With reports this month from Norm
and Janet Goldie in San Blas; Breta on thrifty cruising with lots
of vegetarian women; from Pilgrim
on doing a mini circumnavigation in the Aegean to slow a global
circumnavigation; from Misty on trucking
across country to enjoy some East Coast cruising; from Quo
Vadis on single handing from Eureka to Santa Cruz; from Blue Banana on the Puddle Jump to the
Marquesas; and Cruise Notes.
San Blas/Assist Needed
Capt. Norm & Janet Goldie
San Blas, Mexico
My wife Janet and I have had the pleasure of assisting almost all the fishermen and cruisers who have visited San Blas - which is located about halfway between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta - since 1964. The first vessel we were able to help had the actor John Wayne aboard. They called us over to ask if we had any fresh fish to sell them. We gave them our only fish - a nine-foot sailfish! I'm sure they enjoyed BBQ-ing it.
Now it's time for Janet and me to request a little assistance, both for this season and for future seasons. We plan to spend more time fishing and enjoying the beach, so we're hoping that cruisers already in port will take it upon themselves to assist new arrivals with information on how to make it safely up the channel and to provide other local knowledge. We'd also appreciate it if some HF radio operators would be kind enough to volunteer to be net controllers for our popular San Blas Fisherman's and Cruiser's Net, which comes on at 4.051.0 (8.104.0 is the alternate) each night at 1750 during the cruising season. We deal, with emergencies, weather, check-ins and radio contacts.
Janet and I will still be in port most days happy to help visitors as much as we can, but we could use the help. Since we're trying to cut back a little, it would also be a good time for us to thank all the cruisers and fishermen over the years for their friendship, laughter, and the many beautiful days and nights we've shared on the wonderful Pacific Ocean.
We also have another important request: We beg all cruisers coming to San Blas to bring used clothing and toys for the very, very needy of this region. Two years ago the bodies of two children were brought to the humble local clinic for burial, as their parents didn't even have rags to insulate them from the cold. They had died of hypothermia. We always send cruisers up into the mountains to distribute the donated things, along with stuff that Jan and I have purchased. We have never asked for payment for all the help we've given cruisers, and all we're asking for now is that those of you coming down bring some used clothing and toys. Many, many thanks. We can answer questions by .
- capt. norm & janet 7/15/2000
Readers - The Goldies have indeed been great friends to cruisers and fishermen since LBJ was President. Let's all pitch in to help them out - and above all heed their request to help the very poor in Mexico.
Breta - Columbia 34 MKII
How I Did It
This is in answer to some questions Latitude asked in response to the Changes I wrote for the August issue, as well as some clarifications. By the way, I think Latitude did a good job of piecing together my disparate emails into the Sightings and the Changes - but 'Roy the Ramblin Romantic'? I dunno, I think I liked 'Lonesome Roy' better.
The first question was about the boat I used for my nearly five year - at $450 a month for everything - circumnavigation. Yes, my Columbia 34 was a Mark II that had been built in 1971 - a design Latitude notes has often been criticized for oil-canning in rough seas and for possibly having excessive freeboard. Sisterships to this boat can be found in almost any large California marina. It's difficult for me to compare the boat to other designs, because she was the first and only boat I owned - until last year when I bought a LaFitte 44. But having said that, here are my impressions:
I like the Columbia 34 design - which has a flush deck - very much, although I don't think the workmanship was particularly good. But it was obviously good enough to get me around the world. As for the high freeboard, I didn't find any major disadvantages - except that it's ugly and tends to make the boat more lively at anchor during strong gusts. The advantages of high freeboard are that it provides a tremendous amount of interior space - the Columbia is still one of the biggest 34-footers around - gives the boat a lot of reserve buoyancy, and makes for an extremely dry ride. Because she's 10 feet longer, my LaFitte has almost as much freeboard as the Columbia, but is actually a wetter boat. Of course, the LaFitte is far heavier and averages a knot faster, so she tends to plow through the waves rather than lift over them. Incidentally, I think high freeboard only works on a flush-deck boat, as the overall windage of a high-freeboard flush-deck boat is not significantly greater than that of a cabin top design.
It's true that my Columbia 34 - I still own her - was prone to pounding. This happened a lot while going up the Red Sea - a passage notorious for being rough on boats and crew - with the result that some spider cracks in the gelcoat seemed to get even longer. Despite this, the Columbia actually did great in the characteristically short and square seas of the Red Sea. One reason is that the bulky looking hull is actually quite narrow: just 10 feet of beam.
The 'oil canning'- meaning the flexing of relatively thin and unsupported areas of the hull - was more a concern during the two haulouts than while in the water. The problem was that the hull on either side of the engine pan is poorly supported and could have easily been deflected inward if the stands hadn't been properly placed. I made no hull modifications before leaving, but could have beefed up this area with some stringers.
I bought my Columbia 34 in 1988 for $20,000, then lived aboard for five years while I slowly fixed her up while working and saving. When I bought her, she was supposed to be my 'practice boat' and a way to live inexpensively. My plan was to wait until the year 2000 - a nice round number - and buy a 'real cruising boat' at the age of 42. For various reasons I decided to leave earlier with less money and a less-than-ideal boat. I figured that my relative youth - 35 years of age - would make up for not having a roller furler, dodger, refrigeration and experience. Besides, some of the local dockside experts kept saying "those old Columbias are good boats, you don't need another one." For once, it seems they were right.
Like most cruisers, during my years of cruising I slowly formed an opinion of the 'perfect cruising boat'. I leaned toward something like a Freya 39 or a Corbin 39 - until I came across the LaFitte 44. But in many ways, a boat is a boat. When the waves are just the wrong size for your boat, the guy in the smaller boat and the guy in the larger boat will be better off than you - until the size and frequency of the waves change.
