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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We now have our photos posted and labeled up to the point that we arrived in La Paz. Note that if you place your mouse/cursor over a photo you will get a short label. I wish it showed up next to the picture, but that's not how this site works. I learned some new things like using Picaso to downsize the pictures, how to sort them into a logical sequence, and then how to label them - so that's my excuse for taking so long to get these posted. Also I see that as soon as I create a new album and start posting pictures they appear for all to see. So if you get into an album some time in the future and note that there are no labels or that things seem to be out of order, that means it's a work in progress.
We are in Marina de La Paz for awhile working on a few projects and exploring the town. Dennis is assembling our bikes and we will ride them to the grocery store today, towing our cart that Darren and Carrie gave us (thanks Kira and Devin for growing up and giving it up!) We walked there and it's not that far, but today we expect to have a load to carry.
Tomorrow we are having the boat hauled and the bottom painted. Not sure how long that will take. We were thinking a couple days, but other cruisers are telling us to expect at least a week. But there's plenty to do here.
We'll post more about our LaPaz activities along with pictures later in the week....manana.
Friday, February 18th, finished up clearing into Mexico with a visit to the Capitania de Puerto. That turned out to be a breeze. After submitting our papers which were quite in order, the official asked if we habla espanol and Dennis cautiously responded un pequeno (a little -which is some distance from the truth). She proceeded to rattle off a lengthy explanation of what we needed to do next and all we could identify was "Mastercard". So focusing on that word, we were able to discern that we could use our Mastercard for the port entry fee, avoiding a second round-trip trip to the bank which was now across town rather than across the street (as it was from Immigracion) and the embarrassment of ultimately revealing no working grasp of Spanish. We were out of there in less than 30 minutes.
We had hauled our dirty clothes ashore to use a self-service laundromat but the charge for us to use the machines was 90% of the price for them to do the "complete service" - $10 for two loads. So it wasn't a hard decision to spend that extra $1 to give us all afternoon to ourselves. We had gotten directions to a tackle shop (Dennis needed to replace the lure he lost on the lobster pot and having no luck on fishing up to this point, wanted some pointers). In searching for the shop we were directed to, we discovered a second tackle shop, Minerva's (side note: the directions included a strip joint as a landmark which provided Dennis some material with which to have fun with Virginia). The first tackle shop was full of customers, so we headed to Minerva's. This shop had twice the gear and half the customers of the other. Dennis explained his lack of knowledge to the woman behind the counter, expecting her to direct him to the "fisherman" owner. To his surprise and exposing his sexism, she suggested we come back with our rods at 5pm and she would give us a lesson on setting them up. We thanked her and asked her name, she responded "Minerva". We returned as requested and it was wonderful. She was so nice, so knowledgeable, and didn't try and push a lot of expensive gear on us (the previous customer's bill came to $900!). What a delight. Odd that she had so few customers, perhaps machismo is still alive and well and Mexican fishermen are reluctant to take fishing instructions from a woman. We walked through the outdoor shops selling wares. Dennis bought a leather belt and Virginia bought a sundress and wrap. We took a three mile round trip walk to Walmart as we were told they would have 3G cards for internet connection. They didn't have the cards, but it was good exercise, felt good to stretch the legs and warm the body in the hot sun. It was shorts weather that day until late in the evening. We also went to the Super Mercado and bought some produce as we were all out of fruit. Quite a productive day. Our fold up handcart got its first workout hauling two large Rubbermaid containers (which normally house our sheets and towels) of laundry and groceries; it worked out quite well. I think it was Liz Copeland's book that suggested those containers as great all-purpose bins for storage, hauling, hand washing laundry, etc. Glad we brought some.
