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July 2014

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With reports this month from Hana Hou in New Zealand and waiting out a low at Minerva Reef; from Moonshadow in the Sea of Cortez; from En Pointe, a rare cruising trimaran, in Vanuatu; from Tamasha in the Eastern Caribbean after a circumnavigation; from Cirque on cruising the Caribbean side of Panama; from Shindig in the Sea of Cortez; and Cruise Notes.

Hana Hou — Norseman 447
George Deane and JoAnne Clarke
Cruisers Gather At Minerva Reef
(Nawiliwili, Hawaii)

By May 1, the official end of the tropical cyclone season in the Southern Hemisphere, a large fleet of cruising yachts had assembled at Opua, northern New Zealand, ready for the sometimes-rough 1,100-mile trip back to the South Pacific Islands. The fleet included two groups from New Zealand's Island Cruising Association, one headed for Tonga, the other for Fiji. Initially the weather didn't cooperate, much to the benefit of the Opua Cruising Club bar, which had become the yachtie gathering point.

Most of the fleet, ourselves included, departed on May 9 or 10. A week later we, along with 29 other boats, stopped at Minerva Reef to wait out a low. The reef, which is all but awash at high water, is 800 miles along the 1,100-mile path to Fiji or Tonga from New Zealand. It is the only protection along the way.

The wind in the lagoon blew up to 50 knots, so we had our entire anchor chain and rode deployed. Anchor watches on all of the boats made for a sleepy Minerva Reef Radio Net the next morning, but none of the boats in this experienced group dragged or suffered any damage. Bob McDavitt, the New Zealand weather guru, thought that 29 boats at one time was a record for Minerva.

We were later joined by a Tonga Navy patrol boat, probably to protect us from those pesky Fijians, who also claim Minerva. In addition, a New Zealand Air Force Orion did a flyover and roll call for Customs and Search & Rescue purposes. It was an amazing amount of activity for one of the more remote anchorages.

The highlight of our stay in Minerva was a Reef Party at low tide on the afternoon of the 19th. Virtually all of the crews showed up with beverages in hand. The reef, which is about a quarter of a mile wide, completely submerges at high tide. At low tide, the inner lagoon is about three feet below the reef, which results in a 'waterfall' all along the reef, as the tradewinds keep pushing water over the windward side of the reef. So everybody nosed their dinghy up to the 'waterfall', threw an anchor onto the reef, then climbed up. Weird. Folks stood around in their reef walkers with incredibly warm ankle-deep water flowing over the reef. As always, it was good to put faces to some new names we had come to know over the radio.

There was a mass exodus on the 20th following a favorable weather report from Gulf Harbor Radio, which provides a comprehensive report covering the tropics every morning at 7:30 a.m. It was fascinating to watch the boats diverge, as some headed to Fiji and others to Tonga.

After a leisurely sail north, we arrived in Nuku’alofa on the 23rd, and dropped the hook at Mama’s YC across from the main harbor. Mama’s is a mile away — and a world apart — from the commercial wharf, and is the only place to hang in Tongatapu. Upon arrival, it was time to throw our kayaks into the water, do some snorkeling, and begin taking deck showers.

The trip from New Zealand to Tonga is a lot like San Francisco to Hawaii in that you start off wearing all of your foul weather gear and several layers of fleece. Then you peel a layer or two off every couple of days until it's trunks and t-shirts. We have to admit that our bodies have come to appreciate tropical air and warm water.

Our year in New Zealand had flown by. We spent two months traveling around the North and South Islands in our Toyota camper van. The bottom of the South Island stays pretty chilly, but I guess that’s why you get to see glaciers and penguins. The scenic beauty was over the top.

We spent December — summer in these parts — cruising the Bay of Islands, one of the world's premier cruising grounds. A lot of cruisers either return home or settle into Opua and don’t take the time to explore what’s right next door. We spent New Years out at Great Barrier Island with what seemed like every boat from Auckland. It made Fourth of July at Catalina seem tranquil.

We’ll stay here for a week or so, then head north through the Ha’apai Group of Islands, and then on to Vava’u, where we’ll spend about a month exploring the anchorages and reefs. I suspect we’ll be off to Fiji before this year’s Milk Run fleet catches us, and stay through September. At that time we'll begin heading back uphill to Western Samoa and Palmyra, and should arrive in Honolulu by November.

— george 06/15/2014

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 2-62
John and Debbie Rogers
The Sea of Cortez
(San Diego)

One thing we discovered about the Sea of Cortez is evident in all of the pictures we took — there are no cell towers, thus no Internet, thus no Facebook, and thus pretty much nada of contact with the outside world. While that is certainly some of the charm of the place, it is also why we were unable to post on our blog for long periods of time.

The wind in the Sea, which is usually out of the north in the winter and out of the south in the summer, is often impacted by the local surroundings. So it's not uncommon to see boats anchored relatively close together pointing in opposite directions. There is another common type of weather phenomenon in the Sea — no wind at all. This results in photographs where the land is mirrored so perfectly in the water that you don't know which side of the photo is up.

