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December 7, 2011

Pacific Puddle Jump Registration Now Open

Having ‘gone live’ yesterday with our online registration page for the 2012 Pacific Puddle Jump rally, we were excited to spread the word in today’s ‘Lectronic. But when we checked the site at 7:00 a.m. this morning, there were already 11 sign-ups. Sheesh! Makes us wonder if these eager passage-makers hadn’t been ‘camping’ on the site like diehard music fans awaiting the sale of sure-to-be-sold-out concert tickets.

In any case, we’re thrilled to have them, as well as all the others that will be added to the roster in the coming weeks. The registration process is free and only takes a few minutes to complete.

What is the Pacific Puddle Jump? If you have no idea what we’re talking about, let us explain that the PPJ is a rally, of sorts, made up of boats from all over the world that are sailing west to French Polynesia. Unlike most rallies, where the entire fleet travels en masse, Puddle Jump ralliers set sail from points all along the west coast of the Americas, typically leaving anytime between the end of February and the beginning of May. The largest groups traditionally jump off from Mexico’s Banderas Bay and Balboa, Panama. Latitude 38 co-hosts send-off parties in both locations: at the Vallarta YC, February 29, and the Balboa YC in early March (date TBA soon).

The disparate fleet typically establishes one or two dedicated Puddle Jump nets so the earlybirds can relay weather info and keep in touch during the 3,000-mile crossing. And by registering, fleet members are eligible for several attractive offers: Through a special arrangement with the Tahitian yacht agency CMA-CGM, all registered PPJ boats can get bond exemptions (which eliminates the need for every crew member to post roughly $1,800 cash as a repatriation bond), clearance in and out, and duty-free fuel for a nominal fee. Jumpers are also invited to attend the annual Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, slated for June 22-24 this year. After a rally-sail to Moorea from Papeete, fleet members are introduced to traditional Tahitian music, dance, cuisine and sport — including six-person canoe races — along the palm-lined beaches of majestic Oponohu Bay. You’ll find lots more Puddle Jump info on the website.

This year’s first fleet members are:

Wondertime / Benford 38 / Michael & Sara Johnson / Seattle, WA
Sognare / Beneteau Oceanis 411 / Kevin Hollins / South West Rocks, Australia
Bright Angel / Mason 44 / Robert & Linda Hargreaves / Olympia, WA
Cheers / Morgan 382 / Mark & Michelle Graves / Plano, TX
Convivia / Cal 43 / Tucker & Victoria Bradford / San Francisco
Red / Waterline 48 / Richard Dowling & Fran Kelly / Juneau, AK
Kia Ora / Spencer 55 / Dennis Williams / Ventura
Southern Hiatus / Chris Craft 35 / Dennis Whitmore & John Snook / Boise, ID
Coconut / Pacific Seacraft 37 / John Monroes & Ann Quarles / Santa Fe, NM
Spanish Stroll / Southern Cross 31 / Glenn Jennings / San Francisco
Cetus / Fantasia 35 / Terry Kotas & Heidi Kotas / Gig Harbor, WA

Hot Spot for Dictator’s Kids?

On Monday we reported that Harper’s Bazaar magazine identified cruiser favorite Punta Mita as the hottest destination in the world for celebrities. Maybe there is something to it, as this morning Bloomberg News reported that Mexican authorities claim they broke up an attempt in November by al-Saadi Qaddafi, one of the sons of deposed and dead Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, to use fake documents to enter Mexico, open bank accounts and buy land at Punta Mita. Behind the gates of the massive Four Seasons / Dina complex, no doubt.

According to Bloomberg, "Officials in November captured a Canadian, Danish and two Mexican citizens that formed part of the international ring that moved in private aircraft between the U.S., Canada, Kosovo and several Middle Eastern countries. The group’s leader, a Canadian woman named Cynthia Vanier, was taken into custody in Mexico City, and one of the Mexican members was a U.S. resident."

Al-Saadi is currently under arrest in Niger.

Before his death, Muammar Qaddafi is said to have controlled assets worth about $240 billion, or about $30,000 for every man, woman and child in impoverished Libya. Another of the Qaddafi sons was famous for renting a villa in St. Barth for $150,000/week during the six weeks around New Years, and paying Beyonce $1 million to perform for one hour.

And so it goes with dictators and their families.

Dust Storm Across Baja

If you were cruising the outside of Baja or the Sea of Cortez over the Thanksgiving weekend and found the last of your turkey sandwiches tasted a little grittier than normal, huge dust storms on November 27 could have been the reason. NASA caught this spectacular image of two such storms, one starting just north of San Carlos near Isla Tiburon and reaching Baja near Bahia San Franciscquito. The other starts up just downwind of that and covered from Punta Falsa to Bahia Asuncion — including Turtle Bay. We haven’t received reports from cruisers about the event, so perhaps it was a non-event at water level, but we imagine there was more than one cruiser who wondered if someone was playing a practical joke on them by adding sand to their pumpkin pie.

Getting Crabby in the Cooks

Among the most interesting animals that cruisers encounter for the first time in the South Pacific is the coconut crab. Check out the one — they are typically blue — being held up by Randy Ramirez of the Stockton-based Mariah 31 Mystic at Suwarrov Atoll in the Cook Islands a few months ago. Big, isn’t it? The largest land-living arthropod in the world, coconut crabs can weigh as much as nine pounds and have a leg span of three feet. They don’t usually reach mature size until 40 to 60 years of age. Yeah, some of them live long enough to qualifty for social security.

Randy Ramirez, who did the ’06 Ha-Ha aboard his Flicka 20 Dulcinea, holds up what must be a nearly 50-year-old coconut crab.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Want to win a bar bet? Except in infancy, coconut crabs are terrestrial and don’t have gills. As a result, they drown if they are immersed in water for more than an hour.

Despite their name and the fact they are almost always found near coconut palms, the staple of a coconut crab’s diet is fleshy fruits, nuts, tortoise hatchlings and dead animals. It’s also been speculated that coconut crabs ate the remains of missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart, then hid her bones in their burrows.

John and James, the two rangers at Suwarrow, help cruisers with fishing and make sure all the environmental rules are followed. Note the snappy ‘uniforms’.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But yes, coconut crabs do eat coconuts. Sometimes they find a coconut on the ground, cut it to a husk nut, take it up to 30 feet high in a tree, then drop it in hopes of cracking it open. How do they get down from the tree themselves? Sometimes they just drop themselves, free-falling from heights of as much as 15 feet. Other times coconut crabs find coconuts on the ground, and over a period of days use their claws to cut holes in the nut to get at the contents.

Coconut crabs have no known predators other than other coconut crabs and hungry humans such as Ramirez. The fact that coconut crabs have lots of meat, are considered a delicacy, and are thought to be aphrodisiacs, means they are now rare in some areas where they previously thrived. But they still thrive in the Cooks.

Unlike coconut crabs, blacktip reef sharks can stay underwater forever. Here they are seen cruising by Mystic, which is laying to the hook at Suwarrow.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When a coconut crab pinches a human, it will do the pitbull thing and not let go. If you gently rub a pitbull’s stomach with some light material, it will keep biting you. But coconut crabs are complete sensualists, so if you gently tickle their undersides with something soft, they will loosen their grip.

Stationary boats are much easier to photograph but you still need a motionless platform or you’ll end up with fuzzy pics.
Roger and Diana Frizzelle’s Catalina 470 Di’s Dream and John and Gilly Foy’s Catalina 42 Destiny, both from Alameda, battled it out in the last race of the Blast.