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December 2014

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With reports from Swell on what Liz Clark has been up to in French Polynesia; from Geja on a seventh summer in the Med; from Irie on the suitability of small cats for cruising in the Caribbean and the South Pacific; from post-Odile Cabo San Lucas; and Cruise Notes.

Swell — Cal 40
Liz Clark
Positive Vibrations From Polynesia
(Santa Barbara)

I just wanted to check in and say 'Hi' from French Polynesia. It's been another busy but wonderful year for me.

Being one of ten nominees for National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year came as a complete surprise to me! I'm so honored. The voting goes on until January 31, and I wouldn't mind if Latitude readers went to my website or National Geographic's and voted for me. As they say in politics, vote early and vote often. Ha, ha, ha.

I got back to Swell in June, then made a 900-mile round trip to the Tuamotus to meet up with a crew from Patagonia, one of my sponsors. It was rough for the first two days because of a westerly front that came through, and I got really seasick. I should have waited 12 hours, because I got wind too much on the nose as well as a miserable sea resulting from the clash of swells from the north and south. Luckily I had a friend with me to help with the watches and laugh when I puked. But it was great to get Swell out to sea again and into some wild corners.

Patagonia was putting on a 'Women's Trip', the goal of which was to bring their main female ambassadors together in a place where we could all do what we do best. The other two women, Kimi Werner and Lea Brassy, were really incredible.

Kimi is a champion spear fisher and ocean conservationist. She has the sweetest and most humble soul, and it was magical to watch her underwater. She kills with respect, choosing the most ecologically sound prey. Her mission is to get people to reconnect with their food.

Lea is an adventurer, surfer, spear fisher — and all-around bad ass! She does radical missions, such as trekking through the snow to get to remote surf spots in Iceland and Northern Europe. The three of us enjoyed learning from one another and got on like wildfire.

I'm back in the Societies now, working on a book project with Patagonia and a web series with my girlfriend Leah, and am about to relaunch my website. Between the nonstop swell and everything else, my plate has been fabulously full. I've been hangin' on the hook in the lagoon enjoying tubes, coconuts, rainbows, good friends, fruit — and shirtless, sexy brown men paddling by on canoes. There is no cabin boy for the moment, but there are always a few sharks circling. Ha, ha, ha.

Swell is in great shape, as her hull and rig have been repaired since I was t-boned by a charter cat. She looks lovely with her newly painted hull and decks. New canvas, too. My sails are in pretty sad shape, but I'm not facing any major boat problems at the moment.

It's good that Swell is in fine shape because most of the surf here in Polynesia is at reef passes, so you need a boat to get to them — unless you want to paddle all the way across a lagoon. There are also lots of outer-island spots that are only accessible by boat because either planes don't fly to the islands or if they do, they're too small to carry boards. With the Teahupoo surf spot becoming world-famous over the last five years or so, surfing in French Polynesia has become much more popular.

People always ask how I've recovered from breaking my neck while bodysurfing in San Diego. My neck is fine, although I get a little stiffness if I surf a lot without stretching or getting a massage. I attribute my recovery to yoga and my plant-based diet.

I swear that my diet has made an incredible difference in my levels of energy, overall strength, immunity — and even my complexion. I feel as healthy as I did 10 years ago. Plus my plant-based diet is really in line with my eco/spiritual values, so it feels just right. Every now and then I do eat a little fish, but only if I can find a smaller fish from a plentiful species. And like Kimi, I kill the fish I'm going to eat with respect.

I almost forgot, I got a kitty that I named Amelia, aka Tropicat. She was abandoned, so I decided to try to find her a home. Before long she had found a home in my heart. We're terribly alike. She goes everywhere with me, which is hilarious.

I'm in no particular hurry to move on, and I'll be here until the Patagonia book deadline in May. After that, I might head to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific, then down to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.

All in all, life is damn good! Positive vibrations, light and love to everyone.

— liz 10/15/2014

Geja — 1976 Islander 36
Andrew Vik
A Wet and Stormy Med
(San Francisco)

For the seventh straight summer, my salty old Islander 36 Geja and I, both hailing from San Francisco, enjoyed an exciting voyage in the Med. Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast had been an excellent foreign home to Geja for the previous five summers, so I’d already covered much of the Adriatic Sea at least twice. The one region that I’d only visited once was the far northern Adriatic, so this year it was Venice or bust.

From Geja’s winter home of Trogir, it’s 220 miles in a straight northwest line to Venice. Viewed another way, it's four weeks of casual daysailing up the former Yugoslavian coast. I chose the latter, of course, as the Croatian archipelago is dotted with quaint villages, countless anchorages, and several really hot Mediterranean party spots.

As usual, my crew consisted of friends and acquaintances from the U.S. and northern Europe. Typically, two to three crew stay for a week at a time, and I make sure to end each leg in some inhabited location with a nearby airport. This makes for a pretty rigid schedule, but it's worked well over the years.

