It has been a bit cold here, comparatively speaking. By that I mean, the daytime highs are falling into the 70’s! No really, it has been getting colder. The sea temperature has dropped about 15 degrees since we arrived six weeks ago – bye bye Mahi-Mahi till it warms up, and the nighttime brings the urge to cuddle up with a blanket and a good book.
But I was hoping we could squeeze a few more sunny warm days into our December. So we made plans to go out to the islands for several days during the week between Christmas and New Years. But then some big winds kicked up again, keeping us at dock for a few more days. Finally, on Tuesday, the day before New Year’s Eve, we got away from the dock early to sail about 10 miles east of La Paz to a lovely local beach called Playa Pichilingue. It is especially nice because it has a couple of palapa restaurants that have been in business for a long time and are well known for their seafood. The most popular one has no floor – the tables are set in sand under the palapa.
Rick was curious about the other, smaller palapa restaurant on the beach, so once we anchored and got the boat in order, the water was so still that we rowed our dinghy to the shore in front of the smaller restaurant. They came out to greet us on the beach and pull our dinghy onto dry sand. We felt compelled to at least have a drink and appetizer there, and the view was lovely.
There were families in front if the restaurant using the tables as their place to get out of the sun, while mostly playing in the shallow aqua-colored water.
Once we had our appetizer treats at Luna Bruja, we took a walk down the beach, where some foreign tourists offered to take our picture. That is Cool Change in the background.
Then we hopped back in the dinghy and rode her over to the other, larger restaurant, called Restaurant Playa Pichilingue. Even though it is so informal with sand floors, it is so well known and a “destination” restaurant that their prices aren’t actually that much of a bargain. But the food was delicious and the service was very good.
We really had a lovely afternoon there. It was just what I was looking for. As the sun set, we looked out at the calm water and the sun’s reflection as it sank, and again were in awe of our good fortune at being right there at that moment in that place.
We rowed our dinghy back in the calm waters to Cool Change, and decided to watch a movie. (We don’t have 110 volt power on the boat without shore owner, and the computer we watch movies from does not run on DC power, but we have a small inverter we plug into a DC outlet that works at least for the computer.) Anyway, after the movie was over, I stuck my head out into the cockpit and was surprised to feel some wind, about 10 knots or so, on the bow from the southwest. It had been so calm during the day and no wind was predicted. We had not noticed the waves caused by the wind because they rolled under us from the bow rather than abeam.
But the wind concerned us nevertheless, especially since we were on a lee shore, meaning that if the anchor dragged, we could be on the rocks at the shore in less time than it would take me to get dressed and at the helm to motor us away! So I turned on the electronics so we could monitor the wind all night long, and I set a second anchor alarm to have redundant systems. I proceeded to fall asleep, but Rick kept vigilance all night long – he usually doesn’t sleep very well if there is much wind or wave action at all when we are at anchor. We stayed in one place all night, but the wind started picking up even more by morning. By the time we weighed anchor and started motoring out of the bay, we had 15 to 20 knots of wind, and when we got out from the under the protection of land, we had 20+ knots on the nose and very uncomfortable, bumpy, whitecapping seas. We were dragging our dinghy behind us, and I commented to Rick that I was concerned about loosing the dinghy, but we both knew we had two separate lines attached to her so we didn’t think that would be a problem, and I dismissed it.
Our plans were to head SW about 5 miles to Costa Baja, the only 5-star resort in La Paz, where we had appointments for massages in the afternoon, and New Year’s Eve dinner/dance reservations in the evening, along with a boat slip reservation at their marina for the one night. We bashed through the wind and waves to get there, sometimes slowing down from our usual 5.5 knot motoring speed to less than one knot, because of the forces against us, which also included an exceptionally strong ebb tide. At times we were practically standing still while running as fast as we could! But we finally made it, two hours later, to the marina, only to discover that we had lost an oar off the dinghy. The oar locks lock but apparently all the turbulence loosened one. Lesson learned: take the oars off the dinghy before dragging her behind the boat, especially if there is any wind or wave action at all. Anyway, we were at the marina now, where the water was very protected and safe, and the sun was trying to peak out from behind the clouds, so all was well.
We were surprised to find several of the smaller boats we had sailed with down the Baja HaHa, docked on the same muelle as we were – it was a dock for 35 foot boats, so I guess that makes sense, but it was nice to know that not everyone we knew had already left for the mainland. In particular, we ran into Indigo, a 34-foot Pacific Seacraft, whose crew, Brian and Mara, were going to stay in La Paz for a while longer, and had just signed up for intensive Spanish classes. Good for them! (Rick might do that at some point, but right now, he is still spending several hours per day on his Rosetta Stone Spanish CD’s.) We announced on the next morning’s radio net that we lost an oar, and then got a radio call from another boat just a few docks down who had one just like ours to spare. It was a little beat up, but workable!
It was a very welcome break to be pampered by massages and treated to a nice meal and dancing at an exclusive resort, but we were both a little disappointed. I guess we have such high standards after living in California with the best massages and restaurants at our fingertips, that these experiences didn’t quite match up. I had to tell my massage therapist that she was hurting me, not helping me – she had most of the technique necessary but no sense of what the client was feeling whatsoever, unlike Alice, my massage therapist in Lotus, who I swear has fingers that see through to your soul. What “deep tissue” meant to this Mexican massage therapist was rolling over my body like a truck, digging in with her elbow in large deep strokes that practically tore my skin off me. I got her to change her method to something gentler, but then she never worked on any of my tense spots and just gave me one of those silly Swedish massages that only work for people who are simply in need of some human touch on their skin.
The restaurant had a good reputation for good food, but they obviously had no idea how to prepare a fixed menu for a large group – the food was awful. The few small cut pieces of asparagus were raw, the soup came out lukewarm, and the small piece of meat had so much fat and grizzle that Rick wouldn’t even eat it; the list goes on and on. A $10 bottle of wine cost us $75; we should have known to bring our own and pay the $20 corkage fee. We were told the band was a salsa band, but they played mostly songs in English, and only one salsa. The worst thing was, I guess, that we spent more than a fifth of our entire budget for the month on this little outing; we were considering it a splurge, our only Christmas presents to one another, and had hoped it would be special.
And then as if to put the nail in the coffin of the lesson that you can enjoy life more by ridding oneself of expectations so you can just enjoy the moment for what it is, when I went to check out from the marina, the marina manager announced to me that he was going to waive the marina fee for us! The one night fee was ridiculous – about 15% of the entire monthly fee – so I was delighted. It seemed to make up for the other disappointments somewhat, and we left feeling happy …. Until I saw the charge on our credit card nevertheless. I emailed the manager, reminding him that he had given us the night free, and he wrote back apologizing that he hadn’t realized the charge had already been submitted and he couldn’t reverse it. He gave us another night in the future free, but I am not certain we will use it. Oh well, next year we’ll just walk around town and find something that looks fun to do at the spur of the moment, or else decide to go anchor out at some romantic anchorage and celebrate quietly in nature.
Nevertheless, it was kinda fun watching the other people at the restaurant: one of the gay male couples near us with one of their mothers who all seemed very flamboyant and having a ball; another gay male couple near us who were very grumpy and complaining about everything and having no fun at all with frowns on their faces; the gringo families who all arrived early, like we did, and the Mexican families who all knew to arrive late; the French family from San Francisco who we had met earlier in the day and came by our table to compare notes – the son is totally addicted to sailing, much to the chagrin if their parents who have high hopes for him; the restaurant set-up guys struggling with some obviously brand new propane heaters – it was all an experience, creating memories that help shape and define our life here.