Archive for January, 2006

Road Trip Baja Sur!

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

Universal Truth: Nothing corners better, off-roads hardier, or stops on a dime better than a rental. Enterprise didn’t realize they rented us the Baja 1000 model Hyundai Podling (by Dodge), a true go-getter if there ever was one. It was minty green and had a lot of dings; all were carefully noted by the Enterprise guy and had Joshua rethinking the insurance thing.

Baja roads: There is a lot of signage littering the roadsides of Baja Sur. Food for thought like: “It is obligatory to wear one’s seatbelt in Baja Sur,” “80,” “Watch your speed,” “Drive carefully,” “Don’t throw trash,” and “Thank you for wearing your seatbelt.” Rather passive aggressive actually, plus they repeat every kilometer so that you are never more than 60 meters at most from a road sign suggesting that you pay attention to the topes 500 meters ahead, 400 meters ahead, 300 meters ahead.

Another thing that is clear is that southern Bajaans expect the road to be straight under normal circumstances, which is to say, always. If the road deviates in any way from the straight, a sign is imperative. I am not exaggerating when I say that there is a right or left arrow for EVERY SINGLE TURN THE ROAD MAKES. And we covered a lot of territory this weekend. Sometimes there will be a multi-curve arrow (you know the ones that squiggle left, right, left, right, then straight up arrow); however, I swear that none of the turns ever made it through the left-right-left-right-straight gamut without someone giving in and putting a single turn arrow only two turns into the curvy section.

western shore of Bahia La Paz

Baja is very pretty; behold Bahia La Paz as viewed from the western shore. We were on our way to go check out an Abandonada—an abandoned phosphorus mining town.

rock slide

Ayyyy! Perils!

beach shack

ruined trailer

This trailer was parked next to the cute little house with the green chair above. I’m not sure if there was a fire or if this is just what happens to trailers when they are left on their own.

ruined house

Another house that was never finished?

Abandoned village

We made it to the abandonada, parked the car just outside of the “ALTO” and “Cars not allowed” signs, then walked past the “PROHIBITED the passage of unauthorized personnel” sign to check things out. I got maybe three photos before a friendly dude with a walkie-talkie and a machete came and escorted us out. He gave us a lesson in sign-reading.

abandoned bottles

Here’s one of the restaurant, where they used to have good food, according to the machete-wielding guard.

guard shack at the phosphorus mine

We continued down the road to where the phosphorus mine was and where they must have loaded phosphorus onto barges via a rail system. This structure was there and that’s an osprey nest above it.

Road side shrine, Baja California Sur, Mexico

There are a lot of roadside shrines. This one looks like it was erected in a specific person’s memory.

Road side shrine, Baja California Sur, Mexico

This one had steps carved in the rock leading up to it. There are goats about and that’s what that strong-looking wooden structure is all about.

road side shrine detail, Baja California Sur, Mexico

This one was a bit higher budget. It also had a tip jar of sorts.


“The Three Holy Armadillos of the Virgin of Guadalupe”

Road Sign of Cow

We saw about a hundred-bizillion of these signs.

Mexican Cow

Of course, there were cows too. Far fewer cows than signs though.

Mexican Cows

Perhaps they are creatures of the night.


We visited the Cactus Sanctuary. We passed about twelve gazillion-frillion cactuses on the way.

Closeup of a mutant cactus

Here is a mutant! The sparse signage actually said that this weirdness was in fact caused by mutaciones geneticos. Or something. Then it said something about briggands and face lotion so I’m not sure.

Closeup of a cactus

Our camera has a nice macro feature.

Old Colonial Cemetary near the cactus sactuary, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Next to the cactus sanctuary, aside from lots of other non-sanctified cacti, was a cemetery. The cemetery had cactuses in it as well in addition to a lot of very old tombs of Chinese, Germans, and Spaniards who met their ends trying to score gold for the motherland.

Old Colonial Cemetary near the cactus sactuary, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Gallina, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Nearby was the town, Gallina, so named because of a piece of gold found there once that was the shape and size of a hen egg. The town surely didn’t have a name before that. Why it was named for the chicken and not the egg is also something to ponder.

Old Church, Gallina, Baja California Sur, Mexico

There was a quaint church there, which was not open on the Sunday we were there. Not that we tried the door, I guess.

Road Sign to La Paz

Back to La Paz!!

Su Amigo Pancho, Tacos de Cabeza

For some dinner!!!!

Sunset La Paz, Mexico

And a cute sunset. Oh, this sunset photo is actually from a week or more ago. When it was calm.


