Today, May 1st, at the moment registration opened, at noon, we registered our entry with the Baja Ha-ha’s 2014 Cruisers Rally (http://www.baja-haha.com), celebrating its twenty-first anniversary. This event kicks off the start of the popular Mexico cruising season, getting boats to leave ensemble at the tail end of the North Pacific hurricane season–which technically ends mid-November. Boats from all over the North American west coast will meet in San Diego to commune with other cruisers with one common goal: head southward to adventure in foreign ports.
For many cruisers, sailing in a rally counters the benefit of self-sufficiency and remote access. How much of the native culture can a crew enjoy if they arrive with 400 other countrymen? And why would a skipper wish to adhere to someone else’s schedule? Before the crew even have a chance to truly explore the region, the rally is off and running. For these reasons, many cruisers abhor herd sailing, and would rather go it alone, quaint and free. So why would we want to join 125+ other cruising boats; more invasion than cultural exchange? Well, for us, we need to hurry down further south, no dawdling, and this event is quick and offers a “hard date,” a day of departure for which we must be prepared in order to participate. And while amazing and filled with wonder, a deeper dive into Mexico will have to wait until our return to North America. If we wish to cruise her more fully, which we may do, that’s easier than circumnavigating. Right now, we’re focused in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Galapagos, and Easter Island. Weather windows require we descend rapidly so we can be in French Polynesia and parts further before tucking out of the southern hemisphere’s hurricane season which starts in October.
For some of the boats, sailing down with the Baja Haha rally offers support for their first overnight sailing. For others, it’s a friendly way of getting to their traditional cruising grounds, a big reunion with many friends. For us, it’s several things: 1) It sets October 27 as the hard date for our first foreign port departure. Without a hard date, a skipper may delay departure until all is “perfect” with the boat, which seldom occurs. 2) It provides an opportunity to meet and travel with other cruising families, “kid boats,” with whom we may buddy boat well beyond Cabo. 3) It provides assistance in navigating Mexican paperwork requirements; customs, immigration, insurance, and fishing licenses. (Greater enforcement of existing Mexican import laws last year caused the temporary confiscation of several dozen foreign flagged boats, mostly American. Some were chained to docks for up to five months while the necessary paperwork was obtained and processed.) And 4) the Baja Haha Rally offers a festive, friendly, and organized way for the crew to kick off our voyage.
Along its way southward, the rally make port in two bays, Tortuga and Santa Maria, before arriving in Cabo San Lucas. The first is a sleepy fishing town with a fuel dock. The second is a fishing camp that only comes to “life” when the rally comes in, hosting a large party with food and music trucked in from far away. Were we to sail directly to Cabo, it would take about 6 days. With their activities, including Halloween trick-or-treat for kids dinghying from one boat to the next (boats are asked to bring candy for the event), the rally takes about 10 days, plus award ceremony and beach party days in Cabo.
What’s the benefit in registering as soon as registration opens? Registering early increases a boat’s chance of getting an expensive marina slip upon arrival in Cabo, offering hot showers and restaurants just steps away. There will be a limited number of slips available upon arrival. The rally organizers in collaboration with the marina officials reserve what’s available for rally participants and offers them to the boats in the order within they registered. Kandu will likely be among the first two dozen boats signed up, providing us good chance of securing a slip.
Although we haven’t officially added crew, we’re likely to add one or two to lighten the watch schedule, providing more sleep for all, and adding to the adventure. They would then fly out from Cabo with one or two more flying in to take their place, helping us get to Costa Rica and beyond. All this has not been sorted out or decided.