Anchoring in La Paz - Seizing the Cruising Lifestyle
Welcome to Magotia! (mă·gō’·shă)
Magotia is a peaceful place. We have no standing army, no legislative or executive branch, no public works and not a single written law. The borders of Magotia are still in dispute, but it is highly unlikely that any military action (or even any action at all) will be taken over the matter. There isn’t a single permanent resident of Magotia, although once you have spent some time here, your citizenship travels with you forever.
There are two unwritten laws in Magotia and one hard fact; 1) Thou shall not mess with another man’s boat. 2) Thou shall keep an eye on the other man’s boat to make sure no one or nothing messes with it. You MUST reside on a boat to live in Magotia.
You see, Magotia is a watery barrio of the city of La Paz. A place where those not in need of the conveniences of dock cruising take anchor. Located less a kilometer away from the luxuries of a marina, it is a world apart and a few days here will take you back to when cruising the Sea of Cortez was a much ‘wilder’ adventure. Our southern border is roughly defined by the sandbar which divides the La Paz anchorage. The eastern and western borders are limited only by the depth and shelter of the anchorage. The northern frontier is the only hard line in the sand, the magote peninsula itself.
The Magote is a spit of land that extends westward and encloses the Ensenada de La Paz from the rest of the Bay of La Paz. Nothing more than a sandbar, if you were to venture from the land side, it’s about 22 miles back to La Paz. It would appear that at sometime in the recent past "Mayans" (see story) had tried to create an unfortunate and ill-conceived residential neighborhood there, calling it Paradise of the Sea. The uncompleted structures still can be seen rising above the mangroves.
In a dingy, a jaunt into town is less than 5 minutes back to the dingy dock. For centuries the anchorage has provided shelter from the north winds in the winter and the heat of the land in the summer for sailors of many nations. An artist accompanying the US Fleet which occupied La Paz in 1847 during the Mexican American war, painted an image of La Paz from the security of the Magote anchorage. Certainly pirates who braved the channel anchored here as well. Today, it is the most likely place to find the remaining descendants of the pirate species.
Before we expound on the wonders of Magotia, we do have a few downsides to our little piece of heaven. Unfortunately, we do have taxes. Anchoring in the Ensenada isn’t free, there is a $0.90 per day fee due to API (the port facilities authority) and once a month the port captain comes around for a census. We do have a crime to, from time
to time we have an unattended boat break-in, but that is where the closeness of the neighborhood comes in. Our most potent weapon on crime is a simple flash camera. Without ‘public works’ carting groceries and water back home is a common task and every once and a while one of our resident boats becomes a ‘mobile home’ when an anchor comes loose in the dramatic tides of La Paz.
We have disease too, common to all Magotians; “Magote Butt”. Magote Butt isn’t fatal, and rarely dangerous, but is the direct result of a dingy ride to or from ‘reality’ in rough weather. In the winter, during norther's, it is almost unavoidable and a good bit 'frio".
The capital of Magotia has changed many times over the years, and sometimes disappears all together. For the last couple of years the capital has been the 80’ schooner Vltava. The largest vessel currently collecting barnacles in the anchorage is the place where the ruling class of Magotia gathers in the morning to share coffee, discuss the future of the barrio and share local news (gossip). Potlucks, chart briefings hand holiday parties are hosted there as well. Sunsets are well observed from the decks of the capital. You won’t find the capital marked with any stars on a map, you just have to look for the tallest masts and the largest hull and steer for that. The unofficial ‘queen’ of Magotia is Allison, owner of Vltava, but since we have no legislative or governing actions, it is an empty title.
Here things are done for the joy of doing, it is not about the acclaim or the fortune, you have time to step back and breath - smell the roses if you will. One beach artist has collected shells, bones and other beach refuse to create art solely for art's sake.
The Magotian community is can be a pretty tightly knit group too. In the months I have enjoyed my residence we have shared adventures in life, death, marriage, divorce, cancer and heartbreak. All Magotians share a desire for the seclusion and freedom our lifestyle brings yet find room to share their existence with those others deemed worthy.
The beach of the Magote is attached to the rest of the world, but inaccessible by standard modes of travel and the borders are guarded by mangrove. The beach welcomes all, even non-residents as our immigration regulation is non-existent. Pangas filled with ‘immigrants’, La Paz locals, occasionally party on the beach or stop to clean the days catch. Trailer park dwellers (marina residents) sometimes invade and enjoy the freedom of our little world for a bonfire or beach BBQ, and we welcome the diversion they bring. Since Magotia is located a click away from downtown La Paz it is a tranquil place, virtually immune to the noise of the bars, nightclubs and regular festive activities of the malecon.
The beach is a very dog friendly place, in an increasingly dog unfriendly world. 4PM “Yappy Hour” is an evening social event for K9’s and their two legged companions. Summer months can find folks taking an evening swim to escape the heat. You need to be careful of the tide swings though, which moves much faster than you can swim. In fact, a unique adventure of Magotia I have yet to try is to don snorkel and fins and take an express ride with the tide as it sweeps and rolls across the dunes on the bottom of the sea. Sunsets are almost always something to be celebrated.
Earlier this month an uncharted Sea Turtle nest erupted in the early morning light with a plethora of tiny turtles, scampering for the Sea.
Dolphin regularly patrol our waters, particularly on the quarter moons when the tide is less profound. They seem to enjoy hunting ‘fish in a barrel’ as the bait fish collect in the summer shadows of the anchored vessels. They can be seen vaulting from the water, taunting the pelicans and driving the dogs nutz. I have enjoyed a swim with them in the wild here, with a small yet very friendly pod.
Magotia isn't as isolated as it once was, wireless internet, cell phones and 3G internet connection have brought communications with the outside world beyond the reach of a marine VHF radio. The Baja Insider Update has been published from this location for nearly the last 7 months. I did choose to seek the protection of a marina when the hurricane season brought it's threats, but many chose to weather the storm here.
Magotian citizenship can be easily obtained, you just need to drop your hook here for a few changes of the tide. It is revocable however, I nearly lost mine for waxing my boat at anchor. So if you are in our special little place in the world, stop by. It is a different place, pace and time.