IN SEARCH OF THE EQUINOX

                                       “A Vernal Passage crossing hemispheres, TAHITI bound”          

                                                       By   Capt. D.J. “Skip” Riley, CMS

                                                               Crew “Moonshadow”

 

                                                                            LEG ONE

              Our vernal passage across the equator began a winters before in the dreary musty confines of our good ship.  Our passage, at least leg one would be destined to  be  considered complete only when one of the two great circles in our celestial sphere; having at its plane a perpendicular to the axis of heaven, where the ecliptic plane our planet makes around the sun intersects the vernal (spring) equinoctial. This occurred for us on March 21, 2012 as the sun transited O degrees latitude/the equator.

 Our planned course of SSE, Honolulu to Tahiti would converge with our own equinoctial plane as the transit of the sun would move North and our transit of the earth moved South. When would this occur? And at what Latitude?  This would be the holy grail of LEG ONE of our voyage. Not unlike our Polynesian predecessors emerging with a Darwinian hypothesis, our search and our treasure would lay in the convergence of nature, our humanity and spirituality. Our honor and crown would be the accomplishment of a “Pono”, or “balanced” voyage.

   In the wake of Cook, Bligh, Lewis, Mau, Thompson and countless other equinoctial transitioners, Tahiti and the South Pacific bear elusively south of Hawaii and not just a little bit. The journey requires 7 degrees of easting or  420 nautical miles, the negotiation of the  wind stricken channels of the Alenuihaha and South Point  Hawaii;  then the southing of 20 degrees or another 1,200 nautical miles of  Northern parallels, then the  inter-tropical convergence zone - the equator- with its elusive squalls; then the southing of another 17.5 degrees or 1,020 nautical miles of Southern parallels. The challenge thus equates to a total of 2,670 nautical miles negotiated through three weather systems. The hardships included a time warp disguised as a dimensional transit in the space/time continuum. We would find ourselves moving through three months of time in an instant.  For example as we crossed the equator it became autumn 2012, not spring 2012. We would loose the three months of summer we had looked forward to. Our last challenge would  then be convincing the French Polynesian authorities, our spouses and girl friends where we were during the lost three months.

There were four of us, on leg one. Each strong, experienced - ocean mature with a unique set of skills. Each of our unique skills we would find overlap with the other.  Each of us had the ability to reach deep ensuring the success of this a two ocean equatorial crossing.

                                               THE CREW:


 Jeff Naus

Jeff Naus, owner and master: A skilled navigator and skipper has safely sailed his beloved vessel “Moonshadow” and others where few have gone. Jeff, not new to adventure has sailed across the South Pacific before. He has sailed the Caribbean, Panama Canal, visited the Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, French Polynesia all the way to New Zealand and Australia.  As one of the most experienced and skilled members of our HYC Cruising and Voyaging Society he also served as navigator on several US Naval vessels. He has navigated at least three oceans – and at least two underwater!  Jeff related that as a younger man he would sail out into approaching hurricanes along the East coast, just to see what it would be like. He added that if there be such a thing as re-incarnation he would be rooted in the “age of sail” and that he likely sailed with Cook, or at least knew him.


 Bill Beadle

Bill Beadle, using his own words would sign on as Chief Chef “Moonshadow”.  However, Bill did not just chef; he stood equal watch atop his culinary chores and added entertainment for the crew as an impressionist.  Bill earned his knots with at least two North Pacific ocean passages. He crewed under power from Mexico to Hawaii (3,000 nautical miles) with Dave Cooper on “Swan Song”.  He also sailed from Honolulu to the island of Satawal (about 1 degree N. of the equator – on the other side of the date line) or about 2,400 miles aboard an escort vessel for our own Hawaiian “Hokulea” expedition. Bill also earned his USCG license for small passenger carrying vessels where he served as captain and dive master on several passenger excursion vessels around Hawaii.  He also held the “flag” for our own HYC Cruising and Voyaging Society. Bill proved himself as a versatile good natured chap and always a helping hand


 Mark Chips

Mark Chips was our “Johnny – Jack”.  Master of many trades nautical and otherwise. Johnny Jack would profess himself a reluctant seaman, but his natural abilities excelled him in things we call nautical and would prove himself a man of humility rather than hoopla. Regardless of what Mark could say, his can do spirit made him our “engineer in making” and a hero to our cause.  Mark together with Capt. Jeff rebuilt our eclectic generator about 3-4 degrees N. of the equator, twice.  That’s equivalent to riding a bucking bronc in a maelstrom. Mark, as exclaimed by Capt. Jeff is always well regarded…Mark accompanied Jeff on many a voyage covering thousands of miles. He earned his respect.

