Status update & long term plans

We have been tied to the dock in La Paz for a few weeks now and have quickly settled back into the lazy easy going life here.
The day starts with the morning net on VHF CH22 waking us up at 8am. On the net we hear of any medical emergencies, anyone who has lost their dinghy or other valuables, people looking for knowledge or assistance and sometimes a bit of gossip, which keeps us amused.
I spend the rest of the day doing little boat jobs and learning some more Spanish. Arturo calls around a couple of times each week to give me face to face Spanish lessons and I try to help him with his Kumon maths course.

The original plan was to depart La Paz in the next month for the South Pacific and beyond, however I have been thinking long and hard on this one. Many of the islands there have been closed to visitors, and although most are opening up now, things could easily change if a new virulent strain of Covid should emerge. I’m optimistic that this will not be the case, but there’s enough doubt there for my other nagging questions about the trip to get the better of me. Firstly I’m not 100% sure I actually want to do another massive passage, I’m not totally sure what the South Pacific has to offer that we haven’t had bucket loads of already. I know this sounds terrible, but we really have already seen the best beaches you can imagine, been in amazing rainforests, climbed volcanoes etc etc. The South Pacific will need to have some serious wow factor to impress us now.
Saying that, the coral fringed atolls do sound amazing. Also I have been toying with the idea of sailing to Hawaii then onto Canada/Alaska. We both loved the Pacific Northwest so much and really want to return, but that trip is probably more taxing than the south pacific, and in a way seems like going backwards.
Places I really want to visit still are Sri Lanka, India, the islands east of Africa, and Africa itself. Also I still have to do some fairly big jobs on the boat before undertaking any serious offshore passages.
So the upshot of this is I have decided to take a gap year out of passage making, I put a wad of dollars on the table and secured this berth in the marina for the next year. Phew, the pressure is off now, I can focus on being lazy, learning Spanish, getting the boat up to scratch and working out a cruising plan for 2023. Of course we will still sail around the Sea of Cortez during the next year, but without any deadlines, it will be a very relaxed affair.

Chores continue:
Last week I hauled out the two anchors and chain onto the pontoon for their regular inspection. this allows me to clean the chain locker which can get a bit smelly if left unattended for long. The port anchor, which we have never used has a smallish length of chain at the anchor end, but is mostly rope. Checking the chain I found the shackle that joins it to the rope was very rusted and also the chain had one very rusty link. I will refrain from stating the obvious cliche here. I hacked the rusty link out and replaced it with a couple of big shackles. This anchor is only used in extreme weather, and so the problems you get with shackles in chain shouldn’t be an issue.

You are the weakest link (couldn’t resist it)
The chain locker with peeling paint. Cleaner now

I had also hoped to replace the Windlass’s solenoid. while I was there, but I can’t find that safe place I put the replacement in just a few weeks ago when we arrived from the UK, early onset Alzheimer’s? One of my tasks is to go through every locker on the boat re-cataloging where everything is and hopefully making some new space in the process.

Went up a fun side road with Direct and Indirect pronouns.

Maria returned with her male friends, she may be defying the lifespan of a chaffinch, but we don’t care. She provides us with entertainment daily and is almost brave enough to eat out of my palm.

The local herons are very used to us yachties.

We have a large 100 ft, 150 ton motor yacht next to us, but when she leaves with charter guests our view expands so we can see across the bay to the Magote.

Not quite sure on the naming of this boat, but good luck to these optimistic fishermen.

Jesus Christ on a boat
Kathy hard at work

We bought some plants for the boat, partly to have fresh basil, but also to brighten it up a bit. Kathy planted a few different herbs and her main task these days is to check on the seedlings. 7 days later nothing has happened, but we’re not giving up hope yet.

Sunday dinner at Estrella del Mar with Arturo.

There have been a few outbreaks of Covid here in the marina and the anchorage, I think this BA.2 strain has arrived, also we are hearing of lots of infections amongst our friends/family back home. Thankfully nobody seems to be getting too ill, although I believe a lot of people are suffering badly for a few days. Shops and restaurants still insist on masks, gel and often a temperature check before you can enter, and most locals are wearing masks when out on the Malecon. Let’s hope it’s all gone soon.

Spring has arrived.

Paul Collister 20th March 2022

Has Paul forgotten how boats work?

Friday 11th February

Before we left Puerto Escondido we took a hike up one of the overlooking hills. The views are great looking out into the Sea of Cortez, and while we were there we saw a whale hanging out at the entrance to the port.

Local Radio/Internet connection
Looking South from Puerto Escondido
Vultures disappointed in our success at getting down from the mountain.

Another job I had to do was to dive on the hull and clean as much as I could and get the propellor to look like a prop again, not like the barnacle covered football it currently was. I took this little video to show what I mean, in it I have done as much of the prop and rudder as I can.

