Gunter and I attended the 10th Puddle Jump anniversary with about 30 cruisers who sailed to the Marquesas Islands in the spring of 2002. (“Puddle” is the name given to the Pacific Crossing, similar to “Pond” for the Atlantic.) Pacific Bliss made the 3200-mile crossing in 21 days, the longest time out of sight of land during our entire eight-year circumnavigation.  The timing was fortunate because many of these sailors are mentioned in my forthcoming book, SAILING THE SOUTH PACIFIC, and I will need to obtain approvals from them.

We returned on Monday from Puerto Vallarta, safe and sound and very happy.

I think the seminar that the “class of 2002” gave in La Cruz was a roaring success. At the close of the seminar, here’s what we said to the new crop of 2012 Puddle Jumpers:  “This voyage will change you.  You will NOT come back the same person you were when you left. You will stare death in the eye…and survive. All of you will face fear and come back a better and stronger person. You will get closer to God and the universe. You’ll become extremely grateful for the opportunity to have taken this voyage. From now on, you will become more appreciative of all you have and for your many blessings. You’ll come back happy, and most likely, remain happy for the rest of your lives.”

We differed somewhat in our favorite destinations, but ranking among the top was: Vanuatu, Tuomotus, Vavau Group (Tonga) and The Heiva Festival in Huahine.

We advised them to take advantage of cruiser camaraderie and to help out fellow cruisers by carrying plenty of spare parts.

Of course, we 2002 Puddle Jumpers had our own events. One was a sundowner, and what a magnificent sundowner that was! It went on and on. Plans were to attend another event at the Yacht Club, but once the stories got going ’round and ’round, no-one wanted to quit telling them!  So we all stayed into the night. I told two stories from my forthcoming book, SAILING THE SOUTH PACIFIC, one about my most embarrassing moment and another about the international incident.  The Puddle Jumpers kept saying over and over, “We returned home to find that no-one ‘gets it’. A gathering of cruisers is the only place we can tell these stories, laughing ‘til our sides ache!”

Other Highlights:

Finally, A Big Thanks to Andy and Latitude 38 magazine for hosting the Pacific Puddle Jump every year!

From the website: “Ever since Latitude 38 editors coined the phrase ‘Pacific Puddle Jump’ nearly 20 years ago, we’ve taken great pleasure in supporting, and reporting on, the annual migration of cruising sailors from the West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia.

Boats from many nations register with the rally (currently free of charge), and they depart from various points along the West Coast, with the largest concentration of passage-makers jumping off from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Balboa, Panama. Latitude 38 holds annual send-off parties at both locations: Vallarta YC, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico; February 29, 2012, 3:00-6:00 p.m.; and Balboa YC, Balboa, Panama, March 10, noon-4:00 p.m.

Although these sailors set sail independently anytime between the late February and early May, they share information on preparation, weather routing, and inter-island cruising via radio nets and electronic communications before, during and after their crossings. Their arrivals in French Polynesia can be anytime in April, May or June. And due to the broad-based nature of the fleet, many crews will meet for the first time when they arrive in the islands.”

Duplicating the “Island Look” with swimsuits and pareus

2002 Puddle Jumpers, Vallarta Yacht Club

For an album of individual photos, refer to my Facebook Page.

This week, I have been busy editing my second book, “Sailing the South Pacific.” The following is a story from Chapter Two of that book, “Exploring the Magnificent Marquesas:”

The International Incident

“Lois, come up here quick. We have an international incident,” Günter calls.

I scramble topside to see that a new yacht has entered the bay.

“You bloody British!” Jean-Claude is screaming at the boat.

The return salvo is quick: “Typical bloody Frenchman!”

The new yacht had plopped its anchor right in front of Makoko, then pulled back, hooking onto Makoko’s bow anchor.

They had the nerve to ask me to pull back because they were getting too close,” Jean-Claude fumes.  Claudie just happens to be taking her afternoon swim. She heads for their anchor and tries to untangle the mess, but she can’t do it alone.

“Doug, Armin,” Günter commands. “Launch the dinghy. Quick!  They need a U.S. peacekeeping force out there.”

In a flash, our crew reaches the offending anchor, followed by the Canadian contingent, Ed and Julie, of Free Radical.  The four of them struggle to free the lines and, finally, the British boat slinks away to anchor somewhere else.

The conflict is resolved.  The peacekeeping force returns to Pacific Bliss, and the afternoon is spent rehashing the incident and laughing about French-English hostilities that have been going on since the 17th century—all with more than one “cold one” in our hands.

Who says cruising is boring?

I initially wrote this for a Judy Reeves Writing Workshop. After I volunteered to read it to the class, Judy asked me, “Will this be included in your book?”

“It will be, now,” I told her.

Today, I am holed up in a charming British/Caribbean-style resort on Tortola, BVI, called Fort Recovery. A gentle, tropical rain falls outside my picture window facing the sea. I sit at my laptop, writing my second book, “Sailing the South Pacific.” Here is this section of that book:

The heat of the Papeete harbor is excruciating. Unfortunately, I had selected this day to bake cookies for an afternoon Koffee Klatch with fellow cruisers. As I open the oven to put in the second batch of cookies, steam pours out.  Rivers of sweat run from my hair and drip into my eyes, smearing my mascara. But most irritating is the sweat that I can feel accumulating underneath my breasts. “What the H—!” I fling off my one-piece sundress. I’m in a state of temporary amnesia. I forget that the galley of Pacific Bliss opens into a wide cockpit that can be seen from passersby walking along the quay. We are no longer at sea!

“Hi, Lois,” a man’s voice calls out. “Haven’t seen Pacific Bliss since the Marquesas!” My brain is on autopilot. I step out into the cockpit to answer him, stark naked.

Oh my God!  

The man is Keith, a retired judge from Sacramento, the capital of our home state of California! He and his wife, Susan, are standing on the quay, looking in.

I can feel the flush creep from my throat to my cheeks. Recovering my composure seems impossible, but I try. “Oh, Keith…just a minute until I throw on some clothes.”

I can hear them snickering as I turn. I dash back to the galley, slip the sundress over my head, and step outside, trying to act as if nothing had happened.

“Forgot you were not at sea?” Keith asks. “We also go naked on C’est la Vie when we’re sailing out there.”

This story will spread around Papeete harbor as fast as a cockroach has babies! By the time I attend the Koffee Klatch, everyone will know.

When the time arrives, I steel myself for the embarrassment that will surely follow. But strangely, the story never comes up during the animated chatter. The cruisers have more important subjects to discuss. Some are planning their cruises around the Tahitian Islands. Others, like us, are making plans to pick up and drop off guests. The rest of them, having completed their provisioning, are already saying goodbye and leaving for The Cooks.