Based on firsthand feedback, the Grand Poobah is confident that almost all of the 605 people who did the recently completed Baja Ha-Ha from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas had a great time. Indeed, Martin Kratz, skipper of the Redondo Beach-based Beneteau 473 Soiree, twice told the Poobah that the Ha-Ha was "the highlight of my life." That might have been a bit of an exaggeration, and not everyone else was quite that enthusiastic, but the sentiment was expressed.
Yet Doug Asbe, a retired chemical engineer and co-owner of the Seattle-based Alajuela 38 Leigh Ann was not impressed. Fortunately, he listed the reasons:
1) "Contrary to the available information," Asbe wrote, "the Ha-Ha was all about the parties. Although these were important to some, they were of little value to us."
2) "The anchorages were crowded, as were the docks at San Diego and Cabo San Lucas."
3) "The Ha-Ha gave us little help negotiating through the necessary paperwork, and actually made the process of entering Mexico more difficult."
Asbe concludes, "My advice to those who ask me will be to avoid the Ha-Ha — unless they like to stand around on the beach with a drink in their hand."
The event’s Grand Poobah acknowledges that the Ha-Ha is certainly not for people who don’t like people or who want to be alone. Nonetheless, he’d like to address Mr. Asbe’s points one by one.
1) To say that the Ha-Ha was "all about the parties" is a gross distortion. There were five parties — The Kickoff Party, the Turtle Bay Beach Party, the Bahia Santa Maria Bluff Party, the Squid Roe Party, and the Cabo Beach Party — in 14 days. Considering the fact that one of the main draws of the Ha-Ha is the opportunity to make lots of other cruising friends, that doesn’t seem like an excessive number. And nobody was required to attend any of them. Indeed, there were plenty of non-party activities at each stop for those who don’t care for groups. The hiking and beach walks, for example, at all three stops were excellent.
If someone attended all the parties start to finish, which the Poobah doubts anybody did, that total amount of time would equal only a small fraction of the time each participant spent at sea. In the Poobah’s mind, the Ha-Ha was "all about" making the three passages to Cabo in safety, and making lots of friends while having a grand adventure in the process. After all, that’s what the participants spent the overwhelming amount of time doing. There was heavy-air sailing, there was surfing, there was light-air sailing, there were sunsets, night watches, sunrises, whales, dolphins, turtles, ahi, dorado, sailing in company, etc. The fleet covered 750 miles in 10 days, which, while not a great distance, is nonetheless a significant distance in a short period of time.
2) Yes, the docks in San Diego and Cabo San Lucas were crowded, but the Ha-Ha was careful to identify and notify participants of the various options. But given that there were more than 180 entries, what did Mr. Asbe expect?
As for Cabo San Lucas, it’s not as if a marina operator in Mexico can afford to have 150 slips empty 362 days a year so that the Ha-Ha fleet can be accommodated for just three days. One should remember that for decades everybody had to anchor out in Cabo because there wasn’t a marina. Nobody whined about it.
Yes, there were a lot of Ha-Ha boats in both Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, but the Poobah thinks it’s factually wrong to describe either one as having been "crowded." Heck, both of the anchorages are huge and could accommodate 1,000 boats with ease. If Mr. Asbe wants to see crowded, he should check out English Harbour, Antigua; anywhere in the British Virgins; or hundreds of other spots in the Caribbean.
3) The Ha-Ha doesn’t do and never has done paperwork for Ha-Ha entries. It can’t. The Ha-Ha did provide instructions on how to do it, and many Ha-Ha skippers used them with great success. Besides, as the Poobah — and the Mexican officials and the Mexican harbormasters — explained at the Kickoff Party, all that a boat owner really needed was their ship’s papers and a passport for every crew member. Everything else from TIPs to tourist cards could be taken care of after arriving at Cabo.
"Based on the feedback I got from everyone, the Ha-Ha was as advertised and terrific," says the Poobah. "Personally speaking, I thought it was fabulous, as it presented a realistic example of what cruising is like. There was some heavy air, some light air, various breakdowns and inconveniences, and lots of fellow cruisers to help each other out and become friends with. It’s what cruising is really like.”
Over the years various people have asked the Poobah to extend the Ha-Ha up to La Paz or over to Puerto Vallarta. The Poobah has always said no and will always say no. "I think the group rally is fantastic for the two weeks, as it gives people a chance to make countless friends while being in a supportive group," says the Poobah. "But after two weeks, it’s time for folks to set out on their own or more likely buddy-boat with a couple of boats from the Ha-Ha. I don’t believe more than two weeks of the Ha-Ha would be a good thing, as it serves its purpose in the first two weeks."
