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August 2016

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With reports this month from Moonshadow in French Polynesia; the Wanderer and de Mallorca as guests aboard Escapade in Croatia; Abracadabra on the Pacific Coast of Honduras; a photo collage from Mahina Tiare III headed for the polar ice cap; the end of Migration's nightmare refit in Thailand; Rise and Shine in Sri Lanka; and Cruise Notes.

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
John and Debbie Rogers
French Polynesia
(San Diego)

The Society Islands, which run roughly 200 miles from the south end of Tahiti northwest to Bora Bora, are but one of five island groups that make up French Polynesia. Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a and Bora Bora are loosely referred to as the Leeward Islands because the prevailing southeast winds put them directly downwind of Tahiti and Moorea. So with two sets of kids arriving, we planned to start each of their visits in Papeete and end up in Bora Bora. That would mean all the sailing would be off the wind and easy.

We didn't want to subject our visitors to the 160-mile bash upwind back to Papeete either, so while Scott and Deanna flew home from Bora Bora, we planned on motoring back to Papeete. Yes, it would be upwind, but we're tough, salty old sailors. We could take it.

We got lucky. There just happened to be an 18-hour window of north wind shortly after Scott and Deanna departed. So we dashed back to Taha'a, caught some sleep, proceeded through the lagoon to Raiatea, then continued on to Papeete. We got to enjoy a port-tack reach the entire way!

These conditions gave us the chance to witness the awesome power of a southerly swell crashing onto the reef on either side of Moonshadow as she entered the pass to the lagoon at Taha'a. These waves served as a sober reminder why we never attempt such entries in the dark.

Back in Papeete, we tied up to the modern new docks located along the old quay where, until recently, yachts had tied up 'Tahitian style'. This means tying stern-to the quay with the bow anchored out.

When John was here in 1971, he took a photo from the fore-royal yardarm of the barkentine Stella Maris. You can't find any of the buildings in the background of that photo today — nor any of the other buildings that lined the Boulevard de la Reine Pomare IV. You also won't see the millions of Vespa scooters that whizzed by the yachts, driven by beautiful Tahitian gals wearing pareos and flowers.

No, Papeete is no longer such a romantic place, the images of which were seared into John's young mind 45 years ago. Thus we were happy to depart Papeete for Moorea, where a record 70 other yachts participating in the 2016 Pacific Puddle Jump Tahiti Moorea Sailing Rendez-vous dropped anchor in beautiful Cook's Bay, Moorea. The funny thing about Cook's Bay is that Capt. Cook never anchored there. He preferred Opunohu Bay to the west.

Organizers somehow managed to take over the Bali Hai Hotel on Cook's Bay for the three-day event attended by about 200 cruisers from all over the world. All of us converged here after sailing over 2,800 miles from ports all up and down North and Central America. The Rendez-vous was a bit like a high school reunion, where you run into friends you haven't seen for some time. We all share a common strain of DNA that makes us alike. We all like to talk at length about fixing water pumps and stuff.

Then the games began. Evidently a big sport in old Polynesia is to see how many cruisers could be sent to the hospital with muscle and joint injuries!

For those who can't read between the lines, we'll make it plain — we're having a great time!

— john and debbie 07/15/2016

Escapade — Catana 52
The Wanderer and de Mallorca
Guests Aboard in Croatia
(Lake Tahoe)

The big knock on cruising Croatia is that it's so far away from California. Almost 6,400 miles as the 777 flies, assuming that an airline flew one directly, which none of them do. Other than the distance, Croatia has it all — and in spades — during the June to late-September cruising season.

Let's start with the fact that Croatia, which is across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, has over 1,000 islands. Most are covered with pine trees, olive groves, vineyards and other vegetation. Some islands are low; others have mountains. A few islands have population centers, but most are lightly sprinkled with lovely little villages.

We don't know how many places there are to anchor off the islands of Croatia, but there are certainly hundreds of good ones. And that's not counting the lees of most islands, which are perfectly suitable anchorages in the often settled weather. Not only is the number of anchorages shocking, but as you can tell from the accompanying drone photos, many of them are stunning.

Then there is Croatia's 1,000-mile coastline, which has countless other places to anchor. We know every inch of the coast from San Francisco to the Mexican border, and hate to have to break the news, but none of it compares to the beauty of the best parts of the Croatian coast. Indeed, even the 'average' spots in Croatia are more beautiful than most of the very best spots in California. If Malibu were in Croatia, for instance, nobody would bother living there.

In short, the number and beauty of anchorages in Croatia are obscene.

Croatia has a long and fascinating history as a crossroads, which gave birth to fabulous historical cities such as Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split and Korcula, the latter being the purported birthplace of Marco Polo. Some of the fortresses in these places date from 300 A.D., and several are worthy World Heritage Sites. All are clean and well-maintained.

The water on the Croatian side of the Adriatic is surprisingly blue with excellent visibility. While there is often grass on the bottom that makes it tricky to get anchors to bite, and there are a few urchins, there is none of the smelly seaweed that is so prevalent in California.

Thanks to an invitation from Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of the Squaw Valley-based Catana 52 Escapade, the Wanderer and de Mallorca were able to escape the dreary life — cough, cough — aboard the Wanderer's Majestic Dalat in the Arsenal Marina in Paris and join them for a week. We would harbor-hop with them on their luxury cat — unlimited ice and hot water! — from Dubrovnik to Trogir, a distance of about 150 miles.

