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November 2009

Missing the pictures? See the November 2009 eBook!

 With reports this month from Azure II on the start of a second family cruise, this time on a cat; from Java on the joys of cruising and travelling in South America; from Scarlett O'Hara on Robinson Crusoe Island in Fiji; from Toucan Tango on sailing up the Red Sea; from Solace on onboard surgery in Tonga; from the Vava'u Regatta in Tonga; from Moonduster on the problem with bananas in the South Pacific; from Reba on a reunion in Maine with friends from the South Pacific; and Cruise Notes.

Azure II — Leopard 47 Cat
The Pimentel Family
Starting Our Second Cruise

It’s been almost 11 years since we returned from the cruise on our first boat, the Jeanneau 36 Azure. We had a blast in Mexico, then crossed the Pacific in what we think was one of the first official Puddle Jumps. We enjoyed exciting times in French Polynesia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. We returned home from that experience with the best reminder of our good times — R.J., who was born in New Zealand. He was joined two years later by brother Leo. They are now 11 and 9 respectively.

We’ve been planning a second cruise since we got back from the first, and now the timing is finally right. After reading about catamarans in Latitude and chartering one in the BVIs, we became convinced that they are the way to go on a family cruise. So we found an ‘01 Leopard 47 that we thought we might want to buy, and in August flew down to St. Lucia to check her out during the course of a 10-day test cruise. Here’s my midway report:

“We’ve had Island Spirits III — which we hope will soon become Azure II — for five days now, and we think the cat is awesome! We’ve sailed her downwind, reaching and upwind. We’ve anchored, picked up mooring balls, and checked out four different spots around St. Lucia. Each outing has been a learning experience. It turns out that I’m not an excellent driver quite yet. I thought I was in neutral once, but was actually fast approaching another boat in the anchorage. Sure scared that guy!

“R.J. and Leo have not only been having a blast snorkeling, jumping off the boat and swinging from ropes hanging from palms, but they’ve become essential to the operation of the boat. Leo was born to climb the mast to zip up the sail cover. R.J. is getting muscles from grinding the winches, and is great at steering the boat. They both handle lines when we take a mooring.

“Right now it is early morning in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. Rodney is making the local bread — which is kind of like scones — on the BBQ, Leo is awake and ready to go, and R.J. is still sleeping. Except for the tropical birds, the soft slapping of the water, and Leo slurping his Apple Jacks, it’s quiet.

“The weather has been hot and humid with occasional rain, but we've been keeping cool by swimming all the time. Assuming all goes well with the rest of the test sail, we’ll be hauling the cat out at Rodney Bay for a survey. If that comes out fine, we'll buy the cat and begin our cruise in November or December.”

Well, we went ahead and bought the cat, so Azure II will be our home for approximately the next two years. For friends who know our Cal 40 Azure, we’re still keeping her on the Bay.

Rodney and I have already quit our jobs, and are now busy getting home schooling squared away, renting out our house, and so forth. We’ll start our new adventure on Thanksgiving in St. Lucia, and be up around St. John in the U.S. Virgins for Christmas. We'll wing the rest of the winter from there.

We want to let other families with kids know that we’ll be cruising the Caribbean this winter and the Mediterranean next summer with our boys, and that R.J. and Leo would love to connect with other cruising kids. We can be reached at .

— jane 10/02/09

Java — Crowther 48
Evan Dill and Donna Boyer
South America Is Worth Visiting!
(The World Is My Homeport)

South America is not high on the list of destinations for cruisers, but having been here since February, Donna and I think it should be. It's an especially good place for economy cruisers and for those who like to use their boat as a base for exploring inland.

We're currently at Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, where I'm paying workers $10 a day — not an hour — to paint the inside and outside of my boat, which I've hauled on the beach for free. Large fixed price meals at local restaurants are $2. And when we travelled inland to various other South American countries, we spent an average of just $400 a month.

We've loved every minute of our time in South America, and always felt safe — even in Colombia. The locals may not always be super-friendly, but nobody was ever threatening.

We began our South American adventure by sailing from Golfito, Costa Rica, to Ecuador. The 15 days it took us, thanks to a combination of light wind and opposing current, made it my slowest passage to date. For five nights in a row we had no wind at all, so we simply turned on the 'night light' and went to sleep.

Although our trip was a slow one, it was filled with the natural delights of cruising. For example, we saw lots of dolphins, turtles and seabirds. But the most exciting incident was when we inadvertently hooked a sailfish. I ultimately had to get into the water and swim the wild creature around the boat in order to resuscitate it. We were rewarded for our efforts twice. First, we got to watch it swim slowly down into the azure depths. Second, a short time later we landed a large dorado that fed us for days.

Our sailing highlight was the night we had a steady 15 knots of wind on the beam and a sea that seemed as smooth as glass. The moon shone over our shoulders, illuminating the sea in front of us, and the phosphorescence from Java's rudders left twin contrails behind. Sheila, my Aussie autopilot, drove the boat at a silent 8-10 knots, leaving Donna and me with nothing much more to do than wonder at the brilliant stars overhead. Having never experienced anything like it, Donna not only stood her watch, but part of mine, too!

It's not always peaceful when you're cruising, of course. For example, one morning at 6 a.m. we lost our forestay. Had Java not been cutter rigged, the mast would have come down. Nonetheless, the genoa also pulled out of the ProFurl roller furling track. By the time we rigged a couple of halyards as temporary forestays and got everything settled, we'd been at it for five hours. Having to sail the remainder of the way to Ecuador with a staysail instead of a genoa added several more days to our passage.

We found a lot to like once we got to Bahia de Caraquez, as the air and water temperatures were warm, the holding ground was good, and the prices were low. Furthermore, in five months of having the boat on a mooring, we had no problems with theft — despite the fact that we were travelling inland almost the entire time. Puerto Amistad, which is located on the river, was most welcoming and the costs were reasonable. You can anchor for free and pay a $5/day fee that includes use of the dinghy dock, hot showers and wi-fi, or you can pay $270/month for a mooring.