Saturday, February 19th weather report says we will have very mild north winds and not until the afternoon so we decided to make our short 15 mile hop to Puerto de los Cabos, in Cabo San Jose, after lunch but unfortunately not before the API officials dropped by to extract an anchoring fee. Not reading about this fee in any of the guides or current Baja HaHa notes and having not been confronted with it in the last three trips to Cabo, we were somewhat skeptical that they were official. After several minutes of negotiation, it appeared that they were legitimate and that this was a new fee as of January, $10 per night. Better let Richard of the Baja HaHa organization know about it to set the fleet's expectations for next year. We had a reservation at the new marina in Cabo San Jose (no anchorage available). As we readied the boat to head out, we saw the Cabo San Lucas jr. lifeguards doing exercises and practicing rescues on the beach near us. It appears that red shorts are the international standard for lifeguards.
We didn't have much wind when we left and when it did fill in it was not from the north, but on our nose so we had to motor. About an hour or two outside Cabo San Jose, the wind picked up and with most of the afternoon at our disposal, Dennis decided to sail, turning off the motor and tacking our way to the marina. Another sailboat was doing likewise so of course Dennis considered it a 'race'. We had to reef as the first mate insisted after 20+ knots apparent and heeling 30 degrees - but we still 'won' -the other boat having quite a lead on us to start but Dennis seemed to make the most of the more favorable tacking angles. We saw some more grey whales as we neared the harbor entrance. We had a quiet night in the marina. There was a small restaurant there, but it was kind of late and we had eaten out a lot in Cabo San Lucas (returning to some of our favorites as well as sampling new spots) and were ready for some home cooking. Plus we had a strong Internet connection there and needed to catch up on bill paying, blog posting, and such. The marina is still under development. They have a "Dolphin Discovery" pool where you can swim with dolphins but the restrooms and showers aren't built yet, using temporary buildings with one shower for the whole marina (men and women share). But from the landscaping, complete with an extensive malecon/promenade around the edge of the marina with informational plaques and sculptures, you can see they have plans to make it a destination spot. The staff were very nice and helpful. At $110/night for a slip it was kind of expensive, but that's Cabo for you. Slips without power were half price and three times the distance from the office and restrooms/shower.
Sunday, February 20th. The wind is supposed to be fair today, but getting a bit stronger the following day, so we decided to head out immediately for the next anchorage, Los Frailes. We left about 0730 after giving the boat a fresh water rinse. Dennis noticed that the waypoint in the cruising guide is off about 60 miles for Frailes - fortunately he always double checks on a paper chart. We aren't using our electronic chart plotting tools (Capn and Visual Passage Planner) yet. Dennis had it all set up on the older laptop in San Diego for the first leg of our trip and then the laptop screen went black and we had to power down without closing/saving anything. Now the charting products are not happy on that laptop and we'll need to contact tech support to straighten it out. We had it all installed on our newer laptop as well; Dennis just needs to set up some of the particulars again. He decided not to use it for this basically coastal sailing. We'll use it when we head to the Mexico mainland.
We motored all the way, most of the time in 20 knot winds, which increased as we got closer to the anchorage so the last few miles seemed like they took forever; we were only making 3-4 knots headway and lots of spray over the bow -so much for the fresh water rinse! The strong wind had arrived a day earlier than predicted - weather predictions are after all really just that. We saw two humpback whales frolicking for a long time. The still digital camera didn't catch them breaching, but you can see one the whales slapping its tail on the water - an exercise it kept up for some time. We're going to keep the video camera closer at hand for times like that. We saw another pair later, but they weren't as active. It was a nice diversion from the beating we were taking. There were three other sailboats in the anchorage when we arrived and two powerboats followed later. The anchorage was not protected from the wind so it gave us a good opportunity to test our increasing skill at dropping and setting the anchor in less than favorable conditions. But the anchorage was well protected from the swell so we were comfortable, listening to the wind howl in our rigging all night and giving our wind generator a good workout. The conditions prevented us from venturing ashore or visiting other boats. There were tent campers on the beach. When we talked to our son that night on the sat phone, he said "there are palapas on the beach" - he had seen our position report and zoomed in on the Google Earth view while he was talking with us. Our last family vacation with Darren, when he was just out of college, was a camping trip to Baja. He was enchanted by the beach palapas we encountered on that trip and that visual reminder stimulated his deja vu.
