February 5-February 24th, 2002 --Bay of the Dead and La Paz at Last
February 5th, 2002 - - Still in Cabo San Lucas:
When I last wrote, I told you we had made 2 quite unsuccessful attempts to leave Cabo San Lucas for our second main destination on our trip, La Paz. Both times we had to turn around as we had hit high seas (10-20 feet high) and high winds (40-50 knots). We've ended up anchoring out in the bay off of Cabo for an entire extra week past our planned time there, glued to every local radio weather report, checking out weather faxes daily, etc. awaiting the much hoped-for news that the wind was dying. We are now hoping to leave again tomorrow.
We've had a great time in Cabo, but are both looking forward to being settled into a new place and new scenery. Life on "the hook," at anchor means very limited hot water, (actually we have to conserve all water use) plus conserve electricity use and we can't just get off the boat to go for a walk or go get a bite to eat, as we did in the Marina. Although the view has been wonderful as we are right off the beach outside a few of the huge hotel/condo complexes (the Melia Resort, I believe), and of course we've had great sunsets every night. Most every day a huge cruise ship pulled in and anchored just a little ways from us.
So since we couldn't get to town every night, we've been playing a lot of cards. Also I hadn't done a lot of cooking while we were docked at Cabo (one or 2 of my good meals a week) as it's been so much fun to eat out and try different places. [Plus my other excuse is my oven has been broken (we're waiting for a part which will hopefully be waiting us in La Paz) so that limits what I can make. (I really miss my bread and pastry making!)] Anyway, I've been cooking up some great meals, while we are awaiting our "weather window" to leave.
February 8th, 2002 - - Bahia de Los Muertos... Bay of the Dead
Finally, 2 days ago on Wednesday the 6th of February, after a 3 week stay, we left Cabo for the 3rd and final time. We decided since we didn't know how long our "low wind" weather window would last that we would bypass our original intended destination of Los Frailes (45 miles away) and go straight to Bahia Los Muertos (about 90 miles away). Except for a few gusts, the winds on this trip never got much over 25 knots (still usually considered really HIGH for around here, but comparatively low, to our recent experiences.) It was at least possible to make some forward movement, although we averaged a barely moving speed of only around 2 knots, i.e. still VERY slow for us. That was mostly because the waves were still heavy (over 10 ft.)and very uncomfortable... like being in a washing machine... not like swells that are smooth, up and down. These sort of smack you from all directions very chaotic jerking and rocking motion. But at least we moved forward on our course. AND when we left, it was sunny and hot all day, after 4 days previously at anchor in Cabo of gray overcast weather, the sunshine was a welcome wake-up.
Our planned 15-17 hour trip at the above speeds resulted in 40 hours of exhausting beating up wind type sailing, but a safe arrival. By the way, for you non-Spanish speakers, Bahia Los Muertos means, Bay of the Dead, and that's a great description of how we felt when we arrived at 4AM. Our goal is to ALWAYS plan our trips so we will arrive before sunset ESPECIALLY in a new place. But we never would have predicted that it would take 40 hours to go 90 miles; that's pretty slow, even in a heavy boat like ours! But because it was calm and almost windless at that 4AM time of the morning (and we had 4 different charts and cruising guides to help us), we had a new experience anchoring in pitch black. Even with night vision goggles, chart plotters, GPS, etc, everything looks so different in the dark. Some lights we thought were part of land or a dock from shore, ended up being other boats anchored. But bottom line we got anchored safe and sound, and within minutes collapsed into our first deep sleep in a while.
It was nice this morning to wake up in a peaceful NON-Rolley little bay (it had been quite rolley-polley at our anchorage in Cabo), very beautiful with a few other boats tucked up here (probably also taking refuge from these terrible winds. There is a beautiful little beach in front of us with no buildings or structures... just a few panga boats on shore. This "bay" is actually just a tiny, tiny little inlet that our cruising guide says has room for only 1-2 boats. Right now there are 7 boats here and there have been up to 9 a couple of days ago. We can't communicate to the other boats, but I guess we are all waiting for the same thing... the opportunity to get somewhere else.
