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July 2015

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With reports this month from Escapade on crossing the Atlantic; from Pelagic on fast cruising to the East Coast with three kids after last year's Ha-Ha; from Esprit on being rejoined by son Jamie; from Coco Kai on a bummer of a last leg of a nine-year voyage; from Sonrisa on Yanmar diesels and the sweet family life aboard in La Paz; from Curare on the east coast of South America; from the new Fujin in St. Croix; and Cruise Notes.

Escapade — Catana 52 Cat
Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie
Crossing the Atlantic to the Med
(Squaw Valley)

On June 10 we crossed latitude 38° on our way to Flores in the Azores. But this was day 13 out of St. Martin for us, and we've still got 500 miles to go. If we sail another 150 miles toward the islands, we'll finish off this leg under power, as the North Atlantic High has settled in over the Azores.

It's been a very light-air trip for the most part — although the first six days of being hard on the wind weren't the most pleasant, especially when our big genoa blew up on the second day. We're actually looking pretty ragged, with large patches of taffeta hanging from our Spectra main. I'm hoping it will make it to the Med. Actually, I'm hoping that it will last until the end of the season in October, but there's probably not much chance of that.

The light-air upwind conditions mean we're sailing with the Solent and the main. In close reaching to broad reaching, our Code 0 has finally become a good investment — after seven years of hardly ever being used. And we have finally become real catamaran cruisers, as we tried flying with the spinnaker with the main lowered in light air — and it worked! Quite well, too.

We've been in contact with two passing sailboats. The first was a Jongert 63, whose owner was obviously displeased with his captain and crew. He asked that we take them to the Azores, as he was turning back to St. Martin from 500 miles out!

Our second contact this morning was with a 33-ft French sailboat that hailed us to say 'hi' — and to see if we had any extra cigarettes. They are already 20 days out of the Bahamas and are figuring it will take them another 10 days to the Azores. Nicotine withdrawal can be rough.

We made some Portuguese friends on the first Catana cat made, a Lock Crowther design from 1985. They've probably made it to Flores by now, but a few days ago they were hoping we might catch up with them with extra fuel. It's been so light that pretty much everybody is low on or out of fuel. Such is life in the mid-Atlantic. Last month there was a vicious storm, and this month we've been praying for wind — not that it will do an agnostic such as myself much good.

Life onboard has been just fine, with Robbie Walters from Tahoe and Lance Poulsen from Squaw Valley as two of our three crew. Lance doublehanded from Kauai to San Francisco with me in 2009, and Robbie had joined us for the 2008 Ha-Ha.

We also have a 21-year-old crewmember named Pablo from Valencia, Spain, with us. He took a year off from university to travel around Panama, Colombia and Venezuela, then flew to St. Martin to join us. How did he find out that we wanted crew? From our ad in Latitude 38. We both took a leap of faith, and it's turned out wonderfully.

Pablo has some fabulous photos of the jungles of Colombia and of the Bocas del Toro region of Panama. He also tells us that the marina in Valencia that was built for the America's Cup has turned out to be a pretty good deal, as they are filling it up with boats and renovating the team bases into bars, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

It turns out that Michel and Isabel, our very good Parisian cruising friends, recently sailed to Valencia. They fell so in love with the city, people and marina that they've leased an apartment there for the winter. It might be a good place for Escapade to spend the offseason while Debbie and I are in the Dolomites.

Anyway, it's Pablo's birthday, so Debbie has baked a cake, and there'll be a dram of rum all around.

Update: We not only made it to the Azores, we made it to the famous Cafe Sport before the real midnight!

— greg 05/12/2015

Pelagic — Hallberg-Rassy 42
Michael & Amy Bradford, and Kids
After the Ha-Ha to the East Coast

Our family — which includes kids Zander, 12; Porter, 10; and Anakena, 5 ­— sailed in the 2014 Baja Ha-Ha and we wanted to give Latitude readers an update on our considerable post-Ha-Ha progress. But first some context.

Latitude wrote a really lovely two-page article about Michael and me in the fall of 2000, when we were getting ready for our honeymoon at sea. At the time, we were cruising from the Golden Gate to Easter Island and beyond. Ultimately we spent two years sailing, 11 months of it in Chilean waters between Easter Island and Patagonia. Each of us having been to South Georgia Island on our own, and both having fallen in love with it, our goal was to return. Alas, our first son Zander, a stowaway at that, threw a wrench into those plans. So we returned home to Portland via the Humboldt Current.

We'd always meant to update Latitude readers about that adventure, but never got around to it. I even had the perfect photo to illustrate it — me in my 'Gumby suit' reading a Latitude while sitting on a drifting 'bergy bit' at Laguna San Rafael in the Chilean fjords. Now that we have a new-to-us boat, and three kids in tow, we're trying to be better about our correspondence.

As I write this, we're sailing from Havana to Florida, making our way out of the hurricane zone. We've obviously covered a lot of ground — maybe 4,000 miles — since the Ha-Ha. We cruised up into the Sea of Cortez, explored the Copper Canyon overland, and sailed down the coasts of Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama, stopping to explore countless anchorages along the way. After transiting the Canal, we sailed north toward the Yucatan, with stops at San Andres Island, the Bay Islands, Honduras and Belize.

By just about any cruising standard we are moving pretty quickly, but we figure we only have two to three years to see as much of the planet as we can by boat. But to be fair, even if we had more time, we'd probably be moving along almost as quickly. We have 'Traveler's ADD', as we're always anxious to see what's over the horizon.

