We made another short trip (by airplane) back to the U.S. this spring. One of our main priorities while back in the U.S. is to collect a few items (see May 2011 list) that we simply can’t find in Mexico, or the cost to purchase them down here is exorbitant. Crate and Barrel for example, now accepts online orders from Mexico, but the shipping and duty fees would make your eyes water.
Along with “our” shopping list, we typically have a few items to bring down for friends (as they do the same for us). On this latest trip, the “friends” list included:
Sunbrella fabric for repairing boat covers/shades (biminis and dodgers to you yachties)
Black licorice (red vines type)
Cotton sports bras
Water filtering unit (for galley sink)
Package of mail
Teriyaki-flavored beef jerky
Boat canvas hardware/fittings and tools
White Columbia wide-brimmed hat
Brass plumbing fittings
Metal concho ornaments and turquoise-colored beads for one admiral’s curtain-making project
Miscellaneous office supplies (donated to remote village schools)
Surfboard shaped bath-mat and coordinated hand towels
Beads in some beautiful warm, pale colors (rocailles for hand-weaving)
Digital movie player
Zincs for rope cutter that keeps nets, etc. from fouling a propeller
Now you have an idea of what many of us either need, want or are craving while away from the U.S.!
We made two more visits to Barra de Navidad this year, as we transited north and south along the “Riviera” and “Costalegre.”
The Barra lagoon, one of the most sheltered anchorages we have found, always has plenty to see, from the abundant bird life to a continuing parade of boats running aground on their way in and out of the very narrow entry channel. During our visits this year there were 25-30 boats anchored, but there is room for twice that, or more.
Our friends Jeff and Gayle from Lazy Bones (their boat is currently in Turkey, they’ve made it about half way around the world in six years) joined us for about a week, meeting us in Puerto Vallarta and sailing from there to Barra.
Most everyone who reaches Barra really enjoys it. It is a charming small town with great, inexpensive eating places, a 24-hour water taxi service (about $2 per person round trip) so one does not even need to launch their dinghy, and another small town (Malaque) nearby – via short bus ride or longer walk along the beach – with decent provisioning.
One never knows what is to be found in Mexico. While having a great seafood lunch at a beach side restaurant, nearby we saw a group of nuns gathered. We don’t know what the occasion was, but the ocean and beach are lovely and there is sure plenty of room for everyone to enjoy it.
(posted immediately following a nine day stay at Ensenada de Los Muertos – Bay of Dreams – on the southeast corner of the Baja peninsula)
Of all the sailboats cruising Pacific Mexico, probably the bulk of them move back and forth between various points along the Baja peninsula and the mainland between Thanksgiving and Easter. Typically the migration is first southeastward, as the winter weather can be nicer on the mainland. Once spring comes, the Baja side really shines and everyone goes (north) west again. Finishing our second winter down here, we have since completed our third and fourth transits of the Southern Sea of Cortez. A common (and shortest route) for the “southern crossing” (transiting the southern margin of the Sea of Cortez where it meets the Pacific ocean) is from Mazatlan to Los Frailes (also on the SE corner of Baja), which for us can be a 26-28 hour journey making good speed (about 145 miles at approximately 7 knots).
The crossing itself can be a whole lot of nothing, just time passing by culminated with a celebration at the end to mark success (such as a restaurant meal ashore or cruisers beach party). There’s a great deal of emptiness on the ocean in between the dolphin and whale sightings, bird acrobatics and occasional hitchhiking, book/magazine reading, and stereo playing. Eat, drink (not THAT kind of drinking!), nap.
Today’s interview comes from Theresa (she introduced us! so she must get a good share of credit for this adventure we are on!)
When you are out at sea do you keep a watch at night?
These “southern crossings” that we’ve been doing take 24 hours or more with nowhere to stop along the way. Having no land to run into along the way makes things a bit easier as far as keeping a watch, but occasionally there are a few other boats to look out for! At night we tend to watch our radar screen just as much as we watch the ocean/sea around us. In the daytime we can generally see around us for at least several miles, so the radar is less important.
