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August 2017

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With reports this month from Talion on La Reina del Mar's best Baja Bash ever; from Cirque on the beauty and pleasures of Bocas del Toro; from Jack van Ommen on the loss of his second Fleetwood; from Pelagic on taking the South Pacific route home to Portland from Panama; from Moonshadow in Fiji for a second season; and Cruise Notes.

Talion — Gulfstar 50
Patsy Verhoeven
Easiest Baja Bash Ever!
(La Paz, BCS)

We had a stellar Baja Bash this year.

I had heard reports of cruisers having to pay $7-$8 per gallon for fuel in Turtle Bay. That is totally unacceptable on my budget, so in my best Puddle Jump style of fueling up, I bought four 13+ gallon plastic jugs in La Paz. Add that to my 90 gallons in the tank, and 35 gallons in jerry cans, and I figured I could motorsail to Ensenada even if it blew 10-15 on the nose.

I singlehanded from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo, where I picked up my boyfriend Tim Horne for the Bash. After topping off the fuel one last time, we headed around Cabo Falso. The weather site showed about 20 knots of wind at Falso, but not too much after that.

We encountered the expected 20 knots on the nose at Falso, but because of my previous experience of the wind's backing off after Falso, and windyty's calling for lighter winds, Tim and I kept going. After a couple of hours of low boat speed, proved to be accurate once again. The wind dropped to 10 knots or less — and for days.

Inside Cedros Island we were even blessed with a few hours of sailing at eight knots with the main alone, as the wind was coming from the south!

By the time we reached Ensenada, we could see that we had a good chance of making San Diego on our remaining fuel. Just then the wind picked up to 15-20 knots, reducing our boat speed to four knots. Unless the wind backed off we wouldn't make it to San Diego. But we continued on because the forecast called for even more wind later on.

We kept one five-gallon jerry can in reserve, and didn't put it into the tanks until one hour out of San Diego Harbor. But we made it.

It was a perfect Bash! Doublehanded nonstop in a Talion record-breaking five days! No question a southerly and being able to sail all the way would've been better, but after 10+ years, I know the best Bash strategy: Take on loads of fuel and then wait, wait, wait for light winds.

As I write this I'm anchored at San Diego's La Playa Cove for the Fourth of July festivities. Fellow Ha-Ha boats are here, too, and best of all, my daughter Denise and her family are here on their boat, too. I just read about the Wanderer's great canal boat adventure in France with his daughter. Hanging out with family on the boat is priceless!

I have crazy-fun crew lined up for both the SoCal Ta-Ta in September and the Baja Ha-Ha in late October. Looking forward to the endless good times!

— patsy 07/04/2017

Readers — Doña de Mallorca and La Reina del Mar have nearly 30 Baja Bashes between them. They agree on the strategy of taking lots of fuel and waiting until the wind dies off.

Cirque — Beneteau 42s7
Louis Kruk and Friends
Mostly the Bocas del Toro (San Leandro)

I spent dangerously close to three months — late February through mid-May — cruising my boat mostly in the Bocas del Toro region of Panama. Cirque has been living at Red Frog Marina in the Bocas for just over three years. I’m still amazed and inspired by the beauty of the archipelago.

I was finally able to replace my boat’s original main with a new Doyle 9.5-oz Hydra-Net radial main. But it wasn’t easy. The project started in 2015 when I agreed to have a sailmaker build a new main for me. That didn’t go well, so in November 2016 I contracted with the Doyle loft in Alameda to build the sail to my specs. The specs were sent to Robbie Doyle at the company's world headquarters in Salem, Mass. I’d raced with Robbie years ago aboard the maxi Kialoa III.

The sail was designed and the panels cut in Salem, then the panels were shipped to Alameda for assembly. The sail and the battens, the longest of which is 15 feet, were then shipped to Miami. Then they were put in a container that was placed on a ship and sent to either Costa Rica or Panama, I’m not really sure which. After several weeks of delays, I received an email telling me to come to Bocas Town to pick up an 80-pound box with my sail, as well as a 15-ft-long tube containing my five battens. Finally.

During the time I was waiting for the sail I was able to do other projects on the boat. The monumental one was fixing the big leak in the 55-gallon forward water tank. Every time I’d try to fill the tank, the water would end up in the bilge. Opening up the inspection ports revealed nothing, so I had to remove the Pullman berth. It took removing a lot of fasteners and furniture to get at the tank. I discovered that the fiberglass tank was cracked, no doubt a result of up to 458 pounds of water being knocked around in rough weather. I repaired the rupture with five layers of fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin.

While waiting for the sail, I also had time to walk across Isla Bastimentos to the beach on the Caribbean side. I occasionally got glimpses of some of the colorful critters of the island. Among them are red frogs, capuchin monkeys, green parrots, and sloths.

