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December 2015

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With reports this month on Astrid being lost on the Tres Marias; on excitement at the start of Sailors Run's solo nonstop circumnavigation; from Reflections on getting a hard dodger built in Thailand after years of cruising; from Capritaur on being lost near Sardinia after control was taken from her owners; from SeaGlub on ease of getting paperwork done for getting into Mexico; from Kharma Sea on Patricia hitting Barra; and Cruise Notes.

Astrid — Hunter 37
Wayne Merritt
Lost My Boat on Isla Magdalena
(Melbourne, Australia)

The $64,000 question is how I lost my boat, which I was intending to sail to Australia, on one of the Tres Marias Islands north of Banderas Bay.

I made two big mistakes that night in early October that led to the loss of my boat. The first was leaving my chartplotter zoomed in so close that I didn't have a 'big picture' idea of where I was. The second was setting my waypoint for 500 miles away, which meant even though I was off course, it wasn't enough at the range to show up as a cross track error.

Once I got several miles beyond the dangers of Punta Mita and the Tres Marietas Islands, I relaxed, figuring I was now in open water. The weather wasn't horrendous, but thanks to the remnants of tropical storm Marty, the wind was nonetheless gusting to 35 knots on my port quarter. That created a significant ocean swell, brought rain, and cut visibility to near zero.

I'd already spent a few hours on deck trying to get some things sorted out, for having been tied up in a berth for a few months, Astrid wasn't in her best shape to be at sea. So I was pretty tired that first evening at sea. With the rain and crappy visibility, there wasn't much point sitting in the cockpit, so I retired to the salon, and stuck my head out of the cabin every now and then to look for the lights of shipping.

As far as I knew, I was about 20 miles SSW of the four islands of the Tres Marias archipelago, and heading northwest toward Cabo San Lucas. What I didn't know is that the weather had steadily been pushing me to the northeast. One of the reasons I didn't realize where I was is the difference between my intended course and my real course wasn't great enough to come up as a cross track error. Bear in mind that I hadn't connected my chartplotter to my autopilot. Doing so required a special cable, and ordering it was still on my 'to do' list.

Sometime after midnight I started to doze off. By then I was confident that I was no longer in danger of bumping into anything. But at 3:30 am, the chartplotter alarm went off, indicating I was in shallow water. "What the hell?!" I thought to myself as I woke up. "I must be 80 miles offshore." But I wasn't.

The top left corner of the plotter screen was green, meaning I was in shallow water. I zoomed the image out and realized that I was close to Isla Maria Magdalena. Swearing a lot, I ran for the cockpit. I couldn't see anything from the helm, but I changed course to move away from the coast.

Figuring I was on the southeast corner of Magdalena, and was now heading up along the channel between two of the Tres Marias, I decided to pass through the channel, which is about four miles across. It would also gain me the shelter of the island. Unfortunately, I still hadn't realized how close I was to the rocks — partly because I had now zoomed the chartplotter so far out that they weren't shown at that level of detail. Nor did I realize that I was still being pushed towards the rocks by the seas.

Before I figured out a bearing to the middle of the channel, I hit a rock. Then another. And another and another. By the time I got back to the wheel, Astrid was in the breakers and her keel was being dragged across the bottom. It was all over. It had not been my greatest moment of seamanship.

I ended up being stranded on the island for 30 hours, as I got no response to my Mayday calls or setting off my EPIRB. I was finally rescued by panga fishermen who spotted the flare I shot off. I was not badly hurt.

Astrid could not be salvaged because of her condition, the situation she is in — the Marias Islands are a penal colony — and because I didn't have the funds to attempt a salvage.

I eventually contacted various port captains to explain what happened, and while in Mexico City getting a new passport, contacted the appropriate officials about the wreck. I wanted to do the right thing rather than flee the country.

The loss of my boat was all my fault. My biggest mistake was actually ignoring one of my biggest rules — never sail to meet a deadline. But I had, because I had set a schedule to get back to California and across to Hawaii. I should have stayed in La Cruz until the crappy weather to the south had blown away, and used the time to do some short shakedown sails. My hindsight is astonishingly clear!

— wayne 11/15/2015

Sailors Run — Baba 40 Ketch
Jeff Hartjoy
Non-Stop Solo Circumnavigation
(Longbranch, WA)

One of the things you'd prefer not to happen when you're 69 years old and attempting to sail solo around the world non-stop via the southern capes is have your boat sink from under you. After all, the water is cold and help is not close at hand. However, that's the possibility that Jeff Hartjoy faced just two weeks after departing Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador.

Having enjoyed "some of the best sailing days of my life" after starting his epic adventure in October, one day Jeff charged the boat's batteries for 20 minutes with the inboard diesel and the transmission in neutral. After shutting down the engine he but sensed a "strange vibration". He says that he could hear something — the prop shaft? — "spinning and rubbing". But it couldn't be the prop shaft because he'd locked the transmission in reverse. Yet what else was there down there to crease the noise and vibration?

"Holy shit!" was Jeff's reaction when he opened up the lazarette to gain visual access to the transmission area of the bilge and discovered that the prop shaft had come free from the coupler that connects it to the transmission. Because Sailors Run was moving along at seven knots, the unattached prop shaft was wobbling around madly trying to work it's way out of the boat. The only thing that prevented it from coming out of the boat is that it was bumping against the rudder.

As there was the potential for both water to flood into the boat via the hole for the shaft, and for the rudder to get jammed causing the boat to lose steering, it was a very serious situation. Fortunately Jeff is a resourceful guy with 75,000 ocean miles to his credit, so he didn't freak out and came up with a solution.

