[ Adventure Logs ][ Sea of Cortez - Mexico ]

December 2006: La Paz & the Sea of Cortez

Friday December 1, 2006

The winds had abated a bit but the seas were still big from the north as one of the anchored boats, Barbara Ann, tried to go north but came back an hour later after making little progress.

We went ashore and walked along one of the roads into the hills. The area is very green because of the hurricane rains of September and we found a little oasis where a creek comes pouring out of the ground and a small farm is located on top of it.

Oasis of green for this little casa just up the road from Los Frailes,
consequence of recent and last year’s hurricane rains.

Carllie: We also found a well near the beach, with a ready bucket. Later we came back with four 2 ½ gal. water containers and filled them with crystal clear water from the well. I’m pretty sure this water is delicious and pure, but Garett is still leery after his bad experience with water from Ensenada (a city, after all), so we are using this water to wash and to boil for tea. I drink it and I’m okay, but he’s ultra cautious understandably.)

These wonderful cactus abound on this side of the
Baja–Mexico’s answer to our evergreens.

We also met a friendly roving dog who adopted us and followed us for an half an hour on the beach. As we mentioned before the dogs here don’t get a lot of attention so when they do they are really excited, and they adopt you. This one stayed with us all the way down the beach until we got into our dinghy; then he promptly adopted another couple who had brought a picnic to the beach to do some snorkeling.

This friendly dog (perro) adopted us for our long walk
down the beach. If we stopped scratching his ears
while walking, he would lean into us until we resumed!
Most Mexican perros are starved for love. They get kicked
alot, I have observed. – C.

We had dinner with our temporary bachelor friend Ken Sqirrell on Cop Out. I went with him to check his lobster trap which was empty and on getting out of the dinghy back at his boat his little VHF radio ($300) fell off his belt restrainer clip and bounced once on the deck and then took a 25 foot plunge into the ocean. We quickly marked the spot with his GPS. His plan was to use his scuba tanks and dive for it the next day. (PS. Ken actually found the radio the next day n the sandy bottom. We have not heard yet whether he was able to dry out and revive it.)

Carllie: Ken also told us about his interesting life, and gave us a great slide show on his big computer monitor/TV screen of his travels with Wendy in the Far East: Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam and China.We followed that fabulous picture narrative with one of our favorite funny movies, Undercover Blues, so we could help lift Ken out of his blues after losing his handheld VHF to the deep.

Garett: By the time we had finished watching the movie the winds had really died down and so it looked good for an early morning departure.

Saturday December 2, 2006

We were up at 6 am and headed out to Bahia de los Muertos. It was a 45 mile trip and depending on the winds we expected to make it a day. The winds were about 10 knots from the north but we were able to motor at about 4 knots we were estimating arriving at 6 pm just as it would get dark.

Leaving Los Frailes in early morning light.

Things were going quite well until 3 pm when we were 12 miles out. The winds quickly built to 16 to 20 knots and our forward speed was reduced to almost zero, and as well we were pounding down after each wave. We decided to put up a reefed main and jib and try to beat our way there by tacking back and forth near the shore. We sailed at 5 knots and made 2.5 knots (VMG: velocity made good) towards our destination.

On the way to Bahia de los Muertos. Wind and current are about
to get unfriendly. It was an uncomfortable passage.

After 4 hours we were within 2 miles of Los Muertos. Our friends who were already there (Carllie: and who were checking up on us on the radio throughout this arduous section, helping me immensely) could see our navigation lights change from red to green to red as we did our multiple tacks to reach a safe harbor.

Finally at 10 pm under a full moon (the moon really helped) we anchored off the beach which protected us from the waves but not the wind. It was a tiring trip. It took us 15 hours to do 45 miles, and 5 hours to do the last 12 miles. Sailing upwind in 15 to 20 knots is far worse than sailing downwind in 40 knots. Not fun.

Carllie: Just in case there is any concern about Bahia de los Muertos meaning literally "Bay of the Dead", here is the explanation from "Mexican Boating Guide" by Capts. Pat and John Rains:

"In the N end of the bay, the stone remnants of a wharf and warehouse are a historic landmark. The name "Muertos" probably referred to the dad-man mooring system used in the early 1900s for barges that loaded ore from the silver mines at El Triunfo. Early guidebooks told of giant buried anchors (called "dead men" or "muertos") SW of the wharf and of ore cast from the mine train that were dumped in the bay. We searched the sandy bottom with scuba gear, but it probably requires a metal detector if they’re buried very deep. We did find a half-buried metal mooring ball (others rusting on shore) buoyed with a plastic bleach bottle, and a couple engine blocks also used as moorings by locals."

Sunday December 3, 2006

We slept in to noon as we recovered from the previous day’s ordeal. We then went and visited our friends who were watching after us the previous day on Jack Hamilton’s boat, Barbara Ann. We had some great baked fish called “Sierra” as we all talked about yesterday’s adventures and tribulations

Dust-swept hills in the wind at Bahia de los Muertos.

Monday December 4, 2006

Carllie: We’ve had a busy day–travelling with 3 cruising friends plus a Mexican driver in his big old American car 10 miles to the nearest town with supplies, so we could get gas and "fruitas y legumbres", because of the Northers blowing and keeping us in these little bays longer than we had planned. It was great fun bouncing along on the gravel roads.

I met this beautiful little blue-eyed cat (gato) at the little grocery
store in the nearest town to Bahia de los Muertos. Cats are smaller
in Mexico, probably because their moms are undernourished.

More vistas of the beautiful desert cacti.

We had our first restaurant lunch ashore in a long time, at the Giggling Marlin, and it was very nice. Then we went for a long walk in the heat of the day up into the hills so we could overlook the Sea of Cortez and down into the adobe type fabulous homes of some very rich people (probably Americans). Saw a very cute teeny weenie little lizard, which I thought looked like a miniature Gia Monster (sp?) because its little head is separated from its body rather than being an extension of it like a regular lizard. He was about 2 inches long total and when you first looked at him, he looked like a little blob of dusty seeds, blending right in with the sand.

Our first restaurant lunch in a looong time; chatting with
new friends, Greg and Melissa who had come down the coast from
La Paz, and were bound for Mazatlan. All of our cruising friends
have been so friendly, open and fun.

