Changes in Latitudes

September, 2001

With reports this month from Sanderling on emergency medical care in Panama; Klondike on the Over The Top Rally in Australia; Chewbacca on summer cruising in the Sea of Cortez; Aeventyr on a typically slow passage to the Galapagos; Loafer on a season with kids in New Zealand; Witch of Endor and Miss Saigon on cruising from San Diego to El Salvador; Icarus on cruising summers in the Med; and Cruise Notes.

Sanderling - Cabo Rico 38
John Anderton
Local Aid In Panama

My crew and I left Grand Marina in Alameda last October 9th, and cruised down the coast of Baja about a week after the Ha-Ha 2000 fleet. Cruising is about choices. Having grown up in hot, dry, and brown southern Idaho, I chose to skip the Sea of Cortez after a visit to La Paz, and head south where the anchorages are green and tropical. Ever since Mazatlan I've been cruising solo. Sometimes I stay in places for just a day, sometimes I stay for a month.

A question that lingers in the minds of most cruisers is what would happen if they had a serious medical emergency in a remote area of a Third World country. Well, I had one in a remote section of northwest Panama. A lot of Americans don't seem to have a very high opinion of Panama. But I had to put all my trust in the local population, and they couldn't have treated me better.

While anchored on the north side of Isla Paridita - which is one of a group of islands on the northwest side of Panama - I had some bleeding in my bladder. It clotted, shutting down all operations. Thank goodness there were some cruisers nearby to lend initial assistance. I had been buddyboating since Puerto Vallarta with Charles Grassia of Sayula, another singlehander. He accompanied me to a regional hospital in the city of David (pronounced 'Du-vi'). It wasn't an easy trip, as it required a three-hour night time panga ride to the fishing village of Boca Chica; a 12-mile truck ride down a narrow dirt road to the Pan American Highway; then another hour drive to the hospital. I was in a great deal of pain the entire time.

The hospital experience was a bigger ordeal than it would have been had I been fluent in Spanish. But the doctors had all been trained in the U.S., and the staff of the 300-bed regional facility were excellent. I'll spare everyone the details, but the total cost for my six days in the hospital - including IVs, 12 x-rays, an exploratory look around my insides with a camera, the surgery under anesthesia, and all medications - came to just $390 U.S.! Furthermore, an emergency room nurse gave me a ride to the local Costco so I could use the ATM machine to get some money to pay the bill.

It took me two days to arrange for transportation back to my boat - which proved to be another adventure. I used the two days to formally check in to Panama, and stayed in a very nice and clean hotel for $16.50 a night. On the second day, the manager from Pedregal Marina drove me to the main bus terminal, and gave instructions on where I needed to go to a local vendor. After three hours, the vendor put me on the correct bus - and passed on further directions for me to the bus driver. After a 20-mile ride on the Pan American Highway, the bus driver flagged down a taxi, which drove me 12 miles down the single lane dirt road back to the fishing village at Boca Chica. Thanks to the help of the taxi driver, I was able to get the attention of an English-speaking young man, to ask how I might get back to the island and my boat.

The young man took me to the frontyard of a house where a dozen men were doing a number on four cases of beer. It was decided that some of them would take me back to my boat - after they finished the cases of beer. So there I sat, with $500 in my pocket, waiting with a group of Spanish-speaking strangers - all of whom had machetes - to finish their cases of beer. None of my friends or family knew where I was. Everything worked out fine, however, as my medical ordeal had become common knowledge in the community. As for the machetes, they were for snakes. I now have my own machete. Finally, they weren't really waiting to finish their beer to take me back to my boat, but waiting for the tide to change. No problema, mon.

I returned to Isla Paridita to find that my boat was the only one left in the anchorage. All the other boats had moved on four days before. Nonetheless, my inflatable was still on the foredeck, my outboard was still on the stern rail, and nothing had been touched. I spent most of the next two weeks sitting on the boat regaining my health. During that time I did some visiting with the locals and a young ex-pat couple on a nearby island. Twice I dined with them in a setting of bamboo huts and dirt floors - the whole rural Third World scene. Several other times the locals stopped by for a visit in the cockpit of my boat. With the help of a Spanish dictionary, we exchanged the stories of our lives. I was happy to be able to stay in touch with my cruising friends through the morning radio nets, and they were happy to hear that things had worked out well for me in the hospital.

I returned to the hospital for a check-up, once again riding to the town of Pedregal in a panga - but this time it was a delightful, pain free trip. After a good check-up at the hospital, I joined Poets Place and Germania 2 to continue exploring this interesting region of Panama for another two weeks. I finally left these two boats behind at Bahia Honda, and sailed solo over to the Las Perlas Archipelago, which is to the northwest of the Panama Canal.

First, I sailed to Ensenada Naranjo, tacking back and forth through a foul current to arrive early the following morning for an eight-hour rest stop before crossing a very busy shipping lane. The trip turned into an additional two-nighter, as I worked against a 2.5-knot current and a wind that blew out of my intended waypoint. I also did a 180 degree course change to let a large rain squall - complete with a waterspout - pass in front of me. I then spent a week of daysailing from island to island up to Balboa. I'm currently at the funky little Pedro Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake inside the Panama Canal. I'll be leaving my boat while I return to the Bay Area and then travel to Portland for my daughter's wedding. The adventure continues!

- john 8/15/01

John - It's true that many Americans are paranoid of Panama and Panamanians. But as cruiser after cruiser has reported to Changes, Panamanians are wonderful, and almost all of Panama is safe.

Klondike - Beneteau First 456
Don & Katie Radcliffe
2001 Gove to Darwin Rally
(Santa Cruz)

There was already one report in Changes about this year's Gove to Darwin 'Over The Top' Rally, but we'd like to add some details. Thirty-two boats set out on June 24 from the remote bauxite mining town of Gove, Australia, for a 420-mile, 12-day cruising rally to Darwin. This was the 10th running of the 'Over The Top' sponsored by the little Gove YC. The 11 entrants from Australia were outnumbered by 15 boats from the U.S. The rest of the fleet was from Canada, England, Germany and New Zealand. Many of the participants would normally crash jibe to avoid a rally, but the 'Over The Top' is atypical in that the entrants don't band together for security. After all, each of us foreigners had at least one Pacific crossing under our belts.

At just $380 Australian, the event was yet another Oz bargain. After all, the 'Pacific Peso' was down to 51 cents U.S., and the fee included meals at the briefing night, a welcome BBQ, a farewell dinner, a champagne send-off breakfast, and the final dinner in Darwin. The yacht club also provided a 20-page manual for the rally, with daily courses, tide tables and anchorage recommendations. They also obtained the entry permits, which among other things, allowed us ashore on some aboriginal lands.

