Adios La Paz

The norther arrived Monday and it blew 15 – 30 knots for three days. It was calm by Friday morning when the Captain got on the EcoBaja Tours minibus for the ride to the aeropuerto.

Gary, Chris and Per headed home two days earlier on Wed morning. What a great group of guys! We all much enjoyed each other’s company and cooking (mostly done by Gary). Our time in La Paz was taken up with hikes around town, helping the Captain with boat chores and trying out a variety of restaurants. Our favorite was the cheapest one, Rancho Viejo. We feasted on a varity of mexican dishes and margaritas polished off with flan all around. $75 for the four of us including tips.

It was not long after Snug Harbor arrived at Marina De La Paz that Jacob, a local that worked on Snug Harbor three years ago, showed up – repeatedly. Jacob is persistant. He came by every couple hours asking for work. If there was no work then he just asked for money. After a few days of this the the Captain hired Jacob to wash and wax Snug Harbor and polish all the stainless steel – all to be done just before the Captain returns after Christmas. Jacob got an advance and a bag of groceries to seal the deal. The price – $250 – a huge amount for Jacob, but a small fraction of what it would cost in the US. Jacob left with a big smile saying he was going to get new zapatos (shoes) for Chistmas. The Captain struck a similar deal with Jacob three years ago and Snug Harbor never looked better.

The Captain loves spending time on Snug Harbor in Mexico, but what can be better than going home today to the love of his life, Mitzie.

Adios, until the Captain returns to Snug Harbor after Christmas………

Captain Boo Boo

The crew arose this morning and the weather felt weird and ominous. It rained last night and the wind had been shifting all around. There were lots of clouds and the air had a warm balmy feel to it. We all looked at each other and quickly agreed it was time to get out of Dodge before the norther forecast for Monday hit. So we had our coffee and left. Leaving early we had plenty of time to get the 25 miles to La Paz and decided to sail as long as the wind held out.

The Captain raised the mainsail. Once it was about halfway up the crew reported that the mainsail was not attached to the mast. This was due to operator error by the Captain, who had not properly fed the head of the main into the mast. It took about 20 minutes to get it sorted out. Shame on the Captain.

A good breeze had Per smiling while driving Snug Harbor:

Chris caught one fish and threw it back.

The 1350 mile voyage from Alameda to La Paz was completed at 1400 this afternoon when we pulled into our slip at Marina De La Paz. The Captain screwed up again when he was stringing the internet cable from the dockbox to Sung Harbor and he tripped and grabbed a fishing pole for balance. If you are grimacing at hearing another fish hook story – then sorry – the fishing pole just broke in half. The pole was already in poor shape and we didn’t catch any fish with it, so after conferring with the fishing department the Captain decided the pole got what it deserved.

The Captain tasked Gary with tying up Snug Harbor very securely given the coming norther. Gary outdid himself:

The crew took a stroll down the Malecon on the way to dinner and saw a double rainbow:

The Captain found one of his favorite restaurants from prior visits and the crew stuffed themselves with margaritas, mojitos, tuna, arachera, octopus, short ribs and flans all around.

We hiked back to the marina and had to make passage down the dock to Snug Harbor through a group of fellow boaters that were at the tail end of an extended cocktail party. They demanded that we each do a dance to gain passage. We did the best we could.

A couple of shots I like:

Sunrise after leaving Muertos

The Captain taking a swim

Ensenada Grande is Grand

Snug Harbor departed Bahia De Los Muertos at 0555 for Ensenada Grande. We had a 10-12 knot breeze with a good angle and were able to motor sail at 7+ knots for most of the trip. We had to power thru waves reminiscent of the Baja bash, but it wasn’t too bad. We passed spectacular rocks, volcanic formations and coves on Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida on our way to our anchorage. We dropped anchor at Ensenada Grande by 1400. Ensenada Grande really is grand and the crew is pumped!

The watermaker packed it in during the trip. Another project for the Captain. Fortunately the watermaker guru of La Paz lives in the trawler adjoining Snug Harbor’s slip at Marina De La Paz.

The crew all piled into the dinghy to explore the three beaches at Ensenada Grande. We landed at the first beach and saw sugarow cacti galore. Then back to Snug Harbor where Per and Gary swam over to shore for snorkeling. They got back after an hour or so. Per, of endless energy, then jumped in a kayak and explored for another hour.

One of the things that really gets the Captain’s motor going is sharing Snug Harbor with others so that they can enjoy sailing and unique cruising experiences as much as he does. Per has been a blast to have along as he has not been in Baja before and is really enjoying the new experiences.

The captain made barbecued pork loin for dinner. He also remembered his dear wife Mitzie and served hor duerves and cocktails before and made sure a proper table was set in the cockpit for dinner. Excellent conversation ensued.

