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July 2008

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 With reports from Aurora on landing a big mahi on the way to New Zealand; from Moonduster with the straight dope on singlehanding; from Manu Rere on the Gulf of Fonseca; from Rhapsody on Alma, the first tropical storm of the season; from Sea Angel on the last passage of the Caribbean season; from Tropical Dance on a 'double turtle save'; from Moonshadow on cruising expenses in the Med; from Imagine Me And You on doggie help from Singlar in Santa Rosalia; from Lucky Star on Glacier Bay; from Tenacity on a whale of a photo off Mazatlan, and lots of Cruise Notes.

Aurora — Morgan 38
Jim and Pam McEntyre
The Big Fish
(San Pedro)

Here’s a fish picture for you! My wife and I had spent a lovely '06 season sailing our Morgan 382 from Panama across the South Pacific to the Galapagos, French Polynesia, and so forth, and finished up the season in Tonga. It was then late in the cruising season, and we needed to leave Tonga for New Zealand to avoid being caught by an early-season tropical cyclone. We patiently waited for a weather window while happily anchored next to Motutapu Island, which is near the capital city of Nuku’alofa at the southern end of the Kingdom of Tonga.

Getting to New Zealand from Tonga requires a 1,000-mile dash across the notoriously treacherous waters between Tonga and New Zealand. We were in daily contact with New Zealand weather guru Bob McDavitt hoping for a window, but there just didn't seem to be one, so we waited and waited. But eventually, after a strong frontal system passed through, McDavitt told us to scoot. So we weighed anchor and took off in the fresh breezes and leftover lumpy seas. We began flying along at hull speed almost as soon as we cleared the islands — even though we had the genoa rolled in to 105% and a double reef in the main.

We decided we should reduce sail a bit more because of the threat of increasing winds, but before doing that, we pulled in our 'meat line' because it was beginning to become too rough to fish anyway. I had just reached for the line to pull it in when it jerked bar-taut and the shock cord snapped out to the limit! There wasn't just a fish on the line, it was a big one! I had no choice but to bring in the line, so I got on my knees and slowly muscled away at it, all the while slipping and sliding on the wet deck. It took me 20 minutes to land and subdue what turned out to be a five-ft, 40-or-so lb. mahi. It took me another hour to filet the fish on the side deck. The big seas actually helped, by occasionally sending clean seawater along the weather deck to wash away the blood.

We ate fresh mahi until eight days later when we arrived at our check-in port of Opua, on New Zealand's North Island. Whereas New Zealand authorities are very careful about preventing any raw meat products from coming into their country, they have no concerns whatsoever about fish, so we were able to keep all the remaining fish in our freezer and later share it with cruising friends. Many a cruiser belly was made happy by that one fish.

­— jim 06/02/08

Moonduster — S&S 47
Wayne Meretsky
Straight Dope on Singlehanding

When I get to the end of an ocean passage, I invariably meet other boats who have done the same crossing at the same time with really only one difference — they have crew. It's usually a couple, but sometimes three or four. The conversation usually starts with curious questions: "Do you ever sleep?" or "How do you stand watch?" or "Do you eat a lot of freeze dried foods?"

The reality is that, as a singlehander, I sleep and eat really well, and generally arrive more rested and in a better frame of mind than those traveling with friends or spouses. The rationale is a little hard to digest at first blush and is sure to be controversial, but the reasons are simple. Measured per person, there's much more food in the fridge, water in the tank, and juice in the batteries when there's but one person on the boat. I took at least one shower a day, and was able to enjoy eating fresh meats, vegetables, and salads every day during my 20-day passage from Mexico to the Marquesas. The math is easy and shouldn't cause much of a stir. There's just no way I could have pulled that off if there had been another person on the boat.

As far as rest and energy reserves go, this is where eyebrows start to raise and heads start to shake. I've sailed quite a bit, doublehanded and fully crewed, and have found there is nothing less restful than trying to manage watch-and-watch with one other person. You just can't be fully rested trying to swap two-, three- or four-hour watches. And when you are on watch, looking at someone else's dirty dishes in the sink, laundry on the settee, or chicken scratches on the chart tends to just drive you crazy after 10, 15 or 20 days. By contrast, my crew's personal hygiene, organizational, navigational, sail trim and culinary skills are perfectly aligned! There's no discord or subtle tensions, no discussions being rehearsed while they're sleeping peacefully and I'm trying to cope with their best efforts. It always works perfectly.

So that really leaves just one question, "How do you stand watch?" And herein lies the tricky part, because I really don't stand watch at all. Having sailed plenty of miles doublehanded and fully crewed, I've always been miffed at how little gets noticed by the other crew standing watch. Whether it's running lights on the horizon, a temperature gauge that has crept up 10 degrees, or the fact that the wind speed has fallen and it's time to shake out that reef, I find that, in the middle of a 15-day passage, the mid-ocean malaise has reduced the attentiveness of most crew — myself included — to a pretty low standard.

My solution is twofold. First, throw technology at the problem everywhere possible. I run my radar in 'watch' mode on 10 or 20-minute intervals with a programmed zone that is usually out to 20 miles. My wind speed, wind direction, compass heading, course, cross track error, way point arrival, and depth all have programmable alarms that would likely wake the dead. For this cruise, I've also added AIS to the mix, and have come to believe that, so far as commercial shipping goes, the days of being run down are pretty much over. I routinely get AIS hits on commercial vessels from 100, 150 or even 200 miles away.

Second, by being really well rested and well fed, I find that I'm far more mentally and physically prepared when something needs attention or when something really goes wrong. What do I mean by well rested? I usually have three alarm clocks set on 30-minute intervals at night and on 60-minute intervals during daylight hours. They are battery-powered digital kitchen timers that cost about $6.95 at Longs Drugs. At times, I'll sleep through one of them, but I haven't slept through all three in the last 10 years.

Have I had any close calls? Yes. In '98, when I was sailing solo from Manzanillo to Hawaii, I was in a low pressure trough with considerable rain for about five days. The radar watch alarm was useless because the rain constantly triggered the alarm. After being awake pretty much continuously for three days, I finally fell asleep for perhaps four to six hours, sleeping through all three alarms. When I awoke, it was in a dead start, and when I shoved the companionway hatch open to take a look while the radar was warming up, there, dead ahead, was a Panamax container ship with range lights perfectly aligned less than a quarter mile ahead. The panic lasted a few seconds, and I turned to the right about 45 degrees and quickly opened up a decent passing lane. I talked to the profusely apologetic master of the ship for about two hours, until we were out of VHF range. The adrenaline dump kept me up for the next two days.

