Just Donin' The Baja Bash

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Mon 2 Jul 2018 19:40
31.8N  116.8E


In the hours of first light, the wind had reached up to 42 knots and the seas were breaking directly over the bow. The water slammed against the window. Peregrina shook violently as we dropped off the waves into the troughs.


We had begun the Baja Bash.

The Baja Bash is so-named because it is an 800-mile, upwind passage against the wind, waves and current. It starts at Cabo San Lucas at the southern end of the Baja Peninsula and ends in San Diego. We decided to just do the first 750 miles to our destination: Ensenada, Mexico.

Margie and I were a bit intimidated by this trip because of its reputation for uncomfortable sailing conditions and the fact that, earlier this year, our friends Patrick and Sandy sailing aboard their Irwin 52, “Yacht Cruz”, were found dead in the water south of Ensenada and their boat completely lost at sea.  Only a few random pieces of wood, a mattress and a couple life jackets were ever recovered.  Therefore, it was with great caution that we waited for the best weather window possible to begin this passage.

The first leg of the trip departs from Cabo San Lucas and goes around Cabo Falso.  Cabo means “cape” and this one is described as the “granddaddy of all them all.”  But, there are five other “nasty boy” capes on this passage.  At each cape, there is the possibility of severe weather due to something called the “Cape Effect.”

What is the “Cape Effect?” In the picture below from our chart plotter, you will see our route from Cabo San Lucas in the south heading nothward up the west coast of Baja to Ensenada. This time of year, the wind blows pretty much the whole way from the northwest. The wind hits the land and when there is a cape, it compresses and accelerates dramatically to get around the tip


Unfortunately, sailors attempting the Baja Bash experience the “Cape Effect” the very first day of the passage at Cabo Falso.  It is kind of like baptism by fire.

Going around Cabo Falso, we needed to successfully reach the BOZ (bust-out zone) to move through the bad weather at the cape and into calmer seas.  Busting-Out took us about five hours. Many cruisers give up before making it through and head back to Cabo San Lucas to lick their wounds and try again another day….or not!

You see, many boats that come down from the USA do so as a group on the “Baja-Ha-Ha Rally” which is so named because it is fun…going downwind for 800 miles. A lot of these boats, especially if they are small or underpowered end up never going back!  They just hang out in the Sea of Cortez getting older and older because their owners have either tried the Baja Bash and been turned back or they just read about the difficulty of the trip and decided against it.

It’s definitely not a trip for the un-skilled or faint-hearted.  One of the publications we read before attempting our passage was The Baja Bash….The Essential Survival Guide for Boats, Spirits and Marriages Returning Up Baja. In the cartoon below, there is a crew member jumping ship and the caption says, “Oh no you don’t. We still got 800 miles to San Diego!”


Perhaps the most important aspect of the Bash is to pick your “Weather Window” waiting for the best conditions possible. This is complicated by personal commitments, crew deadlines, the time of year and, of course, the reliability of weather forecasting.  Despite the fact that we normally reference several weather “apps” and forecasting services, conditions can change rapidly from one day to another.  As one old timer told us, “You can wait for your weather window but, somewhere in the trip, nature is going to give you a kick in the gonads.”

After Peregrina busted out from Cabo Falso, we learned what this old timer meant. We had a great weather window following the 5-hour fiasco of Cabo Falso and our next four days up to Turtle Bay were fine.  But, then we got slammed for two days with totally confused seas, spray, currents and high winds.  It was pretty miserable!

From a temperature standpoint, it is interesting that inside the Sea of Cortez it is HOT in June. It can be 100 degrees during the day and the water is warm.

But, turn the corner at Cabo Falso and head out into the Cold Pacific and it is COLD. Our normal outfits were long underwear, skull caps, fleeces, foul weather gear and PFD (Personal Flotation Device). Here I am getting ready for my watch. The shining light comes from the reflector strips which aid in search and rescue. [Note: the picture was photo shopped to insert age wrinkles in my face]


On offshore passages, things usually break or go wrong. This trip was no different. One concern was the water getting into the boat from the waves.


Water finds it’s way into a boat…it just does. In the picture below, you will see the water stains coming down the mast from water breaking over the bow 6-10 feet before slamming into the mast and draining down into the main salon.



All the water inside Peregrina ends up in the bilge and needs to be pumped out periodically.  One of our bilge pumps stopped working on Day Two … which is NOT GOOD.  This was the first of many repairs enroute. Fixing this was definitely a priority.


What else could go wrong? Well, a lot.

On this trip, I am most proud of my popsicle stick lariat. To set the scene, imagine that the halyard which raises our mainsail has come loose and wrapped around the backstay. Not being able to raise your big sail is a serious safety issue. The bottom of the halyard was about 12 feet off the deck. So, I once again turned to my Life Guru and asked myself: “What would McGyver do?”

I tapped two boat hooks together with Duct Tape to get about 15 feet of reaching length.


Then, I knew I needed some sort of guide to trap the halyard which was flailing around with each wave. Well, every time Margie and I have an ice cream on land, I ask her to save her popsicle stick. I use these to stir fiberglass resin for repairs, mix glues etc. But this day, I used two Magnum Chocolate Covered Almond Ice Cream Bar sticks as my trap. (I always go for the Magnums, even though they have gigabytes of calories and artery clogging fat, because they use high quality popsicle sticks and they also taste sooo, sooo good!)


After I had the popsicle sticks taped to my boat-hook ends, I put a lariat of red line under the PSRA (Popsicle Stick Retrieval Apparatus). I was ready.


With just two attempts, I snared the halyard 12 feet up in the air.  All those hours of watching “The Roy Rogers Show” with Roy lassoing the bad guys paid off.

 Attaching the halyard to the mainsail got us back in business.


On passage, Margie’s watch is 10pm – 2am during which time I sleep.  When Margie goes to bed at 2am, I take over what I call the “Princess” watch. This watch lasts until the “Princess” wakes up.  

In truth, Margie deserves this rest because she pulls her weight in terms of the distribution of duties on board and, on top of that, she is always taking good care of me. For example, due to the cold temperatures on this passage, Margie made soup which was no small feat with the boat rocking and rolling. We hadn’t had soup in years because we were always in warm weather. 

During those last two days of bad weather, we both slept very little. 

But, as our friend Will Shakespeare says, “All’s Well That Ends Well” and, 750 miles later, it was “Land Ho!” and we arrived safely in Ensenada and started the process of drying out Peregrina and all our gear. 


We are in a slip in the Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada where we will spend some time ashore and give the good ship, Peregrina, some well-deserved R & R before we embark on our next passage to San Diego.

​  Stay tuned for more adventure!​

Captain Peter and Admiral Margie

“God has special mercies for drunks, fools and mariners.”

Herman Melville author of Moby Dick.

[Video from Peregrina]

If you would like to see Captain Pete in sleep deprivation mode

describe a rough part of the passage paste the following link into your browser   https://youtu.be/Jgo3VgMldOw