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November 25, 2013

2014 Puddle Jump Registration Opens

Making landfall in the idyllic isles of French Polynesia is often a highlight of any sailor’s career. Seen here is Seattle-based Pico on approach to Moorea.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Given the legendary beauty of French Polynesia’s five archipelagos, its not surprising that the notion of cruising there is high on many sailors’ bucket lists.

Every year, several hundred sailors aboard a wide variety of boats make the 3,000-mile crossing to those fabled isles from the West Coast of the Americas. And many do so as members of Latitude’s Pacific Puddle Jump rally. 

Unlike the recently completed Baja Ha-Ha, the PPJ is a ‘rally’ in only the loosest terms: There’s no committee boat, there are no mandatory roll calls, and its members leave from a variety of West Coast ports anytime between February and June.

At the annual Rendezvous, cruisers get an authentic taste of Polynesian culture.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After signing up, however, ‘jumpers’ are invited to attend one of Latitude’s annual sendoff parties in Puerto Vallarta and Panama (dates TBA), where they’ll be interviewed for profiles in the magazine. They also may attend the annual three-day Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous (July 4-6), and each boat’s detailed safety info will be held in a master database that is made available to Search & Rescue agencies if emergencies occur.

But the factor that boosts the PPJ roster to over 200 boats each year is that registrants are eligible to participate in a specially priced package offered by a Tahitian yacht agency, which gives them clearance in and out, duty-free fuel beginning in the Marquesas ($2/gal savings) and exemptions from having to pay the dreaded repatriation bonds for every member of the crew. (Otherwise the value of a plane ticket home must be held in a bank in cash until departure.) 

So if you’re planning to chase the setting sun over the western horizon this season, get online and sign up. It’s free, it’s fun and it will introduce you to an international array of like-minded voyagers.

Mid Ocean Assist

Patrick and Rebecca Childress had just dropped Brick House’s mainsail in preparation for an oncoming squall as they sailed among the remote southern Solomon Islands, when Patrick spotted something extraordinary and frightening. An 18-ft open fiberglass boat was fast approaching their Valiant 40’s stern. "A man in black was at the bow getting a face full of waves. Another man in black was at the outboard engine. Additional people were hiding under a black tarp in the middle of the boat," recalls Patrick. He knew about the common pirate attacks near the Red Sea, but in the Pacific? Fortunately, their first impressions vanished as the small craft pulled-up alongside Brick House and the Childresses saw a woman and children under the tarp. "We need help!" the men yelled.

Charles and his family were desperate for help.

© Patrick Childress

As the family of eight were motoring among the islands on their way to a funeral, a storm moved-in and sent them 65 miles off course. They’d begun their journey with only 10 gallons of gas, two liters of water and some dried breadfruit; now they were desperate for assistance. "Soon, we had the natives spread around the cockpit and deck with their motorboat on a very long tow line," says Patrick. Although conditions were cramped, the guests quickly learned how to sail Brick House to a compass course and help out where they could. 

Brick House towing Charles’ boat.

© Patrick Childress
Life in the Solomons is not easy. Access to fuel, food and medical care is extremely limited. "Some of our guests were picking nits from each others head and the lips of several people were drooled red from chewing and spitting betel nut. A couple people had sheets of sores with scabs and mild infections on their legs and feet. We applied topical antibiotic ointment to the infections," Patrick says. Charles, the owner of the powerboat had a bad knee. "A year ago, with his own hands, he reset his knee which had been knocked completely out of joint. Even Rebecca was suffering on this trip, fighting her own tropical intestinal parasite."
The Childresses offered what they could to the family, producing a bucket of bananas for them to eat. "Like a magic trick, the bucket was empty, with yellow peels leaving a trail in our wake. Next we boiled our taro and yams which also vanished. Several of the older men had few teeth so could not eat the dried bread fruit until we boiled it."
Brick House sailed through the night and eventually, reached Utupua Island where the family disembarked with new batteries, an extra flashlight, a wrist-worn underwater compass and three additional liters of water. "Like the villagers we have met everywhere, they were very polite, yet quiet from fatigue. They seemed to take the ordeal as a shared responsibility, as a family unit, without blaming or bickering," according to Patrick.
The natives sharing some much needed food.

