With reports this month on Bitchie
and Butchie aboard Contenta from Xephyr
in New Caledonia; from Topaz after
a 4.5-year circumnavigation; from Traumerei
on four years in the Adriatic and Eastern Med; from Sand
Dollar on winters in the Bahamas; from Capricorn
Cat on the Marshall Islands and the 5,000-mile trip home
from Tonga; and a rogue wave's worth of Cruise
Xephyr - N/A
Lachlan & Becky McGuigan
Bitchie & Butchie Still Famished
(Off The Coast Of Australia)
For years Latitude has proved to be a rich source of information
for cruisers such as us. We've spent untold hours combing its
pages, copying lists of uncharted reefs, perusing the ads, and
chuckling over the occasional sighting of the likes of Bitchie
and Butchie (aka Vicky Oswald and Chuck Levdar) of the 1959 Sausalito-based
Lapworth 40 Contenta (ask Disconnected). Being
seasoned cruisers, we assumed them to be the invention of a mind
that has had too much idle time and alcohol. Come on, could Bitchie
really varnish their mast naked? Would Butchie happily grind
her up to do it? We didn't think so, as these things never happened
in the places we anchored.
Well, the times they are a-changing. We recently met Bitchie
and Butchie in New Caledonia by chance. Or maybe fate. Bitchie
had apparently admired my wife's one-fingered approach to nostril-cleaning,
and just had to stop by and say 'hello'. The big world suddenly
shrunk when we learned that Bitchie and Butchie were from our
old stomping ground, the Bay Area. We became instant friends.
Over drinks I learned that Butchie was something of a legend
in my hometown. As a teen, I had heard tall tales of celebrity
hot-tub parties in a 'salvaged' water tank that had been 'liberated'
one stormy night from a brussel sprout field just up the coast.
All I could say was, "That was your place?!"
It took us a while to realize that these two were the real Bitchie
and Butchie. We'd met a number of Bitchies and a few Butchies
during our years on the water, but they were never sailing together,
and not on a boat nicknamed Disconnected. These clues,
and many others, were right under our noses, but we were slow
to connect the dots.
For instance, Bitchie is famous for her amazingly high metabolism
- and hence ravenous appetite. We remembered a Latitude
article report that she ate a kilo of chow mein before going
to a neighbor's boat for dinner because she was afraid she might
go hungry. So it should have been clear that this was the real
Bitchie when, having dinner on their boat, we watched her down
two baguettes, a kilo of rice, two dozen oysters, four liters
of home brew, two bottles of wine, two plates of goat stew, and
countless cookies. Tommy Toucan swears he also saw her wash down
two cake a-la-modes with cider, but I can't vouch for it personally.
Butchie added another clue when he regaled me with tales of their
off-season projects while "tarting up" Disconnected
in New Zealand. Normal things like brightwork, bottom paint,
and even adding a hard dodger were only starters for these two.
Their classic craft needed further updating, so they added a
second rudder and cut off the boom with a Sawsall to "balance
the rig". It was more stuff of which legends are made. Mind
you, they didn't replace the boat's ancient Greymarine gas (!)
A few more bells went off when Bitchie and Butchie told us of
their first trip to a remote Fijian village. Fellow cruisers
had told them of the traditional Fijian greeting, "Esa tika
na sapoí." They practiced hard and were all smiles
as they beached their dinghy with their sevusevu and new expression.
It seemed to work, as they were welcomed with smiles and even
some laughter. The chief replied "Esapo ilo iloí,"
and they were welcomed as family. Not until after they'd been
in the village for several weeks were they told that their greeting
translated to, "Are you wearing any underwear?" The
headman's response, naturally enough, had been, "Yes, invisible
underwear!" It turned out that the couple had something
in common with the villagers - no underwear. Bitchie and Butchie
haven't worn it since contracting a nasty rash from washing their
underwear in a freshwater stream in Mexico.
Despite all this, we still hadn't realized that this enigmatic
couple was the Bitchie and Butchie. Even though their reputation
had preceded them to Noumea, Tommy Toucan - definitely a guy
with too much time on his hands - had to connect the dots for
us while we dined aboard Disconnected. Over steaming plates
of Billy Chili, we learned that all the stories were true! Bitchie
and Butchie are real - we were sitting in their cockpit eating
The proof came from Ducos Island, a few hours north of Noumea.
We knew the place was littered with goats. In fact, it had been
less than a month since we had told them about the place. While
we watched Bitchie devour her dinner, Butchie told us of the
2,000 feral goats eating the island bare. He told us that the
owner had a they-are-yours-if-you-can-catch-them policy. We chewed
disbelievingly as Butchie described how Bitchie had culled, not
one, but two "crippled" goats. One was the billy we
were then eating!
Butchie further described 'The Look' in Bitchie's eye as the
first limping goat metamorphosed from picturesque quadriped to
predestined prey in her mind. It was 'The Look' known - albeit
briefly - to many a mahi mahi and tuna hauled over Disconnected's
transom. It's the same look seen on lions hunting in the Serengeti.
'The Look' eloquently said, "This goat is toast!" Butchie
conveniently volunteered to retrieve knives and plastic bags
from the boat rather than watch the kill. I suspect that most
of us around the cockpit would have done the same.
Bitchie simply shrugged as she doled out second helpings, and
said, "The goat would have died anyway." As Butchie
continued to tell the tale of Bitchie's kill, we all had vivid
images of Bitchie, a sinewy Canadian-American sylph with a big
smile, charging down a steep, rocky trail on a mountain bike,
filet knife in her teeth, spear-gun balanced on her elbow, about
to end the grass-stealing career of a crippled goat. Our visions
didn't seem to hinder our appetites at all.
We're a safe eight days offshore as I write this. Though I wanted
to stay in New Caledonia and help Bitchie with the varnishing,
I thought I saw 'The Look' directed at my wife, who had recently
broken her leg. In any event, we will never doubt anything we
hear about Bitchie and Butchie again. Only the real deal would
grow alfalfa spouts in their head or convert their water tanks
to beer brewing vats saying, "You can get water anywhere."
I will sure miss those two. In today's cynical world, taking
things on faith is hard, but I swear to you they are out there.
They may drop anchor next to you tomorrow. Butchie is hard to
recognize, but Bitchie is a dead giveaway. She is the only cruiser
in the anchorage without varnish stains on her clothes.
- lachlan & becky 9/15/04
Topaz - C&C 38
End Of A Circumnavigation
(Seattle / San Diego / Portland)
According to Ken Hellewell - who in June completed a 4.5-year
solo circumnavigation - the finest cruising in the world is relatively
close to home for West Coast sailors. He also suggests that there
are better multi-year cruising options than sailing all the way
around the world.
"The best part of my circumnavigation was the first three
plus years, when I sailed from the Bay Area to Mexico and on
to the South Pacific. It's in these places that I met up with
the same group of people over and over again, and with whom I
had the best times in the best places. From Australia on, there
weren't as many good places to stop, there weren't as many cruisers,
and the cruisers weren't as friendly. As a result, once I left
Tonga, I sailed the rest of the way around the world very quickly."
For those looking to do a long cruise or circumnavigation on
a relatively modest budget, Hellewell has good news. During his
4.5 years, he spent less than $150,000 for everything - and still
has an excellent cruising boat to show for it. He paid $32,000
for the 1976 C&C 38 Topaz, which had been circumnavigated
previously by Robert Peterson, who currently lives in Portland.
"The C&C 38 was a brilliant boat for my trip. I'm not
a racer, but I like speed, and she was fast. She was also dry,
easy to manuever, held up well, and did fine in rough weather.
