Saturday, 28 December 2013

Walking in a cactus wonderland...

Christmas day hike up hill behind marina, first to viewpoint and then further beyond. Beautiful views of La Paz, and Bahia de La Paz, and some great cacti.

View of Marina Palmyra and La Paz through saguaro cactus

View of Marina Palmyra and La Paz through two humans

An unimpeded view...

Flowering cactus

Two of these embedded themselves into Michelle's thigh... ouch

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad from La Paz

No bull. Christmas is a big thing down here. La Paz is full of colourful Christmas lights. The Malecon is lit-up end-to-end. Lots of shoppers. Not TOO much schmaltzy music (just enough). Posadas with loud music going late into the night (well past our bedtime). And surprisingly, turkey ("pavo") available everywhere.

Several events here at our Marina, so we won't be alone for Christmas (though being home in Vancouver or Whistler would b nice...).

Monday, 23 December 2013

Relaxing in La Paz

Two weeks into our month here in La Paz. It is a very relaxing town. Very family oriented. Nobody trying to sell us trashy trinkets.  (Indeed, hardly any gringo tourists, other than cruisers.)  Weather is comfortable (22-27 degrees C), although it does get a little too windy at times (the Northers...). The La Paz malecon is a very long (many kilometres) walkway along the ocean; we are getting lots of walking in as our marina is a 30-40 minute walk from the downtown area.

La Paz Malecon

La Paz Malecon (anchorage is on far right)

We have been doing several boat projects. First thing was a full wash, wax of the boat, polish stainless steel, and bottom scrub. This time, though, we had Carlos and crew do this, freeing Michelle. Additionally, we have installed our new fridge purchased last April and carried all the way under the V-berth down to here (the old fridge was given a terminal diagnosis way back in 2010 so we bought a new one; even though the old fridge seemed to work fine; we will likely donate the old fridge to a small town nearby that depends on 12-volt solar for power). And then there have been many small fixes.

But mostly, we have been relaxing. La Paz is a good place for it. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Time for a pause... In La Paz B.C.S. for a month

We are now at Marina Palmyra in La Paz, Baja California Sur, with plans to stay here through Christmas and New Years.

We left Cabo San Lucas for the short trip to San Jose del Cabo. The new marina at Puerto Los Cabos was a welcome quiet stop after the craziness of CSL. We stayed 2 nights due to northerly winds, allowing a visit to San Jose on our bikes. The historic/art district of San Jose is worth a visit, but prices were way over the top.

We then motored to Bahia Los Frailes and dropped anchor. This was a beautiful spot that we wished we could have stayed longer but the weather forecast indicated a very strong norther brewing in the Sea of Cortez in a day or two. (Trying to get to La Paz, this would mean 20-30 knot winds "on the nose" with steep seas -- bashing!) So the next morning we up-anchored and motored the 45 miles from Los Frailes to Ensenada Los Muertos; we anchored and took a 2-hour break, then joined 4 other boats and did the 55-mile motor overnight all the way to La Paz. (We HAD hoped no more overnights until we cross over to the mainland side of Mexico....)

Briefly @ Ensenada Los Muertos (photo by SV Confidence)
"The Fleet" for Muertos to La Paz overnight sail (from SV Green Panther blog)
We had a calm, easy overnight motor to La Paz, arriving at daylight. By the afternoon, the norther winds had piped up to over 20 knots, with the bay full of whitecaps. Happily, we were comfortably moored at the dock at Marina Palmyra before this.

Arrival at dawn to La Paz channel (Pelagia shown, following Green Panther) -- from SV Green Panther blog

Friday, 6 December 2013

Down the Pacific Coast of Baja: Ensenada to Cabo stats

We left Ensenada on November 18th, and arrived Cabo San Lucas on December 1st,  a total of 14 days, including 6 lay days (3.5 days in Turtle Bay and 2.5 days in Bahia Santa Maria). We travelled (sailed/motored) a total of 151 hours, covering 746.7 nautical miles. In total (including battery charging, anchoring time, etc), we ran Pelagia's engine for 50.7 hours. We used only about 117 litres of diesel (only 43% of our tankage). Happily, we sailed at least 66% of the way. Not an easy trip, but not bad either.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas

After 3 nights in Bahia Santa Maria, it was time to continue South. We had enjoyed BSM: it is very "wild", with only a small seasonal fishing camp (the local fishermen came by offering lobster for trade, with batteries being the number one trade item; we gave away some batteries but did not ask for any langosta). And BSM was the site of our first swim -- 22 degrees Celsius was good enough for us to jump in.

