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August 16, 2021

Baptism by Ditch: Cardinal Rule #1

Mark Hilden (affectionately known as Cousin Mark at Morro Bay Yacht Club) and I own Janina. She is a green-hulled, white-bottomed Santa Cruz 27, hull #130. We race in PHRF out of Morro Bay, and trailer to regattas about once a year when our busy lives allow. We have always wanted to do the Delta Ditch Run and this year we were convinced, with the encouragement of Tom Jenkins (Errant Belle, Elliott 770), who has done multiple Ditch Runs in multiple different boats he has owned. We were very fortunate to receive Tom’s travel tips and his Navionics route. Among those tips, he stressed that we should stay in the channel in deep water and constantly check our depth gauge. In fact, he said, that was Cardinal Rule #1.

We should have paid more attention to this advice, but we will get to that later.

This was only our second race against other Santa Cruz 27s, the first being the Nationals on Lake Tahoe in 2019. It was so fun to have seven other SC27s on the start line for the Ditch! We were encouraged by our light-air boatspeed, which kept us in the middle of the pack for the first half of the race — even though we had five guys on board with lots of gear and supplies. We were not traveling light.

Delta Ditch Run
Janina‘s crew early in the race: left, Andrew Brown; center, Lex Budge; foreground, John Krossa; background, Charlie Poggemann; right, ‘Cousin Mark’ Hilden.
© 2021 S/V Janina

After a while, the wind started heating up and we had lots of fun trading positions within the fleet. We noticed the depth-gauge numbers getting smaller and smaller in a very wide section of the course. Up ahead, a few of the fast Moore 24s made some abrupt turns to head toward the middle of the channel. We quickly followed suit and just barely scraped the bottom.

This change of course gave us a great vantage point to look over our shoulder to inspect one of our SC27 competitors’ rudders as they hit something stickier and their rudder popped up out of the water. Fortunately, they were able to change course and get out of the mud pretty quickly.

As the channel narrowed and the wind picked up, I was driving, and we had our first broach, which turned into our second broach, and then our third. Nobody on board has yet ‘fessed up to tying the stopper knot in the afterguy that took forever to get out. Damn boat gremlins!

Janina was hardly the only boat doing the broach boogie in this year’s race. As always, there were lots of spinouts once the breeze came up.
© 2021 Lyn Hines

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Kids Rule for Baja Ha-Ha XXVII Rally to Mexico

The number of vessels signed up for the 27th Baja Ha-Ha now stands at 166. If each boat has at least two people — skipper and crew — that would be 332 people. But, realistically, the Ha-Ha is so much fun that most boats will carry more than two. And then there are the crews that are made up of kids. To date, there are 25 kids signed up to sail to Mexico. (Some of us now have childhood envy.)

Baja Ha-Ha news
Gabriela Forsman is one very relaxed-looking sailor.
© 2021 Baja Ha-Ha

Is 7-year-old Gabriela Forsman of the Hunter legend 37 Endeavor a little cutie or what?

She’s one of 25 kids, along with her 6-year-old brother Zacharias, whose parents have signed up for the November 1 Baja Ha-Ha. And there will probably be more.

The breakdown is 14 boys and 11 girls. Four are under 6. Five are 6. Two are 7. Two are 8. Two are 9. Two are 10. Two are 12. One is 13. Two are 14. One is 15. And two are 16. That’s quite a mix.

Four of the kids are Ha-Ha vets, reports Assistant Poobah Patsy ‘La Reina del Mar’ Verhoeven of the Gulfstar 50 Talion. They are brothers Elliot, 12, and Finley, 8, of the Hunter Passage 42 Dakota, who did the Ha-Ha in 2016, and brothers Benjamin, 14, and Leo, 12, of the Hylas 44 Velella, who also did it in 2016.

Unless the parents of any ‘kid boats’ want to opt out, in September we’ll be sharing the email addresses of all kid boats with all other kid boats, with names, ages, and genders of the kids. Hopefully, the kids can meet up before the start of the event. Maybe set up their own VHF radio net.

In that email, we’ll also share the email address of Chad, Michelle, Teagan (11), and Kellyn (9) French of the yacht Tulum V. They did the Ha-Ha in 2019 and have been full-time cruisers in the Sea of Cortez ever since. While they are not official spokespeople for the Ha-Ha, they will be happy to share their personal opinions on cruising with kids in Mexico.

