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November 2015

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With reports this month on X arriving in Monterey after being singlehanded 8,000 miles from the Philippines; from Colibri in Corsica and Sardinia; from Tamarisk on trouble at Aden, Yemen; from En Pointe on the difficulty in leaving Thailand; from Flashgirl on New Zealand to French Polynesia; Part One of the Pizazz guide between Bonaire and Panama; and Cruise Notes.

X — Santa Cruz 50
David Addleman
The Marshall Islands to Monterey

My Santa Cruz 50 X and I arrived in Monterey from Majuro in the Marshall Islands in early September.

The trip started with me singlehanding from Majuro to Kauai. It was hard on the wind the entire way and took 23 days.

Cruiser lore has it that it's possible to make a big reaching loop to the north to get to Kauai. Well, that wasn't possible with the conditions I had. So I switched to 'race mode' and sailed on whichever tack was favored.

A few days out of Kauai, near French Frigate Shoals, hurricane Guillermo became a factor. He and I seemed to be planning to arrive in Hawaii at the same time. I slowed down and Guillermo wore himself out on Maui and the Big Island. So that all worked out fine.

I checked in at Nawiliwili, Kauai, which, contrary to the Homeland Security website, does not have Customs or Immigration. When I called Honolulu to explain my accidental illegal arrival, they replied in perfect Hawaiian style: "No problem. Come to Honolulu when you can." That was more than unexpected based on my previous experiences with Homeland Security at airports.

So I spent a week in Kauai visiting friends, followed by a beautiful downwind blast toward Honolulu, the latter being very unusual. After checking back in to the United States properly, I spent a couple of days at the always friendly Hawaii YC.

When another hurricane threatened Hawaii, I quickly set sail for California. The folklore concerning the North Pacific High didn't pan out either, as the High had gone to Mexico and had been replaced by a cold front from Alaska. So I was hard on the wind again for a week.

I spent a day of motoring as the Pacific High moved back to its proper place, then had a couple of more days on the wind struggling to get up to latitude 38. Then, at long last, X found her favorite weather — off-the-wind sailing. Not since 8,000 miles before in the Philippines had the wind been aft of the beam. My last two days of speeding along on a deep reach into Monterey restored my wavering faith in sailing being a reasonable way to travel.

It took me 15 days to get from Hawaii to California, and 63 sailing days — over a year's time — from the Philippines to Monterey.

I signed up for the Ha-Ha a few months before as an incentive to get back to California. It was a good incentive. However, X is in dire need of some serious bottom, rudder and rig work after her 10 years and 30,000 miles out in the Pacific, so the possibility of making the Ha-Ha start is slipping away as the work crawls along.

Update: After I informed the Wanderer the chances of X making the Ha-Ha were slipping away, he reminded me of a couple of things: 1) There is another SC50 entered in the Ha-Ha; 2) it should be all downwind to La Cruz on Banderas Bay from Monterey, which would not only be fun, but easy on X; and 3) there's a good yard in La Cruz, which is warm in the winter, where Peter Vargas, who used to build masts for California sleds, has a business.

Ding, ding, ding, that was the best email I've gotten all week, as doing boat work in the tropics in the winter is the way to go. So by the time this issue comes out, I'll hopefully have completed most of the Ha-Ha.

— david 10/15/2015

Colibri — Catana 55 Cat
John Thompson, Crew
France to Sardinia
(San Francisco/Verona, Italy)

Since about 2006, I've enjoyed sailing with friends on a mix of boats in various parts of the world. From San Francisco, I did the 2006 and 2008 Ha-Ha's, and made it as far south as Costa Rica and as far west as Tahiti. Between trips I continued working as an attorney in Santa Rosa.

Having to return home to keep working wasn't an ideal situation. So taking inspiration from other entrepreneurial people I've met, it seemed prudent to start a software business that I could run from anywhere in the world. So I built a hotel management and reservation system that is now used by clients globally, and they pay a monthly fee to access the software. This allows me to keep the cash flowing all year without my having to be at one particular place.

For about the last three years I've been based in Verona, Italy. Why? I wanted to learn Italian and connect with my family heritage, and I wanted to try living near mountains for a change — partly as a reaction to having spent so much time on boats. All in all, I wanted to work, enjoy life, travel the world, and still make a few trips back to California each year.

Recently I joined some San Francisco friends for a bit of late summer cruising in the Med aboard the Catana 55 Colibri. My friends had bought the cat from the factory in Canet, France, in 2012. Since I was living in Verona, I made a bunch of trips over to France during the winter to help with some logistics of the purchase process. My friends aren't using the boat for full-time cruising, but rather for a number of short cruising stints in the Med. Eventually they plan to sail her to the Caribbean. Having sailed together on charter boats a number of times in the Caribbean, Mexico and Tahiti, we were all looking forward to being able to combine sailing with European history and culture.

After a short shakedown cruise in May from Canet to Toulon, France, we returned to the boat in late August to explore Corsica and Sardinia. The original plan was to go much farther, such as through Sicily to Croatia. But with just a few weeks at a time on the boat, we decided it would be better to slow down and more fully enjoy the places we would be visiting.

From Toulon we headed out to Porquerolles, a nearby two- by five-mile island that strikes me as being the 'Catalina of France'. It gets tons of day-trippers and has bike-rental places by the dozen. But the town and island are charming, and it was a great way to start our trip. From there we did an easy overnight motor to Calvi, Corsica. Although the marina wasn't cheap — over $250 U.S. per night — we thoroughly enjoyed our front row seat in the town and the view of the historic citadel.

