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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
Sometimes, you just ‘can’t’ anymore.
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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