Most people see sloths as virtually inanimate objects high up in the jungle canopy. You rarely see them on the ground or moving. I’ve been lucky enough to see them on the ground twice, and once close enough to get full-frame photos.
I didn’t start looking for crew until I got the main, so I got a pretty late start on the season. But I was lucky to find crew who were passionate about sailing on Cirque for what time I had left.

My first crew was Melanie, a 37-year-old French woman who spends a lot of her time traveling. She was an amazing crew, as she would retrieve the anchor, prepare much healthier meals than mine, and do things on the boat just because she’d seen me do them the day before. Had my mainsail arrived earlier, and had Melanie been available, we would have sailed to the Caymans, Jamaica, Cuba, and back. As it was, I was able to introduce her to Bill on Windrose, and at last word they were headed off to San Andreas, Providencia, the Bay of Islands of Honduras, and the Rio Dulce.

My next crew were Robyn and Stuart — a spectacular couple. Stuart had once been on the Shark Tank television show, which is about getting billionaires to invest in business and has nothing to do with real sharks in tanks.

I was amazed at how well the couple adapted to 10 days on Cirque. We visited some areas I’d never been to before, and some that I had. We anchored in Dolphin Bay and dined at the No Name restaurant. On my previous visits to Dolphin Bay I’d never seen any dolphins. Not this time, as the dolphins put on quite a show. Later that night we were surprised, because we were anchored at least a quarter mile from the jungle and mangroves, to see lightning bugs all around Cirque.

The next morning we took a tour of the Green Acres Chocolate Farm, which is owned by a couple named Robert and Julie. Formerly a dentist, Robert was our knowledgeable and personable guide on the tour of their 30 jungle/garden acres. Our visit was more a tour and education about the jungle than it was about chocolate. Sure, we ate cacao seeds/beans right out of the pods, but we also ate live termites. Green Acres will be on my list of stops for future guests on Cirque.

We then sailed 40 miles offshore to Escudo de Veraguas, which is not part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. It's a rather remote but gorgeous island that is home to just a few Indian fishermen. Sometimes the weather makes it impossible to stop there, but we were blessed with three peaceful nights.

The first evening some of the locals brought us lobster. We bought four for $6 each. Two nights later they sold us bigger ones for only $5 each. I wonder what they would have charged us had we stayed around a few more nights. I had stocked up on plenty of Danish Lurpak butter in advance. By the way, the snorkeling at these islands is fantastic.

One of the strangest sites I saw in the Bocas del Toro was what at first looked like a helicopter going down in the jungle. It was actually landing in a clearing, and dropping off the owner of the 56-ft megayacht Georgia, which at one time had been the biggest sloop in the world. Georgia and the helicopter had the same color scheme.

Bocas del Toro is the home to several megayachts, both sail and power. But it's great for those of us with small boats, too.

— louis 06/10/2017

Fleetwood — Naja 30
Jack van Ommen
The Wreck of My Second Boat
(Gig Harbor, Washington)

I am sad, embarrassed, but grateful that I am alive, and am excited as to what God’s plan is for the next chapter in my life.

I had another shipwreck. My second Fleetwood grounded near Mink Island on the Virginia Eastern Seaboard at around 4 a.m. on June 23. I was rescued from my liferaft at first light by the crew of a Coast Guard helicopter.

My plan had been to get underway before noon to be able to clear the bridge near the marina in Portsmouth, Virginia. But the engine wouldn't start because the ignition switch was loose. After failed attempts to fasten it, I had to replace it. Thus I didn't leave the dock until 4:30 p.m., and had to sail against the tide coming in from the Atlantic.

If I had been prudent, I would have waited until the next morning to leave. It meant I would have got the sleep I needed, and I would have gotten out to open water earlier. But I had paid for my moorage and the adrenaline was pumping, so I ignored prudence.

By 2:30 a.m. I had cleared the lower Eastern Seaboard peninsula and was sailing northeast. It seemed safe to set the alarm and take a one-hour nap. Apparently I didn't realize how tired I was, as I most likely slept through the alarm. Meanwhile, the wind must have changed from a westerly to a southwesterly, and with the windvane setting, it meant Fleetwood was now sailing toward shore.

I estimate my boat was moving at over five knots under full main and 140% genoa when I was awoken by the sound of grounding on a hard sand bottom. I dropped the sails, started the engine, and tried to back out to deep water. But it was pitch-black, and without being able to go down into the cabin to check my position, it was difficult to determine the way back to deeper water.

Every new wave drove Fleetwood into even more shallow water. She was bouncing like a wild bronco. I announced a Mayday on 16. When there was no immediate response, I pushed the alarm on my Garmin InReach tracker. Authorities received the signal at 4:30 a.m.

