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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S1E6: Shake Down Cruise from San Diego to Newport

Janet catches tuna

Before we take off for our Shake down cruise….

Time to head off for our shake down cruise on our 2000 Leopard 38 catamaran. But first….

Hatch Replacement

There were a couple little projects to take care of before taking off for our shakedown. The first was a hatch replacement. This starboard hull hatch had been cracked before we bought Bonzai, but wasn’t on the super high priority list even though it leaked. I had basically just covered the crack with some silicone as a stop gap measure. Then the handle broke off, which meant the hatch couldn’t be locked closed, so this project went up to the top of the priority list!

After watching how-to videos on replacing the glass, I realized we’d need something resembling a workshop and some power tools to just replace the glass. A brand new hatch on the other hand, while more expensive at $200, could be replaced with only a metal putty knife, a screwdriver and some adhesive silicone (4200 to be specific). Removing the old silicone wasn’t fun, but it was do-able and the whole thing took maybe an hour to complete.

Sugar Scoop Flooding

Basically, what’s going on here is that one of the previous owners had the sugar scoops extended 2 feet. The purpose of the extensions is to decrease the catamaran ‘hobby horse’ effect, as well as to make boarding from a dock or the water easier. Hobby horsing is the front to back rocking motion that you see on catamarans (as opposed to the side to side heeling on a monohull). The extensions work well for that purpose, however, the workmanship on our extensions turned out to be very poor.  The underside of the extensions is fiberglass, and was very well done…it’s impossible to even tell the extension isn’t original. However, the tops are 1″ marine grade plywood covered with a thin layer of textured coating. This coating, turns out, is not waterproof.

The bottom step on the sugar scoop is almost always awash when we’re underway if we have any speed at all, so water seeps through the coating and the wood to eventually fill the entire hollow chamber of the extension. To further complicate the problem, there is no access to that hollow chamber.

So, our first step was to use a hole saw to cut a 4″ access hole. From there, we can use a manual bilge pump to keep the extension chamber pumped out after sailing. We installed a little deck hatch, again using 4200, to close the hole.

Sugar scoop deck hatch
Sugar scoop deck hatch

We still need to fiberglass the top of the extension before this project can be marked off the ‘to do’ list, and we plan to have that done later while we are in Mexico.

NOW We’re Off To Newport Beach!

Leg 1: San Diego to Oceanside

We set off from San Diego Harbor at about 10:00 am with only 2-4 knots of wind on the nose. So, we motored until about 12:30 when we picked up 7 kn of wind at a -40* apparent wind angle. Nice! We set the main and jib for a close reach and sailed along at about 6 knots.  We had originally planned to overnight in Dana Point, but after so much motoring, we changed our destination to Oceanside, arriving at 6:30 pm.  For some reason, most people bypass Oceanside, and this was our first stop there. We called on the VHF as we arrived and were directed to the Dolphin Dock. Oceanside is a small marina that is very easy to navigate and the Dolphin Dock is a very long, very empty dock with shore power, but no water. Oceanside also has a fuel dock, though we didn’t need fuel. The best part was the $30 overnight docking fee. Can’t beat that!

Leg 2: Oceanside to Newport Beach

Well, as far as sailing goes, this wasn’t spectacular, but then again, we were sailing north, so it could have been worse. We left Oceanside at 9:15 am motoring along against 3 knots of wind…all day. But the fishing gods were in our favor as we caught three skipjack tuna in a row! We only kept two, and had one for dinner. Some people like skipjack, others hate it. Skipjack tuna has a very strong tuna flavor and we liked it.

Janet catches tuna
We caught THREE tuna!

We arrived in Newport Beach around 3:30 pm where our good friends Trish and John Billings were waiting for us at the anchorage near the American Legion Yacht Club. We rafted up with them and poured some early sundowners and began catching up!

John Billings
Capt. John Billings of S/V Mariah
Trish Billings
Admiral Trish Billings of S/V Mariah

Trish and John have been cruising for some 10 years and are a wealth of knowledge and experience. We had crewed for them in 2016 for the Baja HaHa on their 40′ Morgan, so it was great catching up!

Newport Beach is a fun beach town in typical Southern California style. It’s a HUGE harbor with numerous anchorages and moorings fields. Beautiful homes line the shore and you can spend days just looking at the incredible yachts in the private slips. Newport has many, many restaurants within walking distance of the multiple dinghy docks. If you prefer something further away, Uber is quick and easy. Don and I have spent a lot of time in Newport Beach over the years, so the four of us preferred to ‘eat in’ on Bonzai.  Trish got to experience cooking on a cat, which she seemed to like…a lot…though they are very much in love with Mariah and not likely to come to the dark side from their monohull!

The next morning we did a little Newport Harbor tour on Bonzai and met some future friends that were also preparing for the Baja HaHa. We closed out our time in Newport Beach with a ceremony where S/V Mariah retired her poor, worn out, and patched up 2016 Baja HaHa flag and we hoisted our fresh, new 2017 Baja HaHa flag.

Return to San Diego

We optimistically read the PredictWind forecast calling for 5-10 knot winds for our return; but, alas, we only got 6 knots at best. So we motorsailed back to Mission Bay for the next 10-1/2 hours. Our first anchorage choice swung us over to the shallows and 3-1/2 ft of water, which is right under our keel, so we re-anchored near the mooring balls and turned in for the night.

Next up: We pick up our crew (oh, just you wait ’til you meet THEM!), finalize our preparations and cross the Baja HaHa start line enroute to Mexico at last!



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