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November 2013

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With reports this month from Mintaka cruising Costa Rica and Panama. From Geja on Andrew Vik's sixth summer in the Med. From Marnie on the history of a yacht the likes of which are hard to find these days. From Second Chance on cruising adventures in Nova Scotia. From Ichiban on low-budget cruising in the South Pacific. From Murar's Dream on an onboard fire in Fiji. From Red Witch II on careening in the Sea of Cortez. And Cruise Notes.

Mintaka — Triton 28
Stefan Ries
Costa Rica and Panama

Checking out of the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica was easy, and the international zarpe was only $20. I wanted to stop at the great surf spot of Pavones to catch a few left-handers, but as I'd already checked out of the country and there was an anchored Coast Guard cutter. I kept going to avoid possible problems.

I'd heard some bad stories about Puerto Armuelles, the first port of entry in Panama, so I sailed past. I guess that's what most cruisers do, and it's tolerated. Isla Cavada, one of the Secas Islands, was my first stop in Panama, and I just got the anchor down before there was a tremendous downpour.

After some good rest, I day-hopped to Isla Brincanco and Isla Canal de Afuera. Both are part of Coiba National Park, which means expensive fees that I wanted to avoid. I was hoping for great surf at my next stop, Isla Santa Catalina, but there was no swell at the famous break. So I continued on to Isla Cebaco.

My next leg was an overnighter to Playa Guanico, during which time I started seeing a lot of big ships on their way to and from the Panama Canal. I got my first waves in Panama at my next stop, Playa Venao, but they were small. After that, I rounded Punta Mala to anchor at Punta Rinconcito. Another overnighter in a south wind let me hold a course well inside the shipping lanes, and got me to Isla Otoque.

From there it was another short sail to Isla Tabago, and from there I crossed the entrance to the Canal in a good breeze that allowed me to keep a safe distance from all shipping. I dropped the hook in the Las Brisas anchorage between Isla Naos and Isla Perico. I was on the other side of the causeway from the ships heading to the Canal, so it was very quiet. There was a dinghy dock, too.

The Autoridad Maritima de Panama has an office on Isla Flamenco, which was within walking distance of the dinghy landing. Checking into Panama was expensive: $20 for the Declaracion General; $103 for the Navigation Permit for a boat under 10 meters; and $105 for a yatista visa at the Immigration office in Altos de Diablo. Since I've paid up for one year, I might as well stay in Panama awhile and get my money's worth.

Provisioning was easy at the big supermarkets such as Super 99 and Rey. I later took a bus from Albrook to El Dorado, but what I saw of Panama City was rather rundown and ugly. The other extreme was the huge, sterile, U.S.-style Albrook Mall. I've only been in the city a short time and I'm ready to leave.

My next stop will be the Perlas Islands, which are about 40 miles to the southeast. It's supposed to be a totally different world. There are 90 named islands, plus 130 unnamed inlets, lovely beaches, turquoise water, and swaying palms. From there I'll head back to some surf breaks on the mainland. I don't expect to find any Internet at the Perlas Islands, and if I like it there I might stay for weeks, so I could be incommunicado for awhile.

— stefan 10/15/2013

Geja — 1976 Islander 36
Andrew Vik
A Quickie in the Med
(San Francisco)

For the sixth summer in a row since buying Geja through an article in Latitude, I hopped onto a flight from SFO to Europe, this time for three weeks of high-season Mediterranean fun in the Adriatic Sea. Geja spends the winter on the hard in the town of Trogir, just minutes from the Split International Airport. How convenient is that?

As usual, I'd left the bottom job and engine servicing to the boatyard. There was still plenty for me to do to get her ready for action, which this year included installing a subwoofer and multicolor LED lighting synchronized to the music. I might have to rename my boat Disco Geja. I'd also maxed out a second piece of luggage with 50 pounds of boat gear. You can’t acquire specialty products easily, quickly or affordably in Europe. We’re pretty spoiled here in the U.S.

The marina in Trogir is a ridiculously pleasant place to do boat work, with church bells from the UNESCO World Heritage Town ringing throughout the day, and bikini-clad charterers from all over Europe strolling through the boatyard.

The last night before departing Trogir, my first crew Henrik and I stumbled upon something called 'The Yacht Week'. It’s a one-week flotilla of over 60 charter boats with some 600 sailors ­— mostly single and under 30 — from all over the world. The organizers keep the gender balance to 50/50 to keep everybody happy. Every high-season Saturday, the entire fleet rafts up to Trogir's main promenade, or riva, for the first party night of the trip. The participants were totally amped, so Henrik and I fit right in. What a crazy scene!

As tempting as it was to follow the party flotilla to the next port, we sailed up the coast instead. It didn’t take long to experience one of the worst mechanical meltdowns in my time aboard Geja. Yes, the head clogged! I’d always bragged about how bulletproof Geja’s Dutch-made toilet was, handling even two-ply toilet paper without a fuss. I’d never even had to service it over the course of five summers — although I do carry a rebuild kit.

After a few rather disgusting hours in paradise disassembling the pump, it turned out that the clog was at the 90-degree thru-hull elbow, which had just been serviced over the winter. My theory is that some of that calcified urine-seawater mix that lines the inside of our head hoses broke free and lodged itself in the thru-hull during servicing. A nasty problem solved. By the way, Geja neither has a holding tank, nor has been asked about one by E.U. officials.

A few days later, with Stig and Silvie, my married friends from Petaluma aboard, we motored away from the town of Sibenik. Just as we reached the old fortress called Sveti Nikola, Geja’s 20-hp Yanmar sputtered to a stop. It was such a horrible feeling! For five summers it had reliably pushed my boat and me through thousands of miles in the Med.

