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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3/30/2011 - Another blog about food

It's hard to beat fish tacos, shrimp tacos, arrechera tacos, carnitas y papas empenadas, etc., but eventually, we gringo cruisers start hankering for a little bit of "home" food. Usually this is either pizza or cheeseburgers. We haven't succumbed to the pizza urge yet as Lulu makes her own pizza that more than fills the bill. However, burgers are another thing altogether.

Awhile ago on the morning cruisers' net on VHF 22, the subject came up. Many suggestions were made and we've tried a few. The first place we tried was Bandito's right here near our marina. I blogged about Bandito's earlier. It's the place with the grill inside the hood of an old Chevy pick-up. Their burgers were good but certainly nothing special.

The next place we tried was a direct result of a suggestion on the morning net. About a block away from where we're at, on the corner of Abosolo and Navarro, there's a house. During the day, there is a wheeled cart that sits in the driveway. "Hamburguesas y Hot Dogs" is painted on the side of the cart. Sometime after 8:00 in the evening, the driveway is converted to a small al fresco dining area by unstacking the plastic chairs and tables. The cart is opened up across the front of the driveway and is put to use making burgers and dogs. We went there one evening with David and Carolyn from s/v Aztec. The burgers were very good but didn't exactly ease the craving as they were dressed with Mexican style condiments rather than plain old musard, mayo, etc.

Our next foray into the world of burgers was a result of a suggestion by David of Aztec. He said that we HAD to try the burgers at Tailhunter's on the malecón.

Being the travel snobs we are, we had always sort of eschewed Tailhunter's as being "too touristy". But, based on David's suggestion, we decided to try it anyway, and we're glad we did. It just so happened that we were going to be walking down the malecón all the way to Marina Palmira to join Doug and Jody (s/v El Gitano) in veiwing 3 of the rare and elusive Westsail 39s that happened to all be docked there. Tailhunter's is way down the malecón but not as far down as the marina. After checking out the boats, Doug and Jody joined us for a mid-afternoon lunch at Tailhunter's, where they had been before.

We sat on the second floor overlooking the street and ordered the "Malecón Burger" at D & J's suggestion. It was a large (probably near half-pound) patty on a big soft bun. Manchego cheese was melted over it and it was dressed with tomato, lettuce, grilled onion, and pickles (although mine only had a dime-sized pickle chip on it). Ketchup, mayo and mustard were provided. The burgers were served with a large pile of fries. Well, I have no complaints (other than that little tiny pickle chip). The meat tasted like meat which is kind of a rarity in burgers anywhere these days. The fries were excellent as well. The beer was ice-cold and chips and salsa were served as an appetizer. At $69 pesos (about $5.60 US) for the burger and fries, it was a pretty good deal. We decided that we'd probably come back again.

Yesterday found us walking a lot. We walked out to Wal-Mart and Home Depot which is about a 3-mile trek. We took the bus back to the boat, unloaded our stuff and headed downtown for more stuff. About 2:30, we were feeling the effects and really needed something to eat. It just so happened that we were very near another place we've been wanting to try: Buffalito Grill.

Buffalito Grill is on Madero between Ocampo and Nicholas Bravo. We'd walked by numerous times but it was never open. This time it was so we stopped in.

The restaurant consists of an open-air courtyard with tables and chairs as well as two small open structures. One of these is the kitchen and one is the bar.

We ordered a couple of ice cold Bohemia Obscuro cervezas and perused the placemat/menu. We decided to opt for the basic burger, partly so we could make a fair comparison and partly because things like avocado on burgers just makes them slippery and messy to eat.

The meat is cooked on an open grill over actual mesquite-fueled flames.

When our burgers came, we were not disappointed. Like Tailhunter's, they were stacked high with lettuce, tomato, pickles and sauteed onions and mayo. Ketchup and mustard were served on the side. The fries weren't as plentiful as at Tailhunter's but were more than enough.

The meat tasted like, and apparently is, ground sirloin and was cooked medium rare. The patty was 250 grams which comes out to pretty near 1/2 lb. The cheeses were cheddar and Monterey jack. A couple of thoughtful touches were that they bring you a roll of paper towels to use as napkins (paper napkins in La Paz tend to be tiny little things although they usually let you have as many as you want), and we each got a knife to cut our burgers if we wanted (we did).

The food was great, the beer was cold and the people were friendly. The burgers, while not head-and shoulders above Tailhunter's were, in our opinion, better and we don't feel the need to take the long walk back to Tailhunter's now that we've discovered this place which is much nearer. We plan to return one evening for either a ribeye or arrechera steak. Oh yeah, at $70 pesos, the cost of the burger here was virtually the same as at Tailhunter's.

Hmmmmm..... I wonder what we're going to eat today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

3/24/2011 - Some more ropework

My big plan today was to make a swim ladder for getting back onboard after swimming or dinghying around. We had this old piece-of-crap swim ladder that hung from the gunwales. It had aluminum sides and hooks and plastic steps. We bought it second hand some time ago. While we were in Avalon back in early November, I stepped on it while climbing out of the dinghy and the step just snapped in two. I thought, "uh-oh, better cut back on the cheeseburgers a bit" but then, Lulu stepped on the next rung and it snapped as well. Now, Lulu isn't hardly big enough to snap her fingers, much less a swim ladder step. The plastic was obviously very rotten. So, yeah, I will have fries with that.

