Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Varianta 37 Review

Back in 2011 I was wandering around the docks in the marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and came upon a Varianta 44. The thing was beautiful in a stark and business-like way, with pure white decks and minimal deck hardware set off by a tall carbon fiber rig. I didn't know it at the time, but I was destined to follow that boat, named Olas Lindas, around the buoys in a number of races over the next few years, much to my chagrin.

The Varianta 44 is built by Hanse Yachts and they have followed up on it with a 37 footer based on the same concept of a plain vanilla racer/cruiser with an excellent turn of speed. The idea behind these boats is an interesting one in that the hulls are actually from the molds of older  successful Hanse models. In the case of the 37, its predecessor is the Hanse 370, of which over 900 were built. The Varianta 37 incorporates a new deck design, all new interior and a more economical price tag. The result is a simple, sleek and Spartan cruiser/racer for the budget minded sailor.

Extremely clean lines on the 37
The original Hanse 370 was designed by the Judel/Vrolijk design firm so I assume they are responsible for the conversion to the Varianta. The hull is a conventional shape and appears to be designed with IRC measurements in mind. With fairly high freeboard and minimal fore and aft overhangs the hull looks beefy. This look is accentuated by the skinny boot stripe and lack of a cove stripe. It's not particularly stylish, but it is economical, and stripes add nothing to performance. Below the waterline we find a standard T-bulb keel of 6'-4" draft. With much of the keel's 5,060 pounds located in the bulb, the V37 should be stiff and weatherly. One of the benefits of a bulb keel is that a boat can have a relatively low ballast/displacement ratio and still go upwind well. The V37's B/D is 33%. Of course, the downside of this type of keel is that it's prone to snagging kelp and other floating stuff. The rudder is a big spade that looks like it will steer the boat very efficiently. A rudder this size will also generate considerable lift to weather if the boat is well balanced.

In studying the deck drawing below, note that the bow is full-ish at the deck level, but the photos show a finer shape closer to the waterline. The fullness allows plenty of room to maneuver on deck without sacrificing the fine entry near the waterline. The stern is wide, but not nearly as wide as the latest 38 footers from the likes of Beneteau. There is plenty of flare in the aft sections and no chines. This is going to be a slippery and well behaved yacht in a seaway.

The cabin trunk is low and nicely proportioned in the profile view. It is wide and allows for just enough room to walk forward on the side decks. With non-overlapping headsails the chainplates are located at the sheer and jib tracks are mounted on the cabin top. The photos show the jib sheets led through a pair of rope clutches to the cabin top winches. My guess is that this arrangement won't last long. A better solution would be to mount the tracks alongside the cabin trunk and lead the sheets to the cockpit winches. You can easily rig up a set of barber haulers if you really want that jib in tight.

 I like the way the cockpit coamings fair into the cabin trunk, accentuating the clean lines of the boat. The drawings show six winches, which would be necessary for serious racing, but the photos show just four, which is sufficient for cruising. The cockpit is large enough for shorthanded cruising, but will be snug for a racing crew. The deckplan shows a short mainsheet traveler mounted on the cockpit sole. It's short enough that it would not provide much better control than a single point for the mainsheet and I believe the production boats are leaving the factory with just the single point. Racers may find that annoying but you won't miss the traveler at all if you're cruising.

The cockpit looks comfortable and spacious enough for a cruising family. Notice the instrument displays on the aft ends of the coamings. 

Plenty of freeboard and cabin-top jib tracks.

The sailplan of the V37 incorporates aluminum spars in a fractional rig. With a sail area/displacement ratio of 21.2 there is plenty of power for racing. The mainsheet is a simple six-part tackle led to a the end of the boom. For racing you'll want to rig up a coarse/fine trim system instead. The sailplan shows a masthead asymmetrical spinnaker with the tack located a couple of feet forward of the bow. I'm not sure if the plan is for a short bowsprit or some kind of pole arrangement for it, but I would vote for a bowsprit that also incorporates an anchor roller and chock. The combination of a nearly plumb bow and the bow roller shown in the photos pretty much guarantees that the anchor is going to bounce off the stem occasionally.