The holding ground off Puerto Amistad is good — much better than, for example, at Cartagena, Colombia. During our stay there with friends aboard Southern Belle, a small squall came through and 13 boats dragged in the first half hour! Cartagena is also a lot hotter and more humid, which makes it a less pleasant place to do boat maintenance.

Puerto Lucia is the 'other marina' in Ecuador, but there aren't as many boats there because it's much more expensive and not as cruiser-friendly. It is, however, the best place to do a traditional haulout. Those needing to just haul for a quick bottom job often do it on the sand here at Bahia or while careened against the yacht club wall for $10 a day.

We don’t know about marinas in Peru because not many boats go down there. The problem is that the wind and water are on the nose, making it like a Baja Bash. Besides, the water is cold.

The only drawback with Ecuador is that it supposedly limits the person, not the boat, to a non-renewable three-month visa. Some cruisers have found ways to get around it, however. In addition, the rules about visas seem to change all the time, so you just have to come down and take your chances. For what it's worth, we arrived in February, and we’ll still be here for a couple more months.

One of the pleasant things about Bahia — and most of South America — is that it's so inexpensive. For instance, a plato grande set price meal is never more than $2 in this friendly fishing town. Buses and shared taxis are cheap, too. For those who want to surf or paraglide, Canoa, just across the Chone River, is the place. You can get there by either public panga or an 80-cent bus ride.

As for our inland travels, we spent five months backpacking, following in the footsteps of so many young international viajeros. Hostels and food were generally very cheap — $7/person for a simple room, and $3 to $4 per meal. Most of the spectacular scenery was free, so we didn't do many packaged tours.

We travelled in a very serendipitous style, which allowed us the freedom to take whatever specials came our way — such as a week-long, four-wheel drive trip with a French couple through the spectacular Andes mountains in Argentina. This travel style also allowed us to take a few days off if we felt we'd been on too many buses in too many days.

Buses, however, are the way to go in South America. They come in all styles, from luxurious with full reclining seats, pillows, blankets, hot meals and wine, to the exciting local 'chicken buses' packed to the gills with people, kids, babies — and yes, chickens! Drivers of these buses seem to think they are trying to qualify for gran prix while trying to negotiate steep mountain roads, which are often muddy, slippery and dotted with potholes. It was sometimes scary, and always an adventure.

We flew only twice — a bus trip to Patagonia and back is too long. The only two countries we didn't visit were Brazil and Bolivia, and that was just because we didn't want to pay the $135 "reciprocal" fee they charge Americans.

So if you're looking to get off the worn path, what are you waiting for? Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, the glaciers of Patagonia, the wine country of Chile — there is so much to see. South America is a huge continent ripe for adventure.

— evan 10/15/09

Scarlett O'Hara — Serendipity 43
John and Renee Prentice
Robinson Crusoe Island
(San Diego)

If you're coming to the South Pacific this year and want to add another destination to the list of places that really welcome cruisers, don't forget Likuri Island in Fiji. Also known as Robinson Crusoe Island or RCI, it's owned by three Australians who really love cruisers. In fact, they so like having boats anchored off their island that they go out of their way to be cruiser-friendly. The first time we visited this season, we planned to stay for three days. We ended up staying for three weeks!

RCI is what they call a 'back-packer', which means they provide cheap accommodations that attract lots of young people. These are very popular in Fiji. What distinguishes RCI from all the others is that it has the best show. And we're not talking the best show in Fiji, but the best show in the entire Pacific. The dancers all have day jobs at the resort, but once the show begins, they are transformed into magnificent performers. Their dance style is more Polynesian — meaning more hula-like — than some of the more traditional and modest dance styles we've seen elsewhere in Fiji. There are 16 dancers in all, and they all have beautiful bodies. Rico, a very handsome Fijian, is the leader of the troupe.

The show is so good that it draws many guests from the five-star resorts in the area. RCI buses these people to a landing, where they are brought down river in medium-sized aluminum skiffs, then landed on the beach. For $50, these guests get a great dinner and show, a kava ceremony, some beach time, and all the transportation included. We cruisers get to use the facilities and enjoy the dinner for only about $5 each! The dinners are delicious, too, as the Aussies also own the best meat market we've found in the South Pacific. It's located in nearby Nadi, close to the international airport.

RCI is such a great place that on September 26 we joined the crews of 11 other boats for the First Annual Likuri Island Cruise Wreck Race/Fun Day. Quite a title, no? Among the activities were a dinghy parade, an island survivor contest, a rum hunt and a sailboat race. The following folks participated: Rick Walker and Robin Willstein of the Tampa-based Voyager 430 cat Endangered Species; Ilene Byron and Ken Larner of the U.K.-based 51-ft aluminum schooner Silver Ruffian; James and Lisa Stewart of the New Zealand-based Peterson 46 Bama Breeze; Rod and Viv Smith of the New Zealand-based Sandy Jones 46 Innovation; Ken and Cathy Simmons of the New Zealand-based 60-ft wood motorsailor Fair Isle; Boyd Smith of the New Zealand-based Beneteau Young at Heart; Dailier and Chantal Beaucheng of the France-based Ovni 45.5 Sea Lance; Alain, Patricia, Geean, Maxime and Arthur Guillebert of the France-based Lagoon 470 Tangara; David Van Ryswye and Tony and Mynda Manfield of the New Zealand-based 45-ft custom cat Lady Nada; Richard Holliday of the New Zealand-based H-28 Sea Dove; Steve and Liz Coleman of the Oz-based Oceanic 46 Liberte; and us, with our San Diego based Serendipity 43 Scarlett O'Hara.

