What’s It Like To Live Aboard A Boat?

One sailor’s story


The author and his crew onboard their 32 footer

I’m Vic with wife Linda aboard Sailing Vessel “Just Dandy” (JD) spending the winter enjoying the weather, working on our boat, and exploring the Sea of Cortez.

JD is a 1988 Ericson 32 foot sailboat, rated to sleep six but two is comfortable. She has a galley with a stove and small oven, refrigerator, a toilet with sink and shower. There is a TV and DVD player in the salon and many books in the rails. She has a VHF receiver and transmitter and an AM-FM radio, GPS, radar, auto pilot and a windlass for pulling up the anchor.

We belong to a sailing club based in La Paz called Club Cruceros. There are about 500 of us. $10 a year for dues and boat ownership is not required. We watch out for each other as much as possible. The website is at www.clubcruceros.net and is very extensive.

Most of us marineros live on board during the winter and many of us spend a lot of time in La Paz Bay either at anchor or tied up in a marina. We like hosting family and friends and often sail to Espirito Santo island to spend a few nights at anchor in a secluded bay. We love swimming with the whale sharks and snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and even just enjoying the sunsets over a glass of wine with BBQ steak or fresh caught fish.

We also need to work maintaining or upgrading our boats because of the corrosive marine environment. We choose to have JD pulled out of the water and stored on land, or “on the hard” as a sailor would say, during the summer season. In the fall, when we return, we usually have the boat checked out thoroughly, the hull cleaned and painted below the waterline and then launched. There are a number of boatyards in La Paz with very qualified people. It costs about $300 dollars to have JD pulled out and returned to the sea. We also pay about $300 dollars a month for the time JD spends on the hard.

Launching from Bercovich Boat Works in October, we sailed JD to Marina Palmira where we rented a slip for about $650 dollars per month. There are 186 slips, a heated swimming pool, a cruisers lounge which has fast internet connections, rest rooms with showers, laundry room with washers and dryers, a small store, a shuttle service, a hotel, restaurant and bar. A supply store, a marine mechanic shop, secured vehicle parking spaces, a flower shop and an outlet to obtain fishing licenses and other permits are also included.  Some of us exchange what we call boat-cards which have the name of our vessel and our contact information.

The other choice is to anchor out in La Paz Bay. This requires a dinghy to get to and from shore, hauling water and supplies. There is a small fee to anchor in the bay and the fee is about a dollar a day to tie up a dinghy and get water at Marina de La Paz. Boats at anchor in the Bay do what’s called “the La Paz waltz” since the currents move them all in one direction and the wind will move them in another direction looking like a waltz in slow motion. Anchors need to be reset often in these conditions to insure they haven’t pulled loose.

We love the Mexican people and their “mi casa es su casa” attitude and try to be good ambassadors representing our respective homelands. We enjoy the mild spring like winter weather and exploring the numerous fishing villages and deserted bays in the Sea of Cortez.

If you would like to get a closer look at our boating community we suggest you come to La Paz and spend a little time. You can get here from Cabo or San Jose by renting a car or catching the BajaEcoTours bus from Cabo Airport to the malecon in La Paz for $45 dollars one way. Rooms on or near the malecon are inexpensive, in the $70 dollar a night range. Come to the Dock Café adjacent to Marina de La Paz, which is adjacent to Club Cruceros clubhouse and patio. Take a window seat in the Dock Café and watch the sailors in their dinghies coming and going to their boats anchored in the Bay while you have breakfast. Look down at the wooden floor; the old floorboards have warped and shrunk so much you can see the sea through them. Look at the boats for sale in the window of the Yachts office just across the lot.

Every Saturday and weekday morning at 8 AM you can listen to the Club Cruceros net broadcast from the VHF radio installed on the outside of the clubhouse wall on the patio. Turn the radio to channel 22 if someone hasn’t already done so to listen to the 8 AM net. You can also transmit any question to the listening fleet. Radio protocol procedures are posted next to the microphone. You can expect an immediate answer from someone to almost any question. As an example recently, a lady was asking where she might find SodaStream carbonator cartridges.

At 9.30 coffee will be served for ten pesos a cup on the clubhouse patio. Grab a cookie and take a seat at one of the tables and chit chat with the people there. You will find many from the US and Canada but also a few from Europe and other countries.

Check out the notices on the bulletin board where sailors are looking for crew or crew looking for boats. You might find a skipper willing to give you a couple lessons before you sail to Mazatlán, San Carlos, Puerto Vallarta or other places if you want to crew. It is not uncommon for people to catch a sailboat ride to the Mexican mainland by helping the skipper make the trip. Duties working as a crewmember are usually spelled out in some detail and include standing watch, along with other chores like cooking and cleaning. Most boats are equipped with autopilots so standing watch may only consist of making sure the heading is maintained, the wind direction hasn’t changed and there are no hazards. In a couple days and nights you could be exploring Mazatlán and later return to La Paz via the big commercial ferry.

We plan on sailing Just Dandy north soon to Puerto Escondido, which is just south of Loreto, and doing some exploring in that area. John Steinbeck in The Log from the Sea of Cortez visited some of the bays we will be stopping at and we are looking forward to comparing his 1940 descriptions to what we see today.

Please accept our best wishes from Just Dandy and the fleet, may you have fair winds and following seas during your travels.