It's hot in the summer desert climate of the Sea. One problem with the heat is that it starts to melt the wax in the bee hives. That's when bees frantically seek water. Once they get it, they return to the hive, put the water on the honeycomb, and fan their wings to cool it down.

Where do bees find water in a desert environment? Anywhere they can — including on the decks of Moonshadow at Puerto Ballandra, where we unwittingly washed the salty decks off with fresh water. Word spreads quickly in the bee community, because six bees turned into dozens, then into a few hundred. Cowering down below and looking out through the bug screens, we could see that the bees were determined to see if there was still any water down our cockpit scuppers. We sprayed DEET and Windex, and lit some mosquito coils. The bees laughed at us and took off to get reinforcements.

Finally John climbed out through a forward hatch and armed himself with the salt water washdown hose. He probably killed a hundred bees, but then there were maybe three hundred. That got his attention. Keeping the salt water hose handy for defense, he started the engine and raised the anchor. We then motored about a quarter mile out of the cove, keeping up the salt water defense. Before long most of the bees were gone. We didn't get stung, but we were sure glad when it was over.

The bees notwithstanding, we found the Sea to be amazing. Having started our cruise in Florida and gone through the Caribbean, we hadn't seen anything quite like it.

One of the common topics among cruising couples is 'How did you two get together?' In our case it was 1973, 40 years ago. We were just dating when we entered the Second Annual San Diego Parade of Lights with a sailboat we'd rented from Jack Dorsee. We also rented a gas generator so we could illuminate a string of Christmas lights we put on the lifelines. Then we made reindeer antlers out of wire coat hangers and brown paper grocery bags, and wore the antlers on our heads. Don't tell anyone, as the statute of limitations may not have run out, but it was so cold that we drank whiskey to keep warm. Whenever we saw a judge on the parade route, we broke out of the line, got as close to the judge as we could, and sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs. We took first place for sailboats, and have pretty much been together ever since.

After our time in the Sea was up, we were eager to get back to San Diego, as it would be the first time in our home port with the boat we are so proud of. But it wasn't going to be a quick trip, as after getting just 90 of 750 miles north, we discovered a leak in the engine exhaust. As much as all sailors hate to backtrack, we turned back to Cabo, thinking the problem could be best repaired there. That turned out not to be true, so we still had an exhaust leak while Bashing, but only when heeled far enough to starboard to put the exhaust under. The engine room was a sooty disaster, but we made it to San Diego on June 16.

— john and deb 06/20/2014

En Pointe — Brown Searunner 31
Tom Van Dyke
Santa Cruz Tri in Vanuatu
(Santa Cruz)

There was an unexpected gale upon my arrival at Port Vila, Vanuatu a couple of weeks back, but it was no problem for my boat. The more I sail my little Jim Brown Searunner, the more impressed I am. En Pointe was built in Alviso in 1982, and rebuilt in Moss Landing in 2011-2012. Jim Brown drew the plans a half century ago in San Francisco while apprenticing to Arthur Piver.

One reason I came to Vanuatu from Fiji — rather than the more direct route and shorter legs to Australia via New Caledonia — was the idea I might schmooze my way into the Island Cruising Association's feeder rally to their Sail 2 Indonesia Rally. The feeder left from New Zealand, and was to terminate at Mackay on the Queensland coast of Australia. At least there was supposed to be a feeder rally to Mackay. Only four boats turned up, and apparently it was poorly organized. People I've heard from report that they weren't getting promised discounts on marina stays and such.

The Sail 2 Indonesia Rally, which has been around for many years and itself subject to complaints, has been a bit upset with the Island Cruising Association for having picked a name for their event that was so similar to Sail Indonesia.

In any event, there are a handful of cruising boats, and a powerboat, that have stopped here. The crews have been good company while I await a new autopilot upgrade courtesy of Raymarine.

I can't thank Raymarine enough for customer service above and beyond, the likes of which puts Apple Computer to shame. My iPad was diagnosed as having hardware faults during my visit to New Zealand, but Apple said I can only get it fixed under warranty in the United States! That's food for thought for anyone relying on their iPad and Navionics apps for navigation.

While waiting for parts is a drag, I'm not leaving without my new EV100 autopilot, which supplements my Autohelm windvane in my self-steering program. I burned up two ST2000s, and was surprised when Raymarine told me they weren't designed for bluewater cruising. I'm not upset, as they generously offered to upgrade the two dead units for the superior model. We'll see how it turns out, but it sounds like a good deal to me. But I might buy another ST2000 to back up the new improved unit.

Before leaving Vanuatu, I'm heading to Tanna Island to see the famous erupting volcano and the members of the John Frum Society. The JFS is a cargo cult whose members worship their eponymous idol to this day, expecting to suddenly find they have been left all kinds of material things by departing Westerners.

I might also make a trip to Malakula, just north of Efate. My friend Jacques, a retired architecture professor from Paris who is singlehanding his Trismus 37, says Malakula is as close to paradise as he has seen. That dugongs, sea cow-like mammals, proliferate there is another attraction.

After that, I'll likely continue on to Cairns. I've been reading up on Papua New Guinea, and I'm afraid I'd short change it with a quick visit or have to compromise the time I have to spend at the Great Barrier Reef.

