La Paz Part 2

El Nopal – “The Cactus” was the name of our spanish school. Here is the school mascot on the sidewalk outside.

After finishing up with CUBAR at Marina Costa Baja outside of town, we moved into town to Marina Cortez after the tropical storm rain blew through.  Marina Cortez is right at the end of the Malecon, and at the beginning of the street for the Spanish school where we took lessons for a week.  We wanted to be able to easily experience La Paz right outside our door rather than be beholden to taxis. 

There is a large basin surrounded by a floating breakwater/dock at Marina Cortez. They only have one set of conventional finger piers installed so far, but there is room for at least one more.
Beach bar right next to the Marina and the start of the Malecon.

The marina itself had a lot of sport fishing boats as well as sailboats from the Baja Haha, nice wide cement docks and potable water, which we know we will not often find in Mexico at marinas.  It was rolly though, which confirmed our decision to choose Costa Baja as the place to put the boat during hurricane season when we won’t be here.  Construction is under way on a large condominium building overlooking the marina, so we did have that contend with during the day, but they always wrapped up by sunset at 6.  It did freak me out a bit to watch the guys up on the structure with little to no safety gear. 

On the weekdays our routine settled into me leaving for Spanish class around 7:30, meeting up with Larry in the courtyard of the Spanish school El Nopal when he arrived for his classes at 11am and then  walking back to the boat by way of local shops like the tortilleria and panaderia (bread and pastry shop).  It was about a half hour walk through local streets.  After Larry finished class at 2pm we ran errands around town – a way of sightseeing – visited yet another dentist for my ongoing dental odyssey,  or enjoyed tacos at a taqueria and relaxed. 

The fried grasshopper, or chapuline, we tried in my class. Tasty once I got over the resistance.

We loved our Spanish classes and highly recommend El Nopal.  The school is in a set of small buildings around a large courtyard.  Our fellow students were a mix of expats and a few other boaters, and there was also a group of home-schooled Mexican children who were there for various subjects and had recess around us in the courtyard.    We rotated through several teachers who concentrated on conversation mixed with grammar.  It was a lot of fun to immediately be able to practice in our life outside of the school. 

I love the bright colors on many of the buildings.
One of the loveliest homes I saw.
This home was clearly abandoned although I loved the doors.

In our walks, and from friends, we learned that the sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner – not just cleaning and repair, but creating them in the first place.  We searched out streets to walk on where the sidewalks were more consistent and we didn’t have to do as much climbing up and down steps or wading out into the street.    The streets themselves also vary from paved (not that many) to dirt roads.   There is no apparent zoning, so homes of various levels of sophistication are interspersed with businesses and even vacant lots. 

Peppers and limes at the Supermercado…. the one with the Cow on the roof.
Ed note: I told Gwen that she should not take pictures of men armed with automatic weapons….
View inside a shop for party dresses.

While we were at Marina Cortez, we finally got around to assembling and testing our “surf landing” dinghy. This is one that is much smaller and lighter than our 12 ft Apex tender and it’s 30 HP outboard. The idea is that you can land your small dinghy on the beach and quickly drag it up out of the surf. On the way back, the theory is that you push through the surf, hop on board, start the engine and away you go. We have yet to test the theory…. Anyway, this is a 9 ft Zodiac air floor dinghy with a 3.5 HP Tohatsu outboard. We are still working out the best way to stow and deploy it. We will report on success (or lack of) in future posts.

The new beach landing dinghy.

There is always something interesting happening on the Malecon. One evening we were going back to visit at CostaBaja, and we encountered a Classic Car show crusing down the Malecon. It was cool, though it did slow things down a bit.

Classic pickups on the Malecon.

On our last night splurged at the restaurant Les Tres Virgenes, reputedly the best restaurant in town.  The rain had disappeared so the courtyard was open where we could watch the grill chef at work, enjoy the perfect temperature and an amazing meal with an excellent bottle of Mexican wine and 3 courses for an extremely reasonable price. 

We will back in the spring to sample more of local La Paz culture.