We still have about 60 miles to go, I believe, to La Paz and hope to get out of here perhaps tomorrow or Monday for a 1 or 1 1/2 day trip. We were so exhausted that we missed the "weather net" report this morning so don't know what it will be like, but our plan is to head out tomorrow for La Paz. It will be nice to be back on land again, and settled. When we get there we will be there at least a month, so it will give us a chance to really get to know the place. And the name, La Paz, "The City of Peace" is what sounds really great now.
February 10th, 2001 - - Still in Los Muertos:
Well obviously, we haven't left yet. The winds really have kicked up again. We are getting gusts here in our little PROTECTED anchorage of 46 knots and steady 30+ knot winds all day yesterday and today. The weather "net" today said there were trees being blown down w/ 80-knot winds in California from these Santa Annas. It did calm down a bit last night, but then picked up middle of night again. Bad news is weather man says these will continue strong through Monday, and will start decreasing but not diminish significantly until Wednesday or Thursday. So it looks like we will be holed up here even longer. Winds are reported just around the corner from where we are 40-50... so as bad as it seems here, it would be a lot worse away from our "protected" cove. Joe and I did set a 2nd anchor (with 200 ft. of heavy chain) out so we for sure aren't going anywhere; our only worry is the 3 boats that are in closer to shore in front of us... to be sure they don't break loose and come ramming into us. For that, we have our emergency radio on 24 hours a day in case we hear any distress calls.
We listen hours a day to the radio on the various different cruiser's "nets." These "nets" are ham radio stations that have certain time periods set up every day where you can tune in to listen to weather (where you were, where you are, etc... all around the Sea of Cortez and all of Mexico's coast line), plus they assist cruisers in many ways (help them get mail, information, messages to and from their families back home or other cruisers) and also take calls of distress and put into action a plan for help.
Right now, as windy and miserable as it is here, we actually feel pretty lucky, relatively... This morning we heard a distress call (on one of these nets) of a sailboat coming down the outside West coast of Baha(as we did initially prior to Cabo) that broke loose of their 2 anchors from their anchorage AND lost their dinghy overboard. They had no anchors, were being blown out to sea and had no way to get back safely into a safe bay. They reported having had 70 mph winds IN the anchorage. So I guess they really are having a bad day, and we shouldn't complain.
And even a worse day (also we heard on the radio)... 2 days ago in these winds off of Puerto Vallarta, a sail boat w/ a husband/wife aboard, the boat went aground, the husband got hit w/ boom and fell overboard, never to be found; the wife w/ multiple broken ribs was picked up and in hands of American consulate. A group of cruisers went by cars via dirt roads to try and salvage the remains of the boat, thinking it was still aground, but evidently, the boat was swept back to sea and was last seen 6 miles further south 90% submerged and still progressing in the winds. The update was that 100% of their "lifelong" belongings were on board and they had no insurance. (Most boats travel w/o insurance as it is VERY VERY expensive... we have bit the bullet and are paying thru the nose for insurance, and am glad we are.)
I guess stories like this, that we've occasionally read about thru our sailing journals and "rags", seem more to hit home when we're so close and out here. But I keep telling myself, the weather we're having now and have had actually since we left San Diego IS NOT TYPICAL. Otherwise, the Sea of Cortez would not have the reputation that it does as the Mecca for sailors, and families with kids for "easy" peaceful sailing. This has definitely been 100 times worse than anything I've ever experienced. And although "surviving" it should be a confidence builder, all I can think of is getting to La Paz. In my mind, (and again from all my acquired knowledge over the last many years of reading and listening and studying), this kind of weather, we only expected to have POSSIBLY during the crossing from the South Pacific to New Zealand... and we even discussed dry-docking our boat in the South Pacific during the hurricane season instead of making that reported awful crossing to New Zealand... Oh well, we'll see. We're certainly not giving up, so I don't mean to be whining, but this is certainly not what either of us expected.
