Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
June 2009

Missing the pictures? See the June 2009 eBook!

 With reports this month from Sanderling on being rammed near Eleuthera; from Astor on big victories at the Antigua Classic Regatta; from Christa on starting a circumnavigation; from Swell on the challenges of Teahupo'o and a troubling leak; from Capricorn Cat on a wild haul and exciting times in Guaymas; from Corazon on rigging multihulls with the stuff they use when commercial fishing in the Bering Sea; and Cruise Notes.

Sanderling — Cabo Rico 38
John Anderton
A Sudden End To Cruising?

My cruising adventure, now in its ninth year, hit a figurative brick wall at 3 a.m. on April 29 in the Bahamas. While about three miles southeast of the island of Eleuthera, my boat was struck by an unlit steel boat. After hitting my boat, the steel vessel kept right on going. I was not hurt, but the damage to my boat was extensive. For example, if you stand on the dock, you can see into the interior of the boat through an area where the caprail used to be. In addition, the headstay and staysail stay were broken, the headsail was destroyed, and the bowsprit and numerous stainless steel parts were damaged.

I'm asking that people not rag about singlehanders getting hit because they don't keep a watch all the time. For in this case, I was not only standing a proper watch, but I waved a flashlight in order to warn the steel boat of the impending collision. According to the police, the other vessel might have been used to smuggle Haitians, and by waving my flashlight I may have actually attracted the skipper of that boat. In any event, I'm sure I won't be receiving any help to pay for the repairs. For one thing, no smuggler is going to pay for hitting my boat. Second, while many singlehanders may have insurance to please the bank that holds the mortgage on our boat, the insurance is usually only good when we have "proper crew". I suspect my insurance company will say I didn't have proper crew and therefore will deny the claim.

Despite the damage to the headsail and staysail stay, the mast stayed up. This was partly because the mast is stepped on the cabin sole and partly because I was able to quickly attach a spare halyard to the bowsprit. I then safely made my way into the small marina at Davis Harbor.

At this point I don't think it would be prudent for me to use what money I have left in stocks to repair an aging boat just so this 69-year-old can spend another year or two motoring up and down the IntraCoastal Waterway. If the owner of the steel vessel were to miraculously come forward and admit to deliberately ramming my boat, this story might have a happy ending. But I'm not holding my breath. As such, I have two options. The first would be to try to get the boat to a boatyard here in the Bahamas and see if I could sell her or give her away. The second would be to try to reach Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, which is about 200 miles away. So far I've been able to stuff the torn jib into the hole and tape the heck out of it. I also used a bracket from one of the four lower shrouds to reattach the staysail stay. This means I would have the staysail and main for making the passage to Freeport.

Despite what has happened, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to enjoy the sailing and cruising lifestyle all these years. It started with an $1,800 down payment on a condo, which I sold two years later for a profit of $18,000. I used that money to buy a $110,000 boat for just $69,000 some 20 years ago. I lived aboard in Alameda for 11 years, and spent the last nine years — most of them in the Caribbean — doing what most people only dream about. What's next, I just don't know. But I'll endeavor to persevere.

— john 05/05/09

Astor — 86-ft Fife Schooner
Richard & Lani Stramen
Kicking At The Antigua Classic
(Long Beach)

The old adage 'never take a pretty boat to sea' is hogwash as far as Richard and Lani Stramen are concerned. In '70, the Chicago-born Richard closed up his car restoration shop and moved to California so he could sail year round. When Detroit stopped building convertibles in the early '70s, it provided Stramen with an opportunity, and he took advantage of it by turning hard-top Camaros, Firebirds, Eldorados, Ferraris, Mercedes and Rolls-Royces into custom convertibles. He also built prototypes for General Motors, Honda, Mitsubishi and other manufacturers. Lani, who was born in San Bernardino and became an operating room nurse, met Richard when she had him do some work on her '38 Bentley. After they were married, they sold the car. Ten years later they repurchased the classic car for their wedding anniversary, and it later won the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours several times.

Through all these years, the couple continued to sail as much as possible, starting with a humble Schock 25 and gradually moving up to a 56-ft Alden cutter. But all along Richard vowed that someday he would own a big schooner. That day came in '87, when he saw an ad for Astor. The teak-over-English oak yacht was structurally sound, and having come from the Fife board and being built by the Fife Yard in Fairlie, Scotland, she had an unquestioned pedigree. Given Richard's gift for restoration, they weren't bothered by the fact the schooner was in poor cosmetic condition. So within an hour of having stepped aboard, Richard and Lani bought the 86-year-old yacht.

Some people hate working on boats, but Richard restores them for pleasure. Despite the restoration, the Newport Beach-based Astor was one of the most actively raced and cruised yachts in Southern California. Then, after cruising up to San Francisco for 2.5 months in '97, Richard came to two major conclusions. First, the original teak deck would have to be replaced. That only took them 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for seven months. The second decision was that it was time for them to go cruising. They would start with a trip to the South Pacific, with the ultimate goal being Australia. After all, Astor had been built for Sydney physician Dr. McCormick, a friend of William Fife, and delivered to him in Australia. Richard and Lani started that cruise in June of '00 and completed it in August of '06.

The highlight was arriving in Sydney, where Astor had spent the first 40 years of her life. "We received a national greeting wherever we went," remembers Richard. "While in Sydney, we sailed with all these old Aussies who could drink just about anyone under the table. They pushed us off the dock, hoisted sails, and told endless stories about the boat — most of them at the expense of her PBO (poor bloody owner.)" To this day, Aussies have an annual Astor Party in the yacht's honor. Not only is the old gal pretty, she’s wickedly fast, too. For instance, she took line honors five times in the prestigious Sydney-Hobart Race.

The couple logged 60,000 miles during their six-year cruise of the South Pacific, and the yacht performed beautifully. Richard and Lani report she typically turned in 185-mile days, and had a best 24-hour run of 245 miles. That kind of speed is usually paid for with pain, but not in the case of Astor. "She's marvelous at sea," says Richard, "being very comfortable because she's skinny like a needle. She's a dry ride, too. Until it gets wet. Then she's very wet!"

