Ride to Cabo
Ha-Ha Rally 2001
Diego Start – October 30, 2001
Tuesday, Start Day, we woke to a sunny day with the wind light and
building – nigh perfect conditions. We slipped the dock lines and said
goodbye, yet again, to Kona Kai Marina, Raven’s home since June. I had
jokingly said that we would probably have the whole Navy to escort us out
to the starting line. That’s exactly what happened! We had an aircraft
carrier, three destroyers, helicopter escorts and lots of very fast
inflatables full of guys toting machine guns. Lest you think that we were
a really important event in San Diego Bay, the Big Guys were all leaving
on maneuvers and we were all warned to stay at least 500 yards away from
each ship – signs of the times.
got a perfect start, flying along under chute while the others fiddled to
get theirs up. We were way out in front when the Ha-Ha
photographer got our photo – best
spinnaker shot we’ve ever had. You can probably see our grins in the
picture. We opened a lead of two miles very quickly. Last year there were
several boats that did “horizon jobs” on us. Now it was our turn.
We stuck to the rhumb line
(straight course to the destination) as much as possible, jibing back and
forth as needed. Many of the faster boats went offshore but we didn’t see
how they could make up the extra time. Most of the time we were sailing
steadily at nine to ten knots, sometimes up to eleven.
were looking at the first and longest leg of the race, oops, rally – 740
miles and two nights at sea. We decided not to set formal watches, just
whoever was awake and able. Mike is #1 helmsman and set a new Raven speed
record of 13.4 knots, while surfing down a wave that first evening. We
managed to get “in phase” with some of the shifts, so we got headed
(that’s good when you’re going downwind) in the direction we wanted to go.
By this time, even Signe was picking up the racing spirit, even though she
was being tossed around the galley. First nights at sea take a bit of
attitude adjustment, like minimal sleep in awkward positions and finding
bruises in very strange places.
were the second to finish in class. Hooray! The only boats in the
anchorage ahead of us were ‘Learjet’, a totally stripped out race boat,
and two catamarans in a different division. Profligate, the committee boat
captained by the publisher of Latitude 38, Richard Spindler, (known to all
Ha-Ha-ers as The Grand Poobah) came in a couple of hours later. We’ve
never beaten them before! But we’re not racing, of course . . .
finishing and on the way into the bay, we came upon a couple of lobster
fishermen in their panga, so we shouted “Tiene langostas?” in our
best new Spanish. Oh yes, they did all right. Eleven good-sized lobsters
for two Raven T-shirts and five bucks! Dinner plans were suddenly revised
on the spot. We said “Welcome to Mexico!” to our crew guys, who didn’t
seem to object.
Going ashore in Turtle Bay
is still difficult, with a rusty precarious ladder up to a high pier.
Signe couldn’t help but give a thought to whether the medivac insurance
was up to date, just in case the ladder decided to part from the rickety
dock. All of the teenage boys in town fight to be the first to offer to
“watch” your dinghy. This consists of “watching”, but also playing in,
hanging out in, entertaining friends in, leaving lots of sand in, etc. But
they mean well. The Ha-Ha arrival with over 400 people is the main annual
event in the Turtle Bay Social Calendar, coinciding with Mexico’s Day of
the Dead, so you have to make allowances.
decided to do a bit of an afternoon discovery trip and were adopted by
three lovely young guides, girls aged seven to nine, who hung around for
the odd candy and soda handout. They were very efficient at taking us to
all the “major” commercial emporiums. I had to make up a shopping list
just to give them something to do.
They had a major league argument in the middle of the street (dirt, of
course) about which panaderia
(bakery) was the best. They
well. We had some great freshly baked rolls for lunch. We also visited the
cemetery, on Paul’s recommendation. He’s right. The mausoleums are built
like small homes, fancier than the ones in town, plus they were all
decorated up for the Day of the Dead.
The first party was at the
Veracruz restaurant in Beautiful
Turtle Bay. With the profits from last year’s Ha-Ha
dinner, they added a disco this year,
complete with strobe, mirror ball, rotating colored lights, deafening
music, etc. Drove us out quickly.
Mike brought along his 12-string guitar and had a little jam session with
another guitar player, but they were definitely outdone by the rock music.
Time for quiet sounds aboard Raven later.
The next day was the Beach
Party. The surf landings were easier
this year - skill or better conditions? We’ll never tell! We brought
out our new bocce set and met some
new friends in a friendly competition. The new Mayor of Turtle Bay set up
a lobster feed – slightly disorganized a la Mexicana, but a very nice
gesture and all had a good time.
