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December 2009

Missing the pictures? See the December 2009 eBook!

 With reports this month from The Hawke of Tuonela on Webb Chiles fifth solo circumnavigation; from Toucan Tango on the sweet and simple cruising in Turkey; from Blue Sky on a stop at Hell-ville, Madagascar; from Nomad on dangers posed by other cruisers; from Sea Bear on a sixth trip to Bermuda; from Talion on the Ha-Ha from a woman skipper's perspective; from Beach Access on literally getting hooked on Isla Isabella; from Nataraja on the Big Mama YC in Tonga;
and a healthy serving of Cruise Notes.

The Hawke of Tuonela — One Ton
Webb Chiles
Fifth Solo Circumnavigation
(Opua, New Zealand)

I’m back in Opua, New Zealand, having arrived two weeks ago from Bora Bora aboard The Hawke of Tuonela to complete the final leg of my fifth circumnavigation. This one was west about via Australia, the Cape of Good Hope and Panama. It took me from April of '08 until October of '09 — just under 18 months.

At a sailing time of 193 days, 10 hours, the fifth was my fastest time around, beating my '75-'76 time of 203 days. More than 30 years ago, 203 days was the record for a solo circumnavigation. While my time in The Hawke of Tuonela is far from a world record time now, it might well be a record for boats more than 30 years old. Hawke was launched in January of '76. Both the first and my most recent circumnavigations were aboard 37-ft boats that were designed to the IOR racing rule. Egregious is an Ericson 37; The Hawke of Tuonela is a Heritage One Ton.

Why would I do circumnavigations with boats that were designed to sail fast to a rating rule rather than being inherently fast, and which are notorious for being unstable downwind? They are what I could afford, not what I ideally would have. When Hawke was new, she cost less than $25,000. I bought her in '93 as a stripped out racer for $22,500. Today's cutting edge racing boats may sail three times faster, but they cost 50 to 100 times more.

Naval architect Robert Perry has said that old IOR boats are the least expensive way to go sailing. He describes them as reasonably strong, good sailing boats, and that the problems with steering them downwind can be lessened if they aren't pushed hard. I still routinely set asymmetricals on gennaker furling gear, but get them down before they overpower my Monitor self-steering vane.

I admit there is some satisfaction in setting a personal-best in old age. I turn 68 this month. To the best of my knowledge, I've done more singlehanded circumnavigations than any other American. There is a Japanese man who has sailed around the world more than I have, but with some sponsorship, and sometimes in around-the-world races. I like to think that I have done more with less than anyone else.

As to what is next, perhaps nothing. I’ve completed circumnavigations in four successive decades. Two in this one. That might be enough. If I do ever go around again, it will be via Cape Horn for the third time, but not before November '11. After all, I have to save something for my seventies.

— webb 11/05/09

Readers — Chiles' accomplishments are even more remarkable when you consider the never-ending difficulties he had during the first half of his first circumnavigation, and the fact that he did one of his circumnavigations aboard an 18-ft open boat.

"People who know of me, probably know me as a sailor, but I have always thought of myself as an artist," Chiles has written. "I believe that the artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports." He further writes, "A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you." Chiles says he once believed that he was an artist of women, too, but after more marriages than circumnavigations, he thinks that may have been a delusion.

Chiles' goal has always been to live an epic life. That involves extreme highs and extreme lows. He has twice lost everything. The first time was in '82, when he was imprisoned as a spy in Saudi Arabia while doing a circumnavigation aboard
Chidiock Tichborne, his 18-ft open boat. While falsely imprisoned, he didn't own a single object, not even a teaspoon or a T-shirt. The second time was in '92, when his 36-ft sloop Resurgam sank off the coast of Florida. Swimming and floating for 26 hours, he was carried more than 125 miles by the Gulf Stream before coming to an anchored fishing boat.

Chiles takes some pride in the fact that he's lived on the edge and risked everything for so long. As he once wrote, "Almost dying is a hard way to make a living." But there is no denying it's all been part of what already has been an epic life.

Toucan Tango — Catana 47 Cat
Marvin and Ruth Stark
(Rancho Cordova)
[Continued from the October and November Changes.]

Having had a lifetime's fill of Egypt, we had an uneventful three-day trip across the Med to Turkey. After clearing into Turkey, we stayed at Finike Marina for one month. It cost a tad over $1,400 — and that was with the monthly discount. Most marinas in Turkey are expensive, and so is diesel at $10/gallon.

That said, the Turkish people are friendly, and the produce and food are fresh and delicious. Despite the cost of berthing and diesel, cruising in Turkey has been so great that I've been delinquent in sending this report. It's now September, and we've not been into a marina since Finike. We've just been cruising from bay to bay along the Turkish coast, and having a wonderful time doing it.

For the last week — or has it been two weeks? — we've been anchored here in Keci Buku, a lovely small bay with mountains on two sides and pine trees down to the water. The end of the bay has a small valley that goes about three miles inland to the base of the steep mountains. Water from the mountains runs into a small reservoir that provides water for the farming community in the small valley.

Ruth and I took a three-hour walk through the community. It was all small farms, where the people grow everything that you can imagine. And they have four and five crops a year! We walked along eating ripe figs from the roadside trees, with an occasional sprig of grapes. Most of the corn fields also had a full ground cover crop of low green plants that we eventually realized were peanuts. We visited one home where the family produced oregano oil. They dried the plants, pressed them to extract the oil, then boiled and distilled the oil. It's similar to making booze, but more work. Several other farms processed their own olives.

Each house in the valley has a bit of property where the residents raise corn, peppers, lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, eggplant, peanuts and several other crops that we didn't recognize. Most houses had chickens and a sheep or two, and maybe a goat or cow. Many of the houses were surrounded by shade trees. The shade trees grew peaches, apricots, walnuts, oranges, limes and apples. There were lots of pomegranate and fig trees, too.

