The Last Good Idea

By Zuzana Prochazka
Published: August/September 2013

Circumnavigator Bruce Kessler says anyone can go cruising, and he founded the FUBAR rally to get them started.

Photo of a marina in Los Cabos
Marina in Los Cabos.

FUBAR: It doesn't mean what you think. In fact, it stands for Fleet Underway to Baja Rally, and it's an 800-mile offshore powerboat cruise from Southern California to La Paz, Mexico. It's the brainchild of Bruce Kessler, a man of heady titles, including race car driver, Hollywood director, and circumnavigator. He's also a man with a sense of humor. "People were touchy about the acronym, but I got it published in The Log newspaper," he says. "The board of directors couldn't dispute it, because you can't un-publish it, so it stuck."

The FUBAR Odyssey, as it's formally known, got its start in 2007 with the backing of the Del Rey and San Diego yacht clubs. The idea was to provide powerboaters with a way to experience long-distance cruising with the relative peace of mind of doing it in a group. The cruising grounds were to be the challenging Baja coast, which has long distances between stops with minimal services. Ensenada, Turtle, and Magdalena bays and Los Cabos are designated refueling stops.

Map of the west coast of the U.S. and Mexico

"The people we took hadn't crossed an ocean, and more than half had never been out on an overnight passage," says Kessler. "They were looking for support and safety in numbers, a sort of friendship fleet. They wanted to do something they had only dreamed about." The 2007 rally was so successful that it spawned two more in 2009 and 2011. "The purpose of the FUBAR was to show people that they could go farther and do more with their boats," adds Kessler. "In the process, they bonded with new friends, and once the anxiety was gone, they went on to travel on their own."

The number of participating FUBAR boats is capped at 50 for logistical reasons, such as accommodating the vessels in slips at the various marinas along the way. Each boat must undergo a safety inspection, must have a crew of at least three to stand watches, and must have a minimum range of 450 miles at eight knots to ensure they make it to the fueling stations. The entry fee is $825, a bargain considering that dinner and drinks for all crew are provided at seven stops along the way. FUBAR staff handles port clearances and preorders fuel to make sure there's plenty for everyone. The worldwide air ambulance network Medjet is a sponsor, which also takes away some of the apprehension of voyaging by sea.

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