Nice proportions
All of the photos and drawings here are courtesy of  the Hanse Yachts/Varianta web site.
The accommodations plan for the V37 is fairly ordinary for a racer/cruiser. Twin double quarter berths are located aft, each fitted with a hanging locker and enough space to dress. The head is fairly large and the galley smallish but adequate for coastal cruising. A pair of 6'-8" long settees flank a dropleaf table in the salon. Outboard of the settees are cloth bins for storage. The forward cabin  incorporates a rather snug V-berth and a pair of lockers. There is just enough wood here to add a bit of style. My sense is that the layout is quite workable, while the styling is a bit stark for my taste. Of course we have to keep in mind that this boat is built to a strict budget, so plain white surfaces and square corners are understandable.
Lots of white laminate  and square corners make the accommodations look right at home in the Ikea Catalog.
In the final analysis we have to decide whether this boat will meet the owner's objectives. If you're searching for a boat with an excellent design pedigree, good performance and reasonably good build quality at minimal cost, this boat should fill the bill quite nicely. Aside from those qualities, it's a very nice looking boat. Hanse just might be on to something with this type of econo-yacht.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back in the USA

We stayed in Ensenada about ten days, then just after midnight on July 6th we took our last departure from a Mexican port, bound for San Diego. It was a cool and uneventful trip, and we arrived at the customs dock just before noon. We waited 45 minutes for the inspectors to show up and when they did, it took all of about five minutes to clear the paperwork. We took a berth at Southwestern YC where we stayed four days. During that time we plugged in to American phones, changed the boat insurance policy, and had a grand time with friends.

Our plan was to head for Dana Point, where we anchored in the west basin. It was pretty crowded in the little anchorage and around 1700 a powerboat came in and tried to anchor next to us, fouling our anchor in the process. After that little adventure we met friends for dinner at the Yacht Club, being careful to take a table with a view of our boat, just in case. The next morning yet another big powerboat came in and tried to anchor in a sliver of space next to another sailboat. They promptly got into an argument about who was crowding who. The powerboat won, forcing the sailboat to move. After watching this drama we decided to leave immediately for Catalina.

It was a beautiful day, light air and crystal clear skies so we were happy to be underway. A few miles off the island we caught a pair of 30 pound blue fin tunas. They were a bit too big for our appetites so we released them.

We picked up a mooring at Two harbors and spent the next week relaxing and enjoying the Island. One day we hiked up the ridge that overlooks Cat Harbor and encountered an Island fox just above the Banning House. The Catalina Island fox is a distinct subspecies and is specific to Catalina Island. It has close relatives that live on five of the other Channel Islands, all of which are descendants of the mainland Gray Fox. The Catalina fox is believed to have arrived on the island 800-3,800 years ago.

The Catalina Island fox has had a rough time over the last 25 years. In 1998 a canine distemper epidemic swept through the population, killing 90% of them. Not long before then, Golden Eagles began to arrive on Catalina as a result of the depletion of the Bald Eagle population on the island.
Bald Eagles are fishing birds, while Goldens prefer to feed on land dwelling prey. The state and island authorities have made efforts to rebuild the Bald Eagle population on the island, which has had the effect of chasing the Golden Eagles back to the mainland.  According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 1,300 foxes on Catalina, up from around 150 fifteen years ago. I collected all of this information from Wikipedia.

Usually shy and elusive, this fellow lingered long enough to for me to get a photo.

A bit further along the trail we encountered a bison relaxing in the morning sun. We passed within 60-70 feet of this big bull and continued up the trail where, just around a bend we encountered a group of hikers coming from Little Harbor. We stood and watched as they rounded the bend and caught sight of the bison standing nearly in their path. They stopped and took pictures, then gingerly picked their way around the bull.

We continued up the ridge and near the top found that an artist had hung a metal sculpture on the barbed wire fence next to the trail. We'd seen it reflecting the afternoon sun the previous day from Cat Harbor and had been wondering what it was.

Sheetmetal sculpture that reflected the afternoon sunlight.