The race started just outside Likuri Pass, and was a one-hour reach, at which time the race committee called time. After we all recorded our GPS positions, we raced back to RCI. It was a perfect day for the cats, as it blew 15 knots on the beam. Reaching is not Scarlett's strongest point of sail, but we made a race of it against the six crew on the 46-ft Innovation. We were sailing boat-for-boat with them, and to weather, when they tried to pull out a win by taking us up. But they failed! Despite all our cruising gear and only having a crew of two, Scarlett is still pretty fast.

The winners of the race were identified by pulling names out of a hat — just like in the America's Cup — so a great time was had by all. Next year’s weekend should be about two weeks after the Musket Cove Regatta. We recommend that all Puddle Jumpers put RCI on their list of places to visit.

After a quick trip back to Southern California, we'll come back to Scarlett in Fiji to spend tropical cyclone season with our fingers crossed. We've booked a slip at Vuda Point Marina for the entire season in case we need a place to hide from a tropical cyclone, but we hope to spend most of the season cruising Fiji. After that, we may do a second season in Fiji, or we may continue on to Darwin to join the Indonesia Rally. And if we get that far, we'll almost be committed to a circumnavigation.

— renee 9/24/09

Toucan Tango — Catana 47
Marvin and Ruth Stark
Up the Red Sea To The Med
(Rancho Cordova)
[Continued from last month.]

Continuing up the Red Sea, we cleared into Sudan at the old city of Suakin and anchored in the bay. As advised, we contacted Mohammed, he of the white flowing robe. As promised, we were soon checked in and had water and whatever else we needed at a reasonable price.

Suakin has the distinction of being the last working slave trading city in the world, with slaves sold there until the late '40s. Built ages ago of sandstone and seashells, it's crumbling into ruins. The nearby village, like all of Sudan, is very, very poor. To give you an idea, the village has no paved streets or running water, and there was electricity only part of the time. Donkeys and camels are the primary mode of transportation. Nonetheless, we bought local bread and delicious produce at the local outdoor markets.

The Red Sea is full of reefs, so mariners have to pay close attention. Shortly after entering the Sea, we were sailing at 10 knots in a strong breeze when I casually glanced off to the side — to see that we were passing within 100 yards of a rock as big as a two-story house! I quickly checked the chart, and sure enough, there was a dot on the chart. Just a simple dot. From then on, I was careful to check the dots closely.

While in the Red Sea, we anchored behind offshore reefs on many occasions. Some of these reefs were above water, some of them were submerged. While at the aptly named Dolphin Reef, we anchored for several days and swam with the dolphins.

We approached all reefs and other anchorages in the Red Sea with great care. I stood high on the bow while Ruth drove. Some of the anchorages were spectacular, remote bays surrounded by sand. One evening we watched a long camel train of 30 camels and 30 riders slowly moving to the north in the distance. We were told that Sudanese do not like camel meat, but the Egyptians do.

We checked into Egypt at Port Ghalib, a very upscale purpose-built marina resort. Surrounded by sand and more sand, it's in the middle of nowhere, at least two hours by car to the nearest city. Several of us cruisers got together to rent a mini bus and go to the city for provisioning. It was a long and dull trip, and the produce wasn't of very good quality.

Sailing in the northern part of the Red Sea was often tough work, as we had to tack over and over again. We had to sail 50 miles to make 30 miles in the direction that we wanted to go. But we're patient, and with our Catana 44 had done the entire Baja Bash under sail.

Hurghada, our next Egyptian port, is the windsurfing capital of Egypt. The winds here are strange, as they die off in the afternoon, then come up full blast in the wee hours of the morning. It's not a lot of fun to be sailing along peacefully in the middle of the night, then suddenly have to put a couple of reefs in the sails and start smashing and bashing to windward. Our overnight sail to Hurghada started with moderate 18-20 knots on the nose. The wind eased off in the afternoon and most of the night, but quickly blew up to 32 knots at 4 a.m.

But Mother Nature made up for it the next afternoon. Just when I thought we would have to spend another tough night at sea, the wind slowly veered to the west, and instead of having to make two or three more tacks, we were able to sail directly toward the marina at 9 knots, allowing us to make it in before dark. That's the kind of sailing we like!

Hurghada turned out to be our favorite marina in Egypt. It's modern, not too expensive, and was located adjacent to a city with good shopping. We left our cat there for a week while we toured Aswan, Luxor and the Nile. The touring was expensive, so fortunately it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

The 200-mile trip from Hurghada Marina up the Straits of Ghubal to Suez and the canal is often a tough passage with strong winds on the nose. It was for us. We made this passage in three days, but it took a lot of tacking and having to sail 30 miles to make 20 miles good. We motored all night and into the third day, then spent the rest of the day having officials admeasure our boat and paying the official and unofficial fees.

Having gotten very little sleep in two days, I wasn't in a very good mood when officials showed up at 1 a.m. to demand even more money. They'd left only an hour before after I'd paid all the official fees. But yes, I ultimately handed over another $80, for which I got no receipt. At that point we'd paid a total of $570, plus $20 for the pilot and a boat shirt.

We were up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, as instructed. Our pilot showed up an hour later, and began to shout, "Full power! Full power!" Our canal transit was uneventful, but we were dazzled by the really big ships carrying cars, petroleum, LPG, and container after container. The canal is only wide enough for one ship at a time, so it's one-way heading north in the morning, and one-way south in the afternoon. Small sailboats such as ours travel along with the huge ships. The official speed in the canal is 8.5 knots. Most sailboats only make five knots, so we move aside while the ships slide by.

We stopped for a few days at Ismailia, which is midway up the canal, and took a side trip to Cairo/Giza to see the Pyramids and the Museum. We take no pleasure in saying it, but most of Egypt is a dump, and Cairo is no exception. Like all visitors, we got ripped off at every turn. Any local will be served tea at a sidewalk cafe for about 50 cents. But if you're a tourist, that same tea will cost you $5. Don't even get me started!

