October, 2004

With reports this month from Lionesse on berth fees south of Mexico; from Swell on a planned surfing-sailing circumnavigation; from Water Witch on being lost on the rocks in Baja; from Ladyhawke on the circuitous road to chartering in the San Blas Islands; from Balou on cruiser safety in Guatemala's Rio Dulce; from Heart of Texas on living through hurricane Ivan in Grenada; from Jet Stream on making the switch from one hull to two; and Cruise Notes.

Lionesse - 69-ft Motoryacht
Jim & Kate Bondoux
Bocas del Toro, Panama
(Northern California)

Several times Latitude has mentioned the new marina in Bocas del Toro, Panama, so we decided to have a look. It's new, clean, well-run, and the folks are very friendly. They've just installed a new fuel dock, and we were one of their first customers. Elaine Allan, the manager, gave us a warm welcome and couldn't have been more helpful. As a result, we decided to leave Lionesse at the Bocas YC & Marina for the summer - locally known as 'the green season'. Ricardo, a marina employee, is watching our boat.

We want to advise everyone that cruisers in Panama are required to obtain zarpes between ports in Panama, and check in everywhere there is a port captain. We were unprepared for this, as we found no mention of it on Jimmy Cornell's website, Pat and John Raines' Cruising Ports (5th edition, 2003), nor in the Panama Cruising Guide by Eric Bauhaus (2002). The Panama Guide by Nancy and Tom Zydler (Second Edition, 2001) did have this to say: ". . . navigation permit allows a yacht to enter Panamanian ports for three months without any further paperwork. However, port captains in some remote places insist on issuing a clearance between harbors . . ." Kevin, the 19-year-old port captain in Bocas, wasn't satisfied with our cruising permit and admonished us for not having a zarpe from our previous port of Cristobal. The good news is that there is no charge for checking in.

We're being charged a base rate of $20/night for our 69-ft motoryacht at Bocas Marina, with fees for electricity to be added on later. Here's a list of what we've paid for various marinas south of San Diego: Ensenada Cruiseport, $77; Paradise Village, $57; Isla Navidad, $95; Marina Ixtapa, $99; and Huatulco, $40. All of these were in Mexico. At Marina Barillas in El Salvador we were only charged $8. At Puesta del Sol in Nicaragua, it was $28. In Costa Rica we were charged $62 at Los Sueños and $127 at Banana Bay. At the Flamenco YC on the Pacific side of Panama, it was $150, and at the Panama Canal YC it was just $35. Everyone should remember that we have a power-hungry motoryacht, which pushes up the charges. Some figures reflect a break in the daily rate because we stayed longer. As they say, 'your mileage may vary'.

Our plan is to cruise the San Blas Islands of Panama in late September, check out Cartagena, Colombia, and then, if a weather window opens, make tracks for Aruba and points east. We are, however, becoming quite concerned about the increase in violent crime against cruisers along the north coast of South America. We hope we don't have to reconsider our present plan.

- jim and kate 08/15/04

Jim and Kate - Thanks for the factual information on marina fees. It's amazing how much they vary, but above all, they show budget-minded cruisers how marina stays make the cost of cruising soar. Fortunately, there are free anchorages next to or near almost all the marinas you mentioned. For example, after coming through the Canal in May, we anchored just outside the Flamenco YC, saving ourselves - based on your figures - $150 a night.

As for travelling within Panama, we found the situation to be chaotic. What officials said in the San Blas Islands was disputed by the officials in Cristobal. The default is that everyone should expect to have to check-in each time they reach an area with another port captain.

Swell - Cal 40
Liz Clark
Sailing/Surfing Circumnavigation?
(Santa Barbara)

From December of '89 to June of '90, Liz Clark, then just 9 years old, did a six-month cruise to Mexico with her parents - father Russell, mother Melissa, as well as older brother James and younger sister Kathleen. Cruising the family's San Diego-based Gulfstar 50 Endless Summer, they went as far south as Banderas Bay and up into the Sea of Cortez. It was an experience that changed Liz's life.

"It was during that trip that I realized how much I loved the ocean," she says. "But the trip also made me become an environmentalist. I saw how dirty Mexico was, how the people were ignorant of how to properly dispose of trash, and how they polluted their harbors."

Thus it was only natural for Clark to become an Environmental Studies major when she attended school at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Now 24 years old, Liz graduated 18 months ago. Given Liz's love of the ocean, it's also not surprising that she became a surfer. "I competed for the UCSB women's team for all four years and won the National Collegiate Championship when I was a senior. I'm pretty good. I ride shortboards made by Jason Fiest of Santa Barbara."

Like a lot of folks who just graduated, Clark wasn't exactly sure what she wanted to do. Being a pro surfer was one possibility, but performing in contests isn't her favorite type of surfing. She also loves sailing, so when the opportunity presented itself to join a Santa Barbara mega-yacht for a trip around the world, she signed on. But by the time they reached Acapulco, Liz decided the situation wasn't right for her and opted off.

Rather than come right home, Clark joined Nick del Giogio's Cal 34 No Intentions for six months of cruising and surfing, getting as far south as Golfito, Costa Rica. While the relationship ultimately didn't work out, Liz did get the opportunity to surf some fine breaks, such as Puerto Escondido on mainland Mexico and Ollie's Point in Costa Rica. (Her favorite spots in the Santa Barbara area are Hammond's Reef and - who would ever guess? - Rincon.)

Back in Santa Barbara in the summer of '03, Clark didn't want a 'real' job, but something that was different and would also afford her plenty of freedom. Socially, Santa Barbara is a small harbor, and Liz serendipitously started crossing paths with Barry Schuyler, an 80-year-old retired Environmental Science professor from UCSB. Schuyler has been a big supporter of women's sailing, and was instrumental in Betsy Crowfoot's all-women Cal 40 Antara campaign in the TransPac. Over the course of several conversations, Schuyler mentioned that he was looking for a young woman to sail his Contessa 26 around the world. (For some reason, the Contessa 26 has been a popular boat with young American solo circumnavigators. Tania Aebi mostly singlehanded one around the world in one, Brian Caldwell of Honolulu later went all the way around alone on a sistership.)

Clark makes no bones about the fact that she's not looking to set any solo circumnavigation speed records, or even go all the way around alone. "My dream is to do a sailing/surfing cultural trip around the globe, where from time to time I'm joined by different people - preferably surfers - for surfing and sailing. I want to show people what I love about the ocean." Nonetheless, she gave Schuyler's Contessa 26 a tryout cruise to the Channel Islands. Although Schuyler was willing to pour lots of money into the boat and a circumnavigation attempt, Clark had to respectfully decline. "It was hard turning down the offer, but doing a solo circumnavigation is not my dream, and a 26-footer is a smaller boat than I'd like to go around in."

