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October 2017

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With reports this month from Sugar Shack on Christine getting her dinghy mojo on; from Xanadu about moving up in boat size and to a new cruising ground; from Mojo on how to catch fish during the Ha-Ha; from Cool Change on more lessons learned after a second year of cruising; from the Ha-Ha on the 10th anniversary of Survivor Bahia Santa Maria; and Cruise Notes.

Sugar Shack — Catana 47
Matt & Christine Caroline Mitchell
Getting Dinghy Confidence
(Austin, Texas)

It might come as a surprise to most, but after all our cruising I'm still not a qualified dinghy driver. In fact, when we had our smaller 8-hp outboard, I only tried to start it a few times — and got frustrated when it would not start as easily for me as it did for Matt. Lack of strength, style, something, I don't know.

So when we got our 25-hp outboard, I resigned myself to never driving it. I mean, really, it's hard to pull start that sucker. And yes, I can hear you men laughing out loud.

As a result, I had only ventured out on my own with the dinghy once before. That was when I had to go into Customs at Cruz Bay, St. John in the US Virgins while Matt drove Sugar Shack in circles because there was no room to anchor or tie up. It was a very short distance, the motor was already warm and primed, and I did not have to do much other than drive straight. So it was easy.

Now it was many months later and I still had not taken Sweet 'N Low out on my own. That is until the day came when I really wanted to get off the boat and Matt was up to his eyeballs in grease and boat projects. I asked him to drop me off. In his infinite wisdom, he said it would be better if I just took the dink. Jeeesh! After lots of whining and pouting, I prepared to take the dinghy on my own.

I pumped the fuel primer bulb, pulled out the choke, took my fighting stance, and pulled with all my heart. There was a little rumble, so pushed the choke back in, pulled again, and again — and lo and behold it started to rumble! I love the sound of our 25-hp outboard!

After releasing the painter, I started to drift away from the boat, which was good, as I did not want to have to put it in reverse. Baby steps, you know. Slowly I circled around and headed toward the dock. It was nice as I was going downwind and with the waves and current. I turned around and Matt waved happily, thrilled to have the boat to himself.

I was a little worried about my approach to the dinghy dock, as there were tons of dinghies there. Great. Well, I thought to myself, I will go in with balls blazin' and wedge myself between a small dink and a medium one. While still underway, I moved to the bow to slip my dinghy between the other two and — whack stop!

The two dinks on my left were short-tied, meaning they were not going to move. If you are a mariner, you know that you should always tie your dinghy with a long painter to make room for other dinghies coming in. So the owners of those dinghies were either newbies or just not very nice. Bummer.

I circled back and tried again. This time I put the dinghy in gear, headed between two other dinks, and just as Sweet 'N Low hit the transom of the medium one, I leapt forward with our painter. I jumped onto the other dinghy and crawled onto the dock. Success!

I'm sure I had been a sight to behold, as I am short and had arms and legs all over the place. I tied off and jumped back into my dink to get the lock, my shoes, and the key. Then I locked the dinghy and headed to the bus stop. I was feeling pretty darn proud of myself!

I was actually heading into town to see Wonder Woman, and was feeling like I should be wearing her costume. OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration! The movie was spectacular! I was feeling the Girl Power all over me as I headed back to the boat.

The ride back to La Palapa on the hook off Bonaire is always a wet one, as you are going into the wind and waves. So I took it slow and easy, and arrived just as Sugar Shack turned, giving me the perfect landing!

— caroline 09/15/2017

Readers — See this month's Cruise Notes for the editor's comments.

Xanadu — CT-54
Rob and Dolores Blackwood
Moving Up and Out
(San Diego)

After marrying in Catalina last year, Rob and Dolores Blackwood of San Diego decided they wanted to see more of the world. They’d both had their fill of California, and while they've both spent a lot of time on boats in Mexico and loved it, they decided they wanted to expand their horizons. The Caribbean seemed like the answer.

The two had met four years ago in Mazatlan, where Dolores is from, and where Rob admits that he was “sobering up” after a low phase of his life in the Vallarta area. For the last three years the couple have been working in San Diego. Rob as a rigger and electrician on boats, and as a delivery skipper. Dolores has her own yacht-cleaning business and does deliveries, too.

Their first inclination was to take their then-current boat, the Island Trader 41 KL, to the Caribbean. “But the logistics and commitment seemed too difficult,” says Rob, who is 48. “So we started to think about selling our boat and buying another one in the Caribbean.”

As they searched the Internet for boats, it didn’t take Dolores long to identify her dream boat. “That’s the one!” she exclaimed right after she saw some photos of a Bob Perry-designed CT-54. It was love at first sight.