Anyway, we bought another POC ladder at Minney's in Newport Beach but have never had occasion to use it. We just step up from the dinghy to the boat and so far we haven't had occasion to actually swim from the boat. But I knew I wanted something better. I had some extra line and I remembered seeing a rope ladder in one of Hervey Garrett Smith's books. I dug through "The Arts Of The Sailor" but found nothing. Next I cracked open "The Marlinspike Sailor" and there it was on page 49. I broke out some old spare line and started tying knots.

The ladder itself went really fast. Splicing a lanyard on to the loop took way longer, mainly because the line I was using sort of tended to fall apart as soon as the strands were unlayed. That, and the fact that the twist held the line together tenaciously and it was like pulling teeth to open the strands enough to make a splice. But, soon enough it was all done.

The rungs are about a foot apart and, yes, they are kind of narrow. Smith maintains that the one-footed rung is the right and traditional configuration. He feels that a double-footed rung is unnecessary and will undoubtedly sag badly. Good enough for me. The large diameter rungs, made of soft dacron line, are very kind to bare feet. The lanyard allows it to be tied to whatever is handy and it's long enough to hang down into the water, making it easier to climb than if the first rung was at the surface. It also folds up to stow in a very small spot. I gave the POC ladder to a local Mexican guy who likes to get free stuff from the boats. He was welcome to it.

While I was making this ladder, Gary from s/v Megadon next door asked me if I wanted a fishing pole. Gary is getting ready to try to sell Megadon and he's pretty sure he's going to take a bath on the deal. So, he doesn't feel inclined to leave a bunch of stuff aboard for the next owner. So, he had this medium weight Daiwa graphite pole with a Penn 309 open spool reel that he was offering to give me. HELL YES, I want it! One of my jobs today was going to be going to the store (Ferre-Mar) and buying a fishing pole and reel so we'd be ready to haul in the lunkers up north this summer. Now Gary had saved me a trip and a considerable sum of money. Then he offered me a tackle box full of goodies. There are even lures small enough for our little lightweight "playing at anchor" rods that we brought from home. Combined with the stuff that we bought in Ensenada, we are pretty well set.

But it didn't stop there. Gary then asked if I wanted any line. I thought he meant fishing line and said "sure". Turns out he meant lines as in "sheets", "dock lines", "halyards", etc. Never one to turn down free line, I said, "You bet I want it. What have you got?" He proceeded to unload a box that contained a bunch of old braided dacron line as well as some 3-strand nylon. It was all too big for the fittings on our boat (megadon is a 53 footer) but I figured we could at least use it as dock lines or something.

After I finished building a second swim ladder (just because I had the line and I could), I started contemplating all the line I'd gotten from Gary. There were two sheets of some sort, possibly for a spinnaker. It was the kind of old dacron that gets very soft and pliable. I thought, "This would make a great little mat to give Gary as a partial "thank-you". I measured the line out and it was about 65' long. Wasn't sure how large a mat I could make but I started working on a round one. It went fairly fast and, when I was done, I had made a round mat about 2' in diameter. The worn dacron felt very nice on my bare feet.

Now I was getting a little more inspired. Maybe I should just make the rest of the old sheets into mats. There was some really pretty red line so I started working with it. It also was about 65' long but this time I decided to make an oblong mat. No telling how big it would be. An hour or so later, I had a mat about 15" wide by maybe 24" long. It fits perfectly on the side deck just forward of the sword mat. Not sure if that'll be its final resting place but it sure makes a nice welcome mat for now. I have enough line left to make at least 3 and maybe 4 more mats about the same size. There'll be one or two more red ones, a blue one, and a white one. Won't we be festive? And patriotic.

So, that's what I did with my day today.

And what was Lulu doing during all this? Well, first she cleaned house (boat). That's why I had picked today to finally go get the fishing pole, etc. I can't go below while she's cleaning and going to the store was a good way to make sure I didn't go below. Turned out not to be a problem. Then she took a nap to try to get over a nagging headache. Finally, she worked on, and finished, the first of her new macramed porthole curtains.

This is one of the ones in the V-berth (our bedroom). The ones in the saloon will be a little less densely knotted to allow a little more light through. But these are for privacy while still not completely cutting off all the light (and air).

So, there you have it. We're just a couple of knotting fools. Might even call us a couple of knotheads.

Oh and BTW: I called Clark from Paradise Found Dive Services the other day to come and scrub the bottom of the boat. There didn't appear to b much growth but I was starting to see a few barnacles and I wanted to cut them off at the pass. Clark had distributed a flyer awhile ago where he advertised this service for a boat the size of Siempre Sabado at $1.00 per foot (length on deck). Only $28.00 to get our bottom scrubbed? Count me in. When I called him, he said that the March sale was still going so it'd be $0.90/foot. Only $25 to get our bottom scrubbed? Oh yeah! Today was the day he came to scrub.