Heading south around the west coast of Corsica, we were lucky to have almost perfect weather. This gave us ideal conditions for lunch-break swim sessions and dinghy rides. Our last stop on Corsica was in Bonifacio, a quaint town built on cliffs above a type of narrow fjord. Since the port is in the fjord, it gets a little chaotic when all the boats return to port in the late afternoon.

Leaving Bonifacio, we were thinking of heading up the east coast of Corsica, but the weather seemed to be changing. So at the last minute we decided to make the eight-mile hop over to the Italian island of Sardinia.

We first enjoyed the national park of La Maddalena, a group of small rocky islands. Having to pay a park fee of 60 euros for two days, plus 80 euros per night for a mooring, made it a bit of an expensive visit for something that wasn't all that different from the other places we had been visiting for free.

Our second stop was famous Porto Cervo, home to the Costa Smeralda YC. By coincidence, we arrived in the middle of the biennial Perini Navi Cup, the regatta for the many mega-mega yachts built by Perini Navi. It was lots of fun being in the midst of these enormous boats in 30+ knots of wind as we prepared to enter the port. We actually crossed their finish line as the majority of the fleet was finishing the last day of racing.

Tying up to the dock with boats like the 289-ft Maltese Falcon lying just ahead of us, was a unique experience. Pricey, too, at nearly $300/night. While later walking the docks, we could look into the ports of some of the boats to see parts of the interiors. Wow.

I know that a lot of Northern California sailors claim that 'if you can sail San Francisco Bay, you can sail anywhere'. It turns out that sailors say the same thing of the Med. Over here the wind is often unpredictable, and there is frequently either too much or too little. When there is wind, it seems that it is almost always OFN (On the F**king Nose). And the waves can be steep and short, often with the swell counter to the direction of the waves.

Because there is no consistent wind direction, the wind could be blowing a completely different direction a few hundred miles away, sending a cross swell to where we were in otherwise mild conditions. It didn't make for the most comfortable sailing.

The season in the Med is also shorter than California's. We had great weather in Corsica the last week of August, but by the following week the weather was a mix of sunny and cloudy/rainy days.

From Porto Cervo we made time for a bit more beach exploration just south, then did two 10-hour day trips down to Cagliari. It rained hard almost the entire second day. Two crew left the boat there, and two new friends arrive tomorrow, at which time we'll have one more week to explore the southern tip of Sardinia.
We plan to return to the boat next spring, and continue working our way south and east to Sicily, Greece and Turkey, and then back to Croatia.

I suppose I could return to California and get a job in the legal profession, but for right now I think I'll stick with what I'm doing.

— john 10/15/2015

Tamarisk — Sundeer 56
Jason and Piers Windebank
Onward in the Gulf of Aden
(San Diego)

[Part One of this report appeared in the October issue of Latitude. The events described here took place in January of this year.]

There is a line from a famous college graduation speech by Baz Luhrmann that goes like this: "Don’t worry about the things that scare you. The real troubles in your life are apt to be ones that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday."

We’ve noted the truth of these words during our three-year circumnavigation, as we’ve encountered countless troubles we never expected, and rarely encountered those we did expect. Sharks, surprise storms at sea, uncharted reefs, and pirate attacks have all worried us at various times during our journey. In fact, far more so than loose mud in an anchorage, a casual dinghy ride in the dark, or a loose rope sitting on the deck. It's been these latter things that put us in far more danger than the former, with our greatest fears never becoming a reality.

In the past week, it has again been the unexpected dangers that have put us at risk. Several days ago we pulled out of the pirate-afflicted Gulf of Aden and entered Aden, an official Yemeni port. We needed to buy diesel and food, and didn't anticipate any problems. As we dropped our anchor at 4 a.m. in front of the Port Authority, yellow flag up, ready to make a formal entry into the country, we began hearing gunfire from the shore — and saw warning shots hitting the water near our bow!

We were already on the radio with the Port Authority, which was explaining to us that we had anchored on the wrong side of the bay. But by the time we retrieved our anchor, we had been approached by two camouflaged skiffs with 15 or so heavily armed, camo-wearing militant-looking guys aboard. Within a few minutes of yelling in Arabic, several of them boarded Tamarisk, some with bandanas, some with camouflage sarongs, some with knives on their hips — but all with large automatic firearms over their shoulders. If not for the conversation we were having with the Port Authority on the VHF, we certainly would have presumed them to be pirates.

They proceeded to search and ransack everything on the boat. When they found our assault rifles, things went from bad to absolutely awful. At this point we had no idea who these people were, because they didn't identify themselves and didn't have badges or uniforms, and there was no identification on their boats. In our eyes their authority came only from their aggressive display of AK-47s and other weapons.

Then, in the most broken English imaginable, we were told we were going to be taken to a military holding camp ashore for the night, apparently in the belief that we'd been planning to attack their country — or something of the sort.

The Port Authority officer on the radio pleaded with the men with guns to leave us alone, trying to explain we’d done nothing illegal and were following the described entry procedure. But yelling in Arabic just erupted on the VHF, and the men refused to disembark, ignoring the orders of the Port Authority.

An English-speaking, white-uniformed official then approached on a larger coast guard-looking boat, hoping to board Tamarisk and talk some sense into the militant men. But in an unbelievable scene of anarchy, the militants refused to allow him aboard. There was more yelling and brandishing of weapons. The uniformed official appeared to be outgunned, and therefore outranked, so he left into the darkness.

