Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baja Ha-Ha XX - 2013

October 28-31: Leg One, San Diego to Turtle Bay, 340 miles

What a spectacle! The Ha-Ha boats departed San Diego in an orderly procession from their slips in a most unusual light drizzle, first those from South Bay at 0900, Harbor Island at 0930, Shelter Island 0945, then meeting at 1000 to raise sails and go on to the starting line for an 1100 official rally start. As we passed the media boat we waved wildly.
Baja Ha-Ha XX Starting Parade in rain - a first!
Our team: Captain Gregg, First Mate Anne, and Crew David, our friend from Albuquerque. There was one more family farewell from the shore: we were in phone contact with John, Mary and Tom and were happy to catch sight of their red/blue/gray jackets – they really showed up!

True North raising her mains'l, photo courtesy Mary
On the way out, the rally committee conducted a VHF radio check-in and roll call by division. We were in the Desperado Division, one of 15 grouped according to boat length, weight and sail types. Each day thereafter, Profligate, the Grand Poobah boat accompanying Ha-Ha 2013, conducted roll call at 0730 with each boat reporting its position via SSB or VHF relay, and a morning weather report. Good organization! It was quite a sight to see 160 sailboats exiting the harbor, sails raised. Throughout the first day we were in sight of some 30 boats which quickly dispersed during the day. It drizzled much of the morning; we faced a southerly wind.
A Ha-Ha rarity - upwind sailing in the rain.
No huge hurry with three days to get to the first stop...on the other hand, who wants to get there last? We chose to motor whenever the boat speed consistently dropped to less than 3 kts. By nightfall there were still a dozen boats within sight – red, white and green lights all around us.
Sunset, first night of Ha-Ha
It was an easy night on watch with only sailboats as no one was moving too fast and there was plenty of space for everyone about 50 miles offshore. The wind died to 6-8 kts and with a single person on each watch during the night, we opted for motor assist. It gave us a chance to run our new watermaker. It works! Our crew was still adjusting to the sea as well: one sick, two tired!

The cloudy night sky brought in a damp, cloudy morning which changed into a hot, sunny day. Still needing to get our sea legs back, we took it easy by deploying our spinnaker in the light afternoon wind. David quickly learned the quirks of using our whisker pole. We made reasonably good time at 3-5 kts throughout most of the day.
Gregg navigating with iPod
A pod of dolphins joined us in the late afternoon. For the night passage, we sailed the jib only with a rising steady NNW wind of 15-23 kts for a cruising speed of 5 to 6 kts throughout the night. Beautiful! The stars were a brilliant companion! I hadn't realized how well supported we boaters might be prior to starting. The Ha-Ha info packet clearly states to expect no hand-holding. However, besides sailing alongside other Ha-Ha boats now and then, plus the two beach stops enroute, I was pleasantly surprised to find that boats without SSB could call to a boat with SSB for a relay. Morning roll call was preceded by an inquiry re any medical needs, then mechanical problems. The resulting support from the Ha-Ha fleet was remarkable! Need a 3/8” gizmo? Someone offers it! A few gallons of water? No worries, calls come in to share! Gallon or two of fuel? No problem! Boaters rally quickly to aid fellow boaters.
Everyone on True North woke up feeling great on the third day out. We had a brisk wind to 30 kts for a fast ride of 6 to 7 kts, rigged with just the jib and whisker pole. The whisker pole has been remarkably useful and replacing the original, heavy 35 lb pole with a lightweight carbon fiber pole was a good move.

Jib poled out with whisker pole
We sailed for hours with no other boats in sight and couldn't figure out where everyone could be! The night was calm with our speed decreasing to 2 kts and, as long as we had to charge the batteries anyway, motored several hours. Three other boats about three miles off soon became visible, each with its steaming lights; not may other boats were sailing, either. We crossed the finish line of Leg One, 27° 54' N and 115° 09' W, at 0600 and were anchored in Turtle Bay at 0750. Pangas were available for a ride to shore for about $3 per person.
Pangas - Mexcian word for Water Taxi
We couldn't resist doing the dinghy drill, however, and quickly inflated it for our shore excursion. The planned event for that evening was a no host dinner and party at Vera Cruz restaurant in town, a small, friendly place on a hill and one quite overwhelmed at handling the crowd that appeared.
Dinner at Vera Cruz restaurant
The main event for our fifth day out was the Turtle Bay Beach party, all afternoon.
Turtle Bay anchorage with dinghies
We took the panga to the beach to avoid a dinghy drenching in the surf with our potluck dish in hand.
it was a very fun time to meet fellow boaters.
Turtle Bay beach party from cliffs above
There were tons of well-prepared dishes, a small bar serving beer and water, volley ball on the beach, music, and a tug-o-war, men vs women. The women won but with a handicap of 5 women to 1 man on each side. Everyone was back on board before dark.
Anchor lights, Turtle Bay
"Red sky in morning..." - Turtle Bay

