06/11/2012, Costa Baja
This is one of our longer blogs as it covers numerous days since arriving in La Paz which continues to be our favorite city for cruising.
We awoke Wednesday morning to a forecast of 100 degree temperatures without much wind, and the forecast lived up to its prediction. Before the heat reached us, however, Andy undertook the task of polishing the exterior, stainless steel hardware which had begun to rust due to the salt deposits as a result of our trip down from Puerto Escondito. It was then time for him to tackle the generator problem. After talking to a diesel mechanic familiar with our genset, Andy checked and tightened several fittings, and, lo and behold, the generator seems to be working normally and without the chronic leeching of salt water into the cooling system. Once Andy confirmed the fix, he proceeded, along with Debra's help, to flush out the cooling system and re-load it with the recommended mixture of 50% anti-freeze and 50% fresh water. The generator was then started again to confirm that all was well, and we are now back to full usage of the generator when we leave this marina. However, we will continue to monitor the water leak problem for the next several times that we start the generator to make sure that we do not re-visit the water in the bilge problem which led us to discover the genset problem in the first place. Once the fix was completed, it was time to take a break from the heat which was building as the day progressed, and we went to the beach club for a swim in the infinity pool overlooking the bay, followed by reading in lounge chairs located in the shade and with just the slightest breeze. After returning to Murar's Dream, it was time to catch the shuttle bus into town for dinner at our favorite taco restaurant, Rancho Viejo. We found an outside table in the shade with a nice breeze which made for an enjoyable, early evening dining experience. It was then back to the marina via shuttle bus to end this day in La Paz. The forecast is for high temperatures for the next two days, so it may mean more trips to the beach club and the infinity pool.
The next few days were nothing to write home about. We just had to deal with the oppressive heat. The A/C has saved us at bedtime, cooling the cabin into the mid-70s before we turn in for the night. Each day after taking care of boat matters, it was off to the pool to moderate the effects of the afternoon heat. Unfortunately, we were attacked by mosquitoes at the beach club one afternoon, so we started going to the pool at the resort hotel which is actually closer to the boat but not as nice a view of the sea. With the continuing heat, we decided that it was time to do a bit of land exploring, so we decided to rent a car on Saturday and drive the 50 km to Todos Santos on the Pacific coast of the Baja. We made a reservation for the car on Friday when we came into town for errands, and Debra did the research for a place to stay overnight in Todos Santos.
On Saturday, we took the shuttle into town to pick up the rental car, which began with quite the experience: We noticed large #s of military personnel, fully armed with assorted weapons, throughout Costa Baja with a large contingent, complete with armored vehicle, at the entrance. We later learned on our return from Todos Santos that El Presidente was in the process of staying overnight, so it was a good thing that we were getting out of the resort which was going to be a potential security nightmare. We rented a Dodge Attitude, which is actually a Hyundai with its logo on the grill and trunk, so it looks like Chrysler and Hyundai have struck a cooperative deal similar to GM and Toyota years ago and now with Kia, badging their subcompacts with American names like Aveo. Our first stop was Walmart where we stocked up on the sipping tequila that we had discovered and that everyone who has tried it seemed to enjoy. We then ventured over to Home Depot where Andy was able to find the metric screws that he needed to fix the cockpit table light which had gone on the fritz. We also stocked up on additional diesel jerry cans for the bash back to California. It was then time to head for the Pacific coast along the recently completed, four lane highway to just outside of Todos Santos. Todos Santos has been designated one of the few "Pueblo Magicos" by the government, so it has spent money sprucing up its streets and civic improvements. Debra booked us into the Todos Santos Inn which reminded us alot of Hotel El Fuerte, an old hacienda converted to a hotel which retains the old feel. We were able to stay in one of the patio suites with a king size bed and sitting area. The temperatures in town were about 20 degrees cooler than La Paz due to the moderating effect of the California Current. The town is quite charming with a large ex-pat population. It is also the home of the Hotel California which some people claim is the basis for The Eagles song. It is located above a large aquifer, so you would not think that you were in the arid desert of Baja California Sur being amongst significant vegetation including large clusters of palm trees. This area is also well-known for its organic farms. We had outstanding meals there including dinner at Michael's Restaurant, a reservation only spot where Michael, an ex-pat, does all the cooking in an outdoor kitchen in the backyard of his art studio, while his wife waits on the tables which seat less than 30 people, total. By the time we headed back to the hotel after dark, temperatures had significantly dropped to the point that we were ready for more clothing which we had failed to bring since we were unaware of the significant temperature difference from hot La Paz.