All entrants were required to attend a briefing six nights before the start, but thanks to all of the activities - endless rounds of barbeques, mine tours, golf, and other outings organized by Warwick 'Gillie' Gill and Helen 'Loves Champagne' Cook - the time flew. The yacht club facilities and hospitality are far bigger than might be expected in a town of just 4,000. The official tour guide for the event was 'Monkey Bill' Stewart, who was loveably rough around the edges, having cruised the local waters and pubs for over 30 years. His emphasis was on foraging, and he gave fishing and squidding demonstrations, then led expeditions to harvest oysters, crabs and lobsters. Because of him almost everyone who dragged a line during the rally caught wahoo or tuna. Fish was so plentiful that it was banned at Fourth of July BBQ!

Boats ranged in size from Capers, a Deerfoot 56, and Penrod II, a 56-foot cat, down to Jamala, a beautiful 29-foot Bristol Pilot Cutter. There was even one motorboat, a 45-foot trawler called Wanderer. Total Devotion, a Beneteau 50 from San Francisco, was by far the fastest boat in the fleet, in part because Capers had furling problems and wasn't able to use their big headsail. Not far behind was Cinnabar, a hard-driven Valiant 40.

The rally set off under Strong Wind Warnings for 20 to 30 knots. Since the tragic Sydney to Hobart Race in '98, every Australian weather forecast is prefaced with the caveat that "winds refer to a 10 minute average, and gusts can be 40% higher". Our actual winds generally ranged from 10 to 25 knots from the beam or behind in partially protected waters - making for superb sailing conditions.

The first day's run was a noon start and an easy 23-mile run down to Elizabeth Bay. The second day saw the fleet transiting the Hole in the Wall, a 50-yard wide and half mile long channel between two islands. That may not sound too bad, but the tidal currents flow at up to nine knots! Needless to say, that day's schedule was centered around entering the channel at as close to slack water as possible. This was accomplished, although with a bit of stress, as the boats that had been spread out and traveling at up to 8 knots had to slow down and get into single file in the washing machine-like conditions just outside the cut. It was the nautical equivalent of three freeway lanes merging down to just one. The need to be there at slack water required a fairly early start, so we reached our destination by 2 pm. Many of the crews spent the rest of the day hiking ashore and gathering oysters.

The next day we had a 42-mile passage over poorly-charted waters to Refuge Bay on Elcho Island. Winds ranged from 15 knots in the morning, to less than 10 knots early in the afternoon, and finished up with 20 knots after we'd shook out all our reefs. The tide was against us most of the way, reaching up to 3.5 knots around Stevens Island. We spent two nights at Elcho Island, and Monkey Bill led a successful crabbing expedition in the morning. The afternoon brought heavy showers, but the rain let up a for a fish and crab BBQ on the beach with the aborigines. The local women showed us how to make damper from flour and baking soda. They put the dough in the sand by the fire, and covered it with hot sand and coals. After scraping off the sand and charcoal on the outside, at least 95% of what was left was quite tasty.

The fourth day would bring our first overnight passage, 156 miles to South Golburn Island, so the smaller and slower boats left before dawn. We stayed until about 10 am to avoid a nighttime arrival, but the winds were light and we didn't arrive until almost 24 hours later. The fleet proved the old adage that a cruising boat is never racing until she's being passed, as about half the boats flew spinnakers. Klondike, our Beneteau 45, was the last boat to leave but the second to arrive. We can also report that cruisers don't like being passed. The crew of only one boat waved as we went by.

The fleet spent two days at South Golburn Island, and it was only a three mile walk to the settlement for ice cream and other delights. The local airport was on the way to town, and for $10 U.S. you could get a 15-minute barnstorming flight, and for $60 you could get a 90-minute flight over Kakadu National Park. One night we went to a local celebration that coincided with our visit. We were expecting didgeridoos and native dancing, but we got an aboriginal rock band - whose best sounds were feedback from the microphone.

The next two days were spent in 50-mile hops toward Port Essington, the noted site of an 1839 Australian settlement that failed after a few years. The winds gradually lightened as the high pressure system moved east, causing most of the fleet to motorsail the second day. However, we picked up to 15-20 knots from the south as we entered the port, causing a normally flat anchorage to suffer from a 2-3 foot chop. We don't know about the rest of you, but when the tide swings the flat stern of our boat into any waves, it sounds and feels as though depth-charges are being set off under our bunk. We retreated to the mid-cabin.

The first night at Port Essington was the site of the 'P' party, where everyone had to wear the costume of a 'P' person. As such, the beach was full of 'pirates' - and there was even a 'publican' who sold cold beer. But plastic was the order of the night, as it rained off and on. The next day six boats loaded up with passengers for a daytrip to Port Victoria, where we went for a walk through the ruins of the old settlement.

The crew of one of the boats got a first-hand look at crocodiles in the wild at Port Victoria. Ever since Australia outlawed crocodile hunting about 20 years ago, the crocs have been growing larger and more plentiful - and are now hunting people. One group in a dinghy saw a crocodile on the beach, and moved in for a closer look. As they did, another croc - estimated to be 18 feet long - lumbered out of the mangroves in their direction and slid into the water. He wasn't as big as the stuffed 'Sweetie' in the museum in Darwin, but he was big enough for the dinghy crew to beat a hasty retreat.

Our final passage was another perfect sail of about 136 miles, starting with a run in 20 knots of wind. The middle part was a beam reach in 10 to 15 knots, and we finished in less than 10 knots. The sunny day turned into a beautiful night, as there was a full moon - then a partial eclipse. The big challenge was hitting the tides right, as the fleet entered the Van Diemen Gulf through Dundas Strait in the north, and exited through Clarence Strait in the west. While the tidal range in Port Essington was only 6 or 7 feet, the full moon produced a high tide of over 22 feet in Darwin when we arrived. Most boats hit Clarence Strait during the ebb, and were treated to 4.5 knots of favorable tide. Later we got a four knot push toward Darwin.

Over half the fleet took advantage of the offer of free slips at the new Bayview Marina, which is well up Sedgroves Creek. Because of the extreme tides, all the marinas in Darwin have to use locks - and even the locks are only approachable during the higher half of the tide. All of the boats that enter the locks have to get a zebra-stripe mussel clearance from the Fisheries folks. In order to get clearance, all boats that had been hauled and painted in Australia had to have their thru hull systems treated chemically. Boats that had not been hauled in Australia were hauled at the government's expense. This is a trial program and we can only hope that it doesn't catch on elsewhere, as the obvious next step will be to require the users pay for the treatment. Needless to say, no mussels were found.

After one last party, the rally fleet at Bayview Marina received an invitation to try Dragon Boat racing. With only one practice session that ended in a capsized boat, we got it together and won both races we entered, proving again that cruisers are healthier, tougher, and have more fun than landlubbers. Summing up our rally experience, the big downside was being stuck to a schedule, which required us to be in Gove on a certain date. The biggest reward was the new friends we made. The event is also a great place to get photos of your boat with her sails up, as everyone was busy swapping photos in Darwin.