So much for my Columbia 34. When choosing my navigation equipment, I opted for a somewhat unusual combination of a 'black-box' GPS - it has no controls or screen - and a cheap 286 IBM clone laptop. The computer had a black and white screen and ran MS-DOS because it couldn't handle Windows. I also had a sextant and a back-up handheld GPS - neither of which ever got used. The black-box/laptop combo allowed me to store every single waypoint - including harbor entrances and anchorages for my entire circumnavigation. There were about 1,300 of them, and I've recently split the mass of waypoints into smaller 'routes', and converted it all to a Windows-friendly format. I'm thinking of selling it if there's interest. Cruisers are always asking, "what's your waypoint", at some entrance or anchorage, so I think it might prove useful. I certainly could have used it when I started out.
In the last issue, you stated that I originally intended to circumnavigate single-handed because I didn't feel I was a good enough sailor to take crew along. This is essentially correct, but a bit overstated. Even in the early days of my circumnavigation I considered myself to be about as competent as the next Mexico bound beginner, but I felt taking on unknown crew - especially of the fun-loving backpacker variety - would be an additional responsibility that I didn't want at the time. Having someone new aboard is usually interesting and sometimes fun until the crew gets 'acclimated', but until then they can making running the boat even harder than if you're by yourself. You need to have complete confidence in your abilities to handle the boat alone before you take on any untried crew, and by the time I got to Oz, I felt I was a good enough sailor to consider some crew and companionship.
The event that precipitated it was meeting a backpacker at a party on the Gold Coast of Oz one night, who told me that he and every other backpacker he knew would kill to get aboard a boat such as mine for a sail up to the Whitsunday Islands. 'You could get boatloads of sheilas" - Aussie for 'young women' - "as crew and make 'em pay for the privilege", is a polite way to express the jist of his advice. After thinking about it for a while, I visited some of the hostels and posted flyers that read as follows - "Boat headed north. Looking for crew. Share expenses. I discriminate in favor of vegetarian females."
To make a long story short, the guy was right. I soon had many more applicants than I wanted, almost all female, and all either claimed to be veggies or willing to convert for at least the duration of sailing with me. My original email stated that I had 17 crew during my circumnavigation, all female, and all from my 15 months of cruising in Australia. Actually, that's not correct. I really had 18 crew. One of them, in fact the first, was a guy. Another was a German girl I met while she was backpacking in Bali.
While 18 crew might seem like a lot, I often took them in pairs. Often times I couldn't decide who among them to take, so I took two or even three. Only one of them had any prior sailing experience. Some left the boat too quickly for my liking, others stuck it out for longer than I preferred. But a number of them became 'regulars', joining Breta months - and even years - later for the second or third time. As I said, I usually ended up taking pairs of females on board. Sometimes both jumped ship together, sometimes one stayed. In general, I found both stuck around longer if they hadn't come aboard as travelling buddies. For some reason three strangers on a boat seems to be a good mix. Then you just add some natural splendor, some lumpy seas and a black cat, and see what develops.
In any case, Oz is where I started my crew search - and pretty much ended it, too. For before long, I'd built up a small core of individuals who would join me again later, so I stopped searching - until now, that is. Most of my old core group have either married or had children - or both - which is not ideal crew for a solo guy.
As you know, there are many crew horror stories making the rounds of the world's oceans, and I witnessed some on other boats before I decided to take on crew. Happily, I can honestly say that I never had a really bad crewmember. In retrospect, I think it had a lot to do with how and where the crew search took place. My notices contained a sort of prescreening, as the phrase "I discriminate in favor of fit vegetarian females" kept most of the backpacking public away. Despite this, some couples and single guys would show up at the boat. In fact, my very first crew was an Ozzie professional cook looking for a chef's position at one of the resorts up the coast. I thought he did really well - considering the lumpy seas we encountered and the miserable old alcohol stove he had to work with. Nonetheless, he jumped ship fairly quickly - and I can't say that I blame him.
If anyone else is thinking of finding crew the way I did, here's some advice. Take on new crew in regions where the sailing will be coastal hops, as this always gives them the opportunity to jump ship and gives you the opportunity to change crew. I avoided taking untried crew on big crossings, as these should obviously be reserved for tried and true crewmembers. I also tried not to take crew across borders, because in most countries it would have made me as responsible for my crew as a father is for his underage kids. Your crew list can legally bind you to leave the country with the same crew you arrived with.
Finally, there's the money issue. While I'm sure that most of my crew would have been willing to pay at least what they would have paid for staying in a hostel, I decided against that. I didn't want to run a poor man's charter outfit - which would have been illegal most places anyway - but opted for a strict sharing of the expenses for food, fuel and the occasional marina or mooring. All of my crew felt they got a real bargain. I did too, because they did all the cooking. While this might sound like a sexist apportionment of duties, believe me, it was in their best interest, as nobody would have been happy with the stuff I serve up.
There was only one potentially dangerous incident caused by my crew. On one occasion a particularly ambitious crew decided to try my 25-year-old alcohol powered oven, which I had never used before. All went well until the valve stem broke and pressurized burning fuel flooded the galley. I almost lost the boat on that one. Luckily, alcohol burns with a relatively cool flame that can be extinguished with water, and a few big buckets of seawater did the trick. Some singed hair and clothes, fried curtains, melted Lexan, and discolored fiberglass were the only damages. Had it been any other fuel, my boat would be part of the Great Barrier Reef by now.
People often want to know about the worst weather I encountered in seven years. I took my old Columbia 34 through both canals - Suez and Panama - to play it safe, but a couple of rough areas still stick in my mind. The highest sustained winds - excluding squalls and thunderstorms - were probably about 40+ knots. I can't say for sure because I didn't have an anemometer. This happened between Ithatca, Greece, and the heel of Italy. It was on the nose and plenty lumpy, but lasted less than 24 hours.
Another bad period was when I crossed the Tasman Sea from the top of New Zealand to Coffs Harbor, OZ. I timed the weather a bit badly, and thus arrived at Coff's Harbor more exhausted then at the end of any other leg. It hadn't really been a dangerous sail, just days on end of ugliness. The Red Sea was the Red Sea, of course, but I had one of my favorite crew along with me so it didn't seem so bad.
The places I'm looking forward to returning to? None in particular. In fact, this time around I hope to check out the places that I didn't get to last time. That means transiting fewer canals and rounding more capes. But, I suppose my favorite place was Oz, and for many reasons. I spent over a year there: Coff's Harbor to the Whitsundays, the Whitsundays to Sydney, Sydney to Darwin - and really enjoyed it.
Fiji probably had my favorite islands - although Malaysia and Thailand had some great ones, too. Places to skip? New Zealand - but only because I had a big battle with the bureaucracy about my cat. Also, that was the same year they started the now discontinued 'safety inspections'. New Zealand is a nice country with nice people, but nothing sours me more on a place than having to fight officialdom.
Even though I lived on $450 a month, some will naturally wonder how I'm now able to own both my Columbia 34 and a LaFitte 44 - which costs more than $20,000. The answer is a combination of being very frugal, having bought the LaFitte in Mexico, and some good luck. I have to give most of the credit to the booming stock market of the last five years. Had it gone the other way, I'd now be back in the job market instead of getting ready to head out again.
Although I'm very tempted to say, "anyone who puts their mind to it can do as I did", I don't believe it's quite as easy as it was before. The Bay Area seems to be a different place from when I left. Maybe I've been gone too long, but everything seems much 'tighter'. Marinas, for instance, have less room and cost more. Insurance is required everywhere - in fact, I'd never needed it until I returned and a marina made me get it. Living aboard is far more difficult, and the tax assessors are more confiscatory. I could go on, but I don't want to get into a whining mode.
For me there has always been a pull and a push to the cruising equation - something positive pulling me out to explore the world, and something negative pushing me out. I have to say that the push forces are stronger now in the Bay Area than they were then. Northern California is still a great place to visit, but I'm heading out again real soon.
I'm not someone who enjoys publicity, but Latitude's earlier articles added so much to my 'if they can do it, so can I' attitude. As such, I felt it was only right that I contribute something in return. Tomorrow I'll start driving up to Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and maybe parts of Alaska. While in Oregon, I'll be visiting old cruising friends from Nonchalant and Ingrid Princess. They also circumnavigated, so I'll encourage them to send you their stories as well. Mainly I'll be scouting out the coast and the marinas, because I plan to take the LaFitte up that way.
- roy 6/1/2000
Readers - Do you hear that low roar? We think it's the sound of hundreds of newly minted male vegetarian boatowners throwing off their dock lines and setting sail for the youth hostels of Australia.
Pilgrim - Panda 38
Steve Whitmore & Sue Angus
(Pier 39, San Francisco)
As much as we love San Francisco, we are getting too close, too soon. We started our circumnavigation with the '95 Ha-Ha and already we are in the Mediterranean. We have to slow down!
So, we Pilgrims are sailing around the Aegean, and in so doing are completing a mini-circumnavigation within a circumnavigation. We set sail from Marmaris, Turkey, when the winter storms were over, crossed over the bottom of the Aegean through the Dodecanese, turned north, and began weaving our way through the Cyclades. Our route took us to the top of the Aegean along the Greek mainland, and then we turned east to begin the trip back to Marmaris via the islands of Limnos, Lesvos and Khios.
Greece is a wonderful area to cruise. The anchorages are picture perfect, the islands different enough from each other to provide lots of variety, and the weather has been hot - but usually not too hot. The islands of the Northern Sporades has been our favorite cruising area in Greek waters.
Cruising in the Mediterranean is very different than most other places. Here, we rarely get a chance to do much sailing. While motorsailing may be good for the batteries, it is not good for the soul. The old adage about there being only two winds speeds in the Med is definitely true. It either blows too much or too little.
The best part about cruising the Med is that the next anchorage is usually close enough to reach by lunchtime. Another big plus for the Med are the fantastic opportunities for teaming up. Both Greece and Turkey are natural museums, which is a special delight for one of us. The other grumbles about having to hike a couple of miles to look at "yet another pile of rocks." A kid on a buddyboat thinks the same way. He says he can't wait till he and his parents get to the Caribbean so he "won't have to look at stuff."
One of the more interesting 'teaming opportunities' involves anchoring. For thousands of miles of sailing and anchoring, we have always used the basic method advocated by Earl R. Hinz of Honolulu. We put the anchor on the bottom, fall back slowly with the wind or current, letting out chain as we go, then snub it off to set the anchor. We reverse engine at medium RPM to check that we are set, then open a can of beer and enjoy life together. But in the Med we have observed new and exciting ways to anchor.
Our favorite technique is the 'Metal Mountain Method'. The anchor is put down, all the chain is dropped on top of the anchor, and the bottle of wine is opened. But for sheer excitement, you can't beat the 'Grand Prix' technique. In this one, you approach your chosen anchor spot going at least five knots - although a real pro will try for six or seven - and at precisely the right moment you release your anchor and chain. Done properly, sparks fly off the gypsy as the chain flies out and runs along the bottom of your hull. With luck, the anchor will dig in before your boat runs up on the beach, the bow will spin 180 degrees, and the boat is set for the night. Exhilarating!
