The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

100 Days to La Paz: Lessons Learned

Sarah Beukema and Werner Kurz

Lavranos 50
March 14th, 2024

We recently completed the first 100 days of our trip of a lifetime. While sitting at a dock in La Paz, Mexico, we started to reflect on our time so far, especially about what we learned that might help others. None of our lessons are new, but they are worth reiterating.

As background, we left Victoria on September 30, 2023, with five crew members: two experienced crew members (Werner and Ryan) and three others (Sarah, daughter Alexandra [19], and Liam [21]). The plan? Sail non-stop to San Francisco, then directly to San Diego to install a water-maker. Then move to Ensenada, and head south to Cabo and La Paz at the end of October. There, we would have lots of time in bathing suits and shorts until mid-March. Note the details in this paragraph: we will come back to them.

Lesson 1: Experienced crew are gold.

Ready for 45 knots of wind, with only the trysail and storm jib.

Having experienced people on board made everything easier and better for those of us with no offshore experience. From little things, like advice and sympathy about learning to sleep or to cook on a moving boat, to big things like feeling safe in severe weather. As two examples: The second night after leaving Neah Bay, we had rain, 30 knots on the nose, and 3m waves from a variety of directions. The autopilot was straining, so we were hand steering. We were all huddled in the cockpit, soaking wet, listening to the noise, trying not to be sick. The experienced crew were calm, competent, and reassuring, and the next morning none of us was desperate to get off the boat. The next night, at dusk, the main sheet block broke! Again, Werner and Ryan were able to deal with it calmly and efficiently, while the rest of us just said “thank goodness we weren’t alone here”. Because of the jury-rigged fix and the forecasted wind conditions for the next night, we put up our trysail and storm jib, which set us up nicely for the night of up to 45 knots of wind and 4m following seas. This was our first experience in such conditions with this boat, and we were very happy with her performance. We have all learned a lot since those first few days, but still continue to be thankful to have had the experienced crew.

Lesson 2: Wind predictions are uncertain.

One PredictWind Forecast.

I am sure everyone knows this, but it is different to actually experience it. Before we left, we took two BCA weather courses (the weekend one and the Fleet one), a Predict Wind seminar and signed up for a PredictWind subscription. But, once underway, we quickly learned that weather changes, predictions are not always what we get, and preparations should be made for errors in both directions, even if multiple models agree. We left Neah Bay with much better than predicted conditions, but had an unpredicted 30 knots on the nose in the second night. Later in the trip, we also had days with significantly less wind than predicted. So, we learned to prepare for both. We put up less sail at night; we learned about the harbours we were heading for in case we had to enter after dark; and we planned easy meals. That being said, the predictions were better than not having them at all, and we were happy with our preparations.

Lesson 3: Plans change. Go with it.

Another beautiful day in Morro Bay.

Remember our grand plan? It changed. Immediately. We left nearly two weeks late (the planned departure date was September 20). When we got to San Francisco, the crew decided they were not ready for another long sail. So we day-sailed to the next port (Morro Bay), which we fell in love with and stayed in for nine days doing repairs, maintenance, and installing Starlink. That led to another day hop and ultimately to a decision to spend time in California instead of rushing to Mexico. Along the way there were various other delays for weather, repairs, a crew member needing to leave for a few days, a desire to do one more tourist thing for the teenagers, etc. With everything combined, we got to La Paz about two months later than planned. But we had a wonderful trip getting here and saw and did so many things that we would not have done otherwise.

Lesson 4: Things will need to be replaced, planned or not.

Tackling the To-Do List.

Like everyone else, we left Victoria without finishing our To-Do list. We had always planned to install our water maker in San Diego, and we had a list of things to tackle along the way. But things go wrong. Since we left, we have done the expected: installed the water maker and StarLink; serviced the engine’s fuel injectors; tightened engine bolts; changed a few chaffed lines, etc. We had always worried about the 33-year-old refrigeration compressor, and that is finally getting replaced as I write this. Unexpected repairs include both heads, replacing missing screws in our newly rebuilt jib furler foil, replacing the main sheet block, welding a pinhole in a leaking coolant reservoir, and many smaller issues. Some supplies we had, some we could buy, and some we had to buy in Canada and have someone bring them down to us (luckily, we have had two chances to do this). The main messages here are that things will break, and they will cause changes in plans, and the more parts and replacements you can carry, the better off you are.

