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2013 Baja Ha-Ha

A great way to start your Mexican cruising

Sat, 28th Dec 2013
By Chuck Skewes

2013 Baja Ha-Ha A great way to start your Mexican cruising

When you race as many miles as I do in a year, sometimes it's hard to take in the sights, between little sleep, food that is designed around weight savings and survival, and the quest for maximum speed 24 hours a day. Sometimes you forget to just plain look around.

I have raced to Cabo, raced past Cabo and even cruised to Cabo but have never before stopped anywhere in between San Diego and Cabo. 

In 2013, I made it a goal to participate in the 2013 Baja Ha-Ha.  It is a cruising rally to Cabo San Lucas lead by the magazine Latitude 38 and Rich, the fearless leader, better known as the "Grand Poobah".  Rich and his crew have been taking cruisers to Mexico for 20 years.  Currently, and for the last 17 years, he and Dona have been sailing "Profligate", an offshore ready 63' Catamaran.

The rally started as a way for cruising boats to participate in racing to Cabo without having to take it as serious as the typical racers.  Times are taken and recorded.  If you motored, the Grand Poobah uses his special formula to calculate your handicap.  It originally started a week before the Fall race to Cabo so the boats would all arrive at the same time. As the years went along, fewer boats raced to Cabo and more and more boats cruised.  The race has struggled over the years to get enough participants to hold the event, missing several years including 2012 and 2013.  Meanwhile in 2012 and 2013, over 150 boats registered for the Baja Ha-Ha. Some years there have been over 200 boats.  In the 20 years of this event, Rich and the Latitude 38 crew have brought over 10,000 people cruising into Mexican waters.

When customers of mine at Ullman Sails were preparing their boat for cruising the world, they mentioned that they were going to start their trip by doing the Baja Ha-Ha.  I let them know that if they wanted help during the Baja Ha-Ha that I would love to join them.  With my extensive offshore experience they were happy to have me and asked if my wife, Sandy, would like to come as well.  Since Sandy has done 4 transpacific races, and we had raced to Puerto Vallarta together in the past she was a great fit.

The organization and information that is supplied during the Baja Ha-Ha is amazing.  With such a diverse group of people heading off to go cruising the resources are abundant.  Each morning starts with a roll call where the Grand Poobah calls each boat and records their position.  When someone is out of range other cruisers relay the positions.  After roll call there is a time where other Baja Ha-Ha entrants call in with troubles or news.  People in the fleet that have spare parts or other remedies get together on other channels and get it worked out.  The system works great under the leadership of the Latitude 38 crew and the Grand Poobah.

As you approach each stop the Grand Poobah gives a brief about the best anchorages, local traditions, possible issues with the local area, how to get fuel and supplies.  The role calls and radio net continue while in port so that everyone is accounted for as well as all boat issues handled.  Dr. Electron helped people with electrical issues and I helped people with sail repairs.

The first stop on the rally is Turtle Bay.  Since the Grand Poobah has connections in Mexico he worked a deal with the immigrations to allow people to check in at Cabo rather than the first port.  This makes for a relaxing stop at Turtle Bay and no real chores to take care of.  It is encouraged to meet at a few of the different restaurants the first night but definitely not a requirement.  Most people just go for a walk and stock up on fresh produce.

The following afternoon is the baseball game.  The Grand Poobah pitches softballs to anyone willing to swing a bat.  Several of the local children join in as well.  This is a great event and the worse you are at baseball the more you are encouraged to play.  At the end of the game donations of baseball gear is given to the local little league teams.

The following day is the beach party on a remote beach just south of the town of Turtle Bay with beach volleyball, a potluck dinner, and dancing.  As with all of the parties they end just before dark so that the boaters can make it safely back to their boats.

Early the next morning is the start for the sail to Bahia Santa Maria.  Within minutes of boats leaving, the radio was full of cruisers already catching fish.  This leg had a nice 20 knot northwesterly wind.  The weather was as predicted and announced to the fleet by the Grand Poobah with information from Commanders' Weather.  This is all part of the great organization of this event.

Arriving in Bahia Santa Maria is what you envision remote cruising in Mexico.  It is a beautiful protected bay with nearly no sign of civilization.   Many of the cruisers went for hikes while others repaired their boats and sails.  I even went surfing between sail repairs.

The last night in Bahia Santa Maria, a band from La Paz makes the trek out having to traverse rivers and sand bars to get to this location, sets up and plays classic rock for several hours.  The local fishermen prepare a seafood dinner and everyone socializes, eats and dances until just before dark.  The local fishermen offer a taxi service with their pangas for those who are unsure about beach landings in the surf.

The following morning is the departure for the last leg of the Baja Ha-Ha.  The distance from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas is the shortest leg of the trip with most boats doing it in just over 24 hours.  

The crews at Latitude 38 take on the daunting task of finding slips for the boats that want slips.  They fulfill most requests and the rest anchor off the beach inside the harbor.  Arriving in Cabo is a culture shock after being in the nice remote bays of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula compared to the very busy tourist destination that Cabo San Lucas has become. The Latitude 38 gang organizes an agent to come to the dock and take care of all your paperwork for immigrations for a small fee.  This goes very smoothly.

When boats arrive in Cabo they are welcomed by a party at Squid Row where the Grand Poobah keeps the momentum going until late in the night.  The final gathering is the Cabo Beach Party with a “From Here to Eternity” kissing in the surf competition. 

The Baja Ha-Ha is a must do for the new or tentative cruisers and the experienced cruiser.  It gives security, and comfort for your first two weeks in Mexico and the people you meet often become lifelong friends.

Chuck Skewes
Ullman Sails San Diego

This article was posted on Sat, 28th Dec 2013