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Baja-Haha Part 1: San Diego to Bahia Tortugas

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

We made it! We left San Diego in a 37-foot sailboat on November 4th and reached San Jose del Cabo on November 14th, with a few stops in between. The first leg was San Diego to Bahia Tortugas (or Turtle Bay), the second was Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria, and the third was Bahia Santa Maria to San Jose del Cabo (with most of the hundred-and-something other Baja-Haha boats ending in Cabo San Lucas). I have a lot of pictures and stories to post, so I will be dividing my entries up by each leg of the trip, plus one extra entry about our time spent in San Jose del Cabo.

Some of our send-off crew

Day 1 - Monday, November 4th - San Diego:

My dad John, his neighbor and boat partner Tom, my husband Tim, and I left around 9:30 AM to meet with the Baja-Haha fleet in San Diego bay, joining the send-off parade through the bay, then heading Southwest into Mexican waters. Instantly as we left we were handed ice cold Coronas to start the day with, then told tales of my dad and Tom's previous Baja-Haha trek in 2017. These tales were our first introduction to one of Good Times' Baja-Haha inside jokes. Specifically how Coors Light is considered more hydration than beer, and can be called by its other name "ham sandwich." A crew member of their previous trip claimed a Coors Light had the same calories as a ham sandwich, and therefore counted as a light lunch or breakfast. Long story short, if you're asked for a ham sandwich on Good Times you need to go get the person a Coors.

Day one's sail had perfect weather and gentle seas. We motor-sailed most of the day, taking turns napping, listening to music in the sunshine, and the guys even caught a tuna they decided to let go. Night time was fairly smooth and uneventful. It was the first of our scheduled staggered night watches, which were four hours on, four hours off. Every night starting at 6 PM it was one person's shift to be lookout from 6 - 10, the next person's from 8 - 12, the next from 10 - 2, the fourth person from 12 - 4, and then they re-started until around 7:30 AM, when anyone asleep started waking up naturally and coming out to start their day. This schedule made it so there were always two people up on watch, and each person's watch started for two hours with one person, and then ended with another two hours with the next person. Anyone on watch at night was required to be wearing a life jacket and be harnessed into the boat via a line with a large carabiner on the end.

The boat's AIS screen (Copied from West Marine: "What is AIS? Picture a radar-chartplotter display, with overlaid electronic chart data, that includes an icon for every significant ship within VHF radio range, each with a velocity vector (showing that vessel’s speed and heading). Each ship icon reflects the actual size of the ship, with positions accurate to GPS precision. By “clicking” on a ship mark, you can learn the ship’s name, course and speed, classification, call sign, MMSI, and other information. Maneuvering information, closest point of approach (CPA), time to closest point of approach (TCPA) and other navigation data is also available.") was monitored while on watch to make sure we maintained course and stayed clear of hazards or the paths of other boats. We used cruise control to stay on course, while checking the AIS screen here and there while continuously keeping an eye out for anything around us that might not show up on the screen. We also had to monitor the VHF radio for any sort of emergencies or news that could be broadcasted.

Code Blue

Day 2 - Tuesday, November 5th - At Sea:

We woke with coffee, which quickly turned into bloody mary's. Tom started a rule that a beer couldn't be had until a fish was caught, but the rule was often broken quickly, and usually by him. Day two was me and Tim's first introduction to Code Blue. If you've spent any time around hospitals, you would know that code blue is called when a patient needs immediate resuscitation. Well on Good Times, Code Blue was the name of the beautiful blue gennaker sail. It was named this because every time it goes up, something goes wrong. These sails can be temperamental, and on Good Times it could only be put up or down by someone going out onto the front of the boat. If the wind became too much, a gennaker could easily become twisted and unruly, whipping around a big metal ring it had in the front, which could easily knock someone out. They can also easily rip in high winds. Tom's son Myles who crewed on their 2017 'Haha was said to have developed a type of Code Blue PTSD. Thankfully for day two we had no real issues with Code Blue, or with anything else for that matter. It was smooth sailing (or, motor-sailing) for most of the day and night. The guys caught one fish, but we were mostly eating bean burritos.

Day 3 - Wednesday, November 6th - Isla San Benito:

We woke up to see islands in the distance, our destination for the night. The 'Haha fleet was continuing on to Turtle Bay, but Tom and my dad wanted to take us to San Benito island for the night instead, and press on to Turtle Bay in the morning. Someone had told them about the island on their other trip, and they found it so interesting they wanted to visit it a second time. According to Wikipedia "The group [of islands, called Islas de San Benito] consists of three barren islands, with a total area of 3.899 km2, and is surrounded by rocks and patches of kelp. The census of 2001 recorded a population of two on Benito del Oeste (West Benito); the other islands are uninhabited." We slowly pushed on towards the island until we reached them around noon. Our goal was to anchor in a small bay which was accessible to the "town" (a few fishing shacks and an abandoned church). The boat squeezed between rocks with the water getting shallower and more clear below us, hundreds of sea lions barked from a beach in the distance. We made it to the bay and anchored successfully, when another boat called us over the radio. Their boat was called Catherine E, and they were hoping to anchor with us in the bay for the night.

Good Times and Catherine E Anchored at San Benito

The four of us got in the dinghy (named Lookin' for Good Times), and drug it up onto the island. Everything seemed abandoned except for one small shack house which looked empty but lived in from the outside. Large ravens circled us cawing, announcing us as intruders. We walked into the church and the ravens followed, watching our every move from the two crosses on either side of the roof.

Saying it was eerie would be an understatement. The ground was littered in fish skeletons, beer cans, pieces of trash, and shells. Quickly we all went in different directions to explore, then met up again on a little trail over a cliff along the ocean. I poked my head into open abandoned houses. Two were decorated with large whale bones. We found a small cemetery where about four people were buried. There were also boxes left out for little burrowing birds. I followed the ravens around for a bit, took a few pictures, then we went back to our boat. On the way we passed Catherine E to introduce ourselves and invite them over for drinks at sunset.

After only ten minutes or so on the boat, Tom decided he wasn't done exploring the area. The island of sea lions was said to have elephant seals, and he wanted to drive the dinghy past to see if he could spot one. Tom, Tim, and I each grabbed a beer then took off in the dinghy to the seals. As we approached tiny little sea lion heads started popping out of the water. Not just one or two, but tons as far as the eye could see. Maybe a hundred of them. They seemed to be babies and they were adorable and curious, following our dinghy closely while doing little hops out of the water. The beach in the distance was lined with adult sea lions, with a gigantic male standing directly in the middle of them, barking warnings in our direction. Tom accidentally hit his foot on an airhorn on the floor of the dinghy, scaring the crap out of himself and all of the seals. We didn't see any elephant seals although there were so many on the island it was hard to tell. We passed another beach with a large male sea lion surrounded by his ladies, then went back to the boat.

The sun set and we prepared Good Times for a visit from our possible new friends. We turned on some tunes, washed the dishes, took out a few bottles of wine, and strung up Good Times' famous party lights. Tom tried to switch out his prescription sunglasses for his regular glasses and realized they must have fallen out of his pocket on the beach of the island while pulling the dinghy in or out of the water. Tim and I started talking about how the island was obviously haunted, and how there were so many cool things scattered around, but it felt like a bad omen to take them. There was an eerie presence there, like the island itself was alive and watching us. Tom then admitted he took some shells. "That must be why you lost your glasses there" we half-joked.

"Shit." Tom said. "Well what do I do, return them? Can I just throw them back into the sea?"

"It's not that easy, but it's worth a try," Tim teased.

"I also threw rocks at the ravens," Tom said.

"You what??" I said. "That's even worse! They are one of the smartest animals on earth, you know. They are protecting that island, I wouldn't have pissed them off."

"Fuck," said Tom.

Soon another dinghy made its way toward our boat, filled with the four passengers of Catherine E. There was the captain and owner of the boat, his cousin and cousin's fiancé, and a friend of theirs who was a San Diego lifeguard. We had such a nice time drinking wine and telling stories that we were then invited back to their boat for dinner. I can't remember what type of sailboat they had, but it was only ten feet longer than Good Times, but seemed to have double the space. There was a real living room area and two showers with real shower doors, used for showering instead of storing beer. The couple made fresh bread, from scratch, and made stuffed bell peppers with rice, vegetables, herbs, and the fish they had caught that day. We felt fancy on our boat when we fired up the bbq for hotdogs (or in my case, veggie dogs). We had a nice night hanging out, then went back to our boat to all sleep (instead of keep watch!) and prepare to leave first thing in the morning for Bahia Tortugas.

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