Sunday 27th June 2021 I’m back in La Paz and all tied up in the marina, close to where I left a few months ago for my solo circumnavigation of the lower half of the Sea of Cortez. A trip of about 1000 nautical miles, started 15 weeks ago and covering three states, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa.
Monday 21st June Stepping back a bit, it’s Monday and my dove has gone, I start preparing the boat to leave and head over to the office to clear out in advance for an early start on Tuesday. The office lady chats with me about the dove, and says she thinks the dove knows the weather well and decided to leave before the storm. Which is nice. However she also tells me the port is closed, so I’m not going anywhere in a hurry. The red flag is flying from the port capitania’s office. The recent storm, Dolores, to the south, which didn’t make it to hurricane status did create some walloping big waves which are creating huge swells at the entrance to the marina. I dinghy out and sure enough the waves are crashing over the breakwater. Maybe tomorrow.
Tuesday: Maybe Tomorrow Wednesday: Maybe tomorrow
Thursday, Yes, a yellow flag is flying so I pass my key to a security guard, throw the bike on board and head off around 10:30, which is when there will be enough water to get out the channel. I cautiously motor through the swell at the entrance, some of the staff at Marina El Cid which is right near the entrance, wave me on. They know me now from my daily visits in the Kayak to check on the waves. After 15 minutes I’m in the sea and past the rollers and big swell. It feels great, I hoist the main and get the other two headsails out. The wind isn’t where it’s meant to be, and I can’t lay a course direct to La Paz, so I head a little north, close hauled but making great speed in 10-12 knots of wind
It takes me 35 hours to cross the sea, 5 hours better than I had expected. besides a bit of sail trimming, watching dolphins and flying fish, there was little to do. I didnt see another vessel for the whole passage, not even on AIS once I was offshore. I stayed in the cockpit and had modest meals I had ready to go. Napping for 15-20 minutes in the night.
Having arrived on the BCS side, the wind had picked up, I think it’s a corumel, but I’m not sure. I decided it would be too exposed to go into la paz bay, and despite the southerly swell I changed course and headed for the safety of a bay on the east side of Espirito Santo called Bonanza. It was quite dark and I was trying to remember if I had ever anchored this boat in the dark, or done it solo in the dark. Thinking it through I realised that I wouldn’t be able to see the markers on the chain as it went out. I need to put out just the right amount. I had a secret plan to go to the waypoint where I dropped the anchor last time I was here, when Tim & Asta visited. However somebody had stolen my spot and there was a boat either side of them. The bulb has stopped working in the depth sounder again so I couldn’t read it. I grabbed a couple of torches and set course for the beach. It’s amazing at night how close the beach looks. By the time I got the anchor down, the wind was gusting 28 knots, but we had the island protecting us from any waves so I slept well
The next morning was a little calmer and I headed round into the main La Paz bay, I was determined to get a swim in before I hit the docks and dropped anchor in Balandra Bay. This is a stunning area with picture postcard beaches. I snorkeled some rocks and a small reef, saw some great fish, and forgot to look under the boat while I was down there! Maybe I will take the boat out again.
Sunday morning and I leave for the Marina. It’s been blowing hard all night and around 20 boats have all taken shelter in the corner of the bay I’m in. On the way back I spot the cruise ships are still here.
I was a bit worried about getting into the slip as the wind was gusting quite strongly, but as it turned out the marina staff turned out to take my lines and all went very smoothly.
A short time later, the boat is washed down, plumbed into the marina’s electricity, water and broadband/ethernet. Tomorrow I have to try and get as much canvas down as possible, if the wind allows me as a hurricane is headed for us. How exciting is that. More below.
Below is the forecast for the waters south of me, and a good five hundred miles south. The hurricane is tracking slowly to the East of North right now and that means it may well travel up the sea of Cortez and reach us soon
Entrance to the Gulf of California including Cabo Corrientes-
228 PM PDT Sun Jun 27 2021
.TONIGHT...HURRICANE CONDITIONS. Near Cabo Corrientes, NW to N
winds 65 to 75 kt, shifting to E to SE late. Elsewhere, W winds
60 to 65 kt, becoming SW to W 45 to 50 kt late. Seas 11 to 17 ft
in S to SW swell. Period 15 seconds. Scattered showers and
isolated tstms. Vsby 1 NM or less.
.MON...HURRICANE CONDITIONS EXPECTED. Near Cabo Corrientes, S
winds 60 to 70 kt. Elsewhere, SW to W winds 25 to 30 kt,
increasing to 35 to 40 kt in the afternoon. Seas 10 to 16 ft in S
to SW swell. Period 16 seconds. Scattered showers and isolated
.MON NIGHT...HURRICANE CONDITIONS EXPECTED. S winds 55 to 65 kt
Near Cabo Corrientes, and SW to W 45 to 60 kt Elsewhere. Seas 9
to 14 ft in S to SW swell. Period 15 seconds. Scattered showers
and isolated tstms.