I put my two laptops, billfold, two backp hard drives, the ship’s log, and my Nikon and GoPro cameras in my new ditch bag. I'd bought the bag after losing my laptop in the surf at Cabo San Lucas.

Before long water from the bilge was coming over the floorboards. I was constantly talking to the Coast Guard dispatch. When the water really started coming in fast, I pulled my liferaft from the cabin sole into the cockpit. It was an almost impossible task. Never stow a heavy valise like mine belowdecks! In ideal conditions you may be able to get it out, but it becomes very hard when your boat is bouncing, you are under great stress, and you're becoming exhausted.

Fleetwood had started listing, but when water came up to my knees in the cabin floor, she leveled out. I managed to step/dive straight into the open canopy of the liferaft. I took my portable VHF and the Garmin InReach with me, and they turned out to be the only survivors out of the ditch bag. The bag turned out to be useless for keeping equipment dry. I was later able to dry the log pages and my wallet’s contents.

The Coast Guard helicopter arrived just after first light, and the rescue swimmer pulled me, with my PFD on, onto a steel basket. I was winched up to the chopper. The rescue swimmer then swam back to the liferaft to get my ditch bag before he was also lifted to the chopper.

All that I had on was a T-shirt, wool sweater, underwear, and boat shoes. I had a deep gash in my shin that was bleeding, so the rescue swimmer put a bandage on it.

Our initial destination was their base at Elizabeth City, but the chopper was directed to search for a boater in the water at the mouth of the Neuse River just north of Beaufort, North Carolina. This meant the copter had to refuel at the Cherry Point Marine Air Station. I was taken into the air-conditioned lounge, where still without pants, I was shivering. I was able to reach my daughter, who was just a three-hour drive away, to come and get me. She brought her husband’s sweatpants, a T-shirt and underwear.

She also insisted that I go to the ER in Norfolk to check my shin wound, get antibiotics, and get a tetanus shot. I have mentioned that I injured my back in a nasty fall in the cabin in a storm off Cabo Malo the day I reached the Panama Canal. I've been in constant back pain since, have had to walk with a stoop, and haven't been able to straighten my back. So my three daughters insisted that I have that looked into also.

After eight hours in the hospital, X-rays revealed an 80% compressed vertebra. An MRI showed more problems higher up, but no nerve damage. According to the neurosurgeon, I have two options to relieve the pain: a corset, or kyphoplasty to raise the compressed vertebra. Since I no longer have a boat and am thus not a free man able to sail where I please, the option on what to do with my back will be chosen by my children.

Naturally I had to cancel my presentation at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Seaport, and the thousand dollars' worth of books I had hoped to sell are flotsam. The last I saw of my boat — which I loved — was just her name visible at the waterline. Two Fleetwoods lost. May they rest in peace.

I am very grateful for the excellent and professional response of the US Coast Guard, and the help, love and friendship from my family and friends.

I have no idea what my next destination will be. The Great Loop trip has taken a great leap out of my reach. My reputation as a navigator may be somewhat dubious, but I am a good multi- language boat hand and a cook, and excel as a house-, pet- and chicken-sitter. Keep that in mind. Something good will come out of my loss and disappointment.

The search ended by finding the lifeless body on the Neuse River shore. A sad ending to his boating mishap. I count my blessings to get another chance.

— jack 06/25/2017

Pelagic — Hallberg Rassy 42
Michael and Amy Bradford
The Last Eight Months

Lord help me, Michael is already talking about doing a Northwest Passage as part of our next cruise! We — with kids Zander, Porter and Anakena — have been out for three years on our current one. We have covered 25,000 miles and spent time on four continents. We only hope the memories can sustain us until we get back out again.

Here's what we've been up to since we last reported in about eight months ago. Back then we were at the Los Roques Islands of Venezuala, or maybe Bonaire, trying to figure out how we were going to make our way back to the Pacific Northwest.

After a second canal transit in three years, we took the plunge and pointed our boat home, albeit very indirectly, via French Polynesia. We decided that we didn't want to retrace our steps by bashing up the North American coast.

Yes, it's a lot of extra sea miles to go for only a few months in French Polynesia, but we were anxious to show the kids some of the best cruising grounds in the world. Besides, it's where Michael and I met when I was working on an expedition-style ship, so it has always been our dream to go back.

We signed up for the Puddle Jump, but left Panama in February, which was too early for the parties and to take advantage of the Puddle Jump Net. We did, however, pick up the Poly Mag Net about 1,000 miles out from the Marquesas. I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way, but after two weeks it was lovely to hear the voice of someone other than my husband and the kids. And even better to be heard.

Perhaps because of our early departure, most of our crossing was plagued by light winds and was thus slow. At low engine rpms, and with some sail assist, we estimate that we motorsailed about one third of our 2,900-mile passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas.

