First trip into the Sea of Cortez

Also known as The Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is the span of water that separates the Baja peninsula from the Mexican mainland. John Steinbeck and his friend, Ed Ricketts famously documented their 1940 exploration of its tide pools in a book called The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Their expedition was a 4,000-mile trip which combined marine biology, philosophy, ethics and art. Our trip would be less adventurous and although we have been known to engage in the odd philosophical discussion and converse about the arts, they won’t be documented here. Ours was a shorter, more leisurely trip but we did anchor in some of the bays that Steinbeck and his crew visited in their boat, Western Flyer. This is an account of my impressions of the islands and anchorages we stopped at on our journey north on the eastern side of the peninsula.

Before we left, Paul bought fish from the locals near the marina. Pelicans are always present here, waiting for scraps
They are always rewarded for their patience

We weighed anchor from the bay in La Paz at the end of October and I experienced the delight of being back on the water after months of city life in the UK. The conditions were ideal: sunny, a fresh breeze, a gentle swell from the previous night’s storm and a cloudless blue sky. We were heading for the delightfully named Balandra Bay which sounded to me like a location straight out of a children’s story.  The swell increased as we drew near to it, however and we were unable to anchor there because it would have been far too rolly. It looked stunningly beautiful, and as Paul has been there several times he knows there is a sea lion colony there. We hoped to be able to stop there on our return journey.

Balandra Bay (spot the rock shaped like a mushroom)
On the way to Partida

The main event of this passage was Paul’s successful attempt to catch his dinner. It’s still a fairly rare occurrence but he does seem to be getting the hang of it now 😉 .

Reeling one in

We anchored at 4pm in Partida Cove. The water was beautifully clean and clear. I was delighted to see turtles popping their leathery necks up, and it’s always entertaining to watch the diving antics of the pelicans. We had one fishing boat as a neighbour when we dropped anchor but a bit later a large catamaran and a few yachts arrived. Soon, the noise of family chatter, children’s shrieks and music broke the silence but not in too obtrusive a way. Just before sunset we dinghied near to the shore to check out the pelicans diving for their evening meal. Some of them came close enough for me to see the bottom of their feet as they soared down to their prey. One of the boats had released a drone to capture the scenes from above and I wondered what the pelicans made of the strange, noisy bird in their air space.

Neighbours in Partida Cove
Moonrise in Partida Cove

We stayed another day at Partida. The weather was perfect, and I had quickly got used to being without the internet. In fact, I found it emancipating to not have all the negative bulletins and news rolling in, both verbally and through social media. Such information saturation tends to predispose you to worry and anxiety I think. Out on the water, we were literally and emotionally removed from it all. Also, there was no need to wear masks as we were naturally socially distanced from people. We felt free to merely appreciate the beauty of the sights and sounds of the scenes around us.

Peace and tranquility

One of those sights was the seasonal fishing village on the shore. The tide was so low that we were able to get out of the dinghy and pull it quite a distance to the beach. In the clear shallows we spotted more turtles, manta rays and the ubiquitous tiger (black and yellow-striped Nemo) fish. The village was deserted, either through Covid restrictions or being off season, so we were able to amble freely around the wooden structures which reminded me of allotment sheds. It’s odd how a few deserted, padlocked huts and shacks, with their outside chairs and fish gutting tables left in situ, convey something of an eerie atmosphere, especially as the ground was littered with skulls and bones and fish skeletons…or maybe I just had Halloween on my mind. I hadn’t taken my phone to capture the images unfortunately. At least there were no plastic bottles and empty cans littering the area, and we ended the afternoon with a cooling swim and snorkel.

Next morning, I was up early, sitting in the cockpit watching sea turtles. Their heads pop up periscope-like, revealing their striking green and yellow necks and coal black eyes for a brief moment before they sink out of sight below the surface. Our destination that day was just a short hop away to Isla Espiritu Santo and we were on our way there by 10 enjoying the mid-morning sun and sea breeze. Candeleros (Candlestick) Cove had been closed to visitors for a few weeks when Covid struck but Paul had been there with Jim just before the pandemic and latterly with Arturo as restrictions were relaxing. During their visit in August they had been the only two there and had seen goats all over the island. We joined several tourist boats as well as catamarans and yachts when we anchored early in the afternoon. Umbrellas on the beach were sheltering picnickers, and dinghies were frequently ferrying people back and forth. The goats, who had probably made the most of having the place to themselves when visitors were banned must have retreated back into the hinterland. The striking rose-pink rock formations and tall mountains surrounding the long sandy beach made an attractive vista from the boat, and didn’t disappoint once ashore.

Candeleros from a distance

We made straight for the trail behind the beach, passing this huge chair-shaped rock which has no doubt hosted hundreds of bottoms before ours.