One of the instruments we added to the boat while still in California, was an AIS (similar to the transponders used in aircraft), this allows us to monitor the positions of commercial ships (up to 200 miles away, who are REQUIRED to install these devices), and we also put out an identifying signal that those ships can see.
On our latest (south) east to (north) west passage, from Isla Isabel to Muertos – 36 hours, 258 nautical miles – we only saw two boats in our vicinity during the crossing – a fishing boat at least three miles away, and another who closed to within one mile behind us. For last spring’s westbound crossing we were in a loose caravan of about 16 sailboats, although we didn’t see more than a few (we were one of the first boats to start out), until we reached the Ensenada de los Muertos anchorage.
When we only have one single overnight to endure, we generally both stay up on deck at night (one of us can snooze in the cockpit, but be available to the “watch keeper” if needed.). Traveling in the daylight one of us will occasionally go down below for a nap. We definitely catch up on our sleep on our first night “in port.”
What’s the weather like?
We do our best to gather as much forecast information as possible before making a crossing. Good conditions mean we can make a good speed averaging 6-7 knots (about 6.6 – 7.7 mph); very rough conditions could slow us down to 2-3 knots! If we’re close to commonly used departure point on land (i.e. civilization) we can usually pick up some info via the Internet and there are also SSB (long range marine radio) reports we can receive about twice a day. Although the predictions are reasonably accurate, they are not perfect (just like your TV weather guy or gal at home!). We also subscribe to a free service that transmits an email forecast to our SSB radio (with computer modem). We could also spend money to receive emailed reports with our satellite phone, but have not felt a need for it at this point. We also listen on the SSB for “vessels underway” who might be reporting along the track we plan to follow, they can describe real-time conditions.
We generally look for the smoothest water possible, and if there are some favorable winds of the right speed and direction we are able to sail. If we are itchin’ to make that crossing, we will gladly take a “smooth water/no wind” crossing and run the engine to get us across, at least we are fairly fuel efficient! A night with a good full or near full moon is also a bonus.
Our eastbound crossing this January had some winds to push us along under sail quite nicely; however the seas were quite “lumpy” with some 4-6 footers behind us that provided some uncomfortable motion, which made for a tiring ride. Our latest westbound crossing offered very little wind (except 15 knots “on our nose” for the last three hours), but we motored along thankfully in mostly flat water.
Can either of your sail the boat by yourselves?
What we love about the boat we have, is that it was definitely designed for “short-handed” (one or two person) sailing. All of the sailing controls are right inside the cockpit and easy to reach and operate, so that no one has to go out onto the deck (greater likelihood of injury or falling overboard in rough seas), to keep the boat moving. Handling the controls for motoring or sailing in calm to moderate conditions is very easy for either one of us. We prefer to never be in a rush to get anywhere, so that we can avoid traveling if the conditions are going to be unpleasant.
Do you have someone travel with you when you are sailing a long distance?
The only time we have done this recently was on the Baja Ha-Ha rally that brought us to Mexico in 2010. A friend from our yacht club traveled with us, it was definitely a good idea as we had two long (for us!) runs – of 55 hours and 37 hours. It’s really helpful to have a third (or fourth!) person to keep you refreshed with a little more sleep time. Because we are making (and preferring) shorter trips around Mexico, we have not had the need for additional “crew” but would definitely consider it for longer runs.
Quite a few of the boats that we’ve met down here have either made or are now in the process of making the “puddle jump” across the Pacific (most of them will arrive first to the Marquesas/French Polynesia). An average trip for a boat our size could be 17-21 days…some folks do it with just two aboard…we have no interest in sailing that direction (or duration), but probably four people would be the comfort level for us.
Continuing our winter migration south, we’ve made another visit to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Adjacent to the marina there, a Sunday market started last year and has more than doubled in size recently.
