Gato Loco sails the Baja Haha from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas
Fleet in Bahia Turtle bay By: Lowell McCulley
Welcome to the adventures of Gato Loco. The first part of our dream was realized in late May 2002 when our new SeaWind 1000 Catamaran (hull #113) arrived in Long Beach Ca. Gato Loco’s home port is in the northern Sea of Cortez in the city of Puerto Penasco, Sonora Mexico where partners have vacation homes. Our plan is to conquer Baja by exploring the entire coast from San Diego to Puerto Penasco sailing her home. The name Gato Loco means "crazy cat" in Spanish and fits well with the personality of the owners.
The first leg of the adventure around Baja was the Baja Haha cruiser rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas starting October 28th 2002. We were the 12th entry of approximately 135 boats that made the trip. The partners are Lowell & Frankie, Dave & Ellen, Bill and Rick. Ellen and friends joined the scurvy dog crew pictured below in Cabo to help celebrate our completion of 780 mile cruise.
Los Navigantes (The Sailors in Spanish) Dave, Rick, Frankie, Lowell, Bill
The voyage was broken up into 3 legs with some recovery time and fun during the breaks. What follows are email updates documenting our Baja Haha race experience.
Schedule of activities
October 27, Noon – Skipper’s Meeting
October 27, 2 p.m. – Halloween Costume Party
October 28 – Start of Leg One. Slower classes
October 29 – Start of Leg One. Faster classes.
November 1 – Party at Vera Cruz Restaurant in fabulous downtown Turtle Bay.
November 2 – Famous Turtle Bay Beach Potluck
November 3 – Start of Leg Two to Bahia Santa Maria.
November 5 – Beach party – at Bahia Santa Maria.
November 6 – Start of Leg Three from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas.
November 7 – ‘Can’t Believe We Cheated Death Again’ dance and Party.
November 8 – Cabo Beach Party
November 9 – Awards presentations
09/24 01:38 PM Voyage weather alert for the Haha
Best laid plans always have challenges. Hurricane Kenna is sweeping toward mainland Mex south of Cabo. This weather is a big concern for the Rally and could delay things. In San Diego, our immediate challenge is to move Gato Loco from Ensenada Mex to San Diego Saturday while a serious weather front is passing through. Weather could delay that by one day. Other than these challenges everything is going well. Or at least we think so. One uneasy situation is the next tropical depression behind hurricane Kenna was named today…. "Tropical Depression Lowell". I’m not sure how to interpret this coincidence!!!
09/26/2002 08:55 AM Gato Loco Arrives in San Diego
Good News, Weather cooperated on Saturday. Bill and Carlton landed in SD 7PM Friday and after 5 taxi rides and dinner in Tijuana international buss station they arrived in Ensenada at 11:30 PM. Weather was clear allowing them to leave at 5AM Saturday morning. Frankie and I meet then at Customs in SD at 4PM. Main provisions were loaded on Gato Loco Saturday night (Bill and Carlton amazed how much we could pack in a rented Taraus). Dave made it in 10ish, Expecting Rick late today (Sunday).
All things seem to be a go. Skippers meeting and party today. We’ll be very busy with final details I’m sure.
09/26/2002 07:53 PM Haha Final Rally Instructions
Beautiful day in San Diego today after the weather cleared. Final Rally instruction were given at the skippers meeting. We found that we will start with the big boys on Tuesday instead of Monday as originally planned. For those who know boats here are the boats we race against in the Margarita division:
Gato Loco (us) 33′ Seawind Cat-amaran
Island Packet 35 Cat
Cross 36 Tri-maran
Lagoon 38 Cat
Custom 40 Tri
H Hughes 40 Cat
Custom 42 Cat
Catana 431 Cat
Crowther 48 Cat
Surfin 63 Cat
Looks like we’re the little guy of the class. It will be interesting to see how we can do. We’ll be scored on time alone so we will need to win boat for boat. Numbers to be reported to rally officials are (Total time, sailing time, motoring time). They figure results from that. We have the Grand Poobah in our division on the Surfin 63 so maybe we can get some inside advise 🙂
Great party this afternoon. Seems like a fun group.
