SUNRISE START DESTINATION LOS CABOSThe last leg to Cabo got underway in 12-15 knots of breeze at 7 in the morning. Understand now that we were up at 5:30 to get ready. Not only did we have to ready ourselves and prepare the boat, but Nash the dog had to go to the beach for his morning constitutional as this would be a 24 hour leg into Cabo. This meant a wet ride through the surf for Robbie, Nash and me. I really canâ�'��"�t tell you what a great sport Nash has beenâ�'�¦.this really has to be terrifying for a 12 year old dog.
It was a happy crew heading off to the starting line listening to NPR, CNN and (yes) Fox radio recapping the vote from the night before. Just as the sun broke through the clouds Escapade led the boats off the starting line 160 miles south to Cabo. This event really isnâ�'��"�t a race, itâ�'��"�s called a rally, but when our spinnaker was holed during a 2 am jibe, everyone jumped into action, dousing the old chute and raising a heavy air spinnaker until the first one could be repaired. Once taped back together, it was down with the heavy spi and up with the faster repaired Escapade spinnaker just like the most competitive race boat. We soon came to our senses and let the autopilot do all the work to the finish in Cabo.
The most terrifying moments were yet to come. We timed our arrival for sunrise so we could be one of the first boats to the fuel dock, planning to anchor out later that day, re-provision, partake in the evenings festivities and head out for the Sea of Cortez on Friday (taking advantage of the forecast favorable weather window). Entering the harbor we were cast into the most chaotic situation I have ever encountered on the water. It looked like the worst caricature of an L.A. freeway at rush hourâ�'�¦literally, 150 fishing boats racing out of the harbor for a big tournament with the attendant pangas selling bait in the middle of the harbor channel. A quick whistle by Robbie alerted the first panga to gas it and move out of our way. A bluff with a 70â�'��"� sport fisherman got us across the channel into the area of the fuel dock. It was utter madness. Fortunately, the Mexican captains had complete control of their vessels. They missed us by the smallest of marginsâ�'�¦.this would have been a disaster in Marina Del Rey.
LOS ARCOS AT DAWNCabo is Cabo. You either love it or hate it. For Debbie and me, we had each been here in the mid 80â�'��"�s before the huge commercial boom took off. The area is one of the most beautiful natural places on earth with the dramatic rock formations, perfect beaches and blue water. But man has had his way with this once pristine place and it is overbuilt and often tacky. Word has it that the marina is more expensive than Monaco or Porto Cervo in Sardinia! We made the best of it, got our laundry done, checked Escapade into Mexico and had a nice dinner out, leaving the next morning for the East Cape and the Sea of Cortezâ�'�¦
HAPPY TO BE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOWLeg II of the 15th annual Baja HaHa gets under way with a "rolling start" at 8 am Saturday, November 1. (It's important for me to be precise as I write this on 11/4 I'm already unsure of the day of the week). Once again, Escapade smells the promise of free food in Cabo and is the first boat with the spinnaker up winning a pizza at the finish in Cabo San Lucas.We all just do some things well!
Our weather forecasters, Commander's Weather, inform us by sailmail that this will be a windy two days with winds predicted into the mid 20's. In anticipation Robbie digs the heavy air spinnaker out of the sail locker and we stow it on deck in anticipation of a change down from the big "Escapade" spinnaker as the winds should build by the afternoon. It's truly a glorious sail all as we cruise along at 9-12 knots with the large all purpose spinnaker with only one boat in front of us. "Auto" is doing almost all the steering as we while away the time reading, eating and lazing about. The autopilot not only sails to course, but is able to sail to the apparent wind, apparently without the help of the layabouts onboard!
SUNSET OVER THE FLEETNight comes and the wind never goes beyond 21 knots so the heavy air spinny stays in the bag. Once again, it is perfect sailing all night long, although we had a close encounter with a freighter around 3 am, then the wind lightened in the morning. We managed to be the third boat into Bahia Santa Maria, a beautiful crescent shaped sandy bay anchored on each end with dramatic green mountains. The sand dollars and abundant shells were plentiful, but the perfectly sculpted sand dunes really got my attention. The dunes looked like they were just placed on the top of the sandy beaches there would be 50 feet of dunes, then they would just stop and the beach would continue 'till the next dune, once again, perfectly sculpted by the wind.
