What Happened After Turtle Bay

Leaving Turtle Bay

We left Turtle Bay in really high spirits, looking forward to a couple of days at sea, and some good times coming up in Mag Bay (Bahia Santa Maria). Since we had done the Baja HaHa in 2016 on our friend’s Trish and John’s boat, we knew to expect a nice anchorage, great beach parties, lots of dinghy fun…including a really good mangrove exploration. What we didn’t expect is what happened next.

A Little Background

If you’ve read our “About Us” here on the website, you already know that Don and I did not sell everything and sail away to adventure. We aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to our ranch and our ‘critters’ as we collectively call them.

Ghost Riders Ranch of Southern Arizona

The ‘critters’ included 10 dogs: Guido and Xena, our ‘big white dogs’ who are 1/2 Great Pyrenees ad 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd; 8 Miniature American Shepherds ranging in age from our oldest, Secret at age 15 to Cinder, our youngest at age 5; 2 Tennessee Walking Horses, Wave and Surf, who have been with us since they were 1 and 2 years old and who were now 20 and 19 years old; Milton (the) Burro, our wild BLM adoptee who has been with us for about 9 years now; and 2 sheep: Binky, age 15 and Brownie, age 6.

Milton is our still untamed BLM burro. Cutest burro ever!

These guys are like family and they mean the world to us. Our answer to the call of the sea is to alternatively spend one month at home on the ranch, and then one month sailing Bonzai. At the end of our month on Bonzai, we leave her in a safe slip and travel home. During our month on Bonzai, we have a reliable caretaker, Tami, who has been with us for over a year and loves the critters as much as we do. Tami communicates with us daily while we’re gone via phone, text, and satellite messaging when we’re off grid, as we were during the Baja HaHa.

Messages From Home

It started with a message from Tami. 2 months prior, our oldest dog, Secret, had experienced a stroke, which she had fully recovered from. Tami awoke one morning to find that Secret had had another stroke during the night. As she ran through feeding all the other animals so that she could get Secret to the vet, she discovered 9 year old Guido paralyzed in his rear legs. Now Guido, being a big white dog, weighs about 120 pounds, which is a good 20 pounds more than Tami. The long story short…by the time Tami and we were able to assemble a crew of friends to get Guido in the vehicle to go to the vet, it was too late for both of them.  By the time we reached Mag Bay, we had lost them both.

Guido chilling out at the ranch
Secret at age 14, still struttin’ her stuff in retirement at the ranch
Young Secret winning her first Best in Show in 2004

I can say, unequivocally, that having 2 friends need you so badly, but you simply cannot be there is devastatingly difficult. We were wracked with guilt, although there was no way to foresee this coming. Still, you feel how you feel, despite what logic tells you.

Bahia Santa Maria

Heartsick and paralyzed with grief, we didn’t play at Mag Bay. The best we could manage was a sad and quiet dinghy ride through the mangroves. Hearing the laughter from the beach parties and the happy chatter all around us just seemed to magnify to us how horrible we were feeling.  We would rally ourselves up, only to crash back down in a few hours. The days in Mag Bay passed like molasses and were finally over. We were ready for some more days at sea where we could spend some time staring over the waves and water and let the sea work her magic on our hearts.

Mag Bay to Cabo San Lucas

That Burning Smell…

Now this should be the best leg of the HaHa…everyone is in the routine of sailing and looking forward to completing a fun journey down the Pacific Baja coast.  Ummm…not so much for us.

The winds were very light and variable. Our spinnaker had a small rip in it and was out of commission and the very little wind we had was not enough to fill even the Code O (configured across the bows for downwind). The Poobah finally declared the Leg 3/Mag Bay to Cabo to be a wash in terms of racing to the finish. So we, along with almost the entire HaHa fleet were motoring.  Out of nowhere we caught the unmistakable smell of ‘something electrical burning’ and quickly shut down the engines and turned off all power as we raced to find the source.  Luckily there was no active fire, just a burnt out port side alternator.

Don, who can fix anything, sighed and pulled the alternator while I settled at the helm to continue motorsailing on one engine.

Alternator Repair while underway at sea

After successfully disassembling the alternator and cleaning all the bits and parts, Don put it back together again and reinstalled it. Believe it or not, IT WORKED! It wasn’t in good shape, needing a complete rebuild to be trustworthy, but for now, we were good.

