Getting from La Paz to Stockton with 11 pieces of luggage and a pillow

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Apr 24 2011

As part of the chores and planning we did during out last few days in La Paz, we talked to a fellow cruiser who had made the trip from La Paz to San Diego every month for the last year.  He and his wife went by bus which was what we wanted to do, so he gave me all the info I needed to get started:  1)  No need to buy tickets in advance.  Just get to the bus station around 8:00 am, any day of the week, and buy tickets for the 10am bus to Ensenada where we would buy a ticket for the Linea Tijuana bus which takes you to the end of the line of folks walking across the border.  2)  There will be 7 military checkpoints – no big deal.  They don’t carefully check the overhead luggage, only the checked baggage in the hold below.  They are looking for illegal drugs, excessive cash, and weapons.  3)  Be sure to take a good jacket since some of the checkpoints are high in the mountains at night.  4)  Buy sandwiches at the Subway across the street from the bus station before leaving La Paz.  5)  Take water, toilet paper, and a blanket.

So we were freed from having to meet a schedule since we didn’t have to buy tickets in advance.  This was a huge relief.  We were living on and leaving the boat in a marina located about two miles away from the “center” of La Paz cruiser life – Marina de La Paz.  It is always easy to get a taxi from Marina de La Paz, but you must call for a cab to take you from the marina we were in (Singlar).  So we got to be good friends with a couple of cab drivers.  The night before we were to leave, we called Jose the cab driver and asked him to take us to a really fine restaurant for our last dinner in La Paz – and, boy, did he ever pick a good one!  We had the best restaurant meal so far at a place called Bismark (go figure!).  The margarita was huge and VERY good.  The food was amazing and special including dessert.  The service was great, and Jose was ready to take us back right when he said he would be.

We asked him to come pick us up the following morning for the trip to the bus station, and he was right there at our curb when we walked up at 7:30 am sharp.  We had six small-to-medium suitcases, five carry-on bags, two heavy winter jackets, and a pillow!  We would not return to the boat for quite a while, and Muggs needed to bring back most of the personal stuff she had on the boat.  (So did Larry, but you’ll never get him to admit it, LOL!)  We got all the stuff into the taxi (a van – thank goodness!), and off we went.  We gave Jose a very nice tip, waved good-by, and I went up to the ticket window.  Turns out, that day, the bus going north didn’t leave until 1:00 pm!!  Oh, well, we weren’t late!  I explained our dilemma to the ticket-sales lady, and she assured me that we could leave all our things with them.  So we started handing bags through the baggage opening in the counter, and her eyes got pretty big!  “You have a lot of luggage!”  I said, “Yes, is this a problem.”  She reassured me there was no problem.  BUT, they didn’t issue any checked baggage tags at this stage.  She told us to return at 12:30 to sort out what we wanted to keep and what we wanted to check.  Mind you, all of this was in Spanish as she spoke almost no English. 

Now we had about four hours to kill, so we got a cab and went down to the cruisers’ hangout at Marina de La Paz!  We were actually early for coffee hour at 9:30.  We had breakfast at the restaurant there and then a nice morning with our friends, saying final good-bys to many folks and looking into various things like how we would get from San Diego to Stockton.  We had our computers with us, so I plugged mine in and did a search for hotel info, train info, and car rental info.  I decided that the simplest thing would be to spend the night in San Diego – we should arrive around 1:00 pm the next day – and then drive to Stockton the day after that in a rental car.  But you can’t easily reserve a rental car for different-city pick-up and drop-off on the internet.  Likewise, the hotels all had 1-800 numbers which we couldn’t call at this point.  I had the computer but not the earphones which would have allowed me to use Skype.  We would just wait and cross that bridge when we came to it.  First goal, the border!

So around 12:00, we took a cab back to the bus station, but they wouldn’t deal with us and our luggage until 12:30 as she had previously told us.  At 12:30, sharp, out came all the pieces we had handed over (all but the computers, purse, and pills).  We checked the 6 suitcases, and I took a quick “visual” inventory – red, yellow, green, small blue, small white, grey and black – and the bags were carried out of sight again.  This time we had tags, though, so all was good.  The bus loaded right on time, we had assigned seats, the bus was roomy compared to previous buses, life was good!  Off we went.

There are several rest stops provided on these bus trips.  Sometimes they coincide with bus terminal stops at larger cities, sometimes they are just roadside restaurants with bathrooms.  The bus had restrooms in the back, but you might guess that they weren’t really desireable, and you would be right!  Everyone on the bus had the take-your-own-toilet-paper drill down pat as it was necessary at all of the stops.  The bus had tp for more than half the trip, though.  Not too bad, all things considered.

There are several stops to pick up, and occasionally drop off, passengers.  If you check out a map of Baja California, you can probably guess the spots – Ciudad Constitucion, Loreto, Guerrero Negro, etc.  Our first military checkpoint was at around 7:15 pm.  It was dark.  A soldier boarded the bus and asked everyone to come out to open suitcases for inspection (in fast Spanish – mostly we “understood” what was being said by context and others’ actions).  We both went out, and every single piece of checked baggage was removed from the baggage hold, put on a table, and the owner was directed to stand by.  Then the soldier opened and looked and felt through the contents fairly thoroughly, zipped it up and returned the bag to the hold.  There were two men in the hold passing luggage in and out and two men inspecting.  The whole process was pretty quick.  I think we were the only ones who elicited even a partial smile from a soldier when they realized that so many of the pieces were ours!  They would finish inspecting a piece, and I would just stay there – I had several pieces to go yet!  Finally, they were done and gave a signal that we could re-board. 

Mindwhile, I noted that some passengers were asleep or busy with small children and did not get off the bus.  I didn’t understand this at first, but I gradually figured it out – you only needed to exit the bus if you had luggage in the hold so that you could supervise them as they handled your luggage.  They wouldn’t open any luggage until its owner was standing close by watching.  And, of course, people didn’t claim luggage that wasn’t their own.  So we soon figured that it was not necessary for Larry to get off the bus at the checkpoints, and he didn’t after the first stop.  Muggs got to do this, and she actually had a couple of very short conversations with Mexican soldiers that night.  One soldier at a very remote checkpoint was very curious about what we thought of Mexico.  With six pieces to inspect, we probably had about a five minute conversation.  He seemed pleased that we felt very positively about his country.  South of the Rosarita area,  almost none of them spoke any English, but there was a lot of English spoken at the final two checkpoints nearer to the border.  These men were always extremely respectful and careful.  As the evening and next day wore on, the inspections became more random.  That is, they would only pull about half of the luggage out for inspection.  One of our bags was in its death throes as its lining had started (long ago) to disintegrate and cover everything in it with fine, black dust.  At the third or fourth checkpoint, a soldier inspected this bag more closely than it had been previously.  His hand came out covered with the fine grit, and he looked at me quizzically.  I didn’t have a good enough vocabulary to explain this to him, and I don’t remember now what I said.  I think I said something about the bag being very old and in bad condition, but I couldn’t be more specific.  But he tasted the grit and was satisfied that I wasn’t carrying drugs – whew!  When I got back in the bus, I got out my Spanish-English dictionary and looked up the word for “crumbling” – desmenuzarse (to crumble in regards to cheese) was the closest I could find – and figured out how to use it in a sentence – “Es tan viejo – se ha desmenuzado!”  I hoped I had it right, and I repeated it over and over, coaching myself for the next inspection point.  Naturally, no other inspector looked so closely at this suitcase!  (Any Spanish-fluent readers want to help me with the grammar and vocabulary, please feel free!)

At 4:20 am, the bus pulled up to a motel and parked.  The bus drivers (there were two) got off, and we didn’t see them again for about two hours!!  Apparently, the bus had broken down, they had called for a replacement, it had arrived, and we had to change buses!!  I think this happened in Guerrero Negro, about halfway up the peninsula.  The second bus seemed more cramped, but otherwise, no big deal.  And away we went. 

There were some differences between the military checkpoints.  Some of them expected you to help open and close the suitcases, others discouraged help. Only at one station did they request we actually do the lifting and moving of the contents so they could see underneath. Some of them talked, some of them only pointed and gestured.  I made a note in my journal that at the 10:30 checkpoint that they only checked three of our bags.  At 2:10 pm on the second day, they only looked at three bags from the entire bus – including one of ours, naturally!  The odds were always good, I guess!

