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August 2010

Missing the pictures? See the August 2010 eBook!

  With reports this month from Beach Access on a niece's first Baja Bash; from Geja on partying through the Adriatic; from Capricorn Cat on fun with Sea Level in Tahiti, and Kialoa III and Cirque in Baja; from Jesse's Girl on eight months in Mexico; from Isis on a crossing from La Paz to Hilo; and Cruise Notes.

Beach Access — Lagoon 380
Alyssa Twitchell
Like A Baja Bash Virgin
(Cal State Fullerton)

When I learned my uncle Glenn was going to deliver his Lagoon 380 catamaran Beach Access back to California from Mexico, I asked if I could join him. Having done several Bashes before, he knew how rough it could be, so he wasn't sure if at 21-year-old like me was serious. I told him that I knew it might not be fun, but I wanted to go for the adventure. Besides, I'd visited him on his cat in Barra Navidad last year, so I knew something about the boat and wanted more time in his world. So on June 28, I flew to Cabo to meet him.

I've had some sailing experience, but nothing prepared me for the journey I was about to embark on. After waiting four days for a weather window, we headed out up the coast of Baja on July 2. The four nights and five days I've had at sea on the Bash was the most enlightening experience of my life. I live in Orange County, where the fast pace of life had been consuming me, so being at sea was an enormous change. For if I wasn't witnessing the free sea life, the amazing sunrises and sunsets, or standing adrenaline pumping night watches on my own, I was savoring the peace and serenity of the oceans.

Having spent a little more time at sea, I began to feel the passion other sailors have described. Each passing day as we made our way up the coast seemed more spiritual. Being at sea made me feel as it I were on another planet, a planet where beauty and contentment weren't to be found in make-up and clothes, but in things like the sun's reflection off the ocean or the sight of dolphins swimming along with the cat. I found my sense of being, my true soul that had been constricted by the compulsive thinking society had forced upon me.

It's frustrating not to be able to adequately put my feelings into words, but the bottom line is that the trip showed me what true beauty is and what true joy can be.

There wasn't much wind, and the seas were smooth for the first two days of our passage. But on the third day I came to realize why sailors call the trip up from Cabo 'The Bash'. For two days we had 20+ knot winds on the nose, which had us bouncing around and reduced the boat speed to as little as two knots.

But as the time passed and we neared Southern California, the marine layer replaced the sun. Although the weather had begun to sour, our spirits were still soaring. It was a wonderful and educational trip for me, and since Uncle Glenn says the Ha-Ha is 10 times more fun than the Bash, I guess I'll have to see for myself.

— alyssa 07/10/10

Geja — Islander 36
Andrew Vik
Boras, Babes, and Albania
(San Francisco)

I’m back in the Med for a third straight season of party cruising aboard Geja, the ‘76 Islander 36 that the Sandys of Palo Alto sailed most of the way around the world during the ‘90s. I arrived in Geja’s winter home near Split, Croatia, in mid-June during an oppressive heat wave. After four long, sweaty days in the boatyard, Geja was back in the water and I was ready to go — just in time for Europe’s reliably unreliable weather to return. Unlike most cruisers, I commit to a precise, but relaxed, summer schedule, which enables my many friends and acquaintances in both San Francisco and northern Europe to book flights ahead of time and join me for one- or two-week legs. I manage to see a lot this way and rarely have to sail alone, which I don’t consider to be safe or fun.

Among my first crew this year was Norwegian Sven Halle, owner of the Vancouver-based Jeanneau 49 Norfinn. We first met in ‘06 in Cabo, where he’d just finished trailing the Ha-Ha fleet down the Baja coast. I myself being half-Norwegian, we became quick friends. Just shy of 70 years old, Sven was my second-oldest crewmember to date, trailing a 71-year-old Dane from the ‘08 voyage. Despite his age, Sven is still a great sailor, and not one to allow a happy hour to be skipped. If only he’d joined me at the bars as my wingman!

I spent the first two weeks sailing down Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, which is one of Europe’s most popular charter destinations. Cruisers are hard to find among the huge fleets of newer Bavaria brand sailboats. In fact, many cruisers don’t spend long in Croatia, one of the big reasons being that they are charged as much as 20 euro a night to anchor off some places. The 150-euro annual cruising permit is another reason. And just added this year is a new method of collecting the Sojourn Tax, which tacks on up to another 175 euro a year.

In Croatia’s defense, it's probably the safest and cleanest country in the Med.

Sven and I, with an assist from Oakland native Allison, set sail toward Dubrovnik in the south, visiting the islands of Hvar, Korcula, Mljet and others on the way. The weather was ridiculously unstable. Although we managed not to get slammed by anything while underway, there were some interesting moments at anchor. From time to time powerful wind gusts came out of nowhere, and rain fell as I had imagined possible only in the tropics. But we still managed to get in some fine sailing down to Dubrovnik, the crown jewel of Croatia. What a marvelous walled town behind a magical 1.5-mile wall! The anchorage off the centuries-old, locals-only harbor was rolly, but offered both a view to die for and easy dinghy access to the old town.

With Henkku of Finland joining a leg for her third straight summer, we continued south, checking out of Croatia at Cavtat, the country’s southernmost port of entry/exit. Anchored out the night before checkout, I was reminded of a huge sailing topic in the Adriatic — the bora wind. This nighttime catabolic wind comes out of nowhere in the summer, blowing down from the steep mountains along the coast. During other times of the year, it's a dry, cold, fierce wind that can blow for days. The strongest gust ever recorded was 160 mph!

For Henkku and me, the fun began at midnight. The wind built, along with a mile of fetch, and the 20-kg Bruce anchor began to slip slowly through the weedy bottom. In the dark of night, with the wind over 30 knots, we used the Navionics app on my iPhone to scour the bay for a spot less affected by the fetch. After several failed attempts to get the anchor to stick, we motored around the corner into an eerily calm Cavtat. We tied up at the Customs Dock, assuring us a good night’s sleep and our being first in line to clear out in the morning.

