With reports this month from
Mahina Tiare III on a six-month
cruise from Seattle to Sweden; from Sailors
Run on great summer cruising in the Sea of Cortez; from Velella on a circumnavigation of Vancouver
Island; from Annapurna on the last
half of a cruise in the Louisiades Archipelago of P.N.G.; from
Saga on getting FM3 permits in Mexico;
from Tucumcari on a slow and somewhat
unpleasant crossing from Mexico to the Marquesas; and lots and
lots of Cruise Notes.
Mahina Tiare - Hallberg-Rassy 46
John Neal & Amanda Swan-Neal
Seattle To Sweden In Six Months
(Friday Harbor, Washington)
Is it crazy to think you could comfortably cruise 11,000 miles
from British Columbia to Sweden - with stops at eight other countries
- in six months? That's the question we put to John Neal, who
along with Amanda Swan-Neal, did exactly that between March and
September of this year. It was part of John's 12th year of Offshore
Sail Training Seminars.
"Six months is a quicker pace than some cruisers might want
to travel," said John, "but it's not too far to go
in a season. For instance, we took a week off between each of
our eight sessions, plus another two weeks in the Azores."
If someone only wanted to sail from San Francisco to the Med,
it would be significantly shorter and easier.
John and Amanda's March start was dictated by avoiding the summer
hurricanes seasons in Mexico and the Atlantic, as well as winter
in the North Atlantic. Even then, we wondered how the weather
was on the long voyage over long expanses of open water.
"Awesome!" says John. "In terms of rain, we only
had two days during the whole six months. We had great wind,
too, except for a couple of minor exceptions. During our 4.5
day sail from Victoria to San Francisco, we had up to 45 knots
of wind, but since it was from aft it gave us a chance to practice
heavy weather gybes. From San Francisco to Panama was pretty
mellow, with a few gusts over 30 just south of San Diego and
lots of motoring between Costa Rica's Cocos Island and the Canal.
From Panama to Puerto Rico, it was the expected rough slog almost
dead upwind in an average of about 25 knots. It was rough, but
that's what the students on that leg had come for.
"We started our transatlantic from Foxy's at Jost van Dyke
in the British Virgins," John continues. "Our goal
was the Azores, and we made use of David Jones' Caribbean weather
forecasts and routing. He was great. We had a very fast trip,
covering the 2,300 miles to Flores in the Azores in 15 days.
We had fair winds and it was warm, too. We had great wind from
Grassiosa to Ireland also, which allowed us to cover the 1,250
miles in just days, once again with nothing but fair winds. The
surprising thing is that it was warm all the way to Ireland,
too. In fact, we'd hove to each day to go swimming, and it was
83° when we arrived in Kinsale. Most people don't realize
it, but the Gulfstream brings warm water all the way across the
Atlantic. Not everyone was as lucky with their crossing, however.
Boats that started and continued to the north of us got hit with
some pretty bad weather.
"While in Kinsale, we got pinned to the dock with 45 knots
of wind. When we finally got off, we had a blast surfing past
famous Fastnet Rock in 40 knots of breeze. But once we'd sailed
around to the west coast of Ireland, we were back in the Gulfstream
and warm weather and water predominated. When most people think
of Ireland, they don't think of white sand beaches, palm trees
and surfers, but we've got pictures to prove it!"
Except for one 45-knot low, John and Amanda had more gorgeous
weather sailing up the west coast of Ireland. Having gotten a
good forecast, they sailed to some uninhabited offshore islands
between Ireland and Scotland. Had there been bad weather, there
would have been plenty of places to tuck in for shelter. They
then crossed the Scottish Highlands using the Loch Ness and the
Caledonia Canal, which is really something special. After coming
out at Inverness and stopping at the Orkney Islands, they made
the 350-mile crossing across the heavily trafficked and shallow
North Sea. It was their first consistent dose of nasty weather,
and it was almost on the nose. For their final leg down Norway
and across to Sweden, it was even worse, as they faced strong
winds nearly on the nose and adverse currents. This was hardly
unexpected, as it was so late in the season they only saw one
other boat and many of the docks had been taken in. But John
and Amanda have sailed around Cape Horn five times or more, so
this wasn't anything they or their boat wasn't up to.
"In addition to almost all great weather, we visited wonderful
places," says John. "We'd really like to spend some
more time in the Azores. And Ireland and Scotland were really
special. Everybody was very friendly, and they all love Americans.
The yacht clubs aren't stuffy at all, and everybody is welcome.
When we tried to clear Customs in Kinsale, the folks at the yacht
club wouldn't hear of it. 'We'll fill out the forms and give
them to Customs the next time they come around,' they told us.
The Irish just love to have fun and aren't very serious at all.
Scotland was terrific, too, as you'd see castles everywhere you
went. And when we stopped at night, there was always a bar with
live music nearby. We loved it."
We'll have more on John and Amanda's adventures in the next issue.
Their cruise for next year starts in Sweden, goes as far north
as Spitsbergen, which is as close to the North Pole as you can
get, and ends in Kona, Hawaii, nine months later. Sailboats are
intrinsically pretty slow, but as John and Amanda have proved,
if you keep moving, you can really cover a lot of ground. For
lots of great photos and text, visit www.mahina.com.
- latitude 38 10/15/2000
Run - Baba 40 Ketch
Jeff & Debbie Hartjoy
Wonders Of The Sea Of Cortez
Debbie and I departed Mazatlan right on the heels of Hurricane
Camilla, and enjoyed a great sail into the Sea of Cortez. We
eventually dropped the hook at the south anchorage of Isla San
Jose, which is about 20 miles north of La Paz. What we found
was an abundance of stark beauty - and fishing unlike any we'd
experienced elsewhere in Mexico. However, we have to admit that
visitors need to heed the warnings about no-see-ums. They show
up from time to time - and when they do, they'll eat you alive
if you're not careful to use screens and products such as OFF!
We were also astounded by the fiery sunsets that we saw on about
half the evenings during the six months we spent in the Sea.
An infinite number of shades of purples and oranges. In addition,
the sailing was superb! When we sailed north, the southeasterlies
dominated. When it came time to start heading south again in
mid-September, the northerlies started blowing. Nothing like
always having the wind from behind.
Debbie, who is much better looking than most Mexican fishermen,
does the fishing for us and has become quite proficient. The
largest fish she landed was a 43-inch dorado, but she hooked
and lost a five-foot male dorado. He was the most beautiful blue
you can imagine! Debbie lost him right at the boat when he made
a final leap and snapped our 40-lb line.
The reports of high temperatures in the Sea of Cortez are not
exaggerations. During the month of July, we had several days
where it hit 120°. It dropped to 90° at night, but the
Sea was 93° day and night. Since the only relief was the
water, we spent two to four hours a day it in. Cooler temperatures
in August brought some relief, and we also found cooler water
in the northern part of the Sea near Bahia de Los Angeles.
Hiking proved to be one of our best outlets for cabin fever and
one of the best ways to get in some conditioning. While hiking
with the crews of Maluhia and Gemini at San Fransquito,
we hiked in and around some caves and cliffs. At one point I
got a little too close to a cactus and took a cactus needle in
the head - and I don't mean the head on top of my shoulders!