- don & katie 7/15/01

Chewbacca - Crowther 33 Cat
The Winship Family
Summer In The Sea of Cortez

Warmest regards from the Winship family - Bruce and April, and youngsters Kendall and Quincy - aboard our 33-foot Crowther-designed cat. We're having a wonderful time here in the Sea of Cortez, enjoying the spectacular scenery and pristine waters. We start every day by hunting for food; then we move on to playing, snorkeling, reading, lounging; and we finally close the day by oohing and aahing at the sunsets that the Sea of Cortez is so famous for. The water is warm and clear, and the air is very hot - but so far has been tolerable. We have tweaked our sun shades to cover most of Chewbacca. For those times when it really gets too hot, Bruce has slung a hammock beneath the bridgedeck!

We love our little catamaran. She has proven to be comfortable at sea as well as at anchor, is easy to sail, and her shallow draft permits us to get into some shallow spots where the water is that special Sea of Cortez turquoise. With the onset of chubasco season, however, we always make sure we have plenty of room to swing if suddenly hit by very strong winds. Another plus of our cat is the forward trampoline area, which is where we eat our meals at night.

Since our boat has neither a watermaker or refrigeration, we have found the Puerto Escondido area to offer perfect cruising grounds. We provision and fuel up in Loreto, then head 15 miles south to Escondido to do our laundry and top off our water tanks. Then we head out again to any of the dozen or so beautiful anchorages in the Escondido/Loreto area. After the last of the ice melts - it usually takes eight to 10 days - we repeat the process. It's worked great for us, and we find unique things about each place. So far, our favorites are Marquer on Isla Carmen and Isla Coronado. Next time we're going to try Vee Cove and La Launcha on the north tip of Carmen.

The girls have finished their school year, so they have plenty of time to enjoy reading, swimming, snorkeling and fishing. There aren't many cruising kids around, but fortunately there has been a regular influx of grandkids visiting their grandparents, so from time to time the girls have new playmates. After almost 10 months of cruising, we definitely feel more relaxed than when we started. And the Sea - with its short day hops - has been a real joy. There isn't any surf here, so the Grand Poobah will be happy to learn that we haven't flipped the dinghy yet!

- the winship family 7/15/01

Aeventyr - Tayana 37
Matt Mason & Debra Stearns
Passage To The Galapagos
(Salt Lake City)

We're writing from Academy Bay in the Galapagos, a most unusual and exciting place some 3,500 miles southeast of San Francisco. To set the stage, we arrived back on our boat in Mazatlan on January 10. After four days of rushing around, we headed off on a pleasant two-day passage to our favorite anchorage on the Mexican mainland, Tenacatita Bay. There were already 45 boats on the hook when we arrived, so it's lucky that the big bay has plenty of room for everyone. We stayed for eight days, working on boat projects in the morning and playing on the beach in the afternoon. It was great spending time with other cruisers. Our next stop was a brief one at Manzanillo to fuel and provision for another 200-mile passage to Z-town.

We had more than two weeks in Z-town, which turned out to be the perfect place to provision for the long passage to the Galapagos. We planned to depart on February 15, but then Matt hurt his knee and had to get a cortisone shot. The injection worked like magic, as he felt almost immediate relief and the knee hasn't given him any trouble since. There were many tearful good-byes as we left Z-town - especially for our dear friends Gene and Sheri Seybold aboard Reflections. They were leaving at the same time we were, but they were headed for Acapulco and Central America. No matter how we tried, we couldn't convince them to turn right and sail across the Pacific with us. They'll be coming across next year.

The rhumbline distance from Z-town to the Galapagos is 1,285 nautical miles, but our course would be 1,345 miles, as we wanted to make more easting to counter early west-setting current, then the stronger north-setting current when we got closer to the Galpagos. Based on what we'd heard and read, the trip from Mexico to the Galapagos is normally a very slow one, and lots of sailboats don't make it at all. The challenges of the passage are the light airs, which are mostly on the nose, and the strong currents, which make progress even more difficult. It turned out to be the most technical passage we've done, because of the currents and because we had to be very careful about when and how much we motored. Many boats have run out of fuel during the last few days, just when the currents and the winds are at their worst.

By sticking to our plan, we arrived in just under 16 days - an average of 84 miles - with over half our fuel remaining. Eighty-four miles may not sound like a lot, but we're told it's better than average for the passage. We were able to keep Aeventyr moving in four to six knots of wind - which was the norm for the duration of the trip. Our average speed through the water - as opposed to over the bottom - was actually 3.5 knots.

There's a popular saying that advises 'gentlemen never go to weather'. If so, Matt must be a scoundrel, for we were heeled over for the better part of two weeks. Most of our previous passages have been downwind or broad reaches, so we had some adjusting to do. Cooking was difficult and our appetites were off, so we both lost about a pound per day. But we don't recommend it as a weight loss plan.

We carried full sail the entire time - except for our brief encounter with the ITCZ squalls. Seattle was the last time we saw rain like we did in the squalls, and Aeventyr had never been cleaner. Winds in the squalls would get up to 20 knots, but from all directions, so we often just reduced sail when surrounded by black clouds. Once the squalls subsided, it was back to hard on the wind.

Late in the passage, the north-setting current really came into play. Sometimes our speed through the water would be a very respectable 6.5 knots, but our speed over the bottom was only 3 knots. It didn't help that there were six foot swells that tended to stop Aeventyr dead in her tracks, which required us to hand-steer in order to dodge the worst waves and keep moving.

Our first view of the Galapagos was Isla Pinta, but thanks to the adverse current, it seemed to take forever to leave it in our wake. We ended up sailing down the east side of Isla Santa Cruz and having to slow down so as not to reach Academy Bay in the dark! It was very satisfying to have our destination just one more night watch away. Incidentally, we used a five-hour watch system that had Deb sleeping from 2000 until 0100, and Matt from 0100 until 0600. It's worked out very well and we were much more rested than when we used our previous watch system.

The Galapagos, which has unique flora and fauna, are made up of eight volcanic islands 600 miles to the west of Ecuador, which governs them. Puerto Ayora, the tourist center located on the shore of Academy Bay, is the largest town in the Galapagos. Cruising boats - of which there were about 15 when we arrived - share the anchorage with about 35 tourist boats. The tourist boats range in size from small boats used for day trips to cruise ships. Puerto Ayora is also where the ships arrive with supplies from the mainland. It's a huge event when a ship arrives, as it means all the stores on the island will get resupplied. There is no wharf big enough to handle a ship, so the supplies are off-loaded to a barge, which is then brought to the town dock. Everything is once again off-loaded from the barge by hand and then distributed by truck. It's stevedoring at its finest, without the modern conveniences of cranes and such. [More next month.]

- deb and matt 8/15/01

Loafer - Kelly/Peterson 46
The Kent Family
Tauranga Is Terrific

We participated in the year 2000 Pacific Puddle Jump Party, are now in Opua, New Zealand, and will be heading off to the South Pacific again any day now. We thought of Latitude because there is a cool Ocean 71 - sistership to Big O - across from us named Flying Wings. She's owned by a German and skippered by a young Frenchman. They have done a complete refit and the boat looks brand new. I would love to put my family on that boat and take off. Oh well.

