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Photo of the Day

May 9 - Channel Islands

Photo Laird Henkel

Today's Photo of the Day comes from Laird Henkel, and is of "a pretty little anchorage on the west end of Santa Cruz Island." If we're not mistaken, it's Forneys, which offers superb protection from the prevailing northwesterly winds.

With all the rain in Southern California this winter and spring, the biggest of the Channel Islands is going to be blooming like never before. But if you go ashore, make sure you don't look like a feral pig - lest you be shot as part of the pig eradication program.

Clearing in to Puerto Escondido . . . by Radio

May 9 - Puerto Escondido, Baja California

"We want to say a big 'thank you' to all who were involved in the simplifying of the check-in and check-out procedures here in Mexico," write Jerry and Kathy McGraw of the Newport Beach-based Po Oino Roa. "This is our third time cruising in Mexico, and what a wonderful difference it is to only have to notify the port captains via radio. Our only experience so far has been here in the Puerto Escondido\Loreto area, but it's been great. We would wish you to pass on our thanks to President Fox, the Mexican Congress, the members of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, and all the others that have worked to make this a reality.

We are currently in Puerto Escondido, having enjoyed the Loreto Fest, and are getting ready to to enjoy some cruising around the Sea of Cortez as soon as Kathy returns from her teaching assignment on the East Coast."

This is the first report we've gotten from a cruiser in Mexico being able to clear into a port via radio. We know it's the off season, but we'd love to get first hand reports from any of you having to clear in and out of ports in Mexico. How are things in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo, La Paz, and all the rest? Next fall's cruisers really want to know. Email Richard.

Pirates Collecting Ransom in the Gulf of Aden

May 9 - Gulf of Aden

Readers will remember that two U.S. yachts, Mahdi, a 45-ft steel cutter from Clinton, WA, and Gandalf, a Dutch-built steel cutter from Gloucester, MA, were attacked by pirates with automatic weapons about a month ago in the Gulf of Aden. However, they fought back. Gandalf rammed one attacking boat broadside, nearly sinking her, while Rod Nowlin, the skipper of Mahdi, shot and wounded or killed a couple of the attackers as they attempted to board Gandalf. Nowlin tells Latitude that one of the problems in the area is that pirates are boarding commercial vessels and holding their crews for ransom.

"About two weeks before we were attacked, a commercial vessel was taken hostage in the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. Marines were going to send a strike team to rescue them, but then the company paid the ransom. Talk about adding insult to injury, they rewarded the pirates - so that we can expect more of the same!

"Hopefully somebody will start escorting the yachts through these waters next year. Scream like hell at your congressional representatives and maybe somebody will get off their backside and do something," Nowlin says. "But it's been quite a year, as we were anchored at Nai Ham, Phuket, Thailand, when the tsunami hit."

With all due respect, we're not sure there will be much sentiment in Congress to protect American yachties in the far corners of the world, given the much bigger security concerns and the fact that there are safer places that American cruisers can cruise.

Jamee, the couple's niece, with Becky and Rod aboard Mahdi at a marina in Egypt.
Photo Courtesy Mahdi

Visually Challenged Northern California Sailors Depart for South Pacific

May 9 - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Scott Duncan and Pam Habek, two legally blind sailors from San Francisco who did last year's Baja Ha-Ha, left Puerto Vallarta a couple of days ago aboard their Valiant 32 Tournesol for the Marquesas. They expect to take about 30 days to cover the 2,800 miles. While underway, they'll be posting their journal at www.blindsailing.com. They intend to continue to New Zealand and Australia, at which point they believe they would be the first legally blind sailors to cross the entire Pacific.

Pam Habek and Scott Duncan
Photo Courtesy www.blindsailing.com

On this Day in 1509, Columbus Sailed Across the Ocean Blue

May 9 - The Americas

. . . on his fourth Voyage of Discovery.

New Dates for This Fall's Baja Ha-Ha

May 9 - Tiburon

"This year's Baja Ha-Ha XII will be held October 31 to November 12, a week later than tentative dates proposed at the end of last year's event," announced Lauren Spindler, President of Baja Ha-Ha, Inc. "The later date eliminates a minor problem some boatowners might have had with their insurance companies, and also means that the Wanderer will be able to return as the volunteer Grand Poobah for the tenth year in a row. I know that some folks have already arranged vacation schedules for the earlier date, but hopefully this will give them enough time to make the necessary changes. I apologize for any inconvenience."