Oddly enough, the thing that most attracted Dolores to the CT-54 was the companionway steps, which thanks to lots of teak and carvings resemble a grand stairway. Women can be funny like that.

Of course, dreams are one thing and being able to buy a big yacht on the incomes of two boat workers is another.

Rob and Dolores didn’t really get serious about buying a boat until a friend named Robbie expressed an interest in buying KL, which they hadn’t seriously tried to sell.

“For some reason Robbie liked my personality so much that he decided he’d help me varnish the boat,” Rob recalls. “As we worked together, I told him about all the stuff I’d done to make her better. The next thing I knew, he said, 'I’m going to buy her from you!'”

Having a buyer for their boat energized Rob and Dolores' hunt for a new boat. On a lark, they did a search for a CT-54, and came across one named Xanadu in the British Virgin Islands. The asking price was in the low hundreds, significantly less than sisterships. The boat had been owned since she was launched in the early 1980s by a wealthy Mexican.

The reason the asking price was so low is that the captain, more of a family friend than a professional, hadn’t had a passion for maintenance. So the boat had a lot of issues. A couple of potential buyers made offers, but backed out after surveys indicated that a tremendous amount of work needed to be done.
Having had both Rob and Dolores work on Profligate, the one thing we know is that these two aren’t afraid of hard work. So the condition of the boat wasn't as much of a deterrent as it would be to the average boat buyer. So after the couple made a too-low-to-repeat offer that was accepted, Rob flew to the British Virgins to check Xanadu out in person.

On close inspection, Rob found plenty of problems. Termites in two areas, leaking decks, dry rot in much of the plywood behind the nice teak interior, and caprails needing replacing. The nearly new 12kw genset wasn’t working. The liferaft had been in the sun for ages and was probably worthless. The navigation equipment was either missing or outdated. While the winches on the mast were in fine condition, the old Barlow primaries needed a long diesel bath to have any chance of ever working again.

On the other hand, the boat had a lot of potential. The hull was strong and thick, and the gelcoat was in excellent condition. Something like $25,000 had just been spent to have the 160-hp Perkins diesel sent to Florida for a complete rebuild. The genset only had 200 hours, and might just need a new battery to start. The boat was equipped with aluminum spars instead of wood, and they were in good shape. Surprisingly, the boat has a complete set of new Doyle sails that have never been out of the bag. The rigging is in pretty good condition, and except for a couple of notable areas, the fancy wood interior is in good shape.

Rob didn’t see anything that he thought he and Dolores couldn't fix over a period of years, so they went ahead with the deal. Bascially they have traded a 41-ft boat in very good condition for a much larger 54-ft boat that needs a lot of work.

Over the years we've known countless people — including marine industry professionals — who have greatly underestimated the amount of time and money it takes to bring a relatively big boat back. But given the couple's skills and their passion to transform the boat into 'Dolores' Mansion' on the sea, we think they've got a very good shot at pulling it off.

Oddly enough, the couple were at a potluck at Sun Harbor in San Diego shortly after doing the deal when they fell into a conversation with another couple. They soon learned that not only did the other couple have a 70-ft boat in the British Virgins, but it was in the same boatyard as Xanadu, and they even knew the boat.

After one more delivery up to Seattle, Rob will be headed off to Virgin Gorda to get to work on the boat. Dolores wants to stay in San Diego until the end of the year because she feels obligated not to abandon her clients.

Shortly after the start of the year, with the Xanadu in basic seaworthy condition, Rob and Dolores plan to slowly head south. The Wanderer spent an hour with them aboard Profligate, sharing his knowledge and opinions on sailing and living in the Caribbean.

“St. Martin is duty free and a great place to have stuff shipped," he explained. Now the owner of a large yacht, Rob was glad to learn that almost all cruisers in the Caribbean anchor out rather than stay in marinas. The money they save on berthing will be needed for the more expensive food.

The Wanderer is thrilled for the couple, as it reminds him of the time when he was 39, and in one of the best foolish moves he made in his life, he flew to the Caribbean and bought an Ocean 71 in need of considerable repair. Owning that boat for a dozen years would have an enormous effect on his life.

The Wanderer bumped into Rob and Dolores at the West Marine store in San Diego, and before they’d told us about their purchase, we noticed that both of them looked healthier and more attractive than when we'd seen them nine months before. Having a passion for something will transform you like that.

— latitude/rs 09/14/2017

Mojo — Jeanneau 36
David Kramer
How to Troll on the Way to Mexico
(Santa Barbara)

I did the Baja Ha-Ha last year on Mojo along with my friends Larry Leveille and Chris Neufeld. It was a blast! We met a lot of people who mentioned that they tried fishing, but struggled to catch any fish. Some didn't even have the confidence to try at all.

