Thursday, December 19, 2013


We have been in La Paz Mexico (24.13 N x 110.20 W) for much longer than we planned.    We arrived on November 19  and finally plan to make our escape on Monday December 16th.   Our next stop is Mazatlan (23.16 N x 106.29 W) on the Mexico mainland.  

La Paz is known as the best provisioning location in the Baja Peninsula and we made our way to a number of the popular shopping sites for cruisers.  There is a very active gringo community here, thousands of Americans either cruise here or have homes here.  Many came for a short visit and never got around to going home.   After our time here it’s easy to understand how it happens.  The local people are very accustomed to a stumbling Gringo trying to explain his wants in broken Spanish or worse.  Several times when lost, a local would try their best to help me find where I was going without being asked.  Club Cruceros ( hosts the cruisers net each morning on VHF radio, publishes a very helpful guide with dozens of useful contacts and runs a mail and package delivery service for items from the US.  Add to this warm weather, general cost of living about 1/3 less than San Diego and plentiful restaurants with stunning sunset views on the ocean.   Why leave?

Marina Costa Baja (resort where we are docked) makes it easy with a shuttle bus to town (about 6 miles) 6 times a day and taxis are readily available and the trip is about $8 US if the shuttle is inconvenient.  Our many shopping trips to town gave us a chance to visit major grocery stores, an indoor Mercado (farmers market), Ace hardware, City Club (Sam’s Club knockoff?), Sears, Radio Shack and other well established businesses.  We also found our way to some incredible bakeries where you simply can’t carry $20 worth of pasties.  Since they don’t have any preservatives in the pastries we were forced to eat them all each day and start over. 

One of our trips was to get Keela a trim and haircut.  After some web research Mary decided on a location about a couple of dozen blocks from the Church were the shuttle drops us off.   After a taxi ride to the street corner the driver insisted on parking and walking to the address I gave him.  He then explained to the folks what we wanted and made sure all was going well.   All this for a $10 fare.  As you can see below, no question we were at the right place!

Mary improved our pottery collection at Ibarra Pottery, a historic family run craft shop featuring signed handmade work since 1897.  The items are very light and colorful.

Seafox, one of the Nordhavn 55’s from the FUBAR fleet asked if Mary and I would crew with them from La Paz to Mazatlan.  The 33 hour trip would give us a chance to run a 55 and get to know Julie and Dennis Fox.  They have a long cruising history including the North Atlantic Rally (NAR‎).  The night before we were set to leave Mary stepped off a curb and jammed her back.  Worried a 230 mile ocean crossing would make it worse she wisely choose to stay in La Paz. 

Dennis, Julie and I left on board Seafox at sun up with plans to be in Mazatlan 33 hours later.  Weather was very favorable (Seafox was the boat that followed their weather router and avoided the rough ride on the last leg of the FUBAR) as predicted.  The crossing could have been done in a panga with enough fuel.   Traveling with 2 other Nordhavn 55’s  and another 3 Nordhavn’s making the same trip some 6 hours behind us provided lots of comfort and someone to talk with on the dreaded 1-4 AM watch. 

It was a great trip and always a learning experience to travel on an accomplished cruisers boat.  Lots of small tips and tricks to make the voyage safe and a bit easier.  My favorite was a simple egg timer, hand wound to alarm every hour on the hour.   Each time the egg timer rang we logged our position both on paper and electronic charts.  No sleeping thru a watch on Seafox.   The N55 is only 5 feet longer than WORKNOT but is really twice the boat.  The N55 weighs nearly twice as much as the N50, wider beam and much taller giving more protection from breaking seas.   None of this was put to the test in the very settled waters during our trip.  
About half way there we picked up some hitchhikers who would not leave.  At one point there were more than a dozen birds taking a free ride east.  