Cabo San Lucas

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas and anchored in the jam packed anchorage. For whatever reason, it was much tighter in there than it had been in 2016. We did manage to squeeze in after finally finding a spot with friendly anchor neighbors. Still not feeling that “party” feeling, we skipped the legendary party at Squid Roe and instead walked the streets just past the tourist district. We didn’t film anything or even take pictures, we just let Mexico do her magic. Eating off of street carts and shopping the handmade items, talking to various locals as we walked….this is the part of Mexico that we love to see.

Checking Into Mexico

Of course, we did visit The Office on the beach for their excellent breakfast after spending our first morning checking into the country and getting everything cleared.  When it comes to checking in during the Baja HaHa, there is an agent on the docks at the marina that will take all of your documents and about $80 and do everything for you.  We did it ourselves.  Checking in at Cabo involves a trip to Immigration, Customs, the Port Captain and to the bank.


At Immigration, they open a separate area just for Baja HaHa participants. I suspect they choose their most English proficient and patient staff for us!

If you have brought crew with you, they will need to come with you to Immigration.  Here, you show your vessel registration and insurance, copies of the passports of all persons on the boat (and in our case, the receipts for our visas we had applied for online). Each crew member must complete and sign an immigration form. Our crew members became sick from the heat while waiting at Immigration and insisted on leaving for somewhere air conditioned. On a wing and a prayer, I completed their forms and signed for them, which worked fine and wasn’t questioned, even as the officials watched me doing them! The final document needed at Immigration is your Zarpe. A zarpe is the form you receive when you check out of a country. In this case, it should have come from the United States. However, the US does not require US citizens to check out, and has no process for that to even happen, so no one ever has their US zarpe.  Mexican Immigration will, in lieu of a zarpe, have you write out a statement that the US does not require a zarpe and therefore you do not have one.  Easy and done.


Next stop is Customs, which was about a mile or so walk from Immigration. At Customs, you show your vessel documents, tourist visas, and clearance forms. If you did not get your Temporary Import Permit before entering Mexico, you will get it now.

Port Captain

Another walk brings you to the Port Captain. This one was a little hard to find, but we finally located it behind the giant metal gates.  Give every form and document you have accumulated from Immigration and Customs to the Port Captain and they will calculate your fee for the Cruising Permit.  They will give you an invoice to be paid at the bank. We found a bank a short 4 blocks away….of course we walked about 2 miles before we found it, though!  Once the fee is paid at the bank, you return to the Port Captain with the receipt and receive your Cruising Permit.

By now, you’ll be hot and tired, which we were, and headed back to The Office for some cold drinks!

Saying Goodbye and Hello

This was the end of our journey together with our crew, Phyllis and Alisa.  The girls had plans to travel by land from Cabo San Lucas back to San Diego.  So we had a goodbye lunch and saw them off. Minutes later our very good friend Craig arrived from the airport to join us for our next trip from Cabo to La Paz.

Yet Another Back Story…

At this point, we need to share another part of our back story. Our (adult) daughter had been diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma the month before the Baja HaHa. I was able to help her and our grandsons out during her first round of chemo treatment, but would not be there for her second round of treatment. Everyone reacts to chemo differently, and even though the first round wasn’t a picnic, it wasn’t brutal either. Our daughter insisted that things were well in hand and that she wanted us, well, me really, to go with the HaHa. Don was committed — remember that part where we had to get Bonzai out of the country?

Cabo to La Paz

As we left Cabo San Lucas and headed for San Jose del Cabo, our daughter began her 2nd round of chemo. This time it was brutal. The satellite messages coming in were not good as she was reacting very badly to the drugs. I’d love to tell you about the sail from Cabo to San Jose del Cabo, but to be honest with you, I don’t even remember it.

After an attempted 2nd treatment of chemo the day we arrived in Freilles, she ended up hospitalized.  Further chemo was cancelled as her team of doctors struggled to determine how to continue as chemo had become too dangerous. Perhaps you can guess what this news does to a mother’s heart. It was finally decided that they would get a new PET scan (a specialized scan that allows doctors to ‘see’ cancer in the body).

Just outside of La Paz our good friends Scott and Laurie on Muskoka  contacted us and joined us for a couple of days soaking in Isla Espiritu Santo, before leading us through the long, long channel in La Paz to Marina Cortez.

Once docked, we headed up to the restaurant on the docks for some catching up. Now that we had cell service, my phone started dinging away. With my heart in my throat I noticed the texts were coming from our daughter. I opened the messages to read….

No More Cancer!!!!