The start of the second leg
the next day was in light winds. We were allowed a ‘free chance’ (closely
akin to a Get-Out-of-Jail Free pass) to motor offshore for an hour to get
better winds. We put the chute up in 15 knots and away we went. In the
late afternoon, the wind got up to 23+. Our speed was up to twelve knots
(Mike hit 13.4 knots again), so we doused the chute in deference to the
cook’s desire to avoid breaking ribs while whipping up the pork loin with
apricot chutney in the galley. (The cook enjoyed having amazing powers to
control all with threats of food deprivation on this trip! Power!!!)
sailed all night with just the reacher, and with winds lighter, we got
down to 6 knots sometimes. Still, we were in phase with the shifts and
kept getting headed downwind, just the way we wanted to go. At 3 a.m.,
another fast boat started getting closer, even though they were the
windward boat, which obliges them to stay clear. By the time we could see
the stripes on their side and the lights in their windows, we were really
worried that they didn’t know the Rules of the Road, so we fled. Gotta
chat with them at the party.
We had gone well inshore and
at dawn jibed, put up the spinnaker and headed downwind toward the finish
line. We got lucky again with windshifts and could go straight to the line
without jibing. Usually you see a lot of boats as you approach the finish
line but we finished with nobody around, which worried us a lot.
Then when we motored in sight of the anchorage and saw all the masts we
were sure we were last in class. But as we got closer it became clear that
only Learjet in our class was ahead of us, plus Profligate and the two
other fast cats. Second in fleet again! We were well pleased because we’re
in Full Cruise Mode (weighted down with spare parts, generator, full fuel
tanks, and a freezer full of food) and Learjet is a light, fast racer with
several spinnakers, full race crew, etc.
was in full fishing mode by this time. First he started with two rods,
fully rigged for the big stuff. He kept it all in his cabin, and gave the
hooks a parting kiss for luck. Talk about the Big One that got away- one
fish took his favorite lure. The second took the lure and all the line on
the reel. The third just left a very large set of lips on the line. Maybe
we were going too fast for them. We have visions of a toothless wonder
gumming some baitfish to death. Finally Mike switched to the “never fail”
meat line, a huge plastic reel of 1/8th inch nylon cord. He
just hauled it behind the boat and caught a dorado, and
three big tuna. In fact the tuna kept
getting bigger each time they were
mentioned. I think they are up to
50 pounds by
Anyway, they were very tasty as sushi and a marinated tuna roast,
compliments of Chef Mark. And we have tons in the freezer for a later
Bahia Santa Maria
We were a little panicky
entering the Bay thinking we were dead last, but what really worried us
was that there was no Corona tent in sight. Would the famous entrepreneur,
Kojak, abandon the Party Fleet? No problemo! Turns out that Kojak was so
last year that he built a series of cabins up on the hill
above the bay with a full “restaurant” for
our dining pleasure. Now “restaurant” is a loose term here, but at least
he had kitchen facilities, a stone bar and a refrigerator, plus about 3
barbecues going out back. Cerveza was priced outrageously at $3,
fish and lobster dinner $10, but the fleet loved it as we swapped lies
with the rock band playing in the background. Kojak was taking the cash at
the bar and his
was taking cash for the dinners, so he had his finger on the cash flow
choke points! We figure by next year he’ll have a disco to house the very
good rock band that played for the party, all powered by a portable
generator! A good time was had by all, especially by crew member Roger who
loves to dance. Do we have videos to share!!!
Leg Three – The
It never pays to get cocky.
We made all our mistakes on Leg Three. First we judged the wind wrong at
the start, headed offshore and fell into a wind “hole” right way. Then we
jibed and went back inshore, which was the wrong choice . . . again.
Another hole. That night we did it again and, with the wind dying
inshore. With a sigh, we finally turned on
the engine, realizing that we had to get into Cabo, get through the
immigration rigmarole so that Roger could get his visa before boarding a
plane back to Victoria. Now the Poobah gives big points in his mystery
rating system to those who sail all the way, so at that point our fate was
sealed. We came in third (each class always has a ten-boat tie for
third!). But we still had a great time. No one got hurt and nothing broke
on the boat.
