October, 2005

With reports this month on Micheladas in Puerto Vallarta; from Windsong on a problem-plagued passage to El Salvador; from Manukai after a year of cruising across the Pacific; from Suzy Q. on a year of cruising in The Med; from Indigo on suspending cruising in St. Croix; from Con Te Partiro on being 'saved' by a boatyard; and plenty of Cruise Notes.

Jason Foster
The Morning After Drink
(Puerto Vallarta)

With another big cruising fleet set to head to Mexico at the end of October and in early November, we'd like to issue a caution - beware of the booze. It's a sad fact that too many cruises are diminished or destroyed by excessive drinking. No matter if you're in La Paz or Luperon, Honolulu or the Hauraki Gulf, you'll see cruisers whose once bright cruising dreams have gone dim in a haze of alcohol. That's not a good or healthy thing.

The problem is that cruising in the tropics is so conducive to drinking. For one thing it's hot, so you get more thirsty. Secondly, for most people, cruising in places like Mexico is a very social activity, and alcohol tends to be an effective icebreaker and enlivens social gatherings. Thirdly, cruisers have a lot of discretionary time. As a result, a lot of people who were light drinkers before they took off cruising, find themselves drinking more than they ever have before.

We don't have anything against moderate responsible drinking. In fact, two or three times a week we might have a cocktail before dinner or a glass of wine with dinner. And on festive occasions - such as in the Giggling Marlin after the end of the Ha-Ha - we might have several drinks to celebrate. While we average less than one drink per day 'back home', we know it's easy to increase that while cruising, so we keep an eye on it. And we suggest that you do, too.

Having issued that sincere warning about alcohol, we'd like to pass along some advice on what to do on those hopefully rare occasions when you had way too much to drink the night before in Mexico. We got the advice last March from Jason Foster of Puerto Vallarta, who had crewed aboard the victorious Beneteau 40.7 Something Wicked in the Banderas Bay Regatta. That night, owners Kevin and Sandy Reath took the whole crew out for a high time.

So when we saw Foster the following morning, he had a seat at the bar at the lunch counter next to Desperado Marine, and had ordered a michelada from the always lovely Flor who runs the counter. When Flor started setting up a wild assortment of stuff - a cup of ice, various stuff in little bottles, and a cold Pacifico beer - we had to ask what it was.

"A michelada is a traditional Mexican drink to help recover the morning after," Foster explained, "and roughly translates to 'my little beer' or 'my little cure'. You are given a paper cup filled with ice, lots of limes, some hot Tabasco sauce, some W.H. Brown sauce, some Maggi (meat) sauce, and salt. You put various amounts of the ingredients into the cup, pour in the Pacifico, mix, and drink it down rather than sip it. You'll start feeling better - or at least less bad - pretty quickly."

So there you have it. If you do drink, keep tabs on yourself so it doesn't get away from you. But if you wake up one morning to discover that you really overdid it, do like the Mexicans, and have a michelada.

- latitude 38 04/29/05

Windsong - Islander Freeport 36
Frank and Shirley Nitte
Mexico To El Salvador
(San Diego)

We're safe and sound in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, and have been having lots of great adventures since we left San Diego in October of '03. We spent the first two seasons in Mexico, and during that time we got a lot more experience and developed a real respect for the ocean - as well as for Windsong's seaworthiness and our sailing skills.

On May 10 of this year, we left Mexico from Marina Chahue in Huatulco, heading what everybody assumes to be south to El Salvador, but which is actually more east. Despite a week of trying all of the special radio frequencies recommended by Don of Summer Passage, we couldn't hear his weather broadcasts, so we used the information from buoyweather.com and other sites on the Internet. Since there were 15(!) boats in our southbound group, we set up a daily SSB net for morning and evening.

The weather for the always potentially hazardous Gulf of Tehauntepec looked good but not great, and we took off. Although we were all anxious to get across the Gulf as quickly as we could - which would have entailed a straight shot - we decided to do the recommended thing and 'keep one foot on the beach'. If you're on the beach, you don't suffer from the fetch if one of the dreaded Tehauntepeckers whips up.

Having left as a group at 6 p.m., we traveled through the night and were off Salina Cruz at daybreak. This is generally the most dangerous part of Tehauntepec when the wind is blowing, and since it picked up to 20 knots, we all continued to hug the beach like we were supposed to. But the wind started to die after we passed Salina Cruz, so everybody got a little slack about keeping a foot on the beach. In fact, by afternoon a bunch of us were 12 miles offshore. And wouldn't you know it, at dusk the wind shifted to out of the northwest and started blowing in the mid-20s. We all freaked out, thinking it was a Tehauntepecker starting up with us 12 miles offshore! But then the boats ahead alerted us that it was just a squall up ahead. As it turned out, we spent three days motorsailing to get across the Gulf.

A while later, we were motoring 14 miles off the coast of Guatemala when the Pathfinder diesel decided to quit. After checking fuel filters and other possibilities, we decided that we were out of diesel. But before we could put more diesel in the tank, we looked behind the boat and saw our SSB/ham radio antenna trailing in the water!

After gathering up the antenna, we poured 10 gallons of diesel from the jerry jugs into the tank - but the engine still didn't start. So we drifted for a while. During that time we were visited by some fishing pangas. When we saw a container ship headed our way, we got on VHF 13, 14, and 16 to advise them that we were adrift. RDreams and Wanderer , who were behind us a ways, heard our transmission, and headed in our direction.

While on his way, Royce of RDreams and Frank were on the radio discussing what might be wrong with our engine. Royce suggested we bleed the injectors. Nothing came out, so something had to be blocked in the fuel systems. We changed the filters that we had only checked before, but still nothing. Frank worried that turning the engine over so much, we might have filled the exhaust riser with saltwater and that it might be backing up into the engine. So he decided to unscrew the plug on the riser to drain it.

Oops! While unscrewing the plug with a wrench, he dropped the plug and it disappeared into the dirty water at the bottom of our six-foot bilge. No saltwater came out of the exhaust riser because the pencil zinc that was attached to the plug had stuck in the riser pipe! So Frank got some pliers and tried to pull the zinc out. Naturally, it broke, with half of it still stuck in the exhaust riser. We've all had days like this, haven't we?

Frank spent about a half hour with his extension grabber trying to feel around for the plug in the bilge. No luck. He also tried to grab it with his extension magnet, but that didn't work because the plug is stainless steel. Frank decided to use the 110-volt vacuum to suck out the water from the bilge that's too low for the bilge pump. After getting three loads of water, we still couldn't see the plug - and the low battery voltage alarms started blaring! The vacuum was sucking power from the batteries faster than our solar panels could recharge them. It was time for a break, so Frank set the sails and we sailed with Rdreams and Wanderer for awhile. Frank knew he had a spare plug somewhere, but where? He spent several hours tearing the boat apart, but never did find it.