Montenegro, a small country of fewer than 700,000 citizens, is Croatia’s neighbor to the south. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, and until ‘06 part of Serbia, Montenegro is often skipped by cruisers. After all, cruisers are a thrifty bunch, and cruising permits in Montenegro start at 40 euro per week. I opted for the one-month permit, which cost 100 euro.

Montenegro’s primary nautical attraction is Kotor Fjord, which is comparable to the fjords in Norway. Kotor Fjord runs 16 miles in from the Adriatic through a series of bays, and the town of Kotor is at the head of the fjord. The fourth UNESCO World Heritage site I’ve visited during my voyages, Kotor is yet another walled town with narrow, stone alleyways. I never seem to tire of places like that. Unlike in tourist-infested Croatia, the trendy folks of Kotor seemed to genuinely be interested in us, so it had a much more friendly and open vibe. Even berthing was a relatively good deal at just 30 euro per night — especially when the bora came up later.

Five miles northwest of Kotor lies the mellow seaside village of Perast, which was to be one of my favorite stops. In stable weather we could tie to the harbor wall of the coziest of small towns, backed by steep granite mountains, for free. Joining me for the fun in Perast was Sepideh, an Iranian-born San Francisco resident on her way home from Tehran.

Next up was Herceg Novi, where I completely botched my Med-mooring attempt — twice! Given the narrow fairway, the slight crosswind, and the Islander’s insane prop-walk, Geja was hard to handle. If only she had a bow thruster.

We reached Budva, the final stop in this leg, in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. The Budva Riviera is a somewhat bloated tourist area, although it has a fantastic old town and features the best partying on the coast of Montenegro.

While Croatia typically teems with Brit and Aussie backpackers, Budva gets the holidaymakers from Serbia and Russia, so every night there was a spectacular parade of thin, long-legged supermodels. One of my female crew was so impressed that she declared that Budva would be the place to become a lesbian! How the backpacker contingent has missed Budva is beyond me. Although the local pop music, called turbo-folk, takes some getting used to, we spent five nights at Budva.

A young Swedish couple having joined me, we headed farther south, where we had the waters almost to ourselves. While at a small bay north of Bar, I got another taste of nighttime bora winds. Around midnight, Geja was hit by rig-shaking gusts in the 30s that came down from the high coastal mountains — that we had so enjoyed viewing during the day! The noise and vibrations were nerve-wracking, and sleep was impossible. But the 20-kg Bruce anchor held fast to the sandy bottom until the winds abated at 10 a.m. It's true that we'd been on a windward shore and therefore had been in little danger, but still, I hadn’t come to the Med to challenge the wind gods. And I needed my sleep.

Bypassing Bar, which is an industrial town, we stopped at Ulcinj in southern Montenegro, where we discovered how schizophrenic this nation with the population of San Francisco can be. For in contrast to the supermodel parade in Budva, Ulcinj was like a Turkish bazaar, complete with mosques and more kebab vendors than one could visit in a month. Folks in the Ulcinj region are ethnically Albanian, with a large number of tourists from Kosovo, both of which have significant Muslim populations.

We then crossed our fingers — and toes — and sailed across the border to Albania, best known for being one of the most paranoid communist countries ever. Rather than stopping at Albania, most cruisers opt for the straight shot to Corfu, Greece, or across the Strait of Otranto to Italy. You see, Albania has a bit of a seedy past, there are few good anchorages, checking in can be troublesome and requires berthing in industrial ports, and the charts indicate that hundreds of square miles of the coast are infested with mines — although the cruising guide insists that surface navigation is now safe everywhere. Despite these negatives, we decided to go for it.

Sailing south toward Albania, we really had old Geja flying along, averaging 7.1 knots on the most dreamlike broad reach ever. That was for the first three hours. The remainder of the trip was 18 hours under power, after which we arrived at Orikum in Vlore Bay, which is Albania’s only marina. The marina was in a place isolated from the town of Vlore. It seems as though the Italians who made the marina had a 'build it and they will come' attitude, but they haven't come. There were about 20 boats when we arrived, most of them resident boats. Our official check-in to the country was done at no charge by the marina staff, so by afternoon we had headed in for our first glimpse of Albanian life. We'll get into that in next month's report.

From Croatia to Albania, I covered 500 miles, although only 30% was under sail alone. The stable weather in July provided some nice afternoon sailing, but the mornings and nights were calm — except for boras. Geja, which handles so beautifully under sail, has again performed reliably and comfortably. The only real casualty in 2.5 summers of Med cruising has been the outboard for the dinghy, which died recently. For an older boat, I’ve got Geja pretty well tricked out, with NMEA data flowing this way and that way, all originating from a simple Garmin 72 in the cockpit. Most of my navigation is done using a MacENC on a 13-inch MacBook Pro. New this year is an unlocked iPhone, which does pretty much everything but the dishes. Throw in a local SIM card, and you can Facebook your way along the coast at 3G speeds. The best is the Navionics app, which provides basic chart plotting and detailed charts of the entire Med for about $18.

I know that data over cell towers are the way to go in the U.S. and Mexico, but they aren't as practical when there are as many national borders as there are here. For onboard Wifi, I picked up a Bad Boy Extreme, an outdoor weatherproof router/repeater made by a Canadian company. Run an Ethernet cable between it and your nav station, and you can surf from hotspots up to a few miles away. It’s designed well and is powered by injecting 12 volts into the Ethernet cable. Unlike with remote Wifi, cable length is not an issue. The higher the placement the better. I just wish I’d splurged on their secondary device, which would have turned my entire boat into her own Wifi zone.

Next up on my summer agenda are the Ionian islands of Greece, which I’ve been told are the busiest cruising grounds in Europe.