Starting in mid-July, the first of seven weeks went smoothly enough — despite one nasty little weather system that blew through while we were in the party town of Vodice. Geja was secure in the government-run ACI marina when a nasty storm cell hit at 5 a.m., which was not long after my two crewmates and I had turned in after a late night out. I suspect that a lightning strike hitting Geja would have really screwed up my summer plans, but we escaped unscathed — and with a freshly rinsed boat. This storm was to be the first of many to pass through during what proved to be an unusually cool and wet summer in the Med.

The storm threat remained for several days, but my crew and I managed to get in some great sailing anyway. We kept the mainsail reefed most of the time as we beat our way up the coast through the Kornati Islands to Zadar, one of Croatia’s main coastal towns.

Geja got to chill out in Marina Zadar for two nights ­— at 70 euros/night — while swapping crew. Staying multiple nights in a place during crew changes gives me ample time to clean house, do a big grocery run, fill the water tanks, and complete other tasks.

The swap-over period also allowed me to have my chest waxed — 'manscaping' — for the first time. It's not that anyone would call my blonde chest hair excessive, but the male 'kids' at the beach parties — particularly the Italians — are so well-groomed that I felt compelled. With my two female crew along for moral support — and for their own entertainment — I found a spot in town where I could have my hair ripped out for just 15 euros. The pain was tolerable and the results smooth.

Week two began nicely with typically glorious weather and pleasant sailing. The first stop after Zadar was the adorable town of Bozava on the island of Dugi Otok. Med-moored to the quay, we were approached by a non-English-speaking senior citizen who somehow conveyed to us that he had some homegrown tomatoes for sale. My crewmate and I ventured up a path to his home, where the dude had not only veggies, but also a cool cellar with huge wooden barrels full of wine from his vineyard. We did not leave empty-handed.

Later in the week, we awoke early to building seas and cloudy skies in the poorly protected anchorage at Silba. We got out of there fast, getting an early start on the 14-mile crossing to the island of Pag. Though it poured on the way, the winds remained from aft for an easy crossing. Pag is host to Zrce, Croatia’s most notorious Ibiza-style party place, intentionally located on a remote beach several kilometers from any town. Zrce usually goes off in the high season with its many daytime beach parties. But it was eerily mellow because of the funky weather, and too cold for me to show off my freshly waxed chest.

A couple of days later along the mainland, at the foot of the Velebit mountain range, we spent a night in Zavratnica, a fjord-like cove with a submerged World War II wreck. By day it’s full of tourists, but we had the place to ourselves for a most memorable night. It turned out to be a spooky spot, with animals rustling around in the darkness and not a single light or other sign of human existence in sight.

This part of Croatia has some really dramatic scenery. The islands of Pag, Rab, and Krk all face the notorious Velebit Mountains. In the winter, the bora, a crazy offshore wind, blows down from the mountains — at times at speeds of over 100 knots! As a result, most vegetation has been stripped from the islands’ east-facing hills, yielding a dramatically stark landscape. The town of Baska on Krk has exactly this backdrop.

With another crew swap in Baska, we started the third week with an uneventful motorsail from Baska to Krk Town. It being a Saturday, and with my first male crewmate aboard, we were up for hitting the town. But of course a massive rainstorm blasted through late in the evening, threatening to dampen the fun. What was that, storm number three? We nonetheless managed a decent night out once the rain let up.

Sailing onward into the lake-like Gulf of Kvarner, we came across a small powerboat waving an oar. As we approached, I yelled out, “U.S. Navy at your service!” The guy and girl had engine problems, so we gave them a 20-minute tow to shore. In the coming days, this local Croatian couple repaid the favor many times over, showing us around and driving me to several nautical shops in search of a new starter battery and other items. I was even invited to eat dinner at the girl’s family home, where nearly all the food and wine on the table had been grown or produced at their family farm.

Far in the north of Croatia is the town of Opatija, where we took a berth at the fancy Hotel Admiral. Modern-day Opatija was established as a seaside resort by the Austrians in the late 1800s. The many villas, luxury hotels, and gardens are grand and beautiful, and much different from the architecture found elsewhere in Croatia. It wasn’t a bad place to be stuck for two nights as storm number four barreled through, threatening to drop several inches of rain.

Week three wrapped up in Pula, which is near the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula. The port is a half-abandoned dump, but the town boasts an incredible 2,000-year-old amphitheater, much like the one in Rome. Geja’s marina berth was just a few hundred yards from the amphitheater. Had we stayed there through Saturday evening, we would have heard British rockers Status Quo perform.

While paying up in the marina office to get going with Week four, I came across a Swedish charterer who had lost all his electronics and refrigerator to a lightning strike. The chipper fellow was pretty relaxed about it, continuing his three-week family holiday with the technologically crippled boat (and, gasp, warm beer).

My crew that week included Rob and Christine Aronen, the only couple allowed to join Geja. I'd met them during the 2006 Ha-Ha as they skippered their boat Nomad from San Francisco to Mexico. Their sailing, shopping and cooking skills allowed me to spend more time relaxing. Otherwise Geja's summer voyages are marathons, as each week's crew wants to see and do as much as possible. Not relaxing, but it's super fun.