We were in Croatia during the last week in June. The air temperature was in the mid-80s and the water was probably about 70 degrees. So when you jumped in, it very briefly took your breath away, after which the temperature was perfect. It's so unfair that a place about 350 miles north of San Francisco should have such warm water. It was also T-shirt-and-shorts warm at night, and we never needed more than one sheet. Like Cabo, the Croatian coast gets about 315 cloudless days a year.

It's lucky that there are so many anchorages, because Croatia is affected by all kinds of winds — most of which are notorious for coming up quickly. We learned about this during our first night aboard Escapade while anchored just outside the fortress at Dubrovnik. After a really terrific dinner in town and two bottles of good wine, we returned to Escapade to find that she was on a lee shore. Greg and the Wanderer, with more than 100 years of sailing experience between them, determined that there was nothing to be concerned about.

That's why it was lucky Greg played with his iPad while in his bunk before going to sleep, and just happened to check Escapade's position on the Navionics chart. Jesus, we were just inches from the cat's transoms hitting the breakwater!

After a brief Caucasian fire drill, we motored to an offshore island a mile away, where we planned to anchor in the lee. But it didn't look that great when we got there — many of the islands in Croatia have steep-to bottoms — so we headed toward another island. Before we knew it, the anemometer was registering gusts in the low 40s.

If we were going to get blown out of an anchorage, these were the ideal conditions: T-shirt-and-shorts temperature in the middle of the night, full moon, flat seas, big cat, and an experienced crew. After about an hour the wind died and we dropped the hook in the lee of another island and slept well.

That the wind can come up quickly and from almost any direction is one of the few downsides of cruising in Croatia. You always need a Plan B.

Unfortunately for us, except for that one night and one afternoon with the wind right on the nose, we never did get a good sailing breeze. But we were cruising, and other than the lack of a breeze, the weather was ideal.

We made overnight stops at six places, a couple of lunch stops, and covered a distance of maybe 150 miles in a week. This was like being given 20 minutes to read War & Peace. A month would be the minimum needed to even scratch the surface of just this section of the Croatian coast.

The reality is that most everyone does the cruise between Dubrovnik and Split in one week because they are on charter. At least from mid-July to the end of August. A Croatian boatowner who shared a beautiful remote anchorage with us said that we were there at the ideal time, because from July 10 until the end of August there would be 20 other boats in the anchorage.

For cruisers as opposed to charterers, the great thing about Croatia is that there are many out-of-the-way anchorages and/or coves that are off the charterboat trail. You can get away if you want to.

On the other hand, if you're like San Franciscan Andrew Vik of the Trogir-based Islander 36 Geja, you can find as many opportunities to socialize as you want. All the small villages have a restaurant or two in addition to waterfront bars, and it's easy to strike up conversations. And if you get to places like Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula, Split or Trogir, there are countless bars and restaurants in beautiful settings. And coursing through them are thousands of people, many of them young and single. As for the young women, many dress provocatively, as if to make up for being hidden away during the long winters.

One of the things that surprised us the most about Croatia is that everybody — and we mean everybody from the locals to the tourists — is white. The five million people of Croatia are over 95% Catholic and white, and for some reason all the visitors seem to be white, too. We saw three dark-skinned people in the course of the week, and 23 Asians, 20 of them part of a single group. We didn't see anyone who looked as though they were from the Middle East. We don't know why there are only white people in Croatia.

The other thing that struck us about Croatia is how attractive so many of the people are. It's no exaggeration to say that we saw more beautiful women in Split in one hour than we'd seen in Paris in a week. Part of the attractiveness is that the average Croatian seems so much healthier, perhaps because he/she spends more time exercising than smoking and drinking coffee.

Another curious thing is that despite being a Third World European Union country, where the average person makes about one third of what their peers make in France, Germany and England, the people in Croatia dress well and are almost universally well-groomed. Even the old men in outdoor bars sipping grappa — which tastes to us like discount lighter fluid — were more presentable than the average man at a beach town in California.

After a few days we also realized that we hadn't seen any beggars/homeless/ bums/druggies. Nor did we see a single 'crazy person', the likes of which seem to have taken over the downtown areas of so many cities in the United States. They must have at least a few such people in Croatia, but they certainly weren't in evidence.

Croatia was so clean and seemed so safe that we wouldn't have been surprised to see Ozzie and Harriet sailing around with David and Ricky. And rather than anybody giving anybody any attitude, everyone seemed content to appreciate how lucky they were to be where they were, and just enjoy themselves.

According to the US State Department, Croatia is "considered to be very safe", and the police, if needed, are very responsive. While on the Balkan drug route, Croatians are not big consumers of drugs.

Formerly a founding member and a federal constituent of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia declared independence in 1991, which marked the start of a successful four-year war of independence. As a result, nautical tourism is still relatively new in Croatia. But given the ideal cruising conditions so close to most of Europe — less than two hours by air from Paris — nautical tourism has exploded.

Depending on what source you believe, Croatia has anywhere from 14,000 to 20,000 marina slips, to say nothing of hard-stand and support facilities. By comparison, Mexico has someting like 3,000 slips. Given what Croatia has to offer the cruising sailor, it's no wonder. About half the Croatians speak English, and all the ones we met were very helpful.