It was blisteringly hot by then but luckily it wasn’t too arduous a walk, although there was a bit of climbing involved in some places – not the easiest thing to do in flip-flops. The landscape, with its stereotypical cactus plants, boulders and arid scrubland couldn’t have been more Mexican. I was thrilled by it. Hearing movement near a tree, I could just make out the distinctive horns of a goat. Sadly, it remained behind the tree despite our attempts to stay still and quiet, so we left it in peace and walked on. Ahead, we saw a group of people higher up the trail. The shrieks of delight we could hear turned out to be due to the fact that buckets of water were being poured over the heads of three young ladies. They were gathered round a square hole and an older man – an American tourist we learned – was drawing water from it to pour over the heads of the willing volunteers while his wife looked on with glee. They introduced themselves, telling us they were on vacation from Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco and invited us to join their ‘baptism’ fun. We politely declined, despite assurances that it was nice fresh, cold water. Later, I read in our pilot book that it’s an historic well but is usually disused and dry now, so perhaps they brought water ashore to pour in there. The girls were impressed anyway. We didn’t go much further because Paul couldn’t remember the way he had walked before, and the heat was beginning to get to me. We headed back to immerse ourselves in the welcoming cool of the sea.

The well in the distance
Looking back from the trail
Part of the hiking trail
Paul at the well
On the beach

We stayed another full day at anchor. Sunday 1st November brought a stronger breeze which blew through the cabin as effectively as any air conditioning system. A tourist boat heralded its arrival at midday with the sound of loud dance music. We could see the DJ at a mixing desk on the top deck of the super yacht and the music got louder according to the direction the boat was swinging. They didn’t hang around long enough to be too intrusive, though.

There’s a DJ on that top deck!

I was keen to do more of the walk we had cut short the day before so we dinghied over to the beach in the afternoon. It was a bit cooler, and I was better prepared for the rocky terrain in rubber soled shoes. The ubiquitous cactus plants are so like the images from the cartoons and comic strips I enjoyed in my 60s and 70s childhood. I haven’t got tired of marvelling at the size of them yet.

Huge birds soared over our heads as we ascended the hill, lizards of all sizes scurried away at our approach and we passed caves and caverns and dry, spindly trees and bushes. We hadn’t gone very much further than the previous day when we came to another sudden stop. It was beginning to look like we would require crampons and ropes if we wanted to get any further. Paul still couldn’t remember the way he had gone on a previous visit, and since it was beginning to get hot again, I was content to take a few more pictures and head back to the beach.

Sunset at Candeleros

We were able to visit Balandra Bay on our return journey. The wind had allowed us to sail some of the way and we arrived there mid-afternoon, pleased to discover that it was calm enough to anchor without the swell that had been there the week before. Balandra Bay is famous for its mushroom-shaped rock. Tourist boats ferry people there so they can pose in front of it, especially at sunset. It does resemble a mushroom but we had noticed that the coastline has several of these geographical formations along the peninsula. This one must be profitable in terms of distance and provides an ‘Instagram-friendly’ photo opportunity due to there being a convenient signal for phones. So much so that it has been repaired from several ‘topples’ and now sports a vandal-proof rebar framework and tinted cement! It seemed appropriate to capture the image for our own album. Disappointingly, we didn’t see any sea lions this time either. Pics below of the rock and beach at Balandra.

We ran with bare feet up the sand dunes and ended up jumping and shrieking when tiny, prickly thorns stuck to our soles!

We made it back to La Paz to catch all the excitement of the results coming in for the US election. It was both enjoyable and fascinating, and with the best of all results, so it was well worth returning to signal range to watch that, and to catch up with friends and family. We were at anchor in the bay for just over a week and discovered that like many places around the world, restrictions were being tightened up in response to rising infection rates. One of these is to separate young and old shoppers in Chedraui supermarket. As I approached the entrance, I understood enough Spanish to realise I was being asked for my age. It must have perplexed the guy when I answered him in Italian, which is similar enough for him to understand I was telling him 58. Yes, I took two years off my age because I had a feeling 60 might be the cut off year (also, I couldn’t remember how to say 60). I felt sorry for him actually, having the job of asking everyone’s age and then allowing or refusing them entry accordingly. I was permitted to enter but Paul wasn’t, so I once again found myself in that supermarket with no bags and a certain amount of frustration about what items to get because I couldn’t consult with Paul. We tended to favour Soriana Supermarket after that. Below are pics taken in the Soriana car park showing what happens when a bike lock key has been left on the boat! Paul had to walk off to find a shop that sold hacksaws while I stayed by our bag-laden bikes. I hoped our sign language and halting Spanish had been enough to convince the security guard that we were the bikes’ owners as he watched Paul cut the chains to free them.

We had a pleasant, chilled out week back in La Paz, provisioning and preparing for our next Sea of Cortez excursion. It was good to see Arturo again and to meet Dirk and Silvia, who were anchored near to us in the bay and called over to say Hi. We met for a coffee on the Malecon to swap journey and places experiences – one of the many joys of sailing, or of travelling in general for that matter.   

It became gradually cooler while we were there. So much so that we retrieved the duvet from its summer storage. It won’t get really cold here but the evenings now often require an extra layer or jacket. On Friday 13th November, the evening before we left, we met up with Arturo to have a meal on the Malecon. It was good to see that the already-struggling bars and restaurants hadn’t been subjected to more restrictions. The promenade itself has been limited to only being accessible during the week; at weekends people are only allowed on the far side of the road. This does tend to force people to converge on just one street but at least most are still wearing masks.

La Paz’s Malecon (and a forlorn lone Pelican) viewed from our anchorage

We had a great meal in the Bismarkcito Restaurant on the far end of the Malecon. Arturo kindly explained to the waiter that I was vegan and they prepared a delicious salad for me. We bade farewell to Arturo, who will be joining us for the Christmas period when we return to La Paz after a further venture into The Sea of Cortez.