With three kids, it's often difficult to move quickly, as the passages are not the highlight for them. But we try to find ways to keep moving without missing much. For short trips of up to 80 miles, we often choose to travel at night to minimize sea days for the kids. There is some selfishness in it, too, as I really enjoy sailing at night — in part because no one else is awake to request my time. If you've sailed with kids, you know what I mean. It's blissfully quiet, with only the stars and the moon for company.

Another time-saving trick is trying not to have a lot of downtime in ports. Sometimes we've been incredibly lucky with that. For example, while anchored off Cozumel, Mike dove on the boat and noticed some play in the bronze fittings that attach the rudder to the hull. He worried we might have problems sailing to Florida. Serendipitously, we were anchored just a few hundred meters from a boatyard.

At 8 a.m. the next morning, Mike was in the office inquiring about a haulout. By 9 a.m. we had Pelagic lined up waiting for the Travelift. By noon we had six guys sanding the bottom — why not get a much-needed bottom job at the same time? — and the rudder fixed. By 5 p.m. the bottom had been sanded and the first of two coats of bottom paint had been applied. By noon the next day, the second coat of anti-fouling paint was applied and we were waiting to go back into the water.

The haulout took about 30 hours, and the labor bill was only $450. They did a great job, too. It helps that Mike is fluent in Spanish, as it allowed us to cut some corners on everything from boat maintenance, to sourcing parts, to checking in.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have lots of time for adventures and exploring, but we try to minimize the inevitable downtime often associated with cruising.

We have enjoyed many incredible experiences so far, including introducing our Pacific Northwest kids to diving in clear tropical waters at places such as Roatán and Belize. Then there was anchoring out in Panama's Chagres River with howler monkeys in the trees above our boat. And we've met some great folks who we know are going to be friends for life.

We've had our share of struggles, too. For example, nobody tells you how difficult home-schooling can be. Or maybe I just didn't listen. But there have been many tears shed, most of them mine. We are slowly figuring it out, and will probably have it down by the time we're done cruising. Meanwhile, the life lessons the kids are picking up are priceless, so we're trying to focus on that.

We plan to spend a few weeks in Florida resting and recuperating, and then sail up the coast to Maine where we will visit with family and friends. In August we plan to cross to Ireland, and from there explore Europe. After that, who knows? At some point we'll have to return home to the Pacific Northwest, but maybe by way of the Marquesas. We're trying to embrace this cruising life by making as few plans as possible.

The journey has been amazing so far, and we feel so fortunate to be able to spend these exciting and formative years with our kids.

— amy 05/15/2015

Esprit — Peterson 46
Chay and Katie McWilliam
Cruising With Our Son Chay Again
(Henderson, NV)

The most common question people have asked is whether anything has changed in cruising since we started with the Baja Ha-Ha in 2003. Having been most of the way around the world now, including across the Med, our initial response was that the boats kept getting bigger, and there are a lot more cats, especially in the Caribbean.

On further reflection, the biggest change we've seen is the growing lack of camaraderie among cruisers. It used to be that you'd hear about fellow cruisers via the VHF or SSB radio nets, which everyone listened to in order to get the weather reports. You'd later hail them on the radio, chat with them on the docks, or dinghy over to their boats to introduce yourselves. This now seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

We believe that much of the change is due to the Internet and cell phones. Twelve years ago you were lucky to have access to an Internet cafe. Now you can find Wi-Fi access almost everywhere. We see cruisers dinghy to shore, go to a cafe with free Wi-Fi, and spend hours there checking weather and doing whatever else they do online. They do this at the expense of interacting with other cruisers who are right there with them.

We've also noticed that the Internet adds stress to the cruising life that didn't use to be there. When we crossed the Pacific, we went almost six months without hearing the news — and we felt relaxed. Now it seems we can no longer escape the news. Just think of the stress that adds to life on land. You feel the stress just as much on the water. Nonetheless, we find ourselves falling prey to the same temptation of feeling we always need to be 'connected'. We have to remind ourselves that most of the time nothing really changes if you miss a few days or weeks — even months.

That said, Jamie, our son who sailed most of the way around the world with us, met up with us in St. Lucia after 23 hours of traveling from college in the States. Visions, one of the locals at Rodney Bay Marina, drove us to the airport on the other side of the island to pick him up — at half the price the taxi drivers were asking. Our route back from the airport was via the center of the island, so we were able to see much of the interior of the 'Isle of Spice'.

With Jamie over jet-lag on Saturday, we left the marina to anchor out to get his sea legs for the 20+ mile passage north to Martinique. The passage across the channel to Le Marin and St. Anne's on Martinique was typical of most of the passages we've made between Caribbean islands this year — fast, but with choppy seas and green water over the bow.

We navigated our way through the reefs to the town of Le Marin, one of the largest yachting centers in the Caribbean. If you haven't heard much about Le Marin, it's because it's French and almost all the boats are French. But there were probably 1,000 boats between the marinas and anchorages. We found a nice spot to anchor and cleared in the following morning.

Clearing in at Martinique — and all the other French islands in the West Indies — is done via computer. It's simple and easy, and there is only a small administrative charge of between two and five euros. We later did some exploring of the town, including a jungle dinghy ride up a small river that ended at a shopping mall with a Carrefour grocery store nearby. We picked up a few things, including our traditional tub of Nueva Vida ice cream. We ate the whole thing right there!