Some people thought that her fin keel and spade rudder would
make her squirrely, but it didn't, not even when she was being
driven by the Monitor windvane. The only flaw in the boat's design
is that she doesn't have a bilge, so on the few occasions that
it got rough, there was some water in the cabin sole."
Hellewell also invested another $32,000 in preparing the boat
for his trip. The money went to things like replacing the electrical,
water, and propane systems, and buying new sails, upholstery,
and fuel tanks. "I redid everything except the engine and
the rig, and I had pretty much all the stuff you'd expect on
a comfortable cruising boat - refrigeration, a PUR 40 watermaker,
hot and cold running water, a microwave oven, and that kind of
stuff. While I did have an EPIRB and a VHF radio, it might surprise
some people to learn that I didn't have a liferaft or SSB radio.
I did all of my communication at internet cafes. I did have radar,
which was valuable for confirmation navigation and for keeping
an alarm lookout for ships, giving me a chance to get some sleep.
When I started out, I was a hardcore paper chart guy, but I did
take electronic charts with me. I was converted in Tahiti, however,
and from then on was an electronic chart guy. If you have electronic
charts and the cruising guide for the local area, I think you
have what you'll need. In fact, I now question the need for paper
You've heard the old saw about cruising being defined as fixing
broken boat stuff in exotic ports? That wasn't the case with
Hellewell's circumnavigation. Although Topaz's Yanmar
diesel was 24 years old and already had 6,000 hours when he started
his circumnavigation, it has remained virtually trouble free.
"I didn't do anything to the engine before I left, and besides
replacing the water pump in Mexico and routinely changing the
oil, I never did anything to it during the rest of the trip."
He didn't even have problems with dirty fuel or alternators!
In addition to the cost of the boat and refitting her, Hellewell
spent roughly $70,000 on living and other expenses during the
next 4.5 years - which comes out to $15,500 per year. "During
the first two years I was pretty flush from the booming stock
market, so I spent about $20,000 a year and lived quite well.
After the stock market turned to crap, I reduced my budget to
about $1,000/month, everything included."
Ironically, when the then 35-year-old Hellewell departed Seattle
in October of '99, he wasn't planning on cruising solo or even
necessarily circumnavigating."I left the Pacific Northwest
with a girlfriend, but the relationship was over by the time
we got to San Francisco. Initially I was open to the idea of
having crew, but by the time I left the South Pacific a couple
of years later, I'd already started to think about a solo circumnavigation.
So in the few instances where I did have crew for a short time,
I always backtracked to keep my solo circumnavigation intact.
From Australia on, I was committed to the concept of a solo circumnavigation,
and it would have taken a very special woman to have interfered
Hellewell says it was't difficult having a social life in Mexico
and the South Pacific. "I met women - most of whom were
quite a bit younger than me - everywhere. Some were locals, others
were cruisers or tourists. I had an incredible social life."
From Australia on, the social life was much slower.
Having completed a circumnavigation, Hellewell is of the opinion
that many cruisers greatly exaggerate the wind and sea conditions
they experience. "You hear people talk about 30-ft seas,
but I can't even imagine what genuine 30-ft seas might be like.
About 40 knots plus is the most wind I experienced at sea, and
that only happened four times. Once was coming out of Rarotonga,
once while getting knocked down in the shallow water and strong
currents off Cape Town, and a third time was while on the way
from the South Pacific to New Zealand. Oddly enough, the worst
weather I had was in the very beginning, rounding Pt. Conception
on my way south during my first singlehanded passage. It's not
that uncommon for it to blow 40 knots from the northwest at Conception,
but in this case the wind was out of the southeast! I was having
to beat south. It's true that I could have turned around and
taken shelter, but I don't like to backtrack."
Hellewell's best passage was his first long one, the 2,700 miles
from Mexico to the Marquesas. "It was absolutely perfect,
as I was able to beam or broad reach in smooth seas. Sometimes
it seemed so calm that I'd have to go up on deck to reassure
myself that I really was at sea." He made the crossing in
19 days, fast time for a 38-footer being singlehanded.
Unusually, his trip from Cape Town to the Caribbean - generally
considered to be one of the most pleasant on the planet - wasn't
particularly to his liking. It didn't help that he did it non-stop
in 40 days, something that taxed him to his limits "in all
respects." But it was more than that. "It was slow
to start out with, then the wind came forward of the beam and
there were lots of squalls. Jimmy Cornell's book suggested that
the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone would only be about 150 miles
wide, but what he didn't mention is that if you sailed along
it, as I had to do, it would last more like 1,000 miles. I'd
expected the wonderful passage that so many others have talked
about, but I didn't get it. Neither did any of the other boats
I travelled with at the time."
Rather than circumnavigate via the Red Sea and the Med, Hellewell
went by way of the Cape of Good Hope. As such, he spent a couple
of months in South Africa. While he'd like to return, he says
most Americans would be shocked by the social climate. "Apartheid
may be over, but racism is still pervasive, and it was pretty
hard to take. All the blacks looked at me suspciously until they
got to know me. The South Africans just don't understand the
problem - you can't believe how ugly their speech can be."
He also didn't like the fact that South Africa has few natural
harbors, which meant he had to stay mostly in marinas.
It was at Venezuela's Isla Margarita that Hellewell had the most
trouble with crime. "I got robbed a couple of times, losing
my dinghy and outboard, and having my credit card cloned. Other
than that," he laughs, "I really did like the place."
Having spent the first 3.5 years in Mexico and the South Pacific,
Hellewell mad-dashed the remaining five-sixths of the way around
the world in an incredible one year. He admits that part of the
pace was caused by "smelling the barn", but it also
had to do with it being a long way between great places to see
and great things to do. As such, he wouldn't make the same trip
"If someone had the same 4.5 years, I would recommend a
big Pacific loop, including Asia. I honestly don't believe there
is that much benefit to going all the way around the world. If
Asia was included in the itinerary - and wouldn't China be great?
- I suppose the best way to get back to the States would be a
loop across the North Pacific. Surely it would be easier than
sailing the rest of the way around the world. In any event, it's
my strong opinion that the best of what you can only see and
enjoy by boat - as opposed to by plane and land - is in Mexico
and the South Pacific. That's what I would recommend concentrating
While on his circumnavigation, Hellewell wrote two cruising guides.
The first was The Cruising Guide To The Kingdom of Tonga,
which is being used and sold by Sunsail and The Moorings, the
two big charter companies there. He also wrote Ken's Torres
Strait Passage Guide, which revives the old way of negotiating
the reef - which was downwind and through it as opposed to the
much harder upwind and around it.
Although Hellewell might not recommend circumnavigations to others,
having completed one did have an emotional impact on him. "On
June 2, I motored Topaz into San Diego Bay, returning
to the same slip at the Police Dock from where I had started
my trip in '99. My 4.5-year solo circumnavigation had ended officially
in Cabo San Lucas, but San Diego was the emotional end to the
adventure. Having to do the Baja Bash from Cabo to San Diego
had a lot to do with this, and I want to give thanks to Doña
de Mallorca and the crew of Profligate. It got pretty
rough out there, and sharing a few words with some folks on another
boat made a huge difference in my emotional state."
Although Hellewell only came back to the States once during his
trip, he didn't have any trouble fitting back in. "It didn't
even seem more crowded than before. The biggest shocks were little
things, such as going to nice bathrooms and seeing water in the
toilets. Or forgetting I was on land and stacking things up on
one side of the refrigerator so they wouldn't fall over. Or when
the wind came up, worrying that the boat was all right."
Immediately upon completing the circumnavigation, Hellewell assumed
that his cruising days were over. But before long he began thinking
it might be a great idea to sail the boat back to Tonga and perhaps
go cruising there for several months of each year. For right
now, he's back in the U.S. and continuing his writing pursuits.