We had lately been thinking about hauling the boat out in Guaymas this summer while we went up to Oregon for a couple of weeks. During that time we'd hire someone to sand the bottom and then we'd paint when we returned. However, the very expensive paint we applied in Newport last year is continuing to pay off. Clark said that all it took was a light scrubbing and the new layer of paint that was exposed looked brand new. He couldn't see any reason to repaint. I said that I wished we'd done a little better job of prep work along the water line because the bottom paint was coming off there. He said that it wouldn't really matter. In the Sea the barnacles and such like to grow at the water line. When you have the bottom cleaned, the first thing the diver does is take a scraper to those barnacles, removing both them and the bottom paint along the water line. So, looks like we won't have to haul out, saving ourselves a bunch of money and considerable hassle. Maybe we're not such knotheads after all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3/24/2011 - Sushi

The cruising community is a funny thing. You meet cruising couple A who introduce you to cruising couple B. You sort of know couple A but really don't know couple B at all. You get to know couple A better but then they hoist their sails and head off to somewhere else. Now the direct connection between you and couple B is gone. But, with luck, you hit it off with couple B anyway.

So it went for us. David and Carolyn from s/v Aztec, were just up the dock from us at Marina del Palmar here in La Paz. We enjoyed many hours of good visiting with them in their oh-so-comfortable cockpit. Somewhere along the line, Dave and Marge from s/v Kievit joined in. Dave and Marge are from the same Stockton Sailing Club that David and Carolyn belonged to. Further, Kievit is the same boat as Aztec except that Aztec has a center cockpit and Kievit has an aft cockpit. So, anyway, David and Carolyn introduced us to Dave and Marge.

Last weekend, Aztec departed for Mazatlan. We probably won't see them again until late April or early May. However, during the time they were here, they had enough gatherings on Aztec that we now sort of knew Dave and Marge from Kievit. Last week, Dave and Marge invited Lulu and I over to learn how to make sushi. Today we got together to do just that.

We got to Kievit about 4:15 this afternoon. Dave and Marge had assured us that they had everything needed and we didn't need to bring anything. We brought beer anyway.

Everybody had a job. Marge was cooking the sticky rice, Lulu and Dave were cutting up the ingredients, and I was the documentarian, taking pictures. When we arrived, Dave was busy trying to skin these little octopus tentacles. No easy feat. Lulu broke out our cutting board and knife and joined in. As the skin comes off the octopus, it apparently sort of melds to the cutter's skin and is a bear to wash off.

But Lulu and Dave persevered and cut up octopus, yellow-fin tuna, dorado, scallops, shrimp (which Marge sauteed with garlic), cucumbers, carrots, radishes, avocados, scallions, etc.

After the rice was all cooked, it was time to do the actual assembly. Marge showed Lulu how to lay out the nori (seaweed), arrange the fillings, and then roll it up. First were California rolls.

Lulu and Marge rolled while Dave sliced.

After the California rolls there were rolls with octopus, marinated yellow fin tuna, etc. Also, there were these little mounds (I'm sure they have an appropriate Japanese name) of rice with scallops, shrimp, and dorado. When they were done, we had quite an array:

Now came the best part; we got to eat all this stuff. Wasabi and soy sauce were mixed in little bowls, beers and wine were replenished and, chopsticks in hand, we attacked. It was SO good! There was a ton of sushi so we could just kind of take our time eating. The wasabi opened areas of my sinuses that hadn't seen the light of day in years. Dave took a couple of serious nose hits as well. But it was all so good. We just noshed and visited and visited and noshed for a long time. Although we made a pretty healthy dent in the sushi, we didn't finish it all. Dave and Marge sent us home with some leftovers. YUM!

So, it looks like we'll be trying to track down some nori, some wasabi, and some sticky rice while we're still in La Paz. Shouldn't be too tough as there are a lot of sushi restaurants hereabouts. Can't wait to catch some fish and try this on our own. I believe that Kievit's summer plans are similar to ours so we should be having some good sushi get-togethers this summer up in the Sea. David and Carolyn should be up there as well so maybe we'll all just bring our delicacies to their made-for-entertaining cockpit.

And now we know Dave and Marge a lot better than we used to. So go the cruising community connections.

Monday, March 21, 2011

3/18/2011 - Cockpit speakers

Been trying to come up with some kind of speakers for out in the cockpit. Something that doesn't cost an arm and a leg (so Bose weatherproof speakers are out) but still sounds pretty good. Speakers have big herkin' magnets in them so a permanent installation anywhere near the compass was out. I've seen very nice installations under the dodger as well as mounted under the boom gallows. But, for one reason or another, none of these really appealed to me. Mostly it was probably because the weather-proof speakers they used are expensive and probably unobtainable in La Paz. I finally came up with a dirt-simple solution.

I bought a pair of 4-way, 250 watt car stereo speakers for the equivalent of about $20 US in one of the many stores in La Paz that carry such things. I cut a couple of holes in a spare lower drop board and mounted the speakers. Ran some wires to a stereo plug near the companionway. Now, when we want music in the cockpit, we just drop the board in place and plug them in. And, since they are pretty much a match for the speakers down below, I didn't have to make a bunch of adjustment to the fader on the stereo to keep one or the other set of speakers from being too loud.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville.....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

3/20/2011 - Yikes! Bobos!

The bobos drove us out of Caleta Lobos this afternoon. Bobos are these little non-biting flying bugs that live in the mangroves. If the wind isn't strong enough to keep them home (it wasn't) they love to fly out and hassle anchored boaters. They were there yesterday when we arrived but they pretty much disappeared after sunset. Today, they showed up shortly after I got up at 7:00. At first they weren't too bad. Lulu slept in, I read, we had a leisurely breakfast. Later, Lulu stayed below and worked on the macrame cover she's making for our cooking wine bottles (Ernest & Julio jugs).

