The La Paz Shuffle

There is a phenomenon boats experience when anchored in La Paz known as the La Paz waltz.  The combination of wind and current tends to make boats move around their anchor in some unique ways, not always quite as expected.  You can end up pointing the opposite way as the boat next to you, even though normally boats at anchor tend to line up with each other.  We experienced quite a bit of it on our first trip here last fall.  Maybe it is the reduction in strong  northerly winds in the spring, or our repeated  change of anchorage locations, but we seem to be doing a little less waltzing on this visit, more just shuffling around our anchor.  Which is also what we’ve been doing the La Paz area.  When we arrived from Mazatlan after fairly smooth sailing with an escort of 30 or so dolphins for 20 minutes, we found the spot we wanted to anchor at occupied by a large ketch that has the look of a boat that is going to sit in the same spot for a long time.  Various supplies, including a sheet of plywood covered the decks, and as we did a drive by an older guy poked is head out from under the tarp cover and did not return my wave.  We moved to another spot, where we were informed by another older guy on a another large ketch that doesn’t look like it is going to move anytime soon either that the port captain would probably tell us to move.  Being the weekend we decided to wait to move, and when Monday rolled around we didn’t quite get to it either.  By Wednesday I had run into a cruiser from we met in La Cruz who offered up his spot in the anchorage as he was going into a marina for a few days.  So we shuffled off to that spot which worked out well except for a lack of good wi-fi signals.  Ahh, the pursuit of the perfect anchorage.

Just a few of the 30 or so playing around our boat.

I’m not sure how an animal that can swim so fast enjoys riding the bow wake at 5 knots, but they do.

Another bow shot. Did I mention we get excited when we see dolphins?

And now, a few bird pictures I took back in Mazatlan and never got around to posting.

A brown boobie taking flight.

Another brown boobie shot. They didn’t get their fair share of pictures last time around so I”m making it up to them.

I know, I’m a geek but this makes me think of a Klingon Bird of Prey warship. Geek mode <off>

A bird diving for fish while another laments their missed chance. Do you ever wonder how the first bird decided to dive at the water at full speed?

After all that work to get into a good spot, we decided to get out of town for a few days.  Our friend Marek, who had sailed down from Anacortes at the same time we sailed down the coast, was also ready to head out of La Paz, so we buddy boated up to Ispiritu Santo, an island just north of town set aside as a national park.  We hung out for a few days and enjoyed the rugged beauty and relative isolation of the area.  There were a few boats in the anchorage the first night, and then the weekend hit and it jumped to 14 boats.  In a rather bizarre moment for us, there was a time when there were more power boats then sailboats in the anchorage.  That was a first for us.  Of course, two of the powerboats had to anchor directly upwind from us.  With the winds at night running in the mid 20 knot range with some gusts over 30 (according to another boat, I still need to install our wind speed instrument) and my experience with some power boaters skill at anchoring I was on the nervous side.  Of course, they dropped their hooks just as it was getting dark and the wind was picking up and I wasn’t eager to move at that point so I just kept an eye on them.  For some reason they both moved to the other side of the bay allowing me to relax a bit, although with that much wind you still don’t sleep all that soundly.  Our third night the wind died out and we had a flat, quiet night of deep sleep.

Typical scenery at Ispiritu Santo.

20 miles from the nearest dock – but ready when they get there!

During the day we dinghied ashore and wandered around, checking out the hundreds or even thousands of fiddler crabs on one of the beaches.  There were numerous cacti growing near the water, and volcanic rock as well as visible layers of soil and rock in the hills rising out of water.  While not the green forests we are used to from the pacific northwest wilderness, there was a beauty to this anchorage, with reddish rocks and aqua green waters contrasting to provide spectacular vistas.  We also took a dinghy trip with Marek through a narrow, shallow channel that separates two islands.  After we made it through the channel we motored down to several large sea caves.  We had perfect conditions for the trip as we were on the lee side of the island and there was no swell we easily drove the dinghy into the the caves.  What we didn’t have is a camera, so we’ll have to go back for some pictures.  We stopped and did some snorkeling in some of the clearest water we’ve been in so far, although it was not the warmest.  The biggest warning about the Sea of Cortez we heard from people was the temperature, and so far we’ve had chilly nights and chilly refreshing water temperatures.  I’ll get back to you in August…  I found a gap in the rocks that allowed us to swim from the the snorkeling area into a sea cave and took several trips back and forth in Jaques Costeau mode.