"My current project is an anthology of short cruising stories
by other authors. If anyone would like to contribute, please
take a minute to visit www.cevennesproductions.com.
Hellewell had been to the South Pacific once before, making a
passage from Mexico to the Marquesasa and Tahiti in 1997. "Two
years later it was quite different in the sense that most of
the cruisers were about a decade younger. They were Microsoft
and other techie people who had cashed out of the tech boom and
- latitude/rs 8/10/04
Traumerei - Bavaria
Frank & Kathy Griffith
Our Four Years In The Eastern Med
For 20 years we had a boat in San Carlos, Mexico, and/or San
Diego. That changed big time in March of 2000, when we sold our
Cal 39 and bought a center cockpit Bavaria 42 sloop to be delivered
in Izola, Slovenia. We expected we would have a grand one or
two-year sailing adventure in the Med - but it's been four years!
After taking delivery of Traumerei in Slovenia in October
of 2000, we sailed to Corfu, Greece, via Dubrovnik, Croatia,
and Brindisi, Italy. Since we weren't able to take delivery
of our boat until October 24, and the Adriatic sailing season
ends at the end of October, our first cruise was by necessity
limited to three weeks. But things have gotten better since.
For four years, we have been sailing the Eastern Mediterranean
in an annual pattern of three months in the spring, and three
months in late summer/fall. We put our boat on the hard for the
In 2001, we sailed from Corfu to Istanbul via the Corinth Canal,
then to the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles. We were in Chanakkale,
Turkey, on September 11, and therefore cut short our visit to
Turkish waters in order to return to Corfu for a second winter.
This was a great disappointment to us, as we hadn't seen enough
of Turkey. We'd had enough time, however, to learn that the Turks
are among the friendliest people we've ever encountered. And
remember, we'd sailed in Mexico for 20 years, and the Mexicans
set a pretty high standard when it comes to being friendly.
That season's high points were visits to Delphi, Ephesus, Pergamon,
and the fabulous city of Istanbul. You run out of American cruisers
when you go north in Turkey, so the locals were our source of
socializing. English is the third language of Turkey - German
is second - so there really wasn't much of a language barrier.
You might not expect it, but Turkey has wonderful marinas and
plenty of free places to anchor. Combined with great food, wonderful
people, and low prices, we thought Turkey was paradise. We'd
probably keep our boat there permanently were it not so far from
We returned to Traumerei in Corfu in the spring of 2002, and
sailed to Venice via Brindisi, Dubrovnik, and Izola, Slovenia.
While in Venice we had a great slip across from San Marcos Square,
the primo spot. This was thanks to a chance encounter with an
Italian who was sailing back to his slip. We asked for some assistance
in finding a berth. After giving us and our boat a once over,
he invited us to join him at his yacht club!
The second half of the 2002 sailing season saw us sail down the
Adriatic via Pula, Splitt, Hvar, Korchula (birthplace of Marco
Polo) and Dubrovnik to Corfu. We changed crew there and sailed
for the Corinth Canal and Aigina, south of Athens, where we were
met by two friends for a quick six-day sail across the southern
Aegean to Rhodes. We cleared out of Greece in Rhodes and sailed
to Marmaris, Turkey, where our boat spent the third winter. The
fall sailing along Turkey's Turquoise Coast is second to none
when it comes to sailing, ruins, antiquities, and wonderful inland
trips to places such as Cappadoccia.
The spring of 2003 saw us sailing up through the Dodecanese via
Datca, Turgtreis and Bodrum in Turkey, to Patmos in Greece for
Easter. This is where St. John wrote the book of Revelations.
We then sailed through the Aegean and Cyclades Islands to Milos
in the southern Cyclades. We had decided that three passages
through the Corinth Canal were enough, so we sailed around the
Peloponnesus Peninsula via Monemvasia, Kalamata, and Pilos to
Zykanthos and Keffalonia. Once again we were in the Ionian for
the winter, and for the third winter we left the boat in Corfu.
The spring of this year we sailed from Corfu to Santa Maria de
Leuca on the tip of the heel of Italy - this as part of our plan
to move our boat in the direction of the United States. We sailed
the southern waters off the sole of Italy, Sicily, the Aeolian
Islands, and volcanic Stromboli prior to getting back to the
mainland of Italy. There we visited Maretea, Agropoli, Amalfi,
Anzio (of World War II fame), and Naples (Pompeii). When we got
to Rome, we put the boat in storage for our annual return to
Tucson for four to six weeks of summer.
We are currently in Elba with plans to visit Florence, Genoa,
and Marseille on our way to winter our boat in Barcelona.
In the past four years we've spent about 24 months on our boat
in the Med, and have met many members of the world cruising community
as they passed through. What tales of adventure we have heard!
We have met people from all of the European countries plus Australia
and New Zealand. One encounter was with a fellow from St. Petersburg,
Russia, who was circumnavigating Europe in nine months aboard
a Bavaria 34. His was a quick circumnavigation of necessity,
not to set any record, as he had to be back for the first anniversary
of the death of his mother-in-law! Having to cover 30 miles a
day was made more difficult by the fact that his wife didn't
know how to operate the boat - and they both had to return to
Russia by bus every three months to renew their visa!
We met another cruiser, Willy, who had left France via the canals
to the Main-Danube Canal to sail down the Danube to Constanza,
Romania, on the Black Sea. From there he travelled through the
Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles to Turkey where
we met him in Bozburun. His trip was the source of unending tales
of beauty, bureaucracy, and border police. Willy, by the way,
had translated all of Tristan Jones' books into German.
As for ourselves, we have been able to moor our boat in and visit
such cities as Rome, Venice and Brindisi in Italy; Syracuse and
Messina (location of Charybdis and Scilla of the Odyssey) on
the island of Sicily; Dubrovnik and Pula in Croatia; Athens,
Delphi, Mykanos, Santorini, and Rhodes in Greece; Bodrum,
Kusadasi, Marmaris, Fethiye, and Istanbul in Turkey. We have
been in small villages when the national artistic troupes arrived
for summer theatre, and we have heard the Izmir Philharmonic
at the ancient theatre of Ephesus. Many miles and months
of our trip have been in the waters and islands of Homer's Odysseus. The
books by Irving Stone about Schliemann, who discovered the ruins
of Troy, and about Michelangelo, have been a wonder to read in
the area where these lives were lived. It has been our own extraordinary
odyssey - one that does not seem to want to end.
This is a very brief account of our travels of the past four
years. For more details, visit our web page at www.cherba.com,
then select Traumerei. There you will see a map with each
of our adventures displayed in different colors and links to
the logs and picture.
- frank & kathy 9/15/04
Frank & Kathy - It's almost unbearable
for us to read your Changes,
for between our quick trip through the Med with Big O
and various land travels, we've sampled many of the places you
mention. Unfortunately, we've had a monthly deadline for 28 years,
and therefore haven't been able to linger at any of them. But
how we'd love to be able to leisurely return to places such as
Datca, Bodrum, and Turkey's Turquoise Coast; the Cyclades and
the Corinth Canal of Greece; Capri, the Bay of Naples, the Amalfi
Coast, Elba, and the delta of Rome in Italy; as well as Marseille,
and Barcelona. The amazing thing is that all these fabulous historic
and cultural places are a shorter distance apart than are San
Francisco and Acapulco.
By the way, we think your concept of doing your Med cruising
in the spring and fall, as opposed to the summer, is brilliant.
High season in the Med is ungodly crowded and expensive - and
August can be devastatingly hot.
