November, 2003

With reports this month from Punk Dolphin drifting away at Beveridge Reef; from Chewbacca on cruising aboard a small cat; from Shayna on actively cruising in a couple's 70s; from Wanderlust on becoming a nature lover in the Galapagos; from Annapurna on moving on from Thailand to the Maldives; from Buccaneer Days at Two Harbors, Catalina; from Joliga II in New Guinea; from Notre Vie in the Med; from The Cat's Meow in Puerto Escondido; and Cruise Notes.

Punk Dolphin - Wylie 38
Bird Livingston & Suzie Grubler
Lost Our Anchor Rode
(Point Richmond)

The night started innocently enough. We anchored Punk on a lee shore just inside the pass at Beveridge Reef - a tiny coral reef in the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific - so we would be close to the pass for diving the following day. Our friends and fellow divers on the Swan 57 Cowrie Dancer were anchored about 40 yards away, and invited us for dinner. We had just finished a delicious curry chicken meal and were chatting about the usual yachtie stuff when it started pouring down rain. Having battened down the hatches before leaving Punk, and having brought our foul weather gear with us, we had no worries, right? Wrong.

Soon the wind started howling at more than 30 knots, making the seas inside the lagoon too big for our 2 hp outboard-powered dinghy. We looked out the companionway every now and then to make sure Punk wasn't dragging and continued our visit - although we were anxious about the situation and wanted to get back to our boat. For one thing, Jonathan had not put the anchor rode through the hawse pipe, and casually mentioned that he was a little concerned about potential chafe from the bow roller.

There were several lulls in the wind, but each time we'd put our foulies back on and get ready to go, it would howl at 30 knots again. Realizing it would be very hard to safely get into our dinghy, let alone make it back to our boat, we kept postponing the trip. Even our hosts mentioned they were concerned about the possibility of having to come to our rescue if our dinghy flipped.

When the wind finally dropped to 24 knots, we made a break for it. Getting into the dinghy was like trying to step onto the back of a bucking bronco - but we made it successfully and started motoring towards Punky. The first thing we noticed is that she was stern to the wind and waves, which was really weird. As we got closer, we noticed there wasn't an anchor rode coming off the bow anymore! Shit, shit, shit!

'Ladies and gentlemen, start your engine', we said to ourselves, for our boat was headed out the pass. There was so much adrenaline pumping through my body that I was shaking, but luckily Bird and I managed to keep thinking clearly. He got the engine started and Punky turned around before she ended up on the reef or drifted out the pass to never-never land. We must have used up a lot of karma points on this incident, because had we stayed on Cowrie Dancer for even just a couple of more minutes, there's no telling what would have happened to our boat.

Bird checked the bow of Punk and confirmed that our rode had chafed through. We had known better, of course, but we figured we'd only be gone a couple of hours, and there was no way the rode could chafe through so quickly. But it did.

But our troubles weren't over yet. Motoring around inside a little barrier reef at night is nerve-racking in itself, but when Jonathan told me to steer 270° to exit the pass out into the ocean, I just about freaked! Actually, I mutinied. I told him that if he wanted to try to negotiate the pass when he couldn't see the reef, he'd have to do it himself, because I refused.

Bird's first instinct had been to blow little Beveridge by heading for the open ocean and Tonga. He thought that would be the safest. Then he realized it would be dumb to leave our anchor and all our chain in a place where we could easily retrieve it the next day. So his second thought was to get outside the reef and hove to for the night. Mind you, we have another anchor and lots of rope rode, but all our chain was on the bottom of the lagoon. And the lagoon has so many coral heads that it was unlikely that a rope road would last through the night.

Fortunately, when Bird radioed Cowrie Dancer to update our situation, Dale mentioned they had extra half-inch chain and a big CQR. Whew! We motored up and down the lagoon until Dale could get things ready, then pulled up to the dinghy behind their boat to pick up the new ground tackle. We held station while he attached his chain and anchor, then threw it all overboard.

I'm typing this email while on anchor watch, counting our blessings. We could easily be boatless right now.

Even before this happened, Bird had been itching to get underway to Tonga because the Beveridge Reef lagoon doesn't provide much protection and it's rolly at anchor - and he hates rolly anchorages. But I thought the diving is phenomenal, so I talked him into staying one more night for one more dive the following morning. So I'll be getting my wish of another dive tomorrow - diving to find our lost anchor and chain! After that, we'll be on our way.

- suzie 10/3/03

Chewbacca - Crowther 30 Cat
The Winship Family
Currently in Panama

Ever since the editor of Latitude, and Chris White, the author of Cruising Multihulls, have made public the notion that cruising in a catamaran under 40 feet is unsafe, we on Chewbacca have been sieged with questions regarding our young family and our boat. Chewbacca is a Lock Crowther-designed 30-footer with a 22-foot beam. Starting in 1985, she became known as a proven race boat in Australia, and was later campaigned in San Francisco - winning several races including the Doublehanded Farallones. After we bought her eight years ago, we traded away her racing sails for anchor chain, thereby beginning the process of turning her into an admittedly spartan cruising boat.

For the past three years, starting with a Ha-Ha, we have put our cat through her paces cruising in Mexico, Central America, and now down to Panama. Even after all this time we're still learning a lot about our boat. Luckily, we're still not experts at sailing a 30-ft cat through real storms and big seas, but so far she's handled several bouts of fairly nasty weather well. Potential cat owners always ask how important the '40-foot rule' is. This is how we 'little cat' people feel about it:

1) Much as with monohulls, when all other things are equal, the potential boat speed increases with the waterline. But more importantly, the longer the waterline, the greater the load carrying ability. This is critical on cruising boats, because these days cruisers like to take just about everything with them. It's not unheard for boats to have washer/dryers, trash compactors, and electrical systems that could power a small village. But an overloaded multihull not only performs poorly, but is potentially less stable and less safe. A few designers are answering this problem by simply making the hulls wider. This increases the cargo carrying capacity, but at the expense of performance. This may be why most of today's production catamarans are 36 feet and longer, and why the average length seems to be getting longer every year.

We recognize the limited weight carrying capacity of our small catamaran, and have therefore done our best to keep her light. In the process, our boat has become what some other cruisers call 'technologically challenged'. For example, our running water system consists of my wife April running out of water and me having to get into the dink and running off to fill another jerry jug. We have no water tankage - unless you count the five jugs of water we carry belowdeck. So far I haven't had to rebuild a watermaker or replace a leaking water tank, but I probably have more mileage on my Tevas then the next guy.

Want a cold drink? We left our fridge ashore. Luckily, every now and then we anchor next to some of the kindest cruisers - who actually have cooled drinks. You should see the kids' eyes twinkle when they see our friends on the trawlers Epilog or 401K drop anchor within rowing distance! Actually, it normally wasn't too hard to find ice throughout Mexico and Central America.

Since our cat's auxiliary power comes from a single 9.9 hp outboard, we don't have an alternator to charge up the batteries. So we supplement our power needs with a small solar panel and a wind generator. The real workhorse, however, is a 1,000-watt Honda generator coupled to a 45-amp IOTA brand battery charger. When the sun and wind don't cooperate, our generator is always able to top off a half depleted battery bank in an hour or so. The generator and charger weigh in at less than 35 lbs, and their combined cost - $800 - is less than a big solar panel or another wind generator. The generator also runs the sewing machine and all our power tools, so we don't need a big and expensive inverter either.

