Bridgie's Babble - April 21, 2007

Warning...this is going to be a long babble!  (You may want to get yourself a refreshment)

We've arrived in  La Paz on March 26th. and are staying at a marina. Not just any marina.
 Costa Baja
Resort and  Marina.
The organization and it's employee's are all about Customer Service. Ron
Regenstreif, President of Regency Lighting, would be happy to know about this! He was always asking
for examples of good customer service and how it affected our lives. Well, here is one for ya, Ron! First
off, the pricing is very competitive for the slips. They offer free Internet AT  THE BOAT, have nice,
clean rest rooms and showers and have security gates and cameras on all the docks. They have free
outdoor movies on Tuesdays and a band plays on Thursday evenings. They  offer free, extensive shuttle
service to downtown La Paz and the outlying areas for the City Club shopping visits (U.S. Equivalent to
Costco). More than that, they have employees who pump out the holding tanks at your boat  (so you
don't have to move or be tempted to dump illegally). When you want to visit the office for some help,
they will send a cart or water taxi to pick you up. They have an agreement with the Fiesta Hotel, right
next door, so that the cruisers can use the pools and other amenities offered free of charge. They have a
wonderfully staffed office and fuel dock. They were able to help us fill out forms for Immigration,(thank
you Lupe) send our propane tanks for filling and receive faxes from the U.S. When we expressed a
concern about getting our provisioning back to the boat from an area not serviced by the shuttle,
Gilberto offered to take us on his day off! Can you imagine??? Each and every request was answered
with courtesy and friendliness. Also, they speak English WELL!  I'm sure there's more but you get the
idea. They will always get our business when we are in the area.

La Paz is a  lovely, small city. It's very old, quaint and clean. The people are very friendly and have a
laid back attitude..but not the lazy kind you might think of. We had great service everywhere we went.
The food is generally good and the prices very reasonable.

So, in a (big) nutshell, here are the highlights:

Sourdough blueberry pancakes with Sam and Suzie of Catch the Wind. We met them in Turtle Bay and
have been socializing on and off ever since. Not only was breakfast excellent, they shared some of their
sour dough starter with us. We have it on board but haven't used it yet. I think I'll make sourdough
bread with it. Yum..(if I do it correctly!)

Immigration: we were able to get our Visa's extended by applying for, and being accepted, for an FM3.
It whole process took 3 weeks, partly delayed due to the Easter Holidays, which ran from the
Wednesday before until the Tuesday after Easter. Many businesses close in observance for just under a
week. Beware of this if you're coming to Mexico...don't expect much by way of banking or other
services. Holy Days are a Big Deal!

The grocery stores, CCC, Soriano and Ley, are all well stocked and the prices very reasonable. Between
these 3 giants, I don't
think there is anything you couldn't find. Plus, they also have some products that are packaged better
than in the states, such as milk, tomato sauce and salsa' boxes instead of jars...very cool and easy
to store. No refrigeration required. And, check out the photo of the pineapple on our photo page.  It was
$1.10! That makes a lot of pina coladas and upside down cake. The produce has been excellent and a
great value.

Beth Leonard! That's correct! Those of you who knew me while we were preparing for our trip will
remember that I had a "bible" that I studied from daily..reading the pages over and over and over again
to be sure I didn't miss anything. I wanted to be sure I was prepared. Well, she and her partner, Evans
Starzinger, gave a slide show presentation of their circumnavigation  here in La Paz on April 6.  You
can't imagine how excited I was to finally meet the person who shaped my cruising dream! I was
especially thrilled when she autographed my copy of "The Voyager's Handbook"!

La Paz BayFest 2007 was held from April 13th through the 15th. This is a cruisers event which is
sponsored by Club Cruceros and offers a variety of games, seminars, food and fun. We participated in
the many events and attended some of the seminars including "Mexico Weather" and "Summer in the
Sea". With the "Mexico Weather" we were informed of what to expect as we head up through the sea.
"Summer in the Sea" had a panel of 5 couples who shared their previous experiences cruising the Sea
and offered hand-outs and advise on the areas and their services..or lack of them. Which leads into this

