My time for the first leg of the trip was getting short, still several days until I had to be in Los Cabos to pick up my Lady, but I didnít want to take a chance of getting weather bound and missing the appointment, so I was about ready to head for La Paz.† In the evening I checked up on the tides and realized that the next usable slackwater in daylight would be late afternoon tomorrow.† La Paz is reputed to have a very strong tidal current in the entrance channel, which is very narrow and bounded by steep sand banks.† No kidding.† My night at Estero Balandra was very peaceful and I slept straight through with only one trip on deck to check the anchor for auld lang syne.† In the morning, awaking to an unusual 70% cloud cover, I lazed around straightening up and finally got to the beach for a long uphill walk by 9:00.† Hiked up out of the beach area to the ridge of Punta Diablo and found a pretty usable 4 wheel drive road on top, leading pretty obviously toward Playa Tecolote, though definitely over hill and dale. I walked over the hills and down among the RVís and the several restaurants along the beach.†† It was too early to eat again, so walked the length of their beach, visited with folks from Alberta, British Columbia, Seattle, Chicago and so forth, all intent on holding their beach chairs down firmly in the nonexistent wind and the passing piece of warm morning sun.† The obvious popularity of solar panels was interesting, most units having pretty significant arrays, much larger than mine.† Finally back over the hills to Balandra and back aboard, I ate a leisurely lunch out of boatís stores and dressed her for sea, got the anchor and drifted out of the anchorage on a very light breeze from West or Northwest.† Out in the open the wind picked up a little, but it was just ghosting til past Caleta Lobos.† My choice of anchorages last night turned out to have been good. . .Lobos didnít look half as pretty as Balandra and there were nine shrimpers lying at anchor there.† Their generators would have made the night pretty noisy I fear.†
At about 2:00 the wind came back with a shout from the North.† I poled the working jib out on one side, put a preventer on the main on the other and roared along the coast toward Pichilinque and La Paz.† A beautiful ketch with clipper bows was sailing up behind me, slowly gaining as we ran down toward Punta Prieta, easily seen with its slightly smoky power plant and enormous petroleum tanks.† I steered with one hand and re-read the instructions for the entrance to La Paz with the other.† About a mile from Punta Prieta, after over an hour running at from 5.7 to 6.2 on the gps, I hove to and pulled down the first reef just as a courtesy.† The following wind didnít demand it but if maneuvering in close quarters were required I would be glad of less sail in this much wind.† The ketch passed me while I was hove to, but took a deep roll in his jib at the same time.† Perhaps I was on the right track.†
It was obvious that to make the first turn into the entrance channel we would have to lie at least close reaching, maybe a little higher.† The sailing instructions say to stay close inshore at that point, just outside the tanker mooring buoys.† I left them perhaps 500 feet up wind, which was too much.† Finally spotting the first little round flat topped buoy ahead I realized weíd be pinching tight to squeeze through without tacking.† Hard on the wind the boat really settled to her work and the gullies around Punta Prieta reshaped and sharpened the wind.† In the end we scraped within a few feet of the buoy and made the sharp right turn into the 3-mile long channel the length of town to the marinas, which brought the wind again dead astern.† I didnít have room or hands enough to rig the pole on the jib again but ran most of the way wing and wing anyway.† The boat roared through the water at a tremendous rate, but at times it seemed we were barely gaining on the anchored buoys.† I was at least 2 hours early on my tide and though the boat was running faster than earlier in the day we were over 2 hours creeping along the shoreline the three miles in to the marina.† My little handheld VHF was fine for the short range hail and the marina came back in nearly unaccented English (Iíd been practicing imaginary Spanish radio etiquette for days, just in case).† By the time we came to the municipal pier and called the Marina for instructions a very good chop had made up and the boats in the anchorage from the pier to the marina were definitely doing the La Paz waltz, some facing up wind, others tide rode, but all the smaller boats rolling and pitching violently.† I felt no urge to anchor with them at all and looked forward to a berth in the marina for the boat while I made the trip back for the truck and trailer.
Close by the marina entrance I hove to and checked my drift in the tide.† Even with what was probably a 1 knot drift through the water downwind to the South, the North running current swept me fairly briskly back toward the entrance.† I had to fill and jibe around quickly to avoid fouling a red buoy I hadnít left enough room for, but then hove to again and got the sails muzzled and the motor going.† Steering in the current and wind with the little motorís tiller as well as the boatís (perched precariously over the transom with one hand on each tiller) I made an easy approach, though I nearly over ran the float until Mary on the end of the fuel pier shouted and waved me back to a side tie on the panga dock to wait for wind and tide to lie down.†† Several people came to take my lines and in no time we were secured alongside and I was accepting invitations ďfor a beer as soon as you get a minute.Ē† Itís a friendly place for sure, and its reputation as the nicest marina in Mexico is certainly earned.† Everything is clean and bright, thereís lots of paper in the toilets and the showers are hot and hard.† The clientele is almost entirely retired or cruising couples from all over the states and Canada and their ďClub Cruceros de La PazĒ makes life pleasant with Spanish classes, barbecues and lots of visiting.†