For nearly another hour it was a scene of Third World chaos and confusion, but eventually the militants agreed to let us re-anchor, sleep for a few hours on our boat, and face some kind of military proceeding in the morning.

“Don’t move!” was their final instruction as they got back onto their skiffs and departed.

We knew the sun would be up within an hour, so as soon as they were out of sight, we shut off all our lights and headed for sea at full speed under the cover of darkness. Yes, we were directly disobeying their orders. Goodbye, Yemen, we won't be back! Ever.

By sunset we were entering the straits of Bab el Mandeb, the narrow entry to the Red Sea that was by far the most feared portion of our voyage. Not only is the strait narrow, it's also the territorial waters of Muslim countries, and thus coalition warships aren’t permitted to conduct piracy patrols. So the waters are unprotected and universally feared by mariners, ourselves included.

With brisk winds from behind, we kept a speed of eight knots through the 'danger zone' — and fortunately didn't see a single fishing skiff or anything even remotely suspicious. We had expected up to 50 encounters with fishing skiffs, during which time we'd deploy warning flares, show guns on deck, and so on. But we had nothing but perfect sailing conditions, with an occasional dolphin at the bow.

Two days later we were farther north than the most northerly pirate attack ever, meaning the danger zone was clearly behind us. We deep-sixed our bulletproof shield, lightening Tamarisk up by almost 1,000 pounds. Then we offloaded our weapons at the floating armory at 18 degrees north. Complete safety at last!

As we worked our way up the Red Sea, with the wind on our nose for what we assumed would be the next week, we still needed the diesel fuel we hadn't been able to get in Aden. But entering any port along the Red Sea would have been a huge risk because we had an Israeli citizen aboard. And we were learning the hard way that every country bordering the Red Sea is an enemy of Israel. Entry for Israelis is simply not permitted, and the tensions and emotions are very high, as Israeli bombs were dropped here less than 12 months before.

So before entering Port Suakin, we put Lee, our Israeli crew, onto our buddyboat Shapirit, and hoped no Sudanese military patrol boats would do any routine checks on them or us. We're not sure what the consequences would have been if they'd discovered what we'd been up to, but needless to say, we didn't want to find out. And so it went, fortunately without any problems.

The rest of our trip to Turkey, where we'd started our circumnavigation three years before, was without incident. Tamarisk is now for sale, ready to go around the world again.

For all its flaws, we love the world, and we loved our circumnavigation.

— jason 01/14/2015

En Pointe — Searunner 31 Tri
Tom Van Dyke
Thailand, Should I Stay or Go?
Santa Cruz

I'm hunkered down anchored off Yacht Haven Marina in Phuket, Thailand, awaiting the change in monsoon season. The rains will end soon, at which point the northeast monsoon begins, making the anchorages on the west coast of Phuket tenable once again, and restoring clear water to the anchorages of the Andaman Sea.

A few months back I started out from Langkawi, Malaysia, a popular cruiser hangout just across the border from Thailand, for Sumatra. I was on my way to Africa. But halfway to Sumatra I turned around for no particular reason — except, I guess, that I missed Phuket.

Friends on Momo, a Mason 43, had left a week before me and continued sailing down the west coast of Sumatra to about two degrees south of the equator, where they picked up the tradewinds for a boisterous sail directly to Madagascar. As the intrepid crew of Momo consists of sisters ages 10 and 13, and their parents, I was a bit embarrassed to have turned back. But it just wasn't time for me to continue west yet. Sometimes you just have to make tough decisions.

Waiting out the rainy season here in Thailand has given me plenty of time to relax, read, cook, hang out with friends, and enjoy an occasional meal at one of the terrific local restaurants.

Yacht Haven Marina has a great deal for anchor-outs, as they give us a secure place to tie our dinghies, an air-conditioned gym, a swimming pool, and showers for 600 Thai baht a month. For those of you who aren't currency speculators, 600 baht is about $17 U.S. dollars.

I don't mind anchoring out here, as the holding is good and has kept my En Pointe in place for the last 2 1/2 months, including during the 50-knot gusts that have sometimes come through in their attempt to join the occasional typhoon in the Philippines.

Thankfully, excitement has been pretty rare around here, although one morning I found a meter-long snake coiled an arm's length from my bunk! It seems that the monsoon rains flush snakes out of the nearby jungle, and some of them can swim.

En Pointe has hosted a few cockroaches, and even a rat — as have most cruising boats at one time or another. Fortunately, all my visitors of that type have died or vacated the premises.

The skipper of one boat anchored nearby awoke to find a four-foot long monitor lizard on the deck of his boat, so I guess I haven't had it too bad.

This October marks my fourth year out. I left Santa Cruz and arrived in Mexico with the Ha-Ha Class of 2012. From there, my good friend Tulia Glez and I boogied across the South Pacific, stopping in Fiji for cyclone season in 2013. From Fiji I sailed solo to Malaysia, arriving in October 2014.

Once I got to Southeast Asia, it was an easy decision to take a break and travel by land. I've visited many beautiful spots in Thailand, traveled down the Mekong River into Laos in a long boat, visited Angkor Wat, and again traveled down the Mekong River from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Saigon. I've also had the chance to do some boat work and make a couple of trips back home.

Airfares from Southeast Asia are so relatively cheap that I even made one errant trip to the Caribbean to look at a 'real deal' on a catamaran — which turned out to be a real turkey. But I had a good time at Antigua Race Week, and even met up with my friend Ian Mark, an English singlehander I'd met in Fiji who was finishing his solo circumnavigation. I joined him aboard his Vancouver 32 for the sail from Antigua back to St. Martin, where it's a couple of hundred dollars less to fly back to the US because of Antigua's steep airport fees.

