October 30, 2015

Baja Ha-Ha’s Turtle Bay Pit Stop

Ha-Ha cruisers chill out ashore at Turtle Bay, with the fleet safely anchored in the well-protected circular bay.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Baja Ha-Ha XXII rally fleet is enjoying a well-earned R&R stopover today in the remote fishing town of Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay), having completed 360-mile Leg One from San Diego. At 9 a.m. tomorrow the starting horn will sound again for the start of Leg Two, a 280-miler to Bahia Santa Maria, which is a vast natural crescent with no real development ashore.

Entrepreneurial spirit runs strong when the Ha-Ha fleet comes to town. This young paddler is maxing out his kayak’s load potential, as he collects fleet garbage for a dollar a bag.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Yesterday crews caught up on their sleep, did minor boat repairs, and explored the dusty streets of Bahia Tortugas, where much of daily life revolves around fishing. But that’s not the only passion here. TB residents are crazy about baseball, as evidenced by their three traveling teams, with players as young as 4 years old. During the 22-year history of the Ha-Ha we’ve always noticed the pride on the faces of local kids when they walk through town wearing their brightly colored uniforms.

Several years ago we were shocked to discover the construction of a proper ball field, complete with dugouts and covered viewing stands. Although it didn’t have a single blade of grass, it was, indeed, their field of dreams. Then last year our jaws dropped when we arrived to find that the entire field had been covered with artificial turf — this in a town without a blade of grass elsewhere.

Turtle Bay’s field of dreams. With few modern diversions, baseball is king here. At yesterday’s game, dozens of local kids joined cruisers in the field and at the plate.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Kids and adults of all ages joined in the fun.

© 2015 Fin Beven

For several years now, it’s been a Ha-Ha tradition to play a lighthearted game of ‘Ha-Ha rules baseball’, where every batter gets as many underhanded lobs as he or she needs to get a hit. Local kids turn out in droves to show us how it’s supposed to be done, while several hundred Ha-Ha’ers of all ages test their prowess. Yesterday’s game saw batters from 3 years old to the mid-70s. Needless to say, it was all big fun, with the event’s Grand Poobah winging pitch after pitch tirelessly, until all batters had had their fill.

The littlest batter got a little help at the plate from his mom.

© 2015 Fin Beven

Today at 1 p.m. is the annual beach party, at an endless, uninhabited white-sand beach, located about a mile out of town, where water temps are in the mid- to high 70s — at least five degrees higher than normal.

During the Ha-Ha the shared experience of cruising offshore together leads to fast friendships. Here, fleet members chill out at El Deposito, near the water’s edge.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Merlin’s Homecoming

The 68-ft Merlin hangs a left on Lake Ave. to enter Santa Cruz Harbor.

© 2015 Skip Allan

At 9:30 on Wednesday morning, with police escort lights flashing, Driver Mike with Merlin in tow made the last turn, gently bottomed out on the boatyard hill, and Merlin was back home in Santa Cruz.
Mike had been delayed at the Donner Pass Agricultural Inspection Station when an inspector, doing his job, found a zebra mussel infestation in the keel box and canting mechanism and quarantined the boat. It took Mike four hours to find someone who would hot pressure wash the boat, but he seemed in good humor and no worse for wear, given the size and length of his eye-catching cargo.

Left to right: Bill Lee, Dave Wahle and Phil Vandenberg were among Merlin’s record-breaking Transpac crew. Merlin held the elapsed time record of 8 days, 11 hours, 1 minute and 45 seconds for 20 years.

© 2015 Skip Allan

Three of Merlin’s original 1977 record-breaking Transpac crew were on hand for her arrival: designer/builder Bill Lee, ‘Bosun’ Dave Wahle, and Phil ‘Cosmic Flush’ Vandenberg.

Merlin and Fridolf in the boat yard.

© 2015 Skip Allan

As Merlin was backed into the boatyard for unloading by Travelift, there was a brief moment of serendipity when Merlin passed close astern of Bill Lee’s first ocean racing boat, the shoal-draft, centerboard, John Alden-designed, 38-ft Fridolf, on which Bill crewed in Southern California in the mid-’60s and, later, on Monterey Bay.

Merlin on the Travelift.

© 2015 Skip Allan

There’s a lot to be done to make Merlin ocean-worthy again.  First up is to locate a used TP52 keel to replace the canting monstrosity. Bill has feelers out from Canada to Mexico. The ‘leaky’ canard trunk has to be cut out and glassed over. Even though Bill agreed the forward-sloping, carbon-fiber cabin top is not in keeping with the original design, I doubt it is going anywhere soon. There are bigger fish to fry. Ditto Merlin’s graphics, a leftover from when she was sold to a Texas restaurateur.

Merlin and her dad.

© Jeremy Leonard / Sail Revolution

Everyone was smiling to see Merlin back home. I’m sure there will be more stories to come.

November Issue Out Now

A cornucopia of sailing stories awaits you inside the cover of Latitude 38’s November issue.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam, may the November issue of Latitude 38 be yours on Halloween! Though the calendar yet lingers on October’s page, the November issue is already crawling the docks. Find yours here, or read it online here.

Midwinters (and More) Preview

Who wants to race on Halloween? Tiburon YC, that’s who. Usually TYC’s Red Rock Regatta conflicts with RYC’s Great Pumpkin, but not this year. On Sunday, Island YC will kick off November and wrap up Latitude 38’s unofficial Women’s Circuit with the triplehanded Jack & Jill + 1. Also on Sunday, Sausalito YC will spearhead a long list of midwinter series that begin in November. It’s not too late to enter any of the above!

The GGYC Midwinters attract all types of boats for their first-Saturday, five-month series, such as the new, modern C&C 30 Javelin in the foreground, and the more traditional Knarr KnarrlyBoo in the background.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Golden Gate YC’s Manuel Fagundes Seaweed Soup Midwinters will begin on November 7, as will Sequoia YC’s Winter Series and Vallejo YC’s Tiny Robbins Midwnters. IYC’s Island Days series will begin on Sunday the 8th.

RegattaPRO’s Winter One Design Series will start on Saturday the 14th. Sign-ups so far include J/105s, 120s, 24s and 70s, Melges 24s and Moore 24s. RegattaPRO will sail west of the Berkeley Circle, while Berkeley YC will occupy the more easterly Circle itself, with separate Saturday and Sunday series beginning on November 14-15. Jackie Philpott of the Singlehanded Sailing Society alerts us that BYC has agreed to have separate divisions for singlehanders and doublehanders on Sunday. Last year the new shorthanded divisions (divided by PHRF) attracted 20 boats. BYC’s also been running Chowder Races since the beginning of October. The Chowders are like beer cans, only on Sunday afternoons.

On November 21, Encinal YC’s Jack Frost, South Beach YC’s Island Fever, and Santa Cruz YC’s Midwinter Series will begin.

We couldn’t possibly list all the racing available in the region here, so we encourage you to peruse all the choices in the Calendar in the November issue of Latitude 38.

Tom Wurfl and Helen Downs’ Lagoon 42 Catatude and scores of other sailboats paraded out of San Diego Bay on their way to the start of the 22nd Baja Ha-Ha on Monday morning.
The legendary ocean racer Merlin is coming home to Santa Cruz. Her designer, builder and original owner, Bill Lee, has bought her back.