Not long after that, Schuyler decided to modify his offer. He would match whatever money Clark could raise to buy the boat of her choice for her sailing/surfing safari. With some help from her father, Clark accumulated a chunk of money and started shopping for a boat. "Some brokers tried to point me in the direction of Westsail 32s and other full-keel cruising boats," she remembers, "but I wanted something faster and more lively." That's when she stumbled across the Cal 40 Alisio in Santa Barbara Harbor. Although the boat wasn't for sale at the time, it turned out the owner wasn't using her much and was getting ready to sell. She now belongs to Clark - with a huge help from Schuyler - and has been rechristened Swell.

Clark has a vague plan for a three- to five-year surfing-related circumnavigation, but her short term plans are more definite. Come December or January, she plans to sail and surf down the coasts of Mexico and Central America to Panama, getting accustomed to her boat and her being in charge at sea. From there she hopes to continue on to the Marquesas and Tuamotus, perhaps by herself, perhaps with a couple of surfers. After that, her plans will depend largely on how much money she's able to earn or funding she's able to generate.

Swell is your basic Cal 40. It's obvious that she's nearly 40 years old, but she's still a Cal 40, which means she's a hell of a boat. If we had to pick a design for a young woman to try to take around the world shorthanded, a Cal 40 would be somewhere near the top of the list. Mike Jansen has been helping her outfit the boat with a Yanmar diesel, and she's already installed a Monitor Windvane. A thoroughly modern sailor, Liz would like to add a few more things to the boat before she takes off around the world. A new main would be nice, as would a new skiff and outboard, an autopilot, a SatPhone, a weather routing service, and a Honda generator. Such things are hard to afford while working as a bartender at one of the harbor restaurants, so she's working on getting sponsorships and donations.

It helps that Liz enjoys the support of her family. "My dad, who still owns Endless Summer, is excited, and will live the trip vicariously. My mom is happy for me because she always knew that I was going to do something different. My brother and sister think it's great. They love the ocean, too, but not as much as me."

We asked a few people around the harbor what they thought of Liz's chances of actually going all the way around. Nobody doubted that she had the basic sailing skills that would allow her to acquire more sophisticated shorthanded sailing skills as she went along. The biggest obstacles they thought she might face weren't money, but maintaining her passion for the long haul and/or being distracted by romance.

With a daughter who is about the same age as Liz, and who vaguely resembles her in appearance, we have a soft spot for Liz's dream. So if she continues to make progress toward the start of her trip, we'd find it difficult not to chip in and help her acquire some of the gear she needs. And if Swell crosses paths with Profligate in Mexico this winter, we think it would be a kick to try to organize a 'surfer-sailor' surf contest fundraiser for her at Punta de Mita or one of the other surf spots.

If you like the sound of Liz's project and would like to give her moral or financial support, or if you're a surfer-sailor girl who might be interested in her proposed adventure, you can reach her by . If you're a surfer-sailor dude who'd like to join this sweet and attractive young lady on her sailing-surfing expedition, be sure to address your emails to 'Liz's Boyfriend'.

- latitude 09/05/04

Water Witch - 56-ft Wood Ketch
Doug Tiffany
Classic Yacht Lost On Carmen
(Port Townsend)

A reader who recently returned home from Mexico wrote the following as an introduction to Doug Tiffany's report on the tragic loss of his 56-ft classic wood ketch Water Witch at Isla Carmen in the Sea of Cortez:

"We first met Doug Tiffany and Water Witch while anchored at Isla Ballandra near La Paz. Tiffany and his ketch came in and left under sail, as his engine wasn't very strong at the time. Later he became our neighbor at the virtual marina along the La Paz waterfront. A retired professional shipwright, Tiffany had spent many years getting Water Witch prepared for cruising, and she was one of the best equipped cruising boats around. Tiffany was the perfect neighbor, too. He was always willing to lend a hand, and helped me up the mast of my boat many times. He also had a lot of tools and equipment, and was generous about loaning them out to others. His loss is a loss to all cruisers. What follows is the report Doug sent to his friends:

"At 3 a.m. on September 2, I lost my boat to the rocks lining the shore at La Lancha Bay, Isla Carmen, in the Sea of Cortez. The site is about 10 miles to the east of Loreto. I'd left La Paz a month earlier, and was slowly making my way north, enjoying each island in the chain. At that time of year the wind blows from the south, so when I anchored in La Lancha, I set the anchor for a southerly blow in 25 feet of water with good holding in a sandy bottom. A lovely lady named Luise Marchi, was with me, having joined the boat in La Paz. She'd spent about five years in the area 30 years before, so she knew it well. The reef at La Lancha was like an aquarium - the best we'd ever dove on. So we'd spent the day snorkeling in 80° water - a nice change from the 100+° on the boat. After dinner we played backgammon in the cockpit, at which time we noticed high-altitude clouds, with thunder and lightning, building to the north on the mainland side of Baja. We removed the awnings just in case the wind came up, and stayed awake to keep an eye on the weather.

"The wind started to blow at about 1 a.m. and increased in strength, swinging Water Witch 180° around and putting her on a lee shore. In addition, the seas started to form from the north, with nothing to interrupt their fetch. I had a 66-lb Bruce out with 7/16" chain - good, heavy tackle - and we didn't drag. Although it was pitch black except for when the lightning illuminated the sky, I had a good reference point on land. But the waves hitting the shore caused the water to shallow up - and the next thing I knew the boat was hitting the bottom. I started the motor and motored into deeper water, but with the strong winds, the bow kept being blown off to one side or the other. And with the anchor dug in, I couldn't motor further out. I didn't think of letting all the chain go and coming back to retrieve it later. When the wind shifted more to the northwest, it put us closer to the rocky shore. With the chain stretched all the way out and with the waves causing the boat to hobbyhorse, the keel finally made contact with the rocks. Once that happened it was all over. The starboard side was holed and water quickly poured into the boat.

"With the water coming in so fast, Luise and I weren't able to get much stuff from the interior of the boat. And with the waves rocking the boat back and forth, we had no choice but to get into the dinghy and go ashore, which is where we spent the night. We did manage to put out a Mayday on the VHF, as we knew some cruisers were in a bay close by. They arrived at first light and took us aboard, giving us food and coffee, and helping us assess the situation. But when it appeared that another storm was forming, we had to leave for a safer anchorage.