It’s very warm here, and swimming is great. But luckily today, just when we were going to go for a swim on shore we decided to walk a little further down where we saw a few people had been swimming. When we got there, we said, "Did you have a good swim?" and they said, "No!" Two of them had been stung (it is like a wasp sting) in the foot by sting rays buried in the sand on an outgoing tide! So–ahem!–we decided to forgo the swim and swim from the boat instead. We think if we swim at high tide, we’ll be safe as these little sting rays (apparently there are many different kinds and sizes of sting rays) are further out in the water. Anyway, we then came back and had a "public" outdoor shower under the fresh water tap, as we hadn’t been able to wash our hair for about 4 days, though we sponge bath thoroughly on the boat every day.

We are enjoying our journy, and appreciate our friends urging us to enjoy every minute. Sometimes the voyages are very rough, and it’s a bit discouraging, but then we have a beautiful time snorkeling or meeting and talking to people and making so many new friends, or using our Spanish with our new Mexican friends, and it’s so much fun and so rewarding. This is a highly hard-work and interesting life that’s for sure! I will never again take these things for granted:

1. showers
2. laundry facilities
3. nearby stores
4. my bicycle
5. a car
6. a bus
7. clean clothes
8. clean sheets
9. clean towels
10. a salt-free boat (there is SO MUCH SALT in this water you literally float on top of it, and there are big salt crystals dried all over the boat
11. pure water (agua purificada, por favor)
12. video stores (if we want to watch a movie, we have to download it when we get Internet connections. Believe it or not we are current with Lost!)
13. my wonderful friends.

However, these are the things I know we will miss when we come home:

1. vast expanses of water, white sand and rolling hills
2. warm water for swimming and snorkeling
3. beautiful fish to watch
4. yummy fish that can hardly wait to be caught
5. wonderful fellow cruisers who make friends instantly, no citified barriers caused by stress, pressure and competition
6. doing laundry outside with a hose under the hot Mexican sun at the beach with nothing else to do but gaze out at the unending vista while I’m sloshing the sudsy water up and down in my pail
7. learning Spanish and using it with new Mexican friends who are delighted with our efforts
8. the fabulous feeling of arriving at an anchorage after a passage, however long or easy
9. mental freedom that generates creativity and philosophical contemplation
10. nothing to worry about than basic survival needs, and planning and making voyages to wonderful new anchorages
11. and lots more.

So I am trying to live in the moment, savor each experience and enjoy every person we meet. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are lucky to be here.

Tuesday December 5, 2006

Garett: We woke this morning and had the whole bay to ourselves as the other 5 boats who we shared the bay with left in the middle of the night to points north and south–another one of the temporary boating communities has disbanded. Channel 16 on the radio is now silent so we have a day to ourselves for laundry, Spanish, and some boat maintenance.

Carllie: It was hard not to feel lonely. But by the end of the day, we were joined in the anchorage by about 6 new boats, down from our destation, La Paz area.

Developer’s "show room"? on the beach, inaccessible due to
gated entry. Palm trees have been planted. The lots they market
in this remote, dusty little bay sell for $300,000 to $3 mil, U.S.,
with no houses! The developer seems to be working to change the
name of the bay to Bay of Dreams from Bahia de los Muertos, which
translates to Bay of the Dead (see history of name above, Dec. 2).

In checking the weather it looks like we will have three more days of strong winds so it looks like we will leave on the final one-day leg to La Paz on either Friday or Saturday.

By the end of the day four other boats had joined us. On of the boats was a sailboat from our home marina, the River Rock Marina in Richmond. I had met Pat in late April as he was preparing his boat to leave on his trip so it was great to meet up with him and talk about his adventure of the last 6 months.

Wednesday December 6, 2006

Garett: I finally got around to some boat maintenance today and I painted our new food locker, installed a plug for the spotlight, and rebuilt the head with new gaskets and piping. By 6:30 pm I was all done.

Carllie: While I made myself into a No. 1 contortionist ready to be hired by Cirque de Soleil to clean the “shelf” area and cupboards in front of our saloon. This involved pulling out every book, CD, DVD, box of computer stuff, filing boxes, sextant and sewing stuff we had stowed there, and squeezing myself into the shelf to reach far into the cupboards to clean them, then turning over on my back to re-attach electrical wires to clips with zip straps. Whew! It’s much easier to clean our apartment at home, let me tell you! Tomorrow I have to clean all six cupboards in our galley area, which will mean pulling out everything and then wiping down the cupboards, another huge job. These maintenance and cleaning jobs are very important, however, as we are sure they improve our mental clarity and thus our safety on the boat.

I had a little fun trying to fish off trhe boat today with some simulated bait we picked up in San Diego. As soon as it was in the water it was surrounded by all these brown and white puffer fish (same type that was in Finding Nemo). They would nibble away at the bat but never got hooked. It was very entertaining.

Hard to see, but these are cute little puffer fish, munching on the
artificial but realistic smelling lure I bought at West Marine.
About 8 of them gobbled it all up. Boy were they sick that night!

The last thing before going to sleep we checked the weather and the forecast looks good Friday so we will get our rest tonight and during the day tomorrow and be all ready for a midnight departure. We are only 45 miles from La Paz and we are really looking to getting there and settling down for a two weeks as we wait for the Ariels.

Thursday December 8, 2006, Bahia de los Muertos

Garett & Carllie: The Amigo Net weather forecast an abatement in the howling north winds this day, so we planned to depart at midnight, to take advantage of the flood tide en route to La Paz. If you don’t work with the tide, you will likely get much rougher seas in the channel between the island and the mainland of the Baja, and your trip will be much slower.

We hadn’t been for a real run in about a month (due to very hot weather and lack of roads or trails) so we ran along the dusty road to Los Planes while there were a few small sprinkles of rain from the high cloud that provided some shade. After another outdoor shower under a hose, Carllie made cookies and soup in preparation for our night departure while I got the boat ready and we went to sleep at 6 pm so that we could get some sleep until 11 pm.