The trip the rest of the way up the Suez Canal to Port Said consisted of more motoring past sand dunes and being passed at close quarters by huge container ships.

Only 4% of the land in Egypt — basically the Nile Valley and a few oases — is inhabited and cultivated. The rest is desert, and that's a whole lot of desert. But the Nile vies with the Amazon for the title of the longest river in the world. It's estimated to be 4,160 miles long, and has no tributaries in Egypt. The river runs the entire 960 miles from the border with Sudan to the Med. The Nile sustains the entire country, as it supplies the life-giving water for the entire valley. Both sides of the river are lined about a mile deep with farms and orchards. Beyond that is desert and more desert! In other words, Egypt is a two-mile wide, 960-mile long strip of green, surrounded by desert.

Nonetheless, there are tourists everywhere in Egypt. The Egyptians have been squeezing money from tourists for eons, so they are good at it. The average tourist doesn’t have a chance. You can steel yourself for the experience, but you'll still be no match. Bargain like mad and you'll still end up paying twice the going price for locals. Beware of anyone who comes up to you, says hello, and asks where you are from. They'll want money for being your 'guide'. You cannot walk past a shop without someone trying their damnedest to get you inside. And there are no fixed prices, just what the traffic will bear. Speaking of traffic, if you bargain hard for a taxi ride and then encounter heavy traffic, you'll be asked to pay more — even if you're going to a tourist site and the driver knew there was going to be traffic.

Nonetheless, the Red Sea is home to many huge, first-class seaside resorts, with marinas, dive boats, windsurfing, swimming pools, non-stop discos and endless food. Many of the really big resorts are dedicated to Russians, who seem to wear fewer clothes than other nationalities. I walked into one really gaudy resort that occupied miles of waterfront, only to find that everyone there spoke Russian. Even the signs and all the menus were in Russian.

If we ever visit Egypt in our lifetimes, it will be too soon! Fortunately, our cruising in Turkey has been as good as it was bad in Egypt. I can't wait to tell you about all the wonderful aspects of cruising in Turkey, from the low cost and beauty to the terrific people.

— marvin 9/01/09

Solace — Hylas 47
Paul and Gina Rae
Onboard Surgery and Such
(New Zealand)

After leaving Bora Bora, we enjoyed a vigorous passage to Suwarrow Atoll in the Northern Cooks. There we enjoyed the fabulous hospitality of John, the Park Ranger. What a wonderful steward and tour guide! Suwarrow has more life, above and below the surface, than of any of the islands we've been to so far. As such, we think it's a 'must see' for those cruising across the Pacific.

After several weeks, we departed for Apia, Independent Samoa. Once again it was a mixed bag of a passage, as we had one day of motoring and two days of 'reinforced trades' — including sustained winds of 30 knots. We decided to skip Pago Pago in American Samoa, as the cruisers ahead of us reported that the harbor was very dirty. We ended up flying to Pago Pago later, and saw that we would not have wanted to bring our boat there. But as it's an American Territory, it was a great place to provision with American products.

Our stay in Independent Samoa was marred only by watching the sailing vessel Camille go up on a reef and slowly be damaged beyond repair. She was eventually stripped, then her hull cut into three pieces and dragged into deep water. The loss of the boat was a reminder of how quickly our lives can take a nasty turn.

—often referred to as 'New Potatoes' — which is an island in the Niua group of Tonga. This island is still the Pacific paradise that was written about in years past. The setting is idyllic and the friendly islanders shared their lifestyle with us. It was hard to leave, but the weather encouraged us.

We later had a 30-hour passage — again in rigorous conditions — to Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga. Our plan is to enjoy these islands until we can find a weather window for the 1,100-mile passage to New Zealand, our home.

But on the day we arrived in Neiafu, the salon of Solace was turned into an operating theatre. You see, Willam of Eagle Wing had dropped a hatch on his finger, all but severing the top of his finger through the nail down to the knuckle. So his finger needed medical attention. Fortunately, Betsy, a doctor from Washington, was aboard the nearby Qayak, and agreed to help. She was assisted by Paul, who is an operating room nurse. Thanks to the two of them, it looks as through William's finger will be saved. William was fortunate that Betsy and Paul were here, as the accident happened on a Sunday, and everything in Tonga closes for the Day of Rest — including medical services.

— gina 09/15/09

First Annual Regatta Vava'u

We on the organizing committee are pleased to report that the First Annual Regatta Vava'u was a smashing success, with over 56 boats actively participating and over 300 people attending the Full Moon Party. The event, held September 3-8, was a fundraiser with proceeds going to four local charities: Vava'u Library, Vava'u Library's School Scholarship Fund, Hunga's Kindy Fund, and Vava'u's Laboratory Services. But many participants came away winners, too, as 250 prizes were awarded to registered participants. And they were great prizes, too, including liters of motor oil, packs of toilet paper, and Humpback Whale Swimming and Kart Safaris! We're already working on next year's regatta.

— ben & lisa newton, Waking Dream
— baker hardin, Liten Up
— jason angress, Fale Vaka Lobo
— james barbour, dinghy James I Am

Moonduster — S&S 47
Wayne Meretsky and Neria
Carbon and Bananas

My S&S 47 Moonduster became a whole new boat after I removed the skeg-hung barn door rudder in New Zealand and replaced it with a carbon fiber balanced spade rudder. The refit went over budget, of course, but at least they got it done on time. While getting the boat worked on, I noticed that New Zealand has a much different approach to capitalism from the U.S., and although it can be difficult at times, I find it much more to my liking than the current version in the States. So, I will likely apply for residency in New Zealand when Neria and I return in December.