Jeff & Teri Huntington
Fun In The Bahamas
To many East Coast mariners, the Bahamas are sort of like the
Delta is to Bay Area sailors - except they go there to be warm
in the winter instead of the summer. While there are many similarities
between the Delta and the Bahamas - favorite secluded anchorages,
different food, slower pace, warmer water - there are some significant
differences. Most notable of these is the gin-clear water that
comes in every shade of green and blue, and the fact that everything
besides rum and ice cream cones is more expensive than at home.
As we write this it's late March, and we're three weeks into
our second winter trip to the Bahamas. We had grander plans than
just the Bahamas when we started cruising the East Coast four
years ago, but as far as we're concerned, this is as far 'down
island' as we need to go. As Latitude reported in the
piece on the Heineken Regatta, it has been an unusually windy
winter and spring in the Caribbean, so this year we've spent
a lot of time waiting for weather - and for friends to receive
boat parts. While this has somewhat restricted our travels, who
can complain about sitting at anchor in clear water with 80°
weather, looking at a palm-lined white sand beach while holding
a cold drink in one's hand. It hasn't been perfect, but it hasn't
On the way down to Georgetown, Great Exuma, we had a 40-mile
sail on the sound. Someone in our group of a half dozen boats
suggested that we have a fishing contest. While other boats were
catching barracuda, we on Sand Dollar caught two mahi.
If you haven't tried landing a fighting fish caught on rod and
reel with 30-lb. test line while sailing close-hauled on a cruising
sailboat - complete with dinghy on davits, Lifesling, stern anchor,
BBQ, outboard, radar pole, and sundry bimini poles hanging on
the stern - you can only imagine the excitement. We stuffed the
fish into big garbage bags, tossed in some still-in-the-tray
ice cubes, threw it all in the dinghy, and covered it with wet
towels until we were anchored. That evening everyone in the group
came to Sand Dollar for a fresh fish dinner. No one showed
up empty-handed, and we had a wonderful potluck. When we started
our group cruise that morning, most of us hadn't met each other.
By the time we turned in that night, we had a dozen new friends.
What a way to start our socializing in Georgetown!
The highlight of this year's trip to the Bahamas was Jeff getting
a chance to sail aboard an A Class Bahamian Sloop in the National
Family Island Regatta at Georgetown. This is big time Bahamian
racing, with a typical team budget of $100K a year. There are
18 races a year, with a different island hosting each regatta.
The National Family Island Regatta in Georgetown is the largest
of the regattas, and it receives considerable government support.
An A-Class sloop is 28 feet long with a 60-foot mast and a 38-foot
boom. It's sailed by a crew of 10 to 20, and can have either
two or three prys. What's a 'pry'? It's a 2x12-inch board about
12 feet long that is pushed out on the windward side while sailing
to weather. Typically, four or five crew ride on each pry. When
the boat tacks - which the locals call 'come back' - everyone
must quickly move in off the prys, get them to the other side
of the boat, and climb out again. To complicate matters, the
boom is only a foot or two above the deck, so during a tack the
crew slides across the flat deck on their bellies or backs. The
races have a sort of Le Mans start, as the boats are anchored
with their sails down. At the starting gun, boats gain speed
by rapidly pulling up their anchors while simultaneously hoisting
the huge mainsail and tiny jib. All boats except for the one
furthest to the right must start on starboard tack, but can tack
as soon as they dare. Boats hoisting the anchor rode to the top
of the mast or hooking their long booms on other boats' rigging
is not unheard of. Starts vary from being merely interesting
Several of the boats were T-boned and at least one sank as a
result of a collision. But sometimes these boats sink without
being hit, usually on very windy downwind legs. An unintentional
gibe is a sight to behold, as the huge boom sweeps across a foot
or two above deck, and everybody is hiked out on the wrong side
of the boat. Hauling in the long boom and getting the prys set
at the leeward mark is another exciting time, especially when
there is a traffic jam.
It's not a big concern when one of these racing boats sinks,
for there are a number of island 'mail boats' with cranes at
the regattas. They go out between races and raise the boats from
the shallow water. Often the boat is pumped out and ready to
sail the next race. We saw one boat that had been badly damaged
as a result of being T-boned at the shrouds. The crew worked
through the night to make up new wood pieces and sister them
in - while constantly bailing. They were out sailing the next
Even without the racing, you wouldn't want to miss the National
Family Island Regatta, as it's great for cultural stuff and people
watching. There are relatively few family names in the Bahamas,
so a great many people are related. The Family Island Regatta
seems to be a reunion for about a half dozen families - and thousands
come in from all over the Bahamas, be it by car or boat, for
the party. There is lots of music, Bahamian food, Kalik (Bahamian
beer), rum drinks, gin and coconut water, and a beauty contest,
fashion show, and a wonderful performance by the Bahamian Police
Force Band. Even with everyone in a serious party mode, we never
saw any behavior problems.
As we write this, the wind continues to blow from the east at
20 to 25 knots - as it has for a week and is predicted to do
for another week. We have already scratched our plans to go to
Long Island and Cat Island this year, and see our opportunity
to get to Eluethera slipping away.
Several days ago there were three San Francisco boats anchored
at Black Point, a wonderful little Bahamian settlement in the
Exumas. What are the chances of that happening? Two of the boats,
our Sand Dollar and Torla-O, have been traveling
together off and on for four years. The third, Brett Greene's
F-31 R-TRIumph, has been cruising the Bahamas since November.
He plans to spend the summer in the Chesapeake or New England.
Sterling and Kathy aboard Torla-O were bound for the Caribbean,
but were delayed by weather and boat problems. They were returning
to the States with plans to try for the Caribbean again in November.
In five years of cruising, we haven't found a place we like better
during the summer than Northern California, so we come back for
that. In fact, after eight years of living aboard, we're buying
a house in Elk Grove for when we're not cruising. But we plan
to cruise to the Bahamas again next winter. For the second summer
in a row we'll be leaving our boat on the hard in Fort Pierce,
which is about 100 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. We pay about
$300 a month. In previous years, our boat had spent the summer
at the dock in Baltimore and on the hard in Oriental, North Carolina.
As you might have heard, a number of months ago the Bahamian
government suddenly jacked up the price of a cruising permit
from $100 to $300 for boats over something like 35 feet. This
really hit the sportfishing boats, as they had to get a new permit
each time they came over - which for some was several times a
month. We think that's been modified by now. For cruisers it's
not really bad. Even if we have to pay $150 twice a year, it's
not too expensive when amortized over the time we spend here.
And unlike Mexico, once you get a permit, you can cruise anywhere
without having to check-in again.
There are three distinct groups of mariners that visit the Bahamas,
and they do it at different times of year. The Canadians and
folks from the colder areas of the U.S. tend to arrive in November
and stay through March, the time when it's the coldest back home.
Many of these will often stay in just one place. Lots of others
- including ourselves - don't arrive until February or March,
but we tend to travel around quite a bit. We tend to stay until
May or June, the start of hurricane season. The third group are
folks from Florida, who have to deal with hurricanes no matter
what. They come out to the Bahamas during the summer because
it's cooler and there are fewer thunderstorms than in Florida.
Different strokes for different folks.
- jeff & teri 3/15/04
Capricorn Cat - Custom
Back From The Marshall Islands
Judging by the cruising career and otherwise activity-packed
life of Blair Grinols, who is now in his early 70s, we all ought
to be living on a diet that consists primarily of sticky buns
and ice cream.
After taking two years to build - with the help of one worker
- his 46-ft cat, Blair launched Capricorn Cat in January
of '96. Every winter since, except for the last one, Blair has
cruised the boat to at least Mexico for the season before returning
home for the summer or fall. One year he continued on to the
Marquesas and Tahiti before coming back to California via Hawaii.
