August, 2003

With reports this month from C'est La Vie on heaving-to; from Notre Vie on cruising the Med; from Hawkeye on loving Panama; from Yankee Doodle on the magic of the Sea of Cortez; from Saga on their trip south to Central America; from Delphus on Niue, a favorite of their circumnavigation; and lots of Cruise Notes.

C'est La Vie - Catalina 47
Keith & Susan Levy
Forced To Heave-To

Before my husband Keith and I left San Francisco on our cruise three years ago, I took all kinds of courses to prepare myself. I even had a female sailing instructor take me out on our boat for two days - without my husband - so I could do all the sailing. We practiced all the safety maneuvers, including heaving-to.

You often read about sailors heaving-to because they are fatigued or because the conditions dictate it. During our cruise, we've had friends heave-to, but we've never found it necessary. One big reason is that our boat has a flexible sail plan that was designed to keep us sailing safely in a wide range of wind conditions. But our record of not having to heave-to went out the window during our recent 1,100-mile passage between New Zealand and Fiji.

Since winter had arrived in New Zealand, we carefully watched the weather for a window that would afford us decent conditions for the trip up to Fiji. Finally, all the reports said we'd have 20 to 25 knots of southerlies for the first couple of days, after which the winds would decrease considerably. That sounded good to us, as we'd get a good slingshot away from New Zealand on the back of a low pressure system.

As it turned out, we did get the 25-knot southerlies. What we later got - but had not expected - was that northerly winds would subsequently fill in. The northerlies blew at over 30 knots, with gusts to over 45 knots, for the next 18 hours.

Our Catalina 47 did well in these conditions, reaching under a triple-reefed main and staysail. During the night, Keith and I took two-hour watches so that each of us could get some rest. I can sleep any time day or night, but Keith can't just turn it off, so he began to get pretty tired. The seas continued to build during the day, and eventually reached what we estimated to be 20 feet. C'est La Vie sailed up the crests and down into the troughs of wave after wave. Our autopilot did a good job of steering.

Eventually we became concerned about our stern anchor, which we store in a bracket on the outside of the starboard stern rail. Waves were sweeping by the stern rail and threatening to dislodge the anchor. So Keith and I, wearing our PFDs and harnesses, went to the stern of the boat to see if we could attach the anchor a little more securely. As we were looking at the anchor, I noticed a monster wave out of the corner of my eye!

Keith yelled for me to hang on, and then the wave broke over our boat! It was like being hit by a huge waterfall, and we couldn't see one another. We just hoped that when the water washed away, we would both still be on the boat. Thank God, we were both able to hold on and stay in the cockpit. As I looked out at the raging sea, I saw assorted things - such as cushions and water bottles - that had floated out of the cockpit.

"Oh shit," Keith yelled as we turned to see that two-thirds of the canvas on our dodger had been wiped out. The hard portion of our dodger, with our solar panels, remained in place and intact, but there was bent metal with flapping pieces of material everywhere. We knew it was time - maybe past the best time - to stop the boat and regroup.

It's true that we had practiced heaving-to, but it hadn't been since just before the Ha-Ha three years before. And we'd never done it in severe conditions or with the staysail up. Nonetheless, Keith reviewed the procedure with me, and what each of us needed to do. Although we didn't mention it, we were both wondering whether we'd get it right the first time, or whether we'd have trouble and suffer additional damage.

We hove-to as smoothly as we had planned and practiced years before.

And what a difference heaving-to made! The boat settled right down, allowing us to clean up the carnage on the boat. Better still, no more waves crashed down on our boat. This allowed us to collect ourselves and get some much needed rest.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know how to heave to, particularly in very bad conditions, and to actually do it when conditions call for it.

After a few hours the wind and seas calmed down, we jury rigged the dodger with shock cord and duct tape, and had a wonderful beam reach in 15 knots of wind the rest of the day.

- susan 6/19/03

Notre Vie - Super Maramu 53
Ken Burnap & Nancy Gaffney
To The Med
(Santa Cruz)

We and our new Notre Vie have travelled 2,812 miles since we left the factory at La Rochelle, France, on April 19. Before we took off, I practiced putting up the complicated twin pole ballooner system by myself, which enables us to fly the ballooner and jib wing-on-wing. Although somewhat unusual, it really moves the boat along in light winds. Ken loves letting the autopilot steer downwind, as it can be set to steer to a constant wind direction as opposed to a compass course.

We departed on our adventure with a crew consisting of my son Tommy McKoy and friend Lindsey Rosso. Despite all the stories about the treachery of the Bay of Biscay, we headed out with light following winds, later beam reached, and then did some motoring at night. After rounding the tip of Spain, we caught one of those famous Portuguese Trades, and the ballooner carried us along at eight knots under a beautiful moonlit sky. I almost hated to turn up the Rio de Arosa for our first stop at Villagarcia de Arosa. We pulled in about 11 a.m., having covered 458 miles at an average speed of 6.6 knots.

While there, I stepped off and took a picture of the rest of the crew and our great Turks & Caicos Islands flag. The TCI's are one of the many places we considered for flagging our boat, but they won out because of reasonable fees - and a flag that, in addition to the red English ensign, features a conch shell, lobster, and some other thing.

After resting up for a few days and visiting Santiago de Compestela, we moved down the coast, having to endure some rain and wind out of the south. We stopped at Bayona, which is a great town with a fine yacht club; Nazare, a good base for exploring inland Portugal; then Cascais at the mouth of Rio Tejo near Lisbon. We decided 'Cashcash' was just that, but loved Lisbon! The Maritime Museum at Belem, and Sintra in the mountains were both wonderful.

Since our crew then flew home, they missed the great downwind dolphin runs on our way to Sines and all the way to the southern end of Portugal. We spent a wild night anchored in 30-knot winds off the rugged coast near Pt. Sagres. Then we did an overnight run to Vilamoura, then to Chipiona, where we left our boat to take a bus - rather than make 50-mile motor trip up the Guadalquivir River - to Sevilla. The real treat we granted ourselves was a stay in a luxury hotel with a seven-foot bathtub for me and a 10 sq. ft. shower for Ken. That's just what the body and spirit needs after a month on the ocean. But what a wonderful city Sevilla is - they do cute like nobody else!

We stopped at Gibraltar for a few days, and then continued on to Spain's Costas del Sol and Blanca, mostly going from port to port with only a few stops at anchorages. It's a beautiful area, but I didn't really mind the rush because much of the coast is overbuilt with high-rise condos and hotels. We did have a nice stay in Aguadulce, from where we took a short bus trip to Almeria to visit the Moorish Alcazaba (castle). Our last stop on the Spanish coast was Moraira, a quaint town with Old World charm. We would have stayed an extra day or two, but they were getting ready for a regatta, so we headed to the Balearic Islands.