La Paz – Costa Baja

The CUBAR Rally wrapped up at Marina Costa Baja in La Paz. We arrived there on November 15 and stayed until the 19th because of weather. This marina is about 5 miles out of town on a more newly developed piece of land with a related resort. They have potable water and the inner basin where we stayed is very well-protected from swell and storms. We made a reservation to keep our boat here over the summer hurricane season. We’ll be in the very same slip.

The Inner Basin of Marina Costa Baja. We are on the first pier, about 3/4 of the way out on the far side.

Our first night there we wanted to celebrate reaching the La Paz milestone, so we splurged and headed to the Sunset Bar up on the hill at the resort. We got a ride in a golf cart, but soon found ourselves on the side of the road because the golf cart battery was a bit low, and it couldn’t make it up the hill. Our scooter escort tried to help us, but no bueno. It was quite humorous all the way around, and we eventually hitched a ride up in the golf course van.

Racing to help give us a push up the hill. Didn’t work.
Us on the side of the road – still got to see the sunset!

The next morning we headed into La Paz early to attend a cooking class. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding about scheduling and the class did not occur, but we had a great half-hour conversation with Christina the restaurant owner at Nim while we waited, and we returned that night for a very nice dinner. I am lucky because later Penny gave me the recipes from the year they did the cooking class at Nim, and I am looking forward to making tortilla soup, ceviche and other dishes.

We walked the malecon under threatening clouds, had a second breakfast and then headed back to the boat to do boat chores.

The malecon – still early on a Saturday morning!
One of the many statues welcoming us to the harbor.
From the far end of the malecon, near Marina Cortez where we stayed later.

CUBAR wrapped up on that Sunday night in the midst of some bursts of torrential rain at the final party. You can see from our photo how windy it was!

Courtesy Justin at NoblemanProductions and CUBAR.

Overall, CUBAR was a fantastic experience and one we recommend. We have made some great new friends and could not have asked for better weather for our transits. What a great introduction to boating in Mexico.

East Coast of Baja California Sur

We left San Jose Del Cabo at a civilized time for a day’s journey to our intermediate stop before La Paz, on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula and our last stop with CUBAR. Bahía de los Muertos (muertos means dead) is also known as Bahía de Los Sueños (Bay of Dreams), which sounds better. It is a moderately protected anchorage and good stopping point for the day for travelers on the way to or from La Paz, or waiting to cross the Sea of Cortez to the mainland side of Mexico. 

Stunning vista on our port side for hours!
I imagine this is an old mission.

On the way, we watched the change in the coastline from desert browns and sands to lush greens.  Clearly there is more rain on this side of Baja.  Most of the coastline was empty, but at times villages were apparent.  We were several miles offshore so it was a bit challenging to get good photos and things were more visible through our binoculars.

We also listened to weather discussions on the radio of an incoming tropical storm – Tropical Storm Raymond. It was apparent that it would have some impact once we were in La Paz, but as the storm was a day or more away from us on the other side of Baja in the Pacific, we were fine to finish our transit over the next 48 hours.

Abandoned pier in the cove. Apparently much of the land surrounding this bay has become privately owned very recently.
A private hacienda overlooking the bay. It was unoccupied while we were there.

We got in to Muertos with just enough time to spare to take our first swim of the trip before the sun set and after we put out the flopper stopper.

The water temp was a luxurious 80 degrees.  I had no hesitation at jumping right in to cool off.  It is amazing how much saltier the water is than in the Pacific Northwest.  This makes us very buoyant.  Normally I have to work to stay afloat, but here I am perfectly neutral.   We have a faucet with freshwater on the back of the boat that pulls out to be a shower head, so getting the salt off is incredibly easy too.  We know how lucky we are!

The next morning it was up and out to La Paz!

A rainy, stormy welcome to La Paz.

Los Cabos

Sunrise offshore of Cabo San Lucas

We had a smooth 24 hour passage from Magdalena Bay to San Jose Del Cabo, which we timed to arrive at the marina on Sunday morning.  We were treated to a beautiful sunrise just outside Cabo San Lucas. 

The marina is outside of town in a fairly newly developed resort area.  Lots of fish were jumping in the marina bay, and multiple osprey hang out in the sail boat masts.      

