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June 2012

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With reports this month from Gallivanter in Australia; from Medusa on a young woman cruising alone; an interview with Fatty Goodlander; on youthful liveaboard Alana Marie-Greenfield; from Slapdash on circumnavigating with a small cat; and Cruise Notes.

Gallivanter — Hylas 47
Capt. Kirk McGeorge
Transit of Venus
(Brisbane, Australia)

We're about halfway through our three-year grace period of not having to import Gallivanter into Australia. Cath loves being home for a change, and has renewed her star status by hosting a breakfast radio show and doing some television work on the Queensland coast. Arrrrr Boy — Stuart — has completed a full year in public school, while I've stayed busy doing deliveries up and down the east coast of Australia and around the Western Pacific.

Readers may remember that back in '95 I bought Carol Post's Islander 37 pilothouse Beche de Mer in Honolulu, then headed north to Guam in '97 before sailing all the way around to the U.S. Virgins. It was there that we bought our current boat. In any event, I've recently run into lots of old friends from the Pacific, and have made heaps of new ones. However, I'd forgotten how stinking expensive it is here in Australia! And costs have nearly doubled during my 15-year absence. But we're making ends meet while enjoying the great cruising and hospitality.
One of the highlights was sailing into Sydney in time to witness the start of the Sydney Hobart Race, the New Year's fireworks, the free Emmylou Harris and Los Lobos concerts, and topping it all off, a Jimmy Buffett concert at the Opera House. At this moment, we're anchored at Fraser Island, inside the Great Sandy Straits, and will be headed for Brisbane and the Gold Coast in a few days. So, yes, there are reasons that life is good.

But my primary reason for writing is to remind Latitude readers to keep an eye on the sky in early June, when the second half of the Transit of Venus will occur. That is when Venus passes between the sun and the earth. I believe it will be visible in the morning hours on the west coast of the Americas, and throughout the day across the Pacific.

This celestial event has only been witnessed a few times since its discovery in the 1600s, because it only occurs at 100+ year intervals. The Transit of Venus was the reason for Cook's second voyage to Tahiti in 1769, and if you were paying attention and in the right place in June of '04, you would have seen the first glimpse of it since 1882.

Why study the transit? Astronomers say dips in a star's brightness help scientists discover unknown or alien planets. Thousands of them.

I became interested in the Transit of Venus during our stay in St. Thomas while I was employed as a private skipper by a very nice California family. They owned a villa overlooking Charlotte Amalie, and there was an obelisk in their backyard that had been erected by a group of Brazilian astronomers commissioned to witness a transit there in December of 1882.
I later made a point of anchoring Gallivanter at Matavai Bay in the lee of Point Venus, Tahiti (the day before the kick-off of the 2009 Tahiti - Moorea Sailing Rendezvous) in order to walk upon the hallowed ground where Cook had anchored and set up shop to record the transit in 1770. There is a small monument there to honor the occasion — with several other noteworthy plaques relating to the Bounty and to the lighthouse built by Robert Louis Stevenson's dad in 1850.

Anyway, heads up, as the next chance won't be until 2117.

— kirk 05/15/12

Medusa — Columbia T23
Naomi Crum
Simple Small Boat Cruising
(Santa Barbara)

I've been so busy enjoying cruising in the Sea of Cortez the last five months, and more recently mainland Mexico and Central America, that I haven't had time to write. I think what makes my story unusual is not that I'm young and a woman who often sails alone, but how simply I'm cruising. Specifically, I'm cruising on a 23-ft boat that has no autopilot, no chartplotter, no radar, no fridge, no shower, no roller-furling, no washing machine or any of that other stuff. Looking around in the anchorage here in El Salvador, I don't see any other boats like mine.

But I am glad to report that I haven't had any problems because of my age or gender. Sure, men have wolf-whistled at me and all that, but I've never felt afraid or threatened, even when alone. Most men have been super surprised, and then curious, about what I'm doing, especially if they meet me when I'm cruising alone. "Tu llevas las pantalones," the Mexicans say, which means "You wear the pants." If I have male crew with me, everyone always assumes that the male is the captain. So when my crew has pointed at me and said, "Ella es la capitana," it's been pretty funny to see the looks on the faces of the officials and/or locals.
As I was unable to find anyone 1) irresponsible enough to take off with me for nine months on such a small boat, and 2) who could put up with me for more than a month, I've had lots of different crew. My dad, who stayed with me for a month, was first. I launched my boat with him in San Felipe, which is way up in the north of the Sea. As I cruised down to La Paz, I learned firsthand that the Sea is as unique as it is isolated. After my dad left, I was joined by Mikey from Colorado, and later was joined by my brother Malcolm in La Paz.

I'm not rich, so I was pleased to discover that I was able to cruise economically in the Sea. I spent an average of $300 a month. I would later discover that cruising on the mainland and down in Central America was more expensive, as in $400 to $500 a month. Why was the Sea less expensive? I had many fewer opportunities to buy cold beer, ice cream and candy.

We had a fast and fun crossing of the Sea from Muertos to Isla Isabela. Actually, our second attempt was fast and fun. Our first attempt had to be aborted in order to reattach the rudder to the transom.

