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Heading South to Party with the Baja Ha-Ha

As November 1 approaches, so does the start of the 27th Baja Ha-Ha. Bay Area sailor Monique Selvester was part of the delivery crew taking Shenanigans south for the start of this year’s rally.

Friday afternoon’s weather window was quickly closing as we hightailed it through the Gate — San Diego bound. Shenanigans, a J/120, was a racing boat, until now, marking the beginning of a cruising journey for owner Mike Clarke. Mike and the delivery crew were on a tight schedule between avoiding fighting the headwinds from the weekend’s storm and making it down south for the start of the Baja Ha-Ha.

Heading offshore we rode a 20-ft swell breaking off the sandbar, while I was at the helm. Beginning our journey I white-knuckled the wheel, taking us out past the shipping channel. With light southerly winds we furled the headsail in order to duck the storm and began to motorsail down the coast. While the San Francisco Bay Area was pounded by high winds and rain we were peacefully puttering along under clear, moonlit skies.

Ha-Ha delivery
Though having confessed to being more of a “tiller girl” Monique Selvester looks very happy at Shenanigan’s helm during a day sail on San Diego Bay.
© 2021 Monique Selvester

A dead zone followed us down the coast for the next two days, forcing us to make our way to shore to refuel. We took shelter overnight at the guest dock  at Santa Barbara Bay, while the tail end of the storm that had been following us blew over. As we closely watched the weather report, a joint decision was made to continue on, despite the forecast high winds.

“That’s the difference between cruisers and cruisers who race,” the skipper laughed as we geared up for a bumpy ride. With sails reefed and gusts of 32 knots, we topped out moving at 14.8 knots, surfing the tumultuous seas that towered around the boat.

Through the night, we made our way around the west side of Santa Catalina Island, weaving our way through a maze of cargo ships drifting offshore waiting to be offloaded. The bottleneck at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports has become a chronic issue since COVID hit.

The flotilla of cargo ships near Santa Catalina Island waiting to be unloaded.
© 2021 Mike Clarke

Nearing San Diego we could faintly see the small rocky islands off the shore of Mexico. The temperature quickly warmed, and the wind became merely a breeze. Entering the bay at Shelter Island, we saw Baja Ha-Ha burgees waving among the masts at the marinas. Friendly dock neighbors greeted us with excitement, inquiring where we were from and if we were Baja-bound. Last-minute preparations are underway before the rest of the crew arrive and Mike embarks on a lifelong dream of cruising.

Shenanigans‘ delivery crew, (l to r) Monique Selvester, Mike Clarke (owner), Gautier de Marcy, Greg Ashby.
© 2021 Monique Selvester

Great food and wine were shared as we recalled the different moments of our trip. The Shenanigans Ha-Ha crew will arrive before the Kick-Off party and parade/departure out of the bay. The rest of the delivery crew will go home, but for me, I will be waiting and ready at the dock with a thumb out, hoping to hitch a ride on a boat to Mexico!

You can find Monique dressed as Mrs. Claus, working at the Latitude 38 booth at Sunday’s Baja Ha-Ha Kick-Off party.

1 Comment

  1. Ros de Vries 3 months ago

    Yay Monique!! You will totally get a ride to Cabo – you are such an asset to any boat, either with wheel or tiller 😀

    Team Medusa and the Alameda ladies totally miss you. Be safe and let’s have a helluva welcome home party when you’re back – we want to hear your stories! 😀

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