Below is the forecast for the area La Paz is in, much more manageable, but things could change. To think I scooted all the way here from Mazatlan to be in the path of a possible hurricane!
Southern Gulf of California-
228 PM PDT Sun Jun 27 2021
.WED...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS POSSIBLE.
.WED NIGHT...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS POSSIBLE.
.THU...S winds 20 to 25 kt, diminishing to 10 kt in the
afternoon. Seas 2 to 4 ft. Period 16 seconds.
.THU NIGHT...S winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 ft or less. Period
.FRI...S winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 ft or less. Period
I’m pretty confident it will fizzle out and it will be wet and windy here, but at least it will be cool and the boat gets a good washing.
Tuesday 15th June 2021 Last night and this morning was spent playing with the pactor modem. It’s working now and I briefly connected to a shore station (HAM) and sent an email. However if I use high power, or anything more than quite low power really, I get interference back to the modem. Apparently this is very common, in fact a few weeks ago, I just happened to be chatting to my neighbour on his T37 about SSB and he said he couldn’t use his modem for exactly this reason. When I was 15, I operated my HAM station (G4dly) out of my bedroom and initially caused interference on everyone’s TV and Radio, I remember the neighbour had the home office radio engineers out they were so fed up with it. I offered to help, but they insisted I was the problem, not their telly, however once they were told by the home office that there telly was in fact illegally receiving my transmissions, and I was in the clear, they were happy for me to fit some filters, which I think solved the problem. Anyway, the reason I mention this is, that during that time, I researched the socks off radio frequency interference (RFI), and I think got quite good at it. So solving the problem here should be a doddle, if I can just remember what I knew 47 years ago 🙁 . If I can get this working well, I will have a way to get weather forecasts and update friends and family on my whereabouts, wherever I am in the world. For the South Pacific passages, I may well have satellite comms, and if Mr Musk hurries up, I might even have broadband, I’m on his waiting list. Having this is a good backup. So lunchtime Tuesday and I head off into the heat on my bicycle to search for Ferrite Rings, these are the modern way of reducing interference. Pictures below.
Sadly after a few hours of cycling and visiting 5 electronic component shops I had to give up. It looks like an amazon.mx job now. I pop into Ley on the way back, and find the vegan section, I now have a selection of Chorizo sausage and meatballs to try.
Wednesday I arrange for Rafa the fridge engineer to call back and see if he can find the coolant leak, this involves emptying out the cockpit lockers again. Before I do that, I take the SSB ATU connections off and remake these, I notice the earth of the ATU is connected to a 2″ wide copper strip/wire. This stuff snakes around the bilge and I’m not a fan of it. A bit of a waggle and it crumbles apart. I’m wondering if it was doing any good at all so I fire up the SSB without the earth on, and it tunes up just fine, telling me the ATU is finding its earth back from the SSB rig via the coax, or down the 12v cable. Either way, this is not good for the rig, tuning, transfer of power to the backstay/atmosphere, and especially not good for keeping the stray radiation inside the boat to a minimum. I dig out some heavy cable and route it from the ATU down into the bilge. While rummaging for said cable, I find a couple of ceiling fans that run on mains power. I tie one to the ceiling, remembering how well it worked in the past somewhere, probably Malaysia, before realising it’s 240v, so not a lot of use unless I run long leads around. So I head off to the Hipermarket to see if they sell a 110v version of the same thing. There’s something comforting about having a large revolving fan in the ceiling, perhaps I have some British empire colonial DNA kicking around.