On the second day, we were in the northern, more prosperous half of the peninsula.  We had about three military checkpoints in daylight and were able to see the “grounds” of the checkpoints.  As you might guess, they were not luxurious.  But they had made a determined effort to spruce up the places and create the appearance of government-type efficiency and obvious support.  At one stop, there were no vehicles present with the single exception of one jeep.  There were at least six soldiers at the stop, and I wondered – where do they live and how do they get here for work every day!  Around the next bend, as we pulled away, you could see their “village” – a small hillside with homes, streets (no paving, but “curbs” of stones on the dirt), vehicles, service buildings, electric poles, other signs of real civilization.  It was definitely close enough to walk to work!  I think this is a pretty tough gig for these guys – a thankless job in the middle of nowhere, a dusty village located 2 or 3 hours’ drive from the nearest decent grocery store.  I give those guys a lot of respect.  They had the requisite photos on bulletin boards with pictures of stuff they have confiscated (like the Sheriff’s trailer at the county fair), and it was pretty major – huge quantities of very nasty guns, hundreds of rounds of ammo, stacks of cash, piles of bags of drugs.  Nothing wimpy about the work these men were doing, and they took their job very seriously while recognizing that the large majority of people passing through were innocent civilians.

Finally we were driving through the outskirts of a larger city, and I started to see signs that indicated we were in Ensenada.  Then the bus stopped and a couple got off right in front of a Wal-Mart store.  I panicked and ran to the front of the bus – “We need to get off in Ensenada.  Is this our stop here.”  One bus driver first said yes, but then they realized the confusion and reassured me that there was a real bus station where we would get off.

We pulled in to the station, and the second bus driver got off then back on quickly.  He looked back at us and said, in English, “This bus next to us is the one you need to take to Tijuana.”  So we pushed it into move fast mode and stumbled down the aisle with our heaps of carry-on.  We dropped the stuff next to the bus so Larry could gather up the suitcases in the hold while I went over to the next bus and handled the purchase of tickets.  I told that bus driver that there were two of us, and he said he had space.  I asked him how much, and it was just under 300 pesos (about $25 for two people.)  I handed him 300 pesos, and he started to try to get tickets for us from a tear-off pad he had.  He couldn’t get the tickets torn off (I guess), but he indicated that we should just get on and worry about it later.  So I got back down on the pavement to help Larry sort out luggage.  He had pulled four of our six pieces of luggage out of the hold, and was handing them to a man who was putting them in the hold of the Tijuana bus.  I ran over to the first bus and pointed to the two final pieces and ran around to the TJ bus as it started to back out of the parking spot!!  Yikes!!  I made frantic hand-gestures to the bus driver who didn’t seem to realize that his baggage hold was still open, among other things.  The bus stopped, we threw the last bits of baggage into the hold, and struggled with the five carry-ons, two jackets, and a pillow (plus my rather large, heavy purse – I never really counted that, but it was VERY heavy!).  I tripped on the stairs of the bus, and realized it was rolling again.  This bus driver was serious about his schedule!!  So we threw everything into a pair of empty seats and sat in the two seats across the aisle and let out a huge sigh of relief!!

The bus drove around the building and a couple of other corners.  We were not paying much attention as we assumed we were exiting the area, but then it came to a stop without ever getting onto a street!  Then we proceeded to take on more passengers!  And they had tickets with assigned seats!  Meanwhile, we didn’t actually have any tickets.  The first pair of folks to show up that were assigned to one of the two pairs of seats we had were kind enough to just go to the back of the bus.  The second pair made it immediately obvious that we had to move!!  So we grabbed the multiple bags from the other seats and tried to advance down the aisle.  It was immediately apparent that the aisles were really narrow.  One of our bags had “expanded” during the trip, and it wouldn’t get down the aisle without quite a bit of re-packing.  So I set it on the floor and started to push (the aisle was a few inches wider below the seat arms and seat backs.)  The bags were heavy and very difficult to push.  I actually recall picking them up a couple of inches and advancing only about six inches with each effort.  People in the back rows began to help, pulling the bags back for us with a succession of helpful hands.  We got to the back, stuffed our carry-on overhead (in order to not take up more than two seats on what apparently would be a full bus), and collapsed into a pair of seats.  No one else tried to kick us out, and so we went on to Tijuana.  After a bit, we were a little more relaxed, and something prompted me to pull down the jackets.  Except there was only one jacket!!  We had left one behind on the other bus in the overhead.  Oh well, hopefully someone else will make good use of it.  That jacket had just been purchased last Christmas when we came home in another big hurry and ALSO lost a jacket along the way!

We arrived In Tijuana never having received an actual ticket nor the change, but it would have been less than the equivalent of a dollar.  At this point, I was way beyond caring!  In Tijuana, the bus drops you off at the end of the pedestrian border-crossing line.  Our friend back in La Paz had told us to expect some men waiting there with luggage carts and that we should agree to pay them something (about $10) to help us with the luggage as we approached the border-crossing building.  So we got the luggage piled up on a tall hand-cart being pushed by a tiny, very old Mexican man who accepted 120 pesos from us, and we joined the line.  I struck up a conversation with a gal next to me, Larry and the luggage guy walked on a little ahead, but mostly things seemed as they should be for about five minutes.  Then, the luggage man started to move, albeit slowly, ahead of my line position and disappeared from sight as the line wound around a building.  Larry went ahead to stay with the luggage and I stayed behind, holding our place in line.  About ten minutes after this, Larry came back and yelled down the block to me to come join him.  So I stepped out of the line (reluctantly!) and joined Larry and the luggage man in an area near the front of the line.  The line progress was being controlled by a Border Patrol agent who let through about 50 people at a time to enter the building.  There was one “aisle” for these folks and an adjacent line marked “For Holders of I-94 Permit Holders Only”.  We had no idea what that was, but apparently very few people qualified to use that aisle since there was no line.  However, the luggage man said to us that he didn’t have a permit, but his friend did and the friend was coming.  I was very skeptical, but now I had no choice but to wait since our place in the line had been abandoned, and it was probably overall about a two-hour line.  And so we waited.  And waited.  As you can guess, no “friend” ever showed up with the required “permit”.  Our communications with the luggage man were all in broken Spanglish and incomplete, but it became apparent that we were waiting for nothing and by all rights should return to the end of the line and start over!!  Well, Larry was adamant that we would not do this.  He went up to the luggage man, got in his face and demanded his money back.  Then he insisted that we would just butt in line and go in.  I knew that the folks in line would not tolerate this, and I frantically tried to convince him that we had to play by the rules, even if it hurt, especially while we were still outside the US.  The Border Guard handling the long pedestrian line next to us saw what was going on and actually waved us through the line.  With his blessing, I gave in and on we went, somehow pulling and carrying all the luggage on our persons – we should have gotten a picture of that! 

So we entered the building only to find hundreds of people waiting in lines for the actual border agents to check passports!  We chose a line and started to wait.  A man immediately behind us in this line struck up a conversation.  He was a US citizen who had, and still, lived in Ensenada for 40 years!  He was going to San Diego for the weekend to visit his daughter, and we talked about various things.  Turned out, he had been on our bus from Ensenada and was one of the people who helped us get the carry-on luggage pulled and pushed to the back of the bus.  He was very sympathetic to our plight, and I realized that maybe we hadn’t crowded our way into the line that far ahead of the proper place, anyway!

Finally, we got to passport control where we saw different agents.  My agent welcomed me home and waved me through.  Larry’s agent asked him if he had anything to declare.  He said that he didn’t but his wife did.  This was true – we had bought a nice ring in Mazatlan that I knew we should declare but would not owe any actual duty on.  At any rate, no one actually asked me, so on we went.

Last bit of business in this building was to put ALL the luggage (and the purse!) on a conveyor belt to pass through an x-ray machine.  On the backside of the machine, we gathered up all gazillion pieces of stuff and schlepped it outside toward the trolley.  The plan was to take the trolley to downtown San Diego for a few dollars, and then a short taxi ride to a hotel.  So we sat down on the bench at the trolley station, turned on the cell phones, and I started making phone calls.  The time was 6:30 pm – we were only five and a half hours behind “schedule”.  But since “schedule” seems to be a loosely applied term in Mexico, we were actually doing just fine!  I had noted phone numbers and hotel names in the notebook, and I called the Holiday Inn on the Bay.  It sounded like it would be located close to the trolley since it passes close to the harbor up in San Diego proper.  They had a room, for a reasonable price!, and we happily reserved it, wrote down the confirmation number, and contemplated getting the luggage onto the trolley.  Larry looked at me, and I didn’t need him to say that he was tired of dealing with the luggage.  So we took a cab all the way into San Diego – welcome back to the land of serious spending!!  LOL!

At the hotel, a bellman loaded up his cart with our luggage while I went into the lobby to check in.  There was a slow-moving line, and the lady in front of me struck up a conversation.  When the bellman and Larry came up with the luggage, her eyes got big, and she exclaimed:  “You have more luggage than we do – and I thought we had  lot!”  I told her, “Yes, we have a lot, but we probably have a better excuse than you.  We’re returning from a year in Mexico and will be living here for about a year.  This luggage represents most of our personal stuff that matters.”  She agreed that that was a better excuse!  She had figured we were going on the cruise, as they would be the next day, but, obviously, we were not.