A nearly 80-year-old boat that's covered nearly 1,000 miles of open ocean every month for six years is sure to break something besides records — but that's not been the case with Astor under the Stramens' watch. "Astor broke everything she was gonna break 50 years ago," he says. "It's brand new boats that break everything. We've only suffered two frayed fisherman's sheets." Even Astor's clothes washer and dishwasher have held up well.

After arriving back in California in August of '06, the couple worked on the boat again until December of '07, at which time they set out for Mexico, the Canal, the Caribbean, the East Coast — and eventually a grand homecoming at the Fife Yard in Scotland. It was on December 7 last year that they transited the Panama Canal. They even had some fine sailing making their way to the Easter Caribbean. "We are 90 miles from Puerto Rico," reads the log entry by Richard. "It has been a good sail so far, a 50 degree reach up from Curacao in about 15 knots of wind from the ENE. All is well, and the crew has learned that passagemaking is a lot better than coastal sailing. We did 180 miles the first day out of Curacao, often hitting nine knots. This is the best sailing we've had since California."

Last month the Stramens entered Astor in the Antigua Classic Regatta, perhaps the premiere classic regatta in the world, and she more than held her own. She was awarded not only first- place Concours honors in the Vintage Class, but also Concours honors for the entire 60-boat fleet. In so doing, she was selected over the J Class 135-footers Velsheda and Ranger, the 139-ft ketch Rebecca, and the new 59-ft ketch Marjorie. But she then proved once again that she's much more than a pretty face, taking honors in Vintage A, besting General Patton's old schooner When and If in the process.

After 22 years of ownership, there's still more glory to come. The Stramens will sail Astor to the Northeast and Maine this summer, then across the Atlantic to what's certain to be a spectacular homecoming at the Fife Yard in Scotland.

Buying Astor changed our lives," says Lani. "And so far I've just loved it."

— jan hein 04/25/09

Christa — Westsail 32
Christian Allaire
The Thorny Path
(San Francisco)

I just had another one of those fantastic days here in the tropics aboard my 34-year-old Westsail 32. It started like all the others have since I arrived here in the Virgin Islands two months ago. I awoke naturally to the rising of the sun as a rooster crowed in the morning light. I then heated some water for my customary injection of caffeine, and took a quick peek out the hatch. As usual, I felt a sense of slight relaxation when I noted that Christa hadn't moved during the night.

Not all days have been so delightful since I started my lazy circumnavigation in September of '07. For I quickly discovered that I was woefully naive regarding the 'Thorny Path' to the Caribbean, and what a mental strain it would be to bash into the teeth of the trades day after day. Had I known what I know now, I would have sailed to the Virgins via Bermuda. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Christain '98 while on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard on San Francisco Bay. I'd come across the lore of the Westsail 32 in a most curious way. While stationed at Point Judith, Rhode Island, in '91, I was a Motor Life Boat (MLB) coxswain who did a first-hand battle with the Halloween Storm of October '91 — which eventually gained fame in the book The Perfect Storm. While not directly involved in any of the rescues chronicled in Sebastian Junger’s excellent book, in real time I'd keenly followed the many problems the Coast Guard had on its hands. But I especially remember reading the situation reports regarding the Westsail 32 Satori and the plight of her crew.

Andrea Gail, and with the Queen Elizabeth 2 being struck by a 100-foot wave in the North Atlantic, the Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa struggled mightily in a seaway to try to reach Satori. As it would turn out, Satori, having been abandoned, washed up on a beach a few days later — with no significant damage! That, I thought to myself, must be one seaworthy vessel! Fast forward a few years, with my dream of sailing around the world solidified in my mind, when I was thumbing through the Classy Classifieds in the back of Latitude and — bam! — I noted that there was a Westsail 32 — same as Satori — for sale in Vallejo. Not long after that, I became the proud owner.

I spent the next nine years living aboard Christa in Alameda and Sausalito on the West Coast, at Woods Hole on Cape Cod and Newport, Rhode Island on the East Coast. During that time I learned how to sail Christa, upgraded her, and generally soaked up life aboard. I made several offshore voyages up and down the California coast, and on the East Coast gunkholed around the Cape and the jewels of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. Coupled with all the water under my keel while in the Coast Guard, including time in the Southern Ocean aboard a Polar Class icebreaker, the breaking bar of the Columbia River, and several trips to the Bering Sea, I thought I had a clue. But the ocean is no place for hubris. While I do have all kinds of valuable seamanship experience, nothing had really prepared me for the difficulty of singlehanding a 32-foot sailboat. I don’t want to overplay the difficulty, and as the younger generation would say, want to keep it real. But my experience is that cruising is nothing like the way they portray it in glossy sailing magazines. I don't think they could really capture the essence of the experience anyway, and if they could, it probably wouldn't be good for their ad sales. The intensity of something like cruising singlehanded can't be explained, it has to be experienced.

The following is a recap of my experiences to date: I departed Rhode Island, where I had spent the summer of '07 at the Newport Navy Base Marina, taking care of last minute preparations and fulfilling my remaining obligations to the Coast Guard. With a continuous eye toward the tropics, ever mindful of the hurricane season, I made my way down Long Island Sound in September. My good buddy John, whom I had been stationed with in the Coast Guard many years before, joined me for a nostalgic stop in Point Judith, where we'd been stationed together. Continuing on, with stops for terrible weather, we negotiated Hell's Gate and sailed down the East River with Manhattan to starboard. It was a truly beautiful experience made more poignant by the fact it was September 11th, and that my brother and his family lived just a stone's throw away in the East Village. The Atlantic later greeted us with a fair current and a fresh NNW breeze, and we put the Monitor windvane in charge for rounding Sandy Hook toward Atlantic City. As the wind waned, we changed to the green monster, my new cruising spinnaker. As the sun set with the spinnaker pulling us along, I was nearly moved to tears by the moment.

