Transitions

It is Saturday. Justin, Jen and the grandkids left yesterday.

The much loved Admiral hopped the 7 am EcoBaja bus to the airport this morning. Bill Burk and fiancé Rebecca arrive this afternoon along with George Bean.

The Captain stuck to household duties today – picking up laundry, defrosting the freezer, cleaning up a bit for the new crew and drafting a provisioning list for a trip to Walmart tomorrow.

Picking up Laundry: There is a laundromat in the marina staffed by Nancy – The Captain gave bedding, sheets, towels, a week’s clothes and two sleeping bags to Nancy yesterday and picked them up today after paying 360 pesos, about $18, to have them all laundered and folded. The folding is amazing – Nancy could make a fortune making training videos on U-Tube. The Captain has used Nancy many times over the years and has always been delighted with the service. However, today was a lesson in not becoming complacent. There must have been a problem in one of the machines Nancy used as our 4 best boat towels came back looking like a pair of WW2 stockings – you know the ones that always had runs in old movies – a lot of runs. It took a good bit of shearing of loose threads to get them back in presentable form. They must have been smart washers and driers as they only attacked our best towels. As The Captain put the rest of the laundry away he noticed that a pillow case was also missing, one that was part of a matched set of bed linens for the Captain’s bunk. Not a good day for laundry.

Teenage Appetite: Remember when we were young, could eat like horses and never gained an ounce? My granddaughter, Abby, gave quite a demonstration of this concept:

Breakfast:

Dinner: It isn’t fair!

On Wednesday, before our family left, we made it to the Ensenada Grande anchorage for some exploration and snorkeling:

EnsenadaGrande has amazing looking rocks surrounding the anchorage. What do you think they look like?

Next week we head 125 miles north on the Sea of Cortez to Loreto. Lots of anchorages a short day hop from each other make for a relatively easy passage north, provided the weather stays settled. The Captain is looking forward to showing the sights to Bill and Rebecca, who have never been to this part of Mexico.

Westerlies

Mitzie, Charley, son Justin, daughter in law Jen, and grandkids Abby and Porter all arrived at Snug Harbor in La Paz on Thursday afternoon.

We spent the first couple days wandering around and eating out. Dinner, drinks and tip at nice restaurants for the 6 of us are running about $100.

On Saturday Justin, Jen, Abby and Porter booked an excursion on a high speed panga to do a 50 mile circumnavigation of Isla Espirito Santos and Isla Partida, the two national park islands north of La Paz. Along the way they donned wetsuits to swim with the sea lions at Los Isolotes and whale sharks in Bahia La Paz and lunch on the beach at Ensenada Grande. They had a great time and came back windblown and worn out.

On Sunday the Captain threw off the dock lines (well all except one!) and backed out of the dock. After an abrupt stop and some quick footwork by Justin we headed off for Bonanza Beach on the east side of Espirtu Santos. Fortunately, there were no gawkers present to witness the Captain’s awkward departure.

We anchored on the east side of Espirito Santos because strong westerly breezes were forecast making the spectacular anchorages on the west side uncomfortable and a dangerous lee shore. The sunset picture above was taken from our Bonanza Beach anchorage.

On Monday we hiked along an arroyo that connected Bonanza Beach to San Gabriel Bay on the east side. It was an 8 mile round trip hike through spectacular desert landscape.

Following is the remaining skeleton of a long departed cactus plant:

It was a long hike and we kept getting to the next ridge, only to find there was another ridge togo:

After many stops to pick nettles from our shoes we finally made it to San Gabriel Bay. Abby and Mitzie shucked their shoes in a flash and waded out into the creamy white sand:

We saw hundreds of frigate birds in the sky between us and the southern side of the bay and concluded they were above a rookery and circling above because they thought us a threat to the rookery.

On the way back, about half way across, we ran across a denizen of the arroyo that, unlike us, never made it to either coast:

Westerlies are forecast to continue Tuesday so we plan to stay put, blog, read tell tall tales and do a jigsaw puzzle. On Wednesday, when the breeze turns north, we will up anchor at sunrise, head for Ensenada Grande for a bit, and then up anchor again to get back to Marina de La Paz before norther driven high winds descend upon us Thursday night.

