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Friday, December 31, 2010

12/31/2010 - Ukin' it up

I'm so ashamed. I finally admitted to myself the other day that it had been months (many months) since I had even had my ukulele out of its case, much less actually sat down and played for awhile. When it's out and near at hand, it's much easier to pick it up often. But, it normally resides in its hard case, safely strapped to the overhead in the v-berth. Well out of harm's way but also a little difficult to grab for just a couple of minutes of noodling.

Anyway, a couple days ago I finally pulled it out. Don't remember exactly what the impetus was but I think it had something to do with the Kindle. At any rate, I downloaded 2 music books to the Kindle from Amazon. One is a complete Beatles songbook and the other is acollection of a whole bunch of ukulele chords for reference. When we lived in The Shire (for those that don't know, that's what we called our 5 acres in the woods above Silverton, OR, what with us being a couple of hobbits and all) we had quite a collection of songbooks. Mostly they were guitar books but it was easy enough to change the chords to ukulele chords. We also had a small collection of Jumpin' Jim ukulele songbooks as well as songs I'd downloaded off the internet. There was plenty of fodder to keep one going until your fingertips were screamin' or you looked at the clock and realized that you'd been screwing around for over 2 hours. Alas, there just wasn't enough room on the boat for all those books. Maybe the Kindle will be the answer. At any rate, we did bring 2 books: the songbook from the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz and the one from the club we were part of, the Salem Ukulele Strummers' Association (SUSA). Oh yeah, and a small songbook put together by my best friend from high school, Nick Lange, for the occasion of a get-together we had back in 2000 or maybe 2001. Mostly these are enough to keep me occupied for quite awhile. But I was kind of missing my Beatles Fake Book. Used to entertain myself for hours working my way through Fab Four songs. I think the songbook I downloaded to the Kindle will do nicely, though.

So, anyway, armed with songbooks, chord charts, etc., I finally pulled the ol' uke out of her case, tuned her up and started strumming.

After such a long hiatus, I might be excused for forgetting most of the chord shapes. But, after a dozen songs from the Santa Cruz book, which shows the fingering on the same page, they began to come back to me. That first night I was quickly back to my old tricks. Sitting at the settee strummin' my way through the songbooks while Lulu sat on the other side of the table playing Scrabble on her Kindle and occasionally singing along when I managed to get the song right. Just like old times, we found ourselves still awake at 12:30 AM wondering where the time had gone.

My New Year's resolution is to try to play my uke every day.

And, if any of our friends from SUSA are reading this, drop us a line.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

12/28/2010 - Mercado Bravo

Lulu decided today was the day to tear the v-berth apart and wash all the bedding, air out everything else, empty and clean the under-bunk storage lockers, and scrub and re-oil the wood along the sides of the bed (the "ceiling"). Needless to say, I'd just be in the way so, like a good little helper, I stayed the hell out of the way.

I took the shuttle into town with a couple goals in mind: write down the actual locations of some of the places we like so we can find them easier, scout out some new places, and buy a few groceries. Oh, yeah, and get a new cell phone.

The cell phones we bought in Ensenada were the cheapest ones they had and they were worth almost every peso we spent. The screens are so dark and so small that they are totally unreadable in anything less than near pitch-darkness. Totally useless in the daytime. But that doesn't really matter so much because we ran out of the included minutes really quickly. The pre-paid plan was completely undecipherable to me (of course, the fact that it was all in Spanish certainly didn't help). It was always unclear how many minutes we got for a peso, what roaming cost, what calls to Los Estados Unidos cost, etc. We'd just about decided to throw in the towel and just not have any phone besides Skype.

Last night we had beers with friends from Ensenada, Byron & Jessica on s/v Sterling. When we got our Telcel phone they opted instead for a Movistar phone because there were no roaming charges. So, over cervezas, I asked how they liked it so far. They had nothing but praise. The cost is low, the charges easy to understand, and the service is good. So, I looked into Movistar's plans on the internet this morning and then headed to town to get a phone.

What took 40-50 minutes at Telcel took only about 10 minutes at Movistar. The girl who waited on me spoke not one word of English but we managed to get through the transaction successfully anyway. I came away with a low-end Nokia phone for about $30 which included $450 pesos of call credit. How much does $450 pesos buy? Well, here's the plan as I remember it:

$1.18/minute for the first 2 minutes (in Mexico)
$3.48/5-minute block thereafter
$2.48/minute for calls to the States.
No Roaming Charges.

Those prices are pesos, not dollars, and since a peso is currently equal to a little over 8¢, the costs run from 9.4¢/minute for the first 2 minutes to 5.5¢/minute thereafter if you use the full 5-minute blocks. Calls to the States will run about 20¢/minute. Now those are terms that I can understand. So, we'll still use Skype for most of our Estados Unidos calls but we now can be reached by cell phone as well.

So, phone in hand, I headed out in search of Allende Books. This is a tiny little bookstore that caters to the gringo crowd. And, judging by the titles, they really cater to the cruisers. I didn't buy anything today but we'll return to get some fish, fowl, and flora guides for Baja.

From there, looking sort of like I knew what I was doing, I headed south-ish on Avenida G. Prieto to find the Mercado Bravo. When Jim and the bunch were here, they found Mercado Madero and showed us where it was. These are large farmer's market type places except that all the stalls are under a roof. There are stalls selling fresh meat, fresh fish, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, shoes, all kinds of miscellaneous stuff and usually a snack bar or two as well. This is where the locals are shopping when they aren't at the supermercados.

Mercado Bravo is smaller than Mercado Madero but not by much. They only have one fish peddler compared to 3 or 4 at MM but they also don't have as many miscellaneous booths. The produce vendors have their wares all laid out nicely. If you want something, they hand you a big plastic dishpan. You pile everything you want in it and hand it back. After working over the scales, calculator in hand, the proprietress tells you what you owe. Prices are usually posted as well. As an example, today I bought 4 fat, medium-length carrots, 3 nice ripe tomatoes, 4 small zucchini, 4 ripe Haas avocados, and 2 large mandarin oranges, all of which came to $52 ($4.16 USD). Next time, Lulu will be with me and we'll try some other stuff (chayote? nopali? guyabera? maybe some plantains?). Also, located just outside the mercado was a tortilleria. They make and sell fresh tortillas and there was a line waiting to buy them. Guess we'd better get in line, too.

Lulu's been thinking about getting some huarache sandals. She used to have a pair and loved them. They have them at Mercado Madero but, I also spied a little shop called Huaracheria Guadalajara which looked promising.

From the mercado, I traveled mostly familiar streets on my way to Chedraui (the former CCC supermercado). This is a large supermarket that also carries some clothing, consumer electronics, toys, etc. Sort of like a Fred Meyer store (for those of you who are familiar with Freddy's). I got some meat. some more vegetables (Mercado Bravo didn't have ginger or broccoli), and some cereal for Lulu. On the long walk back to the bust station to catch the shuttle, I bought a liter bottle of fresh orange juice for $25 (about two bucks). It was ice cold and tasted like it had been squeezed that morning. And, of course I had to stop at La Fuente for some ice cream (Hey, shopping and scouting is hot work). My new favorite combination is a scoop of lime frozen yogurt topped by a scoop of coconut ice cream. Oh Man!

By the time I got back to the boat, Lulu was about finished with her purge and was just putting things back together. Tonight for dinner, she put some of those fresh vegetables to good use in a chicken stir-fry over Jasmine rice. Oh, Baby, Baby...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

12/26/2010 - Christmas in Todos Santos

Lulu's brother Jim decided to give her surfing lessons for Christmas this year. That's not to say that Jim's a surfer who decided to teach his sister. Rather, he'd been bitten by the bug and wanted a lesson for himself as well. So, bright and early Christmas morning, we headed south to Todos Santos again. We were a little concerned about whether or not anything would be open since so many stores in La Paz were closed when we left.

Once we reached Todos Santos and wended our way through town, our (or at least 'my') concern increased a bit as it seemed all the restaurants and stores in TS were also closed for Christmas. However, the beach is a few miles south of town and, on the way, we had to pass one last little pueblo before turning off the highway. Everything there was open and geared for tourists and, mostly, surfers. We bounced along the dirt road and finally came in view of the beach, which I think is named Cerritos. At any rate, the hotel in the photo above is named Cerritos and the restaurant/bar that the picture was taken from is as well, so...

