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2: baja-haha :
day8: no wind, finish
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Nov 6, day 8: Totally becalmed, we start engine, arrival at Bahia Santa Maria
Will was awake and back topside at midnight, ready to relive the other three. Sean and Briana headed below for some sleep while Sara elected to stick around, cuddle up with a big fleece blanket, and snooze while Will managed the boat. Will unfurled the headsail, bore off a little to get some lift, and soon had the boat moving again. It feels great to sail this boat, even singlehanded.
By 2AM we were doing a very comfortable 6 knots in the light winds and very small waves. Everything was cool, but you know where this is going: we were at 5 knots by 3AM, 4 knots at 4AM, and the wind died just fifteen minutes later. It was so abrupt, Sara woke up and wondered if anything had gone wrong. Yes, something had gone horribly wrong, the wind left us. Sara looked around sleepily, instinctively knew that all hell was about to break loose, and headed below to get some more sleep.
Sean woke up an hour later to banging, smashing, flapping, flogging, and muttered swearing. Will was doing everything to try and keep the boat moving. The past hour had sucked for a singlehander, with hundreds of sail adjustments, course adjustments, trim adjustments, and sail changes.
Wing and wing was totally ineffective. Lose the pole, remove the preventer, and try a deep reach on starboard tack: ineffective. Ease the sails and steer for speed with a beam reach on starboard tack: some slight movement at a perfect right angle to our destination. Deep reach under spinnaker was the best solution, but was still delivering less than 2 knots.
Sailing slower than you can walk sucks. It's not sailing, it's drifting.
Sean joined Will with the friendly intent of helping. However, as soon as Sean's head popped out of the companionway hatch, Will unclipped his harness and pushed past him while heading below. Will was covered in sweat, totally disheveled, and had the Crazy Eye. Muttering something about fucking wind and fucking sails and fucking insane, Will was gone, leaving Sean looking a little startled.
As the sun started to think about rising, the horizon turning light and orange, Sean noted it was already hot. An hour later it was hotter, Mexico hot. Everyone was asleep. No sails were up - there was no point, there was no wind. Sean was at the helm by himself, reading and trying desperately to stay awake.
A few hours later everyone had broken free of their heat-induced comas and rejoined Sean. The still heat was oppressive, and it wasn't much longer before the swimsuits went on and the swim ladder went down. One of the most memorable things about blue water cruising is being able to jump into the blue abiss - with no land, boats, or other people in sight. It is a unique experience. As Briana writes, "...what an amazing moment for us all and one that could be easily overlooked. We were completely alone in that moment, surrounded by this great abyss. That is what I call free of all ties."
Sara and Briana search for wind
Will and Sean after swimming
By 9AM our fingers were pruny and we were done with swimming. All we wanted was WIND! The birthday luck had all been used the previous day, and we began the debate about whether to turn on the engine. Will and Sean were reluctant to let go of the "hardcore sailor" title, earned by sailing all three legs of the Haha. Briana was ambivilant, and Sara was strongly in favour of turning the switch. "This boat has an engine, why the hell aren't we using it?!"
We decided to wait for the Haha weather broadcast at 9AM. By 9:30AM we still hadn't heard anything and soon realized that we had fallen so far behind the rest of the pack we were out of radio range. Urgh! Fortunately, there were a few other die-harders waiting stubbornly with us, and we got a relay from a talkative boat, Sailor's Run. The forecast was not what we were hoping for, with the wind not scheduled to pick up until the afternoon and then not much more than 5 knots, from variable directions.
After more vigorous debate about the engine, Sara managed to convince Will that motoring was a viable option. Sara made the point that Wanderlust shouldn't miss the huge beach party that was scheduled for later that day.
We had all worked so hard to get this far, so hard! Every morning had been the same: no wind. We had strugged through it. We had fought the calm before. It was clear that we wouldn't make the finish line today, and thus the anchorage, without turning on the motor. With the party later that afternoon, it just wouldn't happen without the motor. We had the gas, the motor was working fine, and what could we do with less than five knots from variable directions? That's not sailing, it's drifting!
Sails down, motor on, finally moving again
Bahia Santa Maria, the finish
With the engine running, and the boat moving at 6 knots in the right direction, life seemed much better. The apparent wind immediately cooled us all down, and it wasn't so stifling. Will sulked, but missing parties is even worse than being becalmed.
At 4PM we crossed the finish line and announced it over the VHF net. A few minutes later we entered Bahia Santa Maria, found a hole in the huge fleet of boats already anchored, dropped our Bruce anchor, and began preparing for the party.
Something should be said about this party: Bahia Santa Maria is a cove in the middle of nowhere. There is no civilization there. There are no residents. There are hills, sandstone, salt water, and rocks. But the Haha organizers have a relationship with some people from La Paz who provide food and entertainment - fresh langosta, fish tacos, cold beer, and Mexican renditions of American classics like No Woman No Cry.
