Between the two larger cities of Mazatlán and La Paz, we experienced real touring life. First we went across to the peninsula that shields the Sea of Cortez from the Pacific. The wind did not blow as predicted, but still from an unfavourable direction. Mathias likes to head straight for a destination. That means we don’t first sail a pleasant course and then fight our way back up, but are kind of fighting most of the way. The crossing went overnight. Watch handover was trouble-free. Only, as almost always, the wind changed direction shortly after Mathias fell asleep. So I had to correct the course after all and sailed merrily past the destination for quite a while. Just before Mathias woke up, the wind had shifted back and the track I had steered looked pretty wonky. Honestly, next time I’ll take proof photos of the instruments. Our son immediately suspected me too, as I can never tell from which direction the wind is blowing. But it was a night trip, everything is controlled by the instruments and the autopilot was set to wind control. If I hadn’t told it to keep heading, we would have been even further off course. Well, we managed to reach our destination after about 31 hours of sailing. We anchored off San José del Cabo. The Fradolin, which had set off with us, had chosen a different course and didn’t arrive so far north. Instead, they called at Cabo San Lucas. Once there, they also explored the area. But they didn’t like it very much, lots of jet skis, American boats and yachts of all sizes and cruise ships that brought people ashore several times a day by dinghy and then blocked everything there. In our bay it was much quieter. We waited for the Fradolin and then wanted to go ashore together. But there are no convenient moorings for the dinghy at San Jose del Cabo, so we tried the marina. The marina belongs to a resort and they wanted to charge no less than 64 US dollars to park the dinghy there for 3 hours. That’s more than a place for our boat costs in some marinas! Then there’s the fact that the village is quite a distance from the marina, so you can’t even do your shopping in the 3 hours. We gratefully declined. After a short consultation, we decided to sail on. Early in the morning there is usually some wind, then there is a lean period and in the afternoon it can blow again.
The next stop was a bay that protects from the north winds, Los Frailes.
On the way there, we again had a mix of different wind strengths. Towards afternoon, a lot of wind from the front and 1.5 m high waves in short intervals. In such weather, it is necessary to furl the big genoa in the tack and unwind it again on the other side, because you can’t get it past the jib stay. We made a few tacks while crossing. On one of these tacks, I suddenly couldn’t furl any further. The genoa didn’t move any more, instead the furling line (the line for the genoa’s furling spool) broke! So now the genoa could no longer be furled! We helped ourselves by performing the tacks as q-tacks from then on. You sail in a circle and go with the stern through the wind instead of the bow. The wind therefore comes from behind at the time of the tack and therefore the genoa can be passed by the jib stay without having to furl it (it blows out to the front and therefore cannot hook behind the jib stay). On the last of these q-tacks we were already in sight of the Carry On (she had been in the bay for a day). They were very surprised about our manoeuvres and also about the fact that the genoa was rolled up very untidily just before anchoring. Mathias had to pull the genoa in by hand with the remaining line, so it wasn’t furled as tightly as with the winch. The Fradolin also arrived in the bay later, They were surprised at the untidy furled genoa and even more so when everything was fine again the next morning. Mathias had pulled in a new line in the dark in the evening and rolled it up again neatly. The Fradolin had even more bad luck with the weather, the clew of the mainsail had torn off. They had to make the last stretch with engine support and spent two days sewing the clew back on by hand.
Los Frailes is a beautiful bay in itself, but once a hurricane knocked down the mobile phone mast that served the area. Since the local hotel was also no longer doing business, the connection had not been restored and so we only had “Edge” reception, WhatsApp text worked, but everything else was impossible. Of course we could enjoy the peace and quiet, but Mathias has to do something for NXP from time to time, so we shouldn’t stay there too long. Besides, our Mexican prepaid cards would also expire soon and then an Oxxo-Shop on land would have to be found. In our bay, however, there was no infrastructure at all. One morning, a small fishing boat approached us and surprised us by the occupants speaking to us in German. They were Jupp and Doro, who had been touring the world for years with their self-built motorhome and were now taking it a bit slower and wintering here in the bay. They gave us a freshly caught fish and filleted it for us. Then we got the tip that on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. a lorry comes by in the bay with fruit and vegetable for sale. Besides Jupp and Doro, there was a small mobile home settlement on the shore. Americans, Canadians and Germans who spend the winter here. On Wednesday, when I was standing in line with (our) Doro at the fruit sale, we chatted with the people in the queue in German 🙂 So after the fresh things were restocked, we could go to sea again. Oh yes, before that we tried to go snorkelling in the national park, but were clearly told that this was only allowed with a guide and that the guide would have cost 80 US dollars. Where and how we could have booked such a tour was not clear to us. After all, we have an annual ticket for Mexican national parks. So what the heck, we went on.
The rest of the coastline offered few sheltered bays, but there wasn’t much wind either. We wanted to meet up with the Fradolin in front of the next town. But they were quite a bit ahead of us, because we had been bobbing around for a while, waiting for the wind to kick up. We were able to observe a group of whales.
