Pre Christmas in La Paz

I made a long list of tasks that I want to complete over the next few weeks, the first was cleaning the stainless steel rails and fittings on the boat, this took a couple of days, I have decided to split the jobs up, doing the outside boat jobs in the morning and doing any computer related work in the afternoon. I also cleared the pushpit, that’s the rail around the back of the boat, of all the safety gear and anything else that wasn’t needed, to give me a better uncluttered view out. This helps spot the odd dolphin or sea lion that surfaces in the marina. I gave the boat a good clean and pumped up the fenders. Our neighbours left and returned one slip further away from us. I wonder how they knew we were from Liverpool. 😉

Tuesday had me visiting the immigration office to plead for a visa extension on humanitarian grounds, as I had done successfully 6 months ago. They were very nice but were quite adamant I couldn’t have a visa, making me an illegal immigrant. However they said not to worry, once I decide to leave the country, I should pop in and get an exit visa that will allow me to get through the airport. A very laid back, and if I might say, sensible approach to take.

On the paperwork side, I chased the refund from Iberia which was promised 6 months ago, they apologised and said we would hear from them in the next week … still waiting. I booked a flight for Kathy to return home, Mexico direct to Heathrow, so hopefully we don’t have to worry about any EU complications. Also the UK have just struck an amazing new trade deal with Mexico, almost as good as the one we had with the EU, so I expect it will be a special flight for her.

I replaced the gas hose, you can see the nick in the hose in the pic below, Once I could see the damage I realised the hose is armour plated and the cut was superficial, still I’m very happy to have a new one in there. I did manage to inflict some pain upon my neck routing the hose through the back of the boat.

An appropriate backdrop
The old hose removed
The new hose, fabricated while we had lunch

The morning net had the marina office announcing the names of people with mail waiting, they had my birthday card from my kids, 3 months late, but it’s the thought that counts.

The Saturday Organic/Craft market continues
Decorations sorted!

The marina is busy with new arrivals, many people who would normally arrive with the cancelled Baja Ha Ha rally from San Diego stayed home, but a hardy bunch travelled here anyway, several with the ad hoc group known as the Baja Na Ha. (In case you didn’t know, Baja rhymes with Haha). We had a nice time chatting with the owners of a Baba 40, Hull number 1. that is berthed just down the way from us. Even though it’s about 8 years younger than our boat, it looks much better, more teak, and well maintained. You can see below people doing maintenance. I know well the feeling of arriving at your destination in a new country after several weeks, or maybe months of travel. There’s a lot of adrenalin and relief and you can hear lots of animated conversations around the berths, one year later and you have a much more relaxed attitude about it.

Arturo introduced me to a local sail repair shop that he has made friends with, they also have just opened a restaurant. They came and removed the chaps (Covers) from our dinghy as the stitching was dissolving in the sun and soon it would be wrecked. I hate the look of the bare plastic left.

Christmas decorations are going up everywhere

Covid is on the up and up, the governor of this state moved us up a tier this week, meaning Jail or a hefty fine for anyone outside of their home without a mask on. Also Gyms are shutting, occupancy in restaurants is restricted. You can see below three armed guards stop people from posing with the La Paz sign. The Malecon is still closed to the public for most of the time.

I have recently learnt the Spanish names of some of the creatures we see around here and had to chuckle when I realised the plant fertilizer we have is literally translated as ‘Bat Shit’. Brilliant.

Other mundane repair jobs continue around the boat.

Another mural that caught my eye this week.

Paul Collister

Blog from the Sea of Cortez (November 2020)

I couldn’t resist the temptation of using words from John Steinbeck’s work The Log from the Sea of Cortez. It seemed particularly apt because I have been reading it while we’ve been cruising around the places he and the crew of Western Flyer visited some 80 years ago. I referred to it briefly last time, how they documented their findings from tide pools and littorals with detailed descriptions of a plethora of creatures, flora and fauna, along with some deep and – it has to be said – complex, intellectual theories on the philosophy of life. I skipped over those parts, but it was interesting to read his perceptions of places we had been such as La Paz, Puerto Escondido and Loreto, and his observations of life on board a boat. It was slightly disconcerting to learn that many of the creatures they retrieved from the water were poisonous and that he came across lots of snakes, worms and urchins with lethal spikes. I tried not to think about those when Paul was encouraging me to give snorkelling another try! This entry covers our second venture into the Sea of Cortez, the main aim of which was Sister Midnight’s haul out in Marina Puerto Escondido on November 23rd.

It was only a couple of hours to our first anchorage at Ensenada Grande Cove, Isla Partida, which sounds more like a luxury resort than a tiny anchorage spot. It was pretty, calm and sheltered, however when we set the anchor just before sunset, which covered all our needs for a one night stay.

Approaching Ensenada Grande

After a peaceful night, we weighed anchor just after 9 the following morning. The day had dawned with a few more clouds and a northerly wind blowing at 20 knots. The calm conditions we’d had in the cove disappeared as soon as we were out on the open sea. We were about to have an extremely rocky passage! The boat immediately took on what I like to term the ‘bucking bronco’ mode as it ploughed into the huge waves coming at us head on. The bow plunged downward into the chasm and was then pushed up high as the wave rose, creating a lurching, up and down pattern which felt like we weren’t moving very far forward at all. It had been a while since I’d experienced that sea state and I hadn’t expected the need to stow things securely. Soon I had to deal with water gushing through the windows and hatches which, although closed, weren’t securely tightened. Not long after, there was an alarming crash from below when the air conditioning unit shot off the starboard bunk onto the floor taking the printer with it. They were hurriedly secured on the port side with the table stabilising them; it appeared that the planned three hour trip would take a lot longer.

