Latitude home Latitude 38


Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
July 2013

Missing the pictures? See our July 2013 eBook!
Bookmark and Share

With reports this month from Sanctuary in Dominica; from Beach House on troubles trying to cross the Atlantic from Namibia; from Starship on a day at Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas; from Beach Access on being trapped on the hard in Guaymas; from Insatiable II on why Tasmania is so wonderful; from Esprit in Malta and Tunisia; and Cruise Notes.

Sanctuary — Island Spirit 37 Cat
Captain Mark Denebiem
Never A Dull Moment
(Dominica / ex-San Francisco)

Since my purchasing Sanctuary three years ago, my life has seemingly been one Caribbean adventure after another. The first two years I did a bunch of crewed charters up and down the Eastern Caribbean. Then, needing to pursue some land-based business projects, I put Sanctuary in a yacht management program with BareCat Charters in the British Virgins.

Despite having one of the smaller bareboat charter cats, we managed to book nine charters from April 2012 to April this year. With my 'owner's time', I focused on captaining the boat for charters for the Interline (Airline) Regatta in Tortola in mid-October, and the St. Barth Bucket in late March. Both times I had five women for crew, making me look like 'Captain Pimp Daddy'.

BareCat rightly insists that their boats be fully functional when they go out on charters, so they set about repairing every little thing — sometimes at greater expense than I expected. For example, $250 plus labor for a sump pump? But for the most part I thought I was treated fairly. I also had a couple of big items come up — bottom paint, sail-drive overhaul, a new genoa — so for the accountants in the readership, I took in about $5,000 less than I spent. All things considered, I was not unhappy with the experience, although I found the BareCat owner to be a bit of a crabby know-it-all.

Ever dream of running a yacht management company? BareCat is for sale. But be careful what you wish for, as the yacht management business is not easy.

With Sanctuary in the yacht management program, I focused on starting new businesses. The first was, which offers all-inclusive luxury matchmaking holidays based out of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Once I got that established, I put it on hold so I could move to Dominica to begin development of Camp DominEco, which will focus on educational land and sea ecotours. I also started building a house and a commercial bar & grill, and laying the groundwork for a Dominica-based day and term charter business with Sanctuary.

Not having enough to do, I also wrote Captain Mark’s Way, based on my 34 years of sailing the Caribbean. It features 16 'One Page Wonders' that provide my perspectives on life and the pursuit of happiness. Readers can purchase what I believe is a hilarious tome for only $6.99 as an eBook from Kindle/Amazon.

Staying in top physical condition is important, so I do a lot of ocean swimming. I took second for men in the 2012 Beach to Beach 2.25-mile Power Swim in St. John, US Virgin Islands, and frequently enjoy mile or longer swims. For example, I swam more than a mile circumnavigating Guadaloupe's Pigeon Island on the way down to Dominica.

Sanctuary and I are currently at Portsmouth, Dominica, where I'm offering day and sunset charters, as well as trips to the beautiful Les Saintes. But by the time this report comes out in print, Sanctuary and I will probably be down at our summer base in the Grenadines. Those islands are out of the main hurricane belt and boast lovely sailing conditions. We spent the summer of 2011 in the Grenadines and loved it.

My Dominica enterprises are progressing nicely. The 10-acre future DominEco Resort, which features 1,000 feet of riverfront, an emerald pool, and the 85-ft Syndicate Waterfall just upstream, is already welcoming birdwatchers and waterfall lovers. The site is 1,400 feet up the slopes of 4,747-ft Morne Diablotins, the second highest peak in the Lesser Antilles. There is so much sun, rain and good soil that we're also farming a couple of acres of cucumber, peppers, pumpkin and grapefruit.
The other venture is the Barb Wire Bar & Bungalows, located above Ross University Medical School at Picard. Darnelle, aka 'Pnut', from Marin County's San Rafael, and I are building a house with a large wood deck using local woods, as well as the Peanut Farm Bar & Grill. Construction should be just about finished in July. It's beautiful here! In fact, the only things I miss from California are the Giants — go Giants! — and dim sum.

— mark 06/04/2013

Beach House — Switch 51 Cat
Scott Stolnitz and Nikki Wood
South Africa and Namibia
(Marina del Rey)

April wasn't the best month for Scott Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House.

"Our trip from Cape Town to Namibia turned out to be a 72-hour motorboat ride. But it was calm, so my crew Nikki and I could 'see' all the other vessels on AIS. Our plan was to stop in the sleepy mining town of Luderitz, refuel, then head to Walvis Bay 235 miles farther north. From there we would visit the famous Sossuvlei Sand Dunes, then set sail on the long passage across the Atlantic.

"After a short stop at Luderitz, we took off for Walvis, but soon all hell broke loose. First, the hydraulic steering failed while we were sailing almost dead downwind.
The failure was due to a technician in Cape Town improperly bleeding the hydraulic system. Once the steering failed, we attempted a manual course correction. Unfortunately, the steering was then too loose to control the boat, so we had an accidental gybe. When the boom came across the boat, it broke our traveler system and the preventer system, and most importantly, sheared the back bearing right off the boom. So that was that.

"The drama of the moment was that it was blowing 25 knots and building. The main had to come down. Since we couldn't roll it into the boom as we normally do, it had to be lowered onto the deck. As the boat was unmanageable due to the steering failure, half of the 200-lb main blew off the boat. Twice! Amazingly, Nikki and I were able to maneuver the boat so the wind would start to blow the main back onboard. After a 90-minute struggle, with the wind blowing 30 knots, we got the sail secured. At this point the hydraulic steering seemed to rehabilitate itself as a result of an air bubble having worked its way through the system. We re-arrived at Luderitz wiped out at around 8 p.m.