We - Brian, Bridget, Jeff (14), Stuart (12) and Marie (8) - left Mexico in March of 2000 as part of the Puddle Jump group, and roamed across the Pacific for a season. We decided to spend the southern hemisphere summer in New Zealand, and had a pleasant sail down from Tonga in late October. After checking in at Opua at the north end of the North Island, we worked our way down to Auckland. After so long in the South Pacific, it felt quite strange to be back in a real city.

A fellow cruiser strongly recommended that we check out Tauranga as a different place to spend the Kiwi summer - and are we glad he did! Tauranga is located 140 miles south of Auckland on the east coast, in one of the most vibrant and growing areas of the country. During the holiday season the population swells as visitors crowd the nearby beach town of Mount Maunganui, giving the area a fun and festive atmosphere.

We're staying at the 500-berth Tauranga Bridge Marina, which is located in the heart of the area. It's run by Tony Arnold and his very friendly crew, which include Julie, Jackie and Andrew. We became good mates with these folks, and that added to our time there. The facilities - which include a laundry and showers - are spotless, and there is also a small convenience store. There was a small group of international cruisers who spent the off season here, and that provided a great opportunity to make even more new friends. We had weekly BBQ's and an occasional brunch - complete with our own omelette bar. This was interesting, because some of the international cruisers had never seen an omelette before.

The marina has a hardstand with a 35-ton Travelift run by Bruce Goodchap. We hauled out for a month and did all the routine stuff and some extras. The quality and helpfulness of the local trade and service people is as good as anywhere we have been - including back home. We were more than pleased with the results. Thanks to the America's Cup, the cost of berths and associated boat work is quite inflated in Auckland, but not down in Tauranga. Given the current weakness of the Kiwi currency, everything we had done was very affordable.

The only thing some cruisers might not like about the Tauranga Bridge Marina is that it's located between two towns that are five miles apart - which means you need a car to get around. But cars aren't expensive. We bought a 1991 wagon for $1,300 U.S. - and sold it for $1,000 after putting 10,000 miles on it, including a three-week trip to the South Island. That was a good deal, but the car insurance was even better. Since everyone who is legally in the country is covered for medical, car insurance only needs to cover damages to property. So we only paid $50 U.S. for six months!

There are plenty of things to do and see within just minutes of the marina. There's tramping, surfing, swimming, shopping, and good places to eat. I became involved with the local gliding club, and have become certified to fly solo. It was a fun new challenge and another way to meet people. The greater area is full of agriculture, and pick-your-own fruit and berry farms make a great day's outing. There are many beach competitions, local theater productions, and countless other activities.

Generally speaking, the people of New Zealand are outgoing, friendly and helpful. The ones who are sailors always reminded us that they have the America's Cup and America doesn't. Those who weren't mariners were curious as to how a family could live on a small boat that frequently moves about. In any event, we will leave New Zealand knowing that we'll having plenty of places to stay if we ever return.

One of the best things we did was to put the kids in schools for a term - although we did have to pay foreign student fees, which aren't cheap because they are geared to students who don't speak English. Having the kids in school gave Bridget - and the kids! - a big break. The kids all became involved in sports and made good friends. They also got lots of attention because they were foreigners. It's still hard for them to believe that we actually have accents now. The time we spent in Tauranga was good for the kids as it gave them a dose of some of the things that they miss from their lives back home.

Most of the cruising fleet has headed north by now to Fiji and Tonga, but we have lived up to our boat's name by falling behind. We spent the last week working our way back up to Opua, and are getting ready to make the big passage to the South Pacific soon. One reason is that it's been dipping below 40 degrees at night. We're Southern Californians, so the idea of having a heater aboard had never crossed our minds. In any event, we wholeheartedly recommend Tauranga as a great place to spend the summer in New Zealand. Check out the marina's website at

- the kent family 7/15/01

Kent Family - We remember Flying Wings from her days in the Caribbean. There was one night in particular at Soper's Hole when we all had about six Pusser's Maximum Strength Pain Killers. Lordy, we all slept well that night, no matter where we dropped. But trust us, you don't want that big and heavy a boat for family cruising - not unless you have two or three crew to help out.

Witch of Endor - Formosa 41
Steve Cherry
Miss Saigon - Ketch
Tom Reynolds

Here we are, swinging to the mooring at Barillas Marina, El Salvador. Our 2,500-mile trip down from San Diego was not without its high and low spots, but hey, any day out on any puddle is much better than the old 9 to 5 - or for some of us, 0 Dark Thirty to 0 Dark Thirty. We followed the Baja Ha-Ha fleet down the coast, and to the group's credit, there was no sign that that 125 boats had passed through - other than the constant chatter on the VHF. It's not a telephone, girls! Anyway, I just wanted to recap our trip down and to throw in a kudo where deserved, in the hope it helps folks who will follow in our wake this year.

Steve's Witch received an excellent refit at Baja Naval in Ensenada, but the outfit is running a little light on mechanics. While we're talking about Ensenada, an 'attaboy' goes to Justino 'Tino' Guerrero, also known as Bandito. Tom's Miss Saigon was moored at his dock for two years, and he was treated like a member of the family during the entire period. We've read comments by some of the 'well-informed bunch' about Bandito's "little run-down dock right next to Baja Naval, yada, yada, yada". We feel he deserves better press, and we're giving it to him right now.

Witch and Miss Saigon departed Ensenada on November 3, and stopped at all the usual places, the first one of note being Turtle Bay. Rogelio's Palapa, right at the head of the pier, serves five peso beers, and you can sit there and watch the kids take water and ice out to your dinghy. Contrary to one letter in the July Latitude, we found Ernesto to be accommodating, entertaining, and very helpful. Oh yes, he's also a Mexican national making a living. Lupita, Ernesto's assistant on the day he fueled us, was very entertaining, too.

Mag Bay, a great harbor with a little Napolean port captain, was our next stop. The Port Captain insisted that he needed another copy of our despachos. Since his office didn't have a copy machine, he had to take a panga all the way to San Carlos!

Everybody raves about La Paz - but why doesn't anybody say what it's really like? Why not lay it on the line about the constant Northers, the hellacious currents, the miserable holding ground, the poor location of the Marina de La Paz fuel dock, and the proliferation of gringos-in-residence. Having made all those complaints, we have to admit that La Paz is a pretty good liberty town, with friendly locals. A huge kudo goes out to Hank at Seamar. If he doesn't have it, he can tell you where to find it. He's a real help to cruisers - right down to even providing transportation. We'd also like to thank Pedro the Carpenter, who provided high quality, affordable repair services for Miss Saigon. Oh yeah, 10 peso beers and chow at Congrejo Loco - on the malecon about two blocks past Los Arcos Hotel - are just fine, too.

