The 28th Baja Ha-Ha Cruising Rally is underway, with the fleet having cast off from San Diego at 10:00 this morning. The Ha-Ha start was the culmination of a weekend of celebrations, connections and information sharing, with much of it taking place in, or outside, the local West Marine store.
Sunday’s party drew a fantastic crowd, with sailors going to great lengths to dress up and stand out from their neighbors.
After so much revelry it’s a wonder everyone was up early for the official start today. But, in true sailor fashion, the boats were ready and eager to set off.
Officials from the Coast Guard, Mexican consulate, Port of San Diego, San Diego Working Waterfront, San Diego Yacht Club, Harbor Police, fireboats, and news media watched as the fleet headed out in light air.
The breeze is expected to build over the next couple of days to fill the sails of the southbound fleet.
In and around epic shoreside goings-on, Richmond Yacht Club ran a passel of races over the weekend in the Great Pumpkin Regatta. This story isn’t about the racing — we’ll cover that in the December issue of Latitude 38. In honor of Halloween, this story is about cutting loose in costume.
What made this particular edition of the Great Pumpkin so epic? It reached a critical mass that, in our subjective and unscientific observation, was unmatched since before not just the Great Pandemic, but the Great Recession.
Herewith, some visuals to get you in mood for today’s holiday, a favorite among a large swath of North Americans. (We do mean North Americans, not just “Americans” — RYC borrowed this year’s theme from Mexico: Día de los Muertos.)
On-the-water activities included Saturday’s three races (five for the J/24 fleet) in three racing areas and Sunday’s pursuit race around Alcatraz and Angel Island — skipper’s choice of directions — with 171 entries.
Off-the-water activities kicked off with a kids’ pumpkin-carving party on Friday, a yard sale all weekend, free beer and chips after racing on Saturday and Sunday, and Saturday’s massive party, dance and taco bar.
The hordes of celebrants sprawled out onto the upper and lower decks of the club.
Online Yacht Auction of 1985 Ocean Alexander 70. Online bidding starts Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Panoramic tour and extensive photo gallery available at www.WestAuction.com.
I’m sure that most people looking out on Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island feel some version of awe at how they can be in a place that feels so isolated, but is in fact just 40 miles from the densely packed shores of Southern California. Turn around and look east, and there’s a blurry strip of land, full of humanity and all its tensions, clinging to the horizon.
Anchored in Cuyler Harbor in October 2020, I imagined that San Miguel — with its towering peaks, white-sand beaches, turquoise shallows and howling, freezing-cold winds — could have been somewhere off remote South America or New Zealand. Before humankind knew better, it would have been easy to think that beyond San Miguel, the ocean plunged off the flat surface of the Earth.
Humans have inhabited the Channel Islands for some 13,000 years, and each island has culture and history that has already come and gone. Families have sailed to the islands for generations, starting in their 20s in 20-something-ft plastic classics, and arriving now with bigger, fancier boats and grandchildren.
As sailors slowly migrate south and are bound for Mexico, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Anacapa or Santa Cruz islands to the north, and Santa Barbara and Catalina islands to the south, might be on sailors’ radars as possible layovers, or just pass as digital blips on a screen, coming into and going from view. We will take this seasonal moment to contemplate the Channel Islands, and the mainland cities near them, as if we were back in 2020 when the “staycation” offered sailors self-isolated silver linings at local destinations.
We will refer you to Destination Channel Islands in the August 2020 issue for a thorough breakdown of practical information such as anchorages, prevailing weather, shoreside destinations, and strategies for making passage from either Northern or Southern California. (You can also listen to the article on our Good Jibes podcast.)
This series of stories is a full navel-gaze appreciating the spontaneity of jumping onto a boat at the last minute and suddenly finding yourself at anchor at a place like San Miguel, as well as any number of unexpected destinations.
When Asked, Don’t Hesitate
“We need help bringing the boat down south. Are you available?” asked Mitch Andrus, whom I’d met years before through Latitude. Mitch and Quincey Cummings, now both licensed captains (who are currently en route on a delivery from Ventura to Florida), were having their going-away party in Berkeley in October 2020 in preparation for their move to Ventura aboard their Kelly Peterson 44 Esprit.
My answer was absolutely, positively, unhesitatingly: hell, yes.
Just six months into the pandemic, we talked about the “COVID winners and losers” throughout the trip south. Clear losers were plans of any sort. In fall 2019, Mitch and Quincey invited me to do the destined-to-be-canceled Baja Ha-Ha XXVII. Another loser was the loss of full-time work, but an unexpected winner was free time. A spontaneous sailboat trip would have been impossible for a full-time editor, or would have had to revolve around anchorages with good Wi-Fi.
There was a looming wind event in the forecast when we motored under the Golden Gate on October 24, though it seemed easy to avoid. With strong, dry winds forecast from the northeast, the “event” felt like an encore to what had been an early, miserable and slightly terrifying fire season, during a year that was full of social tension, a plague, and a contentious election looming.
Also onboard was Brian Cline, an experienced sailor who had sailed with Mitch and Quincey after they purchased Esprit in Panama and sailed her to the Bay a few years prior. Also onboard was Panda Cat.
The conditions were exceptionally calm and mellow outside the Golden Gate, and we settled into the slow, easy motion of the trip. Off Monterey, hundreds of birds fed at dusk and paid us no mind. We found our bunks, set alarms for watches, and sat in the cockpit in the middle of the night under a waxing gibbous moon that would be fully full in one week, on Halloween. I’d brought a stack of New Yorker magazines, and the next day — our one full day at sea — everyone read, snacked, chatted about articles, and dozed. On the afternoon of October 25, we saw whales breaching about half a mile away. Whitewater erupted, with one whale jumping so high that a stream of emerald-green water gushed into the sky.
