La Paz and back to boat jobs

The trip back from Puerto Escondido to La Paz was a bit of a sleigh ride. For the first few days we had 15-20 knot winds from behind. The trip was fast. We stopped at El Gato, then Isla San Francisco, and finally at Caleta Lobos on the peninsula, just a few hours out of La Paz.
We fuelled up before setting off, but the engine barely ran at all and we arrived with a near full tank. We had used 100 litres on the trip north. So quite a saving with diesel at £1/litre

Part of the journey was in black and white. (This could have been Steinbeck’s ship)
Towards the end of the trip, the weather calmed enough for Jim to chill out on the side deck.

We motored into La Paz town around low water, especially low because of the spring tides, and we were shocked to see just how far out the sand banks came to the channel. People had walked out into the middle of what is normally a fast flowing estuary. It looked like fun, and reminded me of the fun times we had with the kids when you used to sail out to the West Hoyle sand bank and ground the boat as the tide went out and picnic on the pristine sand there.

It was good to tie up in Marina La Paz again, just a couple of slips up from where we first arrived back in December. We soon noticed a Sea Shepherd ship tied up at the end of the marina. They have been checking on water quality in the bay here, looking at plastic and pollution levels with the local authorities.
For those who don’t know, the Sea Shepherd organisation are doing great work in trying to protect the Vaquita porpoise in the sea of cortez. The were thought to be extinct here, but a few have been spotted. In an article from their website here they state..
“Sea Shepherd removes illegal gillnets from vaquita habitat to protect the mammal from getting ensnared in nets set to catch another endangered species, the totoaba fish.
Totoaba is targeted for its lucrative “buche” or swim bladder, which is trafficked and sold in black markets in Asia. The bladders are consumed in a soup believed to have beneficial health properties, despite lack of scientific evidence confirming such claims. “

La Paz was more sleepy than when I left, but also a bit warmer which was nice, especially as the UK was being battered by storms and flooding.

The mooring area viewed from La Paz Malecon.

On Monday I hired a car and drove Jim to the airport at San Jose del Cabo. I must have caught a bit of food poisoning or a touch of corona virus. We did eat out the night before with Mike and his Californian girlfriend Shauna, but everyone else seemed ok, so I don’t know. either way it was a most uncomfortable ride to the airport, with lots of stops along the way. I drove back along the coast to Cabo San Lucas, and saw the non stop development of the coast with the construction of huge luxury hotels/spa resorts. There was barely an undeveloped spot along the whole stretch of 20km.

Back at the boat the next day I rested and started on my long list of tasks. The first was to replace my stolen visa. We replaced Kathy’s at the airport, it took 15 minutes at the immigration office. and was no big deal. La Paz Immigration was to be another story. It took 5 visits over two weeks, including an interview, a very rude bank clerk, and a few new friends from amongst the crowd seated in the waiting room at Immigration, where we all clung to our numbered ticket, waiting to be called. I spent so much time there the ladies behind the counter new me quite well and would just call out my name “Mr Paul” when I was needed. I now have my Visa, it still expires in May, I was going to ask them to add a couple of weeks to my permitted 180 days, as I had spent nearly two weeks with them!

On the spur of the moment I decided to replace the plywood panel that supports my instruments in the cockpit. It had started to delaminate and the last time I took it apart a large piece ripped off the back. Also it was looking tired and the speaker /thermometer and cigar lighter didnt work, so I figured I could remove them.

First job after removing instruments from the old panel was to cut a new one to the same shape
Ready to be varnished
Sealed with Epoxy, then 3 coats of varnish
Back in Situ.

The plywood wasn’t the best quality, but it’s an improvement on what I had.
Next I had to find out why the lever on the head wasn’t staying in place. That turned out to be a spring not adjusted properly, so was an easy fix, however when I was doing that I noticed one of the head seacock pipe connections was badly corroded.

This is a stainless steel clamp, but I suspect the bolt used is a lower grade stainless.

Having repaired the hose with 2 new clamps, next on the list was to book my PADI dive course, I popped down to Mike’s boat and we worked out a plan for fixing his two bilge pump problems, and while I was there at his marina I booked onto a PADI Open Water dive course, to start in ten days time. I have a massive theory book to read and understand before my first lesson, I’m a little excited about this, as it’s not that long ago in my mind that I was scared of going underwater and couldn’t even swim when I started the cruising life.

I keep seeing places here that I would love to own, This hotel california looks so classic mexican.

Today the La Paz carnival begins and runs until Monday. It’s mostly performances with lots of stages and stalls along 1 mile of the Malecon. Each day there is a big float parade. It reminds me of the festivals we visited in Barcelona, like the Festa Major de Gracia.

