Changes in Latitudes

November, 2001

With reports this month from Moonshadow on poor trash practices in Mexico; from Polly Brooks on cruising adventures in the Philippines; from Kiana on starting cruising on the East Coast; from Tai Tam II on summering over in San Carlos; from another Moonshadow on cruising the Banks Islands of Vanuatu; from Destiny on the difficult passage from Cartagena to Aruba; from Chewbacca on home schooling in the Sea of Cortez; and Cruise Notes.

Moonshadow - N/A
Steven & Jackie Gloor
Trash Problems
(San Diego)

My wife and I spent four months on our shakedown cruise along the Pacific Coast of Baja, up to La Paz, and finally to San Carlos where we left our boat for the summer. We had a great time and met a lot of wonderful people - cruisers and locals - along the way.

What we saw of trash disposal practices bothered us quite a bit, however. On almost every beach we found trash in various forms: glass bottles, plastic, empty motor oil containers, and so forth. Fishermen, who stay in camps nearby, leave much of this trash behind. At least we assume that it was their trash because the amount of it increased drastically the closer you get to any fish camp. However, as the accompanying photo shows, there are many sites where cruisers are at fault. The photo, for example, was taken next to the 'cruiser shrine' at Ensenada San Juanico. Clearly, cruisers had attempted to burn their trash, not realizing or caring that tin cans and glass bottles don't burn. The trash had to be brought there by cruisers, since there isn't a single fish camp anywhere nearby, and there is no road leading to the shrine. We found evidence of trash abuse such as this at other places, too, including Isla San Francisco, as well.

We follow the trash procedures we learned at several cruising seminars we attended. The first rule to follow is 'try to produce as little trash as possible'. So we leave all packing materials not required at the dock before we leave. Then all our recyclable trash is compacted and separated from burnable trash. If we are anchored out for extended period, we do burn our trash on the beach. We do this by digging a hole below the high tide line, starting a fire with driftwood, and then slowly adding trash to the fire until everything has turned to ashes. In most cases, we clean the beach of any plastic as well. After the fire is out, we cover the small pile of ashes and let Nature take over. We hope all cruisers follow these simple steps.

- steven & jackie 10/15/01

Readers - Latitude's trash policy is based on the familiar Caribbean motto: 'Take only photographs, leave only footprints.' And burned cans - which could easily be bagged and taken back for proper disposal after the fire goes out - don't count as footprints.

Polly Brooks - Islander 37 PH
Kirk & Catherine McGeorge
Visayas, Central Philippines
(Honolulu, HI)

We arrived in the Leyte Gulf after a nice, fish-filled voyage from Yap. It took us just over six days of spirited downwind sailing in the trades and lumpy following seas to cover the 720 miles. Arrr! This time we all had our sea legs, however, and enjoyed the passage more than the previous one. After settling into our three-hour watch rotation, Cath got into creating savory meals, Barney focused on fishing, and I was kept busy navigating and trying to figure out all the new bells and whistles on the electric stuff we'd installed during our 2.5 years in Guam.

During the passage, Cath landed her first fish ever - a tasty bonito tuna that we served - blackened Cajun sashimi style with rice - after chilling it in the new reefer. The following day she bagged a nice mahi-mahi. This time she not only caught and landed it, but skinned it, cleaned it, filleted it, cooked it and ate it - all during her watch. There was blood and guts everywhere, however, and the cockpit looked like a murder scene! Overall we got three mahi and four bonito - some of which is still in the freezer. Yum!

While transiting the Surigao Strait, we took to exploring bits of the Visayas Island group of the central Philippines, which includes the calm waters of the Leyte Gulf and Bohol Sea. Leyte, of course, is where Gen. Douglas MacArthur walked ashore and started kicking ass back in WW II. Our chart and Lonely Planet guide book showed Panaon Passage between Leyte and Panoon Islands, so we diverted our course and sailed all night in order to check out the tourist town of Liloan. We dreamed of finding diesel fuel and taking a swim, but neither our charts or the Lonely Planet guide showed the bridge we found blocking our path at first light. Since the bridge was taller than the nearby coconut trees, Barney ignored his bad leg to scamper up the mast to see - with his one eye - if we'd be able to squeeze under. The situation was made more complicated by the strong current in the narrow and twisting channel, so people lined the rails of the bridge to watch the excitement.

We inched ahead until the mast was within a meter of the steel span. Marks where other boats had scraped under the bridge were clearly visible. Barney shouted that he thought our tricolor lite would most likely clear, but he wasn't as sure about the wind instruments and VHF antenna. Despite the lure of swimming pools and hot showers, I chickened out. With Barney still atop the 45-foot mast, we did a snap 180° turn and raced back out the way we'd come. That little voice in my head won again, and we took the only safe option, which was pressing on toward our original destination. After all, we still had a half tank of fuel and there would be other swimming pools.

As breakfast was being prepared, we motored toward the southern tip of Pancon. There wasn't a whisper of air when we reached Bolobolo Point, and the temperature in the pilothouse was 102°. So we threw out a long piece of poly line and announced a swim call. Later, we slowly tooled along within shouting distance of the shore and were amazed to see so many Japanese fortifications remaining from WW II. There was mile after mile of concrete installations, bunkers, guns, wrecks and harbor facilities.

We turned south just before dark, hoisted sail, and steered for the island of Camiguin - which is just above Mindanao. Lonely Planet described a small, peaceful island of many volcanos, waterfalls and hot springs. We anchored in front of a primo beach resort, where we were offered their swimming pool, showers, hot tub, hammocks, restaurant and hospitality. After cooling off, we rented a motorbike and the three of us - sans helmets - motored off to town and the hot springs. We returned to the resort just after dark and enjoyed an unbelievably delicious dinner by the sea.

During the course of our meal, the evening wind came up and began to build. By the time dessert was served, lawn furniture was being blown into the pool! Polly, anchored just offshore, began bucking madly on the end of her chain, and had waves breaking over her bow! Our first attempt to row the dinghy through the surf resulted in a dangerous failure, so I swam out and climbed aboard via the windvane to see how things were holding up. What I found wasn't good. Even though we had paid out a 7 to 1 scope, the anchor chain had become bar tight, and the boat shook violently each time a wave hit. Had we not been so close to shore, we could have put out some nylon line to dampen the shocks.

The next set of waves, however, resulted in the bow repeatedly plunging underwater, and finally snapped the bow roller off! With the chain starting to chew through the teak caprail, I'd had enough. I dove back into the churning water and swam to shore. As I staggered up the rocks, Cath said the resort manager was offering us two rooms for the price of one. It sounded very appealing and we thanked him, but we had to decline. We put all our shore gear into plastic trash bags, lashed them into the dinghy, and swam out through the rising surf to the boat, towing the dinghy behind us.

Having managed to board without suffering more than minor cuts and scrapes, we focused on preparing to get the boat the hell out of there. Because of the high wind and waves, we had little chance of safely bringing the chain and anchor aboard. Despite the fact that it was more than $1,000 worth of gear, I gave the order to cut it free. I figured it was better to lose the anchor and chain than the whole farm. So we motored away, our tails tucked tightly between our legs. We motorsailed through the night to our next stop, bloodied but not beaten.