After a year in Southeast Asia, I'm again reluctantly contemplating shoving off after the New Year, as that's the time to head west. But that's months away, and I'm trying to focus on being here now, and not worrying about the past or the future. Or as my Tasmanian friend Peter McHugh of the Van de Stadt 40 Honeybee would say, "I have no plan and I'm sticking to it."

I actually have plenty of time for passage planning. One popular passage- planning debate rages over whether it's now safe to do a circumnavigation via the Red Sea. Evidence is mounting that the threat of Somali pirates is much lower than it has been since the four West Coast sailors were kidnapped and murdered a few years back, but there is still plenty of risk, as Yemen has fallen and is apparently off limits.

And even of you arrive in Djibouti with your head intact, you still have a challenging sail through reefs and sandstorms to the Suez Canal. And you'd want to be in Djibouti by end of February, or else you'd be motoring in calms getting there from the Maldives. But at least the Red Sea route may now be somewhat feasible without hiring mercenaries — as some yachties have done. I can't imagine doing that.

My more likely route will be across to South Africa. But it's all armchair sailing, and I'm actually beginning to really like it here in Thailand. It's relatively cheap, and once you get used to the 'visa dance', the 'Land of Smiles' begins to grow on you. Who knows, maybe I'll spend another season here. As always, it's tough to leave 'paradise'. The same was true with Mexico and Polynesia.

— tom 10/15/2015

Flashgirl — Wylie 38+
Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins
New Zealand to French Polynesia
(Mill Valley)

I returned to New Zealand in mid-December 2014 to complete the three-year refit on Flashgirl. I'd taken nine years to build her — my wife Nancy says it was 10 years — and launched her in April 2000.

After the refit in New Zealand, we splashed the boat in early January, then puttered around with details and incompetent New Zealand tradesmen for several months. Much of this work was centered around our little Perkins M30.

The engine was meant to be completely serviced and bench tested prior to my return last December. As it turned out, this work was either poorly done or not done at all, and had to be done again under my supervision. All the sailing aspects of the boat were easy, and came together nicely, including refrigeration. We replaced the water-pressure system the week before departing New Zealand in late May.

Our original intention was to revisit Vanuatu and then Micronesia, specifically Pohnpei. The heightened sea temperatures associated with the northern equatorial Pacific caused us to reconsider this plan. We decided to sail eastward instead, and revisit French Polynesia. So on May 31, we departed Opua for Tonga.

Nancy was not part of this operation. We took on a pier-head jumper named Hugh Higgins who, it turned out, knew next to nothing about sailing despite owning and sailing an H-28. My other shipmate was Bruce Ladd, who had owned many boats and has participated in many sailing adventures around the world.

We had a strenuous 10-day passage up to Vava'u, Tonga, where we spent 10 days licking our wounds and enjoying the climate. Next we set off for Papeete in French Polynesia, which proved to be another strenuous passage, mostly to windward. The immigration officer who handled my checkout in Vava'u told me that Flashgirl was only the second vessel that year to have taken the difficult route we had from Opua.

In Nancy's absence we did not have access to SailMail and the weather information that we normally would have had. As a result, we sailed from Tonga to Papeete the old-fashioned way — taking what came and tacking on shifts. The result was that we averaged just 100 miles per day on the great circle track between our start and our destination.

Our mid-afternoon landfall on the south side of Moorea, however, could only be described as spectacular! Subsequently, we took a berth in the new Papeete Marina, which replaced what you probably think of as Med-ties along the Papeete waterfront. The new marina had opened for business something like 30 days before our arrival on July 2. The marina is carefully designed, curvilinear, and replete with what I think are flimsy aluminum fittings, insufficient cleats, and what amounts to vending machines for the dispensing of water and electricity. It remains to be seen if this marina will survive a cyclone, exposed as it is to the entrance to Papeete Harbor.

Heavy-displacement ferries run between Papeete and Moorea regularly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Though the entrance to the harbor is about a mile to the west of the marina, the wash from these ferries causes the yachts in the marina to roll heavily and jerk on their mooring lines. In sum, the marina, while efficient in many regards, is also sterile and deprives Papeete Harbor of much of its previous charm.

We are aware that everyone since Captain Cook has advised a visit to Tahiti and environs "before it is spoiled". I submit it is too late. From my perspective, the major current benefit of the marina is seeing Moorea in the sunset. It's spectacular on a regular basis.

Nancy rejoined Flashgirl in Tahiti. She reminded me that although I'm 84, I "still behave like I'm a teenager." And she didn't even know me before I had my heart attack more than 25 years ago.

With Nancy's arrival, my delivery crew departed. She and I toured around Tahiti for the better part of a month, then spent most of another month in Opunohu Bay. This bay is the most beautiful place I have seen on this planet.

My closest friend in the Opunohu Bay area was Omer Darr, now 15 years deceased. Some may know Omer was the last of the schooner men in the South Pacific, operating the schooners Nordlys, Grace S./Wanderer and Te Vega. He owned and lived on a property at Opunohu Bay. Larger than life, he was well-known in the area. Following the Omer Darr trail, we made a number of friends in Tahiti and Moorea, all of considerable interest.