Luckily, there was an anchorage a quarter-mile upwind, so we tacked into the bay. We got the anchor down fine, but wound up bumping into a little Austrian-flagged cabin cruiser as we drifted back. Out came her owner — naked — in a hurry to help fend off. I apologized and explained the situation, so he agreed to relocate a bit. His companion — also naked — kept herself down below during the ordeal. Naked German-speaking people practicing F.K.K. — free-body culture — are prevalent throughout Croatia.

We traced the engine problem to a clog in the diesel tank, but limited clearance between the tank and the underside of the cockpit sole prevented me from removing the fuel intake 'straw'. Lacking the self-sufficiency of a real sailor, I arranged for a mechanic to meet us that evening at a fuel dock back in Sibenik. That left us some time to eat lunch, explore the fortress, and figure out how to bring Geja up the busy, narrow channel back to town.

Despite our having already interrupted his afternoon, the naked Austrian, now clothed, agreed to tow us. He later declined both a full bottle of Jäger and cash for the extra fuel burned.

Just 45 minutes after the mechanic’s arrival, we were back in business. It hadn't been dirty fuel, but rather some gasket material from the tank’s inspection port that had broken loose and was floating around in the otherwise sparkling-clean diesel tank.

To swap crew at the end of the first week, we took a spot in the marina in Zadar, one of Croatia’s main coastal towns, at a whopping $87 per night. And that’s for my little 36-footer, which conveniently makes it under the 11-meter rate threshold by a mere inch. At least we could split the cost four ways. Sometimes it's really worth it to be able to step onto and off the boat, hose her down, and take real showers.

From this point on, we became an all-male crew, with Big Steve and Mats joining Henrik and me. With just two weeks remaining to make it back to Geja’s base near Split, we couldn’t venture too much farther up the coast. But we all agreed that the island of Pag, with Zrce, its Ibiza-style party beach, would be worth a couple of extra-long sailing days.

To make things exciting, we elected to take a long detour up the dreaded Velebit Channel. It's known for having the strongest of the notorious boras, powerful winds that blow down from the 5,000-ft Velebit Mountains with violent gusts. The wind blows so hard across the channel, mostly in winter, that vegetation on the mainland-facing side of Pag is as barren as the surface of the moon.

Fortunately, we had a day of lake-like calm to transit the 40 miles between safe harbors. So calm, in fact, that we could nudge Geja to within a boat length of some cliffs and swim ashore for a few terrifying leaps. With the bora expected to kick in overnight, we cleared the Velebit Channel and took a spot in the town of Rab. It wasn't known as a party spot — until the four of us showed up.

Clear of the bora’s wrath, we sailed back down the leeward side of Pag and anchored in Novalja, gateway to the party beach of Zrce. The various after-beach parties peak from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., with house music blaring, go-go dancers-a go-go’ing, and a couple of thousand beach-clad partygoers dancing away in the outdoor clubs. The main event is actually much later, from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., when the world’s top DJs show up. Personally, I find the after-beach parties to be far more entertaining.

Mid-August, however, is a crappy time to visit Zrce, as Italian males overwhelm the place, sending an already too high guy-girl ratio through the roof. Seriously, an environment with 85% males does nobody any good. The guys become stupid and the girls get annoyed. Those with the Navionics iPhone app should read my note in the Novalja anchorage titled, 'Italian Sausage Fest'.

In the two days we spent sailing from Novalja back to Zadar, we visited the adorably Croatian village of Lucina on the island of Molat, swam in an old submarine tunnel embedded in the island of Dugi Otok, and had some great spinnaker runs in the reliable afternoon northwesterly winds.

Back in Zadar, we changed crew once again, losing first-timers Henrik and Mats for five-time Geja crewmate Lukas from Switzerland. More on our adventures in the December Latitude.

— andrew 09/28/2013

Marnie — Mason 62 Ketch
Walter Paige
More than a Circumnavigation
(Virginia Beach, Virginia)

In 1998, I purchased the 62-ft ketch Marnie, which was then berthed at the St. Francis YC in San Francisco. My first couple of months with Marnie were spent sailing the Bay and living aboard her in front of the club, where my previous two yachts, Rowena and Natoma, still lived. As we planned our first voyage and familiarized ourselves with the boat systems, we were frequently visited by many of the previous owner's family, sailing friends and past crew. It was such a pleasure to make a connection with each visitor, as they collectively provided a history of the life and times of Marnie. While she was still a young boat, she had a rich history.

Our first cruise was down the West Coast of the United States, Mexico and Central America. After transiting the Canal, we continued on to cruise the East Coast of North America, as well as across the Atlantic to Turkey in the Eastern Med. Our first cruising experience with Marnie was so pleasurable that after returning to her new home port in Virginia, we decided that the only thing that would do justice to such a spectacular vessel would be a circumnavigation. So in January 2008, we departed Virginia Beach for the Pacific via the Panama Canal on the beginning of what would be a five-year circumnavigation.

Our crossing to French Polynesia was the most enjoyable sail I have experienced in over 30 years of cruising — which says a lot about both the Pacific Ocean and Marnie. Before departing, I purchased a 2.2-ounce tri-radial spinnaker, which we often flew for days on end. Sometimes we did as little as four knots; sometimes we did over 10 knots.