It was a very easy fix, in that all he had to do was hang upside down in the bilge for five hours while underway. He started by lashing down the shaft to keep it from spinning. Second, he activated the boat's high capacity bilge pump. Third, he doused the genoa and staysail, and hove-to under main and mizzen. Then came the hard parts.

"I worked feverishly to separate the coupling, hoping to find the nut that had come off the end and the key that locks the shaft to the coupling," Jeff recalls. He found the nut, but the key had slipped into the flooding bilge. Miraculously, he was eventually able to retrieve it after fishing around with a magnet.

Just when things were looking up, he discovered that he didn't have the correct socket to secure the big nut. The best he could do was tighten the nut by hand. All he has to do now is hope that the nut won't work off during the next couple of months while he sails around the bottom of the world in the rough Southern Ocean.

So what's it been like for Jeff on the way to Cape Horn? On Day 10, for example, he reported 15 to 25 knot winds out of the southeast with 6 to 9 foot swells. Conditions were good enough for him to reel off 176 miles, the third best 24-hour run ever for the much-travelled Sailors Run. The air temperature was between 72° and 76°, with squalls 50% of the time.

"Today was laundry day, and I took care of business by using a bucket and several lines strung up in behind the dodger," wrote Jeff. "This all seemed well and good until a squall sought us out and pounced upon on Sailors Run. Things were suddenly chaotic in the cockpit as I struggled to roll in the headsail while being slapped in the face with a wet t-shirt. Later in the morning I peeled the not-so-good leaves off six cabbages and got them re-wrapped in fresh newspaper." So the excitement never stopped.

"One of the things I learned from my solo trip around Cape Horn six years ago was to bring lots of cameras, and in order to capture the best shots and footage, make sure they could withstand getting drenched. I also learned when to burn lots of film and when to conserve it, so my next video will have considerably fewer 'nude shots'.

"My routine calls for a shower every third day, but I get many unscheduled showers in between. They are either salty showers from the sea or cold freshwater showers from the sky. It's all part of the sailing experience."

"On Day 11, I found myself just south of Lima, Peru, over 1,200 miles off the coast of South America. I'm a long way from help out here, so I have to balance the stress on the boat versus the desire to go faster. You might think 7 to 9 knots is not very fast, but when you are heeled over 20+ degrees, the water is raging along the side of the hull, and the boat is suddenly struck broadside by a very steep 9-ft wave that explodes into one of those unexpected 'showers', it seems a little faster than it really is. And you suddenly feel extremely alive and pray that everything will hold together.

"So far I've been sailing with good speed as I attempt to nearly circumnavigate the South Pacific High, using it much like a giant pinwheel to sling shot Sailors Run into the 'Roaring Forties'. The transition from the winds on the outside of the High to the westerly winds in the Southern Ocean is one of the key parts to my having a fast circumnavigation. We'll see how it works out.

“Two days ago I found out that I’m not totally solo on this voyage, as it seems I have a stowaway. Yes, a cockroach must have got on in Ecuador, and now the question is whether he is solo or has friends along. I should say was solo, because his life came to a horrible end.

Maybe I should have taken precautions by placing poison everywhere except in the fresh produce. As least I'm 'packing' a can of Raid. I also put out a huge tarantula-looking rubber spider left over from Halloween in hopes to 'scare' any other roaches away. I hate waking up to a big cockroach crawling across my face, as I usually give myself a bloody nose and the thing disappears before I can get a light on.

"On Day 12 I saw a ship on the AIS that came within 31 miles of me. That's the first one I've 'seen' since a fishing boat at night a week ago.

"I think I have narrowed down the problem with the wind generator. I was out in the cockpit adjusting the windvane steering and got the wind coming in over the stern, and while looking at the windhawk at the top of the mast, I noticed the wind generator facing aft. 'What the heck', I thought, 'let's turn it around'. Much to my surprise, it started generating electricity properly. Now it seems almost for certain that the problem is dirty slip rings in the unit, which I hope to clean when the seas lay down. Even if I never get up there, the thing should work in much of the windy Southern Ocean.

"I have struggled a bit trying to get my head around this great adventure of mine. The planning took 18 months, and the preparations were such that I didn't sail in the five months before taking off. Once at sea, it all seemed overwhelming. My sailing skills were rusty and my movements had to be methodically thought out and continually re-evaluated. Things began to improve after a week, and I’m happy to say that things are once again coming to me naturally. Sailors Run and I are again one with nature.

The one thing that will never be 'right' until I return is the yearning to hold my dear wife Debbie in my arms once again.

— el jefe and latitude 11/19/2015

Readers — You can follow Jeff's great adventure at

Reflections — Esprit 37
Gene and Sheri Seybold
Protection From The Sun and Spray
(Honolulu / Stockton)

We can't remember how long Gene and Sheri have been out cruising, but our Latitude records show that they started their Puddle Jump from Panama to the South Pacific way back in 2002. So even though they took a break from cruising for a few years in Hawaii, they've been out there a long time. Mostly recently they've been enjoying the many delights of Southeast Asia.

After all these years of being exposed to spray and waves over the bow, to say nothing of the tropical sun beating down on them, they decided to get a hard dodger/bimini built for their boat in Thailand. Our inclination would be to mock them for having gone so long without such protection, but then we remembered that we went without on Profligate for 19 years. So we've have to rate ourselves as bigger dummies than Gene and Sheri — were it not for the fact that we have photographic evidence that they participated in the hands-on building process of their hard-top. Suiting up in a protective suits and grinding away at glass and cloth in the steamy land of cheap labor? Maybe they have been out in the sun too long.

