Dec 12 2009

Best Sailing of the Trip (and then the Doldrums) . . . .

6am came really early this morning. In fact, it was so early, our alarm clocks even missed it (and we all overslept). But, rise we did, and as a race crew, we are already intimately familiar with rigging the boat on the way to the startline. Fortunately, we discovered that the Grand Poobah responsible for the the start had, in fact, overslept, as well. Suddenly, we were like students who were late, but not really–the teacher was behind us . . . .

We had, in fact, rigged most of the boat the day and night before. All of the boat chores were completed. Things were secured. Other things were stowed. It was a pretty tight ship to begin with. In the darkness, however, I spotted the topping lift tha had snaked its way part of the way up the mast–and, that problem required sending someone aloft–and, Nathan was our guy.

Nathan Catches a Tuna After retrieving the topping lift, the wind was already following us and we wanted that spinnaker up as soon as possible. The Grand Poobah informed the fleet that we would have a rolling start, and we got that spinnaker up and the motor off immediately following.

What would transpire over the next few days had a dreamy, surreal quality to it. Nathan caught a second Yellowfin Tuna for the boat–not 45 minutes after sunrise. (We cleaned it immediately, but saved it for lunch/dinner. Sushi at 7am is a bit much.) The wind held steady at the low end of Marishanna’s performance range, and continued to build over the course of the next day and a half.

Otto Driving the Boat    By the time our nighttime racing came around, the winds were blowing a steady 18knots. The waves were perfect. The angle of the wind was just right. We were holding at a steady pace of 10knots–it was phenomenal. We were smoking.

And, so was the entire fleet. We were all enjoying this perfect sailing weather: high speeds, comfortable rides, warm weather. All of us were ooohing and ahhhing each other on the radios . . . .

As we pulled within 20 miles of Cabo San Lucas, the wind came to a halt. Zero. Nothing. The water became a mirror. Our sails were limp. There wasn’t even a dark patch of water to chase.

In situations like this, the symptoms of someone affected with the racing affliction become most evident. The cruisers would say something along the lines of, “Hey, that wind was good while it lasted and got us really close. Time to turn on the engine. We’ll be there by breakfast.” It is a simple and practical statement. They are thankful for what they got.

Finis Terra Our response is akin to that child sitting at the table who won’t eat his brussel sprouts. “We are NOT turning on the motor. We’ll be disqualified from the sail-only division.” Period. Final. No arguments–from any of us.

And, so we sat. We watched as the cruisers motored past us. Fortunately, no one was close enough to wave, or say kindly things. But, we watched all the boats that he had worked so hard to overtake motor by and beat us to the showers and to breakfast.

Cruisers Ahead of Us in the Harbor at Cabo San Lucas And, we continued to sit. After about an hour, we got about 1 knot of boatspeed. And, then it was up to 2.5 knots, and then it was a little higher. All in all, it took us 6 hours to finish the remaining 20 miles to the finish line–our record-shattering attempts were in shambles, but our principles were intact.

We turned on the motor, gave the steering to Otto von Helm (our Auto Pilot), and the four of us sat on the foredeck, cracked beers, poured our offerings to King Neptune, and toasted a fantastic sail from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

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Dec 10 2009

Singles Party

Sunset at Anchorage, Bahia Santa Maria. Over the Single Sideband Radio, we had been hearing about a Singles Party. I thought it was a bit odd, but was waited to pass judgement until I learned the details. That morning, over the daily check-in, and after all of other business was concluded, we heard a bit more about the party.

The holder of the party made a direct pleading to boat owners. He said that this party is organized on your behalf. You have picked up your additional crew members to sail with you on the trip. Tonight, would be a great time to take those crew members, send them over to the three rafted-up sailboats with a bottle of booze, and in return, give yourselves a couple of hours of privacy. If you know what I mean?

Once the encrypted words floated on the airwaves, I understood.

Send your kids. Send your crew members. And, you get to have the boat to yourself . . . it’s been a few days, and your on vacation, right?

Nathan and I went over to the party–as we were the only ones who were single, but we quickly found out that we may have also been the only boat adhering to the “singles” part of the party. It was a party for everyone with a lot of alcohol, loud music, and a little dancing on three rafted-up boats (complete with sparkly Christmas-party lights) in an absolutely gorgeous setting . . . .

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Dec 10 2009

Bahia Santa Maria

Morning Sunrise, Bahia Santa Maria Bahia Santa Maria is pristine–like a postcard, actually. It is less than a 100 miles from the larger Mexican port, Magdelena Bay, but rather than deal with all of the bustle and crowds, Bahia Santa Maria is quiet–idyllic almost.