Six-year-old Zacharias Forsman loves the speed.
© 2021 Baja Ha-Ha

Now you’ve seen the photo of adorable Gabriela, you will want to see her brother. So here’s a shot of the handsome and fearless young speed enthusiast, Zacharias. He’s 6 years old and already holds a 200-ton Master’s ticket. Yes, the Hunter 37 Endeavor appears to be in good hands. Mom and Dad can sleep all the way to Cabo.

Capt. Steve (far right) and Ella, Mia, Noah and Lana. The lady on the left is either Steve’s wife or his cousin.
© 2021 Baja Ha-Ha

Capt. Steve of the Hunter 45 Kastaway signed up with his four kids. They are Ella, 16; Mia, 14; Noah, 12; and Lana, 11. We know that’s Steve in the far right of the photo, but we’re not sure about the woman on the left. We assume that’s Steve’s wife. But we’re not sure, because it’s Steve’s cousin Melissa who will be sailing south with Steve and the kids. Once they get to Mexico, Steve’s wife will join the family, along with Melissa’s husband and her mother.

The Birnie kids: Isla, Margaret, and Patrick will be aboard Nike.
© 2021 Baja Ha-Ha

Check out the Birnie kids: Isla, 9; Margaret, 6; and Patrick, 2. They’ll be doing the Ha-Ha with their parents Robert and Dorothy aboard their Maple Leaf 48 Nike. It was three years ago that Robert and Dorothy decided they needed a sabbatical from work to spend time with the kids. “After all,” says the now 35-year-old Robert, “I had been at the same job for the kids’ entire lives, and when I blinked, Isla was already 8.”

The Poobah thinks home schooling on a boat is almost always an excellent option for kids, and never more so than now, with the COVID mess and uncertainty.

The Poobah is eager to meet all the Ha-Ha kids — although young Patrick looks as if he could be a little terror.

With so many kids expected to do the Ha-Ha this year, the Grand Poobah is thinking he may have to reinstate the Ha-Ha Kids’ Diving off the Back Beam of Profligate Olympics once again. Cannonball!

This year’s Ha-Ha is shaping up to be an outstanding adventure.
© 2021 Baja Ha-Ha

Florida Follies Aboard a Sloop Named ‘Tolvfingertarmen’

Bay Area sailor Sally Lightfoot didn’t join the sport until her mid-20s, but once she began, she sailed her way through the ranks from eight-ft prams in the East Bay, to sloop-rigged dinghies in the Central Bay, to ocean racing aboard 30- to 38-ft boats and PRO’ing a few YRA one-design regattas. She also took up windsurfing, and though never a serious competitor, she race-managed a few national and international boardsailing competitions. So when a Florida friend needed help sea-trialing his boat, Sally was his go-to sailor. Years later she still remembers the experience as a waypoint on “yet another of sailing’s learning curves.”

The boat was a sturdy, full-keeled Swedish Laurin 28 sloop, unaccountably named Tolvfingertarmen (“12-finger gut,” or duodenum). My friend was comfortable with the boat, but had little offshore experience.

Despite thousands of inshore, coastal and open-Pacific sailing miles, I’d never sailed in Florida, and I was unfamiliar with the boat design. The boat owner and I planned to sail from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas.

Famously frigid
Transitioning from the Bay Area’s cold-weather, deep-water, big-wind sailing …
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Jennifer Gridley

For a few days he introduced me to diverse South Florida pleasures: Mongolian hot pot at the Laughing Yak, café cubano in Miami, and a hike in the Everglades. From the Anhinga Trail, we watched the River of Grass produce one column of moisture after another, each becoming a pillar thousands of feet tall before marching in procession eastward toward the Atlantic.

On a sunny May morning, we retrieved Tolvfingertarmen from one of the innumerable backyard marinas and headed out into the open ocean. The wind was light to moderate from the west, and we enjoyed a sun-baked, beamy broad reach down the coast, easily evading the few squalls that crossed our track.

Our initial destination was No Name Harbor, a well-protected, mangrove-ringed hidey-hole at the south end of Key Biscayne. This is a popular jumping-off point for the Bahamas after boaters have made southing to compensate for the north-flowing Gulf Stream. After a pleasant few hours’ sail, we took a well-marked channel west into the shallow vastness of Biscayne Bay.

About a quarter mile south of Key Biscayne, the owner said, “Turn north, toward the island.”

“I don’t see channel markers there.”

