Breaching whale on the malecón.
La Paz cathedral.
Hilly streets of La Paz neighborhoods.
Carrying meat to the market.
The Mexican Navy checks us out.
It was an easy boarding.
Mark opens up the hot water heater on the dock.
The offending stainless steel tube that needed
a bead welded around the sleeve joint.
Super Burrito, home of great carne asada tacos.
Real coke and yummy tacos for two, all for $8.
Wind travels in the direction of the arrows.
Green=14 mph.Yellow=18mph. Red=24mph
Wind travels from the hook of the hockey stick.
White is light wind and dark blue is heavy wind.
The La Paz Waltz causes anchored boats to collide.
Boston, Massachusetts tides.
La Paz, Mexico tides.
The new Comercial Mexicana Mega supermarket.
Mega is big enough to
require an escalator.
Mega claims to be cheaper than Walmart.
Plenty of fresh produce.
A channel buoy was blown ashore in
Playa Bonanza: tents for kayaking
guests on the beach.
Kayakers get ready to leave.
Off they go.
Sunset at Playa Bonanza.
A ferry heads into Bahía Pichilingue next to Bahía Falsa.
Bahía Falsa has a small beach bar in the sand.
Come finish this developer's dream!
A pelican pretends he's a heron in
Beach bar at Bahía Falsa.
A fun spot to get a beer, barefoot.
Richard, Volker and Petra on a
transcontinental cycling tour of the
Pedaling off to the ferry.
La Paz, Playa Bonanza and Bahía Falsa, Mexico
Mid November, 2011 - This is the time of year in the Sea of Cortez when the winter
weather patterns begin to dominate, and a Norther was predicted to blast us with a
few days of brisk north winds. That was enough to send us out of the exposed
island anchorages outside La Paz and into the safe refuge of the bay of La Paz for
a while. We walked the now-familiar malecón while the wind whipped up the seas out
at the islands, as unconcerned about the sea state as any breaching whale might be.
After a month in the small remote
anchorages of the Sea of Cortez, it was great
to walk the urban streets of La Paz and
gather all those provisions that only a city can
offer. Our daily walks took us all over town,
past historic churches and up and down the
steep hilly neighborhood streets. Many of the
streets were now filled with memories from
our visit last spring, and we knew exactly
where to go to find our favorite bakery, the
bank, the marine chandlery and the
supermarket. It felt good to know our way
On our way into La Paz
we were boarded by
the Mexican Navy for
the first time this
season, our fourth time in two years. Now it is a familiar and
easy affair. This boarding was conducted while we were
underway, and we didn't even need to stop motoring. One
man nimbly came aboard Groovy to review our paperwork and
fill out his forms while his crewmates putted alongside our boat
in their panga. Once he was done he climbed back into their
boat and they were off. Fast and easy.
Not quite so easy was the leak we had developed in the hot water
heater. Marine hot water heaters use the heat of the engine to
heat the boat's fresh water by sending the hot antifreeze from the
engine through a hose to the hot water
heater where it envelops the tank and
heats up the water. The steel pipe supporting the connection between
our antifreeze hose and our hot water tank had developed a leak and
needed to be welded. Mark took the hot water heater to the dock in the
dinghy and handed it off to the highly recommended La Paz stainless
steel expert, Sergio Galindo.
He repaired the leak, but
in the end, we paid more
for him to weld the joint
than it would have cost
to buy a brand new hot
water heater and have it
shipped from the US to
Without a doubt, Mexico's finest marine stainless steel fabricator is the creator
of our solar panel arch, Alejandro Ulloa, in Ensenada. His exquisite and artistic
craftsmanship is not only clever and functional, it was very affordable and
enhances the look of our boat. He was a pleasure to work with and his
polished welds are a thing of beauty.
We put the frustrating water heater repair behind us, and enjoyed
being return visitors to La Paz, seeking out our favorite haunts.
The colorful restaurant Super Burrito has terrific beef tacos, and
we had a feast topped off with "original" Coke in old style glass
bottles and formulated with sugar rather than high fructose corn
We kept an eye on the developing Norther on the two weather
websites we use in the Sea of Cortez: www.sailflow.com and
www.passageweather.com. Northers appear in the Sea when high
pressure builds in the "four corners" area in the US (the juncture of
Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico) and low pressure builds in
southern Mexico. This causes the wind to get sucked down the Sea
in a wild blast.
We were anchored in the well protected large bay in front of town. It is a long,
skinny, shallow bay and the tides sweep in and out creating very strong currents first
in one direction and then in the other. In light winds all the anchored boats face one
way for a few hours and then the other way in an orderly fashion as the tides turn.
However, when the wind pipes up during a Norther, some boats respond to the
current while others
respond to the wind.