In our windlass locker, you'll find a pair of leather gloves that I use to haul up the hook. Our autopilot came off a Cal 20.

2) We believe that a blanket statement suggesting that the safety of a boat increases with her waterline can be very misleading. We've seen 50-ft boats - both monohull and multihull - that we wouldn't cross Lake Merritt on, but we've also seen 26-ft boats that have successfully crossed oceans. We think that the design, construction, and condition of a boat are the most important factors in her being seaworthy.

3) When asked about the trade-offs of turning a race horse into a plow horse, I have to admit we no longer reach along at 14 knots as we used to off Alcatraz, and that we've had to raise the waterline twice. On the other hand, I haven't worn socks in three years - it's a cross that I must bear.

4) Would we like a bigger catamaran? Yes - but not at the cost of having to work for another five years. We'd rather go now with what we have, which is more than adequate - unless we needed full standing headroom for the whole family.

5) Cats may not be 'salty' looking, but I've never heard anyone describe Êlan or Pantera as being ugly. With lines as classic as a red Ferrari, they look fast even when tied to the dock.

Luckily for us, the wind has been from aft most of the way to Panama, and perhaps because we have such an ugly boat, we have had most of the anchorages to ourselves. So, here we are, anchored off a paradise of an island, watching another tropical sunset, probably not knowing how bad off we really are. I think I'll get in my Porta-Bote and go look for some ice for my rum.

- bruce 10/15/03

Shayna - Hylas 45.5
Larry Hirsch & Dorothy Taylor
Cruising Two Boats
(San Diego)

The 'Old Fogies' are still at it! We completed our 'circumnavigation' of the Atlantic in January, sailing from the Med to Martinique via the Canary Islands, thus ending five years of cruising in Europe. Our Atlantic crossing was a great 21-day sleighride - not bad for a couple in our mid-70s! After bopping down to Bonaire to leave our boat for hurricane season, we flew home to San Diego for a few months.

What we really need to tell you about is what we did in Europe for the last two summers. After a taste of canal cruising in the United Kingdom a few years ago, we thought we needed a change of pace and scenery from ocean sailing. So while we wintered on Shayna in Barcelona two years ago, we started to look for a stinkpot canal boat in Europe. We had a great time wandering through France and The Netherlands, mostly by rental car, checking them out.

Our original plan was romantic - to buy an old iron Dutch canal barge. We quickly came to the conclusion that they were too big and would require a ton of time and money to upgrade. Then we heard that the Crown Blue Line, a company that is sort of the Sunsail of canal boats - in fact, Sunsail owns them - sells off some of their older canal charter boats every year. So we ended up buying a 40-ft, three-bedroom, two-bath, 25-year-old ex-charter boat with a four-banger Perkins diesel.

Buying a boat in the Netherlands is simplicity to the nth degree. There is no paperwork or government registration - at least for boats under 40 feet with limited speed capability. Liability insurance isn't required, but it's very cheap so we bought it. We didn't have the boat surveyed, figuring that we two old salts knew what we were looking at. Larry did want to haul the boat out to check her hull. Since Tulip had never been in saltwater, her bottom was as smooth as the proverbial baby's behind.

Our Shayna is pretty much a high-tech boat with all the bells and whistles, but not Tulip. When you canal, it's a whole different thing, as there is no need for radios, GPS, speedos, depthsounders, paper or electronic charts, pilot books, autopilots, or inverters. You don't even need a compass!

We named our new boat Tulip and spent two glorious summers cruising the Dutch canals and rivers, returning to our faithful Shayna for the rest of the year. If this wasn't a sailing magazine, we'd tell you all about it. But at the beginning of this year we decided that with family commitments to nine grandchildren, it was impossible for us to maintain two boats. Since by this time we'd learned we were more saltwater than freshwater mariners, and that canaling is too tame for us, we put Tulip up for sale. She sold in a week ­ until the buyer got cold feet at the last minute.

Although we're still two-boat owners, we'll head back to Bonaire next week and start our trip to Cartagena, the San Blas Islands, and into the Pacific. Look out Mexico, we're coming back!

- larry & dorothy 10/20/03

Larry and Dorothy - We hadn't heard from you in a little while, so we were getting a little worried. The arrival of your 'Changes' made our week, as you two are tremendous inspirations. Somewhere between Mexico and Cartagena you'll be passing in the opposite direction of Profligate, so she'll be keeping an eye out for you.

Wanderlust - Hunter 466
Mike Harker
San Cristobal, Galapagos
(Manhattan Beach)

My crew of Carla, the beautiful redhead from Namibia, and Fabio, a Brazilian I met in Panama, are here with me enjoying the Galapagos after a sail from Panama. The Ecuadorian government has a new rule for yachties in the Galapagos - we can stay for 20 days and visit all three ports. This week we are at San Cristobal, and before long we'll be moving on to Isabella and finally Santa Cruz.

The Ecuadorians are the most friendly and helpful people we've met to date. Right now, Fabio is on a three-day dive excursion, while Carla and I are relaxing in port. She'll fly home next week from Santa Cruz to continue her studies, so I may look for a new third crewmember as our next leg to the Marquesas will be 3,500 miles.

My future plans are to stay in the Marquesas for a few weeks, then sail to Hawaii at the end of November, arriving before Christmas. I will then fly home for a few weeks before returning to Hawaii to sail my boat back to the Bay Area in time for Pacific Sail Expo in April. Hunter wants to show off my boat there once again. Next fall, I plan to do my second Baja Ha-Ha, then hang around Mexico and Banderas Bay until the Puddle Jump to French Polynesia in April. Then I'll continue west to do a circumnavigation. Since I've already sailed this boat to the Med, I will have completed the loop there in 2005.

I've read that Profligate will be going through the Canal soon in order to spend New Year's in St. Barth. The Wanderer recommended New Year's at St. Barth to me, and we briefly met there on my boat and then again on Ticonderoga for New Year's Eve. It was great!

The new Marina Flamenco will be partially finished when Profligate arrives in Panama. David Cooper, a very friendly American, is the dockmaster. You can reach him on VHF 10 or by in order to reserve a slip or mooring. When you get to the Colon side, please give a copy of the appropriate Latitude to the taxi driver whose picture ran with my report on the transit. And if you get any spare time waiting for a lock assignment, don't miss the Las Perlas Islands - and particularly the beautiful Hacienda del Mar hotel at the south end of San Juan Island.

Update #1 - We're now at Isla Isabella, and I just spent the most fantastic afternoon of my entire voyage! After an all day sail yesterday, we arrived at the Puerto Villamil anchorage at night. The entrance is trickly enough during dayllight, but at night it was very difficult because it's tucked in behind some reefs and there's not much water. Anyway, this morning I put my kayak in the water for a short paddling session to loosen up my muscles - and quickly discovered that during the day this place is a perfect spot for communing with nature!

