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March 16, 2011

From Latitude 38 to Latitude 90

"Greetings from the South Pole," writes a dedicated reader who asked to remain anonymous. "I was hoping to have a picture taken of our yacht club with your mag, but we didn’t have a meeting this month. Luckily my wife went to the Pole, so we thought this would make a good photo.

"We don’t get much sailing in, but your magazine sure keeps us dreaming about it. It’s one big ice cube here so there truly is ‘water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.’ That does mean we have plenty of ice for the margaritas, though, and at this time of year, we have plenty of sunshine. Thanks for putting your magazine online. It’s great to have year-round access to it."

Our South Pole explorer is exactly why we post a free ebook version of Latitude 38 to our site every month — so folks from the top of the world to the bottom and all the way around can get their sailing news fix, even if they’re icebound. 

Medium-Range Racing Forecast

With many midwinters series wrapping up throughout the rest of this month, the weekend regattas are back in full swing. Following on the heels of last weekend’s Spring Dinghy, the St. Francis YC’s Spring One Design will see the J/105s and J/120s take to the Cityfront. In the Central Bay, at least 56 boats have entered the Oakland YC’s Rites of Spring on Saturday. Down the coast a bit, the Newport Harbor YC’s Cabo Race has drawn a high-quality 29-boat fleet — one replete with Northern California boats — for the Friday/Saturday starts.

Looking a little farther ahead, the Island YC’s classic, Doublehanded Lightship, is right around the corner on March 26. The following week sees the second installment of the ’11 Singlehanded Sailing Society schedule with the Corinthian Race on April 2. And finally — for now — BAMA’s signature Doublehanded Farallones is up for its 32nd contest on April 9, and registration is already up.

The Rewards of ‘Jubilado’ Status

We’re pleased to report that Latitude 38 magazine can now be found in Panama — if you know who to ask, that is. Ever since we got acquainted with former San Diego sailors Frank Nitte and Shirley Duffield last year, they’ve served as Latitude ambassadors in Panama City, where they’re not happily retired.

Meet Shirley and Frank, our crew in Panama.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We send them a couple of bundles of magazines every month which they distribute to cruisers at both ends of the Canal. So if you find yourself in Panama and in need of a Latitude ‘fix’, drop by the Balboa YC and ask for Frank or Shirley.

By the way, they, along with thousands of other former travelers fell in love with Panama and decided to stay, partly because of the generous benefits given to senior citizens. As Frank explains, "Jubilado residency is a really good deal." Once you officially receive ‘jubilado‘ (retiree) status, you get all sorts of special privileges such as: 25% off roundtrip airfares aboard Continental and Delta flights; 50% off hotel rooms during the week and 30% off on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; 25% off on restaurant food (but not drinks); 20% discounts on prescriptions; discounts on medical care; discounts on electrical and water bills; etc.

So how does one qualify? In order to receive a jubilado card, individuals need to show that they have at least $1,000 per month in regular retirement income (from Social Security, a pension or whatever), and a small amount more (i.e. $100/mo. per dependents). In addition, you have to present a medical report stating that you have no major diseases (i.e. AIDS), and a police report from your home town stating that you are not a criminal. You give all this to a Panamanian lawyer, and for an $800 fee he will fill out all the paperwork and get your request processed.

With Costa Rica experiencing all sorts of problems and Mexico’s image suffering due to the drug wars, thousands of North Americans are deciding that Panama is the place to be. Because the Canal is essentially a cash machine, and the current president Ricardo Martinelli is decidedly anti-corruption and extremely progressive, the country seems to have a very bright future. Its economy is already considered to be the third strongest in Latin America.

Panama is a country rich in history, and has an unending revenue stream, thanks to the Panama Canal.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"If you want to buy an expensive house, such as in a new high-rise built just for gringos, you can spend a lot of money," explains Frank. "But if you want to live in a Panamanian neighborhood you can probably buy a house for $60 to $80,000 USD." It’s worth noting also that many gringo communities get a 20-year tax exemption. These days it’s nice to know that not everyone hates Americans!

The Richmond-based Eros in St. Barth

Yesterday we saw a big schooner anchored a couple of hundred yards from ‘ti Profligate in the Gustavia anchorage. "Could that be Bill and Grace Bodle’s  Richmond-based 103-ft Eros?" we wondered to ourselves. Indeed it was, and we spent a couple of hours this morning recording enough great sailing stories to fill the next three issues of Latitude.

To give you an idea of how large a 103-ft-on-deck schooner is, that’s Grace and Bill standing up near the bow. Nonetheless, just the two of them and one deckhand run the yacht.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Since the ’60s, the Bodles have cruised and run charter schooners of 70 to 117 feet — on deck, mind you — in the Caribbean, the Med, and around the world. First there was Nordlys, then Panda, then Grace, and currently Eros. The Bodles used to own the renowned Stone Boatyard in Alameda, and currently own the Sugar Dock in Richmond. A wealthy German had bought Eros — then Fair Sarae — and had her completely disassembled to be entirely rebuilt at Stone’s. Alas, he quickly ran out of money, and the Bodles spent the last 19 years — and countless dollars — repairing all the parts and putting her back together. The winter before this, they cruised Mexico, then sailed her back to California. Last October they left San Diego and have thus far sailed her to the Eastern Caribbean.

Although Bill is well into his 70s and Eros displaces more than 200,000 lbs, he sees no need for more crew besides Grace and a deckhand.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That the Bodles started schoonering around in the ’60s means they were in at the very beginning of the charter trade. For example, they were not only good friends with Commander Nicholson, who started the charter trade in Antigua and the Caribbean with his schooner Mollyhawk, they know all his great stories, too. And they knew St. Barth long before a movie star or model had ever heard of it, and when it was all about smuggling alcohol, cigarettes — and other stuff — and there wasn’t another yacht to be seen.

They also played host to many Caribbean legends — such as Foxy of Foxy’s in Jost van Dyke. When Foxy boarded late on the night they took off for Gibraltar, he didn’t have much of a kit besides the clothes he was wearing and his guitar. The clothes consisted of a pair of cut-offs and a sequined carnival shirt, plus a sweater. Alas, his mother had boiled the sweater the night before to clean it, and it had shrunk five sizes too small. Foxy doesn’t have any shoes now, and he certainly didn’t have any back then. 

Miraculously, Foxy survived the trip across the Atlantic and a summer of sailing in the Med. "He was a huge hit in the smaller Greek islands and in Eastern Europe, where at that time most people hadn’t seen a black man before," remembers Bill. "Groups would come to the quay asking for him, and Foxy would happily jump out of the salon with his guitar and start singing. When he got on the quay, he pretended to try to bite the children, as though he were a wild animal. Before long, Foxy was the pied piper, leading entire villages around singing calypso songs with him. The people would have died if they knew how dirty all the lyrics were." Foxy met his wife on the trip back across the pond on Eros.

Anyway, much more on Eros and the Bodles in the next several issues of Latitude. Be prepared to laugh.

Next time you’re in San Blas, stop in to Billy Bob’s and pay your respects to the last remnants of a grand old San Francisco ‘lady’.
Given the chaos of ‘tsunami Friday’, it’s a little unclear to us what kind of instructions port and other officials gave to boatowners.