Anyway, the room was very nice and very comfortable.  I made arrangements for a rental car that could be dropped off in Stockton the next day.  We took LONG showers, went downstairs for dinner, and fell into bed.  We both got the best night’s sleep we had had in a long time.  And Larry woke up at 6:00 am, ready to go!  I think the last time that happened was in the Eisenhower administration haha!!  So we dressed, went downstairs, bought coffee at the cart in front of the elevator, and went for an early morning walk!  That has DEFINITELY never happened before, not at Larry’s behest.  The hotel was across the street from the cruise ship piers, so we went for a walk along the docks.  We were chatting and discussing logistics when Larry suggested that we take the hotel shuttle to the rental car place and bring the car back to the hotel to fill with luggage there.  We had originally figured we would check out and schlep the luggage into the shuttle bus, off of the shuttle bus, into the rental car office, and out to the car.  Don’t ask me why it took a night of good sleep to figure out that that was not necessary.  We went back, had breakfast, had the bellman come up and get the luggage, checked it with him, went off to the airport, and returned with our mood and energy in tact!  We attribute our fine, clear thinking to spending the night at a Holiday Inn!!  OK, so it wasn’t a Holiday Inn Express, but I think we showed that the “Express”-part is not always necessary – LOL!

By now, it was about noon, and we weren’t yet certain whether we would try to drive all the way home or stop somewhere along the way for the night.  We finally decided there was no obvious intermediate town to spend the night in, but we did drive Highway 1 from north San Diego County into the LA area.  Naturally, we didn’t spring for the gps with the car rental, but we did buy a map.  We had a nice drive along Highway 1 and discovered a beautiful, historically interesting state park called Crystal Cove.  It is a place where Japanese farmers leased small plots for farming during the ‘20’s and ‘30’s.  They built small cottages to live in and then lost everything, tragically, during the WWII internment.  The landowner, a descendant of the original Irvine, sold the land to the state in the late ’70’s, and it was made into a state park.  You can rent a cottage, and there is a restaurant there at the beautiful beach.  We had lunch after a nice walk down from the parking lot.  For day users, there is no close-by parking.  On the walk back, we saw something I have never witnessed before – a hawk was flying away with a mouse or similar rodent dangling from its beak!!  The animal was clearly visible – we first saw the bird when it was only about thirty feet away.  I have seen this on nature movies, of course, but never in real life.  It was a striking sight.

The rest of the drive was eventless, and we arrived at Larry’s mom’s house before 9:00 o’clock that night.  The entire trip took 61 hours start to finish, and we had a whole day (Sunday) to do nothing before Muggs had to re-enter the world of real life.  I called people I have worked for in the past on Monday, and they said they had work right now.  So I headed up to Copperopolis on Tuesday and have been hard at it ever since.  Larry will be joining his friend, Joel Tuttle, on his Tayana 42, Entre Nous, on May 2 when they will begin together to organize and complete fitting out the boat for cruising.  As the summer progresses, they will move her down the coast and spend some time in the Channel Islands.  The plan is to enter Mexico around the end of October as the hurricane season ends and to take her to La Paz where they will re-unite with our boat, Peregrine.  How they will deal with two boats in Mexico remains to be seen, but I’m sure they will figure something out!  If I get the chance, I may join them occasionally for a week or two, but that also remains to be seen.  The future is cloaked in shadows now, but certain things are certain – it revolves around boats and the wonders of an outdoor life in a friendly, foreign county.  There will be a little more money to take off some financial pressure.  There will be two capable skippers and two well-found boats and the nearly unlimited possibilities presented by the Sea of Cortez and points south on the mainland of Mexico.  Hopefully, the guys (I affectionately sometimes refer to them as Tweedledee and Tweedledum!  Don’t ask which is which!) will file occasional reports and pictures which I will pass on to you.

One final picture:

iguanaI hope I haven’t already posted this picture.  I actually don’t remember, and right now I am too tired to check – sorry!  This guy was running around the marina in Mazatlan and sunning himself on the rocks for several days.  He is about three feet long overall.

Until then, we wish you all the best in your lives and retirements many and various.  This is First Mate Muggs signing off for a while.  Hasta luego!

A Two-Day Crossing

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Mar 30 2011

As a head’s up, this blog entry is long and has very few pictures.  This is not a deliberate attempt to bore you to death, but it may have that unintended effect for which I apologize.  I have left it complete as it is for my own purposes – many of the details of what transpired during our “two-day” crossing are described more completely here than in our log.  A ship’s log is actually considered to be a legal document, and its careful maintenance by the skipper is a legal requirement.  I consider this blog entry to be a clarifying addition to the log, and a copy of it will be added to the log.

Chapter 1

We originally planned to leave Mazatlan, bound for La Paz, on Friday, March 11.  You will perhaps recall that that was the day of the immense earthquake near Japan and the subsequent tsunami.  The Port Captain for Mazatlan closed the port.  This meant that no boats could leave or enter the harbor.  So we paid for another night’s slip fee at the marina and planned to leave on Saturday.  Saturday morning was foggy, so we waited about an hour past our originally planned departure time of 9:00 am.  During this hour, Larry replaced the domestic water pump because it had chosen this moment to die.  We just happened to have a spare!   We left around 10:00 and got outside the marina breakwater about a half an hour later where the fog was much worse.  This was unexpected, but by then it was practically too late to turn around and wait.  The marina access channel is long and narrow, and it dog-legs.  Turning around seemed ill-advised.  So off we went in the fog, using our radar and keeping the brand new sound horn handy.

In the fog, we crossed paths with a large motor yacht that somehow didn’t show up on the radar.  We “saw” many fishing boats somewhere out in the fog, but didn’t actually see any other boats before the fog lifted around 12:00.  The wind was light, so we were motoring.  The trip was nice and boring – flat water, not much wind.

The Skipper kicks back for a snack:

033011 La Paz 005

One of our last sunsets at sea for a while:

033011 La Paz 001

Sunday morning, Skipper made us fried potatoes and eggs for breakfast.  Yum!  Around noon, the Admiral went downstairs to use the facilities and reported a squeaking sound coming from the engine room.  The Skipper checked it out, and had me turn off the engine.  He checked out the v-belt which drives the alternator and cooling water fresh water pump.  The belt seemed to be wearing excessively.  He re-tensioned the belt, and we re-started the engine.  The squeaking started back up almost immediately, so we turned the engine off again.  The wind had come up by now, so we sailed.  We decided we would use the engine only at the end of the trip to help us through the San Lorenzo channel and down to the anchorage in La Paz.

Making progress in your intended direction against headwinds is very challenging in a sailboat, especially when you are constrained by geographic features, like islands, that you don’t want to run into.  We sailed back and forth across the Sea of Cortez for about 24 hours and realized we were not making enough northerly progress to get around Isla Cerralvo.  A glance at the chart convinced us to tuck into Bahia de Los Muertos.  Meanwhile, Muggs designed a temporary fix for the v-belt problem.  The alternator appeared to be causing the problem with the belt.  So I suggested we remove it and install in its place the spare which requires a regulator to properly charge the battery system.  Instead of wiring the new alternator’s battery charging connections, Larry left them unconnected.  The alternator acted as a place-keeper in the belt path so that the fresh water pump would work.  We had solar panels to charge the batteries and a generator as back-up.  Larry set the generator up to run during my nightwatch on Monday.  It ran out of gas just as Larry came up, and we left it off.  Everything was in good enough shape at that point – the battery bank was charged adequately to get us through the rest of the night – so we decided not to try to add gasoline to the generator in a rocky sea at night.

We didn’t turn the engine back on until we were about six miles out from the anchorage at Muertos.  We figured we wouldn’t test our luck!  The engine operated just fine for the hour and a half we needed to get in.  By now, it was full morning light, around 8:30.  We had been in communication with a boat called Mangereva since the day before when we thought we would have been sailing into the anchorage that night in the dark.  They told us what to expect and offered to operate a strobe light when we got close.  We called later to let them know we had wouldn’t be able to get there that night.  Not to worry, we were just slogging back and forth with very little westerly progress which we desperately needed in order to get into the cove.  They were glad to see us finally arrive the next morning!

Chapter 2

We rested for a while, and later, our hull got a knock from a couple on a double kayak that Mangareva sent over to try to help.  He was a mechanic.  The couple was staying nearby (on land) and just happened to be out splashing around on the kayak.  I forgot to make a note of his name, but hers was Diane.  Anyway, the husband and Larry went into the engine room, and about an hour later he had determined that the alternator was actually fine.  Only the v-belt was worn and needed to be replaced.

There is a nice restaurant at this cove, and we went in for dinner that night to celebrate our successful arrival.  So far, our two-day crossing was three and a half days long.  We talked to the restaurant manager about the possibility of getting a ride to La Paz the next day, and he offered to call a taxi.  So a taxi was arranged for the next morning at nine ( and $120 US!).  We went back to the boat to get a good night’s sleep.

Next day, we first went over to Mangareva to say Hi in person.  Mike suggested we take the alternator with us and get it bench-tested.  This was a good idea, so we went back to the boat to remove the alternator before going up to the restaurant.  We went up for breakfast and the taxi arrived a few minutes early.  The driver didn’t speak a lot of English, but his 16 year old brother-in-law came along.  This kid spoke terrific English.  In fact, his English was pretty much accent-free.  Alan was a talker, so we learned a lot about him this day.  His family had lived in the US for a while starting when he was only age 2.  This explained why English was very nearly his first language.  He said he still calls his parents Mom and Dad.  They live in La Ventana which is on the Cerralvo channel a short distance from the main road which connected Muertos and La Paz.  Alan is very active both in school and as a kite-surfer.  Kite surfing is big around here, and he recently got a corporate sponsor!  In La Paz, we made several stops tracking down the belts (we bought 4!), getting the alternator tested – nothing wrong — then cash and a few groceries.  We were back in Muertos before noon.  Great day already!

We spent the afternoon installing a new belt, and Larry did a little troubleshooting on the alternator since the tachometer wasn’t working.  The tachometer works by getting signals from the properly operating alternator.  We never got the tach to work, but at one point during the troubleshooting, there was an arc – something was damaged.  So far, it appears to be only the tach.  Larry replaced the other three engine instruments last summer, but not the tach.  Now we will replace the tach.

Next day, we tensioned the belt and took the dinghy out to look for coral and fish.  We found lots of coral but saw no fish.  We returned to the boat and prepared to depart the next day.  We hadn’t tried to depart today (Thursday) due to winds.  We wanted light winds, and we got them!  We departed Friday morning at 6:00 am with winds 2 knots and flat seas.  Then 45 minutes later, we had steam coming up into the cockpit through the binnacle!  At first, of course, it seemed like smoke.  But a glance in the engine room showed steam coming out of the heat exchanger cap – the equivalent of the radiator cap on a car.  We turned the engine off and discussed options for forty minutes while the wind continued to not blow.  How very fortunate!  We decided to return to Muertos after considering La Ventana.  La Ventana was closer to La Paz but much more exposed if the wind should come up unexpectedly.  Especially if we didn’t solve our problems in two or three days, we were practically guaranteed of having large winds eventually in this area.  Meanwhile, the boat just floated and patiently waited for us to figure out where and how to move her.   We decided to launch the dinghy and use it is a tug boat!  Larry had to inflate the dinghy on the deck using almost all foot pump to save battery juice.  We installed the dinghy motor (love the new motor davit!) and tied the dinghy off fore and aft to the starboard side of the boat.  And we were off!  We progressed at a steady 3 knot speed back to the anchorage, so this took an hour and a half – about twice the time coming out.  The Skipper as a tug boat driver:

033011 La Paz 002You can see the flat seas!  Calm enough to stand up in the dinghy!

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In all fairness, we didn’t make up this idea of using the dinghy.  Mangareva had actually done this to get themselves into San Blas a few weeks earlier.  Their story got out into the cruiser world somehow, and it was rattling around in our brains when we were faced with a similar situation.  It always pays to pay attention!

Chapter 3

Now we called Roger and Jean Wise of Wise Marine Services.  You haven’t heard me speak of them since last year since they live and work year-round in La Paz, and we have been other places.  They were able to come help us, but not until Sunday.  There are several thriving gringo cruiser businesses in La Paz that are fully booked, and Wise Marine is one of them.  And with good reason.  First, Roger coached Larry by phone to check several things.  This gave him a good idea of what to expect.  When he arrived on Sunday, he tracked down the problem fairly quickly.  It was a blockage at a 90-degree fitting in the exhaust line.  Apparently this is a fitting in a line that gets blocked like this fairly regularly.  We were probably fortunate that we had not experienced this problem earlier.  We had the heat exchanger boiled out back in Mazatlan in January, but the problem here was in a fitting that isn’t removed and cleaned with that job.  The fitting can easily crack and must be welded back in place.  Roger cleaned it out with a snake and a coat hanger!

After the boat was fixed, we treated them to a nice lunch at the restaurant and checked the weather.  Tomorrow looked good.  In fact, between Saturday (yesterday) and Tuesday, Monday was the best of all days for our return.

We left the anchorage at 6:00 am and motored around to La Paz on flat seas with an engine that never topped 170 degrees F.  (The acceptable operating temperature range is 160-190.)

No problems with the weather on this passage:

033011 La Paz 007

During this passage, we ran the macerators for the holding tanks.  This is a task usually better left unmentioned, but in this instance we were doing it for the first time for the aft head.  Larry had only completed the macerator installation project for the aft holding tank during our most recent stay in Mazatlan.  When he ran it during today’s passage, he discovered two pinholes in the brand new discharge hose!  They sprayed raw sewage (eeuuww!) into the bilge of the engine room, and it really, really stank up the place!  (I hope that’s a word – stank!)  So Larry got the happy job of cutting the hose and retightening the hose clamps – yuck!!  He earned LOTS of brownie points today!  And, of course, it was warm outside so it was HOT in the engine room.  Brutal!

And so, on Monday, March 21, we finally arrived in La Paz after leaving Mazatlan on Saturday, March 12.  Nine days for our two-day crossing!  But we were always safe with options thought about in advance or immediately evident.  Cruisers like to say that Attitude is the difference between an Ordeal and an Adventure.  We feel strongly that we had a great adventure, and hope that you have enjoyed sharing it with us.


We spent a couple of days in La Paz at anchor and researched and discussed at length our options for leaving Peregrine in La Paz.  We had lost a week and needed to get home.  Larry’s mom has had another high blood-pressure episode, and Muggs’ efforts to find work are beginning to finally pay off.  We didn’t have time to continue on to Puerto Escondido where we had planned to leave the boat in the water on a mooring ball in a great hurricane hole.

The decision was made quickly to put the boat in Singlar which runs a very nice marina at the south end of  La Paz Bay.  The water down there is very shallow, so they send a guide boat to escort you in.  We have been here since last Thursday, March 24. 

There is a lot of work involved in leaving a boat behind in the tropics for the summer, but I will not bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say, the excitement and fun stories are over for a while.  I will update occasionally, especially this spring as we figure out exactly what our plans are regarding boating and work for the next few months.  But posts will be fewer and farther  between.  I only plan to work for one or two years.  This has all cost more than planned, and we left a little prematurely in the first place, so the piper must be paid.  When we return back to the boat in the near future, the blog posts will return.  Thank you for coming with us on these travels and sharing the joy!

Skipper Larry and Admiral Muggs


Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Mar 11 2011

Our departure from La Cruz was delayed first for the canvas, then for the best weather.  Our motto is to NEVER let the schedule drive the departure!  Weather rules first and always.  One day we got on the bus and went to a nearby town called Sayulita.  This is what a funky beach town looks like in Mexico–

March 9 Carnaval 071

and there were plenty of neophyte surfers in the water trying to figure it out:

March 9 Carnaval 074The guy standing up is on a “Stand-up paddle board” (imagine that!), SUP for short.  It is all the rage here nowadays because I think it is an easier way for newbies to participate where the waves are gentle.

Muggs entertained herself with a walk along the tide pools at the water’s edge.  I didn’t actually see any fish-life or shells in the pools, but I did see this bird with an amazing red beak:

March 9 Carnaval 006

The best identification I can make is a black oystercatcher.  This bird appears to be outside his usual range which is Pacific Baja about half way down according to my field guides.  The bill is not exactly right, either, so I am not sure about the id.

March 9 Carnaval 072


On the riverbed, we saw a small flock of black-necked stilts.  This is a bird that I first saw when we visited Doug and Linda in Napa last summer.  Also nearby, a small group of small horses.  Perhaps they were meant to take tourists for a ride….

March 9 Carnaval 069

Along this riverbed, we saw what appeared to be the after-effects of a hurricane from a couple of years ago:

March 9 Carnaval 111This is a men’s room.  The women’s room is in worse shape, farther down the embankment, out of sight behind this building.

I don’t think I ever showed off our flopper stopper:

March 9 Carnaval 001The large yellow-framed plastic sheeting with all the rigging attached is the actual flopper stopper.  The plastic is slit so that water will pass through from above to below and back.  The whole frame assembly is fairly heavy so it will dampen motion.  We rigged it to hang over the side at the end of the boom:

March 9 Carnaval 066It’s hard to see here, but there are three lines leaving the u-bolt at the end of the boom.  One line each fore and aft to control the position of the boom, then the line that the flopper stopper is hanging from.  As the swells push the boat back and forth, the stopper dampens the motion.  It is actually a pretty handy gadget, and we had never tried it before. We used it at anchor in La Cruz, and we are calling it a big success!

