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October 23, 2023

Hurricane Norma Inflicts Damage on Mexico’s Boating Community

Hurricane Norma crossed Mexico over the weekend, leaving some areas with damaged docks and sunken boats, and other vessels beached ashore. The storm had been approaching Cabo as a Category 4 hurricane, but was downgraded to a Category 1 before touching down on the Baja Peninsula. Nonetheless, local residents and businesses spent Saturday morning boarding up their windows and preparing for the onslaught.

The busy tourist town of Cabo San Lucas received 80 mph winds as the storm crossed the coast around 47 miles to the north and unleashed its fury on Todos Santos. Norma then crossed the peninsula and headed across the Sea of Cortez, but not before causing widespread damage and flooding in the the nearby townships.

Hurricane Norma La Paz
The path of Norma crossing over the tip of Cabo.
© 2023

Vince Maggiora from Sausalito called this morning from aboard his Mikelson 50 sportfisher Coco in Marina de La Paz, saying most boats in the marina fared well. He’s headed out this morning with others to help with beach cleanup around the many boats that came ashore during the storm. He reports that many beautiful boats at Marina Cortez have sunk at the docks.

Hurricane Norma La Paz
Perhaps this one will come out OK.
© 2023

Bay Area sailor Garrett Caldwell, who currently lives in La Paz, says dozens of boats in the region have sunk or run aground. Garrett’s own boat Oceanaire, a Tayana 47, is currently in Alameda.

sunken boat
Thankfully, more boats appear to be afloat than underwater.
© 2023 Garrett Caldwell
A sad sight for mariners.
© 2023 Facebook/Jason Hite

As we were preparing this story, Jason Hite, whose photos we share below, sent us this report:

“It is very sad what happened to La Paz. There have been a lot of people saying, ‘I told you so!’ and a lot of people saying, ‘Don’t be mean!’ The reality is if you’ve ever spent 24 hours at anchor in La Paz, you are familiar with the huge currents that affect the bay. The ‘La Paz Waltz’ is what they call the boats moving in unpredictable and unpleasant directions, which requires additional rode to be used. Additional space between boats is necessary, and you need to reset your anchor every few days to avoid its getting tangled and fouled. This is a normal day in La Paz. During king tides and Northers, it’s normal to have boats dragging. Some end up on the beach, but more often they stop when they foul another boat or two.

“To consider these [appropriate] conditions to endure a hurricane is simply irresponsible. You’re basically betting that there won’t be a hurricane. If there is one, you’re done! Every boat that is still floating out there is floating for two reasons: 1) The owners did an adequate job protecting their boat; 2) They got lucky. Even if all your stuff is good, there is always the risk of another boat that did not have their shit together colliding with you and taking you out. This risk is very high in La Paz due to the tidal current and the number of unmanaged, unoccupied boats in the anchorage.

“There is no reason to be in the anchorage during a hurricane. Thanks to technology, there is adequate time to relocate. If your boat is broken, then shame on you for being anchored in a dangerous place during hurricane season with a disabled boat. If your boat was at Marina Cortez, then you should have known by looking at the design of that place that it’s debatable if it’s any safer than being anchored.

“The good news is there should be [fewer] derelict boats in the anchorage this season when the Ha-Ha fleet arrives. Enjoy Mexico; it’s awesome!

“Here’s the latest info I have as of this morning:

“People: Bob on SV Adios died from a heart attack on his boat during the storm. He was in a slip in a marina.

“Boats Damaged/Sunk/On the Beach: Ingenium, Luna, Tangler, Seamentress (owner died earlier this year), Indecorous (looking for a health and safety check on the owner), Eloc A III, Pani Jensen, Cassandra, Mixed Tape, Spellbound, Go for Broke, Dispursor, Rock Bottom (owner died earlier this year), Pirisea, Calypso II, Callisto, Encore, Oyster House, Pelagios.

“Heard that they were drifting but do not know the status: Integrity, Sea Wolf.