The cabin in some disarray after some hurried stowing

Aside from that, Paul was largely unconcerned with the conditions as we sat in the cockpit watching the stern go up and down, changing the appearance of the horizon behind it at an alarming rate.

Looking at the stern. It felt a lot rougher than it looks!

A couple of hours later when I had retired below to lose myself in a novel, I asked Paul how high he thought the waves were and was shocked by his response of ‘about 15 foot or more’. By then, he had begun to feel a bit seasick as the boat continued to pitch and toss its way through the relentlessly high waves. He stood with his back to the mast for the final hour, a la J.W Turner until the nausea abated. The journey ended up taking us 5 and a half hours, and even as we approached the bay at San Francisco, I found it hard to believe that conditions would improve there. The wind was just as strong and the sea was still bouncing us around, but it was with much relief that we dropped anchor at 3pm in calm, shallow water with the sun shining, and it wasn’t long before the wind became refreshing instead of strong and blustery.

The calm water at Isla San Francisco

There were a few other boats anchored with the usual assortment of kayaks, jet skis and inflatables but later in the afternoon we were joined by one with an extremely loud generator. The noise it made sounded like roadworks were taking place nearby and it stayed on all night. I’m so pleased we don’t feel the need for one.  

A very late Sunday afternoon ‘breakfast’, anchored in San Francisco

It was truly the calm after the storm the next day. The water was flat and still as far as the eye could see and so clear in the bay we could see hundreds of fish below the surface. It looked as if it could get hot later so we went ashore mid-morning, having decided to stay another day after the previous day’s not so smooth sailing. A deserted crescent-shaped sandy beach, surrounded by hills covered in cacti and the distinctive rose-coloured rock greeted us as we drew closer in the dinghy. Once ashore, Paul led me across the beach to a flat plain which glistened with dried sea salt. We were about to see Isla San Francisco’s salt ponds. These are rectangular, shallow beds in the sandstone which collect the sea’s salt after the water has evaporated over time. The picture shows how the salt clumps around the edges once the sun has dried it. The water has a delicate pink hue, which made me think of the expensive pink Himalayan sea salt I’ve seen on sale, but the salt itself is pure white. It looked like a sunken bath with rose-coloured water, and I found it quite fascinating.

Looking out at the anchorage, Isla San Francisco
On the way to the salt ponds (sea salt not visible)
It was so much like the scenes from Westerns
Tasting for quality

The eastern side of the island was rugged, more like Cornwall’s rocky coast. Waves crashed over the rocks and big red crabs crawled away from us to hide amongst the rocks. Eagles and frigatebirds soared over the hills and there was no one else around. We sat on the rocks for a while just appreciating it all, until the heat forced us to seek relief with a swim in the crystal clear water.

The eastern side of the island

Paul needed to go up the mast later in the afternoon to fix a couple of things. It made me dizzy just looking up to take the picture.

I’m told it’s a great view from up there

We left Isla San Francisco early the following morning. At 8am I was in the cockpit with a freshly-brewed coffee enjoying the warm breeze on my face; it really is one of the many pleasurable situations when at sea, especially just after sunrise.  We were bound for Bahia El Gato (Bay of The Cat). The name, according to legend, comes from reports that a family of pumas had come down from the mountains and taken up residence in nearby cliff caves. Apparently, a lone male puma was often seen fishing from the cliff ledges. This was over a hundred years ago, but it was easy to picture him on the striking pink cliffs at El Gato. The geology is spectacularly pretty: its sandstone has shades of colour ranging from peach-pink, mango orange, deep red and brown. Over time, wind and waves have sculpted the cliffs into shelves and ledges with patterns and strata caused by erosion, along with swirly striped boulders and smooth gigantic ‘pebble’ formations that we thought resembled a giant’s toes.

On El Gato
The toes of a giant!

We spent an enjoyable hour climbing the rocks and peering into tide pools wondering if Steinbeck and Ricketts had looked into the same ones all those years ago. Walking along the beach, a lone fisherman from a panga came ashore seemingly for the sole purpose of asking if we wanted to buy any fish because when Paul said no, he went back out to sea and we immediately wished he’d bought some. I obviously took lots of pictures on El Gato.

Wonder if Steinbeck posed like this 😉
One of the many tide pools

A predicted three hour passage meant we were in no rush to leave for Agua Verde on Wednesday the 18th.  Both Paul and Arturo had told me to expect beauty there so my expectations were fairly high. As if to confirm it, the views grew ever more picturesque the closer we got. When we entered the bay it was hard to believe there was a village anywhere, let alone the sizeable one Paul described.  I could only make out what looked like a few beach shacks set back from the sand. It was too hot then to go ashore to explore so we waited until after 4 and rowed the short distance in the shallow water.

Approaching Agua Verde

The village reminded me of some we had been to in Thailand. The houses were single storey basic buildings and it was clear people spent most of the time outside. The shop had basic provisions – we had to hail for service from the adjacent house, which happened to have a very cute puppy. It came bounding over to me, and commanded most of my attention while Paul was inside the shop.

