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December 2016

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With reports this month from Fleetwood on sailing to complete a circumnavigation; from Pelagic on Morocco and French Guiana; from Points Beyond on meeting the 'Outboard Whisperer'; from Morpheus on hilarious medical care while in Greece; and an extra-large helping of Cruise Notes.

Fleetwood — Naja 30
Jack van Ommen
ATW in Less Than 80 Years
(Gig Harbor, Washington)


It had been more than 6 1/2 years since the Wanderer had last seen Jack van Ommen, one of Latitude's sailing heroes. Why a hero? Because after being a reasonably affluent guy, van Ommen and his timber business went bankrupt when he was in his early 60s. When it was over, all he had to his name was a 30-ft kit boat on a trailer that he'd sailed in the Singlehanded TransPac many years before, an apartment he couldn't always make the rent on, and the promise of $1,450 a month in Social Security.

We're not sure what you've done in the last 11 years, but despite having fallen to dire financial circumstances, van Ommen has lived one of the richest lives of anyone we know. He's sailed over 50,000 miles, including doing a circumnavigation of Western Europe via the Danube River and spending a winter aboard in Vietnam, and in the process visited 53 countries. He's made deep friendships almost everywhere he's gone, and he's written a book, Soloman, about his adventures.

Jack's also been shipwrecked, having lost his original Fleetwood during a winter storm in the Balearic Islands of Spain. Although his boat would be smashed into thousands of pieces in a nautical cul de sac, van Ommen was able to step off the transom onto dry land with his computer and passport. No wonder he's a deeply religious man.

We caught up with always-cheerful Jack in San Diego just before the start of the Baja Ha-Ha, an event he would be sailing in the wake of because he is singlehanding. For a guy who will turn 80 in February, Jack appeared to be in excellent health, with unusual strength and flexibility for a man his age. Based on the fact that his twin brother looks much older and isn't in very good health, Jack believes that cruising is good for you.

For the last 16 years, Jack's goal has been to sail 'Around the World In Less than 80 Years'. He has until February 28 to cross an imaginary line between Trinidad and Miami to accomplish that goal. With time of the essence, we hope he chooses to head to Miami, as opposed to Trinidad, after passing through the Panama Canal. We don't wish a December-January passage across the boisterous Caribbean Sea on anyone.

Once Jack completes his 'Around the World In 80 Years', he plans to sail to Cartagena, which will be his base for land travels in South America.

Having cruised 50,000+ miles on a 30-ft boat that's been his only home for 11 years, we wondered if he'd ever dreamed about having a larger boat. We could tell he hadn't given it much thought, but eventually he allowed that having a trimaran might be nice.

"A trimaran would be faster, which would make it more fun to sail, and it would allow me to see more territory," Jack said. He also wouldn't object to having a boat with refrigeration "and a few more comforts" — although he no longer sees the need for them as he won't be crossing any more oceans.

"It's true that Romania is my second most favorite of all the places I've visited," says van Ommen. "I can't really describe it, but as I wrote in my book Soloman, Romania has a very unusual beauty. I loved it. Like everyone, I was warned about the gypsies, and there are gypsies there. Oddly enough, I found Romanians to be the most honest people I met."

With Romania a surprising number two, what country/place has been Jack's favorite?

"The Marquesas have been my absolute number one favorite," he says. "For a long time I thought it might have been my favorite place because it was my first landfall and I was a new and impressionable cruiser. But nothing in all my travels has challenged the Marquesas. It's so beautiful and peaceful there, and there are no high-rise hotels, no big cruise ships, and no powerboats. It's wonderful."

— latitude/rs 11/05/2016

Pelagic — Hallberg-Rassy 42
Michael and Amy Bradford Family
Heading Home After Europe
(Portland, Oregon)

The current plan for our family — which includes our children Zander, 13; Porter, 11; and Anakena, 6 ­— veterans of the 2014 Baja Ha-Ha, is to head back home to Portland. We have yet to decide if we will get home via the Marquesas and Tahiti, or by sailing/motoring up the Pacific Coast from Panama.

What we do know is that it's been an eventful two years, what with our passage down the coast of Central America, across the Atlantic to Ireland, down parts of Western Europe to North Africa, across the Atlantic to South America, and up to the Caribbean.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. When we last reported in to Latitude, it was last year and we were in Sanlúcar de Guadiana, Spain, where we had enrolled our kids in the local Spanish school. That was so many miles ago!

If you are an American and take your boat to a Schengen Area country — which is most of the European Union — you have to deal with the fact that you can't legally stay for more than 90 days in any 180-day period. We did what a lot of cruisers do, which is take the less law-abiding route by ignoring the 90-days-out-of-180 days limit.