The one change the Poobah plans to make next year is to make it mandatory that every boat carry a De Lorme InReach two-way satellite texting and mayday device. They cost about $300, work as EPIRBs, allow family and friends to follow each boat hour by hour, and would save the Poobah a lot of headaches trying to confirm positions of the few boats that have trouble checking in.
As always, the Poobah is open to comments and suggestions from participants. Please send them here: email@example.com.
Since we last checked in on the Vendée Globe nonstop solo race more than a week ago, the seven-boat pack at the head of the fleet has focused itself and intensified into a two-boat duel for the lead. Now raging across the Indian Ocean well ahead of record pace, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss and Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire VIII have established themselves as the most likely heirs to François Gabart’s crown. Morgan Lagravière on SAFRAN and Vincent Riou on PRB — both previously sailing in the top five — have both retired into Cape Town due to collision-related damage.
Sébastien Josse sails alone in third place nearly 700 miles behind the leaders, having fallen off the same weather system as the two leaders. Roughly 500 miles behind Josse, one of the most thrilling battles in the fleet continues with Jérémie Beyou on Maître Coq and Paul Meilhat on SMA — sisterships from the last Vendée Globe, though Maître Coq now has foils — drag racing within miles of each another in fourth and fifth place.
When Alex Thomson passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope last Thursday he not only entered the Indian Ocean, he set a new record from Les Sables d’Olonne to the Cape of Good Hope with a time of just 18 days, 3 hours, 2 minutes, knocking nearly five days off Armel Le Cléac’h’s record time from the last Vendée Globe. Even more impressive is that Thomson had reportedly broken his starboard foil on an unidentified floating object days earlier, yet maintained his lead for another five days and is still managing to stay on Banque Populaire’s heels — the duo was separated by just a dozen miles as of this writing — in what has become a two-boat drag race reminiscent of the last Vendée Globe, in which François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h battled around the world before finishing just three hours apart.
Elsewhere in the Southern Ocean, Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim’, currently passing south of New Zealand, is more than 1,100 miles ahead of Francis Joyon’s solo round-the-world record. Joyon, meanwhile, has abandoned his attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest fully-crewed circumnavigation after weather conditions proved less than ideal to break the record. His trimaran, IDEC Sport, will sail back to France and wait for another weather window suitable to break Banque Populaire V’s five-year-old record. If the predicted weather window holds up, the team will leave almost immediately after arriving back in France.
Elsewhere in the offshore racing world, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Transatlantic Race from Lanzarote to Grenada is well underway with the MOD70 Phaedo3 leading the way over her modified-to-foil sistership Maserati. Both boats took wildly different routing options shortly after the start, with the more traditional southerly option paying dividends for Phaedo. The lead monohull is Mike Slade’s 100-ft Farr Leopard.
Over the next couple of weekends, it will seem as if there are as many lighted boat parades as there are LEDs on a string of Christmas lights. To get in the (nautical) holiday mood, check out one or more of the following:
San Francisco Bay Area
- 40th annual Lighted Yacht Parade on the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, 5:30 p.m. The theme is ‘Celebration of Lights’. The $30 entry fee includes a skipper’s goodie bag. Co-sponsored by Oakland and Encinal Yacht Clubs in Alameda.
- Lighted Boat Parade on Mare Island Strait, 5 p.m. Hosted by Vallejo YC.
- Lighted Boat Parade in Sausalito. The Winterfest tent (in the parking lot in front of the Spinnaker restaurant) will open at 5 p.m. ($10 suggested donation). The parade will start at 6, and a fireworks show will follow at 7:30.
- Lighted Boat Parade on the San Rafael Canal, 6 p.m. Call (415) 272-0535 for info; the event’s website is currently offline.
- Decorated Boat Parade on the San Francisco Cityfront, 6 p.m., hosted by St. Francis YC.
- Lighted Boat Parade on the Sacramento River between Delta Marina and the Rio Vista Bridge in Rio Vista, 6-7 p.m. One of several festivities that evening in Rio Vista.
- Delta Reflections Lighted Boat Parade, Buckley Cove to downtown Stockton, 5-6 p.m. Organized by Marina West YC, (209) 477-7653.
Monterey Bay Area
- December 3: Lighted Boat Parade in Santa Cruz, 5:30 p.m. The theme this year is ‘Santa Cruz’in Under Starlight Together’. Hosted by SCYC.
- December 4: Lighted Boat Parade in Monterey. Hosted by Monterey Peninsula YC.
If we missed any, please let us know.
We haven’t collected a schedule of events in Southern California, but we do know of one (actually two) in San Diego. At 5 p.m. on December 11 and 18, the Parade of Lights will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the San Diego Zoo with the theme ‘It Began with a Roar’.
Getting a good photo of a lighted boat parade is tricky indeed, requiring a combination of good equipment, skill and a bit of luck. If you capture a really good image, please send it along.