About to have a well-deserved beer and taco lunch!

We relaxed with well deserved beers and lunch at El Marinero Boracho, or the Drunken Sailor.  Wonderful rooftop palapa on an apparently unusually hot day.  It was Sunday when we arrived, so not much happening around the marina and we needed to wait until Monday to check in with the Port Captain.

The marina hosts a “Swim with the Dolphins” location. Many of us on CUBAR were quite unhappy to see the small pens positioned inside the marina right across from the fuel dock as the home for dolphins. When we checked in we were informed that part of the next evening’s events would be a dolphin show. Many of us decided we would abstain.

The view across the marina from the bow of our boat.
The Port Captain’s Office
The osprey who arrived every morning to perch on the sailboat mast and plaintively call out to mom, or someone, to bring him food (at least that’s what it sounded like to me!).
Mexican Coast Guard boat fueling up.

The big excitement of the 3 day stay unfortunately was my adventure in dentistry.  I had been medicating myself for a tooth abscess in a previously root-canaled molar for most of our trip, knowing I could get it addressed here.  So, after checking into the Port Captain on Monday morning, we headed into town.  We had a stroll around the town plaza, which had this cool tribute to Frida Kahlo as part of the Day of Dead decorations still up.  It was quite a touristy area though, filled with shops and restaurants, and tourists (which includes us). 

Tribute to Frida Kahlo in the town square.

I left Larry and Sean to hang out with the crowd and ultimately explore tequila at a local shop, while I had the first of two visits to the dentist.   More on that in a different medical related post.

Fancy pharmacy I was sent to for medications inside the gigantic La Comer megastore in the “American” section of town.

That night the marina, Puerto Los Cabos, held a great party for us Cubaristas, which had to be changed to a covered venue at the last minute due to highly unusual rain storms.  Fortunately this meant we did not have the dolphin show. 

All we kept hearing was “It never rains here this time of year!”.    Unusual weather seems to be the norm at the moment.

The next day we said good-bye to Sean, the best crew member we could have asked for, as he flew home to his family and below freezing temperatures and snow in Boston.  Now it’s me and Larry until we see Miranda in December!

The crew preparing for our last overnight passage together.

Bahia Santa Maria and Magdalena Bay

Sunset on passage to Bahia Santa Maria.

After an easy 30 hour overnight passage that had some drama on a fellow boat involving my medical expertise (more on that in another blog post), we pulled into Bahia Santa Maria.  The view was a tiny fishing village and miles of sandy beaches.  We relaxed on board and hosted Justin Edelman, the CUBAR photographer and videographer, for dinner.    It was a lot of fun to hear about his adventures photographing sailing around the world, and he has kindly shared some photos with me to use on the blog.

Sunrise at anchor in Magdalena Bay. Courtesy of Justin and CUBAR.

The next morning we up anchored for a short cruise down the peninsula and into Magdalena Bay, where we stayed for two nights.  Magdalena Bay (often called Mag Bay by Americans, but according to the professor we heard lecture that is not preferred by Mexicans) is a gigantic natural harbor at  25 miles N-S and 13 miles E-W with multiple good anchorages.  We anchored in Man Of War Cove. 

Some of the thousands of fishing pelicans.

The bay is obviously full of fish.  We had a constant accompaniment of pelicans bombing head first into the water and sea lions surfacing and breathing hard all around our boat.  It was a deterrent to swimming in the 74 degree water for me, but so much fun to watch.  The pelicans are hilarious the way they look like they are about to kill themselves on the water.  I can’t help thinking – it’s gotta hurt to slam your head into the water over and over again!  But apparently they are made for that. 

Hanging out at the Miramar palapa restaurant.

There is a tiny fishing village on the shore with about 160 people.  The Miramar palapa restaurant served us wonderful fish cooked various ways and we relaxed all afternoon.  I walked around the village taking pictures and bought a few things from the tiny tienda.  I missed out on fresh tortillas but was able to get a few limes and some refried beans.    There is no road access to Magdalena Bay – all supplies are carried in by ferry from San Carlos, a larger town across the bay. The village is fortunate now to have a desalination plant for their water supply which opened in 2018, so it no longer has to be ferried in. 

The people in Magdalena Bay were all very friendly, smiles and waves when I walked around.    I had fun talking with and practicing my Spanish with the restaurant proprietress and her charming 1 year old baby boy.    

The church was just down the beach from the palapa.
Many of the fisherman were around working on their traps.

The guys were slightly disappointed because earlier cruisers had drunk all the beer so the owner of the restaurant was running across to San Carlos in his panga to get more beer once he saw 25 boats turn up.   It was hours before he came back though, and by that time a small squall had come up and it was time to return to the boat. 

The next day we were led on a dingy tour to the mangrove estuary. 

Senor Enrique. I think he was disappointed that our dingies could not go as fast as his panga!

Enrique in his panga led the way through shallow sand bars and crab pots with some commentary over the VHF radio.  It turned out to be a very long way from the anchorage at high speed in choppy waves, fun for the most part, with frigate birds and pelicans flying around us. 

The entrance to the mangroves
Sand dunes in the middle of the estuary

The estuary was beautiful, with sand pipers and ospreys waiting for us.   

Osprey waiting for fish
They were completely unfazed by our passing.

There was some drama when Justin launched a drone from the panga and it lost its’ mind and dropped into the water.  Justin instinctively jumped in and was able to retrieve it from 13 feet of water.  Editor’s Note: We have now christened Justin “El Hombre de Augua”… Aquaman!

Drone rescue – I was just worried someone was going to run over Justin!

We hosted a group from the boat Lahaina Sailor with CUBAR organizer Dave Abrams and family on our boat for the CUBAR potluck dinner circle. We feasted on mahi-mahi and tuna that Larry and Sean caught.  Larry is a master of cooking fish and it is truly spectacular to eat the fruit of our labors (guess I should say Larry’s labor:)! 

Turtle Bay – Giving Back to Mexico

The waterfront of Turtle Bay.

A week or so ago, our first anchorage after a 36 hour very smooth run from Ensanada was Bahía Tortugas, or Turtle Bay. This has been by far the best and most rewarding part of the voyage for me to date.

I was looking forward to this stop because I had organized a medical supplies donation from CUBAR participants to the town as a way of giving back to the community.

Bahía Tortugas is very remote on Baha. They are at the end of approximately 100 miles of deserted partly gravel road. The community is about 3,000 people and their livelihood is fishing and lobstering. There is no official firehouse or emergency services, so they are on their own in emergencies.

The dock at Turtle Bay. Pangas tie up and you scramble up the ladder.

About 10 years ago a group of citizens formed an association to work on improving the health and safety of the community called the Asociacion pro bienestar Bahia Tortugas.  They are a group of about 17 men and women who have gotten firefighting and EMS training on their own in order to support their community.  About 10 years ago an old American ambulance was donated by Russ Harford, an expat living in the community, but they had no supplies, no funding and also no place to acquire supplies from easily even if they did have money for it.  A new ambulance was provided by the government recently, but still without supplies. 

They help a lot of folks with serious injuries make it to the hospital.  CUBAR brought them some basic supplies two years ago, but they really needed all the basics for accident care, and during that CUBAR visit one of the participants had a head injury and was delivered by the ambulance to the hospital. 

Through conversing with Turtle Bay native Isabel Harford and her husband Russ in San Diego as my liaisons, we developed a list of needed supplies, collected financial donations from the CUBAR fleet and I ordered up the supplies to be delivered to stage in San Diego.  The Montecito Fire Department also donated a bunch of equipment and uniforms.  It took about a half dozen boats to carry the stuff to Turtle Bay. 

I got quite the Spanish workout communicating by text to coordinate our dropoff visit through texting in Spanish with Esdras, my local contact.  On the day of the visit, we were greeted at the boat by a group of the Bomberos, or firefighters, and the President of the Association, Señor Jose Ignacio Perpuli, by panga.

Unloading supplies onto the dock with the bomberos. You can barely see me and Christy in the panga below – the ladder is steep. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
Some of the supplies in front of the ambulance that they will fill up, and the bomberos! Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
In front of the station. They don’t have a firetruck but the ambulance lives here. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.

