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September 2007

Missing the pictures? See the September 2007 eBook!

With reports this month from Moon and Stars on reaching P.V.; from Mahina Tiare on continuing adventures in the high latitudes; from Fleetwood on singlehanding the east coast of South America; from Viking on a proposed restoration while cruising the South Pacific; from Rosario on a one-year sabbatical to the Caribbean and Med; from Moonshadow on the often dangerous passage from the Indian Ocean to the Med; from Bruadair on having an intruder in Panama; and Cruise Notes.

Moon And Stars — Catana 472
J.R. Beutler and Lupe Dipp
Home Just In Time To Sell Her
(Puerto Vallarta)

Two years after leaving Fort Lauderdale, we finally have Moon and Stars in Puerto Vallarta. It feels really great — although we might not have her long.

After numerous stops in the Western Caribbean, we turned her over to a delivery crew in Panama for the trip up to Puerto Vallarta. They made it to Huatulco, Mexico, at which point they discovered that some water had entered the saildrive and transmission, presumably as a result of picking up a fishing net. That, in addition to a couple of unknown preexisting problems forced us to cancel the rest of the delivery. As we were on a long planned trip to Europe, we had to leave our cat there.

In our absence, Arcadio Sanchez, 'our man' in Huatulco, turned out to be not as good as we'd hoped. He originally quoted us $800 to modify his trailer in order to haul Moon and Stars there. But when Lupe pressured him for a quote in writing, the price skyrocketed to $3,000 — plus whatever work we'd need him to do to the boat. Enrique, the marina manager, turned out to be a great and helpful guy. He tried to reason with Arcadio, but to no avail. We liked Enrique and Huatulco, but suggest you exercise caution if you need to haul there.

After our return from Europe, I went down, supervised a quick patch, and motored up to the Ixtapa Marina Boatyard with just one engine. The yard's Travel-Lift is just a half meter wider than our 7.5-meter-wide cat, so it was a tight squeeze. We used carpets as fenders, but I was still as nervous as a cat in a dog pound driving into the narrow opening. But all went well, and Fillippi, the crane operator, was very good at his job. With the help of Performance Marine and some others, we managed to get the cat sanded, epoxy primed, the bottom painted, and four thru-hulls replaced. Their price was reasonable and the work, if supervised, was of good quality. We paid $780 to be hauled and launched. That wasn't horrible, but the daily yard rate of $3/ft/day seemed pricey.

Marina Ixtapa is nice and secure, and the folks there were accommodating. However, it was 85 cents/ft/night — and they made us pay for two slips because we were a cat — not including water and electricity. That turned out to be over $100/day! The end-ties are $100 a day also, but the folks in the office said they had to save them for longer boats. It's a good if somewhat expensive marina.

With the help of Rodrigo, Lupe's son, and a friend of his, we brought the boat the last 300 or so miles to Banderas Bay. Most of the time we stayed eight to 15 miles offshore trying to avoid the nightly thunder and lightning storms. But let me tell you, it gets pretty exciting when lightning is striking the water all around you and the mast on your boat is the tallest thing for 30 miles! But we had mostly calm conditions.

As we were bringing the cat up the coast, Lupe went looking for a slip. She found one on the canal in Nuevo Vallarta across from Paradise Marina. The only catch is that the slip came with a house. So we've moved from our home in Marina Puerto Vallarta to this big house with a dock for Moon and Stars is back in Nuevo Vallarta. It's very nice, so look forward to a lot of parties there when the sailing fleet arrives for the season. We hope everybody remembers us and will come to visit. We'll be on Channel 22.

Last Sunday we went for an afternoon sail on beautiful Banderas Bay. It was blowing about 15 knots, we were doing over 10 knots, and the boat was as flat and comfortable as if we'd been sitting at our dining room table on land. What a place to sail! What a boat! I kind of hate to sell her, but Lupe insists she wants something in the 60-ft range. One of the limiting factors is that neither of us like the way so many new cats have the helm and controls on a flybridge. We like all the sailing activities and socializing together. We also will insist on high bridgedeck clearance. Our Catana has it, so we didn't experience many 'bombs'. We're not going to move on a new cat until we sell our current one, but we took two potential buyers out last weekend and another is flying in this week, so it could be relatively soon.

— j.r. 08/01/07

J.R. — Congratulations to you and Lupe. Just remember not to sell the current Moon and Stars until after the December 7, 8 and 9 Banderas Bay Blast, featuring the catmaran match race between the Vallarta YC and the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, with all other boats ­— yours included ­— invited to participate. As you'll recall, the Blast ends with the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina — or perhaps your house? — on Sunday.

Mahina Tiare - Hallberg-Rassy 46
John Neal, Amanda Swan-Neal
Joining The Polar Bear Swim Club
(Friday Harbor, WA)

I was leaning over the bow of Mahina Tiare to scoop up a bucket of water when there was a sudden 'thud'. I was instantly thrown over the bow, did a flip, and landed feet first in the Arctic Ocean. The water temperature was a brisk 34 degrees, not at all warm like off Moorea.

This happened in early July when Amanda and I were on Leg 3 of this season's expedition, with a crew of six aboard. We had been having an exciting time working our way from Lonyearbyen, Spitsbergen, which is at 78° N, to as far north as the pack ice would allow before heading down to Norway. We were having a great time. For example, a few days before we'd stopped for lunch at Poolepunten Point on Prins Karls Forland, where friends aboard the Apogee 50 Joyant reported seeing walrus on the beach the night before. Even before we reached the somewhat tenuous and partially exposed anchorage, we could see ­— and smell ­­­— the 2,000-lb behemoths. We dinghied ashore and hiked up the beach to the point where the walrus snuggled together. Careful not to disturb them, we admired the six of them, plus two more cavorting in the water, with spectacular glaciers and mountains in the background.
A few hours and 30 miles later, we anchored at Engelsbukta, which provided fine protection from the 15 to 20 knots of wind that we'd been experiencing all day. We spotted some reindeer, which were fearless ­— and even curious ­ when we came ashore. They galloped past, stopped, coyly eyed us while pretending to be grazing, then ran back the other way. One of the reindeer must have frightened a couple of nesting birds, because they harassed him for nearly a mile!

We got our normal 0600 start on July 14, planning to sail to the edge of the pack ice, which according to the Navtex ice report was less than 30 miles to the northwest, unusually close. A Dutch boat reported seeing several seals and a polar bear along the ice edge, so those were added incentives to seeing ice that continued to the North Pole and beyond. As we left Sallyhamna on the course we had plotted the night before, Amanda admired the dramatic Drottenfjellet Fjord and glacier just to the south. The sun was shining on the glacier, Stefan was standing watch on the mast pulpit, and Chuck was on the helm. "We're not in a hurry," I said, "so let's duck in there and have a look!" That's how the trouble started.