Once back on Esprit, we were approached by the marine police, who informed us that we were anchored in an area where anchoring was forbidden. There were 10 boats in the area, but only our boat and one other were asked to move. So we weighed anchor while the police watched, and moved to St. Anne's anchorage. St. Anne's is supposed to have a sand bottom, but there are spots where the sand is too thin over rock, or just flat rock, which does not allow for the anchor to set. After a few attempts, we finally got the anchor set. We were glad to have Jamie on board once again to help find a good spot.

St. Anne is a quaint town with a beautiful square in front of a church featuring European architecture. We snorkeled one of the reefs separating the St. Anne anchorage from Le Marin and saw lots of colorful tropical fish of all sizes. There was so much sea life right around the boat that we decided to scuba dive right off the boat. We saw a lion fish and a large lobster — not too bad for the middle of an anchorage. While we were at it, we cleaned Esprit's bottom for the first time in two months.

We rented a car for a day and toured a good portion of Martinique, which we found to be clean and lush. We drove up the west coast of the island and back down through a national park in the center of the island.

Our stops included the old capital of St. Pierre, which was destroyed during the 1902 volcanic eruption of Mt. Pelée. Some 30,000 people were killed within minutes by the 2,000-degree pyroclastic flow. The two survivors were a prisoner in a poorly-ventilated dungeon and a young girl who jumped into a small boat.

On Monday, May 25, the day after a two-hour Pentecost mass at St. Anne's church, we departed Martinique for Pigeon Island at Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. We arrived in time to snorkel the reef off the point and climb the hill to Fort Rodney with Jamie. The next morning we headed into the marina to prepare for Jamie's Wednesday departure, as well as for our departure south to Grenada.

When in Grenada, we'll pick up our daughter Amy, our son-in-law Beau, and our granddaughters Trinity and Tasha. The 140-mile passage to Grenada will be our longest single passage this year. What a change from previous years!

For those of you worrying about home-schooling your children while cruising, it's worked out very well, at least in Jamie's case. Not yet 18, he completed his freshman year of mechanical engineering with a 3.97 grade point average. Even more amazing is that he scored 100% on both of his two calculus finals. While we're glad he's doing so well at school, we sure miss his energy, banter, and of course, his seamanship.

— chay and katie 06/10/2015

Coco Kai — 64-ft Schooner
Greg King, Captain
A Really Rotten Welcome Home
(Long Beach)

It would have been nice if Capt. Greg King of Jennifer Sanders' 64-ft staysail schooner Coco Kai could have had a pleasant last leg from Cabo San Lucas to Long Beach to wrap up a circumnavigation that started with the 2006 Baja Ha-Ha. But it wasn't to be.

First, there was a problem down around the Cape with the oil cooler.

Then, a day after rounding Cabo for California for the 18th time in his career, King and crew had to heave to off Mag Bay to withstand the winds of fading hurricane Blanca.

Later, on the way to Turtle Bay, there was a problem with the U-joint.

After leaving Ensenada on June 16th with an escort of hundreds of dolphins, what could possibly go wrong? King explains:

"I got up at 2 a.m., a bit groggy from the previous day's festivities in Ensenada, in order to make it up to Parker's Lighthouse in Long Beach for the homecoming celebration. After making coffee, I turned the key for the engine two or three times, but nothing happened. Three or four seconds later, while I scratched my head, the engine started without my doing anything. But the engine was making a weird noise, so I investigated.

"I found that the starter was still going, even though the starter key was switched off. I scratched my sore head some more, then figured I could take a lead off the starter, and just touch it to start the engine. Once the engine was going, I would be good to Long Beach. So I removed the lead, then hit the solenoid a with a hammer — sometimes they stick — put the battery switch back on, and touched the wire. Nothing. That was good. So I reattached the wire, and the motor started and ran fine."

When you've been on a boat as long as King has, and you've done an extensive rebuild on her as he did in Thailand, you can diagnose problems and make repairs as he does.

But wait, there's more! King explains:

"At 2 a.m. the following morning, 10 miles off of Dana Point, with only 10 miles to go, I get woken up and told something is wrong. At this point I'd only gotten one hour of sleep in the previous 24.

"It was an Orange County Sheriff's Task Force, and they wanted to board us. I politely helped two heavily-armed guys aboard. After going through papers and asking questions, they kept us under guard for the next 45 minutes while headquarters figured out what they wanted to do with us. No going to the toilet, no using the phone, no letting us go below. It was like we were criminals.

"At 2:45 a.m., they told us that the Coast Guard was coming to board us. At 3:30 a.m., while we were still under guard, they decided we should head to Long Beach for the boarding.

"But no, at 3:45 a.m., while underway for Long Beach, the Coast Guard showed up and three more heavily-armed guys came aboard. They told us to head for Newport Beach.

"At 5:15 a.m., we arrived at the Coast Guard dock in Newport. At this point my crew was crying and I was pretty pissed off at what I believe had been our nasty treatment. But we were still separated and questioned again. We were still not allowed to use the head or phone.

"The Coast Guard guys were going to rip the boat apart for a second time.

"At 6:30 a.m. I was able to call Jen, the boat's owner. And I was promised a report of the incident, with the names of all involved.

"At 7:30 a.m., they were done with their 'safety inspection' and took off. I got no report. I didn't even get any help with the docklines.

"For five and a half hours we'd been under heavy guard and threats were made if we moved. It was a nightmare!!!"

It occurred to us at Latitude that the authorities might have been pissed that Coco Kai had bypassed San Diego and was going to clear into the States at Long Beach. It's legal, but sometimes the authorities get pissy about it.