When we entered a beautiful protected bay on the southern tip of Negros Island the following afternoon, we were met by no less than a half-dozen old friends from Guam. They were in their dinghies waiting with cold San Miguel beer and familiar smiles. We dropped our spare anchor and began catching up on new sea stories and rest. Barney shipped out two days later on a boat trip to Manila. He wanted to stop off in Angeles City to look up an old girlfriend from back in '68.

As for me, I was still bothered by the fact I'd abandoned my primary ground tackle. Friends gave me all sorts of advise on how to recover it. Although the cards were stacked against me ever getting it back, I knew I'd have to at least try to get it back. As they say about Australia's Northern Territory, "You'll never never know if you never never go."

So I left Polly and Cath in Bonbonon, and boarded a Hubal-Hubal motorcycle - driven by my new friend, Adie - bound for Siaton. I next caught a Jeepnee bound for the capitol city of Bumaguette, where I boarded a fast ferry to Cebu. From Cebu I caught an overnight car and passenger ferry for Camiguin. I had a posh stateroom on the 40-year-old rust bucket, so I felt like a high roller. The vessel docked within a quarter mile of where we'd anchored a week earlier.

After breakfast, I donned my swimmers and within 10 minutes shouted "Hool yah" - the battle cry of Navy divers - for I had found my anchor, chain and chunk of bowsprit. Within two hours, I had everything in bags on the breakwater. I considered the mission a total success, as it had only cost $100 - and 56 hours of my hard-earned time in paradise! Well, nine of those hours were spent stretched out in a hammock under a big coconut tree by an oceanside swimming pool eating mangos and reading the final chapters of Jimmy Buffett's latest book. Nonetheless, I figured it was much easier than reordering a Bruce anchor, 150' of chain, swivels, shackles and a custom piece of stainless anchor roller from West Marine and trying to have it shipped to a remote island in the Philipines.

After a triumphant return to southern Negros Island with all my abandoned ground tackle, Cath and I turned our focus to the minor task of building a new super-improved bow roller anchoring system. We began with a new bow plank of Malaysian hardwood, which we doubled, laminated and painted with six coats of epoxy resin and primer. Then we fitted it with a strong, stainless steel anchor roller. It's mounted firmly through the deck with our newest 'must have' cruising item - an electric anchor windlass. Although it's easy to manually raise the hook when you're scared, it's normally a backbreaking job to lift aboard and stow 150 feet of 3/8" chain with a 45-lb anchor dangling off the end. The the hardest part of short-handed cruising is dealing with the anchor, and I'm sure that many boats have been lost simply because the tired crew had problems with the anchor.

There's no doubt that my decision to cut loose and abandon a thousand dollars worth of gear that night was the right choice for that moment. Besides, it gave us the chance to get to know this part of the Philippines for a lot longer than we had planned. And before leaving, 25 of us piled onto six motorcycles and drove for an hour up to a lake in the mountains for a day of swimming and picnicking. It was a sight to behold: The Wild Ones Visit Mountain Lake! We all had a blast swimming in the cool water.

We weighed anchor and departed Negros Oriental on April 18 after enjoying Bonbonon, Siaton, Dumaguette and Cebu. We had only planned to stay in Port Bonbonon for a week or so, but ended up there for 38 days. Best of all, we left with a new and improved bowsprit and anchoring system. Worst of all was the jellyfish attact on my foot. Three weeks later I was still suffering.

- kirk & catherine 3/01

Kiana - Wauquiez 45
Paul & Lynn Elliott
Seru Boca Marina, Curaçao
(Anacortes, WA)

We bought our boat on the East Coast, so rather than trucking her back to the West Coast to begin cruising, we started back there. We spent five months in the Bahamas in '99-'00, during which time we learned that there's not enough water there for a boat that draws eight feet. We later returned to Annapolis to have the rig checked and have some modifications made before taking off for more extended cruising. Paul - along with a hired captain and one crew - finally left Annapolis on December 1. He spent three days waiting for good weather in Virginia, then made the trip to the British Virgins in 12 days, where Lynn replaced the delivery crew.

We spent the next eight months sailing Down Island to the Grenadines, then across to Venezuela's offshore islands - including four weeks among the Los Roques and Los Aves. We loved the French Islands, but didn't like the former English islands as much because the 'boat-boys' quickly became very tiresome. We feel these boys have been spoiled by freespending charterboat crews to the extent that cruisers can't afford what they demand for their services. We tried to be nice, but the boys were very aggressive. The snorkeling in the Venezuelan islands - as well as Bonaire and Curaçao, was wonderful.

We left the boat for the summer at a secure marina in Curaçao. Come November, we'll return to the boat and beat our way back to Grenada. Early next year we'll sail to Trinidad for Carnival. Our longer term plan is to spend another two seasons in the Trinidad-Venezuela area - which is much less expensive than the rest of the Eastern Caribbean - before heading to the Panama Canal and then up the West Coast of Mexico. Is there a guide for sailing up the West Coast from the Canal? We realize this is the wrong way and we are not sure we have the experience for the Pacific yet, but we want to do the West Coast anyhow.

- paul & lynn 8/15/01

Paul & Lynn - There are three ways to get from Panama to California: 1) By way of Hawaii. 2) The clipper ship route, which means you sail about halfway to Hawaii before flopping back to lay California. And, 3) Harbor-hopping through Central America and Mexico to California. By the way, if you've sailed from the Northeast to the Bahamas and back, to and throughout the Eastern Caribbean, and finally spent two more years in the Caribbean, you'll have all the experience you need for the Pacific - unless you're thinking about the Roaring Forties.

Tai Tam II - Island Packet 40
Thomas & Kathryn Knueppel
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
(San Francisco)

We have now almost finished spending a summer in Mexico, and feel that our experiences may be of help to those just heading south now.

Cruisers have a number of options when it comes to dealing with the torrid summer season in Mexico. If you plan to stay with your boat in a marina, you can 'summer over' in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan or San Carlos, all on the mainland. On the Baja side, you can stay in one of the marinas in La Paz or cruise the Sea while keeping an eye out for weather. If you want to leave your boat on the hard while you return to the States, you can do that in Puerto Vallarta, La Paz or San Carlos.

When it comes to hurricanes, Puerto Vallarta has pretty much been free of them, and San Carlos is considered to be a good hurricane hole. There is some debate whether La Paz and Mazatlan are safe. Given the fact that hurricane Juliette ravaged La Paz in early October, we don't seriously consider it to be a hurricane haven. Others may have different opinions, of course. Those cruising the Baja side of the middle Sea of Cortez have to rely on anchorages such as Puerto Escondido or Bahia de Los Angeles if hurricanes threaten that far north.

We decided to make San Carlos our base for the summer. We stayed on the boat part of the time, but also took several trips inland to places such as the Copper Canyon and Alamos. We highly recommend these inland trips for a change of scenery and climate. Not everyone seems to know about it, but there's good cruising around San Carlos, and the fishing and scuba diving are delightful.

