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Baja Ha-Ha 24 Sealed With a Kiss

Despite the fact that two out of three of the legs in the 750-mile Baja Ha-Ha cruisers rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas featured lighter wind than any of the 478 people on the 133 boats would have liked, the event was still a capital-B Blast (and the sailing in the 240-mile second leg was fabulous).

That’s because the Ha-Ha is more than the sum of its many parts, which include, but are not limited to, the 360-mile first leg, the 240-mile second leg, the 175-mile third leg, the pre-event seminars, the Kick-Off Costume Party, the baseball game in Turtle Bay, the beach party in Turtle Bay, the lay day; hiking/ beachcombing/ surfing at Bahia Santa Maria, the surreal rock ‘n’ roll party on the bluff overlooking Bahia Santa Maria, the crossing the Tropic of Taurus initiation, the going a little crazy at the rock-out at Squid Roe, the beach party at Cabo, the awards ceremony, the daily roll call and nets, the full moon, the Milky Way, the whales, the dolphins, the landed fish, the romances initiated and consumated and so much more.

Walt Childson and Jeariene Bacon took honors in the World-Famous Here to Eternity Kissing Contest.

© 2017 Fin Bevin

Actually, it’s not even the parts of the Ha-Ha that make it so special, but the people. No matter if they were 18 months or 84 years old, this year’s Ha-Ha participants were terrific. So once again the Ha-Ha was a massive group adventure in which countless friendships were made, many to last across the Pacific and a few for a lifetime. So much happens in the two-week Ha-Ha, it seems as though the start — with the three fire-hose-blasting Port of San Diego fireboats — was two long months before. During the non-stop action of the Ha-Ha, ‘back home’ hardly exists.

Among the more entertaining parts of this year’s rally was the Here to Eternity Kissing Contest held at the conclusion of the beach party at Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas. While the world-famous competition was close, honors went to Walt "Still Has Sand In His Shorts" Childson of Knot Right and his girlfriend Jeariene Bacon.

The Ha-Ha is the only sailing event in the world that celebrates the crossing of the Tropic of Taurus (formerly the Tropic of Cancer) with baptism for initiates. Here Jamie Miller, one of the two cooks aboard the Deerfoot 62 Emma, get baptized. The water was blue and 82.

© 2017 Paul Kamen

"I’m Walt’s girlfriend of seven years, and couldn’t sail with him on the Ha-Ha because of a little thing called work," wrote Jeariene. "But the anticipation of meeting him in Cabo, and hearing about all the fun everyone had was exhilarating! Perhaps that’s what led to the passion of our award-winning kiss! I hadn’t seen the movie From Here to Eternity, but Walt described the scene and we went for it! Rolling in the surf and reenacting in front of hundreds of people was so much fun. Indeed, the Grand Poobah’s passion for putting on such a great event was reflected in the intensity of our kiss!"

Imagine what Walt and Jeariene had to do to outscore this newlywed, on-their-honeymoon couple, Philippe Marguet and Carolyn Strauss of the Spencer 13.30 Untangled from Alameda. On the first leg, their prop fell off and they had to return to Ensenada for repairs. But they caught up.

© 2017 Fin Bevin

This year’s Ha-Ha was such a success that the Wanderer is going to be flown to Israel by Erez Ben-Eshay, who is on his third circumnavigation, to try to initiate a similar event in the Med. As wild as it might seem, Ben-Eshay thinks he can convince as many as six or seven skippers in the Israeli circumnavigators club to come to California with their boats to do the Ha-Ha.

It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem, as Randall and Lennie Smith of the Delray Beach, Florida-based Leopard 48 Happy Together came all the way from the East Coast to do the Ha-Ha. "It’s the most fun we’ve had in 18,000 miles of cruising," said Randall, who along with his wife won the Happiest Couple Award. They’re taking delivery of hull #1 of the Leopard 50s a year from now, at which time they’ll start their circumnavigation.

Bahia Santa Maria was the most tranquil and beautiful stop on the Ha-Ha.