Monday, February 21. Since the wind was predicted to persist (about 12-15 knots, but we would be headed straight into it), we decided to spend an extra day at Los Frailes and wait for the 5-8 knot wind predicted on subsequent days. Watching the whitecaps develop out on the Sea of Cortez beyond the point protecting the anchorage, we were glad we had stayed put. Another sailboat and one of the power boats did likewise. We thought if the wind did calm down we would kayak to the landmark living coral reef (the only live one in the Sea of Cortez) later in the day, but we didn't get that lull so we spent the day reading, cleaning the boat, and baking brownies.
Tuesday, February 22nd we left at first light (0630) to motor in light north winds to Ensenada de los Muertos. At 0715 we caught our first fish! As Dennis was busy cleaning it on the cutting board he cleverly installed on the swim step off the stern (no blood and guts in/on the boat!), Virginia watched a pod of about 30 dolphins and a whale off our port. While cleaning, Dennis cut his thumb, so he'll be excused from dishes duty for a few days. Dennis got the fish and boat all cleaned up and encouraged that fish were hitting his new rig, he put the lines back in expecting to catch a BIG one. At 0745 just a few moments later, whammo - another one on the line. We think these were either bonito or amberjacks. The second one was bigger but we just snapped a picture and released it as we had enough for a few days from the first one. A bit later we caught a third one, much smaller (also released). It was a helluva day at sea!
Muertos is a beautiful protected cove. We kayaked around the bay, over to the point, and out to visit another sailboat. Fred and Cindy of Songline, a 38' steel-hulled ketch, are from Alaska. They had planned to take our intended route, down mainland Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Galapagos before heading to the Marquesas, but they got "started late" (boy that sounds familiar) and so they are headed back to Cabo to make the jump to the Marquesas. They had been in LaPaz for a few months and gave us some ideas on where to stay and services. We also went ashore to the "yacht club" - an outdoor restaurant - and had a beer and some nachos. The cruising guide explains how the developers didn't think "muertos" (buried anchors, aka "dead men") created the right atmosphere so they renamed the area, Bay of Dreams (which is inscribed on the arch over the club path). It was deserted - we were the only ones there. That night we had bbq'd fish (what else!) - yummy.
Wednesday, February 23rd, we left at sunrise for La Paz. Predictions were that we would be sailing into light north wind. Just past Muertos we passed Isla Cerralvo. As it is the furthest island south in the Sea of Cortez, we felt like we were finally in The Sea. Again, the wind cranked up and by noon it was quite uncomfortable and the wind was continuing to increase. Dennis headed us towards shore and anchored us in a little, unnamed, cove just south of San Rosario. There was a single house on the beach surrounded by a large field of cactus, and a nice big rock cliff to provide protection from the WNW wind and swell. A catamaran had been following us from Muertos, but they soldiered on. We had a peaceful lunch and stayed there for several hours but as the wind clocked around to the north the cove became uncomfortable and with a lee shore condition. We considered our options - beat on to La Paz or go back to Muertos. It was getting later in the afternoon and often the wind would lighten up as the sun set, so we decided to wait another hour. Fortunately, it died down enough that we were able to comfortably resume our leg to La Paz at a clip of 5.5 kts. We cleared the treacherous San Lorenzo Channel as the sun made a glorious setting but we didn't want to traverse the entrance channel to La Paz at night (it's a narrow, shallow, four-mile long channel), so we tucked into Balandra Cove just past the San Lorenzo Channel. We had the place to ourselves and it was quiet and peaceful when we arrived. We had dinner and watched a movie. We didn't get to finish our movie as our LCD panel fizzled midstream - bummer! Another project for Dennis when we arrive in La Paz. Then the wind came up blowing 15 knots out of the west and we got so much swell we started porpoising. Again on a lee shore, we decided to keep an anchor watch. Dennis took 2200-2400 and Virginia 2400 to 0200. The anchor seemed to be staying set so we tried to get some sleep after that. We had fitful rest for the next few hours. At one point Dennis had to awaken Virginia who was having a nightmare and screaming 'Dennis help us' (she and one of her sisters were being chased in a warehouse) - too many mystery novels on her Kindle!
