Happy Thanksgiving everybody! We are attending the cruising club's (Club Cruceros) Thanksgiving Dinner this afternoon. Greg and I also volunteered to help. We get to serve turkey and gravy on the second shift. They have reservations for 200 people so we will be surrounded by friends if not family. I will call the family on the phone and maybe try skyping them again later today.
We are settling in quite nicely here in La Paz. We rented a car with our friend Shawn for a couple days and explored the city a little bit and then also spent an afternoon driving back out the channel the way we came in by boat. It was very interesting seeing some of the coves and bays from the shore side. Puerto Balandra where we anchored the last night before coming into La Paz even has another lagoon inside the bay that we didn't even see from the boat. There is a taco stand there and a couple people selling souvenirs in the parking lot. I bought a carved wooden pelican as a memento of this place. It will sit on our bookcase when we return home. We also drove further to Playa Tecolote which has a long white sand beach, several restaurants and a RV park full of Canadian RVs. The park is pretty rustic and has no services (power, water, etc.). This beach is on the San Lorenzo Channel so you can look out and see Isla Espiritu Santo across the channel. I'm looking forward to next week when we will go exploring this island. I will actually learn to snorkel again.
We drove even further along a narrow paved road and came to a housing development being built on the hills above the water. Beautiful homes in a gated community way out in the middle of nowhere. We didn't see any electrical lines, solar panels, wind generators, or water sources. How do they power these very large expensive homes? Generators? Do they truck their water in? It is something I would like to research. Unlike the homes we saw at Muertos Cove, the roads here are all paved. When we left here we turned up another road that was farther inland. It ended at what looked like a church (It had a cross on top of the building), but it was fenced in and the gate was locked. There was a small travel trailer just inside the fence and I saw the curtain move but no one came out. Hmmmm...what would a church be doing way out here with no one around? Driving back to the main road we passed a dozen or so burros which must range free here. I also made the guys stop and take my picture standing next to a cactus.
I almost forgot to mention that when we were exploring La Paz we ate lunch at a French restaurant, La Boheme (ironically, located right next door to another French restaurant) and had the best crepes. I definitely want to go back there. You enter the building through a small nondescript doorway, through a small area of inside seating, and into a large courtyard filled with large trees and plants and tables scattered all about. This is more like what I imagined "Old Mexico" to be like. Greg found a barber shop and got a very good haircut and beard trim for 50 pesos each (about $4.50 each U.S.).
We also went to the Club Cruceros coffee hour in the morning. The clubhouse is located right by the Marina de La Paz in the downtown area. Lots of cruisers were milling about. Lots of new people like us trying to get information. There was a woman sitting at a table selling tickets for a fundraiser and I sat with her for awhile asking her questions.
My big thing right now is cockroaches. I have seen two dead ones on the docks so I know they are here. Shawn said to spray Raid on our dock lines to keep them off our boat which I did immediately. This lady said to put chalk on your lines and buy boric acid to set out if any get on the boat. I looked all over the Soriana store (like Fred Meyers) but could not find chalk or get anyone to understand what I was asking for (so much for my Spanish/English dictionary). The one thing for sure everyone says and I have read in my books is to never bring any cardboard on board. The cockroaches like to lay their eggs in the glue on cardboard boxes of any sort. The women I was talking to (more had joined us by then) seemed to think they weren't that big of an issue if you were careful about what you brought aboard. Maybe they don't climb up the dock lines, but I'm not taking any chances.
I also met Mary and Ken (Misty Blue) from Friday Harbor, Wa. They lived in Mulino, Oregon for 17 years so they even know where Whiskey Hill is. How ironic to travel over 2000 miles and meet people from your home area. They are on the same dock as us so they said they would drop by for a visit which they did a couple days later. Mary told me she found a fabric store in town. I suggested we get some women together for an excursion to town to check out some of these places which she agreed sounded like fun. I forgot to mention that Club Cruceros has a quilting group!!!! They didn't have a meeting this week but next week on Tuesday I plan on attending. I don't have a sewing machine with me and probably can't contribute a whole lot but it would be nice to just soak up some of the atmosphere. They make lots of small projects to sell and raise money for their various charities. The club does lots of work for the children in town, providing school supplies, clothing, etc. I would like to get to know more about their activities and maybe organize help back home too.
