We spent two weeks in the Mazatlan area at Marina Mazatlan which is just north of town. We are not seeing derelict boats in marinas down here, the dock pricing (in general costing twice what we pay for berthing in California) seems to discourage any poorly kept vessels from lingering.
One afternoon we took a dinghy excursion of the waterways surrounding the marina area with Dale and Dena from Double Dharma and our new friends Gary and Nadine from Harlekin. We saw many very nice waterfront homes (one would almost think that they were touring some of the canals around Fort Lauderdale), interesting wildlife including various birds, iguanas and jumping fish, and several places along the estuary where you can stop for eating/drinking.
Caleta Partida is an inlet between Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. These are two
islands north of La Paz, you should be able to find them on Google Earth. The coordinates are N24 31’97” W10 22’67”. This inlet/bay is the remains of a volcanic crater.
Most days we start at 7:30 am listening to the Sonrisa Cruisers Net on our long-range SSB radio whereby boats check-in and say where they are, what they are doing, any assistance they might require, and what the weather is at their location. It’s like CB radio on steroids. At 7:45 there is a very extensive weather report (given by the same volunteer just about every day) that relays what NOAA and other weather sources says the weather is for all of Pacific Mexico to Cabo San Lucas, throughout Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico and down to the southern Mexico border.
While at Caleta Partida on one morning shortly after the “net,” we noticed a panga boat going around to all the different boats in the anchorage. It was the Guarda Parka and we thought they were checking to see if we had our park permits, which we were eager to show off. (We purchased two yearlong passes while we were in La Paz.) Well, what they were doing was inviting all the boaters in this bay over to the fish camp on shore to take part in their on-going catch and release of sea turtles. We didn’t have the dinghy in the water so I decided we would kayak over to the beach, I have got to learn to guesstimate distances to shore better. It had to be over a mile each way, and the wind seemed to be against us in both directions!
When we got to shore they had 11 turtles that they had netted overnight, lying on their backs on the beach. Once we all got there (about 16 cruisers) they started picking them up and placing them on a table to measure them and tag them. Once the team finished with gathering the data they needed on the first turtle they asked one of the boaters what her name was and she now has a turtle named after her in their turtle registry. Others named them after kids or grandkids. Julie has one named after her!
There were 9 females and 2 males, they weighed from 95 to 110 lbs, and measured about 34-40″ in length. Once the guys picked them up they tried to get away by beating on them with their flippers, you really don’t want to get in the way of their flippers (and they could bite if you got your hand close enough to their mouth). One by one they were weighed and measured and placed on the beach again on their backs to await their release. Once the researchers and volunteers were all done we all posed for a couple of group photos with the turtles, scientists, and Guarda Parka folks. Then the guys flipped the turtles over and aimed them at the water where they worked their way into the bay. Once they realized they were in a foot or so of water they took off at something like 10 knots. Later we saw some of them swimming around the bay.
We are having to rough it down here; in the islands north of La Paz it was a bit breezy at 5 to 18 knots with the temperature something like 75 degrees. The water temperature has dropped about 10 degrees since our arrival to the area; the water is now about 73 degrees. After spending three nights at Caleta Partida we left to go back to Los Muertos on the East Cape and then crossed over to Mazatlan.
We spent about a week around the two islands just north of La Paz – Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. This visit was just a preview for us; we plan to spend much more time there when we return to that area in the spring.
We have met plenty of cruisers who have pets aboard. Rocky (dog) and KeeKee (cat) were two that we shared a quiet beach with one morning.
We seem to be overdosing on sunsets lately, there are much different sky views than what we see in San Francisco. This particular one above didn’t seem to begin as much of anything, but our patience was rewarded in the final minutes before dark. The night skies are very filled with stars as there is less city-driven light pollution.
In addition to snorkeling opportunities, just walking along a coastline can present opportunities to view sea life. The two photos above (baby Guineafowl Pufferfish, and some young shrimp near an anemone) were taken while looking into a few small tidal pools.
El Cardoncito was a small bay (above) that we traveled to by dinghy while Voyager was anchored nearby in Caleta Partida. Many cruisers are able to drag their dinghies up to the beach (often with wheels mounted below), but because of the weight of ours (about 55o pounds) we have to anchor our “tender” in a foot or two of water and walk in to the beach.
