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October 2013

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With reports this month from C'est La Vie being seized and allowed to go on a reef at Chuuk Lagoon; from Kiapa on the many delights of Bora Bora; from Esprit on cruising Spain from Menorca to Cartagena; from Harmony on the state of affairs at Tenacatita Bay, Mexico; from R Sea Kat on taking the long way from the East Coast to Southern California; from Knee Deep on a two-year family cruise; from Larrakin on fun in French Polynesia; from Blue Marble about being on the reef at Niue and
Cruise Notes.

C’est La Vie — Amel Mango 52
Bob Bohn and Crew Hilda
Boat Seized, Destroyed at Chuuk
(Anacortes, Washington)

Two days after clearing into Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia, my boat was boarded by the Chuuk State Police. They hit me in the face, dragged me down the deck, and threw me into their boat. They took my boat papers and passport, arrested me and my crew Hilda from the Solomon Islands, and put us in jail without any charges.

After 24 hours, I demanded to see a judge. Two hours later the judge ordered us released and asked the police why they weren't helping us. I flew Hilda out of the country immediately.

Three days after being arrested, I returned to the scene to find that despite the fact that my boat was supposedly being looked after, the anchor chain had slipped and she was hard on a reef. Furthermore, everything — solar panels, dinghy, outboard, generator, kayak and fuel cans — had been taken from on deck. Five police, who were removing all the valuables from below, prevented me from getting any closer to my boat than 100 feet.

In the course of a month, I was never allowed to board my boat again, despite court orders saying I could. The last time I tried to get on my boat, she was being guarded by a policeman ­— in my kayak! Worst of all, by that time she was on the reef. The last time I saw her, she was banging on the reef so hard that the radar was knocked off the mizzen.

After nearly a month, the public defender representing me advised me to heed the death threats I'd been getting and to leave the island immediately. By that time I'd burned through my cruising kitty on expenses and fighting to get my boat back. The police arrested me one last time before I left the island, just to show that they could.

From a short time after we were first arrested, I contacted and kept in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard in Guam, the U.S. embassy in Pohnpei, and a law firm. Everyone expressed an interest in my situation, but there was nothing anybody could really do.

The Director of Tourism for Chuuk tried to persuade me not to tell my story, but I feel it's important that cruisers know about the dangers of going to Chuuk. I was told by others on Chuuk, and later by officials on Guam, that it's not uncommon for boats to be seized in Chuuk, and that the level of crime is very high.

Five attorneys have told me I could easily win my case in court. Unfortunately, it would be very expensive and the Federated States of Micronesia doesn’t have the money to pay any award/settlement.

My main message to cruisers is to avoid Chuuk Lagoon! If you insist on sailing there, go as part of a group of boats, not alone as we did. We were seen as rich yachties and thus an easy target for plunder.

This incident was in contrast to the wonderful time I had been having in the South Pacific after the Puddle Jump. I did Tahiti, the Cooks, Suvarrow and the Samoas, and hauled the boat in Fiji for the hurricane season. People were wonderful. I then did Vanuatu and the Solomons. Hilda and I then headed for 1,700-mile-distant Guam. After 1,200 miles, we made the unfortunate decision to stop for provisions at Chuuk, which used to be the South Pacific base for the Japanese Empire during World War II.

I only had liability insurance, so I lost everything. But I have a good pension from doing bomb disposal in the Navy, so I expect to be cruising again in another couple of years.

— bob 09/08/2013

Kiapa — M&M 52 Cat
Lionel and Irene Bass
Bora Bora
(Perth, Australia)

When most cruisers think about cruising destinations, they want to tick off the following boxes: warm air and warm water in which to play; spectacular scenery; plenty of sea life to observe while snorkeling; the opportunity to engage in rigorous physical activities, allowing one to 'earn' their sunset cocktail; and with this, the time to relax with good friends and good books.

During the three weeks Lionel and I were lucky enough to spend at Bora Bora, we were able to tick off all of the above boxes — and more.

Considered by many to be the most beautiful island in the world, Bora Bora is a mere 11-square-mile remnant of an extinct volcano, with two prominent peaks, and is surrounded by an extensive shallow lagoon and barrier reefs. Mt. Otemanu, the highest peak, is 2,385 feet, making it not quite as tall as Marin's Mt. Tam. Located 143 miles northwest of Tahiti — and 4,200 miles from San Francisco — Bora Bora has a permanent population of just under 9,000.

Capt. James Cook was the first European to come ashore in 1770. Not many followed in his path until 7,000 American soldiers set up an uncontested base during World War II. Following the introduction of jet aircraft, Bora Bora became an exclusive destination for upscale tourists, many of whom were attracted by the signature hotel rooms on stilts over the lagoon. Harvesting tourist dollars has replaced harvesting copra as the island's economic engine.

While most visitors arrive by plane, the most stunning views are afforded those who arrive by boat. As we approached the turquoise waters of the lagoon from which the dramatic peaks soar up, Lionel and I thought it looked like a dream destination. We would not be disappointed.

On the day we arrived, Izzy of Cariba and I got into the dinghy and took off in search of a small beach where the crews of seven boats — Osprey, Cariba, Nyon, Compass Rose, Monkey Fist, Red Sky Night and Kiapa — could have a potluck that night. Fortunately, Izzy speaks French. So when we saw a man sitting at a picnic table in a garden that went all the way down to the beach, we pulled up and asked if he knew of a public beach where we could have our potluck.

