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November 2007

Missing the pictures? See the November 2007 eBook!

With reports this month from Po'Oino Roa in the Marshall Islands; Confetti on a year's whirlwind cruise of Mexico and the South Pacific; Freewind on being pleased with boatwork in Thailand; Swell on the pleasures of being alone in the Marquesas and Tuamotus; Velella on the conclusion of a seven-year cruise in the South Pacific and Asia; Anna, on arriving in the U.S. as penniless immigrants and leaving as cruisers; and Cruise Notes.

Po'Oino Roa — Peterson 44
Jerry & Kathy McGraw
The Marshall Islands Are Great
(Newport Beach)

Spurred on by the fact that I have just finished the September Latitude with the '07 Puddle Jump recap, and have just visited the internet and learned that the Cal Bears have the #2 ranked football team in the country, I figured it was finally time to check back in.

We're currently in the Marshall Islands, but did the '06 — not '07 — Puddle Jump. Thanks to a combination of lassitude, internet illiteracy, and having too much fun, we never got around to sending any updates. Our P.J. was mostly uneventful. Jerry did have to spend a couple of days re-fiberglassing the box that 'Otto' the autopilot attaches to, and some additional time getting the saltwater out of 'Miss Perky' Perkins after the anti-siphon valve failed. Other than that, it was a lovely 23-day crossing.

We enjoyed the Marquesas, where Jerry submitted his body to the hands of a tattoo artist. We then continued on to the Tuamotus, where we donated Profligate's old duct-taped "Frankenstein" spinnaker to Richard on Manihi Atoll. The pearl farmers say they are going to figure out some use for it.

After our visit to the Society Islands, we broke from the crowd by heading to Penrhyn in the northern Cooks before continuing to Suwarrow and Samoa. Penrhyn was a particularly memorable stop, as we were only the third yacht to have stopped there by that time that season. We spent several weeks anchored off the village of Takuua on the northwest corner of the atoll, and had a truly wonderful time.

After stopping at Suwarrow, which seems to be on every cruisers itinerary, we continued on to the Samoas, both Western and American. After that, we again broke from the pack. If we wanted to be cold, we'd have gone to Idaho or somewhere in the States with great skiing, not made a rough passage to New Zealand. So we opted for a pleasant trip north through Tuvalu, Kiribati and onto the Marshall Islands.

We've been in the Marshalls for 10 months now, and can report that the cruising grounds are great and the anchorages uncrowded. In fact, it's so uncrowded that we're alone when we go visit the other atolls. It would be nice to have one or two other boats to share them with.

Here's to hoping that everyone has a great Ha-Ha XIV!

— jerry 10/01/07

Confetti — Farr 44
Dan Zuiches & Danielle Dignan
The One Year Cruise
(San Francisco)

As I write, we and Confetti are on our way back to San Francisco from Hawaii to conclude a whirlwind year of cruising. I taught my husband to sail when we first met five years ago, and we began racing one-designs on the Bay. I drove and he called tactics. Sailing has since become his passion. We wanted to do a cruise while we were still young, 37 and 35, so we left the Bay last October 8. By late September we should be back in the Bay. When we arrive, we'll have covered over 12,000 miles — with a 6.5-knot average while offshore, despite having burned just 300 gallons of fuel. Despite seven crew changes, we were able to stick to a rigorous schedule without compromising safety.

We became owners of our cold-molded boat in late July of '06, which meant we only had 10 weeks to get her ready to go offshore. As such, we only worked on things that demanded immediate attention, knowing we'd end up doing a lot of 'fixing things in exotic places'. We added gear, drilled holes, ripped out old systems, extricated ourselves from house/jobs/lives, and were practically bolting the new toilet into place as we cast off, but we did it on time. Boy, did it feel good to sail beneath the Gate and turn left!

We crossed the border into Mexico on October 21 heading for Scorpion Bay, and along the way petted dolphins, grilled the freshest possible dorado, and flew our symmetrical kite for just the third time. Once the hook was down, we immediately paddled straight to one of our all-time favorite surf breaks. We'd driven to Scorpion Bay many times before to surf, but it was so much better to have arrived on our own boat. After some waves, we shoved off for La Paz, pulling into Marina Palmira to clear in and buy some groceries. The big hurry was that we had to start work for the National Outdoor Leadership School in the Sea in early November. We would spend much of the winter teaching leadership while on small boat sailing expeditions.

Sailing north of La Paz, we hit the season's first Norther head on, and ended up sailing 200 miles upwind, which gave both us and our new rigging a real breaking in. It was so rough that the oriental rug atop the cabin sole that we slept on gave us 'magic carpet rides' whenever the boat launched off one of the notoriously steep waves. We rounded the point into Conception Bay on November 3 under spinnaker. Having gotten a little too cocky, we almost ran aground in waters that I know — thanks to having spent 10 winters there — like the back of my hand. With Confetti securely moored and our egos back in check, we began to fulfill our work obligations. During breaks over the next several months, we cruised to some of our favorite not-in-the-cruising-guides anchorages. And when I say sailed, I mean sailed, because our engine was out of commission for most of the winter. We got good at sailing on and off the hook out of necessity.

By springtime the engine was running once again, thanks to the help of a Mexican diesel mechanic who, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, wasn't too keen on the dinghy rides to and from the boat. With work completed, we stopped in La Paz to load up on salsa, tortillas, avocados and cold Modelos. On April 3, with three NOLS instructors along as crew, we set sail for the 2,800-mile distant Marquesas. Things continued to break on the boat — the watermaker, instruments, bilge pumps, and more — but we were fine with it, and sped in the direction of the Southern Cross, fixing things, flying lots of sail, playing Scrabble and Hearts, and happy in the knowledge that we'd taken on extra fuel for the doldrums.

Not wanting an easy passage, we were lucky to have our 18-year-old Volvo die, thanks to the shot oil cooler, halfway to the Marquesas. So we trimmed the sails carefully and squall-hopped to keep the boat going. We appreciated the positive attitude of our crew, who didn't complain when we had to turn off the fridge and watermaker, throw out the rotting food, and go on water rations. We had solar panels, but the cloud cover at the equator precluded them from making any more power than what we needed for the essentials. Eighteen days out of La Paz, we tacked up the channel into Taiohae Bay and dropped the hook. One cruiser commented that we were "quite sporting to sail onto anchor." Not by choice, my friend, not by choice. Confetti had exceeded all our sailing expectations, and would continue to for the rest of our voyage.

FedEx came through by delivering our new oil cooler a week later, and we soon got it installed. When I say 'we', I mean Dan. He was able to contort his body into seemingly impossible yoga-like positions for hours on end in what was truly ungodly heat. He kept repeating an adage about boat projects we'd heard from a friend: "You can see it, or you can touch it — never both!"

On our way with an auxiliary again, Hinano chilling in the fridge, the watermaker topping off our supply, and diesel tanks and jugs conveniently still full from Mexico, we shoved off on the little 600-mile jump down to Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotus. Halfway there, with the kite up, adventure struck again, as the autopilot suddenly went crazy and jammed the helm hard to port. We jibed twice before anyone could get to the circuit breaker. Thankfully, we are in the habit of rigging a preventer, so the only damage was to our nerves.

