April 2, 2008

La Paz is Still an Authentic City

Gabriel, Manager at Costa Baja Marina in La Paz, shrugs in front of a diagram of the marina. Given the demand for berths in summer as well as winter, he could use a lot more.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Like a lot of boats cruising in Mexico this winter, Profligate has moved from the mainland over to La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. The crews of the various boats have all been commenting on how spectacular the desert scenery is. After the jungle-like environment of the mainland, it’s a dramatic change. There are four primary marinas in La Paz: Costa Baja, Marina Palmira, Marina de La Paz, and Singlar’s Fidepaz. Of the four, Marina de La Paz is the only one within walking distance of town. Marina Palmira and Costa Baja provide shuttle service, and Fidepaz is on a bus line.

There was a big electrical outage in La Paz the other day. We’re told it started here at the Abel Bercovich Boatyard, when a boat’s mast was towed into an overhead powerline. Nobody was killed, but power was knocked out around much of the city.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Despite the doubling of the number of berths in La Paz in the last three years, berths can still be hard to come by in the winter season. If you’re coming down next season, make your reservations early. We’ve been sailing to La Paz since 1979, and find that the waterfront and general from-the-boat-scenery to be remarkably unchanged. It’s true that they are building condo towers on the magote now, and there’s quite a bit of hotel and condo development on the waterfront, but the heart of La Paz has changed very little.

La Paz is more of an authentic Mexican city than a tourist city, so it’s easy to find just about everything at a reasonable price. Two BBQ’d chickens, for example, for $5 each.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The other big change over the last few years has been the arrival of big yachts. It’s no longer uncommon to see 150-footers out at the islands or pulling into Marina Costa Baja. La Paz is the favorite town of many cruisers in Mexico, no matter if they are like Scott Haselton of the San Diego-based Ranger 33 Vindemar, who has cruised all over Mexico with his wife Janet, or Club Cruceros Commodore Rick Cromwell, who sailed his beautiful CT-41 Karma down from Alamitos Bay two years ago "for two weeks" while on his way to the Caribbean or South Pacific but has been here ever since.

The skipper’s meeting for Sea of Cortez Sailing Week was held at Rancho Viejo, which many cruisers believe has the most delicious tacos in Baja.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A comment you hear frequently is that La Paz is "a real Mexican town" as opposed to a tourist trap. Folks also like the fact that you can get just about anything here — and at a reasonable price. And while La Paz is not known for high-end restaurants, the "regular food" is delicious and inexpensive. The crew of Profligate is here to revive Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, which started yesterday — April Fool’s Day, appropriately enough. There was a rockin’ and rollin’ skipper’s meeting the night before the start at Rancho Viejo, home to perhaps the most delicious tacos pastor on Baja. About 13 boats were represented, with another 10 or so expected at the islands. We’ll have a report next Monday.

More on the DH Farallones Rescue

As of yesterday afternoon, the Coast Guard was still broadcasting a "Local Notice to Mariners" for Pteradactyl, which has been sailing on its own since owner Luc de Faymoreau and crewman Disun Den Daas were washed overboard when a "freak wave" pitchpoled the boat on the way home from last Saturday’s Doublehanded Farallones Race. The currently unmanned Olson 40 with a dark green hull is still out there but, thanks to the rescue efforts of some fellow mariners, de Faymoreau and Den Daas are still around to tell about it.

Paul Martson, crew on Dean Daniels’ Hobie 33 Sleeping Dragon, snapped this shot of the sea state during last weekend’s Doublehanded Farallones Race. Note the tiny scrap of main of the boat ahead of them peeking above a wave.

© Paul Martson

"We were in the cockpit, relaxed and eating — we were sailing downwind doing about 10-12 knots with bursts to 14 or 15," de Faymoreau said. The two were not clipped in while sailing under a reefed mainsail and jib when the wave sent them into the water. "We’re both very comfortable in the water, so I’d say surprise more than fear was the reaction. The adrenaline mitigated the cold of the water and we didn’t really notice it until afterward."

