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June 2010

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  With reports this month from the traditional 38-ft Polynesian Manu Rere, caught in a Kelvin Wave in the Pacific; from Fleetwood's Jack van Ommen in the second part of his interview; from Pacific Star on the pros and cons of the Indonesia Rally; from Traveler on nearing the completion of a 56-country circumnavigation; from Coyote on great help from the Mexican Navy in the Caribbean; from She Wolf on the future of Club Nautico in Cartagena; and Cruise Notes.

Manu Rere — 38-ft Poly Cat
Glenn Tieman
Caught In a Kelvin Wave

After waiting weeks in Funafuti, Tuvalu, for the contrary northwesterly winds to stop, I was rewarded with several days of smooth sailing bound for Tarawa, Kiribati. Instead of the direct course northwest, I sailed north, hoping for continued easterly tradewinds that seemed less common farther west. Just when I was far enough north to make a turn to the northwest, the wind came back from that direction, so I had to beat north. In addition to the contrary winds, I also saw that I was being set by a current to the east. This was very unexpected south of the equator. Mind you, it wasn’t a weak current, but one that carried me some 50 miles per day in the wrong direction!

There has been a major El Niño event this winter. The wind just south of the equator changes from the easterly trades to westerly trades, and the current also reverses its flow to the east in what’s called a Kelvin Wave. It was bad timing for me, because I had zero chance of sailing the 50 miles per day against fickle equatorial northwesterlies, and I needed to do that just so I wasn’t losing ground! In fact, for several days I was helplessly swept directly away from Tarawa. However, I knew that the surefire way to reach Tarawa was to get far enough north to ride the rock-solid northeast trades. Fortunately, I had lots of food and water, and books to read, so I was perfectly at home. I might even have ended up visiting Baker Island, which is not far to the east.

I had some very beautiful days and nights at sea while I inched my way north. I tried to take advantage of the stormy squalls at night, but sometimes they were so fearsome that it was best to drop the main and heave-to for the night. But nothing broke. Otherwise, I tried to make the best of the one or two knots of breeze between the calms.

As it happened, the adverse current stopped at the equator, so I skipped Baker Island. A few days later, the trades filled in. As a result of making 150 miles per day instead of just 20-30, I made Tarawa in just three more days.

Twenty-one days to cover just 800 miles. I’ve been caught in a Kelvin Wave!

— glenn 05/07/10

Fleetwood — Naja 30
Jack van Ommen
You Still Don’t Know Jack!
(Gig Harbor, Wash. / The World)

[Part One of this interview appeared in the May issue of Latitude.]

38: Are there a lot of older single guys like you out cruising?

Jack: There aren’t too many Americans, but I’ve seen a lot of French, Italian and English singlehanders. The numbers have been growing because things like GPS have made it so much easier. But there should be a lot more people like me out there cruising, enjoying life, even if they have to singlehand. Some guys tell me they don’t like being by themselves, but I make more friends when I’m travelling alone. But I have an advantage in that I speak German, French, and Dutch, and am often a go-between.

And it's not like I don’t meet women. I was at a marina in the Chesapeake talking to a guy about my adventures when a lovely woman from Boston overheard my conversation. Before long, she came up to me and told me she wanted me to take her sailing! She was 24 years younger than me. I've never been interested in younger women, so I said, “Don’t you know how old I am?” But she didn’t care. I also told her I thought sex was overrated. She said she didn’t care about that either. Eventually, we started sailing to the Caribbean together, much to the chagrin of her mother, who is a year younger than me. (Laughter.) But the young woman began to have nightmares that she was going to drown at sea, so she asked if I minded sailing to St. Martin alone, and she’d fly down to meet me. I didn’t mind because I love singlehanded passages. It turns out she never did fly down, and I later got an email from her that was actually intended for another love interest. (Laughter.) But she’d sold everything she had — which admittedly wasn’t much — and at some point had really intended to join me. During the time we were together, I totally fell in love with her.

As it was, I’d met another woman before I left the Chesapeake, a very experienced sailor, who also wanted to sail to the Caribbean with me. I had put her off because I thought the younger woman was going to meet me down there. As it turned out, this older woman decided she wanted to travel with me in Vietnam this last winter. We did travel in Vietnam for a while, but I found her to be too bossy, so we parted ways. As she walked out of the place where were staying to catch the train from Hanoi to Hue, I fell into a conversation with a wonderful half-French, half-Vietnamese woman from La Rochelle. She was 61, which is more age appropriate for my 73. We ended up spending three wonderful days together. It wasn’t a sexual relationship, we just enjoyed one another’s company. But no, I don't find myself getting lonely at all.

38: A singlehander such as you can't be on watch 24 hours a day. What's been your strategy for 35,000 miles to not get rundown?

Jack: When making a passage such as from South Africa to Brazil, my goal is to get away from the coast — and the fishing boats — as quickly as possible. So I’ll leave at dawn, and for the first couple of days will get up every hour or two. Once I’m well offshore and not in a shipping lane, I’ll get up once or twice a night to take a piss. But otherwise I’ll just sleep through the night.

38: What lights do you keep on?

Jack: Before I got a LED tricolor, I would only leave my anchor light on because the regular running lights used so much electricity. But after getting super energy efficient LED navigation lights, I now leave the running lights on throughout the night. Even though I keep the navigation lights on, I think I should get a radar detector — although I haven't had much luck with them in the past.

38: What about AIS, which is way more informative and reliable than radar detectors? AIS will warn you of ships more than 50 miles away, tell you how close they’ll approach, what their names are, and much more. And AIS alarms seem to be very reliable. More than a few cruisers have told us they’d rather have AIS than radar.

