August, 2002

With reports this months on Shayna on four years in The Med; Sea Angel on a three-year singlehanded trip to the Northeast; Moonshadow on cruising Fiji; Relativity on the Western Med Cruising Rally; Escapade on a New Zealand to Tonga cruising rally; and Cruise Notes.

Shayna - Hylas 45.5 sloop
Larry Hirsch & Dorothy Taylor
The Mediterranean
(San Diego)

We haven't written for more than a year, but we "old fogies" have still been tearing up the Med. In addition to having cruised from one end of the Med to the other, we bought a second boat so we won't have to chase warm weather in the future.

Our new-to-us boat is Tulip, a 40-ft canal boat with three bunk rooms and two heads. She is currently in Friesland, which is about 40 miles north of Amsterdam. We're going to use this stinkboat to explore northern Europe in the summers only, as it's too cold up there during the rest of the year for our liking. For example, when we took possession of her in March, there was still ice on the marina dock. Our plan is to sail Shayna back to the Caribbean this winter, and then maybe head back to the west coast of Mexico - provided they change their check-in procedures. Our hope is to then spend our summers on Tulip in northern Europe, and our winters aboard Shayna in the Caribbean and/or Mexico - the best of both worlds. There is lots of cosmetic work to be done on Tulip, but it should be fun as the people in the Netherlands are great.

Here's a summary of our adventures last summer in the Med. We left Israel in March of 2001, and immediately had a month's unplanned stay in Cyprus. While strolling on the beach one evening, Larry offered to pull Dorothy up a small grade, but slipped. Dorothy fell as a result, breaking her wrist. The land gets you every time! Dorothy saw an excellent orthopedic doctor, and Larry took a video while he put her cast on. Her wrist is fine now, but try sailing, cooking, and wandering around the boat with the use of just one arm. Even dressing was a challenge.

We next sailed to Rhodes where Larry sort of got arrested. It's a long story in which a super officious Greek official played a major role. But it turned out all right. The next segment of our trip was around the southern islands of Greece, where we endured almost constant gales from the south! Unfortunately, it's not easy to find an anchorage with protection from southerlies in that part of the Med. The worst of all was the so called 'new marina' at Santorini. Fortunately, we were able to make it to Porto Cheli, an almost totally enclosed bay on the southeast corner of the Peloponnese that offered excellent protection from southerly winds in 10 feet of water with good holding in mud. Porto Cheli has restaurants and supermarkets, and frequent ferries to Athens and other islands. A small repair yard there fixed our rub rail, which had been damaged in Santorini. We then fought headwinds all across the Peloponnese to Siracusa, Sicily. We tied to the town wall at Siracusa, but got bounced off when the wind came up, so we anchored out. It's a great city with lots of ruins.

Our next stop was Malta for their July celebrations, which feature fireworks day and night. Each parish tries to outdo the other in the quantity and quality of explosions. We had a slip in the marina 200 yards from the nearest parish. On their festival night, the pinwheels and rockets went off till 3 a.m. Dorothy sat up and watched - bucket of water at hand - as the fireworks exploded overhead.

In early August, we visited Monastir Marina in Tunisia. After some tours in 110° heat, we discovered August wasn't the best time to visit the Sahara. Monastir would be a good place to winter, however, especially for those who speak French. Needing to escape the heat, we flew to Marseilles, where Dorothy bought a Marseille cap to replace the one she'd lost in Israel, and then took the train to the cool of the Alps. Here's a great bargain - if you can prove that you're over 72 years of age, you get to ride the lifts and cable cars at no charge. They just waived us on with the caution to "be careful". If you're over 62, you get 50% off fares for all French trains - including the superfast TGV. You need to buy a senior pass for about $40, but it's also good for discounts on some hotels.

Once back to the boat, we headed to southern Sardinia. Bad weather forced us to stop at Carlo Forte, an interesting town with back canals. Our next stop was Mahon, the main port at Spain's Balearic Island of Minorca. We got there in time for their festival, the highlight of which is that stands all over the town offer you free mixed drinks consisting of Mahon gin and lemon soda. Needless to say, it was a happy time. The moorings were full, but we found space on one of the rafts. We were assisted in docking by a naked lady with big boobs - but Dorothy wouldn't let Larry take any pics. 'Clothing optional' was the standard for the raft, and there was an open-air shower that everyone used. To a certain extent the raft also had electrical power, as we had to check with the other boats to see how many amps they were using before we could turn anything on. There was also a picnic table in the center of the raft. After enjoying the festivities in town, we all congregated around the table on the raft to continue with the gin and lemon drinks until 2:00 a.m.

After two weeks of festivities in Mahon, we left for Mallorca's Porto Colon for some rest. It was Larry's 72nd birthday, and somehow we ended up with a couple dozen aboard Shayna to celebrate the occasion. But when a southerly kicked up, it got super rolly, so we headed off to Barcelona for the winter.

We just can't say enough about Barcelona, as there is so much to see and do. The architecture is fabulous, museums abound, and just strolling the narrow streets reveals countless interesting shops and sites. The concerts in the beautiful Gaudi designed Palau de la Music were outstanding, but unfortunately we didn't get to enjoy an opera as they were booked solid until the following summer. This was the first winter we've spent where people other than us spoke English - in fact, the crews of more than 100 boats spoke English. The resulting social life and activities had to be experienced to be appreciated. Marina Port Vell was a bit more expensive than we were used to in the Eastern Med, especially since we had to pay high prices for electricity and water. But we did have land line phones, free Internet access, delivery service from the supermarket, and other conveniences. Barcelona also has facilities to make any kinds of repairs that a cruising boat might need.

Shayna is now on the hard at Aguadulce Marina on Spain's Costa Del Sol, awaiting our return - and a much needed bottom job. This December we hope to head for the Canary Islands and cross the Atlantic. Our goal is to be in Trinidad in time for Carnaval. Having been in Europe for so long, we know so many boats crossing the Atlantic that we could probably all hold hands from the Canaries to the Caribbean.

