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June 9, 2023

Racing to Cruise in the Delta Ditch Run

We’re covering the Delta Ditch Run race in the next issue of Latitude 38, so in the interim, we want to note some cruisers who joined the Delta Ditch Run as their feeder to summertime cruising in the Delta with the Delta Doo Dah. It was a few years ago that the DDD partnered up with the DDR to allow cruisers to join the fleet of racers who were making the approximately 70-mile run into the heart of the Delta summer. This year’s Delta Ditch Run was a reasonably mellow affair with warm, light air that got most boats to the finish line at the Stockton Sailing Club before sunset.

Santa Cruz 40 Osprey
The Santa Cruz 40 Osprey arrives at the Stockton Sailing Club.
© 2023 Richard Bastien

Michael Bender sent a few pictures of Osprey, his Santa Cruz 40, crossing the finish line in Stockton in classic, flat-water Delta conditions. Osprey came in second in her division, correcting out behind fellow Delta Doo Dah participant Jim Painter’s Dufour 44, Escapade. And just behind them were Delta Ditch Run cruisers Sam Neustadt and Tammy Forrest aboard their Dufour 46 GL, Send Me.

Delta Ditch Run
Brendan Meyer’s Wyliecat 30 Uno was following Gruntled upriver with another Moore 24 just behind.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

Even the racing boats, in for the race only, made much of it look like a cruise. If cruising is your top priority, it doesn’t hurt to join the race and sail with the colorful fleet members alongside you. In breezier years, the racers may be pressing it to the limit, but cruisers can set a pace that keeps them comfortable, and still gets them to the party on time.

Delta Ditch Run
John Donovan’s Corsair F-31R trimaran mixes it up with its monohull neighbors in Carquinez Strait.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

The beauty of being a cruiser who races up the Delta is the party at the end, plus the Stockton Sailing Club’s offering free berthing to Delta Doo Dah participants who want a leisurely start to the summer cruise. It also gets you to the Delta in time to celebrate Summer Sailstice on June 24, in the warmth of the Delta.

Delta Ditch Run
Andrew Zimmerman’s Olson 40 Divine Wind was cruising up comfortably.
© 2023 Slackwater SF
Delta Ditch Run
Delta Ditch Run Delta Doo Dah. (DDRDDD?)
© 2023 Slackwater SF
Delta Ditch Run Delta Doo Dah
Cindy Evans and crew on her Express 34 Joy Ride were making it look good.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

If you didn’t race there’s still plenty of time to sign up for the 2023 Delta Doo Dah, and there are just three weeks to sign up for the June 24 Summer Sailstice.

Why sign up for anything at all? It’s simple — people who sign up sail more.

Anyone could have sailed up the Delta last weekend, but how many actually just “sailed up?” Of the more than 90 boats signed up for the Delta Ditch Run, all had a great day sailing, and were joined by many friends at the finish line. Sign up and get your boat on the water this coming June 24, and/or all summer long in the Delta.

Summer Sailstice banner


Baja Ha-Ha Update Pt. 1: “The Marina Situation in Mexico”

With 140 days to go until the start of the rally, the current number of paid entries for Baja Ha-Ha XXIX is 71. In view of this, the Poobah suspects it’s going to be a smaller than normal fleet this fall. This doesn’t come as a big surprise, as the numbers are down in most sailing events. For example, this summer’s Transpac has 60 entries, down from 81 in 2019, the last pre-COVID year. And both the big international regattas in St. Barth, the Bucket and the Voiles, were off substantially this year.

Who knows why? It might be cyclical, it might be real estate and stocks being off, it might be post-COVID blowout hangover, or it might just be something in the air. Nonetheless, the Poobah is expecting something in the realm of 120 paid entries, which would be just fine. After all, quality always trumps quantity, and the current fleet looks terrific. (By the way, as usual, the leading occupation of Ha-Ha skippers is engineer, usually in the world of tech.)

While exact numbers are impossible to come by, the additional good news for people looking for berths in Mexico is that it seems as though a larger number of boats than usual left for the South Pacific this spring. This means it’s possible there may be more slips and haulout slots available in Mexico than there were last year. Nonetheless, the Poobah thinks berthing will still be tight, as Starlink means many people can work from their boat in sunny Mexico, rather than making a long commute to a drab office in San Francisco or L.A. So the Poobah urges everyone to make their Mexico berthing arrangements as soon as possible. Like today. Although yesterday would have been better.

Baja Ha-Ha_marina_Cabo
Marina Cabo San Lucas is one of the most popular marinas in the world.
© 2023 Richard Spindler

There was a recent post from a Ha-Ha entry asking for advice on marina space in the Cabo area for the holidays. Oh, dear. Perhaps the Poobah can give a little perspective on the overall marina situation in Mexico.

