It’s Been a While!

Northern Ranger II snug as a bug… across from us you can see the new name of the Hotel – Indigo – and the restaurant that has replaced Steinbecks – Barco. Lots of changes!

No news is good news, and I guess with weather and boats, that’s usually true. But this year as we watched the news from afar about the horrifying hurricanes that hammered Mexico, we weren’t sure what to expect when we drove down from our home in British Columbia.

We are fortunate, because of our size, to be moored in the inner docks of Marina Costa Baja. Here, smaller yachts are tucked in securely like toddlers at night, with just a curving canal connecting us to the outer docks and the open waters leading to Bahia La Paz. Out there, the big boats have languished over the years, the uber yachts belonging to Spielberg and Jobs and other nameless moguls, along with the 60’ plus boats that we used to wish we were but aren’t. I love where we are – it’s easy to go for walks, check out the restaurants or the stores, hop in our truck and go for shopping trips or day excursions – and we have always felt like it’s a safe haven for Northern Ranger II when we leave her for the summer.

Well, Hurricane Norma proved us right. No other storm has worried us much over the years, although we always kept tabs on what was happening and could talk to our boat minders and people here to confirm things were still good on board. When we arrived this year, we knew to expect some damage in the outer harbour but were shocked to find how much. Entire docks were ripped apart, and numerous boats suffered extensive damage or actually sunk. Boats closer in to the breakwater escaped the impact of the waves but further out on the docks – carnage. I can only imagine what it was like for those staying on their boats during the storm, and you can find lots of photos and videos and first-hand accounts on-line. They are frightening to watch and I am thankful everyone we know who went through that made it out ok. 

But in our safe harbour, we were relatively unscathed. Sure, cleats on some of our docks were ripped out, and parts of the retaining wall on our shoreside walkway crumbled (from the water flooding, I assume), but seeing the 30’ plus lengths of loose concrete docks from the outer harbour tied up at the side of the canal in various stages of destruction was sobering, and the water’s edge walkway in the outer harbour was just – destroyed.

In the outer harbour, power and water were off and the washrooms were closed. Masts rose out of the water where sailboats were sunk, one multihull sat (still sits) upside down further out – and outside in the bay near the mouth of the entrance channel to La Paz a 160 foot super yacht hangs vertical in the water, with only the tip of the bow poking up. So many dreams destroyed by the powerful force of nature.

Evenings on the malecon are always lovely and fun!

In town, by the time we arrived, the people of La Paz had proven their resilience by cleaning up and getting everything back to normal – sure, there were and still are several sailboats washed up on the beach or sunk out in the mooring field – but aside from that, you’d never know anything had happened. There are always people worse off than you are, and the knowledge of the havoc wreaked by the far more violent hurricane in Acapulco makes me realize how much more devastating this could have been. And here at the marina, work continues on setting things right. One of the sunken boats has been moved out, and our crumbled walkway wall was rebuilt over the course of a week, something we thoroughly enjoyed watching…after the initial jackhammering of course. 

Before and after…walking through the parking lot was annoying, so we were thrilled when they started working on the walkway and got it done in record time.

So – back on Northern Ranger II. I’m always talking about how coming home to the boat entails weeks of working out the bugs that are always part of leaving her for six months or more for the summer in Mexico. And this time was no different – with some added twists. But when I look around at what other boats have experienced, I refuse to complain about it much.

When we left here in May there were a few rips in the canvas sunshade over the back deck – we bought some repair tape before we left and hoped it would hold enough that we wouldn’t come back to bigger rips. Well, cue the hurricane – the canvas looked as though a tiger landed on top and shredded it with giant claws. Definitely not something we could tape up and call a fix! Luckily, we have a local canvas person who has been doing canvas for us over the years (we lost a number of window covers last year in a hurricane), and she had time to fabricate a new one, even though she was busy with everyone else’s post-Hurricane business. I must say, after Sandra installed the new canvas I saw it as a silver lining experience, it looks so much better!

Refrigerator repairs, leaks in the large inflatable dinghy tubes, outboard engine issues with the Honda 30 on the same dinghy, and potable water pump problems – ahhhh, water pumps! Plumbing! Water belongs outside or in pipes, not on the floor of the master stateroom! Still a work in progress – thank heavens for Amazon Mexico when you can’t find the exact right pump you desperately need! Juan the dock manager takes great pleasure in bringing us our “presents”… of which there have been many!

The motherload- one day’s worth of deliveries…. That was a GOOD day!

And then there are the various electrical upgrades – new Victron start batteries smart charger, new Victron smart-shunt battery monitoring for the house bank, new digital meters for the electrical panels, and new batteries for the boom winches and dinghy O/B.