The higher ground between the fertile valley and the mountains was terraced for growing oregano and for olive trees. Beneath some of the olive orchards were a huge number of beehives. You can still buy honey here in the comb.

Life is very simple and relaxing in this part of Turkey. The people get up at dawn to work in their gardens a bit, then have a large lunch followed by an afternoon nap. After the nap, they visit with friends and neighbors, and maybe have a drink or two. Later they barbecue something for dinner on charcoal or wood cookers. People go to bed shortly after dark.

Ruth and I have been living on our boat almost as free and simply. Our eight solar panels generate enough power to run the fridge, a small freezer, a computer or two, the washing machine occasionally, and the lights. All of our lights are LEDs that use 1/10th the power of incandescent bulbs. We buy food at the local open air farmer's markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Water is free from the local pier. We get free Wi-Fi internet from a marina about half a mile away. I stuck my small antenna in a bowl, hung it in the rigging, and focused it on the marina. It may not be high speed, but we can follow the major news.

The weather has been perfect, as there hasn't been a drop of rain in months. We swim off the back of the boat every afternoon, followed by showers where the water has been heated by the sun. Bottom line, we live as simply as possible. In fact, we'd better be careful or the next thing you know we'll have become teetotalers and vegetarians! We're not totally green, as we use a bit of gasoline instead of rowing when we occasionally go to shore. And sometimes we do splurge. For example, we even went out to dinner last night!

But it's here in Turkey that we feel as though we've finally entered the real cruising mode. No shirt, no shoes and no shave. It's really fun, and at age 71, I feel as though I have finally retired.

We would update our website, but it appears that the Turkish government is suing Google, so we can't access it currently. But no worries.

— marvin 10/01/09

Blue Sky — DownEast 45 Ketch
The Mather Family
On Our Way To South Africa
(Redondo Beach)

After leaving the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, our initial plan was to go to the Seychelles. But thanks to Somali pirates' expanding their operations to that area, the archipelago was blockaded. As a result, we decided to sail from the Chagos to Madagascar, rounding Cape d' Ambre on the northern tip of the island. Duncan and Irene on the 39-ft Canadian sloop Moose had the identical idea, so we decided to convoy.

Maintaining radio silence on VHF, we set up a sked on the SSB, using an alphabetic code rather than numbers. This enabled us to communicate our positions. The larger ships we encountered were also very apprehensive. They were quiet on the VHF and two didn't show any running lights.

The wind died three days from the cape, so we turned on the motor. We hoped it would stay calm for our rounding, as Cape d’Ambre is notoriously treacherous. Most yachties are said to be traumatized by the experience of passing it, as the wind rarely blows under 30 knots and the current flowing from the Mozambique Channel into the Indian Ocean causes large and confused seas. It's called "The Witches' Cauldron." So you either sail 100 miles offshore or 100 meters from the shore. We chose the latter and made it unscathed — zero knots of wind and zero swell. But the current on the east side increased our speed over the bottom to 10 knots! Once we rounded the cape and hit opposing current, we slowed to four knots.

After the 11-day passage, we dropped anchor in an uninhabited cove on Nosy Hara. While underway we maintain a four-on, four-off watch schedule, so we were really looking forward to a full night's sleep. Unfortunately, the wind shifted that afternoon, and we ended up on a lee shore in a really rolly anchorage. The next morning we picked up the anchor to look for a more protected spot to rest and unwind before we had to check in at the city of Hell-ville, named after the French explorer Admiral de Hell.

Dropping the anchor in Andranoaombi Bay, we had our first introduction to the people of Mozambique, and the first to civilization since leaving the Chagos. Four men from the village paddled their pirogue out to our boat and Moose, and offered us limes, papaya, duck eggs and bananas. We were grateful to receive the fresh produce, as we'd run out a couple of months before. We had no local currency, so it was lucky the locals were eager to trade. We keep children's school supplies — pencils, paper, pens, crayons, pencil sharpeners and rulers — on our boat to pass out, as in many poor countries children can't attend school unless they have these basic tools. Anyway, Phoebe and Drake cleaned out their closets of all the clothes that had become too small for them.

When we came to shore, the whole village came out to greet us strange-looking people and ponder our rubber inflatable and our outboard. The local dialect is Malagasy, but most of them speak French. Fortunately, our friends on Moose speak French fairly well. Our bag of clothes was distributed to all the children, and amazingly there was enough for each child to get something. They thanked us by giving us a pumpkin and more fruit.

We have a printer on our boat for our camera, and we enjoyed taking photos of them and then giving them prints as a gift. People in remote villages love this, as they have rarely seen a photo of themselves or their children.

After a couple of nights, we decided to push on and anchor behind a small island in Ampamonty Bay. The island was uninhabited, but there were ruins of homemade tents used by nomadic fisherman. A young couple approached our boat while we were on the hook, and it was quite a contrast between their boat and Blue Sky. Other local fishermen traded us mud crabs for empty jars, fishing line and hooks. We enjoyed the delicious dinner while watching a rainbow disappear.

We're hoping to be in Cape Town for the end-of-the-year holidays, after which we plan to cross the South Atlantic in February or March to make landfall in Brazil.

— the mathers 11/10/09

Readers — Some of you probably won't believe this, but there is indeed a Hell-ville. It gets it's name from Anne Chrétien Louis de Hell, 1783-1864, a French admiral and the governor of the Isle de Bourbon, now known as the French Overseas Department of Réunion, in the Indian Ocean.

Nomad — Westsail 42
Brian and Megan Thom
Cruisers Are Dangerous
(Santa Cruz)

We're now in Lautoka, Fiji, and we'd like to make a couple of observations.