With the days having gotten shorter and colder, I meandered down the IntraCoastal Waterway, making 50 miles or so a day. During a two-week stop at Fort Pierce, Florida to visit family for Thanksgiving, I decided to replace the wooden bowsprit with a stainless one from Bud Taplin, the patron saint of Westsail parts. I had no real reason to think the wooden bowsprit had been weakened by rot, but there was no foolproof way to ease my worry. One call to Bud shored things up. Knowing I was heading out for a trip that would last years, he said, "Well, stainless doesn’t rot.” With that, I had a 'Visa moment'. After a week of continuous labor, I had replaced the old bowsprit. I don't have an engineering background, and replacing the bowsprit was one of those projects where I felt my limited skills would be put to the test. But as with most projects on Christa, I discovered that I had underestimated my skills, and simply suffered from a lack of confidence. While replacing the bowsprit wasn't easy, it was logical. Having now done countless boat projects, I've found this to have always been the case. So if you're a new boatowner and wonder how the fellow down the dock became so good at boat maintenance and projects, the answer is simple: trial and error — and copious amounts of boat bucks.

Having run out of room, I'm saving my story of the dangers of the herding instinct of cruisers for the next issue.

— christian 04/25/09

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
Back In The Water
(Santa Barbara)

Since arriving in the Teahupo'o area of Tahiti, my life has been a blur of waves and new friends — along with the stress of knowing the time on my visa has dwindled to almost nothing. But once again, it seems as though the universe provides the answers. After it looked as if it would be nearly impossible to find a way to stay here any longer, it turns out that Swell has come up with the solution. For after my long, hard and expensive refit, I've discovered a mysterious leak somewhere beneath the engine. Go ahead, feel free to cry for me now if you'd like. The idea of a leak is so horrible that it took me two weeks to come out of denial about it. So forget having to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to stay at this mid-Pacific paradise, for the French Polynesia government is now obligated to give the time I need to fix the leak before booting me out. Aside from that drama, I've once again fallen into the figurative hands of amazingly wonderful people. And equally amazing surf! Here's the latest:

Swell and I slowly made our way through the lagoon at Tahiti-iti, taking care to stay between the green and red markers. I knew there was a big swell on the way, so after almost a year of surfing the reefs at the passes in French Polynesia, it was soon going to be time for me to test my skills at Tahiti's most famous wave — Teahupo'o. Pronounced 'cho-po', here is how it's been described by others: "Tahiti's Teahupo'o is a hideous, deadly barrel promising a heap of trouble for even the most capable of surfers. In recent years, professional contests and high-profile tow-ins have bombarded us with images of her seemingly flawless barrels, but no other surf spot extracts a higher toll than Teahupo'o, the heaviest wave in the world."

From the zillions of photos I'd seen of Teahupo'o, a part of me wanted nothing to do with its disturbingly thick lips and ledgy take-offs . But the other part of me — the slightly insane part — told me that I couldn't just sail away without at least giving it a try. Besides, I'd heard that there was a little marina just a half-mile from the break where I could tie up Swell for free. So that's where I was headed. If it got too big for me to surf, I could at least witness the spectacle of others surfing it up close.

As I came around the point, I saw two masts in the marina. A man in a single outrigger canoe, with a surfboard across the front, guided me around the coral heads at the shallow entrance. I appeared to make him very nervous as — just a few feet from a coral heads — I ran around the boat getting docklines and fenders ready. I finally did a 180, then silently nudged Swell into the premiere Teahupo'o parking spot. A crowd of girls gathered at the end of the dock stared. I waved. They waved back. Some fishermen raised their beers. I nodded. It was Saturday afternoon in the quiet little town at the end of the road in Tahiti-iti. Swell and I had found ourselves a new home.

I hopped on my bike and pedaled around to introduce myself to the local crew. The two other sailboats in the marina looked as if they hadn't moved in decades, but the opposite side of the marina hosted a line-up of flash poti marara and other local fishing boats. A group of salty old Tahitian fishermen gathered near the ice house, seated on crates, car hoods and a rusty trolley.

"Ia ora na!" I said to them as I skidded to a halt, using my bare feet as brakes. For a moment there was silence and I began to feel unsure of myself.

"Ia ora na . . . ea ha huru?!" The biggest one asked.

"Maitai!" I replied. "e oe?"

Amused by my efforts to speak Tahitian, the conversation waterfalled into who the heck was I and was a young woman such as myself really alone? Did I want a beer? How long was I going to stay? Did I need any ice? How about some fish? I was told to be careful on the street and to lock my boat because the local kids stole stuff. As I sipped a beer, they laughingly told the story of having caught a 12-foot tiger shark two weeks before. After 20 minutes, I had eight new Tahitian 'fathers' who would watch over me and Swell. With a smile and a "Maruru! (thank you)" and "Ananahei! (see you tomorrow)", I pedaled off down the road to check out my new stomping grounds.

The thundering sound on the reef made it impossible to sleep that night. I tossed and turned, fearing the fear I knew I would feel during my first session. After all, it was Teahupo'o. The waves were so thick and the reef so punishing that it was just plain scary. So it was with some reluctance that I pulled out my sweet new J7 6'4" board and put it into Ripple, my dinghy. I waved to my new fishermen buddies as I putted off across the lagoon, talking myself through a strategy and nibbling nervously at my last Clif Bar.

When I got to the channel next to the break, I dawdled around in order to check out the wave and the dynamic of the crowd. The cloudy sky made the place seem angry and mean. But as the waves weren't that big, it actually seemed manageable. So when I spotted a few familiar faces in the break, I tied Ripple to a buoy in the channel, then paddled over to the line-up. After greeting Adam, a friend from a year before, and Fabrice, whom I'd often surfed with near the boatyard, I sat wide of the break to get comfortable with the place. "This one, Liz, GO!!" Adam finally shouted. I paddled hard, got under it, grabbed my rail, and locked into backside three-wheel drive, bracing myself for disaster. But to my surprise, I made the drop, glided just beneath the quickly peeling lip, then saw an exit and launched out the back. "Okay," I said to myself, "that wasn't so bad." And yes, I realized that I had been talking to myself quite a bit lately.