Jack: Well, I won’t need one until I head for the Med about a year from now.

38: It’s one item we wouldn’t hold off buying. Have you had any close calls with other ships in the middle of the ocean?

Jack: When people ask me that question, I tell them that I may have, but how would I have known? (Laughter.) Actually, a guy drove a ferry right behind my transom one night on my way to Bali. But he did it to harass me.

I did have one collision, but it was a result of my own stupidity. I was going from Da Nang to Nha Thrang in Vietnam, and I’d sailed as far offshore as I could in one day to get clear of the very active fishing fleet. By 11 p.m., I turned to parallel the coast. There were still fishing boats around, so I decided that I’d only sleep for about an hour at a time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t using an alarm clock, and I fell into a deep sleep. All of the sudden there was a big crash. When I stumbled on deck half asleep, I found that I’d sailed into the side of a big fishing boat at anchor. I didn’t do any damage to the fishing boat, but I broke my starboard running light, bent some stanchions, and ripped my genoa. As I backed away from the fishing boat, I looked behind it and saw that there was a fairly narrow — about 250 feet wide — entrance to a bay. So if I hadn’t hit the ship, I would have sailed onto the shore. That’s what can happen when you’re sailing on a windvane as opposed to an autopilot.

38: Let's talk money. You didn’t start cruising with much, did you?

Jack: I'd been a millionaire until ‘95, which is a year after I got married for the third time. But then I had a bad loss in the wood export business. I cashed my 401(K) and sold the house to raise new capital, but things went from bad to worse. So in ‘00, I had to file for business and personal bankruptcy. I then worked on commission for four years. Some months were so bad that I was unable to pay my apartment rent on time. But through it all, I had managed to hang onto Fleetwood, which had been sitting on a trailer since I'd done the Singlehanded TransPac in the '90s.

I was single again in ‘02, when my Social Security kicked in at age 65. That gave me the money to go along with the time I had to get Fleetwood ready to go again. But when I finally set off across the Pacific from Santa Barbara, I’d spent all the money I had at the time.

38: So how have you done financially since then?

Jack: It’s now more than five years later, I’ve sailed 35,000 miles, visited 30 countries, have made three round-trip flights to the West Coast from Virginia, two flights to Amsterdam, and just did a three-month tour of Indochina. Plus, I even have some savings in the bank. So things have been going well. I want readers to know that my Christian faith has been one of the reasons for my gratitude, and also one of the reasons that I seldom feel lonely.

38: If it’s not too personal, what do you spend a year?

Jack: I’m happy to tell you, because a lot of folks should know that it doesn’t have to cost that much money to cruise. My total income is the $1,750 a month I get from Social Security. That’s a decent amount of money to live on if you cruise wisely. I try to live on $25/day or $750 a month. As such, I get to put aside about $1,000 a month for big expenses such as my recent vacation in Vietnam. But even with the vacation, I was still saving money. (Laughter.) In fact, I figure that a thrifty couple with a 32 to 36-foot boat can do what I’ve been doing on less than $50 a day.

38: We’ve often written that it’s possible for people, if they already have a boat, to cruise inexpensive places — such as Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world — at below the poverty level.

Jack: I couldn’t cruise the United States on my Social Security benefits, but it’s possible to cruise many other places. For the winter in Amsterdam, for example, I’ve only had to pay about $6 U.S. a day for a slip. There are lots of state and municipal-owned marinas in Holland that are kept inexpensive. Of course, it won’t be like that when I get to the Med.

38: When we went to the Med, we hardly ever had to pay for a slip. With a little planning, it was possible to anchor just about everywhere.

Jack: Well, I anchor whenever I can. But I have to admit that I’ve had some good luck, too. For example, I know a woman who is a retired flight attendant for United. She gave me a buddy pass to fly from Amsterdam to Seattle to Vietnam. So not only did it hardly cost me anything, but I got to fly most of the legs in First or Business Class. But I did have to fly standby. (Laughter.)

38: What kind of medical coverage do you have?

Jack: I have Medicare, which means I usually have to pay 20% of any costs. I’ve only had some minor procedures.

38: So what’s next?

Jack: In a few months I'll start making my way down to the Med, and then I’ll spend the winter in Turkey. I’ll cruise west across the Med in the summer of ‘11, and that winter will sail to the Caribbean. I plan to keep my boat in Cartagena for a year, using her as a base for traveling around South America. I know some Spanish, but after a year I should be fluent. But I’m looking forward to land travel in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. After that, I’d like to spend time cruising Central America.

38: It sounds like a healthy and mentally stimulating lifestyle to us, and a testament to the simple life in which people and experiences count for more than ‘things’. Happy voyaging!

— latitude 03/10/10

Pacific Star — Island Packet 35
Julia Shovein and Horst Wolff
Indonesia Rally

Having heard tales of bureaucratic nightmares, corruption, theft, piracy and other difficulties while cruising in Indonesia, we saw the Aussie-based Sail Indonesia Rally as a solution to those problems. Although vets of the ‘07 Ha-Ha and the ‘08 Pacific Puddle Jump, we found Sail Indonesia, which cost about $500 U.S., to be a mixed blessing.

Ultimately, the ‘09 Sail Indonesia Rally included 135 boats, and was combined with the Indonesian Sail Bunaken group, which was headed north to make a ‘sail pass’ in front of the newly-elected President of Indonesia — along with various tall ships, Indonesian naval vessels and the USS George Washington.

