La Paz Ramblings

We’re in La Paz! The last time we were here was 6 years ago on our 30th wedding anniversary. We came down to check out the place and meet with some cruisers we’d met by following their blog. We had a wild and crazy time what with driving down arroyos to get to the beach and one-legged juggling clowns. We looked with longing upon Isla Espíritu Santo. Now here we are ready to do the islands in our own boat!

One of my favorite statues on the malecon.

When we pulled into La Paz a week ago our intention was to stay 3-4 days. We were finally in the Sea of Cortez and we didn’t want to waste no stinking time in town! We figured a few days would be enough time to provision, get propane, do laundry, do a couple of minor boat maintenance things like change the oil, and rest up before heading out to the islands.  What a joke. Does anyone actually stay only 3-4 days in La Paz?

Escorted by a friendly local dolphin, we found a place to anchor just across the channel from the entrance to Marina De La Paz. Cruisers who are anchored out can pull up to their dinghy dock and leave their dinghy, dump their trash, and take on water in jerry cans for 20 Pesos/day. It’s a great deal. By the way, here’s another update to your cruising guide: There is no fuel dock at Marina de La Paz anymore and there hasn’t been for several years. Likewise there is no guest dock where you can tie up for a few hours. There are three places to get diesel in La Paz and they all tack on a 12% surcharge just because they can. I guess it’s the price you pay to have the convenience of pulling up to a dock rather than lugging jerry cans from the Pemex station. Diesel is round about 4$/gallon here. Plus your surcharge for being on a boat.

Anyhoo,  we were just fine at anchor, even though the winds howled away every afternoon and the currents run ridiculously strong through the anchorage. I think our GPS registered 4 knots running under our keel at one point. Our Mantus anchor, which frankly deserves her own name she’s so great, holds us fast. We were on task to get our chores done and get out of La Paz.

But then… then Mike had wanted to equalize his batteries, so that meant we needed to be hooked up to a dock with electricity. After checking out the tight conditions in Marina de La Paz, we decided on Marina Cortez, right next door. They have nice wide fairways and slips that relieve my stress about getting in and out of the place, especially with the big winds and currents here. Plus, Lynn and Curt Brownlow on S/V Slow Motion were there and we thought it would be nice to know someone to hang with.  We pulled into Marina Cortez and thought we’d stay 3 days. But very quickly that turned into a week because the price was right. (In fact, it was considerably lower than the price the marina office wrote down on a slip of paper the day before when we were checking the place out. Why? I don’t know. ) So we were supposed to leave on March 12, but guess what’s coming on that day? Another good strong norther. Do we want to leave the marina and go anchor out in winds gusting to 25 knots? We do decidedly not. So now we’re staying until Wednesday. I’ll believe we are leaving the marina when we pull out of the slip. We’re kind of enjoying it right now.

WIDE slips and a straight shot into the slip. My favorite kind of marina.

Besides, we have lycra body suits to order. Yes, this is going to be fun. We’d read that there was a woman in La Paz who made ‘skin suits’ for people – basically lycra onesies for grownups- to protect them from sunburn and jelly fish stings during the heat of the summer. They are for swimming in the sea. We don’t like sunburn and would rather not be stung by jellyfish so this sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I’m not sure if I’d be seen in town wearing one of these outfits, but they sound dead comfortable. We’re going to go look at fabric on Monday.  I’m thinking something splashy and colorful that breaks up the field of vision a bit so I don’t look like a round smurf, or maybe a Weeble. Mike was going for basic black, but I think that’s too close to looking like a seal. Maybe grey and black, like a Great White shark? Or he could dress as a crayon, or maybe a tube of toothpaste.  I could talk myself out of this if I go on too long. But…jelly fish…ouch. I’m sure we’ll post the results of our quest, but don’t look for photos.