Mazatlan, in our estimation, is a refreshing change from La Paz, and the humble little marina is a diamond in the rough. The Captain and Sylvia go out of their way to assist guests. No, there's not much in the way of ambience, but they do have power and water. In addition, the veggie guy comes out every day, the shrimp guy comes three times a week, and Pacifico delivers, too.

We loved the city of Mazatlan! Ten peso beers at the sidewalk cafe next to the Coral Reef Hotel were a bargain, because you get a front row seat for the parasailing operations. And don't miss the Sports Saloon, right behind the Banamex in the Golden Zone. There are lots of gringos, but it's worth the stop. We were in Mazatlan for Carnival - what a blast! Imagine 100,000 or so folks on the Olas Altas to watch the fireworks and enjoy the fun. The organizers had it figured out, putting the entry gate on one of the same narrow streets and blocking off all other access, allowing them to get their 20 pesos per beer. They just didn't think about what was going to happen when all those folks wanted to leave through the narrow street when it was all over. What a trip! The bus ride home that night was one for the ages. We hated to leave Mazatlan.

Puerto Vallarta was another good - although expensive - stop. Miss Saigon needed major transmission repair, so Witch of Endor took that opportunity to have her tranny gone through as well. 'Teapot Tony' got the nod from Miss Saigon, and Gerber Offshore in the Opequimar compound got the Witch's work. Those guys at Gerber Offshore did a magnificent job, way above and beyond what we have come to expect in this part of the world. They did what they said they would, showed up when they said they would, beat their original (low) estimate, and the transmission has never sounded or operated better.

Also worthy of note is the selection of marine parts at Zaragoza's, across from the Sheraton on the way downtown. That's probably the last big chandlery before Acapulco or even Panama. They have just about everything you'd find at a major chandlery in the States. It's more expensive, but at least they have it. What nobody seems to have down here is parts and manuals for Nissan outboards, as sold by West Marine. So you'd better bring your own. The locals seem to prefer Yamaha, Mercury, Evinrude and Johnsons. We enjoyed 10 peso beers at the Sandbox in Marina Vallarta.

Manzanillo is a great town, and ours were the only two cruising boats in the main harbor - as opposed to Las Hadas or Santiago Bay. We found the locals to be friendly and helpful. For instance, on two occasions when we asked directions, instead of getting the usual 'down two blocks and over one', people actually took us by the hand and led us to the Officina de Correos and the print shop for duplicating charts! It's the kind of place a guy could get to like really well. Unfortunately, hurricane season was fast approaching and we needed to get on down the line. After a great afternoon and early evening at Ron y Luz's Pancho Villa Bar, we returned to our boats to get ready for the next leg. As Witch headed south in the morning, Miss Saigon's transmission self-destructed on the way to the fuel dock. That earned her and Tom an extra long stay in Manzanillo.

Steve - this is me writing - and Witch continued on a modified speed run down the coast, short-stopping at Marina Ixtapa (unremarkable), fuel stoping in Acapulco, and checking out of Mexico in Huatulco. I found the Huatulco Port Captain to be helpful and professional - to the point that he made the Migracion guy at the airport come down to the port and check me in! The guy wasn't very happy, but the Port Captain insisted it was the kind of service they were going to provide to cruisers. Puerto Madero was another short stop, where I was boarded by the Navy. They checked my papers and wished me a safe trip. A safe trip is what I had, bypassing the rest of the ports on the way to Barillas.

I was headed for the Barillas offshore 'panga meeting point', so I called them at 0700, expecting to get the usual marina non-response, wrong channel, yada yada until 0900 or so. Imagine my surprise when they came right up and said that they would dispatch a panga to meet me. Twenty minutes later, I was still 40 minutes away rendevous point, and the panga guy was there wondering where I was. We finally hooked up, and Luis guided me in. I had the waypoints plotted on my C-Map chart, which went over land in some places, but Luis, without GPS or anything, led me safely into the harbor and took my bowline to a buoy. A few minutes later, Herbierto, the Marina Manager. showed up in a panga with the Port Captain and the Navy. I checked in, went ashore to the migracion office at the marina for the tourist card, and had my free beer. I had arrived, but I was also tired. So I hit the sack.

Miss Saigon pulled in about a month later, and Tom reported that he'd had her transmission overhauled in Manzanillo. He'd made numerous short stops on the way down the coast, and had good things to say about the port captains in Salina Cruz and Puerto Madero, but had by far the best reception at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.

One final lesson we learned. Once you get out of Mexico, you'd better have a Visa debit card - or be prepared to spend a lot of time searching for an ATM machine or bank that will honor your MasterCard.

- steve & tom

Icarus - F/J 39 Cat
David Law & Bonnie Carleton
Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally
(San Francisco)

A little bit on us. David and I got out of the Silicon Valley madness in 1998, sold our house in Woodside, and have been spending about six months a year on Icarus. We bought 'Ickie' in the South of France in '97 and have kept her in Gibraltar, Palma de Mallorca for two winters, and Marmaris, Turkey, for the last year. This is our fourth season over here in the Med, and although the sailing is terrible, we love the depth of the history and culture, the food and the people, and particularly the diverse sailing community. We bought a house in Santa Fe last year, and rent it out while we're gone sailing for the summer. We love the lifestyle of skiing all winter and sailing all summer. Life has been good to us.

We are quietly anchored in front of Gocek Town, one of our favorite places on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey. We pulled in yesterday and were delighted to see that our friends Sue Angus and Steve Whitmore of the San Francisco-based Pilgrim were anchored here as well. Having just finished the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally (EMYR), it's good to be back in what feels a little like 'home', and take time to recap our experiences.

We participated in the 12th EMYR, which is actually divided into two parts - although you can join anytime you want. The first part kicks off in Istanbul on about April 15, and ends in Kemer - on the southern coast of Turkey near Antalya - about two weeks later. The second leg lasts about twice as long, and there's a grand start in Kemer during the first week of May. This leg continues on to Northern Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and ends in Israel. The event is open to sailboats as well as powerboats, and costs $150 per person no matter when you start. The fee includes all marina fees, a bag of goodies - T-shirts, hats, mugs, backpack, document bag - all the cocktail parties, and all the official rally dinner parties. Some of these parties were elaborate and quite grand, so we had to bring our dress up clothes and dancing shoes. Everyone who participated in the rally considered it an amazing value.

This year's EMYR started out with 54 boats from 14 countries - eight of them from the United States - and finished with 28 boats in Israel. There were two other West Coast boats: Sheba Moon from L.A., and Kismet from San Diego. Other American boats included Que Sera Sera, Topaz, Sea Gem, Snow Dance, and Sueño. Participants included a little boy aged two, and two little girls aged four and five. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a very young 75-year-old. We even had three dogs in the fleet. Two Turkish Coast Guard vessels escorted us the whole way. While we welcomed their protection and the security they provided, we also loved having them at rally functions, as they frequently led the dancing and fun.

