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June 2016

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With reports this month on Pied-a-Mer III on the East Coast of Australia; from
En Pointe on the Sabang Marine Festival in Indonesia; from Iolani on wintering in Hawaii; from Migration on a never-ending refit in Thailand; from Moonshadow on a 16.5-day Puddle Jump; and Cruise Notes.

Pied-a-Mer III — Seawind 1160
Eric and Pam Sellix
Enjoying Oz
(Clatskanie, Oregon)

Even though Eric and I were in our late 60s before doing our first Ha-Ha in 2012, and I had never been offshore, we have been having an absolutely fabulous time cruising. We did a second Ha-Ha in 2014, did the Puddle Jump in 2015, and are now cruising the east coast of Australia.

Australia is wonderful! The people, the culture, the sailing, the food — it's all been great.

Most of our Puddle Jump friends went to New Zealand, but we encourage them to come to Australia for the next tropical- cyclone season. Apparently Australia got a bit of a bad reputation with cruisers in the past because of problems with immigration, customs and quarantine. Apparently all that has changed, because we had no trouble entering Australia.

It may, however, have something to do with the fact that we came to Bundaberg, Australia, from New Caledonia as part of the Down Under Rally. That rally is run by Jack Hembrow, who got the idea for it from doing the 2010 Baja Ha-Ha with his Moody 54 Red Sky.

We have been welcomed by so many people since arriving in Oz. Locals have shared their homes, families and activities with us. We were also featured in a television newscast and in a multihull sailing magazine.

We've been in Australia for six months now, having spent almost all of our time on the hook in good anchorages. Australians don't have to leave Australia to find good cruising, so most of them don't leave. And they find what we've done — sailed here all the way from Oregon — to be amazing.

We spent most of the cyclone season in Sydney Harbour, which allowed us to watch the start of the Sydney Hobart Race, see the $7 million fireworks show off the Sydney Bridge, and be part of Australia Day activities. I could go on and on, but I'll just say that we feel so lucky.

— pam 05/03/2016

En Pointe — Searunner 31 Tri
Tom Van Dyke
The Sabang Marine Festival
(Santa Cruz)

Well done, Indonesia!

The crews of about 20 cruising boats at the weeklong Sabang Marine Festival were treated like royalty by the Indonesian government. After all these years.

Indonesia, whose 258 million people make it the fourth most populous country in the world, has a long history of alienating cruisers by making it difficult, time-consuming and very expensive to comply with the paperwork requirements. Because it was often necessary to hire an expensive agent, many cruisers — who tend to hate paperwork anyway — simply avoided 'Wonderful Indonesia'.

That was a shame, because Indonesia, which stretches 3,000 miles from Weh in the northwest, to Papua New Guinea in the southeast, really is wonderful. It has more than 17,000 islands — although more than 125 million Indonesians live on Java, just one of them. Indonesia also has many natural wonders, a rich culture and friendly people.

Recently the Indonesian government decided they were really missing out on yachting tourism, and thus decided to do something about it. One of their first steps is to try to make Pulau Weh the third leg of what they hope will be a cruisers' 'Golden Triangle' in the northernmost reaches of the Malacca Strait, the other two 'legs' being the already extremely popular cruising destinations of Phuket, Thailand, and Langkawi, Malaysia. It's 265 miles between Banda Aceh and Phuket, 316 miles between Banda Aceh and Langkawi, and 150 miles between Langkawi and Phuket.

To kick-start the 'third leg', the Indonesian government invested in a new marina at the port of Sabang on the island of Pulau Weh, which is just off the coast of Banda Aceh province. Sabang was once a deep-water port for refueling Dutch colonial trading ships, but thanks to crystal-clear water and abundant sea life, it has now become more popular for diving. Indonesia takes care to prevent overfishing by both nationals and foreigners. We saw two seized factory fishing boats, one Thai and one from Taiwan.

As part of the Sabang Marine Festival, we cruisers were given guided tours of the island, three meals a day, and entertained with the terrific music and dancing that Indonesia is noted for. We cruisers were the audience for an Indonesian dance spectacle in the marina that was being filmed to create a video to promote the marina. But after the filming was over, the cast and we cruisers danced in genuine joy and camaraderie.

The only problem with the new marina at Sabang is that it's many miles away from anything, and there is no road. Officials say there will be a road by next year. But as a group, we felt we would have been better served by moorings near Sabang City and at the island's 22 dive sites.

The port does have a huge concrete dock area that was built for container ships. Now that this business is mostly over, it would be a terrific place for a boatyard and dry-storage facility. Indeed, the port is looking for someone to manage the existing facilities and promote new businesses. Naturally there wasn't a great rush from the cruisers, who are mostly retired. But what a lovely place to live if you need a job. Especially if you like to dive, too.

In a second and even bigger improvement for cruisers, the Indonesian government now allows foreign yachts to stay for three years before having to renew their Import Permits. And get this — the Import Permit and renewals are free. Cruisers are also given a 30-day visa upon arrival, also free of charge. A small charge for quarantine is still in effect. These changes mean that in theory, Indonesia has gone from one of the least welcoming countries to cruisers to one of the most welcoming — at least in terms of paperwork.

But as everyone knows, there can be a big difference between theory and execution. The new entry procedures mostly went very smoothly for the yachts that checked into Indonesia at Sabang for the festival. Customs and immigration officials were enthusiastic in complying with the newer, easier paperwork requirements. The flies in the ointment were the officials from quarantine. They had a hostile attitude toward the cruisers and solicited — demanded, actually — alcohol. With quarantine, it was just like the bad old days. However, the rumor is those officers were reprimanded and one transferred out.

