Newsletter # 2- Fiona Completes the Circumnavigation of North America


May, 2010

After nearly three weeks at home I returned to California in mid-November. Probably the most noteworthy thing I accomplished at home was, at the urging of one of my old crew, to put together a PowerPoint slide show of my transit of the NW Passage. I gave the talk for the benefit of the Carmen’s River Maritime Center to a sell-out crowd at the local church hall. Bill, another stalwart member of my old crew network, met me at SFO and was his usual hospitable self, insisting that I stay with him and running me down to the marina every day. I was able to squeeze in a presentation of my slide show at a local yacht club and meet many of his sailing friends; in return I was given charts and advice on sailing southern California and Mexico. Two young men signed up for the initial stages of the trip south – Quentin and Bart. Both had had some sailing experience and turned out to be enjoyable companions. We made a short haul to Monterey and left the boat there for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving. Bill took me to his charming weekend house at La Selvas. I feasted at his traditional family gathering and reluctantly made my farewells. The lads rejoined the boat and we chugged past the breakwater, which was crowded with honking sea-lions. We headed for Santa Cruz Island, the wind was on the starboard stern quarter blowing about 25 knots. We had a sleigh ride to the island and anchored at the ominously named Prisoner’s Harbor a day and a half out of Monterey. After inflating the dinghy we headed for the shore and took a short walk, there was really nothing to see, the island is a park and apart from a worker that passed us in his pick-up we saw no one.

On returning to the beach we found the surf had picked up but I foolishly decided to launch the dinghy, which capsized, dumping us in the sea. As we were wet anyway we pushed it beyond the breaking waves and climbed aboard. Fortunately the outboard engine started and we returned to Fiona to dry out. Both my still and video cameras had been ruined and although Quentin tinkered with his camera for a few days he never got it to work; a rather expensive excursion. Our next stop was Avalon on Catalina Island. This is a very popular spot for Californian boaters from the San Diego region and the harbor had over 400 moorings. Fortunately there were not many there so late in the season and we enjoyed the town without standing in long lines. A landmark is the old Casino, never a gambling center; it was built in Art Deco style as a dance hall. Several movies were shot on the island at the height of the Hollywood era, the Casino had an interesting museum showing snaps of ’30s and ’40s film stars such as Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart at Avalon with their yachts. Nowadays the Casino is mostly used to screen movies; we went to see Christmas Carol, mainly so we could inspect the wonderful Art Deco interior. One movie shot on the island before the war was a western, for which the producers imported a herd of buffalo. After the film was finished the animals were released into the wild and now the herd is quite a tourist attraction.

Avid aficionados of this website may recall from chapter 1 of About Edith and Eric that we sailed in the Caribbean aboard Maverick in the early ’60s with Captain Jack Carstarphen and his first wife Ruth. When we sailed our own boat down there, Iona, in the late ’60s they had separated but Ruth was pregnant with a son, Orne. I kept in casual touch with Ruth via Christmas cards and I knew she had moved to Avalon where Orne grew up. Ruth died a few years ago but to my delight Orne was listed in the local phone book. I gave him a call and discovered he was deputy harbor master, salt water must run in his veins. He was very pleased I called and we got together on the boat. The next day he gave us a tour of the island. This was a rare treat because much of the island is a land trust administered by the Wrigley (chewing gum) families, who have owned it for decades. As a resident, Orne had all the permits to drive into the restricted parts and we even saw the fabulous buffalo herd.

At San Diego we were given a complimentary berth at Cabillo Island Marina, thanks to Bill’s friend Craig, who had met me at the slide show. A new edition of the popular California boating magazine, Latitude 38, appeared with an article about my North West Passage and the ladies in the office posted a copy on the notice board with a caption ‘Famous Sailor Visits Our Marina’, I was a little embarrassed, but such is fame! Quentin and I both bought new still cameras and I met up with an old sailing friend, BettyLou, who took me to a vast supermarket to re-provision for the leg to Mexico. One night it was very windy and the crew furled a runaway jib on a nearby boat, the owner was so grateful he got them $50 credit at the marina café. I also contacted one of my old flying buddies from those dim and distant RAF days. He still flies his own plane and aroused my envy by telling me he had gotten a ride in a MIG 21.