"Greg did bypass San Diego and did check in at Long Beach," confirms Coco Kai's owner Jennifer Sanders. "Long Beach has a phone number you call during business hours two hours prior to your arrival, and officials will meet you at Rainbow Pier. That's what happened, and although Greg and the crew had to wait several hours, there was no problem. The only bummer was Greg's encounter with the 'task force' off Newport Beach. That's an entirely different story, and was a sad way to end a nine-year trip. Only in America."

— latitude/rs 06/15/2015

Sonrisa — Lagoon 440 Cat
The Brettingham-Moore Family
Yanmars and La Paz
(Tasmania, Australia)

We — my wife Melissa, our young sons Huon and Ben, and myself — really enjoyed reading the Wanderer's May article on Yanmar cone-clutch servicing. We also found the Wanderer's link to Leu Cat — they had written extensively on the subject — to be most interesting. We'd met the Leu Cat folks in Panama's San Blas Islands around 2009. They had a damaged masthead unit. Being smaller, I went up and repaired it for them.

We have Yanmar SD-50 saildrives on the diesels on our Lagoon 440. In eight years and 1,500 hours, we've yet to have any problems. That said, I totally agree with the Wanderer's suggestion about minimizing the number of shifts, ensuring plenty of time between forward and reverse, and generally treating the engines and gearboxes with love and respect. We allow at least a 10-minute warm-up and a 10-minute cool-down for our engines. We rarely use both engines at the same time, we change the oil at 150 hours, and normally run the engines below 2,000 rpm.

Our only hassle has been the oil/sea water seals on the port engine prop shaft. We've had to replace them twice. The last time we hauled, I noticed a small amount of movement fore and aft in the prop shaft. Not having any shims, I filed a small amount off the seal housing where it fits into the leg. That was over a year ago and it's been sweet ever since.

The standard seawater inlet in the saildrive leg has been a continuing pain, as the paint/antifouling would always be falling off around the inlet. Plus the zincs were being consumed too quickly for my liking. So I blocked off the seawater inlets and put a normal seawater inlet valve and strainer in the hull. Since then, the saildrive legs haven't had any paint flaking off and the zinc consumption has been reduced to a yearly change.

Our family is now enjoying city life — phone, car and so forth — in La Paz. We've been in Costa Baja Marina since December. It's really one of the better ones, particularly as we can use facilities such as the beach club, the great pool and the gym. And we get a double berth for the price of one. There is also a resident artist who takes the boys for art lessons a few afternoons a week.

Our sons Ben and Huon are in a local Montessori school, immersed in Spanish. As expected, they are picking it up like sponges.

For weekends, we either head out to Playa Bonanza beach on Espiritu Santo, which is less than three hours away, or we drive down to Todos Santos/Cerritos, where we found a delightful hotel on the beach with BBQ and pool for $40 Ozzie. We're mulling over buying a block of land north of Todos, as it has surf, is quiet, and has delightful people.

All our sails have been put away for hurricane season. We also have a small air con unit. We wonder how long we can last like this.

— nick 05/15/2015

Readers — You may remember that Nick and Melissa ran a 'no expense spared' mega motoryacht in the Med for years. When Melissa became pregnant about eight years ago, they retired, bought their catamaran, and started a long sail back home to Tasmania. The trip home has taken a while longer because they fell in love with Mexico about four years ago and haven't been able to leave.

Curare — Bowman 36
Goeff and Linda Goodall
Around South America
(Vancouver, BC)

In part one of this two-part story, retired geologists Geoff and Linda had changed their cruising plans from the South Pacific to South America because of the problems there would have been bringing their beloved dog Jessie to the former. In 2010, they made landfall at South America at Valdivia, Chile, 75% of the way down to Cape Horn. They had gotten there via Easter Island because sailing down the west coast of South America would have meant battling the Humboldt Current the entire way.

After enjoying Valdivia, Puerto Montt, the glaciers of Chile, and the Patagonian canals, they called on the Micalvi YC at Puerto Williams, Argentina. This would be their jumping-off point for the 'Cape Horn Circuit', which is tightly regulated by the navy because of the lack of refuges in the area. Due to unstable weather conditions, only Linda got off the boat at Cape Horn, which is a small, detached island that is not connected to South America proper.

As we resume Geoff and Linda's adventure this month, they then obtained permission from the Argentine government to visit the Islas Malvinas, aka the Falkland Islands. They got permission in case bad weather forced them back to the Argentinian mainland.

"On the way there we first we stayed at Staten Island in the lee of an east-facing cove," remembers Linda. "We thought it would be safe from a blow from the north. But the hills didn't protect us at all, and we found ourselves on a lee shore in 40 knots of wind. We weighed anchor and motored around trying to find a better place to anchor, but couldn't find anything."

"We had sheets of water all around us," says Geoff, "so we just motored around outside the cove. We thought about heading out to sea until an exploration ship reported seas of 30 to 60 feet farther out! So we hove to in the lee of that island for two and a half days, going back and forth on one tack, then the other."

Were they reasonably comfortable?

"No," says Linda.

Were they scared?

"I was scared at times," admits Geoff. "At midnight, for example, when it was pitch black, we were heeled over like crazy, and we could hear a big wave coming."

"I emailed the record-setting circumnavigator Jeanne Socrates and asked her if we weren't supposed to be comfortable and nice when hove to," Linda remembers. 'No, not really,' she replied. I felt better after learning that."

