Baja Ha-Ha Leg 2: Tortugas to Santa Maria

(November 4 – 7, 2017)  By the time we awoke at stumbled out of the cabin on the morning of the start of the second leg of the Baja Ha-Ha, the sun was already blazing.  It wasn’t hot yet, because thankfully the nights cooled down well in Bahía de Tortugas, but it was going to be a hot one.

Which would be a nice change, since neither the wind nor the sun cooperated particularly well on our first leg of the Ha-Ha.  We had motored most of the way to Tortugas from San Diego, much of the last morning through rain.  We were ready for some good, tropical sailing.

The wind was promising, and it was getting on near the 10AM start as we scrambled to pull out our little-used asymmetrical and make our way to the starting line.  The Poobah offered pizza to the first three boats to cross the starting line with their spinnakers up, and we were hoping to compete.  In the end, we did get the asymmetrical flying as we crossed the starting line, but we were far enough back in the fleet that we didn’t win any pizza.  Morgan was devastated, and I had to remind her we can always just buy our own pizza in Cabo.

The first day of the first leg was bright and sunny.  The wind was light and variable, but at 10-15 knots, it was just enough to sail.  We had trouble keeping our sails full at times, but for the most part, the sail was smooth.  Our knot meter had been reading 0.0 for nearly a week, so Rich took the calm afternoon to open up the bilge and clean off the meter.  Finally, we had a reading on boat speed again!

That evening, we enjoyed our first gorgeous sunset of the trip, and put the asymmetrical away for the night.  I headed off to bed, and Jason took the first watch, while Rich got the girls to bed.

I woke with my alarm at 11:45PM, rested and ready for the 12-4 AM swing shift.  The moon was obscured by clouds, and the night was fairly dark.  We had also lost quite a bit of wind, and the true wind was now under 10 knots.  I spent most of my shift futzing with the sails to see if I could get any more speed.  I wasn’t successful.  At 4AM, Rich came on shift, and I headed off to bed.  Rich spent his uneventful shift much as I had.

By morning, the wind was still low but existent, so we furled the jib and put up the asymmetrical again.  The wind picked up at points, and we managed to make 6 knots through the water (and more over ground with the push from the current) at times.  The day was comfortably warm and sunny, and most of our crew spent the day relaxing in the cockpit.  By the time sunset came around, we hadn’t caught any fish, but we were having a great sail in great weather and didn’t mind.

That second night, the wind failed us.  It started off well, but then it simply started to fade.  Slowly, stealthily, it lost a tenth of a knot here… and then a tenth of a knot there… until around 2AM, when it was only 5 knots or so.  We’d expected to make it into the second stop – Bahía de Santa María – around 2 AM, but it was 2:18 before we crossed the finish line, and that was still more than 10 miles from the anchorage itself.  But, it was dark, and having been warned about approaching unfamiliar anchorages in the dark (and even more concerned about the likelihood of lobster pots in the anchorage), I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just keep sail-drifting along for the time being.  Rich came on watch at 4AM, and he deftly drifted us into the anchorage and set the anchor around 6AM, then came downstairs for some more rest.

Of course, the kids were up just two hours later, so we were, too.  We checked into the morning net, where Richard (the Poobah) was feeling chatty, and asked how our sail was.  I explained that it was good, but that we were frustrated at our inability to get our boat to move in lights winds.  Drew, crew on another boat, Wildfire, offered to come over and give us some sailing tips, which we were excited to receive.  We lazed about most of the morning, until Drew arrived.  He’s a sailing instructor, and we learned two critical things from him.  First, we need to quit being lazy and actually use our jib pole in light winds.  Well, it’s not laziness, so much as not wanting to send people up on deck to futz with it.  That, and we simply haven’t practiced with it much.  But, he reiterated that the pole will be important for lights winds, and he gave us some great tips on how to make it more manageable with a small crew.

The second issue we’d kind of already figured out ourselves, but hadn’t articulated or done anything about it: Our asymmetrical was rigged incorrectly.  You see, when we installed the lifeline netting, we lost the empty space where the spinnaker sheets ran back to the snatch blocks at the cockpit.  To solve the problem, we ran the lines in through the lifeline gates, where there was no netting, but which were much farther forward, at midship.  This changed the shape of our asymmetrical, and sort of pinched it closed, so that it required even more wind to keep it open.  Drew suggested we find a way to run the asymmetrical sheets farther back to allow the sail to open more.  We weren’t sure how to do that, but we’d spend the next few days mulling it over, determined to solve the problem.

The rest of the afternoon was lazy, and HOT.  Really, really hot.  We were too tired to do much about it, though, so the day was mostly naps and video games, as we passed the time until darkness would cool us off.  The kids, who had gotten more sleep than the on-watch adults, went for a few swims to cool down, but us big kids simply didn’t have enough energy.  Finally, after endless, beating hours, the sun set.  It was time for the cool evening to come.

Except… it didn’t.  It didn’t cool down at all.  In fact, it felt a bit like it actually got warmer.  That night, the best we could do was toss and turn and hope our open hatches would catch a light breeze.  They didn’t.  It was about 3 AM before it was cool enough for any of us to sleep, and we finally drifted off, only to meet the hot, blazing sun again in a few hours.

The next day was the big Santa María beach party!  A band came all the way from La Paz to play, and the wives of the local fishing nomads came to the small mess hall on the hill at the beach to prepare authentic Mexican food for the cruisers.  While the adults played in the heat up on the hill, us kid boats found our own little private beach right below the hill for swimming, boogie boarding, floatie toy games, and general fun.  Every now and then we’d send the kids up to the bar with two dollars, one for a juice, and one for a beer.  The kids absolutely loved the independence of being able to go buy their own drinks.

As the sun sank low, we were all tired, and it was time to head back to the boat to try and get some rest before the next morning’s early start.  Only one more leg, and we’d officially be cruising the Sea of Cortez.  The excitement made the heat irrelevant, but we nevertheless awoke ready to rock for Leg 3 of the Baja Ha-Ha.  Next stop: Cabo San Lucas.




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