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November 2017

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With reports this month from Volare on what seemed to be the abrupt end of summer in the Sea of Cortez; from Celebrate on completing a rare Northwest Passage; from Rise and Shine on the Seychelles; from Geja on
10 years in the Med; and Cruise Notes.

Volare — Caribbean 50
Jason and Vicki Hite
End of Summer in the Sea?
(Long Beach)

Summer ended rather abruptly on the fall equinox at the Don Juan anchorage, near Bahia de Los Angeles in the middle of the Sea of Cortez. We were getting ready for Vicki's birthday party, planning on eating fish, drinking cool drinks, and enjoying water sports to stay cool. Instead of the usual very hot weather, we got a Norther.

The wind wasn't just out of the north, as it would blow from the west, too. The wind was cold, shifty, and relentless. Outside the anchorage waves pounded the shoreline. What a change!

We had invited the fleet over for fish tacos and flan. Terry Kennedy — who has been living on and diving in the Sea for more than 40 years — and I planned on going spearfishing the day before Vicki's party to get the fish. But every day the wind blew, the sea got uglier, and the visibility decreased. Furthermore, the water temperature fell from 84° to 79°.

The wind was still up when we made our first attempt to get fish. We anchored just inside the entrance to Don Juan, and tried going out and around underwater. As expected, visibility was terrible, and we only saw small fish. Terry and Dawn on Manta offered to supply fish from their freezer, but we decided to try again the next day. Luckily we had a relatively calm night, and the morning of Vicki's birthday we were able to get to a promising spot. Terry and I both speared two fish, although Terry's were twice as big as mine. The biggest fish weighed 11 pounds, and we got 36 pounds in all.

I had to wrestle one fish away from a sea lion, but that's another story.

We did get a lull in the wind to have some watersports fun. But rather than the usual, "What can we do in the water to stay cool?" question, it was "I think it might be warm enough to go wake- boarding — if you take a few sips from this flask first."

I rigged a bridle, and Terry and Dawn pulled people around on the surfboard and paddleboard, depending on their skill level. I've never gotten up on water skis or a wakeboard. Now I can add surfboard to that list. But the paddleboard was easy.

We had halyard catapulting scheduled too, which is where you somehow fling people into the air off your boat using a halyard and a dinghy. But the wind was blowing too hard to make water sports a desired activity.

But Vicki had a great party anyway. I cleaned the fish, Dawn fried them up, and we had fish tacos for everyone. Dawn also made her awesome flan, which is almost like cheesecake. Another boat brought a lemon meringue pie. Good food, and good company!

Still, it seems odd how quickly the weather changed. One day you're keeping your hair wet all day for cooling, lying on towels to soak up the sweat, and always seeking shade and/or a fan on full-blast. The next day you're wearing cotton clothes — including shirts! — and the fans are off.

But things are good up here in northern Baja. We are starting to look at the chart and see if there are any last spots to hit before we start setting our eyes on moving south. We're going to move south a lot slower than last year, because last year we discovered that if you go south too fast, you find yourself back in summer again.

And summer in the Sea can be a challenge. All day long you're either doing something in the water or under the water. If you're out of the water, you do as little as possible — preferably in the shade with a nearby fan blowing at you on the highest setting.

I had to give up coffee. It's just too hot, and you don't want the energy it gives you. Energy makes you want to move, but moving makes you sweat. It's so humid that when you sweat, you wear the water like a coat. Gravity helps it pool beneath you, so you need a towel or you'll be in a puddle in no time.

We use a lot of water to drink and to rinse off. We use a lot of energy, too, in order to run fans, refrigerators, freezers and watermaker.

We eat dinner around 10 p.m. because it's too hot to cook or eat while the sun is up. We enjoy the nice, cool temperatures as long as we can stay awake, because sweating all day is hard work.

Now that the weather has changed, we've stopped taking 18 showers a day. And I don't think I even broke a sweat yesterday. The sun goes down by 6 p.m. now, so we eat earlier. The temperature at night is in the 70s with low humidity, versus the mid-80s and high humidity of summer. So we actually sleep. No more fans blasting all night, except maybe just one on low for some air movement and white noise.

It's in the mid-80s during the day now, with low humidity. Dinghy rides back from a dive used to cool me off. Now they make me shiver. I get restless if I sit too long, so I've started looking at the brightwork and planning on how I will start the re-varnishing project I never would have thought of doing a month ago.