We have heard of cruisers who were handed a fine on the 91st day of their stay in Schengen Area waters, but that's the exception. We spent most of our time in countries that are not noted for their strict adherence to laws, namely Portugal and Spain. So we felt fairly confident that we were safe.

There are other countries where we would not have been so cavalier in ignoring the law — such as Germany and France. That said, we weren’t so reckless that we stayed in any one place for the full 90 days.

We also checked into and out of Gibraltar and Morocco, which are not Schengen Area countries, several times. But we never stayed out the full 90 days as required. Immigration officials couild have calculated that we hadn't been compliant, but with so many in-and-out stamps, it would have been very time-consuming and difficult to do.

Anyway, after almost three months in Sanlucar on the Guadiana River, we took our tearful kids out of the local school and away from what could have been their lifelong friends. We needed to make some progress across the Atlantic before the hurricane season kept us in Europe for another six months.

Exiting the Guadiana River, we crossed to Morocco, where we did some inland travel. The medinas — meaning the old city centers ­— of Tangier, Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat were impressive. The medinas are a medieval labyrinth of passageways, some just large enough to walk through by turning sideways. Merchants lay out their wares in the passageways for shoppers to peruse.

Donkeys, bikers and moped riders seemed to move seamlessly in some pre-orchestrated flow. Why there aren’t more accidents amazes me. We wandered and often got lost. We sampled fantastic street food and experienced Morocco in the best way possible — by watching people go about their business in much the same way they have for a thousand years. The aromatic odor of spices and different herbs permeated the air, as did the smell of meat grilling and leather being tanned.

Traveling with our children opened many doors for us. The Moroccans love children, so we always felt safe. As soccer lovers, our children were always clad in different soccer jerseys, and we found that soccer is a natural ice-breaker. It is amazing how a soccer jersey can bridge gaps in language and culture. (Word of warning to the Barcelona diehards: most of Morocco prefers the Madrid team.)

All in all, we found Muslim Morocco to be safe for Americans to visit. The only threat we perceived to our lives was dodging the speeding mopeds driven by old ladies whose burkas left them with limited peripheral vision.

From Rabat, Morocco, we continined on to the Canary Islands and Cape Verdes before heading across the Atlantic in early May. During the Atlantic crossing we fished, were fascinated by the bioluminescence, gazed at the stars, and read and watched movies to pass the time. We had a successful 13-day crossing in which nothing broke, nobody got sick, and we even managed a little homeschooling.

We made landfall at Devil's Island in French Guiana. If you have seen the movie Papillon you know that French Guiana was a notorious colonial prison colony.

After anchoring, we went ashore to explore Les Îles du Salut, a group of three islands. We had a somber walk through the past, as we wandered around the crumbling remnants of prison buildings that in a previous century housed the worst of French society. The prison closed in the 1950s and the jungle has reclaimed the site. Vines, large trees and spiders the size of my fist have now taken residence in the ruins. It's an interesting place now, but the horrors that occurred on the island were not lost on us.

'Green Hell' is the name that was given to the colony by the inmates and guards because it rains hard each day and nothing ever dries. Mosquito-borne illnesses were rampant while it was operating as a penal colony, and 40% of the prisoners didn't survive the first two years of their sentences. Despite the dark history of these islands, we enjoyed a pristine palm-fringed white-sand beach and seeing numerous jungle animals — monkeys, macaws, agoutis, iguanas and colorful birds — that inhabit the island.

More next month.

— amy 10/15/2016

Editor's Note: It's interesting that the Bradford's say their "roughest leg" to date was "running in a northerly blow in the Sea of Cortez." They also mention that the steep, short-period waves they saw in the Sea of Cortez were "more terrifying" than anything they saw in the North Atlantic.

Points Beyond — Shannon 38
The Mullins Family
The Outboard Whisperer
(Newport Beach/Key West)

We were sailing from Bocas del Toro, Panama, east toward the San Blas Islands/Kuna Yala in order to meet up with some friends for a few weeks of buddyboating. On the way we stopped at the Rio Chagres, a magical place surrounded by jungle and terminating at the Gatun Dam, where the Panama Canal is located. You can actually walk to the canal and then over the bridge to the other side.

While in the Chagres, we pulled our sons around on an old boogie board with a nine-ft Boston Whaler. The dinghy was powered by our trusty 15-year-old Yamaha 15 two-stroke outboard. At some point the outboard lost power and basically quit. We suspected a blown head gasket, but didn’t have the time to work on it before leaving for the San Blas Islands the next day.

