October, 2002

With reports from Solitaire on a four-year circumnavigation; from Reflections on French Polynesia; from Marna Lynn on the Sea of Cortez; from Wildflower on singlehanding home from Hawaii; from Maude I. Jones on friends being robbed in Papua New Guinea; from Caracolita on Cuba; from Seeadler on the summer of 2001 in Europe; from Scarlett O'Hara on the truth about their Baja Bash; and Cruise Notes.

Solitaire - Barnett 42
Steve Faustina & Mike Holtz
Completing A Circumnavigation

I am happy to report that Solitaire and I have completed the circumnavigation we began in November of 1998. Crewman Mike Holtz and I set sail on the last leg from Yokohama, Japan, on June 11, and arrived in San Francisco 36 days later. We had hoped for a 30-day passage, but there was one gale after another for all but the last third of the trip. Most of the gales came out of the northeast, and since we were sailing the great circle route, that meant the wind was on the nose.

The gales were highly unusual for that time of year. The last one lasted for three days, and with a maximum of 55 knots and 30-ft seas, was the most severe. Fortunately, this storm was coming from the southwest, so we blasted along under a triple reefed main and staysail for the first two days, then went with bare poles. Even then, we were still making 8 to 10 knots.

On the last day of the gale, after the wind had finally dropped below 30 knots, Mike and I were both sitting below when Solitaire must have been knocked down by a huge wave. For I was suddenly launched head-first into the galley bulkhead, and sustained a six-inch laceration across the top of my head, as well as a severe back bruise. Fortunately, I didn't lose consciousness and Mike wasn't hurt at all. I had no medical suturing materials on the boat, so Mike had to sew 16 stitches - with a regular needle and thread - to get my scalp back in place. There was no anesthetic. Since the closest port at the time was 600-mile distant Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, we decided to continue on to San Francisco.

I consider myself very lucky to have had Mike along for this passage, because if I had been singlehanding - which is what I usually do - I wouldn't be writing this letter. I knew the passage was going to be the longest and most difficult of my circumnavigation, and something inside me told me to take crew. As a result of the knockdown, the wind generator was also damaged and some deck gear was lost overboard, but Solitaire was otherwise undamaged. The last 10 days of the passage were uneventful and featured the best sailing of the trip. But given my injuries, it was hard to truly enjoy.

My plans are to take a long rest on shore, and then begin to work on all the small and not so small boat projects to prepare Solitaire for the Cross-Pac Race to Australia scheduled for June of next year. Anyone interested in sponsoring me?

- steve 09/05/02

Reflections - Esprit 37
Gene & Sheri Seybold
French Polynesia

It's been awhile since we've written, but it's hard to sit in front of a computer when paradise is all around you. When we last wrote, we were still in the Tuamotus, having run out of beer, which was a major problem, and having a watermaker problem, which wasn't a big deal. Anyway, we left the beautiful atoll of Tahanea and set off for the 300-mile trip to Tahiti. We planned on a morning arrival after a two-day trip, but lighter than normal winds delayed our arriving at Papeete until after sunset - by which time the wind had kicked up to 25 knots. We didn't want to heave to and wait 12 hours for sunrise to enter the harbor, but we were a little concerned about a night entrance because just a week before the Island Packet 45 that we'd raced to the Marquesas had run aground on a reef. It cost them $30,000 to be towed off. Yes, $30,000 US. Apparently, their crew had fallen asleep while hove to waiting for dawn, and the boat drifted onto the reef. Fortunately, the boat survived with only minor damage.

When we watched a large cruise ship enter the pass to Papeete, we figured if he could do it, so could we. The entrance is well-marked with range lights - which actually made it easier to enter than had it been daytime. By 7:30 p.m. - nightfall comes early in the tropics - we were safely anchored along the quai at Papeete, the only large town in French Polynesia. The hustle and bustle, as well as all the bright lights of the waterfront, were quite a change from what we'd experienced the previous four months.

We didn't plan on spending much time in Tahiti - actually, just enough for the replacement watermaker membranes to arrive and be installed. Of course, we had to officially check into French Polynesia, particularly since we were within eyesight of the Port Captain. However, we still hadn't paid the compulsory bond for all those not from the European Union. When we checked in with Immigration, the first thing they told us was that we had to pay the bond. We explained that we were only waiting for parts, and that we planned to check out as soon as they arrived. It worked! Although we had to make a few trips back to their office, we managed to avoid paying the $900/person bond - of which a couple hundred always disappears before you get any money returned.

That done, it was time to see civilization again. McDonald's was the first thing on the agenda! We satisfied our Big Mac craving, and were surprised they only cost $6 US - not the $10 US that we'd previously been told. In fact, we were somewhat surprised that many items in Tahiti weren't as expensive as we'd been led to believe. For example, after some investigation we discovered that by exchanging bottles we could lower the cost of a half liter bottle of beer to about $1.50 US. That's a far cry from the 28-cent cans of beer in Panama, but much better than $2 for the 11.5 ounce can. The big surprise was the reasonable price of New Zealand beef and lamb. Rib steaks and T-bones were about $4/lb, and the quality was every bit that of U.S. beef. Lamb chops, which are so expensive in the States, were less than $2/lb. And we hadn't seen lamb in nearly three years! So what was everyone complaining about? Bacon, for one thing, which was still about $7 for just a two-ounce package - $56 US/lb.

Then we made our way to the vegetable section. Ouch, were they expensive! Yes, tomatoes are $1/each as advertised. We'd been told that strawberries were also a buck each. Nonsense, they were only 90-cents each! But they were huge and beautiful, and came from California in their own little plastic containers. In fact, the California strawberries for sale in French Polynesia were more perfect than any we'd seen in California! Every kind of fruit and vegetable that you can imagine is available in Papeete, but most of them cost more than beef. Asparagus, for instance, was $12 US a pound. Needless to say, we didn't eat much asparagus or strawberries.

One day Sheri went to the local farmers' market in downtown Papeete. Having been buying the inexpensive beef, she saw a whole chicken and decided to buy it. After taking a few seconds to work the exchange rate from Polynesian francs to dollars, she discovered the chicken cost $16! What the hell, she bought a $5 cantaloupe to go with it. We later learned that the imported frozen chickens are more reasonably priced. Although some items were expensive, we'll say this for the French - they know how to eat. Everything you could possibly want was available - for a price!

As we were waiting for the watermaker parts to arrive - it took less than a week - two more boats went onto the reef outside the harbor entrance. These two boats - only one of which was insured - didn't fare as well as the Island Packet 45. The owner of the first boat, which was uninsured, was so sure that his boat would be pulled off and recovered that he didn't take anything off her. But just 45 seconds after being pulled off, she sank in 200 feet of water. As if losing an uninsured boat wasn't bad enough, he had a $20,000 towing bill to pay - but nothing left but the shirt on his back! The owner of the second boat took the time to completely strip everything from his boat before having her pulled off. It didn't make any difference, as she also immediately went to the bottom.

