Latitude home Latitude 38

Back to 'Changes' Index Changes in Latitudes
August 2009

Missing the pictures? See the August 2009 eBook!

 With reports this month from Manu Rere on almost being lost on a reef in the Marquesas; from Tawodi about an unusual and spectacular circumnavigation; from Geja on another season of great times in the Med; from Southern Belle on family fun in the San Blas Islands; from Dolphin on a 'clipper ship' route home from Mexico; from Sailors Run on life in Buenos Aires; from Destiny on health care in Mexico;
and Cruise Notes.

Manu Rere — 38-ft Homebuilt Cat
Glenn Tieman
I Almost Lost My Cat
(Los Angeles)

Since it costs $25 for three hours of internet time in French Polynesia, my message is going to be short. I arrived in the Marquesas more than three months ago after a great passage from Central America. A Papagayo meant I started in very steep seas, but it was followed by a week of light-air sailing. I hove to in the lee of Clipperton Atoll, a pretty desolate place, to enjoy the boiling sea life and earthy scent of guano. From Clipperton to the equator I had excessive wind and fast sailing. I towed a tire drogue for several days, which kept things tight and safe. During a calm period south of the equator, I launched my canoe and took a swim to clean the bottom along the wormshoe.

After clearing into the Marquesas, I sailed to Tahuata, where people gave me lots of fruit. The locals were friendly — although not as intimate as at some of the other places I've been to. I enjoyed great hiking in the jungle mountains and swimming in the clear waters. But one night a young man came aboard my boat. Threatening me with a knife and a spear gun, he stole my laptop. The mayor knew who he was and reported it to the gendarme in nearby Hiva Oa. But the case awaits a judge from Tahiti, so I'll never get my laptop back.

I'm now in the Tuamotus, enjoying the psychedelic-colored lagoons and drumming and dancing practice at night. But it was here that I almost lost my cat.

The night I arrived, I hung offshore awaiting dawn, within sight of the lights of the village. But I misjudged how close I was to shore. Suddenly Manu Rere was bouncing off the concrete-like ridges of dead coral, than slammed to a stop with her bow up at an angle of 20 degrees. As she continued to pound and grind against the coral, I ran to the bow with a bamboo pole and frantically tried to push off. Unfortunately, the bamboo went into a gap in the jagged coral. Having put all my weight behind the thrust, I went overboard! Even though my cat was grinding on coral just 18 inches beneath the surface, I fell into deep water.

"God, I'm going to lose my boat!" I thought to myself. But then I managed to climb onto a block of coral and began pushing my cat toward open water. I managed to get the bow around, then, using the bamboo pole, pushed her from the stern out to sea. Finally, I unsheeted the mizzen, which was aback, and ghosted back out to deeper water.

The saving grace was that it had been very calm for a week, so the sea was nearly flat. Usually, there would have been eight to 10-foot seas slamming into the coral, which certainly would have destroyed my boat. But as it turned out, Manu Rere suffered no penetration of the fiberglass to the wood or other significant damage. Life, too, has its jagged ridges and unforeseen depths these days.

— glenn 07/04/09

Tawodi — Custom 39
Stephen Mann
Kathleen Torres
Around In Eight Months
(San Diego)

When it comes to circumnavigations, Stephen Mann and Kathleen Torres' just-completed sail around the world has to rank as one of the more unusual — and difficult. It wasn't a race, yet it was certainly no pleasure cruise either. Inspired by a wild notion Mann had while returning home from the '00 Singlehanded TransPac, the two sailed what basically was a Vendee Globe route — a long dash down to the very rough and cold Southern Ocean, around the bottom of the world via the five great capes, then a long dash back up to their San Diego starting point. But rather than sailing the course in a Vendee Open 60, which is very expensive but can often stay up with many of the more powerful fronts that sweep the Southern Ocean, they took Mann's home, a 39-ft Westerly-built sloop that he has so thoroughly modified that neither the designer or builder would recognize her.

Not only did the two choose a strange course for a non-racing circumnavigation, but they covered the 24,000-course — which actually required sailing an additional 4,000 miles — at a dizzying pace. Most circumnavigations take three years, but they finished in just eight months and five days. About 75% of the time was spent sailing, with the other 25% resting or touring. The following is a leg-by-leg account of their trip in case any of you readers want to follow in their wake:

— Seven days from San Diego to Cabo, where they stopped for one day to take to take on fuel and inexpensive prescription drugs.

— Thirty-one days from Cabo to Easter Island, where they paused for five days

— Nineteen days from Easter to Cape Horn and around to Ushuaia, Argentina, where they stopped for one day.

— Part of one day from Ushuaia to Puerto Williams, Chile, where they spent 17 days, including Christmas.

— Seven days from the Horn to remote and icy South Georgia Island, where they stayed for two days and where the water temperature was 32 degrees.

— Thirteen days from South Georgia to Tristan de Cunha, which they loved, and where they spent two days replacing the broken pivot between the autopilot and the tiller.

— Thirteen days from Tristan to Cape Town, South Africa, where they stopped for 11 days.

— Forty-two days from Cape Town to Hobart, Tasmania, where they stopped for nine days.

— Seven days from Hobart to Dunedin, New Zealand, where they stopped for 10 days.

— Twenty-six days from Dunedin to Pitcairn, where they stopped for two days.

— And finally, 27 days from Pitcairn to San Diego.