We'll leave you with some of our general impressions of four years in the Med and comparisons with our old stompin' grounds in Baja and the Caribbean. Our favorite place in the Med? There's no such place, but Croatia is a favorite for its nearly 1,000 picture perfect islands, quiet anchorages, reasonable prices, great national parks, and accessibility to inland cities such as Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Israel had the least expensive first class marinas, great supermarkets, and while there we enjoyed a real sense of being at the beginning of creation while witnessing history in the making. What a dynamic country and people. We left, of course, just before the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities. Italy is great for food and her vibrant and outgoing people. Worst national capital city? Athens, Greece - by a long shot. It's the pits! We haven't got a clue how they will be able to hold the next Olympics there. Spain would be memorable if only for Barcelona, but there is so much more.

Reports of water pollution all over the Med are greatly exaggerated, but there are some bad spots. Greece is often touted as the tourist mecca with all the stuff and guff about ancient relics and the cradle of civilization, but for our money, Turkey is where you really get to see ancient history and where East meets West. Our money went a lot further in Turkey, too. Don't expect to find white sand beaches in the Med as you find in the Caribbean and Baja, as it's mostly cobblestones and pebbles. Similarly, there's no suitable place in the Med for all year warm water swimming in clear water. The temperatures are more like offshore San Diego. The summer days are warmer while the winters are colder. The winds are more unpredictable in the Med, and can blow at near gale force during any month. Localized currents can be very strong.

Port and cruising fees are quite reasonable in the Med, and there are a minimum of local bureaucrats and paperwork. English is widely spoken - with the exceptions of Greece, Italy, and most inland rural areas. Don't be discouraged, however, as a smile still goes a long way.

Don't look for West Marine or anything like it. Most chandleries are mom & pop operations, and are comparatively expensive. Imports can be had, but VAT (value added tax) and other taxes and delays can get expensive and be frustrating. Med wine is universally good to excellent - and cheap by California standards. Marina fees are only pricey during the prime season, and once you learn the ropes, you can usually avoid the marinas. Skilled craftsmen and various boat technicians are less expensive on the whole than stateside, but caution is always the watchword. Diesel/gasoline runs double or more than in the States, but hey, that's why we have sails, right?

SSB is the preferred yachtie talk-talk over the dominant Baja-Carib Ham nets, but we wouldn't leave home without either. Long distance phone calls can be quite expensive, but cyber cafes are common and inexpensive. Bless onboard Winlink-Ham for free email. Dining ashore in the Med is like most places - if you eat local food in locals' places, you can dine well at not too great expense. Fish and stateside style steaks, however, can be very pricey. Needless to say, we are not travelling on a skinny budget - but we're not extravagant either.

We came to the Med for a year or so, but have discovered that our four year sojourn is not enough!

- dorothy & larry 6/5/02

Larry and Dorothy - Your last comment reminds us of the Northern California folks from Aztec. They intended to cruise the Med for one year, but ended up staying for seven. Even then, they claimed that they had only scratched the surface. By the way, both the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca agree with your assessment of Athens.

Sea Angel - Kelly-Peterson 44
Marc Hachey
Northern California To Northeast

I departed San Francisco Bay nearly three years ago, and have now cruised to Rhode Island via the Panama Canal. I've singlehanded at least 80% of the time - including a very difficult passage from Cartagena, Columbia, to Aruba. Without question, I would rather have a lady cruising partner than travel solo, but when it came down to either going alone or not going at all . . . well, here I am. I don't regret it the least bit, either, as the last few years has been a wonderful growing experience for me. I have also made several wonderful friends along the way, and thanks to SailMail, stay in regular contact with them.

I've realized, however, that I have a limit to sailing alone. As much as I want to do a circumnavigation, doing it singlehanded would be just too much time alone. I've already had some cruising couples tell me, "You appear too normal to be a singlehanded cruiser!" I'd like to stay normal, too, as I have seen first hand the effects of spending too much time alone on a boat. Trust me, I'm beginning to feel the effects of it myself, so I'm about to get off my boat for a couple of months.

My three years of cruising has taken me from Northern California to the Sea of Cortez, mainland Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, the islands of Venezuela, up the Windwards and Leewards, through the Virgins, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, through the Caicos and Bahamas, and finally returning to the U.S. at Florida. Having transited the Panama Canal just last October, I haven't spent that much time in the Caribbean. I wanted to stay longer, but with hurricane season approaching I felt the need to get as far north as possible. This fall I'm planning to return to the islands of warm sunshine and clear water.

After arriving at Florida, I traveled north and through the Chesapeake Bay - which is truly a gunkholer's paradise with countless coves and anchorages. I'll definitely return some day. As for the Delaware Bay and all its shoal areas, I was happy to just be able to get through it. After a quick stop in Atlantic City to refuel, change the oil, and rest for a few hours, I was heading north again by 4:30 a.m. There wasn't much wind, but the mirror flat seas made for comfortable traveling. I had a great trip around New York City, although it was too hazy for good photographs. I finally got to see Lady Liberty, one of my main motivations for traveling to New York. Taking advantage of the strong and favorable currents, I made 11 knots SOG (speed over ground) motoring up the East River for a short time. I decided to travel further up the river than I had planned, and when a storm came through, I had to ride it out on the hook in an open roadstead. The rocky bottom didn't afford the best holding, so I didn't sleep so well that night.

Yesterday, I covered the 75 miles to Block Island, Rhode Island - in exactly 12 hours. It was fantastic sailing, particularly near the end, with 15-20 knots of wind on the beam and a knot of favorable current. I was making 8.5-9.5 knots over the bottom. Yee-HAAA! That's the kind of stuff that keeps me coming back for more! But in terms of climate, it had been like sailing from San Diego to San Francisco Bay in less than an hour. I left warm and humid New York wearing only light shorts, but I quickly sailed into much cooler air with fog. Before long, I had to put on a sweat shirt and breeze-breaker as the cold winds really picked up. There was no way I was going to use the solar shower that night, as it was freezing! Hey, this boy's blood is pretty thin after a couple years in the tropics!

Block Island is a very protected and comfortable harbor, so it was peaceful on the hook even though the wind blew all night. It's now the next morning and the pea soup fog is so thick that I can't see the channel. Yep, it's exactly like San Francisco Bay in the summer. I will rest here today, hopefully go to shore, and tomorrow morning depart for my final 55-mile leg to Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Having been born and raised in nearby Athol, and having lived for two wild and crazy summers in Falmouth before moving to California in January 1975, returning here on my own boat has been a monumental goal for me.