Anyway, it brings to light, that this venture is not a vacation of Jimmy Buffet songs and rum punches... at least not all the time.
All of this is EXTREMELY unusual, being caused by Santa Anna Winds in So Cal. Who ever heard of Santa Annas in February? We are hearing reports down here that in SO CAL they are having fires (like usually they do in Dry Sept/Oct times), trees blown over etc. Doesn't it just figure that this is probably the only time in history this has happened, and it happened the year WE'RE OUT HERE?
So although we're stuck here, we're not alone in this tiny bay/anchorage. There are still quite a few boats holed up along with us, some trying to go south and some like us, north. At least the southbound ones have the wind behind them to "push" them along. But this morning a southbound boat (similar to our style but probably even 5-6' bigger) left and has already returned. They must have found the winds too strong to safely handle even going down-wind.
So since we're "stuck" here, I'm taking advantage of the time and keeping busy. Between writing e-mails, reading my Clancy book, playing cards w/ Joe, and fixing meals (and cleaning up), I'm also working on writing my cookbook. As many of you know, for years I have been entering my recipes into one of those cookbook programs, and although "easy" to enter, I want MY cookbook, which I will print and bind some day (just enough copies for family and friends), I want it in a customized format. So I'm self-learning the desktop publishing program Adobe, PageMaker. (What I really need is a "PageMaker for Dummies" book, which I will try and find this summer.) So it takes me about an hour a recipe to create. But I hope to get faster. And right now, for sure, I'm in no hurry.
Today I will also study some more of my Spanish lessons. I have 3 textbooks, a computer program, and audiotapes. But usually after about 30-45 minutes, my brain is tired. And Joe... well he almost never sits down; there's always something to fix or maintain... and some things that were waiting for "La Paz", he's decided not to wait. So today he's working on the Generator fuel pump. Fun. We have to run the generator every day to make water and to keep the refrigerator and freezer at acceptable temperatures. And some days we even make hot water, so we can have a hot shower. But that means 3-4 hours every night of loud, loud engine noise while it is running.
Speaking of Los Muertos and Bay of the Dead, the biggest miracle is that Joe and I haven't killed each other yet, which is what I thought our first disaster would be... being cooped up on this boat together. Although SOME DAYS......
Most "true" cruisers say they think you're only cruising if you're anchored out and "poooh poooh" those that use marinas as their base station... We definitely would rather be at a marina, with electricity (so we don't have to use the generator) and hot water, and fresh water for our water tanks, and LAND to walk on... etc. So pooh-pooh-pee-dooo to those who scoff us for not being "true cruisers."
Our next leg, IF we ever get out of here, is through a tricky narrow channel (between Baja and an off shore island) with a high current (towards us) but also a Northern course, which is what direction these strong winds are coming from. [One section of the passage is called something in Spanish that when interpreted into English means "Tear Your Hear Out by the Roots!" That should be fun!!!] So in even 25-30 knots of wind (like we've been having here daily) w/ a current all hitting us from the nose, we wouldn't be able to go anywhere. In normal conditions, the trip to La Paz would be only about 12-13 hours away. So we will continue to wait; at least where we are is warm and sunny.
A couple of hours ago, a husband wife couple dinghied over here from their sail boat. They have gone to each of the other 6 sailboats left here in our little cove and invited us over for a potluck on their boat tonight. Since they are the only boat w/ a dinghy deployed, they also offered us "free" transportation. We accepted, of course, w/ Joe saying on provision the winds don't increase, as he would not think of leaving the boat unattended in gale winds. For me, I'm grateful and looking forward to getting off the boat for a few hours and to be sociable with other people.