I took a look at the charts and noted that two rocks were awash inside the bay. As it was high tide, the closer of the two wasn't showing. I knew the chart wasn't accurate for GPS because on several occasions earlier that week we'd anchored with the GPS indicating that we were on land. So we motored in slowly, enjoying the scenery and taking some photos. Then Chuck steered us on the reciprocal of our original course to get back out the bay. When I assumed that we'd passed the awash rock we hadn't seen, I left the chart in the cockpit and took a bucket and brush to the foredeck to clean off the bits of kelp and sand that had earlier come up with the chain.

After Mahina Tiare came to an abrupt halt and I did my inadvertent flip into the icy water at 6:41 a.m., I swam aft, clinging to the bucket, to where the crew had tossed the Lifesling over. Once I grabbed it, they pulled me aft to the swim-step. As I climbed up the stern, blood spurted from my chin all over my jacket and onto the teak decks. I used a cockpit towel with pressure to try to stop the bleeding, and quickly assessed the situation. We had obviously located the second awash rock, and what was worse, at fairly close to high tide, Amanda tried backing off with full reverse power, but, based on the angle that the bow was pointing into the air, it was obvious that our boat's six knots of speed had carried her well up onto the rock.

We quickly got the dinghy launched, outboard mounted, and our 44-lb Delta anchor with 50-ft of chain in the dinghy. Peter and I motored the dinghy to Mahina Tiare's transom, where crew passed us an end of the 180-ft nylon rode, which Peter shackled to the chain. In a couple minutes we had the Delta set directly astern and led to the primary sheet winch. But even with a strong pull and the reverse thrust of Mahina Tiare's engine, she wasn't budging. I took a quick hot shower below, got into some dry clothes, grabbed a hot chocolate, and went to work rigging our third anchor. It's a 40-lb West Marine Performance 2 that I secured to the spinnaker halyard and set off the beam in deeper water in order to heel the boat over. Our crew scooted out to the end of the boom, which we maneuvered to the leeward side of the boat to tip her over further. Even though this caused Mahina Tiare to heel considerably, she still held fast.

With the tide continuing to fall, Peter, and later Amanda, put on dive masks and hung over the side of the dinghy to assess the underwater situation. They reported that the rudder was clear, but the keel was hard aground, with shallower water to port. We radioed our friends on Joyant, who were sailing to the edge of the ice pack, letting them know of our situation. They offered to turn back and stand by. We declined their kind offer, but told them we'd keep them advised of our situation.

Stefan, an emergency room physician, offered to take a look at my bloody chin. As I lay down on the cabin sole and lifted the sodden, bloody towel off my chin, Amanda gasped. I'd received a three-inch gash to the bone. It was still bleeding, so Stefan glued it closed with some Dermabond tissue adhesive.

Getting back to the problem at hand, we tried re-leading the stern anchor around the amidships cleat to pull from a different angle, but it still didn't help. We watched the tide — the range was three feet — fall, using the shoreline as a gauge, and sounded around the boat with a lead. Since we obviously weren't going anywhere soon, Amanda passed out bowls of porridge to the crew on deck­ and to Bob, who ate his while sitting on the far end of the boom.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the wind increased to 12 knots with some chop coming into the bay. We felt a couple of jolts as the rising tide slowly brought Mahina Tiare back close to vertical. Ninety minutes later, we ran the stern anchor to the shallow side of the transom and started to move the boom to the other side to try to heel us in the other direction. Putting the engine in moderate reverse, we pivoted, but didn't move. A few minutes later I tried again, and we slowly floated free.

Wow, what an incredible feeling of relief!

After collecting all our gear and stowing it, we were off in the direction of pack ice again. After about five hours of great sailing, we got into thicker ice, where it was only safe to motor, and looked for openings. By 5:30 p.m., we'd gone as far as we could, having reached 80 09 N, 10 09 E. We shut down the engine and drifted, nearly locked in the ice. We saw several seals, polar bear tracks, birds and incredible vistas. There was white ice as far as we could see from deck, and when Amanda went to the masthead to take photos, she could see that it extended to the horizon.

We had many other wonderful adventures on this leg, but we decided to not do anymore running aground or swimming.

— john 07/18/07

Fleetwood — Najad 30
Jack van Ommen
The East Coast of South America
(Gig Harbor, Washinton)

Today is Pentacost Sunday or Whitsunday, and various spirits have moved me. At the 8 a.m. mass, it was the Holy Spirit. Now, later in the day, it's Black Label rum. Remember the Drinking Rum and Coca-Cola song from the '50s? It came from here in Trinidad, my most recent stop. Point Cumola, of "going down to Point Cumola", is just down the road.

Fleetwood and I made landfall in Brazil on April 25 after crossing the South Atlantic Ocean from South Africa. At daylight I moved further up the river to Praya de Jacare, which is where most cruisers put the hook down. Jacare is a spot where people from Joao Pessao, a nearby bigger city, come for the evening or the weekend to relax and watch the sunset from any of the six riverside restaurants. There is a musician who plays his sax from a small boat at sunset, and the sound is amplified to all the restaurants, which have decks over the water's edge. It's always the same routine. It starts with a march from someone like Purcell, then Bolero by Ravel, then the Christmas Song Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, and finally, Ave Maria. After that, each restaurant has a live band or plays music at a deafening volume. It's not a quiet anchorage.

A commuter train follows the river from the mouth at Cabedelo to Joao Pessao. The first morning I was there, Rene, a Dutch/Kiwi guy on Takaihau, accompanied me to Cabedelo to show me the four offices I needed to visit to check in. Joao Pessao is one of the oldest settlements in South America, but its growth has been stunted by the shallow depth of the Paraiba River. It has some magnificent remnants of the 16th and 17th century, but unfortunately much of the Colonial structures have been destroyed or squeezed in between more modern structures. The cathedral of Sao Francisco, begun in 1589, has magnificent wood carvings in a style of architecture similar to what you see in the Franciscan missions on California's Camino Real. The difference is that the church and monastery here are much larger and have gone through a few more upgrades.

I first visited southern Brazil in '02, at which time I observed how badly Brazilians dress. Nothing has changed. They wear stretch garments that fit tightly over their out-of-shape bodies. And they wear clothes that don't complement each other. But what they lack in style and appearance, they more than make up for in kindness and hospitality.

I headed south on May 1 and arrived at Fortaleza three days later. The Marina Hotel there offers Med-style moorings at the edge of the downtown district. Among the amenities are free wireless internet access, nice showers and a fine swimming pool. There are high-rise hotels and condos all along the waterfront to the south of town, as Fortaleza has become a popular vacation destination for European tourists.

