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November 21, 2007

What’s Missing from U.S. Yacht Racing?

“Sis, boom, bah, jibe on their wind” . . . or something like that.

© Marchin Grzeslo

You have to hand it to the Chinese, they’ve got a pretty dynamic country right now. Gazillions of people are coming out of poverty, and with so many of them flush with money, they are jumping into many traditional Western world pursuits — such as yacht racing — with some unusual twists. U.S. football style cheerleaders, for example, to encourage the yacht racers to do better.

The above photo was sent to us by Larry Weinhoff of Synergizer, who got it from his Polish friend Marchin Grzeslo, who lives and races the Bob Perry designed Flying Tiger 10 Meters in China. Grzeslo took it at the Shangri-la Cup, which was competed for at Quindao at the end of September in the Flying Tigers. We could tell you that the teams from Maersk and Asahi Beer finished one-two, but what you really want to know is if there are going to be cheerleaders at the Rolex St. Francis Big Boat Series next September. Confucius say, "Why not?"

The Banderas Bay Blast is a Big Deal!

During the Ha-Ha, Profligate showed the kind of chute-splitting skills that has John Haste quivering in his sea boots.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Banderas Bay Blast, a three-day, absolutely-nothing-serious series of fun cruiser races on the warm and smooth waters of the bay between members of the Vallarta YC and Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club — and anyone else who wants to participate — is on for December 7, 8 and 9. And it looks like there will be a good turnout, particularly of bigger multihulls, the owners of which will be happy to take guests who have made contributions to the event’s charities.

After checking carefully, Marina Riviera Nayarit’s Christian Mancebo determined that he could accommodate the Banderas Bay Blast feet.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Part of the event will be a headline match race between John Haste’s Perry 52 cat Little Wing from San Diego, and Latitude‘s Surfin’ 63 cat Profligate from Colony Emiliano Zapata, Mexico. Other multihulls expected to participate are Dave Crowe’s San Jose-based Morrelli & Melvin 70 Humu-Humu, Jim Forquer’s Newport Beach-based Catana 521 Legato, and Lupe and JR’s Nuevo Vallarta-based Catana 47 Moon ‘n Stars. In addition, John Moore will be on hand with his new little F-27, and Tom Brown with his F-31. North Sail’s Mike says that he expects eight to 10 monohulls from the Vallarta area, while Dave and Merry Wallace’s Redwood City-based Amel Maramu Air Ops is just one of the Ha-Ha boats expected to show.

It’s not necessary to wear your pirate outfits for the entire BBB, but people who don’t wear them during the Pirates for Pupil’s Spinnaker Run will be walking the plank.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

What will all these folks be doing? There will be a pre-event skipper’s meeting/party at the Vallarta YC — which has now been expanded out over the pool — on Thursday at 6 p.m., followed by a Paradise Marina to Marina Riviera Nayarit La Cruz race the next afternoon. Christian Mancebo, manager of the new marina, says he’ll have plenty of slips available, and Philo says his music hall and restaurant will be ready for everyone.

Saturday will feature a race up to Punta Mita for some late afternoon surfing fun followed by the grand reopening of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club at Margarita Restaurant. Hector, the owner, is already laying in extra sleep to prepare.

Some of the illustrious charter members of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club – “surf in the morning, sail in the afternoon, sex at night” – pose in front of the club.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The final race will be the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity on Sunday afternoon from Punta Mita back to Paradise Marina and the Vallarta YC. You won’t find a sweeter spinnaker run anywhere.

This event is all about fun and giving to worthy charities, so if you’re not  going to be in a fun-loving and charitable mood, we suggest you spend the weekend fishing or watching television. To get the charitable aspect off to a good start, Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler has authorized a $1,000 donation in the name of everyone who participated in the recent Ha-Ha.

Need to become a member of a yacht club? It only costs $1 to join the prestigious Punta Mita Yacht and Surf Club — surf kings Kelly Slater and Rob Machado are members, as is Tour de France winner Greg Lamond — but membership is only available to people who have sailed there. It’s true that you only have to sail from seven mile distant La Cruz, but we do have to have standards.

Suwarrow Threatened Again

Tranquil and unspoiled, Suwarrow has always been a favorite stop for Pacific cruisers.

© 2007 Bob Bechler

One of the most delightful and unspoiled places in the Cook Islands is Suwarrow. Located in the far north of the Cook Islands, this atoll lies halfway between Bora Bora in French Polynesia and Samoa, and has always been a favorite stop for cruising boats crossing the central Pacific.

Several years ago the Cook Island government proposed opening Suwarrow Island to commercial enterprises. That proposal was met with outcries from concerned cruisers around the world and was stopped before any changes were implemented. Now the same proposal is again beginning to resurface. It includes opening up Suwarrow to commercial pearl farming and other types of for-profit businesses. Suwarrow became infested with termites years ago so copra export is prohibited.

A New Zealander, Tom Neal, lived alone on Suwarrow from 1952 until he died in 1977 and wrote An Island To Oneself about his experiences there. Suwarrow is currently a National Park and a nesting site for thousands of sea birds and turtles. Frigates, tropic birds, petrels and other sea birds have nesting sites on the motus around the lagoon.

Nesting birds abound on this tranquil atoll.