After I caught a few more waves, my fear diminished, As I paddled through the line-up during the long lulls, I exchanged greetings. Just as I was beginning to feel comfortable, Fabrice called out to me. "You have a pechu!" he shouted across about five rows of guys. "Caca nez!" Seeing that I didn't understand, he smiled as he put a finger to his nose. He knew the words for 'booger' in Tahitian and French, but not English. After wiping a long white blob of snot from my upper lip onto my hand, I burst into a slightly embarrassed laughter. No one else had bothered to tell me. From that moment on, and after many other sessions, I've learned to never let my guard down at Teahupo'o, not to the wave or anything else. Teahupo'o will find ways to humble you.

A few mornings later there was much more energy on the reef. The waves were much bigger, and I became scared again. I wanted to go out and I didn't want to go out. I saw the jet- skis buzz by for tow-ins, plus a French pro and his photo posse. I lay down on the settee and took a few deep breaths. I ate a banana. I put on some sunscreen. I laid back down. I put on my sunscreen. I laid back down again and closed my eyes. Finally I decided to get up and go out to the circus that was Teahupo'o that day. It was was big and barreling, just as I'd seen in the photos. It's beautiful, too, but I was good and scared. There was a crowd of 15 out, which wasn't bad. I watched the guys take off from way inside, boldly set a rail, then slingshot themselves through the vortex. They make it look so easy!

I paddled out and watched some more. The guys paddled around me as though I didn't exist. Raimana, the king of Tahitian watermen, stood outside the break on his stand-up paddleboard. He was completely calm as he easily stroked into a thick wave at the west bowl. I held my breath as I watched his steep drop just in front of the explosion of whitewater. I don't know why I worried, because it was obvious that it was like a Sunday stroll for him. He paddled back out and called the sets, running the line-up like an auctioneer. I waited and watched. On that day he'd brought along Keoni, a 13-year-old local charger. After catching a small wave, I paddled over to the shoulder. Raimana called Keoni into another west wave. But that time there were two waves, and since everyone else was too deep, I had the second one all to myself.

Raimana had seen me surf before at the passes, and he'd seen me waiting on that day. But I wasn't sure if he was sure that I really wanted the wave. But suddenly I did. I really did. And I wasn't scared. "Go Liz, go!" Raimana shouted. "Paddle in! Toward the reef! Goooo!" Paddling with all my strength, I just barely got under the wave. It curled up under me thick and started to bottom out. I was late, but there was no turning back, as either I'd make the wave or I'd be planted on the reef. At the critical point, my thinking ceased and my muscle memory took over. I air dropped with my rail in hand. There was water in my eyes and lots of foam, but I somehow recovered from the drop. I momentarily heard the foamball, then came rocketing out the other side. Not only had I survived a big one at Teahupo'o, I wanted more!

That was the good side of things. On the bad side, Swell was going to have to come out of the water in order for me to continue to voyage. She has some kind of delamination under that engine that's allowing water into the hull. Apparently she's not the only Cal 40 to have had this problem, as I got the following letter from a doctor in Santa Barbara:

"I had a Cal 40 for 10 years. One day I noticed water trickling down the stern boundary of the keel bilge. Even after using a mirror at the end of a broom handle, it took days to trace. Bill Lapworth, the boat's designer, sent me a profile of the molding design. When we pulled the boat out, we found the 'squish' at the aft end of the keel up near the hull. There was a large bubble in the lamination, but no evidence of it at the surface. We had to 'chew' the whole section out to rebuild it. Four owners and two TransPacs later, the problem hasn't reappeared."

My problem is not just that Swell will have to be hauled again in order to fix the problem, but it will be expensive, and I spent almost the entire voyage savings on the just-completed refit. I really hate to ask, but if there are any individuals or companies out there that might be interested in sponsoring or contributing to my adventure, I could really use the help at this time. Much appreciated contributions can be sent to: Voyage of Swell, 1021 Scott St., #305, San Diego, CA 92106.

— liz 05/02/09

Capricorn Cat — Hughes 45
Wayne Hendryx & Carol Baggerly
Wine Flu And A Broken Trailer

Two adages come to mind: 'You only get what you pay for', and, 'If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is'. When we heard that the guys at Singlar in Guaymas had built a special trailer to haul cats such as ours, and would take us out and put us back in for just $500, there was no way we were going to pass it up. Besides, their trailer had already proved that it was up to the job by hauling Guy and Deborah Bunting's immaculate Vista-based M&M 46 cat Elan.

So what was that strange noise we heard while Capricorn Cat was on the trailer and stuck 20 feet short of flat land? And why was Capt. Wayne freaking out on the trailer? Simple — because the trailer — a homebuilt Mexican special — that our cat was resting on had broken down. Luckily, we were about 20 feet out of the water at the time, and ended up listing about 15 degrees toward the stern. That meant we got plenty of blood to our brains when we slept on our cat for the next two nights. Yes, we stayed aboard our cat on the trailer because it took three days for the trailer to be fixed and Capricorn Cat to join the other boats in the yard.

Nonetheless, assuming the trailer can get us back into the water in one piece, we think we'll have gotten a pretty big bang for our buck here. While it's true that it took three days for us to be hauled out, we only paid $400 to get out and, hopefully, back in. But in less than two weeks we sanded the old bottom paint, completely rebuilt one rudder, repaired and faired four minor crunches in our topsides, did some work on the steering and exhaust systems, installed new thru-hulls for cooling the engines, installed two new Flex-o-Fold props, and had 2.5 coats of new bottom paint applied. So despite the problem with the trailer, we think we've had a very good experience here, and believe that we got a lot of value for our money.

Actually, we left much of the work to Francisco and his three assistants. As is the case with contractors the world over, in order to get a good job done the way you want it done, you must supervise every step. We did, and we were happy with the results. We and Francisco agreed on 'contract' prices up front. We would supply the bottom paint, for example, and then he and his assistants would wash, sand, tape and apply the paint. For that he charged a flat fee of $400. As always, there is more work than first meets the eye, and we agreed to pay time and materials for the extra stuff. Francisco charged $100 a day for himself, while his three helpers were $45 U.S. a day each. We feel we got our money's worth on labor. Materials, on the other hand, are really expensive down here, so if anyone is planning to bring their boat down to have work done, bring as many of the materials as you can.