I will know more later as I’m now off to check out the fish tacos that are bound to be on offer, along with a couple of churros (basically long doughnuts) I hope.

I have just started making my own juices, it’s a healthy way to stay hydrated, tastes great and also is very cheap. I had no idea how easy it is to make real lemonade.

I’m going to be in La Paz docked for the next 4 weeks until Tim and Asta arrive, when we will hit the sea again. Hopefully I can finish all my boat jobs by then.

Paul Collister

PS Apologies for the multiple notifications that were sent out about this blog post, I’m still struggling with the postie system.

La Paz, to La Paz with Canadian Jim

Having seen Kathy off on her flight back home in Mexico city, I headed back to La Paz where Jim would be arriving from Canada later that day.

Before going through security, I marched off to the other side of the airport to see if I could see the runway and Kathy’s flight taking off. It turned out the other end of the airport was just as bad for a view, so I headed for security to get airside. At that point I realised I no longer had my suitcase with me, I quick marched back to my starting point and found my bag just sitting there, all on its own. Fortunately nobody had bothered to pay it any attention, so off I went to get ready to board. I had a few hours to kill, so out came my macBook and I started working on the software for my Raspberry Pi computer.

SisterMidnightPi Linux/Apache/MariaDB/PHP etc etc

The Raspberry Pi computer is a tiny little thing, that packs a mighty punch. I picked one up a few weeks ago so I could play with automating some technology on the boat. First off I wanted a way to record the wind average and wind gusts constantly so I could work out if the gales were getting worse of perhaps receding by looking at graphs. It’s imprecise, but a bit of fun. Eventually I expect it to be sailing the boat around the world, automatically booking itself into marinas, and sending emails to me at the old folks home, telling me what a great time it’s having!.

The Pi captured this data the night we dragged anchor

While I waited to board, a couple of old folks turned up being pushed in wheelchairs, with matching gold and silver bags, each of which contained a chihuahua .

On arrival at La Paz airport, I found all of the Uber’s to be booked out, so rather than pay 3 times the Uber price for a normal taxi, I decided to wait, and catch up on my emails for a while, a few minutes later a young man approached me and asked for help, normally I would be wary of strangers asking for help at the airport, but there’s something about Mexico, and the people here that puts me at ease. This chappie had flown in with me on the flight from Mexico and wanted to know if I knew my way around La Paz, he had heard bad things and was nervous, he was told there were no hostels to stay in. I offered to let him ride into town with me in my Uber for free and I would try to help him find accommodation. As it turned out, Patricia in the marina pointed him to a hostel just around the corner. My new friend, Arturo, had travelled to La Paz to experience the sea of Cortez, he hoped to get work in a dive school, and explore the sea. He had just finished his exams for a Linguistics degree and his English was very good. We agreed to stay in touch, he might be able to help me learn Spanish and I could help him improve his English. 

A few hours later Jim arrived by coach from Los Cabos, he dumped his bags on board and we headed downtown for a meal. The next day Jim had a look around town, and I chased up the various people who were doing jobs for me. The outboard engine repair man hadn’t done the Suzuki service yet, but promised it for the next day. The canvas man was still not responding to my emails. Eventually a date was fixed for him to come and measure up.  Jim and I took the boat out and we had a pleasant day motoring up the bay to the fuel dock about 5 mies away, and then back.

At the fuel dock we were very impressed by a massive motor Yacht/gin palace, I didn’t see it but apparently there was a high speed motor launch accompanying it, used by the special services. Later we heard that the Motor Yacht was owned by Steven Spielberg and the guests on board were Barrack and Michelle Obama. We heard they had been out paddle boarding and kayaking in the coves and bays around La Paz and the islands. I expect they had been following this blog and wanted to check the place out for themselves. 

A few days later and the dodger had been measured up and templates made for its replacement, this will take a few weeks, but when I return to La Paz with Jim they should be able to get stuck into finishing it.

Jim and I visited a funky diner close to the marina where they cook burgers on a hotplate fitted into the front of a big truck, a bit gimmicky, but the whole place had a nice feel about it.

At last my passport arrived, the main hurdle keeping me in La Paz,

I was expecting the European reference to be removed, even though we are still full members of the EU, but still sad to see it go. By the time I publish this we will have left the EU, a stupid act that I think will harm the ordinary people of the UK massively. Hopefully Britain can realise its new position in the world order and adjust accordingly. I feel confident that it will rejoin Europe in a decade or so and play a more involved role than before.