There are, however, two techniques that make us nervous - and sometimes even cause us to weigh anchor and move. They are the 'Saving For A Windy Day' and 'Telephone Advertisement' techniques. In the 'Saving For a Windy Day', you put down as little chain as possible, keeping most of it in the locker in case you will need it later. A scope of two-to-one is all you need in this technique, so it's very popular with crews on boats without windlasses. In the 'Telephone Advertisement' technique, the idea is to get as close as possible to at least one other boat, preferably close enough to 'reach out and touch someone' if needed. This is also called the 'Gray Poupon' technique and is popular with novice cruisers who are worried about being by themselves. It's also popular with boats not equipped with a depthsounder.
Even though anchoring Med-style can be nerve-wracking, we prefer it to Medtying at the town quay - where one learns about 'Anchor Chain Salad'- or as some call it, the 'Chinese Chain Puzzle'.
Sometimes Clipper Cove and China Camp seem a million miles away. Meanwhile, we love discovering all the different kinds of olives and feta cheeses, eating heaps of grilled octopus and seeing island villages that look like they were designed by Kodak. Now if only we could anchor closer to that nude beach.
- steve & sue 8/15/2000
Misty - Aries 32
Bob & Jane Van Blaricom
Cruising The East Coast
Poking around in the backwaters and gunkholes on a leisurely schedule is not a bad form of cruising. With this in mind we shipped our little 32 ft. double-ender to the East Coast for a three-month cruise up the Intracoastal Waterway, on Chesapeake Bay, and as far north as Cape Cod. Maybe it didn't have the excitement of a voyage around Cape Horn, but it was great fun anyway.
We decided to skip the Florida portion of
the ICW because it has too many boats, houses and bridges, so
we shipped Misty to a spot near the northern border of
Florida. Joule Transportation of Jacksonville picked up the boat
at Bay Ship & Yacht in Richmond and delivered it to the Tiger
Point Boatworks in Fernandina Beach, Florida. They did an excellent
job for a very reasonable $3,850. It cost another $550 or so at
the boatyards on each end. Misty arrived right on schedule at
9:00 AM, Monday, April 17th - and was rigged and in the water
by 4:00 PM! We spent the next day getting organized and putting
stores aboard, but the next day we were on our way.
A big advantage of cruising north on the ICW is that the prevailing wind is in the southerly quarter, thus giving lots of running and reaching. We sailed far more than we had expected, and by the end of three weeks of traveling had used only 15 gallons of fuel. Another advantage was having the sun behind us as we stared ahead searching for the next waterway marker. Being early in the season, the weather was quite pleasant. Other than the no-see-ums early in the cruise, bugs weren't a major problem.
Sailing through the waterway in Georgia was a lot like sailing up to Montezuma Slough in the Sacramento Delta, with endless marsh grass on each side. Without the waterway markers you would be hard pressed to know where you were! Much of the ICW passes through wildlife reserves and is quite beautiful - if your taste in nature runs to marshy flatlands with lots of birds. We would usually go about 15 to 25 miles a day, although one day we went 40 miles because the anchorage we were headed for turned out to be off our ICW strip chart! We anchored out most of the time, usually trying to find a spot with a stand of trees nearby. We could always find an anchorage in the many creeks, nooks, and rivers. Frequently we were alone, although sometimes we shared a spot with one or two other sailboats. The powerboats always head for the marinas at night.
One afternoon we anchored off a nice grove of trees in Cane Patch Creek, Georgia. At about 2:00 P.M., the storm clouds moved in. Within minutes the rain was torrential - accompanied by a spectacular lightning and thunder show. It was both exciting and kind of scary! The pyrotechnics didn't stop until midnight - although there was a short break during dinnertime. And we thought this trip might be dull!
After about a week at Thunderbolt, Georgia, we stopped at our first marina for some stores, a little boat work, and some much needed showers. We took a taxi into nearby Savannah to see the historic sights including, of course, the locale of Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. This, along with Beaufort, South Carolina, would be one of our favorite stops.
Contrary to our expectations, there was plenty of water in the ICW - generally about 9 or 10 feet at low tide. We managed to go aground once in a while, but it was always while wandering around off the waterway. One day we misjudged the entrance to Tom Point Creek, South Carolina, and went up on the putty on a falling tide. Misty showed her bilges nicely for quite a while, but finally the rising tide - with the help from a kedge - floated us off. It was so nice once we got in the creek that we lay over a day, while I finally aligned the prop shaft to stop the annoying chatter it had been making.
The contrasts of the trip were part of the charm of it. While at Charleston, South Carolina, we stayed in the modern Ashley Marina lying alongside a shiny 145-ft motoryacht, enjoying all sorts of luxuries such as hot showers, dining ashore, and strolling through the historic district. The next day we anchored in the marshes of the Cape Romayne Nature Preserve, where the banks of the creek were absolutely carpeted with millions of oysters. Great flocks of terns were feasting at low tide, and made a huge racket when not eating.
We liked Georgetown, South Carolina, an interesting little harbor at the confluence of the Sampit, Waccamaw, and Great PeeDee Rivers. We had a copy of The Swamp Fox aboard, which is a biography of General Francis Marion, who raised hell around here during the American Revolution. Lots of history. We met some interesting cruising characters, too, including an old chap nicknamed 'Captain Seaweed' who sails around the waterways in an old boat he rescued from the dumpster. He told us that while anchored there one day, "a big cottonmouth water moccasin" climbed up his boomkin and slithered into his cockpit.
After departing Georgetown, a real highlight of the trip was our passage up the Waccamaw River in the heart of a huge cypress swamp. Beautiful! The scenery went a bit downhill, however, as we passed Myrtle Beach and entered North Carolina. There were long stretches of the waterway with few trees, but many houses with little wooden piers jutting out into the water. Many were still unrepaired from the last hurricane. But things got prettier again when we reached Beaufort ('beau' as in beautiful), North Carolina. This is a lovely historical town, and it has a lively waterfront filled with boats transiting the ICW and using the excellent gateway to and from the Atlantic. As usual, we met some interesting cruising folks.
