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Our Journey
Off to the islands
12/02/2010

The north winds have finally died down today so along with a couple dozen other boats headed to various destinations, we are leaving La Paz late this morning to go to what are know locally as "The Islands". There is a national park about 20 miles north of here comprised of several islands. There are lots of coves and bays to anchor in and explore. We are anxious to get out of town again. Shawn on Althea is also going as our "buddy boat". Shawn has been a great friend to us. I like it when he goes into town with us as he has a great sense of direction and keeps us from getting lost.

We have been keeping busy exploring La Paz and relaxing on the boat. We have become quite social too making friends with lots of other cruisers. We seem to kind of group together based on where you came from. Most of the people we visit with are from Oregon and Washington.

We will probably stay out in the islands until Dec 8th-Dec 12th, depending on the weather. When the "northers" blow, it really gets rough out in the Sea of Cortez so our schedule will be dependent on when the next one starts.

I heard a rumor that you can connect to the internet out in the islands if you have Telcel. If not, I will post again when we get back. If you read this Veronica, we will be monitoring channel 16 and the cruisers network on 22. Sure hope we can meet up again.

Our trip to town
11/26/2010

We decided to take the 9 a.m. shuttle into town this morning. We need to get our annual park permits and I want to find some of the shops I have heard people talking about. We get dropped off at Club Cruceros (Shawn went with us too) and go to the agent's office across the street to get our park permits. The marine parks cost 50 pesos a day per person or you can get an annual permit for 360 pesos. We figured one week out at the islands will pay for the annual permit. Next we go to the coffee hour at the Club. I bought a Club tee shirt and we sat for a bit but there weren't many people there this morning.

We decided to go up into town and find the American bakery we've heard everyone rave about. We soon find it and buy some bread, some cookies and two cream puffs. We immediately eat the cream puffs as soon as we are out on the street. Let me tell you, that was the best cream puff I have ever eaten. Next time I think I'll buy two just for me. We made turkey sandwiches with the bread for dinner tonight and the bread was excellent also. We will definitely be back to this place. We then walk up the hill a couple more blocks to the fabric store. As soon as you walk into the store a young man with a measuring stick meets you and asks what you want to buy. If you buy fabric they unroll the bolt, measure the quantity you want and tear it off the bolt. No cutting tables like in the States. I told the young man who greeted me that I didn't speak Spanish and he left and soon brought a man who spoke some English. I tried to explain I was just looking but I guess people in Mexico don't just window shop. He was quite put out with me. I quickly looked things over and went back outside to wait for the guys.

The next place I want to go to is the bagel shop. It is several blocks over from where we are so we window shop as we walk. The sidewalks are something else in this town. Definitely not handicapped accessible. They may be cobblestone for awhile, and then switch to concrete, many times with big holes filled with dirt and debris sprinkled about. Then if there is a hill, part of the sidewalk converts to steps (usually the steps are not a consistent height) and part of the sidewalk becomes a ramp up/down the hill. Pedestrians don't have the right-of-way either.

One of the large buildings we pass has been converted to a Christmas store selling decorations and presents. Outside the building are some Christmas trees stacked against the wall. I check one of the tags and discover they are from Mulino, Oregon. Small world, huh? I always wondered where those truck loads of trees ended up that pass through Woodburn this time of year. We pass by a bookstore and I see a large map of Baja for sale so I go in and buy one for my Mom so she can track our travels on it. Now I have to figure out how to get it to her.

We eventually find the bagel shop. We order a cup of coffee and a bagel sandwich to make sure they are as good as we have heard. There is no Starbucks in La Paz so we need to find a place to buy our coffee. We buy a pound of coffee (actually 500 grams) and a couple bagels for tomorrow's breakfast. This will also be a place we come back to. By now we are tired and head back down to the main street on the waterfront, hail a taxi and go back to the boat. Time for a nap, a little needlepoint, dinner, another installment of Centennial and then off to bed. Another day in paradise.

Happy Thanksgiving
11/25/2010

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.

Finally a wifi connection
11/19/2010

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.

Arrived in La Paz
11/16/2010

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.

Puerto Ballandra
11/15/2010

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!!!

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