On one of our excursions we visited Le Maison de James Norman Hall, he being the Iowa-born co-author — with Charles Nordhoff — of Mutiny on the Bounty and the Bounty Trilogy. It was a powerful experience to be in the garden and rooms that were virtually alive with the memory of his incredibly colorful life. Among other things, he served in the militaries of three Allied countries during World War I, during which time he was shot down while flying for the French, and became a German prisoner of war.

When American mariners arrive in French Polynesia, they are granted a 90-day stay. This is a very short time to see five groups of islands spread across thousands of miles of ocean. Therefore we sought, and obtained, a six-week extension. But it wasn't easy to get.

Our plan has been to depart Tahiti and Moorea to revisit the Tuamotus, then explore the Marquesas in greater depth. However, the intense warm water and repeated tropical cyclones blowing past the Hawaiian chain reinforced our desire not to depart Nuku Hiva until November.

We are presently at Fakarava in the Tuamotus, the second largest of the atolls in French Polynesia. We are anchored in the southeast corner, expecting fresh easterly winds for the next week. The fetch across the lagoon of even a fairly small atoll allows an uncomfortable sea to rise, unless you are underneath a motu on the windward side. Fakarava and Rangiroa, the two largest atolls, are prime offenders in this regard!

It is a fact of life that many of the passages/entries into these lagoons are on the leeward side of the atoll. Hence, when you enter looking for shelter and rest, you find yourself facing a nasty chop and difficult anchoring conditions. One option is to thread your way through all the unmarked coral heads in the lagoon toward the windward shore, and anchor there.

In Fakarava we have had trouble recovering our anchors owing to the fact that I am unable to dive deep enough to disentangle them and the chain from the coral heads on which they become entwined. Where we are anchored now, there is a preponderance of white sand and the coral heads are modest, not so frequent, and of low profile. The sandy beach, a third of a mile to windward, embraces the boat for 180 degrees. This motu is "heavily wooded" in the way of these atolls. That means heavy brush and palm trees growing out of what appears to be coral rubble.

This SE corner of the Fakarava lagoon, named Hirifa, is sparsely settled. Last night there were no lights other than from three anchored yachts. We are well past the end of the road from the north, and about six miles to the south pass. Visually, this place is about as idyllic as one can imagine. The colors, the serenity and the silence are mesmerizing.

We think we'll visit a couple more new-to-us atolls, weather permitting, then head off to the Marquesas. Nancy plans to be home in time for Thanksgiving, and I expect to return after the holiday madness. We will leave the boat somewhere on Oahu.

Flashgirl continues to be hugely gratifying to me. We find a great number of catamarans cruising these waters, far more than 10 years ago. Having once delivered the Wanderer's catamaran Profligate up the coast of Baja, I remain untempted in that direction.

Presently we have our feet up under the awning and are enjoying books — real books, not Kindle — each other, and communications such as this.

— commodore 10/03/2015

Pizazz — Moorings 500
Lourae and Randy Kenoffel
Between Aruba and Panama
(San Francisco)

The key to cruising the Colombia coast safely and comfortably is weather. This is especially important if you plan an offshore passage, but also applies to coastal cruising. The Caribbean has two seasons; the Wet Season, from June through November, and the Dry Season, from December through May. If you travel in the transition months, late March through mid-June, or mid-October through mid-December, you are likely to find calmer conditions. And generally speaking, the farther south you go, the lighter the winds.

The weather gurus almost always recommend staying at least 200 miles offshore, but that's based on fears for cruisers' personal safety more than the weather. In our experience, the conditions offshore are stronger than inshore, meaning within five to 10 miles. [Editor's note: Years ago the Caribbean coast of Colombia was the site of numerous attacks on cruisers, including a very serious one on a couple who were vets of the Ha-Ha. It's been years since we've heard such a report.]

Currents are also an issue. Normally there is a one-knot westerly current along the Colombian coast. At times there is a half-knot easterly current near Cartagena.

Here's the route, east to west:

Bonaire. The entire island is a marine park, so you can't anchor. Moorings are available for rent by contacting Harbor Village Marina on VHF 17.

Curaçao. Spanish Waters is a large, almost landlocked lagoon that is a nice 35-mile downwind sail from Bonaire. To enter Spanish Waters, stay close to the beach — which is still 90 feet deep — during which time you will easily see the shallow edge of the reef to the north. Then zigzag through the channel. The channel is not lit or marked, so you must arrive in good light well before sundown.

When leaving, sail along Curaçao's west coast. The water is deep close in, the current is favorable, and there's great sightseeing — interesting cliffs, fancy homes, and pretty beaches. We have gone to Santa Cruz Baai at 12°18'55"N, 069°08'77"W, which is about 25 miles northwest of Spanish Waters, an easy daysail. You anchor in 10 to 12 feet of sand and coral at the mouth of the bay, avoiding coral patches. There is great snorkeling along the cliffs, and it's an easy place to leave in the dark. Aruba is now only 45 miles away, with wind and current behind you.

There are several other places on Curaçao's northwest coast that are pleasant stops — Santa Marta (unsurveyed on the chart, but 11 feet deep at the entrance and mostly 10-plus on into the bay), Knip Baai and Westpunt.

Aruba. There are several good anchorages along the lee coast. The first is Rogers Beach, just south of the refinery in Sint Nicolas Baai. Enter between the buoys at 12°25'34"N, 069°53'96"W (GREEN buoy on STARBOARD!), head due east to the next green buoy at 12°25'38"N, 069°53'51"W, then head 115 magnetic to anchor wherever you wish in 10 to 12 feet in sand and grass. This is a little rolly in southeast winds, and eerie at night with the lights and flames of the refinery. You are, however, upwind of the smoke and smells.