"The weather was becoming a potential issue, as winter was coming to the Southern Hemisphere and we needed to get north and across the Atlantic. Fortunately, we lucked out and instead of having to blast into the normal headwinds, we were blessedly able to motor 72 hours back to Cape Town.

"Once at Cape Town, we were able to accurately assess the damage. The Forespar Leisure Furl boom was broken or bent in three places. The back end bearing, the front yoke, and the mid-support all had to be replaced. Parts were ordered from Forespar in California. The good news was that Southern Spars, the largest mast manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere, has a base in Cape Town. They were able to straighten our mandrel! If necessary, they could have made a new one. We also got a newly designed mid-boom roller guide section, support, and a repaired mandrel. We also got a new rear plate with a much thicker outer bearing, one that probably wouldn't have broken, as it is welded on the inside and outside of the plate. We also upgraded the Harken traveler system.

"What we most lacked confidence in was the hydraulic steering system, which took about five iterations to resolve. First, it was determined that air in the system had caused the failure. Second, Meridian Technologies really went over the system. They made custom pistons for our steering rams and used a 'gas/liquid' seal. Not only did they get the steering completely tight — meaning responsive — but they managed to fix the rudder synchronization issue as well. Next, the boys from Associated Rigging took over and did a great job of repairing the 300-lb boom, then reinstalled it.

"With the repairs done, we headed back to Luderitz in preparation for sailing across the South Atlantic.

Update One: "We arrived in St. Helena after an 8.5-day sail from Namibia. While here, we climbed the 699 steps and learned they are planning to build a runway so 747s full of tourists can visit this island in the middle of nowhere that's less than half the size of Catalina.

Update Two: "After a short stop at St. Helena, we took off on the 700-mile passage to Ascension Island, which is also in the middle of nowhere. We arrived on June 13, having had the most beautiful sailing conditions ever, and at one point did 105 miles in 11 hours. If the sailing conditions were like this everywhere, everybody would be sailing the oceans of the world.

— scott 06/13/2013

Readers — Is there anything more infuriating than a repair that's not a repair at all? As you'll read in Cruise Notes, Beach House continued to have serious rudder synchronization problems across the Atlantic.

Starship — Islander 36
Chris and Anne-Marie Fox
A Day in the Life at Fatu Hiva
(Victoria, British Columbia)

We loved the 'Lectronic and Latitude write-ups of our Puddle Jump, but there was one mistake. We averaged 650 miles per gallon of diesel, not just 340 miles. Now let me tell you about a typical day here in the Marquesas.

I, Anne-Marie, often wake up at 7 a.m., earlier than everyone else. So I would sit in the cockpit and enjoy the spectacular scenery of Fatu Hiva: the lush mountains, the steep cliffs plunging into the anchorage, and the spires that resulted in the anchorage being named the Bay of Penises. I could often hear the neighing of mountain goats and the cock-a-doodle-doo-ing of wild roosters on the hillside.

On the morning of May 5, I began preparing a breakfast of scrambled eggs with caramelized onions, mushrooms and canned pork. The smell soon woke up my husband Chris and crew Jonathan Busby. We dined in the cockpit.

Shortly after breakfast, Sopi, a local wood carver, pulled alongside in his small aluminum skiff. Soon Jonathan was trying to figure out what he wanted in trade for his carvings — line, fishing supplies, our 50-liter water jug? Sopi finally indicated that we should visit his home to see his carvings and discuss possible trades.

The three of us headed to shore in our dinghy at about 10 a.m. Our plan was to hike to the waterfall that has a big enough pool at the base for swimming. On the way, we passed by Sopi's house. He didn't have too many carvings, but they were nice. We would soon learn that Fatu Hiva is full of carvers and carvings. Busby also inquired about wild boar hunting and directions to the waterfall.

Although Fatu Hiva is very small, Busby still had to ask for directions to the waterfall as we went along. We finally found the right turnoff, a two-track 'road' of grass and rock for most of the distance to the falls. As we walked along, we were struck by the beauty of the area. Although it was in the middle of nowhere, it seemed as well-kept as a garden.

The final stretch to the waterfall was over a rock-strewn trail by a river. A group of people were leaving the waterfall as we got close, and when we got to the falls at about 1 p.m., we found that we had it all to ourselves. Yippee!

The waterfall was a beautiful cascade down the side of a rock cliff. There were beautiful and fragrant flowers everywhere, as well as gorgeous views. We sat on some large rocks in the shade to rest up, and ate the snacks we'd brought, including oranges we'd bought from Sopi. What a great setting!

After our snack, Chris and I went swimming. Busby wasn't interested — until he discovered that the pool was deep enough to jump into from a cliff. Then he couldn't resist. After a hike in the tropics, the cool, fresh water felt wonderful.

After a much faster walk down the mountain, we arrived in town at about 3 p.m. and started looking for other wood carvers. The Marquesas is known for wood and bone carvings, but since Fatu Hiva has no airport and is therefore less connected to the other islands, the carvings are more unusual.