We awoke Sunday morning and quickly went into the hotel's library where they had a television so that we could watch the men's finals of the French Open. As many of you probably know by now, the match was suspended due to rain, so we packed up to head back to La Paz with a planned first stop the other direction at El Pescadore, about 5 miles south of Todos Santos. Our first diversion was the fact that the main street of Todos Santos was now closed with armed policemen at each intersection. We spoke with one of the local residents who confirmed that El Presidente was on his way from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas to check out the newly completed four lane highway (probably for the G20 conference starting in about a week) with a stop in Todos Santos, so they shut down the main street for security purposes. This was reinforced by the fact that we observed several Navy helicopters flying overhead at various times, which appeared to be lead surveillance for the anticipated arrival of El Presidente at some point later in the day. We were able to avoid the main road through town and work our way south to El Pescadore on the main highway where we found a local, organic ex-pat farmer selling his goods, so we stocked up on some fruits and veggies freshly picked that morning including beautiful fresas 9strawberries) still on the stem. We also took a detour on one of the various dirt roads out to the coast and walked out on the beach to get a closer look at the waters which we will be navigating on the Bash. When we arrived back at the south end of Todos Santos, the road was blocked by police, but after about 10 minutes, they re-routed us through town so that we could resume our trip back to La Paz. It was obvious that El Presidente had not yet arrived in town, and at the same time, there was a motorcycle race in town, which really exacerbated the traffic, so it was interesting to experience a traffic jam in a town with only a single traffic light. However, once we cleared town, it was on to the 4 lane highway and an easy return to La Paz. We had observed one of those great Pollo Asado stands just outside La Paz on our way to Todos Santos, so we hit it on the way back and bought a couple of chickens so that Debra could make her spicy Mexican chicken casserole for dinners on the Bash and have enough chicken left over for some lunches. After one additional stop at Soriana, a Mexican superstore, for final food items, it was back to Murar's Dream and the oppressive heat. The Malecon in La Paz was also shut down to motorized traffic, so we had to detour through town to get back to the Costa Baja coastal road. After unpacking from the trip, we quickly donned swimming suits and headed for the hotel pool for some relief before dining at one of our favorite restaurants, Azul Marino, right inside Costa Baja. We finished the evening with a round of all five dominoes.
Monday started with a trip to the hotel gym for a workout in hopes of being able to watch the resumption of the French Open finals on the TV in the gym. It must have started really early since we were only able to learn the results from the completed match as we tuned in to CNN. Andy then returned the rental car and took care of assorted errands in town while Debra began cooking a few dishes to freeze for dinners on our bash back to California. We had a nice breeze build out of the NW, as was forecast on the daily weather reports that we receive via the internet, along with some high clouds, making it quite tolerable sitting in the cockpit under our bimini. Dinner will be shrimp on the barbie since we found a nice pescaderia (fish market) stand on the side of the road on our way back from Todos Santos. This will be our first dinner onboard since returning to La Paz, as we have experienced a lot of restaurants, both good and not so good, each evening that we have taken the shuttle into the city.
Finally, we have decided to extend our stay in La Paz through this week. We checked on availability at the marina in Cabo San Lucas, the closest jumping off point for the Bash, which does have availability. The G20 is scheduled to take place in Cabo from 6/18-20, so we decided not to get there too early and have to deal with the anticipated security problems which one would expect. This will also place us closer to the favorable, Summer weather window for the bash back to Los Angeles without a prolonged stay in Cabo which is not one of our favorite spots.