I sat up in the cockpit splicing eye splices into our fender lines to hold snap hooks. We planned to spend another day at anchor. However, by about noon, I was covered in a sheen of sweat and there were all these little bugs (a little bigger than a gnat - about the size of a psychoda fly) swarming around my face and landing on any exposed skin. Again, they don't bite but they are extremely annoying. Finally, about 1:00 I told Lulu that I'd rather head back to the marina than keep putting up with this. After all, there will be plenty of hot, buggy anchorages later on where we won't have the option of heading back to a marina.

We let the air out of the kayak and stowed everything we'd gotten out. Warmed up the engine and, by 2:00, we were weighing anchor. It was a completely breeze-less ride back to Marina del Palmar. A couple of bobos even managed to make the trip with us. We've killed most of them but there are still a few lurking around.

BTW, David & Carolyn got off about 7:30 for what probably turned out to be a motorboat ride to Ensenada de Los Muertos where they are probably spending tonight. Tomorrow morning they should be off for Mazatlan. Listening to Don Anderson's weather this morning on the Amigo net (SSB radio), it sounds like their crossing may also be a motorboat ride. Don was predicting NO WIND for the southern Sea of Cortez and the "southern crossing" for the next 48 hours.

Also on the Amigo net this morning, I heard s/v Doin' It check in. Kim from Doin' It was Lulu's yoga instructor here in La Paz for a little while this winter. Anyway, they're on their way to the Marquesas and I was able to get a pretty good copy on them on the radio. What's cool about that is that they were at S 04°20', W 131°34'. That puts them way the hell and gone out in the Pacific and I was able to pick up their transmission. Probably no big deal for the veteran hams out there but pretty exciting for me.


Yep, that's the ripping sound that was heard throughout La Paz this morning. It was the sound of the velcro that holds us to La Paz being ripped apart. Granted, it's not for very long, but still...

Our friends avid & Carolyn on s/v Aztec were headed out to Mazatlan this morning. They asked us if we'd like to rendezvous this evening someplace up the peninsula just for the heck of it. Partly to prove to ourselves that we still actually can move, we said, "sure". So, we left our slip at Marina del Palmar about 11:00 AM. The wind being directly on the nose (of course), we motored. Our destination was Caleta Lobos, a sweet little bay just a few miles north of the entrance to Ensenada de La Paz. The trip was very easy going and all the various stuff that we did on the engine and transmission paid off as everything ran exceedingly smoothly.

We arrived at the anchorage mid-afternoon. Had a little trouble getting the anchor to bite into the bottom which kind of surprised me as I remembered a nice sandy bottom from our last visit. But, we did get it set. Not long afterwards, Aztec came sailing in. David & Carolyn had even more trouble setting the hook than we did. But, eventually everyone was secure.

I'm having some router work done on the new seats that I'm making for our dinghy so we couldn't use the PortaBote this time. Instead, we broke out our alternative dinghy: a 2-man Sevylor Tahiti inflatable kayak. Not nearly as comfy as the PortaBote but it did the trick. We joined David & Carolyn for a couple of beers and then came back to the boat to make a salad and garlic bread to accompany the spaghetti & meatballs that Carolyn was making. Kayaked back over to Aztec and had a very pleasant evening in their extremely comfortable cockpit (wrap around cushioned seating, and LOTS of room. Watched the sun go down, the moon come up, the pelicans feeding, etc. By 8:30, it was time to return to Siempre Sabado so they could get to bed to get ready for an early departure tomorrow.

Lulu and I may head back to La Paz tomorrow but, then again, we may decide to spend an extra day right here at Caleta Lobos.

This blog is being sent through Sailmail via our SSB radio, hence, no pictures. There is a cell tower here but the Telcel office that renewed our Banda Ancha card last time, fouled up somehow and we ran out of time about 3 weeks early. And, of course, they weren't open today. But, then again, this may be how lots of this summer's blogs are posted since Telcel coverage may be sketchy after we leave La Paz.

So, there you have it.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3/12/2011 - Birthday dinner

(note: one of the names in this story has been changed so as not to unduly embarrass someone who was clearly feeling a little confused that night.)

I realize that it's now the 16th of March, but, since I've gotten a little behind in my postings I'm going to date a few on the days they happened until I'm all caught up.

We first ran in to Harley & Stephanie on s/v Pandora in Ensenada. Later, when they arrived in La Paz, they were parked almost right in front of us at Marina Costa Baja. Now we're at Marina del Palmar and they are in the Abaroa boat yard right next door.

A week or so ago, I joined several other cruisers to help Bill from s/v Wandering Puffin pop some zits on his boat. Some fiberglass hulls had a phenomenon known as "blistering" happen to them. This is apparently when water gets into the fiberglass of the submerged portion of the boat and creates little seawater-filled blisters on the hull. I'm pretty sure that small blisters are not particularly harmful but no boater likes having a zit-covered hull. Also, if the blisters pop on their own, they can put little holes in the paint where the water is released. Bill had lots of blisters on his hull and had already taken care of the largest ones. But there were still hundreds of small pockets that a previous owner had filled with Bondo. Bondo is not particularly water-resistant apparently, and water had gotten behind the filler in many of the holes. Bill needed to pop the Bondo out to allow the holes to dry out before he repaired them with epoxy. Harley, whose boat is right next to Wandering Puffin, had the brilliant idea to announce on the morning net that Bill needed help. Bill provided the beer and the fleet provided the volunteers. I was one of them.