November 2-4: 0700 departure for Leg Two, Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria, 260 miles

We had a rolling start because winds were mild; official start was delayed until 1000. As we were leaving the bay, Ebenezer III offered us fresh tuna steaks! They pulled alongside and tossed them over in a plastic bag. Ummm, dinner on the second night out. Soon after, many reports of tuna catches were broadcast by fleet members. We hadn't gotten into the fishing mode yet. Throughout the day we were surrounded by a couple dozen boats. By nightfall, the comforting reassurance of the lights of at least a dozen boats cruised nearby. There was a constant chatter on VHF, some buddy boaters checking in with each other; others calling out with problems. We heard a “pan pan” for a lost rudder and no steerage (fixed a short time later with the help of another boater's suggestion), lost electronics, various rigging hang-ups or runaway sails in the gusty winds. "Reef early, reef often!" Overall, problems were few but the VHF made for good company during the long night outside.
Boats in sight at sunset
The second day out was the best sailing day ever! We flew for 24 hours straight, wing-on-wing.
Sailing wing-on-wing with reefed main
Night time brought some extra choppy and bigger following seas plus freshening winds. The guys kindly agreed to a reef prior to my 0800 to midnight watch, slowing us down to a mere 4.5-5.5 kts during my shift. During our wing-on-wing time, we adjusted sails for wind, lighting, and sea conditions, at one time or another using pretty much every combination of full or partial reefed main or jib.

I had a great time with the constellations and identifying stars in the night sky. Once off watch, however, sleep in the rolling bunk was limited. We crossed the finish line of Leg Two, 24° 47' N and 112° 24' W at 0405, having sailed the whole way, about 260 miles!

Another couple of hours brought us to our anchorage at Bahia Santa Maria. Beautiful green high hills on one side; white sand dunes on the other. There were dozens of boats already in the harbor when we arrived and many more came after us. This was the first of two days here and a rest day. We didn't see too many people leave their boats. Most were hanging out, snoozing, relaxing on the deck or making repairs.

Anne repairing sail cover
Some of those 164 boat names began to sound familiar! We are always amused by the clever boat names and found a few favorites: Unleashed, Distant Drum, No Remorse and R&R Kedger (just ask!) led the list. We spent the afternoon adjusting lines and smoothing out the process for raising the whisker pole. When we discovered we were out of bread, David found the flour and took over the galley to deliver a perfect loaf of fresh baked bread. Impressive!

The whole next afternoon was dedicated to a fabulous beach party.
True North crew at Bahia Santa Maria
There's just about nothing at all at this location but we had a big meal of fresh fish, fish stew, salad and rice, prepared by local La Paz women and trucked overland 250 miles to this beach for our party. Muchas gracias, senoras! Same for the band, “No Name”, a popular rock group from La Paz.
Debbie sings with the band at the beach party
The trick for everyone was getting to shore! The surf was kind of rough. Some managed to make a successful beach landing in their dinghies, some got wet along the way, but most of us waited for a panga to take us to shore. Even that was tricky but the local guys are skilled at landing in the surf. The party gave everyone more time to meet each other, compare stories, enjoy the sun and beach, hike the nearby hills, dance the afternoon away, and feast on the fresh fish. Another terrific Ha-Ha party!

November 6-7: Leg Three, Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas, 180 miles

This final leg was predicted to be very mellow with light winds and it was. We flew the spinnaker (aka gennaker) for 14 hours while maintaining a speed of 4.5 to 6 kts.
True North flying her spinnaker
Finally caught up on sleep, we got out the fishing pole for the first time. Boaters reported via VHF radio their numerous catches of tuna, mahi and marlin but we didn't bring a single fish aboard!
Anne fishing
Three times, big, BIG fish broke the line and got away – the last one a jumping marlin? At least we didn't lose the pole. It was a shorts and T-shirt day followed by a balmy shorts and T-shirt night. Despite our tiny freezer, we still had enough fresh food for a salmon Caesar salad. Good thing we brought our own fish! We sailed, then motored when the wind died with 23 boats all around and within 3 to 5 nm, all maintaining a constant speed, inching closer to our goal and accompanied by a sliver of a silver moon.