"We eventually made it to the Falklands by the end of March, and spent a month there. It was really nice, but there was all kinds of paperwork involved with getting Jessie in," says Geoff. "Linda had started the paperwork, as well as the blood tests and shots, a year in advance. Jessie couldn't go ashore until the chief vet approved."

"The vet told us we had to keep Jessie on a leash at all times," says Linda. "People we met still asked if we had papers for Jessie because they hadn't seen her before, but nobody went so far as to ask to see them."

"The people on the outer islands were really friendly," says Geoff. "Going there was a great experience."

The couple's next stop was Uruguay, at latitude 35. "Although it's in the temperate zone and gets seasons, it was still so cold we couldn't take our foul weather gear off. It wasn't far from there to Buenos Aires, where we got a week free at the yacht club thanks to the reciprocal privileges we enjoy as members of the Royal Vancouver YC. Both Uruguay and what we saw of Argentina are beautiful, and the people were open and easygoing."

Eventually, the couple would spend six months going up the coast of Brazil. "It was long and tedious at times," says Linda. "We always waited for southerly winds, but as they were from the Southern Ocean, they always brought rain and cold — at least until we got up past Rio."

"Rio was fun," says Geoff. "A real party city."

"We liked the people in Brazil," agrees Linda. "There is a lot of crime in Brazil, but we didn't go out at night, so we didn't have any problems. And people would warn us. While in Salvador, for instance, we strayed two blocks from the main tourist area. People told us we'd gotten into a rough area and that we needed to leave."

"The funny thing about the east coast of South America," Linda continues, "is that we could never go swimming because all the ports were up rivers with dirty brown water. There were a couple of offshore islands with clear water, such as Isla Grande about 60 miles south of Rio. It's the Brazilian boating center, with mostly powerboats. Even the small boats have captains, which is good, because they all drink caprinas and get smashed."

"At least the Brazilians anchor properly," says Geoff, "unlike in the Eastern Caribbean. The French there descend on you, and if they get too close, they just don't care."

The Goodalls got to the northern part of Brazil by September 2013. It was there at Jacarei that the couple's beloved Jessie, then 13 1/2 years of age, passed away. Her death was a tremendous blow to both of them, and since Linda's father had fallen sick, they both returned to Vancouver for three months.

By January 2014, they were up another river, this time in Suriname. "We have a friend who lives there, and we visited with her for a couple of weeks," says Linda. Suriname has a big Dutch community, and lots of boats from the Netherlands either arrived from coming across the Atlantic or escaping hurricane season in the Eastern Caribbean."

"We sailed from Suriname to Barbados, which we really loved," says Geoff. "The big protected bay at Carlisle Bay was something we hadn't seen in three years, and the water was finally clear and warm. The Bajans were really friendly, there were no vendors hassling us on the beach, it's easy to get around, they speak English, they have horse races and cricket — we found much to like. In fact, we're hoping for a northeaster to take us back, as we'd really like to return."

"By this time we had a lot of work to do on the boat, so just before Christmas 2014, we beat our way up to Trinidad to do a lot of work. It was a breezy trip!"

A 'brick shithouse', Curare has been in the family for 34 years, and Geoff and Linda have owned her for the last 17. Among many parts of the major refit, Geoff removed the gelcoat and painted the boat — and did a very nice job, too.

The Goodalls' Rival 36 is a smallish but very solid old-school boat. "She has a full cutaway keel, a rudder attached to the back of the keel, and is pretty heavy," says Geoff. "Curare always handled the bad weather better than we could. But we sail conservatively, too. When you come up the Eastern Caribbean, it's blowing 15 to 20 all the time, except in the channels between the islands, when it blows 25 to 30. If it was blowing 18 knots, we always reefed, and we'd always skip the first reef and go to the second if not the third."

That's nothing compared to what they did in the southern part of South America. "We only used the main three times down there," says Geoff. "But we did use the spinnaker some. Our rule was that we took it down in 12 knots, although sometimes we waited until it blew 15. But the spinnaker provided for some nice sailing in the flat waters of the Beagle and other channels."

After Curare's refit in Trinidad, the couple sailed up the Eastern Caribbean to St. Barth, where we interviewed them in March. After South America, where they rarely saw another boat, most of the Eastern Caribbean was way too crowded for their taste.

The couple has no regrets opting to sail around South America rather than the South Pacific because of Jessie. "We thank Jessie for taking us the way we went," says Linda. Further plans call for them to sail to the Western Caribbean, Cuba, up the Eastern Seaboard, to Bermuda and Newfoundland. At that point, they either sail back down to warm waters for the winter — or cross the Atlantic. "We just don't know because we don't have any real plans."

Over the course of their cruising, Linda says she's been "meticulous" about keeping track of every single cent they've spent. As such, she knows that everything — including travel home, major refits, insurance and such — has cost them about $3,500 a month. "When we were in La Paz years ago, we used to eat out a lot," says Geoff, "but we don't that much anymore." Part of the reason is that there were so few restaurants that were easy to get to in South America. But even now, when they dine out, they tend to do so for lunch, which is generally considerably less expensive than dinners.

— latitude/rs 05/15/2015

Fujin — Bieker 53 Cat
Greg Slyngstad
First Sail
(Sammamish, WA/St. Croix, USVI)

Greg has long been one of the most competitive monohull sailors on the West Coast, having raced and done well in the Pacific Cup and Transpacs to Hawaii, in the St. Francis Big Boat Series, in several Voiles de St. Barth, and countless races in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. While he's still deep into monohull racing — he did the Voiles de St. Barth in April with his J/125 Hamachi and will sail her in this month's Transpac, too — he's also gone over to the dark side with a new 53-ft cruising catamaran.