We caught fish every day that we fished off Mojo. Many of the fish weren’t from our targeted species — meaning they weren't yummy — so we threw them back. But we still ate well.

Since there are hundreds of beginning fishermen who are preparing for this year’s Ha-Ha and on other southbound boats, I thought I'd share some of our tips. Don't worry, your gear shouldn't cost more than $50.

Our Philosophy. We don’t practice catch-and-release. We respect the lives of the fish that we catch, so when we have enough fish onboard, we stop fishing. And we don't kill fish we aren't going to eat. So it's important to us to know what we’re catching so we can release the ones we don't want.

On last year’s trip down and back up Baja, we caught a lot of bonito and skipjack tuna. We don’t keep either of these small tunas because their meat is very dark and has a strong 'fishy' taste. The bonito have diagonal stripes and the skipjack have horizontal stripes with spots on their belly. We suggest you throw them back.

What You Want to Catch and Where. In the northern reaches of Baja, you’ll often catch yellowtail (hamachi), yellowfin tuna, or if you’re very lucky, a bluefin tuna. All of these fish are delicious.

When you get farther south and the water temperature gets into the mid-70s, you’ll start catching dorado (mahi mahi) and wahoo. If you don’t know what all of these fish look like, take a few minutes to look online, and maybe take some printouts along to remind you.

We carry Fishes of the Pacific Coast by Gar Goodson. I don’t think it’s still in print, but it’s a great book for sailing fishermen. It has pictures of the fish and rates how good they are to eat.

We use simple, inexpensive equipment and have a foolproof fishing technique. If you use our system, you'll catch tasty fish before you get to Cabo. The gear will last for years and catch many fish. By the way, I’m talking here about trolling underway for gamefish such as tuna, dorado, wahoo, yellowtail, etc. Fishing on the bottom or at anchor is the subject of a different article.

The key to being successful at fishing, like being successful at most things, is good preparation. You need to have the right fishing tackle on board, be prepared to land the fish before you bring it aboard, and be prepared to clean or fillet the fish. Before you do anything, however, get Mexican fishing licenses for everybody on the boat, as required by law. Licenses can be bought online or from the big tackle shops in San Diego.

The Handline. The fishing tackle that we use is referred to as a 'handline'. We don’t use a rod or a reel. A handline resembles the type of tackle that commercial fishermen use. It’s not intended to be fun or give the fish a fighting chance. The point is to put meat on the table with a minimum amount of fuss. If you don’t like the sound of that, then by all means buy yourself some good trolling rods and reels.

The handline has four parts: the lure, the leader, the line, and the bungee.

Lures. These are typically made of colored feathers with a large single or double hook. Sometimes the lures are sold with hooks attached, and sometimes you buy the hooks separately. I like large double hooks. Don’t be shy about getting big hooks, as you’re going to be catching big fish. The hooks should be about the size of your pinky finger curled up.

Lures are available from any good tackle shop in San Diego, as well as tackle shops up the coast of California and online.

There are myriad opinions on lure types and colors. Get a few and learn what works for you. I’ve had a lot of success with blue and white lures with a shiny head.

Typical lures cost around $10-$15. These get beaten up by the fish, so you’ll need a few spares. They are the most expensive part of the whole setup. I like lures that are around 4-5 inches long. Don’t use huge lures unless you want to deal with huge fish!

The Leader. Attached to the lure is the leader. This is either very heavy-duty monofilament fishing line or 'leader material'. It’s rated by the strength of the line. I recommend at least a 250-lb leader. You can buy short rolls online or at a good fishing/tackle store. You should be able to get a lifetime supply for $20.
Cut a piece of around 30 to 40 feet of leader material and tie it to the lure. Test your knots well to make sure that they don’t slip.

Swivel. Next you’ll need a swivel, which is very important. The lure will rotate and spin through the water as it is dragged behind the boat. If you don’t have a swivel inline, then your line will get twists. I recommend a good quality, heavy-duty swivel. You only need one per line, but buy a few when you’re in California as you may want to make extra lines or share them with friends. Good swivels are hard to find south of the border.

Rope. Attached to the other end of the swivel is a piece of rope. You’ll need 75 feet or so. The exact type of rope isn’t important. It just needs to have a minimum breaking strength of a couple of hundred pounds. Clothesline from the hardware store works fine.

You don’t want to use line that is too thin, as you’re going to be pulling on it, and line that is too skinny will dig into your hands. Go with a line that is a minimum of 3/16”. Line that tends to kink isn’t great either, as you’ll spend a fair bit of time getting out tangles.

Bungee. Before you attach your handline to your boat, you need to add a bungee about 18 inches long. Your handline has very little stretch in it, so when a big fish hits the lure, it’s going to shock load it. The bungee acts as a shock absorber, which helps to prevent the hook from ripping free. Any bungee will do, although the hooks on the ends of cheap ones will eventually rust.