Whew! And it wasn't as if they could have dallied longer at any of the locations. In order to do the circumnavigation in just one season, they had to start by sailing through the Eastern Pacific hurricane zone before the hurricane season was completely over, and sail back through it on the way home after the next hurricane season had started.
Why take such a strange route at such a breakneck pace? The 38-year-old Mann, in the manner of Sir Edmund Hillary and other mountain climbers, says "because it was there." But maybe it's because Mann — sort of like singer Tina 'Proud Mary' Turner — doesn't do anything "easy".

As Torres explains, "For Stephen, every activity — such as a bicycle ride to the store — has a finish line and a time to beat." It other words, just sailing around the world wouldn't be enough; he had to do a circumnavigation that included a performance goal and adequate adversity.

Mann accepted his first big sailing challenge in the mid-'80s at the age of 19, when he agreed to sail his dad's 48-ft wooden ketch — actually a converted fishing boat — from La Paz to San Diego. Singlehanded. Battling numerous challenges and facing the adversity of losing the engine, after three long months Mann found himself stuck at Isla San Martin, 100 miles south of San Diego. He was forced to hand over his last $1,000 to some impecunious cruisers in order to get a tow of the rest of the way.

It proved, however, to be a valuable learning experience. "I discovered that it's absolutely essential to have a boat that can sail well in light air and sail upwind." And that's something that Tawodi has been able to do — at least ever since Mann replaced her original funky mast and rigging.

A lot of women readers will probably assume that in addition to being a fine sailor and rigger, Mann must also have a silver tongue. After all, what else could explain Torres, who had headed up Port Supply in San Diego for West Marine, signing on for such a trip? It turns out she didn't need much convincing.

Kathleen not only wanted to do the trip, she was excited to go," says Mann. "She used to own her a Pearson Triton up in the Pacific Northwest, lived in a jungle hut in Panama for several seasons, and is generally an adventurous person. One of her goals was — and is — to write a book about our experience."

To fully appreciate what the couple had to go through to finish their unique circumnavigation, you have to visit their website at But for right now, let's review just one segment of their trip — say the leg from Cape Town to Hobart.

While at Cape Horn more than a month before, Mann and Torres had the pleasure of meeting French sailing legend Isabelle Autissier. She warned them that the Indian Ocean can be extremely challenging. Mann and Torres were to learn that Autissier wasn't kidding, because it was brutal.

"We had 50-knot winds more than half the time on that passage," says Mann, "and dragged our a drogue until it broke. The problem down there is that a new low comes through almost every three days, and circulates north through south via west. As a result, the seas are not only massive, but completely chaotic. The cauldron-like seas meant that we couldn't get Tawodi — which is an 8-knot boat, and which has hit 20 knots — to average much more than 6 knots despite the strong winds. It was nothing like sailing downwind in the Pacific to Hawaii."

Given the sustained strong winds, the seas became the biggest problem. On one occasion, the couple described Tawodi as "standing on her tail and being pivoted in the opposite direction." On another occasion, a huge wave picked up their boat and "body slammed" her onto a different wave. It was very rough and relentlessly so.

But there were other problems on that leg. Torres reports that both the air and water were in the low 40s for the entire Indian Ocean leg — cold enough to host a big field of icebergs and bergie bits that they were forced to sail through for several days and nights. "The first couple of icebergs you see in the distance are spectacularly beautiful," Mann says. "But once you've sailed through them for days, and have had to gybe repeatedly to avoid hitting one and being sunk, you'll never want to see another."

"I experienced a lot of sheer terror on that leg," Torres admits. "Yet our number one foe, after the waves, was the incredible condensation and mold that formed inside the boat while we were in the Indian Ocean. Everything not only got wet, it stayed wet and became moldy. It was horrible. When you got dressed to come on watch, it was like having to layer your body with icy cold towels."

Did we mention that the Indian Ocean leg lasted for 42 days?

This isn't to say they didn't have some good sailing. Much of the sailing in the tropics was wonderful, and they were surprised by having a wonderful spinnaker run across the normally tempestuous Tasman Sea. In addition to some fine sailing, they got to see wonderful places — such as Tristan de Cunha — and magnificent wildlife.

"Among the most impressive wildlife we saw were the albatrosses," says Mann. "One thing we learned is that man does not belong in the Southern Ocean, it's just too inhospitable. But the albatross just thrive down there. They are so beautiful!"

The couple had an interesting watch schedule. Mann drove during the day, and tried to get in a lot of miles. Torres would cook the big afternoon meal and then stand the night watches. For Torres, standing watch mostly meant staying in the cabin and watching the radar and monitoring the autopilot while the boat continued under reduced sail.

Given the combination of arduous voyage and tight quarters, there were naturally moments of tension. "Stephen and I hadn't been living together," says Torres, "so I was used to making my own decisions and he was used to making his. But there can only be one captain on a boat, and it took some getting used to."

And there were times when the adversity didn't help. For example, the ham radio interfered with the operation of the autopilot, so when Mann was making his evening radio check-ins, Torres would have to stand out in the freezing cold and manually steer the boat with the tiller. "It was really cold and hard to steer in the Southern Ocean, so when I heard Stephen down below laughing while in conversation with someone, I could get grumpy, thinking it wasn't the right time for him to be a 'Chatty Kathy'."

One thing that certainly helped the couple complete the trip was that they are used to living simple but vigorous lives. For example, everything Mann owns is on his boat, which is now anchored out. Both Mann and Torres are more than just avid cyclists, as she hasn't owned a car in seven years and he hasn't owned one in five years. The couple rarely go out to dinner, don't have a television, and typically see only about one movie per year.

The trip cost about $10,000, which was most of their discretionary spending money. So now they are back at work, not yet having had time to think about a next adventure. In addition to being a rigger, Mann has a 500-ton license and drives tugs and skippers classic yachts. Torres is already back at Port Supply.