We did, however, catch lots of fish and the kids did plenty of bosun's-chair swinging off the side of the boat. We had several swim stops while in the doldrums, which helped break up the trip. When there was zero wind, we even let our boys swim around the boat despite the fact that all the boat's sails were set.

Naturally we had a 'crossing of the equator' ceremony to initiate our children from Polliwog to Shellback status. It was much milder than, when in my other life, I had to go through the initiation of crossing the Antarctic Circle. At the end of an entire day of abuse, we newbies on that vessel had to crawl through two weeks of garbage on deck, and then eat a maraschino cherry out of the belly button of a very hairy marine engineer! We don't have a hairy marine engineer aboard Pelagic, so the kids had it pretty easy.

We sailed into the Marquesas after 24 slow days at sea, but we all arrived healthy and happy, and we didn't have anything broken. That's a successful passage.

The Marquesas are an incredible landfall. As we passed the headland on Hiva Oa, we could smell land. The rich soil and fragrant flowers were an assault on our olfactory senses. We sailed along the island and passed verdant peaks and cascading waterfalls, saw feral goats grazing, and watched the antics of sea birds diving off the cliffs. After so many miles of nothing but ocean, it was bliss to simply watch land go by.

The real gems in the Marquesas are the people, by far the friendliest of anywhere we've traveled. They are happy and their exuberance for life is contagious. They are patient with sailors who speak little if any French. We found that few of the islanders try to sell you anything. They often want to trade, but only because there are so many items that are hard to get in the Marquesas.

More often they try to give you something as a gift! I don't think you can walk into a Marquesan home without their handing you something. They are also generous in that we never had to pay to anchor, to land our dinghy, or to leave our garbage.

We had many bays to ourselves because we were so early in the season. Our first time through Daniel's Bay in Nuku Hiva we were the only boat. Two months later, as we came by again, there were about 10 boats. It's nice to share bays with other cruisers, but it's much easier to meet the locals when you are the only boat. Our cruising style is to hope for a little of both.

Michael's cruising dreams began in the Marquesas over 20 years ago, when he visited the islands on a liveaboard dive boat with his dad. As they passed the islands too quickly, he saw the sailboats at anchor with crew who got to stay on. The lightbulb went on in his head that a cruising sailboat was definitely the better way to see the world. His retelling of the story includes some scantily clad Polynesian women as part of the lure, but I've heard the story so many times that I've taken it on as my own and omit that detail.

While at Fatu Hiva 20-plus years ago, Michael picked up a rock on top of the hill that overlooks Hana Vave Bay, with the idea of returning it when he came back on his own boat at some point in the future.

Our first cruise together B.C. — Before Children — to Easter Island and Patagonia did not include a stop in the Marquesas. So it took us 20 years to get back, but we ceremoniously left the rock in its resting place, once again standing watch on the overlook to the bay.

As we were retracing our steps back down the mountain to our boat this year, my oldest son Zander, 14, picked up his own rock. He tells us that he is already dreaming of returning to Polynesia on his own boat "someday." So the cycle continues. As a mom, I can tell you that it was both exciting and terrifying to witness those wheels turning in his head. If you think crossing oceans gives you a few gray hairs, try fast-forwarding and thinking of your 'babies' making their own passage someday.

Next month, the Tuamotus.

— amy 06/15/2017

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
John and Debbie Monnie Rogers
Back to Fiji
(San Diego)

Last year's tour through Fiji was not in our original 'plan’. We only came to Fiji to escape the relentless rain and gloom we found in Tonga. And we loved every minute of Fiji, so it's no surprise that our Fiji track this year looks like a carbon copy of last year's. But we've stopped at some of the places we missed to fill in the gaps.

One such place was a horseshoe-shaped bay on Matagi Island. It was raining when we arrived, but somehow we knew this place was going to be special. The island is owned by a private resort, so the people don't come out to visit yachts very often. As a result, we had this beautiful bay to ourselves for four days. The sides of the horseshoe-shaped ancient volcano are very steep, and covered with jungle vegetation. We could hear goats baaa-ing on the hillsides and occasionally see them venturing down onto the sand. The steep sides protected us from trade winds just outside the bay.

Heading farther west, we stopped at Viani Bay, where last year it was windy and gray. This year the weather was perfect, and the sunsets were too good to miss. ‘Never miss a sunset,’ is our motto for this year.

Jack Fisher, a friend to all mariners visiting Viani Bay, came by to say ‘hello’. He offered us some fresh fruit — and went away with some gas money and a new solar-powered Luci Light. Debbie knew how to prepare the delicious fruit.

