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August 16, 2023

Flash Back to 1994 and the First Baja Ha-Ha

As the start of the 2023 Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers Rally approaches, the Poobah is persisting with the idea that this may be the last-ever Baja Ha-Ha. In fact, with his latest message he reminds everyone that the official entry deadline for what is likely to be the last Ha-Ha is September 1. He also reminisces about the first Ha-Ha and its mothership, Big O, in 1994.

Baja Ha-Ha mothership 1994
How many people does it take to sail one Big O?
© 2023 Baja Ha-Ha

So this could be your last chance to sign up and be a part of Ha-Ha legend.

The Poobah might allow late entries, but they probably couldn’t be included in the Meet the Fleet booklet, get the boat name on the T-shirts, or even get all the swag. He’d hate to see that happen, so please make the deadline.

Big O was one of about 17 Ocean 71s built to be the fiberglass version of the great Van de Stadt 74 Stormvogel, the first ocean-racing maxi. The South African ketch took line honors in the 1961 Fastnet Race, but also played historical roles in both the Transpac and San Francisco Bay racing.

Stormvogel returned for this year’s Fastnet Race in England and acquitted herself well in some nasty conditions.

The photo of Big O was taken five months after that first Ha-Ha. She’s seen racing in her sixth Antigua Sailing Week under the Poobah’s ownership, back when Sailing Week was a huge international event with as many as 240 boats. We had 35 crew, most of them women.

Following that Sailing Week, Jim Drake took the boat across the Atlantic and across the Med to Turkey, then back to the Caribbean. After that was an unauthorized two-week stint in Cuba with Doña de Mallorca, the Poobah’s then-new girlfriend.

The Poobah sold Big O about a year or so later, at which time she became a very busy charter boat out of Comox, Vancouver Island. She tragically burned beyond repair in a shed fire just a few years ago.

As with many things, the Poobah never fully appreciated Big O until she was gone. What a yacht! So many memories!

And now is your time to make memories in the Ha-Ha before it, too, is likely gone for good.

You can sign up here. Hoping to sail south with you.

By the way, there are now 99 entries listed on the Ha-Ha website. Jerry and Kathy McGraw from Newport Beach with their Kelly Peterson 44, Pooino Roa, hold that spot. Who will be number 100? Is it you?

‘Good Jibes’ #103: Bruce Schwab on Singlehanding Around the World

Welcome to Good Jibes! This week’s host, Moe Roddy, is joined by Bruce Schwab to chat about a lifetime of circumnavigations. In 2005, Bruce became the first American in history to officially finish the Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race.

Good Jibes #103_Bruce Schwab
Where did Bruce and his father and brothers go after their boat stopped leaking?
© 2023 Bruce Schwab

Hear about Bruce’s memorable cruising trips as a teen with his father and brothers, how to get started racing, how to achieve your circumnavigation dreams, his biggest sailing projects today, and his hobbies of playing guitar and biking. This episode covers everything from sailing the globe to cruising with your family.

Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • Where did Bruce grow up?
  • Is he the oldest of his brothers?
  • What are Bruce’s favorite memories from the trip?
  • When did he start playing guitar?
  • What boat did he first take to Hawaii?
  • When did he first get interested in racing around the world?
  • How do you prepare for the Vendée Globe?
  • Short Tacks: What’s Bruce’s advice for singlehanding?

Learn more about Bruce at, and

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots — follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re feeling the Good Jibes!

Gracie & George Regatta Sailed on a Stunning Sunday Afternoon

Encinal Yacht Club held their doublehanded women’s skipper race, the Gracie & George, on Sunday, August 13. It was a warm, glorious day to be out on the water, despite some pull-up-and-park light spots.

J/92 and Santana 22
The J/92 Humble Vandal and the Santana 22 Anemone sail down the South Bay in light, fluky conditions. The persistence of spinnaker work on Anemone would pay off.
© 2023

The race starts on the Alameda side of the South Bay, sails west toward San Francisco’s Oracle Park, rounds a couple of buoys, and heads back to Alameda, with a finish down the Estuary in front of EYC’s guest dock.

J/109 and Wylie Wabbit
Brendan and Jessica McNally keep this Wylie Wabbit’s kite going during the reach down the San Francisco shoreline.  They had only just bought the Wabbit the day before the race! This was Jessica’s first time helming a race since last year’s Gracie & George.
© 2023

This year’s race featured a one-tack beat (turning into a close reach when the ebb built) to the mid-Bay red and green SC buoy so familiar to racers out of South Beach YC. Enter parking lot #1. The second division to start, the non-spinnaker boats, caught up to the spinnaker division here. They all slow-danced around the buoy before cracking off to sail south to a red buoy near the S.F. shore. Enter parking lot #2, and an even slower wheel turning ’round the mark.

