B.C.S stands for Baja California South. We are now in La Paz, I say we, Kathy is actually in Milan as I write, visiting family, and Jim, who looked after my boat in Sointula B.C. (British Columbia) is with me for a few weeks.
Arriving at La Paz, we were greeted by a fleet of oil/petroleum tankers berthed outside the harbour. La Paz has a small oil processing facility, I’m not sure if it’s a refinery or just a storage depot, but is a bit of an ugly affair right at the narrow channel entrance to the harbour. The approach into the town follows a narrow dredged channel that weaves its way behind a large peninsula called Magote, and then either side of a bank that splits the channel into two.
Careful navigation is required here as the channel is narrow and there are lots of pangas whizzing around. We were greeted by a shoal of dolphins frollicking around our boat on the way in. The previous night we had rested in a little cove just a mile or so north of the channel with Clay and Brenda on their boat so that we could arrive early the next day and find a place to anchor. As it turned out we could get a berth in the marina ‘Marina de La Paz’ and so we booked in for a month, time for a rest.
We had decorated the boat for christmas, which was the next day. A trip to the supermarket and we had everything needed.
The next morning we woke and exchanged presents. This year the presents were limited and not the least bit surprising, as we had discussed what to get each other as we pushed the trolley around the supermarket the day before. We couldn’t be bothered with all the faffing around of trying to secretly check out each others presents, so I threw a couple of bars of chocolate in the trolley for Kathy, and I helped her pick a tin of my favourite spanish tuna for me. Aren’t we romantic in our old age. Christmas day was great, we chilled, the lead up to the day had been completely stress free, Kathy did a bit of cooking and later on we headed over to Clay and Brenda’s boat for a vegan feast.
While I was shopping I was a little shocked to see the faces of ‘Missing Children’ on the milk cartons. A stark reminder that so many people just disappear every year in Mexico.
La Paz is a lovely town, a little touristy, but that’s mostly confined to the Malecon (Promenade), stepping back is a simpler way of life, with lots of small shops and services. It’s quite laid back here
Sadly a few days after Christmas a boat reversing into the berth next to us misjudged their turn and whacked us across the stern. There was no damage to the hull, but they smashed the rudder on the windvane steering, dinging it and twisting the sacrificial connecting tube. The captain, a lady, was very apologetic, and paid me for the cost of a new tube. She blamed the incident on the fact she was from Alberta, a landlocked province in Canada, and so didn’t have the sea in her blood!
It wasn’t many days after Christmas that Kathy had to head home. We had arranged it so that we would fly to Mexico City on the Wednesday, she would be interviewed at the British embassy for her passport on Thursday, Fri-Sun would be for exploring the city, and on Monday she would fly home and I would fly back to La Paz to meet Jim who was flying in from Canada. What could possibly go wrong. I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to fly on internal flights with just my driving license as ID. In fact not much did go wrong. I was quite relaxed until the embassy official pointed out that even with the new passport, and a letter from the police, Kathy would not be able to board without her visa exit slip, which was lost with the passport. We would have to visit immigration and buy a new visa for 600 peso, just to allow her to get through the gate. A further search on google revealed horror stories of long queues at immigration causing people to miss their flights. Low stress levels had started to rise!
On our first night at the hotel in the city, we watched a film on my macbook about the life of the artist Frida Kahlo, and her relationship with the more famous, at least at the time, mural artist, Diego Rivera. This was a great film, and it gave us a focus for our exploration of the art in the city. Of course once you know about something in a bit of detail, you can see it all around you much easier. We visited the old presidential palace and saw great murals Diego painted, we visited his house where he lived with Frida for a while, and Kathy bought A Frida Kahlo Day of the dead figurine/sculpture. I really enjoyed that part of our trip.
Of course, no city trip would be complete if I haven’t dragged Kathy through downtown Fruit and Veg markets, I love seeing the brightly stacked goods, seeming to go on forever, the slightly dodgy looking racks of dead animals never seem quite as attractive, but are a sight in themselves.