That situation never would have occurred in an AIS-equipped world. The only close encounter I had this season was with a military vessel that popped up at 15 miles on radar. Unfortunately, the military kids refuse to operate AIS even when in U.S. coastal waters, which I think is just dumb, dumb, dumb.

What's the hardest period of time for solo sailing? I find that there's a lot to do during the first eight to 12 hours, mostly because I never really have the boat squared away before I leave, regardless of how hard I try. Then wind conditions change as one clears the coast, and there's lots of sail trim to deal with, preventers to set, alarms to program, and so forth. At the end of those eight to 12 hours, I'm pretty tired, but if I can get one to two hours of good rest, I can start to fall into the groove. But if the whole trip is just 12 to 18 hours long, then the opportunity for rest is usually lost and I arrived exhausted. It's for that reason I don't really like 100- to 150-mile hops.

Have I ever been caught short because I was singlehanding? There are plenty of times when I've been really concerned about my ability to handle some tricky situations. In the Tuamotus recently, my anchor chain became badly fouled on some coral. When the wind shifted and the anchorage became very choppy, it was clearly time for me to move. I dove on the rode and found a total mess. But a little patience, a really good windlass, and a little luck saw the situation resolved with no drama at all.

More problematic was side-tying to a barge in Papeete, as I was approaching a dock for the first time in two months and with a 15-knot cross breeze blowing me off the dock. My spot was also surrounded by other boats, and there was nobody on the dock to take a line. I pulled in perfectly, and stepped off the boat with a bow and stern line in one hand. But with the crosswind and no cleats on the dock, it was a real struggle to get both lines secured in the silly rings on the dock without losing control of the boat. In fact, my boat got about 15 feet away from the barge before I could get her secured. I've had similar docking problems in the past, most always due to strong crosswinds.

That's not to say that it's always been so easy. Having done the solo thing for over 15,000 miles has resulted in quite a bit of confidence, most of it deserved. I've learned more than a few tricks from other solo sailors, refined many of my systems, and I make different trade-offs than in my earlier days. Plus, I spend a lot of time thinking through landfalls and planning contingencies.

In the end, solo sailing is still very controversial. I've only met four other singlehanded boats this season out of the 1,200 that I've seen here in French Polynesia. Many skippers and crew are adamant that it's not possible to be safe when sailing solo. The establishment, as measured by insurance companies, is also dubious of those of us who sail alone. I was only able to get one quote for sailing singlehanded offshore, and it came to nearly 10% of the coverage amount.

But for me, regardless of the controversies and despite the risks, the experience of watching Fatu Hiva slowly materialize out of the mist as the sun rose on the 19th day out of Puerto Vallarta was the culmination of endless dreams and countless hours of planning. And of all the accomplishments in my life, there's been nothing more satisfying than having done it alone.

­— wayne 06/17/08

Manu Rere — 38-ft Homebuilt Cat
Glenn Tieman
Gulf of Fonseca
(Southern California)

It took me two full weeks of sailing to make my way from Huatulco, Mexico, along the Gulf of Tehuantepec, around Guatemala and most of El Salvador, then back deep into the Gulf of Fonseca to reach the backwater of La Union, El Salvador.

The Gulf of Tehuantepec is a dangerous place because the wind is accelerated through one of the narrowest parts of Central America at Salina Cruz. My boat doesn't have an engine so, unlike most cruisers, I couldn't just motor across the wide gulf during a big weather window. Fortunately, May, the month I was there, is historically the safest month for making the crossing. In addition, I followed the well-known technique of staying very close to shore. This meant that, if the offshore winds did come up, they wouldn't have much fetch in which to build up huge seas. As it turned out, I had an excellent sail across the Gulf.

By the time I'd reached southern Mexico and was ready to make my jump across the Gulf, typical rainy season weather conditions had arrived. That meant many black thunderstorms, with heavy rain at night with calms and headwinds during the day. The weather was so foul at night that I usually just took down the sails about midnight and slept soundly.

It turns out that Guatemala charges exorbitant fees for private boats, so I didn't stop there. Most boats stopping in El Salvador do so at either Barillas Marina or the Hotel del Sol. Both are resort facilities reached by crossing a bar into a lagoon. But I wanted to see the 'real' El Salvador, so I elected to stop at La Union, a town that is definitely off the tourist trail. Unlike in Mexico, where the people have been jaded by all the tourists, the locals at La Union treated me like a curiosity.

There was another boat with me in La Union, Tao8, which I'd previously crossed paths with in Mexico. Unfortunately, they'd had fuel containers stolen off their decks at night, so La Union isn't about to lose its reputation for being unsafe. When I went ashore, I'd tie to a Salvadoran naval ship and then walk through the base to town. The officers, who were also some of the officials who cleared me into the country, said it was the safest way for me to come ashore, but it still wasn't a very comfortable arrangement. As it turned out, I was challenged at the gate once, but said, "El Capitán del Puerto me permite al pasa aquí." At that point I was waved through.

After provisioning at the fabulous public market, where the exchange rate was three sapotes to the dollar, making an improvement to the mainsail, and sending this email, I'm about to head out to the islands in the Gulf of Fonseca, which are home to smaller villages. After that, I'll continue on to Honduras, which is on the other side of the Gulf and has a very limited coastline presence on the Pacific Ocean.

— glenn 05/29/08

Rhapsody — Beneteau Oceanis 510
Pat and Trish Horton
Along Came Alma
(San Diego)

In preparation for leaving Puntarenas, Costa Rica on May 27, we checked the GRIB files from SailMail and the other forecasts we get from Since neither indicated any unusual weather, we went ashore on Tuesday to play a little pool and have a last beer before departing the next morning. While shooting pool, Noel DesMarteau and his family on the Astoria, Oregon-based Morgan 452 Ketching Up took the floating dock in front of ours, then came into the yacht club. Noel reported that their dinghy and outboard had been stolen the night before at Islas Cedros/Jesusitas — even though they'd lifted the dinghy out of the water and secured the outboard on a mount on a stanchion.

It was bad enough that someone had stolen their dinghy and outboard, but the fact that someone boarded their boat to do it was downright scary. Trish and I had been anchored at the same place for three days the week before. In addition to learning that Argonauta 1 had also had her dinghy stolen there, I noticed a few shady looking characters eye-balling Rhapsody as they slowly rowed around in their canoes. After Noel told us about their theft, we checked on the web for other reports — and found that several other dinghies and motors have been stolen from Cedros/Jesusitas in the past few months. So a word to the wise.