 


 Skip Riley

Skip Riley was the designated ships surveyor and dogwatch crewman. Skips job began many month’s prior the voyage beginning with the drydock survey of the vessel. Jeff said “no holds barred, Skip. Lets’ get this vessel shipshape. I want to know everything that’s wrong with her”. And so from mast step to masthead, chain plate to through hull, bung to butt the work list poured forth. The next several months’ saw crew and hired professional alike engaged in vessel preparation. Chain plates were replaced as were stuffing box hoses/clamps. Through hull valves were serviced, and the rudder system repacked and adjusted. New navigational items, new batteries (some exotic) were placed aboard. New, most strategic sails were provided. A “Code Zero” and a cruising Spinnaker added. Finally a new trusted Monitor Wind Vane would be installed.  

Among Skip’s tasks aboard were the periodic general inspection of the deck systems.  On one watch, Skip discovered a deck securing plate holding the main sheeting system, boom vang and in mast furling system components about to fail.  The components were moved to another secure location. This undiscovered failure would likely of happened on the midwatch (2300 to 0300), and would have caused at least some havoc, likley just in time for Bill’s watch. Bill would exclaim “Thank you Skip!” as it seemed most calamities occurred on Bill’s watch, this one didn’t.  Skip is a  recognized marine surveyor with over 25years marine inspection experience. He is also a USCG licensed master on his 8th renewal.  Skip has eleven Pacific crossings (now twelve); he has cruised the West Coast, most of the coast of Mexico –  proving after a windward trip to the coast, that the “Mexico’s Baja Ha Ha” is accessible to Hawaii sailors -. Skip has visited most every island in the Micronesia archipelago as far West as Palau - including Satawal and Kapingamarangi.. He has dined on breadfruit, turtle, fish and  Tuba with our island neighbors. He sailed with Mau, the Polynesian master navigator, when they were both young and “good looking” (1971-May).   

                                               

                           LEG ONE: Honolulu to Papeete, Tahiti

The original course around the Hawaiian Islands was a choice.  Do we go North of the islands or South?  If North we would bang our way up the Molokai channel to clear Molokai. We would then banter a refractive North Pacific back wash along the windward isles, but miss the boisterous venturi effect of the wind channels of the Ale Nui Ha Ha. Or do we choose going South across the lee side, risking the lulls, crossing the windy channels at their worst and perhaps lose a day of sailing. Choosing the leeward course would slow us down, but it would also offer a reprieve for us needing such a reprieve to develop our sea legs.  Capt. Jeff chose the southern route and at least two of us were gladdened.

 

We officially commenced our journey at 2300 hours on April 20, 2012. 2300 hours rang true as we knew there would be little to no sleep for those of us, all of us who had worked the boat in preparation for so long this last two days.  And so it was knowing the sleepless night was in store.  Skip manned the helm and led her across the south coast of Oahu. We passed Diamond Head (logging our time), crossed the Molokai Channel and persevered past Lanai and Maui.  We made it ½ way across the Ale Nui Ha Ha when the Mals de Mure reared his ugly head.  My helming, of course was no hero’s quest. It was simply hang on, concentrate and try not to lose what little my stomach contained.  The winds near 35knots and the seas, due to darkness were not very discernible. The rest was clear as I asked myself, who would win? Mr. Mal de mure or Ms. Sea legs.  In the end, thankfully Ms. Sea-legs won.  Mark and I particularly were thankful. 

The skipper Jeff navigated in good steed. He would use his magic charts and determine wind speeds and directions all a head of real time, before we got there.  Jeff could amazingly just about determine what sails to hoist and calculate square footage as necessary before we got there. And so it was with a drive to adventure we drove our sweet “Moonshadow” SSE to a finish 2,650 miles distant.

150, 150 150 degrees West longitude echoed in Skips mind. It was Capt. Robby Buck who has made 75 Pacific crossings who would repeated in earnest. “No go 150 West and you cannot make the last run to Papeete”. That was the magic number and we drove our “Moonshadow” to weather to gain 450 miles of easting to gain the magic numbers for a good slant on T-A-H-I-T-I.