Just another scene in the Sea of Cortez.

You do need to watch where you are walking – this is not a plant I want to bump into.

Another reason to watch where you are walking. These were the slowest moving crabs I’ve ever encountered and it would be easy to step on them.

Fiddler crab close up.

At some point in every photographers life, you have to try the B&W artistic shot.

The colored artistic shot of the same plant.

One more… the way the cactus dried out into a hollowed wood with patterned holes really was quite fascinating!

A bird that isn’t a boobie.

I thought this was a dead tree from a distance, but it is still hanging in there pushing out the green leaves.

Once you start going Black & White…

Interesting to see a park sign, right next to a fishing camp.

Not a bad spot to live and work. Assuming you don’t need internet, electricity and an Oxxo on the corner.

I guess I better get in one of these pictures.

I think this is a cactus in the process of flowering. But that is kind of an assumption on my part.

I’m not sure the sun hat is helping out.


While we were anchoring the dinghy a man from the powerboat anchored a couple hundred feet out from the sea cave swung by on a paddleboard to inquire about where we were anchored and the conditions there.  His boat was not in a spot our guide book listed as an anchorage – he was essentially just out in the open a few hundred feet from the side of the island, while we were tucked into a bay that our guide book showed charted depths for, with high cliffs providing some protection from wind and waves as long as there weren’t coming directly from the West.  I gave him information about our anchorage and asked how deep his spot was.  He said he anchored in about 110′ feet, but he probably drug anchoring during the windy night because it was now 130′ deep.  I asked him what kind of sea bed conditions he was in, but he didn’t know.  For those of you in the know, you can now understand my nervous moments having two similarly sized powerboats anchored upwind from me the previous night.  He said he was going to move over to our anchorage, but somewhat thankfully we didn’t see him show up before we left the next morning.

After a few days of what we felt was a little mini vacation, we decided to run back to La Paz.  As always, there are some projects to work on including a leaky water pump in the engine I would like to resolve while we are near a large city with good marine services.  Of course the morning we left there were dolphins in the bay and even a whale that we did not get a get enough look at to identify.  We idled around in the dinghy watching the dolphins but even at dinghy level they just don’t seem to want to come over for a petting session, much to Jenn’s disappointment.  Finally we said a goodbye to Marek who is heading north to explore a bit, while we pointed south back to La Paz.   Of course the there wasn’t any wind, but we did get yet more dolphins to entertain us before we finally got enough wind to sail for a bit.  I had sailed all the way out of the La Paz channel on the way north and tried to sail back in but had to use the engine for a little assist – best not to push it around channel markers the outline a course around a sand bar.

Marek from Spica – hopefully we’ll catch up again up north.

Dolphin in the anchorage with us.

And yet more dolphins on the way back to La Paz.

We should be in project mode, but we have a chance to go get some pool time at the nicest resort in town with the very friendly crew of Double Diamond before they return home to Washington for the summer.  Sometimes, you just have to know when to go hang out at the pool.


Spa Day

After several thousand miles of sailing, and our arrival in warmer waters, I noticed our bottom paint is not holding up well.  When we bought the boat it was moored in fresh water and the bottom looked great during the haul out for the survey.  And on the trip down, with pretty constant movement and cold water, I didn’t notice any growth (granted I didn’t jump in to check).  But after some time anchored in La Paz, I noticed some growth starting, and by the time we sat in Banderas Bay for a few weeks, it was getting disturbing.  It turns out this a a good place for disturbing bottom growth, as the going rate for bottom cleaning is a whopping $1 per foot.  I would have paid $3.  But beyond that I probably would have dug out the scuba gear.  Although after watching another cruiser spend a good chunk of two days in the water, maybe not.  But fortunately the rate stays the same regardless of the condition of your bottom.

In tandem with arranging for the bottom to be cleaned, I dug out the receipt the previous owner left on the boat for what I’m assuming is the last bottom painting, and realized I’m having issues because it was dated 2008.  Bottoms Up Marine Service in Port Townsend was very responsive to my email and helpful with advice about how to prep the current paint (or what is left of it) for the next bottom painting.

