December, 2002

With reports this months from Windraker during the height of hurricane Kenna at Paradise Village; from Scirocco on Panama; from Wind Rover on the Chesapeake Bay; from Solstice on time on a boat in the South Pacific; from Maverick on the Rock of Gibraltar; from Wings on resuming cruising in Vanuatu; from Siren's Song in Golfito, Costa Rica; from Reliance on transmission trouble in Costa Rica, and lots of Cruise Notes.

Windraker - Mason 43
John Decker
Hurricane Kenna At Paradise Marina
(San Francisco)

I happened to return to my boat at Paradise Village Marina just 36 hours before hurricane Kenna hit on the morning of October 25. Graziano, the 67-year-old owner of the resort, and Harbormaster Dick Markie, were impressive for the ferocity with which they prepared the hotel, marina, and boats for the possibility of extreme wind and waves. What follows is the log I wrote during the peak of the storm.

October 25, 2002, 10:00 a.m. - These are certainly the most pleasurable 50-knot winds that I've had on Windraker. There's no pitching or yawing, just a lot of rolling back and forth. I am snug in a nest of lines in the middle of two finger piers large enough to hold Profligate - which means we're not going anywhere. The wind is howling through the rigging. It's much too wet to go up on deck to check the wind instruments, but the last time I looked it was a sustained 45-50 knots. The four large piers between me and the harbor opening have been evacuated because of violent winds and bucking cement docks, but it is relatively quiet back here in the hinterland known as 'Tepic'. The large mall nearby has set up folding chairs in the basement garage for cruisers who don't want to stay on their boats. They are gathered there in small groups in the dim light from the exit ramp. There is no electricity.

I have been listening to the Chubasco Net weather report, and right now the eye is at 21°1' 105°1'. Since I'm at 20°4' 105°2', I'm roughly 40 miles from the center of Kenna. She is moving away from its closest point of approach to us and toward San Blas further north on the Mexican mainland. The weather guys are strangely but noticeably proud - you can hear it in their voices - that Kenna has such high winds. I had a complete adrenaline burst when they gave the wind speeds in kilometers per hour, as it was well into the 200s!

The surf is very high and has crashed upon and broken many of the large glass panel/windows that once separated the hotel, pools and restaurants from the beach. Fortunately, the panels are made from some sort of safety glass that collapses into a pile of rubble. About 20 laborers are out there now unscrewing the remaining panels, being personally supervised by Señor Graziano, my hero. There's only one problem - they are about a day too late. The workers' heads and arms poke through black Hefty-style leaf bags, which they wear instead of raincoats. On the beach, the water has come so high that hard water-packed sand extends hundreds of feet, all the way up to the restaurants. Thousands of sand crabs scurry in all directions - more from the attack from workers than from Kenna. They've seen Kennas for the last 100,000 years.

The VHF net is rife with emotion. There are all sorts of voices, some with practiced calm, some high-pitched and anxious. And there are escalating emotional 'wonderings' about what will happen - to the point that when someone suggests an improbable event, it quickly becomes a question of when it's going to happen.

We were told to disconnect our electrical lines so they would not fall in the water "and fry our electronics." Fry? As in the electric chair? If the lines disconnect from the dock rather than the boat, aren't they dead already?

It was announced that a white cat has fled the boat Long Tall Sally. It disappeared into Graziano's new condo construction site, and cannot be found. Its name is Jade, but the owner says it "refuses to answer to it."

A huge lightning flash spooked me when I was up on deck checking the wind. I felt like I was in its cone - especially when the immediate crash of sound seemed to come from a few boats away. Naturally - and stupidly - I was in bare feet. Like Graziano's workers with the glass panels, I, too, closed the barn door by slipping on my one-inch thick black rubber Tevas. Once I had them on, I felt the odds had dropped that the lightning would strike again. Numerous sirens wail in the distance.

The barometer bottomed at 29.35 at 9 a.m. It's now 10:30 a.m. and it's up to 29.53. Since we are on the weak southeast side of the northward-heading storm, the worst is probably over.

- john 11/05/02

Readers - Folks with boats in Banderas Bay marinas can thank their lucky stars that Kenna, one of the strongest Mexican hurricanes in history, did not come close enough to hit them with hurricane force winds, and what wind there was didn't last but a short time. We'll leave them to imagine what it must have been like when hurricane Lenny parked between St. Martin and St. Barts for three days a few years ago, with winds packing four times the force!

Scirocco - Morgan Out-Island 41
Greg Retkowski & Cherie Sogsti
(San Francisco)

Before we arrived in Panama on October 18 - almost exactly 500 years after Columbus - I (Cherie) only knew two things about the country: 1) It has the Canal, and 2) Van Halen sang a great song about it. Although prostitution is legal in both Costa Rica and Panama, that's pretty much where the similarities end. As we sailed from Costa Rica to Panama, I watched the coastline change. The jungle began to spill like a waterfall down to the sea, and the landscape became hot, steamy, and passionate. If I were a country, I'd want Panama to be my lover.

The weather is pretty much the same in Panama, which means there's lots of thunder and lightning. Thunder is an awful thing, as it alerts you to the fact that a storm awaits you. When there's a bolt of lightning nearby, the thunder shakes the boat as though it were the footsteps of an approaching giant. With the approach of a bad thunderstorm, Greg checked the satellite telephone to make sure it was working. Safety first, you know. If Scirocco started doing acrobatics on the ocean, we wanted to be able to call the Coast Guard so they could come and watch.

"You've got another message on the sat phone," Greg said.

"How do you know it's for me?" I asked.

"Because my friends don't send weird messages on the sat phone. This one says, "Twas in the tropic latitudes, while we were talking platitudes, as any sailor might / We forgot to take our longitude, which was a very grievous wrongitude / And made us miss the Hong Kongitude till very late that night."

Weird. I still don't know who wrote that message. I hope someone fesses up - and that it's one of Greg's friends!

It was in the middle of this storm that we ran into another problem - bad gas. When you buy fuel in Central America, part of it is often water. Not being able to start the engine in the middle of a tropical tempest sucks. It's right up there with running out of ice when your refrigerator doesn't work - which would be our next problem.

As we beat into the storm, the sky was a spectacle. With each slash of lightning, the heavens were briefly shattered by light, then turned black to repair themselves. The clouds were a sickly black and blue, so that the sky appeared as though it had been beaten to a pulp. We got our worst thrashings when the clouds looked like that. Fortunately, I've learned to take minor storms in stride, knowing that what gets snapped will eventually be mended - with duct tape. And what gets bruised will eventually heal - except for my books, which are all puffed up and look as though I've read three times as much as I really have.

