La Paz

May 28, 2001. La Paz, Mexico.

Hello everyone!

Yes we made it to La Paz 10 days ago, and since then we have seen 9 movies, eaten numerous ice creams and diners out, bought newspapers and generally enjoyed city life! La Paz is fairly large with about 150 000 inhabitants and we have walked many miles through it to check-in with the Port Captain and Immigration and to find bakeries, video stores, movie theater, banks, etc. My legs were sore for the first few days from the intensive walking after so many weeks of staying on the boat. The supermarkets are well stocked and their products are more similar to American ones. The brown sugar, canned tomatoes, kidney beans, and other difficult to find products in PV are all readily available here. I assumed it is because more Americans actually live here (versus mostly tourists in PV?) and because of the relative proximity of the border.

We are anchored in a sort of virtual marina. The marina is under construction with a few pilings in place but no docks. In the mean time, you can anchor within the boundaries of the marina and get garbage collection service, access to a pool, showers and bathrooms, and laundry and propane deliveries for about 30 dollars for 2 weeks (which includes the port fee). The area is also much more protected from the wind than the outer anchorage where you still have to pay a daily port fee to anchor.

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We have experienced the famous La Paz waltz which refers to the unpredictable dance of the boats around their anchor. The current is very strong here and competes with the wind to force boats one way or the other. Full keel boats like Temptress follow current unless the wind is strong, while fin keel or shallow boats react more to the wind. So boats may face each other, be a right angles or push forward on their anchor rode, depending on the conditions. This means each boat need more room and finding a good spot is very difficult because you do not know how the boats around you will react and where they will end up being in various conditions. We did “kiss” another boat at 5 AM (without damage) and had to re-anchor in the dark. There was nobody on the other boat. We are glad we were not here during the busy La Paz race week.

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Check the various boat headings in the anchorage.

We plan to leave Saturday June 1 unless we are not able to complete the boat import permit on time (we are still waiting for the inspector to come inspect the boat) or unless the hurricane currently travelling north forces us to stay here. The import permit is required to allow us to leave Temptress in Mexico while travelling in the US during the summer.

Isla Partida

May 17, 2001. Isla Partida (Ensenada Grande), Mexico.

We spent 6 days in Isla Partida resting from the crossing and doing maintenance on the boat. Clark repaired, refastened, and lubed various boat parts and I polished the stainless steel again. It had become very stained with rust in the increasingly humid weather. I hope the dry heat of the sea of Cortez will reduce the rate of corrosion. We also cut each other’s hair on the beach. Then we went for a walk which was more like a hop from boulder to boulder in a ravine between two steep hills. It was scenic but tiring and we did no go far.

We met new friends on Sundancer and played “Mexican Train” (a domino game) with them, then Clark got a fun water ski ride on a surf board towed by their powerful dinghy.

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The anchorage is very pretty with strange rock formations in varying shades of red and pink with a few cactuses in the cracks, a geologist’s dream. The water is turquoise green with the sun reflecting from the bright white sand at the bottom. The water is so clear that we could not tell how deep it was when we were approaching the beach in the dinghy. But we could see clearly fish darting away at our approach. We went snorkeling along the rock face, but not for long because the water is still cold.

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During the day the anchorage is usually very calm with little wind but a strong southerly wind, the Corumel, often start in the evening and blow hard (15 to 25 knots) until morning. You better be anchored securely! Last night, it blew particularly hard and whipped up a chop which made us pitch all morning, a first since we have arrived in Baja.

Today we left Isla Partida and sailed to Caleta Lobos, an anchorage on Baja mainland closer to La Paz. We saw whales on the way, which was exciting. Tomorrow we will likely sail to La Paz.

We hope all is well with you.

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No it is not a prayer, Clark is about to throw pizza dough in the air, just like a pizza chef!

Isla Partida

Friday May 11, 2001. Isla Partida (one of the islands north of La Paz)
N 24 31.5 Sunny warm (Air 90F Water75F) Clear skies no wind
W 110 23

We survived our crossing! Actually it went very well. We stopped for a day in Mazatlan to get fuel and rest. It turned out to be a very good decision. In that day a southerly wind pattern got established. We made the whole 250 miles passage in about 44 hours with 16 hours of engine use. Since we mostly used the engine in the last leg against 20k of wind and waves going only about 2-3k over the bottom we traveled most of the way under sail. Most of the trip we had following wind and seas adequate to push us from 5 to 8 knots. We did seem to have about a half knot of current against us most of the way so maybe my knot meter is off a bit. This is the first passage (including the trip to Hawaii) in which I felt I got enough sleep. I felt so much better. Birgitta still doesn’t like crossings (not even a little bit) but she didn’t get seasick at all and did not take any medication. We are both getting used to it. I listened to a lot of Jimmy Buffet on the way. Back in Seattle I never cared for Jimmy but I guess you need to hear it down here to appreciate it.

We arrived early this morning. We were pushing into some bad conditions and the sun was just coming up so I decided to drop into a different anchorage than we had planned. It was closer (by only about 5 miles) but as we were only making about 2 knots over the bottom and were very tired and getting wet I thought it would be a good idea. It was. Upon entering the wind dropped way down and the waves stopped. I must repeat myself here “THE WAVES STOPPED”. We haven’t felt the boat not move except for our time in the marina in PV since we entered Mexico. Mainland Mexico doesn’t really have many (or any) protected anchorages and it is exposed to the swell from the pacific. Here there are lots of well protected anchorages and there is no swell as the peninsula of Baja protects the whole sea from that. It feels like we are anchored in Port Madison in the Puget Sound except for the weather and the clear water and the view.