"The Mexican Navy arrived that afternoon with a really big panga, and we went back to work salvaging all we could from the deck - anchors, chain, liferaft, sails, dinghy, outboard, and so forth. Because of all the flotsam, we were unable to get much from Water Witch's interior. Eventually we got all the stuff we could salvage to the Baja shore, where I was able to put it into storage with a friend. The islands in the Sea of Cortez are federal parks, so the issue of potential pollution was a concern. I was, of course, responsible for my wreck, so with the help of the Harbormaster in Loreto, a salvor was located. I was able to sign the wreck over to him, which let me off the hook for any potential pollution. I must say that everybody - Mexican officials and citizens - bent over backwards to help. Everyone was simpatico to my situation, and nobody ever tried to rip me off.

"I'm still in shock over the loss and don't know what I'm going to do. I lost all my possessions in the wreck and had no insurance, so it's been a very big blow to me. At this point I think I'll try to find a boat headed south in December, or find work and try to get another boat. If I get another boat, it would be much smaller and simpler. One way or the other, I want to get back to cruising. So that's my story, and as they say, I'm sticking to it."

If any friends would like to reach Tiffany with condolences - and maybe a contribution to get him back on his feet - he can be reached by .

- charles 09/10/04

Ladyhawke - 62-ft Trimaran
Capt. Jonathan and Joell White
New Boat, New Careers
(Northern California)

It's been four years since we and JoJo, our Catfisher 32, were mentioned in Latitude. At the time, we'd just left Cartagena and pounded for five miserable days up the coast of Colombia to Aruba. From there we made a beeline to Puerto Rico, and arrived in the British Virgins just six days before the start of the 2000 Tortola Charter Boat Show. We were at the show because friends from the 52-ft charter cat Tamarin had convinced us that we had the boat and personalities to be successful doing charters in the British Virgins. (Unfortunately, our friends' cat hit a container on the way from Cartagena to Tortola and was lost at sea!)

With the help of some young friends, we managed to transform JoJo from a cruising boat to a charter 'yacht' - complete with proper dinnerware and matching outfits for Joell and me - in just five days! Despite the fact that we were docked as far from the center of things as possible, and in spite of the derogatory remarks from some crews of the much larger charter cats, we made quite a hit that year. With promises of bookings from most of the major charter brokers, we looked forward to a new phase of our lives.

Unfortunately, unexpected family matters forced us to return to the U.S. After taking care of them, we found ourselves living aboard JoJo in Southern Florida in the spring of 2001. Through a typically serendipitous route for us, we ended up in Jupiter, Florida, where we founded a natural health magazine while tied up at a marina! While Joell labored away in front of the computer laying out the magazine, I drove all over hot and humid south Florida - in my air-conditionerless Bugatti replica - trying to sell advertising. We published our first issue in October of that year, and it was an instant success. However, the strain of publishing a magazine in the confines of JoJo's salon took its toll, and made us both quite unhealthy! After a few more issues, we sold the magazine and put JoJo on the hard at Glades Boat Storage in central Florida - a great place to leave a boat.

What could be more natural for us than to change careers from publishers of a natural health magazine to long-haul truck drivers? In a bizarre move, the two of us went to truck driving school in Spartanburg, South Carolina. After three cold and sometimes terrifying weeks, Joell graduated at the top of the class - and we were flown to company headquarters in Salt Lake City. There we leased a gleaming red International truck that we named Margaret after the intrepid sailor Margaret Roth. For most of 2002, we crisscrossed the country, delivering all kinds of goods to all kinds of places. You may think truck driving would be a great way to see the U.S., but it's really just a great way to see 5,000 miles of seemingly unending highway a week - as well as grubby truckstops and too many nasty cops. Even though we ate healthy foods, the lifestyle got us out of shape. Combined with the fact that we missed cruising, it was time to do something else.

Terminating our truck lease, we headed back to JoJo, spent a month fixing her up, and took off on a cruise to the Florida Keys. In July of '03, we ended up back in Fort Lauderdale, where we got an apartment, Jon got a job at a small brokerage that specialized in selling multihulls, and we decided to sell JoJo. In six months, Jon sold $1.3 million of used catamarans, and JoJo was sold to a new home in San Diego. Yes, our Catfisher 32, which we'd bought in North Carolina and had trucked to Sausalito, and which we then sailed to Florida over a three-year period, was trucked back to California once again.

Our next move was to do what Capt. Jon swore he'd never do - buy a large wood boat. It's true that Ladyhawke is cold molded with epoxy, which isn't as bad as regular wood construction. But, she's still a huge trimaran, 62 feet overall, with a 27-ft beam. She also has many complicated systems, such as a 15kw generator, a watermaker, air-conditioning, and an intimidating amount of varnished exterior. She was sadly neglected for three years after losing her mast, but we instantly saw through the flaking varnish, a few areas of deck rot, and dark and mildewy interior to see her for the unique and special boat she is.

All this happened last January. Since then, we have breathed new life into our distinctive trimaran, through countless hours of work and a fair bit of money. We bought a used mast in Ft. Lauderdale, then spent five weeks at Bob & Annie's Boatyard - a wonderful place to haul, especially for multihulls - on the west coast of Florida. With the mast up and a short sail to make sure everything was all right, we headed out to the Dry Tortugas. During the past three months we've made our way down through Mexico and Belize to the Bay Islands of Honduras - a truly beautiful place with lovely people.

We've written this letter while at anchor in the Vivarillo Cays off the northwest Cape of Honduras. The cays are nothing more than three very small, low-lying islands with a mile-long reef - but they offer a calm lee against the easterly tradewinds as well as superb diving. Tomorrow we sail towards Isla Providencia, our next stop on our way back to Panama. We still have work to do on Ladyhawke before we start the charter season at Panama's San Blas Islands in December. That's right, we're going to charter in the San Blas, a little-known but remote and gorgeous area. If anyone back home wants any information, our website is www.ladyhawkecharters.biz.

It's been a remarkable four years for us, with many new faces and new places. But we feel we're back where we should be, on the bluewater among the palm-studded islands, looking for new adventures and some people to enjoy them with.

- jon & joell 9/10/04

Balou - Hardin 45 Ketch
Jerry Johnson
The 'Troubles' In The Rio Dulce
(Key West, Florida)

While reading Latitude online, I came across your request for current information on the 'troubles' on the Rio Dulce, a hurricane hole on the Caribbean side of Guatemala that has long been popular with cruisers. My wife Gayle and I have been on the river for over a year and are happy to respond.

Yes, there have been armed robberies on the Rio Dulce - even from boats anchored by the bridge right in front of the village of Fronteras. These robberies occurred a number of months ago and involved two boats over a period of several days. In both cases the robbers were armed, had boarded the boats while the occupants were sleeping with the hatches and companionway open, and escaped on a fast boat. The thieves were looking for cash. The only casualties were the wits of the people on board - although one person reported sustaining a minor facial injury from being pistol-whipped. In both cases, the pair of robbers also left with the cruisers' dinghies - and warned the victims that they would return to kill them if they reported the robbery. Nonetheless, both incidents were reported on the Rio Dulce VHF Net the following morning.

