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July 2010

Missing the pictures? See the July 2010 eBook!

  With reports this month from Flamingo on a 6,000-mile shakedown cruise from South Africa; from Beach House on diving in French Polynesia; from Pacific Star on cruising in Indonesia; from Geja on a third season of youth cruising in the Med; from Mykonos on a fifth Baja Bash; from Curare on a new 'marina' in Nicaragua; from Serenity on Mexico and Polynesia; from Sealevel on a Pacific crossing; and a generous portion of Cruise Notes.

Flamingo — Knysna 480
Tim and Susan Mahoney
South Africa to Grenada
(Marin County)

As previously reported, we launched our new cat in South Africa on February 2, rigged her on the 3rd, and sailed her through the notoriously rough Knysna Heads that afternoon for a test sail. We then returned to the marina for several weeks of final fitting out. It was good to have that time to test everything. We then had an exciting 350-mile sail to Cape Town, during which time we were able to further test the rig, steering and electronics. We did have a few issues, but we got them taken care of in Cape Town before setting sail for the 6,000-mile distant Caribbean on March 15.

We had strong winds and big seas the first 4½ days of our crossing. Fortunately, the 25- to 35-knot winds were blowing us toward our destination of St. Helena. We sailed conservatively, flying only the 580 sq. ft. genoa, and sometimes we even had that partially furled. We covered 920 miles in the 4½ days of that first leg, and hit a top speed of 19.6 knots while sailing down the face of a big wave. Flamingo remained dry despite the rough conditions, and her stern rose to the following seas as though we were riding on a high speed elevator.

Tropical and fertile St. Helena, which can only be reached by boat, is a wonderful island. The locals, called ‘Saints’, were very friendly. We enjoyed a tour of the island, during which time we saw Napoleon’s home and Jonathan the famous tortoise, and met several other cruisers while eating lunch at Anne’s restaurant. It was a good break in the long crossing of the Atlantic. It also gave us a chance to stock up on food and fill our tanks before continuing on to Brazil.

The worst way to do a crossing, of course, is under the pressure of a deadline. But that’s what we had, as we were under pressure to get to Grenada in time to fly to Seattle for our daughter’s college graduation, as well as let our crew fly home. Naturally, we had very light winds once out of St. Helena, and trying to make westing toward Brazil without losing latitude was difficult. We continued northwest across the equator and through the ITCZ — but never picked up the famous ‘Fortaleza 500’ current off the coast of Brazil, which was supposed to help us so much. The only northbound current we did get was a few days south of French Guyana, but it was only two knots. We ended up stopping at Cayenne, French Guyana, to pick up fuel and drop off our crew for a flight home. That second leg took us 27 days.

Susan and I sailed the last leg to Grenada by ourselves. It was about 700 miles and pretty uneventful. The waves were a bit strange during part of this passage because it was often only 30 feet deep — even when we were 30 miles offshore. We finally pulled in to Clarke’s Court Marina on Grenada with four days to spare on our deadline to fly to Seattle.

After three weeks back in the States, we returned to Grenada at the end of May. We’re glad that our 45-day, 6,000-mile maiden voyage is over and we can now begin enjoying cruising the in the Caribbean. It’s hurricane season, of course, so we constantly check the weather. If anything threatens, we’re going to make a run south to Trinidad. Come November, we’ll slowly work our way up the Antilles, then continue on to Miami, where Flamingo will be featured in February’s Miami Boat Show. From there, we’ll head south to Panama and work our way up to Mexico. At least that’s the plan for now.

— susan 06/06/10

Beach House — Switch 51 Cat
Scott and Cindy Stolnitz
Cruising Underwater
(Marina del Rey)

It's funny that a bit of rain would deter us from diving more here at Maupiti, French Polynesia, even though the ocean is just as warm as the air and the rain is only slightly cooler. It’s partly psychological. After all, it feels yucky when we have to don damp diving gear. Furthermore, everything below the surface looks monochromatic on rainy days.

The weather forecast for the next several days was for strong winds, which meant we’d have some mandatory ‘stay at home’ days. It wasn’t bad for Scott, who had a lot of video editing to catch up on. I have a harder time figuring out what to do, but I can always read. Although the rain cools the air — the lowest we’ve seen has been 76 degrees — it does get stuffy inside because we have to close all the ports and windows.

During the last two days of diving, Scott took close-ups of fish, coral and other things. He mostly used the wide-angle lens, which meant he wanted me in the photos for perspective. I’m pleased to discover that I didn’t look as goofy as I did in my early days of underwater modeling, but it’s still a challenge to look relaxed and not exhale when a photo is being taken. I benefitted from Scott's modeling tips — look at the camera or the subject; tilt my head up and raise my chest; avoid flailing my arms; and avoid super bent knees or widely spread legs. I know how important good photos are to Scott, so I try to cooperate as best I can. Nonetheless, I was relieved when the batteries for the strobe died halfway through the second dive.

We later had a good time reviewing Scott’s photos du jour. He got more good ones than I expected. I love his work, so I’m glad he has the patience for it. I certainly don’t. I’m happy to point out pretty things for him to take photos of, but the experience would be ruined for me if I had to drag around the camera and other equipment. As I write this, he’s in his ‘darkroom’. Thanks to digital photography, all he needs is his Mac computer in plain daylight, not a dank room full of smelly chemicals as in the days of film.

We're having a blast finishing our new shark video, Fins of Bora Bora, for the web. We encourage people to visit the video gallery at our website — we think you’ll like it!

We were happy when Ronald, the local dive guide, came along to pick us up for our dive, as it meant we’d likely be his last clients. He’s selling his Maupiti Dive Center to another couple so he, his wife Michelle, and their two kids can buy a boat in Raiatea and go cruising.

