From Madness to Memories

After a brief stay in La Paz, we sail south to the Mexican mainland together with our friend and crewmate Flo from Switzerland. We are excited to finally explore new waters. However, things don’t go as planned and one mishap follows the next.

After spending a night in Pichilingue Bay, we sailed the last 10 nautical miles into La Paz. The anchorage in the channel was crowded with boats, and it wasn’t easy to find a suitable spot. Additionally, it was a new moon and low tide, meaning very low water levels. We didn’t want to cross the sandbar to our “regular” anchoring spot as we didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. Although the depth was probably enough, we didn’t want to take even the slightest chance to get stuck.

Finally, we found a place to drop the anchor, but soon after we realized that we had anchored right in the middle of the channel. Although we were in good company – other sailboats had anchored in the middle of the channel, too -, we didn’t want to stay there. As it was already evening, we decided to wait and re-anchor the next morning during high tide.

We are anchored in the middle of the channel

Noisy affair

On the first night, we could hear loud music from shore. It was time for the yearly Carnival in La Paz. We didn’t want to miss out on the festivities and joined the crowd the next day. In the late afternoon, the parade started, which in many ways resembled “Fasnacht” we know from back home in Switzerland but was still quite different. Regional organizations and clubs had decorated trailers with great attention to detail, on which either many costumed people danced, or one or two young women were presented in magnificent dresses and crowns.

The trailers were mostly pulled by pickups with huge speakers installed, blasting Mexican music at ear-splitting volumes. Between the trailers, various dance performances took place. We stood directly opposite a stage where a host commented on all the passing participants. The edge of the parade was lined with amusement stalls and food stands. The atmosphere was especially unique as the sun set over the sailboats which were anchored in the La Paz channel. And this whole vibe made us a little homesick.

Sunset over the La Paz anchorage

Hello civilization

After several weeks of being far from civilization and several months in not-so-nice Guaymas, we enjoyed being in La Paz. The city has a lot to offer in terms of cuisine and culture, and we enjoyed that everything was within walking distance. We also had some preparations to do before sailing south with Flo to unknown waters (to us at least).

Money, money, money

For example, we had our watermaker’s high-pressure pump serviced – luckily by a professional. A stainless-steel spacer between two gaskets that had to come out simply wouldn’t budge. The service technician took the affected unit with him to his workshop but still couldn’t remove it there. The technician then promptly installed the unit of another model on our boat. He also found that the water suction pump was broken. We had suspected this due to its strange noises but had hoped for a miracle or a simple solution. Unfortunately, we had to dig deep into our pockets. The small part cost a whopping $400!!! But without this pump, there would be no homemade water. So, we bit the bullet and paid the price.

Burrito is happy

We also brought Lauro, the diesel mechanic from Puerto Escondido, on board. On one hand, to replace the leaking gasket on the fuel lift pump, and on the other hand, to do a general engine check before the crossing. We went through everything together and also checked the alignment of the engine. His conclusion was: all is good with Burrito! That’s exactly what we wanted to hear. We also used our stay in La Paz to stock up on all kinds of goodies for Milagros (and us) in the many boat accessory stores – oil for the engine, sacrificial anodes, a new and completely overpriced toilet seat, etc.

There’s confusion

On the day of Flo’s arrival, David took a taxi to the airport to pick him up, while I stayed on the boat. Suddenly, I heard Flo’s voice on the VHF, calling Milagros, saying that he was at the dinghy dock. So, I drove to shore to pick him up. On the way, David called me to say that Flo hadn’t shown up yet. It turned out that the two had missed each other at the airport. Oops. We celebrated the reunion with tacos and margaritas, as it should be.

The world is a village

The Swiss sailors Thomas and Anja on SV Robusta were also in town. So, we arranged to meet a few days after our arrival for a few beers – unfortunately without Thomas, who would be absent due to a dental appointment. But we saw Thomas a little earlier than planned, because his dinghy motor broke down on the way to his dentist appointment, and we jumped in as a taxi service. As a thank you, Anja brought us a homemade Swiss bread. Yummyyyyy. We then went ashore for dinner and later, we were joined by Alex, another Swiss sailor who has been sailing solo around the world with his SV No Stress for 6 years. The world is a small place sometimes.

Swiss meeting

As a good weather window for the sail to mainland Mexico approached, we prepared for this crossing at full speed: inspecting the rigging, mounting the inner forestay (which had been sitting in our bilge for almost 2 years), provisioning, cleaning the underwater hull, planning the passage of the 350 nautical miles, and so on. But we didn’t forget to have some fun. We enjoyed not only the vibe of La Paz, but also the sailor life. Alex invited us for a sundowner on his boat No Stress, a 54-foot Amel Super Maramu. This is the same boat that the famous Youtubers from SV Delos have been sailing around the world with for 10 years. It was exciting to see this model with our own eyes. We spent a fun evening speaking Swiss German. 6 Swiss sailors on one boat, that’s rare for us. Unfortunately, no pictures were taken.

