If you look out from Medano Beach during the few days prior to November 16 you will likely see far more than the usual number of sailboats anchored or moored on the bay of Cabo San Lucas.
As it has for the past 25 years, the Baja Ha-Ha Cruising Rally fleet will be arriving after completing their annual 1,000-mile water migration that began November 4 in San Diego. During its life, this sailing event traveling the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula has attracted more than 10,000 sailors on over 3,000 boats. This year there are 152 boats entered ranging from 29 to 72 feet in length including cruising vessels as diverse as the crews on board.
This year’s flotilla will make two ports of call as they let the northwest winds carry them south over the 1,000 miles of rolling seas before rounding the arch here in Cabo San Lucas. For many it is a coastal shakedown adventure, gaining their sea legs on their floating homes, as they acclimate to their new life afloat before heading on to the Caribbean or South Pacific. Having sailed this route twice myself, I can attest to the sparse populations, lack of marinas and minimal services available to boaters along this stretch of the Baja’s west coast.
The first anchorage for the fleet will be in the isolated fishing community of Turtle Bay. There, the boat crews mix with local families in the traditional Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers vs. Local Mexican Kids Baseball game, as hot dogs and beer are consumed with the money raised going to local charities. Another highlight of the stay is watching fellow cruisers as they attempt to stay safe and dry as they land their dinghies on the beach between waves.
The second leg of the trip stretches 240 miles from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria where the local fishermen and their families pull out all stops for the annual “Rock and Roll Beach Party.”
Set on a bluff overlooking the bay with locals selling their food and beer, the event is described by event sponsor Latitude 38 as “one of the most surreal experiences in sailing.”
After a two-day stay and enjoying the beauty and serenity that only the remote lands and people of Baja can offer, the fleet pulls anchor for the final leg of the voyage to lands’ end.
Once the boat is anchored off Medano Beach or secured to a slip at the inner harbor, captain and crew will likely seek out life’s simple pleasures like an unlimited fresh-water shower, a classic burger or more likely several cold beers or salt-rimmed margaritas. There is an arrival celebration party for November 15 at the Squid Roe (where else?) aptly self-titled “Can’t Believe We Cheated Death Again Dance”.
Those surviving that evening will honor one another at the Annual Awards Presentations, hosted by Marina Cabo San Lucas adjacent to the launch ramp.
The crews that you might see around will range from those going it alone to entire families taking their first step to fulfilling a life-long dream. For them, it is likely sailing on down the coast of Mexico and then west to the south pacific or east through the Panama canal to the cruising islands of the Caribbean. For others, the destination is often up to La Paz and the beginning of a winter stay exploring the Sea of Cortez and coastal ports of Mexican Mainland. If you have the chance around town, say welcome and congratulations to them on their successful journey. Who knows, next year it just might be you stepping ashore in Cabo San Lucas on your very first Baja Ha-Ha adventure.
“Captain Charlie” Bogue is a life-long sailor who, after departing Sausalito, first anchored off the beach in Cabo San Lucas in 1975 on his 32-foot wooden ketch. He has raced, been a charter Captain and taught sailing on the San Francisco Bay. He and his wife Helga are permanent residents of Mexico in San Jose Del Cabo where he writes, goes fishing and looks for any opportunity to be on the water. (Contact “Captain Charlie”, firstname.lastname@example.org)