Paul making friends with the pup
The shop with the puppy’s home on the left

We walked around the edge of town as the late afternoon sun began to go down. I spotted huge black birds perched on the tops of the trees which I thought might be buzzards but apparently they are turkey vultures. There’s a line of them on the hilltop in pic below.

It was nice to see a group of children playing an old fashioned game of hide and seek among the trees and further on we passed a pig tied to a tree, and goats, chickens and horses roaming free. There was more to see but as we planned to stay a few days we headed back to the boat to watch the sunset from the cockpit. With the sun gone and no moon, the night was beautifully dark. Only a few twinkling lights came from the shore and later to my delight, some glorious phosphorescence shining under the water’s surface all around the boat.

Paul’s home made guacamole – a dinner we have often
The start of the village
The school
One of the two churches

Over the next few days we made the most of everything Agua Verde had to offer. It was hot and sunny each of the five days we were there so this involved a fair bit of swimming and snorkelling. I was slowly building up to overcoming my aversion to snorkelling but initially I enjoyed cooling dips in the clear, still, warm and shallow water (ideal conditions for me). Looking from the dinghy I could see fish clearly but I knew I was missing out on seeing the ones that are deeper. I also enjoyed ambling along the shore while Paul snorkelled the area. A large white house situated on the isthmus (or puertito in Spanish) fascinated me because I couldn’t work out if it was a seasonal dwelling or someone’s permanent home. I waved to the man who was always sitting outside in a chair every time I walked there.

Nice place to live
Nice place to swim and snorkel

We had to move the boat after two nights anchored near the main beach because the infamous Agua Verde swell made it too uncomfortable to sleep. Our new position was nearer to the isthmus and was more picturesque as well as sheltered and calmer. One afternoon I had a long swim from one beach to another – the longest I had been in the water for years and felt my confidence in the water growing. Later that day however, wimp that I am I had to face another fear: the surf. Landing a dinghy when the waves are rough can be alarming. You have to time it exactly right in order to get ashore without landing on your back in the water flailing around in an undignified way. In some instances the dinghy can overturn, although Paul insists I’m overreacting. Nevertheless I have developed something of a phobia about it ever since a particularly rough landing in America. I could see and hear waves crashing on the shore, and wondered if it would be less traumatising to swim ashore! Paul took us to the calmest part, though and I managed to scramble out unsoaked.

Those waves are higher than they seem

One day we went in search of the farm that Paul had bought goats’ cheese from last time he was here. When he described the route we needed to take, it went something like ‘take the rocky path until you come to the first mountain, carry on to the bigger, second mountain and when you reach the dried river bed, turn left at the top, follow the dirt trail…’, I couldn’t resist asking him if there was a rickety rackety bridge to look out for. 

One of the mountains in sight
On the way to the farm

We arrived there after a thirty minute walk that did indeed match those directions. The farm was in one of the most remote places I have seen – a few ramshackle buildings on a sloping hill and a distinct lack of goats. People were seated at a table outside and I heard a little girl shout ‘Mama, gringos!’ I have learned since I’ve been here that gringos is a word used to describe Americans, so we don’t actually come under that term but it’s an easy mistake to make I guess. Paul used his Spanish to enquire if they had any goats’ cheese for sale. They didn’t, and we worked out they were suggesting we try the village shop, but they had none either. It was a nice walk anyway, and Paul got to practise his Spanish.

Agua Verde is ideal for snorkelling. Paul enthused about the things he’d seen so many times that I felt it was time to leave my hang-ups behind and literally plunge in. Late one morning, fully equipped with masks and a snorkel and mouthpiece I felt comfortable with, we took the dinghy to a shingly beach on the opposite side of the bay.  All went well, I held on to Paul all the way and he pointed out the colourful fish, starfish and coral. I didn’t even mind the spiky sea urchins on the sea bed which were much larger than any I had seen before. Then I spotted a sea snake, looking for all the world like a fat, brightly-patterned colourful stuffed caterpillar – and that freaked me out. I learned then that it’s actually possible to scream with your head underwater while wearing a mask and snorkel! Paul quickly pulled me away to another area and the rest of the session was marvellous enough for me to do it again the following day, our last day there. Walking the shores we visit in the dinghy and beach combing is an activity that I particularly love. There are so many beautiful shells of all colours, shapes and sizes, along with intricately formed coral and it’s always fun to watch the shy little sand crabs burrowing out of harm’s way at our approach. Again, it was great to note that the beaches were clear of plastic and rubbish.

After a successful snorkelling session
Pulling the dinghy ashore

The haul out was booked for 1 o’clock on Monday 23rd November. We left Aqua Verde before 8 and wasted no time putting the sail up to make the most of the wind. That was great, but when we switched the engine back on a bit later, the autohelm wouldn’t work. All Paul’s usual fixes didn’t work so we had no choice but to hand steer for the rest of the way. This we did in 30 minute stints each, and it was easy enough because the route was straightforward and the weather was pleasant. By the time we got to the boatyard at Puerto Escondido it was very hot and Paul had to struggle a bit to reverse into the area where the lift was waiting, not having expected the need to reverse. A man in a dinghy kindly helped persuade it in and we had to climb a wall to get off while it was lifted out of the water.

Tricky manoeuvres

Once Sister Midnight was transported over to ‘the hard’ we took ourselves off to look around the facilities and then up to the marina bar while they made it ready for us to get back on board. There we enjoyed a drink and some guacamole and nachos overlooking the bay. The pic below shows how we entered and exited the boat for the week she was on the hard. The toilets were just around the corner but I made a point of limiting my liquid intake during the evenings. That ladder was steep!   