So, I was talking to Harley, who just happens to be an ordained minister in the Church of Dudeism,

and he mentioned that he had celebrated his 60th birthday a few days ago. Since my 60th birthday was coming up soon, we decided that we March, 1951 dudes should get together and have dinner or something. So, we arranged to meet for dinner on Saturday evening, March 12.

Lulu and I met Harley and Stephanie as planned and we tried to decide where to go. They hadn't been many places except Rancho Viejo and Bandito's since both are convenient to the boatyard. I suggested we go to Mr. Azucar's and, hearing no better ideas, we headed up La Avenida 5 de Febrero.

Lulu and I had eaten at Mr. Azucar's once before and had stopped for a couple of afternoon cervezas a couple of days ago.

The owner is Marcello and he's very friendly. That might be partly influenced by the fact that he seems to spend much of the day drinking tequila while tending bar and schmoozing the customers. He's also very generous and always sends at least one complimentary round of tequila to our table. Sometimes two. When we were there the other afternoon, he spent quite a bit of time sitting with us and telling us about himself and his family. The waiter, Fernando, is also a very nice guy.

Anyway, we got to Mr. Azucar's about 5:30. We weren't the only customers, but almost. There were some locals having beers at one table and a couple of other locals at the bar. A waiter we'd never seen before came up to our table of 4 and laid one menu on the table. One. So we just sat and visited a bit and finally, 3 more menus arrived.

And then the fun began.

We were perusing the extensive menu trying to decide on what to eat. This was thirsty work. Normally, as soon as the menus are delivered, the next thing that happens is the waiter asks,
¿Algo para tomar? (Something to drink?)
But this time it didn't happen. So, after awhile I spotted Fernando at the bar and hollered out his name and followed, in my best español, "¡Fernando! Necesitamos algo para tomar cuando nos leyemos el menú." (We need something to drink while we read the menu.) He signaled "OK" and then bustled off in the other direction.


Did he already know what we wanted to drink?

Well, no matter. He'll be back. So, we continued to peruse the menus. A few minutes later, here comes Fernando with a tray. But there wasn't anything to drink on it. No, there was a bowl of this really good smoked fish dip (almost exactly like one Lulu makes) and some totopos (tortilla chips). Well, that's nice but we really need something to drink. So this time we didn't let Fernando get away before we ordered. Harley and I each ordered a Tecate cerveza, Lulu ordered a Tecate michelada and Stephanie ordered a frozen margarita. While we waited for our drinks, we noshed on the chips and dip and continued trying to decide what to eat. The drinks eventually arrived although certainly not all at the same time. Hard to screw up a beer or a michelada (or so we thought) but you should have seen the look on Stephanie's face when she took the first sip of a weirdly orange-colored and barely frozen margarita. Clearly not what she had in mind.

Finally we'd decided what to get and Fernando returned to take our order. He didn't have a pad or pencil so we figured he must just have a really good memory. Lulu ordered Camarónes al Diablo. Fernando, nodded. Then, Stephanie ordered Chiles Rellenos de Camarón. With this second order, Fernando suddenly seemed to realize that this was going to be harder than he thought and he scurried off for a notepad. When he got back, we started again. It took a long time to complete the order because Fernando wrote the entire name of each order on the pad. None of that waitperson shorthand for him. No sir!

But, we eventually got our order in and continued visiting. Now, I'm sure I'm getting some of these things out of order, but somewhere along the line, while we were waiting for a round, Marcello (Mr. Azucar himself) dropped by the table to check on us. We told him that we were waiting for our drink order and what it was. He said "OK" and headed to the bar. He then gave Fernando our drink order again and Fernando acted as if it was the first time he'd heard it.

I tell ya, all signs pointed to reefer madness. Both of these guys seemed really out there. Hopefully the cook was okay or there's no telling what we might get to eat.

Another round of drinks were ordered and Stephanie decided, wisely, to skip the margarita this time and join Lulu in a michelada.

For those who don't know, a michelada in its simplest form is beer served in a salt-rimmed mug, over ice, and with a large dose of lime juice. Frequently some spiciness is added in the form of pepper or sometimes a dash of hot sauce. Up in Ensenada, they were always based on very spiced-up Clamato juice. The ones at Mr. Azucar were pretty basic but with the addition of black pepper.

So, we order 2 Tecates and 2 micheladas.

Pretty soon, Fernando returned with our 2 Tecates and two salt-rimmed mugs with about 1/2" of peppered lime juice floating in the bottom. No beer and no ice. When we asked for the beer for the micheladas, Fernando looked very confused. "¿You want cerveza?" "Sí" "¿No michelada?" "We want cervezas for the micheladas!" Although this conversation was all in español, Fernando still looked like he was having a hard time homing in on what was happening. That must have been some mighty good stuff he appeared to be imbibing in.

Finally, Fernando returned with the beers. "Uh, Fernando, ¿podemos conseguir hielo?" (Can we get some ice?). This really seemed to stymie him but he did finally shuffle off and return a minute or two later with a goblet of ice and some tongs. He didn't look very happy about it, though.