On arriving in the picturesque island group that is home to the Kuna indians, we pulled the motor off the dinghy. We then took it to shore, hung it from a palm tree, and delved deep into its innards. Despite reading and re-reading the outboard manuals and tea leaves, and replacing the head gasket, we were unable to fix it.

A few days later we were discussing our outboard woes with other sailors when we learned that the 'Outboard Whisperer' was anchored only a few hundred yards away. We called him on the VHF and set up an appointment for the next day. It turns out that the Outboard Whisperer is a retired nuclear engineer from South Africa who is cruising on the sailboat Gilana.

The next morning we took the dinghy and chugged over to check out the mysterious Outboard Whisperer. We watched this new shaman with curiosity as he unscrewed the spark plugs, put his finger over the holes, and pulled the flywheel cord. He then took out a screwdriver and placed it on the motor. He turned his head and placed his ear on the handle end of the screwdriver, and listened as he pulled the starting cord a few more times. He was sort of like a nautical version of a doctor with a stethoscope.

When the outboard oracle finally spoke, he informed us that the rings and wrist bearing on the top cylinder were worn out, that the top bearing on the crankshaft was shot, and possibly the lower bearing, too.

It quickly became clear to us that on the competence scale of fixing boat stuff, the Outboard Whisperer was several rungs above and up in the clouds with the other boat deities. Despite a thorough review of the Yamaha manuals, we found nothing pertaining to listening to the motor with a screwdriver! Yet a later disassembly of the motor proved the Outboard Whisperer had been correct.

On the advice of the Outboard Whisperer, we parted out the motor instead of fixing it, then bought a new Yamaha 15 with the name 'Enduro' written on the cover. Our new outboard is thus named Endura.

[Editor's note: The Enduro is the 'commercial' as opposed to 'leisure' version of the Yamaha 15. The former costs about 10% more. Some think the 'leisure' is actually the better engine.]

We are now in search of the elusive Perkins Whisperer, no doubt to be found playing cards somewhere with the Yanmar Whisperer.

We have since returned to our boat's Key West home base, where we discovered a less expensive 'outboard' at ACE Hardware. They have a variety of models, both gas and electric, although the electric models require that you be plugged into an electrical outlet, something not practical unless you have an unusually long extension cord.

Yes, some cruisers/anchor-outs actually use Weed Whackers as outboards. They don't have much thrust and they're not very fast, but cruisers in the Conch Republic go their own way.

— devon 10/15/2016

Morpheus — Schumacher 50
Deborah and Jim Gregory
Medical Adventure in Greece
(Point Richmond)

Our friends the Tyes arrived here in Lefkas, Greece, at about 3 p.m., so we went for a walk in town to get lunch and so I could find a medical clinic or pharmacy for help with what I thought was an allergic reaction to a scratch on my knee. My leg wasn't looking too good and I wanted to be safe rather than sorry.

The day before was a religious holiday in Greece, which for some reason is why all the businesses — including pharmacies and medical clinics — were closed today. The guy at the taverna said we should go to the police station to find out what was open. The policeman, who spoke good English, said only one pharmacy was open, but that even those that were closed would have a signs indicating which alternative pharmacy was open.

We soon discovered which pharmacy was open, but the policeman who accompanied us to the closed pharmacy with the sign didn't know how to get to the open one. He asked directions at a coffee shop next door, and suddenly there were lots of Greek men talking and waving hands. That's when we were adopted by Gustov. He claimed to be 5'1", but looked like a 60-year-old bowling ball.

"Me dentist," he said. Then he looked at my knee and said, "Hospital, I drive."

We piled into his tiny car, at which point he told us he has two akitas. Based on the amount of dog hair in the car, they must be bald by now. The policeman waved goodbye as we drove away in a cloud of dog hair.

Five blocks later, Gustov waved at the guards while driving into the ambulance entrance for the hospital. He left his car right in front. “Follow me," he said. We were busting up laughing, but we followed.

Gustov sat us down in the waiting room of this sketchy hospital, and started to charm all the nurses and lady doctors in the room. Every time I looked confused, he waved his hands in a conciliatory fashion, tapped his teeth, and said, “Me dentist, shhhhh.”

In about five minutes Gustov and I got seen by a very nice young female doctor. "Nope," she said, "it isn't an allergic reaction, it's an infection."

Two minutes later blood was being drawn. When I looked down at my arm after — because I close my eyes when I get blood drawn — I saw that the doctor has installed an IV port in my arm! WTF!?

“Me dentist, shhhh," said Gustov.