Although the storm had passed, I picked up the Panamanian mantra - 'Another day, another storm'. Then I noticed something swimming next to the boat.

"Look Greg, a water snake."
"I've seen a bunch of those," he replied, totally unimpressed.
"Did you want to share the news with me?" I said sarcastically.
"I thought the snake would worry you. And see, I was right.
"Aren't most water snakes poisonous?"
"Probably. Just don't let one bite you."

Since I don't speak 'snake', I don't know how to tell snakes not to bite me. Guidebooks are never helpful with these things either. They say stuff like, "This type of snake will only attack when you have entered its territory." That would be helpful - if only snakes posted signs identifying their territory. Nonetheless, from that moment on I put myself on 24-hour 'snake watch', and my snorkeling was no longer as carefree as it had once been.

After 28 hours of sailing, we were ready for a swim. Our first stop in Panama was Isla Canal de Afuera, a tropical paradise that is part of a Panamanian national park - and also hosts a penal colony. An island crawling with water snakes and criminals screams 'adventure'! My kind of place. We decided to take the risk of exploring it, because the island was also loaded with palm trees and colorful shells, and was surrounded by water as clear and innocent as an infant's eyes.

The Panama Cruiser's Guide suggests using care when visiting the island because sometimes the prisoners escape. So when I saw four raggedy-looking Panamanian guys in a fishing boat motoring over to us while we were lying on the beach, I was a little scared.

"What do you think they want?" Greg asked.

"To kill us and steal Scirocco to flee the country," I answered.

There was no cause for worry, however, as they only wanted money. As in $30 to visit the island, because it was a national park. That was a little too steep for our budget, so we set out in search of other tropical islands - preferably ones that don't have a surcharge for watersnakes.

A short time later, we landed on Isla Goberadora. When I say landed, I mean landed, as Greg hadn't read the chart that would have informed us that the tide range is 20 feet in this part of Panama. In hindsight, dropping our anchor was silly, as after 30 minutes it was clear that we weren't going anywhere soon. So we took the opportunity to paddle ashore and explore the island. The village was primitive, raw and honest. The locals were as native-looking as they could be, almost as though they were expecting National Geographic to drop by.

We wandered around the island exploring the simple fishing huts and looking for various supplies that we needed. The only thing we could find on our list was bread. Can you believe they didn't have pancake mix or Diet Coke? There were three 'stores' on the island, and going inside each of them was like shopping out of someone else's musty pantry. It was dark inside, so I asked the woman if she could turn on a light. I couldn't even see her face because it was so dark, but I could see her teeth and she was laughing. The town doesn't have electricity.

Greg and I let our eyes adjust to the absence of light, but we still couldn't see what the store offered. So we bought some baked goods. As a bonus, the shopkeeper included some mold with our bread - although we didn't learn about it until we got back to the boat. "That's okay," I told Greg, "there's is plenty of mold on the boat already to keep it company." Greg doesn't understand why I don't like mold. He thinks if I like blue cheese dressing on my salad, I should like all mold. Yeah. Enjoying certain well-aged cheeses isn't quite the same as scraping whatever is growing on the shower curtain and munching on it!

No one on the island had ice, but we came across the owner of a little fishing boat who was happy to share his fish ice with us. He paddled out to his boat in a dugout canoe, loaded a sack of ice, and delivered it to us. But he wouldn't accept any money for it. We insisted, and he finally took some 'Balboas'. Panama uses U.S. dollars, but they call them Balboas. Greg wasn't that happy about it, having become used to seeing his bank account in Costa Rican 'colonies' - which suggested that he was 370 times wealthier than he really was.

All provisioned and explored out, it was time to sail away. Unfortunately, we couldn't because there was still no water under the boat. The residents of the island were incredibly nice, but I'm sure they were shaking their heads at us as though we were fools. "Silly white people stuck on the beach again," they were probably thinking. Nonetheless, my memories of this unspoiled island will remain unblemished - despite the moldy bread and ice that stunk of fish.

- cherie 11/04/02

Wild Rover - Cal 34 MKIII
Mike & Gail Cannady
Chesapeake Bay
(Longview, Washington)

In the last two years, we've sailed down from the Pacific Northwest, done the Ha-Ha, gone through the Canal, and up to the East Coast of the United States. This summer we spent 2.5 months cruising the Chesapeake Bay - and enjoyed the best cruising we've had so far.

Maybe it's because there wasn't any pressure to get anywhere, but overall the Chesapeake greatly exceeded our expectations. The sailing was great, the anchorages were scenic and close together, the little towns were picturesque, the people were extremely friendly, and we didn't have any boat problems. The water was shallow, however, so once again we were thankful that our boat only draws 4.5 feet. We did run aground, but the bottom was always mud, so the occasional grounding wasn't critical.

While in the Chesapeake, we constantly wondered where all the other boats were, for usually ours was the only boat in the anchorage. The answer seems to be that other cruisers stay in marinas - which we tend to avoid. There was also surprisingly little big ship traffic - but lots of little commercial watermen, sportfishing boats, and thousands of crab traps.

Our favorite places were Solomon Island, St. Michaels, Annapolis, and the central Eastern Shore. We were 'adopted' by some locals in Nandua Creek, Eastern Virginia, who gave us the local knowledge necessary to come in and wait out tropical storm Gustav. They treated us to blue crab feeds, fresh produce, and all the local amenities. Now we'll never be able to pass their creek without going to visit.

Being West Coast born and raised, we have thoroughly enjoyed being American history tourists. Our current plans are to head down the ICW, spending Thanksgiving in the Cape Fear area, and Christmas in Charleston. Then we'll sail across to the Bahamas or down to Florida and then across, depending on the weather. We truly hated the ICW, but it still beats ocean passages in bad weather. The ICW is so shallow that powerboat wakes and passing tugs and barges are problematic. Some parts have been scenic, but others just look like a big ditch with tree stumps.

Next year we hope to make a long passage from the Bahamas to New York or Nova Scotia as early as the weather allows. Eventually we will go back and circumnavigate the Caribbean, and maybe go on to Europe, but for right now this feels right.

By the way, we're now up to four solar panels and a wonderful KISS wind generator. A wind generator in the Bahamas is wonderful, since the wind never really stops blowing. Yes, it's a lot of equipment on a 34-ft boat and we'll never again look racing sleek, but it makes us self-sufficient and now we can choose whether to go into a marina or not. We had thought about our energy needs before we started, but until you reach the tropics, it's hard to predict what you'll really need.