It was only 55 miles to the beautiful island of Ibiza, notorious for wild parties. We circled around the east side of Ibiza and then made our way over to Mallorca, which at abut 100 miles by 100 miles, is the biggest of the Balearics. However, on our way to Mallorca, our prop got fouled by a piece of floating plastic fencing. Fortunately, the seas were calm as I went over to dive and clear it. It wasn't too bad - except the water was full of jellyfish. I hate jellyfish!

A bit tired, we pulled into a port with the idea of treating ourselves to a nice lobster. Life being what happens to you when you've made other plans, the dock line got caught in our bow thruster prop - causing it to fly off! Amel has an ingenious system in which the bow thruster is lowered by a line, so I hauled it to the deck and put on a replacement prop. Four hours - and a few curse words later - it was fixed and we had our lobster. Actually, it turned out to be perfect timing as the normal dinner time in Spain is 11 p.m.!

The island of Mallorca was equally beautiful, with nice ports and anchorages. We were, however, on a deadline to reach Marseille, France, by June 8 in order to meet friends, so we're making a note to spend more time in the Balearics when we wind our way out of the Med in a couple of years. Eight hours into our 120-mile passage to Marseille, our prop got fouled again, this time on a large section of fishing net. What a mess! Since it couldn't be pulled off, we had to use the bread knife - which did the job easily.

I can't say I appreciated Marseille, as a heat wave and a garbage workers' strike was a bad combination. After our friends - the great chefs Howard and Bev Philippi - joined us and we provisioned, we were in for a real rest and treat at the beautiful fjord-like anchorages of the Calanque area. Here, you throw out the anchor, back up, and tie a stern line to a rock. The water in Calanque Port Miou was crystal clear and refreshing. There was daylong entertainment, as the kids jumped and dove off the rocks, for which we developed a scoring system. None of us wanted to leave, but we pushed on anyway.

Having most recently been enjoying the Cote d'Azur and French Riviera, I can see why it's so popular - I love it! The winds are generally light, gathering strength in the afternoon before dying again at night. Sometimes, however, a mistral will blow for several days. We spent most of our time at the anchorages of the Ile de Porquerolles to save money for the high times when we pull into places like St. Tropez, which is très cher. But it's also charming and fun to watch all the mega yachts come and go. Right now we are in Cannes so our friends can get a train back to Paris, and so we can effect a few repairs. We plan to return to the Iles de Lerins to anchor and swim tomorrow. We hope to make our way northeast toward Italy, then down the coast to hop off to the Tuscan Islands, Corsica, and Sardinia.

- nancy 07/08/03

Hawkeye - Sirena 38
John Kelly & Linda Keigher
Loving Panama
(Seattle And Alameda)

We're still in Panama - and enjoying it immensely! When we sailed from Costa Rica to the Panama City area several months ago, seeing the skyscrapers was a shock to our systems! We hadn't seen skyscrapers since we were back in the States long ago.

Via the ham net we learned that our new AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries had arrived from Miami, so we went directly to a mooring at the Balboa YC. We can't begin to tell you the thrill of looking up and seeing the Bridge of the Americas, plus all the ships from around the world passing on their way to or from the Canal.

Both of us had just read The Path Between Two Seas by David McCullough, an outstanding history of the building of the Panama Canal and the political shenanigans, technical, medical and other problems involved. Since we were not planning to transit the Canal - at least not this year - we were anxious to sign on as line-handlers aboard other boats making the transit. John was busy installing the new batteries, so Linda had a chance to crew with Elaine Roche, who has been singlehanding for a year aboard her Grand Marina (Alameda) based Valiant 32 Morning Star. Elaine's brother came down to crew with her through the Canal, but she still needed three other people. The two other crew were Bob Wilhelm of the Islander 37 Viva, and Steve Cherry of the Formosa 41 Witch of Endor. We had a fine transit.

We've been enjoying Panama City life, as in dining out, seeing a movie, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and visits to a dermatologist - gringos have a hard time with the tropical sun - and a chiropractor. The 5-7 p.m. Happy Hour at the Balboa YC restaurant, with pitchers of beer for $4, is an important event around here. All the yachties gather to swap stories, look for crew for Canal transits, and so forth. As many Latitude readers know, the somewhat notorious yacht club burned down a few years ago, but fortunately for lap swimmers such as Linda, pools don't burn very well. According to the club members, the club has the plans and money to rebuild the club, but not enough mordida has been dispensed yet to begin construction.

Both of us later made a transit as line-handlers on the 48-foot trimaran Maluhia, which Tom, Beth, and son Ritchie recently bought in Puerto Vallarta and are taking to their home in Florida. All went well through the three up locks to Lake Gatun and across the lake. We entered the first down lock on the Colon side after seeing monkeys in the trees in the Banana Cut, a shorter route that is too shallow for big ships to use.

Since we were going to side-tie to another boat going through the locks, Tom started to slow down. Suddenly he yelled, "I have no transmission!" This meant there was no reverse power to stop the boat - and we were fast approaching the other boat and the lock gate. Lines were quickly tossed to the other boat, which was already side-tied to the wall, and we came to a halt just feet from hitting the gate. Luckily, there was no damage - other than frazzled nerves - to either boat or crew.

However, we were now in the front of the lock, and the advisors were talking about what should be done. According to the Canal rules, every boat going through the Canal must be able to move under its own power. While the debate raged back and forth, with the other advisor insisting that we should be towed back into the lake to anchor and await a mechanic, a big car carrier moved in behind us. This is what our advisor was hoping for, because now we were committed to continuing through the locks.

They tied us alongside a huge ocean-going tug on one side, with a sailboat on the other, sandwiching us in. There were several anxious moments through the other two down locks, but all was fine - until we were told that another tug had been ordered from Colon to take us the short distance from the last lock to the anchorage. This caused a lot of unnecessary trouble and expense, as the other sailboat had offered to tow us there. This, however, would have been "against the rules". We were still tied to the first tug outside the locks, going faster than Maluhia had ever gone before, when the second tug came alongside and tried to tie up to the quickly moving combination of tug and trimaran! The tug we were first tied to, with his 8,000 horsepower engines, would not or could not slow down, as the huge car carrier was now bearing down on us from behind. The second tug tried to adjust his speed and direction to come up right next to us so we could tie to him, but crunch!

As a result, Maluhia suffered two broken stanchions, and it felt as though she were being pulled apart like a wishbone. This did not make anyone happy, and there was lots of shouting in both Spanish and English. Finally, the second tug alone took us to the Colon anchorage. The anchor was dropped, a bottle of champagne was opened, and we all relaxed a little before the crew headed to the bus station and the two-hour bus and taxi ride to Balboa and our own boats. Tom and Beth eventually received a towing bill from the Canal Authority for the outrageous amount of $1,955! They are disputing it.

