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

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

Prelude to the Baja Ha Ha

Dear Friends—you are among the lucky few to receive what we hope will be daily communications from the sailing vessel Harmony. Our C&C 40 sailboat is part of a fleet of 150 boats headed to Cabo San Lucas starting tomorrow, October 31. The intrepid crew consists of Skipper Melody Kanschat, Barbara Morris, Avghi Constantdinides, Jeannea Jordan and Mike McGuire. Harmony is an official Women’s Sailing Association—Santa Monica Bay entry to the rally/race/flotilla called the Baja Ha Ha.

We begin in San Diego and end after 11 days and 750 miles at Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico. In between there are two stops for rest, relaxation and parties. After a two-day layover (including the chance to top off fuel tanks), the fleet of about 150 boats will head to Bahia Santa Maria—another 230 miles. With no facilities, the leaders of the Baja Ha Ha import the makings of a party in the form of a rock band, taco shack and beer concession. A two-day layover ends and the shortest segment begins (about 24 hours) to Cabo. Parties and an awards ceremony cap the festivities. To say that this “race” is laid back is an understatement. Any complaints or challenges associated with the race can only be filed in a dive bar located in a sketchy neighborhood after the awards are handed out. A good time will be had by all.

We attended the Halloween party for all of the crews the afternoon of 10/30. The Harmony crew won second prize in the “miscellaneous” category for our costumes based on the series Orange is the New Black. Mike was Pornstache and the rest of the crew were various inmates. Melody’s portrayal of Pensatucky with appropriate blacked out meth teeth stole the show.

Captain Melody, Barbara, Mike, Avghi and Jeannea

Prelude to the Baja Ha Ha

Left to right: Jeannea Jordan, Barbara Morris, Mike McGuire, Avghi Constantinides, Melody Kanschat.

October Meeting Speaker – Marilyn Cassedy

racetoalaska-photoOn October 11 our speaker will be Marilyn Cassedy who captained a team for the second annual “Race to Alaska”.

The (no engine) regatta covers 750 miles of coastal British Columbia up the inside passage from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK, and truly tested their team’s skills as sailors. Marilyn’s talk will cover their motivation for doing the race, the process of preparing for the race in an engine-less daysailer, and what it was like to sail in an event where the tidal currents can run at more than 10 knots and wildlife encounters could range from orcas to grizzlies. She’ll also share her thoughts on the upcoming third edition of the race to take place in 2017 and what the ideal boat, crew and weather conditions might look like next time around.

Marilyn is a San Diego native who recently relocated to Los Angeles for work. She grew up sailing at the San Diego Yacht Club, and raced in high school at The Bishop’s School and in college at Hobart and William Smith in New York. Fleeing the cold, Marilyn did a Master’s degree in Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, which gave her the opportunity to travel the world excavating, studying, and conserving artifacts from ancient shipwrecks. More recently, Marilyn has been active in the Martin 242 fleet on the Santa Monica Bay, but she’s been fortunate to sail in a variety of other fleets, including a recent trip as part of the CYC team at the International Women’s Keelboat Championships in Rye, New York.

September Meeting Speaker – Denise George

On September 13 our speaker will be Denise George from Denison Yacht Sales speaking on everything you need to know about buying or selling a boat.

Denise has been boating since she was 12, starting out on small runabouts and the family cabin cruiser on Lake St. Clair, Michigan. She relocated to MdR in the early 80s. In recent years, Denise has become an active sailboat racer both locally and internationally as well as the producer and builder of a 24′ club racer called a Martin 242. Today she is a leader in the boating community of Marina del Rey and enjoying every bit of her career as a yacht sales person.

Denise is a true equal opportunity boater: she loves all boats—small, big, power or sail—and prides herself on finding the right boat for her clients’ needs. Denise was recognized as the 2010 ASMBYC Yachtsman of the Year.