Marina Puerto Escondido

The marina had everything we needed. We ate in the restaurant a couple of times, used the laundry, shopped in the well-stocked, though expensive, shop and sat at the tables outside the shop using the Wi-Fi or reading while the men were working on the hull with noisy sanders and grinders. John Steinbeck had come to Puerto Escondido in 1940 and I wondered what it had looked like then. His description obviously bore no relation to all the modern conveniences around me but his account of the very shallow narrow entrance rang a bell with me, and the bright green mangroves he referred to are still there. Pic below of my vegan ‘buffalo wings’ which were battered cauliflower florets in a delicious sauce.

We were reunited with a couple of guys we met in Agua Verde, and one day I met Gerry’s sailing companion; Boomer the Bengal cat. He’s been travelling with Gerry on his boat for the last three years, is perfectly at ease on board and obeys commands in the manner of a dog (he even gets taken for a walk on a lead). He was very friendly too.

Boomer 🙂

We had a fabulous day out in nearby Loreto when Paul hired a car on Friday 27th. The temperature had been gradually dropping since we’d arrived and when we arrived at the pretty seaside town, it was like a typical blustery bright autumn day on the UK coast. The sea was choppy and people were battling against the strong wind on the prom. We joined them and walked to the breakwater to see the sea lion construction and sat a while watching the birds diving into the breaking waves for fish.

Loreto’s malecon

After browsing the shops and the town square, we found a great place to have lunch in a shaded flowery area of the plaza and then visited a couple of supermarkets to make the most of having a car to transport heavy items back. I didn’t look forward to carrying them up the ladder to the boat though.

Path to the seafront

Loreto lost its status as Baja’s capital when a destructive hurricane in 1829 forced the government to move the state’s capital to La Paz. Its other claim to fame is that it was the first place in the Californias to establish a mission. There is a lovely old church (Mission of Our Lady of Loreto) to mark the occasion in the centre of town proudly bearing the date of that historic mission (1697). We were headed for the second oldest mission, however which proved to be the highlight of our time away from La Paz (for me anyway).

Our Lady of Loreto

San Javier village is a small community about an hour and a half away from Loreto and to get there we had to drive up a mountain in the beautiful Sierra de la Giganta range for most of that time. It was simply stunning.  Every time we rounded a corner on the climb, the view was another awe-inspiring one. It was all the more exquisite for there being no other vehicles on the road for much of the way. The landscape was arid desert land, cactus-strewn and littered with rocks. In some parts, sections of the road had tumbled down the steep cliffs, narrowing it considerably. Paul, who had visited it in the summer told me that a car had been visible at the bottom of one of the valleys due to the crumbling roads. I was glad I wasn’t driving! The higher we got, the more remote it became. Dried river beds and spindly, small trees and bare bushes were a sign of long periods of drought and I was finding it hard to believe there would be any village at the end of the drive, never mind one with a population of 200. When we got there I was surprised to find it a lot larger than I expected. Even though only one primary street runs through the village we passed signs for the school, cathedral, police station, places of interest and a car park. Several cars were parked and I wondered how we hadn’t seen any traffic apart from one motor bike on our way up. The street was lined with a couple of small shops, a restaurant and cafes and a few houses.

San Javier’s main street

Before visiting the cathedral, which looked beautiful in the fading light, we walked the small distance to see the spring that supplies water to the village and to look at what purports to be the oldest olive tree in the Americas.

Amazing to think they had to transport materials up a very high mountain to construct this
San Javier’s spring
An extremely old olive tree

Noticing the entrance to the cathedral was open (it was closed on Paul’s previous visit) we went inside to be confronted with a well-maintained and very compact interior. A man approached us to offer his services as a guide (whether we wanted him or not as it turned out). He told us a little about the paintings on the ceiling and the dates of various things in his best English and then held his hand out for a tip. We felt obliged to leave then, so it was a fairly quick visit and I forgot to take any pics. I found the exterior to be more gorgeous anyway.

Back in the street we had a look at the shop where there was a display of locally made honey and wines and other crafts. I couldn’t resist the offer of a taste of the red wine and as it was pricey but genuinely delicious, bought a bottle for a Christmas treat. We didn’t fancy driving back down the mountain in the dark, not least because it would be a shame to miss the views. We stopped a few times to take in the expansive views before us. The pictures probably don’t do them justice. I kept marvelling at the fact that Jesuit pilgrims had climbed this mountain to reach the cathedral in blistering heat on a makeshift dirt trail. Their journey must have seemed endless.

The road far below in the middle of the pic

We had a few more days to wait until the work was completed on Sister Midnight and then we would be making our return journey to La Paz, taking in more of what the Sea of Cortez has to offer on the way.


Launch day and heading South

Tuesday 1st December

Up early, at least earlier than the bloody painters who haven’t finished the hull yet and we launch in a few hours. The plan is to lift the boat high in the slings so they can get under the keel, clean it properly then paint it. Eventually a whole gang arrive and start the work. The travel lift is busy preparing for a sailboat called Aventura which is being hauled out at ten. Everything goes to plan and we are launched just after 12. The whole thing is an ordeal for Kathy as she has a tooth hanging out which is giving her a lot of pain. As soon as we arrive back in La Paz it’s off to the dentist for her, or maybe some string tied to the door handle if things get too bad beforehand. 