Puerto Villamil is not on the normal tourist route, so there are no sightseeing or dive boats that are based out of here. The village only has two dozen buildings, all of which are brightly painted and kept clean. It's a long and complicated dinghy ride to the small pier, then a mile walk from there into town. So I decided to take a little kayak tour before going to town. Anyway, what started out to be a 30-minute warm-up kayak trip turned into an excellent four-hour adventure with more nature and sea life than you get to see during an all day trip to the zoo. While paddling into a quiet lagoon, I was quite literally greeted by a dozen or more huge sea tortoises! They would pop their heads out of the water and stare at me from just three feet away. Then they'd swim under my kayak, pop up on the other side, and stare at me some more. They didn't tire of it, and more kept showing up.

Eventually, I decided to move on, and began looking for a "shark lagoon" that a local fisherman said was "over there somewhere". Finding a small path through the mangroves, I came to a channel six feet deep and wide - where there must have been 25 white tipped sharks darting about trying to stay out of each others' way. One hundred and fifty feet further down the path, the rocks and mangroves opened up into a large lagoon that was six to 10 feet deep. Here the sharks roamed around as if looking for someone to eat!

Back on the kayak, I cruised around to where some large cactus stood proud on a rocky ledge. At the base of the tallest cactus was a six-foot long black iguana slowly moving to higher ground. He found a nice spot and lay quietly in the sun, not letting anything bother him.

On a small point around the corner, there was a group of birds and crabs enjoying the afternoon sun. The crabs were bright reddish-orange, and moved slowly in groups of two or three over the black lava rock. They crawled right across the powder blue colored feet of the blue-footed boobies! Sharing the same rock with these unique boobies were a dozen penguins! I could walk right up to the penquins and they would lift a wing or foot, and pose for me with a smile! They didn't seem to sense any danger. I probably could have gotten out of my kayak and sat next to them, but the smell of the guano was a little too strong. With the large variety of birds overhead and the seals swimming around, it was a nature lover's paradise. In fact, I'm becoming a nature lover!

Update #2 - Carla has left for her home in Namibia to continue her studies. Before she left, she befriended a girl named Lean who was on a stipend from a university to study in a foreign country. Having become disillusioned with all the restrictions in the Galapagos, Lean has decided to join Fabio and I for further adventures in the Galapagos and then for the long trip to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. We leave tomorrow.

My family keeps asking me why I've been doing all this rapid cruising when I have such a good life in Manhattan Beach and at Lake Arrowhead. I tell them that I'm 57 years old and can only do this once. There will be plenty of time for me to sit at home and watch the Travel Channel when I hit 60!

- mike 11/02/03

Mike - Sit at home at age 60? Next month we'll have a feature on a guy about to finish his second circumnavigation - and he's 30 years your senior!

Annapurna - Hans Christian 48
Buddy & Ruth Ellison
Thailand To Turkey, Part I
(San Francisco)

Sad that our time in Thailand and Southeast Asia was over, on January 7 we set sail across the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka, the first stop on our way to the Red Sea and the Med. We had a nice eight-day sail to Galle on the southwest tip of the island, with moderate northeast tradewinds all the way. There have been border disputes between the north and south of Sri Lanka, but luckily they were speaking to each other while we were there.

Once we got secure in the harbor at Galle, we had time to look around and were pleasantly surprised. The people speak English, the tuk-tuks weren't terribly expensive, and the drivers and other service providers weren't too pushy. As usual, the locals seemed to have huge smiles. Galle is quite a step down from Phuket, of course, but all services were available to those who asked around. Mike's Yacht Services is quite a place, as they arrange for fuel, gas, tours, laundry - and have quite a good dry market. Mike has a price list for everything from cereals to mayonnaise, pickles, olives, pasta - all the stuff we think we can't live without. We also went jewelry shopping, as Sri Lanka is supposed to be famous for its sapphires.

We also went on a one-day safari with eight other yachties. We drove three hours over not-so-smooth roads with oh so many obstacles - cars, people, bicycles, motorbikes, cows, and dogs - crowding the streets. We arrived at the Yala National Park around 10 a.m., and got into a jeep with bench seats for a four-hour drive around the park. It was a Motrin ride, but fun. Although nice, Yala doesn't have the grandeur of a Yellowstone or Yosemite.

Since all the cruising notes highly recommended an island trip around Sri Lanka, Mike arranged for us and two other cruising couples to do a five-day trip. It cost $32 a day, including the van and Hemisiri the driver, who spoke good English and who was very helpful. We quickly learned that Sri Lanka is a beautifully colorful island with white sandy beaches, friendly people and villages, green hills, ancient ruins, and beautiful artwork.

We first went to an underground Buddhist temple in Matara, then north to Ella and Nurawa Eliya, where we spent the first night at the Alpine Hotel - $27 including a nice buffet. This is one of the highest peaks in Sri Lanka, and it was actually cold. We bundled up in what we brought, which wasn't much, but we survived. Later we learned you have to ask for a heater, extra blanket, and towels.

We next travelled through the amazingly picturesque and lush tea country. We passed women on the hillsides picking the tea, then visited a factory to sample the Ceylonese tea. It was all very civilized. We learned that the poorest quality tea goes into tea bags, so if you are a tea drinker, buy it loose. Our second night was spent in Kandy, where we went to the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka's most religious site - because it's supposedly home to a portion of Buddha's tooth! Afterwards we saw some genuine Sri Lankan dancing, which wasn't too bad, and had front row seats for the firewalking!

We'd planned an trip north to Sirigiya, where we intended to spend the night. Unfortunately, one of our group, Lorraine of Iolanthe, wasn't feeling too well. In fact, she got up in the middle of the night, fainted, and hit her head on the tile floor! She had to be taken to the hospital for 10 stitches. So she and her husband stayed in the hotel while the four of us - including Rod and Mary off Carillion - went on to Sirigiya and returned to Kandy that night. We climbed to the top of the famous rock, having to make an unthinkable amount of steps - and we were charged $15 each for our efforts.

The view from Sirigiya was spectacular, however, and some call it the 'Eighth Wonder of the World'. King Kasyapa, who killed his father and usurped the throne from his older brother Moggallana, the rightful successor, carved the rock during the 5th century A.D. Kasyapa was rightfully paranoid, so he built a fortress with moats, walls, and crocodiles. Two huge lion's paws flank the entrance to the upper palace, and metal steps have been installed for the final nosebleed climb. It took 60,000 slaves seven years to build Sigiriya - and sometimes we cruisers think we have it tough.

The next day Lorraine was a little worse for wear, but we plodded on to the Elephant Orphanage about 90 minutes west of Kandy. As far as getting up close and personal with animals, this was a close second to Borneo and the orangutans. We walked with the cute little elephant buggers and watched them bathe in the river. It was definitely worth the trip! The rest of the day was spent driving back to Galle. It wasn't a long distance, but it took lots of time because the roads are atrocious and the streets are jam-packed in the towns. It reminded us of driving in Vietnam and Cambodia, although Sri Lanka is much prettier.

