Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Whale Shark Hunting

Date: 4/26/2009
Location: La Paz 
Weather: Hot, high 80's to low 90's all week

Saturday we went out with a new friend of ours in the marina, Bill Lee on Ocean Quest, to look for Whale Sharks,  Rhincodon typus, just outside the bay.  Bill has a large fast tender and Linda and I with Bill and his lady friend packed some lunches and headed out the 3-5 miles to look for sharks. Actually the Whale Shark is not a typical shark but is a large, slow moving fish that eats plankton, not people. See this Wikipedia article, Whale Sharks. They are frequently found around La Paz so we went out and watched for any kind of disturbance on the water or birds swarming overhead. After an hour of looking with no luck we went ashore on a sandy beach with sand dunes behind and did some beach combing and had lunch. After lunch we resumed our search but to no avail. The afternoon breeze was starting to kick up bringing with it a chop so we decided to head back before running out of fuel. As luck would have it we ran into a pod of dolphins and had a great time playing with them as we motored along. They would come right next to the dinghy, just our of arms reach, and jump out of the water and run under the boat.  The dinghy sits low in the water with four people in it and more than once we took waves over the side soaking all of us. The air temp was around 90° and the water is 75° so it wasn't cold and we all had a great time chasing and running with the dolphins. 

We are running to get ready to leave this week for the islands up North. Why is it if you have 4 weeks in a place and enough time to be as lazy as an old dog on a hot day that you end up with dozens of things to do in the last 2 days?  Maybe I just figured it out? 

We are healthy and there is no swine flu in southern Baja. There's nothing to be worried about here or in the Sea of Cortez where we're going. If you listen to cable news you would think that armageddon is upon us. It will poison your mind if you watch enough of it, just turn it off.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

West Coast Trip Summary

Date: 4/24/2009
Location: Marina de La Paz
Weather: sunny and warm, mid 90's all week

Distances Summary (in Nautical Miles) - 
Port Townsend to Cabo San Lucas - 2,235 NM
Port Townsend to La Paz - 2,398 NM
Port Townsend to San Diego - 1,425 NM
San Diego to La Paz - 972 NM

Number of Passages (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 34
Overnight Passages (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 10
Days Underway (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 44
Average Speed (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 6.16 knots 

Fuel Used - 
Neah Bay to La Paz - 832 gals
Engine Hours - 380 hours
Gallons per Hour - 2.19

If we were to do this again, and I can't imagine why we would want to,  we would make longer passages with fewer stops. Ideally we would go from Neah Bay to Coos Bay and then Coos Bay to Bodega Bay. Both of these passages would be two nights long but if you get good weather they get you into CA quickly. All our overnighters were just one night long and that does not give you enough time to adjust and get some good rest. Passages lasting two nights are good for a 2 person crew or if you have 3 people I would recommend that if you get the weather to do so you go straight through from Neah Bay to Bodega Bay. The less you see of ports and bar crossings in WA and OR the better. Bodega Bay is a great stop, no bar to cross, nice marina, a bit of a walk to a restaurant and store,  but if you need fuel it's cheaper here than San Francisco.  From there you can slow down and enjoy the CA coast with recommended stops in Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Marina del Rey, and San Diego. We went into Santa Barbara,  crowded, narrow slips and fairways and very windy, don't bother, and Channel Island Harbor in Oxnard where there is a strong current running through the transit moorage slips but good shopping 2 blocks away. We did encounter tall, 10' +,  breaking waves when we left Channel Island Marina although the weather report said 5-10 kts winds with 3-5' seas. We also stopped in Dana Point which is very nice but expensive.  DP is the most exclusive areas we stopped at, lots of upscale restaurants and shops in the marina and up the hill in the shopping area. There is a little restaurant in the DP marina with the best pizza on Earth. No kidding, no exaggeration, it is the best!.  DP is nice place but bring your wallet. On the other end, Marina del Rey was $23 dollars a day for moorage (50' boat length) in a beautiful location next to a park and there was plentiful shopping within 4 blocks in regular stores at reasonable prices.  MDR has a 'California Pizza' restaurant, not the best pizza on Earth but not bad either. 

Note: We've added a lot of photos in our Web Photo Album. The link is on the right side under 'Other Links'.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

La Paz - Week 3

Date: 4/23/2009
Location: La Paz, Marina de La Paz
Weather: sunny and hot,  98° yesterday, breezy at night which cools the place off

We have been busy for the last 3 weeks in La Paz getting the boat ship-shape and exploring around town. We are starting to acclimate to the hot desert climate, at least we're trying. During the hot afternoon we stay inside and slow down and try to be one with the heat, kinda a zen thing. If you fight it it just makes it worse. I like the heat, it's nice not to be cold and wet. Linda is getting there, she try's to enjoy the heat but mother nature sometimes makes that difficult. 

The water maker high pressure pump started to show signs of old age so we had it rebuilt by a gringo here who is a water maker expert. Cruising in Baja requires a good working water maker as water is hard to come by so it was important to get it repaired in La Paz when we had the chance.  The refrigerator started to run continuously about a month ago and not getting below 40° so we had another gringo take a look at it but it's still not working right. It's either  running all the time to get below 40 or if we turn it down so it cycles on and off it's too warm. We're having another person, a local named Hector who has a good reputation, look at it today. Other than that the boat is in good shape. 