© Bob Bechler

Cruisers are charged a flat fee of $50 to anchor in the lagoon. This fee helps defray the cost of having the caretakers stay on Suwarrow during the cruising season. The current caretakers, John and Veronica and their three boys, have been on Suwarrow over the past three seasons. They greet cruisers and explain the rules of the preserve. The rules, developed with cruisers over the years, help keep Suwarrow as pristine as possible. John and Veronica also put tours together to take cruisers to outlying islands to see the nesting sites. Usually evenings are spent with beach gatherings, potlucks, and entertainment provided by cruisers, with John playing his guitar. Snorkeling inside the lagoon is fantastic and scuba diving on the outside reef is memorable. The caretaker must give his permission for scuba diving trips.

It would be a shame to loose this National Park to commercial businesses. Concerned cruisers can send their views to Cook Island National Environmental Service, Attn: Vavia Vavia, PO Box 371, Rarotonga, Cook Islands or via email.
Once lost, these pristine islands can never be regained and brought back to their natural state.

Singlar’s New Boatyard is Hauling

Everything is shiny and new at the new Singlar Boatyard in Mazatlan.

© Michael Latta

"Last week I hauled my 22-ft Falmouth Channel Cutter Narwhal at Singlar’s big new boatyard facility next door to Marina Mazatlan," reports Mike Latta. "I hauled to complete a new engine installation plus take care of the usual list of maintenance items.

"The yard has been open and hauling boats for about two months, has seemed to work out the early kinks, and is now running smoothly. The physical plant and associated equipment are absolutely first class, and I’ve found the workers to be professional, open, and always ready to help.

Jared Martinez is the head of both Operations and Administration at Singlar in Mazatlan, and is doing a good job.

© Michael Latta

"The Supervisor of both Operations and Administration is Jared Martinez, who, along with Administrations head Alma Magro, run a well-oiled ship. The paperwork for my haul and launch was almost non-existent. By the way, it cost me just under $180 for both ways, which I think is reasonable. The only way I could have done it cheaper was to careen on a tidal flat. For boats from 31 to over 51 feet, the price is between $7.14 and $8.82 a foot, but doesn’t include tax.

"The old ‘build it and they will come’ adage seems to be true here, as several major marine repair and general maintenance organizations have leased workshop space in the Singlar facility, and more will be arriving soon. Bob Buchanan’s Total Yacht Services was selected by Singlar to move in as a kind of ‘anchor’ tenant. As the biggest Yanmar dealer on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Canandian Buchanan — who is well-known to many cruisers  — and his business have become a magnet for engine repair and services. His installation of my new Yanmar two-cylinder is almost complete, and I hope to start giving waterskiing lessons as soon as I’m back in the water.

"C&C Marine Services is another company that is very busy and doing good work. They just completed a tough blister job on Narwhal, and will be doing all the barrier coats and bottom paint, too. The folks at Grupo Naval are available for fiberglass and bottom jobs, as well as other maintenance work. So the resources are here for just about any fix-it problem a sailor might have. Also coming to the boatyard are a chandlery, strainless steel fabrication business, sail loft, grocery store, cafe and restaurant. Singlar also has inside storage space rentals, wet and dry outside boat storage, a token-operated laundromat, and free Wi-Fi.

Feeling rundown? Claudia will put some new fuel – diesel or gas – in your tank from the big Pemex supply.

© 2007 Michael Latta

"In addition, the Pemex fuel dock is now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. You just need to call Claudia, the manager, for an appointment. The fuel dock is an easy in and out, and has 10 feet of water at low tide.

"My favorite Singlar feature? Whenever I get tired of working in the hot sun — which is most of the time — I can simply climb the steps to the roof-top swimming pool and Jacuzzi, and hop in. There’s nothing like looking over the edge of a pool while supervising work on your boat.

"Jared tells me that Fonatur, the Mexican tourist development agency that is also their parent, has been in contact with the government to widen and deepen the main harbor entrance that leads to Marina El Cid, Marina Mazatlan and Singlar. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Sure, it would make it much safer in bad weather, but it would also mean that the richy-rich folks with their 100 and 200-ft boats could get in, and there would go the neighborhood — not to mention the berth rates."

Pegasus Project Expands Horizons

The 51-ft Pegasus was lookin’ good at last spring’s Master Mariner Regatta.

© 2007 Mariah’s Eyes

“In the 14 years since we started, we’ve introduced about 5,000 kids to San Francisco Bay and sailing,” explains Peter Hayes, founder of the Pegasus Project. Staffed by volunteers from the local sailing community, his organization introduces Bay Area youth — many of them ‘at-risk’ youth — to the fundamentals of sailing and marine science aboard the 51-foot ketch Pegasus. Hayes’s dream, however, is to expand the horizons of every area student before they graduate high school, by introducing them to the joys of sailing — at least once.

Justly proud of their accomplishment, Harding students launch their Mirror sailing dinghy at last month’s christening ceremony.

Pegasus Project
©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The wooden dinghy pictured here is the result of an annual two-semester boat-building project run at Harding Elementary School’s Transitional Education Program in El Cerrito. Local dignitaries, including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, joined parents and teachers in honoring the young shipwrights at the dinghy’s christening last month at the Berkeley YC.

“Sailing with kids is hard work, but it’s also fun!” says Hayes — and, no doubt, deeply rewarding in intangible ways. To learn more about the Pegasus Project, visit

In recent weeks there have been reports in both the San Diego papers and CNN on some very violent attacks on American tourists in Mexico, mostly surfers in northern Baja, but also including some RV owners elsewhere in Mexico.
The oil spill on November 7 has left Bay Area residents (and politicians) asking some tough questions — How did it happen?
With the Central American cruising season now in full swing, current and future cruisers will be interested to note that a highly informative Yahoo Group website has been set up and is accepting new members.