Many of our cruiser friends look for ways to help out local communities that they visit. One effort comes from a Rotary Club chapter in La Paz that counts a few sailors as members.
Julie went along to make a delivery with the club on 12/16, and took a few photos of course. Thanks to our friend and Club Rotary Bahia de La Paz member Charles from S/V Shadowfax who helps explain the details:.
Generous cruisers and townspeople play Santa to kids from the Soledad Albergue, a rural boarding school located in southeastern Baja roughly behind the fishing village of San Evaristo. La Soledad is about a three hour drive from La Paz, about 1/3 (~75 KM) on paved roads and 2/3 (~64 KM) on a blend of rough gravel and soft sand.
Kids aged 5 – 14 from widely spread rural families (ranchos and fishing villages) attend the school. It’s too far to go home at night for most of the children, so they live in dormitories. Money is in short supply in these areas, as sometimes kids will mention in their letters to Santa. Often we are the only source of Christmas presents.
The kids write letters to Santa, distributed by the club. Donors buy presents, wrap them and return them to the Club. About 30 gifts were provided from the La Paz cruising community. The Club delivers them to the kids during their Christmas program before they leave for the holidays.
For the three years that we have participated, we have found the requests to be pretty modest, usually the wish list includes a pair of sneakers and perhaps an item of practical (dress pants, sweatshirt, etc.) clothing. We usually add in a few other generic items that we figure will either be useful, fun, or able to be shared with others.
Our friend Charles usually appears as Santa to help hand out the gifts, but as he had to travel to the U.S. because his mother was in the hospital, his wonderful wife Carol filled in as Mrs. Claus.
La Soledad is pretty self-contained. There is a fresh water source nearby which is pumped to storage tanks. The international Rotary (as well as the local chapter) is involved in an initiative to bring inexpensive water purification devices to remote areas, and the school may be a beneficiary of this program soon.
Solar power provides electricity (nice big Xantrex inverter in the principal’s “apartment”), They do have a satellite internet connection to receive some tele-education. (Nearest cell tower is probably 75 miles as the crow flies.) Some of their fresh food comes from the nearby ranchos and fishing villages – so the kids eat well – no source of junk food for miles and miles! (Menu below for my foodie friends.)
Here’s a collection of image from the last year, finally getting around to posting them.
After the Baja gets lots of rain, the butterflies proliferate. Here are a few that flew aboard to visit during our November passage up to the Loreto area.
Our slip in Marina Palmira is right next to a hotel with a lovely pool and garden area. Good place to attract hummingbirds. This one flew out to hang and pose on a Voyager jib sheet line for a while. Another boat in the marina received a nest!
It IS a dog’s life…some folks who anchored near us in Puerto Balandra, Isla Carmen
Elusive cetaceans. At least some of these are probably pilot whales. This is as far as they come out of the water. Maybe a couple dolphins also hanging with them. Central Sea of Cortez, probably near Isla San Marcos.
Seagull (dispute? kiss?), Puerto Escondido.
Sequence that Bill shot off Isla San Marcos. Probably mobula rays, they love to jump out of the water, no one knows quite why.
The major milestone of this cruising year has been Category 4 Hurricane Odile, which reached La Paz in the wee hours of Monday September 15. It’s very conservative to say that winds were in excess of 100 MPH and Wikipedia reported 130 MPH. It was a big, nasty storm.
Many areas within Baja California Sur lost electricity (92% according to Wikipedia) and had typical damage: windows broken, torn roofing, trees and vegetation destroyed, power and traffic lights and poles down. In the first week after the storm there was some flooding, fuel shortages, businesses closed, etc. Many of the most modest dwellings in the area, including some of the fishing villages along the Sea of Cortez, were severely damaged or destroyed by wind or flooding and there have been several campaigns to provide assistance to the most needful. We and others in the cruising community have donated cash, groceries, clothes and school supplies and household items.
The residents and cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo seemed to suffer the greatest damage including the international airport (and the Costco, ay caramba!) was offline for a few weeks. We have yet to be down there to see for ourselves, we may get a Costco “fix” next month.