The demand for alcohol by the Muslim officials was all too common and hypocritical. Sabang is in the province of Banda Aceh, the most strict and conservative Muslim province of mostly moderate Muslim Indonesia. Readers may remember that there was a long and bloody civil war between conservative Muslims in Banda Aceh province and the rest of the provinces of Indonesia from the late 1990s until 2004. The only thing that brought about peace was the horrific tsunami of 2004. A truce of sorts was reached in which Banda Aceh province was given considerable autonomy, which allowed them to be the only province in Indonesia where Sharia law was allowed to go into effect.

Sharia absolutely prohibits the drinking or selling of alcohol. Over the years one of the obstacles to tourism in Banda Aceh — besides the civil war — was the prohibition against alcohol. Yet quarantine officials were still demanding it from cruisers.

Hopefully that will be worked out. And I have to say that we felt completely welcomed by the community during our stay, enjoying wonderful peace and goodwill. In fact, I was originally on my way west, but have decided to stay at least a few weeks more, during which time I'll finally get certified to scuba. The water here is too clear and the people too friendly to rush off.

— tom 04/29/2016

Iolani — Hughes 48
Sylvia and Barry Stompe
Angels On Maui
(Sausalito, Hawaii)

After sailing from Puerto Vallarta to and around French Polynesia, we sailed up to Hawaii. We've since been spending the winter in the Hawaiian Islands, waiting for the summer weather and the development of the Pacific High before continuing on to Vancouver, B.C.

After the exotic delights of French Polynesia, we weren't very excited to be headed back to the U.S. In addition, we had some concerns about the Island's reputation for few sheltered anchorages.

Now that we've actually come to Hawaii, we've had some wonderful surprises. First, we've managed to find shelter from the often-boisterous wind and seas. Second, the ubiquity of humpback whales near Maui in February and March has been a great joy we hadn't expected.

A third pleasant surprise was the discovery of what we call the 'Gardening Angels of Maui'. Shortly after we arrived in the vicinity of Lahaina, we received the following message:

"We live in the neighborhood above where you are anchored. We can see you from our lanai, and it warms our hearts to see you and your neighboring yacht. We are sailors, too, having sailed our Cal 2-46 The Enchantress from Newport Beach to the Islands many years ago. After cruising, we berthed her at Schoonmaker Marina in Sausalito, where she lived six more years until we moved to Berkeley. After living in Berkeley for 30 years, we moved to Maui in 2008. We are now farmers.

"We cannot stay off of the water, however, and now have an 18-ft RIB with twin 40-hp engines. We go out every chance we get to be with the whales. Last Saturday you and your friends passed us as you headed to Lanai. It was really a beautiful sight for us. I'm telling you this because seeing you anchored off our shores brings back so many incredible memories of when we were cruising, and when we spent our time on weekends at Schoonmaker with our two small children and sailing the Bay and beyond."

It was signed Doris and Gordon.

The message so warmed our hearts that we made a date for them to visit us on Iolani, and they arrived with a big bag of organic vegetables and eggs from their yard and henhouse. Our coming from a family that grew much of our own food, this was a delight. Doris and Gordon turned out to be wonderful people, and we have since had them out for several daysails, and each time they've brought a big goody bag from their farm! They have helped us run errands, and we have visited their lovely home and gardens, dogs and chickens. It's was a great treat for us to spend a bit of time in that environment, enjoying the earth and plants as well as the gorgeous view of the waters we have been sailing in. We think of them as our Maui Garden Angels, for how generous and thoughtful they have been during our time here.

And this was hardly the end of our Hawaiian hospitality. When we got to Molokai, we ran into Rob and Lorraine Coleman, who started cruising from Berkeley many years ago with the Columbia 30 Samba Pa Ti, and later did a lot of sailing in the Pacific with their Honolulu-based Angelman ketch Southern Cross. They showed us their garden/farm and took us and our Canadian friends all around the island.

Because so little gets written about cruising in Hawaii, we've come up with a little review based on our admittedly limited experience. As expected, cruising Hawaii in the winter has been challenging in some ways, but also lots of fun. The most fun was getting to share the waters with the humpbacks, the most exhibitionist whales of all, from February through April. That alone made the rising to the challenges worthwhile.

The Big Island. The only place we stayed was Radio Bay, where we Med-moored to the dock. It is protected except when a strong north swell breaks over the jetty. Then you get a lot of surge. It's also possible for a boat or two to anchor in the tiny bay as well. We wish we could have seen the Kona side of the Big Island, but had friends to meet on Maui.

Maui. We stayed in the Maui Nui area, which refers to Maui and the neighboring islands of Lanai, Kaho Olowe and Molokai, for more than two months. This is where the most humpbacks congregate. We were able to find decent spots to anchor in strong winds from most directions. Fortunately, we never had to deal with a Kona storm, which makes most anchorages untenable.

Watching the weather constantly and moving the boat frequently are necessary for being safe in this area. And we had to spend many days aboard on anchor watch. We got the best advice on where to anchor in various conditions from locals at the Lahaina YC and from people who work on charter boats. The following are the anchorages we visited in this area:

La Perouse Bay. This is at the southwest end of Maui, and we spent two nights here. It was lovely with good snorkeling and views of an undeveloped part of the island. It was calm when we were there, but is said to be dangerous in any south or west wind or swell. In addition, strong tradewinds can wrap into the bay from the east, making it uncomfortable if not dangerous.