There was some obvious tension between the Australian and Indonesian organizers before the start, apparently having to do with the change to the usual Sail Indonesia route — one that would add 1,500 miles the course. As a result, 100 boats elected not to go north for the Bitung-Manado ‘sail pass’, but instead peeled off from the Sail Indonesia-Sail Bunaken fleet and headed west on the traditional rally route via Alor, Flores, Komodo, Lombok, Bali, Kumai and Batan.

There were many advantages to joining the Sail Indonesia Rally, the most important being that rally officials either arranged for or facilitated all the official paperwork. This included the Import Exemption Certificate and the Clearance Approval for Indonesian Territory (CAIT), aka the cruising permit.

The need for the former certificate was made clear in ‘07, when some port authorities began to enforce a Ministry of Finance regulation that stated luxury items — including foreign-flagged yachts — had to put up a refundable import duty bond equivalent to 50% of the value of the boat when she arrived in Indonesia. The alternative to posting this bond is to use an approved Indonesian body, such as Sail Indonesia, to provide a Letter of Guarantee to the government saying they will take responsibility for the yacht while she’s in Indonesia. So when you enter Indonesia, you are issued an Import Exemption Certificate, which you surrender at your exit port, where you are given a Certificate of Export document.

Upon arrival in Indonesia, there was other paperwork to be taken care of: Certificate of Pratique for the Vessel (inspection showed vessel is free from disease); Health Alert Card in duplicate; Port Health Quarantine Clearance (our body temperatures were taken onboard by masked officials alert for signs and symptoms of H1N1 virus; Declaration of Cargo; Customs Clearance Form; Master Declaration of Inspection Form; Port Clearance by Harbor Master (save yourself a huge future headache by clearing out to your departure port); Port Clearance for Vessel; and Crew List (provide your own official stamp with vessel name). Since our Indonesian social visas were only good for two months, the rally would later assist us with a less expensive renewal process, supplying us with the necessary sponsor letter.

Sail Indonesia suggested we arrive in Darwin about two weeks before the July 18 departure date. Most of us dropped the hook in Fannie Bay just in front of the Darwin Sailing Club, at which point a long, wet dinghy ride in was followed by a back-breaking haul of the dinghy up the beach. Good dinghy wheels advised!

We felt Sail Indonesia’s greatest weakness was the lack of information they gave the participants. For example, the briefing meeting in Darwin lacked basic data about conditions, routes, anchorages and ports — although the rally folks did provide written material and a CD of other participants’ experiences that was helpful. The rally organizers left out a lot of valuable practical information. For instance, we would not be able to change money at Saumlaki, our first port of call. Nor were we provided with accurate information about which Indonesian immigration offices could provide us with visa extensions. There were many examples of basic information not offered that would have saved us all a lot of bother, time, and money. As a result, the participants set up an informal VHF net to try to help each other out.

The arrival of our 135-boat fleet at Saumlaki overwhelmed the local administrative system, so it took days for all the boats to be cleared. The frustration of the participants was palpable in the sweltering heat, as once again, there was little or no information forthcoming from the organizers. It was the Theatre of the Absurd, with no director, yet the actors tried to anticipate where the play was going and what their roles were.

It was hard not to smile when a new vessel arrived, and announced their finish time to the minute, thinking this put them in some kind of line-up for the clearance process — especially after you, along with everyone else, had been patiently waiting for two days already. Thank god for watermakers and cool down showers!

The upside in Saumlaki was that there was a roomy anchorage for all the boats, and the locals gave us a wonderful welcome when we finally got to go ashore. The rally provided shuttle buses, the local police provided an escort, and the local organizers welcomed us with a wonderful night of food, dances, stories, awards, and official speeches in a beautiful hotel ballroom. Everyone bonded, had a good time — and commiserated about the disastrous aspects of the rally.

We would later meet some cruisers who entered Indonesia independently through Kupang, and who had simply hired an agent to facilitate their entry paperwork. Although they ended up paying about $250 U.S. more than we did, they reported they had no problems entering or sailing through Indonesia on their own.

Cruising guides offer advice for those wishing to enter on their own — and even do their own paperwork — as well as giving a wide variety of cruising information. We found the Southeast Asia Sailing Guide helpful, and supplemented it with the very practical and helpful 101 Anchorages within the Indonesian Archipelago. A land travel guide is a must. Lonely Planet has several titles that include Indonesia. Websites by sailors who have recently completed the journey — such as — were also an accurate and detailed source of information about everything. But keep in mind that it’s not easy to find internet access in Indonesia.

The people of Indonesia were warm and hospitable to everyone, but what a change for us Americans to receive an exceptionally warm welcome! On our first encounter with Indonesians, when the three masked quarantine health officers — in pressed, clean uniforms with shiny gold buttons and polished shoes — boarded our boat, they asked if ours was an American vessel. When we nodded, we got smiles and enthusiastic thumbs up from all three, as they called out “Barack Obama!” Everyone seems well aware that our President spent time growing up in Indonesia, and that his stepfather was Indonesian. We could not even enter a bank carrying an American passport without excited discussions — from everyone from doormen to bank officers — about Barack Obama. We also saw the president’s picture and the American flag painted on the side or back of trucks.

[More next month.]

­— julia 03/15/10

Traveler — Northwind 47
Michael Lawler
The Home Stretch
(Newport Beach)

As I write this in late April, I’m cruising up the coast of Costa Rica between Quepos and Papagayo with my 21-year-old son Brian. Having transited the Panama Canal three weeks ago, we are now on the home stretch, with just 2,400 miles to go to complete my three-year westabout circumnavigation. Barbara Burdick, my girlfriend, was with me for the first two wonderful years, but had to leave the boat in Nice, France, in order to return to Manhattan Beach to resume her teaching career. Fortunately, Nice is where Brian rejoined the boat for his third time during the circumnavigation.