On Sunday, our last full day in town we headed south of the city to a district called ‘San Angel’. On the way we took in the main central drag which is closed to traffic on Sundays and becomes a huge malecon where the locals come out and ride bikes/skateboards/roller blades etc. The atmosphere was lovely
San Angel has a little area which has been designated a ‘world heritage site’ because of its outstanding beauty. This has to be one of my favorite places ever. It was charming. so peaceful, relaxed, and the air here was much clearer than in the rather polluted centre of town.
We walked around the two town squares, small stalls sold lovey genuine local craft products and paintings. Kathy bought quite a few gifts to bring home. Several houses had been opened to the public and it made me long to own a property here so I could furnish it with these amazing objects.
A little further down the road we stumbled on a concert being performed in a gorgeous courtyard of an old house, now museum.
Further on we visited an old monastery. Inside was a temporary exhibition local school children had been involved with. There were some great day of the dead creations. I love the way they celebrate the dead here. They seemed to have removed the fear from it and made the whole thing more fun.
An example was found in the crypt below the monastery, we watched a young child exploring all the mummified remains of what I assume were once important people, without any fear, just curiosity.
After San angel, we had a final meal in the city centre and in the morning headed off to the Airport early to get in the queue at Immigration. As it turned out, there was no queue, and the immigration official was ever so nice in helping us get the new visa quickly. So far every official I have met in Mexico has been extremely pleasant and helpful. The people of La Paz are ever so nice, I think I might be here a while.
Kathy got her flight without issue, I flew back to the boat and met Jim. We headed off to the Islands to explore. More in the next posting.
Our first passage after leaving Ensenada was an overnight one, on Friday 22nd November to San Quintin Bay. I didn’t know it at the time but we were en route to see a very different aspect of Mexico than we’d seen in Ensenada. The overnighter was relatively smooth, and the night sky had an abundance of stars; we even saw some shooting ones, or as Paul will have them called ‘meteorites’. The moon didn’t rise until 2am so by the time of my watch two hours later it was high in the sky and although only a crescent, it shone a comforting glowing path on the surface of the water.
After providing us with a good deal of welcome warmth ever since we left the Tropics back in 2018, our heating system chose this passage to break, and this time even Paul’s best efforts couldn’t fix it. We had been using it less and less but it’s generally been after sunset that we need it. Outside temperatures are consistently mild, yet paradoxically it’s inside the cabin that it feels chillier. Paul explained this is due to the sea water being colder, thus causing the interior to cool while the cockpit still felt pleasantly mild after being warmed by the sun all day. Having the oven on for an hour or so emitted sufficient heat to keep the chill off and we had blankets if it was particularly chilly. Down below, checking the course and the AIS that night, I was amused to see one of Paul’s annotations on the open CPN chart we use to navigate; a circle had been drawn around a particular spot, along with the words ‘bigly bad rock’. I’m sure Mr Trump would have approved.
We spotted whales, dolphins, pelicans, sea lions and a
variety of sea birds before we reached San Quintin Bay mid-morning on Saturday.
There were only a couple of other boats anchored in the bay and it was such a
blissfully peaceful spot to rest in we decided to stay until Monday. A full day
at anchor in a calm bay provided an ideal opportunity for Paul to go up the
mast to fix a problematic halyard.
Monday morning saw us weighing anchor at 9am on a cloudy but
mild morning for another overnighter to Cedros Island. Ever hopeful of catching
a fish, Paul put a line out over the stern and we were astonished (the fish
included no doubt), when he hooked one – a big one at that. Unfortunately for
Paul, though not for me and the fish, it got away. The afternoon then became
all about catching one that wouldn’t escape. An alarming-looking hook was
brought into play from one of the lockers in the cabin. Shortly afterwards I
had to go and locate some plasters and a bandage. It seems sharpening a hook
can be hazardous to fingers.
The second one he caught also lived to see another day, due
(apparently) to the line not being strong enough to hold the fish’s weight. The
third one stayed caught, and I saw more of that than I wished to. It was quite
a gruesome event and even Paul felt sorry for it, realising that he needed to
refine his technique in order to make it a quicker end for the poor fish. There
were other more accidental casualties on this passage. A couple of squid met
their end on the bow after landing there sometime during the night, and I
spotted the sad sight of a dead bird under the dinghy as we sat enjoying the
sun at the bow that afternoon.