We did have a small challenge about 20 miles from Mazatlan.  It was mid morning, very clear and calm.  The passage was nearing the end and we were very relaxed when a buoy appeared to port in deep water.   Quickly it determined a long line was dead ahead.  A quick turn to starboard kept us from running over the floating line.  The long line was made up from ¼” polypropylene line (floating) with baited hooks about every 25 feet hanging down about 5 feet.  In Kentucky we would call it a trot line and use it to bottom fish for cat fish.   Poorly marked with clear water bottles every 50 feet or so, it was very hard to see.  After running 5 miles south to try and find the end we gave up and crossed the line using a boat hook to push it down below the stabilizers and prop.  Seafox is rare twin screw N55 and there is plenty to get a line hung up on.  Luck was on our side.   Since the N55 draws 6 feet, we were fortunate it was daylight and settled seas.   A local sport fishing captain told me the long lines are illegal and they routinely cut them.  The longliners are supposed to weight the lines to sink and provide crossing points. 

When we all got settled in Mazatlan Marina,  a dinner was organized at a local outdoor spot.  Getting there required a cab ride and the Mazatlan cabs are unique indeed.  Made from converted Volkswagens, they are closer to dune buggies than cars.   Some have doors; some have roofs but not both in most cases.   The open air ride added to sense of adventure and the weather was warm and food was great.

Next morning we went to Rico’s, located at the Pemex station across from the marina, for breakfast.  Surprisingly, it was great.   Fresh fruit, lattes, French toast, cheese blintz and more.  A real treat.   Soon conversation turned to me getting back to La Paz to retrieve WORKNOT, Mary and Keela.  Much to my surprise and Dennis’s shock, the next ferry ticket was 2 weeks later.  The ferry spokesman suggested I might get a ticket but should not expect a seat if I went to the landing and “found the right ticket agent”.  18 hours on a ferry, without a cabin, let alone a seat was not encouraging.  Flying was the only opportunity to get “home” but no direct flights available.  Found a flight to Guadalajara; spend the night and then an early morning flight to La Paz.  Not sure who was more relieved, Dennis or me.  

Neil and Lane on one of the N55’s we traveled with have a condo overlooking the beach in Mazatlan and invited us to come see the sunset.  They are from the Bay Area and have traveled by boat in Mexico for many years.  Again, great to talk to veteran. 

The trip home was very smooth, the airports were all very clean, the hotel in Guadalajara was about  200 feet from the airport lobby.  Clean, good breakfast and English spoken by the staff.  Aero Mexico flies commuter jets on these routes, all were fairly new, no charge for pillows, checked baggage, blankets or soft drinks.  

Our plan was to cross over to Mazatlan as soon as I got back but the weather had other ideas.  For the next 2 weeks we never got a suitable weather window to cross.  Strong northerly winds blowing down the Sea of Cortez pushed waves up to 8 ft at very short 6-8 second intervals.  Since we are headed mostly east this would put them on our beam.  Uncomfortable at best, dangerous if something breaks on the boat and very tiring for a two person crews since sleeping in that sea condition might not be possible.   So we waited, and waited.  And went to the bakery and waited…..

Nearby is the island of Isla Espiritu Santo.  Uninhabited and pristine, there are dozens of anchorages along the west coast of this island and its neighbors.  We managed to spend a few nights there and took a few pictures to entice you to come see it for yourself.  Fairly well protected from the prevailing North wind, open to a unique La Paz wind called the Coroumel.  It occurs as the Pacific air moves across the Baja penninsula at night creating 15-30 kt winds that help keep La Paz cool in summer and the Isal Espiritu Santo anchorages interesting.  At 7 pm one night the wind picked up from the Southwest  and blew steady until 2 AM.  A bit like San Francisco Bay in the afternoon.  Good news is it gets rid of the nosee'um bugs but makes the anchorage noisy.

We plan to head over to Mazatlan as soon as the weather permits.   La Paz has been fun and a good place to start the unwinding but it’s getting cooler and the locals warn of chilly, windy days with the port closed due to high seas.  Sounds like San Francisco Bay and a good reason to keep going south!

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