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“Adios La Paz!”

Had we spent only a week or two in La Paz, we would have mostly remembered buildings in either a state of arrested development or unchecked decay, stray dogs, dusty streets, stop signs that are treated as mere suggestions by the locals, a municipal bus system with no published routes, remnants of Hurricane Marty which struck two years ago and bureaucratic regulations that make no sense at all to us gringos.

But after spending some time here, we have grown to love La Paz for its people with their generous spirit, willingness to help and a grace of their being.

Other memorable people we’ve met included:

The cab driver who came back to the marina and hand carried Paul’s backpack to the boat after finding it in his back seat. He insisted we make sure everything was still there before he left. He was thrilled when we invited him on board to see what a sailboat was like below deck and have a drink with us.

And the man walking down the street who saw Debi in the panaderia (bakery) trying to decide what to buy. He came into the bakery to describe the choices and offer his own suggestions on what would be good selections.

This is not a rich country. Working folk are not paid a lot and it is hard for many of them to get by. People who cannot get formal employment must do what they can to earn a living. This makes their generosity of spirit all the more special to us.

Marina de La Paz is not very large, but it has many employees doing maintenance and gardening work. Everything is done manually, from mixing cement to emptying holding tanks. As a result, more people are employed than would be otherwise.

We’ve met new friends and become reacquainted with old friends.

Myer in particular, fell in love with new friends Skip and Mimi of L’Esperance and would jump ship to go visit with them at every opportunity.

One thing about cruising is that you meet people in one place and run into them again in another. La Paz is a great spot for provisioning and repairs, so it is very popular with cruisers and we were able to reconnect with people we hadn’t seen for several weeks and months.

With so many cruisers together in one location, communications can be a challenge.

The communication problem is solved by everyone leaving their VHF radios turned on and tuned to 22. A typical exchange heard on channel 22 would be:

Afroessa, Afroessa, this is Serenity
Serenity, this is Afroessa
Hi Dan, channel 18?
Roger, channel 18

Both parties will then change to channel 18 to have their conversation, leaving channel 22 clear for other boaters to connect. At 0800 every morning (except Sunday) cruisers use channel 22 to share info on goods and services, answer each other’s questions, relay tidal and weather info and take note of who has entered or will be leaving the bay. It has been a great source of information for us.

One reason for our being so long in La Paz was Paul’s return to the US to have his knee operation. Although La Paz is the largest city on the Baja Peninsula, he needed to take a 3 hour bus ride to get to the airport down by Cabo San Lucas.

While Paul was away, Debi worked on the boat and had her own adventures. The most amazing were swarming bees that decided to take up residence on Serenity. First it was just a few bees who settled in late one evening. By the middle of the next morning, the queen had arrived and brought all of her workers. Just when Debi was about to go get a local bee keeper, they all decided to buzz off for greener pastures.

After Paul returned, we really got to work and accomplished a lot. The welders at the now defunct Pepsi plant extended the arms of our davits by 10 inches. A great job, you can barely tell where the work was done:

We did a lot of work on the dinghy.

We also completed the windlass rebuild (a 6 week project when all was said and done), sewed some sheet bags and a new sail bag for the headsail, designed and built new boat steps, had a new motor mount built, had all of the teak work sanded down and oiled . . .

We negotiated the morass of a foreign bureaucracy to obtain our FM3 visas which will allow us to stay in the country for a full year.

Trying to complete an official government form in Spanish was quite tasking and gave us both a whole new appreciation for what non-English speakers must face in the U.S. The main problem: a literal translation via the dictionary does not convey the intended meaning.

For example:
The form says: Frente - Angosta, Amplia or Mediana
The dictionary translation is: Front - Narrow, Broad, Medium
What they are asking: Is the width of your forehead narrow, broad or medium?

Many people hire an agent to complete the paperwork and communicate with the officials at the Migracion (immigration) office. We decided to try and do it ourselves and were very proud when we finally received our FM3's. They look just like passports, complete with pictures and physical descriptions!

One day, Paul helped get Skip and Mimi’s rebuilt engine back on board, using a chain fall attached to the boom:

We had “Serenity” T-Shirts made. (How vain is that?!!)

It wasn’t all work and toil, however. We took time out to enjoy the start of the Baja 2000. There must have been 100+ cars on the Malecon (the waterfront) with no barriers between the crowd and the starting line!

We enjoyed helado (ice cream) at Fuentes. A common cruiser landmark. “Meet you at the polka-dot tree!”

We pigged out on the best tortillas in the land for a mere 18 pesos per kilo (about $1.60US for 2 pounds):

And continued our search for the best fish and shrimp tacos. These were just 12 pesos (about $1 US) apiece.

We’ve tried to get the pups out to the Mogote at least twice each day for a good swim and run.

We had lots of walks, enjoying the sites of this, the largest city on the Baja. Some of our favorites were along the Malecon (waterfront walkway) with its various statues and park benches.

The accompanying poem reads:

El Viejo y El Mar?
Tengo un barco de papel . .
Esta hecho de una pagina
en la que escribi mis ilusiones
No tiene anclas ni tiene amarras
Quiero navegar en el,
De los siete mares, en el octavo,
Donde se, encallare en el puerto anhelado . . .
Ha visto alquien brillar la luz de su faro?
Guillermo Gomez Mac, 2004

Our rough translation is as follows. If anyone can refine it for us, we would appreciate it.

The Old Man and The Sea?
I have a paper boat
And on this page
Is written my hopes
It does not have anchors or mooring cables
I want to sail in it on the seven seas
In the eighth, where it will run aground in the yearned for port
I have seen the light of its lighthouse

We joined Club Cruceros de La Paz and enjoyed the benefits of meeting fun people and swapping a few paperback books while also knowing that we have been able to give back to this wonderful community.

There has been a major legal change while we have been in La Paz. President Fox signed a law that cruisers like us now need only check in once when we first enter the country and once again when we leave. On the Baja we will still need to make sure our API fees are paid (money to finance the promotion of tourism on the Baja), but law now is no more individual visits to each Port Captain in each port we visit.

However, this is Mexico and the one thing we have learned is that nothing is consistent. We have already heard that there are port captains further north in the Sea of Cortez that will still be expecting us to check in and pay our Port Captain fees.

We’ve enjoyed our stay in La Paz.

We are excited now to continue our journey by heading north to explore the islands of the Sea of Cortez as we wait out the hurricane season before heading south again.

We will be unable to post many updates to the web page for awhile because of the lack of internet access. But we’ll be taking lots of pictures and notes for future updates!

Not all who wander are lost.

Copyright © 2005 Shaimas. All rights reserved. Last updated 5/24/05