At long last, our meals arrived. Well, three of them did. We're pretty used to Mexican restaurants now and know that it's rare when everyone's meal arrives at the same time. The general rule is, eat it while it's still hot - don't wait for me. So, Lulu got her Camarónes al Diablo, Stephanie got her Chiles Relleons de Camarón, Harley got his Captain's Platter, and I waited for my Filete Relleno de Mariscos (Fish filet stuffed with shellfish). Everybody but me dug in. Before too long, mine came too.

Me: "This doesn't look anything like what I ordered. It's shrimp in some kind of red chile sauce. Wait a minute, this looks like Camarónes al Diablo!"

Lulu: "I wondered because this stuff is really good but it sure isn't like any Camarónes al Diablo that I've ever had before. There's way more stuff in it than just shrimp."

Me: "That's probably Harley's Captain's PLatter."

Harley (to me): "What did you order?"

Me: "I had a fish filet stuffed with shellfish."

Harley: "That must be what I'm eating. It's really good but sure didn't seem like what I ordered."

So, we all exchanged plates and got what we ordered. This mix-up was in spite of the fact that when Fernando served, he'd hold up a plate and say "¿Camarónes al Diablo?" even though what was actually in his hand was a Captain's Platter. It was surreal.

But, the food was good and we even got our complimentary shot of tequila. We had an excellent time getting to know Harley & Stephanie and, even though the service was somewhat bizarre, it's a meal we won't soon forget.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3/7/2011 - I love a parade

Actually, Lulu and I could give a rip less about a parade. Seen one, you've pretty much seen them all. But, we ARE in Lap Paz at Carnaval and they DO have three parades on three consecutive nights, so we felt like we really SHOULD go see at least one of the parades.

So, with the best of intentions, we headed downtown yesterday to see the first of the three parades.

The first obstacle to overcome is to try to decide exactly when the parade is supposed to start. According to the Baja Insider and the Baja Citizen, all the parades were to start at 5:00 PM. However, according to an announcement we heard on the cruisers' net the other morning, they were starting at 7:00. Now, does that mean that they are scheduled to start at 5:00 but since this is Mexico they wouldn't really start until 7:00? Or were they really going to start at 5:00? Or 7:00? We decided to believe that it would start somewhere around 5:00 since that was the word from actual sources rather than just some anonymous schmo on the net. Obstacle #1 overcome.

The next obstacle was to decide where the parade was starting. The malecon is pretty long. The first and third parades are supposed to start at one end and the 2nd parade is supposed to start at the other. But which end? The Baja Insider said that #1 & #3 would start at the Windmill end and #2 would start at Marquez De Leon (our end).

OK, quick sidebar:
Go to Google maps and pull up a map of "La Paz, BCS, Mexico". I tried to include one but it loaded soooooooo slowly that I finally gave up. Anyway, see the street running more or less right along the water, named Abosolo? Okay, that's the main drag the the malecón is on. This is the street that the parade runs along. Now, am I crazy or does it run just a few degrees off of the SW to NE line? In other words, isn't it on the north side of NE and the south side of SW? So, if you had to pick from only the 4 major corners of the compass (N,S,E,W) to describe the upper right hand corner of the street, what would you call it? East? No, I didn't think so. Obviously since it's a few degrees closer to North then East, you'd call it North. Most folks around here call it east and it DRIVES ME FREAKIN' CRAZY! If you must be inaccurate, at least opt for the less inaccurate option. Tom at Baja Insider hedged his bets, referring to it as EAST in the on-line publication but as NORTH when he talked about it on the net this morning.

Okay, rant over. Back to my story. Baja Insider said that day 1 of the parade would start at the other end of town and the Baja Citizen said it would start at our end of town. The cruiser scuttlebutt was that it would start at the other end but what the heck do they know? So, we chose to believe the Baja Citizen. Armed with this knowledge we walked downtown and chose a couple of choice curbside seats. Since the parade was starting on time and at our end, we wouldn't be there long so we hadn't bothered bringing refreshments or, more importantly, cushions.

There was a steady stream of folks walking by us toward the other end of the street, but, after all, that's where the rides and the food stands were so no biggie. There were also a few folks, and not just gringos, sitting along the curb like we were. However, it certainly didn't look like a parade was imminent. Oh yeah, the road was blocked off and there were ladies selling confetti-filled eggs for throwing at the paraders, but there was no sign of floats or horses of fire trucks or anything getting ready to roll.

But we waited anyway. After awhile we were joined by more expectant revelers including dockmates David & Carolyn from s/v Aztec and Owen, Carrie, Tamsyn & Griffyn from s/v Madrona.

So we sat and waited and visited and watched the people walk by. Families with little kids in tow, hot muchahchas wearing these unbelievably tight britches and the tallest high heels you can imagine, and vendors. Some of the vendors walked along with balloons and toys that wouldn't last the night.

Others had push carts where you could get a bag of anything from gummi bears to salted pistachios. But our favorite was the elote guy. We've been meaning to try the elote since we visited in 2002 and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Elote can be translated as "corn", "sweet corn", or "corn on the cob". The vendor had a push cart with a huge galvanized washtub on it covered with plastic on top. We watched him fix a couple of vasos (bowls) of elote and then decide to try it. Here's what we got:

In a styrofoam coffee cup, he put a scoop of hot cooked sweet corn from the tub. Then he added a big slather of mayonnaise, some powdered white cheese and a shot of chile sauce. Then, he repeated with another layer of the same. That's right, we ate warm (not hot) corn slathered in mayonnaise that had been sitting outside at ambient temperature (about 73 degrees) for god knows how long. Oh yeah, we're daring alright.