A flying boat lands just outside the moorings at Two Harbors

After a relaxing interlude at the Island, it was time to head for the mainland. Finisterra is now in her new berth in San Pedro while we get reintegrated into life ashore.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Los Cabos to Ensenada

We waited patiently for that weather window and it finally materialized on June 19th. We departed San Jose del Cabo at 0830, motoring into a 3 or 4 knot headwind under a gloriously sunny sky. It's about 17 miles from San Jose to San Lucas, and during that time the wind increased to about 17 knots and the sea temperature plummeted from 82 to 70 degrees.

We rounded the point at San Lucas around noon in a building breeze. By the time we reached Cabo Falso, about 4 miles further on, the wind was a steady 27 knots on the nose, with gusts to something over 30. Staying close inshore, we rounded Falso and headed northward along the coast and by 1500 the breeze had dropped to about 12 knots and the rough seas were replaced by easy westerly swells.  Late in the afternoon the breeze dropped even further, and we motored for the next twenty four hours over glassy swells and almost calm wind.

Route from Los Cabos to Turtle Bay.

We arrived at Bahia Santa Maria, about 200 miles from San Jose in the early afternoon of June 20th and anchored about half a mile off the beach in the northwest corner of the bay. We were hoping to go ashore here and explore the beaches and nearby sand dunes, but there was enough of a southerly swell running to make a dinghy landing untenable.  Instead, we got the anchor up and headed out of the bay and into a favorable wind. We sailed all afternoon and into the night until the wind shut off completely around 2100. We arrived at Turtle Bay at dawn on June 22nd. It was a pleasant, quiet day and we spent it catching up on sleep while we waited for Enrique to deliver some fuel, which he did in the late afternoon.

The favorable conditions we had been enjoying were forecast to end soon, so we got underway just after sunrise on June 23rd. Choosing to go up the east side of Isla Cedros, we motored into a very light headwind and flat seas as far as the Dewey Channel, which lies between Isla Natividad and the mainland. There we encountered rough, confused seas until we reached the southern tip of Cedros which provided protection from the northwest wind and seas. The easy conditions lasted until we reached the northern tip of the island. Once beyond the lee of the island we had 20-25 knots of wind on the nose and 5 foot seas for a couple of hours, then the wind moderated but the swells remained big and steep. We slowed to 4 - 5 knots for the next 50 miles to keep the boat from pounding in the unfriendly seas. Throughout the passage from Cedros to Sacramento reef we were bucking a current that sometimes reached a knot and a half.

On the morning of June 24th we passed about 10 miles west of Sacramento reef and found the counter current here to be around half a knot. The rest of the passage to Punta Banda consisted of motoring into 3 to 8 foot seas and overcast skies. We rounded the point around noon on June 25th. With a fair wind, we doused the engine and sailed the last ten miles to Ensenada where we took a berth on gangway A in the Cruiseport Marina. The plan is to stay here until after the Fourth of July holiday, then head north to San Diego for a few days.

Turtle Bay to Ensenada

A few miles south of Punta Banda we were joined for a few minutes by a pod of Orcas. I was so fascinated looking at them, I didn't get many photos.

These are females. Males have taller, more vertical dorsal fins.

While here in Ensenada we were immediately among friends and have been spending our time socializing and cleaning up the boat after the long bash from Los Cabos. A couple of days ago I decided to put a couple of coats of varnish on the cap rails. The first coat went on the starboard rail perfectly, but today, about an hour after I finished putting the second coat on, a squall passed through, dropping a sprinkling of rain. I thought my varnish job was ruined but luckily it survived intact.

Ensenada is our last destination in Mexico, so I've been taking some time to reflect on all we learned about this beautiful country on this voyage. We saw so many beautiful sights and enjoyed the company of lots of friends, both Mexicans and foreigners, it's hard to name one specific thing that stands out as special. I guess the main impression that I'm taking with me is that Mexico is getting better. The people seem to have a continuously improving standard of living. The roads, schools, cities and infrastructure all seem to be getting better. Economic activity and industry are vastly better than they were when we cruised here aboard Honcho five years ago. But one thing that hasn't changed is the wonderfully friendly people of Mexico. In my opinion they are among the nicest in the world.

When we arrived here in Ensenada we learned of the recent supreme court decisions in the USA regarding health care and gay marriage. Good health care available to everyone, and tolerance for diversity among our people are worthy goals, so it's a nice feeling to know that we are returning to a better USA.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Waiting for a Window

We arrived at Puerto Los Cabos Marina a couple of hours before sunset on June 12th and were assigned to our old berth at the end of gangway L. The daytime temperatures here have been hovering in the high eighties, with light southerly winds and intense tropical sunshine every day. The humidity index has also been in the eighty percent range which makes life aboard a bit sticky and sweaty. So I broke out the air conditioner which brought the temperature and humidity inside the boat down to 78 degrees and 50% humidity. The air conditioner is a little 5,000 BTU window unit that fits neatly in the companionway, and stores in the starboard cockpit locker when not in use. It has made life bearable here while we wait.

The only problem with the air conditioner is that it makes you want to stay inside the boat from about noon to dusk.

San Jose is rapidly turning from a town to a city. In 2010 the town had a population of approximately 70,000. Combined with the tourist mecca of Cabo San Lucas a few miles down the road, this area hosted over 900,000 hotel guests in 2011. I remember visiting here in the 1970's when San Jose was a little town that no one went to and Cabo was just becoming popular as a sportfishing destination.

Marina Puerto Los Cabos. 

Here's something for the history buffs out there. Back in 1847, during the Mexican American War, a force of 24 American marines and sailors landed with a 9 pounder carronade and took up a position in the old mission San Jose. There, with a reinforcement of twelve men from California, they fought off an assault by a Mexican force under the orders of one Capitan Pineda Munoz. A couple of months later a larger Mexican force returned and laid siege to the American outpost. The seige lasted about a month and was finally lifted when a strong American naval force arrived. Nowadays we don't remember much about our 19th century conflicts, except for the Civil War, and a bit about the War of 1812. At least I've never seen anyone doing a Mexican American War reenactment.

9 Pounder Carronade. It fired a 4" diameter cannonball. As far as I can determine, this is a British gun dating form the early 1800's, but it's probably fairly similar to the one used at San Jose.  Photo courtesy of Gunstar.co.uk

As you can tell, we've had some time on our hands while we wait for that weather window to open, but it's been fun meeting new and interesting fellow cruisers. A couple of days after we arrived the pretty little Eastward Ho 24, named Molly, with Eric and Christine aboard tied up on our gangway. They sailed Molly down from Portland, Oregon and spent the season cruising in the Sea of Cortez. They left San Jose on Tuesday, June 16th, bound for Mag Bay, where we hope to catch up with them in a few days.
The Eastward Ho was designed by the venerable Walter McInnis and is a pretty salty seagoing vessel.
The weather forecast is for light southerly breezes for the next few days, so we will head out early tomorrow morning for Mag Bay.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

La Paz to San Jose

Fishermen head out at dawn from Los Muertos.

We planned to leave La Paz around June 6th but circumstances got in the way. The exhaust mixing elbow on the engine was showing signs of corrosion so I removed it for an inspection and, sure enough, it had deteriorated to the point where it could have started leaking salt water onto the engine.

Made of stainless steel, the elbow injects seawater from the heat exchanger into the exhaust, which is why water comes out of the exhaust pipe of your engine. The water is injected through the small tube and mixes with the exhaust gas in the larger tube. Photo credit: Marine Power Ltd.
I did not have an elbow among my spare parts so the only option was to repair the old one by welding up the areas where corrosion threatened the integrity of the part. It took about ten days to get it back from the welder, but when it was finished it was as good as new. While waiting for the elbow to be repaired another yacht transport ship arrived and Rob Cross and I delivered two more boats to be hoisted on deck and shipped to Canada.

The Tiberborg's deck was already half full of boats when it arrived from Panama. In La Paz eight more boats were loaded. It's becoming more popular to ship boats to Canada instead of bashing roughly 2,000 nautical miles up the coast, or sailing the clipper route.
Notice the diver in the water. His job was to position the slings under the boat. The last time we loaded a boat on a ship, there were two divers with SCUBA tanks. This fellow just had a mask and fins, yet he worked faster than the first two guys.
The Tiberborg's slings were lengthened to accommodate this 45' catamaran. I was told that the cost to ship a 35 foot monohull to Chemainus, BC is around $12,000. That might sound expensive, but if you factor in wear and tear on boat and crew, provisions, fuel, etc. for sailing there, its pretty reasonable. Chemainus is located on Vancouver Island, about 50 miles north of the city of Victoria.

