I love the Baja Haha!! The 2017 Baja Haha starts off San Diego Monday October 30 finishing a week and a half later in Cabo San Lucas. We will continue another 300 miles to Puerto Vallarta where we will spend the winter at Paradise Village Resort. I get excited more than a year before the start. I enjoy the preparation, the trip, the crew, the fleet companionship, the destinations. The Adrenalin really gets pumping a couple days before the start. Although our entire crew is experienced you generally don’t sail at night except on long offshore sails. We will leave the slip around 0900 on October 30 and join a parade out San Diego Bay to the start just off Point Loma at 1100. By around 1500 you feel like the day should be over and head back to the slip. As a result, that first night is the toughest of the trip. Generally cold and tired you wonder what you got yourself into. But when the sun comes up the next morning all is forgiven. It warms quickly as you head south and the wind freshens.
MAY 1, 2017 Registration starts just more than a week away. You want to sign up quickly as slip assignments in Cabo are based on when you sign up. With more than 100 boats not all will get slips. You can anchor outside, but I like to have the choice. We started the process six months ago. I lined a class A crew up first. Jack has done the two prior Hahas with us. He is a lifelong friend a constant on the boat. His brother Jeff will be doing his first Haha, but is both an experienced sailor and an experienced Matadorian having spent three weeks on the boat last year in the Sea of Cortez. Brett, another lifelong sailor will be doing his first Haha. We have sailed and raced together for twenty years. He also used to build boats for a living so his mechanical contribution helps make this the best crew ever. The combined age of the crew is over 250 so we go back before the declaration of independence.
Lots of documentation to complete before we leave. I have requested the crew get their crew waivers to me. I need to complete the Haha application on May 9. We will need fishing licenses, Tourist Visas, updated insurance and boat documentation. The boat itself has been constantly updated since the last Haha and just needs fuel and water and it is ready. Well, not really as lots go into equipping a boat for a five month cruise. After the Haha finishes in Cabo San Lucas we are heading over to Puerto Vallarta. I have already reserved a slip at Paradise Village Resort.
The biggest update is that we now have an AIS transponder, not just a receiver. We were able so track about half the fleet last time, but they couldn’t track us. The addition of the transponder adds significantly to safety. We also added a 9.9 hp Yamaha. The 2.3 Honda outboard was not very reliable and the added horsepower will really come in handy when trying to get onto or off of the beach. We also added a crane to handle the chore of lifting the outboard. We replaced the lifelines in the back with solid rod. This gives us a lot more room to hang things, like the Yamaha, but also the BBQ and a filleting table and light. The beds received a two inch cushion addition to make the beds more comfortable. Alcohol lamps, barometer, a ships clock are nice touches. The lights on the harnesses were replaced with automatic lights that come on with contact with the water.
MAY 9, 2017 We are entered. Exactly at 1200 I started entering Matador. I took it seriously. They want to know your satphone number, your designer, you MMSI. Others cheated and skipped it. By the time I said “enter” I was thirteenth to enter. Oh well. By the COB on the 10th more than 70 had entered. I don’t recall the entry list being that big. I was asked if I was going to bring the Phantom drone. We did it last time and if you google Beneteau Sense 50 Baja Haha you will see a great video by Andrew. It was too big. Just got a DJI Mavic. Tiny in comparison. Stay tuned!
MAY 25, 2017 I’ve been puttering around the boat everyday. Little projects that might avoid a problem later. The boat is about ready to go. And yes, I finally did it. For years I have had a Davis plastic sextant which has worked great. I’ve always want a metal one. Just ordered the Astra IIIb, which is about the cheapest of the good ones. I’ve been practicing with the Davis and both with a site reduction app and with Ho249 and the Nautical Almanac I’ve been close. Actually, the old way is fun. I often make a calculation mistake. Last week off Point Loma it said I was in Tennessee. Fortunately, the GPS was working and I realized I’d be home for dinner.
I’ve decided to record lots of pictures and videos this trip. Historically, it has been someone else so I hope I keep it up. I have a Canon 7D for the heavy work. A GoPro for wet and underwater work and a DJI Mavic for drone work.
