We had hundreds of ocean miles on our sailing resumes before shoving off on our boat. So why join a rally? Could we have done the trip down the Baja peninsula without the rally? Absolutely. But, at the end of the day, I’m mostly glad we joined the Baja Ha-ha Cruisers‘ Rally.
We chose to join the rally for two reasons. First, so that we’d have a solid deadline to complete the refit and shove off. The other big draw was the social aspect of joining a rally–organized parties at every stop along the way with about 115 other boats.
What I liked
If I measure our experience against those two measures, the rally definitely checked both boxes. Having the October 31 deadline and having crew committed to flying in pushed us to complete all our critical path items on the refit list. And, we met Rob & Dawn aboard s/v Salt Whistle at our first stop in Turtle Bay and then buddy boated with them for four months–they are friends for life now! And, as I assumed, we ended up seeing Baja Ha-ha boats for the rest of the season which led to lots of great memories.
I also liked the anticipation element of leaving. I had not anticipated this, but being part of a large group of boats leaving San Diego Bay, made that exciting moment in our personal sailing life, extra special. You can see us start with the rally in this YouTube video.
We also opted to join the Panama Posse which is a different sort of rally. This group of boats are cruising in lots of different areas in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, so are not moving together like the Ha-ha or the Arc rallies. We’ve found the crowd-sourcing element of the Posse useful as people share info in a closed text/chat group and the group is large enough with vast experience, so we can get recommendations for almost any area we are sailing in. And the organizers have a Net call every Monday that we found useful. Finally, anytime we pulled into an anchorage, we always checked the tracker to see if there were other Posse boats around.
What I didn’t care for
Honestly, my experience of the Ha-ha organizers was that they were sort of ‘over it’ or ‘phoning it in.’ They have been doing this for a long time, and that’s the energy they bring. For us, on the other hand, the start of the rally was new and exciting, so their ‘been there, done that’ energy was a big fat bummer. And Richard, “the Poobah,” made a lot of cringe-y comments over the VHF throughout the rally — 1984 called and wants its old, white-guy point of view back.
With the Posse, there are a lot of boats sailing in areas where we are not sailing and some boats use the chat area as another form of social media, over sharing their personal experience/stories (in my opinion). So, I find myself having to weed through a lot of superfluous info in order to get to the good stuff. But, that is a ‘small points department’ issue. The real-time info is great and extremely useful.
To do it over again, I’d participate. Our main motivations for joining the Ha-ha came to fruition. The downside did not overshadow the upside. And, I’d say the same thing about the Panama Posse. We re-upped for the 2023-2024 season.
With that said, if you are cruising on a budget, joining these rallies is not necessary, obviously. And, if you are trying to choose between the two, I’d join the Panama Posse as it’s cheaper and spreads over the entire season rather than the month of November. The most important thing is to go, if that’s your dream!