Jim had also offered me lessons but I've never really learned to tread water (something Lulu and I are going to fix this summer when the water's warm and we're anchored someplace where the waters also nice and clean). Matter of fact, when I try, I sink. And this may just be me, but I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing. Thus, I'm not terribly comfortable in water over my head unless I'm actually swimming somewhere or have a boat under me, so I regretfully declined.

The weather at Cerritos Beach was absolutely beautiful. Probably in the mid-80s by early afternoon, completely clear sky, and not a breath of wind. Also, this is apparently not such a crazy thing to do on Christmas as the beach and restaurant were amply populated. It wasn't crowded but there were quite a few people.

While Jim and Lulu were out trying to catch waves, I spent an hour and a half at Cerrito's (the restaurant/bar, not the hotel) nursing a couple of Pacificos and downing a big fish taco. After that, I parked my butt in a sand chair and read a book, only occasionally glancing up to watch the passing parade of bikini-clad chicas. I did venture out into the water a couple of times to try to get a photo. It was difficult because I never knew when they were going to finally attempt a wave. Seems like they'd paddle around forever and then, when my attention was diverted, I'd look back up and one or the other of them was halfway to the beach. The camera I was using doesn't have a viewfinder so I was trying to compose the picture in the little screen on the back which is basically black when used in bright sunlight. So I pointed and prayed. Here are the best of the ones that I got, which isn't saying much.

Lulu trying to stand up:

And Jim (on the yellow board) on his way to standing up:

What a great way to spend Christmas. Lulu's gift to me (well, to us, really) was "no pressure" for Christmas this year. No gift obligations, no need to try to make the holiday perfect, etc. And so, it naturally turned out perfect. We bought each other Kindle e-readers but opened them a week ago so Christmas morning there were no gifts, no stockings, no expectations, no disappointments, no guilt and no huge pile of gift wrap to deal with. Just another beautiful day in paradise.

Now, just so I don't come off as a compete Scrooge, let me say that I used to enjoy Christmas as much as the next guy. But all of the commercial guilt-trip hype has just gotten so out of hand that it's sucked all the fun out of it for me. I enjoyed Christmas when the kids were little. I also enjoyed Christmases at our home in the woods. One of the best ones that I can remember was just a couple years ago with 3 feet of snow, a house full of family, and no power. Had a great time. But frankly, we would have had just as much fun without the added burden of trying to make Christmas perfect. Over the years, we let the commercial guilt-tripping machine get the best of us. We spent stupid amounts of money on gifts because we were sucked into believing that we should. We knew better but it seemed like we'd already set up a standard that we felt like we had to live up to year after year. This year was such a refreshing change. Hopefully we'll remember that when we have grandkids to buy presents for someday.

And speaking of that, we are going to try to convince our grandkids, when we have some, that the best Christmas treat ever is to fly down to the sunny beaches of Mexico to have Christmas with the Grandma and Grandpa. The snow will still be there when they get home. Believe me, it will definitely still be there.

And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
"Bah Humbug to all!
And to all, "Surf's up!"

Hope everyone had the kind of Christmas they hoped for.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12/23/2010 - Feliz Navidad

OK, time to get out your old Jose Feliciano records/tapes and cue up "Feliz Navidad".

Life is tough here in Baja. This photo was taken at Playa Tecolote at about noon on December 23rd. We truly hope that your Christmas is even half as good as ours is going to be.

Feliz Navidad a ustedes y a ustedes, buenas noches.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12/22/2010 - Day sail

Yesterday we invited Jim's gang to go out for a daysail today. We had a limited amount of time since no one really wanted to get up early and Anna had to catch a flight home around 3:00 PM or so. We'd originally planned to maybe go to one of the nearby anchorages (Caleta Lobos, Ballandra) to do a little snorkeling but we just didn't have enough time. So, a simple daysail it was.

Daysailing is so much more fun than sailing to somewhere. When daysailing you can just follow the wind, wherever it blows. Or doesn't.

However, when we got up this morning we weren't so sure this was a great plan. The sky was completely overcast and it was a wee bit on the cool side. I kept checking weather reports and they all agreed that today was going to be another beautiful day in paradise. But we weren't so sure. We wondered if the weather prognosticators were looking out the window at all. But, amazingly, long about 1000, the sky cleared and the temperature warmed up nicely. We got underway about 1030 and motored out into the Bahia de La Paz.

As soon as we were out a little ways we raised the main, rolled out the jib and the staysail and shut down the engine. There wasn't much wind but we managed to maintain 2-3 knots most of the time. And since we were daysailing instead of actually going anywhere, who cares?

Everyone had to take their turn climbing the ratlines.

Two of the big highlights of the trip came near the beginning and the end. We spotted whale sharks! The first time, Lulu or Thomas or one of them noticed something near the surface. When we got closer we saw that it was a small (7'-8') whale shark. The second time, we were on our way back in when Thomas and/or Jaxon spotted something really close by. It was right off the side of the boat and at first they thought it was a huge manta ray. But as they got to see more of it, it was clearly a 14'-15' whale shark. Very, very cool.

We tootled around for about an hour and a half, at times with virtually no wind at all. But, just when we were ready to strike the sails, a little bit of wind would come back up. Not much, but enough to keep us interested.

But, eventually, there was no wind at all and it was time to fire up the engine and head back in. Although I muffed my first approach to the dock, the second try went just fine and we docked without incident.

December 22: a fine day for a daysail in La Paz. If your day was even half as much fun as ours was, you had a fine day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12/21/2010 - First Day of Winter

Okay, finally got a few moments to try to catch you all up on what's been going on. Ever since Lulu's brother Jim, and his clan arrived we've been either at their condo or out doing something. By the time we get back to Siempre Sabado in the evening I'm just too tired to blog. Not that we've been doing anything strenuous, it's just that we usually don't get back until pretty late.

The night they all arrived, we went over to see the condo. They're staying in a condo here at Costa Baja that's owned by a business associate from Bend. This is a guy who flies his own jet down to visit the condo so you can probably imagine what it's like. It's not particularly ostentatious but it is very nice: 3 stories including the rooftop patio, unimpeded view of the beach and Bahia de La Paz, golf cart for tooling around the compound and there's even a Ford Expedition for those brave enough to drive in town.

From here on out I am almost certainly going to get details of when we did what screwed up. But I'll try to get it as right as I can and, if I screw something up, who really cares anyway?

The next day, we headed into town to get groceries. That took most of the day. For dinner that night we treated the newly-arrived gringos to dinner at Rancho Viejo. Once again we shared a kilo of Arrechera while our vegetarian opted for fish tacos. Our guests gave our (so far) favorite restaurant an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

On Friday, after Jaxon arrived on the Mazatlan-La Paz ferry, everyone wanted to go to the beach so we piled into the car and headed north to Playa Tecolote. This is a beach that, during the season, is lined with a few restaurants and lots of local folks enjoying the sun and sea. It's located on the south side of the San Lorenzo Channel and is right across from Isla Espiritu Santo.

The beach was nice and the water was sort of warm-ish. Not warm enough for Lulu or I but Jim, Anna and the boys seemed to enjoy it. The wind was blowing and it was a wee bit on the cool side. Lulu and I walked along the stretch of beach in the photo. At one point, we happened upon Jaxon (Jim's eldest) who had found a beached puffer fish that he was trying to save by returning it to the ocean.

He was ultimately unsuccessful because he couldn't get it far enough outside the surf to keep the fish from washing back in. I believe he found out later that there was no way to be successful as puffer fish often beach themselves on purpose. Why? Beats me. We saw several other puffers in various states of life/death as we explored further.

On the way back to the condo, we stopped for more groceries so we could make fish tacos, black beans and salad for dinner.

The plan for the next day was to drive down to Todos Santos on the Pacific side of Baja. Apparently a contractor that Jim knew from Bend has relocated to Todos Santos and invited us all down to go to the beach and also see his home and one of the spec homes he was building.

