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  Pacific Puddle Jump 2004 - Part 2  

As you read these words, most of the folks who are profiled on these pages are in mid-ocean, riding the trade winds westward on the 2,800-mile passage from Mexico to the Marquesas. After months of preparation and years of dreaming, they have finally embarked on what will certainly be one of the greatest adventures of their lives.

Not only does this route take them across the largest patch of open water that they are ever likely to face as they voyage around the planet, but completing this passage will give them entrée into a very special fraternity of sailors. By 'jumping the puddle,' as we like to call it, they are following in the wake of generations of bold adventurers who have used this springtime weather window to enter the vast reaches of the South Pacific, while freeing themselves from the mind-numbing constraints of mainstream society.

As we mentioned last month in our first installment of Puddle Jumper profiles, we met most of these folks at Puerto Vallarta in late February, during a party held in their honor which was cosponsored by Marina Paradise Village, the Vallarta Yacht Club and Latitude 38. Meanwhile, others - who are also profiled here - were staging for departure at Zihuatanejo and elsewhere. We got to know them through the magic of email.

So here they are, the Pacific Puddle Jump Class of 2004. We wish them all smooth sailing and adventures that far exceed their expectations.

Whisper - Hallberg-Rassy 42
Robin & Duncan Owen
San Francisco, CA

Robin and Duncan, who bailed out of the high tech rat race in the spring of '02, have particularly enjoyed inland touring during their stay in Mexico. Having explored Copper Canyon and a number of colonial cities inland, they say, "We're learning that cruising is more than just potlucks and dinghy raft-ups." Perhaps because they were too nice to say "No!!!" this couple was shanghaied into being the 2004 fleet's head honchos.

Duncan claims he first started dreaming about exploring the world under sail while poking around Lake Michigan as a kid on his Sunfish. Many years later, he had little trouble enlisting Robin into his fantasies. Their game plan is to island-hop to New Zealand by November of this year. Eventually they'll have to get back to work, but they probably won't try to replicate their former workaday lifestyles. "The most liberating thing was selling all the stuff and realizing we really didn't need most of it," says Robin. "That opened up the possibility for earning less money and needing less."

Vinden - Storebro 33
Mark & Mary Lynn Vore
Sequim, WA

Mark and Mary Lynn's introduction to the sailing life is unusual, but we've heard similar tales before. During a land-based vacation nine years ago, they were sitting on a beach in Belize when they watched with wonder as several cruising yachts sailed in. They thought, "Hmmm, if we took the money we would normally spend on a couple of these exotic vacations, we could have a cruising boat of our own."

Shortly after returning home, they took sailing lessons on an Idaho lake and bought a 21-footer. Then, after opting for early retirement in 2002, they set sail from Washington on this open-ended cruise. Sometimes they have to pinch themselves to make sure their new lifestyle is real. Having worked as a firefighter in northern Idaho, Mark says, "Years ago, we never would have imagined we'd be living this lifestyle in the tropics."

Their cruising plans are flexible, but they definitely hope to make landfall in the Cook Islands, as they spent their honeymoon there back when they were lubbers.

Emerald - Royal Passport 47
Rick & Corbie Von Stein,
Morro Bay, CA

Among cruisers, Rick has a reputation for being a bit of a joker. When we asked him what had inspired him to make this voyage he grinned and said, "I'd like to model my trip after The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst!" (If you've read it you'll know why that inspired Corbie to elbow him in the ribs.)

Although Rick has made several crossings to Hawaii, Corbie always had to stay home with the kids. And, although she would fly in afterwards to enjoy the islands, she says, "I never felt like I'd earned the trip. But this time I will have earned the reward."

Emerald is fully outfitted for scuba diving, and this couple intends to make good use of their gear, first in the Marquesas and Tuamotus. In the past they've flown out to do short liveaboard dive trips, but this time they'll be on their own timetable. This season they intend to reach Fiji and spend a full year there - again, with mucho diving in mind.

To future cruisers back home, they offer this thought: "Your shore ego will unavoidably dissolve into an amorphous cloud of unknowing and, for a time, you will no longer know yourself as you did. That's a good thing, for you will be reborn to the sea."

