Most members of the 196-boat Baja Ha-Ha fleet have been planning and preparing for years — if not decades — to throw off the docklines and cruise south to the sunny climes of Mexico. And today is the day that their long-anticipated dreams are finally coming true. The 17th annual San Diego to Cabo San Lucas rally began this morning at 11 a.m.
The fun got started yesterday with a massive Costume Kickoff Party at the Shelter Island West Marine complex. And, like any costume party, what made it incredibly fun was the effort put into the costumes. Predictably, there was no shortage of pirates. But there were also voluptuous mermaids, sleazy pimps, a cluster of jailbirds, and some outfits so bizarre we weren’t quite sure what they were supposed to be.
As Cabrillo Isle Marina staffers kept the fleet ‘hydrated’ with beer, wine, and soft drinks, Mexican caterers dished up delicious tacos, which later fueled dancing to the DJ’s beats.
On the way out of San Diego Bay, fleet members came together for a grand procession past Shelter Island, where an entourage of print, radio and TV journalists chronicled their departure, while well-wishers — including both American and Mexican dignitaries — looked on.
When the starting gun sounded outside San Diego Bay this morning, 592 people and 154 boats crossed the starting line, while an unknown number of stragglers scrambled to complete final projects so they, too, could get out of town. The fleet should arrive in Turtle Bay on Wednesday or Thursday, so we’ll do our best to bring you an update in Friday’s ‘Lectronic. Stay tuned!
When last we checked in with Jeanne Socrates, she’d just sailed her Najad 380 Nereida nonstop from New Zealand to Hawaii for the finish of this summer’s Singlehanded TransPac. Jeanne had left the Canary Islands last October in an attempted nonstop circumnavigation, but unexpected engine troubles forced her into Cape Town — and kept her there for three months — before she could continue on. Since her goal of a nonstop trip around was already thwarted, she decided to take a detour and say hi to her Singlehanded pals. (Jeanne competed in the ’06 Solo TransPac, and was on her way to the start of the ’08 race when her previous boat, Nereida, was lost on a Mexican beach just 85 miles from finishing a 15-month circumnavigation.)
Now the determined 68-year-old Britsh grandmother, currently in Victoria, B.C., is setting off again on a nonstop attempt. But this time, she’s going for a record: the first woman to circumnavigate nonstop from North America. Renowned solo sailor Tony Gooch, who holds the record for the first person to circumnavigate nonstop from the West Coast in ’04 aboard his 42-ft custom aluminum boat Taonui, is the official World Speed Sailing Record Council representative for Socrates’ attempt. "He’s my ‘starter’," said Jeanne. "He’s installed a ‘black box’ to track my voyage, and has wired my gear cable so only neutral and reverse are possible."
In the past, Jeanne has been reluctant to share her age. "When people know how old you are, they sometimes look at you — and what you’re trying to do — differently," she explained. But a recent press release announced her age to the world, so it seems she may also have her eye on an ‘oldest woman to circumnavigate nonstop’ record as well — although no organization officially ratifies age-based records. Of course that hasn’t stopped the horde of youngsters out for the ‘youngest around’ record, so why should it stop an experienced and very fit granny?
Jeanne plans to leave this afternoon, but it looks like her first few days are not going to be fun. Originally, she’d planned to leave last week, but a series of storms kept her at the dock. And PassageWeather is forecasting another set of North Pacific doozies swirling up off Russia. "I need to get away from here since the weather won’t be improving," she said. "It would be great to get out of the Strait as it’s often difficult to do that."
We wish Jeanne a safe and speedy trip, and will keep you updated on her progress over the next seven months or so. In the meantime, you can stay up-to-date on her website, www.svnereida.com.
Due to all this Baja Ha-Ha hoopla, we’re going to have save the weekend Racing Wrap-up for Wednesday. In the meantime, we wanted to give you a heads up on a couple worthy items. First off, the Leukemia Cup’s post-regatta online auction ends Wednesday at 9 p.m. On the block are several items, most notably a ride aboard Peter Stoneberg’s Formula 40 catamaran Shadow. Less than $11,000 needs to be raised for the event to break the $700,000 mark, so get online and get bidding! Second, the Cal Maritime Sailing Team is sitting in fourth out of 14 overall after two races at the Student Yachting World Cup in La Rochelle, France. The young sailors are vying to be the first West Coast team to win the event, and you can follow them — as well as make a tax-deductible donation to their effort — at their event blog.