Torres would not do such a trip again. Partly because of things like it blowing 60 knots on her 40th birthday after it had blown 50 knots for the five days before. And partly because of the terror in the Southern Ocean. Mann is different. He now feels much more confident in his abilities and the ability of his boat to take whatever the ocean has to dish out. So yeah, he'd do it again. But for now, both of them are in post-circumnavigation recovery.

We'll let you know when Torres finishes her book, because it's got to be a great story. And she'll also explain why she and Mann, who aren't superstitious, won't ever start a voyage on a Friday again.

— latitude/rs

Geja — Islander 36
Andrew Vik and Friends
Cruising the Adriatic Sea
(San Francisco)

After an amazing summer cruising the Med aboard Geja last year, I've returned for a second season of cruising fun. Readers might remember that this '76 Islander 36 was sailed most of the way around the world by Dick and Shirley Sandys of Palo Alto. After Dick's death, Shirley sold it sight unseen to a young San Francisco couple, who cruised her in the Med for one summer. I bought her from them.

After I'd wrapped up the last of the winter projects with the mechanics at Geja’s winter home near Split, Croatia, some Swedish guys, friends of mine from Stockholm, joined me for the first week of easy cruising among the islands of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. These 1,000 islands offer great sailing, nearly as many anchorages, and quaint Venetian towns. It is a cruiser’s dream — except for the cost. The clean, efficient government-run ACI marinas charge $70 per night for a 36-footer, and some port authorities even charge as much as $30 a night just to drop your own hook. Groceries also cost more than in Italy, which is just across the Adriatic. While these high costs have discouraged many cruisers from visiting Croatia, it hasn't deterred thousands of charterers willing to pay these prices throughout the summer months.

Sailing among islands such as Brac, Solta, and Hvar, my Swedish friends and I saw plenty of megayachts in the harbors. The Swedes kept joking that one of these fancy yachts must be full of girls looking for some fun guys to party with. When we reached Hvar, the joke became reality. Just a few boats down the quay from us was a 100-foot motor yacht, whose only guests for a week were nine young Norwegian girls. The yacht was owned by the dad of one of the girls. So when the famous Carpe Diem quayside bar closed for the night, we joined the girls aboard their yacht for a Norwegian Nachspiel (after-party). The yacht's crew were reluctant to serve us cocktails, but they did. It was a good night for Intra-Scandinavian relations.

While it's easy to get stuck in Croatia making both cruising and land-based friends, I wanted to return to the excellent foods and warm people of Italy. With my Swedish friends leaving, my new crew was Andrew Wood — whom I only met at the Latitude Crew List Party in March. Together we made the overnight passage to Italy.

While Italy’s east coast is not known to be very interesting to the cruising sailor, there are a few gems that made it well worth our visit. We made landfall at the town of Vieste on the Gargano Promontory, which is the 'spur' in the boot of Italy. It’s a beautiful, bustling town with whitewashed buildings and beautifully eroded cliffs — and it's way off the tourist maps.

Our next stop going up the Italian coast was the Tremiti Islands. This small cluster of islands lies 20 miles or so off the coast, and is home to about 500 people. One island features a massive walled fortress, while another is home to most of the residents. There is little shelter among these islands, so it's possible to stop only in settled weather. The water is as clear as can be — even late in the day we could clearly see the anchor 30 feet down. There is little foreign tourism, so the arrival of two Californians on a sailboat caused a bit of a stir among the locals.

The coast between the Tremiti Islands and Venice to the north is mostly one long flat beach, with shallow water extending quite far out. There is no natural shelter along this coast, which can be a problem during the winter, when storm-force northeast Bora winds come howling down the mountains of Croatia. We made stops in little known Numana and Senigallia, where our reception was again warm and the people most helpful. Interestingly, it was usually a plus when we made it clear that we were Californians, not Brits.

Cruising often entails making stops in places for no other reason than that they are a convenient distance from the previous and/or next stops. I find that one of the great joys of cruising is discovering these obscure places.

Charging up the Italian coast, mostly beating and motoring, we finally reached Rimini, known to be one of Italy’s best party towns. It advertises itself as nothing less. It has miles and miles and miles of sandy beaches covered with thousands of color-coordinated beach umbrellas. Andrew and I pulled in just in time for the July 4th weekend.

To signal the start of the summer season, the Romagna region declares July 4th to be Notta Rosa, or Pink Night, complete with fireworks. The result is that the entire 50-mile stretch of coast turns into one big party! My crew and I purchased the requisite pink shirts and leis, and then started to head off with Geja’s two folding bikes. We didn’t make it far, however, as our dock neighbors insisted that we join their 20-person seafood potluck right there on the dock. These amazingly friendly folks treated us like family, even presenting us with a gift — a skinny two-foot long bottle shaped like an eel covered with Cyrillic writing and containing some unknown liquor. I'm a bit nervous to try it.

After 90 minutes of incredible dockside hospitality, Andrew and I resumed our bike ride into town. By the time we reached the first traffic light, we were swarmed by dozens of bicyclists in a scene reminiscent of the Critical Mass rides back home in San Francisco — except that cyclists actually stopped at a red light. At the head of the pack were some nice looking local ladies. By the time the light turned green, we had introduced ourselves and were invited to follow them by bike to all of the hottest spots in town! We raced around town with them for hours, dodging an insane mix of buses, cars, mopeds, bikes, and pedestrians. Sadly, an intense Florida-esque thunderstorm cut the night short at 4 a.m.