West Maui. The Lahaina area, from Mala Wharf to Olowalu, was our home base from February until April — as long as the wind wasn't out of the south or west. There are Lahaina YC moorings available for visiting yachts right off Front St. in Lahaina. After mooring, you go to the yacht club, fill out their paperwork, then go to the harbormaster to pay a very reasonable fee. The yacht club gets none of it.

We found the moorings convenient if we wanted to tour the island, as there is a good, though crowded, dinghy dock. On the downside, the mooring field in town is very busy, loud and lit-up at night, making it not so peaceful. In strong north to northwest winds, there is no protection and the moorings are not beefy enough for a cruising boat such as ours.

So each time a northerly was forecast, we headed two to six miles southeast down the coast, to either Olowalu, Launiupoko or 'Guardrails' which refers to the surf break near Puamana. Each spot had its ups and downs. Either there was no place to dinghy ashore, or it was unprotected if the wind clocked east, or it got hit by strong gusts funneling down the valley. One day we tried all three spots before we found the protection we were looking for.

When the wind is strong from the east, Mala Wharf is a good anchorage, but it would be dangerous in northerlies. The dinghy dock there is reputed not to be secure at night, so we never left our dinghy there after dark.

Lanai. We anchored on the eastern side of the island several times to sit out strong winds from the west and southwest. We found a rare sandy patch to drop the anchor, then buoyed the chain with three floats to keep it from dragging across or wrapping on the coral. Manele is a gorgeous bay on the southeast corner that is good in calm weather, but rolly.

Molokai. We only stopped at Kaunakakai, which is nice and well protected from all but south wind, due to a fringing reef. In strong easterlies it may be very windy in the anchorage, but the water will be calm. Molokai is a sleepy little island, and a relief after the hustle and bustle of Maui.

We are now at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. After a week here, we'll continue on to Kauai, home to Hanalei Bay, perhaps the best and most famous anchorage in Hawaii.

— sylvia 04/15/2016

Migration — Cross 45 Trimaran
Bruce Balan and Alene Rice
At Least The Food Was Good

Too much filler! Work continued on Migration, and by May — five months into the massive refit of our 45-ft trimaran in Thailand — we had stripped the old fiberglass and re-glassed over 750 sq feet! Work was progressing, but this is where the cultural gap took things south.

After fiberglassing a hull, you trowel on a thick mixture of epoxy and fillers, and after it hardens, carefully sand it to a smooth surface. Migration is an old boat made of plywood and fiberglass, so she never looked like a boat out of a mold — nor did we want her to. However, the Thai contractors and workers are enamored with things that look smooth and shiny as opposed to being strong. So no matter how many times we said, "Too much filler!", we got the same reply: "Don't worry, boss, we sand it off." But they didn't sand it off, so it kept building up thicker and thicker.

Not wanting a heavy and brittle hull finish, after weeks of arguing we called in a Thai friend who is also a contractor. She arranged a meeting with our contractor and explained the situation.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked.

"Sand it off," we replied. And they did. But overall, it was a waste of materials and several weeks of work.

Oh, the little things that set so much in motion! Just as we were finishing the topsides, I decided I'd better investigate some peeling paint in the engine room.

When I bought Migration in 1991, I found a leak in one of her two diesel tanks. I ended up removing one tank and replacing the other. She never smelled like diesel, so I thought everything was fine. We had found some diesel-smelling wood in the keel when we refiberglassed it in Mexico in 2007, but we sealed it and thought no more of it. Until one day on the hard in Thailand.

The wood we tore out of Migration's hull was not rotten, and only some of it was damp. What we think happened is that the diesel had slowly migrated through the plywood, destroying the glue and delaminating the ply. We peeled layer after layer away until 80% of the main hull below the waterline was simply gone! Only frames and stringers remained. Luckily these frames are made of solid wood and most were in good shape.

But we were not happy, as it was the rainy season and we needed to make sure the rest of the hull was dry and didn't absorb water from the humid air before we started rebuilding. So every night we baked Migration's underside with hot halogen lights.

In our opinion, Thai food is the best thing about Thailand. After all those years of fairly mediocre cuisine in Central America, the South Pacific islands, and New Zealand, Thailand was food heaven. The food was exquisite, and the best of it often came from very inexpensive street vendors or local restaurants.

One of the unexpected advantages of our hauling out at Ao Po was the nearby Hareefeen Restaurant. There were very few restaurants in our area, but we didn’t need anything besides Hareefeen. We ate there nearly every day. After about three weeks, we'd eaten everything on the menu. So we had a Thai friend tell Pon, the owner who spoke no English, she could make whatever she wanted for us. Even after two years she occasionally surprised us with new dishes.

Pon was happy to expose us to interesting foods, and we were more than happy to eat them. Soups made of flowers; salads with tiny dried fish; noodles with curry sauce and served with five different raw vegetables, none of which we’d ever seen before. We spent so much time at Pon's that we'd help her out by serving water or passing out menus when she was busy.

Half the Thai economy must be driven by street food. Everywhere there are stands and sam-loh stalls (moveable food carts built on a motorbike with a sidecar) selling food and drink. One of our all-time favorite meals in Thailand came from four different vendors. We don't love all Thai food. Thais are very fond of food on sticks — hot doggy-things, fish balls and squid ­— which are not to our taste. We tried the crickets, but abstained from the worms and grubs.
The local markets are full of familiar and unfamiliar foods, and most of it is very inexpensive.