We're not sure when the new addition will be installed on Reflections, but based on having had a hardtop on Profligate for almost a year now, we think the Seybolds are going to be extremely pleased. For in addition to offering great protection from the elements, we think they'll find that it will make their boat seem — and be — much larger.

We're reminded that Charlie and Cathie Simon of the Spokane-based Taswell 58 Celebration told us one of the key elements in the success of their 15-month doublehanded circumnavigation was cockpit protection that shielded them from the spray, waves and sun — to say nothing of keeping them warmer when it was cold and cooler when it was hot. They say it was critical to their enjoyment.

We can barely describe how pleased with are with Profligate's hard-top, as it's transformed the cat. The massive cockpit suddenly became so much more usable. In order to stay out of the elements, we used to live in the salon in Profligate. Not anyone. And the addition has made the inside of the cat seem so much larger.

The top has some unexpected benefits, too. For example, suddenly there is an overhead hand-hold around the entire cockpit, making it much easier to move around safely in a bumpy sea. It also makes the big step up or down from the cockpit seat that much easier on aging knees.

In retrospect, we can't imagine how the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca ever managed to flake the main when doublehanding. With a 70-ft luff and a 27-ft foot, it's a big Spectra sail. In a sloppy seaway it was a very difficult task for two to flake it, particularly as the boom was so high over the cockpit that it was difficult to reach.

After about 10 years — yes, we can be slow on the uptake — we got lazy-jacks. That helped a bit. But with the addition of the hardtop . . . oh man, it's soooooooo much easier, as one or more people standing on it have the boom right at knee level.

As much as we like our hard dodger/top, we don't think all boats need them. For example, when day sailing on San Francisco Bay, one would be nice, but we're not sure it's important enough to justify the expense. But for day-after-day living in the tropics, you need to have your head examined if you don't have a hard-top. Examined for cancerous growths from all the sun you've been exposed to.

— latitude 11/15/2015

Capritaur— Hartley 39-ft Ferro
Frank and Jackie Sibble
Lost Control of Our Boat
(Vancouver, B.C.)

Some stories of lost boats are more heart-rendering than others. This is one of them. Frank, built Capritaur himself, and it's been home to he and Jackie, who are both in their late 60s, since they were in their 20s. In addition, they've done two long cruises on her. The first was a cruise to the Caribbean and back 30 years ago.

The second — and last — started in 1998. They got as far as Turkey a few years ago, but when Frank suffered a kidney failure 10 years ago, they had to put Capritaur on the hard in Turkey for four years while he convalesced. They only recently resumed their cruise.

The other thing that makes the loss of Capritaur so sad is that the loss wasn't the couple's fault. Control of the boat was apparently taken from them twice, which led to the loss of their long time home. Here is their version of the story:

"My husband Frank and I left Vibo Marina in Calabria, Italy on September 16 of this year. We had two friends from Vancouver with us. While not sailors, they are adventurous travelers. Our plan was to sail to the islands off the northeast coast of Sardinia, where we would anchor and wait for favorable conditions to pass through the Strait of Bonifacio between Sardinia and Corsica.

"The first two days and nights of the passage were calm and hot. Despite the benign conditions our friends became a little seasick, and thus had no appetites and little energy. The wind came up on the third day, so much so that our Autohelm — which we'd had repaired at great expense just the year before in Greece — stopped working. Frank tried to teach both our friends to steer, but they just couldn't get the hang of it.

"The wind died on the fourth day, so the engine came back on. We figured it would be calm for the remaining 60 miles to Sardinia, but a mistral came up strong from the northwest at 6 pm. Frank and I had to take turns at the helm. Mistrals create bad sea conditions, and from time to time waves would come over the bow and drench me. After a while, I just couldn't do it anymore.

"Conditions were such that we got our harnesses out. Even though Frank and I really needed them to safety get to and from the helm, we let our friends use them.

"Things continued to get worse, for not only was our male friend very seasick, but the engine quit at 11 pm. Unable to do anything at the time, Frank tied off the wheel and came below to get out of the wind and warm up.

"As soon as we went below, our female friend, who at this time I would describe as being hysterical, insisted that we call the Coast Guard. Her husband was hallucinating, saying he was seeing capsized cruise ships and trees. Frank was busy in the engine room trying to bleed the diesel, so he didn't hear much of the conversation.

"When the Coast Guard contacted us and asked what the problem was, our female friend could only say that the engine quit. For some reason the Coast Guard only spoke with her, not Frank the captain.

[Editor's note: It's unclear from this report who called the Coast Guard.]

"Frank and I did not feel like we were in any danger, and had been in worse conditions. Our plan was to wait until dawn and then hoist the storm jib. It wasn't safe to do it at night. Above all, we wanted to get rid of our crew.

"The Coast Guard arrived about 10 am. We understood that they were going to tow us the rest of the way to Sardinia. Instead, they towed Capritaur to the side of a freighter that had shown up. We have no idea what the Coast Guard was thinking, but they pulled our boat right into the ship's hull! There were gapping holes in one side of the deck caused by the bases of that bow and stern pulpits and the stanchions being ripped out by the collision.

"Frank thought we could stuff the holes up, so he and I were quite prepared to stay with our boat. But the Coast Guard insisted that we be taken off along with our friends. After being assured that our boat would be towed to the nearest port, Frank decided we'd better get off.

"Later that day we went to the Coast Guard base at Olbia to enquire about the location of our boat. We were stunned to be told that she'd been left to drift away in the Med! We were flabbergasted that they would do that. We'd left everything we owned on the boat.

"Thus was the end for our beloved Capritaur. She was uninsured except for public liability. The consensus among our boating friends and lawyers we've spoken with is that there is nothing we get do to get compensation from the Coast Guard."

— latitude & jackie 10/12/2015

SeaGlub — Hylas 46
Chris Glubka
Getting TIPs and Other Paperwork
(San Francisco)

It's 2015, a couple of years after the fiasco in which AGACE, a division of Mexico's version of the Internal Revenue Service, informally impounded several hundred foreign-owned boats, often on the most dubious grounds. Latitude did a great job of keeping everyone up to date as possible. For me the incident was just educational, while for those who had boats impounded, it was life-changing.

We hadn't sailed SeaGlub since making our passage from San Francisco to San Diego in July, and a group of friends came up with the idea that we ought head down to Ensenada for a week or so. Call it a Baja Ha-Ha hangover from all the parties we attended in San Diego, as we were craving more.

But first SeaGlub and crew had to get legal, and after all the stories from the 2013 fiasco, I was apprehensive. Lo and behold, I'm here to tell a story of success, one of a large government body recognizing a problem and fixing it. Our experience of applying for a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for our boat, getting tourist visas, and physically checking in and out of Mexico, was streamlined and effective.

We started with the paperwork by logging onto the Banjercito (Mexican military bank) website a month before we wanted to leave for Ensenada in order to get our TIP. I was given the direct link to, but it wouldn't work for me. But I clicked on another link with success. From there it was just a matter of entering my personal information and boat information, including things like the engine serial number.

It was straightforward except at Step Four, when it asked if we were bringing in "Recreational Vehicles". I checked 'no', but on second look found I could have checked 'yes' for my dinghy, as one of the options in the drop down menu was for boats less than 4.5 meters. I was later told it was not necessary to include it.

Next, I needed to send copies of my boat registration and passport. Somehow I missed that, but need not have worried, as the folks in Mexico didn't forget. At 6:45 am the next morning I received an email informing me that my form from 12 hours before hadn't been fully completed because I hadn't sent the copies of the boat registration and my passport. I replied to the email with pictures from my phone of each, and 24 hours later received an email that said I would receive my TIP in two days via DHL.

That was it? I was done!? It seemed too easy, but sure enough, two days later DHL delivered my TIP.

The one caveat I have is that unbeknownst to us, when we arrived in Ensenada we had to pay a port fee of 385 pesos — which at nearly 17 pesos to the dollar wasn't very much. Something else to remember is that if you arrive or depart Ensenada on the weekend, the fee is double. And you need to check out of Ensenada by 12:30 pm on any given day to be able to leave that day. Actually, I'd do it earlier just to be sure you don't get stuck until the next day.

Something else I wasn't aware of, there is a fee of $27.50 for checking back into the United States that is collected at the Customs and Immigration dock in San Diego by U.S. officials. And they only take cash. You get a decal for your fee that is good for one calendar year.

Overall the experience was extremely efficient, and I say kudos to Mexico! I look forward to our next visit — and to much longer stays in years to come.

— chris 11/15/2015

Readers ­— The process of getting a TIP and 'nautical visas' has become much easier since 2013, although it sometimes can still be a little confusing.

Chris didn't go into much detail about getting a visa for each member of the crew. Technically, you can't enter Mexican waters without one for each of the crew, but if you show up in Ensenada and pay the $22 or so for each person, officials won't give you any trouble. If you apply for the 'nautical visa' online — which you trade for a regular 180-day tourist visa when you stop at Immigration window in Ensenada — make sure you do it individually and that each person keeps a receipt. If you don't, you either all have to leave Mexico at the same time, or those who don't leave with the others have to pay for another tourist visa.

To put things in perspective, AGACE made a colossal blunder in 2013, what with agents not knowing the bow from a stern of boats, or that many boats were never given Hull Identification Numbers (HINs). And bringing machine gun-toting marines and prison buses certainly didn't help. The worst thing about the four-month cock-up was the uncertainty, as boatowners were kept in the dark about what was going on. As it turned out, AGACE wasn't looking to shake anyone down for money, they were just trying to get their foreign-owned boat paperwork in order. As 'victims' of the action, we found it more annoying than "life-changing".

While the paperwork process for taking an American-owned boat to Ensenada isn't extremely troublesome or expensive, it's nonetheless a pain for what are normally visits of less than a week. It's too bad that Ensenada can't be a 'free port' for visiting recreational boats. The number of boats visiting from California would dramatically increase.

Although the downtown area isn't as clean as it could be, Ensenada is actually a fun destination. In Marina Coral and CruisePort Marina, there are two great places to keep your boat with staffs eager to help you need with your paperwork. Marina Coral has a nicer resort facility, but it's a little ways out of town. It's not far from Sano's, our favorite restaurant. It's actually half a French countryside restaurant and half a hip L.A. bar. Ensenada is also close to the Guadaloupe Valley wine district, which is worth a day. And you can't say you've been to Ensenada without stopping at Hussong's Cantina.

The best time of the year to visit Ensenada? We recommend doing it as part of the Southwestern YC's Little Ensenada Race in early October. The weather is great, you're part of a fun group, and there's also a 14-mile race around Todos Santos.

Viva Ensenada!