But right now we're at Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga, where we have a much more serious problem. Bananas. Buying a stalk of them seemed like a good idea at the time. It always does. But now we’ve got a sink full of ripe bananas. Plus two loaves of banana bread. And a pan of banana muffins. Neria says she’s had it “up to here” with bananas, but they aren’t coming out her ears yet. I checked. If nature is so perfect, why do all the bananas — about 30 of them — on a stalk ripen within 24 hours of each other? Fortunately, the ocean is impossibly large, so the addition of 30 ripe bananas won’t even make a ripple.

For a while there on our passage up from New Zealand, it seemed as though Neria might never eat anything again. From her log:

"Great things have occurred. After four days sustained only by nibbles on dry crackers and sips of water, I have finally eaten a meal. My previous attempt at eating — some soup several days ago — hadn't worked out. After about four spoons of it, my stomach sent me a clear warning signal, so I waited. But now it's two days later, and I ate some boiled pasta with tomato — it tasted delicious! Enjoying my new-found hunger, Wayne was set to work again — at 3 a.m., no less — to prepare more complex carbohydrates for me. Boiled potatoes and butter — mmmmm! It may seem that I'm currently fixated on food, and that would be a fair assessment. All I can say is that it is great to be hungry again."

Right now we're anchored off the sand spit that separates the islands of Uonukuhihifo and Uonukuhahake. For ease, we refer to them as HiHi and HaHa, the Happy Islands. The cows that wandered across the sand spit just last year seem to have disappeared, but they’ve been replaced by pigs — pigs nearly as large as the cows were. Just so we could remember what it was like to have responsibilities — or, God forbid, jobs — yesterday Neria and I polished some stainless steel, disassembled, cleaned and lubricated a winch, greased the windlass, pretended to fix the sail track gate on the mast, and dealt with some long-standing electrical noise problems that have plagued the SSB. This morning we woke up with a sense of satisfaction that we’re hoping will last for a few weeks.”

— wayne 09/01/09

Reba — Celestial 48
Steve and Jaime Sidells
It's Such A Small Cruising World
(Incline Village)

How small the world of cruising is continues to amaze us. The Nutt family's 60-ft steel ketch was from Edgecomb, Maine. Lani and Richard Straman's 86-ft Fife schooner Astor was from Newport Beach. And our Reba was from Northern California. And in 2000, the crews from the three boats met and became good friends in French Polynesia and other island groups across the Pacific. As time passed, we lost contact with Danza.

This fall Jaime and I had the pleasure of sailing the coast of Maine aboard Astor, guests of the Stramans. Latitude readers may remember the June issue of Latitude, in which it was reported that Astor took first in class and the Concours awards at 2009 Antigua Race Week.

But after some sleuthing and good luck, we managed to cross paths with Danza, which had completed a circumnavigation and returned to Maine. So after nine years, the Stramans and Sidells got to meet up again with David Nutt, Judy Sandick and their son David, who are living near Boothbay Harbor, Maine. We learned that they completed their circumnavigation four years ago, that David is doing boat repair, Judy is a physician at a local hospital, three of their children are going through college, and son David had just graduated from Dartmouth.

One of the last times our three boats had been together was in Vanuatu, where Jaime and I decided that we could not continue on to the Solomon Islands. Since Danza was going to continue on that way, we asked them if they would try to look up Mark Philip for us. Who is Mark Philip?

While crossing the equator in the Eastern Pacific during the '00 Puddle Jump, Jaime and I threw a bottle into the ocean. Over a period of 16 months and two days, it traveled 5,000 miles across the Pacific, where it was found on Makira Island by Philip! During our most recent meeting, the crew of Danza was surprised to learn that Philip and I have been in contact ever since.

Thanks to all the lobster traps and rocks, sailing in Maine is like sailing an obstacle course. But the experience is fabulous, especially when lobsters from the traps end up on our plates. As for us and Reba, we look forward to continuing sailing the unobstructed waters of Banderas Bay this winter.

— steve 09/18/09

Cruise Notes:

“I just realized that it’s Jen's and my fourth anniversary of meeting at Buccaneer Day at Two Harbors, Catalina,” writes Greg King of Long Beach. He, Jennifer Sanders, and her daughter, Coco, have been out cruising the Pacific aboard Jennifer’s 65-ft Long Beach-based schooner Cocokai for a couple of years now. “Life aboard is still great. We’re in western Fiji right now, and will be on the hard for about six weeks. If anybody wants to follow us on our website, they can't, because we're probably the only ones out here who don't have ours up yet."

“I encourage cruisers not to miss the 9th Annual Zihua Sail Fest fund-raiser February 2-7 for the education of disadvantaged children in Zihuatanejo,” writes Pamela Bendall of the Port Hardy, British Columbia-based Kristen 46 Precious Metal. “While the tone of the event is lighthearted and filled with games, parades, races and much more, the goal is very serious — to raise lots of money to educate Zihua’s poorest children so they have a fighting chance in life. Last year we raised 640,000 pesos, including the matching grant from the Bellack Foundation of San Diego and cruiser/donor Pete Boyce of the Tiburon-based Sabre 40 Edelweiss III. Further bolstered by a $20,000 U.S. grant from Rotary International, material donations from the city and state, and the volunteer labor of dozens and dozens of parents, Sail Fest now supports 600 bright-eyed children in nine schools. Your having a great time at Sail Fest can truly change the life of a Mexican child. If you want to volunteer to help out, or can’t make it and want to write a check, visit for details."

Latitude 38 highly recommends contributions and participation in the Sail Fest Event.