Puerto Magdalena (Man-O-War cove)
We were not quite ready (mentally) for the final overnight, so we did a half-day trip (50% sailed) over to Puerto Magdalena/Man-O-War Cove for the night. We then left early the next morning for the approx. 180 nm overnight trip. As predicted, winds were fairly light. The trip took us 34.5 hours total, of which we motored for nearly 24 hours. But at least the seas were comfortable. (Though we find it hard to sleep while motoring.)

Rounding Cabo

More Cabo

An hour or so before sunset on Dec 1, we motored around the famous rock formations of Cabo San Lucas, and dropped anchor off the sandy beach in front of the hotels. It was a little rolly (from boat traffic and from residual swells) and one beach bar in particular was rather noisy, but we were happy to be anchored, relieved to have completed the long trip down the Pacific coast of Baja.

The next day, we had a nice swim off the boat, and then went in to the IGY Marina (and the mayhem of Cabo San Lucas) for a few nights.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Passage to Bahia Santa Maria

Anchored in Bahia Santa Maria

We are now anchored in Bahia Santa Maria, about 3/4 down the length of the Baja peninsula.

The passage was 2.5 days and 2 nights. We had planned to stop on the second day in Abreojos, and indeed were very close to there in the late morning. But we decided we didn't like what seemed like a rolly anchorage*, so abandoned and turned straight to Bahia Santa Maria. So, a 2nd night at sea. (*Turns out the Abreojos anchorage is full of traps and long lines, and was rolly in the morning.)

For some reason, we found this passage more tiring, especially David, even though we had no real difficulties. We sailed all but 13 hrs of the trip.

We arrived Bahia Santa Maria just before dark, thereby missing lobster traps etc. We were the only boat in the anchorage. (Another boat came in later in the dark.)

Next day, in the sun, 3 more boats arrived.

We have ~180 nm to go to get to Cabo San Lucas. Winds, unfortunately, are forecast to be too light for several days, so maybe we will finally motor the majority of a passage.

Boats at Santa Maria (photo from SV Confidence blog)

Pelagia at Santa Maria (photo from SV Confidence blog)

Four days in Turtle Bay

We ended spending 4 nights in Turtle Bay. A couple days recovery (from our passage), a day for pouring rain, and a day in the sun prepping for our next passage.

Turtle Bay anchorage

"Downtown" Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is a great anchorage; the village, well,rather dusty/muddy and ramshackle. Several tienda (stores) so some provisions can be obtained, including meat. All but one of our interactions with the locals were quite pleasant. (The one negative was with Enrique Jr., who runs the fuel dock: he scolded David for giving a small tip to the little kids who helped him carry water jugs to the dock. Given Enrique shorted us on our fuel purchase, he gets no respect from David.)

Turtle Bay's "moonscape"

Next stop?
(turns out it is Bahia Santa Maria)

Cruising boats in Turtle Bay: SV Confidence, SV Marova, SV Remember Me

Friday, 22 November 2013

Passage south to Turtle Bay

We are now in Turtle Bay, approximately halfway down the Baja Peninsula. (Half way to Cabo!)

Leaving Ensenada

We left Ensenada about noon on Monday, and arrived Turtle Bay, in the dark, at about 9pm Wednesday. Our passage was almost entirely under sail, with 15-25 kn winds behind us. Seas were often quite boisterous (translation: we were tossed around quite a lot). During the night, we each took 3-hr-long shifts while the other tried to sleep. Day time was more fluid, but we often tried to grab some sleep then to make it easier during the night.

Nightime sailing is far far better than nighttime motoring. (And daytime sailing is far far better than daytime motoring....)

Approaching Cedros Island at dawn

We were pretty tired -- think, jetlag -- on our first day in Turtle Bay.  David did get ashore to help Dave from SV Confidence (they arrived the day before us) find a welder to fix a piece broken on his Monitor windvane. Turtle Bay village is very spread out and very dusty and windblown. Dave was successful in getting the part welded -- still waiting to hear if it worked.

Last night a weather system came in, and it has been pouring rain since the wee hours of the morning. More like a B.C. weather day. It is now 12 noon and it is still pouring. Not sure if we will get off the boat today or not.

Next sail is either to Bahia Santa Maria (2 nights and 2 days), with perhaps a stop in-between, depending upon winds. We may leave tomorrow (Saturday).

Enjoyed Ensenada!

We stayed 11 nights in Ensenada -- far more than we had expected. That's
because we really liked Ensenada, our marina (Cruiseport Village), and
the relaxing time they gave us. It was also good to have friends in town
(SV Confidence and SV Marova), both boats getting work done at Baja Naval.

We had particularly good times at Hussong's Cantina, an Ensenada
landmark since the 1800s. David last visited in the 80s, and it remains
a great place for drinks and mariachi music. The three times we were
there, the cantina was filled with mostly Mexicans, many loudly singing
traditional songs as the mariachi band(s) played. Great fun.

Eventually, we had to move on, for a 3+ day passage to Turtle Bay, where
we are now.

Cruising boats in Ensenada: SV Marova, SV Confidence, SV Green Panther

Friday, 15 November 2013

Entering Mexico: what it cost (Nov. 2013)

For those planning to enter in at Ensenada -- here is what we paid for a 40 ft (registered length) <= 20-ton boat:

Visa (180 days): 295 MXN per person (x 2 persons)
Port fees: 227 MXN
Temporary Importation Permit (TIP): 672.83 MXN
Fishing License (annual permit for 1 person*): 553 MXN

Total: 2044.33 MXN (about C$169)

We had significant help from our Cruiseport Marina agent (Enrique), including rides to/from the CIS offices -- there did not seem to be any extra charge for this (though Enrique certainly deserves a good tip).

* Buying only one fishing license differs from all of the recommendations. However, we have only one fishing rod and only one of us would fish. The SAGARPA fishing license officials agreed that only one license was required, as we had "solo uno pescador" on board.
UPDATE (from La Paz): despite what we were told by the SAGARPA folks in Ensenada, we have been convinced here in La Paz (and by the SAGARPA San Diego website) that we should get licenses for both of us. Besides, it is very likely that Mexican Navy guys checking us would expect both to have a license.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

"Mañana..." and our adventure with Aduanas Mexico

We had timed our arrival in Ensenada for early Thursday morning -- we arrived 7:30am -- so that we would have time for the 2-3 hours required for immigration clearance/paperwork etc. We met Cruiseport Marina's agent at 8:30am to start the process. However, we were told "Port Captain is too busy today... we'll go mañana".  So, we agreed to meet Friday morning.

Friday morning: "Port Captain closes early today and everything very busy at CIS" (where immigration, port captain, customs, fishing license, and the Banjercito bank are all located in one place -- apparently one of only two ports in Mexico with this). "We will do it Monday morning".

OK, so we'll be illegal aliens for a few more days. Supposedly, no-one cares (turns out this is not true, but we encountered no issues with this*).

Monday morning, it turns out that the same had been said to many other boats. To top it off, our marina had only one agent to help. (However, Enrique proved to be excellent.) We were shuttled off to CIS -- we were lucky (?) to be first in line from our marina. CIS was very busy (huh? I thought last week was the busy week) -- lots of boats put off to Monday.

All went well, especially with the help of Enrique. Then it was time for David to push the red light/green light at customs (anyone who has flown into Mexico will recall these stoplights -- supposedly they are random, and getting a "Green" means you are clear to pass; "Red" means ??). Of course, as David pushes the button, the red flashes and a very loud buzzer goes off. Everyone turns to see who was the unlucky one, staring at David.