The very few who decided to summer aboard their boats in San Carlos will discover that it's a very picturesque area not far from Guaymas, a relatively big city of 140,000. They'll also discover that the summer heat in San Carlos is atrocious and very difficult to cope with. For instance, don't even think about staying aboard your boat without a window-style air-conditioner to make things a little more bearable. In any event, you'll quickly find yourself becoming a 'cave dweller' inside your boat.

And since most cruisers bail out of San Carlos by June and most Arizona fishermen don't start coming down until the temperature moderates in July, there are very few people around and therefore not much socializing. Unless you like socializing with cockroaches, which San Carlos has plenty of. If you spend a summer there, you'll become familiar with all the ways of trying to battle these tenacious little creatures. In our experience, the only way to keep a cockroach infestation in check is to liberally sprinkle Boric acid throughout the boat.

Need some work done on your boat? San Carlos has little to offer in terms of support services for cruising boats. If you have a refrigeration or electrical problem you can't handle yourself, there isn't an abundance of qualified people. We had a bad experience with Juan the refrigeration guy who has a shop next to the Hotel Fiesta San Carlos. He ripped us off by charging us seven times what the new part should have cost - remember the duty is only 20%. To add insult to injury, we later realized that the 'new' part was actually our old one with a new paint job.

Marina Seca, the large dry storage operation in San Carlos, does have a good reputation for folks who want to store their boats on the hard and/or have bottom work done during the summer. Once people put their boats on the hard, they typically head back to the States or elsewhere for the summer. Very few people even consider trying to do boatwork in that sizzling heat.

If we had to do it again, we'd spend the summer in Puerto Vallarta where there are so many more people and there is so much to do. But since we'll be heading south to the Canal and east to the Caribbean this spring, it's a moot point.

- thomas & kathryn 10/15/01

Thomas & Kathryn - We've been following the summer situation in Mexico for many years, and hope you don't mind if we add a few comments of our own. Folks who summer aboard their boats in Puerto Vallarta seem to like it. It's more humid than the Sea of Cortez, but it's not as hot - and there are indeed lots more people and things to do. In addition, the high mountains to the south of Puerto Vallarta have historically worked as an effective hurricane deflector. It's not uncommon for P.V. to get enormous surf - Dick Markie of Paradise Village Marina reports that Juliette sent 10-foot waves breaking down the channel at Nuevo Vallarta - but they don't get much wind or damage to boats. In fact, lightning is probably a bigger threat.

Mazatlan has been nailed by hurricanes, but since the vast majority of Mexican hurricanes head to the northwest, it doesn't happen often. In addition, Mazatlan's marinas are inland up a narrow channel, so the boats are immune from wave damage. While the marinas are a little isolated, the big city has a lot to offer and is popular with cruisers. It's hot, of course, but not as hot as further up in the Sea.

La Paz periodically gets whacked with hurricane force winds - as was the case with Juliette in October - but not very often. Even when La Paz does get hit, the well-protected bay limits the amount of damage. In the case of Juliette, it was most dangerous on the hard at Astilleros Marina, where some 23 boats were knocked over. The combination of soggy ground and regular jacks is often inadequate for hurricane strength winds - especially if some boats don't remove their furling sails and other windage. An even better solution would be if the boat keels were lowered into shallow pits and/or the boats had better stands such as up at San Carlos. It's also dangerous on the hook or a mooring in La Paz Bay, because there can be a long fetch and because other boats often break loose. It's worth noting that boats in the marinas did very well. This was the first time in many years that boats were damaged by a hurricane in La Paz, and it was limited to boats on the hard in one marina and in the anchorage. We think boats kept in marinas are quite safe. It's very hot in La Paz during the summer, but not quite as hot as further north. There are still plenty of things to do, and cruisers love this city.

Even though San Carlos is quite a bit further north than P.V., Mazatlan, and La Paz, it seems to be hit by a disproportionate amount of hurricanes and tropical storms - even if the winds aren't quite as strong. Invariably, boats damaged in San Carlos are those on the hook or on moorings. Boats in the marina and on the hard at Marina Seca - where they are supported by reinforced stands - have faired well over the years.

In absolute numbers, there aren't a lot of boats that cruise the Sea of Cortez in the summer, so it's not surprising that not many have been claimed by hurricanes. Places such as Puerto Escondido provide good shelter from the seas - which are the greatest danger in any hurricane. Boats further north in places such as Santa Rosalia and Bahia de Los Angeles tend to be protected by the tall mountains of the Baja peninsula, and in any event hurricanes have usually lost much of their force by the time they get that far north.

If someone wanted to summer over aboard their boat in Mexico, we'd recommend Puerto Vallarta, La Paz, and cruising around the middle sea. For land storage, we'd recommend Marina Seca near San Carlos.

Want to see for yourself how seldom the Sea of Cortez gets hit by hurricanes? Excellent graphics for every Mexican hurricane in the last 50 years can be found at

Moonshadow - Deerfoot 62
George Backhus
The Banks Islands

The past two weeks of cruising in the Banks Islands have been about as good as it gets: great weather, gorgeous and uncrowded anchorages, friendly villagers, and a high ratio of fun to boat maintenance.

Returning to Ureparapara from the Torres Islands, we had a chance to savor the awesome geography a bit more. Anchored in Diver's Bay, for example, you virtually float in the middle of a volcanic crater - one side having been blown open - surrounded by 2000-foot tall precipices covered in greenery. On this our second visit, it was unusually clear, so we had a chance to really enjoy the spectacular scenery.

We went ashore to the village at Diver's Bay, which is home to about 200 locals. As usual, everyone we met was friendly and greeted us with a warm smile. Even though it was a 'work day', it was quiet and nobody seemed in much of a hurry to get anything done. The islanders seem to be blessed with all they need to survive and don't desire much more.

Given the extremely limited availability of supplies, I'm always interested in the architecture and construction of native housing. The thatched roofs in this village seemed more elaborate than in other parts of Vanuatu, and some of the huts had copper sheeting for exterior panels. I later learned this had been salvaged from the bottom of a French freighter that had been wrecked on the island a number of years before. The panels, rough and showing a patina, made for an interesting contrast to the bamboo, wood, palm and pandanus thatching. For a garden decoration, one home had a radio antenna buoy used to locate the end of a commercial fishing long-line! This 'gift from the gods' must have broken loose and drifted into the bay. Typical of Vanuatu, the village was neat and nicely landscaped with ornamental plants, flowers, and stone fences.

The most interesting feature of the village was the preschool. Its little playground had a full-on swing set and 'jungle gym' - no pun intended - fashioned entirely from local materials. Most notable was the slide, which was made from a single hardwood log and beautifully carved and polished. It looked as though it were out of a set for The Flintstones.

We asked one of the villagers if he could muster up some lobsters for us and Jim and Jeanette of Dancer. The following day, we received seven nice lobsters - all for the price of one secondhand T-shirt. The fresh bugs, washed down with some Kiwi and Aussie wines, made for a delicious meal.