We crossed the finish line of Leg Three, 22° 52' N and 110° 08' W at 1132. Just beyond the finish line, the characteristic arch and tall, sandy colored rocks rose from the water, standing like guards at the entrance to the harbor for a stunning welcome.
The Arch - Cabo San Lucas, southern tip of Baja
We had been waiting for a slip assignment and at this point, with so many Ha-Ha boats coming into the harbor, were assigned to a “first come” area between M and N docks where there would be many of us rafted together. We landed a sociable space right on the dock, convenient to all the comings and goings. What a change of pace! Twelve days of solitude at sea replaced by an instant Grand Central! The 45' catamaran Capricorn Cat arrived the following day and rafted alongside True North, compatible neighbors whose claim to fame later became winners of the Here to Eternity Kissing Contest - a roll in the sand and surf with one's partner for the 10 brave couples who dared to enter. Arrival to Cabo brought the evening's 'Can't Believe We Cheated Death Again' dance and survival party madness at El Squid Roe in town.
Party at El Squid Roe
Loud, loud music, lots of dancing, laughs, and decompression. Relief and happiness might be another way to describe the feeling. The following day was our last beach party, all afternoon on a sunny, sandy Cabo beach with some low-key fun.
The Grand Poobah judges Here to Eternity Kissing Contest
The final Ha-Ha event was the awards ceremony with plenty of well-deserved kudos for all participants. All boaters received sincere praise and congratulations for having completed our journey at sea, 780 miles offshore! A feeling of shared accomplishment filled the air. The Grand Poobah and MC Richard wore his best  beach tux with shorts for these prestigious awards. Each division received First-, Second-, Third-, and Third Plus-place awards. Everyone got an award! We placed Third Plus in the Desperado Division, coming in ahead of the “Thirds” for having sailed the entire Leg Two. There were a couple of boats that sailed the entire way, waiting out the periods of no wind and missing our first survival party in Cabo. Some other accomplishments were recognized: Youngest, age 3; Oldest, 86, most unstoppable (a blind captain!); most number of Ha-Has (10), best Spirit of the Ha-Ha (ie, helping boaters in distress with their electronics, rigging, sails, etc.) and Best Fish Story. This award rightfully went to the sailor who caught a 300 lb great white shark! He wanted his lure back and got it without also serving chopped crew! Some awards were less distinguished: Most Significant Spinnaker Fouling, Loudest Snoring (as humorously demonstrated on-stage by fellow boat-mates, and finally, Worst Boat Bite (big bad bruises). Not all who received them dared to show them! That officially concluded Baja Ha-Ha XX - 2013. We're so glad we participated!
Gregg and Anne on the beach at Cabo San Lucas
The following day, boats were rearranged in the harbor as several departed for LaPaz and Puerto Vallarta. Our plan was to do a few chores and cleaning, chat with other boaters, swim in the warm water and just hang out. Our intrepid crew-mate David fit right in with this adventuresome crowd and we hugely appreciated him!
Cabo San Lucas - busy but beautiful!


  1. Glad that you two had a wonderful trip down! Love reading your blog, nice details. Where to now?

  2. Lisa,

    Thanks for the compliments! We just arrived La Paz today, we'll be here a week at least, then probably over to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We'll probably return back to La Paz and north to the Sea of Cortez in late winter or early spring, when it warms up in the Sea. But plans are flexible!

  3. If you head to PV, head to La Cruz for at least a little while! Philo's restaurant, it's really fun. And the anchorage is nice too. We are delayed, but hoping to head south in January. Love Puerto Balandra out of La Paz. Also Caleta de Partida, and Isla San Francisco. Just some ideas. Have a great time!!!

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! La Cruz sounds like fun and we will check that out. We'll hit some of the local spots before we leave La Paz, though, and will add your suggestions to our list of "must sees"!

      Sorry to here you are delayed, that's no fun. We've been lucky so far (knock, knock).

  4. Sounds like you had a great time on the Haha. Now the real cruising begins!
    FWIW, sailing DDW wing and wing is relatively slow, with lots of rolling in spite of the fact that you have one of the nicest boats in the fleet. You might prefer putting the wind at about 150 degrees apparent and jibing whenever it makes sense. It's easier on the autopilot, you won't get rolled out of your bunk, and your VMG will be as good or better. Enjoy!

    1. Good suggestions, however checking the logs, at one point we made 6-6.5 kts wing-and-wing directly to our waypoint, so SOG was VMG, and that was with a reefed main and poled-out full jib in 18-20 kts wind. Could have gone faster with a full main, but hey, we're cruisers, not racers! We blew past a couple of boats with gennakers earlier in lighter winds, and passed a couple of larger boats gybing back and forth when the wind kicked up. True North felt really good with the following seas until we encountered crossed swells, which everyone in the fleet complained about, and took out several autopilots in the fleet. True North was a bit uncomfortable, but still sailing well and in her element!

  5. It's great to see/read about you guys having fun! Thanks for sharing the adventure with words and pictures. Merry Christmas and good luck for the rest of the voyage!

  6. Um - now I see I'm Rattle Brains - that was because we moved to Brattleboro - it's really Jonathan. Hi from everyone here!

    1. We suspected the true identity of Rattle Brains! Thanks for the good wishes and we hope you all have a great New Year!