I could go on for days about the adventures we enjoyed during the 5½ years we sailed the great ketch around the world. But I wouldn't know where to start, much less when to stop. In any event, the circumnavigation was as much about the vessel and the man who commissioned Marnie as it was about the landfalls we made and the ports we visited. I know this wouldn't be the case for every sailor, but then most don't have the appreciation for fine craftsmanship or a beautiful shear. Nor will most ever have the opportunity to sail a vessel so full of life as Marnie.

Unlike most cruising boats of the last 40 years, Marnie was built of wood — 15,000 board feet of heart kauri — plus a considerable amount of teak, epoxy, copper, lead and bronze. They don't build them like her anymore. She is triple diagonally planked, and is of 'belt and suspenders' construction. She was built to go anywhere in safety, comfort and style, and never let us down.

If anyone ever has any doubts about the longevity of proper timber vessels, they only need to hold the beautiful kauri bowl we acquired in New Zealand. It was turned from a 'swamp kauri' tree unearthed after being buried in the mud for, as determined by carbon dating, 6,000 years!

When a boat is built by skilled craftsmen using modern construction techniques, timber is arguably the best material for building a proper yacht. I know most of you are thinking that fiberglass boats are so much easier to maintain and last longer, but I'm telling you that a properly built timber yacht takes no more to keep in top condition than one built of other materials. And the difference between wood and fiberglass boats is that a wood boat will give her 'custodian' triple the comfort, pleasure and joy.

A renowned yachtsman once told me, "Marnie is one of those yachts that you'll keep seeing in harbors around the world for the next century." I liked that evaluation. I might have considered it to be far-fetched if it hadn't come from the custodian of a 100-year-old gaff-rigged boat.

Of course, it's not the average sailor who would appreciate, let alone commission, such a vessel. That's what was so special about Donald Dalziel, a gentleman yachtsman from Berkeley. After graduating from the University of California, he started his seagoing career by shipping out on the Dollar Steamship Line in various junior officer positions, sailing around the world several times. He later joined the Coast Guard, where he honed his seamanship skills.

After building his first boat as a teenager, Dalziel would never be without one, and the last three he owned were larger ones. The first two larger ones, the 49-ft Rowena and the 58-ft Natoma, were built at the renowned Stone Boat Yard located in the Oakland Estuary. Dalziel was an avid racer who participated in numerous offshore races. In fact, Natoma ended up in New Zealand for the cyclone season of 1976 after doing both the 1975 TransPac and 1976 Tahiti Race legs of the voyage.

In the days before New Zealand first won the America's Cup, there were few marinas in which to keep a boat, so Dalziel ended up leaving Natoma in the care of John Salthouse at the latter's boatyard. Salthouse was a master boatbuilder who had acquired legendary status in New Zealand. Dalziel wasn't considering building another yacht at the time, but he was so inspired by the work of Salthouse that when he returned to San Francisco the following year, he had another build on his mind.

Famous American naval architect Philip Rhodes had done the design work for Rowena and Natoma, but had passed away. So Dalziel sought out Al Mason, who had been associated with Rhodes over the span of his career. The only problem was that Mason had retired. That didn't stop Dalziel, who met with Mason and pursuaded him to do one more design. Both men were 73 years old at the time, so there was plenty of experience between the two, and it's reflected in Marnie.

Once the design work was completed, Salthouse was brought into the fold. After a 16-month build, Marnie was launched on April 15, 1985. Although Dalziel was then 75 years old, age wasn't an impediment for him. A month after Marnie was launched, Dalziel, his wife Mary, and his crew departed New Zealand for the 8,000-mile voyage back to San Francisco. "We were eight crew, all corinthians," he proudly wrote.

Don, Mary and their extended family would do another 25,000 miles in the Pacific before age got the best of him and he was forced to put Marnie on the market. As you might expect, in Don's mind there was no buyer who was fully suitable for taking the helm of his beloved yacht. But I like to think that after he got to know me, he was reasonably happy with my taking over. I have tried to be a good custodian. Dalziel told me that he had always kept Marnie "ready to go to sea." In his honor, I have done the same.

— walter 09/07/2013

Readers — After 16 years of ownership, plus a circumnavigation and much more, Paige has put Marnie on the market. See his website for more details:

Second Chance — Hylas 46
Dick Oppenheimer, Linda Dalton
Adventures in Nova Scotia
(San Francisco)

After several adventurous weeks cruising in Nova Scotia, we returned to Camden, Maine, to put Second Chance back on the hard for another winter. 'Was the trip to Nova Scotia worth it?' is the question we've been asked most often.

"Absolutely!" is our answer.

As a cruising area, southwest Nova Scotia has much to recommend it: thousands of miles of undeveloped, scenic coastline; hundreds of anchorages; some charming small towns; and very hospitable people. A huge summer bonus is the absence of lobster pots, which, especially when combined with unmarked ledges and heavy fog, can make cruising in some areas of Maine such a white-knuckle experience.

Crossing the Gulf of Maine from Mount Desert Island to Yarmouth is a relatively popular route from Maine to Nova Scotia. We cast off at first light from Maine's Northeast Harbor, and arrived in Nova Scotia's Yarmouth after a 14-hour trip across the Gulf of Maine. We had every kind of weather in that short period of time: fog, rain, sunshine, high winds and calm.

Even if you have radar, negotiating Yarmouth Channel to Killam's Wharf can be hazardous in thick fog. The problem is that the channel is narrow and commercial fishing boats are coming and going. Currently there are no ferries to contend with, but that may change in the next year as a ferry between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth has been proposed.

Prior to leaving Maine, we called Paul, the harbormaster at Killam’s Wharf, to ensure space at one of the few marina facilities on the southwest coast that has power, water and fuel and is relatively close to supermarkets for provisioning.

Yarmouth is also a port of entry, where it is relatively easy to clear customs. The usual procedure is to call 1-800-CANPASS, and provide boat and passenger information. After a short conversation, we were given our clearance number over the phone. All we needed to do to finish our check-in was print out the number and post it in an easily visible spot.

The process apparently is not always so easy, as officers frequently come down to interview captain and crew in person. One singlehander was charged a fee for clearing after normal working hours. Canadian customs officers are vigilant, and we noticed them visiting the docks daily in Yarmouth and Shelburne, and heard they checked with harbormasters regarding boats scheduled for arrival.

The best route from Yarmouth to Shelburne is a matter of lively debate among the cruising guides and experienced sailors. The inside route, Schooner Passage, is shorter and more scenic, but considered hazardous in fog or anything other than optimal tidal conditions. Even with favorable tides, the longer outside route — around Cape Sable — makes it difficult to reach Shelburne in daylight. The currents from the Bay of Fundy are some of the strongest in the world, so getting the tides right makes all the difference between a pleasant passage and a miserable — and dangerous — one.

While we wanted to see the islands in the Schooner Passage, the tides were not in our favor, so we took the slightly longer route. It allowed us to work with the tides, enjoy the relatively calm waters around Cape Sable, and arrive in Shelburne in daylight.

While preparing for the trip we discovered that our new Navionics electronic charts inexplicably lacked all navigational detail for the islands around Schooner Passage. Navionics customer support recommended that we download an updated file, which we did at the library, and that resolved the issue.

In addition to the electronic charts for our chart plotter, we carried a complete set of current Canadian charts, which we'd ordered from in Halifax. We also carried a CD of the 2011 version of Peter Loveridge’s A Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia, an indispensable, comprehensive guide to the area.

Fortunately, the entrance to Shelburne Bay is one of the easiest in western Nova Scotia, as it was socked in by fog when we arrived. That's not unusual during summer. As we proceeded up the 12-mile harbor, the fog lifted near Shelburne Harbour YC, revealing a colorful waterfront with many homes dating from the 1780s. After the American Revolutionary War, thousands of Loyalists — to the British Crown — moved to Nova Scotia, and many settled in Shelburne.

The Shelburne Harbour YC was a convenient and pleasant place to rest, refuel and reprovision. The helpful members and staff make it a favorite stop for cruisers. In fact, some former sailors found it so difficult to leave that they purchased homes in the area and became permanent residents. It is also a popular stop for boats making their return to the States after participating in the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race.

Another 'must see' harbor is Lunenburg, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The unique architecture and charming shops make this a lovely town to visit. Given its size and nautical heritage, facilities for pleasure boats are surprisingly limited. For example, all the city moorings were rented for the summer, there was no fuel or water available, and only limited places existed to land a dinghy if anchored in the large bay.

Around the corner from Lunenburg is picturesque Mahone Bay, which is dotted with numerous islands and is home to the towns of Mahone Bay and Chester. Both are popular cruising destinations. It would be possible to spend an entire season exploring just this one bay, once a thriving shipbuilding center, and before that a reputed haven for pirates and privateers.

Mahone Bay Town is the best place to provision, as there is a large, well- stocked supermarket on the waterfront. There is no place to get fuel, since the fuel tanks at the marina are for the exclusive use of the Canadian Coast Guard. There are moorings for transients, which are preferable to anchoring since the holding ground is poor and the winds can be strong and gusty.

Our last stop was Halifax, where we had a short but very pleasant stay at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. The RNSYS welcomes cruisers and racers, and with the Boston YC is the sponsor of the biennial Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race. After anchoring out, it was a real treat to have all the amenities available — water, electricity, fuel, power, Internet access, a dining room and The Binnacle marine supply store. There were also regular city buses to downtown Halifax.

Halifax is as far into Nova Scotia as we went. Sailing back from Shelburne to Southwest Harbor took about 23 hours. We had heavy fog, rain, and winds under 20 knots for most of the trip. As we approached Cape Sable, the current added three knots to our speed over the ground, giving us a nice push toward our destination.

Two other sailboats left within a half-hour of our departure, so we formed a little convoy to Mount Desert Island. All three of us were equipped with AIS transponders, making it easy to track progress and stay in communication.

About 50 miles northwest of Cape Sable, we spotted a small radar target on a reciprocal, collision course, and, with visibility less than a quarter of a mile, we quickly steered away from the approaching target. A short while later, a 60-ft trawler passed to our starboard at high speed. He just missed one of the other two boats, made radio contact, and slowed down or altered course.

Forty miles from the coast of Maine, we all reduced our speed to ensure that we approached in daylight, which would mean we'd have a chance of seeing the lobster trap buoys, which were thick in the water as much as 15 miles offshore. We arrived within 30 minutes of one another, and, after clearing U.S. Customs in Southwest Harbor, went out for breakfast at Grumpy's. They have some of the best blueberry pancakes on the island.

Now back in the States, we have a big decision to make. Do we stay in Maine, return to Nova Scotia, or head south? All are good options.

— dick 09/20/2013

Ichiban — Columbia 34 Mk II
Justin Jenkins & Anna Wiley
Cruising on a Dream
(San Diego)

The saga of young ultra budget cruisers Justin Jenkins and Anna Wiley continues. You may remember they paid $2,000 for a Columbia 34 Mk II, put a lot of elbow grease into her, then made a 33-day doublehanded passage from San Diego to Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas.

The couple, who have been living together for four years, set sail with a cruising kitty of just $400.