Rovinj, 20 miles up the Istrian peninsula, ranks among Croatia’s loveliest towns. And there in the north, in what had been Italy until the end of World War II, the classic Croatian limestone buildings start to take on various pastel hues. Rovinj’s multistory residences climb right from the waterline, laundry on lines flailing in the wind above the sea.

After two nights in Rovinj, I was paying the tab in the marina office when, out of nowhere, an intense boom stunned everyone in the marina. It was a lightning strike right overhead, but without rain or wind as a warning. The office girls screamed and dove under their desks as though it were an earthquake. Two of my crew, who had been standing on deck at the time, darted ashore. As folks settled down, my crew and I returned to Geja to batten down the hatches just before the rain hit. For two hours we sat in the saloon as rain, wind, lightning and thunder surrounded us. That was storm number five.

After the prolonged storm blew through, we had a great close reach up to Porec, where we spent two nights moored to the quay, including for my birthday. And a bustling quay it was! The hippest lounge in town was a stone’s throw from Geja, so we enjoyed both superb people-watching and great music. It was a far better spot than any hotel could provide — except when the garbage trucks and street sweepers did their thing at sunrise. The Croatians like to keep things tidy.

In Porec, on our way by taxi to the Saints & Sinners Beach for the afternoon, I almost got the entire crew to get matching henna 'tramp stamps'. It was, after all, my birthday and my wish. Next year, guys, next year. Instead, the crew surprised me that evening with a round of Aperol Spritz, which a waiter delivered right into Geja’s cockpit. The crew spoiled me well on my special day.

Although Croatia has been in the European Union since 2013, it is not yet in the Schengen Zone. So boats still have to check out when crossing into a European country, which we did when exiting for Slovenia. Once checked into Slovenia, however, we were free to sail on to Italy with no fuss, which we did after just one night in beautiful Piran, Slovenia.

Our next stop? The Venice Lagoon. More next month.

— andrew 11/13/2014

Irie — Tobago 35 Cat
Mark Kilty & Liesbet Colleart
Seven Years Cruising a Small Cat
(Ex-Bay Area)

Many monohull sailors wonder if a cat as small as our F/P Tobago 35 is big enough to safely and enjoyably cruise the South Pacific. I'm happy to share our experiences and impressions.

Latitude readers with good memories may recall that in 2006 Mark and I took off cruising from San Francisco aboard our Islander Freeport 36 with Kali and Darwin, our two Australian shepherds. By the time we got to Santa Cruz, just 75 miles into our cruise, it was clear that our dogs hated the heeling and were miserable with the motion of a monohull. I didn't feel so good myself. So we abandoned our cruising dream right then.

After a year of land travel in Central America, we decided to give cruising another try, thinking that doing it on a more stable catamaran might be much easier on the dogs — and me. To that end we purchased Irie, our small catamaran, in Annapolis.

We took off cruising again in 2007. We'd never sailed a cat before, but our assumptions proved to be correct — as cruising on our admittedly small cat was blissful compared to doing it on a similar-sized monohull.

Over the span of a year, we leisurely sailed Irie to the Eastern Caribbean, where we decided to spend three years. We cruised between St. Maarten/St. Martin, which was our work base during the cruising season, and Grenada, where we explored and worked during the hurricane season.

After three years, we made our way west to the uniquely beautiful San Blas Islands of Panama, where we enjoyed living in a paradisiacal part of the Caribbean for a year. Irie's 35-ft length and 19-ft beam were perfect for the two of us and our two dogs. Irie's shallow 3-foot draft allowed us to savor reef anchorages and bays not deep enough for monohulls — as had previously also been the case in the Bahamas, BVIs and Grenadines.

The Caribbean is well-known for consistent winds, and we'd found that Irie was well suited for them. Even upwind passages weren't a big deal. Carefully monitoring the weather prevented us from getting caught in anything really nasty. There is an active social/party scene in the Caribbean, and Irie's large cockpit came in very handy for that.

Without giving much thought to the fact that our cat is much smaller than most in the South Pacific, in 2013 Mark and I transited the Panama Canal and switched oceans. By this time both of our dogs had passed on.

Although the Pacific Ocean is huge, the name means 'peaceful ocean', so how uncomfortable could it be? Perhaps it was because of the course we would take to the Gambier Islands — to avoid crowds — but our days of easy Caribbean sailing were over. We were initially deceived by a comfortable and enjoyable one-week passage from Panama to the Galapagos Islands, which many sailors said was going to be the roughest of all. So when we dove down on our next leg, the 3,000-miler to the Gambiers, we expected the same easy sailing with relaxing watches. Wrong!

We were to learn the hard way that weather forecasts for the Pacific are unreliable, even when making short passages. But ours was anything but a short trip, and the seas were typically confused and much bigger than we'd been used to in the Atlantic.

On Day 10 of what would be our 21-day passage to the Gambiers — which required sailing harder on the wind than if we'd sailed to the Marquesas — we had very windy conditions. And the winds were on the beam, which is the worst.