After resting up, we assessed the situation. We had an engine that wouldn't start, and an exhaust riser with a potential for a major leak if we could get the engine to start. Frank decided that since the zinc was stuck in the riser and no water was leaking out, perhaps it wouldn't leak - or at least leak that much - when the engine was running. On the other hand, it could blow right out the riser. Meanwhile, Royce and Paul advised that the one sure way to start a diesel is to spray WD-40 into the air intake. We tried everything else, so why not that? The engine started right up and kept running! And there was no leaking from the riser.

But the fun was just starting, as we didn't have enough fuel to reach El Salvador if we motored all the way. RDreams offered to give us some fuel. So while we were doing about four knots, we threw over two jerry jugs with the lines still attached. Rdreams sailed over the lines, but when they put their engine in reverse, the line got caught in their prop! Royce dove over the side - and quickly came up because he was being stung by jellyfish. So he put on his wetsuit and scuba tanks, freed the line from his prop, showered, treated the jellyfish stings, and then filled our jerry jugs. We decide it was smarter to transfer fuel while drifting rather than while doing four knots, and it turned out to be true.

But since we were still a little short of fuel and had wind, we decided to turn off the engine and sail. There was just one problem - the engine that previously wouldn't start, now wouldn't stop! Frank remembered this happening before at a raft-up in San Diego, and that tapping the solenoid solved the problem. This time it didn't. He also discovered that the number one fuel injector was now leaking diesel! Royce and Paul suggested that we put a towel over the air intake to kill the engine by starving it of air. Frank said the last thing we needed to end the day was to have the towel get sucked up into the engine. He decided to kill it by shutting off the fuel supply. It worked. After a long day and a lot of stress, he lay down to get some rest.

Through the night, RDreams and Wanderer slowly pulled ahead of us. Frank worked on the leaky injector pump during his next off watch, and discovered that the only problem was that the fuel pipe wasn't seated properly on the injector. Easy fix! What wasn't quite so easy was having to dodge squalls all night long. The whole coast of Guatemala, as well as much of the ocean behind us, was lit up by lightning. But our luck held, and we didn't get one drop of rain. The boats in front of us had to go through the teeth of the squalls, but we didn't.

The next day our friends on Tricia Jean called us on the VHF and told us they'd be happy to adjust course to bring us more diesel. The transfer was easy. Since there was no wind, we tried the engine again - and she started on the first try. And the riser plug hole still didn't leak.

During the night, Frank tortured himself thinking about the engine fiasco - and thinks he figured out why the engine wouldn't start after we ran out of diesel. It had been hours from the time the engine quit to the time we first tried to start it up again after adding the fuel, which meant the engine was cold. Our Pathfinder has glow plugs that need to be heated before the engine will start when it's cold - and we hadn't held the glow plug button for the required 15 seconds. Nuts! It just goes to show you how being tired can screw up your thinking processes to the point that you create your own problems - and they snowball into additional problems.

While we motored for four hours to charge the batteries, Frank managed a temporary fix on the SSB/ham antenna. That meant we then had a working engine and a radio that was good for 500 miles. To top off the good news, it turned out to be a perfect day for sailing, with 10 to 15 knots of wind, temps in the mid-80s, and not a cloud in the sky. Just beautiful! And before long we'd crossed the border into Salvadoran waters.

With nightfall, we dropped the sails, as there are lots of squalls at night. At 0400, Tricia Jean, who was now buddyboating with us, warned us of a huge - 24 mile by 8 mile - squall. There was no way we could outrun it, so we got hit with sideways rain, lightning all around us, and winds in the 20s and 30s - with a gust to 42 knots! It was hard, and we discovered new leaks. But both Windsong and Tricia Jean did great. When dawn broke, it was another beautiful day - without any wind.

By 3:30 p.m., we had the anchor set in 40 feet of water a mile offshore in the 'waiting area' for crossing the bar into the estuary that leads to the Bahia del Sol Hotel and anchorage. It was weird being anchored out there in the middle of nowhere, but that's what you have to do. We started preparing Windsong to cross the bar, which involved removing everything from the cockpit to below, tying down the solar panels, removing the BBQ, and so forth.

Finally it was high tide, and Tricia Jean, Wanderer and RDreams made it across the bar - but then the window closed. So we had to stay out there waiting for the next high tide along with Panacea, Mita Kuuluu, Gypsy Rose, Soy Libre and Dream Weaver. But hey, we didn't have it so bad. Dream Weaver didn't have a working engine, and therefore would have to wait there for days until it was flat enough for her to be towed across the bar.

We hoped to go across on the high tide the next morning, but there wasn't a good enough window. So we waited and waited. When we asked if the hotel could deliver a Sunday brunch from the buffet, they had a good laugh. When the window opened up in the afternoon, all the other boats went ahead of us and didn't have any problems. Then we started our crossing, with Frank on the wheel and me on the radio taking instructions and reading the depths. We were at full throttle and it was going fine . . . until Frank looked behind us. There was a huge wave towering over us and ready to break! Oh shit!!! "Please don't break, please don't break, please don't break!" I repeated.

Frank maintained full throttle and a straight course, and the wave broke just behind us. Nonetheless, about 100 gallons of whitewater poured into our cockpit. We got soaked, but it drained quickly, and we'd made it! While motoring up the river to Bahia del Sol, I requested a mooring and we got ready to launch the dinghy - because I was ready for a taste of land. We also radioed for the officials to clear us in, and Murray and Collette brought them out in their panga.. Once we were secure to the mooring, we tried to shut the Pathfinder down, but again it wouldn't stop. We shut down the fuel supply again, but as if by magic, it continued to run. But then Murray jiggled the wire to the injector jump and it shut down.

By the way, Murray and Collette are the angels from heaven who helped all of us cruisers get across the bar and into the safety of the estuary. They are Canadians who sailed down on Terezed, fell in love with the area, bought property, and now run a boatyard. They have a 30-ton Travel-Lift and rent a bunch of moorings for $6/day.

Anyway, it was now dark, we were sopping wet, we'd taken some water down below from the wave - and we were really, really, tired. Fortunately, the officials took less than two minutes of our time and told us we could get our paperwork and passports at the front desk of the hotel in the morning. Collette was nice enough to let the hotel know we wanted a room - with a bed, a bath, and even CNN!