As you sail up this coast, watch for stronger winds coming offshore. Oranjestad Harbor is well lit if it gets dark before you get there. (GREEN on STARBOARD!) After clearing in, go anchor. The airport anchorage is 12 to 16 feet deep, either northwest of the runway or in the lagoon south of the runway. It's good holding and close to downtown, but noisy.

The alternative anchorage is about three miles north of Oranjestad near the high-rise hotels. Go to the red buoy, which has a white light at night, at 12°34'87"N, 070°03'34"W. Leave the buoy to port and head approximately 090 course-over-ground toward the Marriott Hotel/Condos (the left two buildings along this stretch). Do not let the wind/current set you north. Anchor in eight feet of sand and grass. This is away from downtown shopping, but offers lots of beach sports and access to hotel services, casinos, expensive shops, and expensive restaurants. There is easy access to buses ($2 US round-trip) to downtown for anything you need.

After all this civilization, you are ready for some out-of-way coastal cruising.

Monjes del Sur, Venezuela. This stop is 53 miles downwind. There is a waypoint at 12°21'75N, 070°52'75W just to the northeast of the island. Charts show the southern two islands as separate, but they have been joined by a large rock dam. This rock is part of Venezuela — so get your courtesy flag out and call the Guardia Costa on VHF 16 for permission to anchor. "No problema" was the answer we got. In fact, they will probably contact you first, asking you to identify yourself and state your intentions.

[Editor's note: With Venezuela having fallen into near chaos, this information should not be trusted.]

The anchorage to the left of center, facing the rock dam in front of you, is over 65 feet deep. There's a huge dock with tires where you might be able to tie up. In 2000 they added a rope between the dock and their center-peninsula headquarters to tie to. There is room for about six boats. This is a good rest stop.

We stayed a few days and enjoyed fabulous snorkeling among crowds of barracuda and lobster all around the rock. The guys stationed there were extremely friendly and loved to have visitors. They'll want to see your passports and boat papers. This is also a very easy departure point in the dark, which you'll want to do as the next leg is 80 miles.

[The second part of this guide will appear in the December edition of Latitude. Yes, it would be more helpful if it were west to east, which is the more difficult way to go, but this is the way it was written. Make sure you see the letter from Lourae Kenoffel in this month's Letters.]

— randy and lourae 01/15/2015

Cruise Notes:

Despite the fact that, as you read earlier in Changes, the folks on the Sundeer 56 Tamarisk finished a circumnavigation via the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, there are those who think the area is even more dangerous than it was in February 2011. That is when, you might remember, four West Coast sailors — Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, and their crew Phyllis Macay and Robert A. Riggle of Seattle — aboard the 58-ft Marina del Rey-based Quest — were seized by Somali pirates and murdered a few days later.

"My friend Steven Horribin of the Oyster 54 Almacantar posted this comment on the Red Sea piracy link," reports Tom Van Dyke, who is in Thailand on his Santa Cruz-based Searunner 31 trimaran En Pointe, and who also has a report in this month's Changes:

"In my humble opinion, the Gulf of Aden is less safe in many ways than in the days of the Somali pirates. The problem is al-Qaida is now in the Arabian Peninsula and basically runs the major port city of Al Mukalla, as well as dozens of smaller port towns along a 250-mile-long stretch of coastline they control. Furthermore, both al-Qaida and ISIL/DAESH terrorist groups are prominent and active in Aden. For example, a few weeks ago DAESH blew up a boatload of Houthi captives in the Port of Aden, after towing them out for execution before the eyes of the population. I wouldn't go through there for all the tea in China."

Nor would we.

Why would it be hard to be an alcoholic in the South Pacific? Rose Alderson of the Gabriola Island, British Columbia-based Catalina 34 Mk II Aussie Rules might have provided a hint: "Some things are reasonably priced in Fiji while others are crazy expensive. For example, I balked at paying $20 Canadian ($16 in 'real money') for a roll of tape at Vuda Point Marina. But that's nothing, as they wanted over $100 Canadian ($78 in 'real money') for a bottle of Bombay Gin."

"The Indian Ocean is the undisputed champion of raucous, knockabout oceans," advise Mike and Deanna Ruel of the Delaware-based Manta 42 R Sea Cat, who are approaching South Africa in the course of a fast circumnavigation. "It should be arraigned on charges of disorderly behavior! It's like surfing C Street on our 42-ft catamaran, what with all the hobbyhorsing in 20 to 27 knots of wind from the southeast and 12 to 15 foot swells. Our maximum speed today was 14.7 knots!"

The Ruels' sentiment about the Indian Ocean is not uncommon among those who have circumnavigated via the Cape of Good Hope. Jim Green of Martha's Vineyard did three circumnavigations with his submarine-like 10-Meter Tango Two, and told us his boat was heeled over so far for so long in the Indian Ocean that the leeward deck needed a bottom job when they got to Cape Town.

Improved rules for US citizens wanting to cruise Europe? It looks as though it's in the works. As we've written a number of times, Americans who sail to and in the Schengen Area countries — meaning most of Europe — are prohibited from spending more than 90 days there in any 180-day period. Given the six-month cruising season in the Med, it means US cruisers — as well as those from New Zealand, Australia and other non-Schengen countries — can only enjoy half the season there. There are ways to work around the 90-day limit, but they are time-consuming and expensive, so a lot of cruisers just ignore the law. If caught, however, they run the risk of big fines and being banned from the Schengen Area countries for as much as the rest of their lives.

