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!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The San Diego Blur

Never a part of our Plan A, the decision to return to San Diego was the best accident we've had so far.  
Soon after our return to this beautiful place, we forgot the trials of the "Baja Bash", and were enjoying all the things San Diego has to offer to the returning traveler.... reuniting with dear family and friends....

...going to the Grandkid's soccer games...

...watching them discover sailing in 
San Diego Yacht Club's Junior Program...

...celebrating July 4th in our old "Cruising Spot", La Playa Cove...

...sailing in San Diego Bay...

... and taking a trip to our other old cruising favorite, Howland's Cove on Catalina Island.

The very best part of Catalina is watching children discover the magic of just messing around, above, in and under the water.

We also caught up with several friends from Los Angeles Yacht Club, who we hadn't seen since selling Legacy.  We enjoyed being moored right next to the Bells aboard Westward just like the old days.

We all agreed it would be great fun to recreate the old scene of the Bells in the family guppy, but not everyone could make it so we had to do a little creative Photoshopping.

Back in San Diego it was time to get down to some serious work so we tackled many jobs on the list, big and small.

It actually takes this many tools to change a light bulb!

Through trial and error we've found that twelve months, not fifteen, is the correct replacement cycle for the main engine raw water impeller.

We tackled replacing the galley counter tops and back splash...

...and found time for  a wedding, a trip to John's Dad's house in Oregon....

...dressing up in pink for the Walk for the Cure in Balboa Park...

...daily exercise on new SUP paddle boards...

... and a visit to the site of our wedding over 40 years ago.

Our stay in San Diego was over four months but seemed to pass like a lightning bolt.  Being reminded of so many things that make us happy back home gave us pause as the date approached to leave all this behind yet again.

But as we now watch another full moon rise over Mexico, we hope our flight home planned for Thanksgiving will help to keep a balance between our floating home in ever changing locals and the home we call home, where all our family and friends are.