05 March 2011
Virginia and Dennis Johns
At anchor, 0800 Friday morning, February 25th, we listened to the La Paz cruisers VHF radio net to find out what was happening in the boating community here. For about 30 minutes, they have announcements for tides (significant info for getting in and out of La Paz), weather, and current and upcoming events. They announced there was a propane fuel run from the marina and we have one empty tank so we needed to get settled into our slip by 1030 to take advantage of that service (the only refills are out on the edge of town and would be a long walk). During the 'goods and services' section of the net we got some recommendations on where to go for an air pump; our dinghy pump broke while hurriedly re-inflating the fenders in preparation for docking in Cabo San Jose (remember, right after we won the race) and the backup foot pump is quite slow - we want another hand-push one. For dinner we walked the downtown area looking for Corozon restaurant as we saw a write-up on it. Circled the blocks in the supposed area but didn't find it. We ended up at a little place across the street from the ocean and malecon/promenade which was great. Virginia ordered BBQ chicken, hoping for the roasted chicken on a spit we've had in Ensenada. They were very busy and they appeared to be short-staffed. The waiter delivered BBQ pork ribs. She queried "pollo"? He responded "si", -hmmm, there's more than a language barrier here. Pork is the "other" white meat but this? She was hungry so she ate it. It was tasty, but she still needed her chicken fix. Dennis had papas rellenos - stuffed potato - a new one for us. It is a layer of mashed potatoes with meat of choice on top. He said it was delicious. We each had two margaritas - that's really partying for us.
Saturday, February 26th, we went to the morning meeting at Club Cruceros - a group for cruisers in the La Paz area that meets in Marina de La Paz each morning (except Sundays), which made it quite convenient for us. They are a great group. We have joined them almost every morning to get information on the local area - where to buy things we need, what they recommend we see when we head out to the local islands (very much like the Channel Islands in SB), etc. They have DVD and paperback book collections for loan and we took advantage of those. We walked to the Saturday organic farmers' market - they didn't have any produce just arts and crafts, but we found the Corozon restaurant we had been searching for so we had brunch there - a couple of omelets and naranja (orange) juice, mmm good -most restaurants fresh squeeze their orange juice daily. It was a very cute restaurant, using the heart (corozon) theme throughout. We then walked to the middle of town to the Anthropology and Historical Museum. There were three floors of interesting exhibits. All the signage was in Spanish so we made good use of the Lingo handheld translator that Virginia's staff gave her as a retirement gift. Most of the exhibits were out in the open where you could touch them, with just signs asking you not to - very different from US museums. Having toured several historical museums, Dennis couldn't help but critique some of the exhibits as requiring some updating based on recent archeological discoveries. Next we visited the Whale Museum (Museum de la Ballena). A young woman gave us a personal tour (we were the only ones there when we arrived and she probably was happy to have something to do). She knew enough English, coupled with our minimal Spanish, to make her descriptions understandable. We learned quite a bit in a very short time. She was very sweet and really motivated to teach us what she knew. We saw several neighborhoods enroute to these museums. All the houses in La Paz, no matter what size, seem to have cinderblock and wrought iron fence with a gate across their front yard, with a front porch just beyond.
We next hit the open air Mercado where they sell fresh meat, fish, and produce. Dennis suggested we get some cucumbers, which surprised me because at home in Santa Barbara he didn't like them. But funny thing, here in Mexico he had some at a restaurant and he has decided they taste like little watermelons! Back at the boat we spent some time posting photos to our website and BBQ'd chicken from the freezer for dinner.
Sunday, February 27th, Dennis went looking for a small water leak that was bugging us as the bilge pump would go on just briefly, periodically. Found and fixed, hooray. I think we reported earlier that due to Dennis' excellent packing skills, we were able to bring our mountain bikes along, but they required some disassembly, breaking them down into the smallest possible parts to fit in a hold. So when we want to use them, they require reassembly. He did that today and we enjoyed biking around town to do our chores. La Paz is quite flat and should be a biker's paradise but the car is king and we did our best to stay off busy streets. It appears that all traffic laws, signs, and stop lights are merely "suggestions." Keeps you on your toes whether on foot or on a bike. We spent some time preparing the boat to be hauled out tomorrow. Dennis checked with the boat yard to determine where to enter and was instructed to head for the ramp rather than the hoist.