Friday December 8, 2006

Our midnight departure was on track as the winds were very almost calm and so we felt optimistic that the waves would have flattened down in the channel. Most encouraging, we had almost a full moon to light up the night. We tried to start the engine and for the first time in five months it wouldn’t start. We ran the starter to the point of almost running down the battery. I figured it had something to do with me doing some “preventative maintenance” by spraying WD-40 on the engine in the afternoon which had somehow displaced some water on the electronics. It seems that the automatic choke had stopped working for some reason. I ended up starting it by putting my hand over the air intake and manual “choking” it and it started right away. See what happens when I try to maintain things….

Our navigation centre on night watch with
our red light to save night vision.

We motored out around the headland of Bahia de los Muertos shortly after midnight and out into Cervallo Channel. We had our radar and GPS chart plotter on to navigate the channel but soon realized that one of the navigation lights that were supposed to be on the point wasn’t working. We have noticed quite often here in Mexico that the nav lights and buoys shown on the charts are not working or are in a different place. In talking with a couple of veteran sailors, Beth and Bone, from England who have been cruising for 12 years aboard their vessel, Splinters Apprentice, navigation lights not working or buoys missing is quite common in the poorer countries. So you use your radar and GPS. However, the charts also are far less detailed than North American charts, which show accurate depths, hazards, shorelines, etc., so that it boils down to vigilance and radar. We eventually figured out where we were and motored on the smooth moonlight seas.

By dawn (about 6:30 a.m.) we had luckily exited Cervallo Channel without scaring ourselves. We found out later that our friends on the three boats that left three days ago on Tuesday had encountered 35 knots of wind and big nasty 12 foot waves in the confusing current of the channel. It had taken them 28 hours to make this passage. We did it in 10, with favorable wind, current and seas. We were lucky.

When we got into Lorenzo Channel only 10 miles from La Paz we decided that we had enough food and water for a few more days so we turned right (instead of left) and went to Caleta Partida which is supposed to be one of the spectacular destination anchorages in the Sea of Cortez.

Dramatic scenerty of dormant volcanic islands
en route to Caleta Partida.

After just two hours we arrived there. The cove is the breached crater of a volcano that separates the two islands. Steep walls of reddish brown volcanic rock just like you buy at the garden center store line this big bay, pockmarked with caves that look small from a distance but we learned were the homes of Indians before the Spanish came and either slaughtered or enslaved them.

We thought there would be 20 or 30 boats there but there were only six, although three more came in before nightfall. We motored over to the shoal areas which had only 5 feet of water and anchored in the spectacularly green translucent water.

Clear green water at Caleta Partida, a, an extinct
caldera of a volcano between two islands.

After a long nap to recover form our overnight passage we went for a walk on the shore to look at the rock formations and took some good pictures of the setting sun on the bluffs surrounding the cove. It is truly spectacular.

Exploring Partida. Fabulous beaches and
caves in volcanic rock.

Saturday December 9, 2006

When we woke the next day the realization that we have finally arrived at our real first cruising destination finally dawned on us. We could now relax!

We had been traveling for 4 ½ months covering about 2,500 mile on our log to get here. Though we had some layover rest days, for most of that time we were either sailing a leg, planning the next, or recuperating from the last leg. It was a great feeling to spend the next four days here at Partida where we were protected from the north winds and Cozumel winds (SW), and not have to listen to the weather radio as we bobbed in our protected little spot. It was all worthwhile.

El Capitan, relaxed at last,
after a long haul.

We had caught a small mackerel en route from Los Muertos. As we were about to start the flame on the barbeque to heat the fish in fried rice, Carllie took the top piece out and shook it over the side to get the charcoaled bits off, but forgot that there were two parts to it. Splash! The top part sank behind the boat. We quickly marked the spot with the GPS man overboard marker, and also put down a small anchor and buoy to mark it. The water was only 14 feet deep so there was some hope of rescue from the sandy bottom.

Moonrise at Partida.

Sunday December 10, 2006

Carllie woke up early and made a general call on the radio to see if anyone could give assistance and free dive the 14 feet to recover the lost piece from our barbeque. David on Reflections, who had sailed from England with his wife Juliette 12 years ago, said he would come by in 10 minutes. I got my fins on and snorkel and swam over to where my marker was and could see the part fortunately about 2 feet from my marker anchor and so I moved the anchor with the line from the surface so David could see the part. David who has been diving for about 50 of his 60 years took six long breaths at the surface to clear the carbon dioxide from his lungs and then free dived down and snatched up the part. He made it look so easy. He delivered the part to Carllie on Light Wave and we gave him a half-dozen cookies in compensation. He then gave me a little tutoring on my diving technique. With his encouragement and help I was then able to get down about 8 feet. The trick is to bend in half at the waist, do two strokes with your arms to get down, and then pressurize your ears. Carllie then joined me and we snorkeled for a bit to practice.

Carllie: It’s quite hilarious watching me try to get down without a weight belt: I bend in half, take the two strokes with my arms until my flippers are under the water, and try to pressurize my ears, but as soon as I stop stroking, I bob right back up to the top, bent in half. It’s the fat quotient: too many fat cells versus muscle cells. It’s much harder for women to free dive because of that fat/muscle ratio, and harder for some women than others! I hope I get the weight belt for Christmas …..

Hot weather, clear skies, calm seas,
beautiful rock faces.

1 150 foot sailboat called Timoneer, anchored at
Partida for a few days. Weight 300 tons.
Estimated price: $20 million.

Garett: After breakfast we then tried to do some fishing along the cliffs as Sunny and Simon had invited us for dinner tonight aboard Seascape. We trolled and jigged for about an hour but we did not get any bites let alone a fish. We figured it was too late in the day and the fish just weren’t biting. Bruce, an American fellow who later anchored his sailboat behind us and told us he fished for a living here in the Baja, went out late in the evening and came back with quite a hall of rock cod and other white fish.

Happy cruisers gather aboard Reflections,
with her owners Juliette & David (back) &
clockwise: Simon, Carllie & Sunny. Garett
snapped photo.

Again, we enjoyed hot showers on Seascape, and a great dinner courtesy of Sunny Matheson who is the chef. Thanks, Sunny & Simon!

Simon and Sunny had us aboard Seascape
for more happy times. Seascape has always
had happy times aboard, since she was
launched in the ’50s..

