Baja Ha Ha, a Floating Fiesta

Baja Ha Ha serenenity

The appropriately named Baja Ha Ha is a fun filled sailing rally, designed to transport your vessel to the sunny shores of Mexico in company with like-minded ocean explorers.

While some mariners choose solitude at sea, many, including this sailor, enjoy the camaraderie provided by a pod of southbound sun seekers. In fact, this event is so enjoyable, I recently participated for my eleventh year in a row, crewing onboard the mothership “Profligate”. Definitions of that unusual name include: “utterly and shamelessly immoral, extravagant, reckless, wild, wanton, reprobate, degenerate, debauchee, good-for-nothing spendthrifts”. Yep, that’s the boat for me!

“Profligate” is a custom built behemoth of a catamaran, plenty of space for this year’s lucky crew of 13, the majority of us have been crewing together on this extravagant ride for many years.

Sea life viewing has always been the biggest thrill for this sailor. This year saw more turtles than any other species, yet plenty of dolphins greeted us and a few humpback whales were spouting in the distance.

Most sailors offshore become philosophers of sorts. Pondering the universe as one does best under an enormous canopy of stars, while listening to the sound of what we leave in our wake. The sound of liquid travel. All senses comes into play as we combine the greatest responsibilities of keeping the vessel and her crew safe, and enjoying the simplicity of floating on the sea.

This year set a record number of crew, 551 sailors scattered amongst 149 vessels. This very special Ha Ha marked the 25th anniversary of the event, and even more reason to celebrate, the humorously self-proclaimed “Grand Poobah” Richard, founder of the Baja Ha Ha, and his longtime partner in everything, Doña recently tied the knot in a secret ceremony, and when word got out, pop up festivities occurred frequently.

Pre-start Costume festivities at West Marine in San Diego

Being on the committee boat, we assist the fleet if needed and keep tabs on each vessel’s whereabouts via a daily radio roll call and net, hosted by the highly entertaining Poobah. Vessels report their position every morning and also provide tidbits of interest, such as wildlife spotting, mechanical mishaps, spinnaker wraps, gourmet meals, fishing adventures and interesting crew or skipper behavior.

Us “Profligators” have our own fun aboard, figuratively fighting for galley space to outdo each other with fabulous meals, 0300 spinnaker packing events, midnight watch tall tales, witnessing green flashes; including one at sunrise, sailing this amazing vessel that we have had the good fortune to call home so many times and most of all pure laughter with lifelong friends.

A small portion of delicious fresh food for the “Profligate” crew

Each vessel sailed on becomes a part of you, almost a living being. Treat her well and she will provide independence, freedom, a multitude of adventures and put you in the company of other sailors who naturally are a helpful group, not just in crisis situations, but simply sharing knowledge, boat parts, stories and laughter.

Helm hogging again
Nice view from sitting on the can!

“A tourist remains an outsider throughout his visit; but a sailor is part of the local scene from the moment he arrives.” Anne Davison

25 years of burgees

Lack of sailing skills should not be a deterrent, as some boat owners like to take on newbies and show them the ropes the way they like to teach. Many inexperienced crew sign up on the crew list, (see below) and meet their prospective ride, some build long friendships and many daysails prior to casting off, yet a few brave folks have been known to hop aboard shortly before departure, a true leap of faith for all parties involved, yet anyone choosing to sail offshore has an inherent sense of adventure and risk taking comes with the territory.

Cruisers vs. Locals enjoying baseball
Local youngsters at Turtle Bay joining in with Dia de Los Muertos celebrations

Safety being of key importance, participants are required to have a minimum of two crew, a well equipped vessel, built and maintained for open ocean sailing and prepared to sail independently. The bonus of nautical buddies just a radio call away if needed, and the social factor of meeting new friends is attractive to this group of responsibly fun loving sailors.

Bahia Santa Maria
Muchas gracias to Richard, who cooked up this floating fiesta while at the helm of Latitude 38 sailing magazine. He and Doña work tirelessly in preparing every detail, including beach parties, a local vs. cruiser “just for fun-everyone gets a hit” baseball game at the first stop of Turtle Bay, and a live band coming an improbable distance to the extremely remote and magical second stop of Bahia Santa Maria. 
The band came all the way from La Paz to rock the crowd in remote Bahia Santa Maria
Salud y muchas gracias to the Grand Poobah and Doña
The finish at Cabo San Lucas is full of sensory overload at this bustling tourist resort, yet the Ha Ha fleet joins right in at “Squid Roe” to shake out weary sailing muscles, letting loose to dancing anthems from the 70’s and 80’s.
After the final beach party and awards ceremony, many cruisers part ways, while others have bonded for life with fellow nautical gypsies, as I have with some of the finest folks on this watery planet.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jacques Yves CousteauFor information and to sign up on the crew list for the 2019 rally: baja-haha.com

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