I filled my fuel tank with 10 gallons of diesel, an exorbitant amount in view of the fact that I've only used 100 gallons in the last 2.5 years of cruising. But I figured I might need it to motor though the doldrums when crossing the equator. As it turned out, there are no doldrums close to the Brazilian coast.

My 1,000-mile passage from Brazil to Iles du Salut in French Guyana only took seven days, thanks to the strong current. When I crossed the equator for the fourth time of my voyage, I realized that, realistically, it would be the last time I'd do it by sailboat. By the time I complete my circumnavigation — with a long detour to Northern Europe, and the Med — I'll be close to 80 when I get back to the West Coast.

Devil’s Island, famous because of the book of the same name and the movie Papillon, is one of the three islands that makes up Iles du Salut. As it turns out, Devil's Island, more properly Isle Diablo, was never home to a prison. That was on Ile Royale. The only prisoner kept on Devil’s Island was Alfred Dreyfus, who was there for 15 years, wrongly accused of treason around the turn of the 19th century. Dreyfus was 'rehabilitated' by, among other things, Albert Camus' famous J'accuse letter to a leading Parisian newspaper. I also learned that Papillon didn't escape from any of these islands, but rather from Cayenne on Guyana's mainland.

Once I got the anchor down at Ile Royale, I realized how much the three islands reminded me of the Marquesas. They are very quiet and laid back, very tropical, and there are no cars. But the woods of the island team with monkeys, pheasant, peacocks, iguana and a rabbit-like rodent called agouti. The latter has a head like a rabbit, hops around like a rabbit, and is a Creole delicacy. They are also found here in Trinidad.
There was no place to check into at Iles du Salut, so I have no proof in my passport that I ever visited French Guyana. It only took a day to see all of Ile Royale, so I left the next day on a 170-mile passage to Paramaribo, which is up the Surinam River in the former Dutch Guyana. It is very easy to get set north of your destination in this area by the strong currents. It happened to me when I aimed for Ile Royale and for the mouth of the Surinam River. Because of the current, you need to aim between 20 to 40 degrees south of your destination. I had 150-mile days to Ile Royale, a 160-mile day to Surinam, and a similarly fast trip from Surinam to Trinidad. At times the GPS indicated that I was doing 10 knots over the bottom, which meant there was as much as four knots of favorable current. The fishing was very good in the shallow waters around Paramaribo. One morning I collected 17 two-inch long flying fish from Fleetwood's deck for a breakfast fry. Normally, I'd be lucky to find a couple half that size.

I thoroughly enjoyed Surinam, and would have stayed longer had I not been so nervous about the anchoring conditions. The current in the river turns every six hours, and the second morning I found my anchor rode wrapped around the keel and my heavy plough anchor free because the tide had turned. It was only by inches that I missed what could have been a nasty collision with a pier.

I had had a similar experience on the river at Praya do Jacare. When I came back from clearing in, Fleetwood wasn't where I had left her. Fortunately, fellow French/German cruisers had put another anchor out. During the turning of the tide, the chain had become entangled in the blades of the Danforth that I had been using. Jean Pierre suggested I anchor from the stern, which I did, and it prevented wraps on the keel. I also changed to my heavier plough anchor. But on the Surinam River the current ran much stronger, and put too much strain on Fleetwood's transom-hung rudder when anchored from the stern. In retrospect, I feel that I could have avoided much of the problem by reducing the amount of line I was using and relying mostly on the 30+ feet of chain I had in the shallow water.

The best place to anchor at Paramaribo is off the pilot station, but for longer stays it's best to continue another eight miles up the river to Domburg, which has a regular marina. When I cleared in with the Vreemdelingen Politie — or Foreign Police — I was told I needed a visa. But since I was leaving the same day, I managed to have them drop the requirement. I've since been told you only need a visa if you stay for longer than a week.

Suranim's population is made up of descendants of African slaves and contract laborers who were brought in from Java and India after Abolition. These latter two groups have maintained their traditions and language, and you can sample their food at restaurants and food courts, and listen to their music on a number of radio stations.
There is much to see and do right there on the river bank at Paramaribo, as there are restaurants, shops, internet cafes and a flower market. Further up the river there are the president's palace, government buildings and the old Zeelandia fort. Paramaribo is one of the few well-preserved colonial cities that I've seen on my two-year voyage, as there are no high-rise buildings crowding out the traditional architecture. Most of the buildings have a stone foundation, stone stoops with porches, white clapboard sidings and black wooden shutters. The downtown Peter and Paul Cathedral is the size and shape of a European gothic church, with tall steeples, but it's built entirely of tropical hardwoods!

During slack water on May 18, I weighed anchor and set sail for Trinidad, arriving four days later. I moored Fleetwood Med-style at Power Boats Ltd. I haven't quite decided what to think of my new environment, as the Caribbean cruising crowd is quite different from what I've been used to for the last two years. Most are Americans and Canadians, and you see some very large and expensive boats that probably never venture much beyond this string of islands. As for the Trini's, they can be a bit surly, and give you the impression that they are doing you a big favor by waiting on you. But, I may change my mind the longer I'm here.

Like everywhere, there is much to see and do at Trinidad. Two evenings ago, I went on a tour to see the leatherback turtles lay their eggs. It was an amazing experience to see these six-foot-long mothers dig in and lay the eggs. Last evening I had another exceptional experience, as I got to see a Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad & Tobago's national bird, in the Caroni Swamp. A young guide with an open skiff took us through the mangrove canals, where we saw several kinds of herons and cormorants, and got a close look at a tree boa curled up on a branch over the water. As dusk was falling, we watched from a safe distance as the scarlet ibis came in pairs and flocks to roost at a nearby island. It's hard to describe the bright, deep red color of the birds. These ibis start their lives out white in color, but thanks to a diet of tree crabs, the carotene changes their plumage, legs and beaks to a bright red.

My one splurge in Trinidad? Duty-free Black Label rum, a liter of which sells for $8.

— jack 05/30/07

Viking — Garden 52
Kerry Locke
Restore While Cruising?
(Kona, Hawaii)

On the left of the accompanying photo is Kerry Locke who, "in the day", attended Sonoma Valley High and had a custom car shop in the same area. Then 20 years ago the tropical breezes called to him, so he moved to Kona. He worked for a long time as a cook, then took turns being employed as a diver, welder and carpenter. On the right of the photo is the green-hulled Viking, a 52-ft canoe-stern William Garden design that had been built in Everett, Washington, in '52 by Richard Myers. She displaces 66,000 pounds, much of it being Port Orford cedar planks, oak ribs and mahogany beams. Locke purchased Viking out of the Ko Olina Marina on Oahu for a total of$17,000, and with unusual terms — just $500 down and $500 a month. Sort of like a used car. "She doesn't have any systems," Locke admits, "but she sails". Or at least she will be able to sail when a missing spreader is replaced.

