Baja HaHa 2016

On Board S/V Mariah

Don and I arrived in San Diego to join Trish and John Billings on their 41′ Morgan ketch for the annual Baja HaHa, THE annual cruiser’s rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  The Baja HaHa is organized by Latitude 38 and is run in 3 legs: San Diego to Bahia Tortuga/Turtle Bay (360 miles), Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria, and Santa Maria to LaPaz.

Trish and John cleaned out their v-berth for us to be comfortable in, then, after some last minute provisioning and paperwork, we lined up with 135 other boats at the start line and were sent off with a lot of fanfare.

BajaHaHa 2016 Start Line Video  

The 2016 rally got off to a slow start…no winds. We motored along with 150+  boats spreading out over miles and miles, trying to find the wind. Mariah, a nice big, fat boat needs quite a bit of wind to sail, so our Captain, John Billings, opted to motor on a rhumb line to Turtle Bay. We didn’t have to wait too long, however, before the winds and waves picked up. Waves for us were in the 7-10′ range (I think bigger, but I’ll be conservative) and winds at 22-28 kn.

First day sailing in 7-10 ft seas and 20-28 knots of wind

With the rocking and rolling, Don (for the first time ever) succumbed to the dreaded mal de mer.  For 3 days, he was unable to even lift his head. Just before arriving in Turtle Bay, Don emerged from below. Pasty and pale, he had survived the first leg of the Baja HaHa and joined the rest of us in the land of the living!

Arriving in Turtle Bay, we rested and then explored this cute little Mexican town, and attended the Baja Haha Softball Game. Trish showed off her skills honed as an athletics coach, while we watched from the bleachers.

The next morning, we set about refueling. The fuel from the “guy on the dock” was reported to be bad and the Pemex station was quite a ways into town. But we had met a really nice panga owner, Ricky, who offered to take our fuel cans into town, fill them at the Pemex station, and return them to the boat. Seemed like a great idea….however, after the first fuel ferry, the “guy on the dock” reported Ricky for ‘selling’ fuel (he wasn’t selling us the fuel, he was transporting it). Ricky was then detained all day by the policia, along with our fuel cans. Unaware of the drama, we waited on Mariah, missing the beach party and all the fun, trying to find Ricky and our fuel. Finally, at about 10:00 pm, Ricky returned with our fuel and described his ordeal. We were so sorry for his trouble, but want to make doubly sure to remind anyone on future HaHa’s to not buy fuel from the “guy on the dock”.  Asshole.

The next morning our journey continued as we set off from Turtle Bay headed to Bahia Santa Maria. This leg of the trip was just amazing with a full day of champagne sailing!  Perfect downwind sailing with following seas. John and Don got the whisker pole out and the engines were given a much needed rest as we sailed in gorgeous weather!

Don now decided that it was “time to fish!”  He rigged the pole, using a purple and black feather jig, tossed his line, and in typical Don fashion, caught the first fish ever caught on Mariah, a bluefin tuna, just in time for dinner!

It looks so small, but it fed all four of us with leftovers to spare.

The next evening at sunset, John caught another for our dinner.

The streak continued until we all grew tired of fresh caught sushi and stopped putting out the line.

We arrived in Bahia Santa Maria in good humor. Mostly because of the radio traffic amongst the HaHa fleet, that went something like this:

Poobah: “Remember, there are no facilities here. There is no town. There is no shopping, fuel, food or anything. This place is only a “town” once a year when the fleet comes in and we bring in a band and locals to prepare a feast and celebration. And as you are anchoring, be aware of the sandbar. Do not anchor near the bar!”

Anonymous Boat #1: “Where is the bar? Do they have an ATM?”

Poobah: “No, there is no bar or ATM. Stay off the sandbar.”

Anonymous Boat #2: “I missed that; where is the bar? Do they have ice?”

…and so on it went until everyone finally understood the sandbar was a spit of uninhabited sand. I’ve never laughed so hard or been so entertained by radio traffic.

We really enjoyed Bahia Santa Maria, a large, uninhabited bay with beautiful beach, surf, and a mangrove forest perfect for exploration by dinghy or kayak. Just be careful dinghying into the beach….that surf can be treacherous!

Mangrove tour at Bahia Santa Maria

Surf at Bahia Santa Maria

Bahia Santa Maria Sandbar — no ATM.

The final leg to Cabo San Lucas was uneventful, mostly motoring for us, but fabulous food and friendship onboard Mariah. Trish and I took turns working on a cording cover for the wheel (mostly Trish — I couldn’t seem to get it down very well).  Beautiful afternoons spent under the mizzen relaxing and watching the waves and world go by.

Sadly, our time at sea ended as we arrived in Cabo San Lucas.

Arrival at Cabo San Lucas

I say sadly, because I had fallen immensely in love with life at sea. Dolphins, the vast water, the ever-changing and yet same-ness of the ocean. The sound. The sound of the water is mesmerizing and is a comforting background to everything. I feel like I could never willingly leave the sea again for any measurable length of time.

I’m going to call this a life changing experience for both us. Don will probably never sail any length of time on a monohull again (poor guy…he was seriously ill). I tried to describe my experience to Don like this:     “Remember when we met? I had an amazing time, but told you this couldn’t be forever because I had a life back home. But after getting home, I realized that this life could never be enough for me anymore without you in it.”

I have fallen in love with the sea just as surely and permanently as I fell in love with Don all those years ago.

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