September 25, 2015

Just a Month to Go to the Start of the Baja Ha-Ha

As you might imagine, there are always plenty of pirates and wenches at the KIck-off Costume Parties. That’s West Marine’s Captain Ron in the background — he lives for this!

© 2015 Fin Beven

With just a month to go to the start of the 22nd Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers’ Rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas — with stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria — there has been some confusion as to the location of the Kick-Off Party. The confusion stems from the fact that the West Marine Superstore at 1250 Rosecrans in San Diego, the site of the kick-off party for many years now, is undergoing a major refit. Indeed, Chris Hunt, who has done the Ha-Ha for almost every one of the last 10 years on the mothership Profligate, won’t be able to go this year because he’s the lead contractor on the store refit!

But there should be no confusion, as today both Josh Williford, who just took over as manager of the store, and Laura Barry of Marketing at West Marine headquarters in Watsonville, confirmed the party will again be in the West Marine parking lot. And next year, too! There might have to be some minor modifications to the layout, but it’s full steam ahead.

As with any costume party, the more effort you put into it, the more fun you get out of it. These ‘killer bees’ attacked a few years ago.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you haven’t looked, this year’s paid Ha-Ha entries are up to 134, with a few more expected. This is a smaller fleet than in recent years, but it doesn’t bother the Grand Poobah. "It will be a little more intimate event, if you can call 134 boats intimate, and I think that’s a good thing," he said. "Bigger isn’t always better, and the morning roll calls won’t be so long."

Not everybody who signs up for the Ha-Ha actually starts the event, of course. David Addleman of the Monterey-based Santa Cruz 50 X, for example, signed up "as an incentive" to get his boat the rest of the way back to California from the Philippines. But he just wrote us to say that after 63 sailing days over the last year to cover 8,000 miles, almost all of them with the wind forward of the beam, he has too much work to do on the bottom, rudder and rig, and thus probably won’t make it.

The Poobah reminded Addleman that it’s almost all downwind from Monterey to Cabo San Lucas, a Santa Cruz 50’s favorite point of sail. And after that it’s less than 300 off-the-wind miles from Cabo to Banderas Bay, where there’s a fine boatyard at the Marina Riviera Nayarit that we use, and that it’s home to Peter Vargas’s Sea Tek, which built many of the sled rigs when the business was located in Southern California.

"Ding, ding, ding . . . best email of the week!" Addleman replied. "Doing the work in PV is a great idea. Thanks!"

By the way, this will be at least the third Ha-Ha for Addleman. No matter if it will be your first or your fifth, we can’t wait to see you at the West Marine Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party on October 25.

Stay Gold Sails Again

Crossing the Pacific, garbage wasn’t the only thing Stay Gold picked up. Presumably, this flying fish was returned to the sea.

Stay Gold
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After the two long and demanding passages that they endured while crossing from Victoria, BC, to San Francisco and then on to Hawaii as volunteer researchers for The Ocean Cleanup project, we’re impressed that Canadian sailors Jason Frechette, Nicole Belleau and Wayana Emanuelle are preparing to set sail again after just three weeks in the Hawaiian Islands. After sailing to San Francisco (where they earned themselves a story in the September issue of Latitude 38), the three young and intrepid mariners made a number of repairs and additional preparations while dockside at the South Bay’s Sequoia Yacht Cub before pointing the bow of their Rawson 30 Stay Gold toward the promised land: Hawaii.

Trash bits picked up and logged by the Stay Gold crew.

Stay Gold
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Spending nearly a month at sea, the trio not only managed to conduct more trawls and Ocean Cleanup research than almost every race boat that participated, despite having a smaller boat and fewer crew aboard, but they also survived a couple of hurricanes! Lying ahull in 40 knots of breeze and 30-ft seas for two days, the Stay Gold crew came within 200 miles of the eye of late August’s Hurricane Ignacio, while also narrowly managing to escape Hurricane Jimena.