Can we talk about tipping? The kind that involves money? How does this work in Mexico? Today we found out, much to our chagrin, that the baggers in the grocery stores work only for tips. They don’t get paid any other way. What??? How would we have known that? We told some other cruisers and they didn’t know this either. Now we all feel terrible that we didn’t tip the bagger when we went to the store, and our friend now thinks he knows why the lady at the Chedraui was giving him the old stinkeye. Here’s the question I have though: how do the Mexican people tip? I want to tip like a Mexican. Not like a gringo. There is enough of a ‘gringo tax’ already in place without my adding to that. What about the guys who open the marina gate for me? Do I tip those guys? This seems like a culture that is set up to prevent you from doing your own work whenever possible, or at least make it easier to get someone else to do it for you,  because if you do your own work, then someone else can’t get paid for it. I get that, but I don’t know the boundaries and rules around that kind of way of doing things and I want to do it right. I want to do right by the folks who are giving me a service, and also do right by my fellow cruisers are are following in our wakes. Meanwhile I want to go back to the store and find the woman who bagged my groceries last time and tip her heftily with many apologies for being a stupid gringo.

Speaking of having people do things, I’ve never had our laundry done by anyone else until now. What I’ve been missing! Of course, it’s actually easier to have it done here than to do it yourself. See above paragraph. There are not that many laundromats. The laundromat in Marina de La Paz did not look great and when I went in to check it out there was a woman sitting around, appearing to be waiting to take people’s laundry off their hands. Am I going to go into that laundromat and do my own laundry right in front of her?  No I am not. I bet she has kids to feed.

Just look at that! Perfect.

At Marina Cortez you simply drop your laundry off at the office and a mysterious laundress comes and picks it up and returns it to you the following day,  expertly washed, pressed, and folded, all laid out beautifully in plastic bags to protect it. Honestly, I’ve never seen more beautiful laundry. I would have shaken that woman’s hand and congratulated her; the skill level was that good.  This was the Nordstrom of laundry. All of our daily worn clothing, rugs, sheets and towels were done for $27. If I lived here I would never do laundry again. I admire a job that well done.

We are addicted to the ice cream place down on the Malecon: La Fuente. We’ve been here in the marina for almost a week. In that time we’ve been to the ice cream place 3 times, and it wasn’t even my idea. I will take their Naranjita and Toasted Coconut any day and any time. Big chunks of roasted coconut in a creamy ice cream, and what amounts to a scoop of frozen freshly squeezed orange juice in a chunky cone. I don’t think you can even get stuff that good back home. But if you can, you are certainly going to pay more than 5$ for two cones.

I love how the Malecon is so well used in La Paz. There are always families out walking, young lovers grappling with each other, kids playing, people on roller blades…it’s the equivalent of the town square. Everyone here uses the Malecon with its beautiful statues and magnificent views of the bay. It’s a great place to go for a walk. Like maybe to La Fuente for ice cream.

Pretty nice view in the anchorage here.

La Paz has a thriving ‘cruising’ community, but many of the cruisers who live here have lived in the marinas for years. I don’t know how often they still go cruising, but I can see the draw to just move your boat here and be in the marina. Marina de La Paz has that Club Cruceros, a really nice little clubhouse with its large book and DVD library, coffee time in the mornings, card games, and the like. Marina Palmira has movie night in their gathering place by the pool. The cruiser’s net in the morning is informative and gets people connected with each other.  There’s a tight community waiting to welcome you. We can feel the draw, but we’ll be moving on. We have some cruising to do.

Today we met a young man who has a sailboat down at Foss Harbor Marina, our old stomping grounds. He’s planning to leave the dock next August and bring the boat down here with his girlfriend. They are here in La Paz checking out the place; on their reconnaissance trip like we were on 6 years ago.  Another Tacoma boat pulled in next to us in the marina yesterday. It’s such a small cruising world on this side of the country.

Tomorrow we’ll go to the fabric store and find our lycra for our swim suits. That will be fun. We have final provisioning to do as well. I finally found some La Croix for sale at the local big Chedraui. I wonder if they have restocked since we visited? Hmmm. Maybe another trip to that store. And definitely another couple of meals of delicious fish tacos.  Then it’s the wilds of the beautiful islands and we’ll be heading up to Puerto Escondido and Loreto. My sister and nephew are coming in the middle of April and we’re dead excited.