— jason 09/28/2017

Celebrate — Taswell 58
Charlie and Cathy Simon
The Northwest Passage
(Spokane, WA / Nuevo Vallarta, MX)

The crews of only about 250 boats have completed a Northwest Passage.
There are two common definitions of doing a Northwest Passage. The Northwest Passage proper is 1,200 miles from Pond Inlet in the east to Nome, Alaska, in the west. Others consider the Northwest Passage as being from the Arctic Circle in Greenland to the Arctic Circle in Alaska, a distance of 3,000 miles.

Be that as it may, of the crews that have done a Northwest Passage, only a few have done a 25,000-mile circumnavigation, too. Charlie and Cathy Simon are among the very few who have done both, and thus have a unique perspective about which of the two is the more challenging.

"The Northwest Passage, without a doubt!" Charlie states, laughing at the thought there could be any question about it.

"If you do a World ARC circumnavigation like we did in 13 months a couple of years ago, you just have to put up the sails and eventually you'll make your way around," says Cathy. "In a circumnavigation, the worst you might encounter is the tail end of a tropical cyclone. The Northwest Passage, however, is not a cookie-cutter trip like that. In the Arctic you are, for example, at the complete mercy of ice floes. This year the ice floes were much greater than anyone had predicted, and didn't clear off in August like there were supposed to."

"Last year the cruise ship Crystal Serenity did a Northwest Passage and didn't encounter any ice at all," adds Charlie. "This year Crystal Serenity had to pay for an icebreaker to clear a path for them. Several smaller cruise ships had to abandon their attempts and turn back."

Celebrate and the six who were on her, all vets of the World ARC, never got trapped in the ice. But several times it was close.

"The ice moves along at one to two knots," says Charlie. "You normally go close to shore because there is less ice there, but that means it's shallow — sometimes just nine feet a half mile off the shore. We bumped bottom a couple of times while being pushed by the ice, and that was a fright. Other times we'd pull into a bay for a rest, and just drift with the ice instead of anchoring."

Ice wasn't the only problem.

"Navigation was really difficult, as the charts are poor," says Charlie. "So you do a lot of feeling your way around. In addition, the compass doesn't work north of the Arctic Circle. GPS, however, was just fine. And there is a lot of misinformation around."

Celebrate stopped at 11 villages between Pond Inlet at the start of the Northwest Passage and Nome at the end of it.

"The stores were amazingly well-stocked," says Charlie, "although fresh fruit and vegetables were understandably very expensive." The other eight times they stopped were at uninhabited coves or bays. "The landscape was so stark — and beautiful — that you wouldn't believe it."

Lack of visibility was also an issue. "Sometimes it was so foggy we couldn't move forward at all," says Cathy.
When the visibility was good, sometimes they would travel 24 hours a day, always with two people on watch. The Celebrate crew was amazed that some of the other boats attempting a Northwest Passage were being singlehanded.
One of the surprises of the trip for everyone is that it never got very cold.

"It was mostly in the low 40s," says Cathy. "We had special Arctic jackets, but only wore them once or twice."

Celebrate was equipped with two DJI Phantom 4 drones and a masthead camera. The drones took fabulous aerial photos in Greenland, but were useless north of 72° because their compasses didn't work.

"But the masthead camera was outstanding, and very helpful," says Charlie. "Designed as a security camera, the picture quality wasn't very good, but it worked no matter how bad the weather."

Being able to 'see' from an elevated perch was very helpful.

"The last three miles of ice, near the end of the Northwest Passage, was the worst," says Charlie. "But thanks to the masthead camera, we could see over the top of the ice and find the 'leads', or paths through the ice.

The Simons were somewhat disappointed they didn't see more wildlife. They saw lots of whales, otters and caribou, but no polar bears. But the day after they pulled out of one anchorage, another boat was able to take lots of video of polar bears.

Celebrate was well equipped and provisioned. Nonetheless, with six aboard rather than the normal two, and in cold temperatures, they used an abnormal amount of propane. Unfortunately, they had assumed they could get propane in Greenland before starting the Northwest Passage, but Greenland only has butane.

Celebrate completed the Northwest Passage in 60 days on September 8, Cathy's birthday. We won't disclose Cathy's age, but she was the oldest woman to do the Passage this season.

Finishing in early September was none too soon, as the Gulf of Alaska was already being swept by gales. Determined to participate in this year's Baja Ha-Ha, the Simons dashed south as quickly as they could. When we spoke to them by phone on October 4, they had made it down to Nanaimo, British Columbia. They figured they could cover the remaining 1,300 miles to San Diego in less than 10 days. We don't doubt it.