Mike ‘Kona’ Meredith, a San Diego-based crewman aboard Intrepid for last week’s multi-million dollar Bisbee Black & Blue (Marlin) Tournament, was wounded last Tuesday evening during a robbery attempt, according to NBC/San Diego. Meredith is currently recovering in a Cabo hospital.
In an exclusive phone interview with NBC/San Diego, Meredith reported that, after dinner at a restaurant, he was walking back to his hotel room alone when a thief came up to him and demanded his wallet. Meredith told the thief he could have his money, but not his I.D. As Meredith was pulling his wallet out of his pocket, the thief reportedly fired a shot into Meredith’s shoulder with a .25 calibre pistol. When he hesitated handing over his I.D., the robber fired a second shot into his neck.
For whatever reason — an adrenaline rush or perhaps he’d had a few drinks, we don’t know — Meredith didn’t feel either shot, so he didn’t realize he was hurt until he saw blood squirting out of his neck.
"All I’ve got to say is God is good. He saved me on this one," Meredith told NBC/San Diego.
Apparently Meredith feels this was an isolated and uncharacteristic incident for, despite having been shot and robbed, he said he would return to Cabo. "It’s a beautiful place. People here are nice."
Inexplicably, NBC/San Diego neglected to report what time the incident occurred and at what location. We’ve subsequently been told that it took place near the cruise ship dock, which is away from the busy area of Cabo during the evening.
When we reported the incident at yesterday’s Skipper’s Meeting for the Baja Ha-Ha, nobody seemed too disturbed about it. We reiterated the normal cautions: It’s safer to walk with someone or groups than alone; stay in the more brightly lit areas; don’t flash wealth; going home earlier is better than going home later; and don’t go looking to buy drugs or sex. With no disrespect whatsoever to Meredith, if approached by a thief, we’d recommend giving him/her whatever they wanted.
Violence against tourists is rare in Cabo San Lucas — indeed, it’s rare in all of Mexico — because it’s one of the two economic engines of Cabo as well as Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy. Well, except for violence on roads. Two years ago Jim Elfers, harbormaster at Puerto Los Cabos and author of The Baja Bash, told us an average of one person a day got killed in accidents in the 100 or so mile stretch of main road between San Jose del Cabo and Todos Santos. Now that’s dangerous.
While at yesterday’s Ha-Ha Skipper’s meeting and other Ha-Ha festivities, we spoke with a number of people about violence — or the lack of it — in Mexico. Dave Crowe of the San Jose- and Puerto Vallarta-based 70-ft M&M Humu-Humu reported that he just drove from Vallarta to California to pick up a trailer of furniture and stuff that he’ll drive back down to his house in Vallarta. "No, I wasn’t beheaded, nor do I expect to be," he laughed. We spoke with a woman who did the Ha-Ha two years ago and liked it so much that she and her 11-year old son have taken up permanent residence in the East Cape. "We both absolutely love it down here, and don’t worry about our safety." Ken Franke, former watch commander for the San Diego Harbor Police and now president of the Sportfishing Association of California told the Ha-Ha skippers that there has never been an incident between a sportfishing boat and drug smugglers. "They want to avoid seeing you as much as you want to avoid seeing them. It’s narco-on-narco violence that’s the problem." He also noted that four people had been shot the night before in San Diego.
Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz tells us life is just fine in that city, what with the humidity having dropped and their marina being booked for the season. Dick Markie of Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta told us that, in the 19 years he’s been in Mexico, he’s always felt safer than he did in the States. He also wanted readers to know how good he thinks health care is in Mexico. "I’ve got four pounds of stainless steel in me because of a bone issue, and had a stent put in," he explained. "The care was not only affordable, it was excellent. There are, of course, some quack doctors in Mexico, just as there are in the United States. So you ask for recommedations. But state-of-the-art hospitals are being built all over Mexico in anticipation of more Americans seeking quality health care at affordable prices."
While nobody is denying there is not tremendous narco-on-narco and narco-vs-government violence in parts of Mexico, we didn’t speak with one person who has cruised Mexico or lived in Mexico who felt they were at more risk of crime down there than in California. But if you’re a cruiser who is a victim of crime in Mexico, by all means let us know so that we can share such information with our readers.
As for us, adios. Today is the start of the Ha-Ha.