Monday December 11, 2006

With the extra 5 gallons of water we got from Sunny and Simon last night, as they have a water maker on board, and since the winds had picked up to 20 knots we decided to stay here until Wednesday and then head into La Paz for 10 days until the Ariels join us.

A sailor’s reverie as the sun sets.

Tuesday December 12, 2006

The winds continued to howl off the cliffs with gust to 30 knots. Simon and Sunny came by with a care package of food to keep us going in case the winds did not die down and also they invited us for a little running clinic on the beach at the east end of the bay.

By 2 pm the winds had eased enough that we could safely use the dinghy and so we went on an excursion to the beach for a little running clinic with Simon and Sunny. Simon had done quite a bit of running over the last 10 years and he gave us some detailed instruction on technique improvements to reduce the pounding and to allow us to move more efficiently. It was very informative.

Carllie: Actually, neither of us had learned how to run properly before. As Simon explained, little kids run the way we are supposed to run. They stick their chests out, their arms are pumping up and down by their sides, and they kick their legs up behind them. Plus, they take many steps per minute. After (as of this writing) having had two running clinics with Simon, this is how my technique has improved: I do not lean forward when I run, but maintain an erect posture, chest out, hips tucked in; I run on the balls of my feet, never ever landing on my heels; I try to take at least 45 steps (of left foot) every 30 seconds (that’s a lot of steps! Try it!), and only lengthen them but to not slow the steps if I want to speed up; I kick up my feet in the back, thus creating a natural forward momentum; I keep my arms folded and straight by my sides, holding my hands as if I were holding an egg in each, and bringing my closed hands up to breast level; when running uphill, I lean back, pump my arms much harder and higher, and take even more steps; when running downhill I lean forward and don’t worry as much about kicking my feet up in the back, and again land on the ball of your foot never your heal. Also, you warm up with various limbering exercises once you’ve started this fast-stepped run with very small steps. And you never run for more than 10 minutes without slowing to a fast walk doing more limbering exercises—intervals.

Anyway: this type of running uses the muscles in the body properly and cannot damage your knees or legs. As Simon has explained, you can keep running when you get very old as this technique uses your body muscles properly. Nevertheless, it takes some work to build up different muscles to do it properly and I find that my calf muscles are a little sore after a 30-40 minute run. I have to work with standing on my tiptoes and bouncing on my toes, to build up; those muscles.

We still weren’t tired of Partida Cove, and
enjoyed exploring the beaches and the
fabulous vistas.

Garett: We then walked over to the eastern edge of the island and did some beach combing where I collected 5 different shades of the round volcanic rocks that line the beach, and Carllie got some nice bleached coral.

Wednesday December 13, 2006

Carllie: When we woke in the morning it was calm so we upped anchor right away and left for La Paz, to get ready for the arrival on December 23rd of our friends Daken and Korianne Ariel. We arrived at La Paz in the early afternoon. Another city to get used to!

Our first view of the city of La Paz, from our

We spied Cop Out anchored just outside Marina de La Paz, and hailed Wendy and Ken Squirrell on the radio. At their suggestion, we tried anchoring behind them but it was too bouncy with our “Light Wave” catamaran, versus their much bigger and heavier cat. So we motored back up and around a very shallow area between the marinas and the “island” that forms the La Paz harbor, and anchored tucked right in close to the Magote Island” (which is really the end of a skinny peninsula). It’s much better here, as it’s more protected from the wind and waves and far less bouncy.

La Paz is very pretty and welcoming. The
people are warm and delighted with our
efforts to speak Spanish. Thus, we
improve daily.

Thursday December 14 to Tuesday December 19, 2006

Garett: The next six days buzzed by in a flash as we became accustomed to our new base here in La Paz. We spent the first couple of days stocking up the boat with food, water, gas and propane; and going to the best place in town, La Fuenta, for $1.50 rasberry yogurt in a waffle cone.

Los muchachos pequenos (the little
boys) were very lively and enjoying
floating Bud Lightyear (a la Toy Story II)
in the fountain pool!

Carllie: We’ve explored the city most days, and enjoyed the pure heaven luxury of hot showers for $13 (13 pesos = about $1.30 US) each, after paying the cheap dinghy dock fee at Marina de La Paz of another $13 pesos/day.

Two very popular stores in La Paz: Mas
(meaning "more") and Solo Un Precio
(just one price).

I think Garett wanted one of these for

Garett: Carllie had a break-though with the laundry as she had the local ladies do 4 loads of laundry and 4 loads of all out bedding and cushion covers. The next day it was all washed, dried, and very neatly folded into these plastic bags. All for only about 50 cents more per wash and dry than it would have been if she’d spent 6 hours in the lavenderia (laundromat/ laundry) laboriously doing the laundry herself. Carllie though she had died and gone to laundry heaven. She now wants a laundry lady in Vancouver!

A very happy Carllie, with 4 bags of
clean and carefully folded laundry.
This is the way it should be done!

Carllie: I have said for many years now that I want a maid (even though we live in a 450 sq. ft. apartment at home!). Now I am sure I want a laundry lady. Anyone interested? The laundry lady (whose name we don’t remember) even did cold water washes for me, and cool dryer. All I had to do was stain treatment before handing over the laundry to her. One thing about long-term cruising: your clothes take a beating, and it’s simply not possible to get all the weird work stains out of your husband’s clothes—greases of various sorts. My cotton shorts and pants are getting thinner and I’m going to have to patch my shorts because Mexican stores have very few summer clothes right now, and the ladies don’t wear shorts anyway, so I doubt you could get them. It’s an exercise in frugality.


Our friend Gordie took us to the Marina Palmira pool
for the afternoon, where we practised
snorkeling as there was no one else there!

The Mexican people in La Paz live in their little homes built right up to the sidewalks, and fenced with these cast iron or steel grill-type fences. Talking about sidewalks, you have to be really looking where you are going. The city isn;t setup for wheelchair access bu then they have very low taxes.

Lawsuits in Mexico are more or less
unheard of, and sidewalks are a walk
on the dangerous side! They are all uneven,
built very high off the roads often,
and mined with holes, big and small,
and even rebar sticking up through it!
Rule of walking in Mexican cities: eyes forward!