And so on! So that would all explain, in my usual long-winded way, why we, on January 13, are still tied to the dock in the marina when we arrived here almost two months ago.  And also why, in the grand scheme of things, compared to those people whose boats were destroyed by the storm, we are extremely fortunate to be where we are, enjoying better weather than at home (now that it looks like winter has finally arrived at the lake), good friends, good neighbours, good food…. 

And why I’m adopting the No Bad Days attitude.

Things we have noticed about Mexico this year…there’s no escaping it… everything is more expensive. Everything. 

Dinners out, food, alcohol, moorage, gas, diesel – you want it, you are going to pay more for it. A strong peso against our Canadian dollar isn’t helping. Good for them, not so great for us! So, we do without as many fancy dinners out, and take trips down to Cabo Costco to pick up things we need in bulk and cheap(er) gas. Sounds counter intuitive but it seems to work. We were also fortunate to have friends who were renting a house for New Years on the East Cape at Los Frailes, and when they heard we were driving down for the day they invited us for a few nights..what an amazing place! Fresh tuna they had caught before we arrived, a swimming pool, and a long gorgeous beach for morning walks – a great couple of days off the boat with friends, exactly what we needed! And we learned that it’s a good anchorage in the right wind.

A different kind of paradise !

We have started going to the Tuesday and Saturday market, where a farmer sets up his stall and the lineup is the longest of any places there. The best place for herbs and lettuces and everything else we need, usually. Unless you get there half an hour late… you definitely need to be there early! And the fresh stuff always lasts longer than what we get in Chedrauil. We need to explore some of the other places we can get fresh produce… I know they are out there!

We also don’t spend as many days at the marina pool either, as 300 pesos (24 CAD) for a glass of wine (4 ounces) seems a bit steep! So, part of my days are spent planning meals, and we eat in. For Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve we celebrated with pot luck parties on board our friends’ sailboat with several other sailing couples from the outer harbour, which ended up being much more fun than an expensive meal at an overpriced restaurant AND we got to see the NYE midnight fireworks because we were just below the golf club where the big party was being held! Perfect! And fun!

Christmas aboard Winterlude!

We are also hunting down places to eat in town that give us good quality food and a decent margarita for fewer pesos. Lawrence follows a number of cruisers who passed through La Paz and wrote blogs which include the names of restaurants they have found – so we have been haunting the streets looking for those venues. We also have some old favourites that we have hit in the past – Rancho Viejo still makes amazing street style tacos, and Claros Fish Jr. (which we always enjoyed) has good fish tacos, but now we have been introduced to Mc-Fisher, which serves the tastiest grilled fish tacos I have ever had (for not a lot of pesos!) and Dulce Romero, which makes wonderful pizza. All savings go into the new water pump – spare parts – back canvas – whatever else is going to break or need replacing – fund! (Speaking of which looks like we just got our new replacement talking interconnected combo smoke and CO alarms – something I discovered when we got on board this fall was that most of our alarms were dead and/or out of date…not something we want to ignore!)

In search of the perfect taco! And we pretty much nailed it with this place… Rancho Viejo…Baja fish for me and arrachera with tripe and chorizo for Lawrence. To each his own! I gave him one of my tacos… but I didn’t ask for any of his.. surprise surprise!

Something else we hunted down was a barber for Lawrence – friends told us about this place and it was meant to be! A parking spot right in front and an empty chair with someone ready to cut his hair! It was either that or I was threatening to lend him my scrunchies. This was a much better choice!

So, anyway, if we aren’t going out for dinner as often and we are trying to save money, what am I whipping up in the galley to make things interesting and delicious? Well, this year I managed to bring down some sourdough starter, courtesy of a neighbour at the lake who had a super strong strain to give me when I lost Rodney… RIP. I had a jar of this starter (named “Bublé”) with me, and I even spread the love by doling out bits of him to friends and family along the way, as well as keeping him active by baking bread for most of the people we spent time with as we drove south. By the time we got to the boat Bublé was stronger than Rodney had ever been – and after a few days on the boat I had to call him Juan Bublé because he’d most likely picked up some Mexican yeasties along the way.

So, bread making has been added to things I do in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding a recipe that makes gorgeous bread every time but what I do make always tastes delicious so maybe I’ll just take that as a win. When my son and daughter-in-law post pictures of what they are creating with the Bublé I left them I feel a whole lot of pride in passing on a bit of myself and my sourdough to them (and maybe a teensy bit of jealousy!). Unfortunately, my propane oven does not get anywhere near hot enough to bake sourdough bread, and I didn’t have anything to bake it in anyway – so we ordered a beautiful Lodge cast iron Dutch oven – and it just fits into my Convection/Microwave (which does get to 450F), so that is where I bake the bread. I don’t think it’s perfect but it certainly is good enough!