The next day, we made the 12-mile hop over to the Reef Islands. This group, surrounded by a shallow barrier reef, forms the only true coral atoll in Vanuatu. The low-lying islands, surrounded by beautiful white-sand beaches and a shallow green lagoon, are no longer inhabited because of the lack of fresh water. But when the weather is settled, they make a great stop for cruisers. The shallow lagoon is populated by stingrays, which flee when approached by dinghy. We had a bit of fun chasing the fast-moving black and tan rays through green waters of the lagoon as they darted this way and that to escape what to them must have seemed like a ship from outer space.

The diving along the outer edge of the reef was excellent. Numerous steep-sided coral bommies were strewn about 20 to 40 feet down on the white sand bottom. There was a plethora of colorful tropical fish as well as sharks and rays. I managed to spear a very nice five pound grouper that was lurking on the sand bottom under the base of a bommie. This tasty fellow made for an excellent 'catch of the day'.

Unfortunately, the reinforced southeast tradewinds kicked in once again. We were anchored outside Reef Island's barrier reef, far from any protection from the wind, which was blowing in the 20s and 30s. The sound of the wind whistling in the rigging was such that we needed earplugs to sleep that night. It was clearly time to split.

We weighed anchor early the next morning and sailed south to the shelter of Waterfall Bay at nearby Vanua Lava Island. We hooked another large sailfish during the easy 12-mile downwind run. He did a number of very impressive tail dances in a valiant effort to spit out the stainless steel hook attached to our new lure - which promptly stripped the reel and snapped our line. Bugger!

We spent a couple of relaxing - although somewhat disappointing - days anchored in Waterfall Bay. The problem was that recent rains had given the waterfall pool a brownish tint, somewhat reducing its allure. That, along with a swell that made beach landings precarious, kept us from going ashore. The villagers came out to Moonshadow in their canoes with a multitude of fresh fruits, vegetables and coconuts for trade, so we managed to stave off scurvy for a bit longer. We also found some excellent snorkeling on the edge of the reef below the steep cliffs. The water was clear, the fish plentiful, and there were numerous caves and swim-throughs to explore along the 40-foot underwater wall.

Sola, the governmental center of Torba Province - which includes Torres and Banks - is situated on the other side of Vanua Lava from Waterfall Bay. We needed to renew our cruising permit, so we motored the 28 miles in light air to the lovely and well-protected little bay on the east side of the island - and managed to land a three-foot mahi in the process. Sola is described as the "big smoke" of northern Vanuatu. As soon as we saw the smoke, motor vehicles, electric power poles and cinder block buildings with corrugated tin roofs, we knew we were in the city again. As we turned in that evening, it seemed almost strange to once again see lights along the shore.

Arriving at the government offices to take care of the formalities, we were met by Henry, the local Customs officer. Contrary to our experience in many other parts of the world, this gentleman was knowledgeable, friendly, efficient and polite. In short order, we had a new cruising permit in hand and were given directions to various stores for provisioning.

Sola isn't exactly Port Vila or Luganville when it comes to provisioning. Unless you are a connoisseur of canned mackerel or corned beef, you might even say that the selection of food is a bit thin. We did, however, manage to get a few kilos of rice, some local beer, toothpaste, eggs, matches and other odds and ends for trading. Henry at Customs got a message to the local baker for us, who at dawn the next morning dropped off six loaves of freshly-baked bread. I don't know if they use coconut milk in the bread dough or if the oven is fired with coconut shells, but the bread had a heavenly coconut flavor!

The following morning, we motored just outside of Sola Bay to nearby Kwakea Island. This gorgeous little island, just east of Vanua Lava, is ostensibly a coconut plantation surrounded by a white sand beach. Kwakea has about 20 inhabitants who survive by fishing and producing copra. We went ashore for a walk and were greeted by Chief Jimmy, who looked like a tanned, gray ponytailed throwback from the '60s. He was delighted to see a visiting yacht, and welcomed us to explore his island. He directed us to a footpath, and we enjoyed a leisurely walk past the village through the coconut plantation to the other side of the island, returning along the shell covered, and white sand beach. Unfortunately, most of the good shells had already been claimed by hermit crabs, and usually scampered away as we approached!

With light winds the next day, we motorsailed 20 miles south to the lovely Losalava anchorage on the Island of Gaua. Halfway there, we hooked a massive sailfish. I was hoping to lose the fish and save my lure, but was only half successful. After 30 minutes of fighting, the exhausted fish came up to the stern. I jumped into the dinghy and managed to slip a loop over its tail, allowing us to tow the fish the rest of the way to port. This beauty measured in at nine feet in length and an estimated 150 pounds - a Moonshadow record! It was a bit more than we needed or wanted to deal with, let alone what we could possibly eat or freeze. So we saved a little for ourselves and gave the rest to the villagers. They were happy to have some fresh fish and I was happy to get my lure back.

It would be difficult to pass judgment on which island in Vanuatu is the most beautiful. The variety of geography offers something for everyone. We, however, found Gaua, the southernmost of the Banks Islands group, particularly alluring. We'll tell you about it next month.

- george 9/15/01

Destiny - Swan 46
Peter & Nancy Bennett
Cartagena to Bonaire
(San Francisco)

We're finally tied to a mooring ball in Bonaire, enjoying the diving, clear water and friendly people. Our trip started the first of June from Cartagena. We planned to spend two months in Bonaire, but Mother Nature changed all that. While at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club in Panama, we met Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of the Moorings 500 Pizazz, who have created a guide for making the often very difficult passage between Cartagena and the Eastern Caribbean. After discussing the trip with them, we felt comfortable that it wouldn't be any big deal. Well, there are windy years and there are very windy years - and we happened to pick the latter. Normally the winds drop in May and stay down through October. That didn't happen this year.

After spending an enjoyable month in Cartagena, we decided to head east on June 1. Joe and Lisa aboard the California-based Baba 30 Net Result decided they'd also go for it. The three-day forecasts kept indicating that the winds would drop, but they never did. By the time the third day rolled around, it was the same old 25-30 knots with 8-10 foot seas. We finally left, hoping the weather would change.

The first leg of the trip is an easy day hop to Punta Hermosa, and even though the wind and seas were on the nose, they weren't very strong. We used the third Pizazz waypoint for this anchorage, as it is a straight shot into the bay. They refer to it as a 'reef', but it's actually a large spit of land that extends about a mile from shore - although it only breaks the surface of the water by a foot or two. It's impossible to 'see' with the radar if there is any sea, and it's not marked on any chart - so don't try to enter at night. However, the bay is large and well-protected.

In order to pass the Rio Magdalena at sunrise - hopefully when it's the calmest - you have to leave at 0300. When leaving Punta Hermosa, go at least two miles north to avoid the spit, which is difficult to see. We think the Pizazz waypoints for this area are off, as they seemed to be on land or very close to it. In any event, we recommend a greater buffer from shore.