A day later we transited our first pass in the South Pacific, and began the most enjoyable part of cruising — playing in the water, be it diving with sharks or surfing reef breaks in solitude. After a few days of fun in the sun, we popped over to Papeete, where Polynesian Yacht Services proved to be invaluable helping us clear in. Tired, hungry and having been out of civilization for a while, we showered and showed up at the nicest restaurant we could find, eager to partake in the local culinary delights. But we were turned away by the maitre'd, who was disgusted that we could even entertain the thought of dining before 7 p.m. When we returned at the appropriate time 15 minutes later, he could barely look us in the eye. Gauche or not, we enjoyed fabulous steaks and good wine.

Two aunts, a cousin, and my mother flew in May 18, autopilot parts in hand. They all sailed with us to Moorea and Huahine, and unfortunately had to endure the worst weather of our trip. David and Theresa, J/105 friends from the Bay, joined us for the sail to Raratonga. Hoping for some heavy wind with these fine sailors, we experienced the most benign conditions to date. At least Theresa got to sail in her bikinis — all 10 of them — something she doesn't get to do on the Bay.

It was on this passage that Dan, while stowing gear deep in the lazarette, tore his meniscus. After being fitted with a homemade knee-brace, he was confined to the aft-cabin for the duration of the three-day passage and, on advice from an ER friend, for the entire seven days at Rarotonga. He recovered quickly.

Our next destination was Suwarrow, with a crew from Wyoming and Belgium. With nobody wanting to sail to windward, we revised our plans and headed to Beveridge Reef, a remote ring of coral in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It was the coolest place we've ever been. We frolicked in the aquarium-like water, acting like real cruisers by hanging on the hook for an entire week. The uncharted pass was not for the faint of heart, but the unparalleled beauty of the lagoon was worth it.

Remote Niue was our southernmost destination, and we had no choice but to take a mooring in the rolly and somewhat marginal anchorage. If it weren't for the wonderful locals, we probably wouldn't have stayed. After our goodbyes, we slipped our mooring and headed north for the first time since Mexico. By July 3, we were heading into the infamous harbor at Pago Pago, trying to keep an open mind after all the horrible things we'd heard. But we were not impressed by the flotillas of plastic bottles and foam, the malodorous tuna factories, or the red-colored water from an algae bloom caused, according to the local paper, by Chinese laundry detergent. So we got our projects and provisioning done, met our new crew — three more NOLS instructors, and yes, they were armed with yet more replacement gear — at the airport, and shoved off. Our destination was 60 miles upwind, the Manu'a Islands, which are truly the gem of American Samoa. The coral inside the marine park was the healthiest we'd seen anywhere, and the lush greenery of the islands was out of this world.

This was followed by a 1,250-mile beat to Fanning Island. We had a great ride under a storm jib, which had been cut to fit around our furled genoa. Confetti is fast upwind, so after nine days of hard sailing, we were rewarded with snorkeling, surfing and the company of the sweet-natured locals.

After a good four-day rest, we rode the ebb out of the pass under a full moon, and pointed the bow at Honolulu. It was on this passage that our feelings for the windvane began to thaw, as no autopilot or hands were needed to steer a perfect course. On my first cruising boat, which had a full keel, the windvane had been like a reliable full-time crewmember. But when reaching or running on flat-bottomed Confetti, our vane drove like a drunken sailor. The only option was to luff and shorten sail. But we were truly glad to have the vane for the upwind trip.

Six days and 1,050 miles later, we tied up to the Waikiki YC, in time to see the last of the TransPac boats arrive, but too late to get a slip. After arriving, we did have a good chuckle about the cruiser in Pago Pago who had insisted it was "impossible" to sail to Hawaii from American Samoa, and that his friend, who had been sailing for 30 years, had missed the Islands and had ended up in Alaska!

Walking up to the office in the summer heat and humidity of Hawaii, the first thing I came across was a water fountain that spouted freezing cold water. That was one moment I was glad to be back in America. Another reason was the warmth of the locals. Their enthusiasm for sailing spurred us to get off our comfortable-at-the-dock arses and beat to Maui for the Lahaina Return Race, a downhill run to Honolulu along the beautiful north shore of Molokai. Running wing-and-wing — with just two of us and all our Spinlock sheetstoppers frozen — in 20 knots with 30 other boats was really the cat's meow.

So, home we are bound. As I sit here typing at the nav station, we have just crossed latitude 38, 1,000 miles north of Hawaii, and are making our right turn around the Pacific High. I've done this passage a few times before, but, knock on wood, this is shaping up to be the mellowest and most delightful one yet. Our friends George, from Michigan, and Susan, from D.C., are aboard, and the latitudes have been clicking by, bringing us ever closer to cooler weather. What a relief after all that time in the lower latitudes.

We've had a fantastic trip to some incredible places. Initially we'd planned to cruise for two years, around most of the world, but some recurring injuries compelled us to shorten our itinerary. We loved sailing the boat and keeping up the pace. We found that if we stayed anywhere too long, lethargy would set in, and all we'd want to do was watch DVDs — something we could do at home.

Although most of Confetti's original onboard systems went south, we've come to love our boat more each day. We think that Bruce Farr is a god, and that Rich and Sheri Crowe of Newport Beach did an incredible job executing his design. Some of the new gear that we were particularly impressed with includes our Cool Blue fridge — bought on impulse, along with a watermaker and some Musto foulies, during the last hour of the Oakland Boat Show after one too many beers. Our Iridium satphone was invaluable, although next time we'd use it, instead of the SSB, to get GRIB files. Our 140-watt solar panel, with the MPPT charge controller, provided for most of our power needs, and, when the instruments gave up the ghost, we navigated with a little Geko GPS for more than 1,000 miles.

Dan and I found cruising to be a great metaphor for marriage. Sometimes it's hard as hell, but the ultimate satisfaction and joy are supreme. Memories of the hard times fade almost as fast as they arrive, but the good ones last forever. We wouldn't trade this year for anything. And at the same time we are thrilled to be coming home. We'll strip the boat, lighten the load, restore the brightwork, and remove the windvane to give Confetti her pretty lines back. Then we'll go have fun with her on San Francisco Bay.

— danielle 09/21/07

Readers — Dan and Danielle made it back to San Francisco in 16.5 days, but the last week was rough, requiring them to sail under trysail and storm jib.

Freewind — Gulfstar 50
Frank & Janice Balmer
Southeast Asia

After a visit to the States in late summer, we flew back to Phuket, Thailand. We hand-carried the bow thruster and tunnel that Frank had bought on Ebay for the international part of the flight from Seattle to Bangkok via Taiwan. It was quite a curiosity with the security people! Customs in Bangkok charged us 37% duty on it. The officer had started at 75%, but Frank stood his ground and got the charge down to the official rate. Then we had to ship it from Bangkok to Phuket because of luggage restrictions on the domestic flight. By this time the monsoon season was at its height. It was raining so hard and the visibility was so poor when our plane came in for landing at Phuket Airport that the pilot abandoned his approach and circled the airport for 45 minutes. We landed safely, to the applause of the passengers, on the second attempt. Not long before, a jet making the same flight in similar conditions crashed on the same runway, killing 88 and badly injuring the 40 survivors.