By the time the elbow project was done, hurricane Blanca was bearing down on the Baja Peninsula. At this time of year hurricanes usually fizzle out or head out to sea before they reach Baja, so I wasn't concerned about Blanca. The folks that experienced last year's hurricane Odile were pretty worked up about it though. So throughout the harbor, people were taking down canvas biminis and awnings, securing dinghies and lashing down anything that looked like it might fly away in a wind. I didn't get concerned until I saw the local restaurants being stripped of sun covers and awnings. So we secured Finisterra for storm conditions, doubled up our dock lines and made plans for a hurricane party the night before Blanca was scheduled to hit La Paz.

Storm track for Blanca. In the last 24 hours before it arrived in La Paz it was downgraded to a tropical storm. Intrepid mariners that we are, we refused to cancel the hurricane party in spite of the downgrade.
Sylvia & Tom of S/V Cinnabar enjoying fresh blackened yellowtail at the hurricane party.

Saturday, June 6th, the weather was hot and still, with humidity hovering at about 80%. Sunday afternoon the wind began to blow out of the east, rising to about 20 knots.  By that night we were seeing a few gusts to 30 knots. The predawn hours of Monday brought the heaviest winds, with gusts up to 47 knots. We expected heavy rain but, surprisingly, none fell. Instead the air was full of fine dust and by the end of the storm Finisterra was covered with a thick coat of Baja real estate. Monday afternoon the storm left town and we surveyed the damage around the waterfront. In the marina there was little to report except a blown out window in a restaurant and one of the dock cleats that Finisterra was tied to came adrift. Closer to La Paz, a couple of boats broke free from their anchors and at least one fetched up on the beach on the Mogote Peninsula. Once the wind abated we got busy and washed the grime off the boat and made final preparations to head for San Jose del Cabo, about 150 miles to the south, our jumping off point for the trip up the peninsula to California. We departed on Tuesday morning, June 9th.

Our first stop was Puerto Balandra (again!) where we planned to do some snorkeling. The night before we left we went out for dinner with friends, and I picked up a mild case of food poisoning. So instead of swimming, I spent the day recovering. The next day I was feeling better and we left Balandra, bound for Ensenada de Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead). Over the last few years the local hotel operator there has been struggling to get the name of the place changed to Bahia de Los Suenos (Bay of Dreams) and I think the new name is beginning to stick.

We arrived a little before sunset on June 10th. The water was clear enough that I could see the anchor hit the sandy bottom 22 feet below the surface. For the next two days we snorkeled among the extensive coral beds on the southwest side of the bay, marveling at the variety and colors of sea life there.

Los Muertos is a beautiful bay with a rocky point to the northeast and a long sandy beach. You can just make out the coral beds in the southwest corner of this shot. Conditions here were perfect for snorkeling, with hot temperatures and plenty of sun. When we tired of snorkeling we hiked the short distance up to the Hotel del Suenos and sipped margaritas and swam in the pool.

On June 12th Finisterra departed Los Muertos at 0300,  and motored in calm wind and flat seas to the marina in San Jose del Cabo where we are making final preparations for the next leg of our journey.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Southern Sea of Cortez

Isla San Francisco

We didn't spend as much time up the Sea as we would have liked, but we savored every minute of it. Our travels took us from La Paz to Puerto Balandra, Isla Partida, San Evaristo, Isla San Francisco, Bahia Ballena and then back to La Paz by way of Puerto Balandra again.

Puerto Balandra.
The southwest cove offers good protection from Coromuels and has the best rocks and reef for snorkeling.

Puerto Balandra is our favorite place in the Sea. It's only a few miles from downtown La Paz but we have anchored there many times in tranquil isolation and enjoyed spectacular sunsets, great swimming and snorkeling, and fun exploring its beautiful beaches and mangroves. We anchored in the southwest corner of the bay on May 11th and spent a couple of days by ourselves swimming, snorkeling and exploring. Later we were joined by friends aboard Telitha and Ali'i'Kai, so the evenings were spent aboard one boat or another for sundowners and socializing. After a couple of days the other boats headed out toward Ensenada Grande while we stayed behind and had another day of solitude before heading north ourselves.