The wind had shifted to the north overnight, which really knocked down the swell outside the reef. This was great, as it made for a much more comfortable ride to the dive sites. We had two wonderful dives. They were both in shallower water than the day before, so we were able to stay down a long time. Scott got some awesome detailed shots of the coral textures and patterns, colorful blue clams, and a jelly fish that looked to be from outer space.

We came across a few of the hated crown-of-thorns starfish, which destroy reefs. I could hear Ronald, in a Bruce Willis or Clint Eastwood voice, saying, “Not on my reef you don’t!”, as he went after them with a loose piece of sharp coral. He stabbed them, dismembered all their spiny legs, and strewed the remains with a certain amount of righteous indignation. If Scott was focused on shooting something with his camera for a while, Ronald would take the time to destroy more of this particular kind of starfish. Hopefully, Lionel, the new owner of the dive business, will keep up the practice.

We were so tired by the time we rinsed our gear, showered and had lunch, that it was nap time for me. While Scott looked at our fish books to identify what we'd seen, my nap was delicious. When I woke up, it was almost happy hour and time for writing. It’s a tough life, but somebody has to do it.

We were delighted when Jerome and Natalie on Na Maka, which is a blue-hulled sistership to our Switch 51, anchored close to us. The other boats around are two other charter catamarans and a trimaran. Jerome and Natalie invited us aboard for dinner. It’s always a treat to have someone else help with the cooking! When we arrived at their boat, Natalie was trying to get their three boys to finish their dinners. Natalie said any two of the boys get along fine, but there's always fighting when the three are together. What a brave woman to cruise with three children! But the family seems to really be enjoying themselves.

The next morning we dinghied to the fuel dock with five of our 5-gallon jugs. The day before, I’d “reserved” two dozen eggs, so I picked those up. I also bought vinegar from the walk-up window at the ‘market’. The day before, the proprietor had let me inside to more closely view what he had for sale. Apparently, you can’t always do this. I later bought two pamplemousse, which are like grapefruit, for $3 U.S. each at a roadside stand. But there certainly isn’t a Whole Foods or BevMo out here.

We were delighted to learn that both of Scott’s packages had arrived in Papeete, and that the agent would have them on the plane arriving in Maupiti the next day. When they arrived, the first thing Scott planned to tackle is replacing the oil hose on the gen set. As for the new video lights, I prayed the new ones aren’t lemons like the last ones were. It’s unfortunate that companies don’t seem to bench test their products before sending them to customers in far off places.

Well, our package of generator oil hoses and replacement video lights didn't arrive on the morning plane. Why? It was so full with passengers that they couldn’t carry all the cargo, too. So they sent packages in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, our stuff was being sent to ‘Yacht Beach House’, not ‘Beach House’. At least there was an afternoon plane.

It was interesting to watch the prop jet land on this narrow strip of motu in the middle of the South Pacific. There were a few people arriving, a few departing, and locals waiting for supplies coming in from Papeete. One of the B&B operators asked me if I had just arrived. In poor French, I explained that I was on a boat. Since one of his clients didn’t arrive, he presented me with a fragrant welcome lei made from a string of tiara flowers. It's beautiful, and now hangs in our galley.

Scott couldn’t wait to get to work on replacing the oil hose for the generator. It was a bit disconcerting, since the replacement hose was significantly smaller than the original leaky hose. But the fittings were the same size, and Scott had the foresight to have ordered extra fittings. We spent over two hours on the small project, he contorted in the awkwardly small space on top of our anchor line and chain, and me doing my best Vanna White impression, passing him various tools, shining the flashlight where necessary, and mopping up the endless drips of oil. Once done we tested it — and found that it still leaked! So we called it a night. The next morning Scott and Vanna attempted to fix the oil hose problem again. Although it then turned out that we didn’t have enough fittings of the size we needed, we managed to make do, and it’s no longer leaking. That's how it goes when you're cruising.

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been here in French Polynesia for almost exactly one year! If we could dive, I could happily stay here longer. If not, my feeling is that we might as well move along.

I must be acclimatizing and/or the season must be changing, because I actually got cold standing out in the stiff breeze for two hours. I couldn’t help laughing at my running inside to grab a sweater when the thermometer read 80 degrees! I later had a good workout scraping the 'hula skirt' of algae off the hulls. I felt cold by the end. No wonder, as the water temperature was all the way down to 81.4 degrees. Five days before it had still been 84 degrees at depth.

I must be settling into this life, because the days are just kind of gliding by. I hope to find some semblance of fresh vegetables soon, as I used my last carrot, broccoli and bell pepper today. I have a few apples, kiwis, and one grapefruit. After that, we'll be down to frozen peas and green beans. But no time to worry about that, as we’re going to rent bikes for the one-hour circumnavigation of this atoll.

— cindy 05/28/10

Pacific Star — Island Packet 35
Julia Shovein and Horst Wolff
[Continued from last month.]

When you cruise Indonesia, you should bring the best camera you can buy and plenty of memory cards, because you’ll see many colorful things you won’t see many other places. Things like orangutans, Komodo dragons, Balinese dancers, verdant jungles, crocodiles, gorgeous birds, countless monkeys, talented weavers and wood-carvers, terraced rice fields, mounds of spices, exotic temples, dhows, vibrant colored pony carts, beautiful people, cute kids ­— “Take my photo!” they all say — and much more. At almost every anchorage we were greeted by people coming out in dugout canoes or boats powered by, in many cases, lawn mower engines. They just wanted to say 'hello' or see if we wanted any of their goods or services.

With over 17,000 inhabited islands, there are countless places to stop in Indonesia. You could spend years cruising here; unfortunately, cruising permits and visas mean you only get a limited amount of time. Therefore, cruisers must compromise on what they want to see and do.