— andrew 07/15/10

Cap Cat — Hughes 45
Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly
Mexico and Tahiti

One of the great things that happens when you go cruising is that you become friends with scores of other cruisers who later invite you to join them in other great parts of the world. So it was that Wayne and Carol recently flew to Tahiti to spend 12 days aboard Jim and Kent Milski’s Schionning 49 Sea Level, which Jim completed from a kit in Vallejo. The two couples were friends from Ha-Ha’s and cruising in Mexico.

“We had a fabulous time with Jim and Kent, and we really enjoyed the terrific Tahiti Rendevous for Pacific Puddle Jump boats that was put on by Tahiti Tourism with huge help from Andy ‘Mr. Puddle Jump’ Turpin of Latitude,” says Wayne. One of the most hilarious parts of our visit was when we were at this sandy spot on a reef off Moorea where all the tourists are brought to feed the ‘domesticated’ sting rays. Jim was the first in the chest-deep water, and in a few seconds a ray started to come right at him. It was with love, of course, but it was a little spooky because the ray was four feet across and just kept coming . . . right up Jim’s chest and into his face! “I’m okay with this! I’m okay with this! I’m okay with this!” Jim kept repeating. We laughed like crazy, but before long the rest of us got into the act.”

“Feeding the rays at that spot is a really popular tourist activity,” Wayne continued. “It wouldn’t be if the tourists knew what was going on beneath the surface. We were the only ones with masks, so we knew that just 40 feet away in the pass were countless numbers of eight- to ten-foot sharks! The big ones pretty much minded their own business, but before long the two- and three-footers were swimming with the rays around and between the legs of the tourists! If they had known, some of them surely would have freaked.”

“We also had a great time on the Rendezvous Race from Tahiti to Moorea. We on Sea Level were in the wrong place at the start, so we fell quite a bit behind the rest of the fleet. But then the wind filled in strongly, and we took off. We hit speeds up to 19 knots under white sails alone, and were soon passing the typically overloaded cruising monohulls as if they were standing still. In the end, there were two other cats, including Steve May and Manjuela aboard the Gualala-based Corsair 41 cat Endless Summer, a couple of other cruising friends from Mexico, and a big monohull battling for line honors. After it was over, all four of the skippers agreed that they should have reefed. But you know how competitive sailors can get — particularly if you’d seen Steve in the banana race.

“Because of our visit with Jim and Kent, we’ve changed our cruising plans. We were going to cruise Mexico this winter and then make the easy sail to Hawaii in March to ease Carol into long ocean passages. But after being in French Polynesia, Carol said there was no reason to wait. So now we’ll do Mexico, but in March we’ll head to French Polynesia instead of Hawaii. But we’re doing a ton of work on Cap Cat before then.

“While family issues back home meant we’d only been able to spend about one of the last seven months on Cap Cat in Mexico, we did have a great time while we were there. For example, we had a fabulous 400-or-so-mile trip from P.V. up to Caleta Partida off La Paz. We first got wind at Isla Isabella, so we put the sails up and were doing 8s and 10s. We pulled abeam of Mazatlan so quickly that we decided to just continue on across the Sea instead of stopping for the night. We close-reached across the Sea at about 12 knots. After dropping the hook at Muertos for the night, we woke up to a southerly — which isn’t uncommon in May — so we put the chute up and had a spinnaker run from there to Caleta Partida. It was our fastest and most fun trip ever from P.V. to Caleta Partida, and I’ve done a lot of them.

“Once at Caleta Partida, we pulled a great cruising couple over to the dark side. For when we got into Ensenada Grande, our favorite anchorage in those parts, we motored around, and swung by the legendary S&S 79 Kialoa III that was on the hook. She had been purchased about seven months before from Orange Coast College by Canadians Dave and Kim Griffith, and they were sitting on deck chairs beneath an awning really enjoying life. “You set a good example for the rest of us,” I shouted.

“The following day this really terrific couple had us over for cocktails, and we learned that Dave had been in the used car business — but not just any used cars. He specialized in buying used Rolls and Bentleys and sending them back to England. He worked his way up to owning a Rolls dealership and now, in his early ‘50s, was able to retire. We had so much fun with the couple that we invited them to join us on Cap Cat the next day for a trip up to dive with the sea lions. After our dive, the wind came up, so we set sail. That’s when Dave and Kim started going over to the dark side.

“To say these great folks were impressed with a catamaran would be an understatement. One reason is that, unlike Kialoa, Cap Cat doesn’t have 1.5-inch jib sheets, it doesn’t take 10 men to drop her main off at the sailmaker, and she doesn’t have a spinnaker pole — let alone a 35-foot one like Kialoa. In addition, Cap Cat doesn’t heel, an important consideration for Dave, who has had both hips replaced, and Kim, who was about to have a hip replaced in La Paz.

“A couple of days later, Dave and Kim told us that they’d put Kialoa III up for sale and were in the market for a cruising cat. About this time Louis Kruk and Laura Willerton of the San Leandro-based Beneteau 42s7 Cirque showed up and joined us. Louis had raced all over the world aboard Kialoa III, so he regaled us with stories of the tragic Fastnet Race of ‘79, of sailing with King Juan Carlos of Spain, some big shot from Monaco, and stuff like that. Louis had a million Kialoa stories.

Kialoa is a handful for a cruising couple, but she’s still in good shape and still looks great. Kim says that when Dave walked down the dock to see her for the first time, he got that certain look in his eye. “You’re going to buy this boat, aren’t you?" she told him. “Probably,” he replied. I haven’t been without a boat in 40 years, and that’s the way I’ve bought all mine. I fall in love with them at first sight, buy them, and just deal with any problems later.

