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June 2017

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With reports this month from Angel Louise on starting the Great America Loop; from La Mischief on a first Full Moon Party in the Caribbean; from Taiga on cruising in the Eastern Caribbean; from Esprit on beginning to complete a circumnavigation; from Privateer on getting pregnant while cruising;
and Cruise Notes.

Angel Louise — Catalac 41 Cat
Ed and Sue Kelly
Our Favorite Stop in 48 Countries
(Des Moines, Iowa)

It's always the sailors who count, not the boat. For the last 9½ years, the Catalac 41 catamaran Angel Louise has been the only home of former federal and Iowa state prosecutor Ed Kelly and his wife Sue, a nurse practitioner. After all these years they're "still loving the (ocean) road less traveled".

Designed and built in the 1970s, the Catalac 12 Meter is not the fastest, sleekest, roomiest or most sophisticated catamaran around. Yet the humble cat has taken the couple, who are originally from Des Moines, to 48 countries on five continents. Among other things, they've wintered over at St. Katherine Docks in central London, circumnavigated Western Europe via the Rhine and Danube rivers, the Black Sea and the Med, crossed the Atlantic twice, and made trips to the Caribbean. Very impressive.

Given all the couple has seen of the cruising world, what's been their favorite place so far? It's Hope Town in the Abacos, which is just 200 miles east of West Palm Beach and 100 miles north of funky Nassau in the Bahamas.

"We recently spent a month in Hope Town, which has to be one of the most beautiful harbors and places we have enjoyed in the 48 countries we've been to," says Ed. "It's peaceful and laid-back, but with cruising destinations in the beautiful Abacos all around. We rented a mooring for $350 for the month, and cruised from Hope Town on day trips. Hope Town has many resort restaurants in some of the most beautiful settings you can imagine. And the resorts send their van to pick you up for lunch.

"Hope Town is upscale, with no down-at-the-heels areas in the vicinity," Ed continues. "The resorts welcome cruisers from moorings other than their own, and even take you around the harbor on their launch for free. They welcome you in their restaurants, and make their pools available to cruisers who aren't even staying with them.

"The beauty of the Atlantic on the outside and the calm Abacos on the inside make it a cruiser's dream. Conch fritters, diving, snorkeling and fun folks make it a wonderful place. We had come through some of the Abacos two years ago on our way back from our European adventure, after landing at San Salvador, where Columbus supposedly made the first landfall in the New World, so we knew it a bit already."

The Kellys are not the only veteran cruisers who like Hope Town. They had coffee there with 'sailing heroes' Scott and Kitty Kuhner, Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard, all of whom have done multiple circumnavigations.

While in Hope Town, the Kellys also ran into US Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, who has done some bluewater sailing as well. Kelly notes that Harkin was first elected senator in a blowout win in 1990, when Kelly was the Republican nominee for attorney general of Iowa.

"I suspect Tom's candidacy brought out many Democrats in Iowa that year," says Ed, "resulting in my being defeated in a cliffhanger election. I didn't know my future wife Sue at the time, but she voted for my opponent. As she later pointed out, had I won, we probably never would have met and married."

We're currently five miles off the Georgia coast bound for Charleston. Our next adventure is doing the Great American Loop. Having already done the Great European Loop, we think our boat will be the first to have done them both!"

— latitude/rs 04/15/2017

La Mischief — Lagoon 421
Steve Tull and DeAnne Trigg
Fireball Full Moon Party in BVI
(Perth, Oz, and Huntington Beach)

One of the bucket-list items a lot of cruisers in the Caribbean have is attending one of the numerous and famous full moon parties. DeAnne and I, who have been cruising for three years after meeting up in Greece thanks to an Internet site, are among them.

The British Virgins seemed like a good spot to do it, with the choices being parties at Bomba Shack or Trellis Bay. Bomba Shack involves a taxi ride from the nearest anchorage, and some cruisers told us, "It can get a bit weird." Trellis Bay, on the other hand, has a great anchorage/mooring field right there, so that was our choice.

"When we got to Trellis Bay at 9 a.m., most of the good anchoring spots had already been taken, so we were lucky to secure the last of the orange mooring buoys at $30/night. The alternative was a $130/night mooring buoy from the Last Resort restaurant, which includes a $70 credit at their restaurant. That's not the greatest value when you can pick up a great meal ashore for $10.

The bay was soon jam-packed, with boats anchored wherever skippers could find a drop or two of water beneath their keels. As the day went on, it was fascinating to watch the procession of mostly charter boats come into the bay looking for a spot to anchor. Boats kept anchoring farther out — or retreated across to Marina Quay, a short dinghy ride away. But in Trellis Bay, everybody was already moving into party mode.