Voyager was securely docked at Marina Palmira and had no damage. Two of our “sister ships” on the same dock experienced a little cosmetic scuffing while their boats tilted to rub the dock in the strong winds. We were in the Bay Area at the time and of course monitored the situation closely via the internet. The wonderful folks (Susan and Dennis Ross/Ross Marine) who watch our boat while we are away were able to send us a “so far so good” email on Monday morning. Then, telecommunications were offline for a few days until we heard further that all was well in fact for Voyager. Of course it was a little unnerving to not be there to observe for ourselves. It was also good for us to instead be in California “out of the way” of recovery/repair efforts and folks dealing with shortages (temporarily) at stores and gas stations.
Other sailors were not as fortunate. The majority of our personal friends were also docked in marinas and had none to minor damage. About 20 boats in the La Paz anchorage (not tied to a dock but instead at anchor or on a mooring), were grounded or sunk and three sailors were killed. Some of the sailors had the opportunity to shelter at a marina dock to avoid the worst of the storm and instead chose to stay “out;” that is the most unfortunate aspect in our opinion. Due to normal tidal currents, anchoring off La Paz can be tenuous in even good conditions. Furthermore, many boats fell upon one another (not secured properly?) at a dry storage yard next door to Marina Palmira, including our friend Ken on Drifter (hoping his damage was minimal; we still haven’t heard the diagnosis).
In the weeks after the storm, a devoted contingent of the year-round boaters in La Paz helped to rescue many of the boats that were stranded on beaches and shoals. A few boat photos shared here were taken by our friends Dana and Bill a few days after the storm.
We drove back to La Paz about 3 weeks after the storm had passed; the city was bouncing back quickly. Highway 1 (the only route from Tijuana to Cabo) was impassable in a few sections for a few days after the storm but the road was back to pretty normal quickly. We had one very short section with 6” or less of water to drive through. The entire peninsula is even greener than before, flowers blooming along the roadsides, and some dry lakes are no longer dry! All the rains have helped spur a Dengue (mosquito-borne illness) epidemic on the Baja, so we have been extra vigilant with the bug repellent lately.
We have been visiting the Loreto area for a few weeks, and there are still three wrecked boats to see that demonstrate the power of the storm. Several others are hauled out in the local boatyard with various degrees of damage.
(written for a fellow foodie who is coming this way soon)
Let me preface this by saying IMHO one can eat really well down here without bringing anything.
One example: the steaks in Mexican supermarkets are leaner here, but we see that as a GOOD (healthy) thing. We marinate ours with olive oil and balsamico and they are delicious. More expensive, U.S.-type, and probably imported from U.S. (more marbled) steaks CAN be found here at Costco. (>$25 a kilo I seem to recall, we don’t bother with them)
Uncooked meat wait to buy in Mexico, sometimes it’s a mad cow scare or swine flu (didn’t I just read about a bird flu thing going on in Europe?) or something that gets the attention of inspectors and they can make you discard items when you enter the country.
Example two: Some items are here, maybe not commonly found, but more expensive or less variety: quinoa is here and more costly (2x?) and I can’t recall seeing “red” or multicolor types
As food nerds and we HAVE the ability and opportunity to bring goodies down, so we DO! We are probably particularly spoiled based on the fabulous availability of food items in Northern California.
Here’s what’s on OUR running list: YRMV…depends on what you like and use a lot of!
Last 2 drives down we have stopped at Corralitos southeast of Santa Cruz 831/722-2633 – We buy some of their smoked sausages…they will vacuum pack…we drive them down the baja in an iced cooler…then keep them in freezer for months. Favorites: coarse Polish, Bavarian, German. On rare occasions you’ll find some Johnsonville polish type sausage here.
California wines – cost 2x and more down here, and price will only go up…one can enjoy the French, Auz, NZ flavors in Polynesia.
Mexican wines we haven’t learned enough about (impression is good ones are more than we like to spend), we find some Chilean wines here we like in the $8-10 range.
Premium liquors – if you have a Grey Goose or Bombay or Glenlivet, etc. habit…stock up.