And this is what I ended up with 😉
Thursday Rafa confirms there is a slow leak from the evaporator in the fridge and that I might as well buy a whole new system, $1000 in the USA but more like $1700 by the time it gets here with shipping and taxes. And that’s between countries that have a trade deal and a land border. I would be tempted to sail up to San Diego and buy it there and fit it myself, as I could also get a load of other stuff I need, like a VHF Radio, VHF handheld, Watermaker stuff etc etc, but I don’t have the required visa anymore, and would have to get that in London, also Covid would probably stop me anyway. While the locker is empty, I crawl down to inspect the earth bonding connections, and tie in the new cable I pushed down for the ATU. Perhaps I should explain, the ATU is the Aerial Tuning Unit and makes the backstay that holds the mast up, appear to be the perfect length wire for the SSB transmitter. The SSB being the radio I use for long distance, over the horizon, communications. I clean a lot of connections up, put new lugs on a few wires and tighten down the connections to the sintered bronze earth block and the Zinc Anodes. Back at the SSB, the background noise seems much lower, and the rig is tuning up better, so I’m very pleased, however with MF/HF Radio signals, you can never be sure if it’s just a good/bad day for radio propagation. I try the Pactor modem again, and it’s slightly better, but still falling over as the radio transmissions are getting into the Modem. Later I pop over to have a chat with Denis on Ultegra, a fine sloop from Vancouver, the boat that is. We have a nice chat, he was a pilot operating float planes out of Alert bay for a while, I feel so cool to be able to just say, “Oh yeah, we know Alert bay well, been there many times” , of course he knows Sointula / Malcolm island well as it’s only a mile or so away and confirms my suspicion that there’s a little bit of tension between the two islands. Alert Bay is on Cormorant Island which has very strong roots with the First Nations people, whereas Sointula looks to Finland for its history. As far as I could tell, both Islands got on well but it’s a reminder to me how tensions exist between practically every grouping of people, no matter how similar they and their situations are. Enough philosophy, the main thing here is that Dennis had some ferrite rings which I borrowed. They helped a lot and I managed to send an email to myself via a mexican HAM Pactor station. I also sent one to Dirk, but I’m not sure if that arrived yet. I need more ferrite, and perhaps a different routing of the cables. But all in all I think we are almost there with the Pactor/SSB. No sign of activity at the top of the mast, it has been 16 days now since I saw Egg number 1, it should hatch anyday, however I think it might take a little while before I can see any babies up there. I’ve just realised that I don’t know much about this, I presume it’s one baby per egg? How do double yolkers fit into this? And if you want to tell me hens eggs for eating are different to chick carrying eggs, then I say visit the markets in Thailand!
Friday 18th June Rafa returns, he has left his pressure gauge on the fridge overnight, and he confirms the pressure has not dropped. He, and I concur, that the leak is in the evaporator. I don’t know if you remember I went on at some length about the overwhelming urge I have to hack the ice off the evaporator when defrosting 🙁 Anyway, it seems that with the ice buildup from the last two recharges, that the ice is stopping the leak. So as long as I keep the fridge frosted I might get away with it. It sounds like a plan, and I’m going for it. Just as soon as I can get a replacement I will though. We have a tropical storm that is threatening to turn into a proper hurricane and it’s only a few days away. It’s heading towards Mazatlan, at least that’s the clickbait version of things, I expect it will fizzle out before it gets here, and even if it does get here, it’s unlikely to harm us given our location up a long channel inland.
Still it’s a worry, and we will almost certainly get some wind from it. I worry for my feathered friends as they might have a job coping. I take a walk around the marina to stretch my legs and on the way back I notice it has got dark rather quickly, looking up I can see very menacing clouds racing above, very soon the whole sky is a dark grey and the wind has picked up. I know it’s not storm Dolores, as she’s been named, but I expect it’s a squall thats spun off her, or at least been in some way affected. It could also just be caused by a local heat spot, either way, back at the boat the wind has picked up to maybe 20-25 knots in gusts, and I have to take down some covers I had up to deflect the sun, as they are trying to head north. I hope the bird(s) are ok. Just before sunset I head over to Dennis’s boat to return the ferrite rings and upon looking up the mast I can’t see the nest. I grab the binoculars and wander around the pontoon to get a better view but I can’t see the nest anywhere. Now I’m quite worried. It’s too late to be going up the mast to check, and when I’m at Dennis’s boat he says he can see the nest from his angle, I can’t but perhaps they have squashed up against the light to avoid the wind. I decide a mast climb is in order for first thing in the morning.
Saturday. The Hurricane hasn’t happened, the storm headed inland, but we can expect some wind and rain soon. So with some trepidation I head up the mast, I have already had a good look with the binoculars from various places in the marina and I’m pretty sure they have left. As I approach the top it’s clear they are not there. The mother has flown away, and there’s no nest, as for the egg I think there were two possible scenarios. 1) The squall blew the nest away and the egg crashed to the ground, or 2) the egg had hatched and the mother and baby flew away when the squall started, and the squall scattered the nest to the winds. Now in all my years I have generally found that stuff that falls of the mast ends up on the deck, despite the strong wind, the boat wasn’t rocking much at all, and so I am certain if egg or chick had fallen, it would be on the deck below, and it isn’t. I have had a good look. So I am going with the fact that Mother and Baby are safe and happily cooing away from their new home.
I have started to tidy the boat, and have booked my place in Marina La Paz for three months starting next Saturday. I hope the baby bird got away, I can’t think that I could of done much more to help, in the end it had to deal with the forces of nature, as birds have been doing since birds began I expect.