Cruising in Indonesia was quite different than in the other places we’d been before. For example, once we left Darwin, there wasn’t really another marina until almost Singapore, a distance of thousands of miles. So we were thankful we’d gotten our windlass rebuilt prior to sailing to Indonesia, and that our Rocna anchor worked as well as it did. Both got a real workout. We also found our AIS unit to be indispensable — especially at night. Having sailed the South Pacific, where we’d go for days on end without seeing another vessel, it was a shock to find so much traffic in Indonesian waters. After almost hitting an unlit barge, we started to do night watches together so we’d have an extra pair of eyes.

Navigation was also a challenge. The British Admiralty, American and Dutch charts are fairly accurate, but they are getting a little dated. C-map, the electronic charts most popular with cruisers, was usually pretty good, although they were up to a half-mile off at times. ‘Eyeball navigation’ became critical — another good reason for only traveling during the day — not just because of imperfections with the charts, but because there are almost no navigation markers or aids. Added to this are the incredible number of fishing traps and nets, small unlit fishing boats, shoals, reefs, rocks, and debris all along the way.

When we sailed out of Lovina Beach, Bali, at sunrise, we spotted a Swiss couple whose Ovni had got snagged on an old submerged bamboo fishing trap. We threw them a line and tried to pull them off, but weren’t successful. Hearing our chatter on the radio, a couple of cruising boats with divers came out to help. They were able to cut the ropes holding the cage together, and set the boat free. Needless to say, good binoculars are another must.

Weather, current and tide information was available from a variety of sources. The C-map NT+ cartridges have integrated information on local tides. The British ‘TotalTide for Defense’ program provides local currents as well as tidal information. Websites — e.g. — provide weather and current information. All cruisers depend on GRIB (GRIDded Binary) files via Winlink or Sailmail to monitor the development of major weather systems. However, these forecasts are neither reliable nor specific to local conditions. Jimmy Cornell’s Noonsite is also helpful in identifying weather resources.

We used the VHF to check in with other cruising boats, and to share hazard warnings and other information. If we were getting beyond VHF range, we sometimes arranged informal nets with two or three other boats on the SSB radio to keep the information flowing. Email — via Winlink Airmail for us — often came in handy for communicating with boats up or down the line.

The weather in Indonesia was hot and dry, and this rarely changed until we neared the equator and got the usual squalls, thunder, and lightning storms. Prior to that, we rarely had strong winds. Typically it blew 5 to 15 knots from the southeast, with seas between three and six feet. Our asymmetrical spinnaker on a broad reach was our favorite point of sail, followed by wing-on-wing when running downwind. We unfortunately had to motor more than we wished in order to maintain pace.

There were natural disasters — the Sumatra earthquake — while we were in Indonesia, and repairs from the ‘04 tsunami were ongoing. We were also around for human-induced disasters, such as the hotel bombing in Jakarta. Misfortunes of all types are not uncommon in this part of the world. Despite the foreign radical Islamic backlash to rapid development, globalization, and modernization, Indonesia is nonetheless a refreshing example of people living together in relative peace. One of our cab drivers in Bali explained that the races and religions generally get along, noting that he had siblings who had married into other religions, so his family celebrated both Muslim and Hindu holidays. Although the majority of the population of Indonesia is Muslim, Bali is almost all Hindu, and the people of Flores Island are predominantly Catholic.

Indonesia is not without grave environmental problems. We went on a two-day jungle boat trip in Borneo, and were picked up directly from our anchored boat in the Kumai River. We motored up a river — think African Queen — contaminated by mercury from the gold mines. The locals have to go far up that same river in order to find clean water. We spent the most heavenly day at Camp Leakey observing rehabilitated orangutan mothers and babies, and learned their habitat is under siege from proliferation of palm oil plantations.

When we returned to our boat, we were abruptly brought back to earth when we found rat excrement behind the locked companionway door. My husband, who uses denial as a coping mechanism, insisted we were seeing “gravel”. He became a believer the next morning when there was a perfectly round hole in the entry way screen and half an apple in the galley with tiny teeth marks in it. It took a week, but a borrowed trap got the rat with only minimal damage to wiring and hoses. We were glad that we caught him so quickly, as we remembered that Canadians Jim and Diane of Prairie Oyster were troubled by a rat for a full month in French Polynesia. They finally got him with a frying pan in the salon.

Indonesia was not an expensive country. Diesel fuel was only slightly less expensive than in the U.S., but everything else was much cheaper. A good meal in a restaurant — not available on smaller islands — was about $3. At food stands, however, you could eat well for $1. Our three-day trip to Ubud in inland Bali — which included a car, driver, a great hotel with pool, meals, and entertainment — cost us less than $200 for two. It was often the case that we went days without spending any money because there was nowhere to spend it. Even items like food, postcards or T-shirts were generally not available at the national parks or other popular boating stops. We allot $2,000 per month on average for all our expenses. In Indonesia, we came in well below budget. By the way, with one dollar bringing 10,000 rupiah, it was fun to be millionaires!

The best advice we can share about sailing central Indonesia is there are ‘no worries’ if you have a good boat. Everyone will make their own experience. Don’t be deterred by rumors. Besides the occasional normal gear failures in the rally fleet, we have no negative tales to tell. The friendliness and hospitality of the people is offered openly and warmly. The beauty of the land, the beaches, and the incredible diving locations available are unsurpassed. Indonesia, so rich in coastline, was made for those who like to explore the world by cruising.

— julia 04/15/10

Geja — Islander 36
Andrew Vik
Third Summer In The Med
(San Francisco)

Greetings from the sweltering heat of Croatia. I left San Francisco for my boat in Split, Croatia, around the 10th of June. Prepping Geja, the '76 Islander 36 I bought through an ad in 'Lectronic, for my third summer of cruising in the Med went smoothly. In fact, I've already spent two nights out in the super-charming islands of the nearby Dalmatian Coast. I’ve got almost 20 people — mostly friends and acquaintances from the Nordic countries — lined up to join this year’s cruise of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of photos and tales to share from along the way.