We were up at first light, 0530, and headed into the La Paz channel. It was beautiful watching the sunrise over La Paz. A big freighter was anchored at the entrance of the channel that is marked with navigation buoys so we had to go around him. We knew from the charts and past experience that the channel itself wasn't very deep (30 feet) and it was very shallow outside the channel so Virginia kept a close watch on the depth gauge as Dennis maneuvered around the freighter. It was clear that we weren't going to make the first two buoys and Dennis knew this might be trouble so he slowed down. Only a few feet from being inside the buoys when Virginia sounded the alert that the bottom was getting shallow fast, Dennis put the boat into reverse and scraped a bit of paint off the keel as the depth reading was just a bit over 5 feet (for our 6.5 foot boat) and we could feel the boat starting to drag across the bottom. Fortunately, reverse gear spun us around and dragged us off the shoal and finally into the dredged channel. We listened to the local VHF net on our way in and duly reported ourselves as newcomers when requested. By 0830 we were anchored off downtown La Paz in a calm anchorage with lots of other boats. Before we had the boat all in order with sails and lines stowed, our neighbor, Robert in a nice, wooden 32' ketch with a bowsprit, had come by to welcome us to La Paz.
We had planned on getting some sleep once we were anchored, but decided we could do that any time. We were in La Paz and ready to explore! We dinghied ashore and made arrangements for a slip in Marina de la Paz for three nights. We'll spend this first night in the anchorage. We checked on the price of getting the bottom of the boat painted and will likely have that done before we leave here. We walked the downtown area, had lunch, bought some produce at the farmers' market, picked up some ice cream bars and some groceries (including warm fresh tortillas) at the Mercado, and headed back to the boat to prepare this blog so that we can post it manana when we have wifi in the marina. We have also now organized our photos for this first part of the trip and will try to post them as well.
We are still enjoying ourselves, thoroughly!
02/17/2011, Cabo San Lucas
We are now on Mountain Time: we lost an hour, so the sun goes down little later -or the sun comes up a little later (as it seems on the overnighters) but it seems like the day is longer.
Tuesday Feb. 8th, we put the dinghy in the water with the sling we had made for it - worked great, no more hoisting it half way up the mast to get it over the lifeline. We were headed for shore to revisit one of our favorite restaurants and use an internet café. One-armed Pedro greeted us on the wooden pier and was happy to take our basura (garbage) and watch our dinghy while we were ashore for a few bucks. There was no one around to bother the dinghy and the garbage was just piled up on the pier in a heap but we recognized him from past years so apparently he's made this his vocation. We found the internet shop where we spent about an hour paying bills, catching up on some of our email, and posting our last blog. We did encounter a problem though in that the keyboards didn't have a tilde (~) character on them and Virginia had that character in her email password...so she didn't get to check her gmail account. It was also a little slow going as we tried to translate instructions/prompts until we discovered how to request English on the Google homepage -guess that tells you how often we've been abroad. We were disappointed to find that both restaurants were closed. They must only open during certain seasons and when the big Baja Haha fleet comes through - then they are fully operational. But there were only four sailboats in the anchorage at this time. Not a problem, we had plenty of food stores aboard. Turtle Bay is a small town with all dirt/gravel roads (you feel like you need a shower after being passed by one or two vehicles). The only paved one is the road that heads out of town and becomes dirt again just beyond town. They have several small grocery stores, more auto parts stores than restaurants (it's a 40 mile dirt road to the paved Highway 1), and lots of friendly people. We purchased a tomato and a head of cabbage as Dennis is determined to make the switch from lettuce to cabbage in his lunch sandwiches (cabbage is supposed to last twice as long as lettuce). The school, medical facility, and church are structures that stand out and are very well maintained. The houses are painted bright colors.