Locke plans to sail to the South Pacific next March, using his many skills to restore the boat as he cruises. While the boat has an excellent pedigree, she is more than 55 years old, so it's not going to be easy or inexpensive. Nonetheless, we wish him all the success in the world with his endeavour.

— latitude 07/24/07

Rosario ­— Beneteau 423
David and Tni Newhoff
Caribbean/Med Sabbatical
(San Francisco)

"From the very beginning of our relationship almost eight years ago in Orcas Island," writes Tni, "we've had the dream of buying a boat and spending a year exploring on the water. To do so, we gave up our jobs — David at Vinq Software, me at the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm in Palo Alto — sublet our house, and left San Francisco behind. Most of our mid-30s friends are back home buying houses and having children. Although we would love to cruise as a family some day, right now we want to do it as just a couple."

David has a long history on the water, starting with boats in the San Juan Islands, but it was while living in London that he fell in love with sailing. He took courses from the RYA, worked as a skipper for several months in Greece on a Moody 45, then was crew on an Irwin 44 for the 1,700-mile passage from England to the Spanish island of Formentera in the Med. Tni has been sailing for the last seven years, and for the last three had trained to be a skipper at the Modern Sailing Academy in Sausalito. She's also done five marathons and a number of half-marathons and other races.

The duo's plan is to spend a year cruising, starting with six months in the Caribbean, and then, after a transAtlantic crossing, six months in the Med. The two bought their 423 in West Palm Beach, so their first 'passage' was to Miami. This involved going under 36 bridges along the IntraCoastal Waterway. They had to wait an hour for one bridge to open, and were so frightened that their 48-ft tall mast wouldn't make it under a 53-ft bridge that they were "speechless for more than five minutes."

After some early sailing in the Bahamas, Tni wrote about the good times: "We've seen the most beautiful sunsets and equally beautiful sunrises. I experienced the dark of moonless nights where you can’t tell where the horizon begins and ends. I found peace and comfort in the darkness surrounded by the water and the stars. We saw whales and dolphins! We saw the Southern Cross for the first time. Since we hadn't set foot on land for more than a week, by the time we arrived in the Dominican Republic, our senses became heightened, so we could smell the soil long before we made landfall. The humid and musty aroma of land filled us with joy."

Tni also experienced some less good things about cruising: "It was cool to see the flying fish, which sometimes seem as though they can go on forever. When you're on watch alone — as we were until a third of our way across the Atlantic to the Med — the flying fish provide entertainment. But then one night, I seemed to attract them. Four of them flew over the transom and into the cockpit! One even hit me in the head! It's no fun to be in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, and suddenly be joined by other living things. I felt like a target, so I spent the rest of my watch from the companionway steps. Yes, I'm over flying fish!"

But the beauty kept going on and on. "We spent a week on uninhabited Conception Island in the Southern Bahamas," they wrote, "and it's no exaggeration to say it's the most beautiful place that we've ever seen!"

Then there were the unique nautical animals at Big Major's Spot, an anchorage off Staniel Cay in the Exumas. "We'd heard lots of rumors about pigs that would swim out to dinghies, so when we saw a few pigs on the beach, we got in the dinghy and motored closer. When we got to within about 100 yards of shore, one pig started swimming out to us! It was a peculiar sight. We tossed him a tortilla, but once it landed in salt water he had no further interest. By then other pigs had come out, the most memorable being a brown pig with long ears who was both a fast swimmer and very hungry. We missed the part in the cruising guide that said to feed them ashore, not from the dinghy, so the brown pig tried to climb into our inflatable, his hooves scratching at the fabric. We and our friends in the dinghy with us reacted with laughter, shock and let's just say it, terror! As we worked to start the outboard, our friend Marilee tried to distract the pigs by emptying a bag of cereal over their heads and into the air — which made them even more intent on getting into the dinghy. We eventually outran them. Why they call that place Big Major's Spot instead of the Bay of Pigs is beyond us."

There was more conventional sea life, too: "While on our way from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, we saw a whale breech nearly a dozen times less than 100 yards from our boat. It was as though he were putting on a show just for our viewing pleasure. We'd never seen anything like it before."

The couples' inflatable apparently didn't want to leave St. Martin, as it broke free and attempted to return to that island during a rough passage to St. Barth. Once the couple got to the 'St. Tropez of the Caribbean', they were impressed, spending an entire month there. And most of the fun things were free: "We could stand there almost endlessly — and did so over and over again — watching the little planes try to clear the ridge, dive, and try to land before skidding into the blue waters of Baie St. Jean. We can't imagine that there could be a runway like it anywhere else, where the planes come in just a few feet over your head! We were told that it's not so rare for planes to overshoot and end up on the beach."

After six months in the Caribbean, the couple joined the ARC Europe, a small group of boats rallying back across the Atlantic to Europe. It took them eight days to cover the 900 miles to Bermuda, then, having been joined by Jeff Golden and John Newhoff, took 18 days to make it to the Azores. The final six days to Lagos, Portugal, had some of the roughest weather.

"We did it!" wrote Tni in triumph. "The four of us were a great team, and we can remember this all our lives. The strangest part for me was that I was never afraid, not even with winds gusting to 35 knots, 15-foot waves, and the stanchions completely underwater. I wasn't afraid because I always had complete faith in the boat and the captain. When I've done marathons, when I get to about mile 23 I swear each is going to be my last. But when I cross the finish line, endorphins pumping, elated, I'm already planning the next one. But when it comes to crossing an ocean, once is enough. I will be eternally grateful for the unique perspective my crossing has given me of the world, of how vast the oceans are and what a small place that I occupy in this world, but I don't need to cross an ocean again. I will carry this one with me forever."

Thrilled to have reached Europe, the couple enjoyed Portugal, and by the middle of July were just getting the hang of lunch not starting until 2 p.m. in Spain.

— latitude 08/15/07

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
George Backhus and Merima
Thailand To The Med

We're doing well here in the Med, and are once again enjoying the relaxed cruising lifestyle after the 6,500-mile trip from Thailand earlier in the year. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first time in years that there were no pirate attacks on cruising yachts transiting the Indian Ocean - Red Sea. I suppose that most of the fleet had a few of the typical curious/aggressive fishing boat approaches, but we never felt threatened in any way. We'd heard that the Omani and Yemeni Coast Guards had stepped up patrols, but we never saw any. One evening we did have a boatload of 'officials' visit us to check our papers in Yemen. None of them, however, wore uniforms, and the unmarked boat looked similar to local fishing boats.