The first is a big 'thank you' to Latitude for setting up the bond exemption in French Polynesia for this year’s Pacific Puddle Jump group. It was a huge help to show up in the Marquesas, see our name on a list, and watch the gendarme check off our name. He then processed our incoming formalities in just a few minutes. The captains of other boats had a hassle coming into and leaving French Polynesia because they had to post a big bond and then go through the big hassle of getting their bond money back. So, thanks again!

Secondly, we wanted to point out that it's been other cruisers who have posed the greatest dangers we've faced in our two years of cruising. While at Bufadero Bay on the coast of mainland Mexico, another cruising boat fouled our anchor. We weren't aboard at the time, but to make a long story short, we nearly lost Nomad in the huge shorebreak. A series of lucky circumstances got us back aboard with just enough time to clear some lines, turn on the engine, and power out into the bay. We made it out just before a huge set of waves came through. One of them would have surely put Nomad on the beach.

Then, while off Costa Rica, a large power cruiser would have run us down if Megan had not been keeping a good watch. They were traveling the same direction as us, but at 12+ knots, while we were only doing four knots. They literally would have run us over from behind if we had not taken serious action to move out of the way. We called them before and after on the VHF, shone a powerful searchlight on them before and after, but there wasn't any response. Farther down the coast we found out that the couple aboard were in the habit of setting the autopilot and going to sleep!

Of all the wild things we imagined before leaving, we never thought that other cruisers would be the most dangerous.

— brian 10/15/09

Readers — To give credit where it's due, Managing Editor Andy Turpin has spearheaded Latitude's Pacific Puddle Jump efforts since day one, and is therefore the one who deserves the most credit. So we now call him 'Mr. Puddle Jump'.

Sea Bear — Whittholz 37
Peter and Marina Passano
Off Once Again
(Woolrich, Maine)

Sea Bear arrived in Bermuda on November 11, after a mostly pleasant five-day passage from Provincetown, MA. We've stopped here for 24 hours on our way down from Maine to let a nasty low pressure cell pass by. It was blowing a gale when we eventually left — on a Friday, no less — the Cape. The forecast was for a few days of slowly moderating nor’westerly breezes, and the skipper felt they shouldn't be wasted. Not everybody aboard was completely happy with this decision.

It's been a long time since we've reported on the adventures of Sea Bear. That's because there have been interruptions, such as the captain and crew taking time out to get married! This summer we also decided to replace our beloved Tu Lung Bang, the engine that has faithfully served Sea Bear since she was launched 105,000 sea miles and 19 years ago. It wasn't that the old engine was worn out, but that future cruising plans will call for a more powerful auxiliary.

The captain selected and installed a 55-hp Yanmar 4JH4-AE along with a larger propeller. Sea trials were conducted by an authorized factory representative before we headed south. We were pleased that Sea Bear passed all the manufacturer's standards with flying colors. Anyway, after one day of rough but pleasant sailing, and with the crew determined to regain her sea legs, the breeze failed and the new auxiliary was put to the test. We powered a total of 33 hours over flat and windless seas. The Gulf Stream was particularly benign.

The wind came up again a day or so before we arrived at Bermuda, and built to Force 6 and 7 from the east. We arrived at St. George's, and anchored in the Powder Hole at first light. It was Sea Bear's sixth visit to Bermuda.

We are enjoying renewing some old acquaintances here in Bermuda. We have also moved around to Hamilton, and are anchored off White Island, giving us easy access to The Royal Bermuda YC and town. We have the usual work list, but are generally planning on moving on south to the U.S. Virgin Islands sometime next week.

— peter 11/14/09

Readers — As many of you know, Peter was a long time resident of Northern California, and together with Bob van Blaricom built Sea Bear along the Santa Venetia Creek in Marin County in the late '80s. After buying out his partner's interest, Passano has so relentlessly sailed the length and breadth of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans — often singlehanded — that he was awarded the Blue Water Medal for '07 by the Cruising Club of America. And now, at nearly 80 years of age, he leaves the Northeast in a November gale.

Talion ­— Gulfstar 50
Patsy Verhoeven
A Woman Looks At The Ha-Ha
(Portland / La Paz)

For my third Ha-Ha, my crew included Portland sailors Tim Morris and Rod Buck, as well as my young niece Morgan Drake. By the time the crew arrived, the menu for the trip had been planned and, thanks to our having Morgan's car, the provisioning was completed in one day. It was fun to see old friends at the pre-race meetings, and the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party at the West Marine store was as hilarious as ever.

There was a brief 'rolling start' on Monday due to a lack of wind, during which time the Ha-Ha doesn't count motoring. But the wind filled in after about half an hour, and the Ha-Ha was on! For us, that meant no motoring the rest of the leg.

We flew the big old 3/4 oz. spinnaker I'd bought for next to nothing, and headed outside of the Coronado Islands looking for more air. With Tim and Rod adjusting, trimming, and driving, we passed boats like crazy.

By late on the second day, the wind and seas built — as had been forecast by Commanders' Weather and everyone else. We saw 15 to 20 knots of wind, with 12- to 15-ft seas. We took turns driving with the big chute up, but it wasn't an easy task. The problem is that Talion has a semi-full keel, a tiny rudder and a lot of weight aloft, so she wasn't designed for sailing in bigger seas with the chute up.

But my best memory of that afternoon is driving and slowly reeling in another boat. They took a ton of photos as we finally passed them, and we hope they'll remember to email them to us as promised.

After passing the boat, we decided it was time to take the chute down. As Tim went to the bow to blow the guy, we rounded up. Morgan was wearing her harness, but the look in her eyes, as she hung from the cabin rail for dear life with her feet dragging in the water, was priceless! Just then the chute exploded. We gathered all the pieces, and mentally kicked outselves for being stupid by not taking it down in time.