Another time he sailed to the Line Islands before returning via
Hawaii. Yet another time he just sailed to Hawaii and back. As
for last winter, he sailed to Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Fiji,
back up to the Marshalls, down to Tonga, and home via Christmas
Island and Hawaii.
So far Blair, who used to work at Mare Island, has racked up
a total of 62,000 ocean miles with his cat, most of them with
his wife Joan, and he isn't about to stop. After a motorhome
trip to Minnesota to visit relatives and some time in the yard
repairing his cat's two broken daggerboards, he'll be sailing
Capricorn Cat in yet another Baja Ha-Ha to kick off another
season of cruising in Mexico.
For most folks, a multi-thousand-mile trip home from the South
Pacific would be a major undertaking, but Blair and his well-travelled
cat made it seem like a walk in the park. Although he had his
wife Joan, daughter Vye, Vye's boyfriend Gary, and Vye's two
teenage sons along, Blair pretty much singlehanded the boat.
In his spare time he did things like fabricate a working alternator
from the parts of two broken ones.
How long was the trip back from Tonga? "It was 1,800 miles
to Christmas Island, another 900 miles to Hawaii, and, because
you have to sail a bit of a loop, 2,400 miles back to San Francisco.
We covered the 5,000 miles in about five weeks. We had some pretty
rough weather during the first 400 miles as we sailed north through
the islands of Samoa. By 'rough' I mean 25 knots true with 12
to maybe 15-foot seas. Because we had to point as high as we
could, the apparent wind was about 30 knots, and we pounded quite
a bit. It's funny, we didn't get rolling seas like you find outside
of San Francisco, but rather steep seas close together. The result
was we had to throttle way back to prevent launching the boat
off the waves. After the initial rough weather, we had steady
winds to Hawaii. From Hawaii to California we didn't have much
wind at all, so it took us 14.5 days, which is a little slow
When cruisers rave about cruising in the far Pacific, they're
usually referring to Fiji, Tonga, or French Polynesia. Not Blair.
His favorite place is the Marshall Islands, a group of 29 coral
atolls halfway between Hawaii and Australia. You get there by
sailing to Honolulu - and then holding course for another 2,000
miles. Other islands in the group include Bikini and Enewetak
Atolls, which were nuclear test sites, and Kwajalein Atoll, the
famous World War II battleground that is now home to a military
installation that tracks missiles pitched across the Pacific
from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Point Conception.
"Hands down the Marshalls Islands have had the best cruising
I've ever enjoyed," states Blair. "The weather is wonderful,
as it's 85° every day with consistent tradewinds. At night
the temperature cools to about 79°, so I sleep with a sheet.
It's just perfect. Best of all is the water, which is ideal for
diving. It's 82°, and just about everywhere we went there
was at least 100 feet of visibility. We didn't even have to put
our face in the water to see our anchor resting on the bottom
in 60 feet." The water conditions are very important to
Blair, who dives as much as he sails.
"Another thing I liked about the Marshalls is that they
aren't crowded. Other cruisers think the Marshalls are too far
out of the way, so I bet there weren't 20 cruising boats in the
whole damn place - which covers an area of about 900 miles by
600 miles. By comparison, there are always 40 to 60 boats at
the Musket Cove anchorage in Fiji, plus a dozen or more in every
other nook and cranny around there."
Blair laughs when he admits, "I may be the only cruiser
who bitched about Fiji, but I really didn't like it as much.
One of the problems was that the two main islands are so big
that they disrupt the trades and create their own weather patterns.
So when I was at anchor, I always seemed to get 180° windshifts
at least twice a day. And no matter if I was headed north or
south, the wind always seemed to be on my nose. It's also true
that I whined about how cold it was. When the wind blew hard,
the air temperature dropped down to 78° - which is cold for
me. I even had to put on long sleeve shirts. And the water was
only about 78°, which is about four degrees cooler than it
ever gets in the Marshalls. That four degree difference is significant,
as it's the difference between having to wear a wetsuit and being
able to dive without one. Lastly, the water in Fiji wasn't as
clear as in the Marshalls."
Blair was also disappointed by Fiji's paucity of beaches. "There
are beaches only in a few places, and even then only at high
tide. The rest of the time the shore is made up of coral debris,
which is hard on the bottom of the dinghy when you're dragging
it out to deep water. In the Marshalls there were long white
sand beaches everywhere. Fiji also has terrible reefs, whereas
the only real reefs in the Marshalls are the ones surrounding
the atolls. It's amusing in the Marshalls, as when the GPS says
you're three or four miles out, you still can't see anything,
and you begin to think that it might not be there at all. As
you get a little closer, you might see a little motu a mile or
two off to one side or the other. When you're about a mile away,
you see a long turquoise strip across the ocean. As you get even
closer, you finally see the unmarked entrance to the reef. That's
the Marshall Islands for you."
Although it's a very different kind of experience, Blair is also
very fond of cruising in Mexico. "A lot of the time while
I was in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, I found myself thinking, 'Mexico
is pretty damn nice.' There are so many nice locals and cruisers
in Mexico, and it's about the only place where you can find 10-mile-long
sandy beaches with nobody on them. But the water isn't clear
enough for good diving."
Since most readers aren't familiar with the Marshalls, Blair
offered this introduction: "The capital is Majuro on Majuro
Atoll, which is about 25 miles long, five miles wide, and has
three cities at one end. The 25,000 residents represent half
of the population of the country. It's the only place in the
Marshalls where you can find provisions. But there are at least
two large grocery stores, tons of mom & pop stores with some
things cheaper than in the States, two big resort hotels, at
least one big hospital, internet cafes, and other services. They
use the American dollar and the U.S. postal service."
"One of the neat things about the Marshalls," continues
Blair, "is that the islands are oriented in a southeast
to northwest direction, and the trades blow from the northeast.
This means you're usually sailing on a beam reach - and often
in the smooth waters of the lee of an atoll. The villages on
all the other atolls are primitive. For example, the villagers
cook over open fires fueled by coconut husks, get almost all
of their food from a supply boat, and don't have running water.
I gave the locals lots of presents of flour, sugar, and things
like pepper and vanilla. They were most appreciative, and reciprocated
with some of the beautiful baskets they make."
Because the villages are so primitive, friends assumed that Blair
must have occasionally gotten bored out of his mind. But not
so. "There was too much to do in the Marshalls to get bored.
On a typical day, I'd have six to 10 people come over, and we'd
set the chute and sail across the lagoon. Once we got out the
pass, one of the guys would dive in the water and drop the anchor
in a crevice in a shallow part of the reef wall. With the offshore
wind keeping the boat off the reef, we'd all go diving - which
in the Marshalls is just spectacular. It was funny, because day
after day we'd tell ourselves that it was the best diving we'd
ever had. Then we'd come back to the boat and cook one of the
fish we'd caught for lunch. After another dive, we'd weigh anchor,
sail back into the reef, make a couple of tacks, and lay the
anchorage. That evening there would be some kind of yachtie social
event, with small groups of people gathering on a boat for cocktails
and/or dinner. The next day we'd do it all over again. It's a
very healthy and active way of life."
But there was variety, too. "Of course there were always
boat projects, so some days we'd just stay on the hook. Fortunately,
even the anchorages were great places to dive, so I'd usually
snorkel in the afternoon. And the friendly villages were always
trying to get us to come to shore to share a feast, so we'd do
that from time to time. I also read some great books, and sent
out and received email. If some of us got tired of the quiet,
we'd sail to Majuro to do laundry, pick up boat parts, shop for
fresh veggies, and maybe hit the internet cafe. The churches
on Majuro have some great dinners, where you get BBQ chicken,
rice, some local mush stuff, and beer for $5 - and it's plenty
for two people. On 'Mexican night' the dinners were only $3."
