The streets, shops, and sidewalks are all full of visitors escaping from the cold this month. And the harbor is overflowing with cruise ships...some days three! Puerto Vallarta is the second busiest cruise ship harbor in Mexico, topped only by Cozumel on the East Coast. It's hard for me to imagine drifting across the face of the earth while getting to sleep all night and eat gourmet meals prepared by someone else. But maybe someday I'll give it a try.

To most people the idea of sailing around the world on a small sailboat is an amazing challenge. But imagine doing so with only 10% of the average person's vision! Last month I spent a beautiful morning with Pam Habek and Scott Duncan who set out from San Francisco on October 11, 2004, on a 3-year circumnavigation aboard Tournesol, their Valiant 32. Both are legally blind. Pam's vision is 20/200 and Scott's 20/450. Their mission...encourage other sight-impaired people to reach for their own dreams and to not accept the limitations others assign to them. You can follow their travels at www.blindsailing.com where they maintain a discussion journal.

January was a month of changes at Coming About. We welcomed champion sailor Shelly Ward to our faculty and appreciate all the expertise, ability, and good nature that she brings to our programs. With a lifetime of sailing, racing, and teaching as well as selling and delivering boats she is well equipped for her new role. Besides teaching in our regular 9-day programs, Shelly will head up the Coming About Race Clinic set for March 7 15, in conjunction with the Banderas Bay Regatta.

I have said all of my sailing life that I am not a racer. After sailing 80,000 miles I didn't want to embarrass myself by not knowing what to do on a race boat. Well, that is about to change. I'll be in the classroom to learn along with the rest of our students. I'm told racing is a different animal from cruising...time to get on with it and learn how. Hoping some of you other women sailors watching from the sidelines will come down and join me.

More new faces at Coming About include Leah Danielson (an outstanding sailor and racer) who has returned to make our three-day liveaboard cruises extra special with her catering...how about Portabello Stuffed Mushrooms and Chocolate Bombe for dinner at anchor. She packs in surprises for every trip. And Alex Hernandez (a national swimming champion) has Southern Cross spotless and shiny each morning as well as lending a hand for countless projects on board.

"Chuckie" also joined our team. He is our new volunteer crew-overboard buoy. Coming About graduates Mary Papi and Karen Wade initiated a tradition when they rescued Chuckie from Banderas Bay waters. Since then each successful student gets to sign Chuckie to commemorate the event.

Close friends Mary and Karen signed up and flew down to PV together in January. Watching how much fun they had... collapsing in giggles on the foredeck...taking the class as a team and how they reinforced the lessons for each other encouraged me to offer a 10% discount to any two friends who sign up for a class together. The partnership certainly makes the experience richer.

Southern Cross settled into her new home this past month also. She's now right in front of the lighthouse in Marina Vallarta at F9 and enjoying all the hustle and bustle on that side of the marina. If you are in the area and we are at the dock, drop by and say "hi."

Every student arrives hoping they'll see the whales that visit our Bay each winter, and every class so far has been blessed by whale sightings. But Kelly Mills and Karen Gale got the star studded version. They were out with Shelly practicing downwind maneuvers when the water almost exploded with whale activity...leaps and soundings all over the place. They lost count in the excitement. The day before it was a zillion dolphins.

This month I am on my way to Miami for the Strictly Sail Miami boat show. I'll be presenting seminars on Friday and Saturday, February 18 and 19. If you need a break from ogling all that great new boat gear, drop by the Authors' Corner for a chat.

In April, I'll be presenting something new for Pacific Sail Expo in Oakland, CA...Tales of a Reluctant First Mate. I'm looking for couples who have made their sailing life a happy, successful partnership. If you have tips and insights to share, drop me a note.

Have a great month and don't forget your Valentine....

---Pat
 

Pam and Scott visit Marina Vallarta


Welcome Shelly Ward


Leah packs a gourmet dinner


Alex keeps things ship shape


Karen and Kelly with "Chuckie"


Karen and Mary celebrate graduation<


More graduates...Karen and Kelly at El Arrayan with Shelly and Pat
 

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