While Noel was sharing his bad news, we mentioned that we'd be leaving the next morning. He offhandedly asked if we'd seen the forecast for 17-ft seas for the next day. We hadn't. It had been a long time, in fact, since I had checked the sea state, being more interested in forecasts for the wind, lightning, and rain. As we were leaving, Michael and another guy from the 32-ft sloop Harmony said they were planning on leaving the next day also. When we mentioned the forecast for high seas, they said they were going to leave anyway. After urging them to reconsider, we returned to Rhapsody, where, thanks to our nifty long-range wi-fi antenna, we were able to check the weather again via the Costa Rica YC.

Sure enough, was forecasting 11 to 17-ft seas, but had upped the wind forecast to a still-relatively mild 12-18 knots. Trish and I decided to postpone our departure. When we awoke the next morning, we saw that Harmony had left. We tried to raise them on the VHF to warn them about the seas, but were unsuccessful.

Since we weren't leaving, we decided to join Bruce and Marianne for champagne and Trivial Pursuit aboard their Gallivant at 4 p.m. By 5:00, it was raining quite heavily. When we left Gallivant to return to our boat at 7 p.m., we got drenched covering the 30 feet between the two boats. Six or seven hours later, in the wee hours, we were awakened by strong winds and heavy rain. The instruments showed gusts to over 30 knots, and it was raining so hard we couldn't think.

It wasn't raining or blowing as hard at dawn, so we slept in. About 9 a.m., we started to hear things bump into the boat. Since the Costa Rica YC is on a river estuary, and we had seen a few logs and branches floating downstream during our stay, we figured we were hearing the usual stuff. But when we stuck our head outside, we were astounded to see dozens of trees and logs floating down the river, quite a few of them thumping and bumping as they glanced off Rhapsody.

It quickly became apparent that the quantity of debris could become a problem, and occasionally a tree limb or some debris would get stuck between our boat and the dock, threatening to pull us loose from the dock. So Trish and I, along with several of the yacht club workers, began clearing the debris from Rhapsody, and were barely able to keep pace with the arrival of new debris. Meanwhile, Bruce, Marianne, and Gene were keeping the debris from Gallivant and Caravan, the next two boats downstream from us. Noel, Ashley and the boys on Ketching Up were lucking out as, for some reason, their boat didn't seem to catch any debris.

After about an hour of keeping pace with the arrival of new debris, we all looked up to see a huge island of stuff headed right for our Rhapsody! Everyone stopped working for a second or two, as what must have been a ton or more of trees, limbs, and trash caught between Rhapsody and the floating dock she was tied to. The water was moving down the estuary at perhaps five knots, so this debris packed a wallop when it jammed itself between our boat and the dock. Soon there was an island of debris large enough to walk on! And the force of the current on the island was so great that not only was I afraid the docklines were going to part, but that one of the cleats would be pulled out of the dock. The force was so great that it was already bending two half-inch steel bolts sideways and threatening to pull them through four-inch-thick hardwood!

The debris island contained a lot of the usual stuff, but also a railroad tie that used to be part of a fence and was wrapped with 20 feet of barbed wire. What a mess! In addition, there were all kinds of lizards, frogs, and even a few snakes in the mix. About this time one of the dockworkers gave a holler and pointed out a good-sized armadillo in the pile! The workers rescued it, picking it up by its tail, and put it in a 5-gallon bucket until they could release it properly later on. A short time later, everyone stared incredulously as a 12-ft dead croc, his feet up in the air, floated by. He must have been hit by a falling tree or something.

After the initial shock of seeing all of the debris pile up, I argued that we just needed to wait for the tide to change and for the problem to "fix itself." But Rudolfo, one of the workers, told me there was too much water coming down the river, and even when the tide tried to change, water would still be flowing out. So it was either keep cleaning the debris away or risk Rhapsody breaking loose and drifting down on the boats further downstream.

For the next five hours or so, Trish and I, helped by six workers from the yacht club, as well as Gene from Caravan, battled the debris. Several other workers got into pangas and worked to clear the pile away also. After all those hours of hard work, one of the workers tied a rope to a large log in the middle of the 'island' of debris, then gunned his panga. That managed to get the bulk of the debris free of our boat. After another hour or so of work, Rhapsody was completely free. In order to prevent a repeat of what had happened, the workers tied Rhapsody to two mooring balls, then cut the floating dock away.

After a very hard and messy day, Rhapsody was still covered with trash, bugs, and twigs, but at least she was safe. Trish and I were still sore the next day from all the backbreaking work, and don't know what we'd have done without all the help we'd received.

While watching Costa Rican television that night, we learned that we'd been hit by parts of tropical storm Alma, and had been very lucky to have stayed in Puntarenas. The next morning it was reported that the sailing vessel Stravaig, having lost their engine and sails in 60-knot winds and 30-ft seas in the Gulf of Papagayo, had to be rescued by the Costa Rican Coast Guard. They eventually made it to Nicaragua. Nonetheless, the storm was blamed for three deaths in Central America.

As for Alma, instead of heading northwest as most Eastern Pacific tropical storms do, she headed northeast across Nicaragua, and emerged in the Caribbean as tropical storm Arthur. We never did hear anything about Harmony. They were headed for 600-mile-distant Ecuador, so we hope they made it.

— pat 06/05/08

Sea Angel — Peterson 44
Marc Hachey
Last Passage of the Carib Season

With the North Star dead astern and 12 degrees above the horizon, and the Southern Cross serving as a guiding light off my bow, I sailed out of Prickly Bay, Grenada, at 1 a.m. on June 1. My destination was Chaguaramas, Trinidad, approximately 80 miles to the south. The sky was mostly clear with only a few clouds and, since the new moon was only two days away, it was a perfect night for viewing the stars. They all looked bright, including the planet Jupiter, which was directly overhead. Only a sliver of the moon rose above the horizon, and not until around 4 a.m., about two hours before the welcome sunrise. When singlehanding, the nights always seem very long, but no matter how tired I am when the sun peeks above the horizon, I always feel reenergized at the beginning of a new day.

My last passage of the season couldn't have been much nicer. I'd sailed out of the bay under full main and a 100% yankee-cut jib in 17 knots of breeze. The average winds for the passage turned out to be 15 to 20 knots at about 65 degrees off the bow — in other words, absolutely perfect! This passage typically features some strong currents, mainly westerly setting, and others with a north or south flow. But on this night, I definitely had the west setting current, as my compass heading was as much as 19 degrees east of my actual course over ground. Fortunately, the wind was north of east instead of the south of east that is normal for this time of year, so I was able to stay on my planned course. I also had some favorable current from aft, but none on the bow — also unusual for this passage. But as a result of all the different factors, a good portion of my trip was made at 7+ knots over the bottom, in seas that were in the pleasant three- to six-foot range. In this part of the world, sailing just doesn't get much better.

