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2011 Baja Ha Ha Blogs

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It’s now 3 years since I embarked on my first Baja Ha Ha in 2008. I’m unfortunately landlocked at the moment and wanted to reminisce through the blogs of the adventurers who just crossed the start line in San Diego. I can at least be a keyboard sailor while I’m at Work.

More to come as I slack off and scour Google for links. If only the Ha Ha would put the links on their roster!

Retrospective

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

It’s now been a month since I’ve been back home and I’m finally getting settled. I still haven’t found a full time job but I have a contact gig I’m doing from an old coworker which is enough to keep me busy and fed. I’ve been taking it easy otherwise, trying to save money so I can pay off some debts (or keep from going further in debt). I spend more than I probably should have on my trip, but there’s a saying, “never take a trip you can afford.” Living broke can be as much an adventure as living lavishly.

There have been some changes since I left. The most significant being the economy. People thought I was crazy for quitting a job to go travel at a time when jobs were hard to come by. It probably was crazy, but even now, even with an uncertain prospects, I still don’t regret what I did or seek sympathy for my current disposition. I still think that tough times is a good time to travel; a good time to spend, that is, if you have the money to spend. Working these days gets you less and spending gets you more. I’ve noticed that people have cut back going out. Drink fewer drinks when they do go out and order the cheaper plates. People share more–I actually gave a couple I found on Craigslist rideshare a lift to and from San Francisco in my mom’s van when I was dropping off stuff. It was cheaper for them than taking the train, I got some gas money, company on the ride and some help carrying boxes upstairs.

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Back Home

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The flight back home was not as miserable as I had anticipated. I ended up buying a new ticket, all Virgin, instead of using my Hawaiian Airlines credit. With the ticket to the Philippines and the $200 fee to simply use my credit, the new ticket ended up being slightly more expensive than the Hawaiian Airlines ticket, after I jumped through all of their hoops. The flight from Melbourne to LA was $575 and I bought a separate Virgin flight from LA to SF for $70 (which was actually $100 after I found out I had to pay for my two checked bags).

But enough of that airline bullshit; the fact of the matter is I got back home. I got through customs quick enough in LA to hop on an earlier flight to SF. I had just barely made the earlier flight that I didn’t have time to call my brother and let him know. (My phone is still deactivated, that’s a whole’nother story.) I figured that I would just BART to Civic Center and my brother could pick me up from there. And he did. I called him from SFO and told him I’d rather ride BART (for nostalgia’s sake) than wait at the airport for him to pick me up.

Pat picked me up in front of the Civic Center Burger King and took me back to his place, which is soon to be my place. He’s leaving on his own trip and I’m moving into his apartment. He’s slowly been moving his stuff into our storage unit (mom’s garage) and bringing my stuff back. He told me that Kelly was going to be coming over later to grab a few beers. I thought about calling some more people, but my phone was still deactivated and figured I’d just wait until Kelly got here to do some recruiting. Kelly arrived and we all went downstairs. I was looking for Kelly’s car and he was walking up to the passenger side of a bus that was idling in front of the building. “Let’s check this out,” he said. “What on earth are you doing?” I was thinking. “Come on,” he encouraged. As I followed him I started to realize the surprise. Inside the bus were a lot of people that I’ve been longing to see and missing for the past 10 months. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I went around saying all my hellos. I guess the plan was to pick me up in the airport in that bus and that I had ruined it by coming home early. I contended that I didn’t ruin anything; I was just as surprised and at least I got to take a shower and put on clothes that weren’t 8 months worn.

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Melbourne

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

MelbourneAustralia, Australia, Australia. It’s good to be in Australia. I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s the final destination on my journey after 4 and a half months of living on a boat and 10 months away from home. I would have liked to spend more time here but responsibility calls and I need to get back into the swing of a normal life.

I decided to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne; it just made more sense. Beacho convinced me that I wouldn’t be missing much by traveling over land and this way I’d get to see more of Melbourne. Sydney is expensive, he said. I’m staying at his place on Separation Street, in the Northcote neighborhood, with his bandmates and his girlfriend. I parted with Mike and Vick on Island Buoy and left them to transport the boat from Brisbane down to the Gold Coast. We spent our last day together cleaning the boat from bow to stern. Mike got a working visa is going to look for employment in Oz before he gets on another boat heading west. Vick’s plan is to stay with his dad around Brisbane and eventually return to South Africa.

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In Australia

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Island Buoy arrived in Australia yesterday afternoon. We are tied up at Rivergate Marina, surrounded by industrial warehouses and office parks. Quarentine and customs went smoothly. Now I have to get my bearings and figure out how to get to Melbourne. Was thinking of going over land but given the sparse time I have flying seems more feasible.

Will update more about the trip over and photos sometime in the future (hopefully).

Fiji

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

FijiI have recently made some decisions to alter the course of my planned trip. I decided to leave Marlin and sail on another boat, Island Buoy, going directly to Brisbane. At the heart of my decision was my desire to get back to California in time to see my brother before he leaves on a year-long trip and my preference to spend my time in Australia rather than Vanuatu and New Caledonia, both of which countries Marlin will be making stops at. I lucked out finding a boat going directly to Brisbane because otherwise I would be flying to Australia. I said I was going to sail to Australia, and doggonit, I still want to finish the job.

Island Buoy is a delivery job. She’s a 30 ft Rayvin catamaran, much shorter than Crystal Blue Persuasion. The skipper is a young South African and the crew member a Canadian. They seem like a fun bunch.

