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November 18, 2011

Bargain-Boat Cruising

Who says you have to be old and gray – or have a $500,000 yacht – to go cruising? Zachary Lough (front) and these other young cruisers opted to take the fast track into the cruising life by sacrificing creature comforts.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Not surprisingly, some of the sailors who seemed to be having the most fun during the recent Baja Ha-Ha rally were ‘young adults’ of 32 years old or younger. As far as we know, none of them were trust-funders with bottomless bank accounts. They simply had a lust for adventure, bought cheap fixer-upper boats, did a few upgrades, and fast-tracked their entry into the cruising life — rather than procrastinating for decades like many in their parents’ generation do.

A few bargain Baja Ha-Ha’ers worth noting were Zachary Lough, 25, of the Ventura-based Catalina 30 Panache, and Marc Abdou, 26, of the Catalina 27 Mer-Sea. Both Lough and 32-year-old Dave Satterwhite of the S.F.-based C&C 39 Camanoe ended up winning their divisions in the Ha-Ha rally, having sailed the entire course.

But let’s expand the topic beyond youth. If you spent less than $10,000 on your boat and are successfully cruising aboard it — or did so in the past — we’d love to hear from you. We think the subject of low-cost entry into the cruising lifestyle is well worth a feature article in Latitude 38. So if you have bargain-boat experiences to share, please email us a few paragraphs and a few of your best photos.

Chillin’ in Puget Sound

If this weekend’s less-than-stellar Bay Area forecast already has you thinking twice about taking your boat out, just take a look at what Puget Sound sailors were actually eager to experience last weekend. (Don’t miss the craziness at the 3:30 mark!)

Adrian Johnson, the Seattlite who raced his Olson 30 Idefix to a win in last summer’s Singlehanded TransPac, joined 69 other boats for the Round the County Race, an epic two-day romp that sends the fleet around the San Juan Islands in the always-delightful month of November. Hosted by Orcas Island YC and Friday Harbor Sailing Club, the regatta consistently fills up long before the start date and offers some of the most intense sailing for PNW racers. Check out Ben Braden’s thorough report on the event.

In the end, Idefix placed 46th in the race, but rumor has it she’ll be returning to Corinthian YC next summer to defend her honor in the 2012 Singlehanded TransPac. Stay tuned!

Mexico – The Good and Bad

The bad news is that two dinghies and outboards went missing in Cabo right after the Ha-Ha. The losses could have been the result of a bad knot and not pulling a dinghy far enough up a beach, respectively. But if we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times, lock your dinghy, lock your dinghy, lock your dinghy! Please don’t forget, losing your dink is a major inconvenience and a very large expense.

The main street of Barra looks back to normal. Folks are cleaning up, stores are opening, and they are expecting you.

© Joseph Day

Elsewhere in Mexico, things have been sweeeeeeeeeeeeet. We’re especially encouraged by a report from Barra de Navidad — clobbered a little more than a month ago by Hurricane Jova — that says the Gold Coast cruiser favorite has bounced back well. Here’s the report from Joe Day of the Pearson 385 Daydreams:

"I just returned from Barra on a trip to inspect a boat in the local Cabo Blanco Marina. Barra being one of my favorite places on all of the Gold Coast, we were concerned how they have recovered after the hurricane. All things considered, they are doing well. The waterfront restaurants got pounded and many have some damage, but they are working 12 hours a day cleaning everything up and getting ready for the season. Remember how the main street was knee-deep in water and mud? It’s all gone. The French Baker is hard at work again, and many of the shops are starting to open up.

It was the waterfront restaurants, many of them on shaky foundations, that Jova hit the hardest. If you have Christmas dinner reservations at this restaurant, you may want to pick an alternative.

© Joseph Day

"Once you leave the Barra waterfront, everything looks as it always did, and you wouldn’t even know they’d been hit by a hurricane. We took a water taxi out to the lagoon, and saw one sailboat washed ashore, but that was it. The Grand Bay Marina was unscathed. The only damage we saw was that some of the rip-rap washed off the jetty near the fuel dock as a result of waves coming across the lagoon. My recommendation to cruisers in Mexico is ‘Barra for Christmas’; after all it is Barra de Navidad. We had one of our all-time best Christmases there with all the cruisers at the Sands Hotel back in ’06. Keep Barra on your schedule, as they’re expecting you!"

As we wrote right after Jova had ripped through, we had every confidence Barra would bounce back strong. And, yes, we intend to cruise on down there shortly after the holidays.

We hope the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry up in the States, because it’s been fabulous down here on mainland Mexico and Baja. And here’s what we’re looking forward to over the next few days:

  • La Paz — Highs in the low 80s, lows in the high 60s. We know it has to be great out at the islands. If you’re frolicking around out there, please send some photos.
  • Cabo — Highs in the low to mid 80s, lows in the 60s. Perfect wet T-shirt contest weather.
  • Mazatlan — Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s. Simply salubrious.
  • Puerto Vallarta — Highs in the mid to high 80s, lows in the low 70s. This is where we’ve been kicking around since the end of the Ha-Ha, and we’ve had day after day of blue skies and pink sunsets. The winds have been light, the ocean is warm, and the first whales have shown up. As for the food, it’s not only delicious, but they are practically giving it away. Unless, of course, you insist on staying at the Four Seasons, where we’re told hamburgers are $25 and margaritas are $20.

While at Philo’s Music Studio in La Cruz last night, a number of cruisers approached us wanting to put in a good word about Mazatlan. Chief among them was Steve Hollen of the Seal Beach-based Irwin 37 Andalucia, the only boat to have ever been dismasted in the Ha-Ha. "I’ve been in Mazatlan for the last two years," he said, "and I want everyone to know that I love that city. And I felt completely safe there." This was backed up by another woman — sorry we didn’t catch her name — who said she’s not only lived there for a long time and loves it, but also feels perfectly safe. Yet a third cruiser chimed in and said that they’d had engine work done at Bob Buchanan’s Total Yacht Services, loved his work, and loved the city. All three acknowledged that there has been an increase in narco violence in the Mazatlan area, but it’s almost all been inland, and tourists haven’t been involved. In fact, they said foreigners in Mazatlan are treated like sacred cows, as they are in all of Mexico.

We hope you’re enjoying the cruising down here this year, either on your own boat or if you’re joining friends. If this isn’t your year, don’t despair — you have a lot of great cruising to look forward to.

The French don’t call the Doldrums the “pot au noir” for nothing. Ken Read’s Puma has already left them behind.
As we often point out, you don’t need a million-dollar yacht to access the much-envied lifestyle of international cruising.