Once the hideaway of for the likes of pirate Black Sam Bellamy, in more modern times Trellis Bay became a hangout for artists and craftsmen, and still has that artsy ambience. The beach is lined with cool restaurants, and there's an art center, a small market, and that rarity in the Caribbean, a good and inexpensive launderette. The Last Resort Bar and Restaurant are on their own little island in the middle of the bay.

Trellis Bay is right next to the Tortola airport, so it's a great place to pick up guests.

Matt and Christine Mitchell of the Austin-based Catana 47 Sugar Shack, our friends from racing the Voiles de St. Barth on the SC70 Hotel California, Too, rolled up to the bay in the afternoon and managed to anchor outside — well, mostly outside — the airport exclusion zone. So we soon had them aboard La Mischief for some pre-party drinks.

Shortly after making our way ashore at 7 p.m., we hooked up with Justin Time — his real name — whom we'd met on Saba a few months ago when he was part of the team working to salvage the 156-ft motoryacht Elsa that had gone on the beach. As always, Dee canvassed all the food spots for the best deal. We settled on a huge feed of ribs and jerked pork for just $10/person. One of the better food bargains in the Caribbean.

Next we stopped to watch the fire show put on by a group of local performance artists. They delighted the crowd by twirling fire sticks far too close — at least for me — to their sensitive body parts. Quite spectacular!

There were also four bands that played, each one in front of a different restaurant. We had a great time checking each one out and dancing.

Somewhere around 10 p.m. — my mind was getting a little foggy by then — organizers started to light up the various log-filled metal statues placed on the beach and in the water. The highlight was the towering 'Burning Man' in the water just off the beach. He was lit down by his ankles, but soon the flames made their way up to his arms and face. The band closest to him was going off, so we alternated between dancing and enjoying the flaming pyre.

By about 11:30, more than two hours after 'cruiser midnight', the crowd started to thin, either returning to their boats or making their way to the Last Resort for even more dancing and music. We managed to do our Cinderella impersonation and get back to La Mischief just before midnight. We thoroughly enjoyed our first Caribbean full moon party. We are already checking next year’s calendar to plan to enjoy a second one.

— steve 05/10/2017

Taiga — Catana 44
Jack and Sherri Hayden
Retirement Cruising in Caribbean

[In Part One, we reported on Jack and Sherri's buying and cruising their Catana 44 Taiga from the East Coast to the Bahamas for three years, and making a last stop in Cuba.]

After retiring from the construction business in Alaska in late 2013, Jack and Sherri left Georgetown, aka 'Chickentown', in the Bahamas heading for the Eastern Caribbean. They started by sailing down through the Turks and Caicos to Luperon in the Dominican Republic.

"Luperon, what a shithole!" says Jack. This is a significant comment, as he and Sherri have really enjoyed and been complimentary about almost everywhere they've been. They continued on, following the method outlined in Bruce van Sant's The Thornless Path.

"(V)an Sant's strategy really works," says Jack. "I say that even though Bruce — I didn't know who he was — threatened to bloody my nose once after he completely misunderstood a comment I made about something he took to be political."

After crossing the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico, the couple anchored at little Bahia Puerto Real on the southwest coast instead of the much more popular Boqueron. They continued on to Ponce and Salinas on the south coast of Puerto Rico.

"There sure are a lot of expats anchored long-term at Salinas," says Sherri.
"The Puerto Ricans are really friendly people, and always ask you to join them in everything," says Jack. "But one thing we noticed about Puerto Rico is that everyone has some big-ass dog protecting their property."

"We used to run 85 dogs in Alaska," says Sherri, "so we know dogs and know how to control them. But not in Puerto Rico, where the dogs are very aggressive. They were even going after the 18-lb Bichon Frise that I was holding in my arms."

"Despite the macho culture, we liked Puerto Rico and spent a lot of time there," says Jack. "Vieques in the Spanish Virgins, to the east of Puerto Rico, was good, too. There is a lovely bay at the old missile range. Signs warn you not to come ashore because of the possibility of unexploded ordnance. But we saw wild horses running all over, so we figured it was safe for humans, too. There was a lot of ordnance on the bottom of the bay. But lobster, too."

The couple breezed through Culebra, another part of the Spanish Virgins, and both the US and British Virgins, on their way to St. Martin, and ultimately their end-of-season haulout destination of Trinidad far to the south.

"We ended up at Don Stollmeyer's Power Boats," says Sherri.