Thursday, January 19th, 2006

The much-touted Norther (“Norther” = a ‘storm’ of unidirectional wind from, for example, the north) hit finally Monday morning/early afternoon. In anticipation, we moved the boat closer to the beach (because there always seems to be less wind, calmer water, better visibility, free beer, etc. in some other part of the anchorage). Closer to the beach however, severely compromised our internet situation. We were unable to connect to our previous standbys and instead found only the Applebees (of all god-forsaken things) within mooching distance. It worked until around Monday afternoon, when things got shockingly bouncy in the anchorage.

We came straight back from class, fighting the nasty dust storms tormenting the streets (La Paz streets have nothing short of a scandalous amount of dust that can be blown into one’s chapstick during a Norther). Then it took us 45 minutes to row the 120 yards back to the boat—and that is not an exaggeration; Joshua rowing and me paddling with our spare paddle in the front of the dinghy (my feet wedged up against the forepeak in a pathetic attempt to keep water from pouring in so damned voluminously with each breaking wave). By the end of the docking procedure, I was soaked thoroughly from the waist down and the majority of our groceries were bobbing around in Lake La Paz, a turbulent affair that resided in the bilges of the Port-a-bote (heretofore referred to as “Alyosha”—because I’ve had two glasses of wine and I WIN). It was a minor miracle that the bags that Tucker gave us for Christmas last year happened to both be water resistant AND have a zipper (Spanish class accoutrements thus spared a gross fate) and that the bread, purchased in anticipation of a nice quiet dinner party with candlelight and wine in glasses sitting peacefully on a table that does not boast a ‘safety’ ledge, weirdly got chucked in the back of the boat and not the forward, which was the deep and treacherous end of the lake, and stayed 85% edible. Environmentalists were not informed when Joshua bailed the entire contents of Lake La Paz overboard with a cut-off bleach jug. We hauled Alyosha onto the ama (that’s one of the auxiliary hulls, or “pontoons”) and tied it down securely. Then went below and sorted the groceries while listening to the chatter on channel 22.

It was 4pm. We had invited Jasmine and Shannon from ‘Tranquila’ over for paella the previous calm and quiet afternoon (“That yella-bellied norther is never going to hit!”). Now our side of the anchorage was a slobbering froth of unpleasantness. Not necessarily dangerous, but sort of pukingly uncomfortable, if you get my drift.

We were dubious that a dinner could be prepared in such a motion, the inside of Time Machine was a high-decibel cacophony of creaks, splashes, groans, thwackings (that’s what the sail cover does; Can you say “thwack?”), clangings (that’s the rudder), gratings (from the steering cables), and very foul language (that’s me banging my knees and elbows because everything was suddenly in my goddamned way). Can you say “puta mierda?”

We finally got a hold of them on the radio at 5:15 after an hour of fruitless attempts.
Joshua: “Hey! So… are you anchored? How is it for you over on the Magote?”
Shannon: “Not so bad! Kinda windy… when do you want us to head over?”
Joshua: “Uhhhh, it’s not super bouncy over where you are?”
Shannon: “Not at all! There’s free beer too!”
Me: (not into the radio “PUTA MADRE!!!”)
Joshua: “ Wellll… It’s pretty, um, exciting over here. You guys, um, might get (cough cough) wet on your way over.”
Shannon: “Ah heck! Are you kidding? We were just getting ready to do some neurosurgery over here! I think we can handle a little dinghy ride a quarter of a mile to where you are!”
Joshua: “Um.”
Shannon: “Neurosurgery can wait! Dude’s in traction and sitting tight. We’ll be over in a jif for some BITCHIN’ PAELLA!!!!”

Shannon and Jasmine arrived via dinghy, prudently garbed in their foulies. Shannon managed to deposit Jasmine and a FREAKING CAKE with a container of orange-freaking-custard onto our aft ama with no major disasters and zinged off towards Marina La Paz to conduct some high-power stock trading while Jasmine socialized and casually chopped some garlic. Meanwhile, it was a minor miracle that I managed to get my shirt on front-side forwards after the post-docking-wet-clothes-stripdown-freakout, and paella and salad were, frankly, on their own as far as getting prepared that evening.

In the end, vegetables somehow got chopped without any life-threatening lacerations and dinner honestly ended up a whole lot of fun. The only actual disaster was the state of my cucumbers, which had turned into snot after a mere three days, leaving my vegetable bin in conspicuous need of sterilization. Enter the cabbage; a vegetable so hardy it could survive nuclear fallout if only cockroaches did not eat cabbage.