The crew plans to sleep in and play a bit more tomorrow morning. Snug Harbor will up anchor by noon bound for Marina De La Paz, where we will ride out the norther forecast to arrive by Monday morning.

Norther Coming

Thursday night Snug Harbor’s crew watched a documentary on Baja after dinner. However, there was a lot more snoozing than watching, as the crew was tuckered out from the day’s activities. We all hit the sack at, can you believe it, 2000 hours. All slept well except Per who slept in the cockpit and was kept awake by the wind generator making strange noises as it stopped and started throughout the night. The bad behavior of the wind generator was the result of its circuit breaker getting bumped off by mistake at the nav station. Oops!

Snug Harbor upped anchor Friday morning at 0625 bound for Ensenada De Los Muertos. Clear skies and flat seas made for a quick passage and we dropped anchor in 25 feet of turquoise water off the beach at Muertos by 1330. However, the trip was not without event.

The first problem occurred after the Captain entered the route to Muertos into Snug Harbor’s chartplotter. When he pushed the “Follow” button, the two autopilot control units (one by each wheel) went dark and stopped working – dead – kaput. After an hour of fiddling they were still dead. Now this is a big deal as the crew rarely hand steers when on passage. You use the chartplotter to figure out what direction you want to go and then turn on the autopilot to keep you going in that direction. Then you sit back, enjoy the scenery, adjust the sails, periodically monitor your course and surroundings, and adjust the autopilot as needed. You can also duck below to get a snack or attend to other business. When you hand steer you have to constantly pay attention to keeping the boat pointed in the right direction and cannot leave the helm. The Captain was having visions of hand steering the 1200 miles home next spring and was not happy.

The other excitement was the lifting of the “Curse of Snug Harbor”. A few miles before we reached Muertos we hooked a dorado and reeled him in. He was not too big, maybe four pounds. Dorados are a magnificent shimmering green color and quite a sight. Gary filleted him and the Captain grilled the fillets for lunch, not much more than an hour after we landed him. Fish doesn’t get any fresher or tastier. All thanks to Gary’s leadership of Snug Harbor’s fishing department.

Activities after we anchored included Gary and Per kayaking into the beach. Per took a hike and Gary went snorkeling down the beach. Gary freaked a bit when a big eel came at him out of a hole as he snorkeled by. The Captain took a swim and checked out the anchor with snorkel gear. Snug Harbor was anchored on 150 feet of chain. The water was clear enough that the captain could see the chain laying on the sand all the way up to where the 70 pound anchor was dug in. There was not much wind in the anchorage so the first 100 feet or so of chain attached to the anchor just lay on the sandy bottom. The last 50 feet of chain arced up to the boat. Snug Harbor rarely tugs on the anchor. She mostly just lays to the chain laying on the sea bottom.

The Captain eventually figured out that the autopilot units had mysteriously turned themselves off even though their power was on. Fixing them required no more than pushing the power button on each unit, something that has never been necessary before. The Captain is still mystified why they turned themselves off.

Mike left us a nice piece of his home made pastrami which we will have for dinner.

Tomorrow Snug Harbor ups anchor at sunrise for the 60 mile voyage to Ensenada Grande, which is the Captain’s most favorite place in the world to anchor. The Captain was planning to spend two nights, but a Norther is forecast to hit La Paz Monday morning. A Norther is the Mexican equivalent of a Northeaster in New England – the wind typically blows 20 – 30 knots for 3 days. The winds blow down the 600 mile length of the Sea of Cortez and the seas get ugly. If you are out in one it definitely is not “pleasure boating”. So we will head to Snug Harbor’s winter berth in Marina De La Paz on Sunday rather than Monday.

The Curse of Snug Harbor

On Tuesday we completed our paperwork with Victor. Since Snug Harbor is now officially “entered” into Mexico, we hauled a Mexican flag up to the spreader. The flag has to be flown at a height that is above the American flag Snug Harbor flies of her stern. This signifies that Snug Harbor is submitting to Mexican authority.

By Tuesday a pair of Ospreys had taken up residence on the top of Snug Harbor’s mast. They particularly liked the wind vane, which did not like the weight of these birds. At some point a trip up the mast will be in order to bend the vane back into position. The other downside of what otherwise is a bird watcher’s delight is the copious amount of cement like poop that they cover the deck with every night. Yucch!

Victor also got visas for all our crew. With visas in hand Mike and George flew home on Wednesday and were replaced by Chris James and Per Stomhagen late Wednesday.

While the crew was in transition the Captain and Gary took the local bus into town (fare of $0.65). They got Pesos from the bank and picked up provisions at Sorianas, a chain of Mexican super stores. The store was very nice, felt just like a Walmart and had excellent produce. We stowed the provisions and gave Snug Harbor a thorough cleaning. Then the Captain went with Gary to a tackle shop to see if we could buy some lures that would improve our fishing. We have yet to catch a fish worthy of eating. Gary talked to the owner and got some gear that was “guaranteed” to change our luck. We left the shop pumped up! We were soon going to be feasting on fresh yellowfin and mahi-mahi!

