It finally feels like I’m in Mexico

After almost 500 miles of sailing everything starts to look similar. I started to feel like Panache was stationary and a rolling background was cycling past the boat. I am not in latitudes low enough for the water to be turquoise and the sky is always populated with the same thickness of cloud cover since Ventura. Being almost 80 miles offshore also didn't allow me to observe the change in the shoreline. When I finally spotted land in the distance there was no identifying characteristics that screamed "MEXICO." I hoisted the Mexican flag high on Panache's starboard spreader and tried to mentally prepare myself for making landfall in a new country. Turtle bay is a huge anchorage that could easily fit three hundred boats, but with the Ha Ha fleets 170 boats it looked pretty full, especially near the fuel dock. Panache weaved its way to the eastern corner of the bay and dropped the hook with a comfortable 50 yards in every direction. Are we in Mexico yet?

A water-taxi came up to our boat and I just started talking to the guy in english and obviously didn't have the faintest idea of what I was saying. As a diplomat for Latitude 38, the Baja Ha Ha regatta, and the United States of America I made a point to do my best at communicating with the locals. What transpired was a short and fruitless one way game of charades. Thank God for Eric who saved me from the embarrassment and spoke what little Spanish he knew to inform the water taxi to come back in 15 minutes.

Beached Lagoon 380. Ouch!

We packed our bags up with beach party paraphernalia and hit the water taxi to the infamous Turtle Bay dock. This dock stretches several hundreds of feet into the bay and is the main vein for boats to reach land, boats looking to re-fuel, and Mexican Ponga drivers to motor people around. The ponga drivers have a good little scam running; it cost a two or three american dollars to get from your boat to the dock, but costs four or five dollars to get back to your boat. If its nighttime, it might coast even more. Beggars can't be choosers, but I also don't mind paying that much for a ride. Its cheap and much better than pulling out my dingy and traveling at a sub snail pace.

The beach party was hosted by the Baja Ha Ha organizers. It was potluck style, so Eric and I picked up some crania sara at the local supermarket, and marinated it to grill on the beach. Turtle Bay is a cool little town that even has a air strip, but its not exactly a place that pulls huge tourist crowds. It as Mexican as Mexico gets. I can't imagine being a local and waking up one morning to almost two hundred boats in the anchorage! restaurants and supermarkets alike were looking to capitalize on the influx of american dollars. Restaurant menus had little stickers with new prices on them - a tell that you were getting the gringo price structure. On the ponga ride over to the beach the driver "El Gordo" made sure he every seat was full before departing the fuel dock. The beach itself was packed, and Mexico faded away revealing anywhere beach USA. I didn't have any issue with this, I was just ready to drink a cold beer and eat steak until I couldn't walk straight.

Master chef

The beach party was disrupted by the boat Younger Girl, a beautiful Lagoon 380 Catamaran, getting beached in front of the party. Richard warned the boat to anchor out in a little deeper water, but sometimes you need to make the mistake before you can listen to the advise. The whole evening was a rush because we had missed the whole first day of festivities. I was surprised I could keep my eyes open because I was coming to the party after a watch shift that started at 4am. That night I slept soooooo well. Its hard enough to sleep in a rocking boat, but being the captain makes that sleep extra light. Any strange noise, or luffing of the sails makes me wonder if everything is alright. I have been blessed with a responsible crew, but being a worry worm just comes with the territory.

Yellowfin Tuna. Yum!

The next morning it was time to start leg two of the Baja Ha Ha to Bahia Santa Maria. I was really excited to leave with the rest of the fleet. Watching a spinnaker fly is beautiful, but imagine that beauty multiplied by 170. It makes for a pretty sight. We flew the spinnaker the entire whole leg. Most boats doused there spinnaker when it gets dark, but we kept ours up. Nightfall provided new challenges now that we were in the mix of a hundred other boats. The first leg we were late and so far offshore that we never saw another boat, but on this leg we were almost always within a mile of at least two boats. It can be a little tense, even at a half a mile.

Angry Crab

Erics new friends

The best part about sleeping in the v-berth is that you are the first person to know dolphins are going to visit and play in the wake of the bow. Twice now I have been trying to take a nap when I hear the moan and click of dolphins in the distance, and sure enough, when I step on deck there they are. Its an incredibly lonely sound if heard by itself, but I find it comforting all the way out in the middle of the ocean. It reminds me we are not alone. Dolphins are one of the smartest creatures on this planet, and they are definitely one that has the most fun. When dolphins swim with the boat, its like they are being your own personal guides, reinforcing your course. however, its always momentary. On the super highway that is the pacific ocean, the dolphins have somewhere to be just like I do, so the visit while sweet is short lived. I will hear the sound again. during one nighttime dolphin visit I crept out onto the bow to watch the show. A sea bird was bobbing in the water in front of the boat and was abruptly disturbed by a breaching dolphin, which sent the seagull into the spinnaker then rolled out smacking me in the chest then rolling across the deck and finally spacing in the water off the starboard bow. The seagull must have been pissed because it let out a long call of disgust before it broke away into the darkness.

Pen Shells. Delicious.


This leg was a successful fishing sail. We caught two delicious food fish; a 38 inch Dolphin fish, and a fat torpedo sized yellowfin tuna. Normally killing and gutting a fish is a pretty violent and dirty process, but with these fish it was easy. A shot of rum to the gills and they were out. Dead as a doornail. Swimming with the fishes. Or at least that was the case with the dorado. The Tuna however was a little more hearty. I poured the shot of rum in its gills and it started to flip out big time. The mass of muscle that normally shots this fish at 60mph through the water were now in full swing kicking water, slim and blood everywhere in the cockpit. This is all happening while Nate is steering under the spinnaker at 6 knots. If you can only bring a few ingredients for fish on a cruise, make sure crappy white wine is one of them. Poached tuna is to die for.

Fishing Line

Bahia Santa Maria was a fraction the size of Turtle bay. This time we arrived early, beating out many boats that were in faster divisions. All of this was done all without running the engine! We trolled around the bay, and wired the place down to fully utilize our time tomorrow. The reality though is during the Baja Ha Ha, you just don't have enough time to do everything you want to. I could easily spend a week or two in both Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, but the regatta only allows for two layover days. We really did our best to utilize our time there, but a fact of life is that you just never have enough time with most things. So before we knew it, we were packing the boat one more time to start the last leg to Cabo San Lucus.

Fuel Dock Turtle Bay

The wind was light and very veritable. And then it was nonexistent. One after another the boats around us struck the sails and turned on the motors. That day and late into the night we bobbed uncontrollably with only a knot of wind pushing us. the waves and current were both moving faster than the wind, and I was running out of swear words to inspire mother nature to give us wind. I started scheming ways to bypass turning on the motor. If someone else were to tow us, would that be against the rules? As the sun started to set, we were in the company of two other boats who were ruffing out the lack of weather. My crew put on some Duke Ellington and I started to mellow out. I was getting too eager to get to Cabo. I wanted to win, and I wanted to have a nice fat meal, but I was ignoring the trip, and all the beauty around me. The food thing was sorptive a deal breaker though, our dinner that night was peanut butter and honey - not exactly first class.

A folding Catamaran!!!

The next morning we could see the cape of Cabo San Lucus. The wind had ramped up to a consistent 11 knots and we were cruising a consistent 7 knots to the anchorage. We rounded the iconic rock arches of Cabo and sailed all the way to the anchorage. The hook dropped at 8:30 am giving us just enough time to take a quick morning swim before heading into town to celebrate our victory of sailing over 750 miles down the Pacific coast!

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One Response to It finally feels like I’m in Mexico

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