That brought to seven the total number of boats that we know have been lost in French Polynesia this season. It seems nearly all of those lost were the result of some form of inattention on the part of the owner(s) and/or crew. Although the passes into the lagoons can be tricky, it's not that hazardous if you pay attention. But there is a heavy price to pay for not double-checking charts and one's position when near coral reefs, for in battles between fiberglass and coral, the latter always wins.

A day after our watermaker parts arrived, we got them installed and the unit working again. So we went down to Immigration, the Port Captain, and Customs for our final check out. There was no problem, as we got our passports stamped, all our paperwork completed, and a permit to buy duty-free diesel fuel - which is 60% off the regular price. With the freezer once again full of meat, we topped off the tanks and jerry cans, and left the next day for the island of Moorea. Now that we were checked out of the country and had no more paperwork to do, we'd have plenty of time to see the rest of the islands.

It's only about 12 miles from Tahiti to Moorea, so you can easily see one island from the other. We think Moorea is the most beautiful island in French Polynesia - the dramatic walls and canyons, and the beautiful lagoon inside the reef makes it almost perfect. The anchorages at Cook's and Opunoho Bays are probably the most photographed anchorages in the world - and for good reason. Words can't quite describe how lovely they are, and photographs don't do them justice. We did a fair amount of diving at Moorea, but with so many tourists the dive sites weren't pristine.

Our next passage was an overnight trip to the island of Huahine. There was something very different about this night trip, specifically, there were boats just about everywhere. We had to pay close attention as we hadn't seen so many boats since we left Panama. The Society Islands are never more than an overnight trip apart from each other, which explains the large amount of boat traffic.

Huahine doesn't attract as many tourists as the other Society Islands, and is therefore more laid back. It would be our choice if we were going to the Societies on a vacation. We anchored at the southern end of the island in the clearest water we've seen so far. If you dropped a coin in 45 feet, you could tell if it landed head or tail up. The island has beautiful white sand beaches, and the people were very friendly. We stayed for about five days before making the daysail to Raiatea and Tahaa.

These islands are unique in that they share the same barrier reef, but are separate. There were an incredible number of sailboats in the lagoon, mostly because The Moorings operates a charter fleet out of Raiatea. If anyone were thinking of chartering a boat in French Polynesia, this would be the place, as you're just a daysail from the most beautiful islands in the world.

We did a three-hour circumnavigation of Tahaa, one of the few islands you can circumnavigate inside the barrier reef. Then we anchored off the beach of a brand new hotel that featured those cute little bungalows built on stilts over the water. These are very attractive, and have a glass floor under the glass table so you can view the sea life while having breakfast. Very, very nice. And only $840 a night - which is about 55-cents a minute. We forgot to mention that lodging and dining out are also very expensive in the outer islands.

We then made our way to Bora Bora, for what we expected to be our last stop in French Polynesia. Bora Bora is so famous, and so much is said about its beauty, that there is little wonder that we were disappointed. There were tourists everywhere, and the local people seemed just a little less friendly than at other places. Everything on the island was more expensive, and restaurant prices were astronomical. It is, after all, the playground of the rich and famous - and the swimming pool of the homeless and unemployed cruiser. We also found more trash left around, both on land and in the water. Don't get us wrong, Bora Bora is beautiful, but with so many other choices available, it's not where we'd spend $5,000 to get away.

The anchorages at Bora Bora aren't the most inviting. Basically, you can either anchor in nine feet of water or 90 feet of water. If you anchored in nine feet, it didn't leave much room for error if the wind picked up. If you anchored in 90 feet, you probably didn't have the proper scope for secure anchoring. We opted to anchor in 90 feet. When it came time to raise the anchor, it naturally wouldn't come up. After about an hour of futile attempts, I donned snorkel gear to have a better look. I could then see that we had dropped the anchor in sand, but while pulling it up we must have drug it close to the only coral head on the bottom! So I put on my dive gear and made a quick dive to 90 feet to retrieve the hook. I was surprised to find our anchor standing straight up, with the majority of it stuck inside a hole just big enough for it to fit into! It looked as though someone had placed it in there. Oh well, the anchor came free - after a little bending.

Our next stop was the Bora Bora YC. We were expecting a yacht club, but it was just a restaurant. We had a couple of boat projects to do, so we stayed out front for a couple of nights. On our last night, the wind blew up to 40 knots, and once again we found ourselves anchored in 90 feet of water with 300 feet of chain out. We lacked protection from the swell and discovered that we were moving just a little. Not really dragging, just slipping a bit. At least Bora Bora had one thing that none of the other islands had - real bacon from Canada in one pound packages. It was the thing dreams are made of - at only $4 a pound!

[Continued next month with a report from Mopelia.]

- gene and sheri 09/05/02

Marna Lynn - Wauquiez 47
Joe Brandt and Jacque Martin
Sea of Cortez  

We have been cruising for about 10 months now, during which time we have travelled over 3,200 miles. Before we start our tale, we'd like to pass along two tips to would-be cruisers.

First, make sure that your dinghy and motor are right for you. Prior to going cruising, we did lots of reading and took several seminars. At one of the seminars we were told to buy the largest dinghy and motor that we could. Stupid us, that's exactly what we did. We purchased an Avon 310 RIB and Honda four-stroke 15 hp outboard - which was a real mistake. There is nothing inherently wrong with the inflatable or the outboard, it's just that the 250-pound package wasn't right for our application. They are so heavy - even separately - that they are a pain in the ass to lift aboard and store. Yes, we have a hoist for the motor, but it's still difficult - and I'm 6' 4" and 260 pounds. Further, it was also difficult for Jacque to start the 15 hp outboard, which was an inconvenience - and could be a safety issue. So our advice is to buy the dinghy/outboard combination that you can handle as a couple.

Our other advice is to arrange to have as much shade as possible. We purchased a Shadetree unit to cover the aft section of our boat. Once we got to Mexico, we purchased another one for the forward part of the boat - and extended our bimini. It's so sunny and hot in Mexico - we only had four days of rain in 10 months - that the more shade you can create, the more comfortable you'll be.

We began our trip by sailing beneath the Gate in October of 2001, and made the long-awaited left turn south. As we headed down the California coast, something different broke every day. The new things broke because they were new, and the old things broke because they hadn't been used much. Thankfully, we had planned some spare time in our schedule, and spent 10 days in San Diego taking care of all the repairs.

