Tuesday, November 09, 2010


We're in Mexico. At last. It's lovely.

The Baja Haha was a blast right up until the end. Zach, Sarah and Max, our crew, were great. No one got sick. We had several lovely sails, including a long spinnaker run, to the first stop. Turtle Bay, featured a pot luck on the beach, which was great. We caught up with a lot of old and new friends.

Turtle Bay was spectacularly beautiful.

Ironically, the worst sea conditions we encountered between Seattle and Cabo San Lucas were between Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. The seas weren't really all that large, but confused? These seas were positively bewildered. They were all over the place. The autopilot couldn't deal with it, so the on watch hand steered all night. We had the main up, but strapped in, hoping at some point we'd be able to sail enough to stabilize the boat a bit. All we accomplished was chafing through the cover on the main halyard, so for now the biggest main sail we can fly is the first reef. We'll fix that in La Paz.

Stop #2 was Bahia Santa Maria. (also spectacularly beautiful, but I didn't take many pictures, and no good ones) This is a very sparsely inhabited bay (basically a fishing camp), that gets invaded by the Haha fleet once a year. For one afternoon, they operate what's basically a pop up restaurant for about 600 people. It's quite an accomplishment. And delicious.

The sail from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo was pleasant until the very end, when the wind started to pick up. From the east. Which is a very bad thing, as the anchorage is open to the east. Now, we weren't planning to anchor, but our slip assignment had gotten screwed up. Slips are supposed to be assigned in the order in which boats signed up for the Haha. Being entry #13 out of 190-odd boats, we figured we'd get a pretty good slip - a real slip, with fingers on both sides, no rafting or side tying or any of that hoo ha. So we're listening as they read off the slip assignments, and -- our name isn't coming up. It's OK, I try to reassure myself, they haven't called our friends on El Tiburon (#10) either. Except it isn't OK. They've apparently skipped our entire division. We and the El Tiburons get on the radio to point this out, and the committee boat tells us they'll be back to us in an hour.

About an hour and a half later, they get back to us with side ties on a dock that sticks out from the fuel dock, right at the entrance to the marina. No protection from the bay, no way to hold ourselves off the dock, nothing. Later, I'm talking to our friends and find we'd both been trying to reassure ourselves -- the marina in Cabo can be really hot, we should get some nice breeze out there, at least we're convenient to the marina store and town, etc., etc., etc. Actually, we both knew the situation sucked. We had a map of the marina. We all knew the weather was forecast to be out of the east, which meant that dock would have no protection at all from the prevailing winds. It was only forecast to be 12 - 15 knots, so not so bad, but still - we were feeling pretty shafted after having gone to some trouble to sign up early. For our trouble, we were going to be paying a lot of money (slips in Cabo are really expensive) for a marginal situation. Great.

As we round Cabo Falso, the wind really starts to pick up. This isn't 12 kts. It's more like twice that. And it's straight out of the east. We try to pull into our assigned spot. The first thing we see is that there's another boat in our friends' spot. There's a lot of yelling and crashing and we get tied up, but we're getting slammed into the dock and there's nothing we can do (since it's a side tie) to hold the boat off. There's panga traffic and boats going every which way in very gusty winds at the harbor entrance and waves are practically breaking over the dock. We've got to get off of here, and we can't power sideways to the wind, so we pay a panga to tow us off. During all of this, I've been on the radio with Profligate (committee boat), whose helpful response is basically "don't like where you are, that's your problem", and with El Tiburon, who've found a slip at the other, smaller, marina. To make a long story short, we go over there, get a slip (cheaper, natch) and that's it. It was a little farther out of town, but the staff was really nice, as were the facilities, and we enjoyed our stay there a great deal.

To anyone considering doing the haha in the future:

1. Don't count on getting a slip based on your sign up. If they make a mistake, don't count on it being corrected. We basically got moved to the end of the line. In retrospect, we should have been a lot more vocal about our spot and what our priority should have been. Don't know if it would have made any difference, but at least I'd feel like I'd tried.

2. Don't believe that you can't reserve a slip at Cabo. If you're an early sign up, and you get and pay for a slip assignment, they will let you keep it, despite the Haha's insistence that "we control all of the slips at Cabo for the two nights after the rally." They don't, or, to be fair, if they had the control, they didn't exercise it. We didn't hear of a single boat that had made a reservation being compelled to give it up. We tried to play by the rules. I'm honestly not sure I'd do that again.

3. The poobah seems to really want to make sure everyone stops in Cabo. In our opinion, this appeared to cause him to minimize the weather forecast and disparage possible alternatives to anchoring off the beach at Cabo for boats who didn't get slips. In the last couple of days of the rally, he continually emphasized that the wind forecast was "no big deal". I'm sorry, but a forecast that creates a lee shore in an already marginal anchorage is IMO, always a big deal. When boats concerned about the weather started asking about Puerto los Cabos, he suggested that it was 25-30 miles further on (it's 17), that he didn't know if they had any facilities (it's still under construction, but a very popular cruising guide published last year and cited in Latitude 38's Mexico First Timer's Guide details what was here then, including slips, and although some are without power, they are priced accordingly), and generally making it sound like an undesirable alternative. We're there now. It's quite nice. Was a slip in Cabo proper more convenient for the Haha festivities? Sure, but I'd certainly have preferred Puerto los Cabos to being anchored off the beach at Cabo in 25kts of wind if that had been my other choice.

All in all, we had a lot of fun up until the last morning. That sucked. We met tons of great people who I'm sure we'll see again as we travel around Mexico. Would we do the Haha again? Probably not. There are a lot of interesting looking places along the Baja coast, and it would be fun to check some of them out. The Haha forces you into a schedule regardless of the weather. Waiting an extra day or two would, in retrospect, have been the right thing to do before leaving Bahia Santa Maria for Cabo.

Note: I thought this maybe was too negative, but when Art read it, he said it was a good thing that I'd been so even handed, because if he'd written it up he'd probably have gotten sued for libel. So there's that.


Doug and Carla Scott said...

The trip sounded wonderful until the end - got to be time to get out of Cabo and really see Mexico!

Jay & Tintin Stiers said...

Hey Cabo Bro,
Tintin and I are reading through your blog. It was pretty cool looking at the pictures and explaining some of the sailing lingo to him. Sorry to hear the queue came unglued. What you need are some good, miniature canons. Firing one across the bow generally gets respect. A peg leg and eye patch don't hurt either. Before you know it, you'll be at the front of the line. Say hello to yer mates for us. Happy sails to you.
Jay, Thi & Tintin

Jaye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaye said...

I've been telling Art we need a canon...

Glad you guys are enjoying the blog.

Zachary said...

Hi Art and Jaye

Glad to hear you made it safely to Puerto los Cabos. Thanks again for having Sarah and me on such an awesome trip! I have some pictures to share with you when we get back from Belize. We fly out tonight :D

Fair wind and following seas,
-Zack and Sarah