SAILING the SEA of CORTEZ - Chapter 1.4: La Paz

Preparing Mind, Body, and Ship for Departure...

I was acclimating to my new reality. One more week of preparations and we would be on the Sea... Excerpt from the journal and ship's log of the sailing vessel LOCATION...A single-handed sailor's memoir of voyages and adventures sailing the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, and the Mexican Riviera...

El Merito Cove... San Lorenzo Peninsula, north of La Paz
El Merito Cove... San Lorenzo Peninsula, north of La Paz | Source

Ship's Log - s/v LOCATION

March 24, 2009 (Tuesday)

Daniel (aka: Niel) at the Marina de La Paz, confirmed the service appointment with Joel the mechanic, for Thursday. I will take the boat over Wednesday and return to Marina Costa Baja, Thursday night or Friday.

Zeke, ‘the boat-guy’, came by today and tried to coerce me into hiring him to wax the whole boat. It needs it, but I told him I would do the work myself. He wasn’t very happy, but after we haggled back and forth, we agreed that he will clean and oil the teak cockpit floorboards and varnish the main hatch boards for $175. That’s a deal – I think it cost me $600 to have it done in Newport Beach – but I need to remind myself that I’m broke now. I can’t just let the boat deteriorate, but I have to be more frugal and take on more of those tasks myself; my time isn’t worth anything now.

A Great All-In-One Tool...

Joe Carbonne, one of the local expatriates who lives in a condo here, came by later in the morning. He said he may have a buyer for my old eight-horsepower outboard. I put a sign on it a couple of days ago – “For Sale”. He’s a friend of Robert Heffner, an old friend of mine from California who is building a new condominium project in La Paz now. I brought a newer five-horsepower, four-stroke motor with me on the last drive down Baja with Ledean, which I scavenged from Pacific DockMasters when we closed the business, so I don’t need the old two-stroke eight anymore. Joe said he is buying it for a friend, but I think he is probably going to try and resell it to one of the fishermen. He came back later with some gas and we started the engine, and then agreed on a price at three hundred dollars, including a few spare parts I have. I was asking four hundred, but I knew all along I would settle for three.

I gave him the engine and he said he would pay me tomorrow… Hummm, why the hell am I such a soft touch!? I suppose I felt okay about trusting him since he knew Robert. But then, after thinking about that I wasn’t so sure; Robert had never burnt me, but there were other people who didn’t think so highly of him… Oh well.

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At this point, I should have all of the boat maintenance work completed by Friday. I will do my final provisioning Saturday, and then depending on weather, maybe head out to one of the peninsula coves for a quick test run. I should be ready to set sail by Monday or Tuesday, make my way up to Conception Bay, spend a couple of weeks there, and then head back down to Puerto Escondido for the annual Loreto Fest at the end of April. That’s a three hundred mile trip, which should be a good break-in for the boat and I. After that, we’ll sail back to La Paz for provisions, or straight over to Mazatlán, and then eventually to Costa Rica or Panama by July or August… That’s the thing about cruising – no schedule – just a vague plan and basic direction in mind.

Boat Log - s/v LOCATION

March 25, 2009 (Wednesday)

Up early, slept great – I didn’t drink any alcohol last night for the first time since arriving here. There’s nothing wrong with a beer or two, but three or four and I don’t sleep very well, and anything more than that and my mind, my heart, and my mood are all fucked-up the next day, and I am teetering on the brink of depression already.

I’m still waiting for Joe Carbonne to show up with the money he owes for the outboard motor… good luck with that I suppose. He told me which condo he lives in so I thought maybe I’d go knock on his door later today. But I got wrapped up in doing more patch work on the dinghy this morning, and then it was late and I had to leave to get the boat over to Marina de La Paz. I’ll have to catch up with the elusive Mr. Carbonne when I return.

Marina de La Paz... Downtown

I motored LOCATION to the fuel dock at Costa Baja where the two attendants helped tie her down. I asked them to top-off the starboard diesel tank, then walked up to the marina office and left an empty propane tank there to be filled. The diesel gauge on the boat indicated the fuel was down about thirty liters, but when I returned the dock boys said she took nearly forty-five. I didn’t feel like arguing, but I did question them. The head guy made a show at least, of checking the pump gauge again and I settled the bill.

I have never heard of it happening in the marinas, but some of the highway gas stations have been known not to clear their pump meters before pumping gas for an unsuspecting motorist. I’ve caught them more than once myself during the numerous trips I made on Baja Highway 1 over the years. They just grin and laugh if you catch them, but if you don’t check the meter before they start pumping then you might as well pay it or you’ll be stuck all day arguing an argument that you’ll never win – I guess I will blame the boat gauge for now, but I’ll keep a closer eye on the process next time.

The trip to Marina de La Paz took about an hour. I was navigating by the chart plotter and thought we were in the channel, cutting across the Mogote anchorage about a mile from the marina entrance, when a person onboard Sail La Vie, yelled, waving his arms, warning me that a shoal was nearby. It didn’t show on the plotter, but I steered the boat more to port following his directions, and about that time the depth gauge went from twenty-two feet to fourteen real quick… so much for the navigation charts in Mexico. I slowed down and picked our way through the shallows then, finally getting to deeper water as we approached the marina entrance.

Anchored in the Mogote Anchorage
Anchored in the Mogote Anchorage | Source

The berth they assigned us on “C” dock was a downwind slip. There was no wind or current so I swung LOCATION around in the fairway and backed in without trouble. One of the dockhands and another boater came over and helped tie her to the dock. Cristina in the marina office, was very nice as she asked for my boat import permit, insurance, documentation, and passport, and checked us into the marina quickly. She gave me a handful of flyers and coupons for shops and cantinas in the area, and confirmed that Joel the mechanic, would be at my boat around eight o’clock tomorrow morning.

As I walked back to the boat, I met Al and Swan, a couple of sixty’s era free-spirits, on their Hallberg-Rassy 45, SWAN SONG, in the berth next to us. They had arrived in La Paz in December after sailing from Hawaii to San Francisco and then down the coast.

“It was a rough trip,” Al said.

Swan nodded in agreement, and then added, “Our engine broke-down right after we left Turtle Bay, and we couldn’t run our water-maker and other electronics because the batteries were too low."

“We had plenty of beer though,” Al said.

“HR’s are good sailing boats,” I said.

“Yeah. They’re better than most on the ocean,” said Al.

They are still making repairs and looking forward to their next transit, across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlán, later this summer. After that they plan to go home to Northern California, near Chico where I grew up, and then return in the fall for another season of cruising. Al is a carpenter, and Swan said she usually works at the marina on Lake Oroville when they are home in between their various voyages, living the commuter-cruiser life. I put up my anchor shade over the cockpit and we had a nice talk across the dock sitting in our respective boats in the afternoon heat. This marina is more sheltered, deeper inside the bay than Costa Baja, and it doesn’t get much of a sea breeze so it’s a lot hotter here. Al told me about a jazz jam-session happening tonight at a restaurant called Ciao Molino. They supposedly have air conditioning, and I think I might check that out after dinner.

Dock Café... Marina de La Paz
Dock Café... Marina de La Paz | Source

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