Friday, 31 January 2014

MYTH: "It is too cold in the Sea of Cortez/La Paz in the Winter"

Before deciding to come to La Paz, we had been warned that it would be too cold up there in the Winter. Numerous cruisers, one professional skipper, and many blogs counseled us to stay away until at least March. Before then, the Sea of Cortez would be too cold to swim in without a wetsuit (indeed, one cruiser suggested it was too cold even with a wetsuit), the air temperature uncomfortably cold, and the northerly winds a real pain.

We don't know what temperatures these folks consider "comfortable" but, with the exception of the comment about the northerly winds, we must beg to differ.

Here in La Paz, the temperature is currently 26 degrees C (79 deg F); yesterday the high was 30 degrees C (86 deg F).  That is not cold! In general, the temperatures have been in the 22-27 degrees C range during the day. At night, it cools off to approximately 9-10 degrees C -- yes, requiring a sweater but also making sleep very comfortable.

The Sea of Cortez water temperatures have been in the 21-22 degrees C (70-72 deg F) range in December and January. This is what the water temperature around Vancouver and Howe Sound as well as Desolation Sound gets up to in the Summer, and we find this quite comfortable.

The northers do indeed blow and, at times, are a real pain (such as during our recent visit to Isla San Francisco). At the marina they are a blessing, bringing some cooling in the heat (yes, we find it hot at times here in La Paz).  And they do abate -- indeed, today we have light southerlies.

Different strokes for different folks. What is "cold" to one person might be "warm" or even "hot" to another. For us, the temperatures here in La Paz and the nearby islands have been perfect.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Ensenada de la Raza (I. Espiritu Santo) and back to La Paz

Of course, after rocking and rolling with too much wind for 2 nights at Isla San Francisco, the wind died off only 10 nm into our sail back south. Oh well, we sailed over 1/3rd the way to Espiritu Santo.

Tried a new anchorage out: Ensenada de la Raza ("cove of the people"?). Had a nice swim and a very peaceful sleep. Stayed two nights and could have stayed longer.

Leaving Ensenada de la Raza

In the end, we decided to return to La Paz, to see friends, and to re-provision. We are currently back at Marina Palmyra.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Rocking and Rolling at Isla San Francisco

The trip from Los Islotes to Isla San Francisco (19nm) started off in calm, nearly windless weather. After a half hour or so, the winds picked up to ~10 knots, so we hoisted all sails. We sailed for about 1 hour until the wind died. Motoring north, all-of-a-sudden we had moderately large, steep seas and 15-20 knot winds on the nose (i.e., directly from the direction where we wished to go). What followed was 2-hr bash to Isla San Francisco. Not fun.

Isla San Francisco's main anchorage looks beautiful in all the photos, and is supposed to be protected from notherly winds. We were looking forward to going shore for a popular hike up a ridge with great views. Sadly, this was not to be.

We spent 2 nights and 1 day maintaining an anchor watch on the boat, as the anchorage had up to 27-kn winds (from the north), wrap around swell, and wind waves. We re-anchored to give us a little more room from other boats; unfortunately, though we had much more room, we then had more waves and more wind.

Isla San Francisco anchorage -- wind calming down

Isla San Francisco (from the South)

So, we never set foot on the island, and turned back south to Isla Espiritu Santo, sleep deprived and anxious to have a comfortable anchorage. *

* The wind then decreased. Had we stayed a 3rd night, the Isla San Francisco anchorage would have been much more comfortable.

Los Islotes: Swimming with the sea lions

Los Islotes
Now that was fun!

Headed out early (7:30am) from Ensenada Grande to get to Los Islotes before the tourist pangas. Arrived 8:30am to find a mini-cruise ship anchored, and ferrying zodiacs of potential swimmers. (This is the same mini cruise ship -- Safari Voyager -- that arrived into Ensenada Grande in the dark, and had generators and bright lights going all night; left early to get to Los Islotes.)
Turned out crowds were no problem, as they only did 2 zodiacs at a time, and they stuck together.

Safari Voyager anchored

We anchored Pelagia in 60 feet, then rowed over on the dinghy. Winds were very light with no swell. We stayed away from the crowds, and swam one at a time from the dinghy. Seems this worked well, as first David, then Michelle each had very inquisitive playful sea lions swimming with them. (Perhaps the sea lions preferred smaller groups?) Sea lions would come up to us, then suddenly veer away, or swim under us, and then turn and come back at us. They never touched us (nor vice verse). They seemed to like to roll and spin next to us, and seemed to like it when we tried to do the same, blow bubbles etc (anthropomorphizing here...). Great fun, but tiring.

Playful sea lions

This is from Sound Discovery:
We do not (yet) have an underwater camera, so we do not have any decent shots of the sea lions swimming with us. Our friends Clif and Giselle on SV Sound Discovery have some great shots on their blog:     Take a look!

