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May 8, 2019

Baja Ha-Ha Sign-ups Open Right Now!

BSM anchorage in the mist
The tranquil anchorage at Bahia Santa Maria, one of the stops along the Baja Ha-Ha route.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

The 26th Baja Ha-Ha Cruising Rally is now open for business and accepting entries. The 2019 rally has been scheduled to run November 3-16, a bit later than usual. A fleet of more than 100 boats will parade out of San Diego before turning south bound for stops in Bahia Tortuga, a fishing village, and Bahia Santa Maria, a remote wilderness. The fleet’s ultimate port of call, 750 miles later, will be Cabo San Lucas, a resort destination. So, a little of everything for everyone.

men with big fish
Can you catch fish while sailing? But of course!
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

For details and to see what sorts of boats and crews qualify to enter, read the FAQ section here.

Baja Ha-Ha swag is included in the price of admission.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

The entry fee is $395 per boat. (However, skippers under 35 and boats under 35 feet can register for the discounted rate of $345.)

Group on the beach
A group of friends gather for a photo moment on the beach during one of the stops.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

Starting in June, volunteers will mail out entry packets containing important rally information, special offers from event sponsors, and official Ha-Ha burgees. We invite companies and organizations interested in getting in on the action as sponsors to contact Latitude 38’s Mitch Perkins (aka Baja Mitch) at (415) 383-8200 ext. 107, or by email.

Taking Full Advantage of Hump Day

While we counted down the last few minutes to our start, an emergency situation suddenly appeared. During a tack away from the line, we lost a hat overboard. At this critical juncture ahead of the start time, the call went out to get the boat hook to execute the pre-start hat retrieval. Meanwhile, the clock counted down. With some quick crew work and careful maneuvering at the helm, we tacked back, the boat hook reached out and grabbed the hat, and the boat snagged a clean start with seconds to spare.

This was just one more demonstration of the many good reasons to get out for beer can racing on the Estuary. We’d joined Kame and Sally Richards and partner Bill Bridge along with a full complement of 16 crew aboard their Express 37 Golden Moon. Oakland Yacht Club’s Wednesday night Sweet Sixteen beer can races run from late April through late August. While everyone likes to win, beer can racing comes with a generally accepted desire to be a little more chill (as outlined in the Beer Can Ten Commandments) while you pursue your shot at victory.

Foredeck work on Golden Moon
The ‘chill’ sailing on the Estuary was accompanied by smooth foredeck work and shirt-sleeve temperatures.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

About 35+ boats spread across six classes start right off the deck of OYC, with first gun at 6:25. There’s solid representation from the active, classic Columbia 5.5 fleet to a broad assortment of PHRF boats. When the pretty Bermuda 40 Lioness started, we recalled that it’s been a long time since we’ve been on a race course with a yawl. The rig isn’t in fashion for more modern boats, but it does bring back good memories of when they were often winning races around the world.

Hinckley Bermuda 40 Lioness
When was the last time you raced against a yawl?
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Columbia 5.5
The Estuary habitués include an active fleet of Columbia 5.5s.

The Estuary includes great strategic challenges as you search the Oakland or Alameda side for the right blend of wind and current. This often leads you close enough to Jack London Square restaurants that you could grab a beverage right off the deck.

The afterguard
The proper beer can strategy is to put your best team in the afterguard.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

One of the great features of Bay Area sailing is that you can often choose your sailing conditions. For example, If you enjoy the warm, gentle sailing of San Diego Bay, you’ll enjoy sailing the Estuary. The cold fog line is usually far away, the strongest breezes only produce a mild chop, and, being surrounded by land, the air is warmer. Since the boats are all in local marinas the starting line is usually just minutes from their slips.

Stealth foredeck
Stealth foredeck work uncovered on the Estuary.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Despite the slight tactical detour for hat retrieval, Golden Moon went on to sail a nearly flawless race. During pre-start, we had enough time to do four or five practice jibes with an asymmetrical kite tacked to the end of the spinnaker pole. The practice determined that jibing was not going to be a hindrance. With Kame Richards at the helm, Golden Moon slipped into the lead while working to stay in the darker water and between the nearby challengers and the next mark. The Express 37 Mudshark and the J/124 Spirit of Freedom were the strongest threats, requiring us to balance the covering moves when they split.

Nice sailing
It’s sweet sailing in Oakland Yacht Club’s Wednesday Sweet Sixteen series.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

OYC’s series is just one of many opportunities to get out on the water on summer evenings. A full schedule of Bay Area beer can series is available here. From there, you just need to assess your drive time and preferred sailing conditions to choose the series that suits you.

The Golden Moon crew went on to win their class and then continued on to pick up a couple of the race marks. The OYC race committee offers any boat picking up marks on their behalf a pitcher of beer for each mark retrieved upon return to the clubhouse. Golden Moon was able to celebrate the evening with a couple of pitchers of golden ale.

Cruiser Murdered in San Blas

On May 2, New Zealand cruiser Alan Culverwell was killed by robbers aboard his anchored boat at Morodub Island in Panama’s San Blas archipelago. According to reports, Culverwell and his family were asleep aboard their 60-ft trawler Aqua Lobo around 2 a.m. when they heard footsteps on the deck. When Alan, 60, went topside to investigate, he was shot. The robbers also attempted to assault his wife, Derryn, who sustained a machete wound fighting them off. Their 11-year-old daughter, Briar, also sustained unspecified injuries (none of their injuries were life-threatening). Derryn was finally able to lock herself below where she, Briar, and Briar’s twin brother, Flynn, huddled for the next two hours, making calls to local authorities, as well as friends back home.

According to news sources in Panama, the men stole the boat’s dinghy and 15-hp outboard.

Alan and Derryn sold their house and left New Zealand just before Christmas 2016. They headed to Florida, where they acquired Aqua Lobo. They were making the trip home into a cruising adventure, making many stops in the Caribbean over the past two years.

The San Blas archipelago has been a cruiser haven for years.
© 2019 Wikipedia

Panamanian authorities apprehended three suspects. Leandro Herrera and Avelino Arosemena are accused of killing Culverwell. The third suspect, an unnamed minor, also appeared in court in connection with the case, but it’s unclear if he was involved in the murder.

For what it’s worth, the San Blas Islands — including Morodub (“Turtle Island” to most yachties) — have long been considered safe for tourists, be they cruisers or more land-based travelers. In fact, if memory serves, Turtle Island also goes by the nickname “BBQ Island” for the cruiser get-togethers on the beach every Monday evening. There is even a small Airbnb on the island run by the local Kuna family who live there.

We’re hoping this tragic incident was an anomaly. Based on what we know now, we would not recommend cruisers change their plans or avoid this lovely, friendly and picturesque area. We will keep on top of this story and bring you significant updates if they are warranted. Until then, our sincere condolences go out to the Culverwell family.

Small Boat Launch Ramps
Over the past decades, there has been a great increase and improvement of the trails around the Bay, but our favorite 'Bay trails' always end in the Bay. The Bay is ringed with numerous launch ramps where Lasers, Hobies, Day Sailers, Thistles, West Wight Potters and many other small boats are launched to explore the Bay.