12/05/2008, Isla San Francisco, Baja California
Tonight's anchorage is only 18 miles north of Caleta Partita where we spent last night.
The entire island here consists of the edges of an extinct volcano's cone. Its open on one side and we are anchored in the middle of the opening. If you are set up to view our position map using google earth you should be able to get a good view of this unique anchorage.
John spent a few nights here 15 years ago including one with is friend, Donal Manahan, where we got to watch the pelicans dive for their dinner just before sunset. It is unchanged since that time.
The baja peninsula is right across from us and the rugged mountains are stripped with layers of different colors including the green copper deposits. We will try to get some photos of this, with the sun in the east, before we leave in the morning.
As we move north we see fewer boats in the anchorages.
We caught our first dorado this afternoon but decided it was two small and threw it back. It was a beautiful fish and would have made a couple of dinners for us if we had been careful about how we butchered it. But we don't have any documentation on board that tells us if there are any size restrictions on what Mexican conpesca considers a keeper. All the pictures we have seen of dorado are of much larger fish than the 18 inch one we caught today.
Tomorrow we will probably head across to the peninsula to an anchorage called Punta Evaristo where there is a small goat herding and fishing village and salt flats that are flooded with sea water at the full moon and then closed off so that the sea water evaporates. The villagers scrape the salt into piles that are then shoveled into burlap sacks and accumulated for transhipment to harbors where the salt can be loaded onto Japanese ships. Baja is one of a few places in the world where a lack of rain is so dependable that salt production can be done in this way. It is strange to think that Japan (a country completely surrounded by the sea) would need to import salt from the opposite side of the pacific but that option is more economical than salt production at the latitude of Japan where the energy requirements would be very high.
So, I find myself wondering how much of the salt we see here will end up in Kikoman soy sauce. I also wonder why I all of a sudden have this urge to pee.
Water temperature has dropped to 71 degrees F.
12/03/2008, La Paz, Baja Sur
We motored into La Paz on Suunday afternoon November 30th and tied up at Marina de La Paz (MLP).
On our way through the harbor channel John got really concerned because of how much building had occurred since his last visit to La Paz in 1995. There are lots of big condo buildings on the edges of town and a couple of new marinas full of big sport fishermen power boats. Even El Mogote, the previously barren peninsula that protects the harbor on one side, has several large condo buildings sprouting up.
As it turns out, the development is mostly on the fringes of town and the downtown section is very much like it was 15 years ago. The wonderful ambiance of this friendly town has not changed. People are incredibly helpful and go out of their way to offer help.
The development has probably impacted the town's infrastructure. One change is that MLP no longer says that the water on the docks is OK to drink. They chlorinate the water that goes out to the docks but they said they dont drink it. So we are sticking with our water maker that has been performing flawlessly. We have not even had to change any of the filters yet.
The food is as good as it was in '95. Shawn will surely offer some restaurant reviews in another blog entry.
We had been dealing with a defective oil pressure sensor switch since Turtle Bay (about 1000 miles ago). It was not an urgent problem since the engine runs fine but it was a little nerve wracking to know that the low oil pressure alarm was not functional.
John spent about an hour trying to get the damn thing off the engine. All he had to show for his sweaty efforts was blood running from his knuckles to his elbow and a good solid workout for the more sailorly components of his vocabulary. When Yanmar builds this model of engine the take an oil pressure switch and place it on the beginning of the assembly line and then add every other part around it. It is really buried under other engine components and pipes and you cant see it unless you are standing on your head.
So we broke down and hired a mechanic who worked for the marina. He had the defective unit off in about 10 minutes, demonstrated that fact that it was "muerto" with his volt meter and sent someone across town to retrieve a replacement part. By the middle of the same afternoon the thing was fixed. The part cost about $8 and the labor well under $100. It was an excellent investment. Gracias Joe, el mechanico de diesel.
While we were in La Paz we got the idea of returning in January for a total immersion Spanish course. So we started doing our homework on the internet and quickly came to the conclusion that one of the local schools stood out among the rest as having the most professional approach to their teaching curriculum. Of course it was the most expensive and the farthest from the marina.
Mary, who owns MLP with her husband Mac, provided the name of the same school as probably the best and also the most expensive.
Armed with those two independent sources of information we walked a couple miles to the school and met with the Director of Administration, Juli, and Antonio, Director of Education. We sat though Antonio's weekly culture lecture (subject Mariachi music) and were both encouraged by how much we understood based on our prior Spanish studies in school. Antonio interviewed us both to figure out where to place us in classes. He decided that were were close enough in skill level to be in the same group. Shawn knows more verb forms and John knows more words.
We were given study materials to work on while we sail the Sea of Cortez and are returning to start class on Jan 5. We are going to go to class for 4 weeks and Antonio says we should be able to get along, in Spanish, by the end of that time. Its 4 hours a day, 5 days a week.