We didn't join the rally until Kemer, as we'd been late getting back to Icarus in Marmaris in the spring. But after a few days of parties and games, we were integrated and warmed up for the grand start outside the marina on May 5th. Scores of boats of all sizes were at the harbor entrance to wave us off, there were photographers and videographers everywhere, horns were blaring, and an uplifting duet by Emma Shafflin and Andreas Boccelli was played over the VHF.

We then had a very rough overnight passage to Northern (Turkish) Cyprus, and members of our group limped in all the next day. Having a catamaran with shallow draft, we were directed to a shallow spot along the wall in the tiny, overcrowded harbor at Girne - and ended up having four other boats with a total of fourteen people tied to our bows. Sometimes cats can even be useful as sidewalks! CNN Turkey came to our boat to shoot some film, and the rally was on the front page of the weekly English language newspaper - so I guess we were minor celebs. We were busy in Cyprus, as we had parties thrown in our honor on two of the three nights we were there, and we did the tours during the day.

We then had another overnight passage to Mersin, Turkey, and a few days later an overnighter to Lattakia Marina in Syria. Syria is so cut off from the rest of the world that we felt as though we were on another planet. There were no Coca-Cola or Marlboro billboards - just pictures of the former and current President Assad everywhere. The Syrians don't see many tourists, but they're very friendly. We saw so many amazing places in that country that we'd love to return when we have more time.

The highlight of our visit to Syria was Palmyra, a huge oasis way out in the middle of the Syrian Desert. In Roman times it was a beautiful city of unsurpassed wealth, as it was on the Silk Route. The ruins stretch out over miles and miles of desert. Towering gates open onto roads lined with columns that go on, straight as the eye can see, until they end at the edge of the oasis in a grand temple that is so big and beautiful that it staggers the mind. Palmyra is surrounded by palm and olive trees waving in the desert winds, and there are aqueducts everywhere to provide water for the greenery. There was only one other group at this site - something unheard of in this day of mass tourism - so we had the run of the place.

We also had lunch at a Bedouin camp under a large tent covered in carpets, and with a view of the oasis stretching in front of us. They served two whole - with their heads - braised lambs mixed with couscous, pine nuts and cinnamon. Plus tons of appetizers. The Bedouins wear headgear and long brown robes - with gun belts around their waists, daggers, the whole works. But they danced and played music as well. It was a bit touristy, but they were the real thing, not actors. We also loved the old part of Damascus and its bazaar, which I could go on and on about. We also saw the Krak de Chevaliers, the Crusader castle that T.E. Lawrence called the finest in the world.

After another 18-hour overnight passage, we arrived in Lebanon. The marina in Jounieh, which is just north of Beirut, turned out to be a private club with a glorious swimming pool for adults, another for kids, expansive lawns, three excellent restaurants, a health club, jacuzzi, espresso bar with CNN - just about every yacht club dream. We all thought we'd died and gone to heaven, and didn't want to leave.

We did manage to do some land touring, and I was very impressed with the new city they're building over the remains of the war torn and shelled areas of Beiruit. While it will indeed be the 'Paris of the Middle East' again after it gets a patina, the evidence and after effects of the civil war can be seen and felt everywhere. And the stories of those terrible years are a bit beyond the comprehension of most Americans.

We also spent a day at Baalbek, which is a monumental pre-Roman and Roman temple complex. The scale of everything is massive and very impressive. Up until five years ago, it was a 'no go' zone for tourists because it's in the Bekaa Valley, ground zero for the Hezbollah and hostage-taking. There still aren't many tourists, so like Palmyra, we pretty much had Baalbek to ourselves. While driving through the Bekaa Valley and at various checkpoints, we passed many posters of Khomeini and the rest of the Iranian leadership, a testament to how little control the Lebanese have and what a strong and open presence the Hezbollah enjoy. [More next month.]

- bonnie and david 6/15/01

Cruise Notes:

"We did the Ha-Ha with you folks last year and had a blast!" report Paul Baker and Suzette Connolly of the Seattle-based Cal 35 Altair. "We're now in Moorea - which is outstanding - but are still in touch with a number of our Ha-Ha friends. In fact, we recently shared the anchorage at Cook's Bay, Moorea, with three other Ha-Ha boats: Velella, the Wylie 31 with Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman of Port Ludlow, WA, who did the last Ha-Ha; Sailor's Run, the Baba 40 with Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy of Longbranch, WA, and Eleftheria, a C&C Landfall 38, with Milo Coldren of Victoria, B.C., both of which did the '99 Ha-Ha. All the boats are from the Northwest, all sailed every mile of the Ha-Ha, and all 'won' their divisions. We're having a great time down here, and are continually amazed by the beautiful scenery - and the number of boats from the Pacific Northwest."

"If Rick Daniels is looking for a place to inexpensively store his boat on the East Coast, tell him to forget Florida," advise Daniel & Penelope of YoShan - type of boat and homeport unknown. "We suggest Oak Harbor Marina in Slidell, Lousiana, which is 50 miles east of New Orleans. Last year we paid $160/month for our 50-footer. Barry Brisbi is the harbormaster, and he can be reached at (504) 641-1044. This year we're staying at another good place, Brunswick Landing Marina, which is located about 70 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida, in Georgia. It's $6.50/ft a month here, and you don't have to sign up for any longer than a month. Terri, the harbormaster, can be reached at (912) 262-9264."

"Debbie and I met at a dance in Everett back in '91," writes Bill Marmann of the Seattle-based Pearson 424 Romance. "One of the first questions I asked her was, 'Do you like to sail?' After several dates and daysails around Puget Sound, we headed off around Vancouver Island for a five-week cruise aboard my Cal 34 Wild Thing. After she didn't complain when it blew 70 knots all night while on the hook at Effingham Bay, I knew she was a keeper. 'Let's get married at Musket Cove, Fiji,' I suggested. On June 19 of this year, we did just that, standing under a flowered arch put up by the resort, before 50 of our cruising friends - many wearing sulus - and with Romance and the other cruising boats tugging on their hooks off in the distance.

"Debbie and I first left the cool and rainy Northwest in August of '93, having taken leaves of absences from our jobs to see if the cruising life suited us. It did - and I still have a 'Some Like It Hot' T-shirt from Cabo in '93 to prove it," Bill continues. "After returning to work in June '94, we scammed and planned for the great escape we made in August of '97. We did the Ha-Ha that fall, spent two seasons in Mexico, then 'Puddle Jumped' in March of '99. We have fantastic memories of our travels through French Polynesia, the Samoas, and Tonga. After spending 18 months in New Zealand having some major work done on Romance, we returned to Fiji in April. Each country we've been to has had its own unique beauty, and we feel very fortunate every day we are out here able to enjoy the cruising life. We're looking forward to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, then a longer spell in Australia - for which we already have four-year visas."