What it meant was that customs had to come down to the boat to inspect it. We had to wait a while until a customs officer was available and Enrique called a driver. Now, we could say that Pelagia was thoroughly searched; indeed, torn apart. We could say the customs confiscated our wine and spirits and all our food. But, in reality, our customs officer turned out to be a very relaxed young woman who joked with our driver and Enrique, who came to the boat but never stepped on to it. She asked no questions but only wanted a photo of our Hull Identification Number (she asked David to take the photo) and one photo of the boat. She asked not a single question. It was all very pleasant (well, except for David worrying after the red light/buzzer went off).

To top it off, because of our extra customs visit, we got back to the boat faster than anyone else.

* One boat was told they had to pay a US$300 fine, but this eventually dropped to $0 when they objected, saying the marina told them to wait.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Adios USA; Hola Mexico!

After an overnight motor (yes, that's right, David missed the winds again), we are now at the dock in Ensenada. We made it to Mexico!

(Can we come home now? Just kidding....)

Excitement last night came in the form of a stealth boat roaring up to us in the pitch-black night at 11:30 pm. No lights and amazingly no radar image, just a loud roar and big wake. "David, get out here!!" Michelle yelled as he snoozed up forward -- she was thinking "pirates". Nope, just the Mexican Navy shining their spotlight on us (from perhaps 20 feet off our stern), checking us out. Guess they saw David's friendly wave (and that we were a yacht), as they roared away.

Probably be here a week. The fish (and shrimp, and...) tacos are to die for! Really glad to have finally made it to Mexico!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

VANCOUVER to SAN FRANCISCO & S. CALIFORNIA: Pelagia's route (August - October, 2013)

We would NOT recommend going out so far (70-100 nm) off of Oregon/Northern California. Weather was MUCH better closer to shore (<20 nm). As a compromise, perhaps stay between 30-50 nm offshore so that one can go in closer depending on the weather forecast.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Arrived San Diego!

We've made all the way down the US west coast!

From Catalina Island, we had a long uneventful (calm) motor to Dana Point, where we spent the eve at anchor behind the breakwaters -- a very quiet night. Next day, we had a short motor over to Oceanside (where the Oceanside Yacht Club was very accommodating). Next day, we (mostly) sailed to Mission Bay, San Diego.

Mariner's Basin, Mission Bay
(Mission Bay's Mariner's Basin was a little tight, but a pretty anchorage; stay away from East shore as it is very shallow -- no permit required, max. stay 72 hours.   Back in the mid-80s, David lived one block from Mission Bay -- in Pacific Beach -- so this was an interesting return.)

Finally, on Tuesday (October 29th), we motored around Point Loma into San Diego harbour -- the end of some 1300 miles of travel down the USA west coast.

San Diego harbor itself is full of services for boaters. That's a positive. Unfortunately, the harbor authorities are not very "cruiser" friendly. Anchorages are few, require permits, and extremely limited (the "cruiser" anchorage allows only 20 boats and is full; other anchorages are either weekend only and/or limited to 72 hours). We are at the municipal "police docks": $1/ft/night with no security (docks are open 24 hours to the public) and limited, not-so-clean facilities (the men's has one toilet and one shower, and hasn't been cleaned for days), and the docks are a long way from shopping etc (with no bus service).  Arrangements are made by a computerized "kiosk" in English only -- no human greets (or helps) you. (Imagine how fun it would be to arrive in Ensenada, and have a Spanish-only computer be your check-in/moorage mechanism.)

[Nearby yacht clubs are closer to the bus, and have secure facilities, but unlike anywhere else in California, they quoted us market rates ($1.50/ft) and would not provide us "reciprocal" moorage  (typically 1-2 free nights and much-reduced cost for subsequent nights). But, perhaps we should have splurged and paid the extra $22/night?]

Nevertheless, we are relieved to have arrived in San Diego. With our rental car, we can shop, visit and sightsee. And relax.