After 10 years of great service, our Avon inflatable dinghy tried to give up the ghost, but John had other ideas. He spent many days patching the leaks, and thought he had it fixed for our trip to the Las Perlas Islands. But on the way out, a huge air bubble erupted where a seam had been fixed. So John spent another week working on it while at anchor, but he still couldn't stop the leaks. That meant we were without a 'car', and couldn't explore once Hawkeye was anchored. Fortunately, some other cruisers were kind enough to include us in their exploring.

During the full moon, the tides on the Pacific side of Panama are 15 to 18 feet. During an extreme minus tide we and some Danish friends aboard Ornen went to a little island to gather scallops. We gathered buckets full of them!

For the next three weeks at the islands, we anchored in several different places and encountered a few violent thunderstorms. Our skills were certainly tested during these electrical storms, which come up quickly, have lots of wind, rain, and lightning, and pass equally quickly. We collected lots of rainwater when at anchor and did not have to run our watermaker. Locals in dugout canoes frequently came by selling bananas, limes, lobsters, pearls, and drugs. We bought bananas, limes and lobsters, but declined offers of the latter. There are not many chances to wear pearls while cruising, and drugs are not our form of entertainment.

After three weeks in the Las Perlas, we headed back to Balboa to re-provision and enjoy a little city life. Since our visas were expiring and we had to leave the country briefly, we decided to take a five-day trip, by air, to Cartagena, Colombia. For $388 each, we got an all-inclusive package of airfare, hotel, and meals as well as some tours. We're 'shoestring backpacker' types, so the all-inclusive resort thing was sure different for us. We ended up with a suite - that was at least three times bigger than Hawkeye! - in a 23-story hotel on the beach. Food and drink were available all day long, as well as entertainment and tours. Dinner was in a different restaurant each night, either in the hotel or in Old Town, all included. There were buffets for breakfast and lunch, with exotic fruits and desserts and all the delicious local and international food that you could possibly want to eat. Linda got her hair braided and a massage at the same time on the beach for $18. We really played the tourist roles! Cartagena is a fascinating and safe place, but it's not safe once you leave the city. The rest of the country has very bad problems.

Upon our return, we took another trip to the Las Perlas Islands.

While John was working on the dinghy again in Balboa, Linda took a bus ride to downtown Panama City one afternoon to an area called Cinco de Mayo, where the street is blocked off and there are countless shops. On the way there, the lady driving the SUV giving people rides for 50 cents warned Linda to watch where she was going in the area because it was dangerous for "tourists with light hair, skin, and eyes". Just what Linda wanted to hear. Nonetheless, she had a good time walking through the shops. She was stared at a lot, but this is nothing unusual in this part of the world. From there she got a cab - they are cheap - to Viejo Panama Ruinas to look at an old fort and convent built in the 1600s, and to look in some shops run by the Indians of the San Blas Islands. After viewing the ruins, she was approached by two police officers asking where she was going. She said to see the shops, after which she would take the bus back into town and to the yacht club. The police told her that they would escort her to the bus stop when she was ready to leave - which they did. With one on each side - on their bicycles - they went with her to the bus stop, waited until the bus came, and told the bus driver where to let her off! When asked if all this was necessary, they replied they were there to protect visitors and, by the way, a tourist had been robbed of her backpack the day before on the road to the bus stop.

Some fun cruising facts:

1) We need 12 different kinds of batteries on Hawkeye to run everything from watches to navigation lights.

2) We have 14 different kinds of lightbulbs.

3) We go grocery shopping about once every three weeks, and spend about $100 - including wine and beer. We doubt we could get a week's worth of food for $100 in the U.S.

Hawkeye will spend August and September tied to a mooring at the Balboa YC while we are back in the states visiting family and friends. When we return to the boat, we will visit Ecuador and Galapagos.

- linda 07/09/03

Yankee Doodle - Cal 34
Chris & Lyn Byles
The Magic Of The Sea Of Cortez
(San Diego)

On June 3 we arrived in San Diego to complete our Baja Bash from Cabo in 6.5 days - not bad for a 35-year-old Cal 34. We'd spent the past three years in Mexico; the first two on the mainland and the past year in the Sea of Cortez. There is something magical about the Sea and the people on and around her.

One of the many highlights of our time in the Sea was attending the Loreto Fest on May 1-4. It was our first time. Founded eight years ago by Bob and Peete - now both in their 80s - of Vela, the original purpose was to clean up the Puerto Escondido harbor area. Because so much of the emphasis is now on the musical talents of the cruising community and locals, it could more accurately be called the Puerto Escondido Music Fest.

The Fest - which attracted about 160 boats and 300 people this year - was sponsored by the Hidden Harbor YC. Membership in the club is $10 a year - but that includes a free spaghetti dinner, free pancake breakfast, and free BBQ chicken dinner during Loreto Fest.

Helping make the event a success were the Port Captain and Immigration folks. They arranged for a mass check-in. Local businesses also play a big role in making the event a success, as with the encouragement of Nancy of Topaz, they contributed over 100 prizes. Most of the proceeds go to local charities, but money was also raised to help Carol and Brian of Debutante recover after their terrible dinghy accident.

The biggest new addition this year was the Candleleros Classic Sailing Regatta, organized by Doug and Meg of Whistledown. It was a light air affair, but everybody had fun. In addition, there was all the other traditional fun and crazy Loreto Fest activities.

We highly recommend Loreto Fest. To get a better idea of what it's like, Travis and Emily of Mystery Tramp have a slide show of it on their website at

Our stay in Puerto Escondido was just that much more fun for us because we had the privilege of being able to attend two cruiser weddings. First, Connie of Sunlover and Elvin of Western Sea were married just before Loreto Fest. Then after the event, Max and Stephanie of Chinook tied the knot on Isla Carmen to become Mr. and Mrs. Hegewald. The weddings were special for Chris and I, because he proposed to me 18 years ago while we were crossing the Sea of Cortez aboard Yankee Doodle. We married a short time later in Puerto Vallarta. As I said, the Sea of Cortez is truly a magical place.

P.S. for those who didn't hear the news, Tom and Nicole Lyon became the proud parents of Thomas Maxwell on April 2. For many years Tom sailed his Cal 34 Sea Beast to and around Mexico, notably out to the Revillagigedo Islands, where he did spectacular underwater photography while swimming with the giant manta rays. He and the pregnant Nicole were also crew aboard Profligate on last fall's Baja Ha-Ha.