Another doctor, an orthopedist (bone doctor), came in. He was in the ER because every other patient in the ER had wiped out on his or her moped. By the way, I learned that it's always the girl on the back who eats it the worst. The doctor was worried about the infections in my knee, but was eventually convinced it wasn't too big a problem.

Gustov looked at me, and between his 20 words of English, his Italian (he went to dental school in Italy), and my brain finally starting to be able to understand some of the Greek (it's most like Latin and therefore Spanish), he told me to watch his keys. Gustov had a lot of keys because he owns 10 apartments by the sea. He wanted me to hold his keys because he had to drive my blood to the lab to get the tests done. Wave, wave. “Me dentist, shhhh," he said.

Since I didn't know my future, I told friends Mike and Paula to go get lunch. After they left, Gustov came back and let me know that the blood tests would be done in an hour. He figured out that Mike and Paula were at a taverna, so we left the hospital. “Come!” he said. I still had the IV port in my arm.

He and I piled into his Mario Brothers car and drove around looking for the taverna Mike and Paula were at. We Mario Car drove past his office. We Mario Car drove past his friend at the car rental place, who checked the Internet for directions to the cafe. We Mario Car drove past another friend who knew where this cafe was. We finally ended up at the cafe.

Gustov did all this while yelling past me and through the open passenger- side car window and into the streetfront shops of friends. Gustov dropped me at the plaza with Mike and Paula, and told me to meet him at 6 p.m. at the end of the road at the “poste”. He'd then drive me three blocks back to the hospital. I had no clue what a poste is, but I agreed.

Mike, Paula and I had a beer and couldn't stop laughing about it all. Half an hour later I went to meet Gustov at what I guessed was either a pastry shop or a post office. Turns out it was the port. But I couldn't find Gustov. So I turned around, met Mike and Paula, and we all walked three blocks back to the hospital.

Once inside, I tried to tell the nurse I was back, but she copped a total attitude and told me to wait. Suddenly Gustov appeared behind me, scolded me for not being at the poste, and ran off to collect my lab results. Five minutes later I was back in a room with Gustov, the lab results, the nice lady doctor, and the Chief of Staff.

Yes, I had an infection. I could either spend the night at the hospital on IV antibiotics or I could take oral antibiotics and come back in two days if my knee didn't look better. I took the pill option, got the IV port pulled out, and gave them my name and phone number for billing.

Gustov piled all of us back into his tiny car and drove us to the one-and-only open pharmacy — where the pharmacist was the daughter of a girl he used to go to school with — to get my antibiotics. Then we went to the butcher where they make really good salami, because by this time Gustov had figured out that Mike makes sausages for a living. (Try having that conversation in Greekitalianenglishlatinspanish. Thank God for Google Translate.)

Gustov drove us back to the boat, where I gave him a boat tour and we had cocktails, Fanta, and the salami. We talked in Greekitalianenglishlatinspanish for about an hour, then he left us — after making me promise to come to his office when it was time to take the bandage off.

So with Gustov’s help, we managed to negotiate the Greek health-care system in maybe three hours total, including an hour at the taverna and finding the open pharmacy. Without his help I’m sure it would have taken all day. It was 22 euros — about $25 — for the antibiotics, which I figure would have been $100 in the U.S. I’ll go back later and settle up my bill at the hospital.

Did I mention that Gustov drives like one of the Mario brothers? I just can’t make all this up.

Bottom line: I’m fine, the boat is great, and always have good friends with you when you’re on an adventure.

Oh yeah, not long after that Jim ended up in jail.

We were hunkered down in northernmost Greece, waiting for some weather to blow through. What does Jim do when there’s 20 knots of wind in the bay? Jim goes kiting off the back of the boat.

The next thing we knew, Jim was in jail. Morpheus had been anchored way in the back of the mooring field. No boat behind us. Yet we were still a mile away from the shipping channel. Jim got up and went kiting for about five minutes, at which time the Coast Guard boat swooped down on him with sirens wailing and two very pissed-off Coasties telling Jim to let go of the kite and get into their boat.

Jim was right behind Morpheus when this all took place. Jim talked them into letting him hook the kite to the boat, and grab his papers and shoes before getting into the Coast Guard boat. But suddenly he was gone!

Now what? I’m alone, anchored off on the boat, and they have taken Jim to God-knows-where. I watched the Coastie boat to make sure I knew which marina they were taking my husand to. Then I cleaned up all the lines and kite gear, grabbed the phones, wallets, and a book, and took off in the dinghy to try to find Jim. I figured it could take all night.