When the wind blows 30-35 knots for days on end, which it did, the swells build to 15 feet and you need to reef deeply. While 180-mile days on a little 35-ft cat sound impressive, they were not comfortable miles. We often had saltwater crashing over the hull and into the cockpit, but we never felt unsafe. Ours was one of the few boats to make the crossing without ripped sails, failed rigging, or a lost rudder.

Once we got to French Polynesia, however, our little cat really came into her element. The sailing trips between the archipelagos and the islands have been uneventful and relatively benign, and the cat is perfect for shallow reef anchorages, which are our favorites.

The Marquesas were still a bit too uncomfortable for our liking, as the anchorages were quite crowded — there are more boats in the Pacific than you might think! — and our light multihull didn't always move in concert with the monohulls. And even though we had a catamaran, many of the bays had a constant swell that made the anchorages rolly.

That said, the Gambiers, the Tuamotus and the Society Islands proved to be a great cruising ground for our small cat, and we can't wait to explore more. The bottom line is that we think our small cat has been a great cruising boat for the seven years that this freelance writer from Belgium, and her American husband, have been cruising from the East Coast to the Caribbean to French Polynesia.

It may be folly, but I'm going to attempt to quantify our cat's qualities on a scale of 1 to 10:

Amount of Living Space — 9. Irie is perfect for two adults and two dogs, plus two visitors for up to two weeks.

Comfort in Anchorages — 8. A bigger cat would be more stable and thus more comfortable.

Overall Sailing Performance — 9.

Sailing Performance to Weather — 7. As with all cruising cats, this is Irie's weakest point of sail.

Storage Space — 9. Irie has all the room we need, but this can be deceiving, as we don't have a lot of junk. If we don't use something for a year, we sell it, trade it, or give it away.

Comfort in Rough Weather — 3. No boat is comfortable in rough weather, but a bigger cat would be more so.

Motoring Speed — 7. We have two small diesels.

Fuel Economy — 8. With both engines running at 2,200 rpm, we burn 3/4 of a gallon an hour.

Dinghy Launch and Retrievability — 9. Only an electric winch would make it easier.

Confidence in Boat — 9.

The two drawbacks I see of having a very small cat are: 1) Discomfort in big seas when the wind is forward of the beam, and 2) The small size of the jib.

While we would love to have a larger cat, Irie was what we could afford, and she's been an excellent long distance cruiser. Unfortunately, we've had some health issues, so while we continue to cruise her, we've also put her up for sale. If anyone is interested, they can visit

— liesbet 11/10/2014

Post Odile Cabo San Lucas
Baja California Sur

The Wanderer’s program has always been to leave Cabo as soon as possible after the end of the Ha-Ha. “Two days of Cabo a year is great, three is too much” has been our mantra about the tourist town. This year, thanks to a persistent low — about the only one between Conception and Tehuantepec, and the likes of which we haven't seen on these dates between Cabo and P.V. in 21 years — it didn’t make sense to leave on Sunday morning. Or Monday. Or Tuesday. Wednesday might have worked, but as we would have to labor on computer for some of the 285-mile trip to P.V., we opted to have another day at the ‘office’ at the Baja Cantina. Our extra time in Cabo enabled us to catch up with the local news.

The best news about Cabo is that, unlike right after hurricane Odile made a direct hit on September 14, it doesn’t look bad at all. Other than one-third of the docks in the marina being knocked out, and the McDonald's still in shambles, it’s hard to tell a hurricane hit at all. That does not, however, mean that all the big resorts have reopened or that you can't find evidence of the Category 3 storm if you want to look for it.

There were five main reasons that things were so bad in Cabo right after Odile hit: 1) Having been swiped or hit by numerous weaker hurricanes before, nobody took Odile too seriously, especially since it didn’t turn toward Cabo until shortly before it hit. So nobody was prepared. 2) Instead of being on the scene to exercise leadership, the mayor of Cabo was out of town at a boxing match in Vegas. The local government and police have been castigated for doing nothing. 3) All the workers, who live hand-to-mouth, had been paid the day before the hurricane. But since they get all their money from ATMs, and the ATMs didn't work because the electricity was out, they didn't have access to their money to buy food and water for their families. So when one big store decided to give away the food that would spoil anyway, it let the floodgates open. All the major stores were soon looted of everything. “I saw people with Hummers loading flat screen televisions on their cars,” said one disgusted local who shall remain unnamed.

4) Most of the local military detachment was in Mexico City to march in the Independence Day parade. “When they finally got back, they hadn’t slept in three days and were exhausted,” said one. 5) Cabo’s only radio station lost its tower, so nobody knew what was going on for more than three days.

Cabo was indeed dangerous, with some of our Mexican friends running regular patrols around their property and firing weapons to drive off marauders who had breached their fences. A Mexican woman we often work with told us that it was so dangerous that Mexican embassy officials tried to insist that she and her American husband fly out on a special plane. They declined because they had business interests, but the woman armed herself with a machete while at her home and admits to having been frightened for her personal safety.