Busby took us to the house of Tava, an artist he had met the day before. Tava not only had more carvings than Sopi, they were of better quality and cost less. We enjoyed inspecting them. Then I spotted a tiki that called to me. It was a pregnant tiki holding her belly, and engraved with a Marquesan cross — the same symbol that's in the middle of my turtle tattoo. The sticker on the bottom said $180 U.S., but after some tough negotiating I got Tava down to $80 in cash and some items off the boat.

We asked Tava to carve his initials and the year into the bottom of the tiki. When we returned with our trade items from the boat and to pick up the tiki, we discovered he had carved the year 2014! Rather than be disappointed, I was pleased, as I took it to be a sign that I'll be pregnant in 2014.

Another carver by the name of Topi, noticed us at Tava's house and waited patiently outside to ask us to see his carvings. He had a great selection and his work was excellent. I was keen on getting an elaborately carved bowl, but the $300 price was a little steep. After some really tough negotiation mediated by Busby, we got him down to the following: The bowl in trade for $120, plus one headlamp and 12 batteries, books, pencils and other supplies for his kids, lotion and a decorative key chain for his wife, plus four lures and a few dozen fish hooks. Without an airstrip and with infrequent stops by ships, things are often more valuable than money at Fatu Hiva. It worked in our favor.

On our way back to the boat at about 5 p.m., we noticed that our friends on Nyon had arrived. We hadn't seem them since La Paz in December! A short time later we had them over for dinner, with Busby treating them to some delicious seared yellowfin tuna we'd caught a few days before, and flambéed banana dessert. It sure was fun to see familiar faces on the other side of the world.

As we settled down for the night at 9 p.m., the wind started to sweep down the steep cliffs and valleys — as it often does at night. The anchorage is deep and falls off quickly, which often causes problems for boats that haven't anchored well.

At 10 p.m., I awoke to the sound of an anchor windlass running. A boat upwind of us had dragged and was having trouble getting their anchor up in the dark. When they started to re-anchor directly upwind of us, we decided it was time to get dressed, as it meant they would surely end up on top of us soon.

To make a long story short, by the time the other skipper realized the bad position he was in, it was nearly too late. As a result of his gunning the boat to get out of the way, she came within inches of our bow, and the solar panels passed over our bow pulpit! After the boat got a bit away from us, the windlass jammed and they were blown back to within five feet of us.

As the ordeal was taking place, the captain of the other boat screamed insults and obscenities, the likes of which I wouldn't yell at a dog who had bitten me, at what we presume was his wife. The presumed wife was like a deer in headlights, terrified to do anything besides the orders so harshly shouted at her, and even more terrified about fulfilling those orders incorrectly.

They finally got the anchor up and left the anchorage to get things sorted out, giving us a much needed break from the chaos. Having heard all the commotion, the crews of a half-dozen other boats had come on deck. Fortunately, the third time was a charm for the other boat, although we stayed up awhile to make sure they wouldn't drag again.

As far as I'm concerned, the dragging boat terrified me more than anything — including our crossing — in our first year of cruising. It was certainly the closest call we've had while at anchor, and goes to show that even if you do everything right, the biggest danger may be a neighbor who didn't.

So that was our day: beauty, exercise, meeting locals, dining with old friends, and a little terror.

— anne-marie 05/10/2013

Beach Access — Lagoon 380
Glenn Twitchell, Debbie Jahn
Trapped in the Yard, Guaymas, Mexico
(Newport Beach)

We've had quite the boatyard adventure in Guaymas. Debbie and I brought Beach Access into the slipway at the shrimper boatyard next to Marina Seca Guaymas (MSG) on May 20 so the former's Travelift could lift our cat out of the water. Why haul at one yard to be put on the hard at the yard next to it? The Travelift at MSG isn't big enough to accommodate the 22-ft beam of our cat. So our option was to haul at the commercial yard, then be set on land at MSG. But MSG's Gabriel gave us one caution: MSG is in no way affiliated with the commercial yard, and therefore doesn't have any control over their schedule.

This didn't seem like a big deal — at least until May 25th when I visited the office to schedule our relaunch. On the way to the office I noticed that the slipway we'd come out of had been dammed and drained! True, there was a replacement slipway, but it was under construction and far from being completed. Our cat was trapped!

The best I could get from the conversation between the yard foreman and the manager of the construction project, held entirely in Spanish, was this: "Posiblemente próximo fin de semana." According to the Google Spanish-to-English translation, the literal meaning was: "The couple who want to get their 38-ft cat launched soon are screwed."

The other thing to remember is that Beach Access has a bit of history here. It was five years ago that 150 feet of a 12-ft-tall cement block wall tumbled onto the cat and four other multihulls. It caused relatively minor damage to one boat, but caused dream-ending damage to the three other boats. Despite our then-indeterminate stay, I remained confident this time would be less traumatic.

June 13 Update: Maybe my confidence was misplaced. It's now 18 days after the date we had hoped to be relaunched, and our "absolute splash date" has been moved back several times already. While we're one of several couples eager to get boats back in the water, there are at least six boats waiting to be hauled and put into summer storage at MSG. Everybody's plans have been messed up, but in this heat we'd rather be in the water than on the hard.

When I think of the situation here for the last three weeks, it brings to life the expression 'a bunch of monkeys f--king a football.' For after building the new slipway to accommodate a bigger Travelift for bigger fishing boats, it was decided, as an apparent afterthought, that the slipway had to be seven feet deeper. So now they have a bulldozer digging out the dirt, something I fear could lead to the eventual undermining of the earth supporting the newly-built concrete ways. But the most frustrating part is the false hope they give with their bullshit deadlines. It's difficult to tell whether they are telling us whatever it takes to make us go away, or whether they have no clue as to when they will get the slipway operational.