— andrew 06/20/10

Mykonos — Swan 44
Marina and Myron Eisenzimmer
Bash #5
(San Geronimo)

Seventeen days after leaving Cabo San Lucas, we completed our fifth Baja Bash from Cabo to San Diego. We started by clawing our way north, stopping at Bahía Santa Maria, Punta Abreojos, and Asunción. Realizing how much fuel we'd burned by the time we got to Asunción, we went ashore and flagged down Jesús, a fisherman, who offered us a ride to town. He then drove us around in search of diesel. Fishermen belong to different cooperatives and have different diesel supplies. His cooperative was out of fuel, so Jesús directed us — “go through the yellow door and turn right” — to the other cooperative’s office. They had lots of diesel and were willing to sell it. Once we got fuel, Jesús drove us back to the beach and then gave us a ride back to Mykonos.

That night we took off for Turtle Bay. The plan was to get fuel and water, then leave a few days later. But then Amigo Net weather guru Don Anderson gave a forecast for horrible conditions — and seemed to take joy in it — with gale force wind. For 10 days we had to wait in Turtle Bay for better conditions! During this time, we watched some boats head north anyway, then have to limp back in. And while listening to Channel 16, we heard the story of a powerboat that blew out a window around Cedros, and another one that broke the bracket that held its dinghy on deck.

While Turtle Bay is a great place to hang out, there is no ATM, and none of the businesses take credit cards. The captain of one large boat actually had to have money wired to him so his crew could eat.

After the 10 days, we were part of a flotilla of six boats that headed north. Getting past Cedros Island was unnerving, as Mykonos pounded for the first 24 hours, with waves flying into the cockpit. After a while, our chartplotter had enough and quit, so we went back to making fixes on paper charts. At 3 a.m. on the second day, the wind finally dropped to 7 knots and the sea flattened. The next morning, Memorial Day, we crossed the border back into the U.S.

We’ve done four other Bashes, all of which took between 7 and 10 days. This was our most difficult, even though 10 of the 17 days were spent waiting for better weather in Turtle Bay.

— marina 06/05/10

Curare — Bowman 36
Geoff and Linda Goodall
Corinto, Nicaragua
(Vancouver, Canada)

After leaving El Salvador, we spent some time in the Golfo de Fonseca — which is bordered by El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras — before sailing overnight to arrive at the port town of Corinto, Nicaragua. This is the main port for Nicaragua, as well as a major transportation hub to other destinations in Central America such as Honduras and Costa Rica. The Spanish established a port near here in 1532, and it's been in continuous use ever since.

Entrance into the port is straightforward and well-marked with ocean buoys, channel markers, and range-markers. Excellent information is provided by The port area itself is well-protected from any swell off the Pacific, as it lies behind a barrier island. The port hosts a container terminal, a fuel storage farm and a pocket cruise ship terminal. The port sees two to six ships a week, plus random cruising boats such as ours.

Upon clearing the channel markers, we motored past the container port and anchored just beyond the floating power generation plant. This area is at the entrance of the estuary that leads northwest and northeast. With all of the ship traffic, plus the noise and pollution from the diesel-powered generating station, we had previously decided to stay farther upstream at the relatively new Corinto Marina in the Paso Caballo Estuary. After unsuccessful attempts to raise the port captain on 16, Ivan Aguilar, the owner of the marina, hailed us to report that he’d arranged for the authorities to come out to inspect Curare.

Corinto Marina is located three miles beyond the Corinto port, in a well protected and quiet estuary. To get to the marina, you pass by the Nicaragua Naval Base, which has heavy security and is well-patrolled. Before you transit past the base, permission must be obtained. With our limited Spanish, it was beneficial that Ivan made the arrangements for us. So while Geoff showed the port captain, a representative of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and an Immigration officer around Curare, Linda motored the boat up to the marina. By the time we arrived, all of the paperwork was complete, and Ivan took the officers away in his boat.

Immigration had required a copy of our international zarpe, passports, and $5 each, plus $15 for the boat. The Port Captain got the original of our zarpe, copies of our ship’s registration certificate, plus copies of our passports. He also conducted a very cursory inspection of our boat while he enjoyed a Coke. The Transportation official required a copy of our ship’s registration certificate, copies of our passports, and $25 for a three-month cruising permit. This last item is new, and we had the honour of being the first vessel to have to pay the fee in Corinto, as well as being the first boat to deliver the officials to the Corinto Marina.

The Corinto Marina ( is not your typical marina in the fashion of Barillas Marina in El Salvador or Puesta del Sol Marina in Nicaragua, but it does provide a place to stop in a protected area in order to provision and tour inland. The anchorage is clean, there is good holding, it’s well protected from the wind, there is no swell, and it's relatively secure. The marina has the added benefit of a small dinghy dock, lots of clean water for washing, laundry service, the use of the ‘clubhouse’, plus security provided 24/7 by a watchman. The clubhouse is an air-conditioned building on stilts above the estuary, where you can take showers, plug in your computer, watch TV, and relax in the screened-in porch. Ivan intends to provide further services for cruisers in the future.

Despite the fact that Corinto Marina is very rustic, for $5/day we were able to confidently leave our boat in a very secure location for a few days so we could visit the colonial cities of Nicaragua. The charming town of Corinto is four miles away and can easily be reached by taxi for $1.50 U.S. or bus for 50 cents. Aside from the touristy attractions, Corinto has a couple of internet places and a fairly well-stocked grocery store. The town of Chinadenga is nine miles to the north, and is easily reached by a 50-cent bus ride. It has several banks, a large grocery store and markets, plus buses to Leon (30 miles for $1 U.S., Managua or Tegucigulpa, Honduras). We rented a car in Chinendaga and toured the country for a few days. It was great fun — except for a traffic police incident and some minor civil unrest in Granada.