The view looking out into the sea from Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido from above
Puerto Escondido boatyard launching Sister Midnight

Once launched we reverse into the fuel dock, and I’m very pleased to see the Bow Thruster works very well, the LED dims a little, so I’m wondering if it used to, or there might still be a problem. I will do some more tests at a later date. 
The boat is flying along with the new paint and shiny prop. We were doing 6.5 knots with a moderate amount of power, 2000RPM, so it’s much better. I’m very happy to be afloat again, and we have tidied everything up and are enjoying having running water again.We fuel up, get water, wash the boat down quickly and head out to sea.
It’s a bit bouncy out there, but I have spotted a small cove, called honeymoon cove, just 40 minutes from the marina, on Danzante Island. One review says “it can be a bit tight getting in,  but that’s appropriate for a honeymoon”. As it turns out, we are the only ones there. Our first attempt at dropping the anchor finds a stony/rocky bottom and it won’t grip. So we re-anchor in a different spot and the same problem. I let the boat drift back away from the shore, letting out more chain hoping at some point we will find sand, and in the end we dig in, but not very well. Then the boat turns and backs up to the beach, I’m not 100% happy with the situation, but as the wind is expected to drop a lot and there are no waves at all here I think we will survive. All the same I set a tight anchor alarm on the iPhone. 

Wednesday 2nd
One other boat joined the cove and anchored in a narrow section between two cliff faces. An older double ender boat like ours, but full of youthful exuberance. Loud Abba/rap for a while, then a lot of shouting at the cliffs, I’m not sure if they had ever heard an echo before, but we all have now.
We moved around a lot as the sun set, the wind swinging in every direction, eventually we ended up very close to the beach with the tide dropping, at one point we only had half a metre of water under the stern. With the very rocky bottom it was quite a worry. However the tide was soon rising and the wind pushed us a little further away, so I slept reasonably well, checking the depth and location every few hours.

The Pelicans were out in force right behind us

Come dawn, the mountains were lit up spectacularly, and the waters were splashing like crazy with all the sea life. We left around 8am to make the most of the morning calm and headed north into the predicted strong winds for the deserted salt ponds town of Salinas. The boat performed really well, into a headwind of 15 knots and oncoming waves, we easily pushed along at over 6 knots without pushing the engine hard at all. We anchored in 4 metres of water off the beach, the anchor dug in first time and dug in deep, we gave it maximum revs in reverse and she didn’t budge. This means I get to sleep long and deep tonight. Later we went ashore to tour the ghost town and gather some salt from the old abandoned ponds. Kathy was quite amazed by it all. We joked about making Christmas cards with the scenery, it just looks like frozen lakes covered in snow.

Puerto Salinas from above
Room with a view
Used typewriter, needs some attention, some keys missing.
Bumped into Clint Eastwood
Kathy exploring the ruins
A short video of the town

Thursday 3rd
The wind built through the night, but I got a great sleep nonetheless, during the day the wind climbed to 25 knots but because we were anchored in a bay facing north, the waves were quite low, the boat seesawed around a fair bit and we stayed indoors doing odd jobs. I did some programming, without the internet you realise just how good books were, I mean programming books, I wanted to check the name of the tick box you see on web forms, I wanted to know the name of the element/attribute that is set when the tick appears, I guessed at Value, Selected, state, tick, etc etc, without the internet or books I was stuck, I ended up searching through some javascript code from a saved website and found it was called checked!  Kathy cleaned out all the cupboards in the galley and washed them with a mixture of water & Borax, hopefully this will strike a blow at the cockroaches that visit us each evening to see what dinner leftovers there might be. I lifted the stove out of its bay so we could clean around there and I checked the gas hose that supplies it, I couldn’t believe that it had been chafing on the steel plated bulkhead and had a groove in the sheath. I made a temporary repair and have made this the number one repair job to do when we get back to La Paz. I had meant to replace the pipe in Canada or the USA but couldn’t find anyone who could supply the pipe with fittings. I think this might be easy here.
I was up several times in the night, the wind was wild but eventually calmed a bit by morning.

Friday 4th
Up early to see if the weather has calmed enough to leave. We had seen 35 knots of wind yesterday, but we were now around 20, and although it looked and sounded bad out there, I felt it would be no problem, especially as we were heading downwind. The Raspberry PI computer had been logging the wind all night and a quick import to excel showed the wind was definitely on a downhill trajectory.

Wind through. the night

Kathy was keen to press on, so we took off, the first problem being the anchor chain was stretched taut by the force of the wind on the boat, so Kathy had to abandon her prone position in the V berth flaking chain, to drive the boat forward to where I was pointing from the bow. Every ten metres that came in had me running down to the anchor locker to knock the chain pyramid over. If I didn’t do this, the bigger pyramid would fall over on itself and trap the chain, making it impossible to anchor later on. As soon as the anchor broke free, the boat swung around in the wind and was away. I had the Genoa up and the engine off in minutes and we took off on one of the best sails I have had in a long time. It was a broad reach with waves and some surf pushing us along generally around 7 knots, at one point the GPS recorded 10 knots. We seemed to have the sea to ourselves and with bright blue skies, I lay back in the cockpit and let the autohelm do the work.

Looking good

6 hours later the wind had dropped a lot, and I let out the last third of the sail as we glided into Agua Verde bay. Soon the hook was down in 9m of clear water and we broke out the drinks to celebrate a fast passage. 