Cluster of boats approaches mark
The clustered fleet inches its way toward the second turning mark. A couple of competitors mentioned that they drifted backward with the ebb during this part of the race.
© 2023
Dawn Chesney steering Bewitched
Dawn Chesney skippered Mark Salmon’s Merit 25 Bewitched. Since the death of both their partners, John New and Laraine Salmon, Dawn has been helming Bewitched.
© 2023

From there the boats were unleashed for a quick reach to the Estuary entrance in a fresh wind that felt divine. The Wylie Wabbit stretched out on the competitors. The Santana 22 Anemone stubbornly (turns out brilliantly) flew a kite when you would have thought the wind was too far forward.

Alley Cat and Zephyr next to a container ship
The Capri 30 Alley Cat and J/109 Zephyr sail past the Port of Oakland.
© 2023

The wind went light and dead aft for the run down the Estuary, but that’s pretty typical. Competitors stripped off layers, supplemented sunscreen applications, and rehydrated while jibing down the narrow waterway.

Kame and Sally Richards on Harbor 20
Sally and Kame Richards hugged the Alameda shore on their Harbor 20 Obsession for the first half of the Estuary run, seeking relief from the ebb.
© 2023

The Wylie Wabbit finished first, but it would be the (theoretically) slowest boat in the fleet, the Tuna Anemone, that would correct out to first place. The diverse fleet ranged in PHRF ratings from 66 to 234, but all finished within about 21 minutes, perhaps due to the mark-rounding restarts. See complete results on Jibeset

Trophy celebration
Shelli Bohrer and Hank Lindemann congratulate each other on winning the Gracie & George perpetual trophy with Hank’s Santana 22 Anemone. Shelli said this was her first time driving with the spinnaker up (did we mention it was up a lot?).
© 2023
Heidi and Aaron Stagg
Heidi and Aaron Stagg won the non-spinnaker division (and placed second overall) with their Wilderness 21 Slice. They sailed their Tayana 42 to La Paz last year and live there now. The couple will sail in this fall’s Baja Ha-Ha aboard Assistant Poobah Patsy Verhoeven’s Gulfstar 50 Talion.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The Gracie & George is an event on Latitude 38’s Unofficial Women’s Circuit; see more here in the Northern California Sailing Calendar & YRA Master Schedule. The next event on the list will be Sausalito YC’s Women Skippers’ Regatta this Saturday, August 19.

A Mild Case of Red Tide in the Bay Area Seems To Have Come and Gone

Red tide, an algae bloom that last year killed thousands of fish in the Bay Area, briefly returned to local waters — especially in the East Bay — but appears to have passed.

“The red tide that gave East Bay waters a light-brown sheen earlier this month is likely over, declared the environmental watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper Monday,” KQED reported. “I would say this bloom is done for now,” a Baykeeper scientist said of the short case of red tide. “Almost overnight, the bloom died and the water was crystal clear.”

Because red tide is believed to occur with warm water, Baykeeper said that another bloom is possible before cooler fall and winter weather prevails.

This undated photo from Wikipedia shows a dramatic-looking red tide off La Jolla, San Diego, California. If red tides correspond with warmer water, are more likely in an era of rising ocean temperatures?
© 2023 Wikipedia

In early August, citizen scientists near Berkeley Marina identified discolored water. “Various groups collect[ed] samples and had them analyzed,” according to the Los Angeles TimesTests found that the microorganism/alga — Heterosigma akashiwo, which produces the telltale rust-colored water, and can wreak havoc on marine life — was found in the waters off Emeryville and the Berkeley Marina. “There were also reports of discolored water in the Richardson Bay and Muir Beach, but it hasn’t been confirmed that it was caused by the same organism,” the Times said.

We windsurf at least a few times a week at Point Isabel, just a few miles north of Berkeley Marina. We asked a few of the locals if they were concerned about red tide.

“Nope,” was the universal, unelaborated-upon response.

The waters of Point Isabel have actually been uncharacteristically blue and greenish in late July and August, as opposed to the prevailing “chocolate-latte” brown that most of us come to expect from the Bay. Every year, including during last year’s deadly bloom, we dunk our heads in the water at least several times a session — we have no symptoms to report, other than persistent aging and rashes of mediocrity.

