June 3, 2009

Baja, The Bash, and Beyond

It was so warm in La Paz in late May that Patsy Verhoeven always chose the lap pool over the hot tub at Marina Fidepaz.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In the third week of May we flew down to La Paz to bring Profligate back to California after her 10th season — this one a six-monther — in Mexico. As someone who has been cruising south of the border for 30 years, our opinion of Mexico just keeps getting better. There are almost no bureacratic hassles left, Mexico has all the conveniences of the U.S. — yet it can be incredibly inexpensive, and there are endless beautiful and remote areas to explore.

It must have been Publisher’s Boating Week in La Paz. As we passed the Costa Baja Marina and the last channel buoy, there was Rupert Murdoch’s 175-ft Perini Navi ketch Rosehearty.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It was hot in La Paz. Damn hot. But on the boat during the day and ashore in the evening, it was perfect. As this was a delivery trip, the Poobah and Doña de Mallorca hustled down to Muertos for an overnight, then a second overnight at Puertos Los Cabo before rounding the point at Cabo San Lucas. We only passed one sailboat heading south, Dave Addleman and Heather Corsaro’s Monterey-based Cal 36 Eupsychia. Noting that they were sailing in light wind, we figured Dave’s fifth attempt to rebuild his boat’s diesel had gone bad. But no, they were sailing just because they love to sail. After two seasons in Mexico and a third planned for this fall, a little bird told us that Addleman’s competitive juices have him thinking about moving up to a Santa Cruz 50.

While in Puertos Los Cabos, we had a nice visit with harbormaster Jim Elfers, the author of The Baja Bash. The marina is coming right along, with most slips filled and several very large yachts in attendance. Off in a corner among some palm trees was an IACC boat New Zealand used in the America’s Cup. With her mast and keel removed, she looked a little forlorn.

Marina Puertos Los Cabos is still a work in progress, but what’s completed looks very nice. Harbormaster Jim Elfers says Ha-Ha boats will be welcome.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Nothing, however, looked as forlorn as Cabo San Lucas, which might have been a modern day ghost town. At the time we were there, the tourist town had had 3,500 hotel reservations cancelled and 30 cruise ships stop elsewhere. It was dead! The cause? Why ‘swine flu’, of course. How many cases of swine flu were there in Cabo so that the U.S. news media had warned everybody to stay away? Zero! Not a single one. Devasted Cabo would like to thank CNN and other mainstream media in the U.S. for their accurate reporting on the situation.

Multi Ha-Ha vet Vince Rubino joined us in Cabo for the Bash to San Diego. Like everyone else, he was shocked at how much the weather changes once you round the Arch at Cabo San Lucas. In 20 minutes the temperature dropped 20º — and the wind wasn’t even blowing hard. Ours ended up being a fairly typical Bash, with periods of 25-knot winds from the northwest mixed with periods of relative calm. We ducked into Asuncion and at Cedros for overnights but, jamming, still made it to San Diego in four days. The most unusual aspect of the trip were the number of pods of gray whales we saw. These were the biggest whales any of us had ever seen. They were very, very impressive.

Not everyone was in such a rush north. Jim Milski, of the Lake City, Colorado-based Schionning 49 Sea Level, reports that he made a stop at Mag Bay, entering via the narrow and unmarked channel down at Punta Tosca. You not only have to be careful risking such an entrance, but Milski warns that even the middle of the bay is shallow. Then there are Barritt Neal and Renee Blaul of the San Diego-based Peterson 44 Serendipity, who, having noticed how great the diving could be at Bahia Santa Maria during the Ha-Ha, vowed to stop on their way up. But spring isn’t fall at BSM, which meant the water temp was an icy 61º. They didn’t go near the water.

So long Cabo Falso, warmth and blue skies, hello gray skies and cold temperatures. We can’t wait for winter.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If the truth be told, the weather in all of Southern California for the month of June is pretty crappy. The ‘June Gloom’ means it’s drippy and wet, often for the entire day. Indeed, the weather in San Francisco is often warmer than in Southern California coastal cities in the month of June. After days of being dripped on, we couldn’t take it any longer, and decided to fly to Las Vegas to retrieve our Kawa KLR 650 motorcycle. Lordy, but didn’t the heat and blue skies make us feel fine after all the gray and damp! To heck with hurricane season, we’re thinking about keeping Profligate in Mexico through June next year.

Who would have thought the way to buying a mega motoryacht would be opening a Terrible McDonald’s/Chevron/Casino in tiny Searchlight, Nevada?

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When riding our dual sport bike, we try to stop at almost all historical landmarks, and about 30 miles south of Vegas we stopped at one called El Dorado. This is the site of the first gold mine in Nevada back in the 1850s. What’s interesting about the place is they used to take the ore down to the Sea of Cortez, via the Colorado River, on barges and other vessels. Mind you, this place is almost as far north as Monterey! When we mentioned this to Alameda sailor Chris Maher of Blarney, he told us that’s not the only mischief we humans have created with fresh water flows in the West. He said that back in the days of the early explorers to California, the fresh water flow from the mountains was so strong they would take on water at Angel Island!