In late October we joined over 100 other boats to sail to Cabo as part of the Baja Ha-Ha. Our crew included long time sailing buddy Ron Franck, and Jacque's 87-year-old father, Col. T.I. Martin (U.S. Army ret.). The Colonel received an award at the final ceremony for being the oldest participant. We had a great time on the Ha-Ha, as the Grand Poobah did a great job of organizing the event, and we met many other new cruisers on our way to Cabo. We're really glad that the Ha-Ha was the first step in our cruising plans.

After a short stay in Cabo San Lucas, we stopped at Los Frailes and Muertos anchorages on our way north to La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. Our crew headed home after our stay in La Paz, at which time we pretty much made a beeline for Z-town, with short stops along the way at Mazatlan, Banderas Bay, Ipala, Chamela, and Manzanillo. By the time we reached Z-town - which is about 1,800 miles south of San Francisco - we were ready for a rest.

We stayed in Z-town for three months. The first month we had visitors, then we took Spanish and guitar lessons. Finally, we got involved with the clean-up of the local indigenous school, and Jacque, along with Diane from Gemini, led a small contingent of cruisers in participating in one of the first clean-ups of Zihuatanejo Bay. The clean-up was part of a local environmental group's efforts to take better care of the bay and beaches. We also had a great time taking a couple of local excursions, including the Jungle Tour in Trancones and a wonderful kayak trip with Zoe Kayak Tours in Potoci.

After our extended stay in Z-town, we slowly headed north in early April, stopping at Barra de Navidad, Tenecatita, Chamela, Banderas Bay, Chacala, and Mazatlan, before continuing across the Sea of Cortez to the Baja side. One of our most memorable stops was at Chamela. As we were walking down the 'main' street, we noticed a wonderful aroma coming from a three-table restaurant called La Compesina. Margarita - who is the owner, waitress, cook, and dishwasher - serves breakfast and lunch in the three-table restaurant, but there's only one item on the lunch menu. But it changes each day. After getting acquainted with her, Jacque - and Cynthia from Reaching Deep - talked Margarita into giving them some of her recipes. The only catch was that Jacque and Cynthia 'had' to watch her cook the dishes. This, of course, meant that we ate at Margarita's for three days in a row. So Dave, also of Reaching Deep, and I sipped on cold beer while Jacque and Cynthia learned some great authentic Mexican recipes.

We really enjoyed the Sea of Cortez. Although the anchorages on the Mexican mainland are great, the anchorages in the Sea of Cortez are truly wonderful. They are remote, quiet, and usually had clear warm water for good snorkeling. We particularly enjoyed Aqua Verde and Isla Coronado. Les and Diane of Gemini also introduced us to the world famous Aqua Verde YC.

Like many other cruising couples who have written in, we feel that the best part of cruising has been meeting other cruisers and making friends. The cruising community is small but extremely caring, and we appreciate all of the help and encouragement we've received along the way. It's a great feeling to be a part of this community. One of the many things we enjoy about Mexico is that the people are so friendly and courteous. Even the dogs in Mexico are docile. It's the only country in which we've traveled where the taxi drivers actually stop to let you cross the street.

One of the more unpleasant things about Mexico is the check-in/check-out process, which is lengthy and expensive. We paid about $600 US in total fees during our stay. While all the port captains were helpful and courteous, in most cases the process takes half a day and is very annoying. Philosophically, one of the major frustrations is that no other mode of transportation is required to pay similar fees or go through such a complicated process. We can't imagine the Mexican government requiring folks in cars or RVs to have to do the same as people with boats. We are certainly not advocating that everyone else should have to go through the process, only that the rules be made the same for everyone. We understand that this situation will probably not change soon, which is a factor in our deciding to head south to Central America next spring rather than stay in Mexico.

- joe and jacque 09/05/02

Joe & Jacque - We're glad to hear your comment on your dinghy and outboard, as we've been among those who've advocated that bigger is better when it comes to inflatables and outboards. For couples, we suppose it should be 'as big as both can comfortably handle'.

As for your itinerary, it's the one we'd recommend - the Ha-Ha, a quick poke into the Sea of Cortez, short stops on a trip to Z-town, lots of time in Z-town, slowly retracing steps back up the mainland coast, then a good bout in the Sea of Cortez - to folks who have a year for Mexico.

Wildflower - Wylie 28
Skip Allan
Singlehanding Back From Hawaii

After a pleasant two weeks anchored at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Wildflower and I set out for the mainland at dawn on August 13. The weatherfax prognosis was good, indicating light trades with a southeast slant. This allowed for excellent initial progress to the northeast, and after three days I was 250 miles further east than on previous passages home.

Two unusual aerial events occurred during this time. The first was the landing of two blue-footed booby birds on the bow pulpit. I have no idea how these feathered hitchhikers managed to hang on all night in eight-foot seas with web feet, but they were still there in the morning. The other bemusement was the apparent attraction of flying fish to the amber strobe light I was running on the stern. In the morning the cockpit looked like a train wreck of flying fish.

Four days north of Kauai, the wind began to go light, and I began motorsailing to the northeast. Usually, the motorboat portion of this passage doesn't begin so early, and my 25 gallons of diesel began to seem a bit on the thin side. On August 18, I captured a small glass ball and marveled at how the resident crabs find these floating homes. By now I was doing pactor e-mail through a Ham operator in Redondo Beach.

On August 20, a week into my trip, I was 853 miles northeast of Hanalei, with 1,550 miles to go. The water temp was 85° and I was burning .1 gal/hour of fuel, an economical rate of powerboating. I stopped several afternoons for a swim, found a nest of wayward ball-point pens under the engine, and saw a full cream-colored 'moonbow'. I also very much enjoyed reading River Horse, the story of a modern day voyage across America by river and canal.

On the 22nd, I sighted El Tiburon, another Pacific Cup returnee, about five miles ahead. They had departed Hanalei two days earlier than Wildflower. Simultaneously, I sighted a large sperm whale nearby. This same whale had surfaced a few minutes earlier alongside El Tiburon, tripping their depthsounder alarm. Later that afternoon, I tucked Wildflower's bow under El Tiburon's stern, and Michael and Rory tossed over fresh baked bread and sticky buns from their seagoing bakery!

The next day I passed a large log - about 30 feet long and three feet in diameter - and soberly reflected on what might happen if a small boat or ULDB hit such a hazard.

By the 24th, I was experiencing large, confused seas from hurricane Fausto, which was centered well to the south. I also passed through 38°51'N x 143°55', which I figured meant that I was halfway home - and still had 60% of my 25 gallons remaining. I was passed by a westbound container ship, which altered course to my windward side, but at a quarter mile was still too close. As I was becalmed in his lee, the officer on his bridge radioed, "So don't worry about it." I silently cursed his cavalier attitude and risky shiphandling.

On the 26th, I had a good sailing breeze from the southwest, as I was fortunate to be going over the top of the Pacific High. At noon I was at latitude 38°41'N, which was as far north as I was to go - and not nearly so far as the latitude of Portland, Oregon, where I had turned two years previously. My average speed was now 5.4 knots, and as I sailed over the top of the High, the wind slowly clocked from the southwest to the northwest.