Hauled out in Loreto (Puerto Escondido)

Saturday 14th October 2020.
We leave La Paz around 11am, firstly we made a run to Chedraui to get some fresh bread, fruit & veg. Being there early ensured our admission with scores of other geriatrics. I’ve heard of Covid safe places, but this felt more like Covid assured.
The timing of our departure seemed good, the weather was acceptable, even if it meant a fair bit of motoring to get north in the prevailing winds. But not just the weather was right; we had returned to La Paz to hopefully see the demise of Orange Head, but as a bonus we got the announcement of a vaccine and the demise of Dominic Cummings. So all in all, things are looking up.
While we were in La Paz we enjoyed a few meals out, and did a bit of shopping, but mostly I was programming and Kathy reading. I still have a lot of work to do and I’m hoping to get a fair bit finished on this passage.
We met up with a lovely German couple, not from Germany, but from America where they have lived for many years. They have circumnavigated the globe once already and are on their second trip. We had a laugh about out respective father/motherlands, they wondered how their country could allow right wing groups to flourish, given their history, and I postulated my theory that the UK is suffering ‘empire demise’ syndrome and that Brexit might ultimately be good for us. That was a fun conversation!

Kathy might write about how to recover from losing your bike keys at the supermarket. While in La Paz the local government shutdown the Malecón in the evenings, Covid is on the up again, as it seems to be in many places. At least we are away from it for a few weeks now. The La Paz carnival has been cancelled along with the Christmas market. 

We motored up to the small uninhabited island of Partida, just above Isla Esperitu Santo. Anchoring was easy, it’s a safe place to stop for the night with lovely beaches, but we will leave early for Isla San Francisco. We have an appointment with the travel lift to haul the boat out a week on Monday, and I would rather spend time up near Agua Verde and beyond than down here.
I caught a massive fish on the way up, so far the cedar plug I bought, has been out twice, and each time brought me a lovely catch. I rather badly filleted this guy and ended up with 1.5kg of dinners. The cove here has quite a few big motor launches and massive Catamarans, some enjoying their loud party music. 

Kathy Chilling

We leave at 9am for the three hour trip to Isla San Francisco. But as soon as we leave the sheltered bay it becomes obvious the waves from the North are quite big and instead of making 5-6 knots, we are soon down to 2-3 as we start pounding into the sea ahead and 20 knots of wind (apparent) on the bow. For half an hour I consider turning around and finding another cove on Partida for the day, but optimism, false as it turns out, makes me decide to push on anyway, by the time the waves are 15ft high and the bowsprit is hitting the sea on a regular basis, we have gone too far to make turning back worth it. So we push on. We hadn’t prepared for such a rollercoaster ride, the first this boat has seen in a year or more and we had become complacent. I had closed the main hatches but hadn’t screwed them down tightly, consequently the bed got soaked when the foredeck was covered by one wave. A little later the Aircon unit that had been sitting on the sofa with the new printer on top took flight. It landed on the cabin sole, I haven’t really inspected the damage yet, but I fear the teak & holly may have a few more marks on it. If the printer still works I will be very pleased, especially as my visa runs out this week and I plan to print out the new application when we get to Loreto. We are the only vessel heading north and after nearly 6 hours of bashing into the sea we turn into the protected cove of Isla San Francisco.

Bashing the Waves

Previously I had worried that with the boat sitting idle for many months in the heat with a half empty tank of fuel that the dreaded diesel algae might have flourished, and that on the next rough passage it would stir from the depths of the tank and kill the engine, I’m confident now that’s not going to be a problem. In fact hats off to the engine, it’s doing a great job, but I must get it serviced soon, I think the cam belt is well past its set by date.
There’s quite a few luxury motor yachts and high end charter cats here. A jet ski is whizzing around and several marques are setup on the beach. We don’t mind, my main task now is to make the poached eggs for our breakfast, that we had delayed upon leaving with the idea of having it for Brunch, or Lunch if we were delayed. It turns out to be a lovely early dinner.
Tomorrow we will spend an extra day here, I have to climb the mast as there’s some white thing flying around at the top, as if a plastic bag has wrapped itself around the windex (Wind direction pointer thing). 

Typical big cat, ugly or what!

We walk over to the other side of the island and pass some salt pans on the way.The salt has a pink colour Kathy tells me, something like the expensive stuff you might see in Waitrose. I’m tempted to fill a bag with it, could easily pick up a few hundred pounds (£) worth of salt for free!
Later I snorkel around the boat, as usual the fish put on a spectacular show for me, there are several shoals of different species swimming around me. 

Most of the motor boats have left and there’s around ten sailboats here, three of us are Bob Perry designs. I climb the mast and find the white thing up there is the white insulation tape that was covering the unused Raymarine socket , I rip it off, check the other fittings and take a few pics.

Sunset in Isla San Francisco

Next a kayak over to another baba looking boat, it turns out to be a Union 36, the hull is very similar to a baba, and probably came from the same mould. We chat and I get some news from him as he left wifi land a little later than us. He tells me Oregon and California have gone into lockdown, he explains that it’s down to lefties and he worries about his home state of Oregon and how now they have legalised hallucinogenic mushrooms, it will all go to pot, actually that’s already legal there 😉 He quotes how Amsterdam has been ruined by prostitution and pot!

