sailing homepage : trip reports : 3: cabo to pv : la paz

Nov 20-24: Passage from Ensenada de los Muertos to La Paz, re-provisioning, getting some boatwork done, and American thanksgiving with other cruisers!

The sail from Muertos to La Paz was beautiful and mostly uneventful. We had been paying close attention to the weather while monitoring Sergio, and we just happened to leave during a nice lull in the winds. We were heading north between mountain ranges on the mainland and a tall island just offshore; the straight is basically a huge wind funnel, and I guess it can get pretty rough.

The buttcrack of dawn


2nd best time of day

We left Muertos very early in the morning to sail the 55nm to our final destination: La Paz. We were running low on fresh food and beer, reprovisioning was in order, and we wanted to wash the nasty scent of Cabo out of our clothes with the refreshing smell of somewhere new.

It got warm FAST!


The green warbling Sara-bird

The sunrise was exceptionally beautiful. It felt good to be moving again. I guess Muertos was just a little too convenient: internet access and restaurants are nice, but they get in the way of achieving the zen state of true relaxation. When you don't know what day it is, when clipping your toenails takes an hour and two beers, when you sleep all night then nap most of the day - that's chill.

I'm definitely up to something


Sara trimming the sheets

The sail out of the cove and around the headlands was nice and easy, but as we sailed into the narrow end of the funnel, the waves were getting pretty big, and they reminded Sara and me of when we were last in Mexico. We were engaged after a week-long sailing trip several hundred miles north, and during that trip we were punished by the sharp-faced waves on a short short period.

Typical ocean swells can be 10-15ft on a 13 second period. There's almost always some wind chop riding on the swell, and once you've been sailing for a few hours you don't even notice the swell anymore. The waves we saw a year earlier were very different: 8-12ft on a 7-second period. The faces of the waves were much sharper, and driving into them was a wet and wild experience.

We turned on the motor to ensure our arrival before nightfall, and motorsailed north at a good pace. Occasionally we would get rocked about by a big set, but we were still able to read and relax most of the trip.

Right in the middle of one such set of waves, everyone hanging on to something as we rocked around, we noticed our main fishing line was tight. We'd caught a fish! We reeled him in, bonked him lightly, and finished him off with cheap tequila poured into his gills.

Yummy skipjack tuna!


Extracting filets



Kiss goodbye

We extracted dinner as we continued on - there were one or two big waves when I wished I wasn't holding a razor-sharp knife - and quickly put the steaks on ice. We ate some raw meat right off the fish: absolutely delicious. It's going to be really hard to eat supermarket fish from now on!

We continued north and moved out of the funnel. The last part of our sail had us in a shallow straight between the mainland and another island. The charts are all incorrect in this area - radar and our chartplotter almost never agree - so we were very careful in picking a path through the shallows.

All of a sudden we had a huge hit on our fishing line! We hauled it in by hand, convinced we had landed a huge monster marlin, only to discover a vicious little monster we later identified as a mackeral. He was thrashing about like his fins were on fire. With our freezer full of tuna, we chucked him back before he could bite anyone.

Is that a small shark?


Look at those teeth!

Turning around from the fight, we looked at the depth finder and realized we were in less than 10 feet of water! Shit! Sean and Sara ran to the bow and kept a sharp lookout for big rocks. I watched as the depthfinder dropped to 5 feet, then levelled off, then started increasing again. We passed through the most dangerous area without incident, and got another huge hit on the same lure.

Again it was a fight to haul in our catch. That second mackeral in the picture above is the second one we caught. Do they look like the same fish to you? We weren't sure if we caught the same mean-ass fish as before. We got him off the hook and decided to keep the lures in; what would we do if we did catch another huge tuna? Give it away, I guess.

As soon as we were within cellphone range, which was surprisingly far out from La Paz, we called all the marinas looking for a slip. Costabaja had one, everyone else was full, so it was an easy decision.

