We received a load of photos on February 10, just in time to give you a pictorial overview of what this year’s Zihuatanejo Sailfest was like. But at that time we hadn’t yet received the numbers — and they are impressive.
As we often explain, each year Sailfest features a diversity of both on-the-water and off-the-water activities, all of which contain a fundraising component, with the proceeds going to built or support local schools for disadvantaged indigenous children.
"What a magic year!" says longtime Z-Fest organizer Lorenzo Marbut. "We raised over 1,000,000 pesos — a new record." At today’s exchange rate that’s just over $75,000 USD. Z-Fest typically raises more funds for charity than any other cruiser-fueled fundraiser in Mexico. But this total is truly jaw-dropping compared to previous efforts.
A big chunk of that total came from a single source: Nine-year-old Austin Brown of Springdale, Arkansas donated $21,000 USD. When we ran his photo in our previous report holding a huge ceremonial check, we naturally assumed he was doing so on behalf of his parents, Greg and Sharon Brown. Wrong. Believe it or not, Austin actually earned the cash himself by selling "snow" at weekend craft fairs. It’s a salt-like polymer powder that expands rapidly when water is added, and feels cool to the touch as the water slowly evaporates. (Marketed as Instant Snow on the Internet.) Austin and his family first came to Zihua on a church mission, and they’ve returned three times since, largely to assist with Z-Fest.
"It’s been an amazing journey with Austin," says his proud father. "He’s taken his newfound fame rather in stride though. If anything, it appears only to have energized him to continue. His mother and I are simply his support system." And they reward his generosity with gifts of Legos.
Austin’s accomplishment inspired another volunteer, retired school teacher Jane Fiala to donate $10,000 USD for a kitchen at a proposed new school. "Que Milagro!" says Lorenzo. (What a miracle!)
Robert Fulton of Vancouver, B.C. is preparing to take his Tayana 37, Tropical Dreams, south to Mexico this fall, followed by the Pacific Puddle Jump next spring. He was very interested is our recent piece about Chris and Anne-Marie Fox’s two year cruise aboard their Islander 36, Starship.
"When transforming a regular boat into a cruising boat, two of the most common expenses are installing a watermaker and a SSB radio with a Pactor modem," Fulton writes. "Together they can cost upwards of $7,500 with installation. I’m reaching decision time with regard to both of them."
Starship’s 100-gallon water tank and the Fox’s water-conservation measures made it possible for them to exclude a watermaker from their cruising upgrades — which pleased them quite a bit. The Fox’s also noted the amount of energy required to run a watermaker can entail either adding an additional source of power or running the main diesel too often.
When Latitude 38 started, nobody cruising in the South Pacific had watermakers. Rain catchment systems and sometimes extreme water conservation were all the rage. And so, during dry times, there were saltwater showers.
The possibility of saving more money on upgrading his radio to SSB has Fulton asking, "I know that most bluewater cruisers have SSB radios for safety and social purposes, but I’m wondering if any cruisers go without. And if so, how they feel about it?"
We’d like to know too. If you’ve sailed across the Pacific, as Fulton hopes to in the near future, what’s your opinion on the need for watermakers and SSB radios? Please, send us your thoughts via email.