Friday, September 30, 2011

Green Hills of Baja

We drove south on Highway 1 last week and were surprised how green the country side was. We have driven this road a few times in the last 3 years when going to the airport in Cabo and the area was always brown, like you would expect a desert to be, but a little rain over the summer has made the area bloom with plant life. Viewing Baja from the water it looks barren but if you go inland into the hills after a little rain, it’s rich with plant life. You can hardly see the cactus through all the shrubs and bushes. It is amazing how a desert can be transformed by a little rain.

Hills near San Antonio

Hills near San Antonio

Green Baja 2

Hills near San Bartolo

At the end of the drive we stopped in los Barriles at the Las Palmas resort and had a wonderful lunch, highly recommended.

On the return leg we drove out to Ensenada de los Muertos, Cove of the Dead. We have anchored in this bay many times but had never seen if from land before. Developers have renamed this area los SueƱos, Dreams, in order to have a more attractive name for the area. We like the older name better, it has a more adventurous ring to it but we can understand how it may discourage time-share sales.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mexican Nautical Charts – this is getting fun

We’ve always been interested in nautical charts and in particular, electronic charts. When we first came to Mexico we had Maptech charts on the PC running Coastal Explorer (CE) and C-Map charts on Furuno. Both are based on surveys done around 1890. That’s right, over a hundred years old. Here’s an example of these charts in CE -

Raster Chart

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see that our waypoints where we anchored are up on land with this chart and there is a dreadful lack of detail.

Fortunately the Mexican Navy has been doing a new survey since 2005, using borrowed US equipment they say, and have published new vector charts that while not up to the standards of US NOAA charts, are a substantial improvement over the older charts. Here’s the same area using the new vector charts -

Vector Chart

At least the land is in the right spot. Now we can add a third type of chart to the collection, charts from Google Earth satellite images. I’ve started playing with a program ChartAid that makes it very easy to capture images from Google Earth and geo-reference them so that chart plotting software like CE knows where to place them. Here’s the same spot with the addition of the photo chart -

Photo Chart 2

These Google Earth photo’s are not perfect, they don’t show depth for example, but outside of the US, Canada, and Europe they might be a great improvement over existing charts. They certainly enhance areas in Mexico. Will we rely exclusively on photo charts? No, but they are another tool, along with existing charts and guide books, that we can use to stay out of trouble.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Living in La Paz

We’re still on our boat but we’ve settled into Marina de La Paz and plan on staying here for awhile, which means at the present we have no plans to leave. We’re no good at making plans let alone following them so we didn’t sign any long term lease, we just told the owner that we’d like to stay for maybe a year to which he said ‘OK’.

We brought the car down to La Paz after our little trip up to the States in July. We flew up to Boise and then Seattle, saw lots of family, and then drove a u-haul truck packed with all our stuff from storage from Anacortes to Tucson. Now days we have few reasons to call Anacortes “home” other than it’s our legal residence in the States, so we decided to move our stuff to Tucson to be closer to us as we travel around Mexico. Linda’s son lives in Tucson and we go up enjoy his hospitality often so that’s a good place to store our stuff.

After the move to Tucson we drove our ‘93 Jeep Grand Cherokee down Baja to La Paz. We made the trip in 3 days with no problems but there are some spots where the road is narrow, the fall off is steep and the trucks are wide and you just hope everyone moves in the right directions at the right time so that everyone comes out the other side unharmed. It’s fun having a car in La Paz, we’re getting out and seeing areas that we never did before and grocery shopping is so much easier with a car.

When we left Tucson, the Jeep had a slow oil leak from the back of the transmissions and estimates to fix it were around $1200+. When we got to La Paz the leak had gone from slow to a noticeable puddle every night so we found a local ‘shade tree’ mechanic recommended by people in the marina. 3 days latter he had replaced the rear transmission seal, installed new motor mounts, replaced the bearings in the rear differential, and put on new rear brakes. Total cost, with parts - $425. After a month everything is still working and there’s no more puddles of oil so it  looks like he did a good job. There was one small issue, he seemed to have loosened a fitting on the Air Conditioner causing the A/C gas to leak out. He denied he did it so we took the car to another ‘shade tree’ shop where they do A/C work and they recharged the system for $35. Kind of a hassle but no big deal.



This is Lupe, the mechanic who did the major work on our car in his shop next to his house.