Tackless II - CSY 44
Gwen Hamlin & Don Wilson
St. Thomas, USVI

"We're a bit different," says Gwen. "We came to Mexico from the Caribbean - on our way to the South Pacific." That's a substantial diversion, especially the way this pair did it. Influenced by cruisers they met along the way, they sailed south to Ecuador after transiting the Canal, then out to the Galapagos, up to Cocos Island (off Costa Rica), back to Panama again and finally up to the Sea of Cortez. "It seemed like every time we'd meet some new cruisers it would set us back another year," laughs Don. But Gwen counters, "The diversions we've taken from our original plan have been the best parts of our trip."

They have loved their time in Mexico, "particularly the two summers in the Sea of Cortez." But now they're anxious to move on to new landfalls - especially those renowned for excellent diving. Gwen, a dive instructor by trade, and Don both love the undersea world, and their boat is appropriately equipped with a compressor and all the requisite paraphernalia.

Their advice, after five years of cruising? Don: "Once you decide you're gonna go, everything else usually works out." Gwen: "Going light is okay, but if you want to make cruising a lifestyle, then make your boat comfortable. You're likely to stay out longer."

Spiritus Invictus - Westsail 32
Sven Sampson, San Francisco, CA

For the past six months Sven has been singlehanding his bulletproof 32-footer. And so far he loves it. What has he done to prepare for the solo run across the Pacific? "Basically, you've got to be really paranoid. I think I've got doubles and triples for every single system on the boat - backups for backups of everything."

A jovial guy who seems to enjoy meeting new people, Sven says, "I'm not opposed to taking crew; with the right person it would be fun. But it's rare that you find people who you want to spend that much time with in close proximity. When you're on a boat you either develop a very tight bond very quickly or, if you don't, it's gonna be hell."

His major motivation for heading west is that he's had a longtime desire to see New Zealand, and this way he gets to take his 'house' with him. Sven has a unique entrepreneurial fantasy: "I've thought seriously about opening a vineyard there and making champagne." Apparently an optimist, it's no wonder he offers this thought to the wannabes back home: "Nike got it right, 'Just do it!' You'll thank yourself until the day you die."

Dreamcatcher - Cal 46
Henry Mellegers & Glenys Taylor
San Francisco, CA

Although Glenys' sailing experience has been mostly in Asian waters and Henry's has been mostly in the Bay Area, when they got together three years ago they found that they both had similar, long-held cruising dreams.

"Cruising is a whole change of attitude," says Henry. "I'm finally learning how to relax, slow down and not try to do ten things at once. It's a wonderful feeling you get being on the water, around boats and trying to fulfill your dreams."

Glenys, who originally hails from Australia, looks forward to rediscovering her homeland's magic while showing Henry the sights. But first, they intend to spend a good while enjoying the Marquesas and the Tuamotus. "We had to jump through incredible hoops to secure a year visa," explains Henry. Most cruisers are limited to three months which, they say, is not nearly enough. Since both Glenys and Henry had long careers as "technology brats," dozens of friends at Hewlett-Packard, Agilent and Oracle are living vicariously through frequent postings on the couple's website.

Island Sonata - Lagoon 38
MJ & John Shetron, The Grenadines

"Even though I grew up in Kansas, I've always loved the ocean," says John. "Me too," adds MJ, who grew up in South Carolina. "I also love not working," she says with a laugh. "In fact, I don't ever want to go back to work - not ever!"

While they're avoiding that 'four letter word' they certainly have a nice floating home to play in - their 38-ft cat was launched in 2001 with all the bells and whistles.

By all accounts this pair has had a ball cruising Mexico, especially since MJ is an accomplished musician who loves to jam and mingle with like-minded creative-types. And their spacious cat makes a perfect party platform for jam sessions.

Their advice: "Stop reading about it and just go cruising."

Flocerfida - Columbia 34
Flo & Jasper Benincasa, Las Vegas, NV

"Dreams are for dreamers; goals are for doers," says Flo. Those are words to live by for these fun-loving escapees from Las Vegas. Although they are decades younger than many cruisers, they cut the docklines last fall and joined the Baja Ha-Ha fleet. While Jasper is a bit more reserved, Flo will long be remembered as one of the sexiest dancers ever to dig her toes into the sands of Bahia Santa Maria.