These dedicated people travel 20 hours or more, using roads, rivers, and trails to get to the crazy gringos in sailboats at Bahia Santa Maria. You get the feeling that their yearly income is doubled because of their efforts. The party was originally scheduled for today, but the schedule was changed and the party would now be held tomorrow. It was announced on the morning net, which of course we didn't hear because we weren't within VHF range.
Everyone within a mile radius could hear Will's cry of anguish and defeat.
Briana and the sunset; note rocky shore in background
Bahia Santa Maria anchorage
Soon after we received one of our first VHF radio calls! We do a lot of talking on the radio, observe no rules or regulations for use or brevity, and never before has anyone called us without being hailed first. Bruce and Noah aboard Leveling Spirit were calling. They had fresh fish, beer, and pie, and invited us for dinner with one small condition: we needed to host the party. With no refrigeration, no toilet, and a 27-ft cruising boat, they weren't in a position to have six for dinner.
Well, if there's no beach party we might as well have a dinner party. We accepted their offer, put Purpeat in the water and dinghied over to pick them up. When they passed a bucket of beer and a bucket of food into the dinghy, we knew we would get along just fine.
Bruce, the captain of Leveling Spirit, is an observer. He is calm, quiet, and has a sarcastic sense of humor. No surprise, he is from Minnesota. It's no wonder our crew got along with him so well--Canadians, Minnesotans, Honorary Michiganians, and Wisconsinites may disagree when in the mid-west, but in California and Baja, they flock together.
Noah, the crew on Leveling Spirit, is contrastingly fantastic. He is funny, and oh so Californian...except he's from the Pacific Northwest. The man is hilarious and reminds you of every surfer dude you have ever met. Sara and Briana fell in love as he reminded both of the AmeriCorps volunteers they had supervised, but never had an opportunity to befiend.
Bruce, captain Leveling Spirit
Briana, most smitten by Noah, writes: "Dude has an entirely new meaning for me now. When used in conversation where the vowel sound is stretched over a 5 second or longer period of time, it is officially dubbed a Noah-ism. Noah-isms predicate a declaration of knowledge and/or wisdom where the speaker informs the listener(s) of a moment in time where the speaker experienced something so profound, so magnificent, that only the use of and the extension of the word, dude, can prepare the recipient fully for the weight of the words that are about to be bestowed upon them.
An example of a Noah-ism could include, but is not limited to:
'Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude, hospitalityclub.org is like this amazing web-site where you can, like, hook up with people around the world and stay with them for free and like, pay it forward by letting people stay with you, but remember to give food back because that's like the right type of etiquette to use and when I did it, man, I stayed with these people for like two weeks and then, Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude, I stayed with this lady for a couple of more, and that was fun, and you totally have to check it out, man. Rockin'
Note that there were 2 fonts of wisdom and knowledge that followed the preceeding Noah-isms; hospitalityclub.org is an excellent resource for travelers looking for cheap or free accommodation, and that sometimes taking advantage of this resource leads to the opportunity to sleep with a lady for a couple of weeks. Both are win-win situations. So ends today's lesson."
Bruce brought a wide variety of beers, and our evening began with a tasting. Beer tasting aboard a boat! Now this is the life! We all tried the lagers and ales and pilsners and I think there may have been a bitter too. It was wonderful.
The Leveling Spirit boys had brought a whole fish with them. They had picked it up in trade for a pie earlier in the day. "Uh, hey, does anyone know how to clean and gut one of these?" We thought Bruce was joking, until we realized he wasn't. Will and Sean put down the solar panel (tempered glass serves as our fish cleaning table) and Noah, Sara, and Briana stayed down below far from the action.
Will and Sean were now expert fish cleaners, and talked Bruce through the process. The fish was fresh, cold, but hadn't been bled out yet. Sean came down a few times for paper towels and warned "It's brutal up there. Where's the Simple Green?" The girls and Noah made the fish marinade and mashed the potatoes and yams.
It wasn't long before our beer tasting became beer swilling, our fish cleaning became fish eating, and our preparation efforts paid off with a delicious meal of baked marinated mahi-mahi and mashed yams and potatoes. Yum. Good food, good beer, good conversation, good life!
Here fishy fishy fishy
It was the perfect reward for breaking our sailing-only plans, the company was great, and before the evening was over Will was comfortable with the decision to power through the finish. Missing dinner parties is no way to cruise.
After the Leveling Spirit boys were ferried back to their boat, the 'Lusters made another batch of kettle corn and settled in to watch Super Troopers. "YOU BOYS LIKE MEXICO???!!" Best. Line. Ever.
We all drifted off to an easy sleep, happy, well-fed, secure, and looking forward to the party tomorrow.