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Fast Ride to Cabo

Baja Ha-Ha Rally 2001

San Diego Start – October 30, 2001

On 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.

Raven 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 helicopter 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.

We 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.

Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay)

We 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 . . .

After 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.

We 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 chose 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 Downtown 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.

Second Leg

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!!!)

We 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.

Mike 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 about 50 pounds by now! 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 barbecue.

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 successful 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 daughter 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 Home Stretch

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.

Celebrations in Cabo

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.

The next day was the Ha-Ha Beach Party, a very mellow affair on what was left of the beach – about 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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This page was last updated on 04/13/04.


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