- mike & gail 10/15/02

Solstice - Freya 39
Jim & Eleanor Hancock
Palmerston Atoll to Niue

It's October 3, and we're having splendid sailing at nearly 7.0 knots using our 3/4 oz genniker while on our way from Palmerston Atoll to Niue. Eleanor has been reading a novel by Annie Proulx, while I have been studying a text about upper level weather analysis. As we're getting closer to our potentially rough 1,100-mile passage from Tonga to New Zealand, we've been getting progressively more interested in the weather. This morning we got the schedule for Russell Radio out of New Zealand, one source of up-to-the-minute information for that crossing. Unfortunately, deciphering the schedule might require a Ph.D, and I only have a Masters.

Folks thinking about going cruising might be interested in time. We have two official clocks. One keeps the ship's time, which we leave set to the time zone of our last port of departure - regardless of any time zones we might cross. This simplifies our watch-keeping schedule and maintains continuity in our log entries. Our ship's time is currently set to Tahiti time. The other clock is set to UTC time, which is an abbreviation of the French for Universal Coordinated Time - also known as Greenwich Mean Time or Zulu time. We use this clock primarily for keeping radio schedules, which are at fixed times regardless of what time zone we are in.

As we sail west, we cross into a new time zone for every 15° of longitude. The time zone that we are currently using for our ship's time is UTC minus 10 hours. When we get to Niue, which is at almost 170° W, we will change that to UTC minus 11 hours. The International Date Line is nominally at 180°, but makes a jog to incorporate Tonga, parts of New Zealand, and some other stuff. While it's Thursday here, it's already Friday on the other side of that line.

Russell Radio comes up every day at 0800 New Zealand time. But down here, we just passed the Vernal Equinox, and they have Daylight Saving Time. Like the Northern Hemisphere, they 'spring forward' and 'fall back'. That happens on Sunday, which is really Saturday, with their time at UTC plus 13 hours - which then becomes UTC plus 14 hours. So what time do I tune up my radio on Saturday to get Russell Radio?

I'm at the end of my 0300 - 0600 watch, and we are now motorsailing with less than 30 miles to go to the island-nation of Niue. This is one of our last stops on our South Pacific tour before heading to New Zealand for the southern hemisphere summer. On watch I have been thinking about all the little projects that we have to do in New Zealand. Other than pulling the stick and doing a thorough review of all the rigging, most of the work is cosmetic maintenance necessitated by our last six months of cruising in the tropics: painting, varnishing, and that kind of thing.

We're the sixth owners of this boat. We made an offer on her while she was in Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, and sailed with her previous owners to Galveston. After that I shipped her to Portland, where I was living at the time, and did things like paint the topsides and replace the engine. In 1998, Eleanor started working at West Marine in the Bay Area to help acquire all kinds of extra gear for the boat and I started doing additional projects. We've been very happy with all the improvements, but in hindsight think we would have been just fine without all the gadgets. The one indispensable piece of equipment has been the Monitor windvane.

We have done about 10,000 miles of cruising so far, and expect we'll continue for another year or two. By the way, if anybody knows more about the history of our boat - she was built by Gannon and originally owned by Hugo Schriener of San Diego, who named her Harmony - please let us know.

- jim & eleanor 10/20/92

Jim and Eleanor - We know all about your boat. Gannon actually just built the hull, as she was finished off - beautifully, if we remember correctly - by Schriener, who was something of a perfectionist. We remember sailing aboard Harmony one chilly November day in San Diego, when Hugo forgot to tighten the topping lift before dropping the main. He nearly coldcocked one of the lady guests. Ouch! A large man, Schriener abandoned his cruising dreams and took up racing, achieving great success as crew on Stars. If we remember correctly, he was crew on the World Champion boat several times.

Maverick - Ericson 39
Tony Johnson and Terry Shrode
The Rock
(San Francisco)

It's early October, it's 74°, and we're berthed in a marina in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar. Obviously, this is a major milestone, as we are about to leave the Med. But first, let me bring you up to date.

We were last at Puerto Colom on Spain's Balearic Island of Mallorca, and on our way to Ibiza. Ibiza was just fine, but it was not the den of iniquity we had been led to believe. There is a robust bar scene at the harbor, and some women do go topless at the beaches. It is no doubt ungallant of the Captain to propose that appearing topless in public areas - like the current fad inspired by our girl Britney of revealing a few inches just above and below the navel - is not the wisest fashion choice for every woman. Or man. But there it is. There also may be some strip joints in Ibiza. I don't know, we rarely stay up that late. Like Mr. Shrode says, "I'm not 50 anymore, you know."

I took a ferry trip over to Formentera, which is a small island next to Ibiza. This island had been highly recommended - albeit 30 years ago - by my friend Lowell Turner. At the time, Mr. Turner was the co-host, along with another friend, Kip Sullivan, of a radio show called Jack and Harriet's Pie Shop. Unfortunately, the radio business is a brutal one. When last I heard, Mr. Turner had been forced to take a professor's chair at Cornell University to earn his keep, and Kip had become a lawyer. How the mighty have fallen.

Should I have the good fortune to see my old friend's face again, I would have to report that Formentera now has the highest number of motor scooter rentals per square inch of anywhere in the world. They also have a hippie market, which is highly touted, so Ship's Purchasing Agent Terry Shrode made me go to see what a decent hippie costs nowadays. It seems only yesterday that hippies were a dime a dozen, but one fears that the supply has diminished. Alas, so has the demand, so the hippie market was a bit sad. Only a trace of patchouli in the air brought a frisson of past glory to the Captain's heart.

Departing Ibiza, we motored every inch of the way to Gibraltar, stopping to anchor overnight at Motril, an unpleasantly fragrant town on the south coast of Spain. Our intention was to travel to Granada, but we found reservations were necessary. We only knew we were approaching Gibraltar by the numbers on our GPS, for a thick fog had developed. We certainly would have preferred to see that famous landmark from afar and reflect on the symbolism of our proximity to it, but it was not to be. So thick was the fog that the Captain perched himself on the bow to watch and listen for traffic. We slowed down and sounded our horn at the prescribed intervals because, as the reader may remember, we had no radar, which was a victim of the lightning in Greece.

Once I heard an engine, and shouted back to Mr. Shrode, at the helm, that there was a vessel at 'two o'clock', broad on the starboard bow. I peered through the mist and was able to make out a dark shape perhaps an eighth of a mile away. About 10 seconds later, a supertanker came out of the fog and took up the entire horizon. The dark shape I'd seen had been its rudder - we were about 75 feet from it. "Hard to port!" I shouted, and by the time I did, I realized it was at anchor. It was a little unsettling to know just how far we couldn't see. We slowed down even more and headed further inshore, thinking we'd avoid any heavy traffic. As such, we felt our way around Europa Point and into the Bay of Gibraltar.