At present, I'm tied stern-to at the Peake Yacht Services boatyard jetty, preparing to haul Sea Angel for another hurricane season. The season officially started on June 1, the day I arrived. I'm always amazed at how much work is involved with preparing a boat to be left for an extended period of time. Normally, I need about a week at the dock, rinsing and removing sails, removing salt from lines — and just about everything on the exterior of the boat — as well as removing surface rust, polishing stainless, and so forth.

As I was doing my initial rinse with a hose in my hand, I realized that it was the first time that Sea Angel had been at a dock all season, and therefore it was the first time all season I'd had a chance to take a hose to her. The previous time was in November when I was buying diesel for the trip from the Northeast down to the Caribbean. My engine hour meter shows that I've put a total of just 100 hours on the Perkins since June of last year — which is an average of only about nine hours a month. That means a pretty small carbon footprint. After Sea Angel is secured on jacks in the boatyard next week, I'll flush the engine and refrigerator cooling system with fresh water, secure all her covers to protect her from the tropical sun, and finish my interior cleaning.

By the time I'm seated in an aluminum tube flying me back to the States, I'll be ready for a break from all the work associated with cruising mostly solo. On the other hand, I'll know that by the end of summer I'll be anxious to return to the Caribbean and get back to cruising — and hiking — in the islands I've come to know and appreciate more each season.

— marc 06/03/08

Tropical Dance — Gulfstar 50
Dan and Reylyn Yarussi
A Double Turtle Save
(San Clemente)

Dan and I, along with surfer/photographer Andy Conlin of Ventura, made a 'double turtle save' last month while on a passage from Zihua to Acapulco. We were motoring at about seven knots when we saw two turtles about 100 yards off our port beam. Using the binoculars, I got a closer look and could see yellow floats around the turtles. Then we saw the netting that had snagged them.

"Let's go free them!" said Dan. Andy and I immediately agreed. I switched the autopilot off, pulled a 'U'-ey, then came alongside the trapped turtles. It was quickly apparent that they were caught in snags from hell.

One of the big problems in freeing the turtles was that our Sailmaster 50 has unusually high freeboard. As a result, I ended up using the extendable boathook to pull the mess out of the water, which allowed Dan to reach down and cut away at the net. But it wasn't easy — in fact, one knife fell into the water and sank. Ultimately, I had to lift the net and the weight of the two turtles just so Dan could get a good angle for cutting the lines.

The whole operation took about 20 minutes, but I'm proud to say that we freed both the turtles. I wish we could have taken the net aboard to prevent other turtles from getting snagged, but there was a baby shark and a couple of dead fish in it, so it wasn't something we were able to deal with. Plus, during the whole rescue operation there were quite a few fish swimming below, including something really big — we couldn't tell exactly what it was — about 30 feet down. But it could have been a big shark hoping to have a turtle for lunch.

— reylyn 05/05/08

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62-2
George Backhus
Cruising the Med

Twelve years after doing the Ha-Ha, we're still cruising, and are presently in southwestern Turkey heading north into the Aegean. Folks in California who are thinking about cruising the Med would no doubt be interested in the price of things in this part of the world. We've found them to be fairly reasonable compared to what other cruisers have told us about the prices in the Western Med. It's our understanding that the costs get progressively more expensive as one heads west.

We paid about US$500/month for out-of-the-water winter storage in southern Turkey. It would have cost twice as much at the more popular wintering- over spots on the west coast such as Bodrum or Marmaris. On a casual basis, mooring in a marina will cost more than $100/day, but an annual contract will bring the cost down significantly. We generally avoid marinas unless we need to get some work done. The smaller Turkish towns have municipal harbors where one can tie up and get power and water for $25 to $50 a night. We pop in to these lovely little spots for a couple of days a week to do some sightseeing and provisioning, and maybe enjoy a meal out. We filled up with diesel at the end of last season, well before the current fuel situation, when it only cost about $6/gallon. I haven't checked prices this year yet.

Food prices are average in Turkey. A decent dinner out — two starters, two mains, a side dish/salad, and a reasonable bottle of wine — costs from $40 to $80 depending on the location and quality of the restaurant. We usually have breakfast and lunch aboard Moonshadow, and have dinner out about twice a week. Merima is pretty good at learning how to prepare local foods, so we often eat Turkish/Greek onboard. A good beer ashore is about $4 to $5, and a glass of wine is about the same. You can buy a bottle of Turkish wine in the markets for $10 to $20.

We spent a couple of months cruising the Greek Isles last summer, where there are municipal harbors rather than marinas. While the cost to tie up was usually a euro or two a night, power and water were expensive, running about $20/day. The water is expensive because most Greek Isles get little rain and have to have it brought in by barge. We found the food in the tavernas to be excellent and, at less than $50 for two, reasonably priced. Good house wine was usually less than $10 per "kilo" (liter). That said, food in the grocery stores was more expensive than in Turkey due to higher transportation costs.

While the Med is very interesting from a historical standpoint, it is much more expensive and difficult cruising than in Southeast Asia or north Queensland in Australia. The Med is also very crowded with charter and tour boats, so it's almost impossible to find a quiet anchorage where you can be alone.

If I was looking for a place to cruise long term, my first choice would be Malaysia, where you can spend the season going down to Singapore and up to Thailand. Of course, north Queensland — home to the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef — are also fantastic, so I could see spending a couple more winters — northern summers — there if we keep the boat past one circumnavigation.

We plan to head out to Crete and visit the village where my grandfather was born. Then we'll sail back to Turkey and north to Istanbul. After that, we'll travel back across the Aegean to Thessolonika and south to Athens before heading through the Corinth Canal to the Ionian Sea. We plan to leave the boat in Dubrovnik, Croatia, for the winter.

— george 06/15/08

Readers — When you read about the costs of cruising in other parts of the world, you can't help but realize how lucky we West Coast sailors are, what with huge, diverse, inexpensive, and relatively uncrowded Mexico so close at hand.

Imagine Me And You — M/V
Tom and Judy Blanford
Great Help from Singlar
(Santa Rosalia, Mexico)

We normally keep our boat in San Carlos on the east coast of the Sea of Cortez, but have spent the last five weeks on the Baja side. We were anchored at Sweet Pea on the inside of Isla San Marcos when we woke up one morning to discover that Brigand, our little tuff guy dog, was having seizures and couldn't walk. We immediately sought help on the Sonrisa Net. Janice, a retired vet tech, helped us as much as possible via the HF radio, but we also learned there was a vet in nearby Santa Rosalia.