February 14th (St. Valentine's Day), 2002 - Arrival at La Paz:
We did leave Los Muertos at midnight, Tuesday the 12th, (we chose a midnight departure to BE SURE to have the most difficult part of our trip - the "tear your hear out by the roots" part -- during daylight hours and because the winds had usually been dying at night). It was a successful 16 hour trip to La Paz. It was really unbelievable that after all that wind and seas previously, 2 weeks almost, that the trip to La Paz was perfectly glassy (no ripples at all) and windless. So we motored again, as there was not even enough wind to fill a sail: From one extreme to the other. But that's okay, as I was SOOOOOOOOoooooooo very glad to get here! En route, we passed beautiful white sandy beaches and coves, sea lions, and knew we had finally reached what, in our minds, we both had always pictured the Sea of Cortez to be like.
We docked about a 3PM yesterday, the 13th and checked in (actually paid the office here at the marina to check us in... believe me well worth the "fee" to NOT have to do all the walking around to Port Captain's and Immigration's offices on our first day!) Then we immediately had 2 margaritas, and tacos to celebrate, and were in bed by around 5PM... (after our previous all-nighter w/o sleep at sea) and didn't get up until about 1PM today!!
I did wake up once though. I remembered at about 3 in the morning that I did not have a valentine card for Joe, so I got up (at 3AM), found some colored paper, some small rope (line), glue and some magic markers and put my creativity to work. Then I put it so he'd see it in the morning (or in this case, the afternoon when he finally got up), and I crept back in bed and went back to sleep. He was nicely surprised. We are not really familiarized yet with the surroundings here, but we will find someplace that sounds nice and have a special dinner... and celebrate being on land again SAFE AND SOUND.
February 20th, 2002 - Time Passes Slowly in La Paz
Well now that we've been here for a few days, I write down some comments about it and catch you up with what we've been up to.
La Paz is certainly a 180-degree turn from Cabo. They have almost NO tourist industry here, or at least if they do, it's pretty invisible. They only have a few hotels, which are mostly old along the waterfront in the "center" of town. There appears to be one or 2 "resorts" (but certainly small in comparison to the "mega" resorts of Cabo), that are out of town a ways. There is a passenger and car ferry that comes here daily from Mazatlan, so some Mexican tourists (and probably some American ones) come here from the mainland. In 7 days of walking around, we only had one "vendor" approach us (and rather nonchalantly) ask us if we wanted to buy something. In other words, as the name in Spanish means, La Paz, is as touted, a lot more "Peace"-full city.
But the other side of that, if you DO happen to be a tourist, is that so far we have found very few "tourist" restaurants (versus the hundreds to try from in Cabo), the beaches are not close by, and I've only seen a couple of "tourist" shops/stores (with t-shirts, pottery, silver, etc) in comparisons to the "wall-to-wall" shops (and street vendors) along the streets of Cabo. So if you came here expecting to have several bars w/ Margaritas on each block, OR to stay in a 5 star resort, OR wanted to jet ski, parasail, or stroll on miles of beaches OR wanted to shop for trinkets or t-shirts... this would NOT be the place. Oh yes and so far NO strolling mariachis! (...which so far we do NOT miss!)
But it is a clean town, picturesque, in that it is situated on a beautiful bay, filled with a huge fleet of boats (pleasure sailboats are the majority, versus fishing boats), the people are friendly, and it is truly "Mexican" in feel. I'm sure it is in many ways also a lot cheaper, but we are just still feeling our way around and have not found any "bargain" meals or drinks yet. Yesterday we walked along the waterfront ("malecon" they call it) street for probably 15 blocks and finally found ONE restaurant that served tacos and margaritas. So we are still in the "exploration" phase. For sure the marina is a lot cheaper. We pay here for a slip for one month what we paid for just a few days in Cabo. But in Cabo, the boats are mostly "expensive" boats with "big buck" owners (we, for sure, were the exception)...