As Africa and Europe form two opposing pincers at the end of the Mediterranean Sea, it would appear on a typical world map that they face each other from sharp points of land. I had visualized Gibraltar as being on the north side, and the mountains of Morocco on the south. But a larger-scale map will show that the Strait of Gibraltar is an asymmetrical slot about 30 miles long, which narrows to 8 miles in width between Point Marroquí (Spain) and Point Cires (Morocco). On the northeast corner of the slot is a bay shaped like a horseshoe on a wall, the west side of which is glued to the land, leaving the eastern side to form a peninsula about three-quarters of a mile wide. The southern three miles of this peninsula is occupied by the British colony of Gibraltar.

The Rock extends for about two of these three miles, and on its western flank is the city and port of Gibraltar. It would not be visible from the open sea on most approaches. We were lucky to find a berth at one of the three marinas here. We're situated about 500 feet from the runway of the airport, but there aren't that many flights, so it doesn't bother our repose. Apparently, there are several plane wrecks off the end of the runway, right in the anchorage, that are popular dive sites.

With us here are Red Sea compadres Delphis, L'Oasis, Stitches Explorer, Karma, Otter, and Francis on Okiva. We saw the scar on Francis' head where he took 23 stitches after a fall across the large cabin of Okiva in heavy weather off of Sicily. He spent five days in the hospital.

The city of Gibraltar, along with the Rock, is the most interesting place we've been in the Med. For one thing, it's part British and part Spanish. They have a language of their own, but many residents are bilingual. There are several proper pubs in town with pub food and Newcastle Brown on tap. There are British ceremonies, and the Queen's likeness appears on the 20 pound note - although the money is slightly different than the English sort. The entire area is chock-a-block with historical sites and places of interest to the geologist.

Yesterday we took a cable car to the top of the Rock. It's solid limestone, and there is a cave in it that rivals any I've seen for stalactites and stalagmites. There are 32 miles of tunnels made by armed forces of various eras up to World War II. That's a lot of miles in a two-mile rock. There are also many so-called 'Barbary Apes', which are really a tailless, terrestrial macaque (Macaca sylvana). They have a free run of the place, à la Bali. At the southern tip of The Rock is a 9.2-inch gun that can fire a 380-pound shell all the way past the shores of Morocco - which is more than 13 miles away!

But these things are of small consequence compared to the view. Looking out on the vista brings one of the rare moments in this voyage where there is some sense of the weight of our whole undertaking. In Tahiti, you must pinch yourself. You sailed all the way to the South Pacific. The Torres Strait. The South China Sea. Borneo. Ceylon. The Red Sea. The Suez Canal. The recounting of it suggests drama, but like life at home, this usually gets lost in concerns over the everyday.

Now you look south and can see the mountains of Morocco across the Strait. To the east is the Mediterranean Sea you've just traversed, to the west, the large Bay of Gibraltar, full of ships from all over the world. And out to the southwest there is an ominous yet seductive haze reaching through the throat of the Strait out into the void, the beginning of the same great Atlantic Ocean that heaves itself onto the shores of Cape Canaveral, and Myrtle Beach, and Kitty Hawk, and Asbury Park, and Coney Island, and New Bedford, in America.

- tony 10/15/02

Wings - Serendipity 43
Fred Roswold & Judy Jensen
Port Vila, Vanuatu

Having not checked in for a long time, here's what we've been up to. Since our last cruising season - which was in 2000 - we spent 18 months in Sydney, where we completed a significant refit on Wings while working at regular jobs in the city to finance the work. The low point might have been July 2001, when Wings - minus her keel, rudder, mast, deck hardware, and interior - was sitting on a large truck tire in a darkened shed at Noakes Shipyard. At the time, we were living in an apartment in the city. Nonetheless, she all came back together by the end of that year, and in March of this year we were ready to cruise again. We departed Coff's Harbor in July to start an extensive cruise that will take us through New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Philippines, and end in Hong Kong in May 2003.

The east coast of Australia proved to be as wild as its reputation, as we twice encountered winds over 40 knots that hadn't been forecast. Fortunately, they were aft of the beam both times, so we made the best of a rough situation by reaching quickly to the northeast and New Caledonia.

As far as we're concerned, New Caledonia is a underappreciated cruising destination. We loved the Loyalty Islands, and found beautiful anchorages without any other cruising boats on the east coast of 'New Cal'. We think a whole season could be spent circumnavigating the country - although the new 30-day limit on visas for Americans is making it more difficult to arrange longer stays. On our trip back through Havannah Pass, we had 40-50 knot winds. They were from aft, so once again we had some pretty awesome sailing. But enough of those high winds, as Judy doesn't care for much more of them. So we're looking forward to easier sailing.

We took advantage of Vanuatu's new port-of-entry at Lenekal on Tanna Island, and visited Port Resolution for a trip to the Yassur volcano. It's obvious that lawyers and insurance companies don't have much influence in Vanuatu, as each day groups of cruisers and tourists are escorted to the rim of the actively erupting volcano. Everyone gets to watch lava spout out of the vents on the crater floor - with some of the molten lava flying hundreds of feet into the air!

Since leaving Tanna we have spent over a month in Port Vila, Vanuatu's bustling capital - and we're still here. On Sundays they have a local yacht race, and once again we took part - as we did when we were here two years ago. Once again we recruited a great pick-up crew from cruisers and locals, which included Wendy and Garth from the Seattle-based Velella, Ed and Rachel of Horai, Richard and Walter of Breakaway, Links of Belle Savage, Martin and Christy of Wind Runner, and Dick, Timo, and Moulon, three Ni-Vanuatu men who had never sailed before.

If it had just been Judy and I, or maybe one other couple, we would have done the race without practice. But with 14 people - some of whom had never sailed before - we felt we needed practice the day before the real thing. It was awkward and uncomfortable when we first put the sails up, but after an hour we were tacking and jibing smoothly, flying the spinnaker - and feeling really good about ourselves. There is something special about the change that happens to a group when so many people from diverse backgrounds and skills join together as a crew. We all felt it as we lined the rail, the warm evening breeze in our faces, while powering upwind. Even Wings seemed to feel it, as she pointed higher and sailed faster than ever in those 20-knot winds. Of course, 14 people on the rail didn't hurt.

We sailed well on race day, too. Carrying the big kite in 30 knots of wind and ocean swells on the downwind leg was thrilling - perhaps too thrilling for some. But it went fine. It would have been better if we could have held off Flojo, an Elliott 45 from New Zealand. We had them at the start and later got them back at the mark, but then they were gone. But it was still fun. In fact, it took us back to Seattle when we had lived in a marina and had a nearly normal life with jobs and a car, friends and family. We almost thought we should stay in Port Vila, settle down, and resume racing every week.