Kharma Sea — Formosa 41 Ketch
Pitt Bolinate
Surviving Hurricane Patricia
(Cairns, Australia)

Given a choice, nobody would choose to have to try to live through the strongest hurricane to ever hit the western hemisphere. Yet that that's what cruising character Pitt and others had to do when Patricia came through the popular cruising center of Barra de Navidad. 'Navidad' is about 70 miles southeast of Cabo Corrientes, which is at the southern tip of Banderas Bay. Pitt's Formosa 41 ketch was one of about 65 boats tried up at Grand Bay Marina. About five other boats rode the storm out in the lagoon in the lee of Gilligan's Island.

"I've been through Odile, Paul, and two other hurricanes," says Pitt, "but holy shit, this was different. There were no gusts, just a solid, unrelenting wall of wind from about 6:30 pm to about 11 pm. Then it was gone. Nobody had an anemometer to see how high the wind got, but we were later told it gusts to about 185 mph. It was the worst thing that I've ever experienced, and I'm from Cairns, so I've been through hurricanes."

"After moving my boat into the very northwest corner of the marina, I took a room in the hotel. Sometime during the storm I got on my hands and knees and crawled down the marina dock. To give you an idea of how strong the wind was, even though surrounded by other boats, the 41-ft ketch Solitary Bird was rail down while tied to the dock. I only saw two cases of significant damage. One was the dismasting of a small boat that has been abandoned for years. The second was a furling sail that hadn't been removed from a boat being shredded. But that was it, other than minor damage such as antennas and wind instrument sensors being bent. However, every dock box was blown over, as were all the marina light poles. Because of the sheltered location of the marina, there was no fetch to create havoc. The more exposed fuel dock, however, was washed away."

Initially the wind from Patricia came from the southeast, from the lagoon and golf courses. But as the eye passed, the wind came from the west, which meant the marina was protected by the big hill and the hotel.

"I think the thing that saved us was that it was over so quickly," says Pitt. "We had the strongest winds at 9 pm, and two hours later it was gone."

The miracle of Patricia, the strongest hurricane recorded in the western hemisphere, is that only six lives were lost. It could have been thousands. Two women inexplicably camping outdoors were killed when a tree fell on them, and four people were killed in an automobile accident way up near Guadalajara. Only about 3,000 'homes' were destroyed.

The reason the damage wasn't much worse is that Patricia came ashore at Cuixmala, a luxury eco-resort four miles to the south of the popular cruiser stop at Careyes and eight miles northeast of the cruiser hang-out of Tenacatita Bay. Cuixmala is one of the most sparsely populated areas on the Pacific Coast.

A second reason the damage was minimal is that the eye of the hurricane was only about 10 miles across, about one-fifth of normal. And 15 miles from the eye wall, the wind wasn't even blowing at hurricane force. Lastly, Patricia developed so quickly there wasn't time for any storm surge to develop. Forecasters had called for a surge of up to 30 feet. "There was no discernible surge," says Pitt. "It didn't even rain."

Pitt has nothing but good things to say about the staff at the hotel, Dino the harbormaster, and everyone else.

"The hotel went into emergency mode, so there were free meals for everyone in the ballroom. If my boat and I were confronted with another hurricane, I would absolutely ride it out at Grand Bay Marina. In my opinion it's the nicest marina in Mexico. One of the reasons is because Dino is the most simpatico marina manager I've ever met. If you have a problem, he will fight for you. I really couldn't afford to eat this summer, just a can of tuna or corn every few days, but I took a berth in Grand Bay Marina in May after the rates dropped. Dino told me, "I'm going to make sure you're safe, comfortable and happy. And he did."

The Mexican government also did a great job of disaster response.

"Hundreds of workers came in from the power company, the water company, and the telephone company. And the army came in with machine guns to make sure order was restored, and lots of food to make sure everybody who needed it had milk, water and food."

Proud to identify as a "hippie", a dinghy sailor, and an adherent of the Lin and Larry Pardey philosophy, Pitt's Kharma Sea is unusual in that she has an electric engine. Despite being a diesel mechanic by trade, the first thing Pitt did when he bought his ketch in Ventura in 2009 was get rid of her Perkins 4-108 diesel. "It was an environmental disaster."

"Scott McMillian in Minnesota has been putting together electric engine packages for smaller boats such as Cal 30s for years," says Pitt, "so I finally convinced him to build a unit big enough for a heavy cruising boat such as mine. He sent it to me on a packing crate, with all the connections labeled. It took a friend and I about three hours to put together.

"I have 540-amp hour, 48-volt lithium ion batteries — like six Prius batteries — in my bilge. Because of my system, I haven't had to tie to the dock for more than 40 days in the last six years. And I've sailed 16,000 miles in Mexico, including two summers in the Sea, two winters on the mainland, and a full year in San Carlos."

Pitt recharges the batteries using a couple of methods. "I get regeneration from the turning prop when I sail at over three knots. But I get most of it from either solar or from the two Honda 2000 portable generators that I connect to produce 3,500 watts. My boat has three separate battery banks. The house bank, the propulsion bank, and the windlass battery."

But there's a reason most cruisers stick with diesel for auxiliary power.

"I can do seven knots for two hours," says Pitt, "then I have to start recharging the propulsion batteries. But like I say, I'm a dinghy sailor, so I'm only looking to use the engine for short periods of time. For example, I was about 60 miles west of the Farallones heading to Canada when I had a chainplate break in 35-knot winds and 12-foot seas. My electric motor provided me with the power I needed to head up into the wind to drop sail, turn around, and find a good point of sail under which I could make repairs. That was all the auxiliary power I needed."

At the end of our conversation, Pitt allowed that he actually no longer owns 'his' boat.

