Posted by John
The fleet pulled out of Turtle Bay the morning after the beach party. The sailing conditions couldn’t have been much better. We went a little farther offshore than most of the fleet in order to worry less about collisions. Our goal of the day was to experiment with our Saye’s Rig self-steering system to find a way to set it up in the downwind conditions so that we didn’t need to hand-steer all night. Some of the boats had left the bay early and were concentrating on getting to the next stop as quickly as possible. We wanted to take time and enjoy some of the best sailing conditions we’d seen in a long time.
For some, this leg would be an overnight passage down the coast to Bahia Santa Maria, but for most it would take two nights. We had already burned a lot of fuel since San Diego and wanted to sail as much as possible. But with light winds on the second day giving us only about 3 knots, if that, of speed, we began to worry that we might not make it in two nights and would have to carry over into a third. We didn’t want to miss the planned party. We were also looking ahead to the fuel situation. There is no fuel in Bahia Santa Maria, and we were hoping to avoid buying fuel in Cabo, waiting until we got to La Paz instead. So, tough decision, but getting to the next stop on time took priority. Depending on how things went, we might still be able to avoid refueling in Cabo, where we were told of unreasonable “dockage fees” for tying up to the fuel dock. We started the engine. From our current position, we had to maintain 6 knots and travel a direct course for the next 20 hours in order to get there before sunset on the third day. Once the engine was running and the autopilot on, there was not much for us to do except watch out for those we were passing who were determined to actually sail the entire way.
We arrived in the bay about 3 PM Monday. The main scheduled event was a beach party the next day, to be held at the base of the second mountain in the distance (above). Monday evening, Robyn got together with her friends for a movie night on “Waponi Woo.” Joe, on our buddy boat, “Slainte,” received a broadcast of the Seahawks’ Monday Night Football game on his Sirius satellite radio and kept all of the boats from the Seattle area up to date with the game details over the fleet’s VHF channel. It turns out that a lot of the Ha-Ha fleet are NOT Seahawks fans.
On Tuesday we had a party at the base of a mountain in a desert next to the bright blue sea. A live band played classic rock tunes. The band drove 100 miles on beaches and primitive dusty roads to get to this place, which has no plumbing or electricity and only man-made shade, just to entertain us.
The surreal aspect of the Baja Ha-Ha rally continued the next morning at daybreak when an announcement was made over the VHF radio of the election results, followed by the words, “This is not a joke.”
Everyone raised their anchors and the entire fleet departed the bay, heading for Cabo San Lucas. The bay was quickly emptied of boats, the pangas went home to their normal place of work, the band drove the 100 miles back to their homes, and the small population of Bahia Santa Maria went back to their normal lives. If the experience was somewhat bizarre for us, you have to wonder what it was like for the people of the bay.
With very little wind, most boats motored most of the way to Cabo San Lucas. Fuel was also an issue for some, if not all. We ran more slowly than we could have to conserve diesel, arriving at Cabo on Thursday afternoon, November 10th.
After a quick swim off the boat, everyone went to Squid Roe to celebrate having “cheated death” and making it the entire 745 mile distance from one end of Baja to the other. The party at the club was in obvious contrast to the party at the base of the mountain. The bright lights, thumping dance music, and flashing video screens of the street, not to mention inside the club itself, was surreal in itself after all we’d been through to get here.
So, we didn’t know what to expect from the Baja Ha-Ha before it started, but what we got out of it was an unexpected experience which could best be broken into four distinctly different parties (what’s a party, but people with a common interest getting together). From a party in a retail store parking lot in a city that displays American military power as well as any; to a town so small, and so proud of their little league teams and the field they have built for them; to a place with a tiny population that ekes a living out of the sea while living in wooden shacks in a treeless desert without normal conveniences; to a city thriving off of the excesses of American tourists getting wild. Throw in the most bizarre national election in my lifetime, and the “Baja Ha-Ha” has become a very memorable segment of this entire journey.
As the DJ in the club Squid Roe announced, “Glad you guys made it before the wall went up!”