Our new kayaks (Walker Bay Airis) are getting a lot of use, both for transportation and exercise. Some of the bays we have visited are attached to small estuaries that are additional opportunities to view the local flora and fauna.
Just before making the passage from the Southern Baja peninsula to Mazatlan we returned to the anchorage at Los Muertos. What continues to amaze us is the quantity and quality of oceanfront homes here even in what seem to be very remote areas. We are curious to know what the percent of ownership is – American vs. Mexican, vs. other nationalities. This location is a good place to make a crossing to Mazatlan as it is one of the shortest distances across the south end of the Sea of Cortes.
Our transit took about 28.5 hours (timed to arrive in daylight) and we covered 187 miles. Most of our passagemaking has been pretty monotonous so far – this is good because it means we are having no problems with weather or the boat. We spend the time reading, listening to music, watching for birds/dolphins/whales. We also have a “hand line” that we tow behind the boat in hopes of snagging a nice fish but so far our catches have been limited to a couple of tiny tuna cousins.
We have been using our new Sirius radio receiver quite a bit and on this trip we listened to a 49ers game (they won!) which helped make the time go by. At night it is a little challenging to stay awake at times, we found one of the comedy channels on Sirius to be helpful – a series of short stories to pay attention to and hopefully maintain alertness.
We arrived in La Paz on November 20, and took a slip at Marina Palmira just north of town. We are booked at this marina ’til Wednesdayday 12/1. The highs have been in the upper 70s and low 80s and lows overnight have been a temperate mid to upper 50s. There are supposedly some winter storms (just wind and waves, nothing like Seattle and S F is having currently) coming, so we may stay here a few days longer, but hopefully head out to one of the nearby islands north of here (snorkeling/swimming/kayaking, and it’s just quieter than the docks, the marina workers were jack-hammering for five days and a welder two boats over has been running his metal grinder!).
Within the next couple weeks we will cross over to the mainland for the winter. Probably our first stop will be Mazatlan, which will be about a 24-30 hour run across the Sea of Cortez. The next few months we will transit somewhere between Mazatlan and Ixtapa/Zihuateneho, our current insurance coverage allows us to go as far south as Acapulco. We don’t have an interest to go any further south for some time, there is too much to see in Mexico first.
La Paz has a population of over 200,000 and has most everything a cruiser could want. Costs of groceries and eating out are similar or cheaper than the U.S. First grocery store we have been in had plenty of turkeys, I don’t recall the price but we didn’t have the fridge space either. There’s a local Sam’s Club (like Costco) that is on our agenda while we are here, we are just about out of all the fresh fruit/veggies that we bought at in Costco/Cabo around 11/6. You learn to make things last when the best shopping is not continually a few minutes away.
Costs of boat parts/supplies are either similar or much more than the U.S. There are several marine suppliers in the area that have a quite good selection. We’ve bought a new battery here for and are looking at (an additional) small anchor for the dinghy (decent prices), but we have definitely started a running list of “boat items” to buy when we fly back to San Francisco for ten days in January. We will definitely save money by bringing things back from the U.S. (and we have an “import permit” to allow us to bring in replacement parts duty-free) , and some items are simply not available here. Shipping things down from the states is nearly impossible (well, you can ship them down here but receiving them is a different story!)
Two days after arriving, we found the local bread guy in town (well, there must be others but this guy Les promotes himself to the cruisers). We bought a small rustica loaf, some savory crackers, 2 onion bialys, and some killer bar-shaped crispy cookies. We were back again two days later for a loaf of sourdough and focaccia, ALL DELISH! The baker does different things on different days, so multiple visits are fortuitous. Our carb intake is going way up!!! After we leave here we might be on a tortilla diet for a while.
The local cruisers club hosted a Thanksgiving potluck (held at our marina). They provided the (21 we heard) turkeys, gravy and cranberry for about $2 a person, and about 260 attendees. It was sold out by Monday with a waiting list, we JUST made it “in”. There was more than enough to eat, and the turkey carcasses we given away to those craving some turkey soup. Attendees brought (spectacular) sides, eating utensils and their own beverages. We dug out some nice white wine out of our “cellar” and brought a wild rice/dried cranberry/pignoli salad. (You Minnesotans out there know that I have to have wild rice at the holidays!)
