There’s no end to the fascinating people you meet when you take the time to walk the docks. As the Wanderer was making the rounds in San Diego, he met 84-year-old Tom Corogin, who left yesterday aboard his Westsail 32 TLC on his sixth attempt to round Cape Horn. You’ll find a fascinating in-depth interview with Corogin in the November 1 issue of Latitude 38, but in the meantime, here’s a short excerpt:
38: It’s our understanding that you’re 84 years old and are about to set sail singhlehanded for Cape Horn? Have you done much sailing before, singlehanded or otherwise?
TC: I do have quite a bit of sailing experience. I singlehanded my Brewer 44 TLC to Europe and back in ’87, and did it again with my Westsail 32 TLC in ’97. And this will be my sixth attempt to sail around Cape Horn. The closest I got was a little more than a year ago when I made it to three days past the Galapagos. But yes, I am 84, and yes, I am sailing to Cape Horn.
38: You look terrific for 84. What’s the secret for staying healthy and having so much vitality?
TC: I eat dandelions. I drink well water. And I sleep with my head pointed north.
38: (Muted laughter) You’re not pulling our leg, are you?
TC: I’m not. (Said with no umbrage at our stifled laughter.)
38: Are you on some kind of health regimen, and how many dandelions do you eat?
TC: I eat as many dandelions as I can get. I started eating a plant called lambsquarters, one of the most nutritious plants there is. Dandelions are the second best. I eat them raw, and I eat the whole thing — blossom, stem and root. But no, I’m not on some specific health plan.
38: Do you get them from a nursery or what?
TC: I get them from my lawn. Unfortunately, you can’t save them because they wilt. There’s a big grocery chain in the Midwest that is starting to carry dandelions, but only the tops. If you go to the internet, you’ll find that there is quite a bit of info on eating dandelions.
38: What are your plans for this trip?
TC: When I attempted this trip last year, I was three days out of the Galapagos when my knee collapsed. But I was making so much leeway because of the Humboldt Current that I was getting driven toward Pitcairn Island. So this time I plan to sail to the Horn from Salinas, Ecuador, because I’ll have about a 400-mile edge on beating the current. But the Humboldt Current is vicious, running at up to four knots.
I originally figured that I would get to Ecuador in October, Easter Island in November, and Cape Horn in December, which is summertime down there. But I’ve been prevented from starting by all these hurricanes off Mexico — there have been five in October. So I’ll be about three weeks to a month later than my original plan. And instead of one long passage to get south, I’ll be doing some shorter ones and checking the weather. But I’ll be leaving San Diego tomorrow.
Yesterday, we accompanied Tom Corogin on his boat to the fuel dock at Shelter Island to get ice, during which time he told us that prior to buying the marina he’s owned for 35 years in the little town of Port Clinton, he’d been a lawyer there. Near the end of his career, he got what he said was the supreme compliment from a lawyer in the next town. "Tom is about the only lawyer who can find his ass, even with two hands," he said.
As of 8 a.m. this morning, Hurricane Jova, a powerful Category 3 hurricane, and Hurricane Irwin, now down to tropical storm force, threaten the coast of mainland Mexico.
The most recent forecast predicts that Jova will make landfall a few miles north of Barra de Navidad with 125-knot winds. This would put Barra and Manzanillo in the ‘dangerous semi-circle’ where hurricane force winds are the strongest. This forecast landfall would be about 85 miles south of Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta, which are currently forecast to be hit with winds of 40 to 58 mph. There is hope that the tall jungle mountains might help mute the force of the storm. On the other hand, the margin of error for the place of landfall is still about 100 miles, which means it’s possible Jova could make a direct hit on Banderas Bay, which has reportedly never taken a direct hit before. The powerful storm is expected to hit at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, so keep your fingers crossed for those in its path.
The news for Irwin is better. It’s currently blowing at less than 50 mph and is forecast to nearly parallel the coast to the southeast — talk about 180 degrees off the normal hurricane path! — in the general direction of Zihua and Acapulco.