Through my and Christy’s Spanish and their enthusiasm, we had a wonderful time visiting with the group and touring their station. They were excited also because Esdras had invited us out to see the Lobster facility where he was working that day, and to host us to a big meal.

We crammed into their van for a 45 minute trip on the dusty gravel road to Punta Eugenia to visit the Lobster Cooperative where lobsters are received from the fisherman. The Cooperative has 35 teams of 2, and the holding facility prepares them to be shipped live to US and then to China. The facility looks out on massive kelp beds, and also houses an Abalone Nursery where they are breeding abalone and working to repopulate the bay with juvenile abalone.

A live lobster. Now I know how to hold one! Esdras is both a bombero and works here at the lobster facility and the abalone nursery. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
The view from Punta Eugenia of kelp beds where the abalone live.
The abalone larvarium where they are bred.
An 5-6 year old abalone for breeding. They are slow growing. They wait until the abalone are 1 year old before putting them into the bay.

The absolute topper of the day was the journey out to a fish camp where one of the bomberos was living and working for the season. They put on an incredible lobster and fish feed for us, complete with gorgeous views.

Preparing the bountiful feast.
House with pangas at anchor in the distance.
The fish camp.
Larry and Larry fixing the seafood cocktail drink that makes you go “wow!”
Larry, me and Sean at the fish camp. Photo Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.

Our group videographer Justin is preparing a video about the whole experience that I will be able to share soon!

Into Mexico!

The Marina Coral in Ensenada. Finally in Mexico!

After our aborted departure on October 30th due both to a stabilizer issue and then 50 knots wind reports telling us to stay in port, we had a lazy afternoon with a nice lunch courtesy of Sean (thanks Sean!) at the Kona Kai resort next to the Police Dock.  It was a beautiful day, although we did feel a bit like we were in limbo.

Still in San Diego…..

The next morning we were up and out and successfully made it to Mexico.  The winds were still gusting up to 35 knots for a few hours with big waves and we took a lot of water over the bow and port side,  but we had secured everything well and rode it out into Ensenada.  The winds had another effect which was fires – we saw several large fires on our way down the coast, including one that seemed to have started spontaneously as we passed with huge amounts of black smoke suddenly pouring off the hillside.  On our way into the Ensenada harbor there were fires on the shore – we could see firefighters actively fighting them. 

Wildfires above the bay in Ensanada.

In Ensenada Marina Coral staff took us to town to the Customs and Immigration offices, as well as the Port Captain. It was hopping there as this is prime season to enter Mexico by boat.  We had to check ourselves into the country and obtain a Temporary Import Permit (or TIP) for the boat.  The TIP allows us to have the boat in the country for 10 years.  They ask for a list of equipment on the boat and serial numbers of the engines.  If you do not get a TIP, the government has the right to confiscate your boat.  It seems similar to the US process of registration and tax collection.  In this case no tax payments are required. 

One of the very professional Mexican Officials. Photo courtesy CUBAR and Justin Edelman.

There was some confusion over names.  The boat documentation has Jr. listed next to Larry’s name, which he never noticed was there, but it’s not on his passport.  Much confusing discussion in Spanish and English ensued about where the owner, his son, was (we do not have a son), and us telling them the boat is named after our daughter.  Hijo versus Hija and lots of perplexed faces all around.  In the end, we reached comprehension and the officials decided I would be listed as the sole boat owner on the TIP to avoid any problems with the mismatched Jr.    Larry seems ok with that for the moment. 

That evening there was a spectacular seafood feast for us hosted by Marina Coral.  They obviously specialize in all types of ceviche and oysters cooked with various toppings.  I ate until I felt like I would explode.  We listened to a lecture by a professor who is part of a conservation group kayaking the entire Baja peninsula to bring awareness to the history and environmental gems of Baja.  It sounded somewhat harrowing at times with the huge Pacific swell!    Topped off the evening with the best margarita I have ever experienced – no mix used here, and churros, a classic Mexican dessert.

All the captains assembled for the CUBAR Captain’s Briefing in Ensenada.