- lyn 07/10/03

Readers - Over the last two months we've heard several vague references to the "terrible dinghy accident" mentioned above, and here's what we've been able to learn. Brian and Carol of Debutante had taken their dinghy - which reportedly had a new and more powerful outboard - out of Puerto Escondido to Mystery Tramp, which was anchored in the 'Waiting Room'. They went to celebrate the birthdays of Brian and Travis. It was late and dark when Brian and Carol headed back to their boat in Puerto Escondido Harbor. For whatever reason, their dinghy slammed into the concrete embankment at high speed. Carol, furthest forward on the dinghy, struck her head and was knocked unconscious, while Brian suffered lesser injuries. Cruisers soon rushed to help, and an ambulance showed up a short time later. Carol was rushed to La Paz, where she would spend 10 days in the hospital. She suffered a broken cheekbone, lost several teeth, and sustained other injuries.

Although dinghies can be terrific fun, they have the potential to cause serious injury and death. During the day, the biggest problem is somebody getting shredded by the prop. At night, the biggest danger is collision - be it with another dinghy, a stationary panga, or some other solid object unseen in the dark. At night it's particularly important to carry a powerful flashlight in order to see if anything is in your path and to let people in other pangas know that you are there.

Saga - Alberg 35
Jann Hedrick & Nancy Birnbaum
South To Central America
(Point Richmond)

We've had a somewhat strange trip down the coast from the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez, which we left just after Easter, to here in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, where we arrived in early June. Because of parental duties and having to replenish the cruising kitty, we weren't able to get back to Saga until late in the cruising season, and then had to move rather quickly down the coast so that we would be south of the hurricane zone before June. This meant having to miss some of the anchorages that we'd read so much about in Latitude, but as we found out, there were very few boats left in them anyway. For us, the best part of cruising is making new friends. With so few boats out, we didn't mind having to maintain such a fast pace. We spent one to two days at each stop, and stopped at La Paz, La Cruz, Las Hadas, Manzanillo, Zihua, Acapulco, and Huatulco.

A tropical wave formed and started heading north, so we stayed put in Bahias de Huatulco for almost two weeks. While anchored in Bahia Santa Cruz, we enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the Palapa Almendra, the palapa restaurant next to the church on the beach. Nata, the manager, and his fine staff kept us happy with cold drinks, showers, and agua pura in 5-gallon bottles to refill our tanks. We went into the nearby town of Crucecita everyday for walks and to enjoy the excellent food. The town was built by Fonatur, the Mexican tourism development agency, and we found it to be quite lovely, clean, and charming. We would recommend two restaurants in town: El Sabor de Oaxaca and Oasis - but eat at the original Oasis, across the street from the larger Cafe Oasis.

As the wind grew stronger, the anchorage became more uncomfortable - and we finally became fed up with the constant jet-ski activity. So we decided to check out the new marina at the next bay over. Wow, are we glad we did! Marina Chahue, which only opened in January, has floating docks for about 83 boats, plus sideties for larger yachts. It's calm with little surge. Enrique Leclette, the fabulous manager, speaks English as well as French. Currently, there are no real facilities other than the most basic of bathrooms - minus, of course, the toilet seats. But the price is right, with slips running about 50 cents/foot for transient boats, and 30 cents/foot on a monthly basis. And this is the perfect place to wait for the all-important weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec. It looks as though there are plans for more facilities, as there is much vacant land around. In fact, Enrique says that Fonatur is looking for investors to buy them out and develop the surrounding area.

Enrique, however, has a side business in mind. He plans to use the marina's new Travel-Lift and dry storage facility to transfer small vessels to a trailer - for trucking across this narrow part of Mexico to Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico! He says that this will take only a day, so that boats under 40-feet can be hauled in the morning and dropped in the Gulf of Mexico that afternoon - all for about $2,500. It sounds pretty good. He offered us the opportunity to be the first boat at a discount price. Although we were tempted, we didn't want to miss Costa Rica and Panama. But if anyone could make this enterprise work, it would be Enrique. He has what it takes - especialy a sense of humor! He says he'll be all ready to go in six months. So if anyone with a 40 foot or smaller boat wants to cruise to the Caribbean - without the hassle of crossing Tehuantepec and going through the Canal, you can him. Remember to tell him that Saga sent you!

As much as we wanted to stay at Huatulco, there was a weather window - or so we thought - to El Salvador, so we took off. Our crossing of the Gulf of Tehuantepec wasn't as terrible as some have had because there are no Tehuantepeckers in the summer, and we actually had good motorsailing for the first 36 hours. Then we had the wind and sea - a very choppy and confused sea - on the nose. Worst of all, the thunderstorms - which were a first for us - began!

We had prepared as much as possible, but our boat is a wet one, so we had to hunker down in the only dry area - just outside the companionway. Unfortunately, I, Nancy, didn't feel very well for most of the crossing due to the slop - and being scared of the lightning. So Jann ended up standing watch for most of the second night. Rather than becoming more confident as I spend more time on the boat offshore, I seem to be getting more anxious. I really, really don't like it when it gets rough. Despite 15 years of sailing on San Francisco Bay, the truth is that I'm a fair weather sailor, and I enjoy 'being there' as opposed to 'getting there'.

So rather than reach El Salvador, after three days and five hours, we dragged ourselves into Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. It wasn't cheap, as we had to pay $165 for eight days at the Navy Base. But they have good security, and a nice clubhouse with a pool, showers, and a restaurant. This is a good place to leave your boat, as it's also protected and calm. We're planning a trip inland into the mountains to Antigua, a historic city filled with old cathedrals, ruins, and a good market. The weather has been good - fair skies most days, with clouds and thunderstorms at night. But that's what you get in this part of the world. Once we have another good weather window - meaning no tropical wave - we will be off to El Salvador.

- nancy and jann

Delphis - Cal 39
Tristan McMillan, 13
Niue, A Favorite
(Victoria, Canada)

Now that we've finished our circumnavigation, Latitude readers might be interested in some of the countries that we enjoyed the most. For example, Niue, a small limestone rock about 250 miles east of Tonga. It is a self-governed country, but has strong ties with New Zealand - using their money, receiving their aid, and speaking the same language.

After leaving the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, we sailed northwest for eight days to get to Niue. It was not a good passage, as the winds were strong most of the time and the seas were big. About four days out of New Zealand, we lost our steering in a gale with 40-knot winds and 20-ft seas. It was about 9 a.m. that the steering chain inside the binnacle parted. Luckily we had an emergency tiller, and steered with it all day as the winds got stronger and the seas bigger. At dusk we had a serious conference involving everyone: Dad, Mom, Brenda (a crew member on her first ocean passage), Fraser my 10-year-old brother, and myself, eight years old at the time. By the end of the conference, we had decided to deploy our newly purchased sea anchor.