Back to the boat. The single diesel tank I installed to replace the original leaking one was now 20 years old. Since the boat was completely torn apart, it made sense to replace it. We designed a new one and had it fabricated.

Then it was time to replank the hulls. With many hands helping, we fiberglassed the new planking and added a couple of coats of clear epoxy and a sealing barrier coat.

The unexpected hull project — ripping apart the hull, drying everything, framing, planking, fiberglassing and barrier coats — took over three months, including many rain delays. But finally it was finished, so we moved on to the original project list.

Dealing with the Thai workers was rarely easy. They spoke no English and monitoring their work was essential. Getting them to do things our way — "strong is more important than pretty" — on any given day was no guarantee that things would be done that way the next day. It was extremely frustrating.

Still, we liked many of the workers. They worked hard, although not effectively, and they were often fun. We would laugh, joke and share ice cream. On days where we achieved milestones, we would buy a case of beer for the crew. Still, we don't miss those days at all.

Thailand feels very much like a foreign country. Yes, the west coast of Phuket is full of bars, resorts and gated communities of expats. But if you avoid those areas, you are definitely in a different place. Signs of reverence for the royal family, as well as Buddhism, are everywhere.

We tried hard to learn Thai, and ended up with a vocabulary of a couple of hundred words and some sense of the grammar. But it was difficult as some words in Thai can be said in one of five tones — neutral, high, low, rising or falling. To us they all sounded the same.

Thais are a very proud people, in part because Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that has never been a colony or protectorate of a Western power.

As the year went on, we continued work on dozens of boat projects, hoping to finish by the end of September of 2013. But we were already months behind.

Work continued on the interior until, miraculously, almost all of it was finished. Actually, getting everything finished in Thailand is impossible, so 90% is the most you can hope for.

We were finally ready to paint the boat. The only problem? Our contractor had not ordered the paint with enough lead time. We continued on our projects hoping it would arrive.

Unfortunately, we'd already booked tickets to visit friends in various countries on our way back to the States for the holidays. We soon realized we would not have enough time to supervise the painting of the topcoat — and we certainly were not going to let a crucial project like that be done without our supervision. So we resigned ourselves to not getting that done until we returned. When we told our painting contractor that he would have to wait until the next year to finish, he wasn't happy. But it was his fault for not ordering the paint early enough. Nonetheless, this would have very serious — and expensive — repercussions in 2014.

On October 2, 2012, we flew out of Thailand and spent four months visiting many family members and friends, many of whom we hadn't seen in years. We had no idea of the delays we were to encounter when we returned.

Part Three will appear in the next issue of Latitude. Please remember that based on our experience, we recommend that you do not have any boat work done in Thailand. If you insist, please check out our website at for information on contractors and companies to avoid. You can also view invoices, quotes, haulout costs, etc. We also have a few recommendations of good services in Thailand.

— bruce and alene 12/15

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
John and Deb Rogers
Our Doublehanded Puddle Jump
(San Diego)

We've been married for 43 years, and from almost our first date our dream has been to sail our own boat to French Polynesia. This is how our passage went.

Day Two. Wind 16 knots, swell 5-7 feet. Covered 199 miles.

Deb woke me up 15 minutes before the 1400 radio net, frantically telling me that we were surrounded by huge whales. When I appeared on deck buck naked, I saw Deb pointing aft, but I saw no whales. She laughed her head off as she reminded me that it was April 1.

Day Three. Wind 14 knots, swell 3 feet. Covered 177 miles.

Each day the wind has clocked about 30 degrees, so our wind has moved from NW to N to NE. Since we’re headed southwest, the northeast wind is on our stern. "May the wind be at your back,” everybody says. But unless it’s blowing hard, it means you’re going DDW slow. But no whining from this crew of two.

Day Four. Wind 12 knots, seas 3 feet. Covered 166 miles.

While we did cover 166 miles, we had to reach up to keep our boat speed, and thus only got 126 miles closer to the Marquesas. Not our best day. We were actually quite happy sailing wing and wing, using the spinnaker pole to hold the headsail out — until the weld on the Harken spinnaker-pole mast car let go.

Our boom vang has been out of order since Mexico because we were always given the wrong o-rings. Out of time, we rigged a block-and-tackle vang, but that makes jibing a hassle. Our Iridium satphone, which serves as the modem for our email, has only connected with the mail server about 10% of the time.

Day Five. Wind 20 knots, seas 7 feet. Covered 144 miles.

Deb has gone through five books in five days — while so far doing all the cooking and cleaning. We may watch a movie this afternoon, stopping every 15 minutes to pop up on deck for a look around. We're loafing along now doing about seven knots under jib alone, but sailing almost directly toward the Marquesas. Our sail-plan alternatives would be to return to the mainsail and jib, or put up the asymmetrical chute. In either case we'd have to head up and somewhat away from our destination.

We're used to the sounds Moonshadow makes while underway, cataloging one as either an ‘OK sound’, or something that needs to be investigated. But on this notoriously rolly part of the passage there are lots of sounds that are new to us. Still, we didn't hear it when our jury-rigged vang broke.

By far our favorite pastime is reading emails from friends and family. Further down the list is overhauling the toilet. While doing it, it became painfully obvious it would have been better to tackle the job back at the dock.