"No," said the man who identified himself as Patrick, "because all the nearby beaches are 'owned' by either the hotels or by the homes that front them."

So Izzy boldly asked if we might hold our potluck on Patrick's lawn, and if we could, would he join us. Fortune favors the bold, for Patrick said that he would be delighted to host us. Furthermore, he said he would like to contribute to the potluck and entertainment.

It turned out to be a great potluck, as the crews of all the boats knew each other from before and were eager to catch up. As for our host Patrick, he prepared freshly caught fish in a delicious coconut marinade, demonstrated how to shuck and grate a coconut and how to cook, peel and eat breadfruit, and even enthusiastically sang a rain dance for us. We all had such a fantastic evening.

The next day we returned for our morning yoga stretches, and Patrick joined in. When the session was over, he offered to take us on a hike that no tourists had ever been on. Naturally we all wanted to go.

A few days later, five of the boats in our group upped anchor and moved to the eastern side of the lagoon in order to be closer to where we'd been told we could snorkel with big manta rays. Apparently the rays visit this 'cleaning station' each morning, It's sort of like a car wash for rays; as they pull in, smaller fish, usually cleaner wrasse, feed on the debris on the skin and in the gills of the rays. It was magical to watch, and we were lucky enough to enjoy three 20-minute sessions. Nature is marvelous.

Most people know Bora Bora from its famous silhouette, among the most recognizable in the world. One cloudless day Izzy and Gabriel from Cariba, Patrick from Living, and I decided to swap our flip-flops for hiking boots and tackle one of Bora Bora's two peaks to get a different view.

In retrospect, I have to wonder what I'd been thinking. The three of them are Canadians, and they all have oodles of rock-climbing experience. This was important, because during a number of sections of the hike we had to use ropes to get up and down sheer rock faces. Those folks were like rock rabbits while I was slower than a sloth. But my reward — a fabulous view from the summit — was easily worth the effort. We’d chosen a clear day specifically so the colors of the surrounding waters would be dreamlike.

Our next anchorage was at the south eastern extremity of the lagoon, chosen specifically for its quick access to the nicest kiteboarding beach we'd seen in French Polynesia. I say 'nicest', because it was actually wide enough to make the launching of our kites not too tricky, and there were no coral bommies — aka 'potato heads' — to avoid in front as we headed out. And the trade winds blew 20 – 25 knots as predicted. Heaven!

After the three weeks Lionel and I spent at Bora Bora, we realized how blessed we were to be able to experience its pleasures for an extended period of time, and not just for a jet-lagged week.

— irene 08/29/2013

Esprit — Peterson 46
Chay, Katie and Jaime McWilliam
Menorca to Cartagena, Spain
(Henderson, Nevada)

One of the more unusual highlights of this, our 10th season of cruising, has been adjusting to the topless and even nude sailors — both men and women — here in the Med. Some are attractive, some not so attractive. They not only sunbathe au naturel, they sail, dinghy and anchor that way, too. There was even a topless woman SUP-ing through an anchorage without a care in the world. Europeans have a more liberal view of nudity.

The Europeans, however, are very family-oriented. Most of the people we've seen on holiday are vacationing as a family — including teenagers and young adults traveling with their parents. That's something we don't see much in the States anymore.

The European Union countries require Certificates of Competence for boaters. A number of Europeans told us that most of the test is related to knowing what different lights and light combinations mean. It's been quite apparent to us that one can obtain a certificate without demonstrating any competence in anchoring. Most, but not all, European mariners use 3 to 1 scope — at the most — when anchoring. We've even seen some boats 'anchor' 1 to 1. When the wind comes up, they seem puzzled that their boats are dragging.

We have previously mentioned that very few American boats seem to be coming to the Med. The only ones we have seen so far have crossed the Atlantic and/or are from the East Coast. This is apparently due to lingering fears about the Somali pirate situation in the Indian Ocean. This year we met an Aussie who shipped his boat to Gibraltar in order to get to the Med without having to worry about pirates. We also met a Kiwi who avoided the pirates by sailing eastward across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal, and across the Atlantic! Cruising dynamics have certainly changed.

Since we last wrote, we anchored at the entrance to Mahon, which is on the east coast of Menorca and is the island's biggest city. The bay is beautiful, with many potential places to anchor. Unfortunately, officials have made it illegal to anchor almost everywhere, so you must move into a marina. After a night, we moved on to Cala Trebalúger on the south side of the island, where we enjoyed three days of crystal-clear water, a white sand beach, swimming and snorkeling.

Our next passage, down the east coast of Mallorca, the biggest of Spain's Balearic Islands, turned out to be a longer one than we'd planned. The wind and swell were out of the east, making most anchorages untenable, so we had to continue on around Punta Salinas on the southeast corner of the island. We anchored there behind Isla Moltana.

Our watermaker had stopped due to a failed membrane, so we ordered one to be shipped to us at Cartagena, Spain, our next stop. Since we needed to fill our water tanks and wash down an extremely salty/dirty Esprit, our next stop was Palma de Mallorca's Marina Club de Mar, a well-run, privately-owned marina with a helpful and amiable staff. Chay was able to apply more coats of varnish there. He also found a few parts we needed at the various chandleries, but we were generally disappointed in the chandleries. Although their shelves were full, their stock didn't include the stuff we were looking for.