From then on it was jib and main alone. As the evening went on, the seas continued to get bigger and bigger from our starboard quarter. The four of us were sitting in the cockpit admiring how tall the seas were — when one of them just leaped up and completely engulfed us, filling Talion's center cockpit with water! As we weren't expecting it, we still had all the ports and hatches open. Another stupid move on our part. Talion wasn't designed to take a lot of water below anymore than she was designed to carry the chute in big seas, so it took quite while for the water to filter into the bilge, and even longer for us to mop up the wet rugs and cushions.

As the evening progressed, Rod fell victim to seasickness. Morgan was in a quandary, as she couldn’t decide whether to stay below and listen to Rod puke or go outside where it was cold and wet. Tim and and I traded watches throughout the night, with Morgan below ready to help out when necessary. Unfortunately, Morgan was wearing earplugs and couldn’t hear Tim when he called her for help. So next time, Tim is vowing to tie a line to Morgan's legs so he can just yank on it.

The conditions were still pretty nasty the next morning, but the wind had eased off a little. We arrived safe and sound in Turtle Bay that night, having completed the 360-mile leg in 52 hours of sailing. Not bad.

While in Turtle Bay I started to piece the ripped chute back together. Tim and Rod said it was beyond repair, giving me just what I like — a challenge! Fortunately, I carry a sewing machine aboard Talion. It was a little difficult moving about the inside of the boat with that monster of a sail in the center of the cabin, but you do what you have to do.

After a civilized 11 a.m. start time from Turtle Bay, the second leg featured more typical Ha-Ha conditions, with light wind in the morning giving way to 10 to 15 knots of wind in the afternoon and evening. Long gone were the big seas of the first leg. In fact, it looked as though the ocean had been ironed flat. The calm conditions gave me time to keep working on sewing up the chute.

That afternoon we set the chute. Once up, we could see a few more holes, so we immediatelly dropped it and I got back on the sewing machine. After a total of 30 hours of sewing, the chute held for the rest of the leg!

Although the conditions got light, we managed to keep moving the entire time, and finished what became an unusually light 240-mile leg in 45 hours. We sailed the entire leg once again, one of only eight boats to do so. I personally don't understand why people don't sail all of each leg, but that's another story.

We arrived in beautiful Bahia Santa Maria in the morning, and selected a perfect anchoring site for a raft-up party with Billy Lilly's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide and Glenn Twitchell's Newport Beach-based Lagoon 380 Beach Access. That night we had an unofficial 'everyone in the fleet is invited' party. We probably would have had more people if everyone had known that some of the young ladies from Bill Haggerty's 94-ft Odyssey thought it was a lingerie party. We missed our dear friend Eugenie, skipper of J World, but were happy to know that she and her crew were safe after their boat sank as a result of the collision with the whale.

We managed to contain ourselves for the next day's activities — including dancing to a rock 'n roll band hundreds of miles from civilization — in order to make the pre-dawn start of the third leg.

There was so little wind at the start that the Poobah once again instituted a 'rolling start', where engines could be used without penalty. That was fine with us, as we're not a light air boat. But after an hour, the the Poobah deemed that there was enough wind, so we had to sail. Light air is not Talion's strong point, and we watched in dismay as the lighter boats left us in the dust.

It was a frustrating day for us, but the wind came up in the afternoon and we were able to fly the kite again. By late evening the wind was gusting to more than 15 knots, causing me to cringe as the heavily repaired spinnaker flapped and strained. But it turned out to be a magnificent night of sailing, with a full moon, T-shirt temperatures and gusts to over 20 knots. Tim and Rod traded watches through the night, while I stayed below praying that the chute would hold together and we wouldn't have to put up the heavy 1.5 oz. chute.

By morning we were feeling pretty good, for the chute was still in one piece and we'd sailed past many boats during the night. Late in the morning the wind dropped to 3 to 6 knots, but we were still able to keep the boat moving under gennaker. But it was frustrating once again. By afternoon the wind picked up so we were sailing at our optimum fishing velocity. After catching many tuna on the way down, Tim finally landed a dorado. Then, after 32 hours, we crossed the finish line of the 175-mile leg.

For the third time in a row, Talion had sailed the entire Ha-Ha course. It felt pretty darn good, because we don't think any other boat has done that.

We used our final few gallons of fuel to motor to the anchorage right in front of Mango's Deck Beach Bar. Our final few gallons of water were lavishly spent on hot showers before we hit Squid Roe for the post Ha-Ha celebration. At the award's ceremony Talion once again managed to take first in class, and win Soul Sailor honors for having sailed the entire course.

I can't wait to do it again next year!

— patsy 11/09/09

Beach Access — Lagoon 380
Glenn Twitchell
The Wrong Kind of Hook-up
(Newport Beach)

Since I'm optimistic, and based on the relative possibilities, Beach Access suffered what was hopefully only a minor disaster while at anchor at the Isla Isabella Nature Preserve off the coast of mainland Mexico. I had Greg and Tiffany Norte, the ex-Coasties almost famous for being in charge of towing Iron Maiden during the Ha-Ha, as crew, and our plan had been to spend the day exploring the island, then leave in the evening for a night sail to Chacala. We changed that plan in morning because the wind had come up to around 20 knots during the night. I figured the wind would die if we waited, then we'd have to motorsail to keep our schedule. I preferred to sail.

We'd anchored on the east side of the island near the Las Monas because it had been a better place to anchor the last couple of times I'd visited. Our plan to raise the anchor was to motor up into the wind at Tiffany's direction, and have Greg operate the windlass. This was the first time we'd be bringing up the anchor since La Paz, and until then I had mostly done it myself. The short story is that this time the anchor chain got snagged on something, some swells came through, and the windlass got ripped off its bracket!