After a stop back at Savusavu for some provisions and Chinese food, we were off to the Yasawa Islands. And boy, did we have a ride getting there! The trade winds funnel between Fiji's two largest islands at 25-30 knots. On a westerly course in this stretch of ‘Bligh Water’, you can find some great sailing, as evidenced by the 13.4 knots we recorded on our GPS chartplotter.

One stop we missed last year was the limestone island of Sawa I Lau, which has a lot of caves. So we went ashore at the small village to meet the chief and gain his permission to snorkel in his lagoon, visit his cave, and walk his village.

The chief welcomed us, and asked us to look over the handmade wares offered by the elder women. He then hollered out the door in Fijian. He turned back and explained the money the women earn helps support the village. As we stepped out of the chief's bure, seven women appeared and began setting out some beautiful things on the woven mats they had placed on the ground. Deb found six very nice necklaces and a large cowrie shell, one from each woman's display.

The village is rather small, with only 35 people, and there is little beyond the subsistence lifestyle. But the chief says they have all they need and don't have to work too hard.

Our snorkel trip to a nearby motu was one of our best of the year. There was lots of coral and it looked healthy. Healthy coral means lots of fish, each adapted to the coral. There are lots of places fish can hide.

We were once again alone at our next stop, Malakati Bay on Nacula Island. It’s such a small village — 100 residents — that there isn’t a school, so all the kids ride off in the morning to a school at another village, and return in the late afternoon.

Since we arrived late in the afternoon, we thought we would come ashore the next morning for the traditional Sevusevu ceremony, where we present kava, then ask and receive permission to visit. But when the villager came alongside Moonshadow in his panga, he politely said that we had to come right then!

Five minutes later we were sitting cross-legged on the woven mat in a small, one-room bure where the chief lives. We presented the kava and told the chief we would like to anchor in his bay, snorkel in his lagoon, and walk on shore to visit his village. He told us we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted.

That's how it works here. Sevusevu is required. But ask and you shall receive. After some consideration, that seems right to us. Why shouldn't we ask first before camping in what the islanders believe is their water, eat what they consider their fish, and hike across their land?

Visiting small island villages in Fiji makes us ponder the vast cultural differences in our world. Outwardly, it would appear some of these places are primitive. Perhaps. Or maybe these people are born into a world of riches beyond the dreams of those of us from across the sea. They certainly have an abundance of natural riches: fish in the sea, fruit on the trees, and so forth, such that nobody goes hungry. And Fijians are so kind and helpful. But then nobody has an iPad, there is no Starbucks, and there is no Internet or television. So are they deprived or lucky?

Speaking of primitive, a word about navigating in these parts. Back home we pull out a chart, find the shoals and hazards, and then avoid them. Otherwise we sail through the big blue playground carefree. Here in Fiji, you assume the hazards are everywhere, and only sail through known, proven deep water.

So what about the charts? Some of the surveys these charts are based upon date back to Captain Bligh, Captain Cook, or maybe even Magellan. They are not accurate. In some cases a child with a crayon could have done better. I can just imagine the guy at the chart shop saying, "Let's make this reef triangular. We haven't done a triangle in a while.”

Fortunately, we have waypoints from cruisers who have gone before us, and who were thoughtful enough to share their GPS-based knowledge. And, now there are Google Earth-based navigation applications that provide visual comparisons with chart data. Thank God! We use our paper charts of Fiji to arrange our beachcombing treasures.

Those who do successfully navigate through the Yasawa Island Group find, the farther south they go, more and more evidence of modern civilization is seen. So you can go ashore for dinner at a small resort one day, and the next find yourself in a small cove with a small village — or nobody at all.

There are lots of long, sandy beaches to explore in Fiji. At one such beach, on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of our first date, we felt it necessary to leave our mark. By the way, that first date sure has worked out well!

— john and debbie 07/01/2017

Cruise Notes:

"After crossing paths with Latitude founder the Wanderer at the Arsenal Marina in Paris last July, we've been on the move," report Simon, Kelly, and Jasper (9) Jones of the Adelaide, Australia-based Fisher 28-ft catamaran Catkin. "As the Wanderer knows, we bought the cat sight unseen in Strasbourg, Germany, from a couple of Aussies. We then cruised the Marne to get to Paris, and then the Canal de Bourgogne and the Saone and Rhone rivers down to Valence in the South of France. Valence is a great port with a terrific crew and a lovely community. We wintered Catkin on the hard there while we returned to Adelaide for our summer gourmet popsicle business.

"We are now back on the briny, having raised our masts with the help of a great bunch of fellow cruisers at Port St. Louis. We also bought a crunchy new main from Patrick at Promo Sails for a great price, and headed east to Marseille and the amazing and beautiful Calanques. We're currently enjoying the fabulous cruising community, and the wonderful landscapes and seascapes, of the Iles du Frioul. Three miles from Marseille, with a number of fine anchorages and a 750-berth marina, the three islands of the Friouls are a hidden gem worthy of an extended visit. One of the islands, If, site of the Château d'If, is where the main character in Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned. We are still on the lookout for cruisimg families, however, as young Jasper is yet to find any little buddies. We're heading for Corsica in August and might have better luck there."