Our boat had been on the hardstand at Boat Lagoon Marina while we were gone, getting her bottom done. The hull had been sanded down to the fiberglass, blisters removed, re-faired, and a new barrier coat along with the antifouling paint had been applied. The waterline had also been raised. We were very pleased with the excellent work. Since we couldn't stay on the boat while it was on the hardstand while the bow thruster was being installed, we rented a room for a monthly rate at the hotel's housekeeping building. We had a small refrigerator in our room so we could keep a limited supply of food for making breakfast and dinner on the boat. But it was kind of a chore for two 64-year-olds to tote our groceries up the ladder to cook, then have to cart them back to the refrigerator in our room. This was especially true in the rain, when the ladder was slippery and there was water two feet deep on the ground. There's something about poor drainage and Asian countries that baffles me — especially when I see the yard workers sweeping the water and mud up an incline to the nearest drain! I never did see the road workers using a transit when they were doing drainage work on the streets.

It was nice having that hotel room to stay in while we did the final sanding and varnishing of our new teak floors in the main and forward cabins. I did most of the cleanup work while Frank repainted the two blue stripes on the boat. The scaffolding broke while he was painting the top stripe, and he ended up dangling 10 feet off the ground while trying to pull himself up to the toerail. Luckily, the guy on the boat across from us spotted him and was able to break his fall. Had he not, Frank easily could have broken his leg. In the U.S., you would most certainly sue the company that rented out the scaffolding if you suffered injuries. Not in Asia. The contractor who did our bottom work said that you would be extremely lucky if they would even pay your hospital bill! Frank had another mishap when he took out all the toilet hoses to clean them. While he was pounding out a hose on the dock, it hit him in the head, causing a nasty gash.
Overall, we were very satisfied with the quality of all the work at Boat Lagoon Marina, as the workers were very thorough and skilled. Frank, who had priced out having these projects done in the U.S., said that the bottom job, bow thruster installation, and new dodger were about half what they would have cost back home, and the new teak floor was about a third. Other than that, our stay at Boat Lagoon was very boring and lonely. It's not a cruiser community, just the best place to get work done in Southeast Asia. Most of the cruisers leave their boat on the hardstand and either go home or use the opportunity for some land travel. We did the same thing with our trip home as well as trips to northern Thailand and Laos. The scenic part of the island of Phuket, with all the beautiful beaches, is on the opposite side from Boat Lagoon.

When we were based out of Thailand, we wanted to make a land trip to Myranmar (Burma) as far up as Rangoon, but the political situation thwarted our plans. The military junta that rules Myramar has always been very repressive, and for that reason the country is on 'no travel' list for Americans. The situation has worsened with the daily demonstrations against the government — an unheard of situation for that country — as protesters have been beaten and jailed for as many as 10 years. The cause of the protest was the government hiking the price of fuel 500% overnight. People woke up one morning to find that they couldn't get to work because many buses couldn't afford to fill up their tanks. The ones that did had to increase their fares so much that people were stranded at work, not having enough money for the new fares. Myramar is already one of the poorest countries in the world, with the average worker earning about $3 U.S. a day, and conditions are rapidly deteriorating with the corrupt and inept military rulers. The Buddhist monks have taken the lead in the protests and even refuse to take alms from the army. Since the giving of alms is one of the major tenets of the Buddhist religion, this has been quite an embarrassment for the generals.

Since writing this report, we've continued on to Rebac Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia. We're preparing for a land trip to Nepal and northern India prior to setting sail for the Red Sea.

— janice 10/05/07

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
The Marquesas And Tuamotus
(Santa Barbara)

Wow, this feels amazing! I can hardly believe it myself. Swell is tucked inside a coral atoll after a six-day passage from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus. The water here is as still and clear as a pond of Evian.

I arrived this afternoon, after spending last night tacking precariously between three atolls after the tradewinds decided to go into reverse, preventing me from making a landfall before dark. This morning I laughed at my track of the night before — it was a 12-mile figure-eight.

Four of the six days on the crossing were blissful, but the stress of that final night, and the odd northwest wind, had me longing for a safe anchorage. After losing two mahi, I landed my biggest tuna of my trip as I closed in on the atoll. Taking care of the fish distracted me for the last five miles of my approach, but once I had the filets on the coldplate, my anxiety returned. I'd never been so nervous about getting Swell anchored. To further complicate the situation, a line of black thunderheads was tailgating me. The books say that I'm supposed to enter the passes at low tide with the sun overhead, but I had neither. Great. I figured that I could always go back offshore, but I desperately hoped that I didn't have to.

One guidebook said this atoll had a "difficult pass", with a "45-ft wide channel and currents reaching velocities of six knots or more." So when my depthsounder registered 50 feet not far outside the pass, I tossed my anchor in a sand patch, figuring that I would be fine there. After paying out the chain, I knew it was going to be a long night, as the northwest wind had left a lumpy sea. A flock of children on the beach waved and hollered "Hello," while three humpbacks surfaced not 100 yards from my boat. What a welcome!

When a fisherman came out the pass, I waved him over. I figured that I could make his job easier that day, as there was no way that I could eat all the tuna. So I passed him a bagful of filets. The huge man thanked me with a white-toothed grin. I tried out some of my newly acquired French vocabulary with partial success, and at least understood when he asked why I had anchored outside the pass.

"I'm too scared to go through it," I explained in sign language. He laughed and signaled for me to follow him. Although I had a great view of a left peeling across the reef from that spot, the allure of a flatwater anchorage was irresistible. I was craving security and tranquility. I followed closely behind the fisherman as Swell bucked violently in the rapids of the atoll's outflow. The open sea constantly spills into atolls over the lowest parts of their coral perimeters, and eventually uses the passes in the reefs on the leeward side to get out. This atoll only had one pass, creating the constant fury of outbound water. I almost abandoned my attempt to enter after a standing wave crashed over the stern and into the cockpit! But I kept on. At times I only made 1.5-knot headway as the fluorescent river tried to push Swell back out to sea. After guiding me between the barely awash coral heads, the fisherman stopped in a sandy opening in about 30 feet of water and gave me the signal. As I dropped the hook, he waved and went on his way.

Once the boat was secure, I dove into the calm, turquoise water, wallowing in the enchantment of my new surroundings. A short time later, the thunderstorm arrived. I bathed in fresh rainwater while I went about transforming Swell from 'underway mode' to 'anchorage mode'. Just before dark, I donned my rain jacket and putted out to have a look at the wave. I immediately had a feeling that I was going to like this place.

I'd like to tell you the name of the atoll, but I can't because of the surf. But I can tell you that the month I spent there alone was much needed.