We left the Balboa YC and my home port of Newport Beach in July of ‘07 as part of the TransPac, and took second in Class B. After cruising the Hawaiian Islands, we dropped down to Tahiti, where we met Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell and had her over for dinner. We very much enjoyed all of the Society Islands, then worked our way across the South Pacific to Australia. From there we continued on to East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, through the Malacca Strait to Malaysia and Thailand, then over to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

After sailing northwest to Oman, through the Somali pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden, we continued on to the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Once in the Med, we called on Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Monaco, France, Spain and Gibraltar. After cruising Morocco and the Canary Islands, we crossed the Atlantic in November of ‘09 as part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. We followed that up with four months cruising the Caribbean, including a stop in Haiti to deliver food and aid. After a visit to Cartagena, Colombia, we cruised the San Blas Islands of Panama, then did our Canal transit. To date, Traveler has called on 56 countries in six continents.

I just finished reading the March Latitude cover to cover, and was surprised at how many Latitude advertisers I’ve done business with. I’d like to say ‘thanks’ and ‘hi’ to all of them, who, in alphabetical order are: Boat/US, with whom I have worldwide towing insurance; Forespar — Hi Peter! — from whom I purchased Leisure Furl in-boom furling and a carbon fiber spinnaker pole; Gentry’s Kona Marina, who did some work on my boat when we were at Honokohau Harbor in Kona; Hotwire Enterprises — Hi John and Libby — from whom I got a Kiss Wind Generator; Mariner’s General Insurance — Hi Craig! — who sold me my cruising policy; Minney’s Marine Surplus — Hi Ernie! — from whom I bought charts, a spare spinnaker, and many other items; The Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship — Hi Brad! — where I earned my Coast Guard Captain’s license; Raiatea Carenage Services — Hi Dominic — who did some work on my boat; Sail-Rite, whose sewing machine Barbara and I used many times; Ullman Sails — Hi Dave! — who built a whole set of sails before I left; Ventura Boatyard, where I had the boat hauled for survey and to have work done; and West Marine, where I bought a ton of gear.

In the upcoming months, I plan on doing business with some other Latitude advertisers: Puesta del Sol Marina in Nicaragua, Barillas Marina in El Salvador, the Nayarit Riviera Marina in La Cruz, the El Cid Marina in Mazatlan, and the Coral Hotel and Marina in Ensenada. During our circumnavigation, I found Latitude to be both relevant and entertaining — a must-read, both for the stories and the ads. Thank you.

We’re hoping to have about 200 people for our homecoming party on July 3 at the Balboa YC in Newport Beach.

— michael 04/24/10

Coyote — Freedom 44
Fred Evans and Robin Whitley
Help From The Mexican Navy

Since the publisher of Latitude met with us and did a story on us in St. Barth in the winter of '08-'09, we've had many cruising adventures. Of course, we cruisers always do.

We left Coyote in Salinas, Puerto Rico, for that hurricane season under the capable watch of Steve Kemsley. If a hurricane approached, he would move my boat deep into the mangroves. To my thinking, it felt much safer than if Coyote had been hauled and stored on the hard in a boatyard.

When we returned for this winter season, we spent a month in Salinas — a really wonderful place — getting Coyote ready for another six months of cruising. We figured that we'd end the season with Coyote on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.

But on our first day out, I suddenly went blind in my right eye. I'd previously experienced the same thing in my left eye, the result of the savage beating I'd received during a robbery on what was supposed to be a taxi ride from the airport to a hotel in Caracas, Venezuela.

After extensive laser surgery and a short recuperation in Puerto Rico, Robin and I were off again on a series of fantastic downwind sails thru Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. We arrived in Haiti a week after the big earthquake, and that's a story in itself.

As we reported, we'd planned on sailing the south coast of Cuba, but a broken motor mount and a whole series of other minor breakages caused us to cancel that plan. The problem was that we'd been told it was impossible to get any kind of boat work done in Cuba. I still question and regret that decision, but there you go. So Jamaica's Port Antonio, an interesting and wonderful place, was our next stop.

It was in the Cayman Islands that we began to be hit by a succession of strong, cold northers. It was a new experience for us, and one we really could have done without. When one hit, we'd dash around to the other side of whatever Cayman we were at, seeking shelter. Although we draw six feet and most of the small lagoons used by dive and fish boats showed seven feet at MLW, we found that not to be the case, so they weren't really accessible to us.

We had a great two-day sail to Cozumel, Mexico, from where we planned to visit the Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan. But before we could finish our check-in, a customs official mentioned that a very strong norther was going to arrive that night — 36 hours earlier than forecast! It was not going to be possible for us to reach shelter on the mainland behind the reef at Pt. Hut, and since we hadn't finished our check-in, we couldn't leave anyway.

Since San Miguel, Cozumel, is totally open to the North, we hurried up to Puerto Abrigo and Club Nautico, accessible through a tiny opening. But when we got there, we found it was packed with fish and dive boats, as well as two Interceptor gunboats and two of their support craft. Club Nautico very graciously helped us into their TravelLift slip for the night, but warned us that we had to move in the morning so they could haul boats.

The norther struck at midnight with heavy rain and 35-45 knot winds. Coyote was soon slamming into the concrete walls of the slip. Using every line and fender we could come up with, we soon had everything secure. At about 2 a.m., two more Navy Interceptors crowded in behind us. By dawn, the wind was a solid 45 knots, the sea outside was a white froth, and some swell was making its way into the marina, causing a lot of rolling and pitching.

