October 3, 2011

A New Port of Entry for Ha-Ha Boats

We’re betting that plenty of Ha-Ha’ers will volunteer to check in at Bahia Santa Maria this year.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That’s right! According to Baja Ha-Ha friend Bob Hoyt of Mag Bay Outfitters, if at least 25 Ha-Ha boats want to clear in at Bahia Santa Maria rather than Cabo San Lucas, the Port Captain and Immigration officials at San Carlos will be delighted to come up to Bahia Santa Maria on November 1 and take care of business. Since the Ha-Ha has just under 170 paid entries, we can’t imagine that getting 25 boats will be a problem. After all, it would be great to pull into Cabo having already cleared into Mexico.

No matter if you clear in at Bahia Santa Maria or Cabo, there will be a tourist visa fee of about $25 per person, something that is included in airfare if you fly to Mexico. Those with FM3 visas don’t have to pay the fee. There will also be a tonnage fee for each boat of about $20-$25. Boats clearing in at BSM will have to pay an additional handling fee, which is similar to, but less than, the service fee you’d have to pay an agent to clear in for you at Cabo. We’re told it’s going to be about $40. If you’re on a budget, you’ll still be able to avoid this fee altogether by doing the running around in Cabo yourself. It usually takes a total of three or four hours, and if you’re so inclined, can actually be a lot of fun.

Hoyt says you can take care of much of the clearing work at BSM in advance by scanning your boat documents as well as the passports of all your crew and emailing them to Mag Bay Outfitters. If you can do that, you’ll just have to pay your various fees, then boom, he’ll hand you your packet and you’re done. If you have to make changes to your crew list or can’t get things scanned in advance, it won’t be a problem, it will just take longer up on the bluff at BSM where the band will be playing and food and beer will be served.

Hoyt says that all the officials in the area are really excited about the prospect of clearing in Ha-Ha boats, as there are more boats in the Ha-Ha fleet than they cleared in all last year. Indeed, the president of the ‘county’ in that region, which extends a couple of hundred miles along the coast, will be there along with the port captain and the head of immigration. These are great folks who have been wonderful to cruisers in the past, so it will be terrific that more people will have a chance to get to know them. We’re even told the beer companies are seeing if they can round up some of the Corona girls in their hot little swimsuits to help serve beer. That would be all right, too.

A couple of weeks ago we reported that Hoyt’s 70-year-old-but-never-been-in-the-water little fishing boat made it safely from Oceanside to Bahia Santa Maria, where she’s now on station. "If anybody needs diesel, we’ll have it in that boat, with a pump, a gauge and the whole works," says Hoyt. It’s not a big boat, so supplies will be limited.

Bob Hoyt of Mag Bay Outfitters has his little boat at BSM, ready to supply diesel to Ha-Ha’ers.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For the record, the Ha-Ha has nothing to do with clearing boats in or providing fuel, we’re just reporting what we’re told is going to be available. So if there are problems, address them to Hoyt, not us. Thank you.

Oh yeah, Hoyt said the water temp was recently 85 in Bahia Santa Maria, but has dropped down to 78 degrees. Still, that’s not bad.

By the way, if you’re not doing the Ha-Ha and will be checking into Mexico at Ensenada, a number of cruisers have told us that "the thin old man on the left in Immigration" has regularly been putting ‘the bite’ on cruisers. He vaguely tells them there is something wrong with their paperwork, then he pulls open a drawer with money in it, and taps his finger on it, signally that he wants you to cough up some dough. This is rubbish and you shouldn’t stand for it! Tell him that you’re headed right to the Department of Tourism. Very little of this kind of B.S. is seen anymore in Mexico, and it needs to be stamped out entirely. Don’t be afraid to stand up to him because the Mexican government values your visit, and will back you, not him. We’re told the people at the marinas in Ensenada have also been very helpful in clearing up such problems.

Patsy Verhoeven got in some hot water outside La Paz.

© 2011 Patsy Verhoeven

Patsy Verhoeven, currently on her way from La Paz to Cabo to San Diego for the start of her fifth Baja Ha-Ha aboard her Gulfstar 50 Talion, took this photo of her water temp gauge less than a week ago not far from La Paz. If you think it must be wrong, Pat and Jeannie Hughes, who will be doing their third Ha-Ha aboard the schooner Patricia Belle, tell us that in the four years they chartered out of Mazatlan, the last season water temp out by the islands regularly hit 94!

Seven Bodies Dumped in Zihuatanejo

In just the kind of news nobody wanted to hear on the eve of the start of the cruising season in Mexico, police in Zihua found the bodies of seven Mexican men at a downtown bus stop. A message to rival gang members allegedly signed by The Knights Templar, an offshoot of the pseudo-religious La Familia drug cartel, was found with the bodies.

The outskirts of Zihua, which is about 135 miles north of Acapulco, had been the scene of some drug violence in the past, as rival gangs battled over turf. Then it quieted down. But dumping bodies in the downtown area is not a good sign at all.

Zihua has a beautiful bay and has long been popular with Mexicans and tourists alike. It’s the site of Zihua SailFest, a fantastic cruiser fundraiser for local schools and indigenous children who wouldn’t otherwise get an education.

Cruisers we spoke to who visited Zihua last year reported that things seemed very peaceful and mellow. But having bodies dumped in the street puts a whole different light on it.

If anyone wants to scratch for silver linings, they can be found in the fact that clearly no tourists were targeted and that, from a cruiser perspective, Zihua is on the periphery. For those who missed our previous report, the main cruising areas on the Pacific Coast of Mexico have been remarkably free of drug violence. We’re talking about all of Baja south of Tijuana and up into the Sea of Cortez, and also the Vallarta Coast and Gold Coast down to Manzanillo.

Ingenious Boat Improvements

When you’ve owned your boat as long as Gary Vinyard has owned his Vallejo YC-based Catalina 30 Curtain Call — 20+ years — you’re likely to have customized it to suit your needs. Gary has made dozens (or more!) of improvements on Curtain Call that are simple yet ingenious. Take, for example, the dinghy outboard davit he added to his radar pole. It’s completely removable but works perfectly for pulling the motor onboard.

Gary created a simple, yet effective and removable, dinghy outboard davit for Curtain Call.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

An hour spent on Gary’s boat only nicked the surface of all the small — and large — projects he’s taken on to make Curtain Call comfortable and eminently usable. Below is a short photo essay featuring some of our favorite enhancements, but we’d also like to know if you’ve made similarly clever additions to your boat. Email photos and descriptions to LaDonna.

The October issue of Latitude 38 hits the streets today, just in time for the weekend!
"I don’t know if you still run these kinds of photos anymore," writes Golden Gate YC member Emmanuel Uren, "but here’s a picture of an authentic Plymothian before some America’s Cup 34 World Series races in Plymouth in early September.
Sponsored Post
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With the approach of every cruising season, the fearful talk about personal safety in Mexico by people who aren’t going there seems to reach a fevered pitch.