The next day, we started cleaning up the mess on Windsong. It wasn't so bad, taking only two days. So we moved back aboard. With the boat all back together and secure on a mooring, we no longer had any pressing boat issues to worry about, right?

Wrong! El Salvador hadn't been hit by a hurricane since the '30s, and it was still two weeks before the start of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, but Adrian was headed right toward us! So after two days of putting Windsong back together, we had to hurry up and tear her all down again in preparation for a hurricane. Jib off, solar panels off, remove kayak, remove all canvas - and then we moved back into a hotel room where we stored all our boat stuff. Our boat's decks hadn't been so clean since we left San Diego.

Although the Bahia del Sol is in an estuary and very protected, Frank wouldn't let me stay aboard, nor would Andy on Soy Libre let Marianne and their four-year-old Andrew stay aboard. So they stayed in the hotel room with me. The bad news was that the hurricane was headed right for us, but the good news is that all 57 boats were ready, and that the Hurricane Net was keeping us posted.

We were lucky, as the eye moved a little to the northwest, so we didn't get hit with more than 44 knots. Windsong came through like a charm, as did everyone else. Dream Weaver dragged a little bit, but that was all. By the way, they'd only made it across the bar the day before because Murray had gone out and gotten their diesel running.

After finally sucking all the water out of the bilge, we did find the infamous exhaust riser plug. We also discovered why the vacuum wouldn't pick it up - it was too heavy. Anyway, with that taken care of we were all set for the summer. We'll tell you about it next time, but it's been great!

- shirley 08/15/05

Readers - Just about every experienced cruiser will tell you the only way to learn about cruising is by actually doing it. We think the above account is proof. Think of how much more knowledgeable and experienced Frank and Shirley are after the relatively short passage. They couldn't have learned half as much or as fast in a classroom or on someone else's boat.

Manukai - Hans Christian 41
Harley & Jennifer Earl
Highlights Of The First Year

One year ago today, August 11, with no small amount of trepidation, we set out from San Diego for the South Pacific and beyond. We'd made the decision to leave six months earlier, and from that moment on, our lives became a nonstop, sleep-deprived circus act of balancing work commitments with the need to prepare our personal lives as well as our boat for a two-year circumnavigation. We had no real idea of what was out here, but we recognized that this was an opportunity to share a dream we had both nourished since long before we knew each other. To not take advantage of the opportunity could foster nothing but future regrets, so here we are.

Like many of those we have met out here, we have maintained a log on a website for friends and family to follow, but on this, our anniversary of jumping into the deep end of the ocean, we wanted to look back and share with others some of the highlights of the past 12 months. During this time, we have cruised through French Polynesia, down under to New Zealand, back up to Tonga, across to Fiji and Vanuatu, and are now on our way to Australia on our way around the world.

Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent facts:

Longest Passage (distance): The 2,800-mile trip from San Diego to the Marquesas, which took us 28 days. The big lesson we learned is not to mess with hurricane season on any ocean, as we had to dodge Tropical Storm Frank just prior to his becoming a hurricane. This added five unnecessary days - and untold gray hairs - to the passage.

Longest Passage (time): The 30 days to cover the 2,200 miles from Bora Bora to New Zealand. Our lesson from that passage was to go ahead and burn the diesel if you have it. Sitting virtually becalmed gets old fast - although in fairness, it turned out that it was better to be becalmed in the middle of the South Pacific with plenty of food and water than it was to be getting spanked by one summer gale after another on the approaches to New Zealand this past December. So in that sense, we'd rather be lucky than smart.

Best Distance Made Good noon to noon: The some 168 miles on the passage from New Zealand to Tonga. We had all the right ingredients for a good run - clean bottom, the wind blowing a gale aft of the beam, and huge rollers headed in the right direction. The downside was that we had to spend 18 continuous hours watching the rig waiting for something to break. Fortunately, nothing did break.

Worst DMG noon to noon: The 17 miles on the passage to New Zealand from Bora Bora - and 15 of those came while motoring to charge the batteries!

Best DMG noon to noon without really trying: The 23 miles enroute to New Zealand. After getting beaten up by one squall after another, and pushed east of our rhumbline for three straight days, we hove to for 24 hours, and caught up on our sleep. When we woke up the next morning, we found that we'd forereached on course through the night!

Most Magical Moment: It's hard to pick a single one as there have been so many great ones, but it would have to be being joined by a large pod of dolphins for two hours just after sunset as we were crossing the equator. They cavorted through our wake and around our boat, but all we could see was their phosphorescent contrails.

Best Port of Call: Opua in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. By the time we got to Opua, we were pretty much starved for company, since our late start meant we'd hardly met up with any boats in nearly five months. Within minutes of clearing in, we were right smack in the middle of the scene, sharing stories with other boats from hailing ports all over the world - including Graham and Tara on Waterdragon, who used to be berthed right behind us in the Bay Area. Opua itself is geared to the cruising community, and the marina, yards, and vendors are all pretty much first rate.

Most Unique Anchorage: South Minerva Reef, which is between New Zealand and Tonga, but nearer Tonga. Imagine being anchored in a lagoon almost five miles across, and being surrounded by a virtually unspoiled coral reef teeming with sea life. But that's it - no land, no palm trees, no nothing for almost 500 miles other than the breaking surf of the Pacific on the outside of the reef. It's a must visit.

Best Dive: The reef dives outside Viani Bay in Fiji are pretty spectacular. Soft coral in all colors adorns vertical 100-foot walls, and their proximity to the deep blue brings the pelagics in close. Jack Fisher, the third generation resident of Viani, will take you out there and man your dinghy as you drift these magnificent walls. If you're lucky, some of his abundant joy of life will rub off on you as well.

Trickiest Navigation: The Ha'appai Group in Tonga. The charts are off, and when the light is flat it's a bit scary, but the islands, many of them uninhabited, are worth the effort.

Best Meal at Sea: Blackened mahi mahi with saffron rice and papaya salsa. Since we perfected our technique - which took 3,000 ocean miles - it's a rare day that we fish and don't eat well that night.

Best Chocolate Milk Shake: Mo' Burgers in Savusavu, Fiji. The burgers are excellent as well. Jimmy Buffet sang it best.

Scariest Weather: A tie between the winds and seas of Tropical Storm Frank and a lightning storm east of Rarotonga that had bolts striking within a boatlength of Manu Kai.

Stupidest Mistakes We Have Made: There probably isn't enough space to list all the candidates, but the three most important we've made are: 1) Do not enter a strange harbor at night, particularly if the wind is blowing 30 knots. 2) When you take all the time to carefully plot your waypoints through coral country, don't cut the corners on the turns. And 3) If you smell something or hear something out of the ordinary, track it down right then.