We had some very nice sailing for the next few days as we passed through some large, shallow, open water areas that form part of Pamlico Sound. Think of San Pablo Bay on a gigantic scale, but with crab pots. Before crossing the last bit, Albemarle Sound, we anchored in the wide Alligator River and had the fun of riding out not one, but two big electrical storms. The wind blew, the rain came in sheets that flattened the water, and our dinghy filled. Thank goodness we had increased the size of Misty's anchor!
The final section of our ICW trip began with our arrival in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and an amazing display of southern hospitality. Cruisers are greeted by the 'Rose Buddies', a welcoming committee which gives a rose to the ladies, provides free dockage, and puts on little wine and cheese parties for new arrivals! From here we entered the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. It's a gorgeous, 22-mile narrow 'ditch' with lush trees on both sides. It has locks on both ends, a limiting draft of 5.5 feet, and a speed limit of six knots. As such, most powerboats take the less scenic Virginia Cut route.
Our arrival in Norfolk, Virgina, at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay on June 1, marked the halfway point of our cruise. As we entered this huge and surprisingly shallow cruising ground, we suddenly realized that we had to make choices as to our route. By then the weather had turned quite warm and the breezes were definitely on the light side. We were also surprised at the continual haze and smog.
We wandered up the west side of the Chesapeake, stopping at the little port of Hampton, then several pretty creeks on our way to the mouth of the Potomac River. Our plan was to sail to Washington, D.C., which took up three days. But there was good cruising along the way so it was definitely worth it. There is an excellent anchorage - which we shared with only a half dozen other boats - within walking distance of the Capitol mall. By paying $5/day to a nearby marina, we got access to the dinghy dock and showers. The 94° weather was too hot for us, but we enjoyed seeing the monuments and museums. We had some very good sailing on our way back down the Potomac, and some excitement in the form of a real Chesapeake Bay line squall one evening while anchored opposite Mount Vernon.
The final portion of our cruise on the Chesapeake was spent poking around the creeks on the East Shore in the vicinity of Oxford and St. Michaels, both of which are lively little yachting centers surrounded by nice anchorages in the many nearby creeks. Except for the occasional, brief late afternoon thunderstorm, the weather was sunny. It was also too early in the season for the nasty 'sea nettle' jellyfish to spoil the swimming, so we enjoyed ideal lazy cruising.
On July 1, Jane swapped places on Misty with Bill Hickman and Bud Monaghan, my crew on the trip to Cape Cod. We went via the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay Canal to Cape May, New Jersy, then had a two-day passage to Block Island. From there we continued on to Cotuit, Mass, where Misty lays on a mooring pending her layup on the hard for the winter.
- bob & jane 8/15/2000
Quo Vadis - Ericson 38
Eureka To Santa Cruz
I just sailed south down part of the North Coast, from Eureka to Santa Cruz, and have some information and opinions to share. July 18th was my day of departure. I had hoped to have had crew to accompany me, but trying to work out vacation time, baby-sitters, and everything else became too much to deal with. So, I wound up going on my own.
My first trial was getting the engine to start. The batteries on my Ericson have been on shorepower for the last four years, so they started for daysails, every time. But the night before I was supposed to leave, I packed the shorepower cord away - and didn't have enough juice to turn over the engine. So, back out came the shorepower, and within 30 minutes the engine had started up and the new Balmar amp was putting out 14.4 UDC - or is it VOC? In any event, I was finally able to leave the dock for the open ocean.
It's only about 25 miles out and around Cape Mendocino from Eureka. Since there was only about five knots of wind from the northwest and a small swell, I ran the engine to charge up the batteries real good. About five hours later I was thanking the Goddess for a nice trip around the often boisterous cape. I then went below and enjoyed some lunch. With the sun burning off the little bit of fog, I was feeling very content and after making sure the coast was clear, decided to take a 20 minute nap. So after setting the alarm, I closed my eyes - and the gentle rocking of the boat and the warm sun did the rest. Soon I was sound asleep.
The next thing I knew, my boat was going down the face of a 10 to 12-foot sea and the wind was blowing in excess of 20 knots. For a minute, I assumed I was dreaming. It was too late to reef the main sail, so I took it all the way down. As I looked around, all I saw was white caps and swells coming out of the northwest. I was now in an area called Punta Gorda, about 10 miles south of Cape Mendocino, that some fisherman had warned me about. Now I knew why, as it blew up to 25 knots with large seas until after midnight. The white foam illuminated by the moonlight was unreal, and the sound of breaking swells had no trouble getting my attention. But my Ericson did really well.
On the morning of the 19th, I saw a northbound fishing boat - or rather I saw the spray of a northbound fishing boat. It was time to head into Ft. Bragg for some rest. If you try to follow the range signs going under the Highway 1 Bridge, you'll go into the mud. You have to bear left before you make the sharp right hand turn. The deep water is on the outside of a river turn, the bar is on the inside. While at Noyo Harbor Marina, I got to put in two new batteries.
I took off again on July 22 and headed around Pt. Arena, another area known for rough conditions. But I had light winds and flat seas - until somebody turned on the big fan again just north of the town of Gualala. It only took about 10 minutes for the windspeed to reach 20 knots, and it didn't take much longer before the swells were 8 to 10 feet. When I rounded Bodega Head, the size of the seas dropped, but not the windspeed. I was racing against fading light to find the entrance to Bodega Bay. You know who won - and it wasn't me. To complicate the situation in the darkness, the clew on my jib came loose and jammed the furler. With the jib 2/3s unfurled, I could neither get it further in or out. But thanks to effective range lights, I found the opening between the jetties and used my spotlight to follow the channel markers in. Once I was rafted up with some fishing boats, I went forward to do something with the jib that was trying to tear itself apart. The problem turned out to be the jib sheet had gotten fouled around the anchor and the shackle had jammed on the bowsprit.