Nicaragua is a very poor country, but has clean water, good roads and reliable power. We found it to be less expensive than El Salvador, with a sit-down lunch of fried chicken, rice, beans, salad and tortilla washed down with a cold beer costing $3.50. A more-than-you-can-eat dinner of grilled steak, gallo pinto (mixed red beans and rice), cheese and tortilla cost 17 cordoba — or roughly $8.

As I write this, it’s the start of the hot and wet summer season. The daytime temperature is 95 degrees and the humidity is 80 to 95%. Thus you can understand that our plan is to continue on to Costa Rica, then make the jump to Ecuador, where the weather is reputed to be spring-like, with no hurricanes or lightning storms and less heat and humidity.

— geoff and linda/6/10

Serenity — Tayana 52
Gordon and Sherry Cornett
Mexico and Polynesia

After surviving the ‘09 Ha-Ha, we sailed up into the Sea of Cortez as far as north as Puerto Escondido. We really enjoyed the Sea. Our favorite stops were La Paz, where we were able to swim with the whale sharks off the mogote, Caleta Partida, Isla San Francisco, San Evaristo, Los Gatos, Agua Verde and Puerto Escondido. Wait a minute — that means we enjoyed every place we visited!

We had a fast crossing of the Sea to Mazatlan, and just before landfall had 12 AIS targets within the 48-mile radius. What a freeway! Mazatlan was a blast, and the malecon and Machado Plaza are not to be missed. With our boat secure in Mazatlan, we took a trip on El Chepe, the slow train, to Copper Canyon. It was a lifetime experience. After returning to our boat, we sailed down to the bird reserve at Isla Isabel, where we were treated to the sight of over 100 humpback whales playing around the island. At about 3 a.m. one morning, we were awakened by the sound of a whale exhaling right next to our anchored boat. It was very exciting.

We prepared for our Puddle Jump in Puerto Vallarta, and finally set out for French Polynesia on March 20. We had some fast days, some slow days, some squally days, some very hot days — but what we never had in three weeks were any boring days. The only problem we had was a ripped main, but that was our own fault. Everything else worked fine.

While in the Marquesas, we visited Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, Ua Pou and Nuku Hiva. We then followed the route recommended by Steve Van Slyke of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Kavenga, which meant we visited the north shore of Hiva Oa, giving us a good sailing angle for all the other islands we visited.

Our best experience in the Marquesas? As we dinghied back to our boat one moonlit night in the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, some young men were playing ukuleles and guitars, and singing Marquesan songs. We drifted silently, listening to the harmonies, as clouds periodically obscured the moon that seemed to be sitting behind the spires backing the bay. It was magical.

We’re currently at anchor in the lagoon of Manihi atoll, waiting for the rain to stop so we can set off for Rangiroa. We’ve already traded for pearls and done a pass dive here with Fernando. He’s a baker who became our local friend when he showed up at our boat one morning — despite the pouring rain — with free baguettes that were so fresh they were still warm.

As we say, just another lousy day in paradise. I’d write more, but I have to light the BBQ to cook the yellow fin tuna we just caught. How was your day?

— gordon & sherry 06/10/10

Sealevel — Schionning 49
Jim and Kent Milski
Puddle Jump
(Lake City, Colorado)

We only ran our engine for 24 hours in our 18-day crossing from Zihua to the Marquesas. We probably could have gone faster, but we double-reefed the main for 75% of the crossing. We also wasted a day when I thought I saw a distress flare and we conducted our very own SAR operation. Fortunately, the folks on Freezing Rain had seen it, too, and explained that it had actually been an exploding meteorite.

The highest winds we saw were 28 knots, and our fastest speed over ground was 14 knots. We could have gone faster at times, but as you increase speed, you decrease comfort. The question on any crossing is not how fast you get there, but how happy the crew is during the passage and when you arrive, and how many — or how few — things you break. We had a wonderful crew, played a lot of cribbage, and had a lot of laughs.

The highlights of our trip? SailMail, which is fabulous. Jicama was our MVV, or most valuable vegetable, although apples, carrots, oranges, cabbage and onions also stayed fresh all the way across. The worst part of the trip was my having to go up the mast several times because of a parted spinnaker halyard. That’s never fun at sea.

We’re currently at the south end of Fakarava in the Tuamotos. The diving is fabulous. The surf is also very good, but unfortunately it's not a sand bottom. While I was surfing yesterday with friend Steve May of the Gualala-based Corsair 41 cat Endless Summer, my board came back up through the wave and caught me right on the bridge of the nose. It wasn't good, as there was lots of blood in the sharky waters, but everything turned out all right. Kim on Victoria is a physician's assistant, and fixed me right up, while Adam on Elena, a pharmacist from Holland, supplied me with some pain killers. There’s nothing like the cruising community! The worst part was the long paddle back to the dinghy.

The pamplemousse — Polynesian grapefruit — we'd had in the Marquesas was the best ever. It’s sweet and juicy, so we should have bought lots more. Breadfruit trees here look like magnificent Matisse paintings, and the neon fish and turquoise coral forests are mesmerizing. I’m even almost used to the black-tipped reef sharks — which are everywhere!

We plan to be in Tahiti for the Rendezvous, where we'll be joined by friends Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly of the Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat.