There are no banks or ATM machines available north of Santa Rosalia. Since we will be spending most
of our time from there north to Bahia Los Angeles, it was advised that we have on board a sufficient
amount of money to support us during those 5 months. This required some planning on our part, as our
U.S. Bank limits the amount of money that can be withdrawn per day with the ATM card. Furthermore,
we were planning to leave on our 5-6 week "exploratory" cruise, return for a week to visit with Ray and
then head out of La Paz for the summer. We had to be sure we hit up an ATM machine on several
occasions before leaving so we could be prepared. So, one day while waiting for the Marina Costa Baja
shuttle, we decided to use the local ATM machine. John inserted the card, it was "swallowed" and a
notice flashed on the screen (in Spanish, of course) that we "would have to contact our bank" wasn't
giving us the card back! Now this is the test of your heart's strength as it beats rapidly and you ponder
what could have happened! We went into La Paz and paid a visit to the bank affiliated with the ATM
machine. After waiting 45 minutes in line we were informed that the banks in Mexico have a contract
with an independent company and are not responsible for the ATM machines. She gave us 2 phone
numbers to call for this "contract" company. Meanwhile, I called our U.S bank and was directed to the
fraud department. They had put a hold on all of our cards until they could verify that the previous
charges in Mexico were legit. many times had I called/visited the bank to be sure our file
was noted???? "Yes, it is noted in your file" says the person at the bank. "However, once the fraud dept.
is advised of questionable charges, they ignore the notes and insist on direct communication with the
customer that the notes are valid". Nice! They immediately released the hold. The ATM machine still
had our card, though!!! Yes, we have alternate cards but it was fear of the unknown..what happens to
the one "stuck" inside the machine? We've heard so much about theft, etc...
We returned to the marina and I called the Customer Service Dept. to see if they could help. Yes, this
had occurred with other customer before...solution...well, just wait at the ATM machine for the
armoured car and plead your case...WHAT?? Wait for the guys with the GUNS? It didn't sound right
but this is Mexico. I tried calling the phone numbers given to us by the girl at the bank. Either they
weren't correct or I had forgotten how to use a phone...Finally, I enlisted the help of Sandra, a service
person with Marina Costa Baja Member Services. She tried the phone numbers with no success. She
called the original bank, who gave her the name of the ATM Service Co. and was told she could find
their phone numbers in the phone book. She tried all 6 numbers without luck..all had been disconnected.
She called the bank back and explained. They presented another list to try. Yup, one of them worked.
She then spoke with the manager of the company. He told her that the ATM at Marina Costa Baja is
serviced on Thursdays from 9 AM to 5 PM. His suggestion was to have someone wait at the machine
for the guys with the GUNS and plead our case to get the card back. Well, this was Monday so we
would have to wait. Meanwhile, Sandra spoke with the guards under the employ of Marina Costa Baja
to see if any had ever noticed an approximate time for the visit from the Armored Car Service. A
conscientious determined that between 12 PM and 2 PM. was recalled as the general pick up time.
Good! So, we will go to the machine at 11 AM and wait. John and I can take shifts....
Thursday morning at 10:30 AM we receive a call on the VHF radio from Sandra. The Guys with Guns
have arrived (early) and we should hurry to intercept them. She will meet us there. We run as fast as we
can (which is why we would have failed at Amazing Race!). Sandra has already spoken to the men, who
advise that we will have to wait for a "supervisor". Within a half hour, the man arrives. Sandra explains
the situation, in a kind but firm manner. She listens intently as the gentleman explains that he is
responsible to his company for anything that is missing from his route, including cards. He also explains
that banking is an international thing, not to be taken lightly, as there are many countries with different
sets of rules. Finally, after a half hour of discussion, he agrees to return our card and opens the machine.
He firmly remarks that Sandra should never again ask him to take this action for any others. She agrees.
We offer the gentleman a "tip", which he refuses. Success! Thank you, Sandra!

Here is what we learned:

Avoid using ATM machines that actually retain your card while processing the transaction. Instead, seek
out those that only require a "swipe" or a quick "in and out" read. They are far a few between but sure
beat losing your card and trying to recover it. In our case, besides the issue of not knowing what
happens to the card, having a new one issued would have been a problem. First off, it would have been
mailed to our the U.S. Then it would have had to be activated using our home phone...which
we no longer have. Even if we could have had it forwarded to Mexico and been able to activate, it takes
months to get mail here. That would have severly delayed our departure north. And, we need to go  
north before hurricanes threaten........

Continued on next page...............>>>
Bocci Ball is taken seriously during
Bay Fest!
Tony and Shannon of s/v Sweetie
were among  the competetors..
John shares his knowledge of knot tying
with other participants at BayFest.
...and he drew quite the