As for the Marquesas, which was my first stop in the South Pacific, what an amazing place to be on my own! Yes, I had sailed across the Pacific with my mother Melissa. It was often a rough trip, but we did the 3,170 miles in 22 days. It was so overwhelming that I'm going to give you a stream-of-consciousness rather than chronological account of my time there, plus some random observations.

Free fresh fruit. The art, as seen in attractive geometrical symbols and stories in carved wood, stone, tattoos, and tapa cloths. A glimpse of truly unspoiled Polynesian living. Almost everything the locals need comes directly from the land and the sea around them. Locals paddling outriggers in the late afternoon sun. Herds of happy children. Fish drying on the community drying racks. Seed jewelry and women's hair decorated with flowers. The fragrant smell of flowers blowing off the land and out to the boat at night. Watching a Marquesan male 'beauty pageant' — with my mother!

Forty-cent baguettes and the array of obscenely priced imported French foods. The pompous gendarmes and their ridiculously small blue shorts. The bizarre ­— 4 a.m.! — Saturday vegetable market in Taiohae Bay. Wandering barefoot in Felicity and Simon's valley. Speaking Marquesan. Breadmaking 101 with Deirdre Sleigh. My first two loaves could have been used as bricks. Relentlessly itchy 'no-no' bites. The silhouette of the Hakatea crater-cliffs at night. Tours of the tikis with Taipivai locals. Invitations to local homes. Eating breadfruit, popoi, kaku, toro root, poisson cru, and wild pig and goat. Every size, shape, and color of plumeria and hibiscus. The ancient footpath.

10 gigabytes of new music courtesy of David, the Kahlula boys, and Bali Hai. Squeezing orange juice on slow, rainy mornings. Swimming or paddling between Swell and shore for three weeks rather than using the dinghy. The mysterious piles of huge, flat stones. Installing mast steps while enjoying a 360° view of Hakatea. Guavas, star fruit, papaya oranges, limes, lemons, chili peppers, bananas, coconuts, pineapples, taro, watermelon, and pamplemousse — all growing in one place. Paddling to the rivermouth rights on the longboard, then anchoring it outside and paddling my shortboard in. Bugs in 10-lb bags of rice and flour! Finally mastering the windvane! Etienne telling the legends of Pumaka, the Ua Pou spires, and hearing the Marquesan story of creation under the leaky palm frond roof.

Wild horses, wild pigs, goats, and chickens, too. Soccer with the kids in Hakahetau. Carmel nut brownie Luna bars. Ivonne's gift of homegrown vanilla. Sneaking cookies to the kids. Maca powder and dried Gogi berries sent from Café Gratitude in San Francisco. The tragic death of my aloe plant. Swell filled with the sound of the Ua Pou men practicing their traditional songs, drumming and dance in the evenings. The mystery 'stink'. Tagging along with the Hokaupoko family, in the back of their truck with five-year-old Moi Ua, on a mini tour of Ua Pou. Acceptance into the 9-year-old 'girl gang' at Hakahetau. Teikivaehee pulling a dead goat — minus its head — out of his backpack. Wandering and wondering among the ancient ruins. Finding a potato-sized cowry alive on the reef — and leaving it there. Eels in the Vaiehu tide pools. A total lunar eclipse viewed through the gaps of the puffy tradewind clouds. Bamboo siding, colorful Polynesian floral prints, and grass mats. Going from not knowing any French to dedicating mornings to my Learn French audio set. Cracking open urchin snacks on the reef. Hugging the children of Ua Pou goodbye, then swimming away from the pier with a drybag full of fruit.

Bruce Nelson from Glacier Bay helping me to fix my refrigerator with instructions via email. Swell and I blasting happily through the sea on a beam reach in 30-knot trades. My first big solo passage. Sailing — just sailing — no motor needed. Paralleling the Milky Way. Four knots, three knots, two knots . . . what's the hurry? Dorado, not the world's smartest fish, as I hook three out of a group of four. Doing laundry at sea. Getting spanked by thunderstorms. When the French audio set makes me say, "She fell down the stairs and needs a doctor!" Sashimi snacks while filleting. Spotting my first atoll. The turquoise water I always dreamed about. Deep breaths of freedom at sea in the trades.

— liz 09/15/07

Readers — Based on the last five paragraphs, in which Liz has gone from the logical to the lyrical, it appears that perhaps she's started to 'go native'. Would that be such a bad thing?

Velella — Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox & Wendy Hinman
Home After Seven Years
(Port Ludlow, WA)

It was a "very long, cold and foggy" 49-day passage from Yokohama to Vancouver Island that concluded Garth and Wendy's seven-year, 17-country cruise following the '00 Baja Ha-Ha. What's next for the couple? Garth, a naval architect, wants to build a 40-ft high-performance sloop powered by a large main and small jib on an unstayed mast. "A freestanding mast would allow me to get a big roached main way out where it belongs," he explains. Garth figures it will take him a year to get things organized, and two years to build the boat. Had Wendy had her druthers, they either wouldn't have come back in the first place or would simply buy a larger boat.

Money was one of the reasons why they finally returned to the States. They'd had very little money when they started their cruise, and had to live almost entirely on the $1,200/month rental money they got from their house. For a long time they were able to get by, but toward the end they were "stopping at great places but not really able to afford enjoying them." The last straw was an electrical fire and meltdown in the Solomon Islands, which all but forced them to take jobs in the Marshall Islands. Garth worked as a mechanical engineer while Wendy designed websites. While their salaries weren't that great in the Marshalls, they were working for a government contractor, which meant they got housing and meals, and didn't have to pay any income taxes.

According to Garth, an additional $300 a month would have been all they needed to be comfortable.

A second reason for coming home was that the 31-ft boat wasn't big enough. "I'm too tall for the boat," said Garth. He also noted that while Velella was a great two-person boat at sea, because he and Wendy only saw each other briefly, she was a one-person boat at the dock and while at anchor. "If someone wanted to do something on the inside of the boat, the other person basically had to go outside. After seven years, that got a little old."

After sailing down to San Diego and doing the Ha-Ha, the couple cruised Mexico and then took the standard route across the Pacific. They would eventually spend two seasons in New Zealand, the second because they wanted to be on hand for the America's Cup. They then headed up to Asia, which is where they would visit Garth's favorite and least favorite countries.

"Japan was just fantastic! I can't speak highly enough about the people. They were incredibly friendly, and we actually had more interactions with the local people than anywhere else. I would definitely like to return." They also enjoyed the eight months they spent in vibrant Hong Kong because "there was just so much to do."

At the other end of the enjoyment spectrum was the Philippines. "We had run-ins with officials, who all seemed to want bribes," recalls Garth. "In addition, the country was dirty and everybody seemed to be running some kind of scam, with us being the intended victims. The result was that we felt uncomfortable all the time. But it's a gorgeous place. Wendy and I would look at our photos and couldn't figure out what our problem was with the Philippines because it was so beautiful. The problem was we just never felt at ease there."