Those who haven't already been here for three weeks are getting their hopes buoyed by the fact that one of the shrimp boats is supposedly ready to splash, so the yard manager is allegedly putting major pressure on the construction company to complete the slipway job. Those of us who have been around aren't so sanguine, for a week ago we were falsely cheered by the news that the construction company contract called for the job to be completed on May 31 — or else. That deadline passed like all the others.

June 17 Update: After telling us on Tuesday, June 11, that they would not open the slipway for another two weeks, the next day they said they would be opening the slipway — but only long enough to put three shrimp boats in and as many pleasure boats as they could in the time allowed. After that, they said the slipway would be closed for another month!

On Thursday, June 13, they started the process of digging out the dammed slipway, and soon the yard put one of the shrimpers in the water. We were encouraged that they would have enough time to get us in the water, too, but then we learned three more shrimpers needed to be hauled first.

It was stressful enough without the aggressive lobbying on the part of one pleasure boat owner. Despite the fact he was way down the line of those waiting to get launched, he was giving Javier, the manager of the commercial yard, the most grief. Those of us with more experience in Mexico were concerned that he might irritate the yard manager to the point that he'd just give us endless promises of mañana, which means 'sometime in the future', not 'tomorrow'. Mexicans respond very positively to friendly requests for assistance, but they are immune to demands by angry gringos.

On the morning of Friday the 14th, 80% of the dam was clear and another shrimper had gone in. This meant the first shrimper that had gone in was now so far back that the backhoe was having difficulty removing dirt from the slipway.

I came by as part of my semi-daily observation. I'd been doing this for three weeks, so all the workers knew me and my situation, and we exchanged friendly greetings. I noticed that the queue-jumper seemed to be approaching the yard manager with an aggressive stance one again, so I tried to be the opposite of him.

Then things got a little strange. The Travelift operator approached me and said that our boat would be hauled on Monday. After a lot of back and forth, he confessed that he was lying — and that they'd be coming for our boat in just 20 minutes to sneak us in between the shrimp boats. If we could be ready.

"We've been ready for three weeks," I told him, and we both had a good laugh.

They indeed put us in the water — and started to shove us out of the slipway before I could get the engines running properly. With the remaining dirt from the dam in place, the opening was very narrow. Then there were the two shrimp boats in the slipway, waiting to be hauled and blocking the channel. They used a small boat to push them over to the side to give me some room, but I still had one engine dying plus a crosswind. Finally we were clear, but poor Debbie began to swoon from the combo of hot sun and adrenalin. I got her on the deck with an ice pack on her neck and she soon recovered.

We were free and happy at last!

— glenn 06/17/2013

Insatiable II — Sayer 46
Jim and Ann Cate
Old Fart Cruisers and Tasmania
(Australia / ex-San Francisco)

We just read the Wanderer's June Changes piece about the Caribbean. Nicely done, mate! We also thought that while it surely shows why the Wanderer keeps going back to the Caribbean, the combination of crowds, cost and "pulsing nightlife" are the reasons that we will stay away. Different strokes and all that.

We're sure that the spectacle of the rich at play is attractive in some ways, but Ann and I are lousy spectators, and I doubt if there would be many invitations for 'Z-List yotties' to join in the fun. Besides, it's a hell of a long way from the South Pacific!

Anyway, it looks as if we'll continue to be stuck down there for some time. You see, two years ago Ann had both knees replaced with marine grade titanium in California. After a year or so they started failing. The warranty must have run out. But she toughed it out while we sailed down to Tasmania again.

What fun we have in Tasmania! We enjoyed volunteering for the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, cruised the D'Entre Casteaux Channel, and had a good trip around to the wild southwest coast. We spent awhile in Port Davey — a wonderful place! — sitting out a pretty good Southern Ocean storm, and then returned to Hobart to consult with an ortho guy. "Get on a plane tomorrow and get those knees fixed," he told Ann. Rats!

Ann is now trying some palliatives, hoping to avoid revision surgery. But the jury is still out, so we're enjoying the California summer weather while our pals in Tassie are freezing their butts off. Nonetheless, we'd rather be back home on our boat. There are drawbacks to being aging cruisers, but we're going to hang in as long as possible.

For those who don't remember, we left the Bay Area in the '80s aboard our Standfast 36 Insatiable. After a dismasting in '96, and spending a shocking amount of money rectifying that indiscretion, we carried on as before until 2003. Having put 86,000 miles on our beloved Standfast, which had been our home for 17 years, we decided to move up to our current boat, as we wanted a little better performance — as well as room for our two adult children and their children. Thus the Sayer 46. We were helped by the fact that the Aussie dollar was very low — just the opposite of right now. Having put tens of thousands of miles on II, we love her.

By the way, 'good on' the Wanderer and his singlehanding his Olson 30.

— jim 06/01/2013

Jim — It's true that much of the Caribbean is crowded, and all of it is quite expensive, especially when compared to Mexico. But few people appreciate the pleasures that we and other proud 'Z-List yotties' get from periodically watching the 'spectacle of the rich at play'. Half of the spectacle consists of checking out and playing on the spectacular nautical sculptures that are a result of their unlimited funds and some really talented craftsmen; and half of it is rolling with laughter at some of the buffoonery of some of the really rich. But trust us, after seeing people dressed in $10,000 casual outfits and boats costing tens of millions become daily occurrences, you become indifferent to the supposed attractions of great wealth. At least we do.

