THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES A. BONDOUX

CRUISING TIMES ABOARD THE LIONESSE

Construction Notes

Kathryn confirming her requirements with B-Y Lo, head of Cheoy Lee's yacht division, at the Doumen, China, shipyard.

Dinghy Tour

Five months in Northern waters kept us bundled up. That's Richard at the helm.They're returning from placing the crab trap in a strategic location.

Bahia Concepcion

This anchorage is called Santispac. You can almost see the heat rising from the perfectly still waters of the Sea of Cortez.

Playa Ropa

The aft deck is THE place to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Here Val is visiting in Zihuatenejo.

Cocodrilo Warning

Diving to clean the bottom of the hull is not always recommended.

Shopping for produce in Belize City

Shopping for veggies in the tropics, in this picture it's Belize City.

Lunch with Pete Stevens at Le Bistro

Pete is the very jolly agent who made our Canal transit painless and efficient.

Buying Molas

Jan and Kathryn choosing among the Molas brought aboard by the Kuna in the San Blas.

Randy of PIZAZZ caught some dinner

Randy of PIZAZZ really pleased to bring back dinner.

Schmidts at West End

More cruising friends: Jay and Betty with us in Roatan, Honduras.

Agua Verde Anchorage

Another great anchorage: Agua Verde in the Sea of Cortez. The cats came cruising - can you find Oscar?

Desert Island

What the imagined South Seas island might look like.

Out of the mold

The LIONESSE starts to take shape at Cheoy Lee's Doumen yard in Zhuhai Province, China.

Henri delivers the goods

Henri the French Baker makes his morning delivery of baguettes to the famished cruisers in the Barra de Navidad Marina.

Baby Croc

Finding a juvenile crocodile in the mangroves of Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

Lynn Maxey and Quay Lynn

Cruising pals Lynn and Peti were always ready to host a poker game.

Bahia Honda Cayuco

There are no roads to Bahia Honda, Panama so the local kids are fascinated by outsiders. These came in their dugout to inspect us - and were initially mystified by the tennis balls we handed them as gifts.

Canal pilot Victor

Transiting the Canal, with Pilot Victor giving his instructions.

Cartagena Harbor

We planned to spend three days in Cartagena, Colombia. Our stay stretched to almost three weeks in this splendid city. LIONESSE had to anchor out as there were no suitable docks for her.

Glen and Sue

Glen and Sue, Megayacht skipper and chief stewardess. Their assignments caused them to crisscross our cruising track, from British Columbia to Florida.

Richard in Key West

Richard helped with the transit of the Gulf of Mexico. Here we are enjoying the delights of Key West after a rough crossing.

Julie in Alaska

Julie is another professional skipper befriended along the way. She helped us make one of the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta runs.

Cruisers doing lunch

Coktel de Camarones - a favorite meal at Ochos Tostadas with veteran cruisers Alan, Monica, Kathleen and Ron.

We decided that the loss of LIBERTE to fire in early 2000 would be no more than just a setback to our cruising dream. We would resume cruising as soon as possible. Cruising anew would also likely be the best therapy to treat the grief over the disappearance of all of our possessions, of our collected treasures, pictures, mementoes and records in the flames and smoke of the conflagration.

But the year 2000 was also the height of the dot-com boom, and our search found that there was not a single decent cruising-capable motoryacht on the market, much less one that would meet our criteria for range, seaworthiness, and comfort. Darn dot-commers.

So we opted for a newbuild at Cheoy Lee. The yard offered to dust off the old Charles Wittholz-designed hull mold, one that we had found to be so sea-kindly, and to create an updated expedition-style vessel to our specs. I documented the details of the vessel in a PASSAGEMAKER article entitled THE EVOLUTION OF LIONESSE and won't repeat the details here. Click here to see the article: ARTICLE


The LIONESSE proved to be a superb cruising and liveaboard platform, and we now are lucky to have so many very fine memories of adventures, places, and people encountered along the way. This is a collection of some of the highlights.

We left Seattle in early 2002 and spent the summer in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska waters, then we headed down to Mexico and Central America and transited the Panama Canal. Next, we wound our way up the Western Caribbean, across the Gulf of Mexico, and up the East Coast to Baltimore. To help visualize the adventure, a chart of our main track is appended below.

In retrospect, our cruising becomes a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and flavors.

Alaska was a spectacle of fjords with dense forests of hemlock and Douglas Fir, snow-covered peaks, total radio silence, huge tidal ranges and silver-green waters that yielded memorable feasts of Dungeness crab and mussels.

The Sea of Cortez gave us teaming wildlife, from companionable boobies and dolphins to boils of baitfish and turtle-riding gulls, as well as cobalt skies and sharply-etched red mountain ridges. Banderas Bay was a rush of Margaritas and Shrimp Fajitas, playful whales and diving pelicans, loud music and cruiser parties.

Southern Mexico to Panama meant remote anchorages, lots of radio net activity with other isolated cruisers, and dealing with Tehuantepec and Papagallo winds.

Cruising the Intracoastal Waterway and Chesapeake Bay was pleasant and interesting, but we discovered that we much prefer the Pacific waters. Some of the key differences include the climate (less humid, less windy, less variable), the marine wildlife (far denser), the camaraderie among cruisers (more spontaneous and warmer), and the shoreside hospitality (the colorful hispanic cheerfulness).

Cruisers on their boat Sheer joy - to be back on the water and cruising aboard one's own yacht!

Chart Our Cruising Track, from Alaska to Delaware via the Panama Canal, and back.

Transiting the Canal The LIONESSE in her Canal transit - here, leaving the Miraflores lower lock.

San Blas heaven Lunchtime with David in The "Swimming Pool". This is a favorite of cruisers in the San Blas islands of Panama: warm, gin-clear water, without the chlorine!

But, a return to the Pacific also ended in disappointment, and we proved once again that you can’t go back.

Technology and economic developments had combined to alter the cruising dynamics on the Pacific Coast – a couple of examples would include the appearance of numerous new marinas allowing the invasion of “commuter cruisers” and the spread of cellular and satellite communications, sapping the vibrancy of the radio networks which earlier had provided such a strong bond between cruisers.

On board Super Servant LIONESSE snugged down aboard the Dockwise transport vessel, bound for La Paz from Ft. Lauderdale.

The disappointment accelerated the onset of “preventive maintenance fatigue” as my earlier satisfaction with my chores aboard began to pale, and we started the process of selling the LIONESSE.

The arrival of the Global Financial Crisis reinforced our decision to drop the financial burden of keeping the yacht, and we found a good buyer for her in mid-2011.