September 16, 2011

Danish Hostages Freed by Ransom

The Johanson family in better times.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In contrast to the sad news that French cruiser Christian Colombo of Tribal Kat was killed during a pirate attack last week in the Gulf of Aden, we are happy to report that all members of the Danish Johansen family, of the Dynamic 43 Ing, were recently released by their Somali captors in exchange for a large ransom, reportedly paid by their insurance company. (The exact amount was not disclosed, but some reports speculate it was in the millions.)

Jan Johansen, his wife Birgit, and three children — sons Rune and Hjalte, and daughter Naja — had all been held captive since February 24 of this year. At one point it was reported that pirates proposed to set the family free if they would allow 13-year-old Naja to marry a pirate chieftain. They declined.

Jan and Birgit Johansen are longtime sailors who had dreamed for years of circumnavigating with their children. They set sail from their homeport, Kalundborg, Denmark, in 2009 and were originally scheduled to return home this year. Ironically, they have now kept that timetable, although without their yacht.

With few yachts willing to brave the waters of the Gulf of Aden these days, it seems those who do run an ever-increasing risk, despite a multinational naval effort to clamp down on pirate activity.

Longtime cruiser Roger Hayward of the Long Beach-based Morgan 440 La Palapa remembers the Ing incident well. "I was traveling toward the Red Sea back in February when the Quest and then the Ing where taken by pirates. In fact, Ing was less than 100 nm north of La Palapa in a mini convoy of three boats — one of which had lost its propellor — when it was pirated.

After many nervous moments, Roger and Karli made it safely to the Med. The increase of attacks on yachts has led to fewer and fewer cruisers attempting to cross the Gulf of Aden.

La Palapa
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We had left before both the Quest and Ing events and we got news of them while we were underway. It’s a long story, but it was a very stressful night sailing in formation with no lights until we finally rendezvoused with a U.S. destroyer 24 hours or so after Ing was pirated."

La Palapa is now safely in the Med, where Roger has recently discovered that he can catch up with Latitude 38 by downloading eBooks from our site. He plans to cross the Atlantic in November with his new girlfriend, Karli.

Last Boat Show of the Year

The Northern California Power and Sailboat Expo is going on through the weekend at Jack London Square.

latitude/John A.
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you geek out on boat gear as much as we do, then you probably like going to boat shows, because . . . where else are you going to find so much of it in one place? The Northern California Power and Sailboat Expo is your last chance to see one on the Bay in ’11, and it’s going on right now at Jack London Square in Oakland. If you’ve been thinking about a purchase, this just might be the right time of year to negotiate a good price as dealers are trying to thin their inventories of both new and brokerage boats. Running through Sunday, the show only costs $10 — kids under 15 are free — and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A full list of the exhibitors — and a map of the show space — is at the link above.

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Time is running short, but we at Driscoll Boat Works are ready to help. We’ve been here for more than 50 years doing everything from building and repairing boats to being the base for America’s Cup campaigns. We’ve got three Travelifts and an experienced crew to handle all your needs, and our yard is conveniently located on Shelter Island within easy walking distance of restaurants, West Marine and most other marine suppliers.

I’m Chuck Driscoll and you can reach me at (619) 226-2500.

© 2011 Driscoll Boat Works

The Basics for Clearing into Mexico

With the start of the 18th — ‘Barely Legal’ — Baja Ha-Ha less than six weeks away, we’re getting a few letters about clearing into Mexico. This is all covered in Latitude‘s ‘First Timers Guide to Cruising Mexico’, which Ha-Ha’ers can find in their registration packet or you can read directly from the Ha-Ha site. But it’s so simple we can cover the basics in a few sentences. 

The Basics

1) Every boat must carry a copy of their state registration or federal documentation.
2) Every crewmember must have a passport.
3) Every boat must clear in at their first port of entry. For the Ha-Ha boats, this will be Cabo San Lucas.

Beyond the Basics

1) If you plan on checking into a marina, you may be required to have a copy of your boat insurance — assuming that you have it. Many cruisers self-insure. We’re not exactly sure how marinas deal with such boats.

Whether you’re dragging a meatline, fly fishing or spearfishing, everyone aboard will need a fishing license.