The canvas was finally delivered, and it is beautiful!  Note the additional zipper in the windshield:

March 9 Carnaval 067There are actually two new zippers (one is out of sight behind Luis, the canvas guy).  We can report that these zippers solved two problems, one of them important – the windshield did not fog up as we traveled north to Mazatlan.  The zippers could be opened a few inches, and the temperature on both sides of the windshield could be regulated enough to prevent condensation.  This has been a BIG problem for us.  We are very happy.  Also, the middle section can be rolled up out of the way to allow a breeze when desired.

We traveled back to Mazatlan without any problem.  There was a little more wildlife this trip.  We saw a couple of whales (too distant to get pictures) and we motored through a herd of turtles!!  Really!  We had seen one on our way down, but we saw probably two or three dozen on the return trip.  Early in our trip through the herd, we saw one of the dark brown, shiny blobs dive.  Just as it dove, the head came out of the shell so it was obvious that it was a turtle.  Before this, I was not so sure.  The turtles were spaced out considerably with a minimum of 100 to 200 yards between them in all directions.  It was as though they took their territory with them.  We never saw two turtles very close together.  Towards the end of the herd, we saw two incidents of a bird the size of a large gull, but all black, sitting on a turtle shell and “riding” the swells.

March 9 Carnaval 076

This was the best picture I could get.  The sun was high, and I didn’t have the right setting for catching a moving subject.  Actually, we were moving, the turtle was just floating.  We’re pretty sure the turtles were fishing.

We arrived in Mazatlan on the third day of Carnaval last Friday.  We purchased tickets for bleacher seats and dinner before the big parade on Sunday, then headed out by bus to the Plazuela Machado to see what was going on.  We found a quiet, inexpensive dinner in one corner of the plaza where we could watch the parade of people go by.  Mexican families were out in droves, and there were plenty of street-style entertainers around to amuse them:

March 9 Carnaval 007This costumed dancer was with a group of four.  One of them had a tambourine, and another had a drum.  They played rhythms for foot-stomping dancing, and took up a collection for payment:

March 9 Carnaval 009The leggings are made of small cowry shells.  The belts are short pieces of something sturdy like bamboo, although I am pretty sure it’s not actually bamboo.

The plaza was decorated with dolls which could give you a pat on the head:

March 9 Carnaval 079

We had to have masks, of course:

March 9 Carnaval 086  We paid the 50 peso admission to the Carnaval area on the waterfront at around 6:00 pm, before sunset.  After the sunset, it got cool, then cold, and we hadn’t brought jackets.  The live music wouldn’t be starting for a while, so we pooped out early and headed back.  Before we left, we watched this small blimp being operated by remote control:

March 9 Carnaval 012 My guess is it is about 20 feet long.  All of the operating surfaces – ailerons, rudder – were operated remotely as well as a small two-part motor.  The motor looked like side-by-side bicycle wheels which rotated in all directions in order to steer at the same time that they were spinning like propellers to propel.  It could dive and climb pretty fast, but it was lightweight.  It often looked to be in danger of crashing, but that never happened.  It was operated from a small boat the next night during the main parade.

We went to the Plazuela Machado three times – every night except Sunday when we had prepaid dinner tickets on the malecon.  In the plaza, we had a different dinner each night.  The second night, we had a splurge with cabreria beef.  This is that amazingly flavorful beef that Pancho introduced us to in Los Mochis.  The dinner cost the most we have spent on a meal so far, but it included two beers and a large, very good margarita (they are not all good, sad to say) for less than $50 including tip.

Before dinner the second night, we stopped in at the Aquarium for a look.  There is a small tank there with the requisite fish and sharks.  The unusual part was the diver who did a show every two or three hours in which he “danced” with the sharks!  I don’t know what kind of sharks they were, but they cuddled right up to him – he put his arms around their mid-section and rubbed his face right up to their heads.  The picture is kind of murky:

March 9 Carnaval 018

The third day was the big day – the main parade on Sunday.  We had walked by the bleachers the previous day, and, like Larry said – it was kind of like sausage.  The less you knew about how they were built the better!  But they held up just fine, and we enjoyed the show.  I’ll just attach the pictures here and comment as I go:

March 9 Carnaval 022

March 9 Carnaval 023

March 9 Carnaval 028Guys on stilts!  There is a lot of this in this parade.  Mostly they are not on the floats, but they are down on the street walking with the parade.

March 9 Carnaval 035Beatles’ music seemed to be a sub-theme of the festivities.  This is the Yellow Submarine.  Another float depicted Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and there were others which I can’t remember.

March 9 Carnaval 031

Lots of color:

March 9 Carnaval 042

March 9 Carnaval 049Big dog!

March 9 Carnaval 052Elephants.

On Tuesday, we watched a repeat of the end of the parade moving the opposite direction at the other end of the malecon.  There were a few new floats.  We think they were from the children’s parade on Monday:

March 9 Carnaval 056A dragon.

March 9 Carnaval 058Butterfly.

March 9 Carnaval 059Tropical fish and jelly fish.

March 9 Carnaval 060Owl.

March 9 Carnaval 064The Aquarium float.

Muggs covered in confetti:

March 9 Carnaval 065 The kids would just fling it at you.  Lots of fun!

Somewhere in there, we saw sponsors (mostly Pacifico) and stilt-walkers in daylight:

March 9 Carnaval 090Pacifico girls!

March 9 Carnaval 091Pacifico guys!

March 9 Carnaval 094Maxilana girl and stilt-guy.

March 9 Carnaval 100Panama!  (Not sure why…)

March 9 Carnaval 117And finally, more Pacifico!  This is a big truck going by with a rather large band and dancers on board.

March 9 Carnaval 085This photo is taken before the parade.  The parade came from the top of the photo, between the chairs and the stand you see on the far right.  The near lanes were reserved for pedestrians throughout the parade.  The usual traffic pattern on this road (the malecon) is two lanes traveling in each direction plus two lanes in the center for parallel parking!

March 9 Carnaval 102I liked this guy’s hat!

The remarkable thing about all of this is that we never saw any public drunkenness or lewd behavior.  The crowd was full of families.  This seems to be typical Mexican public behavior.  Very refreshing!

This is the end of the report.  We spent a couple of days getting ready to leave today, Friday, March 11, bound for La Paz.   However, this is the day of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  The port captain of Mazatlan has closed the harbor to all traffic in or out for most of the day.  The port only just reopened around 4:00 pm.  That is too late for us to leave, so we will leave tomorrow.  Meanwhile, we are sending thoughts of sympathy and support to the country of Japan.


Cruisin’ in La Cruz

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Feb 19 2011

Hola, amigos.  We are still here in Mexico, and it is time for another update on the cruising life.  When last heard from, we had a fiery celebration for Muggs’ birthday.  Now we are well into February, and you may be wondering what goes on.  Mostly not much, but it all adds up to about three and a half weeks!  We stayed in Mazatlan for a while, and one day there was an air show along the malecon (wide waterfront pedestrian walkway).  It attracted a large crowd of mostly Mexican families:

2011 mid-Feb 002The people are about twelve-deep on the malecon for about two miles along the beach.  It is not easy to see in this photo.  The airshow started with a six-man parachute drop from a mile or so behind this photo.  The wind pushed the parachuters to the south (where this photo is looking).  There was a small airplane that flew in circles AROUND the parachuters!  I have never seen anything quite like it.  You can barely see the parachuters in this photo, but they are there in and near the circle “painted” by the plane’s smoke:

2011 mid-Feb 006This next photo caught the best pattern of smoke:

2011 mid-Feb 005There was a trio of fighter planes – someone near us said ‘70’s era.  There was a first-class aerobatic plane, and there was a fly-by of some large, loud, fast turbo-prop planes.  (I call them turbo-props because they were fast.  I don’t really honestly know.)  All of this was too fast to get good pictures, so I finally gave up trying.  Later that day, our friend Ernesto posted pictures on his Facebook page.  I’m a little late keeping up!

While we were still in Mazatlan, we went out on a Friday night for an Art Walk.  This was a loosely organized walk through the Old Town area of Mazatlan where many artists keep homes and studios.  We visited about half a dozen studios filled with lovely and interesting art work.  Fortunately for us, not for the artists, there is no room on a boat for actually owning art work.  I did purchase a set of photo-cards of original collage art:

DSCN2788These were being sold to raise funds for a women’s shelter. 