This results in the La
Paz Waltz where each
boat does its own
dance steps to the
tune of either the
current or the wind,
its hull design and the
state of the tide. They
all end up facing in
Sometimes boats actually sail into each other, usually in rather slow motion.
We watched our neighbors fend off an unattended boat that kept pursuing
theirs like a hunter chasing its prey.
The tides in Mexico -- and all of the west coast -- are very
different than the tides I grew up with in New England. On
most of the east coast the tides march along in a steady
procession, going all the way from one extreme to the other
every six hours. Here the tides do a little blip at the mid-tide
between the extreme high and extreme low, producing a
kind of false high and false low tide on the way in and out.
This is confusing, as a high tide may or may not actually be
"high." Also, the maximum range of the tides in La Paz is
just over 5 feet whereas in Boston it is almost 15 feet.
Although we were getting a kick out of
already knowing many of the hot spots in
town, La Paz had one amazing new
addition that had arrived since we were
last here six months ago. The
supermarket chain Comercial Mexicana
had the grand opening of their Mega store
the week we were there.
We grabbed a grocery cart on the ground
floor and rode the escalator with it up to
the main shopping floor. Two stories and
an escalator -- that's a pretty big store!
Strutting their stuff against nearby
Walmart, they displayed two identical
shopping carts to prove Mega is about 10%
Inside the store the produce section was very
large, and the special Gringo area featured Costco's Kirkland brand products
in their signature oversized containers. Peanut-butter pretzels -- yay!
When the weather settled down we went back
out to the pretty anchorages that lie within a two
hour sail from town. Getting to the open ocean
from La Paz requires going down a long narrow
channel. It is several miles long, dredged to a
good depth and marked with large buoys. As
we were leaving Mark carefully noted each pair of buoys when we
passed between them and searched for the next pair up ahead.
Accidentally slipping outside the channel here would put us hard
aground. Suddenly he said, "I can't find the next green buoy!" We
looked and looked and it just wasn't there. Then we spotted it -- on the
beach. The powerful swell from the Norther had uprooted this huge
buoy and tossed it on shore.
Playa Bonanza is a long white beach
that is deserted except for a small eco-
tourism camp at one end. Five canvas
tents for guests are tucked into this
corner and two tents are reserved for
the guides and for cooking. When we
arrived a colorful collection of kayaks
and kayakers was lined up at the edge
of the water. Within a few minutes
they all took off and disappeared
around the point, and we had the
beach to ourselves.
Later that evening the guides returned
without the kayakers and relaxed on
the beach with a small fire and some
fresh caught fish. The next day they
vanished for a while to return with
another group of kayakers and the
pattern repeated itself. That's not a
bad gig: hosting vacationing kayakers
for a few hours each day and kicking
back on the beach in between.
Another day we sailed
over to Bahía Falsa, a
large bay with several
mangroves and a beach
bar under some thatched
shade ramadas. A pile of
kayaks lay to one side
waiting to be rented.
Bahía Falsa lies next to Bahía Pichilingue which is the big commercial
harbor and ferry dock outside of town. Ferry boats cross between
Mazatlan on the mainland and La Paz every day, and we watched lots
of ferries and other large ships going in and out of the harbor.
Around the corner we found an unfinished and abandoned building with
a steeply pitched round roof over an arch-encircled room or patio. It is
on its own private beach, just begging for someone to finish the dream.
At the far back of the cove there is a
cluster of mangroves, and sure enough
lots of mangrove types of leggy birds
live there. We snuck up on a few in the
kayak and caught them on camera, but
most of the pictures were a flurry of
flapping wings and blurred legs and
feet as the birds flew off.
One afternoon while relaxing at the beach bar we noticed three German
cyclists enjoying themselves a few tables down. Their heavily ladened
touring bicycles were leaning on a fence nearby. We went over to talk to
them and discovered they are on an epic cycling adventure.
"Where are you coming from?" I asked. "Anchorage,
Alaska." My eyes got wide. "And where are you going?"
"Argentina." My jaw dropped. It turned out these guys
had left Anchorage in the spring of 2011 and planned to
get to Argentina in the winter of 2013. Volker and Petra
had started their adventure together. They met Richard
on the road and he decided to merge his cycling
adventure with theirs as far as Puerto Escondido
south of Acapulco.
The trio were on their way to the ferry dock to catch
the overnight ferry to Mazatlan. They climbed onto
their bikes and we watched them ride up the long
grind towards Bahía Pichilingue.
A while later, while pedaling our kayak towards
Groovy, we saw their small forms high on the ridge,
pedaling towards their South American dreams. Soon
we would be continuing our travel dreams across the
Sea of Cortez in Paradise Village.
Find Playa Bonanza, Bahía Falsa and La Paz on
Read about our experiences in the La Paz area in
April, 2011 here.