As you can tell from the accompanying photos, the design by Portland-bred and Seattle-based Paul Bieker, who was part of the Oracle Team in the last America's Cup, is both unusual and exciting. We particularly like the bows, which remind us of the bow of the Boeing 314 flying boats that carried passengers across the Pacific for Pan American Airlines.

Fujin was built by Gold Coast Yachts of St Croix, an outfit that has built 117 boats, most of them large multihulls for the 'cattlemaran' industry. You have to have respect for any company that's built 117 large vessels — and keeps on getting orders. The Bieker design is Gold Coast's first all-carbon boat, and has a design displacement of a mere 12,000 pounds.

On June 6, Slyngstad and the honchos from Gold Coast took Fujin — it's Japanese for wind god — out for her first sail. Although still not complete and missing some controls that resulted in less than perfect sail shape, she hit 22 knots in a reported 14 to 16 knots of wind. And she easily flew her windward hull. A couple of days later, she did 25 knots in 18 knots of wind! She's obviously a rocketship.

Slyngstad tells Latitude that she was not designed to foil, even though she has t-rudders and beautifully curved daggerboards. According to Peter Aschenbrenner of the San Francisco-based Irens 63 trimaran Paradox, who went from straight to curved daggerboards, the difference in speed is often tremendous. He told Latitude that his boat is 20 to 30% faster in many conditions because the curved daggerboard keeps the leeward hull from being driven deep into the water.

While nobody is going to mistake Fujin for a Moorings charter cat, Slyngstad insists that "despite Fujin's performance orientation, she has lots of room and cruising amenities — three queen berths, two single berths and two showers."

Nonetheless, Greg will be hitting the starting line of three big events in the Caribbean starting next February: The Caribbean 600, the St. Martin Heineken Regatta, and the Voiles de St. Barth. As such, she's going to be the first new 'cruising' catamaran to give the Gunboat G4, 55s and 62/66s a run for their money.

What would be really fun is if Bill Gibbs, owner of the 55-ft Ventura-based catamaran Afterburner, enters one or more of those events with his new all-carbon South African-built Schionning-designed fast cruising cat.

— latitude/rs 05/15/2015

Cruise Notes:

When is the best time to go north on a Baja Bash? We at Latitude continue to believe it's after mid-June. And we're not alone. On June 15, Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion wrote the following:

"It's really starting to warm up here in La Paz, so because of that — not to mention the early season hurricanes — it's time for me to head north. I'm calling it 'The Non-Bash' this year because, based on my multiple easy trips north at the same time in recent years, that's what I'm expecting."

Talk about tempting fate, Patsy!

By the way, La Reina has signed up for both the September SoCal Ta-Ta and her umpteenth Baja Ha-Ha. The Ta-Ta has sold out, but there is still room in the late-October Baja Ha-Ha.

"I was en route from Panama to California and stopped for fuel at Huatulco, Mexico," reports Chris Dawson of Aluda. "We got stormbound because of hurricane Carlos. But the real reason I'm writing is because I had the customs officials aboard, and the most senior one insisted that we didn't need to get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). Why? Because we're "in transit" to California. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about TIPs, and I'm worried that at my next fuel/rest stop, officials might insist that I have a TIP and/or fine me. But the harbormaster here in Salina Cruz checked to see if I'd been given the correct information, and he said that I had. What does Latitude think?"

What Latitude knows is that many officials in Mexico do not know the law, or that it often gets interpreted differently depending on where you are and who is talking to you. Since a TIP only costs about $50, and is good for 10 years, and most marinas won't let you in without one, we recommend that you get one.

We were unable to attend the presentation Mexican officials gave to potential nautical visitors at the San Diego Boat Show in June. Unfortunately, some of the well-versed people in the Mexican boating industry told us the information presented often wasn't clear or correct.

For example, one boatowner was about to change his mind about going to Mexico because he was left with the impression that he'd have to pay several hundred dollars every time he came into a port for fuel. The real story is that some 'improved ports' in Mexico — such as Cabo and La Paz — charge a port fee. The last time we were in Cabo, it was $17 a day. It's less in other places and many don't have a port fee at all.

This individual was also confused by the fact IGY Marina Cabo San Lucas has instituted a very expensive tariff before they'll allow you to take on fuel at their marina. To our knowledge, they are the only ones doing it, and you can get your fuel elsewhere.

We'll leave you with three thoughts about paperwork in Mexico: 1) While things are still confusing, by and large things have been going very smoothly for the last two years. 2) If you're going to Mexico with a boat you bought from someone else, or one that has a TIP that is expiring, you must get the old TIP canceled before you take her to Mexico. Letting the TIP expire will not keep you from having big problems. 3) If your crew is going to get their visas online, make sure they do it individually rather than having the boatowner do it for everyone at once. Why? Because you only get one receipt per transaction, and when leaving Mexico everybody needs to show their receipt at the airport. If you don't have a receipt, you'll be delayed about an hour and have to cough up another $20 or so.

Someone else said they heard that the Baja Ha-Ha was not compliant with Mexican law. We don't believe this is true. Technically, it may have been true for about 19 years until the online 'nautical visas' were made available two years ago, which to our understanding — and that of people familiar with Mexican law — precisely addressed the problem. We can also assure everyone that the Mexican government is not only very aware of the 22-year-old Ha-Ha, it loves the Ha-Ha, takes part in the starting ceremony and other ceremonies, and even contributes to it. And last year the head of immigration of Baja Norte wrote to immigration officials in Baja Sur and encouraged them to do all they could for Ha-Ha participants if any problems arose. To our knowledge, none did.