When we bought the boat I had no idea how to use the top oven except as a microwave. Now I couldn’t live without it!

And every time I pull a not-quite perfect but still tasty loaf out of the pot I remind myself of the money I’m saving (honestly not that much, but at least I know exactly what goes into our bread!).

Other things I make with sourdough – pancakes (the best!), crackers (fabulous), pizza, tortillas, and Christmas stollen. I’m resisting the urge to make English muffins, bagels, and cinnamon buns …so far. 

Next on “Ways to Cut Costs by Making It Myself” – Granola. I used to make granola at home and have a great recipe which is relatively healthy and very tasty. I gathered the ingredients (there aren’t many!) and proceeded to mix together enough granola for two pans worth – and when it came out of the convection oven it was perfect… and there was a whole lot of it! When I look at what a bag of granola costs in the store, and how little there is in the bag, and what unpronounceable ingredients come with that cost, I think making this granola is a win, and easy. And I freeze what I can’t fit into my granola container so I’ve got granola for a month or more. And how do I serve it? With yoghurt!

And there’s something else I can make on board, since we bought a small instant pot. That little sucker has a yoghurt button! It could not be easier! And there are only two ingredients! Milk (we buy boxed milk which works beautifully) and the last of the yoghurt I made the week before. So, I guess that’s only one ingredient, ‘cause it’s just milk, technically. And after the milk boils and cools and you put the lid back on and press “Yoghurt 8 hours” you can go out for the day and forget about it! When I lift the lid – yay! It’s not Greek yogurt but it’s thick and creamy and doesn’t need anything except some fresh or frozen fruit and the granola to make a perfect breakfast! Maybe with a slice of toast made from the sourdough bread? Yum! 

It’s not always health food on board Northern Ranger II – when the evening calls for something sweet I pull out my favourite cookie recipe, courtesy of Bob Senter: his world-famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to be exact. I think the first time I had one (or two or three) was at the Nordhavn Rally in Petersburgh, Alaska, many years ago, and have had them at various functions since then. One day I caught him in a weak moment and he passed along his recipe, which has made us very happy over the years (it was a real game changer during Covid!). I made two batches before New Year’s so I had something to take to dinner that wasn’t salad or wine – and also handed out baggies of cookies to whomever was working on the boat at the time. The first batch ended up super crunchy because I misread how much butter was called for – and also, when you use a convection oven, things happen fast! Second batch was the chewy kind that we all love, and full of chocolate and raisins. There are now no cookies left. I kept the leftovers in the freezer and I don’t think anything tastes better than a frozen oatmeal chocolate raisin Bob Senter Cookie. Oatmeal and chocolate and raisins are healthy, right?

So as for our cruising plans… we obviously didn’t fly home for Christmas, in spite of missing our adorable perfect first grandson and the rest of our family, but we are booked to fly home for 10 days for his first birthday in March, as well as a wedding. Therefore, we have almost two months to travel and this year we are planning to finally explore up the Sea of Cortez, rather than crossing over and down to Banderas Bay. We both are missing La Cruz and our friends and the people there, but we still have never been able to go further north than Bahia Concepcion and even that was just the one time. It may not be as warm as La Cruz and Barra de Navidad but we are definitely looking forward to it! Hopefully – fingers crossed – all the glitches and hitches we have come across boat-wise are things of the past and we will be able to leave soon – within a week, boat time, Mexico time, our time (and when the wind lets up – it’s blowing 20+ in the marina right now).

And meanwhile! It’s Mexico! We are on our Northern Ranger II! Meeting new people. Making new friends, and enjoying life! (With a lot of help from Starlink and FaceTime to keep in touch with our family up north of course!)

3 thoughts on “It’s Been a While!”

  1. From my perch on a loveseat, I sit, as the sun throws it’s beam through a cloudless sky into our living room. A huge difference from your location though, is that it was -13 when I woke up, & now, a balmy -9 at 10:30 am. I so enjoy your blog Penny, thank you for sharing this part of you life with us. Happy, happy travels 🥰

  2. Penny, it’s great to hear about your adventures and my mouth is still watering from your baking exploits. Speaking of a long time.. it’s more than 35 years since we boated together in BC, and 30 since the 2 years I planned to stay in Massachusetts. Phyllis gives me updates and I think of you guys often. Keep living the dream and perhaps our paths will cross again!

  3. Another beauty Penny. What a year it’s been. Here we are in ‘24 all boating one way or place or another. Here’s to getting jobs done, beautiful bread baked, marvellous meals made and seeking out new anchorages for 2024. Thanks for your wonderful blogs dear friend. ❤️

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