"Don is the man, a great guy," says Jack of Stollmeyer, a friend of the Wanderer's from way back. "We also want to put in a plug for Jessie James, the Seven Seas cruising guide in Trinidad. We guided for 25 years in Alaska, and he's the best guide we've ever come across. He helped us get our dog in and out of Trinidad — although it cost us about $1,500."

Jack and Sherri have spent the last couple of years in the Eastern Caribbean, much of it in the Windward Islands to the south. Grenada and parts of Martinique were big favorites. One aspect they like about the Caribbean is that unlike Mexico, where almost every cruiser is American or Canadian, they met a much more international group of cruisers. Most are from Europe, but they come from other parts of the world, too.

"When you cruise," says Jack, "you hang out with people that you're compatible with. Then you do things together. For example, a wonderful Portuguese family on Oceanus, the first Catana catamaran ever built, introduced themselves just after they crossed the Atlantic. They'd actually seen our boat — which can be identified from being the only Catana with an inside steering station — being built at the Catana factory. They had an engine problem, and I'm a mechanic who was able to fix it, so we immediately became best friends.

"They are excellent professional divers who use their boat as a diving platform for scientific expeditions," continues Sherri, "and they guided us on some terrific dives. The owners were our age, the kids were in their 30s, and they had their seven-year-old granddaughter with them. Every time we crossed paths, the girl would jump in the water, swim over, and take our dog to the beach. They were so much fun."

One Christmas at Sainte-Anne in Martinique, Jack and Sherri were invited aboard a boat to join two other couples who had just completed their circumnavigations. The cruising world is friendly like that.

After storing their boat in Trinidad for one off-season, there were two reasons they left her in Grenada the next two summers, even though Grenada has far fewer craftsmen. One reason was the threat of being attacked getting to and coming back from Trinidad. Three boats had been attacked in that area a short time before. Jack and Sherri had one big scare, but it was a false alarm.

"They were fishermen," says Sherri. "Of course, they could have also been the pirates who attacked the other boats."

The other reason was that Trinidad instituted a 14% VAT tax on marine goods.

"After that happened Don Stollmeyer told us that the business at his and other yards was off 50%, even though the yards reduced their rates," says Jack. "Trinidad has oil, so the government couldn't care less about yachtie tourism. They claim cruisers bitch all the time. To a certain extent they are right. We had a lot of trouble with officials because of our dog. It turned out that the dog-owning cruisers just before us had made a huge scene. We got punished for their misbehavior."

Stollmeyer and others were able to get the tax overturned for this off-season, but the damage may have been done.

One thing that's slowed the couple from moving on to new areas such as the Western Caribbean and maybe the Med is that they keep having such a great time in the Eastern Caribbean.

"Last year we thought we might move on to the Western Caribbean," says Sherri, "but then we had a great time in Dominica, and then spent a month in Antigua and Barbuda, where we'd never been before."

"Each time we visit a place again, it's like we're peeling off another layer," says Jack. "And we become better friends with people at places we return to. That's a real attraction."

— latitude/rs 04/30/2017

Esprit — Peterson 46
Chay and Katie McWilliam
Resuming Our Circumnavigation
(Henderson, Nevada)

It was 90+ degrees and the humidity was 100 percent when, after two years, we returned to Esprit in Trinidad at Easter. Our goal is to complete, by June, the circumnavigation we started with the Baja Ha-Ha back in 2003. Our plan is to visit the Windward and Leeward Islands up to St. Maarten, where our son Jamie will join us, and then continue on to the Virgin Islands. Perhaps we'll be able to stop at Jamaica on our way to Panama, where a transit of the Canal will complete our circle of the globe.

Our first week was busy with the usual preparations for launching Esprit. On a positive note, the boat was pretty darn clean for having sat on the hard for almost two years. The diesel started, the dinghy engine started, the staysail and genoa sails went back up easily, as did the dodger and bimini.

How do we start engines while on the hard? Katie uses the hose to run fresh water through the thru-hull, getting thoroughly drenched — and cooled off — in the process. Meanwhile Chay starts the engine from topside ­— while cooking up in the tropical heat. We only let the engine run for a few seconds, but it lets us know if it will start when we launch her, which is critical.

Unfortunately, our ProSine charger/inverter for the batteries died after 14 years of reliable service. In the ensuing years, one would expect new electronics with the same capabilities to be smaller. But noooo! So we had to settle for a replacement with less capabilities.

A second problem is that the generator wouldn't start. Chay checked, repaired, and/or replaced just about everything, but to no avail. Needless to say, this left Chay extremely frustrated! If we can't get it started, we won't have much refrigeration to keep the food cold in the tropics, and will have to be power misers to conserve our batteries. Even the new charger/inverter needs to have the extra oompf from the generator to keep the batteries adequately charged.