There aren't that many roads in Baja but we managed to take the wrong one. We even had a map but it didn't help much. The problem happened when we crossed the major 4-lane highway headed south out of La Paz. We should have turned right. How did we make such a flagrant error? Well. like a bunch of stupid gringos, we assumed there would be a sign at the interchange indicating where the highway went. There wasn't so we just kept going straight. We meandered through some pretty desert landscape for awhile. I knew we were in the wrong place when we saw a large body of water ahead. The problem was that the body of water we were looking at was the Cerralvo Channel which we had sailed through on our way to La Paz and which is definitely NOT on the Pacific Ocean side. We consulted the map and saw where we were. Like I said, there aren't very many roads on Baja so it's not like we could just take the next road to the right and get where we needed to be. The next (and only) road to the right was shown on the AAA map as "graded dirt". We stopped at a tiny little tienda and had Jaxon, who is fluent in Spanish, see what he could find out. The consensus was that the best way to get from where we were to Todos Santos was to go back to La Paz and try again. We could take the "graded dirt" road but it had to cross a mountain range that was up to 6000 feet high and was very windy and slow. So, we about-faced and headed back to La Paz.

Ultimately we found our way and arrived in Todos Santos an hour or two later than planned. First item on the agenda was to get some food and cerveza fria (cold beer). However, Todos Santos is a pretty touristy little town. And, since it's also kind of an art colony and gringo enclave, we were afraid the prices on the main drag were going to be more than we wanted to spend for lunch. Again, we had Jaxon talk to a guy who directed us to a place that served mariscos (seafood) and was barrato (cheap). It was also about 5-6 blocks away and we got conflicting directions as to how best to get there. But, off we trooped. We passed several possible places en route and finally stopped at one that sort of looked right. All 6 of us sat down and the waitress started rattling off what was available. Unfotunately, what was available was all meat-based (pollo, carnitas, asada, pastor, etc.). Since one of our number was a fish-eating vegetarian and they didn't serve fish, we headed back out, much to the obvious disappointment of the staff.

On we went, finally deciding to cross the street and return to a little place that looked really good when we passed it before. I suspect it was really good but we'll never know as it was full-up and there was definitely no pace for a party of 6 to sit. So, we headed further back our track finally landing at Miguel's which is where Jim had wanted to stop in the first place. We all had fish with most opting for the fresh fish fajitas and a couple for fish tacos. The cerveza (Pacifico) was icy cold. A lot of the bars have newer fridges for their beer which have a large digital readout of the internal temperature. This one read -2.2 . That's 2.2 degrees below freezing (celsius) or about 28 degrees fahrenheit. Perfect.

Jim's friend, Jeff and his wife met us at Miguel's as we were finishing up lunch. We then piled into the Expedition and followed Jeff to the beach. I'm not completely clear on which beach we were at but it was south of town and there were quite a few people swimming, surfing and just enjoying the sun. We joined them. It was truly weird in that all these gringos kept coming up to us and they were always someone Jim knew. I'm not sure who's building the houses in Bend right now because it seems all the contractors from there were in Todos Santos.

Lulu and I, gun-shy after our blustery cool day at Tecolote, were dressed in lightweight long pants and had long sleeves at the ready. Didn't need either (although we did opt to keep our pants on). There wasn't a breath of wind. The water was reportedly about the same temp as at Tecolote although neither of us can actually vouch for that. Jim, Anna, Jaxon and Thomas all decided to try surfing. Actually, Anna is an accomplished surfer already and Thomas has surfed a little. Jim and Jaxon were both novices. A swell time was had by all although the novices never actually got to stand up on their boards. Next time for sure.

Lulu and I had fun watching the whales on the horizon. They were a long way off, but, being right on the horizon it was really easy to know what we were seeing. Saw a couple of very dramatic breaches and lots of flukes. It was way cool. Would've been even cooler to be closer but this was pretty cool all the same.

When we got back to town we opted for the easy approach to dinner and, since Jaxon hadn't been there yet, we headed to (where else?) Rancho Viejo. This time, having 2 twentysomething guys in our midst, we opted for 2 kilos. One of arrechera and one of pastor (spicy pork roasted on a vertical spit). With somehow managed to finish it all. Thomas was a big help in that department.

Yesterday we kind of took it easy. Jim drove us all to town. They wanted to do some shopping and exploring and Lulu and I needed to hook up with some fellow cruisers (s/v Ponderosa and s/v Odessa) who'd arrived over the weekend. We also planned to meet Paul and Chris (s/v Jeorgia) to get Lulu's sewing machine back. Of course, nothing turned out quite as planned.

Our VHF signal was apparently too weak to be heard very loudly over at the main anchorage yesterday so we weren't able to contact Ponderosa or Odessa by radio. So, we left them both e-mails indicating that we would be at Papas & Beer at 1330 if they happened to show up. We got to town with about an hour to spare so we walked over to Club Cruceros to wait. Who should we run into there but Paul & Chris. While visiting with them, who should walk up but Nita from Odessa. She regaled us with a harrowing story of how a very large motor cruiser dragged anchor and plowed into them while anchored at Ensenada de Los Muertos a few days before. They're headed into the yard next week to assess and repair the damage. She said she was pretty sure that Ponderosa hadn't gotten our e-mail yet as they were in town doing various errands. So, with the Papas & Beer meet-up unlikely, we joined Pal and Chris and their friend Steve (s/v Saben) for a trip somewhere for tacos for lunch. We followed along and I bet you'll never guess where we ended up. If you said "Rancho Viejo" you'd be absolutley...


Apparently we aren't the only folks who love this place. Although there were only 5 of us and not a twentysomething in sight, we nevertheless opted for 2 kilos (arrechera and pastor again). Well. we stuffed ourselves but fell short of actually finishing all the meat. Since Steve is bachin' it at the moment we gave him the leftovers.

Once we got back to Marina de La Paz, we still didn't see our friends from Ponderosa or Odessa, so we headed back to town. We were less than a block away when we heard "Siempre Sabado, Siempre Sabado, Siempre Sabado. Ponderosa on 22" on the mobile VHF which we'd brought along just in case. I answered up and it turns out they were now back at the marina. We about-faced and headed back. We had a great, although short, reunion with Bob and Sherry and Mike and Nita. We made tentative plans to get together either out at Costa Baja or maybe somewhere in town. If all else failed, we said we'd see them at the Christmas Eve potluck at Club Cruceros. However, Odessa is thinking about checking into the Marina Costa Baja so a meeting out here at the Beach Club may be likely.

We had dinner at Jim's condo again last night. They had found a large marketplace which we have somehow missed so far. They got some great deals on peppers, salad vegetables, and fish. We had grilled fish, grilled scallops, roasted peppers, black beans and a salad. Delicious. Later, we tried to watch the lunar eclipse but I got my times wrong. It was scheduled to start around 11:41 PM PST so I figured it must happen here an hour earlier. There we were, promptly at 10:30, wrapped in blankets on the roof, waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.


Sleepiness finally beat out patience and Lulu and I trudge home. Once I got back to the boat and could access the internet I find out that the eclipse happens later the further east you are, not earlier as I'd assumed. I'm still not clear on why this is. But, the upshot is that it wasn't due to start until 12:41 AM. Yeah, like I was going to be able to stay awake for that. Did I mention that I caught a cold the other day and so, am a wee bit tired-er than normal? I tried. Sort of. Okay, no I didn't. I just crawled into bed about 11:15 and fell immediately to sleep. I thought that I might wake up in an hour or so to pee and would watch the eclipse then. However, that didn't happen as my bladder didn't come knocking until about 2:30. Lulu said she caught a little bit of it since she'd been reading before going to sleep. Oh well. It's not the first lunar eclipse I missed because I was sleepy. Just because the last time a total lunar eclipse and the winter solstice coincided was in 1638, so what? Big Deal. After all, it's going to happen again 2094. Maybe I'll catch that one.

Okay, now you're all caught up. Hope you read this slowly as it may be another few days before I write again.

Happy winter solstice to you all. Happy first day of winter. Happy shortest day of the year. The days will just start getting longer from here on out, so that's a good thing. And, it's already warm enough this morning that Lulu's in shorts so that's a good thing, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12/15/2010 - Posh

Okay, the pelican has absolutely nothing to do with "Posh". I just really like pelicans and particularly liked this picture. Go Pels!

No, the title of the blog has more to do with where we're staying until mid-January. I think I included a link to Marina Costa Baja in an earlier post so I won't do it here. You're all smart enough to use Google if you want to find out more.