Fortunately for the crew of Pteradactyl there was a pack of a half-dozen boats close by who saw that the boat wasn’t behaving normally. The first on scene was Cliff Shaw’s Crowther 36 catamaran Rainbow. Shaw was out spectating that day and had the two men on board within what de Faymoreau estimated to be ten minutes.

One of the other boats standing by was Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo. Quanci watched as Rainbow deployed their Lifesling and quickly got the two aboard. "It was incredible how effectively and quickly the inflatable PFDs, Lifesling and catamaran came together," Quanci said. "It only took a few seconds of pulling by the boat crew and the guys in the water, and they were out and sitting on the swim step. Rainbow was the perfect platform for a heavy weather rescue because of the swim platform, steps that start inches above the waterline and the stability of a catamaran."

Rainbow followed Pteradactyl for an hour and half before a Coast Guard boat arrived on scene. Shaw was able to toss Rainbow‘s EPIRB to the Coast Guard who were, in turn, able to toss it aboard Pteradactyl in hopes it would help salvage the boat.

So far this hasn’t proven to be the case as de Faymoreau said his insurance company is unwilling to pay for the search for or salvage of the boat. He said he looked into hiring a plane to locate the boat and found that flying a six-hour search grid would cost upwards of $3,500 in addition to salvage costs should a salvage vessel be able to locate the boat. With no guarantees about what a search would bear, de Faymoreau is now left in boat limbo. He’s owned a Tornado catamaran, Santa Cruz 27 and still owns a Hobie 18, which he figures will be his only ride until either Pteradactyl is located or he’s able to reach an agreement with his insurance company.

Tomek ‘Ties the Knot’

Luka looks to be in pretty good shape considering she just finished a ‘wrong-way’ circumnavigation.

© 2008 Lynn Bradshaw

Lynn and Rick Bradshaw of the Hans Christian 33T La Vita report that Tomek ‘Big Tom’ Lewandowski sailed into Ensenada around noon yesterday on his Mikado 56 Luka, ‘tying the knot’ on his 13-month singlehanded westabout circumnavigation. Tomek — along with his faithful Jack Russell terrier Wacek — left Ensenada March 6, 2007, in an attempt to be the first Polish sailor to acheive the feat.

‘Big Tom’ was greeted by dozens of friends, family and total strangers. "We had a great time welcoming Luka back to Ensenada," Lynn Bradshaw said. "Later that night we attended a party hosted by Tomek, his friends and family — we were the only cruisers to attend!"

‘Big Tom’ and Wacek were greeted by dozens of supporters.

© 2008 Lynn Bradshaw

We hope to have a full report on Tomek’s journey in the May issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, check out his website at www.polishsailor.com for his log reports.

Skippers & Crew to Mingle Tomorrow at GGYC

A Crew List Party tradition is the life raft demo by Sal’s Inflatables of Alameda.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Looking for a boat to crew on? Have a boat, but need crew? If so, you’ll want to show up at Latitude 38‘s semiannual Crew List Party, tomorrow night at San Francisco’s Golden Gate YC from 6 to 9 p.m.

For the uninitiated, we should explain that the event has a friendly cocktail party atmosphere designed to provide a forum for potential crew to meet skippers-in-need. Connections are made for Bay and offshore racing, casual daysailing and future cruising.

Admission is $7 at the door which includes a variety of snacks and hors d’oeuvres. A full cash bar is available, plus door prizes, demos and a digital slide show.

Also, Laura Paul of the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay (YRA) will be on hand to answer questions and help skippers sign up for upcoming races.

Click here for more details on the event. Click here for directions to the Club. Note also: The 2008 Mexico-Only Crew List Party & Baja Ha-Ha Reunion is scheduled for Wednesday, September 10, at Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda.

This weekend’s Doublehanded Farallones Race ended prematurely for Moss Landing’s Luc de Faymoreau and Disun Den Daas aboard the former’s Olson 40 Pterodactyl.
There has been a staggering amount of Monday morning quarterbacking in the wake of the tragic loss of Kirby Gale and Tony Harrow, whose Cheoy Lee 31 Daisy disappeared during the Doublehanded Lightship Race on March 15.
On a day in which a very large southwest swell was pounding the north shore of Banderas Bay, this couple had no problem landing their dinghy in the lee of the new breakwater.