Sunday It rained last night, around 3am, there was lightning and thunder and a serious downpour. This will not seem like much of an event to those back home, but for me, it was the first decent downpour I have seen for probably a year now. we have had maybe 2 or 3 showers in the last year, but no propper rain. The only downside to this is that the mosquitos now have plenty of places to lay eggs.
In the morning I load up the dinghy with 6 * 20 ltr empty diesel cans and head around to the fuel dock, only to find they must all be at church. I will go back tomorrow. I have a full tank of 200 ltrs, but at 5 litres/hour (on a bad day) thats 40 hours of motoring, and it’s about 220 miles to La Paz, at 5 knots, that would be 44 hours, so I would like some reserve. Saying that, I plan to sail for most of the passage. After launching the dinghy, I scan the foredeck closely for any signs of egg, and there’s nothing. Another trip to Walmart to stock up on a few things for now, and for the passage. I took a snap of a missing manhole cover en route that I nearly cycled into the other night. It was dark and I just picked it up with my bike light. My bike would easily fit through that hole. One hopes that after sailing two oceans, one might eventually be able to go out in a bit of style, lost at sea, is fine with me. But not by falling into a drain on the way home from Walmart.
So I will publish the blog now as tomorrow, Monday, I’m going to be quite busy preparing the boat for sea. I have to take down tarps that have been keeping me cool, stow the bike and the new fan, get the fuel and provisions, get the dinghy back on board , etc etc. I plan to hit the sea on Tuesday morning around 8:00, I have to find out the latest dredging schedule. It’s looking good for swell at the moment, and hopefully once I’m out of the marina it should be a simple 2 day passage.
I’m desperate for some peace and quiet, without the tourist boats blasting out their Banda and Rap music, so instead of going straight to La Paz, I will get within a half days sail and slip into a cove near Balandra or on Espiritu Santo and enjoy some peace and do a bit of snorkeling and swimming. I have booked a place in Marina De La Paz from Saturday until the end of September. Once there I will start to strip the boat outside, sails/covers/canopies and even the solar panels will come off as I will be leaving the boat all alone during hurricane season, it needs to have the least wind resistance possible. Just in case.
Tuesday 8th June 2021 Rafa seems to have done a good job on the fridge, it’s very cold and holding up to the seriously hot temperatures here. It’s now hitting 35c inside the cabin and only drops to around 32 at night. Outside it has been hotter. People in La Paz warned me that Mazatlan would be very hot, but funnily enough it’s been much hotter in La Paz, getting into the 40’s there I hear. I have decided that if the worst case predictions come true, then the eggs may not hatch before my flight home. I would then either have to book new tickets at some cost, or not go home. There’s no way I’m going up the mast to kill two baby doves while there mother flys around me going crazy. However I haven’t seen the mother today, and perhaps she has abandoned the egg(s). I decide to climb the mast, take some pictures with the GoPro as that’s easier to handle, and if she is not there, to take the nest with the egg away and try to set it up in a new home. If the new home doesn’t work, it should still be less stressful than the alternatives I hope. If I am delayed here by the doves, then I may have to move the boat if a hurricane approaches, and that’s definitely a possibility, if I move the boat, I expect the nest and eggs or baby doves will come crashing down onto the hard deck as the boat rocks. I’m very optimistic as I approach the nest, until I’m very close and the dove appears in front of me, sitting on the egg, and I think there may be a second in there. As I move around her with the camera, she flaps her wings at me in an offensive gesture, they make a very loud clap sound and it certainly makes me jump a little. I’m hoping she will fly away, but she’s resolute in protecting the eggs so I realise there and then, I’m here for a few more weeks at least. You can see the video below.
My right hand is outstretched holding the GoPro camera, like a selfie stick, and my feet are in the mast steps, and I’m basically holding myself on with just my left hand. I feel confident because my safety harness is attached to the mast via a bit of rope, it’s only when I start to head down and I check the harness that I notice the knot is undone, the rope dangling down and I would have just had time to briefly think on that as I sped past at 9.8 meters per second per second. Must try harder on the safety front.
Wednesday I ask in the marina office if they have had any experience of this, while explaining my 7 day stay here may turn out to be 5-6 weeks. The lady in charge says she may be able to get someone in to relocate the nest, I ask her to investigate, but I’m worried if they will really relocate or just pop it all into a bin on there way out. It’s not an issue now as they never got back to me.
Above I have put a stock picture from National Geographic of a mourning dove, next to mine. It’s close enough for me, but others may point out that one is a dove and the other a rare orangutan, I’m not very good on animal or bird identification. I think it’s time she had a name.