I jibed onto port with 650 miles to go, knowing that the remaining obstacle was strong northwest winds between my position and the coast. These winds live between 125-130° west longitude in what I call 'gale alley'. By the night of the 29th, I was in 25-35 knots of wind with 15-ft seas, reaching along under staysail and #3. During a lull, I set the main with the triple-reef, which seemed better in the troughs where the wind would go light. This gale lasted for two days. By the 31st, the wind and seas had died, and with 100 miles to go, I began to motorsail again, with an escort of hundreds of porpoises.

Just 20 miles out of Santa Cruz, with fog and darkness setting in, I spotted a drifting powerboat a quarter of a mile to windward. I didn't want to see her crew waving for assistance, but they did. So I tacked back. They had run out of gas. I radioed the Coast Guard and Vessel Assist, both of which replied that all their "resources were occupied" and that I was "their only hope." So I took this 24-foot outboard under tow, which cut my speed for the last few miles from six knots to 3.6 knots. Five hours later, we entered my homeport of Santa Cruz Harbor, to the welcoming reception of my excellent friends Robin, Viola, and Denis.

All told, Wildflower and I had sailed 2,450 miles in 18 days and 12 hours, for an average speed of 5.5 knots. Two years previously, I had sailed 2,800 miles at a 5.8 knot average in 20 days. My best day's run was 154 miles, my worst was 89. The Most Valuable Player award went to the Sail-O-Mat windvane, which steered 95% of the time without complaint or hesitation. Special thanks also to Joe Buck for maintaining a daily Ham radio schedule and e-mail report to friends on our progress.

- skip 09/09/02

Readers - As most of you will remember, Skip, aided by crew Tad Palmer, sailed Wildflower to first overall in July's West Marine Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Kauai. Allan tells us his budget for the race and trip back was $6,000. If you have big cruising dreams but just a little money, Allan and his modest but capable boat - which have done 60,000 ocean miles - should be inspirations. You can buy a near sistership, with a new diesel engine and huge sail inventory, for less than $10,000.

Maude I. Jones - Custom 46 Sloop
Rob & Mary Messenger
Aussie Cruisers Robbed

We personally have never had any dealings with pirates, and we've been out cruising since the first Ha-Ha nine years ago. But now our Aussie friends Bas and Roz Dolkens of Spirit of Witchwood report that they have. They had been out for three years and were about to head back home from the Philipines when they sent the following email:

"Some of you may be unaware that we were boarded and robbed while anchored just south of Buka Passage, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. A pack of five bastards armed with what Roz says were semiautomatic weapons came aboard. I thought they had machine guns, but I don't watch Rambo movies, so I wouldn't know for sure. They stole about $10,000 U.S. of gear and equipment, including most of my clothes, but none of Roz's. They also took food, beer and wine, a computer, printer, scanner, cameras, binoculars, seven of our 11 life jackets, and other stuff. They did, however, leave all the sailing equipment so we could depart quickly and not create problems for them with the authorities. Neither of us was injured and our boat was virtually untouched. When they were about to leave, I demanded they give some of the food back because we had a long way home and no money with which to buy food. So they handed back a crate with breakfast cereal, EasyYo Yogurt, and two flasks of Tanduay Rum. Hic!

"We believe that the 'robbery' was orchestrated by the local authorities acting on false information that we were carrying a shipment of guns. Rather than search us officially and confiscate the imagined guns, they recruited four thugs to board us. The fifth guy was obviously a local official. He may have been Police or Customs, it doesn't matter, as they are all crooks in this 'developing nation', having received their training from the politicians that 'led' them. The four thugs were permitted to rob us as payment for their part in the operation, but had strict instructions on what they could and could not take. If we had been carrying guns, the officials would have made a far greater profit by taking them rather than by officially confiscating them. If we didn't have any guns - as was the case - we would be on our way, with no problems or consequences for them.

"Anyway, we are alive and getting over the trauma. We expect to head for Oz about September 20 with the full moon, but it all depends on the weather."

We hope everyone has a great winter cruising season, and nothing to do with pirates, government or otherwise.

- rob & mary 09/15/02

Caracolita - Westsail 32
Henry and Nicole
Visiting Cuba
(Isla Mujeres, Mexico)

Never fully trust aids to navigation. As we approached the south coast of Cuba from Grand Cayman, we looked for the Cayo Largo Buoy and a lighthouse located on a small island a mile behind it. We never found the lighthouse, as it had been unrooted and destroyed by hurricane Michelle. Eventually, we did find the buoy - up in the sand five miles out of position. It had also been a victim of Michelle. The area had been devastated by the 150 mph winds several months before, and was further damaged by the storm surge that followed. But by the time we arrived in the spring of this year, most of the damage was cleaned up and repaired, and the marina was open for business.

Soon after we arrived, a large contingent of very friendly officials - and two dogs wagging their tails - gathered on the dock. One dog specialized in sniffing for drugs, the other for arms and ammunition. After accommodating the whole group in the cabin of our 32-foot sailboat, the officials proceeded to generate and then stamp a pile of official papers. The height of the pile would have made any self-respecting bureaucrat proud. Fresh water and electricity were available at the dock, as well as a large supply of mosquitos - some of which were almost as big as small birds. So we retreated to the safety of the anchorage, where breezes kept the mosquito attacks to a minimum.

The Cayo Largo area is spectacular, with a beautiful sand beach, good snorkeling and fishing, and milky blue water that somehow blends in with the sky. With just a little help from a few Cuba Libres, it's not uncommon to see mirages.

Several days later we sailed on to Guano del Este, a huge Russian-built lighthouse that resembles a rocket ready to lift off, and anchored in 20 feet of water. The island's population consists of two lightkeepers, three goats, a pig and a dog. They are always happy to see new faces, partly because the keepers stay on the island - which is 80 miles from the Cuban mainland - for three months at a time. Only an occasional fishing boat or cruising yacht stops by. The next morning, however, brought a 60-foot Beneteau from France, two 40-foot German charter catamarans from Cienfuegos, a 35-foot German cruising sailboat, and a 20-foot catamaran from Switzerland. That night the wind freshened moderately, so soon the entire group was bouncing wildly in the sweeping light of the powerful beam and under a starry Caribbean sky.

We'd come here to Guano del Este because we were told that this is where the largest lobsters in the Caribbean homestead. After two days, we were the only sailboat left. Later that day we came into possession of four gigantic - more than two feet long - lobsters. The last time we'd eaten lobster was almost a year before, at Turtle Bay, Baja. We ate so much lobster while in Turtle Bay that it took us a year to develop the craving again. Cruising is like that; when you finally get something, it's usually too much.