09/27/2002 10:43 PM Gato Loco Ready to Start
The extra lay day was good for us to get things ready. Bill was especially happy since the boat developed a water leak that soaked his clothes locker. We were able to get that fixed plus rig safety harnesses, man-over-board pole and a thousand details that seem to pop up. Two trips to West Marine, Home depot, and the grocery store and we’re finally ready. That is if the boat still floats. We got our exercise winching Bill up the mast three times as we he kept changing his mind on how to fly the Baja Haha and cocktail hour burgees.
Frankie got excited as we listened to the roll call and start for the first group of boats that started today. The wind was great today and Bill was worried that today’s starters were getting all the good winds. We talked to the Grand Poobah and he says that the weather office said condition are good and we could expect the same weather for the next few days. We’ve decided to sail further off shore (25-50 miles) in hopes of better winds.
Bill is reading Rally instructions and reports that boats that cross the start line early (over early) have a 2 hour penalty, get funny nick name and a seaweed spanking at Turtle Bay. We’ll do our best to avoid this..
Next email should be on using Sat Phone while we race to Turtle Bay. Hope that works.
09/29/2002 Gato Loco First Race day
Kurt you would be proud. We were in the pin position and first to cross the line in a port favored line to weather start. Rick added his signature to the start by giving the committee a big moon as we crossed. Wind conditions went flaky soon after the start leaving many of us adrift. Wind finally filled from the southwest and we got Gato Loco in a groove with both head sails trimmed out. The new barber hauler on the screacher trimmed it much better. We were able to catch many boats. Winds lighten at sunset. Bill and Dave had the 6 -10 PM watch and started motors at 6 PM for 1.5hrs, then sailed 7:30 – 9:30. Rick and I had the 10 – 2AM and we had good wind (10kts) from 11 – 2AM and gave the watch back to Bill & Dave at 2 with light winds. We’ve been motoring since (7:30AM). Frankie was the night owl doing watch until 2AM.
Gato Loco at the start
Had a great visit of a pod of dolphin (25) and they stayed with us for 20 min. Got great video.
Everybody is doing great a the first night. Listening to rollcall seems the fleet is ok except for one boat that has a damaged rudder from hitting kelp during the night.
Hello from sea to all friends and family
Current position n31 24.37 w116 39.51
10/01/2002 10:02 AM Gato Loco; 2 nights at sea
The Grand Poopah announced this morning during rollcall that this is lightest air (wind) of the past 10 Haha’s. Over the past 24 hours we only been able to sail without engines ~3 hours. We’ve been forced to motorsail conservable to conserve on fuel since we don’t carry enough fuel for the full distance. Looks like we will have good margin at the cost of falling back in the fleet as other boats motor faster. Forecasts are promising for better winds in the coming days. At our current rate we should arrive in Turtle Bay 5 AM tomorrow which means another night of sailing watches 🙁 Watches are much easier when busy sail trimming. Motoring makes for a long night although when motor sailing some trimming is necessary.
This morning we had a visit from a small bird that relaxed on the boat for 30min before moving on. He was friendly landing on Bill’s finger and Frankies Head.
Dave caught a 3 pound yellowtail this morning that we plan on having for dinner. He’s hoping to get another before dinner.
The boat smells better today as Dave and Bill had showers. Rick and Frankie are sleeping, catching up for the night.
n28 degrees 50 minutes
w115 degrees 52.3 minutes
Wind at 8kts at 280 degrees freshening (we hope).
Overcast probably 70 degrees
10/01/2002 10:02 AM Great winds start Nov (Nov 1)
After writing yesterday’s email about no winds, conditions have improved greatly. After finishing Lunch yesterday (2:30) we put the spinnaker up and we’ve had a freshening wind since. Winds at 18-20kts all afternoon @270 continued to build to 25kts during the night. Gato Loco was surfing swells hitting 12kts of speed. Good progress and we entered our destination of Turtle Bay at 8am.