I first started reading Latitude in the late '70s when I became fascinated by the letters written by cruisers living and traveling around the world on their boats. I soon decided that I wanted to share that experience. Although it took me nearly 20 years to buy my first boat, I'm doing it - and I love it! Thanks for the motivation, Latitude, you certainly had a grand effect on my life.

- marc 7/2/2002

Marc - Thanks for the kind words, it really makes us feel good. We once had Big O up in Block Island for a Fourth of July, and we've never seen such thick fog. It took the water taxi and one of our crew 90 minutes to find our 71-footer - which was only a couple of hundred yards away. How the sailors of the Northeast managed in the days before electronic navigation and radar is beyond us.

By the way, we still have your report on the wicked trip from Cartagena to Aruba. We'll try to squeeze it into one of the upcoming issues.

Moonshadow - Deerfoot 62
George Backhus
Cruising The Mamanuthas In Fiji

It has been nearly six weeks since Moonshadow made landfall here in Fiji. I have been a bit remiss on tapping out any sort of an update, but there has been no shortage of things to do. Between post-rally festivities, yacht maintenance, guest visits, working on my Dive Master's certification, and a bit of fun here and there, life has seemed to maintain that first-world pace - even though we are supposed to be on much slower 'Fiji Time'. I've been based out of the Musket Cove YC on Malolo Lailai Island, which is about eight miles west of the mainland island of Viti Levu. Musket Cove - more on it later - is an excellent home base for cruisers wishing to casually visit some of the lovely islands and anchorages in the Mamanuthas.

The Mamanuthas are a group of 20 small islands lying to the west of Viti Levu island, which is 'mainland' Fiji. Many of the islands are volcanic in nature, giving them dramatic topography, and most have a bit of beautiful white or yellow sand beach. They are protected from the west, south and east by barrier reefs or islands, and generally receive less wind and rain than the other island groups. If you come to this part of Fiji on vacation, odds are that you'll have good weather. The sailing is easy, but the area is pocked with coral reefs and sand shoals, so movement can only be undertaken when the weather is settled and the sun is high - about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Only a handful of the islands offer good overnight anchorages, but in settled weather it is easy to make day visits to many of the islands as the distances are relatively short.

A few days after our arrival, I was invited to spend a day aboard Peter Churchouse's beautiful 65-foot Alan Warwick-designed Moonblue II. We cruised about nine miles north to the island of Eluvuka, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the lovely Treasure Island Resort. This place is a nice and quiet little getaway for couples and families who are immune to 'rock fever' and are content to relax in one spot. In addition to the usual island activities, the resort has squeezed in a pool, tennis court, and play area for the kids.

Our first excursion aboard my Moonshadow was a day trip to the tiny island of Etui, which is nine miles to the north of Musket Cove and next to Eluvuka. We took about a dozen visiting friends from the Ponsonby Cruising Club with us, so it was more of a party cruise than a sailing adventure. We had lunch, a few beers in the beachfront bar, and did some swimming and sunbathing on the beautiful beach before steaming back to Musket Cove for more festivities.

If you're looking for peace and quiet, you'll want to avoid the island of Etai, because it rocks! It's home to the Beachcomber Resort, which targets young and more active holidaymakers - sort of the Club Med of Fiji. Accommodations range from a dormitory for backpackers, to private bures (thatched bungalows) for the less budget-conscious and/or those seeking some privacy. Meals are all buffet style. The resort offers all the typical island activities such as SCUBA diving, personal watercraft, water skiing, parasailing, snorkeling, volleyball, and so forth. Every night there is island entertainment, live music, and dancing on the sand floor of the main lodge that pumps 'til way past midnight. Visitors to Etai don't need much more than a bathing suit and a T-shirt. Forget the hiking boots, as it's less than a two-minute walk from one side of the island to the other, and a circumnavigation wouldn't take more than 10 minutes. Beachcomber is about 10 miles from the mainland - and a million miles from reality.

I took a singlehanded cruise up to Mana Island, which is about nine miles to the northwest of Musket Cove. Mana is a scenic island with a native village, two backpacker's resorts, and an upscale resort. The beach on the north side is stunning, and belongs to the upscale resort. But the only anchorage is in a small lagoon on the south side near the backpacker's resort and local village. The backpackers' resort reminded me of a minimum-security prison - crowded, noisy, dirty, and their beach was covered in litter. While the lagoon offered good protection for my boat on the hook, one night was enough for me!

A few days later, I sailed over to Port Denerau to do some provisioning at Nadi, Veti Levu. While there, I picked up longtime cruising friends Cindy and Tim from Total Devotion, who had come to Fiji for a week's visit. We spent a couple days in Musket Cove catching up, and then visited a couple spots nearby: beautiful and dramatic Qalito Island and the Castaway Resort; Port Denerau again where we picked up Gretchen, my lovely ladyfriend from Auckland; Navadra, an island just vacated after being used for the Irish version of Survivor; Musket Cove again; Port Denerau again to drop off my friends, and back to home base at Musket Cove.

Musket Cove not only possesses the physical features of a good anchorage - such as good protection from the weather, good holding, room for lots of yachts, and beautiful surroundings - but is also home to the Musket Cove YC and Resort. The latter goes a long way toward attracting and supporting the cruising fleet. Musket Cove derives its name from the original purchase price - one musket - for this beautiful 6,000 acre island that was originally used as a coconut plantation. It was purchased by yachtie Dick Smith in 1964 for "many muskets". He has developed the island into three resorts, including one timeshare, and added a golf course, marina, airstrip, and a few private homes. The island is self-contained, making its own electricity from a diesel generator, getting water from rain catchment systems and underground springs, and even treating its own waste.

The only prerequisite for membership in the yacht club is that you must have sailed into Musket Cove on a yacht from a foreign port. Lifetime membership is affordable even for cruisers on a budget - just $1 Fijian, which is about 50 cents US. For that, you get a membership card, which entitles you to the use of all the yacht club and resort facilities on the island, your name and yacht name carved on a beam in the yacht club, and hefty discounts on travel to the mainland via the Malolo Cat ferry. And the facilities are excellent, particularly for this part of the world. The yacht club has a bar and big-screen cable TV in case you want to have a beer and catch up on world news or the latest sporting event. Attached to the yacht club is a restaurant/bar/pool complex open to members.

