Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kevin Young's Sailing Visit to La Paz

We took a short break from cruising, making a 10-day visit back up to San Diego. This allowed us to file our taxes and host a bridal shower for our daughter, Chantal. These events provided two reminders, that unlike our cruising existence, the real world continues to progress in an organized, temporal fashion.

We were joined on our return flight south by an old work friend and sailing enthusiast, Kevin Young. In spite of his trepidation regarding travel safety in Mexico, he placed his trust in our hands and accompanied us on our trip back to La Paz. We taxied from our house, dropping our daughter off at the airport for her return to San Francisco and continued on to the Greyhound bus station in downtown San Diego to catch the shuttle to the Tijuana airport. It was gray and wet in San Diego when we departed and continued to drizzle all the way to the General Abelardo L. Rodríguez International Airport in Tijuana.

The airport was busy when we arrived and Kevin and I had to apply for FMM visas (usually issued for 6-months, mine was about to expire) before checking in to the airlines. Our luggage was x-rayed upon entry to the
ticket terminal area; all checked luggage underwent hand inspection before being checked at the ticket counter; and, all carry-on bags were x-rayed once again when passengers were checked through the metal detectors. We're not certain if this redundancy in security either confused or impressed Kevin, but once into the airport concourse, the boarding and flight went flawlessly. We arrived at El Alto International Airport in La Paz in the early afternoon and were picked up by our friend Mike on s/v Trig, who was kind enough to drive our truck to the airport. In contrast to the weather in San Diego, it was sunny and bright in La Paz with the temperature in the mid-80's. After dropping our bags off at the boat, we made a trip out to Playa Balandra to show Kevin one of the beaches here in La Paz.

We spent the first full day after our arrival cleaning and provisioning the boat before exploring a little of the town. The following day we topped off the water tanks and prepared to get underway for a trip to the islands to the north of La Paz. We cast off around 11:30 a.m. and motored out of the channel and into Bahia de La Paz. We hoisted the main and unfurled the genoa and began a long tack to the west, paralleling the shoreline of El Magote. We noted large reddish-brown swaths in the water and determined them to be currents containing blooms of red-tide. We held this westward tack for about 6 nm before tacking toward Isla Espiritu Santo, to our north. About the same time, Kevin broke out the fishing pole and, armed with a silver Rappala, began trolling for fish.

We continued on this tack for another 12-13 nm before falling into the
islands wind shadow. We furled in the genoa and began motor sailing under main, alone. As the distance to the island was closed, we motor sailed past the anchorage and large beach at Bahia San Gabriel. We continued up the coast passing a large group of kayakers camped at El Empachado and on to the three lobes of Puerto Ballena. We passed on the inside of Isla Gallina and the southern most lobe at Ensenada la Gallina with one boat anchored there. The middle lobe, Ensenada el Gallo, had two boats at anchor, so we proceeded between the point of the island separating the middle and northern most lobe and Isla Gallo. The anchorage at Ensenada de la Raza, the most northern of the three lobes, was empty of other boats. Luckless with fishing, Kevin reeled in the fishing line and prepared to anchor.

Kevin dropped anchor at about the middle of this anchorage in about 20-feet over sand. He paid out an appropriate amount of scope before I backed down on the anchor, insuring its' purchase in the bottom. We all sat back in the cockpit to take inventory of this lovely anchorage. Mangroves framed the white sand beach to our east, which was tucked into the folds of the two promontories forming the north and south boundaries of the cove. To the southwest were the two small cactus covered islands, El Gallo and La Gallina, with their own flock of Frigate birds and seagulls wheeling over each. To the west the sun was getting low over the distant cliffs of the western shore of Bahia de La Paz.

With the sun getting low in the sky, Kevin set about shelling and cleaning
the kilo of shrimp we had purchased the previous day. Meanwhile, Kathie prepared the fresh garlic, olive oil and butter in the saute pan for the shrimp. She also cooked some whole-wheat fettuccine and added pesto. All of this was accompanied with a plate of sliced fresh tomatoes. We enjoyed dinner alfresco at sunset and savored both the food and the setting.

Nightfall brought a full sky of stars and planets, seemingly unaffected by the luminosity of city lights some 20 nm to our south. Night time also brought us a curious sea lion who played and fished within yards of the boat before finally leaving the cove. We all turned in to the start of a peaceful night at anchor.

All was well until shortly after 12:30 a.m. when the coromuel winds began to build out of the west. In addition to causing the halyards to clang against the mast, the winds also generated short wind waves which caused the boat to rock. Normally, the motion these bring would be soothing. However, since Citla tends to dance on her anchor, when the waves were bow-on they were comforting, but when the boat danced to the side, the waves caused a side-to-side rolling which makes it very difficult to sleep (unless one is in a hammock). Too tired to care about noisy halyards, I went back to bed to fight through the sideways rolling, hoping the motion didn't foretell of the boats dragging anchor.