This is my sophomore year cruising En Pointe, as I left Santa Cruz for the 2012 Ha-Ha in October that year. I was also part of the Pacific Puddle Jump class of 2013.

There is much I've learned on this trip, but I still learn something new every day. One lesson that stands out is there is just too much to see. Last year when I was pondering the options upon departing Bora Bora — Suwarrow and Raratonga, or just head west — Santa Cruz-based circumnavigator Anna Tench gave me the best advice: "You're going to have a great time wherever you go." Tench went around on the elegant Santa Cruz-based Redwood Coast II with her husband, Don Taber. He commissioned the John Marples trimaran design and built the first hull.

Some future cruisers may wonder whom I've gotten to crew with me. Natalie Boerger, a Swiss woman, found me on the Latitude 38 Crew List and joined me from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The F-31 sailor had only so much time before she had to return to Lausanne and sailing on Lake Geneva.

For the Ha-Ha, I got Mike and Linda Gilman, a couple from La Paz who usually do deliveries but who wanted to try the Ha-Ha for fun. They had sailed up and down the Baja Coast many times, and were thus great for the peace of mind of this first-time cruiser. Mike showed me how to land and clean a tuna while sailing under spinnaker.

I was joined by Tulia in La Cruz, and we sailed together until Fiji. She found another ride there, as she needed to get to New Zealand to meet a friend.

Tulia is a brilliant medical researcher from Irapuato, Mexico, who fell in love with the idea of sailing when she lived in San Francisco and studied at UC SF. She went on to work for the World Health Organization in Geneva before quitting to travel the world. Tulia means a "flower that brings happiness", and is a fitting name. Her personality and charm made an impression on many people during our travels through the South Pacific. She was also a brilliant cook in all weather, and put up with my idiosyncrasies, which is a testament to her perseverance.

Funny that the publisher of Latitude should ask about cruising trimarans, because just the other night at the cruisers' gab fest, I met someone who pointed out that mine was the only cruising trimaran he'd seen so far. There are plenty of catamarans around, but not a lot of tris.

As for En Pointe, I invested many hours doing my own work on her, and also spent a lot of money — including some to hire some very talented professionals — to fabricate and install customized parts such as the hardtop that supports my solar panels, collects rain, and provides shade. I could write a book about it, but the point is when you're bouncing off confused seas in a gale thousands of miles from nowhere, you appreciate knowing how your boat is put together.

— tom 06/08/2014

Tamasha — 59-ft Herreshoff Bounty
Peter and Cathy Weaver
Eastern Caribbean
(Santa Barbara)

Santa Barbara is one of the more attractive harbor cities in the world, bearing a vague resemblance to Beaulieu sur Mer in the South of France. Although the Weavers have a home and some rental properties in Santa Barbara, they don't do much sailing out of their home port, preferring to spend six months a year on their boat in more exotic locations.

"Tamasha is one of eight or nine Herreshoff Bountys that were built by Alan Oram's Sea Glass Marine in New Zealand," Peter told us during a chance visit with him at the Columbie anchorage in St. Barth. "What makes her different from the other Bountys is her interior, and the fact that she has a center cockpit and a solid dodger."

Having professionally driven sailboats around the world since the 1970s, Peter knew exactly what he wanted in a personal boat: "An extremely strong, high-quality boat with a ketch rig. Tamasha has proven to be just that, as we've had her in some big seas when going around the world and she's been just fine."

After buying the ketch in the Pacific Northwest in 2005, the Weavers sailed down the coast, and after a brief stop in Santa Barbara, took off for the Canal and the Caribbean. But it was premature.

"After we got to Mexico, I said "No, no, no, this boat needs too much work to be cruised quite so soon," Peter remembers. "So we brought the boat back to Santa Barbara, where I worked on her for a year. By the time I got done, I decided we'd go to the South Pacific instead of the Caribbean. We just love the South Pacific."

The Weavers departed Santa Barbara in 2007. "We left Tamasha in New Zealand for two or three off-seasons," remembers Peter, "then sailed her to Australia and across the top of the country. We had a very fast trip across the Indian Ocean, and were shown excellent hospitality at Cape Town for Christmas. We then had a pleasant crossing of the South Atlantic."

It was after they crossed the equator that they ran into some trouble. "We were doing about 10 knots in the middle of a pitch-black night about 200 miles off the Amazon River when we hit something. God what a bang! I thought the mast had come down. Seeing it was still up, I quickly opened up all the floorboards, but there was no water coming in. We couldn't figure out what happened."

"A couple of days later, I went to start the engine. When I put it in gear, the engine stopped. So I put it in reverse. It stopped again. Obviously the bang from a few days before was something slamming into the prop. We no longer could use the engine for propulsion, so it was lucky that we had the current with us and a good wind.

"After anchoring at Carlisle Bay, Barbados, I jumped over the side to see what the problem was. I discovered that my two-inch bronze prop shaft had been bent 30 degrees! I can only assume that something big and strong had collided with one blade of the shaft. When I started the engine and put it in forward, a second blade was bent. When I put the engine in reverse, the third of three blades was bent. In addition, the stern tube was pulled out a bit."

