Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baja Ha Ha - Second Movement

The Litter Box
Originally uploaded by rmckerb.
The second leg of the Baja Ha Ha 2008 started in Turtle Bay (Bahia de Tortugas) on November 1. The weather was mild, the sun rising over the hills in great swaths of orange, magenta and purple, and the wind non-existent.

Just outside the bahia, the Grand Poohbah introduced us to the “Rolling Start.” A rolling start means, “Stay behind s/v Profligate and motor until we get enough wind to get going. Don’t count the motoring minutes in your total.” This makes for fantastic photos. With the sun bright and strong and every boat in the fleet clustered near the Poohbah, there are boats everywhere you look. There were prizes for “First Spinnaker”, “First Naked Spinnaker”, and “First Spinnaker on the Correct Tack” so everyone was trying to get canvas and chutes into the air. Never mind that the prizes were only a pizza in Cabo, it was the idea of the thing.

When the wind finally started to pick up, Poohbah basically said “Go” and we went. Profligate circled the fleet capturing photos as we all flew down the coastline in a 15 knot northeasterly. It was during this fine morning sail that the Poohbah crew captured the photo here which was posted to ‘Letronic Latitudes. We poured out on to our deck to engage in a little mutual admiration of our Dark Side boats. As the Poohbah flew by, he told us to “tighten your spinnaker sheets!” which actually worked and picked us up about another 1/2 knot through the water.

Initially, we felt naked on the second leg. Losing our radar and chart plotter going into Turtle Bay, we were now sailing without our heads up display. Okay, I think everyone needs to do this for awhile. Shut off every electronic gadget you have on the boat except your handheld GPS and your depth sounder. Now sail around for a month. On that first morning, we were uncertain, nervous. I was scared spitless about overnighting without the radar. Yet as I write this, we’ve traveled nearly 700 miles, done five or six overnight passages, and navigated into a half dozen anchorages using charts, dead reckoning and our handheld. In all that time, we’ve only had one close call; we had enormous difficulty spotting the south marker going through San Lorenzo Channel and accidentally cut the corner by about 100 feet. Passing over a six foot shoal my heart almost stopped. Folks experienced with Mexico, however, will tell you that this kind of incident could occur even with all the electronic gadgets as the charts here are notoriously inaccurate.

But back to Leg 2. The wind was steady all through the first day and into the evening. In fact, we had to swap out the spinnaker for the jib as the wind increased. We were averaging about 6.25 knots over ground, which for this boat is pretty good. I used to think around six was just horrid speeds... and for a catamaran I suppose they are. But our six, six and a half consistently put us in about the middle of the Ha Ha fleet over the course of the entire rally. So as cruising boats go, we’re not slow and we’re not fast. We’re average.

Course I don’t really like being average.

Wind died out in the middle of the night. I broke down and turned on the motor just to prevent us from moving backwards. The sky was unbelievably clear and beautiful. Mera and Aeron on watch with me so we had a star lesson on the trampoline. We lost count of the number of shooting stars we saw. We could see for miles and miles. With the boat on autopilot, the girls and I could actually see the surrounding fleet traffic, fishing boats, and tankers considerably better from up front so we spent most of the night up there tied down like chickens in a box.

When DrC took over watch in the early morning hours, the wind started to come up. We put the spinnaker up and it stayed up until we hit Bahia Santa Maria. There were moments where we seriously thought about taking it down as the following wind picked up. But just as we got ready to yank it down, the wind would die slightly again. The girls and I spent a good fraction of the morning participating in the fleet roll call. We collected nearly 30 boat positions from Ha Ha participants with VHF but no SSB. We then relayed them to the Poohbah over SSB. The good news is that I can state unequivocally that our SSB works for voice send and receive.

Unfortunately, even with all that sail up all day, we didn’t make it to Santa Maria until the wee wee hours of the third day. This was a serious test. It was pitch black, no moon, no radar, and we were entering an unfamiliar anchorage. Fortunately, the Ha Ha fleet was lining up to enter the anchorage like airplanes going into Chicago O’Hare. We just slotted our boat with a fleet member fore and aft and motored in those last few miles. Anchoring was a dicey proposition at best... everything looks MUCH closer together in the dark and at night, not to mention the pangas trailing off of local fishing boats in long, invisible, deadly strings.

BSM sunrise2
Originally uploaded by rmckerb.
At the girls’ request, we agreed to host a “Ha Ha Kid Party” on Don Quixote our first night in Bahia Santa Maria. We pulled out the slide, the floating island, and our munchies. The Poohbah requested that we move our boat nearer to the fleet flag ship so that folks could find us more easily. This was our pleasure. Profligate was very close to the coastline and moving our boat over there put us smack dab in the middle of the “litter box” -- the crescent of shallow waters along the shoreline of any Pacific Mexican anchorage where all the catamarans drop hook. I think I’ll write about that party separately.

The Ha Ha shore party the next day wasn’t actually as fun as our kid party, in my opinion. We did, however, enjoy a long walk along the coastline and a wonderful swim in the surf. The entire family agreed we want to come back next fall. We’d like to explore Mag Bay as well. An idea for our plans next year is beginning to take shape, and it includes Ha Ha’ing a second year. We’ll see.

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