© 2017 Richard Spindler

It was great to have a number of circumnavigators in the fleet again, as well as some folks from Europe who have been out for many years. Such as Olivier Hendryx of Basel, Switzerland, a Canadian who was born in Casablanca, and who has been out cruising with his sweetie Brenda on their Lagoon 470 Inspirity for seven years. They’ve crossed the Atlantic, done the Caribbean, rounded Cape Horn going the wrong way, and sailed all around the Pacific, including Alaska.

The Outer Harbor at Cabo San Lucas was beautiful, too. 

© 2017 Richard Spindler

Nor do we want to forget our dear German friends Lutz and Gabriele Pestel of Hamburg, Germany, on their Reinke 44 SuAn. They’ve been out about as long as Inspirity, having spent many enjoyable years in the South Pacific, the region they are headed back to.

Among the other circumnavigators were Charlie and Cathy Simon of the Seattle-based Taswell 58 Celebrate. Having just completed a Northwest Passage, they were nice enough to present the Grand Poobah with some ice from the Arctic for his celebratory drink in Cabo. The natural stuff tastes better than the machine- made kind.

The Fennell family on the Tiburon-based Bavaria 46E Taliesin Rose was one of the biggest kid boats on this year’s Ha-Ha. Dad Rowan has one daughter on his shoulders. Friend Zoe is between him and Victoria. There’s the second daughter next to uncle Justus. The irrepressible Victoria won honors for being the most enthusiastic Ha-Ha participant.

© 2017 Fin Bevin

But the heart of the Ha-Ha remains the regular West Coast folks, with their Downeasts, their Islander 36s, their Catalina 42s, their Beneteaus and Jeanneaus. Many of these folks have been sailing for years, but only now have gotten the chance to go international for a few weeks — if not a few months. What an adventurous and fun-loving group!

Michael and Vicki Novak of the Ventura based Bonzer, an Explorer 44 trimaran, were this year’s speed merchants. They hit over 18 with a reefed main and jib, and over 19 with a spinnaker. Bonzer is a lovely looking Chris White 44. 

© 2017 Fin Bevin

By the way, the second leg sailing was superb. While the 63-ft catamaran mothership Profligate finished the second leg first in fleet, Jim Barber’s Los Angeles YC-based Jeanneau 439 Feleena, with several Transpac vets aboard, was only about two hours back. And Mark and Deb Lowry’s Richmond-based Wauquiez Centurion 42 Chance just a tad after Feleena. While both boats flew chutes during the day, they made excellent use of going wing-on-wing to sail deep and fast at night.

High speed honors in the second leg and the event, however, went to Michael and Vicki Novak’s Ventura-based Chris White designed 44-ft trimaran Bonzer. They hit 18+ knots with reduced white sails and 19+ with a spinnaker up.

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Ha-Ha bits and pieces:
1) The use of InReach and several other electronic devices for checking as opposed to the SSB was a terrific success. Even those with Ham and SSB radios found it easy to do. Which is not to say the SSB won’t continue to be used for the daily Children’s Hour.

2) Patsy ‘La Reina del Mar’ Verhoeven of the Gulfstar 50 Talion stepped up to be a terrific Assistant Poobah. She and the Grand Poobah have agreed to run the event for at least six more years. There is simply no better place to be or thing to do at that time of year.

3) Here’s the straight poop on getting a TIP and checking in at Cabo. First, forget getting your TIP online. It’s way easier and less confusing to get it at the Mexican consulate in L.A., San Bernardino, or Sacramento rather than online. (Not at the consulates in San Francisco or San Diego), or at Customs at Otay Mesa, a few miles from Tijuana. Online is a mess. Second, there was no problem with people just showing up at Immigration in Cabo and getting their tourist cards there. It didn’t hurt that each Ha-Ha entrant was given a special welcome and burgee by the Mexican government.

Next year’s Ha-Ha will start on October 29. As it will be the 25th Ha-Ha, we expect the fleet will be one of the biggest ever.

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