With the wind event manifesting in earnest, the decision was made to stop in Morro Bay for about 12 hours while it passed. With four people, we did three-hour watches, with two people the first hour of your watch, then one hour of solo time, before the next person came on to start their watch during your last hour. Favorite. Watch system. Ever. I was doing my hour of solo time as the red lights on the stacks of the shuttered power plant in Morro Bay flashed in the night. We had maybe 10 knots just aft of the port beam, and I watched the moonlight sparkle on the back of the quarter wake as I listened to music.
We arrived around 2 a.m. and departed by noon the next day. Arriving at an unexpected destination was surprisingly exciting. I went paddle boarding around Morro Bay’s skinny, current-swept waterway; Brian went to shore and brought back magnificent French pastries (from La Parisienne, I believe), which we devoured as we motored past Morro Rock and back out to sea, bound for San Miguel.
There was a small, minor tragedy that befell us in Morro Bay, after we had arrived safely and gone to sleep. Stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday.
Epilogue: The End of a Night Watch
With 15 minutes left on my watch, I was imagining the warm, soft embrace of my bunk. It was approaching 4 a.m., and I forced my eyes to dart from horizon, to iPad, back to horizon, fighting off exhaustion. Breaking concentration for even a moment, I felt my eyelids ready to slam shut.
Thirteen minutes left!
Eyes from sails to the horizon to iPad: Our little blip in the pale digital sea bobbed along, our motion both imperceptible and unrelenting. I was cold, a little damp, and at the apex of my discomfort from sitting (crouching, really) for three hours in the cockpit.
My head jerked in a nod. I resumed the visual rotation of iPad to horizon. I leaned out from under the dodger and took huge gulps of breeze. I looked at my phone.
Only 12 minutes left!? Time seems to slip into a weird quantum anomaly in the final minutes of a watch, when you know that sleep is near.
Finally, 11 minutes later (though it seemed like an hour), I said good night, went below, and did the log, then shed my PFD and stripped the many layers of clothes, then peeled back the mountains of blankets on my bunk, fastened the lee cloth, and crawled into my cozy little fort.
I might have even been awake for almost two minutes as the boat rocked me to sleep. Soon, I’d wake up with San Miguel in sight.
Happy Halloween, and welcome to the November Latitude 38. We have another great issue, packed with stories of sailors local and around the globe, and all your favorite regular columns. We know we’re teasing, but check out the preview below, then set your alarm to go get your copy first thing tomorrow!
Holly Williams is a surgeon. She’s also a sailor, but since her med school days at UCSF in the late ’80s, it seemed as if she would have to choose: her career or her sailing. Her career as a surgeon in San Francisco meant that her dream of sailing around the world would have to wait until she retired.
Now it’s November 2022. At the time of our interview, it had been only a month since Williams crossed the finish line of the 2019-2020 edition of the Clipper Round the World Race, two years delayed. She’s still not retired, and she has managed to sail around the world. This is her adventure.
As I write this, X-Wing is made fast to a mooring ball at the lovely Paradise Resort on Taveuni Island in Fiji. And 10,819 nautical miles away in any direction — the exact opposite point on Earth from me right now — is the small town of Bourem, in the East African country of Mali. If you’re reading this in California, the exact other side of the Earth from you right now is the western Indian Ocean, somewhere southeast of Madagascar.
If you’re Pacific-bound in 2023, you should know that each September a huge fleet of racing yachts and cruising sailboats congregates on the picturesque Fijian island of Malolo for a whole array of events: sailing regattas, Hobie Cat races, SUP challenges, a fun run, and beach cleanups. Some crews participate actively in each category; others just come to watch, cheer the teams, and party in the evening — everybody’s welcome at the Musket Cove Yacht Club.
This year, 96 yachts arrived from all over the world for the event, including 13 from the United States. The modest entry fee of 110 FJD (~$50 US)/ person covers the entry at the regattas, a welcome dinner, a buffet on the last day, and free drinks in between — a good reason why the regatta is also known as the biggest party in the South Pacific.
Also in the November issue:
- Letters: I’m, Like, Totally Over It; Yes, That Probably Did Happen; Do Not Mess With My Paper Charts; and many more.
- Sightings: Ronnie Simpson’s Global Solo Challenge; More Government Regs Coming to Marinas; Hokahey Away to SoCal; and other stories.
- Max Ebb: A Hot Night at Anchor.
- Changes in Latitudes: Cool Change‘s once-in-a-lifetime Tonga cruising experience; Aldabra‘s delayed-by-COVID puddle jump to the South Seas; the third installment of Taliesin Rose‘s cruisers’ guide to off-the-beaten-track post-Ha-Ha destinations; and a tasty selection of Cruise Notes.
- Racing Sheet: This month we cover SBYC’s Red Bra Regatta, the Express 37 Nationals at BYC, the Mercury PCCs at LAYC, StFYC’s Jessica Cup, SCYC’s Jack and Jill, and the El Toro Stampede at RYC. We take a look at the Vanguard 15 Fleet Champs on Tomales Bay, the Perpetual Cup on South Lake Tahoe, and RYC’s Totally Dinghy. Race Notes includes a correction to the Rolex Big Boat Series and more. Among other Box Scores are more 2022 Beer Can results.
- Loose Lips: Check out the October Caption Contest(!) winner and top 10 comments.
- The sailboat owners and buyers’ bible, Classy Classifieds.