Most of this year's cruising fleet went through the Gulf of Aden 'Pirate Alley' in convoys. But, based on all our research, there didn't seem to be a statistical advantage in doing this. Besides, we weren't too keen at having to limp along at 5 to 5.5 knots for six days. So we went it alone, avoiding weekend days, which is when most, if not all, of the confirmed attacks have occurred. We also crossed the most dangerous parts in darkness with no lights showing. By keeping our speed of advance at seven knots or better, we cut our exposure time to four days. If anyone is curious, we don't carry guns.
Merima and I did the trip from Salalah in Oman up through the Red Sea to Suez doublehanded. We didn't start particularly early in the season, but did have favorable winds much of the way to Sudan. We also picked our times from then on to avoid the strong northerlies. When the wind was contrary, we took advantage of the fabulous diving in the Red Sea. Weather forecasting in the Red Sea is hopeless. GRIB files were so inaccurate that they were virtually useless. We started moving at first light when winds were light, and would make as many miles as we could before stopping. When the winds were aft of the beam, we kept moving north.

The level of difficulty with officialdom along the way was probably about average compared to other areas we've visited — with the exception of Eritrea. Officials in the port of Massawa were probably as difficult as we've encountered anywhere. We needed special permission from the Department of Tourism to visit the beautiful capital city of Asmara, but they were ill-prepared to deal with the public and nearly impossible to reason with. After much diplomacy, extreme patience, and the threat of a fleet pullout from the country, we did get our permits in the end. Nonetheless, we dubbed them the "Department of Anti-Tourism."

Reflecting back on our Red Sea experience, it wasn't too bad. It's definitely not a trip for the weak of heart or ill-prepared. Fuel, provisions, repairs and health care are all nearly impossible to come by along much of the Red Sea. That said, it is a place where you can have some amazing experiences and see incredible sights that few other cruisers will ever see. Would we do it again? I don't think so!

The photos I've sent to accompany this short piece were taken during our recent cruise through the Greek Isles. Greece is beautiful, the food and wine are great, and the people are friendly — but when it comes to facilities for yachties, they 'missed the boat'. We're now at Bodrum, Turkey, in a five-star marina.

— george 08/15/07

Bruadair — Hans Christian 33T
Damon & David
Boarded By Intruders, Panama

On a Friday night on the hook at Bocas del Toro, Panama, we were down below, reading books, our cabin lights on. At 8 p.m. the chime for the wireless motion sensor in our dinghy went off. I gave David a look of surprise and went up into the cockpit of our boat to investigate. When I got there, I found myself face-to-face with another person! My heart skipped a beat, and I called down for David to get "the gun" — which in our case is a flare gun. The intruder backed away, so I ran below and issued a Mayday on 16, stating that we were in the anchorage, had been boarded, and needed help. After I flicked on the DSC, I returned to the cockpit to see the intruder getting into our dinghy, while a friend paddled off into the darkness in his cayuco.

Within minutes help arrived, Paul from Angel Heart being the first. He made sure that our uninvited guest stayed in the dinghy. I started taking photos of the intruder — a kid — who didn't like having his photo taken. As more boaters arrived in their dinghies, I went below to cancel the automated distress call on the radio. We later found out that when Sonny on Valentina heard our call, he jumped into his dinghy and got help from the crowded yacht club bar. Kay, Sonny's wife, called the police. Our radio calls to the port captain went unanswered all night.

So there we were, David and I in the cockpit, the intruder in the dinghy, three our four cruisers in dinghies making sure the intruder didn't swim away, and another three or four cruisers in dinghies searching for the other guy in the cayuco. By this time we had the floodlights on as well as a strobe on top of the solar panel, our goal being to attract as much attention as possible.

When the police arrived 10 minutes later, the kid told them that he was returning something that we'd lost. He couldn't produce anything, of course, so the police believed him as little as we did. When they asked if I wanted to file a report, I told them that I certainly did, so we all went to the police station. Because the intruder was a minor, I was told he would be released to his mother, but that he'd have to appear before a judge on the mainland.

We learned that our Reporter Wireless Alert System, $79.99 from Radio Shack, paid for itself in one night. Without that, we would never have known that we had an intruder. Because of our high gunnels, our cabin lights are not visible from down low on the water, so it might have looked as though our boat was empty. The two kids who came out to our boat had been in the yacht club's bar area earlier in the evening, drinking sodas. Since the bar was packed, I suspect they thought the boats would be empty.

We also learned that while some cruisers did not hear our initial distress call, they did pick up our automated DSC distress, as it causes their VHF to buzz and beep loudly. We were also disappointed to learn that only two of the 20 boats in the anchorage knew what was going on, because almost everyone had their radios turned off. All the help we got came from those in the marina, including the crew of Blow Me Away, who were in the bar. Why cruisers at anchor would turn their radio off at anchor is beyond me. It's quite disturbing to realize that you can't count on your neighbors if there's an emergency. And don't forget, a 12-year-old can kill just as easily as an adult.

— damon 08/15/07

Damon — When it comes to things that spook cruisers, having your boat boarded is, understandably, near the top of the list. Fortunately, things like that rarely happen. And it seems to us that it would happen even less often if boats had audio rather than silent alarms.

As for being disappointed that other boats in the anchorage had their radios turned off, we have to say you'd be disappointed in us, too. For unless we're expecting a specific message at a specific time, we never have the radio on. After all, we go cruising to unplug, not to monitor the radio in the very unlikely chance that somebody needs help. If, on the other hand, we heard the repeated sounding of an air horn, we'd respond immediately.

Cruise Notes:

Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman of the Port Ludlow, WA-based Wylie 31 Velella have been two of the most relentless small boat cruisers since they completed the Ha-Ha in '00. Not only that, but in recent times they've been taking 'the oceans less travelled', specifically through the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and we're not sure where else. A short time ago they began exploring Japan, starting with Kyushu, home of Nagasaki, famous for being the target of the second atomic bomb. When the couple arrived at the scenic port, which is surrounded on three sides by mountains, they were delighted at a welcome which included a free slip for a week at Deijima Marina. Noting that Nagasaki was 'discovered' by a wayward Portuguese ship, and that for 200 years it was Japan's only outlet to the outside world, both Garth and Wendy took time to read up about the historic city and take advantage of its many cultural offerings. In recent years, a small but growing number of Americans — including Hinman — had come to the conclusion that the United States was wrong to have bombed Nagasaki, which resulted in the immediate death of 75,000 people, the injuring of 75,000 more, and reduced everything within 6.5 miles to ash. Having visited the site of the devastation, we assumed that Wendy might have been even firmer in her belief that what the U.S. had done was wrong. But that is not the case.

