It’s that time of year again when we get to know a few of the sailors signed up for this year’s Baja Ha-Ha. Here are a few of the faces sailing with the class of 2023.
Ale er Ron — Hunter 460
Ron Johnston and Holly Hall
Ron, 67, is a retired test pilot for Boeing. Holly is retired from an unspecified career. Their crew will be friends Emily Pruitt and Tyler Wilson.
“Captain Ron” started sailing at age 17 while in high school in Guam. He has owned and sailed several boats. Ron bought Ale er Ron — the name a play on an important aircraft component and his name — in 2005, and it’s been his “love and joy” ever since.
Captain Ron, whose nickname has also been “Taco” for 40 years, lived aboard in Seattle until retiring from Boeing in 2017. During the 12 years living in Seattle, he got off the dock nearly every week, summer and winter, to explore Puget Sound or participate in a regatta. Taco is proud to say that he is the one primarily in charge of his boat’s maintenance, and only rarely needs to bring in a mechanic.
The day after retiring, Ron started cruising by heading up the Inside Passage to Alaska with numerous stops in British Columbia. Intending to stay in Alaska for only that summer, he and his first mate fell in love with it, and ended up spending four summers there. Ale er Ron shared numerous beautiful small anchorages with friends and family. The usual segment was a 10-day adventure, leaving one port that had airline service and dropping the friends off at a different port with airline service.
During the four summers in Alaska, the USCG boarded Ale er Ron three times. Each time the vessel, crew, and captain received the “gold-standard” of inspections, with a perfect inspection report.
After four wonderful summers in Alaska, Captain Ron and his first mate Holly have decided to try cruising in warmer and drier climates. After a winter haulout in Anacortes, where numerous maintenance tasks were completed, Captain Ron headed down the West Coast and is currently in San Diego.
His overnight offshore experience includes a one-night voyage from Astoria to Neah Bay, where he and his crew of three weathered 25 to 35 knots of wind and 10-foot seas at 11-second intervals. The boat and crew came through fine. This past summer, Captain Ron and a crew of four made a two-night passage from Coos Bay to San Francisco Bay, including rounding Cape Mendocino in seven-foot following seas. Three of those four crew members will be on the Ha-Ha; one of them is an instructor for his local sailing club in Seattle.
Amizade — Bavaria 47
Mike and Jennifer Ward
Port Townsend, Washington / Tonasket, Washington
Michael Brian, 56, is a fisheries ecologist, while spouse Jennifer is an educator. Their crew will be Leia “Wren” Ward, 10, a student of life.
“The motivation for our current cruising adventure comes from a conversation on a dock in Auckland’s Westhaven Marina in 2010 at the end of our last Pacific crossing. I was telling a Kiwi sailor, “The best thing I’ve ever done is go cruising on a bluewater sailboat.”
“That’s the second-best thing I’ve ever done,” responded the father of a couple of grown kids. “The best thing is cruising with kids. You should try it!”
“Since then Jennifer and I endeavored to do just that, by getting married, starting a family, and working hard to find and buy our next boat. Finally, here we are, ready to start an epic kid-cruise. Naturally, we are very keen to meet and buddy-boat with the other kid boats in the fleet.”
Mike has been sailing his whole life, and Jennifer has been sailing since she prepared to join Mike in Tahiti on his previous boat, the Kelly-Peterson 44 Thin Wolf at the end of the 2009 Pacific Puddle Jump. Jennifer then cruised the next 5,000 miles from Papeete to Auckland with Mike. Wren is being raised as a boat kid by sailing, whitewater rafting, and canoeing ever since she was a toddler.
“We purchased our 2000 Bavaria 47 Amizade in Puerto Vallarta in January 2023,” reports Mike, “then sailed her uphill in preparation for the 2023 Ha-Ha. Alas, relentless conditions north of Point Conception turned us back. Unable to find a suitable slip in Southern California, we berthed in Ensenada for the summer.
“In addition to Amizade, we previously co-owned the Kelly-Peterson Thin Wolf with acclaimed artist Luke Tornatzky. We sailed her in the 2008 Baja Ha-Ha and the 2009 Pacific Puddle Jump. Mike’s most recent rally was doublehanding in the Salish 100 in 2022 with a Com Pac-16. [We have] also explored the San Juan Islands on charter boats, and try to take an annual multi-day whitewater rafting trip on one of the rivers in the Pacific Northwest.”
Mike’s longest passage was 3000.0 miles — literally to the tenth of a mile! — from Puerto Vallarta to Hiva Oa in 2009. Jennifer once did a 1,500-mile passage from Tonga’s Ha’apai Islands to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand — but that doesn’t count her thousands of miles at sea on fishing boats in Bristol Bay and the Gulf of Alaska. Wren’s longest passage so far has been across the Strait of Georgia from Salt Spring Island to Vancouver, although she’s planning to cruise out to the Island of the Blue Dolphins next month.
“After the Ha-Ha, we plan to cruise Mexico until spring 2024. If all goes well, we’ll follow our dream of crossing the Pacific as a ‘kid boat.’ Otherwise, we’ll either gunkhole back to the Southern California bight or sail to Puget Sound via Hawaii.”
Jen is a lefty. Both Jen and Mike are meditators. Wren’s favorite dessert is helados de yogurt, which she recently discovered in Ensenada.
Annie’s Song — Catalina/Morgan 440
Will and Emily Blake
Channel Islands / Flat Rock, North Carolina
Will, 28, is in the software field. Emily is — get this — a pipefitter. The Poobah salutes women in the trades. William and Emily will doublehand.
“We have been sailing together, always with our four-legged companion Ludog, for the past 12 years,” they say. “So far our sailing has been on the East Coast, in the Caribbean, and on the Great Lakes, so we’re eager to see what the West Coast has to offer. The bonfire story we like to tell is when we had no option but to go the wrong way through a force-8 gale in the Exumas during the off-season. What a ride that was!
“Early this summer we purchased the most recent of the three boats we’ve owned, the spacious Catalina/Morgan 440. We are very proud of her. We have not done a Ha-Ha before and are signing up after many personal recommendations. After the Ha-Ha, we plan to explore the Sea of Cortez for the remainder of the fair-weather season. After that, who knows?
“Our dream is to circumnavigate, and the more we are looking into all the potential destinations the harder it is to say which one represents the most dreamlike. French Polynesia is a likely candidate.
“Our dream boat is the Sirius 40 DS with the lifting keel, but in all honesty, we think our 440 is right up there. Skip Novak, who did four Whitbread Around the World Races and for the last 20 years has been doing charters in Antarctica, is our sailing hero, the fictional Martin Harvey being the second.
“A nicely made tiramisu is our favorite dessert. Both of us are right-handed and neither have fun nicknames, but we have an infinite number for our dog.
“We are really looking forward to the Ha-Ha!”
We’ll have more Ha-Ha profiles in Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude.