November, 2002

With reports from Juanona on the passage from Bermuda to the Azores; from Örnaerie on a rough passage through the Frisian Islands in the North Sea; from Mantra on getting hit by lightning in Nicaragua; from Reflections on seldom-visited Mopelia; from Icarus on wintering in Gaeta, Italy; from Pilar on the Ne-Ar-Ne Water Festival in the Philippines; from Kiapa on passages from Mexico to Hawaii and Hawaii to French Polynesia; from Neverland on summer cruising off La Paz; and Cruise Notes.

Juanona - Norseman 400 Cat
Max & Lynnie Fletcher
Bermuda To The Azores
(Orrs Island, Maine)

Our timing in Bermuda was fortuitous. A group of 16 yachts had left for the Azores a week before, and 14 had turned back after 200 miles because of gale force winds. The two boats that kept on suffered substantial damage. So when we arrived in Bermuda, there was a big contingent of boats watching the weather and getting ready to head east again. We met some great folks in the group, and hooked into their radio nets. After topping off our fuel jugs - since the 1,800+ mile trip would take us into the light winds of the Azores High - we were ready to go.

On June 9, the weather charts indicated a period of good weather, so we took off. After motoring overnight, the wind filled in and we had a sailing breeze almost the entire way to the Azores. We gradually worked our way northeast, but after a week scurried south when we learned there was a significant low coming in from the west. The low brought winds to 35 knots, but it wasn't bad because it was from aft. We enjoyed travelling in the company of many other boats, and checked in with the net three times a day to compare positions and weather.

The net 'DJ' was Mike, an entertaining South African aboard Gilano. We were surprised how mesmerizing the net could be. By the end of the trip, more than 20 boats scattered across the ocean were checking in. We ended up having the fastest passage - 13 days - of anyone in our group. It was a good thing for us, for the wind blew out of the east as we approached Flores, and would have stayed on the nose for a week. We made port before the worst of it hit, while friends struggled in days later.

Flores is one of the loveliest islands anywhere, with flowers - particularly hydrangea - growing wild everywhere. In fact, the island is literally covered with them, as they form 'walls' between the fields. We took some hikes along the western side of the island, walking past magnificent volcanic peaks, waterfalls, rocky outcroppings - and fields of hydrangeas. We came across a water mill on a stream where an old man was grinding corn with a big stone wheel - as had been done on the spot since the mid-1800s. After making Lynnie give him a kiss, he proudly showed us the simple yet elegant machinery, and then sent us off with a bag of finely ground cornmeal.

Hearing of a 'miracle healer' in a nearby town, we hitchhiked there and found her. She was a hunched over woman in her 70s, dressed all in black, with facial hair covering her chin, and wearing glasses. She could have come out of a Grimnes fairy tale. She worked on Lynnie's back, massaging it in exactly the right spot and manner. After a repeat visit, it was clear that she'd done some good.

The people of Flores were incredibly welcoming, starting with the Customs officer who apologized for our having to check in with Customs! He took me by the arm and said that if we needed anything or had any problems, to see him. Then we learned about a woman in town who did yachtie laundry - for free! We toted three bagfuls from our ocean crossing, and found them washed and folded the next day.

One day the Westsail 43 Fiona pulled in flying a Cruising Club of America burgee. Since we're also members, we went to visit. It turned out to be Eric Forsythe, who recently won CCA's Blue Water Medal for a remarkable voyage to Antarctica. He was off on another circumnavigation via Antarctic waters, with two young guys as crew.

- max & lynnie 10/01/02

Örnaerie - Rassy 31
Ivan Rusch
The Frisian Islands, North Sea
(Moss Landing)

After taking up ocean sailing two years ago at age 75, and after sailing 10,000 miles from Moss Landing to Denmark in 2000, I spent 12 months singlehanding in Danish waters. Then in August of this year, I headed south from the beautiful Danish islands of Langeland, Fyn, and Aerø, and exited the Baltic Sea through Germany's Kiel Canal bound for the Netherlands and the English Channel. As I exited the Kiel Canal, the North Sea was to my right and the Frisian Coast of Germany and The Netherlands to my left. The difficult trick - especially for singlehanders - is to get past a 115-mile long string of 11 elliptical-shaped islands just offshore of Frisland. That the North Sea can be rough is but one of the problems, as these poorly charted shallow waters are over a shifting sand bottom.

In 1903, Erskine Childers wrote the classic Riddle Of The Sands - a book which has never gone out of print - set in these difficult waters. On page 104, he describes the Frisian coast thusly: "Plenty of local galliots sail the area, but strangers are limited to an occasional foreign yacht which gropes in at one of the gaps between the islands looking for shelter from bad weather and is previous lucky to get in safely."

In the challenge that lay ahead for my boat and I, some of her cruising gear was vitally important to keeping her from being broken up on some reef. She is equipped with most every piece of equipment necessary for singlehanded cruising, such as a Raytheon ST1000 Tillerpilot connected to a Sail-o-Mat 601 self-steering vane, radar, a four-prong anchor, and solar panels - but what really saved us was her Yanmar diesel, VHF radio, Garmin GPS, Furuno depthsounder, two radar reflectors, and a huge amount of precious luck.

Here's how the problems developed. After leaving Cuxhaven near the mouth of the Elbe River, I planned to daysail the 115-mile stretch of hazardous water. Such a plan is fine as long as no storms develop. A storm did develop, of course, so I went to duck behind Norderney, the fourth island, with daylight helping me find a very narrow channel marked by a combination of red and green buoys - in Europe, it's 'red, left, returning'. The muddy sand embankments were marked by tall, thin birch trunks with branches - making them look like witches' brooms.

I stayed behind Norderney until the weather eased up. Shortly after I continued west again, but I was slowed, this time by even stronger wind and building seas. My goal was the west end of Ameland, the eighth island. My little sloop and I didn't make it until after midnight, at which point I started the diesel, dropped the sails, and relied on the GPS and depthsounder to hold my boat in a fairly safe position. Unable to find any channel markers, I needed either help or daylight to find flat water in which to anchor. So I put out a call on Channel 16.

To my surprise, I got an immediate response from a person saying that they had me on radar, that I was in a bad spot, and that they would send a boat to help. About 20 minutes later, a bright orange 20-ft inflatable pulled alongside and one of the three men jumped aboard my boat and said he would steer me to safety. Then he said that it would take eight hours! I balked at the plan, and became suspicious when he asked me for information about my insurance coverage. This wasn't the Dutch Coast Guard after all!

I told the guy that I didn't have any insurance - and didn't have any money, either. I was later warned about scams such as this, where insurance companies are milked by people who create very expensive rescues. I nonetheless thanked the fellow profusely, as he gave me a good heading to an anchorage before jumping back onto the inflatable. Once I got the hook down, I slept for four hours.