The marina itself is nice but we've certainly been in as nice or nicer. Okay, maybe not nicer, but certainly as nice. No, the poshness of the marina comes from that fact that it's just part of a resort. It's way the hell and gone on the north edge of the bay. They say in the brochure that it's 3 miles form La Paz but I bet that's just to the border. It's got to be closer to 4 or 5 miles to the center of town. They do run a free shuttle to town 9 times a day so it's not a big deal to get there. It's just that, if you don't mind spending a little dough, you don't really have to go to town unless you just want to. There are 3 restaurants, a small marine supply store, a laundry, a convenience store, a fitness center, and probably other stuff we haven't discovered yet.

The one place we have discovered is the Costa Baja Beach Club.

This place is right out of a glossy advertisement in Islands Magazine. We spent the first afternoon we were here (yesterday) sitting at the bar and drinking in the surroundings (and a couple of Pacificos as well). Lulu particularly liked the infinity-edged pool although this photo doesn't really show it very well.

Of course, we can't afford to buy their beer very long or very often, but it was a mighty pleasant diversion for an afternoon.

Today it was back to life as more or less normal. First, at 0930, there was a weekly cruisers' breakfast at the Beach Club Restaurant. The food was a total rip-off. I mean really, those pre-formed triangular hash brown patties served as hash browns? Really? On a $10 breakfast? Of course they were accompanied by the tiniest little dollop of refried beans that you're ever likely to see. The eggs con chorizo that I had were okay and I think Lulu's Huevos Mexicanos were alright but c'mon...

We did manage to meet a few other folks who are staying here. Most seem to be on boats that are much larger than Siempre Sabado but still they complain of not enough room. Everyone complains about that, no matter how big their boats are. It was fun to meet and compare notes but, I kind of doubt we'll go to very many of these breakfasts.

After breakfast it was back to the boat and back to work. First, I took everything off the decks and stacked it on the dock. Then Lulu got out the hose and the Simple Green and proceeded to scrub all the accumulated salt and sand off the boat. It was so crusty but looked so much better afterwards. We haven't had the opportunity to clean the outside since Ensenada and I'm not sure we (and by "we" I mean "she") did it there. And we've covered a lot of salty miles since then.

While she was scrubbing the deck, I loaded the empty diesel jugs in the dinghy and took them out to the fuel dock to get filled. Then brought them back to the boat and filled the main tank. I've added 25 gallons so far and still have about 5 more to go. Last time we fueled up was also Ensenada.

The marina offers wired internet (cable modem) but I could not get it working right yesterday. On the advice of Tom from s/v Seazure, who is docked just up from us and also happens to be the publisher of the Baja Insider, I called the maintenance guys. It took them awhile to figure it out but they eventually fixed the problem. Just as well since the cell service here is kind of iffy. BTW, if you're concerned at all about our safety while traveling in Baja, please read the article that the Baja Insider hyperlink above takes you to. We couldn't be safer if we were in L.A. Really, we'd be in considerably more danger there, statistically speaking.

This evening we went to s/v Boomer, one of the other sailboats moored here, to watch a movie with Boomer, the owner. The boat is a 41' Downeast pilothouse sloop. It was a really nice, comfortable boat. Matter of fact, if anyone's looking for a pilothouse sailboat, Boomer's for sale and would make someone a really nice floating home. We watched "RED" with Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Dreyfuss. It was one of those over-the-top, strictly for entertainment purposes comedic shoot-em-ups. Quite enjoyable. There, now you know how shallow we are.

Tomorrow, Lulu's brother arrives for 12 days, the next day, his youngest son arrives for 8 days, and the next day his oldest son arrives for 7 days, so, if the blog frequency falls off a little over the holiday, cut me some slack.

Before I go, I have to put in a plug for Baja Bed and Breakfast. Before they turned their home into a B&B, Antonio & Cecilia Moeller provided housing for students in the Se Habla La Paz Spanish language immersion school. We were lucky enough to get them as our hosts when we attended the school for our 25th anniversary back in 2002. The Moellers are the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. We hit it off with them right away. Matter of fact, we didn't learn much Spanish because we liked visiting with them so well that we took advantage of the fact that they both speak fluent English. Didn't learn much but had a great time. cecilia really tried to get us to speak Spanish but we resisted mightily. Well, 8 years later, we hooked up with them again last night. They met us here at the Beach Club for drinks and then offered to take up back to the house for something to eat and to see the changes they've made. Man, it was like going home. Within minutes of entering the house, Cecliia was warming up some delicious shrimp soup she'd made earlier and making some quesadillas to go along with. Antonio was regaling us with stories. It was like we'd never left. They have bought the property next door and expanded and now their place is a really nice little B&B. Very homey, thanks mainly to the fact that Cecilia clearly loves what she's doing. Located within easy walking distance of everything a tourist would want close at hand. If you find yourself in the market for a stay at a B&B in La Paz, you couldn't do better than this. Lulu and Cecilia have a couple of dates planned for cooking. Lulu taught Cecilia how to make French bread when we were here before. Cecilia's daughter subsequently lost the recipe and Cecilia has been itching to get it again. Works out perfectly. Antonio wants to introduce us to a bunch of their friends as well. I'm telling ya, they're like family. Okay, there's my pitch.

Just in case you haven't picked up on it yet, we absolutely LOVE being in La Paz!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12/12/2010 - Test post via the ether

If this appears on our website it means that I have FINALLY been able to post an e-mail from our SSB/HAM radio. This won't be the primary means of blogging or e-mailing since it's slower than the slowest modem you can remember. Text only. No attachments. No pictures. But, better than nothing, eh? Thanks go to Paul of s/v Jeorgia who walked me through the setup this afternoon.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12/13/2010 - Esta y esa

I Don't Know, Maybe It Is All About The Food:

Yesterday I finally fired up the stanchion-mounted BBQ for the first time. It's just been sitting back there like a faithful dog waiting. We bought a used charcoal BBQ at Columbia Marine Exchange in Portland several years ago. It didn't come with a mounting bracket and, since Magma wanted like $50 for a bracket, I chose to try to figure out something else. Of course, that's part of the reason it sat unused, and unmounted for that matter, for a very long time.

Yesterday was the first time that I've really felt like the weather and everything was cooperating enough to fire it up. That, and I was inspired by some amazingly good arrechara (believe I already wrote about that) from Rancho Viejo. So, as I previously wrote, we bought a skirt steak and applied plenty of meat tenderizer and then let it sit for a day or two. Last night was the night to cook it up.

I cut it into smaller chunks to make it cook a bit faster, slicing carefully across the grain. Once the coals were ready, on it went. After a bit it started to really smell good. Been too long since I've BBQ'd. I opened the lid to turn the little beauties over and started salivating.

Meanwhile, Lulu was whipping up a fresh salsa with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and avocado to accompany the meat on a fresh tortilla. A few more minutes of cooking and the meat was ready. I took it off the grill and sliced it nice and thin.

We heated some tortillas over the still-hot coals and then piled them up with meat and salsa. Oh, the anticipation as I raised the taco to my mouth. I bit in. I bit harder. Damn, I couldn't bite through the meat! I ended up dragging half the meat out of the taco with my first bite. It was the toughest meat I have ever had the misfortune to try to sever with my extremely sharp teeth. There was no freakin' way that we could eat this in a taco. The meat tasted really good but it was REALLY tough! Like "Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry" tough. Finally just put the meat on a plate, topped it with salsa and ate it with a fork using the rolled tortilla as a pusher. Geez, what a disappointment!.. Next time I'll cut the meat smaller before sprinkling it liberally with tenderizer and than maybe marinate it as well. Sheesh!

On a more successful note, we made a very tasty shrimp ceviche tonight. When we were at the marina the other day, there was a guy there selling fresh shrimp. A kilo cost $140 (pesos) which comes out to about $5.25 (dollars) a pound. We took it back to the boat, peeled it and soaked it in lime juice and minced onions for about 6 hours to "cook" it. After draining off most of the lime juice, Lulu added chopped tomatoes, minced serrano peppers, garlic and Clamato juice and returned it to the fridge. Tonight, we sat in the cockpit with a cold Pacifico in hand and scooped up ceviche with tortilla chips. Oh, man! It was so good I almost wet my pants! And the best part is that there's still more.