We quickly secured the chain with multiple lines and the snubber I use for setting the anchor. But the windlass was then jammed in between the underside of the deck and the steel mounting bracket. The deck had been slightly bowed up and the plate was bent down, firmly wedging the windlass. At first I used a RotoZip tool to cut away the damaged fiberglass and free the windlass, but there was still too much pressure to get it loose. So we had to unbolt the mounting plate. Naturally, I had to cut all the electrical wires to remove the windlass.

That left us with the task of raising the 125 feet of chain and the 45-lb anchor — in 20+ knots of wind and 3-ft swells. It was obvious that the chain had wrapped on rocks, so I would have to dive to free the chain. I set up Greg to haul the chain and Tiffany to operate the snubber. The plan was for me to free the chain, rocket to the surface, and have them pull as much as they could before we drifted back and put more tension on the chain.

I have a regulator attached to 40-ft hose that I hook to a dive tank, which would allow me to get deep. When I dove down, I found that the chain was draped off of a ledge, and then hooked under it by only 12-inches of rock. Unfortunately, I was at the end of my hose, so I grabbed the chain with each hand, spread my arms and pulled. I was able to get enough slack on a downward part of a swell, and therefore able to reach where the chain was hooked. With some slack, I was able to free the chain.

I then rose to the surface and gave the signal. Greg and Tiffany had some success pulling in chain, but it hooked again. By this time I had the lay of the underwater land, and was able to climb aboard and direct Tiffany to motor in such a way as to unsnag the chain, allowing Greg and me to pull the anchor up. Beach Access was free at last, and we're sailing to Chacala as I write this.

Upon investigation, I found that the base of the windlass is made of cast aluminum and the mounting plate is stainless steel. Great. There was plenty of evidence of electrolysis, so the mounting was the weak link. Still, it did take a mighty tug to break it loose.

This was the first time I've had even the slightest problem with raising the hook in the seven years — and I've raised it lots of times. Probably the worst was when I was by myself and a Coromuel started blowing at hard at 0300, which made the north lobe of Ensenada Grande a dangerous lee shore for my boat. I guess I will be more vigilant about diving the hook after it is set to know more about the bottom conditions. I guess I can start making it the excuse for a swim call by diving the hook prior to raising the anchor.

But for now the adventure continues, with me having the task of recreating a mounting system for the windlass.

— glenn 11/20/09

Nataraja — Flying Dutchman 37
Emmy Newbould and Eric Willbur
The Big Mama YC
(Zephyr Cove, Nevada)

Our time in Tonga was winding down as we left the Ha’api Group for Tongatapu. After a night of light winds but big and sloppy seas, we were approaching Tongatapu when word came over the local cruiser's net that there was going to be a party at the Big Mama YC on Pangaimotu to celebrate the 'yacht club's seventh anniversary. Everyone was invited. We'd never heard of the Big Mama YC, but there were already 39 boats there when we arrived off Pangaimotu.

Once ashore, we had a great time seeing friends we'd lost track of as well as meeting new cruisers. Everyone was dressed either as pirates or in aloha gear. Some dressed up as Somali rather than traditional pirates.

We couldn't believe the buffet when dinner was called! There was whole roasted pig, turkey, a local fish dish, an octopus dish, lu (meat wrapped in taro leaf), limu salad, regular green salad, and taro and sweet potatoes. Everything was wonderfully delicious! And everything but the cocktails was on the house!

After dinner, Big Mama — who like most of her staff is from the northernmost Tongan Islands of Niuatoputapu and Tafihi — made a very emotional speech. She thanked everyone for coming to the party — and more importantly, gave a heartfelt thanks to all the cruisers who had donated goods and/or their time to help the survivors of the tsunami that hit the Niuas.

Big Mama later called for all the children to gather around her. She then passed out gift baskets — made of woven coconut fronds and containing snacks and water — to each child for their upcoming passage. Then each boat name was called out, and each of us received a basket that included several drinking nuts, a watermelon and tomatoes. Finally, the candles on the birthday cakes were then lit, and Big Mama had the children blow them out. As the cake was being passed out, the band started up again, and the party was in full swing. It went on well past midnight.

In addition to Big Mama, Lolo, and all the staff outdid themselves with the party. We learned that the yacht club offers great cruiser services the rest of the year. In addition to having a bar and restaurant, Big Mama’s has internet access and runs a shuttle boat into Nuku’alofa. Lolo is an agent, and thanks to his help, we were cleared in in just 30 minutes. He also arranges for free water and fuel. Without his assistance, getting fuel in Nuku’alofa is difficult. Lolo can also arrange island tours, airport runs, bottom cleaning, laundry service and just about everything else. He charges no fees for his services.

We recommend that anyone planning to be in the Nuku’alofa area next year should make it a point to anchor off Pangaimotu and stop in to see Big Mama, Lolo and the staff. Their warm and friendly service is full of the aloha spirit. The 8th birthday party is scheduled for October 30, so plan accordingly. For more info about Big Mama’s and the services available, you can contact her direct at .

— emmy & eric

Cruise Notes:

"After my three-week trip turned into five months away from Swell, I finally made it back to my boat," writes Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40. "I guess it was only fair that Swell found some new company while I was away. Her new friend was more cuddly and personable than Swell's prior uninvited guests, which were ants, cockroaches, wasps and geckos. But drat, her new friend was a rat! Right now, I'm sifting through the turdpiles and half-munched food remnants of my new crewmate. Despite the mess, it sure feels good to be back home!"