While in progress, the second robbery was noticed by a guard at the nearest marina. A gun battle ensued, as several guards boarded a launch and headed toward the boat being robbed. Despite more than 10 rounds being fired before the thieves escaped in their launch - with the victim's dinghy in tow - nobody was hurt. One of the thieves shot holes in the dodger of the boat he was robbing. There was no other physical damage to boats or injuries to humans. My wife and I, aboard our nearby boat, were awakened by the gunfire. We quickly rolled off our bunk and onto the cabin sole. We fully expected to see holes appear in the hull of our boat at any second.

It's believed that both robberies were conducted by the same gang, and that one of the robbers was later killed in Guatemala City during another robbery attempt. In the case of both boat robberies, the local authorities took the information provided by the victims, but did nothing else.

We've also heard reports of two robberies of boats anchored in the Rio Tatin - although we don't have direct confirmation from the victims. It was reported that in one case the robbers severely beat one sailor and raped his companion. Following the attacks, there were no cruising boats anchored anywhere on the river for several weeks. Since then, there have been no incidents - beyond the larceny of deck gear and dinghies.

Based on our time here and what we know of the incidents, we'd encourage cruisers to be cautious, but not to avoid the Rio Dulce. After all, there have certainly been worse crimes in Key West and especially Miami, but cruisers don't think of avoiding them. A few simple precautions - which ought to be employed no matter where one cruises, U.S. or foreign water - would protect your deck and cockpit equipment, as well as your dinghy and outboard motor.

In addition, cruisers should never sleep with their companionway open and unlocked from the inside. Devise a means to be awakened should someone attempt to enter your boat. It's also a good idea to be able to bar your hatches from the inside to prevent entry while you sleep. We also recommend that you carefully think through what your response would be if someone attempted to board your boat at night - and even worse, if you woke up to find someone shining a flashlight in your eyes and holding a gun to your nose. Our advice is to concentrate on preventing theft and entry as opposed to repelling robbers with force.

We had a scary experience of our own, which is actually another facet of the issue above. We had heard numerous reports and rumors of robberies on the far side of Lake Izabal, and were warned not to go there alone. But since nobody was willing to go exploring with us, we went anyway - and thus ended up being the only boat anchored on the other end of the lake near El Estor and the effluent of the Rio Sauce. Actually, I believe we were the only non-local boat on the entire lake. In any event, it was about 9 p.m. and pitch black when we heard an outboard motor and a voice in Spanish yelling for us to come on deck and show ourselves. The launcha showed no lights and nobody had a flashlight on. Since we couldn't see them, I thought it was only fair that they not see us - so I turned off all our exterior and interior lights. This resulted in a lot more yelling outside.

I looked through a port to see who it was out there, thinking that we were perhaps in serious trouble - and dodged flashlight beams as they tried to look inside the same port. With our meager understanding of Spanish, and their belief that despite flying a U.S. flag we must speak Spanish, we had no idea what they were saying except to come up on deck right then and show ourselves. But when I yelled at them to identify themselves, there was no answer. As they became more frantic, one of them finally shined his flashlight on his hat - and I saw the emblem for the Port Captain. He then shined his flashlight on one of his companions in a national policeman's uniform - although the fellow vehemently objected to being lit up for targeting!

Once they identified themselves, I naturally yelled back that I had no problem with turning on the lights and coming up on deck. With the boat illuminated, I came up into the cockpit - to find the Port Captain pointing his 9mm pistol through the porthole in the nav station. I also found the Port Captain's assistant and two national police with 9mm handguns, as well as three soldiers with AK-47s - all leveled at me! I assured them I had nothing up my sleeves, and asked them what the devil they were doing near my boat in the dark. Because of the language barrier, the best we could come up with is 'routine inspection'.

Indeed, they wound up inspecting our documents, and then requested permission to come aboard for an inspection of the interior. I naturally gave them permission. After about 15 minutes, they got tired of looking in lockers at spare parts and food, and quit. They apologized profusely for the inspection and, when questioned further, explained that they did not have a radio, so they could not call us. Besides, they asked, why would they want to identify themselves? "We might get shot if we did!" they said.

When cruising, it's important to be especially mindful of differences in cultures. In the States and other places in the world, if you do not identify yourself as the authorities, you might get shot at. That is part of my culture, and those brought up like me would normally expect the local authorities to represent themselves in the same way. But as we learned that dark night in Guatemala, that's not necessarily the case elsewhere. So don't assume the guy outside in the dark is a robber.

- jerry 09/09/04

Heart of Texas - Hunter 450
Rankin Tippins & Sandy Hollis
Hurricane Ivan & Grenada
(Houston, Texas)

This firsthand account of being with a boat in Grenada during hurricane Ivan was forwarded to us by Harry Heckel, the 87-year old who has circumnavigated twice with his Idle Queen. It was written by Rankin Tippins and Sandy Hollis. Rankin is a longtime sailor who once crewed from Panama to French Polynesia, but who then drifted off to powerboats while pursuing a career as a corporate attorney in Houston. After getting back to sailing and going cruising, he has "managed the adjustment to being his own boss - and all the freedom, independence, and responsibility associated with the cruising lifestyle." Sandy, a computer consultant who has only been sailing two years, was lured into cruising by "promises of magnificent sunsets, beautiful beaches, wonderful tropical cocktails served to me by handsome, young cabana boys - and by no more stress." She's yet to see a handsome young cabana boy.

We wanted to let y'all know how things went with us and our Hunter 450 Heart of Texas during hurricane Ivan's visit to Grenada in the southern part of the Eastern Caribbean. Many marine insurance policies require boats to be south of 12°40' in the Caribbean during the summer and fall to reduce exposure to losses due to hurricanes. The southern part of Grenada, a smaller-than-Catalina-size island/nation with a population of about 90,000, is at 12°00' - or about 40 nautical miles south of the hurricane zone as defined by insurance companies. There is a reason for this - Grenada hadn't taken a direct hurricane hit from a hurricane since 1955, and is believed to have been directly hit only three times in 150 years.

As still-tropical storm Ivan approached Grenada, the U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted he would cross St. Lucia, about 120 miles to the north, on his westward path. But as Ivan became a hurricane and came ever closer, the NHC changed its prediction to his crossing between St. Lucia and St. Vincent, which is only about 90 miles to the north. Two days before the storm hit, the NHC was still predicting a veer to the north, but by that time many cruisers had lost faith and were taking off for Trinidad or Venezuela's Isla Margarita. As late as a day before Ivan hit, a few cruisers decided to make a run for it. They were the lucky ones.

