Disclaimer – I waited too long to write this and it is verbose. In other words, it is a long story with a zillion pictures. Writing it, I am reminded that we live a charmed life, for which I cannot express my deep gratitude. Hope you enjoy reading it and if you make it through to the end, you deserve a prize of some sort!
We love Mexico. And I don’t just mean that as, oh yeah, we kinda like it here, I could spend 2 weeks on vacation here, I’ll hang out and drink fruity drinks kind of love. We are in love with Mexico. We love the friendly, kind people who seem to always have a great sense of humor. We love the pride and craftsmanship of everyone from the uber driver to the boat washer to the artists. We love the food. I mean, seriously. I could eat tacos 24/7 and never get bored. We love the stark desert scenery (of the Baja) and the huge towering mountains of rock that meet the aqua waters of the Sea of Cortez. And we really love the vibe and culture of this place. No one is in a hurry. People are present with one another. Meals are an event. And people are happy and grateful, no matter how much or how little they have. It is, as my security guard friend at Marina Puerto Los Cabos says, “muy tranquilo.” I feel at peace here.
Last year (well 2019) when we arrived in Mexico we were excited to explore and make some tracks. We did spend a month here and a month there, but we covered a lot of ground. This year, it feels like there is no pressure to keep moving (not that there really was last year either I guess). If we feel like staying somewhere, we simply do. Perhaps we are settling into this cruising thing. So here it is, the end of January and we haven’t racked up the nautical miles. And that is a really good thing.
We arrived at Marina Coral, in Ensenada on November 18th. As we stepped off the boat, our temperatures were taken to ensure we weren’t feverish with COVID, and after tying up the boat, we were able to quickly move into the check-in process. Fito and his team were awesome as always, taking us in the van to the health department, immigration and the port captain to check into the country. We spent a bit of time in Ensenada, adding vegetables to the boat, buying more tequila and Controy (only available in Mexico and necessary for a great margarita), finishing up a couple of boat projects and eating!
We get a lot of questions about being in Mexico during the pandemic. In addition to a national mask mandate, there are some pretty interesting anti-COVID measures in place across the Baja. Most businesses, and even the docks have shoe sanitizing mats. You walk onto a mat filled with sanitizer, and then onto a walk-off mat to take some of the moisture off of your shoes. I have never heard that COVID spreads through sneakers, but if it does, it won’t in Mexico. Some businesses have a “sanitation tunnel” that you walk through before going into their front door. A fine mist of something sprays you as you walk on and off the wet and dry mats. I’m not sure what it is spraying, but it is an odd experience. You cannot walk into a business (indoors or outdoors) without having your temperature taken and having hand sanitizer squirted into your hands. At Costco, the sanitizer guy sits way up behind plexiglass and has a long crazy tube that comes out to your hands to ensure you get good and gooped up while not getting near him. We see people constantly cleaning public and private spaces, wiping seats, walls, handles, doorknobs, everything. I am betting that Mexico has never been quite so clean. It does feel reassuring and we appreciate the effort being put into trying to help keep everyone healthy.
And then walk through this tunnel where stuff sprays on you. Don’t worry, it’s safe.
The Baja 1000 was gearing up during our stay in Ensenada, and many of the teams staged, and stayed at, Marina Coral’s lovely hotel. So cool. Watching these trucks prepare to run the 1000 was super fun and interesting. From peering in at their “chart plotters” to seeing their chase helicopters land in the parking lot, to watching the many support team members prep everything from tires to shocks…we realized that boating is actually less expensive than something – racing!
After a bit of research, we also learned that many of the wineries in the adjacent Valle de Guadalupe were open, with strict COVID protocols in place. We had to go. A car was rented, a map was procured and off we went to drive the valley and visit two of the more than 100 wineries in the region. We were amazed by the development happening in the valley – cool, modern bungalows, beautiful tasting rooms, and small stylish hotels were juxtaposed against rutted dirt roads, young vineyards, cacti and a vast desert landscape. Throw in a little Sonoma County (say Dry Creek Valley), a little backroad Baja, some Mexican flavor, Mexican art and some inspired entrepreneurs and you have the wine tasting experience of the Valle de Guadalupe. We can’t wait to go back in a post COVID world when we can explore more thoroughly.
With some advice from Rich, our weather guru, and some awesome sea conditions, we decided to head out on a non-stop trip from Ensenada to San Jose del Cabo. As we started our journey a little later this year, we really wanted to get down the Baja and get started on our winter relaxation so a straight shot was in order. The 710-mile trip from Ensenada took 95 hours, our longest non-stop run with only the two of us on board (no crew) to date. It was a beautiful trip!