Isla san Fran
Up the mast

We have a pleasant overnight stay, a few more boats arrive but it’s mostly sailing yachts like ourselves and there’s little noise other than a generator running on a big beneteau., We depart early, around 7:30 AM, Kathy is able to flake the anchor chain into place without really leaving her v-berth slumber. She joins me on deck half an hour into the passage with a remark about how nice the mornings are and we must get up earlier more often!. We are on the way to El Gato, a lovely spot, but rather exposed to swell from the north. I tried twice to stop there with Arturo, but both times it was too rocky. I decided to leave early as if we can’t stop there, after this 6 hour passage, we will still have enough light to push onto Agua Verde which offers slightly better cover for a northerly swell. Also the winds tend to be less in the morning, and travelling up the strait between the Peninsula and the Isla Jose generally means going into a headwind and oncoming waves.

Halfway up the strait I remember there’s an island on the chart and our path takes us directly through it, It wasnt there back in January, but seemed to appear, at least on the chart during the summer. Yet I couldnt see it as Arturo and I steered around it. This time I decided to sail directly through the island, It looked so green on the chart I imagined it must be full of slippy grass that the keel would ride on, as you can see from the chart below we skidded right over the island and back into the sea on the north side, the depth sounder never dropped below 80m.

A very strange Island

We have a very relaxing trip and at one point get the sails up and enjoy an hour on a close reach, later we motor sail the remainder of the way.

A lovely old style cutter ketch
As we leave n the morning I swing by for a closer look at the ketch

Arriving at El Gato we find a yacht and a motor boat, The yacht is called ‘True Love’ and has a younger couple on board (Finger down throat time), how do they call into the coastguard with that name, imagine, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, it’s True Love here! Or what about if true love hits a rock?
We chat with them as they dinghy back from the beach where the motor boat has his dinghy a little way up on the sand. The tide went out, and it’s too heavy for two men to drag back to the water. It has a 35hp outboard and is about 12ft long with a sit down steering console. I silently congratulate myself on having gone for the lightest dinghy and outboard possible. We may go slower, but even Kathy could drag the boat and motor off the beach if needed.
Kathy is enthralled by the rock formations here and she will no doubt post some of the pictures. There’s not a lot at El Gato other than pink rocks that look alien.

A lazy start to the day, we depart for Agua Verde around 11:30 and arrive 3 hours later. We pass between a big rock/small Island off the coast. They were once joined and in fact still are below the surface, the pilots all agree it’s very dangerous to go through the gap, yet modern charts and google images show there to be no obstructions.

You can make out the rocks on this google image between the mainland and the island

All the same I follow a carefully plotted line between the two. Agua Verde is empty of boats and very calm. We walk around the village and Kathy is amazed at the variety of wildlife and animals, goats, chickens, dogs, vultures, horses, all roaming free. We buy some internet tickets, 1 hour for £1, I assume it’s a satellite based system and later I reconfigure our boats wifi extender (Bullet M) to pick up the weak signal from the tienda and after a lot of head scratching, I turn the router into a bridge and the extender into a router with a dhcp server and we are all devices go. Sadly I waste our first hour of internet just trying to get it to work. We then feast on BBC/twitter/Facebook until our 2 hours are up. Kathy learns of ups and downs back home, but all is ok, I learn that not a lot has changed at the white house, but I’m very worried about the last minute rush to sell off drilling rights in the Arctic. I can’t get the lowdown on machinations at number 10, I expect I will have to wait for the memoirs to come out. It seems Brexit is turning into a complete shambles where a deal may be done, but it looks like a deal that nobody will want. So all in all, no change there. 

Agua Verde

Thursday – Sunday
Still alone in the bay, Very calm and peaceful here. The village is very sleepy, some lads are crabbing on the rocks across from us. 

The north ‘window’ in the bay

Kathy and I spend these 4 days dinghying around the little coves in the bay. Kathy dons her snorkel mask and gingerly gets back into a little underwater exploring. It’s difficult, she’s not a fan of salt water, or of a lot of things that are in it, like sea snakes and urchins, but she does really well and by Saturday we are able to make a long excursion around some headlands a long way from the beach. It’s such a lovely spot here.

We are joined by Chris and Gerry on two sailboats that we saw earlier in Isla San Francisco. Gerry sends over a plate of fish and taco ingredients for me, to make up for the fact he has to run his generator for an hour each night and morning, fortunately it’s quite quiet and worth it for the fish, which I think he recently caught and breaded, I would rather think that than imagine they have been in his fridge since Costco in Los Cabos. The Suzuki outboard is playing up again, but I think I’m on top of it, I think it’s as simple as the carb filling up with water, if I take the carb apart, swear at it , and then reassemble, it works great, so all I’m really doing is cleaning the water/fuel out. It started playing up just after I emptied the dregs of the fuel can into it. Sadly the drain at the bottom of the carb has broken, also when I reassembled it, I must have damaged the makeshift washer as it leaks fuel from the carb now. I count this as a success all in all.