Esprit — Peterson 44
Chay, Katie, Jaime McWilliam
Malta and Tunisia
(Boulder City, Nevada)

Having been in the States since February, we returned to Esprit in Malta to resume the circumnavigation that we began with the Baja Ha-Ha in 2003. After nine days of getting her ready for re-launch — new Coppercoat bottom, hull waxed and polished, survey for insurance — we got her back in the water and moved aboard. We soon had the watermaker and refrigeration running. But our expensive Lifeline AGM batteries — which are supposed to be good for five to eight years — weren’t holding their charge. Chay emailed Lifeline and got a prompt response that advised equalizing the batteries every other day. We were skeptical, but it seems to have worked.

Chay also learned the art — as well as the challenge and frustration — of eye-splicing double braided line, which we needed for new dinghy davit lines. This gave him an even greater appreciation for the favor done for us by Andrew of Nueva Vida, who made new lazy jacks for us several years ago.

Malta, which covers an area of about 30 miles by six miles, and is one of the more densely populated places in the world, is primarily comprised of Malta and Gozo, the two main islands. Independent since 1964, Malta has been of strategic importance throughout history, and a succession of powers — including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, the Knights of St John, the French and the British — have ruled the islands at one time or another. Malta is where the Knights of St. John fought off the Muslim Turks and 'saved' Christianity. In more recent history, Malta was important because it's halfway between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, a stop on the way between Britain and India, and was a strategic Allied stronghold in the Med in World War II.

After a 15-mile passage to Gozo, we spent a few days at Mgarr Marina, which we loved. With all the weather forecasters predicting 15 to 20 knots of easterly wind — meaning from astern — and one-foot seas, we expected a wonderful downwind sail to Tunisia on June 6.

Having done that passage, we now know that wishing someone 'following seas' isn't necessarily a nice thing. For after about four hours, we found ourselves in gale force winds. The 6 a.m. weather report hadn't mentioned a gale, but the 10 a.m. one did. As best we can determine, we saw up to 40 knots of wind and 20-ft seas. As you might expect, we were dreading an overnight passage in those conditions.

But anyone who says miracles don't happen isn't paying attention. While saying the Rosary to himself in the late afternoon, Chay passed the navigation station. As he did, he glanced at the chart and noticed the very small Italian island of Linosa was just five miles off our rhumbline. And that the two-square-mile island has two small bays on the west side that would offer a safe haven.

We made our way to Linosa and anchored in one of the small bays with some fishing boats that also had taken shelter from the gale. Our anchor held well, but unfortunately the wind swung around in the middle of the night. At 1 a.m. we were awakened by a banging/crunching sound. Not good! We got up, checked everything, then took in some chain to pull us away from the rocky area. Just two hours later we were banging on the rocks again. This time we woke up Jaime and moved to the other bay. Anchoring there was no easy trick, as the bay was 'Y'-shaped and surrounded by rocks and reefs. And there was no moon. But when we awoke the next morning, we found that we couldn't have picked a better spot to anchor for the night.

After walking around the small island in the morning, we set sail for Tunisia again that afternoon. By that time the wind was down to 10 to 15 knots and the seas had calmed. We had a beautiful close-hauled sail until the offshore breeze from the Sahara Desert turned the winds more westerly. After we tacked to the north to get back on our rhumbline, the wind shifted back to out of the north, so we were able to lay Tunisia and arrive at 4 p.m. the following day.

Although we had a 'reservation' at Monastir, a resort town of 75,000, no one answered our radio call when we arrived. So, as recommended by our cruising guide, we tied off to the fuel wharf. We were quickly greeted by officials. Customs decided they needed to board our boat to confirm what we'd declared. Once everything was confirmed to be as we said it was, they asked for baksheesh, which depending on how you look at it, is either a small gift or a bribe. We gave them two bottles of wine and four packs of cigarettes. We'd purchased the cigarettes for just this purpose, but that had been in Malaysia in 2010. So they might have been a little harsh. After a typical Third World check-in, we took a berth at Marina Cap Monastir.

In late 2010, Tunisia's longtime corrupt president and confessed "unabashed shopaholic" wife were thrown out in the Tunisian Revolution. It had been precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, poor living conditions, lack of free speech, and corruption.

The Tunisian officials were friendly, but the locals seemed to have mixed feelings toward the United States. Some said they loved Obama, but they weren't so enamored with our U.S. flag. Based on our experience, Tunisia is a Muslim country which has a bit of western/European influence — it used to be French — much like Turkey.

We came to Tunisia for three reasons. One was to reset the clock on our Schengen Visas, another was to get cheap fuel, and a third was to see another country. Restaurant prices were extremely reasonable — in fact, less expensive than eating aboard Esprit. We've also enjoyed the fact that many other cruisers and locals have stopped by to chat. But once we get a weather window, we'll continue on.

— chay 06/05/2013

Cruise Notes:

Jim and Kent Milski, who finished off their Schionning 49 Sea Level from a kit in Vallejo, recently completed a 37-month circumnavigation at Zihua. We enjoyed a couple of meals with them in the Punta Mita / La Cruz area in June, and will publish our interview with them in the August issue.

