The Maritime Report: It's the most wonderful time ...

The Maritime Report: It's the most wonderful time ...

Dave Bloch

The three legs of the Baja Ha-Ha.


Well, not quite. But every year about this time, boat slips around the Bay Area are suddenly vacated by their tenants. Some will return in several months; others will never come back.

What's going on? Happily, it is not an annual plague or a rash of Grand Theft Boat. It is, rather, the 20th Annual Baja Ha-Ha, a cruisers' rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. The trip always leaves from San Diego the Monday morning after the last weekend in October, following a legendary Halloween party the afternoon before. This year's "Ha-Ha" will have about 165 boats, mostly sailboats, but some power cruisers as well.

The Ha-Ha is designed as a fun family cruise with the support and confidence provided knowing you have lots of friends (old and new) around you. (Of course, you have to avoid running into each other as well; one must pay attention on this trip.) Every year, many families and couples make the Ha-Ha the first part of their lifetime dream trip, perhaps crossing the Pacific Ocean, going down to and through the Panama Canal, or even sailing around the world. The Ha-Ha is the shakedown cruise, and boats sometimes get needed modifications in Cabo before continuing the trip. The weather is generally beautiful, with 10-15 knot winds coming out of the northwest combining with the current in about the same direction taking everyone smoothly south. (Hurricane Raymond is way south of here, and should be long-dissolved by the time we get to Mexico.)

The Baja Ha-Ha is done in three legs. The first is from San Diego to Turtle Bay, "a dusty but loveable fishing village far off the main road" with a couple of small shops, little restaurants, and maybe some diesel fuel. (Apparently there is also an Internet cafe there; Mexico can be amazing that way.) Since this year's Ha-Ha will arrive in Turtle Bay on Halloween, the costumed festivities will probably continue.

The second leg is a two-day sail to Bahia Santa Maria where there is nothing at all, except for a restaurant and performance stage that magically appears one day each year. Everything, including electrical generators, get hauled in by a rock 'n' roll band that plays for tips (and apparently does well enough to make the perilous journey up from La Paz just to meet the Ha-Ha). The last leg is about a 30-hour trip to the tip of Baja California, where the locals welcome the 500-or-so sailors with true South of the Border hospitality.

Incidentally, the Ha-Ha has enough of an impact on both the finances and the goodwill between the "north and south Californias" that the Mexican government sets up special immigration rules just for this event. The sailors are allowed to set foot on Mexican soil in both the interim locations without going through the normally-required immigration and customs process in Ensenada; they handle everything as the fleet arrives in Cabo San Lucas.

Your Maritime Reporter will be headed down there this year. As a result, there will not be another edition of this column until, most likely, November 14. There should be lots of good stories to tell, hopefully including some involving other Alameda sailors. (There are five Alameda-based boats in the fleet, but many more Alameda sailors like me going as crew with others.)

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