My German buddy Til Menge joined me for the leg from Rimini northward. Few cruisers are found on the Italian east coast, and securing an allowable spot among the various river ports was often a time-consuming process. The large marinas seldom answered our calls on the radio, and/or didn't even notice that we'd arrived. Still, we had some great sailing — and one gale — from Rimini to Cesenautico, historic Ravenna, and Porto Garibaldi.

Our approach to Chioggia in the Venice Lagoon was exciting, as close reaching in 20 knots gave way to an ominous black sky — and then to thunder and lighting crackling directly overhead. The southernmost of three entrances to the Venice Lagoon was difficult to identify, and once we did locate it, we had to dodge a tanker exiting the narrow channel while being rolled about by confused seas meeting the out-flowing water from the lagoon. Geja handled it all well, and has no doubt seen worse in her tens of thousands of ocean miles.

After a night in the canal town of Chioggia, we motored the final 15 miles within the Venice lagoon to Venice itself. What an experience to approach Venice by boat! I’d never been to Venice, and was not prepared for the excitement of sailing past the famous Piazza San Marco and other historic attractions along the town’s waterfront. With due respect to my native San Francisco, Venice must be the greatest urban boating venue in the world.

I’ll explore the Venice lagoon for a week before continuing my clockwise voyage through the Adriatic Sea. I will then return to 'The East', meaning Slovenia and Croatia. The summer party season there begins soon, and I sure don’t want to miss any of it! Nonetheless, I'm sure going to miss the warmth and friendliness of the Italians.

— andrew 07/15/09

Southern Belle — F/P 42 Cat
The Salley Family
San Blas Islands
(Newport Beach)

After staying in Panama's Shelter Bay Marina for two days, we — George, Melinda and our eight-year-old son Joshua — took off for what would be three magical months in the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side of Panama. Marina life is okay, but for us, island time is better. David Katz, our friend and longtime crewmember, joined us for the 2.5-day trip out to the San Blas Islands.

On our first day out of Colon, we made it to Portobello, home of the mushroom. Just kidding. Portobello was actually 'discovered' by Columbus, and from 1570 to 1700 was the major base from which the Spanish transported the gold and silver they'd plundered from South and Central America to Spain. As such, Portobello was a fortified city, with forts on both sides of the bay. We visited the ruins of the battery of Fort San Fernando on the north side of the bay. From our vantage point on the upper level of the fort, we could easily envision how it was when the dreaded pirate Henry Morgan and his troops came to attack.

Our first anchorage in the San Blas Islands was at the East Lemon Cays, right between the islands of Banedup and Nuinudup. The indigenous people of the San Blas Islands are called Kuna Indians, and they refer to their island paradise home as Kuna Yala. It stretches approximately 130 miles along Panama's Caribbean coast, and comprises over 340 coral islands. Crystal clear water and beautiful living coral reefs abound in the western half of Kuna Yala, which is all we've had a chance to explore so far. The Kunas are nearly as short as the pygmies of Africa, but are unique in that they are the only Amerindians to have resisted five centuries of invasions to gain real autonomy over their territory.

What have our highlights been in the San Blas?

— Snorkeling! The clarity of the water combined with the variety of sea life and coral is absolutely astounding. Nothing we've seen to date comes close to matching the underwater beauty of Kuna Yala.

— Participating in the Kuna Regatta at Banedup Island. The locals race their sailing canoes, called ulus, in a regatta followed by a happy hour and a dinner party. Cruiser volunteers were invited to crew on the ulus, and Melinda competed with a group of ladies. They even had a bead on first place before running aground on a shallow reef near the finish.

— Exploring the mountains and rivers on the mainland territory of Kuna Yala. Our river hike on the Rio Sidra took us up to a nice waterfall with a swimming hole. We had fun hiking back down the river, as it required us to jump off several waterfalls and swim across pools to ford the river.

— Mola shopping. Molas are colorful cloth panels made up of three to five layers of reverse applique, one on top of the other. Molas typically reflect scenes from Kuna life or animals or plants, and it can take as much as two to five weeks to make one. At every anchorage you'll be approached by several Kuna women in an ulu hoping to sell you a mola.

— The numerous cruiser functions at the different islands. For example, there was Cajun Night on Banedup, where Melinda prepared chicken and sausage gumbo for over 40 people. Then there were the Monday night happy hours on 'BBQ Island', and Texas Night in the Coco Banderas, where we celebrated the birthday of Sam Houston. And we can't forget the two gringos from Chicago who got married on Banedup Island in the Kuna tradition. This is how the Kuna Yala get married: The groom is placed in a hammock, then a bunch of people pick up the bride and put her in the hammock with him. The bride then jumps up and runs away. The men of the village chase her down and bring her back to the hammock. After she is returned to the hammock for the third time, the couple is considered to be married.

— Becoming best friends with the folks on the Prout catamaran Toucan — Mike and Mary, who are from the mountains of Colorado near Telluride, and their children Noah, 10, Lydia, 8, and Eva, 5. We met them while anchored near each other. The kids got together to build a secret fort on the islands, after which they became fast friends. We had a great time hanging with Toucan for over six weeks.

We are currently in Cartagena, Colombia, picking coca leaves for the local cartel. Just kidding again. Cartagena is actually a lovely and historic city, and we've met many friendly people. We will be travelling in South America for a couple of months while Southern Belle waits patiently for us in Cartagena. After that, we're headed back to the San Blas Islands, which we think are easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. In fact, we may even do some charters in the San Blas!

— melinda 07/05/09

Dolphin — Islander 44
Skip and Dantel White
The Clipper Route Home
(Arroyo Grande)

Thank you Latitude for being a great read every month. You showed me that an 'Average Joe' such as myself could cruise, and provided me with the motivation to make it happen. More recently, I have enjoyed downloading Latitude via wifi while on the hook in Mexico.

