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Haha Leg Two

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

The Grand Poobah announced that the start of leg two to Bahia Santa Maria would be a “rolling start,” meaning all participants motor out a bit to catch wind until a deadline to kill the engines was announced. A half hour later the wind was blowing generously and the Poobah gave the order to kill the engines. We killed the engines and started to cruise. The conditions had been the best of the whole trip at that point and, according to the weather report, it would last at least till our next stop.

We cast our fishinglines to see if anything was biting. We caught a tuna on leg one, which we already devoured. 30 minutes into leg two the line started zipping and Gary reeled in a fish. It didn’t resist much and turned out to be a 20 lb. dorado. I’d never heard of that fish before then Nikki told be it’s called Mahi Mahi in Hawaii, which sounded familiar. Nikki eventually cooked it into something delicious with the random rations we have aboard.

The wind kept going and the waves started to pick up, sometimes splashing over the bow. Crystal Blue Persuasion rolled like a marble maze box that from front to back and left to right. The monohulls were taking more of a beating, rolling left and right, at sharper angles, through the trough of the waves. One cruiser complained it was difficult to sleep unless you had the berth at the very front of the bow where you can roll against both sides of the boat. Nikki left her porthole window open, which was safe when her cabin was on the windward side of the boat, but we gybed and it wasn’t long before a wave gushed in and soaked her and her mattress.

The second day of leg two, we heard on the radio that the Maltese Falcon was sailing through our pack en route to La Paz. The Maltese Falcon is ventur capitalist Tom Perkins’ mega-yacht. It looks like something out of a James Bond movie. It’s a fully automated tripple mast, square rig ship. While building it, Tom became the largest purchaser of carbon fiber next to the US government. I’d seen her arrival in the Golden Gate before I left. It was for sale for $180 million until Mr. Perkins took on an anonymous 50% partner.

The Grand Poobah radioed the ship’s captain and asked all the questions that everyone wanted to know. “How fast are you going?”, “What are your coordinates?” and simply, “Your ship is very impressive. We are priveledged to be sailing next to it.” The Poobah told the captain to say hi to Tom for him and the captain replied, “Why don’t you do it yourself? Hold on.” In a moment Tom and the Poobah, two Bay Area leaders of extremely differnt tribes, were shooting the shit. I was surprised he was actually on the boat. The Poobah, editor of Latitude 38, the sailing rag behind the Haha, told Tom that the Falcon was on the cover of the November issue. Tom replied that he’d already seen it online. The Maltese Falcon came within 2 miles of Crystal Blue Persuasion, offering a once (well, twice for me) in a lifetime opportunity.

Early one evening, after I had retired to get some shut-eye for my 1am shift, I heard a commotion on deck. Footsteps, sails luffing, lines whipping and snapping. Someone shouted “Gary!” (which Nikki says is the best way to wake her up). Then I heard the engines turn on. I stayed below–it wasn’t my shift and I already popped up once for a false alarm that night. I learned the next day that the Admiral gybed in front of a cruise ship. Two hundred feet was the estimated distance between ships. Richard still gets queasy and nervous when he sees a cruise ship, even if it’s 12 miles away. I’m glad I stayed downstairs.

I encountered another cruise ship the next night. We saw it on radar 12 miles out on our port beam. Minutes later it was a mile closer and still on our port beam. It still looked the same size on the horizon. We estimated it was going about 20 knots. 15 minutes later, it was still on our port beam. I felt it was going fast enough that we could keep our course, even though it appeared it was headed straight for us, it was still 10 miles away. After the debacle the night before, Richard insisted we take action to avoid it immediately. I headed up to 90 degrees, such that we were now aimed at her starboard. Several boats radioed the cruise liner, pleading, “Do you see us?” The captain was polite enough to answer but didn’t have much sympathy. He said, “Yes. I see you. We’re not changing course.” I thought it was ridiculous for a cruise ship to monitor every small craft and dodge each one. The captain did, however, state his spead and bearing: 17 knots and 140 degrees. Our estimate was close enough. The closest we got to the cruise ship was a safe 6 miles. At that point, steering towards her made us slowly fall off to our original course. We were safely behind her and she disappeared into the horizon. With vigilence, knowledge and preparation these scary ships in the night can easily be reckoned with.

We crossed the finish line outside Bahia Santa Maria at 4am and sailed into the bay at sunrise.

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