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When the Baja-Bash Is the ‘Baja Barely-a-Bash’

We expect everyone has heard stories from sailors who, after having enjoyed beautiful sailing in Mexico, make their way back up the West Coast in the conditions that lead to the northbound trip’s being rightly dubbed the Baja Bash. In the January issue we share the story of one crew’s unexpectedly calm return from Mexico.

Vanadium, a 2019 Beneteau 41.1 sloop, had just completed the 2022 Baja Ha-Ha, captained by owner Mike Brost and crewed by his wife Kitti Brown, friend Steve Cauffman, and Crew Lister Jim Immer. The journey was a test for Mike and Kitti to see if they’d enjoy an extended voyage before investing in a cruising catamaran.

Baja bash sailboat Vanadium
Vanadium is a Beneteau 41.1 monohull.
© 2023 Jim Immer

The southward Ha-Ha trip was a resounding success, with lots of fleet camaraderie and daily natural spectacles including sublime sunsets and performances by whales, dolphins and rays. But after three nights in Cabo San Lucas, it was time to return Vanadium to her responsibilities with the Sailtime fleet in Newport Beach. Steve had already flown home to his microwave physicist job, so the return crew would consist only of Mike, Kitti and Jim.

The northward Baja Bash has a notorious reputation for testing boats and crew morale, especially during the typical May/June time frame, when insurers coax cruisers clear of potential hurricanes. However, Captain Jim Elfer’s Baja Bash II book includes the surprising revelation that November and July northward deliveries can be an easier experience, as long as weather systems are avoided.

We had refilled the water and diesel tanks upon arrival in Cabo. A Walmart provisioning run provided all the goods needed to continue our gourmet cruise, facilitated by a freestanding 80-quart AC/DC Bodega freezer strapped into the aft cockpit to augment Vanadium‘s built-in refrigerator.

On the morning of Sunday, November 13, Vanadium raised anchor, exiting the pleasantly noisy Cabo beachside anchorage just as the massive Disney Wonder loomed into view.

Vanadium (named for the 23rd element in the periodic table and a key catalyst for the evolution of oceanic life) motored in flat seas with almost no wind around the oft-feared headland of Cabo Falso. It was a cakewalk in shorts and tank tops rather than foulies. We had easy motoring until evening, when the wind filled in at 10 knots on the beam for some fine, warm sailing. With three crew, we rotated through two three-hour watch cycles at night and morning, and then used a two-hour evening watch, which gave everyone plenty of sleep and a social time at dinner.

playing backgammon in cockpit
Kitti and Mike took advantage of the calm seas for a game or two of backgammon. (Who’s the backgammon champ?)
© 2023 Jim Immer

We bypassed the Ha-Ha stop at Bahia Santa Maria on the way north, since we were anxious to spend the Thanksgiving holiday week with our families. Though the common salutation is “fair winds and following seas,” we were instead blessed with fair seas and following winds due to glassy seas and often light wind, good for fast motoring. Though itching to sail, we were happy to be spared the typical headwinds and swells that make the Bash infamous.

Read the rest of the story in the January issue of Latitude 38.


  1. Beau Vrolyk 3 months ago

    Having sailed north more times than I can remember, the key to _every_ passage has been leaving enough time to pick the best weather window. To quote the old adage: “The most dangerous thing on a sailboat is a schedule.” We 21st century sailors forget this and find ourselves assuming we can leave anytime we please. Personally, I painfully recall spending two and half days slogging around Pts Conception, Sur, Cypress, Año Nuevo, and Montera just so I could arrive in San Francisco “on time”. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.

  2. PJ Landresse 3 months ago

    Nice to learn there are additional good times to make the journey. Three of us (father & son who I hired, plus me) took my sailboat, a Hunter Passage 42, from Mazatlan to the North end of the Long Beach/LA harbor around the end of March or early April in 2015. We made a 1 night stop in Cabo after topping the fuel in San Jose’ del Cabo. The dad part of the crew had previously captained boats in Cabo and it was fun to meet some of his friends and see the boats they were captaining. While walking we saw a huge sailboat that had its own seaplane on a hoist!

    Some sailing, but mostly motoring with one overnight stop in Turtle Bay to refill the extra fuel jugs. Walked around the village and found a restaurant that, fortunately, had very good mostly sea food. The owner also was a commercial fisherman and told us the commercial boats were staying in the next day due to expected high winds. The next morning was calm, so we decided to give things a try. We stayed to the inside of Isla de Cedros thinking that if we encountered high winds at its North end we would continue to have protection while returning to the bay.

    Luckily, all remained calm to light and we continued with a very easy journey. When we arrived at Ensenada we went in to Hotel Coral and marina. We relaxed for a day or two and then the crew made arrangements for a bus to take them back to Mazatlan. Once again topped off all fuel. Along with being a great hotel/marina Hotel Coral also provides transportation to get one through all of the Mexico check in or out processes. I highly recommend anyone entering or exiting Mexico to use their services. As I recall, there was no charge. As with all such things, be sure to give the driver a good tip as HE DOES A LOT OF WORK to get one through the process.

    A pet peeve of mine is that few people tip while in Mexico. When someone does good work or provides even slightly out of the norm, help; give a good tip. Simply is the thing one SHOULD DO. That said, wages here are very low and prices of everything everyone must buy, especially food, have been increasing almost as fast as prices in the US and the wages DO NOT keep up! Not even close.

    Peeve off….

    From Ensenada it was a single handed journey to San Diego and checking in to the US. Was able to make prior arrangements to spend the night at the police dock. The next morning was exciting, but not in a good way. The engine would not even turnover, yet the batteries had plenty of power. Spoke with the officer on duty and he knew of a marine mechanic who usually had breakfast at a close by restaurant. THANK GOODNESS!!!!!

    Luckily, the mechanic was not only still there, but willing to help Turned out that once he saw things he instantly knew of the problem as he had seen it many times. He solved the problem by working on some of the engine’s non-power wiring connections. A few minutes work and all was well. From there it was up to Dana Point for a few days for visits with friends and then up to the San Pedro area in the Long Beach/LA harbor.

  3. Ron Harben 3 months ago

    PJ: Please elaborate on the electrical problem in San Diego and what was the fix. What did the mechanic see and what non-power wiring connections were the problem? Fore warned is fore armed!

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