Bringing my trip to a close, I’ve been taking a look at airfare home. I originally intended to use credit from Hawaiian Airlines flight that I booked last year from San Francisco to the Philippines. The ticket I purchased to the Philippines was because I originally intended to start my journey there. When that plan fell through, I canceled the ticket and found that it was neither transferable or refundable. Oh well, I thought, I can just use the credit to fly home from Australia. Not so. As it turns out, the credit is only good between Manila and San Francisco. And I still have to pay a $200 booking fee. This is what happens when you don’t read the fine print. I just took a look at flights from Melbourne to Manila, and it looks like it will still be cheaper for me to fly to Manila in order to use my Hawaiian Airlines credit. But it’s going to be a flying hell. My flight from Melbourne to Manila will have a stop-over in Kuala Lumpar and my flight from Manila to San Francisco will have a stop-over in Honolulu. Is it really worth the distress to save say $500? Should I forget my credit and fly non-stop Melbourne to San Francisco? I haven’t bought my ticket yet because I don’t have my credit card on me, so it’s still up in the air, but I’m probably going to go the cheap route.

It’s about 1500 nautical miles from Denarau to Brisbane and the skipper estimates it will take about 2 weeks. With luck, I’ll be able to meet the Electric Jellyfish on tour in Brisbane. They are the friends that I wanted to visit in Melbourne anyway.

I’ve been enjoying my last days in Suva with my old crew mates Tom and Jan. We’ve hardly left the yacht club because it’s got all the entertainment we like (and jugs of beer are only $5). There are no hard feelings between us. Tom’s looking for crew, but if he doesn’t find any, him and Jan are perfectly capable of sailing Marlin by themselves.

I’ll update everyone back home when I finally have my flight booked.

Arrived in Suva

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Marlin arrived in Suva yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon 3pm local time. We are anchored at the Royal Suva Yacht Club; there is no more space in the marina. We left Niuatoputapu on Saturday morning but got a late start as everyone was hungover from the party the previous evening. The party was OK. There was awkward dancing. As Tom put it, the dance floor was in want of less light and better music while the guests were in need of more alcohol. There is a fine science to setting up a good dance floor, but it was what’s to be expected on an island in the middle of nowhere.

We started out beating upwind on port tack, wind from the southwest. By the time we arrived in Suva we were rockin’ and rollin’ with wind from behind, having to gyb the sails at the whimsical shifts of the wind. It was a fast leg and we averaged close to six knots the whole time. We crossed the 180 line of longitude, which is the theoretical International Date Line, half way across the world from Greenwich, England. Now our longitudes will be “E” for East and counting down.

For the geographically challenged, you can check out the route to see where I am.

Niuatoputapu, Tonga

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

NiuatoputapuSorry again for the sparse updates. It’s partially because the Internet is scarce and partially because there’s nothing really doing on these islands. I usually sleep at least 10 hours a day while we are at anchor and the biggest dilemma of the day is choosing between either rice or pasta with either corned beef or canned tuna for dinner.

Right now I’m in Niuatoputapu, Tonga. The name means “forbidden coconut.” This is the least populated-populated island that we’ve been to, with about 1010 people living here. In fact, there was a death here the other day so I guess the population is now 1009. The island is far away from the other Tongan islands and on the way from Samoa to Fiji. An 8 person airplane stops once a week and a supply boat comes about once a month, weather depending.

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Samoa

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

The HitchhikersSorry, it’s been a while since I’ve updated. I’ve been having too much fun in Samoa to write and before this were were 8 days on an almost deserted island. We set out to leave Bora Bora twice before we finally left. The first time the wind was too strong and on the nose. The second time there was no wind whatsoever. Then, like Goldilocks, the third time was just right.

The “deserted” island we went to was Suwarrow. It’s a national park of the Cook Islands. There was one family that lives there as caretakers for 8 months out of the year. There were also anywhere from 5 to 7 boats anchored there. The first night we arrived, there was a BBQ amongst all the boats on shore. We passed the days snorkeling and fishing, usually unsuccessfully. When it wasn’t too windy we tried trolling in the dinghy. Otherwise we fished off the boat. There were plenty of sharks in the lagoon, about the length of my arm. Sometimes we caught them fishing, other times they would steal our fish before we could reel them in.

Three boats left Suwarrow at the same time, headed for Apia, Samoa. It took us 4 days. By the first night on sea, we were no longer in eyesight of each other but we all ended up getting into Apia the same day, within 5 hours. Arriving on a Sunday, we weren’t allowed to leave the marina until we were checked into the country, which would have to be done on Monday. Luckily, Radek, a Czech guy from another boat, managed to sneak out and smuggle in some beers for the night. We had spent the previous 20 days sailing and on Suwarrow completely dry, as in no alcohol, so we were extremely eager to wet our whistles. In fact, our whistles have been well wetted every night since.

So far, the highlight of Samoa has been our hitch-hiking out to the east coast and staying at the Taufua Beach Fales. “Fale” is a Samoan beach hut. The huts were nice enough; it was the hitch-hiking that was the highlight. A great way to see the countryside and meet the people. Everyone here has been really friendly and we had no troubles getting rides. I can safely say that Samoa has been my favorite place since I left Ecuador.

Now it looks like we will be leaving on Monday for Fiji. Maybe Wednesday. Who knows?

P.S. Here are photos from Samoa

Updated Photos and Route

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I’m in Samoa right now and will write about the journey here later. In the meantime, I’ve updated the route and added photos from French Polynesia and Suwarrow.