There are two marinas in the Cabo area, Marina Cabo San Lucas and Marina Puerto Los Cabos. Over 90% of the slips in Cabo San Lucas, one of the most popular and expensive marinas in the world, are on annual contracts. There are guys with sportfishing boats who will semi-happily pay for 52 weeks of expensive berthing, even if they will only use their slip for a month or so of fishing tournaments. Given the demand, the chance of getting a holiday slip in Cabo San Lucas is about as great as getting one at Monaco during the Grand Prix.

The famous rock in the background lets you know you’re looking at Cabo San Lucas.
© 2023 Richard Spindler

Demand for nearby Puerto Los Cabos is also sure to be high. We wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already booked for the holidays. Today is the latest you should make an inquiry.

It is, of course, possible to anchor off Cabo. The farther you anchor to the east, the quieter it is.

The next nearest option to Cabo is La Paz, about 135 miles to the north. There are a number of marinas there, but last year they all filled up for the holidays. So if you want to come home for the holidays, make reservations now.

La Paz, which is home to perhaps the most extensive marine services in Mexico, does have a very large anchorage area, and there are excellent anchorages nearby, or at the 25-mile-distant islands. Sometimes it’s possible to find a reliable person to boat-sit your boat on the hook — leaving a boat unattended on the hook is never the best idea.

As popular as La Paz is as a post-Ha-Ha destination, it can sometimes be easier get to the third-closest option, Banderas Bay/Vallarta, which is 290 downwind miles away. We’ll go into the pros and cons of that destination in our next post on The Marina Situation in Mexico.

To Starlink or Not To Starlink?

This is the question on many cruisers’ minds. No doubt there are benefits to increased connectivity and communication. But are there drawbacks to always being plugged in?

Starlink’s offerings have continued to evolve and change, including increasing prices and plan structures. A year ago the RV version, Roam, had just become available, and was a quicker alternative than the long wait list for the home version in most areas. Many cruisers opted for this version, but as more sailors have done so, the plans have continued to change.

The Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha and founder of Latitude 38, Richard Spindler, has shared extensively on the topic. Richard recently wrote on his Facebook page that his plan was increased. “MY LATEST BILL FROM STARLINK FOR GLOBAL ROAMING IS ABOUT $260 US. I’ve used mine in Mexico, St. Kitts, St. Barth, and now Paris. As I use it heavily for business, I’m thrilled with the reliability and have no problem with the price.” Chuck Skewes of Ullman Sails San Diego reported from last year’s Baja Ha-Ha, “The amount of people with Starlink was awesome. It was the best documented as we go, Ha-Ha ever. We were seeing lots of people posting pictures and stories as they were happening.”

Choosing between doing business and going cruising is no longer an issue. With Starlink, you can do both. Profligate in the Sea of Cortez.
© 2023 Richard Spindler

Many cruisers who have yet to retire have welcomed it with open arms as a way to have the best of both worlds. And there are others who fear the wild places are becoming spoiled with an overabundance of Wi-Fi and connectivity to the outside world. There is also the issue of safety due to being more connected. On March 14 SV Raindancer hit a whale en route to the Marquesas. The boat sank within 15 minutes, but the crew was rescued 10 hours later. Multiple communication devices were used in the rescue, but Starlink was credited as instrumental in facilitating a communication network.

Chris and Marissa Neely are finishing up a season of cruising Mexico while running an online business and YouTube channel aboard their Cheoy Lee SV Avocet, all thanks to Starlink.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki Bennett

For this writer, Starlink has been a game changer, a game changer that I had a lot of resistance to. The initial price of equipment, about $700 with shipping, was a huge investment. Last fall I had moved aboard my boat in the Delta. With very spotty cell service and limited Wi-Fi options, I found myself struggling to efficiently get work done. I tried three or four different hot-spot devices, all with similar subpar results, and finally decided to try out Starlink. This winter, I spent five months chasing snow across the Western US in my van, all while remaining gainfully employed thanks to Starlink. Currently I’m writing this from deep within El Dorado National Forest, a beautiful place without any connectivity.

Not a bad office view, right? Reporting this morning from El Dorado National Forest. © Nicki Bennett
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki Bennett

Starlink has been great, but not without challenges. In May I had a cord failure, and though Starlink replaced the cord without charge it took a very long time for their support department to respond to the ticket. There is also the issue of price and changing my plans. Starlink has added many plans and pricing structures in the last year, including priority options for busy times, at an increased cost. My Roam plan started at $130/mo. and recently was raised to $150/mo. We have heard from a few cruisers that their plan was switched to Maritime once they were a certain distance from shore, and they are either paying per gigabyte use or for the $250/mo. maritime plan.

Can you spot this Starlink on the June cover of Latitude 38?
© 2023 L38 Cover image @Doug Saxe

As a digital nomad, I feel it is still worth the cost, its being my sole form of Wi-Fi, allowing me to work from almost anywhere, but I do have concerns about price changes in the future. Now we would like to throw the question to our community. What are your thoughts on Starlink? Has it worked for you while cruising? Has your plan been changed? Send your Starlink thoughts to [email protected].

Vessel Yosukole
USCG and PPJ rally organizers are seeking information on a Pacific Puddle Jump rally participant who hasn't checked in.