Once on the mainland, we made our way south. What an amazing coastline! We enjoyed beautiful sailing and found wonderful anchorages. I personally found the mainland to be much better than the Sea in two respects. First, there was a constant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, something you appreciate when your boat doesn't have refrigeration. Second, and perhaps the better thing, was the surf. There's lots of it on the mainland, and it's often not very crowded.

Since I'm a goofy-foot, the left point break at Rio Nexpa was a favorite. So there were a couple of weeks where I would anchor at Caleta de Campos every night, but would sail to Río Nexpa every day to hit that left.

When we got to Zihua, I would take my longboard on the bus to the left point break of Saladita. While there, I met a couple of fellow surfers who helped me sail down to Oaxaca in search of more waves. Our first attempt at making it to Acapulco was foiled after a few miles by the outboard's crapping out, forcing us to sail back to shore in light air. After much disassembling and reassembling by my crew and me, we finally took the outboard to the local mechanic. He didn't have any trouble figuring out what was wrong. We were trying to run a gas outboard with diesel fuel! After sorting that out — and enjoying another dose of cold ice cream and cold beer — we took off down the coast again.

I spent almost two months in Oaxaca, and it was during this time that I discovered how nice it is to have such a simple — and therefore low-maintenance — boat. I spent so much time surfing that it was easy to put off the few maintenance jobs that did crop up until mañana. Those who have been to Mexico know, of course, that mañana doesn't mean 'tomorrow', but rather 'later if ever'.

My crew and I surfed ourselves silly till Salina Cruz, after which we had a mellow — i.e., very long and fortunately boring — crossing of the sometimes dangerous Gulf of Tehuantepec to Chiapas. We then made another jump down to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.

With all the board surfing we'd been doing, I never expected to be surfing my boat. But that's exactly what we did to enter the lagoon at Bahia del Sol. And it was fantastic! In fact, it was far more exhilarating — meaning terrifying — than surfing a board.

Of course, a little outboard does a much better job of catching waves for the boat than it does driving a boat out through the surf. That's why I'm still here, waiting for a calm day to cross the bar. Fortunately, Bahia del Sol is a cruiser haven, where I've been able to take advantage of the calm lagoon anchorage to come down with a cold, catch up on all the boat jobs, and travel to all the surf spots we sailed past during the night on our way here.

At the moment, I'm in the small surfing town of El Tunco, stoking on the waves and eating as many pupusas as I can. As much as I loved the Mexican coastline, it's exciting to be on the somewhat less frequented Central American coast, where I get to try more foreign foods and indulge in my ever-present urge to press on south to new anchorages and surf breaks.

To cover all bases with respect to crew, my friend Brad from New Zealand was along with Malcolm for the crossing to the mainland. Both left right after New Year's, so I was by myself from Chamela to Barra de Navidad. There, in the surf, I met Berenice, who helped me sail Medusa to Caleta de Campos. Since she had to return to work, Ian, another surfer, helped me sail from Caleta to Ixtapa. There I met two more surfers. Jes and Ellen, who helped me get to Chacahua, where I was again joined by Mike of Colorado. He hitched a ride with me down to Puerto Escondido, where I cruised alone to Huatulco, where Jes rejoined me for the trip to El Salvador.

My point is that I haven't had trouble meeting other travellers who were keen for an unexpected sailing experience. I've been so lucky to have met such fantastic people along the way, considering that much of the time there have been three of us on my 23-ft boat.

— naomi 05/01/12

Wild Card — Hughes 38
Fatty Goodlander
Drive by Interview
(St. Barth)

38: You and your "trophy wife" Carolyn have circumnavigated twice and are about to start a third trip around aboard . . .

Fatty: Wild Card, a 1979 Hughes 38, which is a pretty crappily built boat. We thought we had a deal on a larger boat, but the owner suddenly raised the price on us. But yes, it's been Carolyn and I around twice.

Carolyn: We've been married for . . .

Fatty: She was 16 when she first came aboard my boat, and that was to sew up my curtains. She wanted to get paid, so I said, "What about doing the bimini, too? Then what about a dodger?" And on and on. She'll get paid as soon as she's finished with all the jobs I can come up with for her.

Carolyn: [Hearty laughter.]

Fatty: We lived aboard and did a lot of sailing before we took off on the first time around, which was in '00. That was after our daughter had won a Presidential Merit Scholarship to Brandeis.

38: How is she doing?

Fatty: She got her Masters and is now studying at the University of Amsterdam.

Carolyn: She got her Masters in non-profit management. [Laughter.]

Fatty: She got the non-profit part from me. Carolyn and I started our first circumnavigation with $5,000 and returned five years later with nothing. Wild Card was more together for the second time around, and we were more together with our thrift habits. So while we started with $4,000 — which I worried might not be enough because of inflation — we came back with $47,000. Part of the reason we came back with so much money is that I could send my trophy wife out with $5, and she'd come back with a six-pack of beer, food for a month, and some good stuff from the dumpster.

Actually, while in Yap or someplace like that, Carolyn discovered a free broadband Wi-Fi connection, and through that, Kindle. I'm the creative half of our partnership and she's the practical end, so she sent all seven of my books off to be sold on Kindle. The next thing I knew, we were in Australia or somewhere, and I was having to call my bank and complain there was too much money in my account! Money that couldn't possibly belong to me. I yelled at them, not realizing it was royalties from books sold on Kindle. Since then, we haven't been able to count all the money that's poured in. [Laughter.]

Carolyn: We actually have barely any money at all.

Fatty: We're making almost as much as a fry cook at McDonald's. But as long as I keep this woman in the Chagos Archipelago, or at Beveridge Reef, or Minerva Reef — places where there are no stores — I can give her all the money she needs to buy things.

Thanks to Kindle I now sell more books in a month than I used to in a year. My latest one, Buy, Outfit and Sail, is my first 'how to' book. Previously, I'd always thought that I should just write books that only I could write. I thought Lin Pardey and Beth Leonard were doing all right in that other category. But then I read a story called How To Manage Your Haulout. I haul out all the time, so I thought it would be useful. Well, the guy explained how he'd spent $72,000 on a haulout. I couldn't figure out how it had anything to do with my life, as I've never paid a penny to anyone to do anything on any of the boats I've owned. Even the one I built from scratch. It hadn't been an article on how to manage your haulout, it had been about how to balance your checkbook — assuming that you had one fat enough to pay a yard bill like that.

So I freaked out and wrote my new book, which is basically how to sail around the world on the pennies Scotsmen throw away. And it's been much more successful than I thought. Perhaps because it's a totally radical book that's not about how to save 10% at Budget Marine, but how to sail around the world on the 10% you would have saved — while being safer than the guy in the boat next to you. Safety and economy are related, because without safety there is no economy, just suicide.

38: Perhaps you can explain how easy it is to be a writer.

Fatty: I've written four hours a day, seven days a week, for 35 years. Occasionally I'll take 15 minutes off if Carolyn is in desperate need of sex or something.

Carolyn: More like seven minutes.

Fatty: I'm corrected. [Laughter.]

38: How many magazines do you write for?

Fatty: Over the years I've written for just about all of them, but now I have exclusivity agreements, which is the only way to get your pay up. So as long my stuff never appears in Latitude, I'm golden. One of the advantages of being a writer and working for yourself is that you earn the right to work 24 hours a day and not get any overtime.

38: Tell us about your cruising budget.

Fatty: People are funny. We have some dear friends in San Francisco who have a beautiful boat, and they've constantly been telling us that they are "leaving next year." Meanwhile, they spend more for people to work on their boat than people spend actually doing a circumnavigation. They just wrote us and told us they're going to have to postpone their trip again because they can't sell their house — which would only leave them with about $15 million — and therefore can't afford to go cruising. Carolyn and I have gone around on $15,000 a year, although if you want to keep your boat in good shape, it's better if you have $24,000 a year. One year we did spend $24,000.

Carolyn: I remember. That was the year that I decided if I wanted a cup of coffee, I could just buy one.

Fatty: I still remember the time — I think we were in New Zealand — and it was really hot, and Carolyn wanted an ice cold Coke. So she just walked right into a store and bought one!

Carolyn: I didn't even think twice about it. Then I strutted around, showing it off to all of my girlfriends.

Fatty: And when she saw me, she squealed, "Sugar Daddy, Sugar Daddy!"

If you have over $25,000 a year, you can circumnavigate like a king. At least if you hang out in places like Thailand and Malaysia, and not St. Barth.

The Chagos was probably the best because I was making money from Kindle and there was nowhere to spend money. All income and no expenditures. We spent nearly five months there, and had the time of our lives, as it was a Robinson Crusoe fantasy, with no cops, no creeps, just nature and friends.

But there was just one problem. My trophy wife was losing her Italian butt and started to get a little Frenchwoman's butt. I panicked. "My God," I thought to myself, "she must have cancer." So we rushed our yacht 2,000 miles to civilization, and immediately called an ambulance. They told us to wait for them by the bakery. While waiting for ambulance Carolyn decided she might as well have a croissant or two. Before the ambulance even got there, her Italian butt was coming back. She was cured!

Carolyn: The most expensive places aren't the best places to cruise anyway. During our last trip around, we cruised the northwestern part of Thailand, almost to the border of Burma. It was the best trip, as we didn't see another yacht. If you look on the charts, you see these inlet openings that seem really small, but each one was about the size of the Chesapeake.

Fatty: We stopped at one place where they hadn't seen a sailboat in seven years, and there was an old guy there who had a lot of presence. He called over some kids, gave them some money, and they took off. When they came back a few minutes later — and this is in the middle of nowhere — they had a bottle of Chivas Regal! We had a drink with the old man.

Carolyn: And then some local ladies showed up with a bunch of food. It was wonderful. We love that part of the world. Unfortunately, there is the big pirate problem in some parts of the Indian Ocean.

38: Last spring you made the trip up Pirate Alley toward the Red Sea. Would you do it again?

Fatty: No, we would not. When we did it last year, I thought it was doable. We started off with a two-boat convoy that grew to 27 boats. And we made it. But others — specifically our friends on the Marina del Rey-based Davidson 58 Quest, and their two Seattle crew — were captured and killed. So no, we would not make that trip again. Fortunately, there are still many great and safe places to go, even in the Indian Ocean. And even if you have to cruise on a writer's budget.