Once the troops returned, augmented by a very professional detachment normally assigned to protect visiting dignitaries, order was restored. The chaos is now history. Cabo looks good, and what it needs now is customers so everybody can go back to work. Recognized as the Grand Poobah of the Ha-Ha, the Wanderer was repeatedly thanked, even by business owners we'd never met before, for bringing more than 500 much-needed visitors to the local economy.

Still stuck in Cabo on Tuesday night, we accepted a dinner invitation at the Cabo home of ship’s agent Victor Berrara, where he lives with his lovely wife Alejandra and two young children. Although only in their early 30s, the couple have been together for something like 17 years already. Victor’s father, deceased for seven years, had been a ship’s agent in Cabo starting in the 1970s. Victor started learning the trade as a teenager, and is now one of three ship’s agents in town. He and Alejandra have other businesses, too: a coffee shop, a hookah bar, and a small hotel in the Pedregal.

Victor explained that the port captain in Cabo is new — and has the nobility of character not to accept bribes. Among port captains of the world, that's not always the case. The port captain has decreed that jet skis can no longer be rented off the beach, and have to be staged offshore. This has greatly reduced jet ski activity, which has been the great bane of owners of anchored boats, swimmers, and SUP'ers.

When we asked Victor what the deal was with the port captain in La Paz saying boats needed a medical clearance/certificate to leave the country, he said it was indeed a law on the books, but one that nobody seems to follow except the officials in La Paz. In Cabo you just need to fill out a form.

Mexico, of course, is the home of officials who interpret laws in different and sometimes curious ways. “For example," said Victor, "the port captain in Cabo requires more paperwork and documents from boats leaving Cabo for the States than boats arriving in Cabo from the States." You'd think it would be the opposite.

When it comes to TIPs (Temporary Import Permits), Victor says it makes no difference if you have one of the old 20-year ones, an 'old' new one from online or from Banjercito more than a few months back, or a 'new' new one from Banjercito. They are all good. Victor has a two-year-old 'old' new TIP for the Bayliner he and his family take to La Paz for visits to the nearby islands.

What’s the difference between the 'old' new TIPs and the 'new' new TIPs you get from Banjercito? “The 'new' new ones don’t require that you fill out a detailed list of all the equipment you have on your boat," says Victor. "They don’t seem to care about that anymore.” And to think of all the headaches boatowners got trying to figure out how to fill out the equipment list properly, something the software wouldn't allow. That said, if anyone hasn't gotten a TIP within the past year or two, we'd get a 'new' new one from Banjercito. They are cheap enough.

Other tidbits from Victor: 1) Certain local interests wanted — and almost succeeded in getting — permission to build a cruise-ship dock from the southeast breakwater out into the bay! Victor thinks they will be successful with their efforts in less than 10 years. Even though the dock couldn't go far into the bay because the water is so deep, we hope he's wrong. 2) Homes, condos and property continue to sell quite well in Cabo. And finally, 3) Victor and his family hope to do a circumnavigation some day.

One of the fun sights in the Cabo Marina was watching the owner of the Nordhavn 73 Tortuga, which is a much larger boat than her length would suggest, lift a small Fiat automobile from the forward hold and unload it onto the dock for local use. This was followed by a motor scooter. The loquacious owner, who lives in Newport and Vegas, and who usually operates the large boat without paid crew except for Capt Jack, his little dog, spotted de Mallorca walking down the docks with a St. Barth backpack. “Hey, my wife and I got married there,” he told her. “We’ll be there in a couple of weeks.” His wife, it turns out, is a very, very heavy hitter in the world of U.S. retailing. Tortuga didn't seem like a vessel that could be bought and maintained on an airline pilot's salary.

Cabo isn't normally our kind of town, but with so few people around — and after the Ha-Ha the smallest number of boats we've ever seen in the marina — we actually enjoyed the few hours we got each day away from banging on the keyboard. Cabo's south-facing beach — the one out by the Sol Mar, Playa Grande, Finisterre and other hotels on the Pacific side — is truly one of the great beaches in the world. Unless you're staying in one of the hotels or condo complexes, there is no real access, which is why there are no vendors on that beach. Fortunately, we had a friend staying in the Playa Grande for a couple of days, and used his room number to get in to use the pool and order drinks. It worked so well that we continued to do it for several days after he left. Look like you belong there, behave yourself, order a few drinks, and nobody seems to mind. The cloud formations and sunsets as viewed from that beach are quite spectacular.

As beautiful as the beach and the clear blue water are, it's quite dangerous for all but the most skilled watermen or waterwomen to go in. The bottom comes up very quickly, so the waves break with tremendous force, Pipeline-style, in just a few inches of water. They have snapped necks. Equally bad, it's almost impossible to stand up against the force of the water that rapidly recedes into the next incoming wave. In these conditions, it's entirely possible to drown within a few feet of the sand. Almost every day is a red-flag day. A lesser problem is the fine sand, which gets into one's hair and orifices unlike anywhere else in the world. Your pillow is likely to be sprinkled with sand the morning after a bodysurfing session.