We met another couple in the anchorage, Ann and Andrew aboard Windsong, a Hunter 32, who are from the Sacramento area. They too are retired and cruising Mexico this season. We hope to meetup with them again further along our route.
Wednesday, Feb 9th, we used our new sling to pull the dinghy out of the water and set it onto the bow of the boat without removingthe outboard and shore wheels - worked just fine. That will make it more convenient to manage the dinghy at anchorages where we are staying just a day or two. Another boat headed out of the anchorage just ahead of us so we had a buddy along the way that day. Weather forecast showed wind for sailing in the morning only so we wanted to get an early start. But alas, we had to motor sail all day. The only significant wind hit us as we arrived at Bahia Asuncion. It died early in the evening and we had a very calm and quiet night.
We didn't get a chance to visit our buddy boat as they took off early in the morning while we headed to shore. Asuncion is a larger town than Turtle Bay. They have paved roads, street signs, even some stop signs at intersections, and the road headed out of town is a divided highway. They had a nice looking medical facility. We ate an early lunch at Juanitas (a couple of tacos and rice, our first Mexican food - yum). We didn't realize until after they had served us that they actually weren't open yet. But they hadn't said a word and just served us with a smile. In fact we laughed together when Dennis asked for a Pacifico beer and they pointed out that the walls of the restaurant had the distinctive Tecate stripes - no Pacifico served there! We found an internet café that did have the tilde on the keyboard so Virginia changed her gmail password and finally got access. We hustled back to the boat and around noon we headed to Hipolito, a short sail away. And we did get to sail. We sailed all the way. Only bummer was that we snagged our fishing line on a lobster pot float and lost a lure and hook, despite circling a number of times to try and release it. Hope the fisherman who next checks the trap doesn't snag himself on that hook. We anchored in Hipolito just about dinnertime.
Friday Feb. 11th, we headed to Punta Abreojos where we planned to do a whale watching excursion. A recent boating publication (the Log) gave directions for hailing the park guides by VHF radio from that anchorage. Again we had light winds and only got to sail for about an hour before turning on the engine. We are enjoying the Baja coast landscape - it continually changes: low beach land, plateaus, peaks ofvaried heights - very interesting scenery. And we are seeing dolphins just about every day. As we approached Punta Abreojos, we saw a whale just ahead of us. We had to dodge several dozen lobster pots as we made our way to the anchorage. We were hoping some of the fishermen would approach us for a sale, but no such luck.
Saturday Feb. 12th, the prior evening, the beach was wall-to-wall pangas (small fishing boats) but at sunrise, we were awakened by virtually the entire fleet heading off for the day. We tried hailing the park guides for San Ignacio whale watching, but had no luck. We called the park on the sat phone and they said they don't come out into the open ocean, so evidently the info in the Log publication was not accurate. We called a contact mentioned in one of the cruising guides and they confirmed that you really have to get there by land. So we headed to shore, but this is a very small town with no bus service and we were unable to find a way to get ourselves to San Ignacio. But we walked the town. They have a very large church with stained glass windows and a nice baseball field with bleachers and a concession stand -no grass of course. We found an internet café, but it was closed on Saturday. Couldn't find a post office to mail our valentines - oh well, guess they'll be late. We saw a big fish processing plant and realized that all the fishermen probably worked for the 'company' and thus weren't free to sell directly to us. However, they were all very friendly and waved as they cruised by Libertad. We went back to the boat and spent the afternoon cleaning and napping.
Sunday Feb. 13th, we are headed 30 mi. south to Punta Pequina to anchor in Bahia Juanico. Another day of motoring. But we got in our whale watching afterall aboard Libertad. We saw groups of spouting whales several times that day. Twice they were very close to the boat (Virginia says 20 feet, Dennis says more like 20 yards away). It was a very calm anchorage, as promised in the cruisig guides.