JUNE 24, 2017 Ninety eight entries so far. Really slowed down after the first day. Added carpet in the bedrooms. If folks don’t like it they
fit under the beds. We got our entry package yesterday. I flew all three Haha flags from the port halyard to let everyone know “we have arrived”. Received and used the sextant. It is so neat. Zero error. The Davis has 10 minutes of error. The heavier instrument makes shots more stable. Also, tried to install mandatory satphone firmware update. Didn’t work. BlueCosmos said to send it in. They fixed it in a flash, but I’m sure glad I didn’t do it the day before we were leaving. I actually need it for more than emergencies this time as you are required to report in by email everyday.
AUGUST 28, 2017 The plan is set. Crew from Northern California and Colorado will arrive Saturday or Sunday. On Sunday, October 29 we have the skippers meeting, a sailaway party and final shopping. On Monday we will be “wheels up” at around 0900. A parade complete with fire boat heads down the bay. The start will be off Point Loma at 1100. If the wind is light we are given a “”rolling start” which means go ahead and motor. Most boats will take three nights to get to Turtle Bay but we should arrive mid day Wednesday. Rest, repair, and party until around 0800 Saturday when we will start outside the bay for Bahia Santa Maria. Again, most boats will need two nights, but we should arrive around sundown on Sunday. Repeat the Turtle Bay experience. An 0700 start Wednesday is intended to get most boats in by nightfall on Thursday. In 2015 we arrived early on Thursday and had to wait for a slip. Currently planning three nights in Cabo. Some resupply, nice restauranting, and a Saturday trophy presentation where we plan on a third place finish (tied with everyone). If we are not penned in at the dock we will leave at first light on Sunday. The three hundred miles to the marina in Banderas Bay is a bit too far for a one night trip. If wind, waves and motor work to our advantage we could reach an anchorage about 15 miles from the marina before nightfall. We would anchor for the night and complete the trip early Tuesday morning. If we get trapped, or conditions aren’t ideal we will just take two nights and arrive Tuesday morning.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2017 Some advice from someone who has sailed 40 years (doesn’t make the advice right) who is thinking of their first long offshore passage.. Most advice stolen from someone else.
- You own two boats. One up to 20 knots of wind, the other above 20 knots. Get to know both. They behave totally differently.
- I guess the same can be said about night sailing. You generally get very little practice at night. Everyone has their own flashlight (not to be shared). Several others on deck. Wind will seem stronger and seas bigger. Harnesses and jacklines are a given.
- Don’t over supply. Most destinations have some sort of market. I almost never end a trip where I don’t have more left over than I wanted.
- Don’t over spare. You can spend a fortune on spares. I carry expendables and some spares (a fresh water pump for example), but most trips visit at least one destination that has good facilities of the ability to fly parts in.
- The best cruising boat is the one you have (or can afford). Don’t let the experts tell you need a great offshore boat. The number one long distance sailing brand is Beneteau – the classic mass produced plastic fantastic.
- Prepare the boat. I wouldn’t sail offshore on a boat with standing rigging more than 20 years old. Not particularly expensive to replace. Most boats are too big to jettison the mast and boom over the side before significant damage to the boat will occur. Because I know little about engines I make sure my engine is as bulletproof as possible. Fluids, hoses, impeller all get replaced more often than recommended. Spare shackles, screws, bolts, sail repair kit, and a block or two. Inspect everything including the steering and rudder. Those failures are troublesome.
- And most important by far – you and your crew. A lousy crew is either dangerous or annoying. Both will ruin your trip. If you don’t belong offshore take someone in your crew who is experienced.
OCTOBER 8, 2017 There is a requirement this year to have long distance communications capability. Originally, either SSB or a Garmin Inreach. Several folks complained that they had sat phones and an Inreach was just a duplicate. So they modified the rule to say that if you had an Iridium based phone your could use that. These folks work so hard I didn’t argue. I have Inmarsat so I ordered an Inreach. A shout out to Patsy on Taleon – a real sailing icon – for all her help in my working through a technical glitch with the Inreach. They also just changed the rule to allow any satphone. Oh, well. I have a backup sextant, why not a backup satellite communication device.