"I couldn't afford a Classy Classified, so I took our in ad on craigslist that read, '$35,000 for a Siamese cat plus boat'. I got all kinds of response, including from Chuck and Debbie Whitt, a great couple from Washington who bought my boat. But, they want me to keep cruising her for another two years while I continue to bring restore her. They're not in a hurry because they have other boats.

"Chuck and Debbie are wonderful people. After Patricia there was phone service around Barra, but everybody's cell phone batteries were dead. So the Whitts loaned me their Honda generator, so I could take it around so everyone could charge up their phones."

Pitt is an expert fisherman. "I use 15 peso, one-liter bottles of tequila as bait. I wave them at every panga that goes by. Before long, I have dorado, lobster — whatever I want."

Apparently not everyone knows that it's against the law for foreigners to have any kind of shellfish in their possession — except on a plate in a restaurant.

Pitt also claims to be the 'greenest sailor'. "I only use five gallons of gas a week. And while I smoke a pack-and-a -half of cigarettes a day, I save half butts in my shirt pocket."

What would the world of cruising be without the Pitts of the world?

— latitude 38 11/15/2015

Cruise Notes:

Age remains just a number for Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins of the Mill Valley-based Wylie 39+ Flashgirl. Just months away from his 84th birthday, Commodore and his wife Nancy have set sail from French Polynesia for Hawaii and ultimately California. We hope Commodore and Nancy have an easier trip home than he and his crew did from New Zealand to French Polynesia.

"Banderas Bay is as good as any place we've been in all our travels," Fred Roswold of the Seattle-based Serendipity 43 Wings told Latitude in La Cruz last month. That's quite a statement, as Fred and partner Judy Jensen have spent the last 20 years cruising around the world. "Since we're staying at the Riviera Nayarit Marina, we now refer to ourselves as 'liveaboards' instead of cruisers," added Fred. "But we still take our boat out sailing."

"Apparently crooks have been installing Bluetooth chips in some ATMs in Mexico — mostly in Cancun and Cozumuel — along with a chip that captures ATM card info and keystrokes," reports Bill 'Cover Boy' Lily of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 47 Moontide. "The thieves come back later and download the information as soon as they get within Bluetooth range. It's a pretty safe way to steal once the chip is installed. Fortunately, there is a way to check for the danger before using an ATM. Go to for the procedure. It's pretty simple."

Judy Lang, Bill's much better half, reports that she and Bill departed the Puerto Chiapas Marina in November for El Salvador. Presumably this means Moontide's bee infestation either went away or was solved. Most recently they've been enjoying the company of the many cruisers at Hotel del Sol in El Salvador.

There are some advantages to a couple cruising on a really large sailboat. Lots of room is one of them, good boat speed is another. There are some downsides, too, such as having so much boat to maintain and clean, the greater expense, and as Tal Gutbir and Marina Janecek of the Vancouver-based Doug Peterson-designed Southern Ocean 80 modern schooner Ocean have discovered, finding a place to haul out.

"We sailed from Cabo to Vallarta last December to spend the winter there and to look for a yard that could haul our 80-ft, 10-ft deep, 130,000-lb boat," writes Tal. "We wanted to paint our deck with Awlgrip and apply new bottom paint — which would require sandblasting our steel keel and applying a barrier coat. The quotes we got were higher than we hoped, as they were in La Paz, so we figured we'd have to wait until we got back to California to get the work done. A month later friends sailing in the extreme northern part of the Sea of Cortez told us that the Rocky Point Boat Yard at Punta Penasco has a 150-ton Travelift, a machine shop, and painters. Yard manager Salvador Cabrales, who is fluent in English, made a good impression on us over the phone and gave us a good quote. He said we could even leave our boat there for hurricane season.

"When we told cruisers we were headed to Penasco, they wondered if we were crazy, given that we'd be taking a deep draft boat to an area where the tidal changes are extreme. But coming from an area where we have 15-ft tides all the time, it was not problem. We anchored in Refugio before crossing to Penasco, and constantly had whales around us. In addition, the scenery was amazing, with some of the most beautiful colors we've ever seen. Our boat with her 10-ft boat got into Penasco when it wasn't even high tide. Once there, we discovered they are building a cruise ship terminal as well as a new marina.

"As for the boat yard, we were very happy with the workmanship, and the face the yard is just 90 minutes from the U.S. border. While Rocky Point is quite a bit out of the way for most cruisers in Mexico, it is an option."

Following the Ha-Ha some boats head right back up to California, lots go up to La Paz, a few go over to Mazatlan, and a bunch go to Banderas Bay. Not Jim and Kent Milski of the Lake City, Colorado-based Schionning 49 Sea Level. The vets of four Ha-Ha's and a circumnavigation headed back up the Pacific Coast of Baja to Mag Bay, then did something we've always wanted to do — made their way 50 miles or so up the inland passage to the village of Mateo Lopez. Bob Hoyt, a longtime friend of the Ha-Ha who runs Mag Bay Outfitters, advised the Milskis that most days they shouldn't have any problem going over the bar and back into the Pacific. We'll have a full report with photos next month.

Despite the tragic passing of Philo Hayward a few months ago, we're happy to report that Philo's Music Studio and Bar in La Cruz, continues to rock on. The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca were there the second week in October, and it was like old home week.

The first people we met were lovebirds Christian Mancebo and his world traveled Czech fiancee Petra Švehlová. They were soon joined by the lovely Maria Joaquin Sierra, who for all intents and purposes was Philo's wife. It was reminicing time, for Christian, who is now harbormaster at the refurbished Marina Vallarta, was the harbormaster at the Riviera Nayarit Marina when it opened about eight years ago. And Maria worked for him.

