February Update

February Update

Update: Thursday, February 6, 1997

Don't forget, time to start worrying about income taxes:-)

So far, I haven't started writing about a place we've visited until after we have left because we keep getting new information during the experience. This has held true for our time on the water as well. This section is going to be different. There is much to say about La Paz, but we haven't left yet. The marina found us an open slip on the second day, so after slipping into the fuel dock in-between the Moorings' charter boats to fill up on diesel, we moved to the opposite corner of the marina, Dock 6, slip #6-14. We initially signed up for 3 days rent when we pulled into the Marina Palmira. On the third day, I converted to the monthly rate of $372 US dollars and paid for one month in advance.

Figure 1: Fountain and La Panga Restaurant / Marina Palmira

La Paz is a very cruiser friendly place. Marina Palmira has almost everything necessary to live comfortably and offers a warm, friendly, peaceful environment. The water is clear, with many varieties of fish swimming and jumping to watch. The shore is lined with coconut palm trees. The people everywhere are friendly.

- There are three restaurants in the marina, all reasonably priced. A good breakfast served outdoors under palm trees overlooking Dock 5 can be had for less than $5 US. Great Italian dinner can be found next door for under $10 less wine. The burgers on the other end of the marina, past Dock 1 are delicious. We haven't tried the rest of their menu yet, but it's extensive.

- Groceries are available through the Moorings Mini Mart, the marine hardware store, and from the vegetable cart that parks next to the harbormaster's office every other day. The Moorings store is there to provide provisions for their charter boats. It is pricy by Mexican standards, but top quality frozen meats, steaks, chicken, pork chops, fish, and other cuts are available. The marine hardware store has fishing and diving gear and basic boat gear. These items are expensive, about 40% higher than in the US because of the VAT. But they can get all Port Supply items quickly if you really need it. They also sell beer, wine, and liquor, and a wide variety of groceries. They even sell the kind of dog food Cindy eats. Both stores sell block and cubed ice. The vegetable guy usually has items like broccoli, avocado, peppers, oranges, apples, bananas, potatoes, etc. A half kilo of limes costs 7 pesos. Also, there is a guy with a bucket that wonders around once in a while on the docks. His bucket contains frozen shrimp or lobster.

Figure 2: Martines, The vegetable man with his cart

- Regarding the facilities, there are showers with restrooms by Dock 2. The propane used to make the hot water has only run out a couple of times. There are additional restrooms near Dock 5, behind the swimming pool and Jacuzzi, next to the tennis court. If you bring empty propane tanks to the Marine hardware store by 10:00 am on Fridays, they are returned full by 3:00 that afternoon. The fuel dock sells both diesel and gasoline, and it is a real dock, unlike Cabo San Lucas. There is a laundry mat in the same building as the marina office. The machines take quarters, and you can do the work yourself, or have it done. The docks have fresh potable water, and the marina will rewire the power connector to match your yacht.

Figure 3: The swimming pool,

Figure 4: and Jukuzi

- The Marina Hotel is just across from Dock 4. Because we are berthing a yacht in the marina, we are able to get our friends a good discount, $55 for a double room instead of $85. Tropical birds on display in the courtyard by the pool can be heard throughout the day. One of the birds emulates the guy riding a bicycle each morning saying News, English Paper.

Figure 5: Marina and Hotel from Spirit's view

- There is an apartment building across from Dock 3. Ed, the marina manager told me he could get us an apartment for $200 month if we wanted a land base to operate out of.

- There is a social building called the Annex. We've attended the new year's eve party there, a computer user's group meeting, a lecture on email with SSB radio getting started in La Paz, a cruisers meeting with a message from the La Paz Port Captain, and most recently a going away party for the crews of 3 boats leaving for the South Pacific. There is also Spanish Lessons taught there every Mon., Wed., and Fri. mornings for 10 peso's a class.

- There is a free shuttle bus that drives the 2 - 3 miles into town three times a day, at 8:00, 12:00, and 5:00. It will take you anywhere you want to go on the main street, but it's hard to catch on the way back. It stops for about 5 minutes at the Marina on the other side of town. A cab ride back from town averages 20 pesos.

- Next door, there is a full service yard if you need a haul out. Labor rates are about 1/2 that in the US, and they use the good stuff for bottom paint, the kind the military boats use in the US that are illegal for recreational use because it's so toxic. They offer dry storage for less than the slip fees in case you are going to be gone for a while and want to let your boat dry out.

- Divers frequent the marina and will change zincs for $10 US each.

- Cindy is welcome. Ed the marina manager has a similar sized dog, and feels every boat should have a dog. He side bar commented the right size dog, then mentioned with raised eyebrows, the couple on the 32' boat with the Saint Bernard.

What else is there to worry about? This is just in the marina!!