- henry and nicole 09/01/02

Seeadler - Valiant 40
Ingo & Espie Jeve
The Med

We are currently back in Berlin trying to make my sister as comfortable as possible, as she has terminal lung cancer. We haven't written in a long time, so I figured we'd report on our cruising through the Med last year - meaning 2001 - and our thoughts about being on our boat on September 11. Our boat is currently in Kemer, Turkey. Here's the report from last year:

For seven months our home had been Gaeta, Italy, which is northwest of Naples and southeast of Rome. It's also home to a large U.S. Navy facility. We finally motored to the island of Ischia, which is just off Naples, where we found a great anchorage for the northeast winds under a castello. We stayed on one side of the castello until the wind moved to out of the southwest, at which time we had to move to the other side. The wind blows from all directions in the Med. It was still a bit rolly, so we left our boat and took the ferry for a daytrip to the famed island of Capri, which is further down the Bay of Naples. Capri was all right, but nothing to brag about.

We left Ischia with a full moon on May 8 for Palermo, Sicily, and had a nice crossing. During the night, two swallows landed on our boat - and one even briefly perched on my head! We didn't see them the next morning, but a few days later found one of them dead between a couple of our books. Palermo is Palermo, and we were lucky to find a spot in the Cala for $33 per night. It would have been fine if the sewer hadn't smelled so bad. Palermo started to look better to us on the second day, after we'd gotten some rest. We took a tour of the opera house, where a Japanese tourist informed us that a big shooting scene had been filmed there for the Godfather. We bought our first fresh swordfish in Palermo, and Espie prepared a delicious dinner.

Life was good as we made our way to Cefalu, Sicily, where we anchored for a week. One night it blew to 45 knots, so we were lucky to be hooked to the bottom with our new German-made 26-kilo Buegel anchor, which really held well. I also like the looks of the Spade, another new type of anchor. Our next stop was Port Rosa Marina, a terrific place that cost 85,000 lire a night. That sounds like a fortune, but it's wasn't that much. As of the first of this year, of course, everything is in Euros.

While at the big city of Reggio Calabria, on the Italian side of the Strait of Messina that divides Sicily from Italy, we visited the National Museum. They have two 2,500-year-old bronze statues that are six feet tall and look very lifelike. About 30 years ago a diver found them in 25 feet of water about six miles from the marina. If you're ever in this area, they are a must see. We spent eight more days at Rocella Ionica Marina, which was free because it hadn't been completed. Unlike most places in the Med, it had floating docks. While we were there, Sicily's Mt. Etna erupted. Although it was only 60 miles away, we couldn't see anything.

After a nice 36-hour full moon crossing of the Adriadic Sea, we made our first stop in Greece at Isla Levkas. The long trip made us feel as though we were cruising again. After staying for four days, we headed past Scorpio Island, which is owned by the Onassis family. Inspired by a Swedish couple we met at Rocella Ionica who had caught a swordfish, we put out two lines. With Espie on watch at 2 a.m., it was "fish on!" I got up as fast as I could to fight our fish, and put my thumb on the reel while we were beam reaching at six knots. That was a bad idea, and I still have a scar. Sadly, the 300-ft line snapped and we lost the lure and everything. It turned out that our 'fish' was a plastic bucket. There is a lot of plastic floating in these waters.

After a stop at Nidri, Greece, we were glad to hear that the strike at the Corinth Canal had been settled, which meant that we didn't have to sail around the Peloponese Peninsula. The three-mile long Corinth Canal is a marvel of human endeavour, as it's cut through 300 foot tall sandstone. Our transit cost $100. We continued to Mesolongia on the island of Trisonia, where we found another half-finished marina with water but not much ambience. After four days we left for Etea, which had another free marina and is close to the 2,000-year-old town of Delphi. We enjoyed wandering through the streets, imagining how life must have been back then. I found a very good replica of a Grecian helmet there made out of bronze, so we're carrying it onboard until we settle down again some day.

We continued on to Salamina Island, which was a convenient place to anchor for catching the ferry to Athens. We found the Acropolis to be a beautiful sight. To get from Athens to Turkey - about 150 miles - we had to cross the Aegean during the season when the dreaded meltemi winds were likely to strike. On our first two legs to Kea and Sirus, there wasn't any wind at all. While at Sirus we found evidence that we had a mouse aboard. We tried 11 traps during a period of two weeks, but had no luck. So I got some rat poison at Sirus, and after five days found a dead mouse.

During the meltemi season in the Aegean, it's really helpful to get good weather reports. We always listened to Tom on Starboard Home on 8104 at 8:30 a.m., as he really put his heart into his weather forecasts. After 10 days on Sirus, we left for Mykonos in a light breeze. During the last hour of our journey, however, we had 40 knots or more. It was no fun, and we basically just waited out the blow at Mykonos for two days.

Patmos, which has a great anchorage at the southern end, was our favorite island of the Cyclades. We rented a motorscooter and took a trip around the island, enjoying the fantastic views. Leros was our next stop where, like almost always, we anchored out. It's easy to do in most of Greece. We carry 135 gallons of water, but since we only use three gallons a day, we can go a long time before needing to put into a marina to fill up again.

After Greece, we were looking forward to Turkey, a new country with new people - 85% of whom are Muslims. Our first stop was Datcha, Turkey, which was a pleasant surprise. The people were friendly, honest, and helpful, and there were lots of interesting places in the vicinity. From Datcha we made a daytrip to Orhaniye Bay, where we dropped the hook for 45 days - and were never bored! What a perfect spot, as we could catch a mini bus for $1 for the 40-minute ride to the 'big city' and yachting center of Marmaris. Once you're in Turkey, the cost of living is very low.

We were anchored in a peaceful bay in Turkey on a beautiful September 11th when we heard about the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. We had to ask ourselves if it was really 2001 or if we were back in the 12th Century fighting another Holy War. In this day and age we have been to the moon, yet the world is in turmoil because of a despicable act of cowardliness in the name of Allah. We were so overcome with grief and pain that we had to leave our boat and seek comfort aboard a French boat. I, Ingo, am originally from Germany, and Espie is from the Philippines. Perhaps more than most, we are very, very glad that the world has a country like the United States. We both love America, and what it stands for. The terrorist attack was not only against America, but all the countries in the modern world. We, the 'Modern World', did not get where we are by sitting on our butts or trying to roll time back 400 years, but by moving forward. And we will continue to do so.

Kemer Marina in Antalya, Turkey will be our homeport for the next six months while we explore the interior of Turkey. Our surroundings here at Kemer are breathtakingly beautiful, with a 9,000-ft high mountain in the background.

