Characters, Crusaders & Criminals

Living an expat life, on a boat, in a developing country brings out all sorts of characters, crusaders and criminals.

The Characters, as you can imagine, are as varied and diverse as they are interesting. Salty sailors (mostly men) whose wives have left them or who refuse to live this life full time, the ultimate in bachelor pads. Wearing the same Hawaiian inspired print shirt day after day complete with some sort of shell necklace and a well-past-its-prime straw hat, these characters claim they are seeking solitude, but when you get them out for a beer, you cannot shut them up; they have more extroverted vs. hermit tendencies, who would give that Hawaiian shirt off their back to you if you needed it (along with well worn advice about weather, hurricanes, and Mexico culture). 

Scary one-legged clown in La Paz

The Crusaders see the Sea as something to be conquered or endured. They boast of their year-round living aboard in a heat index that averages 112 degrees in these summer months, and they often have a story of saving a whale, a boat or life during a storm. Theirs is a badge of honor to endure the conditions and often loneliness of sailing. Both the Characters & Crusaders are generous with their time and resources – bestowing fresh fish, engine parts or advice as needed. 

Then, you have the Criminals. These are the people who couldn’t make it in the “real world” or who are escaping something sinister and nefarious. Like our neighbor here (about 100 yards away), who, immediately after meeting him, claimed theirs was a “Naked Boat”, and so it is….morning, noon and night, this guy and his younger “caregiver”, who is looking after his 80 year old mother with dementia, are naked as the day is long. We’ve since learned this guy has a sordid and ugly past, and his host of stories must be true because you cannot make up the things he says. Kirby tried helping him one day with his anchor, and the minute they got to his boat, he dropped his pants and climbed aboard his boat, leaving Kirby with a Junk-In-The-Face moment that I’m sure he won’t soon forget….

The Naked Boat – as seen from Lodos

You’ve gotta be a little crazy to live this life. I’m leaving out the rest of the “normal” people here because in comparison, they/we are all just incredibly boring…

Dodging the Wind

On a mooring ball, looking northwest, at Puerto Escondido

I know we are supposed to seek wind since we are on a sailboat, but the weather plays such a huge role in where we can travel, how fast, how safely and how comfortably. Luckily, there have been no signs of hurricanes yet – they are just on the “E”s (Erick) and “F”s (Flossie), and they are still far south and west of us. August and September ups the risk, so we are trying to stay close to hurricane holes and/or places we are get to in a day in case of the worst news. 

Aside from hurricanes, there are other wind/weather conditions we have to be mindful of: 

  • Coromuels – SW wind that usually howls during the night (making for a very unpleasant sleep and rocky, swelly anchorage)
  • Elifantes – Big winds that sweep off the land and last 6+hours making it dangerous for passage making and anchoring.
  • Chubascos – A fast tornodo/hurricane like storm that lasts minutes but can pounce unannounced with winds that could rip the boat apart or toss it onto rocks. 

All of these things make us cautious where we go and where we sleep at night, obsessively checking the weather while trying not to let it interrupt our fun – we try to follow the 7 Ps: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance 🙂 

Video of Puerto Escondido Mooring Field

I have a business trip mid August and mid September, so I will hopefully be able to leave Kirby and Lodos safely in one of the hurricane holes on the west side of the Sea.  That current place is Puerto Escondido (click on link for more info and a video of the area). A reinforced natural bay that is protected from mountains on nearly every side and curves inward to a protected anchorage on mooring balls with a small marina. Every year in May, they have a huge fishing tournament which brings people here from all over the world.

A good place to work on the boat and tick off those maintenance projects!

Puerto Escondido boasts the most expensive marina in the Sea – reinforcing why they call it the Gringo Coast. The marina fees here are higher than marinas in southern California. When we were here last time, the daily fees for our boat were 4x what we paid in San Diego, so we stay out on the mooring ball.

They have decent internet, a little restaurant that makes amazing pizzas in an outdoor oven, the best air conditioned luxury bathrooms and showers, a little store (tienda) and easy access into Loreto that has an international airport with direct flights to San Diego/Tijuana. They also have a cruisers net on VHF Channel 22 at 8am daily to keep people informed of weather and other happenings – always ending with a silly sailing joke (the one today was about a pirate). Cheesy, yes, but with a dash of earnestness that even the most cynical person can embrace.

Making guacamole with the best avocados in the world: ugly outside, perfect inside!