For the last three years, the Weavers have spent the high season cruising the lower Caribbean. "We spend most of our time between St. Lucia and Grenada, and we do a few one- or two-week charters for friends. For example, there were some older members of the Santa Barbara YC who had never sailed in the Caribbean. So we picked them up in Grenada, spent a week sailing the boat up to Antigua, and entered Tamasha in the Classic Regatta.

"Although it wasn't quite as breezy a Classic as last year when The Blue Peter and some other boats lost spars, it was windy enough that we passed on the final race. By today's standard's Tamasha isn't that fast, but she held her own. The great thing is that everybody was so welcoming and we saw many great yachts. We were anchored alongside another California boat, Ira Epstein's Clark 65 Lone Fox, which had taken overall honors in the Classic twice. The great Herreshoff 72 Ticonderoga was nearby, as were boats such as the 100-ft Bruce King-designed Whitehawk, which looks like a big sister to Ticonderoga. Having sailed around the world rather quickly, we were sort of the ugly duckling in terms of cosmetic work, but we were warmly welcomed."

One of the things Peter likes best about the Caribbean is the boat characters. "The guy who really surprised me was Mick Jessop of Grenada, who has spent the last 45 years living aboard his 110-year old 55-ft cutter Lily Maid. Mick, who must be 75, and a couple of sons and friends of the sons, just weighed anchor and sailed up to Antigua for the Classic. When they got in the lee of Martinique, Mick, who only has one tooth as a result of playing lots of hockey in his youth, turned on the engine, but the boat didn't move. The prop had fallen off, so they had to sail to Falmouth Harbor.

"Mick managed to find a replacement propeller, but had to have the shaft pulled to be machined. Alas, it fell to the bottom when they pulled it out. Mick doesn't like to go in the water, so I dove down and got it for him, and later put it back in. Anyway, Mick and Lily Maid went on to win their class. I love classic sailing guys like him who have been around the Caribbean forever. Mick is a hell of a shipwright, and did a lot of work on Don Street's boat."

Although there have been a couple of incidents Down Island where locals boarded cruising boats and violently attacked cruisers, Weaver says he feels safe in the area they sail between St. Lucia and Grenada.

"Yes, there have been a couple of incidents, and it seems Down Island incidents are more violent, but no matter where you go there are people with problems. I feel safe down there. Grenada is especially peace-loving, and Bequia is great. On the other hand, no way would I ever go to Venezuela."

Peter points out that it's not always locals who are the problem.

"Consider the story of this little French guy with rasta hair on Poseidon, a converted North Sea trawler with towering masts. We first saw him at Richard's Bay, South Africa when he came into the harbor, drove his boat right up on the beach, dropped the anchor, and went below! The next day the harbor people came around and told him he couldn't keep his boat on the beach. They made him move to the commercial harbor, where his boat got covered in coal dust. He was so pissed. But he was one of those guys who was always either drunk or on drugs.

"When he got to the Caribbean, there was a big stink because, according to the French guy, a West Indian who had come onto his boat drowned. Authorities later determined the two were having a dispute over a woman, and that the French guy hit the West Indian over the head, then threw him overboard. So you never know."

The one thing the Weavers know is they like the South Pacific best.

"We like to get off the beaten track. French Polynesia is nice, but Bora Bora, in our opinion, has been ruined. If you go to Maupiti, which is right next door, it's perfect, like it used to be. Mopelia is even better. If you look at the pass at Mopelia, you'd be terrified. But if you pick your time and put somebody up the mast, you can get in.

"Generally speaking, we think the further west you go, the better it gets. We like New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomons, the latter being home to my favorite island in the world. Fiji is still great, but I'm not so happy about Tonga. I'd been there in the 1980s, and was not pleased with what I saw when I returned 20 years later."

Peter is fully aware of how quickly places can change. "I remember coming to sleepy St. Barth in the 1970s. We just dropped the hook in the middle of the harbor at Gustavia because there were no other boats. I don't even recognize it now. Similarly, I remember coming in on the only boat in the Tobago Cays in 1975. There wasn't another boat."

— latitude 05/03/2014

Cirque — Beneteau First 42s7
Louis Kruk
The Caribbean Coast of Panama
(San Leandro)

Three Northern California friends and I left Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of steamy Panama on April 17 for a bit of local cruising. Thanks to nice northeasterly trades, we made the 20 miles to Portobello's lovely natural harbor by that afternoon. A sleepy town of 3,000, Portobello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it was the booming transportation center for getting silver from Panama to Spain — until its fortifications were destroyed in the mid-18th century during the War of Jenkins' Ear.

Portobello is also home to the Black Jesus of Portobello. It's a mystery how the life-size figure of a black Christ appeared in the village in the 1600s, and legend has it the statute has "refused" to leave on several occasions. The Black Jesus is now venerated, as many Panamanians consider it to be responsible for numerous miracles. The big celebration is on October 21, during which time tens of thousands of devotees make a pilgrimage. Some walk 53 miles from Panama City, thousands walk the last 22 miles from Sabanitas, and many crawl the last mile on their hands and knees. Ouch!