Feeling pretty embarrassed, I didn't let on that anything was
wrong, but having been pricked in that sensitive spot, the spirit
of adventure had gone right out of me. It wasn't long before
we were back aboard Sailors Run and I was stripped down
and gingerly investigating my problem. Wow! I found out you can't
just pull those things out! It had barbs, and the only way to
get it out was to push it all the way through, clip the barbs,
and pull it back out. Without a doubt, it was the strangest injury
of our trip.
We kept moving further north into the Sea looking for a good
hurricane hole if we needed to take shelter. Based on our looking
around, Puerto Don Juan would probably offer the best holding
and protection. Puerto Don Juan is also a great place to careen
your boat and paint the bottom. Having decided to paint the boat,
we made several careful preparations. Since the boat might heel
as much as 50°, we were careful to close all the through
hulls and made sure the fuel and water vents were sealed off
against the sea. By the time our boat was heeled 40°, it
had become a completely alien place belowdecks, and doing anything
became a gymnastic feat. So it was good that we had gathered
all our painting materials beforehand. We'd also cleaned the
During the day, we carefully checked out the anchorage on radar
so it would look familiar when we went ashore at night. At 0230,
just before the tide was all the way out, we raised the anchor
and switched on the running lights. A panga was going by at that
time, and stopped to try to figure out what we were doing. He
then watched in bewilderment as we powered the boat straight
to the beach! After flashing their light at us a few times, they
realized it had been an intentional grounding.
In our case, going straight onto the beach at a previously scouted
area was as easy as falling off a log. We had previously trimmed
our boat to heel about five degrees so she would lay down on
the side we wanted. The miracle of tidal hydraulics laid Sailors
Run down so softly that we didn't even feel the contact between
the hull and sand. With six hours to dry and paint one side,
there seemed like an abundance of time to Scotch-Pad the hull
and get her painted. Debbie and I had been apprehensive at first,
but were quite confident the next day when we careened our Baba
40 on her other side.
With a freshly painted bottom, we continued north and visited
many fine anchorages. We made it as far north as San Felipe -
which isn't all that far from San Diego - and were impressed
with the friendliness of the locals and the relative prosperity
of the town. While there, we had our electric windlass rebuilt
and were given a spare set of brushes - all for $35. The only
downside was a 430 peso fee - about $50 U.S. - for checking in
and out. The Port Captain would not accept the normal despacho
for checking out, and made us use a ship's agent for checking
in and out. This was very different than our experience at every
other port in Mexico.
We only encountered one good blow during our season in the Sea
of Cortez, and that was during our 120-mile trip from San Felipe
to Refugio on Angel de La Guardia Island. It blew 25 to 40 knots
from the southeast for 14 hours, and the seas built to about
eight feet. This had been the hardest we had been hit in over
a year, and was a great opportunity to find a few of those leaks
and weak spots. We seemed to have plenty of leaks, and discovered
that we definitely needed to secure the chain locker if we didn't
want the chain ending up on our vee-berth.
The Sea of Cortez fed us well and opened our eyes to many new
discoveries. We truly enjoyed our time in the Sea, although we
believe it would take several season to see all the wonders.
Although we must now say good-bye to the Sea and then to mainland
Mexico in March when we leave for the Marquesas, we'll be headed
to more adventures in another part of paradise.
- jeff & debbie 10/15/2000
- Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
Vancouver Island, B.C.
Prior to heading down the west coast of the United States to
Mexico and beyond, we decided to do an approximately 1,000-mile
circumnavigation of Van-couver Island. We're really glad we did,
since it provided an excellent opportunity to shake out the cobwebs
and test our cruising systems before leaving the convenience
of local stores and repair facilities - as well as the comfort
of family and friends. It's not as though we're new to sailing.
We've raced for years, but that often draws upon a different
set of skills. And, though we've owned our boat for two years
and have been living aboard for a year, a cruise such as the
one we took provided a more accurate idea of how we'll really
use the boat before we're actually put to the test. Going farther
afield than normal, where there were ocean swells and the weather
can be more dicey, has gotten us to stretch a little - and shake
some bad habits we've developed from sailing on the relatively
calm waters around Seattle. Setting things on the counter and
expecting them to stay, for example, or not doing a proper job
of stowing things.
Although we worked right up until the day before we were scheduled
to leave, we managed to get away pretty much as planned. When
we got to Victoria, Canadian customs wanted to do a thorough
search to find all our liquor. But after taking a look at all
the stuff we had stacked high in the vee-berth, the two officers
just looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. It was
kind of amusing. I think customs wanted to search our boat because
we'd declared that we had no beer aboard - something they apparently
found hard to believe. But we'd decided to drink hard liquor
instead of beer because the latter is so heavy and takes up so
much fridge space. We later learned that if we'd called customs,
they probably wouldn't have even bothered to search our boat.
One good outcome of their declining to search our boat is that
we realized that we had too much stuff aboard. We did our provisioning
just north of Victoria at Nanaimo, which has excellent stores
and reasonable prices.
On our way north, we detoured over to the mainland to visit famous
Princess Louisa Inlet, a mecca for mariners that we have wanted
to see since we first arrived in this beautiful region. We had
an ideal sail 40 miles up a narrow fiord, and were awed by our
surroundings along the way - and even more so upon arrival. What
a photographer's paradise! The rainforest next to Chatterbox
Falls, which is at the head of the inlet, was so green and lush
with moss that it literally dripped off the trees. And the mile-high
granite mountains dropped almost vertically to the water, with
dramatic falls and torrents of water all around. We tied up to
a free float next to the falls for a couple of days, then moved
to a free mooring buoy for a different perspective. We were there
in early June and the place was nearly deserted. We saw only
a few boats arriving and departing Malibu Rapids, which are a
few miles shy of the falls and guard the entrance to the cathedral-like
setting. Princess Louisa Provincial Park is completely natural,
so there are no facilities - but there is beauty to spare.
We meandered our way north through Desolation Sound on our way
to the top of Vancouver Island, stopping to enjoy some of the
many nice anchorages along the way. We stopped in Melanie Cove,
mentioned in the book Curve of Time, and tried to locate the
old apple orchard. We motored close to the falls at Teakarne
Arm, and rowed around the lagoon at Squirrel Cove. The guidebooks
kept warning us how crowded it would be in Desolation Sound,
but we saw relatively few other boats. High season apparently
doesn't start until July, so the local stores weren't even fully
stocked. The June weather was pretty nice, however.
During one long day heading northwest, we passed through a set
of five rapids, timing our progress carefully so we could take
each one at relatively slack water. Checking the tide tables
and scheduling our passages accordingly was mandatory. The weather
service had posted gale warnings for Johnstone Strait since the
start of our trip, but local knowledge suggested that we make
the passage in the morning before the wind came up. Taking that
advice, we had a nice sail in an area where it can get ugly if
the wind turns against the tide. North of Johnstone Strait we
found several good spots to anchor and - despite some clear cutting
- some great scenery. Mild conditions and a tight schedule forced
us to push on despite our interest in the pretty little islets
along the eastern side of Queen Charlotte Strait.