The new highway bridge over the Hoover Dam. Before man started meddling with nature, you could have taken a boat up the Sea of Cortez and the Colorado River almost as far as Las Vegas.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The other funny thing about our ride south to Parker and then west to San Diego was our stop at a Terrible McDonald’s in Searchlight, Nevada. Yeah, that was the name. It was a McDonald’s located inside a Mr. Terrible combination Chevron station and casino. Cruisers in Mexico are used to seeing Mr. Terrible’s big motoryachts, brilliantly named Mr. Terrible, all over Mexico. In fact, the new 150-footer has won all kinds of awards for being the best of everything. We’re not sure if the Mr. Terrible we saw tied up at Kona Kai near the Police Dock in San Diego was the award-winner or if it was one of the old ones.

Upon completing the Bash, we only had to wait a day to get a slip at the San Diego Police Dock. For boats under 50 feet, it’s just $10/day for the first five days, then $20 a day for the next five days. For boats over 50 feet, the price is doubled. The Police Dock was a beehive of activity with boats returning from Mexico and boats getting ready to do the Baja Ha-Ha in late October.

You meet the greatest folks at the Police dock. Such as Paul and Anna Lise Pedersen of Vancouver. They are completing an 11-year cruise to Denmark and back aboard their Islander 36 Anna Lise.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The deal at the Police Dock isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as getting three days for free at the Southwestern YC, where we are now. Even though their contract with the Port of San Diego has required them to tear down their perfectly fine yacht club to build a new one, the temporary facilities are still great. The first person we met upon pulling in? Paul Plotts, owner of the magnificent 70-ft schooner Dauntless, a boat we’ve not only featured on the cover of Latitude, but have sponsored a number of times in the Master Mariners Regatta. The world of sailing is as small as it is wonderful.

St. Mary’s Holds on to Slim Lead

The Tufts Jumbos in #6 actually made this cross! But apparently it was thanks to the half-boat length head start.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

With just eight races left to go today, the St. Mary’s College Seahawks are clinging to a slim, six-point lead at the ICSA/Gill Coed National Championships. Nipping at the Seahawks’ heels is Yale, who sailed themselves back into contention with a stellar day in breeze that started in the 10-knot range and never topped more than about 20 knots.

St. Mary’s College is holding on to the top spot at the ICSA/Gill National Championships at St. Francis YC today.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Elis made up a deficit of over 30 points in negotiating the ebb-heavy day and the very abrupt transition to the late afternoon flood, which didn’t happen until about the last set. The regatta wraps up today with the final eight races and it should be a good one.

Class of 2009 Ha-Ha Sponsors

Registration for the 2009 Baja Ha-Ha has been open for a month and 77 intrepid souls have signed up so far for the annual cruisers rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. It’s pleasantly surprising to learn that, at this point, entries are running on par with previous years, and considering the current state of the economy, that’s no small feat. Then again, the cost of living in Mexico — and on a boat — is much lower than the States, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that folks want to head south. (If you’ve been considering joining the Ha-Ha, find out how at the link above.)

But the Ha-Ha couldn’t happen without the great group of sponsors who have supported us over the years. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank each one and to encourage you to support them as much as possible.

2009 ‘Sweet Sixteen’ Baja Ha-Ha Sponsors:

Almar Marinas
Blue Pelican Marine
Downwind Marine
Gerry Sea of Cortez Charts
ICOM America, Inc.
KTI Systems
Katadyn Watermakers
Marina de La Paz
Marina El Cid
Marina Mazatlan
Marina Nuevo Vallarta
Marina Riviera Nayarit
Mariner’s General Insurance Group
Opequimar Marine Center
Paradise Village Marina
Pier 32 Marina / Harbor Island West
Quickline USA
Rigging Only
Scanmar International
Sea of Cortez: A Cruiser’s Guidebook
Vallarta Yacht Club / Festival Nautico
Ventura Harbor Boatyard
West Marine

Delta Bound Forum

So many Delta Doo Dah‘ers wanted a place to bounce ideas off each other on where to go, what to bring and what to do in the Delta this summer that we created a forum dedicated to the topic. Registration is free and open to everyone, not just those signed up for the Doo Dah. So come on in and share your knowledge — or questions — about the doin’s in the Delta!

Couldn’t Wait to Get to the Beach?

Countless sailors have visited St. Barth, our favorite island. Every last one has been entertained by the follies of airplanes trying to land at the tiny airport. The deal is that pilots have to clear a ridge along which runs the island’s main road, then slam their plane down before they run out of runway and risk plowing into all the topless women on the shores of Baie St. Jean. The problem is compounded by the fact they have to land against strong and gusty tradewinds. The only thing that’s worse is when there are no tradewinds, because then pilots have to do a ‘do or die’ landing from the opposite direction, which means there is a big hill at the end of the runway.

People always say it’s a miracle there aren’t plane crashes. Well, there are plane crashes. More than people like to talk about. A commercial flight a few years back with 19 passengers — including a woman from the Bay Area — crashed short of the ridge killing everyone. That, however, wasn’t a runway issue, as one engine stalled on the twin engine plane. For some reason the pilot wasn’t able to counter the torque and lost control.

Most problems at the St. Barth airport are planes overshooting the end of the runway. This happens a number of times a year. Ju-Ju, who splits his time between Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and Le Select in St. Barth, just sent us the accompany YouTube video of a plane overshooting the runway. It’s funny because nobody was hurt. It’s educational because it demonstrates why you want to obey the signs that warn you not to linger on the beach at the end of the runway. Not that anybody pays any attention to them.

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