04/10/2011, La Paz, Mexico
Part of the plan for the month of April (subject to change, of course) is to use the Marina Palmira as our base of operations and to do small mini cruises out to the off laying Islands of Isla Espiritu Santos and Isla Partida and some of the other anchorages in the area. On Wednesday Peter, Sharon, myself and our newest crew member Bob headed out of the marina for the first mini cruise since being here. We were able to put up the sails right out of the harbor and sailed to a beautiful cove on the mainland called Balandra, you may remember that we had stopped overnight in Balandra on our way into La Paz. Balandra is home to the "world famous Mushroom Rock" (pic). Mushroom rock was created by thousands of years of erosion undercutting the rock. Due to further erosion, hurricanes and locals climbing on it, the rock gave way, since it is "world famous" the city of La Paz went out and propped the rock back up with rebar and cement. More erosion, hurricanes and climbing caused further failures. Finally the city of La Paz, unable to prop it back up, had a fiberglass replica made and that is what you see in the pic, BTW it is rumored that La Paz has a storage room full of fake Mushroom rocks so when there are future failures they can run right out and replace the fake with another fake.
We didn't really have a plan when we left La Paz and due to wanting to check out Balandra better, we decided to hang around the next day and night. Balandra is a beautiful cove which has shallow shoals extending out for several hundred yards, meaning that you can walk out from shore for what seems like forever and still be in knee high water. We hiked, we laid on the beach under a palapa and we mixed it up with the locals. The weather during the day was perfect, but at night a local wind called a Corumuel can come up ranging from a comfortable breeze to a full blown nightmare. The first night we experienced our first Corumuel and it blew pretty good all night and into the morning before dying out mid morning. The second night the Corumuel came up again but not as strong. On Friday we decided to head out to the islands, and due to the Corumuels I picked a large bay between the two island of which the cruise books all said provided the best protection. The bay was beautiful when we arrived in mid afternoon, I set the hook (anchor) and laid out plenty of anchor chain to better hold us should a Corumuel come up. God decided to test my anchoring skills as the Corumuel did indeed come up and with a fury. The wind was howling though Si Bon's rigging, the boat was being violently thrown about and the crew was all awake holding on for dear life. Mini waves were breaking off of our port quarter and I had to put on my life vest and clip into a jackline (safety line) just to crawl out to the bow to check the anchor in the middle of the night.
Morning came and while it was still blowing it had calmed down enough to weigh (pull up) the anchor and head back to the marina. The good news is we were able to sail almost the whole trip, which is very unusual in the Sea of Cortez.
04/06/2011, Los Islotes
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the largest aquarium in the world, on Tuesday we decided to charter a dive trip out to Los Islotes, a small out crop where there is a sea lion rookery, to see if Jacques was right. As luck would have it, the company we went through had hired a professional underwater photographer to take pictures for their brochures and website, so we were treated to a full tour of both Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida on our way to Los Isotes.
On our first dive we found out just how right old Jaques was, there were many fish of all different types and colors, there were starfish everywhere you looked and even the rocks were steaming with colorful marine growth. As we slowly swam around Los Islotes large schools of sardines appeared, by large I mean thousands, and all this time the sea lions would swim by, darting around us and peeking in our masks.
After our first dive we boarded the punga and went over to a beautiful beach where the guys set up a great lunch. We had picked up a bunch of snorkelers on the way out, and they all decided to stay at the beach while Shaybo, our dive master Arturo, the photographer and myself headed back out to Los Isotes, this time we were going to do a drift dive, thats where the boat drops you off one place and you drift with the current getting picked up at a different spot. Upon entering the water it soon became very apparent that things had changed from the first dive, there were now....and I am NOT exaggerating...millions of sardines, with all the sardines the amount of larger fish and also increased substantially, the water was full of sooo many fish you can't believe it, we swam through the sardines and through a narrow gap in the rocks, noticing that the sea lion activity had also increased as they playfully swam about, tugging at Arturos fins.
Once we were back on the panga the excitement level was high, I am a very inexperienced diver, but Shaybo, who is about to become a dive master, Arturo, who has over 5000 dives and the photographer, who has 5000 hours all were jacked up, they all said that this was one of their best dives EVER, and you could tell by their excitement that I had just experienced something very special.
I think Jacques Cousteau was slightly off, as this was like no aquarium I've ever seen.
Please check out the photo gallery of this amazing trip.
Driving in Mexico
04/05/2011, La Paz, Mexico
On Sunday my girlfriend Sharon, who goes by the nickname Shaybo, came down to La Paz to visit for awhile, we're not sure how long because she forgot to get a return ticket, but hopefully she'll be here through April (or until I drive her nuts).