"This spring more than a few cruising boats in the Sea of Cortez have stopped at Bahia Candeleros — eight miles SSE of Puerto Escondido at Ensenada Blanca — to enjoy the wonderful food and amenities at Villa del Palmar, report Judy Lang and Bill Lilly of the Newport-based Lagoon 470 Moontide. "The spacious resort has three restaurants, although only one is open for dinner. There are six swimming pools, all beautifully laid out in the form of a giant turtle. If you're feeling decadent, you can have your meal(s) served to you poolside. The resort is immaculate, with nice touches such as fresh flowers and hand towels in the restrooms. Visiting cruisers — who are welcome — can buy food and drink off the menu. Or you can splurge as we did and pay $65/person for all the food and drink we wanted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.. Villa del Palmar also has tennis, volleyball, ping pong, water aerobics and a luxurious spa. There isn't anything else like it in this part of the Sea of Cortez, and we thought the splurge was well worth it."

For the record, on June 13 at nearby Loreto it was 94° with an expected low of 75°. The humidity was 61% and the wind was out of the southeast at 12 knots. The weather in Cabo San Lucas was almost identical, except the humidity was only 28%. Over on the mainland at Puerto Vallarta, it was 89° with a low of 75°. The humidity was 55%, the wind was out of the SSE at 10 knots, and there was a chance of scattered thunderstorms. The water temperature in all these places was just below 80 degrees.

Richard Mogford, who has a 36-ft boat in La Paz, wrote in asking for more details about taking the Clipper Route back to San Francisco. We forwarded his questions to Alan Olson of Mill Valley, who has done more Clipper Route trips home than anybody we know.

"I have sailed the Clipper Route eight times," replied Olson, "each time leaving from Puerto Vallarta or farther south between March and May. And I have followed the track of four other Clipper Route passages. I suggest anyone thinking about taking that route study the pilot charts for those months in that part of the Pacific. The weather is mostly mild, However, headwinds of 20-30 knots should be expected for a three-day period somewhere above 32° north. That can be when the wind turns from northeast to north then to the northwest. Hopefully you'll be far enough west — about 200 miles — and north — about 34° — when you tack onto port. I always choose the Clipper Route over the Baja Bash because I prefer ocean passages and because there are fewer hassles offshore. But every passage is different."

Consulting the pilot charts is an excellent recommendation, but it reminds us of a comment made half in jest by Sam Vahey after he sailed his Ranger 37 Odysseus back to California one winter in the '80s after a Singlehanded TransPac. "The pilot charts indicated that the average wind speed for the month of December was 20 knots. The pilot charts were accurate, as half the time it blew 40 knots and half the time there was no wind at all." For another way of evaluating the possible weather on a Clipper Route home, we suggest following Passage Weather's graphic of the North Pacific conditions for about a month. It's fascinating and educational.

Speaking of the Bash, we received the following report from Wayne Hendryx of the Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat, who was bringing the FP 56 Dolce Vita to California for owner Mai Dolce of Belvedere: "It's 1 a.m., we're about 30 miles south of Baja's notorious Sacramento Reef, and I got nobody to talk to. So I thought I'd try this newfangled email thing. The last couple of times I've been through Turtle Bay, Annabel's fuel panga got to me first, and what am I supposed to do, say 'no' and go to Gordo's? Annabel has two buoys, her fuel barge comes alongside carefully, and 'Bob's your uncle,' as they say. Plus, when we came south on Sunbaby 2 late last year, they offered to cook us dinner, too! So as were motoring into Turtle Bay, who cuts right past us at warp speed on their way to Annabel's buoy? Sunbaby 2! Just then Gordo's panga found us and gave us the usual pep talk, which is the same one that Annabel's people give us: "Their fuel is no good", "Their fuel has water in it", "Our fuel is super clean." Gordo's has a floating dock that's easy to tie up to, and in addition to fuel, has water, garbage service and pangas. Gordo Jr swore that their fuel was 'super filtered' and showed me their filter, a four-foot tall, eight-inch diameter vertical pipe, all painted up nice. Seeing that I was skeptical, he pumped a gallon of the clearest, cleanest diesel I have ever seen into a plastic jug. So we bought 146 gallons. The only two problems were that they didn't take credit cards and the exchange rate was a lousy 11 to 1, even after haggling. It came to just under $5 gallon. That said, the fuel we got from Gordo was really clean, while the stuff we got at Cabo San Lucas was filthy. We're now down to just two knots in an effort not to pound. The seas aren't big, but these damned short-period swells are murder!"

One of the many cool things about world cruising is that you sometimes find yourself in the right place at the right time to experience amazing natural phenomena. That was the case the first week in June when Teahupoo (Cho-Poo), Tahiti's world-famous surf break, was hit by an epic swell. "We knew the swell was coming," report Will and Sarah Curry of the Vancouver, BC-based Beneteau First 405 Hydroquest, "as we could feel it the night of May 31. Huge waves were crashing over the protective reef on Tahiti’s west coast, turning the normally calm anchorage and mooring area into a surging mess of water. Some waves even broke inside the reef."

The Currys, along with fellow Pacific Puddle Jumpers Lionel and Irene Bass of the Perth, Australia-based Gunboat 52 Kiapa, and Jeff and Melody Christensen of the Anacortes, WA-based Lagoon 440 Double Diamond, as well as a Swedish couple on the sloop Orkestern, drove out to Tahiti Iti, an appendage of the main island, in rental cars, and then hired a launch to witness the Teahupoo show from just a few feet away. "We nailed it on the timing and caught one of the biggest swells of the year," said Curry. "Words can’t describe how amazing it was to be right off the break when the sets came through."