Monday, Feb. 14th, Valentines Day, we didn't go ashore this time. From the boat we can see that although it is a very tiny town, they have an airstrip and some two-story homes that appear larger than in previous towns. We could also see a large church and hear the bells chime. A double-ender sailboat was in the anchorage with us; we had seen them before but didn't have a chance to visit. As they cruised by us heading out of the anchorage we had a brief chat and agreed we'd probably see them further south again. Weather looks like we'll get some wind for our overnight sail to Bahia Santa Maria; we left at 1400, hoping to time a daylight arrival in Bahia Santa Maria. We had lots of wind, lots of whales, lots of waves, and lots of sailing. We caught our first fish - but too small so threw it back. It was wonderful to sail all day. We turned on the watermaker and made 10 gallons or so. At nighttime the winds clocked up to 20-25 with big seas and so we got lots more practice with reefing the sails. And of course that meant we arrived earlier than anticipated. We got there about 0600, when it was still dark. We were glad we had decided to go to this familiar bay where we had been 3 times before with the Haha group rather than Mag Bay. We had to maneuver around some fishing boats at the head of the bay and work our way with a head wind over where a few other sailboats were anchored. First time anchoring in 25 knot wind and we were apprehensive about dragging the anchor but the wind was off shore and if we dragged it would only put us back out to sea so we slept soundly as the sun began to rise. The winds blew all morning, our wind generator got us all charged up and the anchor held tight.
Tuesday, Feb. 15th. The weather grib files indicate that the winds will lessen this morning and then get even lighter this afternoon and continue to lighten up during the following days, so we decided to head on out again about 1330 when the winds in the bay got below 20 and do another overnighter to Cabo (170 miles, so it will be a stretch to get there before dark). We sailed with about 11 knots apparent off the stern quarter averaging 7 knots SOG (speed over ground) for the rest of the daylight hours. We talked to Darren and our granddaughters when we were out at sea; so glad we bought the sat phone. Night watches were much easier than the trip to Santa Maria. We motorsailedall night to consistent winds and somewhat calmer seas, so you didn't have to be at the helm to constantly adjust the sails and our course. It is still quite cold on the night watches so the long underwear, ski hats, and neck scarves are still in use.
Wednesday, Feb. 16th, we had a huge group of dolphins around the boat in the early morning. Winds slacked off as predicted so we continued to motorsail. Had to use the engine almost all day - lots of time to read. We arrived in Cabo just as the sun was setting. No big cruise ships, but several large yachts in the anchorage. We were the only sailboat. Lots of lights and music happening around us. And it is warm again!
Thursday, Feb. 17, woke up to three large cruise ships anchored near us. We were preparing to go ashore in the morning to do our paperwork with Immigration and the port captain, when we saw another sailboat anchoring in the bay - and it was another Amel! After 3 hours at the Immigracion office (lots of people having lots of problems ahead of us), when they finally called our number, we were done in about 30 minutes including the trip to the bank. En route to the Port Captain, we stopped for lunch -we were starving after the endurance test getting our tourist visas. Getting late in the afternoon, we found the Port Captain office closed at 1430! so we'll have to finish that up tomorrow. We found a Laundromat and internet Café and we'll head back tonight or tomorrow to make use of those. Heading back to the Libertad, we visited the other Amel in the anchorage, C'est La Vie, a 1983 Mango 53. Bob is a nice fellow who is soloing. He had done the Baja Haha and was headed north to San Diego for the summer, and then he will return here next season. We were invited aboard to see the differences in our boats. Lots of things were the same and others were bigger or wider as his boat would allow. He is younger than us, and works from his boat. He uses a 3G card in his laptop and has internet access on this boat just about anywhere. We may just try that.
This trip to Cabo was quite different from the last three that we did with the Baja Haha group - not only because we are on our own with no additional crew, but because we were able to stop at more anchorages along the way and see more of this coast of Baja. The back-to-back overnighters was a new experience but we are becoming more relaxed with the routine.
Some of you have asked what we do at night in the anchorages. We brought along our travel games from our family camping days and some puzzles (Dennis stayed up until 2am one day finishing a jigsaw puzzle). One new addition to the boat was an LCD with built in DVD player and we have quite a collection of movies so we have movie night a couple times a week. The games and movies make it feel more like home than on past trips. But we miss all of you!