We all awoke the next morning to bright sunshine and calm winds. None
of us were particularly rested from the previous nights noise and motion, but we enjoyed the serenity of the morning at anchor nonetheless. Kevin really wanted to do more sailing. Between the noise and motion of the previous night and his desire to confirm his flight back to San Diego on Saturday, he opted to forgo another night at anchor, but instead spend the day sailing and making our way back to the marina in La Paz.

We had breakfast while waiting for the wind to fill. Once the dishes were cleaned and everything was stowed, Kevin hoisted the anchor and mainsail and we made our way out between Isla Gallo and Isla Ballena to the north. The wind was blowing between 12 and 14 knots when we unfurled the genoa and took off to the northeast. It was decided we'd sail up island until reaching Caleta Partida, where we'd jibe and reach back towards La Paz. We enjoyed a glorious morning of sailing north along Espiritu Santo and then jibing and reaching back down the coast. Once as far south as Bahia San Gabriel, we jibed onto the opposite tack and were reaching west, towards El Magote in the distance. Once again, Kevin decided to drag the silver Rappala behind us in the hopes of catching a fish.

We had been on a deep reach sailing along at around 5.5 knots for over an hour when the fishing reel began to sing. I took the helm from Kevin and he took the rod and began to reel. Initially, his efforts were to no avail.
It was not until he tightened the drag considerably did he begin to make progress in closing the distance between the flashing neon color at the lines end and the stern of the still reaching Citla. After a bit more than 15 minutes of fighting the fish, Kevin landed a respectable Dorado weighing around 15-18 pounds. I spent the next 20-30 minutes filleting two large pieces of fish for the refrigerator. Once done, the bony carcass was disposed of into the Sea and the side deck was swabbed clean of the blood.

Invigorated by his first salt water catch (and the largest fish he ever landed), Kevin retook the helm continuing to pilot us towards our marina. The wind began to fade in late afternoon, so in with the genoa and on with the diesel. A bit more than an hour of motor sailing brought us to the channel mouth and 30 minutes later to the entrance of Marina de La Paz. After tucking the boat in, we proceeded to La Costa restaurant, fresh fillets in hand, and had the fish cooked and served with rice and drinks. The cooks prepared the fish using three different recipes: breaded and deep fried; with garlic and butter; and, Veracruz style, with tomatoes, green olives, capers and onions. There was more than enough fish for the three of us and each presentation was delicious. We left sated carrying almost half the fish as left overs.

We spent Friday walking along the Malecon and shopping for recuerdos (remembrances) for Kevin's kids and friends. Kevin also confirmed his flight and had the marina office print out his boarding pass. Later that afternoon, we took a drive out to the outskirts of La Paz, to visit the poorer neighborhoods. Kevin had observed earlier that most of the people of La Paz all seemed to be middle class. A drive through the dirt roads out towards the land-fill demonstrated that not all of the city's population is middle class.

Friday night was Kevin's last night in La Paz. Coincidentally, it also marked the last night in La Paz for our friends on s/v Merlot. They were leaving the following morning to head up into the Sea of Cortez and eventually up to San Carlos to store their boat for the summer months. Larry and Fran from Merlot, Mike from s/v Trig, Kevin, Kathie and I all went for a sunset dinner together on the second floor of Rancho Viejo Mariscos. We shared dinner and drink above a view of the La Paz harbor at sunset.

After our meal, Mike left to go back to his boat and the rest of us walked along the Malecon to our favorite ice-cream store, La Fuente, where we all ordered ice-cream for desert. We sat on the colorful benches in front of La Fuente for some time enjoying the scene and each others company. It was getting late and the crew of the Merlot had to turn in to be ready for their morning departure. We headed back down the Malecon toward the marina, joining families, kids on bicycles and others on roller blades, enjoying the fresh night air along the harbor.

We were up early Saturday morning and were able to send off Trig and Merlot from the marina; Merlot on her cruise north and Trig out to the
islands for the weekend. Kevin collected his belongings and packed for his afternoon departure. After breakfast we took Kevin to the Ibarra pottery studio in the southeast part of town where he purchased several unique pieces of pottery to be given as gifts. We returned to the boat around noon and Kathie prepared avocados, cilantro, tomatoes and warm tortillas to be served with the remainder of the left over dorado. It was fish tacos for lunch just in time before our departure to the airport. Just a bit after 1 p.m. we dropped Kevin at the airport in La Paz and he began his journey home.

Kevin had a very short stay in La Paz and we hope he enjoyed it as much as we did. We did have an opportunity to do some sailing and visit at least one of the offshore anchorages. Best of all, Kevin was able to catch his first salt water fish and, being a dorado (mahi-mahi), it couldn't have been much better. We'll be thinking of you while you're back at work...


Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Sounds like a great trip! BTW, your daughter is a beautiful young lady! They grow quick don't they? I guess we'd better start saving, because I'm sure we'll be having to plan a wedding for our daughter before you know it!

kmysail said...

Hi P-n-K, I was reliving my trip! Work is not as much fun as it used to be... I am glad u put the pic of me in the door-way to "my room" hehe. I actually had P-n-K calling it my room, but they refused to adopt me. I can't wait to visit again. Adios Amigos