Sailing watches were awesome last night with heavy phosphorous spray coming off the bows and wind at our stern.Two times during our watch (Frankie, Rick and I) we had dolphin running with us. You could see then shooting through the water like a torpedo and leaving phosphorous trails like a jet. Rick was on the bow hooting and hollering 🙂
Turtle Bay is calm with lots of anchoring space. 75% of the fleet is already anchored in front of the small village. It’s nice to have some peace and smooth water on the hook. First leg completed!!
10/01/2002 10:02 AM Gato Loco in Turtle Bay
As soon as we anchored Hector and Martine arrived on their ponga and took our trash and got us some fuel and ice. They are two young kids making money hand over fist with 117 boats anchored. The Grand Poopah also said the there was 425 people on these 117 boats. Turtle Bay probably makes half their annual income from this group.
We hit the beach with all 5 of us in the little dingy and Rick at the helm (yes we made it). Landing was in front of a small beach bar. Lots of stories about no wind and long nights. We took a quick tour of town and after 3 beers retired back to the boat for naps to catch on sleep missed. Frankie stopped in the local barber shop to have some time behind the chair and speak Spanish with the barber.
For some reason the boat got very Gassy during afternoon naps (4 hombres)!! Poor Frankie!
In the evening the fleet converged on restaurant Veracruz and totally overwhelmed the poor staff. We slipped away to Maria’s family restaurant on the water. The fish was good and I had a great Lobster dinner caught in turtle bay.
We figured out leg one results to report in today’s rollcall. Here’s the sad results:
Total distance 360 nautical miles
Total time 67.5 hours
Motored 32 hours (47%)
Av speed 5.3kts
Burned 29 gal of fuel at .9 gal/hour (we can push harder motoring on the next legs)
Good News; Grand Poopah announced that the 1st leg will be throw’n out (not counted) due lack of wind so we are starting fresh with leg two.
10/03/2002 12:19 PM Gato Loco Racing for Bahia San Maria
Saturday was an excellent day sunny and light breezes in the bay. We weighed anchored and moved in front of the beach where the beach party was. Gato Loco’s 3′ draft allowed us to have a close anchoring. Bill, Dave and Rick did a hike giving Frankie a few hours on the boat alone 🙂 Activities started around noon (Pot Luck, games and fellowship). Got to know more of the fleet. Frankie teamed with 20 – 30 ladies to win the tug of war against 10 guys… Team Gato Loco made a challenge for the next tug but found out the contest was beer chugging instead. Needless to say, we were up for that and easily blew away the competition. Dave wore himself out playing volleyball.
We were back in Turtle Bay last night for last minute provisioning. Frankie and Bill had some problem finding ice until a group on young boys helped (twins 8 and older bother 10). They took them from Mercado to Mercoda until finally scored. They all had a great time. Dave and I walked to the Pemix for fuel and shortly on our return Jaun stopped and gave us a ride back to the dock. We finished the night at Maria’s restaurant.
This morning we started the next leg at 8 AM. No wind so the fleet started motoring at 5kts (pace car start until wind). We can motor until 11AM with no penalty. The entire fleet started together. Great photo opportunity.. This leg is 260 nautical miles. If we have good winds we might make it with only one overnight leg. We’re all hoping that’s the case.
light breeze north west 3kts (this could be typical). Expecting it to build any time!!
10/04/2002 10:19 AM Gato Loco: Great Winds
Winds came up at 12:30 PM yesterday and built to 26kts max off our starboard stern. Spinnaker was up and driving us to a max speed of 14.5kts. Sound like fun??? You bet. Bill’s face is sore from smiling so hard. Waves built to 10 and we did some big time surfing. Spinnaker handling had to be tender to make sure we didn’t blow her out. The Grand Poopah blow out his. We were in a small group of boats that pulled away from the pack.
Reading on the bow before Bill started sending waves over it.
We took down the shoot (spinnaker) at sunset for safety. With screacher up we were doing 10+. Went wing & wing at 2AM to do a course adjustment and still maintained 5-8kts in at 12kt breeze. 6AM shoot back up driving at 6-7 knots. Looks like the wind is going build today and we will make it into Bahia San Maria about sunset (we’re hoping).
Gato Loco looks to be very competitive on this leg. Less than 15 boats ahead of us and only 2 in our class. Good winds today could bring us close. It’s been fun working the trim hard to stay in the front.