I’m not surprised the couple aren’t interested in a cruising cat. After all, of the 36 Puddle Jump boats that braved the strong weather to make it across to Moorea for the party, 12 of them were cats. And when we pulled into the police dock in San Diego after a windless Baja Bash in July, there were more cats than ever.”

— wayne 07/20/10

Jesse’s Girl — Cat/Morgan 440
Jesse and Shanna Hibdon
Cruising Mexico
(Ex-Alameda / San Diego)

After talking with Jesse and Shanna at the police dock in San Diego following their July Baja Bash, we were reminded of how adventurous, unpredictable, and comedic the cruising life can be. The couple moved aboard their boat at Marina Village in Alameda the day they bought her in ‘06, had an onboard party for 38, and have been living aboard ever since. In ‘08, they decided to relocate in San Diego.

“I’d always wanted to do a Ha-Ha so bad,” says Shanna, “so even though we weren’t going to be doing it ourselves, I was excited that we were going to be in San Diego and could enjoy the festivities of the Kick-Off Party. Two couples — Scott and Sue Rader of the Sausalito-based Catalina 42 Suebee, and Michael and Judy Stouffer of the Alameda-based Catalina Milagro — who are good friends of ours, were going to do the '08 Ha-Ha on Suebee. Well, on the Saturday before the Monday start, Michael went to see an eye doctor about an infection. The doctor told him it was possible he could lose vision in that eye if he did the Ha-Ha. So Michael and Judy were out and Scott and Sue needed crew. So I said, 'I’ll go!' And I did."

“That did it,” remembers Jesse. “Shanna kept calling me to say what a good time she was having, so I decided right then that we’d be taking our boat down on the '09. And we did. In fact, we took the Stouffers as crew. And oh God, did we have a great time in Mexico! We spent eight months down there, and even though we didn’t get south of Banderas Bay, the good times were really good, and the bad times weren’t that bad at all.”

One of the most unpredictable things about cruising is how differently rules and laws are interpreted by Mexican officials. For example, the couple noted that, depending on what port you’re checking in or out of, you can just call in your clearance, or you might be able to have a marina do it, or you might have to show up at the port captain’s office.

Then there are the strange rules when clearing for the States from La Paz. “If you clear from La Paz to San Diego, says Jesse, “you have to have your boat inspected and pay $100 per crewmember to get a health clearance. La Paz is the only port that requires this, so we just cleared out of Ensenada for the States instead.

“You'd think officials would require a health clearance from a crew when they were arriving in Mexico, not departing,” laughs Shanna.

When they got to Ensenada, the Customs guy demanded to know where the other two people on the crew list were. As we’ve written previously, when you cruise in Mexico, the proof that you cleared in is your crew you had at your port of entry — even though crew will later leave or join the boat. Somewhat understandably, the Customs folks in Ensenada demanded to know where the other people on Jesse’s Girl's crew list were. It took a while to get that straightened out.

While checking out of Ensenada, another official demanded to see a certificate proving that Jesse’s Girl was insured — just as all the marinas had. Jesse told the official that the boat was insured, which she was, but that the proof was out on the boat. The official told him to bring it with him when he returned. Jesse did, but the official didn't ask to see it again.

If you think Mexican officials are out to harass cruisers, here’s proof that they aren’t. When Jesse and Shanna sailed up into the Sea of Cortez, they realized that their six-month tourist visas had almost expired. So they went to Immigration to get an extension. The official at Immigration told them not to worry; they didn’t need an extension! Indeed, when they cleared out of Ensenada a couple of months later, no official said anything about their visas having expired two months before!

Before anyone starts to criticize the professionalism of Mexican officials, remember that U.S. officials aren’t any more consistent. For when Jesse’s Girl cleared in at the police dock in San Diego, two female Customs officers said the couple would have to destroy their citrus fruits and, if they wanted to keep their eggs, would have to boil them right then. Mind you, these officers didn’t say anything about having to confiscate meat or anything meat had touched, including packaging. And this was less than a week after different Customs officers on the very same police dock had told Doña de Mallorca of Profligate that not only did all meat products, and everything they had come in contact with, have to be confiscated, but would have to be incinerated at great expense.

Then came the matter of the annual $27 Customs sticker. Jesse said he wasn’t familiar with it. One of the Customs officers told him, “We never used to enforce the law requiring them, but we’ve started now.” Funny, because we’ve had to buy one for Profligate every year.

Of course, if you want real unpredictability, there’s the weather on the Baja Bash. “There were seven boats that got stuck in Bahia Santa Maria for 12 days,” laughs Jesse. “I had to start making water for some of the other boats because they were running out.”

“Then we started to run out of food,” remembers Shanna. “We were down to rice and beans. So when we eventually made it to Turtle Bay, we bought most of the food in town. I walked out of a store with 22 bags of groceries," she laughs.”

If you’ve done a Ha-Ha, you know how salubrious the weather is at Bahia Santa Maria in late October. Well, it’s not like that in June or July. “It was cold,” says Jesse, “so cold that we even had to wear jackets in the afternoons.”

A few days after the food-buying binge in Turtle Bay, Jesse’s Girl left the north anchorage at Cedros for Colnett a little bit after the Helena, Montana-based Columbia 50 Bliss. The 50 was for all intents and purposes being singlehanded by a really likeable fellow named Scott, who was new to sailing. Jesse and Shanna got to Colnett first, and later got a VHF call from Scott saying he was eight miles from Colnett and was having to sail to the anchorage because of engine problems. “Six hours later we got another call from Scott, saying he was still sailing, but now he was nine miles away! When he arrived in the wee hours, he dropped the hook next to a massive kelp bed. The next morning we towed him out of the kelp and into the anchorage.

Scott's being faced with plugged fuel filters and having had little success sailing upwind, the next thing the Hibdons knew was that he had called BOAT/US, and they were sending a boat to tow him the 90 or so miles up to San Diego.

“Scott told us it was going to cost him $1,500 out of pocket,” remembers Shanna.