We had a beautiful sail from Balandra to Ensenada Grande, with 10 knots of breeze on a close reach and a flat sea. By early afternoon the wind had veered to the northwest, so we sailed into the bay on port tack and anchored not far from our friends aboard Telitha and Ali'i'Kai. The next day the beautiful Schumacher 52, Cinnabar joined our group in the north lobe of the bay. That evening the party was aboard Finisterra. In the late afternoon the wind backed around to the southwest, a sure sign of a Coromuel, so by 2130 our friends reboarded their own boats and we secured for what could be an interesting night. We had anchored on the north side of the bay because the forecast was for northerly winds. But the north side offers no protection from the southwest, which is the direction that Coromuels blow from. By midnight the wind was blowing about 20 knots out of the southwest accompanied by short, steep southwest swells. I stood a midnight to 0300 watch in the cockpit, ready to get the anchor up and relocate to a more protected spot further inside the bay if the situation worsened. But by 0300 the wind was down to about 12 knots and the only discomfort came from the lumpy southwest waves that lasted until dawn.

Ensenada Grande is on the west side of Isla Partida. We anchored in the northern cove for a couple of days, then moved to a spot just outside the small cove in the southeast part of the bay. You can see that the wind in this photo is blowing out of the north, which is the usual condition for springtime in this region.
Telitha at anchor in Puerto Balandra. 

The next morning we moved the boat further into the bay where we had some protection from the Coromuel winds. Later that day Cinnabar joined us and Tom, co-skipper of the boat dove into the water with his spear gun and shot a snapper and a goatfish, both of which Sylvia, the other co-skipper, served blackened that afternoon. I pulled my last bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio out of our wine locker for the occasion.  After four days in Ensenada Grande we got the anchor up and sailed for San Evaristo, about 28 miles away on the Baja mainland.

Dinner aboard Cinnabar.

Around midday Cinnabar, which had started half an hour after Finisterra rolled past us and anchored with our other friends in the main part of the bay. There was room for us to anchor near Cinnabar when we arrived half an hour later, but instead we chose a spot where we've anchored before in the northeast corner of the bay next to Punta San Evaristo. This is a snug little cove with steep hills coming down to the water's edge. The snorkeling here and around the point is excellent and the surrounding hills offer good protection from all but south and southeast winds.

Cin rolls Fin on the way to Evaristo

Bahia San Evaristo
The white area is actually salt pans. In southerly winds its safe to anchor off the gravel beach north of the pans.

We stayed in Evaristo a few days then it was time for us to part company with our friends. Telitha and Ali'i'Kai were headed north to San Carlos for the summer. Cinnabar planned to spend some more time in the central Sea and we were headed south to beautiful Isla San Francisco. We usually shy away from buddy boating, but hanging out with Joe & Kitty (Telitha), David & Toni (Ali'i'Kai), and Tom & Sylvia was really a lot of fun so we were a bit sad to part ways with them.

Isla San Francisco is only about nine miles from Evaristo and, with hardly a breath of wind out of the north, we motored to another of our favorite anchorages, the Hook on the south side of the island.
Isla San Francisco
We anchored in the south part of the bay about 100 yards NE from the tip of the hook.
Finisterra shares the anchorage with the 163 foot M/V Calex. It was interesting to watch the crew back this mega yacht into the shallow water and anchor bow and stern about 100 yards from the beach. 

The beautiful 82 foot R/V Martin Sheen spent a night at Isla San Francisco.
This vessel is operated by the Sea Shepherd organization and is in the Sea of Cortez on a mission to help save the endangered Vaquita dolphin.

We stayed three days at Isla San Francisco hiking, snorkeling and exploring. There were a couple of other boats in the anchorage when we arrived but they left and we thought we'd have the place to ourselves. But before long the Calex and Martin Sheen joined us. A rather incongruous assembly of conservationism, conspicuous consumption and cruising sailors.