We toured the city of Palma one day, including the very large cathedral that was built on the site of a 14th-century mosque. Many of the buildings are of Arab origins. The next day we took a beautifully restored and maintained electric train — built in 1812 — on a windy trip up into the mountain and through tunnels, then back down again to the town of Soller. From that little town of cute shops, we hopped onto another little train down to Porto de Soller, where we had lunch before taking the train back to Palma. It was 100 degrees and muggy, but a fun trip.

After Palma we motor sailed to Cala Blanca, where we waited for another gale and some stormy weather to pass before moving to the southern Balearic party island of Ibiza. We experienced heavy northwest swells from the gale blowing in the 150-mile- distant Gulf of Lyon, so once again the anchorages along the west coast of Ibiza were untenable. We ended up going around to Cala de Port Roig, where we anchored among all types and sizes of boats. Some were free-anchored, some were on single moorings, and some were on bow and stern moorings. Very disorganized.

We then set sail for 130-mile-distant Cartagena, Spain. It's hard to believe, but we didn't catch our first fish in the Med until that leg. But it was a beautiful 40-lb albacore tuna. He swam deep, but Chay reeled him in. We must have been in a school of tuna because his friends stuck with us for quite awhile — something that we had never seen happen before. That tuna was the best-tasting fish we've had in our 10 years of cruising!

After a mostly rolly trip to Cartagena, we are now side-tied in a marina. The staff is friendly and the facilities are acceptable. We've taken a few strolls through town, which is pleasant and mellow. There are many forts, Roman ruins and castles to explore before we leave. We will now use our Eurail passes to travel inland.

— chay 08/20/2013

Harmony — Islander Freeport 40
Robert and Virginia Gleser
Mayor and First Lady of Tenacatita

We recently had brunch with several cruising buddies, and enjoyed reconnecting with Kurt and Katie Braun of the Alameda-based Deerfoot 74 Interlude, who just completed their 12-year circumnavigation. We first met them at Tenacatita Bay, Mexico, in 2002 and followed their stories as they made their way around the globe. They are planning to return to Mexico for more cruising fun, and asked if the rumors of Tenacatita Bay being closed were true. So here's the scoop from Robert, the high season 'Mayor' of Tenacatita Bay:

There are two anchorages at Tenacatita Bay, the outside beach anchorage and the more protected inside bay anchorage. The inside bay, which is sheltered from the Pacific swells, is the place where most of the cruisers like to anchor. It's in front of a beautiful, long white sand beach, where there is one palapa that sells typical inexpensive Mexican seafood. There is also the Blue Bay Hotel, which features an hour-long serenade for us each evening. Baitfish and their predators circle the boats, and dolphins often cruise through. Egrets, pelicans, boobies, and gulls are some of the wide variety of snowbirds that visit during the winter season. There is no problem with the inside bay anchorage.

There had been a legal squabble over on the outside beach between a very rich man and a lot of poor people, and after a judicial ruling two years ago, the rich man was declared the winner. Many houses, palapas and restaurants were quickly bulldozed, and the public was not allowed to return to the beach. Things have loosened up a bit over the last two years, so people can now drive in to the beach and cruisers can land on the beach for a walk. But there aren't any restaurants, shops or amenities.

There is still a 'jungle run' through the mangroves from the inside bay to the lagoon bordering the outside beach, where for many years cruisers had taken their dinghies for provisioning and lunch at a favorite beachfront palapa. Most of the jungle run is still there, but overhanging mangroves have been allowed to grow back and cover the tunnel-like entrance to the lagoon. Furthermore, visitors are no longer welcome to dock nearby to gain access to the outer bay beach. However, cruisers can still anchor out, snorkel the 'aquarium', and come ashore to walk the beach. Many of the good restaurants that were formerly at the outer bay relocated to La Manzanilla, a small town 2½ miles across the bay. That's where cruisers now go to enjoy fine dining and provisioning — and see all the crocs.

This past season’s news was that things are still being hashed out in court, and the fight may not be over.

This will be our 14th year of cruising the Pacific Coast of North and South America. Instead of our usual early October trip to Mexico, we will forego that great meandering cruise down the inside of Baja in the perfect weather month of October/early November in order to attend the wedding of our exchange-student daughter. She is getting married in Seville, Spain. The opportunity to see her again and meet her family, not to mention spending time in Europe, was irresistible. For our return trip, we are making a trans-Atlantic crossing on a super cheap Norwegian cruise ship that is repositioning from the Med to the Caribbean.

Sometime in November we will make the pilgrimage down to Mexico to prepare Harmony for launching from her summer home on the hard in San Carlos, Sonora. Instead of crossing to Baja, we’ll be making a more direct passage to the warm southlands: Topolobampo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, then Tenacatita — where the kids and grandchildren are planning to come for the winter holidays.

As usual, we are looking forward to spending another season on the Gold Coast, and want to welcome all the Mexican cruisers — and particularly the newcomers — to spend part of the winter months playing bocce ball on the beach and enjoying the warm clear waters of Tenacatita. The mayor's Friday night dinghy raft-ups that have been an institution for over three decades are always a highlight. We tie our dinghies together in a large circle around the mayor's anchor, and share hors d’oeuvres, stories and lots of laughter.