Port Hardy, at the northwest corner of Vancouver Island, turned
out to be a fine port for provisioning and a good jumping off
point for rounding Cape Scott. Leaving early in the morning with
the tide, we were able to motor past Nahwitti Bar and around
the Cape - a potentially hazardous area with tide rips, particularly
in windy conditions - in calm conditions and flat seas. The first
place to stop after the rounding was Sea Otter Cove, which is
quite dramatic but has a rather dicey entrance. Between the tight
quarters and gusts of wind, it's a difficult place to anchor.
We enjoyed hiking out to see the Pacific waves crashing against
the rocks outside the entrance.
Along the Pacific side of Vancouver Island, there are four sizeable
sounds and some other smaller inlets to explore. The northernmost,
Quatsino Sound, is little visited but peaceful, and there are
several nice anchorages. To our surprise, we found a rock in
Smith Cove, so wouldn't suggest a visit there, except at low
tide. In Kyuquot Sound, the next one to the south, we found several
places to enjoy: Bunsby Islands, on the north side; Dixie Cove,
an almost landlocked bay smelling of evergreen; and Rugged Point,
a delightful sandy beach on both the sound and Pacific sides
of the point that is connected by a boardwalk through the woods.
I used a roll and a half of film here alone!
Nootka Sound is steeped in history, features picturesque beaches
on two sides of a point, and has a lighthouse at Friendly Cove.
As we continued south from here, sportfishing boats became more
numerous since the area is accessible by road. South of Nootka
Sound is Clayquot Sound, which is much more shallow and has vivid
blue water on the west side, and Tofino, a charming little town,
on the east side. Hot Springs Cove, on the north side of Clayquot
Sound, is another incredibly beautiful spot that is also a mecca
for cruisers. A two-mile boardwalk hike through the rainforest
leads to the springs, and the boardwalk alone is worth the visit.
The views are terrific, and many boardwalk planks are carved
with the names of people and boats that have been there before.
The springs at the end of the trail are quite a treat, as there
are natural high stone walls on either side, a waterfall at the
head, and a series of cascading pools that lead toward the sea.
The springs are pretty hot, and after a short time warm you to
the core. Tour boats bring tourists from Tofino during the middle
of the day, but during the morning and evenings it's not crowded.
Sometimes we had the springs all to ourselves, sometimes we met
other boaters who seemed to appear out of the forest. It was
fun chatting with folks from boats we'd already seen along the
Barclay Sound, the southernmost sound, is the most popular sound
on the west side of Vancouver Island, with many kayakers and
every type of boat. There is a sprinkling of islands to explore
in the sound, many of which are part of a marine park.
There aren't many facilities on Vancouver Island, particularly
on the western coast. It's not easy, for example, to find places
to provision or to bathe. Even pay phones are somewhat scarce.
The proper disposal of garbage presented a continual challenge,
so we tried to generate as little as possible by eating a minimum
of packaged foods. Various parts of Vancouver Island have been
subjected to clear-cutting, which is ugly because the peaks look
as though they'd gotten really bad haircuts. Despite this, we
saw many lovely spots - even in the clear-cut areas. We also
saw wildlife not usually found at our backyard feeder: seals,
sea otters, eagles and many other birds. We also saw whales breeching,
and someone from another boat told us that they'd seen a bear
munch on shellfish some 40 yards from the float at Princess Louisa
Inlet. We were sleeping at the time. We also enjoyed hiking onshore,
and paddling around in the dinghy to explore sea caves and tidal
When our detour to Princess Louisa is included, we estimate we
covered about 1,000 miles from Seattle. We had good weather in
the mornings for rounding the capes and points, but there was
still a bit of slop where the Pacific swell meets the land. We
didn't see much fog until mid-July, at which time we also saw
more cruisers and fishing boats. Adverse weather could be an
issue around Vancouver Island, but we were pretty lucky and spent
extremely little time waiting for conditions to improve. We motored
more during the trip than we'd have liked because there was often
little wind, because it's usually right on the nose in the narrow,
and because we were frequently rushing to time our arrival at
one or more rapids. Although our eight weeks is almost double
the time many cruisers take for the circumnavigation, it hardly
seemed like enough. We definitely need to return someday
- wendy & garth 10/15/2000
Annapurna - Hans Christian 48
Buddy & Ruth Ellison
The Louisiades Archipelago, P.N.G.
[Cont'd from last month.]
Further east in the chain, at Hessessi Bay on Pana Tinani, the
people were very different from those in the Calvados group.
We didn't feel put upon every time an outrigger came out to our
boat or when we went ashore to visit. They still needed things,
of course, so we willingly gave up supplies that we could replenish
when we returned to Oz. But it was a delight to be able to go
ashore and just 'tell lies' - the Aussie term for shooting the
breeze - with everyone. One day I went ashore and played the
guitar while another cruiser played the mandolin. The locals
genuinely seemed interested in us and the music.
From then on the weather improved. So Buddy and John Martin,
who lived in one of the villages, went on several lobstering
trips. The local fishing gear is primitive, so Buddy let John
use his triple-banded spear gun. You'd have thought John had
died and gone to heaven! He wanted to know if we could bring
him one. All in all, Buddy has had good luck lobster hunting,
with nice size bugs. He's also caught a record breaking three
fish, two of them on the way into Hessessi. He gave both to the
locals and we were immediately their new best friends.
After about a month in the Louisiades, we ran out of everything
fresh, including eggs and veggies. So we started trading in earnest
for lobsters, mud crabs, shells, paw-paw, bananas, eggs, yams
and potatoes. Yes, we went native. Luckily we still had a freezer
full of meat. It's hard to believe that it's possible to get
tired of eating lobster and crab, but it happened to us. They're
just everywhere, and we ate it fried, boiled, broiled, barbecued
- you name it!
Before leaving Hessessi, one of the elders passed away. We were
asked to come to the funeral, film it, and send the film back
to them. It turned out to be both gruesome and very interesting,
and we took photos of the unfortunate soul in the coffin and
all the mourners. We were honored with a gift of two baggi, which
are shell necklaces that have been used throughout the area for
barter and gifts. They start with the shell, cut it up into small
pieces, grind them into tiny little circles, drill a hole in
the middle, shine them, and then string them into a necklace.
The process took them about three days. Apparently it is very
special to be given one, and after seeing how they are made,
we quite understand.
After that finale, we continued to move east through the Louisiades
chain, travelling in company with David and Carol on Darsi,
and John and Sandra on True Blue. We all flew our American
flags and wherever we went kept joking that 'the Yanks are coming'!
Around the corner from Hessessi on the same island is Hata Lawi,
a beautiful bay with no villages. So we had a week of quiet.
Unfortunately, Buddy slipped on some coral while walking around
a small island at low tide, and scratched his feet and knees.
Coral cuts are nasty if not taken care of right away. We thought
we cleaned the cuts correctly, but Buddy got in the water the
next day, which is a no-no. The cuts started getting infected.
Everyone we spoke to on the radio had a remedy, of course. Put
the wound in as hot water as you can stand for 20 minutes; clean
with soap and water; apply vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, Betadine,
hydrogen peroxide or camphophenique; open a tetracycline capsule
and put the powder on the wound; elevate the wounds above the
heart, amputate; pour diesel on the wound; set the foot afire;
blah, blah, blah.