Croatia has a few downsides. While you can get very decent local wine for $6 a bottle, the food isn't bad, but isn't up to Italian standards either. While annual berthing fees aren't too bad, single-night rates are ridiculous. The marina at Korcula wanted to charge $200 a night for Escapade, and Greg was still charged $35 by some authority to anchor out about half a mile from the dinghy dock. There are plenty of places to anchor for free, but not right next to tourist centers.

If we make Croatia sound too good to be true, consider the fact that Andrew Vik will be returning to cruise the Trogir-to-Split waters for the ninth season this summer. And hosts Greg and Debbie said, "Croatia is better than anything we saw cruising last year." Last year they were in Spain, France and Italy, including their favorite, Sardinia.

Yes, if somebody could just solve that distance from California problem, Croatia would be the bomb.

— latitude/rs 07/15/2016

Abracadabra — CS36
Molly Arnold and Bryce Andrews
Pacific Coast of Honduras, Part II
(San Francisco)

[Continued from last month.]

After three nights we left El Tigre and continued on our 'less traveled' Pacific Coast path by motoring 24 miles up the clearly marked shipping channel toward Puerto Henecán, Honduras’ only port on the Pacific. Our destination was actually San Lorenzo, which we expected to be a sleepy backwater town a short distance from the port.

Thanks to good charts and a cruising guide, we took an unmarked turn northwest off the shipping lane one nautical mile before Puerto Henecán. We then threaded our way through some mangrove swamps to San Lorenzo, and anchored off a row of picturesque restaurants.

In the last several years San Lorenzo has become less sleepy, and is now a popular day trip for visitors from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. There are now three nice restaurants and a hotel on the waterfront, and several other restaurants on the other side of the three-block 'tourist zone'.

Soon after our anchor was set we were greeted by Edward, the English-speaking local lancha driver. Edward picked up English when he was a kid while swapping Honduran watermelons for US military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). His watermelon customers were there as support for the CIA on El Tigre.

Edward had also met some of our sailing compañeros — apparently San Lorenzo sees a sailboat every three months or so — and purported to be well-versed in taking care of visiting sailors. We weren't completely convinced, however, because his ability to bring his lancha alongside Abracadabra in wind and current didn't improve during our week stay.

Edward arranged for water delivery — via horse-drawn cart — a lancha, and a driver to take us to the grocery store. He even arranged for the immigration officer to meet with us very early on the morning of our departure, thus allowing us to leave at high tide. Molly sweetened the deal by baking cookies as a 'thank you' to the officer, who was very nice. Ah, Central America, the land of purported bribery.

We also relied on Edward to taxi us to shore almost every day, because if we hadn't, the 10-ft tidal range would have required us to do significant dinghy dragging up and down the municipal beach. We became happier with our lazy sailors’ approach after seeing more than one poorly anchored lancha swept off the beach by the rising tide.

Edward, whose primary job is taking national tourists on tours of the estuary and the nearby port, gained indirect benefits from Abracadabra’s presence in San Lorenzo. Our boat became part of his tour, and on occasion we were celebrity passengers as he diverted his tour to take us to shore. Any time a tour passenger knew English, they were very kind to talk to us and ask us where we were from.

Abracadabra became such a fixture that when Edward was touring DJs from a Choluteca radio station, he talked us into letting them come aboard and dance on Abracadabra’s deck for the station’s videographer.

Edward’s greatest kindness was to send his charming 10-year-old son Joseph along to assist Molly on her trip to the Port Captain in Puerto Henecán. Bryce enjoyed talking to young Joseph — aka Neno — so much he gave the lad some binoculars that had been given to him when he was Joseph’s age. He also gave Neno very explicit instructions on how to take care of them, because they were muy viejo — un antiguo. We hope Joseph enjoys them, and that he watches the stars and looks at the moon as he said he would. Bryce’s suggestion that birds were fascinating to watch didn't seem to spark any interest.

Travel Tip: Edward worked for tips, and asked to be paid on departure. We became a sort of savings account for him. We decided to pay him $15 a day, and then threw in the last of our lempira as we were leaving the country, for a total of about 2,000 lempira or $100 for eight days.

Most of our time ashore in San Lorenzo was spent at the tourist restaurants along the estuary, eating seafood, people-watching, and checking weather on the Internet. But we did make a few trips into town.

We stopped into the parroquia (parish church) and walked through the main square. Our primary destinations were the Claro cellphone office in a failed attempt to purchase a data package, and the local supermercado (a Despensa Familiar — Family Pantry — the same grocery chain we had used in La Herradura, El Salvador).

San Lorenzo was nicest in the cool mornings as the horse-drawn wagons delivered water and the children were walked to school.

But even with all of Edward's help, not everything went smoothly for us in San Lorenzo. We were very happy with the initial spot we anchored in, as it was in no more than 30 feet of water in a roughly 150-yard-wide estuary. It was scenic and relatively quiet, as the karaoke bar was quite a distance away. For four days Abracadabra swung securely up and down the estuary on the changing tide, somewhat closer to the mangrove swamp on the south shore than to the scary-looking concrete piers of the restaurants and hotel on the north shore. Life was good.

Then the wind began to blow hard from the north. It was one of the dreaded Papagayo winds — called norteros by the locals — coming over from the Caribbean. As we’ve said elsewhere, we don’t have a working windspeed indicator at the moment, so we may be overestimating the speed of the gusts, but they felt like 35+ knots to us.

