Log #62e La Paz for Christmas

February 19, 2017 in Logs by Series, Series 62, Series 62, The Logs

Log #62e La Paz for Christmas

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

March 2, 2017

Hi Folks,

We are still gunkholing around San Carlos and Guaymas (pronounced “why mas”). The weather is warm, but we have had some heavy winds. We went up to Rusty’s RV ranch in New Mexico a few days ago to get our Yukon and boat supplies (200 feet of anchor chain, stanchion bases, bottom paint, electrical switches, and 65 feet of jackline webbing) we had delivered there. Now we have wheels down here and can take supplies from Veleda back to our trailer. The car was in good shape, and started up as soon as we reconnected the battery. We will be hauling Veleda on the 15th, and need to do a lot of work before then. We have to load the anchor chain aboard before haulout. We will need to replace some stanchion bases which have started to fracture, remove the sails and the dodger, put the outboard into the cockpit and load the dinghy on the foredeck. We will probably spend a couple of nights alongside before haulout. After haulout we will drive back to Rusty’s (about 300 miles) in New Mexico to pick up the trailer. We will probably spend a few nights at Rusty’s before heading back to Ontario to arrive about April 1st.

We were in Guaymas for their Mardi Gras or Carnival parade and celebrations a couple of days ago; lots of floats, a few bands, blaring music from sound trucks, and costumed dancers reasonably well choregraphed. The parade didn’t have the pizzazz, colour, or intensity of the Carnival parades we saw in Grenada.

We will be making a couple of presentations to the local yacht club next week.

This log gets us to La Paz for Christmas. It is one of several communities along the Baja where retired expats have bought homes or stay on their boats at anchor or in marinas for long periods of time. Some stay here permanently, while others are snowbirds, heading back to the States or Canada for the summer months to maintain their medical coverage, as we are now so doing.

All the best,

Aubrey

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Log #62e La Paz for Christmas

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

Feb. 19, 2017                                                                                                                                                                                                                               We arrived at Balandra (24° 19.270′ N, 110° 19.801′ W) Dec. 16 in the early afternoon to enjoy the spectacular scenery of this picturesque cove. The cliffs are black volcanic tufa, separating several sandy beaches, and a long sandy shoal extends across the western part of the bay. This sand spit dries at low tide, allowing bathers to walk out to the iconic volcanic mushroom precariously balanced beneath an overhanging volcanic black cliff. It has been toppled by vandals a few times and has now been restored with re-bar posts to strengthen the structure. It is featured on several travel posters and postcards for the area.

Balandra Cove

Next day we motored the 12 miles down to anchor off La Paz Marina and the adjacent Navy docks, amongst dozens of other boats on both sides of the main channel. There was no room in the marina and we were put on a waiting list, as we planned to stay in the area for Christmas and New Year’s.

La Paz is a popular Baja cruising destination for many expats who anchor or stay in local marinas, some like us who stay only for a few days or weeks, and others who use their boats as long term condos on the water, at anchor or in a marina for all the winter months. There is a morning VHF net giving weather information, local activities at the various marinas, and buy/sell/trade announcements (careful to specify that selling anything in Mexico is not permitted for expats, but if prices are needed, they are mentioned as so many coconuts).

We joined Club Cruceros, an active cruising group of expats with a small clubhouse on the edge of Marina de La Paz overlooking the docks. It has an extensive library of books and DVDs which can be signed out, and has a coffee and cookies get-together every morning from 9:00 to 10:00 on their outdoor patio. The club also raises funds for needy children’s programs and other social services to the community. We signed up for the Christmas Eve supper at the club.

Small world department, we met a few cruisers that we first met years earlier. One couple on board Espiritu we had met in Roatan, Honduras in 2012. We were happy to meet again fellow Canadians, Carolyn and Kathy on board their new boat, Shannon Spirit. We had met them earlier in 2013 at an Ontario 32 Rendezvous in the Gulf Islands of lower B.C., as their initial boat was Shannon, Ontario 32 Hull #1!

The anchorage in La Paz extends down both sides of the main channel, a short dinghy ride in calm weather over to Marina La Paz which has a dinghy dock for boats at anchor. It charges a nominal 20 Pesos ($1.00) a day for the privilege, and includes access to washrooms and showers, a laundromat, restaurant, Club Crucero, WiFi, and drinkable Reverse Osmosis water on the docks. The marina is located in town within easy walking distance of grocery stores, chandleries, restaurants, the picturesque Malecon seaside walkway, and downtown La Paz.

I found a farmacia (Pharmacy) in which I was able to buy economically all my prescriptions from Canada without a renewal from a local physician. Medical and dental procedures are very economical in Mexico, and many Americans and Canadians rely on such for their health care, having opted out of the Canadian or U.S. medical insurance plans. We still want to protect our Canadian health care, and so will be returning to Canada in the early spring to be compliant with the regulations. Our Canadian health care is good and paid for by our taxes. We are paying for it whether we use it or not through our taxes.