After getting the jib put back together and waiting a few days for the wind to drop, I was heading south again on the 27th. My passage from Bodega Bay to Santa Cruz was fun - except for a five hour period of heavy fog just as I was passing the Farallone Islands. That's not a good place to not be able to see past your bow, as you're crossing the east/west shipping lanes into San Francisco.
I'm currently in Santa Cruz going broke while I wait for a new water pump to be shipped down from Portland. Then I'm off again to Southern California and a new life. Here are some things I learned: test your boat real well before going offshore, don't buy cheap foul weather gear, and have radar because not having it in the fog is a real bitch. If you're looking for local information, buy the fishermen a beer or help them tie up. Most of the ports to the north are geared toward commercial fisherman rather than sailors, so expect to have to take on fuel from a fixed dock 20 feet over your head. Don't try to run the North Coast during salmon season, as it's super hard to find a slip - especially on Friday or Saturday nights when all the trailer sportfishing boats are also looking for spots. Thinking of sailing north? If you truck it, it will be easier on you and your boat. But if you've got time to wait out the bad weather, go for it!
- duane 8/9/2000
- Gulfstar 50
Bill and Sam Fleetwood
Crossing The Pond
We and our Gulfstar 50 departed Puerto Vallarta on April 4 - Easter Sunday - bound for Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. We knew that March, April and May were the safe months to make the passage, and we didn't even bother to consult any weather gurus or download any weatherfaxes. We just headed out as soon as we, our boat, and good friend and crew Thom Macpherson were ready. By the way, some will remember Thom as the skipper of Elan Vital in the '97 Ha-Ha. Ignorance must be bliss, because we had fine weather all the way across. What's more, we didn't decide on a course until we were three days into the passage when we read some pertinent information in an old Latitude.
We made pretty good time across the Pacific because most of the time we had 25 knots of wind and big seas. We probably would have been a little scared if someone had just plunked us down in the middle somewhere with those conditions, but they came on gradually. 'The Banana' is ketch rigged, so when it blew hard we dropped the main and sailed with just the jib and mizzen, the so called 'jib and jigger' configuration. In fact, we had the main down for so long that we put the cover on to protect it from the sun. We probably would have made better time if our boat weren't loaded down to the gills, but it was. In fact, we gave our bikes to Doug and Bette on the MacGregor 65 Illusion, who had done the Ha-Ha with us. They told us they had plenty of room for our bikes and we could get them back in Atuona.
We arrived in Atuona after 19 days, and were awed by the beauty of the Marquesas. We've also visited four of the Tuamotus - which are as flat as the Marquesas are mountainous - on the way to Papeete and the Societies. We loved the Tuamotus and would have stayed longer if our generator hadn't been giving us so much trouble. Nonetheless, we were able to trade used CDs for black pearls. Janis Higginbotham, our guest for seven weeks, later had them set in Papeete. We haven't taken them off since.
We got our repairs done in Papeete, and saw almost everyone we knew while tied up at the quai. Yes, the quay is dirty and noisy, but it's most definitely the 'crossroads of the Pacific'. We also visited Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Bora Bora - and even got tattoos - before leaving the boat on the hard in Raiatea for cyclone season and flying home to California.
We returned to our boat in March with a new genset, and enjoyed several sailing trips between Bora Bora and Raiatea - about 25 miles - with guests. Then, after waiting weeks for a weather window, we set out on the 535-mile passage to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, which is where we are now. We don't know if it's a weird weather year, we've turned chicken, or we've been getting too much weather information, but ever since we started downloading weather faxes and starting learning about highs, lows, troughs and fronts, we can't seem to find a favorable departure date for the next destination!
Anyway, the enclosed photo is of Sam with the Cook Islands flag she made. It was taken just before we hoisted it and made landfall in Avatiu Harbour. Rarotonga is beautiful, friendly, inexpensive and everyone speaks English - well, 'New Zenglish'. We'd like to dispel a few rumors about arriving in the Cook Islands. It's perfectly OK to arrive on a Sunday, there is no overtime, and no one even cares. They do not take all your meats and produce, they just ask that you don't bring any food ashore. Some boats got a little spray from Charlie, the health inspector, but it didn't even kill the ants we had aboard. We were just asked if we were healthy and were never even boarded. As soon as we fix the autopilot, the watermaker, and get our mail, we're off to Aitutaki, Palmerston, and so forth.
- bill & sam 8/5/2000
It could be a record - although somewhat dubious one. Canadians Ken (last name unknown) and Karmella Beemer departed San Diego on May 8 for the South Pacific aboard their 29-foot custom aluminum sloop Karmella, but are reported to have not arrived at Bora Bora until August 12. That means they were at sea for an astounding 96 days. Normally a passage like that might take a month or even six weeks. The reasons for the particularly slow passage aren't clear, as they didn't lose their mast, sails or rudder. The couple seem to think that weather was a factor, as they told other cruisers that they had one good sailing day out of San Diego - followed by 95 bad ones with the wind on the nose. If this were true, it would establish a new record for strange weather, as the trip from San Diego to the South Pacific is usually a starboard reach followed by a port reach on the other side of the ITCZ. The small boat was heavily loaded, which didn't help her speed, but meant the couple didn't run out of food. Their water supply was augmented by numerous squalls. It was also reported that Ken and Karmella overstood Bora Bora - which means they somehow sailed past the Marquesas and Tuamotus - and ultimately had to be towed ashore by the French Navy. We're hoping to get more factual details for next month.