Yo, ho, ho, is it the cruising life for us? We departed Trinidad at 4:30 a.m. on April 25, with a forecast calling for 10-15 knots from the east for the next 48 hours. We had those conditions for the first 80 miles to Grenada. We had planned to stop there if the weather was bad, or if we were tired. Since the trip had been so smooth, Katie said she wanted to continue on. So we did.

Big mistake. For the next 300 miles the winds got stronger and came farther forward, and the seas got bigger and more confused. We both suffered from the sea queasies, and for the first time Katie was close to becoming seasick.

We had another fallback stop at the top end of Guadaloupe, but we approached it at dawn after a quieter night in the lee when we were both able to catch some much-needed sleep. So with 40 or so miles to go to Antigua, we continued on. We had 24 to 28 knots of wind on the beam, but smoother seas.

Thirty miles from Antigua's famed English Harbour, the 150% genoa we call our Whomper blew out. We furled it as best we could and put up the staysail, but we had to listen to the flapping sound the genoa's tattered pieces made for the next four hours.

Considering that it was Antigua Sailing Week, one of the biggest sailing events in the Caribbean, the anchorage at Falmouth Harbour wasn't too crowded. And aaah, it was calm! We'd done 400 miles in 55 hours — almost 7.3 knots. Not too bad for the old girl!

Our first task was to untangle and unfurl the genoa, which was quite the mess. Chay went up the mast twice in 24 knots of wind to try to cut off some of the tangled loose pieces, but wisely decided to stop when he realized the flapping genoa pieces could knock him out or kill him!

Two cruisers in the anchorage offered their assistance. Marcus on the German-flagged Skook brilliantly assisted in untangling and unfurling the genoa so we could drop it on deck. The second, Andrew on the British-flagged Hanse Sailor, brought over a spare genoa. Unfortunately, it was a bit too big for us.

We took our 150% genoa in to the A&F sail loft. After inspection, we were informed that it would be cheaper to buy a new sail. We'd suspected that would be the case. This was the same genoa that blew out in Ouvea, New Caledonia, ages ago. We'd had it repaired by a Kiwi in Bundaberg, Australia, 25,000 miles before. He did a great job! So with sail ties in hand, after 17 years and over 50,000 miles of use, we left our large genoa behind.

Fortunately, we have a smaller 120% genoa on board, original to Esprit, which we will put on. Hopefully, it will last the 1,200 miles to Panama.

There is a silver lining in this story. When Chay started the engine underway to charge the batteries and run the refrigeration, he also gave the generator one last chance to start — and it did, just as it should have when we were on land. It has continued to run every day since. The batteries seem to be doing better each day, too.

English and Falmouth harbours in Antigua are beautiful bays. The buildings in English Harbour are a step back in time to the 1700s. It could be a set for Pirates of the Caribbean. They have done a beautiful job of restoring and updating the old buildings rather than letting them just sit and deteriorate.

Antigua is definitely the sailing mecca it is reported to be, There were lots of megayachts, such as the 289-ft Maltese Falcon — which we'd anchored next to in the Med — gorgeous classic sailing yachts, modern racing boats, and of course your everyday cruising boats such as ours. What a collection!

Because it was Antigua Sailing Week, the town and marinas buzzed with activity. Today we will hike up to one of the high points overlooking the harbor, which used to be a fort and gun battery protecting the harbor and British fleet, to watch the end of today's race and have a BBQ.

— katie 05/09/2017

Privateer — Hans Christian 33
Lila Shaked and Chris Jahn
Our Trimesters at Sea
(Redlands and Tucson, Arizona)

You’ve all heard of 'Semesters at Sea', where college students spend four months on the ocean as an alternative- learning environment. As parents-to-be rather than college students, we spent two of my three trimesters at sea.

It all started with my missing a period at Tabuaeran (aka Fanning) Island 900 miles south of Hawaii. Anyone who has been there knows it's not the place to find a pregnancy test kit. The stores are small huts that are only open when the owners feel like opening them, and they only sell goods such as flour, rice (usually with weevils), corned beef hash, single cigarettes, and pens and paper to school kids.

Concerned that I might be pregnant, I tried not to think of all the raw ahi sashimi I had been eating for the past few days, or the beer, liquor and kava I had been consuming in celebrating our second time cruising the Pacific. Until we knew for sure whether I was pregnant, I decided to switch to cooked fish and juice.

As days passed, I felt more positive about being pregnant, but really wanted a test to be certain. But winds were strong from the SSE, and we wanted to wait until they turned more easterly to make our trip from Fanning to Niue/Tonga/Samoa — we weren’t sure where we would land — more pleasant. We ended up departing from Fanning on June 19.