As you might expect, they are looking forward to two weeks of rest before the start of the Ha-Ha, as well as the slower pace and warmer weather. Anybody want to buy a couple of Arctic jackets?

— latitude 10/10/2017

Rise and Shine — Ingrid 38
Nick and Bonnie Pepper Nicolle
Victoria Harbor, Mahé, Seychelles

[Editor's Note: Not many people have been out cruising longer than Nick. He sailed south to Mexico in the mid-'90s as part of Latitude's 'Some Like It Hot' migration. Bonnie joined him in Tonga in 2006 as a result of a Crew Wanted ad in Latitude. They were married in the Marshall Islands in 2009.

We published their reports on Sri Lanka in the July and August 2016 Changes. Following that, the couple spent nine months in India and two months in the Maldives before arriving at the Seychelles Islands, the site of this report. They are currently in Mayotte, heading toward Madagascar. At this rate, Nick should complete his circumnavigation by, oh, about 2039.]

Before sailing for the Seychelles, we spent almost two months in the Maldives, a country in the middle of the Indian Ocean with 26 ring-shaped atolls and 1,000 islands. We started our 1,350-mile passage on March 8, and arrived in the Seychelles 12 days later. It was all part of Nick's plan to cross the Indian Ocean, which he'd been working on for months.

Our passage from the Maldives to the Seychelles was one of the loveliest we've ever had. The wind and seas were so kind to us that we left the portholes open the entire 12 days.

We approached the Seychelles just before sunset, when there was little wind and flat seas. Nonetheless, Nick decided that we should lie to until morning and approach the Victoria Harbor in daylight. Waiting for daylight before entering a strange harbor is always a good move.

The other deciding factor was the presence of some unidentifiable flashing red lights coming from Victoria. There was no mention of them on the charts, and they had no discernable pattern. When daylight finally came, it became clear that they were the red aircraft warning lights at the top of some huge wind turbines. The lights appeared occluded because the blades turned in front of them.

Victoria is an extremely busy port, with cargo ships, large and small fishing boats, and Moorings and Sunsail charter bases, plus the occasional large cruise ship. Once we were in the harbor area, we were instructed to proceed to a shallow spot and anchor while we waited for officials.

Imagine our surprise when the Merle, a rather large and heavy Customs boat pulled up alongside, and four rather large men clambered aboard our little 38-ft ketch. Thank goodness it only took 15 minutes to complete the paperwork and we could continue into the harbor.

Snug and well-protected, Victoria Harbor is overlooked by the Three Brothers, which are lovely large granite peaks. The harbor, with a small island in the middle, is used by numerous day boats as well as local fishing boats, charter boats and excursion boats. While there were empty moorings, we were reluctant to pick one up until we found out more about who owned them and how reliable they were. So we stayed on the hook for a week before taking a mooring.

Because the harbor has a rather busy thoroughfare, we'd had to be careful about where we put our anchor. There was a place next to the island, so we dropped our hook and tied our stern to shore. From there it was a five-minute dinghy ride to the yacht club, the Marine Charter Association, and the fuel dock.

The Marine Charter Association runs the fuel dock and also has a small bar where the locals hang out. Charter boats pick up and drop off their passengers here. Refueling is either by bringing the boat alongside the dock or jerry jugs. The harbor is well protected, but the wind is constantly changing direction, so it is necessary to be sure you know how your boat will react in all conditions.

The busy little yacht club offers a temporary membership for approximately $45 US per week. We were thus able to use the showers and laundry tubs (no washers), and jerry-jug water to our boat. There was no Wi-Fi available.

Much to my delight, I was able to arrange laundry with a local woman through a referral from the yacht club. After paying $100+ for a huge bag of two months' worth of laundry, I was caught up. From then on, I did my laundry at the yacht club wash tubs.

The yacht club had a restaurant where we ate that is now being remodeled. We had a few meals there with no complaints about the food or service. The offerings were the usual — pizza, pasta, salads, fish & chips and such. The prices were relatively expensive, but in line with local prices for takeout and inexpensive restaurants.

The Seychelles are not a bargain for the average cruiser. But with a little local knowledge, you can get provisions and dine out at prices comparable to those in an expensive city in the US. Considering the Seychelles are in the middle of nowhere, we were surprised to see the large selection of goods available.

Another thing that makes the Seychelles expensive are the fees. A day after arriving, we were instructed to visit the accounting office — a 15-minute walk from the harbor and through a lovely park — to settle up. The folks who worked in the office were incredibly kind and helpful, as was everyone. Nonetheless, it was a bit of a shock to learn that we were charged $275 US to have the officials on Merle come and inspect us. Oddly enough, the same price applies to any vessel, no matter the size. We had no choice but to pay.