"The kid [Justin] drives us crazy because he has no money," says Nancy, Justin's mother. "I asked him how his money was holding out, and he told me that he'd just made $136, which would be enough for food for the couple's 10-day passage to America Samoa. They've mostly been living on rice, beans and potatoes, and Justin told me he learned how to make bread from scratch."

Nancy notes that Justin, the middle of five children, has always been the unconventional one, so his taking off cruising didn't come as a complete surprise. She just wishes she'd hear from him more than once a month, but without a SSB and SailMail, or an Iridium satphone, both of which are expensive, it's hard to communicate from French Polynesia. Anna's parents, who live in West Virginia and aren't particularly fluent in things like computers and Facebook, also wish they'd hear from their daughter more often. Once Justin and Anna get to American Samoa, they'll be able to communicate more frequently.

While Justin and Anna don't have much money, Nancy says they are "living their dream" and really having a lot of fun. "They were too scared to swim during the Pacific crossing, but once they arrived in French Polynesia, they've been swimming every day."

"They've made a lot of friends with cruisers," Nancy continues, "as Justin is a gregarious guy. When he walks into a room, everybody likes him. Plus, he will do anything to help anybody and has a big heart."

Like any mother, Nancy was worried that the two, having to be together all the time in such a small space, might find themselves in a lot of fights. "Anna told me they have disagreements from time to time, like all couples, but quickly get over it. She says they don't have fights."

One reason might be their mutual love of music. They love playing together and for groups of people.

As with all cruises, there are some bad things that happen. Upon returning from a shore trip at Bora Bora, they were devastated to discover that Chewy, their beloved cat, was nowhere to be found. They assume that Chewy saw a fish in the crystal-clear waters, dove in after it, and was unable to get back onto the boat.

Justin and Anna have been scared, too. After a trouble-free crossing of the Pacific, the two got caught in very heavy seas after leaving the Marquesas. Nonetheless, they are continuing on.

"We're leaving Bora Bora tomorrow," Jenkins wrote Latitude, "on what we expect will be a 10-day, 1,200-mile passage to Pago Pago in American Samoa. We're hoping to find work there. Pago Pago is supposedly the safest natural hurricane hole in the South Pacific, so I guess we'll find out."

We at Latitude admire what Justin and Anna are doing. They are like old-school cruisers, who didn't have much but lived life to the hilt, and surely learned more than they could in any school. We wish them happy job hunting and safe passages.

— latitude/rs 10/05/2013

Murar's Dream — Beneteau 46
Andy and Debra Rosen
Fire Onboard!
(Marina del Rey)

Despite all the sensational stories of sinkings caused by whales, fire is — and should be — the greatest safety concern of cruisers. Fires can start quickly and unexpectedly, and in the case of fiberglass boats, be very difficult to extinguish.

My wife Debra and I, vets of the 2011 Ha-Ha and the 2013 Puddle Jump, now know firsthand what it means to have a fire onboard, how to deal with it, and how to prepare for possible boat fires in the future.

We arrived at Vuda Point Marina after checking into Fiji at Savusavu. After docking between other boats in close proximity — Med mooring means boats are only separated by the diameter of fenders — we settled into our new temporary home. From Fiji our plan was to continue on to Australia via New Caledonia.

That evening, while Debra was off to Suva for some dental work, I turned on our air conditioning unit, which is powered by either a step-down transformer using 220-110 volts, or a 110-volt generator. The air con didn't sound right when running, so I quickly turned it off. Seeing no problem, I decided I would have it checked out by a local electrician the next day. So I sat down at the nav station and began writing one of our blogs.

My writing was interrupted about half an hour later by the smell of smoke. When I entered the aft cabin, I saw flames coming out from behind the A/C unit's air return vent! I grabbed one of our two one-pound extinguishers and shouted "Fire! Fire! Fire!" Fortunately, I hadn't gone to sleep.

Within minutes, the port side of Murar's Dream's aft cockpit was in flames. Despite the assistance of four other cruisers, a total of seven fire extinguishers, and lots of water from two garden hoses, it took us half an hour to fully extinguish the flames. Once fiberglass starts burning, it's extremely difficult to put out. And even when it looks as though the fire is out, flames can start up again from seemingly nothing. And yes, we had immediately shut off the juice to the boat.

Were it not for the fact that we were docked at a marina with access to water and additional fire fighting equipment, I'm sure that Murar's Dream would have sunk. If at sea, we would have had to get into the liferaft and call for rescue using our EPIRB and our Iridium satphone.

As a result of this fire, we have some recommendations to fellow cruisers to prevent or deal with this type of disaster — especially when at sea without access to outside assistance:

1) You cannot have enough 5-lb ABC powder extinguishers aboard your vessel. The common small extinguishers are useless if the fire gets into the fiberglass.

2) Install at least one good smoke detector — and test it regularly.

3) As a regular maintenance job, periodically check for corroded wiring for any device that uses high voltage — 110 or 220 volts — or high amperage. We've learned that corroded high-voltage wiring is a common but hidden problem in salty environments.

4) If a fire has started, try to open the area above the fire to let out the hottest gases. In our case, this meant opening the lid to the compartment where the fire originated.

5) If the fire is electrical in origin, immediately shut off all your main battery switches. Do not use water on the fire until electrical power has been cut off.

6) As soon as it looks as if you might not be able to extinguish the fire, be ready with your ditch bag and liferaft.

— andrew 10/15/2013

Red Witch II — Bounty II
Rob and Stephi Kirkcaldie
Careening in the Sea of Cortez
(Santa Barbara)

We found a delightful cove with a steep shoaling beach between Punta Pescadores and Punta Alcaran in the Sea of Cortez for the site of our first careening of our 55-year-old fiberglass yawl. There was a budding resort on the horizon, said to be owned by Carlos Slim.

