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February 4, 2011

Oz Cleans Up After Yasi

The yachting community along the northeast coast of Australia took the brunt of Yasi’s wrath. Port Hichinbrook, where $40 million worth of boats were swept ashore, was particularly hard hit.

© 2011 Brian Casey

As Australians face the daunting task of cleaning up after Tropical Cyclone Yasi, officials have expressed relief that the damage caused by the largest cyclone to ever hit the continent wasn’t any worse. While agricultural interests have been hit hard by the monster storm — the sugar cane industry is expected to take a $500 million hit and 75% of the nation’s banana crop was wiped out — the storm avoided highly populated areas and gave a pass to much of the country’s lucrative mining infrastructure.

This was what Port Hichinbrook looked like in September ’08, when the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca visited.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The yachting community along the Queensland coast was devastated, particularly at the normally well-protected Port Hinchinbrook Marina in Cardwell. The breakwaters weren’t able to withstand the 12-ft storm surge — similar to a tsunami — that ravaged the 250-berth facility, sending boats crashing into the tony homes that encircle the port.

What remains of Yasi moves toward Alice Springs, where 60 mph winds and flash floods are expected.

© 2011 Bureau of Meterology

Only one death has been confirmed, that of a 23-year-old man who died of asphyxiation from running a generator in a poorly ventilated room. A married couple has been declared missing after their boat was reportedly capsized and sunk in Port Hinchinbrook, while another sailor who’d been reported missing sailed back into port the day after Yasi had passed. More than 100,000 people are still without power and the clean up will continue for weeks, if not months.

The Mather Family has been Around . . .

The Mather Family — Jim, Emma, and children Phoebe,12, and Drake, 11 — report they’ve been around . . . the world, in fact, aboard their Redondo Beach-based DownEast 45 Blue Sky.

The Mather Family returned from whence they came five years ago — Zihua SailFest.

Blue Sky
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

They re-crossed their outbound track at Zihuatanejo a few days ago, in time for Zihua SailFest. It was from SailFest ’06 that they began their five-year circumnavigation as part of the Pacific Puddle Jump group.

Blue Sky flying all her country flags at Zihua SailFest. “It’s wonderful to be back here for this fantastic event,” says the Mathers.

Blue Sky
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We plan on spending the cruising season in Mexico, reacquainting ourselves with old friends in Barra, Tenacatita, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and La Paz. In June, we plan to work out way back up the Pacific Coast of Baja, making stops along the way. We have a homecoming tentatively slated for July 23, with family, friends, followers and suppliers all invited."

Well done, Mather family. If anyone else is completing a circumnavigation, we’d love to hear from you.

Cruiser Safety in Mazatlan

In late January, three of the major cruise ship lines — Disney, Norwegian Star, and Carnival Spirit — announced they were pulling out of Mazatlan because there had been three incidents involving cruise ship passengers.

Gil Diaz, the Mazatlan Port Director, said Mazatlan had welcomed 526,000 cruise ship passengers in ’10 with no incidents, but there had been three "very minor ones" near the cruise ship terminal this year, and that’s what caused the cruise ship lines to pull out.

However, as of early February, Norwegian Star and Carnival Spirit announced that they would be resuming service to Mazatlan because of promises of increased security. Disney, on the other hand, said they would not return until the fall.

Since late October, we have personally stopped and spent time at Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria, Cabo San Lucas, Punta Mita, La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Chemela, Tenacatita Bay, Melaque, Barra de Navidad, Santiago Bay, Las Hadas and Manzanillo. There wasn’t one occasion during this 90-day period that we sensed even a whiff of danger, and we went everywhere we felt like going. Furthermore, we didn’t hear a single report of a cruiser, RVer, or ex-pat having any incidents. Everyone we talked to said they felt as safe, if not safer, than back in big U.S. or Canadian cities.

That said, we haven’t been to Mazatlan, so we’d like to hear how cruisers there feel about their personal safety. Mazatlan is unfortunately located in the state of Sinaloa, which has been home to some of the greatest narco violence in Mexico. However, we’re willing to bet a nickel that the overwhelming majority of that violence is inland, away from American and Canadian cruisers, RVers and others tourists. But since we have no first hand experience, we’d appreciate hearing from you cruisers in Mazatlan or who have stopped in Mazatlan. Email Richard.

"A wonderful fleet of boats and enthusiastic participants have congregated for the Zihua SailFest, which started yesterday and runs through Sunday," writes SailFest organizer Pamela Bendall of the Port Hardy, B.C.-based