When all is said and done, the best part of this whole adventure has been all the time we have been able to spend together doing what we both enjoy. As we begin the 23,000 mile homeward journey to the Golden Gate, anticipation of the continuing adventure has replaced the trepidation of embarking upon it. Fair winds to all.

- harley & jennifer 08/12/05

Suzy Q. - Wauquiez 45MS
Joe & Susan Altman
The Med

It's been nearly a year since we last wrote, so here's our update. Some might remember that we quit our jobs - Joe from a Silicon Valley high tech company and Susan after 15 years at West Marine - in the summer of 2004, and moved aboard our boat in the South of France. After covering 1,500 miles sailing to the Eastern Med in four months, we left the boat in Turkey to return home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We left our boat at Marmaris Yat Marin for the winter. We highly recommend that business for boat work, wintering over, or just a short stay.

We returned to Suzy Q. in January to begin a long list of boat projects. As such, it was nice that the marina facilities were so good. We had wireless internet access, an exercise room, a library, and transportation to Marmaris every day - and all for free! Between boat projects, we did several inland trips to Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Pamukale. As our visas ran out in early April, we finished our projects - new dodger and bimini, high output alternator and solar panels, new instruments - and said good-bye to our friends. We then headed west to Greece and Italy.

The highlights of that trip included Rethymon and Khania on Crete, Pylos in the Peloponnesus and Vlikho Bay on Levkas in Greece. Vlikho Bay has such good holding it's known as 'Velcro Bay'.

Crossing the Ionian Sea to Italy, we continued on to Sicily, where we enjoyed Siracusa, Taormina and Palermo. Next was the island of Sardinia, where the beaches are beautiful. We especially enjoyed Saline Bay and watching the super yachts - some with helicopters on the aft decks - enter Porto Cervo. Next we passed through the shallow Strait of Bonifacio without a problem. However, while we were in port at Porto Conte along the northwest coast of Sardinia, a storm came through with winds that gusted to 64 knots! Our dinghy and outboard flipped. When our anchor started to drag, we fired up Victor, our 100-hp Volvo diesel, and motored into the wind for about an hour until the winds abated. Everyone in the anchorage was shaken, but once it settled down, everyone retrieved their stuff that had blown overboard. Fortunately for us, the crew of another boat fished out our outboard fuel tank, and I was able to flush out the outboard and get her running again.

More recently we've been enjoying the Balearic Islands of Spain, which are south of Barcelona. First we visited Menorca, then Mallorca, where we got a new stainless steel water tank installed. We're on our way to Gibraltar and then the Canary Islands. Once we get there, we'll fly home for a few weeks before returning to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean this winter. We're really looking forward to the tradewinds, as the unpredictable 'all or nothing' weather in the Med for the past two seasons has taken its toll on us.

- joe & susan 10/07/05

Indigo - Sceptre 41
Hillair Bell & Michael Sheats
Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI
(Sausalito / Berkeley)

After two years of cruising the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean, and the offshore islands of Venezuela, we have spent the last year living aboard off St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. We needed to return to earning money for a couple of years, but we wanted to keep our cruising lifestyle alive by staying in the tropics and living aboard Indigo. As you can imagine, this has been a very different 'cruising' experience.

Most cruisers here live on moorings off the boardwalk tucked behind Protestant Cay in Christiansted Harbor. This cay is the setting for Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival, a classic book describing the frustrations First World entrepreneurs have in a Third World environment - not that St. Croix is the Third World. In any event, we have joined the growing ranks of Nortenos who visit and then work - often for long periods of time - in the islands.

Christiansted Harbor is one of the cleanest in the Caribbean, as it's constantly flushed by wave action over Long Reef, for which there is only one exit. This keeps Indigo's bottom clean and the water clean for swimming most of the year. It's also a seaplane base, so we have flying boats here as well.

Christiansted was founded in the 1740s, and its historical center is virtually intact. Alexander Hamilton spent his formative years here, but left as a teenager to study in New York, never to return. He is said to have developed his ideas of finance working for merchants in trade, and his abhorrence of slavery by seeing its affects here in what was then the Danish Caribbean.

St. Croix was one of the most important agricultural islands during the days of sugar, one year ranking just behind Jamaica in the production of sugar and molasses. The ruins of old plantation buildings and 160 mills still dot the countryside. This wealth also supported two small cities; Christiansted on the north and Fredricksted on the west.

Tourism is St. Croix's money crop these days, but by any measure St. Croix is the forgotten stepchild of St. Thomas and St. John, the other U.S. Virgin Islands. Although the legendary Don Street was a regular visitor when he ran charters out of St. Thomas many years ago, and returned with Lil' Iolaire in 2004, now few cruisers and only crewed charter boats visit. This is a shame, because St. Croix has much of interest. With a population of about 50,000 - or half the size of Berkeley - it has great dining, art, music, historical buildings, and a laid back, down island ambience. It also has great diving and snorkeling.

We decided we'd try to make some money by buying a house and doing short-term rentals during the high season. During hurricane season, we'd live in the place. So Hillair manages the bookings while I do the windows and the pool. But sometimes it's not really that glamorous. Kate, a friend we met in Carriacou, does the same thing with a place in St. John. When we asked her what she did, she said, "Clean house." That's a big part of it. But hey, if you want a vacation place in St. Croix, check us out at www.skiesreach.com.

But once we set our anchor here, we decided to do other work as well. Thanks to modern phones and the internet, Hillair is once again doing executive recruiting - for her old firm back in San Francisco. Michael has started an architectural practice. Having been in project management for so long, Michael had to go back and learn computer drawing! But he now has two residences and other projects in the offing. The two of us share an office in a historical building on Company Street in Christiansted, and are working very hard..

Living on a mooring and going to work is a very different from real cruising. First of all, we have a schedule, so we go to the dingy dock early and return late. We know where everything is, and even have a car for getting around. Our solar panels and wind generator keep the boat's batteries topped off, and we go to St. Croix Marina about every five weeks to wash the boat down and top off the water tanks. Life is pretty easy and convenient. Our office has a shower, but it's rarely used. We much prefer an evening swim and a rinse off the transom.

We know the other liveaboards, but don't meet many transient cruisers because our daily rhythm is different than theirs. But when a cruising friend does come through, we party with the best of them! We're happy to help other cruisers when we can, but often we're just not around. Many working cruisers live in St. Croix year round, while others head to Venezuela during hurricane season. That trip takes three to five days, and if you wait for the right wind, can be a nice reach both ways.