After 1 hour, we pulled up anchor and headed north the 19 nm to Isla San Francisco.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Isla Partida (Sea of Cortez)

After Bahia San Gabriel, we moved 10 nm north to Isla Partida. Checked out Caleta Partida, but didn't feel comfortable. So around the corner we went to El Cardonal. Beautiful anchorage; only 1 other boat. Clear, turquoise waters, warm enough (for us) to swim. Really beautiful walk on trail along mangroves to other side of island. Sea turtle swimming around bay; owl hooting at night. We stayed two nights.

At anchor, El Cardonal
Mangroves behind beach at El Cardonal

Walking across Isla Partida (El Cardonal)

El Cardonal

Mangroves (El Cardonal)

at the end of the walk... the other side of Isla Partida

Moved around next corner to Ensenada Grande. Scenery and water seemed to get even better! Turquoise water clear enough to see chain and anchor on the sandy bottom. Beautiful sandy beach. We are only boat anchored in our cove (there are 3 coves). Lots of inquisitive porcupine fish (similar to puffer fish). Saw great show of dorado (mahi mahi) chasing large schools of (foot long) fish, both jumping clear out of the water.

Curious porcupine fish

Incredible flying rays...

Mornings are calm and windless; afternoons see the northerly winds pickup in the anchorage. We get the wind but no waves as the bay is protected from winds with north in them. (Should south or SW winds really pick up, we'd have to get out quick -- but they haven't yet.)

At anchor, Ensenada Grande (Isla Partida)

At anchor, Ensenada Grande (Isla Partida)

Not sure where to next -- maybe Isla San Francisco?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Away from La Paz: anchored at Bahia San Gabriel (Espiritu Santo)

Sunset at Bahia San Gabriel
Finally time to tear us away from the dock at La Paz.

We are currently anchored in Bahia San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo.
Beautiful bay. Water clear (we can see the bottom below Pelagia) and
warm enough for a swim (21 deg C). Only 6 boats anchored. Beautiful
sunset last night.

We are not sure how long we will stay up here on the Baja side of the
Sea of Cortez. As long as we enjoy it and it stays warm. One plan is to
be out for 5-7 days, then return to La Paz for a few days to
reprovision. If it gets cold or too windy, we may then cross over to

Things are fluid.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Free to pee again...

Middle of the night, an unpleasant surprise: the head (toilet) has stopped working. Plunger jammed; will not go down. 2 am and David is taking apart the head, hoping to fix it before Michelle wakes up. This didn't do the job. Clearly, more is wrong....

First problem turned out to be most of the hoses totally clogged with calcium deposits. 1.5-inch diameter hose reduced to  <0.25 inch! This even though we regularly flush vinegar through the system.

hose filled with calcium buildup -- yuck!

Although other cruisers suggested several flushes with muriatic acid should clear the hoses -- which David tried -- this was not good enough. The only solution was to open things up, pull out hoses and replace with new hose. This is not an easy job, and required removal of the large "vanity" in the bathroom.

Vanity removed -- white hoses are the new replacements
A few of the shorter pieces of hose were extra-flexible hose, needed to make several sharp turns. As this type of hose was not available here in La Paz, David elected to "ream out" these pieces, flush them, and re-use them. 

Finally, after all the hoses were replaced or (mostly) cleaned out, the head (toilet) itself needed a rebuild. The primary problem was the "joker" valve, which was distorted and would not close  properly. Fortunately, we had a full replacement for the pump unit.

a used joker valve; ours looked way worse

All put back together, everything worked as new. Free to pee again!
All in all, a smelly, messy and physically demanding job. (But a job that would have happened back home as well as here.) We will have to be more vigilant with our head maintenance.

Ahhhh... boat work in exotic places. We celebrated our restored head by going out for dinner.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Swimming at El Corumel (La Paz)

About 1 nm into the La Paz channel -- about 1 nm north of Marina Palmyra -- is the El Corumel public beach complex. Easily picked out by its huge waterslides which go from the road on the hillside down to the ocean. There is also a nice beach and facilities.

El Corumel... defunct waterslides in distance
The Corumel Waterslides (not operating)
Apparently, the waterslides have never operated -- not too surprising when one sees the drop from the end of the slide to the water (especially at low tide). But the beach is nice.

We ride our bicycles from Marina Palmyra to go for a quick swim. Takes us 5 minutes on our bikes (10 minutes if walking). Beaches are empty; likely because it is Winter and the water temperature is only 21-22 degrees C.  Perfectly fine for us (this year, at least).

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy New Year (we are still in La Paz...)

Happy New Year 2014!

Yes, we are still here in La Paz. We like it too much....

To our great surprise (and disappointment), New Year's Eve in La Paz turned out to be VERY quiet. No big fireworks, no big party. (Last year had a big show. Cruiser rumour mill has it that local government decided that this year should be a "stay home with family" night.)  Peaceful La Paz lives up to its name. Still, we had a good time with friends before we went to look for the fireworks.

Perfect temperatures (22-27 degrees C; cool at night); friendly/quiet town not focused towards nor inundated by "northern" tourists; great marina (Palmyra).

And it is so so relaxing.