Baja Ha-Ha: Play Ball

A game of baseball, Baja style, brings cruisers and locals together for a fun-filled afternoon.

Mark Pillsbury

The reward for sailing round-the-clock for three days is waking up in Turtle Bay, half way down Baja, and being able to jump into the dinghy, head to shore and walk to the tortillaria to buy stacks of teeming hot flour and corn tortillas.

Back on Meriweather, skipper Steve whipped up a griddle-full of scrambled eggs and slabs of spam, which we washed down with ice-cold Tecate. Now that’s a feast for a Friday morning.

We arrived in Turtle Bay, officially Bahia San Bartolome on the charts, at 0500 on Thursday. A couple of miles offshore a dozen or more boats floated or circled waiting for dawn, which was delayed a bit by a heavy cover of clouds. By 0700, the hook was down amid the already sizeable fleet of sailboats that had arrived ahead of us.

Turtle Bay is a bustling little village, surrounded by steep brown hills and beaches. A church, pier, a couple of beachfront restaurants and private homes line the water front. Ashore, a couple of red and white cell towers soar overhead. The streets are dirt and dusty but litter-free, and they stretch several blocks inland. There are a number of small shops and bars nestled in between houses, and even a couple of well-stocked supermarkets. Without the Ha-Ha, I’d guess it would be a sleepy village, though everywhere there are late-model cars and trucks that point to some prosperity. The town is home to an impressive concrete baseball stadium (more on that in a minute) and a couple of lovely well-kept parks.

First order of the day after breakfast was hailing Mr. Hector’s panga, whose crew fetched and delivered 30 gallons of gas to replace what we’d burned running Meriweather’s two Yamaha outboards to get us here. Afterward, a swim, followed by a bracer of Don Julio 70 tequila and a shower on Meriweather’s transom steps did wonders to improve both attitude and hygene.

The main event of the day was what the Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah Richard Spindler called Baja-style baseball, where everyone — cruisers and locals alike — got to hit. The Poobah, adorned in American-flag shorts and yellow Ha-Ha T-shirt, stood on the mound at the ballpark, lobbing bright yellow softballs to a seemingly endless line of batters. The grandstands were filled with onlookers liberally sampling cans of Pacifica beer.

At the crack of each bat, runners took off, whether the hit was fair or foul, while on the sidelines an announcer peppered the crowd with lively banter. One slugger announced she was a mermaid in training. “You mean lovely to look at, but pretty useless,” the man with the mic replied without a hitch.

Late in the afternoon, crewmate Kurt and I walked through town and landed on the waterfront at Maria’s, where we washed down the dust with an ice-cold margarita. Then we hitched a ride on a panga taxi back to Meriweather to witness an outstanding sunset and moonrise.

As dusk settled in, we sat in Meriweather’s saloon munching on chips and guacamole. Astern, the bimini and its arch framed a night sky filled with bobbing anchor lights. What a sight and what a day. What a hoot!

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