Thursday I’m being very lazy, if she’s sitting around all day and night on an egg, I feel like I can slow down a bit too. I do a little programming for a customer, that will cover the cost of the fridge repairs, and I start to read the “Handmaid’s tale” Later I visit the Soriano supermarket in search of some veggie/vegan goods, but it seems like Sinaloa is not the place to be a veggie. I pop into Office World to get some printer cartridges for my little cannon. It’s a model 6100, I have ranted about this before, and in my mind this should be on the G7 agenda this weekend, as they don’t stock cartridges for that model anymore, I mean why would they, It’s 6 months old. There is a new model, the 6110, Cartridges that look identical, but apparently won’t work. I wonder if the EU can put an end to this madness, how about all ink cartridges must be easily refillable, or let’s go back to ink ribbons. I eat out at one of the bars that line the edge of the marina. I sit down with my kindle, hoping the pounding house/banda rap music coming from the boats opposite will stop soon, once their passengers have disgorged but no, the music is coming from above my head, and as the sun sets I notice there’s also disco lights sweeping around and my table turns bright blue every 20 seconds. And it’s not several boats making the noise, it’s the restaurants either side of me playing similar music, but competing with each other for who can make the worst mix of drums and bass. At least Margaret Atwood’s writing is interesting enough for me to ignore this for the time it takes to eat a hamburguesa camarones, (Shrimp Burger). Very nice it is too.
Friday On Friday I’m starting to suffer from the heat, or more specifically the humidity. I dig out the Plastic covers for the boat I had made in Miri, Borneo, some time back and after an hour of tugging heavy plastic around the boat is covered. The inside temperature drops from 35 to around 30 over the next 24 hours.
Saturday It’s funny how one still thinks Saturday must be approached differently to the working days of the week, even though I’m in a country where most people seem to work a six or seven day week anyway, and I retired long ago from the normal routine. Still I feel shopping is in order, I hate consumerism but feel if I have to go, then a Saturday is the best day to join in the convention. In order to add some spice to my outing, I visit Sam’s club. I’m not really sure how this all works, I think it’s a cash and carry, like costco, and you pay about $20 / year to get their discounts. I presumed when we arrived in Mexico 19 months ago, that we wouldn’t be here long enough to get our $20 back in the discounts. I think I was wrong there. I like the spaciousness of the place, but mostly I like the supply of chocolate they had. Kathy will like the wine supply. Time to join the club.
After Sam’s club, into Walmart then home to the boat.
Like much of my childhood, Saturday started with promise but ended with little achieved. At least as a child I always had Doctor Who waiting for me at tea time. Here I have episode 9000 or so of Leo sanding his hull in Sequim, and RAN sanding his bottom. On the cycle ride home I feel some rain, the first in a year I think. It’s quite exciting, and as I approach the marina it’s getting stronger. Once on the boat it starts chucking it down and the sky is dark lit up by great streaks of lightning. I feel a little concern for the dove now, being on the top of a mast on water in a lightning storm is not the smartest of places to hang out. These birds often only live for a year, but can live up to 5 or 6, I wonder if this is her first thunderstorm? I temper this by remembering that she is the intruder. When mice invaded my house in London and Liverpool, I was open to the idea that I was the invader, Mice will have been nesting in those spots for millenia, my West Kirby flat was built on what was beach just 150 years ago. But here, on water, and I suspect this has always been a waterway here, there would have been no trees or nesting spots, so she is well out of order to move onto my mast.
Sunday I feel I should rest today, maybe go to the beach, goodness knows why, I’ve been resting most days now for the last ten years. I load up the bike with my towel and swimming trunks and head north. Theres a spot I saw on google earth, north of the development zone, where it looks like there may be a small beach away from the resort hotels and Condos. When I get there it’s full of extended Mexican families enjoyed the protected waters there. A row of rocks breaks the surf up. It’s lovely and there’s lots of food available, however the humidity has killed my appetite.
We have had a few tropical storms develop near the southern border of Mexico, mostly they have headed out to the west or northwest, found colder water and died. but the side effect is clouds being spun off and sent my way, which is fine with me. I’m bored with the constant sunshine every day.
Weekends are busy in the marina with day trip boats rushing in and out with their revellers. Below is a typical scene.
I am also amazed at how the brass band, I’m not sure if they are Banda or Mariachi, or a combination of both, join the trippers to provide music. As below you can see the band take up half the boat, and are very loud. I don’t quite see how this comes under enjoyable. I love it, but purely for the surrealistic site of a man playing a huge Tuba in a boat that’s not much bigger.