I wanted to be there at the airport when she got here, which was not an easy task, first there are no buses that run from town to the airport, second, a cab was going to cost around 700 pasos, so for 598 pasos I was able to rent a car to get Shaybo, and I was also able to run a few other errands at the same time. Everyone that knows me knows that I am a very nervous driver, my kids friends even nicknamed me Mr. Pokey due the fact that I drive like an old lady. I really wasn't looking forward to driving here, kinda funny that after sailing somewhere around 1000 miles through some of the most hostile environment on earth, and I was more nervous about a 20 minute drive to the airport. The car rental company wanted to upgrade me to a Jetta, but I settled in on the economy model, which I felt would blend in with my fellow drivers better than the shiny Jetta. Before I left to pick up the car my daughter gave me a little advice, she had just returned from Mexico, and she said " Dad you gust have to step on the gas and go for it, and everything will be fine" I decided that I would follow Amber's advice, and turns out she was right, I hauled butt around La Paz dodging in and out of traffic, passing the Mr pokeys as I went and tooting my horn whenever someone pissed me off, I never did figure out why I got so many funny looks but I got Shaybo, ran my errands and now feel good about driving in Mexico.
La Paz, Mexico
04/03/2011, La Paz, Mexico....Duh
La Paz is the largest city and the capital of Baja California Sur, it is a working class city with a population of around 300,000, and is true to it's name, which translates as "the peace." Know for its casual, easy-paced and peaceful lifestyle, La Paz is a "real" mexican city, there are no high-rise hotels or time share salespeople here, in fact, other than my fellow cruisers, who stick mostly around the waterfront, there are virtually no tourists here. There is the beautiful palm fringed malecon (boardwalk) that runs the entire distance of the waterfront, but the real city center is several blocks inland, and is bustling with activity, there are many shops, restaurants, and of course a large cathedral located in front of the Jardine (town square).
Although the American media portraits this to be a horrible place my experience with the honest, friendly mexican people continues to amaze me. The other night I was walking down the malecon when I came across a place called Rin Rin Pizza, a restaurant with a small street cart out front selling slices. Since I haven't had any pizza for over a month, I decided to get a couple of slices and watch the sunset. The young girl, who spoke no english, and myself, who speaks virtually no spanish, agreed that the price was 20 pasos a slice, which is around 1.80 USD. I took my two slices across a busy street and woofed them down, deciding that it was so damm good, I was going back for more. As I approached the cart for round two the young girl quickly handed me 16 pasos and said two was only 24 total I had overpaid for the first two slices, and here was my money back. So now not only did this delicious, spicy mexican pizza only cost about $2.25 for TWO slices, but I was once again treated to the warm, friendly attitude of the mexican people, as this girl could have easily pocketed the money and I would never have known. I bought two more slices and woofed them down too.
Shaybo's flying down today, and I can't wait to continue exploring La Paz with her.
04/02/2011, La Paz, Mexico
One of the cool things about cruising is the people you meet along the way, both fellow cruisers and others. Upon our arrival here at Marina Palmira we ran into (not literally) Santosha, the large catamaran that we were holed up with at Los Frailes waiting out the weather, and the boat in the slip next to us was anchored near us in Ensenada de los Muertos, it's always fun to see people you've met along the way, and compare stories (most of which are true) about your passages. La Paz is full of fellow cruisers coming and going from all over the world, the cruiser community is a tight knit group of which everyone is willing to help everyone else, we all share in the fact that as nice a life as this is, at any moment all hell can break loose, and we are all willing and able to come to the aid of our fellow cruisers, there are many stories that would bring tears to your eyes of someone helping out someone else, there is no money or expectations involved, only to know that someday we will also be in the position of needing a hand.
Before coming into La Paz we anchored overnight in a beautiful cove named Puerto Balandra (pic), Balandra is about 6 NM (nautical Miles) from La Paz harbor so you can be sure we'll be dropping the hook here again soon.
First big leg complete
04/01/2011, La Paz
Yesterday afternoon we pulled into our slip in La Paz where we will spend the next month, we will be coming and going out to the islands for few days here and there, then coming back to the marina for a few days. Around the end of April I will continue up the Sea of Cortez anchor hopping as I go.
When I think back on the past month it's been pretty amazing, all of the places we've stopped and all of the people we've met, it's hard to imagine that it's all happened in a one month period. Our leg down Baja was pretty hard core, even the adventurous Peter commented that it was MUCH more intense than he thought it would be. Since we rounded Cabo we've become cruisers, no real plans, no real agenda...anchoring in bays and coves along the way, watching the weather and deciding when we would move along to the next piece of paradise. I would say again to people that are thinking about cruising "IT'S NOT THAT DIFFICULT", and to anyone with a dream, whatever it may be, set your goals, make your plans and do it, it's nice to dream, but it's nicer to "live the dream", remember that I'm just a regular dude, I'm a decent sailor (not some crusty old salt) and I've learned to do some basic repairs in an emergency (not a mechanic), but that's it, I set goals, I planned and I executed the plan...and here I am.
Soooo.....still no horror stories to tell....and still no fish.