Musket Cove is not a five-star mega resort, just a relaxed place where the not very rich and not at all famous from all over the world come to get away for a casual holiday. During the day it's no shoes, no shirts, and no worries. Come nightfall, a shirt and shorts - or a sulu - are standard dress. If you come here, you can pack light and leave your designer gear behind. The Musket Cove Marina has room for at least a dozen yachts to Med moor. The fee is F$14 a day, F$85 a week or F$318 a month. Deep water moorings are just over half that. The current exchange is about $2 Fijian to 1$ US. If the mooring and anchoring fees are too dear for your budget, there is plenty of room to anchor out in the bay for absolutely nothing.

A few steps from the marina at the Boatshed complex is a PADI five-star dive facility, a water-toy rental, as well as all the amenities that make a cruiser's life easier. The shower/toilet facilities are clean and well maintained. There is Internet access, laundry, mail, phone, fax and trash disposal. Fuel, fresh water and LPG are available dockside. There are also some limited marine repair facilities on the island near the airstrip. If you wish to leave your yacht for the summer season, there is even an inner lagoon designated as a 'hurricane hole'. If that isn't enough for you, there is also a very well stocked general store. At the Musket Cove Trader, you can find everything from blue cheese to bilge pumps. Fresh bread, fruits and veggies arrive daily from the mainland. With the exception of off-sale adult bevies, the prices are very reasonable. When you need to load up the 'fun locker', you can hop on the Malolo Cat ferry and hit one of the grog shops in Nadi.

A few steps from the seaward end of the marina dock is a small, palm-studded island with a thatched-roof kiosk-type bar surrounded by lots of picnic tables. The Island Bar has one price - $3 - for all drinks. So everyone here just calls it the "Three Dollar Bar". In fact, it is pretty famous with yachties all over the world, who might know it as the $2 or $2.50 Bar from days past when things were less expensive. This is the most popular spot for sundowners, as it offers a good view of both the beach and the lagoon to the east. Adjacent to the bar are some industrial-sized barbeques that seem to be fired up most every evening. You can bring in your own food and throw it on the barbie and keep your own galley cool.

For a meal out, my favorite spot is Ananda's next to the airstrip. The staff is very friendly, the food is tasty island style, the wine list reasonable, and most evenings there is a string band playing a blend of island and pop music. Wami, a dwarf who barely overstands his massive acoustical guitar, heads up the band and sings in a unique, near falsetto voice. The band play around a large cocktail table on which sits a tanoa, a large wooden kava bowl. It is apparent that this bowl has seen lots of use, as it is well seasoned and even has a little cast supporting one leg. Between songs the boys pass the bilo, a half coconut shell containing kava, to any of the guests wishing to partake in the muddy looking - and tasting - local grog. There are always some good harmonies, and a group of people gathered around having a good time Fiji style.

For some real action you can head next door to the Plantation Island Resort for the weekly crab or frog races. The Fijian auctioneer does an excellent job of hyping up the event, and some of the locals do a good job of bidding up prices for the livestock. Owners of the animals that win, place, or show, split most of the takings from the auction - which can go into the hundreds of dollars. If you have any energy left after that, you can stay and dance the night away to some mostly cheesy disco music.

Musket Cove is generally a cashless society. Anything at the resort or yacht club can be charged to your room or yacht, and you can pay your bill once a month by credit card and when you depart. Fiji is still in the 'no tipping zone'.

It's no wonder it is so easy to linger in Fiji. Yeah, maybe we will leave next week.

- george 5/15/02

Relativity - Beneteau First 53
Hall & Wendy Palmer
Kemer Marina, Turkey
(Palo Alto)

We are just now back in Kemer, Turkey, resting up after the 30 days and 1,500 miles of the 13th Annual Eastern Med Yacht Rally, an event that can only be described as overwhelming. This year's event was a big success despite the fact that there were only 38 official entries - as opposed to more than 100 in other years. This year's fleet seemed to be made of sterner stuff and/or there was better weather, as 25 starters ultimately made it to Port Said, Egypt - the largest number ever.

The EMYR bears little resemblance to the Baja Ha-Ha or Caribbean 1500. For one thing, it has at least quasi-government sponsorship. Secondly, it has a social schedule involving numerous notables - including one president of a country and several ambassadors - and a nonstop land tour agenda that has evolved over the past 12 years which has to be experienced to be appreciated both in terms of logistics and political overtones. Sailing was almost incidental to the event, with the itinerary based on the average motoring potential of the fleet. This year, however, we were blessed with excellent weather and enjoyed several days of ideal sailing to break up the motoring.

The well-publicized troubles in the Middle East, slower worldwide economy, and reduced tourism in general had caused us to question the wisdom of participating in the EMYR this year, but the infectious enthusiasm of Hasan Kacmaz - our Marina Manager at Kemer Marina and chief organizer of the Rally - made it all but impossible not to at least start out with the group from Kemer on the first leg of the 'Grand Start' to Girne (or Kyrenia) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. So we set sail with 41 other yachts on May 17, and resolved to stay with the program only so long as we felt safe in doing so.

As it turned out, U.S. entries were the largest national constituency, making up almost 25% of the total fleet. This gave Wendy and I some comfort with our decision to press ahead with our plan to do the event. Prospects for crew had also been doubtful, but longtime friends Clark and Marga Hamm agreed to come along on a leg-by-leg basis. If things started to look bad, it would be understood that they would bail.

The actual start of the EMYR is supposed to be in Istanbul, approximately 500 sea miles from Kemer. There were no takers that far north this year, and the fleet didn't reach critical mass until much closer to Kemer. We missed the first nine scheduled stops, all within Turkey, by electing to let the rally catch up with us in Kemer, where we had wintered the boat. We are glad we didn't start until we did, as the remaining four weeks of the rally, plus the 400 mile sail back to Kemer, were enough to exhaust us completely. I doubt we could have taken two more weeks at such a pace.