When I awoke, I was unable to get my anchor loose. Ultimately, I called for help again, and this time the real Dutch Coast Guard responded. They were young guys who were professional and very friendly. Together, we managed to yank the anchor up. (Since then, I run the rode to a primary winch in the cockpit.) I was then shown the way through a marked channel to the picturesque town of Nes.

After three days of rest and with the onset of better weather, I set sail for Vieland, 15 miles to the west. Daylight saw me arriving at a little marina, where I was advised to sail via Harlingen and some tricky channels to a lock leading to an inland lake, where there was uniform depth and no tides. I did as they recommended, which brought me south to within 50 miles of Amsterdam, and thus out to Ipmuden on the English Channel. There I found a marina, and quickly crashed to get some badly needed sleep.

- ivan 10/5/02

Mantra - Kantola 42 Trimaran
Buzz Mitchell & Penny Bracken
Hit By Lightning
(Napa Valley Marina)

After two months at anchor in the protected river estuary at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, we put our trust in our river guide Santana to lead us over the sandbar, through the breaking surf, and into the open Pacific once again. During the course of our stay, I had often accompanied Santana as he escorted boats in and out, and had gained great respect for the power of the ocean and Santana's skill as a guide.

On May 29, a trio of cruising boats braved the bar to begin passages south to Costa Rica and beyond. In addition to our Mantra, there was a French family - Laurence, Christian, and six-year-old twins Theo and Isis - aboard their Voyage 38 cat Volantis, and Allan and Liz Warman from Oregon aboard the Bentley 38 monohull Solainte. After 12 hours, we reached the Gulf of Fonseca, where the borders of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua converge. Since it was now the rainy season, the gulf was littered with logs and floating debris. That, along with the hundreds of fishing nets, made for anxious sailing.

We anchored off a remote village on Isla Conchaguita, and were greeted by many small children who paddled out in little dugout canoes, using flipflops on their hands for paddles. Not many cruising boats stop here, so we were a novelty. We passed on gifts of toys, baseball hats, and candy - only to have the kids reappear early the next morning wanting even more.

After a couple of days, we carefully worked our way through the logs and nets of the gulf out to open water. All three boats had great sailing that day, and made good headway to Costa Rica. With nightfall, however, came continual lightning in the distance and rain squalls. We prepared by reducing sail and getting ready for 12 hours of darkness. We were sailing along at 8 to 9 knots, when we snagged a fishing net and buoy. We didn't even realize it until we saw the buoy being dragged. We got the sails down and luckily we were able to cut the buoy loose - just before a big squall with gusts to 40 knots hit from all directions.

Continuing under power, we snagged another net - this time wrapping the line in the prop and killing the engine. Not wanting to sail while dragging the heavy load underwater, we laid in our bunks, allowing Mantra to drift, while the storm blew over. It was still raining and the sea raging when Buzz dove beneath the boat with a flashlight and knife to free the rope. It would have been a stressful night even if the autopilot hadn't shorted out. We maintained radio contact with the other two boats, which were having their own problems.

All of us were exhausted and in need of rest the next morning, so we pulled into Nicaragua's 'No Name' anchorage' at 11°30'47"N, 86°18'17'W - but not before we snagged one more fishing net. The 'No Name' didn't offer protection in the conditions we had, so we knew we wouldn't get much rest. Nonetheless, we hunkered down for an uncomfortable night, knowing that Costa Rica was only 35 miles away.

By 2 a.m., it was raining heavily and there were lightning strikes all around. Suddenly there was a flash of white light and a loud crack - we knew Mantra had been hit. Neither of us were hurt, but the digital oven timer went off and the Heart Inverter began to display erratic readings. Just then Allan on Solainte, which was anchored just 100 feet away, called to report they had taken a direct hit down the mast with lots of sparks inside. The lightning bolt had destroyed almost all their electrics and electronics. The good news was Allan and Liz were unhurt, and that both our anchors were holding.

Unable to see the catamaran Volantis in the rain and dark, we hailed them on the radio but got no reply. Finally, a voice on the radio reported that their anchor had dragged and their 38-ft cat was being pounded on the beach by breaking waves. I won't report the whole story now, but there were many miracles for the French family that night. With the help of local fishermen, many people on the beach, and the bravery and expertise of Allan and Buzz, Volantis was kedged off the beach at dawn five hours later.

Exhausted as we all were on the morning of June 5, it was an easy decision to weigh anchor and get to Costa Rica. When we arrived, we were welcomed by the crews of Baggywrinkle and Elskan. It wasn't until we were safely anchored in Santa Elena Bay that the reality of what had happened began to sink in. We discovered that our alternator and charging system were no longer working. Allan and Liz lost so much equipment that after a few days of rest they decided to return to Barillas Marina in El Salvador, leave their boat, and return to the States to get replacement gear. The French family was happy that their catamaran suffered nothing more than a small hairline crack in one of the keels - after taking such a pounding! As for us, we were just happy to be in Costa Rica and safely anchored in a beautiful bay. Our senses were filled with the lush beauty of the jungle, green once again from all the rain, with the sounds of the howler monkeys and macaws, and the sweet smell of plumeria.

As we write this in late July, the lightning strike seems so long ago. Our charging system and autopilot are back in the States being repaired. The crew of Solainte is still stateside, but due to return soon. Volantis is on their way to Puntarenas to haul out to complete repairs. Meanwhile, Buzz has been having a great time renewing old friendships with people he knew from his cruise here with Mantra 30 years ago. The Bragg brothers - Mike, Roy and Rusty - who settled here three decades ago, have made good lives for themselves. They own the marine store, two restaurants, and two fish processing plants. We also hear that Bahia del Coco is in the final stages of approval for a 350-slip marina and fuel dock. When completed, it will be a much needed marine facility for northern Costa Rica. Our plans - which we make up as we go - is to continue south and transit the canal in January, then settle on the Gulf side of Florida by hurricane season of 2003.

For those not familiar with the history of Mantra, Buzz Mitchell, Billy Canty and Jay Halvaty began construction on her in the late '60s at Marina del Rey, and didn't finish for four years. Their cruising dreams eventually took them to Mexico and Costa Rica, where they spent much time buddyboating with the vintage Alden schooner Dauntless - featured on the May 2000 cover of Latitude. Fate took a turn while they were in Ecuador trying to get permission to visit the Galapagos, as all the sails and lines were stolen from the amas! This happened during their first night on the hook, with six people and a dog onboard! They had to use the cruising kitty set aside for continuing to New Zealand to have replacement sails and and lines shipped down from the States. After spending several months exploring inland Ecuador waiting for the new sails to arrive, they spent five months in the Galapagos and then returned to the States.

Shortly after the trio's return, Buzz bought out Billy and Jay's share of the tri. He did the first retrofit at the infamous 'Ranch' in Camarillo, where many a multihull has been built and/or restored. That legacy continues. In the '80s, Buzz chartered Mantra out to the Channel Islands National Park. Mantra spent most of the '90s in the Bay Area and the Delta while we lived in Santa Rosa. In 1996, the commitment was made to prepare the tri for a cruise south and our eventual move to Florida. Four years were spent on the hard at the Napa Valley Marina in preparation for our big sail away in 2000. Mantra was relaunched in May of 2000, and we cut the dock lines on August 1 to start our adventure.

- buzz & penny 8/24/02

Reflections - Esprit 37
Gene & Sheri Seybold
Mopelia, French Polynesia
[Continued from last month.]

Bora Bora was to be our last stop in French Polynesia before heading on to the Cook Islands, but after listening to Ricardo, Isabel, and their son Ricky - our Spanish cruising friends aboard Cypsela - talk about Mopelia Atoll, we decided we couldn't pass it up. The small atoll is about 120 miles west of Bora Bora.

Very few boats stop at Mopelia, and it didn't take us long to figure out why. Charlies' Charts of French Polynesia describes the pass into the lagoon at Mopelia as one of the trickiest in Polynesia, saying that it's only 90 feet wide and always has an outflowing current of between four to six knots. We're pretty sure that Charlie has never been to Mopelia, because if the pass is any wider than 45 feet, we'll eat the coral reef! Transiting the pass reminded me of the way I felt the first time I landed an airplane - so needless to say, it was a 'white knuckle' experience. We only saw about three knots of current opposing us, but it seemed as though it took an eternity to get through the pass. Sheri said she felt some light sprinkles as we went in - I later explained that it had been sweat squirting from my brow!

What we have found on the inside of the pass has made it all worthwhile. There are only about 25 or 30 people who live on Mopelia, and since very few cruising boats come by, they are extremely friendly to visitors. In fact, I think the folks on Mopelia are the most generous, helpful, and friendly people we have met anywhere.

On our second night at Mopelia, they took all of us cruisers to the reef to hunt for lobster. We didn't get any, which they attributed to the fact that the full moon had passed a few days earlier. But we did find a perfect and somewhat rare shell - a textile cone - on the dive. We always handle cone shells carefully because they can be dangerous if they sting you. In fact, some of them are deadly. When we got back to the boat, we looked the shell up in the guidebook - and learned that the textile cone is one of the most deadly of all shells. I would never pick up a rattlesnake, so what was I doing picking up a shell that could kill me?

On our third night here, the locals invited the cruisers from all eight boats to dinner. They served us a great meal with turtle as the main course. We know that turtle is an endangered species, but it seemed all right because the locals live a subsistence lifestyle on Mopelia. Bora Bora, for example, gets two supply ships each day, while Mopelia is lucky to get one a month. So the locals have to live on fish and other food they can pull from the sea. They told us that one turtle has enough meat to feed everyone on the atoll for a month. Frankly, we don't believe they are having a big negative impact on the turtle population.

It was the first time that we'd eaten turtle, and we now understand why it's endangered - it's delicious! We wouldn't have known that it wasn't beef. They served the turtle BBQ'd and in two types of stew. We were also served fish, rice and poisson cru - which is raw fish in coconut milk. We cruisers brought the desserts.

The locals came by the next morning to take us spearfishing outside the pass and snorkeling on an 80-year-old WWI German ship that had run aground and sank near the atoll. After everyone shot a few fish, we dove on the wreck. Although most of the ship is gone, there are still many remnants, including the engine crankshaft, driveshaft, a couple of huge anchors, brass shell casings - and the heavy anchor chain that must have been launched in a last ditch effort to keep the ship off the reef.

When we returned to the beach, we were once again invited up to one of the houses for a 'drink'. Teka, one of the locals, grabbed a long stick and knocked down a bunch of coconuts. He quickly hacked one end off each coconut, and soon we were sipping through straws. Later that day, John and Amanda Neal, the famous authors, lecturers and world cruisers with the Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare, arrived with six charter guests. That night we had a big BBQ, cooking all the fish we'd speared. After dinner, our Spanish friends on Cypsela brought their guitars ashore and played Spanish ballads. The locals later played Tahitian music on guitars and ukuleles.

We also shared bottles of wine and assorted liquors - as well as what the locals call 'local beer'. When I asked how they made it, they told me "water and God". But I could smell the yeast in it. One of the other cruisers warned me not to overindulge in the 'beer', as he said we'd get a hangover we'd never forget. He was speaking from experience. But what a memorable night.

The next morning we were invited to yet another house for coffee. After some coffee, Tamare gave black pearls to each of us! The people of Mopelia are very special. The locals love reggae, so I made a couple of CDs to give to them. I had done this elsewhere, but never had it been so appreciated. The Mopelians said music is very important - as it keeps them from going crazy.

Tomorrow, the locals are taking us back out to the pass so we can scuba dive at four knots through the pass. Needless to say, we love this place. Part of me wants to dig a trench in the beach and park Reflections there for eternity, but reality tells me that we have to leave in a day or so. When we finally tear ourselves away, we will head to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, and hopefully Fiji to visit with our good friends Jim and Kioko on Also II. By then it will be time to head south for the southern hemisphere summer to avoid the tropical cyclones.

We have finally decided that we will be spending the southern summer in New Zealand. It wasn't our original plan, but plans change out here. Once in New Zealand, we'll be reunited with our cruising buddies Matt and Deb on Aeventyr. We're thinking about renting a motorhome for a month or so to do some serious exploring of New Zealand, and to enjoy some of the America's Cup.

Although leaving French Polynesia will be difficult, others tell us it just keeps getting better. And from here to New Zealand, most people speak English. What a pleasant change that will be!

- gene & sheri 09/05/02

Icarus - F/P 39 Cat
David & Bonnie Carleton
The Med
(Santa Fe)

This was our fifth summer cruising the Med. A couple of years ago we felt we ought to move on, but we've kept staying. For Latitude readers who may have forgotten, we bought Ickie in the South of France in '97, and decided to get out of the Silicon Valley madness in '98. So we sold our house in Woodside and bought one in Santa Fe, which means we've been able to spend our summers cruising the Med - while our house is rented out - and our winters skiing in Santa Fe. It's true that the sailing in the Med is terrible, but we love the depth of the history and culture. We also enjoy the food and the people, and the diverse sailing community. During the past four winters, we've left the boat in Gib, Palma de Mallorca twice, and Marmaris, Turkey.