On our sail down we talked about the three possible countries we might land at in 10 days to two weeks' time. Did Niue have a hospital or just a clinic? I thought I'd read American Samoa’s maternity ward was under construction, but wasn't sure. Would Vava’u’s pharmacy have an ultrasound machine? The answers to most of our questions were mere speculation, since the cruising guides do not address those who need prenatal care.

I was sick pretty much every day of the passage. For someone who had already logged 13,000 ocean miles sailing from California to Hawaii to New Zealand to French Polynesia and back to Hawaii, and had never been seasick, I was pretty sure I had morning sickness. All the many forms of ginger I had onboard were no match for my daily nausea.

It didn’t help that we had to cross the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which featured days of squalls. After crossing the equator to the South Pacific, we were greeted by the South Pacific Convergence Zone. We again had squalls for days, and when we weren’t dodging squalls, we had either no wind or 30 knots.

It seemed like one of the longest passages of our lives, although we had done some that were twice as long. We arrived in Neiafu, Tonga, on the morning of the Fourth of July — only to find it was a national holiday. No, they weren't celebrating America's Independence Day, but rather the Prince's birthday. Everything was closed.

We returned to the pharmacy on the 5th to buy a pregnancy test. We went to the nearby Mango Café to use the Internet and drink soda until I had to pee. Soon the time came for me to go.

“So this is it!” Chris said, looking around the Mango Café and at the boats moored in the water just in front of us. “This is where we find out if we will be parents!”

After three minutes in the bathroom, I ran out waving the indicator stick. “We’re having a baby!” I hugged Chris.

We returned to the pharmacy to make an appointment with the doctor who, because of a lack of government funds, only works three days a week. We met Kiwi Dr. Julie, last name unknown, who was to be the general practitioner for the town for the next few months. Luckily she was an OB-GYN, so she was able to answer all of our questions.

Our main concerns were Zika, and what I could eat. We learned that Zika hadn't really been present in Vava’u, but nonetheless decided it would be best for me to cover up for the first 18 weeks of pregnancy just to be safe.

We also learned that I couldn't eat a lot of foods — lunch meats and soft cheeses among them — due to Listeria bacteria. Since we were on an island that got its food from a bigger island, which in turn got its food from New Zealand, the doc told us to be extra, extra careful with any meat and cheeses we bought. Most of the meat is frozen when it leaves New Zealand, defrosts en route to Tongatapu, is refrozen to be shipped to Vava’u, and then is more likely defrosted and refrozen once again. Perhaps you have enjoyed the well-known Tongan delicacy known as 'Square Chicken'.

So we had to skip purchasing all meat and cheese while in Tonga. Anyone who has been pregnant can understand how hard this was for me. Luckily Chris is great at spearfishing, so he was able to provide protein in the form of goatfish, parrot fish, grouper and other local fish.

The highlight of our visit with Julie was when she rolled out the ultrasound. “I think this thing works!” she said.

Since she had only been in Tonga a few days, I was her first patient who needed the machine. I plugged it in for her, she booted the system, and then scanned my belly. After 3½ weeks of wondering, we finally had certainty. Julie showed us an ultrasound of a tiny — about the size of a grape seed — future sailor. We could see the tiny heart beating. It finally felt real.

Julie told us the next milestone in pre-natal care was the 18th-week anatomy scan. This is a more in-depth ultrasound that will show us the baby's vital organs and make sure everything is forming as it should. But Julie was not sure if there was a doctor in Vava’u that could perform the scan. Our other options were flying to Tongatapu or Fiji.

While at the hospital, we inquired about this scan, and we were told to find Dr. Atomi, again last name unknown. We were led to another room with a sign that said 'X-ray' on it. We knocked and waited. The same woman in a coat from before walked by. “Just knock and go in," she said. Things are different in Tonga.

We entered and found the doc sitting at a desk looking at an X-ray. We introduced ourselves, explained that I was expecting, and wanted to know if she could do the anatomy scan.

“Sure!” she said happily. “I have the machine right here. It can show me everything. Just come back any day in October after 1:30 p.m. I will remember you." We were sure she would remember us, as she couldn't be seeing many palangi couples.

So far our journey in pre-natal care in Vava’u had been quite adventurous. While on the surface the pharmacy and hospital may have seemed less organized than in the States, we were able to speak directly to the doctors and nurses. As everyone knows, this is something that is nearly impossible to do in the average health care system in America.