In any event, the 'Grand Start' of the EMYR is from Kemer, and is preceded with four nights of partying and preliminary events including a 'mini Olympics' involving a tug-of-war and other events similar to summer camp. This was a competition between sub-fleets which served to build team spirit within these units, and to introduce our Group Leaders, who would be responsible for coordinating four categories of similar-sized yachts in their position reporting and docking procedures along the way. The fleet was escorted throughout the rally by two Turkish Coast Guard warships, which were there to provide assistance as needed during the course of the trip. The crews of these vessels hosted the fleet twice during the Rally, in addition to playing the role of Good Shepherds as we sailed East.

Leg One. The first leg out of Kemer was across 155 miles of open water to Northern Cyprus. All the yachts were expected to complete the passage within 28 hours to keep to the social schedule - which is a critical component of the Rally. In prior years this leg had been a killer for some of the smaller boats, but this year we started with a fine reach which had us all well down the course before the wind died away about midnight. About that time, the French entry Zig Zag reported a very ill crewmember. He was taken off by the Coast Guard escort and rushed to a hospital where his appendix was removed. Zig Zag continued on to Cyprus with her two remaining crew, and completed the Rally without difficulty.

We all motored the rest of the way to Girne within the schedule, and that evening were in our best formal dress for a reception hosted for us by Rauf Denktas, the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the old castle which dominates the harbor entrance. This party set the tone for the days to come, with speeches by the President, the Turkish Ambassador - Turkey being the only country in the world which recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - and awards presentations in which plaques were awarded to virtually everyone with a hand in our reception and hospitality.

The castle is also the site of the Sunken Ship Museum, which houses the remains of the oldest working ship - 2,000 years old - ever salvaged. It is still recognizable as a sailing ship, with some cargo intact. The exhibit has special meaning to us, as Nancy Palmer, my sister, was one of the divers on the salvage project some 30 years ago.

The next two days were taken up with bus tours of local attractions including Nicosia, a divided city with a no man's land between the Greeks and the Turks, and Famagusta, the embargoed port in Turkish Cyprus, which is next to the abandoned European Free Trade Zone of empty hotels and businesses. They were vacated overnight 27 years ago, and still stand empty awaiting resolution of the island's tragic confrontation between Greece and Turkey.

Our second night in Cyprus included a dress up Pirate Costume Party with the usual belly dancer at the classic Dome Hotel. The following day's tour was followed by a twilight departure for Mersin, 107 miles away on the Turkish mainland. This was the kind of hectic pace - a night passage followed by arrival at a new port where the social schedule was underway by the time the docklines were secure - went on for a month. Our Beneteau First 53 was one of the fastest boats in the Rally and had a crew of four. Many of the other yachts were significantly slower, and many had only two or three on board. The opportunities to rest were few and far between, and we can only marvel at the stamina of some of our counterparts.

Leg Two. We were the first boat into Mersin, which is an industrial city with little charm in its own right, and a harbor that was very foul from a sewer outfall. But it is very close to Tarsus, which claims to be the home of the remains of St. Paul's house and many other antiquities of interest, so it was onto the buses again for the next two days with dinners, speeches, and awards on both nights, before leaving on a mercifully short 78-mile passage down the Turkish coast to Iskenderun.

Leg Three. Our crew did not do too well with the night passaging pattern, and so we elected to leave slightly early and make an unscheduled stop apart from the fleet at a little fishing port. We enjoyed some dinner and rest at the stop, then sailed the rest of the way to Iskenderun the next morning. Iskenderun, probably more familiar to most as the site of ancient Antioch, was our last port in Turkey. It is still claimed by Syria and shown as Syrian on most Syrian maps. The Turks have held it since 1936 and show no interest in returning it to Syria. Iskenderun has excellent Roman and early Christian ruins, rock tombs, and other curiosities which we toured by bus between parties.

Leg Four. On May 26, we departed Iskenderun for Lattakia, Syria, a distance of 78 miles to be sailed at night. Once again Relativity broke with the fleet, as we left early and stopped enroute at a small Turkish fishing village near the Syrian border. We had dinner ashore there while tied to the local Coast Guard pier - with an armed guard protecting our boat from the curious. From this point on we would be leaving the safe and informal atmosphere of Turkey and assume a convoy-like discipline of order in passaging appropriate to a war zone, where each country patrols its coastline for hostile vessels. Various zones were off limits, so prompt and accurate position reporting became the order of the day.

The marina at Lattakia was secure, and we were made to feel very welcome. However, tension immediately arose over tour prices and arrangements which our Turkish hosts had thought prearranged. This lead to strong words and bruised feelings. Syria is very unlike Turkey, as it is vociferously Arab and autocratic, with military and roadblocks everywhere. Other than the disputes over prices, the tour personnel could not have been nicer, and we toured the countryside to Damascus and Palmyra by the ever present buses. Now, however, we were escorted by carloads of four armed men with machine guns, riding ahead of and behind the buses, and changing off as we went through any number of roadblocks.

For anyone interested in seeing the Arab Middle East without the hassle of crowds, now is the time to go. Places such as Palmyra, which would normally be hosting thousands, were all but abandoned. We had them all to ourselves - except for the few hardy tradesmen selling postcards, books, rugs and whatever, who keep lonely vigil hoping for a return of the tourists. This phenomenon was most apparent in Syria, Lebanon and Israel, but even Egypt - which is spending fortunes on advertising - was all but empty of tourists. There was easy access and no waiting for the Pyramids, Sphinx, and Cairo Museum.

Our first major stop in Syria was the ancient city of Damascus, still capital of Syria, where we were served a Bedouin-style dinner on cushioned benches within a traditional Islamic holy religious complex. The event featured a whirling dervish and other very athletic male dancers who met us a block away. They led us to their establishment to the sound of drums, pausing only for a ritual sword dance in a small courtyard. The next day we drove 150 kilometers through the countryside to Palmyra, which was once 'Queen of the Desert' along the ancient caravan route.

Palmyra is truly a wonder. After hours of driving into the desert, you come upon a large classical stone city, where you least would expect it, and absolutely empty of people or vegetation. The hours of busing along a narrow highway in air conditioned comfort makes us wonder at the men who built the place by hand and travelled to it - through some of the most hostile landscape imaginable - on foot. It's now dotted with tanks and bunkers with antiaircraft sites - all cooking under the hot sun.