I tie a couple of loops into the rope about three feet apart to attach a bungee to the system. The exact distance isn’t important as long as it’s longer than the length of the stretched bungee. Put the hooks on the end of the bungee through the two loops in the rope, and bend them so that they become eyes and can’t be pulled loose.

The bungee should be tied about four or five feet from the boat end of the rope.
In review, you have a lure with a hook, 30 feet of leader, a swivel, 75 feet of line, and a bungee. That’s the whole apparatus. You might want to add a big hand reel to store the rig when you’re not using it. We don’t use them, as we just coil the line into a Ziploc bag when we're not using them.

You may want to make up a couple of handlines of different lengths. The fish sometimes bite right up to the transom, and sometimes they like to be a few boat lengths back. But 100 feet total seems to work pretty well for us.

The Actual Fishing. If your boat is like most, you're going to be moving at between four and nine knots. This is the perfect trolling speed for gamefish. It doesn't matter if you're sailing or motoring. Tie the end of the rope to something strong such as a cleat or the stern pulpit. Toss the lure overboard and play out the leader and the rope. Now you’re fishing!

There’s then not much to be done other than glance back occasionally to make sure that there’s nothing caught on the hook, like kelp — or a fish! Clear kelp or debris off the hook as soon as you see it.

As you sail along, the lure should be dragging on or just below the surface. Sometimes the lure might skip across the surface. Don't worry about it, as gamefish feed on flying fish and thus are looking for action on the surface. If conditions are really rough, or you’re moving really fast, you might want to use your heaviest lure just to keep it in the water a bit more.

Fish will strike the lure, and most of the time you won't be aware of it. Usually you’ll notice the fish when it comes to the surface and gets dragged along like a wakeboard. Sometimes a bigger fish will take the lure deep and fight it for a while. But none of this matters, because before you touch the line you need to prepare to land the fish. If you do it well, you’ll avoid getting any blood or scales in the cockpit. We'll talk about that next month.

— david 09/27/2017

Cool Change — Pacific Seacraft 31
Cindy and Rick Petrinellis
Lessons from a Year of Cruising

At the end of Part One last month, I mentioned that provisioning in even the remote parts of the Sea of Cortez wasn’t a problem. Everyone has to eat, for goodness' sake, and many do not have the resources to get out of their small villages. So we could find what we needed in the most unexpected places — even places that were only accessible by boat!

We found that we could easily survive on the fish we caught, supplemented by the fruits, vegetables, cheese and staples in stores or bodegas.

Of course, don’t expect to find pesto, pickles, half & half, and other gringo foods. I did find a store in a large town that had ultra-pasteurized half & half which could be left unrefrigerated until opened and lasted several months.

Stocking up on our favorite gringo foods, or finding local alternatives, made it a lot easier to stay away from large grocery stores for long periods. Toward the end of the season, I started using more canned meats, such chicken and tuna, to supplement the fish we caught. I also discovered that Mexico has a plethora of brands of spicy, shredded, cooked meats that come in soft packages, as tuna often does. These last for a long time unrefrigerated, and they are tasty as either a filler for tacos or as a main meal combined with other ingredients.

I also started making my own yogurt using powdered milk, which is available everywhere in Mexico, and the last of our store-bought yogurt. I also started making my own bread, which was easier than I thought, and which Rick loved. It was a cinch in the heat of Mexico as long as I kept the bulk yeast dry and refrigerated.

I’m relieved that we overcame our addiction to marinas and large stores in our second year of cruising, because we won’t see much of either during or after our 30-45-day crossing of the Pacific next year. Besides, we save a lot of money without them, money that we'll need for the higher cost of living in French Polynesia.

Another thing we learned in our second cruising season is that it’s better to run our watermaker more frequently for shorter times rather than less often for long periods. At first we thought that it was best to run it less frequently because each run requires the use of about three gallons of just-made water to flush the system. But running the watermaker a little every day meant that we could even get away with using solar power to run the watermaker instead of having to rely on the engine, since the draw on our batteries could be restored by the solar panels if we only ran the watermaker for a little while. That made us feel more relaxed about taking all the showers we wanted without fear we would run out of water.

Rick and I also think we became better sailors this second season. We certainly feel more confident and comfortable in a variety of weather conditions, making decisions about what to do, and how to do it.

Setting up for sailing wing-on-wing has become routine. Using our cruising spinnaker is not quite so routine, but we have deployed and doused it several times with success.

We have figured out additional sailing configurations beyond just full sails or reefing that work for varying conditions. Sometimes we sail just under the jib, sometimes we sail with just the jib poled out, sometimes we sail with the main and the staysail instead of the main and jib so we can point higher.

