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Oct 30, day 1: Baja-Haha start, enroute from San Diego to Turtle Bay

We were all excited and up early. As the sun rose we prepared to cast off and push back from our slip. Today was the day we would leave! The first thing Will did was to turn on the navigation system and see which way Mexico was. South?! Crazy! We all had one last bathroom break before applying our Scopaline patches and heading out into the open ocean.

Which way to Mexico?
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Sara and Briana pose on the way to the bathroom
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At 9AM we motored out the San Diego channel and prepared to join the 150 other boats clustered around the starting line. It was the beginning of our two-week journey down the Baja peninsula with the Latitude 38-sponsored Baja-Haha cruiser's rally / race.

The rally is a loosely-organized collection of boats going the same way at the same time, making two stops along the way. The first leg is from San Diego to Turtle Bay, approximately 410 nautical miles; the second is from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria, approx 223nm; the third is from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas, approx 172nm.

The Haha organizes parties and events at each of the layovers, but the wide variety of boats and even wider variety of boat speeds mean some enjoy two or three day rests at each spot, and others barely arrive before setting out on the next leg. Latitude 38, the Northern California sailing magazine, organizes and promotes the event (even if they insist they don't for liability reasons).

It sounded like a lot of fun, but the primary reason we wanted to Haha was because it had a rigid deadline. If we were left to our own devices, we would probably be like so many other cruisers: trapped in a boatyard by our own over-active imagination - unable to leave until we complete just one more critical boat project.

So Monday morning, while most others drove to work, drank their first coffee, and read the first mind-numbing email sent by some stupid cow-orker, we prepared our starting strategy: don't run into anyone else, and don't let anyone else run into us! Oh, plus we wanted to be one of the first over the line.

Sean at the helm
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Sara looking super happy
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There were boats everywhere - it really was amazing to see so many different hulls and sail configurations. Sara and Briana kept watch, Sean helmed, and Will yelled orders; watch out America's Cup - here we come!

Will looking for babes
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Starting line off our port bow
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We sailed across the starting line at about 5 knots on a broad reach. Our line was perfect; we didn't have to alter course amidst the chaos around us. We had the wind over our starboard side, meaning that we did not have to give way to those approaching from the port tack. We were to windward of most other boats, so we had to give way if we were on a similar tack to another, but this kept us in clean air and free of most traffic.

Flying our biggest headsail, the 150% genoa, we deliberated whether to raise the flasher (our small spinnaker). It seemed that all the other boats had their spinnies up, but we decided to keep the genoa. The flasher is smaller than the 150, plus the roller-furling genoa is easier to douse - and thus a safer sail for our first offshore overnight together.

Faster boats downcourse
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He's ahead of us here, but we passed him
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We seemed to be doing well relative to the boats in our class - this is a race, after all! We were traveling mostly with Island Packets, which are much newer hulls, but heavy like our vessel. They're incredibly nice inside, and we've dubbed them the floating condominiums.

We decided to sail out on a reach to maintain some boat speed - without a huge symmetric spinny we don't run so well directly downwind - which took us away from land and out to sea. The sun came out as we passed through the Coronado Islands with a smaller pack of boats, which quickly spread out as the afternoon progressed. We all took turns at the helm; Briana's crash-course sailing instruction continued.

Happy crew jostling for position
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Briana at the helm
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The Coronados were the last land we would see for over 50 hours, and as the afternoon went on we gradually lost sight of most other boats. Hard to believe, given we started with more than 150 others in such a tight cluster! Will and Sean proved their prowess (or lack thereof) my constantly trimming and fiddling with the sails. Hey, that extra 0.1 knots is useful on a long trip! Once clear of the islands, the wind picked up a little and we were making 4.5-6 knots on a beam reach as the sun set.

Full sails!
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Coronado Islands
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With many boats staying close to shore we were really out there on our own. A few others were headed way way out - perhaps looking for more wind? Hey guys, call us from Hawaii!

This first evening Sean discovered that making pasta in rolling seas in a tiny kitchen was not only challenging, but potentially disastrous. He held the lid on the pot containing the boiling water for the whole time, after a near miss with toe scalding. Dinner was, nonetheless, served and delicious. The crew of Wanderlust eats surprisingly well, all you moms out there should note.

On the mom topic, you'll all be happy to hear about our safety precautions! We wear automatically-inflating lifejackets anytime the sea state gets rough, the wind builds, or it gets dark. The lifejackets have built-in harnesses that allow the sailor to clip into lifelines we have perminantly installed along the sides of the boat. We clip in anytime we're wearing the jackets; clip rings are also installed in the cockpit, so in really rough stuff we can secure ourselves to the boat before climbing the companionway stairs.

Sean clipping in
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Sara and Briana, happy as clams
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Briana and Sean took the first watch (6-12 PM), while Will and Sara tried to get some sleep. It was Briana's first overnight sailing leg (hey, first sailing trip too) and turned out to be, well, anticlimactic. Not that it sucked, it just wasn't eventful. The night was cool, the stars were out, and the crew was happy.

Operating under main alone
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Our first sunset of the race
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That is, everyone was happy until the wind died. Sean tried unsuccessfully to maintain course and speed with various reaches and gibes. Eventually the two rolled up the flapping headsail, content to head downwind with just the main let all the way out and prevented down to the toe-rail with an extra boom vang. A scalding 3 knots was the average pace for the first watch.


Previous: 2: baja-haha
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