Do Jesse and Shanna ever want to do another season in Mexico?

“Oh yes!” says Shanna, “I want to go again this fall.”

“We’ve got about 12 close friends who are going to do the Ha-Ha,” says Jesse, “but I’m not sure we’ll make it again this year. But when you cruise, every day is an adventure, so we sure want to go again in the future."

— richard 06/10/10

Isis — Allied Princess 36
Burke, Kacey and Quinn Stancill
La Paz to Hilo, Hawaii

When you’re lucky enough to be able to do one of those things that’s been on your ‘list’ for a long time, one of the challenges is reconciling the reality of the experience with the expectations you’ve built up. This reconciliation became one of the main themes of our passage from La Paz to Hilo. “This,” Kacey would say a few times, “was not in the brochure.”

This is not to say that sailing to Hawaii didn’t live up to its billing. It was just different. For example, had anyone told me we’d be in fleece and foulies for the first 1,200 miles, I would have laughed at them. Or that we wouldn’t see one whale the whole way. (We saw so many in Mexico that eventually Quinn wouldn't necessarily get out of his cabin to look at them.) Or that we’d finish our 27-day passage so happy, tranquil, and blissed-out that we didn’t even bother to get off the boat for a whole day. We were perfectly content to savor the peaceful anchorage and the last pot of chili, and not having to get up to stand watch. (Plus, we had to finish Charlotte’s Web.)

In contrast with our expectations, we had fairly rough weather. A several-day gale was blowing on the outside of the Baja when we came around the tip at Cabo Falso, which was a bit of ‘good news/bad news’. The good news was that we immediately started making 120-mile days where we'd expected to be scratching for any miles we could get in the light, fluky breezes off Mexico. The bad news was that while we tried to get our ‘sea legs’ (code for not barfing over the leeward rail every once in a while, and slowly breaking down under the lack of sleep), things were fairly chaotic on the boat. After all, we could see three distinct swells fighting with each other, the wind was a constant howl in the sails and rigging, and a couple of times a minute the entire deck and cockpit would be drenched with the spray of a wave that smacked into our beam. Good fun. Oh yeah, and the little salty drip constantly working through the corner of the window over the sea berth added to it.

Over the middle couple weeks though, a couple of good things happened. One was that our bodies acclimated to being at sea. Like the poor folks living a couple feet away from the subway tracks, we were amazed to find ourselves sleeping through the cacophony. The twin miracles of earplugs and abject exhaustion helped. The other development was that the wind slowly abated and clocked around to the northeast — as it's supposed to do in the northeast trades. The wind was still what they call “reinforced” for the majority of our trip. As a result, we were amazed to find ourselves under deeply reefed jib, reefed mizzen and no main, yet making a consistent 6+ knots with little bursts of actual surfing. Who knew our 38-year-old girl — buried in a literal ton of provisions by my amazing wife, a descendant of Mormons, had it in her?

Further, with only about 1,000 miles to go, the conditions turned pretty sweet. For several days, we zipped along pretty comfortably, which allowed us to make a few loaves of bread, do some dishes, straighten things up, catch a beautiful mahi, and grab some quality sleep. And in addition to chatting to a nice Russian skipper on a ship en route from Korea to Panama, we read a dozen books with Quinn.

Oh yes, the Quinnster. Even though we live with the guy, we were still astonished at his indomitable good spirits. To be fair, he does kind of get the VIP treatment around here. I mean, he’s four, so he’s not expected to do much beyond keep his room safely stowed and not spill his soup. But still, his ability to keep a Zen groove on was unbelievable. More than once, he was the only one on the boat who managed to see the beauty of the situation. When at some point Kacey articulated a thought I was having — “I’m sick of this. I don’t want to have to sail up to British Columbia after we get to Hawaii!” — Quinn’s response was nice and calm. “Come on, Mom. This is just what we do.”

Quinn was also the beneficiary of one of the most thoughtful gifts that any of us has ever seen. Chris and Emily, the kids on Adios III, who themselves are survivors of a transoceanic passage in their formative years, put together a Treasure Chest consisting of a month’s worth of daily gifts. The gifts were cool things such as note pads, pens, superhero napkins, kits to make Mother’s Day and Happy Birthday cards, spools of string, and the like. Opening these gifts gave Quinn something to look forward to when his parents were boring and also added structure to his day.

By the time we were closing on the Big Island, the wind went downright light. Thanks to the second-hand drifter we picked up from the great folks on Eros in La Paz, we were able to keep our boat bobbing forward. The last 250 miles were nice and gentle, but a little hard to appreciate so late in the game. The last 16 miles into Hilo took almost 13 hours.

Ultimately, we found ourselves in Hilo, which we knew to be a true island paradise from previous visits. It would be hard to imagine a better blend of old Hawaii and stuff you want from the modern world after a month at sea. For example, it’s a great town to find sushi or get a tattoo, but it’s also a fine place for people watching after having not seen many people for so long.

Our plans are to go check out the volcano, soak in the warm ponds, load up at the farmer’s market, and hit the sails again. We’d like to see Molokai, Lanai and Maui on our way to Honolulu, where we have several boat jobs on the punch list — such as rebedding the port above the sea berth. We’ll then work over to Kauai and deal with tearing ourselves away from these incredible islands and sailing north. People say the biggest bummer of the next leg is that it gets colder every day.

As for our nearly 40-year-old boat, she's basically ready for the next leg, although a few things need to be refreshed. At least we're beginning to learn to stay in front of the maintenance, rather than respond to problems after something breaks or wears out. We did have to heave to for a couple hours on the way to re-sew a spot or two on the foot of the jib where the cover was fraying. The amount of work our old sails continue to do amazes us. From Cabo Falso to on the hook at Radio Bay, we ran the engine for a total of half an hour. Yes, we were powered by cloth pulling and pushing our boat through the water. After relying on your boat for so long, you can't help but develop a weird sort of personal attachment — with what we constantly remind ourselves is just a thing. But a thing that became our great friend.

