Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I've finally arrived in La Paz

I arrived at La Paz on December 30th.  Yay!

I started my previous stay at Ensenada de los Muertos on Dec 21st and finally left on Dec 29th after having spent 8 nights there.  In those 8 days, I got to shore twice.  It was pretty windy for most of my stay, making a trip to shore dicey in my little dinghy.  There is a wind pattern in this area called a Norther, where strong north winds blow down the Sea of Cortez from the...north.  I had heard about these winds before arriving but in my mind I wasn't giving them the respect they deserve.  I thought - how hard can it be sailing into 20 knot winds?  I've done that on Puget Sound when day sailing.  However its quite a lot different here.  There is 600 miles of fetch - so that the waves have a good opportunity to build to the size they will given the wind speed.  This is something that doesn't happen very often in Puget Sound around Seattle.  Also the sail between destinations here tends to be 45 miles or so when coming up from Cabo - so sailing into steep waves and strong winds all day and possibly night is pretty tiresome.  In this situation, 'pretty tiresome' is the best outcome when sailing into a Norther.  There were times when sailing into the wind when I was making no progress at all - making it time to turn around or start the engine and motor into the wind if that was possible (and for some combinations of wind/waves motoring into it wouldn't work either.)  Also a Norther has winds which grow stronger than I had expected.  The winds were up to 35 while I was at Muertos and I read reports of 40 knot winds further north.  This isn't the calm Sea of Cortez I was expecting!  Lastly, when leaving Cabo and heading north to La Paz, you're sailing into the wind.  Going into the wind is much different than with the wind.  Anyway, I've grown to appreciate downwind sailing much more.  Sailing downwind rocks.

While at Muertos I was accompanied by two boats which made my stay much more enjoyable and I appreciated their company.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Sockdolager was at anchor when I pulled in and they stayed to ride out the Norther as well.  Clover also pulled into the anchorage.  Shane is single handing Clover around the Sea of Cortez, we met briefly in Cabo San Lucas.  We all spoke on the VHF many times to pass the time and arrange our one shore leave as a weather window appeared.

Sockdolager from Luckness on Dec 23.  NW 20-25 with gusts to 35.
Luckness from Sockdolager.
The day I left Muertos I was pretty fed up with waiting around as there were things I wanted to see further north and I felt like I was wasting time.  I had been downloading weather reports and saw the winds were lessening and probably left one day too early (as the following days report was for lighter wind and flatter seas.)  The day I left the winds were forecast NW 15 in the morning/afternoon falling to NW 10 in the evening.  The waves were forecast as being NW 2-3 feet falling to NW 1-2.  I left the anchorage and found around 10 knots of wind which grew to 15 and then fell to 5.  I waited around for the wind to pick up but had a definite schedule of getting to anchor that night at Playa Bonanza approx 45 miles north so when the wind didn't arrive I furled my headsail and started to motor.  Just around the time I did this the wind started to pick up but I decided to make some progress and then sail again later when I knew for sure that I could make my destination in time.  So I started motoring through Cerralvo Channel on the inside of Isla Cerralvo, just north of Muertos.  The waves were pretty interesting as the swell was coming from both sides around the island and meeting where I was, so there was an interference pattern causing biggish (for this area, probably 4-6 feet) steep confused seas until I was well into the channel.  That got pretty wet and bumpy but Luckness is comfortable enough in that sort of sea and it wasn't really an issue.  To cut the story short, I ended up motoring all the way to the anchorage, the wind were widely variable lessening and growing all day but by the time I was anchoring they winds had fallen as the forecast had called for and it was very nice.  From Playa Bonanza its a short sail to La Paz, less than 20 miles.

Late in the evening on the 29th at Playa Bonanza I suddenly realized that there was virtually no wind and also no boat motion.  I climbed out of the cabin and saw glassy seas, a big cloud free starlit sky.  I felt a huge sense of relief, it was so nice to have such a peaceful night after being battered around by the wind and seas for a while.  I had a real sense that "I had arrived!"

The next morning was also entirely peaceful.  I pulled out of the anchorage and headed over to La Paz.
Looking back at Playa Bonanza as I was leaving
Looking south across the San Lorenzo Channel. La Paz is a few miles around the corner to the right
As I was entering the La Paz area I saw the fuel dock for Marina Costa Baja, the first marina you come to in this area and on a whim decided to pull up and talk to the marina office to see if I could get a slip.  Luckness was filthy - there were salt crystals everywhere and dirt from the sand blowing out from Muertos.  I wanted to clean her up!  The marina did have a slip available for a reasonable price ($190/week) and I arranged to stay for a week.

The day after arriving at the Marina I went over to the office to ask about getting an internet connection and I met Marcus who was in the office checking in - I first met Marcus and his wife Masha in San Diego while having drinks with Chuck and Karen of Katie G.  Marcus and Masha are on s/v Gallivanter.  Before starting this cruising thing I had heard how you keep bumping into the same folks over and over.  Its true.

As I write this, there are two days left in my week at the marina and I hope to pull out of here to start exploring the local islands on Friday.  My current idea is that I will spend a few weeks out exploring and then return to La Paz for a week, and then repeat that pattern or adjust it as necessary.  By the time I'm writing this the boat is clean, I've almost finished my short list of boat projects and I have one last provisioning run I need to make to fill up the boat with some more food.

I won't say much about La Paz in this post as I'm still forming impressions.  I will say that so far I like it!  Being at this marina has created a little barrier between me and the town however, when I return I'll stay closer.

I have a few images from earlier in this trip.
The spinnaker up on Dec 8th, one day south of Ensenada

Sunset on Dec 9th
Sunset on Dec 13th

I've had a little time to reflect on where I am and what my sailing plans are for the remainder of what I'm thinking of as my initial Cruising Training Year.  When I left Neah Bay back in September I had only sailed offshore for a single night on a trial sail I had done out of Neah bay a few months before leaving.  While I realize that I continue to be relatively inexperienced, I am feeling good about how this trip is going.  It seems surprising to me at times that only four months have gone by since I left Seattle.  I can recall entire years when it seemed like I had fewer experiences than I've packed into the last four months.  The most common advice I heard before leaving Seattle was "Just go!" and I have to agree with it.

With my arrival in La Paz, my Training Year is roughly 1/3 over.  My current plan is to leave this area in mid March for Hawaii, and then leave Hawaii in July for Seattle.  Once back in the Pacific Northwest, I'll get busy with some boat adjustments.  Its my current intention to leave Seattle the following summer (2013) to return south to where I am now...and then keep on going.  The South Pacific continues to appeal to me greatly.  Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.  Focusing on the short term, I have a lot of anchorages that are demanding exploration where I am right now, and I'm going to try to satisfy that curiosity!


  1. Happy New Year, Craig and greetings from the Pacific Northwest! I'm loving reading your experiences and living vicariously through you! :) Love the DEC. 09 Sunset shot! Fair winds, my friend. --Rob

  2. Aha, so that's what a spinnaker looks like. Very pretty indeed! I can see how it would corral a whole lot of wind. (Thought I'd throw in a little western talk) Your photos are lovely. It's been quite a sail this time, but then you are becoming a seasoned sailor! Good and gooder!.
    God's speed and blessings in this new year of wonder. Love, Mum