The best part of the art walk was looking at and admiring all of the historic architecture in Old Town, both restored:

2011 mid-Feb 031

2011 mid-Feb 035And unrestored:

2011 mid-Feb 039

2011 mid-Feb 034I like this building with the beautiful flowering plant (maybe bougainvillea).  I wonder what restrictions the new owner of this building will have to meet!

There are very strict rules and regulations about what you can do with these properties when you repair and remodel them.  Apparently, you may even be required to replace old wiring with old-style wiring!  Sounds a little unreasonable to us (actually, a LOT unreasonable as in unsafe), but it is not our place to say.  This could also have been false information.  

After the art walk, our group went to dinner near the lovely Plazuela Machado.  After dinner, there was a parade billed as a preview to Carnaval.  This parade featured donkey-drawn carts with coolers full of beer.  Young people on the carts were handing out free beer!  I took a short video of this which I will forward to the Webmaster for insertion when he gets a chance. 

The parade also had stilt-walkers, beauty queens, and fire batons:

02-04-11_parade fire baton

This parade walked through the narrow streets you see in the photos above of the Historic District with the crowd joining in and becoming part of the parade.  About every three minutes or so, a single rocket-style firework was fired off at the back of the parade.  This made a huge sound, and I felt sorry for the donkeys!  (Or burros – I don’t know the difference.)

The following Sunday was Superbowl Sunday.  We walked over to a local watering hole which had the English-speaking broadcast playing.  After half-time, we walked back to our boat since it was cooling off a bit and we had been sitting outside.  Larry yelped at one point, and it turns out that he pulled a muscle on the bottom of his foot.  We don’t know how this happened, but it sure hurt like a son-of-a-gun.  We saw a doctor the next day.  This doctor took an X-ray and gave him a cortisone shot, but the pain seemed to get worse instead of better.  So a couple of days after that, we sought out a different doctor.  This guy seemed to understand the problem a lot better, and he gave Larry a different shot in three different places in the foot.  There are two spots of tendonitis and one pulled muscle.  This was all an interesting experience for a couple of reasons.  The X-ray which was taken on Monday was given to us, so we had it in hand when we visited the second doctor.  The second doctor didn’t need to do that again, but he did have to have us go downstairs to the pharmacy to get the drug for the injections.  Mexican doctors write prescriptions, but it is not the same as in the US.  The pad of paper they write on is not special (no doctor’s name or registration number), and the paper is not surrendered to the pharmacist.  So I went downstairs, filled the prescription and brought it back up to the doctor, and the doctor injected Larry’s foot.  It does feel better now, about 9 days later.  He limped on a cane for a while, but now he doesn’t seem to need it.

Eventually, we decided to leave Mazatlan and bypass San Blas and Isla Isabela, two usual stops between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay.  We wanted to see more of Mexico before we have to head back north later this spring, and this is our only chance.  We will be returning to California in early April in order to help Larry’s friend Joel with his boat.  For now, we are in La Cruz in the north part of Banderas Bay where it is generally sunny and warm.  Each afternoon, there is a sea breeze which can kick up white caps and make the dinghy ride exciting and wet.  But this breeze always settles down by early evening, and the nights are quiet if sometimes rolly.

Here in La Cruz, we were fortunate to see a pair of circus acts performed by a French cruising couple on their boat.  This couple is cruising with their two children and partly paying their way doing these performances.  They use the rigging of the boat in many and unusual ways:

2011 mid-Feb 049

2011 mid-Feb 079

2011 mid-Feb 066


2011 mid-Feb 060

2011 mid-Feb 062


2011 mid-Feb 050They used each other as counter-balances, and end this section with him “sitting” on her!  It is done for comedic effect, and is a very fun show.  They used what I would call sheer curtains – the filmy cloth you see is about eight to ten feet wide and probably 80-100 feet long.  It was rigged through a halyard and hauled up to the top of the mast where it draped to the deck from both sides of the halyard connection.  This drape is used in the manner that I have seen at the circus where it is wound around feet and ankles, sometimes knees (as you see here – look closely), and the acrobat twirls and spins using a great amount of strength to hold themselves and sometimes a partner in mid-air, then “falling” downward one twirl at a time.  Very impressive.  The story is that the husband has a history in the circus, and his wife is very strong and athletic.  So he coached her to do these things with him, and voila, they have a show!  Later in the evening, after sunset, they did another show with a romantic flavor.  I didn’t get any pictures of this, but it was also very good.

We met up with our buddy boat, Aquadesiac, finally.  Doug and Linda were in the marina here at La Cruz after returning home from a month at home to fix their house and visit family.  The house was severely damaged by a water-pipe leak, and Linda’s family lives literally all over the country.  So they had a lot going on!  They are back in Mexico now and warm and happy to be here:

2011 mid-Feb 067

Their crewman Leo rejoined them and brought a friend – Flori:

2011 mid-Feb 077Linda and I went to market on Wednesday:

2011 mid-Feb 076Back on Aquadesiac, a newly-built seat was installed for Linda:

2011 mid-Feb 078It’s not obvious here, but the seat attaches to the end-frame of the table, and there is a support piece below.  This allows Linda easy back-and-forth access to her galley and her guests.  She was thrilled!  Boat life is all in the details.  (Thanks again to Keith Rogers who remodeled a step for us that makes our stateroom much easier to live in!)

2011 mid-Feb 073A pair of common grackles on the boat in the next slip.

2011 mid-Feb 052Scott of Scott Free playing the guitar after a hamburger feast on Aquadesiac.  (Tucker the dog and Monica of Scott Free in the foreground.)

The happy skipper, even if he is on another guy’s boat:

2011 mid-Feb 084For now, we are waiting for canvas repair work to be delivered.  We are having a three-part windshield built to help with visibility when the dew point is low as it always seems to be here.  If we can open the center section, maybe we can cool off the interior of the windshield and clear up the “window”!  Or at least have easier access to the front for wipe-downs.  We will return to Mazatlan at the end of the week and give our next report from Carnaval!

A Firey Fiesta! Muggs’ Feliz Cumpleanos

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Jan 28 2011

Here you are folks – Mexican Coffee:

01-25-11_2028Note the fire extinguisher.

01-25-11_2031And the sunglasses.


01-25-11_2035The flame is riding right along with the coffee!

01-25-11_2012Muggs was sure entertained!

Tuesday night, we went out for dinner and dessert.  The dessert part had to include coffee, of course, but I had no idea what I was in for when the friends I was with ordered Mexican coffee.  The flame comes from tequila, of course.  The drinkmaker has two silver pitchers between which he pours and mixes the flaming tequila and coffee.  The first step is to caramelize the sugar lining the rim of the glasses.  All the people in attendance were having a great time while taking the fire risk seriously, too.  These wigs are fiberglass, I’m pretty sure:

01-25-11_2027They were more like hard hats than wigs, at any rate. 

The coffee was delicious.  Better, actually, than Irish coffee.  I sensed less alcohol than I do with Irish coffee, and I guess I like tequila better than whiskey! 

Anyway, if by some chance, we are still here for the Superbowl, we will definitely go back to this place then.

Meanwhile, Larry is recovering from a bout with something unpleasant (fever, chills, and diarrhea) and I am fighting off back pain problems.  Next week, we should be out of here on our way south.  The heat exchanger is back in and only lacks some anti-freeze and a test drive.  When Larry is good and ready, we will take off.

Until then, here are a few random photos from the last few weeks that somehow got left out of the narrative:

12-27-10_1209Larry rolled a high game of 255 one day while he was substituting for his mom during December.  Not bad for an old fart with a 30-year-old bowling ball!

01-13-11_1345A jelly fish in the Old Harbor.  The actual dimension of this thing is probably 12” diameter, 5-6” deep.

01-28-11_1015[1]While I was walking to Isla Mazatlan this morning, this Coppel blimp showed up and flew around very low – I’m sure he was at less than 500’.  I thought for a few minutes that maybe they were in trouble, but apparently they weren’t.  (Coppel is a department store along the lines of Sears.)

OK, that’s all folks.  Next stop is Isla Isabela.

Please explain that “Horsing around” title, Muggs

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Jan 26 2011

OK, so I lost track of my thoughts and cut it off before I had actually finished.  This past weekend, our friend Pancho (from Los Mochis near Toopolobampo) came to Mazatlan for a visit.  But on the way, he stopped to visit his sister and brother-in-law.  We expected him to arrive around 12:00, so at 2:00 we got a call apologizing and asking if it would be OK if he got here around 6:00.  Fine with us.  We’re cruisers – schedules are for rearranging!

So around 3:30 he called again and said he would come pick us up in his sister’s car and take us to a horse show.  He was in a big hurry!  It turns out, though, we all forgot to confirm exactly where we were – Peregrine had moved from the Old Harbor to Marina Mazatlan during the intervening time since we arrived here with Pancho.  Long story short, he went to the Old Harbor!  Oy vey!  So he drove up our way and picked us up on the fly (we waited at the Pemex station outside the marina), and off we went at warp speed to the horse show!

