30 March 2011 | El Cid Marina
David - cool & foggy
Arrive El Cid Marina 1:00 pm March 30, 2011. Tied up in slip B21B behind another sailboat. This huge slip is normally used by some monster power yacht, but here we are.
Who’s still here?? We left here almost 3 years ago after spending at least a couple months in this marina. Phil and Jana of “Sea Mint”. Still here but moved to the north side of the waterway. Evelyn and Harry or “Maryah”. I think maybe their boat is bolted to the dock ???? Captain George and Jackie, although they are now living on the powerboat “Shamrock”. Bob of Total Yacht Works, right across the dock on his boat (I’ll leave the name out for his privacy). Dave and Mary Ann of “Star Dancer” don’t seem to have even moved from dock A. And maybe a few others. Otis and Marlene (right?) from Namu IV and Ralph and Johanna from Ensueno, both SSC members from home, are still in Marina Mazatlan (although Ensueno is home for a wedding at the moment, we saw them for one afternoon before they left). Rick from Cape Star / Mazatlan Marine Services is still over there, too, as well as Chuck of “Saber Vivir”, Mike of “Tortue” (Mexicolder), Mike & Marilyn of “Lady Hawke” (but they’re leaving “for good”) and a host of others I don’t know very well. Kim and Linda of “Endeavor”, who put us on to this painting thing, have moved here from La Paz, where I spoke with him about it.
This just shows how we boaters come to Mexico, find a place we like to “home base”, and don’t usually move – other than Winter down south or Spring in the Sea.
Anyway, David started the next day with a complete washing of the boat. La Paz was awfully dusty. Whatever direction the wind comes it brings dust, whether from town or from the Magote. La Cruz is still dusty, but not as bad. El Cid is basically in the middle of a resort – with grass around, so it’s pretty good. With the right wind (or the wrong wind), you can till get dust from the sand pile opposite the docks. But for the most part, it’s a good place to wash up. Right now they’re doing some dumb project – scooping sand from the dune and dumping it into the water; then sucking it up with the dredge and pumping it into the field on the south side of the inlet waterway. Although it may be better than a thousand trucks, it’s making brown sticky froth in the water that’s gooping on to all the boats. What yuck!
We tossed the dinghy in the water so we’d have some transportation to the Marina Mazatlan area for visiting, dinners (new restaurants) and swap meets. It floats fine, but keeps gathering water. Left all night it gets about 2” deep in the back. What the heck?? An investigation leads to the conclusion that the pontoons are not stuck to the fiberglass transom as they should be. Something to fix !! When we finally lift it out before moving to Fonatur to be hauled, we find a big round patch (part of original construction) is half loose on both sides. Where do we get PVC dinghy glue?? The morning net, of course! And it worked. Don on “Force Nothing” has 3 tubes of Bostick. I just bought one, as they really ought to be kept in the fridge, and the dinghy is now repaired (well, I hope so.. haven’t floated it yet).
What else is on the “Do List”? Oh, yeah – fixing the wooden floor grate before it falls apart, and marking the anchor chain after turning it end for end.. Both good projects for dockside. I changed my marking system. Now it’s paint every 25 ft. A splotch of yellow at 25, 50, 75, and 100 (also marked with 1, 2, and 3 orange zip ties), the next 100 ft is marked similarly with white paint/ ties, and the last 100 ft is with orange. Maybe I can’t count 25’s, but I can count to 4 (splotches) and I’ll know which 100 feet is out. We’ll just see how well the pint lasts. I also confirmed that the bitter end of the chain is tied with rope to the inside of the boat – so it won’t go over the side be mistake but can be cut in an emergency.
Wow – El Cid has a “Movie Night”. We watched “Social Network” on the big screen (sheet) on the lawn by the pool, but it was quite chilly. And we got take-out fish & chips from the new restaurant “Fish Market” just out the back and across the street. Changes in Mazatlan. There are several new restaurants within walking distance that seem pretty good, but the Purple Onion is gone (well, just changed ownership and name – to Tres Amigos). But Mazatlan still looks like Mazatlan.
More on the stay at El Cid later…..
La Cruz to Mazatlan
28 March 2011 | Pacific Ocean
David - light breeze & chop to calm
I'm not really a "blogger". So far, I wait until I'm in the mood and then write a story about what I remember. It has been over a month since we left La Cruz, and what follows is from my notes, the log and feeble memories.