Shortly afterwards, we gratefully put Bonzai! to bed in Marina Cortez and headed home to spend the holidays with our family. We thought the worst was behind us, but no. Our bad times just weren’t over yet.

While we were home, our horse, Wave, colicked and died as well.

Rest in Peace my old friend

Sometimes, you just ‘can’t’ anymore.

In Conclusion

Hopefully you guys understand why our video journey takes a giant leap from Turtle Bay to La Paz.  We just didn’t have it in us to film or take pictures or even explore the beautiful places we were passing through. But sometimes cruising is just that way.

Cruising separates you from the people you are closest to. Most of the time you get by with phone calls, messaging, video chats and visits home. But then there are those times when you really need to be there, but you just can’t get there. Part-time cruising bridges that gap somewhat, and allows you have a foot in both worlds, but sometimes your foot is in the wrong world at the wrong time.

Months of reflection on this whole crazy sequence of events has taught us a lot about ourselves and has further cemented our love and commitment to our critters. We will always do the very best we can for them. And we now know that we also have to accept the limitations that we create with our ‘other life’ on Bonzai.

For us, our choice is to continue our journey and see where life takes us next.

Up Next: Return to La Paz






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S1E8: Sailing from San Diego, CA to Turtle Bay, Mexico


We couldn’t have ordered better sailing as we left San Diego harbor and watched Point Loma recede into the horizon. Spirits were high all around, as you can imagine.  Being Halloween, our crew surprised us by popping out of the salon into the cockpit in modified pirate costumes consisting of a fuzzy red ‘viking’ hat with white horns, stick on black moustaches, hairy red beards, and plastic swords. They preceded to ‘take over the ship’….until they realized they couldn’t read a chart plotter and still didn’t know how to work the sails. Thus ended the mutiny.

In the middle of all this fun, we were sailing along happily at 6.5 – 7 kn (same as wind speed) using our main and jib with an apparent wind angle of  80-90*.  At 2:00 in the afternoon we gave up following our PredictWind weather models…they just weren’t accurate at all.  By 8pm that evening, the winds had fallen off to 7-8 kn and we put up the big Code 0 and alternately sailed and motor-sailed through the night at 3-5 kn.

We all managed to complete our overnight shifts; Don and Phyllis shared a 3 hour shift from 9 pm to midnight, Janet and Alisa shared a 3 hour shift from midnight to 3 am, then Don and Phyllis were back on until 6 am when me and Alisa gratefully fell into our beds for some sleep. Throughout the night we saw 8-10 kn winds and using only our main and jib sailed through the night.  By 8:30 am on our 2nd day we were down to 1-5 kn of variable winds, so we fired up the motors and plugged away on course. But all was not bad… Don and Phyllis woke me up abruptly to man a fishing line since we had TWO fish on! With bleary eyed and uncaffeinated, I hauled myself on deck to reel in…. a little baby Dorado. Of course we released him. Luckily, the other line had a nice blue fin tuna on that made a delicious lunch and dinner!  Our catch also quelled the ongoing threats of mutiny if sushi was not provided!

Day 3 saw much of the same, without the fish, and at midnight-thirty we gratefully arrived in Turtle Bay along with about 8 other boats. We anchored near the cliffs and all four us fell into our beds for some sound sleep.

Turtle Bay

Getting Fuel

Waking in the morning, we looked out on beautiful Turtle Bay. After some coffee, and a quick clean up and change of clothes, we launched the dinghy and headed into town. We’d been listening to the radio traffic amongst the fleet that morning and head a familiar theme from those attempting to get fuel from Enrique, Jr. at the pier. Since we’d done the Baja HaHa in 2016, the story was hauntingly familiar about the ‘magician,’ Enrique, who is apparently still able to fill a 40 gallon fuel tank with 60 gallons of fuel. We also remembered what Enrique had done to our friend Ricky the year before…

Ricky’s Story

In 2016 when we had been to Turtle Bay on the HaHa, rather than chance the fuel at the pier, which was suffering from reports of bad fuel and and over-reporting the fuel delivered, we had asked a panga driver, Ricky, to take our fuel cans into town to the Pemex, fill them, and deliver them back. We gave Ricky money for the fuel and sent him off for what should have been an hour or two. The hours drug slowly by as we waited….and waited….and waited. Finally, around 9 pm, Ricky returned with filled fuel cans and explained what had happened.  Enrique, Jr., the fuel dealer on the pier, had caught wind of Ricky’s errand and called the local police, charging him with selling fuel without a permit. Ricky was then detained for over 12 hours being questioned. Now Ricky was a police officer himself (before marrying and moving to Turtle Bay), so there really was no question of Ricky’s innocence; rather just a ploy to keep him from providing a competitive alternative to Enrique’s little game he had going.