Rats on boats are no joking matter. The owner of a San Francisco boat, who prefers not to be identified, but who hauled his boat at a yard in the Florida Keys for eight months in '04, explains why:

"In our view, the problem was the boatyard set our boat in a place where she touched the mangrove trees, giving rats a quick and easy access. The rats must have come in large numbers, for when the yard got around to doing something, they claimed to have trapped 20 of them. The rats chewed wires, plumbing hoses, vent hoses, watermaker plumbing, charts, plastic fan housing, life jackets, books, clothes, woodwork, buttons off VHF radios — everything! Many plastic bottles were chewed into, and it took over two months just to clean the boat of spilled oil, barbecue sauce, sugar, detergents, soy sauce and much more. The rats made nests of our clothes, paper charts and other convenient materials. The rats created regular paths inside the walls and headliner, and they ate right through the wood paneling when they needed a convenient way to get out. Our boat was truly a rat apartment house. What's more, the rats chewed large holes in bilge hoses and in deck drain hoses, allowing rain water to drain into the boat without the bilge pumps' being able to pump the water overboard. The bilge pumps pushed the water up the hoses — but then out the holes the rats had chewed in them, and back into the boat. Until the batteries died, that is. There was water over the floorboards when the yard finally checked. The cost of repairs came to over $31,000 — but that wasn't the end of it. Technicians didn't want to work on the boat because they said rats carry disease. Ironically, our boat had been well tended in the Third World countries of Central and South America for six years. The only problem we had was upon returning to the States. To add insult to injury, our outboard was stolen from our boat the day before we returned. What a coincidence! Our advice is to choose a responsible yard based on some due diligence, then set at least two powerful rat traps when leaving the boat for any time. Finally, hire someone to check your boat each week. We wanted to pass this information on to our fellow cruisers to warn them of the tremendous damage rodents — and an inattentive boatyard — can do."

"Who remembers the Richmond-based Mariner 36 Sereia, she of the Pimp My Ride video, the garishly colored brightwork, the disgustingly seasick first mate, and Peter’s Wild Ride from Tahiti to Whangarei?" So ask Peter, Antonia and Silas Murphy, the owners of the boat. "Well, we’re at it again. About two months ago, we started testing the waters for a circumnavigation of New Zealand, complete with a toddler on board. And now we’re doing it. To top it all off, Antonia’s knocked up again, which is proving to be an excellent way for her to avoid heavy deckwork while we're underway. We're collecting material for a future book about New Zealand. Anyway, we'd love to have our old friends check us out at"

If you've never seen their Pimp My Ride video, you've got to check it out.

Fun facts on the prices of diesel. Toucan Tango reports it's $10/gallon in Turkey, Moonduster reports it's $5/gallon in Fiji, and we on Profligate paid $2.72/gallon in Cabo. Most things are less expensive in Mexico. For example, you can get a killer tortilla soup, plus a spectacular view and good service, for $3.50 at the very nice second story restaurant at the Nayarit Riviera Marina in La Cruz. Street tacos in town, are, of course, much less expensive. But boy, are they delicious!

In the early hours of October 23, Paul and Rachel Chandler, 59 and 56, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, were seized from their sailboat Lynn Rival by armed Somali pirates. They were 60 miles from Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, at the time. The couple had been heading from the Seychelles toward Tanzania. Days later it was announced they are being held for about $7 million U.S. in ransom, which the British government says it will not pay. But in a crushing blow to the prestige of the Royal Navy, a spokesman for the British Defense Ministry revealed that the couples' kidnapping had been witnessed by the Wave Knight, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment tanker, with 25 Royal Navy sailors, 75 merchant seaman, and a helicopter aboard. "We do not comment on operational details," said the spokesman, "but RFA Wave Knight did very well under the circumstances.” When the word got out, bystanders at Trafalgar Square in the heart of London reported seeing the 18-ft tall granite statue of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson do a flip in anger — he couldn't roll over in his grave — atop his 151-ft tall column. Apparently impotence being considered "doing very well" as the new normal isn't sitting well with the one-eyed, one-armed British naval hero, even though he's dead.

Be that as it may, we're told cruisers are now avoiding the Seychelles, as Somali pirates have apparently extended their criminal activities to that area. Among those who changed their cruising plans are the Mather family of Redondo Beach aboard the DownEast 45 schooner Blue Sky. You probably already read their Changes earlier in this section.

In mid-November, the Honolulu-based 75-ft sloop Momentum went aground on the reef offshore of the Sheraton Hotel at Waikiki. If we're not mistaken, the boat was built in South Africa, did the '85 Cape Town to Brazil Race, and then was brought to Hawaii for the '88 and '90 Kenwood Cups in Hawaii, which were big events at the time. Honolulu sailor Ian Jeffrey Lansdown reportedly put a lot of money into the boat while he owned her, but she never looked as though she'd been sailed much. Of course, given her design, she's not conducive to going sailing with a couple of friends on Sunday afternoons. We don't know who the current owner is, but the rumor around the Ala Wai is that he'd had a friend tow the big yacht out of the harbor so he and some lady friends could enjoy the lights of Waikiki from offshore. Officials were later told that the that the anchor line parted while everyone was asleep, and the boat drifted onto the notoriously jagged reef. At last word, it was hoped the boat could be refloated and repaired. One source tells us the owner's previous boat had gone up on the reef of Kahala.

Diving maniacs Scott and Cindy Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House report they've not only made it to Tahiti, but have also been to Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a and Bora Bora. "We wanted to let everyone know that we've updated our log, so you'll be able to see our latest video, The Sharks of Fakarava. Next season we hope to continue our journey through the southwest Pacific islands of French Polynesia, the Cook group, Niue, American/Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand." Check out all their good stuff at:"

"I want to make sure everyone knows that the Chubasco Ham net has changed frequencies to 7.192 Mz," writes Roy Davidson, WP2F. "As of the time change on November 1, it now starts at 1415 Zulu."