But no, as soon we'll be off for the next island country as we wind our way across the equator and into the North Pacific again after four years down under. We aren't sure if we'll stick exactly to our plan, but maybe we'll be able to send a report on the racing scene in Hong Kong.

- fred & judy 11/15/02

Siren's Song - Brewer 43
Ruck & Linde Goldreyer
Golfito, Costa Rica

We spent a month in Golfito, a great small town of 3,000 at the edge of the tropical rainforest in southern Costa Rica. Up until 1985, Golfito pretty much was a banana republic, as it served as the regional headquarters for the United Fruit Company. Nowadays, it's a good place to provision, has a good duty-free zone with some of the lowest prices in Costa Rica, and nice people.

We kept Siren Song on a mooring off Banana Bay Marina, which is run by Bruce and Peggy Blevins, a couple in their 30s. Banana Bay, which has 20 slips, extends tremendous courtesy and help to the cruising community at reasonable prices. For example, they have eight moorings for $10 a night or $260 a month, and a dinghy dock. Slips, mostly used by sportfishing boats, are more dear. It's $1.25/ft/night or $16/ft/month. It's also possible to anchor out at no charge, and there are often five to 15 sailboats on the hook. One thing we like is that Banana Bay's restaurant menu has been greatly expanded. Rather than being limited to a 'cheeseburger in paradise', you can also order the perfect pastrami sandwich or the best chicken wings to be had outside of Buffalo.

Folks in Mexico will be envious to know that it only costs $35 to clear a boat into Costa Rica, and that goes to the Agriculture Department. Oh, there's also a sort of mandatory 50-cents per person contribution to the Red Cross. For boats leaving, there is a new zarpe tax of $20 for boats under 50 feet, and $50 for boats over 50 feet. We've heard that up until about six years ago there was an official known as 'Rambo' who made life miserable for cruisers, and to a large extent ruined the reputation of Golfito. He's long gone, and most of the officials are pleasant and professional.

We left Golfito about midnight, but didn't get far, as there was a problem with the oil sending unit in our diesel. Despite our returning at 0100, Bruce was waiting on the dock, flashlight shining through near zero-visibility caused by pouring rain, making space available to us. Since Ruck needed to fly back to the States for a few weeks, we were concerned about Linde being alone on the boat. We need not have worried, as the area was patrolled throughout the night by a guard in a panga from the Banana Bay Marina, as well as by Land and Sea Services, which is next door. The security was fantastic.

By the way, Tim and Katie Leachman of Land and Sea Services also have a lot to offer cruisers, rounding out the services and amenities in the area. Tim is originally from Santa Barbara and Newport Beach, but sailed here in '93 with Katie aboard the sloop Caribee. They fell in love with the place, and now provide yacht services, deliveries, and other help.

Golfito continues to grow, as there is a new Internet cafe with high speed access, and plans for another marina with about 20 slips. In fact, the guy intending to build the new marina had keep his boat at Banana Bay for three years, so he knows and likes the area. Golfito is a definite stop for fun such as world class surfing, fishing, spelunking, kayaking, and nature loving. It's also a good place for mariners needing machine, metal, and canvas work. We are presently in the Secas Islands off of northern Panama, where the water is clean, the fishing good, and the cruising terrific.

- ruck & linde 11/05/02

Readers - The above Changes was 'fortified' with additional factual information provided to us by Bruce Blevins during a telephone interview. Both Banana Bay and Land and Sea have websites.

Reliance - Brewer 50
The Querner Family
Tranny Trouble In Costa Rica
(San Francisco)

There's never a dull moment cruising. After leaving El Coco in Costa Rica for a half-day run to Bahia Brasilito and Playa Conchal - supposedly one of the country's best shell beaches - we were visited by Murphy. As we approached the southeast beach with 18 feet of water under the keel, I shifted the engine into reverse to drop the anchor. There was no reverse. I ran to the foredeck and released the brake on the windlass, lowering a 75-lb Danforth with 200 feet of chain. If you think that a boat can't have brakes, think again. The hook grabbed and Reliance turned into the swell.

I didn't want to ruin the day, so I put off investigating the gear problem. We enjoyed several hours on the excellent beach, but didn't find any shells. Perhaps our 11-year-old guidebook was a little out of date.

The next morning I opened up the floor in the pilothouse, looked down at the rear of the gear box, and saw there was an 8-inch space between the gearbox and the shaft. It's hard to put the prop in reverse when the shaft isn't connected to the engine. The problem was that the Drivesaver 504 - the red plastic plate between the two metal flanges - had literally exploded. The prop and shaft then cork-screwed themselves outwards until they hit the rudder shaft. The prop has its own cavity in front of the rudder, so there was no damage to the propeller or the monel shaft. It's so nice to have a steel boat, as I don't want to think about what a runaway prop could do to a foam-filled fiberglass rudder.

Anyway, there we sat, at least five miles from civilization or telephone access. We hitched a $20 car ride with someone on the beach to Marina Flamingo, and inquired by phone with marine suppliers in Puntarenas about a replacement plate. It would have to come from the States and take at least five days - plus Customs delays. After talking to several locals, I decided to have a spacer plate fabricated at a machine shop in Liberia, about 90 minutes away.

In order to get Reliance back to some sort of civilization, such as Marina Flamingo, I improvised a spacer between the flange plates, running 3/8-inch all-thread as bolts through it. Motoring at very low rpms, we made it to Flamingo. We got the first mooring in the second row, which the owner of the marina said would be all right until the end of the month when the minus tides would make it necessary to relocate.

The only reason we'd brought Reliance into the harbor was because the outside anchorage was very rolly. At 6 p.m., we went ashore for a dinner that lasted two hours. As we returned to the boat, we were stunned to find she was tilted over 60°! The midship portholes in the side of the hull were open, and the water was within 1 centimeter of pouring into the boat! And low tide wasn't for another 30 minutes. We put Olivia, the lightest, onboard to rush inside as fast as possible - which wasn't easy with the boat heeled over so far and such a mess on the sole - to shut the portholes. I then took my wife Sherry and oldest daughter Martinique to shore to find shelter under the overhang of the marina office. There had been a tropical downpour on our way out to the boat, so everybody was drenched.