I'm writing to perhaps inspire others to consider the offshore or clipper route from Cabo up to San Diego as an alternative to the traditional Baja Bash along the coast. After three seasons based out of Banderas Bay, but with future plans to cruise the South Pacific, I wanted to learn how to improve my boat by sailing north via the offshore route. Before my wife and I left on May 29, I studied the pilot charts and made what I thought were reasonable waypoints based on not exceeding a presumed 45% beat.
While still at anchor in Cabo, I dinghied over to the beautiful yellow hulled ketch Kalona, and learned that Bob, her owner, had made three previous clipper route trips back to California, and was planning to do another as soon as the weather looked good. Bob had kept his previous tracks on the same chart in different colors, so his passages were easy to analyze. In addition to giving me confidence, Bob's previous tracks pretty much confirmed the waypoints I had selected earlier. In any event, I knew that I would not tack back to port until I neared 27N, 123W.

We watched the weather for days before our departure, making certain there were no tropical storm threats offshore of Mazanillo, since our offshore route meant we'd actually be putting in some south before tacking back over to go north. This would put us within 150 nautical miles of 'hurricane alley', an imaginary line between Isla Socorro and Hawaii. We were also looking for fair weather along the Baja coast.

The evening before we departed, Terry from Ishi kayaked over to tell us a little of her and her husband Gary’s experiences, as they had done eight clipper route trips back to California — and were going to start another the day after we left. I learned they had run out of wind and had to motor nearly half the times they had taken the offshore route.
We left for the first time on May 27 with Koho, which was headed for Hawaii, and three other boats that would be doing the traditional Baja Bash. After Koho reported 50 knots of wind just 13 miles outside of Cabo, we all turned back. We all left again on the 29th.
It took us 13 days and 1,355 miles to reach Ensenada on our second attempt, even though we lost the use of our Perkins diesel on Day 4. Our best 24-hour run was 170 miles, which was on the second day out. Our worst day was 60 miles on Day 5. The farthest offshore we got was 420 miles. We saw 27 knots of wind when leaving Cabo Falso, but no more than Force 4 after that. We were becalmed a total of 18 hours. We made our final tack back to port at 26.15N;122.29W. Having only done this passage once, I have no idea if these are average times and distances.

We arrived in Ensenada prior to several boats that had left Cabo the same time as we did to do the Bash.

By the way, I want to take this opportunity to give a shout to my crew for their help during the Banderas Bay Regatta — Tim of Midnight Blue, Cary and Michelle from Mammoth Mountain, Sean 'the "go to" guy in Sayulita, and Clive and Steve, a couple of P.V. sailors. Thanks, guys, for making a great regatta even better!

— skip 06/29/09

Sailors Run — Baba 40
Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy
Land of Steak & Leather
(Longbranch, WA)

During our first three months in Argentina, Debbie and I tried hard to see what we could of beautiful Buenos Aires, the fifth largest city in the world. But time just seemed to slip away, as we worked to get Sailors Run back into shape after a hard year of cruising — including my solo 4,500-mile rounding of Cape Horn. We decided that it was time to change our priorities and get to know Buenos Aires.

Located at 37 degrees south — almost the same latitude as San Francisco — Buenos Aires has a great climate. The summers are hot, the winters are mild, and the rainfall is spread evenly over the year.

We quickly learned that Spanish is the local language, and at first it seemed odd seeing light-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde people rattling away in Spanish but not knowing a word of English. If you don't speak Spanish in Buenos Aires, you'll quickly feel isolated. The locals are very friendly and helpful, but hardly anybody speaks English, and few are interested in trying to learn. Thanks once again to Debbie’s fluency in Spanish, we did just fine. We have met many interesting and helpful locals here, often times being driven around the city to get things we need, do shopping and so forth.

The vast majority of the 13 million residents of Buenos Aires are European looking and are very proud to be Argentinian. Few of them speak of their not-so-distant ties to Italy, Portugal, Spain, England, Germany or Switzerland.

Argentinians are thin, energetic and very athletic. No matter the time of day or evening, you see countless runners. If anyone was looking to find a perfect '10' physique, male or female, Buenos Aires would be a great place to start. But not all of it is natural. Apparently more people here go under the knife to maintain or enhance their beauty than anywhere else in the world. Men, it's reported, are the more frequent users of these services.

One of the things we prefer not to do in Buenos Aires is walk city streets Monday through Friday. It's dangerous! First, pedestrians do not have the right away, so 400 of them are killed on city streets each year. As if the cars weren't a big enough danger, you always have to be on guard against thieves. I had to smack one guy who was unzipping Debbie's backpack as she walked in front of me. When I yelled at him, he looked at me in disbelief. I have a hard time standing by and watching thieves dip into the purses of elderly ladies, but locals just seem to clutch their own bags tighter and move along. Other than petty crime and cars trying to run you down, the city feels pretty safe. Debbie and I have strolled the streets at all hours and never had a problem.
Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, with many wonderful sites, parks, museums and theaters. Apparently a building boom is just winding down, as many large new buildings are just being completed.

Based on historical experience, the Argentinians have little faith in their government, as there is much corruption and there have been numerous booms and busts. Back in the '20s, for example, the gross national product of Argentina exceeded that of Germany and France. The people believe it's simply their fate to prosper only to suffer once again — as when the banks failed back in '01 and people lost their wealth overnight. We won't even mention the Dirty War of '78, when the very conservative government had the military fly members of the opposition over the Rio Plata and push them out of the planes. Because of this, the Argentinians march forward with a philosophy of living intensely for each day because the next one might not be so good.