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06/05/2012, Costa Baja
After a long night of rocking and rolling, we decided that it was time to go further south to our planned, final destination of Marina Costa Baja at the northern outskirts of La Paz. We had previously stayed in this marina last November, so we were very familiar with its facilities which suited our needs best in La Paz. The first order of business was for our boat to serve as "net controller" for the daily Amigo Net broadcast, which we conducted by single sideband radio while underway. The winds were predicted to blow out of the WSW which would mean a nice day of sailing on a beam reach, but, much to our disappointment, it was another day of headwinds and waves on our nose. We zig-zagged again today to avoid the really unpleasant feeling of bashing into headwinds and seas, and this really helped. Fortunately, the winds slowly moved slightly westward and the seas subsided for the last hour of our 5 hour trip to the marina. Upon arriving, we stopped at the fuel dock to top off the fuel for our next leg to Cabo San Jose which will be our jumping off point for our "Baja Bash" back to Marina del Rey. When we will leave La Paz and start the bash remains up in the air as we are still considering various options for this final part of our journey to Mexico. Once docked, it was time for a much needed, exterior bath for Murar's Dream to remove the large amount of salt which had been deposited since the last rinse in Puerto Escondito before Rick's arrival. The last few days had brought a large amount of water over the bow, depositing salt spray from bow to stern. The next project will be to polish the external stainless steel hardware which has started to show signs of rust due to this salt exposure. After completing this task, it was time to handle other needed chores including running the watermaker (which is happier the more it is used). We also checked out the operation of the air conditioner which has had such minimal use since the heat of La Paz warranted a test of the equipment which worked flawlessly should we need it to help cool our aft cabin at bedtime. It was then time to give ourselves some needed showers before we caught the shuttle bus into La Paz for a well-deserved dinner at a fancy restaurant-something that is not so easy to find in the parts of Mexico we have visited other than in Cabo and Banderas Bay. We both agreed to check out the restaurant recommended by our La Paz dockmates, Earl and Louise Kara, from our last stay in Costa Baja. We found Tres Virgenes just where they had shown us, and the meal did not disappoint. Both of us agreed that it was probably the finest meal that we have experienced since arriving in Mexico last Occtober. After dinner, it was time to catch the shuttle bus back to the marina where we have turned in for the night. Tomorrow begins the process of addressing some of the problems and needs that we have in anticipation of our final leg back to LA.
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06/05/2012, El Cardoncito
We left San Evaristo early in the morning in hopes of beating the afternoon winds which were forecast to continue out of the SSE, and we were heading in that direction. We started in moderate headwinds, and, much to our surprise, the winds totally subsided by late morning, so we were excited to explore a new cove on Isla La Partida, El Cardoncito, only a day trip under motor. This was a tiny cove just north of Caleta Partida, a much larger cove in which we had previously anchored during our prior visit to La Paz last year (Can you believe that we have now been in Mexico for 7+ months?). We were the only boat to anchor in this tiny cove, and we both agreed that it was the best secluded cove that we had experienced in Mexico to date. The water was clear, and the change in color from dark blue to light turquoise as the cove shallowed was both dramatic and beautiful. We launched the dinghy and motored over to a coral reef just off the southern point of the cove for some snorkeling, and it did not disappoint. The clear water, together with the variety and number of fishes, made this the best snorkeling experience yet. We returned to the boat in anticipation of a very quiet night but were rudely greeted by increased winds and waves as the sun set. We spent the night experiencing what we believe to be a mild Corumel-brisk winds blowing at night out of the west in the area around La Paz. With exposure to west winds, it meant a long night of watching to make sure that our anchor did not drag in the 15+ knot winds, and the waves continued to grow throughout the night making it one of the more unpleasant anchorages that we have experienced in Mexico. Nevertheless, all went well as Andy set the anchor alarm to go off if the boat were to move more than 50', and he also slept on deck to be ready to handle any possible emergency due to the narrowness of the cove.