As for the Singlar trailer used to haul Elan and Capricorn Cat, she'll be retired once we both get back in the water. Where else can cats with 26-ft or greater beam be hauled in Mexico? To our knowledge, the only choices are Mazatlan, where Dave Crowe's Humu-Humu, with a beam of 34 feet, hauled, and the yard at Nayarit Riviera Marina, where their huge Travel-Lift can haul boats with beams of 32 feet. If anybody knows of any other places, we cat owners would love to hear about them.

Other than the trailer problem, we have to say the Singlar yard here in Guaymas is about as good as it gets. The facility is new and clean, the prices are reasonable, and the folks are friendly. Last year at this time they had just three boats hauled out. Now they have 22, and many plan to be out of the water for three to six months.

We also have enjoyed Guaymas and the neighboring city of San Carlos, and have met many wonderful locals and fellow cruisers. But with our superfast new bottom paint, we can't wait to play with our other cat friends such as Sea Level, Escapade, Endless Summer and Profligate, all of whom, like us, are heading up to California for the summer before doing another Ha-Ha in the fall.

Sometimes our hearing is a little off, but did someone say 'wine flu'? Or maybe something about wine being a prophylactic for swine flu? Perhaps thanks in part to our wine consumption, we've yet to have an outbreak on our cat. But come to think of it, based on reports from Guaymas and San Carlos, as well as all the other cruising centers in Mexico, there haven't been any cases. Maybe the virus doesn't like to go near the water.

By and large, the cost of living in Mexico is very modest. Folks thinking about bringing their boats down next year might be interested in some of the food prices in Guaymas-San Carlos area. Mind you, Guaymas is a traditional working class town — albeit one that has produced three of Mexico's presidents — rather than a booming tourist destination. In any event, one of our favorite eats is a whole BBQ chicken, with beans, rice, onions and tortillas from Pollo Feliz. It costs 85 pesos — about $6.50 — but Wayne and I get four meals out of it! You can't eat much less expensively than that. We also like the taco vendor across the street from the marina. He gives us four big tacos, with endless sides and condiments, plus a drink, for about $3.85 U.S. Of course, sometimes we really get hungry for a big steak dinner. When that happens, we've been going to the Hotel Oeste Steak House, where for $35 U.S. we got a two huge steaks, an endless salad bar and two glasses of wine. It's either a 1.5 mile walk or a $2.50 cab ride to get to the steak house, although the last time a Guaymas cop and his wife gave us a ride.

Of course, if you really want to eat inexpensively, you buy your food at the mercados, where it's really cheap. For example, we bought 50 large, sweet grapefruit for just $3.75! Take that, Costco! And we got just under five pounds of mangos for $3.75. Match that, Whole Foods!

— carol

Corazon — Searunner 34 Tri
Jack and Joanne Molan
From Stainless To Dux
(San Carlos, Mexico)

When was the last time the sailing industry followed the lead of commercial fishing when it came to technology? Maybe never. But for multihulls at least, that might be changing.

While at Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, we crossed paths with participant Jack Molan, who has replaced all the stainless wire on his Sea Runner 34 Corazon with a synthetic fiber product called Dynex Dux. He's used the Dux to replace stainless wire for his shrouds, headstay, lifelines — even the shackles. Shackles made out of synthetic line? That's right. If you've ever been whacked on the side of a head with a big stainless steel shackle, it's easy to appreciate the safety feature of a fiber shackle.

Having previously owned a Searunner 37 trimaran and a Nor 'Sea 27 monohull, Molan is the skipper of a 125-ft fishing boat four months a year. He spends two months of the summer and two months of the winter offshore trawling for pollack in the Bering Sea. The rest of the time he lives in San Carlos, Mexico.

"I believe in Dynex Dux because we've been using it in Alaska for six years now for everything we used to use wire for," says Molan. "We don't use wire on trawlers anymore because Dux is a whole lot safer and because it lasts three times as long as the stainless steel we were using. Wire is dead."

The base product for Dynex Dux is SK-75, which is called Spectra when sold by Dow Chemical and Dyneema when sold by the other maker in Denmark. Using either of these base products, Hampadjans, a company in Iceland, heats it and stretches it, making it super stiff and eliminating almost all the creep and stretch to create an entirely new product. To give you an idea of how strong it is, 7mm of Dux — a hair over a quarter inch — has a breaking strength of 15,000 pounds. That's about twice the breaking strength of quarter inch wire. 9mm Dux has a breaking strength of 27,000 pounds. That's impressive.

One of the major benefits of Dux is the weight savings. Getting rid of weight aloft is critical for boat stability and performance, and Dux weighs one-ninth of the stainless steel wire. "When I rerigged my Searunner with Dux, she lost 40 pounds aloft," says Molan. "The total weight of all my rigging is just 15 pounds." Molan also claims that Dux costs less per foot than does stainless or PBO, the latter being another synthetic material.

To get another perspective on Dux, we spoke with Mike Leneman of MultiMarine in Marina del Rey and Scott Easom of Easom Rigging in Pt. Richmond. Both like and use the product, but only for certain applications. Easom says he's been using Dux for years for things like running backstays. While Dux is very low stretch and therefore appropriate for use for shrouds on multihulls less than 40 feet, both Leneman and Easom say it's not low enough stretch to be their first choice for shrouds on monohulls. It seems to us that the most cruiser applicable use of Dux would be as a backup shroud or stay for cruisers. It's impractical to carry stainless steel backups for all your shrouds and stays, but you can easily do it with Dux, which is super light and flexible, and can be easily adjusted to any length. It's also an interesting choice for lifelines, provided there are no burrs to snag the Dux fiber.

The Dux products — and there are a number of them — are marketed by Colligio Marine. It's owned by engineer John Fronta, who like Molan, spends much of his time in San Carlos. Both Molan and Fronta are walking the walk, having replaced all the wire and shackles on their multihulls — Fronta has the 38-ft tri Pranaja — with Dux. It's going to be interesting to see how the product performs over time on their boats.