As we said, Cabo is not our favorite place in Mexico, but there are tens of thousands of really good, honest, hardworking people there who have taken a big hit. Many live hand-to-mouth trying to support their families, but have lost their homes, which in many cases consisted of little more than boxes, plastic tarps and bits of wood assembled on land they are squatting on. For the record, what is considered 'poverty' in the United States would pass as considerable affluence in Mexico. So if you have non-sailing friends thinking about taking a winter vacation, suggesting Cabo as a destination is not the least charitable thing that you could do.

— latitude/rs 11/15/2014

Cruise Notes:

"I'm in Malaysia now," reports Tom Van Dyke of the Santa Cruz-based Searunner 31 trimaran En Pointe. "I skipped Singapore for many reasons, one of them being that the authorities now require every boat to have an AIS transceiver as well as an AIS receiver. When I got to Thailand, I found they are requiring the same thing! Maybe I'm naive, but didn't think having just a receiver was going to be a problem."

Actually, Van Dyke is not quite correct, as the Thai requirement only applies to foreign-owned vessels. In the case of Thai-registered vessels, they can carry up to 22 passengers — and be operated rather wildly — without meeting the AIS receiver and transceiver requirement. Also curious is the fact that the requirement for both an AIS transceiver and receiver came less than a month after Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut signed legislation requiring that foreign boats have only an AIS receiver. It is believed to mark the first time in history that one arm of a government hasn't known what another arm was doing.

Seeing as Thailand is 95% Buddhist, you'd assume that officials would be lenient about giving foreign boatowners time to get the new units. After all, there is no West Marine Superstore in Phuket. And they are being lenient.

“For boats that arrive in Phuket with captains who don’t know about this new order, we can give them about 10 days to obtain an AIS transceiver,” explained Phuripat Theerakulpisut, chief of the Phuket Marine Office. “But those who ignore our requests will be charged for disobeying an order issued by the National Council for Peace and Order, and can be jailed for up to six months." Om.

We're surprised that Van Dyke, a vet of the 2012 Ha-Ha, would bypass Singapore. Sure, it's steaming hot year round and very crowded, and you can get into big trouble for committing minor offenses such as spitting or spraying graffiti. On the other hand, it's one of the great and dynamic cities of the world. Consider what it has to offer:

1) One of the lowest crime rates in the world. 2) The healthiest people in the world. 3) One of the least corrupt countries in the world, where no distinction is made between white-collar and blue-collar crime; 4) A superb education system, where teachers are highly respected and well paid. 5) The lowest drug abuse rate in the world. Oddly enough, despite all this tremendous achievement, a recent Gallup report revealed that Singapore's wealthy population is the unhappiest, or the "least positive," in the world. Less happy, in fact, than people in Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan and Syria. Less happy than Syria?! Maybe it wasn't a bad idea for Van Dyke to skip Singapore after all.

"We're in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico getting our boat ready for another season of cruising," reports Sandy Edmonson of the Morgan 41 Faith. "I was perusing the November issue of Latitude when I came across the letter from Rob and Linda Jones regarding paperwork for Mexico. In Latitude's response you stated that "because you got your fishing license from the Mexican government as opposed to H&M Landing in San Diego, it's only good until the end of the calendar year, not for 365 days". Well, we stopped in San Diego on our way south, as we do every season, and purchased our fishing licenses from the CONAPESCA (Mexican government) in downtown San Diego. Our licenses are valid from Nov. 3, 2014 until Nov. 2, 2015, not just to the end of the calendar year. I just wanted to correct that misconception. By the way, the weather is lovely here."

Thanks for the correction. Here's how we got it wrong. When Doña de Mallorca went to CONAPESCA to get fishing licenses for us in late October, they were only good until the end of the calendar year. What the gentlemen at the counter had failed to tell her is that for just a few dollars more, she could have gotten licenses for a full 365 days. Maybe that should have been mentioned before she bought the license, which couldn't be changed once it had been purchased.

Despite this, de Mallorca found the two Conpesca guys, who have both worked there for 30 years, to be charming. One told her that he hasn't been able to celebrate his late-October birthday since the Ha-Ha started 21 years ago because of all the Ha-Ha fishing licenses he has to process. "But I don't mind," he said, "as I love to meet all the people."

Chilly, but better late than never. Marc Wilson reports he departed Newport, Oregon on November 15 bound for sunny Mexico, skippering the Catana 52 Bright Wing. He advised they were doing 10 to 12 knots in an easterly, and that it was very clear — but very cold. The November 20 high for San Diego was only the mid-60s. Time to be long gone south of the border if you want to be warm.