En Route to Escondido

Monday 23rd November.
We leave at 07:45 for the 22 mile trip to Puerto Escondido. Here we haul out. It’s a lovely passage and when we arrive, half an hour early, we try to get fuel, but the man on the dock who raced past us to get there first takes forever, and half an hour later the travel hoist has lowered its slings into the water and is calling us over. I give up on the fuel and slowly head for the lift, unfortunately as we approach they tell me I have to reverse into the slings. There’s a 10 knot crosswind pushing the bow down to port as I reverse, After many attempts I’m getting closer, but the lift sits above a very sharp and rough concrete set of piers, and once the stern is in, if the bow blows around, I’m going to be paying in teak and gelcoat. Fortunately a passing dinghy offers to help and I get him to push my bow back as I reverse, this works right up until the stern is in-between the piers, but then he is gone, I can’t see him, but the bow is swinging toward the concrete and I’m about to rush out again, which may not even be possible, when suddenly he is back on the job and the boat is lined up perfectly. Phew!
For the first time in 4 years, and 4 travel hoists, I find myself in one with a working weight sensor. I had always assumed our boat weighed 18 Metric Tons, but found out today the back end of the boat weighed 10 Tons and the front 7 in the slings, and we are light on 1/2 ton of fuel and water right now, so I’m very happy with that.Of course I would like the same boat in a ten ton version, for speed, but then I might not win so many battles with the rocks that jump in front of me. The hull looks ok, a small chunk is missing near the rudder, but only gelcoat, about 30 cm by 3 cm. I blame that on Canada, we probably hit a tree at some point, a USA tree would be too scared of litigation, and they don’t really do trees in Mexico.
Tomorrow at 8am a man will start sanding the surface down, I need to see how deep the barnacles have left their mark. I also have a very small number of blisters, maybe 5 mm across and just slightly raised, I’m not losing sleep over them. The starboard big anode had gone completely, the prop anode is about as far gone as you would like, but the port anode is still doing great service. I haven’t changed the hull anodes ever, so that’s good. The Max prop has no grease in it as usual, I will repack it, I’m not sure when the grease leaves, if it’s slowly over several months, or the first day I run up the prop?

We are here for a week, hopefully that’s long enough to get everything done. We shall hire a car and do a bit of sightseeing. 

Paul Collister

Heading North (again)

Saturday 14th November:
We have had a good rest in La Paz, but I have been working my socks off writing software for my UK customer. This was meant to be a small project I could mostly do on passage, but once I started, and looked at the data I had to work with, big problems emerged and I have been stuck in La Paz with its good internet connections trying to resolve this. I have done enough and now we can leave, the weather is good and I have a spot booked in Puerto Escondido to haul out in 9 days time, so it won’t be too leisurely a trip there.

I’m glad we popped back to watch the election, what with that, the vaccine and the departure of the eye test idiot, things are looking up.

So a breif blog to say we will be out of touch for a week or so.

Some Mariachis to send us on our way 😉
Our neighbour with the helicopter came into port.
Arturo filmed this guy a few days ago.

October in La Paz

It would be a very dull post to merely report the general day by day routine of our stay in Marina La Paz. A general daily summary would consist mainly of: get up (usually late in the morning), have toast and coffee; tidy up; laze in the cabin; Paul has a two-hour Spanish lesson while I read or write, and then we go shopping and have the odd evening walk or cycle along the Malecon. Such a general account, however, leaves out the finer details of our month here. When I left for the UK earlier this year, I had only spent a couple of weeks in this charming coastal city, so I’d had little time to explore it properly. A leisurely month allowed me to get to know it better.  Once my self-isolation ended, I was able to accompany Paul to the local supermarkets so that I could refamiliarise myself with the available products.  As a ‘veggan’, (which I have discovered is the recently made up word that describes someone who is mostly vegan but still eats eggs), I have a few favourite staples I like to use in the dishes I prepare. With fewer choices in the pre-prepared vegan range here, compared with the wide range in the UK, I knew I would be making more of my own meals on board. I had a list…I always have a list, and my list is written on actual paper with a pen, and it goes everywhere with me.

Not a bad place to spend two weeks’ quarantine
Sunset, Marina de La Paz

Over the course of the month I was able to cross items off my list through spotting them in the local markets and stores. I’m referring to things like nutritional yeast flakes, semolina, Worcester sauce (without anchovies), red lentils and vegan pesto. Sourcing and procuring these became something of an enjoyable mission when we were out – a bit like a culinary treasure hunt. We saw places we probably wouldn’t otherwise have seen and one day we met the North American owner of a natural food store who has been living here for 20 years. She runs a food cooperative, and had an intriguing array of products in her shop, including eggs from her vegetarian-fed chickens, organic fruit and veg from her ranch, and tubs of cooking oils and flours which she dispenses into recycled containers. She told us that a lot of her custom is from the American community in the marinas. Unfortunately for us, on this particular day they had cleared her out of eggs, so I came away with a small jar of sesame oil and a bag of semolina, which Paul has promised to make pasta with, so watch this space.