The date we selected was August 18, two days before the peak spring tide's glorious waxing full moon. Gorgeous! As the water receded, Red Witch happily lay down at as much as a 45-degree angle. Just a little water came over the deck as she finally setttled into the sand.

We hauled on the lesser of the two tides that day. Using the extra-long spinny halyard, we were able to pull Red Witch over onto her other side — at 3 a.m.

We'd set up a base camp tent, with all tools, on the beach. All the locals we encountered were so friendly and helpful, just as you'd expect in Mexico. They helped us with water, donated tons of free beer out of sheer generosity — and invited us to a fish dinner! What good vibes.

No risks were anticipated in the careening, and no problems arose, as the greater of the two tides floated us clear 12 hours after careening. It turned out to be a most successful bottom painting experience for us.

Naturally, we made sure to tidy up the beach and make sure we didn't leave anything behind.

— stephi 10/05/2013

Cruise Notes:

"After a lovely 17-day stay at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands — in the Indian Ocean halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka — Jennifer Sanders and her daughter Coco flew home to Los Angeles, and my crew and I took off on a 2,000-mile passage to Rodrigues Island," reports Greg King of the 65-ft Long Beach-based schooner Coco Kai. "We're now broad reaching in about 16 knots of wind. The seas aren't too bad, at least compared to how bad everybody says they are going to get in the notoriously rough upcoming part of the Indian Ocean. So I'm trying hard to catch fish before it gets too rolly to clean them. My crew for this leg is Libby, an artist from Cape Town, and Tony, who lives in Cocos, but who is taking a much-needed break from his wife and four young boys. He'll be aboard for 3-½ months, at which time we get to Mauritius. At that time I'll need another crewmember for the passage to Cape Town.

"I'm missing my lady Jennifer right now," continues King, "as she's better at writing updates than I am. It's hard to believe, but we got together eight years ago today at Buccaneer's Day at Two Harbors, Catalina — an alcohol-soaked event if there ever was one."

Update 1: "I'm now back on land at Rodrigues Island. After 12 days at sea, we're now two-thirds of the way across the Indian Ocean. By comparison, it took us six years to get across the Pacific. My crew was great, but this was the roughest, rolliest piece of water I've been on yet. We broad reached west with a large swell out of the south. I can't wait to reach the Atlantic, but we still have 300 miles to Mauritius, 1400 miles to Durban, and 1300 miles to Cape Town."

Update 2: "After reaching Rodrigues, we had a fast and windy two-day, 360-mile trip to Mauritius. It's nice to have the anchor down for a few weeks before the 1,400-mile passage to Durban. But it's not all fun and games here, as I have some jobs to take care of: fixing a rotten thru-hull, pulling the watermaker to fix the motor, and pulling the injector pump on the diesel to get it rebuilt. This after a four-month refit."

There are several sure signs that the seasons are changing. First, the days get shorter and the shadows get longer. Second, it gets cool — particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Third, Marc Wilson starts heading south from Seattle aboard the Catana 52 catamaran Bright Wing. "Summer isn't here anymore," he writes of the Northwest, "so we're sailing wing-on-wing at 9+ knots off the coast of Washington heading south."

Rafael Serrano reports that he and Canadian Bob Buchanan have dissolved their Total Yacht Works company in Mazatlan, and are now operating separate boat and engine repair companies out of the Singlar Fonatur facility. We don't know the reasons for the split, but we do know that the company enjoyed an excellent reputation for both boat and diesel repair. We wish them both the best of luck.

(Sir) Stan Honey and his wife Sally Lindsay Honey of Palo Alto are going to take off cruising soon aboard their Cal 40 Illusion. As you may know, Stan received a 'sailors' knighthood' for coming up with the spectacularly informative graphics while director of technology for the 34th America's Cup. He described it as "a rewarding but exhausting project." As for Sally, she was the chairwoman of the blue-ribbon panel that wrote US Sailing's thorough independent report on the Low Speed Chase tragedy. While Sally was twice named Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and Stan named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year once, Stan has several around-the-world records to top his nearly endless list of sailing accomplishments. For all their skill and accomplishments, Stan and Sally are two of the least pretentious people you'll ever meet.

"Isn’t the most successful approach to cruising making no plans and then sticking to them?" Stan wrote in response to Latitude's inquiry about where the couple might cruise. "More seriously, Sally and I both have various commitments and projects from time to time, so we will probably just cruise in bits and pieces. Fortunately, Illusion is small and simple enough to leave places so we can stop and go. But I suspect we'll turn left, go through the Canal, then do an Atlantic circuit. After that, we'll see."

We'll leave it to everyone to ponder why one of the most talented sailing couples in the world, who could certainly afford a newer, larger and more spacious boat, would go cruising on a 50-year-old design. And the particular model of which they found on Moore's Reef in Santa Cruz, reportedly with one or more bullet holes in her. The one thing we're sure of is that they'll have at least one modern convenience — SailMail. After all, the godsend for cruisers was created by Stan and Jim Corenman of the (formerly Alameda-based) Schumacher 50 Heart of Gold.

Bob Johnson and Ann Adams of Berkeley-based Tayana 37 Charisma, vets of the 2011 Baja Ha-Ha, have experienced a lot of things in their two years of cruising. But last month they had one of the more unusual experiences.

"Ann and I were paddleboarding and we both got knocked off our boards," says Bob. "I'd never fallen in six months of SUP-ing, but it felt as though someone had just grabbed my board and pulled it out from beneath me. Ann fell at exactly the same time, which is what made me suspect there had been an earthquake. A surface wave would have taken more time to get to her, as she was 30 meters in front of me. So I checked the web and — sure enough — there was a 4.2 here in Fiji!"