The marina said we had to move, creating a big problem for us because Coyote is difficult to maneuver under power in close quarters. But soon there were four men aboard to help with lines, and the navy tied a line to our stern, and with no small amount of yelling and confusion, we were soon tied up to the navy boats. The problem then was that these boats were coming and going all the time.

But not once did the boat crews treat us with anything but the greatest respect and courtesy. Before long, we were surrounded on all sides by these sleek grey fighting machines, almost as though we were in a cocoon. Yet every time a sailor wanted to cross our deck, he asked permission. And every time they had to change position, they informed us, and protected us with fenders. We felt like their pampered friends. I would name the boats and their officers and crew, but I don't know the rules and regs, and don't want to bring trouble down on them if they were breaking any. There was never any question of legal responsibility, and never hesitation about lending a hand.
As I write this, it's two days later — and the wind is still blowing and we're still in the hands of the navy. What they have done has been so way beyond the call of duty that Robin and I can only express our heartfelt thank you. The conditions are supposed to moderate tonight, so we'll be sailing on tomorrow. But Robin and I will be taking with us very fond memories of the help we received from these wonderful people. Fair winds and good vibes to all.

— fred

She Wolf — Tayana 42
Rick and Marsha Stone
Club Nautico Lives On!

I had an extended conversation with John, manager of Club Nautico in Cartagena, which is easily the most important cruiser facility between the Eastern Caribbean and Panama, and he wants everyone to know that what he describes as the "funky, friendly, family marina" is not only still in business, but will be for the foreseeable future. But there have been changes.

As in many places, there has been a struggle over waterfront property by competing interests. After Club Nautico's concession was renewed last year, the old clubhouse was demolished and the new one started — conditions of the concession being renewed. Since then, opposing forces started what the club believes to be a marginally valid action against the waterfront property, but which has nonetheless halted construction. Currently, the lawyers are slowly fighting it out, and it's expected to take a long, long time before there is any resolution.

While the process works itself out, the club is operating its business as close to normal as possible. The things that haven't been affected are the new docks, a dinghy dock, and the temporary showers and toilets. The three new cement docks, all with electricity, water and Wi-Fi, provide more berthing at the club than ever before. And the club still offers its many services. A sunshade has been erected over the new clubhouse floor, and the club is resuming the famous Sunday potlucks, as well as providing a refrigerator for beverages and a BBQ for grilling.

The free anchorage off the club is still available for use. At the height of last season, some 150 boats were anchored out. For a fee, Club Nautico continues to extend dinghy dock access, potable water service, and Wi-Fi to those in the anchorage.

— rick and marsha 04/30/10

Cruise Notes:

My Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell was finally put back into the water — leak-free!” proclaimed singlehander Liz Clark. “It ends an era I won’t soon forget — a total of 11 months out of the water since August of ‘08.”

Here’s a wild sailing story, complete with British eccentricities and a Titanic-style drama in the Antarctic. Carl Lomas and Tracey Worth, who use the titles Lord and Lady Hollinsclough, were rescued from drowning with their teenage daughters Caitlan and Morgause, by a Royal Navy protection vessel on May 7. A little more than two years before, the family had departed Ipswich, England, aboard their Oyster 55-ft Hollinsclough. After stopping at France, Spain, Brazil and Argentina, they headed east across the Southern Ocean for Cape Town. After a wonderful stop at remote South George Island, they continued on, in and around ice, for 175 miles before having to turn back because of autopilot problems. By the time they left South Georgia a second time, it was April 29 and winter was upon them, with snow on the ground, the boat, and her lines. Some 285 miles northeast of South Georgia, while sailing in rough conditions, they hit a low-lying iceberg — with no better results than the Titanic. Hollinsclough started to take on water and the engine failed, so a day later the family had no choice but to set off their EPIRB. The mayday signal was picked up by the coast guard in Cornwall, England, which alerted the Royal Navy in the Falklands. The HMS Clyde, on Falkland protection duties, raced 300 miles in two days to save the family from their yacht, which was low in the water when they arrived. Had the family needed to take to their liferaft, they almost certainly would have quickly died of exposure.

Adding a delicious Brit twist to the story is the fact that the names of Lord and Lady Hollinsclough don’t appear in the pages of Burke’s and Debrett’s peerage and baronetages. However, Carl and Tracey are known by those titles in the Derbyshire village of Chelmorton, where they lived in Primitive Hall, a converted Methodist chapel. A website describes Carl as a former motorcycle courier who was appointed a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services rendered in improving the training of courier and forklift drivers. Seriously. We think it would be more fun and appropriate if their titles were Lord and Lady Forklift, don’t you? Anyway, we’re glad their entire adventurous family were rescued without any major problems.

May might not have been the best month to do a Baja Bash from Cabo up to San Diego. “I just returned to Punta Mita after helping a friend deliver a 50-ft sportfisher from Barra de Navidad to San Diego,” reports John Foy of the Alameda/La Cruz-based Catalina 42 Destiny. “The trip took 12 days, including a five-day layover in Turtle Bay waiting out the weather with 11 other boats. Some of them had already spent five days in Bahia Santa Maria doing the same thing. During the 12-day delivery, we probably had 48 hours of decent weather, with the balance being nasty, with winds in the 25-knot range. While in Turtle Bay, Annabelle served a delicious chicken dinner to 22 hungry refugees for 60 pesos — about $5 U.S. — accompanied by 15-peso beers. I can’t vouch for this, but it’s my understanding Annabelle will build a pier and floating dock in Turtle Bay, and will become an official Pemex facility. The one thing I know for sure is that we paid less for fuel at remote Turtle Bay than we did at either Cabo or Ensenada. Go figure!”