"The last time we had a seminar for SailMail, there was a big turnout of about 60 people," reports Steve Chamberlin of the Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 46 Surprise. "We got so many requests from folks who couldn't attend that we're doing it again on December 5 at the Richmond YC starting at 10 a.m. There is no fee, but please RSVP at"

Reader George Hughes says he's heard rumors that fees of as much as $2/ft/day will be instituted for anchoring at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, one of Hawaii's few really good anchorages — and also one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world. Currently there is no charge to anchor in Hanalei, which is a summer-only anchorage. However, Ray Pendleton, longtime Hawaii boating journalist, says the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources is as yet only looking at increasing all mooring fees, and is holding hearings all over the state. The state of Hawaii is legendary, of course, for its longtime mismanagement of the Ala Wai and other state yacht harbors.

Authorities in Cabo San Lucas received a call for help in mid-November from Jessica Hale's Seattle-based Morgan 38-3 Shimmer. Apparently the boat lost power and steering when some 25 miles southeast of Cabo. Fortunately, there was no weather to speak of and the boat was towed to Cabo without incident. Friends tell us that Hale purchased the boat in Vallarta in the summer of '08 with a goal of sailing her around the world. The boat was in need of much work, however, and after a couple of less-than-satisfactory attempts at fixing the engine, Hale was taking the boat back to San Diego for a complete refit.

It's hard to believe that a serious health scare can be a positive thing, but in the case of some people, it seems to help them appreciate life more than ever. We see that in the case of Richard and Sharon Drechsler of the Long Beach-based Catalina 470 Last Resort. This fun-loving couple seems to be going for the gusto in everything they do, and won't be leaving anything on the table. If you read Richard Drechsler's Manning Up in Alaska — now available on Kindle — maybe some of the same magic will rub off on you.

Communications in Mexico have really changed. While on the hook at remote San Quintin during an unscheduled first stop in the Ha-Ha, we had great AT&T service, so we switched to their Viva Mexico! plan. This means that we and our kids got 3,000 minutes of talking anywhere in the United States or Mexico, plus to and from the two countries, as though we were calling from San Francisco to Oakland. No prefixes or anything. We pay a flat rate, with no cost per minute or roaming, but we do lose the rollover feature on minutes. We also signed up for roaming data. This is potentially much more expensive, as it's on a per MG basis, so you have to be careful. But you can do it on a month-by-month basis. Our iPhone kicked ass not only in San Quintin, but off Cedros Village, at Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria and at Cabo San Lucas. Dona de Mallorca's Verizon phone didn't work anywhere until Cabo. The question the six of us on Profligate with iPhones began asking ourselves if we really wanted to be so connected. The answer was no!

The 54 entries in the 20th annual Caribbean 1500 Rally from Hampton, VA to the British Virgins enjoyed good sailing in moderate to strong northerly winds, allowing the entire fleet to finish between 6 and 11 days. The overall winner of the event, which started on November 2, was Bojangles IV, a Gulfstar 50 ketch sailed by the Kilgour family and friends of Toronto, Canada. It was their first offshore passage. "What a passage!" said Colin Kilgour. "A full seven days of great wind, all of it aft of the beam."

We spoke with organizer Steve Black, who described the weather during this year's 1500 as follows: "This year's faster boats had 10 to 25 knots over the first seven days. The boats in the middle of the fleet had slightly stronger winds, ranging from 10 knots to brief periods of 25 gusting 30. The slowest boats saw mostly 15 to 28 knots, with gusts to 35. The seas were never more than 10 to 15 feet, and they only lasted for a day or two before dropping back to three to six feet. The swells were pretty far apart, so they weren't unpleasant.

While this wasn't a particularly rough year for the 1500, and the first leg of the Ha-Ha was considerably rougher than normal, we'll say what we've always said, the Ha-Ha, which is half as long as the 1500, is a much less challenging way to get to the tropics. We're not saying that one is better than the other, just that they are different.

"My crew Allison and I sailed my engineless Catalina-based H-28 Tehani from La Paz to Puerto Ballena on Isla Espritu Santo in early November," write Mike Lancon. "We only spent about five days there, but we saw lots of fish, found the water to be 78 to 80 degrees, and the visibility to be 30 feet. On the ride back to La Paz, we had good reaching conditions and uncommonly smooth water — until the entrance to the narrow channel into La Paz. With it being impossible to sail any longer, I towed Tehani to the anchorage with my 10-ft Montgomery dink powered by an ancient Johnson 2-hp. It took us three hours, but we made it!"

Speaking of rallies, as we were just a few paragraphs back, just before going to press, some 218 boats in the 24th annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the granddaddy of all cruising rallies, were about to leave Grand Canary Island for 2,700-mile distant St. Lucia. A record 32 nations will be represented this year. Thanks to the steady northeast trades, the fleet should finish in between 14 and 21 days.

World Cruising Ltd, which manages the ARC, also reports that 38 boats have signed up for their World ARC '10-'11. Over a period of 15 months, the participants in this fleet will sail around the world via Panama, Ecuador, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Australia, Bali, Mauritius, Reunion Island, South Africa, St. Helena, Brazil, Grenada, and back to the start in St. Lucia. The yachts will be flying the flags of 19 countries, with the largest contingents coming from Germany, 8, and the United Kingdom, 7.

"After the Ha-Ha, we continued on to La Paz," write Sherry and Gordon Cornett of the Ventura-based Tayana 52 DS Serenity. "We do have some awesome photos of Baja sunsets, sunrises, clear water, dolphins, frigate birds and so forth, but we've found that the real beauty of Baja is the people. Everywhere from the office at Marina de La Paz, to the people in restaurants and stores, people have a smile and a 'hola' for you if you just take the time to smile and say hello yourself. As such, our favorite photo so far is of these two boys on the malecon. This is our first time down here, and we love it!"