Monday, February 28th, took our boat to the Abaroa yard to have the bottom painted. Dennis was relieved that they would take us out on a ramp/rail system rather than use a lift this time (a lift requires removing the backstay which now is complicated by the SSB antenna) but having never seen this system work, he was a little apprehensive. We needed to go out at high tide so we arrived at 0830 as instructed, but they weren't ready for us so we did circles for about an hour. They put three line handlers on the boat via a panga, much to Virginia's delight as she was now relieved of her assignment. When they had us enter the cradle of the ramp it was about 0930 and no longer max flood tide....the keel started to scrape before we were half way into the cradle. They stopped and told us that the other rail was deeper so we backed out, waited at a slip while they got the second ramp cradle ready. It proved to be deep enough. The ramp system is very labor intensive vs. the travel hoist; it's hard to understand why they preferred us coming out on it. They took a lot of time and were very careful about securing supports under the boat, which required two men working in the water for the next two hours without scuba gear. They must have drawn the short straws. They only had on what looked like biking jerseys and shorts and they were shivering uncontrollably by the time it was over. Three hours later, we were sitting up high and dry. We were higher than any other boat in the yard so we had a great view out over the boatyard, nearby marina, and the channel (and a long climb up a wooden ladder to get onto and off the boat).
In search of a new air pump, we took a long bike ride this day - over to Walmart shopping center, then to the Sears/City club center, then to the open air Mercado. No pump but we picked up some good produce. The exercise felt great. Along that route we saw numerous schools, all in good condition as with other schools we have seen in Mexico. One of them had a vision and a mission statement painted on the front outside wall.
Dennis intended to go to a Rotary meeting at the Hotel del Arcos that night so he wrote a short introductory speech and translated it via Google Translator into Spanish. We walked along the malecon to the Rotary meeting location to find that the Hotel del Arcos was deserted and shut up tight. Apparently it's been like that for three years as a result of a strike by the hotel staff. Three years would seem to be long enough to advise Rotary Int'l of a new meeting site don't cha think? It's a pity because the hotel is a real landmark, right in the center of all the beach business. For consolation, we walked the downtown area and had some gelato.
Tuesday, March 1st, oh dear, we turn 60 this month.
Riding our bikes again - this time to the Cathedral Mission, Post Office, a supposed Tuesday farmers' market which we could not locate, and several marine stores. We also visited Ibarra's Pottery - a family owned business where we saw members of the family painting designs on the pottery on site. It was beautiful. They don't allow any photography as they don't want anyone copying their designs. Some degree of marketing at work there as we did not see anything particularly unique. Not practical to store pottery on the boat so we just bought a cabinet knob.
Dennis has been trying to fix the weather fax machine that came with the boat for some time now. "Professionals" in marine electronics have told us to dump it as it is a museum piece, but we always felt it would be good backup to our computer weather tools. On the radio net today Bill on sv. Makahiki offered help. Dennis had a radio conversation with him later that morning and in just a few minutes they had narrowed the problem down and Dennis had a better idea of things to try.
We rode our bikes down the malecon about 3 miles to Marina Palmira for another Rotary meeting. This one was happening and it was a great group of folks (all men, but they were very gracious to Virginia). It was the Rotary club of La Paz Balandra. Two visiting speakers that night a Brazil project, and a La Paz prosthetics project. We also learned an interesting local tidbit, namely that there is a sculpture on the malecon called Christus Conche (Christ holding a large shell) and that there is matching sculpture at the bottom of Balandra cove. That is the cove we had anchored in on our approach to La Paz, but it was totally dark there during our visit as we arrived at night and left as the sun was rising, so we didn't see it - darn.
Wednesday, March 2nd we did not get the boat back in the water - boatyard delaying one more day to finish painting the few spots underneath the supports. They used black paint this time; they didn't have the brown/red that we have used in the past. It looks nice. There is another boat in the yard that discovered hundreds of blisters on his bottom and will be here for awhile repairing those. We have decided to go to Marina Palmira, closer to the start of the channel into /out of La Paz this time. It is 2 miles out of town, but the malecon runs all the way there, as we discovered when we went to the Rotary meeting, so we can still ride bikes into the Club Cruceros 'coffee' gatherings in the mornings and get our errands done easily.