As you approach the mighty Rio Magdalena that flows into the ocean near Baranquilla, expect to see lots of debris - including tree trunks and animal carcasses. We suggest aiming for a quarter mile from the bottom entrance marker - or as close as you are comfortable. The later in the season, the stronger the river current will be. There's about 30 feet of water at the entrance to the river, but just a mile offshore it's 3,000 feet deep. The river water flows east, while the wind, waves and current head west - creating an amazing washing machine effect. Once you pass the entrance - it took us about 3.5 hours - everything settles down. The rest of that leg is in the lee of Pico Bolivar, and you can sail if the wind is far enough out of the south.

The next stop the Kenoffels recommend is Rodedero, which is next to Santa Marta and has a well-protected anchorage off a resort town with a nice beach, good restaurants and clear water. Unfortunately, the Port Captain makes it very clear that sailboats are not welcome - although he'll let you stay 24 hours. Santa Marta is one of Colombia's major drug ports, and we were told that the town is very dangerous. As such, we would recommend stopping instead at what the Kenoffels call Five Bays - but which is also known as Tayrona National Park. The middle bay, Bahia Guayraca, is the most protected and safest. We initially stopped at the first bay, Bahia Concha, but were asked to leave by a big man with a gun. We left and suggest that you don't stop there.

At Bahia Guayraca, however, there's a family - Reynaldo is the father and has two sons, Jonathon (15) and Ricardo (13) - who go out of their way to make you feel welcome. They offered to assist us in any way they could. Reynaldo is an amateur archeologist, and spends his time digging up grave sites of pre-Colombian (about 1,000 BC) Tayrona Indians, looking for gold and other artifacts. We spent two weeks in this bay waiting for the weather to settle down. While there, we did some great snorkeling. Since the bay is so remote, the coral, shells and fish are spectacular. After two weeks, the weather got even worse - we had gusts to 50 knots one night - so we decided to retreat to Cartagena.

Cartagena is a great place, but by August 1 we were ready to try the Kenoffel's route again. With the wind down to 20-25 knots and the seas in the eight foot range, it wasn't too difficult for us to get back to Five Bays. We only spent a night there this time, and left before sunrise to make the overnight passage to Cabo de la Vela (windy cape). As we came out of Bahia Guayraca, we encountered huge seas. We stayed close to the coast all the way up, however, and the seas flattened out. Kahala, an Aussie boat that had left a week before us and stayed a few miles further out, reported seas that were 50% bigger. Our advice echoes that of everyone else who has done this trip: hug the coast!

Cabo de la Vela is a huge bay that hooks around and thereby provides total protection from the seas. The wind still howls, but the water is very flat. We suggest that you disregard the Kenoffel's advice about anchoring near the island and tuck up in the bay near the fishing village. The bottom rises slowly and there are no dangers, so go in as close as you're comfortable. It seemed very safe and the fishermen ignored us. We wish we could have spent more time here, as there is excellent diving and shelling, but the wind had backed off. When the wind backs off along this coast, you go!

We left at 10 p.m. and had a good trip to Guajira, which is the northeastern tip of Colombia. We arrived at sunrise. For most boats, the trip from Cartagena to Guajira is the worst part of this long passage. For us, this was not to be the case.

Thinking that the worst was over, our plan was to head for Aruba. But the seas became so steep and confused, and the wind so strong, that we weren't even able to head in that direction. Prior to this leg, we had motorsailed the entire trip, going about 15 degrees off the wind. But on this leg, the best we could do while keeping the boat moving was 25 degrees off the wind. That pointed us to Monjes del Sur, Venezuela, so that is where we went.

We were told that it would not be a problem if we arrived at night, but it was a big problem. As we arrived, we saw a red and green light, and figured that the anchorage was in the center. It is actually to the left of the green light, and you're supposed to tie to a polypropylene line that is impossible to find at night. After several scary attempts and hitting one fishing boat, we finally managed to do it. This was definitely the most exhausting leg of the trip, and we averaged 2.5 knots for 24 hours, the bow being underwater much of the time.

The island of Monjes del Sur - actually it's a pair of rocks - is home to a 20-man Guarda la Costa outpost. It's a difficult place to describe, as it's 100% rock, and there are huge seas all around except in a tiny man-made bay with room for just six boats - all of which have to tie on to the polypro line. The Guarda la Costa are very friendly, however. Since they have no boat, the lieutenant in charge swims out to your boat with the forms in a Ziploc bag!

We spent three days waiting for the winds to settle down. They didn't, so we finally just gave up and bashed our way to Aruba. It took us another 24 hours to cover just 50 miles. Aruba was a welcome sight, and we spent a week there resting and enjoying civilization.

The wind was still blowing, and we were told the easiest way to Curaçao was to head west around Aruba - which didn't seem to make sense, since Curaçao is to the east. But now we think they were right. We motored east down the coast of Aruba, and as we turned to go past the end, we spent three hours fighting the wind, current and seas to get just four miles past the island! From there, we were able to fall off and motorsail to Curaçao and Spanish Waters. The island is a great place for repairs and to shop. Marine Warehouse has set up an outlet in Seru Boca Marina, and you can get West Marine stuff shipped in duty-free at stateside prices plus freight. Nancy had to make a quick trip to the States - and got stranded when they closed the airports after the September 11 attack. This delayed our leaving Curaçao by a week, but we're now here in Bonaire and very happy the trip is over. Bonaire, incidentally, now has a Budget Marine store.

Would we do this trip again? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely! We saw things most people don't get to see. And despite all its problems, Colombia is actually a very beautiful country with lots of wonderful people. We would recommend the trip to anyone with a well-found boat - but they need to understand that you may have to nibble away at the trip. Other cruisers have been lucky and made the trip in light winds, but you can't count on it. The Cartagena to Bonaire trip is billed as "one of the five worst passages in the world" - we don't know what the other four are - but it is definitely not for the fainthearted. We don't imagine that it compares to rounding the Horn, of course, in part because the water and air temps are around 80 degrees. On the other hand, once you come out of the Canal and want to get to the Eastern Caribbean, you have to go east at some point. Maybe travelling clockwise to do it might not be as rough, but it's several times longer and usually has its difficult spots, too.

By the way, when we arrived at Bonaire we were told that we could only stay for two weeks because of a sailing regatta from October 7-13. The problem is that they were sold out of moorings for that time period, and boats aren't allowed to anchor. In any event, the regatta has to be a close second to the Banderas Bay Regatta in having a perfect location! Think of flat water, 15-20 knots of wind all the time, great diving with 100-foot visibility, and very friendly people. All that's missing are the shoreside facilities of Paradise Village Marina. We wish we would have known about this regatta, because we definitely would have signed up. The 'ABC Islands' are out of the way, but they are among the best in the Caribbean.

- peter & nancy 9/21/01

Readers - One of the challenges in making the trip from Panama to Trinidad is that the wind and seas are often rough. And unlike the coast of Northern California, it can stay rough for weeks at a time - particularly from December through March. But you can get lucky. We once had to motor all the way from Aruba to Panama.

