Day #11, November 10, 2016

Dear Friends—The conditions in the morning were a repeat of the moderate wind and waves of last night. We motored most of the way until we approached the Cape. We had a great three-hour sail close hauled for the first time on the trip. We rounded Cabo Falso at 1300 and entered Cabo San Lucas Harbor about 1345 hours. We went immediately to our pre-assigned slip, N2, which is near the fuel dock. However, that was full so we did a raft up with Wind Horse hosted by Dennis and Vicki. It was a very tight fit and Skipper Melody did a perfect job of fitting us in. Done and done at 1400 hours. We cheated death again!!!

Next order of business was for the Skipper to take all of our passports and other paperwork to an agent and get us cleared into port. Known as the ”paper cha cha,” it is better to leave this to the professionals and pay a few bucks. Mike did it himself in 2003 and deeply regretted it. Confusing, complicated, lines, uncertainty, frustration. Choose a root canal over this process.

We cleaned up the boat and got ready for the party at Squid Roe. Showers never felt so good. Mike is leaving the boat and moving to a hotel. Mike and Avghi are flying out on Saturday and Melody and Barbara on Sunday. Jeannea is staying on the boat until Melody returns during Thanksgiving week to move it up to La Paz.

The party at Squid Roe was a blast. Much drinking of cervezas and margaritas and lots of dancing and whooping and ‘hollerin.

It will be hard to break up this great team. The next update will explore how we all fit together in a space 40 feet long and 13.5 feet wide.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day #10, November 9, 2016

Dear Friends-We were up at 0400 hours and desperate for news about the election. Somehow, Jeannea was able to get one bar on her cell phone and call her granddaughter in Boston. All she was able to hear was “Trump won” before the connection died. We thought we had heard wrong but Jeannea could not reconnect. Mike pulled out his satellite phone and tried to reach his brother in Virginia. No go. He was able to reach his daughter in Gainesville, Florida, who confirmed the news. We were all stunned as, we suspect, was the rest of the country.

Slowly we came to our senses and prepared to move off our anchor. At first light, we were able to motor out of the bay with a few other boats. The rest of the fleet had an “official” start at 0700. Many of the boats had already left for Cabo.

The trip ESE was with a following sea of about 3-4 feet and highly variable winds of about 6-8 knots. Every boat appeared to be on their engines and all of us were traveling about 6 knots. Consequently, we were pretty much bunched up during the whole trip. As the sun rose higher, the temperature rose over 90 degrees F. We rigged a sun cover and resorted to dipping shirts and towels into the cool ocean to get the “air conditioning effect.”

In the late afternoon, the wind started building slowly until at 12 knots, the Skipper declared that it was time to sail. Melody and Avghi, once again, did an expert job hoisting the Gennaker. We were the first in the fleet to get it going, and because sailors are ALWAYS watching the competition, those who had kites soon followed. I know. I said this was a race/rally/cruise, but the sailors I (Mike) was with would slip into the race mode unconsciously. “We’re moving on him.” “Eat his wind.” “Crush him.” As a newly minted sailor, it was surprising for me to see these very nice women on board Harmony be transported into speed demons bent on the conquest of all the boats in front of them.

We flew the Gennaker for about three hours and achieved a top speed of about 8 knots. This certainly got us closer to our destination and saved fuel in the process. We have enough fuel but it is always nice to develop a larger reserve.

At sundown, we were served Beef Stroganoff that Jeannea made at home and brought on the trip. It was delicious. The first quarter moon was high and at full dark, it was not dark at all. The stars were washed out until the moon set at about 0200 hours. We then had a repeat of the fabulous star encrusted heavens.

Between midnight and 0300 hours, Barbara and Mike were treated to a light extravaganza over the Baja peninsula. We were 18 miles offshore and could easily see a dramatic heat lightning show coming from the massive thunderheads that had built up over the mountains. It went on for hours and was better than any fireworks show.

The seas were 4 feet of long rollers of following seas and about 7 knots of wind all night long. Our Yanmar engine was really getting a workout. We stood our watches in conditions that were quite different from the first three nights. It fills your heart with joy to experience long distance cruising under these conditions.

We are nearing the end and already anticipating how much we will miss this.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day #9, November 8, 2016, Tuesday

Dear Friends-Happy Election Day! One of the great joys of the Ha Ha is that we have been disconnected from the insane election coverage for nine days.

We woke up to a gorgeous sunrise followed by a thick rolling fog that only lasted for an hour. Morning fog will have to be something we take into account when we leave early tomorrow.

The most important activity of the day was the retrieval of the repaired mainsail and re-installation. The Ullman Sails guys were so nice about it. Melody gave them some fresh water, a bottle of rum and four limes. When she picked up the sail, there were five other sails waiting to be repaired. They really provide a service to the Ha Ha boats. Installing the mainsail proceeded without a hitch.

