By Jeff Stansfield
Mid October 2015, fellow Ventura Yacht Club member Scott Nordeng and I left on the sailboat Joy for a journey south. With Scott’s insistence we were off to participate in the Baja Ha-Ha. I had planned to head south to Mexico on Joy with my son, Mason, after he graduated from CU Boulder leaving in early January 2016. Instead, Scott and I, along with Jeff Nelson (Catalina Island Harbor Patrolman) joined the Ha-Ha. It was a last minute endeavor and I was the very last entry of 135 boats. As it turned out, leaving early in the year kept us on “pins and needles” watching hurricane Olaf and Patricia in October. Looking at the El Niño storms of December and January, I am very glad we went south early. The weather in Bendaris Bay is warm and calm most of the time with only a little rain now and then.
We left San Diego with the Ha-Ha fleet on October 26th and after a 54-hour passage (350 nautical miles) we arrived in Turtle Bay. There, we refueled with diesel and “rested” for two days. The rest included a quest for fish (Jeff found a fresh Grouper) to make a world class ceviche, a baseball game with cruisers and local kids, a beach party (where we served the ceviche to the fleet), sail repairs for the fleet courtesy of Scott and much socializing and getting to know all the players.
After this “rest” we were off to Bahía Santa Maria, a 40-hour passage (250 Nautical miles). Bahía Santa Maria is a large bay at the north end of Magdalena Bay with fantastic holding ground, protection from the North Westerlies, a surf spot, an amazing estuary, and a year-round fishing village. Here we rested again for two days by surfing, socializing, dingy trips up the estuary, and capping it off with a beach party like no other. An enterprising fisherman brings in 1000 beers, serves fish dinner and brings in a rock and roll band from La Paz. They have to travel 150 miles and cross the bay by ferry (two panga’s with a wood platform lashed to form a barge). The party is set up at a house on the cliff overlooking the anchorage. With the food, drinking, and music came the dancing…
After two days of resting in beautiful Santa Maria Bay we left for the final leg of the Ha-Ha on a short 180 nautical mile trip to Cabo San Lucas. Here we were to rest for three days before the fleet all went their separate ways. The first order of business was the “check in to Mexico” the Ha-Ha had arranged for an agent to meet us all on the dock and provide “one stop shopping” for all the paperwork. Complying with the papers for Mexico is really simple if you know the drill. Each boat needs Mexican Liability Insurance and a 10-year Temporary Import Permit or TIP, these can be purchased on line ahead of time. Each boat needs a “Crew List”, each crew member needs a Passport, and the Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM. As a Ha-Ha participant you are able to purchase all these documents from the agent in Cabo, I joined the Discover Baja Travel Club and was able to get everything ahead of time.
The parties in Cabo were nonstop and the final big party is held at the legendary Squid Row bar. For me this was over the top… Scott and I stayed until 11:00 and since the panga taxies were no longer running, we had to hitch a ride back to our rock and roll anchorage just outside the harbor entrance. Jeff stayed at the party late, and early the next morning he was on a bus to Todos Santos Village to visit his aunt and go surfing.
Early the next morning (with still two parties left to go) Scott and I left for San Jose Del Cabo, there we would be able to get fuel and tie up in a slip, go out for a nice quiet meal and prepare for the next leg of the journey. By comparison to Cabo San Lucas San Jose is quiet, inexpensive and quaint. We stayed two nights and after Jeff rejoined us we headed south 300 nautical miles to Puerto Vallarta. This was the best sailing of the trip and we only ran the motor for a few hours the entire voyage. Our journey ended in La Cruz Marina where just like Captain Ron, Jeff Nelson left within 1 hour and headed south on a bus to go surfing. Scott stayed several days and flew home to Ventura and I stayed several weeks cleaning the boat, varnishing, waxing and preparing to leave Joy for 2 months while I returned home for the holidays.
All told we traveled 1100 nautical miles and had the time of our lives. Scott is a great friend and long time sailing companion, Jeff Nelson’s knowledge of cruising techniques, command of the Mexican language, familiarity with anchorages and surf spots was second to none and his gregarious personality kept a vast supply of new friends coming our way.
Prices in Mexico:
- Baja Ha-Ha entrance fee $350
- Diesel Fuel in Turtle Bay $5.00 per gallon
- Tie up at the fuel dock in Cabo $100 to $200
- Diesel Fuel in Cabo $4.50 per gallon
- Slip fee in Cabo $100 to $200 per night
- Slip fee in San Jose $$65 per night
- Diesel Fuel in San Jose $3.15 per gallon
- Slip at Marina La Cruz $1000 per month
- 2 Beers & Guacamole at the Gecko Rojo in La Cruz $5.00
For more information on the Baja Ha-Ha: www.baja-haha.com