OCTOBER 30, 2017 All the prep work is done. I’ve never been so prepared. However, stuff happens and I expect no less. Jack, Jeff, Brett and I are at the dock around 0900. There are several boats from our dock going along with a couple transient boats. Steve on his (for him) new Jeanneau 57 and his offshore inexperienced crew are hilarious. They will start about four hours late. They will also have incredibly good luck all the way down. Walt, on his Beneteau 473 is experience, as are most of his 6 crew. Daddy Long Legs, one of his crew, is 16, looks mid twenties and has the longest legs I’ve ever seen. Fortunately her mom was along to stand watch. We cast off at 0930 and head out to the parade out the bay. The usual fire boats and excitement of the start. There are, according to the Poobah 131 boats starting. Perhaps a dozen are starting from Ensenada. The proximity of the fleet at the start of the parade is concerning.
Although the forecast is for very light winds we are making 6 knots in a very tight reach. By 1500 we have the chute up on a beam reach with winds about 8 knots along with our boat speed of about the same. The wind dies with the sun and we motor at 2200 rpm and 7.2 knots, about 300 rpm and .8 knots slower than normal cruise. However, I want to make sure we get to Puerto Vallarta without refueling. Turtle Bay is always a hassle and the fuel dock in Cabo San Lucas charges around $200 to tie up before fueling.
By 0800 the next morning the chute is back up and we are cruising along at 7.5 knots with winds NW13.
The forecast for the first leg was for winds no greater than 10 knots so we are happy. We all had a shot at using the sextant. Fortunately I had us closest to the GPS. I love my new sextant (an ASTRA III) and use it to make sure the GPS stays accurate. A few broken stuff. The auto bilge pump didn’t shut off after it cycled. It took us a while to find that. The handle on the master head door came loose and was re tightened. Nightfall the wind died again and we were motoring along through the night. An almost full moon makes boat sightings much easier. One trimaran with no running lights came past us. We saw her silhouette from quite a distance. Not really close, but really annoying. Around 2200 we chatted with Celebrate, a Taswell 57 that had made its way from the East Coast through the North West Passage (after having circumnavigated.) The moon was almost full and the seas flat. I had not previously sailed between Cedros and Benito Islands, but decided with the good light in the middle of the night to do so. Generally I have headed outside Benito. Although we shaved a few miles off the total distance and we didn’t encounter fishing boats, which I was concerned with, we did pick up lot of kelp. Next time I think I’ll go outside. We encountered quite a counter current coming around Cedros which slowed progress some.
At 1050 on Wednesday anchor down in Turtle Bay.
We had averaged 7.1 knots, both under power and sail and as usual we were one of the first in. We stay in Turtle Bay until Saturday so plenty of time to rest up. We put Jack on the BBQ and had some amazing meals. On Thursday we went to the baseball game between the cruisers and the locals. Those kids sure know how to play. The field is amazing. Stadium seating and an fake grass surface. We noticed all the nicest houses in town were on the hillside overlooking the stadium, not the beautiful bay! At the baseball game we discovered what we have discovered at all the previous HaHas. There a several very attractive young ladies who are quite aware of their presence and strut nicely around. We voted four to zero to continue that tradition through all the future HaHas.
Saturday, 11/4/17 at 0830 we were underway for Bahia Santa Maria. The forecast was for much better winds. The battery monitor said the auxiliary batteries weren’t charged, but that went away and never came back. We had started fishing and quickly brought in (and sent back) two Bonito. The only serious issue started this morning. Jack smelled what he thought was electrical wire burning. My reaction was to spray the cabin with Glade air freshener. Over the next several hours we failed to find the source and was unable to repeat the smell. By then we were busy fishing and had caught and released a small tuna.
At 1500 we landed a large Dorado which, along with another tuna would provide four great meals. Sushi, Sushimi, fish tacos, and grilled fish. Having sailed all day under spinnaker we debated leaving the kite up during the night. Past HaHas we had and had gotten in a bit of trouble when the wind picked up. We noticed all four of us were wither in our 60s or 70s so decided to pull it down. Winds picked up to 20. Not really a problem, but we carry on nicely under main and genoa in those conditions. We needed to reboot the instruments twice when screens froze up.