Having been out for seven years, how many times do you think the couple was caught out in winds over 40 knots. "Once, if ever," says Garth. "In fact, we probably only had winds in excess of 35 knots once or twice. You just don't sail in the stormy stuff, and it was easy to get weather from SailMail or download it from places like Japan. Calms are a much greater problem than too much wind."

That would really apply to Velella, which, believe it or not, had just one 10-gallon fuel tank! "We didn't motor anywhere," Garth says. They got all their power from solar panels. Nor did they have radar or refrigeration. Garth said they got along fine without a fridge, but a radar would be nice for their next cruise.

Garth says their next boat will be made of epoxy saturated wood. "Absolutely, because it's so easy to work with and so easy to take care of. In addition, you don't have to build another boat on the inside, you just varnish the beautiful hull. I'll keep the construction simple and light, and we won't be carrying a lot of extra stuff."

While Garth says Japan deserves another visit, his dream is to sail around Europe. "After seven years, we got sick of Third World countries, because most of them aren't that interesting. We've also had our fill of palm trees and beaches. I'm looking to sail where there is more culture, and more advanced civilization. To tell you the truth, I want to use my mind a little more."

— latitude 10/05/07

Anna — Newport 41
Igor & Anna
Everybody Dies Alone
(San Jose)

"Everybody dies alone." These are unusual words to hear from someone when you first meet them. But Igor — pronounced 'Eager' — and Anna — pronounced 'Ah-na', the European way — are unusual people. In fact, I think the story of how they came to go cruising might inspire others to do the same.

When I pulled into the old harbor in Mazatlan in April of this year, I picked out a spot and anchored with the half-dozen boats that were already there. I didn't particularly notice that I'd anchored directly in front of the C&C Newport 41 Anna. Within hours, however, Igor, having seen the 'Massage' sign hanging from the side of my Crowther catamaran Java, was inquiring about my techniques, the cost, and so forth. Ultimately, he arranged for me to give his wife a massage.

As I gave Anna her massage the next day, we chatted. She h ad a very distinct accent, and when I inquired about it, she said it was Russian. During my sailing adventures across the South Pacific and Mexico, I hadn't met many Russians, so I asked her to tell me their story. It turns out that Igor, 62, and Anna, 55, emigrated from Russia 16 years ago with their three children, Alek, Veronica and Marina, then 20, 17 and 11 respectively. The five of them arrived with a total of just $90 in their pockets, but were determined to improve their lot in life. "We worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week," they said. "We didn't do anything but work." They describe that as typical of Russian immigrants. The family's goal was to buy a house in less than four years. It was a lofty goal, and at the time none of them spoke English.

Although an engineer in Russia, in the U.S. Igor had to start by painting houses. Anna knew massage, so she started offering that kind of therapy in her home. Because daughter Veronica had picked up English more quickly, she answered the phones for the rapidly growing massage business. The years passed quickly, and by '93 Anna had graduated from a single massage room in her garage to the fully-licensed, 15-room El Paseo Day Spa in San Jose. By that time the ambitious Igor had become proficient in trades such as carpentry, electrical work and plumbing, and had grown a successful construction business. "I was successful for two reasons," he said. "Because people could count on me to be there when I said I was going to be there, and because I always did a good job."

In an indirect way, it was 9/11 that got the couple into sailing. After the terrorist attack, the economy took a big hit, and so did business at Anna's spa. She worried about money and expenses, and insisted they had to continue working. But Igor was tired, and, with the kids on their own, felt their finances would be fine. "I told Anna that I didn't want to wait and die in one place, so I suggested that we look at sailboats. Not buy one, just look."

So they began going around the Bay Area on weekends just looking at boats. Igor didn't push Anna, but rather employed what he describes as a "drop by drop preparation". When they lost two 50-year-old Russian friends who had insisted they needed to keep working, Igor got Anna to realize they had already worked too long. So the couple took an eight-day private sailing course in Santa Cruz aboard 27 to 36-ft Catalinas. Anna says she never got sick or scared, and came out of it with a sailing certificate — and even more importantly, confidence. Based on that, they bought a boat. Igor looked at the technical aspects while Anna looked at the interior, and they compromised.

In '06, 15 years after coming to the States with no money, Igor retired and began working on their boat full time. "From January through October, he lived on the boat more than he did at our home," remembers Anna. Their first very modest outing didn't go all that well. Even though they were just motoring, Anna became frightened. "It was just the two of us with no instructor, so I got scared," says Anna. "I started crying and couldn't stop." Igor immediately turned the boat around and returned to the dock. "Drop by drop," he told Anna, the Russian equivalent of 'little by little'.

In early October of last year, Igor and a friend sailed Anna down to Marina del Rey, bringing along an experienced captain to help them gain offshore experience. When Igor returned to San Jose, he rented out their house, packed the car with their important belongings, and drove down to their boat. On November 2, they crossed the border into Mexico, and stopped at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria on their way to Cabo and La Paz. Anna didn't cry, but says it was because they were almost always in sight of land.
Their 30-hour crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan was a different story. It blew 25 knots, and, out of sight of land for the first time, Anna became frightened. "I was scared and seasick," she admits, "but at least I knew it was temporary." After that, they had pleasant cruising all the way to Acapulco and back north.

There were, of course, some mishaps. Igor recalls the time they spent a day on a sandbar at Bahia de La Paz, and had to wait for the tide to come back in and lift them off. Then there was the time down by Cabo Corrientes that a big schooner with lots of crew passed them flying a spinnaker. Although Igor and Anna had never flown a spinnaker, Igor didn't like being passed. "If we have a spinnaker," he told his wife, "we should use it." They managed to set it and overtake the schooner, but got a big wrap when rounding the point at Chamela. With Igor on the bow and Anna steering somewhat wildly, the anchored cruisers were about to come to their aid when they finally got the chute down. "It was my fault," says Igor. "We need to learn how to use it better."

What do they like most about cruising? For Anna, it's the travelling to see new places. For Igor, it's the freedom of the open ocean. As for advice, Anna said, "Don't wait too long to get out there." Igor's advice is a little more detailed. "I live by two rules," he explains. "First, everybody dies alone." To him, this means that, no matter what the circumstances of a person's death, everybody must deal with it themselves, so you might as well get out there and live life to the fullest rather than waiting for death to seek you out. "My second rule is that you can achieve every dream with your own hands."

Igor and Anna are living proof of his 'second rule'.

— evan 09/25/07

Cruise Notes:

If you're taking your boat to Mexico this winter and need a berth, there are very limited options. Here's our review, with information that was good as of October 20:

The Cape: Starting at noon on November 8, all the vacant slips at Marina Cabo San Lucas will be reserved for Baja Ha-Ha boats. Nonetheless, most people will still have/want to anchor out. Fortunately, there's lots of room in the bay, with the area further east being calmer and not so deep. Cabo is sportfishing country, so not only are the berths very expensive, they will also be in tremendous demand. At Marina Puerto Los Cabos, 19 miles to the east at San Jose del Cabo, Harbormaster Jim Elfers reports that, after finally breaking out into the sea, they've accepted their first boats. While all 70 Phase One berths are in contract, they can be rented out short term to transients. Be advised, however, that the marina is a work in progress, and neither the grounds nor services are ready for prime time. Although the marina is not looking for transient boat income, Elfers says he'll try to help those in need — although for now it may mean Med-ties or even anchoring in the marina. While the rates are not quite as expensive as in Cabo, they'll rock you — unless you normally keep your boat in one of Newport Beach's most expensive marinas.