For two months we paid about $800 in fees, including $100 to an agent. The government required that we hire an agent to extend our visa beyond the initial 30 days, which we did.

More next month.

— bonnie 09/15/2017

Geja — 1976 Islander 36
Andrew Vik
10th Summer in the Med
(San Francisco)

When I bought Geja sight unseen in 2008 — she was in Italy at the time — after a rather convincing article in Latitude, I figured that I would sail her around the Med for a season or two, and then sell her. I've now been sailing her in the Med for 10 years. Although Geja is now a 42-year-old boat instead of a 32-year-old boat, she's still going strong. I get in about six weeks of cruising each summer, mostly in the Adriatic Sea, as I dry-berth her every winter in the UNESCO town of Trogir, Croatia, west of the big city of Split.

My first crew this summer were my sister and nine-year-old nephew Chase, fresh out of a two-week sailing camp at the Sausalito YC. We had a blast sailing around the islands, but little Chase probably enjoyed the inflatable water parks the most. There are several spots in Croatia where one can anchor within swimming distance of such floating play structures. Heck, I probably like them as much as he does. Aside from that, he was greatly amused by the common sight of German nudists, particularly the woman SUP-ing her way around an anchorage.

My next crew couldn't have been more different than the first ­— a six-guy wolf pack. We chartered a second boat for the occasion as Geja only sleeps four, and preferably three. We kicked off two weeks of buddy-boating by anchoring next to the soccer stadium in Split for Ultra Europe, Europe's largest rave. Thanks to an inside connection with one of the headlining DJs, we had VIP access for the entire three-day festival.

As it turned out, we only managed to attend the first night. Well, and first morning, as it was only the rising sun that indicated it was time for us to paddle back to the boats. The second night of Ultra Europe was hit by a bora, a localized dry Santa Ana-like offshore wind that kicks in after dark and blows like crazy through mid-morning. Still anchored in the lee of the stadium, we held on tight as gusts well into the 30s roared through; we were barely able to hear David Guetta's performance over the roar of the wind.

The bora blew for two days, providing some fast and fun downwind sailing. We did have to modify our plans, as initially we'd planned to sail east. But with the strong northeasterly blowing from land, we sailed south instead, and caught up with our original route later. One of the beauties of Croatia is there are interesting destinations and countless anchorages in almost every direction.

One of my favorite anchorages is Rasotica on the east end of the island of Brac. It was there that our two boats rafted up for a night with Rob and Christine Aronen's charter boat. Ten years earlier, the Aronens and I buddy-boated up the Sea of Cortez after the 2006 Baja Ha-Ha. They live in Europe and are boatless now, but we've rendezvoused several times since in the Med.

The wolf pack sailed down the Dalmatian coast to Korcula before turning back north and becoming stuck in Hvar Town for three nights. It's easy to get stuck in Hvar, a town that's as fun as it is picturesque, and easily the most happening spot along the entire Croatian coast. While there last year, I crossed paths with Bay Area rapper M.C. Hammer, who was part of billionaire Jimmy Lee's entourage that also included 50 supermodels.

The après-beach party at Hvar Town commences at around 6 p.m. at Hula Hula Bar and lasts well past sunset. Prime time in town each night is 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., after which the water taxis outside Carpe Diem take folks out to an island for the 2-to-6 a.m. session. None of the wolf pack, now all in our 30s and 40s, managed to make all three sessions.

With the wolf pack gone and my liver in recovery mode, I continued my adventures with several other crews, reaching as far north as Novalja on the island Pag. Novalja is where people stay when attending the massive Ibiza-like parties at Zrce Beach, intentionally placed far from town. Novalja is one of the few places in Croatia where I bother to lock the dinghy. Except this time I didn't.

Anchored out, we took a quick evening trip to shore and tied up to the busy quay. I checked on the dinghy a few times while ashore, but when darkness fell and it was time to paddle back to Geja, the dinghy just wasn't there. It was a sickening feeling, and my mind raced to determine the culprit. Such crimes are very uncommon in Croatia. Maybe someone on a charter boat borrowed the dinghy to return to a boat, or did somebody fiddle with the painter and allow it to float away?

A small fishing boat approached the nearby quay, so we approached him and asked for help. We hopped on and motored around the quarter-mile-diameter bay on a moonless night, checking neighboring boats and the shoreline. Nada. About to give up, I asked that we drive around one more time, expanding our search a bit beyond the confines of the bay. As we motored farther out than I ever thought it would be, the dinghy appeared through the darkness, drifting a third of a mile from where I'd tied it up. And there were two guys in it.