Our Hunter 450 was docked at Clark's Court Bay Marina, the only floating docks in Grenada. The docks were secured by large chains to moorings rather than pilings. We decided not to make a run for Trinidad because we had faith in the experts' ability to forecast Ivan's path. Other boats either anchored with several anchors in the various bays on the south end of Grenada or backed into the mangrove swamps and tied off to the trees.

About 12 hours before Ivan hit - which was at 0300 on September 7 - it became apparent that there was no escaping. People started leaving their boats to find shelter. Although I wanted to stay with our boat, Sandy insisted that we take a cab to a hotel. Around mid-afternoon Ivan was blowing all the corrugated roofs and tree foliage away. We stayed in the hotel room for the first half of Ivan and watched through the plate-glass doors as many objects flew by sideways. It reminded Sandy of the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz. We heard that the winds exceeded 130 mph. After the leading edge of the eye passed, we joined the other cruisers and locals in a ground floor conference room that had fewer windows. When darkness fell we returned to our room where we spent a sleepless night.

With the hurricane having moved west by the next morning, we walked three miles to the marina and saw devastation all around. Not one house in 10 still had a roof. Others described the island as looking like Hiroshima after the atom bomb. We don't have a complete picture of the hurricane damage because communications have been out. There is no power or water.

We arrived at the marina to find a typical post-hurricane scene of boats awry with some piled on top of others. We and the crew on the boat next to us had put out anchors, which may have contributed to our boats not being carried away with the others. From the few people who had stayed on board their boats - and said they'd never do it again! - we learned that the docks first went one way, then the other way, and finally broke up. Some boats were completely destroyed while others just had cosmetic damage. The boat on one side of us had cosmetic damage and all her stanchions ripped off. The boat on the other side of us had sunk in place. Our Hunter 450 suffered a large gash in the stern just above the waterline where she'd been hitting the dock, opening up one side of the lazerette. Plus, some of our stanchions were damaged. Our rigging is fine and, oddly enough, the solar panel we left just tied down survived as well. All in all, it could have been much worse for us. Luckily we carry insurance, although a large deductible applies because it was a named storm.

Although there were something like 20 reported deaths, apparently nobody died in the marinas or on any of the boats. [Editor's note: It was later reported that three people died on boats.]

The boats that set multiple anchors in open bays seemed to have dragged no matter what they put out. Where they ended up was a matter of luck. The boats tied to the mangroves generally seemed to have fared better, although many ended up in a big pile - as did a lot of boats in our marina. The VHF radio is full of tales of woe and relief.

We hope to seal the gash in our hull and leave tomorrow for Trinidad, which is about 12 hours away. We want to get off the dock so our boat doesn't suffer any more damage and to allow other boats to leave. I'm hoping we can get additional repairs in Trinidad. I know that Grenada will be in bad shape for a very long time and there will be a long wait for repairs.

Sandy says that having experienced Isabel last year and Ivan this year - two hurricanes that weren't supposed to be where they were - she's had it with such storms. I guess that means we'll be sailing the Pacific where they only have typhoons.

- rankin 09/09/04

Jet Stream - Moorings 4500 Cat
Tim Schaaf & Marsha McCoskrie
Monohull To Catamaran
(Baja, Mexico)

First of all, for many years I've been using a fuel filter like the West Marine one you've been having trouble with. I use it as part of Casual Water's normal fueling procedure. You empty its sump by squeezing the big end of the funnel, which narrows the flow so that you can pour the dregs into a Coke bottle - where I let it sit to see if there's any water in it. By the way, I also have a Baja Filter, but have never mastered the art of cleaning that one up. It has a little liquid residue which likes to get loose. I much prefer the plastic funnel, and bought one just like yours from West Marine for Jet Stream.

Jet Stream? That's the name Marsha and I finally settled on for the Moorings 4500 catamaran that I reported buying several months ago. The whole Moorings "phase out" process for getting boats out of their charter program was very interesting. Unfortunately, it ran well behind schedule, as The Moorings was reportedly having their best spring in years. At the end of the day, however, we took delivery of a boat that was in nearly impeccable shape for the trip back to Florida, so the delays were worth it. I can't say enough in appreciation for Bob Ross and Dave Cooper, The Moorings' brokers that we dealt with.

We had planned on cruising the British Virgins for a week before heading west, but ultimately didn't have the time. Crewing with Marsha and myself were my great friends Mike and Heather Hibbetts, who first met when she crewed aboard Profligate in a Ha-Ha, and who recently moved their CT-49 Orion to her new homeport of Houston. Their help on the delivery was invaluable, and their company aboard was delightful. We spent a month together, finishing the boat prep and sailing to Fort Lauderdale.

I can't tell you how much difference it makes to have a cat when you have guests! The four of us had so much space that there was no question of friction of any sort. Mike and Heather could have stayed permanently and it would have continued to be great fun. We're looking forward to the pleasure of sharing Jet Stream with other friends as well - something that I couldn't say for my Hunter 33 Casual Water or most other monohulls. And Jet Stream would be super for Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.

Having two engines is interesting. At cruising revs, we use about 1.3 gallons per hour, per engine. We normally motor on one engine at about seven knots. When we bring the other engine on, we nudge up to the middle 8s - but it hardly seems worth it because we double our fuel consumption. Our max speed is about 9.5 knots. Jet Stream supposedly comes in at about 23,000 pounds when not loaded down, and so far we haven't weighed her down with lots of possessions. But she did come with three (!) air-conditioners and a diesel generator, not to mention a 25-hp powered hard-bottom inflatable. We usually carry lots of fuel but not much water because we have a watermaker - but it's easy to see how a spacious cat could get weighed down if we're not careful.

The various delays kept us from doing any sailing other than just raising the main and unfurling the jib at the dock at Tortola in the British Virgins. Although I don't recommend it, we headed straight for the 750-mile distant Cat Island in the Bahamas with no further shakedown! At least we'd become intimate with all of our cat's systems, which were working, and she was a well-tried crewed charter cat. Any doubts we may have had about her were quickly erased, as Jet Stream performed like a champ. We sailed 80% of the way to Cat Island and not one thing broke, came loose, or failed in any way. Except for the SSB, that is, which I brought from Casual Water and which had been giving me fits for the better part of a year. Other than that, it was a perfect passage.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to tarry in the Bahamas. But our good weather and mechanical fortune held all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. And what a place that is!

Given the incessant trumpeting about 'Homeland Security', you'd think that U.S. Customs might have been interested in visiting a boat that was being imported into the U.S. for the first time. Not so! They couldn't be bothered. Coming from South Africa, Jet Stream is tax exempt, but I would have thought that someone might have been interested in confirming that we didn't have weapons, drugs, refugees, or Fidel Castro aboard. Maybe next time I'll call in as the sailing vessel Islamic Jihad and see of we get a different response.