A final shopping trip for Bananas and some Salsa ingredients

So we finally headed out for a test of the boat, and also to see if I could still remember how everything works.
Leaving at around 11:00 we arrived in Loreto about three hours later and anchored just off the harbour. The harbor here is too small and shallow for yachts, but has a small dinghy dock where we can go ashore. It’s totally exposed from every direction other than the west here, but it rarely blows from the west, so one has to pick the moment to anchor. It was too rough to spend a night, and our main purpose for the visit was to get some groceries in.
I haven’t anchored in 4 months and was hoping everything was working, down went the anchor and as Kathy put the boat into astern she shouted something sounded wrong. I couldn’t hear anything of the engine from the bow and so the engine stayed in slow astern as we tried to set the anchor in hard, however Kathy was getting more concerned at the noise so I shouted ‘Neutral’ at her and headed to the cockpit. I hadn’t reached the cockpit when I spotted that we hadn’t brought the line to the dinghy in. We had towed the dinghy here, it has a very long painter (towing/tying up rope). By the time I reached the cockpit I knew from the location of the dinghy, and the very tight rope on the cleat heading straight down to the prop what had happened. I had reversed over the dinghy line, and the floats on the line, designed to stop the rope being sucked down hadn’t worked. 
A possibly very difficult situation as the wind was blowing towards the rocky shore and no chance at sailing off. Fortunately the anchor had dug in enough to keep us there, I couldn’t be sure how well it had dug in, as we never got to reverse on it, so it was just down to the force of wind and waves that had set it.
Now I had been boasting about how the water wouldn’t be too cold for me to enjoy some swimming, I was about to find out. Diving on the rope and cutting it free would take some time so I donned my 3mm windsurfing wetsuit. I haven’t really used this much since I bought it in Galway some decades ago, I was worried that any passing fashionistas might mock me. As it turned out, even with the wetsuit on, the water was cold.
I worked for about 20 minutes with a hacksaw cutting through the rope, until I dropped the hacksaw, and realised the string that attached it to my wrist had come undone. I then got some cramp in my leg and was starting to feel dizzy. I can’t remember the symptoms for hypothermia, but I didn’t want to find out so abandoned the job for a while. Back on board I was shaking with the cold, so obviously it’s a lot cooler than I thought. Once warmed up, I jumped back in with a new, better secured backup hacksaw and managed to swiftly remove nearly all of the remaining rope. Back on board we carefully engaged the engine in ahead then astern and it seemed to be ok. We firmly backed down on the anchor and headed ashore for some groceries.

The back streets of Loreto

Returning to the boat, somewhat later than planned, we headed north to anchor for the night at the Coronados islands. By the time we arrived the sun had set so we anchored in the dark. Fortunately I know this spot on the protected southern side of the main island and it’s a doddle to anchor. 

Sunrise reveals our anchorage and neighbours that were just masthead lights before

Saturday 12th
A quick walk over to the western beach on the island then a lazy day on the boat. I repaired a dinghy oar that snapped when I sat on it the other day.
We may head back to Escondido tomorrow as the weather looks rubbish for a while. In the meantime I have to start planning for what comes next. It looks like 2023 will be the year we spend in the South Pacific. There’s a massive amount of preparation for me to do. We could be passing through quite a few countries before we end up in the SE Asian area. Many of these countries, like New Zealand are not letting boaters in. Hopefully this CoronaVirus will have eased enough to allow these countries to open up before the end of this year, but I think we have been here before. Also since leaving the EU we don’t get such easy access to the many islands of French Polynesia. I’m not sure what the state of play is with the American islands but if they are on our route we may need to arrange a visa with a visit to the American Embassy in London. On top of the bureaucracy I have to do a lot of work on the boat,  I need to drop the mast and replace the wiring, and some of the lights. The dinghy may need to be replaced soon, the main VHF and the handheld radio are on their last legs, also the watermaker needs to be replaced or have a major overhaul. So lots to consider, but for now the aim was to work our way south to La Paz and try and get a marina space for a while so Kathy can stock up on supplies and I can order bits and bobs for the boat.

The start of an iFixit video for an oar!
5-6 Knots heading south with just the Yankee sail

19th February
Leaving the Coronados we picked up a lovely bit of Northerly winds and quickly scooted down to Agua Verde.

Fantastic sailing conditions
Our favorite anchorage in AV, SM is on the right of the three boats

While in Agua Verde I managed to buy some local goats cheese, we had a great meal ashore on the beach in a small restaurant run by the delightful Leonora, She brought us the visitors book and I was able to find the entry from 2 years ago, written by Jim when we visited here.

21st Feb
We had heard of some old cave paintings/handprints that where a short hike from the boat. We headed off following a buried treasure style map Dirk had sent us. Turn right at the cemetery, then left at the palm lagoon etc.

The Village Cemetery
The Palm Lagoon
Someone who died looking for the treasure?
The alleged area where the handprint exists.