Don't go to Mexico with an expired TIP or a TIP that is in a former owner's name, and we believe you'll be fine.

The Eastern Pacific, aka Mexico, had been affected by three hurricanes as of the middle of June. Andres, in early June, was a Category 3 with 110-knot winds, but remained well offshore. Blanca also cooked up in early June with winds to 85 knots, and gave a fright to everyone in Cabo and La Paz, who still hadn't forgotten what Odile did to them last fall. Fortunately, Blanca took a turn for the west and missed both cities. Surprisingly, Blanca caused the most damage in Banderas Bay, even though she didn't come within 100 miles. Surf from the hurricane caused significant damage to waterfront restaurants and other shoreside facilities.

Carlos, a "tiny" hurricane with winds to only 80 knots, was a crazy Chihuahua-like storm. Although initial reports suggested that he'd eventually threaten Cabo and La Paz, he never got within 300 miles of either. However, his storm surf caused significant damage in Acapulco Bay, where at least 10 moderate to large boats were either badly damaged or sunk. Carlos continued to yap while following the coastline up toward Cabo Corrientes, where he fortunately died a sudden death at the hands of the Sierra Madre del Sur.

Speaking of West Coast weather, you've probably heard that weather forecasters say that based on ever more signs of an El Niño this winter, they are expecting normal to above-normal rain in California. What's the latest sign? An individual spearing a yellowfin tuna, which only come north with warmer water, from the dock inside the Dana Point Marina. The video went viral, so it's likely that you already saw it.

When you've been cruising as long as Gene and Sheri Seybold of the Honolulu- (formerly Stockton-) based Esprit 37 Reflections, it's good to get off the boat from time to time. So they've temporarily left their boat in Phuket, Thailand, to travel to Chiang Mai in the north. "We're very excited to visit the Golden Triangle, some hill tribes, and a new privately-owned temple," wrote Sheri. When they got there, Gene was probably too relaxed by the $6/hour massage he was enjoying to get excited about anything.

Does your spouse have a 'knot rule', as in 'we don't turn the motor on until we get down to X knots'?

"After a strangely sedentary winter/spring, we finally got our Channel Islands-based Centurion 47 Gazelle out to Santa Cruz Island a couple weekends ago," reports former Latitude editor LaDonna Bubak. "It was about as mild as it gets, so we ended up doing a fair bit of motoring — although my husband Rob instituted an all-time low 'One Knot Rule'. Normally I get to start the engine when the boat speed drops below two knots, but for this trip it was one knot. But it was so nice both going out and coming back from the islands that I just lay back and pretended that I was at anchor. Saw some blue whales, too."

If your spouse has a 'knot rule', what is it?

Foraging in the Marquesas? Longtime Latitude friends Barry Stompe and Sylvia Steward Stompe of the Sausalito-based Hughes 48 ketch Iolani, which they completely rebuilt, report finding good stuff at Paul's Jungle Garden near Daniel's Bay in the Marquesas. "We were able to provision there with breadfruit, papaya, bananas, chilies, limes, pamplemousse and mint. Yum!" They always ask first.

They later continued on to Fakarava North in the Tuamotus. "We had an amazing week of drifting diving on the South Pass. We've since been catching up on the big world at our favorite Internet cafe, which is the porch of a nice couple who provide yacht services and whatever cruisers need help with."

That's a photo of Barry at the beginning of the Esprit story earlier in this month's Changes.

"I had never sailed before joining Mac and Wendy Setter, a great team, for the 3,000-mile passage from Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas aboard their Bellingham, WA-based Island Packet 370 Kookaburra," reports Ciro Paolillo. "After challenges and successes, times of frustration and times of elation, we arrived off the coast of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas. From a geologic, artistic and emotional point of view, both the people and the island were breathtakingly beautiful. A day or so later we left Fatu Hiva and sailed down the coast to a cove a few hours away. Some in our group said it was the most beautiful place on earth. The owner of the cove invited all the Puddle Jumpers to a lunch at his beach. The accompanying photo is a testament to the pot of gold at the end of the transpacific rainbow. Puddle Jumpers rule!"

After a somewhat rough crossing from California to the Marquesas, Mike and Deanna Ruel on the Delaware-based Manta 42 R Sea Cat had a nice three-day passage from Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas to Makemo Atoll in the Tuamotus. The latter part of the passage was particularly good: "Pleasant tradewinds, six-foot seas, and a moonlit sky filled with stars."

The Ruels make frequent use of their DeLorme inReach satellite communicator to post messages on Facebook. InReach uses the Iridium worldwide satellite network, and can be used to transmit emergency calls and receive responses. If you're going offshore, you might decide it has advantages over the traditional EPIRB and Spot Messenger.

Speaking of Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the eight Channel Islands, as we did a few paragraphs ago, the next four months are prime time for that 22-mile by between 2 and 6-mile wide local cruising favorite. Santa Cruz Island has 77 miles of rugged coastline, lots of sea caves, and 2,450-ft tall Devil's Peak. Although it only has two official residents, here's something you probably didn't know — it has three runways over 2,000 feet long. It is not, however, a hub for any of the major airlines.

Once the largest privately owned island in the United States, it's now owned 74% by the Nature Conservancy and 24% by the National Park Service. You have to get a permit — it's not hard to do — to visit the Conservancy part, but you do not need a permit to visit the National Park part.

In 1821, when Mexico still ran California, they sent 40 prisoners to Santa Barbara to help populate the area. Upon arrival, the prisoners were shipped out to Santa Cruz Island. You'll never guess the name of the place where they got off. No, it's not 'Freeman's Harbor'. Historians remain mystified as to how popular Smuggler's Cove came by its name.

Less crowded than Catalina but without stores or services, Santa Cruz Island is as little as 21 miles from Santa Barbara, 17 miles from Ventura Harbor, 17 miles from Oxnard Harbor, 54 miles from Marina del Rey; 85 miles from Newport Beach, 144 miles from San Diego — and 6,058 miles from Cape Horn. If there were cell and data service at Santa Cruz Island, we and a lot of others would spend a lot of time out there.

Seventy-eight and still going strong! Most Latitude readers are familiar with the amazing story of Jack van Ommen of Gig Harbor, Washington. After going bankrupt in his sixties, about all Jack had of value was the Naja 29 Fleetwood he'd built from a kit and done the Singlehanded TransPac with many years before. Armed with the boat, about $15, and the promise of a modest monthly Social Security check, he took off around the world from Northern California. We've lost count, but in the subsequent nine years he cruised little Fleetwood at least 40,000 miles and to more than 40 countries.

Unfortunately, Fleetwood was splintered in a box cove at Tagomago in Spain's Balearic Islands after a wicked three-day storm in late 2013. When offered money following the loss of his boat, van Ommen declined, saying he had about $5,000 in the bank and thus didn't need any support. Jack later found a sistership to his original Naja 29, bought her, and has been preparing her for more cruising. He told Latitude that he'll be leaving the Pacific Northwest for South America, via the California coast, starting in about September.

A native of Amsterdam and one of Latitude's heroes, van Ommen is also the author of The Mastmaker's Daughters and is working on Soloman, a book about his nine years of cruising the world on a small boat and small budget. We haven't had time to run this by Jack, but if your yacht club or organization is looking for a speaker during the time he cruises down the coast later this summer, we can't think of a better or more inspirational one than Jack. You might email him at to see if he'd be interested.

As has been reported in Latitude several times in the last six months, thanks to the Schengen Agreement, Americans — even if they are Americans with boats throwing around big bucks — have to leave Schengen-Area countries (meaning almost all of Europe) every three months for three months before they can return for another three months. Yes, it's ridiculous, and it's counter to struggling Europe's financial best interests. The Europeans know it's a dumb policy, and legislation has been introduced to repeal or modify the law. Alas, government everywhere moves at a glacial pace — except when approving compensation packages for them and their friends.

Hoping to spur the Schengen folks on is the Ocean Cruising Club of England, which has created a survey for potential nautical visitors to Schengen-Area countries. They hope the results of the survey will convince the Schengen folks to take action sooner rather than later. If you're planning on cruising to Europe anytime soon — and thanks to the big tumble of the euro and other factors, it's on sale as it hasn't been for a decade — you might want to fill out the Ocean Cruising Club's survey. You can find it at

By the way, several Latitude readers who are cruising in Europe have been able to work around the 90-day limitation in various ways. But it's been a tremendous waste of time and money for all involved.

How inexpensive can it be to cruise Europe? It's not going to be cheap along the Med. But having been canal cruising Majestic Dalat for the last six weeks in the clean and sail-crazy Netherlands, Belgium and northeastern France, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca can report that it's stunningly inexpensive. Indeed, it's a perfect option for 'six and six' cruisers who want to do something fun and cheap when they're not on their boat in the tropics for the six months of winter.

First of all, you can buy all the canal boat you need for all Europe in Friesland for $20,000 — or about the same as an RV. Insurance is a couple of hundred a year, winter storage is about $800 for eight months. You can also moor all over the place for free. But why? We're paying about $7 a night in Charleville-Mezieres in a beautiful park-like setting with water, electricity, showers and high-speed Internet included.

The biggest surprise is how cheap everything is, including the food in the groceries to the food in the restaurants. We've been paying about $28 U.S. — for the two of us — for terrific meals in great settings. That includes a glass of very passable wine for each of us, and sometimes dessert, too. If you don't believe it, we wouldn't be surprised, because after six weeks we still don't believe it ourselves. We are, however, in rural northeast France rather than Paris.

The downside of canal cruising is that it can be incredibly slow, as both many locks and speed limits of less than five mph mean it can literally take months to get from one place to another. It can be surprisingly tedious driving the boat, too, as the canals and rivers are often no more than 100 feet wide. But much of it is very beautiful and tranquil. It's not something you'd want to give up sailing for, but it's a nice alternative for a few offseason months.

One reason Europe has been so much less expensive than before is the relative drop in the value of the euro against the dollar. In 2008, it was 1.60 euro to the dollar. In 2011, it was 1.47 to the dollar. In 2014, it was 1.35 to the dollar. Although recently it's settled at around 1.14 to the dollar, it was once as low as 1.04 to the dollar.

More next month, or you can follow Richard Spindler on Facebook for tons of photos and reports.

For Ha-Ha and others who will be headed south this winter, the exchange rate keeps getting more favorable in Mexico, too. In 2011, a dollar was worth 12.5 pesos. As late as 2014, it was 13 pesos to the dollar. Now it's been as much as 15.5 to the dollar! Unfortunately, some cruiser expenses, such as marina slips, are calculated in dollars. But almost everything else is lower because of the exchange rate.

So what are you waiting for?

Missing the pictures? See the July 2015 eBook!


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