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October 2016

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With reports this month from Gazelle on restoring a nesting tender; from Moonshadow on the joys of Suwarrow Atoll in the Cook Islands; from El Gato on the many cruising pleasures of the Northeast United States; from Unknown on buying a catamaran in the middle of France in order to search for an oceangoing cat in the Med; from Quixotic on finally getting wet again; from Latitude 38 on Mexican itineraries; and a whole bunch of Cruise Notes.

Gazelle — Wauquiez 47
Rob Tryon and LaDonna Bubak
No More Inflatable Dinghies
(Channel Islands Harbor)

We used to prefer inflatables for our tenders, but then we went through three of them in 10 years. We weren't buying crap either. Two of them were Avons — a 10-ft sport boat and a 12-ft cruiser tender. The other was an Achilles sport boat.

These are good quality inflatables that usually last decades. LaDonna's dad has had the same Avon for over 20 years. But as good as the quality was, we just killed those inflatables through hard daily use and the 'Rob Treatment'. So in 10 years we spent 10 grand on little rubber boats.

During these years we also carried an 8-ft sailing pram as our 'second car'.

Then 11 years ago we were house-sitting in Gig Harbor for some folks who had a mooring ball outside and a wood shop in the basement. I asked the owner if I could build a little boat. He said that I could build whatever I wanted — as long as I could get it out the door of the shop.

I'd seen a 9-ft Spindrift nesting dinghy that our friend Jon Eisberg had built, and it had turned out beautifully. In fact, it looked as though it had come off a showroom floor. I was inspired, but I wanted something bigger. I settled on the 11-ft version because, when nested, it would fit perfectly under our Crealock 37 Silent Sun's boom.

After $2,500 in materials and four months of labor — I overbuilt it because of how hard I am on things — we had a beautiful finished boat. All I had to do was cut it in half with a $10 saw. I couldn't bring myself to do the cut on my new boat, so I had to ask LaDonna's dad to do it.

Over a decade of hard use — from 'big sand' up in Alaska to San Diego, countless beach landings, hard sailing, and more capsizes than I care to admit — it's been great. Sure, we've replaced the sail once, the mast twice, and the rudder three times. But she's still a great tender.

Last week, I finished Blue Moon's third 'refit' — repairing some spots and repainting. Now she's ready for another 11 years of the 'Rob treatment'!

— rob 09/15/2016

Moonshadow — Deerfoot 62
John and Debbie Rogers
Suwarrow Atoll
(San Diego)

If you're not a citizen of the European Union, the French government only allows you to stay in French Polynesia for 90 days before you have to leave again for at least 90 days. That's not much time to see the five archipelagos and countless islands spread over a considerable expanse of the South Pacific. So we had to depart on July 17, long before we had enough time to see all we would have liked to see.

Our friends Mark and Deanna Roozendaal aboard the Vancouver-based Manta 42 Speakeasy were in the same boat — excuse the pun — so we celebrated our cruising exploits in French Polynesia with a dinner at Bloody Mary's, the authentic Polynesian restaurant on Bora Bora. OK, it is a tourist spot, but we didn't have to cook and we had fun with good friends.

Speakeasy left a day before we did, so for our very last night we tried St. James, another restaurant on the shore just off Moonshadow's stern. There we were blown away by the exquisite preparation, presentation, flavor and service. It was a memorable last meal before setting sail for Suwarrow in the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands comprise 15 islands spread all over the vast Pacific between French Polynesia and Tonga. One of the northernmost islands is lonely Suwarrow, an atoll with a collection of small motus. Suwarrow has never really been populated except for some coast watchers during World War II. Then in 1952 Englishman Tom Neale decided to move to Suwarrow to see if he could make it alone. He ended up staying here for years and wrote An Island to Oneself about his experience.

In more recent years the Cook Islands designated Suwarrow Atoll a national park, and station one or two rangers here for six months each year. This year, the Suwarrow's Park Rangers are the father/son team of Harry and Pae. Dad often attempts to pull off a plaid-on-plaid look.

Harry grew up on Manihiki, another remote Cook Island about 200 miles northeast of Suwarrow. He explained that upon reaching the age of eight, all the male children are taken with an elder to an uninhabited motu, where they learn to live off the land for a month. These skills are now quite valuable to Harry and Pae as rangers on Suwarrow, as they receive no support or supplies during the six months they are stationed here. They must live off the fish they catch and the plants that grow naturally on the island.

There are crabs, too. Really big edible coconut crabs that taste sweet like coconut. Sometimes these crabs, equipped with pincers powerful enough to crush a coconut, appear in beds at night.

The park rangers arrive at the end of each cyclone season, so they have a mammoth job of cleaning up the ravages of the storms. This year all the coconuts had been stripped from the trees by high winds. Their cleanup work is much appreciated by all of us who visit.

We took a short hike to the other side of the island with Mark and Deanna, a hike that took us past Tom Neale's garden and through some thick island foliage. It was beautiful. Along the way we saw the rangers' collection of fishing gear that had drifted onto the windward shore. That wasn't all that made it to the windward shore, ffor as far as we could see, plastic littered the shore. So the gals invited the crews of other yachts anchored in the lagoon to join us for a litter-pickup party.

It didn't take long for the crews of Moonshadow, Speakeasy, Wave Dancer, and Silver Lynx to gather eight trash bags full of stuff from the beach. We found all sorts of interesting things, by far the most common being empty plastic bottles, bottle caps, cigarette lighters and flip-flops. The most unusual thing in our collection was an electric walking dinosaur.