You have to admire a country where a coup overthrows the prime minister and government one month, the coup leader is charged with treason by his ethnic friends the next month, and on the third month they still plan to hold their annual sailing week. That country, of course, is Fiji, where the popular Fiji Regatta Week will start as scheduled on September 8 at the Musket Cove YC at Malololailai. The regatta week is followed by the long distance race to Port Vila that starts on September 15. Fiji Regatta Week is all about fun, as there is just one 12-mile race that's taken seriously. In addition to several other fun races, there's lots of nonsense on the beach. There are competitions for rubber duck paddling, coconut log throwing, human figureheads, and Hairy Chests and Wet T-Shirts. Aren't they wicked? We're hoping for a complete report, including coverage of the pig on a spit.
"We arrived in Port Vila, Vanuatu, after two months in Fiji," report John and Patti White of Islamorada, Florida, and Los Altos, and who are sailing their Caliber LRC 40 Escapade. "We were in Suva during the coup and looting in Fiji, but sat out the trouble at the Royal Suva YC with other cruisers and ex-pats. We spent most of our time in Fiji at the Musket Cove YC in the western part of the country, which was trouble-free except for the recent invasion of Turtle Island. We left just before that happened.
"Port Vila is more than we expected," the couple continue, "as it has French and British influence while still retaining its traditional South Pacific ambience. Delicious but expensive baguettes can be purchased almost anywhere - just like French Polynesia. Prices are reasonable on just about everything, and there is a wide variety of stores. When we needed to have some boat repairs done, we had no trouble finding qualified local help. It's going to be hard for us to leave this place!
In any event, we'll spend a few months here before heading to New Caledonia and the South Pacific Arts Festival in late October. Then we'll be going back to New Zealand again for the cyclone season. By the way, we're vets of the '98 Ha-Ha and the '95 Puddle Jump from Puerto Vallarta - and want to thank everyone at Latitude for their support."
You're welcome. By the way, we've had several calls on the Arts Festival of the Pacific, which used to be called the South Pacific Festival of the Arts. The festival, which is only held every four years, will start on October 23 in Noumea and four other cities in New Caledonia, and end on November 3. More than 2,000 people from 27 countries in the Pacific will participate in activities such as dance, chants, music, drama, painting, carving, weaving, body art, pageant of costumes, stamps, books, writing and poetry, oral traditions, food, medicine, sports and games, workshops and much more. This is the most important cultural event in the islands of the Pacific.
"We left California on the Ha-Ha last October and have been in Mexico ever since," report Morris and Liz Raiman of SOCI (Spending Our Children's Inheritance), a San Francisco-based Nautical 39 currently at Santa Rosalia in the Sea of Cortez. "We love Mexico, the people and the sea! Watching the whales, dolphins and turtles has been great, as has following dolphins and jellyfish when there is bioluminescence. We're also really enjoying being able to live on a budget and getting tan all over. We can't stay forever, however, so later this year we'll be heading down the coast to Panama and transiting the Canal in January. After that, we'll head up the Western Caribbean to Cuba and Florida to visit family and friends."
It sounds like fun, folks, but if you transit the Canal after the middle of December, be prepared to face reinforced trades upon leaving the Canal. January and February are the worst months to leave the Canal.
"Puerto Vallarta may not seem like such an exotic locale once you've been here for awhile," writes Ryc and Penny Rienks of the Cascade 36 Mai Tardis II, "but it's special to those of us who sailed down. We did most of the trip as part of the '98 Ha- Ha, and as you can see we're just hanging around, catching rays, and enjoying a tequila sunrise with a Latitude. Thanks for helping make it happen!"
"We just read 'Lectronic Latitude for the first time and think it's great," write Peter and Nancy Bennett of the Swan 46 Destiny. 'We drove our van to La Paz, took a ferry to Mazatlan, and then headed up into the cool mountains. Summers in La Paz are way too hot for us! Starting in Durango, we headed down the Silver Trail and so far have been enjoying a different Mexico. The weather has been excellent and the towns are full of Spanish history. But we're currently discussing the South Pacific and remember that you did an article about transporting boats back from there by floating drydock, where you can travel with your boat. We'd like to explore that option, so are wondering if you have an email address."
The company used to be known as United Yacht Transport, but is now based out of Belgium and called Dockwise Yacht Transport. Visit them at www.dytinc.com. Warning: This service is not cheap!
After receiving this month's Changes from Norm and Janet Goldie in San Blas, we emailed them about the possibility of drawing a chart to show the location of the channel into San Blas, Mexico. But Norm says it can't be done. You can't draw a diagram of the channel because as a result of the tremendous amount of water flowing in and out four times a day, it keeps moving around. Three years ago, the government spent $779,000 U.S. to dredge a 12-foot channel into San Blas. Seven months later it was gone. The lack of a reliable channel is why I've always been on call to assist visiting cruisers - and why I had to give up my charter fishing business. By the way, if there are any cruisers out there who like fresh fish, we sell 'dorado killer' lures made by a friend that work really well on yellow fin and really big mackerel.
"I'm glad Latitude is publishing our plea for cruisers to bring used clothes and other goods all the way down to San Blas. Most cruisers tell us they give everything away shortly after arriving in Baja, which is good, but we really need everything we can get down here. We don't care if buttons are missing, zippers don't work or toys are damaged. We'll get them repaired and have some cruisers take them into the hills, which is where the really poor people live."
