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October 2015

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With reports this month from Escapade in Corsica; Tamarisk on risking a passage through Somalian waters; from Angel Louise on seven years of cruising in the Caribbean, Atlantic and Europe; from Carpenthia on seven years of cruising in the Pacific and hungering for more; from Pizzaz on how to get between Panama and the Eastern Caribbean; from Convergence on 11 years of cruising; and Cruise Notes.

Escapade — Catana 52 Cat
Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie
Dropping the Hook in the Med
(Lake Tahoe)

We're taking a 'day off' here in the La Maddalena Islands at the Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve at the southern tip of Corsica. Yesterday, in a quest to prove that we can 'still do it all', we took a long bike ride, sailed an amazing 10 miles upwind in 20 knots and flat water, took a swim, and had a nice SUP outing. Today we're licking our wounds, as we're no longer 30. Or 40. Or even 50.

One thing Debbie and I did before heading to the Med was read all the past Changes in Latitudes from boats in the Med to get some insight on cruising over here. And I remember mentioning to the Wanderer/Publisher of Latitude that I was concerned about a possible lack of anchorages and marina space for a good-sized catamaran such as ours. I was informed that when the Wanderer's Ocean 71 Big O went across the Med in the mid-1990s under Capt Jim Drake, there was no problem finding places to anchor from Spain's Balearic Islands, to St. Tropez, to Villefranche, to Elba, to Italy, to Greece and to Turkey. And that other than at Monte Carlo, Big O almost never stayed in a marina.

What the Wanderer told us about the 1990s still holds true in the Med, so we need not have worried. Since leaving Valencia, we haven't spent a single night in a marina — except when Catana hauled our cat near Toulon to fix the daggerboards. We've enjoyed many great anchorages. We even felt so good about the one at Portovenere, Italy, that we left Escapade unattended on the hook for four days while we traveled to Paris to get our Long Stay Visas finished up.

By the way, the visa officials in Paris were very helpful, and clearly stated that with French Long Stay Visas affixed to our passports, we can travel throughout the Schengen Area countries for the duration of our visa. This, of course, contradicts what the officials told us in Portugal. In addition, the French officials told us about the best time to apply for a visa extension of another year.

But the best news of all is that we've had great sailing conditions for the last week, which isn't that common in this part of the world.

— greg 09/03/2015

Tamarisk — Sundeer 56
Jason and Piers Windebank
Running the Somali Pirate Gauntlet
(San Diego)

What a shame that the theme of the final ocean passage of our three-year circumnavigation would be fears about the threat of piracy. Somali piracy is an issue that few people really understand, so here is our short version:

Once the Somali government collapsed in the mid-1980s, anarchy reigned and the Somali coastline was left undefended. Foreign fishing trawlers seized the opportunity to fish illegally along the Somali coast, while some Western corporations saved on the cost of toxic waste disposal by dumping their nasty stuff along the Somali shores. This devastated the fish stock in Somalian waters. Since fishing was one of Somalia’s biggest industries, it left many Somalis in a desperate situation.

Somali fishermen soon began taking hostile action toward foreign vessels operating illegally in Somali waters. This eventually morphed into the piracy industry that continues to disrupt ship traffic for about 1,000 miles around the Somali coast. Despite the coalition efforts of 21 countries to patrol the Horn of Africa region with warships and a variety of military assets onshore, piracy has continued.

The piracy situation made preparing for our Indian Ocean voyage a major challenge, as the bulk of our passage would be through a literal war zone. In addition, Tamarisk would be one of the first private sailing boats to attempt this passage since four West Coast cruisers — Scott and Jean Adam of the Marina del Rey-based Quest, and their crew Robert Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle — were murdered following the hijacking of their boat 250 miles off the coast of Oman in February 2011. So it would have been stupid for us to underestimate the threat to our personal safety.

Increased security provided by the coalition of nations has resulted in a major decline in the number of piracy incidents since 2012, but whether 'soft targets' such as ourselves were now safe in Somali waters was unclear. So we chose to go with a security plan that prepared us for the worst — 'the worst' we understood to be a gun battle with assault weapons.

So while in Thailand we had a bulletproof metal shield installed around Tamarisk's cockpit, and planned to buy high-caliber assault rifles prior to our entry into the High Risk Area (HRA). But as was the case with pretty much every other plan we’d made in the past three years, this one went pear-shaped soon after we set it into motion.

Our plan was to link up with Shapirit, a boat we'd met in Thailand. Her skipper and ex-army crew had intentions similar to ours, so we agreed to join forces for the dangerous transit. Essentially, we'd provide mutual support in a two-boat convoy. We also called our friend Lee, who used to be a sniper in the Israeli Special Forces, and asked him to join us as our Security Officer. The only thing missing in our plan was minor — the sourcing of assault weapons.

We and Shapirit's skipper made a deal with a supposedly reputable security contractor to rent the weapons from an armory in Sri Lanka. Shapirit was to pick the guns up and meet us at sea following our week or two of cruising around the Maldives. But upon their arrival in Sri Lanka, the contractor couldn’t deliver the weapons that had been agreed on. Whether it was a money-making scheme or a problem with the Sri Lankan authorities still isn’t clear. But once we realized that we weren't getting the weapons, the reasons didn’t much matter. We were in a clusterf--k situation, sitting as we were in the Maldives with a Special Forces soldier aboard, Shapirit having departed Sri Lanka unarmed, the wind direction leaving us little option other than sailing into the HRA, and not a single weapon among us.