The appeal of swimming in water so clear that we could see the bottom 60 feet down was strong, but we never did take a dip. While we'd swum with blacktip reef sharks before, the fact that there was always a squad of three or four circling just off Moonshadow's transom was intimidating. So were the words of Pae that kept ringing in our ears. He had told us that although nobody had ever been bitten in the lagoon, blacktip sharks were, after all, still sharks.

We much preferred being ashore on Suwarrow where we could get protection from the infernal wind that was blowing 20+ knots day and night. There were lots of squalls that threatened to drench us, but most of them missed making a direct hit. Then there was this visit from an alien spacecraft, so we figured it would be a good time to press on for Niue.

We cleared out of Suwarrow with a stated destination of Niue, a single island nation where there is no harbor or safe anchorage. Niue has about 20 mooring buoys for cruisers along its western shore. If the wind switches to the west, you must leave immediately as there is no protection from the wind or sea. So when the weather forecast suddenly called for westerlies on the morning of our departure, we diverted to Niuatoputapu, the northernmost island group in Tonga.

Niuatoputapu is so hard to pronounce that cruisers took to calling it 'New Potatoes'. But having read that the islanders don't appreciate the nickname, we started trying to pronounce it correctly. It isn't that hard; you just have to pronounce every letter. It is a mouthful, though.

On the second morning at sea, we decided to divert to the Vava'u Group of Tonga, which is about 160 miles south of Niuatoputapu. That's because the wind veered south and began blowing in the high 20s, and big seas began to build. Although we were enjoying a fine sail on a broad reach and just flying, we didn't want to set ourselves up for sailing from Niuatoputapu to Vava'u in those conditions.

Silly us. The wind went back to blowing out of the east, dropping down to 12-15 knots, the big seas disappeared, and the forecast westerlies in Niue never materialized. By then there was nothing to do but enjoy the sunset and an absolutely delightful sail on to Vava'u, where we would see lots of friends.

Our 745-mile passage took just under four days, and we covered the first 418 miles in just 48 hours. We were fast enough that we had to heave to (basically stop while at sea) in the lee of Vava'u's main island, Matu'anua, to wait for the sun to rise. When it did, it looked for a moment as if we were at good ol' Point Loma which guards the entrance to San Diego Bay.

All we know so far is that Neiafu, the main town in the Vava'u Group, has a well-protected harbor with dozens of mooring buoys.

— john 08/15/2016

El Gato — Catana 472
Annie Gardner and Eric Witte
The Northeast United States
(Pt. Loma, San Diego)

Building a strong team is about maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Eric and I are a good team.

We communicate in a good way, and work well together, sharing the same goals, values and passions. We complement each other in our skill sets. I like to cook. He likes to eat. I break whatever can be broken. He likes to fix things. I drop things overboard. He likes to swim. I’m afraid of heights. He likes to go up the mast. I’m a communicator. He’s an engineer. I let lines out. He pulls them in. Yes, we're a good team!

We've been through a whirlwind of ports and friends as we've been working our way up to Maine from the Caribbean. We left our beach-cat racing friends in Sandy Hook, New Jersey on July 3, and headed to the Statue of Liberty. The currents rip up here, so we cruised the Hudson River before passing through Hell’s Gate. We were rewarded with a beautiful sail to Connecticut, and set anchor at dusk while watching fireworks.

This was Eric’s homecoming, as he lived in Connecticut for 30+ years, raising his kids. They were there to greet us, and wanted to celebrate with family and friends in New York City. Fun.

From there it was on to Newport, with a stop in the Thimble Islands and Stonington, where trimaran friends came out on SUPs to visit. Watermelon martinis with mint leaves were a big hit that night.

Arriving in Newport was nostalgic. Both Eric and I have raced here countless times over the years, but arriving on our own boat made it really special. There are so many boats and yachts of all sizes, and Newport embraces sailing like no other place in the country. Everyone is out there during the summer, but we hear it’s a ghost town in the winter.

We sailed up to Bristol to visit friends and hear Tucker Thompson deliver his America's Cup speech at the Herreshoff Museum. Lo and behold, there was America3, the boat I navigated during the 1995 America's Cup in San Diego. I got a chance to check out her bottom one more time. I'd spent 10 months scrubbing and sailing her, so it was a nice reunion.

Eric and I participated in big events such as the New York YC Race Week and Sail Newport. Eric raced an F18 cat while I raced on the Gunboat 60 Flow. There's a very steep hill in front of the New York YC in Newport, and sliding down it on cardboard was the highlight of the awards party. We then sailed to Martha's Vineyard via Cuttyhunk.

After a trip back to Newport, we returned to the Vineyard to hang with friends. We trooped off to beautiful and quaint Edgartown for homemade ice-cream at Mad Martha’s, and the next day would sail to Nantucket, where I would search for the man who, according to a famous limerick, once lived there. Life is good.

Provincetown is at the tip of Cape Cod. From 'P Town' and just north is Stellwagen Bank, where whales love to fish. And I mean they love it! We were treated to a magnificent show of fin, humpback and minke whales on our way to Marblehead. They swam around us, and after we took the sails down and shut the motors off, beneath. Were we vulnerable? Maybe, but it was worth it. Afterward we just had to buy our very own whale carving and place him proudly in the salon.

We rode our bikes around the national park and enjoyed a nice lunch and the street scenes, too.

While in Marblehead we visited many friends, made new ones of future Gunboat owners Seamus and Amy, and enjoyed the hospitality of the Eastern YC. Their Pirate Weekend was full of fun and debauchery, so it was right up our alley! Paolo and Charlotte joined us for a charter to Maine, which was great, after which we took off for Ipswich and Kennebunkport, Maine.