There are big cultural differences between Argentina and the States. For example, a typical workday is 12 hours long. Dinner starts about 8 p.m., but doesn't really get going until around 10 p.m. The dancing and partying on weekends doesn't get going until about midnight, and you're not thought to have had fun unless you party until the sun comes up. It hasn't been unusual for Debbie and me to see people still drinking in the parks when we start running at 8 a.m.

Argentina is justifiably known for its beef. We can buy hamburger for 50 cents/pound, while New York cut steaks for the 'barbie' are just $1/pound. And yes, our cholesterol is on the rise. A by-product of raising and killing all the cattle is leather goods. Everywhere you look there are leather goods, most of it the highest quality we have ever seen.

Debbie and I recently made the six-hour sail across the Rio Plata to Colonia, Uruguay. It's a warm and quiet little town, with safe moorings for our boat. This has resulted in our deciding that we need to spend more time here, so we've come up with a new — what a surprise! — plan. We're going to spend the next year bouncing back and forth between Uruguay and Argentina every three months. To help with our explorations of these two beautiful countries, we've purchased a brand new 125cc Zanelle motorcycle.

Debbie is a smart and great mate, so she knows that keeping this sailor and Sailors Run up a river for a year can make me pretty antsy. So she has agreed that once we leave here in June of '10, we'll spend four months along the coast of Brazil, then set off across the Atlantic via the Azores to Spain. Yes, Debbie is willing to make another long ocean crossing in order to see where her ancestors on her father's side came from. Of course, once in Europe there will no doubt be many more opportunities to see other places in the area. Isn't life great?!

— jeff 06/09/09

Destiny — Catalina 42
John and Gilly Foy
Health Care In Mexico
(Alameda / Punta Mita, MX)

John and I continue to be more than pleased with the health care we've been getting here in Mexico. A couple of months ago, I went to a dermatologist because of my lousy fair skin, and had 30 small pre-cancer growths burned (frozen) off. Based on previous experiences in the States, despite the fact I had insurance, it would have cost me $250 out-of-pocket, and my visit would have been a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes. Here in Puerto Vallarta, I saw a young doctor who is fluent in English, and who spent an hour giving me a thorough examination — including my head and my toes. I walked away with a single bill of 800 pesos — about $61.

Last week I went to see a gynecologist, who was also young and spoke English well. She spent about 50 minutes with me, did a pap smear, and asked me more questions than I can remember a doctor's ever asking me before. Once again, the total came to 800 pesos or about $61 — including the pap smear and subsequent lab work. I was very impressed, as she seemed to have a good grasp of modern women's medicine.

The gynecologist sent me to have five blood tests — including for cancer antigens — and the total cost was just $260. I'm still getting bills for lab work done in the States a year ago, so it was great to be able to just go in, have whatever was needed done, pay, and have done with it. Dealing with insurance companies in the States is like getting nibbled to death by a duck.

I got my doctor's name through Pamela Thompson at Vallarta HeathCare Resources. You can Google that organization for contact information. Here are some other sample prices: Complete mammogram with a female technician, plus a manual examination by an oncologist, about $60. Skin clinic check from scalp to toes by an oncologist, about $20. Colonoscopy — just get it over with! — about $290, not including the cost of any biopsies, if necessary.

Anyway, we're loving Mexico, and the health care we've both received here.

— gilly 07/19/09

Cruise Notes:

What to do if it 'all goes to shit'? That's the question we asked in last October's issue (Sightings, page 92), when it looked as though the U.S. and global economies were close to an Armageddon-like meltdown. While it appears that the ultimate meltdown has been at least temporarily avoided, experts agree that neither the U.S. nor global economies are poised for anything resembling a strong post-recession recovery. As such, our advice is the same that we gave last year: If you've got a boat, but don't have a job or family obligations that require you remain in the States, there are three reasons you might want to consider spending the winter cruising in Mexico: 1) It's much less expensive cruising down there than it is trying to survive up here. In fact, we know several folks who cruised like kings last season on unemployment benefits. 2) It's more fun. And, 3) If you take advantage of all the opportunities, it's a much more healthful lifestyle, too.

There's no apparent slump for the 24th running of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the 2,700-mile rally that departs the Canary Islands on November 22nd for St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles. With all 225 ARC slots having been taken, the organizers of the granddaddy of all cruising rallies have started a waiting list. A total of 28 countries will be represented in this year's event. While there is a small racing division where entries aren't allowed to use engines, the overwhelming number of folks are entered in the cruising divisions. Most cruising boats make the crossing, which is almost always downwind in warm trades, in 13 to 21 days. There are only eight U.S. entries this year, which we believe is a record low. To our knowledge none of them is from the West Coast.

A little closer to home, November 2 start will mark the 20th anniversary of Steve Black's Caribbean 1500, which takes the cruising fleet from Hampton, VA, to Tortola in the British Virgins. So far 35 boats have signed up, none of them from the West Coast. Entries in this event typically take six to 13 days to finish what's almost always a much more difficult trip to the tropics than is the Ha-Ha.

"It's hard for us to believe that after 5,500+ miles and 18 months, our adventures in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska are coming to a close," report Dick and Sherry Drechsler of the Long Beach-based Catalina 470 Last Resort. "It's with a heavy heart that we leave behind the many friends that we made, and the spectacular scenery. At least we managed to backtrack far enough north to visit Princess Louisa Inlet, one of the spectacular fiords that we'd missed last year. It was definitely the highlight of the scenery we've seen this spring, and puts the crown on our voyages in this majestic wonderland. But at the same time, visions of swaying palm trees and white sand beaches call for us to head south. Our goal over the next six months will be to sail to San Diego, join the Ha-Ha to begin our winter cruise in Mexico, and meet new friends in 2,600-mile distant Puerto Vallarta for New Year's Eve."