With the help of a resourceful agent in the Maldives, frantic calls went out to all the security contractors with weapons in the Maldives armory. Within 24 hours we'd found one that agreed to rent us some weapons. We signed the contract, made the payment, and made a mad dash for the armory in Male two days to the south.

While we were en route, questions about our maritime security credentials started flying at us. We had no credentials. They inquired about what security firm Lee was registered with. He wasn't registered with any. And on and on. Apparently the company's usual clients are security firms, and they'd mistakenly assumed that we were such a firm.

The closer we got to the weapons, the faster the questions came at us, and the less certain our weapons deal became. Eventually the dreaded email arrived from the security contractor:

"I do apologize as there is a misunderstanding, but we need to have a custodian for the weapons for this transit. We need to cancel the weapons rental and we will transfer the funds to you right away. I truly apologize for this matter. Please do not load the weapons."

But by that time we'd already gotten our hands on the weapons. Upon later learning from our agent that we'd not only gotten the weapons, but had loaded them and sailed away, the security company contacted us again:

"Please turn back and return the weapons to Malé. This is serious, as you might be arrested. You are not allowed to use the weapons without a custodian. Kindly sail back."

Rather than turn back, we put Malé behind us and motored away into a gorgeous sunset. We were armed, a major victory in itself.

We had 12 mostly smooth days of travel after leaving Malé, during which time we crossed the Arabian Sea and first half of the Gulf of Aden. We saw few ships of any type for the first 10 days, and our only hiccup was some broken rigging that took our mainsail out of commission for a morning. Asier, one of our two crew, was able to fabricate a replacement part in the engine room.

Things got more interesting in the Gulf of Aden, as the land masses push all transiting vessels into an increasingly narrow bottleneck. That's why this has historically been the area with the most piracy. The wind direction also forced us to travel farther south than we had hoped, at one point pushing us to within 50 miles of the Somali coast.

We saw the occasional fishing boat, but worked hard to avoid detection. Most of the time we ran without our nav lights, and only occasionally switched on our AIS. We tried to stay within a mile of Shapirit in case we needed to converge quickly, which was our plan in the case of any approaching skiffs. We saw warships on the horizon and heard their chatter on the VHF. Their purpose is to protect the merchant ships, not yachts, inside the transit corridor, but their presence gave us additional comfort.

We had no worrisome incidents, other than a few close passes by fishing skiffs, and felt mostly safe in a slightly nervous and unsure way. So we sailed on at full speed toward the entrance to the Red Sea, where the risk of trouble would go up by several orders of magnitude. At least we enjoyed flawless sailing conditions, and thus couldn’t ask for a better start to our 2015.

Our next stop would be a quick one in Aden, where we hoped to buy diesel and bread before continuing westward into the most risky section of the voyage, the Straits of Bab Al Mandeb. Little did we know that our excitement was about to begin.

[Part Two will appear in next month's

— jason 01/02/2015 Gulf of Aden

Angel Louise — Catalac 38
Ed and Sue Kelly
Seven Years of Cruising
(Des Moines, Iowa)

One of the reasons Ed, along with his wife Sue, has been enjoying cruising for the last seven years — including two trips across the Atlantic and a 6,200-mile 'circumnavigation' of Western Europe — is that the “small town country boy” had so much sailing experience when he was younger. Directly out of school, he paid $88 and two coupons from cartons of Kool cigarettes to buy a Sea Snark, an 11-ft styrofoam ‘boat’ with a lateen sail and a rudder.

“I probably sailed that $88 boat 500 times on the quarter-mile by quarter-mile lake near my home," says Ed. "My dog and I would sail her four hours almost every summer night,”

Before deciding to go ocean cruising seven years ago, Ed and Sue — she was new to sailing — moved up to sailing slightly bigger boats on Sailorville Lake, a one-mile by eight-mile lake near Des Moines. Based on that experience, and fueled by dreams of cruising adventures such as chronicled in the pages of Latitude 38, they headed to the East Coast and fell in love with hull #26 of the 27 Catalac 38 catamarans. They primarily liked the space of the already 20-year-old boat.

Ed and Sue will be the first to tell you that the Catalac is not a performance catamaran. “She almost always powers faster than she can sail,” says Ed, “and since I’m still a Type A personality, we motor more than we sail. It doesn’t help that our cat is overloaded, so the fastest she’s gone under sail is 8.5 knots. During our trips across the Atlantic, we’d be happy with 115 to 125 miles a day.”

The design’s small sail plan and unusually large amount of wetted surface keep her from being faster. While in the Florida Keys, Ed conducted a test to see how much wind the cat would need to sail as fast as she motored. He determined it was 26 knots.

Despite the design’s limited sailing speed, in the last seven years the Kellys have done more cruising, and more ambitious cruising, than probably 99% of all sailors. They've done four trips up and down the Intracoastal Waterway; they completed the 'Thornless Path' to the Eastern Caribbean and down to Grenada; they cruised Venezuela’s Los Roques Islands; they did the ABC Islands and sailed back to Puerto Rico; and they returned to the United States. And this was before they took off to Europe.

“During those times we were getting our courage up to cross the Atlantic," says Ed. They started from Brunswick, Georgia, in 2011, having never spent more than two consecutive nights at sea before. Once they got to Bermuda, officials asked how long they thought it would take them to get to the Azores.

“I don’t know, maybe 30 days," replied Ed, shocking the officials. As it was, it took them only 19 days.