Lesson 5: Expensive.

Fresh Fish for Dinner!

Everyone has always said how cheap everything is as soon as you head south. We have learned otherwise. Yes, we did stay in marinas frequently, both to make it easier for our maintenance and – with five people – to make it easier to have showers and to explore. That was a planned expense. In the US, we found that groceries were generally much more than at supermarkets in Victoria – often the same or more in US $ as we pay in Canadian $. The same was true for most restaurant meals. Even in Mexico, groceries are not cheap, and most other prices have gone up, including restaurant meals. Sailors that have been here for a few years have talked about prices (even at street taco stands) having gone up by 100-200%. Mexican marinas cost more than the US and Canadian counterparts, and wages for experienced mechanics (such as engine repairs and the compressor work) can be at least as much as Canadian prices. And anything affected by the fall hurricanes has increased in price even more. Anchoring is still cheap, but more and more places with dinghy docks or in communities or parks are charging fees. We did find some cheaper options, like having work done in Ensenada, buying fish directly from boats, and taking time to look for good, affordable places to eat. The main message is to go and enjoy, but do not assume that you will live a lot more cheaply than in Canada.


Dolphins on our bow.

Despite some negative lessons, we have had a fantastic trip so far. We have stayed in and seen interesting places, had dolphins on our bow wave too many times to remember, seen a variety of wildlife, had totally amazing weather (e.g.: only 3 days with rain since leaving Neah Bay), and more beautiful sunsets and starry nights than I could ever have imagined. And our five-day, 700-mile sail from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas was one of the greatest downwind rides both experienced crew members have ever enjoyed. We all have learned a lot and there is little that we would have changed.

Sunrise entering Mexico.


  1. Mark Oliver says:

    Excellent article! I love it reading honest accounts of the ‘real’ side of cruising and lessons learned. I’m confident that you’ll LOVE the South Pacific.

    We spent two years with our family in the South Pacific in 2015-2016 on our Amel Super Maramu and loved every minute of it….. even the ‘challenging’ parts. You’ve got an great boat for your journey and she knows the route already. We looked very seriously at her in 2012 before we left!
    Cheers, Mark (&MC, Matthew & Meghan) ex-SV Amelie IV

  2. Devin says:

    Great article guys – glad you’re having such a great time! Looking forwards to hopefully following in your footsteps this fall!

  3. Al Kitchen says:

    Love the article guys! Fabulous blend of the joys and challenges of offshore adventures. And you’ve only just begun. I’m looking forward to the next article. Cheers – Al

  4. Werner Kurz says:

    Thanks for publishing this article. For the record, Sarah is the one who wrote it, and credit should go to her only.

    Thanks to BCA for helping us transition from dreamers to doers. The Fleet training was very helpful in our preparations.


  5. Jerry says:

    Great article! So glad to see you living the life you’ve dreamed about, and spent so many years preparing for.

  6. Irma says:

    Excellent article Sarah. All so so true! Wishing you, Werner and crews fair winds to the South Pacific.

    SV Malaya

  7. Glen middleton says:

    Yes, great read. You mentioned being at a dock in La Paz, any challenges securing a spot there -Have reached out to to several marinas but no joy. Are you spending the summer there?

    1. Werner Kurz says:

      Hi Glen, thanks for your comment. We were twice able to spend time in Marina Cortez. Marina space in La Paz is limited since the hurricane in Oct 2023. This has also driven up rates considerably. We really enjoyed Marina Cortez with excellent service and proximity to local restaurants. Another option is to anchor, but I would not leave the boat unattended for more than a day or two because of the tidal currents.

      And no, we are not spending the summer in Mexico. As I am writing this we are about 200 miles north east of Nuku Hiva, looking forward to spending time in the South Pacific.

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