— latitude/rs 04/20/12

Born Aboard
Alana Marie-Greenfield
(The World)

We're running the accompanying photo of model Alana Marie-Greenfield for her dad, Randall. "He'd rather see a photo of me in Latitude 38 than in Vogue," Alana told us with a laugh.
We would later find out that Randall attended UCSB in the late '60s when we did, and did a bit of sailing there, as did we. But it wasn't until he transferred to USC that he really got into it. By the '90s, he was the 'G' in G, D & L Yachts in Marina del Rey, which was the dealer for J/Boats, Hunter, S2 and some other lines. He and some partners also got into new yacht construction, but sort of through the back door. They bought the rights and molds to the Kaufman & Ladd-designed Skye 51, and created the Finya 51. Five of them were built.

After Alana's mother Judith gave birth, her daughter was brought back to her first home, the family's Finya 51 in Marina del Rey. Alana remembers the boat as being named Mustique like the island in the Caribbean, supposedly because her parents had fallen in love with it during a sailing trip there. We hate to shatter her pleasant memory, but Randall says the boat was actually named Mystique.

Alana turned out to be such a physical and active child that it scared her parents to have her aboard. "She was like a little monkey from the youngest age, climbing all over, as well as up the companionway," remembers Randall. "Judith and I decided that a boat wasn't a good place to raise a girl like Alana, nor was Marina del Rey a good place to raise any child." So they moved to Sacramento, which Randall says turned out to be a good choice.

Alana continued to thrive on the physical life. For one thing, her dad had always been an athlete, and thus enjoyed playing vigorously with his daughter. "She was my son," he laughs, fondly remembering tossing her from one hand to the other. Alana also followed in her mother's footsteps, studying ballet for more than 15 years. The combination resulted in a tall, striking blonde with a toned physique.

The family would later move to Florida, having sold Mystique through Ardell Yachts in Newport Beach. In a roundabout way, the boat transaction led to Randall's job of the last six years, which is selling large motor yachts for the Ardell office in Fort Lauderdale. "But my parents are both really hippies," says Alana, "who would like nothing more than to going cruising on a sailboat."

Now 23, Alana is all grown up. We met her in the patio of Le Select Bar in St. Barth, where she was in the company of photographer/artist Marco Glaviano. From the '70s until about 10 years ago, Glaviano, now 69, was 'the' photographer in the world. He was under contract to Vogue magazine, and would ultimately shoot over 500 covers for major fashion magazines. He's worked with every major fashion model in the world numerous times, and shot for many top Italian men's clothing lines and major corporations.

"I was the one who ruined St. Barth," Marco, who was dressed in layers of white, a stark counterpoint to Alana's all black, confessed to us. "This was such a lovely, quiet island until I started the world's top models here 30 years ago, causing all this," he said, waving his arms around. "But what can I say, a beautiful young women sitting in the Le Select, it's the soul of the island."

A native of Sicily who graduated with a degree in architecture, Glaviano got out of the fashion business 10 years ago, and turned to artistic photography. To a large extent this means sensitive nudes. Before you snigger, check out his work and the prices. It's not Penthouse or Playboy, and larger size nudes such as Cindy Crawford sell for as much as $20,000 in galleries around the world. Marco has also specialized in portraits of African-American blues and R&B singers. Fantastic stuff.

It was in New York's celebrated Cipriani restaurant that Glaviano tapped Alana on the shoulder and asked if she would model for him. Alana had already been doing "edgy editorial and makeup modeling" in Europe and other parts of the world. After assuring herself that Marco wasn't a creep, and having Marco meet her parents — "Randall's a really cool guy!" says Marco — she joined him for the trip to St. Barth.

We saw the results of their shoot at a local gallery. Thanks to a combination of Glaviano's sense of composition and technical skill, and Alana's fabulous form and ballet-based flexibility, the results were spectacular. Even the women in our group agreed. The only photo that had a hint of cheese was the one where Alana posed, topless, in the bumper sticker-lined ordering window of Le Select Bar late one afternoon. Nonetheless, that image was the top seller of opening night, with three 8x10 copies selling for nearly $5,000 each.

The funny thing is that both Marco and Alana say their work was very quick and easy. "Marco gives me excellent direction, often without words, so I know exactly what he wants," says Alana. "She is so good," Mario says, "that we're almost done before we start."

The qualities we like most about Alana are her confidence and poise, and that unlike most globe-girdling models who come to St. Barth, she was down-to-earth and smiled a lot. So here's to you, dad, a Father's Day present from us for raising a truly charming and accomplished daughter.

— latitude 5/20/12

Slapdash — Gemini 34
Seth Lennea and Jaime Bayntun
Big World on a Small Cat
(Vancouver, BC)

Not many people would consider cruising around the world in a 34-ft catamaran, particularly one that only carries 60 gallons of water and 36 gallons of fuel. But Seth and Jaime had two big advantages. First, they were young when they started, 29 and 28 respectively. Second, they didn't know any better. Or as they put it:

"No boat. No sailing experience. No problem. Our 'slapdash' plan to circumnavigate the globe commenced in '07 when we left Vancouver with little more than these three things. We found a little catamaran in South Carolina, and she’s been our home ever since. So far we've been successful in keeping her afloat. The superficial bumps and bruises are a product of an entertaining travel adventure story. Our comedy of errors."