They hit their worst weather to date on their way from the Azores to Europe. “It was blowing 40 knots, the seas were 20 feet, and we were being blown toward distant Bay of Biscay at 7.6 knots under bare poles. We decided that we’d better deploy the Jordan series drogue we’d spent a week building with a Sailrite kit. We managed to get it set despite having never tried it before, and it slowed the boat to less than half a knot.”

The storm lasted for 25 hours, after which they made it to Cherbourg, France. They would spend the winter at St. Katharine Docks in London, and the following year began a 6,200-mile 'circumnavigation' of Western Europe by way of canals, various rivers including the Danube, the Black Sea, the Med and the Atlantic. They would spend a total of 3.5 years in Europe before sailing back to the States last winter.

Although Ed would like to head back to Europe, he and Sue are currently making their way south toward Cuba. But they have several major speaking engagements on the way, including one at the United States Sailboat Show.

In what comes as no surprise to the Wanderer, the Kellys found Europe to be a lot less expensive than the United States. “The exception is when it comes to berths in regular marinas," says Ed. "Although the marina prices in New England in the summer are right up there with the Med."

The couple cruise on about $45,000 a year. They dine out now and then, but never at really expensive restaurants. “My budget buster is grocery stores,” confesses Ed.

The least expensive places the couple have cruised have been the Channel Islands, Brittany, Portugal and Spain. But their favorite cruising spot to date is an unusual one — Madeira. "It's a rough place to keep a boat," acknowledges Ed, "but we just loved it. The people, the mountains, the diving, it was all great."

Based on seven years of cruising, Ed has three bits of advice. "First, the lack of patience will, more than anything, get you into trouble. Such as not waiting for good weather and ending up hating a passage. Second, don’t try to beat bad weather. Wait until it passes. Third, you can't believe how many wonderful people there are out there, and how great it is to share the joy in their lives and yours."

We coaxed three bits of advice from Sue, too. "First, we’ve done this trip as a partnership, and always supported each other. That's been very important. Second, don’t wait too long to take a cruise such as ours. Third, it’s important that both people know how to do things, no matter if it’s going up the mast or making repairs to the engine. A funny example of how this works out well is that Ed's hands were too big to set the friction plate for the raw-water impeller on one of the two Yanmar diesels. But it was easy for me because my hands are smaller — and because I was a nurse practioner, and it was just like fitting a diaphram at the women's health clinic."

The other thing they both agreed on is that you learn to cruise as you go, not from books or sailing in protected waters.

What's been the effect of seven years of cruising on their health?

"We're seven years older than when we started, but we're in as good shape as we could be," says Ed. "All the action on the boat, and all the action ashore, keeps us fit."

"We've extended our lives by cruising," agreed Sue.

— latitude/rs 09/15/2015

Carpenthia — Lagoon 440 Cat
Dietmar Petutschnig and Suzanne Dubose
After Seven Years, Hungry for More
(San Francisco)

In 2008 Dietmar and Suzanne joined the Baja Ha-Ha. Other than Dietmar's having taken some sailing courses at J/World in San Diego, they were sailing novices. But they still had a terrific time on the Ha-Ha.

“Once we met the other cruisers and felt the camaraderie, we quickly became addicted to cruising,” says Dietmar. “The next spring we sailed across to French Polynesia with veteran San Diego sailor Kurt Roll as crew. He later rejoined us in Tonga for the rest of the way to New Zealand.”

“By the time we got to New Zealand in 2009,” says Dietmar, “I didn’t feel that I needed any more babysitting. I pretty much knew the boat systems, how to read the weather, how to interact with other cruisers, all that stuff. Sailing lessons are good for your base knowledge and they help reduce the fear factor, but you really learn to cruise by being challenged on the ocean. Learning by doing, after 18 months the parts of the puzzle had pretty much come together so I could get the big picture. Listening to veteran cruisers was also a big help."

The couple’s most terrifying experiences had nothing to do with the weather or the boat. “It was having to put Vienna, our longhaired standard dachshund in quarantine in New Zealand for 30 days,” says Dietmar. “We knew it was coming, but it was nonetheless terrifying. Taking a dog across the South Pacific on a boat was hard. We would not do it again, as it was very costly, time-consuming and nerve-wracking. It was also unfair to Vienna.”

While not a perfect design, the Lagoon 440 catamaran Carpenthia gets Dietmar's seal of approval.

“Having put 35,000 miles beneath her keels, we can say she’s been a great boat for us. Like most other cats she doesn’t sail to weather as well as we'd hoped, but I’ve learned to sail with her, I’ve done many long passages with her, and she’s been good to us. Would I buy a 440 again knowing what I’ve learned after seven years of cruising her the South Pacific? Yes, I would.”

The worst weather of Dietmar’s trip back from New Zealand — indeed, the worst weather of their entire cruise — was from Christmas Island to Hawaii. “It was 11 days of nothing but 20- to 35-knot winds on the nose, with big seas. It wasn’t pleasant, of course, but I nonetheless enjoyed it as a personal challenge. It was as if I earned my wings.”

Arriving back in San Francisco rekindled fond memories for Dietmar. "It reminded me of visiting The City as a 10-year-old boy from Austria. I remember playing pinball machines at Pier 39."

Dietmar is a business guy, so he and Suzanne had a variety of ways of staying in touch with the real world.

“We have Inmarsat, so I can make phone calls from anywhere if I have to, and I do have access to the Internet, but the latter is very expensive. For the most part we used Internet cafes. When we’ve had to make passages, we’ve planned ahead to make sure it was all right for us to be out of contact for a few days.

"And if we needed to see people in person for business or other reasons," he continues, "it wasn't that much farther flying from the South Pacific to New York than it was when I used to fly from Las Vegas to New York. As it was, I’d fly back to the States every three months or so. It wasn’t that bad, and it meant I got to bring back boat parts and special foods we wanted or needed. Having a boat in the South Pacific is just like having another house.”

One of the most magical anchorages Dietmar and Suzanne visited was one in Vanuatu. When they went to the village, they saw a satphone with an antenna. But the chief told them it didn’t work. Dietmar didn't have a problem figuring out why, as the cable between the phone and the antenna had been cut.

“Why did you do that?” Dietmar asked the chief.

"The cable makes good fishhooks,” the chief replied.

Dietmar and Suzanne sailed between New Zealand and the South Pacific four times, and even worked in the Land of the Long White Cloud for awhile. “I started a little fund in New Zealand, and we took over a small manufacturing company. It didn’t work out financially, but it was worthwhile just for the wonderful Kiwi friends that we made."

More recently Dietmar started a web app called Good Anchorage, which lists crowd-sourced anchorages all over the world and information about them. “It’s free, it’s online, and we have 4,000 members who have contributed information on 57,000 anchorages. We haven’t made any money with it yet, but we’re hoping to sell advertising on it before too long."

Dietmar estimates that the couple spend between $2,000 and $3,000 a month cruising. “We haven’t tried to live frugally because I have faith that I can always make money if I need to. Nonetheless, since we've started cruising we've become more conscious of what we spend. Having learned how to do most of the work on our boat has saved us a lot of money compared to our early days of cruising when I had to hire people.”

After the long, long trip home from New Zealand and seven years of cruising in all, what do the couple plan to do next?

“We have a lot of things we have to do, but if everything works out right, we’re going to do this fall's Ha-Ha. It was so much fun last time. Suzanne is up for it, and apparently so is our dog. Suzanne reports that Vienna is bored and seems as if he wants to be on the water again. We want to go to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, the San Blas Islands, the Caribbean — all that stuff. I have this wanderlust, so let’s go!”

— latitude/rs 09/01/2015

Pizzaz — Moorings 500
Lourae and Randy Kenoffel
Between Aruba and Panama
(San Francisco)

Getting from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean is one of the nastiest sailing passages in the world. It's sort of like doing a Baja Bash in that the wind and seas are always on the nose. But it's different from the Bash in that it's at least twice as long, the conditions are usually rougher, and there aren't as many places to duck into for some rest.

Basically there are three options for getting from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean — i.e., the Virgins, St. Martin, Antigua, etc.

Option One is to sail up the western Caribbean to Guatemala's Rio Dulce, which usually isn't too bad a trip. But when you get to the Rio Dulce, you're even farther from the Eastern Caribbean than you were in Panama. You can get some relief at Jamaica and Hispaniola when going east, but it's a long way against the relentless trade winds.

Option Two is to sail 200 miles to Cartagena, which usually isn't too hard, then sail 450 miles north across the Caribbean to Jamaica. This can be very rough. Once you get to Jamaica, you're still 750 miles from the Eastern Caribbean. You can do some island-hopping to get there more easily, but it can still be a nasty trip, particularly from the middle of December to the middle of February.

Option Three is sailing from Panama to Cartagena, then along the coast of Colombia to Cabo Vela, and ultimately Aruba and the Lesser Antilles. This is the most direct route, but it's also via the north coast of Colombia, which often features some of the nastiest upwind sailing/motoring conditions in the world. Just for kicks, go to the Passage Weather site as you're reading this and see if the wind on the north coast of Colombia isn't the nastiest in all of the Caribbean.

What makes going across the top of Colombia so problematic is that most people assume that you have to do the 400-mile coast of Colombia in one gulp, which almost assures that you'll get clobbered by at least one gale.

In 2001, former San Franciscans Randy and Lourae Kenoffel, on the Moorings 50 Pizzaz, came up with a rudimentary cruising guide to the Colombian coast, a guide that showed cruisers how to do most of the coast of Colombia in day hops. As they and others who followed the guide were to discover, it meant that if you had time and patience, you could do the north coast of Colombia — and for all intents and purposes the nastiest part of getting to the Eastern Caribbean — without necessarily getting clobbered.

The Kenoffels' guide was published in Latitude in the early 2000s, so some of the details may be dated. But the locations of the anchorages shouldn't have changed. Because of the length of the guide, we can't publish it until next month's Latitude, but we'll start with some excerpts from their preface:

"The key to cruising the Colombia coast safely and comfortably is weather. This is especially important if you plan on doing it offshore, but also applies to running along the coast. The Caribbean has two seasons; the Wet Season, from June through November, and the Dry Season, from December through May. If you travel in the transition months, late March through mid-June, or mid-October through mid-December, you are more likely to find calmer conditions. And generally speaking, the farther south you go, the lighter the winds.

"The weather gurus almost always recommend staying at least 200 miles offshore, but that's based on fears for cruisers' personal safety more than weather. In our experience, the weather conditions offshore have been worse than inshore, inshore meaning within five to 10 miles of land.

"Currents are an issue. Normally there is a one-knot westerly current along the Colombian coast. At times there is a half-knot easterly current near Cartagena."
Be sure to check out next month's Changes for the Kenoffels' guide.