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06/05/2012, San Evaristo
Sunday morning began with the typical clear skies and cooler temperatures, so we left our anchorage in Agua Verde and headed south. We knew that this meant headwinds, but it was time to move on and keep working our way towards La Paz. After rounding the point east of Agua Verde, we were provided with a very special treat-our first observation of Orcas! Debra was on deck and spotted what appeared to possibly be a spouting whale. Upon closer view and when we were within less than 100 yards, the white markings on the sides and belly of the mammals could be seen through the water and when some of them started surfacing, it was obvious that this was a pod of killer whales in the act of feeding as they swirled and surfaced repeatedly. We slowed the boat for a longer view but agreed not to turn back and possibly disturb them. It was quite the site. The wind and swells were on our nose, and they continued to build throughout the day. By mid-morning, we were pounding a little more than we would like, so it was time to start zig-zagging a bit so that we were not heading directly into the wind chop. It meant a little longer day of motoring, but it was definitely more comfortable. Our planned destination of Caleta Nopolo, 38 nautical miles south, was altered to San Evaristo, an additional 6 nautical miles, when we checked out the anchorage and found that the wind and waves were bending around the southern point into the anchorage making it an unsuitable spot for the night. San Evaristo clearly provided better protection from winds and waves from the SSE. This would be our third time anchoring at this cove-not one of our favorites but definitely on our way to our final destination of this trip-La Paz.
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06/05/2012, Agua Verde
It sure feels good when Murar's Dream is ship shape and ready to sail. We came up with a partial fix for the generator. Andy goes into the lazarette and catches the overflow from the radiator reservoir into a large bucket while Debra operates the water maker, which we can do for about 15 minutes until the bucket of overflow is full. We then toss the captured water back to its origination-the sea. This means that we are producing about as much water as we use daily, which is a good thing. We still have the second tank as a backup, and it is full. The Colorado family (Bob, Jodi and Dakota Showman and Dakota's friend, Lucas) arrived right on time for our afternoon trip. We circumnavigated Isla Danzante just across the channel from Puerto Escondito. The only disappointment was a lack of wind, so we were only able to sail for about 30 minutes of the 3+ hour trip. However, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, especially the two high school boys (Dakota and Lucas) to whom Andy gave some boat handling and sailing pointers as they worked the jib sheets and each took a turn at the helm. After returning to the lagoon, they got off at the fuel dock while we re-moored the boat and came to the dock in the dinghy. It was then off to the home in which they were staying just outside Loreto where we both enjoyed showers with hot and unlimited water. It was then off to Loreto for some provisioning, a trip to the ATM (the exchange rate was the highest yet at 14.35 pesos to the dollar) and dinner. We went to an outdoor bar at one of the hotels on the malecon where they had an all-you-can-eat pizza special. We were joined by the contractors who are building the Showmans' new home, along with their families, so there were about 12 of us, and quite a few pizzas were consumed but not by Debra due to her gluten intolerance. Debra ended up dining on some local, fresh fish (cabrillo) which was excellently prepared in butter and garlic. The margaritas were quite strong, and Debra is paying the price today with a mild headache. After dinner, the Showmans drove us back to the marina, and we dinghied back to the boat for a good night's sleep.
We left the lagoon at 10AM on Friday for the next leg of our journey back to a previous anchorage, Bahia Agua Verde, on our way back to La Paz. The forecast was for some brisk winds out of the SSE, the direction we needed to head, so Andy came up with a route which involved ½ motoring around an offshore island before turning SSW to our final destination. The winds did not disappoint, and we had to reef the sails to accommodate the building winds. There was some significant wind chop so it was good not to take the direct track to Agua Verde as it would involve a bare pole motoring into that chop. With our indirect course, we were able to motor sail with the mainsail until we reached the turning point and sailed the remainder of the trip reaching speeds in excess of 8 knots in 15-20 knot winds. We securely anchored in one of the coves which protect us from the strong southerly winds, even though we continue to hear it whistling through our rigging. We decided to make the remainder of the day a laid back day with dinner aboard. The increased air temperature was noticeable, especially at bedtime. Even though it would cool off into a comfortable temperature in the cockpit, it was still quite warm down below until after midnight. Andy would fall asleep on a cushion in the cockpit while Debra handled the cabin temperature until after midnight when Andy would come down into the aft cabin for the remainder of the night. This looks like it will be a consistent pattern for the coming days until we make it over to the Pacific Coast and start bashing back to LA.