With the cuts infected, it was already too late. Buddy started
getting pains up his leg, red circles around the nasty buggers,
and a swollen foot. So we put him on antibiotics and I forbade
him from getting into the water until they healed - which wasn't
until we left the islands! That kind of put a damper on the water
festivities, such as diving for lobster. We spent the rest of
our time visiting the villages, reading, and playing Mexican
dominoes with our buddyboating friends.
Around the middle of August, we parted company with our friends
and headed for Tagula, the southeasternmost island, and waited
for a weather window to sail back to Townsville. We stopped at
two anchorages on Tagula, Lyin and Lijiliji. The cruising guide
said that Lijiliji is an ideal anchorage for departure through
the pass, but to stay well offshore because of the crocs. We
didn't see any crocs while we were there, but we didn't get off
the boat to visit the beautiful sandy beach, either! Because
of the threat of crocs and the fact that the weather had become
overcast and rainy, we only stayed four days before heading back
A number of things during our visit to the Louisiades made us
abnormally aware of our vulnerability and dependency on one another:
we ran out of all our fresh food and most of our other food;
Buddy couldn't go into the water the last 2.5 weeks because of
his infections, and we would have had trouble if the rode had
gotten wrapped around a coral head; neither of us got any exercise
the last week because of the fear of crocs on the beach; we attended
one funeral, and heard that another five locals perished when
a canoe flipped and threw nine of them into the water. It may
sound silly, but it made us realize even more how precious life
is and what's really important. Some little things that used
to bother us now don't seem like much. We also thought about
all the stuff we brought to trade, how it didn't amount to a
hill of beans to us, but how important it was to the wonderful
and very gentle islanders. Especially the 25 or so who are able
to see again because of the used eyeglasses we were able to give
Enough of the emotional stuff! Our plans now are to go get our
car in Brisbane and drive to the center of Australia for a few
months. We'll fly back to the States early next year, then return
to Oz in March. After boat guests in March and April, we'll head
up the East Coast to Darwin, then set sail for Indonesia.
- buddy & ruth 8/2000
Saga - Alberg 35
Jann Hedrick & Nancy Birnbaum
Before we started cruising, we were told that Mexico had some
of the best cruising grounds in the world. After more than a
year down here, we'd have to agree. It also has a great community
of cruisers who are different and wonderful - and have different
opinions on how to handle things, such as the issue of visas.
Many cruisers who haven't completely severed their docklines
return to the States every six months or so and automatically
get new fresh visas when they return to Mexico. Others opt to
go through the bureaucracy rat's nest and get their 'FM3'. which
allows them to travel back and forth to the States within a year
without a new visa. This can also be renewed annually. The cost
of an FM3 varies, although we were told it ranges from $200 to
$500 a person. The difficulty of the process varies also, depending
on where you apply for the permit and/or if you pay a service
to do it for you. For example, one friend got the Crew's Quarters
in Banderas Bay to get him a 180-day visa, which is the maximum,
for an unknown price. Here in La Paz, we've been told that it's
virtually impossible to get an extension on a 180-day visa, and
if you do, it would only be good for another 30 days. We're also
told it's easier to get one in Cabo, where officials are more
tolerant of long-term tourists.
After weighing the various options, we decided to rent a cheap
car - with air-conditioning, of course - and drive up to San
Diego and get new visas. It also turned out to be a good opportunity
to help our fellow cruisers, as we got on the La Paz Net and
announced that we could pick up mail and stuff from Downwind
Marine in San Diego. And that if people wanted, they could donate
a few pesos to our gas fund. So along with another cruiser, we
piled into the rental car and started the nearly 24 hour drive.
Despite the stern warnings from everyone, we drove straight through
the night. Although we encountered many cows and a few horses
by the side of the road, we fortunately didn't hit any. Five
times the Federales stopped us at designated check points, each
time probing under the wheel wells, presumably looking for guns
or drugs. They were always very nice. We used these opportunities
as rest stops to stretch a little and get some drinks. When we
asked the Federales where the bathrooms were, they always laughed
and pointed to the dark scrub along the side of the road. It's
a long drive from La Paz to San Diego, but the views are incredible,
and we also enjoyed a nice dinner stop at Santa Rosalia.
We arrived in San Diego mid-morning the following day and went
straight to the consulate to get our new visas. It was easy.
Our next stop was Downwind Marine, and they were thrilled to
give us mail to deliver and a few bits of gear folks in La Paz
had ordered. Naturally we bought some stuff we needed, too. After
all the shopping was done, we visited old friends at Sun Harbor
Marina, which had been our home for three months while waiting
for hurricane season to end last year. Finally, we got a room
and a very restful night's sleep.
With our truck loaded to capacity, we headed back to the border
and La Paz the next day. Our border crossing was easy, as we
declared the stuff we had picked up and were sent on our way
in a short time. I think we enjoyed the scenery on the return
trip even more than on the way up. We saw the huge park that
spans almost the entire middle of the Baja California del Norte.
It was a surreal sight, with miles and miles of huge rocks and
boulders, interlaced with tall cacti that sprout new blossoms
in the spring. Each part of Baja offers different desert scapes.
The northern part is green and hilly, the middle is rocky and
otherworldly, and the lower part has fantastic views of the Sea.
The total cost, including rental car, came to less than $150
per person. It seemed a long way to go for a day, but we were
thrilled by the scenery and glad that we had made the trip to
see some of inland Baja.
- jann & nancy 7/15/2000
Jann & Nancy - Two hundred to $500
for FM3 permits?! If anybody has paid that kind of money, they've
gotten screwed. We suggest our readers check out Mike and Anne
Kelty's report in the October Letters - find it at www.latitude38.com
- on how they got their FM3 at the consulate in San Diego for
just $80. It would be muy loco to pay $500 for a FM3.
On the other hand, far be it for us to discourage anyone from
making the drive up and down the Baja Peninsula, which is a trip
on any number of levels. About 10 years ago we bought a Cal 25
and singlehanded the boat on a trailer from Marin County to Puerto
Escondido in 34 hours, including a rest stop at Guerro Negro.
It was a spectacular drive, the two highlights of which were
pulling into the oasis at San Ignacio and dropping out of the
brown desert mountains to the glistening blue Sea of Cortez just
north of Santa Rosalia. After we threw the boat in the water,
we singlehanded back in just 29 hours, much of it at night. Like
you, we'd been told not to drive at night because of the danger
of cattle sleeping on the warm pavement. The good part of driving
at night is that you have the road almost to yourself and you
can usually see oncoming traffic from miles away.
Tucumcari - 33-ft Custom Sloop
Bob Starr & Cyn Terra-Starr
Cyn's Puddle Jump Review
Bob and I have different versions of our crossing from Mexico
to the Marquesas this spring. This isn't surprising, since he
built the boat and had already sailed her from the West Coast
to Australia and back. Meanwhile, I feel that oceans are slightly
malevolent and that boats are mere toothpicks that only manage
to stay afloat thanks to the help of electronics and other unreliable
gear. There, I've confessed to my pollo del mar status once again.
I'm not ashamed - except that I really should be farther along
in my personal 'therapy' to gain confidence in being on the water.
Confronting a 2,700-mile passage to a tiny speck in the middle
of the ocean certainly provided plenty of opportunity for conquering
my fears, but they still exist. But I am getting better at ignoring
and hiding them.