Our 443-mile passage to Ulegama in the Maldive Islands was, as most passages are, a mixed bag. The seas were eerie - glassy calm, with a mist that seemed to combine the sky with the water. It looked like a cross between velvet and blue jello. We saw dolphins, birds, and a few turtles along the way. All eight boats in our little group got so much favorable current the last day that we had to slow down in order to arrive after dawn.

Uleguma is the northernmost atoll in the Maldives, the Ihavandhippolhu Atoll. It reminded us of the Tuamotus and other parts of the South Pacific - except they are 100% Muslim. Of the 26 atolls and 1,200 islands, none is more than 10 feet above sea level - so the people of the Maldives potentially have a lot to lose from global warming.

The people are extremely friendly, except for the officials who were professionally aloof. The government seems to have a stranglehold over the population, and they don't want the population interacting with tourists - except in a few designated tourist areas. Despite the Arab Muslim thing of wanting people to stay away from infidels, the regular folks want to interact anyway - and do so when Big Brother isn't watching. The locals weren't allowed on any yachts, and we had to be out of their villages after dark. We're not sure what the punishment would be if a local was caught fraternizing with a "foreign devil" - perhaps jail, flogging, standing in the corner with a dunce hat - who knows? For those of us from open societies, such restrictions are hard to understand.

But it's their country and we can leave any time we want, so we respect their wishes even though we don't agree with them. The Muslims do like our money, however, as well as when we do things like fix a generator, seal a leaking fishing canoe, give school supplies to the kids, and books to the library. All of this has to be approved by local officials first, however - talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

On the positive side, it's very pretty in the Maldives. The town we visited was extremely clean, with sand 'streets' and buildings made of coral and rock. As we walked through the village, people with huge smiles invited us to sample of their food and to drink some Tang(!) while sitting under a palm tree. Buddy loved the food, which is spicy as in Thailand.

We enjoyed our week in the Maldives, especially the laid back pace compared to Thailand and Sri Lanka - not to mention the crystal clear water. Unfortunately, we had to hide our three spearguns to keep the officials from confiscating them. They tell the yachties that scuba diving isn't allowed because they have "no medical facilities for decompression". Funny, there are scuba dive resorts everywhere. We were allowed to fish with lines, but that's no good for Buddy, who loves to shoot his fish. In fact, he hasn't caught a fish with a line in 2.5 years - since we were in the Louisiades in Papua New Guinea.

- ruth 9/15/03

Buccaneer Days
Aahrr, Those That Dies
Will Be The Lucky Ones!
Two Harbors, Catalina

You know the difference between pirates and buccaneers? Pirates could be of any nationality and stole from anyone, anywhere. Buccaneers, on the other hand, were groups of runaway slaves, Dutch, English, and French criminals and runaways, all of whom hated the Spanish, who ruled most of the Caribbean during the 1600s. Buccaneers were originally known as boucaniers because they lived in the Caribbean and preserved meat by roasting it on a barbecue, called a 'boucan', and cured it with smoke. In time, the term buccaneer came to be used to describe any unscrupulous adventurer in the Caribbean.

In early October of each year, Two Harbors on Catalina hosts Buccaneer Days, when everybody is supposed to dress up as a buccaneer or wench, and just about anything goes. "What happens on the island, stays on the island," is the motto. So all we can say is that many folks had great costumes, much cleavage - with coins or bills propped between the boobs - was displayed, and prodigious amounts of hard liquor were consumed. Despite Two Harbors being packed with partying people - all the moorings in the area were taken and the anchorage was crowded - everyone pretty much behaved themselves.

Joliga II - Ranger 29
John Sloboda
Misadventures In Papua New Guinea

I returned to Bwagoia, Misima Isla, PNG, on August 24, having had a bumpy ride through the Wuri-Wuri Pass. It was a good sail as I didn't have to motor until I got to the harbor. I stayed for about two weeks, mailing eight letters, buying more supplies (booze), filling the water tanks and jugs, and topping off the diesel. I also attempted to patch my dinghy yet again. During this time, I watched as 12 other cruising boats came and went. I mostly had winds of about 15 knots in the anchorage, but there were some squalls and calms.

I checked out of PNG on September 8, then I did my 'final final' shopping - 10 gallons of diesel, a case of beer, another box of mixed food, three bottles of scotch, and five newspapers. I placed the plastic bag containing the newspapers in the dinghy, then stepped into it - and found myself up to my knees in water! The dinghy floor was now attached only at the front and back! I don't know how I managed to get back to the boat, but I did. Naturally, the papers were all wet along with just about everything else. Oh my, the ongoing saga of my leaky dinghy.

Leaving Bwagoia Harbor the next day, I motorsailed 18 miles to Wuri-Wuri Pass. As I did, the rpms on my diesel started to drop off. I had no idea what was happening, so I continued on another 10 miles to Pana Numara, intermittently losing diesel revs. I finally shut down the diesel to investigate - and discovered the electric fuel pump was off. That explained a lot of things!

Tearing into the fuel system the next day, I found the primary filter half empty - making me wonder how the diesel had run at all. After bleeding the system, I managed to get the engine started, and after a few minutes she was running as smooth as ever.

I tried to inflate my spare dinghy, a Quicksilver model with a failing starboard tube. I soon determined that it was useless to me, and told the local kids they could take it ashore and do whatever they wanted with it. Meanwhile, I distributed presents to the people - Bernard, Joshua, Paul, Simwell, and Pastor Warren - who had previously helped me retrieve my anchor and chain.

During the next couple of days, I continued on to Grass Isla and than Hata-Lawi Harbor, where I saw a crocodile on a reef 100 yards to the south of me. So I decided to try to glue my dinghy again, both inside and outside on the port side.

On the 24th, my diesel overheated, so I turned her off and let her cool down. When I started her again, she ran normally. The next day my diesel overheated again in five minutes flat, so I took the fresh water pump apart. Guess what? There were no blades left on the impeller. I didn't have a spare, so I was up Shit Creek without a paddle.

I headed toward Gizo in the Solomon Islands on the 27th, but after tacking back and forth for three hours with the autopilot cutting in and out, I had to hand steer - which I really hate! It turned out to be a bad plug connection, which, after I discovered it, I was able to fix quickly. After I got only five miles to Nimoa, Jack from Egress and Andy from Djapana came out in their dinghies to help me anchor. It would have been difficult without an engine and without them. Captain Suerto - Captain Lucky - lucked out again.

Once the hook was down, I explained my water impeller problem to Andy. Not only did he have a replacement impeller for me, but he also installed it. What a Prince! The pump is very awkward to get to. First, I had to empty the stores in the quarter berth, a major chore. Then he had to lean through the access panel, stick his head and left arm in, and remove four screws from the cover. I know how hard it is because I'd done it the day before and was still aching all over. The lucky part is that Andy delayed his departure for another anchorage just to help me anchor. It's wonderful how cruisers help other cruisers out here.

I headed out for the Solomons again on the 29th, but Murphy wasn't done with me yet. Having covered 133 miles at a five-knot average in six-foot seas, I started hearing crunching sounds from my autopilot. Having heard these sounds before, I tore everything out of the quarter berth to get the spare out. A couple of hours later, the autopilot gave up the ghost for good. As I was sailing to weather, the helm was balanced, so I locked the wheel down and replaced autopilots. It took about half an hour to do that job, and I only got backwinded at the very end when a wave skewed the boat around. So I continued on to Gizo.