Chewbacca - Crowther 30 Cat
The Winship Family
Homeschooling In Baja
(Clayton, CA)

The old-fashioned one room schoolhouse is back in session aboard Chewbacca, our 30-foot Crowther cat. Our cruising adventure began last October as we sailed from our homeport of Alameda under the Golden Gate and headed south to warm Mexican waters. We've spent the last year exploring the tropical mainland coast and the deserts of the Sea of Cortez. During this time, we also taught kindergarten and second grade to our girls Kendall and Quincy, ages five and seven. It was quite a year of learning - for all of us.

As we begin our second year of homeschooling, we are much the wiser and are finding the going much easier. This year we chose the Oak Meadow schooling program, and have been very happy with their literature-based curriculum. The curriculum comes complete with lesson plans, teacher manual, school books, and music cassette tapes.

A typical school day begins at 9 am and ends around 2 p.m., and includes breaks for lunch and free time. We do a primary subject such as Language Arts for 45 minutes in the morning, and after lunch do another primary subject such as math for another 45 minutes in the afternoon. In between, we do music, free reading, and an arts & crafts project. The pace is not rushed, and the focus is on the quality of work rather than the quantity. We don't spend any time doing 'busy work' because we don't have a classroom full of other students to keep occupied. We also take 'dolphin and whale breaks' so that the life learning continues alongside the book learning.

One advantage to homeschooling while travelling is that the kids come to understand that learning is an ongoing, lifelong, joyous process that can't be separated from the rest of life. Another advantage to homeschooling is that we're in charge. What we don't get done today can be taught that night or the next day. There are also times when I opt to substitute one project for another that is more relevant to our lives. For instance, instead of memorizing the state capitals this spring, we snorkeled every afternoon and counted reef fish and collected shells in the Sea of Cortez.

As we see it, the greatest advantage to homeschooling is that we have the maximum amount of influence on our kids. We can manage - at least for the time being - what our kids see and hear, and keep their environment safe and healthy. We also get to spend a lot of time with our children, and being together as a family is what makes cruising and homeschooling so wonderful.

It's not all perfect, of course. At times nobody seems to be able to get focused, there are too many distractions, or it's blowing like stink. In those cases we pack it in and call it a 'snow day' and do something else. During passages, the only school we often manage is reading aloud and 'sail school', which is where the girls learn a new knot, help do a watch, or plot our progress. During these times I have to remind myself that the girls are learning more than we think, it's just not the formal learning that we associate with schoolwork.

By far the most challenging time to homeschool is at a marina where there are lots of distractions such as swimming pools and cruising friends dropping by. During these times, Bruce and I are also trying to get boat projects done, make repairs, chase down parts, clean and repack the boat, and get ready to spend another few months on the hook. It is a frenzied time, so we try to plan school vacations during these brief stays. If that's not possible, then I hang my 'School In Session' sign from the lifelines, and we hunker down - perhaps shortening the day so that we all can enjoy being in Mexico.

Throughout our first year of cruising, we have all learned much about sailing and living happily on a 30-foot sailboat. With homeschooling on the rise in the U.S., the choices are many. Calvert School is popular with cruisers, as it is a true correspondence 'school-in-a-box'. Looking on the Internet will yield many options, as will checking out the curriculum used by your local school district. Although Bruce and I do not have formal teaching credentials - we both have bachelor degrees - we feel that a desire to teach, common sense, a good basic curriculum, self-discipline, and a sense of humor will be sufficient to be successful.

- the winship family 10/2/01

Cruise Notes:

"The Timor Sea, East Indian Ocean, Java Sea, South China Sea, Bali, Borneo, Singapore - what exotic images these names evoke, both from history and literature!" So advises John Keen of the San Francisco-based Gulf 32 Pilothouse Knot Yet. "In the past two months we have sailed on these seas and visited these places - as well as many others. We've been from the frantic tourist sites on Bali, to the national park on Borneo that is the last - and diminishing - habitat of the orangutans, to the many uninhabited islands in between with waterfalls and sandy beaches. Indonesia, despite all the political unrest, does have its charms. As in most cases, the unrest is exaggerated by the media and ignored by most of the country. We've been to mostly small villages where people are engaged in subsistence living, and where food and fuel are quite inexpensive and readily available. When I say 'we', I refer to a group that includes 10 other boats that have been travelling in company. This includes the Beneteau 500 Total Devotion from Alameda, as well as one boat each from Great Britain, Canada, and Germany, and the rest are Aussie boats. One of the Aussie boats did the trip four years ago, and has provided invaluable information. The group's pace was a little slower than I prefer, but the company was both invigorating and reassuring. And as so many have said, it's the people you meet that make cruising so enjoyable. In any event, we arrived in Singapore a week ago and are busy repairing sails, maintaining mechanical equipment, and ordering a new furler and dinghy. I hope it all comes together within another few weeks so that we can proceed north to Malaysia and Thailand. Buddy and Ruth of the Northern California-based Hans Christian 48 Annapurna should catch up with us soon, as they took the more traditional route through the eastern archipelago of Indonesia."

Shortly after receiving the above message, we asked Keen for an update and some word on what the situation was like in the aftermath of 9/11. "I'm currently at Admiral Marina in Port Dickson, Malaysia," he replied. "My trip up from Singapore was not pleasant, as I had both the wind and seas on the nose. It had been five months since I'd sailed/motored into the wind, and I'd forgotten how unpleasant it can be. Further hindered by strong currents, I only did a knot or two over the bottom for several hours. But enough whining! As to Latitude's inquiry about whether I feel safe cruising in Muslim countries, I have to say that I'm glad that I have left Indonesia - although I didn't sense any hostility in the areas that I visited. Naturally, I had avoided the hot spots. Malaysia, where I am now, also has a large Muslim population, but they seem to be rather relaxed people. For example, I conducted business with Immigration, Customs and the Port Captain today, and they were very friendly. I intend to visit Melaka (Malacca) and Kuala Lumpur in the next few days, and will advise further. For better or worse, the Malaysian government is pretty strict about dissent, and they do value their dwindling tourist industry. But as you might expect, Topic A among cruisers is whether to continue on to the Red Sea early next year. Views range from, 'I'm going via South Africa,' to 'I'm going to wait a year,' to 'there'll be so many U.S. Navy ships in the Red Sea that we'll be safe,' to 'I want to ship the boat home.' I'm in the 'wait and see' camp, and expect that I will continue in that direction come January."

