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October 30, 2009

Weather Breaks for Ha-Ha

Mild conditions at the start gave the fleet a gentle push across the border.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The rough seas and powerful winds reported earlier have now subsided, replaced by clear, sunny skies and gentle breezes — ideal for the annual Turtle Bay beach party which begins at noon today. Approximately 120 boats are now anchored in the expansive bay, with about 50 stragglers due to arrive shortly.

The Sequim, Washington-based Beneteau 36.7 Wind Child not only had the most easily identifiable spinnaker in the fleet, but was one of only eight boats that sailed all the way to Turtle Bay.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Last night many crews regained their ‘shore legs’ with a stroll through town en route to the annual no-host party at the tiny town’s biggest restaurant, the Vera Cruz. While the rough seas resulted in torn sails and broken gear on some boats, a number of others hit their best speeds ever. Cats reported top speeds in the high teens and low 20s, and a number of heavy displacement boats reported surfing as much as 10 knots faster than their theoretical hull speeds.

With seas of 12-15 feet, smaller boats, such as this Westsail 32, nearly disappeared from view while in the troughs.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As reported earlier, the J/120 J World sank after being hit repeatedly by a whale. After spending four hours in a liferaft, skipper Eugenie Russell and her crew were rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard helo with what Eugenie called "textbook" precision. We spoke with Eugenie as she was on her way to the French consulate in L.A. to pick up a new passport, and she told us there have been some inaccuracies in the way the story is being relayed. She said that while they were all successfully rescued, they were cold . . . really, really cold throughout the entire ordeal. While they were able to make it to the liferaft with a handheld GPS, VHF and 406 EPIRB, the ditch bag was taken out by a single wave. They weren’t able to just step aboard the liferaft; they were in the water to begin with before being able to get aboard the raft. They were actually in the liferaft for four hours, not two, spending the first two bailing waist-deep water from the raft. Then, there was the 20 to 30-ft swim from the raft to the Coast Guard rescue swimmer; the helicopter ride was extremely cold also. Russell told us that everyone onboard was calm, and that she handed one woman the EPIRB and told her to treat it like it was her baby. We’re hoping to get Eugenie down to Cabo for the Ha-Ha party so she can talk to the crowd!

By the time the fleet got to Turtle Bay, some bore unusual decorations.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Leg Two will start tomorrow with winds predicted to be in the 8-12 knot range and moderate seas. Event sponsor Commanders’ Weather does not anticipate any more high winds or seas for the remainder of the rally.

Ashore at the Vera Cruz, Ha-Ha revelers hammed it up in the ‘disco,’ which was built with Ha-Ha profits a few years back.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Tanker Spills Fuel

A ruptured fuel line may be to blame for what the Coast Guard is calling an "unknown amount of fuel" released into the Bay from the Panamanian-flagged tanker Dubai Star.

Just before 7 a.m., the Coast Guard received a report from the ship that while engaged in bunkering operations in Anchorage Nine — near the Oakland Airport — it had released an unknown quantity of fuel into the Bay. Eyewitness accounts have placed the slick at over a mile long, but as of now, there are few verifiable details; in its most recent announcement, the Coast Guard said the type of fuel is unknown, after earlier calling it "fuel oil." If it’s "fuel oil," which we’re pretty sure is the same thing as bunker oil, then it’s the same dense, cruddy filth that leaked from the Cosco Busan two years ago. Hopefully the lessons learned from that catastrophe will translate to a higher percentage of recovered oil in this case — the Cosco Busan dumped over 58,000 gallons of bunker oil, with only 17,000 of them retrieved . . . .

Don’t Pass Up Ensenada

"After the great farewell party for our friends who are joining the Baja Ha-Ha, we’re inspired to write about our experience in Ensenada, and especially at the marina at Hotel Coral," report Victor and Andre Satie from the Ensenada-based Freedom 36 Easy Breeze. "To begin, there is no longer any anchorage in the harbor at all, nor will there be in future. The harbor has been dredged to accommodate more and larger ships. Smaller marinas in the harbor often have slips, although there are no facilities such as showers, bathrooms or wi-fi.

"Marina Ensenada fell apart during the winter of 2007, and though it’s back together again, it may present problems this winter thanks to El Niño. Baja Naval is usually full, but it never hurts to give them a call if you really want to be there. A few factors — swine flu, drug wars and the slumping economy — have spurred a price war between Cruiseport and Marina Coral. Many of us have moved from Cruiseport to Coral as a result — the price is just about the same at both places, and you get much more bang for your buck here at Coral.

The marina at Hotel Coral in Ensenada boasts 353 slips ranging from 30 to 65 feet, plus world-class amenities.

© 2009 Hotel Coral

"The price is $10.40/foot, plus liveaboard fees, which entitles one to the full use of the hotel facilities, including the full gym, spa with massage and beauty salon services, two outdoor and one indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, two indoor jacuzzis, steam room and dry sauna. You’re even handed a white fluffy towel when you enter to use the showers, and there is a shampoo dispenser on the wall. There’s also a pool room, nice lounge and restaurant, an internet room with two computers, free wi-fi and a book exchange that always has a good supply of Latitude 38s. And if you don’t have a car, many of us local residents can give you a lift. The micro busses go by quite often as well, and cost around four pesos (25 cents).

Cynthia, Fito and Hilda will do what they can to make your stay at Hotel Coral Marina a happy one.

Easy Breeze
©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Fito, our dockmaster, really wants everyone to have a good experience. When we asked if we could hold a swap meet on the patio, he provided tables and chairs for us. The night of the earthquake in Samoa, when a tsunami warning had been issued for the entire Pacific Coast and was then cancelled, he invited everyone to the lounge for a free Tsunami Party. When we asked if we could have a farewell party for 40 people on the patio, he surprised us with big tables and chairs to accommodate us all.

"Be sure to browse around the terrific website for the latest goings-on," conclude the Saties. "If you’re coming south to Mexico this season, Ensenada — and the Hotel Coral marina — is a great place to stop."

Where’s the Beef?

If you’re heading south into Mexican waters this season — as part of the Baja Ha-Ha rally or not — be aware that health inspectors at Cabo San Lucas and other ports of entry may board and inspect any arriving vessel to look for certain foods. We have always found them to be extremely courteous and professional. While some fresh fruits and vegetables may be confiscated, the inspectors are mostly concerned about mad cow disease. They will confiscate all beef products whether raw or cooked.

Inspection with a smile. Don’t be upset if your beef is confiscated. Mexican health inspectors like Monica are simply doing their jobs.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

So don’t provision more than you will consume on the trip south. We’re told that poultry and pork products are not a problem. Newcomers, please note that there is plenty of fresh food to be had in Cabo — they even have a Costco. So there’s no need to over-provision, thus slowing your boat down!

The New Latitude is a Treat

The November issue of Latitude 38 is out today just in time for your bridge closure-forced BART commute!

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After the kids come down from their post-trick-or-treating sugar high tomorrow night, settle in for a treat of your own: the November issue of Latitude 38, which hits the stands today. Thrill in the adventures of Damien McCullough and Deborah Ream, who, after completing the ’05 Ha-Ha, sailed their Newport Beach-based Celestial 50, Ticket to Ride, all over the Caribbean. Read first-hand accounts of the Samoan tsunami, find out who this season’s racing champs were, learn what it’s like to be naked in the middle of the City, and so much more. And if you don’t pick up your copy early, you might find that you’ve been ‘tricked’ out of getting one at all!