We're in La Paz recovering from post Baja Ha Ha stress syndrome

S/V Pacific Mystic
Eric & Valerie Wagoner
Sat 5 Dec 2009 00:00
We are now in La Paz on the East coast of the Baja California peninsula in the Sea of Cortez.
We left Cabo San Lucas on Sat 11/14 and slowly moved our way up the coast doing easy day sails and stopping in two beautiful anchorages between Cabo and La Paz, first at Cabo Los Frailes (about 45 miles from Cabo) and then in Ensenada de los Suenos (another 45 miles up the coast). We sailed the last 55 miles to La Paz and arrived here on 11/21.
La Paz and the Sea of Cortez were not in our original plan. We were going to sail directly from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta on the mainland and move our way down the West coast of Mexico to Acapulco to await proper weather to go further south in the Spring for a crossing of the Panama canal in April. But by the time we reached Cabo San Lucas, we realized our plan would need to change. We could not keep moving at the pace we had been moving for the past couple months. This whole trip was supposed to be the time of our lives but it felt like seriously hard work the whole time. When we were at sea, we had to constantly trim the boat to adjust to the ever-changing conditions 24-hours a day. And when we pulled back in to shore, it was to recover from the shock to our bodies and minds of having dealt with offshore conditions around the clock for several days and to work on the boat to keep it in safe running condition for the next leg. It was hard on us, hard on the boat and, not the least, hard on Miette. So we needed to regroup. We were happy to pay for a few days the hefty daily rates that the Marina de Cabo San Lucas charges during the sport fishing season to rethink our next steps.
What led us to La Paz is a series of events that we came to understand is a pretty common experience among cruisers who, like us, had made the journey from one of many ports on the Pacific Coast of the US and Canada to Cabo.
First, Cabo wasn't a place we could park at for two long due to the constant and utterly unbereable Las-Vegas-meets-Venice choas in the harbor, which further frayed our already shot nerves.So we had to keep moving further but if possible not too far.
We also came to find out that most of the Baja Ha-Ha fleet was making plans to go to La Paz, some to winter in the Sea of Cortez; others to make it a temporary homebase for making quick jaunts up and down the Sea of Cortez before continuing on south; and most without a definite plan. So Pacific Mystic being the Seabird that she is decided to join the flock of other Baja Ha Ha boats and go to La Paz and switch to a no-plan plan.
Another phenomenon of the Baja Ha Ha is that it has made us reliant on the concept of travelling with other boats. (A good thing!) When in Cabo, as we were discussing post Baja Ha Ha plans, we found out that our friends Larry, Vicki and Andrew on 'Rocinante' and our friends Duane and Chris on 'Risk Taker' had plans to stay in Cabo a whole week after the Baja Ha Ha was over to spend time with friends and family visiting there. Since Eric and I were not in any hurry to keep going anymore, we decided to hook up with them for the 3-leg journey from Cabo to La Paz, via the two anchorages in Los Frailes and Los Suenos.
Our two stops in the anchorages of Los Frailes and Los Suenos on the way to La Paz brought on another unforeseen consideration. They gave us a taste of what snorkeling and scuba diving could be like in the Sea of Cortez, which Jacques Cousteau rightfully named the aquarium of the world. It is absolutely magnificent here, above and below the water! We came to the disconcerting realization that we had not planned enough time to both perform the  maintenance work needed to keep the boat in good running order for the next part of the journey and also be able to spend a minimum time exploring the abundance of riches Mexico has to offer along the coast and on land, all the while maintening our own sanity. And Mexico is the first country and only one we stopped at so far between the USA and France.  And our current plan only allows for one month in the Carribean before we need to make the Atlantic crossing to avoid the hurricane season next Spring. Needless to say we started to feel like our original one-year journey plan to France may need to become a two-year plan, or better yet, to become a permanent lifestyle and if so how do we sustain it? We think we may have found a new addiction. You think? Not us. :)
That is the state of mind in which we reached La Paz almost 2 weeks ago. And since then, we've been docked at Marina Palmira in La Paz, pondering the new situation while also finding our bearings around the city. We've also been enjoying the great network of friendships recently developped during the Baja Ha Ha rally and the great support we provide each other while everybody is trying to figure out "what now?". We also discovered while in the marina that our story is not uncommon. There is a myriad of cruisers in La Paz, most American and Canadian, some from the UK and New Zealand , who arrived here years ago with cruising plans similar to ours and never left Mexico. The more of them settle here, the more things become available here thus making it hard for newcomers to leave. We can pretty much find anything here and there are substitutes for brands we are accustomed to in the US. So with a few minor adjustments, the standards of life are pretty good. Actually, if criteria like weather and surroundings are included, life is pretty darn good here. I wake up every day, pop my head out of the cockpit and just can't believe I live here temporarily.