We had a grueling, seemingly interminable passage that I only
occasionally found exhilarating. I sort of felt as though we
were confined to a motorhome crossing America, one that dipped,
rocked and lurched while we tried to cook, eat and wash up. All
at the breakneck speed of five knots. And we could never get
off. I found it nerve wracking.
Our trip had an inauspicious beginning, as we had to burn precious
fuel to get out of normally windy Banderas Bay. Ideal conditions
on the ocean are 15 knots and flat seas - but we rarely saw them.
You have to sail with the wind you get, and we mostly had fluky
stuff. After a few days of frustrating winds, we realized that
we'd forgotten to toast Mr. Neptune. So we poured the rest of
our rum - which we only use for such occasions - into the ocean.
We only covered 20 miles during the next 24 hours, so I'm not
sure how much it helped.
The upside of that dismal pace was that bobbing about on a glassy
surface was surreal. And the horizon dished up scenes finer than
a Disneyland surround-a-view attraction, with dolphins playing
at the bow, and our being able to more closely inspect the actual
blue color of the ocean. Actually, they need a better name for
the color of the ocean, as it was mesmerizing.
Perhaps my problem is that I started the trip with excessive
expectations. I expected to zip merrily across to the Marquesas
in three weeks, pushed along by steady trades and only having
to motor to cross the doldrums. The goal of three weeks was based
on the fact that Bob had made the same crossing in the same boat
in that time some 15 years before. But on this trip, we unfortunately
had maddening winds and the area of doldrums was poorly defined.
So we degenerated into sub-humans. Our crossing took 28 days
- or nearly a month of what the Eagles would have described as
a "prison of our own device".
Naturally, I'd made lofty plans for the free time enroute: I
would study French every day, bone up on celestial navigation,
enjoy contemplative moments under starry skies, and become at
one with the elements. Yeah, sure. First of all, I never got
more than three hours of undisturbed sleep - and usually much
less - for weeks on end. The lack of sleep turned both of us
into lurching zombies. It was like we were new parents - except
that we had to stay up and be semi-alert before getting our reward
of going back to bed. Some reward! A bed in which I had to prop
pillows around my sweaty body in order to not be tossed against
the hull. A bed in which I had to endure the sound of constant
banging in the rigging or the slatting of sails. I think sleep
deprivation was the primary cause of my descent into a cranky,
listless, raw existence.
Secondly, I lost my appetites. Who cared about food? Sex? You've
got to be kidding! Pleasures of conversation or reading? Whatever.
The main impediment was lack of REM time, but other things contributed
to it - such as the difficulty of just moving around and/or executing
any task aboard a rocking vessel. Bob and I ended up wearing
the same clothes day after day. All right, we did change underwear
- when we realized that one day had turned into the next. But
our routines got messed up. I couldn't remember if I had just
brushed my teeth or merely dreamed it. We didn't take many showers
because it took too much energy to gather everything together
and struggle to the foredeck to sit under a wildly swinging Sun
Shower nozzle for a couple of minutes. Although I managed to
avoid the worst consequences of mal de mer, I nonetheless felt
slightly ill whenever we had the kind of seas that accompany
the kind of wind necessary for fast sailing. Why hadn't Mother
Nature seen to it that you could have good wind and flat seas
at the same time? I popped a Bonine every once in a while, but
it seemed a useless gesture. What I needed were gimbaled legs.
Finally, I always felt a little anxious, and that wore me down.
It's never comfortable aboard a moving boat, and the 24-hour-a-day
effort to keep Tuc going as fast as possible in the right
direction had me mentally and physically tense. Although we didn't
have any major breakdowns, there were always little mechanical
chores for Bob to attend to. Plus the windvane seemed to require
lots of tweaking. And I always worried that a hangnail might
become a life-threatening infection, that our appendices might
simultaneously burst, or . . . well, see how crazed you can get
when you're 1,000 miles from nowhere?
So, other than figuring out what sail combo would perform best
given the existing wind conditions, what else was interesting?
Drop dead sunsets and sunrises. Spectacular opportunities to
be an integral part of all the natural surroundings. Boat baths
for Tuc. A break from the pressures of communicating with
family and friends. A month of going braless and shoeless. Not
spending any money for nearly a month. The pride of accomplishment
for undertaking and completing such a trip. And a perfect chance
to practice cognitive therapy to work on my fears.
What distinguished the days from one another - besides plotting
our position on the charts - were our radio skeds. What a comfort
to know that there were 20 or 30 other boats all plunging through
the same ocean to reach the very same dot as us. We checked into
two nets - an informal one which we set up with other cruisers
before leaving P.V., and a more formal one for hamsters only.
The latter, called the Pacific Seafarer's Net, recorded our position
and passed it on to a website map - a great service for those
who wanted to track our passage on the Internet. The radio was
Hold on a minute! This is Bob, and Cyn has been rambling on about
the passage ad-nauseam, so she finally fell asleep over on the
port settee. So now it's my turn to speak up. As she mentioned,
this trip took a week longer than the last one, so we'd set ourselves
up for disappointment. That, combined with the frustration of
constantly looking for nonexistent wind, made this the worst
passage I've ever been on. And I spent four years cruising this
boat in the South Pacific. My sentiment about the poor sailing
conditions was echoed by a few other sailing vets who did the
passage at the same time we did. Cyn and I both had our ups and
downs during the trip, but the bottom line is that we made it,
we're in fine shape, and so is Tucumcari. We're now having
a great time in the Marquesas eating more fruit than you can
imagine, seeing lots of wonderful scenery, and meeting lots of
both Marquesans and other cruisers.
This is Cyn, and I'm back. Bob and I had our differences during
the trip, the most irksome for him being that he felt I was always
wanting to slow the boat down for more comfort. Despite these
counterpurposes, true love conquers all.
I had imagined our landfall would be on a brilliant day with
the island of Hiva Oa majestically rising from a speck to a miracle
of verdant green. Landbirds would be soaring around us. Reality
was once again different - although dramatic in its own way.
We arrived too early in the morning due to 35-knot winds, so
we had to heave-to until first light. Hiva Oa's jagged mountains
appeared in the gray mist when we were about 10 miles off, the
wind decreased to a decent range, and we sailed into the harbor
triumphant - although depleted.
The Marquesas are a chain of six inhabited islands and several
other uninhabited ones. I'd never heard of this part of French
Polynesia before meeting Bob, figuring that Tahiti and Fiji were
all that were down here in the South Pacific. Anyway, we're now
having a super time visiting the villages and downing a multitude
of fruit - which is so plentiful that it literally falls into
our waiting bags from the trees. The stores sell no fruit and
only a veggie or two - onions, maybe a potato and sometimes tomatoes
- so obviously the natives all have community gardens. They also
have trees laden with guavas, papayas, grapefruit, limes, oranges,
soursop, avocados, bananas and others fruits which are new to
us. The villages exude a sheen of prosperity that is so different
from the Mexican towns. Everything is green and manicured, and
there aren't any plastic bags blowing in the wind.
It must be the abundance of flowering trees and bushes, plus
expanses of mown grass, that changes the perspective of poverty,
because the people here are probably only a bit 'richer' than
the typical Mexican. Or maybe I don't know squat and all the
locals are on the dole from the French. Prices are definitely
on the high side, but it doesn't make any difference because
we have lots leftover from Mexico. We join with other cruisers
for a restaurant meal when there is a restaurant, otherwise we
have the usual potlucks and cockpit get-togethers.