We called Sonadora on the VHF and offered to share some of our tuna. They had left at 2AM that morning, and had thrown a bag of chocolates into our cockpit when they went past us - they heard we were avoiding sweets before the wedding - and we wanted to return the favour.

Rafting up with Sonadora


Matt and April launch their dinghy

They were anchored in a beautiful cove an hour north of La Paz; it was perfect timing, we were sailing right by when we called them! We rafting up alongside them, but the waves were just a bit too high, so we moved off and anchored next to them instead. They dinghied over, we grilled some of the tuna, prepared fresh guacamole and salsa, and enjoyed their chocolate for dessert. It's nice to have friends in cool places.

Landlubbers swarming mushroom rock


Where the hell is La Paz anyway?!

We had to leave an hour and a half later and had a wonderful sail down to La Paz as the sun was setting. We found ourselves next to a much larger, much newer boat, but with some careful sail trim we passed them at a surprisingly fast rate! Haha, that felt great, and the looks on their faces as we went by was priceless. We sailed right up to the marina entrance on a close haul, ripping along right at hull speed, dropping the sails just as we entered the channel.

We tied up to the pier outside the office, and Sean filled up on water and gas while Sara and I checked in. We did a bang-up job parking the boat in the slip, with only one minor bump, and decided to call it an evening and watch a movie.

Nice to grab a slip


Marina Costabaja

We spent Tuesday the 21st exploring La Paz. The city is large, perhaps 200,000 people. It is very dependent on tourism, but much more so on sailors and much less so on sportfishermen. The difference is palpable: slips are affordable, the pace is slower; it couldn't be more unlike Cabo.

Downtown La Paz


Rustic beauty

Many cruisers call La Paz home; they leave their boats here during the hot stormy summer months, and cruise Mexico or the Sea of Cortez during the cooler winter. It was no surprise La Paz was filled with Baja-Haha cruisers who planned to winter their boats, and come back in the spring. We ran into familiar faces around every corner, and every one had an interesting story to share. It was great to catch up, and even better to slip away by ourselves for a quiet evening or two.

Check the guano behind the sculpture!


Perro has Sean wrapped around his tail

We walked around and explored all day. Sometime in the afternoon Sean befriended a stray dog that just wouldn't let us go. He followed us to the beach, around the boardwalk, to the sculpture, to dinner, back to the beach. Sean was totally smitten. All it took was a hound-dog look and a sheepish wag of his tail. We eventually had to leave him behind when we jumped in the bus back to the marina, but the sound of Sean's heart breaking was apparent to all.

The beachfront central park


Even landlubbers get nice sunsets

Wednesday the 22nd was all about Sara. All of the 'lusters had chipped in for her birthday earlier in the month, to buy her the one thing she had been talking about for the previous three months: a day at the spa.

Sara takes it from here:
As the lone lady aboard a ship filled with hairy pirates, I was able to take advantage of the cosmopolitan nature of La Paz by getting a spa day in. This deserves some explanation. Shaving your legs on a rocking boat is difficult, and very dangerous. Nicks become gashes in no time, so by the time we pulled into La Paz, Will insisted that I take care of the leg and underarm situation. I decided to get waxed.

Ladies, I don't know why we do this to ourselves. NEVER AGAIN. The woman at the salon jokingly called me a small baboon (at least, I think that's what she was calling me), and when I left the salon, I agreed with her; what wasn't covered in hair, was covered in red, angry skin. Thankfully, the massage that followed the pain was relaxing. When I returned to the boat, I explained to Will that a weekly freshwater shower is now mandatory, as waxing will never happen again - and I do mean never. I've decided to spare you all the pictures.

During the epic torturing session Sara was enduring, Sean and I went shopping at a huge mega supermarket called Soriana. We filled two shopping carts; it was awesome.

Carts full of loot


Wow, that's a lot of numbers

We got tons of different meats and cheeses, and to Sara's chagrin, not a single vegetable! Oh well, a second trip to the local market proved to be very interesting, and we were able to get fresh produce for next to nothing. I love bargaining - I guess we also picked up the fruits and veggies we needed too.

Soriana means "ginormous"


Groceries barely fit in the cab

Sara had one other mission while in La Paz: to buy pearls as gifts for the pending wedding celebration. After searching the streets and shops for some reasonable choices, she opted to give all the ladies in the wedding party river pearls. It was a two day ordeal, with me in tow. It wasn't so bad, I got to haggle with lots of vendors.

On our treks around town, we ran into Constance, a woman we met coming down the peninsula with the Baja-Haha. Sean had reached his limit with pearl shopping and he split off for a night on the town with Constance and other young singletons. Sara and I had a night to ourselves and went out for sushi at a soho-ish part of town. The sushi wasn't very good, but the ambiance was great, and the company even better.

Thursday the 23rd is American Thanksgiving. Originally we were planning on leaving on Wednesday, but we were all having such a good time that we decided to stay for another day and join the ex-pat festivities. Marina Palmera, a short distance from our Costabaja spot, was hosting a huge potluck on their beautiful veranda.

Cuties waiting for the taxi


Costabaja cactus

The marina shuttle bus had been running on Mexican time since we arrived, and when it drove by without even stopping, we weren't much surprised. Time to call a taxi? Nah, it's time to hitch! We grabbed a ride in the back of a marina employee van jam packed with people going home after work. They pulled over and called us to the van, squeezing together to make room. Totally cool.

Hitchhiking with marina employees


Matt, April, Constance, and others

We brought a huge rice dish and some wine, and got there just in time to hear them announce there were only ten turkeys left. It was a long line, but we made it to the front in time!

The dessert table at thanksgiving


Sara and Constance ham it up

We found a spot with Matt and April, Constance, Pat from Chetak, and Robin and his wife from Warrior, and chowed down on turkey, gravy, ten different types of mashed potatoes, and all the sweet potato pie we could stuff into our gillets.

The dessert table itself was amazing. We don't have good pictures showing the three food tables, they were covered with people shoveling food onto their plates.

The huge food line


Tables enjoying the feast

It was an amazing meal, the company was fantastic, and we were very very happy we stayed to enjoy it. We would leave early on Friday for the islands to the north.

When we got back to Costabaja, we grabbed a beer at the local palapa. We got to talking, and the proprietor of the bar overheard we needed propane, and offered to fill our tank at the station near his house. In exchange, we agreed to burn him a copy of his favourite Canadian band - The Tragically Hip - with my favourite song "nautical disaster" on it.

Yes, I really like Nautical Disaster. It's a good tune. Doesn't bother me at all. Bothers Sara a bit, but I've promised not to play it too loudly late at night on long passages. Kinda freaks her out.

Anyway, where was I? Right. We agreed to meet at 10AM the next morning. We all fully expected to be there until at least until noon; Mexico time gives you a leeway of at least an hour; sometimes two.

Where's our propane tank?!!


Diver measuring our propshaft

He wasn't there at 10AM. He wasn't there at noon. He wasn't there at 2PM, he wasn't there at 4PM. We asked around, no one had heard of him before. We were ready to write off our propane tank when someone told us he would probably show up at 7PM. Great.

Well, in the meantime we sweet-talked the marina diver into measuring our propeller shaft diameter, driving us into town, taking us to a low-cost hardware store, helping us buy the right size zincs. He took us to a fishing shop on the way back, where I got a gaff hook, before bringing us back to the marina and installing the new zincs for us. Okay, just kidding, he didn't do it for free - he charged us $10.

We got our propane tank back at 10PM that night, 13 hours later than promised - but hey, we got it back. It hadn't been filled. The guy bought me a beer and said "sorry, I tried". Okay, no problemo. Just for that, buddy, we're going to sneak another night at the marina your palapa bar is in. How do you like them apples?