"While I have long been skeptical about the arguments for dropping the atomic bombs, and have been horrified by their devastation, the more I've read, the more I've come to the conclusion that the ravages of the war continuing might have been far worse than the destruction caused by the atomic bombs. For instance, I was shocked to learn the extent to which Japan was committed, like a runaway freight train, to pursuing this hopeless conflict. The books and other materials I read described the preparations for a fight-to-the-death if the Americans landed on the main islands of Japan. Children, for example, were working in arms factories and volunteering for kamikaze missions from the air and the sea, women were being trained to use sharpened sticks as spears to kill or maim as many Americans as possible, and there was rampant malnutrition and other critical shortages. Nonetheless, there was still strong debate within the Japanese government as to whether to negotiate a peace on any terms." The subject of the atomic bombs remains very sensitive in Japan, where a defense minister was recently forced to resign for saying he thought that it had been necessary for the Americans to drop them. While it was clear that Garth and Wendy are Americans, they never felt any animosity, even at the important war shrines. Indeed, they were "warmly welcomed."
"I've read about the new procedures and charges for cruisers in Ecuador, but unfortunately Panama is doing something similar," reports Jerry Blakeslee, formerly of Alameda and now of the St. Martin-based NAB 38 Islomania. "The new regulations in Panama will require an initial visit to the boat by Immigrations officials, which, depending on who you talk to, will cost $25 to $150; photos of the skipper and crew; a monthly visit by cruisers to the Immigration office and, by some accounts, a letter of responsibility by a Panamanian citizen! One cruiser said that he refused to get such a letter, and the requirement was waived. The monthly visit to Immigration would require many cruisers to have to travel to the office by water taxi and bus, and would consume most of the day. Furthermore, despite phone calls the previous day to confirm that the necessary official would be in the office, cruisers have gone to all the trouble to get there — only to discover the necessary official wasn't in. As such, some cruisers, myself included, have opted to continue to use the regular tourist visa approach, which means we get one-month followed by a two-month extension. This means you have to travel outside of Panama for at least three days every three months, but since we enjoy land travel and have barely begun to see Costa Rica, it's not too much of a burden. The manager of the Bocas Marina tells me that a big effort is being made to get the new regulations repealed and to make the new Immigration laws compatible with the cruising permit, which allows a boat to be in Panama for 90 days, renewable for up to one year. Here's to hoping that it works! By the way, while we were making our first land trip to Costa Rica, there apparently were winds to 37 knots where our boat was anchored in Bocas del Toro. Islomania stayed hooked, but apparently six or so other boats went adrift. Fortunately, there was no damage, just panic."

Don't know how to tell your boss that you're quitting and going cruising? Let 'Lectronic do it.

"My wife Monica had been fretting about how and when to tell her employer about our cruising plans," writes Glenn Twitchell of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 38 Beach Access. "She's really enjoyed working where she has, and wanted to give them the most notice possible. On the other hand, everyone knows someone who did that — only to be shown the door immediately. We didn't think that would happen to Monica, but you never know. Anyway, a lot of people here in Newport Beach know the boat Grunt, which 'Lectronic reported burned and sank in Cherry Cove on the night of August 11. When the owner of Monica's company read about that tragedy, he continued on down the page — where he read about our ability to make Bloody Marys, and even more important, our plans to take off as part of the Ha-Ha at the end of October and be gone for years. He asked the COO of the company if he knew anything about it, which set off a rapid series of phone calls that resulted in the news raging through the company. Fortunately, the news is all good, as Monica is held in high regard and everyone is supportive of our cruising plans. It helps that the owner and much of his top staff are either mariners and/or surfers and understand that kind of thing. So thank you, Latitude, for the assist."

We're glad there is no damage, but here's a word to the wise: When talking to a journalist, assume that everything you say will end up in print, either as a direct quote or in some other fashion. The way to prevent this is simple: "What I'm about to tell you and/or this entire conversation is off the record."

Connie McWilliam of Puerto Escondido, Baja, reports that Singlar, which operates 11 relatively small marinas and relatively large marine facilities, mostly in the Sea of Cortez and including Mazatlan, has announced a significant cut in their daily and weekly mooring rates for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, there is no change in the monthly rates. What's not been made clear is if the new rates only apply to Puerto Escondido, where they just have 170 or so moorings, or also the other facilities in places such as La Paz and Mazatlan, where they actually have slips. Almost all of their facilities are nearly new or new. Last year the daily rate for 40-ft boats was 6 pesos/ft, while this year it's going to be 4.29 pesos/ft — or about $14.28 a day. The weekly rate has been dropped from 3.57 pesos/ft to 2.67 pesos/ft — or about $65. The monthly rate would be about $240. This is all based on an exchange rate of 10.5 pesos to the dollar. Haulouts — Singlar has installed Travel-Lifts at many places in Mexico — will be 71 pesos/ft each way for boats 31 to 45 feet, and slightly higher for larger boats. Fuel will be whatever the going rate is plus 22%, which will encourage folks with smaller boats to jerry jug. A 10.5% IVA tax must be added to all prices. The reports says "the showers and swimming pool are open", which adds to the mystery, because not all of the facilities have pools.

As for the Singlar facility at Santa Rosalia on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, Carlos Cota reports, "The prices here are approximately $1/ft/day on the daily rate, or 40 cents/ft/week, or 12 cents/ft/month." For a 40-ft boat, that would work out to $40/day, $160/week or $480/month. Cota says that the prices of slips at Singlar marinas in La Paz, Mazatlan, San Felipe and Puerto Penasco were recently lowered, so he's talking to the home office in Mexico City to try to lower the prices at Santa Rosalia, too. Unlike many of the other places in Mexico, Santa Rosalia often has vacant slips. By the way, Singlar reports that they'll be moving ahead with a marina and facilities at San Blas, which is between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay. The project had started, was stopped, and apparently will begin again.

Getting A Slip 101. If you were to call almost any marina in San Diego, Los Cabos, Banderas Bay, La Paz or Hawaii, they'd tell you they didn't have any open slips. This causes some folks to decide not to visit these places, and sometimes not to even leave their home port. The hesistancy is understandable, but when it comes to getting a berth in crowded areas, there is no substitute for having faith and just showing up. If you show up with your boat, your chances of getting a slip are about, oh, 90% better than if you call from 1,000 miles away. The uncertainty doesn't make things easy for cruisers — and particularly 'commuter cruisers', who have to have a berth — and one's faith is not always rewarded, but veteran cruisers have learned to live with it.