[Continued next month.]

- hall & wendy 6/25/02

Escapade - Caliber 40 LRC
John and Patti White
ICA Rally From N.Z. To Tonga
(Los Altos)

Greetings from Tonga! We've just participated in the Island Cruising Association (of New Zealand) Rally to Tonga. The ICA is a New Zealand-based organization of bluewater cruisers that is run by Joan and Brian Hepburn. There were 25 boats in this year's rally, which started on May 4 from Opua in the Bay of Islands. The finish line was at the Royal Sunset Resort on Atata Island in the Tongatapu Group. Everyone gathered at the Opua Cruising Club three days before the start for briefings and to get to know one another. We also placed our orders with ICA for duty-free liquor, meat, vegetables, and diesel. The ICA was able to provide us an additional discount on these things - a nice bonus! We all went through check-out with the New Zealand officials on the 3rd, after which we were able to get our diesel. The other duty-free items were picked up later that day.

After a group photo early on the 4th, we had a 10 a.m. start in ideal conditions - southwest winds to 15 knots. It was a beautiful sight to see so many boats at sail, parading up through the Bay of Islands and out to sea. The majority of the 25 boats were Kiwi, but there were four from the United States - Hawaiian Song, Libby Lane, Sunrise, and us - and one each from Austria, Switzerland, and South Africa. The boats ranged in size from 38 feet to 60 feet, with the average being around 50 feet. What a shock to discover that our 40-footer was one of the smallest boats in the fleet!

During the passage, each boat was expected to join the nightly radio schedule with John Goater of Auckland Cruising Radio. Each boat would report their position, course, and boat speed. We were provided forms to record every boat's position, so we were always aware of what boats were in our area. Many of the boats stopped off enroute at Minerva Reef for a day or two, but we did not. Our arrival into Tonga couldn't have been easier. As we neared the outer reef near Atata Island, we were instructed to call Royal Sunset Island Resort on VHF for assistance. Terry and David Hunt, owners of the resort and experienced cruisers, then sent someone out in a longboat to guide us through the reef to the sandy anchorage off the resort. The rally arranged to have the Tongan Customs, Immigration, and Agriculture officials at the resort, so that check-in procedures were a snap. Normally, boats entering Tonga from the south are required to go to the capital, Nuku'alofa, for check-in. After a seven-day passage, having that first step ashore be on a sandy beach at a beautiful island resort sure beats scrambling around the city trying to find officials.

As the remaining boats arrived over the next few days, the Royal Sunset came alive with activities. The resort has individual fales (bungalows) for land-based guests, plus a large dining room, bar, dive shop, saltwater swimming pool, beach, and so forth - all the things that we had missed on the passage. There was a Regatta Sport Day, which was a day of organized games - lawn tennis, and pitch-and-putt golf, and our particular favorite, lawn bowling using coconuts - among the rally participants. We had a costume party one night, where everyone was to dress as something beginning with the letter "M". We had Martians and mermaids, marshmallows and meringue, moms and mysteries, mouse-pirates, and of course M&Ms. Another night was devoted to protests and stories. We were encouraged to protest anything and everything about the rally results. The last night at Atata Island was devoted to prize giving, and each boat was provided an assortment of gifts - i.e. Tongan baskets, hats, books, toys - a group photo, a certificate of passage completion, and a ICA rally plaque.

The cost of the rally was $350 NZ plus $35 NZ for an annual membership to the ICA - a total of about $160 US. For that, we got T-shirts, a canvas briefcase, and a Kiwi Cruising Log - but more importantly, a fun, safe, expedited trip between New Zealand and Tonga. For more information on the Island Cruising Association, go to, or you can Brian and Joan.

- john & patti 7/15/02

Cruise Notes:

Too good to be true? A friend of John and Renne Prentice of the San Diego-based Serendipity 43 Scarlett O'Hara tells us that the couple did a Baja Bash - starting from Mazatlan, no less - to San Diego in 5.5 days. We know Monroe Wingate sailed Scarlett in the Admiral's Cup in the early '80s, then the World Series of ocean racing, but a 43-footer averaging nearly eight knots to weather for 1,000 miles? We suspect something must have gotten lost in the retelling, but would love to hear the facts and learn what strategy was employed.

If you followed the Singlehanded TransPac and Vic-Maui Races, you know it's been mostly light out in the Pacific this year. So light that friends of Peter and Susan Wolcott of the Kapaa, Kauai-based SC 52 Kiapa tell us that it took them 21 days to sail from Mexico to Hawaii. Twenty-one days! A slower boat making the same passage took even longer and apparently nearly ran out of water. The Wolcott's have reportedly since departed Hawaii for the South Pacific.
"It's been an eventful winter and spring for us in San Diego," reports Christopher Paton-Gay of the Victoria, B.C.-based 71-ft staysail schooner Tina Christine. "In January, my wife Monica and I had a grounding that ultimately cost us $11,000. We spent February hauled out at Driscoll's Yard. Then my stepdaughter darted across Shelter Island Drive without looking and got thunked by an SUV - resulting in a $23,000 US hospital bill. We were going to write about cruising budgets, but after these events, we think we'll wait awhile. Our brighter moments saw us racing in the American Schooner Cup and taking Raven's ship colors, then doing the Newport to Ensenada Race. We've probably been one of the longest anchored guests ever in San Diego, so we'd like to thank Chip and Bob at the San Diego Harbor Police mooring office. They've been great hosts. We're going to be heading up to San Francisco, Victoria, B.C., Alaska, Victoria again, and points south. As such, we're going to miss the many wonderful people - on and off the water - in San Diego. We've never enjoyed such wonderful hospitality and friendship. We also can't say enough good things about Driscoll Boatworks in San Diego either, as they stayed on quote and schedule, and treated us like royalty during the difficult times after the car accident. We've enjoyed meeting so many southbound and northbound cruisers over the past couple of years, and had fun organizing and running the Baja Ha-Ha 'fuel-a-thons'. By the way, Richard and Marianne Brown of the M/V Destiny are going to organize the Third Annual Ha-Ha Fuel-a-thon in San Diego. If anybody wants to know anything about San Diego or cruising Southern California, they
can feel free to .