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In a posting here last week, we discussed the concerns some potential cruisers have about sailing in Mexican waters these days. Our main point in that and previous reports was that the info we’ve been receiving from many cruisers is that they feel much safer cruising Mexico than visiting urban areas of the U.S. We did, however, note that there has been some cartel-related violence in Zihuatanejo, Acapulco and Mazatlan.
That last comment drew some sharp rebuttals from long-time residents and business people in Mazatlan, so we invited them to share their first-hand perspectives with readers.
Mazatlan residents George and Jackie Krakie wrote: "We’ve been living as full-time residents of Mazatlan for the past six years, and we’re still loving our life here. My wife has been coming to Mazatlan since ’73. The people of Mazatlan are by far the friendliest, most helpful and caring people in Mexico. They go out of their way to help those in need. Mazatlecos are hard-working and most are honest and trustworthy.
"We have seen many changes over the years; some good, some not. The recent ‘gang’ violence in Mexico has impacted all who live here. It’s not the actual violence, it is the exaggerated negative publicity that has caused the tourist industry to virtually dry up. Without tourism, life is very difficult for the people who live here. There is no money. We live by the rules we made over the years as tourists ourselves. 1) Always be cognizant of activities around you; 2) Although the Plaza Machado and Golden Zone are relatively safe both day and night, be vigilant and travel in pairs, especially at night. 3) No walking on the beach at night as the policia are not able to protect you there.
"To all of you in the USA and Canada, do not be wary of coming to Mexico. Mexico really has not changed all that much. The ‘gangs’ are only targeting each other — pretty much like in the cities throughout the U.S. We feel as safe — or even safer! — than we did living in the U.S. The big difference is the people! The Mexican people are gracious, kind, and caring. ¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mazatlan and relax. Enjoy your time here. We sure do!"
Canadian cruisers Marni and Peter Siddons write: "Once again we are hearing that cruisers are being warned about coming to Mazatlan. Since we have been cruising in Mexico for five years, we have a pretty good idea of what life in this beautiful Mexican city is like. El Cid Marina is our home base because we believe it’s safe, not only from bad weather but from crime. The people in Mazatlan are friendly and extremely helpful to cruisers. Peter has spent a lot of time walking the streets in old town and the areas where cruisers can find boating supplies and equipment from small businesses that are not listed in the local marine guide. It does take some effort to find what you are looking for, but most things are available and the people you meet along the way are worth the walk. He has never been accosted or had any problems regarding safety. Mazatlan is also an excellent place to have work done on your boat if you are not mechanical yourself.
"We obtain our FM3 permits here in Mazatlan which allows us to stay for a year at a time rather than just using a six-month permit. We have found the Mazatlan Immigration office to be the most efficient one we have utilized, and we have not used an agent — we’ve done the applications ourselves.
"The restaurants are wonderful and the cost of living is much less than at home. The old market downtown and the modern supermarkets such as Mega, Soriana, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Leys provide everything a cruiser could require and more. We take the bus to the market and the wonderful (open-air) pulmonia taxi cabs back to the marina for about $5.00 USD, so a car is not required.
"Mazatlan is an excellent city to use as a jumping off point for the Copper Canyon tour or for inter-city bus travel. The inter-city bus service from Mazatlan is excellent with high-end coaches offering comfortable seats, free movies and in some cases even snack service. Christmas in Mazatlan is not to be missed. The Angela Peralta Theatre stages excellent musical and dance programs making the season truly special for cruisers and their visiting guests.
"In February, the carnival festivities are a must-see with the highlight being the parade. Thousands of people come out to see this event and we have never seen or experienced any problems. What we do see are many families having a fun time together. We, of course, use our heads and don’t invite trouble by flashing expensive jewelry or cash. Our nights out often involve dinner with friends at one of the great restaurants where we can listen to live music. On New Year’s Eve we generally go out to a place where we can dance and party, but most of our entertainment involves exploring the many shops and galleries in old town. The weekly Art Walk is great fun. Hopefully, our thoughts will encourage others to experience time in cruiser-friendly Mazatlan."
We thank these Mazatlan expats for their insights, and welcome other viewpoints as well.