Those with a bit more money, have courtyards inside those fences, and their homes are set back a bit. They really like Christmas (Navidad), and there are lots of beautiful lights at night on the main beach-side street, as well as decorating their homes.

Some of the beautiful Christmas lights on the
streets of La Paz.

Street markets are full of all kinds of goods,
and open very late.

A few nights after we arrived, music on shore started at about 8 p.m., and continued very loudly and rambunctiously until about 3 a.m. That was a Saturday night, and we though, oh well it’s the weekend. Since then, every night by about 9 or 10 p.m, just as we’re getting sleepy, we’ve said to each other, “It’s nice and quiet tonight. No music!” Then at about midnight, we start to hear faint boomings and chords, it builds and builds, until about midnight it reaches its crescendo and we go to bed to the sound of very boisterous Mexican merriment ashore. Somehow, it’s not as jarring as Norte Americano music, and we have no problem sleeping. But then we aren’t at a marina on shore, where it would be much much louder.

We found one stall with these boxes of live chicks
died bright colors to appeal to Christmas
shoppers. I saved one chick from near
suffocation, and confirmed, (Esta para komer?)
that when they grow up they will be eaten.
That was a little upsetting. At least at la casa
of our friends Shari & Juan Marron in
Asuncion, the females would be kept to
lay eggs!

Wednesday December 20, 2006

A new Norther (local name for the strong north winds of 20 to 40 knots that blow for 2 to 7 days at a time in the winter months) was supposed to start up today. The winds were supposed to really come out of the north today so we arranged another little running session with our friends Simon and Sunny in the early morning, before it could possible get hot and uncomfortable.

We met at the dinghy dock early at 8 am and went for a run along the Malecon (beach-side street) and through the city interspersed with stretching, jumping and hill sprints. Simon is a great teacher, but a hard taskmaster! It was great fun.

By the time we had got back to the marina and had our shower, the strong wind forecast had suddenly materialized and the wind was blowing 30 knots. We quickly left the dock and headed out into the big waves. Carllie sat on the floor so we were more stable through the rough water. We managed to cover the half mile in only 15 minutes. Though it wasn’t really dangerous we did get totally soaked. (Carllie: Ahem! I got soaked. Garett got a little wet. Garett: I can’t help it I had to drive from the back ….)

When we got back to Light Wave it was too bouncy to leave the dinghy tied behind the boat as the current was running crosswise to the wind so we hauled it up on the foredeck and then strapped it down with lots of rope so it wouldn’t decide to fly off some where.

Carllie: Christmas on Light Wave is going to be a little different from Christmas at home, where we string up so many lights on our patio to greet our neighboring friends. We have one string of lights on LW, and we won’t turn it on very much as it takes so much electricity! We have bought each other one gift and we know what they are as we shop together! They are things we need, but we will enjoy. Frugality reins on Light Wave!

We’re not sure about our Christmas menu yet, but we think it will be camarones (prawns) with rice and vegetables. Not sure about dessert. Mexicans aren’t great bakers, and we’ve been unable to find really good ready made stuff (and I don’t have a pie plate nor could we get Crisco here) so I doubt we’ll have a “punkin pie”. But maybe we’ll find some fruit Christmas cake or something at the C-C-C supermarket when we shop tomorrow (pronounced “seh-seh-seh”). We will also keep a watch out for los pangaderos/ pescaderos who may have fresh fish to sell. The Christmas spirit will be in the friendship and camaderie. We hope Daken and Korianne are looking forward to it as much as we are! But as Korianne says they are “bouncing off the walls”, we think they are craving some nice warm, dry weather. We can promise the dry, and we can promise it will be much warmer.

As the Northers have abated and are not expected to resume until Monday, we plan to make a very early departure Sunday morning (i.e., get up and go, morning exercises en route) to head north to the islands where we will find clear blue water and snorkeling. We can then return to areas closer to La Paz and the city harbor whenever we want to, as there are hardly any southern winds at this time of year.

That’s the plan!

Thursday December 21, 2006

Garett: After spending a couple of hours making a trip to shore to meet the "aqua purificada" truck and walk to the Pemex to fill our jerry cans with gas, we took a taxi with our friends Simon and Sunny to the big Surianna Mall. Taxi rides are real fun. There is no meter in the taxi so you have to confirm the price for where you want to go. It was only 50 pesos for the 6-mile trip to the mall. This trip would be $10-$15 back home. The mall area is on a big boulevard surrounded by an invasion of the big box stores like Office Depot, Home Depot, etc. If you squinted at the surrounding hills you could imagine yourself on Harvey Street in Kelowna.

The mall was buzzing with all the Cristmas shoppers (and felt very American – C). We helped Simon and Sunny buy a replacement micro apartment-size washing machine for their boat as their last one had just died. While waiting I went through the DVD area and found the Spanish titles on the familiar box covers amusing. My favorites were, "Tres Hombres y une bebe" (3 men and a baby) and "Rapido y Furioso" for "Fast and Furious".

While Simon and Sunny drove back with the delivery man, we went alone went to the movie theatre which is part of the mall to watch the latest James Bond movie. The theatre (el cine) is one of the new brand of multiscreen cineplex ones just like Silver City in Richmond, BC. The price was only 40 pesos (about $4 – such a deal) which is less than half of the price back home. Popcorn and drinks were cheap too. The movie was pretty good (dramatic and some great stunts and chase scenes) but it was a little serious as there weren’t the usual tongue in cheek laughs that were provided by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.

Saturday December 23, 2006

Carllie: After working like Trojans to get Light Wave ship shape and spiffied up for our guests, walking all over the streets of downtown La Paz to buy supplies, filling up all of our water and gas containers and making numerous trips from and to the boat anchored a mile from the dinghy dock at Marina de La Paz, we sat on a bench at the marina waiting for their taxi to arrive.

When the taxi finally pulled up and we saw our good friends Daken and Korianne Ariel, we were so delighted we just about did a dance. Hugs all around, we motored our guests and their significant luggage (half of which was gifts and requested supplies for us from home) back out to Light Wave, with the kind help of our good friends Simon and Sunny from Seascape.