Kennebunkport has a very narrow channel, so the harbormaster advised us that it couldn't accommodate a boat of El Gato's size. But the shoreline was picturesque and we found a dock to tie up for dinner. We became squatters for the first time.

I had my first Maine lobster in Kennebunkport, and lobster soon became part of my daily diet. I had to start out right with a steamed one, but then started a study of all lobster dishes.

From there we sailed up to Georgetown Island and the Robinhood Marina. Shrouded in fog, we picked our way through the jellybean haze of lobster pots.
The views were stunning. In the Med, everyone said you can't miss the Greek Islands. They were correct. On the East Coast, everyone says you must not miss going to Maine. Ditto on that!

After lobster club sandwiches, ice cream and shopping in Boothbay, we continued on to Camden.

What a quaint town Camden is. The harbor is small, but large enough for lots of moorings and yachts of all sizes. Back in his 20s, Eric was based out of here on the 115-ft schooner Mary Day. He has fond memories of the ship and the people of Penobscot Bay.

The Camden YC was hosting an Ocean Cruising Club brunch, so we went as brand-new members. The club is only open to people who have crossed oceans.

Long ago I made the decision not to eat raw shellfish, especially filterers. But then I learned how to find quahog clams with my toes. As we travel to places where you can get clams and other shellfish right from the source, I've tossed my old ban out the window. If the water isn't polluted, I go for it now. And boy, are they delicious!

It's hard to believe, but we haven't been to our home in San Diego since January. Now we call El Gato 'home', so it's a tricky question when people ask us where we live. We're happy we have our San Diego base and the knowledge that we will visit there later this year and eventually live there for good. But we're certainly not ready to stop this great adventure we're on now.

By the way, we'll be heading back to the Caribbean this winter and once again doing charters. If anybody wants more information, they can visit, our new website.

— annie 09/10/2016

Unknown — Fisher 28 Cat
The Simon Jones Family
Buying a Cat to Look for a Cat
(Adelaide, Australia)

About the last person we thought we’d meet on a sailboat in the Arsenal Marina in Paris this summer was a Brit who started reading Latitude from the first issue back in 1977. But meet him we did, and his name is Simon Jones.

“I sailed from Hawaii to California in 1977 aboard Araminta, a beautiful Herreshoff 33 that now lives in the Puget Sound," says Simon. "I suspect that we probably still hold the record for the fastest Hawaii-to-California trip for a 33-footer. Three months later we took top honors in the Master Mariners Regatta.”

Jones was a smart guy at a young age. “Starting in 1977, I would stick around San Rafael until about November of each year until it got cold, then I’d head to Florida and get on a boat sailing to the Caribbean. I spent most of my winters in Antigua, but I visited a lot of the other islands, too. Then when hurricane season was about to roll around in June, I’d return to California.”

To provide a little context, sailing from Florida to the Eastern Caribbean is normally 1,500 miles of strong trade winds on the nose. It’s not easy. And in the late 1970s, the Caribbean was a sailing backwater. There were hardly any charter boats.

“Back then I just worked on boats," says Jones, "my only aspiration being to keep my head above water and my bum on the boat. (Laughter). I was what we used to call a B.N., a term that is no longer politically correct. But all of us in the ‘club’ used the term with great affection. I managed to get a lot of jobs on great boats."

In 1979, Jones helped “a very wealthy owner” deliver the classic Fife 72 Latifa to Europe, which sounds like a great gig.

“It was,” says Simon, “until we found ourselves in the middle of the 1979 Fastnet Race that claimed 15 lives.”

We’re not sure if there was a connection, but a short while later Jones became passionate about Indian mysticism. He moved there for several months.

“While in India I met a beautiful woman, who just happened to live in Australia. The next thing I knew, I had settled down in Oz. I wasn’t an Aussie then, but I am now — even if I have to swim all the way across the Indian Ocean to get there. (Laughter.) The Aussies may not think I’m an Aussie, but if I go back to England, I definitely am one."

We’re not sure what happened to the woman Jones fell in love with in India, but Simon is now cruising with his partner Kelly Jones, whose maiden name just happens to be the same as Simon's last name. Their young son Jasper is along with them on their Fisher Cat 28.

“We live in Adelaide six months a year," says Jones, "and after visiting my sister, who lives on a ranch in Petaluma, for two months, we came to France to buy this catamaran sight-unseen. She was in Strasbourg, France, which is near the border with Germany, a very long way from the ocean."

The cat had been owned by a couple of Aussies who assured Simon that the boat was a bargain. "I trusted them based on the emails they sent," says Simon. "Besides, the price was right, so what did I have to lose?"

The Fisher cats came along very early in the development of cruising cats, so the Jones' boat has thick hand-laid glass like that of predecessors, the double-ended ketch-rigged Fisher monohulls. Fisher-like overbuilding is not favorable to cat performance.

"Our cat has basically the same layout as the Fisher monohulls, but is just wider," says Simon. "Rather than put an engine in each hull like most catamaran builders do, ours has a big Mercedes diesel in the middle of the cockpit that powers hydraulic drives in each hull. It’s sort of like having a tractor or digger. We’ve only had the boat three weeks, but we’ve motored a long way and the engine and drives have worked great. Yes, I’ve heard horror stories, but other than the previous owner over-revving the engine and blowing a seal, it’s been great."

Unusually, Simon and Kelly bought the Fisher cat as a 'starter catamaran'.