"I can report that I got two Temporary Import Permits for boats for Mexico online recently, and had the permits in my hand — thanks to DHL — in less than 10 days," reports John Skoriak of Sausalito. "It was quick and efficient. I recommend that when cruisers apply for their TIP, they list all the gear on the boat — and maybe even add on some extras. Because a year or so down the road, when they want to buy new or replacement gear and bring it into Mexico, they won't have to pay duty if it was listed on the TIP. Further, it doesn't hurt to take a list to the port captain before leaving Mexico by land or air for a trip home for gear. Have the port captain look at the list of items to be replaced and stamp or sign some acknowledgment. Then Customs agents at the border will not try to charge duty because you are simply replacing gear that was already on the boat, not bringing new stuff in."

Well, that's how it works in theory. If your boat is going to stay in Mexico for any length of time, you want to get a Temporary Import Permit, as technically you can't leave Mexico without your boat unless your boat has one. Besides, most marinas now require one as a matter of course. In addition to being available online, TIPs can also be obtained at Ensenada, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta, but not Cabo San Lucas. But online is best. TIPs cost about $50 and are good for 10 years.

It hasn't been the most peaceful summer in the southern part of the Eastern Caribbean according to reports from the Caribbean Security & Safety Net. The worst reported incident took place at Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela on September 3, when a Dutch vessel anchored off the Concorde Hotel was boarded by armed men. The skipper was shot and killed but the other crewmember survived. According to the CS&S, not many cruising boats stop at Porlamar anymore. Given the fact that life is very, very, very cheap in the home of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution, we can't imagine why.

Then there was an armed boarding and assault at Bloody Bay, Tobago at 1 a.m. on September 26. Four men boarded an elderly couple's cruising catamaran, and struck the man with the dull edge of his machete as he attempted to keep them off his boat. He was later threatened with a pistol while his elderly female crewmember was restrained. When a female cruiser on a nearby boat heard the commotion, she bravely rowed over to try to help. She was fired at twice. The robbers left in a panic with about $20, all the cruisers had on them. Both cruising boats then weighed anchor and headed for Store Bay. Friends Tony and Charlotte from St. Barth have a little surf shack in Tobago that he's owned for years. Fearful for her safety, Charlotte has refused to go there for the last several years.

Finally, about 11 p.m. on October 3, the cruising sailboat Rainbow, anchored off Frigate Island, which is adjacent to Union Island in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, was boarded by men with machetes. The two Rainbow crew were able to fend off the attack, but only after they both sustained serious injuries. Rainbow proceeded to Carriacou for medical assistance. Three suspects were later arrested.

Places like St. Vincent & the Grenadines are fabulous for cruising — End of the World Reef! — but crime is a problem. Chances are you won't be a victim, but chances are much greater you'll be a victim there than most other places.

Oddly enough, the closest a cruiser came to getting killed in that area recently was by some other cruisers. Mario, last name unknown on an unknown cruising boat, is an enthusiastic diver, so he offered to dive on a friend's anchor to make sure it was properly set. As he was swimming over to the boat, some other cruisers zoomed by in a dinghy, oblivious to his presence. They ran him over! Fortunately, Mario had been able to dive deep enough to save his life, but by a matter of less than an inch, as photos show his back was still lacerated by the prop in five places. He also suffered severe bruises to his head and shoulders. It hadn't been the best week for Mario, as just before the rundown incident his dinghy had been stolen, although it was later recovered.

Jackasses screaming through crowded anchorages on planing dinghies are a serious safety hazard to swimmers and even people in other dinghies. Too often the operators are not paying attention or are drunk — or both. We've had friends suffer serious brain damage from being run over by a dinghy, and know of more than a few others who have been killed. The most dangerous we've ever seen it? During the St. Barth Bucket, when megayacht crews are being shuttled to and from shore in large, high-speed dinghies. It's insanity. Swimming in a crowded anchorage is like riding a bike or motorcycle on a city street, in that you have to assume that everybody is out to kill you. When swimming, it's best to tow an inflatable red ball to warm maniac dinghy operators of your presence.

Gene and Sheri Seybold of the Esprit 37 Reflections — and formerly of Stockton and Honolulu — are continuing with the adventurous cruising life in Indonesia.

"While Gene was resting aboard waiting for his leg to get better, I had a cruising girls' day out in Bali," writes Sheri. "Four of us cruising women went to a spa for a 90-minute full body massage. Just $15. Then we had a nice lunch at a Thai restaurant and a couple of glasses of wine. What a relaxing day! A couple of days later we set sail for Kalimantan, better known as Borneo, the third largest island in the world. It was an uneventful passage except for when some fishermen started to set their nets around us while we were sailing. They waved fish at us to warn us away. Once we arrived at Borneo, we started relaxing again, with Bloody Marys and "an All-American breakfast" of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes. We also booked a three-day, two-night tour to see the orangutans. We leave early tomorrow and are very excited."

"Farewell wonderful Vancouver, and hello Canoe Cove, Sidney, Vancouver Island, Precious Metal's new and first real home after over five years offshore," reports Pamela Bendall. "The 40-mile, 7-hour crossing was a breeze — with no breeze — with my great friend Alice as crew. Precious Metal is now safely moored on the same dock that I departed from in 1986, when my former husband and two young boys and I departed to sail the South Pacific and to Japan. I've sailed over 100,000 miles since I left this dock in 1986. Needless to say, it feels like I just arrived 'home'.