This turned out to be an enlightening experience for me.  This show was an instructor’s exhibition of riders and horses in training.  The field looked just like a well-kept hunter-jumper field anywhere in the world, but it surprised me that the dust was so well-controlled.  The secret was Bermuda grass.  All of the acreage was planted with Bermuda grass which dies and recovers every year, with or without irrigation.  There was no sign of a sprinkler system, and I am sure that very few folks in Mexico can obtain enough water to irrigate water-thirsty lawns.  I didn’t talk to any of them about this, but I was very impressed.  The grass is extremely hardy and keeps at least some of its green during these cooler months.  I assume it is renewed during the summer rainy season.

Pancho introduced us to his sister, Rosa Maria,and her husband, Pepe, who both speak excellent English.  I took a lot of pictures, and here are the best:

Jan 2011 to 24th 010The green field

Jan 2011 to 24th 009Rosa, Pancho, and the Skipper

Jan 2011 to 24th 018Approaching a jump

Jan 2011 to 24th 019Starting a jump

Jan 2011 to 24th 045Jump!!

P1030738[1]Pancho got a better picture

Jan 2011 to 24th 027Geese!

Jan 2011 to 24th 031Weasel!  What!!  Yes, they keep rabbits (dozens – it looked like the county fair!) and a weasel.  They set the weasel free from its cage, and it had the run of the whole place including the kitchen – Yikes!  Fortunately, it moves very fast and doesn’t stay in one place very long.

Jan 2011 to 24th 033The weasel is nearly in the center of this picture on the low wall.  It kind of looks like a cat here.  I tried but could not get a picture of its very cute, pointy head.

After all this fun, Pancho took us to dinner at Pedro y Lola’s, a restaurant in the Plazuela Machado.  Saturday nights turn this very pretty but usually quiet plaza into a real happening place!  The restaurants all set tables out twenty to thirty feet beyond their building, live music is set up in at least two or three different places around the square, and the plaza just buzzes with activity and lots and lots of people.  Pedro and Lola were celebrity Mexican actors.  This restaurant had amazing food.  But the most amazing thing was what Larry ate – Oysters Rockefeller!  And he really liked it!  But then he ordered beef for his main course, so I guess he isn’t yet a 100% convert.  I had shrimp cooked in a delectable sauce made of orange and cointreau.  I hope your mouths are watering!  Pancho ate another platter of the oysters for his main course, too.  I guess that is why he loves this restaurant, and, yes, they are that good.

The next morning we had FOG!  On the boat next to us, I noticed lots of birds lined up along the life lines.  They are swallows, like those that return to Capistrano:

Jan 2011 to 24th 034

Pancho had to leave fairly early, so we said good-bye and spent the rest of the morning quietly reading on the boat.  In the afternoon, we went across to Isla Mazatlan which is located in the center of this circle-shaped bay.  There is a condo development there with a restaurant, horse-shoe pits, and a small private marina.  We are going to look into keeping our boat there during Carnaval because the prices are much cheaper.  The only problem will be whether they can accommodate us.  We are waiting for the call.

Yesterday, we welcomed Scott and Monica of Scott Free to Mazatlan.  They had just arrived from La Paz.  Monica noticed that a restaurant in the Gold Zone was advertising Tuesday night all-you-can-eat spaghetti for 20 pesos (less than $2).  So we all went to dinner for my birthday.  We had a blast, and I took pictures on my cellphone.  I need a chance to get them downloaded, and I will finish the story.

Until then, the Admiral is going to go check up on Larry who is resting after an uncomfortable night with chills and shivering.  Adios!

Horsing Around in Mazatlan

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Jan 26 2011

Last week, we came to Marina Mazatlan to get some work done on the boat’s engine.  We called the Port Captain for permission to pass through the narrow opening into the Old Harbor area, and then we tried to raise the anchor.  But it wouldn’t come up!!  Larry kept trying, but the clutch of the windlass was slipping, the boat was shuddering, and I yelled at him to stop.  We decided to get the hooka out (see last spring’s entries for more info on the hooka) so Larry could dive on the anchor.  Fortunately, this anchorage is not very deep – about 15-20 feet.  He put on the wetsuit, goggles, and fins, and solved the problem in about 30 seconds – after he pushed a jellyfish away with the chain!  The problem was the chain which had become wrapped around a small coral head.   This delayed our departure, so when we arrived at Marina Mazatlan the tide was very low.  Not a good plan, but we made it anyway.  Along the way, the weather was fine, so I took a couple of pics:

Jan 2011 to 24th 001

Jan 2011 to 24th 003  The Happy Skipper!

Last week, Larry finally got the engine’s heat exchanger removed.  Bob from Total Yacht Works came over to get the last few connections, and he took the heat exchanger away with him to fix it:

Jan 2011 to 24th 005

Jan 2011 to 24th 007

They are finishing reinstalling it right now.  I am going to post this and tell you about last night’s birthday celebration later.  Just as a tease, I will tell you that there was fire involved!

Still hanging out in Mazatlan

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Jan 20 2011

We have checked into Marina Mazatlan in order to work on some things – the diesel engine heat exchanger, the outboard motor starter, install a macerator for the aft head, etc., etc., etc.  Meanwhile, we found a dry cleaner right here at the marina, and they cleaned our king-size comforter for $8.50!!!!

Our friend, Pancho, sent along this picture that we took of him during the first part of our trip from Topolobampo:

P1030625[1]  Looking pretty relaxed!  Whoever heard of deck chairs on a sailboat!

Pancho will be visiting us this weekend.  He is driving down on his motorcycle.  Should be a fun weekend.  Meanwhile, Muggs is still nursing a lower back problem that refuses to just go away.  Larry is treating me like a princess now, if not quite a queen, but I suppose I don’t really deserve to be treated like a queen!@  Hahahaha!

Hasta la vista, mis amigos!

The Saga Continues…

Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Jan 16 2011

We never did anymore work on the table in Topo because the winds never really died until the day we left.  We actually delayed our departure by one day due to the winds.  We are now following the weather on which seems to have pretty comprehensive, on-demand info looking out 7 days.  Seems to be pretty accurate, too.  Thanks, Robert on Blue Dolphin, for this tip!

Pancho helped us take the boat to Mazatlan, and we had a great time.

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 014  As you can see, the weather was fine.  Seas are pretty flat here.  This is on our first day.  In fact, it was so calm that it was Pancho’s idea to get out a deck chair!  It stayed up on deck for a couple of hours before we started to roll a little from swells.  The one thing we didn’t see much of on this trip was wildlife.  Unless you call this guy wild!

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 013    Along the way, we did pass through a real fishing fleet.  We counted over twenty boats before they were all passed.  They were dragging lines behind them but not beside them.  We were sailing at this point.  We turned on the engine for a very short period while we passed a little close to one of the boats.  We didn’t want to be caught without ability to maneuver if necessary!

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 019

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 023  This was our second day.  These boats could have been from Mazatlan or Topo – hard to say.

All through the trip, we were focussed on timing our arrival for daylight.  As we started, our estimated ETA varied from one to four am, so on the second day we started zigging and zagging a little.  We arrived just outside the harbor entrance about a half hour before sunrise.  Perfect!

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 025

Pancho called the Capitania for us, and we went in behind the ferry with about four other boats that were waiting:


Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 026

We anchored in the Old Harbor, and Pancho left pretty quickly after that.  He needed to get to the bus station and home without any snafus.  Meanwhile, Gary from Sunshine Lady came over and ended up showing Pancho where the busstop was that he needed to get to the main bus station.  Here he is in the dinghy with Larry ready to leave:


Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 029


Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 031  And with me at the dinghy dock.  Larry and I returned to the boat where we slept most of the rest of the day.  They say that two day passages are the hardest – not enough time to get a rhythm for sleeping and resting.  I was sure tired!  Larry had slept a lot more than I had, and he was tired, too.  So, we rested!  No problemo – we’re retired!

Next day we went for a walk around the nearby portion of the malecon and saw the beautiful scenery off of Mazatlan’s waterfront – several islands and the lighthouse are nearby, plus a fisherman caught a ray that he had problems getting off the hook so he could throw it back:

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 035

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 033

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 037

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 041

And, of course, every day there is a gorgeous sunset:

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 042

The next day, we took the bus to the north end of town to check our the marinas and the marine shops in the area.  We have decided to deal with some problems that we have been putting off because Mazatlan is the best place on this side of the Sea of Cortez to try to get parts and skilled repairmen.  As we were walking along in Marina Mazatlan, we saw Tigger, a catamaran owned by Rick and Sheri (there are no last names in our world – only boat names).  I yelled, “Look, Honey, it’s Tigger!”, and out popped Sheri.  So we went down to their boat and chatted for a while.  It turned out they would be returning to our anchorage in a couple of days, so we agreed to meet up later. 