It was just an overnight sail to cross the border into Mexico. We tied up at a marina and completed the paperwork to enter the country; if you do it after 2:30 pm the fees double! Obviously the Mexican bureaucrats do not like working late. Viagra is sold everywhere with suggestive posters to attract the border tourists. The town is quite pleasant with numerous restaurants, meals and food at the markets are slightly below NY prices but Ensenada is too close to the US border to be very inexpensive except at the taco stands. It was still fairly chilly in the mornings; 40s F, an incentive to work our way south as quickly as possible. It took us two days to sail to Bahia de Tortugas, a small, more typical town than Ensenada. Although the bay is named for turtles, I have never seen so many pelicans in my life. They flocked on the jetty and every unoccupied boat. We sampled the local eateries and moved on.

During the night the steering chain broke, the third time this had happened on this cruise. The weather was mild, obviously something was going on. We hand steered to Bahia Asuncion and anchored off the village to repair the chain. We discovered that all the breakages of this trip were due to a pin in the lower sprocket assembly working loose and fouling the chain. We replaced chain and pin and secured the pin with stainless safety wire. A major overhaul of the steering system will be needed when I get home. We left the same afternoon bound for Magdalena Bay. Keeping busy with the boat under power we took care of minor maintenance and I showed the lads how to use a sextant. We plotted a running fix using sun position lines; the GPS seemed reasonably accurate (joke). We anchored in Santa Maria Cove, it was getting much warmer with the mid-day temperature climbing to nearly 80 F, Bart and Quentin overhauled the jib sheet winches and had a swim. A boat we had seen earlier showed up, Fire Water. We talked to the elderly captain, Richard, and his wife Doris, they had lived aboard 35 years making yearly round trips between Mexico and Hawaii. For the first time since leaving Long Island I donned short pants.

We were now nearing the southern tip of Baja California. On the way to a marina at San Jose del Cabo we passed two large whales and a baby. Bart signed off here and we were joined by Quentin’s girlfriend Emilyn, who planned to sail to Panama. The marina manager, Jim, has written an informative and humorous guide to sailing the coast called Baja Bash II. He gave us a complimentary copy. The town is rather dusty but boasts several inexpensive restaurants and internet cafes. We left to cross the southern end of the Sea of Cortez bound for La Cruz, it turned out to be a pleasant sail in contrast to the mostly windless passages along Baja. We enjoyed La Cruz, a small, modest town with no overwhelming development. Our next stop was Zihautanejo, we stayed a couple of extra days because all the offices were shut for the New Year holiday. This was our last port in Mexico and we needed a zarpe (official clearance to leave for a foreign port) from the Port Captain so that we had the necessary documents to enter Costa Rica. Edith and I had visited Zihautanejo about 22 years ago, by air. We stayed at a small hotel on the beach, but such has been the scale of development that I couldn’t recognize much from my previous trip.

After leaving Zihautanejo we experienced flat calm for a couple of days and motored, we were heading for Costa Rica, about a thousand miles away. The seas began to rise although we still had no wind; we were nearing the infamous Gulf of Tehauntepec, where very strong winds, sometimes up to hurricane strength, can be generated. The boat rolled ferociously but eventually we had enough wind to sail. This stabilized the boat but the wind increased to about 30 knots and we tied two reefs in the mains’l, doused the genoa jib and set the stays’l. We made good progress across the gulf but before we furled the jib a small tear developed. We exchanged the genoa for the yankee jib in a lull but the wind soon came back. We sailed with the reefed mainsail, staysail and yankee jib for the remaining 500 nm to Puntarenas in Costa Rica, which took ten days against heavy head winds. When Emilyn was on watch one night she spotted the freighter Efficiency approaching on a collision course at 20 knots on our bow. The first warning came on our Automatic Information System (AIS) receiver, a relatively new aid which plots the position of nearby ships using relayed GPS coordinates. She called on channel 16, but the reply was in poor English. Despite repeated warnings to change course to port they finally said they could see our green light and then turned starboard across our bow. They passed only 100 yards on our port side, which was very scary in the dark with tumultuous seas running.

South of the Gulf we passed the Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua without seeing the coast line. We had winds on the nose up to gale force, seas running ten to twelve feet and strong currents. Sometimes we sailed with a triple reefed mainsail and the staysail. The weather was atrocious, by far the worst we had experienced since being in Alaskan waters. In one twenty-four hour period I found on checking the GPS that our distance to the destination had increased by about thirty miles. As we approached Costa Rica another hazard loomed; an area of hundreds of square miles littered with ‘Sea Mounts’. These are stupendous pinnacles rising from the sea-floor six thousand feet below to within a few feet of the surface. They range in diameter from a few miles to twenty miles, more than two dozen are scattered in the area. They have not been surveyed for decades, clearly it would not be prudent to sail across one in such heavy weather. We had to tack and zig-zag between these obstructions; it was uncomfortable and stressful sailing.

Eventually we arrived in Costa Rica and anchored for the night in the lee of a small island before heading for the port of Puntarenas. We had no idea where the Port Captain was located, we anchored in the narrow estuary by the fish market and wandered ashore in the dinghy. Fortunately Emilyn was fluent in Spanish and soon got directions, we shouldered our way through the packed and noisy streets, stopping at an ATM to get some local pesos. After a long wait in the Port Captain’s office we were told an agent was essential, this was arranged and Jorge met us at the dinghy. He asked us to move the boat to the proximity of the Port Captain; we chugged a few hundred yards up the river and re-anchored. The reason for an agent soon became apparent; after a couple of hours Jorge had assembled four officials on the dock opposite the boat to start our entry paperwork, Customs, Health, Immigration and Police. When all that was done Jorge piloted the boat up the river to the yacht club, about three miles out of town, the route was encumbered by sandbars and wrecks. We tied up to a float, communication to the shore was by the ubiquitous ‘Pangas’; small narrow skiffs with outboard engines. The club facilities were excellent and we were able to enjoy a shower, drinks and a meal. We contacted Andy, an expat who lives in Costa Rica, he planned to sail to Panama with us and make a video of the Canal transit. The next day he and his wife showed up and we drove in their van to a town about 12 miles away to complete our entry into the country, we had to obtain a temporary import license for the boat. We found a sailmaker to repair the jib and I visited a barber, who shaved off my beard and gave me a haircut that would have passed muster in the marines. After some shopping for food and beer we contacted Jorge to get us the necessary papers to clear out for Panama.

We had calm weather for a leg under power to the western boundary of Panama and we anchored at several verdant islands for swimming and snorkeling. These islands were almost deserted; some were part of a national park and were wonderful tropical cruising. To get to the canal we still had one more hurdle to pass; Cabo Mala (Cape Bad in Spanish). Many capes throughout the world produce their own weather and this was no exception, we encountered fairly stiff winds almost on the nose. It took us two days to batter through to the lovely, tranquil Las Perlas Islands. This was Andy’s first exposure to roughish weather at sea, he was not impressed. We cruised to a few anchorages in the island group and then sailed for the canal entrance. In the distance we could see the skyscrapers of modern Panama City on the starboard and ahead the numerous freighters at anchor waiting their turn for the transit. We refueled at a marina which was too crowded by a ‘Round the World’ rally to find a slip for us. We had to anchor for a couple of nights, we dinghied ashore to clear into Panama and start the paperwork for the canal passage. Andy checked into a fancy hotel to indulge himself in luxury and to await the start of our transit.

This would be my fifth transit of the Panama Canal aboard Fiona, in the past I handled the paperwork myself but this time, after we had cleared into Panama, I hired an agent who scheduled our transit and dealt with the Canal Authority. We eventually managed to get a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club and spent two days watching the endless stream of ships passing just a hundred yards to the north as they entered or left the canal. The Canal Authority requires a small boat to be manned by a captain and four crew in order to make the transit and they provide an advisor. To make up our crew strength we were joined by Bill, who flew down from New Hampshire, he planned to stay aboard as far as New York. On the appointed day we were joined by the advisor, Robin, at 7 am and we powered up to the Mira Flores locks. Fortunately we were able to tie up to a tug boat also making the transit, which is much simpler then tying the boat in mid-lock with two lines to both the bow and stern. All went well to the Gaillard Cut and the Gatun Lake. At the other end of the lake Robin told us that delays had occurred with freighters ahead of us and we would have to anchor for the night. Then something happened and we were offered the chance to make the last Caribbean-bound transit of the day, but we would have to be tied to the lock wall. We jumped at the chance, as it turned out it was not such a good idea. There are three locks to get vessels down to sea level. We entered the first lock behind a tug that was shepherding a disabled ship. I soon discovered the disadvantage of being tied to the dock wall, turbulence from the tug ahead, which was constantly maneuvering, caused us to bang against the wall and the mast spreaders came dangerously close to colliding with it. In the second lock a loss of communication between Robin and the dockside line-handlers allowed us to drift away from the wall and twice I had to make a scary three hundred and sixty degree, three-point, turn in the turbulent water inside the lock between the stern of the tug and its charge and the lock gate. When we were finally tied up spectators in the public viewing stand applauded. After dropping down to sea level in the third lock we headed for Colon to disembark our advisor. In my previous trips I stayed at the Colon Yacht Club, but in a dispute with the people who ran the container dock, who wanted to expand, it had been bull-dozed out of existence literally overnight. It was still light and I decided to head over to a new yacht club near the start of the north breakwater. Fortunately we were able to tie up and Andy, who was desperate to get home, hitched a ride to the Colon bus station. After a couple of days Emilyn and Quentin also signed off. They proposed to explore the natural wonders of Panama and Costa Rica on foot before heading home to California. Bill and I were joined by Louise, a veteran of many Fiona cruises, who flew in for a month aboard.

We left for the short leg to Portobello. This was a major port in the glory days of the Spanish Main, much of the loot extracted from the New World passed through it for trans-shipment to Spain. None of its former importance remains; it is a small, scruffy village without even a bank. The remains of forts built to protect the town line the shore and we wandered among the stone ruins. The forts had been knocked about a bit in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, mostly by the English. Children now played football in the flat spaces between the walls. We moved down the coast, stopping at a scenic bay and then anchored in the San Blas Islands.

I have visited these islands on several occasions, starting with the circumnavigation in 1995/7. They are inhabited by an indigenous Indian tribe called Kuna. For centuries the occupiers of the mainland, first the Spanish and then the Panamanians, have tried to eliminate them. But they are fiercely independent and now have a degree of autonomy, which has allowed them to prevent any widescale development in their country. They still move around in dug-out canoes, some with outboards but many paddled or sailed with a lug rig. The women dress with a characteristic tight skirt and bodice decorated with molas – multi colored cloth embroidery. The molas are also sold to tourists. There are several small villages scattered through the islands, the bamboo huts are densely crowded together and though their life-style seems primitive most of them carry cell phones! We snorkeled on a wrecked freighter and enjoyed a few meals ashore in primitive Kuna restaurants. Louise indulged in langouste, a clawless local lobster.

It was time to move on to Colombia, a 200 mile leg across a great bay, usually against the northeast trade winds. By watching the weather forecasts carefully we were able to make the crossing mostly under sail close hauled on port tack with a wind from the north. We arrived in the late afternoon, heading up the inlet channel we had a scare when the engine overheated. We nursed the boat to an anchorage and when the engine cooled down discovered a hose clamp had broken and the cooling fresh water had drained away. In the morning we tied up at the yacht club in Cartagena, it was quite primitive as the whole place was undergoing an extensive rebuild, however, the dockmaster was very helpful and we enjoyed our stay. It was very hot and humid, afternoon temperatures of 95 F were common, we sweltered. Cartagena was another important port for the colonial Spanish, the town was built on several islands inside a bay, and each had its defending forts, which are mostly in good repair. The downtown central area inside the old walls is very attractive; we spent some time visiting the historic buildings and the stunning art museum. Fortunately most of our everyday needs were met by a modern air-conditioned supermarket located close to the club, this featured a pleasant cafeteria, toilets and internet snackbar as well as a well-stocked food section. Louise flew home from here and her place was taken by Bert, a New Yorker originally from Germany.