During a nearly four-week ocean passage, you get a fair amount of time to just sit and think. It’s a bit disappointing then not to have distilled any particular crystals of wisdom. Largely this trip seems to have reminded us about many of the things we already knew and believed. For example, Kacey talks about being struck by how happy she feels with just the basics of life. Such as the ability to eat dinner without dumping it all over the place. A good night’s sleep. How all we really need is a place to sleep, a little warm food, and some quiet time with people we love. Quinn would add that ice cream is one of the basics of life.

­— burke 07/05/10

Cruise Notes:

There's an interesting trend in the sailboat market: Aussies and Kiwis are coming to California to buy boats. They figure they can buy them, take a year or two cruising them back home — and break even on the whole adventure. Patrick Bloomer of the Margaret River area south of Perth in Western Australia is one such guy, and he says he knows of six other Aussie boatbuyers who were doing the same thing six months ago.

Shopping online, Bloomer found a fully-equipped Ian Farrier 44 cat, the construction of which was supervised by Farrier himself in San Diego, for sale for $250,000. What got him really keen on the deal is that the price had just been dropped to $250,000 from $380,000. Figuring it would be hard to lose on a four-year-old cat that had only been sailed 18 times and was fully equipped, he bought her sight unseen for $220,000. While Tiger is a "beautiful ocean cat that really moves, and is structurally very sound," Bloomer now thinks buying a boat unseen is "not very bright."

"We've had problems with just about everything in getting Tiger sea safe," he explains. "The kick-up rudders weren't up to the job, so we had to build new ones. All the 12-volt stuff was really a mess. The engines needed to be realigned, but what's worse is that they are mounted right on the hulls so the whole boat vibrates like crazy when we run them. But worst of all, after sailing 100 miles in the direction of Hawaii, we discovered a major problem with the triad, which is where the upper shrouds and headstay meet on the rotating mast. We had to come back to San Diego and are having to take the rigging apart and go over it all. At least we didn't lose the mast. We'd had the rig inspected once, but the problems couldn't be seen without taking the turnbuckles apart."

Despite having to pour a bunch of time and money into the cat — he gives a big thanks to the Newport Harbor YC for putting them up for a month — Bloomer thinks he still might break even. A big factor will be what the Aussie officials value the cat at when she arrives in Bundaberg. The U.S. and Australia have a duty-free trade agreement, but the Aussie government slaps a 10% GSC or sales tax on boats new to Australia.

Because of the months of delays, Bloomer doubts he'll be able to get Tiger back to Western Australia this year as planned, and will only make it to the East Coast. We talked a bit about sailing in Australia, and he said that, while Sydney is certainly the center of the action, catamarans are very popular on the Queensland Coast in areas protected by the Great Barrier Reef. The only problem is that once you get very far north of the Whitsunday Islands, the saltwater crocs and box jellyfish make it hazardous to go into the water. And it remains hazardous all the way across the north part of the continent over to Broome, which is at about the same latitude as Townsville. Once south of there to Perth, it's often windy with big seas. No wonder so many Aussie sailors head north to Indonesia.

"I go up to Indonesia all the time," Bloomer told us. "It's perfect up there. I've always gone to surf because the waves are so great, but there is great sailing by West Timor to Bali. Once you get to Sumatra, however, it's light winds and you have to motor."

Bloomer isn't positive why boat prices are lower in the States, but figures it might have something to do with there being many more boats here than in New Zealand and Oz, as well as a recently favorable exchange rate. Whatever the reason, we're told that Seth and Elizabeth Hynes sold their Lagoon 380 Honeymoon at a premium in Australia compared to what they could have gotten in California. The San Francisco couple bought the boat on the East Coast of the U.S. in '08, cruised to Australia, but now have a little one — congrats to you! — and are living back in The City. Several other cruisers are mulling over sailing their cats to the Southern Hemisphere and putting them up for sale.

“I’m almost done with my round of good-byes through the islands of Tahiti," reports Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell. “It’s very sad to leave, but I’m excited to move on to new places.” Alas, Liz didn’t mention what new places she was headed to. If we're not mistaken, she just turned 30. Yikes, how time does fly!

Speaking as we were of Southeast Asia, we should report that the Sail Indonesia Rally started on July 26 with a bunch of U.S. boats in the 106-boat fleet. Among the familiar names are: Convergence, West Marine founder Randy Repass's Wylie 66 from Santa Cruz; Esprit, Charles, Catherine and Jaime MacWilliams' Kelly-Peterson 46 from Colorado; La Palapa, Roger and Tobé Hayward's Catalina/Morgan 440 from King Harbor; Linda, Steve and Linda Maggart's Bounty II from Elephant Butte, New Mexico; Po 'Oino Roa, Jerry and Kathy McGraw's Kelly-Peterson 44 from Newport Beach; Scarlett O'Hara, John and Renee Prentice's Serendipity 43 from San Diego; Second Wind, Bill Heumann and Marjorie Menz's C&C Landfall 48 from Juneau; Sisiutl, Bob Bechler's Gulfstar 41 from Portland; Thumb's Up, Ivan Orgee's Catalina 42 from Alameda; and Victory Cat, Tim Henning's Seawind 1160 from Anthem, Arizona. All of these boats but Convergence have done the Ha-Ha, and several have done two, three, or even four of them. Also interesting is that Linda, the fiberglass Rhodes Bounty II — sistership to the boat Latitude was founded on — was built in Sausalito 53 years ago! And they said fiberglass boats wouldn't last.