02/08/2011, Bahia Tortuga
We last reported that we planned on heading out of San Diego bound for Mexico on Sunday January 30, but the weather forecast wasn't favorable so we delayed until Tuesday. On Monday Virginia took our van to Long Beach to her parents' home and returned to San Diego on the train. That night we treated ourselves to dinner at the Boathouse restaurant in the marina.
We had been in San Diego for about 3 weeks and during that time had finished some major projects such as SSB radio and watermaker installation, but we also spent considerable time packing everything into the boat. Dennis, the master packer, did an amazing job and we were able to fit our full size mountain bikes, a cart to pull behind the bikes, some beach chairs, nearly every tool Dennis owns (including all his power tools) as well as several other items we had considered 'luxuries' that we might have to leave behind. And it is all stowed - not a lot of clutter on deck. We have an extensive inventory list that we need to get into Excel so that we can find things as we have them stashed in every nook and cranny on the boat. During that process of sorting and packing, the boat looked terrible for a few days with all our gear piled up on the deck. Thank goodness we had such nice weather those three weeks to allow us the luxury of keeping things out in the open allowing us to concentrate on the projects. Our 'neighbors' were probably happy that the "trailer trash" boat finally cleaned up.
We headed out Tuesday morning at 11:00. We had 10 knots of wind out of the southeast and managed to sail for a few hours. We headed further offshore where the weather grib files we had obtained via email over our radio said we would have better wind. We found more than enough wind and got a lot of practice reefing the sails. Running the reefing lines back to the cockpit worked perfectly again and again and again. The plan was to sail overnight to Punta Baja. But following the wind took us quite a bit offshore and as the wind was from the SE and against the swell, it made for very sloppy seas and the distance to Punta Baja became quite unattractive. So we didn't try to make that and headed instead forPunta Cabras. A pod of dolphins and four spouting whales welcomed us as we approached the anchorage Wednesday at 14:00.
We were in an unfamiliar anchorage with wind blowing just shy of 20 knots so we set the anchor alarm on the GPS. It awakened us in the early morning, but all was OK. We had our wind generator on overnight and realized that it was a good warning tool for increasing winds...another new sound to get used to, but it's not annoying.
Thursday, February 3 we did some projects in the morning including repairing the guard around the bow light . It had broken loose and instead of guiding halyards and other lines near the main mast away from the light fixture, it was gathering them all in. It caused a bit of trouble when taking down the spinnaker the previous night out to sea. This was the first time Dennis climbed the mast in an anchorage - thankfully a calm one, but still a challenge. At 11:00 when we were ready to pull up anchor two fishermen approached us selling lobster and abalone. We declined, but it was tempting. We were able to sail most of that day. We must already be adjusting to the cruising life as we have decided that we will just take short hops down a couple coves rather than more overnighters (the fact that evenings are dipping into the 40's made the decision quite easy). We arrived at Punta Colnett around 17:00.
Friday, February 4 next stop was to be San Quintin at 9:45. Dennis set up the fishing gear, but we only caught a banana peel and some seaweed. It gave us practice on how to handle the boat if we ever do get something on the line. We had calm seas and mild winds so had to do a lot of motorsailing that day. We spent time working on our Weatherfax - we are determined to figure it out and get it working, even though we've been told it is a museum piece. San Quintin is a huge bay and we had the place to ourselves. We arrived around sunset and anchored off the Hotel La Pinta, where we dropped off Greg J. a few years ago on one of the Baja Bash trips. It has been cold, very cold, since we left Santa Barbara. We are wearing long underwear, neck scarves, gloves, and multiple sweatshirts/jackets day and night. We are anxious to get to warmer weather! But the anchorages have been calm and we've been sleeping soundly.