So we beat feet to the Singlar Marina, where we took a slip and asked the office staff to call for a taxi. They wouldn't hear of it! They insisted on driving us and our very sick pooch to the vet. Carlos, one of the Singlar employees, drove us, in part because he's fluent in English and would stay with us in case there was a language issue at the vet. The entire Singlar staff has continued to be helpful and concerned about our dog.

We've heard some negative comments by fellow cruisers about the Singlar Marinas. If those complaints are accurate, they don't apply to the marina at Santa Rosalia. The folks here have been terrific, and everything is clean and well maintained. Incidentally, the Singlar facility in Santa Rosalia has power and water, a pool, wi-fi, an air conditioned room for cruisers, a fuel dock, and the staff is easy to get along with. The slip fees are about the same as Marina Real over on the San Carlos side, and probably less than at Marina San Carlos.

Singlar Santa Rosalia is a first class facility, and the staff made it easier for us to deal with an unpleasant situation.

— tom and judy 06/08/08

Tom and Judy — To the best of our knowledge, cruiser complaints with the Singlar facilities are mostly over pricing. Based on their somewhat extravagant but woefully under-utilized facilities at places such as Puerto Escondido and La Paz, Singlar still doesn't seem to understand the concept of market-based pricing. It would be in their best interest — and that of cruisers — if someone could explain it to them.

Lucky Star — Brent Swain 36
Tim Sell, Shelagh and Leslie
To Glacier Bay

On May 20, the three of us, plus my dog Jack, left Juneau for Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. I'd heard that we don't need a permit for the park prior to June 1, which is when most of the 300,000 annual visitors start to arrive on cruise ships. Speaking over the VHF, the folks at the Bartlett Cove Ranger Station confirmed we didn't need a permit. We departed Juneau on a bright and sunny day, and, except for just one day, would have the same weather for our entire trip. We're told that's almost unheard of in Southeast Alaska.

As we travelled up the Saginaw Channel, the humpback whales exploded up through the surface of the water, breeching frequently. We spent our first night at the public dock at the native village of Hoonah. After topping off the fuel tanks, we covered the last few miles to the park, and along the way saw many sea otters feeding in very deep water. We stayed center channel when we finally entered Glacier Bay National Park, as the Rangers advised us that there would be less chance we'd disturb the feeding whales.

Boats are allowed a three-hour stay at the Barlett Cove docks so, after taking Jack for a walk, we anchored out, and the next morning went to the boater orientation session. While there, we met David Brewster, who had paddled his kayak from Juneau. He looked a little ragged, so I invited him to put his kayak atop ours and ride up the west arm with us. He agreed.

We had a nice sail up to Blue Mouse Cove, but once there, Shelagh and Dave seemed a little reluctant to take the kayaks ashore to go camping. It took a bit of tough love on my part to get them into their kayaks and headed for land. I can't imagine why they were hesitant. Shortly after they paddled into an inlet they were followed by a black bear. I suppose I would have felt pretty guilty if they'd been eaten.

But our kayakers did return in one piece, after which we headed up the west arm. We got about as far as Johns Hopkins Inlet before the ice became so thick that I didn't think it was prudent to continue. So we just sat in the sunshine and enjoyed lunch. We then had a leisurely sail — among bergie bits, no less — all the way to North Sandy Cove. The crew kept busting my balls to start the engine, but I was having a great time sailing — even though we were only doing three knots. "Fuck 'em," I thought to myself, they can make something to eat or go to sleep, but I'm sailing my boat.

The next morning Jack growled at something ashore. It was a moose. I then shuttled all of Shelagh and Dave's gear to the beach, as they were to kayak and camp through the Beardslee Islands and meet up with us at Bartlett Cove. Leslie and I sailed the boat over the south arm of Fingers Bay.

After meeting up in Bartlett Cove, we said good bye to Shelagh, who hitched over the hill to Gustavus to catch a flight to her home in Montana. And the next morning, after bidding farewell to Dave, we set out for Tenekee Hot Springs. Tenekee has about 100 residents, but there are no vehicles except a fire truck and fuel truck. Everyone walks, bikes, or rides an ATV. After two days of hanging out with friendly locals, taking hot soaks, and even a yoga class, we headed back to Juneau. We had a great sail across Icy Strait. In fact, I even had to reef the main. We pulled into Funter Bay for the night, but the public dock didn't have a ramp to shore. Jack found this to be very confusing.

The next day we got the whale show as we made the last few miles back to Juneau's downtown marina. My slip fee for this first-class marina is $130 a month. Even so, many of the slips at this city harbor are empty. Why? Because they recently raised their rates, so the fishermen moved to Hoonah, where the slip fees are lower.

— tim 06/15/08

Tenacity — Pearson 424
Terry and Vicki Fahey
A Whale of a Great Time

We've been cruising Mexico since last fall, and have enjoyed the abundant wildlife — including the breaching whale in the accompanying photograph. The whale made its appearance on March 25 when we were about 15 miles out of Mazatlan and the ocean was as smooth as glass. I saw this little guy breaching, so we cut the engine and were entertained for a long time. I couldn't believe our luck! I also have some video of a mother and baby whale outside of Chacala — mostly fluke slapping — and we saw many mothers and baby humpbacks from Chacala to Mazatlan.

And once we got over to the Sea of Cortez, we found that the sea life is outrageous! We've seen many different types of fish, a lot of giant manta rays, a variety of sting rays, and much, much more. At San Juanico and Aqua Verde, we saw a number of osprey nests, and we've often seen lots of dolphins. In fact, we saw a group of dolphins at the bow of our dinghy on our way back from snorkeling. The animals, sea life, and clear water have made this part of our trip our favorite.

— terry and vicky 05/05/08

Cruise Notes:

"As far as I'm concerned, Norm Goldie in San Blas saved my finger," writes Ken Douglas, who usually singlehands his Astoria, Oregon, and Mazatlan-based Pearson 356 ketch Mermaid. "In February, I was stupid enough to check the V-drive with my hand, and for all practical purposes severed the end of my finger. Fortunately, I had a guest aboard who helped me reposition the end of the finger and stop the bleeding. Then I got on VHF 22 and asked if anyone in San Blas knew where there was medical help. Norm Goldie came on the radio and took over. He arranged for Ishmael, who owns a local restaurant and provides other services for cruisers, to meet me on the beach when I came ashore in my dinghy. While Ishmael drove, Norm contacted the Naval hospital to let them know that I was coming and the nature of my injury. Four hours after my initial call for assistance, the end of my finger had been reattached — with the warning that the doctor would have to cut if off if it turned black. The cost for the treatment, including medication? Just $7 U.S. I thank the sea spirits that Norm was in San Blas and had the connections to set up everything. Today, my finger works normally, and other than an ugly fingernail, is just great."