“I’ve a few corrections and an addition for Latitude's calendar of events in Mexico,” writes Rick Cromwell, Commodore of Club Cruceros de La Paz. “Our club will be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner for cruisers at Marina Palmira. We provide the turkey and dressing, the rest is potluck. Last year we fed 265 people, including a bunch of Ha-Ha folks, and welcome everyone again this year. As for the big Subasta fundraiser on December 6, through mutual agreement, it will now be run by the Fundación de los Ninos de La Paz. While our club will no longer host the event, we remain sponsors, and many of our members will help make it run smoothly. Lastly, our annual Club Cruceros Bay Fest will be held April 9-10. We'll have workshops, seminars, music, fantastic food, games — and on Sunday we have a fun sailboat race for all types and sizes of boats. There will be no cost other than for the food and beverages.”

Patsy Verhoeven of the Portland- and La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion wants everyone to know that Sea of Cortez Sailing Week will be held April 15-22 next year, putting it right between Bay Fest in La Paz and Loreto Fest in Puerto Escondido. “We started the first two Sea of Cortez Sailing Weeks on April Fool’s Day, and Tax Day is sort of like April’s Fool’s Day, so it all makes sense,” she says. Sea of Cortez Sailing Week features fun races from La Paz to Caleta Partida, Caleta Partida to Isla San Francisco, Isla San Francisco to Caleta Partida, and Caleta Partida back to La Paz, so yeah, it’s for folks who really love to sail. There will also be three lay days for socializing at the islands.

The Hidden Port YC of Puerto Escondido, which hosts the Loreto Fest, has yet to post the dates of next spring’s event. But, it’s usually the last weekend of April or the first weekend of May. As such, next April and early May are going to be packed with events for cruisers in the Sea of Cortez. You don't want to miss it, because it's perhaps the best time of year in the Sea.

It sounded like war, but fortunately wasn’t as destructive. “We — meaning my wife LaShandra and children Keturah, 13, and John Jr., 12 — survived the October 12 storm unscathed after hiding in the lee of China Cove at San Cruz Island,” writes John Fluro of the San Francisco-based Hylas 47 Alias. Alas, our anchor windlass failed the next day, so it was very difficult to pull up our 60-lb CQR on an all-chain rode. We left Santa Cruz Island for Catalina, where we picked up a mooring in Cat Harbor. I was changing out the propane tank for a full one, with wrenches in hand, when I heard — and felt — a very large explosion behind me. It was closer than almost anything I experienced while in Iraq and Afghanistan. I turned around to see — about 100 yards away — burning debris flying through the air, and an enormous cloud of smoke. After the smoke dissipated, we saw some Sheriff’s deputies walking around near the site of the explosion. It turns out that some Navy flares had washed ashore, and a bomb squad had been flown over to the island to detonate them. The fact that I was working on my propane tanks at the time was just luck.”

Changes readers with good memories will recall that, in the February ‘09 issue, we wrote about how in the fall of ‘08, the 600-ft Turkish freighter Gulser Ana rescued the two French crew from Fred and Sophy Tassigny’s St. Barth-based Venezia 42 Courtship. In a rather unusual series of events several hundred miles from Bermuda, the cat’s steering had been crippled by a surfacing whale, and the ship was only able to rescue the crew by T-boning and dismasting the cat. Fast forward to August 26 of this year, with Gulser Ana headed to India with a cargo of 39,000 tons of phosphates. Somehow the big ship grounded two miles off Faux Cape, Madagascar. She ultimately broke in two, leaking fuel, phosphates and other nasty stuff into the ocean. All 23 crew — 21 Turks and two Indonesians — were rescued.

That still leaves us bedeviled by the question of whatever happened to Courtship? If you go to YouTube and type in Gulser Ana, you’ll see a video of the ship intentionally ramming the cat. But even after being dismasted, the cat appeared to be in no danger of sinking. We’ve got to believe that she rode the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic to Ireland. Anybody hear anything?

“Anyone know what’s happened to Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell?” asks Kevin Quinn. “Her blog on Wet Sand seems to have vanished. I hope she’s well.”

It just so happens that we met up with Liz in Santa Barbara in early October, and can report that four years into her sailing-surfing safari, she’s doing great, thank you. And she’s been very busy. The October issue of Surfer magazine has a fine article on her adventures to date called Crossing Oceans, and there’s a Patagonia ad in the same issue that features a photo of Clark surfing Teahupo’o, Tahiti, which is as dangerous a break as there is on this planet. In addition, Liz wrote an article called Blue Mountains Constantly Walking for the October issue of the much-respected Surfer’s Journal. The really big news, however, is that Patagonia invited Liz to join a two-week surf legends trip aboard a converted trading vessel in Indonesia. “If you include the entire crew, it was 15 guys and me,” she laughs. “But I had the privilege of being able to ride waves with iconic surfers such as Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch and Chris, Dan and Keith Malloy. The great people and great waves made it a fabulous experience. Gerry is 60 and Wayne is 58, but thanks to doing lots of yoga, they are still tremendous surfers. The engine would come on at 4 a.m. each morning to get to the first break of the day, then we’d hit three or four other spots a day. The guys were not only inspirations, they were kind enough to help me make some adjustments in my surfing.”

If that’s not busy enough, a publisher contacted Liz about doing a book, so she’s been holed up in Santa Barbara working on that. “But I’m dying to get back to Swell as soon as I can,” Liz told us. “I still love French Polynesia and the whole cruising lifestyle. And I enjoy singlehanding in particular, because when you’re alone, you have lots of time to work on yourself, and you can also act on impulse. Travelling alone means you get to meet more people and be more open to opportunities.”

As we gave Liz a goodbye hug, we were reminded of how physically small she is. Yet she’s come so far and done so much. She’s a real inspiration herself.

Capt. Eric B. Forsyth, a former fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, arrived in San Francisco Bay right around our November issue deadline with his Westsail 42 Fiona, so we haven't had a chance to interview him yet. But wow, what a sailing resume! He and his wife Edith came out to California in ‘74 to have a look at the first Westsail 42 hull in Costa Mesa. They liked what they saw, and bought a hull and deck, figuring that Eric could complete the boat in four years. It took eight years to complete the job, but he’s subsequently sailed her 240,000 ocean-miles, visiting just about every corner of the globe. In fact, he was awarded the Blue Water Medal by the Cruising Club of America in ‘00. Forsyth arrived in San Francisco on October 17, having just completed the Northwest Passage. Edith, a physician with a busy medical practice, accompanied Eric on summer cruises in the early years, but passed away of ovarian cancer in ‘90. But she's responsible for Fiona's name.

"We’d sold our beloved 35-ft Dutch boat Iona a couple of years before," Eric explains, "a boat we’d cruised in the Caribbean with our then three-year-old son. Both Iona and Fiona have the old-fashioned long keel of the genuine ocean cruiser, so when Edith first saw the Westsail 42 hull, she was surprised. 'My God,' she exclaimed, 'another f--king Iona!' And that’s where Fiona's name came from!"

“While returning to my boat in Australia recently, I met Serge Testa who, among other things, circumnavigated with the 11-ft, 10-inch cutter Acrohc Australis that he designed and built himself,” reports Warwick ‘Commodore’ Tompkins of the Mill Valley-based Wylie 38+ Flashgirl. “Serge did some original thinking in the design and construction phase, then underwent hellish privation while sailing around the globe. Based on his book 500 Days Around The World, I think he must also own the world record for the number of times having run aground. It’s also amazing that, despite having gone through several cyclones, his little boat never capsized. Acrohc Australis, which is the smallest to have ever circumnavigate, is on display at the Brisbane Museum, which is where I met Serge and got an autographed copy of his book. He later visited my Flashgirl, and surprised me by essentially having no comments or questions. He’s a pleasant and soft-spoken fellow, but very difficult to draw out.”

What Tompkins neglected to mention is that Testa, who lived in Berkeley with his wife Robin until just recently, did a second circumnavigation with a 60-footer he designed and built.

As for Tompkins, he and Paul Slivka — the latter who sailed from the Bay Area to Australia with his family aboard their Piver 30 tri Harmony in ‘77 and never came back — were slated to deliver the Freedom 39 Mainly to a more saleable location than American Samoa. You might remember that Dan and Joan Olszewski of the East Coast had been cruising the boat for more than 20 years when Dan was swept away and killed by the tsunami that hit Pago Pago on September 29. Unable to bear the thought of keeping the boat without Dan on her, Joan ordered Mainly sold as quickly as possible. Almost immediately — and certainly before Commodore and Slivka could deliver her anywhere — the boat was sold. If we're not mistaken, it was as the result of a notice in 'Lectronic. So now Commodore is back to his original plan, which is to cruise that area of the world some more with Flashgirl. He'll soon be joined by his wife, Nancy.

It's characteristic of many singlehanders, who are big on self-sufficiency, that they'd think doing the Northwest Passage would be less dangerous than transiting the Panama Canal. For instance, Jack Van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Naja 30 Fleetwood.

"The goal I've set for myself is to complete my solo circumnavigation by my 80th birthday, which gives me only eight more years," writes Jack, who had already done all but about 5,000 miles of a circumnavigation. "I dread the thought of singlehanding my 30-year-old plywood boat through the Panama Canal, so I'm hoping that, by the time I've seen all I want to see of Europe, the Northwest Passage will still be ice-free. But right now, my plan is to head up the Rhine River and down the Danube River next fall in order to do the winter of '10-'11 in Turkey. Eventually I'll get flushed back into the Atlantic — unless, of course, I make a left turn at the Red Sea. At the moment, I'm in northern Europe, so I'm wearing socks and have an electric heater buzzing in the companionway. I had some trepidations on venturing out of the warmer climes to cool Europe, the land of very high prices, but so far it's been a positive experience beyond my wildest expectations."

For the record, although one person was allowed to swim through the Panama Canal — where were the crocs? — nobody is allowed to singlehand any boat through the Panama Canal. All boats are required to have a skipper, four line-handlers, and an Advisor.

Another characteristic of singlehanders, is that they don’t like to be told what to do. So it doesn’t surprise us that Glenn Tieman of the Ventura-based 38-ft traditional Polynesian cat Manu Rere would have nothing to do with Samoa after officials in Apia told him that he'd have to put his boat in a marina. “As soon as I heard the news,” writes the man who once cruised the Pacific and Asia for 10 years aboard a 26-ft cat, "I sailed right back out to sea. I ended up at Wallis Island, and was there the when the tsunami hit Samoa. I'm now in Funafuti, Tuvalu.”

One of the great gigs for young surfer-sailors has been to buy a small sailboat, park her along the surf break-rich north coast of Banderas Bay, liveaboard, then get a job ashore. That's exactly what young Stephan Ries has been doing for seven years with his Coronado 25 Ky-Mani. But anchoring out permanently has its risks, too, as you can see from the accompanying photo. Ries says that his 10-kg Bruce didn't drag, but rather the shock loading during stormy conditions on October 12 caused the anchor line to break at the swivel. He swam out to his boat, but got there too late to deploy another anchor. Ky-Mani ended up below the bluff where the Palladium Resort is located and where Stephan works as a bartender. It's only a short distance from Burro's, the fine surf spot Stephan has been anchoring off for a long time. The combination of the waves and the rocks made short work of the Coronado 25 and, before long, there was nothing left. As for Stefan, he's temporarily ashore while looking for a $3,000 replacement boat.

If you want to see a dramatic video of a guy riding his boat onto the beach, go to and type in 'ky-mani lost'. It's dramatic.