Our laid back behavior extended into day 2 at Agua Verde. After listening to the cruisers' nets and getting the weather forecast, we decided to spend the day at anchor. We ran the generator to make some water and charge the batteries using the procedure Andy had developed for that process despite the continued water overflow by the generator while in operation. We then did a brief snorkel to the rock outcrop near the boat where the temperature was still quite refreshing (mid-70s) and then took the dinghy ashore to hit the local "minisuper" to grab a few more staples for the remainder of the trip to La Paz. It was then back to the boat for an afternoon of assorted activities including reading and playing electronic games on our Ipads. Debra whipped out some guacamole for the late afternoon snack while we engaged in several games of all fives dominoes which culminated with a shellacking by Debra scoring 52 to 22! We grilled some steaks onboard for dinner and ended a peaceful day as the sun set and the temperatures cooled before turning in for the night. We will get an early start tomorrow since the forecast is for winds to continue out of the SSE, the direction that we need to head as we move closer to La Paz.
|Sea of Cortez||
05/30/2012, Puerto Escondito
Well they say that the definition of cruising is fixing things in exotic places, and our return to Puerto Escondito has lived up to that definition. We knew that re-riveting the radome bracket was a must, but we were confronted with two new problems when we returned to Murar's Dream. First, we has been warned that we might have a leak since the bilge was taking on water, and Andy was able to determine that we have a serious problem with the generator. It seems to be taking on salt water into the fresh water cooling system-not a good thing. The problem is something that will require the skills of a good mechanic, and our best shot is La Paz which we should reach sometime early next week. The most disconcerting result is the inability to run our water maker, so we will have to use the water we have onboard more sparingly, possibly until we get back to LA. Fortunately, there are a couple of marinas along the way to re-fill our water tanks, and we will be stocking up on drinking water just to be on the safe side. The other problem was that the bilge pump had stopped working which explained why we were getting a bilge alarm when we returned onboard yesterday. It was a relief that we had a spare bilge pump onboard, so after some trials and tribulations, Andy was able to install the new bilge pump which is working like a charm. We went to bed after a long day of travel, having to get up at 4AM to catch the 6:30AM flight to LAX in order to make the 10AM flight to Loreto. Everything went according to plan, and we arrived on time in Loreto at 1:15PM and were picked up by our boat sitter who brought us back to Puerto Escondito and the commencement of problem solving for the boat repairs.
We began today with the goal of fixing the radome bracket, and the first hurdle was to find a strong enough air compressor when Andy was able to find out from the manufacturer of our hookah compressor that it did not generate enough air pressure to operate the rivet gun that we had brought back from Colorado. We lucked out when the man who he had met at his haircut last Friday was also coming to Loreto, and he was able to secure a large air compressor from the construction company which was building his new vacation home just south of Loreto. His family had come down to the boat for an anticipated day of sailing, but until the radome was re-secured, sailing was out of the question. They had a Yukon so Andy went with them to the contractor's office and loaded the compressor in the back of the SUV, returning to Puerto Escondito with it. We had been able to go from our mooring ball in the lagoon to the marina dock for a Mediterranean-style docking (dropping the anchor well off the dock and then backing up, tying the transom to the dock and tightening up the anchor line to keep us perpendicular to the dock between other boats similarly docked). This was the first time that we had tried such a procedure, and, after one unsuccessful try by not dropping the anchor far enough off the dock, we were able to dock and secure the boat without difficulty. We plugged into the shore power and are now fully charged after draining the batteries the final days before our return. Things got interesting when the boat's AC circuit could not handle the load of the compressor which we had placed just off the boat and ran 150' of hose to let Andy take the gun up the mast to the radome in our boatsun's chair about 40' above the deck. One of the local bottom cleaning divers came to our rescue when he brought over his smaller air compressor which our AC circuit could handle. We also were able to use our new "marriage savers" (wireless, hands-free headsets) which allowed Debra to operate the winches according to the instructions provided by Andy. In past trips up the mast, communication consisted of shouting which could at times not be heard due to background noise such as wind. After a few trips up the mast, the task was completed, and we now are back, ready to sail again with a secure radar system.
Tomorrow the family from Boulder (Debra actually knew the wife from a past tennis tournament when the two of them were matched head-to-head) will come back to the boat, and we will take them out for an afternoon of sailing and snorkeling around one of the islands just outside of the marina. They will then take us to Loreto for dinner, and we will be able to go to the local market to provision for our next leg to La Paz, and that brings you up to date on our journey in Mexico.
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