If anyone else wants to report on their Bash, be it good or bad, we’d love to hear from you.

Of all the addictions in the world, an addiction to Kindle, the Amazon wireless reading device — now $259 — has the potential to be one of the most educational and least destructive to humans. “I was skeptical of the Kindle when my husband Greg [Dorland] of the Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade gave me one for Christmas,” says Debbie Macrorie. “But once I started using the Kindle, I realized it was phenomenal for the boat. It’s not only convenient and easy to read, but you don’t clutter the boat up with hundreds of books and magazines. One of my biggest surprises was having the New York Times electronically delivered to me each day while we were out at the remote San Blas Islands of Panama! It got to the point where Greg and I were almost fighting over who got to use it.”

When Debbie’s Kindle went missing in Cartagena, she said she had “Kindle withdrawals”. Fortunately, a friend was able to bring down a replacement. And after a phone call to Amazon, all of the publications Debbie had previously purchased were updated to her new device. Ever since, she’s been able to download newspapers, magazines, and books wherever 3G service has been available — which has been just about everywhere except for Cuba. Escapade is about to leave St. Barth — only because their insurance requires it — for Bermuda and the East Coast, so we expect the Kindle will get a good workout during that 900 miles. For in addition to being a reading device, the Kindle will also read the books to you, at whatever speed you want, and in a male for female voice. Perfect for those long night watches.

We had a Kindle for about a year, and loved it as much as Debbie does. Ours, however, was an earlier version which wasn’t set up to receive digits outside of the United States. It was possible to download publications from a computer and transfer them over, but it was a real pain. So if you’re looking to buy a used Kindle, make sure you get the international version. We downloaded about 20 books to read during our month-long research trip to the Caribbean, but foolishly fell asleep while reading it on our bunk. It bounced off the fake teak and holly cabin sole, and the screen froze in half gibberish, half crazy lines and squiggles. We tried recycling it by using it for bait for a big barracuda — they like shiny stuff — who took up residence behind ‘ti Profligate. When that was unsuccessful, we decided to give it the underwater test. We were surprised to see no change in the screen at all, so maybe it is waterproof.

How does the Kindle compare with the iPad? We don’t know. But given that it’s lighter, smaller and less expensive, we think there will still be demand for them, even though they don’t have the graphics or versatility of the iPad. One thing is for certain — 10 years from now we’re all going to be reading off electronic devices that are the offspring of Kindles and iPads. And it will not only be good for the environment, it will be good for us users, too.

Speaking of the San Blas Islands, Greg Dorland reports their funniest incident they had was when one of the Kuna Indians rowed out from his tiny islet in a dugout canoe and asked if they would charge his cell phone.

“Have you heard about the doubling of lease rates for shoreside facilities at Catalina?” wonder Jerry and Jan Tankersley. “While we are inactive members of the Blue Water Cruising Club, which has long had their facility at Big Geiger Cove just to the west of Two Harbors, our concern is for the current active membership.”

We know there have been changes taking place at Catalina. For example, both the Cal YC and the Del Rey YC no longer have leases on the Cat Harbor facilities they'd been leasing from the Santa Catalina Island Company. The latter after spending a bundle just four years ago to get connected to the sewer system. We'll try to look into the situation more for the next issue, but it's complicated by the fact that some of the places are leased from the Catalina Conservancy and some are leased from the Santa Catalina Island Company. And wonder of wonder, there might be politics involved. For example, according to one source, clubs like the Newport Harbor YC, Balboa YC and San Diego YC seem to have the Santa Catalina Island Company by the shorthairs because so many members of those clubs are USC alums, and USC owns 51% of SCI Company. Their percentage of voting shares, however, is much smaller. But fight on!

“My wife Roberta and I are here in San Carlos, Mexico, having come south with the ‘06 Ha-Ha, and yesterday got a rude shock,” reports Vic Kelley of the Sonora-based F/P 45 cat Apollo II. We went to the local bank to exchange U.S. dollars for pesos, and were told that due to a new federal law, they cannot make such exchanges. However, we were able to get pesos from the ATM. Latitude readers need to know that they need to leave their cash cruising kitty in the bank at home because they won’t be able to get pesos in exchange for them in Mexico. Do you know the reason for the new law?”

The reason for the new law is simple. Drug traffickers bring billions of U.S. dollars in drug profits back to Mexico and want to exchange them for the local currency. The Mexican government wants to make this as difficult as possible. While in Mexico a couple of months ago, we went to four banks before we were told about one bank that was allowed to exchange up to $400 U.S. dollars for pesos. But it required having a U.S. passport and filling out some paperwork. While cruisers shouldn’t bring huge sums of U.S. currency down, it's a smart idea to bring lots of ones, fives and tens.

"After the Banderas Bay regatta, we hit San Blas, La Cruz, Mazatlan and Atlata, and are now in Topolobampo," writes Ethan Smith — he's the guy holding the big pargo two pages before — of the Ya Ta Hey, New Mexico-based Ovni 36 Eyoni. The "we" includes his wife Nancy Jones and son Zada Smith. "San Blas was interesting, and we had a fantastic river trip. We also spent a day surfing the famous break at Mantanchen Bay, where Zada, 5, had his first real surfing success with a 180-yard long ride! I’d been carrying spare blades for my Kiwi prop, which needed to be replaced, so we dried Eyoni on the sandbar across from the library in the San Blas estuary. With plenty of managerial and oversight support from our friends the Temmes on the 45-ft Kauai-based cat ketch Meshach, and the Borens' on the Morro Bay-based Pearson 365 Third Day, the blade-swap came off without a hitch, and we managed to get rid of the plague of barnacles that we'd picked up in Nuevo Vallarta. And to think some of the townies and Singlar crew thought we were going to be on the sandbar for good.