We try to minimise engine-assisted sailing. The Fradolin changed plans and wanted to sail straight on to the Bay de los Muertes and not stop at the next village. We would not have arrived there until night, so we sailed past and used the favourable current and wind to sail through to La Paz. During the night we even had to reef and had up to 18 knots of wind (of course, not until I had taken over.) We arrived at the Canal de San Lorenzo as it was getting light and so we were able to sail through there as well. La Paz is situated on an inlet that is protected from all sides, almost like an inland lake. Access is via an entrance channel, but it is wide enough to anchor in. You just have to be careful to leave enough distance to the neighbouring boats and not use too much chain, as there is a strong current in and out, so the boats don’t just orient themselves according to the wind. They say the boats perform the “La Paz Waltz”.
Here you can see how the snubber and the chain come off the ship at right angles. This means that the ship not only aligns itself with the wind, but is also influenced by the current. Since the different shapes of ships react differently to the wind and the current, they are all facing differently and not in the same direction. The ships dance the “La Paz Waltz”.
On the very first day, we looked for a Honda dealer to have our outboarder serviced. This went surprisingly well. The engine was supposed to be ready on Tuesday, and this deadline was also met. So that’s how it can work in Mexico too 😉 There are quite a few yachts moored in front of the harbour. We had gone into the channel because the Carry On was already there and there was still a free place next to it. The marinas around La Paz are all fully booked. On the one hand, it’s high season here, and on the other hand, there are many US permanent resident boats. But you can leave your dinghy at the Marina La Paz for 30 pesos (1.40 euros) a day and get ashore very easily. There is also an old, dilapidated jetty or a piece of beach for landing. But the dinghy lies there unattended. One of the first shore excursions is almost always to the supermarket. Actually to the Oxxo to recharge the phone cards. But as ours all threatened to expire before we got back to shore, I had made a recharge via internet agency for one of the cards. This costs extra, but you can book other tariffs that only allow data, which is all we need, and the price per GB is then hardly more. I even got 16 GB confirmed instead of 8 GB, which is a much better deal. We’ll definitely try that again. Besides internet access, finding supermarkets with a good sortiment is a priority. Basic foodstuffs can be bought almost everywhere, but usually only in very small shops. In the Sea of Cortez, only in Mazatlan and La Paz are there supposed to be supermarkets of the big chains. So we made several trips here to stock up. Unfortunately, the shop is quite a distance from the marina, once we had made the trip with heavy backpacks, the next time we took the roller bag. Our supplies were well filled again, the water supply in the tank was coming to an end and one of the toilet tanks was also already full. This meant it was time to return to open water.
But before we left, we walked through La Paz with Doro and Frank from the Fradolin. The town seems to have grown together from several small ones. In any case, there are several “Municipal Markets” (market halls). We tried out two of them. They were much smaller than the market hall in Mazatlan, there were food and snacks stalls, less souvenir shops. The city itself is reminiscent of US cities in terms of urban planning: very wide and straight streets arranged in a square grid. There are many cars, hardly any taxis, but also some cyclists and even extra cycle lanes. The buses are small American school buses, we didn’t try them out. They looked too cramped to get on with our masses of shopping bags. Below are a few impressions from our walk. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how sporty we were that day, because Doro had forgotten her pedometer watch on board 🙂
On Tuesday before Christmas, we weighed anchor and set off. We are still heading north and still against the prevailing wind direction. In winter, it blows out of the Gulf of California. That means you either have a lot of wind on your nose and sail with reefed sails, or there is no wind at all and you just bob along. Then the current can be unpleasant. The water flows in and out of the Gulf of California with the tide. Between the mainland and the small offshore islands, this can lead to high current speeds. Waiting for favourable weather didn’t seem to make sense to us. You just have to take what comes along. The plan was to sail off and be back in an area with mobile phone reception by Christmas. Unfortunately, that didn’t fit with the Fradolin’s plans, so for now we’re sailing solo again. That’s the advantage and disadvantage of a sailing trip: you meet nice people, but you also part ways from time to time. And even if you are anchored together, you can’t just drop by for a chat easily.
After 10 days at anchor, virtually in a harbour, sailing feels great. Even fighting against wind and waves is accepted, as is slight seasickness until habit sets in again. We were rewarded with super quiet anchorages for the nights where we lay all alone. The landscape here is picturesque. Baja-California is more or less a desert, but a desert with mountains that reach all the way to the coast on the stretch from La Paz past the islands of Espirito Santo and San José. There are very few towns on the mainland and only very small ones (max 20 families), the islands are mostly uninhabited. The winter weather makes it cold at night, we sleep under a light summer blanket, during the day it is quite fresh in the wind, without wind it is pleasant. The sun can be used again to warm us up and keep us warm. It no longer has to be avoided at all costs, because otherwise you melt away, run the risk of getting sunstroke without a cap and dehydrate in a short time. You see, it’s the hypothermic northern Germans who are talking about how they can cope better with the climate again. 🙂 All in all, this is not an ideal sailing area, but it is an unusual natural landscape. The underwater world is still to be explored by us.
We spend Christmas on the water. On the 24th we were still on our way towards internet reception, so we could only briefly contact the children by satellite phone. Only when it was evening here did we reach a bay that is open to the north. This means that it can only be used when there is little wind from the north. There is a resort hotel complex with a mobile phone antenna. A “fast internet” oasis in the Baja California desert 😉
No mobile phone coverage, but on the marine radio we could hear calls 70-80 nm away during the day, and at night even messages from ships calling port captains over 200 nm away.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!