You’ve probably heard of “slow travel” but not of “slow cruising.” Previously, I thought of slow travel as being the type of travel we did when we traveled inland on trains, planes and caravans through Australia. And slow cruising was sailing our catamaran Pacific Bliss. During our recent Mexican Riviera Cruise, however, my husband Gunter and I created our own version of slow cruising, but on a Cruise Ship, no less.

For my birthday last January, Gunter wanted to take me away on a trip. But he knew I’d be working on my book, so he asked me how we could accomplish both goals. “Let’s just do something that doesn’t involve flying, changing time zones, or packing for different climates,” I suggested.

Gunter chose a Mexican Riviera Cruise on the Veendam. We’d cruised on around South America two years ago on board this smaller-size Holland-America ship (See that blog at https://sailorstales.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/bigbucketcruise/). “This cruise has three sea days for you to write, lounging on our veranda deck while the ocean passes by,” he cajoled. “And only one of the three ports-of-call—Mazlatlan—will be a port where we have not visited together before. Should be easy and relaxing, only seven days.

Perfect!

We found that taking a vacation along with 1300 passengers need not be stressful. During the process, we developed a few guidelines for slow cruising:

  • Don’t sign up for shore excursions. Do your own thing, so that you can leave and return to the ship when you want. Avoid standing in long lines and crowding into packed elevators by departing after the tour groups have gone.
  • Do take advantage of the pool and Jacuzzi deck when it’s quiet—with most of the passengers off touring. Enjoy those hamburgers and drinks brought right to your lounge chair on deck.
  • Don’t dress for those pictures and formal nights each time they are offered. You can always go upstairs for casual dining.
  • Only mad dogs and Englishmen tour in the heat of the day. After your trip to shore, do come back to the ship to enjoy a well-deserved siesta in your air-conditioned room.
  • Get off the grid for as many days as you can. You’ll avoid roaming charges on your cell phone and you’ll escape the pressures of waiting in lines at internet cafes or paying per- minute fees on board for satellite connections.

Slow cruising can be an easy, pressure-free way to take a relaxing break. Remember, adversity is inevitable; stress is optional!

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I had a wonderful weekend attending the West Coast Multihull Rally on Catalina Island. Friday morning, I was the keynote speaker to an attentive audience of catamaran sailors. Günter and I showed the multimedia presentation “Come to the Islands” and explained how my latest book, “Sailing the South Pacific,” aids those desiring to cruise to there and how my first book, “Maiden Voyage” helps those who plan to cruise down the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America and on to the Caribbean.  This was the longest Q&A session we’ve ever had! Sipping a Bloody Mary, no-one was in a hurry in laid-back Two Harbors.

Watching the presentation, while Bloody Marys were served at the bar.

Watching the presentation, while Bloody Marys were served at the bar.

Lois speaks to sailors attending Multihull Rally

Lois speaks to sailors attending Multihull Rally

The highlight of the three-day event was the Mardi Gras celebration on Friday night. The generous hosts, Lori and Kurt Jerman, even shipped in Louisiana crawfish. Seafood boiled in a huge pot near the harbor while we all lined up for “Hurricanes,” a New Orleans cocktail made with two kinds of rum, grenadine, and fruit juice. Picnic tables were covered with paper. Along the middle, the servers poured mountains of potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and spicy sausage. The feast was complimented with the best cole slaw I ever tasted. As the celebration concluded with music and dancing, I was relieved that I didn’t have to speak on Saturday morning! That was to be the day of the “rally” (although when any two sailboats are headed in the same direction, everyone knows it’s a race).

Lori Jerman, Lois Joy Hofmann, and Gunter Hofmann up on the bandstand for the 8th Annual Multihull Rally

Lori Jerman, Lois Joy Hofmann, and Gunter Hofmann up on the bandstand for the 8th Annual Multihull Rally

Mardi Gras night at the Multihull Rally

Mardi Gras night at the Multihull Rally

Because we had arrived by ferry, we had time to explore Two Harbors on Saturday. I’d been to Avalon a few times, but never to this off-the-radar port. Catalina is known as “Hollywood’s Back Lot,” where Clark Gable mutinied on the Bounty, Dorothy Lamour fought off the waves in “Hurricane,” and a mechanical shark ripped tourists apart in “Jaws.”

They say that if Catalina calls to visitors across the sea, the hamlet of Two Harbors whispers. One has a feeling of stepping back in time. For example, The Isthmus Yacht Club, where we stayed, is a converted Civil War barracks, managed by the club since 1951. In 1864, the U.S. army sent soldiers to survey the area as a proposed reservation for “militant” Native Americans. That plan was never completed. The barracks were used, however, by the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II as a training station for new recruits. Nearby is one of the oldest one-room schoolhouses in the U.S. It serves grades K-5; students travel to Avalon for grades 6-12. The only hotel in Two Harbors was built by the Banning brothers as their hunting lodge. They made Avalon into a resort community and then paved the first dirt roads into the island’s interior, built lodges and led stagecoach tours. The development by the Bannings ceased after the Avalon fire of 1915 and the onset of World War I. By 1919, the Bannings were forced to sell shares. The island was used for smuggling, otter hunting, and gold digging until chewing gum magnate Wrigley bought out nearly every shareholder and began to develop it for tourism during the 1920s. Two Harbors is also one of the last remaining “company towns” in the U.S. The single restaurant, general store and Banning Lodge are all owned by the same Wrigley corporation.

We hiked from Isthmus Cove to Cat Harbor to see where the pirates, smugglers and otter traders operated in the past. These days, there is nothing other than a harbor full of yachts. On the way back, we spied buffaloes up on the hills.  (In the 1920s, 14 bison were brought to the island for the filming of “The Vanishing American” and left there.) After returning to the Yacht Club, I hiked up the nearby hill to the Banning House Lodge and asked for a tour. What a view those 12 rooms have! The Lodge overlooks both harbors—it’s an ideal place to stay and chill out for awhile.

On the ferry ride back to San Pedro, I discovered that easy-going Isthmus Cove has a recent claim to fame: According to the Catalina Express magazine, an investigation into the 1981 “drowning” of Natalie Wood was re-opened in November 2011. In the final report, issued in January of 2013, the LA coroner’s office removed the word “accidental” from the cause of death, causing new speculation. Officials said that wounds found on the actress’ forearm, wrist and knee and a superficial scrape on the forehead open the possibility that she was assaulted before drowning. Rumors of an affair between Wood and Christopher Walken, her co-star in the film Brainstorm, had circulated for weeks and her husband, Robert Wagner, later admitted that his wife had been “emotionally unfaithful.” The three of them had sailed along Catalina’s coastline and spent the day drinking at Harbor Reef Restaurant. The article continues, “The drinking and arguing continued aboard Splendour, reaching a climax when Wagner shouted at Walken and shattered a wine bottle on the table. Wood retired to her room. She was never seen alive again.”

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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.