 

The weather charts were augmented by Dave Cooper of the “Swan Song”. It was Dave Cooper who ran the SSB shore station on Oahu. It was Dave who became the mystic voice of the airwaves. It was Dave Cooper who had gained his lofty view via computer and sattlelight. It was Dave Cooper in his melodic friendly tone who calmed the night. He, with our weather consultant that Capt. Jeff had procured laid out our weather windows.  Sometimes with reports in conflict, we could make lofty competitive bidding which would add spice to the dog watch of which we would share.  We plied our course near our hull speed and then some. We sailed hard at  7.5 to 8 and 9+knots. Not bad considering wind speeds of only in 10-25knots 15 to 18 on average coupled to 4-6-8ft combined seas and swell. Our course and speed was not a bad average.

          Not to be outdone by “Moonshadow” nature would respond a contrast.  Almost nightly the skies would open to a rising moon which commenced in late April as a splinter then would develop over two weeks into the largest full moon in six years.  The seas would glisten at night in a report of a billion diamonds cast to windward and then to leeward. The glitter would start in the east after sundown and eventually spill into the sea around 0400 hours.  Skip and Bill who had the successive watches were the beneficiaries. Even the amazing spectacle would be reported over the “Pacific Seafarers Net”.  The “Pacific Seafarers Net” is a Ham frequency encompassing an early season fleet of “Pacific Puddle Jumpers” whom found their collective roots in the “Mexico Baja Ha HA” sailing event. This fleet too, was headed our way.

          As we approached our own vernal equinox and the winds fell light it became time for a new challenge. Enter the “Code Zero”. The “Code Zero”, a daunting name is a sail specifically designed for light to moderate breezes under 12 knots. The sail is not unlike a cruising spinnaker excepting that it is cut more like a Genoa, but still remains cupped and full similar to a Spinnaker. The sail is clubless and generally easy to fly.  The Code Zero was Capt. Jeff’s baby and added ½ to 1 knot of speed to an already fine sailing venture.  Unfortunately the sail made steering difficult. The difficulty was mostly due to an overly stuffed rudder packing gland. However, we persevered our steering efforts but later gave way to our more normal tried and true double headsail rig. The following days brought forth the cruising Spinnaker. This fun sail was large and glorious. We each soon became proficient of her set. But the balancing act of the double headsail rig would trump. And it was this way we troubled her helm across the remaining 17.5 degrees of Southern latitude.

As expected a long trip, breakages occurred. First was our main sail in-mast furling. This, I believe was the most difficult and dangerous issue. Without the ability to douse the mainsail we could be in a pickle.  The roughened seas would make bolt (fastening) repairs difficult if not impossible. Fortunately, Jeff knew the ropes and the issue was handled. Other failure of equal frustration, but not as detrimental included the generator. The generator had suffered an immersion event before we left. The generator was required so as to charge the batteries such that the refrigeration/freezer could be cooled down.  Another was the refrigeration pump intake which required continued massaging simply to keep the raw water coolant flow from ceasing. We also lost the engines raw water pump impeller. Without it the engine could not be run. The positioning of this pump made impeller renewal a feat that could only be equated to an exorcism.

As Leg one progressed we lacked for little. We discovered resiliency in each of us as our skills overlapped …and so we had a happy crew. We only lacked for song , dance and the bonding only island dancing girls could bring.  Fishing became good with the landing of three delightfully edible fish. Bills  skill at fillet went unsurpassed. Anything more any of us could even hope for would be cold  frosty effervescent  beverages of the adult variety. Here we would have to wait, but not long.

                                                       LAND HO!

On May 6, 2012 at 0650 hours 16 days since our departure Skip  rang out the alarm “Land Ho”.  And so it was. Here a thin green line was observed on the horizon echoing out four “Motu’s” surrounded by a truly turquoise lagoon, and surrounded again by pristine breakers streaking white with a spindrift of rainbows. Off in the  distance was the sight to be held.  In the portrayed  images of Gaugin we observed as many an adventurer before us, the high rugged volcanic peaks of Tahiti. Offing to the West was yet another high rugged series of peaks. Here bore the French Polynesian Island of Mo’orea. It’s caldron peaks could still be seen. It was only eight hours later we “discovered” ,  Papeete, Tahiti. Here  Jeff planted the flag of  “our nation” the “Hawaii Yacht Club” at the yard arm. We had transited 16 days with many a challenge. We had become  “Shell-backed”   crossing our own personal vernal equinox.   