We enjoyed sailing with no engine for almost 24 hours on this passage. It wasn’t until early Tuesday morning that the wind dropped and we had to switch it on again. The peace through the night had been great. I don’t know why but it makes overnight passages easier without the thrum of the engine (as long as the autohelm is working that is). Anchoring at Cedros Island took three attempts – the holding wasn’t good and the anchor kept dragging but Paul declared it ‘good enough’ after the third attempt.
It was quite late by the time we dinghied ashore. My journal records that it was one of the bleakest, most depressing places I have ever seen. We tied up in the harbour an hour or so before sunset and were welcomed by two boys of about 10. I’d them spotted throwing stones into the water as we approached. They took a great interest in our arrival due to the fact that the wall had dangerously sharp shells and barnacles so it took a while to secure it to avoid the possibility of them puncturing the dinghy. Paul used a few phrases of Spanish to greet them but we didn’t understand their responses, much to their disappointment.
The pictures show the sights that we saw when we ventured into the town. It reminded me of scenes from war-torn countries. There was rubble, broken glass and abandoned and derelict buildings with lots of rubbish and debris before we even got to the main street. The people we met along the way were unfailingly welcoming – all of them greeted us with a smile and a ‘buenos tardes’. The houses we passed were small and basic and several had Christmas trees in the windows. The shops were compact, their facades brightly coloured with the distinctive colours Mexico uses in art and architecture and one of them was so festively and stylishly decorated that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in London’s Oxford Street. The side streets leading off from the main street looked intriguing with their higgledy piggledy houses and dirt track road but it was getting too dark to explore. Also, we appeared to be a sight of interest to the town’s residents and it would have been rude to amble down the roads taking pictures of their houses. We didn’t need to buy anything but went into what seemed to be the main grocery store and a lady showed Paul where the ziploc bags were located. When he went to pay, however, the note he proffered was apologetically refused because it was too crumpled. This has happened a few times in Mexico; they will not accept notes that are dirty, torn or creased.
As the sun began to go down, the street took on an ethereal
quality. The sky was multi-coloured, the pink and orange hues produced an
atmospheric glow on the skyline, especially around the cross on the hill above
the town. For the first time I felt like I was actually in Mexico.
After a very rolly night from the strong ocean swell that drove Paul to sleep in the bunk where the lee cloth prevented him from rolling around, we weighed anchor from our Cedros anchorage at 9am on a cloudy, damp and chilly morning. We hadn’t gone far when we ran over a fishing line. Two brightly-coloured buoys were attached to the boat, dragging behind us and I was worried the line had tangled around the prop. Thankfully it wasn’t long before they drifted off but we were now alert to watch for more. It began to rain heavily just after this which hampered visibility a little but we spotted all the buoys and slowed down accordingly. At one point a fishing boat approached us, the captain concerned enough to point out the location of his fishing marks and in the end I went up to the bow to be sure of spotting them in good time.
We reached Turtle Bay at 3pm but it was too drizzly and dark to go ashore. The forecast had predicted the weather accurately and we woke the following morning to near gale winds. The rocking we’d experienced the previous day was nothing compared to this. It would clearly be too rough to go ashore and we wouldn’t have liked to leave the boat in such strong winds anyway. Paul had to secure the anchor with the snubber (I love that word) and all we could do was sit it out with the rest of the boats in the anchorage. This we did – all day and all night! The wind sounded like that you hear in horror films – whistling and howling as it increased steadily to speeds of 30 or 40 knots. Our position was perilously close to some jagged rocks near the shore which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem but in these conditions could have been disastrous if the anchor dragged. I didn’t fancy the hassle of moving somewhere else in such a choppy sea so there was nothing else for it but to do anchor ‘watches’ through the night. We took two hours each from 8pm, staying awake and checking that our position hadn’t moved on the chart. Paul said it was likely that all the other boats in the anchorage were doing the same and it felt like we were ‘all in it together’. The boat was pitching and rocking so fiercely at times that it was hard to believe we weren’t moving along on the water. The heavy rain that pelted down completed the stormy situation but it was warm and cosy in the cabin – not still and peaceful by any means but warm.