In the States, we typically would have had to sit in urgent care or an emergency room for hours, and then pay a huge co-pay to be able to get seen. And then possibly receive a bill for what our insurance didn't cover. It might have even taken weeks to get an appointment with an OB-GYN in our insurance network. The access to professionals in Tonga to answer our questions was refreshing.

At this point we had spent 80 pa'anga on our first pharmacy visit, 142 on blood tests, and 30 for pre-natal daily supplements. That's a total of $175 US dollars. Considering we didn’t have health insurance care in Tonga, this was a bargain.
It was about this time that we hauled our boat out at the boatyard in Vava’u. We needed to redo the bottom paint and put in some new bronze thru-hulls. Due to my pregnancy, we decided I should stay away from sanding, painting, and anything that involved harsh chemicals. So I kept Chris fed and did what small projects I could. Unfortunately, deep cleaning the head and holding tank were tasks that I was allowed to do.

Fortunately, I was offered a job back in the States for four weeks, so I left Chris to finish the bottom while I flew home to make some money. Chris painted a surprise message for me on the bottom on the hull. Upon my return to Tonga, we went snorkeling. While inspecting Chris’ handiwork on the bottom paint, I found the surprise message — his marriage proposal! Being six months pregnant with his child, I decided to say 'yes'.

[Part Two next month.]

— lila 04/18/2017

Cruise Notes:

With the arrival of summer, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca are aboard the 42-ft motoryacht Majestic Dalat at the Arsenal Marina in Paris until the end of July, seeking to confirm the suspicion that a canal boat in Europe is not only a viable option for 'six month on, six month off' cruisers to spend their off months, but that it's also inexpensive. Evidence suggests that it is viable, inexpensive — and a hell of a lot of fun.

Paris, the core of which is compact enough to easily be covered with a bike in less than half an hour, and is exploding with life, is naturally considerably more expensive than everywhere else. The Wanderer pays about $47/night in the Arsenal Marina, while in the rest of France it's more like $10/night — if not free — even with water and electricity.

Food in the stores and open markets in Paris is usually considerably less expensive than in the States, and restaurant meals, even at tourist spots, are often 35 to 50% less than at non-tourist restaurants in the States. Food is even less expensive outside of Paris.

It's possible to buy a perfectly adequate canal boat in the Netherlands — forget France — for $20,000 to $30,000. The one fly in the ointment is the Schengen limitation of just 90 days in Schengen Area countries — most of Europe — before Americans have to leave for 90 days. Canal-boat people have been breaking this rule for years without problems, but you never know when authorities may crack down.

One solution would be to go partners in the canal boat with another cruiser. So you spend six months cruising the tropics, three months cruising the canals of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and three months visiting with friends while your boat partner uses the canal boat for three months. We're talking terrific changes of pace and scenery, and the best of all worlds. Insurance, berthing, and maintenance are much lower on a canal boat than on a boat in saltwater.

The interesting thing is that while in the Arsenal Marina and on the canals you see US-based sailboats — their masts either on deck or having been shipped to the Atlantic or Med coast — on their way between the Med and the Atlantic or vice versa. You also stumble across interesting people. The Wanderer went out for a bike ride one afternoon and found himself not 15 feet from new French President Macron.

Don't tropical storms read calendars?

After spending a season in the tropical South Pacific, most cruisers head to chilly New Zealand for the South Pacific tropical cyclone season. Once the season is over, they are eager to head north to warm up again and play in the warm, clear water. The tropical cyclone season is officially from November 1 through April 30. But you can't trust tropical storms to follow the calendar, can you?

As you've read earlier in Changes, Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous of the Redwood City-based Voyager 43 cat Quixotic left New Zealand for Fiji right after the South Pacific tropical cyclone season was officially over. Who could blame them? The 2016-2017 cyclone season was the least active in four years, with only four tropical cyclones occurring in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of 160°E. So what happened right after Lewis and Alyssa, who'd bought their hurricane-damaged cat as salvage, and spent a year totally restoring her, arrived in Fiji? Why two 'post-season systems' whipped up.

The first was Donna, a Category 4 storm with winds to 115 knots. She was an erratic storm that initially was headed to the Solomon Islands, then backtracked 180 degrees before hanging a 90-degree right turn toward Fiji. Fortunately, she fizzled out before getting there. Then there was Ella.

"Luckily Ella has been downgraded from Cat 3 to a Cat 1 storm," Lewis told Latitude, "and is now forecast to track north of Vanua Levu. That's where we are, tucked up a river. But our hearts sank when Ella originally turned toward us, for after a year of getting our cat 95% restored, the last thing we want to do is spend another season on the beach making fiberglass repairs!"