Saturday 5th
We decided to enjoy having a lie in, then a lazy day in Agua Verde. After a leisurely breakfast we checked out the surf on the beach and decided it was a bit much for Kathy in the dinghy so we opted to go ashore in the protected little cove we were anchored in and take the dirt track to the village. It’s only about a mile, but up and down winding mountain trails. I’m glad we did, the trail took us inland behind a big hill overlooking the bay and we discovered amazing views both of the bay from high above and also of the mountains and plains inland.
At the village we stocked up on Bimbo bread and 5 hours of internet vouchers. Back at the boat we caught up with the news, downloaded the latest weather forecasts and generally continued to be lazy. 

Water for the village travels down these pipes
The waves Kathy didn’t want to ride in the dinghy
Sister Midnight at anchor in Agua Verde BCS, sheltered from the swell by a rock ledge

I’m up at 7 and looking at the weather it seems like a good time to get off, I think Kathy might have preferred a lie in and a lazy breakfast, as we often do on Sundays, but today we have strong Northerlies forecast followed by several calm days and I figure we can do 50 miles to Evaristo in 8 hours in we average more than 6 knots, which should be doable in the predicted wind of 15-25 knots. So on with the kettle, and I start stowing while Kathy is still fast asleep. 
By half seven we are motoring out of the tranquil bay at Agua Verde into big seas and strong winds, The waves are high and for the first hour, on the side of the boat, making it rather Rolly. I quickly have the Genoa headsail up and the motor off. As we turn away from the wind and start our 7 hour downhill run we are hitting speeds of 9 knots as we rush off the big waves hitting us from behind. An hour later the wind shifts so that it is right behind us, I’m glad I didn’t put up the mainsail, we have enough sq ft up there and the main would just be more work. However the big waves has us corkscrewing a lot and the sail collapses frequently, then fills with a loud crack. It’s an old sail and I’m not looking forward to it ripping so I shove the engine on, furl the sail and get the spinnaker pole out. Soon we are flying along again and the Genoa stays filled for the next 7 hours. It’s brilliant sailing, I sit on the foredeck, as that’s the only place getting any sun. One of the problems of sailing south like this is that the sun is dead ahead and hidden by the sail, the solar panels aren’t happy at all.

After a few hours I check that all the lines are good, not chafing, the rig is under a lot of force, big waves lift all 19 tons of us up and throw us down, while the wind exerts a massive force on the Genoa sheets, which are very taut. I notice that somehow I have got the uphaul for the spinnaker pole wrapped around the radar unit on the mast, I’m amazed it hasn’t ripped it off yet. It’s also going through a shroud it shouldn’t, what a mess, I slacken it off and let the sail control how far down it can go, in the end it works out fine. Kathy sits in the cockpit for the last hour of the journey and is shocked when the spinnaker winch starts screaming as it spins quickly, I jump over and grab the fishing reel, I use the winch to tell me when the line is running out. It’s a big one, and after a bit of a struggle I get it on board, it’s a 4kg Dorado. Enough for 5 big meals. It’s the largest fish I have ever caught and I feel quite bad about killing it.  As I expect today is the last sailing day of the year, so will this be my last catch of the year.

Max speed 11.3 Knots, that’s some bottom paint!

We turn into San Evaristo around 2:30 pm, and I try to furl the Genoa, but unfortunately it’s blowing too strong and the sail furls too tightly and I can’t get it all furled. I need a better way to get this big sail in when it’s blowing hard. We drop anchor in a very protected cove on the north side of the bay and Kathy pours a drink, I have a beer before getting down to some serious filleting.

We leave Everisto and head for Isla Partida, but on the way we take a small detour to check out the Sea Lions at Isla Islota, a couple of big rocks north of Partida. They don’t disappoint, there’s plenty of them, making lots of noise, and quite a smell. Later we anchor in a lovely cove at Ensenada El Cardonal, there’s only one other sailboat there and we have a peaceful night, the wind now having dropped right down.

Leaving Partida, we glide down past Esperitu Santo, the wind picks up a little and I unfurl the Genoa again, The sails fills nicely and we are off at 3.5 knots in a very flat sea, we sail all the way to the anchorage at La Paz, negotiating the channel around the end of the sandbank that extends almost all the way to the oil terminal. We drop the hook just outside Marina De La Paz and I phone up and I’m lucky enough to get a berth in there from tomorrow.

Kathy uses the dinghy to prove her loaf
Nice Strata
The ugly end of La Paz

A 5 minute motor into Marina La Paz and within a few hours the boat is hosed down, plugged in, hooked up to the internet and lots of $$$ handed over to the marina. We are back to being a static caravan for the next few months. I’m quite motivated to do lots of work on the boat, and also do some interesting Software dev.
We are here now until we work out what’s going on with the Vaccine, Brexit and other stuff. Kathy plans to fly home in Feb, I may join her, but only if I’m free to travel and visit family and friends, also we don’t know if we will be allowed to travel via European airports yet. It was announced today that Brits may only be allowed into other European countries for special reasons, because as a ‘third country’ with a High covid Level, we may be banned. Also we may be required to have vaccinations before we can board flights, and we may not be able to get them here before Feb. So many variables, we will have to wait and see.

Paul Collister.