We left Thursday morning at 0830 for Bahia Frailes, about 30 miles up the coast. We put out all our hot new fishing gear, passed over a 100 boats fishing and caught Nada! Hence the “Curse of Snug Harbor”. Gary is determined to break the curse and catch something we can eat. Tomorrow is another day.

We anchored at Frailes and all took a dip in the 84 degree water. Per immediately swam to shore. Gary followed him and met some interesting folks on the beach. Per came back and then took a marathon snorkeling trip. He saw a variety of fish and some coral. Those of us still on board saw a number of Mantas jumping out of the water and landing with crashing belly flops.

Gary made chicken soup for dinner. We plan to leave early tomorrow morning for the 50 mile trip to Bahia de Los Muertos (the Bay of Death). It is actually a very pretty place.

Dry Soup

Snug Harbor arrived at San Jose Del Cabo at 1130 Monday. The marina is quite nice and has a good breeze blowing in from the ocean. We stopped first at the fuel dock and topped of our tanks with 65 gallons of diesel. We were met at the fuel dock by Alberto, who showed us to our slip, explained where everything was in the marina, and then called a golf cart to take the Captain to the office to register.

The office staff were a delight and even called Victor, the paper man, to make sure he had everything needed to process Snug Harbor’s entrance documents into Mexico and obtain visas for the crew.

Marina at Puerto Los Cabos – Snug Harbor is in the center:

We cleaned up Snug Harbor and the crew and went to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbor. Our waitress, Rosario, took us under her wing and gave us impromptu spanish lessens, including correcting the Captain when he called her a senora rather than a senorita. The highlight of the meal came when Rosario’s co-worker brought Gary a bowl of fish soup that was all fish and vegetables and no soup. Gary was perplexed and told the waiter he had ordered soup. The waiter told Gary yes that was correct, but that the restaurant served “dry soup”. After an appropriate period of disbelief by the entire crew the waiter cracked a big smile and brought out the broth for the soup in a pitcher and poured it into Gary’s soup bowl. The food was great and about half the cost one would expect at home.

The major factor that made Snug Harbor’s trip down the Baja coast so enjoyable and free from drama was the quality of her crew; George Bean, Gary Girard and Mike Pernitzke. Each of the crew are veteran boat owners and Mexico cruising veterans. They all know what to do, do it right and do it with good cheer and humor. It is a priviledge to hang around with these guys. When underway at night the off watch all slept well knowing there was always a competant person driving the boat and keeping them safe.

At times the crew got a bit tuckered out from all the night watches and rolly weather:

The picture is comic when you first look at it, but it actually reveals good survival instincts by the crew. When the boat is rolling side to side you can roll off a fore and aft oriented bed. If you sleep thwartships, or sideways, then you don’t get rolled off and sleep better.

Here are Gary, Mike and George in their usual jovial mood as we passed Cabo San Lucas this morning:

I couldn’t add photos when I was posting via SSB so here are a few I like.

The palisade protecting the anchorage at Bahia Santa Maria


And a video of dolphins doing their thing

Dolphin Hijinx

Snug Harbor upped anchor at 0545 Sunday morning for the 200 mile trip to San Jose Del Cabo. We had calm conditions and smooth seas until midafternoon. The water temperature is now 80 degrees. The sky was clear, the sun was bright and it was hot. Perfect motoring weather. A lot of reading got done.

A half dozen dolphins passed close by with each one of them leaping completely clear of the water to a height of six or eight feet. This went on until they were well behind us. We also saw lots of sea turtles, one even with a baby in tow.

We have no cell or internet connections so we have been watching tropical storm Xavier on our Sirius weather forecast on Snug Harbor’s chart plotter. It is located offshore of Acapulco, about 500 miles south of us, and has gusts to 55 knots. The forecast shows it running out of steam tomorrow. Let’s hope the forecast is right. It makes the Captain feel better that Snug Harbor is headed to a berth for the next three days, rather than anchoring out off the beach in Cabo San Lucas, as he has done in the past.

The wind then built for the rest of the afternoon into the mid to upper teens. We rolled out the jib and picked up some extra speed. After a couple of hours a short and steep quartering sea built up which had Snug Harbor rocking and rolling like crazy from side to side.

The peak of the rocking and rolling occurred when Mike was preparing cheeseburgers with all the fixings on the galley stove. Imagine trying to cook in your kitchen if the floor was wildly tilting from one side to another. Mike pulled it off without any problems and the burgers were as tasty as all of Mike’s other dinners.

We expect to pull into the marina at San Jose Del Cabo by midday tomorrow.

For the engineers: Snug Harbor’s SSB set a distance record last night by beaming yesterday’s blog a couple thousand miles to a ground station in South Carolina.