"I want to thank the Wanderer for bestowing the title of La Reina del Mar on me, and I will strive to live up to it," reports Patsy Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion. "But he reported that I have done five Ha-Ha's. Wrong! Talion and I have sailed six Ha-Ha's, and hold the record for having sailed all the way in the most Ha-Ha's. Anyway, I'm now in the northern Sea of Cortez on a six-week exploration of the area. After living in La Paz for almost six years, I'd say it's about time. The northern Sea is a beautiful place, with fabulous sailing, warm water, afternoon breezes and calm anchorages. The islands get more rugged as you go north, and there are zero cell towers. But the geology is breathtakingly reminiscent of a float down the Grand Canyon. Plus the sky is always blue, the sea is full of life, and the birds are everywhere. I will return to La Paz in a couple weeks and head north to California the last week in June with hopes to spend the 4th of July in the good 'ol US of A."

Eleven years and 55,495 miles after taking off, Kurt and Katie Braun have tied their Deerfoot 74 Interlude to the dock behind their home in Alameda. Two weeks of gale force winds kept them in Ventura for 16 days, but they made the most of it. Katie got to visit her childhood shopping mall in Thousand Oaks, and they both got to meet up with folks on a Sundeer 60 they had first met in Indonesia. Once the wind calmed down, they motored north in a light breeze, reaching their dock in 34 hours — including the time it took to get the Alameda bridges to open up. If you think 55,000 miles is enough for Kurt and Katie — who live by the great motto "To go boldly until we are no more" — you'd be wrong. After the America's Cup fun, they plan to continue cruising. Maybe another short hop down to New Zealand.

"One week prior to our planned departure for the Marquesas, a blocked coronary artery necessitated a successful cardiac stent placement," report Cissy and Derek Elliot of the San Francisco-based Anacapa PH 40 Octavia. "With postoperative recovery time etching into the time we wanted to explore islands and culture of the South Pacific, we decided to stay in Mexico for another season. We're currently in the Sea of Cortez for a summer of sailing, and look forward to crossing with the 2014 Puddle Jump. But we're following the progress of this year's Jumpers with gusto."

"We got over a major hurdle yesterday, as we now not only have the new teak decks on, but we've got all the fiberglass surfaces painted, too," reports Greg King of the Long Beach-based 65-ft schooner Cocokai. "We were lucky getting the paint on, as there was only a morning drizzle instead of a rainstorm here in Phuket, Thailand. Now it's time to clean up and put the boat back together. But there's still lots of work to do."

"Greg King is the hardest working man on the planet," writes Jennifer Sanders of Los Angeles, who is the owner of Cocokai, and who, along with daughter Coco, has sailed the schooner most of the way to Thailand over the past six years. "Greg has been slaving away long hours seven days a week in 95° heat and 95% humidity! He's really impressed the other yachties with the amount of work he's completed in just three months. Truly amazing! List Cocokai as we thought about doing a while back? No way, she's looking gorgeous!

"After 10 years," Sanders continues, "I finally got to meet the original owner of the schooner. He wandered by the yard when I was in Phuket and saw her. So I was able to find out the who, where and when of the boat's adventures before she was sold to a drug dealer in Bali in the mid-'90s.

"We had so much fun traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam last summer that I want to highly recommend it as a road trip for all cruisers when they reach Southeast Asia. I'm just bummed that we ran out of time before getting to see Laos and Myanmar, and that Coco's school schedule won't give us enough time when we return to the boat in Phuket in June. Indeed, we'll start fast-tracking the second half of the way around the world right away. I have to laugh, as it's taken us six years and over 30,000 ocean miles to see what we have of the first half of the way around the world, and we hope to be in Brazil just nine months from now. Coco and I will be flying back to Southern California from Cocos-Keeling at the end of August for high school, leaving Greg aboard with the crew of Libby, a friend from South Africa, and Joe, a friend from L.A. Greg will probably need crew next January for crossing the Atlantic to Brazil. Anybody interested?"

"After spending six months exploring French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga, we decided to spend the last cyclone season in Fiji rather than making the passage to New Zealand or Australia," report Bill and Cat Russell of the Peterson 44 Island Bound. "We were wisely apprehensive of Fiji’s prominent location in the middle of the South Pacific cyclone belt, but with approval from our insurance company, decided to hole up at Vuda Point's "cyclone safe marina." If any members of this year's South Pacific cruising class are considering doing the same, we can report that Vuda made a wonderful home for us in the off-season. The marina is well run, the staff is friendly, and there is a small store with basic provisions such as fresh bread, eggs and fruit, as well as frozen meat and other basics. The meals at the onsite Boatshed restaurant are reasonably priced, and they even show outdoor movies three nights a week. We did ride out Evan, a Category 4 cyclone, without a scratch. The rainy season turned out to be mostly limited to March, giving us ample time to explore the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands while they were nearly deserted. We have enjoyed Fiji so much that we have extended our visas and plan on staying through the 2013/2014 cyclone season, too. Until then we will cruise Fiji's other big island, Vanua Levu, and surrounding areas including the Lau Groups, before settling in for the rainy season at Sevu Sevu again."