Speaking of view, crossing the sea is like traveling to another planet. The mainland side has trees and other general green things. Here it looks like Mars. Grey rocks, red rocks, pink rocks, black rocks and a bit of scrub. It is also much hotter. (Birgitta feels this requires us to eat our unrefrigerated chocolate so it won’t melt). But it is also much less humid so the heat isn’t as bad. Though I am concerned what the coming months will offer.

We are happy to be here. Many cruisers just come here and never visit mainland. We opted for the mainland because we were spending more then a year in Mexico and it can be a bit cold here in the winter. We understand that the diving here is great (once the water warms up a bit more it should be perfect) with clear water and lots of fish. There are lot’s of good harbors that are only a short day sail from each other so we should be able to sail more. We usually sail wherever we go (if it is not upwind and the wind is sufficient) but lately we feel we have been motoring too much. Not because of no wind but because there was never enough to get where we need to be before dark.

At Sea

Sea of Cortez 5/10/01 1:00pm
N 24 12 Partly cloudy skies air 87F water 75.5F
W108 53.5 14k of wind from 133M Course 275M Speed ~7k

Been a great crossing wind wise. So far we have run the engine about 7 hours (I haven’t checked the counter yet, guess) and have traveled about 150 miles. Wind has been out of the south east most of the time. This is great as it is well behind us and giving us a nice push. Usually the wind in this area is from the north west and one has to motor or tack into it. I understand that the Pacific High, the big stable high pressure system that usually lives over Hawaii and controls the weather for the north pacific, has broken down for the time being. That has proven lucky for us.

Got a call yesterday from a boat called Vantana who is a couple days ahead of us. They knew we were behind them because we were in Isla Isabella together but they went straight when we stopped at Mazatlan. They called all the boats behind them and told us about a huge fishing net at sea. I guess the thing was 3 miles long and lit only at the ends. We took a slightly more northerly course and missed it by 7 miles or so. Saw one of it’s lights about 5 miles SE of it’s reported location. As the current is on the nose (moving SE) most of the time that makes sense.

We gave up on the fishing lines yesterday. Caught a small (really small I don’t know why he wasn’t afraid of our lure) Mexican bonito. We decided to let him go. That is all we caught in about 75 miles of line dragging so we decided to give up. I think I saw one flying fish in the night but that’s about all. Birgitta saw a ferry in the night.

Having problems with the Shaft Lock ™. It breaks pins. I think the thing is designed poorly. But the big problem I have with the device is the owner of the company knows this is a flaw in his system and charges over $80us for a little plastic pin. He blames owners for using it wrong. OK you could use it wrong and ware out a pin but I don’t. My unit breaks pins. I managed to talk him out of a pin a couple of years ago but last time I asked my mom to get one for me and he was a wall. So right now we are letting the propeller spin. I guess it slows us down a bit but mainly I don’t like hearing the noise. Also the spinning shaft is putting some ware on our cutlass bearing that is unnecessary. Hopefully I can fix it or I will have to resort to a vice grip on the shaft.

We should be making landfall at about 4am. We are headed for an island called Partita, which is a bit north of La Paz. We plan to hang out at natural harbors for a week or so then run into La Paz in plenty of time for Birgitta’s birthday (5/25). We will likely be entering at night but this one looks easy and we have radar and a full moon with night vision equipment at our disposal so we expect no problems.

At Sea

May 9, 2001. At sea – Between Mazatlan and La Paz
N 23 21″ Sunny Warm (80F air 74F water)
W106 49″ Course 282 M Speed 6.5-7k Wind from 160M at 11k 1 foot of wave no swell

We left Mazatlan this morning (not too early) and upon getting out of the harbor we were greeted with a south wind. We decided to take advantage of it even though we thought it was probably a land effect. Well that was 6 hours ago and we still have it. We talked to a few friends also making the crossing and found that the wind is similar even 200 miles away on the other side of the sea. This is great! I expect we have picked up on one of those southerlies that are suppose to happen in May and June. Boats making this crossing last week got strong wind and steep waves from directly ahead. We are loving it. Best sailing of the trip by far. We were seeing sailing as a necessary evil to get you to a nice harbor. This is truly fun. Just sit in the shade of the bimini and read a book while the boat sails along at 7knots. Nothing to do but listen for the radar or look at the horizon now and again. The trip is so nice that Birgitta is eating. I mean really eating (lunch, chocolate, fruit, cookies….). Usually she just shuts down during crossings, eating maybe a bit of yogurt.

We cleared the decks for the crossing (disassembled the dingy for the first time since December). It is so nice to be able to walk around on the fore deck. Usually we don’t go up there unless there is something that needs doing but today it’s fun just to sit on the bow pulpit and watch the water go by. Just like in the Puget Sound.

After this crossing we will be on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. This stretch of shoreline has really good anchorages and no ocean swell. Unlike the mainland coast with it’s poor protection and rolly swell we are looking forward to some nice quiet anchorages. Also the diving is suppose to be great.