We had had the laundry lady Patricia (Pa TREE see ah) wash all of our cushion and mattress covers (along with all of our towels and clothes) and had vacated our "bedroom hull" to give our guests a space of their own while we would bed down on the double berth we make up in the saloon. After they gave us all of the stuff we had requested from home, we piled back into the dinghy and motored back to shore for a short walking tour of downtown La Paz, cautioning them:"Cuidado – Be careful of the sidewalks! There are holes and broken sidewalks everywhere." Remember folks, "Third World" countries like Mexico don’t have the credit with International banks to keep their cities’ infrastructures perfect, as we do in "First World" countries like Canada. They also have very low property and other taxes, and do not have a "Sue ‘Em!" mentality. Good luck if you twist an ankle or break a leg on uneven pavement or a gaping hole in the middle of a sidewalk. You take responsibility for your own safety when you walk these streets, and are responsible for any falls you may take as well. Good logic, we think.

Anyhoo, back to the story: after showing the Ariels the Christmastime street markets set up in downtown La Paz, we took them for dinner at one of our favorite little restaurants here, La Fonda, a very simple little place on la Calle Nicholas Bravo (Nicholas Bravo Street) which is an outdoor restaurant covered by a thin plastic corrugated roof to keep the sun out (and rain in the rainy season we presume). We enjoyed quesedillas and pescado (fish) with a tomato vegetable sauce served with rice and vegetables, accompanied by warm tortillas and salsas. Of course we had to order our meal in Spanish, and speak politely with the waiter, Ernesto, in Spanish while we were there. Korianne later said how much she enjoyed that genuine Mexican restaurant experience.

We then walked down the Malecon (beach-side street) to Garett’s all-time favorite spot: La Fuenta–an ice cream parlor that serves delicious strawberry yogurt ice cream in hand-made waffle cones, one scoop for only $1.40 US. Best deal in town. Better when you can eat 1/3 of your husband’s ice cream and don’t have to buy your own!

The Ariels were pretty happy to be in warm La Paz–much warmer then home in Vancouver where they had had record rain and windstorms over the prior six weeks. It has only gotten cooler over the last week, but even then it’s still pretty warm when the sun is at its zenith, and we haven’t seen any real rain since the Strait of Juan de Fuca, leaving Vancouver. So La Paz must have been Heaven for them. We are still enjoying it, even though it’s cooler than our ideal temperature, and we go in shirtsleeves and shorts (Garett) and sleeveless top and skirt (me) every day, only dawning sweaters or light Polartec tops when the wind pipes up and we are crossing the anchorage or during the evenings on the boat.

Sunday December 24, 2006

We had to wait for the Northers to abate again before we could take Korianne and Daken out to the nearby islands, so on Christmas Eve we took them for a little walking excursion to Magote "Island", the little peninsula right next to where Light Wave was anchored. We enjoyed a little walk ashore and I even picked a few tiny seashells with the thought of using them for earrings at some future date. We saw lots of tiny little lizards that were the same color as the sand and would shoot off when we approached. We only saw them because they moved, like blurs of sand.

Exploring the beach on Magote "Island", adjacent to
La Paz Harbour.

Daken and Korianne with Carllie on Magote "Island".
You can see entrance to the harbour and surrounding
hills behind us.

Our African Queen trip up the "river" (all 50 yards of it)
into the mangroves at Magote.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we brought Daken ashore to the Club Cruseros at the marina, where we participated in a pot-luck of finger food and enjoyed wonderful traditional Christmas music on French horns by a cruiser (left) and his younger Mexican musician friend. The food and
company were great. Daken took the opportunity to buy Korianne a beautiful shell and pearl necklace made by another long- time cruiser, Lin, who with her husband Ricardo has been cruising and living in the Sea of Cortez for the last 15 years. We left Korianne on Light Wave to enjoy some solitude and a quiet nap, rocked to sleep by the gentle motion of Light Wave in light waves.

Traditional Christmas carols on French horns by a
cruiser (on left) and his friend, an accomplished
local musician. Everyone sang along.

Night falls quickly once the sun sets on a city preparing
to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas Eve we took Korianne and Daken over to Seascape for a wonderful group dinner with our friends Simon and Sunny and two other cruisers Linda and David from Tokatie. We had a warm and fun evening of laughs and Christmas cheer with new and old friends.

Monday December 25, 2006

Garett and I got up early Christmas Day so we could fit in another run with Simon and Sunny on the city streets before it got hot. We left our guests snoozing, while we enjoyed another running clinic with Simon and felt great after long warm (not quite hot) showers.

Surprises with friends on Christmas morning.

When we got back to Light Wave we were surprised to find Daken and Korianne had produced a whole pile of gifts, letters and cards for us from our big treasure chest of friends back home. What a wonderful treat!

We finally felt "like Christmas" with the help of Korianne and Daken, and reading all of the loving messages from home plus opening unexpected (but well deserved, ahem!) gifts. Seriously, we did not expect anything, dear friends, and had just hoped fervently that you would all write to us. So many of you did take the time to write loving messages on cards, and we enjoyed several long letters as well. Your gifts, words, and love are so much appreciated. While we use the soaps, lotions, note paper, mad money, Roibois tea, nuts, dried fruits, and even cash, and as we re-read all of your wonderful messages, we will think of you and each one of you will be in our minds as we continue to meet the challenges of this unique adventure. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And muchas gracias otre ves, Korianne and Daken, for hauling a hundred pounds of goodies down here for us. One day when you are doing your "On the Edge Adventure" aboard a windjammer in the Arctic we will do the same for you. Wait! The Arctic? I don’t think so. Well, maybe Hawaii…. Just let us know when you are far from home and parched for the nourishment of the love your long-time friends!

Christmas cards from our many friends decorated
Light Wave during Christmas season.

Mother Nature, however, continued to assert her supremacy and let us know that in fact we could not have every little thing we desired on Christmas Day, keeping those Northers blowing. Good things were forecast for the morrow, however…

Tuesday December 26, 2006

As Don on Summer Passage (the wonderful man who from his home in Oxnard has for the last 20 years or so broadcast weather predictions for the whole West Coast of Mexico on Single Sideband and Ham Radios) predicted, the Northers abated on Boxing Day, so we pulled up anchor and got away by about 3 pm, getting to Bahia Los Lobos, only 8 miles just up the entrance channel from La Paz, for a a head start on our island expedition.