S/V Galapagos, out.

It’s possible the restaurants have something to do with our love of being in La Paz.




12 thoughts on “La Paz Ramblings

  1. This was such a fun post to read! It’s conjured up all sorts of random thoughts in my head:

    1 – I can’t wait to see what you name your anchor. Maybe you should have a contest of some sort for your FB/blog followers.

    2 – Can’t wait to see the picture of your new swim suits 🙂

    3 – One of the things I loved about New Zealand is no tipping. I hate trying to figure out who you’re supposed to tip and how much, let alone doing the math.

    4 – I want some ice cream, but without coconut. Lots of chocolate instead.

    • You’re going to be waiting a long time for a full body pose in that lycra suit. I have been thinking maybe a contest would be a fun way to name the anchor. But I’m not sure I have enough followers. Also, the chocolate ice cream here isn’t actually that good! I know!! How horrible. I tasted it and it’s kind of sickenly sweet milk chocolate, not dark and rich at all. Dark chocolate is not a ‘thing’ here. I skipped the chocolate and went for the citrus. Next time maybe orange and lime.

  2. Great to hear you’re in La Paz and enjoying yourselves. It’s a great hardworking, Mexican town without all the gringo glitz of Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo. I’m also pleased to hear you’ve found the laundry service so impressive…and to think before you cast-off, you didn’t think you’d be able to let a stranger do your laundry. Tipping like a local…hmmm. A rule of thumb we used for grocery baggers was ~5 pesos per bag, but you might want to ask around to see what the locals tip. We tend to keep to the habit of tipping at least 15% for meals. The fare is usually relatively inexpensive and the service is usually good. If you like grilled yellow-tail done to perfection for a very small price, you might like to try McFisher’s (a hole in the wall place) on Calle Jose Maria Morelos and Pavon. Enjoy the Sea!

    • Yeah, we cave the Cabos a miss because they just are not our scene. We do like La Paz. Now we have a quote of 5 pesos/bag and 1 peso/bag for the baggers. 1 seems pretty low. 5 seems good. We, too, tip 15-20% for restaurants, but less if the service is lousy. Thanks for the recommendation for McFisher’s. We may try to find it!

  3. I have been to Mexico many times but never La Paz. Now I cannot wait! Chedraui is an amazing grocery store, they carry awesome wines too. We too got the stink eye when we didn’t tip, we too didn’t know! The next time we tipped big. Sounds like you are having too much fun!

    Happy sailing!

    • Seems like they would put a sign up or something. Many of the gringos we’ve talked to had no idea that baggers here get paid nothing, since in the states they are regular employees of the store. Yes, we will tip big next time!

  4. So, if you want to tip like a Mexican…in our experience, this means: 10% at restaurants; loose change for the bagger (not more than 20 pesos); nothing for the cab driver. It’s been a weird adjustment for us, as we’re solid 20% tippers in the US. YMMV.

    Surprised we haven’t seen you at La Fuente…twice in the last two days!

  5. Wow, what a flashback this post caused. Good ol’ La Paz. Tipping: we finally got to the point where we tipped everyone. None of the service folks you deal with are making much money and tips can make a big difference to them. And, like the grocery baggers, there are lots of folks in Mexico who get no income except the tips. Check out some of the restaurants: many times we would see a really nice restaurant with lots more waitstaff than customers. Tips are the only way the owners can afford to have that many people hanging around waiting for customers. You’ll never be mistaken for a local so just forget what the locals and the other cruisers are doing and tip what makes you feel right. Lycra full-body suits: We also got them when we were there. I always felt like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger when I wore my blue/green suit. La Fuente: you’re on the same wavelength as me except that I complemented my toasted coconut scoop with a scoop of limon frozen yogurt (you put the lime in the coconut, you shake it all up…). Yum-ola! Have fun and so glad to hear you guys made it down to LP, one of our favorite places ever.

    • What? you’re still reading the blog? That’s dedication. Thanks for introducing us to cruiser life in La Paz all those years ago. Hope you guys are doing terrific and we’ll have some ice cream for you.

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