Day Six. Wind 20, seas 8 feet. Covered 186 miles.

We are contemplating adding a bruise count to our stats, because we are getting beat up. We never thought a boat as big as ours would roll so much. And these are sneaky, bastard rolls. You look at the waves, which are essentially from astern, and you can see no reason for all the rolling. While you're pondering this, your body is thrown across the boat, usually into something like the corner of the interior cabinetwork. Before you can pick yourself up, the glass of water you just set down lands in your lap.

Since yesterday afternoon we have been skirting the northwest edge of an area of squalls and thunderstorms. As we are just outside the area, all we’ve had is solid overcast with rain overnight.

The wind and seas have increased, so we're moving along nicely through a combination of sailing faster and a bit of surfing. Glad to see our 24-hour distance total over 180 miles again — and all under jib alone. We're not carrying the main because it inverts from concave to convex in the severe rolls. It does this with an ear-splitting bang, and it's very hard on the sail, boom, blocks and sheets.

Day Seven. Wind 20, 8 foot swell. Covered 182 miles.

We expect to reach the halfway point tomorrow, which is about the same time we'll be moving into the doldrums. It remains to be seen if we'll have enough diesel to avoid being caught in the doldrums for days.

We are well into a routine of balancing our watch-keeping, navigating, cooking, fixing things and resting. While we are sometimes tired, we are not as exhausted as we feared we might be when we decided to doublehand this longest of passages.

Day Eight. Wind 15 knots, seas 8 feet. Covered 161 miles.

Last night we had a squall with 35 knots of wind and rain. The wind subsided to the mid-20s, but the cell, visible on our radar, was 20 miles in diameter following our track. This kind of stuff is to be expected here in the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

We're no longer sailing DDW, so we have the main back up and are broad reaching. Hooray! No more rolling. Hooray! We’re doing the kind of sailing that everybody dreams about.

Last night we crossed the halfway point. We may only move along as fast as a guy drinking beer while lazily pedaling his beach cruiser down the boardwalk at Mission Beach, but we never stop, and look how far it’s taken us.

Day Nine. Wind 10 knots, seas 5 feet. Covered 144 miles.

Last night was fine until we caught up to a line of squalls with imbedded thunderstorms. The line stretched 45 miles from east to west. These storms have none of the ferocity of the squalls we saw in Panama, but after those experiences we have no interest in sailing under clouds with lightning above. Rather than attempt an upwind detour 20 miles to the east, we hove to and watched a movie for two hours while the weather continued to the west.

We started the engine at 2000 Zulu as it had gone dead calm. It stayed calm for eight hours, six of which featured constant rain. Before the rain we had time to repair a batten that had worked its way out of a mast car. At 20 feet long and bearing the weight of the sail above it, it required a bit of work.

We report our position and copy the locations of about a dozen other boats on the Pacific Puddle Jump SSB radio net each morning. Some days we hear nothing but static. Other days, such as the last two, we have much better reception. The boats participating are mostly those who have left from Mexico, but today we heard from a boat leaving San Diego.

While this passage is tiring, we are really enjoying ourselves. Many times we've had to pinch ourselves to make sure it's true we are living the dream we've had for over 40 years.

While this passage is the longest single one most cruisers will ever do, it can be broken into distinct phases: 1) The breakaway from Mexico, which can be difficult as there often isn't much wind. Ironically, this is where we had some of the best sailing of the trip. 2) The Northern Hemisphere tradewind phase, where the wind blows day and night with little change in direction or velocity. This is where we rolled so much. 3) These trades are replaced by easterly winds that become more variable. 4) The next phase is the ITCZ, which features the squalls we've seen. 5) The doldrums. 6) Lastly, the phase where you break out of the doldrums and into the southeast trades.

Day Eleven. Wind 10 knots, swell 5 feet. 144 miles.

We're in the doldrums and don't know for how long. But the sky is stunning both day and night. You’d think the tropical sky would be thick with water vapor, but it's not. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars are out. By my count there are a gazillion of them. They light up the deck and make the horizon distinctly visible even though the moon set a couple of hours ago. Imagine an absolute blanket of stars that stretches from horizon to horizon — and I mean right down to the water.

Day 12. Wind at 9 knots, swell at 3 feet. Covered 140 miles.

Having crossed the equator, we started celebrating with tequila from Mexico, dribbled a bit into the Pacific for King Neptune, a bit on Moonshadow’s bow, and a bit on the dinghy, and drained the last down our throats. Next we popped the cork on a bottle of French Champagne for French Polynesia, and repeated the process — although a lot more of the Champagne made it down our throats. Deb has now officially joined me as a Shellback, which allows her to swagger and act as if she's even hotter than she was before. Which she is. But we are stoked to have made this milestone.

After the Champagne was gone, we set the spinnaker and enjoyed three to four hours of spinnaker reaching in flat water. The wind never shifted in direction or strength, so we were able to tie off the sheets and nap in the cockpit. We are getting much more sailable conditions than we thought we’d see in the doldrum zone, so quite happy about that.

The captain is also pleased to have calculated that when running the main engine at 1,200 rpm, we get 5.5 knots in smooth water while burning just 1.36 gallons. Normally we run the diesel at 2,100 rpm, which gives us eight knots while burning 2.5 gallons. In view of this, we don't think we'll run out of food and starve in the doldrums. Actually, we could never starve out here because we have food enough to eat — and in style — for a year. Tonight we had Costco filet mignon and baked potatoes.