The most fun activity was the beach party. Every year, the Ha Ha arranges for a live band to come from La Paz and some nice ladies who serve a fish dinner to over 150 people for $15 each. Hundreds and hundreds of cervezas were served to the troops. The ride in the panga was exciting because it had to cross several sand bars before landing on the beach. The rock and roll band was fantastic and the Harmony crew danced the day away. We were the hit of the party with our matching Harmony T-shirts. Even the Grand Poohbah stopped by and took pictures of us.

Other activities included transferring fuel and water from jerry jugs lashed to the railings to the boat tanks. Melody went over the side and checked out the prop and rudder with her snorkel gear. The entire crew went swimming several times during the day because the water was so warm.

Sunset was even better than sunrise. It was a 10 out of 10. We were seriously engaged in happy hour during the very long and very beautiful sunset. We went to bed early because we plan to get up at 0400 hours for an early start. We definitely want to arrive in Cabo during daylight.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day #8, November 7, 2016, Monday

Dear Friends-It was a rolling start for everyone waking up. The tail-end-Charlie was Mike who somehow slept through all of the morning doings.

There was truly not a cloud in the sky. We know we are in the lower latitudes as the air temperature has risen to about 82 degrees F at 1300 hours and everyone is attired in swimsuits. The crew deployed the sunshade and everyone was “profligate” in their use of sunscreen.

The big job today is to take off the mainsail and dinghy it over to the Ullman Sails boat who offered to fix it for no labor, just materials. With help from Lawrence from De Vrijheid, the sail was removed with ease. We dropped it off at the Ullman Sails boat in hopes that it would be ready for our departure.

Activities for the day were modest. We blew up the dinghy and all of us took Joy showers off the stern washing away the accumulated salt, sweat and sunscreen. Much better. Afterwards, there was some visiting between boats and, generally, just hanging out and resting.

At dusk, many of the dinghies from the fleet (including us) rafted up behind the Grand Poobah’s boat, Profligate, for a concert, shared beverages and dinghy dancing (ask Barbara). It was challenging to find Harmony in the dark even with special Luci lights hung out. With the relatively high winds in the anchorage, all aboard the dinghy ended up with damp posteriors.

There was a medical emergency after dark. A man sustained a dislocated shoulder during some sort of accident. Over the Ha Ha Net, the Poohbah organized some immediate medical attention (pain management) with transport to a local clinic deferred until daylight.

Lights out at 2000 hours.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day 7, November 6, Sunday

Dear Friends—Your scribe (Mike) slept for about 4.5 hours and felt like a million bucks. Others got varying amounts of sleep during a mostly rough ride last night. This morning it is gorgeous—sunny with a few clouds—with winds of about 7 knots and seas down to about 3 feet. Glorious.

Barb treated us to a Breakfast Bowl consisting of scrambled eggs, sour cream, avocado, cheese and turkey bacon. Heaven. upon smelling the incredible odor, Mike offered to marry Barbara on the spot. However, he was reminded of the penalties for bigamy. Melody observed that we are eating all of our meals with bowls and spoons as if we were prisoners. Seems appropriate given our theme of Orange is the New Black. Even in these much-reduced seas, our sterling silver service with bone china and cut crystal glasses would not be appropriate.

The wind gods were kind to us in the afternoon: 12-15 kts following or quartering. Seas were about 2-3 feet. The whole trip we have had 6-8 foot long-period swells which are glorious when the wind is light. Our illustrious deck crew raised the Gennaker for about an hour and then tackled deploying the spinnaker. It has been quite some time since Harmony’s spinnaker was used. However, Avghi is a racer and an expert on deploying colorful, billowing sails. We enjoyed the extra speed and nice ride for a few hours. When they were up, the sails were gorgeous. With a lot of forethought and experience, Mel and Avghi did a fabulous job. Not one wrap or jam.

The sunset was the best of the trip. Barbara got lots of pictures as she has done throughout the trip for all of our adventures. She will post some of them on this blog when we get to a place with decent Wifi.

Winds at night were sufficient to maintain about 4-5 knots with just the double-reefed main and occasionally the genoa. As the wind abated, we contemplated the large number of hours to travel to the anchorage under these conditions. The iron jenny was engaged and we motored along at 6 knots or so the rest of the way. There was lots of traffic with Ha Ha sailboats all headed to the same destination. We did hear about one of the fleet who had lost all power, no engine and were sailing as if it was the 1800s—compass, charts and a chronometer. They made it to Bahia Santa Maria just fine. Two cruise ships passed far offshore lighting up the sky like small cities.

Dear readers, you need a star report for this trip. Most nights we have had clear skies and breathtaking stars. The Milky Way was so bright. Watching Orion and the Big Dipper rise along with our old friend, the seven sisters, was a thrilling occurrence every night. Venus is very bright in the western sky at sunset and we have had her company for about 3 hours each night. The new moon has morphed into the first quarter. When it is up, you can read a newspaper.