“We were really hoping to buy a larger oceangoing catamaran such as a Leopard 45, but then this came along at a great price," says Simon. "I figure she gives us a chance to see if we can get along on the boat, and Jasper a chance to get to know his way around the boat and water before we go out on the big ocean. He’s only eight, but if he falls overboard in the rivers or canals, it wouldn't be hard for him to swim to land. He could almost stand on the bottom.” (Laughter).

"As 28-footers go, our cat is enormous," says Simon. "She’s seemingly small on the outside, but massive on the inside. We can sleep seven on her, about the same number as a lot of 45- and 50-footers."

The family was originally going to go south to the Med via the Briare Canal, but after the record flooding in June, it was still closed.

"We suppose we'll have to backtrack now, which we don't like to do," says Simon, "but it's only four or five days. Doña told us that you two were planning to go all the way to Basel, Switzerland, but got stuck here in Paris because of the flooding. It’s terrible here, isn’t it? (Laughter.) Such a waste of time.”

Simon and Kelly have a rather unique way of making money six months a year to pay for cruising six months a year.

“We make and sell gourmet popsicles.” (Laughter.)

Gourmet popsicles?

“That’s us!" says Kelly. "That’s our summer. When winter comes to France, we go back to Australia where it's summer and the popsicle eating season starts to heat up. We do this in Adelaide, which is a lovely town, although not a tourist town. We sell from a cart at festivals and stuff rather than having a store."

Can they make enough money doing that?

“Yes," the both reply.

We told them we didn't imagine there was much stress.

“None at all," admitted Simon.

“And we have a place in Australia that we rent out while we’re gone,” says Kelly.
“That’s always a pain to organize, but not bad once you get it going. And living on a boat in France can be very inexpensive.”

We told the couple that we've told Latitude readers that it's possible to buy a modest canal boat for 20,000 euros, then live on the canals of Europe for $1,000 a month.”

“It’s true and it’s easy,” says Kelly. “We’re actually saving money doing this compared to if we lived at our home year-round.

“To give you an example,” says Simon, “a couple of weeks ago we were in Epernay in the heart of the Champagne country. We wanted to visit some of the Champagne houses, but we were already running late getting to Paris. So instead of backtracking to the marina in Épernay and paying $12 or something for a berth, we just drove in some stakes and tied up at the side of the river. We then hopped on our bikes, and 12 minutes later we were touring several of the great Champagne houses. We not only saved time, we saved on having to pay for an overnight berth — even though they aren't expensive.”

“Jaspar had a great time, too," says Kelly, "as he found some wild strawberries to eat. We think he's having a great time because he's never mentioned wishing that he was home."

"Part of it is that the catamaran is like a playground for him," says Simon. "He goes up his hatch, down our hatch, through a little window between our cabin and his, then around here and there. We had five kids on the boat a couple of weeks back, and it was a wild playground for them. It was chaos, but we parents enjoyed watching the kids have fun."

The family's goal this year is to make it south to Arles, van Gogh's old stomping grounds, where they have friends. Next year they'll put the mast back up and hit the Med.

"This cat is really our platform for finding another cat," says Simon. "You can find many boats online, but certainly not all of them. Based on my experience, there are some great deals out there, but you have to be there to get them."

— latitude/rs 08/15/2016

Quixotic — Voyager 43 Cat
Lewis Allen & Alexis Alexo- polous
She's Back In the Water!
(Redwood City/Fiji)

She’s out of the creek! She’s motoring! She’s sailing! She has nets! Her keels track straight! Her rudders steer her on a straight course! She’s generating power! She has hot water! She’s a fully-functional sailing yacht again! We couldn’t be happier or more proud of her!

She, of course, is Quixotic, the Voyager 43 catamaran that was holed in many places and otherwise badly damaged during tropical storm Winston in Fiji last fall. We bought her and spent four months and lots of money putting her back together. We also spent much more time on her than either Alyssa or I would have thought possible.

It actually took a whole week in the middle of August — and a lot of Fijian manpower — to get Quixotic back in the water. If you’re at a yard back home, or many other places where you want to splash your yacht, you simply schedule the Travelift for a given day. When that day comes, a big diesel-powered machine lifts her with straps, moves over the water, and lowers her in. The whole process takes about 20 minutes and is painless and mostly stress-free.

Not here on a beach in Fiji for Quixotic. No sir. There isn’t a Travelift on the island. There isn’t even a flatbed trailer that could lift her by her bridgedeck and take her to the water. Nor a crane big enough to lift her in.

All we had was timber, a little steel, manpower, and Fijian optimism. In the end, it took a very long time to launch Quixotic, as first we moved her inch by painful and careful inch up onto her homemade steel sleds. Then higher still to put pine posts beneath her sleds and on top of our 2'×6' railway. It only took a day and a half to get the sleds under her. And only a day longer to get the pine logs underneath.

The weather certainly wasn't cooperative, as all week it dumped rain and the wind howled. I had to watch our cat shake back and forth on a single Chinese jack that already had a huge dent in one side and was spewing hydraulic fluid with each pump.

I was in charge of the placement of every block of timber for the launch, and I gave the order for every movement of the jack. It took all my focus and understanding of physics to safely move Quixotic under the circumstances.

One day I was listening intently as we were lowering our cat's new keel onto a sheet of plywood. Just as the plywood was taking the weight and slightly crushing under the immense load, I heard a huge CRACKING sound!

“Stop lowering!” I shouted. I then asked the others where the plywood was crushed or whether it had been the glass. Well, the boat was fine, the plywood was fine — it was one of my jackass workers who decided it would be hilarious to freak me out by slamming pieces of plywood together on the other side of the keel! I was pretty upset, so the next hour of jacking was very quiet.

We ended up lowering Quixotic down the slope to the water using a 5:1-purchase block-and-tackle system, and had two trucks chained to the plates as a backup in case she got away. Then I had six to eight Fijians push her back six inches at a time. We started at 7 a.m. and she was floating by 3:30 p.m.

The only other drama we had was when I went aboard to inspect her for leaks just before the final push. When I looked under the port floorboards, I saw water. Shit! But from experience, I immediately tasted the water and it was fresh — so she wasn't taking on water.

There was no water in the bilge of the starboard hull, but there was a new crack along the bottom of the aft bulkhead. Bad! There had been so much stress under that bulkhead while moving her that the glass broke in the void between the hull and the bottom of the bulkhead. There should not have been a void there, but there was.

My heart sank when I saw the six-inch crack, even though it was only leaking a drip of water a minute. The boat was almost all the way in, I had a crew of 20 waiting to get the boat into the water — what to do?

I had my fiberglass master Alsace Miller come have a look. He said we should let her float and see if the glass came back together. So we finished launching her and took her to the dock, hoping we wouldn't have to beach her again.

Quixotic floated perfectly on her lines. We dove to see how bad the crack was on the outside, but nobody could find it. Strange. Maybe the water had already been there or was weeping from the SSB plate. All I know is the next day we ground back the area and epoxied the entire floor and compartment. That area of her is stronger than new.

Quixotic's maiden voyage went well. We are now anchored out near the Cousteau resort in Savusavu, a beautiful spot. We are finally beginning to catch our breath, celebrate, and enjoy our new home! We love our new boat! She's beautiful — and enormous compared to Eleutheria, the Tartan 37 that was our previous boat. We can't wait to let her rip in front of some stiff trades.

Alyssa has a permanent smile on her face, and has been literally jumping for joy at her huge new galley and all the space and guest accommodations.

Right now we are hosting her parents, Allan and Rina, who sailed Follow You Follow Me across the Pacific. Even with them aboard, there is still room for another couple.

Allan and Rina have been a huge help over the past week, as they have helped us string the nets, hank on the sails, install the new LPG system, fix some electrical wiring, get the freezer working, and complete many other projects.

As for the cost of restoring Quixotic, it comes to 30% more than my initial estimate, but it's still 30% of what it would have cost for the same amount of work in a yard in the States, New Zealand or Australia.

We were able to keep the overall cost very low since we did all the rigging, mechanical, electrical, diesel and plumbing ourselves. We know our boat much better than most cruisers know theirs. Our outside labor costs were relatively low, and were mostly for the fiberglass work, painting, welding and cleaning.

To be completely honest, our cat's finish is nowhere near perfect, and she will be carrying some cyclone scars for years to come. But she's strong in the right places, is watertight, and we are out sailing in less than four months after we began the repairs. We can always pay a good yard to fair and paint her when we reach a proper yachting center at some point down the line.

As for the time it took to get Quixotic up and going again, it was a month longer than I'd thought. Three weeks of the extra time was because of nearly nonstop rain.

One odd thing is that her port engine is running much more smoothly than the starboard engine — even though it was the port engine that got soaked.

All I can say is that Alyssa and I are very, very happy with our new boat.

— lewis 09/15/2016

The Mexico Itineraries
South of the Border

If you're a first-time cruiser heading south, you may be curious about what kind of Mexico itinerary would be best for you. Latitude has some thoughts.

'Know thyself' is one of the most famous recommendations for living well, and was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Similarly, it helps if you know what kind of cruiser you are.

First, are you a one-season cruiser in Mexico or do you plan to spend more than one year? Keep in mind that many cruisers who plan to head to the South Pacific in the spring following the Ha-Ha fall so much in love with Mexico that they stay another season. Or yet another one.

Second, be realistic about how fast you like to travel.

If you know you're a one-season-in-Mexico cruiser, and you don't mind traveling quickly, our recommendation is that following the Ha-Ha in early November, you jam north into the Sea of Cortez. That's because if you don't see the Sea in November, it's going to be too cold to do it before you leave for the South Pacific, and you're going to miss something really special in the entire world of cruising.

The attractions of the Sea of Cortez include the bustling city and cruiser center of La Paz and the desert beauty of the uninhabited islands of Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida and mainland Baja. The two above-mentioned islands are both less than 25 miles from La Paz. It's an easy daysail farther north to lovely Isla San Francisco, which is the gateway to the mangroves of the much-larger Isla San Jose's Bahia Amortajada and the San Evaristo anchorage on the mainland. And from there, it's just 70 miles more to the nearly all-weather anchorage of Puerto Escondido, which is backed by the spectacular Sierra Giganta.

As far as Latitude is concerned, this 110-mile stretch between La Paz and Puerto Escondido is the best that the Sea conveniently has to offer. While there are more attractions farther north, you're going to be running late in the season, so the possibility of cold and strong Northers becomes much greater. Also keep in mind there are no bars, restaurants, stores or services between La Paz and Puerto Escondido. This isn't the BVI.

The all-important water temperature in the Sea should be delightful through the end of November. After that, Northers can cool the water quickly. Some people are under the impression that the Sea of Cortez stays warm all year. No, no, no it does not. The water at Cabo is always reasonably warm, but from mid-December on, anything north of Cabo will require a wetsuit until — and this is always a shock — about the middle of May. The Sea cools down slowly in the winter, but it warms up even more slowly in the spring/summer.

If you do proceed north into the Sea, we recommend that you head over to the mainland by early December because you sailed south to be warm, didn't you? And by early December, the Northers may have cooled everything down. Mazatlan is a great stop on the mainland, but there have been too many brazen thefts of outboards and dinghies in the Old Harbor/Stone Island areas of southern Mazatlan. The marinas at the north end of town are much safer, and there are all the services you could want.

Eighty-five miles south of Mazatlan is the must see nature preserve of Isla Isabella. San Blas is always interesting, and is, if you hit it right, home to some of the longest and easiest board-surfing waves in the hemisphere. Although if you anchor close to shore, you'll be reminded in the mornings and early evenings that it can be the no-see-um capital of the universe.

Less than 50 miles farther south you can anchor at quiet Chacala and/or noisy Sayulita, the latter being the jam-packed surfer/dog/hippie/hipster budget tourist center of coastal Mexico. Mind you, Sayulita can be a rolly anchorage, and you'd probably have to swim or paddle to and from shore. Although if it's too rolly, you can continue another 10 or so miles down the coast and round the corner into the flat waters and excellent anchorages of Banderas Bay and take a taxi back to Sayulita. Oddly enough, there is only significantly indirect bus service between Mita and Sayulita. If you have kids, meaning those under 35, you won't want to miss Sayulita, and they won't want to leave.

In our opinion 20-by-20-mile Banderas Bay is one of the most underappreciated pleasure-sailing venues of the world. Surrounded by tall jungle mountains, it always offers tropical flatwater sailing, with lots of whales in the winter and plenty of other sea life. Don't forget the hat and pour on the sunblock, because by now you'll be in the full-on tropics.

There is great surfing on the north shore of Banderas Bay in the first couple of miles on the northwest entrance to the bay, where it's easy to paddle from your boat to the break — the surfer/sailors' wet dream. It can even be surprisingly uncrowded at times.

When in Banderas Bay, you can anchor for free at Punta Mita — and just about anywhere else along the shallow north shore. There is a town at Mita, but watch where you think about dining, as most of the beachfront restaurants cater to the high-end tourists from the elite St. Regis and Four Seasons hotels and Punta Mita villas. Mind you, this is where Bill Gates recently spent countless millions buying land and where celebrities hang out at Joe 'Girls Gone Wild' Francis's villa. But there are less expensive choices, too.

A few miles farther in the bay is the popular cruiser anchorage just off La Cruz, and the equally popular Marina Riviera Nayarit and La Cruz Shipyard. There are countless cruiser activities in La Cruz, many of them put on for all by Katrina of the marina, and there is excellent live music at at least one venue every night of the week. There can be great surf, too, just outside the marina entrance at the edge of the anchorage.

La Cruz is the home of the three-day Banderas Bay Blast in mid-December, which is Ha-Ha-style sailing fun for charity, but without an entrance fee. Part of the event is the annual opening of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, where membership is just $1 — but you do have to sail there and accept a paddle from the commodoress to be eligible for membership. No pain, no gain.

Just seven miles away is the Paradise Resort and Marina, overseen by Harbormaster Dick Markie, who is overseen by his lovely Filipina wife Gena. Paradise Village is an extremely well-run family resort, with many pools, facilities and activities. It's much more bustling than La Cruz, which may or may not appeal to you. The smaller Nuevo Vallarta Marina is just across the way.

Marina Vallarta continues to improve from the wretched state it had fallen into, and is very popular with boatowners who like to be in town. It's not very scenic, however, unless you like looking at businesses and condos.

South of Banderas Bay is Bahia de Chamela, the enormously popular floating cruiser community at Bahia Tenacatita, and Barra de Navidad. At Barra you can either take a berth in the Grand Marina or anchor in the well-protected flatwater lagoon. These Gold Coast areas are very popular with cruisers.

South of Barra the attractions are fewer and farther apart. There is Santiago Bay and Las Hadas just north of Manzanillo, then pretty much nothing until you get to charming Zihuatanejo, which would be overwhelmed with boats if it were 200 miles farther north. Then there is Acapulco, which some cruisers fear because of occasional gang violence, and others love, in part because of the spectacular natural beauty.

As you might expect, the farther south you go, the warmer the air and water. Banderas Bay water can get a little cool in January and February, but that is never true of Z-town.

If you're a one-year-in-Mexico cruiser, we'd recommend hitting all these spots, and perhaps returning to Puerto Vallarta to start your Puddle Jump in the company of many others.

If, however, you're going to spend more than one season in Mexico, there is no need to charge up into the Sea right after the Ha-Ha. Catch your breath, relax, head over to the mainland in early December, then slowly start working your way south.

After far as we're concerned, there is no reason to head up into the Sea of Cortez until well after the Banderas Bay Regatta for Cruisers on Banderas Bay, which is in March, as the Sea water will still be surprisingly cold.

That said, no matter where you go in Mexico, and when you go there, it's hard not to have a great time. The people of Mexico, and the other cruisers, are two of the big reasons. We hope to see you down there!

— latitude/rs 09/15/2016

Cruise Notes:

Thanks in part to Donald 'The Wall' Trump's gaining in the polls against Hiliary Clinton for the race for President of the United States, the Mexican peso has stumbled to a record low of 19.56 to the dollar. Exactly two years ago it was a much more robust 13.2 to the dollar. In other words, your US dollar buys almost 50% more than it did two years ago — except in the few cases where goods and services are charged in dollars. Unfortunately, Mexican marinas all charge in dollars for berthing.

The Marieta Islands National Park, which includes La Playa del Amor — aka Hidden Beach — and is located just outside the mouth of Banderas Bay some 15 miles from Puerto Vallarta, has reopened. Sort of. It was closed on May 9 because of damage caused by too many visitors. However, Enrique Ramos Flores, secretary of tourism for the state of Jalisco, announced that there would now be severe restrictions on the number of visitors and what they can do at the islands.

