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February 21, 2014

Complexities of the Puddle Jump

One look at this photo of Fatu Hiva  the first island many cruisers reach when they arrive in the Marquesas and you’ll know why these isles are often referred to as “dreamy.”

Puerto Seguro
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ever since Latitude 38 editors coined the phrase Pacific Puddle Jump nearly 20 years ago, we’ve done extensive reporting on this annual migration from the West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia. And the number of registered entries in this loosely formed rally have been steadily increasing year after year. 

Entry numbers really started to skyrocket after we began arranging for bond exemptions for the fleet six years ago. For the uninitiated, French Polynesia requires that all non-EU citizens entering the territory deposit a cash ‘bond’ (equal to the cost of an air ticket to their home country) in a French Polynesian bank. These funds are refunded the day you clear out, but usually in French Polynesian francs — which can be spent nowhere else. So the rule is both a headache and potentially costly due to the currency exchange.

In recent years we’ve partnered with professional yacht agents who offered registered fleet members bond exemptions, clearance in and out, and duty free fuel access for a reasonable package price. Unfortunately, the agents who did a superb job for the past four years decided they had bigger fish to fry this season, so Tehani and Corinne of the agency Tahiti Crew have stepped in to provide a similar service.

They probably had no idea how challenging it would be to accommodate the needs of the fleet. Processing the paperwork of dozens of cruisers (of many different nationalities) who are 3,000 miles away has proven to be more of a headache than we or they anticipated. First Tahiti had 10 days of nonstop rain which screwed up internet and email transmissions, then for two weeks the agency’s bank was unsuccessful in setting up a special online payment portal for the Puddle Jumpers. Thankfully, it all seems to sorted out now, so we anticipate that exemptions and other paperwork will be ready for fleet members when they make landfall in the Marquesas or Gambier islands in the coming weeks. (Tahiti Crew has sub-agents in both locations.)

Cruisers from all over the globe pass through Panama each year headed to French Polynesia. Unlike the tight-knit Mexico cruising community, though, many Panama Puddle Jumpers meet for the first time at our Send-off Party at Balboa YC.

© Frank Nitte

A much more fun aspect of preparing for the Puddle Jump, is hosting annual Send-Off Parties for Puddle Jumpers in Balboa, Panama and Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. (Free to registered Puddle Jumpers.) Dates are: 

• March 1 — Panama PPJ Send-off Party, Balboa YC, 12-4 p.m.

• March 7 — Nuevo Vallarta PPJ Send-off Party, Vallarta YC (at Paradise Village), 3-6 p.m.

This writer will host each fiesta, and will give a detailed multimedia presentation on the Puddle Jump and cruising French Polynesia. Each boat will receive an official Pacific Puddle Jump burgee, and all attendees will get free drinks and snacks at both events.

We’ll also conduct quickie interviews with each crew for profiles that will appear in the magazine. (By the way, in case you didn’t know, each edition is available online free at

After the fleet arrives in the islands, all are invited to attend the three-day Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, July 4-6. Its schedule of events — which includes a six-person outrigger canoe race, music and dance presentations and more — is intended to introduce new arrivals to highly revered Polynesian cultural traditions in music, dance, sport and cuisine.

If you are pictured here, at our 2013 Rendezvous at Moorea’s Bali Hai Hotel, you are a very lucky sailor. It’s a 3,000 mile distance to the party.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

This year, we’ve partnered with the Club Bali Hai Hotel in majestic Cook’s Bay, Moorea, where cruisers are invited to attend the annual Ukelele Festival. And who knows, in addition to a free welcome cocktail, attendees might receive a fresh flower lei from Miss Moorea, as happened last year.

It’s all great fun, and a memorable reward for spending 20+ days at sea to get there. (Learn more about the Pacific Puddle Jump on the website.)

SailMail Seminar

You may have heard about SailMail and you might have even used it the last time you were cruising or when you raced the PacCup two years ago. But, there’s a good chance you didn’t take advantage of all its capabilities. SailMail is fundamentally an email service that functions with SSB, Satelite phone, Immarstat, or WiFi. But there’s a lot more to this service than just email.

This coming Tuesday, February 25, at Richmond YC a seminar will be held explaining SailMail’s broader capabilities. Eric Steinberg of Farallon Electronics and PacCup Chair Steve Chamberlin will explain SailMail’s weather service capabilities, how to get position reports, send and receive email, update you blog site and more. This seminar is open to all, costs only $5 and goes from 7-9 p.m.

Sign-up online and you’ll learn learn why low bandwidth communication doesn’t mean you can’t have high expectations for your communication while at sea.

Repurposing Crocs

We’ve never like crocs, the ugly-but-functional footwear that are sometimes referred to as "the fanny packs of the 2000s." For reasons we don’t understand, we’ve never liked the word ‘re-purposing’ either. But we like the re-purposing concept.

One of the best re-purposing jobs we’ve seen recently was done by John and ‘Roni’ Everton of the Caribbean-based 50-ft ketch Gaucho. They screwed their old crocs to the bow and transom of their dinghy for use as fenders.

These Crocs may be too warn out for walking, but it could be years before they’re too worn down to be useful as bow bumpers.

© Richard

Have you got any good ‘re-purposings’ that you’d like to share?

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.
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.