“Atlata and Novolato were fun,” Smith continues, “and the bay was home to the best seafood we’ve found since the northern estero of Mag Bay. Novolato was muy autentico Mexico, if a bit subdued, and it was the only place we’ve been in Mexico where we constantly got second looks because we were gringos. Everyone we passed who spoke English wanted to chat. It’s worth noting that the entrance waypoints given in the oft-circulated instructions put together by Spindrift in ‘02 and circulated by Latitude in amended form in ‘07, are still marked by the Atlata sea buoy. But they are approximately 1/4-mile northwest of the current entrance channel. We had a local panga guide us through the entrance, as it appeared closed out from the sea buoy.

“Despite the beat to get here against a northwesterly that had not been forecast, we're glad to have come to Topo. The marina is new, Alberto the manager speaks some English, he's over-the-top helpful, and at $12/day the slip fees are very reasonable. For info, contact Alberto Arreola, Club de Yates Palmira, Topolobampo, 01 66 88 62 15 44. Topo is the perfect place to jump off for an inland trip to the Copper Canyon — the bus station for the train at Los Moches is two blocks from the marina — and it offers a terrific angle for sailing across the Sea to the Baja peninsula. Provisioning is all right at Topo, but you can get anything you want or need after a 30-minute bus ride to Los Moches. If you’re adventurous or have a shallow draft boat, the Bahia de Ohuira is ripe for exploring and underwater hunting and gathering.”

What a great grouping of names: Smith and Jones, with son Zada, on the Ovni Eyoni from Ya Ta Hey! We don't see stuff like that very often, and we love it!

“We pulled into Spanishtown in the British Virgins, and signed off my wife Jane and the boys RJ and Leo, whom I’d been cruising with for six months, and then signed on Victor and Jamie, my crew for the trip to 823-mile distant Bermuda,” reports Rodney Pimentel of the Alameda-based Leopard 47 cat Azure II. “What a pleasure it was to sail with experinced crew, as they took the initiative. The cat — our family’s other boat is a Cal 40 — handled well in the 15 to 20 knots from the northeast, sailing at 7 to 9 knots. After a fast night in 25 knots and six-foot seas — with some scary bombs going off under the bridgedeck — we managed to cover 180 miles in the first 24 hours. The second day was lighter, and we were doing eight knots in 15 knots of wind, with great boat motion over a really, really blue ocean. In the lighter winds we made 145 miles. There is normally a large high that sits between Bermuda and the Azores that provides northeast winds all the way to Bermuda. But a small high moved in over Bermuda, resulting in north winds. We made as much easting as possible to counter it. Had we not gotten GRIB files via the Ham radio, we’d have been sailing by Braille. But it got cooler — down to 79 degrees from 84. It looked as though I might have to put on a shirt after all these months. We continued to make easting to set ourselves up for a great final approach to Bermuda in northerly wind. Alas, day three turned out to be as flat as an open grill. We had to motor all night, which gave us 61 miles of easting, but only 135 miles made good. Nonetheless, we crossed the halfway point, so we opened a bottle of bubbly. But day four, what a bore! We motored most of the time, but were still able to make 140 miles despite sailing at just four to six knots for six hours. I was surprised at how well the cat, which has lots of wetted surface, sailed in the light air. That night a front passed through with driving rain and 25- to 35-knot winds. Too much wind is great if it’s from astern, but this was on the nose. Cats are great for reaching and off the wind, but aren’t very good for short tacking. Luckily we’d expected the wind on the nose, so we sailed about 80 miles past Bermuda to put some money in the bank. When the weather file said there would be only 15 knots of wind, we ended up giving back all of our 80 miles and then some. However, our strategy of making easting and then dipping below Bermuda in a pocket of no wind worked out well. Once in light wind, we motored right toward Bermuda and were soon tied up for the first of our five days in Bermuda. Our Leopard cat performed as well as I expected, and I was really happy about how well she reefed when the wind came up. It was a perfect shakedown for the longer trip to the Azores, at which point the family will be rejoining me for the rest of the way to Portugal.”

Explaining their motivations for organizing the first annual Cruisers Rally to El Salvador, Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Hawaii-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu write: “Our goal was to help cruisers get together to discover the less-traveled, unspoiled and spectacular destination of El Salvador. In addition to this, our aim was also to create awareness among Salvadorians about the cruising lifestyle. We feel that we achieved these goals and are looking forward to next year.”

By all accounts, the March 15 to May 15 Rally — headquartered at the Bahia del Sol resort — was a great success. Seventy-one boats participated, and upon arrival each was given a welcome bag full of goodies and were offered generous discounts at the hotel restaurant and marina. During the two-month Rally the hotel provided discounted buffets, weekly happy hours and a number of special celebrations.

If you're cruising south next season, you'll want to put this free, low-stress event on your calendar.

"So what is with this guy who wrote from the Sea of Cortez and said it sucks?" wonders Tom O. of Calypso, type of boat and hailing port unknown. "Maybe his GPS failed him and he is on a lake in Arizona. We spent an entire summer in the Sea of Cortez during our two-year cruise, and while it was hot as hell, it was beautiful in every way. I would do it again tomorrow. I also can't mention the fellow who thinks he has a handle on what happens in Thailand with regard to young women. Maybe he should run for a government position so he can attempt to control what everyone does here in the States — as well as around the world. Go sailing, dude, and you'll see how meaningful you are."