It was funny that, even though we have not taken our first class, we were both much more willing to approach people in the street for help with directions. I guess we figured we were going to have to jump in with both feet eventually, so why not get started.
The one problem we still need to solve is how we are going to get to school every morning. The walk back to the marina would not be a big deal but getting up early to take the bus seems sort of unattractive. We are looking into renting bikes, buying used bikes and maybe giving them to a kid when we leave, or maybe making a deal with one of the taxi drives who work the marina. Maybe we can get a good price if we use their service every week day morning.
We also got a mexican cell phone today. It was less than $30 for a nice motorola phone including 100 pesos worth of time (local calls are about 3 pesos. Its a bit expensive to use to call the states but gives folks a way to reach us. incoming calls are free. We are looking into the possibility of forwarding our skype number to our Mexican cell phone.
Now we are on our way to an anchorage called Caleta Partita which is an extinct volcanic caldera between two islands off La Paz. The larger island is called Isla Espiritu Santo and the smaller northern most anchorage is called Isla Partita. The two islands are barely connected by an isthmus that is under water at very high tides. John had stayed in this very snug anchorage in 1995 when he was here with his other boat.
One change, since '95, that is nice to see is that the Mexican government is taking steps to control access to these islands and is funding their efforts through a system of permits that must be purchased if you wish to anchor or go ashore. The cost is about $25 per person for a year's permit which is very reasonable considering the magnitude of the area covered. We bought our permits and are all set. Bring on those rangers!
11/25/2008, Puerto Los Cabos
We completed our passage from Mag Bay to Puerto Los Cabos without incident. It took us about 29 hours of mostly motoring. This was a lot shorter that we expected. Our average speed was a little higher than on most passages. We must have had some current helping us, at least part of the way.
During the night the Oostdam (Holland America Line cruise ship) passed abouit 2 miles astern of us. In the past we would not have allowed one of those Leviathans to get that close but now that we have an AIS receiver we are not so nervous about these ships that cross in the night. I'll add some AIS screen shots to the gallery section of the blog when we get to La Paz next weeki.
We were able to monitor position, course, speed and point of nearest approach for the ship for an hour or so before our paths crossed.
Shortly after dawn we went through the same process with the Norwegian Star which was also headed for Cabo San Lucas.
By the time we passed Cabo San Lucas these two ships were at anchor and disgorging their passengers and their dinero.
Cabo was not particularly attractive from the sea. Shawn asked me what I thought it looked like and I responded "Laguna Beach" which is just what he had been thinking. There are miles of condos and luxury hotels lining the shores.
We decided to stay in a new marina at Puerto Los Cabos near San Jose del Cabo. We wanted to hit the ATM machine and a grocery store to stock up on cervesas, sodas, and perishables.
Our cab driver took us to something called Mega Store. It was sort of like a WalMart but much more upscale. It was spotless and had a grocery store that is as nice as any we have ever been in stateside. There were some unique Mexican touches like a tortilla factory right in the deli section of the store.
John was pleased to see that they now put out Pacifico beer in cans. This great Mexican beer was only available bottled for years and, although it was John's favorite, carrying the bottles on the boat was a problem, especially since the economics of deposit bottles in Mexico mean you cant throw them out.
We had dinner at Tommy's Barefoot Cantina which is within walking distance from the marina. Not very good and not very cheap.
The Marina in Puertos los Cabos is still under construction and there is a lot of dust creating earth moving going on around the marina. There is no launday on site or we would have stayed another day. It was also a bit annoying that they did not have enough adapters to connect 30 AMP power cords to the slip we were assigned. The manager told us that the boat next to us had gotten their last adapter...Maybe they need to buy a second one, or better yet, put both 50 amp and 30 am sockets at each slip. The water in the marina is not potable. The wireless internet was fast but had problems uploading pictures to sail blogs. We used skype to make some calls home. That was the first time we have been able to do that since San Diego.
Before leaving Puertos los Cabos we fueled up and learned that we had been burning about 0.95 gallons of diesel per hour of motoring since we left Turtle Bay. We took 68 gallons to fill up and paid $2.34 per gallon including a $25 dollar administrative fee that the fuel dock adds to the bill.
It was good see that the dock attendant was using all the current best practices to prevent spills while fueling. A few years ago Mexican fuel docks did not worry about such things.
We are on our way to Los Frailes (the friars) anchorage for a couple of days. We are in pretty good shape on supplies and such and are looking forward to a long series of short hops between nice anchorages in the Sea of Cortez.
The water is getting coooler again. Its 76 degrees now compared with almost 80 degrees yesterday near Cabo San Lucas. Air temp is still pretty warm at 80 degrees at 11 AM.