Portobello is home to Captain Jack's Restaurant, which bills itself as a "little bit of the First World in the Third World". I have to agree with that self-evaluation. An incredibly friendly and gracious host, Captain Jack, who is originally from New Jersey and who has cruised extensively, keeps his boat on the hook in the harbor.

The Portobello fortifications provided for a wonderful afternoon of exploration. There were lots of cannons pointed at the boats in the harbor, but I was assured they weren't loaded.

Our next stop was seven-mile-distant Isla Linton, home to three relatively domesticated spider monkeys. They charged up to us, stood tall on their hind legs, and one extended a hand to shake. While two of the monkeys stood around and diverted our attention, the third got into the dinghy and began to rummage through our stuff. Spider and howler monkeys normally stay high in the jungle canopy and don't interact with humans.

Our next stop, lovely Isla Grande, was only three miles away. It's a popular vacation spot with Panamanians, so it was lucky we got there the day after Easter, Since Eric Bauhaus' definitive Panama Cruising Guide recommended Pupi's Bar for its Rastafari decoration, constant slow reggae, and complete "arsenal of drinks" with lots of people, we went in search of it. The only hangout we could find was an establishment painted in the Jamaican color scheme of red, yellow, green and black. I guessed we'd found Pupi's, but there was no reggae music, no arsenal of drinks, and no people. Just one lonely man sitting at a table in the middle of a bundle of empty tables.

When I asked the man about the promised slow reggae music, he sprang into action. He opened the fortified door that hid the liquor behind the bar, plugged in the music machine, and before long Pupi was making piña coladas with fresh pineapple and a mixture of special ingredients. It was another of those unexpected but great interactions with a local that makes cruising special.

After returning to Shelter Island, my guests left and I had the opportunity to take Bill and Janet Jackson's Optical Illusion to the waiting ship Pac Acrux for loading and shipping to Canada. My pickup crew Guillem and I spent most of the day in the Canal Zone anchorage finessing the boat into position to be lifted by the ship's cranes. It was quite a process. Once the boat was placed on the jack stands that would support her on the way to Vancouver, the stands were welded to the deck!

Guillem proved to be a capable crew for Cirque's 130-mile trip to Red Frog Marina in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Since Bauhaus described Escudo de Veraguas as the "most beautiful island in Panama", we had to stop. Parts of the island are reminiscent of the mushroom islands of Palau. The water was so clear that we watched the anchor meander to the bottom. It was very calm despite the waves breaking on the reef, and the snorkeling was fantastic. The only inhabitants are a couple of indigenous families.

We also stopped at Isla Zapatilla. Actually, there are two adjacent islands known as Zapatilla One and Zapatilla Two. One has the more comfortable anchorage and receives a few day tourists by panga.

If you've never heard of some of these islands, don't worry, as there are over 7,000 of them in the 28 countries that front the Caribbean Sea. My goal is to avoid the heavily marketed ones. As far as I'm concerned, the attraction of the Caribbean is the tropical climate, the sailing winds, the water clarity, the beauty of the sparsely populated islands, and the locals who haven't been jaded by years of tourism. If an island has a Domino's or Taco Bell or KFC, it's not very appealing to me.

Red Frog Marina at Isla Bastimentos, Bocas de Toro is Cirque's new home, and the nearby waters will be her new San Francisco Bay. An archipelago of islands in the west of Panama, Bocas del Toro is recognized as Panama’s Caribbean jewel, and is a prime tourist destination. The Bocas region boasts clean, calm waters, and has huge tracts of virgin hardwood and rain forests. It is a last refuge for many endangered species. The diversity of birds, coral and aquatic life is rivaled by few places in the world.

The sea, the beaches, the architecture, and the people with their relaxed pace is Caribbean with a Latin flavor. Also setting Bocas apart from the rest of Panama is the climate, which is wettest during Panama’s dry season (Dec.-Apr.) and drier during Panama’s rainy season.

I'll fly to Cirque at her new home as the spirit moves me and/or at the interest of guests. There are bundles of anchorages here without having to go into the Caribbean Sea. On the other hand, Isla Providencia and Isla San Andreas are only 200 miles away.

— louis 05/15/2014

Shindig — Oyster 485
Rob and Nancy Novak
A Sea Monster and a Raft-Up

We're vets of the 2012 Baja Ha-Ha and wanted to give readers an update on the fun we've had in the Sea of Cortez.

After a month of 'March Madness' on Banderas Bay, which included a continuous stream of visitors from the Bay Area, a visit from son Bryan on college break, and a spectacular win at the Banderas Bay Regatta, we sailed north to Mazatlan and then to the splendid town of La Paz over on Baja.

In order to fully enjoy the many musical and cultural opportunities at La Paz, Nancy rented an apartment for a month. A classical cellist and pianist, she found a welcoming place at the Escuela de Musica, and also played with other gringos and local musicians.

Meanwhile, Rob and brother-in-law JD Starling set off for a slow three-week trip north into the Sea of Cortez. While at Isla Montserrat, 12 miles north of Agua Verde, they found two oar fish washed up on the rocks. Oar fish are spooky looking sea monsters of the deep. Rob paced one off at 20 feet and the other at 16 feet.

