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October 15, 2010

Be a Ha-Ha Hero!

Here at Baja Ha-Ha World Headquarters we’re eager to recruit some Ha-Ha heroes for a special mission.

No, you won’t have to crawl on your belly across the desert or parachute out of a plane. Nothing so dramatic. We just need to find a few folks who will be traveling to Cabo after November 1 and are willing to carry down a bundle or two of Latitude 38s for the fleet.

Heading south to meet the fleet? You’ll be our hero if you’re willing to schlep a bundle or two of November magazines.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s become at long-standing Ha-Ha tradition to hand out hot-off-the-press November editions at our Awards Ceremonies, which will be Saturday, November 6, this year. And we can only imagine what sort of grumbling and grousing the Rally Committee would have to endure if it wasn’t able to continue the tradition this year. 

So if you’re planning to fly or drive down to meet the fleet, please contact us to make arrangements. If you don’t live near our Mill Valley offices, we’ll be happy to UPS a bundle or two to your home or office. And we’ll give you some official Ha-Ha swag as a thank you.

Kiter Takes Back Sailing Speed Record

Frenchman Alex Caizergues once again reclaimed the title of world’s fastest human under sail.

Luderitz Speed Challenge
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

On Tuesday French kiter Alex Caizergues reclaimed the mantle of "fastest under sail" at the Luderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. Reaching a top speed of 54.1 knots, Caizergues one-upped fellow countryman Alain Thébault and his foiling trimaran L’Hydroptere, which set a benchmark of 51.36 knots a little over a year ago, besting Caizergues’ 2008 run of 50.57 knots. Although 54.1 knots is freakin’ incredible — not to mention scary — in our minds the record carries a few qualifiers. First of all, Luderitz is a 700-ft-long, straight, man-made canal that has a depth of three feet or less, while Hyères, France, has water navigable by proper boats. Second, while the drag-racer style kiteboards are essentially free relative to the cost of a proper foiling tri like L’Hydroptere, they don’t go upwind particularly well, or have any offshore capability. Third, L’Hydroptere‘s record was set in just 28 knots of breeze, while Caizergues had breeze in the low 40s. If you’re a L’Hydroptere fan, fret not, Thébault and his team have just launched their new 35-ft, half-size trail horse for a G-class foiler that they plan on tackling the Jules Verne with.

The Ha-Ha Forecast

It seems that the weather gods just won’t give up on what’s been the worst summer weather along the coast of California since . . . well, probably the beginning of time. Yeah, it’s been great the last couple of days in the Bay Area and today isn’t too bad, but as it’s high time for Baja Ha-Ha folks to head south, the weather is heading south, too. Passage Weather is forecasting light to very light weather heading south, but there are showers and lower temps forecast for Sunday. As for San Diego, it’s raining today, and the long-range forecast is for 40% chance of rain for the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party a week from Sunday. Thank God weather forecasting is so bad more than four days out.

There’s no worshipping the sun from the transom of the boats in California these days, but for those lucky enough to be headed to Mexico — such as the fabulously beautiful celebrity chef Lisa Zittel — it’s just a few sailing days away.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

What’s it like in Mexico? John and Gilly Foy, who have a beautiful condo on the water in Punta Mita, and their Alameda-based Catalina 42 Destiny in the Nayarit Riviera Marina on Banderas Bay, say the weather there is great. "We’ve heard the summer along the California coast was dismal, but don’t fret, it’s spectacular down here, with fabulous sunny weather. It’s still a bit muggy, as is common for October, but we can feel the change toward the dryer winter weather. We went sailing last week, and conditions couldn’t have been better."

As you can tell from today’s water temperature chart, the Eastern Pacific has been cooler than normal this year. But from Bahia Santa Maria south, and up into the Sea of Cortez, it’s nice. Damn nice! We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait!

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As for Cabo, the forecast for the next 10 days — and the rest of the winter — is air temps in the mid-80s with no chance of rain. The water temps on the Pacific side are 80 to 81 degrees, and in the Sea of Cortez from the mid-80s to low 90s. As great as this sounds, the water temp is just a shade lower than normal on the Pacific side. In fact, if you look at an ocean temperature chart for the Pacific Coast of Baja, it’s noticeably lower than most years. In past Ha-Ha’s, we’ve seen weather temperatures at Turtle Bay, halfway down Baja, at everything between 71 to 79 degrees. We figure it will be on the low end of that scale this year. Still, considering the frigid water temps on the California coast, that’s not bad. The water temps at Turtle Bay and Cabo will be wonderful.