Our major sailing trips this year were to Buck Island, which is a National Park and Underwater Preserve that is about as far from Christensted as Angel Island is from our old hometown of Berkeley. But we don't get to Buck Island often enough.

As the cruisers we met here left for St. Martin to continue their journey down the island chain, we had pangs of longing to be really cruising once again. And when our friends started leaving for Venezuela, we missed that passage south. Our choice for hurricane season was to go west to Puerto Rico, and put Indigo on the hard in a hurricane tie-down yard near Fajardo. Along the way, we spent several days in Vieques, living the cruising dream and looking forward to the time when we can resume our voyaging.

Our rental unit - which we live in during hurricane season - overlooks Salt River, which Columbus visited during his second voyage. Although the river is in the process of becoming a national park, it has a small commercial base that includes Columbus Cove Marina and Gold Coast Yachts, the latter being one of the more successful builders of U.S. Coast Guard-approved commercial charter catamarans and wave-piercing catamaran ferries.

As we write, Gold Coast is just finishing up Makani, a 65-ft, high-performance cat for the charter trade in Hawaii. Last week Capt. Jon Jepson showed us around as the workers finished up the last details for Coast Guard certification and the long passage to Honolulu. This is a remarkable vessel in that she was built for both performance and comfort. Her target market is everything from Japanese thrill-seekers to businesses looking to hold onboard meetings with flat-screen AV capability.

This 65-ft cat is lighter than our 41-ft monohull. The hull was built with E-Glass, the deck and house were built with carbon fiber, and the spars are by Southern Ocean. Makani has a large salon with a bar and galley, lots of deck and trampoline space, and a very accessible helm so that even kids get a chance to steer. Makani should be both very fast and safe. Her high bridgedeck clearance reminds us of Profligate. Many of the cat's systems are state-of-the-art. For example, she has a double air block custom designed by Harken. Check her out at www.sailmakani.com.

Gold Coast is an important business on St Croix. Makani, which took 10 months to build, cost $1.7 million. She's the 73rd boat - most of them charter cats - from Gold Coast.

- hillair and steve 10/15/05

Con Te Partiro - HR 36
Mark & Diane Rector
Saved by a Boatyard

"If you have to be somewhere at a given time with your boat, you're not cruising, you're racing," or so one cruiser once said. We felt comfortable with the concept - except for the fact that we didn't want to miss the start of the '04 Ha-Ha in San Diego. After all, for three years we'd been planning on it being the kickoff of our world cruise.

But after a stop in Santa Barbara to get an insurance company-required survey, it seemed impossible that we'd be able to make the start. When we left Seattle for Southern California the month before, we were confident our Hallberg-Rassy was a good boat ready to sail around the world. After all, she was a Hallberg-Rassy, wasn't she? But our hearts sank when, as our boat hung in the slings of the Travel-Lift, the surveyor showed us the bad news. There was lots of wear - more like decay - in the few areas where the aluminum rudder shaft was exposed.

Aluminum rudder shaft? We don't know much about marine metals, but we didn't expect an aluminum rudder shaft from such a reputable builder. Hallberg-Rassys are supposed to have stainless steel rudder shafts - something the company apparently figured out after they'd built our boat. If anybody needed to know why, they only had to see the rudder shaft on our boat, where in some places as much as half of the diameter had corroded away.

We called our friend Craig Stauffer, owner of the 1990 Hallberg-Rassy 45 Global Vision, and Todd Ricard, owner of Seattle's Sound Rigging, for more information. Both said that all Hallberg-Rassys of that era have the same kind of aluminum rudders - and the same problems.

Our next call was to Hallberg-Rassy in Sweden. They were helpful but not remorseful. They said that they could build a replacement rudder and ship it to us - in a month. That meant we wouldn't be able to make the Ha-Ha, and there would be all that shipping and duty.

So there we were, stuck in Santa Barbara, just 14 days from the start of the event we'd so much been looking forward to. With no other option, we had to try to fix the rudder ourselves. That would mean pulling the rudder, cutting it in half, and installing a new stainless steel shaft. Not only was this not in our budget, it was going to take a lot of time. Plus, it meant we'd have to spend a lot of time in a boatyard. If you've ever done that, you know about climbing up the wobbly ladders many times a day, the crotch-pinching runs to the distant toilet, and the noise and dust. It's no fun.

But things could have been worse. For one thing, Santa Barbara Harbor Marineworks is one of the cleaner boatyards we've seen. And Santa Barbara is a very pleasant town. Then, too, it was fun hanging around the harbor and meeting folks from the various Ha-Ha boats passing through on their way to the start in San Diego.

Ultimately, we decided that Diane should fly home for a few days to get away. After all, sometimes it's easier for a guy to be alone when working nonstop on boat projects. It lets the guy get as dirty as he wants, eat chili out of cans, and fart without worrying about offending anyone.

But the really good news came in the persons of Damon Hurst and Bart Hawthorne, a couple of young surfers turned shipwrights who became co-owners of the yard in 1999. Their background brings a good measure of energy and creativity to their efforts, and they really boosted our confidence. For they not only said we'd make the start of the Ha-Ha, they guaranteed it!

To be honest, we didn't put much stock in such a claim. And this was before two more Ha-Ha boats bound for the start pulled in with problems. First were Russ Eichner and Jane Powell with their CS 40 Scarlett. They'd hit a log or something, and bent their propeller shaft into something that looked like a dog's back leg. Then there was Doug Picard and family's Kelly-Peterson 46 Kanaloa. They needed some significant underwater work after having hit something at night.

Damon and Bart told us they could get all three of our boats to the Ha-Ha start on time. We scoffed at the possibility and went about our sulking. But they did make me feel better by agreeing that I could work along with them to help save money. And we do have to say that after immediately agreeing upon a price, co-owner Damon walked out of the office, rolled up his sleeves, and started taking the rudder apart himself. By the end of the day, he'd taken the old shaft to a machine shop and gotten them to promise they'd expedite the milling of a stainless replacement. And that was just the beginning. Both Damon and Bart, a first class glass man, were talented and proficient, and worked long hours and weekends to get the job done.

After welding the crossmembers to the new shaft, they bonded the new part into the old shell. Then they filled the hollow shell with foam, sealing the edges and gel-coating the exterior. These guys were diligent, professional, and precise - completing the work and getting us - and the other two boats - back into the water in what seemed like an impossibly short period of time.

We had to sail all night, but we arrived in San Diego late Saturday evening - meaning we had enough time to catch a little sleep before the start of the West Marine's Official Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party at Cabrillo Isle Marina. Thanks to Damon and Bart, plus their crew, we made the start, as did Scarlett and Kanaloa.

