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October 24, 2007

Sailing in Santa Anas

"We left San Diego on October 21 for points south and La Paz," writes David Addleman and Heather Corsaro, who are doublehanding their Monterey-based Cal 36 Eupsychia. "Santa Ana winds had been forecast, but once past the Coronado Islands, we got hit by what must have been a chubasco. There was smoke, dust, and a steep offshore chop. With the wind gusting to 35 knots, the old girl got rumbling at 9 to 11 knots."

"It was calm off Ensenada the next morning, but our boat was absolutely covered in dust and mud. It looked as though it had rusted overnight! Humbled, we stayed 15-20 miles offshore. The mild conditions continued until Monday near Cabo San Quintin. During the day we could see the walls of dust being blown offshore, so we headed further out. Despite there being so little fetch from shore, formidable waves developed. Thanks to the wind, we were visited by land birds and bats 30 miles offshore. Bugs and flies, too. We were also visited by a sad-eyed green and yellow warbler, who feasted on hundreds of the bugs. Unfortunately, David stepped on the bird’s head while going forward to hoist the spinnaker. Poor guy. Heather says that the rest of the flies are for David."

"Today, Tuesday, it’s beautiful! We’re about 80 miles northwest of Cedros, the skies are clear, the air is 73 degrees, and the blue water is 60 degrees. Heather, after a 20-minute battle, caught a beautiful yellowfin tuna. There’s not as much wind as we’d like, but no big deal, as we’re not in a hurry. We’ve got the music blasting and are having the most fantastic time of our lives."

Not to pick nits, but you’re a little confused about the concept of a chubasco, and understandably so, because the term is so frequently used incorrectly. A chubasco is a violent squall with thunder and lightning, often of relatively short duration, during the rainy season. They are most common in the Sea of Cortez. You folks were hit by the forecast Santa Ana winds. The telltales are the dust, bugs and birds being blown offshore, and the fact that the wind died at night. We’re sure it had been very dry, too.

Hope to see you down the line.

Hell Freezes Over

Yes, it seems that hell has frozen over, because the State of Hawaii, after all these decades, is actually taking a baby step to improve things in one part of the woefully rundown 747-berth Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu.

The old F Dock, a hand-me-down from the Waikiki YC, as seen in July with some TransPac boats Med-tied to it.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Specifically, work has begun on a new 650-ft F Dock, replacing the old dock that – we’re not making this up – had been handed down to them several years ago by the Waikiki YC! It should be in place by next July.

While this is a first step, it’s just a little one. It will still leave a staggering 90 of the marina’s 747 slips unusable – in a place where the demand for slips far exceeds the supply. And the situation is even worse at another state marina on Oahu.

Getting the new dock was contingent upon an increase of 33% in slip fees. Ala Wai slips fees have been ridiculously low for decades – causing much of the deferred maintenance problem – and even with the increases couldn’t be considered high.

Department of Land and Natural Resources interim Director Laura Thielen also announced that another 172 slips, on floating docks B, C and D, will be replaced next year.

Even with that, there is much work to be done. For example, in many places the marina space is being used extremely inefficiently. Boats just 25 feet long are kept in slots that could accommodate 100-footers, and in other places there is so much space between boats that 25% more could be accommodated. In addition, the Ala Wai has been allowed to become a storage facility for boats that are never used. It’s our hope that the state takes a look at revamping the Ala Wai as a whole, for to do it piecemeal is going to end in disappointment.

What does the editorial board Star-Bulletin think of all this? "After decades of disgraceful neglect, the Ala Wai Boat Harbor is finally getting some much-needed improvements, and the design of new docks will make future repairs easier and less expensive. The initial project involves just one new dock, but represents a good start toward long-awaited changes at the harbor that has been a blemish on Oahu’s main tourism district, in stark contrast to the sprucing up Waikiki has seen in recent years." They further encourage the legislature to approve bonds and fee programs to continue with improvements at the Ala Wai and other state marinas.

In other words, the Star-Bulletin is saying exactly what Roy Disney and we at Latitude have been saying for years. We wish the state of Hawaii the best of luck with their project.

Meanwhile, the Hilton Hawaiian Village completed a $15 to $20 million renovation of their three-acre waterfront lagoon, despite the fact that it doesn’t bring them any revenue. What makes it very interesting is that it’s been set up to drain the Ala Wai five times a day, which because of street trash and the fact that the Ala Wai drains into it, has some filthy areas.

Some corners of the Ala Wai become polluted by a disgusting amount of trash from the streets and from junk flowing down the Ala Wai canal. This is not the fault of mariners or the marina management.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Is There More Crime in La Paz?