After returning alone to the boat, I gave Olivia a hand securing the contents of cabinets and shelves, and confirmed that all ports and hatches were cinched down tight. By this time, the starboard ports were halfway underwater. Olivia packed some dry clothes for Sherry and Marti, and I went back ashore so they could get out of their soaked clothing. Sometime later, the rain subsided enough for us three to make a run for a local bar on the hill for some hot coffee and tea. We waited there for two hours for Reliance to right herself.

While sitting in the bar and looking over the tide tables, we decided to depart the harbor at the next high tide - at 2:45 a.m. At the appointed hour, Marti and I moved the boat out of the harbor and back into the rolling bay. I am now waiting for the weekend to end so I can leave for Liberia to hopefully get my temporary spacer made. A brand new replacement will hopefully be delivered by Don, a friend of Marti's, when he comes to visit.

- sven 10/5/02

Cruise Notes:

"The Ericson 39 Pneuma from Seattle, which was being cruised by Guy and Melissa Stevens, was lost on the evening of November 19 while at anchor at South Minerva Reef," report Peter and Susan Wolcott of the Hawaii-based SC 52 Kiapa. "The couple, who have had the boat for seven years and who had already sailed her to New Zealand once, are safe. Minerva Reef is located about 250 miles from Tonga on the way to New Zealand. It consists of two open ocean reefs that only fully rise above the ocean surface at low tide.

"It all started on the morning of the 19th, when nine cruising boats departed South Minerva, about 20 miles from North Minerva, for Opua, New Zealand, leaving just two boats in the lagoon. There were still three boats in the North Lagoon. The weather was relatively benign, with overcast skies and 10-15 knots of breeze. The wind was shifty, however, due to a the effects of a stationary front. At about 2000 local time, while we paused on the Puddle Jump frequency on our way to the Russell Radio evening roll call, we happened to hear Guy calling for help. We got him to an emergency frequency. Harmony, Guy and Melissa's buddyboat, was closest to them, but didn't have their radio on, and didn't know what happened until hours later.

"After hearing about the situation, the skippers of Scott Free, a Hallberg-Rassy from Marblehead, Mass., Infidien, and White Hawk up in North Minerva, jumped aboard Scott Free and motored through the night to South Minerva. The women and kids from those three boats stayed behind aboard White Hawk to be the communications vessel. Once the three skippers on Scott Free got to South Minerva, they left the boat outside the tricky pass and dinghied into the lagoon to rescue Guy and Melissa. Kela, a Colorado-based Sundeer 65 with Kirk, Debbie, Braden, and Grady aboard, had been about 30 miles from South Minerva when the mayday was issued, and were the second boat on the scene. They took Guy and Melissa aboard. The crews of Kela and Harmony - the latter boat being the third on the scene - spent the next two days salvaging what they could. We are so sorry for Guy and Melissa's loss, as they are great folks and able cruisers. We're sure they'll be back out here soon. The crews of Scott Free, White Hawk, Infidien, Kela, and Harmony did everything possible to ensure the swift and safe rescue of the Pneuma crew. We cruisers draw comfort from that fact that there are such capable and caring folks out here with us."

After this year's Ha-Ha finished in Cabo San Lucas, we spent a couple of days kicking around getting the latest news. Here's what we learned. A phony clearing service pretended to check a few boats in, stamping their papers with a counterfeit rubber stamp. Some Ha-Ha folks saved a bunch of money - but burned a lot of time - doing the clearing themselves. The biggest delay - as much as two hours - took place at Immigration. All Immigration has to do is stamp the visa, a 30-second process at airports. It should not take any longer at an Immigration office, so the delay is them waiting for a 'gratuity'. Some cruisers pay it to move the process along, others wait it out. Enrique Fernandez del Castillo, the Director General of Marina Cabo San Lucas, told us that he agrees with everything Latitude has written about the proposed Escalara Nautica - or Nautical Stairway - in Latitude or been quoted about it in the Mexico City newspapers. Specifically, that the estimates of U.S. boats that would use the network of marinas to come to Mexico are ridiculous, that there's no market for the proposed marinas, and they won't be built because there isn't the money to do it. Fernandez also said that the plan has been bad for cruisers and marinas because environmentalists are going crazy in the mistaken belief that up to 70,000 U.S. boats will be coming to the Sea of Cortez each year. Yeah, right! As a result of the rise in fuel prices, a lot of the big motoryachts decided to go to Costa Rica last year - showing that even they react to the increase of fuel prices in Mexico to over $2 U.S./gallon. Many of them are coming back this year, however, having discovered how much it rains in Costa Rica. The plan for a cruise ship pier to jut out into the bay at Cabo has been turned down because, among other things, it would have blocked views. Other proposals may evolve, however. Something like 130 new slips for megayachts will apparently be built in the Inner Harbor by next fall, completly filling it in. Oddly enough, both Marina Cabo San Lucas and Marinas de Baja seem to think they'll be the ones building and managing the berths. Once again the idea for a marina at San Jose del Cabo is going around, but it's unclear if those involved appreciate how much it would cost to build. In the bad news, good news, bad news category, laws were passed that would have allowed long lining with up to 2,000 hooks from pangas in the Sea of Cortez, as well as gill netting. That's bad. What was good is that President Vincente Fox, in an unprecedented action, vetoed the legislation. On the bad news again side, there aren't enough government agents to monitor fishing, so the devastating practices go on anyway. The tip of Baja has grown so rapidly in the last 15 years that it no longer has enough water. Indeed, while we were there much of the town - even some of the luxury hotels - was having the water turned off several times a day. But the water continued to flow at Marina Cabo San Lucas, where they make 40,000 gallons of their own water each day. This is one of the reasons it's so expensive. The Cabo peninsula is slated to get its own desalinization plant, although it won't be up and running for several years. Meanwhile, most people hydrate with cervezas. It's possible to get fuel in Cabo without having to check in. In fact, this now seems to be the case just about everywhere in Mexico - even Barra de Navidad, where the port captain's more rigid enforcement of the law was driving away the big powerboats - and along with them the big bucks they poured into the local economy. This policy, of course, is subject to change on a moment's notice. That's the Cabo report.

"What's the deal this year with the port captain in San Blas, who has been the scourge of cruisers because he has illegally forced them to use a clearing service? It's hard to say, as San Blas was ground zero for hurricane Kenna, and at last word continued to be under martial law - which meant cruising boats weren't allowed to stop. By the way, Paradise Marina Harbormaster Dick Markie visited San Blas bearing supplies donated by cruisers and others, and reports that the Mexican Army and Navy did an excellent job with their relief efforts.

"We're currently in Mexico and are planning to head to the South Pacific in February or March, and have heard lots about the Puddle Jump," writes Graham of Pau Hana. "Will there be another Puddle Jump Kick-Off Party and Puddle Jump this coming year? How do we get more info? We'd like to participate, help out, jump up and down - all that stuff."

