- We recommend 3-4 people on board, even if it is tight quarters. You will have more fun that way. We didn’t have “fun” per se. I would call it a “necessary challenge undertaken and completed to get to the fun and relaxation later on”. I think we would have enjoyed it much more with someone else to share watches, allowing us to be better rested.
- That being said, make sure you can get along in tight quarters for 2 weeks with this 3rd crewmember. I don’t think asking any ‘ole person is a good idea, even a good friend and even if they are a great sailor. Compatibility and congeniality ranks higher than sailing knowledge. Multiple type A personalities on one boat are probably not a good idea. This was not what I would consider “charter boat sailing”, either, so don’t bring those just-wanna-get-drunk-and-party types. I honestly don’t know how people take on crew who they don’t know from Adam - just seems like a recipe for disaster. This is from what we have observed so far, not our personal experience… so sorry to those really good people out there looking to crew. It just seemed to us like the boats that had the most fun together either had their adult kids as crew (great bonding experience) or really good friends that they’ve known forever and have done similar sailing with prior.
- Sign up on the first day the Ha Ha opens. If it’s the first time you have done a trip like this, don’t dismiss this advice. We only got a slip at the Cabo Marina because we signed up on the very first day: number 28 on a list of over 170 boats. Normally the marina can accommodate well beyond 60 boats but due to hurricane Odile, I’d estimate at least a 1/3 of the docks were wiped out or damaged. On top of that was a fishing tournament and a second impending hurricane which caused many more boats to stay in Cabo San Lucas Marina longer than normal, so slips were severely limited. We were elated to have respite from the rolling ocean, hot showers, laundry facilities and easy access to all the bars and restaurants, groceries and immigration. Plus it seems anchoring in Cabo can be uncomfortable in blowing weather. Trust me, you will want a slip.
- We wouldn’t do the Ha Ha if we had to leave the day after we were scheduled to arrive in Cabo. Weather is unpredictable. Hurricanes happen. Schedules change. I don’t envy those boats that had to turn around and bash right back a couple days after arriving in Cabo without seeing anything else. And if you have crew that must get back north, purchase their return flights for a few days after the fleet is due to arrive. Due to impending hurricane Vance, most of the fleet stayed in Turtle Bay 2 more days than scheduled. This caused a dilemma for crew who ended up arriving late on a Friday to a closed immigration office (need entrance visa stamp) with a flight out on Sunday (can’t fly out without that entrance stamp). Bottom line is if you can stay and cruise down here for a month or more and get to La Paz, that is an infinitely better option.
- Get your boat as ready as you can get it. Do the hard stuff (electronics) and save the easy stuff for later (paint/varnish). We worked like madmen trying to finish all the hard stuff before leaving and it paid off big time. Adding a windvane or solar panels or finding ANYTHING electronic like AIS or radar in Mexico is going to be difficult. Everything boat-related is expensive. We redid our standing rigging right before we left. Went to buy a replacement turnbuckle in La Paz; it cost twice as much and takes over a month to get here. Try doing the entire rig with that cost and non-expedience. Can't be fun.
- Take lots of spare parts. Cabo has nothing in the way of good spare parts. La Paz is much better, but all are EXPENSIVE. At least 30% more and sometimes double. We could not find a specific type of 200amp fuse and ended up asking our friends to bring it down when they visited. Wire, hoses, maintenance goos like Tef-Gel and Lifecaulk, boat cleaning/varnishing supplies are easy to find.
- Get an SSB, if you can afford it. If you get away from the pack and no longer have line of sight through VHF you are on your own. In one case the fleet leader called the family of a boat as we (the fleet) hadn’t heard from them in a couple days. Although the boat was fine, this was a good wake-up call showing that VHF line of site only can do so much. Plus SSB was our only weather source since we did not have internet. SSB is not essential and the boats that went without one were able to relay via VHF, most of the time, through boats that did. A few boats had inexpensive SSB receivers. They couldn’t talk but were able to hear conversations, and download SSB weather fax.
As a side note, we were impressed with the way the Grand Poobah handled the fleet. Managing that many boats is like herding cats, but imagine only being able to yell at them from around a corner out of sight. And the introduction of Hurricane Vance to the equation made his job even harder. Yet he was somehow able to corral 130 boats over SSB and get their positions each morning… do his info net and not get frustrated with people asking to repeat what he just said 3 times… rearranging all beach parties after Vance had delayed us… and getting slips at the marina for as many people as possible, even if it meant side-ties and end-ties to the wrecked docks and relaying the slip info to all those boats.
We were all watching Vance’s track in Turtle Bay and the weather pros were giving opposing opinions on whether it was ok to continue to Cabo. It was sort of a toss up to stay or go. The weather would have been better going down if we left as planned but there was a remote chance Vance would still be a factor once we got to Santa Maria. The Poobah took the democratic approach. He called a meeting over VHF, did a roll call of each boat in the fleet and we indicated “stay” or “go”. There were enough people uncomfortable with the weather, so he held the fleet in Turtle Bay. A small contingent of 20 or so boats decided to go on without the fleet in hopes of better wind and at that point they were “on their own” until we met up again. I think this was the most prudent action and we are happy with the way he handled the situation.
We heard from a few people who criticized the Ha Ha for various reasons. But, I have not met a single Ha Ha participant who said it wasn’t worth it. Over and over, before we left we’d hear…. oh it’s the best, it’s so awesome, you’ll love it, you won’t regret it…Them’s good odds. In fact, I was really surprised at how many people had done it 5 or more times. We appreciated the efforts of the Ha Ha team - thanks Richard. You give people like us the motivation and the deadline to cut the docklines. Keep it going.
Link to the Latitude 38’s blog about the obstacles of the 2014 Baja Ha Ha.