La Paz: Despite a doubling of berths in La Paz just two years ago, the place is jammed. Marina de La Paz, Marina Palmira, and Marina Costa Baja are all booked for the season, although Costa Baja will be welcoming Ha-Ha boats and other cruisers up until their Governor's Cup on November 17. The thing to remember about 'sold out' marinas is that they do get cancellations from time to time, so it's worth inquiring — if you are right there. Forget trying to make a reservation from a distant port. The good news in La Paz is that Singlar's new Marina Fidepaz has/had 39 slips from 39 to 99 feet still available. It's very possible they've all been taken since we announced the vacancies in the October 19 'Lectronic, but give it a try by calling Rodrigo at 011-52-612-124-2153 or 011-52- 612-124-2206. Marina Fidepaz also has a new Travel-Lift and a fuel dock. For prices on all Singlar marinas and facilities in Mexico, visit And yes, it's 'gob', not 'gov'.

Puerto Escondido: There are 170 moorings at Singlar Puerto Escondido, and many of them will be vacant this winter. They also have a Travel-Lift and dry storage.

San Carlos/Guaymas: We're told that Marina San Carlos is booked for the season, but once again, if you're in the area, call and see if there have been any cancellations. Marina Seca Dry Storage is full with 600 boats already on the hard, but they expect to be increasing capacity in just a month or two.

Mazatlan: All the berths at Marina El Cid are booked for the season. Over at Marina Mazatlan, Eldira Lizarraga tells us that, as of October 20th, they had 35 vacant slips from 41 to 48-ft, although none of these slips have power. But if you must have a place to leave your boat in order to fly home, this would be better than nothing. Call her immediately at 011-52-669-669-2936 to see if anything is left. Singlar Mazatlan, which is primarily a boatyard, just opened, but they may have some slips in the water and/or on the hard.

San Blas: The San Blas Singlar Marina project has been delayed and won't be open for six months to a year.

Banderas Bay: The three existing marinas on this very popular bay — Paradise Marina, Marina Vallarta, and Marina Nueva Vallarta, are all booked for the season. Paradise Marina will be adding 100 new berths before too long, but there will be a 20-ft bridge limitation. It's fortunate, then, that Marina Riviera Nayarit, a.k.a. the La Cruz Marina, will have its grand opening on December 15. Fortunately, Manager Christian Mancebo says they will be accepting Ha-Ha and other boats as early as November 15, and will also welcome Banderas Bay Blast boats on December 7. While the basic facilities will be available by the official opening, this marina will also be a work in progress, so don't expect to find a working fuel dock or boatyard. Contact Christian at 011-52-322-779-9191 or

Barra de Navidad: The 207-berth Marina Puerto de La Navidad is booked for the season. It's not going to help for a couple of years, but reliable sources tell us this will soon be the home of a huge marina.

Ixtapa/Zihuantanejo: Our friend Elsa Zuniga reports that Marina Ixtapa does have slips vacant now, and probably will have some throughout the season. In addition, they have a boatyard on the property with a 250-ton Travel-Lift — in case you need some work on your 150-footer. On a monthly rate, it's .70/ft/day at Ixtapa for a 40-footer. It's $560 to haul and launch a 40-footer, which isn't too high, but it's $120/day on the hard. Ouch. None of these prices include the 15% tax.

There are a few other smaller marinas in Mexico, but the above ones are the biggies in the most popular areas. If you haven't gotten reservations yet, your best chances in the 'central' cruising area of Mexico are Fidepaz in La Paz, which is about 135 miles from Cabo; Marina Mazatlan, about 220 miles from Cabo; and Marina Riviera Nayarit, 300 miles from Cabo. More outlying options are at Puerto Escondido and Ixtapa. If you're returning home for several months after the Ha-Ha, having your boat stored on the hard is an option at a number of places.

If you're cruising and the lack of plentiful slips has you freaked, relax. There are many places to anchor, often times right next to a marina. For the most part, anchoring in Mexico is very easy and secure. What if you have to return to the States and don't have a berth for your boat? Once again, relax. In many spots — such as La Paz, Puerto Escondido, San Carlos, La Cruz, Tenacatita Bay, Barra, and Zihua — folks take turns watching each others' boats on the hook, allowing them to return home. Sound risky? It's common practice in Mexico — both to save money and out of necessity.

For a complete list of telephone numbers and email addresses for marinas in Mexico, consult Latitude's First-Timers Cruising Guide To Mexico, or 'google' their names.

"It is a beautiful sunny day here in Fiji, with big piles of white clouds on the horizon, and a nice warm breeze," write Warwick and Nancy Tompkins of the Mill Valley-based Wylie 38+ Flashgirl. "We've been exploring Fiji, and have spent the last few weeks sailing around visiting islands and the little villages. When calling on a village, it's customary to get permission from the village chief, as everything — the land, trees, birds, sand, water — belongs to the locals. It is expected that you'll bring a sevusevu or gift of yaqona, better known as kava root. You bundle about 300 grams of the root, wrap it in a ribbon, and then are taken to the chief's bure (straw house). There, you take off your shoes, enter the hut, and sit crossed-legged on a woven mat across from the chief. The gift is put on the mat in the middle between you and the chief. He then does a Fijian chant, which always is accompanied by the clapping of hands, but also usually includes your name, your boat's name, where you are from, and so forth. We can't understand all of it, but the chant ends with "vinaka, vinaka", which means 'thank you'. The men make a brew from the kava root, then pass around a coconut cup full of kava brew. It gives you a slight buzz and makes your tongue feel a little numb. We don't particularly care for it, but the natives in many Pacific Islands incorporate the passing of the cup into the rituals of their lives. I think it is as much a social thing as anything else. Our visa expires on November 9, so we're trying to figure out where we'll head to next. It will probably be north to other tropical islands, but there is still a chance that we'll dash south down to New Zealand. We have been very busy doing things we love — sailing, hiking, exploring, and making new friends."

No matter if it is prepared by pounding, grinding or chewing, we think kava 'grog' looks and tastes like dirty water. Uggh!