How We Got Fuel in Turtle Bay

Unwilling to patronize Enrique, we loaded our fuel cans in the dinghy and headed into town with the intent to walk up to the Pemex, fill them, and hitch a ride back.  We didn’t get very far when a dark, rusty red pickup truck pulled alongside to offer help….you guessed it…..IT WAS RICKY!  We caught up with Ricky’s family news and their year, talked about us getting Bonzai, and then loaded up in the back of Ricky’s borrowed truck for ride to the Pemex. On the way back, Ricky ran us to the Tortilleria (tortilla store) and tienda (general store), then drove us straight up to our dinghy on the beach.  Calling over a couple of the local boys, they loaded all our stuff into the dinghy and we were set to go!

Some Turtle Bay History

Turtle Bay is a small town of about 2500 people. Fishing is the main employment, with only about 37% earning an income. But nevertheless, Turtle Bay has pioneered the advancement of sustainable fishing methods in Baja. Years ago, the fishermen of the area formed a co-op to study, promote and advance sustainable fishing methods and today are leaders in exporting ‘certified green’ live lobster and abalone to Asian markets.

The Baja HaHa arrival into Turtle Bay is economically very important to the town. Ricky, for example, told us that the money he makes while the HaHa is in town buys everything for his family’s Christmas. So, schools and most non-tourist related business is closed so that the residents can earn money helping us gringos.  While in Turtle Bay, expect the pangas to come around several times throughout the day offering to take your trash into town, offering rides to shore, offering…well, anything you might need. In town, the restaurants are staffed and stocked and waiting for your business, residents with vehicles will offer you a ride if you’re walking, and everyone is helpful and friendly.

Baja HaHa Fun!

A big part of the Turtle Bay experience on the HaHa is the annual baseball game pitting HaHa participants against the local kids.  The Poohbah provides all of the equipment and we play on a beautiful baseball diamond complete with bleachers and a snack bar serving cold drinks and beers.  Everyone gets a chance at bat and no one’s turn at bat is up until they hit the ball. The game is tons of fun and somehow the local kids always win 🙂 . At the end of the game, all of the equipment is donated to the local school for the kids.

The HaHa also puts on a big beach party including volleyball and the annual Tug of Rope contest: Men vs. Women.  Spoiler alert: the women always win.

Our beach party ended when Alisa was hit in the back with the tug of war rope, bruising her back pretty badly. I had also twisted my ankle getting out of the dinghy…leaving Bonzai with 1/2 our crew on ‘injured reserve’ for a couple of days.

But, of course, none of that stopped us from having fun on Bonzai! Alisa managed to keep cooking delicious food and we thoroughly enjoyed our rest and play time in Turtle Bay.

Up Next….

Turtle Bay to….. well, Bonzai experienced some disasters. Stay tuned.

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S1E7: BajaHaHa 2017 – Final Prep, Meet the Crew, and We’re OFF!

Final Prep: Get the Temporary Import Permit!

What is a TIP?

So, let’s start by explaining what a Temporary Import Permit, or TIP, is.  Mexico requires all boats and vehicles entering Mexico to obtain a Temporary Import Permit. This permit is good for ten years which is a deal considering it only costs $52 USD. Now, the way it’s supposed to work is that you obtain a TIP before entering Mexico, and you cancel it when you leave. But that’s not what anyone does. So many Americans want to come in and out of Mexico without having to get a new permit every time, so they just don’t cancel their TIP when they leave. Then when they return, they still have a valid TIP.  And that’s all well and good, until you sell your boat and haven’t cancelled the TIP.

Because Mexico has another rule regarding TIPS: only the owner who obtained the TIP, can cancel the TIP.  So, if you buy a boat that has an existing TIP, and the previous owner did not cancel it, you CANNOT get a TIP for yourself. And a TIP in someone else’s name is not valid. AND….if you take your boat into Mexico without a valid TIP, the government can seize and keep your boat. Besides that, all marinas require a valid TIP on a foreign flagged vessel before they will give you a slip. So the bottom line is, you HAVE to get a TIP.

