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Getting Ready for the Ta-Ta and Ha-Ha

"What we really need for the SoCal Ta-Ta and the Baja Ha-Ha is our own island," the Grand PooBob/Grand Poobah was thinking to himself the other day. Fortunately, he was walking through the West Marine Super Store in San Diego at the time, and nearly ran into something called the Airhead Reef Island. While not noted on any NOAA charts, the PooBob/Poobah figured that anchored off Prisoners at Santa Cruz Island, and Bahia Tortugas and Bahia Santa Maria on the coast of Baja, the Airhead Reef Island is all the island the Ta-Ta and Ha-Ha would need. So he bought it.

"No man is an island," wrote John Donne in 1624. But the Airhead Reef Island is an island of sorts. 

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In fact, he can visualize an October or November Latitude 38 cover featuring a group of Ta-Ta’ers or Ha-Ha’ers in the foreground on the island, and either many boats of the fleet or dramatic scenery in the background. The Latitude drone will make the aerial photo possible. If you want to be part of the fun — and maybe the cover photo — you will have to try to get a crew position on the Ta-Ta, which starts from sunny Santa Barbara on September 13, because all 50 boat slots sold out long ago. There is still room for more boats in the Ha-Ha, however. The deadline for signing up for the Ha-Ha is September 15, while the start itself is October 26. Frugal sailors should note that you can easily recoup the $375 entry fee in discounts on berthing and other things before and after the Ha-Ha. To sign up for the Ha-Ha, visit

Last year’s spinnaker run from Paradise Cove to Two Harbors, Catalina. Superb sailing conditions. 

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Having just motored up from Cabo ‘Summer Sauna’ Lucas, we’ve really been enjoying the nearly ideal Southern California weather, and are keeping our fingers crossed that the Ta-Ta will have weather as terrific as it did last year. That said, what we’re really looking forward to is the 750-mile Ha-Ha sail back down to Cabo starting on October 26.

What’s sailing in the Ha-Ha like? The 360-mile first leg completely removes you from civilization, leaving you in undiluted nature. A bunch of entries in this year’s Ha-Ha asked if they could please have a full moon sometime near the start to ease everyone into night watches. "Why not?" we responded, and have arranged for a full moon on October 27, the second night of the first leg.

Arriving in Turtle Bay, with its dirt streets and incongruously beautiful baseball field, it’s a bit of a shock for some first-timers. But thanks to all the other Ha-Ha folks, and the friendly folks of Turtle Bay, the shock quickly wears off. This is especially true after the Cruisers-versus-Mexicans baseball game, which is like baseball on speed. You know how when you watch a regular baseball game it’s like watching paint dry? Not at the Cruisers-versus-Mexicans baseball game, where it’s only seconds between pitches, let alone batters, and nobody can strike out. Major League Baseball is thinking of adopting the format.

Turtle Bay, the first stop on the Ha-Ha, may not be a garden spot of the world, but the people are great, the weather is warm — and the baseball field is not to be believed. 

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The following day is the Turtle Bay Beach Party, which is part potluck, part surf fest, part dance party, part hill climb, part Frisbee-catching contest. By the time darkness puts an end to the Beach Party, people are asking, “Do we really have to leave tomorrow?”

Leg Two of the Ha-Ha is 240 miles to Bahia Santa Maria, and has historically been very different from the first leg. The first leg can be cool if not downright cold, at least to the southern tip of Cedros, which is 60 miles north of Turtle Bay. The second leg almost always starts in gloriously warm weather, with a nice afternoon and evening breeze. By the second day of the second leg, the water is even bluer and the air is much warmer. In fact, it’s the day we traditionally remove the windows from Profligate’s galley for the winter season in Mexico.

While not immediately apparent from sea level, Bahia Santa Maria is one of the most scenic anchorages in the world. There are big hills to the north and south, a big mangrove area, and endless sand dunes to the east. But it’s only after you climb halfway up the hill that you can appreciate it all. Bahia Santa Maria frequently has good surf too, both at the point and at the bar. And unless El Niño flips out, the water should be plenty warm.

Bahia Santa Maria, of course, is the site of the Ha-Ha Rock ‘n’ Roll Party on the bluff. A live band comes all the way from La Paz to rock you, no matter if you want to dance or play volleyball or frolic in the surf down below. There is only one word to describe the Bahia Santa Maria experience — surreal. The bay is all but uninhabited 363.5 days of the year, and for 1.5 it’s full of Ha-Ha boats and 500 sailors.

An isolated and virtually uninhabited bay 175 miles north of Cabo is hardly a place where you’d expect to find a rock ‘n’ roll band. But it happens every year for the Ha-Ha. 

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If you somehow managed to lose all your clothes but your ‘banana sling’ underwear at Bahia Santa Maria, no worries, as the 175-mile third leg to Cabo is guaranteed to be warm. Even in the middle of the night. We’ve sailed all over the world, and some of the last legs of the Ha-Ha have been among the most enjoyable sails we’ve ever had.

Once at Cabo there is the Squid Roe Ha-Ha Dance Fest, the Beach Party, the Here to Eternity Kissing Contest, the Awards Ceremony — and the sad goodbyes to lots of new friends. By the time the Ha-Ha is over in Cabo, you will have lived so intensely that it will seem that you left San Diego three months before.

On the fence about whether to do the Ha-Ha? We suggest you don’t listen to either us, as we’re biased, or the naysayers who have never done one. Put your trust in the advice of sailors who have actually done the Ha-Ha.

Just so everyone is clear, the priorities of the Ha-Ha are safety and responsible fun. As such, if you are looking to party! party! party! as if there is no tomorrow, or have issues with alcohol, neither the Ta-Ta or Ha-Ha is for you.

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