This report would not be complete without my pushing Virginia’s book Harmony on the High Seas, When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey. Her insightful book explores the leap of faith that you take when you cast off the docklines, and shares both a tangible and mystical view of the sailing experience.

— robert 08/15/2013

R Sea Kat — Manta 40
Captains Deana and Mike Ruel
Bluewater Cruising on a Cat
(Dover, Delaware / Lake Sherwood)

We don't normally publish photos as large as the one above, but it's so evocative of cruising that we couldn't resist. Just beautiful.

The boat in the photo is Mike and Deana Ruel's Manta 42. They've cruised her from the East Coast to Southern California the 'long way', meaning by way of the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Galapagos and Alaska. They are currently looking to have a leak in a saildrive and some other repairs taken care of in preparation for the start of the Pacific Puddle Jump next March, and they're also collecting data for a book about enjoying California's Channel Islands.

Michael is one of the cinematographers for the "coming soon" movie about Laura Dekker of Guppy, the youngest person to circumnavigate. R Sea Kat and Deana and Michael are also featured in the film.

Given the couple's considerable offshore experience with a relatively small cat, we asked them for their evaluation of a Manta as an ocean-cruising boat.

"Having lived aboard our Manta for over three years now as we cruised the Atlantic, Bahamas, Caribbean, Panama, Galapagos and Pacific waters to Alaska, we've found her to be an exceptional bluewater cruising platform. She meets nearly all of the offshore liveaboard requirements and is well-appointed. There is excellent headroom and the fridge and freezer have generous space. The cockpit is roomy and well protected from heavy seas, and the decks are wide and clear for easy movement fore and aft in rough conditions. We have experienced 35-40-knot winds and 20-foot seas for several days in succession with no concern for our safety or that of our cat. The Manta's upwind performance is acceptable for a catamaran, and the beam or downwind performance is excellent. In summary, our experience has confirmed our expectation that this well-built catamaran will take us anywhere between the equator and the Arctic in safety and comfort."

— latitude/rs 09/12/2013

Knee Deep — Catalina 38
The Doolittle Family
The Two-Year Cruise

Two years ago, the Doolittle family — Ben, Molly, and sons Mickey, then 7, and JP then 9, paid $25,000 for Knee Deep, a San Diego-based 1983 Catalina 38 on which to go cruising. Although older, the boat was in very good condition and came with almost all the cruising gear — chartplotter at the helm, log, radar, windlass, two anchors, roller furling, spinnaker setup, refrigeration and freezer, sails in decent condition and a nearly new 50hp diesel. The family could have bought the boat's 11-ft inflatable and outboard for another $1,000, but opted for a smaller inflatable and outboard for $600 from a secondhand shop. The boat did not come with a liferaft or AIS.

"The gear was all new enough so that its service life lasted until we got to Annapolis this summer, two years later, where we sold the boat," says Ben. "By that time some of the gear — such as the inflatable — was getting pretty tired."

The family started their cruise with the 2011 Ha-Ha, and had what Ben describes as an "awesome" time. "But I don't think we're going to fully appreciate it until more time goes by."

Speaking of time, Ben figures it was just the right time for the family to go. "The boys were old enough to appreciate the trip, but not old enough to be able to do anything about it — if you know what I mean."

As is the case with many cruises, it was the man's dream. Ben had been cruising before, and was absolutely certain about wanting to do it again with children. Molly was game for a long time, but "got burned out" after 18 months. The solution was for Molly and the kids to fly to the States, and Ben and a crew sailed the boat to Annapolis.

"I have to say that the Catalina 38 was a fine sailing boat," says Ben. "We buddyboated with a lot of Tayanas, Hans Christians and Valiants going down the coast of Central America, and many times they felt they had to motor while we were able to sail. Compared to the other boats, the Catalina was fairly light displacement, so I loved throwing up the chute in light air. But the guy who sailed from Panama to Annapolis with me was used to cruising in heavier displacement boats, and he was shocked at how much Knee Deep bounced around. So maybe a Catalina 38 isn't the most comfortable offshore cruising boat. As for myself, if we could afford it, our family would be on a cat in a minute."

After Ben and his crew got to Annapolis, there was no problem selling the boat quickly. "She went in less than one month for $5,000 less than we had paid for her. As we'd lived on the boat for two years, during which time we cruised from California to Panama to Annapolis, we thought that was a pretty good deal."

— latitude 09/02/2013

Larrakin — Catalina 42
Peter and Gabriela Verdon
Adventures In French Polynesia

July began with the wind still blowing plenty hard in the Tuamotus. When we weren't going to get blown away, we enjoyed daily excursions all over the motu, and the guys surfed as much as possible. It was nice to have friends around, and we managed a couple of dance sessions on each other’s boats — although Larrakin's mosh pit rules.

Our friend Chris lent us his truck, so we had a hoot driving all over without ever getting out of second gear. The road is a big loop that encompasses the airport runway. At the center of the island there is a two-story concrete bunker. It's supposed to shelter the island's population of 400 if it were to be threatened by a tropical cyclone. Chris also offered us a job helping run Ninamu for the month of August while he would be off in Papeete serving as surf contest director at Teahupoo. We decided against it as we're already running a little late in our South Pacific wanderings.