If anyone is thinking of bringing their boat to Europe, the paperwork can be a hassle. It used to be that we could only stay in European Union waters for 12 months, after which we'd have to leave - if only for one day - or we'd be liable for Value Added Tax. More recently, it's been changed to 18 months before we have to leave for a day. It's very inconvenient, to say the least, but with some creative paperwork we were able to work around it.

Clearing is very inconsistent in Greece. In some places, they asked for a cruising fee of $100, but in some places they didn't - which we preferred. At Ikea, the Coast Guard guy came down immediately and demanded that we see him in his office. We looked and looked for his office, but could never find it. After three days we gave up and left - at 4 a.m.

- ingo and espie 9/05/02

Scarlett O'Hara - Serendipity 43
John & Renee Prentice
Quick Baja Bash
(Southwestern YC, San Diego)

In the August Cruise Notes, you were skeptical about a report that we'd done a Mazatlan to San Diego 'Baja Bash' in 5.5 days. We wish we could have done it that fast! We did leave from Mazatlan, but the 5.5 days was from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego. Scarlett is fast, but not that fast!

Why head back to San Diego? After 20 months of cruising, we were sure we wanted to continue on to the South Pacific, but knew that our 21-year-old Pathfinder diesel was not up to the task. So we made the hard decision to return to San Diego to replace the engine, get a new main, another solar panel, and some other stuff. Our plan is to work for two years to pay for all the new stuff and then head back to Mexico in the fall of 2004. We want the opportunity to get to know the cruising fleet before we leave on the 2005 Puddle Jump.

After a great bon voyage party with our good friends aboard Gemini, In The Mood, Maverick, and Alouette de Mer, we set off from Mazatlan on May 18, heading for Frailes, which is north of Cabo on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja. We always hope to sail, but the wind died after an hour. Thankfully, the seas were calm and good for our motorboat ride.

During the crossing, we checked into both the Amigo and Southbound nets. We also found that Ed on Siesta was running a net for boats in the Pacific that were headed to Hawaii. Don from Summer Passage was analyzing weather and providing routing guidance to those boats. John had gone to the Marquesas this spring aboard Final Straw, and Don had routed them flawlessly. When we asked, Don agreed to add weather info and advice for the outside of the Baja to the nightly net.

On the 22nd, Don told us to go, so we left Frailes at midnight, which allowed us to fuel up at Cabo and still get around Cabo Falso at 7:30 a.m. We immediately felt the air temperature drop about 20 degrees, but the wind was only about 15 knots. Thankfully, I had made solid Sunbrella side curtains that attached to our dodger, so our cockpit remained cozy and dry. As we continued north of Cabo Falso, I got very nervous, dreading the ever present wind and nasty sea conditions. But to my surprise, the wind was less than 20 knots and the seas, while lumpy, were not too bad. Scarlett motored along doing well under a single reefed main.

To our amazement, we never had more than 20 knots of wind to Turtle Bay, which is a little more than halfway to San Diego. The four hours we spent refueling at Turtle Bay was our only stop of the trip. As many Baja veterans know, Ernesto 'the fuel guy' is a delightful, resourceful, and somewhat shady character. He's also the only game in town when it comes to getting fuel delivered. Ernesto seems to understand English perfectly when you tell him how much fuel you need, and he has no trouble telling you that he needs to be paid in advance. The language problem only seems to come up when you ask for change! We ended up paying about $3 U.S. per gallon. We were nonetheless happy to be on our way again.

Don, our weather router, wisely encouraged us to push north, warning that a front was moving in that could bring rain, wind, and seas. As luck would have it, the front stalled, allowing us to make it into San Diego without experiencing any really adverse conditions. We were really lucky to have had such an easy bash, as lots of other cruisers experienced bad weather and had their boats damaged.

We were fortunate to have a slip waiting for us at the Southwestern YC, where we have been members for 26 years. Since our return, we have been visited by friends from Passages, Priceless, Wishful Thinking, In The Mood, Alouette de Mer, and Maverick, all of whom were escaping the Mexican summer. We have also had some good potlucks with fellow cruisers and yacht club members on Pax, Magic, and Jubilee. We also have kept in touch with our friends from Utopia, who sold her and bought a new Utopia in Florida to cruise the Caribbean this fall.

We can't say enough about the wonderful people we have met cruising. The friendships we made and the times we spent with our 'new' friends will remain the highlight of our trip. We look forward to returning to cruising and meeting more great people. We also have high praise for Don of Summer Passage, who goes to so much trouble and does such a great job of getting great weather reports to the various fleets. Thank you, Don! Just to let you know how much my husband respects Don, he told me that if Don told him to jump off a bridge, he would!

- renee 9/05/02

Cruise Notes:

A ray of hope for a change in clearing procedures in Mexico? Jens Kolbowski - who we first met in the Sea of Cortez in the '70s when he was cruising his Alameda based Cascade 42 - has an interesting report from the September 11 inauguration of the Cruise Port Village Terminal in Ensenada. According to Jens, the first speaker was Mike Power, a director of the parent company of the terminal operator. Power was emphatic that Ensenada had lost the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines business because of - and this will sound familiar to cruisers in Mexico - high costs, unnecessary paperwork, and ancient regulations. Power said that if progress continued to be made in remedying these problems, Royal Caribbean might return next fall. Next up was Leticiea Navarro, Federal Secretary of Tourism - the person to whom Latitude readers have been emailing complaints about the clearing procedures for recreational boats. She mentioned that tourism in Mexico was down for the year, although up very slightly since July. Eugenio Elourduy, Governor of Baja, then got up to promise to help overcome the ancient regulations and eliminate unnecessary costs and paperwork for cruise ships. Batting clean-up was none other than Vicente Fox, President of Mexico. After asking for a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks that had taken place exactly one year before, he switched to English and said that 6,000 jobs in Ensenada depended on cruise ships, and he intended to do what was necessary in terms of lower costs and less paperwork to bring them back.

If Mexican officials are finally getting the message that it's in their best interest to become better hosts to the cruise ship industry, perhaps they'll soon realize that it's also in their best interest to become better hosts to recreational sailors. Over the next month, we're going to try to come up with a plan to capitalize on Mexican officials' growing awareness of the problems. If you've got suggestions on how to do it, let's hear them. If, however, they are along the lines of blockading the harbor at Puerto Vallarta in protest, you'd better be willing to lead the effort with your own boat.

Hang on Harry! Earlier this year, we ran a Changes from Kirk and Catherine McGeorge of the Honolulu-based Islander 37 Polly Brooks, who while in Kuching, Sarawak two years ago, were thrilled to bump into Harry Heckel, Jr. of Norfolk, Virginia. Although 86 years of age, the energetic Heckel was in the middle of his second singlehanded circumnavigation aboard his 32-ft Tahiti sloop Idle Queen. Then, about a month ago, friends and relatives advised the Coast Guard that Heckel hadn't been heard from, and was two months overdue on a passage from Japan to somewhere on the west coast of the United States. Given Heckel's age, many feared the worst. Fortunately, the BBC Sealand stumbled across Heckel some 1,400 miles northwest of San Francisco in one of the more remote parts of the North Pacific. Heckel was in good shape, but welcomed another two month's worth of food and water. He explained that he could receive with his radio but not transmit. At last word, Heckel was reported to be making steady but slow - 3.5 knots - progress toward the coast.