We spotted the lighthouse on Cabo Lazaro which was a welcome sight because it marked that we were near the end of Leg #2. The moon had set and we only had the stars for illumination. We crossed the imaginary finish line at 0110 hours on November 7 and motored into Bahia Santa Maria. We could see the Ha Ha fleet at anchor and as we got on the outside edge of the anchored boats we noticed a slight mist moving in from the east. Within 10 minutes we were socked in with a surface fog, we found a likely spot and dropped the hook about 0400 hours. Within another few minutes visibility was down to 20 yards or less. We heaved a sigh of relief and felt sorry for those still outside. We celebrated with hot chocolate and tea with a few cookies (ok, there was whiskey involved for a few). We collapsed in bed.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day 6, Nov 5, Saturday

Dear Friends—Another bright sunny morning. The crew was up about 0800 with Captain Melody logging 11.5 hours of sleep. She felt great and the rest of the crew were very glad that she could get some needed rest. The rest of the morning was devoted to breakfast of granola and yoghurt, plus other goodies, putting the boat in shape for the next leg. Yesterday afternoon, we transferred 5 gallons of diesel to the tank and we were able to hail a panga and get them to fill the empty fuel container. Our biggest connection to shore was whistling over a young Mexican guy in a kayak who was picking up our trash. We really needed to get rid of our bag as did, obviously, many others. The guy had artfully stacked many bags where only a few should have fit.

We started motoring to the start line at the mouth of Turtle Bay. The Poohbah called for a rolling start which means that we could use our engine without penalty for the initial sailing part of the race/rally. Once again we were all bunched up doing about 6 knots and headed out away from shore so that we can catch some wind. Winds were light and building. Our failed weather forecaster, Commander Weather, was able to forecast today’s weather about as well as he did Mon-Wed. We did have following winds about 15 knots for a while and we did deploy the Gennaker for about three hours. Our speed did get up to 7 knots with the chute. Then they it became clear that the winds were going beyond the mid-teens. The Gennaker came down and the
Genoa was furled. Winds were following as were the 8 foot long periods swells broken up by wind waves. Steering was challenging but not as terrifying as the previous passage. The wind changed radically twice and two hard jibes resulted in a broken traveller line and a torn mainsail on the foot near the clew. Mel rewove the traveler line and she and Avghi double reefed the mainsail in challenging sea and wind conditions in the dark.

At this point, we were only making about 4 knots, so Mel turned on the iron jenny and engaged the autopilot for an extended period. The seas and wind began to drop and all became much easier. We may be able to get a sail repair from the Ullman sail guy who is traveling with the fleet (he has a sewing machine on board) while we are anchored in Bahia Santa Maria. If not, we can make it to Cabo with the current rig.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Day 5, November 4

Dear Friends—Today was another rest day. We slept in and did little chores around the boat. No Ha Ha radio net this morning. We were all prepping for the beach party. And what a party it was. We were there from about 1300 to 1700 hours. Packed into that was a full day of meeting boat friends, sampling tacos and beer from the vendors, watching not one but two video drones recording the party doings, listening to oldies from a blasting stereo, eating good food that we cooked ourselves over charcoal and watching the volleyball game. PLUS, we had the annual tug-of-war between the men and women. The women won for the twenty-third year in a row. Something was fishy about all of this and a cursory inspection of the teams revealed about three times as many women as men and the men’s team was packed with rather small boys. Hmm.

Part of the entertainment was watching the pangas deliver people to the beach and most hilarious, picking people up from the beach. The panga guys would overload the boat and then wait for a little wavelet to pick up the massively overloaded panga and float it out to the bay all the while pushing like crazy from the stern. This would go on for 5-10 minutes to our great amusement. Somehow it always worked out.

We caught a panga ride back to Harmony with our old buddy Hector. He is something of a big deal around here. The reason why we love to use him is that he has marked our boat on his handheld GPS. Even during daylight, it is a little confusing to find Harmony among all of the white-hulled monohulls. One dead giveaway is the cluster of yellow diesel fuel cans lashed to the stanchions, but you have to get close enough to see them.

Two of the crew took “Joy” showers off the back of the boat. For the uninitiated, this process involves dumping a bucket of seawater over your head while hanging onto the swim ladder on the stern, shampooing hair with special seawater shampoo, soaping up with Joy dishwashing detergent (or Dawn, in our case) then jumping into the ocean. The ocean water gives you a good rinse and then you go to the forward deck for a freshwater spritz using a bag of water that had been warming in the sun. Incidentally, all of this is accomplished while wearing a bathing suit so as not to horrify boaters nearby. Speaking for myself (Mike), being really clean never felt so good.

Tomorrow morning we are off on another adventure to Bahia Santa Maria, about 225 miles away.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

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