I sailed and motorsailed to Gizo, dropped the hook in front of the new market they are building, and was fast asleep before noon.

- john 11/15/03

John - You're a wild one, Captain Suerto! But please do everyone - and most of all yourself - a favor by buying another impeller before you buy another bottle of scotch.

For you readers who don't know where John got his nickname, more than 10 years ago he and his boat became separated about 25 miles west of the Panama Canal. After swimming around for nine hours, his screams for help were faintly heard in the darkness by a cruise ship doctor's wife who just happened to be taking an evening stroll. It was a one in a million chance.

Notre Vie - Amel Maramu 53
Ken Burnap & Nancy Gaffney
Corsica To Greece
(Santa Cruz)

It was August when we last checked in, we were in Corsica, and Europe was experiencing its worst heatwave of the century. During the day, we would either sail, and the wind would keep us refreshed, or we would anchor and swim to lower our body temperature. Thankfully, there was a cool breeze blowing down from the mountains most nights, making it possible to sleep.

When we started our cruise from the Atlantic coast of France in April, our goal was to 'sail south until the butter melted'. By the time we reached Bonifacio - a beautiful, natural steep-sided harbor on the southern tip of Corsica - the thermometer had climbed to 115°! And that was with a 20-knot breeze blowing. As we tied to the dock, my brain felt as though it were melting. The heat had both of us believing that it was Friday when it was actually Saturday. This was crucial, because it's generally a no-no for us to go into a harbor on a weekend. But since it was Saturday, we entered against what appeared to be a race of boats heading into the harbor. There was an opposing race, however, of boats heading out of the harbor. Just for fun, ferry boats were blowing their horns and riding everybody's butts. One ferry sideswiped a small motor boat to push it out of the way! Inside the harbor, folks in dinghies raced around doing their best to find places for the incoming boats. Dear Capt. Ken persevered, steering us through the mob so carefully that I only had to fend off once.

From Bonifacio, we headed south across the Strait of Bonifacio to Sardinia and its Maddalena Islands. We wandered down the east coast of the Med's second largest island, stopping at the relatively new port of Santa Marie Navarrese. We secured the boat so we could rent a car and have a look around their spectacular mountains. Sardinia's well-paved highways made for easy traveling - except for the fact there's little signage for side roads. Having missed a turn and road to a lake we wanted to see, we ended up on a goat path. We wound up having to have an impromptu lunch of hard cheese and crackers under a cypress tree high on the mountain. At least it was pleasant, as we got to listen to the sound of sheep bells and watch cows take a siesta.

From Sardinia, we had an overnight sail to San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, where two different kinds of coast guard kept telling mariners to move to different places. The second night, one coast guard wanted us in one place and the other coast guard wanted us in another place. Ken told them we had engine trouble - well, the oil was due to be changed - to bluff our way into not having to move the second night.

The next morning we left for Cefalu, which was much more friendly because it didn't have any coast guard at all. After anchoring off the white sand beach of the Old Town, we took our dinghy to shore to explore. We made it as far as the first interesting restaurant, where the food was so delicious that we ate three courses, had a bottle of wine, and made a dinner reservation for the cool of the evening! Cefalu was a great stop - we'd definitely go back again.

We later explored the volcanic Aeolian Islands, which are off the north coast of Sicily and, if Homer is to be believed, are 'home of the winds'. We then crossed the Straits of Messina, whose currents and whirlpools were mentioned in the Odyssey. The whirlpools have reportedly been diminished by changes in the topography because of earthquakes, and no monsters reached out to grab us. Nonetheless, it still was an impressive passage - and we saw whitewater patches locally known as basterdi. Actually the gods - or at least the currents and the wind - were with us, as we sailed seven knots DDW, but had a speed over the ground of 10 knots. We didn't fully realize the extent of our luck until we anchored in Taormina Bay and discovered that our engine had blown a plug and had been spraying seawater all over the engine room! If we'd needed to use the engine for more than just anchoring, we might have had much more serious problems. After a bit of foreign language fun trying to find the right tools and a replacement plug, we got the engine fixed.

Our sail to Greece consisted of an enjoyable two nights of beam reaching. Mars shone at its brightest these nights, and in combination with our being on the water put us in touch of the vastness of it all. We also experienced a wonderful sense of absolute freedom: to go naked; to play Beethoven's Ninth at full blast while barreling through the night; to have a beer and potato chips when coming off watch at 7 a.m. This is cruising.

After checking in with the authorities and getting our Greek cruising permit in Celphalonia, we headed over to Ithaca, the island home of Odysseus. In fact, the bay we anchored in, Ormas Pera Pigadhi, is at the bottom of Arethusa's spring, which still flows today. At the top is Korax, 'Raven's Rock', also from The Odyssey. It has the same name today. It's a very beautiful place, and the spring makes the water very refreshing for swimming. As we were watching the sun go behind the hill, I mentioned that I wanted to see the ravens. "There they are," said Ken. And sure enough, three ravens swooped down near the water, and back up to the ridge - no doubt ancestors of those mentioned by Odysseus. It was breathtaking.

We have now passed through the Gulf of Patras and are in the Gulf of Corinth at the town of Itea, were we took a bus to Delphi. We are provisioning for our trip through the Corinth Canal and on to the Aegean Sea.

- nancy 9/8/03

The Cat's Meow - 52-ft Trawler
Martin & Robin Hardy
Having Fun Doing Good
(San Pedro)

We're aboard our 1968 custom 52-ft wood trawler The Cat's Meow, anchored in one of the beautiful spots just south of Puerto Escondido, Baja, enjoying everything about life. After so many nice things were written about our help during the aftermath of Hurricane Marty, you may be tired of hearing about us, but we would like to add our two cents worth.

Yes, our San Pedro-based The Cat's Meow certainly did provide lots of muscle and a good staging area for rescuing six boats here in Puerto Escondido. Some of the salvages were a little dicey, some were just plain dangerous, but in the end we were able to pull and tow all six boats to safety. We want to say 'thank you' for everyone's appreciation of our old 'stinkpot' - but we also want to mention that not one of those six boats could have been saved had there not been lots of other folks willing to put in their time, effort, and sometimes dinghies, to make the rescues successful.

Three of the rescues lasted until well after nightfall, and one didn't end until 3 a.m. People from at least eight boats were involved in every one of the recoveries, and 12 boats were involved in the refloating of Winsome, the sailing vessel left high and dry about five miles south of Puerto Escondido. No one in their right mind would want to experience a hurricane, but those of us who were in Puerto Escondido during Marty came out of it knowing that we were better prepared for boat and water emergencies. We helped each other before, during, and after the storm. This community of cruisers - and the landlubbers who assisted us in many ways - has come together as a very responsive and tight group of folks.

A few days after Marty had moved on, the two of us hosted a party for the entire anchorage on The Cat's Meow. This was our 'Kick Him in the Ass Good-bye' party for Marty, providing everyone with a chance to kick back and relax, regale each other with hurricane stories, and to come together for a last time in one place. We don't know how many bodies crowded onto TCM, but I would guess at least 60. It was the only time we wondered if our big old boat would sink!