After putting the boat into the wind, we let out the huge parachute at the end of 400 feet of line. The result was like magic! The motion calmed down to a steady up and down pitch, and we were able to cook dinner. The next morning Dad and I looked at what we could do about the steering. We didn't have a replacement link for the motorcycle chain inside the binnacle. Sound familiar? So we knocked out the broken links and put the shortened chain back - only to find that the cable attached to it was now too short. Fortunately, we had a spare cable and after eight hours had the wheel steering working again. By that evening we had pulled in the sea anchor and were on our way again.

About the sea anchor. During the 20 hours it was set, we only drifted nine miles. I would strongly recommend one to any boat going offshore, for cases of losing steering or being dismasted. The sea anchor stops the boat from drifting sideways into the swells, and allows the crew to get much needed rest.

After another four days of sailing in 15 to 20 knots of wind, I shouted 'Land ho!" Niuie was on the horizon. Now a breeze carried the fragrant aroma of flowers and soil that every tropical island seems to emit. We inhaled the rich smell with pleasure.

Once in the relative shelter of Alofi Harbour, we picked up a government maintained mooring for about $2/day. The moorings were placed there because the water is about 80 feet deep in the anchorage and so the holding is poor. We were only the second boat to arrive that year, the first having arrived only hours before. Fraser drove my Dad in to check in with Customs, and when he got back I was on the edge of the boat and poised to jump in and explore the distant bottom. Fraser thought otherwise:

"Tristan, I saw a sea snake in there!"

"Yeah, right!" I replied cynically. "Like the last one you saw!" Then I jumped in. After the bubbles cleared, I looked down at our keel and . . . "AHHHHHHH!" I broke the world record for getting back into the dinghy. If I have two fears, they are snakes and eels - so quite naturally the 4-foot banded sea snake scared the living daylights out of me! Fraser wore that time honored 'I told you so' expression.

Later that day our family went ashore together. The concrete pier used by small freighters was the only place to put the dinghy, but was plagued by a large surge. No problem. They have an electric hoist on the dock just to lift dinghies out. Hoisting the dinghy up on the dock was easier than pulling it up on any beach. After a long freshwater shower in the 'yacht club', we headed for the main street. Along the way we were greeted by smiles and cheerful banter. Several people stopped to chat about our boat, trip, and nationality.

As we walked through town, we purchased such necessities as chocolate, ice cream, and potato chips. What could you expect from five people who had been at sea for eight often rough days? The town wasn't much, just one street with shops, a school, a church, and the Parliament building. The government's main building was thatched with palm fronds! Although the roads were not paved, the whole town was very clean, as people swept the section of the street in front of their homes and businesses.

The first night we didn't stay ashore long because we were tired from our voyage, so we headed back to the pier. While at our dinghy, I started talking to a fisherman about the local marine life. He gave me a rundown on sea snakes, reporting that the banded sea snake - which has one of the most toxic venoms known to man, rivaling that of the African Black Mamba - grows to about 4.5 feet in length, and that Niue is one of their major breeding grounds! The good news is that banded sea snakes can't bite humans because their fangs are located at the back of their throat. It was a relief knowing they were harmless.

The next morning our crewmember Brenda, who hadn't enjoyed the rough passage from New Zealand, went ashore swearing she would not go out of sight of land again. Although she had planned to sail to Tonga with us, the next day she caught a plane back to New Zealand. This saddened us, because she was an excellent sailor.

The next day we started to do some serious snorkeling. Niue is all limestone, and with a population of less than 1,500 people and no rivers, the waters are believed to be the clearest in the world for being in sight of land. We could clearly see objects in the water that were 200 feet away! Of all the places we visited on our circumnavigation, Niue probably had the best diving. The Tuamotus, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Red Sea, and Bonaire each had their own individual attractions, but Niue was the best all around. It had excellent marine life, clear water, a reef structure, and coral. Some of the sea life we saw included a moray eel the diameter of a small dinner plate, lemon, reef and bronze whaler sharks, a huge grouper that must have weighed 200 pounds, and many other species of fish. The reef structure was latticed with caves and tunnels. The snakes were fascinating to watch, as they slowly glided through the water. There were so many sea snakes that one of the boats got one caught in their dinghy prop!

When we snorkeled, sometimes the sea snakes became too curious - and you'd have to bump them on the head with your spear gun. One time Dad and I were snorkeling about a foot apart when a sea snake was attracted to the black and white zipper strap on my Dad's wetsuit - and swam right between us from behind! To this day I jump whenever I see that strap!

My personal favorite dive site was the offshore FAD or Fish Attracting Device anchored in about 300 feet of water a half mile offshore. It's a really big sheet of blue plastic tied to a group of buoys and sunk down vertically about 30 feet. The shade attracts all kinds of fish: rainbow runners, jacks, wahoo, and even a marlin. On several occasions we caught the delicious rainbow runner with light tackle, which was great fun. While snorkeling another time near the boat, I saw the ultimate spear fishing prize - an octopus. It was deep - about 35 or 40 feet down - and flanked by two huge sea snakes, the biggest two I had seen yet. Double cocking my gun and taking a deep breath, I started my descent. Ten feet down I was doing good; 20 feet down I was still cool; 30 feet down I was almost there. I kept telling myself, "The snakes can't hurt you," but it still wasn't easy. The octopus, sensing danger, started to ooze away when - Bam! My spear hit it like a thunderbolt. I darted back to the surface, dragging my catch behind me. We had our dinner!

One day we rented bikes and rode most of the way around the island, seeing villages, farms, and fantastic limestone caves. At one place you could swim through an underwater network of tunnels and surface in a small sinkhole. Dad did this while I was standing on the edge of the pool. As soon as he came up, two sea snakes appeared. Well, two snakes in a six-foot wide pool was too much for him. He panicked and swam back through the tunnel without getting a proper breath. On the way out he saw another sea snake swimming toward him, so he swam up - straight into the rock roof of the tunnel! He split the skin on his head, and when he finally got out of the tunnel and came to the surface, blood was pouring down his face. "Get out, there are sharks here!" we screamed. Needless to say, he obeyed with alacrity.

Niue is ideally situated, as it's in the tropics, but far enough south not to be blisteringly hot. The whole island teems with life - pigs, rabbits, rodents, lizards, and dozens of species of birds. The jungles are green and pleasantly light, not dark and humid like the ones in Central America. The locals were some of the nicest we have met, always smiling and helpful. People gave us produce from their abundant gardens and refused payment. Food in the stores was a little expensive - especially if you wanted things like fresh milk and junk food. The basics weren't that expensive.

Niue's economy is based on tourism, but it's not overrun with tourists like so many places. It has a small international airport with flights going to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. The whole island seemed to teem with life and happiness. These facts combined to make a perfect cruising stopover. On the night of the 14th day after we arrived, we dropped our mooring and sailed into the setting sun bound for Tonga, richer for having visited Niue, but poorer for having to leave.