The young couple, who fell in love at first sight on the docks in Redwood City, are hoping to make a go of a charter business in Fiji. Details on their charters, and some nice photos, can be found at

Leopard, the Atlantic 57 catamaran that flipped 400 miles north of the Dominican Republic on the evening of November 15 while on a passage from Annapolis to St. Martin, was found on May 3 and has been recovered. The cat was spotted five months after she flipped, by a fisherman 25 miles off Cape Lookout, North Carolina, and eventually brought to Beaufort. Note that this is a Chris White design that was built in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 2008, and completely different from the Leopard brand catamarans built in South Africa and ubiquitous in the Caribbean charter trade.

Leopard is the second Chris White-designed Atlantic 57 to have capsized. The 57 Anna capsized in the South Pacific in 2010. Both crew were rescued in good health in that case, and the three crew from Leopard were also rescued in good shape.

The crew on Leopard consisted of captain Charles Nethersole and crewmembers Carolyn Bailey and Bert Jono Lewis. According to Nethersole and the crewmembers, Leopard was significantly undercanvassed at the time she flipped, with just a double-reefed main and partially reefed staysail. The conditions had been variable, where at times they had to motorsail for lack of wind, and times when it was gusting in the high 20s.

“There was almost no warning,” Nethersole wrote in a widely disseminated statement, “not even enough time for me to hit standby on the autopilot control right next to me. Just an almighty roar, then suddenly the boat was lifted up and went over. It seemed it was the sudden pressure drop more than the wind that did it, as there was no acceleration of the boat. It was bizarre, as nothing like that had ever happened to me before.”

The crew had two immersion suits and one survival suit to wear while waiting to be rescued. They spent 10 hours at night on the overturned hull before being saved by a Coast Guard C-130 search plane and M/V Aloe.

It has since been speculated that Leopard may have been hit by a waterspout. The incident reminds us of the time about 12 years ago when the very heavy 135-ft luxury ketch Sayirah, captained by our friend Timothy Laughridge, was suddenly knocked down in the same general area, to the extent that the top of her mizzen was put into the water.

For what it’s worth, the Atlantic 57 has a design displacement of 26,500 pounds, just 1,000 pounds less than a Gunboat 55. Both are high-performance cruising cats.

Before anyone leaps to the conclusion that monohulls are much safer than multihulls, we have to report that the Farr 56 Monterey sank last month after hitting something during the Antigua to Bermuda Race. Fortunately all the crew were rescued a short time later by fellow competitor Esprit de Corps IV, which was only four miles away.

Monterey's owner Les Crane said that he'd owned the boat for 14 years and had cruised her more than 40,000 miles.

The Wanderer fancies himself as something of an expert on dinghy lights, as he and de Mallorca do at least 90 night miles a year of riding in the dinghy from the crowded Gustavia anchorage to the dinghy dock. There is a lot of traffic on the two-mile round trip.

Before we even get to the subject of lights, there are two huge problems with those in dinghies in St. Barth. First, the operators of the big tenders to the megayachts anchored the farthermost out typically violate the three-knot speed limit by a factor of about 10. They've not only killed people in smaller dinghies, one put a hole in Ramber 92 that cost $150,000 to repair. The second problem is that lot of people with typical cruiser- size dinghies don't show any lights at all. They don't even try to be seen.

Many dinghy operators try to do the right thing with dinghy lights, and among the most popular 'solutions' are the solar-powered LED tricolors that are placed on the top of the outboard. These are great in theory, but in our experience don't work becase they are blocked to oncoming traffic by the dinghy operator and/or passengers. The result is that these well-intentioned folks think they are being seen, but often aren't.

One manufacturer — we regret to say we didn't get the brand — came up with a brilliant solution: port, starboard and forward lights in the fiberglass part of the RIB hull. There is no obstruction of these lights. Combined with a white stern light on the outboard, it is the best solution we've seen. Short of having one of these dinghies, make sure you wave a brilliant white light all around to make sure you are seen by the 'enemy'.

It could be a race to see who is first to do both 'Loops'. In this month's first Changes, Ed and Sue Kelly report they are about to do the Great American Loop. Having already done the 'Loop' of Western Europe via the Danube River, the Black Sea, and the Med, they are under the impression that they will be the first to do both Loops.

But wait! One of the very few other sailors who has done the Western Europe 'Loop' is Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Nadja 30 Fleetwood. Guess what he's about to do. Yeah, the Great American Loop! Jack wants to add to the total of 565 locks he's already been through.

While Jack will be starting from Florida, Ed and Sue are beginning their 6,000-mile trip from New Bern, North Carolina. They'll then go to the Chesapeake, up the Hudson River to the canals of Canada, west to Lakes Huron and Michigan, then down through Chicago and Illinois, to the Mississipi and down to the Gulf of Mexico. Bon voyage!