— latitude/rs 09/15/2015

Readers — In the early 2000s personal safety was a big concern for cruisers transiting the Caribbean coast of Colombia. That no longer seems to be the case, but always check with Club Nautico in Cartagena for the latest news.

Convergence — Wylie 66
Sally-Christine Rodgers and Randy Repass
Eight Years of Cruising
(Santa Cruz)

Randy Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers haven’t been in a hurry to complete a circumnavigation. They started on their westabout go-around 11 years ago, and still haven't made it out of the Med. Their cat ketch with unstayed masts is currently on the hard in Malta.

In 2004 the couple and their then-9-year-old son Kent-Harris, along with Santa Cruz cruising vets Jim Foley and Linda Moore and their 5-year-olds Trevor and Dana, took off for the Marquesas. Sailing pretty much a rhumbline course, they made the nearly 3,000-mile passage in 15 days. That's flying.

Convergence is faster than the typical cruising boat,” Sally-Christine explains. “She commonly sails at 8 to 10 knots, often hits 15 to 18 knots, and has hit a top speed of 23 knots. She once did 240 miles in 24 hours.”

Jim, Linda and their kids left after Convergence got to Tahiti, and for the most part Randy, Sally-Christine and Kent-Harris have been cruising around the world by themselves during a series of 'extended summers'. Kent-Harris obviously needed to be homeschooled during their cruising. While Sally-Christine will be the first to admit that “homeschooing is a job,” she also feels that it’s been very beneficial for their son.

“Randy and I believe that classrooms are highly overrated and don’t have enough fresh air. We feel that students learn more by being outside, where they can learn through experiences, and seeing, smelling, touching and tasting things. This is particularly true with our son, as he's dyslexic.”

The couple soon found that Kent-Harris added a lot to their cruising experience. “The great thing about cruising with kids is that they open so many doors. Our son, like almost all cruising kids, was our ambassador.”

Once their first extended summer was over, the family left Convergence in Raiatea so they could return to work. As most Latitude readers know, in 1975 Randy founded what would become the 300+ store West Marine chain, and is still the chairman of the board.

When the three returned to Convergence the next season, they sailed to some of the more remote islands of French Polynesia, the Cooks, and some other islands on the way to New Zealand. They left Convergence in New Zealand, where they say she received the best boat care of their cruise.

With two cruising seasons under their belts, they were able to get an idea of how Kent-Harris was doing with homeschooling. “We used the books and curriculum at his regular school to make his reentries as seamless as possible," says Sally-Christine, "and we were thrilled to see that he was well ahead of most of his classmates."

During his times aboard the ketch, Kent-Harris was learning more than academics. “He couldn't help but realize that cruising on your own boat is hard work and not like being on a cruise ship,” says Sally-Christine. “He had his jobs on the boat, he took his turn cleaning heads, he helped resupplying the boat, and so forth. Despite the work, he appreciated how lucky he was to have the opportunity."

Two adults and a boy aren’t a lot of crew on a 66-foot boat, and there are differing opinions on how difficult it was to sail Convergence.

“For Randy it was a piece of cake,” says Sally-Christine. “I’m a great crew but not a great sailor, so it wasn’t as easy for me. Convergence was the biggest boat that I’d ever sailed on, and we faced some rough weather that I found to be mind-altering. You have to remember that I was a mother and no longer a 20-year-old girl happy to be getting blasted by spray. So it’s fortunate that Randy had designed a boat and a rig that is so easy to sail. Actually, it was Randy blending his ideas along with those of a lot of other very experienced sailors, which is why she’s named Convergence.”

The family next sailed back to Tonga and Fiji, and spent quite a bit of time in the latter. “While we always enjoy meeting fellow cruisers, Randy and I were particularly interested in spending time in the more remote and less-visited villages. We found some of our favorites when we circumnavigated Vanua Levu, Fiji, where we were the first white people some of the locals had ever seen. It was magical for us, the essence of adventure cruising. And I’m still in contact with some of those people.”

In 2007 they sailed up to Vanuatu, the Banks Islands to the north, and across to Australia, arriving just south of Brisbane. This would be the site of their most serious accident. Convergence struck a sandbar, which caused Sally-Christine to hit her head on a coaming, fracturing part of an eye socket. She then fell down the companionway into the galley, landing on the back of her head.

“I don't remember much of the next year, and to a certain extent the head injury affected my speech and balance. I’m much better now, but I still get headaches and have other issues related to the head injury."

Randy decided Sally-Christine needed to be eased 'back into the saddle', so they spent the following cruising season in the more mellow waters of Australia’s Whitsunday Islands.

The next season’s major destination was Tasmania. “I can’t begin to describe the quantity and quality of the bird and sea life down there other than to say it's otherworldly," says Sally-Christine. "Tasmania is a very interesting and exciting place for those who revel in nature. However, it's often very windy and it's not a place for white sand beaches and palm trees. Hobart is an incredible city, and they are enjoying a wooden boat renaissance. Randy and I liked the people of Tasmania because they were more self-reliant than most. They have to be."

Sally-Christine and Kent-Harris didn't do the passage back across the often-rough Bass Strait to mainland Australia, so Randy and crew took Convergence all the way up the east coast of Oz and then around the top to Darwin. Mom and son joined Randy for Indonesia, home to 17,500 islands.

“It's impossible to visit all the islands, of course, but Indonesia is a fabulous country, and many of the islands have their own rich and diverse cultures. Among the places we enjoyed visiting were Banda, which had been the center of the Dutch East Indies Company, and Borneo, a primitive highlight. There is so much more to Indonesia than Bali, although it's great, too.