The only other atoll in the Marshalls with a significant population
is Kwajalen, which is at the western end of the Pacific Missile
Range. Visitors have to have a sponsor to visit. Keith and Susan
Levy of the Pt. Richmond-based Catalina 47 C'est La Vie
had a friend there and were able to visit, and so were others.
Blair got invitations, but never had time to get around to it.
With nowhere but Majuro to spend money, it's safe to assume that
the cruising was cheap. "I bet I didn't spend more than
$500 a month," said Blair. "The mooring was $1 a day,
food wasn't too expensive, and dinners in Majuro were cheap.
So most of my money went to having boat parts shipped out."
During his side trip down to Fiji, Blair spoke so enthusiastically
about the Marshall Islands that a number of other cruisers -
including ones from Northern California - followed him back up
for his second visit. Among these were Tom and Lynn Petty and
sons aboard the Pt. Richmond-based Wylie 60 Roxanne. They
loved the Marshalls so much that they, like about six other cruising
boats that had come up from Fiji, have decided to stay for the
entire year. That's why it's nice that the Marshalls are too
far north to be affected by the South Pacific tropical cyclones
and too far south to be bothered by typhoons.
"I think the Marshalls would be a great place to stay forever,"
says Blair. "In fact, I would loved to have stayed there."
But he couldn't, because he has too many other things to do.
- latitude/rs 08/10/04
When cruisers finish the Ha-Ha in early November, they have three
major options of where to go next - as staying in Cabo for more
than a couple of days gets old quickly. The options are La Paz,
Mazatlan, and Banderas Bay (Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta). Of these
options, La Paz is the closest at about 120 miles, and with the
opening of the luxurious new Costa Baja Marina, there will be
plenty of vacant slips around. It's about 200 miles from Cabo
to Mazatlan, where those looking to park their boats for a few
weeks or months can sometimes find some of the least expensive
slips - no electricity or water - in Mexico. It's 300 miles from
Cabo to Banderas Bay, but all the marine businesses there are
rolling out the red carpet in the form of the Three Days To Paradise
Rally, the purpose of which is to encourage as many Ha-Ha boats
as possible to come down to Banderas Bay.
The Three Days group, spearheaded by Dick Markie, Harbormaster
of Paradise Marina, will be guided by Blair Grinols of the 46-ft
cat Capricorn Cat, who has agreed to be the leader of
the pack. Communications will be handled by John Moore of an
Alameda-based Hunter sailboat, who is on the board of directors
of the Vallarta YC and, like Grinols, will have rallied down
on the Ha-Ha. Dick Markie will be in Cabo on November 8 for a
skipper's meeting and cerveza party on the beach. The idea of
'Three Days' is to provide an experience similar to the Ha-Ha
for anyone who did the Ha-Ha and wants to continue on to Banderas
Bay. When members of the Three Days fleet arrive at Paradise
Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, they'll be guided to their slip by
a jet-ski, where they'll be met by Corona Girls bearing cold
beers and giving warm welcome-to-Mexico hugs. The nearby Vallarta
YC will be open for phone calls, emails, food and drink, showers,
hot-tubbing, and lies. The arrival will mark the beginning of
a week of cruiser fun, with all kinds of great events and prizes,
and big discounts on stays in the marina for the boats and in
Paradise Resort for family and friends. The best part about the
no-losers, no-protest rally is that there's no entry fee either.
Dick Markie, instigator of the event, will be giving presentations
on cruising Mexico at West Marine stores in San Diego, Oakland,
When it comes to getting tremendous value from one's boat, few
families have done as well as the Sandstroms of Oakland with
their Cross 40 trimaran Anduril. They spent two years
building her in Southern California in the early '70s, being
some of the first builders to take advantage of the then-new
WEST epoxy saturation technique. Then Don and Joanne, and sons
Donald, 13, and Erik, 11, took off in 1975 on a five-year circumnavigation
by way of the Suez Canal. This was, of course, before conveniences
such as GPS, electronic charts, and watermakers. They had a great
time, and Joanne wrote a book about their experience. Then in
1988, Don Sr. and Erik took Anduril on a second circumnavigation,
going by way of South Africa. They completed the trip in a breakneck
time of 15 months! With the tri still in excellent structural
shape, family and friends will be coming down to the dock at
Marina Bay in Richmond on September 12 for a bon voyage party
for Donald Jr. and his new bride Erika, who will be cruising
Anduril to Mexico this fall. You never know, they might
go all the way around the world, for both the boat and Erik know
the way well.
With the rest of her family either back at work or off to school,
it was left to Caren Edwards of Portola Valley to deliver the
family's Marquesas 53 catamaran Rhapsodie home from Hawaii
at the conclusion of their 5.5-year cruise. As the skipper, Caren
wanted to be prepared for all emergencies, so while in Hawaii
she contacted the Coast Guard Pacific Command Center to make
sure it was them that she should call in an emergency. She then
taped that number next to the Medevac number by the Inmarsat
satphone. As first reported in 'Lectronic, Rhapsodie's
rig came down for unknown reasons while in moderate conditions
300 miles from San Francisco. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, there
was no structural damage to the boat, and the crew remained calm
and focused on making the boat secure for continuing on their
way. Bent clevis pins and broken hacksaw blades meant that getting
the mast, boom, sails, and rigging over the side - where they
couldn't damage the hull - were left to one particularly strong
crewmember with some cable cutters. He got the job done, allowing
them to clear the deck of dangerous debris in about 90 minutes.
The next problem was getting Rhapsodie to San Francisco
without her being run down by a ship in the sometimes pea soup
fog conditions the rest of the way to San Francisco. This wouldn't
be so easy, as they no longer had a masthead tricolor or, more
importantly, a radar. Caren tried to alert the Coast Guard of
Rhapsodie's status on all the SSB emergency channels,
but couldn't reach them - or anyone else. Frustrated, she tried
the Inmarsat satphone - and the Coast Guard picked up right away.
Curious, Caren had the Coasties listen intently on a specific
frequency while she again tried to reach them via the SSB. At
best they were vaguely able to pick up fragments of her speech.
"Forget the SSB when it comes to emergencies!" Caren
says emphatically. "If you need to get through from any
place and at any time, you need a satphone." Caren reports
that the Coast Guard alerted ships in their area of their status.
Initially, the Coasties wanted Rhapsodie to report in
once an hour. Caren, mindful of the potential satphone bill,
decided that was overkill and negotiated a twice-a-day schedule
with the Coasties. When the fog later came back with a vengeance,
the check-ins were again increased. With the cat now back on
the Bay, Caren's frustrated. She wants to go sailing but, until
the mast is replaced, may have to settle for motoring around
As of the third week in August, it had been a relatively quiet
hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific. There had been two hurricanes
and two tropical storms, which is about normal. Fortunately,
all had been well offshore, as is usually the case early in the
season. Now comes late August, September, and early October,
which are traditionally the most dangerous months to be in the
Sea of Cortez. Last August 22 to 27 is when Ignacio came into
the Sea and hit La Paz with about 80 knots of wind. Everybody
thanked their lucky stars it wasn't worse, assuming they'd made
it through another hurricane season with very minor damage. After
all, the Sea of Cortez usually only gets one hurricane every
two years. But then from September 19 to 24, Marty reared his
very ugly head. Making Ignacio seem like an afternoon breeze,
Marty almost totally destroyed Marina de La Paz - as well as
countless boats in La Paz, Loreto, and further north. Better
preparations could have prevented some of the damage, so we hope
that lessons were learned from last year. No matter what, here's
to hoping things will remain quiet in the Sea for the final months
of hurricane season.