Dropping the main without heading all the way up into the wind — by sheeting out the main and sailing on the jib — has become a practice of convenience when it used to be reserved for difficult seas and winds. And when our autopilot failed one night, we discovered that as long as there was a little wind to keep the mainsail full, we could even use the Monitor windvane under power.
It’s all about knowing our boat better.

We have become more experienced with night sailing, and with understanding and responding to unseen objects or heavy traffic. We have learned that there may be dangers marked by just a radar reflect. We have learned how to avoid them even though we can’t see them with our eyes at night. We know that blinking lights very low in the water aren’t as far away as they appear. We have dealt with approaching cruise ships and cargo ships and fishing vessels. Most of them appear on our AIS, and we can call them if necessary. Others don’t have AIS and can only be ’seen’ by radar or sometimes bright lights. We know shrimp boats can cause confusion because they rarely have AIS, and travel on unpredictable courses at unpredictable speeds.

We’ve learned that we can usually sail — not motor — over the top of long-line fishing gear, and that the presence of pangas may indicate the proximity of the end of a long line. [Latitude does not recommend this.]

We also finally came across the ideal night watch schedule for the two of us. Cindy is 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Rick is 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Having anchored 51 times this year, Rick and I are getting good at being an anchoring team — although I do believe we could benefit from switching roles more often. Generally, Rick has been at the bow, handling the anchor and chain, while I have been at the helm controlling our direction and speed. We had to do this for most of the year because we weren’t able to come up with a solution for hanging our new Mantis anchor off the bow roller. This meant Rick had to lift the anchor over the pulpit when we anchored and weighed anchor. I couldn’t have done it with confidence.

By the end of the season, we figured out that in all but the most challenging of conditions we could indeed use the bow roller. That meant that I could handle the anchor with just the foot controls for the windlass, and Rick could control the helm. Each job is different and I think it is important to know both, for better appreciation of the issues faced by the other part of the team, and also so that either one of us would be thoroughly comfortable in either role should one of us become incapacitated. So we still have that to work on.

One of the things I adore about Rick’s approach to anchoring, and that I see so many other couples violate, is that he keeps his voice low when he's on the bow communicating with me at the helm. He never shouts and almost whispers. It makes for a smoother process and better marriage!

Another huge improvement this year has been Rick’s fishing prowess. He says that the most important thing he learned about trolling is that the lure must have 'action'. If it does, we catch fish. If it doesn't, we don't.

He also bought a new rod and reel for fishing off the dinghy that has much better action than the cheap ones we had before. Lastly, our friend Patrick from Voilá turned us on to some new lures that have worked wonders. Rick has caught dorado, roosterfish, sierra, cabrilla, red snapper, and triggerfish — not to mention lots of other fish that we threw back.

When Rick fishes, he considers that the two of us are fighing because I am there cheering him on when he reels the fish in, I take the rod when Rick gaffs the fish, and I clean and cook the fish.

My repertoire of fish recipes has grown: sashimi, ceviche, fish tacos, sautéed or baked fish with various sauces, fish cakes. When you personally take the life of a fish, you don't want any of it to go to waste.

We've had part and system failures. We could have gotten upset about them, but we look at it as 'better to fail in Mexico than in the middle of the Pacific.'

Our 17-year-old autopilot failed, so when my sister Kim and her husband Pete came down to visit, they brought a new one that Rick installed. We've taken apart and fixed a head and the shower sump. We installed a new water heater and we located the mysterious source of a nagging water leak. We replaced the steaming light that failed with a new LED bulb that Rick had the foresight to purchase before we needed it.

Having gotten my hip replaced, I was able to walk places I was unable to walk to last year. What a blessing that was! Rick got to take advantage of less expensive — and equal or higher quality dental care — by getting a tooth pulled after it cracked down to the root and became infected. He has also arranged for an implant next season.

While the snorkeling in Mexico isn't as good as we'd hoped, we did get to see 'aquarium fish' in their natural habitat at a number of remote anchorages. And we got more comfortable snorkeling, which will servce us well in the South Pacific.

We got the chance to visit some very special places this last season, including Zihuatanejo during SailFest, and much more of the Sea of Cortez.

The Sea is not for everyone. Some people think of it as just a desert with water around the edges and very little Internet. But I absolutely adored how isolated it was, and how we could dive off the boat into 80-degree water and just float to our heart’s content in clean water. We also loved how welcoming the people of the small villages were.