En route to Los Lobos. It was great to be under way again.
We had tired of "city life" and our guests were itching to
get out into Nature.

Daken enjoying the setting sun at peaceful
Los Lobos, 8 miles from La Paz harbor. Still not far enough!

Wednesday December 27, 2006

The winds were now decidedly in our favor, so we made tracks for Isla San Francisco, another 38 miles north from Los Lobos, 46 from La Paz. Our strategy was to get as far north as possible while we had this weather window in this prevailing season of north winds. In fact, this day we were blessed with southerlies, and so enjoyed a wonderful downwind sail. As catamarans are so stable in following winds, unless there are big and/or confused seas as there were off the Washington, Oregon and Northern Californian coastlines, we were all able to relax and really enjoy the sail.

Daken and Korianne sat in front of the boat, leaning against the cuddy cabin windows reading and writing. I sat in the back "on watch duty" (very easy, on autopilot, just watching for traffic, etc.) while at one point Garett slept on the net for about an hour and a half (believe it or not!). It was great and gave us all a nice break. Daken and Korianne loved the sailing, the warm sun, and the very pleasant rhythm of the boat.

A few shots of a very relaxed crew on our wonderful downwind sail to Isla San Francisco from Los Lobos.

Light Wave very proudly showed our guests her stuff. "See why you need a catamaran?" she said. "See how nice it is not to be heeling over and twisting in following seas on a monohull?" "Imagine how great it would be to have your own catamaran!" The thoughts were getting through, we hoped. It would be so nice to have friends from home with catamarans or at least sailboats as well. We could have rendezvous at the Gulf Islands, and explore Desolation Sound together! Think of it!

The captain sleeping on the net en route to Isla
San Francisco.

Korianne and Daken enjoying a great downwind sail.

We arrived at Isla San Francisco, and dropped our anchor in the shoals of the "hook" of the anchorage, formed by the shape of the island, protecting us from the waves generated by the south wind. Two monohull sailboats also anchored in this bay, but not in the hook, and exposed to those south waves. We did not envy them their rocking and rolling night. We were fine aboard Light Wave, with only a little gentle movement, nothing uncomfortable.

Settled in at the very picturesque Isla San Francisco.

Light Wave anchored behind the protection of "The Hook"

Garett: Just as we lowered the anchor someone was waving and calling out from the beach that their dinghy engine had stopped and they were drifting out into the "open ocean" on the other side of the spit and they needed some help. Daken and I quickly put the dinghy together but by the time we got it into the water they had managed to row back into protected waters. The owner of the boat, Arnie, from the Yukon came over and thanked us for getting ready to go out and rescue them and gave us a bottle of wine. We said we didn’t drink wine but what we really needed was more water. He didn’t have any to spare but suggested that we might be able to parlay the wine into water with the big Moorings chartered monohull in the anchorage. I motored over and and another group of friendly Canadians (sadly on a one-week trip at a cost of probably about $5,000/week) gladly took the wine for 5 gallons of water and everyone was happy.

Thursday December 28, 2006

We woke up to bright blue skies and we all went ashore for a big hike around the island.

The best way to describe this part of the Sea of Cortez is that it is like you went back in time millions of years to birth of the planet just after it had cooled off after the molten lava stage and there was only vegetation but no animals. The scenery was very prehistoric looking.

Carllie: As Mexicans are not hikers, runners, swimmers or mountain-climbers by and large, we think the area will remain this way unless and until American development and artificial money moves south.

Light Wave at Isla San Francisco.

The beach that circled the bay was coarse sand with millions of seashells which Korianne and Carllie gleefully picked.

Part of Carllie’s collection: Gifts from the Sea.

Garett: We climbed the hill backing the bay until we reached a cliff drop-off to the ocean 300 feet below.

Pictures like this don’t really show it but we kept
our distance from the overhanging cliff edge.

Close Encounters of the Cactus Kind

We slowly climbed down from the cliffs to the flats near the beach and went through a whole are of scrub trees and cactus like the one below.

Korianne and Carllie were leading the way when Daken called to me to come and look at this broken cactus. He squatted down for a closer look but failed to realize that there was another equally menacing cactus right behind him which he then promptly sat on. He gave this blood curdling screech,and we all rushed up to him over to see what had happened. By the time we got to him he had removed most of the cactus thorns from his backside. Korianne helped to remove the final six or eight needles from his hiking shorts. No serious damage to Daken, but we did have many laughs over the next five day at his expense. Korianne especially had a problem and periodically lapsed into fits of giggles for the rest of the trip.

I personally felt that Daken’s encounter with the cactus provided some type of payback and closure to his unconscionable, and alas public, version of my swinging out over the water on a long rope in Desolation Sound on our last "Guys’ Trip" in September 2005 (a long story). I am now able to move forward….

Carllie had her insight of the event with this stick man diagram which according to Korianne and myself correctly and accurately depicted Daken’s cactus encounter. When you see Daken, please don’t hesitate to ask him about his cactus encounter!

Our walked ended on another rocky beach (i.e., BIG rocks) where there was supposed to an abandoned agate mine, but we couldn’t find it. Still, the geology and rock formations were amazing.

Our two walks ended back on the boat where we swam and snorkeled with all these puffer fish which are very curious and came right up to us.

Though the winds had eased off during the day they quickly came up at dusk much to the chagrin of the boats that had just moved back in to this side of the spit from the north-facing side. They quickly had to leave again to a more protected anchorage on the other side of the island.

We were treated to a dramatic evening sky to close the day while we hunkered behind he spit for another windy night..

Friday December 29, 2006

It was time to head south back to the islands nearer La Paz, so we went through all our routines of putting the dinghy and anchor away and prepared to sail away.

Crew readies Light Wave to leave
Isla San Francisco for points further south.

Our last view from inside The Hook at Isla
San Francisco, with the beautiful Baja Peninsula
mountains in the background. The structure on shore
is a navigation light, unlike our lights in Canada
which are a little ore picturesque, we think.

We sailed along quite nicely for the first hour. Then all of sudden Korianne noticed that we were dragging something behind the boat on the fishing line. A fish! We had finally caught a fish after a long dry spell. The tradition is that the person who sees the fish gets to haul it in.