Arriving at Marina Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo, we had no less than five men asking to wash the boat. In fact, one of the marina staff called a friend and handed Kevin the phone to see if he could wash our boat. Another security guard handed us the business card of a friend. It has been a tough year for families in Mexico. We wished we could have hired them all. In the end we did hire a nice young man named Juan to wash the boat several times while we were in the marina, and another gentleman to clean the bottom of the boat. As always, the work was exceptional and done with great cheer.
We originally thought we would spend Christmas in La Paz, but we decided to simply spend a month in San Jose del Cabo. Our daughter Kirsten and her friend Delphine were coming to spend the holiday with us and a stay in SJD meant less travel for them, easy access to the socially-distanced marina beach club and a great downtown to explore. Plus, we were only in SJD for a few days last year and we too wanted to spend a bit more time there. It was fun!
Acre has a beautiful restaurant and bar, a spa, hotel accommodations, real estate for sale and…. rescue puppies you can adopt! We didn’t bring a third dog onto the boat but boy was it tempting.
While in SJD, we also had our AB tender fixed. This was originally on the to-do list for this past summer but finding an outboard company to help us in San Diego proved to be impossible. Our 13.5 foot tender is original to the boat, and is now entering its 16th year of shuttling people and dogs about. We had considered a new tender last year, but when COVID hit and created a bit of economic uncertainty, we decided not to have that big expense just yet. The tender had a hold-over repair in La Paz in February of 2020, but we knew that it would need further work. Basically, years of grease in the steering system had built up and created a super stiff steering experience. We were concerned that the steering cable itself might snap. The fix was to be labor intensive and not something we were dying to do. Marine Group has a yard at Puerto Los Cabos and the guys there took care of the project for us. We even had a fun ride back into the water on a forklift. Nope, not in the US anymore!
Kirsten and Delphine arrived a few days apart and the fun began. The four of us and the two dogs became experts in beach lounging, taco eating, late night churro procurement, margarita fixing, historic San Jose del Cabo wandering and of course, Seahawks game watching. Santa did find us on the boat and brought silly and thoughtful gifts alike. Michelle and Hugo, Kevin and I and the girls went to the magical Flora Farms for Christmas dinner after a funny Zoom call with my parents and my mom’s side of the family, organized by my aunt. It was a fantastic holiday, once again, for which I am quite grateful.
Max and Zoe have been loving their stay in Mexico as well. In fact, they often introduce us to people as everyone wants to talk with them. Zoe made friends with a number of small kids at the “local beach” in the neighborhood of La Playa, next to Marina Puerto Los Cabos. The kids delighted in throwing her toy in the water and having her return it to their feet for them to throw it again. They call her “Sewey” as the “Z” sound isn’t a sound in the Spanish language. Max, being a “Perro Mexicano” gains a lot of interest from well, everyone. And people remember him. Martin, a security guard at Marina Puerto Los Cabos would call from his golf cart, even many feet away, “Max!” Or he would come by the boat and ask to talk to Max. Martin didn’t speak English so our interactions were always pretty funny. When we arrived in La Paz at Marina Cortez, we walked up the ramp to shore and a lovely young waitress at the café next to the marina shouted out, “Max!” She remembered him from last year. All of this fame and popularity is likely going to his tiny head.
After the girls went home, Hugo and Kevin went fishing with a friend of Hugo’s and came home with a wahoo! Yum! This tasty fish immediately became New Year’s dinner. Nice work guys! They also caught a marlin, but let the fish go.
With the new year upon us, it was time to do a little work before moving along. We have been working on a new website for Kevin’s company, and we wanted to spend some time finessing the site while we still had WiFi. So while we are in a beautiful place, we are not on vacation. Work does happen!
We left San Jose del Cabo early on January 5, heading north toward the Sea of Cortez. The winter months in the Sea bring windstorms called “Northers,” where of course the winds come…from the north. Cruising in the winter involves moving about between Northers and finding safe anchorages in between. After a few months that were pretty marina-heavy, we were so ready to be out on the anchor again. We spent four nights at Los Muertos hanging out through a Norther, with winds over 20 knots (and up to 30 knots) every afternoon. The Rocna held like a champ and the cockpit, out of the wind and in the sun, was a glorious spot to hang out. We were joined in Muertos by a new Nordhavn, N60 Rainbow’s End. The six Nordhavn folks and some new friends, Peggy and Pat from a cruising catamaran, Calista, all enjoyed a great lunch at Restaurant 1535 on the corner of the beach. The server told us that the restaurant is named for the year that explorer Cortez arrived in the Sea.
Muertos has a beautiful white sand beach that the dogs adore, and that beckoned for daily wanderings.
With a prediction for low winds, we headed out to La Paz on January 9th. The forecast was good and the ride was spectacular. Arriving at Marina Cortez in downtown La Paz later that afternoon felt a lot like coming home. We just love this small city and this beautiful marina.