Saturday, February 5 we spent time checking into some of the southbound radio nets (Chubasco and Baja nets) before heading out. We planned another short hop to Punta Baja. We motored most of that day, only sailing, with spinnaker up, for the last hour or so. The variable wind and wind direction has motivated us to try a variety of sail combinations utilizing the new inner forestay and mizzen staysail stay. Dennis is anxious for that day with the wind on the beam at around 10 knots when he can fly all five sails together. Again, we had the anchorage to ourselves. It was a bit rolly, but Dennis' homemade flopper stoppers really calmed down the boat motion. We were determined to learn how to post position reports onto our website from the radio and did so that night.
Sunday, February 6 we awoke to fog. We waited for it to clear before heading out. We planned another overnight trip down to Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay). We have stopped here on our three Baja Haha trips and we are looking forward to visiting the town again, including our favorite restaurants. Favorable NW wind allowed us to sail ALL DAY Sunday and most of the night. It was wonderful and took our mind off of the fact that we weren't hosting or attending a Superbowl party. It was a much milder night trip, no reefing required. We saw the sunrise over Cedros Island. As we passed Pt. Eugenia, the sea was teaming with wildlife. Sealions were frolicking and jumping out of the water; a big gathering of floating seabirds took to the skies as we motored through the center of them and settled back down behind us; huge dolphins swam and jumped alongside the boat and at our bow as we entered Turtle Bay. We could hear music playing from shore and it was warm! We'll stay here two nights, visiting an internet café in town tomorrow so we can post this blog.
If you place a question/comment on this site that desires a response, we will try to review them when we have access to the Internet and add a section to our next update that addresses them. Otherwise you may just contact us through our current email (firstname.lastname@example.org: Dennis or email@example.com: Virginia).
We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves and starting to unwind.
01/31/2011, San Diego Harbor Island West Marina
We must apologize for slinking out of Santa Barbara like thieves but we were still completing preparations up to the minute we had to shove off to avoid the ire of the SB Harbormaster. We also just needed to get out of town as the call of house projects kept luring us away from our boat projects. We would have loved to invite everyone to the boat to show off all our new gizmos but time just did not permit. We've been in San Diego for 3 weeks and made so much progress on the boat items.
We have finally completed all critical projects (after only three weeks!?!), provisioned, and are looking at an attractive weather window for leaving Harbor Island and heading south Tuesday morning, Feb 1 (Santa Ana conditions -offshore breezes into the 15-20 kt range should send us scooting down to Turtle Bay, our first stop in Mexico.
Last Friday we took the boat out of the harbor to test out two of our critical boat projects - the SSB radio and the watermaker. We have tested the email capability of our SSB radio which Dennis installed and all is functional (this is significant because most vendors recommend installation by experienced technicians). This critical piece of communication/information equipment stymied us for a while as we were getting an excessive amount of background noise which we couldn't eliminate, preventing us from hearing anyone clearly. Fortunately we had several experts to consult with (it's not who you are, it's who you know...). A local guy advised that Harbor Island Marinas are notoriously noisy, making reception virtually impossible. We needed to get out of the bay to test our watermaker, so we motored out beyond Point Loma and turned on the radio to discover that we could now hear an operator in Hawaii loud and clear. Problem solved! BTW, the watermaker worked perfectly as well, magically turning salt water into good-tasting fresh water.
As many of you know, Libertad, has gobs of storage space. This turned out to be a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because we could bring an amazing amount of "stuff" to make our voyage comfortable and make us prepared for most contingencies (system failures). A bad thing because we needed to create an inventory spreadsheet to remind us where we stashed things!
We plan to start with an overnighter, if the winds and sea conditions are good, down to Punta Baja. Our second leg will be to Turtle Bay.
Since we are starting 3 months later than originally planned, we are thinking we will delay on crossing the pacific until next season. Those of you that might have been contemplating joining us for the puddle jump will have to wait until Spring 2012. This season we will take more time in Mexico, Central America, and northwest South America - as far down as Ecuador or Peru. Those of you interested in joining us for parts of the trip in those areas, let us know! We'll leave the boat 'somewhere down there' and fly home for a few months in summer/early Fall. But....we'll see how things go...gotta remain flexible!