After catching up on our sleep, we awoke to a beautiful, peaceful bay. I popped my head out of the hatch (before even having a cup coffee) and went up on deck. The water was like a mirror. A dorado (Mahi-mahi) was chasing a school of smaller fish, and he/she (couldn’t tell) came swimming by as if it were a dolphin: breaking the surface of the water, down into the water, out of the water again, and back down again. The dorado in its rhythms did this between our boat and another one for a couple hundred yards. It was beautiful.

Lone Sailboat, Bahia Santa Maria Apparently the town was hit really hard by hurricane this summer. The recent rains associated with the storm are what caused the hills to turn green. The local fisherman, to my understanding, fish here during the week and stay in some improvised housing, and on the weekends, drive back to wherever their homes and families. Of course, there are some who live her permanently, but not many. The only sign of humans from the harbor, in fact, were these dozen or so improvised buildings and a slightly larger structure that I believe was the “town bar.”

We were excited about 2 full days of rest and relaxation (while the rest of the fleet catches up). There were a few chores (our dinghy needed a bit of repair), and, a couple of social events. But, for now, we were excited to take in the scenery and relax.

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Dec 01 2009

Racing Towards Bahia Santa Maria

Another Baja Ha-ha racer flying a Spinnaker Somewhere during our first leg of the trip, we had forgotten that this was a race. We had started joking that “we are cruisers now,” and as we would collectively make decisions, we would posit, “Are we thinking like racers or cruisers?”

The two groups are not mutually exclusive, nor are they in confrontation with one another. For example, there was a green-hulled boat only a few feet longer than ours who smoked by us, and it looked like a pretty comfy ride. Turns out that it was a custom-designed Farr 44 purpose-built to cruise comfortable AND go really, really fast while doing it. The point is that on the first leg of the trip, all of our little-racers-within were lulled into a sweet nap while we “enjoyed ourselves” in the cruising mode.

Dolphins close to the boat On the second leg–something snapped. Or popped. Or awoke. In all of us. Maybe it was the adrenaline from the start. Or, more likely, it was pulling into the Bahia de Tortugas with 60 boats from the fleet already waiting for us. I, for one, thought a we pulled into the last anchorage, “Wait a minute. We are down here on a RACE boat–with no insulation, exactly ZERO exquisite staterooms, with a two-burner stove and a one-holer toilet seat for which we fabricated a CURTAIN to give us the illusion of privacy, and weighing roughly less than the diesel, water and provisions you are carrying on-board . . . and, YOU beat us?”

Regardless of what the motivation was, each of our little-racers-within awoke from their nap, and they were hungry. No motor. Spinnaker through the night. No set the spinnaker to a conservative setting and forget it. This was war–or, better, this was a RACE! There isn’t really a trophy, per se, but we wanted an illusionary one. We wanted “bragging rights” which has its own HUGE currency in the superstitious, over-indulgent, beer-swilling, story-telling world of sailors. And, race we did.

The winds picked up and were blowing around 25 knots during the end of the first day, and Nathan hand-drove for hours–keeping the boat on the edge to drain every ounce of speed out of her . . . because Marishanna shines in these conditions: downwind, big seas, and 25 knots of breeze. If it wasn’t for the warmer water, she might have thought she was at home in San Francisco.

Nathan driving With the spinnaker up and sailing downwind, a racing sailboat can do magical things. If the driver knows what he/she is doing, they feel the wave approaching (there is also a rhythm to it), and they turn the transom of the boat to sit firmly on the wave, and for a few brief moments, the hull partially pulls out of the water and basically “surfs” down the waves. By definition, sailboats should only be able to go a certain speed calculated by the length of the hull. In these brief moments, however, a light, fast, raceboat with a large spinnaker sail up, properly-designed stern, a powerful wave, and a good driver, and you can reach speeds above your hull-speed (Marishanna’s hull-speed is in the mid-to-high 7 knots).

With Nathan driving and the conditions right, we peeled off consistent 10’s–for awhile, doing it with almost every wave. We hit some pretty regular 11’s and saw numbers as high as 15 knots. And, that is how you win races.

Sailing to Bahia Santa Maria was about 280 nautical miles. We ripped off the first 180 miles in about 20 hours, and as the wind died from 25 knots to 15 knots and down to 10knots, we continued to drain every ounce of speed we could get from the boat.

Moon Rise in the Pacific Ocean Somewhere in the early hours of the morning (around 4am), a bit more than 2 days after we started, we crossed the finish line. We weren’t the first to arrive, but at least we were respectable (in the top 20) and, had our pick of the anchorages.