Figure 6: Mr. Ed Vergara, Operations Manager, Marina Palmira

Monday through Saturday, at 8:00 am is the La Paz cruisers VHF net. This one is much more active than the one run out of the Broken Surfboard restaurant in Cabo. This is run by the local cruisers, someone volunteers to be the net manager for a week, then passes the baton. The format is similar to most nets with sections on:

- Emergency or medical traffic

- Ham or priority traffic (relays from the Ham nets)

- Weather and tides

- Mail (both marinas and the Club Cruceros de La Paz in turn lists the fax's that have come in or mail that has been delivered either through the post, or from other boats bringing goods from Downwind Marine in San Diego or other places).

Figure 7: Local Cruisers Yacht Club, Cruceros de La Paz (shares the parking lot with Marina de La Paz)

- Mail forward (who has crew flying or driving back to the states or Canada that can take mail to be mailed from the US (= cheaper and faster))

- Arrivals and departures (who's coming and who's leaving)

- Rides and crew (who needs crew, who needs a ride)

- Baywatch

- Information and announcements (volleyball times, writers meeting, art shows, etc.)

- Lost and Found

- Local assistance (where can I find a replacement dingamawhatchit or who can loan me a 3/8 tap, 2-1/2 hole saw, etc.)

- Swaps and trades (you can't discuss money or selling on the net)

The net last between 30 - 60 minutes, usually longer on Mondays getting shorter as the week progresses. The other day, someone announced someone else's birthday so the net controller said, All right, lets give him a round of clicks which proceeded 20 seconds of listening to a bunch of cruisers clicking their microphone switch. Listening to it while drinking the morning's coffee is how many of us start the day.

Figure 8: La Paz, Calle Revolucion

The city of La Paz is a delightful place to visit and shop. The roads are paved, and there are sidewalks and all are for the most part, clean. It is a non touristy commercial city where you can get anything you want, but there is no evidence of any US franchise business, such as MacDonalds or KFC. The main street, referred to as The Malecon boarders the south end of Bahia de La Paz. It is lined with trees and small beaches on the water side and shops and restaurants on the other. The main streets in the downtown area running perpendicular to the shore are 5 de Mayo, Independencia, Reforma, and 16 de Septembre, the main streets running parallel to the shore are Francisco Madero, Revolucion, Serdan, and Guillermo Prieto. The town expands for 8 - 10 blocks in all directions from the center.

Figure 9: The Malecon, main street in La Paz

For 5 peso's, Mary at Marina de La Paz sells a 10 page A Cruiser's Fifteen Minute Guide to La Paz. It is a compilation of types of services that have proved reliable. The guide has a cover note suggesting picking up a Learn Spanish book and spend 1/2 hour a day with it. Learn to pronounce the vowels, ah, eh, ee, o and u, as in shoe and learn one verb a day, the nouns will fall into place. The rest of the paper is listings in alphabetical order, services such as Alternators (5 places), Bakery (5 places), Canvas work and cushions (6 places), electronics, hardware, beauty salons, doctors and veterinarians, watch repair, etc., etc. etc. Many of the shops are closed during siesta times of 1 - 3 or 2 - 4, so morning is the best time to shop, though the larger department type stores remain open.

Figure 10: The anchorage in La Paz with Pemex plant in background

There are two main anchorages across from each other near Marina de La Paz and the main section of town. If you need to watch your budget, the rent here is free. There is the phonemon referred to as the La Paz waltz, which is a result of strong currents and wind shifts from time to time, but most times it can be quite comfortable. You can pay $7.00 US to have dinghy dock privalages at Marina de La Paz.

Last week, the 130' sailing vessel Endeavor pulled into the anchorage. This is the famous J-Class 12 meter America's Cup racing yachts of the 1930 vintage Elziabeth Meyer has invested millions of dollars in to restore it to original, new condition. We've heard the Port Captian has had to make two trips to the boat to repremand them for anchoring in the channel. But it draws 16...

Figure 11: The Endeavor at anchor in La Paz

There are taco stands on many of the corners, but we've found the most popular one near the center of town. There is always a crowd of people standing around it eating fish or shrimp tacos. The shrimp taco's cost 6 pesos, the fish costs 4 and they are delicious. They are served on a plate with a corn tortilla, the meat deep fried with a light batter, and shredded cabbage. Then it's up to you to choose from about 20 toppings, various salsa's, sauces, and vegetables.

Figure 12: Allegedly, the best Taco Stand in La Paz

The largest supermarket for groceries has two locations, CCC (pronounced say say say). We walked to the larger of the two, 10 blocks past the main part of town on our first trip to town to check out what we had been hearing. When we first saw the parking lot and building, it felt just like looking at a Price Club in California. It was, in fact as big as a Price Club, but not set up for large quantity purchases with fork lifts driving down the isles. It was more along the lines of the Marina Safeway. You take a number at the meat counter for your turn, there is a cheese deli with any kind of cheese, etc. They have everything, some Mexican, some US, some US manufactures of things we've never seen, such as varieties of Campbell's soups. We even found pre made pizza crust .