Day 13. Wind at 17 knots, sea 3 knots. Covered 173 miles.

Hello southern trades! Send the fun police because we should be arrested for having too much of it. Moonshadow has reacted to the 15-17-knot trades on the beam like a pent-up colt finally being released to romp around. We are flying along at 10 knots and taking turns calling out the speeds on some of the waves: "11.3, 10.7, 12.8." We'll lose some of our speed when we sail out of the equatorial current that is giving us an extra knot. Meanwhile, the indigo-blue ocean is sprinkled with small whitecaps and the cobalt sky studded with the occasional white cotton ball.

Day 14. Wind 17 knots, swell 3 feet. Covered 230 miles!

The 230 miles in the last 24 hours is the fastest 24-hour run under sail that we’ve had in the four years and 19,000 miles we’ve sailed Moonshadow. We only want two things now: 1) A daylight arrival at Hiva Oa, and 2) To finish in less than 16.5 days, which would beat the time of previous owner George Backhus in 1998. As cruisers, we have to accept that we’re sailing our home and all our possessions to paradise, and are not racing. Whom are we kidding? We're racing!

Day 15. Wind 17 knots, seas 7 feet. Covered 187 miles.

As I began to write this post, the alarm on the autopilot indicated Helm Response Failure. We were surfing at up to 10.5 knots at the time with the chute up, so Deb had to hand-steer, something we almost never do offshore.

I dove into the lazarette and immediately saw the problem. The hydraulic ram, which we had removed and overhauled in San Diego, had unscrewed itself from the toggle attachment on the rudder post. This Simrad is the best autopilot we've ever had, but disconnected from the rudder it doesn't work that well. After just 10 minutes — and with two big crescent wrenches, and some cussing — the autopilot was working again.

We're really anxious to arrive in French Polynesia sometime tomorrow evening. We're pretty sure we can't maintain the 12 or 13 knots it would take to get there mid-afternoon, so we'll bypass the town of Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa, and instead anchor for the night in a cove on the island of Tahuata about 10 miles beyond. The tiny harbor at Atuona is jam-packed full of yachts anchored bow and stern — something we won't want to deal with at night.

Day 16. As we made our final approach to the Marquesas, we were greeted by 100 dolphins. They were all around us, and sometimes five were jumping abreast of us at a time. We couldn’t imagine a better welcome party.

Landfall after a long passage is just the best! It's also end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Our final stats:

Distance sailed:
2,837 nautical miles
Time of passage: 16 days 8 hours
Average speed: 7.2 knots
Marital Status: Still happily married!

— john and debbie 04/20/2016

Cruise Notes:

Young adventurers Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous of Redwood City have purchased the Voyager 43 catamaran Quixotic in Fiji. She's a project boat after suffering extensive damage in February when she, along with a group of other boats, was driven onto a rocky shore at Savu Savu by powerful tropical cyclone Winston.

Quixotic wasn't looking too good following the cyclone. She had at least five major holes in her port hull, the port engine and sail drive had taken a swim, and the port-side electrical system had been submerged. Plus, she had that forlorn look of a cyclone-damaged boat. While most people, including the former owners, saw the cat as half full of water, Lewis and Alyssa saw her as being half empty of water — and full of opportunity. After all, other than the problems mentioned above, the rest of the boat — sails, rig, rudders, electronic systems — seemed to be in fine shape.

“She’s certainly a project boat,” admits Lewis, “but we got her for a bargain price. While our work is cut out for us, we plan on returning her to her former glory. In fact, we think she’s going to make an outstanding living and sailing platform, one that we plan to charter here in Fiji. Thanks to her damaged state and thus low value, we only had to pay a little duty to import her into Fiji."

Latitude readers may remember Lewis and Alyssa from numerous Changes in recent years. How they fell in love at first sight on Alyssa's dad’s boat while Lewis was buying something for the Tartan 37 Eleutheria that he was going to sail around the world. How they started cruising with the 2013 Ha-Ha. How they did the 2014 Puddle Jump and cruised the South Pacific. How they fell in love with Fiji — and if we’re not mistaken, bought some land there.

What we didn’t report is that they’d changed plans and had both taken training to become professional crew on larger yachts. In fact, they were advertising for crew positions as recently as February. Given our belief that being professional crew is something that sounds great but is often like working on a floating prison, the destruction of Winston may well have come as a blessing in disguise for them.

Buying a hurricane-damaged boat can be tricky, of course. One has to be able to accurately access the true value of the boat. Such boats are frequently overvalued, even at pennies on the dollar. On the other hand, some people have come away with tremendous bargains. Fatty Goodlander, for example, did his first circumnavigation on a hurricane-damaged boat he bought for only $3,000.

Allen says he's glad to be in Fiji, where he's been able to find excellent fiberglass workers at $17/hour. Repairing holes in fiberglass hulls is actually quite easy, and they've already made great progress. Lewis and Alyssa are currently living aboard Eleutheria while working on Quixotic, having already sold their Tartan 37 monohull to Kurt 'The Drone Man' Roll of San Diego.

"We arrived in Cuba from Jamaica on March 2," report Geoffrey and Linda Goodal of the British Columbia-based Bowman 36 Curare. Readers may remember they got to the Caribbean the hard way — via Cape Horn rather than the Panama Canal.

"Clearance procedures at Cayo Largo on the south coast were straightforward. The medical officer deemed us healthy, and then agriculture and veterinary services arrived to inspect our fruits and vegetables. We thought for sure they were going to hit us up for some mordida, but they were just doing their jobs. Immigration and customs were no problem either.