The 'boys' trip' ended with Loreto Fest, where JD hopped a flight back to the Bay Area. Rob continued north, singlehanding Shindig in northerlies, southerlies, and other interesting weather patterns. He was later met by Nancy, who took an Aguila bus from La Paz to meet Rob and Shindig in Santa Rosalia. "The 10-hour bus ride might sound daunting," says Nancy, "but it felt like cheating, as there were comfortable assigned seats, AC, continuous movies and Wi-Fi. Riding the bus was easier than passage making."

We found the beautiful mountains and remote islands to be picturesque backdrops to our sailing and motoring to new and favorite anchorages. By May we mostly had mild winds out of the south, an occaisional boisterous northerly, and many opportunities to motor.

In mid-May we were getting reports that it was 100 degrees in La Paz, while the air temps were in the high 80s a couple of hundred miles north where we were. The water temperature had slowly warmed from the mid-70s to 80 degrees, and was no doubt going to get warmer.

With so few people in the middle to northern part of the Sea of Cortez, there was instant camaraderie with other cruisers who were either on the same path north from La Paz or who were headed north toward San Carlos. Shindig hosted several notable onboard shindigs with other cruisers.

One of the best cruiser get-togethers was the dinghy raft-up at Isla Coronado, northeast of Loreto. We had eight dinghies and a kayak. Boats represented were Interlude, Traveler, True Love, Kanga, Scott Free, Moonshadow, Matowi, Moon Drifter and our Shindig. Sorry, but we didn't get the names of the skippers and mates.

With the heat of summer starting to hit with full force, we'll be visiting family and friends back home, including visits to New England and a fun house-/doggie-sitting stay in West Vancouver for another cruising couple. Then it's back to La Paz in October for more adventures and shindigs.

Shindig is in what we'd call the 'wash, rinse, repeat cycle' of cruising Mexico. We think we'll be cruising Mexico for another two years before Puddle Jumping.

— rob 05/29/2014

Cruise Notes:

On May 2, Hurst Lehmann, 59, of Germany, having sailed his 47-ft boat across the Pacific from Mexico, sought a berth at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor on the lee side of the Big Island. The harbormaster told him all the slips were reserved for local boats, and directed him to Kailua Bay. Charts and the Hawaiian Cruising Guide confirmed that the bay was a designated anchorage. As there were no mooring buoys in the bay except for local boats, Lehmann anchored in sand. But the winds shifted, as they often do in the lee of the Big Island, which resulted in about half of the chain coming to rest over some coral.

It just so happened that a local law had been passed the day before that amended penalties for maliciously damaging coral. Before May 1 the maximum fine was $1,000 per incident. As of May 1 the maximum fine was $1,000 per square meter of damaged coral. (The original law was $1,000 per square inch!) It also just so happened that swimmer Pam Miller and friends noticed Lehmann's chain lying on a bed of coral. Most coincidentally of all, Miller had an underwater camera with her. She took photos of the alleged crime, which somehow ended up in the possession of DOCARE, a division of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources. They investigated and charged Lehmann.

Reports of what happened next are conflicting. One report says that Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Terri Fujioka-Lilley asked for a $1,000 fine. District Court Judge Joseph P. Florendo then offered Lehmann the option of going to a full trial so he could plead not guilty on one or more of the following grounds: 1) He had been directed to that location by the harbormaster; 2) He'd taken all reasonable precautions to make sure his boat was anchored in sand; and, 3) The Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation was negligent in not providing moorings in the bay for transient vessels. For Lehmann, the downside of going to trial was that it would have been very expensive, as he probably would need an interpreter as well as a lawyer, and that it would take up to three months.

The other version is that Fujioka-Lilly recommended Florendo impose only the minimum fine because "Lehmann was very apologetic" and it was his first offense. Judge Florendo offered Lehmann the opportunity to pay the $100 fine, plus $30 in court costs. With his crew already arriving for a long-planned trip to Alaska, Lehmann came up with $130 and took off for Alaska. Mahalo.

What, you might wonder, about the case of John Berg, the legally blind sailor whose Nordic 40 Seaquel ran aground near Kailua-Kona on May 18? Investigators didn't find any damage to the reef. Berg had some luck going for him: the reef there is in deep water, there was relatively big surf, and the boat went aground at high tide just a few days after a full moon. Despite Berg's disability and the loss of his boat, it's our understanding that he has no plans to stop sailing.

Controversial and garrulous Norm Goldie passed away in May in San Blas, Mexico, reports Neil Multack. Originally from Brooklyn, Goldie was an outsized waterfront presence in San Blas for close to 40 years. There is no doubt that he helped save a couple of lives and that he provided assistance to some cruisers. On the other hand, he was also notorious for driving cruisers crazy by making up phony harbor rules, dominating the net in San Blas, and falsely claiming that he had some sort of official status in Mexican law enforcement. Norm perpetually threatened to sue Latitude, but we'll still miss him. RIP.