"Perhaps it's a case of perspective, but the 'Lectronic photos of the new Puertos Los Cabos Marina make it seem as though there is very little room to maneuver in the fairways," writes Larry Watkins of the Long Beach-based Beneteau 40 Moondance. Even the first photo, which showed the entrance, looks as though it might be a little tight." The photos probably didn't accurately convey the scale of the project. The berths that were already in place in the first photo are actually very small and are just for pangas and such, so they need very little room to maneuver. The majority of the slips in the marina — Phase One of which is to open in November — have been designed for boats that are 50 feet or longer, as well as some megayachts. As such, we're confident the entrance will be plenty wide. A lot wider, in any event, than the entrance to Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin, where the many mega motoryachts all but have to grease their topsides to slide in.

"In the August issue of Latitude there was a letter from a fellow who wants to sail the South Pacific and Italy, and wondered how best to do it," writes John DeFoe of the Laurel, Maryland-based Tartan 37. "Your advice — to sail to the South Pacific, and then just continue west to Italy — was, as usual, sound and well-reasoned. But there is another route there, a less travelled one. I read about it in Miles Hordern's book Voyaging the Pacific. In some 30 adult years of reading about offshore sailing, as well as doing some myself, I found this book to have the clearest description I've ever read of the realities of sailing offshore on a small boat. Hordern sailed, as described in the book, from New Zealand to Chile aboard his 28-footer, sailing the southern part — the Southern Ocean — to get across the South Pacific."

From the West Coast across the South Pacific to New Zealand, then east in the Southern Ocean to the Atlantic, and finally up to the Med and Italy? It's certainly possible. If we're not mistaken, that's pretty much what Pete Passano did with Sea Bear, the Wittholtz 37 he and Bob van Blaricom built in the Santa Venetia Creek behind the Marin County Civic Center. But what a long and rough trip across the cold Southern Ocean that would be.

"As you noted in early August, the much heralded greater-than-average hurricane season has, so far, been a no-show," writes John Anderton of the Alameda-based-but-longtime-in-the-Caribbean Cabo Rico 38 Sanderling. "The water temperature has been at least two degrees cooler than normal for a hurricane season. This compares with six degrees above normal two years ago when there was a record 27 named storms. Last Friday, Eric Makey, our local television weatherman, issued a heads up to the cruising community via his morning HF weather report that computer models began to predict a storm system coming off the African coast. In fact, the storm system is supposed to reach tropical depression status today. The Azores High may force the system to take a more westerly track and go through the Lesser Antilles at about St. Lucia on Thursday or Friday. This week I'll be flying to Portland for a visit with family and friends. It will be my first time back in seven years, so I'll have to buy some long pants and shoes, and take a crash course in normal behavior. By the way, will the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca be in St. Barths for New Year's again?"

If we're not mistaken, that tropical depression didn't turn into a hurricane, but as everyone knows, by the middle of the month hurricane Dean took a path between Martinique and St. Lucia on its way west across the Caribbean, where it eventually developed into a Category 5 hurricane. All things considered, it could have been much worse. For example, the flooding that was occurring at the same time in Minnesota claimed more lives, and damage to Caribbean boating interests was slight. We spoke with a woman who had been at Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, who said the maximum winds there were 55 knots and there was no real damage. Her husband was visiting Marin, Martinique, which was on the bad quadrant, and he reported 40 boats and several jetties lost. It initially looked as though Cancun, the beaches of which had all but been destroyed just a few years ago, was going to be leveled again. But it was spared. Both William Gray and NOAA have reduced the number of hurricanes they had forecast for this season, as it's been very slow to date. However, nobody is out of the woods yet, as September is generally the worst month, both in the Alantic/Caribbean and along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. By the way, it's been very quiet along the coast of Mexico, although somewhat more active than normal to the east of Hawaii. Asking if the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca will be in St. Barth for New Year's is sort of like asking the baseball writer for the New York Times if he'll be attending the World Series. We have to be at St. Barth for New Year's, it's our job.

Speaking of St. Barth, frequent singlehander Mike Harker, who made it to Sydney, Australia, in time to put his Manhattan Beach-based Hunter Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3 in their August boat show, reported that he planned to be in St. Barths for New Year's, too, which means he'll have all but made it around the world in 11 months. Incredible! "I'll leave Thursday Island in the Torres Strait in July; head across the Indian Ocean in mid-September; go south of Madagascar and along the east coast of South Africa in October; make my way around the east coast of South Africa to Cape Town by mid-November; cross the Atlantic to Brazil's Fernando de Noranja in early December, and try to make St. Barth for New Year's. I will be alone for most of the voyage, although my pretty redheaded friend Carla from Namibia — Latitude readers will remember her photos — will join me from Cape Town up to Walvis Bay, Namibia. Once there, my Brazilian friend Fabio will meet me there to cross the South Atlantic to Brazil."

Alas, as every cruiser knows, stuff happens. First, Harker fell while riding his bike and received a cut that became infected. It didn't heal for a week because of leg problems he suffered as a result of a near-fatal hang-gliding accident earlier in his life. Then he had to rush back to the States because his father was near death. Despite these obstacles, we wouldn't be surprised if Harker — who only started sailing during the '00 Ha-Ha — doesn't make it to St. Barth by the 31st. And he doesn't even have a glass of bubbly at midnight!

Earlier this year, we asked first-time cruisers to Mexico which place they liked the most. We're slow getting around to report it, but in the case of Jonesy and Terry Morris of the Chula Vista-based Gulfstar 50 Niki Wiki, "We declared each new anchorage "the best so far" as we worked our way south down the mainland after the Ha-Ha. But when we arrived at Zihua in March, we both wondered why we hadn't just gone there in the first place! Zihua is well worth the long haul to get there from Manzanillo. In our opinion, Isla Grande is the jewel of the Zihua area. Once at the island, you can snorkel the coral reef in clear water, enjoy seafood and beers at the beach palapas, and then have the place all to yourself at night when the last visitors — and workers — have to return to the mainland at 6 p.m. Of course, we can't forget the fond memories we have of the dinghy raft-ups with fellow cruisers at Tenacatita, the snorkeling and birding at Isla Isabella, the quiet beauty of Chacala, and pastries delivered right to your boat by zee French baker in Barra de Navidad Lagoon. All these are cruising Mexico, and we loved it!"

Over the years, a number of readers have reported that, while offshore, they were unsuccessful in contacting the Coast Guard on 2182, the 'emergency frequency'. If you don't know why that would be the case, read The ABC's of SSB Radio by Gordon West, which will appear in the October 1 Latitude, just in time for cruisers headed south to Mexico.

Damn scheduling conflicts! We got an invite to this year's King's Cup Regatta in Phuket, Thailand, which because it will be His Majesty the King of Thailand's 80th birthday, is expected to attract even more than the 100 boats that participated last year. Alas, the King's Cup conflicts with the Banderas Bay Blast and Pirates For Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity that same December 7, 8 and 9 weekend. Who knows, maybe we can get a report from Frank and Janice Balmer of the Tacoma-based Gulfstar 50 Freewind. We're told the retired school teachers kept right on going after the '03 Ha-Ha and are now in 'The Land of Smiles'.