"We've seen a few things that make Cuba unique in our politically correct, ultra-safety-conscious Norte Americano attitude. Smoking, for example, is an accepted part of life in the street, on the bus, and even in restaurants. The city streets are buzzing with activity both day and night, and salsa music can be heard into the early morning hours. This is especially true here at anchor in Cienfuegos. Latitude is correct that the movement and control of electronics is real, but we haven't found it a nuisance — at least not as much of a nuisance as trying to find good Internet access.

"Cienfuegos is a city of about 100,000 or so on the edge of a large bay of the same name. The anchorage is comfortable and safe, although as in typical Cuban style, we were obligated to anchor in front of the marina. For $.20 CUC (Cuban convertible peso) per foot per night the marina provides security, a dinghy dock and water. There is a small tienda with basic provisions — mainly rum — and a bar at the marina. Diesel fuel is available ($1.10 CUC per litre), gasoline ($1.20 CUC per litre) from a station three blocks away, and propane by arrangement.

"US dollars are accepted as foreign exchange at the banks, but there is a 10% surcharge. The Cuban convertible peso is worth approximately 1.03 to the US dollar — not taking into account the 10% exchange fee. Canadian dollars and euros are widely accepted at the foreign exchange casas and banks, and there are a few ATM machines."

"There are between 25 and 35 boats currently at anchor here, while the charter catamarans take up the marina slips. The majority of the boats are German, followed by French, Belgian, Dutch, a couple of Canadian boats and the odd American boat. Among the American boats was the gorgeous 105-foot classic ketch Whitehawk that we'd seen at last year's Antigua Classic Regatta."

"The diving is so great at Pulau Weh, Indonesia that I finally decided to get my scuba certification," reports Tom Van Dyke of the Santa Cruz-based Searunner 31 En Pointe. My dive instructor was Isabelle, a real world traveler. She bicycled all the way around the Med from her home in Switzerland, then came to Southeast Asia, where she teaches from aboard her own sailboat."

"Our cat suffered a dismasting during the passage from Kiribati to Hawaii," is the news that Al and Jill Wigginton of the Hughes 65 catamaran Dragonfly gave to people interested in buying the boat. Originally from the Midwest and Florida, the couple cruised the boat extensively in the Caribbean for many years, and more recently the South Pacific. When not sailing, they spend a lot of time in Livermore.

"The best we can figure is that a wave significantly bigger than the others broke against the hull," they report, "throwing us sideways and causing the mast to break near the gooseneck first and then about 20 feet above the deck. Given the weather conditions, and the fact that we'd lost the lifelines, we decided that the only safe thing to do was cut the shrouds — which were still fine — and control lines and throw them all overboard. The list of other damage is long — solar panels crushed, 75% of hardtop gone, cabin top and deck damaged — but there were no injuries. The basic structure of the boat wasn't impacted. Now in Hawaii, we are feeling somewhat stranded and trying to figure out what our next step is. The options are shipping the boat to California, motoring the boat to California, or letting a new buyer figure it out."

While Dragonfly and Profligate differ significantly in appearance and many ways, both came from the same Hughes 60 plans. We're biased, of course, but we feel the design is a spectacular living and sailing platform that can easily be handled by just two. Somebody might be able to get an excellent deal on Dragonfly, in which case we'd recommend they motor the cat back to California to get a new mast and other repairs. It's been done with at least one sled that was dismasted in a Transpac. Once that is done, they could sail side-by-side with Profligate in the Ha-Ha.

Hey dude, dig the news. By a four-to-one vote, the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that the growing and use of marijuana is a "fundamental human right". In explaining their ruling, the court majority said prohibiting the cultivating and use of marijuana “violates the right to free development of one’s personality.” In so doing, the court is believed to have paved the way for nationwide legalization of pot.

Connie 'Sunlover' McWilliam-Schultz of Puerto Escondido reports that the 20th annual Loreto Fest wasn't the biggest ever, but it was as good as ever for the new and old friends who gathered for great food, a swap meet, music, seminars and much more. She also reports that despite the demise of the Hidden Port YC, there will be another Loreto Fest next year, sponsored by Fonatur and local businesses. The date hasn't been determined, but it will be after La Paz Bay Fest and thus probably at the beginning of May.

Having only about 1,000 miles to go to finish their circumnavigation, Mike and Deanna Ruel of the Manta 42 R Sea Kat stopped at St. Lucia to pick up their son Ryan. While there, they enjoyed the views of the Pitons, and then slathered up with mineral mud in the hot spring inside the Soufriere volcano, quickly undestanding why 'Soufriere' translates as 'sulfur mine'. Ah, the smell of rotten eggs.

Rimas Meleshyus, of we aren't sure where, arrived in Hawaii from Monterey aboard his Rawson 30 Mimsy in typical Rimas fashion. That is to say it took him a ridiculous 46 days to complete the passage, which means he averaged about two knots. He said that he arrived "Kon-Tiki style", which we suppose means that he shredded his sails and thus had to end the trip drifting rather than sailing. In any event, he again had to be towed into port. If we're not mistaken, this means his record of having never made it to a distant port without having to be towed in remains unblemished. And once on the dock, he proudly announced that he'd been without food or water for three days. Rimas described his voyage as being "remarkable". We'll leave it up to you to decide in which way it was 'remarkable'.