We waved goodbye to La Cruz at 10:00 am on Monday, the 28th of March. We need to be sure we won't miss our haul-and-paint date in Mazatlan on the 11th of April, and the weather has been iffy. We really don't want to have to do an overnight slog into 6 ft waves. This leg is north. The wind usually comes from the north. We don't usually worry too much about the wind, per se, because it rarely seems to get even into the 20's. But it bunches up the water! And this leg is entering the bottom of the Sea of Cortez, where the water bunches up into a mean steep chop - which might be fun for the afternoon on San Francisco Bay, but not all night long!
The plan was just to jump out to Punta de Mita about 10 miles away at the northern mouth of Banderas Bay and anchor for the first night where it's usually calm. But luck was holding, and by noon we were already off Punta de Mita on the OUTside, motor-sailing north at about 5.5 kts with a 7 kts WNW breeze. What the heck - keep going.
Engine on. Engine off. The usual Mexican sailing. No particular marine life of note.
At 4:30 we arrived at Jaltemba and decided to anchor behind the little island as indicated in the new Heather-Sean cruising guide. After 4 tries the hook finally stuck, and by now it was 6:00. Ran the engine for about ½ hour to make a little water. I really don't like the sound the watermaker makes. I think it's pulling in a lot of air, which over time will break parts. The solution is probably a feeder pump between the intake and the filters, but not today. Spaghetti dinner with a nice salad. Spoke to "Itchin" (TJ & Julie) who came in behind us - and appeared to have the same sort of trouble we did getting their anchor to stick. We've heard their name on the radio for years, but have never met. We won't today, either, because neither of us is putting the dinghy in the water. It's just a one-night stop on the way to Mazatlan.
David was up at 2:30 in the morning to set the "flopper-stopper" when the rolling finally got to us. We'd never used this one before, as we bought it in La Paz just abut at the end of our 2008 season. It worked fairly well - enough to get a few better Z's before morning.
UP anchor at 10:00, and shortly thereafter decided to skip Mantanchen Bay (San Blas) and go directly as the crow flies to Mazatlan, approx 150 nm. We don't want another rolly night, and it'll still be an overnight to Maz even if we stay in Mantanchen. Also the seas look fairly flat, and maybe we'll beat any worse weather than might roll down on us.
On top of that, we had reports of thefts off boats anchored in the bay. One boat radioed that their outboard engine had gone walkabout in the middle of the night.
All morning straight into the little breeze and the chop. By noon Mantanchen is on the starboard beam. Slower and slower we go into the stupid waddle-waddle-chop-chop. Down to 2.8 kt by 5:30 and wondering if we should slog on or just go back to Mantanchen. But it probably won't be better tomorrow. We remember hearing 2 other boats a few hours ahead complaining about the same conditions. So persevere! We passed inside of Isla Isabella (see pretty sundown pic), and saw a whale breach maybe a mile away. Just one breach, then a tail sliding down out of sight.
David was trailing the standard fishing rig all this time - a heavy line with a hook (in this case a cedar plug) about 100 ft behind. At one point in the afternoon we both heard a "bang", and we looked back to see just a remaining 3 ft of line (this is braided tuna line. I have no idea what test, but it would probably hold one of us up). So we're guessing we caught something ... BIG... So we re-strung the line - this time with monofilament that is probably only 130 lb test. And this time - unfortunately - I used one of those clips that looks like a safety pin. That's where the next cedar plug / leader disappeared. Another something Big... Maybe I need bigger, stronger shock absorbers in the line? And that's where the fishing ended for this trip.
On into the night. David lasted after dinner until 0200 hours on 30 March, and then woke Carolyn. In the morning (David on again about 0700) Carolyn reported being passed by 2 boats. One overtook from behind (at some distance to port) - probably a cabin cruiser type. But not much excitement. The new Raymarine wheel pilot just squeaks and whirs and we nap, setting the kitchen timer to look around every 15 minutes or so. We probably are a lot more visible than we used to be, too, with our new LED red and green bow lights.