The water has been warm so far, but too murky for snorkeling.
That's the speciality of our next stop, the Tuamotus, which are
exclusively coral atolls teeming with fish. Thus far, the notorious
no-see-ums have only been present on Nuku Hiva, so I have only
collected a dozen or so maddening bites. I think these guys are
immune to bug sprays!
Quite enough for now, n'est-ce pas?
- cyn & bob 8/15/2000
Readers - Don't let anybody fool you:
1) Long passages are not for everyone - and the 2,700 miles from
Mexico to the Marquesas is one of the longest in cruising. 2)
Small boats tend to be slower, bumpier and generally less comfortable
than larger boats. 3) If there are only two crew, the lack of
sleep is almost sure to be a problem.
As such, nobody embarking on a 2,700-mile doublehanded voyage
on a 33-foot boat should be looking forward to a pleasure cruise.
Such a trip would be a blast for a couple of young bucks who
are totally comfortable on the ocean, love tweaking a boat, and
get their rocks off trying to carry a chute in 35 knot squalls.
But for someone who doesn't understand the workings of a boat,
who fears the ocean, and who can't get into the Zen of sailing,
it's likely to be a month of misery. And for what? It seems to
us there are many cases in which everyone would be a lot happier
if the skipper - usually a guy - were to find another enthusiastic
ocean voyager or two for the long ocean passage, and have the
relucant person, often the woman, fly over to meet the boat.
"Mulegé (moo-la-hay) is a great place to leave your
boat in the Sea of Cortez if you need to go north for a few days
or a few months," reports Garth Jones de Camacho and Kayanne
Tate of the Alberg 37 Inclination. "You Med-tie to
a stone wharf below the office of Miguel, the Port Captain, who
will keep a close eye on your boat. The fee is $3/day at the
current rate of exchange. Crossing the bar from the Sea of Cortez
into the river requires some local knowledge or prior checking
out in a dinghy. Our Alberg draws 6'1", and I can get in
and out at least once a day almost all of the time. The longest
period I can't cross the bar is about 10 days, but that only
happens twice a year. There is a rock in the middle of the channel
that only shows on minus tides. I'm on the Sonrisa and Chubasco
nets many mornings from October thru May, so people can call
me for assistance. Channel 22 is the local hailing channel. Gringo,
who is actually a Mexican who runs the outboard repair concession
on the starboard side up the river, can bring you in if I'm not
around. The best anchorage in the area during the winter is behind
the hotel at Punta St. Inez or down in Bahia Concepcion. I prefer
Hornitos, improperly listed as Santa Domingo on recent charts,
because there's excellent diving there and because my Mexican
grandpa has a fish camp there. I was blown into Mulegé
during a nasty Norther way back in '88 when I was pretty broke.
The Mexican divers took me home, fed me, bathed me and kept me.
Now I teach lots of cruisers to dive and fish - and not be afraid
of the Mexicans. In addition to my Alberg 37 in Mulegé,
I keep a Catalina 22, also named Inclination, set up for
cruising in Friday Harbor, Washington, and a panga that's usually
out on shares to the family. Hope to see everyone in Mulegé
We haven't been there in about 10 years, but we remember Mulegé
as a neat little oasis on the sea with a population of about
3,500. Most cruisers ignore it because of the greater number
of attractions at nearby Bahia Concepcion. Mulegé is perhaps
most famous for the old 'prison with no doors' that is now a
museum, and for a long-running feud between land-owners and ejido
members over land rights to the most popular tourist areas.
"Another hugely successful Fiji Regatta Week was held September
8-16 at the Musket Cove YC at Malolo Lailai Island, Fiji,"
reports Don Mundell of New Zealand. Sixty boats and their crews
were on hand to enjoy a week of fun activities and yacht racing.
Sixteen Kiwi boats and 11 Aussie boats provided the basis of
the fleet, while boats from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom
and Northern Europe added a broader international flavor. The
first event after the welcoming party was the 10-mile cruising
race to Dan and Annette Costello's Beachcomber Island for Pirate's
Day. Light winds and calm seas made the conditions ideal for
a first event. Cats were favored, and Kiwi Tony Lugg's Crystal
Harmony, a Ron Givens 50-footer, took line honors. The next
day provided a chance for doublehanders to demonstrate their
skills in the Hobie 16 Challenge, a two-day match racing event
around a triangular course. Thirty-two teams hotly contested
for the title, and a large crowd was on hand later in the week
to watch the finals. Bradley and Scott Farrand of the the Kiwi
cruiser Irene beat Thomas Howell of the U.S. based Farr 55 Imagine
by a score of 2-0. Anne Aylesworth of the American boat Ferric
Star was third. Monday's race to Namotu Island - sponsored
by Oram's Marine - provided another great day of racing fun and
shoreside excitement. American Jim Maloney won the race, which
was held in the morning, with Hijacker. The afternoon
activities included a buffet lunch and the famous wet T-shirt
and hairy chest competitions around the pool. Makerta, a Musket
Cove staffmember, won the wet T-shirt, while Roy of the Kiwi
boat Barnstorm had the hairiest chest. Tuesday was a day
of sports and absurd beachside games for both young and old.
These included coconut throwing, petanque, and the tossing of
the palm trunk - which sort of resembles the Scottish caber.
The more serious Ansett Airlines Around Malolo Race was held
the next day. All boats got off to a good start, with Hijacker
taking a flyer. A few boats laid through on the wind to the top
of the island, but many paid a price for poor pointing ability
- especially the cats. With light running conditions through
the back of Malolo, big spinnakers insured that it would be a
race for the monohulls. Jim and Loretta Maloney's Lidgard 44
Hijacker from the U.S. took first, Andrew Stranski's Adams
43 Long Nose from Australia was second, and Keith McKenzie's
Crowther 48 cat What's Up Doc from Canada was third. The
race was for the Sir Ian and Lady McFarlane Trophy, and the winners
got major prizes from Musket Cove Resort and BP Oil. The list
of previous winners is quite impressive: Kiwi Ross Carpenter's
Outward Bound in '84; Kiwi Richard Olsen's Blizzard
in '88; Americans Jim and Sue Corenman with Heart of Gold
in '95; and Kiwi Graeme Woodroffe's Emotional Rescue in
'97, '98 and '99. The final two days of the regatta included
the previously mentioned finals of the Hobie Cat Challenge; the
Best Dressed Yacht Contest, which brought the bay and marina
ablaze with color; the Live Figurehead Contest, which resulted
in numerous creative, imaginative - and in some cases, scantily-clad
- entries; and a traditional Fijian meke with a pig on the spit.
Friday was the massive cocktail party, dinner, and prizegiving.
It was another great week of sailing competiton and family fun!"
It's also amazing that it came off at all, what with the coup
just a few months earlier.
What's it like cruising Mexico? "We've had a ball down here!"
report Matt and Debbie of the Seattle-based Tayana 37 Aeventyr.
"The cruising is very easy and warm, and all the people
we've met have been friendly and helpful. After being on the
mainland, we've just finished a terrific summer in the Sea of
Cortez, where the fishing, diving and sea life were all fantastic.