In addition to hosting social events like the Thanksgiving dinner and fund-raising events for local underprivileged children, the “club cruceros” also hosts about a 30 minute morning radio program on VHF channel 22 each day. The “net” offers opportunities for reports on health and other emergencies (few to none), local businesses who offer services to cruisers, upcoming events going on in La Paz (Spanish or yoga class anyone?), items to swap or trade, general inquiries about where to buy something, who has a mail or package delivery (best way is for someone to physically bring something down for you), and reports on the daily exchange rate, local tide information, and upcoming weather predictions. Channel 22 is also a general conduit for cruisers to talk to one another about anything and everything, sort of like the old “party” lines via telephone, there are no secrets here as anyone can listen in. Two recent questions were where to purchase egg-carton mattress foam (the local Sears store) and where to locate a “piggy” bank (many local gift shops…we saw them from pocket size to life size!). Some questions and answers are very informative to all, other questions let you know that some people have really no clue as to what is going on or they have failed to listen carefully to conversations that occurred five minutes previously. You have to have a lot of patience as a cruiser!
Being tied up at a dock for a few days allows us to catch up on some special boat projects like going up the mast (definitely something to be done when the boat is very steady).
Bill installed some pretty blue LED light bars on the mast, so we can find our boat in the dark in a crowded anchorage and especially after those ubiquitous adult beverages in the evening! In some areas there are also a vast number of (primarily local) boats moving quickly in the dark who do not bother to look up 65 feet for our anchor light. Hopefully this will keep folks from running into us, so we do not have to take advantage of our Mexican liability insurance. Bill is of course happy when he can tinker with some boat projects, sewing up a sun shade for the warmer months is one of the pending jobs on his list.
We anchored for several nights in beautiful Bahia Los Frailes (The Friars) about 70 miles east of Cabo San Lucas. We finally deployed and tested our new inflatable kayaks (fun, fun, fun). They are also supposed to be rigid enough to use as paddleboards or surfboards, and I am hoping to try one soon as a ski-board behind the dinghy.
Los Frailes (we’re among those boats!), Shrimp Diablo and Coconut Shrimp (and cocktails!)
One day we joined three other cruising couples and took a walk back into the “bush” about 1.5 miles (past an encampment of Canadian camper trailers – no electrical hookups or running water for them!) to a wonderful restaurant where we had a great seafood lunch and had the whole place to ourselves.
Further east of Los Frailes we spent a few nights at Los Muertos (yes – Dead, but as in underwater moorings to hold boats in place). We had a great snorkel adventure, swimming with the indigenous king angels and guinea puffers, also some moorish idols, one of my favorite fish. My golfing friends and family will enjoy the fact that I found a golf ball (underwater) during the snorkel trip. There is a golf course just above the beach (that cannot be seen from water level). The course is new and was offering an “introductory” rate of $175 per person for greens fee and cart.
We also tested and practiced our dinghy anchoring technique, essential when we want to reach a beach where there is no dinghy dock. Many cruisers have much lighter dinghys that they can drag onto a beach, with or without wheels (and hopefully avoid flipping it over in surfy conditions). At 500+ pounds this is not possible for us, so we can now anchor the dinghy just off the beach and wade in. We will also use the kayaks to get to shore if it might be too wavy for the “dink” or we just need the exercise.
We completed the Baja Haha rally in Cabo San Lucas on 11/4! (latitude 22 – compared to latitude 38 in San Francisco)
Overall, the whole trip was pretty smooth. We’ve been in rougher seas previous to this trip (this means it was not exactly pleasant but very bearable, and we actually got quite smooth water on the third and final leg). We had no major equipment failures, no injuries, only minor mal de mer (I highly recommend ginger capsules and those acupressure wrist bands), one cheap wine glass broken, two cheap juice glasses (plus a rope clutch and a couple dinghy straps) while bouncing in some rough seas. Our fellow (four other) Catalina C470s fared quite well also; they had some miscellaneous equipment “issues” but nothing to stop them from some fun.