For those of you who will be heading south, and are still trying to get a feel for what you should and shouldn’t bring with you, Dennis and Susan Ross, who did the ’02 Ha-Ha aboard their Portland-based Endeavor 43 Two Can Play, and are now La Paz Cruising Station hosts (out of Marina Palmira) for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, offer the following perspective:

"Having been in Mexico for eight years, we find that things are rapidly changing with respect to the availability of U.S. products — and their Mexican equivalents. As Wayne Hendryx of the Hughes 45 cat Capricorn Cat mentioned, pickle relish is sometimes difficult to find, but in La Paz we were recently able to find sweet relish, dill relish, and even mustard-based hot dog relish — all on one shelf.  The local Walmart had six different styles of Dijon and Inglehoffer mustard at last glance. The mainland will not have as much in variety, but they are also increasing their selection of ‘gringo’ products.

If you absolutely must have relish for your dogs, you have three choices: 1) bring some from home; 2) stock up when you can find it in the bigger cities; or 3) make your own.

© Franko Vlasic

"La Paz is unique in that many of the items in the markets come down Mexico’s Highway 1 from the U.S., so we see many American brands on the store shelves. With the introduction of Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Sears, and other U.S.-branded outlets, it’s often hard to go more than a few feet in a store without seeing a familiar brand-name product. We understand that this is also happening on the mainland.

"When we first came down in the ’02 Ha-Ha, it was difficult to find wines anywhere except in expensive import stores. Now we can find many California, French, Chilean, Argentinian, South African, and Australian wines at the local markets. The imported wines are often $12-25 per bottle or more, but they are available. But we recently purchased a great Argentinian Malbec for 68 pesos — about $5 U.S. — so it’s possible to get great wine deals. There are also very good Mexican wines, especially from the Guadalupe Valley near Ensenada.

"That said, there are items that first time cruisers should bring along: We recommend spares for Yanmar and Volvo engines. Total Yacht Works in Mazatlan is a Yanmar dealer, but elsewhere in Mexico it’s very hard to find many spares. Also bring outboard engine repair kits. Engine mechanics can be found up and down the coast of Mexico, but few places have parts for outboards smaller than 40 hp. Bring a carburetor rebuild kit, and maybe a spare control module with you. If you’ve got the spare parts, it’s easy to get your outboard repaired in Mexico. Bring an abundance of filter elements for your diesel. They are available in Mexico, but they are pricey! Unless your fuel tank has been recently cleaned or your boat has been in the ocean a lot recently, you will need extra filters to combat the sludge and stuff that gets shaken loose on the 750-mile trip down Baja. And it’s worse banging back home on the Bash. Last May, one boat used an entire case of filters between Cabo and Ensenada. You should also bring propeller zincs for high-tech props such as Max-Prop, Auto Prop, Gori, and Luke to name a few. It is getting better in the major markets of La Paz and Puerto Vallarta, but elsewhere it can be slim pickings. Metric shaft zincs are also very difficult to find in many areas.

"Also make sure you have plenty of your medications. Many name brand medications are either hard to find or very expensive in Mexico. ‘Generics’ are available for many of the medications, but some are simply "similar", not exact generics. Be careful. We suggest a three- to six-month supply for critical medications. By the way, you now need a prescription to purchase antibiotics in Mexico. This was an outgrowth of the self-prescribing that was going on during the swine flu scare. Prescriptions are easy to obtain because many pharmacies have a physician in residence, so for as low as 20 pesos you can have a ‘consultation’ and receive your prescription. School supplies, elementary school text books in English, and soccer balls for the schools in the outlying coastal communities are always big hits.

"Other items to put on the potential stores list are: Canned chicken, non-alcoholic beer, Adolph’s meat tenderizer (for steaks and stingray stings), chili powder, corn starch, cocktail onions, premium liquors, tartar sauce, BBQ spices (other than major brands like Kraft), 0.5 micron water filters (will filter cryptosporidium and giardia) for using dock water, and watermaker and raw water pump rebuild kits (stainless or ceramic seals suitable for sea water are not readily available).

"The best advice is that if there is a product that you buy regularly and would not think of using the generic or store brand of that item, you should bring it with you. We also have a saying in Mexico: ‘See it — buy it.’  We have learned that just because the item is on the shelf today doesn’t mean it’s going to be there tomorrow, so stock up anytime you find a product that you can’t live without."

We agree with everything that Dennis and Susan say. On the other hand, we’ve also done short cruises in Mexico with a Cal 25 and twice with an Olson 30, and didn’t bring anything with us. We still had a great time. So if you can’t find something, don’t worry, there are always alternatives and solutions.

Wayne and Elly Smith did an unusual thing — they spent the summer exploring the Sea of Cortez aboard Zeppelin.
We don’t know what it is about the approach of the Baja Ha-Ha each year that causes some people who aren’t even part of the Ha-Ha to get their knickers so bunched up, but they do.