The hiking on Isla San Francisco is spectacular.
Lisa poses before conquering the summit.
Dramatic cloud formation at sunrise.
We departed Isla San Francisco on May 22nd, bound for Bahia Ballena. It's a pretty set of three small coves on the west side of Isla Espiritu Santo about 20 miles away. There was no wind so we motored over a flat sea and anchored in the shelter of the bluffs on the northern side of the bay. No sooner did we get the hook down than we were swarmed by flies and bees. I quickly fitted bug screens over the hatches, but it was obvious that we would find no refuge from the insects at least until sunset, so we raised the anchor and proceeded another 12 miles south to bee-free Puerto Balandra.

At Puerto Balandra we relaxed and swam and enjoyed the afternoon and evening in solitude. Around 0400 the next morning, KABOOM!, we were awakened by a massive thunderclap.  And for the rest of the morning we watched as a thunderstorm rolled over us close enough to make us put phones and I-pads in the microwave. One bolt of lightning struck close enough that it stunned our wireless wind instruments, but later I was able to restart them, so no damage was done. By noon the rain had stopped and the lightning had moved off the the east and we got the anchor up and sailed the last few miles to Marina Palmira, where we've been slowly planning and provisioning for the long trip up the Baja coast to California.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Three Weeks in La Paz

Finisterra took a berth in Marina Palmira on April 24th where I had planned to do some routine engine maintenance, the most important of which was to service the fuel injectors. Rob from Cross Marine did the injector work and gave the engine a complete inspection while I replaced filters, tightened belts and generally puttered around the engine. In the course of his inspection Rob discovered a slight leak in the raw water pump. Fortunately I had a rebuild kit in my spare parts cache and within a day or two that job was done.
La Paz  with Marina Palmira in the foreground. It's a nice hike up a rocky trail from the marina to the top of the hill where these pictures were taken. 

La Paz is the only city on the gulf coast of Baja California. It boasts a population of around 250,000 including nearby suburbs. Mulege, Loreto, and Santa Rosalia are also located on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja Peninsula, but I categorize them as towns or villages with populations of  4,000, 15,000 and 12,000 respectively.

Because of its location La Paz is the place where cruisers gather before heading up the Sea. Of course there is a fairly large contingent of cruisers who have become more or less permanent residents of this area, some of whom anchor out in the channel between the city and the El Mogote Peninsula, which lies between La Paz and the Sea. Hurricane Odile ravaged the Baja Peninsula last year, passing just to the west of the city and wreaking havoc ashore and among the boats in the anchorage. As we sailed down the channel on our approach to Marina Palmira, we could see evidence of Odile's fury in damaged buildings and torn up docks in the marina. Odile did almost one and a quarter billion dollars worth of damage in Mexico and took over a dozen lives.

The pilings in the upper left are all that's left of the docks at the entrance to Marina Palmira. Notice the boats in the storage yard.

One day I helped deliver a boat out to the Tramper, a heavy lift ship that was anchored in the bay. The Tramper was on a voyage delivering yachts from one place to another. After its stop in La Paz, it was headed to Ensenada, then British Columbia.

As far as I know, the Tramper picked up three boats in La Paz

This 40' racer/cruiser was picked up before our boat.
The boat comes alongside the ship, a couple of handlers descend the jacob's ladder and the slings are lowered aft of the boat. Then a pair of divers, which you can see holding the slings in this shot, align them under the boat, making sure they aren't touching the shaft, prop or rudder. 
Before the boat is hoisted aboard the ship, they do a test lift to make sure it hangs in the slings the way they want it. If all is good, the boss gives the order to load the boat.

Our little boat was up next. It has spent many years cruising in Mexico and is headed home to Canada for a rest and refit. It got shoe-horned between the dark hulled C&C and the white boat with the black stripe.
With the job done, we climbed aboard a panga and headed back to shore.
La Paz is usually a hot place this time of year, with average daytime temperatures of 92 degrees under a usually blazing sun. But over the last couple of weeks we've enjoyed temps in the low eighties with cool Coromuel winds blowing almost every night. It's made hiking and exploring the city quite bearable and we've enjoyed the place more than ever. Of course, friends are what really make a place enjoyable and we've spent a good deal of time socializing with great people.

With Finisterra well provisioned, fueled and ready to go, we're heading out tomorrow for the islands to the north of us. The rough plan is to spend a day or two in Puerto Balandra, then a few days in the coves of Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida before heading further north to Isla San Francisco and beyond.