Every year about this time, we get a letter or two from people in Mexico, almost always in La Paz, with some ominious-sounding news for cruisers about to head down. This month we got one from the skipper of Callisto. Because there are a number of Callistos, and because the letter wasn’t signed by the skipper, its credibility is immediately reduced. Nonetheless, the author wrote:

"This lovely city has experienced a major crime wave during the past year, with home invasions, robberies, muggings, and even police and security people taking part in routine pilfering. As for the boating community, if you can’t get into the crowded marinas and have to anchor in the bay, your boat is watched until it is unattended, then ransacked. Some 15 boats have been broken into this summer, some repeatedly. The city police are overwhelmed, and are playing the problem down. The problem we mariners faced is that we have no leverage – other than letting others know in advance. If those of you who don’t want your cruising dream cut short, bypass La Paz, and perhaps the city will eventually open their blind eyes."

La Paz Bay, with cruising boats anchored in the distance. If boats appear to be unoccupied, they can become attractive targets.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As we say, we’ve received a number of such letters at this time of year several times before, but nonetheless made a few calls. What we heard is that there are many more people in La Paz than before, but that the crime rate hasn’t seemed to have risen disproportionately. And, in any event it’s less than in big American cities. The rules of common sense apply, of course. Don’t try to buy drugs, don’t go down a dark alley after you’ve been drinking, and don’t flash wealth.

As for the boats getting broken into out in the bay, it’s our understanding that many of them had been left on the hook unattended for long periods of time – if not the whole summer. With many hundreds of very low income workers being ferried out to the construction site on El Mogote each day, they can’t help but see the boats, many of which scream ‘nobody aboard’. That’s almost inviting mischief – or worse.

Bypass La Paz? We wouldn’t think of it. But if we had our boat on the hook, we’d work with buddyboaters and neighbors to always have someone keep an eye on things while we were ashore or away. Nonetheless, in the big world of cruising, we think all of Mexico is not just safe and relatively crime free, but very safe – for those who use common sense.

Ha-Ha Changes Due to Fires in San Diego

The devastating fires in Southern California have left hundreds of thousands of people seeking shelter, and those with boats have moved aboard them. As such, Cabrillo Isle Marina, which has been the site of all Ha-Ha Kick-Off Parties to date, has requested that we seek another party site. Fortunately, West Marine, which has a big parking lot, has stepped up to the plate. So please note the following changes:

PARTY VENUE CHANGE: The Ha-Ha Kick-Off and Costume Party, sponsored by West Marine, will be held at the West Marine store at 1250 Rosecrans on Shelter Islands. Their number is (619) 225-8844.

All published times remain the same:

Sat, Oct 27: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Early check-in at the Rosecrans West Marine (get your paperwork cleared on Saturday, which will allow you to get your Kick-off Party meal and swag tickets then, avoiding the Sunday rush.

Sun, Oct 28: 11 a.m. — Skipper’s Briefing (skippers only, please). Rally instructions and fleet breakdowns for everyone, plus a general Q&A with the  Grand Poobah.

Sun, Oct 28: 1 p.m. — Costume Kickoff Party — free Mexico ‘tune-up’ lunch for all registered captains and their first mates. Crew pay $10 each, but it includes includes beer, wine and soft drinks.

NEW SPONSORS: Several new sponsors – listed below – have joined the long list of Baja Ha-Ha supporters. The Rally Committee encourages you to use their services because without them, there would be no Ha-Ha!

  • Grupo Naval Mar de Cortez – A full-service boatyard located in Mazatlan, offering painting service, fiberglass & marine repairs. Call 011-52 (669) 913-3871 or email for rates.
  • Marina Riviera Nayarit – Banderas Bay’s brand new full-service marina, located at La Cruz. Call 011-52 (322) 779-9191 or email for rates.
  • Seven Seas Cruising Association – Dedicated to fostering international friendship and goodwill, while sharing up-to-date information on destinations worldwide with its 10,000 members. Call (954) 771-5660 or email for more info.

WEATHER FORECAST: According to Commander’s Weather, it appears that the weather for the Sunday party and Monday start will be back to typical San Diego stuff – slight marine layer and lightish winds. But that could change. By the way, Mark Wilcox of the West Marine store on Rosecrans says they’ve had very little smoke, unlike the big fire year of ’03. Things could change of course, but that’s the latest.

See you in San Diego!

If you were out on the Bay this weekend, you might have noticed two BMW Oracle Swedish Match Racing Boats out sailing, looking as if they were practicing match racing starts.
"Great news for boat owners," writes Capt. Mahalo of Upper Malele Heights on Oahu, "as the legislators have finally seen the light and have not only undertaken full scale repair of the entire Ala Wai Yacht Harbor but, as you can see from the accompanying photo, are adding an additional basin near the Hilton Hawaiian Village to meet the tremendous demand for slips."