Over several days of swinging in an ovoid pattern in response to the tidal changes, the anchor chain had stretched to its full 100 feet. So when the wind shifted and strengthened, Abracadabra began to sail at the end of the full 100 feet of chain toward the southern shore. It was like a train wreck in very, very slow motion.

We watched as Abracadabra sailed and swung ever so slowly toward the mangroves. We looked from the shore to the dropping depth gauge and back to the shore. We took turns looking at the electronic chart, measuring and re-measuring our distance from the line that represented the lowest depth in front of the mangroves. Was this what it was like to drag anchor? We didn't think we were dragging.

Could we up anchor and motor to a deeper spot in this strong wind and against the current? That seemed problematic. At one point Molly went below and washed the lunch dishes — the sailing equivalent of making popcorn during the scariest part of the movie.

Just as the depthsounder read 7 feet — six inches more than Abracadabra draws — the tide turned. Just. Deep. Enough.

Until the next day.

As the tide dropped again and the wind continued to push Abracadabra toward the mangroves, we realized that she had swung just enough to be sailing toward a particularly shallow spot. Eventually she touched the muddy, sandy bottom, but bottom nonetheless. It was our first grounding. It was not something we'd been looking forward to.

Afraid that Abracadabra's keel was touching, and the continuing strong wind would push her onto her side and cause damage, we decided that it was time to try to move. When the next high tide went slack, and we had only the wind to deal with, we raised anchor and motored into the wind to a new anchoring spot about a quarter of a mile farther into the estuary. A new spot right next to the 24-hour shrimp-packing plant, the public pier/diving platform, and the disco. It was a Friday night, too. The wind dropped soon after we re-anchored, so we decided to live with the disco, and remained there until we left for Nicaragua.

We think the moral of our anchoring kerfuffle is to apply the 'reef when you first think of it — it’s not going to get easier' rule to re-anchoring. Going forward, we will likely re-anchor earlier rather than take the wait-and-see-how-bad-it-really-is attitude we applied in San Lorenzo. But then we won’t know until we get there and things change, will we?

— bryce and molly 05/15/2016

Migration — Cross 45 Trimaran
Bruce Balan and Alene Rice
Part IV, The End, Finally

If you think reading about our saga of getting a major refit done on Migration in Thailand is never-ending, imagine what it was like to have to live through the nightmare of it all. But I promise you, this really is the end.

Last month's third installment ended with our giving the yard a launch date — hooray! But then Alene called me from a hospital to say she'd been in an accident. She'd gone to town on the motorbike to run errands when a truck pulled out in front of her. There was no place for her to go, so she broadsided it. Her helmet probably saved her life.

Alene said she was fine, but my first glance at her blood-spattered face told me that she wasn't. Her adrenaline — and the lack of a mirror — kept her from realizing how bad it was. Her nose was broken. Several bones around her left eye were crushed. She would need surgery and two titanium plates put in her head.

At least she hadn't broken her neck or ended up in a coma. Or died. All of which could have happened. Badly bruised, she was nonetheless alive and whole.

You can imagine the phone calls, the meetings with doctors, the second opinions, the surgeon recommendations from relatives and friends back in the States, the flight to Bangkok, the surgery.

After five days in the Bangkok hospital, and a few more recovering in a hotel, Alene took a little boat ride on the river. She couldn't fly, so we had to take the overnight train and then a bus to get back to Phuket.

A life-and-death incident such as Alene's sure helps put things in perspective. All the months of anguish and frustration working on Migration. All the time and money spent. It was nothing. Everything would have been nothing if I'd lost my love. God. Guardian Angel. Luck. Fate. The way the atoms were lined up that day. I was so lucky.

We hung out at the condo while Alene recovered. After several days I went back to the boatyard to continue working. There was plenty to do: continuing repairs on the mast, rewiring, and adding new sailtrack.

By late October Alene was well enough to start working again, and we finished installing the hatches, ports, portlights, and deck hardware. Migration was sealed up against the elements.

Suddenly things seemed to come together quickly. The tent came down. Migration's masts went back up. She got her name on her bows. Transducers and thru-hulls were installed. Anti-fouling was put on the bottom. She got her props and zincs. We brought everything back aboard from the condo.

And then the big day arrived — we were going back into the water! Our friend Toi brought traditional Thai offerings for the launch and garlands for the bow. In keeping with Thai tradition, we lit off a string of 1,000 firecrackers. It was very exciting as Alene held them on a boat hook over the water trying to keep from blowing up the freshly painted deck.

That night, November 19, we moved back aboard. Migration had been on the hard for one year, eight months and one week. Only one year longer than we'd planned. We'd been out so long that there had been three different images of Migration on Google Earth.

Just because Migration was back in the water didn't mean that we were done. Our storage unit was full of stuff, the engine had to be moved up to align with the new position of the shaft, and electrical and plumbing systems needed reconnecting. But it was awesome to be floating. We spent the next week unpacking boxes and trying to remember where we used to stow things.

After flying home for the holidays, we returned to Migration in late January. Over the next 45 days we focused on doing whatever was needed to get Migration ready for sea.

After the coup the year before, the rules had changed for foreign boats. Customs was no longer granting extensions. We had overstayed our permit by nearly a year. We wanted to leave Thailand and re-enter so we could get a new permit. We also needed to sail to Langkawi, Malaysia, to have the boat measured for a new mainsail. So on March 4 we untied Migration from the dock and motored away from Ao Po Grand Marina.