We are back at the boat this evening after attending the Thanksgiving Dinner. What a feast it was. The club provided the turkey and gravy (20 turkeys) and everyone brought a side dish or desert. Because Greg & I were helping serve the turkey and gravy on the second shift we were able to eat right away. The food was delicious and it was fun serving the gravy. Some people had a little bit of food with their gravy and others didn't want any or just a drop or two. Some wanted the gravy poured all over their plate (even their salad) and others were very specific about just on the turkey or just on the potatoes. I don't know how they did it but we ended up with only about 2 cups of gravy left over, after serving 200 people. All in all, it was a good day today.
I have been having a terrible time getting the wifi to work here. I think they have been having trouble with it as the boat next to us can't stay connected either. I forgot to load our pictures on the computer so I will have to send some later.
Greg's brother, Rocky left yesterday so we are back to just the two of us. It's been almost a month since we've been without company. (Very enjoyable company I might add.) The first day here we went with Shawn by taxi to the ferry terminal where the office is located where we have to apply for our Temporary Import Permit. This is the last official requirement (I hope) and we should be good to go from now on. I have heard so many stories about how difficult it can be to deal with the Mexican officials. We used an agent in Cabo San Lucas to get us checked in, so this is the first time we have done it ourselves. The young woman that waited on us spoke pretty good English and the process went quickly and smoothly. We also were lucky that we had copies of all the documents she needed and we had the serial number for the boat engine. I guess if any of this is missing, you have to come back the next day. The taxi ride was $20 each way (he waited for us though) so it could be a spendy proposition if you aren't prepared. This took most of our morning and then I spent the afternoon doing laundry. Again the laundry here at the marina takes American quarters but I had a bunch left over from Cabo.
Yesterday Greg and Shawn went to the grocery store in La Paz so I can start cooking again. Yesterday afternoon we took the shuttle into La Paz to attend the last Baja Ha-Ha party. It was quite nice. We ate tacos and drank sodas for dinner and the La Paz tourism council put on a show of young traditional dancers (I spotted a Joe and Sophia, although I don't think Joe would be caught dead dancing with a girl and Sophia would have loved dressing up and wearing makeup and false eyelashes, I think). There was also a mariachi band performed. Greg won a door prize of one week free moorage at the next marina to us, so all in all it was a pretty good night. We were tired and not used to being out after dark (we're old, you know) so we took a taxi back to the boat.
Today I made breakfast for Greg and Shawn and worked on cleaning the boat. Greg worked up on deck cleaning and I worked down below. This afternoon is kick-back time with books and a nap and tonight we are going over to the 300 dock for a casual dock party. This is fun.
We left Puerto Balandra around 11 a.m. and motored towards La Paz. There isn't much wind and we are only 1 ½ to 2 hours away from La Paz so Greg doesn't even bother putting up a sail. We pass El Merito Cove which Captain Rains has an interesting story about in our Mexican Boating Guide book. A few years ago, he and his wife anchored there and went for a swim after dark, enjoying the phosphorescent sparkles swirling around their bodies and the dazzling stars in the sky. The next morning they snorkeled the shoal again and to their horror, 8 baby sea snakes (poisonous) raced out of the reeds and poked repeatedly at the glass in their facemasks. With my snake phobia, I don't think you will be reading about me snorkeling in unfamiliar coves any time soon. No way Jose.
We pass several more little coves and a larger bay where the ferry terminal is located. There are great big ferries that run from here to Mazatlan every day. Greg and I are talking about maybe going on the ferry (22 hour ride) to Mazatlan to check it out before we sail there in December. It might be nice to get off the boat for a day or two. Maybe we could stay in a hotel and watch the Oregon/Oregon State game on TV even.
We also pass a Pemex oil refinery and I notice the highway from Balandra goes right through the refinery. Right where the oil tankers unload their oil is where the La Paz channel starts. We go right by the end of a tanker to enter the channel. (I don't think they would have this kind of setup in the States.) The La Paz harbor has a very shallow shoal running through it so you have to hug the shore in the (I assume) dredged channel for several miles to reach La Paz. We pass a couple resorts and a huge water slide complex but everything seems deserted. We see very few people on the beaches at the resorts and no one using the water slides.
We are staying at the Marina Palmira which is only a little way down the channel and about 5 miles outside the downtown area. Shawn has called ahead and reserved a slip for us also. It is a pretty nice marina filled with lots of boats flying their Baja Ha-Ha flags. There is one more official function here in La Paz for the Ha-Ha which is a party on Thursday so there are quite a few Ha-Ha boats here as well as at the other marinas in town. Someone later told Greg that a month ago there were only 8 boats in our marina and now it is full. Not only from the Ha-Ha boats but the cruising season has begun this month also. When the hurricane season ends the first of November, there are lots of power and sail boats that come from California to spend the winter months here.