For our 'tattered flag' contest, we put the entries up on the top deck for all to see for judging. The winners received new Mexico courtesy flags provided by Ed and Lori of Allie. A good time was had by all!

Now The Cat's Meow and crew is getting back to the cruising life she loves, enjoying the islands and anchorages in the Sea of Cortez. She is a good ole boat, and we, like many others, appreciate her very much.

- robin & martin 10/15/03

Robin & Martin - In light of the unstinting efforts by you and your trawler, by the authority vested in us by nobody, we proclaim the two of you to be Honorary Sailors. Well done! And that goes for all the rest of you folks down there who went far beyond the call of duty to save boats belonging to people who had left the area for the summer. May your future cruising be sweet, for you richly deserve it.

Cruise Notes:

Just before going to press, we received word via the Central America Breakfast Club that John Haste's San Diego-based Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing was stopped and robbed in Cartagena Bay shortly after leaving a boatyard. Apparently there was only one person aboard the cat, and he slowed down for three men in a cayuco blocking the boat's path. Brandishing a shotgun, the trio boarded the boat, put a hood over the skipper's head, and bound him before stealing valuables, electronics, and $400 in cash. The skipper was reportedly bruised but not seriously injured. Haste is a friend from years of Little Wing and Profligate competing in numerous Ha-Has and Banderas Bay Regattas. His boat was passing through Cartagena on her way to the Eastern Caribbean, where we hoped - and still hope - to resume our cat rivalry at St. Barth on New Year's Eve. We're not sure if Haste was in Cartagena at the time of the incident, as he was slated to crew in the Ha-Ha the following week aboard Bob Smith's Sidney, British Columbia-based 44-ft cat Pantera.

Colombia is a country beset by horrible problems, of course, but Cartagena had always been a relative oasis, as drug lords, revolutionaries, and paramilitary groups have maintained a curious truce within the city limits. While there has always been plenty of theft in Cartagena - Big O's dinghy was brazenly stolen right off Club Nautico - it's rarely been at the point of a gun. We hope this latest incident doesn't signal a change for the worse, as Cartagena is a fabulous city much loved by cruisers from around the world.

Previous to the robbery, we received this report from Little Wing: "Accompanied by Big John Folvig of the San Diego-based Andrews 70 Elysium and Ha-Ha vet Mark Sciarretta, we left the marina at Puesto del Sol, Nicaragua, on a Tuesday, and stopped at Banana Bay Marina in Costa Rica until Saturday. Then we had a fast close reach which we hoped would last long enough for us to make it from Golfito, Costa Rica, to the Panama Canal in one day - but the wind faded. My Canal agent tells me that since it's the off season, we should be able to transit in just 48 hours. As for Little Wing, the lightning strike in Nicaragua caused extensive damage to the inverter, sailing instruments, thru hull transducers, VHF radio antenna, engine relays, and microprocessor boards for the watermaker, autopilot, GPS, and refrigeration. It's at a time like this that I appreciate the simplicity of Profligate."

When it comes to Central America and Panama, lightning doesn't strike twice - it strikes just about all the time. "Our boat was struck by lightning at Playa Naranjo in Costa Rica's Gulf of Nicoya in early July," report Les Sutton and Diane Grant of the Northern California-based Albin Nimbus 42 Gemini. "The list of damaged equipment was endless, as the only things to survive were the radar, one GPS, the TV, and the computer - which we'd put inside the oven for protection. There was no structural damage to our boat. We've now got Gemini 95% back together and are working on an article about the strike, the shock, the evaluation, the acquisition of new and repaired equipment, getting it shipped to and from Costa Rica, and the new installation." It sounds like a long story.

If you've read this month's Letters, you know that Dockwise Yacht Transport has announced they will be using their semi-submersible yacht transports on routes from Puerto Vallarta and La Paz to Ensenada and Vancouver starting in April and May of next year. We at Latitude have been encouraging them to do this for years, and are glad to see that they are apparently going forward with it. It means that given enough money, you could cruise Mexico in the winter and the Inland Passage to Alaska in the summer. So far we haven't gotten a quote back, but we remember that some folks once paid $4,250 to have their Columbia 36 shipped from Ensenada to Vancouver. Although shipping a boat doesn't seem cheap at first glance, it can sometimes be a viable option when all expenses are considered - especially for 'commuter cruisers' who are still working and have more money than time and are looking to expand their cruising range. For details, visit

That said, Mark and Sue Purdy of the Napa-based Perry 43 catamaran Tango, which they bought and cruised in Australia, tell us that potential Dockwise customers have reason to be skeptical. While in Australia, the Purdys and 12 other boatowners had an agreement with Dockwise to ship their boats to the United States. But just two weeks before the slated departure, Dockwise informed the owners that they had filled their ship with boats in New Zealand - and therefore weren't going to bother coming to Australia! Having never been given an inkling that this might happen, the 13 boatowners were left high and dry - and angry. Purdy tells us he had a signed contract with Dockwise, but they had refused to let him put down a deposit. So caveat emptor!

"My name is Jose Villalon, and although a Cuban born citizen of the United States, I've been residing in Mazatlan for the past nine years. As the incoming Commodore of the Club de Vela in Mazatlan, I invite all members of the Baja Ha-Ha, as well as all other cruisers, to join us in our activities. We have 27 active clubmembers who own 16 boats between 26 and 44 feet. In addition to having several social sailing outings, we host 36 PHRF races a year. All the races are open, and we are frequently joined by cruising boats passing through. I'm also wondering if there would be any interest in a fun race from Mazatlan to Isla Isabella for those on their way to Puerto Vallarta."

For more information on the Matzatlan YC events, just ask around for Villalon when you pull into town.

"I don't have anything much worth writing about," advises Roy Wessbecher of the Brookings Harbor, Oregon-based Columbia 34 and Lafitte 44, both of which are named Breta. "Many cruisers travelling up and down the coast temporarily park in the empty slip next to me, so at least I still have a few vicarious cruising experiences. I also have a small house, into which I have moved my aging mom. I mostly still live on my boat, and will head out cruising again at some point - although not anytime soon. A few of my former female crew are still interested in coming along when I'm ready."

We'd written Wessbecher to ask what he was up to, because in the late '90s he made one of the most interesting and economical circumnavigations we can remember. A relatively novice sailor from Northern California, Wessbecher bought a basic Columbia 34 Mk II for something like $12,000, then set out around the world alone because he didn't feel he was a good enough sailor to risk the welfare of anyone coming with him. By the time he reached Australia, he had become a competent sailor, so he posted a notice for crew at a youth hostel. From then on, he sailed with a series of 17 young women, some of whom joined him a second or third time years later. Even more unusual was the economy with which Wessbecher cruised. "I kept an exact record of all my expenses during my four-year, nine-month, nine-day circumnavigation from Puerto Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta. I spent a total of $25,300 - which is $5,350 a year or $14.66 a day. Having budgeted $20/day, I came out way ahead. These numbers include every single expenditure - although it should be noted that I had no major breakdowns, only did two bottom jobs, and never flew back home."

Imagine being able to cruise for an entire year for the price of one or two Northern California house payments.

Rick Carpenter has returned to Zihuatanejo, so Rick's Bar - pretty much 'cruiser central' in that popular destination - will reopen for the season on October 31. We're sure that the Zihautanejo YC, which is actually a restaurant on the side of the hill overlooking the bay, will be opening about the same time - if it wasn't open throughout the summer. If you want a delicious steak at a reasonable price, we recommend you visit Walter at the Zihua YC.

"The annual Subasta in La Paz, where the Club Cruceros de La Paz raises money through an auction for the poor children of La Paz, is set for November 30 of this year," writes the organization committee. "Subasta, which means 'auction', predates the founding of the Club Cruceros, and started when the members of the cruising fleet in La Paz donated items to be auctioned out of the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of Marina de La Paz. Things like blankets, sweaters, food baskets, and toys, were bought with the auction proceeds and distributed to the most needy neighborhoods of La Paz. Thereafter, the event became a joint effort of the Club Cruceros and the JayCees. All 100% of the funds collected are used to purchase toys for the Arbol del Niño Pobre (poor children's tree). The event has grown so much that we now need the entire parking lot of the marina, and there are booths for local artisans, a bazaar of used clothing, fresh bakery items, and numerous food stands. We are affiliated with Fundación Para Los Niños de La Paz, A.C., which has several programs to help the needy children of La Paz. The proceeds from this year's Subasta will be used for a program to feed children in two colonias on the outskirts of La Paz, and scholarships for children in the same neighborhoods. For the year 2003-2004, the Fundación placed 86 scholarships to middle and high school - more than double the amount for 2002-2003. The Fundación also purchases medication for children of low and no-income families. In order to have a successful Subasta, we need your help. For those of you in the Ha-Ha headed to La Paz, please bring any marine or household items, and/or clothing as a donation to the auction or to sell at our bazaar. As always, we also need your help to work the Subasta. When you get to La Paz, please get in touch with anyone from Club Cruceros de La Paz, or contact Mary Shroyer at Marina de La Paz. We guarantee you will have fun. If you're not coming to La Paz, please visit to see how you can still contribute."

We at Latitude believe Subasta is a very worthy endeavor.

"I'm the owner of the Newport 40 Sambita, the so-called 'miracle boat' that ended up, thanks to hurricane Marty, more or less intact on the breakwater at Puerto Escondido," writes Lonnie Spencer of Palo Alto. "Check out the accompanying photo I received from a friend. I've been instructed by my insurance carrier to leave her as she lies until an adjuster can get there and make an evaluation. I'm hoping that another storm doesn't arrive before the adjustor does. My boat is the only one blown ashore in Puerto Escondido that cruisers haven't refloated - and that's only because of my insurance company. By the way, I met the Wanderer in Puerto Escondido 15 years ago and helped him launch a Cal 25 he trailered down from Northern California; he was going to sail her down to Caleta Partida for Sea of Cortez Sailing Week."

Dave Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops tells us he owned Sambita before Spencer, and if the insurance company totals her, he'd like to buy her back. "Merry and I really miss Mexico!"

Speaking of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, it apparently died at age 20 last year. Slade Ogletree and the folks at Paradise Found YC have replaced it with Island Madness, which is basically the same thing at basically the same place, but with more energy and organization. We're told that event will be held April 18-25, making it a feeder event for the very popular Loreto Fest that is held in early May a little further north at Puerto Escondido. Ogletree tells us that an important part of Island Madness will be beach clean-ups out at the islands - a terrific idea that deserves the support of all cruisers.

How quickly a decade passes! We recently got a call from Rob and Mary Messenger of the Northern California-based Custom 46-footer Maude I. Jones, which is currently in Trinidad. We know it's taken them nine years to sail 85% of the way around the world because they started with the first Baja Ha-Ha back in '94. During the first leg of that first Ha-Ha, Mary suffered some rope burns on her neck after being snagged by the mainsheet during an uncontrolled jibe. Fortunately, she decided to stick with the trip.

Thieves in Colombia and Venezuela tend to rely on superior firepower to pull their heists, while thieves in the Eastern Caribbean tend to rely more on finesse. Writing to Caribbean Compass, Margaret Mackintosh of the sailing vessel South Fork reports that while moored in at St. Georges, Grenada, in September, she and her husband hoisted their dinghy with 15-hp outboard three feet off the water for the night to be sure it wouldn't get stolen. But when they woke up in the morning, their outboard was nonetheless gone. So either they slept very soundly or the local thieves are particularly talented. For the record, South Fork had her dinghy stolen two years before at Porlamar, Venezuela - a hotbed of sticky fingers.

The political fighting over Cuba would be funny if it weren't so tragic. Last month, President Bush declared that the U.S. government was going to crack down on Americans - including cruisers - who violate the Treasury Department's ban on Americans spending money in Castro's Crib. Meanwhile, a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations committee, having been lobbied by members of the travel industry, passed a measure that would block the U.S. Treasury Department from enforcing the ban! Spending money - or "trading with the enemy" - is the only grounds by which it's illegal for Americans to visit Cuba. The House measure is before the Senate, but even if they pass it, Bush can veto it. Some ban! Over 140,000 Americans visited the center for human rights violations last year. One hundred thousand of them were Cuban-Americans who did it legally because they were born there; another 35,000 did it legally by means of so-called humanitarian, religious, and journalistic excuses; and another 35,000 did it illegally on the grounds they weren't going to let the American government tell them they couldn't go someplace.

Once Castro croaks, it's expected that the ban will quickly be lifted and over one million Americans will flock to Cuba the first year, and three million a year within five years. This terrifies Cuban officials, who know their country doesn't have the facilities or skilled workers to handle such an avalanche of visitors. So they've announced that because there will surely be such great demand, prices will go up to limit the number of visitors. If these 'supply and demanders' don't sound like seasoned capitalists drooling over an upcoming near monopoly situation, we don't know what. If you want to see Cuba while it's still weird in the Castro way, we recommend you visit sooner rather than later.

Nobody is going to claim that the relatively civilized British Virgins Islands are as bad as Cuba when it comes to human rights, but they've pulled a few boners, too. Back in 1980, for example, the government there passed a law that allowed Immigration officials to deny entry to anyone with a dreadlock hairstyle. No, we're not making this up. The purpose of the law was to give officials a means by which they could keep "Rastafarians and hippies" out of the BVIs. It wasn't until two months ago that the law was repealed.