We left for the Bahamas with a head wind and we had to beat our way clear of the coast, but after a day the wind veered and we were able to sail for the Windward Passage close hauled. Gaining this favorable slant was one reason why we had sailed to Colombia; in 2007 I sailed directly for the Passage from the San Blas Islands and endured a long slog upwind. The wind died and then backed to northerly as we sailed past Cuba but we made it to Mathew Town on Great Inagua Island in five a half days after leaving Cartagena. It was considerably colder in the southern Bahamas. We anchored a quarter mile off the beach, it is an open roadstead and we rolled badly. We inflated the dinghy and chugged over to the beach, the settlement is quite small with basic necessities; a store, bar, police station, school and not much else. The economy depends entirely on the Morton salt company, which operates large ponds in the interior to make salt by the evaporation of sea water. As we left we could see huge piles of salt glistening in the sun, it looked more like the Arctic than the tropics. The northerly winds persisted and we powered to a more protected anchorage on Long Cay. It was very remote, apart from a couple of yachts we saw no one for a few days. The water was like crystal, we could see the bottom clearly twenty feet down. On the shore were thousands, if not millions, of conch shells displaying the characteristic slot were the shell had been cut to release the animal inside for food. Unfortunately the shore was also littered by plastic debris of every description; bottles, flip flops, buckets, packaging, etc.

We were now on a leisurely cruise through the Bahamas, stopping most nights, what sailors call gunkholing. We moved to Clarence Town on Long Island and then to Rum Cay where we were disappointed to find the first bar we stopped at had no rum. The second had rum but if we wanted a meal it had to be ordered hours before, fortunately the old lady running the place was able to produce some delicious conch fritters for us. Eventually we fetched up at George Town in the Exumas chain. This is the favorite spot for many snowbirders who bring their boats here year after year in winter. It is especially popular with Canadian boaters. We were able to re-provision, take a shower, do the laundry and check our e-mail. For Bert the e-mail proved fatal–business problems called him back to New York. Bill and I sailed north, usually spending one night at each anchorage. At Farmer’s Cay we went aground near low tide. A helpful yachtie helped set a kedge and we got off as the tide came in. It was a warning that Fiona‘s six foot draft was tight for cruising in much of the Bahamas. We had a wonderful sail across the Exumas Bank with a fifteen knot beam wind and absolutely calm water provided by the islands to windward. A cold front pinned us down for three nights at Staniel Cay, an island Edith and I had visited in 1969 aboard Iona. Once again I was unable to recognize much due to extensive development in the intervening years. We sailed to a beautiful national park, unscarred by development called Wardrick Wells. On shore we explored the remains of a settlement started by Empire Loyalists who moved to the island after the American Rebellion, as the British term that historic event. It was abandoned after a few years, scrubby bushes hide the moldering piles of coral bricks used to build the small houses. Reading a display about the history of the Bahamas I was surprised to discover the islands had been covered by thick forests of exotic hardwoods, such as lignum vitae. The trees were logged by early European explorers and the soil washed away leaving the islands in the semi-arid state they are today. Our final stop in the Exumas was Norman’s Cay, this was the scene of the dramatic evacuation of a sick crew member by air ambulance during the 2006/7 cruise. My plan was to leave early in the morning for a thirty mile leg to Eleuthera, but the combination of choppy water and low sun on the bow got us into serious trouble. The entrance through the outer coral is tricky and narrow, Bill went ahead in the dinghy sounding a route, but it was difficult to ‘read’ the depth and although the depth finder (located near ther stern) showed several feet under the keel Fiona‘s bow struck heavily and the flooding current pushed the boat sideways onto rocks. Poor Fiona bounced in the shallow water. I sent Bill back to the anchorage to see if he could get a cruiser to come and help, but by using all the power available from the trusty Perkins engine I was eventually able to get the bow pointing seaward again as the tide rose and power into deep water. Bill rejoined the boat a few hundred yards offshore and we winched the dinghy back on board. Later I was able to inspect the damage by diving with a mask; looks like Weeks’ Yard have a little fiberglass patching to do!