Precooked bacon, keeps a long time in fridge or freezer, no grease mess from cooking raw bacon Costco Cabo often carries, possibly PV Costco
kirkland canned chicken
kirkland albacore tuna, pretty sure costco cabo has
pancetta and proscuitto
kirkland canned smoked salmon is decent too, pretty sure costco cabo has
good Italian sausage! – In general, the sausage down here seems to be made with leaner pork, so they add salad OIL to the sausage. Also seasonings are not as good IMHO….Exception is two vendors at the La Paz farmer’s market – a wonderful German girl Manuela who makes some lovely sausage (brats) and pate, smoked pork, baloney, and other treats. Also a gringo couple making decent Italian sausage, quiches, and other savories.
your favorite nuts, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, smokehouse almonds, pignolis, etc. – somewhat available here but pricey, Cabo prices for big bags of nuts are not bad
good hard cheeses – some imported cheese available here but pricey we like dry gouda, dry jack, grana padano, asiago, that basque cheese from TJs or costco
those great trader joes trail mix varieties
canned mild green chiles (would you believe it! Often hard to find here)
crushed ginger in the jar
Dijon mustard (yellow ubiquitous, spicy brown fairly common, 200 gr Maille Dijon – 500p)
Soba noodles (rice noodle and/or bean threads can be found)
Kalamata & nicoise olives (plain black and green available)
Perhaps your favorite pickles, sweet and dill relishes and some selection ARE available…I make a lot of “refrigerator pickles” with cucumber and/or chayote
Pastas – FWIW, barilla often found, some whole wheat varieties in various brands becoming more common
Tomato paste in the tube
Canned water chestnuts
Basmati or Jasmine rice, white or brown
Peanut butter (cheaper in U.S. and more varieties)…watch out for a Mexican one (skippy?) with honey added YEEEECH! We won’t make THAT mistake again!
Sesame oil, sometimes sold as mixed with veg oil, occasionally full strength is available
marinated eggplant in a jar, other goodies you might find in a mid-east market (couscous is here)
anchovy paste in the tube
poppy seeds (can’t sell in mexico?)
good paprika, variety chili powders – like ancho, chipotle (maybe they are here, just easy to bring down from U.S.)
not sure I’ve seen bulgur here, but only use occasionally
liquid agave sweetener (double the price here?)
your favorite dried fruits from Trader Joes (raisins common)
Red wine vinegar in gallon size, finally found one in Loreto last week! Smaller sizes available in misc brands…Regina, carbonelle are maybe the most familiar.
I like those small bottles of delallo lemon juice, don’t take up a lot of room in the reefer once opened. (Nob Hill in San Carlos). WHEN you find lemon juice it’s going to be reallemon or a generic. Fresh LEMONS are not common, limes of course ubiquitous.
Marinated artichoke hearts – if you use a lot, get a couple big jars from US Costco, I think I have seen in Cabo.
Canned portabella mushrooms (Giorgio brand), canned buttons commonly available
I’ve been bringing down those “litehouse” brand freeze-dried spices, have not formulated a strong opinion as to their quality. decent traditional spice selection here – have not seen oddball flavors like “herbs de provence” and celery flakes – fresh herbs other than cilantro and parsley are a rarity. Bi-weekly (albeit small) farmer’s market in La Paz often has nice fresh Basil, arugula, some other goodies like that.
columbus or molinari salami those big chubs can be unrefrigerated for weeks (not found @ Mexico Costcos) ****
good crackers, (lots of cookies sold here, much less selection of crackers) – one can find Breton-type or Dare and Stacey’s pita chips available at Costco
good heavy duty Reynolds aluminum foil and Kirkland stretch-tite plastic wrap
trash COMPACTOR bags…sturdier than regular kitchen bags if for storing trash while traveling
ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A DOUBLE SINK to store it in – buy the biggest that will fit SNAPWARE plastic box and lid for your “biodegradable trash” (veg peels, etc. stuff that can go overboard)…it will allow your “regular” trash to stay drier and sweet smelling until you find somewhere ashore to dump it or burn it.
canned diced tomatoes – avail. from Costco Cabo
ziploc bags – pricey here
Sugar-free hard candy, such as Jolly Rancher
Crispy chow mein noodles, guilty pleasure
Good black teas (earl grey, Darjeeling, English breakfast, etc.) and DECAF, lipton seen often
Jasmine green tea (I like a lot of different teas)
I also like the instant green tea singles you can get at Japanese markets, one gets tired drinking plain water
Coffee – we DO find stuff we like here – Blason espresso style for one, but also bring down some dark roasts: Peets, Starbucks, Archer farms (nice coffee bean purveyor in La Paz, also La Cruz farmer’s market has some decent vendors)
Brown sushi rice, or fancy asian rices kagayaki etc.