A few days later we headed to Langkawi and actually sailed. It was heaven! We took four days to sail the 140 miles to Langkawi, stopping at some nice islands along the way.

After a week in Langkawi, we took a week sailing back to Ao Po Marina in Thailand. We spent one whole day at an anchorage where we were the only boat, which made the joy of living aboard Migration flow back into our veins.
When we returned to Thailand, we got to work emptying the storage area. I loved getting rid of stuff.

One of the most important jobs left was changing the engine mounts so the engine would align with the shaft's new position. Unfortunately, the new mounts were terrible. So we reinstalled the old ones with spacers beneath. We got a little tired of lifting the engine up and down with a borrowed come-along.

We also spent days trying to get reimbursed for the medical expenses incurred from Alene's accident. The driver had admitted fault and his insurance company was supposed to pay. At the same time we were tracking down missing and broken pieces that our carpenter, Nhoon, had not returned. Both projects were a source of great frustration, but we finally prevailed. Sort of.

We wanted to do something for the many friends we'd made in Thailand, so we went out on three separate daysails with a total of 35 guests aboard. We threw a big dock party and invited nearly everyone we knew. Dozens of people came; even some we didn't invite. Unexpectedly, people brought all kinds of going-away gifts.

Unbelievably, the day came when we realized that we'd done enough. Everything wasn't finished, but the boat was shipshape enough to leave. So what if there were boxes everywhere?

We sold our motorbike, gave away the last of our stuff, and then said goodbye to some of our best friends. We went to customs, immigration, and the port captain, and at long last officially cleared out of the country to new adventures. It was two years and five months after we had arrived in Thailand.

It might have been different. Instead, the universe granted us a reprieve from the sorrow that eventually finds us all. It's good to remember how good we have it and what really matters. Be good. Be safe. Have fun.

— bruce 05/15/2016

Rise and Shine — Ingrid 38 Ketch
Nick and Bonnie Pepper Nicolle
Sri Lanka, Part II

[Continued from last month.]

Our next inland stop after Tissamaharama was the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, which is yet another example of a large, crowded, noisy Asian city. Our main purpose there was to see the national museum, and more specifically the famous trilingual stone.

The large stone tablet is engraved in Chinese, Persian and Tamil, and lists what was brought to Sri Lanka as gifts in the 15th century by Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho. This stone was especially intriguing to Nick, who first read about it decades ago. The museum represented ancient Sri Lankan culture particularly well, including Buddhist and Hindu artifacts, and Sri Lankan craftsmanship in textiles, wood and stone.

After luxuriating in the air-conditioned comfort of our Colombo hotel room, which also had a big screen TV and satellite, it was time to leave and head to the port city of Galle. The ancient port was a short 2 1/2-hour train ride along the coast of the Indian Ocean, and proved to be very scenic. We took the earliest train in order to get seats.

Galle is another Sri Lankan port of entry for cruising boats, and expects to have a marina completed by the end of the year. Friends who stayed in the then- partially completed marina describe it as very secure, but they had to Med moor as the slips weren't complete. Water and electricity weren't available yet either.

The security was so tight that we were not even allowed anywhere near the marina when we attempted to visit friends there. The authorities required that we phone our friends and have them come out to meet us and escort us in. Since we didn't have their phone number on us, we didn't get to see them.

Fellow cruisers also groused that it was difficult to get provisioned properly at the marina. First, it was quite a ways to the stores. Second, they were required to show security what they had purchased. Security would determine how much of anything they could bring in. If there was a problem with what they decided were excess quantities, the excess would have to be brought in by the cruiser's agent.

Galle is one of the southernmost points of Sri Lanka, and was formerly a principal port and trading center for hundreds of years. It is no longer a principal port, but the well-preserved Dutch fort dating from the mid-1600s was of considerable interest. There is a thriving community inside the intact wall of the old fort. We were again fortunate to find a guest house inside the walled city, and strolled the ramps with schoolchildren while gazing out over the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka is also a center for precious gems and a thriving jewelry-making trade. There are jewelry stores inside the walls, where you can see the jewelers plying their trade.

We enjoyed our three-day stay here, soaking up the colonial atmosphere, the architecture and the small and quiet streets. Once we left Galle, it was a quick one-hour bus ride back to Colombo.

We then made our way by bus up to the higher elevations, or 'hill stations' area. Sri Lanka is blessed with microclimates. The one at Nuwara Eliya, elevation 5,000 feet, appealed to us for relief from the heat, the beautiful tea plantations, opportunities for hiking, and enjoying the British Colonial architecture. Nuwara Eliya is a politically incorrect British creation that retains a colonial atmosphere, including the former residences of plantation managers and owners. Some of these have been turned into hotels and B&Bs, one of which we stayed in. It was all so very British colonial, with tea, fireplaces, drawing rooms, doormen, beautiful gardens and a named residence. 'The Levine' is the name of the place where we stayed.

We had a guide take us on a 10-mile walking tour. The weather was perfect and the scenery stunning, with the perfectly groomed green mountainous tea plantations. The colorful Tamil tea 'pluckers' and the tidy villages were all part of Neil Rajanayake’s excellent walk.