Speaking of San Blas, whatever happened to the Singlar Marina that was supposed to be built there? Norm Goldie reports that last year officials informed him that it would be operational for the '07-'08 season. That didn't happen, so now that they are promising it will be ready for the '08-'09 season, he's a little skeptical. "They are doing some work," he writes, "but they're going to have to speed things up if they want to be open for the next cruising season. For one thing, the amount of dredging that needs to be done is extensive. At present, 75% of the estuary entrance is dry, so I recommend skippers contact me before they attempt to enter."

In February, when would-be Pacific Puddle Jumper Sally Hein of the Bainbridge Island-based Peterson 46 Grace was run down and badly injured by a speeding motorcycle in Mexico, other sailors on the scene agreed that it was one of the most bizarre and unlucky incidents they'd ever seen. Ironically, only seconds before attempting to cross the highway Sally made the sarcastic comment, "We'll be lucky to get across this highway — let alone 3,000 miles of open ocean." The accident put Sally in a Puerto Vallarta hospital, where she endured several surgeries and faced a slow recovery. She insisted, however, that her husband, Geoff Lane, and a couple of friends make the crossing to French Polynesia without her, promising that she'd catch up when the sailors all got there. And she did, too. "We are thrilled to report that we're back together on Grace," wrote Geoff from Moorea. "While Sally still has an open wound on one leg, she is 90% recovered and is ecstatic to be back 'home'."

Beach clean-ups are popular in many populated sailing areas, but at remote Suwarrow Atoll in the Cook Islands? It's true. The folks at the World Cruising Club, who are in charge of the current World ARC, had gotten special permission for the 40 boats in the circumnavigating fleet to stop at the national park and wildlife sanctuary. As a thank you, the crews decided to work with warden John Samuels and his family to help clean up the damage done by winter storms. The two-day campaign saw fallen branches, battered huts, and piles of oceanic flotsam removed from the beaches and main campsite.

Of the three U.S.-based World ARC starters, the number is now down to two and will shortly be down to one. What's happened is that Jim and Mimi Logan of the Sarasota-based Outremer 55 cat Candela, who only were going to go as far as Australia, decided to drop out in French Polynesia. And Don and Anne Myers of the Syracuse-based Amel Super Maramu 52 Harmonie decided they liked the South Pacific so much that they are going to stop in Australia, go back to the South Pacific, then join the next World ARC when it comes through Cairns in '10. As such, Suzan Nettleship and Michael Bell aboard the Seattle-based Avatar 52 Maamalni, who at one point dropped three weeks behind the fleet, are the only Americans slated to go all the way around.

"As some Latitude readers might remember, while at Golfito, Costa Rica, about four years ago with my old Islander 37 Viva!, I had the 'pleasure' of a fer-de-lance snake coming aboard," writes Bob Willmann of the Golden, Colorado-based F/P Casamance 44 Viva! that was stretched to 47 feet. "The fer-de-lance is such a deadly snake that the Central Americans call it Dos Peds, or something like that, means 'two steps', which is supposedly about all you get before you die if a fer-de-lance gives you a good bite. It was a mystery to my friends and me how such a snake could have gotten aboard my boat, which was anchored in the middle of the bay at the time. But it did get aboard, and ended up coiled at the foot of my cockpit cushion. Well, it's four years later, I'm in Guatemala's Rio Dulce aboard my new Viva!, and what did I find yesterday when I removed the cockpit cushions? A barba amarilla, or yellow beard, which is a small and deadly snake known as Tres Minutes in these part, because after a good bite you can expect to only live for another three minutes. If bitten by one, the U.S. Army's Jungle Survival Handbook recommends that you "lay down and try to make yourself comfortable." My little yellow beard was only about a foot long, and probably couldn't have opened his mouth enough to bite anything bigger than a little finger, but just the same, I'd rather it hung out someplace other than on my boat. But the same question arises, how did this one get on my boat? I haven't been tied up to shore or sailing beneath any trees. And why did it decide to get under the cushion where I always sit? Is there something about boats named Viva! that attracts deadly snakes? But the most important question is, where is the little snake's momma?"

(Because we're curious by nature, we did a little research on Wikipedia, and discovered that the fer-de-lance and barba amarilla are two different names for the same venomous pitviper species common to Central America. No matter what you call them, these snakes are large and nervous, and are usually responsible for the vast majority of snake bites in whatever area they inhabit. However, the 'two step' or 'three minute' names are exaggerations of the power of the venom. Prior to 1947 in Costa Rica, where it is considered the most dangerous snake, the fatality rate was about 7%, but now it's almost zero. If treated with dispatch, most victims survive.)

Willmann reports he's in the Rio Dulce for the duration of hurricane season. "Having lost my original Viva!, as well as everything I owned, in a hurricane two years ago, I'm kinda touchy about being near them. But my semi-long-term plan is to spend another year or two in the Caribbean — meaning Honduras, Panama, the San Blas Islands, and Colombia — then do another Canal transit and climb back up the coast of the Pacific to Mexico." What's Willmann think of his 47-ft catamaran after so many years cruising on an Islander 37? "Sometimes she's too big for a singlehander like me, but nobody ever has too much space on a cruising boat. I've already put 6,500 Caribbean and ICW miles under her keels, so I'm still just getting to know her, but I flat out love her! In fact, I wonder if any catamaran owner has ever gone back to a monohull?"

"Life has been good down here at Puerto Los Cabos," reports Marina Manager Jim Elfers. "We've had remarkably moderate weather for June so far, with San Diego-like air temps, but the water is now up to nearly 80 degrees. As for the Puerto Los Cabos Marina, which as most folks know is located at San Jose del Cabo, 17 miles to the northeast of Cabo, we've just opened up a dock of 70-ft slips, all of which were leased out a year prior to the opening. That means we're up to 90 slips, with another 60 that will be coming on soon, and several hundred more later on. I can also report that we've signed a major deal with The Marine Group of San Diego, so we'll be getting a 150-ton Travel-Lift and a real chandlery. The fishing has been good, but not wide open. We have some Ensenada and Mazatlan-based tuna boats setting nets right off our coastline — and it's perfectly legal! Having fished out their own waters, now they are going after ours. We're fighting them, of course, but haven't won yet. But at least this is circle rather than gill net fishing, so they aren't a big hazard to navigation."