Just before dawn on the 29th November, the wind finally began to abate, the rain stopped and by mid-morning the sun came out and we were able to go ashore. Turtle Bay was slightly better than Cedros Island – slightly. To be fair, these places are not tourist destinations, they are welcome stops on the long journey down the west coast, and Turtle Bay is renowned as the most protected harbour in bad weather, so we were lucky to have been there Naturally, the talk among the other boat owners we met was about their gale experiences the night before and we heard varying reports of recorded wind speeds but one man insisted he’d seen it get up to 50 knots. A local called Pedro greeted us on the pier and we gathered he is the ‘go to’ man for services such as garbage disposal, fuel enquiries and fee-paying for dinghy parking. His palm held out told us he expected a tip for all this information. Later we discovered he is related to the guy who seems to have a monopoly on the fuel for sale. It didn’t go down well that we didn’t require any fuel (Paul had read about the hiked up prices in Turtle Bay).
There was a small sandy beach at the end of the landing pier, with a popular bar/restaurant above it. Before checking it out we took a quick look at the town. We’d passed derelict and graffiti covered wrecks at the end of the pier but the buildings on the main street were in better shape and as in Cedros, several were getting ready for Christmas. The town’s vehicles were in poor states of repair, however, which given the state of the rocky, bumpy roads was no great surprise. A good number of them of them had no number plates, some were missing doors and most were covered in dust and rust. At the bar, named Kuku, which had a pleasant view over the anchorage we had a beer and a coke hoping to catch up on internet things but I was disappointed there because the wifi wouldn’t work on my phone and there was no mobile coverage. We caught up on the news on Paul’s phone but having read more about the December election shenanigans we were no better off really.
We had another full day in Turtle Bay and Paul was able to help a fellow sailor in need of advice regarding steering problems on his boat, Ikigai. Later in the bar, we met Mike and his friend Chris and had a beer and swapped travel stories with them. They told us of their plan to explore the Sea of Cortez after the Christmas break, but shortly after leaving Turtle Bay the following day Mike became a solo sailor when Chris decided to return to America. More pics from our day in Turtle Bay below – including some cats I spotted :-).
December the 1st saw us back at sea for most of
the day. We arrived at Asuncion Bay just before sunset after a sunrise
departure. We had motored all the way, so made the most of the hot water the
engine creates to have showers, and for me a much needed hair wash. Suitably
refreshed and cleansed we set off for the shore in the dinghy to explore and to
seek some wifi. There was no jetty to tie a dinghy to so it had to be a beach
landing – always a stressful thing for me. The surf was strong, I could see huge
waves breaking on the shore and I felt the dread building up at the thought of crossing
those in the dinghy. Paul tried to get me to count the intervals in between
each wave so that we could time our landing and get out without getting wet but
nerves meant I couldn’t concentrate enough to do it. As we approached the
shallows the waves pushed us roughly nearer the shore and sure enough broke
right over the dinghy as I struggled to jump over them to the beach. I didn’t
get too wet that time but the thought of the return journey was on my mind the
entire time we were ashore. Turns out I was right to be worried.
Our first task was to get fuel from the Pemex garage so we carried our three containers there and once Paul filled them with diesel, we lugged them back to the dinghy. Asuncion proved to be a deserted and quiet town. It was a hot sunny day and we wandered up and down the street looking for the advertised internet café…or any cafe.
The internet cafe was closed until 4pm and there were only a few small shops open. One of these is pictured below, along with pics of the main street. It was 1 30 by then and we had seen pretty much all we wanted, so set off back to the beach for the return journey. We had three heavy containers of fuel in the bow and the waves were just as high. Despite Paul’s best efforts to hasten a smooth departure, a huge wave hit us full on before we had crossed the shallows and it soaked me from head to foot with cold water. It might have been a hot day but I was shivering in seconds, my sodden clothes clinging to me and newly-washed air doused in sea water. To say I was annoyed would be an understatement. At least the phones were safely wrapped in our dry bag so it could have been worse but it took me while (and a stiff drink) to calm down.
From Asuncion we went to a place called Abreojos which means
‘open your eyes’, referring to the treacherous rocks and reefs in the area. Luckily,
modern charts allowed us to know exactly where these were in order to avoid
them. Our eyes were open to the more welcome sight of porpoises and pelicans
during the passage. We also had a sea lion accompany us for a good deal of the
way. It was so obviously curious, popping its head up to stare blatantly before
diving and leaping as if putting on a show especially for us. Our eyes also
needed to be open for the many fishing pots bobbing on the surface so as to be
ready to drop the revs and put the gear in neutral when we got close to one.
