Friday, November 8, 2013


The Baja Ha-Ha of 2013 commenced on October 28th with a parade of boats, crews wearing silly costumes, a fireboat, and a shot from an America’s Cup starting gun.  Unfortunately, Fool’s Castle was still at the dock in San Diego.  We needed to see a rigger about the spinnaker pole fittings, complete the installation of the SSB radio and replace the pump motor in the forward head.

The day got off to a subdued start when Charles decided to leave the boat.  I was sorry to see him go, but he was not enjoying himself and the mood has been lighter since his departure.  Losing a crew member means longer watches for everyone else, but at least we now have his cabin for storage, which makes the main salon much more comfortable for the rest of us.  We no longer have a giant spinnaker under the dining table and bags of tools on the settee.

The rigger came and he and Scott finally managed to devise a means to fit the spinnaker pole to the mast.  The rigger came up with a pole end that would mate with one of the mast fittings we had on board after a few modifications.  He departed to go machine the part and Scott commenced working on the radio installation.  I tackled replacing the pump motor, which first entailed a trip to West Marine for parts and chemicals to mitigate the holding tank smell.  I took a cab over to West Marine and then walked half a mile or so to the Ralph’s to buy another tank of propane.  Propane in hand, I interrupted the breakfast of a cabby who was sitting in the parking lot and got a ride back to the boat.

While Joel and Michelle went in search of a doctor to tend to her infected leg and Scott worked on the radio, I spent the afternoon with my hand inside the holding tank, removing the old impeller pump motor and installing a new one.  Of course, this involved removing every other part of the sanitation system to get at it.  It was a long and disgusting process, but at least it is not leaking.  We still need to replace the control block, but we have a spare, so will tackle that in Turtle Bay.  At least the gross part is done.

The rigger came back in the late afternoon and he an Scott finally fit the pole to the mast with much jubilation.  It cost $1000, but will allow us to sail downwind, since the largest head sail we have is a 120%.  By the time we had reassembled the forward cabin and stowed all the tools, dinner was ready, so we all sat down to eat salmon, kabocha squash tots and salad.  Everyone was pretty tired, so we decided to turn in early and leave early in the morning.

We finally pulled out of the Cabrillo Isle Marina at 5:25 AM on Tuesday, October 29th.  It had rained through the night and was still misting lightly.  We motored out through the darkness and passed a brightly lit cruise ship coming in.  Down saw us off the coast of San Diego and we passed the Coronado Islands by 9 AM.  The clouds began to break up and there were dolphins leaping all around the boat.

Our new watch schedule is as follows: Ingemar 5-10, Scott 8-1, Joel 10-3, Rene 1-5 and Michelle 3-8.  My watches are shorter, but I am responsible for all the provisioning and cooking.  We have also now posted a schedule for galley cleanup and housekeeping chores.

We lost the SSB antenna overboard early on the morning of October 29th.  We were rolling heavily, the antenna flexed right out of the top support, toppled to the deck and snapped off.  It floated briefly, but sunk before it could be recovered.  The rest of the day passed without incident.  The sky cleared and it was warm in the afternoon.  Finally, we felt like we were on the trip we had expected.  The water was very blue and we saw more dolphins and whales, but no more Ha-Ha boats, although we encountered lots of fishing boats and floating fish pens.  I finally got the chance to scrub some of the stains off the deck, although the rain had left the boat fairly clean.

We had a nice dinner of Kalua pork and mashed yams with salad and then spent the night motoring south under starry skies. The wind is directly behind us, making it difficult to sail or steer a straight course.   A huge yellow crescent moon rose about 4 AM as we approached Isla San Martin, off the coast of San Quintin.
Ingemar Navigating
I came off watch at 5 AM on the 30th and went below to sleep.  A couple of hours later, the motor quit.  We had exhausted the first tank of fuel and it took Scott a half hour or more to get the second tank drawing.  Shortly thereafter, we raised our first Ha-Ha boat, “Ponga,” on the radio.  They had also left late, although not as late as we had.  We were their first contact, also.  They are sailing inshore of us.