After Indonesia, the three traveled through Malaysia and made their way to Thailand, where Convergence was left for another off season. The next passage was overshadowed by the very real threat of pirates and by the loss of the lives of four fellow cruisers.

“Randy, my brother, and a good friend took Convergence from Thailand to the Maldives, then past Somalia to the Red Sea,” remembers Sally-Christine. “This was right at the time that the Southern California sailing vessel Quest was hi-jacked by Somali pirates and her four crew murdered a few days later. It was a very emotional time, as I first had to call Randy to let him know that Quest had been hijacked, and a few days later I had to let him know that the four Americans had been killed.

"Randy said he would never do that passage again," Sally-Christine continues, "and he’s a guy who will do almost anything. One of the things that made it more scary is that he and the crew had decided not to be part of a convoy of cruising boats, as the convoy would be going too slowly and Randy felt there would be 'too many captains'.”

Sally-Christine and Kent-Harris joined Randy and Convergence once the cat ketch had made it safely to Turkey. For the next two years they really got to know Turkey and Greece, but mostly Turkey.

“Cruising in Turkey was very different than crushing in the South Pacific, as there were a lot of charter boats and a lot less sailor camaraderie in Turkey. If a boat shows up at an island in the South Pacific, you naturally go over to meet the people because they are fellow adventurers and because there aren't so many of them. In Turkey, where many of the boats are charter boats, you just don't do that. As for the Turks, they were some of the nicest people we met anywhere."

The 2013 season started with Kent-Harris, then 19, delivering Convergence down to Corfu, where Randy and Sally-Christine met him. "It was the first time that he was in charge — although he had Aussie Tim Sales along as crew," says Sally-Christine. "Tim had built a 46-ft wood ketch by himself, right down to and including making the turnbuckles. He did the first Whitbread and just knows everything about sailing. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, Tim was one of the most important residents of Kent-Harris' village.

"During that season we cruised the Greek Islands, Venice, Croatia and Montenegro. Kent-Harris, now a sophomore at Georgetown University, got a terrific education, for he was reading books such as the Iliad while sailing in the wake of the characters he was reading about. You get such a great education while cruising. It added up to Kent-Harris' — as well as Randy's and my — having a much better understanding of why the world is the way is it today.

"Another great thing about cruising is all the people you meet. For example, we took a guy — a baron, actually — sailing out of Syracuse because we found out he was a sailor. He later invited us back to the palace his family has owned for 300 years. We got to stand on the balcony where Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton had visited with the man’s grandparents.

"When you sail somewhere, you get a different reaction from locals than do regular tourists. Nowhere was this more true than in French Polynesia. The locals appreciated the fact that we’d gotten there the same way their ancestors had."

Some cruisers are anal about counting the number of miles they’ve sailed and other such statistics. Randy and Sally-Christine are not. “We have no idea how many miles we’ve sailed, nor do we care. We have always calculated our lives by the experiences we've had, and we're incredibly grateful to have been able to explore so much of the world together — while in love and with our son along with us."

As with all cruisers, the couple's cruising plans are unclear, but “Randy is hot to trot west across the Atlantic, so we’ll probably do that early next year.”

Sally-Christine had to have a hip replaced in 2012, and when the recovery took a little longer than expected, she decided to write a book titled Convergence — A Voyage Through French Polynesia.

"I wrote the book, perhaps more for women than men, because I believe that everybody has a journey in them. In my case, I’d grown up hearing what the South Pacific was like in the 1930s from my father, who had been a purser on a Matson Lines ship. It took me almost 50 years, but I finally followed in his footsteps. So I shared my journey and what it was like to cruise as a family today. The book has a lot of large photos and vignettes, and I hope it will encourage women to find their own journey, perhaps on the water, as there is so much to be learned from being on the water. And it can be true if you're on the water with a sailboat, a kayak, a SUP or whatever you like.

"Randy and I care deeply about marine conservation, and feel all mariners have a huge responsibility to protect the ocean. As a result, all the proceeds from the boat will go to marine conservation."

The book is available at some of the West Marine stores in Northern California, and at It is not available at Amazon.

Sally-Christine says that it's very important for men to support the women with whom they cruise, as some women are not as experienced or fearless. "Randy gave me a little reward — a pearl — for every significant passage that I completed. I now have a spectacular long strand of Tahitian black pearls. The pearls are my badges of courage."

That said, after all her years of cruising, Sally-Christine has distilled from her experiences the secret to being a happy crew. "Fast passages and slow sex." It seems to us that could be the quote on a hot-selling T-shirt at West Marine.

We only spoke to Randy briefly, and he primarily wanted to report how "totally blessed" he feels. Having seen much of the world during the four to five months of each of the last 11 years he's been on Convergence, he says that "everybody who lives in the United States is lucky."

Randy does, however, have one complaint: "There aren't enough hours in the day."

— latitude/rs 09/25/2015

Cruise Notes:

Some straight talk about cruising catamaran pointing ability. A couple of months ago Greg Slyngstad of Sammamish, WA took delivery of Fujin, the radical-looking 53-ft all-carbon 'fast cruising cat' designed by Greg Bieker of Seattle and built by Gold Coast Yachts of St. Croix. The cat has a very unusual salon and even more unusual bows. Slyngstad recently reported that he and a crew had done a 35-mile passage, presumably a reach, from St. Croix to St. Thomas in less than two hours. While averaging more than 17 knots, they noted that one of the things Fujin is missing is spray shields at the helmsperson positions.