Enforcing the law is not in these countries' self-interest, as it makes it difficult for well-heeled visitors to spend a full season or more dropping money in their economies, there is a new proposal for a 'touring visa' that would change everything. Once you got to Europe, you would provide officials of any Schengen Area country with proof that you have "admissable accommodation", meaning your boat, 12 months of pay stubs or bank statements that suggest you won't go broke during the length of your intended stay, and health insurance. If all was hunky-dory, within 20 days you'd receive a tourist visa allowing you to stay for . . . as best as we could tell, as long as you wanted in any Schengen country.This isn't law yet, but hopes are high for the upcoming year.

Priority was destroyed upon landfall on the east coast of Australia. Having left Mexico just a few months ago, Pacific Puddle Jumper Eddie Martin of Mooloolaba, Australia, made the most unpleasant of landfalls at the river bar at beautiful Noosa. Having misjudged the tides at the narrow entrance, the 57-year-old South African struck bottom with his Beneteau 35, driving the keel through the hull. And he was just 30 minutes from home after crossing the Pacific. Martin and his crew were not injured, but the uninsured vessel was a total loss. A mechanic who had purchased the well-equipped boat in San Carlos, Mexico, and headed across the Pacific with Madrie Van Staden, Martin had crossed the Pacific two years before on another boat.

"It wasn't the bar's fault," said Robert Cleveland, a local surfer and experienced sailor, of the loss of Priority. "It's not a treacherous entrance, but the channel does move. A friend and I watched the boat coming in. 'You've got to be kidding,' we said to each other, 'this isn't going to happen.'" And it didn't.

"It was just Denise Ogier, my granddaughter Andrea, and myself aboard on the way from Catalina to San Diego when we landed a 63-inch-long wahoo," reports Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion. It was hard to land the big fish and even harder to kill it.

"Tequila didn't work, so we covered its head and I went at it with a small sledge hammer. That did it. Then I had to clean it. When I put my hand inside the wahoo to get the guts out, the dead fish would respond to my touch by quivering. It was creepy. The good news is that now that I'm alone, I've been having wahoo to eat every day. Wahoo for breakfast. Wahoo for lunch. Wahoo for dinner. Wahoo every meal of every day and in every way."

"Fresh wahoo is my favorite," reports Terry Albrecht of the Long Beach-based Columbia 36 Ojo Rojo, who like Patsy had just completed the SoCal Ta-Ta."I buy it all the time at Santa Monica Seafood where it costs $16/lb. But it comes from Fiji."

Tropical storms and hurricanes are destructive, of course, but so are their so-called 'remnants'. For instance, in late September the remnants of hurricane Marty left the state of Sonora, Mexico, with severe flooding in downtown Guaymas, damaging 800 homes and 400 vehicles. Hundreds of cruising boats are on the hard at nearby Marina Seca. Tere Grossman reports that there wasn't any damage there, although Nate Kraft of the Cheoy Lee 41 Astraea reported that his friends from Terrapin returned to find their boat filled with "thousands of gallons of water".

"We've had a great time in the Med this summer," report Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of the Lake Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade. "But this past week — late September — we've had gales around Sardinia every day. We took refuge on a buoy at ritzy Porto Cervo where the old anchorage used to be. The place was a ghost town compared to just weeks ago, as when the season ends in the Med, it ends.

"The natural harbor is well protected," Dorland continues, "but the waves were building directly from the east and the forecast was for gale-strength winds this morning. So Debbie and I decided to put Escapade on the dock, even though it would increase our nightly mooring costs from $37.50 euros ($42 US) to 190 euros ($216 US) a night. The marinero tried to shoehorn us into an impossibly tight place even though all the larger spaces were empty.

"Approaching the fairway to 'C' Dock downwind in a breeze, I had both engines at 3/4 throttle in reverse to try to idle into the crosswind turn. A quick calculation gave me about a 20% chance of making the righthand crosswind turn, followed by a lefthand downwind turn, and then reversing upwind to the dock — hopefully without hitting any other boats. With the very large rectangle that Escapade is, I simply wasn't up for it, so we backed out and tried to go to the fuel dock. The waves, however, were too big for even that. I saw no point in Debbie having to risk her health trying to get a line on a buoy with the wind inside the harbor blowing more than 30 knots.

"So we pushed out the harbor entrance through the impossibly square waves, and carefully made our way back up to 'Porto' Palma, which is no port but rather a protected anchorage from all but a southerly wind. Now we're sitting in 30 feet of water with nearly 200 feet of chain out. It's blowing 35 knots and pouring rain, but we're feeling pretty good. At least we were until the lightning started half an hour ago. As many readers may remember, Escapade has already been hit by lightning twice. A third time probably wouldn't be a charm."

Ten days later, Greg, Debbie and Escapade were anchored off Santa Margherita Ligure, not far from Portofino, and life was much better. "It's too nice to leave for Genoa today, as the forecast is for a high of 72 degrees."

The last time the Wanderer was in Santa Margherita, he noticed a most Italian touch at the marina. When you got to the bottom of the ramp just before the slips, there was a covered area with seats and big mirrors. A certain class of Italian woman needs to primp just before going out on the water.

"I'd like to thank my seven fans," writes Mark McNulty from aboard Bill Gibbs' G-Force 1400 catamaran Wahoo in steamy Panama, on her way from South Africa to her new home in Ventura. "I couldn't have gotten this far without you, as you keep me cool." The fans he refers to are 12-volt fans in the cat, not the human kind.