The tragic facts are that Danish-born American sailor Bo Kjaer-Olsen bled to death after being shot in the leg last month by one of the five assailants who attempted to rob his 70-ft S&S schooner Antares while she was at anchor on the Rio Plantanal in Panama. The attack occurred at Baja Pipon, along a sparsely populated stretch of the river roughly eight miles south of the town of Pedregal, where Antares had been anchored for about six months. Kjaer-Olsen’s son Zach was also shot, but survived, although he has a bullet lodged in his spine. Sujey Rodriquez, Zach’s Panamanian wife, was badly beaten but also survived.

Panama, and the upriver city of Pedregal, have long been considered very safe by cruisers, so many began to wonder what might have been the cause of the attack. After researching the matter, reporter Don Winner of the widely read and well-respected online magazine Panama Guide is convinced that it was not a random attack. He believes that Kjaer-Olsen — who was a longtime treasure diver — and his family were singled out because they were believed to have a sizeable quantity of 17th-century gold aboard their schooner. The picture Winner paints of Kjaer-Olsen’s life is a colorful one: Born in Denmark, he immigrated with his family to South Africa, where he lived until the late ‘70s. A passionate outdoorsman, he grew up assisting game wardens in the wild, then later got heavily into scuba diving, rock climbing and exploring uncharted caverns — supposedly motivated by stories of hidden treasure. After falling in love with an American model and moving to Hawaii, he developed a highly successful aquaculture business in the islands. At some point Kjaer-Olsen found Antares for sale in California, and modified her to be a liveaboard boat equipped for diving expeditions.

According to Winner, Kjaer-Olsen had recently completed a salvage operation of a sunken treasure ship in Honduras. His take was reportedly about $200,000 in Spanish gold. Winner thinks that it was the belief that Kjaer-Olsen kept such valuables aboard, rather than locked up in a bank, that led to the attack. Because there is plenty of drug trafficking in and around Panama, others have speculated that drugs may have played a role in the attack. But longtime friends of Kjaer-Olsen are adamant that he would never have been involved in drugs, and say that tales of a large amount of gold being on Antares are complete nonsense, too. All we know for sure is that Kjaer-Olsen is dead, and that most cruisers continue to believe Panama is still a great and safe place to cruise.

For many years there wasn't much in the way of racing in the Sea of Cortez, not even the 'nothing serious' variety. But thanks to the revived Sea of Cortez Sailing Week and, even more so, Bob McAlvain and others who created the Veleros de Baja, that's been changing. The Veleros group is working to put on a regatta a month during the season, and their next big event will be the Governor's Cup from Cabo to La Paz right after the end of this year's Ha-Ha. That will be followed by a Christmas Regatta in December, a Full Moon Regatta in January, a Valentine's Regatta in February, a Carnival Regatta in March, and so forth. All except the Governor's Cup will be based out of La Paz, and most will be relatively short. The Veleros de Baja, the Club Cruceros de La Paz, and Sea of Cortez Sailing Week folks are happily working together to make sure the dates of their events don't conflict so everyone can participate in all the events. By the way, the dates of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week in '11 have been moved from the month of April to the month of May, and will follow Loreto Fest. Participants in past SOC's agreed that it would be a good idea to postpone the event so there would be more time for boats to make it up from the Banderas Bay Regatta in March — and because it's too damn cold for swimming in the Sea in April!

"Two years ago, I wrote Latitude regarding the rough treatment that some foreign yachtsmen were getting from Australian Customs officers, especially those located in Queensland," writes Miles Lewis of the Alamitos Bay-based Ericson 39 Miles Ahead. "The problem was a result of yachties failing to comply with Australia's infamous 96-Hour Notification Rule. It was, and still is, physically impossible for most skippers to communicate as required by the Notification Rule. In '07-'08, an American and a Dutch couple were each separated from tens of thousands of dollars in fines, court costs, and lawyer fees for violating the rule. Relations had become a bit more cordial between officials and cruisers since then. That is, until two weeks ago, when Customs nailed two sailors from New Zealand for $2,750 in fines and court costs. The pair had checked in with a Customs agent at Lord Howe Island while enroute to Brisbane, and thought that this covered the 96-Hour Notification requirement. Wrong! So all cruisers in that area should be aware of the situation."

From time to time over a period of about 10 years starting in the late '90s, we published cruising reports from Hawaii to Southeast Asia from Leslie King of Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Wilderness 40 Tropicbird. King would cruise for awhile, then come home for six months to two years, then cruise again for six months to a year. We regret to report that King passed away on June 15 as the result of a bizarre accident. He and Susan Moniotte, his significant other of seven years, had travelled to his boat in Thailand in February and, when they flew home on March 17, King was suffering from extreme jet-lag. So the next afternoon he took an Ambien to help him sleep. He ended up not only sleepwalking, but falling from the upper level of his condo to the brick floor below. King would spent 13 weeks in various ICU units before he passed on.

In much more pleasant news, the Pimentel family of Alameda — Rodney, Jane, R.J. and Leo — report they are now cruising Europe. While Rodney and fellow racers from Northern California took the family's Leopard 47 Azure II from the Caribbean to the Azores, the last leg from the Azores to Lagos, Portugal, was strictly a family affair. Jane found the last day of that leg to be pretty nasty, with winds to 35 knots, big seas, poor visibility and an endless stream of ships. "For Rodney, of course, it was just another day on the water." she sighs. The 3,439-mile Atlantic crossing was completed in two months' time, including stops at Bermuda and various islands in the much-liked Azores. So far the Pimentels have visited Lisbon, Cadiz, Spain and Gibraltar. In fact, Rodney celebrated his 50th by climbing up the rock. As for Jane, just the thought that they are only a train ride away from Paris makes her feel warm and fuzzy. We know the feeling; it's a good one.