Unfortunately, there's only one West Coast entry in this November's biggest ever — 240+ boats — Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the fleet of which sails 2,700 miles from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia in the West Indies. The West Coast folks, Jerry and Karen Eaton of the Belvedere-based Hallberg-Rassy 43 Blue Heron, offered this report on what's going on and what they've been up to:

"Even though the start of the ARC is two months away, people are already arriving here in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. The excitement is building, and the chandlers and provisioners are licking their chops. We arrived here after a rather speedy cruise back across the Med, starting in Marmaris, Turkey, last May. We got across the Aegean before meltemi season, transited the Corinth Canal, and revisited the Ionian Islands. Then it was on to Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearics, Gib, Madeira, and here. As much as we liked the Med., it was nice to get back into the Atlantic and start sailing again. Madeira was a wonderful surprise — mountainous, lush, and home to very friendly people. We'd taken delivery of Blue Heron 14,000 sea-miles ago in Ellos, Sweden, where she was born. Hallberg-Rassy had her ready to go, as promised, at exactly 10 a.m. on April Fool's Day in '03. We were fools for taking delivery then, as it snowed all over our boat the next day. Since then, we've been doing about six months aboard, and six months back home in Marin. In '03, we cruised the Baltic and northern Europe. In '04, it was the Atlantic coasts of France, Spain and Portugal, and into the Med. In '05, we made our way into the Adriatic and Croatia. And last year, it was on to Turkey. Karen won't be along for the ARC, as she did an Atlantic crossing with John and Amanda Neal several years ago. This year's crew will be made up of Wyman Harris and Walter Sanford from Marin, Nick Orem from New Hampshire, and myself. There's not a cook among us! The ARC — like the Baja Ha-Ha — is all about the people, and Pontoon 17 here has already established itself as the Party Dock."

Kanaloa, the first-ever Gunboat 66 catamaran, was launched in South Africa in the middle of October for Max De Rham, a Swiss who also has a home in Maui. The 66 is the first of the 'stretched' Gunboat 62s designed by Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin of Newport Beach. We know about this because Ken Fairchild of Lake Tahoe, who we used to sail with in the Caribbean aboard his Dynamique 62 Orient Express, has long crewed with De Rham on his previous cat through the more remote areas of the South Pacific. Fairchild will be making the South Africa to Antigua passage starting on November 15. Kanaloa is an extremely powerful cruising cat, and was built for an owner, who, despite his age, is extremely adventurous. It could be a match made in heaven on water.

According to reports from the Honolulu papers, Pat Magee, a very experienced 75-year-old sailor from San Pedro and Maui, has had no luck sailing his latest boat from California to Honolulu. After buying the sloop Victoria on eBay for $4,300 three years ago, and pouring a bunch of money in her, Magee, his 68-year-old friend Jerry Manning, and his 58-year-old nephew Ron Fulwider, left the mainland on September 1. After three days, another crewmember became "so belligerent" that they had to sail three days back to the mainland to drop him off. After 17 days of the second attempt, they found themselves off Diamond Head at midnight on October 3 with the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in sight. Somehow they made a navigation error, and before they realized it, the boat was aground in the coral at the well-known Tonggs surf break off Waikiki. When help arrived, they refused to be taken off, believing the boat might float off with the incoming tide. It didn't, and the fire department had to come out a second time. The next morning, the surfers were out as usual, but had to ride around an unfamiliar obstacle. Despite the loss, all three men were said to have been in good humor.

"On a sweltering Friday evening in early October, 50 diehard sailors gathered in Marina Mazatlan's air-conditioned cruisers' lounge for the First Annual Marina Mazatlan Shrimp Dish Bash, a potluck to end all potlucks," reports Mike Latta of the Mazatlan 22-ft Falmouth Cutter Narwhal. "The purpose was to celebrate everyone having survived another hot and humid summer, and everyone took full advantage. The potluck theme was shrimp dishes, and there were some great ones. Prior to the start of the eating, drinking, music, and dancing, a panel of still somewhat sober judges awarded top honors to Ryan, of the sloop Texas, for his jalapeno-enhanced entry of mango shrimp presented in a hollowed out watermelon. The stuff was strong enough to peel the epoxy off a 55-gallon oil drum — had there been any left. Nonetheless, it was truly delicious, although I haven't been able to sleep lying down for the past two nights."

The folks at Marina Mazatlan want everyone to know that they'll be hosting a special Thanksgiving dinner for 350 guests on November 22. It's not the only marina-based Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration in Mexico, but it's one of the biggest.

A second circumnavigation for the Rileys. "We spent last winter in the Virgins, then sailed to the northwest Caribbean via Haiti — which was great! — to get away from as many hurricane threats as we could," report Mike and Karen Riley of the Coronado-based Dickerson 41 ketch Beausoleil, now in Guatemala's Rio Dulce. "But what a joke! We're leaving for the Canal soon, and are eager to be back in the Pacific and the land of Latitude 38. If you or anyone else are coming this way, put Isla Vache, Haiti, on your 'must visit' list. We filled the cockpit with veggies and fruit in exchange for $20 worth of pencils, pens, and a basketball. Oh yeah, we fixed the town pump for them, too! If you go there, don't even think of clearing in. But don't worry, the locals will tell you where to hide on the other side of the island. Life has been good out here, but we need more parties, so drop those dock lines and come join us! By the way, our son Falcon, whom we home schooled, is now in college in San Diego. We've written a book about his home education. Search for a preview. We're still in the arguing stage with several publishers, but meanwhile we'll sell it as an e-book."

"I left San Diego's Glorietta Bay on October 4 for Mexico, but, after beating my way to the border against SSE winds under grey skies, I turned back and had a fast run to Mission Bay," writes Glenn Tieman of the Southern California-based Wharram 38 catamaran Manu Rere. "The weather was so rough the next day that I logged onto the internet and discovered that a bank had failed to make a transfer as I'd asked three weeks earlier, causing a check to bounce. During the first year of cruising my previous cat, the 26-ft Peregrine, a bank instituted a service charge in my absence, which turned out to be a financial disaster. So this time I stayed around all week to make sure my meager savings were in good hands. Now that that's straightened out, I'm going to take another shot at the border on the 14th after the passage of a cold front."

Tieman previously cruised he Pacific and parts of Asia for 10 years aboard his 26-ft Wharram cat Peregrine, living on $1 to $3 a day. We're hoping to cross paths with him this season.

Tired of the crowded surf in California, parts of Mexico, and most of Central America. Mike Heath of the Ukiah-based Saintonge 44 Finisterre has a suggestion. "The surf in Ecuador is fantastic, and the coastline and beaches look like Southern California must have 100 years ago."

"We're just back to La Paz for a short stay after a summer in the upper Sea of Cortez," report Tim and Paula of the Long Beach-based Beneteau Idylle 13.5 Hooligan. "We had a fabulous time and got all the way up to Bahia Los Angeles, where the diving was excellent and the bees were hit or miss. Just a warning to southbound Sea of Cortez cruisers; both Isla San Francisco and Caleta Partida had swarms of mozzies and no-see-ums when we stopped there last week, probably from the heavy rains of hurricane Henriette. Screens weren't of much use, nor were various repellents. We got more bites than you can imagine, and the itching was horrible! It was too bad, since the water visibility at Isla San Francisco was at least 100 feet, and the hook anchorage looked like a scene from the South Pacific, with turquoise water and white sandy beaches. We're leaving for Mazatlan as soon as we get a good weather window, as it's time for Hooligan to get the new Yanmar she so richly deserves. Hasta luego!"