Todos Santos

The Captain and the Admiral took the bus to Todos Santos on Saturday morning. We checked into the Hotel Casa Tota, which was quite nice – clean, friendly staff, nice bar and restaurant and none of the cracked cement and rusting rebar look that you often see in Mexico. The hotel had a restored traditional brick fascia in front, with two floors of rooms surrounding courtyard and pool in back. The structure and rooms were made entirely of concrete – done with clean straight lines and all surfaces polished smooth – kind of a Mexican/Scandinavian fusion style of architecture. It looked quite nice.

The bedrooms were also entirely made of cement – floors, walls, ceilings, bed frame and headboard, desk, closet and shower. The only item of furniture was a cube of wood which served as a chair.

We wandered around Todos Santos paying particular attention to the historic district, which features a host of older stucco and brick buildings. They are all restored, attractive and house old inns, art gallaries, shops and restaurants – a Mexican version of Carmel, CA.

We had dinner at a special restaurant, El Refugio Mezcaleria. ERM is special because it serves dishes made with traditional Mexican recipes and only offers a few entrees each night. Not your usual taco, seafood and beans fare. The meal started with a scrumptious plate of gourmet nachos. We had pescado and cameron (fish and shrimp) cooked in a mole sauce for our main course. Along with the food we sipped on a flight of 6 different types of mezcal. It turns out that tequila is just one version of many types mezcal, and processed differently than the non tequila mezcals, which tend to have a more smoky flavor. Following is the chef’s description of one the mezcals we sampled:

“La Rosa Papalote – Dona Rosa’s mezcal tickles your tongue and quivers beneath your skin, like the all-encompassing romance of your youth. Like a Valentine sweetheart candy, and giddy as a schoolgirl, her punch leaves you as helpless as if you were hit by Cupid’s arrow.”

Wow! And the entire dinner, including tip was $40.

And before we close out this report, one more story from our dock neighbor, Bill.

Shortly before we arrived in La Paz the owner of a 45′ sailboat in Marina de La Paz sold it to a couple of nice young Canadian men. The papering of the sale was all done except for the recording and bank transfer, which was to be done on a Monday. The Canadians told the sellers that they needed to leave by Sunday to get to a party in Puerto Vallarta by midweek. The owners said OK as the paperwork would close the next day. The Canadians left with the boat…

You have probably figured it out by now. No money showed up on Monday and all the contact information for the buyers vanished into digital thin air. Bill is now helping the owners contact the authorities in Mexico and Polynesia to put them on the lookout for their pilfered boat.

Just landed in San Jose – see you again in a couple weeks when we head back to La Paz.

Mas Lentamente

Snug Harbor has davits that are used to store its inflatable dinghy up over the stern. The dinghy has to be tied down really tight so that it does not move at all when Snug Harbor is at sea. If it moves then the rubber hull gets abraded and then you have an uninflatable inflatable dinghy.

Getting the dinghy not to move requires tying it down with multiple ropes from a number of directions. The Captain thought this would be a lot easier if he installed some cleats on the davits for securing the multiple ropes – so he bought 4 new cleats and thought he would just drill holes in the davits (2 per cleat) and mount the cleats with bolts. Easy peasy!

Well, the cleats needed to be mounted on the beefy 2″ diameter stainless steel tubes that the davits are made from. The Captain drilled the first hole and noted that stainless steel is really hard to drill through. The drill bit cut slowly, got cherry red and self destructed. It took two drill bits to make one hole thru one tube.

The Captain procured 4 new drill bits, but they were no better. 3 more bits up in smoke to drill 1 more hole. At wits end the Captain checked out U-Tube for a lesson on how to drill stainless steel. As Bart Simpson would say, “Doh!”. It turns out the way to drill stainless steel is very slowly, rather than with the drill all revved up. Plus, you dip the bit in a glass of water every few seconds to make sure the drill doesn’t get hot.

Armed with this U-Tube education, the Captain finished drilling all the holes with his last remaining drill bit.

The finished product:

The Captain and the Admiral are off tomorrow to Todos Santos. TS is a delightful old town on the Pacific coast an hours drive from La Paz. We plan to wander around the historic district, spend the night at a local inn, and then head to Cabo the next morning for the flight home.

Coromel!

The Captain and the Admiral returned to Snug Harbor in mid February for a 10 day La Paz and cruising fix. We came solo as one of the couple that planned to join us had an ear problem that led to a no- fly order from their doc. Bummer!