At the extreme opposite end of the seamanship scale from Rimas is 74-year- old Webb Chiles, who is in the midst of a circumnavigation. It will be his sixth, and he's doing it with his little Moore 24 ultralight Gannet. In late April and early May, Chiles and Gannet sailed from Opua, New Zealand, to Bundaberg, Australia. Their next stops are Cape York, Darwin, and after 6,000 miles of rough Indian Ocean, South Africa. We met Chiles on Gannet in San Diego before he started his circumnavigation, and found him to be as thoughtful as he is accomplished at sailing. He explains his background and motivation:

"I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, and I didn’t want to be there. Mark Twain, my fellow Missourian, said that all adventure begins with a book and with running away from home. Mine certainly began with books, and Carol, my wife, says I am still running away from home. That isn’t quite true. Boats have been my home of choice during most of my adult life, and the time I spend ashore is the willing compromise I have made for love. Other than freedom from Missouri, sailing is freedom from the restrictions, regulations, and banal, ubiquitous ugliness of modern urban life. Those restrictions and cluttered ugliness are always there, and they seem only to increase. Beauty can be found in cities, but as isolated oases glimpsed between telephone poles, billboards, and graceless buildings."

Correction. In last month's Changes we ran a photo of the injured foot of Brian Charette of the Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based Cat2Fold, and said the wicked sting had been caused by a jellyfish.

"It was actually a Portuguese Man o' War," says Charette, "which is only slightly related to a jellyfish. That's why none of the typical jellyfish-sting remedies did anything. Portuguese Man o' War are like from outer space, as they actually consist of four separate organisms that symbiotically live together as one."

At the start of the year Charette reported that he'd added an ARB refrigerator/freezer to his ultra-simple cat. We asked for a review.

"The ARB is more or less the same as the Engel or Waeco, and it's been amazing because it basically uses no power — especially compared to the built-in fridge that came with my cat and never really worked. I like the ARB so much that I think I'm going to get a second one for next year. I'll use one as a fridge and the other as a freezer. The 63-quart size is the one for me."

For what it's worth, the Wanderer bought an Engel model for Profligate and liked it so much that he bought another.

In horrific news, 68-year-old Canadian sailor John Ridsdel, who'd been held captive in the southern Philippines since September by Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants, was beheaded in late April after the deadline for his ransom had passed. Two men on motorcycles dropped Ridsdel's head onto a town square on Jolo Island, shouting, "We will be back!" Canada, like the United States, has a policy — at least a stated policy — of not giving in to ransom demands for its citizens.

A former award-winning journalist, Ridsdel was a world traveler whose boat was temporarily based at Samal Island prior to his kidnapping at Holiday Oceanview Resort. Also kidnapped during the September 21, 2015 raid were Ridsdel's Filipina companion, Maritess Flor, 50-year-old Canadian sailor Robert Hall, and Norwegian sailor Kjartan Sekkingstad, the manager of the resort. The fate of these three is still unknown, but their lives are certainly in jeopardy.

In this month's Changes from Tom Van Dyke of En Pointe, it was noted that semi-automonous Banda Aceh, known for fundamental Islam, is the only province in Indonesia that is allowed to use sharia law. Sharia prohibits things such as homosexuality, adultery, alcohol, women straddling motorcycles and so forth. Initially, sharia was only applied to members of the Mulism faith, but a bylaw was passed last year that allows sharia to be enforced on members of all faiths.

“The fact is that Muslims in Aceh do tolerate religious freedom, and we can coexist without any problems,” said Tengku Faisal Ali, head of the provincial chapter of the influential Muslim organization, at the time the bylaw was passed. “We don’t want to raise the impression that Islamic law in Aceh infringes on the rights of non-Muslims. It doesn’t [force] sharia law on non-Muslims because they are free to observe their own faiths and beliefs.”

Oh yeah? On April 13, a 60-year-old Christian woman was caned 30 times before hundreds of onlookers for the 'crime' of selling alcohol in Banda Aceh. It was the first time that sharia law had been imposed on a non-Muslim in Indonesia. The welts on the caned woman's back may beg to differ with Tengku Faisal Ali as to whether it was subject to sharia and worthy of tolerance.

On the same day she was caned, a Muslim couple accused of adultery received 100 lashes. Two Germans caught wearing skimpy bathing suits got away with stern warnings. All in all, it's small wonder that some cruisers are leery of certain Muslim countries and the hollow promises of certain Muslim leaders.

In more pleasant news, Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of the Squaw Valley-based Catana 52 Escapade report they rejoined their boat in April near Cinque Terre, Italy for a second season in the Med. "We migrated down with Escapade from from Cortina, where we spent the winter and totally fell in love with skiing in the Dolomites. We are not, however, in love with how cold it gets in the Med in the spring and fall. Anyway, we're on our way to a rendezvous with a rigger in Lavagna to install two new Profurl units. We jumped through many hoops to avoid having to pay 22% in Italian VAT! We want to get the boat down the track to Sicily so we can enjoy our time in Paris — where we have to renew our visas — knowing that we'll be close to jumping off to the Adriatic. After that, we're taking off for cruising in Croatia."

Also heading back to their boat in Europe are Jim and Debbie Gregory of the Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus. If we're not mistaken, this will be their third season in the Med. They reported that their boat, which they left in Lavrion, Greece, looked to be in great shape except for considerable exterior dirt.

If you're out cruising, please remember that we're always delighted to hear from you.

Missing the pictures? See the June 2016 eBook!


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