Mozzies and no-see-ums weren't the only problems in the Sea this summer. "Oh well, it's only stuff," writes Evan Dill of the Cayucos-based Crowther 48 cat Java, he being the subject of this month's Latitude Interview. "When I returned to my cat, which I'd left at anchor at the Don Juan anchorage at Bahia de Los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez, I found that a lot of my stuff — laptop, two handheld GPS units, a handheld VHF, some snapshackles, two rigging knives, and even two 12-volt Hella fans from the cabins — had been stolen. It sure looks like the culprit was a cruiser — and I thought they were all pretty honest. I guess I was naive."

"We're leaving to return to our boat at Puesta del Sol in Nicaragua in October," write Jeff and Stephanie of the Passport 47 Musetta. "From there we plan to proceed down to Costa Rica and Panama, then transit the Canal into the Caribbean. Once through the Canal, we haven't decided which way to go. Bill Chapman of the Stockton-based Bones VIII advises us to go up to Isla Providencia, then Cuba. Dennis Roquet of Sea Bear says that if we can get to the ABC islands by December, it's a decent trip the rest of the way to the Eastern Caribbean. We're interested in your opinion, as we know that your boats have made the trip to St. Barths after the Ha-Ha several times."

Bill and Dennis are both experienced sailors who know what they're talking about, and their advice is good. If you can get through the Canal in early December before the start of the Christmas Trades, we'd suggest a dash to Cartagena, which usually isn't too hard. Then we'd hope for a weather window to at least get around Cabo Velo, if not all the way to the ABC islands. But if the Azores High has been switched on for the winter, it's going to be tough if not impossible. If you do make it to the ABCs, it's still quite a ways to the Eastern Caribbean, but at least you can drop down and work the lighter winds along the north shore of South America. If, however, you get to Cartagena and there is no window to go to the east, just pick the least bad weather you can, then head for Jamaica. That still leaves you with 1,000 miles of upwind travel against the trades, which can be very nasty, but at least you can work the south coasts of Hispanola and Puerto Rico along the way. Our boats have done both routes. The route via the ABC islands has the potential to be much shorter, but also much rougher. The Jamaica route is much longer, but normally not quite as rough. Good luck to you.

"Southbound cruisers should be aware that there is now a port captain's representative at Astillero Cove, aka No Name Cove, in southern Nicaragua," report Stephen Dale and Sandy Camozzi of the Humboldt Bay-based Cal Cruising 36 Gitano del Mar. "I anchored there once in '90, and then another four times over the course of the '04-'06 cruising seasons. It's a great place to prepare for — or recover from — a rounding of Cabo Santa Elena during Papagayo season. We pulled in there pretty whipped in March of last year after a particularly lively rounding, and were down below fixing a quick afternoon meal prior to crashing out, when some people stepped onto our bow from a passing panga. Jumping on deck, we were relieved to find two very young guys, clipboards in hand, decked out in full camo uniforms. After a quick belowdecks inspection, we filled out a single page form titled Act of Entry, which was pre-signed and stamped by the Port Captain of San Juan del Sur. The young guys were courteous, the document was free, and we were finished in 10 minutes. The only problem was that they had no way to get back to shore, as their water taxi had disappeared over the horizon. Since we weren't in the entertaining mode, the two officials had to sit in the hot cockpit — our bimini and cushions had been stowed due to high wind — staring at their boots for almost an hour before the pangero returned! We'll probably see the Ha-Ha fleet in Bahia Santa Maria, as we're heading up there to surf Punta Hughes until the water gets cold in December — or we run out of water.

Although some mean-spirited surfer on the mainland told me it's a mushy wave, we'll try it anyway. In any event, it would be fun to see the Ha-Ha fleet pass through."
"I'm in the Indian Ocean just south of Indonesia and Bali," wrote Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3 on October 7. "It's still 6,000 miles to Durban, South Africa, and for the last four days I haven't had any wind for sailing. I sure hope the wind picks up, because I only have enough diesel for another day or two of motoring. My weather charts show that I'll get 12 to 15 knots in two days, so I'm getting my big spinnaker out and preparing to use it. I'll be making stops at three islands along the way. The first is Christmas Island, and I'm only stopping there because I need fuel. The second is Cocos-Keeling, 600 miles further along the way, reputed to be one of the most beautiful atolls in the world. The last island stop is at the big one, Mauritius. I'll be resting there for a few days before facing the nasty Agulhas Current along the coast of South Africa. But I'm already more than halfway around the world in my 11-month circumnavigation, so I like to think that the rest is 'downhill'.

With so many folks heading down to Mexico for the cruising season, Connie Sunlover up in Puerto Escondido wants everyone to remember that the 12th annual Loreto Fest '08 will be held May 1-4 at Puerto Escondido. The charitable event is sponsored by the Hidden Port YC, and features four days of fun, entertainment, games, and even a regatta. Loreto Fest is particularly popular with cruisers who are also musicians, so don't forget your instrument. As the event draws closer, look for details at

Other big events on tap in Mexico this season: December 7, 8 and 9, the Banderas Bay Blast, three days of truly 'nothing serious' cruiser racing from Paradise Marina to La Cruz to Punta Mita and back. January 29-Feb. 3, the Zihua SailFest, the biggest cruiser fundraiser in Mexico, which features many activities and is tons of fun, too. March 6, 7 & 8, the Banderas Bay Regatta, the best cruiser racing fun in Mexico. The three days of casual racing are going to be the culmination of a week's worth of sailing fun and activities, the details of which we'll have in the next issue.

Capt. Pat Rains, our old friend from sailing in the Sea of Cortez in the late '70s, has scored what we believe will be a big hit with her new book, Cruising Ports, the Central American Route. This is a high-quality, very-much-needed nautical guide to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Central America, including Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; Mexico's Gulf Coast and the Yucatan Channel; northwest Cuba and the Western Caribbean Islands; and the Panama Canal. We've just had a minute to peruse the new guide before going to press, but think it's terrific, as it's the first time we've seen so many good photos and charts of all these different areas in one book. And Rains knows lots of stuff that we don't. For example, that 'Carlos the Trucker' in the Rio Dulce has transported boats up to 46 feet long and 15 feet wide across to the Pacific side for launching at Puerto Quetzel, El Salvador, eliminating the need for transiting the Panama Canal. The guide retails for $59, and we think it's worth all of that.

"We're returning to our boat in Piriapolis, Uruguay, after a year building a gold mine in remote Republic, Washington — making us 'accidental Republicans'," write Mike and Catharine Whitby of the Vancouver, B.C.-based Contessa 38 Breila. "We'll do some major boat work, including replacing the engine, when we return. Cruisers bound for South America need to know that Uruguay is the only country we've found where duty isn't required on parts for a 'yacht in transit'. Once our work is done, we'll sail north to begin cruising southern Brazil."

Readers may remember that Mike and Catharine were instrumental in the early success of SailFest in Zihuantanejo, then sailed down the coast of South America, and had a report in Latitude about their rounding of Cape Horn.

Missing the pictures? See the November 2007 eBook!


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