The Wanderer had a great time visiting with the Jones family in Paris last July. Simon, a Brit, had lived in San Rafael in the 1970s, and had read Latitude from issue #1. He spent his summers crewing on big yachts out of Antigua, and even found himself aboard the Fife 72 Latifa during the deadly Fastnet Race of 1979 on the other side of the pond. But that's all ancient history. We love the fact that the family is able to afford to cruise six months a year based on their six-months-a-year business of selling gourmet popsicles from a cart. Who would have thought?

How hot was it in the Sea of Cortez in July? We received several reports of day after day of 100+ degrees. As a result, nobody did much after 10 a.m. and before 6 p.m. And the really hot weather is still to come.

How hot was the water off Central America in July? Greg King of Long Beach, doing his second Panama to California delivery of a catamaran this summer, posted a photo of the water temp thermometer readng 91 degrees. No wonder that area is the breeding ground of so many hurricanes.

Speaking of hurricanes, Tomas Zydler published a long and interesting article on Baja hurricanes at We think we have decent understanding of tropical storms and hurricanes off Mexico, but we nonetheless learned a few new things.

One thing all cruisers want to avoid is ciguatera poisoning, which is caused by consuming a toxin often found in barracuda and some other larger fish. Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually followed by neurological symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, paresthesia, numbness, ataxia, vertigo, and hallucinations. Death is rare, but symptoms can last for weeks, months and even years. And relapses can be triggered by things like eggs, chicken and — oh God, no, alcohol! You might even be leery if your partner wants to eat a suspect fish, because ciguatera symptoms have developed in the sex partners of those who have it.

What makes ciguatera maddening is that there is no way to tell if a fish has it; the toxin is not effected by cooking, and there is no effective treatment for the wicked symptoms.

Eric Witte and Annie Gardner of the San Diego-based Catana 47 El Gato, currently at the River Sallee in Grenada, caught a barracuda in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean and were faced with the question of whether to eat it.
"We never would have kept it," says Eric, "except for the fact that the Italian homemade pasta with chunks of barracuda meat I had at a little place called Barracuda on Union Island was one of the best, if not the best, meals I've had in the Caribbean. The owner told us that small 'cudas are less likely to have the toxin buildup, as they haven't eaten as many small fish. He also said that there is "no ciguatera south of Martinique". So we kept the fish and are cooking it now. If you don't hear from Annie or me again, you know what happened."

A freak accident will likely put an end to one of the favorite cruiser thrill-seeking activities on Dutch Sint Maarten. For years cruisers — including the Wanderer and his then-young kids — have gathered at and gripped the cyclone fence at the northwest end of the Queen Juliana Airport runway. The idea was to be buffeted by the jet-engine blasts of departing planes — particularly the afternoon KLM 747. To promote this activity a nearby bar — which also offers free drinks to topless women — prints a schedule of plane arrivals — which are almost as thrilling — and departures on a surfboard stuck in the sand. There are plenty of videos on Google of umbrellas, people — and maybe even small cars — being blown across the road by the jet blasts, then across the sandy beach, and sometimes out into the ocean. Tragically, in mid-July a 56-year-old Kiwi woman lost her grip on the fence and was blown in such a way that her head was smashed against a curb, killing her. Those with her acknowledged that they'd seen the sign admonishing people not to do it — a sign everyone ignores.

There is a letter and long response in this month's Letters about Glenn Tieman's 38-ft Polynesian cat Manu Rere's getting T-boned and badly damaged by a fishing boat in Malaysia. This while Glenn was home in the States caring for his sick father. There is some good news, however, as Glenn reports in his latest letter to Latitude:

"Five days after arriving back at Terengganu, Malaysia, Manu Rere was up out of the water and drying out. She's at a boatyard under a highway bridge. The yard has a crew of shipwrights who build traditional vessels plank-on-frame of dense local wood — by eye and without paper plans. It's even a tourist spot because of this. These guys had the skills and tools to get Manu Rere out, an invaluble asset to me."

At the risk of sounding like the biggest fanboy of and largest shareholder in Garmin, makers of the InReach satellite messengers, we can't understand why anyone should ever again have to worry if their friends offshore are all right.

