn.

10/31, 0200. We finally negotiated the Veronica Channel on a very dark night, with lots of red, green and white marker lights. It was very confusing, but we found and picked up a green and yellow Customs mooring buoy at 0300. Wow, what a trip! Over 1,000 miles in 5 days 16 hours - almost an eight knot average for our 43-foot cat. The bay was flat calm, life was good, and we were eager to get to bed. We just hoped that Chris and Jenny were going to be all right!

11/2. We heard Chris check in on the Coconut Milk Run. He reported terminal engine failure on Ingrid the night before. He and Jennie were near Minerva, but couldn't go in under sail alone. So they were headed back for Fiji.

11/6. Des heard Chris on the Coconut Milk Run Net and scolded him for failing to advise that he wasn't going to check in on Russell Radio anymore. Des explained that if a boat that checks in isn't heard from for two days, they send out a plane.

11/7. After a day of silence, Chris checked in to the Coconut Milk Run Net to report that they still had 180 miles to go to Fiji and were becalmed. But they weren't having any bad weather as the big storm had fizzled before it got to them. We were so happy! The next day we headed south with Loafer on two 60-mile legs to get to Gulf Harbour Marina near Auckland, where we'll leave the boat for the next few months while we motorhome around New Zealand and then return to the States for a couple of months.

We know this is a report without a real climax, but we hope it conveys the anxiety and kind of problems that cruisers confront on the long and dangerous passage between the South Pacific and New Zealand.

Update from the middle of March: Loafer is in Tauranga, New Zealand, with the kids in a real school. When school breaks in late May, they'll head to Fiji. Chris and Jenny on Ingrid have spent the summer - California's winter - in Fiji, and say they've loved it! And they've had no tropical cyclones. Whirlwind is with us in Gulf Harbour, enjoying New Zealand, and planning to do more of Tonga and Fiji later this year. New Zealand is the greatest, so we'll hate to leave it, but come mid-May we'll head back to Fiji.

- paul & terry wiener 3/15/01

Cruise Notes:

Captains Pat and John Rains hoped to have their new Mexico Boating Guide ready in time for distribution for the start of last October's Baja Ha-Ha, but in the best tradition of publishing, were only about six months late. Judging from what they produced, however, it was worth the wait. Our quick deadline perusal suggests that their new book is not only the most up-to-date Mexico cruising guide, but the most comprehensive and therefore the best. Coming in at a whopping 354 pages, it covers 5,000 miles of Mexican coastline, both on the Pacific side and Caribbean sides. There are 110 charts, many of them detailed ones of small anchorages, each with a GPS position. In addition, there are 200 photos - many of them aerial shots great for general orientation. In the process of covering 300 ports of call, Pat and John give 'the lay of the land', tell where to anchor and/or find marina services, how to clear in, list the local services - including medical - and include bits of history. Active and highly experienced delivery skippers along these waters, John and Pat also include great tips on preparations for going to Mexico as well as route planning. We're not going to Mexico again without this guide, and suggest that you don't either. It retails for $42.50 which, considering what you get, is a bargain. Well done, Pat and John!

It's coming on hurricane season in both the Eastern Pacific (Mexico) and North Atlantic/Caribbean. Professor William Gray of Colorado State University, who seems to have made a career out of hurricane forecasting, says that as a result of a light to moderate El Niño, and because of a lighter rainfall than normal in the Sahel Region of Africa, there will only be 90% of the normal hurricane activity in the North Atlantic/Caribbean. That, according to Gray, means nine named storms, five of which will become hurricanes, two of which will become intense hurricanes. Gray predicts that most of the tropical storm activity will impact the United States as opposed to the islands of the Caribbean.

With all due respect, we wouldn't put too much stock in Gray's predictions, as the formula he uses for making predictions has a very large number of varibles, any few of which - it seems to us - could throw the entire forecast off. Hurricane forecasting is still a very dark science. To our knowledge, nobody makes hurricane predictions for the coast of Mexico, because everybody knows there's going to be a bunch of them every season. Hopefully most or all of them will start offshore and continue that way - which is what happened last year. Indeed, the hurricane season of '01 was very kind to both the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean/Atlantic. As most of you probably know, the 'official' hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific runs from June 1 thru October 31, while in the Atlantic/Caribbean, it runs from June 1 until the end of November. Hurricanes, have, of course, been known to develop out of season, particularly in the Atlantic/Caribbean.

"I'm glad to have my 33-day 'sleigh ride' from Cape Town, South Africa, to Trinidad in the southeastern Caribbean behind me," reports Robert Case of the San Diego-based Endurance 37 pilothouse ketch Suntrekka. "Light winds or no winds were the order of the day during my March-April passage via St. Helena. But The Saints were just that - what a great bunch of folks! I crossed the equator at about 34°W, but wish I'd gone via Fernando, as the boats that did enjoyed better winds along the coast. I did have the current with me, however. I'm presently hauled at Power Boats Ltd, in Chaguaramus, Trinidad, for bottom paint, cutlass bearing and zincs, then I'm off for the ABC Islands - Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao - then the Panama Canal. I'll be in stealth mode so as to miss the pirates off Venezuela. Friends can follow my progress at:"

In case anyone has forgotten, Robert is not only doing his circumnavigation singlehanded, he's also doing it 'single-legged', having lost a leg in the military. We salute you, Robert.

"We're currently in southeast Alaska for the summer," reports Jeff Coult - along with Dave Kelly and Anette Williams - of the Alameda-based Landfall 38 Northern Exposure. "Conditions here in Juneau are rainy mixed with some snow. The wind is still from the south and every other day we have some gusts to about 50 knots. As the summer progresses, we're expecting better weather. Tomorrow we are leaving for a couple of the most beautiful places in the world: Tracy Arm and Ford's Terror. In 1879, John Muir described Tracy Arm as "cliffs that were nobly sculptured and adorned with waterfalls, fringes of trees, bushes, and patches of flowers, but amid so crowded a display of novel beauty it was not easy to concentrate the attention long enough on any portion of it without giving more days and years than our lives can afford." It truly has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Nearby Ford's Terror is fringed with uncharted submerged rocks, a current to 13 knots with whirlpools and overfalls, and is so remote that only a handful of boats visit each year. It's truly the Alaskan wilderness."

We suppose you could call it 'cruising in place'. During a pleasant weekend cruise to Two Harbors, Catalina, in early May, it was our pleasure to meet some of the local folks. This included Stacy Straub, seen in the accompanying photograph, who works at the Harbor Office. While Stacy isn't really going anywhere, she's enjoying what's almost a cruising life. Home to her is her Catalina 30 Island Girl, which she bought in August of last year and keeps on a mooring. "The first boat I looked at was a Catalina 27, which was a little too small. But when I saw the Catalina 30, I knew it would be perfect for two people to liveaboard." Space for two is important, because her 8-year-old son Colby lives aboard with her. "We both love it here at Catalina, and we both love living aboard. About the only bad thing is that after the 5th grade kids in the Two Harbors area have to make a very long bus ride to and from school in Avalon each day." But when school's out, Two Harbors is a great place for adventurous young boys to grow up.

Steve Black's West Marine Caribbean 1500 has always been the big cruisers' rally from the Northeast to the Caribbean, but for the second year in a row, the NARC - North American Rally To The Caribbean - is offering an alternative. Organizer Hank Schmitt says they plan to leave Newport, Rhode Island, on October 28 - or the best weather window afterward - on a 638-mile leg to Bermuda. After several days rest, they'll depart on the 857-mile passage to St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean. Schmitt says that eight Swans being delivered to the Caribbean will be the heart of the fleet, but there will be an amateur division as well. The entry fee is $299 for the boat and two crew, plus $50 for each extra crew. Call him at 800-472-7724 for details.

What's it cost to keep a boat in Mexico over the summer? Rates vary, but to give you some idea, here's what they charge for three different classes of berthing at Marina Mazatlan. For a month or more with water and electricity, it's 22 cents/foot/day, plus 15% IVA tax, when paid in advance. For slips with electricity but no power, it's 15 cents/foot/day plus tax. For slips without water or power, it's 12 cents/foot/day plus tax. When it comes to services, Marina Mazatlan charges $35 U.S. to check in and out, and $20 to get a 20-Year Import Permit.

"Sarah and I will transit the Panama Canal and sail on to the San Blas Islands to start our cruising adventure," reports Craig Owings of the Panama based CSY 44 Pogo II. For many years, Craig was the commodore of the Pedro Miguel YC in Panama, and Sarah was a Canal Pilot. "We will spend a few weeks in the San Blas decompressing from the shock of ditching all of our possessions and becoming vagabonds of the sea. My daughter Renee will join us for a week in San Blas, then sail with us to Cartagena, Colombia. After Renee returns to Michigan, Sarah and I will be preparing Pogo for June 14th's Morgan's Run sailboat race, a 400-mile cruisers' race/rally from Cartagena to Isla Providencia. From there we will sail north to the outer atolls on the Nicaraguan Rise for some diving and laying back. Beyond that, who knows?"

For you historical buffs, Isla Providencia was colonized by the same Londoners who had taken the Mayflower to Massachusetts. When these Puritans arrived in 1631, Dutch smugglers and privateers were already calling the island home. After the colonists were captured by the Spanish and sent back to Spain, the island was retaken by Edward Morgan and his Port Royal Privateers - which is not the name of a rock band. Morgan viewed the island's central location between Vera Cruz, Mexico; Portobello, Panama; and Havana, Cuba, as "a loaded pistol perpetually directed at the breast of Colonial Spain." Unlike San Andreas, it's closest neighbor, Isla Providencia remains very rural. "It is the Eastern Caribbean 50 years ago," say some.

"We've been doing more sailing than selling, but then we're not getting any younger," report Ken and Anne Nigel, owners of the Wisconsin-based Shaft Lok Company, and the Fort Lauderdale-based MacGregor 65 Sea Ya II. "We started out on October 22 by racing to Cuba with the Key West Sailing Club. We didn't get back to Wisconsin until Thanksgiving. We're now headed to Trinidad and probably won't get back to the office until sometime in July. We are currently in Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas. By the way, our crew is Mabelle Lernoud of Monterey. Ken got her name after she signed up with the Seven Seas Cruising Association in Fort Lauderdale, but we kind of knew her already from her letters to the editor in Latitude and from the Latitude Crew List. By the way, Pocketmail works great!"

We also got a postcard from Mabelle Lernoud. "I'm crewing for Ken and Annie from Florida to Trinidad. Sea Ya II is an all-plastic - "if you like wood, bring some" - go-fast boat capably sailed by the Nigels. We hit Georgetown in time for the Family Island Regatta, which is the 'nationals' for the Bahamian sloops. It's been lots of fun and excitement, and with lots of cruisers here there have been lots of parties. What a great atmosphere!"

"An explosion rocked Marina Vallarta in late March after gasoline fumes ignited in the main salon of the motoryacht Morgan as she sat in her berth," reports R.G. Rienks of Mai Tardis II in Puerto Vallarta. Jaime Ramirez, the boat's owner, was severely injured by the explosion and trapped inside as the interior burned. 'Pepe' Cipriano Castillo Quintero, a deaf mute marinero who worked on the boat, entered the blazing interior and pulled the owner to safety. Pepe then raised the alarm as best he could before picking up a hose and reentering the boat to battle the flames. Neighbors on I Dock and others raced to the scene to help. Within minutes, the injured owner of Morgan was whisked off to San Javier Hospital in a taxi, while Pepe and others continued to battle the blaze. Despite suffering extensive third-degree burns, Castillo refused to leave the boat until the fire was out. Once the fire was extinguished and the bomberos - firemen - were on the scene, Pepe retired to the dock in agony, his clothing melted to his body by the intense heat of the fire. After getting emergency treatment, he also was rushed to San Javier Hospital. By the end of the week, doctors had begun plastic surgery treatments to help protect both injured men from bacterial infection. The vessel was saved with damage limited to the interior of the main salon and smoke damage to adjoining spaces.

"Only the quick action by Pepe saved the life of Ramirez and prevented the vessel's hull from catching fire. Had the hull of the gasoline fueled Morgan caught fire, other boats on the dock surely would have been damaged or destroyed. Castillo's family was dependent upon his income, so the projected long and painful convalescence will create a severe financial burden for this brave man and his family. Shortly after Castillo was transported to the hospital, a number of marineros from the docks began taking up a collection to assist the family with the medical expenses expected for his treatment. Boatowners and others in the boating community have also begun collecting funds to assist the family during his convalescence."

From the Sausalito waterfront, to offshore El Salvador, to the docks at Antigua's Falmouth Harbor, to Gustavia Harbor, St. Barts, there have been a rash of boat explosions and fires in the last six months or so. So please, folks, be extremely careful with the storage and use of gas, propane and other explosives. Explosions and fires on boats are extremely dangerous.

"Monte and I and our daughters are here at Barillas Marina in El Salvador aboard our Kennex 445 cat See Life," reports Shari Cottrell of San Diego. "It's very tranquil here, and we're really enjoying ourselves. The girls have an air-conditioned school room, and we swim every afternoon. Everyone has been very accomodating and cordial. We also took an incredible land excursion to Antigua, Guatemala, for Semana Santa, which is their Holy Week. We're told it's the biggest in the world after the one in Spain. Barillias Marina is a great place to leave your boat when making such trips, as it's very secure. The marina also provides a van into town so everyone can do their shopping. We're also very interested participants in the relief efforts for the victims of El Salvador's recent terrible earthquake. We plan on being here through August."

Most cruisers dream of sailing off to the South Pacific, but if you're like the Wanderer and are enchanted with the Med, Alfredo Giacon and Ramon Jovani Sans have an interesting proposition called the Mediterranean Odyssey. As you can see from the accompanying chart, the event starts in Italy and takes the fleet to Spain, Sardinia, back to Italy, Tunisia, Malta, back to Italy again, and over to Greece. It may look like a long way, but the Med is a compact place compared to Mexico or the South Pacific. As such, the event is expected to consist of just 20 days of sailing and 30 days of socializing and exploring. Alfredo and Ramon - who met doing the Millenium Around the World Odyssey - decided to hold the event in May and June, because it's when the winds in the Med are the most consistent and moderate. About 45 boats have paid the up to $3,000 U.S. in entry fees and about $200 for each crew for the event that started at the beginning of May. The fees cover all the costs of berthing and having checking in and out taken care of. This event sure sounds like fun to us, partly because you get to sail around the Med, and partly because you get to cruise with Italians, French, Germans and Spanish. If the event is held again next year, the Wanderer plans on chartering a big cat and entering. When we mentioned this in 'Lectronic Latitude, three people immediately chimed in and said they wanted to be a part of it. If you're seriously interested and can afford $150 to $200 a day for part or all of such an adventure, send an email to and we'll keep you posted.

"I've got a great website that Latitude readers heading to the southeastern Caribbean might find helpful," reports Pat Nolan of the Irwin 37 No Land, which is currently at Marina Flamingo in Costa Rica. "It is the work of Jack Dausend, who has been a big help to me in planning our voyage from Panama to Trinidad. Jack is an old San Jose Sailing Club member who followed his cruising dream with his Westsail 32 as far as Trinidad. There he prints the Trinidad boaters' directory, a free cruiser newspaper called The Boca, and in general helps cruisers in the area. He also has cruiser seminars on how to prepare and participate in Carnival. Check out his website at:"

We've been to Trinidad and Carnival in Trinidad, and can strongly recommend Dausend's website.

"We're in Fremantle, Western Australia," report Rob and Mary Messenger of the custom 45 foot sloop Maude I. Jones, vets of the first Ha-Ha who are still out cruising. "For the last three weeks we've been working on various boat projects in anticipation of our Indian Ocean crossing. We just put the boat back in the water two days ago, but now get to haul her out at a different yard tomorrow where we can have the bottom sandblasted, re-epoxied and painted. We couldn't do that job here at the sailing club without pulling the mast. As for our passage across the long South Australian Bight, it wasn't much fun. Poor weather forecasting coupled with traveling at the end of summer - when the easterlies are fewer and farther between - made it a white-knuckle ride. Next month we'll be taking off for South Africa, although we still haven't picked the route yet. By the way, we just received our January, February and March 2001 issues of Latitude, and have been enjoying catching up with the sailing scene on the West Coast and in Mexico."

"It's autumn in Sydney, Australia, which means it's just about time to head north for the winter," reports George Backhus of the Sausalito-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow. "We - meaning my cruising companion Cate and cat Maitai - are savoring our last few days in the 'big city' while attending to all the last-minute details, provisioning and preparations necessary for an ocean passage. We have what appears to be a favorable weather window this weekend, so we plan to sail to Lord Howe Island - 400 miles to the east-northeast - for a short layover, then continue on to Noumea, New Caledonia, another 700 miles to the northeast."

Terrance O'Rourke of the Banderas Bay Regatta reports that next year's Banderas Bay Regatta will be moved up to March 14-17 in order to avoid a conflict with Easter. Mark your calendars, because this is the biggest cruiser event of the year on mainland Mexico.

By the way, we hear a new and really casual cruiser event, to be called Z-Fest - if the folks from Loreto Fest don't mind - is in the works for Zihuatanejo for the end of January. A race around Isla Grande, beach games, pot lucks, music and a fund-raiser for the locals, that kind of thing. We'll keep you posted.

"We were blessed with 10-25 knot winds almost the entire way from Mexico to French Polynesia, including the equator," report Ken Machtley and Cathy Siegismund of the Tashiba 31 Felicity. "We ran the motor for 41 hours, all of it for charging the batteries - except to leave the harbor in Mexico and arrive in French Polynesia. Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman of the Port Ludlow-based Wylie 31 Vella made it across in just 22 days, while Terry and Gail Loose of the Westsail 32 Tamarack made it in 25 days." For small and heavy boats, those are fine times.

Have a great summer of cruising - but don't forget to write!

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