Nineteen months of dreaming and waiting and we are finally back on Northern Ranger II in La Paz, Baja California Sur!
November 5th 2021 – it’s been nineteen months since we left her in her slip at Costa Baja and headed home, as Covid changed the world around us and we adapted and stayed relatively sane at our home on the lake. Two funerals and a wedding later, with lots of isolation and a few great meandering camping trips, along with a three week cruise on the brand new N68 Daybreak (best fishing ever, not to mention good company and great friends!), we finally flew down to San Diego on our way to Northern Ranger II. Her sister ship Akeeva was leaving to head south from SD and offered us space aboard for whatever we couldn’t pack in the four suitcases so we took them up on the offer and gleefully added to their ballast. We hung around at our friends’ place in SD until after US Thanksgiving (which was an amazing evening!) and then crossed over the CBX bridge in Tijuana to board a plane for La Paz.
So now we have arrived. I didn’t quite tear up as we flew above the Sea and spotted all my favourite anchorages… Concepcion, Juanico, San Francisco, Espiritu Santu – but it was close! Flying to La Paz is wonderful because we’d already cleared customs in Tijuana, and it’s just a short taxi ride, not a two hour bus trip. Perfecto! Northern Ranger looked beautiful, inside and out. Leaving a boat shut up in a hot country for almost two years is definitely not optimum but when we left we had no way of knowing how long we’d be gone. My first concern is always “how does it smell” and I was absolutely thrilled when the answer came back “just like she did when we left”. No scary diesel smell, no frightening sewer smell… no horrible mold smell. Huge sigh of relief.
So what are the things that need to be done when you leave a boat for this long? The answer depends on whether you are a pessimist or an optimist. What can possibly go wrong in any one of the numerous systems that make up a Nordhavn? Luckily for me, the persistent pessimist, the person in charge of those systems who happens to be the optimist is also a list maker. Compulsively so. Even though we left Northern Ranger in somewhat of a hurry, it wasn’t the first time we had shut her down and locked her up for the summer. It just happened to be the longest. Lawrence’s task was to deal with everything to do with the running of the boat, from anodes to water maker and everything in between. Mine was to empty the galley of everything perishable and clean fridges and freezers for a long period of inactivity. He had lists for shutting up the boat and for opening up the boat…through hulls to close, lines to shut off, check, check, check.
When we arrived back on the boat it was all done in reverse. If I wanted to use the washer, or the air conditioner, or the ice maker, there was something that needed turning on or opening up. But we got through it all. First order of business was to replace the Mexican Cruising flag, which showed the wear and tear of the hot sun and a few hurricanes.
The only ooops could have been a big one but luckily the boat gods shone on him and when he started the main without turning on the return fuel line only a bit of diesel was sprayed into the engine room from the wing engine and the fuel pump didn’t explode or anything horrible like that. Lesson learned. And as of today there is no smell of diesel in the boat so hey! It’s all good! Meanwhile we are enjoying amazing warm weather, sunny skies, and pool time every afternoon when we feel we have done enough work for the day (generally around 4:00!) Yesterday was about getting a new starter battery for the generator and looking for someone to sew up some new window covers. The day before that we set up our haul out, hoping to get it done in plenty of time to cross over to La Cruz for Christmas. We have a date (the 16th 17th 18th) and an option for a few more days because hey, things never happen as quickly as they say they will. We will retrieve our excess baggage tomorrow from Akeeva, which means a nice road trip to San Jose del Cabo, a visit with Sam and Anna and Akeeva, and lunch in SJDC which is always good…
My task throughout all this has been to empty out cupboards and lockers and hunt down bugs and other suspicious activity. So far the bugs have all been dead – including the infestation of wasps that somehow found their way in (probably down the engine exhaust dry stack). My other job was to check what food I had left on board and decide whether it was a toss or a keep. Most dry goods like unopened bags of dried beans or pasta I had vacuum packed. I had moved (mostly unopened) containers of things like oils or condiments deeper into the boat where I had optimistically thought they wouldn’t get TOO hot. Not sure that worked, after all this was two summers worth of hot summer Baja weather. The good thing is the Baja is much drier than over on the mainland. Mold was definitely not something I had to deal with! Judging by the degree of desiccation of the wasps, it was hot and dry most of the time. And any bugs I found mixed up with the foodstuffs (how do those little tiny crawly things actually get into the spice jars? It’s a mystery to me!) were long dead. Thankfully.
Some questionable jars and cans I deposited in the garbage, others I have optimistically put back into circulation with the proviso that when I open them up I’ll decide what to do then…being the frugal Canadian that I am. The really good news is that, touch wood, so far, the fridges work, the freezer works, the air conditioner works, the heads work, and the washer and dryer work. Those are the things that make me happy!
Once the cupboards were wiped down and reorganized we were able to head out and do our first grocery run. Of course I didn’t mind waiting, because it meant that our breakfasts were at the marina coffee bar (yummy latte’s and muffins and fruit) and dinners were at one of the several restaurants here at the marina. Always a treat, as much as I love cooking. Who knew my favourite sushi restaurant would be steps away from our boat in the middle of Mexico?!?
The biggest surprise was finding six bottles of wine on board when I went to put away the bottles we had just bought. Wow…. We must have REALLY left in a hurry! So far they seem to have survived the long layover just fine.
One of the things that has made this whole thing easier is the fact that we have been down here long enough to usually know where to go to find things – the best place to get a starter battery, a Mexican SIM card, plumbing and other assorted bits. And if we don’t know we have the Club Cruceros list to help us out. Having our truck here has also been invaluable. Of course it got left behind in 2020 when our government urged us to get home as fast as we could, at which point we caught the second to last flight home out of Cabo. So the little red truck has been languishing at the marina office, bless them, and has provided transportation to a few boat friends along the way. We will (hopefully) drive her home when the time comes in the spring!
Ok sooooo the elephant in the room here. We have had numerous people ask us “who do you get to look after your boat when you aren’t there?” Our answer is… the marina staff are great, they wash the boat monthly, wax it twice a year, clean the hull and replace the zincs monthly and generally watch over it while we are gone.
Which elicits the incredulous “but who goes INTO your boat and starts the engines every other week and makes sure everything works?” Well… the answer to that is – no one. Our thought at the beginning of all this was we were more comfortable not having someone in the boat, opening things up, starting things up, closing things down. But it’s definitely a personal thing and what people are comfortable with. It takes a bit of a leap of faith on our part, but up until this past two years it wasn’t an issue, as we would leave in March or April and come back in October.
Definitely it’s been more worrisome while we waited for an opportunity to safely come down, and I did my fair share of asking the experts “what can go wrong and what can we do to make sure we don’t mess up?”. Obviously turning on the fuel line before you start the main comes to mind but aside from that! I think we have weathered this storm fairly well. (Heard a funny/ horror story recently about a boat in Paradise Village with an iguana locked in the pilot house – accidentally let in by someone checking out the boat? Not sure… but that would certainly come under the heading of “smells I don’t want to smell when I come back to the boat after a long absence!”
So really, opening up the boat after nineteen months has not been much different from the usual six months – a boat by its nature always finds ways to surprise us and not always in a good way. Whether it’s 20 years old or brand new, things happen. Nothing a good list, a sense of humour, and plenty of pesos can’t take care of. And of course a nice pool with an accommodating bartender at the end of a long day!
Poolside… our end of the long day happy place! ( not really a long day… we know how to relax!)