The twice-weekly farmers’ market near the Malecon, La Paz
From the farmers’ market – should go nicely with Paul’s home made pasta

La Paz has great cycle lanes throughout the town, which makes for an easy and pleasant way to get around. I’m sure more people would get on their bikes in the UK if they felt safer and not in the way of road traffic. There are no steep hills to worry about here but the intense heat made it quite challenging to pedal to the supermarket for mad dogs like us, who get up too late to avoid the midday sun. Paul is more used to it, but the first few days I accompanied him I struggled to keep up. Our bikes are doing remarkably well, considering we bought them almost five years ago in Malaysia. We thought we’d make use of them there and ditch them when we moved on because they were relatively cheap, but I had got quite fond of mine and thought they might come in useful in other places. We’ve now used them in Malaysia, Japan, Canada, America and Mexico; through torrential rain, extreme humidity and searingly hot sunny days, and nights when we weren’t sure where we were on dark, unfamiliar streets. Folded up in the quarter berth, they crossed the North Pacific Ocean with us. Apart from a bit of rust, and a few punctures, they have proved excellent value for money. Wimp that I am, however, I only cycle when I can follow Paul. My cycling proficiency test was several decades ago and I’m not confident enough to cycle on the main roads on my own. It’s nerve wracking enough as a pedestrian until you get used to the crossing places and pedestrian rules here. I walked to Chedraui a couple of times and took a few pictures on the way.

It was as hot as it looks!
A river used to run through it

The staff appear to have become familiar enough with Paul to allow him in with his shopping bag. When I entered alone, I had to hand my backpack in to the customer service desk, thereby losing access to my shopping list, water and bags to pack the shopping in. Hot and flustered after the 30 minute walk, I’d had to step on the rubber foot-cleansing mat, hold out my arm for temperature checking and then my hands for sanitiser, so obeying the instruction to hand my bag in was just part of the stress-inducing entrance permit. Next time, I scrunched a bag into my handbag to avoid the laborious task of putting the shopping into the basket, and then having to collect my bags and hurriedly pack the items in the small space next to the customer service desk.   

Salt made from grasshopper larvae – it didn’t really appeal to me…
This is more like it – spicy red sauce ingredients
Salsa roja – delicious in tacos

More pics taken during our cycle rides around La Paz.

Spot the dog 🙂
The tower block is being slowly dismantled – brick by brick apparently. It looks very precarious
Evening on the Malecon
View across the bay from a cafe on the Malecon

Sundays after quarantine became Mogote excursions. The sandbar a short distance away from the marina has always been a popular leisure spot. As restrictions gradually lifted, Paul tells me he’s noticed more visitors than when he first began swimming there. People whizzing around on jet skis have returned, along with water-skiers and excursion boats. Groups of people gather for afternoon barbecues and picnics on the beach. All this activity made for a pleasant atmosphere, however – even with the engine noise and shrieks coming from the various skiers. Arturo joined us for dinner each Sunday and it has been a pleasure getting to know him better – especially as he is a fellow book and arts lover. One of the dishes I made was a veggie shepherd’s pie and Paul and I must have bemused poor Arturo by explaining that he was being served ‘guardian of the sheep’ pie. The various translation and language incidents have given all three of us much amusement.

Paul and Arturo enjoying the water
The Mogote’s soft sand

As October went on, it very slowly began to get cooler. We noticed we were turning the air conditioning off more often. Nights required an extra cover on the bed, and mornings came with a refreshing breeze, albeit only for a brief period. We had arrived here just before Christmas last year and had been trying to remember what the temperature had been like then. Paul remembered having to wear a fleece and I know we had been using a quilt on the bed – which seemed hard to imagine when the afternoon sun beat down relentlessly and we were keeping cool under the fans in the cabin. The daily morning ‘net’ broadcasts from Club Cruceros informed us that the risk of a hurricane was decreasing rapidly and that it was a good time to visit the islands a few miles north of La Paz. This was indeed our intention. Our time in the marina was up on the 27th so we left our berth on the afternoon of the 28th and anchored in the bay. We had stocked up with provisions in preparation for a trip up to Puerto Escondido where the boat is due to be hauled out later in November, but because we were keen to find out the result of the American election (so glad we did, to see Biden’s victory), we returned to La Paz for a few days after we visited some of the ‘must-see’ spots Paul had been to. It was the first time I was without access to the internet for 10 months. I followed the news avidly when Coronavirus first struck. I watched every government briefing, and was in daily touch with family and friends via social media. With so much still developing and alarming statistics being revealed in that area, along with the (seemingly) daily global political farcical events going on at present, it was a test of my addiction to be without instant access to information about ‘the outside world’. I wondered if might also prove to be a welcome relief from such information overload. The islands in the Sea of Cortez were as good a place as any to find out how I would cope….

Going off grid

It’s Election night (week/month)

Wednesday 28th October 2020.

The storm is peaking, although it’s not really a storm, 25 knot gusts in the bay and the harbour master has closed the port to everyone wanting to leave. You may still arrive in an emergency.

The marina office calls the harbour master for me and gets us permission to move out to the anchorage less than a mile from the marina as long as ‘we take all the necessary precautions’ whatever they might be.  First we must do a few jobs

Kathy has a standoff with the Pelicanos
While I wait for a 1kg of fish to be filleted

In the morning Carlos the diver and his cousin arrive, scrape down the bottom and we are all good below, clean prop and bow thruster is a must when leaving the slip in strong winds. Arturo calls around and helps me take the canopy down. We have been very lucky with the weather as we will not roast with the aircon and canopy missing, the days are noticeably cooler, and with this wind it’s actually very pleasant.