Having worked out and date and time with one of the local bottom cleaning crews in the marina, we arranged for a slip and brought the boat in for the dreaded exercise in docking.  This is only the third time I’ve docked the boat in Mexico, but with a couple friends on the dock to catch lines it went smoothly.  Because the dinghy dock at the La Cruz marina is usually packed, and a bit of a walk from the happening spots we’ve been slipping in between Bella Star and Jace (aka Knee Deep).  Since Jace pulled out the day before we went into the marina, we grabbed their spot since we were already so familiar with it.

We arrived mid morning, and our cleaning crew showed up within 10 minutes or our appointment.  Not shabby for Mexican time!  They were done within an hour, and stuck with the original quoted price.  I pitched in a few extra pesos for a job well done.  With the bottom clean, we started to think about the topsides.  Of course we had given the boat the mandatory scrubbing that comes with getting a slip in a marina after weeks of anchoring.  But there were some crews that do topside cleaning, and one of the cruisers on the dock I had been talking to about boat cleaning had just hired a crew that was well regarded.  He sent the Jeffe, Ernesto, down to talk to me, and the quote was pretty reasonable.  So, we took the plunge and hired them to start the next day on our boat.  Of course this also meant a few extra days in the marina, but the rate wasn’t unreasonable and since Aaron’s birthday coming up it would be nice to be able to walk back to the boat after a night out rather than taking the dinghy on the search through the anchorage for our boat we sometimes find ourselves involved in after dark.

It took Ernesto’s crew two days to polish and wax the stainless steel on our boat, clean and wax the topsides, and buff and wax the hull.  Ventured looks great, except now my motivation to do something with the teak toe rails is a little stronger.  We’ll be working on that soon.  We also spent the time in the marina to let the growth on our anchor chain die off by spreading it up and down the dock beside our boat.  I never anticipated scrubbing my anchor chain as part of the cruising life.

The house and car, looking shiny and clean.

Next post – How Ventured thanked us for all the TLC.

While the boat was being cleaned, Nicole arrived back from Seattle with a couple goodies from Seattle including our new Coast Guard documentation and some cat toys for Minion, kind of a late birthday present for him.  And speaking of birthdays, she arrived on her husband Aaron’s birthday so we headed out on the town.  After some happy hour draft beers at the Huanacaxtle Cafe, it was time for some tacos.  Full from our trip to Red Chair Tacos, and approaching cruiser midnight, we poked our noses into the Huanacaxtle Cafe to say hi to their friendly beyond description staff on our way back to the boats.  They waved us in and despite an approaching closing time offered to serve us more beverages, and agreed to let us plug in a computer and play our own music so we could dance.  I had my laptop and soon started playing DJ, trying to play songs everyone knows and loves rather than dipping into my obscure collection.  And then… the karaoke book came out.  It didn’t take long for the door to be closed and our own private karaoke party to begin.  We didn’t even have to request songs, we just ducked in the back room and punched in the number for the songs we wanted and they queued up.  Besides ourselves and the birthday couple, we were joined by the Deep Playa, Panache and Wings of the Dawn crews, and the eight of us tore it up.  The staff even joined in some songs while keeping our social lubricants flowing.  It was a great time that would have been hard to top if we hadn’t returned a couple nights later for another karaoke party, this time joined by crews from Jace and Popoki along with their kids.  If you ever find yourself in La Cruz, go say hi to the folks at the Huanacaxtle Cafe, they are delightful, friendly and have the best wings we’ve found in Mexico.  Their Happy Hour draft beer is 10 pesos (we’ve agreed you can’t afford not to drink it) and the cocktails are 2 for 1 and they bring the bottle and mixer to your table and pour the alcohol till you say stop.  And they don’t chicken out.  But I have – I’ve yet to order a mixed drink but I need to do it once before we head out.

It isn't a Mexican karaoke birthday party without the birthday boy wearing a sombrero.

I couldn't let Aaron have all the fun.

Jenn doesn't want to be left out of the fun.

Dawn (SV Deep Playa) and Oliver, patron of the Huanacaxtle Cafe, play along to Sweet Child of Mine.

Karaoke night round two, this time with children. It didn't keep things any tamer as one of the mothers (who shall remain nameless) sang Why Don't we Get Drunk and Screw.

After just two days Ventured was sparkly clean, the hull shiny enough to reflect the sun hitting the ripples of water dancing around the boat.  Since we had to do something to keep ourselves from feeling too guilty for paying others to work on the boat, we scrubbed the dinghy and installed the dinghy wheels (finally).  We returned to the anchorage, happy with our investment and hoping Ventured enjoyed two days of spa treatment.