I was enraged! I screamed and swore at the two beer-drinking German tourists who had decided to 'borrow' my dinghy and leave us stranded. I demanded that they jump out of the dinghy immediately and swim back to shore, despite the fact that they were fully clothed. The fisherman intervened, knowing that he might be on the hook if the Germans were run over. We towed them and my dinghy back into the bay. Surely there was steam shooting out of my ears.

On the way in, I asked how much money they had. It was $80. I had them hand it over, then gave it to the fisherman. Once we reached Geja, I told them they'd have to swim to shore. Somehow they found another $15 for the final stretch to shore. As they stepped aboard the fishing boat, I further admonished them for wearing shoes in my dinghy. "Arschloch!" I repeated over and over, it being the German word for 'asshole'.

A week later, down in the Kornati Islands, my crew and I rescued a boat from certain disaster. As we approached the small village of Vrulje on a windy day, a 38-ft sailboat seemed to be sailing itself toward a lee shore, a mooring line dangling from its forward starboard cleat. With no time to spare, my crew and I pulled alongside, hooked the loose mooring line, and towed the boat away from the rocky shoreline. By then we were only 75 feet from the rock shore. Good thing the coast is regular, and steep too.

Within a minute, the boat's Italian skipper raced over in a dinghy and took the helm. We'd actually met him a few days earlier in the Zadar Marina. Interestingly, the boat was a Chris-Craft, one of very few sailboats that Chris-Craft built in Taiwan years ago. We left Vrulje later that day after lunch and a hike, and looked for the boat in the mooring field. Our Italian friend was waiting for us with a bottle of prosecco. We noticed he now had two lines to the mooring ball.

Aside from two record-breaking heat waves that had temperatures soar well over 100°, my tenth summer of sailing Geja was amazing. For the second year in a row I had only a loose itinerary, a plan only possible in the Croatian archipelago where one can always find a protected anchorage or port nearby for any type of weather.

At the Travelift during my haulout, I made a rare sighting — a USA-flagged sailboat. She was Bruce and Nora Slayden's swanky Gunboat 66 Moondoggie from Sisters, Oregon. The couple have been cruising ever since doing the 2004 Baja Ha-Ha with the Island Packet 485 Jamboree. Bruce credited my past articles in Latitude for inspiring them to take a detour into the Adriatic Sea.

Start to finish, this year's voyage lasted 43 days with 35 days underway. We covered 586 miles, 50% of which with the engine off. We overnighted in 30 different places: 14 anchorages (usually free), six mooring buoys (usually 25 euros), six town quays (usually 40 euros), and four marinas (usually 70 euros). Eleven of the 30 spots were completely new to me after all these years, an ode to the number of options to be found in Dalmatia.

I've been slowly upgrading Geja over the years, though it's frustrating to only have a week before and after each summer cruise for boat projects. This year I swapped her tiny little Engel drop-in fridge for a proper Isotherm kit. This after lining Geja's original seven-cubic-foot icebox with thick layers of XPS foam to bring it down to a properly insulated 3.5 cubic feet.

Thinking I'd need more solar power for the new fridge, I contacted former Bay Area sailor Bruce Schwab's electric shop in Maine, and he directed me to the Solbian folks in Italy. For a very decent price, an SXp 68-watt flexible panel and Genasun controller were waiting for me when I arrived. With Croatia now being in the European Union, it's so much easier to have things shipped in. With 163 watts of total solar, I never even bothered to plug in while in marinas. At 44° north, the summer days are pretty long.

With Geja now more dialed in than ever, and having explored most of the Adriatic, I'm itching to expand my cruising grounds to other parts of the Med. Maybe in a season or two I'll head out of the Adriatic, hang a right, and test out my Viking genes again. But at some time I'm sure I'll return to Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, Europe's top nautical paradise. If you're thinking of chartering a boat in Croatia and want some custom route planning, drop me a line at

— andrew 10/10/2017

Cruise Notes:

It's not unusual for people to assume that the islands of French Polynesia are all the same. Depending on the area, they're actually quite different. The most windward of the islands are the Marquesas, a group of 15 jagged volcanic islands. All of them are tall and one has a peak over 4,000 feet tall. Then there are the Tuamotus, a chain of 77 atolls that barely rise above the surface of the ocean.