We started cruising in May this year by sailing to the Cyclades of Greece - Rhodes, Tilos, and Astypalia. We then went around Peloponnese for the first time - by boat and car - and loved it. Next we travelled up the Ionian to Zakinthos, Ithaca, Meganisi, Levkas, Paxos and Corfu. By late June we were at Dubrovnik, and spent six weeks cruising the lower half of the Adriatic to Mali Losinj. Some friends sailed all the way up to Venice. Over the Fourth of July there was a fun cruiser rally with 30 boats at Starigrad on the island of Hvar. On August 13, we crossed over to Vieste on the east coast of Italy, and slowly harbor-hopped our way down and around the boot of Italy. Having already been to Sicily a number of times, we skipped it to continue up the west coast of Italy. We hit the Amalfi coast and even anchored off Capri - just south of Naples - for a couple of days. We also visited Ishcia, Procida and Ponza before pulling into Gaeta, which is where we'll be wintering over.

It was a tough decision between wintering over in Gaeta or at the huge new Porto di Roma Marina, which is just 15 miles from Rome at Ostia. Porto di Roma was about 50% less expensive, but we decided that having a nice town like Gaeta right outside the marina gates was more important. Lots of cruisers are going to Porto di Roma this year, however, as there's been a lot of discussion about it on the Med Net.

For those considering a cruise in the Med and having the boat winter over, Gaeta has been one of the most popular spots for the last four years. To begin with, the physical surroundings are beautiful - with a large bay, high mountains, and very good beaches close by. The harbor outside the marina provides a safe anchorage during unsettled weather, so if you can't get into the marina or just don't want to pay for a slip, it's a good place to ride out a blow. The anchorage is right in front of town and there is a safe place to tie your dinghy, so it's easy for grabbing a Herald Tribune and some provisions.

Base Nautica is the name of the terrific marina, which has been run by the same Italian family for 37 years. Anna is the main contact with the cruisers, and her brother Luca runs the yard. In previous years, Anna has helped organize an Italian class and is very eager to do what she can to make everyone happy and help them appreciate Italy. In addition to the usual swap library, she has developed an extensive tourist library. They have a community room with a fireplace - and even provide the wood!

Folks who have been in the U.S. Navy probably know that we've had a naval base in Gaeta since the end of World War II - in fact, it's the headquarters for the Sixth Fleet. There are two gun metal gray eight-story ships docked in the bay 300 hundred yards from the marina. Both are surrounded by five-foot high inflatable sausages, which keep any boat from being able to approach them. I guess this is in response to the USS Cole being blown up in Yemen by a small boat loaded with explosives. That being said, the U.S. presence in Gaeta is very low key. You see Americans around town, eating out, jogging, and shopping. Although we're not crazy about this because we wanted a purely Italian experience, it does make things easier in town. The locals treat us yachties as though we live here rather than as tourists, and the townspeople could not be more pleasant. And obviously the relationship between the U.S. Navy and the town has been a good one.

There's another benefit if you have an NTST - American or multisystem - television set, as you can get the AFN station with West Wing, 60 Minutes, Law and Order, The Today Show, plus lots of other programs aimed at the enlisted man - such as sports all weekend. If you've been in the service long enough, you may get access to the PX for inexpensive U.S.-style groceries and other benefits.

Gaeta has a medieval quarter built on what was once a Roman town, and a lot of the building materials are old Roman columns and stone. Because of the U.S. presence, the townspeople speak a lot more English than is usual in Italy, which makes things very easy. There are daily open markets for fresh veggies, fruit and fish, and all kinds of shops within a five-minute stroll of the marina gates. There's a huge weekly market on Wednesdays. It's a nice size town and really Italian rather than touristy - which means no McDonalds. After less than a week, we're already on a first name basis with the fruit/veggie guy, the gelato girl, the newspaper guy, and at the coffee bar. It's a small enough town that if you know anyone, they're most likely walking the same streets as you, so you'll run into each other.

It's only an hour to Naples to the south, and 90 minutes to Rome to the north, so we'll be going both places on day trips a couple of times a week. There's a great hiking area on the hill above town, with a 12th century castle and a Roman mausoleum from 10 B.C. There are fantastic bike rides to be enjoyed along the scenic coast of the Med to the north.

Although we really like Gaeta, we gave Porto di Roma very serious consideration as well. A group of fun-loving Aussies we know negotiated hard with the new marina for group rates - and got an incredible bargain which means they're paying half of what we do in Gaeta. However, it's a large new marina that is still only half full, so it may be a one-time deal. But it's also the first time in years that Gaeta won't have a waiting list - and they may even start to lose some business.

Cruisers who decided against staying at Porto di Roma have said it's because the town of Ostia isn't so great. It's full of low-cost apartments, there's nowhere to walk in the evening except in the marina, where everyone from Ostia comes to stroll, and other than the restaurant in the marina, it's a long way to the only two other restaurants. In other words, it doesn't have much of what makes Gaeta so great. Although Ostia is just 15 miles from Rome, it requires taking a bus, a train, and a Metro, so it's not as convenient as one might think.

If someone were going to stay on their boat through the winter and wanted a lively place to live, we'd definitely recommend Gaeta. But if one were going to leave their boat for the winter, the less expensive Porto di Roma would be the place. If one is looking for the best winter spot in all of the Med, however, that would be Barcelona, Spain. Cruisers just rave and rave about it. If we're here another summer, we'll spend the next winter there. On the other hand, it's possible we'll ship Ickie across the Atlantic in March of next year, when empty ships mean rates are very low.

- david & bonnie 10/15/02

Readers - We visited Porto di Roma just after it opened, and agree with David and Bonnie that it's a fine marina in less than ideal surroundings.

Pilar - Atkins Ingrid 38
Bill & Diane Pool
Ne-Ar-Ne Water Festival, Philippines
(Redwood City/Portland)

If any of you are in the neighborhood of the Philippines on December 15 of this year, drop by Negros Oriental Island and join us at Port Bonbonon for the Third Annual Ne-Ar-Ne Water Festival and Fisherman's Regatta. You won't be sorry.

The Philippines, you're probably saying to yourselves, isn't that where tourists are kidnapped? Yes, but how many times have you heard stories about mordida and bad water in Mexico, murder in Costa Rica, thieves in Chuk, rascals in Papua New Guinea, and uprisings in the Solomons? Or even the muggings in New York City and road rage in Los Angeles? How many times have you heard people say they wouldn't go places that you've already been, and where you had nothing but wonderful experiences? The Philippines are no different than any other place in the world, in that they are a mixture of humanity's best and worst. Once you're here, however, you'll also quickly learn to avoid anything below 8° North - and that many cruisers have found Port Bonbonon to be a very special place.

When we entered the Philippines in the spring of 1999, our initial impression was of a beautiful and lush land where the people are friendly and generous, and where dollars go a very long way. It happily reminded us of Mexico on steroids. Although we were content, the best was yet to come.