We are happy to be back again to shore power, water, laundry facilities, internet and of course, showers. Shawn and I go up to the marina office to get checked in (I remember to take all our paperwork with me this time.) The marina has 6 docks and where they connect to the shore is a long tiled promenade with planters of coconut palm trees and flowerbeds along the water side filled with hibiscus and lots of other flowers I forget the names of at the moment. There are also shops along the way but almost all of them are empty with for rent signs on them. There is also a hotel and two restaurants within the marina. We get use of the hotel swimming pool. We might even use it while we are here. At the north end of the promenade is where the office, laundry, showers and a small mini-market are located.
After showers we eat dinner at one of the restaurants in the outdoors section. There is a cat begging for food at our feet so of course Greg and I slip her nibbles. The next night when we are eating at the other restaurant there is a half grown orange cat begging for food and when I feed it, it is so hungry it claws at my hand. I think orange cats are more aggressive anyway. I remember my sister Sylvia's cat, Tucker.......After dinner back at the boat I try to get on the internet but for some reason the marina's wifi keeps denying my password. Guess I'll just have to wait to tomorrow.
Greg and I are both awake by 5:30 so Greg starts the coffee and soon discovers a bunch of other boats are already leaving. He decides we better get going too so I finish the coffee, get dressed and go up to help pull the anchor and get underway. I love these early morning departures when it is just getting light and we can watch the sun come up. I like sunrises so much better than sunsets. They seem to be so full of promise. Oh yeah, before I forget, I actually had goosebumps on my arms this morning because of the chill in the air. I haven't felt a chill in the air since about Turtle Bay. I am becoming acclimatized and the heat is not bothering me as much as long as there is a breeze. We have our fans for down below on the boat too which also helps.
Shawn on Althea is going along with us today as our "buddy boat". It is nice traveling with him as he has already sailed these waters, albeit many years ago. It makes Greg very nervous being in unfamiliar waters and the charts for Mexico are not the greatest.
We have to travel through Cerralvo Channel this morning and we are going against the current and there is no wind, so we are not making very good time. Cerralvo Island is to the east of us and is 16 miles long with some pretty high mountains. There are lots of gullies and ravines which make the mountains look wrinkled, kind of like my face. Our cruising book says the south end of the island is an ancient burial ground of native sea gypsies called Vagabundos del Mar. While alive, they roamed the Sea of Cortez in dugout canoes powered by sails or paddles. They lived in small family groups and avoided outside contact except for minor trading. When they died supposedly their bodies were brought here. Ray Cannon's 1966 book "Sea of Cortez" says fewer than 300 Vagabundos were still alive then, yet he found crosses, gravesites and lighted candles on the island. I say a little prayer as we motor by.
The day passes slowly as we motor along. Because the engine is running, I can keep the computer plugged into power and I spend most of the day below playing my game and doing some writing. I went up on deck when we passed Punta Coyote as I was curious if this point resembled a coyote or if they hung out there. It just looked like another point of land, maybe browner than farther south. We pass through San Lorenzo Channel in the early afternoon. This channel is between the Baja peninsula and what everyone refers to as "the islands". The islands are Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida and are supposed to have some of the best anchorages in Mexico. Our plan is to go into La Paz for a week or two and then come out and explore the islands.
We reach our destination for the night, Puerto Ballandra, around 3 pm and it takes my breath away. It is a beautiful cove where rocky arms encircle a brilliant white, sandy beach backed by mangroves and smaller beaches tucked in little niches around the sides. There is a rock called Mushroom Rock where the bottom is eroded away making it look like a mushroom. The hills above the beach are sprinkled with cactus (the fun kind that have the arms). We can see people wading way, way out in the turquoise water so it must be shallow for a long way out from the beach. We are anchored in only 15 feet of water so we can easily see the bottom and all kinds of fish swimming around. Our guide book says that on weekends 100's of people drive to this beach from La Paz. Today the only people are from the dozen boats anchored up. Shawn caught a couple tuna on the way here so we make the rice and head over to his boat in our dinghy for BBQ fish, salad and rice for dinner. It is fun to have some more company and listen to some new stories.