“Marina Damage Report: Marina Cortez had dock failures, five boats sunk, most damaged. Marina Costa Baja — damage to outer-basin docks, 5-7 boats lost. Marina Don Jose had dock failures, one sunk boat.”

We hope many of these boats can be salvaged and returned to service.
© 2023 Facebook/Iker Cano Mendoza
Ingenium looks as if she has a chance. Perhaps she can be refloated on the tide?
© 2023 Facebook/Bev Jmaiff Garrett

From the information we’ve seen it appears most boats and docks in Marina de La Paz and Marina Palmira are in much better shape. Additionally, we have heard the Marina Cabo San Lucas fared OK. There is lots of damage assessment going on this morning, so we may get more updates as the extent of the damage becomes clear.

Tropical Storm Otis is set to strike southern Mexico on Tuesday morning.

The Grand Poobah, Hurricanes and the Baja Ha-Ha

Given the tropical storm activity off Mexico so far this month, many of you Ha-Ha entrants are naturally concerned. You would be foolish not to be. So let me, the Poobah, explain why I intend to start the Ha-Ha a week from next Monday, as scheduled.

As publisher of Latitude 38 for 40 years, I’ve had many occasions to cover severe tropical storm damage and to see the depressing aftermath. Such as the “ultimate hurricane hole” of Culebra, Puerto Rico, where over 300 of the 320 boats were completely destroyed by one hurricane. Or Village Cay in Tortola, where a 65-ft cruising cat ended up on top of a building, and over 800 boats nearby lost their masts.

Mexico Hurricane Tracks
The Grand Poobah posted this graphic of historical hurricane tracks.
© 2023 Courtesy Grand Poobah

I’ve also learned that the only thing worse than a destroyed boat is one that’s partially damaged and will likely take a long, long time to repair. I respect tropical storms.

As someone who has taken my boats to Mexico in November every year but one for the last 35 years, I’ve had a strong personal and financial interest in being aware of tropical storms and avoiding them.

Here are the reasons I plan to run the Ha-Ha on schedule:

1) Historically, hurricane season along Baja has shut down at the end of October for two good reasons. First, the atmospheric conditions stop being conducive to tropical storms. Note, for example, that air temperatures in Puerto Vallarta, 300 miles south of Cabo, are soon forecast to drop to as low as the high 50s at night. Tropical storms need temps over 82 to thrive. In addition, the water temperatures off Baja have begun to cool. Note that moderately strong, cool winds are forecast to blow down the coast of Mexico next week. Ask anyone in the Sea of Cortez what northerly winds do to water temperature. Also helping to thwart tropical storms is the fact that the days are getting shorter.

2) The official hurricane season in Mexico is from May to the end of November — but this is a little deceptive. There’s more than 1,000 miles of south-north on the coast of Mexico. If you were to break Mexico into two hurricane zones, one north of Cabo and one south, the season in the northern zone would end at the end of October. For the record, there hasn’t been a tropical storm that’s crossed the path of the Ha-Ha during Ha-Ha dates.

3) The fact that the Ha-Ha heads south, toward any possible tropical disturbance, is a major safety factor. All the fleet would have to do is stop at either Turtle Bay or Bahia Santa Maria to almost entirely eliminate the possibility of encountering a tropical storm. It just so happens that both Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria/Mag Bay are good places to ride out bad weather no matter the direction.

4) There have been two times when the Poobah, based on the advice of professional weather routers, paused the Ha-Ha. One year we stopped for two days at Turtle Bay. Nothing came of it.

In 2019, based on professional weather routers, we suggested the members of the fleet deal with the possible approach of tropical storm Raymond in one of three ways. 1) Stay in Bahia Santa Maria/Mag Bay, which is what most of the fleet did. 2) Continue on to Cabo if they had a confirmed slip there. 3) Make the 175-mile trip south to Cabo, then continue another 135 miles up to La Paz. Several boats chose this option. Thanks to such a long lead time on tropical storm Raymond, the boats had no trouble making it to La Paz.

As it turned out, tropical storm Raymond didn’t come within 400 miles of Cabo San Lucas, and nearly 600 miles of the main fleet in Mag Bay. After it became a remnant depression, it dumped a ton of rain on southern Baja and brought about 20 knots of wind to some places. That was it.

5) As the Grand Poobah, during the Ha-Ha I constantly monitor PredictWind, PassageWeather, Windy, and other sources for tropical storms. But I go beyond that. Each day of the Ha-Ha I consult with Commanders’ Weather to see if the conditions are conducive to the formation of a tropical disturbance. Since disturbances almost always form way down by the Mexican border with Guatemala, that would normally give the fleet at least a seven-day warning of a possible, but not necessarily even probable, tropical storm.

Baja Ha-Ha Kick off party
The Baja Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party is Sunday, October 29, at the West Marine parking lot in San Diego.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

There are no guarantees in cruising — or life — but I hope I have presented why I plan to start the Ha-Ha on schedule.

By the way, Assistant Poobah Patsy just spoke with Jesus at Marina Cabo San Lucas. While he hasn’t had time to do a complete inspection, it appears there hasn’t been significant damage. There has been lots of flooding, of course, and the electricity is still out. But we’ve been through this Cabo post-hurricane movie three times before, and they know how to bounce back.

We haven’t personally heard from all the marinas in La Paz, but our understanding is that only the so-called “virtual marina” had boats that suffered significant damage. [See today’s ‘Lectronic Latitude report on Hurricane Norma.]

Over on the Caribbean side, what was once Cat 3 Tammy got weird, and after hitting Barbuda with 80 knots, totally whiffed on all the other islands in the northeast Lesser Antilles.

Graphics: Anybody see a pattern to post-season tropical storms in Mexico? Such as their all being at least 500 miles to the south of Cabo and most of them moving out to sea?

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Thanks for Filling Out the Latitude 38 Reader Survey

It’s always nice to go to your mailbox and find letters from friends. That’s how we felt when we opened envelopes from readers who had filled out the survey on page 11 of the current October issue of Latitude 38. Reader surveys help us help our advertisers, who make it possible for us to bring you a free monthly magazine.

Latitude 38 Reader Survey
It’s always nice to get mail from friends.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Yes, you can fill out the survey online, but we know our readers like to read books and magazines, so it’s important for us to have the survey in the magazine, too.

You can also zap the QR code on page 11 and do the survey on your phone.

By the way, you can see most of the 100+ fantastic sailing books recommended by our guests on Good Jibes here.

One of the most common reasons people sail is “to get away from it all.” Books and magazines can transport you in a similar fashion. We thank everyone who reads Latitude 38. We always appreciate your input — especially if you can take a few minutes to fill out the survey online or on page 11 of the current issue.

We look forward to reading your thoughts!

A Brief Pictorial Overview of the Express 27 and 37 Nationals

On October 13-15, the San Francisco Yacht Club hosted the Express 27 and Express 37 Nationals on San Francisco Bay. Now, we know it rained a lot yesterday, but can you cast your mind back to the previous weekend, when the weather was glorious? That is what framed the backdrop to the alluring beauty of sails billowing under a mostly clear, blue sky, with a little cloud or fog on occasion, for contrast.

Local sailing photographer Irina Potekhina was on the water, and with camera poised, captured many classic and stunning photographs. Ira generously shared these photos with us, and we want to share them with you. Please note, all photos are copyright of Irina Potekhina White Raven Media. So if you see something you like, go to the gallery and use the download options there. Thanks!

A classic San Francisco view with the fog-shrouded Bridge in the background.
© 2023 Irina Potekhina, White Raven Media
Crossing swords on the course.
© 2023 Irina Potekhina, White Raven Media
Yes, the crew do more than just sit on the rails.
© 2023 Irina Potekhina, White Raven Media
The beauty of spinnakers in the afternoon sun never gets old.
© 2023 Irina Potekhina, White Raven Media

You can see the full gallery of Ira’s work at We’ll also be sharing a wrap-up of the regatta in November’s Latitude 38 Racing Sheet.

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