The good and the bad luck of Bashing from Cabo to Portland. "I had a beautiful 5½ day Bash from Cabo to San Diego," reports Craig Shaw of the Portland-based Columbia 43 Adios. "My wonderful crew up from Cabo was John Colby from Portland YC, who last summer finished a seven-year circumnavigation with his Hylas 42 Iris. I then spent a couple of days at the San Diego YC, a couple more on Bill Lily and Judy Lang's mooring in Newport Beach, and then had an easy run up to San Francisco, arriving two weeks to the day from leaving Cabo. I had picked perfect weather windows using Passage Weather, and mostly motorsailed at six knots, burning 200 gallons from La Paz to San Francisco.

"When I did the rest of the Bash from San Francisco to Portland last summer with my dad's Hunter 54 Camelot," Shaw continues, "I had to wait 12 days on the hook off Sausalito for good weather. But then I had an easy three-day run to the mouth of the Columbia River. I'm really enjoying Sausalito, but the accompanying photo shows the second full moon I've seen here. So while I've been visiting old friends and getting projects done on the boat, and Sausalito is a cool place to be stuck, I'm ready to be home on the beautiful Columbia River. This is not normal weather for May and June!

While Shaw was waiting, a Pacific Northwest entrant in the Singlehanded TransPac — sorry, we can't remember which one — reported 40 knots of wind from the northwest, with 14-ft seas at eight seconds on the way down. Ugly.

There was also a Baja Bash group that got stuck at Turtle Bay in June. "We couldn't leave for five or six days," reports Wayne Hendryx of the Brisbane-based Hughes 45 Capricorn Cat. "There were about four boats when we arrived, and 15 by the time we left. The problem was that if the wind got to over 17 knots, the seas were so steep and close together that you pounded yourself to death. We were alongside a DeFever 42 motoryacht and neither of us could go more than two knots, so we decided to hang in Turtle Bay. Wanting to make the most of it, I gave Rogelio, owner of the beer depository and adjacent restaurant on the beach, $100 to buy tequila to make 50-peso mango margaritas for our group. There were about 25 of us cruisers stuck there and we had a great party, with lots of volleyball, too."

Hendryx, who plans to sail the Bay this summer before doing another Ha-Ha this fall, then leaving the cat in Mexico for good, says the tricky part north of Turtle Bay is getting away from Cedros Island. "The first four or five miles north of the island features a lot of compression of the adverse wind and current. If I were to do it again, I'd head off toward the mainland at a 45-degree angle to find relief from the current on the beach. It would add some miles, but getting out of the current was the difference between our doing 8.5 to 9 knots and just six knots. But we always stayed in more than 200 feet of water to avoid the kelp."

Hendryx wants to give a big shout-out to Mark Schneider of the Portland-based Norseman 447 Wendaway, who started a 9 a.m. Bash Net when he took off from Cabo. "He had 15 boats on his roster, and it was very helpful to the trailing boats to get live weather reports from the leading boats. Mark also asked for my opinion about sneaking out of Mexico by not doing an international checkout, something that was common in year's past. I agreed with Mark that this was not something people should do, as it would be insulting to Mexico — which had been so good to me in the 40 years of cruising there — and because Mexico now uses computers extensively, and not checking out could result in big trouble if you or somebody else came back to Mexico with the same boat. For $20 Marina Coral walked us through the checking-out process at the 'one window' paperwork center. The folks at Cruiseport Marina do the same. We had a great time resting up around the marina pool, and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Ensenada. So I say do it right."

We can't remember where we read this, but somewhere Paul West and Pamela Stone of the Long Beach-based Irwin 43 Tug Tub wrote, "It is interesting that all our 'land friends' think that El Salvador is a crime mecca and that Costa Rica is very safe. Our experience has been the opposite. In El Salvador, no one ever tried to take our stuff. In fact, one night my wallet fell on the floor in a restaurant, and a local ran up and handed it to me as I was leaving. In Costa Rica, however, attempts were made to rip us off on a daily basis. Cabbies, stores, Immigration — everyone seemed to be on the take. We'll take El Salvador over Costa Rica any day."

We at Latitude have had the same impression: Costa Rica isn't the progressive paradise that it often portrays itself to be. It's not that it's the worst place in the world, because it is a great place, but it does have warts it doesn't seem to want to acknowledge. What do you think?

"We just survived a rough passage from Auckland to Tahiti, and were anchored in Opunohu Bay, Moorea when this racy-looking 45-ft Cross tri named Defiance sailed in," report John and Amanda Swan Neal of the Friday Harbor-based Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare III. "Since the trimaran was sporting a big Spectra Watermakers logo on the bow, we thought it was either one of Spectra's roving tech cruisers — or maybe the big Kahuna himself, Bill Edinger. Turns out it was Bill on his first-ever four-month mini cruise, from San Francisco to the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Hawaii and back home by late August. Every berth was taken with crew, including Bill's wife Sandy, their lovely daughter Annie, Bay Area marine surveyor Francoise Ramsay, and boatbuilder Michael Lael. Bill said Defiance was a somewhat tired and forgotten ex-race boat when he bought her about 10 years ago, and that he's enjoyed fixing her up.

"As for us, "Neal continued, "Amanda and I are headed to Rarotonga with students, then Hawaii, Alaska, and home to Roche Harbor."