Cruising boats at Police Docks: SV Confidence, SV Green Panther; SV Jugette

Friday, 25 October 2013

Catalina hiking

On our day off on Catalina, we went for a walk from Isthmus Cove over to Cat harbour (an easy 20-30 minute walk) on the other side of the island. Looking up, we thought we should go up to get a better view. Typical of us, we went all the way to the top.  (Good trail but steep up from Cat Harbour, but there actually was a gentle road to follow on the way down to Isthmus Cove).

Great views.

Looking down at Cat Harbour

At the top

Sweaty at the top -- Isthmus Cove in background

Ithmus between Cat Hbr and Isthmus Cove

Pelagia is down there

Hike route

We decided to skip Avalon. Although this weekend they were nowhere near full, we found the mooring buoys to be too packed-in (too close to other boats -- and no privacy) and we did not want to deal with them again in Avalon.

Also, the costs were, frankly, way too steep: $44/night for the buoy with a 9am checkout time, $3/person/trip for a water taxi (we used our dinghy), $2 for a 3-minute shower, etc, etc. (It would cost us about $20 to taxi ashore for a shower! Luckily we have a good shower on Pelagia.)

The walks on Catalina are good, the views great, and the water super clear with lots of fish. Worth a quick visit. But a "premier" cruising spot it is not.  Makes us realize we are soooo lucky in British Columbia!

Marina Del Rey to (Santa) Catalina Island

Had a easy 40-mile motor (including about 1 hour sailing) from Oxnard to Marina Del Rey. Calm, sunny and no problems.

Stayed at the municipal docks ($1/ft) where we had dinner with friends from SV Marova. Also, we were entertained by the sea lions on a dock nearby -- one of them Michelle named "Tom Jones" due to his very strong voice and masculine appearance.

Tom Jones and his entourage

Tom belts out a mean "Delilah"

Took a day off at Marina Del Rey, and went for a bike ride along the beaches from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. Venice Beach was quite the sight -- likely very toned down compared to a summer weekend -- quite the scene with some "interesting" characters. 

Pelagia & Marova at Marina Del Rey municipal docks

Had a wonderful sail from Marina Del Rey all the way over to Isthmus cove on Catalina Island (30 miles). Cove is quite pretty but the rows and rows of mooring buoys are quite something to see. Must be REALLY crowded in the summer! And the cost? $44/night for a 40-ft boat -- yikes!

On a mooring buoy, Isthmus Cove, Catalina

Monday, 21 October 2013

Relaxing days in Santa Barbara

Spent 5 nights/4 days mostly relaxing in Santa Barbara. Some bike riding, some socializing (with Al and Sandy on "Marova" and Dave and Betty-Ann on "Confidence" -- both B.C. boats), a little touring, and some boat work (replaced both fuel filters, plus gave Pelagia a good cleaning).

Weather was sunny and quite warm. Marina excellent. (Even though Marina police carry guns and Tasers, and put dye tablets in the head....)

We are currently in Channel Islands Harbour, Oxnard, after a 28-mile motor.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Motoring to Southern California

Pt. Conception lighthouse

We have finally made it to Southern California, having rounded Pt. Conception. Surprisingly, it actually did become warmer.

Anchored the night in Cojo anchorage -- totally exposed to any weather from the south, but good for prevailing northwesterlies. Two beached/wrecked sailboats on the shore attest to its dangers in storms. But this night, it was a calm (albeit rolly) anchorage.

Cojo anchorage

Next day, a very warm, calm, windless motor to Santa Barbara. Some continuing issues with fuel contamination (making the motoring more tense than it should be).

Just before Santa Barbara, off of Goleta (where UCSB is located) we motored through several miles of oily water -- very smelly layer of oil 1-2 mm thick  -- supposedly "natural" oil seepage. (Hmmm, are they sure all those oil platforms have no role in this?)