We leave the dock without any drama, We have to turn the bow into the wind to leave which is always difficult, I get as much speed as I can going astern, as the bow is swinging the right way under the shadow of the big boat next to us, we get quite close to the boat on the opposite pontoon but hard to port and full ahead and we are on our way. Sadly we reach our destination in about 5 minutes, the anchor digs in first time and we sit about 1/4 mile off the Malecón which we have just heard is closing tomorrow, except for joggers in the morning, as too many people have been promenading without masks and not keeping the 1.5 metres apart.
This morning on the Ch22 VHF net, after the Malecón announcement was made, the village idiot, who occasionally pops up with his latest covid conspiracy theory announced that we would all be saved if we just take Vitamin D3 supplements. I think that this proves a worrying fact that if you keep shouting random nonsense, you might actually stumble on a truth. I had heard theories about this before, and although there is no firm evidence, there’s a growing body of research in this area that is interesting. I think we do well for Vitamin D by being on the boat, fair skinned, and mad as the proverbial Englishman in the midday sun. I do hope we learn of stack of useful stuff from this pandemic.
Kathy is reminded how nice it can be at anchor as we bob around in the diminishing swell as the storm drops away.


No great rush to get the day started, we are only going as far as Esperito Santo, we don’t have a destination yet as I’m not sure how windy or how much swell there will be in the islands.

Leaving La Paz, sunny with a refreshing breeze

We motor up with a fast ebb tide to the most famous beach around here, Balandra. It has one of those mushroom stones, that appears on every postcard. We make over 7 knots with the ebb and the newly cleaned hull. Balandra, although very pretty, has too much swell to consider staying, so instead we take a few pics and push on to Esperituo Santo. We meander between the coves on the Island and my first and favourite choice of Canelero bay is full of luxury  motor yachts and plush Catamarans. I then decide to go to Ensenada Partida, right at the top of Santo, before Isla Partida, It’s very safe and calm there, and if we spend a night or two there, then we can work our way back down the island visiting the other coves and hopefully next Monday find ourselves in a much calmer Bandelra Bay before heading into La Paz to restock and watch the election.
Ensenada Partida has two big sports fishing boats here, but besides them we have it to ourselves, we have a great dinghy ride over to where a colony of Pelicans live and drift around watching them dive bomb. The fish have a worrisome life here, I caught one on the way into the bay, just as Kathy brought us head to wind so I could drop the main, the line went screaming out and I was sure something big was on the end. It turned out to be a tasty Skipjack Tuna I had for dinner later. 
By the time we had dinner, we had been joined by 8 other holiday boats, Cats and big motor yachts. Good old Mexican Banda music filled the air from all sides, mixed in with laughter, hysterical shrieking, jets skis and lots of shouting. A new joy entertained us in the form of a loud buzzing sound above, a drone no less, how nice! We retreated below and got on with our 2010 version of Scrabble which doesn’t need the internet.

We had to row back from the pelicanos last night as after four vigorous pulls on the outboard engine starter cord, it refused to start and the fourth pull would be the last as the rope snapped off. It was getting too dark to fix. I redid the cord this morning and it’s working fine again. A must for our trips ashore here. I was disappointed as four years ago in Langkawi I bought 100 metres of starter cord in Kua, I wanted some general purpose rope for tying things. This rope is thin and very strong and designed for the job, sadly it has no UV protection so wasn’t that good for outdoor use, I looked but I couldn’t find any. I think I have used 100 meters on tying up odd bits and bobs around the boat over the years.
After breakfast we dinghied ashore, the water shoals very slowly here, so it was very shallow for about 100 meters from the shore when we left, the tide was going to drop even more so we anchored the dinghy in knee deep water some way from the shore and waded the rest of the way. When we returned the dinghy was aground and we had to drag it for a few minutes into deeper water.
Later in the evening the bay filled with big lagoon charter cats, Many big charter cats are made by lagoon, I don’t like them, they’re like floating bungalows with lots of uPVC double glazing and patio doors. Saying that, they are very spacious and comfortable, but I’m of the school that it’s not meant to be that comfortable.

We retrace our steps back two coves south to Ensenada Candeleros, my favourite spot on Isla Esperitu Santo. I have been here with Tim & Asta, Jim and Arturo, And now with Kathy. I’m pretty much on first name terms with the goats here now and could certainly get a job as a tour guide. I had been expecting the place to be full of boats, but we arrived at 11 AM when most are transiting to their lunch locations, and I was pleased to find we could get close in as there was really only one big cat in the bay. I anchored off the north wall, 100 metres away from some nasty looking rocks. My plan is to be far enough away to be safe, but close enough that no one would risk anchoring between us and the cliffs.
Just in case anyone thinks this lazy idyllic life we have to endure doesn’t have its problems, then think on.  We have a family of little creatures who have decided to come sailing with us, They look like small roaches, or maybe large Beetles, they move quickly and last night as we lay on the sofa watching ‘The Social Dilema’ they took to scurrying around us. They had confined themselves to the breadboard area up until now, but this was an expedition too far for my liking. This morning Kathy and I removed all the cushions from the cabin, then all the locker cover and doors and proceeded to treat all the surfaces with a mixture of boric acid and sugar, Inaccessible areas received a spraying from a product called ‘Poder Mortal’ Which I’m thinking won’t be to popular with the little creatures. The boric acid is a sneaky chemical, once ingested, by them eating the sugar, or just getting it on the skin, a slow death starts, they return to the nest and die, where upon the other roaches will consume their dead brethren and die themselves from the poison. This does rather test my Buddhist  leanings.
After lunch we head ashore, there’s quite a few tourist boats that have arrived and some have set up small marquees to dine under on the beach. We walk up to the old well and take some pictures of the bay. It’s extremely picturesque and most pleasant here. Later I swim around the rocky islands and see lots of tropical fish.
As the sun sets the feeding frenzy starts, Pelicans dive bombing all around and crazy activity in the water around the boat as big fish attack the tiniest of fish, which you can just see in the video below.