Sugar free Torani coffee syrups (I like the Vanilla)
Canned bean sprouts
Instant liquid stock (chicken, veg, beef, etc.) concentrate…those small packets (like Swanson or TJs) that make a cup or so of broth
Sharp or extra sharp cheddar
SodaStream CO2 cartridges and flavor syrups, if you’re “into” that…
Lipton instant onion soup mix, good in the pressure cooker (I bought a smaller one for the boat than I have at home – a 4 qt Fagor, use it a lot for boiling pasta and other non-pressure tasks)
Precooked wild rice (trader joe’s seems to have discontinued theirs but I have found another decent one at target – “simply balanced”), nice change from other carbs
If you want some upper end bread flour (king Arthur etc.), rarely seen here – there’s lots of ordinary” white and whole flour around…we are just starting to play with bread making. “No Knead baked in enamel/cast iron – le crueset-type pan (we have a cheaper lodge, is short enough to barely fit with oven rack removed) – has been most successful for us so far. Yeast is available, blocks more commonly found than individual packets.
Packets from bay area Asian markets like hot and sour soup mix, thai curry (Lobo and Aroy-D are two brands) seasonings
Crystal light sugar free flavors singles that you can add to bottled water (or 16 oz servings)
good paper plates (if you wonder where all the stryofoam went, it is here in mexico)
paper cocktail napkins, white or designs (if you like that sort of thing!)
**** fairly often one can find SLICED Columbus salami (and turkey and chicken) at COSTCO CABO and PV…Bill likes his sandwiches! me too
While I was hunting some info from some past receipts (I scan most – too much time on my hands!), here are some prices from some miscellaneous items purchased at Mex. chain grocery stores during late 2013 & 2014. One CAN eat inexpensively here if one focuses on the basics, but I have a feeling we spend as much on groceries down here as we would in the U.S.
Cirio pasta sauce 190gr 91.2 versus TJ’s Marinara for $1.29 Hunts canned pasta sauce/mushroom @ 15p (not really impressed with any, I keep trying different flavors, doctor them up with stuff occasionally if I am not too lazy. We don’t make “homemade” pasta gravy aboard as I don’t want to run the stove all day nor fill my freezer with the gallon of finished sauce!)
Generic brand canned green beans 10.8p (S&W brand sometimes found)
Shallots, fresh (hard to find) 169p/KG!
Orowheat sliced bread 40p
Diced tomatoes can 32p
Heinz yellow mustard 17.5p
Sliced provolone (6-8 oz) 61p
Coconut milk, canned (thai cooking!) 400 ml, 30p
Hellmans Mayo 350gr 18.5 (available almost everywhere!)
UHT milk, Lala brand 1L 15-16p
Sushi nori 30p
Canned mandarin oranges 17p
Ground sirloin 119p/kg
Chicken breast (probably were boneless) 75p/kg
Boneless ribeye steaks 160p/kg
Roast whole chicken 76p
Wonton skins (forgot if fresh or frozen, 454 gr – 24p
some photos will appear soon to break up this text…
One popular cruising method is to spend winter months along the mainland coast, then start cruising up the sea in April or so as the temps rise and the winter “norther” winds abate. So far we have done two winters on mainland, and two winters based out of La Paz on the southern Baja peninsula.
For us, the swimming temps in the sea get nice about late May and last into November, but maybe we are pussies! I grew up in Florida so prefer the warmer water…we left our dry (wet) suits home in California.
The water is definitely warmer on the mainland in wintertime but we rarely swam when there, no clarity compared to many places in the sea, red tide more likely to appear on the mainland.
Here are some sea temps for our approximate three-month 2014 trip into the sea, we were at anchor throughout the trip except for one week in Marina Fonatur, Santa Rosalia.
We replaced our Raymarine transducer last year, plus we drop in one of our darkroom thermometers into the water frequently, so we feel these temps are pretty accurate.
july 9-15, ensenada grande at isla partida, 86
july 7, san evaristo, 86
july 5, candeleros/ligui, 86
june 30-july 4, puerto balandra, isla carmen, 86
june 26, la ramada/san juanico, 85
june 25, santo domingo, 86 (at that time we were hearing of water temps inside bahia concepcion of 92…at that point it starts to feel like you are in a soup pot!)
june 22-23, sweet pea cove, isla san marcos, 83
june 11, la ramada/san juanico, 77
june 7-10, isla coronados, 79
may 29-31, puerto balanda, isla carmen (one of our favorites…9 miles east of loreto with cellular/broadband signal!), 83
may 22, isla coronados, 79
may 17, candeleros/ligui, 79
may 12, puerto escondido, 80
may 4, puerto balandra, isla carmen, 77
april 24, agua verde, 74
april 22, ensenada grande, isla partida, 77
here are a few temps from last winter/fall
feb 4, san gabriel, isla espiritu santo, 65 (kayak and beach walking weather!)