And, yes, the green boat was already there . . . .

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Nov 22 2009

Beach Party

Our Arrival at the 2009 Baja Ha-ha Beach Party/Potluck      Perhaps it was the way the we had prepared for the trip. Perhaps it was the delivery down to San Diego. Regardless, I had all sorts of expectations about this trip and none of them included the “party” functions from the official Baja Ha-ha calendar.

Our first full day of rest included this 1pm blip on the radar of a potluck party with all of the other boats and crew. It barely registered anything at all.

That morning, at 7:30am, during the morning roll-call of ships and ship positions, we spent an extraordinary amount of time on the “potluck” rules for cruisers. Time-tested favorites like, “bring more than you intend to eat,” and “no silverware, cups or utensils will be provided, so unless you intend to eat with your hands, you will need to bring some,” gave me a peek into the “cruiser” world . . . .

Sample plate of food from Baja Ha-ha 2009 Beach Party/Potluck I had drempt about a way to cook lasagna on-board that wouldn’t be too painful and would be our contribution. But, somewhere along the way, the grocery list actualized in a way that deviated from how it was potentialized. In short, I sent it too late and some of the items got omitted from the list: namely, all the lasagna ingredients.

So, we punted. Where there was one loaf of bread on the shopping list, we ended up with three loaves on-board. We had eggs, some ham, bell peppers and onions–as well as milk and cheese. All the ingredients for quiche lorraine. Real men may not eat quiche, but I discovered that sailors at a potluck will (in fact, it was gone quickly enough to where I didn’t get to sample it myself–I’ll have to make it again so I can be sure of the success or failure of the recipe).

We hailed one of Enrique’s water taxi drivers and motored over to the East side of the harbor to a HUGE party on the beach. To explain the enormity of the event let’s talk some numbers. This year, there were approximately 200 boats. One boat hit a whale and sunk (everyone and the whale was fine–it wasn’t a whale ramming like the news reported, but rather it was most likely a sleeping whale in a wave and two giant things in the same place at the same time that caused damage to the boat’s rudder, which caused it to fill up with water fast–AND, they got into their life raft and were picked up by coast gaurd immediately), but other than that–the fleet had mostly arrived. And, roughly 1000 sailors were lined up on the beach to participate in this potluck. The locals provided beer for sale, a portable toilet, and some REALLY loud music . . . and voila–we had a party! It was great.

View from Above: 2009 Baja Ha-ha Beach Party/Potluck at the end of the day. We drank, talked, danced, and ate until roughly sun-down when the water taxis ferried us back to our boats. Well done, Baja Ha-ha organizers. THAT was a great party!

We waited a few hours, regrouped, and . . . then organized a “scouting” party into town to see about the Dia de los Muertos celebration in the town zocalo and to see if there was any more dancing at the Hotel Veracruz . . . .

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Nov 13 2009

Patios and Beers, Bahia de Tortugas

Around 1pm, the crew started to rumble and awake. We hadn’t slept a considerably long time – basically one watch-worth of time – but we were all hungry and eager to get ashore after 4 days on the boat.

Every morning, at 7:30am, the Grand Poobah (his choice of names, not ours) runs a check-in process over the Single-Sideband Radio (SSB). Each boat in the fleet reports their position and anything special (ie., we had a medical emergency on-board, or our motor stopped working and we are under sail only, or we caught a huge Dorado yesterday). After the check-in parts, we share information with the other cruisers. One of the important bits that we learned one morning was that in Bahia de Tortugas, call Enrique on channel 16 for a water taxi from your boat to town.

We have a dinghy that our captain went to great pain to patch and repair (apparently mice had decided to try the rubber in a few places) and an outboard motor, but we were all hungry. So, we called Enrique on VHF Channel 16 and he fetched us. Within moments we were speeding towards shore.

Bahia de Tortugas is a really small fishing town. One time each year (for the past 16 years), a group of sailing boats in a fleet known as the Baja Ha-ha comes to town–each year growing in size up to the 200 boats that were in our fleet this year. The town prepares for our arrival, stocks up on food and booze for the cruisers, and lays out the hospitality–and, we spend our money like crazy. And, it works. Our two or three day stop has become a huge cash infusion into an otherwise poor fishing town.

Enrique is really a fisherman–as are all of the other “water taxi” drivers. We know about him most likely because he has the most panga boats in his fleet. The locals fish for camarones (shrimp), langusta (lobster), dorado (mahi mahi) and tuna. When the Baja Ha-ha fleet arrives, they put their other profession aside and ferry American and Canadian cruisers from their sailboats to shore for $4/person per trip. They also take trash from your boat and dispose of it for $1/bag. They will also bring you jerry cans of diesel and water at reasonable prices–right to your boat. They will also sell you their fresh fish and shrimp–no market necessary.