"I figure, do it now, and whatever happens later, happens," says Jasper. He explains that seeing friends become ill and old before their time was part of his motivation for getting 'out there' now. Although their boat is a modest early-'70s sloop, their cruising plans are more ambitious than most. With any luck, they expect to reach the Philippines within a year to visit Flo's family. "Maybe we'll even start a business there," says Jasper, "then buy a bigger boat. Opening a hooka lounge might be a fun idea!"

Although their sailing adventures are just beginning, they are loving it, despite blowing their ancient Palmer engine during the Ha-Ha. (While they were seated in a Cabo restaurant discussing their engine woes, a guy at the next table leaned over and offered them a similar Palmer for free - it was taking up space in his garage!) "For me," says Flo, "the most fun so far is spending time with Jasper 24/7."

Ed. note - Since we were unable to meet personally with the Puddle Jumpers departing from Zihuatanejo and elsewhere in Mexico, our info on the following crews is, naturally, less extensive.

Gumbo Ya-Ya - Tayana 37
Kurt & Nancy Bischoff, Seattle, WA

"We operate on the theory that you only go around once, so we should see and experience as much as we can. And what better way to do it than on a sailboat?"

They bought Gumbo way back in '85 and did a previous two-year cruise with their two boys which took them through Mexico, Central American and east into the Caribbean, ending at New Orleans. This time the game plan is to island-hop as far as Australia, then reassess.

Although they're seeking new adventures, it sounds as if they could stay in Mexico forever: "We love Mexico! Great people, great food, great music, great country!"

Splashes - 38-ft sloop
John & Janice Tannehill, San Francisco

Before heading to Mexico in 2001, John and Janice spent 15 years sailing the California coast, with extensive trips to the Channel Islands. Unlike many Puddle Jumpers they have crossed an ocean before - or at least a big chunk of one. They helped Don Margraf bring his Freedom 36 Praise back from Hawaii after the '92 Pacific Cup.

Since arriving in Mexico, they've made La Paz their base, and while there Splashes weathered three hurricanes at Marina Palmira - Juliette, Ignacio and Marty.

With an open-ended timetable, the couple says New Zealand is their long-term destination. "Time will tell after that."

Neptune - Custom 50-ft motorsailer
Larry & Bonnie Bell, San Francisco

"We have enjoyed our time in Mexico," says Larry, "but we're anxious to get to the South Pacific." They threw off the docklines in San Francisco just last fall. Heading west, they hope to reach Australia by next October. If they keep to that schedule, they will have covered a remarkable stretch of ocean in a single year.

Joining Larry and Bonnie on the trip to Oz is a highly-experienced German sailor named Reiner whom they recruited through an East Coast crewing agency. These days it's remarkable how many couples choose to doublehand the Puddle Jump. But we're told that after doing '3 on and 3 off' for 20 days or more, many of them are eager to recruit additional crew in the islands. We'd bet that Larry, Bonnie and Reiner will be a lot better rested than most when they make landfall at the Marquesas.

Interlude - Cheoy Lee 32
Frank & Linda Szerdahelyi, San Francisco

"We plan to sail through the South Pacific for a couple of years to New Zealand or Australia," say Linda and Frank, "then seek out areas where the American flag is not being shot at!" They look forward to many SoPac landfalls, and eventually hope to also cruise the Med.

Talk about a guy who loves his boat, back in 1978 Frank had Interlude built in Hong Kong and shipped to England. He then cruised her for six years with his former wife and kids. Today, he and Linda are in their third year of cruising the same boat - and are loving it. They say they've only covered 1,500 miles in that time because, "There are too many fun things to do, good food to eat and wonderful people to meet in Mexico."

Freewind - Sailmaster 50
Frank & Janice Balmer, Tacoma, WA

"As a kid growing up in the '50s I was originally inspired by Gardner McCay's Adventures in Paradise," says Frank. "So I guess you could say I have been planning, or at least dreaming, about this all of my life." We hope he and Janice are able to retrace some of McCay's voyages as they work their way across the Pacific and later, on around the world. 'Plan A' would have them arrive in New Zealand next fall, where they'll stay for the winter. Then they'll head up to Fiji and Vanuatu before skirting the Great Barrier Reef en route to Sydney.