Thanks to some dramatic photos of the beach, which can only be accessed at low tide, and its unique round overhead opening created by a bomb, Playa del Amor had become an Internet and tourist sensation. In 2012 it was visited by 27,500 people. Last year it was visited by 127,371 tourists — including a reported 27,000 people during the Easter break alone! The beach is only about 150 feet across, so it had become a mob scene.

A study by the University of Guadalajara found that the coral was dying, and warned that the beach could only support 625 visitors a day. However, the National Protected Areas Commission (CONANP), decided that even 625 tourists would be too many. So now only 116 visitors will be allowed a day. In addition, no more than 15 people will be allowed into the beach at one time, and there will be a time limit of 30 minutes. Diving, as well as face masks, fins and snorkels will be prohibited. Curious.

All this leaves a couple of questions. First, how does somebody become one of the lucky 116 visitors a day? Second, what are they going to do with all the boats, some of which hold up to 200 passengers, that were recently built specifically to take tourists to the park? Lastly, what’s going to happen to all the panganeros at Punta Mita, who had recently given up fishing for the much easier and lucrative tourist trade?

"Two dinghies were recently cut away from cruising boats in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja, and stolen," reports Pitt Bolinate, who used to own the Formosa 41 Karma Seas but now travels around Baja with a drone in a 4x4. "One was a homemade dinghy and the other a West Marine RIB," says Pitt. "This is bad news for BLA, which has enjoyed a reputation for being very safe and secure. The police were notified and a roadblock was set up between BLA and Guerrero Negro to try to find the stolen dinghies."

Pitt has used his drone to shoot some terrific video of whale sharks while on Terrance Kennedy's 46-ft trimaran Manta. You can find it at: Pitt is using a Phantom 4 drone, the latest and greatest from DJI.

Speaking of drones, which we believe almost all cruisers will have before long, the annoying thing about the ubiquitous DPIs is that they are clumsy to transport, what with rotor arms and landing gear sticking out. Now comes the PowerEgg from Powervision, a Chinese competitor.

The PowerEgg is about the size and shape of a rugby ball, with rotors and landing gear that fold into the egg when not in use. The P.E. has many of the same specs at the Phantom 4 for about the same price, but is even easier to fly with just a single thumb control. The PowerEgg won't be released until sometime this month, so it hasn't been independently tested yet. But if you're thinking of buying a drone for this year's Ha-Ha, you might hold off on a DJI to see if the PowerEgg becomes available before the end of October and lives up to its pre-release hype. And we just learned that GoPro has flown into the drone world.

Want to do a circumnavigation but have more time and energy than money? We were paging through last month's Classy Classifieds and stumbled across the 1975 Cross 40 Anduril for $30,000. She might be a cruising boat worth looking into. She was built by Donald Sandstrom, his wife Joanne, and teenage sons Donald and Erik. Upon completion of the boat using the West System, they took off on what became a five-year circumnavigation. This was back in the day of sextants, paper charts, limited communication, and poor weather forecasting. Things like GPS, AIS, SailMail, EPIRBs and such weren't even a gleam in anybody's eye yet.

The amazing thing about Donald, who also designed and built the family home in the Oakland Hills, is that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease while building Anduril. Yet he not only finished the tri, he did the five-year family circumnavigation. He battled the increasingly debilitating disease until the early 1990s, at which time he went to France where he was accepted by Dr. Alim Louis Benabid as his first American patient for DBS surgery. The surgery gave Donald two more decades of quality of life, allowing him to complete his second circumnavigation with Anduril.

We haven't seen the tri recently, but according to the ad, Anduril "is in good working order, but needs a good dose of love and attention". So if you're a young dude looking for a boat for surf exploration, she might be just the thing. The number is 510-589-5304.

There are several unique things about 24-year-old Frenchman Guirec Soudée's ongoing circumnavigation attempt with his banged-up, hard-chine Scorpio 35 aluminum sloop Yvinec. First of all, he spent all of 90 minutes teaching himself how to sail before setting off solo across the Atlantic three years ago. During a stop in the Canaries, the handsome and fit young man from Brittany not surprisingly picked up a female crew. But rather unusually, Monique is a red hen. The two got along great, as Monique laid 24 eggs during the Atlantic crossing, and while in St. Barth they surfed together on the same board and shared candlelight dinners on the beach.

Telling Latitude that he's not afraid of anything, Soudee decided that he and Monique would spend last winter trapped in the ice in Greenland. They not only did and survived, they came to love it so much that they left with heavy hearts. Most recently, the duo have completed a 35-day Northwest Passage. Guirec may be the youngest skipper to complete a Northwest Passage, and Monique is the probably the only red hen to do it. At last word Guirec and Monique were headed to Kodiak.

Guirec may sound like a bit of a wacko, but he's actually a very intelligent, charming, and all-around great guy with a dream. We love his motto: "Most of the time our only barriers are those that we make for ourselves. There is always a good excuse not to go ahead."

Murphy has a sister named Erin who is in the shipping business, and she has her own Law: 'The more trouble and the greater the distance it is to have something shipped to your boat, the more likely it is to be damaged'. Gene and Sheri Seybold of the Stockton/Honolulu-based Esprit 37 Reflections, currently at Rebak Marina Island Resort in Malaysia, know all about Erin's Law.

"The Mariner Regal stove we had from New Zealand was 34 years old, and despite having had it refurbished while in Auckland in 2003, it needed to be replaced. We loved the stove — the oven could accommodate a 21-lb turkey! — and would have replaced it with the same had the manufacturer not gone out of business. We spent a lot of time researching a replacement, and decided on the Dickinson Mediterranean because it has the largest oven we could find. We placed a special order with West Marine via Noel here at the marina. The stove was to be shipped on a pallet via air.

