Pushing to La Paz

Strong southerly winds were predicted for Friday, Nov. 30, so we got an early start from Los Frailes, bound for La Paz. It was so hard to leave Frailes, because the anchorage was teeming with sea life and I really wanted to snorkel there! At night we aimed our spotlight into the water and saw squid and brilliant turquoise trumpet fish, and heard a sea lion feeding. During the day, small manta rays leaped several feet from the water, spinning and flipping before splashing down again. As we left Frailes, we saw one do a triple flip!

Our most important source for weather info is a man named Don Anderson, who we listen to on our HAM radio. Click here to check out the schedule this guy keeps, all as a free service to cruisers. Everyone down here tunes in for his forecast, and if the atmospheric conditions are such that you can’t hear Don, you can call around to other boats and someone will repeat his predictions to you. But no good deed goes unpunished; Don has another commitment on Friday mornings, so he can’t get on the radio then. The other day some guy down here had the gall to whine to Don that “we really need the forecast on Fridays”. The guy clearly needed a tongue lashing, but Todd held the microphone over my head and, after jumping for it for a minute, I was too worn out to be indignant.

We spent about eight hours motoring north before the wind picked up from the east. We sailed along well into the night. Eric took the first night watch, and when I took over at midnight it seemed that the wind was dying. Then suddenly it swung around and began building again (I’d guess it was 25kts and gusting higher), and Todd double-reefed the main. Thinking the situation too touchy to go back to bed, Todd tried to sleep in the galley with his foulies on. We flew along, and soon felt rain drops, which was odd because the sky overhead was clear. Then I looked over to the west and realized that those rain drops were from a massive dark cloud that was coming our way!

Soon the rain was fully upon us, so I hid under the dodger in the companionway. Boy did it pour! It was actually kind of cool, as the raindrops were hitting the sea so hard that they created phosphorescence, so I pretended it was raining diamonds. We were nervous because the visibility was poor, and we were approaching the tight San Lorenzo Channel between Isla Espiritu Santo and the La Paz peninsula. We debated heaving-to to wait for better conditions, but the rain passed as quickly as it had come on, so we pressed on.

Some people say a boat can’t have two captains, and the hours that followed supported that contention. The wind was much lighter and on our nose once we cleared the channel, and I couldn’t sleep because we were bouncing off the waves. I wanted to go and anchor in a nearby cove, so that we could all get some sleep before heading into La Paz. Capn Thickhead scoffed at that idea, preferring to be tossed around in the bay until sunrise. As he had the helm, he won the debate, but I remained surly for a number of hours.

Sandy on Imagine had arranged a slip for us at Marina Don Jose, and we were docked there by 7:45am on Dec. 1. We had made it to La Paz! This was a huge milestone for us, as we’d put down “La Paz” as our final destination on our entry papers. But we were too tired and hungry to make plans for anything other than breakfast in town. After asking around, we headed for a nearby restaurant called Rancho Viejo.

Oh, Rancho Viejo! On your $3 huevos rancheros we break our fasts, and the world is created anew! Your rich coffee, served with thick cream and sugar in an earthenware mug, would tempt the most devout of Mormons to boost themselves with caffeine! And though succulent steak shall not pass over mine lips, the carnivores of our crew cry with rapture as they line their tacos with your arrachera, stuffing themselves on the kilo (2.2lb) order, served with all the fixings! Yes, on the sixth day, God created Man, and that evening, He created Rancho Viejo, open 24 hours, that Man should never hunger or thirst!

There is a huge boating community in La Paz, some of whom are stopping through on their way to mainland Mexico or jumping off for the South Pacific, others who have settled here permanently (in large part due to Rancho Viejo, no doubt). At 8am every morning everyone turns their VHF radios to channel 22, to hear info including: weather, tides, mail deliveries, reports from all the marinas, boat arrivals/departures, swaps and trades, general announcements, and local assistance (for finding goods/services in town). After our weeks anchored out in quiet bays, we were overwhelmed with it all. We felt like we’d landed right in the middle of an American retirement community!

We were docked right next to the Club Cruceros clubhouse, which features a daily coffee hour, announcement board, book exchange, and US mail drop (collected and mailed by people traveling back to the states). We were lucky to be there for the weekend of their big yearly charity event, which featured a raffle, auction, food and drinks, and local artisans’ booths. Sequoia wanted to adopt one of the cute dogs brought there by the local rescue service.

Speaking of dogs, we had met a boat in Frailes that had adopted a dog from La Paz, so Koiya was excited about that possibility. Thinking that we’d never see one, Todd told her that if we found a homeless dachshund in La Paz, we’d adopt it. Well, guess what we found on the Club Cruceros announcement board? Someone had found a sweet little dog and was looking for a home for him, and by the photo we could tell he was a dachshund mix! Capn Backpeddle did some fast talking, but he still ended up sounding like Capn Big Fat Liar. Poor Todd! He felt awful. And Poor Koiya! She so wants a dog!

We enjoyed four nights in La Paz before heading out to the islands. We did laundry and boat projects, walked around town, visited the archaeological museum, and ate at Rancho Viejo four or five times. We also did a huge shopping trip to refill our stores. A kind man named Jens from the sailboat Veleda, who was docked two slips down from us, drove us to a huge grocery store and waited for hours for us to finish! We thanked him profusely, but he brushed it off, saying people had done the same for him a number of times in the states. Cruisers really go out of their way to help each other out, and we’ve heard countless stories of such unexpected kindness.

It was great to have Imagine in the marina next to ours, as Koiya and Emma got to play together a lot. One of their favorite things to do was try to catch fish off the docks. The only fish Koiya ever got was a poor porcupine fish, who puffed up and got wedged in the net! Todd had to pop him out, and he stayed inflated for a while, so we were relieved when he finally squirted out the water he’d used to inflate himself. Now we have a rule: No catching puffers!

See all of our “first trip to La Paz” pics here:

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