— latitude 05/14/09

Cruise Notes:

A big Latitude salute goes out to the Arnold family — Geoff, Karen, and daughters, Claire, 16, and Alexandra, 14 — of San Jose for having completed a circumnavigation in the Marquesas on April 26 aboard their Dufour 45 ketch Fafner. They started with the Ha-Ha in late October of '06, and have since covered 34,865 miles. According to their Ha-Ha bio, Geoff's parents took him and his two siblings around the world back in '74-'76 aboard the family's 36-ft aluminum sloop Nomad. Prior to the start of the '06 Ha-Ha, Geoff told us that he and Karen wanted to circumnavigate with their daughters "while they were old enough to know what was happening, but too young to do anything about it." Mission accomplished. What's interesting about the Arnold family's circumnavigation is that after the Med, they sailed to and down the east coast of South America, to Cape Horn, then up the South Pacific to the Marquesas, where they completed their circle. When they get back to the Bay Area in July, we'll be interested to find out more about their trip around the Horn — or was it through Drake Passage? In either case, it had to be a fabulous adventure.

While checking out Fafner's website, we noticed a section on Ed Arnold, Geoff's father. Not only did Ed take the Arnold family around when Geoff was young, he did an 11-month solo circumnavigation aboard Nomad in '01. "Ed arrived safe back in Sitka, Alaska, on September 6, having completed an 11-month solo circumnavigation. He had stopped only twice: Once in South Africa to repair damage caused as a result of hitting an iceberg, and at Adelaide, Australia, to fix a broken radar." It's amazing how many 'unknown' sailors there are like Ed who have made fantastic voyages. Good on 'em!

"Here are the details of our trip from La Paz back to San Diego," write Mary Lee and Lewis Guiss of the San Diego-based Beneteau 473 Merry Lee. "While berthed at Marina de La Paz, we went to the ship's agent across the street from the marina and inquired about clearing out of the country from La Paz. The agent told us that we'd first have to go to the Health Department to make an appointment to have our boat inspected, and that it could take up to three days. And this was before the swine flu scare. Once that was done, she could process our exit papers in one day for $120. Neither the inspection or her price sounded very inviting, so we just cleared out for Cabo from La Paz. Cruiser weather forecaster Don Anderson predicted an excellent weather window for our trip. After 24 hours and 150 miles of motoring into 10 to 15-knot southerly winds in the Sea of Cortez, we stopped at Cabo for one hour to take on 25 gallons of fuel. Three days and 420 miles later, after 64 hours of motoring into 10 to 15 knot NW winds, we pulled into Turtle Bay. A panga met us at the entrance and escorted us to the anchorage near the pier, then came back with the fuel panga. We nonetheless had to plug their AC fuel pump into our inverter in order for them to be able to pump 67 gallons of very clean looking fuel into our tanks. The whole process took less than one hour. After 48 hours more of motoring 300 miles into 10 to 15 knot NW winds, we stopped at Coral Marina in Ensenada, where we took on fuel and spent the night. The slip fee was $1.80/ft/night, which is expensive, but it allowed us to buy our final 78 gallons of fuel at $2.16/gal. That price was a 32¢ discount off the normal fuel price, and was substantially less than the cost of diesel in San Diego. The marina processed our exit papers for just $45, and there was no need for a health inspection. One of our crew had an FM3 card, so he had to visit Immigration to have his document stamped and pay a small additional fee. All in all, our Bash wasn't bad at all. As we carry 110 gallons of fuel, we had the luxury of motoring 147 hours at 70% of our engine's max rpm's. The worst winds we had were 25 knots at the capes of Cabo Falso and Punta Abreojos. But in general, we had a good weather window, so we took advantage of it by driving hard and making minimal stops. Once we got to the San Diego Police Dock, we walked to the payphone and called Customs. We were told that an agent would be there in 20 minutes. He arrived two hours later. They wanted a copy of our Mexican exit papers as well as our fruit and uncooked pork products. We had fun doing the '08 Ha-Ha, so we plan on doing it again this fall."

Port officials have always been inconsistent with their interpretation and enforcement of maritime laws in Mexico, and never is it more evident than in La Paz, which is the only port we know of that requires a health certificate when clearing out for another country. The simple way to avoid this is to either stop at Cabo or Ensenada on the way home and clear for California from either of these two ports. You didn't hear it from us, but in years past some cruisers have done a domestic clearance out of La Paz for Ensenada, but then just blown by Ensenada on their way to San Diego. What happened when they got to San Diego without an international clearance from Mexico? Nothing, from what we've been told.

"Hello from the Coco-Nuts," write Greg King, Jennifer Sanders and Coco Sanders of the Long Beach-based 65-ft schooner Coco Kai. "We're currently enroute from Christmas Island to Penrhyn Atoll. We'll be making a stop at little Starbuck Island tomorrow for a day or two. I doubt if the island gets more than one cruising boat a year, but it will give us a chance to see if our lobster fishing skills have improved. You should have seen the surf at Fanning Island — an overhead left with one perfectly shaped wave after another. And no other surfers. Greg was awestruck at being out there by himself."

For the record, uninhabited Starbuck Island, about five miles by two miles, is one of the Line Islands of Kiribati. The island, now home to an estimated five million birds, was mined for phosphates in the late 1800s. The only shelter is provided by lees, as there is no natural anchorage. Indeed, in an update, the Coco-Nuts report they couldn't find a suitable place to drop the hook and had to move on without stopping.

After a long and interesting trip from Maryland to Florida to the Bahamas to the Eastern Caribbean, with lots of stops along the way, Mark and Liesbet Colleart of the Emeryville-based Tobago 35 cat Irie have now been in St. Martin for three months. "It's getting really old being in the same place for so long," Liesbet moans. "What happened to the cruising life? The only reasons we're still here are because of a friend, because two sets of parents visited, and to do some boat projects and to earn some money."