© Thor Temme

2) You can get Mexican fishing licenses online, at tackle shops in San Diego, Turtle Bay or Cabo. If you have any fishing equipment aboard, you must have a license for every crewmember, regardless of age and whether or not they’ll ever hold a pole.
3) If you want to get a 10-Year Import Permit for your boat — something you’ll eventually want if you spend more than a few months in Mexico — you can either get one online or at various ports in Mexico. Because there is no army bank in Cabo or Puerto Vallarta, you can’t get one in either of those places. But you can get one in La Paz, Mazatlan or Manzanillo. This is nothing to be worried about.
4) The other ports of entry along the Baja coast are Ensenada, Cedros Village, and Mag Bay. If you stop at any of these prior to arriving in Cabo, you’ll have to clear in at whichever you stop at first. For the record, Issac Lopez, our friend and the port captain at Cedros Village, which has a nice little harbor, says he’d love to clear boats into Mexico. Make sure you say ‘hello’ to him from his amiga Doña. And for the first time ever, Ha-Ha boats may — we can’t guarantee it — be able to clear in at Bahia Santa Maria.

Isaac Lopez, Capitan de Puerto of Cedros Village, seen here with Doña de Mallorca, wants all cruisers to know they are welcome to stop and check in or out at Cedros. If you want fuel when you arrive, email him at cislaced@sct.glb.mex two weeks in advance.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

You can clear in yourself, or you can have an agent do it for you. It takes a few hours to do yourself, but it’s usually a bit of fun, and can save you $50 to $75. That’s about eight to ten dinners at the kind of places we eat at in Mexico. But it’s all a matter of how important time and money are to you. In any event, each crewmember has to pay about $25 for his/her tourist visa, there is some boat fee of $30 or so, and maybe a few other small charges. But you’re not going to get gouged as you might at places such as Greece or Anguilla.

No need to overload your bilges and freezer with stateside staples, food is cheap and plentiful all over Mexico – even late at night after a evening
on the town.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Big Surprise

One of the biggest surprises first-time cruisers usually have upon arriving in Mexico is how just friendly everyone is. We’re talking about everyone from the man on the street, the woman working in a store, the kids playing on the beach, the port officials, the police, the park rangers — everyone! And they aren’t doing it because they have to or somebody at corporate headquarters sent out a memo, they’re just wired that way. So as long as you’re not one of the very few arrogant and aggressive Americans who tries to bully everyone in your path, the kind disliked the world over, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise.

We’re So Lucky

The more we know of the world of cruising, the more we come to appreciate having such a terrific — and large — cruising ground as Mexico so close. We were reminded of this by a recent email from Jim and Kent Milski of the Colorado based Schionning 49 cat Sea Level, who spent a couple of seasons cruising in Mexico before setting sail across the Pacific. They write: "We just arrived in Bali, where we plan to leave our boat for a couple of months to go home to see the kids and friends. We know you’ll probably be in Mexico — which is still one of the best cruising grounds in the world."

September 17 is Passport Day

The San Francisco Passport Agency is hosting a special ‘Passport Day in the U.S.A.’ event on September 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the S.F. Passport Agency on Hawthorne Street in San Francisco. The only things different about this day at any of the thousands of passport agencies in the United States is that you won’t need an appointment, and there will be "passport-themed events for children and adults." We were going to go sailing tomorrow, but may change our plans as "passport-themed events" not only give passport office workers an opportunity to rack up valuable overtime, but are said to be more exciting than a Lady Gaga concert.

U.S. citizens must present a valid passport book when entering the United States by air. U.S. citizens entering the United States from Canada, Mexico — as when returning from the Baja Ha-Ha rally — the Caribbean and Bermuda at land borders and sea ports of entry must present a passport book, passport card, or other travel documents approved by the U.S. government. Well, "must" unless you want to join the millions who simply sneak into this Swiss cheese-like country. Information on the cost and how to apply for a U.S. passport is available at this site.

It usually takes four to six weeks to get a passport processed, but if you’re willing to cough up another $60, you can get a passport in just two to three weeks. Of course, if you need a passport tomorrow, you can swing by Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and get something that works just like a passport in a few hours. Ask for Javier, Trih or Cyzcxh. Payment must be in Mexican pesos, Chinese yuan or Moldovian ‘flapjacks’. Sorry, no credit cards accepted.

California State Driver’s License Day will be held on September 27 at all DMV offices. There will be special events during which you can exchange phoney driver’s licenses for real ones, or even trade licenses with friends. There will be free rum punch and coloring books for the kids, plus a raffle for certificates showing that you were born in the United States.

Much Ado About Nothing Day, the Superbowl of all such events, has yet to be scheduled due to an impasse between the White House and Congress.

Franck and Delphine wowed the crowds at Seattle’s Elliot Bay Marina recently. © Derek du Nann As reported earlier, a unique troupe of sailing acrobats will arrive in San Francisco Bay any day now, and will perform their amazing aerial acts — suspended from their rigging of their 40-ft sloop — in a variety of Bay locations.