We stopped at several small ports on Eleuthera, perhaps the most interesting thing was to visit a ‘Blue Hole’ a half mile inland from the village of Rock Sound. These geological features are not unusual in the Bahamas, this one was nearly circular with a diameter of about 400 feet, they are very deep and the water level rises and falls with the tide, showing that there is an underground connection with the sea. The indigenous Indians regarded them as very sacred places. We left from Hatchet Bay for a fine twenty-four sail to the Abacos Islands. En route we had to take evasive action in the middle of the night to avoid a small freighter, even though we were under sail and had right of way, but as they say; ‘might is right’. By daylight we were off Great Abaco Island, we carefully navigated through a cut in the reef into the Sea of Abaco and anchored a quarter mile off New Plymouth. This charming village was established by Empire Loyalists and some of the families still living there can trace their roots back to these early pioneers. Bill and I visited an old house belonging to one of these families, the Lowes, which is now a museum. Our next stop was Treasure Cay, which used to be a nice marina; I have anchored there several times in previous cruises. So many condos have been built that the marina is rather overwhelmed and the matey bar I remember was deserted. But the bar on the magnificent beach was functioning, although for some strange reason it closed at 5 pm. The next day we were off to Man-o-War Cay. We left at high tide which meant we arrived near low tide, we bumped slightly entering the small, shallow harbor, it was getting to be a feature of Bahamas cruising with six feet hanging under the boat. This, too, is an old village, for a couple of centuries the residents have specialized in boat building. We were able to look in a couple of the sheds with work in progress, now the boats are made of fiberglass. We had lunch and dinner at the local restaurant, ‘Dock and Dine’, the island is dry, we discovered; no Heineken with our meals. Transportation on the narrow roads is by golf cart. It was only an hour’s sail to Marsh Harbour, our final port in the Bahamas, here we checked into a marina, expecting to be in port only a couple of days, but strong northeast winds kept us pinned there a few days longer. We were joined by Wayne, who flew in for some Scuba diving before he signed on. Wayne is a veteran of the 2008 cruise; he crossed the Atlantic to the Azores.

When the strong NE winds finally let up we left for Bermuda, although initially we were pushed a little north of the rhumbline. Then the wind petered out before switching to the SE, we enjoyed a pleasant sail with no heavy weather to deal with and we arrived in Bermuda six days out, just before midnight. After clearing customs we tied up at the dock wall on Ordnance Island, very close to where I secured on my first visit to Bermuda in 1968. There are plenty of signs of the economic downturn to hit Bermuda. The cruise ship terminal on Ordnance Island is now a yacht center, featuring easy chairs, wifi and a clean toilet. It is ironic that in 1968 the same site was occupied by the dinghy club, subsequently moved to make way for the cruise ship terminal. Ther are quite few shops for rent in St George’s and the pub on the north side of the square is closed. Bill’s wife, Kathy, was already in Bermuda when we arrived and Bill, who feeling unwell, left the cruise to join her before flying back to New Hampshire. My old friend Lew flew in for a few days vacation on the boat, he is the editor of the famous Fiona cruising videos. We discussed plans for the next in the series; Fiona is Challenged by the North West Passage. I had hoped to sail to the west side of Bermuda for a couple of days and anchor on the reef but very strong westerly winds prevailed, with gusts to 45 knots, and we stayed securely tied up to Ordnance Island. Before the wind piped up Lew and I changed the mainsail for the storm main, I was expecting bad weather for the last leg to Long Island, perhaps changing to heavy weather sails would be a good preventative. I always enjoy Bermuda, the rides in the pink and blue buses along the narrow roads with breathtaking views of the azure sea are a real pleasure. Wayne managed to squeeze in nine diving sessions, he, too, was joined by his wife for a few days and they moved to a nearby hotel. There remained the problem of replacing Bill, but my friends in the South Bay Cruising Club came through and we were joined by Allan, who flew in the day before we left for the last leg of the North American circumnavigation.