As if that wasn't enough you could surf off the front of the anchorage and kayak through the estuaries up through the local Mexican fishing villages. Great spot! Only drawback was the surge, making the dinghy landings very tricky. Nash learned a lot about white water as he and I were unceremoniously dumped from the kayak by a big wave. To his credit, with all the wave action, both coming in and trying to get back out to the boat he never forgot his food bowl (and Debbie) were always back at the boat. You can teach an old (12.5) dog new tricks!
Our watermaker didn't like the algae and plankton in Bahia Santa Maria packing it in and giving me unwanted anxiety. Robbie jumped in and changed all the filters, Jeff figured out how to get the water pressure pump siphoning water and we were back in business but not until we were out of the bay into the clean waters of the North Pacific ocean.
ESCAPADE LEADS FREE RANGE CHICKEN OFF THE LINEAfter months of preparation and getting to know our new (to us) Catana 52 Escapade, we're finally off! One hundred eighty boats are signed up for the BajaHaHa cruising rally to Cabo San Lucas. It's going to be an interesting starting line with 180 cruising boats of all sizes, shapes and abilities departing from an imaginary line between the 63' catamaran Profligate and the Pt. Loma lighthouse.
We start at the favored end of the line not far from the committee boat raise our spinnaker at the starting signal and sail out to lead the fleet to the Coronado Islands content in knowing we won a free lunch in Cabo as the first boat to raise its spinnaker. A small achievement, but, hey, we hear Cabo has become very expensive!
Robbie Walters, a long time sailing friend of ours from Lake Tahoe, is sailing south with us for the season." Jeff Thorpe and Jenafer Anderson from Marin County have joined us for the next two weeks for a busman's holiday on the Baja HaHa. Lifelong sailors both, Jeff is one of the top racing sailors on the West Coast having recently won division A in last summer's race to Hawaii" The Baja HaHa allows motoring unlike a regular sailboat race, so our strategy is to sail when the boat speed is above 5 knots and to motor when the wind lightens or dies. This strategy will turn out to save a lot of headaches and help us ease into the cruising lifestyle.
SUNRISE OVER THE BAJABetter winds than forecast allow us to sail with the spinnaker for the first 24 hours. We had to jibe twice in the wee hours of the night to avoid a drifting fishing boat and put a little tear in our spinnaker. Jeff and Robbie made the repair in the dark pre-dawn hours with the sail still flying! Motor on, sails down, sails up, motor off, and then motor on later that afternoon to power us the last 18 hours into Turtle Bay. The wind was just too light. This second morning out we had a magnificent "Tequila Sunrise" dawn with livid colors over the Baja penninsula. We were escorted by thirty dolphins swimming and flying through the air! It's a happy crew as we expectantly pull into Turtle Bay with only the "Free Range Chicken" having preceded our 9:30 a.m. arrival.
LA COCINERAWaking up in Turtle Bay or as Jeff succinctly renamed it to Richard on our morning roll call "Dead Fish Harbor" we quickly figured out if we were going to do some swimming and surfing we would have to pull up anchore, leave the dead fish behind and search for some better water and waves. We motored a half hour north and found a nice surf break and sandy beach in Bahia Rompiente. Diving off the back of ESCAPADE put all those long days of working on her in preparation of this trip behind us. WE HAVE ARRIVED!!! Debbie is smiles all over.
Robbie caught a lot of waves and when the afternoon breeze came up we started back to the protection of Turtle Bay and the Baja HaHa festivities at the Vera Cruz restaurant. Back in the bay word has it that a sardine boat dumped its catch in the bay when they heard there was better fishing offshore. I'm not sure I believe it.
No wonder we were unable to find anyone who had sailed into Tomales Bay...it's awfully tricky! Not the wind in the mid-thirties and the 10-12 foot seas going around Point Reyes, but the sandbars and the shallow water going in.