But in comparison, the marina here is also a lot more "funky." I think that's an appropriate description. There are a few very expensive and new boats, "parked" next to some ghetto-type boats that are quite dilapidated. It is easy to distinguish a "class" here. The active cruisers here (like us, who use La Paz as a stopping grounds and place to visit) are in the nice, well equipped, well maintained, and mostly nice-looking boats. The other class, in the dilapidated boats category, are those who found there way here to La Paz and decided to never leave. The man on a boat across from us (dilapidated) came down here from Oregon 17 years ago for example. I met a German yesterday who also has been here 15 years. Etc. They come here, "park" their boat, which is their house on water, and seldom, if ever move their boats. Another big difference is our "neighbors" on the dock where we were in Cabo, never spoke to us unless I initiated a "hi" and they responded. We weren't here more than an hour when 3-4 people came up to us and introduced themselves and said they'd be glad to help if we needed information, or anything else. It is totally a different environment...
We arrived just in time to totally miss a weeks long celebration of Mardi Gras, or as they call it here, Carnival. Figures! We arrived Wednesday, and Fat Tuesday was the night before. The other big event here, the biggest of the year for the sailors is Race Week, and that takes place several weeks AFTER we intend to leave. Oh well. But we did arrive in time for Valentines Day. Having no local knowledge though, we saw a flyer on the cruiser bulletin board for a special dinner at the one touted "beach resort" in town, La Concha. So we took a taxi and went there. It was a balmy warm night so we ate outside, in a "grass hut" motif, besides a nice atmosphere, it turned out to be a pretty good meal, with some live NON-mariachi type music.
Mostly for this first week though we've been doing a lot of relaxing. I think being at sea zapped a lot of our energy. The day after our arrival, we washed (scrubbed, actually) the boat down on day 2 removing the layers upon layers of salt off stuck to everything on the boat and then collapsed. Day 3, I think, after a walk down town, and our search for a place to eat and a margarita (successful, finally), we were so tired when we returned to the boat, we napped until nightfall. ETC. We for sure have lots of projects to do on the boat... most that were on the list to do before we left, but were not essential for our departure, so didn't get completed in our mad rush to leave. But somehow, the energy to get started on trying to lessen the list seems to be lacking. Maybe we're becoming toooo immersed into the "man~ana" attitude.
Saturday, February 23rd, 2002: One and a Half Weeks of our Stay In La Paz Gone, 3 Weeks To Go...:
My big happening so far was all this past week I have been going to school here. I saw an advertisement for a Spanish immersion style language school located in La Paz in a Gringo newspaper while we were in Cabo and I e-mailed back and forth to the school owner for information. Joe had a small conniption at the price of $275 for one week of attendance... but with some convincing that it was cheap compared to his usual outpouring on Valentines (expensive dinner, long stem roses, and usually a gold trinket), he agreed to "give" me a week of school for my Valentine's present. Immersion schools are very intensive and exactly what I needed. From the moment you walk into a class (and they are usually small # of students, this one, 3 students only in my class), you do not speak a word of English. Everything must be spoken in Spanish. I felt I had gotten to the point that I needed to be pushed forward to progress. My self-studying and attending night adult classes had certainly HELPED, but I knew I needed to get out of the "present tense" on verbs and also improve my "ear" so I can understand better when spoken to in Spanish. (I am pretty good at asking a question in Spanish, but when the person responds, I usually have no idea what they said!)
At the end of each day (5 hours a day), and for sure by yesterday, Friday (my "Graduation" day), my brain was pretty dead! It was a great experience and now, of course the most important thing is practice, practice, practice. My instructors were really great, very patient, of course. I was one of the few students at the school that was only attending classes for a week. The other 2 girls in my class had taken a month of work and were attending for a month. Most of the students (all, I think except me) were staying in the homes pre-arranged with Mexican families. It was cheaper than hotels, especially since it included meals, but more importantly, a great way to continue to practice their language skills and to "experience" living like a Mexican. Although I wish I had had the money to go for another week, I am really grateful for the experience and what I WAS able to learn. Hopefully, perhaps in Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta, I will have the opportunity to take another week of lessons.
