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Could This Be the Last Year for the Ha-Ha?

Each year (minus one) for almost three decades, sailors have gathered en masse in San Diego for the annual Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers Rally. And in recent years dockside chatter has included, “How long will the Poobah continue running the event?” This year is Ha-Ha number 29, and today we woke to find a Facebook post in which the Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah, Richard Spindler, explains the possibility that this year might be the last for this fantastic cruising event. Here’s what we read:

I know that many future southbound cruisers make plans to do the Ha-Ha years in advance, and I also know that a lot of these folks are curious about the future of the event. I have been synonymous with the Ha-Ha since the day I founded it in 1994, so I have some insight.

The Ha-Ha is not a typical sailing event run by a yacht club or some association with built-in continuity, but rather a business I’ve run for 29 years in an extremely hands-on way. I’ve sailed in every Ha-Ha except the second one, which means more than 20,000 Ha-Ha miles, during which time I was on duty herding cats virtually 24 hours a day.

Given my status as the Grand Poobah, I feel that I have a responsibility to advise everyone that I don’t know how much longer the Ha-Ha can continue. And that it’s even possible that this year’s Ha-Ha may be the last.

To set things straight, I absolutely love the Ha-Ha. From writing the bios, to running the nets, to being a pied piper at the parties, to pitching at Turtle Bay, to seeing the smiles of achievement on the finishers in Cabo, to getting shy people dancing at Squid Roe, to egging participants on in the Here to Eternity Kissing contest, and all the other stuff. I live for it.

With over 12,000 sailors having done the Ha-Ha, it’s become an international sailing legend. I’m so proud of it, and just as much so of all the fabulous people who have done one or more Ha-Ha’s and who are now spread out all over the globe. So loving the event is not the issue.

I’m also still in great health, so that’s not an issue either. Nor is the participation of Profligate’s great core crew. Everybody is rarin’ to go for years to come.

No, the thing that would stop me from going forward with the event after this year is finding myself in a position of responsibility for things that I have absolutely no control over. When you’re young, that kind of stuff doesn’t wear on you so much. But when you’re 75, it keeps you up at night.

The Mexican government has been our dear friend all these years, and at times has even given the Ha-Ha monetary support and/or special dispensation. But authorities and policies change, and while branches of the Mexican government are continuing to work with the Ha-Ha, the Ha-Ha path isn’t as smooth as it once was. At some point the path might become impassable or the event have to be recreated in a tortured form.

I am vain to the point where I’d rather let the Ha-Ha slip into history if it can’t be the great event that it always has been. My attitude is do it right or don’t do it at all.

If the Ha-Ha had to be re-imagined in a form unacceptable to me, the only two people I would consider passing the name on to are Patsy Verhoeven, who has been the Assistant Poobah for the last 15 or so years, during which time she’s done every Ha-Ha; and Doña de Mallorca, who has done 25 Ha-Ha’s. While both are absolutely indispensable to the running of the event, neither one of them has any interest whatsoever in becoming the Poobah in a re-imagined event.

Sell the event? Out of the question. I want to emphasize that I’m not stating that this is the last year of the Ha-Ha, but I am giving a heads-up that that is a possibility. I hope it’s not the last because there is nothing more fun to do in the world the first two weeks of November than a Ha-Ha. But if you want to be absolutely sure you are going to be able to do a Ha-Ha, this is the year to do it. If you can’t, keep your fingers crossed for 2024 and beyond. My fingers will be crossed along with yours.

Thank you for understanding.

Richard Spindler
Grand Poobah

Baja Ha-Ha 2023

 

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11 Comments

  1. greg 1 year ago

    wow that would be sad if it went away, I have been trying for years to do it as it is on my sailing bucket list. I bought my last boat with the idea to sail it but covid messed that up, now looking for another boat with that event as part of the plan.

  2. David J Albert 1 year ago

    I only did 3 (’05, ’07 & ’14) Ha-Ha’s, but count those Voyages as some of the best memories of my life! Became a permanent resident of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Formerly S/V Serenity, Cat42’MKII, Oceanside, CA. Don’t put it off, drop the dock lines and get out!

  3. Susan Flieder 1 year ago

    We’ve done 3 HaHa’s (’02, ’06 and ’12), and I’ve always hoped to do it again – it’s a wonderful experience! Do it while you can . . . . I do have my fingers crossed that we can do it again one year!

  4. Murphy Sackett 1 year ago

    Was crew in 2003. Grew up sailing scows in Iowa and spending winters skiing mainly Squaw. Break up sold my bar and sailed away from everything. Now full time 200 ton Captain for on a private yacht out of San Diego. Every other winter in Mexico for 4-5 months. It literally changed my life

  5. Craig Russell 1 year ago

    I hope you can keep it going but understand if the Poobah needs to retire. I have had some very unique experiences on the Haha over my 7 voyages to Cabo. I arrive in San Diego (boatless) on Friday before the start. I knock on hulls and network until I find a boat that needs help. Last year there were few slips available so they created an anchorage just for Haha boats. I rented a jet ski and knocked on hulls. By Sunday night, I always found a boat. Some with families, some couples, and Go For Broke in 2011. I always look forward to the great people I have met on the Haha and several are still friends 13 years later. Thank you to all the great folks and friends I have met on the water!

  6. Frank Olsen 1 year ago

    Sounds like a desperate pitch to get the registration numbers up.

  7. Wes McWethy 1 year ago

    Greeting Grand Poobah,
    I bought a boat on the hard in a Guaymas marina last year. I was going to obtain a Temporary Import license as the new owner. I had a rather ugly shock. Were you aware that the Mexican Government has changed the cost of a TIP from $65.00 to over $600.00? SURPRISE!!! This is a good way to drive off the marine tourist trade. I know the HA-HA participants spend a lot of Dinaro in Mexico, but it seems that the government doesn’t want our trade. I would have liked to participate this year, but my vessel won’t be ready.
    I also don’t understand why the Mexican government can’t standardize nation-wide Port of Entry/Exit regulations and procedures. Making the process for pleasure vessels less complicated, less costly, and standard through-out the country would encourage marine tourist trade.

    • Craig Russell 1 year ago

      I think you are mistaken on the cost of the TIP. I just checked and the cost is $55.

  8. Joshua M Williams 1 year ago

    Craig I’m glad to see you replied to this article! I know the Poobah mentioned he was set on only 2 people but as soon as I started reading this article you came to my mind! With your catering and event planning background, past haha experience, history of latitude 38 contributions, and endless charisma, you would be a perfect poobahdos! Hopefully Poobah Numero uno reads this!

  9. Craig Russell 1 year ago

    You are too kind. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Paul Hedberg 8 months ago

    It had been a bucket list event of mine for years. I am glad I was able to participate twice after retiring 18’ and 21’. Thanks for the memories.

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