From Fort Lauderdale, Marsha and I doublehanded up to Solomons Island in the Chesapeake. With a 72-foot mast, our Leopard/Moorings 4500 is not an IntraCoastal Waterways boat, but we ducked in at Ft. Pierce, Jekyll Island, and Ocracoke. The barrier island of Ocracoke is a special place that's accessible only by boat - put it on your list. Our weather luck held, although we spent much of the midnight-to-dawn watch each night dodging big thunderstorms. Don of Summer Passage would have been on the edge of his seat with anticipation! Our radar proved invaluable in dodging the storms, and we managed to get out of the way of about 75% of them.

We made it to Solomons Island about a week before the first hurricane bedeviled the Hatteras area, and then battened down for Bonnie and Charley. Although Charley was blowing at over 70 mph just 150 miles south of us, he took a right turn and was a complete non-event here on the Chesapeake. The remnants of Bonnie, however, did drop quite a bit of rain. I felt like I was back in Baja, dodging and prepping for hurricanes.

The East Coast boating and marina scene is very different from California and Mexico. Only one marina we've been in has had locked gates - or even had gates at all! Nonetheless, security seems just fine. Of course, we haven't been to any big cities besides Lauderdale, and there we tied up to our broker's backyard. The typical dock on the East Coast, however, is another matter. Floating docks are a rarity, and we have been getting used to tying up to all sorts of rickety piles and other dock-like structures that would not be tolerated in California or, for that matter, most of Mexico. You really need a rubrail or lots and lots of fenders. It seems so primitive, but that's the way folks like it here. The other day I heard someone criticizing "those stupid floating docks".

But you would think that mariners here would expect more, as the daily rate at marinas is even higher than at Marina Cabo San Lucas - where I worked for many years, and which has much more to offer in the way of facilities and services. Solomon's Yachting Center, the marina we'll be in for the next few months, is an exception, as it does have floating docks, is very nice, and is reasonably priced. It was completely rebuilt after biting the dust in hurricane Isabel last fall.

We'll be here until late October, at which point we'll head back to the Caribbean.

- tim & marsha 9/15/04

Cruise Notes:

With a new Mexico cruising season to begin in a month, the big question is whether or not the domestic clearing regulations in Mexico will be changed. Because these regulations require unjustifiably expensive and time-consuming procedures wherever there is a port captain, many cruisers devise cruising itineraries specifically for the purpose of avoiding as many places with port captains as possible. A small percentage of cruisers ignore domestic clearing all together, hoping not to get caught. As Latitude reported several months ago, President Fox said he would do away with the rules requiring domestic clearing, which would mean cruisers would only have to check into Mexico and out of Mexico. But only time will tell if Fox was able to deliver on that promise. If there is a change, we'll report it immediately on 'Lectronic Latitude.

On September 19, three sailboats washed up on the sands of Santa Monica Bay a few hundred feet southeast of Marina del Rey. As Dan Hallai of Santa Monica explains, "For the past couple of years there has been a group of boats - as many as 15 - anchored outside the south jetty at Marina del Rey. The breakwater shelters them from the predominant weather, and the water is usually too deep for south swells to cause them much trouble. But Sunday's winds came up fast and hard from the west, and several of them went up on the beach." According to Gary Thornton of the Marina del Rey Harbor Patrol (Los Angeles County Sheriff), a law was changed about 10 years ago that resulted in a V-shaped section to the southeast of the breakwater being reclassified as 'high seas', which allows boats to legally anchor in that somewhat precarious spot. Thanks to occasional strong winds and generally poor ground tackle, the boats anchored out - most of which are derelicts - go up on the rocks or the beach on a regular basis. Thornton estimates that in the last six months alone, two boats have gone on the rocks, three on the beach, and about 10 others have had to be rescued. Boats that end up on the beach have to be removed and/or destroyed by the Department of Beaches and Harbors - at considerable taxpayer expense. "Derelict and abandoned boats are a big problem for harbormasters up and down the coast," said Thornton. "We've got 11 at our docks now and don't have room for any others." Why is it, we wonder, that cars abandoned on highways can be removed immediately and their owners held responsible, but the same is not true for abandoned boats on coastal waters?

"We are currently in Australia with plans to ship our Cheoy Lee 38 Gitana to Golfito, Costa Rica, in January, then sail up the coast to Mexico," report Greg and Janis Morehead. "We are looking for any information regarding marinas, anchorages, and so forth along the Central American coast." Since you've been gone, there has been quite a bit of marina development in Central America. Barillas Marina and Bahia del Sol have opened up in El Salvador, as has Puesto del Sol in Nicaragua, and a marina near Huatulco, Mexico. Alas, the Costa Rican government closed down Flamenco Marina, reportedly for ecological reasons, so that's one loss. As for anchorages, you either need to buy the guide books or talk to cruisers you meet in Costa Rica. But rest assured, there are plenty of them between Costa Rica and Mexico.

"It was great seeing Profligate at the fuel dock in Newport Beach in late August," write Russel and Jennifer Redmond of their "new and improved" Coronado 35 Watchfire. "And it was nice to have the Wanderer there to take our picture - holding a fire extinguisher - in front of our new boat. We've been looking for a replacement cruising boat for Mexico and beyond ever since last fall when our Columbia 26 Watchfire perished in the huge fire storm east of San Diego." Jennifer and Russel are the publishers of the Baja Journal literary magazine.

"We'd like to recommend the Rio Chagres as a place that cruisers in Panama often miss - but shouldn't," write Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of the Northern California-based Moorings 500 Pizazz. "Although it's less than two hours from Colon/Cristobal, it is worlds away from the dirt, glaring lights, traffic, noise, and other annoyances of a city. This often mirror-flat jungle river is really special, as the various shades of jungle green reflect off the waters, only to be broken by ripples from fish or the snout of a crocodile. We've seen more birds - of every color and mix of colors - than we can identify. You hear jungle bird sounds - particularly those of parrots - all day long. This chirping, singing, and squawking is mixed with the barking, roaring, and howling of the howler monkeys as they romp from tree to tree. It's also amazing to see the flourescent blue butterflies flit about, and the graceful flight of the white egrets and blue herons. It's such a beautiful world that nature provides for us, particularly in Panama where, because it's the bridge between the two continents, there are so many species. The only thing that shatters the experience is the arrival of the tourist helicopters! And as special as the Rio Chagres is, the San Blas Islands are calling us, so we're headed back out there."

Cruiser quiz: What's unique about the Rio Chagres? It's the only river in the world that flows into two oceans.

Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins of Mill Valley - delighted to be one of the most cantankerous personalities in sailing - swears that he and his wife Nancy are finally going cruising this winter aboard their Wylie 38+ Flash Girl. She's unusual for a relatively small cruising boat in that she has a lifting keel and water ballast. Tompkins finished the boat from a hull and deck in Sonoma over a seven-year period, and has sailed her frequently since, including in the wind-starved West Marine Pacific Cup of 2002. Still very vigorous in his early 70s, Tompkins has been sailing longer than most people live. He was born aboard the Elbe River (Germany) pilot schooner Wander Bird, which was built in the late 1800s, and it is from her that he picked up his nickname. When giving a tour of the schooner to a friend, his parents slid open a drawer - with the baby Warwick in it - to show him off. "Well, this must be the little commodore!" exclaimed the visitor. The nickname stuck. Tompkins has seen and done it all on the world's oceans - there's even movie footage of him and his sister happily playing on a swing on the deck of Wander Bird while the big schooner is being pounded by heavy seas off Cape Horn. Throughout his sailing career, Commodore has delighted in ruffling feathers and battling conventional wisdom. And being devious! "I sailed with him from San Diego to Cabo once with a music-loving crew," says one woman who prefers to remain anonymous. "But after the first day, the stereo went out. We all thought it was broken, but later discovered that Commodore, under the pretense of fixing the alternator, had disabled it! He had an obvious motive, too: He wanted us to listen to him read his favorite verse rather than to U2. We were so mad when we found out! I love Commodore - but I'm sure glad there is nobody else like him."

By the way, all of Commodore and Nancy's friends are invited to the Richmond YC at 11 a.m. on October 16 for the launching of their Wylie-designed Taxi Dancer, the tender Commodore built for Flash Girl. "Libations will be provided," the note reads, followed by the 'Commodore-ly' remark, "in appropriate quantity." In other words, it's BYOB!

While at Catalina Island a few weeks ago, we noticed a 26-foot powerboat with not one, but two, little Honda gensets on the 'back porch'. Why such a little boat would need two of them is beyond us. But why cruisers on larger boats would carry one makes a lot of sense. While on the way to Santa Cruz Island a short time later, we experienced a temporarily unknown charging problem - a wire came off the alternator - and guest David Crowe suggested that if there really was a problem with the alternator, all we had to do was get a shorepower cord with the proper plug to fit into our Honda genset. "It would be as though you were plugged into shorepower," he said, "and would charge your batteries much faster than the genset's 'trickle charge' capability." So we purchased a short shorepower cord with the appropriate plug for $50 as soon as we got to shore, and feel much better about having a double redundancy - we also carry a spare alternator. By the way, most folks recommend the 2000 watt model genset rather than the 1000, because you get a whole lot more power for just a little more money.

More on confused regulations in Mexico: "The deal here at Puerto Escondido in Baja is very odd," report Mike and Lindsey of La Otra, type of boat and hailing port unknown. "Fonatur, the Mexican tourism development agency, set all the mooring balls in place and claimed they would be charging for their use. But so far nobody has monitored the use of the moorings or collected fees. Somebody did collect for garbage pick-up and car parking for a while, but he seems to have gone away. From what we can tell, there are only about a dozen boats occupied full time here right now. Some boats are still on their own hooks, and others are on private moorings. All in all, Puerto Escondido seems to be much cleaner and have fewer derelict boats than before, so we're enjoying ourselves. Except for the chubascos and hurricane threats, we've actually had some very nice weather. There's not much wind for sailing, of course, but that's to be expected in the summer. We had a beautiful week out at the Ballandra anchorage at Isla Carmen before coming back in to Escondido."

"We're still here at Puerto Escondido," report Jack Jandreau and Leanne Lawrence of the Portland-based Willard 8-ton Stealaway. "Last night we had our first chubasco, but we were fairly comfortable as we were tied up to one of Fonatur's new moorings. Thirty minutes into the storm, I was able to divert all the rainwater into our water tanks, which filled in short order. But it rained so heavily that at one point our dinghy was in danger of sinking! I had to bail it with a bucket. All things considered, it's very comfortable here in Puerto Escondido, and everyone is quite friendly. Just this afternoon another boater brought over two nice sea bass for us. I filleted them and Leanne is making Pescado a la Veracruzana tonight! For those who don't know, we first sailed Stealaway from Portland to Mexico in the fall of '89, and kept her there until '97. At that time we decided to accept a two-year work project in the States that would allow us to bring Stealaway back to the States for a total refit. It ultimately took us years to pay for the two-year refit, but that's another story. We sailed Stealaway back to Mexico in January of '03. Having been gone for seven years, the biggest change we noticed was that the standard of living had gone up. Now you see nicer and more expensive cars, as well as busy Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs. The prices have gone up in the grocery stores and in restaurants, but you can still find those wonderful taco stands and smaller restaurants that are less expensive. If you eat like a local - tortillas, beans, and rice, plus certain vegetables and fruits - you can live pretty inexpensively. We love Mexico and plan to stick around for a long time."

"When we realized how many current cruisers were planning to be in the San Francisco Bay Area this August to escape the hottest part of summer in the Sea of Cortez and/or the rainy season in Central America, it was obvious there should be a party," report Jimmie Zinn and Jane Hanawalt of the Richmond-based Morgan 38 Dry Martini. "So Joe and Jacque of Marna Lynn graciously offered the hospitality of their home in Alameda and, on August 28, a total of 26 cruisers representing 13 boats assembled for a dry land raft-up. As all cruisers know, it only takes a short time back home before your old friends and relatives are bored to death by your pictures and stories, so you start looking around for other cruisers to find someone who will listen to your tales of adventure with real interest. Most of those attending the party have left their boats in paradise and will be returning to continue cruising when the weather moderates in the early fall. Those attending were Les and Diane of Gemini in Panama; Helmut and Mary of Lady B in El Salvador; Lisa and Dennis of Lady Galadrial in Costa Rica; Joe and Jacque of Marna Lynn in Costa Rica; Cheryl and Bob of New Passage in Ecuador; Jimmie & Jane of Dry Martini in Mexico; John and Linda of Patches in Mexico; and Sue and Jake of Sipapu in Costa Rica. Also attending were a few who have recently returned from the cruising life, including Merry and Dave of Air Ops of Redwood City; Dwight and Donna of In the Mood of Long Beach; Karen, Bill and Joe of Miela of Emery Cove; Greg and Mikki of Mikelali of San Diego, and Cynthia and Dave of Reaching Deep of San Diego. Both Reaching Deep and Miela will be heading south this fall, with Cynthia and Dave resuming their cruise that was interrupted by Hurricane Marty last year. Karen and Bill of Miela are eagerly awaiting this years Ha-Ha to begin their cruising adventure.