We were soon watching the GRIB files with interest as a huge front was nearing. We had plenty of wind and rain for a couple of days. Although it was uncomfortable, we were safe, but others in the Tuamotus were not. On of the boats at Fakarava ended up on the reef, and at last word was still there. Many other boats smashed into bommies, which are the coral heads in the anchorages. Our friends on Sea Nymph tried to cross to Papeete, but turned back to the atolls. It was dangerous, but they felt it was their best option.

We took Larrakin into the small unmanned marina after the blow and tied up for a couple of days. What a treat, as it was the first time we'd been tied to a dock since Mexico. Even without facilities it was a joy to be able to walk onto and off the boat. The marina's lights enticed huge manta rays to appear most nights. Glorious beasts they are!

Even though it was still squalling, we decided enough was enough, and made a very fast and uncomfortable 100-mile passage to Papeete. We only had a little sail up, but we averaged 7.5 knots. We got more salt on the boat as a result of that 100-mile trip than we did on our 3,000-mile crossing from Mexico.

All in all, our Tuamotus experience was nothing like the old days, as it blew for all but a couple of days. In previous trips we had glassy seas for weeks on end. As in other parts of the world, weather patterns seem to be changing.

We happily took a mooring at the Tahiti YC. We were reminded that hot showers and a laundry are among life's little joys. Leina, the owner of the cafe, became an instant mate. Her son is the F18 catamaran world champion, and the previous weekend had won the Mixed Worlds in Nacra 17s. A local sailing hero, he's now sailing on Dona Bertarelli's MOD70 Spindrift.

We were the only cruisers at the Tahiti YC, as all the moorings are private. The French locals were as odd as the French can be. For example, the couple to one side of us were nude all day and night, and the old boy on our other side was in his same brown undies for the duration.

The yacht club is about four miles out of town proper, and you can hitch around. Buses appear sporadically at best, and only stop when the driver feels like it. They don't run at all on Sunday, the biggest market day, which is why the old hitch was so important.

The massive Carrefour store up the road has the best pâté collections I’ve seen since France, and the only shock was the prices. After Mexico's low prices on everything, French Polynesian prices were a shock to the system. They even made Australia look cheap! The duty-free program for cruisers has sadly been stopped, so the 75% duty on booze sure put a damper on things.

Every evening we had a total island experience, as we sat in wonder at the sight of hordes of paddlers, from one-man outriggers to eight-man doubles, going by. It was a never-ending procession that would culminate a couple of weekends later when hundreds of them competed against each other. All ages and sizes, all fiercely competitive.

We drove to the world famous Teahupoo surf spot for another swell, but again the wind was from the wrong direction, so we still haven't seen it go off. We continued to explore the island for another couple of days, and despite expecting a massive buildup, weren't prepared for the astronomical amount of it. There are now only a couple of pockets that look and feel like traditional Tahiti. The rest is modern, and four-wheel SUVs, the international symbol of having 'made it', were ubiquitous.

We had our own 'wogs on tour' moment when we decided to take our two headsails ashore by dinghy for repair. Halfway there, the small leak in the bottom opened up, and in came the water! At the same moment we noticed that our outboard tank was all but empty. Then Verdo's back went out. Gingerly we limped back to Larrakin, and laughed about it later when the sails were back on the boat and Verdo had an anti-inflammatory down his throat.

After patching our dinghy repeatedly for two years, we'd had enough. So there and then we decided to buy a new dink — and couldn't be happier. With the ‘Boat in transit’ tax back, it didn't turn out to be as expensive as we'd feared. She is getting pimped daily and should serve us for years to come.

We got through another week’s work, and with new batteries, some electrics sorted out, and my fractured toe feeling better, we reprovisioned and left for the short sail to Moorea.

We're anchored off Moorea now, and again the buildup is astounding. The French, including lots of retirees, have moved down here in droves. As high as the prices are for everything, the lifestyle is superb, so we can't blame them.

We came to Moorea to catch up with Mimi, an old friend of ours, and her man Stefan. She’s a local with a huge family that owns a big chunk of Pao Pao, Cook’s Bay. We’ve anchored in front of her place on many occasions, and always left loaded with home-grown fruit and flowers.

There have been lots of big yachts at Moorea. Verdo says you know the world is awry when the private yachts are bigger than the navy’s. Although they are absolute monsters, we're not jealous.

We have three more weeks of sailing amongst these stunning islands and will be off for Suwarrow atoll where the diving and surf are supposed to be exceptional.

— gabby 08/15/2014

Blue Marble — F/P 46 Cat
Erlend Hovland
On the Reef at Niue

Thirty-two-year-old Norwegian marine biologist Erlend Hovland now fully appreciates the warnings about never trusting a strange mooring. Last month the Pacific Puddle Jumper's catamaran went up on a reef at Niue after the D-ring securing the mooring line to the mooring unscrewed itself — just after the young and fun-loving Norweigian crew of eight had gone to breakfast ashore. Members of the Niue YC had suggested they use the "commercial mooring". Niue does not have a harbor or safe anchorage.

Niue officials quickly launched a large commercial vessel which — incredibly — managed to drag the cat over and off the jagged reef. Despite considerable damage to the hull, Blue Marble was taken to the surgy waters next to the cement wharf, where a big crane, rushed to the scene, was able to lift her out of the water. There is great video available on the Sept. 13 'Lectronic Latitude.

