Cervezas, Tacos y Fiestas

We’re in the beautiful port/beach city of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez and since the trip from Los Cabos was relatively uneventful, except very uncomfortable anchorages in Los Frailles and Los Muertos where the waves caused the boat to roll all night, we’ll tell you a little about the food, drink, bars and parties that we’ve enjoyed along the way. Obviously, with a boat named Celebration there have also been a number of them onboard but we’ll stick to the off-board ones for this post.

The first official Baja-Ha-Ha party was held in the parking lot of West Marine (yes the parking lot) in San Diego the day before we departed. Surprisingly, it turned out to be quite the bash as it was both a kick-off party and a Halloween party and virtually everyone attended in costume and good spirits — especially since it included free wine, beer and Mexican food. I can’t remember what they served but I assure you that Audrey, Alex and I had our fair share of the beer and wine..:-)

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Next was the Ha-Ha Pot Luck in Turtle Bay and let me tell you that after 3 days and nights of sailing everyone was ready to get off their boats, enjoy a few drinks (did I say a few…) and swap stories about the first leg. In hindsight, our first leg was great as there were many stories of torn sails, mechanical breakdowns, severe seasickness and more. But, no one got hurt and everyone got in safely so it was time to party. This one was a beach party and since it was in the middle of nowhere all the boaters brought something and we ended up with one of the most diverse feasts that included lots of fresh fish and Audrey’s famous pinwheels. I’m not sure I’d call it a highlight but one of the most amusing distractions was the chicks against dudes tug-of-war and if you look closely at the picture you’ll see Audrey and Alex front and center celebrating their win.

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After Turtle Bay then 2 more days and nights of sailing, the next party was the renowned Latitude Party in Bahia Santa Maria. It was billed as one of the most surreal parties ever as it was held in a tiny fishing camp where local families cook the food and sell beer, and a rock and roll band travels across mountains and deserts from La Paz to play for the Ha-Ha fleet. It’s surreal because there are only a handful of people that live there and once a year for the Ha-Ha 130 – 150 boats with up to 1000 people take over the camp. It’s the biggest event of the year in Santa Maria and it gives the families a chance to make a little money from us gringos.

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Once again the party was a chance to swap stories of both joy and misery but the best one was from the sailboat Cake as they caught an 8-foot great white shark while underway. Most of us with any common sense would have cut the line and “run like hell” but Ken, the owner, wanted his apparently expensive lure back so he brought the great white onboard using the topping lift, took a few pics then somehow got the lure out of it’s jaws before releasing it. Sounds incredible but we saw the pics and I’ll see if I can track one down and post it later.

As expected, with Cabo being the final port for the Ha-ha and everyone ready to celebrate a successful 750-mile sailing “odyssea” the partying started with champagne onboard Celebration as we crossed the finish line and didn’t end until we hit Baja Cantina, Cabo Wabo and the best party ever at Squid Roe, one of the most eclectic bars in Cabo where even Audrey and I danced on the tables. Sorry no pics from that party….

Post Ha-Ha we did manage to hit a small Cantina in Bahia Los Muertes and after arriving in La Paz yesterday forced ourselves to happy hour at “The Shack” and a live jam session on a sailboat. If this is any indication of what La Paz is going to be like, we’ll need to stock up on a lot more tequila and cervesa.

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Baja-Ha-Ha — San Diego to Cabo

It’s hard to believe that we left San Diego just two weeks ago as we’ve already had what seems like a mini lifetime of cruising experiences on the Baja-HaHa. Before I tell you about the adventures and misadventures, we have to give major props to Latitude 38 for organizing the HaHa as it is surpassed our expectations from start to finish – from ease of sign-up to safety underway to assistance with entry to Mexico and, of course, all the parties along the way. If anyone out there is ever thinking of sailing from the West Coast to Mexico, we highly recommend it. There’s info at http://www.baja-haha.com if anyone wants more info.

Now back to our Baja-HaHa experience. There were 160 boats signed up but attrition was 30 boats so we ended up sailing in a group of 130. The start in San Diego was unexpectedly foggy and rainy with wind from the south, which is not good for sailing in that direction, but eventually it cleared and we were off. For the next 3 days AND nights we sailed or motor-sailed 350 miles to Turtle Bay where we anchored at 3:00 AM in pitch dark, which is not recommended but by then we just wanted to drop the hook and get some sleep.

After 2 “recovery” days in Turtle Bay we started the second leg which was 220 miles (as the crow flies) to Bahia Santa Maria. The wind and weather on this leg was a lot better than the first and, miracle of all miracles for sailors, we managed to sail ALL 220 miles. The downside was after sailing for 2 days AND nights we ended up arriving at our destination at 3:00 AM and once again had to anchor in pitch black then rested for 2 more days before the final push to Cabo.

The third and final leg was shorter (only 180 miles) and we planned to do it with just one overnight sail so we were very raring to go. The wind was light for most of the leg so we either sailed with our Chute (Gennaker) or motor-sailed and lo and behold got there during daylight hours, crossing the finish line at around 1:00 pm and breaking out the champagne. Our biggest surprise came at the awards ceremony where it turns out that we came second in our division. It was more rally than race but there were a couple of very competitive 47-foot race boats in our class so we’re just happy to have come ahead of one of them…:-)

Sounds easy right? Well there were are few incidents, including a run-in with a huge sport fishing boat in the middle of the night that nearly ran us over then proceeded to follow us for a few miles. I was on shift and didn’t know if they were pirates or idiots so I woke up Audrey and Alex (our super-crew from Toronto) just in case. The other incident was when we decided to break our cardinal rule and fly the chute at night. You know where this is going, right? Yes – as soon as the sun went down and it got dark, the wind piped up and when we tried to pull it down it got wrapped around our furling system. We tried for an hour or so to unravel the mess but it was too dark so we ended up having to harden (tighten) up as much as we could and motor-sail (or is it motor-chute) through the night. Fortunately the wind died in the morning and as soon as the sun came up we were able to unravel the rats nest that was at the top of the mast. We were also very lucky that it didn’t get torn or damage any other rigging. Mother nature was shining on us that day and the cardinal rule is back on — until the next time we have a glorious downwind sail.

Other HaHa highlights include meeting lots of new friends including Eric and Birgitta from Ariel IV, a Swedish couple that sailed through the Northwest Passage, and Jeff and Debbie on Sailor’s Run who have been cruising for 15 years. In fact, Jeff sailed 5600 miles solo from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires — around Cape Horn. Damn man, I thought Audrey and I had some cool sailing experiences but we plan to learn lots from our new friends.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so here’s a little novel of pictures for you to review.