 (More Pictures)

                                                     POSTSCRIPT

The crew of “Moonshadow” Jeff, Bill, Mark and Skip didn’t just make Tahiti,  Tahiti was earned and five days later Mo’orea as well. LEG ONE,  Honolulu to Tahiti was completed.

The journey was “miracle” under a perfect sky with perfect winds and  perfect seas.. In Papeete  we collectively took a much needed rest and worked on “Moonshadow” in preparation for a renewed / relief  crew and  Leg two and three.

 Patty Naus and Leslie Moore joined Jeff and Mark in Papeete for LEG TWO which would include  Rangiroa, Raiatea, Huahine and Bora Bora.   Additional crew would be requested the Cruising and Voyaging Society for LEG THREE, See The Return of Moonshadow by Capt. Jeff Naus.

 

October Sailing Story
by Skip Riley   

 

We left the protection of the Ala Wai Small Craft Harbor at 0-dark-30 in the early morning hours of October 10, 2009, bound on a 9 day cruise around the inner-most Hawaiian Islands.


 Hale'o Lono Harbor

The weather was balmy, the air light. The smell of the land permeated the air, reminiscent of what we sense after a Trans ocean passage. All one had to do was remember. The weather service reported a break in the daily calms and high humidity of the past week. The forecast was 15-20 knots of NE winds. Certainly palatable. We cleared Diamond Head, watching the sun rise as we passed.  The channel winds were felt and by Koko Head we had winds at 15-18 knots.  As we approached mid channel, there was our 25 knots.

The TUATHA sailed well under a new Port Townsend built roller furling 100% Genoa. Her main too was from Port Townsend, and was already reefed.  So we sailed on.  I had recently rebuilt the self steering vane so I was anxious to exercise her.  Under sail and self steering we forged our way.  “Tuatha herself had not been out in a year and change. This was only because of her masters bout with a defective weather leg which failed me early in the year.  So we both had to regain our pace.


 John Fitzgeral

We anchored our Westsail 32 in Hale Lono, Molokai after a channel crossing of 11 hours.  Not bad at all.  We rested here one day.  I dove in and cleaned the vessels bottom while John Fitzgerald took watch on the sail bags forward.  John has sailed with me far and wide countless passages around Southern Californias Channel Islands, as well as a Trans Pacific cruise. When I came up from cleaning the bottom of the boat the entire cockpit was swarmed by bees. John and I fought them long and hard.  Neither of us, for unknown reason, ever got stung, nor did we win the battle. The bees left about 4:30pm on their own accord.  I have since learned they are attracted to fresh water.  So Beware the bees of Lono


 Five Needles; Nanahoa, Lana'i

The wind settled and so did we. We left Lono in the morning on the 12th in a flat calm to Lanai. A more pleasant journey could never be had.  We explored Needles and anchored finally in the commercial harbor at the southern-most point of Lanai. Here I watched the skill of the captain of the tug and barge.  Amazing how these tritons of the sea maneuver those large vessels in such tight quarters, amazing.  I secretly desired a turn on the helm.

Next day we rounded Lanai and anchored finally in Black Manele, off the harbor breakwater in 32ft. of water, just off the reef.  Here I dove on what is called the most beautiful reef in Hawaii. It was truly beautiful.  I also sounded the Manele Bay Harbor entrance.  I saw no rainbow rock; I think it has been removed. The normal depth I got was 8ft., not the controlling depth of 6ft.  So to those wondering whether to enter or not, be so advised; if your draft is 6ft. youll likely make it. But dont take my word for it. This is my unofficial experience.


 "Dolphins of Lanai"

We then left for Maui, again in a flat calm.  Enroute, we were surrounded by the dolphins of Lanai.  Reported as the escort service, it appears that they admire us as we do them.  After arriving at Maui, we anchored off Mala Wharf in 28ft. water.  We spent two days here surrounded by others of like mind, just inbound of the Mala reef break.  Here the surf broke 4-8 ft. and it was good.  Both John and I paddled out.  John did better than I did, due to my Lolo leg.  It will be some time, if ever, before I will be surfing again.  In any case the paddle was awesome.   

