La Paz: Doing The “La Paz Waltz” and Hiding from Northers
Breaching whale on the malecòn in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Breaching whale on the malecón.

Cathedral in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

La Paz cathedral.

La Paz, BCS, Mexico has hilly streets.

Hilly streets of La Paz neighborhoods.

Meat on its way to market, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Carrying meat to the market.

We are greeted by the Mexican Navy outside La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The Mexican Navy checks us out.

Quick and easy boarding by the Navy in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

It was an easy boarding.

The water heater comes to the dock for repair in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Mark opens up the hot water heater on the dock.

The offending stainless stub on the water heater, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The offending stainless steel tube that needed

a bead welded around the sleeve joint.

Super Burrito, home of great carne asada tacos, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Super Burrito, home of great carne asada tacos.

Awesome taco dinner with real coke at Super Burrito in La Paz, BCS, Mexico for 8 USD total.

Real coke and yummy tacos for two, all for $8.

Watching for a Norther online at La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Wind travels in the direction of the arrows.

Green=14 mph.Yellow=18mph. Red=24mph

Checking onlines weather status in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Wind travels from the hook of the hockey stick.

White is light wind and dark blue is heavy wind.

The La Paz Waltz brings two boats together in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The La Paz Waltz causes anchored boats to collide.

A neighbor fends off a derelict boat in La Paz, BCS, Mexico Tide swings are very important in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Boston, Massachusetts tides.

La Paz, BCS, Mexico has odd interim tides between true high and low.

La Paz, Mexico tides.

The Comercial Mexicana Mega store opens in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The new Comercial Mexicana Mega supermarket.

The Mega supermarket in La Paz, BCS, Mexico is huge.

Mega is big enough to

require an escalator.

The Mega supermarket claims to be cheaper than nearby Walmart in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Mega claims to be cheaper than Walmart.

A big produce department in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Plenty of fresh produce.

Channel Buoy #5 gets blown ashore in the channel outside La Paz, BCS, Mexico

A channel buoy was blown ashore in

the Norther.

Tents for kayakers on Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Playa Bonanza: tents for kayaking

guests on the beach.

Kayaks on Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Kayakers get ready to leave.

Kayakers leaving Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Off they go.

Sunset at Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Sunset at Playa Bonanza.

Ferry boat at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

A ferry heads into Bahía Pichilingue next to Bahía Falsa.

The beach bar at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Bahía Falsa has a small beach bar in the sand.

Pretty white sand and a panga on Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Bahía Falsa.

A line of beach chairs at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Bahía Falsa.

Someone's unfinished dream at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Come finish this developer's dream!

In the mangroves at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico, a pelican pretends to be a heron.

A pelican pretends he's a heron in

the mangroves.

A heron in the mangroves at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

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

around town.

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

Mexico.  Ouch.

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: and  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,

depending on

its hull design and the

state of the tide. They

all end up facing in

different directions.

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

beaches, some

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

Mexico Maps.

Read about our experiences in the La Paz area in

April, 2011 here.