— jim and kent

Cruise Notes:

In early June, Greg Dorland of the Lake Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade, who along with his wife Debbie Macrorie had done the Ha-Ha, transited the Canal, then sailed across the Caribbean to take cruising cat honors in the inaugural Voiles de St. Barth, suffered a badly broken leg while sailing into Annapolis. Dorland tells how it happened:

“Debbie and I were about 10 miles out when we came up on a close reach to avoid some lightning. Steering from the leeward side, I saw a huge puff headed right at us, so I jumped down to release the genoa sheet, which was really loading up. Unfortunately, the sheet spun out of control, wrapped around my leg, and snapped it in two in a bloody compound fracture. Debbie somehow managed to get the sails down, called the Coast Guard, and give me some pain pills — which had zero effect. The Coast Guard arrived with a couple of inexperiened medical people, who wanted to make a splint out of an orange life vest. No way! Annapolis Fire Boat #35 then showed up with some real paramedics, who gave me some morphine, strapped me down to a backboard, then transferred me to the fire boat. Thank you, thank you, thank you! But the situation was far from over, as the Coasties hadn’t noticed that we’d drifted into the shipping lane and were about to be run down by a tanker. The guys on the fireboat were scared, so they quickly got away from Escapade. That left Debbie and the two Coasties on the cat, about to get run down. In the end, the tanker missed them by a reported 25 yards. There was a Coast Guard boat standing by the whole time, so I don’t know why they weren’t aware that a dangerous situation had developed. Once Debbie started our one good engine — all the Volvo dealers have been out of a common but critical engine part — the Coast Guard left her to her own devices. She had to continue on to Annapolis, a strange port for her, with one engine, and then anchor with one engine. Fortunately, Kristen and Bob Beltarano, having heard our distress call, called Debbie on her cell phone and gave her the number of a friend in Annapolis who could talk her into an anchorage. I have a leg full of metal and pain, but what about Debbie’s day!”

Nearly a month later, Dorland reports he and Debbie are living at a Residence Inn in Annapolis, and it will be another month before he can fly because of the fear of blood clots. It will be three months more before he can put any weight on the leg. “We hope to spend July and August in Tahoe, and hopefully can be back on the boat full-time again in September. As much as we appreciated how fortunate we’ve been to be able to cruise as we have, and meet all the wonderful people we have, we appreciate it now more than ever. But the Wanderer was right, we never should have left St. Barth!"

The Baja Bash, meaning the 750-mile upwind trip from Cabo to San Diego, can be a nasty one. If you don’t get a weather break, it can mean an upwind slog in 15 to 25 knots of wind. And unlike the fall, when cruisers head south along the coast of Baja, the Pacific Coast of Baja is cold in the spring and early summer. In late May, Craig Shaw of the Portland-based Columbia 43 Adios was about to begin a singlehanded Bash. A rigger and fine sailor, Shaw knows his stuff. But when Howard, Craig’s 82-year old father, learned of Craig’s plans, he signed himself on as crew. It wasn’t as though Howard needed to be told about the boat, for he owned it before he sold it to his son. And on the way to San Francisco from Portland for the start of the ‘88 Pacific Cup, Howard and crew got blasted by 60 knots winds at the Oregon - California border. “We hit 17 knots," he remembers. “We managed to get the main down, which we needed to do because it was the original main and we had to have it for the Hawaii race. Nonetheless, with the anemometer pegged at 48 knots, we sailed at a sustained 12 knots under a low-hoist 130 genoa. I locked my wife, grandson and other crew down below — it’s the only time I’ve done that — and another guy and I stayed out in the cockpit, taking turns sleeping on the cockpit sole. The blow lasted almost to Bodega Bay, where we pulled in and I got the best night’s sleep ever.” After doing the Pacific Cup, Howard and his wife spent six months living on Adios in Hawaii. The following June, with son Craig and a 747 pilot along as crew, Howard sailed the boat back to Portland. “Early June was a little too early to leave,” laughs Craig, “because we really got hit. With sustained winds of nearly 50 knots, we were doing nearly 15 knots with just a small headsail.” But those rough bits didn’t put Howard or Craig off sailing. In fact, Howard sold Craig the Columbia 43 so he could buy the Hunter 54 Camelot, a faster downwind boat, to do another Pacific Cup.

Howard is in fine shape mentally and physically, no doubt in a large part because he stays so active. In addition to sailing, he golfs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and plays tennis on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Anyway, Craig and Howard left Cabo for San Diego on May 31, Howard’s 82nd birthday. As Bashes go, they didn’t have a particularly bad one. In fact, they arrived in San Diego only 6.5 days later, and that was without pressing. “The Bash made dad think about bringing his own boat down in the Ha-Ha this fall,” says Craig. “Why not?” laughs Howard. “I really enjoyed myself when I came down to join Craig for the Banderas Bay Regatta. Besides, I just put a new engine in the Hunter.” As for Craig, he’ll be doing the Ha-Ha again for sure. Who knows, maybe they'll be the first father-son team to each enter his own boat.

According to Chris Landsea of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is some good news and some bad news about the effect of climate change on hurricanes/typhoons. Saying their knowledge of the subject has increased tremendously in the last two years, Landsea reports that by the end of the century people can expect there to be between 6 and 34% fewer storms, but that the overall strength of the storms will increase by 2 to 11%. Unfortunately, an 11% increase in windspeed translates to a roughly 60% increase in damage, so the bad news outweighs the good.

We hate to be skeptical, but with the climate in such an apparent state of flux, how valid can hurricane/typhoon forecasting be some 90 years out? We’d be happy if NOAA could come up with a reasonable forecast just four months out. As most mariners know, unusually warm water is the primary reason forecasters say they are calling for an active hurricane season in the Atlantic/Caribbean this summer and fall. The last couple of years have seen marine interests in the Atlantic and Caribbean come away relatively unscathed.

