The Baja HaHa is a loosely organised
cruiser’s rally from
Nov 3 when we got inside the bay it was blowing in the mid to high twenties and
was pitch black. Some lady from one of
the boats at anchor was on the VHF radio saying that there were no good
anchoring spots left, a heavy swell, and a strong current. I was already concerned about anchoring in a
strange place in the dark and this added fuel to my doubts. We decided to go back out to the entrance to
the bay and wait for daylight, then reassess the situation. As we left the protection of the bay the wind
picked up to the low thirties and the sea gave us six foot swells. I thought these light gale conditions would
be a good chance to try out some of our storm gear so I spent the next few
hours rigging the storm staysail, the trysail, and eventually the para-anchor on its 400 foot line. All the rolling, pitching, bouncing and
yawing, combined with apprehension from this first experience with any kind of
weather was having its effect on the some of the crew, however. I was having such a good time trying out my
new toys that I let us get too far from the bay. The fact that we never did get the para-anchor to set at it’s proper
55 degrees off the wind. By the time we decided to stop playing around and go
back into the anchorage we were 16 miles down range, faced with having to beat
upwind into 30 knots of wind and six to eight foot seas. This proved to be pretty much undoable so I
made the call to skip
Hauling the para-anchor in was a strenuous forty minute workout on a pitching foredeck in heavy seas, even with the use of the anchor windlass, but I finally managed to get it all back on board and we stowed it in the cockpit lazarette; the rode under the cabin sole in the forward bilge. Shortly thereafter, the engine quit due to clogged fuel filters so we sailed south under storm staysail and trysail. While the rest of the fleet hunkered down in Bahia Santa Maria, we made excellent time on our way south to Cabo. Once the seas calmed down I went below and changed the primary and secondary fuel filters. Since the diesel engine had been starved of fuel it needed to be ‘bled’. Bleeding a diesel engine involves loosening various screws on the fuel pump and injector feed lines and then pumping fuel into the system until bubble-free, clear fuel runs out where things have been loosened. Then you tighten things back up and hey-presto, everything works again. Well, first of all, the engine room is a hot, stinky, dirty place. Secondly, I had never bled a diesel engine before. It took me about an hour of crawling around and over the still hot engine (amazing how long that big block will stay warm), consulting the Perkins shop manual, until I got it all figured out and the engine started up. Then we shut it down again and settled back to enjoy the remainder of the ride.
We made the trip to Cabo San Lucas in about 30 hours. The winds steadily decreased, allowing us to fly the spinnaker under sunny skies. We arrived in Cabo shortly after dark on November 4 and felt our way into the inner harbour where we tied up at a large modern marina filled with large modern sport fishing boats. We were certainly glad not have to worry about maintaining the watch schedule and to be able to step off the boat onto a nice concrete dock. After a celebratory drink we all pretty much passed out until morning.
I managed to get back in contact with Richard Spindler, publisher of Latitude 38 and the Grand Poobah of the Haha, at morning roll call on the SSB thanks to a tip from another skipper who said that they had missed us on the previous day’s check in and were concerned about our status. Unbeknownst to me, the time of the daily check in had been changed so I was looking for them at the wrong time.
The rest of the fleet came in a few days later, having had to motor down because the winds had completely disappeared since the little storm that we weathered. We ended up not being penalized for skipping the Bahia Santa Maria stop and on the basis, I suspect, of our good sailing time to Cabo we ended up taking first place in our class in the rally.
The marina at Cabo San Lucas is large and modern and ridiculously expensive and surrounded by an ever-expanding tourist-serving expanse of upscale hotels, condominiums, restaurants and shopping. There is a huge sport fishing fleet there and the amount of money spent by wealthy trophy hunters has driven the growth of the area into a quintessential tourist spot. We were being charged US$100 a night to tie up to the dock at the marina and, with the arrival of the rest of the Haha fleet there was no room for us anyway (the Haha management reserves the available marina slips for the boats in the order of their registration for the rally). So, I repaired a halyard that had suffered some chafing damage, filled up our water and diesel tanks and went to the outer harbour and picked up a mooring buoy.