"Weather guru Don Anderson of Summer Passage got on the Amigo Net this morning and reported that the Pacific Seafarer's Net (PAS) was complaining that the Puddle Jump bunch "didn't know what they were doing," writes Puddle Jumper John Hallinan of the Seward, Alaska-based Southern Cross 39 Horizons. "It seems that the 'rules' for the various nets vary considerably, with the Pacific Seafarer's Net being a bit more structured and formal than most of the others. As I understood the complaint, Puddle Jumpers would neither pre-register with the net nor would they give a day's notice before departure — both of which are apparently requirements — and would just call in. Another complaint was that Puddle Jumpers would sometimes miss a roll call, breaking another rule, which would then trigger a time-consuming 'health and welfare' action by the Pacific Seafarers Net. Frankly, the rules of engagement and/or operating norms for these nets vary so much that they are a mystery to newcomers, including me. I haven't used the Pacific Seafarer's Nets, but now that I understand their rules, I probably won't in the future. It's way too easy to miss a roll call when you're sailing shorthanded, and who wants to get in 'trouble' for something like that? Maybe Latitude could do a piece on the most popular nets, noting their functions, rules, commitments, norms, and expectations."

No matter if they are on HF or VHF, all nets have different cultures, and they vary even more depending on who happens to be net control at the time. We list the most popular nets and a description of them in our First Timer's Cruising Guide to Mexico, and will do it again with this fall's reprint of our Idiot's Guide to SSB Radio. But when it comes to understanding the cultures and rules of the various nets, there is no substitute for listening in for a few days in advance to decide if it's your style. Some nets are very rule-bound and orderly, while others are casual. On some nets people blab on forever about what seems like nothing to most people, while on others it's much more all-business. The beauty of the SSB and VHF radio is that if you and your friends can't find a net to your liking, it's simple and free to start your own.

The margarita indicator tells all! It's been about four years since we last stopped at the Chacala anchorage, which is about 34 miles north of Banderas Bay. When we did, we were shocked to find that none of the palapa restaurants served margaritas. If you wanted alcohol, it was beer or nothing. So when John and Gilly Foy told us they were headed that way with their Alameda-based Catalina 42 Destiny in May, we warned them. We need not have.

"We can report that margaritas are now readily available at Chacala — and even have photographic evidence," write John and Gilly. "Like many other oceanfront locations in Mexico, Chacala is moving more upscale, so mixed drinks are now available in many places. We enjoyed an easy daysail from Punta Mita to Chacala, as the jungle-covered Nayarit coastline is spectacular. The Chacala anchorage can be a bit rolly, but setting a stern anchor helps, especially when the onshore breeze dies in the evening. While in Chacala, we met up with Louis Kruk and Laura Willerton of the Alameda-based Beneteau 42s7 Cirque, who had just made an overnight passage down from Mazatlan. Cirque was just back in the water and looking good after being hauled out at the relatively new Singlar facility in Mazatlan where, in addition to other work, she had her bottom sprayed. Kruk was very pleased with the quality, cost, and efficiency of the job. We're planning to haul Destiny there next year while on our way to Sea of Cortez Sailing Week and cruising in the Sea of Cortez."

"We're home safe and sound after a season in which we logged over 3,500 miles in Mexico and made many new friends," report Chuck and Elaine Vanderboom of the Lake Havasu City, Arizona-based Corsair 31 catamaran Boomerang. "We would like to thank the Grand Poobah for the great '07 Ha-Ha, and Latitude for reviving Sea of Cortez Sailing Week — and for the fantastic write-up on us and our boat in the May issue. We had one friend jokingly ask us to autograph his copy. If all goes well next year, we hope to sail down from San Carlos to participate in Sea of Cortez Sailing Week again."

"We've been enjoying the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area since our arrival two weeks ago," reports Lesa Pyle of the Brookings, Oregon-based Gulfstar 41 Someday. "Lately one possible answer to the pet overpopulation problem has been floating through Marina Ixtapa. He's a very large — 10-ft or so, but who has a tape measure? — croc. I keep Perra Bonita, my dog, on a very short leash here."

Crocs aren't new at Marina Ixtapa. We can remember being there 20 or so years ago when they were building it, and one worker would be in the water pounding on pilings while another worker would be stationed on the dock near him with a baseball bat. When we asked what it was all about, the guy with a bat pointed to a sign warning of crocs. The thing we still don't understand is why there aren't more croc attacks on humans in Mexico. After all, there are countless large ones in the lagoons all along the mainland coast of Mexico. Near San Blas, you can even 'swim with crocs' just like you can swim with dolphins in other places. And at very busy Paradise Marina, 12-ft+ crocs cruise the waters all the time, but for some reason have yet to eat any of the divers who scrub bottoms or the fishermen who stand knee-deep in the water all day and half the night fishing with nets. A three-year-old local child was snatched and killed by a croc about a year ago on the south shore of Banderas Bay, but in 30 years that's the only croc-on-human attack we've heard of in Mexico. One explanation is that crocs like the taste of dogs and cats, but not human flesh. Another is that there is so much food around they don't need to attack humans.

"I want everyone to know that some of the booty gathered at last December's Banderas Bay Blast / Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Cup for Charity is in a safe place," reports Ronnie 'Tea Lady' of Banderas Bay. "I delivered a car full of supplies to a school for children at Punta Mita recently. Unfortunately, the accompanying photo doesn't do it justice, as it was taken by a very insistent three-year-old. But in addition to stationery, paints, jigsaw puzzles and balls, we also delivered interlocking rubber mats, which are ideal for when the kids need to participate in floor-based activities. I also took three large boxes of medical supplies to the local health clinic — much to the astonishment of the new doctor, who looks to be all of 10 years old! I took an equal amount of booty to the special needs school in PTL, the suburb of Puerto Vallarta, together with some soft squashy toys to encourage tactile response. The appreciation of all the teachers was overwhelming, and, on their behalf, many thanks to everyone who contributed. I’ll be making a similar delivery when the schools go back in session after the summer break. After that, there won’t be much left in the pirates’ chest. For folks coming down on the Ha-Ha or by themselves, what's needed most — in addition to copious doubloons — are writing instruments and paper. It doesn't need to be fancy, and you can often pick up back-to-school bargains in chain or thrift stores. Finished with reading glasses, hearing aids, crutches, or anything in braille? All of that can be put to good use down here also."