"We recently made our second trip from New Zealand to New Caledonia," report Steve and Dorothy Darden, former residents of Tiburon, "aboard our Morrelli & Melvin 52 catamaran Adagio. "The first time was our maiden voyage in September '00, which was a peaceful passage. This year's voyage wasn't so peaceful, but major dramas were avoided because of typically adroit weather routing advice from Rick Shema of Hawaii. Rick has advised us for 10 years now, and we continue to feel that his professional weather expertise is a very high-return investment. This is especially Rick’s enroute oversight, which on this passage rewarded us with a comfortable trip and, unlike some less fortunate boats, no serious gear breakage. Before leaving Opua, we'd estimated a 4.5-day passage to Noumea. We expected a low to form east of New Caledonia, and this was projected to track southeast, making a rhumb line course to New Caledona viable. Thanks to being confident about our routing, we were the first yacht to clear out of Opua on June 14. As it turned out, our 4.5-day passage became a seven-day passage because the low moved farther west, and we wanted to sail clockwise around it for comfort and safety. But it worked out well."

The normal South Pacific ‘Milk Run’ consists of leaving Mexico in the spring, fooling around in the South Pacific until about October, then heading down to New Zealand for the Southern Hemisphere summer to get out of the tropical cyclone zone. After spending the southern hemisphere summer in New Zealand, in May or June the cruising fleet heads back up to the islands of the South Pacific for another season.

Well, according to Kurt Roll of San Diego, who crewed from Mexico to New Zealand aboard Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzanne Dubose's Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 cat Carinthia, and who was supposed to crew with them back up to Tonga and Fiji, it didn't work out that way this year. "Almost everybody was stuck in New Zealand for at least two months because of bad weather on the often nasty route from New Zealand to the South Pacific," says Roll. "We were delayed so long that Dietmar, who really likes New Zealand, decided to buy a business there with another cruiser. So he put off the return trip to the South Pacific until next year. Roll says that a few boats did get out, but a couple of those that tried really got hammered. In fact, as soon as one cruiser got back to New Zealand, he put his boat up for sale." We'll have more on this and the Carinthia's travels in the next issue.

Shortly after the Fourth of July, while Seattle had temps in the 80s, and the East Coast was roasting in record 100-degree weather, San Diego, of all places, had the lowest high temperature — 59 degrees! — in the United States. It was so cold that girls on the beach were wearing fleece under their bikinis and ski hats. 'June Gloom,' of course, is the norm for all of coastal Southern California, but it's not supposed to last as long as it has this year. "I've lived here forever," says Chuck Driscoll of Driscoll Boatyard on Shelter Island where we spent several weeks with Profligate, "and after the Fourth of July there is only supposed to be a light marine layer, one that burns off by noon. I can't remember it being this bad before." The good news for cruisers headed south is that the best weather months for coastal Southern California are August, September and October.

John and Carol Stubbs, along with their pit bull Hennesey and their collie mix Marley, arrived in California in June after a two-year cruise from Florida aboard their Lauderdale-based Morgan Out-Island 41 Digital. They had a number of adventures that we'll be reporting on next month, but the thing that really attracted our attention was their Jetty Express folding bike. Although John said they had bought the bike only two years before from West Marine in Florida, it was a mass of rust. In fact, all the spokes on the front wheel had rusted to oblivion. "I was going to take it to West Marine to see what they thought of it," said John, "but I'm too embarrassed." But since he'd paid $100 for an extended warranty, we encouraged him to take it back to to see what might happen. Apparently the bike was a little bit older than John had told us, and West Marine couldn't find any record of the purchase or the warranty. So as John had expected all along, his request for a refund was turned down.

It was only by following up on this story that we learned West Marine has changed its once extremely liberal return policy. Although many sailors many not realize it, as of June 1 you have to return things to West Marine within 30 days to get your money back. And you must have the receipt.

While we're sure some people are going to grouse about the dramatic tightening of the rules, it's not that surprising, as the policy has often been abused. We hate to say it, but we've known unscrupulous sailors who have 'bought' some foul weather gear or electronics for a particular event, used them, and then returned them for a full refund — as they had planned all along. And when a few cruisers came back from a season in Mexico, they'd go to West Marine and ask for refunds on products they had a receipt for — and products they claimed to have thrown away in Mexico. As absurd as it sounds, West Marine even honored a few of those requests. It also our understanding that 90% of all electronics returned to West Marine are fully functional. Anyway, there's a new policy, and you've been warned.

It’s no secret that our favorite island in the Caribbean, and probably the world, is St. Barth in the French West Indies. If you need to fly there to meet a boat, you fly to St. Martin on a big jet, then take a puddle jumper to St. Barth. Nick, our son, reports he recently watched a History Channel program called The World’s Most Extreme Airports. We don’t know the criteria they used for ranking airports, but St. Martin came in at #4 and St. Barth came in at #3. The funny thing is that this was after the runway at Queen Juliana Airport in St. Martin was substantially lengthened a few years ago so the Air France 747 pilots would stop hitting the cyclone fence on approach, and the folks at St. Barth greatly widened the gap between the hills and doubled the width of the runway. The latter allowed them to take down the sign on the main road that warned cars that landing airplanes had the right-of-way. To our knowledge, there has been only one fatal crash at St. Barth, and that was when a 19-passenger plane crashed before the ridge as a result of an engine failure, killing all aboard, including a female sailor from the Bay Area. The History Channel says the second most extreme airport is one in Honduras, and the most extreme is the one at the base camp at Nepal.

Steve Black of the Cruising Rally Association, which for 20 years put on the Caribbean 1500 from Virginia to the British Virgins in November of each year, has announced that the event is now becoming part of the World Cruising Club. That U.K.-based organization already runs the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and the World ARC. Changes at this year year's event include a Doublehanded Division, a division that ends the event at Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas, and an elimination of the fixed fee for crewmembers. This year's event starts on November 1.

No matter where you are cruising this summer, we'd love to hear from you. Write and send your report to .

Missing the pictures? See the August 2010 eBook!


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