While looking for a safe place to leave Pilar a year later, we sailed to Negros Oriental Island. Upon arriving at Port Bonbonon, we found a well-protected anchorage which, because it's located south of 10° North, is considered reasonably safe from typhoons. Quiet, rural, and somewhat remote, the main draw was Nicky's Yacht Services - and his family's homey Ne-Ar-Ne Store and Restaurant. Cruisers and long-time residents assured us that our boat would be well-cared for, which she was. However, it wasn't until we returned from the States and discovered that we'd missed the first Water Festival that we began to fully appreciate the special qualities of Port Bonbonon.

Up until 10 years ago, cruisers had always anchored in front of the fishing village of Tombobo, which is just inside Bonbonon Bay. While there, a local meal and some supplies could be had at Dorothy's. Not far away were three small European-owned resorts, but tides could be a problem if any cruisers wanted to land a dinghy. Then a decade ago, when electricity and karaoke began attracting big fishing boats, Eric Hanquient on Boy Willie decided to move to the upper bay. In so doing, he became the first yacht to anchor - and stay - at Palinpinon, a wildlife preserve next to Port Bonbonon.

Despite the passing of 10 years, things haven't changed much at Palinpinon. The silence of early morning is broken only by the quick rill of fish being chased and by the rhythmic knocking of the fisherman's paddle against the hull of his banka. Later, the roosters crow as the children walk off to school and the nets are set along the shore. If it's low tide, the laughing women wade out, slowly nudging the mud with their toes, reaching down to collect anything that clinked when they shook their baskets. In the old days, Nicky, a fisherman born in Mindanao, would care for his infant daughter while Arlene would follow the older children down a path to school, selling Nicky's catch along the way. Although little else has changed over the years, now Nicky and Arlene start the day by opening up their store and preparing breakfast for visitors, including sailors. Nicky then makes the first of his twice-daily rounds of the yachts left in his care.

It's hard to say exactly when Ne-Ar-Ne began. If you asked Charlie, Eric, or Paul Collier of Maori II - three of the five earliest sailors to swallow the anchor at Palinpinon - they would say it began when Nicky and Arlene swam out to the yachts offering bananas or fish. Others might say it was a little later, when Bruce Greschke asked Nicky to regularly scrub the bottom of Ewalani, or when Charlie Kandera hired Nicky to help haul his trimaran Legs of Mann. Arlene would probably say it started when her Mama gave her some money from the sale of some land and Nicky used it to build a jetty so that yachties wouldn't have to wade through the mud to come to dinner.

No matter when it started, cruisers have a special appreciation for people who dare to work hard while cheerfully sharing whatever they have. Pointing to the painted names of visiting yachts - there are 85 so far - posted at the restaurant, Arlene and Nicky speak warmly of the contributions cruising friends have made: Louis Martyn on Wayout; Lorne Closs on Acatez; and John Skinner of Naiche, who bought beer from a cooler in the front room of their home. They were the first. Or Charlie, who donated his ship's stove to Arlene's kitchen, which she says was the biggest help. Then there were Lorne and Louie, who first bought prawns for Arlene to cook. Ninka, Thierry, and their twin children aboard Melshor got Arlene started in the laundry business by bringing in dirty clothes. "Oh my God," laughs Arlene, "one day there were so many clothes that the line broke!" It was also Ninka and Thierry who suggested Arlene bake the less sweet bread that foreigners prefer.

When Nicky began constructing the bamboo jetty in 1966, Hans Naarding on Tawarri II donated nylon line, as did Bruce. Soon afterwards, Friday nights were chicken dinner nights at the then new Ne-Ar-Ne Store and Restaurant located at the end of the jetty. "There was one low table made out of a narrow burl slab of acacia, around which everyone crowded," recalls Robert Weniger of Talofa, who arrived in 1998. Robert, who with Ron Leniston of Tirnanog, was a regular at Arlene's dinners, expanded the menu by introducing five kilos of frozen hot dogs and a 'pinoy' Irish coffee. As more cruisers discovered and appreciated the services provided by Nicky and Arlene, Ne-Ar-Ne grew. Mark and Ann Galli, having sold Force 8, provided a chainsaw as a farewell gift for the start of a coconut lumber business. Toni and Craig Renck with their daughter Sherose, financed a small guesthouse on Ne-Ar-Ne's extended jetty when they needed a place to stay while refitting Mallemok. Cruisers, ever-inventive, began laying their boats against the guesthouse for painting and repairs at low tide.

But it was Terry and Mary Iverson, who arrived on Valkyrie in 2000, who conceived Ne-Ar-Ne's first Water Festival and Regatta. Visualized as an activity to bring locals and foreigners together for a day of fun, with the focus on Filipinos and not cruisers, the event was a huge success thanks to the participation of Co Webb on Bronwen, his Filipina wife, Margarita, and Ron. The sailing and paddling races for the local boats were held over a two-day period. All entrants got a free meal and prizes were awarded to the winners. With Valkyrie gone the second year, Ron Leniston rose to the occasion again. Events were added, prizes were increased, and it was decided to serve the meal after the races. Terry and Sandy Sargent of Valhalla sponsored the sailing races; Paul and Susie Collier of Maori II sponsored the Men's Paddling event; Bill and Sylvia Goodwin of Vivace II funded the Women's Paddling, while Bas and Ros Dolken of Spirit of Wychwood oversaw the Children's Paddling. Ron also initiated and judged the Beauty Queen and Talent event, a noble and unselfish gesture, and extended his generosity to sharing sponsorship of the volleyball tournament with Enrique of Borna Quatro. The contestants' meal was sponsored by almost everyone in the bay, including Eric, the original cruiser here, his partner Bing, and Art - the only resident that didn't arrive on a boat - and his wife Jelly.

Words can't properly describe what wonderful fun the Ne-Ar-Ne Water Festival and Fisherman's Regattas have been, so you'd better come and see for yourself.

- bill & diane

Kiapa - Santa Cruz 52
Pete & Sue Wolcott
Corrections And Update
(Kilauea, Hawaii)

We're sitting just a few yards off the dock of the Bora Bora YC enjoying a cold Hinano and indulging in our first Latitude - thanks Raven and Santana - since leaving Hawaii in mid-June. Imagine our surprise to read in the August issue that "friends of Peter and Susan Wolcott . . . tell us it took them 21 days to sail from Mexico to Hawaii." Twenty-one days! It doesn't sound like something a friend would say, but rather a J/Boat dealer to a prospective J/160 customer. We actually had a glorious passage, managing the 2,805 rhumbline miles in 16 days. We didn't have any white sails aboard that could be poled out, so we ended up sailing 3,449 miles - at an average of nearly 9 knots. We would have been a little faster but there was too much wind at night for the kite while doublehanding in cruising mode. We did lots of jib-reaching in the windy second half of the trip, lazily jibing through 90+ degrees!