Dave caught a 15lb dorado (mahi mahi) at 7AM. Lunch and dinner will be a treat today.
Curent position: n25 26.500 w113 16.310
Winds 13 out of the west northwest
moving at 6kts
57 nautical miles to San Maria
10/05/2002 08:43 PM Great race and day in Bahia San Maria
Leg 2 was a great race. Winds blew through the entire race peaking out at 25kts. It took 30.75 hours and at the end of the race we were in a tight race with New Focus (Cantana 431) for the finish. We had to drive hard and jibe 3 times to beat them by 3 minutes. The last jibe was after dark and it was the fastest spinnaker jibe of the day. We finished at 5:45PM just after dusk. Still have not heard how we did but we know there were two cats in front of us (42ft and 70ft customs). Here are the details:
Total dist: 248 nautical miles
Crow fly av speed: 8.07Kts (big improvement!!)
Max speed: 16.4kts (Smokin!!)
Today we had a lay day in Bahia San Maria. Swimming, hiking and party on a cliff overlooking the estuary in the bay. We had a mountain hike with great views of the bay. I got my cardio for the past few days. Locals brought dinner and beers in by boat and served lobster dinner to 400 people. We played volleyball on the beach until dark and are relaxing on the boat and plan on fixing the Mahi Mahi later this evening.
We have a 6AM start for the last leg tomorrow to help get us in to Cabo (yikes)..
10/06/2002 10:27 AM Gato Loco heading for Cabo
Today’s mail is being penned by Ricardo as Lowell was running low on editorial batteries as he has written all the news so far. Yesterday was a great day in Bahia Santa Maria as it is a beautiful large bay full of sealife, birds, seals and of course boats! The water temp was 80 degrees and made for great swimming. I am surprised the temp is so warm as I thought the Pacific coast of Baja would be cooler. Dave had caught a mahi mahi and we were supposed to have it for dinner last night but the beach party lasted until dark and after the big langosta (lobster)dinner, we retired early as we had an early start ahead of us the next day. We met a bunch of the competing catamaran crews and vowed to hook up in Cabo. It must have been some party as a dingy and two crew members turned up AWOL at roll call this morning. This morning we are running on iron lung power as we want to get a good start as the winds are very light. For every minute that we motor we add that identical amount of time to our total elapsed time. Of course the Grand Poobah has a secret formula up his sleeve and may change the time or handicapping status. We have been duly informed that any protests will not be tolerated until after midnight at Squid Row in Cabo and must be giving to the head bartender! Today we are staying close to the shoreline (within 5 miles) as we are hoping to catch the coastal breeze until the traditional northwest breeze kicks in later on. We are very tight on time for the second leg with the other catamarans and we need to pull a couple tricks out of our sleeve to beat them to the finish line. Dave cooked the mahi mahi for breakfast this morning with potatoes for our breakfast burritos.
Scurvy crew overlooking Bahia San Maria before party..
9 AM winds building and we switched from motor to sail.
Current position:24 31.26 112 04.95
Wind speed 8.5kt @ 240
boat speed 4.5kts
Water temp 80.6
Dorado’s being caught all around us…
10/06/2002 10:39 PM Gato Loco: Late night update
Frankie, Rick and I are on the 9-12 watch on our last night. Winds have lightened to 8kts. We still have the spinnaker up and are ghosting along at 4kts with a sky full of stars. Weather has warmed considerably as we are still in shorts and Tshirts. We probably should fire up the engines but it is so pleasant that we don’t want to disturb the mode. Lyle Luvett is singing "babes in the woods" as Rick smokes a special Cuban. This is our last night at sea for this trip. If it wasn’t for the fact that there will be may more trips like this, we would be a little sad. The afternoon sail was perfect and everybody is looking forward to our arrival in Cabo tomorrow. There are frequent marches to the GPS screen to see what the expected ETA is. If we maintain at our current speed we would not make it until after dark tomorrow. I assure them that we will pick pace soon.
I better get back to helping with sail trim.