Figure 13: La Fabula Pizzaria on the Malecon

In our old lifestyle back in reality, Pizza used to be our easy meal of the week because we just had to make a phone call to have it delivered. We still have the cravings for pizza about once a week, but now it is one of the working dinners. The popular thing for the locals with cars to do on Saturday night is to cruise the Malecon. We had to witness this and got situated at an outdoor table in front of La Fabula Pizza. We ordered one, but it was disappointing. The crust reminded me of a thick tortilla. I used a lot of hot sauce, and my mouth burned for a while afterwards. Watching the cars cruising the strip was fun, the beaches across the street are lit up brightly until late. CCC had Jimmy Dean's pork sausage, great pepperoni's, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, and a great selection of peppers. I started making pizzas coming down the west coast. Each time they are improving, I've past the point where they are now better than the ones we used to have delivered.

The prices at CCC are not bad, lower than in a US supermarket. I think it has the best prices for beer, wine etc., though it pays to shop at other places such as the Plaza de la Perla, or the Cow Store (big plastic cow as a sign hanging out front). There are specials here and there. I've seen the price for a liter of Stolichnaya Vodka very from 55 to 112 pesos. For many things though, there is much money to be saved by foraging through the farmers market on Revolucion. The red meats look more gnarly, but the selection of sea food available in the central stalls in the mornings look great and one of the vendors always has the biggest, freshest chickens. Connected to the building is a tortilla bakery, both flour and corn. We use the flour tortillas for quesodias for lunch, with Mexican cheeses, peppers, and what ever is left over from dinner the day before. The best ones so far were with the left overs from shrimp, pepper, onion, and mushroom skewers on the grill. The corn tortillas are easy to fry in a pan with oil to make warm tostadas chips to go with salsas as appetizers.

Figure 14: Palm trees reflecting on the beach

So what is life like down here? Well, after getting here, and getting situated so we know our way around a little bit, we started realizing there is nothing forcing us to leave right away, and that it's a right, friendly place to hang out. We had jobs up until we left, moved onto the boat and took off working it down the coast. Now is the first time to not be working since both of our early teens. We will probably sign up for another month in the marina to wait for the weather to warm up before heading out to explore the Sea of Cortez. Don't get me wrong, the weather in the winter here is nice. Except for the two day rain storm last week, the days have been sunny and warm, tee shirt and shorts weather with a gentle breeze that picks up occasionally. When the sun goes down, we need long pants and sweat shirts, but it is comfortable. It's easy to meet other people and make friends, there are many dynamics with so much in common yet people are continually coming and going with different ideas and itineraries. Nope, we haven't had much time to get bored yet, though I am looking forward to the warmer weather, the kind that compels you to make swimming in the sea a part of every day.

It's quite possible we will spend the spring in the Sea of Cortez, then bring SPIRIT back here for the summer hurricane season before making the passage to the mainland. I'm learning to expect that it will not be as hot here during July and August as further north because of the proximity of the Pacific ocean. It's hard to say what we will be doing during July and August, one conversation that keeps popping up is backpacking in Alaska, but that is still a long way off, it's too early to say. For now, we are just learning to take one day at a time, figuring out the agenda after the coffee. I've completed the paperwork and checked it in with the Aduana (Customs). I expect him to come to the boat either next Wednesday or Thursday at either 9:00 or 11:00 to inspect the boat and verify the identification numbers, then after about a 3 day wait, the vessel importation process will be complete and SPIRIT will be authorized to spend up to 20 years in Mexico. We are planning on taking the ferry over to Mazatlan for a few days in February to visit friends that will be there, after Carnival in La Paz. We are still working on boat projects that we didn't have the time to get to, fixing the autopilot and sewing bug screens for the companion way entrances. We purchased two used mountain bicycles for shore transportation so we could see more stuff while here. I'm averaging about one trip to town for a back pack full of provisions every other day.

Figure 15: Pongas on the beach

I hope to be able to find the time for us to put the finishing touches on a book that I've been working on as a hobby over the past few years so it will be in a state to present to potential publishers or distributors. I have no contract for it yet, and have made no decisions on how I will license the rights to it. Who knows...

It's a book about boating, based on Marsha's an my experience on our previous sailboat, a 27 Watkins sloop named Moonshot. I saw from the nautical bookshelves, that people more typically write about their experiences after they have broken away from the land based life style. What I tried to accomplish with this work is to describe all of the fun that a boat can provide while you are still living a normal land based life and working. It discusses the mentality of boat ownership, maintenance and upkeep as well as the yacht club scene, racing, and chartering boats in other parts of the world for vacations. It is based on our experience in San Francisco Bay, so it covers that area thoroughly, but much of the information is generic. I see the target market initially as being gifts from boaters to their non boating friends that they would like to introduce the yachting world to. The market could extend to anyone that could have a dream to sail far away some day. I've made an effort to build the vocabulary so a reader with no knowledge of boats can enter. The following is the current state (Work in Process) of the cover:

Bye for now...

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