We're surprised that there were so few cruisers in the Sea, but
it made a nice change from the busy mainland. We will be in San
Carlos for a month or so, hauling Aeventyr to paint the
bottom. When the work is done, we'll travel inland to visit the
Copper Canyon, do another month of cruising on the Baja side,
then sail down to Mazatlan for Christmas. After a brief visit
home, we'll return to Mexico, then depart the Mazanillo area
a couple of months later for the Galapagos, South Pacific and
For those without a worldwide perspective, Mexico is truly one
of the great cruising grounds of the world, particularly for
those who prefer it warm, easy and inexpensive. We're not sure
what we Americans did to be so lucky. We're also delighted to
report that we're getting many reports that the sea life in the
Sea of Cortez seems to have rebounded.
"We're planning on making the big Puddle Jump from Mexico
to the South Pacific this coming spring," write Terri and
Heidi Kotas of the Gig Harbor-based Fantasia 35 Cetus,
who are cruising with their 14-year-old daughter Carly and their
cat Cali. "We know that last year Latitude and Paradise
Marina near Puerto Vallarta held a party for everyone that was
going across, and wonder if we can assume that you'll be doing
it again this coming year. We plan on starting our crossing from
La Paz, so also wonder if there is any way we can get information
on the radio skeds and such? In addition, we would like to leave
our boat in French Polynesia for an extended period of time when
we return home to the States in June. We know there is a boatyard
in Raiatea, but have heard there's also a new yard near Papeete.
Do you have any information on either of these yards and how
long Americans can leave their boats there? We're hoping for
When Marina Paradise Harbormaster Dick Markie was up in Alameda
for the Mexico-Only Crew List Party last month, he confirmed
that Paradise Marina would be delighted to once again co-host
the Pacific Puddle Jump Party with Latitude in early March.
This means free burgees and other goodies for all those who are
able to attend. For others - such as yourself - who prefer to
start their crossing from another location, rest assured that
you'll be included to the fullest extent possible. We'll have
all the details in Latitude and 'Lectronic Latitude
shortly after the start of the year. Just so everyone is clear
on the concept, Latitude and Marina Paradise aren't organizing
group meetings, the list of the boats that are going, the radio
skeds or anything like that, we're just throwing a party and
trying to help facilitate the group effort. As for leaving your
boat in French Polynesia, new customs rules allow foreign boats
to be left there forever - although the owners are only allowed
to cruise six months a year. We don't have the information to
evaluate the yard in Papeete versus the ones in Raiatea, but
Raiatea Carenage has historically been the most popular. For
lots of excellent information, visit their Web site at www.raiatea.com/carenage/index.html.
By the way, when we emailed our response to the Kotas, we noted
that it's also possible to leave a boat at one of the marinas
in Fiji - although they are subject to more tropical cyclones.
This was their response: "We're familiar with the situation
in Fiji from our previous trip to the South Pacific in '92-'94
with our Golden Gate 30 Cassiopeia. We started that trip
from Hawaii, so this is our first visit to Mexico, and will be
our first chance to see the Marquesas and Tuamotus. We can't
"We're hoping to leave for Mexico on November 1, then depart
Mexico on March 15 for the South Pacific," writes Al Wheatman
of the Marina del Rey-based Ericson 35 Sea Dancer. "My
crew will be Chris Nielsen and Mike. It will be the first time
for me, and I'm wondering if you have any advice or comments."
Our biggest advice would be to keep your priorities straight.
Number one is making sure that your boat's basic systems - rigging,
rudder, sails, and engine - are in good shape. After all, you
can have a great Puddle Jump without luxuries such as a freezer,
but it's hard to have fun if you lose an essential such as your
rig, rudder or mainsail. Not having an engine isn't the end of
the world, but it's nice if that works, too. Secondly, in order
to have a more enjoyable passage, make sure that you and your
crew have your sailing skills up to snuff. For example, if you've
reefed your boat enough times during high winds and rough seas
in the middle of the night, you won't get overly stressed if
you have to do it in the middle of the Pacific. Finally, try
to become part of the informal Puddle Jump Class of '01, as there
is additional comfort and safety in numbers and radio skeds.
"We just wanted to let you know that after we left Huatulco,
Mexico, the Port Captain straightened out," report Sid and
Manuela Olshefski of the Ericson Cruising 36 Paradise,
currently in Colon, Panama. "All the cruisers now get charged
the right amount and pay it directly to the bank instead of the
port captain - as is required by law. We just completed our Canal
transit after spending a month at the beautifully rustic Pedro
Miguel Boat Club on Miraflores Lake inside the Canal. While at
the Pedro Miguel, I learned some great ways to call home for
free. So, cruisers might want to check out the following Web
actually works better and faster than Dialpad; and www.hottelephone.com,
which you can use to call 30 different countries [note: this
last site was dark last time we checked, 9/30/03]. If your computer
doesn't have a built-in speaker and microphone, you'll need a
headset and microphone to be able to make calls. But all of the
Internet cafes here in Panama have the headsets, and they're
included in the rental fee of about $2 hour. That's not bad,
considering it allows you to make all the free phone calls you
want. Our final bit of good news is about Colon, Panama. If you
need to provision in somewhat dangerous Colon, you no longer
need a taxi, as Super 99 mercado will pick you up and drop you
off in their own bus. I couldn't believe my eyes when this red
school bus with "Super 99" written all over it pulled
up to get me. Two kids greeted me and escorted me around the
store. When checking out at the register, one of the kids gave
me his discount card so that I'd save money. He made big points
there! Then they drove me back and carried all the groceries
to the boat! Just call them at 449-3460 or 449-3461. Life aboard
Paradise is like being in paradise."
"Panama has several fine new improvements for those wanting
to leave their boats here for a few days or a few months,"
report John and Karen of the San Francisco-based Vagabond 47
Windsong. "The Balboa YC on the Pacific side has
reopened the swimming pool and restaurant, but they still haven't
replaced the clubhouse that burned down. The taxi drivers that
work out of the club will take you through check-in for $10/hour.
The Pedro Miguel Boat Club inside the Canal can hold 20 or so
boats and has room on the hard. And now for something entirely
new: Marina Cardiner and the Bocas YC up at the Boca de Toros
region, which is 140 miles north of the Canal on the Caribbean
side. Cardiner has room for 30 boats in the water and more on
the hard. You have to reserve and pay for space 90 days in advance.
The Bocas YC has 100 boats on a combination of great docks, some
Med-moorings, and some fingers. Boca is the safest little backwater
town we've ever been to, and has 15 restaurants and bars and
two Internet cafes. We're now at San Andreas, a great place with
a safe harbor and new navigation lights for the entrance. It's
a large town with movies and lots of parts available. But if
you need to have parts shipped in, FedEx them to San Jose, Costa
Rica, then pay $100 for a round trip flight to pick them up.
If you wait for them to be sent to San Andreas, figure on two
months for them to clear in Bogata. Although near Costa Rica
and Nicaragua, San Andreas belongs to Colombia."
Having never been to the Boca de Toros region of Panama, we asked
Craig Owings, who is stepping down after 13 years as the commodore
of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, about Marina Cardiner and the
Boca YC. "Both businesses are off to a good start, as I've
yet to hear a bad report from cruisers who have been there. The
businesses are apparently working closely with the cruisers to
insure there are no rip-offs by government officials - which
had been my reason for not liking it as recently as '97. Boca
de Toros is a charming little area with good gunkholing - although
the fishing is not as good as other parts of Panama. Visitors
should be careful to drink bottled water as much of the ground
water was contaminated by fertilizer from banana farm runoff.