Hopefully will get a few more posts online soon. We have some photos from spring-summer travels to share.
We have recently completed a drive in our own car from La Paz to San Francisco for a short summer break from the heat and to reset our visas. (We brought the car south in February.) Some cruisers drive back and forth, and others prefer to fly. The cost for two persons flying is comparable, but it’s nice to have a car in the Baja.
Mexico Highway One is quite scenic and traffic is pretty light for a mostly 2-lane road. Safety there is not a concern, (other than there is minimal shoulder on much of the road, being well focused while driving is important, and it is not recommended to drive at night) and it’s good to be able to bring the volume and types of items one cannot fly with on commercial airlines, large marine batteries for example.
Here are the numbers from our last trip, you can be the judge.
La Paz to Loreto, 237 miles
54.7 litres premium, 741 pesos, $56.20
Loreto to Guerro Negro, 252 miles
64.2 litres, 870 pesos, $65.98
Guerro Negro to Lazaro Cardenas, 254 miles
54.6 litres premium, 740 pesos, $56.12
Lazaro Cardenas to Ensenada, 125 miles
33.2 litres, 450 pesos, $34.13
Ensenada to Santa Clarita, 282 miles
16 gallons, $71.50
Santa Clarita to San Mateo, 343 miles
15.6 gallons, $62.00
total 1493 miles, $345.93 in fuel
2 nights motel $110, 1 night with friends, priceless!
aprox. meals expense, ice for the cooler ~ $100
total expense $556
2 one way tickets Cabo to SFO, currently $456 + airport shuttle & taxi $86 = $542
One of our favorite things to do while docked in La Paz, is to visit the Madero Street Farmer’s Market. Held Tuesday and Saturday mornings, it’s a great place to stock up on some of our favorite goodies. It doesn’t take up more than half (one side) of a block, but there are plenty of treats to make cruisers happy.
This winter there have been at least four produce vendors, a few crafts tables, eggs, honey, baked goods, hand-crafted fresh organic cheeses, smoked fish, coffee, meats, and home-made tamales ($1). Pan de Les Bakery anchors the market with Les’ great breads, crackers and pastries. His wife Diane’s amazing gift shop is next door. Occasionally a guy with a bucket of lobsters or shrimp wanders by.
We often buy from Manuela and her daughter “The Sausage Ladies,” who make fabulous brats (spicy and mild, 4/$5), pate, cold cuts, and sauerkraut.
Kale is one of our favorite produce growers/vendors who specializes in lots of fresh Baja-grown greens and herbs (his beautiful basil lasts up to two weeks in our “green bags”), tomatoes, root vegetables, plus beautiful strawberries ($2/basket) this time of year.
Prices are not far off from what we would pay in the Bay Area, and in some cases at higher cost than the chain grocery stores but everything is lovely and tasty.
Holidays are pretty laid back for us, so this year we looked for something different to do. One of the local Rotary Clubs in La Paz helps to play secret Santa for a remote village in the mountainous areas to the north. They shared letters from kids with the local cruising community. Most of the kids requested sneakers, easy to fulfill with the plentiful shopping options in La Paz.
We did our shopping for Monserrat (6) and her family who lives in La Soledad (approximately 24 54 57N, 110 42 40W), which is inland from the fishing village of San Evaristo, and about 50 miles north of La Paz. She boards away from home to attend school during the week. An attached info form stated that she has two sisters 3 and 11, and her father works as a (farm?) laborer, making about $80 (U.S.)/month.
Her letter (above), and the (Google) translation is shown below. Sorry, forgot to photograph the hot pink tennies we found for her.
Dear Santa! I hope that this little letter is received in good health like me after this greeting short step to the following
My name is Monserrat Amador Amador study in primary school “Nicolas Bravo” during the 1st grade, I have (am) 6 years, Monday to Friday I stay at Hostel # 18 “- Miguel Amador Espinoza”
For this Christmas I would like to do me the favor of giving a tailored pan(t)s size 10 and if your scope is a pair of sneakers # 22 because it is very cold over here.
Well Santa I(n) advance I thank you for granting my request, I hope you spend a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year in the company of all his dear family.