We had a great Ha-Ha and spent a wonderful season in Mexico, enjoying the many sunsets in company with the friends we met on the Ha-Ha. But without Damon and Bart - and what we consider to be the 'best little boatyard on the west' - it wouldn't have been possible.

- mark & diane 07/15/05

Cruise Notes:

Four very experienced Northern California sailors, Bob van Blaricom of Tiburon, Carl Seipel of Mill Valley, and Doug Finley and Chris Parkman of San Rafael, spent much of the summer as crew aboard the Minnesota-based Bowman 57 Cloud Nine that was attempting to navigate the fabled 2,000-mile Northwest Passage from Landcaster Sound, Canada, to Point Barrow, Alaska. The ketch is owned and co-skippered by Roger Swanson of the San Francisco Station of the Cruising Club of America, who has done two circumnavigations, and his wife Gaynelle of the Great Lakes Station of the CCA, who has done one circumnavigation.

Just getting to the entrance to the Passage is difficult, as you have to go all the way up the west coast of Greenland to 74°N before you can turn west. Seipel estimates that no more than 20 sailboats have successfuly transited the Northwest Passage, which is closed off by pack ice for much if not all of the entire year. If you're lucky and get southerly winds, the pack ice might recede a little north for a bit in late July and August, but that's it, global warming or not. But if the wind is out of the north, no boats are going anywhere. The first private sailor to have navigated the Northwest Passage was Roald Amundsen, who did it aboard the 45-ft Gjoa back 1905. Seipel tells us that Gjoa was on display in Golden Gate Park for many years.

After 3.5 weeks and 1,000 miles, Seipel bailed on the trip at Resolute Bay, Canada. With no money and no flights out for five days, he had to work to pay for his $300/night room. Van Blaricom, who has had many sailing adventures with his Aries 32 Misty, and the others stuck it out with Cloud Nine, but they finally had to give up and turn back on September 4. Fortunately, they, along with three other boats, were assisted by the Canadian Coast Guard, which shepherded them to safety. At last word, they still faced 2,500 miles of rough sailing to get back to more temperate waters. We hope to get a detailed report from van Blaricom, who has written several pieces for Latitude, for the next issue.

As for Seipel, he's looking forward to some warmer sailing starting in November aboard his Yankee 30 Tootsie. He'll singlehand down to Mexico and across the Pacific to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, where he bought some property. From '70 to '76, Seipel and fellow Northern Californian Hans Bernwall did a circumnavigation aboard the 40-ft cutter Fia, and in this upcoming trip, he'll retrace about the first third of that voyage. "Cruising was so different back then," Seipel notes, "as we did all our navigation with a sextant, had no radio, used lead on a line for a depthsounder, and cooked on a kerosene stove."

Speaking of cruising through the Pacific long ago, Bill Krause of Honolulu is interested to hear if anybody knows what happened to the schooner Viator. "In 1964, I had the good fortune to sail with Capt. Harry Close of Mill Valley, who in the '30s had built the fantastic 32-ft schooner Viator. In '37, he sailed her to Hawaii, the Marquesas, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and Samoa. He did the trip again in '52 with his wife. Then with me and two others as crew in '64, we made a 21-day passage from Los Angeles to the Marquesas. What a fantastic first ocean sailing experience it was for me, as Viator was such a great boat and Harry was such a fine skipper. We spent about three months in French Polynesia, at which point Harry decided to sail directly back to San Francisco. Two of the crew got off, but I stayed on and we picked up another chap off the beach. After 45 days and 4,200 miles, we sailed beneath the Golden Gate. We navigated with two sextants and a radio for time ticks, and had a Gray gas marine engine and carried 80 gallons of water. We had no refrigeration, no self-steering - and no problems. We were on watch for two hours, then had four hours off. I will always be thankful for that fantastic opportunity. If anybody knows what's become of Viator, please contact me by or at (808) 942-1894."

"A couple at the Balboa YC in Panama told me all kinds of horror stories about boats that tried to transit the Panama Canal without having an agent do their paperwork," reports Kevin Stewart of the Arthur Robb 35-ft woodie Vixen. "Naturally, I had to ask them if they themselves were agents. They said they weren't - but that they represented one! Nobody needs an agent, because on a two-mile stretch of road starting at the old YMCA in Panama City, you can find an internet cafe, Panagas, the Citibank office for paying transit fees, the Admeasurer, the Port Captain, Customs, 'diablo' Immigration for your visa, and an alternate Immigration office if the two bored women at the Balboa office are gone. There was never a line at any office I went to, and all the officials were happy to help me. It was nothing like Mexico, where the Immigration folks kept me waiting for four hours."

"The Canal authorities say boats transiting the Canal have to be able to motor at a minimum of eight knots," Stewart continues, "even though their written documents say only five knots. I recommend boatowners angelically tell officials that their boat can do eight knots - and then just motor as fast as your boat can. A little more than six knots worked for me on both my northbound trips, and I used three outboards. Curious factoid: Of the 16 boats in the Flamenco anchorage on the Pacific side, 12 were singlehanders, two of them women. Two of the guys had been there a year, and the rest less than five months. Panama officials are trying to kick everyone out of the Flamenco free anchorage. I'll be gone, but I say it's stuff like that that puts the 'banana' into banana republics. As for me, I'm just looking for one person to tell me that my trip east across the Caribbean from Panama to Bonaire will be a good one."

"It's been almost a year since we left Emery Cove in Emeryville aboard our Passport 40 Patagonia," report Tincho, Gloria, and daughter Tatiana Klenk. "We're happy to report that we're still going strong! We started by doing the Ha-Ha, and couldn't have chosen a better way to begin our open-ended adventure. We made amazing friends who we keep in touch with and probably will for the rest of our lives. After spending four months slowly making our way south through Mexico, we sped through Central America in order to be able to make it through the Canal by mid-April. There's a lot of confusion in the cruising community about Canal requirements and procedures, which over time got us nervous about the whole thing. But now having done it, we can say it's actually a piece of cake! Without going into much detail, it took us one day to do all the paperwork and even get our transit date - and we didn't even use an agent."

"We're currently spending some time in beautiful Cartagena, Colombia, where Tatiana, who, at just four years, had been the youngest participant in the Ha-Ha, is going to school," the couple continue. "She's enjoyed every bit of this adventure as much as we have. Pretty soon we'll be departing Cartagena with a few other boats heading east across the Caribbean to the ABC Islands, Isla Margarita, Los Roques, Los Aves, and Trinidad. From there we'll make our way up the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Will we be seeing Profligate in the Caribbean this winter?"