Back in the Sea of Cortez – during hurricane season…

I love the familiarity with the sea, the anchorages, the wildlife and impending challenges we will no doubt encounter while sailing. The big difference for this 2 weeks, is that we don’t have internet, and I feel that I need it for work, which has created a new set of problems or anxiety – needing to be in a specific place for a phone call or meeting isn’t exactly the safest way to sail/travel, as it forces you to make potentially compromised decisions on weather that you might not have otherwise.

Sunset in Caleta Partida

We started this trip with a few days in Caleta Partida – an anchorage that divides two islands, and which has a narrow channel that we can take our dinghy through to get from one side of the island to the other. It’s one of our favorite places because it’s sheltered and protected but also because it’s the home to dozens of turtles.

Kirby cleaning the hull
Jodi snorkeling with sea lions

On our way to our next anchorage at San Francisco Island, we made a quick stop at a couple small islands that are home to hundreds of sea lions. The pup season ends in July. Kirby anchored the boat in a deep rocky islet while I jumped off and swam with them. They warned me to not get too close by barking at me – they were adorable and fun to see up close, and of course swimming with sea lions is pretty special.

Heading north to Isla San Francisco, we happened upon a group of 5-7 giant manta rays feeding at the surface. We stopped the boat to watch them eat, and then saw them soar under the boat with wingspans of more than 10 feet, mouths open, breathtaking….

After arriving in Isla SF, we stayed at two separate anchorages – we found some fantastic dive/snorkeling sites and appreciated the rich variety and diversity of the fish – so many we’d never seen before and that are indigenous to the Sea: Golden phase puffer fish, Cortez round ray, Cortez angel fish, and dozens of others – including 4 types of parrot fish.

Bahia Agua Verde

Our next stop was one of our favorites – at Bahia Agua Verde – but we had to scoot up to Puerto Escondido (where we are now on a mooring ball) as our refrigeration is on the fritz, we need to do laundry and dump our trash 🙂 We’ll be here for a bit while we catch up on work and projects, and I plan for my next trip to the USA for work.

And, it’s hot. So hot. ~100 degrees and nearly the same in humidity. We are having trouble keeping the fridge and freezer working properly it’s so hot….but, we are swimming and relaxing and doing our best to breath our way through it as the benefits outweigh the annoyances.

Renovations: A New Floor for the Cockpit

We are excited because we finally finished replacing the cockpit floor of our sailboat. This was a BIG project that required a cascade of smaller things to be completed first. We replaced the cockpit teak wood flooring (which was beyond saving and leaking) and put in PlasDeck, which is a synthetic teak substitute.

I will admit that this project was not much fun. It was a highly detailed, you-only-have-one-shot kind of project, and we had to work quickly as the glue dries so fast (under 15 minutes!). But, we are pleased with the finished result and are excited to have access and use of the cockpit again!

First, we prepped the floor and our new table pedestal (which Kirby built, then we fiberglassed, sealed and painted) where the table is mounted; this new pedestal will also gives us secure space to put a small trash can and (vintage) playmate cooler as well as an important toe rail/toe stop while the boat is heeling underway. We plan to put 3M non-skid tape on the sides as well.

Unrolling and letting the floor flatten before installation

After the floor sat in the sun for a couple of hours, it was flat and ready for installation. We had to prep the cockpit surface by sanding it to remove any large bumps and then cleaning it thoroughly with denatured alcohol.

Then we dry fit and traced each piece before gluing them to the seats and to the floor. You have to work in sections, and quickly, as the glue sets up in 15 minutes, also making it nearly impossible to wipe off or clean up if you aren’t cleaning as you go along.

Gluing the pieces in place (the seats were a lot easier than the floor!)

THE FINISHED PRODUCT!

TIPS: If you’re doing this job yourself, spend extra time up front on the template because once it’s cut, it’s cut! Make sure you have ALL of the materials ready before you start any work (take an inventory and use the checklist provided by the installation guide), and have dozens of clean WHITE rags with at least a gallon of denatured alcohol for spills and any glue cleanup. You can see a few videos of this project, here: SANDING, CLEANING, PREPPING FOR GLUE

FINAL TIP: Prepare to work quickly and swear (a lot).

Enjoying La Paz

Recently, we had some friends visit us from Michigan, and their lovely photos from our trip together reminded us how beautiful the beaches are, how great the restaurants, and how wonderfully laid back the town. Here are a few of our favorites (all photos courtesy of Seth & Daniela)

Kayaking at Balandra Beach

Balandra Beach, which is north, nearly at the end of the peninsula from La Paz, is a picture-perfect place to spend the day, drink coconut water, kayak, swim and enjoy the crystal clear waters. We were there early during mid week, and we had the place almost entirely to ourselves.

Come back soon!