Monday, November 14, 2016

Trip Report: Baja Haha 23

The 23rd annual Baja Haha began with a bang.  I arrived in San Diego on Friday afternoon the last weekend of October 2016.  I headed to the hotel and then out to the docks of San Diego.  I was on a mission to find a boat for the adventure.  

Prior to the trip I had hooked up with a boat, but due to some paperwork issues, she would not be joining the Haha.  I had turned down a few boats because of my commitment.   As a back up, if I did not find a boat, the skipper with the document issue would be cruising the Channel Islands and I was invited if I didnot get lucky in San Diego.  

On Saturday, my friend Chris arrived and the hunt was on.  We headed to lunch.  At lunch, we received an email from the skipper going to the islands, he had a hand injury on the boat and was headed to the surgeon.  I got a call from my friend Carl and he is sending me a number of someone looking for crew.   I contacted Greg and Leslie and set up a meeting near their boat.  Chris would head to the docks for some hull knocking.  

Greg has a 40' trimaran that he had owned for 15 years.  He and his wife, Leslie were headed for the Puerto Valarta   We took a tour of the boat and she looked good.  I signed on and we shook hands.  Haha here I come. Chris had found a boat too.   This is great news.  

On Sunday, I joined my boat for an early morning departure on Monday.  The morning was beautiful.  The wind was light and we were heading to Mexico for my sixth haha.  The gun sounded at 10 am and we were motoring out the channel as the winds were light.  140 boats and about 600 folks.  We motored past the Coronado Islands and the wind begins to build to 12 knots.  The motor goes off and we are sailing.  My watch is from 3-7 every 12 hours.  The winds build to about 15 and we have a groove going.  My first night watch is easy as there are no boats in the area.  The auto pilot is doing a fine job and we are 20 miles offshore in an easy breeze.  

Tuesday morning, the wind is up.  We are doing 7 knots under jib alone.  The waves are bigger too.  It continues to build and we are now seeing 20-25 with some large waves.  Some of the smaller boats are looking for a place to anchor as the conditions worsen.  By late afternoon, we are seeing gusts above 30.  Just past sunset, a huge wave picks us up for a fast surf and almost 17 knots of boat speed.  Wow.  Nearby, a gal is on the radio and her boat has lost steering.  She is asking for assistance.  Another boat broke their boom on a bad gybe.  We soldier on and late in the evening the wind calms down a bit.

Wednesday morning more of the same as far as wind and high seas.   We decide to duck behind Cedros Island for a break from the wind and high seas.  The island is 21 miles long so it takes awhile.  We decide to continue to our destination of Turtle Bay.  We arrive about 2100 and settle in for some tunes and wine.  It is a beautiful night.

One of the boats made a very bad navigational error and hit the rocks just short of Turtle Bay.  We heard the May Day call but they did not identify themselves or give their location.  They ended up getting rescued by some fisherman who brought them to our location.  They will head back to San Diego.  So sad and this is only the second boat lost over the last 23 years.  The first hit a whale and sank.  The crew was rescued.

It's a beautiful day in Turtle Bay.  I head to town on the dingy and run into some old and new friends.  We hang out at the beach side restaurant and have some lunch.  At 2 we head to the ball game for a few laughs and a short nap.  Then to Vera Cruz Restauranr for some food.  The gal I am sitting next to tells me she is a sail maker.  Turns out, she made our current jib on my boat in Emeryville.  I love that jib.  We head back to the beach to meet more friends and have some fun.  

Beach party today and it is awesome.  Great weather and lots of folks.  We set up the volleyball net and play a bunch of games.  At one point, a woman is walking around the beach with a plate of carrot cake.  It's my serve, but I need cake.  I walk over to her while the whole group waits so I can get some tasty treats.  Pretty funny.  Both the baseball and beach party are well attended and very fun.  

We depart about 7am for the start of leg two.  It's about 220 miles to Santa Maria.  We have a great afternoon and evening of sailing.  15-20.  My watches are uneventful and lots of shooting stars during my 3-7 shift.  The auto pilot is doing all the work and I am enjoying the ride.  Next morning we start the engine as the winds are light.  We have a spectacular sunset to celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary.  We arrive in Santa Maria at about 2am.

Our first morning in Santa Maria starts with organizing the party for tonight.  I had asked Ju Ju if he would like to host the party.  He said yes.  Why did I ask Ju Ju?  Because he has the biggest and baddest boat in the fleet.  A brand new blue hulled 56' Bene.  I also got a 40' cat to raft with him.  Party starts at 9.  Then I had to find 5 gallons of fuel for my boat.  There are 130 boats in the bay and one of them has some extra fuel.  I hit about 10 boats before I find one.  We picked it up and the deed is done.  At 5 we head over and pick up a few friends along the way.  The lead boat is having a raft up with some music.  After, we rest in the cockpit of our boat and then head over to the party.  What a great boat!  The party is filled with lots of young folks and we have a ball meeting them and talking about our experiences.  Turns out Ju Ju and I went to the same high school in Delaware.  We both also attended Burning Man this year.
The next morning I am out on the dingy in some light fog.  The sun is bright and up ahead is the lead boat.  I look closer and there is a white fog bow around his boat.  Never seen that before. Turns out the tiny water droplets that create fog are so small, they donot allow the rainbow color to form.  
I head to the beach party around 11:30.  Chris is on the beach and we head up the hill where the food and band are. The site overlooks the entire bay and it is very cool to see the fleet from above. The food is served and the band plays.  I DJ the party when the band takes a break. Everyone is happy and the temp is about 78 and perfect. I finish up with a 30 minute set as the sun goes down with some nice reds in the sky.  We depart in the morning for Cabo so I head to the boat and get some rest.  
We motor the next 36 hours to get to Cabo as the winds are light.  We are about 20 miles from the finish line and there are some dark clouds over the coast.  All of the sudden the wind changes direction and its blowing in the 20's.  We are fighting it when I realize this is my first squall.  It lasts just over an hour and then light conditions resume.  We arrive in Cabo about 7pm and put the hook down.  I head off to check into my hotel and surprise, surprise, there is another party to attend.  I head over to Squid Row to meet the fleet.  
What a great trip down the coast.  Of the six Haha's I have done, this was the best of the bunch.   We had a great boat with zero breakage.  Many in the fleet were not so lucky.   My crew was awesome and the weather spectacular.  We saw some of the highest winds ever recorded on the trip south during the Haha.  The people I met were also fantastic.  All in all it was great trip with many highlights.  I love the Haha!!

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