Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good Byes, Hellos, Good Byes and Hellos

Baja Ha-Ha crew Jeff and Annie had to return to Sacramento but took with them some memories they'll long remember.  Two short days later, we were on a plane to San Diego.

Another wedding in the family, Debbie's birthday, and Thanksgiving gave us a chance to catch up again with family and friends.

This old friend can barely hear, but with her 15th birthday just around the corner, she's looking pretty good.

We detoured just a bit from the regular route to John's Dad's house in Grant's Pass, flying to Portland instead where with John's brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Wendy, we enjoyed a couple of days wondering south...

...and tasting wine through the Willamette Valley where they grow delicious Pinot in abundance.

We finally arrived at Dad's beautiful home on the Rogue River, to find John's other brother Bill and his wife Karen were already checked-in.  

Being guys, the guys started a project.

  In this picture, John is either holding a seminar on how to turn a screwdriver, or being thoroughly supervised, or both?
The girls shopped and cooked...

...took walks in the neighborhood...

...and...went out to a dive bar and slammed down tequila shooters?

 Well, the times, they are a changin', but that's probably a different blog.  Anyway, the food was delicious and the project turned out pretty darn nice.  

We built a stage over existing steps so Dad can negotiate the route from his bedroom at one end of the house, to the kitchen at the other (this route goes through two time zones) without going down and up any stairs.  

At the end of each day, we gathered in Dad's pub for some laughs and lots of stories, old and new.

Then it was time for Thanksgiving dinner around the dining table where there'a always great conversation.

Back in Southern California, we had more time with family who moved Christmas celebrations to early December so we could enjoy seeing everyone before our return to Moonshadow.

After saying goodbyes (again), we hit the ground running back in hectic La Cruz.  The cab ride from the airport is about 35 minutes... just long enough to realize we're back where things are, well, different.

 No, seriously, it was hectic.  We had to get Moonshadow ready for the Banderas Bay Blast which roughly translates to an opening party put on by the tourist bureau and our marina to show appreciation to the visiting cruisers, followed by three days of racing among cruising boats to benefit local school children... 

Moonshadow cruised to the middle of the fleet on her way to Punta Mita
... and parties every night.

Punta Mita is the ideal place for a yacht and surf club...

...they have a protected anchorage for yachts and they have ideal waves for paddle board surfing.

But the club has an old tradition where new members are swatted by the Commodore as initiation.  

They never explained this tradition to Deb when she agreed to serve, but she seemed to adjust to the swing of things right away.

Next morning, we were treated to a performance by local school children.

These are the youngsters for whom all this racing is meant to raise needed money for extravagant things like pencils.

They were adorable!

But then it was off to the races, this time a downwind run from Punta Mita to Nueva Vallarta.  A big part of the racing on that third day was about getting a panga ride from the morning brunch ashore back to the our 15 anchored boats and then get the anchor and sails up before our start time. 

 We were all winners who got to enjoy a beautiful spinnaker run accompanied by playful whales.

What a great way to return to life in paradise.  We're getting right in the groove.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baja Ha-Ha

For 21 years, Latitude 38 has been running a sailing/cruising rally called the Baja Ha-Ha which, among many other benefits, forces participants to face a departure deadline, stop preparing and GO!  

We were grateful to finally see the day come for the kickoff costume party with about 400 sailors sporting their 
best halloween garb.

Moonshadow's MOOO-CREW, which included old friends Jeff and Annie, was easy to pick out of the crowd.

The next day, after four months north of the border, we cast off our dock lines and pointed Moonshadow south.  Ahead was the promise of 750 miles of downwind sailing into warmer weather as we rejoined the tropics.

The sailing conditions were very light so the rally's Grand Poobah announced a rolling start, meaning it would be OK to motor-sail until the wind picked up.

Light wind did nothing to suppress the smiles on the Moo Crew's faces.   Soon enough the entire fleet could be seen astern of Moonshadow.

Moonshadow covered the 334 miles in 43 and a half hours, motor-sailing all but 5 minutes of the way, and arrived in Turtle Bay before dawn to find no other Ha-Ha boats.

By dawn, we were still the only Ha-Ha boat in the bay, so we got busy rigging covers, awnings and launching water toys so it would look like we'd been there for days.  Then we sat back and sipped Bloody Marys and watched 140 or more boats arrive throughout the day.

Arriving from San Diego, Turtle Bay makes a perfect bookend for the continuum of social and infrastructure development.  At one end you have multi-lane freeways, McMansions and glass and steel office towers.  At the other, you have dirt roads and corrugated steel walled shacks.  But look a little further and you see happy, polite and helpful people who are eager to greet a fleet of American and Canadian sailors to their town.  

This was most evident at the impromptu baseball game with the Ha-Ha fleet and local kids, where the batting line-up was fifty people deep...

...and the fielding team contained dozens in the infield and still more in the outfield.