"After waiting three weeks, the stove arrived. It was not, however, on a pallet, and the box looked like it had been dropped from the airplane! The oven door was pushed to the side and there were dents in the sides and back. Needless to say we were very disappointed. Noel contacted West Marine and UPS, and West is sending a replacement ASAP. So we have three more weeks of anticipation, but thanks to Noel's perseverance and West Marine's great customer service, at least we have hope."

Alas, the Seybolds' hope was misplaced, for when the replacement stove arrived, it again wasn't on a pallet as requested, and had damage similar to the first one's. For some reason West Marine had gotten rid of the pallet, despite the fact the Seybolds had specified the stove be shipped that way and were willing to pay extra for it.

It just so happens that Profligate's Force 10 three-burner stove — and in particular the broiler — has not been working well for a long time. The publisher mentioned this on his Facebook page and got a lot of response. It would seem that stove problems are much more prevalent on boats than in houses, and most frequently with overs and broilers. No doubt it's because of the marine environment.

Fin Beven, one of Profligate's frequent Ha-Ha crew, hired a stove expert to go over the stove on his Cal 40 Radiant. "Now it works as though it were brand new," he says. With new stoves costing about $1,500, the Wanderer is looking for a stove repairman in the San Diego area, but hasn't had any luck finding one yet. Profligate may get a new stove.

One of the important reasons to choose cruising routes carefully is that if you do, you often don't have to sail to weather very often. Shelly Rothery Ward and Mike Rickman of the La Paz-based Peterson 44 Avatar explain:

"After two amazing weeks in Bora Bora, we are about to sail back to Tahiti," write the couple. "This will be our first upwind sail since going from Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan last Christmas! So we are scurrying around the boat making sure everything is tied down and put in its place. Bora Bora, which is where most people take off heading west to the Cooks, Samoa and Fiji, as well as north to Hawaii, has been good to us. The sites at Bora are amazing and the Internet was the best we've had in French Polynesia. We've got Long Stay Visas, so unlike most cruisers, we can stay here in French Polynesia for a full year."

"I'm here at Musket Cove in Fiji for their 33rd Annual Regatta for Cruisers," reports Kurt Roll of San Diego, who has the Catalina 32 Pura Vida in San Diego, and who just became partners in Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous' last boat, the Tartan 37 Eleutheria. "It's been a blast with something happening every day and every night, as well as great music and delicious food," says Roll. "We've been joined by a couple of boats that did this year's Puddle Jump. The megayacht Encore led the fleet to Beachcomber Island the other day, and I took some drone photos. In addition to great sailing, Fiji has wonderful warm and clear water, and the surfing and diving are terrific."

We were a little late getting the announcement for this year, but next year's Puddle Jumpers might make note that the Vava’u Blue Water Festival will be held in the "heart and soul of Tonga" during a two-week period from late September to early October.

Sail Week includes the 7th Whangarei Vava’u Challenge race and Friday Yacht Races. There will also be seminars on getting to New Zealand safely, tourist attractions in Kiwiland, and how to deal with officials. All this in addition to social activities for both adults and children.

The event is heavily sponsored by the two northern New Zealand ports of Opua and Whangarei, which are hoping you'll come down and spend the summer — and lots of money — before returning to the South Pacific the following season. There is a $50 fee per adult for the event, $25 for kids 12-16. Kids under 12 are free.

Speaking of the Pacific Puddle Jump, some cruisers are already asking when they can start signing up for the 2017 event. Andy 'Mr. Puddle Jump' Turpin of Latitude advises that boats can sign up for the free event starting on a yet-to-be-determined date in November. Stay tuned for details.

If you're about to head south and plan to stop at Santa Barbara and Two Harbors, Catalina, the Wanderer has some advice for you. Bring your own toilet paper to the heads. The stuff both places provide is about 1/100th the thickness of newsprint and all but transparent.

Santa Barbara has great showers with plenty of hot water and heat lamps. It's a different story at Two Harbors, where the trailhead-style showers cost $2 — quarters only — for three minutes and 20 seconds. If people have been using the showers before you, you can get clean with warm water for the $2. But if nobody has used a shower recently, it can take almost two of your three-and-one-third minute for the water to get warm. That's not a problem if you're wearing a wetsuit, but who wants to wear a wetsuit in the shower?

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me," F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. Well, we at Latitude 38 are here to tell you that circumnavigators are different from average sailors. Take Mike Ruel, of the Manta 42 R Sea Kat, who has sailed around the world, and to Alaska, too, with his wife Deanna. While waiting out the remnants of hurricane Hermine on the East Coast, he didn't play cards or drink it up at some phony hurricane party. No, he found it "a good day to rebuild three water pumps that serve as back-ups. New shafts, bearings, seals and impellers. Ready to go when needed."

About the same time we heard from Mike, we heard from Mark and Deanna Roozendaal of the Manta 42 — same boat and wife with the same first name — Speakeasy. The couple were on the other side of the world, so instead of waiting out a tropical storm, they were, "Sailing along the north shore of Fiji's main island in flatwater with 15 to 20 knots of wind coming from just aft of the beam. It doesn't get any better than this," they wrote.

Never give up. An unidentified 32-year-old woman from China didn't give up, which meant she survived 38 hours in the ocean after falling off a Royal Caribbean Lines cruise ship that was on its way from Japan to China. She was picked up by a fishing boat that came across her by accident.

Missing the pictures? See the October 2016 eBook!


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