"The first two boats in the marina were Ha-Ha boats," laughs Christian, "and they arrived a couple of days before the marina was even open. The first was a Hunter, while the second was Jim Taylor — who for many years ran the racing program at the St. Francis YC — with his Beneteau 473 Sooner Magic. Jim sailed that boat more than anybody I've ever seen. And even though she wasn't for sale, somebody bought her based solely on a photograph of her that appeared in Latitude."

Christian then reminded us that Philo, who at the time had only had had his music studio open in La Cruz for a short time, did everything he could to help the marina. "Philo pointed his wifi toward the marina, and he let cruisers use his bathrooms. We didn't have any when the marina opened."

The next person we saw was Jeff Wahl of the South Dokota-based Wellington 47 Island Mistress, which he and wife Judy have had in Mexico for probably 10 years. They've made several attempts to take off across the Pacific, but something always came up. The latest thing to come up? Jeff and Judy have fallen hard for a Deerfoot 60 in Southern California, and have made an offer on her. Judy wasn't at Philo's, as she was with Holly Scott in Tahiti on a women's offshore sailing program. As for Island Mistress, she's currently in a $250/month slip at the Chiapas Marina in southern Mexico.

Next up was our good multihull friend Arjan Bok of the San Francisco-based Schionning 43 cat Rot Kat. Having spent a few years with his boat in the Banderas Bay area, he moved her to La Paz for a few years. But now he's back on Banderas Bay.

"The water sure has been warm where we've been," said Arjan. "Mazatlan, Isabella, Punta Mita — it's been 87 degrees everywhere. It makes it hard to get out of the water."

Bok, who is big in plumbing in the City, expressed one complaint about 'commuter cruising'. "When I come back to the boat after a number of months away, nothing seems to work. Over the course of the couple of weeks I'm on the boat, I get it all fixed. But when I return in a few months, it's all stopped working again. It's use it or lose it."

Not everybody was arriving in Banderas Bay, as Rick and Karen Flucke of the Oxnard-based Catalina 42 Eyes of the World were just leaving. The couple had been up in the Sea of Cortez for awhile, but were heading down to Acapulco. Ask most cruisers what they think of Acapulco and they tend to frown. Not Rick and Karen. "We love Acapulco! It's one of the best places in all of Mexico. And you should see all the boats they have going around cleaning up the garbage in the beautiful bay."

The other place the couple really like is the Perlas Islands on the Pacific Coast of Panama — not to be confused with the beautiful San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side. "The Perlas are so beautiful and so uncrowded!" they say.

While most boats — including Proflgiate — had great post Ha-Ha spinnaker sailing from Cabo to Banderas Bay, it was a little trickier for boats making their way 135 miles north to La Paz.

"My boat and about 20 others snuck into La Paz on November 11, just before a Norther blasted the anchorage with up to 30-knot winds," reports Patsy Le Reina del Mar Verhoeven the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion. "The wind subsided a few days later and more Ha-Ha boats started to show up. The Sea is warm, the air is starting to cool, and old friends are getting reacquainted — all is great.

"There was another Norther before the big La Paz welcome party for Ha-Ha boats on the 19th," continues Patsy. "Over 200 people attended and had a great time. The Wanderer should have been there! Next up is the Club Cruceros Cruiser Thanksgiving.

Not one to let grass grow on Talion's bottom, shortly after Thanksgiving, Patsy will be headed to Banderas Bay for the Department of Tourism's Riviera Nayarit Sailors' Splash party on December 11 to welcome Ha-Ha boats and other cruisers with free shirts and other goodies. This is followed on the 13, 14 and 15th by the Banderas Bay Blast, which is three days of Ha-Ha style cruiser racing, and includes the annual opening of the ultra prestigious Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, and the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity. If Patsy does an 800-mile round-trip to be part of it all, you know it has to be good.

"During our passage in 45-knot winds to Richard's Bay, South Africa, we were engulfed by a 20-ft breaking wave that struck the port hull," report Mike and Deanna Ruel of the Delaware-based Manta 42 R Sea Kat. "What's that got to do with the accompanying photo? Our stove's exhaust vent is on the port side, so the wave forced as much as two gallons of sea water through the vent. It landed on the stove and flooded our propane gas line. After several hours of dissembly and extracting the sea water with Q-Tips and alcohol, the propane flowed freely once again. This was good, because we love hot meals!"

The area around Richard's Bay is known as the 'Wild Coast'. After back to back storms with winds to 50-knots struck the Tuzi Gazi Marina where R Sea Kat is currently berthed, Mike and Deanna can guess the reason for the nickname.

Cruising can be hard on couples, but Steve Felton and Nikki Bailey — 'Nikki and Wikki' — of the Tacoma-based Hylas 44 Penn Station have done great for the last year. Latitude readers might recall that they became a couple when then friend Nikki helped Steve deliver his boat from Tacoma to San Diego for the start of the 2015 Baja Ha-Ha. In a scene right out of a chick flick, they were about to go their seperate ways in San Diego when they both realized they loved each other. Having enjoyed many adventures across the Pacific, the young couple are now "at our new home in Auckland, New Zealand".

Well done!

T-Mobile device service works pretty well along Baja. The Wanderer and de Mallorca both have a low cost, non-contract T-Mobile plans that provide unlimited phone, data and text in Mexico and Canada, just like they were in the United States. The data is 2G, but it wasn't horribly slow in Turtle Bay, Santa Maria or Cabo San Lucas. And after leaving Cabo, we had data as much as 14 miles offshore. Some people report their phones have chirped — and messages have been received — as much as 40 miles offshore.