"Since leaving Puntarenas, Costa Rica, we've mostly been motoring," report Dave Smith and Angie Deglandon of the Seattle-based Passport 40 Magic Carpet Ride. "We anchored off the ritzy Los Sueños, the new marina in southern Costa Rica, as the slips were too pricey for us. Fuel was reasonable, however, and the wonderful dock staff allowed us to refill our water tanks. The anchorage was quite rolly - as most have been in Costa Rica - because of the southwest swell. We also spent five rolly days at Bahia Drake, but we thought it was isolated enough to be worth it. From there we made two day trips to a nearby island for diving and hiking. We also spent several days in Golfito, and can report there is a new marina, King & Bardell, in addition to Banana Bay Marina. While fueling, Carlos and his friendly staff will let you take on water and enjoy a shower. We anchored off Land & Sea, which maintains some moorings, and Tim and Katy were as helpful as ever. After buying our favorite rum in a duty free shop, we headed to Panama. If we thought Bahia Drake was rolly, Puerto Armuelles proved we hadn't really known the meaning of the word! We got there about dusk, which is squall time. We had to reanchor several times, then watched the depth drop to just two feet beneath our keel. After a sleepless night, we headed on to Isla Parida, which seems like paradise - lots of anchorages and nobody around except at the occasional fishing village. We traded a bottle of cooking oil, some powdered milk, and some rice for three good-sized lobsters, a huge avocado, and some lemons. Then Angie landed a Pacific bumper just before dark. All fish that you catch tastes delicious - even if you have to barbecue it by flashlight!

"My wife Brenda and I have cruised the Pacific Ocean since leaving San Francisco in November of 1996," writes Rod Bulcher of the Gulfstar 50 Glory Days. "I'm not the most prolific writer, as this is only my third letter to your awesome rag - copies of which are cherished possessions in the South Pacific. Although we wonder if we aren't overdoing a good thing, we continue to enjoy the lovely South Pacific cruising during the southern hemisphere winters, and the comfortable and friendly conditions in New Zealand and Australia during the summers. So far our path has covered the normal Milk Run stops including the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Societies, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu. We are currently in the Louisiades, which are part of Papua New Guinea, and lie just southeast of the large island of New Guinea. These travels might sound like they involve an excess of coconut tree-lined white sandy beaches, but who can tire of paradise?

"I'm primarily writing to caution cruisers visiting Australia to avoid using UPS for shipments into that country," continues Bulcher. "Although UPS graciously agrees to make "yacht in transit" deliveries to Australia, they can only do it to New South Wales, where they have a license, not Queensland, where most of the yachties spend the summer, and where they don't have a license. In our case, UPS's misrepresentation forced us to pay $150 of unnecessary duty on $450 worth of parts sent by Balmar. After seven contacts and countless long conversations, the truth finally emerged - UPS hasn't posted the bond necessary to import items duty free into Queensland. So if a cruiser in Brisbane or Mooloolaba uses UPS, he/she will be required to pay the added 30% duties on items shipped. Please note that DHL, FedEx, and even the Post Office can get things to cruisers in Queensland without them having to pay the 30% duty. On a happier note, next year we'll leave the Pacific to sail to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand."

While at the Mexico-Only Crew List and Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party at the Encinal YC on October 1, we bumped into Jean Ryan of the Santa Cruz-based Catalina 42 Neener3. She was telling everybody that when it comes to having friendly and sociable cruisers, there is absolutely no place that can match Mexico. She and her husband Pete hadn't found the same sense of cruiser community in the Caribbean, and it hasn't even been close in Georgia, where they currently have their boat.

Don't go looking for offseason mooring bargains in Costa Rica. Ron Milton and Kathleen Buyers of the Napa-based MacGregor 65 Vivace tell us Banana Bay Marina wanted $1,200 a month for their boat. They found a nearby place for just $300 a month for a mooring, and paid a guy about $250 more a month to start the engines and watch over her. We got this information from Kathleen, who was also at the Crew List Party, where she was looking for crew to help them sail Vivace across the Atlantic to the Med.

"After 11 months, we finally got out of Bahia del Sol and headed south," report Matt and Judy Johnston of the San Francisco-based Cabo Rico 38 Elsewhere. "We had a great time in El Salvador, but it was time to move, as I was getting too proprietary and defensive about the place. I apologize to anyone I may have offended in my previous letter to Latitude. After leaving El Salvador in late April, we continued nonstop to Bahia Elena, in Costa Rica. We've been in Costa Rica ever since, having a great time. In addition to cruising the coast, we made an inland trip to Monte Verde and San Jose. Monte Verde offers an incredible cloud forest experience that we would recommend folks not miss. While in San Jose, we toured the Cabo Rico factory where our boat had been built. They treated us like royalty, and showed us everything possible about this booming boatbuilding entity so far from the ocean. But look out for pickpockets in Costa Rica! Attempts were made on us in both San Jose and Puntareanas. We don't carry credit cards or any significant amount of money, so we only lost $25. We then took our boat to Golfito, where we left her for the summer. We are going to have to delay our return to the end of October, as I'm recovering from a dislocated and broken elbow."

"Since Profligate will be motoring hard to reach the Panama Canal as quickly as possible on her way to the Eastern Caribbean, I've jotted down some fueling notes that might help her and other boats headed that way," writes Sven Querner of the Sausalito-based Brewer 50 Reliance. "The information is based on my experience and requires stretching the rules a little, if you know what I mean.

"Cabo San Lucas: You don't have to clear in and out to take on fuel, but you might as well since this will be your port of entry into Mexico. The fuel is clean and you can pay with a credit card for a 5% surcharge. The water is good.

"Zihuatanejo: You don't have to check in for fuel, which is clean. Water is okay. It's best to arrive early in the morning before the wind chop comes up.

"Acapulco: There is no need to check in. Go to the Acapulco YC, preferably in the morning when there is less wind. The fuel is clean and you can use a credit card with a 5% surcharge. The water is so-so.

"Puerto Madero: It's mandatory that you check in with the port captain. You have to go to Immigration at the airport - which is 20 miles inland. The fuel is all right, but you have to pay with cash. Water is okay.

"Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala: Must check in with the Navy, who will charge $100 for one to five days. Fuel has to be transported to the dock by tanker truck, which could cause a delay. You must pay in cash.

"Barillas Marina Club, El Salvador: All formalities can be handled at the club. Clean water and fuel, cash or credit card. Because of the bar, it would have to be a 24-hour stopover.

"Puerto Del Sol Marina, Nicaragua: I didn't stop at Roberto Membrano's new Puesto del Sol Marina, but there have been good reports.

"Golfito, Costa Rica: It's easy to get into Banana Bay Marina at Golfito. Take on fuel and water, have lunch, then take the next ebb back out into the Gulf. Clearing in and out can be dispensed with. The few miles out of the way are worth it for the clean fuel.

"Flamenco Marina, Panama. Arrive in the morning for better conditions. Fuel is as much as 40 cents less a gallon than at the Balboa YC.

"I'm not responsible for anyone who stretches the rules too far and gets into trouble."

Ha-Ha participants as well as cruisers who arrive in Mexico early for the season are to be reminded that lots of folks have the welcome mat out beyond Cabo, which is really a sportfishing and drinking town. La Paz normally welcomes scores of boats, but they may have limited capacity because of hurricane problems this summer. Check before making big plans. Mazatlan, however, is ready and waiting for a big influx of cruisers, and has lots of activities planned. Most organized of all are the businesses of Banderas Bay, who spearheaded by Paradise Village Resort and Marina, invite you to the Banderas Bay Cruising Season Kick-Off Fiesta Week November 17-23. This sounds like a blast, and there will be many free activities and scores of prizes. Dick Markie of Paradise Village will be spreading the word.

With that, let the winter cruising season of 2003-2004 begin. Happy sailing!

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