We are only a couple hours away from La Paz so we don't have to leave the next day until late morning. Greg goes exploring in the dinghy while I decide I would rather wash my hair in the cockpit. We will stop here on our way to the islands and explore it then. On to La Paz!!!
Have arrived in Muertos Cove and discovered there is a restaurant with wifi here so I get to check out our email, internet, etc. (Go Ducks!) and I don't have to cook dinner. A definite win-win situation. Will write more when we arrive in La Paz which should be Tuesday. Having a great time.
We made better time than Greg expected and we arrived in Muertos Cove at 3:30 in the afternoon. As usual, the bay was full of Ha-Ha boats, just not as many as at Los Frailes. (I think they are starting to disperse a bit.) The trip was pretty much uneventful. We motor-sailed the whole way with light winds out of the northwest. The only marine life we saw were porpoise which were on a mission and did not come over to our boat. We had the fishing line out but no luck. We are pulling dinghy along behind us and I think all the fish thought he was a big fat shark.
Greg was very tired and did not want to put the outboard on dinghy so we could go ashore. We have not been off the boat in three days and Rocky and I are chomping at the bit to get off the boat and be on land for a little while. Besides, there is a restaurant on the beach and that means no cooking & dishes for me. I also heard people on the radio saying there was wifi at the restaurant. Greg quickly decided life would be much worse living with a pouty wife for the night than going to the trouble to go ashore. Shawn on Althea arrived soon after us and we stopped on our way to shore to invite him to dinner with us. I told him about the wifi and his eyes lit up too.
Muertos Cove is much smaller than Los Frailes but it is full of pangas. There is also a hotel at the south end of the beach which I heard later is owned by some football player. There is a game room at the hotel that is full of football memorabilia as well as slot machines, video games, pinball, etc. There are also 2 swimming pools and the hotel is cruiser friendly. (Some are not cruiser friendly as we are a pretty scruffy lot and don't spend a lot of money.) We are only staying here overnight as we are anxious to get to La Paz so we don't have time to explore this trip. We will be back when we go to Mazatlan though. Hopefully we will plan on staying a day or two. There are also some very fancy houses (even one villa) out on the northern point. There is also a golf course that wraps around the beach. My preconceived ideas of Baja being desolate, barren and undeveloped are quite a bit off for this area. Ever since Cabo San Lucas there has been lots of development. Its spread out more this last 50 miles, but it's still there. Lots of fishing resorts as well as fancy houses. One thing I notice about the houses is that even though they are large and expensive, they all have dirt roads leading to them.
The dinghy dock by the restaurant is next to an old dock from the days this used to be a port for shipping out silver from the mines. The dock floats and is tied to land by a couple lines so the surge moves it back and forth as well as bounces it up and down. I am getting pretty good at judging when to step off these kinds of docks. I just wish I was more graceful getting in and out of the dinghy.
When we arrive at the cantina it is already full of Ha-Ha boaters. It feels good to be greeted by people we know as we wind our way through the tables. The first thing I do is get the laptop out and connect to the internet. Email first. I am disappointed that there are only 2 emails from friends and family. Thank you Ann and Veronica. I promise to answer the next time I have internet access. Please feel free to email us anyone who wants to. It is our only real connection. The next thing to check out is how the Ducks did Saturday. I am relieved again to see they won and are still #1 (still can't believe that one) but I'm surprised it was such a low scoring game. I sure hope it was just a fluke. Next we check weather and I check another blog that I've been following. It is Yodersafloat and is about Stephen and Lulu Yoder from Silverton Oregon who have also started their cruising life on their Westsail 28. I emailed them a long time ago as I was curious about which Yoder clan they are attached to and if I am related to them. I didn't get a very straight answer other than he comes from the Whiskey Hill Mennonite Yoder's. (That doesn't narrow it down much.) Anyway, he writes a great blog and it is on bloggers.com.
Greg is rushing me as he wants to get back to the boat before dark so I quickly send an email to Sylvia and one for Rocky to his lady. I forgot to bring Jody's new email address so I can't send one to her. Sorry Jody. When we get back to the boat it is almost completely dark but with not too much trouble, we get the outboard mounted back aboard and things cleaned up a bit and put away for tomorrow. We are all very tired and Greg goes to bed before 8 o'clock. I have to force myself to stay awake until 10 most nights or I will be wide awake and up by 5 in the morning. I can only make it to 9:30 tonight though. Today was a very good day. Tomorrow we head out early again for Puerto Balandra which is about 40 miles away so we will have another long day.