"Thanks to Biagio Maddaloni on the Victoria-based Hans Christian 43 Lil' Gem, there will be yet another Puddle Jump get-together, this time at the Bora Bora YC," reports Clark Straw of the San Diego-based Mason 54 Final Straw. "Our class of Puddle Jumpers has got to be one of the most partying groups to ever make the Coconut Milk Run! As was the case at Cook's Bay, Moorea, we'll have some fantastic musical entertainment at the Bora Bora YC from the likes of Louise from Lil' Gem, Greg Morehead from the Ventura-based Cheoy Lee 38 Gitana, Lesley Hazeldine from the Gabriola, B.C.-based Beneteau First 37 North Road, and Phil Hayward from the Compteche-based Cal 36 Cherokee Spirit. In addition, direct from last year's Puddle Jump, we'll be joined by the fiddling expertise of the folks from Irish Melody. The event will be held at the Bora Bora YC, which will be sold out for dinner, but afterwards everyone will be welcome for the jam session and dancing on the large deck."

The last time the Wanderer was at the Bora Bora YC - which was actually a restaurant - nobody was allowed inside until they kissed the tip of the . . . well, erection that came out of one of the posts that supported the roof. Is that tradition still alive or was it blown away - pardon the pun - along with the original club by a tropical cyclone several years ago?

"We just returned from a six-week cruise in the Exumas in the Bahamas and had a blast - even though it is very different than Mexico," report Michael Beattie and Layne Goldman of the Gemini 31 catamaran Miki G - which originally sailed out of Santa Cruz but is now out of Key West. Question: Who settled the Exumas? Answer: Americans who remained loyal to the Crown after the Revolutionary War.

Steve Nash, the airline pilot and owner of the Marina Paradise-based Hans Christian 38 Mendota, had never really raced before taking second place in Division 9 of the Banderas Bay Regatta. He was chuffed at the result, of course, in part because he sailed with a novice crew each day. When we ran into Nash a few months later at the Catalina Blues Festival, he wondered if there was any chance we could run the photo we took of him and one of his crews after the regetta - "to help my credibility". Well, heck yeah we can run the photo. Check it out.

Stockton's Bill Chapman and his crew of three aboard the Swan 47 Bones VIII had a good sail from California to Tahiti, reports Angela Konig, Chapman's ladyfriend. Konig will be joining Chapman in Tahiti for the rest of the Coconut Milk Run across the Pacific and down to New Zealand. Bill and his late wife Diana had done a seven-year circumnavigation aboard the same boat.

"There is a good marina here at Bocas del Toro, Panama, and the slip fees are very reasonable," report Curt and Leigh Ingram of the Newport Beach-based Cheoy Lee Pedrick 36 First Star. In addition, there's a good surf spot about a mile away. The town of Bocas del Toro has friendly people, and provisioning is not too difficult. But it is hot and humid, with moderate mosquito-no-see-ums."

"After doing the Ha-Ha in 2000 with my Hunter 340 Wanderlust, and then doing a single-handed Baja Bash," reports Mike Harker of Marina del Rey, "I'm now headed across the Atlantic
on my new Hunter 466.

"I single-handed out of Jacksonville, Florida, stopped at Mayport for a Coast Guard inspection, and arrived in Bermuda exactly six days later. I spent the next two days sleeping and sightseeing, and in the process discovered how wonderful the Bermudans are. The town of St. Georges was an excellent addition to my list of ports of call. At the moment, I am about halfway to the Azores, where I will be working with the head writer for a major German magazine on a six-page feature story. While there, I will also welcome two guests aboard - Juergen, who is a German media and marketing specialist, and his Spanish father-in-law, who owns the land in Ibiza on which the four resorts Juergen manages are on. Club Punta Arabi, one of these resorts, is where I will be based for the summer and fall while producing a 15-episode TV series around the western Med."

For those not familiar with Ibiza, the third smallest of the four Balearic Islands of Spain, it remains perhaps the most hedonistic place on earth. We're talking sex, drugs, and music unlike perhaps anywhere else. It's so party oriented that the hot discos don't get going until 4 a.m., and the most famous of them all doesn't open until after the sun has come up. So bring those shades.

The first six months to a year of cruising is often very tough on cruising couples. The difficulty often manifests itself in women revolting against having to do traditionally pink jobs - such as washing dishes (without a machine), doing laundry (without an onboard machine), and cleaning the toilet (without weekly household help). We were recently told the story of a woman who finally had enough of pink jobs and revolted. She insisted that she and her husband not divide jobs into pink and blue, but take turns at whatever came up. Alas, the first blue job was a plugged toilet. The woman had an epiphany. From then on, she was content to do the pink jobs. If you're out cruising, we're curious, do you have pink and blue jobs on your boat, or do both the male and female do all jobs? While we're at it, do you get along better or worse since you began cruising? Inquiring minds want to know.

Cheri Sogsti, who did the Ha-Ha aboard the Swan 53 Mistress, but who has since hooked up with Greg Retkowski of the San Francisco-based Morgan Out-Island 41 Scirocco, loves to see her photo in print. "It helps me with my self-esteem," she explains. So when she came sailing with us, we took some photos. Perhaps you like this Jane Russell-style pose. Greg and Cheri will return to Scirocco, currently being stored in Costa Rica, in October, and then make their way toward the Eastern Caribbean. Sounds like steel drums. Smells like a spliff. Tastes like rum. Ah, the Eastern Caribbean!

