TodayApril 15, 2022

Baja-Ha-Ha — San Diego CA to CA-BO Mexico

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 the ease of sign-up to safety underway to assist with entry into 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.

Now back to our Baja-HaHa experience. There were 160 boats signed up, but attrition was 30 ships, so we ended up sailing in a group of 130. The start in San Diego was unexpectedly foggy and rainy with the wind from the south, which is not suitable for sailing in that direction, but eventually, it cleared, and we were off.

For the next three 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 were a lot better than the first and, the miracle of all miracles for sailors; we managed to sail ALL 220 miles. The downside was after sailing for two 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 two more days before the final push to Cabo.

The third and last 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 sports 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.

Baja did not dissapoint

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 rat’s 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 neat 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.

Richard James

Richard and Audrey James are living the dream of many of us. They are sailing from California to the Caribbean via the Panama Canal then along the north shore of Colombia to the Caribbean.. After 23 years of working at General Motors North America and GM Latin America, Africa and Middle East (LAAM) James and his wife bought a sailboat and ventured out on the high seas. Sailing has been in James' blood since he was a student in Australia on an exchange program at the University of Toronto. He has raced and cruised sailboats wherever he happened to be living and on charter boats in the Caribbean. He also took a previous sabbatical earlier in his working life, sailing a 36-foot sailboat from Toronto, Canada to the Bahamas. Follow James and Audrey as they traverse the world in their sailboat, and as they reimmerse themselves into the work world.