Bahia de Tortugas--A Patio and Cold Beers Our water taxi delivered us to the large dock and we could see the restaurant where we were going to eat already. Salivating from hunger, there was a patio restaurant where we could see other cruisers already imbibing–and, we walked down the beach towards the cold beer and warm food (that someone else was preparing). Over the next four hours, we would eat and drink our fill of beef and cheese tacos, a gespacio-type shrimp cocktail and Nathan won the day by ordering the lobster plate–a HUGE lobster served ceremoniously on a plate with beans, rice and salad.

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Nov 07 2009

Pacific Ocean Sunset

mexico_sunset_1 There are still a lot of details to sort out in the next few days and writing time has been pretty sparse. The Baja Ha-ha activities are still happening, and we are sorting through customs and various paperwork. Right now, we have a slip in the marina in the middle of it all. The restrooms and showers are wonderful, we are in the middle of the night-life and close to everything. In another few days, that is going to change . . . .

I will be moving the boat to an anchorage right outside of the resorts and using the dinghy to get back and forth to town. There are currently roughly 100 boats anchored out in the bay, although in a few days, they will start to peel out for their various destinations. Some will sail towards La Paz, Mazatlan, or Puerto Vallarta, and others will begin sailing against the winds on the delivery back to colder climates (we call it the Baja Bash). Still others will sail down closer to the equator in preparation for their “Puddle Jump” to the Marquesas.  I will stay here in Cabo San Lucas on my 40-foot floating city.

While still sorting and officiating all of the things that need to be officiated, I tempt you with this–another stunning sunset on the Pacific Ocean.

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Oct 31 2009

Bahia de San Quintan

mexico_2 Late in every afternoon, there is a 7:30pm Happy Hour on the Single Side-Band Radio (SSB) and sailors get together and talk about things. There was a big discussion about the weather because a storm was supposedly blowing into our path. We had some repairs to make to the head (on-board toilet), and no one could bear the thought of repairing it while sloshing around in big seas. So, we changed our course and headed in towards the shore to a little anchorage called Bahia de San Quintan.

The Cruising Guide described this as a “rolly” anchorage. We found what we thought was a nice place to anchor, and we set the hook for the boat. There were a few others around us, but several other boats were moored over on the other side of the bay.

Once on the hook, part of the crew finished the head repairs, one crew completed miscellanous tasks around the boat, and I cooked a nice dinner (pesto chicken burritos with onions, garlic, tomatoes and cheese), cracked a bottle of wine, and sat around the dining table together.

Afterwards, we had a little dessert and some after dinner drinks, and then headed to bed.

A couple of times during the night, I got up to check the status to the boat (as did the others). The wind had shifted and we were getting these strange rolling waves during the night.

Around 4:30am, I heard the roar of a wave . . . which proceeded in crashing right onto the boat and into the cockpit. I was thrown flying from my bunk and onto the cabin sole. (Not so nice wake-up call). We all got up to survey any damage (there was none) and make a plan for the day . . . and, we decided that rather than take another hour to reset the anchor somewhere else in the bay that two would volunteer to take the first watch, and we would move forward. I volunteered, and we were off!

All-in-all, about 60 boats moored in Bahia de San Quintan. I hope we were the only ones with THAT problem.

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Oct 26 2009

The Boat Leaves at 9am

My apologies for the lack of updates–there are some wonderful and crazy stories to tell from the delivery leg.

But, right now, we have 40 minutes until the boat departs for the starting line.

Pictures and stories to come–I promise!

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Oct 17 2009

Rock You Like a Hurricane (Rick)

Published by under The Adventure,Wylie 39

Hurrican Rick Aimed at Cabo San Lucas: 17 October 2009

Hurrican Rick Aimed at Cabo San Lucas: 17 October 2009

Some not so good news for the adventure. Hurricane Rick is on a crash-course for Cabo San Lucas. It is currently a Category 5 Hurricane which originated around Acapulco and was headed out to sea. It made a turn north (and for the worse) towards Cabo San Lucas–who were just blasted 2 months ago by another Hurricane. More Hurricane info about Hurricane Rick is available at the National Hurricane Center.

The Grand Poo-bah of the Baja Ha-ha has said that the 190-boat fleet will hold in San Diego until the storm has passed if it poses a problem. At this time, we are proceeding with the delivery to get the yacht down to San Diego to join the rest of the fleet. But, we are watching the weather . . . .

I’ll keep you posted.

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