Last but not least, we found ourselves much more connected with the cruising community this year than in seasons past. A testament to that fact is that we are now sharing a villa for six weeks with Nancy from Aldabra and Julie and Jeff from El Gato, crews from two boats we met at Barra de Navidad much earlier in the season. We went from not knowing anyone in the anchorages or marinas last year, to struggling to find some time alone with just the two of us whenever we were in a popular anchorage! We have made some lifelong friends, no matter where our future cruising takes us.

This sailing season was exactly what we had hoped and planned for in so many ways. When we started down the coast of California on this adventure, we had so much to learn about sailing, about Cool Change, and about living aboard, before we crossed an ocean. We had hoped that a few years’ experience would help fill in the gaps in Cool Change’s outfitting, our boat handling and our management of the whole lifestyle. That is exactly what was accomplished this year, and we had a ball!

— cindy 07/20/2017

Survivor Bahia Santa Maria
The 2007 Baja Ha-Ha

Ten years ago come early November there was an unprecedented incident in the then-13-year history of the Baja Ha-Ha. It's become known as Survivor Bahia Santa Maria.

Most of the fleet had arrived in the bay the day before and enjoyed a day of rest and recreation. This, the next day, was the afternoon beach party on the bluff, complete with a rock 'n; roll band. As always, it was surreal, with so many people and boats in the middle of what's unadulterated nature 363 days a year.

There had been an unusually large groundswell rolling into the bay, but it hadn't been too bad. But now, late in the afternoon, with everybody wanting to get back to their boats for the night, the swell — all the way from the Southern Hemisphere — really cranked up.

Most of those who had come in on their own dinghies had noticed the growing swell and managed to make it out across the bar. Everybody else was waiting for a spot in a panga.

But soon the waves were closing out so big — maybe eight feet — across the entire bar that grizzled panganeros were getting nervous. We couldn't tell because of anything they said, but because they started putting on PFDs. This was serious.

Then, with darkness falling, they announced that it was too dangerous to take kids across the bar. Only a few moments later, they said it was too dangerous to take anyone out.

The Grand Poobah knew he needed to get out to Profligate so he could take charge. By circling in whitewater for several minutes, the Wanderer, a longtime surfer, identified a lull and made it across the bar to deep water. In the process, he even managed to pick up an exhausted guy who had tried to paddle through the surf on a surfboard.

Bill Lilly of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 47 Moontide was the last guy in a dinghy to get out, although he was swamped several times.

The Poobah got on the VHF, announced that the harbor was closed, and instructed Andy 'Assistant Poobah' Turpin, and Doña de Mallorca, Chief of Security, to get the names of every Ha-Ha man, woman and child on the beach. There was some grumbling that it would be hard because people were spread out, but it had to be done.

It turned out there were 72 people on the beach, and just under 30 boats left unattended in the anchorage. Fortunately, all the boats were anchored in deep enough water so they weren't in danger. Nonetheless, owners on shore requested that those out in the bay turn on anchor lights, shut down freezers, and that kind of stuff. There was terrific cooperation and all the requests were met.

The only facility ashore was a rough 25-by-25-foot building with a cement floor and a lot of junk in it. So as many people as possible — Ha-Ha participants and locals who had come to prepare lunches, sell beer and play music — bedded down as best they could. Others made beds the best they could in the cabs of beat-up trucks. Some slept rough.

While it was cool, BSM is far enough south that cold wasn't a critical problem.
With everybody accounted for and safe, the Wanderer's biggest concern became whether the surf would drop far enough by the following dawn to allow pangas to bring people out to their boats. Fortunately, the swell dropped enough for the panganeros to safely transport everyone out to their boats just after first light. The normal 7 a.m. start may have been delayed an hour or two, but that was the only lasting effect.

Everybody survived for the last leg to Cabo San Lucas, and those who had been stuck ashore had an extra story to tell. When you go sailing, you always need to expect the unexpected.

— latitude/rs 09/03/2017

Cruise Notes:

Another cruising catamaran, this time the Privilege 465 Avanti, has been lost in the South Pacific. A British family of four — Bobby Cooper, 51, partner Cheryl Kerr, 37, and children Lauren, 13, and Robbie, 11 — were sailing between New Zealand and Niue in stormy conditions on August 26 when their cat was driven
into the side of Beveridge Reef.

Bobby, a veteran of 200,000 ocean miles, claims they hit the reef because it didn't show up on their 100-mile-scale electronic navigation chart. It only appeared when he went down to the 12-mile scale.

With all due respect, we find it extremely hard to believe that they didn't know that Beveridge Reef, famous for being the only shelter between New Zealand and the South Pacific, was in the vicinity. Beveridge is a semi-submerged reef, although it does provide some shelter for boats inside the oval atoll.