- tristan

Cruise Notes:

"We've entered this fall's Baja Ha-Ha and will be having our 10-year-old daughter Tayler aboard," write Rick Huls and Marsha McCarthy of the Moss Landing-based Hardin 45 Magic Places. "We're wondering if there are any other children coming along whose parents might want to contact each other, as it would be great to get the kids together to share their experiences. We can be reached ."

Even though Rick and Marsha's notice was meant for Latitude, just for kicks we ran it in the July 21 'Lectronic Latitude - which was apparently read by a lot of folks.

"We'd like to thank you so much for printing our note about kids who are going to be sailing in the Ha-Ha," Rick and Marsha wrote back. "We've gotten responses from many wonderful people - even from past Ha-Ha participants who wanted to share advice. Tayler is thrilled to know that there will be so many other boat kids in the Ha-Ha, and already has plans to meet a few of them before we leave."

"This fall's Baja Ha-Ha 10 should be well-attended," advises Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler. "As of July 25th, we'd sent out over 150 entry packets and received 52 paid-up entries. We've had over 100 boats hit the Ha-Ha starting lines for the last two years, and we expect to be over 100 this year also. As such, it will be great that Cabo Isle Marina is adding an additional 1,200 feet of dock space."

Tony Clark of Sonoma reports that his Ocean 71 Second Life foundered for reasons unknown in the Caribbean Sea on May 3 while on a night passage between Grenada and Trinidad. The ketch had done the first Whitbread Around the World Race and sailed much of the world - sometimes smuggling drugs - before Clark bought her 17 years ago. He sailed her to Tahiti, the Line Islands, Hawaii a couple of times, to Panama, the East Coast, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. In the process, the boat managed to sail in a couple of Ha-Ha's, but she was probably most familiar to Bay sailors for having done over 500 group charters on San Francisco Bay.

Clark and the one other crewman heard the bilge alarm go off about 12:30 a.m. "It was blowing about 20 knots with eight foot seas, nothing bad," says Clark. "There was no problem with the sea chest, the sink drain, and the depthsounder thru-hull. Initially there was no water forward or aft, but there was so much water near the mast that it was almost impossible to get the floorboards up. By 2:30 p.m., the bilge had flooded so much the engine quit. We put out a distress call and cut the lifelines in order to get the 450-lb liferaft over the side. We were picked up a short time later by a boat from a British ship. Second Life is now at the bottom in 500 feet of water. She can't be recovered, but hopefully it's shallow enough so cameras can be lowered to find out what happened. I suspect some kind of hull failure in the area of the mast step."

"Kia Orana from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands," write John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal of the Seattle-based - but often moving - Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare. "We had an easy passage from New Zealand to Raivavae in the Australs - in fact, it was the first time in eight tries that we didn't get whacked with at least 60 knots of wind on this leg. Tahiti and the Society Islands were the quietest we have seen them in years. The word on the docks is that about 33% fewer boats than normal have been coming through the South Pacific this year. In other news, Dominique Goche, owner of Raiatea Carenage and a Latitude advertiser, is in the process of buying out The Moorings' minor interest in the boatyard in Raiatea. He has plans for expanding and improving their services for cruisers. Rarotonga is as lovely as ever, and with a new addition that will increase crowded harbor dockspace by about 33%, it will become a lot more attractive to cruisers. The additional space should be ready for use in late August. We're not sure if it's a result of the economy, the war, or both, but for the first time in 14 years our offshore sail training classes aren't fully booked. We still have berths on our Vanuatu to Noumea leg, and from Noumea to Auckland. Folks can check out the details at So far this season we've had two great groups, with a third arriving for the Rarotonga to Pago Pago passage the day after tomorrow."

Given the horrible way the Class of '02 was treated by officials in French Polynesia last year, we're surprised that the number of cruising boats there is only down 33%. If you remember, all the French consulates had told cruisers they would be able to get a minimum of 90 days in French Polynesia - just like all the years before. But when the cruisers showed up, the local officials pulled the rug out from under them by saying they had to leave within 30 days as there would be none of the normal visa extensions. The reason for this sudden and extremely disruptive change in long term policy was . . . well, there wasn't any reason at all. It was as though a group of French tourists arrived at JFK for a two-week tour of New York City - and were told by Immigration they had to leave the country in 18 hours. Treat people badly, and they will go elsewhere - especially if they have boats. We don't have any hard numbers, but it seems to us that a greater than normal number of cruisers in Mexico headed for Central America and the Caribbean this year, and fewer than normal headed to the South Pacific.

Sometimes the first leg is the hardest. We remember the above-mentioned John Neal telling us the worst passage he's ever had was the first time he left Seattle headed south aboard his Vega 27 Mahina. That would sound familiar to 55-year-old Brec Morgan of Block Island, who recently pulled into St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean to complete a four-year solo circumnavigation aboard his Pacific Seacraft Orion 27 Otter. A direct descendant of the sailing legend Joshua Slocum, Morgan, who had never been offshore before the start of his trip, told All At Sea that the worst part of his circumnavigation was the first three days when he battled a storm with 55-knot winds.

If anyone is under the impression that the folks in Muslim-dominated Indonesia don't have the welcome mat out for yachties - and American yachties in particular - there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. Twenty-six yachts, the maximum allowed, signed up for July 26's Indonesian Maritime Tourism Federation's Third Annual Darwin - Kupang Rally. The fleet includes the following American yachts: Chalupa, K.P. Chin's Beneteau 38; Danza, David Nutt's Clark 50; Gemini, Ronald Pedersen's Tanton 44; Happy Now, Dudley Nigg's Island Packet 45; High Drama, Jeffrey Brooker's 51-ft sloop; and Perky, Carolyn Watt's Hood 38.

The Indonesian Maritime Tourism Federation is also one of the main sponsors of the August 2 Darwin to Bali Race, which is part of the Bali Recovery Program. As most folks remember, a small group of terrorists killed 202 mostly young Aussie tourists with several bomb blasts at two nightclubs in Bali on October 12, 2002. Fewer folks will recall that the Darwin to Bali Race had replaced the venerable Darwin to Ambon Race - which had been going since 1976, but had to be cancelled because of religious strife in Ambon. In any event, there are 23 yachts signed up for the new event, including the following American yachts: Bonheur, Charles Moore's Taswell 43; Horai, Thomas Vankeuren's Cheoy Lee 41; Jubileaum, James Huegli's 77-ft motorsailer; Pegasus, Austin Royale's Tartan 41; Star, Steven Macedk's Marco Polo 44; and Swan II, David Samuelson's S&S 43. The plan is for the 25 boats from the rally to Kupang to continue on to Bali for a combined celebration with the folks from the Bali Race. The entry fee is $100 for both events, but in order to make them more enticing, there are cash prizes of $2,500, the first five days of berthing at Bali Marina will be free, and the normal $200 in fees for Custom, Immigration, Quarantine, and Ports will be waived.