Monday 14th June 2021 The plan was to go up the mast and film an update, she has been out of site, or absent for 2 days now. But as I look up in the binoculars from a pontoon finger two slips away, I can see her sitting there brooding. I won’t go up, it won’t tell me anything new, and I don’t think she thinks much of me so far. Instead I shall give her and her fella a name, how about Mary (Shepherd) for the female. Named after another unexpected guest who stayed a little too long. Fitting for a mainly Catholic country.
I think it’s funny how having the hatching egg on the mast is a pain for me, but would be Sailing Vlog Gold for many of the channels I watch on YouTube. They could really milk this, I wonder if there is a way I can syndicate it 😉
So still no babies, I have no more than 4 weeks left if I want to get my boat to La Paz and fly home. If I keep the boat here I will have 5 weeks. It’s going to be tight. The goal for the next few days is to get the Pactor Modem working with Airmail, so that I can send and receive small emails from anywhere in the world for free, using the modem and the SSB. This will be invaluable from the south pacific. I have most of it working except for the control of the radio from the computer. If I’m not completely mad, it seems you control the rig via it’s headphone output. That can’t be right.
Finally it looks like I do have a leak in the fridge coolant, as the temperature is dropping daily.
Wednesday 2nd June 2021. I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow, I will need fuel and some food, so I decide to check out the big municipal market before I leave. I’m on deck about to retrieve the bike when my neighbour points out that I have a visitor on the top of my mast. Looking up I can see a nest has appeared. The area that’s available up there is only the size of a beer mat, yet it looks like a ‘Mourning Dove’ has moved in. Apparently they can build a nest in a day if needed, typically 1-2 days. I’m no expert on these things, but I may be soon. I climb the mast to investigate and as I approach I can see the mother bird right in front of me, she stares for a few seconds then flies off, revealing a big egg she was sitting on. I take a picture and retreat. Not before I ponder slinging the egg over into the sea and brushing the nest away. I decide there’s no need to make a rash decision just yet, I will go to the market and ponder.
The market is great, one of the best I have seen in Mexico so far. In my mind, I’m optimistically wondering if the chick might hatch while I’m out shopping, and be ready to fly away in a couple of days, I have no idea on these matters. However, I’m struggling to justify killing the baby dove and distressing the mother just so I can meet an arbitrary deadline of being in La Paz by Monday. I can actually wait here for a couple of weeks, it’s slightly cheaper, but I won’t get to spend as much time with my new friends in La Paz as I had hoped. One neighbour, and a couple of online friends have suggested I be brutal and explain to the mother she needs to start again in another place. A worry is that I could be stuck here for weeks, and then if a hurricane appears I may not be able to make the crossing in time to prepare the boat for my flight home. All to save a chick, that has a low chance of survival here anyway.
As I ponder this, I become acutely aware that I’m wandering through the poultry section of the market and there are hundreds of birds in various stages of dismemberment hanging and stacked all around me. There’s probably worse than Pollo here if I looked deeper. I don’t eat chicken or any meat anymore, so I didn’t feel an immediate guilt or duplicity about this, but I have eaten more than enough in the past. It seems we have a problem killing little pretty fluffy vulnerable things, best let them grow up and get tasty first.
From the market I visit the art gallery which is now open, they only have a small exhibition on but it’s amusing and reminds me of the work an artist friend does in London.
The other museums seem to be closed so I cycle down to the industrial dock area, I’m curious to see where the ferry to Stone Island is. This is supposed to be a great place to visit, miles of lovely beaches, but I’m confused because none of the islands here have any real big beaches. It turns out that it’s not an island at all, just a bit of coast that’s difficult to get to. I feel very cheated and want to complain to some kind of standards body. Surely the definition of an island should be easy to enforce.
I find the ferry terminal, but now feel that I would rather cycle the 25 miles or so needed to get to the beach rather than take a fraudulent ten minute island boat ride.
Friday 4th June. The mother is still sitting on her egg(s), I’m a little wiser having met people who have had the same issue, two sailors have advised being brutal, another explained how he decided to wait and enjoyed watching the babies hatch in a nest inside his mainsail cover, then fly away. I’m with him on this one but worried his chicks took 2 weeks to learn to fly, I expect mine will be advanced learners. I also heard there’s more than a 50% chance a predator will attack the nest, survival rate is low for chicks, hence the mother’s nest 5-6 times a year I’m told. Somehow the idea of a pelican, or frigate solving my problem doesn’t seem so bad. Nature’s way? For now I have put out a call to refrigeration engineers to come and fix the fridge, that’s going to take a few days, should they turn up, and I may have to wait for parts, then we can reassess the situation. I’m not sure if these birds are migratory, but if so, most countries have strict rules about approaching / disturbing their nest, in the USA and possible Canada, I think you can be imprisoned for interfering, I have read of people having to leave their boats and move ashore. Fridge man just called to say he will arrive on Monday and can work on my fridge, so that’s good. A local diver has just finished cleaning the bottom of the boat, he spent an hour underwater, he tells me the antifoul is very good, just a few small barnacles at the stern and that my anodes are all good. All this for $40. There are a few boats here, that the owners have left for the hurricane season and gone home. I wonder how bad it would be to relocate a nest to their boats? 😉 So I have a free weekend now, I have no work, not many boat jobs, and miles and miles of fantastic beaches and eateries, I guess I will just have to find a way to cope.