While not a total loss — Blue Marble looks perfect from the waterline up — it's unclear what can be done with the boat. The nearest yard is Tonga, but a lot of work will have to be done on the hulls before she is seaworthy. Fortunately, the cat was insured.

"Right now we do not know what will happen next," wrote Hovland on his website. "We are being taken care of by very friendly locals. All eight of us are living in the same house for the time being. Some might try to hitchhike westward as crew on passing yachts."

Hovland and crewmember Andreas Melvær had crossed the Pacific once before. It was 1987, and they were 5 and 3 respectively. "We were calling this a trip in the wake of history," Hovland wrote, "and have been documenting it with a media project."

— latitude 09/15/2013

Cruise Notes:

"We're just finishing our shakedown cruise from Thailand to California," report Santa Barbara's Mike and Annette Reed. "We bought Rum Doxy, our 46-ft cat, as a wreck in Phuket and spent five years redesigning and rebuilding her there. We launched three years ago, and have been drifting between Phuket and Langkawi, Malaysia, getting the boat ocean-ready. Last year we began the trip to California, getting the boat as far as Borneo before having to return home to work.

"We began the current leg of the trip in February," the couple continue, "making our way from Borneo to the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. We left Japan in mid-June, and landed in Kodiak five weeks later. We have been making our way south ever since, with visits to Prince William Sound, Icy Bay, Yakutat and the Inside Passage. We are currently in Petersburg, and hope to be back in Santa Barbara in October to return to work. We plan to work for a couple of years while finishing the boat, which would allow us to stop being mobile boat-builders/delivery crew, and go cruising."

It sounds like the two have been cruising since before they started cruising. We're hoping to swing by Santa Barbara before the start of the Ha-Ha to get a few more details on what sounds to have been an excellent adventure. If 'doxy' is a new word to anyone — it was to us — it means floozy, prostitute or mistress.

If you're about to take off cruising and are concerned that you may not get enough cardio, you may consider taking along a SUP. These provide great exercise for hard-to-reach core muscles, and make exercise a pleasure instead of a chore.

Our first bit of advice is to consider getting an inflatable SUP. No, these aren't as good for surfing waves as are the solid ones, but they have come a long way. The ones that you can inflate to over 20 psi are pretty decent. Starboard makes inflatable versions of most of their many models. Some lower-cost and -quality inflatable SUPs are more suited for 'cruising', and some even come with seats, gear racks and other stuff. When we did the Martinique-to-St. Barth trip with the Olson 30 La Gamelle, we used an 11-ft inflatable Uli SUP for our dinghy and our liferaft. In tropical waters, it worked fine as a dinghy. Fortunately, we never needed to try to use it as a liferaft.

There are two huge benefits that inflatable SUPs have over solid SUPs. First, you can roll them up into a compact package for when you are underway or if you need to take them on a plane for some reason. Even more importantly, because they are made of inflatable dinghy-like fabrics, you can drag inflatable SUPs onto your boat without scratching or dinging the boat or the SUP.

Our second bit of SUP advice is to make sure that you get one big enough for the biggest rider on your boat. We started out with a couple of boards that weren't big enough, and that ruined SUP-ing for us for years. We recently got the right size board, and it made all the difference in the world. After just a couple of days, we were pretty good at it, not falling, even in chop. While a big person can't use a board that's too small, a small person — or two or three, plus a dog — can still have a lot of fun with a SUP that's too big to be ideal for them.

Remember how warming of the Arctic has made the once nearly impossible Northwest Passage feasible? Naturally it has attracted a lot more adventurous sailors in the last couple of years, including at least two dozen this season. But as Douglas Pohl reported in a recent Sail World article, these adventurers got a rude awakening when both ends of the Northwest Passage became blocked by ice early in the season. At least 22 yachts are said to be trapped until next summer — or even longer. It's unclear if the Canadian government will go to the considerable expense of sending an icebreaker to free them. In addition to 'yachts', there are some Jet Skis and row boats. Yes, someone wanted to be the first to say they Jet Skied the Northwest Passage. Some skippers have already abandoned their vessels. What's the problem? Pohl reports that there is 60% more ice this year than last.

Kirk McGeorge reports that he and his Hylas 49 Gallivanter are well on their way from Darwin, Australia to their 'new old home' of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins. He's made it to Komodo Island in Indonesia, home of the Komodo dragons. While the big lizards are nasty looking, they don't usually kill from their bites, but rather from the highly toxic bacteria in their saliva. After they bite their prey, they follow them until they get sick and die. Kirk is trying to make fast passages, because he'll be meeting up with his wife Kath and son Stuart at Cape Town and later the U.S. Virgins.
We wouldn't be surprised if Kirk and crew bumped into Gene and Sheri Seybold of the Stockton- and Honolulu-based Esprit 37 Reflections, as they were checking out the Komodo dragons on Komodo Island at about the same time.

"Latitude recently asked about low or 'no money' months of cruising," write Chuck and Linda Houlihan from aboard the Allied 39 Jacaranda in Ecuador. "We departed San Diego in 2005 and have had a number of 'zero dollars spent' months. The longest we've gone without spending any money is six weeks at the Socorro Islands 250 miles southwest of Cabo. It was easy because there wasn't anywhere to spend money. The first time we spent 3½ weeks out there, the second time six weeks. Back in the late '80s while I, Chuck, was cruising in the South Pacific, I had a couple of zero-dollar months as well. They were few and far between, but they were nice when they happened.