As for this fall and winter's weather, NOAA is calling for a
light El Niño condition. This is caused by the trades
easing up, resulting in the Eastern Pacific becoming warmer than
normal. The final result might mean more rain in the Southwest
- which would be excellent because of the terrible drought -
and other effects that are hard to predict. The problem with
El Niños is that some of the real strong ones have resulted
in little if any changes to the normal weather pattern, while
some weak ones have had major consequences as far away as Europe
The granddaddy of all cruising rallies, the 2,700-mile Atlantic
Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from the Canary Islands off Africa to
St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean, reports that as of July they've
once again sold out, with over 220 paid entries for the November
14th event. Once again it's an overwhelmingly Brit event, as
96 of the 220 will be flying the 'red flag'. There are also 29
German entries. American entries are way down to nine from 17
a year ago. Why the drop in Yank participation? The poor exchange
rate means that buying boats in Europe is much more expensive,
plus some Americans were concerned - unjustly, it turns out -
that they would not get a warm welcome in Europe. Be that as
it may, the American entries are: Thomas Might's Hallberg-Rassy
62 Between the Sheets; Steven Woodruff's Oyster Lightwave
48 Chant Pagan; David Mulmat's Beneteau First 47.7 Flying
Shadow; John Martin's Robertson 40 Jaimie; Michael
Nightingale's Morris 38 La Niche; Tom Puett's Swan 56
Perseverance; Gilbert Osnos' Hallberg Rassy 53 Shalimar
II; Jim Reiher's Swan 53 Sky; Lurelle Verplank's Oyster
66 Sundowner; and William and Camille Melbourne's Amel
Super Maramu 52 Third Wish. We don't know if any of these
American entries are from the West Coast, but none are familiar
to us. There are 16 catamarans entered in the ARC, five of them
Lagoons. Last year the catamaran fleet was dominated by Catana,
which only has three entries this year. The biggest boat entered?
That would be Mike Slade's R/P 92 Leopard of London under
charter to John Davis. We had a chance to race aboard Leopard
at Antigua Sailing Week earlier this year. She's a big boat to
manage, but with Captain Chris and crew, she should provide a
fast and luxurious ride on the mostly downwind passage.
For the third year in a row, World Cruising Ltd, which runs the
ARC, has responded to the 'sold out' situation by creating a
sister event, the Rubicon Antigua Challenge. This departs Lanzarote
rather than Las Palmas in the Canaries, does it on November 20th
rather than the 14th, and finishes at Antigua rather than St.
Lucia. Unlike the ARC, which accepts boats as small as 25 feet,
Rubicon entries have to be a minimum of 38 feet. So far the Rubicon
has nine entries, Gregory Carroll's classic Rhodes 52 Thunderhead
being the only American entry.
We did the ARC back in 1994 with Big O, and had an almost
idyllic crossing, with warm winds from aft virtually the entire
way. If you ever get the chance to do an ARC, don't let it pass
you by. The only downside is that it's not inexpensive, costing
about five times as much as the admittedly much more casual Ha-Ha.
Speaking of leopards, "We just wanted to let everyone know
that we're doing well here in the Caribbean, have been having
a very busy charter season in the British Virgins, and have just
become the skipper and crew of Sea Leopard, the newest
of The Moorings' luxurious new 6200 crewed charter cats,"
report Peter and Darcy Whitney. "It's been awhile, but I,
Peter, am originally from Lake Tahoe. Now I'm part of the 'Peter
& Darcy Show' here in the Caribbean.
"If anybody is interested in communications from boats,"
Whitney continues," we dumped AOL, went with Earthlink (), and
signed on with a Globalstar satphone - which I understand Latitude
doesn't care for. We also subscribe to UUPlus in order to fetch
email within seconds and thus keep our Globalstar phone bills
low. By the way, all indications point to another incredibly
strong charter season down here this winter. Already we're nearly
sold out, with back-to-back 24-hour turnarounds throughout the
year. Hopefully we'll survive. We're currently on charter, anchored
off Virgin Gorda, and will be headed to Anegada tomorrow. Come
on down and see us!
Back-to-backs with 24-hour turnarounds are killers. We hope you
survive, too. We want everyone to be clear on our position about
Globalstar. We have one of their phones, and it works great and
has better sound quality than Iridium in Mexico. However, they
assess a roaming charge that itself is often higher than the
per minute charge for Iridium. What we like even less is that
our Globalstar was virtually useless - despite what their coverage
chart indicated - south of Acapulco and all the way to the Eastern
Caribbean. Even in St. Barth it was very unreliable. Two good
things: It's our understanding that the only place Globalstar
doesn't have roaming fees back to the U.S. is from the Caribbean,
and that its data transfer rate, although slow, is still four
times faster than that of Iridium. We don't know what it's like
in the British Virgins, but in St. Barth almost all the boats
had Iridium - which, unlike Globalstar, is designed to work all
over the world - or one of the much more expensive systems. As
for UUPlus, we haven't used it, but others agree with you that
it's terrific for sending and fetching email.
"We did the Ha-Ha in 2001, and then spent three amazing
years cruising our boat down to, and through, the Panama Canal,
and then up to our new home of Tampa, Florida," report John
and Susan Pazera of the Tayana 42 Compañia. Their
boat was formerly based out of South San Francisco. "We're
really glad that we did the Ha-Ha because we became - and remain
- friends with a bunch of terrific people we met doing. It was
also good because it got our butts out cruising! We're now going
back to work so we can retire and get out cruising again."
Also wrapping up a cruise are Mike and Joan Whalen, who have
two boats. "We've returned from a two-year cruise in Mexico
on our Catalina 380 Esperanza, and are looking forward
to getting out and racing on the Bay again with our Santana 35
Spirit of Bombay."
"Although my 1971 Islander 32 Renaissance is currently
in her berth at Mazatlan Marina," writes Kelvin Meeks. "I've
just returned to Seattle after visiting St. Kitts and Antigua
on a business trip. Man, what beautiful places! I'll be heading
back down later this month for a couple of client projects, and
the next time I go down I'll be looking forward to chartering
a sailboat. While in the harbor at St. Johns, Antigua, I found
a Dufour 28 to rent. Carnaval was in progress while I was in
St. John's, but I missed out because I was on business and had
to get to bed early, and most of the festivities didn't start
until after 10 p.m.
In this month's Letters you'll read about Midway Islands
and the controversy about the mandatory $500 the U.S. Department
of Fish & Wildlife charges to put a fuel containment boom
around any boat that stops there - something that clearly isn't
encouraged - to take on fuel. The following report, the facts
of which were reported in an August 'Lectronic, is what
started it all. It's important to note that Britt Finley of the
Peterson 44 Restless didn't complain about the $500, we
at Latitude did. As we told Refuge Manager Tim Bodeen,
someday we hope to be able to provide some kind of service to
a member of the Department of Fish & Wildlife. We'll do it
at a very reasonable price - but then we'll gouge the hell out
of them for some unnecessary but mandatory additional service.