As I was tying up the dinghy to the docks, I looked down the pier and saw Jim headed toward me. He’d already gotten himself out of jail. The Coast Guard said they had received at least 10 calls from boats in the anchorage about Jim kiting. Apparently you are not allowed to kiteboard in the anchorage or in the shipping lane. Jim explained that he wasn’t in the anchorage, and he didn’t cross into the shipping lane. It made no difference.

As it turned out, the Coasties were very nice. When Jim walked into the office all wet, the guys in the office just laughed. They explained that there was no kiting allowed anywhere in the area. and let him go.

The anchorage will be a lot emptier once we figure out who made those calls.
We've recently been sailing among several of the Ionian Islands. They are beautiful, and seem to have too many anchorages to count. It’s really difficult to believe that we will be leaving them in just about a week. We've loved Greece.

We have been enjoying our reunion with Paul and Amanda Mitchell, whom we first met in Fiji in 2002. They live in New Zealand, and we’ve spent time with them there as well as here in Greece last year. We always have a great time together. This cruising world is a small one!

This piece is a little dated, and we've been to Barcelona and are now headed to the Canary Islands. Jim helped sail a Swan 66 from the East Coast to the Caribbean. We'll cross the Atlantic this winter and expect to spend several more winters in the Caribbean.

— deborah 9/15/2016

Cruise Notes:

It doesn't matter if California sailors are on the West Coast or the East Coast, when November rolls around many of them want to be getting their bottoms down to the warnth of the tropics. We know of three California-based crews who sailed from the Virginia area to the British Virgins in early November as part of the Salty Dawg Rally.

"We made the passage from Norfolk to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgins in nine days, which is what we expected," report Jim Fair and Linda Powers of the Berkeley-based Outbound 46 Chesapeake. "We didn't have any really bad weather, but boy, does the East Coast and the Atlantic have weather! Those of us from California and/or who are familiar with tradewind sailing are sure spoiled because we pretty much know what we're going to get. Along the East Coast and in the Atlantic, you get everything. But we're now sitting at the Bitter End YC at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgins, where the water and scenery are beautiful."

Mind you, Jim and Linda are not whiny cruisers, as they've sailed most of the way around the world in the last eight or so years.

Another West Coast couple who sailed from Virginia to the BVIs are Eric Witte and Annie Gardner of the San Diego-based Catana 47 El Gato.

"We and our two crew had to use the iron genny for the first three days, but we then sailed for five more days before landing in the British Virgins," reports Annie. In the weeks prior to taking off, Annie and Eric had a number of improvements made to their cat — new freezer, oven, props, awnings, outside cushions and more — in anticipation of welcoming charter guests in the Caribbean this winter. Anyone who wants to sail with the navigator of a winning America's Cup boat — that would be Annie —should make a charter reservation with the fun-loving couple.

Last but not least, there is Bill Lilly of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 47 Moontide, who sailed with an all-women crew.

"I take women crew to try to make up for all the years that women were unjustly denied crew opportunities because of their gender," explains Bill. Light wind meant Bill and his female crew had to motor a lot in the beginning of what would be an eight-day, one-hour trip to the tropics, after which time they had three great days of sailing. Meredith Sullivan set a Moontide record by sending the cat down a steep wave at 18 knots.

Can you name the three things that make a passage from the East Coast of the United States to the tropics so much more difficult than from California to tropical Mexico? 1) It's twice as long, 1,500 miles versus 750 miles. 2) As Jim Fair notes, you can get any kind of weather on the way to the Caribbean, including winter storms and hurricanes. From San Diego to Cabo, you know the wind is going to be from the northwest. 3) There are lots of places to hide out from the weather on the Pacific Coast of Baja, while there are none — other than Bermuda — between the East Coast and the Caribbean. Yes, we cruisers on the West Coast have it easy when it comes to getting to the tropics.

For most sailors a 17- to 20-day passage is a long one. But not if you're Jeff Hartjoy of the Longbranch, Washington-based Baba 40 Sailors Run. You'll remember that last year the 70-year-old Jeff and his boat, both veterans of several Ha-Ha's, completed a spectacular 167-day nonstop solo circumnavigation. Jim's current adventure is somewhat less ambitious. It's to sail from Bahia, Ecuador — where he started his solo circumnavigation — to Barra de Navidad, Mexico. To spice things up, Jeff will be racing against David, last name unknown, aboard his Bristol 40 Eva Marie.

Don't let the seasons fool you. A lot of participants in the Ha-Ha were struck by the unique beauty of Bahia Santa Maria, the second stop on the way to Cabo. The combination of the mountains, the mangroves, the endless beach, the sand dunes, and Mag Bay in the distance are a terrific combination. Particularly since there are no businesses and only a few fishermen who live there.