We only had to use the engine for a few hours - and most of that in the last few miles to ensure that we made it in time for a cheeseburger lunch on the beautiful waterfront in Hilo. Our experience on this trip was consistent with what we have heard from many other cruisers - that the trip from Puerto Vallarta to Hawaii in the spring is very likely the most pleasant long passage in the world. It never gets cold but it's not hot, and the wind is never forward of the beam once you clear Cabo Corrientes - which is in the first 15 miles of the trip.

After a few weeks of taking care of family business, on June 20, we took off from Nawiliwili, Kauai, bound for Papeete. We had the whole family aboard, including sons Brandon, 23, and Jeff, 20. It was the first real cruising we've done together since our trip from Hong Kong to the Philippines and back in 1988. We hadn't heard much about the trip south from Hawaii to French Polynesia other than what you read in the cruising guides, so we weren't sure what to expect. As it turned out, it was quite a trip!

It's about 2,550 miles from Kauai, and before 'friends' report otherwise, it took us 14 days. In the northern hemisphere summer, the course calls for making as much east as possible before getting to the southeast trades. Our goal was to cross 150°W at about 10°N, and then run down 150°W to Papeete. With very brisk - 20 to 25 knot - northeast trades, we wimped out and didn't quite make our goal, actually crossing 150°W at about 7°N. In retrospect, I'd have set an even more aggressive easterly goal, probably 148°W, as the northern third of the trip was actually quite a bit easier than the southern two-thirds. We saw an awful lot of south in the wind below 5°N. The good news was that the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone was very tame when and where we crossed it - which was at about 8°N. We saw a few boomers and a couple of flashes of lightning, but were clear of it all in only six hours.

The big surprise of the passage is that the true wind speed was almost always in the 18 to 24 knot range, and the apparent wind angle was between 30 and 45 degrees. The boat did fine, but sailing to weather for 2,500 miles was pretty hard on the crew. There wasn't a dry spot anywhere outside the cabin, and there were some wet ones inside. We had green water coming down the decks and over/under/through the dodger pretty much nonstop. Plus, between the 20°S, it was awfully warm in a closed-up cabin. When we got to Papeete, it took us three days to get things properly aired out. Based on our trip at least, I could definitely recommend the trip from Tahiti back to Hawaii.

Would I make the trip south again? In a heartbeat! The Societies have afforded great cruising - kinda like Hawaii but with big, beautiful, comfortable anchorages. We also got in a four-week side trip to the wonderfully remote Tuamotu Atolls of Fakarava, Toau, and Rangiroa. The swimming, diving, fishing, snorkeling, shelling, and beachwalking were absolutely tops. The Tuamotus alone were worth the 'price of admission' to French Polynesia.

As soon as we finish reading the July and August Latitudes, and get out our box of repair parts from Santa Cruz Yachts, we'll be off to Suwarrow in the Northern Cooks. We're so far behind the 'pack' that the anchorages are all empty - and that one surely won't disappoint.

- pete & sue 10/1/02

Pete & Sue - Our apologies on the original report that was inaccurate. Averaging close to nine knots for nearly 3,500 miles while doublehanding in cruise mode - that's excellent.

We're intrigued about the claim that P.V. to Hawaii in the spring is the most pleasant long passage in the world. We'd always heard that it was Cape Town to the Lesser Antilles. Any other nominations?

Neverland - Nor'Sea 27
Naftuli Furman
Sea Of Cortez
(Marina Bay, Richmond)

Neverland, my Nor'Sea 27, is as pretty a boat as you'll ever see. She was the smallest boat in last year's Ha-Ha, but I still had a great time. After that event ended in Cabo, I sailed 125 miles up to La Paz. On December 5, I had Neverland hauled and put into dry storage at Marina Palmira. When I returned on June 10, my boat was in perfect shape and nothing was missing.

After putting Neverland back in the water in June, I spent a week at Marina de La Paz, which is a little closer to town. I made a lot of friends and met other cruisers. One such cruiser was Tom Stogsdill of the CT-34 Anna Augusta. Every year he spends a few months at La Paz and the nearby islands - and he's a very happy man! One of my favorite guys in La Paz is Julio Iglesias - the fruit vendor, not the singer - who sets up right outside the marina. He has the best deals on fruits and veggies.

After an enjoyable stay in the marina, I headed out 25 miles to the islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida, which are only separated by a narrow channel. On my way there, I first anchored at Bahia Balandra, a spot famous for a big rock standing on a very skinny stud of mud. I anchored in 18 feet on the southwest part of the bay next to a big cliff. The afternoon was calm and quiet, but the Coromuel winds out of La Paz picked up in the evening, gusting to 30 knots. Luckily, I had set my two anchors in a line, so my wonderful boat didn't drag a foot.

I continued on to Espiritu Santo Island the next morning, enjoying what was left of the Coromuel. For the next three days I enjoyed the island's Caleta de Enmedio anchorage, which I shared with Steve and Angela - and their three big dogs - of the Napa Valley-based Catalina 42 Fruit Cakes. I later went to Caleta Partida, which I didn't enjoy as much because it's big enough to allow the evening winds to build up a good chop. I 'shared' the anchorage with a bunch of pangeros and their music. Hey, it's their country.

My next stop was Caleta Cardoncita, a small, beautiful, totally private bay with white sand on Isla Partida. I stayed there all alone for three days. To me, cruising is all about finding a place like this for oneself. During the day, I'd walk around the cove, later I'd read good books in total silence, finally I'd fish for dinner.

After 10 days of sailing around the islands, I had to return to civilization and the noise of La Paz. I ended up spending 10 more days at Marina de La Paz - $13/night, including electricity and water. Then I had to return home.

After hopefully catching a ride on one of the Ha-Ha boats, I'll return to Neverland in November for more cruising.

- naftuli 9/15/02

Cruise Notes:

There have been disturbing new cases of pirates violently attacking yachties along the north coast of South America in the last few months. According to a report in Jimmy Cornell's Noonsite by Jim and Kathie Coolbaugh of Asylum, the worst happened on September 29 at Punta Hermosa, 50 miles east of Cartagena, Colombia. The Coolbaughs - along with buddyboaters Pat and Willy aboard the Tayana 37 Morning Dew, and singlehander Fred aboard the Mason 44 Eclipse - had stopped for the night after travelling west from Aruba. Shortly after dark, the couple were awakened by the sound of two men trying to break in their companionway door. Katie turned on the deck lights and Jim squirted Bear Pepper Mace at them through an open port. The men jumped into an 20-ft open boat and fled, with Jim firing a couple of flares after them. Fred, on the nearby Eclipse, answered the Coolbaughs' VHF call by saying he was fine, but there was no response from Morning Dew. When they got there, Willy and Pat had a horror story to share. Waking from a deep sleep, they became aware that five bandits - three with pistols and two with shotguns - were coming down the companionway. The men, who were drinking heavily, bound and gagged the couple. After demanding money, the pirates took everything of value before ransacking the boat, going so far as ripping cabinet doors off and breaking eggs on the cabin sole. One shot was fired into the overhead above the nav station, although it might have been by accident. They left, fortunately, before doing any more damage. Willy and Pat managed to keep most of their money.