Okay, Maybe It's Not All About The Food:

Earlier yesterday we took a nice long walk along the malecon. For those who don't know, most, if not all, Mexican coastal towns have a walkway along the water. It's called a malecon. Families come out in the evening to walk along it and enjoy each others' company as well as the beautiful evenings.

We walked from where the malecon starts just north of our marina all the way to Marina Palmira, about 4 miles away. It was a beautiful walk. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you might be able to see the masts of the boats at Marina Palmira. They're just to the right of the turtle's (trash can) head. Looks like he's looking right at them. The main reason for the walk was to get a look at the boat yard at Marina Palmira where we may have our boat hauled in January so I can do some engine work.

Afterwards, we stopped at the Ahumburo market for come produce for the ceviche and then at La Fuente for some ice cream. Lulu had strawberry frozen yogurt again and I had a scoop of the "small orange" frozen yogurt and another of lime frozen yogurt. Very refreshing.

We have some family coming down to spend Christmas here in paradise with us. They'll be staying at one of La Paz's newest resort complexes, Costa Baja. It's located at the extreme north end of the bay and just about as far as you can get from where we're anchored. However, they have a marina there. But, looking at the website, the marina definitely looked out of our league, cost-wise. So we figured we'd just stay put and ride the bus back and forth. That's what we figured. But guess what. We won a 1-month stay at Marina Costa Baja in a raffle. How freakin' cool is that? So, tomorrow, when our moorage here at the virtual marina is up, we'll be moving to the lap of luxury for a month. It's a long way from town but they have everything you need right there, plus they run a shuttle service to town 9 times a day. Our friends John & Vickie took us out there today to check things out. Geez! What a place! So, Merry Christmas to us.

Let's see, what else?

Oh yeah, as you saw earlier, I am finally able to take advantage of one of the main reasons I bought a single sideband radio and got a ham license: the ability to send and receive simple text-only e-mails via the ham radio from pretty much anywhere that there isn't an internet connection. I'll be able to update blogs this way so maybe we won't worry people (Mom!) again. Paul from s/v Jeorgia came over and walked me through some of the set-up stuff that I apparently had wrong. So I guess my installation is OK after all. Thanks, Paul.

And finally, a bummer note:

We dropped off one of our fiberglass propane tanks at Marina de La Paz last Friday to have it filled. Lupe, the guy who gets them filled said he'd have it back by 1:00 PM or so. Well, he actually got it back a about 12:20. When we arrived at 1:20, it was nowhere to be found. We watched security tapes at the marina today to see if we could figure who took it or what happened to it but, unfortunately the cameras weren't pointed at the spot where the tanks are dropped off and picked up. Close, but not close enough. They've remedied this and the tanks are now handled directly below a camera. Too late for us but maybe it'll save someone else's tank. I'l announce the loss on the morning cruisers' net tomorrow morning but I doubt we'll ever see it again. Have to be pretty ballsy to take it since it's clearly marked "s/v Siempre Sabado -Yoder-" all over. But, if it's in someone's backyard feeding their BBQ I guess the markings won't really matter. As far as I can ascertain, they don't sell the fiberglass tanks in La Paz so we'll be contacting a dealer in San Diego to see if we can get one and then seeing if one of our fellow cruisers and friends can bring it down with them. (That's right, Jay and Judy, stand by for an e-mail). Oh, and Lupe (whose reputation is at stake) is notifying the propane plant that fills all the bottles in La Paz about the marked tank so they can watch for it if it ever comes in to be filled. Oh well, it's still in the low 80s every day so what the heck am I complaining about? So it goes.

And that, folks, is about it for now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

12/11/2010 - an interesting night

We met up with Paul & Chris from s/v Jeorgia and Owen from s/v Que Tal yesterday evening for a couple of beers. We first became somewhat acquainted with Paul & Chris when a "southbound from the Pacific Northwest" topic started floating around one of the discussion groups a year or two ago. They're from Edmonds, WA and planned to head down here about the same time we were planning our trip. We've followed each others' blogs ever since. Always interesting to meet people that you sort of know through the internet but have never met in person. Owen is a friend of theirs from Washington who is down here finalizing the deal on a sailboat. He plans to bring the family down (wife and two young daughters) and get busy cruising. Turns out that Owen has been following our blog for awhile so knew exactly who Paul was talking about when he suggested we all get together for a visit.

We met at Papas & Beer on the beach. This is the palapa bar that Lulu and I used to frequent when we visited here in 2002 although it was under different ownership then. We used to sit out on the deck and look at all the sailboats anchored and dream about when it would be us anchored. Now it is. Our boat is easily visible from the bar's deck.

When we got there, there was some loudish music going on and all these skinny, long-legged, pretty, young girls strutting around. Turned out they were all models and were practicing for a fashion show to be held today.

After a couple beers and some visiting, we all returned to our boats. Lulu and I had our normal evening routine and then turned in. About midnight we woke up to really loud rock music with a Mexican edge to it. It was apparently coming from Papas & Beer although the town was looking pretty lively all along the malecon. But Papas & Beer was the most likely culprit since they were the closest. As background music, it made for some pretty weird dreams. Woke up later and it was still going on. It was 0145. At 0400, it was still going strong. By 0600, there was still amplified singing happening but the instrumental track had been turned off and the singing wasn't quite as "together" sounding as it had been earlier. I suspect we may experience the same thing tonight.

Today was a mostly boat day. Lulu stayed aboard and cleaned and babysat the generator and watermaker while I hiked to the CCC market for a few things. We bought a kilo of shrimp from a guy at Marina de La Paz yesterday and plan to make shrimp ceviche with it but didn't have enough limes. So I got limes, tortilla chips, tortillas (really good-looking ones), milk and beer. The CCC is about a mile and a half away so it's a 3 mile round trip.

Lulu contacted Cecilia and Antonio Moeller this afternoon. They were our host family when we did the Spanish language immersion course back in 2002. They were hoping to get together this afternoon but we have dinner plans with Vicky & John from m/v Doña Elena. Waiting to hear whether they'll be available tomorrow evening. We're just such social butterflies. Our social calendar was much less full back home.

Another beautiful 84 degree day. Not a cloud in the sky nor socks on the feet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

12/9/2010 - It's not just about the food

But it's mostly about the food.

After picking up our Club Cruceros membership cards this morning and picking a few cruisers' brains about local boat yards, propane acquisition, cell phone plans, etc., we headed out on another walk. Today we were going to try to find the Ley supermercado, hoping it would be easier to negotiate than the CCC which was in the middle of a major remodel mess. With directions from John of m/v Doña Elena,we had absolutely no problem finding the store. Like CCC, Ley was a combination grocery store and a little bit of everything else store. We got a few things for dinner tonight and then just kind of looked around.

Eating in Mexico can be really cheap. Oh, it can be expensive, too, if you go to fancy restaurants, of which there are plenty. But if you fix your own meals, it's really hard to spend a lot of money. Today we got lettuce, a fresh pineapple, a red onion, some serrano chiles, some cilantro, a small container of crema medio which we're hoping is similar to half and half for Lulu's coffee, some avocados and tomatoes, a flat of eggs (30), and a chunk of beef skirt steak (1.35 lbs) and the whole shebang set us back 176 pesos or about $14.50. That $14.50 will turn into about 4 servings of green salad, a batch of salsa cruda, enough meat to fill a dozen tacos, maybe more, two weeks' worth of breakfast for me and plenty of cream for Lulu's coffee for a couple of weeks. And we weren't even trying to be thrifty.

We took all this booty back to the boat and then ventured out again. Lulu was feeling better today so we decided to have lunch out. This could have been a pricey choice but turned out not to be. We went to Rancho Viejo on recommendations of fellow cruisers as well as Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer's advice in their "Sea of Cortez, A Cruiser's Guidebook".

The recommendation was for tacos arrechera. Arrechera is tender, marinated beef skirt steak which is then cooked on a large outdoor BBQ grill. Lulu ordered 3 and I ordered 4. They're served with a tray of condiments and finger food including salsa cruda, an avocado-based salsa, another salsa that may have been based on smoked chiles of some kind, chopped cabbage, marinated onions, lime wedges, and for noshing, cucumber slices and roasted chilis. The cost? Twenty pesos per taco. That's about $1.65. Granted, you can get 5 peso tacos out at some of the street vendors, but this place obviously has more overhead. Besides, these tacos were SO good! We vowed to make this a regular stop.

From there we continued our walk. Before we decided to have lunch at Rancho Viejo, we went looking for a little place downtown where we had enjoyed some really good tacos al pastor when we were here in 2002. I was pretty sure I knew exactly where it was. And I did. Unfortunately, the operative word in the last sentence is "was". We found the rubble of what used to be the place.

Behind the tile counter there was a vertical spit with a big ol' hunk of beef rotating slowly over a charcoal fire. You could still even see the sign in the back showing the cook cutting pieces of the meat off for tacos.

So sad...

While we were walking around on our way downtown, I was reminded again of one of the things I really like about Mexico after living all my life in the over-regulated nanny-nation that the US has become. You've got to love a place with either no building codes, building codes that are ignored, or building codes that apply to buildings and leave things like sidewalks alone:

These sorts of elevation changes are common throughout La Paz, except down on the malecon. You have to keep your eyes open and watch where the heck you're walking. But what's wrong with that? There are places along the malecon itself where the edge of the walk is an abrupt drop-off to the beach and/or rocks. These drop-offs can be from a foot or so to several feet. But are there guard rails to keep people from walking off the edge? No. People take enough personal responsibility to keep themselves from walking off the edge. That dirty "L" word (liability) doesn't seem to be a major player here and I find that very refreshing.

Our other mission today, as it has been since we were in San Leandro, CA, is to find a mini retractable clothesline. Something like the MINKY Indoor 4-Line Retractable Clothes Drying Rack:

I guess we could have just ordered one by now but wouldn't you think such a thing would be available in a hardware store like Ace? Of course our first hurdle is trying to describe what we want in Spanish. We bought a walking-around Spanish/English dictionary today and it helps but so far, no dice. I guess, since we can have stuff shipped to us in care of Club Cruceros we could go ahead and order the beast but I have to wonder if it would be worth the shipping cost for this $15 item. It'd just be nice to support a local merchant, y'know?

After locating and buying a disco duro externo (external hard disk) for recording some of the many movies available in the Club Cruceros' DVD library, we ended today's walk by stopping at La Fuenta for dessert (Lulu: small orange frozen yogurt ["small orange" is a description of the flavor, not the size of the serving] and me: coffee and mocha/almond ice cream). Finally back to the boat but much too full to cook dinner.

So, you see, it's not all about the food, but sometimes it seems like it is.

Today's mileage: 10 miles again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12/8/2010 - Walking in La Paz

Got up in time to listen in on the La Paz cruisers' net on VHF22 this morning. The net happens every morning at 0800. It includes announcements, who's arrived and who's leaving, swap meet, weather, tides, etc, etc. Pretty interesting. VHF22 is the hailing channel all the rest of the day. Boats call each other and then switch to another channel to talk. Very sociable. At about 0930, Club Cruceros serves coffee and cookies and lots of cruisers congregate there to visit before getting on with the day. We happened by just at the end and were a bit shy about just walking up to someone and starting a conversation. Maybe tomorrow we'll get there a little earlier. We have some things to find out from these folks like: which cell phone/service is best; which yards allow owners to do their own work AND stay on the boat while hauled, etc.

We headed into town to take a nice long walking tour. We found the CCC supermercado without too much trouble. This is probably where we'll reprovison since they have just about everything (although nobody seems to have celery seed). The store was a huge mess since they're remodeling but we still managed to scope out what they carried. We then continued walking east on Jalisco until we reached Augustín Olachea where we turned north-ish. Then west on 5 de Febrero. All the time we're just scoping out what's where. Found a couple of marine supply places and several very nicely equipped hardware stores.

We finally got tired of walking and headed to La Fuenta ice cream store. It's easy to locate along the malecón by the polka-dotted tree trunk out front.

While we were sitting there eating our ice cream (Lulu: mango, me: pineapple-coconut) Lulu wondered whether reading a novel in Spanish might help us learn the verb tenses better. I had bought a copy of "El Viejo y El Mar" (The Old Man and The Sea) by Hemingway when we were here in 2002 but somewhere along the line it's gotten misplaced. Never did get around to reading it. But I remembered I bought it at a bookstore about 1/2 block from where we stayed in 2002. We decided to walk over and see what they had.

What they had was, among other things, a bunch of familiar titles but in Spanish. We figured that it would be good to get something that we were already familiar with so Lulu got a copy of "Mujercitas" (Little Women) by Louisa May Alcott, and I got "Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas" (Alice in Wonderland) by Lewis Carroll. I'll let you know how the experiment works out. For those following behind us, the bookstore is at the corner of Madero and Constitución.

After the bookstore, I needed a little something to nosh on. Lulu wasn't feeling that great and wasn't hungry so I only had to please myself. Found a cart serving hot dogs and had to have one.
For 12 pesos (about a buck) you get a grilled dog on a warm bun covered with onions, tomatoes, mustard, mayo, relish, some kind of cream and hot sauce.

VERY messy but VERY delicious. Afterward, in a fit of extreme decadence, we stopped by La Fuenta again. This time for dessert. Lulu had strawberry frozen yogurt and I had lemon sherbet. Both very excellent.

Finally we returned to the boat but not before taking a little dinghy tour of Marina de La Paz. When we returned to the boat we checked our pedometers and found we had walked 10 miles. ¡Caramba!

Monday, December 6, 2010

12/8/2010 - La Paz!

After a very leisurely breakfast and laid-back morning, we left Caleta Lobos yesterday morning for La Paz. It was an easy motorboat ride although, once we entered the channel for La Paz proper, we found ourselves bucking an outgoing tide which slowed us to 3.5 knots.

We opted to drop the hook in the "virtual marina" aka Marina Vista Coral. The "virtualness" of it is that an area was purchased, leased, whatever, for a marina but the actual marina hasn't been built (yet?). So, you can either anchor (cheapest), tie off to one of their mooring buoys (next cheapest) or tie fore and aft to 2 of their buoys (most expensive). Since their buoys looked a little sketchy to me, we opted to use our tried and true ground tackle. In exchange for the moorage, you get use of their secure (locked) dinghy dock, bathrooms, and no-cost showers. It'd be cheaper to just anchor out (we could move about 100' and be outside of the "marina"). If we did, we'd need to use the Marina de La Paz dinghy dock (small charge) and showers (another small charge). We'd also have to pay the API fee daily. This is an anchoring fee imposed in federal ports, of which La Paz is one. Don't know what the fee is yet. Anyway, we're happy where we're at for now.

Yesterday, after checking in, we went walking through La Paz a bit. We were gratified to find that we still knew our way around a little bit from when we were here in 2002. We also located Club Cruceros (local cruisers' club) and submitted our applications to join. Ran into John from M/V Doña Elena who we met in Ensenada. We were kind of looking for their boat when we heard, "Steve, Steve." from behind us. There was John. Crazy, huh?

Today we are planning to take a leisurely walking tour of La Paz to get better acquainted with the layout. No big shopping trip or anything, just a tour. But first, I need to get off my duff and make myself a bean/cheese/chile quesadilla for breakfast.

So, until mañana....(and I have a GREAT cell connection here so I feel pretty safe in saying that, but just in case I don't check in tomorrow, remember that mañana just means "not today".

Sunday, December 5, 2010

12/6/2010 - A Buffett day if ever there was one

"It's freezing up in Buffalo,
They're stuck in their cars.
While I'm sitting here
'Neath the sun and the stars."

"Mañana" by Jimmy Buffett

Okay, today was what this whole thing is all about. We awoke fairly early since we went to bed fairly early last night. Maybe we're getting into the cruisers' timetable. Although I thought I got up at 0600, turns out it was actually 0700 since they apparently didn't make any changes for daylight savings time here. We have since adjusted our clocks accordingly.

Anyway, it was very mild out at that hour. There was no wind and the water was completely still. I went topside to turn the propane on to make coffee and ended up just leaving the hatch open as it certainly wasn't cold enough to close it.