What's this, someone making a change in cruising plans? "We're not going to be spending the winter in the Caribbean after all," reports Greg King of the Long Beach-based 65-ft schooner Coco Kai. "We left Grenada a week ago on our way to Panama and the States with new crew of Carsten and Connie from Kiel, Germany and myself. We had a very nice two-day sail to Los Roques, Venezuela. We only get 15 days here to explore the hundreds of reefs and isles. The water is a perfect 84.2 degrees, and the trades are blowing 12 to 18 knots, keeping us a bit cooler. But I kind of feel like the captain of a charter boat, as we have been moving from spot to spot daily. The snorkeling is great. We'll soon be stopping at an island were they breed albino loggerhead turtles, which are very pretty. But I can't wait until Jennifer, my girl, and her daughter, Coco, meet up with me for 10 days or so over Thanksgiving at Curaçao and Aruba."

More changes in cruising plans: "We just arrived in Bonaire after a great three weeks in the remote islands of Venezuela," King wrote in an update. "My girls arrive on Saturday and we'll sail to Curaçao and Aruba. Unfortunately, my German crew had leave for home early for business, so I'm looking for crew from Aruba to at least Panama."

Unless there are additional changes in plans, King and Coco Kai will soon complete an eight-year circumnavigation.

The best out of 200! Congratulations are due Dennis and Susan Ross of La Paz, as they have been selected by the 5,000-member Seven Seas Cruising Association as the winners of the Bateman Cruising Station of the Year award for 2014. There are almost 200 SSCA Cruising Stations around the globe, providing information and assistance to cruisers who are visiting the local cruising grounds. The station hosts are a clearinghouse of information about local conditions, maritime-related services, and local community activities.

Dennis and Susan joined SSCA in 1997 when they were first contemplating purchasing a sailboat for full-time liveaboard cruising. In 2002, the couple took early retirement, bought the Endeavour 43 Two Can Play, and started their cruising life in the San Diego area. Within a few weeks they moved their sailboat to Ensenada to refit her for bluewater cruising. For the next five years they cruised all of the Pacific Coast of Mexico, as far south at Huatulco and as far north as the upper reaches of the Sea of Cortez. In 2007 they settled in La Paz and started Ross Marine Services and Consulting.

"We decided to do a book signing of Jeff's Cape Horn: Forever on My Mind at Downwind Marine in San Diego just before the Ha-Ha, and then Jeff was invited to do another the next day at West Marine," report Jeff and Debbie Hartjoy of the Seattle-based Baba 40 Sailors' Run. "So the rest of our four days in San Diego were spent chasing down boat parts. Our 2½-hour Greyhound bus ride from San Diego to Mexicali was pleasant, but crossing a foreign border with thousands of dollars of boat gear, even if what you are doing is legal, always generates anxiety. But the Mexicali authorities were very helpful. In fact, they carried two of our six suitcases for us! From Mexicali we took an ABC bus to San Felipe, which took a couple of more hours, and then were aboard Sailors' Run again.

"We then headed south," the couple continue, "with a stop at Gonzaga Bay. Our anchorage there started to go bad when a strong westerly developed overnight, so we blasted out of the bay as the sun was coming up. We had a great sail to 45-mile-distant Refugio. Once we arrived, the winds subsided, and we had a peaceful evening in a beautiful anchorage — until the wind came up again at 2 a.m.

"Ever since Jeff rode out Odile on the hook, he can't stand waiting to see if things get worse," said Debbie, "so he rousted me from a sound sleep and had me stumble into the cockpit and behind the wheel. I thought it was a little crazy heading out into building southwesterly winds and seas on a moonless night."

"Having Debbie at the helm after having done 2,200 miles during five months in the Sea over the summer was a real relief," says Jeff, "as it's hard to deal with such situations by yourself. And since my near miss with Odile, I don't want to ever again become trapped in an exposed anchorage. I prefer to take my chances in heavy weather on the open sea. And we did fine."

"We were anchored in Bahia de Los Angeles on October 28 and were searching the SSB radio when we heard the Grand Poobah taking roll call for the second day of the Ha-Ha," says Debbie, picking up the conversation again. "Even though the Poobah was all the way across the Baja Peninsula in the Pacific and at 34°N, while we were down at 28°N, his voice was amazingly loud and clear. We could hear most of the responses from the boats pretty well, too. Afterwards we went into 'town', and you never would have known that a hurricane had come through just six weeks before. The streets were so clean, the stores looked great, and everything was back to normal. Well, not everything, as the lady in the store said a hill came down and wiped out one of the schools. Fortunately, there were no deaths."

Cabo, La Paz, Bahia de Los Angeles, from all we've heard, all have bounced back very well from Odile.

Looking for a great place to have dinner in Puerto Vallarta? John and Gilly Foy of the La Cruz-based Catalina 42 Destiny recommend Hacienda San Angel for dinner. "It's the most magical place you can imagine, as it's a hacienda on the side of a hill with beautiful grounds, incomparable views, and a menu with delectable choices. They had a 12-member mariachi band with eight violins and great voices for background. If that weren't enough, Janice, the woman who owns the restaurant, is the heart and soul of the Puerto Vallarta SPCA.

Looking for good food in the north end of Mazatlan? Lots of folks rave about the popular Dock 7 at Marina Mazatlan, which features all kinds of great fresh seafood as well as most big sporting events on television.

Have a favorite restaurant in Mexico? Tell us about it.

"We're currently at Tenacatita Bay, and decided to take a dinghy trip up the estuary to the lagoon and beach at 'the Aquarium'," report Rob and Andi Overton of the Hampton, Virginia based Stevens 50 Akka. "It's a trip described on page 126 of Pacific Mexico, A Cruiser's Guidebook, and on page 266 of Charlie's Charts for Mexico. Alas, the trip to the lagoon and beach is no longer possible. About two-thirds of the way up the stream we came to a new canal on the right, which is straight and wide, but doesn't lead to anywhere interesting. We pushed on along the estuary beyond the canal, only to encounter a half-sunk panga blocking the estuary. With some effort from our 15-hp outboard, we were able to bull our way past into the mangroves. After that, the estuary became almost impassable in places, with mangrove branches clogging the route both above and below the water.

"Despite these obstacles," the couple continue, "we made it to the lagoon, only to discover that the palapa at the edge of the lagoon is abandoned. Finding a hole in a chain link fence, we went across to the road along the beach. There are no longer any restaurants, palapas, or tiendas. We were, however, met by an armed private security guard who informed us that we had just crossed private land and had to leave immediately. He then got on the radio and reported our presence to somebody. As we backtracked, we noticed a large occupied building on the private property, with what appeared to be people in black uniforms running about. Dogs barked from the back of the house, too. We left with alacrity."

The deal is that the entire area was the subject of a decades-long legal dispute between a wealthy man and many 'little people'. You're not going to believe this, but the rich guy actually won for once. He knocked down all of the little businesses and fenced off the area. If we're not mistaken, the 'Jungle Ride' hasn't been doable in several years now. It's a pity.

If there is one corporation in the United States that we loathe, it's AT&T because of its complicated and constantly changing plans and policies, because they keep you waiting on the phone for hours, and because too many of their online tech people aren't even familiar with their latest products. But for AT&T customers planning to cruise to Mexico, there may be a little good news on the horizon.

Thanks to the Mexican government's moves to increase competition, a company controlled by Carlos Slim has had to divest itself of its shares of Lucacell cellular in order to get beneath the new 49% maximum market limit. AT&T was the buyer of Lucacell.

"It won't matter what country you're in or what country you'll be calling," said AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson, referring to the United States and Mexico, "it will be one network, one customer experience." And hopefully one economical, easy-to-understand, and stable plan.

For what it's worth, using our new iPhone 6+ — what a great device! — we were able to surf the net while at anchor at both Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Not at high speed, mind you, but it was usable. And after leaving Cabo, we were able to get Internet about 14 miles from shore.

With lots of first-time cruisers heading up into the Sea of Cortez while the water is still warm, we hope that everyone will be on the lookout for stingrays, and knows how to treat being lanced by one. Unlike Cabo, where there are no stingrays, there are gazillions of them in the sandy shallows of the Sea of Cortez, particularly around La Paz in the fall and spring. The best prevention is shuffling your feet when walking in sand, but even that isn't a guarantee not to be hit by a reflexive assault. Some people think that booties or reef walkers offer adequate protection. They do not. If you do get 'stung', expect to experience the most excruciating pain you can imagine. The best treatment is to continuously pour water as hot as you can stand over the wound, as it will eventually denature the proteins that cause the pain. But it will take hours. There are some strong painkillers that can be purchased over the counter in Mexico, but you need to check with a doctor before taking them, and even they don't mitigate much of the pain. And the lance must be removed to eliminate the threat of severe infection. Be careful!

"I believe there was some confusion in the Changes article of ours that was published in the November issue," write Mike Wilson and Melissa Harter of the Mazatlan-based S&S 44 Tortue. "We never mentioned elephantes, which are entirely different from chubascos and torritos, which I did mention. The latter two are born from tropical moisture cells — convection — interacting with the drier and cooler air in Baja, or the drier air over the mainland, depending on flow patterns. This causes vertical wind shear and resultant thunderstorms, lightning, wind and rain. In general, localized winds known as elephantes and other such names are from katabatic or anabatic effects due to differences of temperature of the land and sea, i.e. the diurnal effect. Please clarify this so the weather gurus don't take me for being dumb."

Our apologies, as the mistake was an internal one on Latitude's part.

For the last two winters the Poobah had hoped to put together some sort of Tenacatita-Barra de Navidad Sailing Festival in early January. Last year the idea got derailed by the Mexican IRS's misguided blunder of impounding foreign boats. We regret to report that there is a reason we're not going to be able to do it this year, either — the Poobah is pooped. After running the Ta-Ta, the unusually challenging Ha-Ha, and the Banderas Bay Blast/Pirates for Pupils, in addition to doing Latitude 38 and 'Lectronic, the Poobah is going to hold off from starting another special event. But we hope someone else picks up the idea and runs with it. We know that Dino, the Harbormaster at the Grand Marina is Barra likes the concept. How about it, 'Mayor of Tenacatita Bay'?

Missing the pictures? See the December 2014 eBook!


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