Ambassadors for all we America was. Apologists for all America is.

Archive for November, 2013

Our first ‘palapa’ or traditional thatched roof ‘El Rustico’ style bungalow

Psssssssst! Wanna know a secret??????? Well, one of the best-kept secrets in La Paz is a very unusual ‘bed-and-breakfast’ actually located on the grounds of the El Rustico restaurant.  The restaurant, itself, is very well known–especially among cruisers for its authentic Italian style pizza.

The owners are, indeed, transplanted Italians.  The food is outstanding, and some of the other items on the menu make the pizza pale by comparison.  This is without a doubt some of the best Italian food I have ever eaten.  The staff and the owners make the evening a delight.

The setting is an open-air restaurant in the center of town with the feel of a small villa in southern Europe.  Try pulling that off in Baja California Sur!

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Even though the El Rustico is well-known among cruisers, what is not well known is that there are two small ‘palapas’ on the property that are for rent in a traditional bed-and-breakfast’ arrangement.  We found these when we were looking for a place to stay for the time that Spiritus was in the shipyard–on stilts and out of the water.  The Atalanta yard does not allow owners to live on the boat while they are working on it.  Mostly, this is  thanks to a couple of Americans who managed to get hurt or needed medical attention while in the yard with mixed results.  The ensuing liability issues convinced the yard that no one should be on the boats when on the stilts.

With this in mind, about two weeks before we went on the hard Carolyn started looking for a place for us to stay.  Criteria:  It had to be comfortable, quiet, and close to either the center of town with buses, taxis, and places we already knew or close to the boat.  We almost stayed at the Marina Hotel near the Atalanta shipyard because of its proximity.

But once we saw the palapas at El Rustico, we were convinced that a longer walk to the boat yard was worth it.

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They are oddly private considering that they’re in the middle of a restaurant.  Easy to get to.  Informal in the extreme.  And the staff, while available, was not omnipresent trying to help us.  We got treated like a family members almost.  ‘Homey’ is nice when your world is upside down (bad metaphor for a boat) or out of its element.

The owners show up about  7:30 a.m. every day and set out coffee, mugs, and fruit.  They start preparing the home-made breads for the day.  Staff shows up throughout the day till about three o’clock when everyone arrives and has a small meal together.  This starts their workday.  The restaurant really starts hopping about six in the evening when the customers start arriving.  It is very popular with both the more affluent locals and the Americans and Europeans here on boats.

These palapas are probably what is considered quaint.  They are not modern in any sense except that they are meticulously clean and well maintained (your room is cleaned every day of your stay).  The unit we stayed in has a small kitchenette and–in alcoves behind the head of the bed–a very nice tiled shower under a thatched roof and on the other side a functional bathroom.  There was a small table built into the wall.  Additionally, there was a huge old-style armoire for clothes.

The two palapas are nestled in a small grove of citrus fruit trees.  You can pick oranges, limes, and tangerines right outside the windows.  The grove is enclosed within a walled compound so security is not an issue.  It is quite literally, a hidden garden!  Next to the hut is an old-style windmill and water cistern from the days of La Paz before city water and the outlawing of private wells.

The grove and palapas originally were owned (as the story goes) by an American who had a skill useful to the cruising fleet.  He built the palapas  himself with the help of local labor and lived there for some years.  When he died, the property was purchased by the restaurant and became part of it.  The grove became one of the features of dining at El Rustico.

The palapas were kept.

They are rustic. You can expect comfort and tranquility. What they do not have is  TV, internet, telephone, or a cable internet connection.  They do have an air-conditioner (though we only needed it a couple of hours a day).  So,  be self-entertaining and self-contained about your connectivity and entertainment needs.  As boaters, we are used to having to make do.  We used a 3G connected iPad and a laptop with a Banda Ancha Telcel modem.  We also have a Telcel phone we use down here for a local number.  There was no difference than when were home on our boat.