The outboard arrived back serviced and performing like a new machine, and with my passport stowed away safely, Jim and I provisioned for a few weeks at sea and headed of to the islands of Espiritu Santo. We had a pleasant motor up to our first stop at Ensenada de La Gallena (Gallena Cove). There was a bit of wind and swell, but we had a pleasant night there and the next day we pushed on to Playa Candelero. Here we spent two nights snorkelling and swimming with the many colourful fish. We saw many Rays jumping out of the water and it was so clear we could see the bottom in 30ft of water. We watched turtles swimming around as we dinghies ashore.

Finally getting out to explore the sea

The next stop was on the island to the north of Espiritu, called Isla Partida. First we visited Partida Cove. I had a great Kayak ride along the shoreline. There was a small seasonal fishing village here, just a few shacks, locked up. And a little stream that connected the main cove on the west of the island with a cove on the East.

The next day we moved up a few coves to Ensenada Grande, another idyllic setting, white sand beaches, clear water, and a trail we took to the eastern side of Partida Island. 

Sailing to Isla San Francisco

From Partida we continued north west to Isla San Francisco and a bay known locally as the hook, looking at the picture you can see why.

This was a stunning location, ashore we explored a dried out lagoon, and walked to the eastern shore of the island. Back on the boat we were a bit put out when the large motor yacht next to us started blasting out bland Mexican pop music. The young couples on board were being served by white suited waiters on the fly bridge dining area! Not long after that we saw a huge shoal of fish flying out of the water in panic, followed by a huge whales mouth. The whale chased the fish into the anchorage. 5 minutes later, a huge spurt of water, a snorting sound and the whale was just 20 metres off the side of our boat heading our way. Five minutes later it passed us and resurfaced next to the motor launch. The women on board all screamed in unison, they seemed quite scared. But in true whale watching style, their staff prepared the tender and the all jumped in and took chase after the whale. The whale being no idiot, dived and we didn’t see him/her again.

The next day, Jim decided to climb to the top of the hill overlooking the anchorage. You can see him (just) in the picture.

From Isla San Francisco we continued north to San Evaristo, via the salt mines at Salinas. A processing facility there had been abandoned with bulldozers and trucks left to decay in the elements. 

Lots of salt left over.

A short hop from the salt mines over to Evaristo took a couple of hours and we anchored with 8 other boats in the big bay there. It had been a while since we had internet, so our weather forecasts were now unreliable and we needed to get a better prediction. 

Getting our spuds weighed in the local tienda

San Evaristo is a lovely bay, the people here are very friendly, there is a small tienda (shop) and a little restaurant. Maybe 30 houses in the village, a small school, a desalination plant and quite a few fishing pangas. We were able to buy freshly caught fish on the beach from fishermen as they arrived with their catch. 

Seagulls and Pelicans take advantage of the fish cleaning
A Parga being expertly filleted for me by a local headless fisherman.

That night in Evaristo we had a very strong westerly wind arrive, this might have been a chabasco, which is a wind caused by a difference in pressure between the big pacific and the narrow Sea of Cortez. The winds rush across the peninsula, particularly in the La Paz region where the land is relatively flat. We had mountains here and thought we would be safe, but perhaps not. The wind blew hard and I couldn’t go to bed, as I was worried we might start dragging our anchor. Around 1AM it became clear we were dragging, and soon we were in deeper water and moving fast. Fortunately we were being blown offshore and there were no boats in our way. I started the engine and that woke Jim. I brought the anchor in enough to remove the snubber, a long rope used as a shock absorber on the chain, and then let out an extra 20 metres of chain hoping we might set. However we continued to drag at about 2 knots in the strong wind. I had to recover the anchor now and motor back into shallow waters and reset it. Jim did a great job of keeping the boat pointing into the wind while I brought in ten meters at a time, after each 10 metres I ran below and flaked the chain. Eventually the anchor came into sight, however it didn’t look like an anchor, more like a monster from below. We had collected a stack of weed, probably as we dragged. There was a mound of grass/kelp, maybe 1 metre in diameter and a metre high. I had to get my hull scraper tool out to slice away at it. This took a while, fortunately while I did this, Jim skilfully manoeuvred us back in-between the other anchored yachts and held us there ready for another attempt at anchoring. This was no easy feat for Jim as it was pitch black, and the wind was howling though the bay. I cleared the weed, dropped the anchor and we quickly set in the sand below us. All in all we spent an hour getting the hook up and then back down. Jim went to bed, and I stayed up until 5:30 waiting for the wind to subside a bit. The anchor held well. I still don’t know why it dragged, but suffice it to say ‘nothing is guaranteed’ 

A smaller amount of weed the next day
Beach debris
Salt ponds
more salt ponds
This town has a herd of cattle, they didn’t seem happy to see us!
Another sunset in the Sea of Cortez

We left Evaristo for El Gato, named for the Cougars that used to occupy the area. So far every anchorage we had visited had to protect us from northerly winds, El Gato could do this, and as the wind was moving to the west/south west, it also offer great protection for that possibility as well.