For many years the relatively isolated coast of Colombia was a Wild West type no-man's land, from which coke and pot were smuggled out, and appliances and cigarettes were smuggled in. Life had always been cheap. In the late '90s, the situation seemed much improved, and cruisers - assisted by a rough guide created by Randy and Laurae Kenoffel of the San Francisco-based Moorings 500 Pizzaz - began to use that often boisterous coastal route to get between Panama and the Eastern Caribbean. The Coolbaughs reported that petty theft and dinghy snatchings are not unusual in the Caribbean, but this was something else, an instance of life-threatening piracy. On the good side, they reported that Colombian officials were very helpful and responsive. The couple also don't want Colombia singled out, noting that cruisers have also been shot in Honduras and Venezuela this year.

According to Phillip Gibbins of the Swan 48 Vellamo, also reporting to Noonsite, the incident in Venezuela happened on October 12 at Isle Coche, just south of Isla Margarita. Five armed men wearing ski masks boarded the vessel Panacea, bound the couple aboard, took everything of value, and ransacked the boat. "As an afterthought while leaving, they shot the skipper in the knee." Fortunately, the skipper is recovering. For more complete reports on both of these incidents, visit

Despite the fact that yachties have been robbed and shot in Venezuela and Colombia for 40 years, there's never been enough violence to deter other cruisers. Besides, both countries have numerous attractions. Colombia is famous for the historic city of Cartagena, which everyone has informally agreed to be more or less the country's murder-free zone. Among Venezuela's top attractions is cheap fuel.

"Twenty-eight cents a gallon - that's the retail price for diesel in Venezuela, the leading exporter of oil to the United States," report Mark and Laurie Matthews. The couple departed San Francisco in '97 aboard the little 26-ft Westerly Centaur Radiance, but replaced her in Florida with the S&S-designed Chris Craft 35 (sailboat) Althea, on which they are now cruising. Ironically, Radiance and Althea had once been neighbors at Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito. We'll have more on cruising Venezuela from the Matthews in the December issue.

Does it pay for countries or islands to treat visiting yachties nicely? Here's what Chris Doyle, author of several popular cruising guides to the Eastern Caribbean, wrote in the Caribbean Compass earlier this year: "It was good to be in a place - Martinique - where things are going well. The yachting industry seemed alive and thriving during my recent visit, especially in Marin, where the marina was full and many business owners seemed content. I have never seen more visiting yachts in this area - which made me wonder whether governments on neighboring islands are sane to be charging visiting yachts significant entry fees. Maybe these Martinique guys know something, as they don't charge any entry fees at all."

"We had a good 1,150-mile sail from Fiji to Auckland, arriving just 10 days before the start of the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series for the America's Cup," reports George Backhus of the Sausalito-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow. "With mostly fair and fresh winds, we had a swift passage of 5 days and 9 hours - an average of 8.91 knots. Other than a 50-knot squall for about an hour, it was an uneventful trip - just the way we like it. But as we got closer to New Zealand and the winds came up from the south, it sure got cold! We'll be in Auckland for the duration of the America's Cup."

A number of cruisers on the scene have reported a wild charter story from Vavu'a, Tonga, where a non-sailing, middle-aged, German-speaking couple approached The Moorings to charter the Beneteau 38 Guinevere for use as a 'hotel'. The Moorings agreed - with the stipulation that the boat could only be moved by one of their captains. The plan worked well for the better part of a week, before a shy Tongan reported that the couple had bought some pigs, chickens, and agricultural supplies - and had loaded them on the relatively small sailboat. The animals quickly became discouraged with life onboard, jumped overboard, and swam home. When The Moorings went to investigate, the boat and couple were gone. To make a long story short, the wrecked boat was found at the uninhabited island of Late, where the couple were in the process of homesteading. Would it come as a surprise to learn that the couple are members of a religious cult looking to escape what they believe will be a nuclear holocaust? Details next month from Guy and Melissa Steven of Pnuema.

"We just left Suwarrow in the Northern Cooks," report Pete and Sue Wolcott of the Kauai-based SC 52 Kiapa. "Suwarrow is an unbelievably fun place - kinda like a Disneyland for cruisers. It's run by a Park Ranger, and the only resident is 72-year-old Papa Joane. We'll send you more about the place next month."

Since there aren't any stores in the middle of the Pacific, Scott Fisher of the Northern California-based Columbia 10.7 Alchemy wasn't worried that he only had $11 when he started his 2,300 passage from Hawaii to San Francisco. "I departed Hilo on August 31 and slept in the cockpit because it was so warm. But when I woke up, I had a cold and it was rough bashing to weather trying to make all the easting I could. I couldn't sleep outside because of the periodic squalls, and my health deteriorated to a point where I think I had pneumonia. I was so weak and dizzy that I put on a harness and clipped-in for the first time, and it seemed as though the bow was a long ways away. I was not having fun. About the sixth day, the Pacific High moved to the point where I was able to turn a little east. Wanting to shorten the trip, I soon cut the corner even further, making my turn for San Francisco at 32° North - which is far to the south of normal. This put me on a course more parallel to the swells, allowing me to get more sleep and prepare better meals. I was still sick, but wasn't feeling quite as bad. On the seventh day, I saw two container ships, and on the 14th day I saw another. On both occasions I was able to send messages to my brother in Hilo. It would have been nice if I'd had some form of long range communication during the trip. The 18th day of the passage was my only really great day, as I sailed at close to hull speed in flat water with lots of sunshine - and I finally caught some fish. My 20th and final day was without wind. Having lost 15 gallons of fuel because of a bad bladder tank, I barely made it under the Golden Gate - at 11 p.m. in a thick and spooky fog. All in all it was a good trip, but it would have been much better if I hadn't gotten sick. Had I more than $11, I might have turned back until I felt better."

It's not uncommon for folks to take off on passages with very little money. What's the least money you ever had when starting a passage of more than 500 miles?