Although there are few things we'd like better than to have Profligate sailing in the Caribbean again this winter, she has other obligations - such as Zihua Sail Fest - that will prevent it. However, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca will be kicking around the compact St. Barth waterfront from December 26 to the middle of January, so if you or any other West Coast sailors are in the area at that time, key an eye out for us on the quay.

Question: How many recreational boats go through the Panama Canal each year? About 1,400, we're told.

"Our compliments on your Kat Atomic Meltdown article in the August Latitude about the Wildcat 35 cat being lost at the entrance to the estuary that leads to Barillas Marina in El Salvador," write David and Mollie Spaulding of the Sausalito-based Passport 40 Tumbleweed. "We were anchored inside at Bahia del Sol when Kat Atomic passed by, and experienced the same big squall that ultimately put them on the beach and destroyed the cat. The info passed to you by Eric Blackburn of Chickadee regarding the conditions at Bahia del Sol and Marina Barillas was right on. Blackburn is very knowledgeable about cruising Central America, so we're eagerly awaiting the publication of his cruising guide. Collette and Murray of Terezad, who run the boatyard at Bahia del Sol, are also very knowledgeable."

"Roy and I received a 30-day eviction notice for our medical suite in May," reports co-captain Marlene Verdery of the Sausalito-based Pearson 36 Jellybean. "It didn't take us long to assume the 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade' attitude. So, after getting a short extension, we closed our medical office on July 29. Jellybean is currently on the hard in San Carlos, Mexico, and we're having some work done on her. But at the end of September, when the sale of our house closes, we'll put Jellybean back in the water and sail away! And unlike after last year's Ha-Ha, we'll stay down cruising for the entire season, plus next fall and winter. After that, who knows?"

Ha-Ha vets will recall that when the weary Dr. Roy arrived in Turtle Bay last year, he didn't hesitate for a second when a doctor was needed to jump on a powerboat and rush north to treat the seriously stricken Phil Hendrix aboard the Tartan 37 Wild Rose. Dr. Roy may well have saved Hendrix's life. As for Marlene, she's put the Ha-Ha's Grand Poobah in touch with the Flying Doctors, who serve Turtle Bay, Cedros Island, and other villages along the Baja coast with free medical care. The Poobah is going to give them the $1,700 donated by the Ha-Ha fleet to support medical care in Turtle Bay and along the coast of Baja. After all, the Flying Doctors are experts in how to get a big bang for the medical buck.

"You may not have heard," writes Jeannette Heulin of the San Francisco-based Bristol 32 Con Te Partiro, which is currently in Mexico, "but a Frenchman has left Les Sables d'Olonne for a solo, nonstop, circumnavigation aboard a replica of Joshua Slocum's Spray. It's 100% authentic, with no modern conveniences."

"I was one of five crew aboard Spectre - one of the 13 Cal 40s that did this year's TransPac - for the delivery home from Hawaii to Seattle," reports Mike Currie of Poulsbo, Washington. "We made landfall after 18 days at sea - and one heck of a storm. The accompanying photograph was taken about 1,800 miles out of Oahu, and is of delivery skipper Andy Schwenk, making his 28th crossing, and Penelope Benz, one of the three crew making her first crossing. You might notice that the boom and mainsail are lashed to the starboard side of the boat. This is the result of 50-knot winds and 25-foot seas that succeeded in ripping the gooseneck track off of the mast."

"I just read your February report from Phuket, Thailand, on the tragic tsunami, and how it affected the cruisers there," writes Ronnie Lee of Maui, "but I may have somehow missed your report on what happened to cruisers and cruising boats that were anchored at the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean. How did they manage? By the way, it's beautiful and tranquil where I live on the east end of Maui, but it's a lousy anchorage - and an impossible place to keep a boat. It's also hard to find a Latitude in Hana. I have to drive 40 minutes to the Hana Library to get on a computer, and even then I'm only allowed one hour. I'm going to have to move to go sailing again."

Although 2,000 miles from the epicenter, which isn't much further than devastated Sri Lanka was, the Chagos were completely unaffected by the tsunami. It had something to do with the shape of the bottom of the ocean. And it's a good thing, because the highest elevation is something like 22 feet, and the average elevation is only four feet. The southernmost part of the Chagos atolls is, of course, Diego Garcia, which is home to a big U.S. base with 1,700 U.S. military and 1,500 civilian contractors.

Of course, if you're an Islamic fundamentalist, you have a different version of how Diego Garcia was affected. The following is from a fundamentalist Web site: "The whole world is wondering about the silence of the American government on the fate of this base, situated at the core of the catastrophe, and from where B-52 bombers took off to bomb our Muslim brothers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems that the base was wiped off the map. But given their difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Americans do not want to announce it so as not to sap the morale of their soldiers." It's hard to believe that so much of the Arab world, which was once so advanced, has regressed so far.

"It's been a very mild summer down here in the Sea of Cortez," reports Connie of Sunlove in Puerto Escondido. "No hurricanes have come near the Sea so far, and we haven't had any of what are called elephantes up around Santa Rosalia and chubascos down here. It's been hot, of course, but about mid-September it seemed to break, as it began to cool off at night. The water temperature didn't get as high as in previous summers, and the visibility has been marginal. But a number of boats have stopped by, and some have decided to make P.E. their home for awhile. It's about the same number of boats as in years before.

"The rumor here," Connie continues, "is that Singlar, which runs the moorings and anchorage at Puerto Escondido, is taking the Elipse over from the API, which is the Mexican Port Authority. However, the paperwork isn't complete yet. Singlar is also working on a building for showers, laundry, and a tienda next to the Pemex station that isn't yet operational. The API has a new regulation for anchoring in the water they control - you have to pay your monthly fee before it's due to get the 20% discount."

"Next year's 10th Annual Loreto Fest, to be held on May 4-7, is going to be the best ever," Connie adds. "The sponsoring Hidden Port YC will have the bay clean-up, which is how the event got started, a two-day regatta, more seminars, more games, and more music! As always, there will be ham tests for new hamsters and those wanting to upgrade. Watch for details as the event gets closer. And here's to wishing all the Ha-Ha boats have a great sail south!"

"Kathy and I have managed to tolerate the heat of a summer in the Sea of Cortez," writes Jerry McGraw of the Newport Beach-based Peterson 44 Po Oino Roa. "We're now looking forward to another high season of cruising in Mexico. If we have one bit of advice for this year's cruisers on a last-minute purchase, it would be to buy fans. We're now anchored in Puerto Refugio at the north end of Isla Angel de La Guardia, it's 7:30 p.m., and it's 92° inside the boat. Our fans are the only things that make it tolerable. We have two in the salon, two in the V-berth area, and three in the aft cabin. They are all hard-wired Caframos, and we wish we had one more in the salon, and two more with clip-on mounts for use in the cockpit during cocktails and dinner. Other than the heat of late, along with a few bugs, we've had a wonderful time here in the Sea, with a great bunch of cruisers to share in our bounty from the sea. We look forward to meeting all the new cruisers this fall, as well as seeing all our old cruising friends returning to their boats for the winter."