As you can probably deduce, Seth and Jaime aren't your rigid, button-down types. At least not any longer. When they met in Calgary nine years ago, they agreed on some important things. First, they needed to take their traveling to a new level to see even more of the world. Second, despite their best attempts, adventure was never designed to fit into just weekends. Finally, full-time work was for people who didn't agree with the first two statements.

Their initial plan was to drive a camper to Costa Rica, which became sailing a boat to Costa Rica, to why not sail the boat all the way around the world? The poop-or-get-off -the-pot moment came in '07 when Seth was offered a once-in-10-years job opportunity, Then in January of '07, Seth had the mother of a job opportunity. It was take the job or take the plunge into cruising. "We took the plunge, starting with getting rid of our homes and all the stuff in them, and seriously searching for a boat."

It's now five years and nearly a circumnavigation later, so we hit the couple up with some questions:

Have you been in conditions where you had doubts about your cat, which you might not have had about a larger cat or monohull?

"Every time we encounter conditions we haven’t seen before, we can’t help but wonder about that. But having had our fair share of bad weather in the last five years, we never felt unsafe. As Slapdash is the only boat we've ever owned, we can't intelligently compare her to a larger cat or monohull."

Does she pound much?

"The Gemini's stability is increased because of her lower center of gravity, but that means she has a lower bridgedeck clearance and pounds more. We’ve overcome this potential obstacle by employing the age-old strategy known to all civilized sailors: We sail downwind!"

How have your passage times been compared to other boats?

"Slapdash has legs. Designer Tony Smith has a racing background, so he took a keen interest in making sure that his boats sail well. Slapdash is slippery and fast under sail. Like most cats, she doesn't power as fast as monohulls. She has a single 27-hp Westerbeke diesel that drives a steerable outdrive that comes out of the water when sailing."

What's the cat's highest speed to date?

"We hit 18.6 knots surfing down the face of a rather large wave in the Solomon Sea on our way to the Torres Strait. We haven't reset the top speed indicator on our plotter since then to prove it to doubters. That said, such a speed is not typical. But it's not uncommon for us to hit low double digits when on a beam reach in 20 knots of wind."

Is it hard to reef your cat when sailing off the wind?

"When we need to reef the main, we sail Slapdash 60 degrees off the wind, push the boom out all the way, drop the main halyard, and suck in the reef lines. Jaime would like to run the lines to the cockpit to make this even easier, but so far we’ve never had any real problems reefing."

Your cat has propane refrigeration, which isn't common in the States. How has it worked?

"Very well, as it's reduced our power consumption to the point that we can meet our power demands using only one regular-sized solar panel. This allows us to reduce our house bank storage capacity accordingly. Propane is also very efficient and allows us to meet our happy hour cocktail ice requirements. Newer propane refrigeration models have the option to switch to a DC compressor, which in our opinion would be much more useful than our current AC option. We don't spend much time in marinas, and in places where propane is hard to come by, the DC option would be useful."

Your website has a feature that allows people to donate money. Have you gotten any money?

"Yes, but it’s not been a substantial source of revenue. We added the PayPal link two years ago after receiving multiple requests from Slapdash followers. We’ve never pushed it or tried to generate any kind of ad revenue. We’ve found that people don’t mind donating for quality content in line with the cost of other sources of media typically spent on their cable TV, magazine subscriptions, newspapers, paperbacks, etc."

Are you getting another boat? If so, do we understand that she will just be the largest you can afford, monohull or multihull?

"Yes. The Slapdash is for sale, and we’re having serious second thoughts about the impending return to terra firma. We’re still working on a method of enjoying this incredible lifestyle of adventurous travel on somebody else’s dime though. We’re tired of spending our own money, and believe that there must be a way to avoid land life without completely depleting our savings. Such as running someone else's boat.

If you get another boat, where would you head next?

"Somewhere within 25 degrees of the equator."

— latitude 05/04/12

Cruise Notes:

There was a narco gang execution in La Paz on Mother's Day, which in Mexico is on May 10. Michael and Tiki Kehir of the Moss Landing-based Yorktown 35 Merilon report they had gone to Bismarcito's on the malécon to get some fish tacos, but the place was packed with Mexican families, so they returned twice before opting for another nearby eatery. Ten minutes after they'd left Bismarcito's, 10 shots were fired. According to a carpenter who had done work on their boat, three men had come into the restaurant right where the Kehirs had been standing, and one fired a single shot into the air. All the patrons ducked except for one man who tried to flee. He was tackled and held down by the gunman's two associates. The gunman then fired nine bullets into his head — in front of his mother, wife and daughter. According to the papers the next day, the victim was a nephew of Joaquin 'Shorty' Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, widely considered to be the biggest and most powerful drug gang in the world. Nobody else was hurt.

This incident follows the April 27 murder of well-known Canadian drug smuggler Tom Gisby, who was executed in a precise attack — one bullet to the head, one to the heart — at the Starbucks coffee shop just 100 or so yards from Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. Gisby had been the target of several attempts on his life in Canada and Mexico, following the assassination of some drug rivals at luxury hotels in Vancouver. According to Canadian authorities, Gisby was the sixth Canadian drug figure to be gunned down in Mexico in the last couple of years.