Their boat being smashed into the reef, the family put out a distress call at 2:30 a.m., thinking there wasn't anyone around for hundreds of miles. Seven minutes later the call was answered by Martin Vogle and his six crew on the 60-ft steel ketch Doña Catharina, which happened to be anchored inside the reef. Before long, a man named Manu, whom Cheryl described as looking "like a male Ursula Andress in a Bond film," appeared walking over the surf-washed coral and "asked permission to come aboard." The powerful man then carried them all to safety. None of the family members were hurt. And miraculously, the cat was pulled free at high tide and towed into the lagoon. The boat was insured.

This is the second shipwreck that Cooper has survived. In 1984, he was a 19-year-old member of the crew of the 120-ft square-rigged barque Marques that was sunk in one minute near Bermuda after being knocked down in rough weather during a tall ship race to Nova Scotia. Nineteen of the 28 crew perished.

Nonetheless, Cooper lashed out at those who criticized taking the kids cruising. "Kids today are mollycoddled," he responded. "Our children have learned more about the real world on our adventure — including this accident — then they could ever learn from a schoolbook."

Cooper plans to build or buy another catamaran, and both Lauren and Robbie expressed enthusiasm for more cruising. For a complete article, see It's excellent.

Before anyone goes off again on the 'incompetent' amateur cruisers, note that the professionally manned Voyager ferry, which makes several 15-mile runs between St. Martin and St. Barth each day, inexplicatedly slammed into Beef Barrel, a yacht-sized solid rock on the rhumbline between the two islands. The collision — which crushed the bow of the steel ferry — happened during a heavy rain squall. Miraculously, only four of the 30 aboard had to be taken to the hospital, and none of them was seriously injured. It's unclear how the collision could have taken place, as electronic charts in the area are accurate and Beef Barrel, despite being relatively low, is a decent radar target.

Some cruisers grouse that there isn't anywhere you can be alone on the hook anymore. Rubbish. You just have to be adventurous and make the effort. There are many lonely places along the coast of Mexico and in the Sea of Cortez. And in French Polynesia, too.

Shelly Ward Rothery and Mike Rickman of the La Paz-based Peterson 44 Avatar, which has been in French Polynesia for about 18 months, haven't had any trouble getting away from others.

“First time we’ve seen news in over a month," Shelly wrote awhile back. "What's all this about the KKK and stuff in Virginia?”

Next, “Hello world! Just arrived back in civilization. There are two supply ships here at Makemo in the Tuamotus, so it’s shopping tomorrow! We definitely need food supplies, but after 14 hours underway, we need sleep more than we need food. Have we missed anything important in the world lately?”

Then, “Out here in the middle of the Pacific we really only have two things to focus on: keeping the boat safe and what to make for dinner. Since the supply ship brought apples and oranges, we'll be having salad with the pork roast I'm defrosting. It is the little things in life that make us happy.”

Lastly, “We posted two new blogs about the Tahanea Atoll. It’s an amazing place with no people, just birds and fish."

Want to help the Coast Guard Search & Rescue folks? The easiest way is to make sure that your EPIRB is currently registered with correct information. Just Google 'EPIRB registration' and follow the easy steps online. All you need is your 15-digit EPIRB number.Registration, which is required by law, is free, but it's only good for two years. So please stay current. In addition, if you sell your EPIRB, or have changes in your contact information, make those changes online. It's easy.

Registering and keeping your EPIRB information current may not seem important, but the SAR folks tell us that unregistered EPIRBs and EPIRBs with incorrect or outdated information delay their rescue efforts and make them more diffficult. Since it only takes a few keystrokes to help, and may save your life, there is no excuse not to do it.

In 2005, John Silverwood of San Diego lost a leg after the family's Lagoon 55 catamaran Emerald Jane went onto a reef at Manuae Atoll, about 190 miles west of Raiatea in French Polynesia. As is so often the case, it was because of a navigation error. Be that as it may, the 79-ft mast fell on John’s leg. He survived, barely, but had to have the leg amputated in Tahiti.

The Wanderer and de Mallorca were aboard Profligate at the Police Dock in San Diego in mid-August when Silverwood asked if he could come aboard and have a friend take some video of him and the cat. Sure, why not? Silverwood was actually taking off the next morning on a singlehanded voyage to Hawaii aboard the Ohlson 38 Espiritu Santo in support of both his website and the Challenged Athletes Foundation of San Diego.

The personification of enthusiasm, John roamed around Profligate, telling his prospective video audience that Profligate was the kind of vessel he was raising funds for, and that she would be carrying disabled people on ocean sailing voyages. Our favorite line was when he said, “Look at this big cockpit, we could get 16 people in wheelchairs in there!”

John’s pitch for was intoxicating, and left us with no doubt that he’s a true believer in his mission. We wish him luck. When we finally reminded John of the connection between Profligate and Latitude 38, he almost fell over with shock and laughter.