Eventually they hope to push on to India, the Red Sea, the Med and across the Atlantic. So many options, so few constraints! "We are not on any kind of schedule, but we feel the trip will take five to seven years."

Resolute - Cascade 36
Jack & Daphne Garrett, Clovis, CA

Jack and Daphne both retired last spring from long careers in teaching. Having paid their dues, they sailed south with the 2003 Ha-Ha fleet and have greatly enjoyed their six months in mañanaland. "We've been impressed with Mexico - especially the people. They have been warm, friendly and helpful."

Now it's on to bigger adventures, though. They plan to stay out for about six years, or "as long as it's fun." Neither of the Garretts have crossed an ocean before, but they figure they'll probably do a complete circumnavigation if things go well. "We have one piece of advice for those thinking about going cruising: Remember, having fun is hard work."

Danseuse de la Mer - Ericson 38
Michael & Mary Brooks
Channel Is., CA

Mary tells us that she and Michael were 'supposed' to go west last year, but got hung up in the Sea of Cortez instead. No wonder. The Sea is a fascinating playground which no cruiser should miss.

"Now, however, we're very excited to be heading out in the company of good friends."

We don't know much else about this pair, except that they headed south from Ventura early last winter. Hopefully, they'll write in to Changes in Latitudes and share their adventures. Their unique boat name translates as 'Dancer of the Sea'.

Outer Limits - Ron Given 45 cat
Bill & Dominique Moseley
Salt Spring Island, BC

We're sorry we didn't have a chance to meet Bill and Dominique in person, as they sound like quite an interesting duo.

Having built many boats professionally in the past, Bill took on the challenge of building Outer Limits on Salt Spring Island with the intention of taking her on a long-distance cruise. Bill also appears to be one of the most experienced bluewater sailors in the fleet, having cruised previously in Mexico and the South Pacific as far as New Zealand on a trimaran. Dominique also has a lot of sea miles under her belt. And we can safely say she's the only lady in this year's fleet who's sailed a 29-ft junk from Canada to Costa Rica!

Unfortunately, we have no info on their intended itinerary.

Billabong - Gibson 43
Chris Myles & KT Roddick
Ventura, CA

Although Chris and KT left from Puerto Vallarta, they were unable to attend our little send-off shindig, but we have been able to glean a bit of info about them.

Having sailed to Mexico from Southern California last fall, they now intend to island-hop across the South Pacific this season, then "hide out" in New Zealand during hurricane season. "As is typical in the cruising life, we don't have a completely solid plan. But, that's what the boating life is all about: ditching schedules and clocks, and just doing what you please, when you please - pending weather, of course!" They say they eventually hope to reach the Med. "We're just not sure when or how. In total, we would like to be cruising for about five years, ending our voyage near Massachusetts.

Waking Dream - Cooper 41
Ben & Lisa Newton, Berkeley, CA

At 34 and 28 respectively, Ben and Lisa are among the youngest adventurers in this year's fleet. And appropriately, they seem to best exhibit that youthful 'go for it' spirit. We say that because after sailing for only one year, they took off cruising. During the past two years while exploring Mexican waters, they apparently honed their skills sufficiently to brave the vast Pacific. We admire their spunk and wish them all the best.

So far, they say, one of the highlights has been four months of inland travel in Mexico and Central America. They offer this advice to future cruisers: "There are a ton of brains out here with advice - all with good intentions, but not all with the correct solution. Make your own decisions! Of course, this is just my advice. . . and I could be wrong too!"

- latitude/aet

This story was reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Latitude 38. To order a copy (complete with photos in living black & white), use the subscription order form, and specify the 4/04 issue, or just drop us a note with a check for $7 to Latitude 38, Attn: Back Issues, 15 Locust Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941.

Please note: After a couple of years, the actual issue may no longer be available, but we will still be able to make photocopies of it.

Link to Pacific Puddle Jump 2004 - Part 1

©2004 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.