On the Hard

Taken by Chris on Cherie Anne when he climbed the hill in Agua Verde. We are in the middle

Tuesday 24th November 2020
Our first day on the hard, and this is a very hard concrete yard we are in, and it’s not as bad as I was expecting. There’s not a lot going on here other than two men who are sanding the old antifoul off the hull in preparation for 2 coats of new interspeed 640 hard antifouling. I spent the day cleaning the prop, fitting a new anode to it and repairing the autopilot which failed just after we left Agua Verde. Once again the key that holds one of the cogs to the drive shaft fell out. Unlike the last time, I couldn’t find the key. I took this as an opportunity to give that area of the boat, behind the rudder shaft a good cleaning, with the hopeful bonus of finding the key. Thinking about it, I should have found it, and I’m wondering if the key might have slipped back into the motor housing. I ended up having to make a new key, and realising I don’t carry any material I could cut, 5mm by 5mm square, I chose a 10mm stainless steel screw and set about filing it down. It took a little while, but fit perfectly in the end. I made a dimple in it for the set screw that hadn’t done its job before and all was well, except I couldn’t test it as a lad was busy below sanding the rudder. I checked it before bed and it seems to be working fine. Later I heard Gerry and Chris, the two boats we met in Agua Verde calling for help with their lines as they approached the marina. I wandered down to the pontoon to help. A useful tip I picked up on my travels around is to have some ropes and fenders ready for when you dock, also it’s best to try to be parallel (ish) to the dock when approaching, it’s much harder when you are 90 deg to it 😉 . It was good to see them safely tied up. Later Kathy and I enjoyed a meal at the smart restaurant upstairs, Kathy was delighted to see a decent vegan menu on offer.
By the end of the day, 1/4 of the hull had been sanded, and several very small blisters had been decapitated. Back in Penang, Malaysia, nearly 5 years ago, there were several hundred blisters, many the size of saucers, the hull treatment seems to have worked well.

Ghillie II parked next to us. We first met her & captain in Tofino BC, A gorgeous yacht

As I was looking at the quotes for the haul out and paint job, which aren’t small, I thought I might pen a few notes on the cost of cruising for us. This seems to be a popular thing on other blogs, so without too much detail:

Monthly costs in the dock: £600 (Typical in the sea of cortez for a 45ft slip)
(Includes electricity, water, facilities, etc, just add food & drink)

Haulout & relaunch cost: £370
Labour to sand and paint hull, (2 guys 5 days ish) £1200
Paint: 3 gallons (11.5 litres) £600
Total haulout & paint job (£2170)

So I would do the haulout every two years normally, this time it’s over three since I painted. So that averages about £1000/year. And £600/month for the slip seems a lot, but because we are at sea/anchor a lot, it probably averages down to £500/month over a year. My costs of running the apartment back on Merseyside wasn’t that much less, when I consider Service charges (£120), Electric/Gas(£100), Council Tax (£110). Food and drink is cheaper here, I sold my home in West Kirby last year, so fortunately I don’t have those bills anymore. So all in all it’s not costing us much to be spending our time hanging out in exotic, tropical paradises as you might think.
Of course there are big ticket items that come up every now and then like new sails every 5-10 years (£5000), new standing rigging (Wires to hold up the mast) every 10 years, (£4000), failing electronics, probably a few hundred pounds every year. At some point I will need a new engine, that could be anywhere between £5000 and £15,000 depending on who does the work.
The other big cost we have is flying home from far flung places.

The sanding continues, fortunately it’s not too loud inside the boat, but later a second guy joins and it’s getting a bit noisy. I book a hire car in the marina office so we can spend tomorrow being tourists, and get Kathy to a big supermarket before her shopping withdrawal symptoms kick in. I rub down the propellor, it has no grease in it at all, which is fair enough I suppose. I last serviced it in Sointula nearly two years ago. I spend the day doing some programming for work, it goes remarkably well, and I produce a flash user interface, well flash by my usual standards of 80×24 character, 128 levels of grey! Aren’t plugins great.
The sanding is taking forever.

After a half hour of waiting for the car I go to the office to find out the lady there forgot to book it for me. Oh well, Manaña.
The sanding is continuing, It looks like they will complete today. They are doing a great job, but it’s going to be 6 man days work, I’m sure in Kudat, Malaysia it took one guy three days. I decide to have a serious go at bow thruster anodes, the props are badly fouled on the inside and impossible to clean without removal. I have tried several times to take the anodes off on past haulouts, but the bolt that holds them in place wont budge. The zinc has corroded around it, plus I think the wrong loctite may have been used on them, until I remove the anodes, I can’t get to the holding nut. Generally the anodes have not changed much in the 5 years they have been on, which in itself is an issue. I have a problem as all my 5mm allen keys needed for these bolts are missing, I think they broke on various jobs, I have one that I have filed down to be a 4.5mm ish key for some odd job in the past. I give up with the one key I find as it just isn’t budging and the key is two long to put across the prop. The shopping list for tomorrow grows. I also need to try and find anodes for the stern of the boat.

Enough allen keys now?

Hurrah the rental car arrives at 9AM and we load up and head into town, I stop at an auto-service parts place and pick up an expensive allen key set, that comes with a snazzy ratchet wrench for about £15. The same or similar tool was available in Mr Tool, in Malaysia for no more than £5. Anything that is imported here, even value Chinese goods is pricey. I wonder if this is how the UK will be next year, A GoPro for £300 will cost £400 due to taxes & shipping fees. Next off to the Chandlers, where they have no suitable zinc anodes, I also can’t find any drill bits that I could use to fashion a block of zinc I have into the part I need for the stern.