"We left Midway Islands two days ago on July 27," wrote
Finley. "We caught two big grouper as we sailed away from
the island, but released them because we'd been told they could
be poisonous. Those were the last fish we caught. The GPS originally
told us we had 2,700 miles to go to Puget Sound, and now it says
2,470 miles - so we are making some progress. But these are the
Horse Latitudes, and we can't really expect too much speed until
we get up to 35°N. We've been motoring through the calms,
but the forecast calls for good wind further north. Right now
it looks as though we have another 21 days of sailing - and without
the autopilot, which broke today. We still have the wind vane,
"If any of you ever get a chance to visit Midway Island,"
Finley continues, "do it. It's a great place, and there
was way too much to see in the four days we spent there. But
we were able to refuel, do boat maintenance, and see some of
the sites. They have a very nice museum which details Midway's
history. This included the location of a trans-Pacific telegraph
cable terminal there in 1904; Pan Am's seaplane base 1936-41;
and the Battle of Midway in 1942. There are about 90 people permanently
stationed at Midway, and they were very friendly. Unfortunately,
boats are discouraged from stopping by high prices. We got 100
gallons of JP5 at $2.25/gallon, which I thought was a very good
price. Unfortunately, they also required us to have a fueling
boom placed around the boat in case of a spill - for which they
charged an additional $500."
If you've read this month's Letters, you know that Zsolt
Esztergomy, skipper of the Privilege 65 cat True North,
was also greatly impressed with Midway - but not the fuel boom
charge. Although he passed through Midway after Restless,
he's already made it to Sausalito, continued on to Acapulco,
and is headed for Panama and Florida. Apparently his owners aren't
concerned about the Eastern Pacific or Caribbean hurricane seasons.
The chances are always greatly in your favor that you won't get
hit - but God help you if you do!
The last word on Midway comes from Jonathan Livingston of the
Pt. Richmond-based Wylie 38 Punk Dolphin - he and wife
Susie Grubler just paid $11,000 to have Dockwise Yacht Transport
ship her from New Zealand to Vancouver, B.C. "If Midway
Islands are such a precious and pristine reserve that they have
to put an oil containment boom around yachts that are taking
on fuel, how is it they are letting cruise ships stop there?
I was recently on the phone with one of the people there, and
they said they had to run because there were two cruise ships
at the very small islands!"
"Of the last six times, it was the best sail we've had from
Southern California to Northern California," report Doug
and Tamara Thorne of the San Francisco-based Celestial 48 Tamara
Lee Ann. "We harbor-hopped like never before, from Ventura
to Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara to Morro Bay, Morro Bay to Monterey,
Monterey to Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz to Pilar Point, and then Pilar
Point home. It was like a leisure cruise. We also enjoyed the
Wet Wednesday night race in Santa Cruz - thanks for the feature
on them in the last issue - and caught our limit of salmon off
Pacifica. A fine trip."
"We've found some beautiful islands in the Flinders Group
in Queensland, Australia," reports Max Young of the San
Francisco-based Perry 47/50 Reflections. "We were
only planning on staying the night, but have now been here three
days. While here, we found some Aboriginal caves with original
art on the walls, which we enjoyed. In addition, they've got
cool shells, oysters everywhere, and the biggest lobsters you
have ever seen! We bought 4.4 pounds of jumbo prawns from a fisherman
and his wife for $20 Aussie - which is about $14 U.S. - put them
on the barbie and ate all of them! Margrett, who is half Aboriginal,
was in seventh heaven being on the island. She had heard of the
Flinders group before, but had not known anyone who had been
here. Now we're just a two-day sail from Torres Strait, and are
enjoying great winds and flat seas. We're sailing along the Great
Barrier Reef at night to maintain our schedule. It would be nerve-racking
were it not for GPS - which makes it a piece of cake."
Ladyhawke, Ingo and Jeri May's Norseman 447 from
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, took top honors in a fleet of 12
boats in the 12th annual West Marine Bermuda Cup from Hampton,
Virginia, to Bermuda. The rally started on June 28 and featured
nearly ideal weather conditions - 10 to 20 knots from the south
to southwest - for the duration of the 640-mile event. Taking
line-honors was Harry Weber's new Beneteau 47.7 Crescendo
from Lyndora, Pennsylvania. (We didn't realize people from Pennsylvania
sailed!) Next up for the Cruising Rally Association is the West
Marine Caribbean 1500 from Hampton, Virginia, to Tortola in the
British Virgins on November 7.
"I'm at 41º25'N, 41º25'E, which is the port of
Hopa, Turkey, on the Black Sea, one of the few places in the
world where mariners encounter identical latitudes and longitudes,"
reports John Keen of the San Francisco-based Knot Yet II.
"We're traveling as part of the Black Sea Yacht Rally, a
two-month counterclockwise circumnavigation of the Black Sea.
As I write, we're going overnight from Poti, Georgia, to Sochi
in the Russian Federation. We will also visit ports in the Ukraine,
Romania and Bulgaria before returning to Turkey at the beginning
of September. The 37 boats make this a good-size rally, and there
is a good mix of nationalities. Despite being in this part of
the world, the 11 U.S. boats made up the largest single national
contingent. The only other Bay Area boat is Audacious,
a Moody 44 that was purchased in Europe.
"Inspired by Hall Palmer's report on the 2002 Eastern Med
Yacht Rally, which he did with his Beneteau Farr 54 Relativity,
we also did that event earlier in the summer," Keen continues.
The EMYR started with over 100 boats, but dwindled down to about
80 by the time we arrived in Israel. As you know, the logistics
of docking, feeding, and transporting that number of boats and
people are formidable. The rally committee did quite well, but
they would be advised to limit the number of participants in
the future. We departed the rally at Ashkelon, as we needed to
get to Istanbul for the Black Sea Rally. Enroute we got a huge
ship's line - three inches in diameter, with a spliced loop at
one end, and a 4"x12" knot at the other end. The knot
caught between the prop and rudder, stopping the engine. Neither
my crew nor I were capable of diving to get to the line, and
weren't sure if we'd be able to cut it anyway. So we started
up the wing engine, a small Yanmar with a feathering prop, and
proceeded 70 miles to the nearest marina at 2.5 knots. We were
quite happy to have the wing engine. My Nordhavn is fitted with
three sails, and we used those as well. If they didn't improve
the speed, they did improve the ride. I continue to enjoy Latitude
on the web when I get to internet cafes, particularly now that
Changes are included."
Keen started his trip around the world on the Gulf 32 sailboat
Knot Yet, and got to Thailand, we believe, before he switched
to a Nordhavn 46 trawler named Knot Yet II. Since the
trawler has three sails, and since he'd made it halfway around
the world under sail, we still consider Keen to be a sailor.
"I realize that I'm repeating myself," writes Gerry
Cunningham, author of numerous cruising guides to the Sea of
Cortez, "but there is a solution to the dangers of using
the nautical charts for the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez)
that are based on the survey from 1873. As most people know,
having an accurate GPS is only part of the navigation solution,
as you also have to have accurate charts. I remind everyone that
accurate grid and shorelines are available on the Mexican 1:50,000
topographic maps available in most university libraries. The
hundreds of GPS coordinates I have taken plotted right where
my boat was sitting when I took the readings, so I can vouch
for them being accurate. P.S. I'm looking forward to seeing all
the Ha-Ha people at the Mexico Crew List and Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party
at the Encinal YC in Alameda on October 6th."
In this month's Changes, Ken Hellewell expresses the opinion
that once you get west of Australia, there's not so much for
cruisers to see and do. Without discounting his opinion, it's
been our observation that many West Coast circumnavigators develop
- about the time they get to Australia or Thailand - a powerful
urge to rush back home. As such, the second half of their trips
seems to be more of an obligation than a pleasure, and places
and things that would have dazzled them during the first half
of their trip, make no impression or are ignored. Those who seem
the least likely to be affected by this phenomenon seem to be
folks who circumnavigate very slowly, or who take at least one
long vacation from cruising while going around. Whichever way
you might decide to do it, don't forget to write - and include
a couple of high res photos.