As a reminder, this year's Banderas Bay Blast — the 'nothing serious' three-day cruisers regatta on Banderas Bay — will be held on December 3, 4, and 5, ending up at Paradise Marina and the Vallarta YC just in time for the December 6 Chili Cook-Off. The three legs of the Blast are: seven miles from Nuevo Vallarta to the Nayarit Riviera Marina, where there will be live music and extreme socializing at Philo's Music Studio in La Cruz; ten miles from the Nayarit Riviera Marina to Punta Mita, where the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club will again open for the year with margaritas, music, and other fun and games; and finally, the classic Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity part of the Blast, which is 12 miles under spinnaker from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina. Ronnie 'Tea Lady' reminds everyone to bring pirate attire — which is de rigeur for the Pirates for Pupils — as that kind of kit is hard to find in Mexico.

Here's a funny one. If you go to Google Earth — which is a terrific and free tool — and zoom in just to the east of Punta Mita, you'll see they have some camera sites. If you click on them, you get photographs of the area. We clicked one not far from the panga marina there — and saw a photo of last year's Banderas Bay Blast, with Profligate and Capricorn Cat with their chutes up. Check it out!

Mexico marches on! Thanks to Mexican President Felipe Calderon signing a long-awaited constitutional amendment, Mexico now presumes that all crime suspects are innocent until proven guilty, and will begin having U.S.-style public trials. Until now, a judge would make a ruling behind closed doors based on written evidence. Alas, it's expected to take years to train judges and lawyers to be able to conduct the new style trials, so full implementation is not expected until 2016. In other news from down south, Mexico has announced price controls on 150 basic foodstuffs in an attempt to curb rising food prices. While overall inflation isn't terrible in Mexico, food prices have risen 8% in the last 12 months, which is dangerous in a country where so many poor people have to spend most of their money on food. Mexico already has a cap on the prices of diesel, which sells for $2.01/gallon — or less than half of what it does in the United States. Price freezes have historically proven to be risky, as they often just postpone problems and frequently make them even worse.

"After getting our boat to Seattle the easy way — on the back of a truck — we ran into the worst January weather on record," write Angie and Peter Rowland of the Richmond-based sloop Casablanca. "It was two weeks of cold, nasty, windy, rainy weather that even had the Seattleites complaining. We should have known when we pulled into our slip, as the boat next to ours was Rain Cloud Billy. But once the seasons changed and we got off the dock, we had three days of motoring north in flat water with just a little breeze on the nose. Finally, after reaching Smugglers Cove on the Sunshine Coast, we got to enjoy our first real sunset. The next day, the sun came out and the wind was at our backs. We reached all the way up past Jervis Inlet to the Powell River. As we write this, it's raining again, but we should make Melanie Cove in Desolation Sound by sunset. We also just picked up our fishing licenses and are ready to catch some salmon. The favorite rig here is Purple Haze Flasher and Hoochies."

Not to be smart-asses, but we can't wait for an explanation of why you would truck your boat to Seattle in January as opposed to April.

Also headed north this spring, and all the way to Alaska, are Dick and Sharon Drechsler of the Long Beach-based Catalina 470 Last Resort. "After a number of very pleasant visits to many of the Bay’s fine yacht clubs earlier this year, Dick and I had probably overstayed our welcome. But with him finally making it back to the Bay after leaving aboard his Catalina 36 in '97, reunions with lots of old friends were in order. But wanderlust got the better of us on April 22, when we waved goodbye to friends at the St. Francis YC and headed north."

According to Google Earth, it's 315 miles from San Francisco to the Oregon border, the coast of Oregon is 290 miles long, and the coast of Washington, before turning east at Cape Flattery, is 150 miles from the Oregon border. The wind and seas were naturally on the nose for the Drechslers' trip, but it wasn't too bad, nor were the bar crossings at harbors along the way. Crab pots were an issue. The couple say the "crab pot-free lanes," claimed by some cruising guides, simply don't exist and, in fact, they got one crab pot line caught in their prop. Their other big excitement was when their dripless shaft bearing had a problem, allowing seawater inside the boat and setting off the high water alarm. But they survived and, as we write this, have made it to Alaska.

"We are currently moored at Puerto Amistad YC at Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador," report George, Melinda, and seven-year-old Joshua Salley of the Newport Beach-based F/P 42 catamaran Southern Belle. "As some Latitude readers might be aware, Puerto Amistad has been getting some bad press lately due to certain political issues. We can't speak to those issues, but we can report that the facility and services here are very nice for the price, which is currently $270/month for the moorings and use of the facilities. Puerto Amistad has an elegant and picturesque restaurant built over the water, and there is free wi-fi at the bar. Paying a lot for fuel in the States? It's only $1.50/gallon pumped into your boat here. Laundry is 35 cents/pound. The showers and bathrooms are beautiful, there's a work area for boat projects, and the courteous and friendly staff make you feel like part of the family. We hope the political mess works itself out so everyone can get along, but meanwhile, we give Puerto Amistad a big thumbs up!

Cruising is not all smooth seas and cocktails at sunset. Here's an excerpt from the most recent report from Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell, whose most recent passage on her surfing safari under sail took her from Fanning Island to Bora Bora:

"In another instant, the monster hit Swell and me with the swiftest, fiercest blast of wind we've ever felt. Swell is pinned on her starboard side. I frantically release the mainsheet and my boat comes up after the impact of the initial blow. I cry out for my father, but he can't hear me. No one can hear me. Now comes rain. But this isn't rain, it's a sky of water. It's so intense that the sound is deafening. The wind subsides as it moves over us. My body trembles out of control. I bite my lip and can taste blood in my mouth. The lightning repeatedly casts its white electric light to remind me that this moment is real. The monster pursues despite the fact I have Swell's engine at full throttle trying to get away. I gather my composure and squint into the clearing night sky. A small patch of stars ahead hints of hope. More lightening flashes a few miles ahead. Tears flow down my cheeks but I make no noise of crying. I just strain to see what's ahead. I look at my watch, and it's only 10 p.m. The night has just begun."

Similarly, the start of Liz's very long and rough passage had only just begun. We'll have more next month.

It's a little premature to conclude that global warming caused all the unusually warm weather in the West — and on San Francisco Bay — the first two weeks in June, but it was cooking. Down in Southern California, the coastal towns are known for the 'June gloom' and often having June temperatures that are lower than in San Francisco. But it was a nearly gloomless June for the mainland coast of Southern California — and even Catalina, which is known for even cooler Junes. When Doña de Mallorca, after days of 85 degree weather on the hook by Bird Island, asked the folks at the Two Harbors office how this June's weather compared with that of previous years, the response was unequivocal. "Weatherwise, this has been the best June ever!" Now, if they could just do something about the water temps.

Missing the pictures? See our July 2008 eBook!


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