We made our first “adjustment” to our itinerary and decided to tie up at a dock for a few nights at Cabo San Lucas (at 3x what we normally pay for a guest dock in San Francisco) because the anchorage along the beach has been rough during a few days of non-typical wind direction. (It is usually our preference to anchor out.) It’s a huge marina with many, many sport-fish and there is a big tournament going on. They gave out $180K (yes K) in prize money on Thursday (not the last day of the tourney). There are probably 500 slips in the marina and just on our dock with about 12 other yachts (mostly sport fish powerboats), there was probably $15M worth of boats (we’re the cheap one!).
Numerous night clubs and restaurants ring the marina and are loud ‘til probably 4 am, and then the fishing boats start firing up their engines around 5:30. It’s not a peaceful place by any means.
We took best advantage of the marina by using their WIFI, laundry (while writing this blog post and prepping some photos), on-shore showers, we gave Voyager a thorough boat washing topsides and vacuuming down below, and getting a bit of shopping done (Costco run, fresh produce, Pepsi, bread). These projects are easier done from a dock than hauling things back and forth on our dinghy.
The rally made two stops, Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. The first leg from San Diego to Turtle Bay was about 320 miles and took us 52 hours to transit (some boats were faster, some slower) we were about in the middle of the pack all the way down. There is a small town at Turtle Bay, Puerto San Bartolome, with a rickety wharf/dinghy dock but no marina, and only a couple of indoor-outdoor restaurants and a few (smaller than 7-11 sized) tiendas with very basic groceries. We wandered around a bit but there was not much to see, it’s a modest town to say the least.
The first afternoon we were there, the cruisers went to the local baseball stadium (baseball is big here) and played each other and a couple of the local (kids and adults) teams, it was good fun to watch, especially the little kids.
The second day after our arrival there was a beach party and potluck, music, beer, etc. We were able to top off our diesel tanks via panga boats that come out to the anchorage to deliver fuel (no fuel dock).
A few of the boats on the rally had Sirius radio and were able to listen to the World Series. Occasionally they would get on the radio and report to the Giants fan how things were going and bring a little excitement to some long nights of traveling without much going on besides watching a radar screen.
The rally is a herculean effort to put on and the organizers have done quite a good job of keeping everything and everyone together. Those of you who have worked on events with me know the logistical challenges of a multi-day land-based event. Imagine coordinating the move of 600 participants (ages ranging from 2-84, about 22 kids, about a dozen 70 or older) a distance of 750 miles with all varied experience levels, varied boats and equipment (and stuff DOES break along the way). Many people were not paying attention to what they are supposed to be doing nor reading up on the event beforehand like they should (for example the numerous stupid, repetitive questions during roll call on the radio every morning to keep track of everyone).
A few health issues emerged during what is extremely limited access to medical care (one with a cracked rib and another with a dislocated hip). I’m not sure what happened with the cracked rib (as far as I know the cruiser did not have to drop out). The dislocated hip involved a painful 12+ boat ride to Turtle Bay, then a long bumpy car ride to some clinic for “relocation”, but ultimately the cruiser continued on the rally.
Another single-handing (i.e. traveling by himself) cruiser who was NOT on the rally, apparently fell asleep and ran aground around the corner from us in Bahia Santa Maria (read more @ www.latitude38.com/lectronic/lectronicday.lasso?date=2010-11-01&dayid=499). About 50 of our group walked or caught rides with a few locals and went over to his location to salvage many items off his boat (using among other things a battery-operated Sawz-all to cut away equipment). Ultimately the boat was not able to be pulled off. The sailor was at least lucky that the rally folks were in the area to give some help recovering some of his gear and personal effects, otherwise he would likely have lost everything.
Prior to the start of the rally, we spent five nights in San Diego at the Southwestern Yacht Club (fabulous facility), with many errands to West Marine (numerous times), Target, groceries, Trader Joes, Costco, Home Depot, fish tackle shop, etc. etc. One of our dock neighbors from Brisbane, Bill Caughran flew down to crew with us (he left Voyager in Cabo to do some overland travel).
The Baja Haha (www.baja-haha.com) started on 10/25 with approximately 155 boats (out of ~193 entries). Two of our sister Catalina C470s did not start, but five out of seven is not bad! We probably have the most boats of any one type in the rally this year.
It is always exciting to transit the San Diego harbor, there was a submarine entering and another leaving the harbor as our 150-some boats were transiting, also a large warship came in through our fleet and on the radio it sounded like the captain did not listen to the coast guard advisory that morning about (our) unusual traffic in the area!