Baja Ha Ha: Frolics in the Middle of Nowhere

Remote Bahia Santa Maria turns out to be an excellent place to recharge boat and body and meet the crews in the 24th running of the Baja Ha-Ha.

Mark Pillsbury

Remote Bahia Santa Maria turns out to be an excellent place to recharge boat and body and meet the crews in the 24th running of the Baja Ha-Ha.

Two days of excellent sailing — 14 to 20 knots of breeze on the quarter, the spinnaker up from sunrise to dusk — let us cover the 200-plus miles from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria in 37 hours.

That’s the good news. Running without engines and with the autopilot doing the heavy lifting left Meriweather’s battery bank fatigued. Over night, we turned off the Seawind 1190’s fridge and freezer, and during the day, we kept the solar panels on the bimini as clear of shadows as possible. Any extras — phones, computers, Iridium Off! — were turned off and stowed. The peace and quite was appreciated by kit and crew alike, but still, the battery bank lost steam. What was needed was a good long day of no work and plenty of sun to recoup lost amps, and it turns out our landfall, literally in the middle of nowhere, was the perfect place to do it.

Bahia Santa Maria is a jewel. The entrance is around a bold head formed by Cabo San Lazaro and Punta Hughes, sometimes called Punta Huge because of its oft impressive surf point break. We arrived at 2030, and after motoring the last mile or so into the anchorage, dropped the hook an hour later.

A good number of boats were ahead of us, and their anchor lights made the broad cove look like a small city. We dropped the hook in near shore, where the high bluff and beach meet. Thankfully we were well off the beach and the impressive breaking waves that immediately caught our attention in the morning.

Arrival day in Santa Maria was dedicated to rest and relaxation. Kurt, Randy and I ventured out in the inflatable with strict orders from Skipper Steve not to flip the tender and soak his Honda outboard. Instead of attempting a landing in the surf, we motored just out of the swell along the beach, where Kurt and Randy jumped into play in the waves. I remained with the boat and watched the pelicans dive for fish, a handful of surfers catching waves and the nail-biting gyrations of the few inflatables that did try and land on the sand.

Swimming off Meriweather’s stern was delightful, the fresh-water showers afterward a thrill. Mid afternoon, I motored over to the Varianta 44 that flew a large Ullman Sails flag in the rigging. Skipper Chuck Skewes, who manages Ullman lofts in San Diego and Anacortes and owns the Ullman shop in Puerto Viallarta, was the Ha-Ha’s official sailmaker, He and his crews had spinnakers spread out in the cockpit and on the foredeck and were busily taping back together the chutes that fell prey to the gusty breezes the night before.

Along about sunset, Kurt and I motored over to meet the crew aboard Happy Together, video bloggers, whose well-equipped Leopard 48 provided me a chance the next morning to recharge my laptop and print out a much needed document so Kurt could clear customs in Cabo.

The highlight of the Santa Maria stopover though was the following day’s beach party. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect: the breeze was light and the sky a cloudless blue. At noon, a steady stream of pangas ferried partiers to shore through the surf.

Atop the bluff at the end of the beach, one of the gray wooden buildings clumped together on the hill was transformed into a kitchen, where local chefs cooked up a meal of fish, clams and rice. Outside, large tubs of ice cold Pacificas awaited the parched. Along side the building, a makeshift stage was set up with tarps overhead for shade. As the crowd grew, the Fantastic Four, who trekked clear across Baja from La Paz, rocked out all afternoon and past sunset for the hardy souls who survived the fun and sun.

As darkness fell, the breeze kicked up anew, with gusts of 20 knots or better twirling through the anchorage. All around, anchor lights danced as the crew aboard Meriweather enjoyed a night cap and turned in early to be ready for the last leg of this amazing southbound odyssey. At 0700 this morning, we were off for the 170-mile dash to Cabo and the adventures that lie ahead.

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