Virginia Gleser of the Mexico and Alameda-based Freeport 41 Harmony, and First Lady of Tenacatita Bay, wrote the following on June 27:

"We had been getting SailMails from Philip DiNuovo and Leslie Linkkila of the Kingston, Washington-based Mason 33 Carina, who are making a 6,000-mile trek from Pohnpei, Micronesia, back to Sitka, Alaska. We last heard from them on June 11, which is 16 days ago, when they were in some rough weather 1,600 miles from Sitka. We are becoming concerned, and wonder if anyone has been receiving their updates and/or has heard from them more recently. We don't want to be alarmed, since the SailMail might be sketchy out there in the middle of the North Pacific, but thought someone on the nets might have had contact."

Not to knock Philip and Leslie, who are very experienced cruisers, but if they had a Garmin InReach, which only costs a couple of hundred bucks, and a relatively low monthly fee, Virginia and other friends wouldn't have had to worry about them. The couple could have been leaving a 'bread-crumb trail' on the Internet, and could have responded quickly to any inquries about their well-being.

As it was, Philip and Leslie had been checking in with the Pacific Seafarers Net every evening, reporting that they were cold but doing fine. Word just wasn't getting to Virginia. The Pacific Seafarer's Net is a terrific thing, but we think it has a few shortcomings that two-way messegers don't, such as getting 'We're at such-and-such a position, and doing just fine' messages to large groups of friends.

There was a similar situation with Kurt Roll of San Diego, who now owns the Tartan 37 that was named Eleutheria when owned by Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous, who have moved on to the catamaran Quixotic. Apparently some friends were worried about Roll and his crew because they hadn't heard from them for a few days. Then another friend wrote, "Just to let everyone know, Kurt and friends are sailing in the Lau Group. All is good with them, and they are currently at Fulaga, where there is no Internet or phone service. They hope to be somewhere with Internet and phone service in a week or so. For those who know Kurt's family, can you please pass this along?"

Kurt is a good friend, so we can say, "What the heck, Kurt, why don't you have an InReach so you can let family and all your friends know where you are and that you're safe, even when you don't have Internet?' Maybe there was some mitigating circumstance, but if not, we just don't get it.

If you have a family member or friend who is taking off on a voyage, in our opinion the best going-away present you can give them is an InReach or a Go! It's not much money for your peace of mind — and theirs, in case they get into trouble.

Ed and Sue Kelly of the Iowa-based Catalac catamaran Angel Louise got high with their boat last month. In the early stages of their 'Great Loop' of the Eastern United States, they spent 3½ days going west on the Erie Canal, during which time they climbed more than 400 feet before being lowered 120 feet back down to the level of Lake Ontario.

The most exciting part was going up on the world's largest hydraulic lift lock, the 100-year-old lift lock at Peterborough, Ontario, on the Trent-Severn Waterway. The lock, which lifts vessels 65 ft up in one go, is powered by a gigantic piston under each of two gigantic 'boat trays'. Each lock tray displaces water equal in weight to the boats in it. To raise one tray while lowering the other, the lock operator adds one foot of water to the depth of the upper tray. You can check out their video of being lifted at

As high as Angel Louise got on her way to Canada, it was nothing compared to how high she got while on the Main River in Europe during her London-to-London circumnavigation of Western Europe via the Danube, the Black Sea, the Med and the Atlantic. At one point the Kellys and their boat were 1,337 feet above sea level!

The couple's July arrival in Canada marked not only their 10th year of cruising — Angel Louise is their only home — but also their having visited 49 countries and five continents.

Six years ago last month, Douglas Thorne of the Alameda-based Celestial 48 Tamara Lee Ann and his crew made a 21-day passage from Hawaii to the Golden Gate, completing a summer cruise to the Islands. What's the next big sailing adventure for the veteran of a number of Baja Ha-Ha's? "Maybe a Northwest Passage."

In the process of a Northwest Passage attempt right now are Charlie and Cathy Simon of the Spokane- and Nuevo Vallarta-based Taswell 56 Celebrate, a boat the couple used to do an 11-month doublehanded circumnavigation. For the Northwest Passage they have three crew. Ralf Jäger and Edward Jaschek have been with them for a time now, and they were joined in Nuuk, Greenland, by Brian Martin O'Grady. A main jump-off point for a Northwest Passage, Nuuk is Greenland's seat of government and is home to 17,000 residents, one third of the population of Greenland.

For the love of a bird! Cruisers John and Jennifer Stalling of the Lagoon 380 Noel's Delight, hailing port unknown, found themselves having to make the 1,400-mile trip from Antigua to Miami because of their pet bird Ho' Aloha. The pet's passport needed to be renewed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but when the couple applied for renewal, they were told the bird had to be in the States. John and Jennifer looked into getting the inspection done in the US Virgins, but there are no inspection services there. So they looked into Puerto Rico. In order to get the inspection done in Puerto Rico, they would have to apply for a Designated Port Exemption Permit, one of the criteria for getting a permit to "alleviate undo economic hardship". After getting fee estimates of $600 to get the renewal done in Puerto Rico, they found they wouldn't qualifiy for the exemption. So they sailed downwind to Miami. That's not so bad, but if they have to slam 1,400 miles to weather getting back to the Eastern Caribbean, they might not be so happy with their bird.