So are we going to fall for this beautiful life here like many sailors before us have? We don't think so. We want to keep going. But before we go any further, we made a decision to have a hydro/wind vane installed on the boat. For the uninitiated, it is a device that will self-steer the boat so the helm doesn't need to be manned around the clock. It is similar to an auto-pilot, which we have on the boat. But the hydro/wind vane doesn't require electricity (which is a rare commodity on sailboats) and it doubles up as a back-up steering system if the auto-pilot fails or even more importantly as an emergency rudder if the boat rudder is damaged. When we left Seattle, we thought we could get away without one because of the cost of the investment. But after 2000 miles at sea, we won't do another overnight trip without one. Having to man the helm around the clock in all kinds of sea and wind conditions really takes the fun out of sailing and rubs the nerves raw, which we can't afford to do anymore. So we'll be here in La Paz until we have a plan for getting one of these shipped to us and installed. We think this will most likely keep us here through the holidays and even into January. We may try to make a trip up the Sea of Cortez if the hydro/wind vane shipping and installation schedule allows. Stay tuned for more details.
Following is a summary in images of our "epic" journey since we left Cabo San Lucas :)
Cabo San Lucas harbor: (where we stayed from 11/5 to 11/14)
Here are 2 views from our boat at the dock at Marina de Cabo San Lucas. 
It is Las Vegas meets Venice. There are boats everywhere, going in every direction, and there are party boats playing loud music pretty much around the clock.  Overstimulation!
Cabo San Lucas to Los Frailes - Sat 11/14   
We sailed or more exactly motored the whole way from Cabo to Los Frailes along side our friends Larry, Vicki, Andrew and Bridget on 'Rocinante' and Duane and Chris on 'Risk Taker'. We were beating into the wind (10-15 knots) with combined swells and wind waves of 4-5 feet. The sails are of no use in these conditions. Our average speed above ground was between 4.5 and 5 most of the day. This type of Northern system is pretty typical at this time of the year going up the Sea of Cortez.
'Rocinante', always stylin'.
'Exit Strategy' pushing some serious water with their big engine and blowing right by us.
'Risk Taker' demonstrating the superior sailing advantage of a Catalina 38' in light winds.
Arriving at Los Frailes just before sun down
Bahia de Cabo Los Frailes: 11/14 - 11/17
Cabo los Frailes is the first good anchorage inside the Baja peninsula side of the Sea of Cortez.  The bay has little permanent activity, only the fishing camp and some recent unfinished development.  Most of the activity in the bay is from the transient sailors like us.  Here you see our boat and a couple others anchored off the beach.  Our dinghy is in the foreground. We went snorkeling along the rocky point you can see on the picture. There were corals and the most beautiful fish we've ever seen in their real habitat.
We've arrived in paradise!
Eric, demonstrating signs of post Baja Ha Ha stress syndrome...
...and Charlotte of 'Willful Simplicity' serving the magic cure for it at sun down.
Watch the magic happen...
Left photo: Valerie of 'Pacific Mystic', Bridget of 'Rocinante', Duane of 'Risk Taker', Charlotte of 'Willful Simplicity', Dave of 'Exit Strategy'
Right photo: different view of the same people give or take a few
Left photo: Vicki and Bridget of 'Rocinante', Steve of 'Willful Simplicity', Eric of 'Pacific Mystic', Andrew of 'Rocinante', Charlotte of 'Willful Simplicity' and Larry of 'Rocinante'
Right photo: same people with a better view of Vicki
Watching 'Rocinante' leave for Los Suenos from our anchorage in Los Frailes. They left a day before we did. There were rumors that the crew on Pacific Mystic had too much magic potion the night before and couldn't make the departure...
See you manana in Los Suenos, Andrew.
Los Frailes to Ensenada de los Suenos: Wed 11/18
Departing Los Frailes at sunrise
The magic potion from a couple nights before worked. Eric se siente muy fuerte ahora!
In the meantime, down below... What's this early departure crap? I'm not getting up for this.
Ensenada de Los Suenos: 11/18 - 11/20  
Ensenada de los Suenos is the second good anchorage after Los Frailes inside the Baja peninsula side of the Sea of Cortez.  This bay is only approximately 50 miles from La Paz and unlike Los Frailes has some pretty decent roads to and from La Paz. So it is more developed than Los Frailes. On shore there is a beautiful resort called Gran Suenos. You can find more info at their Web site here if interested:  http://www.gransueno.com/ 
Because we were there just after the end of the hurricane season and just before the high season starts, none of the private suites were rented yet. So the only activity on shore was as a result of the presence of the Baja Ha Ha cruisers anchored in the bay. We and our Baja Ha Ha fellows had the whole staff in the restaurants and the hotel to ourselves. It was like having our own property and own staff all day long for a mere 25 bucks per person spent on food and drinks. Needless to say we did enjoy our time there!
'Pacific Mystic' at anchor in the Ensenada de los Suenos with view of the Gran Suenos resort in the background.
View of the Gran Suenos resort from our dinghy as we are tending to shore.
Having a margarita at the Gran Suenos restaurant pool bar.
La Paz: 11/21 - to date
This is the view from the coffee shop we hang out at.
And now the shot from inside the coffee shop...
...with Elizabeth and Rod of 'Proximity'
And finally, random shots from the daily life onboard Pacific Mystic
Mornin', sunshine.