As we understand it, the current narco situation in Mexico is that two major forces, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas Cartel, the latter taken over by former Mexican Army commandos, are ruthlessly battling it out for dominance. While the Zetas aren't as big as the Sinaloa Cartel, the U.S. considers them more sophisticated and dangerous. While no tourists were targeted or hit in the incidents at Nuevo Vallarta and La Paz, it's nonetheless disturbing that the violence occurred in tourist areas that had previously been immune to such violence. We're told that life has quickly returned to normal in both places, but if there are additional incidents in these popular tourist areas, it would not be good for Mexico or its critical tourism industry. Personally speaking, we're still OK with the situation in Mexico, particularly in the cruiser areas. After all, statistically it's no worse than many places in the U.S. Regardless, we're keeping a close eye on the situation, and will keep you apprised of any further incidents.

Mexico will elect a new president in July, who will take office later in the year. Many hope that his/her approach to the narco gangs — even if it's semi-cooperation — will reduce the violence. While it seems as if there is no reason to expect a drop in narco violence in Mexico, based on what's happened in Los Angeles and much of the rest of the United States, you never can tell. In '93, the homicide rate in the City of Angels was a staggering 30.5 per 100,000. Now — with economic and other conditions certainly no better — the murder rate has plummeted to just 5.5 per 100,000, or about one-sixth of what it used to be. Indeed, across the United States the murder rate has dropped by nearly half since the early '90s. Nobody seems to know why, but let's hope the same thing happens in Mexico.

To keep things in perspective, here are some interesting facts from the Baja Insider: In 2010, more than two-thirds of the cities in the United States had higher murder rates than Tijuana, which had the highest murder rate in Baja. Indeed, New Orleans, Baltimore, Detroit and Washington, DC, all had murder rates that were at least double that of Tijuana. In 2010, the murder rate in all of Mexico was 13.2 per 100,000. If you deduct direct combatants in the drug wars, it was 5.8 per 100,000 — or about the same as the United States. Compare that with Honduras, which has a murder rate of 72.3 murders per 100,000, and El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, each of which had more than 60 murders per 100,000. In other words, the murder rate in Mexico, even when you include victims of the drug war, is but a small fraction of that in Central American countries. How many of you were aware of that? Anyway, we'll try to provide you with the best factual information we can, and let you decide what to make of it.

June 1 was the start of hurricane season in Mexico, so cruisers have been making plans to either be prepared to hunker down, or head north or south. The guy with the coolest plan we've heard so far is Ed Skeels of Alameda, who will be making the second trip in two years back to San Francisco Bay with the "cheaply built O'Day 26" Dos Gatos that he beefed up and rebuilt. "I’m leaving La Paz for San Francisco, but will be sailing — not motoring — offshore. Depending on the weather, I expect my first landfall to be either Hilo or San Francisco."

We love your style, Ed! When you get back, we'd like to debrief you — and lay some Latitude swag on you.

Speaking of tropical storms, Mexico had three between May 14 and May 22, which is a lot so early in the season. And one of them, Bud, was expected to reach minimum hurricane force. But all started way down south by the border with Guatemala and weren't expected to cause any damage ashore. The East Coast saw tropical storm Alberto form on May 19, which is really early in the season for that area. It was not only a mild one, but it first headed west, then did a 180 to head northeast several hundred miles offshore on its way to oblivion.

Where are we taking the Olson 30 La Gamelle for hurricane season in the Caribbean? To St. Kitts Marine Works, just 28 miles from St. Barth. It's the ultimate in bare-bones boatyards, as they just haul your boat out and put the keel in a tire-lined hole. You want sandpaper, paint, masking tape, or fasteners? You better bring them with you, because this yard is for storage only. It's $8/ft/month.

"I arrived in Tonga yesterday aboard the Beneteau 50 Irene with my daughter Rachael and her boyfriend Jeremy Porter, and we're all glad to be off the boat," writes Caren Edwards of the Peninsula. "We knew this was going to be a delivery, but perhaps we didn't realize how different it would be from 10 years ago when my family and I spent five years leisurely cruising the South Pacific aboard our Marquesas 53 catamaran Rhapsodie. You know it's a delivery when you go through French Polynesia and don't even stop as you pass Moorea, Bora Bora and other famous spots. At least we all got some good sea time in. But I have some bad news about Tonga and the Cooks for cruisers who will be coming through soon, as it feels as if just about everyone is on the take.

"Palmerston Island is an absolutely beautiful island in the Cooks," continues Edwards, "and for many years had a welcoming tradition toward yachts. We brought pictures from our visit 10 years before, and the locals remembered our family, and Rachael renewed old friendships. Rachael had made a best friend at Palmerston when she was 9 years old, and the Island family begged her to stay with them for a year. She cried when we told her 'no', she would have to come with us. Her friend is now 23 also — and has four children!

"Anyway," Edwards continues, "Palmerston is no longer the deal it was 10 years ago when we stayed a week. By the new policy, you must pay $130 U.S., and you can only stay for three days! We had to pay that same amount even though we only stayed 10 hours, and just because I wanted a little shore time for my birthday. During our last visit, Palmerston had a yacht club and a place for cruisers to hang out. This is now closed "because it was too close to the church." Our Kiwi skipper was furious with the charges, since the Cook Islands is subsidized by New Zealand taxes. The bottom line is that it will likely be costly to stop at any of the Cook Islands, however briefly. So be sure it's worth the time you intend to spend, and ask if there is a time limit before you go ashore, because once ashore, you have to pay. No wonder they try to get you to come ashore before they tell you what the fee is. In fact, they even quoted us one price at our boat, then a higher once ashore.