In late November we were having a delicious carnitas burrito — $3.50 at Last Fiesta Burritos in Sayulita — when we fell into a conversation with a British resident of Mexico on the stool next to us. He told us that he'd recently helped a guy deliver his boat back to San Diego. When they got there, the Customs guy wanted to charge the Brit $451 U.S. for his tourist visa! Mr. Customs said that if he had been a crew on a charter boat, or had come by land, it would have only been $6. So the captain of the boat said the heck with it, they would sail back to Mexico so the Brit wouldn't have to pay the outrageous fee. This wasn't exactly true, because after going a ways south, the boat snuck back into San Diego, dropped the Brit off at a fuel dock, and then checked in without him. There was no problem. As for the Brit, he made his way to the Mexican border, walked across, then walked back into the U.S. after paying just $6 for a tourist visa.

How many things idiotic, foolish or just plain wrong can you count in the above story?

"Having read the great October article in Latitude about communication possibilities from one's boat in Mexico, I wanted to get a TelCel modem," writes Holly Scott of the Long Beach-based Cal 40 Mahalo. "So before the Ha-Ha, we drove to Tijuana, walked across the border, and took a cab to the big Telcel store near Starbucks. I paid $60 for the modem for Mahalo, and it only costs $30 a month for unlimited use. There was a sale, so we got the first month free. Best of all, there was no long term contract. If I wanted to renew for the next month, I could just call them. I love the thing! Everywhere an AT&T phone worked, the Telcel modem worked, too. In some places it was a little slow, but it's Mexico, so get over it. Now that I'm back in California, my modem will go into my drawer until next year when we do the Ha-Ha again!"

There can be no doubt that manatees have a rubber fetish. They might not dress up like some of the people in shadier parts of San Francisco, but they sure love to rub up against inflatable dinghies. Just the latest in a long list of photograph evidence comes from Wendy and Graham of Bravo 2 in Salinas, Puerto Rico, whose photographs were forwarded to us by Ed and Sue Kelly of the Iowa-based Catalac catamaran Angel Louise. Ed speculates that Graham and Wendy's dinghy was picked out for added affection because it was wearing those sexy dinghy chaps to protect its skin from excessive sunlight. "It took us 81 hours to sail to Puerto Rico from Bonaire," writes Ed, "but with the weird sex lives of manatees, we love this area, too."

By the way, ever since last month's Latitude interview with Damien McCullough and Deborah Ream, formerly of the Newport Beach-based Celestial 50 Ticket to Ride, we've heard from others who just rave about Puerto Rico, and particularly how friendly the people outside of San Juan are. Puerto Rico might be one of the most misunderstood places in all of cruising.

"I'm rarely moved to respond to anything printed in your fine magazine," writes B.L. Sachs, "but the reports on how inexpensive health insurance can be for Americans in Mexico managed to do it. I say WTF? As a lifelong boatowner and sailor, I understand the 'free as the wind' mentality, and the Mexican health-care system just about meets that criteria. But such free-loading is simply shameful."

Sorry, B.L., but we have to disagree with you on two counts. First, we're not going to get into the whole illegal immigration business, but it's safe to say that Americans are spending about a zillion times more on health care for Mexicans who are in the U.S. illegally than Mexico is spending on Americans who are in that country legally. And second, we think the world has gone global in more than just trade. With all levels of government in the United States having de-evoled to subcompetent in the last 15 years or so, we now tend to think of ourselves more as a citizens of the world than laborers for the entity that is the United States government. As such, we find ourselves free to pick and chose among government programs any place in the world where we have contributed to the economy. As they say, when businesses compete, the customer wins. Well, it's high time that governments of the world have to start competing for their citizens.

'My Naja 29 Fleetwood will winter in Amsterdam," reports Jack Van Ommen of Gig Harbor, WA. "My visit here has turned out to be wonderful beyond my wildest expectations. Luck had it that I managed to find a spot in the yacht club very close to my old Amsterdam neighborhood, the one I left from for the United States in '57. I did my first sailing here with my uncle, who was a club member for about 40 years. The members treat me like visiting royalty. My daily moorage is the price of two Starbucks 'short' coffees. Word has gotten around that the prodigal son has come home, so long lost family members and old girlfriends have brought out the fattened calf for me. Next summer I will be showing my children their roots from aboard Fleetwood. Then I'll continue up the Rhine, then down the Danube to the Black Sea and the Med."

Van Ommen had an unusual meeting as a result of getting weather from Herb Hilgenberg of South Bound II while crossing the Atlantic. It turned out Hilgenberg was also giving weather reports to one Bart Boosman, who had sailed a 30-footer in the OSTAR singlehanded race to Holland. After the two exchanged email addresses, they agreed to meet in Amsterdam. When they did, Van Ommen explained that he would be attending the 65th anniversary commemoration of the evacuation of the infamous Vught Nazi concentration camp in September of '44 ahead of the Allied invasion. That's because his mother had been taken from the camp and shipped out, along with 650 other women political prisoners, to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in cattle cars. It turned out that Boosman's grandmother had been on the same train. What's more, Van Ommen had never been able to find out much about the resistance group his mother had been part of, because she, like most of them, just wanted to forget about it. But he learned that Boosman's aunt, had been part of the same resistance group. He ultimately learned more about it than his mother ever knew. He even visited with one of the camp's last survivors, who is now 100 years old, who remembered his mother. All because of chance mid-ocean radio traffic.

Missing the pictures? See the December 2009 eBook!


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