Not all cruises work out. "Lorraine and I have returned to Australia after a very 'interesting' sail from Kona, Hawaii, on what was supposed to be the first leg of our sail to our new home," reports Marc Cohen of the Olympia, WA-based Lord Nelson 35 Gant Man. "About 450 miles north of Kiritimati (Christmas) Island, we ran into a gale with 30-40 knot winds, a 20-ft swell, and worst of all, lightning. Our boat was struck by lightning — think of all the radios smoking — and all our electronics went down. It was night, so we had no compass light, no radio, and no means of starting the engine to give us power. As everything was fried, we had no electric bilge pumps either. I checked the bilges to make sure that the lightning hadn't blown a hole in the hull. Other than the water coming in through the anchor hawse, we were all right. But we also took five waves over the stern and into the cockpit. Even worse, Lorraine hurt herself running up the companionway, and one of the waves smashed me into the coaming so hard that I broke my coccyx. We discussed our predicament and decided that the best course of action was to return to Hawaii. We had five days of strong winds beating back, during which time we were both in pain. Once back in Hawaii, we assessed the damage to the electronics and decided that the cost to repair and replace everything would far exceed our budget. So we reluctantly put our boat up for sale. We gave it our best try."

We're sorry to hear about your bad luck. Getting hit by lightning while far out at sea is one of a sailor's biggest nightmares.

If any Californian has gotten more bang for his cruising buck in the Adriatic Sea than Andrew Vik of the San Francisco-based Islander 36 Geja, we don't know who that person is. So far Andrew and various friends have spent part or all of four summers in the Adriatic, mostly along the east coast of Italy or in the waters of Croatia. Is Vik going again? "I've got a few more work responsibilities this year," Vik told Latitude, "so there won't be a major Med marathon again this summer. But yes, I'm hoping to get in a few weeks of cruising near Split, Croatia in August."

Scott Stolnitz of Beach House, whose Changes appeared earlier in this section, has subsequently made it from Cape Town to Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard his Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 catamaran. But not without problems.

"Despite getting new everything for the hydraulic system in Cape Town, the two rudders don't remain in exact sync. Mine eventually 'toe out', and resetting them once a day is a pain. Plus, I don't like to venture on the back steps to do it while Nikki steers manually. I know a 'fixed' hydraulic system is what everyone recommends, but I can't see how I'd do it on my boat. There are also electronic and manual rudder synchronizers or what not, but I'm not up to speed on them. My new hydraulic pumps are never challenged, and the new autopilots — the old one was hit by lightning off Durban — work great, but the steering problem is a real pain and I'd like to get to the bottom of it. I know Latitude had problems early on with Profligate's hydraulic steering, and would love to know how you solved it."

Our solution was simple. After battling the hydraulic steering problems for about 18 frustrating months, we threw the whole system in the trash. We replaced it with a Mambo bevel box and rod system, which is now marketed by Lewmar. We basically have two independent steering systems that are connected by a rod running through an aluminum beam we had to add to the back of the boat. We were only able to install this steering system because the boat had no interior at the time. But we strongly empathize and sympathize with you. Are there any owners of hydraulically steered cats out there who have solved the rudder slippage problems that Stolinitz has been experiencing? If so, please let us know.

Twenty-eight-year-old Alexander Rust of Indiana, who had completed a circumnavigation last year aboard his Fast Passage 39 Bubbles, unexpectedly died in his sleep at a guest house in the Varanasi area of India. He had been recovering from typhoid fever. The spirited Rust had become an inspiration to several members of recent Pacific Jumps who had gotten to know him, and who are terribly saddened at his passing.

When Rust returned to Indiana after his circumnavigation, he was jailed for five days on a 'failure to appear' warrant. He viewed the experience with mixed feelings: "With air-conditioning, three warm meals a day, and a floor to sleep on where I didn’t get water splashed on my face, jail felt more like a resort than punishment. Then again, there was that absence of freedom that I had only recently known too well in its purest form. I quickly received the nickname ‘Magellan’, and 'story time' was the one part of the day when the methheads, drunks and thieves in my crowded cell all seemed to get along. A childish dreamlike state would overtake them as they sailed the oceans of the world with me aboard Bubbles."

"We're chilling out in Tikehau in the Tuamotus following our Puddle Jump," report Verdo and Gabriela Verdon of the Australian-based Catalina 42 Larrikin. "There are only two other boats in the whole lagoon, and we never want to leave. We do miss parts of Mexico, which we loved, but this gin-colored water and waterman's playground just can't be beat. We have no plans to continue on to the Societies yet, so we're sorry to say that we're going to miss the Pacific Puddle Jump festivities in Tahiti."

The quickest way from Ventura to Sitka, Alaska? Capt. Rick Fleischman of the 54-ft Ventura-based Polar Mist reckons it's by way of Hawaii. He calculates 2,500 miles to Honolulu, then another 2,500 miles to Sitka. As soon as they get there, they plan to start their Southeast Alaska cruise, ending up in Washington by September. That's covering a lot of water in three months.

If you're cruising this summer, we'd love to hear from you. A short note to and a few high res photos are all we need.

Missing the pictures? See the July 2013 eBook!


'Lectronic Latitude | Download the Magazine | Crew List & Party
Calendar | Letters | Changes in Latitudes | Features
Classy Classifieds | Place a Classy Ad | Advertisers' Links | Display Advertising
Links | New Stuff | Subscriptions | Distribution | Contact Us | Home
  The West's Premier Sailing & Marine Magazine.
© 2015 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.