While walking through Costco in Novato the other day, we noticed a couple trying to contain a small leak in a huge bag of birdseed. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be Roy and Tee Jennings of Inverness. The former airline pilot and flight attendant have made many fine passages, including a four-year circumnavigation - via Cape Horn - aboard Foxglove, their third Freya 39. It was enough to earn them the prestigious Blue Water Cruising Medal from the Cruising Club of America, which is perhaps the highest honor a cruiser can be awarded. No longer kids, the couple sold Foxglove in England a while back and returned to Inverness to look for a Cal 20 to sail on Tomales Bay. Alas, old cruising habits die hard, and they ended up with a 39-foot Frers centerboarder. As Tee tried to stop more seed from spilling, Roy allowed that he was pretty much was sick of not cruising - and had a good mind to sail back to Europe. "I've gone across the Atlantic seven times, but I'd like to make it an even eight," he said. Tee said, "Roy is just kidding" - but you could tell she didn't believe it. By the way, when Roy speaks of the pleasures of cruising in Europe, he refers not to the Med like so many others, but rather to Ireland and Scotland. 'You've got to keep far enough north so that it's too cold for the crowds," he explains.
"I want the Wanderer/Grand Poobah to know that I'll be happy to put together games, prizes and surprises for the Ha-Ha kids," writes Shari Cottrell of the Point Loma-based Kennex 445 catamaran See Life. "Just let me know how many kids are coming so I can plan some fun activities for kids of all ages. We're really looking forward to taking a left at Point Loma."
For the last two years Shari was the cashier at the West Marine in San Diego when the Wanderer was buying a few last minute items before departing on the Ha-Ha. Shari would say how excited she and her family were at the prospect of doing the Ha-Ha themselves in 2000. And now their time is almost here, which really makes us excited for them. Thanks for the great offer of help, Shari. Shortly after the September 12 entry deadline, the Ha-Ha folks will give you an idea of how many kids of what ages to expect and a little budget to work with.
Rocio at Marina Palmira in La Paz reports they are making plans for a La Paz Ha-Ha again this year after the Baja Ha-Ha. We'll have more details next month, but it will probably start on November 14 and finish on November 17 or 18th. The La Paz Ha-Ha is a fun way for cruising boats to work their way up to La Paz, which is both a great place to leave a boat for the winter and the gateway to the spectacular islands nearby.
"In the last issue, I wrote about my upcoming plans for rejoining my Gulf 32 Knot Yet in Australia, " writes John Keen of South Beach Harbor and Campbell. "But on July 14, Bastille Day, I fractured my left hip. I'd been having difficulty with the hip and had planned an operation for next year, so I guess I'm lucky it happened while I was in California rather than Papua New Guinea or Micronesia! Based on my earlier hip replacements, full recovery will take about five months. Of course, that will coincide with the beginning of the cyclone season in Australia, so I may not return to the boat until next May. If that's the case, I would expect to follow the more traditional route over the top of Australia, then to Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. So I'll be looking for more reports from those of you who are currently on that route. Meanwhile, I'm fortunate in having Julie and Graham of Phase III looking after Knot Yet while she remains in Townsville - and look forward to returning to her and getting under way as soon as I'm able and the weather is right."
"Sunday night is one I won't soon forget," writes Auburn's Marc Hachey of the Kelly-Peterson 44 Sea Angel, who had been anchored at the northwest end of Isla San Marcos about eight miles east of Santa Rosalia on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. He and Mike from Kona D were playing cribbage after dinner and enjoying 'lazy man margaritas' - Fresca, tequila and a squeeze of lime - when the wind came up. Since they were in a tight anchorage and on a lee shore, Mike quickly rowed back to his boat. "A little after 10:15 P.M., the gusts started coming with a vengeance," Marc remembers, "stretching the anchor chains tight and causing our boats to periodically swing too close for comfort. Using a burst of adrenaline, I got my dinghy aboard and secured in record time, then I ran around removing shade and windshield covers so I could at least see if I needed to make a quick getaway. Kona D's knotmeter recorded a peak gust of 65 knots, but our anchors held and by midnight the worst of it seemed to be over. For the next two hours, the wind came from all directions, but it was under 20 knots. Around 2:00 a.m. there was more lightning, and four hours later it began to rain. By morning it was over.
"We didn't have any damage," Marc continues, "but it had been exciting. During the strongest winds, I made radio contact with Dawn's Belle which was anchored inside the breakwater at Santa Rosalia. Both she and Ohhh Baby had dragged anchor. Dawn's Belle had to motor against the gusts, and Ohhh Baby had to be pulled to safety by panga after going aground. Bruce and Sarah of El Gitana had been ashore watching a movie when the storm struck, and were unable to get back to their Westsail 32. They helplessly watched from the pier and hoped their anchor would hold - which it did. It was a good learning experience.
"By the way," Marc continues, "I want to thank Latitude for over 20 years of inspirational reading. I started after being invited on a week charter in the Northwest in the late '70s. Even though I'd never been aboard a sailboat before, by the end of the week I vowed that someday I would own my own boat and cruise the oceans of the world. Then about nine years ago I took a series of ASA sailing classes at Modern Sailing Academy in Sausalito, and 3.5 years ago bought the Kelly-Peterson 44 Sea Angel, my first boat. I sold my house a year ago April, and in November departed San Francisco Bay with crew for San Diego. Unable to find crew to go further south, I sailed to Mexico on my own. For most of the past eight months I have been singlehanding this wonderful sailing machine, and have made lots of friends in the cruising community. There is so much to do with running and maintaining a boat like this that there is little time to feel lonely. But a couple of months ago I was introduced to a woman who I believe is my perfect cruising first mate, Peggy Helm - yes, it's her real name - and she'll be joining me in a month for full time cruising. You bet I'm excited!"
And we at Latitude are excited about
the upcoming cruising season in Mexico!
©2000 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.