Life is slow here. And so far nothing's wrong with that. We caught a few minutes of the Olympics last night in Spanish. We can see the picture clearly, but cannot understand the commentary. We have satellite cable hook up at the Marina for the boat. At first I was really excited when I read about it in the brochure advertising the marina as we were supposed to get 9 channels in English. Well I guess the farther you are from the Marina office, the less you get and we are in the GREY zone as they refer to it. What we get is only 2 English-speaking channels SOMETIMES, but when we do, they are very fuzzy. One is the TNT channel which we watched every night last weekend. We found out that channel shows mostly OLD, and I mean OLD movies. We watched Top Gun (about 20th time for me!) and Quigly Down Under (Magmum PI actor as a cowboy in Australia... it wasn't good the FIRST time I watched it 10+ years ago)... so you can see how desperate we were for SOME kind of TV. We also now are getting (with lots of fuzzy shadows) a 2nd channel, Cinemax, but so far have been blessed also with some pretty old movies on that channel, 2 old Robert Dinero movies, and Romancing the Stone (Kathleen Turner, Danny Devito, Michael Douglas...I think I first saw that one over 15 years ago!) Anyway, at least it keeps us awake past 9 PM. We were going to bed shortly after 8 and reading and usually asleep by 9. I do yearn for my regular programs still, but perhaps that will, with time go away. (So any of you who regularly tape programs or movies, hold onto them if you feel like "donating" any of them, I'll gladly pick them up from you (in person or the mail!) next summer when we return to take back with us when we return in the fall!
We got adventurous one night last week and went to the Mexican movie theater. They have American movies with Spanish subtitles, which sounded great... also great are the prices-- cheap (2-3$), but as far as current, "behind times" from their stateside releases. No problem for us though as in our mad rush to get ready for this trip, in the 6 months prior to our departure, I think we only saw perhaps 1 or 2 movies. Anyway we found out (besides their late release) why they were cheap. The picture quality was quite bad -- somewhat blurry (which surprisingly enough, after about 20-30 minutes, I seemed to get used to) and it even looked as if perhaps someone stood in the back of a US movie with a handheld movie camera and taped it! Maybe not, but certainly not up to the quality of picture and sound that we have Stateside. Also about after an hour into the movie, the picture stopped. I couldn't figure out what was happening, but all the Mexicans got up stretched or went for popcorn... I finally realized the pause was while they changed and put on a 2nd reel. How long has it been since that happened in American theaters... memories of my childhood! Anyway, we saw "Ocean's 11" and despite the quality, we enjoyed it.
To end this "Chapter" I will relate a story about an eating experience. After cooking on board for several nights in a row, we decided we would order out for Pizza delivery. (If Joe had his way when we lived in US, he would have had pizza 4-5 times a week, and the reason not 7 days a week, is in the in-between days, he would eat cold/ micro waved leftover pizza!) But we haven't been too successful yet w/ Mexican Pizza. Actually last night's was pretty good, and very "heavy" literally with goodies on it. But here's the story. Before we ordered on the phone (and that in itself was HARD EVEN with my IMPROVED Spanish!), I was trying to interpret the ingredients on my Spanish written take-out menu of topping choices, looking for bacon (Joe's favorite), pepperoni, and sausage. We did okay with the first 2, but couldn't distinguish which one listed on the menu was sausage. So out came my trusty Spanish dictionary (and I use a BIG one now-adays) and I found out that the word "salchichio" = "sausage." So we ordered, tocino (bacon), pepperoni (pepperoni), and salchichio. Turned out, salchichio in Mexican, really means hot dogs. So our pizza, was loaded with sliced up chunks of hot dogs... Very different, hot dog pizza!