Meanwhile, we had contacted our friend (through Doug and Linda of Aquadesiac) Ernesto who lives here in Mazatlan with his beautiful wife, Linda.  Ernesto and Linda took us out to dinner on Wednesday night, and somehow we got Larry very, very borracho!!  (That’s Spanish for drunk!)  But we had a great dinner:

P1010018 Amazing food!  Larry had his first lobster, and declared immediately that he loved it!  We are making a fish-eater out of him!

P1010016  Linda is an air traffic controller in Mazatlan.  She actually works in one of the four area control rooms in Mexico.  No windows!  Just radar blips.  Her English is very, very good, and we all had a great time.  Larry is about halfway there here, and finishing the job here:

P1010019  The  tequila shots were the coup de’grace!  Tigger had arrived in our harbor and anchored nearby.  They heard us arrive back home that night, and they wondered what all the yelling was about!  It took a concerted effort to get Captain Morgan (that’s what Ernesto calls Larry) back in the boat safely!  It was only the stern coaching from the Admiral, I’m sure, that prevented him from slipping into the bay.

The next day with Tigger, we walked north together toward Old Town and they introduced us to Manuel who owns a small restaurant next to the laundromat.  Since then we have eaten there three times – great food, great price.  Here we all are yesterday when we went for the weekend special – paella:

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 048  Manuel is a sweetie who speaks almost no English – no matter.  Food makes its own communication!

We have had fog for the last two mornings.  This is the first we have experienced it in Mexico.  It stayed in until the afternoon yesterday, but it lifted by 9 or 10 today.  Made a pretty interesting picture late yesterday (around 2:00 pm):

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 055  This is the lighthouse hill which is directly next to our anchorage with a lot of transportation hubs nearby.  This morning (Sunday) I took this picture of Tigger before they pulled out:

Dec-Jan 2010 to 2011 056  That seawall which shows dimly in the background is only about 100 yards away.  Pretty thick fog!  Shades of Modesto….

When we returned to the boat after a short walk yesterday, Muggs had a spasm in her back.  Muggs is a wuss who is not used to these things, so today she is taking it easy and catching up on stuff like the blog!  I am feeling better already, though, so you may not hear from us again for a while.  Tomorrow we plan to visit Marina Mazatlan and arrange to stay there for about a week while we attend to the repairs (on the outboard, the holding tank plumbing, and the heat exchanger on the diesel).  It will be a lot easier to top off gas, water, and diesel, plus they have an actual pump-out service!!  So until next time, this is your intrepid reporter from Mexico, signing off!


Ports of Call | Posted by Admiral
Jan 05 2011


We have returned to Topolobampo, and we are safe and sound in a brand new marina called Marina Palmira Topolobampo.  It is related in some way to the similarly-named marina in La Paz, but I believe the actual owners are locals.  When we first arrived here in early November, we were helped into the harbor area by a friendly man named Pancho.  Pancho, you will remember, took us to the airport right before Thanksgiving, and he also picked us up the night we arrived back which was a few days after Christmas.  He was scheduled to go to Mexico City the next day to spend the New Year’s weekend with his daughter, so we arranged to get together for dinner the Monday after New Year’s. 

Meanwhile, we tracked down some local groceries which means no meat and very limited fruits and veggies.  But that was OK – the slip next to us was occupied by Paradocs, a catamaran with a couple of MD’s on board.  They were barbecuing steaks our first night and invited us over.  I made guacamole using my new stickblender (thanks, Santa Claus!), and it was a big hit.  The recipe came out of the manual for the stickblender, and it called for coriander and cumin.  I had the cumin, so I put some in.  It was yummy.  During dinner, the conversation was all about boat living and boat problems.  I guess it makes no difference out here if you are an MD or a theater technician or a construction detailer – the problems of life are the same for us all out here with varying amounts of joy and frustration and sometimes difficult decisions.  Eventually all that counts is that your boat floats, it motates, and you have achieved some acceptable level of comfort!  We all seem to prefer these problems to the stress of work life.

We spent some time getting acquainted with Topolobampo, but there isn’t much here.  We were genuinely lazy for a day or two, and we watched movies in the evenings.  We spent some time putting together plans to build our remodeled salon table from.  We are basing it on this great design we saw on the boat of our friends, Brian and Mary Cooley:

2010 fall summer 005 After we finished the drawings, we got started by removing the leaves which were connected by piano hinges.  We already like it better, but we need to get busy and thought this might be a good time since we have time and dock power.

We tried out the bus to Los Mochis (15 miles away), and walked around there a little.  Los Mochis is very similar to Guaymas and La Paz except it is landlocked.  Several banks, large grocery stores as well as street markets, Wal-Mart, Home Depot.  So, anyway, Monday we returned by bus to get money (we never try to get cash from ATM’s here on weekends), and later Pancho came to the marina to pick us up for dinner.  As we were driving to Los Mochis, he asked if we would stay the night at his house – he had a man who could take us shopping the next day to get whatever else we might need for our project.  And that way, he wouldn’t have to drive all the way back and return after dinner.  So we did this, and it was amazing.  First, the dinner.  He invited his girlfriend, Maria.  He ordered the same food for all of us, explaining that it was a local way of preparing beef and this was the only place he knew to get it.  The dish was called cabreria with an accent on the “i".  (I hope I remembered that correctly.  I may have the “b” in the wrong place – not sure.)  Anyway, this meat was more tasty and tender than anything either of us has ever eaten, hands down.  The rest of the meal was great, too.  There was a larger-than-plate-size flour tortilla baked or toasted crispy.  Then there were beans and cheese, and cheese alone, to dip pieces of the toasted tortilla into.  Plus a soup of simple vegetables that was delicious.  We asked the waiter to take our picture:

Pancho dinner in Topo  I also liked the carved wood chairs, but you can’t see them very well here.

Anyway, after dinner we all went back to Pancho’s home to have a small amount of tequila for our digestion.  I was taken by Maria in her car which was an H3 Hummer!  And she teaches kindergarten!  She was very excited about buying and owning this car, and she told me the whole story (unbidden) of how she was able to afford it.  Still, she paid more for it than Larry and I ever paid for a car.  Later, Pancho told us that she had won a substantial amount of money at the Caliente casino in Los Mochis.  Lucky girl!

Pancho’s home was very large and beautiful.  Every space was at least 30-40% larger than a similar space would be in the usual US home like most of us live(d) in.  I’m pretty sure that each bedroom had its own bathroom.  I know that the master bedroom had TWO bathrooms – his and hers on opposite sides of the bedroom.  The guest bedroom where we slept was approximately 15’ x 22’.   There was a full bath off of it plus a small study.  Each of these rooms was about 8’ x 22’ (the same length as the bedroom).  The beds were just like the beds in the motel in Hermosillo last summer – easily wide enough for three adults to sleep in.  And there was beautiful floor tile throughout the house. The furniture and decorations were all quite beautiful, too.  The coffee table was probably more than 48” diameter.  There were 4 large vases in the center and about 8 or 10 very large coffee table books spaced around like spokes.  One was the “Best of Life Magazine”.  Another was a Lonely Planet book with a large two-page spread on every single country in the world!  There were some books in Spanish, too.  I meant to take pictures there, but we never got around to it.  It was just beautiful, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it!

The next morning, Pancho made us coffee and Sergio took us in Pancho’s car to a tornillo store (a store that sells nothing but nuts, bolts, screws, and the like) to get some special screws we need for our salon table remodel.  Then we went to Home Depot where we bought a new vacuum cleaner and assorted other things that we will need to complete this project.  We made a final stop at Wal-Mart where we stocked up on things that needed stocking up and returned to Pancho’s for lunch.  Lunch was a vegetable soup similar to the soup at the restaurant the night before, but there were many more vegetables in it.  Very delicious.  We were also served flour tortilla quesadillas and pineapple juice.  He has a cook and housekeeper named Paloma.  Paloma came to work for his family when he was 18 years old (1970 – Pancho and I are very close to the same age), and she has remained with him since the death of his father.

As we were eating lunch, we talked about our plans to continue to Mazatlan.  Pancho asked if he could come along, so now we will have crew!  Things just get better and better.

We are waiting for the highest tide of the week which is on Friday morning.  No more Topolabumpo for us!  Meanwhile, we meant to get started on our project but there has been too much wind.  (We want to be good neighbors and not create flying sawdust when there is lots of wind)  There will probably continue to be brisk winds most of the day today and tomorrow, so we will just get the boat organized and food ready.  We cut some small support pieces today in the cockpit, but we will wait until we get to Puerto Vallarta area most likely to continue. 

Adios for now!  Hope you all have a great year!