"During the four summers we spent in the Sea of Cortez, there were numerous times when we only spent $50 or $60 a month," the couple continue. "One year we only used 10 gallons of diesel in making the 600-mile round trip from La Paz to Bahia de Los Angeles over a 3½-month period. Something like $50 a month is all you need once you get north of Santa Rosalia, because there are no marinas or major towns with stores to suck pesos from your pockets. One major key is knowing how to fish and collect edible seafood. I, Chuck, did the fishing, while Linda did the collecting. We enjoyed fresh seafood every day. Not breaking boat stuff — which is easier said than done — helps keep you within your budget."

"I cruised for four years in Mexico on 4,000 pesos per month," reports Chuck Losness of the Gulfstar 41 Hale Moana. "It wasn't hard to do, so I don't know what the big deal is. You just can't stay in marinas. I'm back in San Diego now and expenses have gone up, but not by that much. What you spend is all a question of lifestyle."

At the current exchange rate, 4,000 pesos is about $305 U.S. Come to think of it, that's what Bill Anderson of the home-built Hughes 42 cat Feet recently told us he spends a month cruising in Mexico, where cruising can be very inexpensive.

"We recently arrived in the Society Islands," report Justin Jenkins and Anna Wiley of the San Diego-based Columbia 34 Ichiban. "We've been at Huahine catching epic barreling surf. Incredible! Sorry we didn't write sooner, but it's hard to find Internet access. We just caught a 60-lb mahi mahi and will send a photo as soon as we can."

As Latitude reported last month, Jenkins and Wiley, both in their early 30s, paid $2,000 for their boat — not counting upgrades — and took off for the Marquesas with just $400 left in the kitty. While pointing out that it really is possible to cruise happily on very little money, we don't want to mislead anyone about what most people spend when they cruise. We'd say that for folks who have already paid for and equipped their boat, the monthly nut is somewhere between $1,500 and $4,000 to live a pretty sweet cruising life. It's certainly possible to do it for less, but we also know of folks who are going through $10,000 a month.

"We're anchored at Pago Pago, American Samoa," reports Michael Moyer of the Newport Beach-based Alajuela 48 Cherokee Rose. "Everyone claims this is the place to reprovision and send your broken parts back to the States. Buses run constantly during the day, $1 each way, and if you tell the drivers where you need to go, they'll usually drop you off in front of whatever building you want. The post office looks just like the ones in the States ­— because it's exactly the same postal service. I've sent items back to California and mail-ordered parts from the States. Although I haven't gotten anything back yet, I'm told it will be no problem. The anchorage here is as bad as advertised, as almost everybody has had to reset their anchor at least once. Ours held for four days and in up to 27 knots of wind, but even though it only blew 17 knots on day five, we dragged through the fleet. What can I say? We're off to try to fill an older propane tank. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't make me replace it."

"I read about Profligate's five-day- plus-a-couple-of-hours Bash from Puerto Vallarta to Ensenada," reports David Addleman of the Monterey-based Santa Cruz 50 X. "It's nice when the Bashes are easy. I once did a January delivery from Acapulco to San Francisco, and we didn't take a single drop of water on the deck. But it did take a month, as we stopped at almost every cantina. There's no news to report from X here in the Philippines as it's the wet season, although for a wet season there have been a remarkable number of sunny days. Nonetheless, cruising is out of the question as typhoons regularly roar through the area. My days are spent on minor boat maintenance, currently the interior varnish. Evenings are passed at the Rock 'n Roll Bar and related antics. There's a regatta here in November, after which we'll resume wandering around the Philippines."

"After three months in the beautiful San Blas Islands of Panama, we're still in Panama planning to transit the Ditch at the end of September and then work our way north to Mexico," report John and Deb Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 2-62 Moonshadow. "While in the Caribbean, we twice ignored the advice the Wanderer gave us when we met up at St. Barth, and both times we learned our lesson. First, we checked in on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten instead of going around to the French side of St. Martin. Mistake. Second, we should have stayed in St. Barth longer. These were huge screw-ups on our part. Inexcusable, really, as they don't pass out titles like Grand Poobah willy-nilly, do they?"

We may not know much, but we do know about checking into and out of St. Martin/Sint Maarten, and we do know why St. Barth, if you understand the little place, ranks so high among the islands of the Caribbean.

"I recently returned from nearly three months in French Polynesia aboard Marionette, a Nils Lucander-designed 50-ft cutter that was built by Cheoy Lee," reports Don Furber of the Eureka/Puerto Escondido-based Ericson 36C Calliope. "Marionette was purchased several years ago in the San Francisco area by Bruce and Catherine Dunlop of New Zealand. After several months of work — including replacing bad wood in the stern and cold molding two diagonal layers of Alaska yellow cedar over the original strip planking — they sailed her to Baja. I met the Dunlops in Puerto Escondido, where I keep my boat. After a couple of seasons getting acquainted in the Sea of Cortez, I put in my bid to crew for Bruce when he was heading back to New Zealand. Fortunately, that worked out. We left San Jose del Cabo at the end of April and made landfall in the Marquesas 18 days later. We had several 180- to 190-mile days under sail, and resorted to power for only about 55 hours. Life aboard the 50-year-old woody was comfortable no matter what the weather. We were, of course, sailing off the wind."