Currently at the dock in Santa Barbara -- a VERY nice, clean and organized marina. They even put a dye tablet in our toilet so that we don't pollute the waters (Right, then what about all that oil polluting the waters?). Still, all the Harbor Patrol carry guns and Tazers, so we'll abide with their rules.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Monterrey to Morro Bay to Port San Luis

Overnight  "sail"  Monterrey to Morro Bay.  Started off 1pm in 20-25 kn winds on the nose,  causing us to single then double reef the mainsail.  Then settled down so that we eventually had all sails up. Just as it was getting dark,  off Pt.  Sur,  the winds died and it was then a long motor to Morro Bay.  Arrived approx. 1pm the next day in Morro Bay. 

Incredibly,  we are again having significant fuel contamination problems (even after "polishing" the fuel in Alameda!)...  have to stay on top of the Racor filter! 

Leaving Morro Bay -- WITH wind!

Morro Bay was a nice stop...  we could have stayed longer.  VERY helpful Harbour Patrol. Public dock facilities, however, were sorely lacking (especially bathrooms)!  But we wanted to get moving.  So we sailed (yes, sailed) the approx.  25 miles to Port San Luis,  where we are now anchored.  Harbour Patrol organized and helpful but the transient mooring buoys were placed in the worst place and far from shoreside amenities.  (Thanks for being welcoming....)  So we have anchored off Avila Beach. 

Pelagia (2nd from right) anchored off Avila Beach

Anchored with us were: SV Falcon VII, SV Cetus, and solo/engineless sailor SV Loon.

We stayed 2 nights at Avila -- we could have stayed more as we liked it.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Monterrey Aquarium: Jellyfish

The Monterrey Aquarium has some great exhibits. Hard to choose the best. But the jellyfish were very photogenic.

Moon Jellies (like the millions in Roscoe Inlet...)

Sea Nettles (very stingy)

Egg-yolk jellyfish

We are glad we went to the Monterrey Aquarium. However, the $35/person entrance fee is pretty steep (Vancouver Aquarium is $25/person, with significant discounts available). One wonders how lower-income folks could afford $35/person.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Arrival in Monterrey

Santa Cruz to Monterrey is about 22 nautical miles -- we had a great sail for about half of these, sailing almost into Monterrey.

Pelagia sailed fast (>7 kn at times) and the steering worked well (no issues with weather helm, etc).

Along the way, we saw many (!) whales: humpback and one other kind. On arrival in Monterrey we were greeted by the cacophonous sea lions, as well as sea otters.

Humpback sounding

Smaller whales

Monterrey welcome committee

In stark contrast to Santa Cruz, Monterrey Harbour was well-organized. No concerns coming in. Better priced than Santa Cruz; clean facilities, and free wifi. (SC Harbour could learn much from Monterrey.)

Decided to take a berth at the dock (moorings were also available). 

Also at Santa Barbara: SV Marova; SV Confidence; SV Falcon VII; SV Loon

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbour: Chaos rules

We had a long but smooth trip to Santa Cruz -- no wind so a long hot motor. Flat seas, so comfortable.

Santa Cruz boardwalk/fairground

Arrival at the narrow entrance to the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbour was something we've never experienced before -- absolute mayhem. One has to have been there to understand, but we'll try to describe. (We were much too busy trying to avoid collisions to be able to take photos when we entered!)

SC harbour entrance (at a quiet time -- Sunday am)

SC harbour entrance (at a quiet time -- Sunday am)

Saturday afternoon. Crowded. Harbour entrance is very narrow -- perhaps -2 boat lengths wide with shallows on either side. Now, add 10-15 stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers lingering around the entrance and up the narrow channel, then add sail boats sailing (SAILING!) into and out of the channel, plus add powerboats coming in & out at speed. Finally, add sailboats tacking back and forth within the narrow channel.

Looking out SC harbour (Sunday morning; relatively quiet)

SC harbour (Sunday morning; relatively quiet)

It was mayhem. Nobody observing rules-of-the-road (many likely had no idea of these). Accidents waiting to happen. The SC Harbor Authority should control things better; eventually someone will be seriously hurt.

We didn't like it. We wouldn't recommend it.

We stayed only1 night (at $1.25/ft, not cheap -- and the facilities were dirty) and got out the next day and headed for Monterrey.