"I'm pleased to announce that I have sold Catana 431 #11, Thanks Larry!, to Paul and Karen Biery of Livermore," reports Dean Daniels. "The couple have re-named the boat New Focus, and will be sailing the Bay before doing the Ha-Ha this fall. Chris Kingery and I had taken delivery of Thanks Larry! at the Catana factory in France almost two years ago, and sailed her 12,000 miles to Hawaii. Chris is now living in San Francisco and working for Gap, while I'm retired from Oracle Software - Thanks, Larry! - and splitting my time between San Francisco and a home at Kirkwood. I'll be racing my Olson 30 Neuromancer in the Nationals at the Richmond YC before donating her to Stanford. They tell me they will be using her for the Alumni Racing Team, and hopefully she'll help revive the Olson 30 fleet on the Bay. I would like to get a Melges 24 and start doing the Pacific Coast circuit. I'd also like to do an Atlantic crossing this fall - and have noticed that a number of American owners have entered their Catana cats in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers this November. If anyone would like experienced crew, I've already done a crossing aboard a Catana catamaran and will pay my own airfare."

"Your coverage of Southern California berths and anchorages was very informative," writes Bill Browning, Director of the Shoreline YC in Long Beach, "even for those of us who live here. But I have a couple of small problems with your description of the Shoreline Marina in downtown Long Beach. First, it is now called Shoreline Marina rather than Downtown Marina - which you had right on your little chart. Second, there are plenty of good restaurants and shops in the marina village, and just a short walk or shuttle ride away on Pine Avenue in downtown there are many other excellent restaurants, a Cineplex, and a Hooters. Folks shouldn't forget about the Queen Mary and Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific either. There's also a grocery store that's only a 10-minute walk from the marina. Thanks for the great magazine, all of us at Shoreline YC read it every month."

Thanks for the corrections and clarifications, Bill. We'll remind southbound cruisers that the Shoreline Marina almost always has scores of transient slips available to 45 feet, and sometimes longer end-ties. It's also located right next to a terrific bike and jogging path along the long - so that's where they got the name - beach. This has nothing to do with sailing, but since you mentioned Hooters, can somebody please explain the concept of that apparently successful chain? It seems the worst of both worlds to us. After all, if you want to oogle young girls, why not do it properly at a nudie bar? And if you want good food, why not go to a decent restaurant?

"I was wondering if you could give the same kind of information on the trip north from Puerto Vallarta to Los Angeles as you did in the June issue for a reader who needed information on a trip from L.A. to San Francisco," writes Mel Stratton of Dana Point / Puerto Vallarta - and who neglected to give the name and type of boat he owns. "I will be bringing my boat back from P.V. after the hurricane season, and your information concerning my options would be helpful. By the way, I was told there was an overland route from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean."

Ed Grossman has long dreamed of establishing a 'land canal' from Bahia de Los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez, to a point on Vizcaino Bay, about 300 miles south of San Diego on the Pacific Ocean. It was full steam ahead a year ago, but Heidi Grossman tells us that it's not happening - at least not anytime soon. Nor is the Grossmans' plan for a small marina at Bahia de Los Angeles. As a result, there are two options for bringing a boat home from Puerto Vallarta. Option #1 is to take her up to San Carlos, haul her out, and have her trucked to Los Angeles. Option #2 is the classic Baja Bash. Since you didn't tell us what kind of boat you have, it's hard to give any intelligent advice on which option might be better. If you've got a smaller boat that doesn't power particularly well, we'd be inclined to truck her home. If you've got a larger boat, you might motor up Baja, as October through December generally have the most mellow weather of the year, with lots of calm periods. When it comes to Bash strategy - at that time of year in particular - there is one overridding principle: Wait until it's nearly calm, then go like heck for as long as you can.

"We are back in the Bay Area after a nine-month absence," report Myron and Marina Eisenzimmer of the Mill Valley-based Swan 44 Mykonos. "Our Baja Bash from Cabo was relatively painless, as we picked our weather and arrived in San Diego after just eight days. And this included a night in Bahia Santa Maria and two nights in Turtle Bay. Fueling up with Ernesto in Turtle Bay was an experience. He wasn't able to gouge us because we'd already negotiated a price at the pier with his sister! As part of the Class of 2000, we have nothing but good things to say about the Baja Ha-Ha. We got as far south as Z-town, but six months goes by all too fast. In retrospect, we should have spent more time in the Sea of Cortez and less time in the cities - but there's always next time. Thanks again for the Ha-Ha."

Speaking as the Poobah, thanks for the kind words about the Ha-Ha. There's nothing in life that makes the Wanderer as happy as seeing other people having a great time. We don't have factual proof, but based on anedoctal evidence, the spring of 2001 was one of the easier years to bring a boat north. Sure, a couple of folks had to battle 25-knot winds, but we didn't hear of anyone who got hammered by 35 to 45-knot stuff like the year before. Many boats - including Profligate - never saw more than 15 knots between Cabo and San Diego.

"Like Fred DeLance, who made the initial inquiry in the July issue, I've been wondering about the feasability of shipping a boat across the isthmus of Tehauntepec," writes Russ Kilmer of the Portland-based Krogen Manatee, a 36-foot Krogen trawler. "So last February, I flew down there with my Beech Bonanza to scope it out. I rented a car and drove in both directions from Coatzaculocos, Vera Cruz, on the Gulf of Campeche side, to Salina Cruz, on the Pacific side. Since my boat is 15' 9" tall with the mast lowered and is 13' 9" wide, I specifically looked for narrow or low bridges, low wires, and any other possible obstacles. I also made some good contacts on each end of the route. When I suggested that there might be a good business opportunity in shipping boats across, it grabbed the attention of the locals. My contact in Salina Cruz even prepared a pro forma estimate of the cost, which I thought came in very high - $4,500 U.S. I'm working on that. My contact also said it would be less expensive by rail. The long and short of it is that I think it's doable to take a boat across. If there were enough people interested, I would be willing to help coordinate the effort to get a system working. What appeals to me about the Tehauntepec route is that you get to cruise the west coast of Mexico first, then have a relatively short and not too difficult transit to the east side. If anyone wants to discuss this seriously, I can be reached at (916) 419-0885."

"We are currently anchored at Maeva Beach, Papeete, Tahiti. It's been raining for the last 10 hours, and warnings are posted for 40-50 knot winds," report Mitch and Rose Hart of the Tayana 37 pilothouse, Komfy. "We are keeping dry in our pilothouse while catching up on emails and waiting for the wind to hit. But we sure hope it doesn't, because there are 80 boats here in the anchorage."

Folks who did the '99 Ha-Ha may remember George and Ginger Robinson of Jackson, CA, who did the '99 Ha-Ha aboard their Lancer 36 Dalliance. The couple have made it as far south as Panama, but are back in Northern California for a few months. What sets the two apart from most cruisers is that they are both amputees. We don't know if you've noticed, but it's usually the folks with some sort of disadvantage who complain the least. We're planning to have a feature on this inspirational couple in the October issue.