The nice thing about Mala Wharf was the easy access to the surf, shopping center and restaurant.  I think this is one of the better spots to anchor if you require any amenities.  Cant compare to Hanalei though. Thank you, Jeff Naus, skipper of Moonshadow, for that experience.

After two days we sailed back to Molokai.  By now the conditions had changed and full trades were back.  The channel forecast was for 20 knots.  We left about 10:00 and hit the wind line about 11:00; 15 knots, then 20 knots.  In anticipation, the headsail was reduced to 60% and the main single reefed.  At 25 knots, then 30 knots combined with 4-5 ft. seas, the sail area had to be reduced again.  Finally, at 30-35 knots the main was taken down.  We smoked this 22,000 lb vessel downwind at 7.54 knots; quite a feat and quite an experience.  As we reached down the Molokai Coast the seas built and the wind peaked at about 40 knots we passed the Southern coast in style and surfed past Kaunakakai.  As the day wore on the seas built, likely to about 6ft (Molokai Island protected us somewhat from seas). But added to this was a surf advisory for an 8-10 ft. south swell and I became concerned about our Lono Harbor destination.  Lono, as we know, is exposed to the south swell.  This time of year there is not supposed to be a south swell! 


 Hole'o Lono Harbor "Residents"

On approach to Lono entrance, the side wind increased and the surf cascaded onto the off-lying reefs.  In 54 ft. of water the swells could be felt.   This became very sobering as we made our approach.  Three 8 ft. swells preceded our entry, the swells breaking on the reef on either side with, say, a 12ft. face.  Atop these swells were the seas.  If the wind had not been diagonal along shore I would never have attempted the entrance.  As it was it was makeable.  We followed the last swell in the set and, with the engine at 3500 rpm and half of the headsail up, we made our entry. 

It was twilight by the time we anchored and mellowed out.  Both John and I were glad we were home for the night.  The unofficial caretaker Capt. Chuck of Hale Lone came over and we spoke of experiences and agreed that there would be little to our October story if we had not at least a mini storm to talk about...  The next day we departed and sailed the 60 or so miles back to Honolulu.  The weather was fine at 20 knots. 

Bottom line, the preparation of the boat made our October journey just about flawless.  We had no breakage, though the roller furling line chafed through once.  But that was it.  Preparation is everything!  Click Here for more pictures   
Any questions on an October passage around Hawaii? Contact Capt. Skip: 271-0905   

Tuatha De  Danaan                                                                     
Westsail 32
LOA 38ft - Beam 11ft - Draft 6f

 
 

the MEXICO Baja ha ha IS ACCESSIBLE TO HAWAII YACHTS

                        By Capt. Skip Riley                                     

 

 

Mexico, our nearest neighbor, is just east and south of us.  Mexico and Central America are the last great untouched, generally unregulated cruising grounds in the Western Hemisphere.  So if the spirit of adventure and romance is still alive within you, read on.  Let’s go south, down Mexico way.
    For me the seeds for cruising Mexico were planted in the late 70's in Hawaii.
  I listened to the older sailors talk and gesture, wild eyed, about distant ports that were accessible from Hawaii. (Capt. Steve Mann was one of them).  So I left Hawaii for the mainland to search for a cruising boat that was stout, small enough to afford and large enough to cross oceans.  On the mainland, I discovered cruisers making their way south, not for Hawaii or the South Pacific, but heading south down Mexico way.  I heard the stories of a simpler people, people who still believed in family, who stayed together, working, playing and praying; a people whose foundations lay in the interface between the land and the sea.  I heard of a land without jet airplanes, highways and causeways; a coast peppered with untouched bays, coves and natural harbors.  I heard of calm emerald waters, pristine surf, white sand beaches and bountiful fishing.  Mexico had to be again discovered, and soon, by me on my ship “Tuatha”.
    In 2001, after an autumn passage from California to Hawaii in 2000, I contemplated that, though I was now able to destine the South Pacific, I had missed Mexico.
 So there I was, sitting in the Hawaii Yacht Club with the morning coffee crowd, when a cruiser came in wearing a “Baja Ha Ha” T-shirt.  Upon inquiry I was soon being fed - again - with stories of adventure along the Mexican coast.  So a mid-life crisis, coupled with my well-traveled West Sail 32, suggested that I had no choice but to cruise.  I laid the course for the journey back from Hawaii to California, then from California to Baja and then on to mainland Mexico, and finally a trans-pacific voyage back to Hawaii.  Was it reasonable to undertake such a voyage?  Of course, and Mexico is for you too.  Here is how we did it.
    The crew search seemed to be the hardest.
 Everyone I spoke with (HYC and the mainland) wanted to go, liked the idea, but no one could break their societal bonds and ties.  They couldn’t, and I could not give up.  I posted an ad on the bulletin board at Ala Wai Marine and was answered.  After a short interview, the hauling of the vessel and the loading of the groceries and fuel, we were on our way.  On August 16, 2001 Kaena Point was left to starboard.  The trades were blustery the first part of the trip (up to 30 knots NE with quite choppy seas) and it stayed that way for eight days.  By the time I lost 10 lbs we had made 34* North.  The wind veered westerly and we were off to the NE.  Soon “Tuatha” found the pacific high and we motor-sailed for another eight to twelve days (Rick Shema of weatherguy.com was right on with the weather. Thanks Rick.) 