Last month Rob Clarke and Larry Paulus, a couple of 57-year-olds from Monmouth, Oregon, took off from Newport for Hawaii aboard Clarke's Columbia 28 Paddle To The Sea. They didn't get far. The wind and seas off the notoriously rough north coast of California came up, and they had all kinds of trouble. Ultimately, a line became tangled in the rudder, leaving them without steering. Having been helpless for quite some time, the two were airlifted by the Coast Guard to Humboldt Bay. Neither was hurt. Clarke flew to Hawaii to take a job. Who knows, thanks to favorable winds and currents, his boat may drift there and join him in about six months. Paulus reportedly took a job on a cattle ranch.

"We're the ones who lost our Morgan 27 Wings on the rocks at Lahaina during a kona last December," writes Pat Shannon. "That you published the news and a photo made us famous among the cruising community here. The good news is that we've bought a DownEast 38 North Star to replace our lost boat. Thanks for all your sailing coverage - and wish us sailors in Hawaii some luck in getting the State to make some much-needed improvements."

"About a year ago, there was a report saying that Mexico's Tres Marias offshore Islands - which are about 60 miles northwest of Banderas Bay and are currently prison islands - were going to be opening to visitors," writes Doug Nicholson of the Boise-based Basta!, which is currently on the hard in La Paz. "If that is true, it would open up a whole great new cruising territory. But while I was anchored at Isla Isabella for six days last March, the local fishermen told me the prison islands were going to become an offshore gambling destination. "Like Las Vegas," they said. What have you heard about this?"

Gambling puts us to sleep, but if we had to give odds, we'd say the Tres Marias will never become a gambling destination. Why? The most important thing a casino needs is to be easily accessible to hordes of people who have more money than brains. And the Tres Marias are very difficult to get to. Given that the three main islands average only seven miles by seven miles and are too hilly to build an economical airport, it's out of the question as a gambling destination. There's no infrastructure there either. If the Tres Marias ever cease being prison islands, we're confident they'll become a nature preserve.

However, John Moore of the Alameda-based Hunter's Child 50 Break 'n Wind, who is also building a home on the water across from Paradise Marina, tells us that Mexico has or is about to approve legislation that will allow one casino per state - assuming the site is close to a big enough international airport and there are plenty of hotel rooms and golf courses. It's his understanding that in the state of Nayarit, the border of which is on the northern outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, the casino site will be the Mayan Palace Resort, which is less than a mile from Paradise Resort and Marina. But talk of casinos in Mexico has often ended up being nothing but talk. For example, about 10 years ago there was supposed to be a casino opening next to the marina at Barra Navidad.

In June we reported that some investors had been awarded the much coveted concession for a marina at the site of the long bankrupt and broken-down Nuevo Vallarta Marina across the way from Paradise Marina. A day or two later, we reported that several other potential marina operators were furious because they claimed they had never gotten an opportunity to bid. Moore tells us that construction on the new project has stopped, as the lawyers are arguing over the legality of the bid. The delay in rebuilding the marina is a shame, because nowhere in Mexico is the demand for slips so much greater than the supply. And if you've been to Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay recently, you know why - the place is booming. In Puerto Vallarta proper, three 30-story towers are being built, and that's just one of the many massive projects. And out at Punta Mita, moderate-size lots at the point in the gated Four Seasons community are selling for between $2.5 and $3.6 million U.S. Given the tropical climate, the beautiful bay, the great surfing and sailing, and being just three hours from San Francisco, it's not that surprising.

While out at Catalina last month, we bumped into Bill Underwood, who along with Richard and Gloria Bellack, doubles the money cruisers raise during Zihua Fest for the Netzahualcoyotl School for indigenous children and orphans. Over the last several years, this has meant tens of thousands of dollars. Anyway, Underwood, who pretty much spends May through October at Two Harbors, Catalina, and October through May at his place in Zihuatanejo, says we'd be shocked at the amount of infrastructure being developed in and around Zihua. "They are building, building, building," he says. And no wonder, as tourism is every bit as important as oil to the Mexican economy, and will become even more important in the future.

Underwood also told us that he's part of a group that bought the FP 60 daycharter catamaran Scoobie-Doo that used to do the St. Martin to St. Barth run. The intention was to put her into daycharter service in Acapulco, but as they were deliverying the big cat from St. Martin to the Canal - a potentially wild trip on an open cat - the big schooner that used to do Zihua daycharters sank after leaving a boatyard in Mazatlan. So Scoobie-Doo, or whatever they are calling her now, is currently doing daycharter work out of Zihua. What's her market? Cruise ship passengers.

Paul and Mary Zack of the Long Beach-based Tayana 37 Avventura have covered a lot of water over the years. They've sailed to Mexico twice, continuing on to Hawaii once and New Zealand the other time. Last month they made landfall in California after four years in the South Pacific:

"We arrived at Alberts anchorage on Santa Cruz Island about 1 p.m., having covered 2,770 miles in 25 days in the best passage anyone could ask for. Other than two days ago, we never had wind over 20 knots, and we enjoyed some of the best sailing we've had in five years. The gale that hit us lasted for 18 hours and had winds in the neighborhood of 30 to 34 knots. But the wind was from a favorable direction and Avventura rode along at seven knots. But the seas were rough, the roughest we've had in over two years.

"In the past four months," the couple continue, "we've sailed Avventura 7,300 miles and visited five Island or atoll groups. In addition, we've traversed 71 degrees of latitude, going from 35°S to 34°N, which required crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, the equator, and the Tropic of Cancer. We also crossed the International Dateline. We averaged one fish for every 1,300 miles - which isn't too good. We had no major breakdowns except the chainplate on the port side - which we were able to replace, along with the starboard chainplate, at Christmas Island. As they say in New Zealand, 'Life is a box of fluffy ducks'."

Speaking of fluffy ducks, the '05'-'06 cruising season in Mexico is about to begin, with the Baja Ha-Ha starting just 31 days after this issue hits the street. We want to wish everybody a safe and exciting season. And don't forget, Zihua SailFest is February 1-5, the Punta Mita Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Cup is March 28, the Banderas Bay Regatta is from March 29 to April 1, and Loreto Fest is May 4-7. See you there!

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