Sunday we (Brett) found the electrical problem! It was serious. Running the watermaker on 110v with the generator running had lead to some wires melting behind a fuse panel in the skippers cabin. The fix was fairly easy. Getting everything working again on Monday would be more of an effort (the breaker box near the generator and near the panel were quickly found, but an inline one halfway between took forever to find. Once switches switched all was well. Thanks Brett for saving our lives. We continued to make great progress under the chute often hitting greater than nine knots. During the late afternoon the seas created a squirrelly condition that lead to several round ups. We decided to retrieve the kite and headed for the barn under main and genoa finishing at 1730. We didn’t reach the anchorage until 1940. By then it was pitch dark. Although there was to be a good moon it wouldn’t come up until 2100. We should have waited. In the pitch dark it was easy to see the anchor lights of boats at anchor, but very tough to judge distances. Several boats were also making their way into the harbor so there was a certain pucker factor. We had sailed the entire leg. This was a first for us as we are not afraid to motor if the wind dies. By 2130 we had finished fish tacos and were bragging in the cockpit under a full moon of our accomplishment.
Monday was spent watching Brett rewire and attempt to find why we couldn’t get 110v from the generator. No luck. Tuesday morning we found the hidden breaker box and that solved the problem quickly. The water temperature was 75 degree and the air 78 degrees so we got some nice swims in. Bahia Santa Maria is a magical bay. It is almost entirely deserted save for a few fishing huts.
Wednesday morning 0630 underway for Cabo San Lucas. We won a pizza for being one of the first to have the spinnaker up. It didn’t last long however as we were motoring by 0800. By 0900 we were catching fish. As our freezer had plenty of fish we did catch and release. Nice for me, the head filleter, as we caught six fish today. We saw but one whale but it was a beauty. A full on breach. We saw lots of turtles which are the sea’s miracle. How do they survive out there? We set and retrieved the spinnaker four times today as the winds were fickle. 2000 square feet to pack and unpack for a couple old farts (Jeff and I were the foredeck crew) was getting to be a bit much. Because the wind had been so light there were lots of boats motoring in the same direction. There were also quite a few boats not standing a particular rigorous watch as VHF traffic confirmed. We motored through the night and were off Cabo at 0630 Thursday.
By 0815 we were in a private slip with power. Air conditioner on as it was toasty. We had come all the way to Cabo on one of two tanks with lots to spare. Motoring to Puerto Vallarta, some 280 nm, would be a breeze.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday were the usual Cabo, end of Baja Haha debauchery. Three huevos rancheros breakfasts, a late night (830pm) at Squid Roe. Laundry. A couple nice meals at Mi Casa and Mariscos La Palmira. The awards presentation where we were third again (I think we might have gotten a second if we had turned in our time).
Sunday, 0400 “wheels up” for Puerto Vallarta. I was nervous about leaving the harbor in the dark, but did not need to be. Music was still blaring and the harbor all lit up. Our goal was to reach Punta de Mita at the entrance to Banderas Bay before nightfall Monday. We couldn’t make it to the marina, some 13 miles further, before they closed and being at anchor seemed like a nice thing to do. We motored at 2500 rpm as we had tons of fuel and I liked the 8 knots plus in the dead calm waters. We were now in the tropics. The temperature was 93 degrees during the day and was shorts and short sleeve shirts (with harnesses) at night. With the smallish moon the milky way lit up the sky. Monday we were motor sailing with some decent wind. We throttled back to 1800 rpm, but still saw greater than 8 knots. At 1525 central time anchor down in Punta de Mita. Water temp 86 degrees and air temperature hotter. After a quick dip in dirty water we fired up the generator and air conditioner and retired below decks. We ran the air conditioner all night. Fortunately we were not near any other boats as our generator, although quiet, is not silent. At 0830 we had anchor up and two hours later we were in Paradise Village Marina. In all we had covered 1100nm and run the engine 107 hours. We had sailed most of the Haha and had made a speedy crossing at 8.3 knots to Puerto Vallarta. A few things broke. But very few.
A trip like this is determined by the success of the crew. By all measures we had the best.