One of the interesting things about cruisers is that, as a group, an unusually high percentage have had to overcome physical ailments to pursue their sailing pleasure. Dick is one of them. Although he's a survivor of throat cancer, he was left with a very narrow opening between his mouth and his stomach. As a result, his diet consists entirely of Slim Fast drinks and water. It's something for all of us to remember when we start to wallow in self-pity.

Sailing can be the ticket to seeing the world — even if you don't own a boat or have a lot of money. Just ask Grant Howerton of landlocked Fresno, who is seen in the accompanying photo aboard the Bounty replica at Hamilton Harbor, Bermuda. Grant learned to sail while attending San Francisco State University, and later used the Latitude Crew List to score a berth in the '08 Ha-Ha aboard Chad and Caroline Carvey's Sausalito-based Hans Christian 43 Tambadil. But that was just the start. Returning to Northern California, he became a sailing instructor at the Treasure Island Sailing Center. He subsequently signed up for the 2009 Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge aboard Bounty, which is why he was in Bermuda last month. Once he's crossed the Atlantic, he'll have punched his ticket for countless other sailing opportunities around the globe. All this is as reported by Mitch 'Phuzzyphocus' Perkins.

It looks as though another El Niño — meaning a warming of the water temperatures in the Central and Eastern Pacific — is underway. El Niño conditions have a variety of impacts around the globe, although they are difficult to predict and measure. Often the condition results in the intensification of upper-level westerly winds, which tends to suppress the development of summer hurricanes in the Caribbean/Atlantic. That's a good news. In the winter, however, the intensified westerlies often mean that the trajectory of the North Pacific jetstream is flattened and moves farther south, which usually results in more warm winter storms across Southern California and the southeastern United States. One of the El Niños about 25 years ago savaged the Southern California coast. On the other hand, the Pacific Northwest is often warmer and drier in El Niño years. For weather forecasters, the puzzling thing about El Niños is that they often seem to have the most severe effects when the El Niño condition itself isn't particularly severe. In other words, our understanding of El Niño is, if you'll excuse the pun, in its infancy.

Capt. Marc Wilson reports he's finally taken delivery, for the owners, of the new Catana 50 Bright Wing. True, the boat was supposed to be delivered eight months ago in France, but July in the Pacific Northwest was better than nothing — especially since everyone seems to be happy with the workmanship. Wilson complains that the same can't be said about their new Aqua Pro inflatable. "The transom mounting plate sheered off our less-than-20-minutes-old Aqua Pro inflatable, taking our less-than-20- minutes-old outboard to the bottom with it!" says Wilson. "The best part is that there is a padeye on the plate to attach the motor to in case the motor comes off! Aqua Pro somehow claims they are not responsible for the failure."

Can you guess what the following numbers — 154, 222, 190, 157, 157, 151, 154, 205, 193, 184, 204, 227 and 186 — represent? The first 12 are the daily runs, with the last one being the average day's run, of Steve and Dorothy Darden's crossing from San Francisco to Hawaii in July aboard their Morrelli & Melvin 52 Adagio. Shaun Peck was along as crew. In 18 to 22 knots of wind, the Dardens reported that Adagio slid along at between 9 and 13 knots under a main or reefed main and a large reacher. They sailed the whole way with the 'back door' to the large cockpit open day and night, which allowed them to read or socialize while sailing. Adagio was launched in Opua, New Zealand, in '00, and the Dardens have since cruised her 30,000 miles in the Pacific. After several wonderful seasons in Tasmania, they sailed to Alaska via New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii. After several seasons in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, the couple returned to San Francisco Bay for the summer. They are now headed back to Hobart, Tasmania, which they consider to be their homeport.

"We finally left St. Martin and visited St. Barth for a week or so," write former Bay Area residents Mark and Liesbet Collaert of the Tobago 35 Irie. "St. Barth is clean, attractive and you can get everywhere on land by foot or thumb, so we can understand why the publisher of Latitude likes it so much. In addition, the people are friendly and the island has a pleasant village-like atmosphere. Our favorite anchorage was Columbier, which has free moorings, a nice beach, and quiet surroundings. We did spend one night in Gustavia, and even though we expected to pay something, we were surprised that the fee came to 12 euros — or about $20. It was so much because they charge by volume of the boat, and our cat is much larger than a monohull. So back we went to Columbier, where the moorings are free. After enjoying St. Barth a lot, we continued on to Antigua, where we had a little episode with our dog. Our next stop was Guadeloupe, where we spent a great week in the 'suburb' of The Saintes, which are a group of nearby islands. We've just arrived at Dominica, for which we have high expectations. But a tropical wave has been passing through, so all we've seen so far is rain. We hope to enjoy going inland before having to rush down to Grenada for hurricane season."

In addition to Columbier, visitors to St. Barth can also anchor for free at Shell Beach, Grand Saline and Baie St. Jean. None of these places are as convenient as Gustavia, but they're all sweet. By the way, we've been advised that "all the rooms and hotels are sold out on St. Barth for the first two weeks in November." It's all because of two events. The first, to be held November 6-8, is the 60th anniversary of Marius Stackelborough's Le Select Bar, probably the most famous watering hole in the Caribbean. Born in 1923, our friend Marius is a one-of-a-kind. People flew in from all over the world for the 50th anniversary of Le Select, and they'll be doing the same for the 60th. Among the many musicians playing will be Marius' longtime and dear friend Jimmy Buffett, who apparently is hosting a free blues festival at about the same time.