Part of the increase in size is that the town square is being redone – some of the vendors may return to their original location when that public works project is finished.
The 75-some (at least!) vendors are drawing big crowds from beyond La Cruz and the marina. The “insiders” are showing up early to beat the crowds, it is getting difficult to move around at peak times.
We recently visited the Saturday market in “Old Town” Puerto Vallarta (which was great last year); the La Cruz venue is now the better of the two (several vendors attend both events).
The market has a wide variety of arts and crafts vendors, plenty of prepared food items, one very nice vegetable vendor (wish there were more – but this one has hard-to-find fabulous fresh fennel and basil), a florist and a few other miscellaneous sellers – cigars anyone?
Lots of folks eat their way through the market, there are a great array of both breakfast and lunch items and reasonable prices.
Sometimes the girls just need to get off the boat and go to town. In November, Crit, Jaye and Julie found a great Japanese restaurant in La Paz – Vivi Sushi. A bunch of the girls had to check it out for a second time in December.
The selection and quality of menu items was great, the service very attentive, and the location was lovely. Unfortunately the pricing was quite similar to the Bay Area’s – but still worth the visit.
Two of the local, fresh fish specialties are Pargo (snapper family) and Cabrilla (grouper family). We also had some Tuna, Yellowtail, and Salmon. Some of the wraps were done with soy “paper,” which made for a colorful presentation. After lunch everyone had a nice walk around town with a little shopping and wrapped up with a late afternoon cocktail.
Todos Santos is a small community on the Pacific coast of the Baja Sur peninsula, about an hour’s drive southwest from La Paz, and about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas. We spent one day wandering around and checking out several of the nice shops and galleries around town.
Promoted as a an artists colony, there are quite a few tourists around and a wide variety of merchanise to see and buy, from fine arts to souvenirs. Not needing much of anything, we mostly looked but bought a few things at two specialty markets – a very interesting produce shop with most items in glass cases (to keep things cool in the hot climate), and a vendor of smoked meats (good turkey, pork, bacon).
Lots of cute little inns and restaurants. We found a lovely place with a nice outdoor patio to have lunch – compared to the bargains we find in La Paz but it was decent food and service.
Our friends David and Donna on Salonah (previously featured on the post: Island Time). were at Marina Palmira in the La Paz area with us over the holidays. David’s son Damon and his girlfriend have recently brought their boat Gaia to Mexico (they have previously cruised to parts south) and have been hanging out around La Paz too.
One afternoon our three boats were all heading from La Paz to Isla Espiritu Santo. We were fortunate to capture a decent photo of the two “family” boats together.
(yes, we’ve heard about the wrecked cruise ship off Tuscany)
There are several large (~100 footers), older, two-masted (perhaps a mixture of schooner & ketch rigs) sailboats parked around the La Paz area. Someone told us they were all built in Turkey. Perhaps they were used for day charters back when there were more cruise ships coming to town.
Two of these vessels have been tied along the breakwater at Marina Palmira for at least several months, and have not moved from these berths. (There’s another quite lovely one based out of Marina Costa Baja that we have seen out sailing the bay recently.)
At any rate, one of the two vessels in Marina Palmira rolled to 45 degrees on December 22 just before we were returning to the marina after a trip to Isla Espiritu Santo. This was during a low tide and she took in quite a lot of water down below, and was leaning about halfway into the main fairway that boats must negotiate to reach most of the docks. At first we were sure wondering if we’d be able to get past it (we did).
There was some concern that the boat would fall over further to block the fairway but it has since been secured. After several attempts using a couple of tow trucks and also with placement of some large float bags, she had not been set upright by the time we left La Paz on January 5.
Many of you know that we rarely miss an opportunity for a “cat fix.” Fortunately for us, a couple who were also on the 2010 Baja Ha-Ha rally, while parked next door to us in Marina Palmira/La Paz, had two cuddly Burmese cats that needed “sitting” for a few days.