The weekend. Later on Friday I noticed a lot of emails arriving, after an hour I had over 5000 messages from Microsoft (MSN) telling me I was spamming them. I shut my mail server down and started to investigate. It turns out my server (I rent from Amazon) has been hacked. The email server I configured is secure, I put a lot of effort into that, but I can see ways to improve now. The problem comes from WordPress, at some point I had used a plugin (some fancy code that gives your site bells and whistles) that had installed malicious software onto my server, allowing baddies to upload more evil code at a later date. I actually host about 10 websites on my server, mostly old or test sites I play with. One of them, a wordpress site I used to have at bluehost was the source of the infection, in fact it was almost certainly infected there, possibly by another user on the shared server. The file dates point to this. So it was only the websites on the server that were vulnerable, however the wordpress sites, in fact probably all the sites have the ability to send emails, and that was the hackers intention it would seem, so last week around half a million Wells Fargo Phishing emails left my server for the users of MSN. Microsoft blocked my IP fairly quickly and sent me complaint emails for each one they received. I also had about 25,000 emails, backed up in queues waiting to be delivered. I spent most of the weekend trying to figure all of this out, and I hope my site is secure again, but the nature of the hack makes it hard to be certain, without re-installing wordpress on all my sites (3 in total). We shall monitor it closely. I also will be throttling my email server so it can’t send more than 1 email a minute or so, once I work out the syntax. One of the side effects of this is that my emails might not get through to people, or end up in junk folders until I re-establish my servers credentials with the spam agencies.
I managed to fit a trip to the beach to cool both days though, so not all work.
And a visit to the supermarket.
Monday and I have a cold fridge again, Raffa, the local fix everything engineer refilled the gas for £50, but tells me the unit is 11 years old and needs to be replaced. The connections are leaking oil and the evaporator is rusting. I might get a few more months before it needs to be refilled. This could be expensive. But for now I have cold Cerveza sin Alcohol.
Tuesday 25th May 2021 After a slowish sail down from my failed attempt at getting into Altata, I arrived early at Mazatlan, the dredging was not meant to start until 10 am So I was hoping to sneak past that obstacle on the way in. There was a fair amount of swell bring breaking waves close to the entrance so I was a little apprehensive, but I have done a few entries like this before, the scariest might have been in Miri.
The marina had assigned me a berth, but I must have misheard and ended up in the wrong one, It didn’t really matter, there are party boats everywhere blasting out lovely Banda music (not) from there PA systems.
I clear in, the office staff are lovely and offer to sort out my expired visa for me when they see it.
Later I cycle down the Malecon to see what this town has to offer. Sadly I’m very disappointed, The marina is in the ‘Marina’ district, an area that 15 years ago was just fields I expect, but was designated a development site where a big fancy marina, in fact several marinas were built, lots and lots of condos, shopping malls, superstores etc. A lot of it looks very smart, but overall it’s not finished, and large parts are already in decay, while other fields are being prepared for huge skyscraper type hotels and condos. In the UK, Marina generally is used to describe a place where richer people keep their boats. I have noticed in the rest of the world, it means an opportunity for property developers to make a killing. The marina district here only has about 5% to do with boats, the rest is big malls, strip malls, autozone type stores, fast food and lots of condos.
This marina is the base for many day trip / tour boats. Big catamarans, and power boats, plus a few other oddities, like a giant sailboat called the black pearl, that seems to take about 30 people just on it’s foredeck. They fill up with boisterous young people, many of them a little ‘happy’ , many smoking cigarettes that have a very distinctive smell I remember from California 😉 The boats put on some really loud thumping music and head off out into the bay for an hour or so. At the weekend there’s a constant stream of them. To get to the famous malecon, I have to cycle through the hotel zone, that’s really depressing, massive hotels for a few miles front the beach. Again, only for the use of patrons, I get to cycle along the back of the hotels where the streets are lined with tourist trinket stores, fast food, and fancy diners, casinos etc. People here travel like they do in Thailand, little open backed trucks that take 8 people, often decorated, with disco lights and loud music blasting out. Or they use smaller golf cart type vehicles. Congestion is bad, fumes are bad, noise is bad, plus you have lots of diggers/cranes/trucks delivering steel girders & rebar iron to building sites set up wherever there is a chance to build. In my mind, just one ugly site after another for miles.