"On the way to the Marquesas," Furber continues, "we saw what seems to me to have been a very unusual occurrence. I've always enjoyed watching the sun change shape as it sinks into the sea, but on May 8 it was different. It quickly became apparent that we were seeing a partial solar eclipse. I want to know: 1) Did this happen around the globe for everyone in the same band of latitude? 2) Does it happen every month somewhere? 3) Can you plot where you need to be to see another? 4) Has anyone else seen one at sea?

"Lastly, thanks to Latitude 38 for putting in the time and energy to facilitate entry into French Polynesia for cruisers. We weren't able to participate in the Puddle Jump fun at Moorea because of a conflict with crew departure schedules, but our greeting in Papeete and Coralie, the agent, were both excellent."

Thanks for the kind words. Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin, managing editor of Latitude, is the person at Latitude who has been entirely responsible for the greatly improved clearing procedures for cruisers going to French Polynesia. And yes, it's taken a lot of time and effort.

As for your eclipse questions: 1) Others would have seen the eclipse, but not necessarily those at the same latitude. 2) There are two to five eclipses a year, although five is rare. 3) Where eclipses can be seen is known well in advance, allowing umbraphiles — those who travel to see solar eclipses — to know where to go. 4) We once saw a near-total eclipse from the docks of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. Those on boats at Lahaina would have seen a rare total eclipse. We also saw a surprise eclipse while flying home from Honolulu once.

Re-entry to the 'real world' hasn't been without hiccups for Pamela Bendall of the Vancouver, B.C.-based Kristen 46 Precious Metal, who took off cruising with the Ha-Ha in 2008 and adventured as far south as Peru. For example, a day or so after she and her boat returned home to Vancouver, she parked her dinghy, locked it, and went to dinner. When she came back two hours later, it was gone. "After five years of cruising in waters and to countries that are supposedly rife with crime, my dinghy gets stolen in Canada," she groaned. An orange bag was found near the scene of the crime, and it contained a crumpled beer can, a battery-powered grinder, and a sharp rotary blade to cut the dinghy's lock and chain. In the better news column, the folks at Hub Insurance not only approved Bendall's claim — despite the fact she'd only taken out the policy the day before — they also waived the 30-day waiting period to pay the claim.

"It's amazing how different our Canadian society has become in the five short years I was gone," Bendall continues. "I was pretty hip and savvy when I departed, but while on my doggie walk yesterday I witnessed a scene that I wouldn't have seen five years ago: a lesbian couple getting married in a lovely public setting along the shoreline, with family and friends gathered around in delight. I appreciated the scene, too — until both women pulled out their smart phones to read their vows to each other! Yup, they scrolled down their gadgets as they read each passionate line." Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Plan A for Jack van Ommen and his Gig Harbor, Washington-based Nadja 29 Fleetwood was to leave Amsterdam for England, Portugal and the Canary Islands, where he would make a December jump-off for the Caribbean and Cartagena, Colombia. From there, he would begin his explorations of South America. But a combination of not being able to get everything ready on his boat after putting on new decks and doing an extensive refit, plus the onset of bad weather, put an end to that plan. "I was having trouble getting SailMail set up on my new laptop, I wasn't able to get the AIS working, and then the marina Fleetwood was in was hit by winds up to 53 knots. That humbled me back to better sense, as I also needed to take a closer look at the condition of the spreaders, which hadn't looked so good when I re-stepped the mast 10 days ago. I am disappointed because Plan A would have been a good sail, but I was trying to leave too late in the year, as the pleasant weather of summer has been replaced by the stormy conditions of fall in this part of the world. There are a number of new depressions coming down from the north. My Plan B is to take the mast down again, repair the spreaders, and then get to the Med via the canals — which is the same way I came up to Amsterdam last August/September. It's definitely a slower and more costly way to make my way to the Canaries, and I am not particularly looking forward to the 200+ locks Fleetwood must go through, but I will be passing through Burgundy during the grape harvest and will get to taste the new Beaujolais. I should be able to get back on the schedule for leaving the Canary Islands in November/December for my Atlantic crossing. This delay reminds me of the time I got stranded in Port Townsend in October 2004 with too many loose ends, and the time I missed the window to cross the Atlantic in 2008 after I spent too much time doing work on the boat in Florida."

Van Ommen, now well into his 70s, is one of the most accomplished 'big bang for the buck' cruisers we know. You can follow his many adventures at

"'Capt. Ron' Drew, a daily presence on the morning Cruisers' Net on Banderas Bay, and a frequent visitor to the various marinas to pick up clothing and other donations for The Single Mom's Association, passed away in August," reports Steve van Slyke. "Capt. Ron's history in Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay goes all the way back to the days when coastal freighters would anchor off downtown and small boats would off-load bananas. It was a long time ago."

It's hard to believe, but we're on the eve of another great cruising season. Although we just got back from Mexico in early September, we're dying to return. The chance to make more great new cruising friends, to mingle with the wonderful people of Mexico, to enjoy the warm water, and to get in some long spinnaker runs — just a few of the many things we're looking forward to. We won't even mention all the cruising fun starting in the Caribbean in mid-February. It's like the song says, "Winter, it's my time of year."

Missing the pictures? See the October 2013 eBook!


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