We spent just a week in La Paz, watching the Seahawks fail to move forward in the playoffs (sad, sad day), doing some more work on the website, wandering the cool town, walking the Malecon and of course eating. Our time here was low key, as the downtown beaches are closed for COVID, and the Malecon closes during certain hours for strolling. But, it was lovely to be back. While in La Paz we stocked up on fresh vegetables, dairy products and tortillas. The plan is to be out on the hook for a bit. I swear, I think the grocery clerks wonder if we are feeding a family of 20 every time we check out. Mexicans typically only shop for a day or two so our enormous cart of vegetables and cheese does seem to raise eyebrows.
Bright and early on Saturday morning January 16th, Gitana and Red Rover headed out of La Paz, with our bows pointing north toward Isla San Francisco. As we spent quite a bit of time at Islas Ispiritu Santo and Partida last year, we decided that we would pop north more quickly and enjoy the La Paz area islands again on our way back down. The weekend weather forecast was for warm, sunny, still days and we were not disappointed! What a spectacular few days! We went hiking, beach combing, dog running and of course engaged in a little sun soaking. I’ll let the photos tell the story.
Last year, we were not able to anchor at the Los Gatos anchorage, a stunning location that can only be enjoyed in fairly settled weather. This year, we weren’t going to miss it. We left Isla San Francisco at 5 am to arrive at 9:30 am, ensuring a full day of fun while the winds were calm. The dogs were psyched – a cat harbor! An anchorage full of cats to chase? They were sorely disappointed. Not a single cat was spotted. Los Gatos is named for a long-ago puma resident that used to come to the beaches in this area to feed. While the cats aren’t in residence, unbelievable red rock formations absolutely are. We scrambled on the rocks, had a picnic on the beach and enjoyed homemade pozole on Gitana in the evening. The winds came up a bit overnight, with more expected, and we moved along at daybreak, on a simple 2.5 hour cruise to Agua Verde.
We picked Agua Verde as our next anchorage because in a very peculiar circumstance, the winds that we were expecting were coming from the south…not the north. Winds generally come from the south in the spring and summer, so it was a rare occurrence for strong winds from the south in January. Agua Verde has several options for south winds, and upon our arrival two of the options already were fairly full with sailboats. We picked the anchorage that was about 1.2 miles from the village of Agua Verde, a nice spot with big mountains around us on three sides (in particular, to our south) and a beach at the head of the bay. We anchored in a light breeze and watched the sailboats pour into the rapidly densifying “town” anchorage. The day was pleasant until we drew closer to evening when the wind started to truly ramp up. And then…an even stranger thing happened. It began to rain! We have seen rain on the boat three times in the last year. Three. That’s it. Ah, bliss for two Seattleites! Oddly, it was nice to see the rain. Free boat wash! And I should say free boat in a washing machine boat wash. The winds gusted to 39 knots with multiple hours that held an average around 30 knots. At one point the boat turned beam to the wind and the gusts were strong enough to make the boat heel (aka roll) 6 degrees. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, you definitely notice it. And remember that this boat weighs 144,000 lbs and draws 6.5 feet. To keep our minds off of the breezy conditions, we decided to engage in the Mexican panguero pastime of playing portions of songs on the VHF to our buddy boat, Gitana. All with a wind theme of course. The crew of the good ship Gitana had fun coming up with lyrical responses. Just think of us as a floating jukebox. When our “name that tune” game got old, we decided that we should make a wind playlist. And when we ran out of wind songs we decided that even better we should have a “natural disaster” playlist – tornadoes, earthquakes, landslides and of course, hurricanes. Needless to say, it was a long night but we, and the boat, were just fine. And we re-learned the lyrics to gems such as “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (Scorpions), “She’s Like the Wind” (Patrick Swayze – from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack), “Riding the Storm Out” (REO Speedwagon), “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” (Kenny Chesney/Jimmy Buffett), “Landslide” (Dixie Chicks version), “Black Hole Sun” (Soundgarden) and of course, “November Rain” (Guns and Roses). Our music library is, shall we say, diverse.
In the morning, Mother Nature decided to taunt us with a bit of stillness, bringing us off the boat and onto the shore to explore. The winds however, came back up (as anticipated) and we were back to hanging out in the pilothouse watching the wind meter dance. The second night involved a much shorter duration of winds, but we still saw 41 knots. Let me say it again. We LOVE our Rocna anchor. Kevin took pictures of it the next morning (as the water is amazingly clear) and we could see that it just dug in, and dug in, and dug in again. We didn’t move. What is the price of peace of mind? The cost of a Rocna.
The morning was foggy and misty, making us feel like we were home in the Pacific Northwest. But the pilothouse was warm and toasty, the coffee was hot and we pulled up the trusty anchor and wandered north to continue our adventures.