Korianne hauling in her 5-lb mackerel. We did
get a fish scale from our pal Evan for Christmas, but had
not gotten it out of the package yet. So you have to
believe my 5-lb estimate! – Carllie

It turned out to be a small mackerel which when fried up becomes a great addition to a rice and vegetable stir fry.

We still had to cover 18 miles to get to Partida Cove (Caleta el Partida). The wind and the confused waves made for a bumpy downwind ride comparable to some of our passages along the Oregon coast but fortunately warmer and no fog.

Carllie: this did not bode well for Korianne and I, who are both a little prone to seasickness. I’m a bit more accustomed to the motion, but Korianne had to assume the position I favored on the Washington-Oregon coasts: prone on the comfy saloon settee.

Korianne’s preferred position for sailing in rougher
water. Her advice: "As soon as the boat gets under way,
find yourself a cosy little spot, lie down flat, close your eyes,
keep eating crackers and wait for the boat to find a peaceful
little cove to drop its anchor in."

Garett: First thing we did when we finally anchored was to go for a swim and snorkel.

This was followed be a small hike up to one of the caves on the mountainside that were once occupied by the natives for thousands of years.

We then walked for a bit along the shoreline to complete the day before heading back for our traditional late-afternoon nap before dinner.

Saturday December 30, 2006

Our destination today was Bahia Los Candeleros which was only 5 miles south. This turned out to be one of the most dramatic spots with the clearest water we have seen as well as a beautiful background of volcanic rock.

After a late breakfast of French toast we headed to the beach through the shoals. Fortunately, Daken was able to pull us through the shallow water after we couldn’t motor any more.

We saw a sign that showed the way to a box canyon and so we let the shoreline and marched over the boulders up the hill.

The rock formations against the deep blue sky were very dramatic. We came across one of the many banded lizards that live among the rocks. This little fella was about one foot long and watched us carefully over his shoulder as I took several shots.

We finally reached the end of the "box" canyon. (And were thankful the bad guys hadn’t yet caught up on their hosses! – C.)

Exploring the box canyon at
Bahia Los Candeleros.

We could still see though the trees back to the bay where we had left Light Wave.

After our two-hour adventure we arrived back at the beach and took time out for a timed group photo at the "sofa rock" which was once used in an episode of The Flinstones…

Sunday December 31, 2006

It was time for our final leg back to La Paz. We continued south through Bahia Ballenas ( a place for a future stop on another trip as there were a whole pack of kayakers there) and stopped for our final hike and swim at Bahia San Gabriel. We could see a beautiful sand beach in the distance but it was quite shallow for the last 200 yards so we had to walk the dinghy across the 1 foot deep water.

We could all feel that the trip was coming to an end.

We got back to the anchorage off Magote Island just after dark and then motored over to La Paz where we found a restaurant still open on New Years’ Eve had a nice dinner together.

After dinner we tuned in through the wonders of the internet to the entertainment at the New Years’s banquet we normally all go to when in Vancouver.

Monday January 1, 2007

With Daken and Korianne’s flight leaving at 4 pm, we had the whole morning to walk around town and go for breakfast. We found a new breakfast place with open-air dining at the Hotel Las Perla where they served up great omelets and toast at very reasonable prices.

We spent the last hour walking on the Malecon so we could get them to their taxi for 1:30 pm.

Finally the moment came for hard goodbyes after
such a fantastic nine days.

Going, going…….


Carllie: Goodbyes aren’t good at all.

Here are Korianne’s reflections on their holiday with us in the Sea of Cortez on Light Wave:

I keep thinking of the different things we did – – visiting La Paz, going to that Mexican restaurant that first night, and walking through the open air market, experiencing a different culture. And going out to a typical Mexican breakfast on our last day. I can’t get over how the Mexican people are so nice and friendly and kind. Their gentle nature is such a contrast to our North American hard nail ways. We have much to learn from them.

I keep thinking about all the laughs we had! Reading the Far Side cartoons, watching episodes of Corner Gas and Star Trek ("Assimilate THIS!"), studying cactus formations, laughing at the different little air groupish jokes. And Carllie you can use my picture or stick man regarding “best sailing techniques” thinking back about this I figure it is very educational, and might help any “wannabe” sailors: As soon as the boat gets under way, find yourself a cosy little spot, lie down flat, close your eyes, keep eating crackers and wait until boat finds a peaceful little cove to drop its anchor.

Images of beautiful sunsets, of incredible sceneries, keep flashing in front of my eyes, and I feel so grateful to be alive and to live on such a beautiful planet!

I keep thinking of the fun we had swimming and snorkeling (yes I did not go far from the boat but I still enjoyed myself) And if I may say so, I found myself pretty brave the day I swam all the way to the front of the boat and back…I keep thinking of the fantastic hikes we went on.

And I keep thinking at how enjoyable our days were. All the delicious meals we had. It was so enjoyable each night to sit around the table for our candlelit dinners

Each day to find moments for ourselves to read, write or simply have a nap, or to just sit in a quiet spot and simply enjoy the moment.

It was fun to practice the little Spanish we know and to learn new words. I really want to seriously start learning the language.

We enjoyed meeting your “sailor” friends and taking a a look at the “sailing culture”.

And I keep thinking of how an experience like this creates such a strong bond of friendship that is so special and unique. It deepens the friendship. So Garett and Carllie, thank you so much for creating this experience for us and to be such good friends to us.

Doris and Richard, two long-time voyagers
who have travelled to Mexico and the South
Pacific many times.

After Korianne and Daken left, and we were all choked up, we sought solace with our oldest cruising friends, Doris and Richard, long-time sailors in the Sea of Cortez who have sailed to French Polynesia and Hawaii many times. They are originally from Alaska and we guess their ages to be around 70 respectively. They are good examples to all of us, and Richard says he’s ready to leave for Hawaii any day now. Good sailors don’t get old,they just get better.


About Author

Garett Hennigan

Garett Hennigan is a mechanical engineer who in partnership with his wife, Carllie, built a 28 foot catamaran, Light Wave, in 1999. He has sailed extensively with his wife through Mexico, Hawaii and now back in the Pacific northwest with over 20,000 sailing miles and over 5000 hours of boatbuilding experience.

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