While on a mooring at Descanso Bay in August, John and Teresa Conrad of the San Diego-based Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 Morningstar came by Profligate to report they are distributors for some special foods that might be of interest to cruisers. "We sell unrefrigerated eggs, sterilized long-life milk, smoked meats and sausages, canned meats, canned cheese, canned butter, and fresh dry goods to long-range fishing boats and cruisers departing San Diego. Our eggs last four to six weeks if you turn them every three days and don't refrigerate them. Our canned beef and canned ham have nothing but water and salt."

Could this be the last time? Our friend Blair Grinols of the much-travelled Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn Cat reports that his wife Joan, after supporting nearly a decade of his gallivanting all over the Pacific with his beloved cat, and often joining him, is asking him to rein in his cruising. So while they'll be sailing to Mexico again this winter, it could be the last time, for Blair says he may put his cat up for sale. Frankly, we're not going to believe that until we see it. Blair has a million things he likes to do, but we can't imagine him without his cat.

Earlier in Changes, we reported that Doug Tiffany lost his boat Water Witch at Isla Carmen during a chubasco. Just before we went to press, he advised us that he's eager to continue sailing, and therefore would like to find a job as a skipper or a shipwright on a wooden boat. So if anybody could use a man with more than 20 years of professional shipwright experience, contact Tiffany by .

When we anchored on the side of the reef off Two Harbors, Catalina, in September, who showed up about an hour later to drop the hook right behind us? Bruce Balan, formerly of Palo Alto, aboard his Cross 45 trimaran Migration. After doing the '99 Ha-Ha, Balan cruised Mexico for a couple of years, then came home and got divorced. For the last several years, he's somehow managed to live aboard in Southern California without a permament slip, yet still work a regular day job in the software industry. It's involved a lot of moving around between guest slips. But come this spring, that will be all over. He'll be headed back to Mexico and beyond to live the full-time cruising life, continuing to support himself by writing children's books.

"Bill Barnes, former cruiser aboard the Morro Bay-based Flicka 20 Motu has passed away at age 53," reports Paul Dunn of the Morro Bay YC-based Windspell. Barnes learned to sail while living on the Big Island in the early '70s. When he moved to Morro Bay later in that decade, he noticed a neglected Flicka 20 on a mooring in the harbor, contacted the owner, and bought her. From '95-'98, he mostly singlehanded Motu from Morro Bay to Puerto Vallarta. He became a fixture in the anchorages at La Cruz and Punta Mita, where he'd surf until his arms gave out. Bill died in a spiritual way - he had a massive heart attack while surfing his Wave-Ski at The Rock in Morro Bay on Labor Day. Bill was an inspiration to all of us down here, and we will miss him dearly."

There's similar sad news from Ralph Neeley of the Reno and Fiji-based 45-ft sloop Neeleen, "My wife, Kathleen Burke Neeley, passed away September 14 at age 67 at Carson Tahoe Hospital after a short illness." Although Kathleen was confined to a wheelchair from a young age because of polio, she and Ralph sailed out of the Waikiki YC, then began many years of cruising the Caribbean and South Pacific. In fact, we can recall bumping into Ralph and Kathleen at Antigua one year, Trinidad the next, and other places later on. That Kathleen was able to cruise while confined to a wheelchair is an incredible tribute to her - and to Ralph!

We also regret to report the passing of Lex Peterson, Commodore of the Vancouver, B.C.-based Bluewater Cruising Association, and owner of the Coast 34 Rosebud. We met Lex in Mexico during the Zihua Sail Fest last year, and in May he and his wife Tina joined us for Profligate's rollicking 1,200-mile passage from Antigua to Panama. A few weeks later, Lex was diagnosed with cancer. "I've been stunned by the speed with which one's life can change," he wrote, "and how it has drawn those close to me into those changes. Live your life today!" Lex passed away on August 30, several weeks short of his 47th birthday.

"From time to time, I've read Letters or Changes from people who have sailed to New Zealand or Australia, and who subsequently found both work and housing," writes Tony Bressi. "I would like to hear from any and all cruisers who have reached and remained in either New Zealand or Australia for more than just a few months. By the way, who remembers the '60s television show called Adventures In Paradise starring Gardner MacKay? That's what got me started dreaming about sailing. But now it's Latitude's 'go now' mantra that's got me going!"

We'll see what we hear back from readers, Tony, but many cruisers make it to New Zealand and Australia, and lots of them stay for a long time or even never come back. If we're not mistaken, a couple of folks from the first Ha-Ha in '94 continued on to New Zealand are still living and working there. In theory, it's a bit of a problem to legally get a job in those countries, but lots of Americans seem to find a way to manage it. If you've got a chunk of money set aside, you can still buy great oceanfront property for a fraction of what it costs in the States. The problem is that the wages are comparatively low in those countries, so it's hard to earn enough money working there to buy such property.

Speaking of New Zealand, we just received the following letter from Don Engle of the East Bay, whose enormous 70-ft catamaran My Way is finally - really - nearing completion: "I was re-reading Dr. Zhivago on the plane back from New Zealand, and several times Zhivago's father was described as a 'profligate'. Since I also had a copy of Latitude with me, I thought of Latitude's cat. Having read about Profligate's many adventures, I can't wait to get back on the water. The drama at the yard that is building my boat seems to have backed off, so although the launch date has yet again been moved back - this time to September 10 - things seem to be going better. At least the workmanship continues to be superb - if not over the top! In my last boat, a Hunter, all of the water and fuel lines and fittings were of plastic or aluminum. On My Way, they're all made of welded stainless steel, with all connections tested and polished to a mirror shine. When I saw all of the stainless in the engine room, my mouth dropped! In any event, we hope to have all the systems working and checked out by the third week of October, at which time we can do some sailing. Since typhoon season in the South Pacific begins in early November, heading north to Fiji or Tonga will be out of the question. We'll probably sail to Australia in November, do some exploring there, then come back to New Zealand in February or so. We'll keep My Way there until May, when we can sail up to the South Pacific. I want five or six crew on the crossings, and have two committed so far. The Tasman Sea can be rough, so we'd only want experienced people. But the coastal sailing in Australia and New Zealand should be much tamer. All things equal, I'd prefer couples, but will consider all, as I'm looking to build up a list of potential crew. All I ask is that people pay their own way to get to the boat and be good crew rather than jerks. There will be two paid crew. People interested should ."

Is Engle's incredible offer - crew on a brand new, superb quality, 70-ft catamaran, with two paid crew, and not have to chip in for expenses? We called him up to make sure, and he said 'yes'. "It worked for me with my previous boat in Mexico, so why not for this one also?"

On that sparkling note, we'll say 'welcome to the winter cruising season of 2004!'

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