Abreojos is known for its opportunities to see grey whales
who go there to give birth. Visitors can book a tour with a guide to see the
whales with their calves and apparently they come close so that you are able to
touch them. Unfortunately the weather was against us, even though we were there
at the right season to see them. If we stayed to go on the tour it would have
meant being stuck there for two or three days. It had been a rocky night, the
day was overcast and chilly, and the swell was making it uncomfortable on board.
We discussed options with Clay and Brenda and the consensus was to move on,
even though it meant a further overnighter, to Magdalena Bay with a stop at
Santa Maria Bay on the way.
I watched the sunrise during my watch on Thursday 5th
December and noticed that the scenes we were waking up to were becoming notably
more picturesque as we draw further south. The anchorage was calm and peaceful
in Santa Maria. Paul had been pleased to catch another fish on the way so he
prepared and cooked that for his dinner, using the advice relating to the best
way to ‘dispatch’ it. I was more pleased by the fact that we had picked up a
phone signal on the way, meaning we were finally able to get online during our
Mag Bay, as it’s popularly known, was a fascinating place – like I imagine a hippie commune might look like. Clay and Brenda came to see us not long after we anchored to tell us about the village (and to reassure me that the surf wasn’t bad for going ashore). It had the appearance of a makeshift summer camp, as the dwellings were so near (or on) the beach. We walked up and down the length of the shore, making me sorry that I hadn’t brought my phone to take pictures. The ramshackle, compact single storey homes defy description – think sheds or camper homes with no wheels. I would have loved to see inside one, they looked so cosy and homely and in such a fabulous setting. There seemed hardly any need for vehicles because you can walk the length of the beach in 30 minutes or so but we saw a fair few of them in the usual state of disrepair. We were amused to see dogs in packs chasing trucks driving along the uneven track near the shore.
We had a drink in the bar, which had an incongruous velvet-covered sofa and a rocking chair outside it. There, we asked for directions to the local grocery store and made our way to the quaintest shop I have ever been in. Outside, it bore no resemblance to a shop at all. There were no signs and the door was firmly closed. It was only by asking two men sitting on steps that we knew it was open. Inside, it was a little like a play shop constructed in a house, with a few items randomly placed on shelves in a side-room and some boxes with fruit and veg in the porch. The people were lovely, and so keen to help. We only wanted some soda water but they didn’t have any so, not wanting to leave empty handed we cleared them of their small stock of bananas before returning to the boat.
I never did get the chance to return to take pictures of the village because we moved the boat to a part of the anchorage further away the next morning. Instead, I took pictures of a walk on that part of the shore, where we were thrilled to see stingrays and crabs in the crystal clear water.
On Tuesday 10th December we arrived in Cabo San Lucas. It’s a busy, bustling and very tourist-focused city. It was great to make use of all the marina facilities, shops, and Wi-Fi etc but it was a bit…well I guess ‘in your face’ is the best way to describe it. A walk along the marina promenade meant being constantly assailed with loud requests to buy this, eat here, drink a margarita, try this moisturiser, book a fishing trip and countless other things we didn’t want. Some of them literally came up in front to be in your face and this happened every time we walked into town. Paul’s patience was a lot better than mine on these occasions.
Cabo San Lucas was where we last saw our passports, as told by Paul in his blog post. All I have to add is that I am so pleased it wasn’t me who lost them 😉 It’s a shame we have lost all the exotic looking official stamps from the countries we have been, along with our ten year US visa but after a lot of hassle we managed to sort out an emergency one for me to get home in January and have applied for new ones. The silver lining in that particular cloud is that we get to have an unexpected city break in Mexico City when I pick up my emergency passport.
We were in Cabo until the 16th December and despite the touts and the passports, had an enjoyable time there with the people we had got to know on our travels. We had dinner with some of them in a great vegan restaurant, visited the market in the square to see the Christmas lights and performers, and Paul fixed things that needed fixing. Our Christmas would be spent in La Paz, taking in a few more places on the coast along the way. Pics below of our time in Cabo San Lucas.