"As for Tonga," Edwards continues, "they now charge $130 U.S. per person if anyone gets off the boat to fly out of the country. There may be some 'on the take' action on this, as there was a catamaran rally when we were there, and the crews of those boats could leave without having to pay anything. But there is good news, too. We all want to give thanks to Latitude's Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin, and especially Maryline Gautherot, the yacht agent in Papeete whom Andy arranged to work with Puddle Jumpers. They made our entry into French Polynesia a breeze. What a difference, given all the paperwork hassles and bonds the French throw at other cruisers! Maryline was worth every penny."

We're also hearing reports that boats leaving the Galapagos are being charged wildly differing amounts of money — sometimes including a "lighthouse fee" — to get the zarpe necessary to leave the country.

"We’re sneaking out of town on the ebb May 29 bound for Tonga," reports Harley Earl of the Tiburon-based Deerfoot 62 Kailani. "Tom Prior, Kailani’s first mate, and three crew will join me on the 4,600-mile passage that we expect will take about 25 days. My wife Jennifer and daughter Sophia will fly down in June, and the family will cruise the islands until we depart with another crew for New Zealand in late October. We are in the final throes of preparation and provisioning at the Sausalito Fish Dock, which means long days and nights. But we've done this before, and know that the key is to set the date to leave, and whatever gets done is done, and whatever doesn't get done — well, it will have to wait."

When Harley says he's "done this before", he's referring to the fact that he and Jennifer did a circumnavigation in '04-'06 with their Hans Christian 41 Manu Kai, and more recently, after purchasing Kailani — in Marmaris, Turkey, of all places — delivered her 9,000 miles back to Northern California.

"Last night there was a happy-hour gathering of cruisers on the beach at Isla Coronado, just off Loreto in the Sea of Cortez," report Marlene and Roy Verdery of the Sausalito-based Manta 42 Damiana. "Several people asked how long we'd been cruising in the Sea, realizing that they hadn't seen Damiana before. We mentioned that we'd been on the '04 Baja Ha-Ha, and stayed in Mexico until '07 aboard our Pearson 36 Jellybean. And that we'd then gone to Florida to buy Damiana, hoping to be back in Mexico long before the five years that it took us. A few people came up to say they remembered us from Jellybean, and the folks on Stella Blue said that they'd been on the '04 Ha-Ha, too. They introduced themselves as Lori and Wally, and said they had been on Wild Rose. When I mentioned that Roy, and our friend and crew, George, also a physician, went up to Wild Rose at Cedros to take care of their crewmember who had fallen ill, it was like old home week. After much catching up, they told us that Phil Hendrix, their friend who had taken ill, been transported to Turtle Bay, then airlifted back to California, is doing well — and still sailing in the Delta. Another couple that we re-connected with are Gordon and Vlasta Hanson on Far Country, vets of the '05 Ha-Ha whom we met in Barra in '06. It's a small cruising world."

One of the main reasons we love St. Barth is that the island is a powerful magnet for all types of great sailing yachts, from the latest and greatest, such as the 218-ft Dykstra/R/P/Baltic Hetairos II, to historic ones such as the 50-ft Manuel Campos-designed Gaucho. For those not familiar with Gaucho, she was commissioned by Ernesto Uriburu, an Argentine diplomat stationed at the embassy in Washington, DC, during World War II. It's hard to believe that anybody was dreaming about building a cruising boat in '42, which we'll remind younger folks was at some of the darkest hours of World War II. Nonetheless, Uriburu's ketch was launched from the Parodi Boatyard in Tigre, Argentina, in '43. The diplomat's first voyage started in '46, when he sailed across the Atlantic in order to retrace Columbus' Voyage of Discovery from Spain to San Salvador. Uriburu would eventually sail Gaucho a total of 67,000 miles, including across the Atlantic again to the Suez Canal and then back across the Med and Atlantic yet again to New York. The Cruising Club of America awarded Uriburu their coveted Blue Water Medal in '47 for his exploits. For the last 23 years, Gaucho has been owned and lived aboard by John and Roni Everton of Deltaville, Virginia. This winter they sailed south to St. Barth for the fourth and perhaps final time. The explanation is that they want to downsize, and are hoping to sell the ketch to an Argentine sailor with a sense of history and national pride. We didn't give Gaucho a close inspection, but from 150 feet it appeared as though the Evertons have taken excellent care of her. A short time later, she won her class at the Antigua Classic Regatta.

Santa Cruz Harbormaster Chuck Izenstark tells Latitude that the tsunami that originated in Japan is still having repercussions in Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, and will through about October of '13. The problem is that every dock in the South Harbor — there are 13 of them, each with 20 to 30 slips — is having to be rebuilt. It's a huge project, requiring boats to be moved around a lot. So while Santa Cruz Harbor likes to be as accommodating as possible to transient boats, until the construction is done, stays are going to have to be limited to one night. Naturally exceptions will be made if your mast fell down or it's blowing 100 knots out in Monterey Bay, but you get the idea. The nearest alternatives are anchoring off the Wharf or at the nearby Capitola anchorage. If you want a berth, 14-mile distant Moss Landing, which has picked up a lot of business, will be able to accommodate you. If you're looking for a more cosmopolitan facility, 22-mile distant Monterey Yacht Harbor usually has open slips and always has room in the anchorage.