It's been a busy nine years for Jim and Jo Patrick of Orinda, as they spent part of the time working and part of the time cruising their 52-ft Starrlite. Starting from Bermuda, they have traveled to the following places: In '01, Bermuda, Azores, England, France, Belgium and Holland. In '02, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. In '03, Norway, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar. In '04, Gibraltar, Spain, France, Italy, Montenegro and Croatia. In '05, Croatia, Italy, Tunisia, France, Spain, Bermuda and Maryland. In '06, Maryland, Delaware, and New York. In '07, New York, Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. In '08, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. And in '09, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and California. When they passed under the Golden Gate on August 1, it was expected that there would be a large crowd of well-wishers on the bridge to welcome them home, including the Boobah Boys Band, of which Jim is normally a member. The cheering was to be followed by a party at the St. Francis YC to celebrate the completion of their voyage and Jim and Jo's 44th anniversary.

Congratulations are due the Arnold family — parents Geoff and Karen, and teenage daughters Claire and Alex — for having arrived back in Brisbane following a nearly three-year circumnavigation aboard their Dufour 4400 Fafner. The Arnolds started their trip around the world with Ha-Ha 13, and actually tied the knot in the Marquesas a few months ago. An unusual feature of their trip around is that they returned home from the Med via the Straits of Magellan and the Central Pacific as opposed to the Panama Canal. We hope to have more on their trip in the next issue.

"I just want to say 'hi' to everybody," writes Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell, which is currently in French Polynesia. "Thanks to $1,400 in generous donations from Latitude readers, I'm well on my way to getting the funds I need to repair Swell's slow leak. She's already been hauled and I will undertake repairs as soon as I get back to her from California. I thank all of you so much, and I promise to try to keep the loop of generosity circular in every way that I can."

Ah, the 'loop of generosity.' When we were 15, we hitchhiked from the Bay Area to Canada to work at a camp. The next summer we hitchhiked to another summer job in Colorado and back. You obviously can't do stuff like that today, but people were so generous to us back then that we've never forgotten it. Indeed, it's one of the reasons we try to take as many people as possible sailing — especially younger folks with little money to spare — on Profligate.

Last month William Nokes of the Brookings, Oregon-based Gulfstar 41 Someday reported that he was in Costa Rica for the summer. We expressed the opinion that Costa Rica, like the rest of the Pacific Coast of Central America, isn't the best place for a boat at that time of year. Noke's most recent report explains why:

"From Puntarenas, Costa Rica, to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, the three of us survived several severe thunderstorms. The first night out we were in the throes of a severe rain and wind storm, when a 'wall' of storm appeared in front of us. Radar shows only intense rain, so you have to extrapolate the other information. But when all you can see is a huge storm off your bow an hour ahead of you, you need to tighten your shorts and make some decisions. My decision was to retreat, so we returned to spectacularly beautiful Bahia de Ballena, which offers pretty good protection. We had no trouble at anchor, so we started out again in the morning. It was no problem until early in the evening when we neared the south end of the Gulf of Papagayo and encountered more storms. The nature of these coastal storms seems to be that they start at the line of hills as the sun heats the land. As long as the daily diurnal winds are blowing onshore, they stay on shore. But once the wind weakens, the storms — which are already throwing a lot of spikes of fire — start to migrate wherever they want to go, usually not more than 10 miles offshore. The huge dark shapes that you have to travel under become scarier as you realize that your boat's mast is by far the tallest thing for miles, and each lightning bolt — which can power a city for several days — can zap you into history in a pico second.

"You make attempts to avoid the worst of the patches of black ahead of you," Nokes continues, "but to your complete astonishment, one will form over you where a minute before it was clear with stars. Suddenly the wind picks up and the temperature drops at least 20 degrees. The wind strengthens to maybe 30 knots, then vacillates between warm and cold. Then the rain starts with drops, but soon there are sheets of it. It becomes so thick that neither you nor your radar can see through it. It rains maybe an inch a minute! Then the rain eases to a more normal amount for 15 minutes, then quits. Soon it seems as if you were worried about nothing. By midnight the threat seems to be gone."

There are some places in the tropics where the off-season weather usually isn't dangerous. But it can be dangerous in Central America, which is why we advise against off-season travel.

"White sand beaches, towering mountains over quiet harbors, shoreside bars and hopping nightlife — you don't need to head to the Caribbean or Baja to find these things," writes Mike Josselyn of the San Anselmo-based Ultimate 20 Uhoo! "All you have to do is head up to Tahoe. For those with pocket cruisers, Tahoe is a perfect place for a low-budget short vacation. As I was unable to head down to Baja to cruise with my friends, I trailered my Ultimate 20 up to the lake. Although the typically fickle lake winds can rapidly change direction and speed, just a three-hour sail took me to many state parks, lakeside cafes and diners, as well as to the nightlife at Stateline. It's also possible to do a five-day cruise, stopping at a different anchorage each night. While only Emerald Bay has mooring buoys, it's easy to find sheltered bays and coves. And plenty of shoreside amenities can be found at places like Sunnyside Marina, Tahoe City, and Zephyr Cove. The snorkeling at Sand Harbor is great — but you need a wetsuit. Hiking up Mt. Tallac from Emerald Bay to touch the snow and returning to the beach for a BBQ is another treat that can't be beat. But beware of low lake levels, because keel boats can be launched at only a few places."

If you're cruising this summer, we'd sure love to hear from you. Just with a note and some high-res photos.

Missing the pictures? See the August 2009 eBook!


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