“After ‘racing’ around the world singlehanded in 10 months and 20 days, and thinking about following it up with an eastabout circumnavigation, I’ve decided to slow down and smell the spices,” reports Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust III. “So I’m now down in Grenada, ‘island of the spices’, to be outside of the hurricane belt for what many predict will be a very active hurricane season in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Grenada is where I had my terrible hang gliding accident in April ‘77 that resulted in my spending 11 months in a coma, two years in a hospital bed, and three years in a wheelchair before I was able to walk again. But the Grenadians saved my life, and I have many friends here. I will also visit friends in Isla Margarita and Los Roques in Venezuelan waters until November, at which point I will either return to Antigua and St. Martin, or join my friends and sail down to Brazil, then across to their home in Knysna, South Africa. I will make that decision when it is time. That is the beauty of being retired, having lots of free time and owning a very good sailboat."

Harker also tells us that in order to escape the heat and humidity of the Caribbean for a bit, he accepted an invitation from the World Hang Gliding Championship folks to attend their event in the Bavarian Alps. He even decided to get into a hang glider again for the first time since his accident, flying down from Tegelberg Mountain and around King Ludwig’s famous Neuschwanstein castle. Harker also keeps a Harley at the beautiful Bavarian resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and enjoyed riding over the 10,000-ft high summit of Pash H in the Austrian Alps.

As for the idea of sailing from the Caribbean to Brazil, we’d have to suggest that Harker talk to Mark Schrader, who just completed the Around the America voyage with Dave Logan, Herb McCormick and David Thoreson aboard the 54-ft Ocean Watch. A two-time singlehanded 'round-the-world racer, Schrader told us that the worst part of their trip was sailing from the Caribbean down the coast to Brazil, as it pitted them against a current that ran as strong as five knots. That's the reason that grizzled cruisers who want to sail from the Caribbean to Brazil often do so by way of Europe. Sure, it's much longer, but they get the wind at their back and favorable current almost the entire way.

It was way back in '03 that the Boulder City, Colorado family of Chay, Catherine and then-six-year-old Jamie entered the Ha-Ha with their Kelly-Peterson 46 Esprit. While they have taken breaks, such as leaving the boat in Darwin, Australia for the last six months, they just keep going. In fact, they are returning to Darwin to get the boat ready for the July 24 start of the Sail Indonesia event, to be followed by adventures in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. As for Jamie, the proud parents report, "He just turned 13 and graduated from 8th grade with two high school credits. He also earned his leadership collar in karate, having taught over 500 classes, and is close to earning his 3rd degree black belt. And on the boat, he's pretty much a full crewmember."

Speaking of Sail Indonesia, Nancy Potter Tompkins reports that she and husband Commodore, currently in Australia aboard their Wylie 38+ Flashgirl, will be joining Randy Repass and his wife Sally-Christine for that rally aboard the West Marine founder's Wylie 65 Convergence.

"We did a month with my Casamance 47 catamaran Viva! in Cuba, a few weeks in Jamaica, a bit in Isla Providencia, then sailed south to Boca del Toro, Panama," reports Bob Willmann who has been on boats so long he can't really call Golden, Colorado, home anymore. "I'm now moving eastward on the Caribbean side of Panama, and will probably get to the San Blas in a few days, and then Cartegena by the end of July. I'll send Latitude a report on Cuba, complete with photos, but not until August, as there just aren't very many internet cafes in places where a normal person would want to be. Where we are now, the aptly named Colon, is a case in point!"

Have American boats been returning to Cuba? Yes, they have — although not yet in the numbers of the Clinton Administration years. Almost everybody is betting it's safe to return to Isla Fidel because the Obama Administration is not going to have the Treasury Department prosecute anyone for so-called 'trading with the enemy'.

“Now that was one tough voyage!” writes Ray Jason of the San Francisco-based Farallon 30 Aventura. “I don’t know what wind god I offended to deserve such punishment, but apparently it was decreed that I should be made to sail without any wind. I’m now safely at Port Antonio, Jamaica, rather than Cartagena, Colombia. It took me 17 miserable days to get here. Since it’s only about 700 miles, that means I averaged only about 40 miles a day. In the Caribbean! Aventura normally knocks out 100 miles a day, but there was just no damn wind. The few times there was a little wind, it was right on the nose. Every experienced sailor will tell you that light air sailing is much more nerve-wracking than heavy weather sailing. With the latter, you normally reef down, go below, and let the windvane handle the steering. With zephyr sailing, you have to try to coax every possible mile out of the breeze. This often involves having the sails up without enough wind to keep them filled, so they slam around and put tremendous strain on the rigging. It always feels as if the next jolt will bring the mast down. And did I mention the heat inside the boat? As always, Aventura performed magnificently. There were two nasty moments. The first was my first encounter with a white squall, where the wind went from 0 to 60 knots in 90 seconds. It spun my boat like a top. The second was a close encounter with a tramp steamer. I was becalmed and couldn’t get out of the steamer’s way, and it only missed me by 100 feet. I called them on the radio, shone my spotlight on them, sounded my air horn, turned on the strobe light — and they still managed to not see me! Anyway, I’m safe and in good spirits. After a few days to recover in Jamaica, I’ll continue on to Cartagena.”

Inflatable surfboards? Yep, participants in previous Ha-Ha’s have used them to surf Bahía Santa María, and thought they weren’t that bad. But inflatable SUPs — meaning stand-up paddle surfboard/paddleboards? We bought an Uli 15-footer, which is way more a paddleboard than a surfboard, to use in the Caribbean for the month of May, and can report that it had some distinct advantages over traditional fiberglass boards and SUPs. 1) We could roll it up and fly with it as normal baggage. 2) While the awkwardly large SUPs seem to bang and ding everything, an inflatable SUP is like banging into something with an inner tube. It makes it soooo much easier to get on and off the boat. 3) On several occasions we used the Uli SUP as a two-person inflatable for going between the boat and shore. It wasn't bad — at least in the tropics. 4) If you bang your head with an inflatable board while surfing, you're not going to be hurt or bleed. When it comes to surfing, it was super easy to catch waves because the 15-footer paddled like a rocketship. On the other hand, it was way too long and thick to be very maneuverable. But surfing legend Gerry Lopez liked the Uli concept so much, he's 'shaped' some much shorter ones for the company to add to their line. Uli boards are more expensive than those made by Sevylor. One of the reasons is that Uli uses better pumps and valves, so you can get up to nearly 20 psi — which makes the board pretty stiff. Inflatables may not be the ultimate in surfboard and SUP performance, but they do have some advantages. We hope to have the Latitude Uli on hand for trial at the Delta Doo-Dah later this summer and during the Baja Ha-Ha this fall. We hope you'll check it out.