I went up on deck an hour before my watch started and helped Scott to rig the spinnaker.  We had good wind behind us and wanted to sail.  By the time we had rigged the pole, sheets and downhaul, the wind had built to a point where we felt it was unwise to try to fly the kite.  We ran out the main sail and rigged a preventer and then unfurled the jib.  We were making 7 knots under sail, but the swells were large and there were two foot wind waves on top of them.  It was blowing 20 knots and the boat was a bear to steer.  Eventually, we turned southeast and ran wing on wing for several hours.  From noon until 9 PM or so, we had very heavy seas and everything was flying around the boat.  Joel was bounced out of his bunk.  We did, however, see lots of whales, including one large grey that jumped completely out of the water twice.  The splash he made when he landed resembled a calving glacier.
Thank Goodness for Gimballs

I was exhausted when I got off watch at 5:00 PM, but I still had to make dinner in the heaving galley.  Fortunately, I had made spaghetti sauce ahead of time in San Diego.  I managed to cut the spaghetti squash in half without losing any fingers and put it in the oven.  That gave me an hour and a half to prepare the salad.  By the time I was ready to serve, we were rocking so badly that I had to stand in the galley and hold the pots on top of the stove.  Everybody took their meals out of bowls and no one was feeling particularly hungry.  I had to wash the pots right away or they would have become missiles.  Boiling water for coffee was an adventure.

Cedros Island
Despite the motion of the boat, I slept soundly when I finally hit my bunk.  Shortly thereafter, the motion of the boat eased.  My 1-5 AM watch was quite pleasant.  We were 50 miles or more offshore, sailing outside of Cedros Island and there were an incredible number of stars visible and lots of shooting stars.  We could see the light from San Benito Island from at least 25 miles away and it was odd knowing it was out there and not being able to see it on the radar, even though it sports a radar beacon.  By the time San Benito appeared on the radar, we could already see Cedros.

I awoke the morning of the 31st to blue skies and reasonably calm seas, although we are motor sailing at 7 knots.  We can now see a few other Ha-Ha boats and were able to make radio contact for the roll call.  

Approaching Turtle Bay
We followed the line of boats into Turtle Bay and arrived about 4:00 PM.  We dropped anchor fairly close to the town pier and Scott almost immediately hailed a water taxi to take us to town.  There isn’t much to Turtle Bay.  It is only about six blocks of dirt streets leading up from a decrepit pier and grubby beach.  The inhabitants seem prosperous enough, however.  The buildings still in use are well maintained, people drive decent vehicles and there is no evidence of poverty.

View from the Vera Cruz Restaurant
We walked to the top of the town to the Vera Cruz restaurant, where the Ha-Ha bunch met for drinks and dinner.  The food was mediocre at best, but at least I didn’t have to cook.  Very little fresh food finds its way to Turtle Bay and the usually sleepy joint was overwhelmed by the Ha-Ha fleet.  Ingemar insisted on ordering a bottle of wine with dinner.  The best they could do was a lousy bottle of white zinfandel served on ice in a plastic bucket with a lager glass from which to drink.  The rest of us stuck to beer and margaritas, which were excellent.  The restaurant did have a nice view of the boats anchored in the bay.  I wonder what the residents of Turtle Bay think of this annual invasion.

After dinner, we got in a big water taxi with several other groups of people and spent about an hour trolling around the harbor, trying to find boats in the dark.  No one had a clear idea of where they had anchored and many of the boats were unlighted.  While we had a good idea of where our boat was when we started, by the time we had circled the harbor for an hour, we had no idea where we were.  It turned out that we were anchored right next to the first boat we had visited, but we didn’t recognize the boat because the anchor light on the binnacle was on and Scott was sure we didn’t have a red light in the cockpit.  The panga driver was pretty good natured about the whole thing and I think we ended up paying him double.  Later, when Michelle and I were drinking beers in the cockpit, we heard several more boatloads of folks going through the same routine and watched a flotilla of dinghies zip around in the dark, shining flashlights at different boats.  Today, I put out some solar lights to make our boat more identifiable in the dark.

Ha-Ha Fleet Anchored in Turtle Bay
It was nice to get a full night’s sleep in a quiet anchorage.  We awoke the morning of the 1st to a flat battery.  I made coffee on the barbecue on deck until Scott got up and informed me that, despite the battery gauge saying both banks were flat, the second bank was actually charged.  We were able to start the engine and charge up the first bank.  We consolidated all of the food into one refrigerator.  We will have to settle for cooling beer only while we are motoring.

Post Party Nap
Scott and I spent the day working on the boat while the rest of the crew went into town and later went to the Ha-Ha beach party.  I successfully repaired the sewage treatment system in the forward head and Scott repaired the pressure leak in the fresh water system.  We were unable to locate any ¼ inch hose, so completing the repairs to the water maker will have to wait until we reach Cabo.  I inspected most of the cotter pins and wrapped them with rigging tape to prevent them from injuring us.  We heated water in sun showers and got clean.  There was corned beef and bacon slaw for dinner.  Ingemar and Michelle enjoyed themselves a bit too much at the party and slept through dinner. 

Sunset in Turtle Bay

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