Alas, it's not always like that. As beautiful as BSM is right after the end of hurricane season in early November, the beautiful weather just doesn't last. By mid-December the water temperature drops significantly, and stays cooler until the following summer. Even worse, come February through May, when most cruisers are Bashing back to California, the very light winds of November are frequently replaced by cold, howling winds. Yes, BSM still a great place to duck in when the weather is nasty in the spring, but it's not the same gentle venue it is in November. You've been warned.

"It's really tough." That's how Barry Stompe dscribes what it's like to be home after cruising Mexico, French Polynesia and the Pacific Northwest for two years with his wife Sylvia aboard their Sausalito-based Hughes 48 ketch Iolani.

"Seeing family and friends is great, of course, but everything else is is difficult. Getting various licenses and kinds of insurance — health, workman's comp, and all the other stuff — is particularly hard. For example, we couldn't find any doctors to take the kind of insurance that we're eligible for. And our old doctor now charges a base fee of $1,800/year just to be one of his patients. That means it would be cheaper for me to fly to Puerto Vallarta, see a dermatologist, and fly home, than to see a dermatologiest here in the Bay Area."

Speaking of dermatologists in Puerto Vallarta, there's one who is a huge favorite with cruisers. At least, male cruisers.

"She's absolutely gorgeous," said one cruiser who can't be named without possible damage to his marital status. "When she says 'strip', I can't get my pants off fast enough," he jokes. "And as I get older, I'm finding more things than ever for her to examine."

"Tomorrow, we set sail for New Caledonia after 48 hours of rain and descending volcanic ash," report Mark and Deanna Roozendaal of the Vancouver, B.C.-based Manta 42 catamaran Speakeasy. "But our frustrations are insignificant. For ashore, more than 100 villagers live in homes made entirely of woven palm fronds. Almost none of them have electricity or running water. Ash and insects cover almost every surface. Oddly enough, there is beauty and happiness here. Dirt yards are raked, papayas and mangos drip from trees, vivid flowers bloom, smiling children play, and large families spend time together. They welcomed us and served us a meal. I reciprocated with food, clothes and toiletries. And now I'm wondering, am I the one who has ... or has not?"

Fishing tips for cruisers.

"Check out the accompanying photo of one of the fish we got while sailing down the coast of Baja last fall," suggest Dan Chua and Kristy Finstad of the Ventura-based Maxim 38-ft cat Te Poerava. "It's a 50-lb yellowtail jack we speared while free-diving at the San Benitos Islands near Cedros. We also got a big wahoo near Asuncion and a nice wahoo outside Mag Bay.

"Our fishing tips for cruisers? 1) Use Skabenga lures. The minions and blackbeard lures catch lots of fish. 2) Use cable for leaders if there are lots of wahoo around. Wahoo have sharp teeth that cut line. 3) Add teasers to attract fish. 4) Use trolling reels to make sure you land the fish. 5) The more lures you put out, the more fish you'll catch. 6) Sail over the top of seamounts, high spots and dropoffs. 7) Free-diving is a great way to catch more fish. We're headed down Baja right now, surfing our brains out in the great swell. When the swell drops, we fish and dive!"

Kristy Finstad is the daughter of Bill Finstad, who was one of the first scuba instructors back in 1972, and who had a dive shop and an adventure-travel dive business right next to O'Neill's in the harbor in Santa Cruz. While Bill has retired, members of the Finstad and Chua families continue to run the local and worldwide dive charter business.

If the Skabenga name sounds familiar, it's the name of the St. Francis 44 that Bruce Harbour of Montana sailed in the 2013 Baja Ha-Ha. He makes the Skabenga lures, and has been in the South Pacific killing fish for the last several years.

"We departed Savusavu, Fiji at 5:20 a.m. in rain and SSE winds of 20 to 25 knots," report Scott Stolnitz and Nikki Woodrow of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House. "The first few hours weren't much fun, but after that we re-entered the large reef system at Nasonisoni Pass on the south side of Vanua Levu, where we had nice winds in lovely flat water. We later exited the system and crossed the channel to the reef entrance at Viti Levu, the largest and main island of Fiji, and where five years ago Beach House's port daggerboard hit an uncharted part of the reef. The chart said it was 120 feet deep. I think they meant 120 centimeters!

"Speaking of hitting reefs," continues Stolnitz, "we met a young Canadian couple yesterday who hit the corner of the reef at Laucala Island with their Leopard 45 catamaran, separating both 'keels' from the hull. This cracked the fiberglass and created leaks in both hulls. They have two small children aboard, so it was lucky that they hit the reef at low tide and were able to float off at high tide. For some reason the insurance company decided to declare their cat a total loss. Someone is going to get a very good deal, as in my view the boat can be repaired pretty inexpensively. There is no panic about hauling the boat out either."