Congratulations are due the World Cruising Club of England for filling all 225 positions in the 25th annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) three months earlier than in any previous year. The ARC, of course, is the grandaddy of all cruising rallies, and the fleet will depart the Canary Islands on November 21 for the 2,700-mile passage to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. Having done the 10th edition of the ARC on our Ocean 71 Big O, we can tell you that thanks to the typically warm weather and following tradewinds, it’s normally one of the most pleasant passages in the world of sailing. Thanks to the double whammy of a weak global economy and what had been a poor dollar-to-euro exchange rate, the number of American entries is just 10. Nonetheless, the American contingent will be headed by George Backhus and Merima Dzaferi on the Sausalito-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow, because Moonshadow is one of two entries that also did the original rally 25 years ago — although not under Backhus' ownership. The other American entries are: Bambochip, Pierre Bausset’s Shipman Seaway 80; Glass Slipper, John Martin’s Moody 46; another Glass Slipper, Thomas Carbaugh’s Oyster 53; Herceg-Novi, Nikola Kovilic’s Roberts 58; Noble, John Noble’s Oyster 655; Oceanica, George Champion’s Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 52.2; Phaedo, Paul Hand’s Gunboat 66; and Time Warp, Peter Nelson’s Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.2. And somehow, Steve Dashew, known for having designed the Deerfoots, has been allowed to enter with his FPR 83 Wild Horse motoryacht. For those with inquiring minds, the ARC is open to boats between 27 and 85 feet. The entry fee ranges between $975 and $1,700, not counting crew. While that is three to five times as expensive as the Ha-Ha, it should be noted that the ARC provides extensive pre-rally seminars of all types, plus many pre-and post-rally social activities. The fact that the rally sells out every year is a testimony to the fact that participants feel they are getting good value for their money.

We always love scanning entry lists for interesting boat names. In the case of the ARC, we like Spirit of Lusitania, a Beneteau 57 owned by Joaquim Fortunato. Curious as to why someone would name their boat after the Cunard ocean liner sunk off Old Head of Kinsale in 1915 by a German U-boat, with the loss of 1,200 civilian lives, we did a little research. It turns out that Lusitania was also an ancient Roman province that included all of Portugal south of the Douro River — making it a perfect name for one of the few Portuguese entries.

The folks at the World Cruising Club would also like you to know they will be hosting another World ARC, which is a 25,000-mile circumnavigation to be completed in 16 months starting in January of '12. The entry fee for a 45-footer will be about $17,500 U.S., plus about $2,200 U.S. per crew. These fees include the Canal transit, which would normally be about $600, and tours and activites at each stopover. The 31-boat ARC World ‘10-’11 fleet was most recently in Tonga. Four entries are from the U.S.: Robert and Trish Budd’s Shannon 43 Bristol Rose; Joseph Metz’s Amel 53 Brown-Eyed Girl; William Thomas’ Sundeer 60 Crazy Horse; and Jim Geddes’ Sundeer 60 Ocean Jasper.

Everybody at the Police Dock in San Diego in June had just done the Bash up from Mexico — everybody but the Boren family of Port San Luis-based Pearson 365 Third Day. Vets of the '08 and '09 Ha-Ha's, they were about to head back down to Mexico — but with a new boat. "The Pearson 365 has been a terrific cruising boat for us," Richard explains. "But for our last year in Mexico, we wanted a bigger boat, so we bought a Hudson 52 ketch." His wife Laura adds, "The boys weren't very happy because they loved the old boat, but they instantly changed their minds when they saw that they were each going to get their own cabin." Richard says that he's learned so much after two years of cruising. "Before we did our first Ha-Ha, we thought we had to replace everything old with new stuff, even if it was still working, and that we had to replace it before we crossed the border. Now we know that old stuff that works is as good as most new stuff, plus you don't have to install it. And as long as the boat is in basic working condition, you can put off projects until you get down to Mexico, where you have more time to do them. We're sailing down to Mazatlan to offload the stuff from our old boat onto our new boat, then we're headed up to the Sea for another summer. After one more year in Mexico, we'll probably sail back and become liveaboards in Morro Bay." It's not something the kids are going to like. "They love cruising and aren't going to want to come back," sighs Laura. The one thing she won't miss about cruising is home-schooling the kids. "Everyone who does it will tell you that it's not easy."

“How long does it take to do a Baja Bash from Cabo to San Diego after the Ha-Ha?” is one of the most frequent questions the Grand Poobah and Assistant Poobah get asked when giving presentations to prospective Ha-Ha participants. In one of this month’s Changes, Myron and Marina Eisenzimmer report that the first four Bashes they did with their Swan 44 MKII Mykonos took between 7 to 10 days, but the most recent one took 17 days. We think 7 to 10 days is a good guideline for a Bash — with the obvious outside possibility that it could take as long as 17 days. May the weather gods be with you, and even more important, may you have the luxury of not having a deadline.

Remember, we'd love to hear from you. Even just a few paragraphs with the basic facts of your trip would be great, and a couple of high-resolution photos of you makes it even better.

Missing the pictures? See the July 2010 eBook!


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