"I left San Francisco in '92 aboard my Passport 42 Peregrine," reports (Mr.) Jean Nicca, "and have been doing most of my passages singlehanded. For the last three years, I've been in Southeast Asia. You've published a few of my letters, the latest dealing with what a great deal it is to get boat work done in Phuket, Thailand. Peregrine has undergone a complete refit, and is almost ready for the passage from Thailand to the Eastern Mediterranean via the Red Sea and Suez Canal. As you know, Phuket and Langkawi, Malaysia, are where most of the westbound yachts start their trips across the Indian Ocean on the first leg of the trip to the Med. January is the month when most boats start, but given the current world situation, lots of cruisers have mixed feelings about it. The Red Sea is a Muslim-dominated area, and there were problems even before the 9/11 tragedy with piracy off Yemen and some of the other countries. I'm interested in what you are hearing about that area. Is anybody in the States acting as a focal point for collecting information for yachties contemplating that passage? I have a strong desire to resume my circumnavigation, but don't want to go via South Africa as I wish to spend several seasons in the Med. I went to the American Embassy in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, and they strongly urged all mariners - especially Americans - to stay out of that region due to the unrest and the presence of many warships - some of which may not be friendly to the U.S. What would your recommendation be? I'm holding off making any sort of decision until the middle of December. In the worst case, I would have to stay here for another year - which wouldn't be all that bad. As I mentioned before, I have been using Peregrine as a home base for traveling from Japan to India for that last year. If I stay here, it could be an opportunity to revisit these countries and see what I missed. By the way, thanks for being there and doing an excellent job. Latitude is sent to me every month, and I read it cover to cover."

Thanks for the kind words. Although we have a lot of confidence about the global situation in both the short and long term, in our opinion there are far too many risks involved with travelling along the Arabian Peninsula and up the Red Sea to make the passage at this time. After all, it would involve crossing an active war zone and then making a difficult 750-mile heavy air upwind passage while running a gauntlet of Islamic countries. While most of the governments profess some acceptance of the United States trying to bomb terrorists in Afghanistan, the acceptance is tenuous at best and could change in a day. Furthermore, many of the individuals and groups in these Islamic countries are infuriated by the U.S. attacks. We would not make the passage up the Suez Canal this year, nor would we assume that it will be feasible next year. So, the choices are to stay where you are, or to head to the Med via South Africa. We realize that the latter is a long trip, but at least the passage from Cape Town up the Atlantic is one of the more idyllic in cruising. P.S. Our email response to you would not go through.

"I'm an avid reader of Latitude and have carried copies to friends circumnavigating in the Caribbean, Tahiti, Fiji, and Oz," writes a reader who identifies himself only as Shep. "Our friends were in Bali about three weeks ago and advised us that they were leaving because of the Islamic business - and would therefore be out of touch for awhile. We haven't heard from them since and are becoming concerned. We wonder if you know of any radio nets from which we might be able to get a report." The good news is that there haven't been any reports of cruisers having trouble in countries with large Muslim populations, so we wouldn't be too concerned. The bad news is that we're not familiar with any radio nets in that part of the world. But you might contact Robert Reed of the Pacific Seafarer's Net by .

October 22 update: Shep reports he's heard from his friends and they are safe in Malaysia.

"It hasn't been too hot or rainy this summer in Playa del Cocos, Costa Rica," report Randy and Lourae Kenoffel of the San Francisco-based Beneteau 500 Pizzaz. "But we do miss the clear water of the Caribbean, where we spent quite a few years. The Pacific also has tides, swells and dirty water, but it doesn't have any wind. So it's just not the same as the Caribbean. So we may head back through the Canal - but only after doing Mexico. We'll be heading north after Thanksgiving at Barillas Marina in El Salvador." The Kenoffels created a rough guide on how to mostly daysail from Cartagena to Aruba - see this month's Changes by Destiny, who tried it. If you see the couple in Mexico and are headed to the Eastern Caribbean, you may want to pick their brains, as they have extensive firsthand experience.

Latin countries, it would seem, would like to cash in on business generated by boating. Mexico, for example, thinks it can lure mariners south with a series of marinas on the Pacific Coast and in the Sea of Cortez, a plan they call a 'Nautical Stairway'. Down in Colombia, the government is encouraging Corredor Nautico, a plan to put their country at the forefront of "international yachting in Central and South America". Among the ways Colombia discussed making their country more attractive for mariners is by liberalizing immigration and the amount of time that yachts are allowed to stay in their country without having to pay taxes. According to Craig Owings, Commodore of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club in Panama, "The good news is that Colombian Customs has changed its treatment of sport boats and sailboats. When you arrive from now on, all you have to do is submit a letter of request and your boat will be given 'temporary importation'. This will allow it to stay in the country duty-free for five years. Other things - such as visa requirements - remain the same, so cruisers will periodically have to leave and return to their boats. This is an important first step to making Colombia one of the places to go while in the Caribbean Basin. I hope that this is the start of a trend in the Americas to make it easier for cruisers to visit countries and stay longer."

"It was good to see the Grand Poobah and other Ha-Ha folks at the Mexico Crew List Party at the Encinal YC last month," writes Michael Pordes of the Vallejo-based La Coste 42 Favonius. "Coming to the party as an alum of the 2000 Ha-Ha was even more fun than last year when I was a nervous Ha-Ha virgin. I was relaxed this time, saw a lot of old friends, and had a blast. For example, I got to see Blair and Joan from the 45-ft Vallejo-based Capricorn Cat - and learned they'll be headed to Mexico again - for something like the sixth year in a row. Blair is my hero! I know that Michael Haste of the La Jolla-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing wants another shot at him in the Banderas Bay Regatta. I was also surprised to see Glen Meskimen of the Saratoga-based Panda 38 Enya. You may remember that his wife Evelyn suddenly died of salmonella poisoning three weeks before the start of last year's Ha-Ha. Glen nonetheless soldiered on. He was berthed next to us in Puerto Vallarta and crewed on our boat in the Banderas Bay Regatta. He next singlehanded to Hawaii, then to Sitka, Alaska, and his boat is now in Friday Harbor, Washington. I also managed to accomplish two important things at the party. First, to arrange crew positions for Claudia and I when we fly down to P.V. for the Banderas Bay Regatta in March. We'll be sailing with Rich aboard his Oceanis 440 Still Searching. Second, after talking with Paradise Village Marina Harbormaster Dick Markie, we found out that we're going to get a great discount on our room.

"As for the Ha-Ha itself," Pordes continued, "I know that a lot of folks feel that the Grand Poobah has the cake job, sailing to Mexico and taking photos from aboard a big catamaran. But I saw how the Poobah busted his butt to make sure that we were all taken care of. It was incredibly good for our teenage boys to be part of that event and to sail to Mexico. In fact, when it's wet and nasty this winter and I'm dreaming of being anchored at Punta Mita, maybe I'll write an article about the positive changes it brought about in both of them. I just moved Favonius to Oyster Point for a couple of months, as I am project managing a large telecom job at Genentech in South San Francisco, and the commute from Fairfield three days a week was killing me. So now I have a 72-hour a week apartment that is very close to the job site. By the way, when we first got back this year, we couldn't have our old Vallejo slip because Grey Max was in it. Then they split for this year's Ha-Ha. Fortunately, Fruitcakes then left - also to do this year's Ha-Ha - and we got their upwind slip! We may not be in the Ha-Ha this year, but we'll be with everyone in spirit."

Says the Poobah: "Being the Poobah really is 'a cake job', because the most satisfying thing in life is helping other folks have a good time."