For the fourth year in a row, Latitude 38 and Paradise Village Marina will be hosting a Puddle Jump Kick-Off Party - this year on Wednesday, March 4 - at Paradise Resort. Last year's Puddle Jump class, the most organized in history, assembled a definitive Guide To Puddle Jumping - which was over 100 pages and packed and with information, forms, radio schedules, clearing procedures for the various islands, and such. We expect that an updated version will be available at the party this year, hopefully for no more than the copying costs. In addition, there will be free March issues of Latitude hot off the press for everyone, free beverages, group photos, and other fun. Incidentally, the party is only open to those boats puddle jumping in 2003. Keep reading Latitude and 'Lectronic Latitude for updated information.

"Here in Thailand, foreigners have to leave the country every 30 days to get their visas renewed," report Buddy and Ruth Ellison of the Northern California-based Hans Christian 48 Annapurna. "For a long time, the most popular destination was Myanmar, formerly Burma. Unfortunately, that border was recently closed because of troubles between the two countries. It's also necessary to take the boat out of the country once every six months, so on June 15 we departed Phuket to spend a month sailing down to Langkawi, Malaysia. After visiting some islands, we left our boat at Rebak Marina - which is luxurious, and where yachties get to use all the facilities at the adjacent luxury resort. Early next year, we'll cross the Indian Ocean, travel up through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to the Med. It ought to be an interesting adventure. Last year's group gave the trip mixed reviews. There were no dangers from pirates or religious fanatics, but we're told that the touts could be overwhelming and the baksheesh tiresome."

Although the entries were off this year to 46 in early November's West Marine Caribbean 1500 Cruising Rally from Hampton, Virginia, to the British Virgins, it featured a fleet of good boats, ranging from a couple of Island Packet 350s, to 47-foot Catana and Leopard catamarans, to some mid 50s Swans, to a Deerfoot 62 and a Tayana 65. We didn't get a report on the weather, but superb sailor Steve Pettengill drove the HC 50 Hunter's Child to class and fleet honors by finishing in 189 hours - just over 30 hours of motoring. Jack Madden's Swan 53 Lady B was a close second, while Mark and Cheryl Mahowald's J/42 Strider was third. The entry fee was $800 per boat and $45 per crew. Cruising Rally Association, which puts on the Carib 1500, will be running the Atlantic Cup from the British Virgins to Bermuda on May 11.

"We just got in after blasting 7 days and 4 hours from Newport, Rhode Island to St. Barths," writes D. Randy West of St. Barth from aboard the 67-ft Mischievous. "I love it out there on the ocean! We had up to 40 knots in the Gulfstream, and were surfing 'condos' at up to 14 knots. Not bad for a lead sled." D. Randy, who is the person most responsible for getting us interested in catamarans, spent the summer sailing the Farr 80 Y Knot to Croatia, where he says, "The women aren't good-looking, they're beautiful!"

Mexico cruisers will be delighted to learn that the U.S. dollar, which only brought 8.5 pesos last season, is now commanding 10 pesos - a major improvement. Also new this year is plastic currency - you can see right through part of it as though it were film.

On November 24th, the grandaddy and biggest of all cruising rallies, the 2,700-mile Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), left the Canary Islands for St. Lucia. The 225 entry slots had been filled six months ago, with countless Swans, Oysters and other fine boats from England, Germany, and the Scandanavian countries. Carrying the hopes of America - and Northern California - are Mark and David Bernhard and their new Catana 581 catamaran Aurora, which will be crewed by, among others, Pat Nolan of Grand Slam and the Columbia 5.5 Arrow, and Chris Maher of the Beneteau 42 Blarney3. Both of these crewmember participated in the Ha-Ha and had only nine days before jetting off to the Canaries. We hope to post updates of their crossing on 'Lectronic.

'Bird' Livingston and Susie Grubler raced their Wylie 39 Hotty Naughty to first in class and third overall in the West Marine Pacific Cup in July, then sailed over to Maui and got married at the Lahaina YC. Their honeymoon was to be a cruise across the South Pacific to New Zealand. Unfortunately, there were a few loose ends before they could get away - such as clients hounding the Birdman for the plans to houses they wanted build. Before the newlyweds knew it, the tropical cyclone season had arrived in the South Pacific, and they were stuck in Hawaii for the winter. Since they report there is so much fun sailing stuff happening in Lahaina, we outfitted them with a great digital camera and deputized them - something we very rarely do - as official Latitude correspondents. We're sure they've taken all kinds of beautiful shots of Maui, boats, and sailors, but we haven't gotten any yet. The Birdman mentioned something about the Internet between Hawaii and California being really slow - but slower than a Matson liner?

Seeing how much fun their Sausalito friends Christian Lauducci and Ali had cruising Mexico two winters ago aboard the the Haida 26 Blue Dragon for about $300 a month, Derek and Emily Fischer bought the Columbia 31 Tango and outfitted her to go cruising - although on not quite so small a budget. Alas, the two architects from Indiana moved to Hawaii for Emily's job. But after a short time, they both quit their island jobs, provisioned the boat, and took off for Mexico. We bumped into them at Turtle Bay and Cabo, where they were having a great time getting to know some of the other 35-and-under surfer/cruisers. Their plan is to continue on to the Caribbean.

"I'm looking for information about sailing from the Bay Area north to the Inside Passage to Alaska," writes JFM. "Can you help?" We probably could - if you told us what boat you have, what time of year you want to go, and how much experience you have.

"I recently flew back to Holland to rejoin my boat, which I doubledhanded here from Moss Landing two years ago," writes Ivan Rusch of the Rassy 31 Örnaerie. "While I was gone, the people took good care of my boat. After some repairs to the clutch, I headed south through the canals and locks toward Belgium. I started at 4 a.m., and catching a seven-knot tide, used my radar and VHF to get to the North Atlantic and away from heavy shipping traffic. At 3 p.m., I arrived at Nieuwpoort, Belgium, a town loaded with history from both world wars. So many wars have been fought in Belgium! I got a ride - the people are so friendly - to Calais, France, where I took a ferry to Dover - white cliffs and all - and the train to Portsmouth, England, to get my ST1000 autopilot fixed. I became totally absorbed by Nelson's exploits at Trafalgar. I'll be returning to Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, and Cowes, but right now I've made my way over to Dublin, Ireland. What a place! There are pubs everywhere, and I'm soaking up traditional fiddle-tin whistle-accordian stuff. Yesterday I took a small bus tour into the valleys and hills of the green, and saw many stone ruins from the days of the Vikings and other bad guys. I found out that a marina slip for my 31-ft boat would run $500/month - 2.5 times what I pay in Belgium. It's too late in the year for me to sail to Spain as I'd hoped, so I may stay in Belgium. I love this life!"