While red tide killed an enormous number of fish last year, as well as rays and crabs, the effect on humans is thought to be minimal. “Algae isn’t known to be toxic to humans, but could result in eye and skin irritation; experts recommend people and pets stay away from any rust-colored water,” the Times said.

This year fewer than a hundred fish appear to have been killed by red tide. “I am so happy it’s only 85 fish and I am glad it didn’t spread to the South Bay,” the head of Baykeeper said. According to the L.A. Times, red tide algae blooms produce a toxin that is deadly to fish and other marine animals. “As the bloom spreads, bacteria in the water consumes the algae. The process depletes the water of oxygen, resulting in the fish suffocating and dying off.”

While scientists admit that they’re still learning about Heterosigma akashiwo, Baykeeper said that red tide blooms are likely to become the “new normal.”

“These algae are just waiting to go nuts.”

Any Excuse To Celebrate: Today Is National Rum Day

There’s a saying, “Every dog has its day.” It’s supposedly a proverb that translates to everyone’s having good luck or success at some point in their lives. Great! But what about every drink having its day? Well, apparently some do! Today, August 16, is National Rum Day! A perfect day for our community, because what sailor doesn’t like rum? OK, we acknowledge there are some, but for the most part, sailors and rum are like Barbie and Ken; they just go together!

According to the website Holiday Calendar, National Rum Day began sometime in the early 2000s. And while we didn’t find a clearly stated reason for the day’s existence, we imagine it was the brainchild of a rum producer who wanted more people to know about their delicious beverage.

Here a few facts and some history about our favorite sailor-y drink:

Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the juice or molasses from sugarcane. It is originally a clear liquid and is often aged in oak or charred-oak barrels. The type of barrel and time of aging will contribute to the rum’s color and flavor.

The resulting drink is, in many people’s minds, synonymous with the Caribbean and with pirates. Think Pirates of the Caribbean, which pretty much sums it up. However, the liquid’s origin is disputed. Some say it was first created on the Caribbean’s sugarcane plantations when it was discovered that the syrup created while refining sugar could be fermented and distilled into a spirit, and over time was refined to become the rum we all know and, in some cases, love. Many oral traditions tell the story that the first rums came out of Barbados. There’s also a theory that it evolved from a drink known as “brum” that was made thousands of years earlier by the Malay people.

Pirates of the Caribbean_rum scene
A classic rum scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.
© 2023

None of this accounts for the stories of early explorers experiencing rum-like drinks in other parts of the world. Marco Polo supposedly tasted a “wine of sugar,” which some conjecture could be an “ancestor” of our modern-day rum. Other evidence suggests that Brazil and Sweden both had versions of rum. And what about the story that rum was once made from sugar beets in England?

Rum has also enjoyed notoriety as an official drink for sailors, based on the rations that were handed out to crews in early maritime days.

According to National Geographic, British sailors were given their first official rations of rum in 1655, when it was realized that “rum was both stronger and it kept better than beer.”

Here’s another anecdote about the sailors’ “daily tot:”

Between 11 a.m. and noon, a call of “Up Spirits!” would echo through the ship. This was the signal for all men to gather on deck to receive their “daily tot” of rum.

In 1740, Admiral Edward Vernon introduced a concoction of watered-down rum mixed with sugar and lime juice. This “grog” was supposed to reduce drunkenness, but many sailors saved their rations for drinking sprees.

An additional fun fact in that story says that the officer tasked with handing out the rum was the purser. The name was often mispronounced, resulting in the officer’s being called the pusser … Can you see where this is going?

Whatever its origin, and whatever your favorite brand, style or mix, rum is unarguably a favorite among sailors. The drink is credited equally with saving sailors’ souls on a cold dark night at sea and warming their toes while sitting at home by an open fire, and everything in between. For this writer it was the first drink of choice when embarking upon “sprited” teenage adventures.

What’s your favorite shade of rum?
© 2023 A pirate

National Rum Day is celebrated each year on August 16. Please don’t confuse it with World Rum Day, which occurs each year on the second Saturday of July — a much more sensible day, in our opinion. If anyone is interested, today is also marked as National Airborne Day, National Finance Brokers Day, National Roller Coaster Day, World Bratwurst Day, National Tell a Joke Day, National Surveillance Day, and World Calligraphy Day. With all these reasons to celebrate, what better way to do so than with a “tot” of your favorite rum?