Once again it is time to bid adieu to our crossroads city of La Paz. It’s never truly adiós, only hasta luego as we know we’ll be back this way next spring. Despite the fact that we’ve stayed at the same marina all three times we’ve ventured this way, each visit has been profoundly different. This time left me with the most appreciation for all the city has to offer.
Our first visit here was just after the Baja Ha-ha and shortly after swamping our dinghy and tucking my kids in for bed at the top of a panga launch ramp in Ensenada de Los Muertos for “The Curse Of Muertos…or Not?. We had only one month of “Holy crap, what have I gotten myself into?” cruising under our belts when we arrived at our first marina in Mexico, Marina Palmira. We were welcomed by fellow Ha-Ha cruisers off S/V LeeAnn and S/V Descanso who caught our docklines and eased my anxiety about pulling into a slip with another boat so close to us (not a big deal now, but new to me at the time). We had made it around the cape and now it was time to start enjoying this thing we call cruising! So with Tulum secure at the dock, we snorkeled with whale sharks and sea lions, learned where to find good tacos and how to properly order a margarita, went to our first and probably last movie theater in Mexico (come on, it was Star Wars!), and celebrated our first Navidad away from family. Meeting up with friends from the Ha-Ha and from our stateside marina, watching the holiday lights boat parade, and enjoying Feliz Navidad lights strung all along the Malecón made for a festive holiday season and a very fun visit.
The second visit had a very different vibe. This wont surprise you at all once I tell you the date: April 1, 2020 – the beginning of the COVID ramp-up in Mexico. It was as if we went through a COVID wormhole crossing from mainland Mexico back to Baja California Sur. We left Banderas Bay near Puerto Vallarta where we freely socialized on the dock, enjoyed the unique “Jungle Cruise” in La Tovara with friends, I shared a dinghy ride over to a good snorkeling site in Isla Isabel with a fellow cruiser, then BAM! We hit Mazatlán on St. Patrick’s Day morning, hoping to raise a pint for the occasion. Instead, upon entering back into the zone of modern communication, we quickly realized those N-95s I had brought along were going to be put to use much earlier than I anticipated. Just like that, outsiders’ mouths and noses (…most of the time) disappeared under masks and we learned that smiles can still be conveyed with one’s eyes. We enjoyed our last restaurant in this COVID wormhole, provisioned for the impending apocalypse (let’s call this the “Lack of TP and Hand-Sani Era” – remember this?) and pressed on back towards La Paz. Arriving in La Paz at Marina Palmira once again, we would’ve loved to stretch our legs and get our taco/margarita/guacamole fix, but this was just the beginning of the unpredictable spread, testing, and containment of this virus. The girls never left the boat except for showers – thank goodness for strong Wi-Fi. I never left the boat except for walking the dog and showers – we instead sent our canary, The Captitan, to run the errands and take care of all business matters before heading north in the sea with S/V Lady Midnight. Realizing that shit was about to get real, we stayed only long enough to provision, fuel-up, and get some minor work done just before all non-essential businesses shut down.
Returning this time would mark one year of cruising for us and mean completing a long anticipated re-rig. We would eventually end up at Marina Palmira, but started at anchor and then the haulout yard on the other end of town, which put us in close proximity to shops and restaurants. We pulled into the bay and dropped anchor to “enjoy” dancing the infamous La Paz Waltz, where boats move asynchronously with the tidal currents and afternoon wind, and everyone is on the lookout for boats dragging anchor. We sat for a few days coordinating the details of our haulout at the boatyard and working through fresh provisions in preparation for moving off the boat. Eying the endless stream of city lights on shore, I grew somewhat anxious looking at this buzzing civilization which was a far cry from our solitude of quarantine in the Sea of Cortez for the past 6 months. We were mindful of the increasing numbers of COVID cases here, but immediately impressed with the precautions taken and general public awareness throughout this, the capital of Baja California Sur. Large colorful signs warning people to wear their cubreboca (facemask) now adorned the Malecón where the beautiful Christmas lights were hung last year. The beaches were roped off, announcements were being made over loud speakers reminding people to maintain a safe distance from each other, and very few people were out and about – you had to look hard to find anyone who might resemble a tourist enjoying vacation. Now, in concert with the usual seasonal influx, tourism is creeping its way back up with dive and charter boats heading out frequently to enjoy the wonderland of aquatic activities in the vicinity of La Paz. The farmers’ market had just opened when we arrived in early October, but sadly, we were some of only a handful of people to wander through. Last week however, it was teaming with people and Martín’s awesome organic produce had been sufficiently depleted by the time we arrived– get there early! In talking to the small business owners and UBER drivers, business is nowhere close to the norm, but they seem cautiously optimistic about the uptick in tourism.
The girls look at a “wear your mask” sign at the far end of the Malecon as the beach is closed off in the distance
This was our time to take care of not only Tulum V, but also her crew. We tended to medical and much needed dental check-ups. We rented a car and headed back to the states for a bit to celebrate an early Christmas with our parents, renewed all the passes and official paperwork that had expired over the past year (boat insurance, national park passes, fishing licenses, visas) and took some time to think through our goals for the second year of cruising. There were no snorkeling excursions for us as was the case last year, but the girls did take an intro to scuba lesson, which piqued their interest for future classes. We let down our guards enough to enjoy some restaurants again (not challenging when most seating is outside already and establishments are scarcely populated). We’re not taking unnecessary risks, just moving beyond the fear that seemed to put everything on hold for the past several months. It feels good to walk around town again, only this time it’s with my mask on and hand sanitizer readily available – too easy. We are reunited with friends from the cruising community who remind us of why we do this and the fact that we are a part of a resilient cruising community. Thank you S/V Pandion, S/V Kyrie, and S/V Boundless – It’s good to laugh again in the company of friends!
Now, it’s time we get back to sea and get Tulum out where she’s happiest – on the open ocean. With an everchanging world, who knows what we will return to next spring when we come passing through, but we always look forward to our time in La Paz.
By the time you read this, we’ll most likely have already pulled up anchor and started our run from Muertos to Frailes down Baja as we prep for the Southern Crossing from Baja to the mainland of Mexico. Stick with us as when we’re silent…we’re out sailing, traveling, exploring and cruising.