Neal has done over 313,000 ocean miles, been around Cape Horn six times, and done 170 open-ocean sail training expeditions with six students per trip. From 1983 to 1995, John had a Hallberg-Rassy 42, and from 1995 until now, John and Amanda have had a Hallberg-Rassy 46, which oddly enough is 48 feet long. When they ordered the bigger boat, they opted not to go with a genset, but rather use their main engine to generate electrical power. After 19 years and 12,500 hours on the Volvo diesel, Neal says it still runs great. It's another 'use it or lose it' diesel story.

While in La Cruz last month, we ran into Ed and Connie Quesada of the Newport Beach-based Cardinal 46 Sirena, which was dismasted in mild winds early in the year. The cause?

"A chainplate had pulled out of the boat because the yard in Taiwan had used 3/8-inch bolts in 1/2-inch holes!" Getting a mast in Mexico proved to be difficult. "We sent emails asking for quotes to every mast maker in the States. The only reply we got was from a company trying to sell us a carbon mast. Finally, Ballenger Spars in Watsonville said they could do the mast for us, but it would take 16 weeks. We didn't want to wait that long. Fortunately, we dismasted near the La Cruz Shipyard, home to Peter Vargas and Sea Tek. When he lived in California, Vargas built many of the masts and booms for racing boats. So we got Ballenger to send the aluminum sections to La Cruz, and Peter — our hero! — is almost done with the mast."

If you're a 'six and six' cruiser, who likes to cruise for six months then go home for six months, we encourage you to use your satphone a couple of times before you restart cruising each season. If you don't, there can be problems.

The first type of problem is that you ran out of minutes or time in which to use your minutes, and didn't realize it or weren't alerted. This was the cause of several Puddle Jump boats discovering mid-Pacific that their old SIM cards were no longer good. So a couple of weeks before you're going to use your phone in Bongo Bongo, check how many minutes you have left by making a call, and check with your provider when the time to use the minutes will run out. If you don't add minutes in a timely fashion, your SIM cards become no good, and if you need a new one sent to Bongo Bongo, it can be very expensive.

The second satphone problem is of a 'use it or lose it' nature. Kevin and Marcie Millet of the Kauai-based custom 50 cat Kalewa came to La Cruz to sail their cat home when they discovered their SIM was apparently no longer good. After frustrating days of trying to figure out the least expensive way of getting a new card to Mexico — the shipping along with startup fees were going to come to many hundreds of dollars — their crew Anthony discovered that the SIM card simply hadn't been making proper contact with the phone. Corrosion? If you don't use it, you're going to lose it.

It's hurricane season in both the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. The graphic at right shows the paths of hurricanes in the Atlantic since 1851 and in the Eastern Pacific since 1948. We publish it as a public service showing places you can hide from hurrianes in those areas.

How are American cruisers dealing with the Schengen Area visa regulations, which require all Americans — as well as Australians, South Africans, Kiwis and Canadians — to leave the Schengen Area (which is most of the countries in the European Union, plus a couple that aren't) every three months for three months? Jim and Debbie Gregory of the Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus report they have applied for 'Non-Lucrative Visas' from Spain, which will get them around the counterproductive restriction. "It was a long, pain-in-the-ass process," reports Jim, "but we've just been approved. All we have to do now is return to the States to get our passports stamped, Can you believe that we have to go all the way back to the United States to get our passports stamped?" While anchored at Mahon, Menorca, the Gregorys were treated to the sight of the magnificent J Class yachts racing inside the harbor.

Then there are Ed and Sue Kelly of the Iowa-based Catalac 37 Angel Louise. "Thanks to Latitude from all of us cruisers who have to worry about complying with Schengen in Europe," they write. "We are keeping a low profile because of it. (We'll let everyone decide what they mean by "keeping a low profile".)

"But to show you how Kafkaesque the visa restrictions can be," they continue, "according to the Kiwi Embassy, New Zealand has bilateral visa waiver agreements with many — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden — of the individual countries in the Schengen Area. These visa-waiver agreements allow New Zealanders to spend up to three months in the relevant country, without reference to time spent in other Schengen Area countries. Kiwis can therefore move visa-free among the above countries for periods of up to three months in each country. If, however, you move to other countries in the Schengen Area, the restriction of no more than three months out of a six-month . . . ."

Blah, blah, blah. We don't know about the rest of you, but the more we travel, the less respect we have for most government regulations, which only apply to those who obey the law anyway. Enough red tape, here is more from the Kellys:

"We are now in Saint Malo, France, moored next to the old walled city, which was internally rebuilt after being bombed just short of rubble after the Normandy Invasion 70 years ago. We sailed down after our second winter moored in London. The spring is much colder here on the Atlantic Coast of France than at our home in Des Moines, but the wine is much better. Previously we were hanging around the Channel Islands, which are within 25 miles of the French Coast, but are British Crown Dependencies. The Channel Islands consist of two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The Channel Islands are friendly to American and other foreign cruisers in that they are not part of the European Union and they are not part of the Schnegen Area. We plan to continue down to the Cape Verdes and across to the Caribbean this winter."

Missing the pictures? See the July 2014 eBook!


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