El Gato has great geology, the rock strata is real school textbook stuff. Sadly it was very overcast during our stay so we didn’t even go ashore to check it out. We have made a note to explore on our way south.

From El Gato it was a short hop to Agua Verde, considered to be one of the most beautiful bays on the coast, and it didn’t disappoint.

We popped ashore and did some basic provisioning at the local shop, really not more than a shed in someone’s garden, but good for eggs, no doubt from the hens we saw wandering around the property. 

While we had a drink and fish tacos at the restaurant, we met Robert, an American from Las Vegas. Robert was typical of the people we meet, by being very untypical of most people. He had been working in the construction industry, house building, for most of his working life and had progressed up the ranks really well. So well he had been promoted to a lofty position which entailed him managing managers, working long hours and not doing very enjoyable work. His housebuilding was mostly about paperwork and stress. He had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass operation. This made him think about his priorities and he quit work and bought a boat. He has sailed down to Mexico and is on his way to New Zealand/Austrailia via the South Pacific on his own. We were discussing the best places for people watching and he mentioned how interesting it was seeing weirdos at Venice Beach while he was remodelling Charlie Chaplin’s house. Later he mentioned how much fun he had when he was gold prospecting in North California. As you do! Robert is such a nice Guy, I’m hoping we will meet up with him in the Pacific again.

The hit squad of Agua Verde, for some reason the remind me of the Beatles

Aqua Verde, like many of the places we have visited in Mexico have impressed us with their dedication to the environment and wildlife. The restaurant was advertising the dangers of plastic to animals and fish. It’s great that these communities, that have so little in material things are so committed to the cause. 

Pork is an option at certain times.
Vultures watch over the local church
We are on the right

A small cruise ship arrived while we were there, the Safari Endeavour, it has about 80 passengers and seems to be trying to be eco friendly, if this is possible remains to be seen.

The local press tout this as a great opportunity for the economy, as there hasn’t been a cruise ship in the sea of Cortez for a long time, citing zillions of pesos for the local economies. Let’s hope they can keep it small and eco focussed.

We left Agua Verde for the short hop up to Puerto Escondido.

We were headed to Loreto, to visit the Missions there. Basically the missions were the churches the original Spanish invaders built throughout the country as bases for the conquest. I think there’s more to it than that, but I haven’t really looked into it yet. However they only built the church, not a decent harbour or Marina, so yachts had to wait another 250 years for one to be built 20 miles south at Puerto Escondido.

View from the Pizza bar at Puerto Escondido

Here the hills create an almost landlocked lagoon. It’s considered to be one of the best hurricane holes on the coast here, and I may well consider moving the boat here later in the year when the hurricanes start. The marina was to pricey for me to stay in, so we picked up a quite pricey mooring ball for a couple of nights. We have full use of the marina facilities, including the laundry, showers and swimming pool/jacuzzi. We decided to hire a car and head into Loreto rather than try to anchor off the coast in a very exposed area. Just after we arrived we bumped into Robert, we had seen him on the AIS heading up here from Agua Verde so offered him a lift into town in our hire car, which he gratefully accepted. He had blown out the clew on his headsail and ripped his spinnaker on the way up here. His gas(LPG) regulator had also failed, so wanted to look for a replacement.

Jim & Robert in Loreto

Loreto is a lovely town, full of friendly helpful folk. We had breakfast after a walk around the mission church. We did some shopping for presents and souvenirs.

Later we headed up into the mountains of the Sierra Gigante to find the other mission church.

When we arrived we were bowled over by the location and the church itself. Built around 1750 and still the original building, it looked fantastic, surrounded by orange and lemon trees, we sat in a cafe and had freshly squeezed orange juice, no doubt made from some of the oranges lying around the trees there. 

Don’t mess with these Pelicans

A short ride back into Loreto and we provisioned up at the supermarket with enough food to get us back to La Paz. We leave tomorrow (Wed 5th Feb) for a fast ride back so Jim can catch his flight home. Strong Northerly winds are forecast so we should have a great sleigh ride back.

By the time we had loaded up the dinghy at the Marina for the 10 minute ride back to the mooring field, the wind had reached 20-25 knots and our little dinghy was no match for the waves, we bounced up, off and into the waves. We both got soaked, but at least the water wasn’t that cold. 

Paul Collister