Tuatha

The “Tuatha”, a West Sail 32, carries eighty gallons of fuel (about twice as much as similarly sized vessels) and so we motor sailed.  The wind then became ENE, this time to 30 knots.  While we had made good 35* to 36* North we were pushed south to the latitude of San Diego.  As expected the northing was made up as we pressed on over the next 1,000 miles.  As we approached the mainland coast 600 miles offshore the weather changed from clear to overcast.  The sea water temperature dropped into the 60's and the overcast changed to fog; chilly by any standard.  We approached the mainland between Pt. Conception and San Miguel Island, but did not see land until less than 5 miles offshore of Ventura on September 14th (three days after the world had changed on 9-11...)  We had made the coast in 28 days.  Not a bad passage by cruising standards (Harry Pidgeon - 45days circa 1950's).  Here the boat was attended to; sails were repaired, refinements made, and stores replenished.  I went to Ham radio school (and dancing school) in San Diego.  I successfully learned both.  After another quest for crew “Tuatha” departed again on January 23rd 2002 for Mexico.
     Our “Baja Ha Ha” trip began as we departed the Anacapa Boat Yard in the Channel Islands Harbor on a cool and blustery late January day.
  The winds were NW and mui frio (very cold), as an Alaskan weather front had just passed through.  At the harbor entrance we turned south and headed for Catalina Island.  Some 15 hours later we left Santa Barbara Island to starboard, then Catalina Island to port followed by San Clemente Island to starboard then onward to San Diego.  Our stop in San Diego was brief and only for fuel.  Here my crew was given their last opportunity to jump ship.  Neither did- in fact each wanted to continue immediately.  So immediately we departed and several hours later we crossed the US/Mexican border.

 
 