Shelly Rothery Ward, who has been in French Polynesia for about 18 months now with husband Mike Rickman on the La Paz-based Peterson 44 Avatar, noticed a couple of other differences. There are lots of flowers, jungles and fresh fruit in the Marquesas, which proved to be a nice change after the Tuamotus, which has none of the three.

"We left the docks in 2015 with the ambitious goal of sailing around the world in 18 months," write Jose Castello and Gina Harris of the San Francisco-based Beneteau 423 Carthago. The couple did the 2015 Baja Ha-Ha, and Puddle Jumped the following spring.

"You're laughing about our cruising goal? Yeah, now we are, too. We've learned to slow things down a bit, to take our time to enjoy the people and places along the way.

"This year we took on some awesome crew to share the magic with us. It almost wasn't fair to keep it all to ourselves. Then we decided to ditch the original goal of going around in 18 months. Cruising plans are written in the sand anyway, right? We've decided to turn our adventure into a lifestyle, and hopefully never go back to office jobs.

"We also decided that we need another hull. Yes, a catamaran. So our Carthago is for sale, ready for someone else to pick up right here in Fiji, aka paradise. If you're not quite ready to untie the docklines, maybe someone you know is. Help Carthago keep the adventure going by sharing our post at"

Not everyone thinks two hulls are better than one, but many do. And there are some who think three hulls are better than one or even two. Among them are the Sandstroms, who had a letter in the October issue. And Tom van Dyke of Santa Cruz, who fixed up the Searunner 30 trimaran En Pointe, did the Ha-Ha in 2012, and sailed her all the way across the Pacific to Thailand. After a few years of cruising and selling his tri in Thailand, Tom thought retiring on a powerboat in Northern California would be the way to go — first in the Delta, and more recently at Pier 39 in San Francisco. It's turned out to be not such a good idea.

"I'm trying to unwind what I've done by coming back to the Bay Area," he explains. "Among the problems is the insane cost of owning a boat here compared to other places I've been. What was I thinking coming back?! Anyway, I'm returning to Southeast Asia in November to look at a friend's Searunner 40-ft tri that is for sale. Might end up being a two-boat owner for a while. Chalking my mistake up to 'lessons in retirement'."

Speaking of attempted re-entries, we wonder how it will go for Jim Fair and Linda Powers of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake. They sailed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge early in October to conclude a nine-year circumnavigation. Congratulations — and good luck with re-entry.

Torben and Judy Bentsen of the Point Richmond-based Beneteau 42s7 Tivoli had some really good luck recently. After enjoying cruising in the Med for a couple of years, the couple sailed across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, the latter to be the new base for their boat. They left Tivoli at the massive — 1,100 berths plus a very large dry storage area — Puerto del Rey Marina at Fajardo on the east coast of Puerto Rico.

We watched nearly minute by minute as the monster hurricane Irma, which had devastated St. Martin and the BVI, headed toward Puerto Rico. We thought Tivoli was a lost cause, but she survived because Irma eased north because of Puerto Rico's mountains.

Alas, about 10 days later Maria, almost as strong as Irma, followed a similar path but just to the south. As best we could tell, the wickedly powerful eye passed right over Puerto del Rey and Tivoli. Bummer! Yet we were flabbergasted when we saw a photo of the Bentsens' boat still standing tall and proud on her jacks after Maria had passed.

The Wanderer also finally got to see photographic proof that La Gamelle, the Olson 30 he and Axel Jouany are partners in at St. Barth, made it through Irma without any damage. She was one of the few boats that survived on St. Barth. A month after Irma came through, we saw a photo of the outer Gustavia moorings, the main anchorage, and the anchorage at Corossol. There was only one boat in the entire area. Usually there are hundreds. Nonetheless, island officials insist that the St. Barth Bucket, for boats 100 to 230 feet, will go on in March as scheduled, as will the fabulous Voiles de St. Barth in April. We'll be there and hope you will, too.

In an early October 'Lectronic we asked Mexico cruising vets for their opinion on the best charts for Mexico. Here is a selection of the answers:

"I've been using Garmin charts with a Garmin 4210 chartplotter for the past six years, and have found them to be very accurate — except south of Cabo Corrientes (Banderas Bay). Down there they are about a half mile to a mile off. For example, when we anchor at Ipala, Chamela or Barra, it shows our boat is on land." — Marina Eisenzimmer, Mykonos, Swan 44.

"Before leaving San Francisco a little over a year ago for the SoCal Ta-Ta and Baja Ha-Ha, we installed a Garmin chartplotter package, as West Marine in San Diego highly recommended Garmin's recently updated map chip. It was $300 versus $150 because it has satellite map overlay. It, for example, showed us exactly where the wreck is located at the entrance of Turtle Bay, and was especially good for showing the rocks off Punta Mita. We've been very pleased." — Greig and Leslie Olson, Doggone, Brown Searunner 31 trimaran.