If you're headed to Mexico this winter, be advised that both fuel and oil are much more expensive south of the border. In fact, in some instances diesel now costs twice as much in Mexico. On the one hand, you don't want to weigh your boat down with 7.5 pound/gallon liquids, but with US diesel half the price, you don't want to go south with empty tanks either. Oil is also much cheaper in the States, and particularly at Costco. We use Delo 400 15-40 in our Yanmars, and Costco was selling three gallons for $33. Once again, that's less than half of what you sometimes have to pay in Mexico, and much less expensive than at many US retailers. Not all Costco stores carry it, but the one on Friars Road in San Diego had it. In other financial news, the exchange rate is now just under 16.50 pesos to the dollar, making Mexico an incredible bargain — for most everything but fuel and marina slips.

Meds and Mexico. If you're going south this winter, you also want to make sure that either you have enough of whatever medicines you're taking, or that you can get that medicine or an equivalent in Mexico. Rick Bradshaw of the Hans Christian 33 La Vita reports that he used to be able to buy Coumadin/Warfarin, which prevents blood clots, over the counter without a prescription. "Now the medication is no longer available, and there is no real replacement," he says.
It's also good to have a copy of any original prescription, in the unlikely event that you're stopped by customs.

Speaking of Mexican customs, Robert and Nancy Novak of the Sausalito-based Oyster 485 Shindig crossed the border in mid-October to return to their boat in Mexico for the season. "Our border crossing at Tecate was a breeze. We were happy to get the green light at customs and not have to explain why our vehicle is loaded with boat parts and kite-surfing gear. We are now in the Guadalupe wine region near Ensenada. Let the tasting begin!"

Lost and found. "I'm trying to track down Jim O'Connell, my old best man," writes Daniel Joseph. "Jim left Seattle aboard his Hylas 42 Moko Jumbi in the early 1990s, and went on to complete a circumnavigation. The last I heard, he returned to San Diego, then remarried and moved to Montana. Can anybody help me locate him?"

Friends have suggested that Josie Lauducci of the Sausalito-based Stevens 40 Shawnigan might be "insane" for having quit a hefty-income pediatric intensive care unit job she loved at UCSF. "No," she's told them. "I'm just fortunate to have budgeted time to take off work to share the world with my husband Christian and our kids Nina, 12, Ellamae, 7, and Taj, 2. We've chosen a lifestyle that enables us to live on less income but also allows us to sail away for awhile. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us."

After leaving Sausalito to start the family cruise on August 20, Josie returned to UCSF for one more stint of work. "I crammed nine 12-hour shifts into a 16-day timeframe. Getting three weeks' worth of work done meant almost half a year of cruising money."

The Lauducci clan is still reveling in slowdown mode, having taken 47 days — perhaps a record — to get from Sausalito to Santa Barbara. But don't mistake it for languor on their part, as they are also smashing records for doing the most stuff every day.

Do what we say, not what we do. "The October-issue story about us was about the nicest we could imagine about our Catalac catamaran Angel Louise and our wonderful experiences in the Caribbean, on the East Coast, on both sides of the Atlantic, down the the Danube to the Black Sea, and across the Med," write Ed and Sue Kelly.

"We're currently on a mooring at Annapolis, waiting for the start of the boat show. We are happy to have dodged the bullet that was hurricane Joaquin on our way here. We had run offshore outside New Jersey in 6-8 ft beam seas for 34 straight hours from New York City to Cape May, and then up the Delaware Bay and C&D Canal against the current to get to the Chesapeake. Yes, we did this against our better judgment — and contrary to what we told others to do in the last issue of Latitude. But we did make it to Annapolis, in sight of the first US capital after the Revolutionary War."

Earlier in Changes we referenced the February 2011 highjacking of the Marina del Rey-based 58-ft sloop Quest and the eventual murders of crew Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay, and Robert A. Riggle by Somali pirates. What happened afterward?

The bodies of two dead pirates were found aboard Quest. Thirteen others, 12 Somalis and one Yemeni, were captured and sent to Norfolk, Virginia to face charges of piracy and kidnapping. Three of them, Mohamud Salad Ali, Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali and Ali Abdi Mohamed, pleaded guilty in a US court.

Farah, a leader of the group, later told Reuters in a telephone interview from Somali that he was bitter about what happened. "I lost the money I had invested in the [pirate] business and some of my comrades. No forgiveness to the Americans. Revenge! Our business will go on." He added that he had invested $110,000 on food, weapons and salaries for the highjacking. Poor guy.

The good news is that Farah's business has not gone on. Which is not to say it's become safe to do a circumnavigation via the Red Sea.

At just 45 miles south of San Diego Bay, Marina Puerto Salina is the northernmost marina in Mexico. Unfortunately, marina tenants tell us that management has not kept their promises to keep the marina entrance dredged, and thus not only are their boats trapped, "The main entrance is still open to the ocean, and boaters seeing masts from the ocean try to come in, thinking it is a safe harbor, and run aground," says Nick Benetic, who tells Latitude he has a boat that's been trapped in the marina for years. Beware.

It's hard to believe, but another northern hemisphere cruising season is upon us. If you're one of the lucky ones who gets to go south this year, be safe. But also be active and curious, and it will make your trip much more enjoyable. You've worked hard and spent a lot of money, so you want to make the most of it. And don't forget to email!

Missing the pictures? See the November 2015 eBook!


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