Baja Ha Ha 2016

Day 4, November 3

Dear Friends—We woke up to a gorgeous sunny day. Breakfast was Mike’s classic “cheesy eggs” and the usual delicious coffee. After, we all sat around the VHF radio to hear the morning net hosted by the leader of the Ha Ha, the Grand Poobah. It was amazing in its diversity; full of mundane life details such as how to get ice, what channel to call for panga rides to the beach, where to get Internet access and how much the local folks charge to take away your garbage ($1 per bag). We did get a weather report for the next leg of the trip and everyone was relieved to hear that only moderate winds were expected, 9-13 knots with 5-7 foot seas. Sounds like a mill pond after the last two days. We’ll see!

There were reports of equipment problems of all types including blown out sails, ripped spinnakers, busted vang, broken boom, inoperable engine and electrical problems. Most of the problems seemed to be solvable. In fact, several boaters volunteered spare parts and their expert labor to put the wounded boats back to rights. The spirit of the Ha Ha is something to behold.

The bad news was that one boat was wrecked on rocks the previous evening. Summerwind (out of San Diego) apparently did not navigate properly and, by some reports, relied too much on a GPS chartplotter where they got the distance scale wrong. We did not mention this in the previous blog because it was confusing, but Harmony received an AIS distress call about the time we were getting ready to enter Turtle Bay. The alarm kept blaring and it was not clear what it was for or who was in trouble. Worse yet, it did not give a Lat/Long for the location of the boat in distress. It turned out to be about 8 miles behind us. The radio traffic on Channel 69 was also confusing, but it appeared that other boats were much closer to the wreck than we were. We heard later that a ketch called Jersey Girl launched a large inflatable with a big engine and they were able to rescue the crew of three—a dad and his son plus another crew member. The boat (Newport 41) was a total loss. This is the first boat loss on the Baja Ha Ha in 23 years.

After that sobering news, we cleaned up the boat and put away all of the flotsam that had accumulated inside the boat during the rough seas. Damp clothes were spread out on the deck. While Barbara went ashore to look for Internet access and Avghi searched for showering facilities for the crew (which she found), Mel, Jeannea and Mike worked on the alternator. It was not a good idea to continue our journey without getting a proper charge on the batteries. The refrigerator had been off for many hours but the food was still ok. We would lose the food if we could not get the electrical system working. Melody’s engine and electrical system skills came through again and after a couple of hours work, all was well again.

Most of us made it to the baseball game at 1500 hours. The folks in Turtle Bay are crazy about baseball. In this town of about 1500, they have a beautiful baseball stadium (that must hold 700 people) and they field six teams of all ages that tour Baja California to play in the various leagues. Today’s game was played by Ha Ha rules which means that everyone gets a chance to get a hit, no score is kept, there are about 15 infielders and 20 outfielders and no one takes it seriously. However, one group of sailors were in a cluster in left field and appeared to pay more attention to the beer being consumed than the balls hit in their direction. The players were a mix of Ha Ha’ers and young Mexican boys. Everyone had a great time. One bizarre aspect was a guy flying a drone above the baseball diamond taking video of the action.

We met back on the boat for cocktails and snacks followed by a wonderful steak and salad dinner. Shortly afterwards, we were all in bed. We still need to catch up on sleep.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day 3, November 2

Dear Friends—Day 3 dawned with clear skies and the winds had died down to the high teens and low 20s. After the previous night, it felt like flat seas. We were within striking distance of Isla Cedros and made a course change to come in on the leeward side to get a little protection from wind and waves for a few precious hours.

Cedros was sighted at 1017 hours. Winds were still about 20 knots but they were backing from north to northwest, west, southwest and finally due south before they died all the way down on the southeastern corner of the island. Crossing to Isla Navidad was easy but the winds picked up again. Our goal was to make it to the entrance to Turtle Bay during daylight hours. We did not meet our goal. Night fell about 18 nm from the bay. Right before sunset, Barbara served delicious burritos so that we would be full of energy for our night entrance.