You get really tempted and we gave in to eat at the restaurant.  We were weak!  That is how we discovered the other dishes that everyone passes over for pizza.  As good as their pizza is, I swear to you, the rest is even better.   The lasagna is perfection–light with just the right textural balance in its layers of cheeses, home-made sauce, and pasta.  The calzones easily feed two people.  And the panna cotta for dessert is pure joy for the taste buds–it made my tongue smile.

http://ilrusticolapazmx.com/pdfs/menu_english.pdf

In closing, life in the palapa turned what we anticipated would be an awful week, out of the boa,t into a ‘second honymoon’–almost.  We were having such a good time that, one day, we even took a bus and went to Todo Santos like tourists.  Had lunch at the Hotel California … THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA!

This quiet place–still and calm–in the center of La Paz is a little slice of Paradise  (or Paradiso).  No one we have talked with knows about it.  It is not well-advertised.  But it is worth the search.  Thus far, it it remains a secret; find out for yourself how delightful it truly is.   http://www.ilrusticolapazmx.com/us/about.html

Sometimes, less is more.  This place is one of those times.


Spiritus gets a new pair of undies!

There is nothing more heart rending than seeing something beached that lives in or on the ocean. In that way, boats are a lot like living creatures of the deep.

They breathe the wind … move in and with the waters … rock gently at night in the cradle of the arms of the sea.  Spiritus is such a creature of the oceans.  She is only happy when moving in water.

We just got her back to the dock from five days out of the water.  It had been more than 6 years since her bottom got painted.  And we have never had her out of the water since we had the initial survey.  That, by the way, was done with her hanging in the slings of the travel lift at a shipyard in Winchester Bay, Oregon in 2009.  I thought that was scary.  It was nothing to seeing her totally out of the water in a desert environment on stands.

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The shipyard, Atalanta, here in La Paz is unusual in that they do not use rails or a traditional travel lift.  They have a flat bed trailer like device with six attenuating arms that cradle the boat and once in the cradle, they ‘drive’ or pull the trailer up out of the water and move the boat to a set of stands on the sandy lot of the shipyard.

DSC_0058aThis is Atalanta. I just wanted to know what happened to the rest of the ship behind the figure head.  Yes, I am the original nervous boat owner.

The shipyard staff was very, very, very professional.  They office staff worked to make sure I understood in English, what the contract I was signing was all about.  We talked about the process of moving the boat from the water to the stands.  I met the operators and foremen who would be working with the boat.  I used Atalanta because unlike many shipyards, I could bring my own work crew to paint the boat.  I had a local who I trust and who had worked as a bottom painter and in a ship yard for five years.  I met him at the marina La Paz docks and over that last year have come to rely on him and those who he trusts to work with me on the boat.

We arranged a date.  The 14th of November because the weather was finally cool enough to keep the boat and its contents from overheating in the La Paz sun.  With a verbal contract with my workers and a written contract with the yard I fired up the engines that morning at 7:00 am to travel the three miles or so from where we have a slip to the ship yard which is near the entrance to the harbor.  I let them know about ten minutes out that I was in bound.  It was a flood tide because Spiritus is a full keel and draws 5’6″ of water.  The haul out slot is smallish and narrow with rocky banks.  And, you have to have 40 feet of line on each side of the boat at both ends.

Al went as planned … I was so nervous I forgot to take pics but one of the workers took some with his phone so I hope to put a couple of them here in the blog when he sends them.  Took nearly an hour and a half to get her up and out of the water then onto stands.

She weighs about 28,000 lbs empty and she is not empty.  Also, since we live and travel on the boat .. everything we own in the world is for this brief time balancing on small metal stands.

It looks something like this as we start.  I had her bottom cleaned of what remained of her previous two coats of ablative paint by a diver the day before we pulled her out.  She is three colored as various layers of paint have worn off.

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We were scheduled for four days.  In that time, she was to get two coats of Comex AF-30 ablative, anti-fouling, copper based (40%)paint.  This is a paint made in Mexico and it took a bit of research to figure out all its benefits.  It is not cheap at about 2,700 pesos a gallon.  You have to shake it for a full 20 minutes and use it immediately of the copper will settle out.  Took three gallons.

Full two coats on all of hull.  Four coats on bow.  Four coats on rudder because of wake turbulence and engine thrust wear.  New black on black boot stripe.

No blisters … yay!

I also scheduled a friend to come work with me on the thru hulls which seemed dry to me.  They are (I thought) the older bronze tapered version.  They actually only heeded to be cleaned and lubricated and adjusted.  Big sigh here!  Only problem we found is that the valve that controlled the pump-to-sea had frozen. Was probably because we seem to always pump to the holding tanks and then have them pumped out.

I replaced that back in the Marina.

They were also tightened slightly (ever so slightly) in their beds.

Short version.  Below is the finished project.

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Her bottom is now encased in soft, black, clingy, form-flattering …. hmmm … maybe I need to get off the boat more.

It was really nice to not have any bad news.  I think this is the first time everything has gone as planned instead of taking on a life of its own.

Black ablative paint.  The underwear that is fun-to-wear!


Guess which Ingrid 38 ketch anchored in La Paz, Mexico, yesterday?

Readers of this blog probably have figured out that I like seeing other Ingrid 38s.  Each is remarkable.  There are, to my mind and in my humble opinion, only two boats in this historical line that are arguably unique in the modern history of the boat.  You are free to disagree with this assessment, but hear me out.

The first is Nigel Calder’s NADA–on which and in which–a whole line of books (many of us have read and owned over the years) were photographed.  That boat is currently being restored after being ‘found’ in a shipyard.

The second is INGRID PRINCESS, which for years was owned by Skip Masters, and before that had a stint as the sales model that convinced many individuals to buy an Ingrid.  Indeed the original owners/builders of my own Ingrid, which was christened ‘Tanya Dawn’ bought her after sailing on Ingrid Princess.

These two boats are the only two that might be impossible to rename because of the love and history associated with them.

Imagine my delight last night when the owner of Wind Raven, formerly ‘Alymar’, an Ingrid mentioned in the blog entry “Is it cheating to sail another’s Ingrid?”, sent me an email last night stating that the Ingrid Princess was anchored in the Magote anchorage across from Marina de La Paz.  After a short exchange about ‘are you sure’, did it have ‘tanbark sails’? and “no way’ … “WAY!”

I tried hailing her on the fleet net … no response … hmmmmm. Went to bed telling myself …. “nah … can’t be.” “Bummer.”

Imagine my delight this morning when I walked out to the end of the dock  at what was sitting there floating in the morning sun … the Ingrid Princess! I had to look twice.

I literally ran back to the slip and grabbed my camera and wife … she says in that order and after a few …. come ..on …. come .. on .. you have to see this … you are not going to believe what boat is here.

The Princess is well known up and down the coast of the Pacific Northwest by her lines and distinctive tanbark sails.

After taking a dozen shots with a long lens, I headed back to Spiritus with a true smile on my face.  I love Ingrids …  of all colors … shapes and interiors.  each is a unique experience.I brought up the VHF and turned to ch 22, the local fleet channel … ‘Ingrid Princess, Ingrid Princess ….. sailing vessel Spiritus?’  A short pause and  … “this is Ingrid Princess.”

‘I do not mean to be rude, but can I ask your name?’  A short pause …. “Tracy Hollister ….”

‘Ah … you must me her new owner.  This is sailing vessel Spiritus, welcome to La Paz!  We are an Ingrid, as well, and would love to meet you.  We know your boat.”

After a couple of excited exchanges about his surprise someone had hailed her by name as he had just arrived the afternoon before, it was apparent we both had a love of the boat and wanted to talk.  Carolyn and I invited him to stop by for a beer … a great early evening ensued.

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Actually, quite an entrance to La Paz, sailing the rig into the bay and to the anchorage.  Tongues wagging.  Most of us motor to the marinas once we are in the channel  Style points all around here. Sounds like he will be leaving in a day or two after putting her on the hard till March when he and maybe Skip will be back to sail her to the Marqueses.

Life is sometimes … simply too good … a good day becomes a great day unexpectedly.  New friends are made and we all realize how small the world is even when you only go 7.14 knots an hour.


The Buses of La Paz … the Transporte Colectivo

La Paz has a complex and fascinating rapid transit system.  You can get most places in the city for a fee of 10 pesos.  This is about 90 cents US.

Most American visitors miss this opportunity.  It is both enjoyable, entertaining at times, educational, and a not-to-be-missed part of an experience of the culture of Baja California Sur.

The buses of La Paz come in three main varieties and many colors.  The smaller bus style– transporte colectivos–run all over town on routes. There are slightly bigger school bus style buses called the transporte urbano.  And finally, there is Eco Baja Tour buses which, contrary to their names, are actually buses for both single destinations or charters for tours.

I want to talk here about the smaller school bus type of ‘transporte colectivo’ and the Eco Baja Tours.

Eco Baja Tours is easy.  They are used primarily for two things.  (1) To get to the San Jose del Cabo international Airport or the towns along the way like Los Barilles, Todo Santos, and Cabo San Lucas.  And, (2) to get to Bahia Balandra (a great beach), Pichilingue (Customs and Importation), and Tecolote (fishing and beer).

They have a bus station on the Malecon facing the beach which is a terminal and ticket office.  You cannot schedule them online so be ready to go to the station a week ahead to get tickets.  Or you can just show up and take your chances.

They have almost hourly buses to the airport in San Jose del Cabo. it is 420 pesos approximately, one way.

There are about 5 buses a day (10am, 12am, 1pm, 3pm, return 7pm) that go to Tecolote and Pichilingue and Bahia Balandra which are on the way there.  It is 40 pesos approximately one way so be prepared to pay the driver when you want to comeback as there is not ticket office at the other end of the route.

Now as to the ‘transporte colectivo’. There is no true schedule (as far as experience will tell) and availability can vary based on the number of drivers on duty.

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It is important that you understand, this is not a demand driven system with peak demand scheduling.  It is more like a collective of bus operators, all of whom are their own bosses.  So, for example, if it is a holiday, there may not be many drivers or buses.  This seems counter-intuitive.  But, the drivers also take the holiday off, it seems.

But not to worry, there always seem to be buses, you just have to adjust your expectations to a longer wait than normal.

On the front of each bus is a placard over the front window listing its stops and the ‘name’ of the bus or ‘route’.

So, if you want to go to Chedruai which is a grocery store, you would look for the bus that lists among other things ‘Chedraui’.  This is also the No. 8 bus.  I know from experience that it goes to Chedraui and back to the center of town about every half hour.  Cost 10 pesos one way, with no transfer tickets.  Each bus is 10 pesos.

If I want to go to Walmart, I look for the bus that has ‘Walmart’ on its placard.  Or, I might know it is the “Batallion 35: Route 39 bus”.  Cost 10 pesos.

Each ride is a surprise.  If you are new, you don’t quite get the routing right and you see parts of the city you did not intend.  Carolyn and I call these adventures–our definition of adventure being that no one got killed and we didn’t have anything else better to do anyway.   HOWEVER, have no fear and absolutely do not despair if you happen to take the wrong bus (unless you have a box of ice cream in your groceries) because the route always repeats itself.  So, you can just get back off where you got on and try again.  Or, alternately, most routes end up in Centro which is near the marinas, the Malecon, the beach side hotels, the night life, and the taxi stations.  And,  if all else fails … take a taxi back!  We will discuss the fine points of taxi usage in another post. (The Taxi Cabs of La Paz)

There are four golden rules of the ‘transporte colectivo’.  (1) No bus should have shock absorbers, (2) all buses eventually return to Centro de Cuidad as part of the route, look for the word ‘Centro’, and (3) the word ‘bajan’, pronounced ba-hahn will bring the bus to a halt so you can get off.  “Bajan, senor!” works even better. In fact, these words should be among your first Spanish words, and, (4) routes are circular so you always can get off where you got on and be no worse off than to be back where you began.

Try again with another bus!  Walk! Or face defeat and hail or call a taxi.

In La Paz, one of the first relationships you may make before you discover the ‘colectivo’ is a friendly dependable taxi driver … get to know one at least by name and cab number and phone number.  Having someone who will come get you wherever you are is very comforting.  and, they will help you to learn Spanish and bargaining.

There is a bus station for the ‘transporte colectivo’ but I cannot figure out its purpose.  There are, to my knowledge, after a year of using them, no schedules printed and no maps of the routes to help you out.  The drivers do not usually speak English.

But somehow, none of this makes it less fun to learn they system.  You are in Mexico, learn the culture … or walk!


The Taxi Cabs of La Paz by Carolyn

Well, I’m still alive…I guess that’s the good news……..

It all started so well……..

We’d had a lovely thunderstorm the night before while we’d slept out on our brand new “back porch.” At one point, Russ rolled over and asked,”Hmmmmm…what do you figure will happen if lightening hits the mast?” I thought about it a moment and mumbled,” We’ll probably get fried…….”  So we both moved our feet away from the mast and went back to sleep….

The next morning, life was samo-samo except for whopping humidity…..Ho hum….big sigh…and tons of sweat.

Up for coffee and brekkie (our Australian son-in-law’s term for breakfast) while Russ tried to explain to me why the mast and rigging “just might” act as a Faraday cage and protect us from the lightning (and the whole time I am nodding politely because I haven’t a clue what the heck it all means—and knowing that I have a PhD in Shakespeare, which does me no good whatsoever in the real world of boating where I can indeed be zapped by lightning and become a crispy-critter cadaver should the mast and rigging fail to act as a Faraday cage)  when on the Radio net came an offer for a used IPad…Really good price….Okay, we’ve wanted one and –I mean it’s a realllllllllllyyyyyy good price–so off Russ trotted to the Transporte Colectivo to go IPad hunting.  Meanwhile I’m getting ready to head in the opposite direction to the Oficina de Correos (post office) and, before I can leave, our friend Anibal stops by to chat.

Anibal is a PhD in anthropology, who is the world’s leading expert in the petroglyph rock art of California Baja Sur, and who just published his book on the subject, is scheduled in November to be honored by the Cultural Ministry of Calfornia Baja Sur……..and who also is a diver who cleans the bottom of boats in marinas so his family can eat.  As you can probably surmise, education pays about as much here as it does in the United States, which apparently equals zip these days of University faculties comprised of 67% part-time instructors.

Anibal is a great guy… he’s fun….he is a friend….and we love talking to him…spend a lot of time with him, and he was very excited about being honored at the ceremony here in La Paz . Holy Moley!!!!!!!!!!! I squealed, jumped on the dock,  gave him a great big hug, and promptly plopped a sloppy kiss on his cheek. (Well, that turned a few heads.) Then he told me that he’d come to ask us to sit with his family as his guests of honor…….Well, then came the next hug!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  More stares and some frowns from the bystanders. (Lord, but I do so love being labeled THAT WOMAN wherever I seem to turn up.  Not bad for a 65 year old grandma.)

I thanked him profusely because I feel very honored…and YIPPEE….I’m gonna have to wear a dress and wear real shoes!!!!!!!!!!! And it’s actually for something academic……(I do occasionally miss academia; and, I really do occasionally enjoy long , boring, and endlessly esoteric discussions about topics other than wind steering, the advantages of satellite phones over Single Side Bands, and . . . Faraday cages.)

Russ got back to the boat with the IPad and went nuts as well about Anibal’s news……..much laughter…….many hugs all around…and then, of course, made an appointment with Anibal to scrub the boat bottom the next morning. What a crazy, wonderful place is Mexico!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, of course, by this point I still needed to go to the Post Office and it was now hot–the middle of September, the middle of the day, an 11 on the UV index, and a predicted 104 for the Heat Index……..(There are other ways to achieve crispy critter status in La Paz than simply being hit by a bolt of lightning.)

Soooo…..I went to the Post Office, but I took a cab with a cabby I know named Mr. Castro.  He’s about 65, a careful driver, very nice, and between my poco Español and his  poco Inglés we generally manage to get me places and back again in one piece…….which almost got terminally screwed up that day.   Not so much a matter of crispy critter, more a case of bug splat.

Anyway, off we went to the Post Office (there is only one major Post Office and it is located far away from the Marina).  It is huge…the front lobby is full to the roof with packages to be delivered and only two little middle-aged women working the desk…….Other than me, there is absolutely no one in the lobby except for one guy sleeping on a bench.  The ladies speak no English, but my Spanish is actually getting  better every day, if we keep discussions in the ‘present’ tense.  So we get the deed done………..Bueno!

Back to Marina La Paz with Mr. Castro…………except for the other driver, who ran a stop sign and who only missed hitting us broadside by about a foot at about 60 mph in a 20 mph zone. Mr. Castro swerved… other guy swerved…..and went right on. Mr. Castro’s cab stalled and the engine flooded–at which time, two other drivers barreling down the same street hell-bent-for-leather nearly did the exactly the same thing again–twice.

By this time, poor Mr. Castro was shaking and cursing in Spanish and couldn’t think straight enough to put the pedal to the metal to start the motor…So he put the cab in neutral and proceeded to coast down the hill to a curb.  At the curb, he put on the emergency brake and kept trying to start the cab … until he ran out of gas!

I wasn’t upset; I was absolutely calm….I’m wasn’t in the least bit angry (it certainly wasn’t Mr. Castro’s fault and , besides, I didn’t have anywhere else to go)…..and if it had been Russ and me, in our own car,  I’d have been laughing by then….but it would have been totally un-cool to laugh at that particular moment (I don’t think a Mexican gentleman would have appreciated my sense of humor)…and then Mr. Castro got tears in his eyes and started apologizing profusely………..

I’m so pleased that I’m studying diligently trying to learn Spanish–I told him essentially that I didn’t have a problem, it would all be OK, and not to worry.  I continued by saying that I knew he’d fix the problem.  “You think so?” he asked. I said, “I know so”…..and pointed out the window and up to a PeMex gasoline station sign about a block away…..”You got a gas can, Mr. Castro?” (Any American, living in Mexico, who doesn’t know how to say Gas Can and Gas Station in Spanish simply isn’t going to survive.)

Mr. Castro fetched the gas and I helped him fill the tank (with his van, it really is a two-person process because the funnel won’t stay in the tank top while the person tries to fill it and the gas can doesn’t have a pour spout.) The cab started and so…Mr. Castro took me home which was of tremendous personal and professional importance to him.

And this is why.  Many of the cab drivers of La Paz are middle age or older; and most of them are wonderful guys, who are proud of their jobs.  If they own their own cab, they worked hard to get it (nobody gave it to them as some kind of present).  That cab is their family’s pride and livelihood–its life’s blood. Most of them work six days a week and generally a ten-hour day at that.   If their cab gets in a wreck or breaks down, their family can expect some very hard times.  And driving that cab is an honored responsibility for them—it’s one of the most important things in their lives.  If you pay attention, you will notice that many of the cabbies keep some copy of a prayer or  the Chauffeur’s Prayer on the their dashboards.  It’s not simply for show or to be colorful–many of the drivers are Roman Catholics and they take prayer seriously.   They respect their customers and deserve your respect, in turn.

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My relationship with Mr. Castro has now changed………It is no longer Señor Castro and Señora Harper….it is now Espiridion and Carolina–We’re good amigos…After all, we’ve had an adventure together.

So here’s the point:  If you are new to La Paz:

1) When you first get to La Paz, always be sure to first ask the cab driver “¿Cuánto cuesta?” (meaning “How much does it cost?” /pronounced Quanto Questa) before you ever get in the cab.  If you don’t, the cabbie has every right to charge what he wants to charge you when you arrive at your destination.  Establish the price before entering the cab.  If you get especially good service, a tip is appreciated.

2)  As soon as possible, find a cabbie–one you like, one you trust, and one you know doesn’t over-charge….Most every cabbie has a cell phone and a business card of some sort.  If you find a driver, whom you like, get his business card–cultivate a relationship and you will have gained a friend.   If you get lost–they can get you home.

3) Be polite always.  In Mexico, courtesy is valued much more than it seems to be in America these days.

4) Even if you know a driver, any time you have a more complex ride—such as round trip or more than one stop–check with him about the cost.  They don’t mind and it’s a lot more comfortable trip even to the grocery store when everyone is on the same page about what something’s supposed to cost.