The town of La Paz (translated as The Peace) is, for cruisers like us, just SO easy. Perhaps that is why the majority of live-aboards we met had the same story, “I stopped for a week twelve years ago, and never left.” We, on the other hand, stopped for a week and stayed for six. Not quite 12 years, but we understand why it’s an easy place to get stuck. Just to orient you, La Paz is a medium-sized city (largest in Baja California Sur) on the Sea of Cortez with a bustling downtown and a picturesque malecon (beachfront boardwalk) lined with tourist bars and restaurants. Epic fish tacos are a buck a piece, there is live salsa music echoing off the water on the weekends, and although it is touristy and full of gringos it is still completely Mexican (nothing like Cabo). There is a long skinny bay squeezed between the malecon and a mangrove peninsula that boats can anchor in for free and for as long as they want. It is obvious that many of the boats on anchor have not moved for a very, very long time. You can dinghy ashore anywhere along the malecon beach, but most choose to land their dinghies at the secure Marina de La Paz docks. This marina is referred to as “the embassy.” It’s the cruiser hangout. They have potable water at the dinghy dock, trash and oil drop off, slow internet to poach, coin laundry facilities, cheap ice and hot showers, and a bar/restaurant where you can always find a fellow cruiser to have a sunset beer with. They have a sign that asks you to pay a buck a day to use the docks, but no one does and it’s not enforced. We were happy to pay however on days that we used a lot of their amenities. So it’s basically living for free out in a beautiful anchorage with all the conveniences of a marina. So sweet.
La Paz also has a large and very social cruising community that revolves around a “yacht club” called Club Cruseros, which is also based at Marina de La Paz. As soon as we stepped onto the dock and said hi to the first person we saw we were given a complete introduction to the place. Everyone is super friendly and helpful, and even though there are boaters of all ages most people are older and the nautical neighborhood has a feel of a retirement community. Everyday at 8am there is a public net on VHF channel 22 with the local weather, announcements of events and free activities such as daily yoga, line dancing, card games, and potlucks, mail runs in the US, new boat arrivals and departures, trades and swaps, etc. This is also a time when you can ask “where’s the cheapest place to buy shade cloth?”, “does anyone want to sell me a used jerry can?”, “anyone know a good dermatologist?”, really anything you want to know. Then from 9am-11am every morning they have coffee at the clubhouse and that’s when you can count on running into friends, ask for advice on a repair, and get tons of unsolicited information about cruising the Sea of Cortez from the old-timers. We joined the yacht club by paying our $10/year fee and then we could check out movies from their huge selection and use their book swap. I even took advantage of the daily yoga classes. It was pretty dang convenient. The boat to boat calling channel was 22 as well so it was monitored by all the cruisers and some landlubbers. You could get a hold of any boat (like Resolute) by just staying, “Resolute, Resolute, Orion” and then switch to another station to have a conversation once they respond. I could also walk around town with a handheld radio and call Jonah back on the boat when I needed a ride home. Orion, Orion, Orion mobile. Not bad for being phoneless. All day long you hear boats calling and being called. We may have eavesdropped on a call or two… and random people piped in on our conversations all the time. This radio chatter lead to may discussions on the importance of boat names. You need something respectable, not too common or too long, that is easy to understand over the radio. There were some funny ones that would certainly have to be repeated when calling the Port Captain… like Flibbertygibbit. It was interesting how similar names flocked together. LunaSea, LunaSea, Gone Nuts.
Probably the best part of our stay in La Paz was that we made lots of friends! Previously we had met a few boats along the way but without having much more than a day together before one or the other moved on it was difficult to form more than acquaintances. Here we really started being part a community of cruisers from all walks of life and we actually had the chance to get to know each other. The boats that are heading to northern sea for the summer tended to have aboard some of the younger and more adventuresome people that we met. We are all the insane ones not scared off by the crazy heat and hurricane threats of the summer and don’t have the money to spend the season back in the US. We made friends with seven or so other boats who are all headed in roughly the same direction as us and are excited to spend more time together and support each other along our travels. This camaraderie could not have come at a better time. At this point Jonah and I were having such a rough time getting along. It’s hard being someone’s everything, and before we made it to La Paz we hadn’t spent more than a couple hours apart in over three months. That is TOO much one on one time! Jonah did the best thing possible and went on a surf/camping trip with our friend Frans. I have to say there is nothing like some well-needed personal space! Hanging with new friends, each of us taking time for ourselves, and getting off the boat a lot to walk and ride the bike around town got us back on track and better than ever. Phew.
La Paz is known for being the cheapest and easiest place to provision in Baja. From what we’ve been told it gets pretty difficult to provision as we head north either because all that are available are tiny tiendas in small villages with old produce and some sundries. There are some towns that have larger supermercados but most of them don’t have anchorages. So we did what most people do in La Paz and that is to buy a stupid amount of food to last us the next 3 months. One day our friends from the boat Resolute rented a car and together we did our best to jam pack every inch of that thing on a trip to Walmart. Yes they have Walmart here and it’s way better than in the states. They have the freshest and cheapest produce we’ve seen. We barely made it into the car ourselves, but we are stocked and ready for the apocalypse.