We took another long bike ride again today. Went to the Marina Palmira to choose a slip, did some errands, and visited the prosthetics clinic we had learned about at the Rotary meeting. It is challenging finding places. Street signs are intermittent; directions give the closest cross streets, not a specific address (and there aren't visible addresses on the buildings anyway). You are lucky if the name of the business is provided. There are lots of one-way streets. It seems like you have to circle the block a lot either to get to a street going the right direction (when biking) or just searching for the establishment. One of the locals (a Dr. at the clinic we visited) said he is part of a campaign to make it more bike friendly. The malecon is great but no streets have bike lanes and can be quite narrow. But biking is fairly easy here given that it is fairly flat.
Thursday, March 3rd we got the boat back in the water in the early morning. It was questionable for awhile there as they were having trouble getting the rail's engine started. But once it got going, it was a relatively quick process to lower us back into the water - much quicker than the haul out for sure. It was a short trip up to our new Marina. It is a nice facility, but the showers and restrooms are a long way from the boat - we'll use our bikes for those trips. Did some 'house' cleaning today. Then more errands via bikes into town. On the way to Cabo San Lucas, we discovered that under certain following seas and wind levels, the blades of the wind generator hit something -not sure what. Dennis thinks stiffening the mounting bracket will cure it. Many of the trips this week have been to find yet another hardware or marine store in search of the aluminum rivets that Dennis needs for modifying the support bracket. Today we had success finally!
We had arranged to meet Bill Grinder and his wife Selene (who speaks only Spanish) at The Dock restaurant at Marina de La Paz for some cervezas as a thank you for helping with the weather fax machine diagnosis. He is from the bay area and has been down here since 2004. During the conversation, before he knew we were from Santa Barbara, he mentioned that he attended UCSB "when they were burning the bank". Turns out all three of us were at UCSB 1969-73. He got an engineering degree. What a small world. After two margaritas he turned into quite a character. We walked the streets of Carnaval with them and their scotty dog (who kept having panic attacks because of all the activity and loud noise).
They close down the street along the waterfront and line it with games and rides for the children, booths selling food and wares, and bandstands. During the day, only a few booths are open and there are very few people milling about. In contrast, at night the crowd fills the street and it is all lit up with many competing bands and folks selling their wares at the top of their lungs. The blanket salesmen were especially interesting - like auctioneers with constant chatter. We saw some elements in common with Santa Barbara Fiesta, such as cascarones, parades, churros, and food booths. Along the malecon it seemed to be arranged such that one end had the childrens' games and rides and the other end had the liquor booths. We're told it's a lot crazier beginning Friday night, so we'll come back.
Friday, March 4th, we reprovisioned today for the next leg which will be out to the islands and up to Loreto at least, maybe as far as Bahia Conception. We have fond memories of that bay from our land trip here with Darren years ago. We of course used our bikes for the trip to supermarket along with the bike trailer that Darren and Carrie gave us, now that our granddaughters are too grown up to ride in it any longer. The produce nets are overflowing. We went to a bookstore to buy "THE Sea of Cortez cruising guide" as recommended by the folks at Club Cruceros this morning. Virginia got caught up on the laundry at the marina laundromat and had a nice chat with Mora from Whitewater (who had been on the 2004 Baha Haha with us). She and Harry are from San Diego. They left their boat here since that 2004 trip and come down for several months at a time when they can get away from their landscaping business. They didn't have such a pleasant trip down in 2004. They are enjoying sailing out to the islands and around the Sea here, but are not sure long passages are for them so they are going to go with John and Amanda Neil on Mahina in the Marquesas this July. That sounds like a great strategy. She also talked with a group who had just gotten back from a kayak tour of Isla San Spiritus which got her excited to get over to the islands. Too bad the water is too cold to snorkel; the kayakers tried it with wetsuits and said it was still too chilly. The net weather report said there is a 'norther' coming in today and Saturday and so we'll wait until Sunday to head out.
We visited Carnaval again for dinner and enjoyed all the music.
Saturday, March 5th. Today Dennis will go up the mast and modify the wind generator support and then we'll cruise town on our bikes one last time in search of a watermelon. The weather has warmed up while we have been here (it's over a week now!). Today it is supposed to be 89. It's not humid though so it is quite comfortable.
We'll post an update about our island adventures in a few days.
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