10/09/2002 07:04 AM Gato Loco made it to Cabo
We finished Thursday at 1:09 PM after having a good night of spinnaker flying. Winds backed around 4:30 in the morning and picked back up at sunrise. Winds lighten mid-morning and we finished the race motoring. The views as we rounded the cape were spectacular. We took great photos and movies with the Grand Poobah’s boat Profligate with the cliffs backdrop. As we rounded the arched point the boat traffic was wild! 1000ft cruise ship, sailboats, tourist boats, tuna fishing tournament boats, kayaks and Gato Loco with Rick at the helm. Quite a contrast to our solitude the previous night. Rick finessed Gato Loco on to the fuel docks with small charter fishing boats darting around like a feeding school of fish.
We scored a great mooring ball in front of the Hacienda Hotel with palm covered beach and volleyball nets. Dave can’t wait!! Ellen and Jill joined us shortly after we moored by water taxi. Water taxi’s have been great fun.
Thursday night was wild as advertised. We sampled a few resturants and landed at Squid Row (or crashed). Gato Loco quickly became a legend at Squid Row. Somehow I got involved in a hat dance contest that ended with shots and a conga line that circled the bar 3 times and finished with all of us on the dance floor for the next 2 hours.
Cleared customs in and out with no problema this Friday.
Friday afternoon there will be beach party very near our mooring.
10/09/2002 11:26 PM Gato Loco: Our last day in Cabo
Beautiful weather continues; Frankie even went for a morning swim to get her cardio workout. Everybody went to a little beach restaurant for breakfast while Frankie and I organized things for a 5:30 AM departure tomorrow back to reality. HaHa activities are winding down with only a 6PM awards happy hour where we find out how we did in the race. We have no expectations. The whole HaHa experience has been great and the achievement of completing the long journey seems to best reward.
We took Gato Loco to the fuel docks to get her ready for a departure for La Paz tomorrow. Bill is looking forward to Carlton and Jake’s arrival tomorrow and he hopes make some progress up the coast tomorrow. This will be Gato Loco’s first introduction to the Sea of Cortez, her new home.
This afternoon we went out to the scenic arch at the tip of the bay and anchored for a relaxing afternoon. Tourist boats were bringing people out for a quick look while we swam, snorkeled and lounged on the boat. The Grand Poopah stopped by for a while on his way to lovers beach just beyond the point. It’s a very cool place and we hope spend more time when we are back for New Years.
Relaxing at the end of the cape..
Late breaking news: We just returned from the HaHa awards and Gato Loco placed second in the multihull Margarita division. That called for a celebration which landed us back at Squid Row after a great lobster dinner at the Sleeping Lobster.
11/10/2002 08:21 PM : Gato Loco: Back in Reality (phoenix)
It’s hard to believe the voyage is over. After months of planning and 2 weeks of sailing it seems to have gone by so fast. Our trip home went smoothly starting with Bill giving us a 5 AM dingy ride from Gato Loco to the marina. Cabo harbor was very peaceful in contrast to the normal hustle of activity.
We were all very happy with our second place finish in the HaHa. We’ve really got to know the boat during the trip and Gato Loco seems to be going faster all the time. Pushing hard and competing was fun but I think we are all looking forward to cruising with a more laid back pace gunk-holing in the Sea of Cortez.
The winning boat was "Freebird" an Australian designed custom 42 multihull built by Dave the owner over a period of 7 years. Dave and Judy gave us tour of the boat on Friday. The boat was spectacular with the best workmanship we ever seen (Bill was especially impressed). We all agreed that of all the competitors Freebird was the deserving victor. What a deserving reward for 7 years for labor building our own boat and she has the Australian blood line.
Dave and Judy the winners.
We would like to thank everybody for their Emails of support. We’re putting together a scrap book (electronic) of the trip. Now that we’re back on a high speed internet feel free to send us email on your experience of the trip through our Email updates.. Gato Loco <email@example.com>
Here a few photos in summary:
Happy hour in Turtle Bay
Grand Poobah – Editor Latitude 38
Staying cool on last leg to Cabo
Profligate Grand Poobah’s boat
This is sailing vessel Gato Loco WDA9273 signing off for the Baja Haha.
Read more about Gato Loco at: www.GatoLocoSailing.com