We came around Cabo Falso in
the morning light and had a great view of the arches and Lovers Beach. The
desert was gorgeous and green from all the rain hurricane Juliet dropped
on the region. We were eager to see what she had done when she hit Cabo
San Lucas with 100 mph winds and rain for three days in September. The
most obvious effect is that the wide beaches are reduced to narrow little
strips. Many of the palapa beach bars are gone and the bulldozers are
actively moving what little sand there is into other spots. The marina had
many docks destroyed, but they had them up and running a month later. The
whole town and marina was very empty though. It was sad to see. It also
meant that the rapacious beach vendors were even more merciless to the few
of us at the beach palapas.
The first night in town
there was the traditional “Can’t Believe We Cheated Death Again” party at
the Squid Roe nightclub (which must be seen to be believed), “until the
last body falls. Optional.” as the rally brochure put it. Needless to say,
Raven’s owners were looking to our crew to uphold our reputation on the
party scene and we found outstanding candidates in Mark, Mike, and Roger.
Not only did they shut down Squid Roe, but they closed the Giggling Marlin
and Cabo Wabo as well. Luckily we were able to get a slip in the marina so
they could stagger home in time for the next party rather than swim out to
the boat in the anchorage. Some things were just meant to be.
next day was the Ha-Ha Beach Party, a very mellow affair on what was left
of the beach –
one Corona tent deep. Still, we ate barbecued chicken and fish tacos,
consumed lots of adult beverages,
told lots of lies about our sailing prowess, etc. The Usual, eh? (As our
Canadian friends say.) The Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah, Richard Spindler,
publisher of Latitiude 38 magazine, was in his element among so many
Ha-Ha-ers having a great time together.
Then we sent The Crew out
again into the wilds of Cabo for the evening. They sure were having a good
time! The two of us caught up on sleep on the boat. The days begin early
in Cabo Marina as about a hundred sportfish boats rev their engines and
offer macho fish challenges at full voice at 6 a.m. We discovered the
necessity of earplugs when we were in Cabo last year, so we carry a big
supply! When The Crew finally surfaced in the morning, we insisted on Show
and Tell over breakfast and they never disappointed us.
On our third day in Cabo, we
prepared the boat for its further travels and looked forward to the Awards
Ceremony that night. We were disappointed about our place in third, but
not surprised. There were lots of boats in most other divisions who hadn’t
motored at all. The Poobah was in fine form as usual in black tailcoat,
orange Ha-Ha shirt over rounded beer belly, shorts, and sandals. There
were lots of special prizes for the “radio chataholic” of the cruise, the
most fish caught (that’s the coveted “Master Baiter” Award), the most
seasick person, etc.
We have made lots more new
friends including a French family, a family that sailed over from Japan,
and a couple from Hawaii that is asking our advice about their next
adventure to Alaska. We also are getting emails from lots of the friends
we made last year and look forward to seeing them all again. We’re gearing
up for Cruising!
Our plans are altered a bit
because the marina in Mazatlan is closed and being auctioned off. It was
the site of the fun Thanksgiving Day dinner that we had there last year,
so we were disappointed. But you have to be flexible in this world and
take the fun where you can find it. So we’ve just moved our reservation up
a bit at Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta and will have to
“suffer” on the beach there for an extra two weeks. Darn. I hate it when
that happens! They are also doing a bang-up Thanksgiving dinner, so things
are looking good. We may even take an extra land trip to Oaxaca or Morelia
since Raven will be safely tucked up in a marina. (Suggestions gratefully
accepted from all our friends who have been there.)
We saw our crew off
yesterday, spent a night at anchor in Cabo San Lucas and are now forty
miles north at Cabo Los Frailes. We will kick back for a couple of days
here, have the traditional Raven cocktail party for all Baja Ha-Ha fleet
boats in port, then depart for parts south. We won’t hit another internet
café until we get to PV, so this will be slightly old news. But nothing
happens in a hurry in Mexico!
PS. As I sit proofreading
this with my morning coffee, The Captain has the floorboards up and is
getting out his toolbag, hose clamps, and a supply of water hose. We had a
double hose failure at 1:30 a.m. First a hose blew under an aft berth,
pumping most of the starboard fresh water tank into the bilge. Then the
bilge pump hose blew, spraying water all over. Our sleep-addled brains
took a long time to figure all this out, but Jan was able to fix the water
hose leak during the night. He left the bilge pump problem as his morning
treat. I write this just so you don’t think we party all of the time.
Turns out some of our sushi rice had blocked up the bilge pump hose. Sigh!
As usual, the definition of cruising motto holds true: “Fixing your boat
in exotic places.” On the other hand our son’s response to the email
detailing this tale of bilge woe was: “A day in the bilge still beats a
day in the office.” Amen.
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