Aztec has a 10 gallon day tank for the diesel fuel. It can be a nuisance having to go down and pump every few hours, but it has 2 advantages over pumping straight out of the main tanks. First, it keeps you very aware of your fuel status. Every time we pump I can estimate how many gallons are used (the tank fuel gauges as just sight gauges that don't give too much info). Second, we pump from a main tank to the day tank through a filter. In this case, we have almost 3-year old fuel on board. Does it have biologicals in it? Water from condensation over all that time? If there's dirt, we've sure shook that up. And finally this morning, as we are getting to the bottom of the port tank, it's taking forever to fill the day tank. Time to replace the pumping filter and see if that makes a difference.... Caramba !!! It's back like it used to be - about 1 gallon per minute. Bueno!!
The morning Amigo net on the SSB is scratchy and unreadable. I was hoping to get in on more report before going into the black hole of marinas. Can't even hear Don Anderson's weather report.
The seas decline all morning. Smoother and smoother. By the time we reach Mazatlan it's calm and we're doing 6.5 kts. Arrived El Cid Marina 1:00 pm and pulled in to Slip B21B behind another sailboat. Next report - Mazatlan
25 March 2011 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
March 2011: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
The 24th day of March, 2011, was a typical one at anchor in La Cruz anchorage. Calm in the morning and the breeze picking up around noon. It's calm for the morning coffee, but it's also a good time to dinghy in, if you're going. After noon, it's going to be a wet dinghy ride back home when the wind pipes up and brings the little waves.
We didn't have much of an agenda here, and we weren't sure we knew anyone, either.
But we'd been here before and enjoyed it, and there were a couple specific restaurants we wanted to hit. Mostly the trip down had been about getting away from the dock to feel like cruisers rather than live-aboards and to check out the new gear we've been installing since last October.
Anyway, since we had just arrived the day before, we were both too tired to worry about "doing the town", so the day was spent puttering about the boat & tidying up; David on the computer and Carolyn reading without the wallowing waves. That was it. It was movie night in the marina, but rather than launch the dinghy, we just watched the same movie at home - "Avatar".
The 25th was more of the same, except that David launched the dinghy and dropped the engine on. We've been wondering how the engine would run, because it wouldn't idle and would drop from 2 to only 1 cylinder at high speed when it was first started after a 2-year sleep. One of the guys in the yard in La Paz worked on it until the idle was good, but it still ran on only 1 when 'goosed'. Rather than wait around La Paz for more engine work, we figured we could live with mid-speed for a while at anchor. As it comes out, it seems to run just fine for everything except the high end, so we're not spending any more money on it right now. So what's the point here? Oh, so David went over to speak with a big wooden boat (1968, it comes out) because he has the same wind steering vane that we do, and we wanted to know if there were any tricks we could apply to take ours steer better. Patrick (the Frenchman pronounces Patreek) of Dulcinea says "Poof, it doesn't work so good! And sometimes he forgets what he is doing. So much for tricks.
And then we went in to the new Palapa restaurant in the marina for lunch. It was really good, with a great view and a real tropical feel. (But we've lost our great photos of us there.)
Upon return to the boat there was a general call out on the VHF for help to pull a boat off the beach. A little 24' Bristol Channel Cutter (?) broke anchor, bounced over the inshore reef, and slid on down to the beach. So David got back in the dink and headed that way. He was 3rd to arrive, after a couple Mexican guys with a large PWC who were pulling it off already. The skipper of Teichel (sp?) was pushing with his dink and the boat, "Fox Fire" was already moving to sea. I tied alongside and kept my engine running while Teichel climbed aboard, found the key and battery switch, and fired up the engine. After a very short time, it was obvious that Fox Fire was under her own power, so I untied and Teichel motored her to the marina. That was the end of that excitement. If there's a story in Latitude 38, David's just a bit player, not one of the cast.
After 3 days at anchor (and revising our travel plans for weather concerns), we raised the pick and moved into the marina. This means an easy walk to town, showers, and more people to talk to. No need for improved wi-fi as long as I have this Telcel Phone modem. It worked as well at anchor as it does in the marina. David went to the swap meet by the haul-out facility. Not much there.
And then in the evening, we walked up to Philo's bar for dinner and the band. Dinner was great and Philo came on at 8:00. We sat with some landlubbers, but at Philo's it's always a good time and the lubbers always put a different spin on the "gringos in Mexico" experience.
La Paz to Puerto Vallarta
24 March 2011 | La Cruz anchorage
David - Banderas Bay spring wether
La Paz to Puerto Vallarta March 19-23, 2011
Sunday, March 19, 2011
We left the dock at Marina del Palmar (de Aberoa) in La Paz, BCS, Mexico at about 12:30 yesterday with the intention of just having a nice evening away from the dock as the startup for this year's cruising, and to save a couple hours on the next day's trip. Steve and Lulu of the Westsail 28 Siempre Sabado decided to come along to the first anchorage just to get away from the dock themselves, and we eventually decided on Caleta Lobos for the overnighter.
We stopped first at the Costa Baja Pemex fueling station to get our new jerry cans filled. For 5 cans full (4 diesel and 1 gasoline, it was $1150 pesos (about $100 USD) - that's $4.00 per gallon! Wow! Prices are up from when we were here before!. Then we were off for Lobos.
Step One: check out some new equipment:
• New autopilot (wheelpilot by Raymarine). I just finished the installation yesterday when I got the modified steering wheel - machined hub - and manual wheel lock nut back from the machinist. Pushed the button.... IT WORKS!!! It hasn't been "calibrated" yet, meaning that the compass reading it totally out of whack from where we're actually pointed, but who cares. That's not how we use it. It's "point and shoot" for us (We'll swing the compass one of these days and it'll have the right reading, but right now we just point the boat and tell it "go there" and it does!!!
• Depth sounder: We got this back from Raymarine (bought a new one, actually) when we were home for 2 years, but have never had a chance to check it out. Even the trips up and down the La Paz channel were no help, because it is only maybe 30 feet deep at best. The old depth sounder went stupid at 80 ft. As we progressed out of the Channel toward Lobos, it showed 40, then 50, then 60, etc., finally reaching over 114 ft! Success!! It's better than the old one!.
Step Two: get to Coleta Lobos: Lobos is only about 2 hours motor (because the breeze is definitely on the nose) to the North of town. Glassy flat water... 6.5 knots easy. So how long have we been away from cruising? Can't find the place? Ever heard of cruising guides? We have three on boar that would describe the place. Do you think I even though of them?? Hmmmm.... Finally arrived Lobos about 2:30. Siempre Sabado is already quietly anchored along with one other boat. Whatever is on the bottom, our anchor did not want to stick in it! But on the 5th try, it seemed to stick well enough to call OK, and we dumped out some more chain and called ourselves anchored. A little bit of bad news here.. I had the chain marked with colored zip ties, and over 2 years of sitting in the heat, the plastic went hard and they broke off! Well at least there's a white paint mark at 25 ft. That's a start. And a couple of the markers weren't entirely gone. I'm just not sure which they were. Is that orange or yellow?? Well, that'll give me something to do in the next few weeks!
Step 4: Dinner. Steve & Lulu paddled over in their 2-man toy kayak (we need one of those for such occasions.), bringing beer, garlic bread and salad. Carolyn got the spaghetti water going, as well as the meat sauce and abondigas, and it was smellin' good just before the sun went down. Somewhat overcast and a very slight breeze. Just enough to be very comfortable!. Then dinner at sunset. The sky lit up orange with all those clouds, and the evening was one of the best. We are finally at anchor again! And then the moonrise! The full moon climbed up not ½ hour after the sun was gone. What a great end to a day and to months of being dockside just working on the boat! Not enough superlatives to go around!
Step 5: More equipment to test:
• Once the sun went down I turned on the new red LED compass light. It's hard to see just what you've got in a well lit marina. It's also is great. A nice not-too bright red light.
• Wind vane: Steve helped me put the paddle in the water. I had forgotten to do it before leaving the dock. It's easiest to do from a dock or dinghy, and our dinghy is upside down on the deck. That in itself was a test of a change. I've taken off the staysail boom that has always been a pain up there. The staysail should still work just fine using the track, and it's loose-footed anyway! Now there's more room for the dink, and we should be able to use the staysail even with the dink up there inflated.
OK, that's the end of the "steps". Now we're cruising again! We passed a very calm night. No winds came up to test the anchor. No swells from who-knows where! I got up about 2:30 just to exchange water and take a pain pill for the shoulder that's still bothering me, and there was the setting moon shimmering cross the water. The only problem was the wind vane. We have never had it in condition to try it out, so the paddle has never been in the water with us aboard. It's about 3 ft from our heads, and is bolted to the rear bulkhead of our berth. So therefore, as it wiggles back and forth with the water wiggles (couldn't say waves), we get the clunk-clunk. I guess we'll just have to get used to it. It' ready to try, but as we putter south down Cerravlo Channel, there is NO wind. Two sailboats just passed us going north, one with nothing up and one with the main up, hoping that something will happen.