We attended a birding talk by a local chandlery manager and birder, Tom Brown at Palmira Marina, an 80 peso taxi ride to the end of the Malecon. He had some excellent photos and gave an extremely good talk about local birds and their habitats. An additional benefit was that we were able to check at the office and were able to secure a slip at the marina to which we went next day for a week or more. The slip was right outside the office and had good WiFi reception. Happiness is WiFi on the boat!

We were assisted alongside by Kathy and Carolyn who were ensconced in their new boat, Shannon Spirit at the marina for the winter. The only difficulty is that it was an 80 peso ($4.00) taxi ride downtown to the other La Paz Marina and Club Crucero. We were down to Club Crucero for an enjoyable Christmas Eve potluck supper. Cruisers are a very sociable lot.                                                                                                     

Christmas morning we attended a dock party at the marina, and came across a few other sailors we had met years earlier. It was also a potluck, with a variety of hors d’ouvres and one boat contributed “Bloody Caesars” in a bucket of vodka bottles, with jugs of Clamato juice, a dish of salt, and a glass of celery sticks to provide a colourful red Christmas drinks for the gathering. A good Christmas morning dock party!

We were happy to get into the marina, not only for the social activities and access to WiFi, but to escape a wind storm that blew through the anchorage for several days. Any kind of northerly winds blow straight down the channel and can create some uncomfortable waves. We have good ground tackle (45 pound claw anchor and 200 feet of 5/16 inch chain) but are still concerned about dragging in heavy winds. Another complication at anchor off the channel is the “La Paz Anchoring Dance” that the boats at anchor do in the changing tidal currents, especially if there is a wind against current situation. The boats tend to swing at odd angles, so the boats do not lie in just one direction. Thus two boats at anchor, rather than lying in the same direction and away from each other, could swing together coming uncomfortably close or actually colliding. On the VHF morning net we heard of a couple of boats that dragged. We shopped at a Ley grocery store and at a couple of good chandleries. I went to the local cathedral, across from which was a pleasant park with a replica of the mushroom at Balandra in a fountain.

  We went on a whale shark outing with a local dive shop for an interesting morning snorkel the day after Christmas. The dive boat took us out the far side of the bay where whale sharks tend to congregate, as the plankton conditions there are suitable for their diets. These large ambling sharks are vegetarian, filtering plankton near the surface into their large open jaws and through their gills as they slowly amble through the water, or remain vertical, filtering the nutrients from the water. We could swim on the surface, parallel to a shark, watching its body undulate lazily through the murky water. When it was stationary feeding we could swim around it, but a few times it would then move and we had to actually avoid touching it. It was frightening a couple of times when I found myself turning directly in front of it, with its gaping mouth drifting towards me. We are not supposed to touch these magnificent creatures, and the only boats allowed in the area are those with certified guides. It was a privilege to be able to swim alongside these behemoths, watching as their gaping mouths and gills filtered the plankton while they wafted through the murky water here in the La Paz Gulf.

We welcomed our Aussie friend,Barry from the large catamaran, Mia, and helped him alongside the fuel dock at Palmira Marina. While alongside, I took his 65 horse power rib dinghy a couple of miles into the anchorage to pick up a “rent-a-kid” (from a friend) who was to help him by getting down inside his anchor well to make a tricky electrical connection for his windlass. I told him of the large dorado I caught after our fruitless fishing expedition a week ago from Los Friales. We said our goodbyes, and hoped we would meet up later some place in the Sea of Cortes as he was leaving to pick up a female crew north of La Paz in a day or so. 

 

La Paz is big enough to have good grocery stores and chandleries. Some people leave their boats in La Paz for the summer months, but is more expensive down here than where we plan to haul out in San Carlos. I toured the downtown area, including the old cathedral with a mushroom replica in the fountain, and liked even more the new cathedral still under construction.

                                                                                                              The old cathedral with the mushroom fountain

A few days after Christmas we connected with Adrian Hunt, the son of Patrick and Deborah Hunt, friends from Victoria we met up in Northern B.C., and his fiance Natalie and her dad, Bryan Rice. The dad was interested in our boat and our travels, but could not stay the day to sail with us. December 30 we took

Adrian and Natalie for a motor sail up to Balandra where they could get a ride back down to their campsite and tandem bicycle with which they were exploring the Baja. They are a lovely young couple planning a wedding in the spring.

 

We stayed at anchor that night, and the next day, Dec. 31, dinghied at high tide across the shoal into an idyllic mangrove estuary, dinghying a couple of miles into the channels and lagoons of this birding paradise, and across the next bay to see a frigate bird rookery.

   Mangrove Channel 

 

 

 

We left just before noon to motor a couple of miles down the peninsula towards La Paz to anchor in El Marito Cove (24° 18.112′ N, 110° 20. 086′ W) for a quiet New Year’s Eve 2016/2017.

New Year’s Day 2017 we enjoyed snorkeling a reef inside El Marito Cove.