We enjoyed good weather for the five and a half day cruise to Long Island. Allan was greatly impressed by a pod of fin whales which gamboled around the boat. A problem which developed the first day out was engine overheating. I traced this to the fresh water circulation system, after changing a few components without any success I finally converted the cooling system temporarily to direct sea water cooling. This fix got us home as I knew we would need reliable power to transit Fire Island Inlet. The parlous state of the Inlet, caused by winter storms, had been the subject of numerous e-mails since I arrived in Colombia. At first the news was very depressing but more careful surveys made as the spring weather improved indicated I should be able to make it at the peak of high tide. Bob Forman, who brought his own boat through the Inlet a few days before Fiona‘s passage, e-mailed detailed instructions on the zig-zag course in the channel to avoid shoal spots. As we neared the coast I was faced with a dilemma; I had originally intended to enter on the high tide about 4 pm on Saturday, but the forecast showed gale force winds developing. I decided to enter on the earlier tide about 3 am and risk a night passage. The weather was still calm and we transited without difficulty, the minimum depth we experienced was a little over two feet under the keel. A thick fog developed as we passed under the Robert Moses Bridge, in the tricky channel through Great South Bay we missed a turn and bumped onto a sand bar but easily powered off. Bob Lyons met us off Sayville with his beautiful Mathews power boat carrying Wayne’s better half and some friends. We tied up at Weeks about 7:20 am on 8th May, on schedule. The last few hours had been a dramatic finale to Fiona‘s circumnavigation of North America. It had been an exciting 47 week cruise; Fiona logged 16,333 nautical miles, although the log tends to under-read, the true distance is probably nearer 18,000 miles. For the statistically minded I received 228 GRIB weather forecasts, entered 337 GPS waypoints and exhausted fifteen different crew members during the course of the cruise.


Fair Winds to All, from Eric



The yacht harbor and Casino at Avalon, Catalina Island, CA.

A flock of pelicans take over a boat at Baia Tortugas, Mexico.

Bart and Quentin undertake a little maintenance at an in anchorage in Baja California.

For the first time in the cruise Eric dons shorts in Baja California.

Quentin and Emilyn celebrate Christmas on board at Zihautanejo.

Andy and a beardless Eric enjoy a beer at the Balboa Yacht Club, Panama.

The infamous Gaillard Cut in the Panama Canal; the builders had to cut a hill in half.

A battery at the abandoned Fort Sherman in the former Panama Canal Zone.

The harbor at Portobello, seen from the ancient battlements.

A Kuna Indian lady seen with crew members Louise and Bill, San Blas Islands, Panama.

The massive Spanish fort at Cartagena, Colombia.

The waterfront, Cartagena, Colombia.

A large ray makes its escape, Long Cay, Bahamas.

Fiona enjoys a wonderful beam reach, Exuma Sound, Bahamas.

The skeleton of a sperm whale that washed ashore at Wardrick Wells, Bahamas.

The village of New Plymouth, Abacos. It was founded by Empire Loyalists.

Lignum Vitae tree grows at Man-o-War Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.

Fiona and Deliverance at St George’s, Bermuda.

Eric poses with the huge Victorian canon at Fort Gates, Bermuda.

Lew at the scenic Tobacco Bay, St George’s, Bermuda.

A massive cruise ship tied up at the Dockyard, Ireland Island, Bermuda.

Bob Lyon’s beautiful power yacht ,
Fireplace, greets Fiona on a foggy morning.

The crew for the last leg: Alan, Eric and Wayne.