Moo-Crew Jeff coached a local kid (with aspirations to one day become the next Tony Gwynn) on the finer points of pinch running...

... then clocked the Grand Poobah's pitch into the outfield...

...where 25 fielders couldn't stop our budding baseball star from his first inside the park home run.

We think he'll remember this day for a lifetime.

The next morning greeted the fleet with a glorious sunrise.

The morning unfolded into a gorgeous day 
for the fleet's beach party...

...which provided a great opportunity to meet some of the other crews from up and down the coast between Canada and San Diego.

Amazingly, the strictly pot-luck affair produced more than enough food for hundreds of sailors who joined in a conga line to qualify for the chow.

Turtle Bay's moonscape surroundings create a surreal setting for a party of several hundred sunburned gringos!

Meanwhile, a tropical storm was developing hundreds of miles south and the forecast carried enough of a chance for impacting our fleet that the decision was made to wait at least a day in Turtle Bay.

So, the next day, instead of sailing south, we had water sports like the first ever Turtle Bay Stand Up Paddle Board Race around PROFLIGATE, the fleet mothership, and Moonshadow, anchored nearby.

The Moo-Crew was more than adequately represented by John and Jeff who went from way behind to front-runners when the previous leader took a wrong turn and then fell into the bay!

A second day of delays caused by the threat of now Hurricane Vance, allowed us to explore Turtle Bay further, like the bar at the top of the hill...

...and the only stone Jenga game we know of.

While we waited out Hurricane Vance, the evening radio chatter kept us entertained with talk about the "attack bat-moths" that showed up in the evenings.  Ours joined the elite club of Moonshadow Stowaways.

After five days in Turtle Bay, we finally got the go signal from the fleet forecasters and we found ourselves sailing south on one of the fastest legs in the Ha-Ha's 21 year history.  

Moonshadow clocked 16.8 knots along with several excursions into the mid teens, and finished the 232 mile leg in 28.6 hours for an average of 9.7 knots, enough to finish first in our class!

Even more remote than Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria was a stunning setting for a bunch of gringo sailors eager for another epic beach party.

Now drenched in the near tropical sunshine, the fleet's tanned sailors made their way ashore and began exploring, surfing, and greeting old friends.

We were treated to great music from a live band that traveled 40 miles overland and across a sandy span at low tide to arrive here...

...and spectacular scenes of unspoiled Baja.

We took only memories, and left with a promise to return again.

Our third and final leg of the Baja Ha-Ha was deja-vu all over again.  

With little to no wind, we motor sailed all the way to Cabo...

... but sighted turtles, and whales along the way and recorded another memorable sunset.

At dawn we rounded the famous rocks at Cabo San Lucas for our 6th time.

Jeff and Deb were immediately surrounded by the local police in Cabo, but somehow managed to stay out of the pokey.

The real crime was the damage left behind by Hurricane Odile.

Scores of slips were ripped from their pilings, 
the debris floating in a jumble.

All of this created real headaches for the Ha-Ha organizers trying to accommodate boats inside the marina, but didn't stop the great party at a raunchy bar called Squid Roe that night (sorry, no pictures) or the beach-side awards ceremony the next day where John and Deb competed for best recreation of the famous scene in From Here to Eternity.  We didn't take the kissing competition, but still felt like winners.

That evening, we raised anchor and continued south for La Cruz, near Puerto Vallarta.  The forecast showed a low pressure that carried the possibility of becoming a tropical storm, but we were fast enough to arrive in PV ahead of any serious weather.  

Moonshadow feeling teensy-weensy next to the Star Princess at the customs dock
We did get lots of rain though and the rain was more serious than you'd think.  It made Moonshadow's decks so slippery that Moo Crew Jeff slipped and fell, nearly cracking his ribs.  

Later, as we were toasting our successful clearance into Mexico, Jeff, still very sore from his fall, coughed injuring himself further and began showing symptoms of shock.   This really got our attention so we got to experience Mexico's health system with an ambulance ride, X-Rays, CT Scans, and excellent care from very professional doctors and nurses at a brand new hospital in Nueva Vallarta.

No Worries, Jeff's fine now! In fact after a day of rest, we were all back to exploring places like...

...Puerta Vallarta where we found this "survivor tree" with names on each pink ribbon celebrating breast cancer survivors...

...Sayulita where we discovered Odin and Inez who are just starting a bar called HEY... 

...and our home away from home La Cruz where Jeff felt good enough to rock out to Philo's band and Leon's washboard...

...and where Barry sat down in his La Cruz bar Ana Banana to explain the Crown Royal Bags hanging from the ceiling.  Barry pulled out his guitar and sang us the Crown Royal Bag Song.

Moonshadow is now settled into a slip where we will complete the last few projects on our refit schedule.  By January 1, we expect to be continuing south for a season of project-free cruising in beautiful Mexico!