I went to a doctor a few days ago because I've not been able to completely shake the cold that I had last January. I still have a cough, congestion, and funny feeling ears. The doctor says that I have some liquid in my left lung and an infection in my ears and gave me a list of 4 drugs I needed to take. They don't do  prescriptions here, they give you a list, looks like a prescription but it's not, and you take it to the Farmacia and they fill it for you. Anyone can walk into a Farmacia and get any kind of drugs except for narcotics which require a prescription. The doctor's office was as modern and well equipped as any doctor's office I've been to in the States, in fact better than most. The doctor spoke English and was very professional. Charge for the office visit, $37 US. Medical care here in La Paz, and we're told it's the same in all large Mexican cities, is very good and costs a fraction of what it does in the US. 

Life here is very relaxed and easy going. The locals are very friendly, if you run into a rude person it's a gringo but that's the rare exception.  Goods and services are inexpensive, not all things are cheap but local items normally are, things imported from the States cost 20% to 50% more here. Local produce, breads, etc are very inexpensive and very good. La Paz is large enough that you can find most services from excellent health care to mechanics. We're leaving next week to head north into the Sea. It will be good to get out and start exploring more, the islands north of here are supposed to be magnificent with abundant sea life. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

La Paz - Week One

Date: 4/7/2009
Location: La Paz

One week in paradise and we're still having fun. We've walked around town until our feet ache, we took a taxi to and from a large shopping plaza, we've ordered some lycra diving suits, had the outboard motor fixed, and with the help of a retired navy expat, nearly doubled the output of our water maker. Not bad for one weeks work. Ok, not really work in the traditional sense but we've been busy. 

The taxi rides were fun, the second ride was certainly worth the price just for the entertainment value. The ride out was so-so, almost boring. The ride back was fun. Radio blasting Mexican songs with the driver singing along, it was either full speed ahead or full breaks. Fortunately in the city traffic we never got over 30 mph so nothing too scary. At the shopping plaza we bought some shorts, shirts and groceries. The grocery store, called Soriano, is similar to a Fred Meyer or small K-Mart. 1/3 clothes and kitchen hardware and 2/3 groceries. Earlier in the week we walked to a CCC grocery store near the marina. Both stores are equivalent to a well stocked grocery store in the states. Not all the same goods but there is no shortage of items in either store.

We had a local expat do a complete tune up of our outboard motor. There are numerous Americans that live here, most are retired from American jobs but some have lived here most of their lives. They have legitimate Mexican companies and do work on boats. The outboard was fixed by a 20+ year resident of Mexico, 'Sea Otter' Jimmy. 'Sea Otter' is the name of his boat. He came down here over 20 years ago, married a local women, and makes a good living repairing outboard motors and skippering charter boats. We consulted with another expat on our water maker, Bill is retired Navy and worked in the Navy on water makers. He has a shop on his boat that has more water maker parts than  most dealers in the states. With a little advise from Bill we were able to improve the output of our water maker by 75%.  It's a good thing Bill is here because we've been trying to get some help out of Village Marine in Seattle via email but VM just got bought out by Parker Marine and it seems they are too busy reorganizing to answer their emails. 

There is a 46 Nordhavn named Mc Mac from Panama, photo above, anchored off a marina towards the head of the bay from us that has an interesting story. Nobody is on the boat and hasn't been for many years. Seems the boat was impounded by the Mexican Navy 8 years ago for carrying drugs, don't know what happened to the people on board but I assume they're in jail, but the Mexican law does not allow for the government to sell impounded property. So the boat just sits at anchor, uncared for and rotting away. In the last hurricane it broke free of it's mooring and was blown against the breakwater where it was scratched up but being a Nordhavn, it's too tough to sink so easily. So it just sits, a sad sight. 

We still have many things to do before we leave in 3 weeks so we'll keep busy. It's been warm and sunny since we got here. Today is in the high 80's with a light breeze. Shorts and t-shirt weather all the time. More later...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Paradise Found

Date: 3/29/2009
Location: La Paz, Marina de La Paz
Lat/Lon: 24 09.310 N 110 19.586 W 
Weather: Sunny and Warm, lite breeze, 82 °

Hi everyone, we're in La Paz! This has been our goal since we left Anacortes last August so we feel that we've reached a major milestone in our adventure and La Paz does not disappoint.  As with all our experiences in Mexico, the people are warm and friendly, even the gringo's here are nice,  but in addition to the people the town is clean, well kept and modern. The water front has been built with a broad board walk down the beach and there are restaurants and shops everywhere but without feeling too touristy.  We are going to be here for a month before heading north into the islands and eventually San Carlos for the summer. It would be great to spend the summer in La Paz but they do get the occasional  hurricane here so our insurance requires that we go further north by July 1st. 

We are at Marina de La Paz, the heart of the cruiser's world in La Paz. There are dozens of cruising sail boats here and a few power boats, mostly sports fishing boats that are kept here for the winter season. There are also a couple of mega-yachts in this marina and many more in the big resort marinas. This marina is at the edge of down town while the resorts are further out so we are within an easy walk of the shops and restaurants.  The weather is warm but not too hot, mid 80's, and I haven't worn long pants or socks since arriving. Shorts, t-shirts, and sandals all day, every day. This is paradise. The cats are loving the sun and we have the doors and windows open all day long with protective screens on so no one goes wandering off, the cats that is. I've also quickly gone native in other ways, I now drink the lighter Mexican beers, Corrona, Texcante, and Pacifico.   Up north I only drank darker, amber beers. Down here the heat requires a lighter beer. We also bought a bag of 18 oranges from a street vendor for less than $1.50 and have fresh squeezed juice with breakfast. Life is good.