     The border crossing was very different as Mexico is different.  The difference is very apparent even from 5 miles offshore. Gone were the large hotels, bridges and business office buildings.  Gone were the stately coastal mansions.  These were replaced by older smaller buildings and smaller, less conspicuous, homes. The smells changed as did the geography.  In Mexico our wealth centered society gives way to the more important family and community oriented values of the less well-to-do Mexico.  The people are seemingly family oriented and deeply religious.  Here Christian beliefs seem to permeate all walks of life from business to recreation.
     Our first Mexican stop was Bahia de Tortola (Turtle Bay) some 200 plus nautical miles south of the border.
 The bay is south of Cedros Island and just south-east around Punta Eugenia. Turtle Bay is just a small outpost with little connection to mainland Mexico.  It is quaint, quiet and simple, situated on a large bay surrounded by dry and barren hills.  Each town is built around a Catholic church. 
     Here we met Ernesto, who had inherited the fuel dock from the famous Gordo of 70’s fame, like the Texaco dock at Ala Wai.
  Ernesto hailed us in spanglish (a combination of English and Spanish) looking for candy.  We gave him candy for his many children, bought fuel from him and visited him at his house for burritos. We later had cerveza (beer) at the Bahia de Tortola Yacht Club (just a small beer shack) where I inscribed HAWAII YACHT CLUB on the post.  THEY ALREADY HAD A BURGEE.   It was an old one - but it was there!  Thank you to one of our HYC predecessors -of a past cruising generation.
     The weather changed while we were at anchor; the wind switched NE to gale force and so we stayed for two days.
 We met other cruisers, some of which I knew from the Ventura, Calif. area.  It is a small world, the cruising world.  We left near the end of the gale taking advantage of the stiff offshore winds.  Here we headed south and east for Bahia de Santa Maria, another 250 nautical miles further on.
     Three days of rain and cold wind brought us to the mouth of a large bay, Bahia de Santa Maria.
 We were simply going to head to Bahia Santa Magdalena, but this bay seemed very accessible.  We entered the mouth of the bay at night and with GPS, radar, fathometer, knotmeter, charts and a ready anchor we found our way to five fathoms and anchored.  By morning we discovered a big beautiful crescent bay and calm seas.  The weather turned warm and pod after pod of whales began to show.  We explored the bay and left for the opening so as to make Bahia Santa Magdalena before nightfall.
     We made Bahia Santa Magdalena (Mag Bay) about 5:00 pm and found ourselves entering a bay the size of our own San Francisco Bay, only without bridges, buildings, jets, boats or people. It was nearly empty with the exception of several fishing pangas (open skiff type boats) and pods on top of pods of whale families.
 Here we made our way up to and anchored at Belcher Point (named after a British Admiralty Captain).  About two hours later the wind veered south and east putting us onto a lee shore.  We weighed anchor in the pitch black night and endeavored north to Punta Santa Magdalena (Man of War Cove).  Using the light house, radar, fathometer, knotmeter and GPS as a guide we needled our way into the cove and anchored in 4 fathoms.  It was choppy, rainy and squally.  I stood anchor watch and the morning gave way to a pristine flat water cove surrounded by a small fishing village - quite a contrast to the very scary night.
     Within the anchorage I met the Puerto Capitan.
 He was gracious and so were we.  I made him a Hawaiian style fishing lure/hand line (learned from Al Bento) and we had a friend for life.  The cove is bordered by a long, wide sand spit to the north - perfect for jogging, swimming and fishing.  We had this part of the cove all to ourselves.  I also hiked over the small mountains to view Bahia de Santa Maria from aloft over the cliffs.  It was beautiful beyond dreams.
     After several days the wind and sea called again.
 We departed for the bay entrance around 10:00 am in hopes of the best current and wind to lead us out.  We made the entrance some hours later and amongst pods and pods of whales we directed our course south and east again toward Cabo San Lucas.  Our journey was again blessed and the wind filled in NW 20-22 knots.  We made Cabo Falso some 2 days later and cleared the famous Arch Rock of Cabo just in time to see the Southern Cross rise and rotate around the arch.  This was the first time my crew had seen the Southern Cross, let alone the Arch Rock of Cabo.  Truly a memorable occasion.
     Cabo San Lucas is the cosmopolitan city of the Baja and marks the end of the “Baja Ha Ha.”
 Here is where cruising sailors either head off into the Sea of Cortez or across it to the south. Cabo is also a port of entry, meaning a visit to Immigration, the Port Captain, the bank and the City Administration of Cabo San Lucas is mandatory.   The checking-in process, affectionately called the Cabo Dance, takes about 4-5 hours, counting walking.  And it is a good dance.  The officials are so nice, though they didn’t start out that way.  When they determined the benevolent spirit of aloha we brought with us, it all changed.  Good thing too, because otherwise it would be hell in the heat.  Berthing in the CABO ISLE MARINA is very expensive and cost us $65.00 for a 32 ft. boat per night.  One night only, please...  We made grand use of the anchorage (free) and the inflatable.  We partied and I was able to find a small surf break in the bay.
     Several days later and burned out on margaritas (Cabo was our first Margaritaville port) it was time to move on, this time across the Sea of Cortez to a special little island called Isla Isabella, which is an ancient cinder cone sort of like Hanauma Bay on Oahu.
 We arrived again in the night and were able to anchor in 7 fathoms in the extinct cinder cone until morning, when we moved to the eastern side of the island and anchored in a sand and coral bottom.  This cove was the first tropical cove of Mexico at about 22* North Latitude.  This is also where Jacques Cousteau did a special on sea birds, of which there were plenty.  There were also iguanas which at night would feast on Goony Bird eggs.  The island was so unique we stayed for three days, finally departing for the Mexican mainland some 100 miles further east. 