"I was very disappointed when I read the October issue Changes from the crew of the San Diego-based Sundeer 56 Tamarisk, as I feel the last thing that lifestyle cruisers need is to have reputable magazines such as Latitude 38 showcasing macho types with illegally obtained weapons on cruising boats." So writes Peter Nicolle of Malaysia.

"Not only were the weapons unnecessary, considering that there hasn't been a pirate versus yacht incident in the northwest Indian Ocean for years, and that yachts are now regularly transiting the Red Sea without incident. But it also gives officials in Third World countries reason to believe that cruising yachts are carrying guns. We cruisers already have enough problems with the belief that we are carrying drugs, illegal migrants, and prostitutes. Please think before you publish this kind of article."

We'll let each reader decide for themself if the Tamarisk crew was being macho or being prudent. If officials are causing cruisers problems because they believe cruisers are carrying weapons, drugs, illegal migrants and prostitutes, it's news to us, as we haven't heard one complaint to that effect. As for the assertion that private yachts are once again regularly transiting the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to get from Southeast Asia to the Med, it conflicts with all the reports we've heard. It's no longer Somali pirates that cruisers fear, but rather the chaos in Yemen and at various spots in the Red Sea. Everybody we know is going around via South Africa.

To the Wanderer's palette, there is nothing more nutritious and delicious for breakfast than uncooked oatmeal mixed with blueberries, yoghurt and ice cold almond milk. Yum oh yum. We also love this dish for a refreshing post spicy dinner dessert in the sweltering tropics, although we usually leave out the uncooked oats after dark. Either way it's a healthy dish, as blueberries are known for being an excellent anti-oxidant — and widely rumored to be an aphrodisiac for women. The dish is especially healthy if you use sugar-free yoghurt, which is widely available in Mexico but inexpicably hard to find in the States. Make sure you get the low calorie almond milk, which we've found all over Mexico and in the Caribbean.

The wild card, of course, are the blueberries, because we only like fresh blueberries. Experts say if you keep blueberries dry and refrigerated, they can last up to two weeks. We know for a fact that they can last even longer than that. We bought about a dozen cartons of blueberries at the San Diego Costco on October 24 as part of provisioning for the Ha-Ha. And the morning of November 16, meaning three weeks later, we had a big bowl of our favorite breakfast, and the blueberries were crisp and delicious.

"Patricia, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the western hemisphere, thankfully turned out to be a November non-event here in Banderas Bay, as we only had a bit of rain and some breeze," report Brad and Aline McDougall of the Edmonton, Alberta-based Hunter 49 Grinn II. "What we feel everyone should also know is that everyone on the staff at Paradise Marina, where we had our boat, did an outstanding job of making sure every last sailor and boat was taken care of. They did an excellent job of keeping us informed via the VHF, and alerted us to the fact that there was a mandatory evacuation of all boats in effect. Not only that, they provided all marina and hotel guests with safe shelter in a windowless building that had electricity, AC, and clean bathrooms. They fed us, too."

Paradise Marina Harbormaster Dick Markie was bubbling with good news in Novemver. First, prestigious Showboats magazine, which caters to the high-end yachting market, selected Paradise Marina at their 'Marina of the Month' in the entire world for the month of October. In addition, Markie reports that boats on A, B and C docks can now pump their sewage right from their berth, as these docks are now plumbed for it.

"We have a large pump that can pumps 55 gallons of poop a minute — almost as much as policiticans put out — directly into our resort's sewer system," said Markie. "The other docks will be getting that service next year. As if that wasn't enough, Dick, his brother Ed, and Ed's sons Will and Joe, won first day honors at the big marlin fishing tournament at P.V. "It was my biggest catch since my wife Gina," said Dick, "but not as hard to reel in."

"I have a home on Los Frailes Bay in the Sea of Cortez," writes Jeannette Johnson, "and we love to see the sailboats congregate here after the Baja Ha-Ha. The people are great and the boat lights are beautiful. But it's been brought to my attention by some long time sailors that some mariners forget to dump their waste in deep water, and leave it in our bay. We'd all appreciate it if everyone could keep it clean."

For those who have forgotten, international law says you have to be three miles offshore to pump poop overboard.

How it'w remained a secret for so long is a mystery to us, but there is a second fuel dock at Cabo San Lucas, one that charges 5% over normal Pemex prices to tie up instead of the extraordinariy high flat fuel dock fees at Marina Cabo San Lucas. The second fuel dock is on the port side as you enter the harbor, and doesn't have much of a dock. But if you have a long boat and don't need much fuel, it's a less expensive option. Why most local boats don't go there is curious.

Because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the French declared a state of emergency, during which warrantless searches and other usually illegal government activities will be allowed for a minimum of three months. The state of emergency was quickly extended to the Overseas Territories such as St. Martin, St. Barth, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Only days later five Syrians pretending to be Greeks with Greek passports were caught trying to get into St. Martin after a flight from Haiti.

Eric and Pam Sellix, two-time Ha-Ha vets with their Clatskanie, Oregon-based Seawind 1160 Pied-a-Mer III, have made it across to Australia. These great folks, who used to run three restaurants and are now 70, are currently doing the Down Under Rally. A Latitude salute to you both!

As of mid-November, the dollar to the peso exchange rate was a very favorable — for Americans — 16.77 to the dollar. Eighteen months ago, it just 12 pesos to the dollar. What that means is that you can get meals for a shockingly low amount of money. Or if you're having back trouble, you can have an appointment with Erik the chiropractor at Mega for just $20.

Missing the pictures? See the December 2015 eBook!


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