We cast off the dock lines for the Baja Ha-Ha around 10:15 am on October 30. Philippe quickly transitioned from project mode to race mode. There are 154 boats registered for this year’s Ha-Ha, and we wound up at the beginning of the pack for the first several hours. The wind was at about 8-10 knots, which allowed us to sail around 6. Definitely not fast, but we were happy with the calm seas and steady wind. We celebrated as we crossed the border into Mexico for the first time. The fact that Philippe and I won’t be coming back to the US for several months really started to sink in.
We decided on the same watch schedule as our passage down the CA coast: four hours on, four hours off. There are always two people on watch, and it’s up to the two people to determine how they want to manage helm time. My shifts were 2pm – 6pm, 10pm – 2am, and 6am – 10am.
The wind started to die towards 5:30pm, the end of my first official shift. By 6:00, the boats at the front of the fleet said they were barely moving in the 2-3 knots of wind. The rally committee decided to institute a “no penalty motoring period”, which would commence at 6:30 and end the next morning during 7am roll call. I was just going off watch, and audibly expressed my disappointment at having to start the engine to Philippe. The engine is loud, stuffy, and hot. It makes sleeping much less pleasant, and I knew I needed to nap so that I could wake back up for my next shift.
Nevertheless, we turned the engine on right at 6:30. We throttled up. Nothing happened. We throttled down. We put it in reverse. We throttled up. Nothing happened. We repeated several times, to no avail. Philippe said he thought the propeller must be gone. I hypothesized that maybe something was tangled in it and preventing it from working effectively. We texted Keith, who said it could be slipping. Three hypotheses in hand, we had no real way to diagnose the issue in the dark. We decided our best course of action would be to sail through the night and do some investigating in the morning. We called the Ha-Ha committee boat on the VHF to let them know of the situation and got back to our routine.
My disappointment at some sleep disruption due to our noisy engine paled in comparison to my disappointment at possibly not having a functional engine.
By the next morning, we were about 20 nautical miles south of Ensenada. We were out of range and only able to hail one other Ha-Ha boat, Fred Again. We let Fred Again know of our situation, but continued to troubleshoot and strategize. We dropped our VIRB action camera in the water around 8:00am and were disappointed to see that our prop was, in fact, totally missing (see video below). I think we had all held out a little hope that it would still be there and would be serviceable on the go. We spent a few minutes talking about it, but ultimately we knew the safest decision was to turn around and get ourselves back to the closest Mexican port for repairs.
As we were still quite far from shore, I was able to pick up enough cell signal to send text messages, but nothing else. Keith was on Untangled with us up until the morning we left, but wasn’t able to commit to the 2+ weeks off of work, so he had stepped off the boat when we departed. I spent all morning texting with him: our problem, our GPS coordinates, our towing insurance information… He spent all morning calling Ensenada boatyards and coordinating towing services for us. We had very little wind to sail in, so had it not been for Keith, we probably would have been stuck at sea for an additional ten hours. He really saved the day.
In the end, we wound up at Baja Naval, the first marina and boatyard you reach when you enter the Port of Ensenada. The hauled us out the next day, Wednesday. We’ve been on the hard since then. We have a spare propeller, but it’s the original 2-blade fixed propeller, which the previous owners had replaced with a much nicer 3-blade feathering prop. For the time being, we’d like to put the old propeller on and get back in the water while we still have a chance to catch up with the Ha-Ha fleet at the second stop in Bahia Santa Maria. Right now, we’re waiting for a machinist to make us a prop key, since we had the prop but not all of the necessary components to attach it to our boat. It seems less and less likely that we’ll be sailing again today, but we’re maintaining hope for tomorrow.