Unlike Angel Louise and Fleetwood, cruising boats are getting bigger and less humble than they used to be. Based on entries in the Baja Ha-Ha, the average cruising boat is now about 43 feet and displaces about 25,000 pounds.

But think of '220 tons' as being the evidence of a bigger cruising boat. 220 tons — that's 440,000 pounds! — is a lot more than the displacement of the average cruising boat. But here's the kicker: The 220 tons we're referring to is the weight of just the lifting keel of the 278-ft Aquijo, designed by Bill Tripp, built by Vitters of the Netherlands, and now cruising the Med.

Aquijo has 298-foot masts, which means her sticks are more than 70 feet taller than the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge, and more than 100 feet too tall for her to fit beneath the Bridge of the Americas in the Panama Canal.

But don't assume that megayachts are any more fun than smaller boats. Or any safer. Last month one person was killed and two others injured when a helicopter attempted to land on the sundeck of the 196-ft superyacht Bacarella in the Norwegian fjords near Bergen. A loose tarp, presumably on the deck of the $30 million yacht, got sucked into the rotors. The helicopter flipped over and into the water. Pilot Quentin 'Captain Q' Smith, a Brit, the first person to fly a helicopter to both poles and the two-time World Helicopter Acrobatic Champion, managed to inflate the emergency floats, which kept the helicopter from sinking. He and another man were rescued in satisfactory condition, while a third man, 57, was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, longtime cruisers Gene and Sheri Seybold of the once Honolulu- and Stockton-based Esprit 37 Reflections made a 266-mile passage from Langkawi, Malaysia, to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, for the Third Sabang Marine Festival. The Festival is a free wildly colorful five-day event consisting of tours, traditional dancing and music. Everybody gets a nice bag of swag — and three free meals each day!

"We've all been treated like dignitaries, and the Festival has been both an amazing and humbling experience," writes Sheri. "The generosity of the organizers and local people has touched all our hearts! We will not forget our time here."

The troubling thing is that while the officials and people at Banda Aceh are extremely kind and welcoming, they are also very intolerant. Banda Aceh is the only part of Indonesia were sharia law is allowed to be in effect. This was only permitted to stop a seemingly never-ending civil war with that part of the country.

After watching two young Indonesian men have sex for three hours, Muslim vigilantes arrested them. On International Day Against Homophobia, the sharia court sentenced the men to 85 lashes in public. They were given leniency from the 100 lashes they could have received because they'd been polite in court. Two years ago, two women were accused of being lesbians because they gave each other a hug in public. Oh boy.

If it's been a little quiet on the Pacific Coast of Southern California and Mexico, it's probably because Bill Lilly of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 47 Moontide is still in the Caribbean. He was recently seen in Martinique inspecting a 'man-eating fern'. He's one of many expected to take his cat up to Bermuda for the America's Cup events.

Eric Witt and Annie Gardner of the Point Loma-based Catana 47 El Gato, on the other hand, are planning on heading to the Southern Caribbean for a few months before putting their cat away for the summer.

Mike and Robin Stout of the Redondo Beach-based Aleutian 51 Mermaid were also going to take their boat south for hurricane season — until they got a reasonable insurance quote for leaving their boat on the hard at Jolly Harbour, Antigua. They are now headed to Italy for a little canal-boat fun.

We had a great time in the Caribbean with all these folks last season, and all of us are going to do it again next season.

The Grand Poobah is humbled by the fact that over 50 people signed up for this fall's Baja Ha-Ha in the first two hours after registration opened on May 9. "I'm going to do my best to try and make this the safest and most fun of the 24 Ha-Ha's so far," he says.

Among the new safety features for the event is the requirement that all boats be capable of long distance two-way communication at all times. Two of the best devices for this purpose are the Garmin InReach and the Iridium Go! You can sign up for the Ha-Ha at

The Poobah realizes that not everyone has time to do a Ha-Ha at this point in their life. That's why he created the weeklong SoCal Ta-Ta from Santa Barbara to Catalina, which is modeled after the Ha-Ha. This year's version will be the fifth, and they've all been a blast — which is why so many sailors do it year after year. You can sign up at

By the time you get this issue, we'll be well into the Eastern Pacific hurricane season. If you've left your boat in Mexico, make sure somebody responsible is looking after her.

The summer cruising season is full on, so whether you're in the South Pacific, the Sea of Cortez, the Med, or the Baltic, we'd love to hear from you.

Missing the pictures? See the June 2017 eBook!


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