 
 

      We approached the coast a day later as expected and decided to enter San Blas.  As usual it was dark on our approach, but the Mantechen Bay which borders San Blas was so broad and protected, we entered it anyway and finally anchored in 12ft. of water in a flat calm serene cove.
     As the Puerto Capitan’s office was so far away we elected not to check in and instead checked out before sunrise and headed for Chacala to the south.
  Chacala is a little fishing village accessed by a coastal road from Puerto Vallarta and positioned in a medium sized cove.  We entered in the afternoon and anchored off the Puerto Capitan’s office.  Here we did try to check in, but the Capitan was not around.   The town waterfront has a wide crescent beach.  Here we played.  I jogged, I swam, I surfed.  The evening brought out the lobsters and margaritas.  We met a few land yacht owners (gringos from Norte America) and partied heartily through the night.

     Two days later we headed for Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta.  This would be end of the rode for one crew member and class mate Genie, who needed to get back to work.  This was also the beginning of the prep work for our trans-oceanic voyage back to Hawaii some 2,800 miles to the West.  The entrance into Banderas Bay is a little tricky because the entrance is shallow in areas and uncharted submerged rocks (big ones) are reported.  I told my crew that we would not hit one because they would inevitably name the rock after the first vessel which did hit it.  “Tuatha Rocks” did not sound good to me.       Banderas Bay is one of the largest bays in the world and will some day inevitably become very populated.  Currently small fishing villages surround the bay along the NW and SE sides.  Puerto Vallarta is on the most easterly side.  It is also the center for the popular MEXORC  Banderas Bay regatta.  We entered Puerto Vallarta, again in the evening, and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves at a berth with fresh water and electricity - our first in over thirty days.  Puerto Vallarta is a cruisers’ mecca and here we met many cruisers from all over the world - going to places all over the world.  There were mega yachts, medium yachts, sailing yachts and motor craft of many descriptions.  Here, too, were little cruising centers with highly helpful x-patriot cruisers answering questions and providing services -for a fee.  Here, too, I found the Hawaii Yacht Club burgee emblazoned onto a light house restaurant wall.  In Puerto Vallarta I learned the bus system and traveled into the old parts of town.  Here one can purchase all kinds of silver wares that Mexico is famous for.  A beautiful town with beautiful and industrious people.
      It was now February 25, 2002; winter time and time to get the boat ready for the impending trans-pacific run to Hawaii.
 I checked out the rig, cleaned the bottom, filled the water tanks, charged the batteries, provisioned the boat and checked the weather.  We did this all in two days.  We were then off, across an ocean blue with the adventure spirit of just two.  It would be four hours on and four hours off for the next 29 days.  The game plan was to follow 22* N or 23* N all the way to Hawaii.  The Mexicans who had never heard of Hawaii thought we were nuts.  We were soon to find out they were right.        On February 27 we were off.  It took us a day to clear Banderas Bay, another half day to clear the off lying dangers (well offshore - up to 50 miles offshore!) and four days to clear the Baja peninsula and enter the wide expansive Pacific Ocean.  We tapped into the Pacific Seafarers Net only to find out we were the first vessel of the season crossing the N. Pacific, and 1.5 weeks later we found out why.  We met with a gale which picked us up at 125* W and stayed with us for five days.  The gale, which gave us 35-50 knots sustained winds with 15-20ft. breaking seas, was very tiring.  “Tuatha” fared well through it all and nothing broke - nothing.  The West Sail 32 is what they say, “Hell bent for stout”.  And 29 days from our start we made Oahu.

      On March 29, 2002 at 8:00 pm we made the Ala Wai Harbor and the Hawaii Yacht Club.  Archie and Gilligan helped tie us up, not realizing at first who we were.  My beard was over two inches long and scruffy I was.  Upon the discovery of the end of a successful “Baja Ha Ha”-Mexico voyage we were soon joined by Tony, Larry, Lynn, Barbara and others.  We partied well enough.  For we had made the “Baja Ha Ha” successfully!   The name Hawaii Yacht Club has been spread far and wide by the cruising clubs of previous generations.  Signs of HYC Aloha were everywhere.  I saw it.  The HYC sailors are truly regarded everywhere there is wind and sea as steadfast loyal cruisers.

      So why not Mexico by way of Hawaii?  With thought, planning and will power the Mexico “Baja HA HA” is accessible to Hawaii cruisers.  The entire journey can be accomplished in 7 months.

Capt Skip Riley

HYC Cruising and Voyaging Society