It was delicious and only 10 pesos (about 80 cents US). This guy was probably making more money that night than he'd make the whole rest of the month. It was obviously a very popular snack as he would fill about 10 orders, move about 10 feet and fill 10 more orders.

By the time we finished the vaso de elote it was almost 7:30 and we had pretty much seen all we needed to of the parade, which was nothing. We decided it was time to eat. We had planned on doing carnaval food but decided to head toward home and stop in at our favorite Super Burro instead. We picked up a couple cervezas at our beer store, the Mini Super Ama Pola, on the way.

While we were eating, a few of the now un-manned floats went rolling by. That was enough parade for us. After stuffing ourselves with super burros de asada and frijoles charros, we waddled on home to the boat. As I'm writing this on Monday, the day of the second parade, and we skipped going to it, too, we still have a chance to see the actual parade on day 3, tomorrow. I kind of doubt that we will but we are both kind of hankering for another vaso de elote. Once again, it's all about the food.

BTW: reportedly, the parade on Day 1 did start at the far end of Abosolo (the NE end) and di start at about 5:00. However, it stalled several times and didn't reach our end of the street until just after we left at about 7:30.

Note: in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that we went back to the carnaval area tonight (3/8, Fat Tuesday) so I could get a photo of the elote guy. And, while there we did manage to see some of the parade. We now feel pretty secure in standing by our "seen one, you've seen them all" statement.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

3/5/2011 - Not much to report

As the title says, there's just not much to report although I feel like I ought to check in anyway.

Let's see, my last entry was on 2/28. What's happened since then?

On Tuesday, March 1st, we went to the optometrist to get an eye exam and some new glasses. We had been led to believe that she spoke English and, if you would describe me as able to speak Spanish then, yes, she spoke English. But it turned out OK. Lulu went in first and I could hear the doctor asking her questions that Lulu was having a hard time answering. So I stuck my head in and helped out. I felt like quite the bi-linguist. Until it was my turn for the exam. All of a sudden I couldn't understand anything she was saying. But now Lulu could. Funny how, when the questions aren't directed at you it's pretty easy to understand Spanish, but once you're the object of the questions, you suddenly become a blathering idiot. But, it all turned out OK. Lulu's prescription (for reading glasses) hasn't changed at all and the total damages for her came to a whole $30 USD (frames, exam, lenses, case). Mine, on the other hand, was a little more complex. First off, each eye needs a different prescription. Then, I wear bifocals. But, I really like the blended lenses where there isn't a line, essentially making them trifocals. And, especially with the sun down here, I need the transition lenses that turn dark in the sunlight. Needless to say, my specs were a bit dearer than Lulu's. I'll be out of pocket about $300USD which is probably less than my share would have been after my health insurance covered the rest back home. I'm feeling pretty good about it.

We toasted our successful optometry trip with a couple more carnitas y papas empenadas (fried pies with shredded pork and potatoes inside - did I already explain this before?).

Wednesday, March 2nd was our total gadabout day. Our friends David and Carolyn from s/v Aztec, just down the dock, wanted to go out to Costa Baja for the weekly cruisers' breakfast and asked if we'd like to go along. Well, even though we weren't overly impressed by the first, and only, cruisers' breakfast we attended out there, we said, "sure". So, we piled in to their car and headed out. The breakfast was as bad as expected but we did meet a couple of other interesting cruisers and had some good visits. When we got back, we had just a little bit of time before we were to meet Doug and Jody from s/v Gitano (a Westsail 32) and Greg and Joyce from s/v Otter (another Westsail 32) for ice cream at the polka dot tree place (La Fuente). After ice cream we walked down to our new favorite fish place and had a couple beers and some fish tacos while we visited and compared notes. Greg and Joyce came down on the Baja Ha Ha and are soon heading north into the Sea. I believe they're going to put their boat on the hard in San Carlos. They're from Scapoose, Oregon. Doug and Jody, from Sedro Wooley*, WA, headed down about the same time we did. We've crossed paths in Newport and Eureka but other than that, we've been on two completely different schedules. Like us, they're planning to spend the summer in the Sea. I suspect we'll see more of them over the next few months.

Later that evening we met up with Chuck and Linda from s/v Jacaranda for "street tacos" at one of their favorite stands. This place is about a block up from our beer store and is only open in the evenings. We all had various types of tacos as well as a bowl of frijoles charros each. I had tacos with carne asada, puerco al pastor and chorizo. Lulu, on the other hand, decided to venture further afield. Besides her carne asada taco, she had a lengue (tongue) taco. Said it was really good. Then, she and Linda decided to get brave and have a cabeza (head) taco. I always thought that cabeza tacos were filled with brains but I was wrong. Apparently they are filled with the meat that is boiled off the skull. Except for the cheek meat. That's something else and the waitress told us the name but neither of us can remember it now. So, Lulu ordered a cabeza taco and Linda ordered a cheek taco. And the they each ate half of each one. Both seemed to agree that they preferred the fattier cheek taco. Personaly, I tasted a bit of each and would go for the leaner cabeza taco although I wouldn't order it instead of my carne asada. So, now I think we've tasted all the various tacos that La Paz has to offer: carne asada, arrachera, tripa, cabeza, lengue, "cheek", pescado and camarón.