How have they been earning money in St. Martin? Liesbet has been doing some online consulting work for publishers, and Mark has been doing computer consulting for boaters in the lagoon and at Marigot and Simpson Bays. They also invented a wireless antenna solution for boats that, according to them, is user-friendly, waterproof, has the fastest chip on the market, and is apparently selling like gangbusters. But it's not yet available in the U.S. For those who may not remember, back in '05 the couple and their dogs Kali and Darwin left Emeryville aboard their Islander Freeport 36 F/Our Choice to start a much awaited cruise. But after just a day, it became obvious to them that their big dogs wouldn't be happy aboard a 36-footer on the ocean. So they turned around and sold the boat. They tried to scratch their traveling itch with a long road trip through Central America, but it just wasn't what Mark was looking for. So after returning to the States, they bought a Tobago 35 catamaran in Maryland, thinking it might be a workable solution for the dogs. And that's the way it turned out.

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the original cruising rally, continues to be enormously popular. The economy in Europe may be even worse than here in the United States; nonetheless, by the end of April, a total of 181 paid entries had been received. And mind you, the 2,500-mile Canaries to St. Lucia event doesn't even start until late in November. Fifteen of the entries to date are multihulls. So far there are six American entries: Alan Spence's Broadblue 41 catamaran Ca Canny; Hank Lim's Hallberg-Rassy 37 Further; Emmett Gantz's Swan 46 Le Reve; Craig Scott's Amel 54 Lone Star; Marjan Golobic's Bavaria 36 Spalax; and Nicholas Orem's Najad 440 Wassail. We wish we could report the homeport of each entry, but that information was not available.

Although he won't be part of the ARC, George Backhus of the Sausalito-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow reports that he and his sweetheart Merima Jaferi will be crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean this fall. If we're not mistaken, Backhus is starting his 16th year of cruising.

It's always fun to hear from Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Najad 29 Fleetwood. As many Latitude readers may remember, van Ommen did the '82 TransPac aboard his self-completed 29-footer. After keeping the boat in storage for many years, in '05 he set off to complete a circumnavigation before he turns 80. Not that he was even close to that age when he started. He made it all the way around to the Caribbean aboard his small but sturdy boat, and is planning on at least two years in Europe before tying the circumnavigation knot. Here's the latest from Jack:

"I hauled today at Green Cove Springs, Florida, after a winter of cruising in the Caribbean. I decided that after 30 years of mantaining the clear mahogany finish on my boat's hull, it was time for me to sacrifice my vanity for an opaque paint job. My boatyard neighbors are Bob and Gail of the San Diego-based Tullum III. They remember me from Simons Town, South Africa in '07, but I'm embarassed to say that I don't remember them. Am I getting amnesia? Anyway, the three of us agree that the Caribbean just can't hold a candle to the Pacific and cruising farther west of that. In fact, if the Panama Canal wasn't such a hassle for me, I'd be going back to the Pacific in a heartbeat. Fortunately, by the time I get back from Europe in '11, the Northwest Passage should be ice free, so I can return to the Pacific without having to go through the Canal. In any event, I will have to hustle to get Fleetwood's hull painted in time for the June window to the Azores and onward to France and Holland."

A few years back, Linda Ellerbee was a much respected and high profile television journalist, correspondent, and a co-anchor of NBC's News Overnight. Although still a much respected journalist based out of New York City, over the last four years she's spent a considerable amount of time in Puerto Vallarta. As Latitude readers know, we've been downplaying the effects of narco-violence on Americans in Mexico, so we thought you might be interested in Ellerbee's point of view. Here are some excerpts as they appeared in a Puerto Vallarta newspaper:

"I'm in Vallarta now. And despite what I'm getting from the U.S. media, the 24-hour news networks in particular, I feel as safe here as I do at home in New York, possibly safer. I walk the streets of my Vallarta neighborhood alone day or night. And I don't live in a gated community, or any other all-gringo neighborhood. I live in Mexico among Mexicans. I go where I want and take no more precautions than I would at home in New York, which is to say I don't wave money around, I don't act the Ugly American, I do keep my eyes open, I'm aware of my surroundings, and I try not to behave like a fool. The U.S. media tend to lump all of Mexico into one big bad bowl. Talking about drug violence in Mexico without naming a state or city where this is taking place is rather like looking at the horror of Katrina and saying, 'Damn. Did you know the U.S. is under water?' The recent rise in violence in Mexico has mostly occurred in a few states, and especially along the border. It is real, but it does not describe an entire country. It would be nice if more people in the United States actually came to this part of America — Mexico is also America, you will recall — to see for themselves what a fine place Mexico really is, and how good a vacation — or a life — here can be. So come on down and get to know your southern neighbors. I think you'll like it here. Especially the people."

We think Ellerbee expresses a sentiment shared by almost all cruisers who have spent more than a couple of weeks in Mexico.

By this time, most of you will have read the letter in this month's Letters about John and Gilly Foy of the Alameda and Banderas Bay-based Catalina 42 Destiny losing their anchor in the Sea of Cortez because of an anchor swivel failure. They nonetheless had a fabulous time in the Sea, and then stopped at Singlar Marina in Mazatlan on the way back to the boat's summer home on Banderas Bay. "Singlar's boatyard in Mazatlan is clearly the nicest boat yard we've ever hauled at, as it's got a pool, hot tub, clean restrooms and showers — to go along with the very friendly staff. Singlar hauls and powerwashes your boat, then you make arrangements with an on-site private contractor to do the actual work. The reasons we decided to haul here are the good reports from others who have done it and that the prices are lower than at the yards on Banderas Bay."

Think all of Central America has moved to the political left? It's true that Nicaragua and El Savador may have elected leftists with a liking for the caudillo-ism of Venezuela's Bolivarian Socialist President Hugo Chavez, who has steadily been increasing his dictatorial grip even as the country struggles with yet another year of 30% inflation. However, Panama just took a turn to the right. Last month Richardo Martinelli, a pro business conservative supermarket magnate, was elected president of Panama — by a landslide. What do all these elections mean to cruisers? Probably not a whole lot — unless the new guys in El Salvador and Nicaragua pick up on Chavez's practice of expropriating private property on the ground that "it's for the people", the ruse used by dictators since the beginning of time.