You meet the nicest people cruising. At least most of the time. "Greg Retkowski and I are currently at Marina Flamingo in Costa Rica getting Greg's San Francisco-based Out-Island 41 Scirocco ready to head to Panama and the Eastern Caribbean," reports Cherie Sogsti. "But returning to the boat after a summer's absence wasn't the most fun I've ever had. For after the long flight and ride to the marina, we couldn't find anyone but some scary characters who'd be willing to take us to the boat in the middle of the night. After I took a bad spill on the delapidated docks - resulting in my luggage being splayed around me like a halo - Greg suggested that I go to one of the local restaurants and get a drink while he took care of things. I stumbled into town and found that all of the restaurants were closed - except for a sleazy casino. I was escorted to a table, where I was instantly joined by a friendly drunk. The place was full of loaded fishermen eager to tell their exaggerated stories. I ordered a beer, and that's when I felt the glare on my back. A prostitute had decided that I had encroached on her territory, and she didn't like it one bit. In fact, her customer started hitting on me, and she wasn't having any of it. She stuck her face in my face, and gave me a nasty look. I wanted to tell her that if she wasn't careful her face was going to freeze with that mean expression - but I couldn't remember how to say 'freeze' in Spanish. It probably saved me a black eye. I let the casino know that I had a boyfriend who would arrive any second, but nobody believed me. The row of hookers at the bar put secret curses on me, but Greg arrived an hour later, saving me from any uncalled-for voodoo."

More on Greg and Cherie's adventures next month.

"The Club Cruceros de La Paz has set the week of April 7 to 14 of next year as the dates for the next Sea of Cortez Sailing Week," reports Tomas Daly, who is the Jefe de Web. "The dates were moved up to coincide with higher tides and to give cruisers the opportunity to attend both Sailing Week and Loreto Fest at the beginning of May. In addition, cruisers who plan to be in La Paz at the end of November should consider donating time, goods, or money to the club's annual Subasta (auction) to help less fortunate local kids. Anyone wanting to make donations should contact the club at The actual auction, which is a major cruiser event in La Paz, will be held at Marina de La Paz on December 1."

"After five years of cruising the East Coast, Panama, and beautiful Mexico," report Jack and Jodie Baker of the Richmond-based Island Packet 40 Elixir, "we returned to the Bay Area. We started our Baja Bash on July 14 - well after the start of hurricane season - with Ernie Mendez, Peter Voelter, and brother Don as crew. After a brief stop in Cabo for fuel and to monitor the development of a tropical storm to the south, we headed north in calm conditions. The highlight of our one-week trip to San Diego was not bad weather, but rather a pod of 300 dolphins and six gray whales which paralleled Elixir and repeatedly breeched. After cruising Southern California waters and leaving the boat in Oxnard for awhile, Jack brought the boat north with Peter Bennett and Peter Voelter as crew. Although there was pea soup thick fog as far north as Pt. Sur, there was no wind and the seas were flat all the way along the route. In fact, the only wind we saw was coming into the Gate! It only took us 46 hours from Oxnard, and we figured we got 75 'free' miles from the current. We can't see any reason to keep a beautiful cruising boat for daysailing, so we've put Elixir up for sale. Jodie will stay in California riding horses and visiting friends this winter, while I'll be shipping out on November 1 with Blair Grinols aboard Capricorn Cat for Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and very likey Fiji."

"We are currently in San Carlos, Sea of Cortez, and are looking for information on the next Puddle Jump," write Charles and Evelene Gallardo of the Kensington-based Nor'West 33 Skye. "We signed up for last year's Baja Ha-Ha, but unfortunately Charles ended up in the hospital the day before the start. We eventually sailed to Cabo a month later, so it turned out well. This summer we enjoyed a wonderful inland trip to Mexico's Colonial Heartland. Now, we're considering doing the Puddle Jump from Mexico to the Marquesas. Where can we get information, as there was nothing on the Latitude website?

Latitude and Paradise Resort & Marina will be putting on a pre-Puddle Jump Party at Nuevo Vallarta sometime during the first week in March. It should be understood that most of the Puddle Jump organizing is done by Puddle Jumpers themselves, so depending on who is 'Jumping', it can be very organized or haphazard. Last year's group was the most organized ever, as the 'class' put together a rather comprehensive book titled an Original Guide to Puddle Jumping. We're sure this will be the basis of information for subsequent classes for years to come. Talk of the 2003 Puddle Jump is a little premature, but come the first of the year there will be lots of it on the Mexico nets and in Latitude.

"After four years of cruising the east coast and the Caribbean, we are looking forward to the day we drop the hook in San Diego Bay," report Randy Beyer and Eileen Stevenson of the San Diego-based Valiant 42 Avalon. "Although San Diego is our home, we've had no experience sailing in the Pacific Ocean - other than up to Costa Rica - where we left our boat for hurricane season - following our Canal transit. We plan to begin our northward trek to San Diego in November, arriving sometime in the early spring - which should give us plenty of time for stops along the way. So far our cruising experience has taught us that timing is critical for successful passages, so can you advise us when the wind and sea conditions are most favorable from Costa Rica to Mexico, and then Cabo and San Diego? What hazards, if any, we should be anticipate? Finally, what would be the most interesting ports of call?"

We hate to tell you, but winter and spring are the worst times of the year for Papagayos and Tehauntepec'ers - although the latter are particularly easy to avoid because of reliable forecasting. Spring is also the worst season to do a Baja Bash. Nonetheless, there are always lulls between the blows, so if you have time and patience - the great lesson of Tolstoy's War and Peace - you shouldn't have much of a problem. There are no unusual hazards in Mexico, other than tequila, of course, and the fact that you may freeze your buns off coming up the chilly Baja coast. As for the most interesting ports of call, you'll have time to hit them all, so you will be able to decide for yourself. Have a good trip!

"Cruisers need to be aware of the bad situation with taxis in the Loreto/Puerto Escondido area of Baja," reports Richard, no last name or boat name, who reports he's been down there for 19 years. "I had my van confiscated in Loreto for allowing a newly arrived cruising couple to have a ride to Loreto for breakfast and to use the Internet. This kind of harrassment has been going on for years. One elderly woman has been arrested three times and bothered several more - and all of it has been set up by the taxi owners. The police back them up by saying the only people who can ride in the car with you are your family."

"As graduates of the 2000 Ha-Ha, we always become nostalgic at this time of year," report Mike and Gale Cannady of the Longview, Washington-based Cal 34-III Wild Rover, which is currently in Norfolk, Virgina. "If we only knew then what we know now! Actually, it's been a fantastic two years, and we're still having fun. In fact, our recent cruising in the Chesapeake Bay has been our most enjoyable ever." Next month we'll have a report on the Cannadys in the Chesapeake.

By the time this issue hits the streets, the 2002-2003 cruising season in Mexico will have begun. Happy and safe sailing to everyone! We hope you'll remember the following dates:
January 31-February 2 - Zihua SailFest.
March 19 - Punta de Mita Spinnaker Cup For Charity.
March 20-23 - Banderas Bay Regatta.
April 7-14 - Sea of Cortez Sailing Week.
May 2-5 - Loreto Fest.
We hope to see you down there.

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