Scott Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House reports that he completed the crossing of the Pacific Ocean to Australia last October that he and his wife Cindy had begun four years before. Tragically, Cindy, a victim of depression, wasn't there in person to complete the trip. "But she was here in spirit and always will be," Scott wrote. When Beach House left New Caledonia for Oz last October, it was unusual in that she just happened to be in company with four other catamarans.One of them was the San Rafael-based Venezia 42 Dream Caper, owned by Steve Stecher and Portia Ignarashi. The couple left San Francisco Bay nine years ago, did Mexico for two years, spent a year in Central America and the Pacific side of the Panama, then transited the Canal to spend two years in Panama's beautiful San Blas Islands. In '08 they re-transited the Canal and sailed down to Ecuador. Since then, they've sailed to the Galapagos, and all the way across the Pacific to Australia. At last word, they were sailing up the Queensland Coast, enjoying some magnificent diving.

When Stolntiz arrived in Oz, Scott put Beach House on the hard for the five months of the Austral cyclone season, and flew back to California. He's now returned to Oz, where he and crew Nicola Woodrow have ambitious plans for the upcoming year. They include the 2,500 miles north and west to Darwin, the Sail Indonesia Rally to Bali, then crossing the Indian Ocean to the Chagos, Madagascar, and South Africa. Ten thousand miles in all.

Speaking of New Caledonia, as we did a couple of paragraphs ago, the first ever New Caledonia Great Lagoon Regatta was to have taken place May 25 to 28. We haven't gotten a report yet, but the lagoon is the largest coral reef lagoon in the world, and the scenery is stunning. The event is too early in the season for most Puddle Jumpers, so it will no doubt mainly appeal to Aussies, Kiwis, and North American cruisers who are already back in the South Pacific for a second season.

With his only goal being to complete his circumnavigation before age 80 — something he easily could have done long ago with his Gig Harbor-based Naja 30 Fleetwood — Jack van Ommen still has years and options before him. For the last two years, he was hoping to make it across the Atlantic to Cartagena, from where he would begin his explorations of South America. But the lure of Western and then Eastern Europe proved too strong. After a trailblazing sailboat journey from Amsterdam to Istanbul via various canals, the Danube River and the Black Sea, van Ommen arrived in Istanbul fully expecting to cross to South America this coming winter. But no, there will be yet another delay.

"I now plan to spend another winter in Amsterdam," he writes. "I'll most likely get there by way of the Rhone, Moselle and Rhine rivers. Although if I make good progress from Crete, where I am now, I might go back to Holland via the Atlantic and the English Channel. And there are still a few places on the North Sea and the Baltic I'd like to visit in the summer of '13 before I head back for the Americas."

We've said it before: when it comes to great cruising adventures carried out by senior citizens on small boats with tiny budgets, Jack van Ommen is right up there with the best of them.
One of our favorite quips comes from boxer/human train wreck Mike Tyson, who once said, "Everybody has a plan [meaning a strategy to beat him in the ring], until they get hit in the mouth." And in his prime, Tyson could hit people in the mouth harder than anyone. Anyway, the 'theory is one thing and reality another' came to mind when we got the following email from the Doolittle family — Ben, Molly, Mickey and J.P. — of the Sacramento-based Catalina 38 Knee Deep:

"We've had an awesome winter of cruising, starting with the Baja Ha-Ha and most recently surfing across the bar to get to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. But as it's getting really frigging hot here in El Salvador, and the many lightning storms are not fun, we've decided to take a break from cruising this summer and return to our boat in the fall. Our plan is to float between San Mateo, Petaluma and Sacramento, and we will probably both couch surf and use Molly's dad's RV. We have a few options when it comes to work, but if anyone has opportunities in sales, sailing, construction, teaching/training, marketing, waiting tables/bartending/cooking, housesitting — you name it; we're for hire."

A lot of cruisers assume they can take the heat of places such as the Sea of Cortez, and the heat, rain and lightning of a coastal Central America summer — until they actually experience it. Not everyone can. And if you can't, what's the big deal? The reality is that after six or eight months of cruising, taking a break, either in the 'eternal spring' weather conditions of inland Mexico or Costa Rica, or back home in the States with family and friends, is not a bad idea at all. It not only puts variety in your life, but will soon have you lusting to get back aboard.

Over the spring we became pretty good friends with fellow St. Barth anchor-out Doogie Knox, an Aussie who lives aboard his small catamaran Tortilla Flat. A terrific sailor, Doogie had good rides for all the big races, and was therefore called on to help deliver the great 143-ft Mari-Cha III from the Caribbean to Valencia, Spain. Northern California sailors may remember Mari-Cha III from the '02 Pacific Cup race to Hawaii. Anyway, the big yacht made it to Gibraltar in 14 days and Valencia in 14 days. Smokin! But then Mari-Cha III — to our eye one of the most beautiful yachts ever — is a speedster. In '05 she crushed the 100-year-old transatlantic record by nearly 20%. During the delivery, Doogie says the ketch hit a top speed of 24 knots, but regularly hit 20 knots with ease. That's cruisin'!

Missing the pictures? See the June 2012 eBook!


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