When is Monday the best day of the week? When you’re starting the Baja Ha-Ha. While most of us were heading to the office, fleet members of the 26th annual Baja Ha-Ha were headed out of San Diego Bay on a perfect Monday morning. They passed the starting boat Dolphin in a glassy calm, but as they got off Point Loma about 11 a.m., you could see ripples on the water and spinnakers being hoisted to catch the building breeze. All is looking good for the Baja Ha-Ha fleet, which connected at the Kick-Off Party on Sunday before heading offshore on Monday. How was your Monday?
One of the Ha-Ha participants is Raffi Patatian of Brisbane, CA, who learned to sail at OCSC in Berkeley and is now sailing aboard his well-equipped Cal 2-34 EOS. He bought the boat from Fred Cook, owner of Schaefer Marine, who moved up to the Cal 40 Sequoia, which he sailed in the 2017 Transpac and is planning to sail in the 2020 Pacific Cup. Raffi wrote about the start day on his blog, “The rally just kicked off at 11 a.m. It’s a pity I can’t upload videos, or multiple photos, in this blog, because there is no way that words could convey my excitement. I will do so through a YouTube channel when I find decent internet, probably at the end of this whole shindig.
“But picture this: a super busy Navy base on one side of the harbor, with Navy ships moving about. On the other end is the civilian airport with regularly scheduled flights. There are military and Coast Guard helicopters and planes buzzing overhead. And then there is the San Diego Police Department with its water canon boat, spraying streams of water into the air as 147 boats, all with sails up, charge toward the start line. What a blast!” Since he couldn’t upload photos we’re uploading a few of our own.
While they’re all out sailing now the event and festivities started on Sunday with a 10 a.m. skippers’ meeting and the 1 p.m. Kick-Off Party in the West Marine parking lot. The Halloween theme brings out the hidden creative and flamboyant talents of most crews and is the ideal way to get to know the other 600 sailors you’ll be sailing with over the next two weeks. If you can remember what they look like.
The fleet is now about 48 hours into their trip south and generally enjoying light, favorable breezes that should get most of them into Turtle Bay sometime tomorrow for a couple of nights of rest. There they’ll have a chance to catch up on sleep, refuel if needed, play in the annual Baja Ha-Ha softball game, and celebrate with the always-fun Turtle Bay beach party. Then it will be time to head off to Bahia Santa Maria.
It’s been difficult these past few weeks to remain upbeat. Between the unprecedented fires, unprecedented winds and unprecedented power outages, October in California seems more like a preview of the End of Days than the month of plenty.
Oddly, in the midst of all the fire and darkness, we experienced a personal beam of light. It involved sailing — specifically, delivering a boat from Southern California to the Bay at mid-month.
Now, deliveries aren’t usually very newsworthy. They happen all the time all over the world. Some are very pleasant. The northbound ones up the California coast usually aren’t. With the wind and waves typically against you all the way, about the best you can usually hope for is to bundle up, put the pedal to the metal and get it over with. Ducking into various harbors along the way to wait out weather or just rest is the norm.
Not this time.
The boat was Terry Causey’s 48-ft ketch Alekona, a Peter Ibold ‘Endurance’ design built of steel in New Zealand in the early ‘80s. It was lying in Channel Islands Marina in Oxnard, and the owner needed it delivered to the Bay. The delivery crew consisted of skipper/friend Rob Tryon, old sailing buddy Jamie Meves, and your humble scribe.
Foreboding was in the air even as we drove south to catch up with the boat. The Santa Anas were playing footsie with the car on sections of the Grapevine, and as we came down the southern side, a dirty gray smudge revealed one of a dozen fires going in the state at that time. Traffic signs warned of a detour at Santa Clarita, which we luckily avoided.
After arrival, we made a quick provision run and cast off a bit after 10 p.m. in calm conditions. Outside the breakwater, we made the turn north, started our three-on, six-off watch routine and pondered what trials lay ahead.
As it turns out, no trials lay ahead. Under a full moon, with flat water and never more than 12ish knots of breeze (just enough to give us an occasional boost with a reefed main and mizzen up), we veritably flew north. Bigger breeze and seas were forecast farther offshore, and there’s a countercurrent that seems to run inside the five-mile mark. Rob’s strategy was to stay inside that. So we averaged three- to five-miles out. “It’s the same strategy the old lumber schooners used,” Rob reminded us. “Richard Henry Dana describes it clearly in Two Years Before the Mast.”
We discussed the usual contingency plans —ducking into Santa Barbara or maybe Cojo to wait out a decent window to round Point Conception. But when I awoke from my off-watch the next day and asked if we were there yet, Jamie cocked a finger aft and said “It’s back there.” By that time, so was Point Arguello. The seas were dead flat and dolphins were jumping at the bow.
And that’s how it went. We were aware that Santa Anas, which had been blowing for two days before we left, can ‘erase’ the usual NW wind and waves for awhile, but as far as we knew, they had pretty much petered out the day we took off. It was like waiting for the other shoe that never dropped. Except for a few brief teases, the westerlies never filled in. It seemed too good to be true. Rob felt we were at least going have to tuck into Half Moon Bay for the night rather than fight a big ebb at the Golden Gate, but even that didn’t happen. We were making such good time that we soldiered on, eventually jumping onto a nice flood near the Lightship and sluicing under the Golden Gate Bridge at almost nine knots SOG – 49 hours and change out of Oxnard.