"We finally made the decision that we're going to stay in the Med for yet another year," report Greg and Debbie Dorland of the Squaw Valley-based Catana 52 Escapade. "We'll sail from the Dodecanese to Turkey in September and October, then put the boat on the hard for the winter."

The one thing that made Greg and Debbie hesitate about staying is the problem with Schengen Area restrictions, which limit most Americans to 90 days in the Schengen Area before they have to leave for 90 days. Many cruisers blow off the law, but Greg and Debbie have spent thousands and wasted weeks trying to do the right thing.

Jim and Debbie Gregory's enjoyment of their last summer in the Med aboard their Schumacher 50 Morpheus was briefly interrupted at Mahon, Menorca, home of mayonnaise and one of Spain's Balearic Islands. They were enjoying the fabulous Mahon Classic Regatta, which had attracted many of the great classic yachts for which the Med is so famous.Then, in came A, Russian oligarch Andrey Melnichenko's 450-ft, three-masted, $360 million "sail-assisted" new boat, dwarfing all other boats in the area. In Jim's opinion, the particularly hideous-looking A stood in sharp contrast to everything the classic yachts stand for. We couldn't agree with him more.

The only nice thing we've heard anyone say about A was from one of the directors of the Jean Paul Gaultier fashion empire in Paris. We bumped into him during a late-night sushi fest in the Marais district of the City of Light, and he showed us photos of the boat he'd taken on her in Capri. He'd gone to the boat to fit $100,000 dresses for Andrey's wife. "A doesn't look so bad on the inside," was the biggest compliment he could think of.

Cruising faster than a Volvo 70? Greg Slyngstad of Seattle hoped to do this year's Transpac with his Bieker 53 cat Fujin, but was thwarted by a one-month wait in getting boats through the Panama Canal. So Greg went cruising in the Northeast and recently blew away the elapsed time record in the 238-mile Vineyard Race. In the process, Fujin easily beating a Volvo 70 and some larger Gunboat cats. Greg's unusual-looking design knocked an amazing 5+ hours off the old 20-hour record, and beat the Volvo 70 by 2.5 hours. Let's see, doing 238 miles in 15 hours is an average of . . . well, my calculator says it's really fast. The crew reported sailing in excess of 20 knots "for hours and hours".

"We left our catamaran in the marina at San Carlos for two months," reports Scott Doran of the Seattle-based Lagoon 400 Muskoka. "Upon our return, everything worked fine and we didn't have any mold or cockroaches. She looked exactly as we left her. The boat's A/C is working like a charm, and to those that scoffed at the idea of A/C on a boat, come on over, as it's nice and cool over here."

A/C is good for battling mold, which can make a complete mess out of a boat's interior. If you don't have A/C — and we've never had it — vinegar in bowls around the boat can be effective.

Cruising the West Coast of North America is generally pretty easy. The wind generally comes from the same direction, there aren't a lot of reefs and offshore hazards, and it's not hard to get out and go sailing.

In parts of Europe it can be a lot more difficult, including just getting your boat out onto the ocean. For example, if you're in the wrong marina in La Rochelle, France, you have to wait to go through a lock to get to the ocean and when come back in from the ocean. And if you're in many parts of England, Ireland and Scotland, low tides can trap you in the marina or keep you from coming in.

For example, take a look at the accompanying photo of Jean-François and Diane Somerville's Northcoast 48 Sea Tern in Cornwall, England. Neither they nor any shallow-draft powerboats near them were going anywhere until the tide came back in. That's just the way it is.

The couple bought the boat in the Eastern Med 12 years ago, intending to sail her back to their homeport in Florida. After 10 years they'd made it all the way — ha, ha — west to Paris, where the Wanderer and de Mallorca became friends with them in the Arsenal Marina. We figure they'll make it to Florida in another 10 years or so, as they want to cruise the Baltic countries, too. We're not sure how they deal with the Schengen Area limitations. Lots of cruisers just ignore the rules.

Anybody seen our old friend 'Fearless' Fred Denton of the Nordic 40 Serafina? We knew Fred from Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito in the early 1980s. He subsequently did two circumnavigations with the Tartan 37 Francesca. We didn't see or hear from him again until just before the start of the Ha-Ha in 2015, when he presented himself to Profligate in San Diego. Then 74, he told us he'd just bought Serafina and was going to try to do a third circumnavigation.

"It will be interesting to see how it goes," he said, "as I haven't done a circumnavigation in 20 years." Fred is an unusual dude, in that he still did 50 push-ups a day despite his age. Anyway, if anybody sees him, we'd like to hear about it.

If you're cruising, we'd love to hear from you! Just a paragraph or two and a photo or two are all we need.

Missing the pictures? See the October 2017 eBook!


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