Unlike French Polynesia and Mexico - and more like Indonesia - the island countries of the Caribbean are rapidly realizing that sailing brings big bucks to their struggling economies. So in recent years they have been studying ways to nurture this important part of their tourist economy. Cuthbert Didier, Manager of the Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, wrote a paper on developing yachting business for the U.N.-sponsored Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. In his paper, Didier recommended that the Caribbean countries develop a uniform approach and price structure for cruising permits. He complained that Martinique wasn't playing on a level playing field, because "yachtsmen there don't have to pay cruising fees."

Here's some free market advice Third World countries - cruisers vote with their keels. Rather than try to force Martinique to institute expensive cruising permits, the other countries ought to lower them to be competitive. For if cruisers think a country is sticking it to them unjustly, they'll tend to sail to some other country that isn't.

For example, in Dutch St. Maarten the government has spent the better part of a year trying to institute anchoring fees on cruisers - $40/month for boats up to 45 feet, $60/month for boats up to 60 feet, all the way up to $340/month for boats over 120 feet. Foolishly, the government admitted they needed the money to pay for the widening of the bridge into Simpson Lagoon - something that was only needed in order accommodate the $10 to $50 million megayachts. You can imagine how thrilled budget cruisers were to learn the government wanted them to pay an average of $60/month merely to make life easier for zillionaires. Many cruisers expressed their displeasure by moving a short distance to the anchorages on the French side of the island, where no fees are charged or contemplated. Naturally, these people took most of their business to the French side of the island, too. The Dutch still haven't been able to impose the proposed fees, but it's assumed they'll try to make them stick during the low season when resistance will be the weakest.

Since we're talking about that part of the world, guess what boat was kicking butt in the Cruising Division of Antigua Sailing Week this year? It was Arawa, an ancient Columbia 50, sistership to the boat Steve and Linda Dashew circumnavigated on many years ago. Unfortunately, Arawa was involved in an collision in the second to last race, which put her owner in the hospital and a DNF into her score. Nonetheless, the old Tripp flush deck design took second in the Cruising class - not bad for a 40-year-old design.

It must be at least 10 years ago that Stephen Schmidt of Saratoga took his cruising version of a Santa Cruz 70, California Hotel Too, to the Caribbean. Every couple of years we'd get a letter from him, and once he even sailed with us on Big O at Antigua Sailing Week. But we hadn't heard from him in a long time - until last week when we read that he and his boat had participated in May's Angostura Sailing Week down in Tobago. Steve, it appears, had become an old Caribbean hand.

When you cruise, you bump into friends in the strangest places. About six years ago, when they were at Puerto Williams near Cape Horn aboard the 54-ft aluminum Polar Mist they had built, Richard and Sheri Crowe of Newport Beach met and became good friends with Nicolas and Dominique Drury, who had left France many years before to mostly cruise the high latitudes aboard their 32-ft hard chine aluminum sloop Chafki. Well, when the Crowes brought Alaska Eagle, communications boat for the TransPac, into the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in July, who was waiting for them at the dock but their old friends from Cape Horn, Nicolas and Dominique! They had a grand reunion at the Indigo restaurant in old town Honolulu.

"We haven't gone around the world, but we are completing our own little 21,000-mile circumnavigation of the Eastern Pacific - California, Mexico, Costa Rica, Galapagos, Pitcairn, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California - report John and Candace Yeamans of the Sea Ray 46 Hydra. Although she may sound like a powerboat, Hydra is a hard chine aluminum sloop designed by German Kurt Reinke. Although most popular in Europe, the Yeamans' boat was built in Vancouver in '73. "She has a great hard-dodger and three inches of foam insulation, so she is good in the tropics as well as the higher latitudes," the couple write. "Our longest passages have been from the Galapagos to Pitcairn Island, a distance of 2,850 miles which we did in 19 days; and Hawaii to Sitka, Alaska, 2,450 miles which we did in 22 days. It's always just the two of us, as we don't sail with crew. We enjoy sailing to places where, like it or not, you have to be self-sufficient. Some other sailors think we're odd for having a 46-ft sailboat with two engines - as well as two alternators and two props - but we don't mind."

"We were sorry to read in the June issue that Tom and Kathy Knueppel of Tai Tam II had a hard time getting into Big French Cay at French Harbor, Roatan," write Capts. John and Patricia Rains of San Diego. "Unfortunately, they must have been using an out-of-print edition of our guidebook Cruising Ports: Florida to California via Panama, because the new 5th edition (2003) contains a new full-page chart on page 167. The chart shows two GPS approach waypoints, the two safe entrances, and the new safer routes around the reef and shoals to the free anchorages, public docks, two marinas, a haul-out yard, and fuel dock. Even before our 2003 edition was published, we posted that new chart on the Updates page of our website - which is free for everyone to use. Nobody can keep up with all the changes in paradise, but please folks, don't take off cruising with old guidebooks and uncorrected charts."

Each year we report on the tremendous popularity of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. Six months before the November start, all 225 slots are taken and there is a waiting list. The puzzle is why their sister event in the late spring, the ARC Europe - from either Florida or Antigua to Bermuda, the Azores, and ultimately Portugal - is so much less popular. Only 14 boats participated this year. If anyone knows what happened to the other 211 that had sailed west across the Atlantic, please call World Cruising Ltd, the sponsor of both events, as they'd like to know.

There's a similar phenomenon with the West Marine 1500 and the West Marine Atlantic Cup. The former is the 1,500-mile rally from Norfolk, Virginia, to the British Virgins in November. They usually get about 55 boats, which is a fine turnout. But for the 850-mile Atlantic Cup back to Bermuda this spring, they drew a measly seven entries. Maybe once sailors get to the Caribbean, they realize they don't want to return to the East Coast - with its snow all winter and this year rain every weekend during the short summer sailing season. Whatever the case, the most recent Atlantic Cup winner was David Heaphy with his Baltimore-based Island Packet 485 Dancing in the Dark.

George Marcotte of the Tiburon-based Nor'Sea 27 Sea of Tranquility took off under the Golden Gate on July 12 on a singlehanded voyage to Hawaii. Presumably he knew he was a year early for the Singlehanded TransPac. Marcotte expected the passage to take 20 to 25 days. We hope to have a report next month.

