Mexico 2011

About to Leave for Hawaii

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez19 April 2011 | La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

We are on the cusp of a change in our cruising: today we "checked out" with three or four different government offices (depending upon how you count). Yesterday we had done the Office of Health Inspections, to arrange health inspector visit, and then State Treasurer's office, to pay. (Why does Mexico care whether we are healthy if we're leaving the country?) Today, health inspector at the boat, then Port Captain (where we were told we should only go there last, after everything else). Then the Port Office to pay a nominal port fee, then Immigration to surrender our visas, then back to the Port Captain to get the Zarpe (permission for the boat to leave the country). These offices are all miles from each other. We engaged a taxi for the entire three hours it took to do the paperwork shuffle. Tomorrow we push off for Hilo, Hawaii, correct papers in hand, looking forward to the welcoming leis and umbrella drinks. We'll stop a few times as we travel the east side of Baja California, but once we're at the bottom of Baja, it's due west for us.

La Paz doorwayWe've had an interesting week in La Paz. Every day (so it seems) we were out looking for groceries or boat repair items, and every day we were on the phone trying to find out all the details of leaving Mexico and arriving in Hawaii. We found out that in Hawaii they take away virtually all your remaining fresh food on arrival. So we had to buy enough to last us the anticipated 18 - 21 days, but not so much we'll end up throwing a lot away. And of course the voyage could take a lot longer if the weather isn't cooperative. Of most concern is that there might be no wind, and we'd bob around for days in the North Pacific garbage gyre. We do carry quite a lot of fuel - maybe enough for four days of motoring - but you always have to have enough to carry you out of emergencies. So mostly, we'll be relying on the wind.

One of the grocery items I wanted to find was bulgar wheat or whole grain wheat (for tabouli salad, and as a nutty addition to home made bread). Not in grocery stores. No such item. We asked and we asked, and nobody had any idea where you could get such a thing. Finally I happened to ask a vegetable vendor in the public market. He said I should go over to the next block and look for the semillera (seed store). I found it, and what a great store: Big bins of every kind of grain (except wheat), tubs of spices, dogfood, birdseed, dried chile peppers. We bought some sesame seeds, some paprika, whole black peppers and a few other items. But no wheat. They told me they didn't expect more, it was very hard to get. But there is another semillera in a distant part of the city... I got directions, headed there the next day, and asked for a half kilo of whole grain wheat. The man said I should get a kilo because it's getting so hard to get, and anyway it doesn't cost much. One kilo of wheat: 7 pesos (about 65 cents).

The Hawaii customs official told us that our garbage (when we arrive in Hawaii) is supposed to be in 4 mil garbage bags. So off we went to Home Depot (on the other side of town, in 95 degree heat), thinking that would be the place to get heavy duty bags. Not so. No such thing. Not WalMart. Not any grocery store. Finally, back on the docks, we asked one of the maintenance guys where they get their heavy bags for the dock's garbage cans. Answer: the candy store! (Huh?) Where is it? Next to the semillera! (But of course the garbage bag inquiries were a different day than the wheat inquiries.)

I was thinking about coloring eggs for Easter next Sunday, when we'll be on the high seas. Logically (so it seemed to me) I looked in the spice section in one of the biggest grocery stores. No such item. Finally, we asked the chef in the restaurant at the head of our dock. Oh, he said, you get food coloring at the semillera. Of course I didn't begin these inquiries until after the first two trips to the neighborhood of the semillera. As it is, I think I'll forego the food coloring, and try some natural colors instead: maybe saffron, Jamaica blossoms, dried blueberries?

Last Friday we decided to check out a performance of the music school orchestra. We walked up to the concert hall at the music school, and were told it was sold out. But wait a minute, maybe someone will have an extra ticket. Within 2 or 3 minutes it was so: two different women offered us two individual tickets - as it turned out they were one row apart, one right behind the other. The orchestra, supplemented by musicians from the La Paz Symphony, was (as you might expect) of mixed quality. There were three mostly elderly ex-pat non- Mexicans in the viola section, one in the first violins, and one in the French horns. The students ranged from quite young (perhaps 9 years old?) to young adults. The conductor was clear and enthusiastic. The audience was ecstatic (mostly parents, I think). The hall, only a year old, is quite fabulous, visually and acoustically. One parent enthusiastically told us that the hall has the "best acoustics in Latin America," courtesy of some German acoustic engineers. They have really nice percussion equipment and a full complement of Wenger musicians' chairs. The parent we were talking to proudly told us that the hall was built through the efforts of the parents' group, with hefty contributions from the state and federal governments.

Today we greeted Jamie Simpson, our crew for the crossing to Hawaii. Jamie flew here from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he just finished a job as a forester, with an environmental advocacy group. Next fall he starts law school, but is looking for adventures in the meantime. Hopefully we can provide some (small ones, anyway).

I'll try to make a trip report at least every few days during our passage. Hopefully we don't have anything TOO exciting to report.