Since Slyngstad has had tremendous success racing monohulls — he again won his class with his J/125 Hamachi in this year's Transpac — and because he plans on racing Fujin in next year's Voiles de St. Barth, we knew he'd be very interested in seeing how high he could get his new cat to point.

"We were tacking through about 100 degrees in cruising mode," he told Latitude. "I think we'll get close to 90 degrees when pushing hard."

The takeaway for people interested in buying a cruising cat is that they should take claims of a typical cruising cat tacking through less than 100 degrees to be complete rubbish. Cats have so many good qualities that we've never understood why some salespeople or owners insist on 'stretching' the truth when it comes to windward ability. In ideal conditions, Profligate tacks in about 105 degrees. In less than ideal conditions, she tacks in considerably more than that. The truth can hurt, but can set you free.

The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca are big believers in the 'slow-cruising' concept, although we're psychologically incapable of adhering to it. But we know someone who can — Christian Lauducci of Sausalito. As reported in last month's Sightings, Christian, starting at age eight, accompanied his dad on two trips to the South Pacific aboard a ferrocement boat that his dad had found in a field. Not only did they make the two round trips to the South Pacific without an engine, which made things slow at times, they also did it without electricity.

The Wanderer and de Mallorca first learned about Christian's patience about a dozen years ago when our respective boats were anchored near each other at Punta Mita. Christian reported that he and his then-girlfriend took 18 days to sail his 26-ft sloop Little Dragon from San Francisco to Morro Bay. Christian says it later took them five days to make the 80-mile passage from Santa Barbara to Catalina. That works out to an average speed of .66 knots. Sure, the six surfboards he carried on the little boat didn't help the speed, but they didn't hurt that much either.

As readers of last month's Latitude know, two months ago Christian took off on an open-ended cruise with his wife Josie, daughter Nina, 12, stepdaughter Ellamae, 7, and son Taj, 2. Their S&S 40 Shawnigan has an engine, so they won't be going as slowly as Christian used to cruise, but they are still cruising slowly enough.

"If there's no wind," Christian told Latitude," we hang out until there is enough for us to sail. My loose rule is to keep passages to about 25 miles — or three to four hours of sailing a day. It took us two weeks to get from Sausalito to Carmel, but we're getting into the swing of slowing down in life."

"We've arrived at Rodrigues Island from Cocos, having covered the 1,999 miles in under 13 days," report Jim and Linda Fair of the Berkeley-based Outbound 48 Chesapeake. "The trip was uneventful but a little bumpy, which seems to be the norm for the Indian Ocean. We're finding Rodrigues to be a very pleasant low-key place, so we'll probably stay here for a month before moving on to three-day-distant Mauritius."

As circumnavigations via South Africa go, the Indian Ocean tends to put up the most challenging conditions. Once Jim and Linda get to Cape Town, they face a couple of hundred miles of potentially boisterous weather, after which they can expect a very long but very sweet off-the-wind passage across the South Atlantic and up to the Caribbean.

"The other night in Fiji we were hanging out with Bruce Harbour and Jennifer Martingdale of the Montana-based St. Francis 44 catamaran Skagbenga," report Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopoulous of the Redwood City-based Tartan 37 Eleutheria. "Bruce bit into an olive just as Jen warned him that the olives had pits. Biting the pit took out one of Bruce's front teeth! He'd looked a bit like a pirate before, but the big gap up front sealed the deal.

"The next day Bruce cleaned both surfaces with acetone, then glued the tooth back in," continues Lewis. "Despite this being in accordance with American Dental Association best practices, the tooth fell out after a few days. He next tried J-B Weld, more commonly used to seal pinholes in engines. That didn't hold either. When Bruce gets some time, he's going to try again with quick-setting epoxy. When you're far from civilization — it's a long way back to a dentist in Savu Savu — you have to improvise.

"Speaking of having to improvise," Lewis goes on, 'Toothless' Bruce had run out of Coopers Beer kits, so we gifted him with one of ours. We'd never seen a bigger toothless smile than when we gave him the kit. I helped him sanitize all the equipment, then pour the ingredients in for a six-gallon batch of draft. We then came over to Ellie and did a full boil batch of pale ale. We steeped a pound of crystal malt, then added three pounds of liquid malt extract, two pounds of dry malt extract, one pound of dextrose, 1.5 ounces of Centennial hops for bittering, and one ounce of Cascade hops for flavor and aroma. Before long the whole anchorage smelled like sweet, hoppy beer. Between our two boats, we now have 11 gallons of beer fermenting. All we have to do is wait a couple weeks, and then look out, Vanua Balavu, as there’s a beer fest coming to town!"

When cruising or passagemaking, it's easy to forget how limited your fresh food options become with time. So we were not surprised when Heather Tzortzis of the San Francisco-based Lagoon 470 Family Circus reported that her and husband Chris' kids went a little crazy when they got to a big market in Fiji. "They ran down the aisles shouting, "Mom, look at the carrots! The tomatoes! The apples! The cucumbers!'

"It seems like forever ago that I told myself I would finally be able to call myself a bit of a sailor when I got to Fiji," Heather continues. "Well, after a lot of baby steps I find myself in Fiji on our own boat. I can't believe we're here! My first errand is to run to the market to buy some kava as gifts to the chiefs of the outer islands for the Sevu Sevu ceremony. After that, we'll make a field trip to the Fiji National Museum — where the kids will get to learn all about cannibalism."