"We used Pacific Mexico: A Cruiser's Guidebook by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, as well as their Sea of Cortez: A Cruiser's Guidebook, and found them to be great. We used the Raymarine charts on our chartplotter. They were way out of date, but the GPS coordinates matched, even when we were shown anchored a mile or more on shore! While they worked fine, they made for a lot of jokes." — Phyllis Stratton.

"My wife and I left San Francisco on Juniper in November 2015 and have been in Mexico ever since. We've found that the Navionics charts on our Raymarine chartplotter have been surprisingly accurate — although we always overlay radar when nearing shore to verify. We've heard others say the charts can be quite a ways off, but that hasn't been our experience." — Scott Askew.

"If you compare Navionics with C-Map for Altata, Loreto, San Blas and Matanchen Bay, and the La Palmita anchorage south of Bahia Concepcion, you'll find that Navionics has much less detail than C-Map, and none in some places." — David Pelagia.

"Debbie and I have owned every cruising guide to Mexico there is, and we think the best by far are Shawn and Heather's cruising guides. Their Pacific Coast Mexico and Sea of Cortez guides are 'must-have' items." Glenn and Debbie, Beach Access, Lagoon 380.

"When we did the Ha-Ha in 2012, I had early-2000s vintage C-Map charts. I cannot recommend them at all, as I have several funny screenshots of Shindig anchored on land and sailing tracks across Isla Isabel. Quarter- to half-mile errors were common. In 2014 I bought Navionics for a Raymarine plotter, and it seems they put the land in the right places. There were some depth contours that I found to be out of whack in the Santa Rosalia area, but in general I was happy with Navionics." Rob, aka Capt. Coconut, Shindig, Oyster 485.

Rob reports that Shindig is currently on the hard in Raiatea following a Puddle Jump this year, waiting out cyclone season. He reports that the Navionics charts for the South Pacific "have also been very good."

Curt Hamann has very good news for Sea of Cortez cruisers. "Our team at Marina Puerto Escondido has just completed a rebranding of the marina, and better still can report that a new breakwater and slips are arriving this week from France, Ireland and Canada. The breakwater will provide marina protection against Northers that didn't exist before, and the new berths will expand the marina's capacity by 70+ slips."

We have no idea why the marina needed to get slips from three countries, but we do know that cruisers will like this introductory offer: "For the first 30 boats, we will offer one month of free berthing between January and May as an incentive to come up to see and experience this magic place in the Sea of Cortez." Write Hamann at for details. And tell him that Latitude sent you.

These folks have some new video on the Marina Puerto Escondido website, and the place has never looked better. It's always had spectacular natural beauty, and finally — after 40 years of failed development attempts — it looks as though it's starting to get the infrastructure to match. We wish them luck.

David and Merry Wallace of the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops have kept their boat in the Puerto Escondido area for years, and are optimistic. "We'll let Latitude know how things go, but so far the new marina owners have been very customer-oriented, and have made significant progress on turning the Fonatur basics into a real marina."

David also recommended that folks heading to Mexico follow the instructions in the Mexican government publication called Visiting Mexico by Private Boat, a copy of which can be found at To which the Wanderer says, no, no, no! If you follow those instructions, the skipper and every single member of the crew will have to leave Mexico at the same place and at the same time. That means, at the very least, everybody has to waste an hour or more at Immigration purchasing new tourist cards for about $25 each. The unexpected wasted time has caused people to miss their flights in the past.

If you're taking your boat to Mexico for the first time, the Wanderer has the following advice. First, do not drive yourself nuts trying to get a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) online. Some people have been successful, but the instructions are terrible and there are inadvertent traps that may have you putting the wrong information on the TIP. This won't be a problem — unless the Mexican government goes on a persnickety bender as they did about four years ago.

The TIP solution is simple — get your TIP at just about any of the big Mexican consulates — among them, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, or Sacramento. Baja Ha-Ha entrants who have done it say the clerks were very friendly and it only took 10 to 20 minutes. Note that you cannot get a boat TIP at the consulates in San Francisco or San Diego. But if you're in San Diego, just go to the Customs office at Otay Mesa and you can get a TIP in a few minutes.

For a complete list of all the Mexican consulates and ports of entry on the California border where you can get a TIP, go to

As for 180-day tourist cards — or whatever they call them now — we'd simply get them at Immigration in Ensenada, if it's your first stop, or Cabo San Lucas if that's your first stop. This based on the recommendation of Victor Barreda, ship's agent in Cabo.