(Editor's note: Leopard catamarans are primarily built for the charter trade in the British Virgin Islands, where incompetent charterers frequently drive them over reefs. As such, the Leopards are designed to have breakaway keels. During a haulout of the Wanderer's Leopard 45 'ti Profligate at Soper's Hole in the British Virgins two years ago, the yard owner told him that they replace Leopard catamaran keels without even taking the boat out of the water!)

"Today’s voyage was through a great deal of reef systems," Stolnitz said wrapping up his report, "and we crossed the infamous 'Bligh Water', where Captain Bligh kept going, not allowing his men ashore after the famous Bounty Mutiny. Bligh was terrified of cannibalism — the consumption of 'long pig' — which was common at the time. The last Fijian cannibal died after World War II."

Not all Americans are thrilled that Donald J. Trump is the President Elect, but their American dollars have been buoyant. The Mexican peso tumbled to as low as 20.7 to the dollar, which is great for cruisers. But it brings us no joy to see how the drop is making it ever more difficult for the average Mexican to afford even the basics of life. If you've ever spent time in Mexico, you know how very much harder the average Mexican has to work to get by than does the average American. No wonder so many Mexicans want to come to the States.

Trump's victory has also hit the euro hard, as it dropped nearly 3% in the days following his surprising triumph.

It didn't even take a week.

"The report from the November 7 Chubasco Net is that the waves and rocks have destroyed the remains of the San Diego-based Newport 41 Summerwind that went aground a few miles north of Turtle Bay during the recently completed Ha-Ha," report Don and Anne Taber of the Santa Cruz-based Marbles 44 trimaran Redwood Coast II. "According to the report, you can no longer even find any remains of the boat."

(The owner of Summerwind has a letter in this month's Latitude describing what happened to the Ha-Ha entry, only the second boat out of more than 2,500 entries that has been lost in a Ha-Ha. The other was a J/120 that sank after being hit by a whale. No sailors were hurt in either loss.)

In the last couple of issues, Latitude has had complimentary things to say about cruising trimarans, and the Tabers' boat is one of the reasons.

"We are the longtime owners/builders of Redwood Coast II, and some Latitude readers may remember us from an article in October 2010 following our circumnavigation," writes Don. "We're out for another cruise, but not for another loop. We'll see how it goes, but will start by heading farther south from Turtle Bay, which is where we are now. By the way, the Kettenburg 50 Cut to Heal from Ventura, a Ha-Ha entry that had trouble with her mainsail and engine, is still here waiting for crew to take her back to Ventura. The problem with her engine was gunk in the fuel tank."

An inoperable engine caused by sludge in the fuel tank is one of the morecommon problems that afflict cruising boats that haven't been in rough water for a couple of years. Bacteria grow in the fuel, lining the tank and lines with sludge. Some of it is microbes, which cause and accelerate fuel degradation, but most of the sludge comes from fuel components that have formed solids. It's lack of use, not overuse, that disables and destroys sailboat diesels.

We'd like to give a shout-out to Brian Timpe of Seattle for completing his Schionning 36 catamaran Epic, sailing her from Newport, Oregon, to San Diego by himself, and with his wife Sheri and crew Tanner, sailing both legs of this year's Baja Ha-Ha. Building any boat over 20 feet is a monumental task for one person, and it took Brian more than six years. But Epic is a good-looking and good-sailing boat, which increases the odds that his and Sheri's deciding to sell their house, cars — everything! — was a good idea.

It's a royal flush! A year ago the Wanderer bought two Raritan electric heads for Profligate. As things happen, the second one was only installed the morning of the start of last year's Ha-Ha. And ever since, it's only been able to flush No. 1, not No. 2. The other head has been fine.

Because there are three other heads on Profligate, no serious attempt was made to repair the faulty one until just before this year's Ha-Ha. A Raritan tech decided the problem had to be one of three things: 1) A 24-volt pump had been mistakenly put into the head instead of a 12-volt pump. 2) A full 12 volts wasn't getting to the pump. Or 3) Something was clogging the toilet.

It turned out to be none of them. It was discovered that the exhaust hose was crushed, looking as if somebody had sucked on it like a straw. This made no sense, because stuff gets pumped out, not sucked out. But it was crushed. The Wanderer squeezed the hose back into the authorized shape, and voilà! it's worked perfectly ever since. We have become big fans of electric heads.

Of the 148 skippers in this year's Baja Ha-Ha, Dennis Thompson of the Seattle-based Pearson 40 Dream Catcher was one of the few who sailed all three legs — even though the third leg sailing was canceled because of a lack of wind. Thompson was also unusual in that he has one of the more distant ultimate destinations — Norway. We thought only John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal of the Friday Harbor-based Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare III wanted to sail to 'the land of the midnight sun'. But Thompson, a delivery skipper, wants to sail to Norway because he has family there.

Thompson actually didn't want to sail all three legs, but he had to because of problems with his fuel system. Indeed, his boat had been bedeviled by fuel problems ever since he left Seattle. Didn't we just mention something about fuel problems?

"Can you publish Cabo ship agent Victor Barreda's contact information again?" asks Michael Balfany. "The boat I recently purchased had a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) obtained by Victor, and I need to get it canceled. I know, I know, please don't lecture me as I should have known better, thanks to the advice in fantastic Latitude, than to have bought a boat that already has a TIP. But my new-to-me boat is hobbled until I can get the TIP cancelled."

Michael and everyone else who needs TIP help can look up Victor Barreda, ship's agent, Cabo San Lucas, on Google. He can be reached at: . The Wanderer saw Victor not an hour before he wrote this item, and Barreda said that he'd checked about 90 of the 148 Ha-Ha boats into Mexico this year.

Just to keep things confusing, Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz wrote Latitude to say there is actually nothing in Mexican law that says a boat can't have two TIPs. Shroyer is one of the few people in Mexico who has the patience to actually read Mexican law. We haven't asked him, but we're pretty sure Neil would tell you that no matter what the law says, it's best to do what officials and most marinas demand — which is that there only be one TIP per boat, and that it be in the name of the current owner.

While a lot of Ha-Ha entrants had no trouble getting a new TIP online, others had difficulty. Which makes it so exasperating that there was no mention in the Mexican government's Boater's Welcome to Mexico Guide that all anyone had to do to get a TIP was go to the Banjercito just across the border from Otay Mesa, a half hour from San Diego. One Ha-Ha entrant did this the Friday before the start of the Ha-Ha and said he was in and out in 15 minutes.

Saving perhaps the best for last, we can announce that ‘Home is the Sailor’. Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins of Mill Valley made an October doublehanded passage, with his old friend and protégé Robert Flowerman, from Hawaii to San Francisco with his Wylie 39+ Flashgirl. Two other expected crew for the late-season trip weren’t able to make it. Readers may remember that Flashgirl was struck by lightning while on a mooring off Kaneohe this summer, and still suffers greatly from electrical and mechanical problems.

Did we mention that Commodore will turn 85 on February 26?

The passage took 21.5 days, the second slowest of Commodore's 20+ trips from Hawaii to California. The big problem was the unusual wind direction and fluctuations in the wind. It was part of the same chaotic North Pacific weather situation that turned back Jeanne Socrates when she attempted to start her most recent solo around-the-world trip with Nereida, and the same weather that brought endless southerly winds to Ha-Ha boats trying to make it down the coast to San Diego from the Pacific Northwest. Normally Commodore goes up to 40 or even 42N to get over the top of the Pacific High, but this time he never got farther north than 38. And in so doing, he and Robert had lots of 'strange winds'.

“We had lots of sailing in 25 to 30 knots, which meant a triple-reefed main or even a staysail, and at times just the staysail," says Commodore. "Pretty dull sailing with so little sail up. We did have to heave to one night when it was blowing 30 knots and waves were crashing on the deck. I was surprised at how well such a light and narrow boat as Flashgirl hove to. Robert and I slept like babies.”

Commodore says it wasn’t the worst weather he’s had coming back from Hawaii, but it was unusual weather for the passage. For example, they had 36 hours of complete calm in ‘gale alley’ just off the coast of California. And when they finally made landfall at Pt. Reyes, they had to beat upwind to get south to San Francisco.

The one aspect of the trip that made Commodore particularly happy is his new set of sails. They were made in New Zealand, but using US-made Contender hybrid cloth. “They were excellent, which was important as we had no engine.

“The sailing part of the trip was easy,” contends Commodore. “All the sailing parts of the boat worked just fine. It was the other stuff — the engine, the autopilot, the refrigeration, the electrical — that caused us such grief.”

So what’s next on the plate for the soon-to-be 85-year-old Commodore? “I need work,” he says. “You know of anybody who needs professional sailing services?”

Good ol’ Commodore. They smashed the mold for him into a million pieces.

Missing the pictures? See the December 2016 eBook!


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