Many years ago Antonio des Mortes, captain of our Ocean 71 Big O, had a bird named Lola aboard. While charming at times, and once on the cover of Latitude, Lola had a terrible habit of hurling racist insults at people who walked by, and was forever chewing snorkels into little rubber bits. We were glad when Lola was repatriated to the jungles of Panama.

Want to really get away? Shelly Ward Rothman and Mike Rickman of the La Paz-based Peterson 44 Nirvana suggest Tahanea Atoll in the Tuamotus. "Life is isolated here to say the least," they write, "as it is uninhabited and the channel unmarked. Fortunately, our friends Christian Feldbaurer and Birgit Hacki — he was born in Grieskirchen, Austria, while she was born in Linz, Austria — on the aluminum S&S 41 Pitufa have spent several months a year here for the last four years. And they guided us in. The pass was mostly 50 to 100 feet deep, but it's important to cross the lagoon with the sun directly overhead so that you can easily spot the bommies — which are the individual coral heads that stick out of the water."

Nancy Morrison of the Santa Cruz-based Catalina 42 Aldebra, one of the few female owner/skippers in last year's Ha-Ha, figured out how to beat the summer heat of La Paz. She left her boat at Marina de La Paz, and along with four others — 2014 Ha-Ha vets Rick and Cindy Patrinellis of the Sausalito-based Pacific Seacraft 31 Cool Change, and Jeff and Julie Fredrick of the catamaran El Gato — traveled to the historical city of Taxco, about 100 miles southwest of Mexico City. The group rented a house in a Mexican neighborhood. Because Taxco is at 6,000 feet, the high temps are only in the high 70s and the lows in the low 60s — a delightful change from the relentless summer heat of Baja. But it does rain.
"The five of us came here to enroll in the language school at CEPE-Taxco," explains Morrison. "It's part of UNAM, the premier public university of Mexico. CEPE is the center for language studies for foreigners, and is a satellite campus housed in what in the16th century was a hacienda. Students are evaluated for placement in one of eight levels of Spanish instruction and cultural activities. The course is six weeks long and costs about $600, including the textbook. I'll give Latitude an update as the course progresses.

Jeanne Socrates of the Victoria-based Najad 380 Nereid arrived in San Francisco Bay from La Cruz, Mexico, in the third week of July, and was greeted by a whale. It was a nice welcome after a long period of northbound harbor-hopping, accompanied by her share of minor boat problems. Socrates, who has done four singlehanded circumnavigations, two of them solo and nonstop without outside assistance, is headed for Victoria. British Columbia. In September she plans to depart on yet another solo, nonstop circumnavigation, which she expects will take about 275 days. Socrates currently holds the record for being the oldest woman to have done it — she was 70 when she finished her 2012-2013 go-round. She missed being the oldest person to have accomplished the feat by several months, and is intending to correct that. The retired math teacher is a Latitude favorite. If you wish to contribute to this remarkable woman's attempt, you can contact her at

If you're in the area, there is no way you want to miss the 34th Annual Fiji Regatta at the Musket Cove Island Resort and Marina in Fiji. While not as politically correct as events in the States, those folks know how to put on a great event, and you get to play with a lot of cruisers from the Southern Hemisphere. The dates are September 15-20.

"We've completed most of the Bash from La Cruz to San Francisco with our Santa Rosa-based Lagoon 440 Baja Fog," report John and Monique Schulthess. "It was a true Bash as we had a lot of wind on the nose. In fact, we had to hide out at San Carlos. Unfortunately, the anchor got stuck there and I had a big problem getting it free. Take it from me, chain is stronger than human flesh. But we made it to Ensenada, where the marina and pool are great. So far we've got another Lagoon 440 to sign up for this fall's Ha-Ha, and we're hoping to get enough sisterships for a one-design class."

Steve Tull and DeAnne Trigg — he of Perth, Australia, she of Huntington Beach — on the Lagoon 421 La Mischief have arrived in the Northeast after several seasons in the Med, a season in the Caribbean, and playing spectator boat at the America's Cup in Bermuda. As is the case wherever the two go, they do everything that can be done. So they've visited the stocks for witches at Salem, taken in a Red Sox game in Boston, visited the Cheers bar, and a whole lot more.

As we go to press, we've learned two things from Jack van Ommen. First, he had his back surgery, although so far he's not feeling any better. Second, his Fleetwood was raised and taken to a boatyard. Having been submerged for several weeks, she has much damage, but there is hope. Fingers crossed!

Missing the pictures? See the August 2017 eBook!


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