Anybody who has spent much time on the ocean knows that you see things that are seemingly inexplicable. But sometimes there actually are simple explanations - as evidenced in this story forwarded by Skip Allan of the Santa Cruz-based Wylie 27 Wildflower. Way back in the summer of 1954, the Matson Liner Lurline was motoring across the Pacific High - many hundreds of miles from the nearest land - when the crew and guests went "bug f--king nuts" because a 16-foot ski boat with a skier in tow appeared out of nowhere, circled the ship once, then headed off again to places unknown. The simple explanation for the seemingly impossible? The 85-foot schooner Seadrift was on delivery back from the TransPac when her mischevious crew saw some smoke from a ship far off in the distance. They decided to launch the ski boat and give everyone on the ship a mid-ocean thrill. Which they did.

"When I picked up the July issue of Latitude, I was surprised and embarassed to find a photo of myself and a short article about 'Jim and Time Traveller'," writes Jim Brown of the Oxnard-based Kettenburg 40 Time Traveller. "Please let me clarify a few things. In mid-April I departed Banderas Bay singlehanded for Hawaii - not the Galapagos. It was going to be my first ocean crossing, and after problems with the steering, a spreader, taking on almost 10 gallons of water an hour, and high winds and seas, I decided to turn back and sail to California via the clipper ship route. Don of Summer Passage informed me that I would eventually get the good winds I needed to reach Baja or the Mexican coast, but I never found those winds and ocean currents pushed me south. I soon started to run low on water, food and fuel. To make a long story short, with the help of the Coast Guard, several ham radio nets, and some boats and ships, I was able to make it to Turtle Bay. I was also determined to make it back to land for the sake of Dutch, my schippereke puppy. After all, I was out there by choice, he was not. It was indeed an interesting eight-week trip, during which time I pumped 50,000 gallons of seawater out of my boat. Given the right circumstances, I might try the passage again. In closing, I have two things to say. First, if you're going to cross an ocean, get a ham license or at least have a ham radio on board for emergencies. Second, 'thank you' from the bottom of my heart to all those who helped during my ordeal."

"I have another couple - Al and Ruth Hamilton - for your West Coast Circumnavigators list," reports Ernie Copp of the Long Beach based Cheoy Lee 50 Orient Star. The Hamiltons are from Centralia, Washington, and cruised around the world from '83 to '90 aboard Bittersweet, a Miller 46 cutter. They were in their 60s when they went around, and did the South Pacific, New Zealand, Red Sea, Panama Canal route. Enthusiastic travellers, they thoroughly covered all the many countries they visited. After their circumnavigation, they kept their boat in Southeast Alaska for several years. Regrettably, Ruth passed away in February of this year. The Hamiltons are somewhat well-known in the Northwest because they had a big billboard in front of their turkey farm on I-5 south of Centralia, and they always had outrageously conservative messages posted on it. While in Puerto Vallarta last winter, I became friends with Tony Keating, another cruiser from Centralia. Keating has since sailed to the Marquesas - using Al and Ruth's old charts."

"I know that I once visited a website that lists a number of cruising boats at sea and their current locations," writes Kris Hearst, formerly of the Cascade 36 Honalee. "But I checked all your links and can't find it anymore. Can you help?"

You're probably talking about YOTREPS, which can be found at Most days we have a link to it from 'Lectronic Latitude. When we last checked, they had listings for 20 boats in the Pacific. We at Latitude are actually hoping to be able to post a far more extensive daily list, but things aren't quite set up yet. Are we getting any closer, Stan and Jim?

"One thing that southbound cruisers need to be aware of is that the entrance to the channel to Marina Mazatlan can be exciting," report Graham Johnson and Sharon Parker of the San Diego-based Renegade. "If there is any hint of wind-driven swells breaking on the beach, don't try to enter. We did, and unknowingly turned our sloop into a 16-ton surfboard only yards from the beach. The wind was light and onshore, and conditions looked benign - until we were just about to make the turn into the narrow channel and turn broadside to the swell. At the last moment, we sideslipped down a breaking wave and were headed for the rocks! Full opposite helm and everything that Perkins could give brought us full circle, headed back out of the bay and right into a set of three breaking waves. It got our hearts beating and eliminated any immedate need for a laxative."

"Linda and I are now the new marina managers here at Cabrillo Isle Marina in San Diego," writes Tim Leathers of the Sausalito/Cabo-based Ericson 36 Rooster Cogburn. After doing the Ha-Ha in '98, Tim and Linda stayed in Cabo and worked for Cabo Isle Marina. "I had a meeting with Lt. Ken Franke of the San Diego Harbor Police the other day, and together we are working on an anchoring policy and procedures for this year's Ha-Ha. Unfortunately, the San Diego Harbor Patrol Visitor's Dock will be torn down on October 1, so new and expanded facilities can be built. Obviously, they won't be ready in time for the Ha-Ha boats, so berthing might be a little tight."

Berthing is tight in San Diego before the start of every Ha-Ha, but it always works out. Chris Frost of Downwind Marine has promised to keep tabs on any vacant berths, and there's always the Cruisers' Anchorage for 30 days and the Glorietta Bay Anchorage. The good news is that there is plenty of berthing and mooring opportunities elsewhere in Southern California. Capt. Marty Kasules of Newport Beach and Dana Point has thrown out the welcome mat at both places, saying they've never had to turn a boat away from Newport Beach - which is just 65 miles from San Diego. Long Beach's Shoreline Marina, just a little further away, also has lots of empty transient slips in October, and Catalina - a great place at that time of year - will have hundreds of empty moorings at greatly reduced rates. So if San Diego can't handle all the Ha-Ha boats until the very end, there are numerous great options.

"My wife and I are planning to head for Mexico this fall, then west from there in the spring," writes John Mackie of the Alameda-based Cal 39 Not A Dream. "We have a couple of questions for which we have heard conflicting answers, and an opinion based on your extensive experience would be appreciated. We plan to self-insure our boat, but have heard that liability insurance is a firm requirement while in Mexico and beyond. Others have told us that it is not necessary. Also, we need to know about the availability of prescription drugs in Mexico. Will pharmacies recognize prescriptions written by U.S. doctors? Or must you visit a local physician, in which case are they able to provide the necessary prescriptions for continuation of an existing long term medication program?"

Mexican liability insurance is not mandatory, and you probably won't need it. But if your boat causes damage to marina property or hits somebody in the water, it can keep you out of jail and save you a lot of money. This so-called 'peace of mind' insurance runs about $160 for six months of $300,000 coverage, and is available from any number of brokers who represent the bigger insurance companies in Mexico. It's always a good idea to keep the original prescription for a medicine when you're crossing borders in case some official wants to know what the pills are. Other than that, just about anybody can buy all the common prescription medicines they want in Mexico without a prescription from the local farmacia - at much lower prices than in the United States. By the way, medical care is quite good in larger Mexican cities, and the prices are a fraction of what they are in the States.

A reminder to everyone that they will add at least 20 years to the Changes' editor's life by always including your boat name, boat type, full names of skipper and mates, and hailing port. You have no idea how helpful this is. Gracias.

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