As to the new depth sounder, where the old one went off soundings at 80 ft., this one went to 600 ft before it went blank. What a nice change that is! And the wheel pilot is still working diligently as I type this blog. Jerk, jerk, jiggle, jiggle. I don't know how long all this stuff will work, but I'm happy it's working now!
March 20: Cerralvo Channel (near La Paz, Mexico) Southbound for Bahia de Los Muertos...
Since it is glassy smooth and we are motoring under the new wheel pilot and mostly overcast, I am working on my laptop in the cockpit. Carolyn is reading below.
Along the way we pulled the RPM's back to a point where we could make some water (about 14-14 gal, I guess), and tossed two fishing lines in the sea. Can't say I like the noises it made, and there seemed to be more air in the line than I thought there should be. I may need to add a pre-filter pump after all.
No fish. Also, just before arriving in Muertos we did the two sow circles required to "calibrate" the new autopilot, and it now indicates headings related to the compass.
Got about ½ hour sailing slowly, and then even that died.
Anchor down Muertos at 3:30. No wind, light overcast. There were about 7 boats in the harbor, and rather a fuss on the beach. Campers and bonfires and halooing and music. On a Sunday? Oh, yeah, it's some 3-day weekend. It all quieted down early, and we just stayed aboard for dinner and a ret-up before the big 3-say jump. Sunset was truly beautiful; We'll see how the photos turn out. Flat calm, quiet nite.
March 21, 2011. Up anchor 9:00 a.m. No need to rush.
Change clocks today. This is going to get confusing, because we're about to change to mainland time as well.
The SSB works!!! We had begun to wonder, because we couldn't get much of anything in the "black hole of La Paz". We checked in on the Southbound net and could hear Don's weather. Same old Don. "You're going to get pasted if you go out today! It's going to blow 25-30 aaaallllllllllll the way down the middle. 30 in the north - down to 15 at the Southern Crossing. But on the mainland - nothing". Sometimes I think he thinks there's a line where the wind stops. So anyway, it sounded like today was the day to go, and not wait for another day for the wind to get us. A north wind - even a fairly strong one, isn't a big problem as you sail south -- it's the confused, rolly, uncomfortable seas that go with them, particularly as you sail south out of the Sea of Cortez's northern chop and join the Pacific swell from the west, which was where we were going.
Tried to get the wind vane to work - no luck at 7 knots wind. I've been told you have to do quite a bit of fiddling before you understand them. And maybe they're not as happy about following winds and rolling at the same time.
On continued light breeze, we motorsailed 5.8 to 6.1 knots. Around 3:30 there was about 7 knots wind again and now the wind vane steering is sort of working. Not sure exactly what I changed. Then the wind died again.
It took forever to "sink the land" but by evening we were out in the middle of the pond. A couple whales breached 3 or more miles away, and some huge fish (pointy-nosed - maybe Marlin?) did some jumping in the distance.
Sunset was quit pretty, but quick. Seas still quiet, but more than "flat". At 10:00 the huge orange ball of a moon climbed out of the water dead ahead. It was very pretty and allowed the horizon to be visible, even though it was about 75% overcast, but it does obscure most of the stars. Not very cold though - David stayed barefoot and in a t-shirt & jeans. David did a watch until 1:30. Carolyn did 1:0 to 5:30. Long watches, but as long as our eyes stay open and we've only got a couple nites to stay out, it worked. Just before dawn some critter leaped beside the boat and came down with a huge SLAP. Startled the &&&&& out of David!!! Another big marlin?? And then two more, a little smaller. And then quiet again.. First hint of dawn wasn't until 6:30. That seemed to take forever!
Sunrise about 7:05 - finally. Engine off at 7:15. 7:15 to 8:00 struggle with that wind vane again. Oh! The red rope goes on top. No chance it'll work with the blue rope on top! And look at the pulley here. It moves instead of transferring the steering rope movement to the wheel. But it's not enough. Still can't get better than 30 degrees accuracy. Must be something more.
Wind up to 20, but it's behind us, so feels like only 14 when going 6. Sailed all day. Wind vane sometimes seems to go brain dead??? It starts going off in one direction and then just keeps going. Disconnect it. Reconnect it. Maybe something to do with sail balance???
At 4:15, we're still going 4.5 knots, but we don't want to go so slow that we add a third nite - and maybe it would be smoother if we motor a little faster...?? Engine on.