By the time Shannon and Jasmine left, the wind was actually worse. We got the bed put together without accidentally lurching out the window and settled down to a night of next-to-no sleep. Willie, from Fleur de Mer, gave us a call to let us know that he was spending the night aboard with his super-dinghy at the ready, which has the Big Motor, and just give him a call if we needed a tow off of the beach at any point during the long, dark and bouncy night. Honestly, we weren’t so worried about dragging anchor ourselves, but that there was a semi-derelict (??), unoccupied powerboat directly upwind of us and we were skeptical of the state of its ground tackle after the “Hay Chihuahua” incident. That this large ponderous vessel might snap its anchor line and come charging at us, bobbing madly in the froth (remember the frothy madness that was the anchorage?) and crash into us, splintering our poor little boat into a zillion wee bits, was actually a real concern. I spent the night about to drift off and in that sort of semi-dreamy state where you are awake but that kid from third grade is in the room with you, along with your former boss and your brother, and they are all discussing the wonder that is and you are just getting interested when the kid from third grade detonates a hydrogen bomb and you leap out of bed, sticking your head up out of the companionway to be sure that all the other boats in the anchorage are still where you left them when you went to bed. WTF!!! It was a sort of long night.

We recorded 25 sustained knots with gusts over 30 at around midnight and at 3pm-ish, 30 knots sustained with gusts above that. Wind mellowed early morning, we thought, but picked back up to 25-30 by 6am so we played hooky from Spanish class because, while I may not have been under pressure to produce a paella out of the inside of a bouncy, pokey TimeMachine-shaped blender for a language class of nine, it just would not have been pretty and the world was better off for it.

Wherein it is revealed that I am a menace to holding tanks everywhere.

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

Happy belated New Year, a la January 13th. A most interesting year. A year that began with me lying on the floor of a cabin In The Woods after having drunk too much “Delicious Red” (it comes in a box, oh woe) and ended with us, um, actually we were already asleep when the airhorn from some raucous partiers on one of the pirate ships woke us up at, presumably, midnight. Whatever, snore.

One learns things about oneself when one embarks on an open-ended trip in a vessel with a living space of 32 by 6 feet. One particularly glaring example that comes quickly to mind is that my bladder is apparently capable of holding 750 milliliters, at least. Who knew? When’s the last time you had a chance to measure your bladder capacity? Please don’t even try to imagine the circumstances that led me to this discovery because they were traumatic for everyone involved, including the Gatoraid bottle. Let us also not dwell on that little “at least” either because I try not to; we’ll call it an even 750 for the record. 750 ml. At least.

Much time was subsequently wasted on fruitful internet searches. A fin whale has a bladder capacity of 5.5 gallons (that’s 20,069.7 ml more than me). And how about the word “urodynamics.” There are also a whole lot of things that contain 750ml, like bottles of Veuve Clicquot. A most disturbing product called “Papa Bert’s Sippin’ Seat,” which I found in a cheerleading product catalogue no less, boasts some powerful tech writing: “the strong flexible bladder can hold over 3 cups (750 ml) of your favorite warm or cold beverage and can withstand the weight of an adult sitting on it.” It comes in camo. I think it might be the only product that Papa Bert has.

At any rate, it might be a while before I am invited to another boat for cocktails.

Cute! Cute! Cute!

Friday, January 13th, 2006

My brother Sage and his girlfriend Elise had a baby! Last time I saw them she was in that nebulous tummy phase somewhere between not-puking-anymore-thankyou and “Holy hell girl! Haven’t you had that thing yet?!”

Despite my brother being somewhat less than forthcoming with the details and photos (what? Like he’s busy?), here’s a cutie of the girl at the ripe old age of 56 hours.

baby Riley strapped into a car seat

(Despite her being the spitting image of Great Aunt Manfred Laverne Berdina Periwinkle—or more fondly, “Aunt Lou Chicken Poo,” Sage and Elise cast aside the shackles of tradition and named her Riley Marie.)

Things lost overboard since November 9th

Friday, January 13th, 2006

1. Garlic smisher (pronounced smeesher) from Ikea. A stylish thing but it took about a gallon and a half to get all the dang garlicy bits out of the tiny tiny little (pronounced leetle) holes.
2. Bright red melamine one-cup measuring cup. Waaa! We lost it at Los Frailes during some vicious wind; I had it out to dry on the hatch cover and the wind perked up and blew it off the freakin’ boat. My orange half-cup and yellow third-cup still mourn the loss.
3. Palm frond casting we picked up in San Diego and placed artfully atop our trampoline; “Hey! That’s that thing we saw down the street in that trashcan!” said our neighbors at the transient dock. Probably a good thing it never made it to La Paz or else we could have been charged with the illegal transportation of a forest product.
4. Five-gallon water bottle. We lost it during a tricky dinghy-docking procedure. It was full of fresh water and sank like a lead weight in the salt water that is Bahia La Paz. Hrmm. Makes you think about physics. Luckily we had a lot of beer aboard.

Notable mention: my sunglasses, which I’ve nearly lost overboard about 284 times. Usually because I have one of the ear-things hooked on my shirt and I bend over to swab the deck, or polish the brightwork, or batten the hatches.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell