June, 2003

With reports this month from Gypsy Warrior not being able to find a place to anchor at Fatu Hiva; from Wanderlust on good fortune looking for crew from Antigua to Panama; from Solstice on curious plastic items washing up on South Pacific reefs; from Cabaret on cruising Mexico now versus 10 years ago; from Tai Tam II on sailing from Colombia to Belize; from Lucida on the travails of trucking a wood cruising boat; reports on Loreto Fest and Island Madness; and Cruise Notes.

Gypsy Warrior - Freya 39
Rick Gio
San Francisco To The Marquesas

Bonjour! Our anchor has just splashed down in Hakahau Bay on the island of Ua Pou, which is the island just south of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. Now we can finally go over the events of the last two weeks:

After 25 days and some odd hours at sea, in the wee hours of May 3 we approached the southernmost Marquesan island of Fatu Hiva. Deeming it not safe to make landfall in the dark, we lay under bare poles for six hours awaiting daylight. We finally arrived in the Bay of Virgins at 9:30 a.m. local time, but things could have been better. There were heavy rain squalls that reduced visibility to a mere inches at times, and wind gusts up to 50 knots. Nineteen boats were already anchored - somewhat precariously - in the narrow and deep bay. We motored around looking for our special place in paradise, but the bay was almost as overcrowded as Avalon on a summer weekend.

Not believing my depth sounder, I lowered our 45-pound CQR on 120 feet of chain - and watched it hang vertically. The water was so deep it never touched bottom! Just then another squall struck with gusts of over 50 knots. The crew and I looked at each other and decided that Fatu Hiva was an island we would have to miss. After setting a double-reefed main, and reefing the jib to just 80%, we set our course for Hiva Oa, 45 miles to the north. Once the boat was steering herself again, we looked back at an island that time had forgotten. The razor-backed ridges and craggy mountains only needed Pterodactyl and dinosaurs to make the prehistoric scene complete. The sail up to Hiva Oa was fast but uneventful, as we had a starboard beam reach in 18 knots of wind.

We spent the next six days on the hook in Tahuku Bay near the town of Atuona, drying out and getting our sea legs back. We enjoyed Atuona, complete with a festival to celebrate Paul Gaugain's birthday and also to celebrate French Armistice Day. The Marquesans were very friendly - quick to flash a big smile and give yachties a ride to town. Out of necessity we have started to learn French. While here, we've finally begun to meet many of the Puddle Jumpers that we'd been in radio contact with for the last 25 days. We've even managed to help a few with gear problems they suffered coming across the Pacific. The sense of camaraderie is wonderful.

Hearing about a bay to the north side of Hiva Oa that is uninhabited and seldom visited, on May 9 we decided to go there to explore. Upon arrival, we dropped the hook, the only boat in the bay. After launching the dinghy, we took a swim in the clear cobalt blue water. Fantastic! After our swim, we took the dinghy to the white sand beach, from which we noticed an abandoned homestead nestled among a coconut grove. We waded across a freshwater stream to pick wild grapefruit, citron, and oranges.

Back to the present, tomorrow we intend to explore Hakahau Bay before continuing on to Nuku Hiva, 25 miles north. We hope our email finds everyone as happy and healthy as we are, and that some day all of you can see what we have seen.

- rick 5/12/03

Wanderlust - Hunter 466
Mike Harker
Finding Crew
(Manhattan Beach)

As some of you might remember, Mike Harker got into sailing big time about three years ago when he did the Ha-Ha with his Hunter 35 Wanderlust, then did the Baja Bash back home singlehanded. A little more than a year ago, he bought the first ever Hunter 466, christened her Wanderlust, and singlehanded her across the Atlantic. After spending the summer sailing around the Med with crew, he and crew sailed the boat back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. At that point he'd done about 12,000 ocean miles in 10 months, which is a lot. He then sailed Wanderlust back to the Miami Boat Show where he'd bought her - and then back to Antigua, much of the way singlehanding, for Sailing Week.

The next thing we knew, Harker, a professional photographer, had sent us some photographs of a lovely young woman with very long red hair. We had no idea who she was, but it appeared obvious that she was crewing with him. Knowing that many of you singlehanders are interested in how to find crew - particularly lovely young female crew - we asked Harker for details. Here's Mike's report:

"I put up a sign in Antigua stating that I was sailing to Panama after the Antigua Sailing Week and 'would enjoy some company'. About six different people came by, but I thought that I would rather sail alone than have smokers aboard. Then a nice Brazilian fellow named Fabio came by with a very nice girl. He asked if there was still space for him. After sitting together for 10 minutes, I said, 'Yes, you can come along.'

"Then Carla, the young woman with him, asked if I needed a cook. She wanted to go to Panama, too. I agreed that she could come also.

"The plan was that we would leave the next day. But that evening Fabio and Carla returned to say that their plans had changed. Fabio had been offered a paid position on an Italian boat heading back to the Med, so he wouldn't be joining me. Carla asked if she could still come along with me to Panama. She would go from there to meet her mother in Quito, Ecuador, and travel to the Galapagos together. I said she could some along.

"After five days of good downwind sailing, we arrived in Aruba. I originally wanted to only stay two days, but we've now been here six days. We have been staying in the marina that is part of the Excelsior Hotel, with a private island. That's where we've been taking the accompanying photographs. Carla had never been photographed before. She was extremely hesitant the first day, but after seeing on the computer what we'd done together, she was hooked!

"Carla Hildebrandt is 25, was born and raised in Windhoek, Namibia, and is studying to be a gourmet cook in South Africa. While in South Africa, she'd met an Italian who wanted to sail his 32-ft catamaran to Brazil. After five weeks of sailing alone across the southern Atlantic, they arrived in Portalese, Brazil. She would not continue with him alone, so they found Fabio to sail with them to Trinidad. Carla and Fabio left the Italian in Trinidad and flew to Sailing Week in Antigua, which is where I met them."

Based on our experience, Mike's report rings true. Specifically, 1) Good adventures happen to people who are willing to get out there and take some risks, not to people who stay home hoping to be invited to join the perfect situation. 2) The first boat you join or crew you take on is rarely your last. It's normal for crews to switch boats all the time. 3) Crew plans change by the hour - if not the minute. It's not at all unusual for the couple who agree to crew with you to Panama to come back an hour later to explain they've taken a better offer to sail in the opposite direction. Uncertainty reigns supreme. And finally, 4) Being at Antigua during Sailing Week is a great place for crew to hop aboard a boat for a long passage, thus gaining them membership in the crew 'game'. Once you've done one long trip, you can network that experience literally around the globe.

- latitude 38 5/9/03

Solstice - Freya 39
Jim & Eleanor Hancock
Opua, New Zealand
(San Francisco)

Thank you for printing my December letter about the history of our boat - and the April response from Hugo and Martha Schreiner, who built her many years ago. What a thrill it was to hear from them and to learn so much about the boat that we call home! I have sent them an email with pictures of us and of Solstice on our recent Pacific crossing, and am looking forward to sharing some great stories with them.

Speaking of our Pacific crossing, I have attached some pictures that I have wanted to share with Latitude readers for some time. In July of last year, when we arrived at Kauehi in the Tuamotus, we went for a walk along the windward shore of the atoll. What we found was a beach that was strewn with plastic trash! Much of the trash looked like it had probably come from fishing boats: floats, old poly nets, plastic oil jugs, buckets, and so forth. But as we walked along the beach, I started to notice that there were also a lot of toothbrushes! I began picking them up, and in about 10 minutes had a fist full.

While later at Fakarava, we also took a walk along that atoll's windward side. Once again we found the same trash-strewn beach, and once again we found an extraordinary number of toothbrushes! When I recount this story to others, they almost invariably jump to the conclusion that a container full of toothbrushes must have fallen off of a ship and burst open, its content washing ashore on the atolls. Here's why I don't think that's true: 1) None of the toothbrushes were in their packaging; 2) The toothbrushes were of all different makes and styles; and 3) All of the toothbrushes appeared to have been used!

My own hypothesis is that toothbrushes are used for some non-dental industrial cleaning purpose on offshore fishing boats, and get cast overboard once they are worn out. It's also possible that they were somehow used in the Tuamotan pearl industry, and also thrown off atolls to windward. This second hypothesis has some support from what we found in Tonga. When beachcombing on the uninhabited island of Uanukuhihifu in the Ha'apai Group, we also found a shocking amount of plastic trash on the windward side of the island - but very few toothbrushes. There were some, just not many. But what we found a lot of were worn out flip-flops! Since there are no nearby islands to windward of this beach, one wonders where this stuff drifted from! Any guesses?

And one final mystery. Have you noticed that there seems to be a disproportionate number of nurses among members of the cruising community? I could probably name a dozen cruising nurses, both male and female, right off the top of my head. That's far more than I knew in my land-based existence, and if you broaden the category to health-care workers so that it includes physical therapists, chiropractors and doctors, the imbalance gets even more lopsided. Other people that I have spoken to have noticed the same thing, so what's up? I have my own thoughts, but it might be interesting to hear what other readers think.

Our crossing of the Pacific was a wonderful experience, so in a few weeks we're looking forward to sailing north to Tonga and Fiji.

- jim 5/15/03

Jim - We've noticed the same thing about the number of nurses cruising. For what it's worth, Doña de Mallorca is a registered nurse. Here's a guessing game for our readers: In the '70s, de Mallorca was one of the nurses caring for a very famous figure in L.A., a guy who recently had a major motion picture made about him despite the fact he is still alive. And no, it wasn't Robert Evans.

Cabaret - Tayana Trawler
John & Susie Gerber
Cruising Then And Now

We did our first cruise 10 years ago, and stayed out for a little over two years. Ever since we got back, we were getting ready to head south again - and reading mixed reports in Latitude about the cost of cruising in Mexico these days. Well, we're now in Barra de Navidad, having been on our second cruise since last Thanksgiving, and can report on cruising now versus 10 years ago.

Cruising is more expensive in Mexico these days - but cruisers have more expensive tastes. For instance, we estimate that more than 50% of today's cruisers need a marina close by, and marinas in Mexico aren't cheap. God forbid if many of today's cruisers had to anchor out for more than a week!

We first got an idea of modern cruisers' need for marinas while in Mazatlan. We were going to anchor in the Old Harbor, which is free, until cruisers convinced us to take a slip at Marina Mazatlan. As marinas go in Mexico, Marina Mazatlan in inexpensive and the cruiser camaraderie is terrific. But trust us, if you're on a tight cruising budget, you'll be fine anchoring in the Old Harbor.

Some cruisers in the Mazatlan area prefer the El Cid Marina, although it has more surge and seemed very expensive to us. But if you're one of those guys who has dreams of going cruising, and your wife and guests don't, then resorts such as El Cid and Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta are the places to go. Most of us understand that one. Give these folks a marina, a five-star hotel, a pool, a hot tub, and $12 piña coladas, and they begin to fall in love with all this cruising stuff.

In addition to the expense of marinas, the cost of having engine and other boat work is also much more expensive here than it was 10 years ago. It seems that a lot of American wannabe mechanics come down to Mexico claiming to already be experts. Because they are white and want to charge U.S. hourly rates for mechanical work, most cruisers feel comfortable with them and assume they are competent. Don't be so sure.

After our boat suffered a blown head gasket while in Mazatlan, we crossed paths with an American who claimed to be an expert mechanic. We were fortunate to know our boat well enough to realize that he was full of beans. Then we were fortunate enough to run into Rick of Cape Star, and Bob of Bolinas Dream, both of whom are berthed on Dock 6 in Marina Mazatlan. These guys have established a business providing services to cruising boats by farming out the work to competent Mexicans. They got us a wonderful Mexican mechanic who fixed our blown head-gasket for just $800.

After a great stay in Mazatlan, we decided to head south. Because of a big reunion in Puerto Vallarta, we elected to stay at Marina Vallarta. Having spent 20 days there - at a cost of $690 - all we can say is - ugh! Heaven help you if you have a problem with your boat in Marina Vallarta, as both the Americans and the Mexicans have you by the neck. It's all about money, money, money. But it's not the Mexicans who created the American atmosphere, but rather the Americans who turned the place into downtown Los Angeles - with a slight Mexican flare. Some Americans will pay any price to be in a different country - as long as it's just like the States.

It was less expensive a few miles up the coast at Paradise Village, where you get a Five Star hotel with swimming pool and all. The problem is that it's so far - half an hour - from Puerto Vallarta, that if you go in at night you have to take a cab back. There are cruiser meetings about almost everything at Paradise - maybe even one about how many times a day one should take a poop! This obviously wasn't one of our favorite places - but it wasn't 10 years ago, either.

One positive thing we can say about Puerto Vallarta is that 'Teapot Tony', the local American mechanic, and his wife, are great people.

Once we went south of Puerto Vallarta, we finally met 'real' cruisers again. There were a lot more cruisers than there were 10 years ago on the 'Gold Coast', but they liked to do the normal cruising stuff - swim, dive, play volleyball, have a beer at a palapa, have potlucks, and hang out together. By the way, the beach palapas in even the smallest and out of the way places are pricey. You will spend at least $5 per person for a meal. But it's doable.

We got as far down as Barra Lagoon in Bahia De Navidad, which had great people, good food, and fine provisioning. It was lots of fun, too. We're now heading back north to spend our first season in the Sea of Cortez, where we're sure to meet lots more great people.

We laugh when people complain about the high prices of checking in and out - but spend every waking moment in an expensive marina. But the bottom line is that cruising is more expensive in Mexico than it was 10 years ago, but much of it is because cruisers demand more amenities. It's up to each of us to decide how to spend our money.

- the gerbers 3/25/03

Readers - We always cringe when people talk about 'real' cruising as if it were a specific activity with strict rules. We see 'cruising' as a broad activity that has to include folks who like to spend a year in a place to fully appreciate the culture; folks who are relentlessly on the move; commuter cruisers who can only get to their boat a few weeks during the season; urban cruisers who prefer populated areas; wilderness cruisers who only enjoy the remote areas; retired cruisers who enjoy sharing their golden years in the company of other seniors who live aboard; and so forth.

The beauty of Mexico is that it has the variety to suit just about every kind of cruiser. For those who want rugged and remote, there's both the Pacific side and Sea of Cortez side of the Baja Peninsula. For those who have to be near urban centers and bright lights, there are places such as Marina Vallarta, Marina Cabo San Lucas, the Acapulco YC, and the marinas in Mazatlan. For those who like things more upscale, there's Paradise Marina, El Cid, and Grand Island Marina in Barra. For cruisers who like to hang with other cruisers on the hook near village-like environments, there's La Cruz, Tenacatita Bay, and Zihuatanejo. For commuter cruisers, there are marinas near the airports at Ixtapa, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La Paz, and Cabo. No matter what kind of cruiser you are, Mexico has just the place for you.

We like the Gerbers' point about the cost of cruising being a function of the amenities one needs. For as we reported a few months ago, depending on where they are, even middle-class cruisers with nice 40-foot boats find their cruising budgets can fluctuate anywhere from $500 to $3,500 or more, depending on where they cruise and how much they want to spend on discretionary items such as marinas, tourist drinks and dinners, taxis and rental cars, and plane tickets home. If someone wants to cruise on the cheap, they should go to the Sea of Cortez, where they can enjoy the good life below the poverty level in the United States. But if someone prefers the luxury life, there's that to be had also - in big cities with marinas. But don't expect to be able to do it on an extreme budget.

To give folks an idea of how much one's expenses can vary, last season the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca's favorite sit-down meals in Banderas Bay ran about $5 - $7.50 - which was for a full dinner, by torchlight, on the beach with a beautiful view, but not including alcohol. Which, we might add, we consider a hell of a bargain. We also had a celebratory lunch at the lovely Bel Aire Hotel at Careyes, where two drinks, two lunches, two glasses of wine, and one dessert came to, gulp, $85. So when one cruising couple spends $85 for lunch, and another spends $10 for dinner, you're going to get mixed reports on what it costs to cruise in Mexico.

We can understand that some folks would not care for the marina life at Paradise Village Resort. Indeed, although we often base our boat there in the winter, when we're aboard, we quickly head out. Nonetheless, we'd like to offer some facts in the resort's defense. First, it advertises itself as a "family destination" as opposed to a "Five Star Resort" - although it's better built, maintained, and staffed than most Five Star resorts in Mexico. Second, the piña coladas run about $5, not $12 - and during happy hour they are two-for-one delivered to the hot tub or pool. (In addition, the most delicious chile relleno dinners we've ever eaten are just $5 in the resort's shopping center.) Finally, while berthing is not cheap at Paradise Resort, lots of cruisers obviously think it's a fair value, as despite continued marina expansion, it can be hard to get a slip during the winter.

Few cruisers have any appreciation for how lucky we are to have Mexico so close, for it has just about every type of cruising available, for just about every type of budget. You don't find many places in the world like that.

Reservations For The Med
Is This The Beginning Of The End?
[Editor's Note: The following appeared in the April issue of England's Yachting Monthly magazine, which is sort of their Cruising World.]

"'Book early!' is the message from the recently formed Société de Contrôle d'Accés à la Mediterranée, consisting of countries whose borders lie on the Med coast. The society plans to limit the number of pleasure vessels visiting the Med in an attempt to curb worrying levels of pollution and reduce levels of damage caused to the seabed by anchoring craft.

"The initiative was led by the Spanish and French governments, which have been concerned with overdevelopment of their coastal regions. Despite attempts to provide an environmentally sensible balance between available berthing and the requirements of visiting craft, demand continues to outstrip supply as more and more privately owned boats pour into the Med each year.

"Having raised the matter with their EU partners and found an almost-unanimous accord, representatives from Spain, France and Italy approached Turkey, Egypt and the North African countries to agree on maritime legislation. With an almost unprecedented lack of discord between the various states, it was swiftly established that such a move would be in the best interests of all parties.

"One of the great attractions of the project is the simplicity of monitoring access to the region. There are only a few routes into the Mediterranean. The two traditional gateways, the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, are easy to police, and the countries bordering these gateways are fully supportive of the proposal.

"Charter companies will not be restricted by a quota in boat numbers, and may see an increase in business coupled with a decrease in competition for berth space.

"People planning to cruise the area after 2004 will need to apply to the bureau, providing boat details, proposed date of entry and outlined itinerary. For EU-registered craft, only those conforming to RCD requirements will be accepted. The licence fee, to be decided, will be based on boat size.

"Avril Tromper, secretary to the bureau, suggested in an interview with our Med correspondent that the minimum fee would be around 1,000 Euros for two years.

"'This is the absolute minimum if we are to conserve our most beautiful coastal regions for the enjoyment of future generations,' she said."

- yachting world 4/05/03

Tai Tam II - Island Packet 40
Tom & Kathy Knueppel
Colombia To Belize
(San Francisco)

After nearly 4.5 months of enjoying Cartagena, we departed on April 5. Our first stop was Isla Rosario, about 20 miles away, in order to get our boat's systems up to speed again and get used to life at anchor once more. From there we sailed a rhumbline course to Isla Providencia, which is still Colombia despite the fact that it's twice as close to the east coast of Nicaragua.

Our first 24 hours underway was rather uncomfortable, as we had to deal with northeast winds running against the current. A casualty was our main belowdeck autopilot, which gave up its life after almost 9,000 miles. Things quieted down after that, and we had one of our most enjoyable sails. It was interrupted, however, about 200 miles offshore when we were hailed by a British Research vessel - which carried a contingent of the U.S. Coast Guard. They decided to board us, and perhaps out of boredom, ran us through the whole gambit of safety inspection, drug inspection, and what they called an 'Intelligence Review'. To make a two-hour story short, we passed with flying colors and continued on our way towards Isla Providencia. The young Coast Guard personnel were very courteous, professional - and curious about our way of life. It wasn't an enjoyable experience, but it certainly brightened up our daily passagemaking routine.

We arrived at Isla Providencia on the 13th, and found the entrance to Catalina Harbor to be well buoyed. Wide open to the northwest, the anchorage would be easy to enter during day or night. We anchored off the small town of Santa Isabel - there are only 3,500 people on the whole island - where there was good protection and holding. We used Bernardo B. Bush Howard to check us in and out at a cost of 104,000 pesos - or $40 U.S. An agent must be used when clearing in or out of Colombia. The folks from Immigration and the Port Captain's office arrived at our boat within an hour of our arrival, and finished the paperwork in less than 20 minutes. A very pleasant experience.

The folks at Santa Isabel were very friendly. The numerous grocery stores made provisioning easy and inexpensive. It's also a good place to stock up on liquor and beer at Colombian prices, for it's much more expensive in Honduras. Getting diesel or gas was a matter of hiring a taxi and taking jerry jugs to a nearby gas station. Mr. Bush can get laundry done, help with water, and is available - with a big smile - for anything that a cruiser might need. We later rented a motor scooter - for just $7/day - to tour the 11-mile coastal road around the island. The folks at Isla Providencia make cruisers feel genuinely welcome, and so we recommend it.

After six days, we set off to the Vivorillos Cays, which are 190 miles to the northwest. This is a very pleasant reef - and several smaller islands - that offers easy anchoring and good protection against everything but Northers. The Vivorillos are just a pleasant stopover on the way to Honduras' Bay of Islands - although we also found it a great place to see the green flash at sunset. In fact, we saw it on consecutive nights.

Rested up, we left for Isla Guanaja in the Bay Islands of Honduras, where we arrived the next day after mostly motorsailing. After checking in at Immigration and the Port Captain in the small settlement - just $2 U.S. for the whole process! - we moved over to El Bight and dropped the hook. No waypoints are necessary to get around, as you just have to pay attention to the water color. We found Isla Guanaja to be quite pretty, but there's not much to do except for the good diving and snorkeling. The only Internet access we were able to find - our on-board Pactor modem is defective - was at a German couple's house they were still in the process of building. (Ask for Anke on VHF 72.)

No matter where we went in the Bay Islands, we found no-see-ums to be a major problem. They were nasty little fellas, as they seemed to wear leather jackets, have steel teeth, and came after us with a vengeance. So don't visit without bug repellant.

We departed Guanaja on April 24 for the 35-mile trip to French Harbor, Roatan. When we arrived, we opted to anchor behind Big French Cay, a much more pleasant anchorage than the French Harbor YC lagoon, which is more crowded and has less wind. Big French Cay gets easterly trades cooling the boat and keeps the terrible sand flies away. Coincidentally, getting into the Big French Cay anchorage is no longer quite as straightforward as it once was, and both Nigel Calder and John Raines' books are outdated.

We were told that it's possible to check in and out of Honduras at both Isla Utila and Isla Guanaja. We have heard some conflicting stories about problems and mordida when checking in to Roatan at either French Harbor or Coxen's Hole, so beware.

From French Harbor we left for Isla Utila. The little town of Puerte Este is very pleasant and funky, with many tourists and a good selection of restaurants and small stores. The anchorage is open and easy to get into, and there is good holding in 12 feet. Checking out is easy - another $2 and 20 minutes with officials at Immigration and the Port Captain is all it took. Overall, Honduras certainly knows how to treat cruisers well!

We left Utila on May 1 for Lighthouse Reef, a Belize atoll - and found it to be one of the best places we've ever been for water clarity and snorkeling. It's just incredible - with the added bonus of there being no other boats around and it being a safe and comfortable anchorage.

From Lighthouse Reef, we planned to go to San Pedro/Ambergis Cay in order check in and out of Belize. However, the wind was blowing at 20 knots out of the east, the seas were running seven to nine feet, and according to reports the entrance to San Pedro is difficult and dangerous when there is strong wind and big seas. So we diverted to Long Cay, a reef entrance further south, and slowly made our way toward Cay Caulker. This was not an easy trip, as the water depth was challenging to say the least. For almost 10 minutes we carved grooves into the fine sand bottom before getting back to deeper water - meaning over 5.5 feet. It's not an experience we want to repeat.

After the friendly Honduran officials, the clearing procedure at Belize left a lot to be desired. In fact, the paperwork shuffle is worse in Belize than in Mexico. First, we went to Immigration, where an unfriendly, self-important young lady - who kept singing to herself how bored she was! - said we should have checked in the day before as we had arrived 30 minutes before their office closed. Our excuse that we thought the offices might close at 1700 hours didn't mean anything to her, so she hit us with a $20 U.S. late charge in addition to the regular fee of $7.50 U.S. (The costs reflect the fact that we checked in and out at the same time.) Lots of papers needed to be filled out, and they were then slowly shuffled and stamped. When we informed them we also wanted to check out to leave the next day, we were told we should come in the next morning. Only after pleading and saying that we wanted to leave at 0500 did the official relent and issue our exit zarpe.

Then it was off to Customs, where we had to fill out a detailed inventory of our supplies and stores - meaning everything from frozen or fresh meat to vegetables, to canned goods, to liquor. This cost $17.50 U.S. Then there was Quarantine, which also wanted many lists and inventories, repeating everything we had already prepared for Customs. Finally, there was our dog. To make a long story short, we unwillingly had to come up with an 'under the table donation' of $20 U.S. to avoid having to come up with several health certificates from Belizean authorities - despite the fact our dog had never been on Belize soil.

Although we love Belize and will certainly return, their officials need to get with it. Other cruisers speak of having the same kind of problems. Having checked in and out of every Central American country and some in South America, we feel that Belize is at the bottom in terms of the paperwork cha-cha.

Once the weather improves so we can leave through the San Pedro pass, we'll head to Key West, where we will be meeting our oldest son on June 1.

- tom & kathy 05/01/03

Lucida - Oceania 32 Gaffer
David & Chris Dewees
Trucking Tips & Troubles
(Morro Bay)

We had a steep learning curve having our boat trucked from Marina Seca in San Carlos, Mexico, to Florida. We hope this report will help those who truck their boats after us.

The following are the documents and numbers that will be required for trucking one's boat: A Temporary Import Permit, available for free - except for your time - from the local Aduana office. A copy of the captain's passport, driver's license, and tourist visa. Check-in paperwork from the Port Captain; documentation or state registration; and the hull and engine serial numbers. The serial numbers are required by some Aduana offices - La Paz is one, and they will even inspect the boat to verify the numbers. Guaymas didn't require the serial numbers, but they did make us check-in with the Guaymas Port Captain's office even though the boat was in Bahia San Carlos. Ah, Mexico!

Jesus and his staff at Marina Seca are helpful and friendly. Their truck was new and their trailer has more than adequate suspension to smooth out the bumps in the highway. The Marina Seca crew will ensure that the boat is bedded down securely on the trailer, although you might want to be present to supervise the details. Alert to owners of wood boats: Due to changes in the import/export laws, our wood boat was held up at the border for two days. Make sure that things have been straightened out before your boat leaves the yard or it will cost you.

Make sure you have insurance. Marina Seca does not insure your boat while she is being trucked, so unless your insurance company covers it, get some while in San Carlos. One company that offers insurance is GNP, which is located within walking distance of the marina next to the Pemex station. For $160 U.S., we obtained a policy that covered collision, fire, theft and third-party liability. The catch is that the coverage is for Mexico only, so you'll have to rely on either your own policy or good luck for the last 64 miles from the border to Tucson. The duration of the Mexican policy is flexible. We recommend you start the coverage two days before you are scheduled to haul out and for at least two days after your boat's ETA at the border. One reason for this is that the scheduling at Marina Seca is fluid, which means you may be hauled earlier than the originally planned date. Secondly, you never know what delays there might be - such as our boat being held up at the border because she's wood. As a result, we were uninsured for the last day and night our boat was in Mexico.

While your boat gets trucked north, you can make the trip on a TBC bus - they are clean, lovely, and air-conditioned. It's $30/person U.S. to Tucson, and the trip takes seven hours. Buses leave at 2 a.m., 11 a.m., and 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. - depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend. The pleasant ticket clerk will refund your ticket for a fee of a few pesos if it becomes necessary.

Marina Seca only trucks boats as far as Tucson, so you have to get a U.S. trucking company to take it from there. As you'll soon read, it's important to shop carefully for a U.S. trucker to ensure your boat's continued good health. We didn't realize this.

While still in San Carlos, we contracted with A-1 Boat Hauling of Fort Lauderdale to hire a rig to take our boat from Tucson to Florida. This was largely based on the fact that Jesus has a good relationship with the company. Just before leaving San Carlos, we were presented with a contract to sign that included a waiver of responsibility for A-1 for "all damages" to "wood hulls". We were uneasy about this, but we were ready to go, and as we said, Jesus uses that outfit frequently. Besides, we'd been told that our quote included $300 for "special handling" of wood boats. So we signed.

After we arrived in Tucson in April 15, we rented a car and headed east. While halfway through Texas the next day, we called A-1 owner Bill West to find out how things were going. He told us our boat was being delayed at the border. He seemed upset about this, and told us that we would be responsible for an additional $300 in permits caused by the delay.

As it turned out, the boat arrived in Tucson a short time later, and after a quick switch of trailers, started heading east. We were still hoping for a Friday delivery in Jacksonville, Florida, but West eventually informed us the boat wouldn't arrive until the 22nd. That meant four more nights of motels and eating out.

Having been assured by Jesus that I was not responsible for any additional permit fees, I tried calling West's office and cell phone to confirm there would be no problem. In spite of attempts by a very accommodating office person, neither West nor the driver could be reached. I had money orders made out for the original quoted amount.

When our boat finally arrived around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, an initial inspection showed that the middle of three side supports on both sides had broken at least one plank on each side. Further inspection revealed that the boat had rolled forward. The keel had originally been supported in four places: forward with two 2x6s, and in three other spots with 4x4s. A bump combined with possible braking had caused the 4x4s to roll forward. This resulted in the 2x6s being crushed, and the second 4x4 ending up off to the side and not supporting any weight at all. This meant that the boat ended up being primarily supported on the two center supports under the turn of the bilge. The planking gave way at those locations.

The driver claimed to know just where it happened, but didn't think to back the pads down to put the weight back on the keel. He also claimed that he didn't know what the boat weighed, and as a result had gotten an overweight ticket during the trip. Among the paperwork handed to us by the driver was a U.S. Customs cargo manifesto stating the weight as being 11,000 kilograms. We took pictures, the yard manager took digital pictures, and the boat was unloaded.

We paid the driver the originally agreed upon amount, and he said we were $300 short. He called Mr. West, and between them they decided not to pursue it. We were also informed that they were in no way responsible for the damage to our boat because of the waiver we had signed. But it's our opinion - as well as that of the yard manager, his crew, and a surveyor - that a competent trucking company could have transported our boat safely and that the damage was due to negligence. After some interior dismantling we found that there was no damage to the frames, and that most likely only one plank on each side would need replacing. It would probably cost about $1,000.

When I more recently talked to West about the damage, he wasn't at all interested, claiming that the waiver absolved him of all responsibility. He expressed no interest in how it had happened or how it might have been prevented. When I queried him as to what the "special handling" for wood boats we had paid $300 for, he denied knowledge of any such charge. Although we don't have it in writing, it was definitely part of the verbal negotiations - as Jesus can verify.

Had West reacted with more concern, we wouldn't feel so bad about this. Although the $1,000 damage impacts our cruising budget significantly, it's not really enough to initiate legal proceedings. But we sure want to caution cruisers about dealing with a company that just doesn't seem to care.

Otherwise we are fine and enjoying Florida. The Ortega River Boatyard folks are very competent and people are very friendly. We are looking forward to being back in the water and on our way north.

- david & chris 5/10/03

Island Madness - Caleta Partida
Tonya Rickman, Vice Commodore
The First Year
(La Paz)

Despite the initial controversy, the Northers that held up the boats coming over from the mainland, and the minus tides all week, the inaugural Island Madness Week at Caleta Partida in the Sea of Cortez got off to a great start. Approximately 40 boats participated, with 20+ in the anchorage on any given day. Most nights 30 to 60 people came ashore for activities.

Unfortunately, the race from La Paz up to Caleta Partida was a no-go, as there was no wind. While the two races during the week tempted only the ambitious, there was some great side-by-side racing. Larry of the Catalina 36 Sabbatical won both events.

Mike and Tonya of Amazing Grace were selected as Admiral and Sea Goddess for the event, and more or less reigned over the many activities. Among these were Pirates, Pimps and Prostitutes Night; Talent Night; Shipwrecked at the Pirate Bar Night; Luau Night; a Scavenger Hunt, and the mandatory Chili Cook-off and Dessert competitions. The Bikini Contest was won by Jeff of Moon Me, who entered when none of the women did. Selene from Paradise Found took the unplanned Wet T-shirt contest, winning over a field of six other 18-65 year-old contestants. The Beer-Belly Contest winner was Bob of Kokomo, who hopes his wife doesn't find out. The overwhelming winners of the Talent Contest were Dean and Kopie of Martha Rose for their bawdy rendition of Barnacle Bill the Sailor. The morning net was run by Keith on Shangra-La IV, who served up 'Life According to Keith' wisdoms such as: "Why should we go back to town if we aren't out of beer?" As always, the fishermen beat the cruisers at volleyball, 2-0. The fishermen felt so sorry for us gringos that they even sent some of their players to our side to help.

While the Madness was long on fun, it was short on boats. We'll be working to increase participation next year.

For those not familiar with Paradise Found YC, although it's a branch of Paradise Found Bar and Restaurant in La Paz, it's not for profit, and it's for cruisers and by cruisers. One of the activities is fund-raising. The cruising fleet in La Paz has been raising money to help cruisers Chuck and Linda of Tumbleweed. Chuck was stabbed in the back on the Police Dock in San Diego before the start of the 2002 Ha-Ha. He has now been in the hospital in La Paz for four months. The Paradise Found YC and the people attending Island Madness collected over $1,300 U.S. to put towards Chuck's hospital bill.

- tonya 5/15/03

Cruise Notes:

The earlier Changes from Yachting Monthly about needing reservations for taking a boat to the Med was, as you might have guessed, an April Fool's Joke. What gave it away for us was the suggestion that the governments of all the countries that front the Med could agree on anything. Preposterous!

World Cruising Ltd, the folks who run the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), which is the granddaddy of all cruising rallies, report that all 225 slots for this November's 2,750-mile event across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia had been taken by May 9. This was the earliest it's ever happened, indicating continuing great interest in the event. The most represented manufacturer will be Oyster, with 19 boats, trailed by Hallberg-Rassy with 17, and Beneteau with 15. Swan, which had been the leader in previous years, dropped to 13 entries. As best we could determine there are 18 catamarans entered, 10 of them Catanas. More than half of the entry slots have been taken by Brits. The 14 American boats that signed up are: Anthem, Tom Gill's 50-ft one-off; Bellamare, Aldo Mariotti's Itster 53; Calliopy, Jon and Tanya Manning's Northwind 43; Friendship II, Bob Stewart's Amel Super Maramu 52; Indeed, Giorgio Cagliero's Hallberg-Rassy 46; La Contenta, Warren & Judy McCandless' Najad 49; Persistence, Will Wendell and Diane Rousseau's Baltic 43; Red Red Wine, Paul Camp's Amel Maramu 53; Sabbatical III, Mark Pitt's Amel Maramu 53; Severance, Bob Koenig's Wauquiez 43; Unnamed, Ken Williams' Oyster 53; Third Wish, William & Camille Melbourne's Amel Maramu 53; Topaz, John and Lori Post's Valiant 42 RS; Tusen Takk, John Larsson's Hallberg-Rassy 46; and Zangezi, Savely Rosenaur's Catana 471 catamaran. The ARC doesn't provide homeports, so we don't know how many of these folks might be from the West Coast. And what's up with all the Amel Maramus? In addition to all those listed above, we know of two other Americans who have taken delivery of them. So much for the boycott of French products by Americans after the spat over the liberation/invasion of Iraq.

The one Northern California-owned boat that did last year's ARC was Mark and David Bernhard's Catana 58 catamaran Aurora, which they'd picked up from the factory in France earlier in the year. Their original inclination was to sail around the world, however they had so much fun in the Med last summer they are sailing back across the Atlantic for more. As of May 20th, they'd already made it to the Azores and were headed for Lisbon, Portugal.

Cruising plans change all the time, of course. For example, about six weeks ago we received the following letter: "We're Bruce and Robin Cleveland, Northern California owners of 2001 Swan 56 Alianza. I recently retired as the senior vp of marketing for Siebel Systems to take a year or two off to enjoy a lot of the things I was never able to do while working - such as spending some time cruising the Caribbean and the East Coast. As a result, we decided to take on the adventure of sailing to Jamestown, Rhode Island - via Antigua, where we plan to participate in Antigua Sailing Week. Since Robin and I are novice sailors with only a few years of San Francisco Bay sailing and a couple of British Virgins and Tahiti charters under our belts, we wanted to find someone who was not only willing to make the passage with us, but also take us under their wing and teach us 'seamanship'."

The Clevelands ended up hiring Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins of Mill Valley. Having been born on the former Elbe River pilot schooner Wander Bird, having crossed the Atlantic on her something like six times before he was four years old, and having mentored a generation of Northern California's best sailors, Commodore was the perfect choice for learning seamanship in the Old School manner. Alas, the Clevelands' very ambitious itinerary proved a little too ambitious, as everyone was pretty tuckered by the time they arrived in Panama. So they wisely decided to bail on Antigua Sailing Week, and are continuing up the East Coast and hopefully the July Swan Regatta in Newport. The Caribbean will still be there next winter.

Anybody else change their cruising plans? "We have," Duncan and Robin Owen of the Alameda-based Hallberg-Rassy 42 Whisper might have written. "First and foremost, thanks for a fantastic Baja Ha-Ha 2002! From the great parties to the thrill of crossing the 'finish line', the Ha-Ha exceeded all our expectations. Furthermore, the rally had given us the incentive to move down the coast of the Baja and get to the desired warmer weather much more quickly than if we'd been left our own devices. We left San Francisco Bay in March 2002, and it took us seven months to go 600 miles to San Diego. Without the Ha-Ha, we and Whisper might still be anchored in Bahia Santa Maria! Over the last six winter months, we visited the Mexican mainland from Mazatlan to Barra de Navidad. If asked in November of 2002 where we would be in April 2003, our answer would have been the Marquesas. But somewhere in the middle of Bahia Tenacatita, we decided to stay in Mexico for another season. One reason was that numerous Mexico vets convinced us that the Sea of Cortez was not to be missed. So at present, we're anchored in San Evaristo, having just spent a week at Isla San Francisco. We've only seen a little of the Sea, but we like what we've seen. So while we're on the Pacific Puddle Jumper's list for 2003, we won't make it until at least 2004."

Thinking about going to Catalina this summer? Here are some sample prices at Avalon: Moorings - $19 for up to 40 feet; $25 for up to 50 feet; and $42 for up to 70 feet. If a proposed rate hike goes through, however, there will be a $1 rate hike for all three categories. Ever wonder what the ferry boats and cruise ships pay for the privilege of bringing passengers to the island? It's $1.50/passenger for both, although the cruise ships only pay on 80% of their manifest. Retail and service businesses in the tidelands pay 9% of their gross, although it's proposed that it be raised to 10%.

The best food in Avalon? If you're looking to avoid the usual greasy kids' stuff for lunch, we recommend Good Stuff - just in from the pier - for big healthy sandwiches at a reasonable price. For dinner, we like Steve's Steakhouse, particularly for steak and fish. You'll get a top notch meal, and Steve, his son, and the rest of the staff really care. Too bad they can't raise the low ceiling a little. For an after dinner drink and some moderately rowdy atmosphere, we go to the The Marlin Club. These three favorites of ours are located within about 150 feet of each other in tiny Avalon. There are other good places in addition to our favorites.

"We just wanted to let you know that we have made it across the Gulf of Tehuantepec," report Joe Brandt and Jacque Martin of the Alameda-based Wauquiez 43 Marna Lynn. "Thanks to a weather forecast by Don of Summer Passage, it was like a duck pond. We feel that Don does an outstanding job providing excellent forecasts for cruisers in this part of the world. It seems as though boat insurance companies and cruisers ought to pay him big bucks given all of the money and heartache he saves everyone. If you haven't done an article on him, you ought to. We're currently in Puerto Madero and will be leaving in the next day or so for Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala."

For what it's worth, Tehuantepeckers are one of the easiest weather phenomenon to predict, as they are always preceded by high pressure over Texas that creates northerly winds in the Bay of Campeche. These northerly winds accelerate as they rush through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec - just the way funneled winds accelerate coming through the Golden Gate. In the old days, cruisers used to get Tehuantepecked with some regularity, and this was unfortunate because Tehuantepeckers blow at up to Force 9 for up to 500 miles offshore. Years ago some friends told us about kneeling on the cabin sole of their Freya 39, praying for a Tehuantepecker to abate. The folks they were buddyboating with gave up cruising altogether as a result of the same storm. Because Tehuantepeckers have become so easy to predict, hardly any cruisers get caught anymore. The same can't be said for Papagayos further south. Although they don't blow as hard, they are more difficult to predict, and more cruisers get smacked around by them.

Before we get any letters, we want to acknowledge that not all cruisers hold Don's forecasts in such high regard. Of course, no weather forecaster is going to be perfect.

Oman, your automatic weapons discounter? "In the aftermath of the attempted piracy of the yacht Penyllan, we thought we'd pass along this story from Thailand," write Don and Katie Radcliffe of the Santa Cruz-based Beneteau 45 Klondike. "An American yachtie is presently serving 2.5 years in a Bangkok prison for possession of an automatic weapon - an M-16 or something like it. We won't mention his name to protect his privacy. We recently spoke with his Thai girlfriend, who told us that he had planned to make the Red Sea passage this year, and had decided to purchase a weapon for protection from pirates. After making his weapon purchase in Bangkok, he was arrested while returning to Phuket by bus. It appears that he was set up, and that the seller fingered him to the police. The yachtie is appealing his case, but so far a payment of money hasn't kept him out of prison. An Aussie here who recently delivered a yacht to the Red Sea told us Oman is the place to purchase automatic weapons, as they sell for just $45. Furthermore, possession of such guns is common there. Oman is close to the Red Sea, but before you approach the Gulf of Aden where piracy seems to be the most common. Generally speaking, yachties tend to feel that it is better to be weaponless. Peter Blake would probably be alive if he had not had a gun. We're currently on our boat at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia. We are vegetating after our three-week trip to northern Thailand and Laos. Asian tour groups have disappeared with the SARS epidemic, but backpackers are still out in force. They feel they are invincible, don't they?"

According to Commodore Gilles Rancourt, what was hoped to be the first International Sail-Cuba.com Regatta on May 3-9, had to be postponed. "Talks are being held with the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control," said Rancourt. "These talks involve clarification of misinformation supplied by a disgruntled race official who was dismissed last month."

While there have been a number of sailing events to Cuba in the past 10 years, we doubt the Treasury Department will let Sail-Cuba get around the prohibition against 'trading with the enemy'. For although the Clinton Administration was slack about enforcing travel restrictions to Cuba, the Bush Administration has become hard-ass about it. We think the latter is a major strategic mistake. Sure, the formerly over-romanticized Castro - who just executed three men for trying to escape, and gave 75 dissidents jail terms of at least six years for crimes such as owning a typewriter - is one of the worst violators of human rights on the face of the earth. But the way to topple such tyrants is not through isolation, but by visiting upon their country the most most destructive force the world has ever known. No, we're not referring to the U.S. military - as good as they are - but rather American college students on Spring Break. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Montana) was spot on when he said, "If you want to drive the Cuban government crazy, you should let them deal with Spring Break." We figure it would only take a couple of weeks of surly attitudes, hip-hop music, alcoholic bingeing, girls gone wild on the malecon, and sperm all over the streets of Havana, before Castro would be waving the white flag as vigorously as his frail arms would permit. Viva the overindulged college student's inadvertent revolution!

"In the
May issue Cruise Notes, we wondered why no shipping company has initiated boat delivery service between Mexico and California. It turns out that one such company - Yacht Path International - is about to start. Roger Rue reports: "I'm going to have my Hylas 44 Penn Station deck-loaded at Puerto Vallarta in early June for shipment to Vancouver. The company does not make a stop in California, but it does stop in Ensenada. It will cost $12,000 to ship my 25,000 pound boat aboard the BBC Ecuador. That's less than a new suit of sails, less than a new or rebuilt engine, and about the same price as a delivery skipper. I sailed Penn Station down from Puget Sound in August-November of '01, then left her at Discovery Bay and Coronado Cays while waiting for the insurance window to open up for Mexico. I had a great trip down, but being a gentleman, I don't do bashes to weather! Hence, the arrangement with Yacht Path International."

Knowing a lot of boat owners would be interested in having their boats shipped from the Puerto Vallarta area to Ensenada in May to avoid the Baja Bash, we called Yacht Path International to inquire about the cost of a typical Puerto Vallarta to Ensenada delivery. Alas, they've discovered they can't do a trip from one Mexico port to another because Mexico has a law like the U.S. Jones Act - intended to protect U.S. shipping - that prevents it. Why not just pull into San Diego instead? Because most of the boats on the ship are coming from Florida, and that would be a violation of the Jones Act. Anyone for free trade and eliminating excessive protectionism?

Sad news out of Panama. In late April, the Oregon-based trimaran New Song, owned by John and Kim - last name unknown - broke loose from the anchorage while the couple were ashore at Punta Benao, not far from Punta Mala. So report Sven and Sherry Querner of the Sausalito-based Brewer 50 ketch Reliance. The Querners and Oregon folks had become friends while in Guatemala last year.

Speaking of boats on the beach, the Querners, who are northbound from Panama to their homeport of Sausalito, report that the Mariner 35 Freedom is still on the sand at Zihuatanejo. But perhaps not for long. The Long Beach-based ketch had gone up during a hurricane last September, and has been washed by the gentle surf at the end of the muelle ever since. Querner was told that since the boat has been on the beach for more than 120 days, she has become property of the port. Despite the fact that the grounded yacht has become one of the attractions on the guided walking tour of Zihua, the Port Captain wants Freedom out of there. But he's going to have to wait until a barge with a crane shows up to do some other work in the area. Querner believes the wood Mariner 35 can be salvaged, but we're not so sure. While her rigging, masts, roller furling, sails, and winches are still attached and look in halfway decent shape, she's got a couple of tons of sand inside, and therefore could have castastrophic hidden damage. But we're not as expert as Querner, who is one of the few amateurs who has started - much less finished - three boats. The first was a Piver Lodestar 36, which his partner eventually took to Grand Cayman Island. The second was a Peter Ibold Endurance design that he kept for 13 years before selling her in Latitude. His current flush deck Brewer steel ketch took 5.5 years of building at the Allemand Brothers Boatyard at Hunters Point in San Francisco. "Of course, building all these boats takes some skill and know-how," he says, "so it comes in handy that I was the senior engineer for the Bank of America at 555 California for 14 years, and worked in the same capacity at the TransAmerica Pyramid for another four years."

Just one question, Sven. Were you the folks with the homebuilt Ibold Endurance who got lost in the fog on the way back from Hawaii and spent the last night anchored on a lee shore at Rockaway Beach just north of Pacifica?

A couple of months ago we gave a glowing review to Patrick Bonnette and Emmanuel Deschamps' Guide to Navigation and Tourism in French Polynesia. We think it's such an excellent guide that we're praising it again in case some folks missed our first review. The lovely volume features terrific charts, chartlets, and information from two knowledgeable guys who've been in French Polynesia for a long time. As for the color photos, they make you want to grab some provisions, jump onto your boat, and set sail for the South Seas.

"After last year's Ha-Ha, we immediately continued on down to the Panama Canal, which I loved," reports Keith MacKenzie of the Vancouver-based Crowther 48 catamaran What's Up Doc? After our transit, we visited Colon - a dangerous place - on the other side of the Canal, and Colombia's Isla Providencia, a neat little island off the coast of Nicaragua. One of my favorite stops was Gunaja, another cool little island built atop a coral heap that has lots of pirate history. You have to walk to get around, and I think the island almost floods at high tide. Roatan was nice as well, after which we continued on inside Belize's barrier reef. We stopped in Mexico at Isla Mujeres/Cancun. Mujeres is a wonderful little island and place to clear in, and there are lots of real cruisers. After a great lift from the Gulfstream, we stopped at Cuba, which was pretty neat - although Castro's a mess. Then the Gulfstream helped us make our way to Key West. When you get this far north, it's important to listen to the Northwest Caribbean Net, as you don't want to get hit by a Norther. They tend to come down about once a week. I used to have a rockin' offshore charter business, but due to terrorism, the war, SARS, the weak economy, and people afraid to fly, business has been poor. Alas, I've put my cat up for sale for $299,000 in Key Largo. It was a great run while it lasted."

With the arrival of June, it's hurricane season in both the Eastern Pacific (Mexico) as well as the Atlantic-Caribbean. (Actually, both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific got tropical storms early this year; Mexico on May 21, and the Atlantic in April!) For what it's worth, there were 15 named storms off Mexico last year, eight of them hurricanes. The first one hit on May 24, while the strongest was 'Killer Kenna' with up to 155-knot winds. Fortunately, most Mexican hurricanes start offshore and head west into the open ocean. But one can't be complacent, because not all of them do. There are so many named storms off Mexico each year that nobody bothers to predict how many there will be in the upcoming season.

It's different in the Atlantic-Caribbean, as each year William Gray and his associates at Colorado State University make a big deal about releasing their annual 'hurricane forecast'. Personally, we think their model is so complicated and has so many variables that it's hard to put much faith in it. Be that as it may, they're calling for 12 named storms and eight hurricanes - three of them "intense", which means 100 knots or more. Gray predicts there is a 48% chance one will hit Florida, 12% more than normal. Chances on the Gulf Coast are 38%, about 8% over normal. No percentages were given for the Caribbean, but the experts said there was an above-average risk for a major hurricane. We'll see.

As you might expect, the popular Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally - which normally starts in Istanbul and works down the Eastern Med to Israel and Egypt - will not stop in Israel this year because of safety considerations. It started on April 29, however, and during the subsequent 54 days was to call on 19 ports in five countries - Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. The 1,670-mile course may be shortened or changed if there are more safety concerns. Most years the EMYR has had one or two American boats, most recently Hall and Wendy Palmer's Palo Alto-based Beneteau 51 Pegasus. Sponsored by Park Kemer Marina in Turkey, the EMYR has contributed to the development of marinas at Antalya, Bozyazi, Girne, and Magosa in Turkey; Lattakia in Syria, Jounieh in Lebanon; Haifa, Herzliya and Ashkelon in Israel; and Port Said in Egypt.

Capt. Lonnie Ryan, author of the just published 90-Day Yacht Club Guide To Ensenada, reports "the spirit of my book is to encourage people to put down the TV remote, buy a boat, and enjoy time with their family in Mexico - and benefit the people of Ensenada. Furthermore, folks don't have to pay $2,000 to a dummy lawyer to take offshore delivery of a boat - and therefore not be liable for California sales tax." Some Ensenada vets will be surprised to learn that someone was able to find enough subject matter on the first port south of San Diego to fill 100 pages for a guide that retails for $29.95. Indeed, there's more than a little filler. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is legislation before the California Legislature seeking to make it much more difficult for Californians to avoid paying sales tax by taking offshore delivery. The guide is available where most cruising guides are sold.

"In the April issue, you reported that the Vallarta YC on the grounds of Paradise Village has 'a swimming pool, giant hot tub, showers, locker and laundry,'" reports Bill Colgate of San Diego. "These facilities are for the use of every boat in the marina, and are not exclusive to members of the yacht club. They are part of the great deal when you stay in Paradise." Thanks for the correction. Seeing that we and our crew used these facilities several times during the Banderas Bay Regatta, we should have known better.

Just installed an SSB radio and need some practice before heading to Hawaii or Mexico later in the year? Well, try the California Marine SSB Net, which is held on Monday nights at 9 p.m. on 4149 kHz. It's run by Ha-Ha vet Ed Hoff of the Brisbane-based Sorina, who particularly welcomes beginners.

"Greetings from San Diego from the crew of the Richmond-based Ericson 39 Maverick," writes Tony Johnson on behalf of himself and Terry Shrode. "We arrived back in the USA on May 22 after 798 days and 29,524 miles. I'm sorry to have to tell all you dreamers and malcontents - among whose number the Captain maintains a proud membership - that after all the places we've been, I have to conclude that America is still the best country in the world in almost every respect - and usually by a considerable margin. I have missed it, and as a matter of fact may never leave it again. Show me another country that can produce Jerry Lee Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, and Little Richard without breaking a sweat, and still has someone left over who immediately answers your call on VHF 16 and knows what they're talking about."

We expect to have more from Johnson when he returns to the Bay Area.

Are you a Baby Boomer? If so, our recent birthday reminds us that all our biological cruising clocks are ticking. With the kids leaving or about to leave the nest, hopefully a little money set aside, and none of us getting any younger, this is the time to start living the cruising dream.

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