"The southern hemisphere summer has come to an abrupt end down here in New Zealand, where there are 10 times as many sheep as there are people," write Mike Scott and Liz Strash of the Seattle-based Cal 40 Argonaut. "That means it's time for us to get on down — up? — the road to Fiji and Vanuatu. We've had many highlights on our trip so far: making landfall at Fatu Hiva; seeing our anchor in 80 feet of water in the Tuamotus; Huahini and Taha'a in the Windward/Leewards; Suwarrow Atoll in the Northern Cooks, which is a special place among special places; both Samoas, including American Samoa for putting on the Festival of Pacific Arts in Pago Pago, and Western Samoa, because it's even prettier and the locals are just as terrific; Niuatoputapu, Tonga; Vava'u, Tonga, one of the most gorgeous groups of islands with the best cruising in the South Pacific; stopping six days in North Minerva Reef — which is in the middle of nowhere, and thus was a very surreal experience — on the way to New Zealand; and New Zealand, a country of 'can do' people. With luck and fair winds, we'll return to New Zealand next year. And we certainly don't want to forget all the cruisers and locals we've met along the way!"

Speaking of Cal 40s, if you read the May 11th SOS from Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell, you know that after a very long, expensive and arduous refit in Raiatea, she discovered a "mysterious" but persistent leak beneath the engine when she got over to Tahiti-iti. Exhausted and out of money from the refit, and assuming that the engine would have to be removed, we reported that she was open to accepting donations to help pay for the repairs. Less than a day after the posting in 'Lectronic, she reported that she was both amazed and very grateful at the response. But perhaps the most welcome response came from Stan Honey, who is not only the owner of the meticulously rebuilt San Francisco-based Cal 40 Illusion, but whose offshore and round-the-world racing experience on top racing monohulls and multihulls is almost unmatched.

"Sally's and my Cal 40 Illusion, as well as many other Cal 40s, had the same problem that Liz describes," he wrote. "But it's an easy repair and doesn't require removing the engine. When the Cal 40s were molded, it wasn't possible for the laminators to get much glass into the really skinny part of the trailing edge of the keel just below the hull and above the propeller shaft log. So some Cal 40s developed a weep there. The fix is pretty easy. It requires that the boat be hauled out, but the work can be done from the outside of the boat. The dicey glass work on the trailing edge of the keel above the shaft log has to be ground away until solid laminate is reached. Then, using West System epoxy, roving and mat, it needs to be laminated back to the original shape using plenty of roving. As I recall, it's only a two or three-day job, but since it's structural, it would be best to have a good glass person do the work. The fact that Cal 40s have solid rather than cored hulls makes the repair easier."

Folks who have cruised in France or in the French islands may have noticed some differences between the French and American behavior and customs. There may be some good explanations. According to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, the French sleep an average of 8 hours and 50 minutes a night — which is at least 50 minutes more than the average for Americans and residents of most other countries. The French also spend an average of 150 minutes a day eating, which is said to be almost double that of Americans, Canadians and Mexicans. So if you're going to be cruising to France, the French West Indies, or any of the French islands in the Pacific, keep these statistics in mind.

Maybe all that time spent sleeping and eating is the reason why French boatbuilding companies aren't very punctual when it comes to delivering boats. Off the top of our heads, we can think of four big cats ordered from French companies in the last four years, and all of them were delivered two to six months late. Marc Wilson is the skipper of the most recent of these, a Catana 52 that was built for owners who wish not to be indentified. The boat was scheduled to be completed in November so they could sail her across the Atlantic in time for the winter season in the Caribbean. The boat wasn't even close to being ready. In fact, it wasn't until late March that she was floated onto a Dockwise ship in Toulon, France, for delivery to Nanaimo, British Columbia. Wilson was also not pleased to discover she was delivered with an ordinary boom as opposed to the V-boom they had ordered, but was otherwise quite pleased. "Despite that and a normal laundry list of issues typical of any new build, she's a fine cat. And Jim Betts of Anacortes is building a new carbon boom for us. We expect to be in Seattle in June for about six weeks, and will then head north for a cruise to Canada and Alaska. Come winter, we might find ourselves in Panama looking for surf."

We want it clear that we're not dissing French boatbuilders. Boat manufacturers around the world, particularly when there are customizations, are notorious for late deliveries. Having bought their Catana 52 Escapade used, Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of Lake Tahoe didn't have to worry about a late delivery, and have been absolutely thrilled with their cat. In fact, after Sea of Cortez Sailing Week and having a fabulous time cruising the Sea of Cortez in April, they're headed off to Hawaii and maybe even British Columbia before returning to California to get ready for another Ha-Ha. Escapade spent much of the time in the Sea of Cortez with Steve May and Manjula of the Emeryville-based Corsair 41 cat Endless Summer — in fact, the two boats are on the cover of the May issue of Latitude. Manjula will fly back to California, while Steve and some friends will do a slow Baja Bash, surfing along the way. Endless Summer is also expected to do the next Ha-Ha.

Brett Phillips of Honolulu reports that the 46-ft sloop Fast Forward — formerly raced extensively on the Bay under the names Mary Jane and Ursa Major — ended up on a reef off Kahala, Oahu. Apparently the owner had anchored her to windward of the extensive reef, and then went ashore in an inflatable. This puzzled many, because she was based out of the Ala Wai, just four miles away, and nobody anchors where she did. In any event, while the skipper was gone, the boat either dragged or had an anchor or chain failure, for she was blown right onto the devastating reef. She was looking like toast in a video put up on the Honolulu Advertiser website, and the keel was later separated from the hull. "Fast Forward had been dry stored in Kona for five years after the death of the previous owner," reports Phillips. "She was purchased in about '05 and brought to the Kaneohe YC as a racing boat, and was completely gone over. She was sold again two or three years ago and basically cruised."

Missing the pictures? See the June 2009 eBook!


'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2015 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.