There are so many older couples quietly out cruising that it's hard to fathom. Couples like Eric and Pam Sellix of the Clatskanie, Oregon-based Seawind 1160 cat Pied-a-Mer. The former restaurant owners didn't start cruising until 2012 when they were both 68. And Pam had never been offshore before.

Two years ago Pam wrote, "Even though Eric and I were in our late 60s before doing our first Ha-Ha in 2012, and I had never been offshore, we have been having an absolutely fabulous time cruising. We did a second Ha-Ha in 2014, did the Puddle Jump in 2015, and are now cruising the east coast of Australia."

The couple are currently in Samoa, working their way back to Oregon, California and Mexico. The Wanderer sends out his love and respect to Eric and Pam — and all the other seniors out there quietly cruising all over the globe. What you have accomplished — and are continuing to accomplish — is an inspiration.

You can be excused if you think the accompanying photo on the right is of somewhere in the Sea of Cortez. It's actually of Little Harbor on the backside of Catalina. It's uncrowded because the photo was taken in late September when most boats were in their berths because the kids were back in school. If it looks warm, it's because it was. And water temps were in the low 70s at that time around most of Catalina. Fall is the best time for cruising in Southern California.

The photo was taken by Beverly van de Velde of Rochambeau, the Marina del Rey-based Lagoon 40. The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca had met Beverly and her husband Rolf van de Velde while sharing the Paradise Cove anchorage in September. Great folks.

Rob Spatkowski of the sailing vessel Reka forwarded secondhand reports that the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica were both hit by tropical storm and then Hurricane Nate, even though the eye of that storm was in the Caribbean and went up into the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Some claim it was the worst storm to hit Nicaragua in 30 years. Even though the Nicaraguan port of San Juan del Sur is on the Pacific rather than the Caribbean coast, many boats were damaged or destroyed, including some very nice looking cruising boats. There's video showing a very nice catamaran, perhaps 38-ft, being driven sideways ashore in big surf. Her chances of survival were not improved by the fact her headsail had become partially unfurled.

It looks as if you can cross Turkey off your cruising/chartering list for at least the near future. Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of the Squaw Valley-based Catana 52 Escapade have been loving Turkey, a world-renowned cruising and chartering destination.

"We really like Turkey," they wrote me. "And the boat work we'd had done here has been excellent."

Now it appears they are not just going to change their plans of leaving their boat in Turkey for the off season. They are getting ready to 'bolt' the country. And if we were they, we'd sure bolt.

The problem is the result of a U.S. consulate employee's being arrested in Istanbul in October, which quickly led to both countries' suspending all non-immigrant visa services. According to experts, this effectively blocks Turks from travel to the United States, and Americans from traveling to Turkey.

This may be a problem for the many Americans who have put their boat away in Turkey for the season. You may not be allowed back in the country to retrieve her. Similarly, charter plans for next summer may be out the window.

Metin Topuz is the US consulate employee who was arrested. It's because he allegedly had links to Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric opposed to the current leadership in Ankara. Turkey wants Gulen extradited because they believe he was instrumental in last summer's failed coup. Relations between the US and Turkey took a turn in May, when the security detail for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assaulted protesters in Washington, DC.

The number of Americans visiting Turkey, which is a beautiful country with a wonderful coast and friendly people — as long as you don't get into religion — had plunged from 88,301 two years ago to just 37,000 last year. No doubt the numbers are headed farther south.

Croatia, as you can see from Andrew Vik's photos in this month's Changes, is a spectacular alternative to Turkey.

After 40 years of writing and/or somewhat aggressively editing almost every Changes in Latitude, almost every Letter to the Editor, in addition to writing countless articles and Sightings and 'Lectronics, this is 'so long' to Latitude from Richard Spindler, aka the Wanderer, aka the Grand Poobah, aka the Grand PooBob, and founder of Latitude. It's truly been both a privilege and an honor to serve you for these — can it really be? — 485 issues!

I'll continue to write extensively about cruising in Mexico and the Caribbean, and European canals, on my Richard Spindler Facebook page. I will also take a crack at writing books, the first to be about the pleasures of Paris by bike and by boat. I continue to own and will continue to manage the Baja Ha-Ha.

So until we meet again on some ocean or some café in Paris, remember that there are few things in life more satisfying than a well-executed spinnaker jibe.
— richard

Missing the pictures? See the November 2017 eBook!


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