"This is a heads-up for people with liferafts in canisters on deck," report Joe Brandt and Jacque Martin of the Alameda-based Wauquiez 47 Marna Lynn - which is currently at the new Puerto Del Sol Marina in Nicaragua. "While polishing the stainless on the boat this week, we noticed that the snap shackle on the liferaft was a little rusty. I tried to release it, and discovered that it was frozen shut! It took me about 15 minutes using WD-40 and some tools to finally get it to release. If we had to abandon ship and deploy the liferaft in a hurry, we would have been in big trouble. We will certainly add this item to our more frequent maintenance list. We are currently in Robert Membrano's new marina in Nicaragua. It's such a great place that we've decided to leave our boat here for several months while we return home for a visit."

"We finished a season of cruising in the Bahamas and are now back in Fort Lauderdale," report John, Cynthia, and Mattie the boat dog of the Jeanneau 45 Utopia. "The Bahamas were all right, but not great. We have decided to sail to the Caribbean this December and buddyboat with our friends Fred and Barbara of the Oakland-based Norseman 43 Mistral. We'll also be looking forward to meeting crews from West Coast boats that come around from Mexico during the winter. We're happy to hear that John Haste's San Diego-based Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing and Latitude's catamaran Profligate plan to be in the Caribbean. Unlike those two cats, we won't be making it to St. Barth for New Year's this year, but we'll be there in 2006.

"You may recall," John and Cynthia continue, "that a few months back we wrote a letter you published about how expensive cruising is in the Bahamas. Well, it's just gotten more expensive, as the Bahamian government is now charging big bucks for cruising permits - $150 for boats under 35 feet to $300 for larger boats. And, you have to buy a new permit each time you come to the Bahamas! The fishermen and cruisers in Florida are really upset, as they are used to dashing back and forth. Now many of them are planning on going to the Keys for their cruising and avoiding the Bahamas. We spent about $4,000 in the Bahamas last year, but we and our money won't be going back. Who will get hurt the most? The little guys who depend on us tourists for a living."

"You ain't gonna believe this, but there was a page one story in a Baja Sur newspaper about a plan to convert the San Benitos Islands - which are just west of Isla Cedros about halfway down the Pacific Coast of Baja - to a nuclear waste dump!" reports Capt. Jim Elfers of Baja. "Apparently the fishing cooperative based in Ensenada - which controls the lobster and abalone fishermen on the San Benitos Islands - has gotten wind of a permit application for a use conversion of this incredible island group. As much as I love the Baja peninsula, I love her few offshore islands even more. The San Benitos are an important breeding ground for the Guadalupe fur seal, Stellar's and California sea lions, pelagic birds, and much more. If they have to build a nuclear waste dump, there are more suitable huge tracts on the Baja peninsula, hundreds of miles from any people or roads. I have no idea how much truth there is to the report, but government agencies and contacts were mentioned. A long process and reviews are necessary for obtaining such a permit, but SERMANAP, the agency responsible for major ecological reviews, is corrupt. All the laws necessary to protect the environment and resources are on the books in Mexico, there just isn't any enforcement."

We don't know if there is any truth to the story either, but it sort of reminds us of the angry debate on the floor of the Mexican Senate a number of years ago when it was disclosed that the federal government had sold a plot of land near remote Punta Eugenia on the Baja coast to interests from Hong Kong to be a sovereign territory - like Hong Kong was at the time. According to a published story, the Asian interests had already started construction on several 50-story condo towers, and that all but a couple of floors had already been sold out. While it would be completely absurd to build condo towers out in the middle of nowhere, it was during the height of the Hong Kong building and real estate mania, and people were willing to believe anything. When somebody finally took the time to look into the story, it was found to have been started as a prank by a small humor magazine in the United States. We're not sure if the proposed nuclear waste dump at the San Benito Islands is a prank, but we doubt the idea will have a very long half-life.

For folks with small cruising boats, or who need two dinghies, nesting dinghies are a possible alternative to inflatables. They separate into two parts, one fitting in the other, for compact storage. And they can be used as either one big dinghy or two rather small ones. While up the Napa River over the Fourth of July, we stopped at Napa Valley Marina to see who might be passionate/crazy enough to work on their boats on a holiday. One of the guys we met was Dick Rudolph, who, along with partner Gary Morley, started building a Brown 40 Searunner trimaran back in '94. They launched Time Further Out in 2001, and had hauled her again in preparation of sailing her to San Diego. What interested us most was the Danny Greene-designed 10'8" nesting dinghy they also built. In fact, we got Rudolph to pose with it.

"Our Moorings 500 Pizazz was in San Carlos, Mexico, getting a blister job while we were back in the States from July of '02 through April '03," report Randy and Laurae Kenoffel, who, although originally from Northern California, have spent most of the last seven years in the Caribbean. "Thankfully, that's all done, we're cruising again - and we're really enjoying it. We are also hiding out to avoid lawsuits from the estates of all the bodies of cruisers who followed our advice and transited the north coast of South America on their way between the Eastern Caribbean and Panama. After all, we wrote a rough cruising guide for those waters. Why is it, we wonder, that only the few bad reports of security problems and/or weather issues get published, while little or nothing is mentioned about the hundreds of cruisers who have travelled the north coast of South America with ease?"

That's a good question. We wished we heard more from folks who had good passages along that stretch of coast - particularly since Profligate may soon be trying to take the same route.

"Today, I was fired as the adventure coordinator of my 46-ft catamaran Capricorn Cat," reports Vallejo's Blair Grinols from Waya Island, Fiji. "It's all because I hired a guide to take us on a hike 2,000 feet up Eagle Peak Mountain, from which we would get a view of the other islands. About a quarter of the way up, we started to wonder where the trail was. There was no trail, and we had to hike straight up the side of a volcanic mountain! There were times when I thought we were all going to die. The rock climbers on Yosemite's Half Dome have nothing on us. Our guide, the chief's grandson, was only 19 and very nice. I thought he was teasing me when he kept saying it was the first time he has ever taken anyone up to Eagle Peak. It got so bad that poor Courtney had to have the other guide take her back down after getting three-quarters of the way up as she became sick from the elevation. The views were spectacular if you dared to look down, but I got dizzy every time that I did. We hugged the edge of a cliff most of the way up, crawling on all fours straight up the rock face. We ran into several mountain goat herds and a baby goat hiding in some bushes. After climbing straight up for 90 minutes, we made it to the top. What a view! Capricorn Cat looked like a speck in the bay. You could see all the surrounding reefs and the different colors they made in the ocean. It was well worth the hike - I think. I only say that now that we've made it back alive. We also saw an eagle flying overhead, hence the name.

We're a little unclear on where he started, but it seems that Bill Teplow of Berkeley - who last summer sailed Chubby, his West Wight Potter 19, singlehanded to Hawaii - has now sailed the same little boat up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. While there he has been marveling at photos of fish from the turn of the previous century, "salmon taller than the men holding them, and halibut eight feet or longer . . ."

Enough talk, let's get cruising!

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