When I do reach the Malecon, it’s a characterless concrete affair, next to a busy highway making it noisy and polluted. However the sea and waves do look good. I plan to go to a supermarket, but realise I have lost or forgot (Lost it turns out) my padlock for the bike. So I can’t leave it outside anywhere. I cycle around and end up in the older part of town, things are looking up now. The cathedral looks great, and in a street next to it I find a bike shop, where I buy a new lock for £3. Cycling back I call into Ley and get some fresh food, back to the boat and an early night. That’s a ten mile round trip.
Back at the marina and I confirm that the boat over from me on the next dock is indeed ‘Sailors Run’ Geoff & Debbie’s baba 40. It’s the same as mine but in Ketch format, an extra mast at the back. I followed Geoff daily as he sailed this boat single handed, non stop, solo around the world. He was 70 at the time, and an inspiration to us all. He was pivotal in my mind in deciding to buy this baba for our round the world trip, and I learnt a lot about extreme weather sailing from his blog updates and later his book. Sadly he’s not on his boat, as I would have loved to say hello.
Wednesday I head on down the Malecon by taxi to the Oficina de Turismo, I have been told they can help me get vaccinated. Amazingly as I’m looking for the right door, a lady comes out and offers to help, she explains that they can vaccinate me tomorrow, but they only have the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, she thinks the Astrazeneca is better, but that ran out. I book an appointment for tomorrow. Later that day I realise that there is a Walmart just 5 minutes away on the bike, so I head over there. I hate multinationals, and I prefer to shop in Mexican owned shops when in Mexico, but I have to say, they have everything I have been missing, and spend far too much on European chocolate, spanish omelette, whole wheat bolillo etc.
Thursday I get a cab to the vaccine location, a big sports hall near the stadium, I’m wandering around, wondering where us foreigners queue when I’m pulled out of the crowd by a young lady who tells me to follow her, it’s the same lady from the tourist office, she is there to help out foreigners. She gets my paperwork done, and within an hour I’m jabbed up and sent on my way. Thank you Mexico for your kindness. You may be a poor country, but you show much generosity & humanity to foreigners. I’m thinking I should get a taxi back to the boat in case I feel any side effects, but instead I set of an a 15 mile walk around town.
Before I get too far I decide a meal on the beach might be fun
6 Hours later I call a taxi from the far end of town. I sleep well.
Friday, A man from the Immigration office turns up. I know a lot of people who complain about how things work in far away countries, but in the UK, had my visa expired, (due to covid I haven’t been able to renew it easily), I would be rounded up, possibly put in a detention centre, then deported. However, here I just pay a man from immigration (at least that’s what he said) some money and it’s all sorted. Seems much more civilised to me. I get a visa, he and his family get a night out on the town, everyone’s happy.
Saturday 29th May Boat chores today, wash my clothes, have a little cycle around the marina. Now I have the vaccine and the visa sorted I can leave and head back to the Baja, but first I want to visit the cultural sights, tomorrow will be a bit arty and archeological, sadly the weather looks like I might have to stay here until next weekend, I’m sure I will find jobs to do.
Sunday I cycle downtown, the roads aren’t really designed for cyclists here, and the drivers aren’t mad on us either. they have cycle lanes, but they’re dangerous to use and cars treat them like an undertaking lane. Also lots of pot holes and steep drops make them bumpy. The art gallery is closed, so are the other museums. I can’t work out when they should be open, but the lady at the art gallery says Miercoles (Wednesday) we will see. Still I have a great time cycling around the old town. Wonderful spanish colonial style buildings. I’m reminded of Barceloneta, Barcelona in places.
I cycle down to the beach and find a quiet little cove away from the crowds and jump in the sea to cool down. The waves are strong here and there’s lots of rocks, so after half an hour I jump on my bike and head back along the malecon, however the sea is calling again, so I wheel the bike down to the big beach and do some more swimming, it’s just perfect here, the temperature is great, the waves are fun, but eventually I have to head back. I pick up some ice on the way as the fridge has packed in.
Monday and I checkout a big shopping mall, it has a C&A but no clothes that I want, I do find a big clothing store that claims to be in liquidacion, and I buy 5 pairs of shorts at a very good price, onto Ley and fresh stuff for a slap up fish dinner. I can’t really store food now so it will have to be fresh every day.