"Please add us and our Hardin 45 Alegre to your list of circumnavigators," write Gordon and Joan Mery. "We departed Portland in July of 1998, spent 15 months in Puget Sound and Canada, nine months in the Bay Area and Delta, 16 months in Mexico, and then headed across the Big Pond to more or less follow the Milk Run. We spent two seasons in New Zealand, one in Australia, then went through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. After sailing across the Indian Ocean to Oman, we travelled up the Red Sea to the Med and Cyprus, where we spent a year. After four years in the Med, we crossed to Trinidad & Tobago, did Bonaire, the San Blas Islands, and continued to the Canal Zone. Back in the Pacific, we sailed up to Costa Rica, and then went offshore direct to San Diego. We crossed our outgoing track offshore of Manzanillo, having taken just over nine years for the actual circumnavigation. In all, we visited 37 countries and travelled about 38,000 miles. Our Hardin 45 - which we've lived aboard since June of 1980 - isn't that fast for a boat, but she's pretty quick for a house. We read Latitude regularly. It is still 'King of the Mags'.

Congratulations on your long circumnavigation. If you're not worldly wise, we're not sure who would be. And thank you for the delightful compliment.

"We're about to begin a second circumnavigation - this time with kids ages 7 and 8," reports Lisa, Brian, Max, and Gina of Glide, a custom Merrill 40. "We checked out your Circumnavigator's List and it's great. We also looked up the Mexico information. Unfortunately, we won't be ready in time to head south with the Baja Ha-Ha group, but we should be ready by mid-November. Is there any chance you could start a list for Puddle Jumpers or cruisers in the process of circumnavigations? We'd love to have a way to figure out who is out there and where they are. Thanks."

The problem with a current list of circumnavigators is that there are hundreds of cruisers who might be on their way around, but most will actually drop out along the way. Further, some of them will be taking two years, while others will be taking 25 years. In other words, it would be hard to get a handle on it. The best we can do is publish reports from folks as they send them in. As for the Puddle Jump, each spring we run a list of folks who say they're going to do it - and most of them do. We hope that will help. We're embarassed to say that we've misplaced the info on your first circumnavigation. Can you send us the details once again?

"We left San Francisco in October of '98 and joined the Baja Ha-Ha fleet for the trip to Mexico," write Bob and Barb Unanski of the Taswell 43 Freya. "After cruising Mexico from La Paz to Puerto Madera from November '98 until April of '99, we visited Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama. We loved Panama! We went through the Canal in November of '99 and continued across the top of South America to the ABC Islands, Venezuela, and Trinidad. We spent the last two years cruising all the islands of the Caribbean. This year we cruised Trinidad, Grenada, Bequia, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, the French islands, Antigua, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Turks & Caicos, and the Bahamas to Florida. We're now at the Ortega YC Marina in Jacksonville, Florida."

If you ever get a few minutes, Bob and Barb, we'd be interested in your observations on the differences between cruising in Mexico, Central America and Panama, and the Eastern Caribbean. It seems to us that they are very different experiences.

"Last month one of your readers complained about the lack of SSB nets in the Baja area, but there are several active ones," reports Alex Malaccorto of the Beneteau 42 Rocinante. "I recommend the Southbound Net, a very professional affair run by Patrick of Nostalgia. He begins with a weather advisory that is a compilation of forecasts from the Chubasco and Baja Ham nets, plus other weather information from the Internet. The Amigo Net is another popular SSB net in Mexico.

"There are two great SSB nets in Mexico," confirm Jerry and Kathy McGraw of the Newport Beach-based Peterson 44 Po Oino Roa. The Amigo Net is on 8.116 at 1400 Zulu, and the Southbound Net is on 4.054 at 0200. For boats further south, there is the Panama Pacific Net on 8.143 at 1400 Zulu, and the Panama Connection on 8.107 at 1330 Zulu. All frequencies are upper sideband. This list was current when we came through the Canal and up the coast this year. We still talk to friends in Mexico on the Amigo Net from here in Newport Beach, and I often hear the M/V Four Seasons check-in from the Bay Area."

By the way, Jerry and Kathy - who were well known in the Mexico cruising fleet last spring - tied the knot in Newport Beach in late August. Congratulations. Those who signed up for the Ha-Ha can find the details about nine major Ham or SSB nets at the back of the Latitude 38 First-Timer's Guide to Cruising Mexico. San Diego's Downwind Marine also publishes an extensive list of SSB and Ham nets.

If you're just getting started with SSB radio - which is a bit more complicated than VHF radio - there's a new SSB net designed to help you. "We launched the Northern California Marine SSB Net last month," reports Ed Hoff, WDA5925, of the Brisbane-based Columbia 45 Sorina. We're on 4149 (4B) every Monday night at 9 p.m. local time. Two boats checked in on our first Net, but it jumped to five and then six on the next two Monday nights. These included locals from Emeryville, Richmond, Redwood City, San Leandro and Santa Cruz, and more distant check-ins from Marina del Rey, Newport Harbor, and a vessel in transit west of Catalina headed to Santa Cruz Island. For several people, the Net has been their first opportunity to check that their SSB radio works. For others, it provides additional practise on operation and switching frequencies. My goal is not only that the Net will become a resource for local mariners, but also will help people become familiar with the operation of their marine SSB radios. For further information, visit http://home.netcom.com/~edhoff/ssbnet.html."

Cruisers often ask us why we don't have better distribution in the South Pacific. Cost is the obstacle. For example, when Jan and Signe Twardowski of the Deerfoot 64 Raven had their daughter-in-law Michelle look into shipping a single copy of Latitude to Rarotonga, it was going to be $163 U.S.! This is why we have to rely on all of you cruisers making trips back home - and friends of cruisers flying out to meet cruisers - for distribution. If you can cram a half dozen into your bags before you leave, you'll make a lot of folks happy - us included.

As some Panama vets might remember, we used to ship Latitudes to Panama, which is truly a cruising crossroads of the world. But that also became too expensive. But there's good news! The Pedro Miguel Boat Club says if we'll get a bundle or two to Miami - which we will - they'll take care of getting them shipped from Miami to Panama. It's a deal, so distribution at the Pedro Miguel BC should begin with this issue. But no matter if you have a Latitude in Panama or Papeete, please pass them around.

"We are back aboard our Marquesas 56 catamara Rhapsodie, having cruised from the Gold Coast area just south of Brisbane up to the Queensland coast these past two months," report Sam and Caren Edwards, with children Rachael and Dana of Portola Valley. "While in Brisbane, we had extensive repairs made to the main beam, which had been damaged during a rough passage from New Zealand to Fiji last year. Right now we are anchored off Lizard Island, just a few miles from the outer Barrier Reef. We will probably linger here another week or so before sailing on to the Louisiade Archipelago off the eastern tip of New Guinea. We'll be back in the Bay Area in mid-December for our annual visit, then return to the boat at the end of January."

"We left Rockport, Texas, in December of last year and had a cold trip along the IntraCoastal Waterway to Key West," report Mike, Mary, Noah (4), and Lydia (17 months) Hagan of the Rico, Colorado-based Alajuela 33 Muirgheal. "We then crossed to Cuba and spent our allotted two months exploring Havana and the northwest coast. Lydia had her birthday on Cayo Levisa. We also spent time in Esparanza, which was a great stop with very friendly locals. We're currently at La Belle, Florida, and plan to sail southeast through the Bahamas to the Turks & Caicos, then downwind along the south coast of Cuba and to Jamaica. After that, who knows?"

Even if the Bush Administration is supposedly cracking down on American's travelling to Cuba, it's obviously not stopping some sailors.

"Last month I was fortunate enough to sail from the Queen Charlotte Islands down to Vancouver, B.C. aboard Ailee Blanche, a 103-ft beauty with a 115-solid spruce mast," reports Michelle Slade of Alameda, the Columbia Gorge, and Auckland. "She was designed by Charles Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in their Gosport Yard in Southhampton back in 1939. She sleeps six in three aft staterooms, all with full ensuite showers and heads, of course. She has a crew of eight. The boat was actually stripped of all her hardware and sunk by her owner in 1942 to avoid confiscation by the Nazis. After the war, she was raised and fully restored - right down to her 42-ft wood boom, flawless teak decks, seemingly endless varnished brightwork, and even her '30s Christofle flatware and crystal. Her current owners, who have owned her for years, found her in Villefranche in the South of France, where she was the floating casino for an elderly lady who never moved her an inch in 12 years. The woman just used the salon and deck as a place to play cards in the afternoon. Ailee Blanche is mostly used for luxury charters these days, going out at $35,000 a week. We definitely had a relaxing trip, eating like royalty and pretty much sitting on our chuffs contemplating life for a week."

Luperón, Dominican Republic, might not look like much, but it's an important stop between Florida and the Eastern Caribbean - particularly for those waiting out weather to get to the Caribbean. Prices have been going up, however. It used to be $10 a boat and $10 per passport to check in. Passport prices have stayed the same, but now it's $42 per boat. Cruisers complain that despite the increase in costs, there has been no increase in services. Nonetheless, it's not uncommon for 100 boats to be anchored in Luperón during the spring.

Can anybody give us a recent report on the state of affairs in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala? It used to be a big and happy cruiser refuge during the summer hurricane season, but we've heard snippets that there has been some violence and that it's no longer considered safe to anchor out. Who can give us a recent first-person account?

"Spring is arriving in New Zealand and it continues to get warmer," reports Ken Machtley and Cathy Seigsmund of the Seattle-based Tashiba 31 Felicity. "The winter has been rather mild compared to our home in Seattle, but we still find that our heater is on most of the time. Cathy and I have been enjoying taking a break from cruising and getting to know New Zealand a bit better, but when next April rolls around, we'll be excited to take off again to enjoy Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Australia. Right now, however, we're in training as volunteers for the Louis Vuitton Cup, which begins in October and is the challenger series leading up to the America's Cup. We will be operating one of 20 patrol boats responsible for setting course marks and ensuring that spectators stay out of the race course. This will hopefully give us a good close-up view of the races. If our friends would like to see what else we've been up to lately, they should check out the recent additions to our website at www.svfelicity.com."

"After doing the '99 Ha-Ha and enjoying three years of great cruising in Mexico, we put our Jeanneau 40 Utopia up for sale," report John and Cynthia Tindle, and Mattie the boat dog, of Hermosa Beach. "Our boat sold in a month, which allowed us to buy a Jeanneau 45 out of the Sunsail charter program in Martinique. Buying from Sunsail was a positive experience. In July, I sailed our new boat, also called Utopia, up to Fort Lauderdale. I have now loaded up my van with tools and boat stuff and will be driving from Hermosa to Fort Lauderdale, where I will spend two months converting Utopia from a charter boat to a true cruising boat. Our future plans are to sail the Bahamas next winter, then possibly link up with Pete and Jean Ryan of the Santa Cruz-based Catalina 42 Neener3 in Florida for buddyboating up the IntraCoastal Waterway. The following year we'll either do New England or turn south and head to the Caribbean. In any event, we hope to see the Wanderer in St. Barts for New Years in a few years. We also hope you'll be doing more coverage of the Caribbean for all us West Coast sailors that are there now or will be soon."

With our two kids away at school, our hope is to sail from Grenada to the Virgins this winter. We need to visit old friends, see what's new, and update our stock photographs.

"We're currently on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, but plan to go through the Canal and sail to Hawaii in May, then back to San Francisco in the fall," report Marvin and Ruth Stark of the Folsom-based Catana 44 Chesapeake. "However, we're not sure if we should spend the whole summer in Hawaii, or if it would be better to sail the 'clipper ship route' from Panama to Hawaii. We're also looking for recommendations on which satellite phone would be best."

We've never cruised Hawaii, so we can't give an honest opinion. Perhaps one of our readers could suggest a summer itinerary for the Islands. As for satellite phones, there are distinct differences between the two primary low-cost options, which are Iridium and Globalstar. Iridium works almost all over the globe, but the audio quality is sometimes very poor. Globalstar has terrific sound quality, but only works within about 200 miles of shore. What's needed is Globalstar audio quality combined with Iridium coverage - and DSL-like Internet access.

If anybody sees Sue Robertson of the Formosa 41 Valkyrie, most recently in the Sea of Cortez, please advise her that we have the photo she inquired about and need instructions on how to get it to her. We've been unable to contact her by email.

If you're headed to Mexico for the first time and are looking for some structure to you're adventure, here's our tentative schedule for Profligate:

1) October 28 - November 9 - Baja Ha-Ha.
2) Week of November 28 - Thanksgiving at either La Paz, Mazatlan, or Puerto Vallarta.
3) December 1-7 - Sailors' Surfing Week at Punta de Mita.
4) January 31 - February 2 - Zihua SailFest.
5) March 19 - Punta de Mita Spinnaker Cup For Charity.
6) March 20-23 - Banderas Bay Regatta.
7) April 5-12 - Sea of Cortez Sailing Week.
8) May 2-5 - Loreto Fest.

We hope to see you there!

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