Dinner Time
Candeleros beach.


We spend a second night at Ensenada Candelero and have a lazy Sunday morning. I start work on some website and backend code for my customer back in the UK, I have agreed to about two weeks work to be started asap. Fortunately I can do most of the work without an internet connection. I like working offline, it makes me focus on the task at hand better, however it does make you realise how dependent you are on on-tap knowledge. I often google stuff I know, but can’t remember. I have a good offline source of coding manuals which can be useful, but mostly I’m just regurgitating code I have used before, web interfaces, database routines etc.

Obligatory chair pose

At 2pm Kathy suggests a walk up the valley pass, it’s not too hot so we give it a try, we end up in a dead end canyon, and decide it is quite hot after all and head back. I snorkel around the big island and see many fish, but nothing like as many as when Arturo was here and the island was closed. Still not evidence to be conclusive, we saw one goat today, but when the island was closed we saw many. A large motor yacht arrived at lunchtime and up on the fly deck, there was a DJ with a desk and big PA speakers blasting out music to the four guests on board, the whole bay was subjected to this horrendous onslaught. Several boats close by upped anchor and left. By the time we returned from our island hike they had left, thank goodness.

Looking back from the canyon entrance

I also made good progress on the boats systems, I have the PI reading in data from the GPS dongle, it will also provide an accurate clock for the PI, something the designers left off. I have it reliably recording the Wind data after a reboot now as well. I think I’m going to go for MySQL Replication to move the data from the boats system to this Blog site. I do need an internet connection to get this working. 

We leave Candelero to head back for a WiFi or 4g signal, we arrive back in Balandra Bay a very popular tourist beach, claimed to be one of the most beautiful spots in Mexico, it is nice, and the swell, although a little annoying should reduce through the night as the northerlies are long gone now. As the sun is getting ready to set, we dinghy ashore and I run up the white sand dunes in my bare feet wondering what Kathy is shrieking about below, I soon find out as I stand on several of those little cactus thorns that are everywhere. Now I’m up for a bit of shrieking. We wander along the beach and out to the mushroom rock as the last tourists are leaving. but just before we can get our photos lined up a new tourist boat arrive and dumps a load of passengers into the water to get their obligatory pic with the rock.

The mushroom rock with Sister Midnight neatly nestled behind

I hope I don’t get into trouble for saying this, but I’m rather dissapointed with the Mushroom. I do think the stone masons have done a great job of restoring it with rebar and concrete after it was recently toppled by tourists, but Kathy has much better pictures of massive potential mushrooms just around the corner.

More visitors arrive
We settle for a selfie close to the rock
Our neighbour has several options should he/she need to go ashore.

We leave Balandra Bay around 9am to make the hour long journey back into La Paz bay, where we drop the hook and prepare to go ashore and get some fresh bits and bobs. We wonder if we need to buy pretzels in order to watch the election coverage later. Things don’t quite go to plan. The authorities are stepping up their enforcement of the covid rules here, and because people have been ignoring the masks and distancing the Malecon is closed in the afternoon/evenings now. I suspect the supermarket may enforce the ‘only one person from a family‘ rule and not let us both enter. So Kathy goes ahead into Chedraui while I cunningly cycle around the far end of the car park. Once kathy is safely in the store I approach only to be told that geriatrics can’t enter in the afternoon. Foiled! On top of that I have the money, the shopping bags and one of the shopping lists. Kathy is waiting inside for me to join her and I can’t contact her as she didn’t bring her phone. It all works out in the end, but Chedraui are now blacklisted by Kathy and Soriano is our new Supermarket of choice, where I’m allowed in an hour later. I’m just grateful that I didn’t get in and Kathy was refused on age, I would have been to scared to come out I think.

We are two hours behind USA EST (East coast time) and so the Florida results start coming in as we are settling down for sunset and dinner around 5pm. It doesn’t take long before we both realise that no one is going to be talking ‘Landslide’ in this election. I stay up until 4am watching the numbers come in and the tweets go out. Poor Poland 😉
Thoughts of sailing off into the blue on Wednesday or even Thursday with a result confirmed are dashed. However it’s so pleasant out here at anchor, and we both have a lot of things to do that require the Internet that we may well stay here until the weekend, when hopefully a preliminary result will be clear.

I really wanted to be in Mexico for the Day of The Dead festivities but they were cancelled this year. I first became interested after visiting an exhibition back in the 90s, I think, at the British Museum. Looks like it will have to be 2021.

Meeting Arturo for a drink on the Malecon.

Paul Collister.