We didn’t fancy the scramble up the cliff face to the cave entrance, and I was told we would be able to see it from the beach, so I announced I could see it then we promptly started our march back. On the way I figured we could go around the other side of the lagoon, but much to Kathy’s annoyance we found ourselves in quite dense undergrowth with no obvious way out. Kathy has a much more vivid imagination than me and wasn’t at all happy with the ‘lost in a jungle’ scenario. I climbed a rock face at the edge to find there was in fact no easy way out, but could see the direction we wanted to go in, so we scrambled through the trees and shrubs and eventually got out.

22nd Feb
The next day we upped anchor and sailed south for the bay at Everisto. It was a long trip and we made good progress, such that I realised that we could make it to the small island of Isla San Francisco before it got dark, another 10 miles further on. On the way we took in a small rocky reef, home to a lot of sea lions, but the light was failing and we could only make out silhouettes, but we could sure hear them.
We arrived in the lovely bay just after sunset and as always the shore and rocky cliffs looked closer than they where, we anchored easily behind a group of loud Americans on a big catamaran, they were having a great party time, as were quite a few other cats there. For many people this is their first stop away from tourist pangas and free from connectivity with the rest of the world. It’s a beautiful spot and the aquatic life here can be spectacular.
We added the extra 2 hours to the trip to make the next passage a bit easier.

Wednesday 23rd Feb
A lazy start, as we head back to civilisation. We are heading for Isla Partida or Isla Espiritu Santo

En route we spotted some whales, or big dolphins and a very sleepy turtle. We also saw lots of dolphins and whales during our trip down. I have a little youtube video with these guys in. I feel really bad for how we startled the turtle.

To the very north of Partida is a small rocky outcrop known as Islas Islotes, home to a sea lion colony we have visited many times. We swung by and I very gingerly moved the boat quite close to the rocks, the pangas get a lot closer.

We ended up popping into one of my favourite coves for the night, Bahia or Caleta Candeleros. We didn’t go ashore, just rested and hoped the predicted strong northerly winds would not bother us.

By the morning the winds had picked up, but we were sheltered tucked into the corner. We took off for La Paz and managed to sail the whole way to our anchorage. In all from Escondido to La Paz, via Coronados we only used a quarter of the tank, about 50 litres of fuel. Not bad at all.

Setting the anchor didnt work the first time, and we were dragging into the main channel, not a problem, but Kathy did not appreciate the stares from all the other boat owners I was trying to anchor amongst. People here are quite wary about other anchored boats as the currents are strong, and boats often swing around wildly sometime with the wind and other times with the current. Often the current points the boat a different way to where the wind pushes it. In trying to recover the anchor, I forgot to flake the chain and the locker filled up and the chain clumped up under the windlass and jammed, it wouldn’t go up or down, with ten meters still out and the anchor dragging across the sand it didn’t look that cool. I was able to get the chain off the windlass and with a bit of cajoling (bashing with lump of iron), freed the chain. We then motored away from the glares and dropped the hook a little further up the bay from them.

Our Neighbour at anchor. An interesting boat from New Zealand
A very nice boat, maybe a formosa, looking great.

We headed ashore the next day as the wind had now picked up considerably and the waves were breaking all around.

They handle some big boats in the yard next to Marina De La Paz.

We ended up spending three days out at anchor before I managed to secure a place in the Marina.
My entry to the marina was yet another disaster, the current was flowing strong and the marina were surprised at my request to enter at full flood. But because I had a good handle on the currents I figured I would be able to do it easily, there was going to be over two knots from astern pushing me onto an end tie and with a boat in front of me I had to be able to stop quickly, but we had a lot of lines and cleats available. As I lined up for the dock and approached, the boat took off big time, and the current changed direction enough that I had to abort the approach, however the hard astern manoeuvre only caused the stern to kick around and the current took over and pushed me sideways onto the end of the pontoon where we started to exchange bits of boat for bits of pontoon. The marina staff tried to push us off. I could have left the current to push us away but a mega yacht was in the way and we would have gone under its prow and bashed it with our mast. So I motored full speed ahead and ground my way out of the mess. Kathy was not pleased.
Going around again, with the knowledge of where the current really was, and people on the pontoon giving me guidance I was able to drift into the berth perfectly second time around. everything is repaired now and it all sounded a lot worse than it actually was.

Friends of our friends Jim & Ivana in Canada were in La Paz, so we arranged to meet up for dinner with John, Joan, Dan & Janice all from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. We had a great time.

Sayin Nothin

The following morning around 8:30 there was a knocking on the hull and the marina manager was there offering a space closer inside the Marina, and as there was no current or wind at that moment we moved.

Our new home for a while
Our local companions.

We are now in La Paz for a while. There won’t be many more posts until something of interest happens. La Paz is a lot more lively now, and perhaps there will be festivals and parades coming up. For now we plan to just chill.

Paul Collister.