"Sorry, but the crew of the Mukilteo, Washington-based Caliber 38 Sheet Music won't be able to make this year's Ha-Ha as planned," report Jerry and Sally Swalling. Anacortes to Sausalito is as far as we got. A weak rudder bearing support system would have made it unsafe for us to continue. But the fall weather in the Bay Area has been super, and we'll stay a while longer before beating back north on the I-5. It looks as though I have a big winter project, as the builder didn't even use marine-grade plywood to support the bearing. It's the little things that jump out and get you."

We're going to miss you. We're also going to miss vets of several Ha-Ha's, Seth and Bev Bailey of the Alameda-based Cheoy Lee Pedrick 43 Route du Vent. An out-of-the-water survey turned up a couple of problems they won't be able to rectify in time for the start. "Seth spent too much time sailing on other people's boats this past year, and not enough time maintaining our boat," says Bev. "As such, we don't expect to head south until November 10, which is the date of the Ha-Ha Awards Party in Cabo San Lucas. Good luck to everyone participating in Ha-Ha VIII, we'll see you further down the line."

"I hope to see everyone in Mexico this winter aboard my Lyle Hess-designed Ensenada 20 Pepper," reports Stuart Kiehl of Santa Rosa. I got the boat and the trailer - which I found in the backyard of some Hell's Angels - for $200! It just goes to show that you don't have to spend big bucks to sail on San Francisco Bay or in Mexico. Of course, I then spent five months restoring the boat and trailer, and another $10,000 on a diesel truck to tow her to Puerto Escondido at 55 knots. Anyway, I should be down there in December. I'll probably take a mutt along as a pal and chick magnet."

"We found trouble earlier this year while sailing from the Punta Mita anchorage to a waypoint off Cabo Corrientes - which is basically from the northwest tip of Banderas Bay, Mexico, to the southwest tip of the bay, "report Pat and Susan Canniff of the trimaran Perpetua. "While on this course, we passed within about a half mile of the east end of the most northeastern island in the Tres Marietas group. The water shoaled up rapidly, and we hit a rock with our tri's keel, which only draws four feet. We believe the GPS position for the rock is about 20°42.296N, 105°33.683W. Our tri suffered some external damage, but didn't take on any water. We subsequently fixed the damage in Mazatlan, the first place with a marine railway."

It's a warning to be heeded. There are many rocks offshore of the Tres Marietas, and every couple of years a cruiser will damage or lose their boat. Cruisers also have to be vigilant between Punta Mita and the Tres Marietas, as there are several isolated rocks that come to within a couple of feet of the surface. In addition, caution also has to be employed on the north shore of Banderas Bay - one of our favorites - between Punta Mita and Punta Montoga, as there are several isolated rocks and reefs just below the surface as much as several hundred yards offshore. These make for great surfing breaks, but they're also great for breaking boats. So stay well offshore.

There's nothing like a helping hand. Shortly after Dave and Marili Reilly began heading home to Portland after their first long cruise in the Pacific Northwest with their Cascade 36 Tamara, they had a small problem. While shrouded in fog at Cape Flattery, the belt to their boat's internal water pump broke, causing the engine to overheat. Naturally, there was no wind and they started drifting toward the shipping lanes. Prior to leaving Neah Bay, they'd made friends with the skipper of the San Francisco-based J/42 Gone Again, which was going to head south a few hours after them. They were able to contact the owner - name unknown - by radio just as he was heading out of the marina. He agreed to return to port and hunt down a 34-inch belt. A couple of hours later, Gone Again was alongside, and despite plunging pulpits and masts that wanted to tangle, was able to transfer the belt Tamara needed to get going again. "It certainly gives you a warm feeling to know there are people out there who are willing to delay their own departure to help you out of a tight spot," said the couple. "So we offer a special thanks to the skipper and crew of Gone Again, and best wishes for many pleasant voyages."

"We spent the summer away from the hot, hot, hot Sea of Cortez," reports Dave and Vicki Parker of the Boston and San Francisco-based Cal 33 Carlota. "Would anyone like to know about spending time in upland Mexico - such as Zacatecas - where it's not so hot in the summer? If so, we can be reached by ."

What's it like cruising the Bahamas? We might as well ask brothers Terrance and Dennis Hession of Lake Tahoe, who cruised their Dillard, Oregon-based Amel Maramu 48 Marion through the islands from November 15 of 2000 through June 1 of 2001. "Very nice!" is the brothers' succinct reply. "We also did the Family Islands Regatta in Elizabeth Harbor, Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas - which despite all the names is just one place - with about 200 other boats."

"We will be returning to our boat at Flamingo Marina in Costa Rica in late October after a one-year stay back in the States," report Pat and Renee Nolan of the Rocklin-based Irwin 37 No Land. Renee had a problem with her right ear, which started causing severe seasickness. She ended up having the same operation that a lot of kids get, where they put a tube in your ear to drain it. The downside is they told her that she couldn't get it wet for eight months or so - yeah right, on a boat - as it would be more prone to infections during this time. So the doctor suggested we stay in the States, which we did. Because Renee hasn't had an ear problem since March, and the doctor said the ear is healed, we're off! We plan to hang out in Panama for a few months, go through the Canal, then head back to the States. We hope to bump into old friends."

How many days would it take to sail a boat from Fiji to San Francisco? We've got a report that the Alameda-based Omar Khayyam - crewed by a three-person delivery crew - took 47 days. Unfortunately, we don't know what kind of boat she is or any other details. Can anybody clue us in?

"The Pacific Seafarer's Net recently carried a report from Tony Babich, ZL2ATE, who runs Tony's Net out of New Zealand, that a new volcanic island appeared in the Tonga group." So reports Robert Reed of the Pacific Seafarer's Net in Humboldt Bay. "The new island is 25 miles northwest of Hunga, and is about 12 feet above the surface. The island is at 18°19'48"S, 174°21'92'W. Cruisers should mark their charts and maintain a watch for this island when sailing in the area."

"We are glad to advise all our seafaring friends that the harbor at San Blas - "the Tahiti of Mexico" - is being dredged and should be in fine order when the Class of '01-'02 cruisers arrive," reports Norm Goldie. "In addition, the new fuel dock - with gas and diesel - is expected to open before the end of October. I've been told there will be no docking fees or inflated prices. As always, we recommend only Ismael at the Mantanchen Ramada to care for cruisers' needs when they are in our bay. He can handle everything a cruiser might need upon making landfall - watching dinghies 24/7, getting fresh water, arranging for a shower, and so forth. If anybody needs any help approaching San Blas, Janet or I can be contacted on VHF 22 for assistance. As has been the case for the last 36 years, we'll be happy to guide you up the estuary for free. We're looking forward to all the new kids on the block - especially those who may have found enough room on their boats to bring some clothes or shoes we can pass on to the very poor indigenous people of the mountains above San Blas."

We'll close with a case of strange bedfellows. Vladimir Putin of Russia has decided to give George W. Bush a big "present" - one that has infuriated Fidel Castro, Russia's Cold War ally. Specifically, Putin has announced that he's going to close a spy base in Cuba, for which Russia pays $200 million a year in rent to Fidel. For economically crippled Cuba, losing the $200 million a year really hurts. How are they going to make it up? More tourism is about all they have to offer.

Have a great cruising season!

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