As Latitude readers know, the Baja Ha-Ha is the 750-mile cruisers' rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, with stops at funky but fun Turtle Bay and spectacular Bahia Santa Maria. The event is open to monohull and multihull sailboats and motor vessels 27 feet or longer that were designed, built, and have been maintained for offshore passages. Smaller vessels may apply for special dispensation.

Sailing in the warm wind off Mag Bay some 175 miles north of Cabo San Lucas

The Ha-Ha is absolutely not an offshore hand-holding service, and is only open to skippers and crews who would have sailed their boats to Cabo anyway. While weather conditions on the Ha-Ha course have generally been benign - 31 of 33 legs to date have been downwind - everyone must be prepared for whatever the Pacific Ocean might dish out. Entries must have a minimum of two crew, and at least two crew on each boat must have overnight offshore experience.

The concept behind a rally as opposed to a race is for folks to have fun sailing with friends rather than against them. As such, every boat that finishes the Ha-Ha is a winner, no matter if engines have been used for safety and/or convenience. Nonetheless, folks are encouraged to sail as much as possible, and those who sail the entire course are cited for being 'soul sailors'. There is a roll call each morning which includes checks for medical and mechanical emergencies, a professional weather report from Commander's Weather, a request for positions from all boats, and a brief chat-up about fish that were caught and other fleet news.

Last year participation in the Ha-Ha inexplicably exploded from the recent norm of 100+ boats to 145 boats and 550 sailors. Ms. Spindler doesn't expect the fleet to be as big this year, but she thinks she knows why the Ha-Ha is so popular.

"Past participants have told me they like three things about the Ha-Ha: First, the generally warm and benign weather conditions have meant that it's usually been a pleasure sail as opposed to a white-knuckle enduro. Of the 33 Ha-Ha legs sailed so far, 31 of them have been downwind, usually in less than 18 knots of wind. Nonetheless, when participants arrive in Cabo, they generally feel a genuine sense of accomplishment. Second, participants really love the fact that every couple of days they get to stop, rest, explore, and socialize. There's no opportunity to do that in the races to Hawaii or the Caribbean 1500 and ARC rallies. By the time Ha-Ha participants get to Cabo, they've bonded with scores of new sailing friends. Finally, folks who do the Ha-Ha seem to love the fact that unlike other long distance sailing events, they're almost always in sight of five to 15 other boats. It's fun and gives folks a greater sense of security."

Some of the participants in last year's Ha-Ha on the beach at Cabo
Photos Latitude/Archives

It doesn't hurt the Ha-Ha's popularity that the $299 entry fee is a fraction of what's charged for similar events. And Ha-Ha participants get all kinds benefits, such as discounts from North Sails, the official sailmaker of the event, and other sponsors. In addition, there's plenty of swag - tote bag, Ha-Ha T-shirt and hat, 'Some Like it Hot' T-shirt, Pusser's Rum hat, burgee, frisbees, beach balls, and we don't know what all. West Marine sponsors a free lunch at the Kick-Off Party in San Diego, there are beach parties with low cost food and beer at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, the folks at Baja Cantina will be offering free drinks and finger foods to all arrivals in Cabo, and Marina Cabo San Lucas usually passes out a couple of beers to everyone at the awards party. In addition, Marina Cabo San Lucas sets aside all vacant slips for Ha-Ha boats, and often offers discounts. But the biggest value of all is the chance to meet and sail with hundreds of really great folks. Ha-Ha vets report having a great time meeting up with other Ha-Ha boats in Mexico later in the season - and around the world years later.

The Ha-Ha will be managed by the same volunteer core as for the last nine years: Richard Spindler, the Grand Poobah; 'Banjo Andy' Turpin, the Assistant Poobah; Doña de Mallorca, Chief of Security; and the crew of the mothership Profligate. The Grand Poobah sees his job as that of trying to facilitate everyone's pleasure rather than issuing a bunch of rules and telling people what to do. As such, he's had no problem with boats that have wanted to start late, start early, start from Ensenada, make side trips to Guadalupe Island, stay an extra day in Turtle Bay or Bahia Santa Maria, and so forth. The Poobah just needs to be told about these variations so that all boats can be accounted for.

The Ha-Ha is all about responsible fun. As such, participants are forbidden from polluting the ocean, and encouraged to pitch in to make sure the beaches are left cleaner than they were found. The Poobah doesn't mind drinking at the beach parties, but drunks will be given the boot. Fortunately, nobody has ever gotten the boot yet. There is a time and place to get wild and crazy. That's after the Ha-Ha at Squid Roe, where there are plenty of bouncers and police to supervise.

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