"While going through some photographs, I came across one taken on my birthday last July," writes Donna Maloney, who is spending another summer aboard Nintai in the Sea of Cortez with Howard Biolos. "I'm the one wearing the pink hat and the very stylish blue and white pajama top. Hey, it didn't matter if it made people laugh as long as it kept me from getting sunburned. The photo was taken in July of last year at Puerto Escondido, which is near Loreto. For those of you who haven't been there, it's like a sunken volcano and offers great protection from the wind and swell. Two summers ago there were hardly any boats there, but last summer there were a bunch. There are many coves within Puerto Escondido, and some bored cruisers named one of them 'Cocktail Cove'. To improve on nature, they then put a concrete block on the bottom, to which they attached a line to a floating 'table' made from a 2 by 3-foot piece of styrofoam. They used other concrete blocks for 'seats' at the table and to tie up dinghies. The weather in the Sea was very hot in July, so almost every afternoon at 6 p.m. some of the cruisers would meet in the cove for drinks and snacks. When we sat on the concrete blocks eating and drinking, our bodies were submerged up to our necks. The snacks were placed on the floating table, which was pushed around so everybody could get some without having to get out of the refreshing water. On the day the photo was taken, Howard had secretly gone to Loreto to buy a birthday cake. Boy, was I surprised when someone drove up to Cocktail Cove in a dinghy, took out the large cake, and everybody started singing Happy Birthday! How often does a gal get a surprise pink and white birthday cake, while enjoying a drink, sitting up to her boobs in very warm water with colored fish swimming between her legs, while friends sing Happy Birthday?" (For a view of the photo, visit the July 2 edition of 'Lectronic Latitude.)

The World Cruising Club's November 24th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean - a distance of 2,700 miles - filled to its 225-boat capacity in record time this year. This will be the 17th year. Among the entries are 24 Swans, 15 Oysters, and 15 Hallberg-Rassys, so it's not a downmarket affair. There will also be 10 Catana catamarans, three of them Catana 581s.

We understand that one of the Catana 581 entries was to be one that Northern Californians Mark and David Bernhard, who recently returned from sea trials on the boat in France. It turns out she's the second Catana 58 cat delivered in recent months with a Northern California connection. Tom Wilson reports that his daughter, Heather Wilson Lockert, and her husband Thorsten, ordered a Catana 58 at Sail Expo in Oakland last year, and earlier this summer took delivery of Blue Moon in France. They haven't gotten much use of her yet, as Thorsten hurt his back during commissioning, and Heather - quite pregnant - got stuck in the bilge after the baby shifted in her womb! Not being as spry as normal, they had a delivery crew sail the boat to the East Coast. After cruising around the Chesapeake for the summer, they hope to sail south for the winter. The boat's official homeport will be New Orleans. You can follow the couple's adventures at

Given the tremendous demand for rally participation, the World Cruising folks - who manage the ARC - have decided to revive the Atlantic Brazil Caribbean Rally (ABC), which has two legs. The first leg is a 900-miler starting on November 17 from Lanzorote in the Canary Islands to Sâo Vincente in the Cape Verdes. The second leg is 1,950 miles to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, in time for Christmas. After a seminar on cruising the coast of Brazil, participants will be free to make the downwind and downcurrent sail to the Caribbean. We don't have the exact prices, but the ARC and ABC usually run about $1,200 per boat. But they put on a good show, or they wouldn't be so successful.

"Anyone cruising to Central America and having Heinemann electric circuit breakers - as sold at West Marine under the Ancor brand and common on better instrument panels - should bring some spares along as they are not available down here at any price," report Sven and Sherry Querner of the Sausalito-based, Brewer-designed, 50-ft steel Reliance. "Looking for a great hardware store in Guatemala? Try Ferretaria Allemand in Puerto Queztel/San Jose. It's been owned by a German for 10 years and is absolutely the best in Mexico and Central America."
Les Sutton, who has been cruising Mexico for the last three years with his wife Diane Grant aboard the Emeryville-based Albin Nimbus 42 Gemini, stopped by our office to pick up a couple of magazines - and was nice enough to chat about Mexico for awhile. Some random things he had to report:

- They stayed down in Z-town until late April, and found it to be as good as it was in the January and February high season. In late June, there was just one boat left - John and his wife on the San Diego based DownEast 32 Hanu Kai. The couple were on their way to Acapulco and points south.

- Getting acclimatized to the temperatures in Mexico can be tough. "We're now up in La Paz - and freezing to death! Sure it's 104° during the day, which is great for getting a lot of boat work done. But when it drops down to 72° at night, we freeze. I know this sounds crazy, but it's true."

- Fee avoidance has become a sort of game in Mexico. "We cruisers call it the 'PCAP' - or Port Captain Avoidance Plan. We put it into effect when nearing a place such as San Blas, where the Port Captain still makes cruisers use a ship's agent to clear in and out. We just don't go there. In the Sea of Cortez at Isla Carmen, there's 'DADT' - or Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Although Carmen is privately owned by the Salinas family, the Mexican park service tries to extract $2/day/person from cruisers that visit. But the park service never sends any boats over to collect, so it's DADT."

- Mexican/American relations. "As Americans in Mexico, we cruisers are always trying to change things. But life goes on down there the Mexican way, and the people are wonderful. We have many dear Mexican friends. For example, when we returned to La Paz after a long absence, we visited La Fonda, our favorite restaurant. The owners - one of them a woman who used to be a judge - hugged us and had tears in their eyes, and they refused to let us pay for our meal. La Fonda, by the way, is rated #1 in La Paz by Let's Go Travel Guide for its fantastic comeida corridas - meals of the day.

- The cost of cruising in Mexico. "What we spend depends on where we are. If we're up in Bahia de Los Angeles, we might spend as little as $300 a month because we only need food and fuel. Other places, we might spend $1,500 a month or more. All in all, it's certainly possible to live less expensively in Mexico than in the United States - if that's what you want to do.

- Cruising isn't all cocktails and sunsets. "It's more work than most first-timers assume, so some folks give up quickly. A few of them just aren't suited for cruising, but some don't give it enough time. I'd say it takes six months for cruising to grow on a lot of people."

- Les tried to explain the extremely complicated marina situation in Mazatlan - where Marina Mazatlan has now reopened - and Isla Marina and Marina El Cid are still operating. It would take pages to explain what Les understands, and he may not have the complete picture. He did report that during the season, they paid $420 - $10/foot - at Marina El Cid, which is upscale but has surge, and $310 at Isla Marina, which is not a resort by any stretch of the imagination.

We have a special favor to ask all of you. We love receiving your Changes, but please, please, always include the boat name, boat type, skipper and mate's full name, and the boat's hailing port. By doing so, you help make Latitude a much more informative publication. Thank you.

Top / Subscriptions / Classifieds / Home

©2002 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.