© Patrick Childress
"Somehow they will have to find enough gasoline to get them to their destination, 58 miles northwest to Temotu. Then reverse everything to get back to Duff Island where their journey began. Their ordeal is a long way from over, yet far easier than if our paths had not crossed in the middle of an ocean."

Dehumidifiers Recalled for Fire Hazard

Kim Harrison was kind enough to pass along this recall notice. Gree, a major manufacturer of dehumidifiers, has recalled 12 brands of dehumidifiers. Over 2.2 million have been sold in the US and Canada under the brand names Danby, De’Longhi, Fedders, Fellini, Frigidaire, Gree, Kenmore, Norpole, Premiere, Seabreeze, SoleusAir and SuperClima.

A variety of brands sell Gree-manufactured dehumidifiers.

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I am getting rid of mine, and I’m hoping my boating and racing friends get rid of theirs too. It is that time of year when Bay Area boaters turn on their portable dehumidifiers," says Kim. There’s been over $2 million dollars of property damage to date, and we’d hate to see any boats or boat owners affected as well. Thanks for the heads-up, Kim! Find out if your dehumidifier is listed here.

It’s All About the Tropic of Taurus

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

While the fall and winter months north of the Tropic of Taurus herald cold, wet and dark weather, it’s just the opposite south of the Tropic of Taurus, where life is springing anew.

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We noticed, for example, that the 6 a.m. temperature in San Francisco was 51 degrees. Aboard Profligate on the Marina Riviera Nayarit, it was a balmy 75 degrees at the same time with the day’s high expected to be in the mid 80s. To be fair, we’ve had some crap conditions on Banderas Bay. There has been a severe red tide, which resulted in thousands upon thousands of catfish coming up dead in the La Cruz Marina. And we had some end-of-season crap weather a few days ago. The skies were about as grey as we could ever remember them, there was rain, and a very late season tropical depression brought 35+ knots of wind to the boats anchored at Punta Mita.

Red tide means thousands of dead fish in the marinas.

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The way we looked at it, it was good to get the crummy stuff out of the way early in the season, as things had to improve dramatically. And they have. The other morning dawned with brilliant sunshine and a cloudless blue sky. We joined a group from Philo’s for a motorcycle ride up to Sayulita. It’s getting close to Thanksgiving, and that town was packed with surfers, dogs and hippies. If you’re under 30, it’s your kind of place.

Along the narrow road between Punta Mita and Sayulita, the jungle was in magnificent bloom. We could darn near hear the bright green plants growing. Then last night we joined Kevin and Marcie Millett of Kauai aboard their lightweight 50-ft cat Kalewa for a moonlight sail. It was flat water on Banderas Bay, and the 18,000-lb cat moved right along in five to seven knots of wind. "This reminds me of Hanalei Bay," said Marcie, looking at the full moon reflected on the mountain-ringed bay. When we got back to the dock shortly after 11 p.m., it was still shorts and T-shirt weather. You need a fan, not a blanket, to sleep comfortably.

Look at that beauty!

© 2013 Kathy Crabtree

We’re still getting photos of the fish that participants caught in the 20th Annual Baja Ha-Ha Rally. Check out the accompanying beauty landed by Barry Foster of the San Diego-based Hans Christian 38T Tillie. But just because you catch and land a big dorado doesn’t mean you get to keep it, because sometimes Mother Nature takes her bounty back for one of her own. For proof, see the hilarious video taken recently at Cabo San Lucas. If we’re not mistaken, that fish would have been worth $7,000 in the fishing tournament. 

If you get to be south of the Tropic of Taurus this winter, lucky you, enjoy it to the hilt. If you’re stuck in the cold, take solace from the fact that the salubrious conditions will waiting when it’s your turn.

Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux onboard MACIF — the dream team in this year’s Transat Jacques Vabre — dismasted yesterday less than 150 miles from Salavador de Bahia, Brazil while leading the IMOCA class.
Well-known East Bay woodworker Kyle Miller was found dead yesterday morning inside his 1989 Mercedes, which was partially submerged off the Sugar Dock facility on the south side of Richmond’s Santa Fe Channel.
We’re sad to report that Greg Stephanoff’s Catalina 42 C:Drive was found adrift in the Pacific with no sign of Stephanoff.