How to Cancel a TIP:

We had learned the hard way in our previous boat purchase the importance of ensuring there was no valid TIP prior to purchasing a boat, so, despite assurances from the previous owner of Bonzai that he had never had a TIP on Bonzai, we put a clause in the sales contract that he would be responsible for cancelling any TIP that existed. As you remember, we closed rather chaotically, and in the chaos, that detail slipped through the cracks. When we tried to get our TIP, Bonzai showed up in the database as having an existing TIP. Feeling rather proud of ourselves for having anticipated this, we contacted our broker and said, “take care of this.”  Monty (our broker) and Terry (Bonzai’s previous owner), worked very diligently to cancel the TIP, but the TIP was not in Terry’s name, but was obtained by the owner that he had bought Bonzai from. That owner did not answer any contact attempts (phone, email).  So, his next step was to write a letter to Mexico City requesting the cancellation.  Six weeks later, he still had no acknowledgement that his letter had even been received (actually, at the time of this writing, it has been 7 months, and it apparently was never received or acted upon).

Fortunately, once a year, officials from Mexico City travel to various Consulates around the U.S. for the purpose of cancelling these old TIPs.


We Head to Los Angeles….

So, we took the train from Riverside, CA to Los Angeles early in the morning, arriving at Union Station shortly after 8 am. If you ever have the opportunity to explore Union Station, you really should! It is the largest train station in the western US and is such a grand old station. She is beautifully kept and wisks you back in time to an era when train travel was glamorous. With soaring ceilings, and enormous arched doorways, the artwork surrounds you in the architecture, windows, floors and even the furniture.

Stained glass in Union Station

Leaving Union Station, it was a short walk across the famous MacArthur Park…

MacArthur Park in Los Angeles is a beautiful, serene oasis in the city.

A few blocks later, we found ourselves at the Mexican Consulate (look for the big Mexican flag, duh). Being gringos, we were immediately directed over to the area at the Banjercito where the Mexico City officials were standing by.  Banjercito is the government controlled bank in Mexico and unlike in the US where you make your DMV payment to the DMV, or your tax payment to the IRS, in Mexico, all payments to a government service must be made at the Banjercito. Which is why only certain consulates are capable of hosting the officials from Mexico City.

All in all, the entire process took about 30 minutes. The only slight hang up we had is that the TIP application required our engine serial numbers…and our engines do not have serial numbers.  Some quick creative thinking had us appearing to make a phone call and jotting down some random numbers which we put on the application. (When we returned to Bonzai we put these random numbers on our engines with a P-touch label). I really don’t know of another way to resolve this problem!

Clowning Around at Phillipe’s

Alright, now this could only ever happen to me! As long as we were in LA, we toured some of the most famous eateries, one being Phillipe’s for their famous french dipped sandwiches (they invented them!).  We were in such a good mood after getting our TIP, and I got a little silly. We were in the back room eating when I noticed the table in the corner was trying to get a group photo. I snuck behind the photographer and started sticking my tongue out and making ridiculous gestures to get them all laughing. They asked us to join them, and then revealed who they were….the reunion of the Barnum and Bailey & Ringling Bros. circus clowns!  OMG!

Clowning around Phillipe’s!

We had so much fun hanging out with them and listening to their stories of their days in the circus. Exceptional people, every one of them!

Time to Pick Up the Crew!

If you haven’t watched the video yet, you just have to. One must experience our friends and neighbors, Phyllis and Alisa. We picked them up back home in Arizona and drove back to Cali together, where we finished the last minute provisioning. We also spent 2 or 3 days teaching them a little about sailing, since this was their first time ever on a sailboat! On Bonzai, we take having a good time seriously, but we also take safety seriously, and if anything were to happen, we feel it is extremely important that everyone on the boat would be able to take the helm, use the radio, close a through hull, assume a duty in a man-overboard situation and etc. So, we took several days to accustom them to the boat and its functions. Of course, with these two, all this serious safety precautions is well tempered with hilarity!

And finally….FINALLY…

We’re off!  I don’t think anything can prepare you for the start of a huge rally like this. For the parade, all 146 boats gather tightly together at the entrance to Shelter Island and are sent off with great fanfare! The fireboats are there shooting streams of water into the air, every boat is blasting horns, laughing, waving to each other and getting caught up in the feeling of being a part of something semi epic.

146 parading from Shelter Island to Point Loma together!

It is completely nerve wracking having so many boats crammed so tightly together as we make our way to Point Loma and the start line. This year, a navy ship apparently did not get the memo of the parade time, as it chose this time to enter the harbor and we all threaded our way out to the Point. And with a final blast of the horn….the Baja HaHa 2017 is OFF!

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