“You wanted stories about the October 12 storm?” Arjan Bok of the San Francisco-based Lidgard 43 RotKat asked rhetorically. “We'd left San Francisco a couple of days before to head to Southern California to get ready for the Ha-Ha. It seemed as though we’d have no problem getting to the Santa Barbara area before the storm would reach us. Unfortunately, the forecasts were off by about 12 hours. By the time we got to Point Arguello, it was blowing in the mid-20s from the southeast with steep and nasty 4 to 6-ft waves on our nose. We sailed for quite a while, but were only making 4 to 5 knots headway towards Santa Cruz island. With RotKat starting to act more and more like a submarine, at 9 a.m. I proposed to the crew that we turn downwind and head back up to Morro Bay. There were no arguments about that. We got to Morro Bay by 3 p.m., at which point we discovered that the Ha-Ha burgees are really only good for downwind, for the 30+ knots of apparent wind had blown some of the rubbery lettering off our burgee. We — as well as other Ha-Ha boats Sea Bear and Music at the yacht club docks, and Willful Simplicity on a nearby mooring — rode out gusts in the harbor without any problem. As soon as the wind resumes blowing in the right direction, we’ll continue on down to Catalina.”

It’s hard to give up miles made to windward, but if you’re cruising as opposed to racing, it's often the smart thing to do. Especially when the normal wind is in your favor.

Le Select, perhaps the most famous sailor’s bar in the Caribbean, and indisputably the social hub of chic St. Barth, despite being bare-bones and retro, will be celebrating its 60th anniversary from November 6-8. It’s expected to be a party for the ages, and we've heard that all the rooms on the island have been reserved because so many old friends of Marius Stakelborough, the bar's only owner, will be flying in from around the world. Marius, one of the gentlemen and characters of the Caribbean, was born on the tiny island in '23. He can tell a million stories of 'the old days'. Jimmy Buffett, Marius’ good friend for more than 30 years and a part-time resident of the island, will be among the many musicians playing. We’d have given just about anything to celebrate with Marius, but alas, the dates conflict with the Ha-Ha. Nonetheless, we should have some coverage next month, as JuJu Chantenuff of San Francisco, a rogue of the first order and a long time habitué of St. Barth, has invited Heather Corsaro, last year’s commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, to cover the festivities for us.

With the northern hemisphere winter upon us, the rally time of year is fast approaching. The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the granddaddy of all cruising rallies, will depart Las Palmas in the Canaries on November 22 with a full fleet of 225 entries. Their destination will be 2,700-mile distant St. Lucia. The ARC course is one of the great cruising routes in the world, as it's a warm, downwind passage in the trades. Every sailor should do it once in their lives. There are about a dozen entries from the United States, but to our knowledge none from the West Coast. If we're wrong, please speak up!

Also in November is the 20th Caribbean 1500, from Hampton, Virginia, to the British Virgins. There are 63 boats entered, the average length of which is 47.5 feet, about five feet longer than the average Ha-Ha boat. Almost all of the entries are from the East Coast, although there are four from Canada, two from the U.K., and one each from Japan, Germany and New Zealand.

There are also various other rallies across the Atlantic. We rarely hear about the French and German ones because most of us don't speak the language. But they've got them, too. Anybody for a rally to El Salvador? Bill Yeargan and Jean Strain of the Honolulu-based Irwin 37 Mita Kuuluu report that the El Salvador Ministry of Tourism and the owner of Hotel Bahia del Sol have authorized them to develop a cruisers' rally to El Salvador. "Our idea is something like the Puddle Jump, in that it would be free and cruisers could start and travel on their own schedule — as long as they arrive in El Salvador by April 30. The objective of this rally is to help cruisers unearth the less-traveled but spectacular destination of El Salvador, and have a lot of fun at the same time. The rally destination of Bahia del Sol offers a low-key, relaxing atmosphere where like-minded cruisers can meet and safely leave their boats while they travel inland." The event hopes to have their website up soon.

If you avoid marinas and bars and restaurants, cruising in Mexico can be very cheap. But not as cheap as a month ago. Thanks to the U.S. government printing money as fast as the presses can be run, the dollar has been slipping against almost every major currency in the world. So if you're going to New Zealand or especially Australia, your greenbacks are going to buy 10 to 20% less than a month ago. In Mexico, the exchange rate has dropped from about 13.5 to 12.5 in just the last month.

For those of you doing the Ha-Ha, there are lots of great post-event options. One of them is the La Paz area, and to let you know how welcome you are, the city and state tourism departments, as well as Marina de La Paz, Marina Palmira, Marina Costa Baja, Club Cantamar and Coral Marina Estates are inviting you to Papa's & Beer Beach Club for a beach party on November 19. While the event is open to everyone, it's free to the first 50 participants from the Ha-Ha. The water in the La Paz area often stays warm until the first or even middle of December, so if you're not going to hit it in the spring, don't miss it in the fall. You want to keep your eye out for Northers, of course, but they usually pass through quickly. And when in La Paz, don't miss at least one meal at Rancho Viejo.

Marine and other businesses in the Mazatlan and Banderas Bay areas also having the welcome mat out for you. There will be Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations everywhere there is a group of cruisers.

And please don't forget the Banderas Bay Blast December 2-4, which will feature the annual reopening of the ultra-exclusive and super-snobby Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, a costume party aboard Profligate on the hook at Punta Mita, rock 'n roll and dancing at Philo's in La Cruz, a water balloon catching contest, and three days of 'everybody's a winner' fun-racing between Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz and Punta Mita. We do have to warn you that new Commodore Lisa Zittel has been working out over the summer to make sure that she gives all new members of the Punta Mita Y&S the spanking they deserve. But remember, no paddling, no yacht club T-shirt.

The '09-'10 cruising season has arrived — and none too soon. We want all of you out there to know that we'd love to see your names and photos in Latitude. It's easy, just email a couple of your best high-res photos to , making sure to include the Who, What, Where, and When. Short and simple is best, but please, complete names, hailing ports and boats types.

Have a great season!!!

Missing the pictures? See the November 2009 eBook!


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