Our last but not least stop before heading back to our boat in 'Trinco' was to explore the ancient monastic city — and World Heritage Site — of Anuradhapura. It must be an archaeologist's dream, as well over 2,000 years ago there was a thriving civilization. All that remain are crumbling foundations, former Buddhist temples, palaces and monastery sites.

We rented bikes to tour Anuradhapura, as they were the best way to get around the once-mighty city. Imagining what this place must have been like 2,000 years ago really gave us food for thought. So we happily wound up our Sri Lankan land 'circumnavigation' at its most ancient center of civilization.

From Anuradhapura it was approximately a three-hour bus ride back to 'Trinco' and to our beloved Rise and Shine, which was bobbing happily at anchor exactly where we had left her. Sri Lanka is so beautiful and has such a rich history that it's well worth including in any cruising plans across the Indian Ocean. Our only complaint is that we were only able to get a 30-day visa. We would have stayed longer if it had been possible. Since it wasn't, we headed to Kochi, India, which is where we are currently based.

— bonnie 05/09/2016

Cruise Notes:

What's the summer cruising life like in the heat of a Sea of Cortez summer? Terry and Diane Emigh, vets of the 2011 Baja Ha-Ha with their Anacortes-based Vancouver 42 Harmony, offer the following insight:

"Get up early, make coffee and check emails. After a couple of hours of that, make breakfast, then do the two SSB nets — Sonrisa and the Amigo. After the nets it's time for a little paddleboarding before it gets too hot. When the workout is over, it's time to kick back for an hour or so reading or surfing the net. Then it's time to do a little bottom cleaning. I put on the mask, snorkel and fins, and go over the side with scrapers in hand. I do that for an hour or so until the body says it's enough. Then it's time to kick back again, have some lunch, take a nap, and wait for cocktail hour at 4:30 p.m. It's such a hard life."

It's actually going to get harder as the heat and humidity increase until the middle of October.

"We're finally anchored at Neah Bay, Washington, after a 22-day passage from Hanalei Bay, Kauai," report Barry and Silvia Stompe of the Sausalito-based Hughes 48 ketch Iolani. "Last night the stormy winds subsided at 3 a.m. and we had to drop sail. Yes, after 21 days of sailing in plenty of big winds and seas, we had to motor the last 22 hours. It was overcast with periods of dense fog enveloping us for hours at a time during that last day.

"As we neared Cape Flattery, the fog really settled in. The light was obscured, so for about 15 miles we navigated by chartplotter and radar alone. The ships would pass on one side, with fishing boats passing and fog horns sounding on the other. Channel markers were also scattered about, which, along with the ebb, made things interesting. It was a big change after being out on the open ocean for so long. We weren't too thrilled at the prospect of entering a new harbor with only a hundred yards of visibility, so we were happy when the fog lifted about four miles out, and a nearly full moon rose to illuminate our way.

"While it was a tricky end to the passage, we still remember the fifth day of the crossing as being one of our top ten ever on any ocean. We were at 32N, 161 W, the seas were flat, the breeze was perfect, it wasn't too cold yet, and there were a gazillion stars out. We were sailing at about 7.5 knots with the Big Dipper to port, pointing us toward Polaris, which I aligned with the mast. I saw a shooting star that looked as if it was out of a comic book, as it was slow-moving and left a trail of yellow flames. And the morning's sunrise was the first without clouds."

Latitude's dear friend Jeanne Socrates of the Najad 38 Nereida reports that she's now almost in position for the start of her attempt to become the oldest person to sail singlehanded nonstop round the world. It's not such a bold goal for the energetic 73-year-old, as she's already the second oldest but by just a few months. She wants to remedy that.

"On July 15, six weeks out of Acapulco, I finally arrived in Neah Bay at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca," she reports. "I had a few days of sailing in boisterous conditions at the end, but I'm here and about to cross over to Victoria, British Columbia, to prepare for my October start."

Socrates, a former math professor at Brunel University in London, is one of Latitude's sailing heroes, and just a wonderful person to boot. If you'd like to contribute to her attempt at becoming the oldest person to sail nonstop around the world, you can find the details of how to do so at In case you missed it, we also published an interview with her in last month's issue.

Ah, that wonderful East Coast cruising weather! Jim Fair and Linda Powers of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake report they arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in mid-July to less than ideal conditions.

"It's unbelievably hot and humid, and there is no wind," they report. "So instead of slowly working our way up the East Coast, we are going to go straight to Maine, looking for cooler weather. We will slowly work our way south at the end of the season."

It's cooler in Maine to be sure, often thanks to thick fog. But as a friend of theirs warned them, the mosquitos are already out in force. Jim, a vet of two Singlehanded TransPacs with a Merit 25, and left the States with Linda on their around-the-world-voyage seven years ago.

Cat people with West Coast connections moving up the East Coast include San Diego's Annie Gardner and Erik Witte aboard their Catana 472 El Gato, which they cruised in Europe last summer, and Mike and Deanna Ruel of the Manta 42 R Sea Cat, who recently completed a circumnavigation. Annie and Eric are loving Newport, Rhode Island, while Mike and Deanna are marveling at the monster flies on the Intracoastal Waterway.