The fellow who wrote about how bad cruising is in the Sea of Cortez was, if we're not mistaken, trying to discourage more cruisers from going there because he likes it so much.

“Looks like we’ll be coming home from the South Pacific sooner than we thought,” wrote Mike and Cindy Miller of the Tacoma-based McIntosh 47 Airwego to one of their many friends. “For on May 7, while entering a narrow pass through the reef at Savaii, Samoa, our boat hit bottom. She was picked up by huge swells and driven farther onto the reef. Needless to say, our boat is a total loss. But thank you, Jesus, there were no injuries. We were rescued by Charisma and several Samoan men. We have free room and board at a resort here until everything is resolved. Savaii is so remote that there is no internet and the phone is terribly expensive. Even if the phone was free, the phone numbers and email addresses of all our friends are stored in our damaged computers. Bugger! We are too emotional to talk about this freak accident anyway, but we have many blessings we can share later.”

Also lost in the South Pacific last month was the British-flagged Westsail 32 Stray Dog, skippered by Brit Robert Marshall, with his Republic of Taiwan fiancee Yung-Ching Cheng as crew. Details are sketchy, but according to the Coast Guard, at 4:30 a.m. on May 12, they picked up an EPIRB signal from Stray Dog showing the distressed vessel 2,240 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands. The U.S. Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center watchstanders then issued a ‘Safety Net’ broadcast asking for any Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) system vessels in the area to assist. The crew of the container ship Mineral Noble responded immediately. Upon making contact with Stray Dog, they learned the Westsail was taking on water faster than it could be pumped out. The source of the incoming water was not identified. Arriving on the scene about 11 hours after the mayday was issued, Mineral Noble took the Stray Dog crew aboard their ship.
Sources report that Stray Dog had left Mexico for the Marquesas last spring, but had turned back after 600 miles because of what was reported as lots of little problems. The boat departed from La Cruz this spring. We’re also sorry for Marshall and Cheng’s loss.

After 33 years of writing about sailing all over the world, we just learned that we’ve been ignorant about the irregular and complicated relationship between tropical cyclones and hurricanes. It’s all because of NOAA, which has long written, “The term hurricane is used for northern hemisphere tropical cyclones east of the International Dateline to the Greenwich Meridian, and the term typhoon is used for Pacific tropical cyclones north of the equator west of the International Dateline.” It turns out that NOAA is way off base. For what the Aussies and folks of the southwest Pacific call a Category 1 Tropical Cyclone only requires 34 knots of wind, which is a full 30 knots less wind than is required to meet the minimum standard for a hurricane in our part of the world. It’s a huge difference, because 64 knots of wind has almost four times the force of 34 knots of wind. On the other hand, in the Indian Ocean, all you need for a Severe Tropical Storm or a Severe Cyclonic Storm is 48 knots of wind. When you get over 64 knots of wind, there are no fewer than five official names, depending where in the world you are: Severe Cyclonic Storm, Severe Tropical Storm, Category 2 Tropical Cyclone, Typhoon, and Category 1 hurricane. At over 120 knots, there are no less than seven officials names. Thank God we can rely on the Beaufort Scale, you might be thinking. But that’s deceiving, too. In the Beaufort Scale, categories 1 to 11 cover everything from 0 to 64 knots, a total range of 64 knots. But then there’s category 12, which covers everything from 64 knots to as hard as it can blow — which is a range of about 160 knots. Strange, isn’t it?

And to clarify another oft-confused point, no matter what these storms are called, they have to be "warm-core non-frontal synoptic-scale cyclones that originated over tropical or subtropical waters, with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center." Once formed, a tropical cyclone/hurricane/typhoon/whatever is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperatures and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere. In this they differ from extratropical cyclones, which derive their energy from horizontal temperature contrasts in the atmosphere. Whatever you call them, tropical ‘storms’ rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. We hope that you paid close attention because there will be a test on all this material at the end of Cruise Notes.

You can't keep a good young sailor down! Stefan Ries, a young German, lived aboard his Coronado 25 Ky-Mani at various locations between Cabo and P.V. since '06. For the last couple of years, he's worked at the Palladium Resort, which is right at the famous Burro's surf spot on the north shore of Banderas Bay. He kept his small liveaboard boat anchored just outside the break. Alas, last year there was a pretty good blow from the south, putting Ky-Mani on a lee shore. Her rode broke, and Ries only got there in time to ride his boat to the rocks onshore. There's a pretty good YouTube video of it.

Undeterred, Ries announced that he had a budget of $5,000 for a replacement boat. We're not sure what he paid, but he managed to buy a classic Triton 28 that he christened Mintaka. As of late April, Ries got a seven-month sabbatical from the Palladium, and headed south in search of great surf in Central America. Ries is happy with his new, larger boat. "Mintaka has a much better motion than Ky-Mani, and she feels more seaworthy and strong. And even after I added a lot of weight, she's still floating on her lines."

Typical of most budget cruisers, Ries has more time than money. As such, he's had to be patient with 24-hour runs of just 35 miles. But other runs have been much better. And then there has been the surf. "I made it on the hook at Punta Galera/Bahia Chacahua before dark, and went surfing the next morning. The break was a long right, with waves three to five feet. I also had sessions in the afternoon and at sunset. And the swell is supposed to get much bigger in a few days."

Ries plans to make it as far south as Costa Rica and Nicaragua — watch out for that summer rain and lightning — before returning to the Palladium on November 1 for the start of a new season.

Out cruising? We at Latitude and our readers would love to hear from you. Short and sweet reports with a couple of high res photos are best. Send them to . Merci!

Missing the pictures? See the June 2010 eBook!


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