The hurricane-tested crew of Stay Gold, left to right: Jason Frechette, Wayana Emanuelle and Nicole Belleau.

© 2015 Katie Thompson

Stay Gold wasn’t the only boat challenged by the abnormal and dangerous conditions created by this summer’s ultra-warm El Niño waters in the Pacific. As reported in both ‘Lectronic Latitude and Latitude 38 magazine, Japanese solo sailors Michiaki Koga and Yasuo Abe — both in their 60s — survived four and five gales respectively while sailing solo and nonstop from Japan to San Francisco. Unfortunately for the Japanese singlehanders, the weather was no more calm on the return ride, as both of them sailed near the same storms, Ignacio and Jimena. Koga-san told us, “I had to heave to for five days! Abe-san did the same and after how long we were both at sea, he decided to come to Honolulu instead of sailing nonstop back to Japan as planned.” When we saw the Canadian vessel Stay Gold and the Japanese boats Tsuyotaka and Yukikaze II in Honolulu, none were looking much the worse for wear.

Reporter Ronnie Simpson with Japanese singlehander Michiaki Koga in Honolulu.

© 2015 Katie Thompson

For more on this developing story, stay tuned to the Ocean Cleanup’s tracker and the Stay Gold blog (complete with great write-ups and lots of photos). With any luck and a quick return passage, the Canadians on Stay Gold will be crashing a Baja Ha-Ha near you in about a month’s time.

Cuba Here We Come

The Notice of Race for the Conch Republic Cup Key West Cuba Race Week was released earlier this month, and already at least one Bay Area boat is entered.

Peter Krueger’s J/125 Double Trouble, fresh off a win at St. Francis Yacht Club’s Rolex Big Boat Series last week, will race at Key West Race Week on January 17-22, and will follow up with the Conch Republic Cup. "Now it’s time to go to Cuba. That’s the next adventure," said Double Trouble’s boat captain, Andy McCormick. "We’re going to go do a little ocean race to Cuba and see if we can go play in a new sandbox."

The crew of the J/125 Double Trouble, seen here relaxing aboard a dock neighbor’s trawler at Rolex Big Boat Series, have their sights set on Cuba.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We’ll take the boat down to Florida right after Christmas, do Key West Race Week, and then we’re off to Cuba," elaborated Krueger. "This is legit now, this is a US State Department-sponsored cultural exchange, so we’ll be exchanging sailing with the Cuban people. We’re looking forward to it."

Double Trouble crosses the St. Francis YC finish line at Rolex Big Boat Series.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

According to Jeff Drechsler of Conch Republic Cup LLC, "This had been an annual cultural exchange sporting event since 1997 until efforts were thwarted by the US government after the 2003 edition. Now with the normalization of relations between our nations it is again possible to renew this maritime tradition with our neighbors.

"Our tradition began as a race hosted by the Key West Sailing Club from Key West to Varadero, Cuba, in 1997 and 1998 at the invitation of Commodore Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich of Club Nautico International, Marina Hemingway. For the 1999 edition Commodore Escrich suggested a series of races consisting of this original race as a first leg. Racing was then extended to include a buoy race in Varadero, another distance race from Varadero to Marina Hemingway in Havana, and finally a race from Havana back to Key West. This format is the heart of the race we continue today."

The course, highly simplified.

© Conch Republic Cup, LLC

The new Race Week will begin after Key West Race Week with a reception in Key West on January 27 and finish with the awarding of the Conch Republic Cup to the overall winner back in Key West on February 6. A parade of sail in front of the historic Malecon parkway in Havana and several lay days for private exploration with the option of guided tours of Havana will be included.

The organizers need to receive entry applications by October 16, and the crew list deadline is January 2. See for complete details.

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Swan 461, 2006


© 2015 KKMI

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In our special report yesterday on a kidnapping incident at a Philippine marina, we presented all the details that were available to us at the time.
In August, West Marine announced the 29 youth boating nonprofit organizations that received $1,500 checks from its BlueFuture Fund™.