In other reports from frequent Latitude contributors, Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven and her crew aboard the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion advise, "We're passing the equator under clear blue skies with flat seas and 15 knots apparent on the beam." If you have any questions about the South Pacific, Patsy will be at both the SoCal Ta-Ta and the Baja Ha-Ha. Friends can follow or text her during her current trip at

Meanwhile, former Club Cruceros de La Paz Commodore Shelly Rothery Ward and Mike Rickman, good friends of La Reina's, aboard the Peterson 44 Avatar, are enjoying a much more leisurely cruising pace in the South Pacific. At last report they were still at Fakarova in the Tuamotus, and hadn't even hit Papeete yet. Slow is good.

The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca have been aboard Majestic Dalat in the Arsenal Marina in Paris getting rested up to do the Baja Bash, the SoCal Ta-Ta and the Baja Ha-Ha with Profligate. In mid-July, we noticed that the mix of boats in the Arsenal had changed a bit, with the arrival of a number of sailboats. You can't sail anything but small sailboats in most of the canals and rivers of Europe, but sailboat owners use the canals and rivers to take shortcuts from England, Germany and Baltic countries to the Med — or vice versa. Boat draft can't be much over five feet.

One of the more interesting owners of one such sailboat is from Adelaide, Australia. He, his wife and their son had purchased a well-used Fisher Cat 28 sight unseen in Strasbourg, France, which is on the Rhine River on the border with Germany and a long way from the ocean. They are headed to the Med, having bought this coastal cruising cat to live on while looking for an oceangoing cat such as a Leopard 45.

The funny thing is the guy not only knew of Latitude 38, at one time he'd collected many of the early issues, starting with number 1 back in 1977. It turns out he'd sailed from Hawaii to California, and had even been crew on the winning boat of that year's Master Mariners Regatta. His is such an interesting story — wait till you hear how he and his wife make a living so they can cruise six months of the year — that you'll have to wait until next month when we can give the story the space it deserves.

While in Paris we've taken a number of friends out for evening sightseeing tours of the city from the decks of Majestic Dalat.

It's fantastic. One of the people we took out was Daniela de Luca of Paris and St. Barth, who lived in San Francisco from the mid-90s until 2008 when her then husband was high up at Apple Computer. She told us about the recent cruise that she and Alain Charlot, her current husband, took a few months ago aboard their X-48 Aronnax.

They started in St. Barth, then headed to the British Virgins, which they hated because it was full of boats with drunk kids on spring break. They found the east coast of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins much more to their liking. Île-à-Vache, the island off the south coast of Haiti, was beautiful, but they were uncomfortable because they couldn't possibly buy all the stuff or use all the services being offered by the impoverished locals who surrounded their boat.
Daniela and Alain liked the Dominican Republic, and were surprised to find: 1) That one marina with 300 really big slips was completely full, and 2) The country has four airports with direct flights to the United States.

The country the couple really enjoyed was Cuba, where they spent quite a bit of time on the south coast. Their favorite area was the 'Queen's Garden', widely considerted to be one of the best-preserved marine areas in the world.

"We found the Cubans to be very friendly," says Daniela. "And smart, too. The motherboard on our generator went up in smoke, but they were able to build a replacement!" While the Cubans were smart, Daniela noted that some other workers moved at an agnozingly slow pace.

Alain later sailed Aronnax to Bocas del Toro, Panama, getting hit with bouts of very heavy weather on the way.

If you're heading to the more-open-than-ever Cuba, there is no longer any worry about being able to get insurance. Among the companies that have informed Latitude they now offer such coverage for American boats are Novamar of Newport Beach and Puerto Vallarta, and Pantaenius. When we took Big O to Cuba 20 years ago, we had to go 'naked'.

The rebuild of the Voyager 43 cat Quixotic, which was badly damaged by tropical cyclone Winston in Fiji, continues under new owners Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous of Redwood City.

"We've been working furiously to get the cat back in the water and make her livable, because we sold our Tartan 37 Eleutheria to Kurt Roll of San Diego and a partner, and have to move off her. So this week we have had 12 to 15 people working on Quixotic each day. Five guys doing glasswork, five guys inside prepping for interior painting, a few guys fixing all the stainless pulpits and stanchions, and Lyss and I rebuilding and painting the port saildrive and engine.

"Alyssa has taken charge of the interior and it’s coming along great," Allen continues. "The guys have been making good progress on the bottom, too, as it's been sanded down to the old epoxy barrier coat. What a mess! We found the old waterline — five inches below the current paint. The brackets for the crossbeam have been fit and will be finalized early next week. We had to order more glass, so the keels will be reinforced and faired next week. Otherwise the bottom is watertight and almost done. We have also bought all the epoxy barrier-coat sealer, two-pack primer and bottom paint we'll need. We're so close!

"Alyssa and I have also been working hard on the saildrive and engine. This is the first boat we've owned with saildrives, and we were a little hesitant about the one-square-foot hole in the bottom of the boat, so we bought a new diaphragm for $500 — really, Yanmar? — and have torn the saildrive apart and rebuilt it. But you won't believe what we found in the raw-water cooling hose that runs from the saildrive to the engine. I was blowing through the hose to check if it was clear, and it wasn't, so I ripped it apart. Alyssa noticed a flimsy hose fitting on the engine side. When she loosened the clamp and removed the fitting, she exlaimed, 'Oh my God, it’s the cap to a Gatorade bottle!'”

"It sure was, and the cap had closed when I blew through it. We were both astonished that the cooling system — such a crucial part of the engine — was relying on a cheap plastic bottle cap. And below the waterline at that! We can’t say for sure that the fitting was used in action, as it very well could have been to flush the saildrive after she was brought out of the water. But it was quite a find nonetheless."

Cruisers — such as the previously mentioned Jim Fair and Linda Powers of Chesapeake — who make the very long passage from South Africa to Brazil or the Caribbean almost always stop at St. Helena, the 10-by five-mile island in the South Atlantic Ocean. At 1,210 miles from southwestern Africa and 2,500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, this British Overseas Territory is one of the most remote islands in the world. There have only been two ways to get there; either by private yacht or via a five-day ocean passage aboard the RHMS St. Helena from South Africa.

Then somebody got the brilliant idea that the tiny island with a population of just over 4,000 needed to be an international tourist destination. Among the 'Seven Wonders of St. Helena' are seeing Jonathan the giant tortoise, who at 184 years is the oldest-known living animal in the world; the 699-step Jacob's Ladder from Jamestown at sea level to the fort atop Ladder Hill; as well as the home in which Napoleon died, and his tomb (now vacated).

So $410 million was spent building an airport. There is just one problem. During 'validation flights' with a Boeing 737-800, it was found that the wind shear from the consistent southeasterly trades is too extreme for larger aircraft to land safely. At this point there are mixed messages about whether the airport will ever be used.

The 2016 Eastern Pacific hurricane season — meaning Mexico — got off to a slow start. While it's not unusual for the first named storm of the year to develop by May 15, there wasn't anything this year until tropical storm Agatha and hurricane Blas both formed on July 2.

July turned out to be very active, with six named storms in the first three weeks. Fortunately, almost all of them headed nearly due west and thus none even remotely threatened Mexico. They were briefly of concern to skippers racing to Hawaii, but turned out not to be a problem. But the busy hurricane season months are still to come, so be prepared.

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the 2,700-mile granddaddy of all cruising rallies, continues to blow the doors off participation records. The entry list is so long that our count might be off a bit for the November event(s), but we came up with 214 entries for the 'classic' route directly from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean, and 72 for the ARC+ from the Canary Islands to the Cape Verde Islands to St. Lucia route. Eleven of the entries are from the United States. The 40 multihull entries, a lot of them big ones, are also a record, and by a lot.

The only West Coast sailor we know doing the ARC is Tim Dick of Honolulu, who has ordered a seriously optimized version of the new Lagoon 42, but she will be sailing under another name.

Originally, all ARC participants sailed the direct route from the Canaries to St. Lucia, but after having to turn so many potential entries away, World Cruising Ltd., which puts on the events, added a second route. Because the boats in the ARC+ group that stops in the Cape Verdes start early, all boats should finish in St. Lucia at about the same time.

Interestingly enough, a lot of people seem to find that the new route, which is longer but includes a stop, and gets the boats down to the trades more quickly, is more attractive. Perhaps that's why the 'classic' ARC route can still take another 10 entries.

The circus is leaving town. The Tzortzis family — Chris, Heather and kids Tristan, Alexia, Amaia and Alina — of the San Francisco-based Lagoon 470 Family Circus — have come to the end of their two-year cruise and have to get the kids back in school. So they've been packing up boxes of stuff to send home from the South Pacific. But at least they had good times right up to the end.

"Signal Island in New Caledonia was a treat for our family and guests," reports Heather. "It had the best snorkeling we've seen in a very long time, with turtles, sting rays, sharks, sea snakes, eels, and lots of huge fish. In fact, it looked like the carwash scene from Shark Tale. I believe this is a cleaning station for sea life."

While the Tzortzis family moves off their cat, the Goben family — Teal, Linh, and daughter Emma — moved aboard their Featherlight 43 cat Basik on Lake Union in Seattle. Teal and Linh cruised Mexico for several years with a trimaran, and always wanted to return to cruising with a larger catamaran. They bought the dated Featherlight, and between his regular work as a contractor, Teal began a . . . well, total refit doesn't even begin to touch on the scope and quality of his incredible work. For just one example, check out the accompanying photo of Linh and her lighted high-heel shoe display. Most of you will remember that Linh likes to wear high heels, even when sailing. The Gobens figure they'll be in the Pacific Northwest for at least another year before heading to where it's warmer and sunnier. But it's great to have these folks back afloat again.

On July 12 news reached the South Pacific cruising fleet that one of their own, singlehander Louis V, Schooler, 64, of San Diego, had been found dead aboard his Hylas 42 Entertainer, which was discovered grounded on Takapoto Atoll in the Tuamotus.

Confirming details has been difficult, but according to sources in Tahiti and New Zealand, Schooler called his wife via sat phone on July 5, saying he had injured his back. He also put out a DSC distress call that was picked up in New Zealand and Chile, indicating a position 130 miles NE of Takapoto. Tahiti's SAR organization, MRCC Papeete, was notified and responded by sending out a plane to investigate. The boat was spotted under sail, but attempts at radio contact were unsuccessful. However, the boat reportedly changed course and one of its nav lights was switched off.

Four days later Schooler's wife contacted French authorities, as her husband was still overdue. An aerial search found the boat aground on Takapoto. Later that day a helicopter crew arrived in bad weather and reported observing a dead body in the cockpit. But when gendarmes arrived the next day to perform an autopsy, Schooler's body was gone, and has not been recovered.

Missing the pictures? See the August 2016 eBook!


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