“It’s OK; just head north.”

So we did.

A few moments later, bump … bump … BANG! And we were hard aground on the sandy bottom.

He turned to me and queried, “What do we do now?” I’m sure my jaw dropped, but I replied, “Get the anchor out to the channel and kedge off.”

Later, he gleefully described the expression of horror on my face (“Priceless!”) as he hopped over the side with the anchor: People don’t normally do that on San Francisco Bay. Of course, the water was less than four feet deep, and reasonably warm.

Naturally, as he was trudging out to the channel, one of those Everglades-spawned thunder squalls hit, pelting us with icy rain. The boat owner dropped the hook into deep water, and I used the smallish jib sheet winch to pull us back out to the channel: crankcrankcrankcrankcrankcrankcrank … Later he remarked, “That was a lot more work than I’d expected.”

No comment.

We passed Stiltsville, like a quirky wooden Fata Morgana on pilings in the watery expanse to our south. Soon we reached No Name, which we had to ourselves. After we’d set the anchor, as we headed below to change into dry clothes, two men in a station wagon buzzed up, and an amplified voice announced that there was an $11.10 fee to anchor in the cove.

… to Florida’s balmy shallows.
© 2021 Wikipedia/Mr3641

For a moment we considered launching the dinghy, and then we began bending every spare line and sheet aboard onto the end of the anchor line. We idled to within a few feet of shore, and the boat owner extended a paddle, with $11 on it, to the park ranger. The ranger remarked that we’d put on such a good show that he was forgiving us the additional 10 cents.

OK then. Hand over hand back out to the center of the pool, and then down the companionway, shivering, to change out of our clammy garments and heat water for miso soup. I dipped into the snack locker for a pre-dinner nibble, and encountered a cellophane bag of fortune cookies. Well, why not?

I broke my cookie in half and removed the paper fortune, which read, “Whatever you do, make it fun.”

The next morning we awoke to a blustery northeast wind. A popular local meme asks whether the Bahamas Mountains are visible from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. If so, they’re not mountains; they’re massive seas kicked up by northerly winds opposing the relentless Gulf Stream.

It was inadvisable to cross this chaotic stretch of water, and we decided to head south, down the Keys. This course provided breaking beam seas. So we took the prudent course: back to Fort Lauderdale via the Intracoastal Waterway.

A sedate drive down US Route 1 (including a flat tire on Marathon Key) brought us to a pleasant, sensible overnighter in a Key West hotel overlooking Mallory Square, where fire eaters, tightrope walkers, jugglers and just plain folks gathered in the evening to applaud the setting sun.

So mostly it was fun. Of course, you never know this will be the case until the drama ends. Another couple of sultry Florida days followed, with another café cubano or two, then a flight back to San Francisco and deeper, if chillier, waters.

Here’s a photo of a Laurin 28 that we found online.
© 2021 The Internet

Bay Area Sailors Are the Best: Here’s the Proof

Early this year, January in fact, we launched Sailagram — a new page to showcase Bay Area sailors doing what they love the most: sailing. Eight months later, we are astounded at the enthusiasm of the contributors, and the variety of photos that are submitted each month. If you’re one of the sailors who have sent us photos, you probably remember to look at the page each month to see not only your own submission, but everyone else’s as well.

And if you’re not a contributor, and you don’t remember to look, or perhaps you’ve missed the page entirely, here are a few of our favorite photos from the first half of the year.


Bay Area Sailor
Sarah Plane sailing her Catalina 27 Pandion out of Berkeley.
© 2021 Sarah Plane


BYC Midwinters.
© 2021 Glen Garfein


ACSC sailors testing out how much mainsheet tightening will actually make the boat capsize.
© 2021 Emily Zugnoni


Beth Rosse & George Ballaseux aboard Golden Mermaid, 1984 Newport 30 MkIII.
© 2021 Beth Rosse & George Ballaseux


That perfect smile …
© 2021 Unknown (Was it you?)


Catching the Bay breeze on a Marieholm Folkboat.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Sailagram


Whoever said sailors have to wear nautical gear? The Steampunk crew of the 42-ft Pilothouse Cutter Cetacea clearly didn’t get the memo.
© 2021 Kerry Brown

We’ll be sharing another month’s worth of Bay Area sailing pics at the end of this month. So if you want your photo to be on the page, email us at: [email protected]. Remember to include your name and a brief description or caption.

See you on the ‘gram!