On Thursday we did a few boat chores. We've actually been doing a few chores everyday. Thursday evening we headed down to the opening of Carnaval. It was a typical street festival except really long, stretching for probably half a mile or so along the malecón. The crowds were pretty mild since it was fairly early when we went and it was the first night. We wandered along, taking in the sights and smells. Lots of good looking street food but, unfortunately, my cold (my 3rd since we've been in La Paz!) had robbed me of my taste buds. Crappage! At least it waited until after Wednesday's taco night. We watched the crazy kids riding thrill rides that we wouldn't ride on a bet. Watched a couple of blanket hawkers armed with head-mounted microphones sort of like the boy bands and Britney Spears wear except that these looked more like nasal cannulas. Kind of distracting. Anyway, these guys kept up a non-stop rap about their blankets (I assume). Very loud and very obnoxious. We stopped at one of the many, many beer stands along the way for couple of cold Modelos. Lulu spotted a cowboy hat she kind of liked (she's finally realized that she NEEDS a hat for this summer), but we thought the $200 (pesos) they were asking was bit on the high side so we passed.

One of the things they do on opening night is the "burning of the bad humor" effigy. This is the symbolic way of banishing all the grouches from Carnaval. The burning was supposed to happen at 6:00 PM but hadn't yet happened by the time we were strolling through. We did get to see the effigy at least:

See all those little white things around his shoulders and waist? Explosives. Sure would have liked to witness his immolation but alas, we're just not night owls.

You might remember that we applied for our extended-stay visas awhile ago. They have this totally modern set-up where they issue you a number and a password and you can then go online and track the status of your application. Only it doesn't seem to work. Everyday, I check the website and everyday, it says it can't find that number in the system. I finally sent a query to recent applicants on the LaPaz Gringos Yahoo group forum soliciting recent experiences. I got two answers that both essentially said that I should really go back to the office and check as it's been two weeks. So, on Friday morning, I got up bright and early and headed to the immigration office (INM). When my turn came, the agent checked and said that my visa was all ready to go. I gave him a couple of thumb prints, signed the card, he laminated my photo to the card and off I went, legal to remain in Mexico for a year before I have to reapply, which I can do 4 times without having to leave the country in between like you do with the 6-month tourist visa. I headed back to the boat, had breakfast and then headed back to INM with Lulu in tow so she could pick up her card, too.

Afterwards we headed to the Mercado Madero to see if we could find Lulu a hat in one of the booths near where I found mine. And we scored. Found a hat that fit her better than the one at Carnaval and only cost $120 (pesos) instead of 200.

We went back to the boat, did a few chores and then kicked back. I was walking back down the dock about 4:00 when I saw David (s/v Aztec) on his boat. I stopped for a chat and told him that it was officially time to knock off for the day. He didn't take much convincing and next thing you know we're having an impromptu sundowner party on his boat. He has the most comfortable cockpit in the marina. Hell, he might have the most comfortable cockpit in La Paz! We sat around drinking adult beverages and telling lies with Dave and Carolyn as well as Liz (Land-Ho) and Greg (s/v Detente) and Dave and Margie from a boat whose name I didn't manage to commit to memory. Finally, about 7:30 or 8:00, hunger trumped thirst and we all went our separate ways to get some food. Lulu and I had sort of planned to go downtown and eat carnaval food but opted instead for our old faithful Taqueria Super Burro, only 2 blocks away. We both had tacos and frijoles charros. Did I mention that my tastebuds were back? They were serving a new habanero salsa that night and warned us that it was HOT. Guess they don't know us that well yet. Granted, it was hot and I got a serious mouth burn going. But that didn't stop me from piling some more onto my next taco. By the time we left, my mouth was totally on fire. But I knew that it would pass and, sure enough, by the time we got home the flames had pretty much gone out.

And that brings us to today, Saturday. The plan was to go have coffee on s/v Jacaranda with Chuck and Linda. Chuck was going to help us learn some stuff about fishing in the Sea of Cortez and Linda had a couple of cookbooks to loan us and we had some recipes for her as well. However, my cold was at that particularly annoying state where all I do is cough and blow my nose. ALL THE TIME!!! So, I begged off and Lulu went over on her own. Chuck and Linda were appreciative that I hadn't come over and filled their cabin with noxious germs and we made plans to get together when this stupid cold goes away. Later in the morning, David (Aztec) said he was going to Home Depot and Chedraui and would I like to ride along. I didn't really have anything on my list but, what the heck. Picked up a couple of paint brushes at HD and managed to get a few heavy groceries (beer, club soda, yogurt, granola) at Chedraui.

Lulu and I did a little more work on our project list and then knocked off for the day. It was pretty darn warm today (mid-80s) so we spent the late afternoon not doing much. She read through a bread cookbook she borrowed from Linda and I read through a pressure cooker cookbook that was also on loan from Linda. The bread cookbook was available in Kindle format so I bought it and downloaded it for Lulu. Unfortunately, the pressure cooker cookbook wasn't available in Kindle format. Crud!

That about brings you up-to-date with our incredibly interesting lives. Tomorrow, we plan to do more of the same.

*Sedro-Wooley, not to be confused with Sheb Wooley of Pruple People Eater fame.