Shortly after returning to Snug Harbor the Admiral fired up the microwave for a cup of tea, heard a “pop”, and all the port side AC was gone on the old girl (Snug Harbor, not the Admiral!). The Captain figured it was likely a recurrence of a problem he had with the GFI (ground fault interupter) mysteriously kicking off. Last time he fixed it after much experimentation by turning a neatly organized and tie-wrapped set of AC wires for the TV and speaker system into an untie-wrapped rats nest. Go figure. So with great trepidation the Captain pulled out the offending GFI outlet to replace it with a spare, to see if that was the problem. As the Captain pulled, a wire pulled free of its crimp fitting! Eureka! Crimped on a new fitting and the AC was hunky dory again. Maybe that was the problem all along?

Our berth in Marina de La Paz is next to the Ocean Quest, a very large, old, wooden and beautifully restored trawler. Ocean Quest’s owner is Captain Bill Lee, an ex Navy guy, who bought the trawler, a retired minesweeper trainer in poor condition, from the Navy for chump change and did a multi-year bottoms up restoration.

Bill has now lived on the boat in La Paz for 11 years and installs and repairs water desalinization systems. It was Bill that brought Snug Harbor’s water maker back to life 3 years ago. He also has a wealth of information on the local scene and is great fun to chat with.

I asked Bill about the Los Arcos Hotel, a dilapidated and empty hotel occupying prime water front space on the Malecon. How could such a prime location go unused? It turns out that 11 years ago, the staff, members of the local labor union, struck for higher wages. Now in Mexico the unions are even more powerful, and more politically connected than in the US, if you can believe that. The owner did not like the idea of acceding to the union’s demands, and said no. The union took legal action against the owner, which until settled, prevented the owner from operating the Los Arcos. The owner, of no meager means, said the heck with it and refused to settle. So here we are at 11 years and counting – no union jobs and an old empty hotel slowing going to pot in a prime location on the malecon.

On Monday morning Snug Harbor headed for the Captain’s favorite anchorage, Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida, about 20 miles north of La Paz. We had an uneventful passage, anchored in a stunning location, made dinner, watched a movie and retired for the night in calm conditions. The Captain awoke at 1:30 with Snug Harbor doing its best impression of a bucking bronko. The winds had come up from the unprotected west side of the anchorage with considerable vigor and Snug Harbor was now bucking to her anchor with a rocky lee shore 200 yards astern. So the Captain spent a mostly sleepless night in the cockpit on anchor watch. Bummer!

The westerly breezes that fire up around midnight in the La Paz area are known as Coromels. They happen when cool winds blowing down the Pacific Coast of Baja jump east over land and exit at La Paz. They are infrequent during winter and more common in spring. Also hard to predict.

The next day we headed 20 miles north to Isla San Francisco, one of the most drop dead gorgeous anchorages any where in the world

There is a large crescent shaped white sandy beach enclosing the bay. Steep cliffs surround with knife-like ridges topped with hiking trails that offer great views like the above – although not for those that suffer vertigo.

There were fleets of pelicans in feeding frenzies dive bombing various parts of the anchorage. Along with the wild life there were some wild humans on a catamaran who appeared to be offering their child up to the wind gods. For details check out the following video:

The “Ice Bear”, a nice little 171 foot yacht, also came by to share the anchorage:

Ice Bear is owned by Walter Scott, a billionaire philantropist, buddy of Warren Buffet, and board member of Berkshire Hathaway.

And we were treated to a nice cocktail hour as we watched the sun drop down below the Sierra Giganti mountain range on mainland Baha.

On Thursday morning we upped anchor for the 44 mile trip back to La Paz. We had a good breeze and a rollicking sail for 30 miles until the wind died.

The Captain was pleased that the wind died as Snug Harbor’s slip is pretty tricky to get into in heavy winds as two boats fit in the slip side by side and Snug Harbor has the windward side of the slip. If the Captain pulls in and doesn’t get close enough to the dock for the Admiral to jump off with the bow line and the Captain to jump off with the stern line, then you just blow down on the other boat in the slip, things go crunch and egos and boats are damaged.

Despite there being no wind, there was a 2 knot current running and two idiots in a blue runabout that stopped exactly in the place where Snug Harbor needed to be to turn into her slip. 30,000 pounds of Snug Harbor had no where to go and the current was pushing us towards the Ocean Quest. It is amazing how fast a crowd can form on the dock! After lots of forward and reverse at high rpm the Captain managed to back Snug Harbor out of the marina and make a second try at docking. Naturally the two idiots returned with the blue boat to get in the way again. They skedaddled a little sooner this time, and thanks to helping hands on the dock, Snug Harbor pulled into her berth unscathed.

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………