How close do cruising friends become? Bob and Kay Finlay, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the Irwin 44 Kay II, started sailing many years ago, and started their cruising in the Med. For the last three years, however, they've been cruising Mexico, where it's impossible not to make many cruising friends. This is particularly true, since many cruisers checked in with Kay on the Amigo Net. Anyway, when it came time for the couple's 50th wedding anniversary in Alberta, friends from cruising in Mexico weren't hesitant about helping them celebrate. This included Rich Crowell and Jan Schwab of the Islander Freeport 41 Slipaway, who flew to Canada from Virginia; John and Mary Williamson of the Irwin 37 Java, who came up from Vancouver; and Alan and Margaret 'Mac' Mathison of the Morgan 43 Effie, who came up from Ensenada. Although everyone enjoyed visiting with family and friends and helping the Finlays celebrate their anniversary, we were told the main topic of conversation was how everybody was dying to get back to their boats.

"We moved our boat from Lake Mead, Nevada, back to San Diego and the Pacific Ocean in early July," report Ken Lucas and Nora Caplette of the DownEast 32 Seabird. "Thank you Shelter Island Boatyard and John at Western Yachts for the handholding. And thank you Travis of Mighty Crane for safely loading our home and our future. Once in San Diego, our boat got her first real safety inspection and bottom job in about seven years. Then she went into the water. San Diego Bay and her approaches have been great, and it's been great for our boat to be able to smell and taste saltwater once again." When Lucas retires from his job doing environmental work at Camp Pendleton, the couple plan to head to Mexico, the Caribbean and eventually around the world.
A mussel problem in the Great Sonoran Desert? Lucas tells us that the drought in the Rockies has been tough on Lake Mead, which is down 110 feet from the norm, and is dropping another foot a week. Mariners therefore have to be careful not to run into hilltops that were formerly far beneath the surface. Since the lake was built for irrigation rather than recreational purposes, safe boating conditions are not the priority. In addition, Lake Mead has become home to quagga mussels, so all boats have to be washed when they come out of the water, and get certificates of being mussel-free before crossing state lines.

"We sent in our Ha-Ha entry fee, filled out all the forms, have found willing crew, and are now working on getting our boat ready to sail to Mexico," reports Richard Boren of the Bakersfield/Port San Luis-based 30-year-old Pearson 365 ketch Third Day. "Our 'to-do' list is long and contains all the standard items: autopilot installation, electric windlass installation, fresh bottom paint, replacing a few thru-hulls and so forth. But today, August 1, we completed installation of what will no doubt be the crew's most admired installation, our new Adler-Barbour SuperCold Machine. There was only one acceptable way to test the new unit's function, and I'm happy to report that the result was ice cold. It would have brought a tear to the eye of any sailor whose cold beer supply was dependent on ice."

"A number of Harry Brenker's friends in Seattle are wondering where he is and if he's all right," writes Wendy Joseph. "We figure that he and Rhiannon, his Cascade 36, are somewhere off the west coast of Africa, but we don't know exactly where. If anyone has any info, please ." The west coast of Africa? We can't remember the last time, if ever, we got a cruising report from there.

"Having cruised my Pearson 30 across the Pacific in '98, I've spent the last five years building my cruising kitty in the Sierra foothills," reports Will Green. "Now I've moved one step closer to getting back out there by purchasing the C&C 38 Sprig. I'll keep her in the Delta for now, and do some coastal cruising before taking off on my next long cruise. I recently met up with the Balfour family, friends from my Pacific cruise, on their Peterson 44 Taj in La Cieba, Honduras. The family bases their boat out of the beautiful Lagoon Marina Resort, and cruise the islands of Utila and Roatan. The resort/marina is run by Tony and Rita Vorleiter, and is a safe place for cruisers to leave a boat when they want to return home. La Cieba Marine, where boats can be hauled and worked on, is right next door."

Apparently not so safe a place to leave a boat is Sebana Cove Marina in Malaysia. According to C. Douglas Walling of the Monterey-based 28-ft Bristol Channel Cutter Calliste, he and his friend Lang were in the final phase of repairs of tsunami inflicted damage to the boat when their workshop/container was broken into. "All our tools and supplies were stolen from the dry storage area. It might have been an inside job. The security and police haven't been effective in solving the crime. I estimate the loss at $9,000, and, since my insurance doesn't cover off-boat losses, I'm out the full amount.
The lead front-page story in the August 16 USA Today had nothing to do with cruising, but spoke volumes about the place many West Coast sailors will be going this winter and some of the reasons why:

"After Jean Douglas turned 70, she realized that she couldn't take care of herself anymore. Her knees were giving out, and winters in Bandon, Oregon, were getting harder to bear alone. Douglas was shocked by the high cost and impersonal care at assisted-living facilities near her home. After searching the internet for other options, she joined a small but steadily growing number of Americans who are moving across the border to nursing homes in Mexico, where the sun is bright and the living is cheap. For $1,300 a month — a quarter of what an average nursing home costs in Oregon — Douglas gets a studio apartment, three meals a day, laundry and cleaning service, and 24-hour care from an attentive staff, many of whom speak English. She wakes up every morning next to a glimmering mountain lake, and the average daily temperature is a toasty 79 degrees."

While Latitude readers will be going south of the border for the great cruising, they'll also get to enjoy a very low cost of living — assuming they stay out of marinas and tourist bars and restaurants — great weather and a warm and caring population. No wonder more people are sailing to Mexico every year. And who knows, now maybe some of them will bring their aging and ailing parents with them, and put them in nearby assisted care facilities. There certainly are dumber ideas.

We can tell that cruising season is just around the corner, because Cruising Guide Publications has just sent us the updated editions of many of their cruising guides. They include the third edition of our friend Chris Doyle's Trinidad & Tobago plus Barbados and Guyana Guide, the third edition of Doyle's Venezuela and Bonaire Guide, the 13th edition of Nancy and Simon Scott's Virgin Islands Cruising Guide, and the 9th edition of Bruce Van Sant's The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South. Cruising Guide Publications also publishes cruising guides to the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. We've been using earlier editions of all these guides since the mid-'80s, and have found them to be excellent. In fact, in the decade or so we cruised Big O in the Eastern Caribbean, we'd just carry one or two big scale charts and these cruising guides. It was all we needed. They're also good for folks about to do charters, as just looking at the photos of the water and the anchorages is enough to get any sailor hot and bothered on a cold and gray California winter day.

Missing the pictures? See the September 2007 eBook!


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