We decided to stay here for another day rather than to just rush off to La Paz for no particular reason. Good decision. After breakfast, we put the dinghy together and gathered our snorkeling stuff. Took a little dinghy tour of the bay.

(we're the boat in the middle)

As we got near the shore, the clear water let us look down and see coral formations and lots of colorful fish below. Further in, the bottom turned to beautiful white sand. The water was so clear that it was difficult to tell how deep it was and Lulu had to use an oar occasionally to let me know we weren't about to hit bottom with the outboard.

We headed over to a detached rock that was supposed to be good snorkeling. We tied the dinghy off to a convenient rock and then donned our shorty wetsuits. Could have lived without the wetsuits but they made it a lot more comfortable.

I wish I had an underwater camera but since I don't I'll just have to tell you about the various fish we saw. There were little ones that were downright electric blue-violet, there were lots of small yellow and black striped guys and some fairly curious brown fish. Once in awhile you'd see one that had a brilliant purple head followed by a bright yellow stripe and then a blue-grey body aft of that. There were spindly looking green and black sea stars and some pretty good sized clams that would close up if you touched their shells. And coral everywhere. It was extremely cool.

After an hour or so we headed back to the boat where we set up the deck chairs, put some Jimmy Buffett on the stereo and popped a couple of cold ones while we dried off in the sun.

Later we broke out the solar shower and rinsed the salt water off and dried off in the sun again. It was supposed to reach 86 degrees in La Paz today. I don't doubt that it got that warm here. Can't really tell from our on-deck thermometer because it's behind glass when the companionway doors are open creating a bit of a greenhouse effect. But it shows a high of 96 degrees for whatever that's worth. You can see the thermometer behind the door in the photo above.

Tomorrow we'll head in to La Paz to get much-needed showers and replenish our provisions.

12/5/2010 - The past few days...

Our last day at Los Frailes was December 3rd. It was a gorgeous, warm day with almost no wind, at least until late afternoon. We decided to take a little hike along the main road.

The scenery was pretty monotonous. It mostly looked like this:

We decided that, at noon we would turn around and head back. As we neared the beach again, a little Datsun pickup drove by and the driver waved. A few minutes later, he came back by and stopped to talk. Neither of us could really make out what he was saying but I think it was something about selling fresh fruit and vegetables back at the campground. Couldn't tell for sure though. Then he said he was headed to the bar/restaurant (THAT we uderstood) and offered us a ride. It dawned on us then that we had seen him there yesterday afternoon. We gladly accepted the ride since that's where we were headed anyway. His name was Juan and we bought him a beer for his trouble. Very nice guy.

The restaurant/bar is a little palapa (open sides, palm thatch roof):

It's family-run and presided over by Manuel and at least two of his daughters (that we've met, could be other family members involved as well). The kitchen is run very ably by Cristal:

His other daughter, Maria is only 5 and was off at kindergarten when we were there today. There's no real menu that we know of, Cristal just tells you some of the stuff she cooks. The list is fairly long and all very delicious-sounding. After our first beer of the day we ordered lunch. Lulu had chilaquiles and I had fish tacos. It's interesting to be eating Mexican food in Mexico because some of the things we're served are somewhat surprising based on our gringo viewpoint. For instance, both of our meals included a small dollop of garlic mashed potatoes on the side (papas puré con ajo). One of the condiments for my fish tacos was a bowl of shredded carrots.

We had a good time whiling away the afternoon and visiting with Cristal as much as our language barrier allowed. She was interested to find out that Lulu had been a school cook and wanted to know if she had any secrets and whether or not she ever fixed the kids Mexican food (she didn't and she did).

When we returned to the anchorage, there were quite a few more boats than when we had left. We made an early night of it as we planned to get up at 0400 to be underway by sunrise (0530).

12/4/2010 - Saturday

Well, I know exactly what Lulu and I were doing 31 years ago today as this is Lucas' birthday. Happy Birthday, Luke.

We arose, as planned, at 0400. Had a little breakfast and got things ready to go. We planned to fire up the engine and start hoisting the anchor around 0500 so we'd definitely be on our way by sunup. Even at that, we were about the last boat to head out this morning. The anchor came up without a hitch and we were on our way on schedule.

Right off the bat we decided to try out our new spare autopilot. Plugged it in, set it on AUTO and sat back. And then watched as it turned us 90 degrees and right toward Los Frailes (the actual huge rock) before we disengaged it. Gathered ourselves and tried again. Same thing. It would hunt a little and then put the rudder hard over. Well, crap-o-rama! Looks like we maybe have a $95 spare parts unit. However, later on I got to thinking. I had checked to see what happened when the +10 button was pushed. On our main A/P, +10 causes the steering ram to retract. On the spare, just the opposite happens. I remember reading that these units are set up at the factory to be used on the port side of the boat but that there's a DIP switch or something inside that can switch it to starboard mounting. I assumed all this had to do with was whether a + 10 caused the ram to extend or retract but maybe it has more to do than that. Maybe the spare was doing just what it was supposed to. That is, trying to turn us 180 degrees to correspond with a portside mounting. As soon as we're stopped in La Paz so I can open the unit up without fear of losing the pieces over the side due to a big swell, I'm going to check this out. Makes sense, yes?

The day was absolutely gorgeous. Oh, there was no wind and/or wind from dead ahead, so it was a motorboat trip. But what a nice trip. Temperatures were in the 80s. We're talking shorts and NO shirt most of the day. Well, for me anyway. We tootled along, basking in the sun. Lulu did some crocheting and I finished reading Moby Dick and started on John Steinbeck's "Log From The Sea Of Cortez".

We arrived at the anchorage at Bahia de Los Muertos just before dark. By the time we had gotten anchored it was well past dark. Quite a few other boats here, some of which I recognized from Los Frailes. Had dinner and another early to bed because we'll be getting up at 0400 again tomorrow for the trip to, or at least near, La Paz.

Sunday, 12/5/2010...

Up bright and early again. Same routine as yesterday. Today we weren't the first boat out of the anchorage but we were far from the last. It's a motorboat trip again as expected. Right now we're about halfway up the Cerralvo Channel. Big swells coming in from the Sea but it's still in the 80s and there is virtually no wind other than a few knots on the nose.

Got a weak cell signal early today, enough to download some e-mail, but that's been it. No signal at all right now. Hopefully I'll have some sort of signal wherever we anchor tonight and I can send this out. We won't enter La Pz late in the day. The route in is too circuitous and there are too many shoals to try it in fading light. So, we'll anchor at a nearby anchorage. I have them all entered in to the GPS so it's just a matter of which one we reach when. E-mailed Marina de La Paz on Friday and Mary said there'd be no room at the inn through Sunday but to contact her again Monday morning. So, hopefuly I'll have a good cell signal in the morning and hopefully she'll have space. We want to tie up at a marina for a week to clean up the boat and ourselves and get groceries. While there, we'll check in with other cruisers to see what the consensus is on local yards. The transmission is leaking worse than ever and really needs to be fixed. Figure that would be a great time to remove the engine as well and clean up the scurvy engine compartment as well as work on the rusty engine mounts, etc. Might as well do it in the winter when the weather is "bad", right?

Later, that same day...

Currently anchored in Caleta Lobos, just north of Pichilingue and La Paz. Excellent cell coverage with a tower looming on the hill above us.

After we cleared Cerralvo Channel, it got really rough. Big swells rolling in directly off the Sea. And then it got REALLY rough. Stayed that way until we were about halfway through San Lorenzo Channel and well in the lee of Isla Espiritu Santo. Then things calmed down quite a bit and it was a pretty mellow ride the rest of the way here. No need to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. All we have to do is call Mary at Marina de La Paz about 0830. Other than that, our schedule is clear.

Okay, let's see if this will upoad...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

11/30/2010 - Waiting out a norther

After that early bedtime, we were both up pretty early. I got up about 0600 and Lulu was up within a half hour after that. She noted that the temperature in the cabin was very pleasant. At 0700 it was already 78 degrees down below. I actually slept kind of hot last night.

As predicted, the winds did indeed build up through the night. And they haven't let up yet. No way are we going to try to put the dinghy together, much less go ashore. No thank you. I got up twice during the night to check things on deck and Lulu did once. Don't know about her, but when I went out I just wore my sleeping shorts and. although I wouldn't want to be in the wind too long like that, was perfectly comfortable for the short time I was out.