Old & potential replacement

I show Kathy around town, This is my third trip here and I’m almost a local. The wind blows very strong, but we find a lovely spot for lunch in the town square. I will let Kathy write about that, so far she has fared well for Vegan meals, largely thanks to the ingredients in Guacamole being quite veggie.

Off to the supermarkets (note the plural) and I am pleased to be able to stock up on cases of soda and cerveza sin alcohol. Kathy even finds some vegan products in the Ley Supermercado. From the town, we head up into the mountains to visit the mission at San Javier. This is a very old mission, in a valley right up high in the mountains, 30 km from Loreto and very remote. It shows what faith those missionaries must have had, it takes us an hour in a car on a tarmacked road to get there, goodness knows how long it must have taken back in the 17th Century with dirt tracks and donkeys. Kathy is surprised to see this little oasis of a village appear out of the mountains with the mission at the end. It is quite a lovely spot. I’m sure Kathy will elaborate.

The Mission at San Javier BCS

Back at the boat I can see they have finished the sanding, but no painting has started yet.

Painting begins, but not before I crawl under the boat and get my head under the keel, I can see there’s a large chunk of it missing. I’m guessing it’s from when we hit the mis-chartered rock in Canada, looking at it in detail, I’m thinking the hull material in the area looks messy, I’m wondering if in the past it has been patched up badly. I organise for it to be filled, glassed over and finished with epoxy resin.

Also the strip of damage near the rudder is filled ready for fairing.

I watch a YouTube video from Sidepower, the people who made my bow thruster, about removing the anodes then the prop, but the anode bit seems to have been edited out. It’s not a lot of use, a guy has a bow thruster on the table and he holds the propellor on one side as he undoes the nut on the other. I scroll down to the comments where some guy has written “Thanks for that, but unfortunately I have a boat wrapped around the bow thruster, so your technique doesn’t work.”. Thankfully the reply suggests showing a block of wood through the prop to hold it in place, something I had thought of doing but was worried it would damage the prop. As it turns out this works fine, and the allen keys I bought allows me to remove the anodes, and then the props.
Funnily enough, when I dig out the new anodes from my expensive/tiny boat bits locker, I find two 5mm allen keys in there, I obviously thought at some point in the past, this would be a good place to keep them. Forgetting that I always forget such great ideas. I clean and paint the props and will refit them tomorrow.

Bow thruster Props removed

Next I try to drill holes in a large zinc block I have that could replace the wasted zinc on the stern. I always thought you had to drill slowly with metals for best effect, it seems with Zinc it’s better to go like a madman with the fastest drill you can, ignore the smoke and glowing drill bit, just go for it. I am making a big hole with lots of smaller holes, and the only way I can justify the result is that you have to dive under the boat to be able to see what a terrible mess I’ve made of it. In fact I may wait until just before launch to fit it so the boatyard staff don’t laugh at me. As the sun sets we head up to the restaurant here and have a lovely dinner.

The boatyard is quiet today, so I clean the prop and then fill it with marine grease.

I finish off hacking a hole in the zinc anode for the stern and fit it. It’s a terrible bodge, but it will work. I expect as the zinc wears away, the nut will come loose and it will vibrate itself to bits. My plan is to replace it and the other one on the port side with the correct anodes when I get back to La Paz, they may be in stock there, if not I can order them. Hopefully I can dive and replace them myself with my new scuba skills. Tomorrow was meant to be launch day, but I think it will need to go back to Tuesday, also we have quite strong northerly winds at the moment, so my plan to go north won’t work right now.
I did a little more checking on the boat weight today, as the ton/tonnes thing always confuses me. The boat weighed 17.5 metric tons in the travel lift slings.
That’s the same as 38,581 lb. Looking in the sales brochure for the boat, the weight (displacement) is stated as 29,000 lb, making us 10,000 lb overweight.

Or 30% overweight. That seems a lot, the problem is that manufacturers always want to play down the weight for sales reasons, lighter boats go faster. So they often leave off things like anchors & chain, fuel and water, cookers, batteries, even the mast sometimes, anything that might be optional. Even so, I think we might be a touch too heavy. Kathy suggested we could lose some books, but I expect she means my books 😉

The boat bottom has been painted with two coats in most places, there’s more to do, but the final bits will be done in the morning when the boat is in the slings.

The rudder bit has been repaired, it’s not perfect, and the bash to the keel looks fine now, and at least it is solid and no water could work its way into the ballast.

The bow thruster props cleaned up well, I have painted them with the antifoul used on the hull, I’m not sure how well it will work, it was a bit thick going on, but I expect it will soon ablate off.

Tomorrow we launch, into the tail end of a strong northerly, typically we are heading north, against the wind which I expect will be gone by the time we turn for the south. We will explore the islands around Loreto. I’m looking forward to having a faster boat again. The bow thruster let us down on the way into the travel lift, I noticed the control panel LEDs went dim when it was engaged, this might have been because of the growth on the props, but I suspect it is more likely going to be an electrical problem. This could be one of two obvious things, a bad connection, which would be great as that’s an easy fix, but more likely, the batteries can’t supply the many hundreds of amps needed to turn the prop. Tomorrow if the prob is still there I will be running around the boat with my multimeter while Kathy energises the thruster!

Paul Collister.