We should all be so lucky. Nancy Tompkins reports that she and her 83-year old husband Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins are still out cruising on their Wylie 38+ Flashgirl. It was unclear to us if they were in Moorea or New Zealand, but what difference does it make?

The first fully sanctioned sailboat race in 50 years between the United States and Cuba was held in May, when five Hobie Cats made the 90-mile crossing starting from Key West. And the Pensacola YC plans to host a 500-mile race from Pensacola to Havana next month. But if anyone thinks that racing or cruising to Cuba and spending a lot of money there will help workers in the famed 'Worker's Paradise', think again. The day before President Obama announced sweeping changes that would allow American investment in Cuba, the Cuban government released new measures that would allow Cubans working for foreign companies to keep just 8% of their salaries. So even if a foreign company would be happy to pay a Cuban worker a fine wage, the worker would receive the same salary as if he were working for a Cuban company that could barely give him two sugar canes to rub together. We don't suppose anyone will be surprised to learn that the other 92% of the worker's salary will go to — the Cuban government headed by the billionaire Castro brothers. In addition to pocketing 92% of the worker's salary, the Cuban government employment offices would also charge the worker 20% of his/her salary for getting him/her the job, and just under 10% of that salary for vacation time. In typical double-speak, Zamira Marín Triana, vice-minister of Labor and Social Security for Cuba, described the new laws as offering a “significant increase” for workers.

" has published a couple of articles on recent changes regarding controlled medications in Mexico," report Dennis and Susan Ross of the Endeavour 43 Two Can Play in La Paz. "Apparently the government is establishing a national database to track prescriptions using an individual's CURP number, the equivalent of a Social Security number in the United States. Expats with temporary or permanent residency visas are required to have a CURP number, but it is not required to obtain a visitor's visa. This could present problems for visitors needing new prescriptions or refills, as it would require a new prescription from a physician licensed in Mexico. Cruisers headed to Mexico using tourist visas should be sure to carry sufficient medications — and their original prescription."

That said, less than one month ago a 'friend' visited three pharmacies in Cabo San Lucas attempting to buy Valium and Xanax. The clerks at the first two pharmacies said they couldn't sell those drugs without a prescription. The clerk at the third pharmacy said, "How many do you want?" The clerk later said the most requested prescription drugs are Vicodan, Valium, and Xanax. While you may eventually be able to (illegally) buy just about any drug you want in Mexico, the Rosses are correct, it would be more convenient and less expensive for you to bring sufficient quantities of whatever medications you'll be needing.

Since the subject of the Corinth Canal came up in this month's Letters, we'd like to share a few details about it. The Corinth Canal is a great nautical shortcut, as it's only four miles long but saves vessels from having to travel 430 miles around the Peloponnese Peninsula to get between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. Work on the canal didn't start until 1893, and took 12 years to complete. As it's only 70 feet wide and 24 feet deep, it's too small for modern commercial vessels. As a result, it's mostly used by tourist vessels, 11,000 of which passed through last year. The Corinth Canal is a sea-level canal without locks. If you get a chance to transit the canal, we suggest that you don't pass it up.

With lots of cruising boats about to head south for the start of the Baja Ha-Ha and Mexico, we'd like to put in some good words for stops at both Santa Barbara and Channel Islands harbors. There is much to see and do in Santa Barbara, one of California's most beautiful and historic cities. And it only costs $6 for four people to Uber from the marina to lower State Street, home to countless restaurants. While it's possible to anchor free to the east of Stearns Wharf, it can be extremely rolly, so paying $1/ft/night for a berth can be a bargain.

The only downside of Santa Barbara is that it can be inundated by tourists on weekends. If they become too much, you can find lots of peace and quiet after a 24-mile reach across the Channel at Santa Cruz Island. What a gem that place is, particularly since the water has been so warm this year. And when you need a little taste of civilization again, it's less than a 20-mile reach to Channel Islands Harbor, which is as quiet as Santa Barbara can be hectic.

Is there anywhere along the coast where the people are as welcoming to visiting cruisers as Channel Islands Harbor? Not that we know of. If you need a slip, we suggest you contact Dan Ward or Michelle Lapoint at Vintage Marina Partners – Channel Islands Marina. They'll take great care of you. If that's not enough reason to stop there, we topped off Profligate's diesel tanks with $2.70/gallon diesel. That's less than we can remember paying anywhere along the coast, and less than half of what we paid in Puerto Vallarta two months ago.

Looking for a bargain on diesel? Try Hill's Boat Services in Newport Beach, which quoted us a price of $2.17/gallon plus 8% sales tax. That's close to a third of what we paid for diesel in Banderas Bay two months ago.

Need oil for your engine? Costco will deliver three gallons of Delo 400 15-40 for $47. West Marine sells it for $17.99 a gallon. It's a lot more expensive in Mexico, even with the peso at a near- favorable record of almost 17 pesos to the dollar.

In August the Wanderer flew Southwest Airlines from Orange County to Puerto Vallarta — just two hours and 38 minutes — to deliver Profligate to Santa Barbara for the start of the SoCal Ta-Ta. We were taken aside at Vallarta Airport by a young customs officer who wanted to charge us duty on our much-used Iridium satphone. We argued the point. Her supervisor finally agreed that no duty was due — as long as we were willing to pay $30 duty on the old two-blade aluminum prop we'd brought along. You win some, you lose some. Over the years we've won way more than we've lost.

Missing the pictures? See the October 2015 eBook!


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