Let’s go on the crossing

Then it was time: we started our nearly 3-day crossing to La Cruz, because a nice north wind window with 20-25 knots opened up, which was ideal for the planned downwind course. After a few hours of motoring north and into the wind to get out of La Paz, we were able to hoist the sails and turn east. We sailed on a fairly sporty beam reach with the waves on the side. When it was finally time to turn towards the southeast and thus towards La Cruz, we realized that Milagros didn’t want to go that way.

Our planned route for the crossing to Mexico mainland

The mood is decying

The sea was really confused and we just couldn’t stabilize the boat. That meant hand-steering. And as soon as it got dark, Flo got seasick and was out. So, David and I steered by hand, which was really exhausting, but we got into the flow, eventually. When we suddenly got a radio call in the middle of the night with the words, “Milagros, Milagros, what are your intentions? Are you going in front of me or behind me?” we lost our flow. We scanned the horizon and couldn’t see anything, no lights, no boat, no nothing. And we couldn’t see any boat on our AIS screen (Automatic Identification System) either. We asked him what kind of boat he was, and he replied, “I’m a cargo ship.”

Then we found out that the AIS information disappears when we zoom out too far on our screen. Not good. Not good at all. We agreed with the tanker that we would accelerate, and he would pass behind us. After that, we lost our desire for the long crossing. The high waves, strong winds, and uncomfortable course strained our nerves and we became lethargic. For example, when a portion of noodles with tomato sauce spilled, we just left it on the floor. No one wanted to clean it up.

It gets worse

After reconsideration, we changed our destination on a whim and headed for Mazatlán. This shortened the crossing by about a day. Eventually, we got back into the flow somehow. Milagros sailed herself with the wind steering system on a downwind course. We had 6 – 10 ft high waves from behind and surfed them at up to 11 knots (which is about the speed of light). So, sailing became fun again – until about 4 hours before arrival. Suddenly, out of the blue, Milagros changed course in the middle of the night for unknown reasons and gybed, in this case, a Chinese gybe, because we didn’t want to gybe (sail with the stern through the wind). Fortunately, we had mounted a preventer line, which prevented the boom from swinging freely from one side to the other. Immediately, we lost all of our sailing spirit again. What had happened? We still don’t know.

It’s over

But that wasn’t all. When we wanted to start the engine it just wouldn’t start. After the second attempt, I went below deck and tried everything related to diesel supply. I started the electric diesel pump, switched tanks, switched to another filter, and operated the fuel lift pump lever. In combination with David giving a bit of throttle on the third try, the engine finally started. This episode was another blow on the already not very enjoyable crossing. Finally, we had to anchor in the port of Mazatlán at night; our first night anchoring manoeuvre. We radioed the harbour master just before entering at 2 a.m in the middle of the night. He only said, “be careful.” But the harbor was well lit and we quickly dropped anchor. We left everything as is and were just glad to have finally arrived after 41 hours.

Our 250 nautical miles trip from La Paz to Mazatlán

Misfortunes seldom come alone

The next morning, we wanted to treat ourselves to an extensive breakfast with pancakes and fruit. Which was when the misfortune happened: David slipped with a knife while cutting a mango and sliced his hand open. It was immediately clear that the wound needed to be stitched. So, Flo and I prepared the dinghy, which was still deflated. David and I then set off to shore. The guard at the dock recommended the Cruz Roja – the Red Cross hospital – and an Uber brought us there within 10 minutes. We were prepared for a long wait and packed pancakes and entertainment material. But David was seen immediately, and his cut was stitched with 5 stitches. It cost 180 pesos – about $9. One hour later we were already back on Milagros.

We need to relax

After these exertions, we longed for a hot shower, so we just booked the cheapest room we could find in Mazatlán. We walked through the old town to the hotel, checked in, showered, left again, and treated ourselves to a fine dinner. In the coming days, we stretched our legs with walks through Mazatlán: up to a viewpoint, through the old town and its alleys, and along impressive cruise ships. In between, we enjoyed the rich culinary offerings, from ice cream to street tacos to local beer. We really liked it there. The only thing that disturbed the idyll were party boats, ferries, and cargo ships that constantly passed by the boat.

If we had known

After five days, it was time to sail on, as Flo had to catch a flight home to Switzerland from Puerto Vallarta, which was 200 nautical miles (approximately 360 km) away, and our next guests, Hürzi and Chrigi from Switzerland, also wanted to board there soon. We planned our journey south so that we could stop at Isla Isabel, a bird breeding ground 20 nautical miles off the coast. Only in mild conditions, the anchorage there was somewhat acceptable. But on the day of departure, Milagros had other plans for us. Yet again. We discovered something that prevented our further journey and potentially delayed it for a longer time…

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