Through the night and all day today we've been experiencing steady winds in the upper teens and frequent gusts of 30 knots. The boat is dancing around at the end of her tether but the Rocna is holding on tenaciously. It's nice to have good ground tackle.

This picture is supposed to convey how rough it is today but, as expected, it really doesn't.

The temps are the same as yesterday: in the high 70s and low 80s out of the wind.

Got a call on the VHF from Mark on Wendaway, one of the other boats anchored here. Called just to chat a little and see if I needed any weather info as he apparently loves to collect the stuff. He told me that this wind is supposed to start laying down Wednesday evening and be pretty much over by Thursday. So, Thursday looks like our next travel day. From here on out it looks like we should be able to do short day hops from anchorage to anchorage. We probably won't get ashore here. We want to head out before the next system arrives as this is about the most exposed place on the whole Baja coast, sticking out as it does right into the Sea.

The plan tomorrow is to fire up the watermaker and add a few gallons to our fresh water tank. Also need to top up the transmission oil and plot our course. Work, work, work.

11/29/2010 - Finally we get to stop

After motoring through the night, we arrived at Bahia Los Frailes about 0800, so it took us just 2-1/2 hours under 7 full days. There were already 3 boats anchored here when we arrived but there was plenty of room. We got some local knowledge about the size of the shelf to anchor on from one of the other boats via our VHF radio.

We made our approach and, when the time was right, I released the Rocna anchor. It fell all of about 3 feet before a snag in the chain locker stopped it short. Didn't really want to fix it right then so I dropped our secondary anchor, the Bruce, instead. The bottom was good holding and the Bruce dug in hard. We fell back on abut a 5:1 scope and tested the set. It was holding good. The Bruce only has about 25' of chain on it and the rest is nylon 3-strand line. The nylon is probably stronger than the chain but it's not particularly chafe-resistant. After watching it rub on the bobstay, I decided to clear the chain mess and deploy the Rocna instead. Fortunately, the chain cleared up pretty easily. We hauled up the Bruce and deployed the Rocna. This also allowed us to get closer in than the first time. We again let out 5:1 scope and backed down on it hard. It was holding very nicely. We decided not to bother putting the dinghy together today as we thought we'd just stay on the boat and rest up from the passage. Really looking forward to a full night's sleep.

The wind was out of the northwest and began building in the afternoon. You'd think we'd be protected from it but it was pretty darn windy throughout the anchorage although the boats directly behind the big rock did have it a little better. In the afternoon a dinghy full of folks from the other anchored boats went by. I hailed them and asked if this was normal weather for here. They said we were having a "norther" that should blow through by Wednesday evening. But, we could expect the winds to build during the night. I let out more chain bringing my scope up to about 7:1.

Out of the wind, the temperature is in the high 70s and low 80s. Definitely shorts weather for me although Lulu isn't quite there yet.

I was disappointed to find no cell service here so I couldn't post my blogs. But we had a very pleasant evening anyway. Ate dinner at the table instead of just sitting in the cockpit holding a bowl. Then we watched our shows (The Wire and Deadwood) and went to bed. And it wasn't even 2000 yet. Can't remember when the last time was that we hit the rack that early.

11/28/2010 - Day 7 underway

At 0530 (N23*22.44 W110*42.90 - this was actually an 0500 position)), when I came on watch, Lulu pointed out that we could now see the end of the Baja peninsula (Cabo Falso). How exciting! Looking at the GPS, we're 47 miles away.

Oh, and at 0530 the air temp is 67 degrees. I think we may have finally passed that mythic point and may be able to stash the foulies in favor of t-shirts, at least, if not shorts and sandals just yet.

So far this trip has been devoid of wildlife spottings besides the occasional bird and maybe a dolphin or two in the distance. This morning there were a few dolphins surfacing for a breath alongside the boat and there was even one that jumped completely out of the water maybe 20' off the port side. Twice. About 0730 I had to wake Lulu to come up on the foredeck and watch. The dolphins were swimming and surfing along the boat's bow wave. They were pretty large and some had various scars on their backs. Tried to get a picture but they didn't come out very good. Matter of fact, the pictures were terrible so I'm not going to include any of them. Suffice it to say that the dolphins put on a really good show for longer than we cared to watch. Once in awhile one would stick his tail out of the water and slap the water's surface with it. Wonder what that's all about.

By 0800 it was 70 degrees and I had to take my foul weather pants and my sweatshirt off.

Lulu got to practice raising and lowering each of the sails today. Fortunately she got to practice in conditions that weren't gnarly. That'll come later.

At 1130 the temp was up to 75 degrees and it was absolutely beautiful out. Started getting a tailwind a couple hours later so we unrolled the jib, turned off the engine and sailed. As the afternoon wore on, the tailwind gradually but steadily increased. I was so enamored of the 6+ knots we were moving that I let the jib stay full-size longer than I normally would have. I just really wanted to get around the bend. Well, by the time we reached the bend and were ready to change course, it was blowing really hard and the seas had built up to some pretty healthy waves. We started to roll up the jib but it was hung up somehow. About then I lost control of the weather sheet as the jib yanked it out of my hands. Fortunately it developed a knotted mess that kept all of it from going through the block and flying free. However, enough went through that the jib was flying wildly in the wind. I looked forward and could see that the first wrap of the furler was caught under the reel instead of on it. That meant I had to go forward, out to the end of the bowsprit and fix it. Did I mention that the seas had really built up by then? I hooked my harness to the jackline and headed forward. It turned out to be a fairly easy fix even though the sound of the flailing jib and the heavy seas made it seem like a big deal. Once that was cleared we were able to roll the beast up properly. We fired up the engine and headed towards Cabo San Lucas.

Seemed like it took an awfully long time but we eventually got behind the cape and were protected from the wind and seas. Unfortunately it was too dark to see Los Arcos, the rock formation often associated with Cabo. Cabo San Lucas was all lit up. It's hard to believe it was just a quiet little fishing village back in the late 70s.

One good thing about Cabo was that I was able to get cell service which enabled me to post the "We made it" blog Sunday night. However, I could only get the service topside and didn't like having the computer outside any longer than absolutely necessary so that short post was all I did. Well, that and download about 120 e-mails.

We motored on through the night. We had to lower our speed a couple times so we would arrive at Bahia Los Frailes in the daylight.

11/27/2010 - Day 6 underway

At 0600 (24*24.89' W112*13.33') we're just abeam the opening into Bahia Santa Maria. We had a beautiful sunrise, the air temp is 65 degrees and we have just a little over 200 miles to go.

At this point, we really want to sail as much as possible, even if doing only 3-3.5 knots, because I figure if we absolutely had to, we could motor all the way to La Paz from here but with only 4 gallons of fuel left when we arrive. That's too close for me and besides, it's based on estimates. Could be worse. And I don't want to stop in Cabo San Lucas to refuel.

At 0845 the Pacific is living up to its name: it's calm, deep blue, and there's barely enough wind to move us along. But we are moving along. They call it "ghosting". The air temp is a balmy 67 degrees.

Unfortunately, by 1000, I had to throw in the towel. Absolutely no breeze. The flags are hanging limp. Doused the headsails, sheeted the main amidships and started the engine. However, it's a really nice day. It's 72 degrees and I'm sitting out in the cockpit in my t-shirt and am quite comfortable.

By 1145 the air temp was up to 78 degrees and by 1330 we were sailing downhill under jib only at 4-4.5 knots.

Decided to take advantage of the relatively calm conditions and transfer fuel from the jerry jugs to the main fuel tank. Using the hose/priming pump combination, the transfer went nice and cleanly. With the little port on the top of the tank that we use to check the fuel level open as a vent, we didn't lose a single drop out of the official tank vent as we usually do. I added 15 gallons bringing the tank total to abut 30 gallons. I'm saving one 5-gal jug in reserve, just in case.

Had a good day mostly sailing but by 2000 (N23*44.20' W111*21.02') the wind had dropped enough to not keep the jib full. It would fill, the boat would roll, the jib would spill its air, the boat would roll the other way, the jib would fill (THWAP!). Repeat. Over and over and over again. It's enough to drive you mad and it's none too good on the rig either. So, we motorsailed through the remainder of the night.