"I'm going to fly to Cabo for the end of the Ha-Ha — I did it in 2008 — and will ask for a few moments to address the crowd about SailFest 2014 in Zihuatanejo. This is a big year for SailFest, as the United Nations had designated it as the launch for their 2014 global endeavor titled Education for Peace. We will desperately need boats for SailFest — February 4-9 — in Zihua."

Thanks to years of very hard work by a succession of cruisers and other volunteers, SailFest, inadvertently started by the publisher of Latitude on a whim, quickly became one of the most successful educational fundraisers in Mexico, benefitting the area's indigenous schools and other educational projects. There is a pursuit race, a parade, and countless social activities. We highly recommend you participate if possible.

Nancy Griffith, one of the pioneers of unlimited ocean cruising, has passed on. She, her husband Dr. Robert Griffith (long deceased) and son Reid (who died hiking in the Marquesas as a young man), started a series of around-the-world voyages in 1959. Their first circumnavigation, east to west around the Horn and Cape of Good Hope, was aboard the 53-ft Awahnee I, which was later lost on a reef in the Tuamotus while reportedly trying to rescue another American yacht. Their second circumnavigation, aboard their self-built, rough ferrocement cutter Awahnee II, using spars and other parts from Awahnee I, was east-around via Japan. The third trip, also aboard their ferro cutter, was by the southerly route around Antarctica from New Zealand, with stops at the American, English, Russian, Chilean and Argentine scientific outposts. Their circumnavigation of Antarctica, the first by a pleasure yacht, took 111 days — 84 of them under sail — and roughly followed the course of Captain James Cook. The Griffiths were awarded the Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America in 1972, and after 200,000 ocean miles under sail wrote Blue Water, A Guide to Self-Reliant Sailboat Cruising. It's remarkable what the Griffiths accomplished given their relatively primitive boats and equipment.

Want to crew across the South Atlantic — usually one of the most pleasant long ocean passages in the world — with a very experienced sailor? Then Kirk McGeorge of the Hylas 49 Gallivanter might be your man. He did a circumnavigation on an Islander 37, and has done half a circumnavigation with Gallivanter. After he and his wife and child took up residence in Australia for a few years, they've decided to move back to the Virgin Islands, so he's delivering the boat.

"Having repaired the broken watermaker and propeller shaft coupling, changed the engine oil, filled the fuel and propane tanks, and ordered new saloon seat covers here in Bali, we're pretty much ready for sea," writes McGeorge. "I was counting on three old friends to join me for the upcoming voyage to South Africa, but it seems other priorities are suddenly getting in their way. I'm capable and prepared to do this voyage alone, but would much prefer to have some company. Wanna come along? Then drop me a line and book a flight to Bali without delay."

It's likely McGeorge will have left Bali before you read this, but it's also likely he'll still be needing crew for the rest of the way across the Indian Ocean and across the South Atlantic. Hint to novice ocean cruisers: the sail across the Indian Ocean is one of the nastier ones in the world. The sail across the South Atlantic is generally one of the most lovely. McGeorge, who has frequently contributed to Latitude, can be reached at .

At least there is some semi-good news following the Norwegian-owned Fountaine-Pajot 46 catamaran Blue Marble's grounding on the jagged coral of the remote South Pacific island of Niue in September. The cat went onto the coral after the recommended "commercial mooring" failed. Erlend Hovland, the young owner, reports that an insurance settlement was reached. "It all came together in one day," he wrote, "the insurance paid, the wreck sold, and we got a ride on the 40-footer Red Sky Night with our friend Felice." We suspect that relatively few young sailors carry offshore insurance, but Hovland was wise enough to do so, and had a boat valuable enough to make sense to insure.

"We've been on Tonga for nearly a week," Hovland continued, "and it's amazing. We have visited a psychedelic puppet show, eaten at a Tongan feast, and gone cave diving." He and his crew plan to hang out until the annual Vava'u Regatta, then hitch a ride to Australia via Fiji. Meanwhile, we expect that some enterprising islander will rebuild Blue Marble's badly damaged underbelly and eventually get her out sailing again.

Speaking of the Vava'u Regatta, it's the brainchild of former Bay Area sailors Ben and Lisa Newton of the Alameda-based Cooper 54 Waking Dream. The October 17-21 event included two semi-serious yacht races, a 'fancy dress' pub crawl to virtually every watering hole in Vava'u's waterside capital of Neifu, a day of silly beach games, an extravagant Full Moon Party, an awards ceremony and more. The Vava'u Group has always been a preferred staging area of New Zealand-bound cruisers, who wait there for an ideal weather window to make the week-long crossing to Kiwiland's north island.

You Can't Go Home Again was the title of a famous Thomas Wolfe novel from 1940. The notion has become part of national consciousness, particularly among those who return to the States after cruising for a few years. In the September issue, we had a long interview with Jim and Kent Milski of the Lake City, Colorado-based Shionning 49 Sea Level. Only a Baja Bash away from completing a perhaps too-fast three-year circumnavigation at the time, they were eager to get back to the States. But, after getting to spend some quality time with their kids and a couple of months at a berth in San Diego, they are now eager to return to tropical Mexico. Even after what Jim says was perhaps his best day of surfing ever, at Little Waimea near Pt. Loma, he groaned, "It's too expensive here in the States."

To which we would add, too hectic, too. Except for certain pockets and on the water, living in coastal California seems like living life on crack. But if you take off cruising for a few years because of Latitude 38, we will not be held responsible if you find that you, too, can't go home again.

Missing the pictures? See the November 2013 eBook!


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