We had learnt our lesson, don’t leave not mentally prepared. So when we started the day on March 26th with the intention to close the 50ish miles to La Paz, we took our time to wake up, have breakfast and be in the sailing mindset before weighing the anchor, even if that meant reaching our destination at night. On top of the “mental preparedness”, we were a little sorry to leave Los Muertos, but we could always come back on our way to the mainland and we had heard a lot of things from La Paz and the neighboring islands. So a little before 10AM, off we went, bound for the North.
As forecasted, the winds were light and Monsieur Engine was, as usual valiantly, carrying us to our destination. The sun was up, the day warm and the shaded area small without any canvas up. Luckily around lunchtime, a breeze came up, probably funneling between the coast and the Isla Jacques Cousteau. Enough to raise the main sail and motor sail. It went up a little, making us hope for a break for the Monsieur. Half motivated by more power and half to practice headsail change underway, we took down our working jib and hoisted up our large genoa. We were able to beautifully move along close hauled into the nice breeze. Tire Bouchon with his proper full rig looked different and majestic, like a swan. The hydrovane even took over the steering from Auto-Nick, the electric autopilot, and the day was made. In such moments, life is so vivid and glorious that you wonder how many days on land working a 9-5 would “pay” for a day like this. A vain task really, to try to find any equivalent but just a way to acknowledge a true moment of happiness. Folding down the working jib to fit it in a sail bag ended up not being as glorious or majestic though (the result looked more like a vanilla (the sail) – dulce de leche (the UV cover) ice cream in a waffle cone (the sail bag)), but was judged good enough for a work done on the deck. We were then able to have a lunch made out of lasagna, yogurt and salad with the best view on the mountains we were passing and the little coves they created. But soon after, the wind died out to unsailable speeds, enough to confuse the hydrovane Avocet who, by lack of apparent wind to guide her motion, started to lose direction. The immense jib was soon furled and Monsieur Engine and Auto-Nick back on duty. But not for that long, our course was good enough to unfurl the giant and we’d make almost 7 knots. Enough to turn off the engine maybe? Not quite, only a sad 3 knots. Monsieur back on for some more motor sail until the wind died for good and the jib ended up furled for most of the remaining way.
We chose the point that was the furthest away from land to pump out the content of our black water tank – there’s glorious and less glorious even on a nice sailing day. As we passed the last point north of La Paz, a gathering of cruising ships appeared and looked strangely similar to the boats in Cabo converging towards the jumping whales. But these boats were moored, yet light up, and they made up the scenary of our diner in the sunset. We passed Bahia Balandra, a scenic anchorage we ought to visit in the future but that wouldn’t be protect against the Westerlies that were forecasted for tonight. Those Westerlies soon kicked in and offered us a couple of miles of bay sailing where we were at the edge of overpowered with the genoa up. Flat seas, wind in our faces, colder weather and a boat heeling over in the night, it did feel like being back in our dear San Francisco Bay for a moment. But as we had complicated unknown navigation coming ahead, we soon furled the jib and fired up the engine as we approached the long La Paz channel. We were both surprised on how earlier the city light had started announcing La Paz as a way larger city than what we anticipated. When the moment came to drop the main sail, our main halyard / main sheet winch decided to give up and simply stopped rotating, a good reminder that we were coming to La Paz to do some boat work as well, and winch maintenance had just jumped up the priority line! No big deal to drop the main though and to attack the long descent of the La Paz channel.
The start was a little challenging as a profusion of red and green markers were indicating the entrance of a harbor as well as a curve around the shoal at the beginning of the channel. With a thought for the last century navigators who didn’t have their live position while approaching these complex entrances, we proceeded through the elbow with a close look on our GPS position on the Navionics chart. Once we dodged the trick of the elbow, we were bound for the lightly curved 3.6 nm chain of green and red marker pairs all the way to the downtown waterfront and, finally, our anchorage. We motored past the outskirts of the city, spotting the shadow that the markers projected on the city lights before the lights themselves that poorly contrasted on the illuminated urban landscape. Such a large city really! It almost felt as driving in, since we arrived by that one route so nicely marked as opposed to the open sea and its many routes. Soon, we spotted the fiscal muelle (tax pier), the left end of our anchorage, and one, then many boats, started to appear. The anchorage was definitely crowded with sailboats, we could even recognize a race boat that had spent the night in Los Frailes with us. We now had to find a room amongst them in a safe place. Indeed, the La Paz channel is subject to a strong tidal current that changes in direction every 6 hours (with the tide cycles), swinging the boats back and forth in what’s know as the La Paz Waltz. Behind such a poetic name hides a sailor’s worry: will your neighborhoods swing at the same time or, in case they don’t, will the boat have enough room to not touch one another? Will the anchor hold as the boat moves in the opposite direction of which it was set? We guessed that as long as our anchor set in the first place and as long as we stayed on the boat with an anchor alarm, which was our case for the night, we should be fine and could see how things play out. So we found a spot that looked as isolated as possible, dropped the hook, set the alarm and hoped for the best. Time to go to bed after a full day filled of pretty views and a wide range of sailing conditions… looking forward to meeting you tomorrow La Paz!