The stuff is high in organic phosphorus and not good to drink.
When we did medical readiness exercises a few years back with
the U.S. Army in the Boca area, we found indications of low levels
of mental retardation from the contaminated water. Supposedly
there is a new water system being installed, but I would ship
a sample back to the States before I'd trust it. A small quantity
would probably not bother you, but chronic exposure is not good."
If you're looking for an undiscovered cruising place, Boca de
Toros is worth a try. We've not been there, but traveller guides
give good marks to the town of 2,500 that is mostly populated
by English-speaking blacks from the Antilles. It's also a great
base for exploring the pristine islands of the Archipelago de
Bocas del Toro and Parque Nacional Bastimentos, the latter being
Panama's first - and excellent - maritime park. If you're looking
for great white sand beaches lined by coconut palms, with terrific
reef diving and tons of wildlife, this may be the place. If someone
would like to provide us with a more detailed report and some
photographs, we'd be most appreciative.
Want your friends and family to be able to watch you transit
the Panama Canal? Thanks to the Internet, it's just a matter
of a couple of clicks on a computer. Simply go to www.pancanal.com,
and you'll see that a relatively high resolution camera is directed
from the Miraflores Lock toward the Pedro Miguel Locks and the
Pedro Miguel Boat Club - although it sometimes zooms in on the
Miraflores Locks. We know cam shots have been around forever
in Internet terms, but for some reason this one boggles our mind.
Walter and Joyce Birkenheier of the Salem, Oregon-based Cal 40
Just Do It report they spent a little over two years in
Guam working to build up the cruising kitty. "Joyce, who
has more sense than I, then flew to Japan, while I sailed there
singlehanded," says Walter, who is currently in Sasebo,
Kyushu, Japan. "Anyone who wants more information regarding
Japan or any of the other places we've cruised - which include
Mexico, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji,
Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Pohnpei and Guam - should
us. If I find any requests too obnoxious, I'll just block
"The 2000 cruising season for the San Francisco-based MacGregor
65 Final Frontier was a short one," report Steven
and Aleta Hansen. "We only sailed 2,800 miles while continuing
our journey westward from Fiji to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and
Australia. We had intended to visit the Solomon Islands - which
has excellent dive sites - but armed militants took over the
government so there was too much civil unrest. The highlights
of our season were getting caught in the center of Tropical Depression
23F - this is just below hurricane/cyclone force - between Fiji
and Vanuatu, which did in our faith in weather forecasts and
weather routers; diving on the luxury liner S.S. Coolidge, which
was sunk by U.S. Navy mines during World War II at Santo Island;
enjoying the restaurants in the Latin Quarter of Noumea, New
Caledonia, where three-course gourmet meals go for just $15.
Our favorite was La Chaumiere. We're currently at Southport,
Gold Coast, Australia."
"I'm on the threshold of bringing a Union Polaris 36 back
to San Francisco from La Paz," writes John Greenman. "Any
suggestions are welcome as I want to learn all I can about this
trip." The good news is that November is traditionally the
best time to head north, as the northwesterlies and accompanying
seas are very light compared to the spring and summer. If you
have a little patience, you can probably motor all the way north
in mostly flat conditions. While fueling up in Cabo, visit Jim
Elfers at Coast Chandlery, who literally wrote the book on the
Hello? Quite a few people headed to Mexico this fall have equipped
their boats with Qualcomm phones that can also use the Globalstar
satellite system. The only fly in the ointment was that they
could only receive text but not voice in Mexico. It was a political
rather than technical problem. Anyway, just 10 days before the
start of the Ha-Ha - for which Qualcomm and Globalstar are the
official communications suppliers - the problem was solved and
now Qualcomm-Globalstar phone owners can now call out of Mexico
and receive calls in Mexico.
"We expect to make it to Z-town by Christmas," report
Lionel and Patricia Botting of the Cambell River, British Columbia-based
Folkes 39 cutter Ankle Deep. "When we do, we'll be
crossing the outbound track we started in 1995, and therefore
will have completed our circumnavigation." As of September,
the couple were still in Panama.
"We have to be careful what we say," report Rick and
Liz Strand of the Sonoma-based Ericson 38 Sarah Elizabeth,
"because the old-timers around here - meaning those who
have been here two or more summers - blame the influx of cruisers
in the Puerto Escondido area of Baja on the glowing Changes Liz
wrote about the area earlier this year. Nonetheless, we want
to put in a good word for the Hidden Port YC here, which really
does a great job for cruisers. The club maintains a lighted dinghy
dock, provides trash disposal, helps keep the great tasting water
flowing free, and supplies free video checkouts. The club also
puts on the Loreto Fest each May, which is not only fun, but
features the annual beach clean-up. We haven't had a chance to
attend one of the club's Sunday potluck brunches, but we hear
that they are a big hit. True, nobody has to pay $10 for an annual
membership, but we hope to make everyone who uses their facilities
but doesn't join feel guilty! So please join and fly your burgee!
For those who didn't know, Rick and Liz were the King and Queen
of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week - an annual cruiser event since
the early '80s that almost didn't happen this year because of
the same kind of La Paz cruiser politics that have repeatedly
almost done in the event since its inception. According to the
website of the sponsoring Club Cruceros de La Paz - www.clubcruceros.org
- Carolyn Scott of Wind Dancer, who is the current
commodore of Club Cruceros, took over the reins of Sailing Week
with just two weeks to go and, with the help of many volunteers,
managed to attract 55 boats and put on an enjoyable event. If
the La Paz cruisers and former cruisers can keep from each others'
throats, there should be another Sailing Week about the third
week in April.
If you're going to La Paz and have any questions about: staying
longer than six months; importing goods; port clearances; port
and harbor fees; mail service; cars; mordida; money; medical
and dental services; and language, visit the FAQ section of the
Club Cruceros web page. The answers were written by Mary Shroyer
of Marina de La Paz - who knows what she's talking about. Most
answers apply to all of Mexico, not just La Paz.
Another 650 slips for the Sea of Cortez? Gary Rigdon of San Diego
writes, "I am a principal in Bahia Kino Resorts at Bahia
Kino on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez. This resort was
started in the late 70's and halted in '82 with the fall of the
Mexican economy. We will be restarting it soon, and have a presidential
decree for at least 650 slips. Ours will be the most northerly
recreational boat marina in the Sea of Cortez. In addition to
being sheltered by the bay, it will be out of the hurricane zone
and have tides similar to San Diego Bay. One of our associates,
Paul Cote, well-known to West Coast cruisers and one of the founders
of Greenpeace, did a study about the need for future marinas
from Cabo up to Kino, and we know the demand is great. Nonetheless,
we'd still like input from Latitude readers. They can contact
Kino is about 80 miles north of Santa Rosalia and about 80 miles
east of Bahia de Los Angeles. Kino is on the mainland side of
Baja, of course, while Rosalia and B.L.A. are both on the Baja
It's November 1, let the Mexican cruising season begin! Bon voyage, everyone.