Did we mention that Ivan is 77 years old and only took up ocean sailing two years ago?

"Hola, from beautiful downtown Puerto Escondido, Baja, where life is grand!' writes Robin Hardy of Cat's Meow, a 52-ft trawler from San Pedro. "I would like to correct a few misunderstandings about life as it is here in this beautiful part of the Sea of Cortez. First, Fonatur, which is the Mexican agency that among other things, develops tourist areas, is not collecting anchoring fees. I suppose that if a cruiser wanted to, he/she could ride into town and find the place to pay, but nobody has had to pay yet. Similarly, if someone wants to pay a fee for being in the new National Park out at the islands, there is probably a way to do it - but nobody here knows what is is. Complaints about such fees are much ado about nothing. Water costs some minimal amount for a whole lot, and you get quite a bit for free if you pay $20 to park your car in the lot - which is lit and guarded. Finally, if we cruisers are supposed to be paying for garbage disposal, we don't know how much or where and when to pay. If there's a change in this situation, I'll let you know."

It was 25 years ago that we first cruised out of Puerto Escondido aboard Max Zenobi's Bounty II Maverick, and even back then cruisers were grousing about the "end of cruising in the Sea of Cortez as we know it." Ever since, there's been an almost continuous chorus of how bad things have become - despite virtually no changes. Our personal theory is that the cruising life is so sweet down there that some gringos actually feel guilty, and can only console themselves by inventing some kind of vague but perpetually impending doom. But not everybody complains:

"The accompanying photo is to assure all of this year's Baja Ha-Ha participants that just when they think they've had enough rice, beans, carnitas, tortillas, fish tacos, and all of the other wonderful gastronomic delights of Mexico, a delicious American-style pizza can still be found - and delivered to the anchorage," writes Mike Miller of the Ventura-based Vanguard 32 Uhuru. "After befriending Denise and Jorge of Tiffany's Pizza Parlor in Loreto in May of 2000, I returned again this year to enjoy the best pizza in all of Mexico! After taking pizza orders from 16 boats in the Puerto Escondido anchorage, I called Tiffany's and scheduled delivery for 6:30 p.m. Nobody was disappointed!"

"Could you steer me to a reasonably priced place to moor/store my sailboat in Mazatlan?" asks Dal Farias of Bellingham, Washington.

Les Sutton, who has been cruising Mexico for three years with Diane Grant on the Albin 42 Gemini, just stopped by the office and reports that the prices for a 42-foot slip in Mazatlan range from as low as $216/month for a slip without water or electricity at Isla Mazatlan Marina, to $400/month at Marina Mazatlan, to $600/month at the considerably more luxurious Marina El Cid. (For a price comparison, Sutton was paying about $600 at Marina Palmira in La Paz - but only when he used electricity, which was a flat $125 U.S. - wow! - a month. When comparing marina prices in Mexico, be sure to include taxes, which can total 15% or more.) Both Sutton, and Doug Terrell, who sometimes sails aboard the Mazatlan-based Ericson 36C Warthog, advise that Marina Mazatlan, with the legal issues apparently behind them, is getting a lot more boats now. In fact, there were so many Ha-Ha boats coming in that Gerado got overwhelmed and brought Sylvia back in. Note that the channel to all three marinas is being dredged, so check on 16 or 72 before entering.

Blair Grinols of Vallejo, who for the last seven or so years had been a cruising stalwart in Mexico, took off for Hawaii in early November aboard his much-travelled 46-ft cat Capricorn Cat. Mexican cruising friends "Jack from Elixir and Joe from Maverick" were along as crew. Blair says the itinerary is to "cruise through the Hawaiian Islands in November, sail to Majuro in the Marshall's in December for two or three months of diving, then sail down to the Gilberts on the equator in February. Once we are assured the southern hemisphere tropical cyclone season is over, we'll try to sail upwind to Fiji, where Joanie, my wife, will be waiting. By August we'll have to decide whether to continue to New Zealand or return home."

"Thanks to the derelict Mariner 35 ketch Freedom, which washed up on the beach at Z-town in October, but is now working her way toward China, the port captain is requiring proof of liability insurance as part of the clearance procedure," reports Craig Gottschalk. "I get this information from Ted V., a world renowned multihull sailor and surfer aboard the 35-ft trimaran Mustang out of Santee. He and his boat were the first in the bay this season, and he was forced to pay $100 in port fees and locally purchased insurance for four days on the hook. He was on the fast track to Costa Rica, but with hurricane Kenna forming to the south, Ted did what most conservative sailors would have done - waited it out at Marina Ixtapa while getting in a couple of days of surfing at Playa Linda. Kenna, by the way, passed offshore of Z-town without even sending a ripple."

For one couples' report on how Freedom came to be on the beach at Z-town, read this month's Letters. And if you get to Z-town, we're interested to hear how long the proof-of-insurance requirement stays in effect.

One place Kenna did hit with more than a ripple was Punta de Mita at the north tip of Banderas Bay. In fact, Ralph Hemphill sent us a photo of the J/24 Wenonah, which had been washed up next to a tree on the 8th fairway of the Four Seasons Hotel. The boat survived and was to have been refloated on a high tide later last month. Too bad the photo was too low resolution to use.

"Regarding leaving to go cruising with less than $500," writes a person who didn't sign their name, "when Teri and I left Sausalito in February of 1987 aboard our Friendship sloop Galatea, we only had $250. Herb Madden was nice enough to give us a free spot to re-rig the boat at Sausalito Yacht Harbor, and once we finished, we took off. When we got to Puerto Vallarta, we made a few pies for some friendly restaurant owners - which led to our starting the Pie In The Sky bakery there. Unfortunately, we lost Galatea in La Cruz during hurricane Rosa, so we sold our business and flew to Australia. We started a bakery there, only to lose everything again. We returned to Sausalito to replenish our much depleted kitty, and now three years later are off to Trinidad to find our next boat and home. We'll stay with Jeff and Dawn Stone, formerly of Sausalito, aboard the Nicholson 39 Dawn. They now run Nautikol Refrigeration in Chaugauramas, and say they have a few boats for us to see. Oh boy! Freedom, not money, is the real currency!"

Excellent philosophy - we just wish that you'd included your name or that we could remember it. Don something?

Have a great winter cruising season everyone, and remember to email quick updates on your fun to . Don't forget the boat name, boat type, your full name, and your hailing port. Love and kisses!

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