A night entrance to Turtle Bay is not dangerous but it is tricky. We followed the not reliable GPS (Mexico GPS is notorious for being 1-2 miles off), made our turn into the bay when we saw the Ha Ha fleet lighting up the sky. Mike was on the bow with an infrared scope looking for fish trap floats and everyone else looked for other obstructions. Fortunately, two other boats were going in a couple of miles ahead of us. Melody and Jeannea were on the helm and they put our bow on the stern of the trailing boat. We made it in with no problem, scouted a good place to drop anchor in the midst of the Ha Ha fleet and dropped the hook in 33 feet of water. Relief. It was flat as glass inside the bay and all was good.

After happy hour and lots of laughs, we collapsed in our bunks. Mike did get up in the middle of the night as is his custom. He was afraid that the rest of the crew had somehow died. There was not a peep out of anyone—a perfect example of sleeping like the dead.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day 2, November 1

Dear Friends—The weather made everything more challenging on Day 2. The winds stayed up in the 20s and the seas were rising. We put in the first mainsail reef at 0845. We put in a second reef at 2330 in anticipation of building wind. We were not disappointed. With furled genoa and double reefed main we had more than a little excitement throughout the night keeping course downwind. The waves built to 12 feet or more. It was hard to tell. Steering in the following sea was a challenge. We grabbed sandwiches, fruit and snack bars when we could. However, for dinner we had a turkey meat sauce with zucchini noodles that Avghi made. It tasted like the finest Northern Italian cuisine. Nothing like a bowl of hot delicious food in large seas and high winds.

During the second night, the highest wind gust we saw was 38 knots. We were way past small craft advisories. Most of the time the winds were in the high 20s or low 30s. The maximum boat speed recorded was with Mike at the wheel at 27.2 knots, obviously surfing down one of the big waves. It’s hard to believe but that is what the instruments said.

Both nights we saw gorgeous stars that also turned out to be incredibly crucial for maintaining our courses while on the knife-edge of trying to keep as close to a following sea and wind without wind backing our mainsail even with the preventer. At one time we were using Canopus which is low in the sky at this latitude and Sirius (to the left and down a little from Orion, the brightest star in the heavens). All of the instruments are great but with these challenging seas, steering by the stars was by far the easiest.

We turned on the engine a few times to try and charge the batteries, but we also engaged the prop for a number of hours to help power through some of the sloppy waves. We did experience some battery charging problems but any fixes would have to wait until Turtle Bay.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day 1, October 31

Dear Friends—We are sorry about not sending updates more regularly. A reading of the next three emails will explain why.

We were all up early to take some of the last relaxing showers for the next 10 days. Quick breakfast, topped off the water tanks, other final tweaks and we left our slip at Sun Harbor Marina about 0930 to join the other Ha Ha boats for the parade. Incidentally, Harmony is classified in the Desparado Division for the race/rally reflecting what bad-ass sailors we are. 😉

Great day with mostly sunny skies and fairly warm. The female inmates aboard Harmony wore their orange prison garb for the start of the race in hopes of capturing a prize. Crews on other Ha Ha boats in San Diego Harbor also wore their costumes. The best were the Vikings. Their costumes looked like they were right out of a movie. An all-guy crew on one boat was dressed up in amazing iridescent green mermaid costumes complete with coconut halters.

The parade officially started with a gun at 1000 hours with all 138 boats starting from San Diego passing in review of the race/rally committee boat which contained Mexican and U.S. officials including the Mexican Consul for San Diego. Other boats will join the Ha Ha from Ensenada as we sail past. It was a thrilling sight to see all of the boats strung out in the Harbor and headed down the channel. The official starting line was at Coronado Roads which is south and a little east of the end of the harbor entrance channel. With a countdown by the Grand Poohbah over VHF radio, we all started sailing over the start line about 1100 hours. The Ha Ha had begun. The winds were fairly light out of the northwest and all of the boats stayed bunched up for many hours. Then the wind began to rise and the boats began to separate. The forecast was for light winds today and building tomorrow to 20 knots. Not so. We were all sailing downwind with gusts at 20-24 knots late in the evening and through the night. We grabbed a quick dinner of salmon burgers and other finger foods as we dealt with the rolly conditions. We reefed the genoa at 1900 hours when the wind was a steady 17 knots. We tucked in for the night and our watch schedule. Boat speed was about 7 knots.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea