Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Baja Ha-Ha

Baja Ha-Ha Kickoff Halloween Party in San Diego - San Diego hosts a number of Ha-Ha seminars and events in the weeks prior to the start. The final party on Halloween is the day before departure. The theme for the 20th edition of the Ha-Ha was "Platinum" so we donned tinsel wigs and blue face makeup to match our Agave Azul shirts. Here's Kathryn with the Grand Poobah, Richard Spindler, the founder, editor & publisher of Latitude 38 magazine. Richard works hard during the entire trip to earn his Grand Poobah title and he seems to enjoy every minute of it.

Baja Ha-Ha Grand Poobah & Agave Azul Smurf Kathryn

Agave Azul Crew: Robin, Linda, Kathryn & Byron

When we were in Ensenada two years ago, we became friends with Bill & Sandy, the owners of Wavelength, a Beneteau 46. Bill and Sandy will buddy boat with Kathryn and I during our longer passages; La Paz to Mazatlan, Mazatlan to Puerta Vallarta and back up to the Sea of Cortez in the spring.

Wavelength skipper Bill, mate Sandy & their son Zac

Leg 1: Ensenada to Bahia Tortugas - The Baja Ha-Ha is a 750 mile sailing rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. Kathryn and I wanted to spend a month in Ensenada to ease back into Mexico living before the Ha-Ha, so we joined the fleet as they approached Ensenada. It was an unusual Ha-Ha start with cloudy skies and very little wind, but after two years preparing our boat, selling our house, storing our stuff and moving onboard, we were excited and ready to go, along with 140 other sailboats.

We're on our way

The first of many beautiful sunsets & sunrises

One of our final boat prep projects was the addition of a whisker pole, giving us extra sail selection options. This is the second time we tried it and it worked just like it was supposed to.

Sailing wing on wing with our new whisker pole

After two days to get used to our watch schedule and night watches, the 300 mile first leg of the Ha-Ha ended at Bahia Tortugas, a well marked bay and an excellent anchorage. Our first navigation challenge was about 50 miles from the bay, sailing between San Benito's Islands and Cedros Island in the middle of the night. There was plenty of room between the islands, but with no moon and Ha-Ha sailors and fishing boats nearby, we were focused on staying in the middle of the channel. When the sun came up, these remote islands appeared with dolphins everywhere. The wind picked up and we had a great sail to the Bahia Tortugas entrance.

 Agave Azul at anchor - Bahia Tortugas

We arrived around noon, just in time for a visit to one of the two beach restaurants for cervezas and fish tacos. Bahia Tortugas is a small fishing village with a population of about 2,500. There is a small town, a couple tiendas to pick up a few provisions and a fuel dock. Part of Bahia Tortugas' charm is that it is definitely not a tourist destination.

Pelican Power

Antonio's Place

Warm weather & cold beer

One pleasant surprise on the trip was running into one of our friends, Bruce Ladd, from Sequoia Yacht Club. Bruce crewed on Sea Level, one of the faster boats in the fleet, a 49' catamaran. Its a bit disorienting to sit and have a beer with a longtime friend, 1,000 miles from home base.

Linda, Bruce, Robin & Kathryn

Bruce wasn't the only Sequoia friend we sailed with on the Ha-Ha. Ron Brown, sailed his boat, Hazel Rose, with us to Cabo. Here's Kathryn, Ron & Byron at the pot luck beach party.

Kathryn, Ron & Byron at the Bahia Tortugas beach party

One of the annual events - the women won the tug of war

Leg 2: Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria - I read that cruisers do a lot of motoring in Mexico, so I didn't expect 15 - 25 knot winds for almost the entire 2nd leg. The wind built throughout the day and night; we flew the chute, switched to just a poled out jib, then as the sun set, reefed down to about a 60% jib. No matter what sails we put up, the wind continued to increase and we maintained about 7 knots of boat speed ... speedy for us but comfortable.

 Linda at the helm at the start of leg 2

During the daily single side band radio role call there were many comments about what fish were caught. We caught lots of Skipjack Tuna (Bonito) which we released. The Yellowfin tuna in this photo provided a couple helpings of sushi and two dinners. Other cruisers caught dorado, wahoo, yellowtail and, believe-it-or-not, a great white shark.

 Our 1st Yellowfin tuna

We were on track to arrive in Bahia Santa Maria before sunrise, so we reefed the jib more and slowed to 3 or 4 knots to arrive just as  the sun came up. The Mexico coast received a lot of rain this year, so Bahia Santa Maria looked a bit more like Ireland than Mexico.

 Dawn arrival at Bahia Santa Maria

 Byron relaxing in the cockpit

Although Bahia Santa Maria has no town and no services somehow the locals cater a beach party for about 500 Ha-Ha participants with a band and a luncheon with fish stew, rice & salad. The music was great, the stew was excellent and the beer was cold! The approach to the beach is notorious for flipping dinghies in the waves, so we took the easy way and rode in on a panga.

Panga shuttle

Kathryn, Sandy & Linda sampling the margaritas

Bruce & Robin sampling the Pacifico

The fleet at Bahia Santa Maria anchorage

Leg 3: Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas - This was the shortest leg at 180 miles, so we had just one overnight, but an early 7:00am start. The wind was light, but enough to fly the chute. With the light wind all but a few boats had to motor part of the way to Cabo.

Blue / Blue / Yellow - Water / Sky / Sun

One of my high school classmates encouraged me to stop at Bahia Magdalena (Mag Bay), where he goes fishing. I took this photo to show him how close we were to one of his favorite fishing spots. Sorry Clark, I didn't catch anything. As you can see it was quite a parade heading to Cabo.

Rush hour at Bahia Magdalena

Rounding the cape into Cabo San Lucas

After the remoteness of Bahia Tortugas and Bahia Santa Maria, Cabo San Lucas was quite a change. The party the first night at Squid Roe was the place to let loose. The Grand Poobah does a great job getting the cruisers amped up. There were quite a few hangovers in the fleet the next day.

Poobah at Squid Roe

Cabo is commercial, but its a beautiful spot with incredible beaches.  

Its surprising how much fun a group of cruisers can have trying to catch a water balloon. Catch a balloon and win a slice of pizza.

Water balloon toss

At some point in the 20 Ha-Ha's someone came up with the idea for a contest to see who could do the best imitation of the Burt Lancaster / Deborah Kerr beach kissing scene in From Here To Eternity, a steamy bit of film at the time.  

From Here To Eternity

Well not quite as steamy since we were laughing too hard and choking on salt water, but it was fun to try. We definitely need more practice.

The party continued all afternoon, as did the 2 for 1 drinks, so the fleet had fun at the last beach party.

Mike, Linda & Bill from Wavelength

The Ha-Ha award ceremony was the final event. Through some mysterious formula, there were awards for the first three places in each of the 14 cruising divisions and we won the prize for 3rd place! Of course so did 8 other boats in our division. First and second place awards were awarded to those who sailed all the way on one or more of the legs. Other awards were for biggest fish (the great white shark, of course), biggest bruise (there were a lot of great entries for that one - Kathryn had one of the best),  oldest cruiser (87 - amazing), best snoring imitation, the most talkative cruiser on the radio, etc.

Thank you Agave Azul crew!

Cabo was actually a lot of fun and we enjoyed our short time there. We departed early the day after the awards ceremony to sail just a few miles up the coast to San Jose del Cabo. More on San Jose in a couple days.

Adios Cabo