The forecast for the next day was 30 knots.
It was certainly the most pleasant delivery north we’ve ever done. And one of the most pleasant boat trips in a long time, period. Although we didn’t do much actual sailing, it was great to catch up with old friends, cruise a well-found boat under a full moon every night, and once again experience the nice feeling of a mission accomplished. There was even a cherry on top. It appeared in a photo of the sunset taken on that last day. We couldn’t’ see it with the naked eye, but when we downloaded the pics, there it was: a tiny, but unmistakable, green flash.
Now back to the apocalypse.
Signs of the Times
Is the frost on the pumpkin yet? In some valleys in the Bay Area it is — temperatures have dipped below freezing. Over the weekend, we said goodbye to post-workday sunlight when we set our clocks back one hour. Autumn is exactly half over. Some midwinter racing series have begun; others will start soon.
“The first Winter Series race is right around the corner,” writes Jeff Stine of Sequoia YC in Redwood City. The series starts this Saturday. “The forecast puts temperatures in the 70s with enough wind to run a great race. Racing in shorts without worrying about breaking gear — what could be better? Here’s your chance to work on your tan, on light wind skills, starting skills (since everyone starts together in this series), and see how you do against some new boats in our fleet.”
(Even) Cold(er) Water
If you’re sailing at this time of year — and we hope you are, because it’s lovely out on the water now — the Coast Guard advises: “Extra caution and preparation should be taken before heading out on the water in winter.” One of those precautions is to “dress for the water and not the air.” Water temperatures can be deadly, even if the air temperature is in the 70s. According to Vessel Documentation Online (a service that assists with US Coast Guard certification), “A person has one minute in cold water to get his or her breathing under control before going into shock. Then, they have 10 minutes of movement to recover before they lose dexterity in their extremities. Finally, the human body has one hour from being submerged before hypothermia could begin to set in.”
For a detailed discussion of the body’s reaction to cold-water immersion — and how to survive it — see Dr. Kent Benedict’s excellent article originally published in the March 1998 issue of Latitude 38.
“Cold-weather boating requires certain procedures and precautions that summer boating doesn’t,” said a spokesperson for Vessel Documentation Online. “Float plans, personal flotation devices, functioning forms of communication with the land, and other parts of safe boating etiquette are important at all times, but especially so in the cold, wintry months. By following these rules, you can ensure that every time you go out on a boat, regardless of the temperatures, you have an enjoyable and safe experience.”
The USCG Auxiliary offers a detailed, free Float Plan online; check it out here.
Remember too that days are much shorter now. Following the jump back to Standard Time, you may even find that sunset takes you by surprise. The sun sets right around 5 p.m. With the lighter winds at this time of year, you may not make it back to your dock by then. Are your navigation lights in good working order? If you run your autopilot, your chartplotter, your fridge and/or your stereo all day, will your batteries still have juice left to turn on the lights?
Readers, if you have any other tips, tricks or tales to relate regarding winter sailing pleasure and safety, please comment below. Include your full name and homeport, and your boat name and model if you have one. Or, if you prefer, email us here.
The Ha-Ha fleet just left San Diego on their journey to Mexico. There is still time to find your boat for next year’s Baja Ha-Ha rally or sailing in the Bay. In today’s Baja Ha-Ha story, you’ll note one of the fleet members is a Cal 34. In our current classified section, there are about 10 boats of a similar vintage with prices in the $10,000 to $40,000 range. Are they ready to go? Probably not, but some of them could be by November of next year.
So many boats to search through! Take a look at our Classy Classified ads to find your dream boat.
Just check out this variety: 30-ft Herreshoff Ketch, in Alameda for $9,000/obo; Roue 30 in Pt. Richmond for $18,000; 55-ft Trimaran in Panama City, $90,000/obo; Marshall-Californian Veneti 44 in Sausalito, price reduced to $44,500; Pan Oceanic 46 in Majuro, Marshall Islands for $88,000; and a 25-ft Pacific Seacraft in Morro Bay for $15,000.
Looking to sell your boat?
You can list your sailboat for sale easily online. We’ve had many satisfied Classy Classified sellers with great success stories. Here’s a few of them:
“Your Classy ads are so effective… that they sell boats even before they are published!” — Point Richmond, CA
“I found and purchased the boat through Latitude nearly 10 years ago and sold it through Latitude last month! Didn’t even try to advertise anywhere else!” — Brisbane, CA
“What can I say? I had delayed listing the boat for almost a year, trying to sell it to friends and through forums. Finally bought an ad and sold it in 3 weeks!” — Alameda, CA
“Thanks to my ad in Latitude 38, I was able to successfully sell my boat and reach many other potential buyers as well.” — Sausalito, CA
For future reference, the deadline for paid classy ads in the December issue of Latitude 38 is Friday, November 15, at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Ads go online within three business days!