At sunset, we got a sea life show. First the flying fish! Not huge numbers, but amusing. They dart out of the water and skim the waves for 50 yards to skip again and then splash, they're gone. Then another - two more - one more. And then the dolphins! Large brown ones playing by the boat. Flips! Jumps with tail smacks! Hundreds of them. Straight leaps! We're too boring for them after about ½ hour, and they went wherever dolphins go. And then it was dark again.
There's no cloud cover today, so we should have a million stars - at least until the moon comes up. So Carolyn cooked a gourmet meal of Dinty Moore stew. We've been having trouble with queasiness. Not truly seasick, just queasy. But the stew, together with the leftover garlic bread from dinner two nights ago, really hit the spot. And the million stars came out as advertised! It is so hard to describe, if you don't live in the countryside, what this is like. It's almost hard to pick out the major constellations because there are so many other stars in there! And the Milky Way isn't just "sort of visible". It's like a giant light stick! And the rest is so BLACK.! And it all goes from horizon to horizon! And then the moon came up big an orange again, and half the stars melted away.
David took the first watch. Carolyn said she was really tired, so he decided to do a semi-alert watch. Between nodding off (because some mechanical guy or other is steering), one looks around, not expecting to see anything really, as this is not a busy traffic lane. We are in the vicinity of possible Mazatlan traffic, but we're south of the Baja Ferry line. And we're south of sport fishermen going to or from Cabo - Mazatlan. Unless there re some fishing boats out, we're probably clear. Somewhere around 1:00 a.m. two lights appeared. One very bright one to the West and a rather dim thing to the North. Now the trick is to figure out which way they are going. One could cheat and use the radar, but sometimes they're so far away that they don't show up, leaving you wondering if they are any kind of threat at all if they're that far away. After a while, the thing to the north seemed to be moving (behind us) to the West. But with the moonlight, checking it out with the binoculars proved it to be some kind of freighter that was indeed going westabout behind us. And slowly it disappeared to the Southwest. And the other very bright blob that looked like it was coming at us just sort of hung out there with no red or green visible. What is a big white blob that doesn't move much and has no red or green?? Shortly after the freighter was definitely passing clear of us, the white blob also went much dimmer. The decision? The white blob was an evening cruise boat out of Cabo, probably 30 miles away. At that distance, the only thing we'd be able to see was the top few decks (hence no reds or greens), and LOTS of light. So it went south or southwest a while, and when it turned west to pass Cabo Falso, we could then just see the stern, and it went dim. That's our theory. Either that, or it was a hoodoo.
Carolyn took the 2:00 - 6:30 shift. Read her book with a little clip-on light.
David came on just before sunup (7:05). While Carolyn slept, David got another dolphin show. By this time we were almost past the Tres Marias islands and maybe 40 miles North of Banderas Bay. So these dolphins were the Banderas Bay little-brown-dolphin types. Again, 100's of them. No flips or jumps, just swishing by.
As the morning wore on (rock, roll, rock, roll) we were treated to a few more not-o-spectacular sea life vistas. A few jumping black and white rays. A few floating brown rays. The birds are now boobies instead of gulls.. And then the big what breaching show jus north of Banderas Bay. They were probably 5 miles off, but we could very clearly see them breaching and throwing huge splashes. We watched 30 or 40 jumps, some of them almost clearing the water.
And then for the finale, the breeze came up behind us ½ hour before we reached the bay, and we rolled out the jib and dowsed the iron genoa. We were early enough that we decided not to stop in Punta de Mita but continue to La Cruz, which was our final destination for this trip. And we turned enough that the wind was on the port quarter, just perfect for the jib. We walked right past the island packet under full sail that had entered the bay before us. Although they obviously decided that although "we weren't racing", they couldn't be shown up that badly and did some tweaking so as to almost keep up. But a sleek sloop (maybe a 46 to 50 ft Beneteau?) came out of Punta de Mita as we sailed by, and just left us in the dust as it headed to Puerto Vallarta with a very large genoa up. It's ok. We weren't racing.
Anchor down La Cruz 4:45. 3 days, 8 hours from the Ensenada de Los Muertos. Not a bad run. We're tired, but made a great dinner of steak with red wine, baked potato and fresh Swiss chard. I told you we don't eat badly.
We watched a couple episodes of "Lost", thus ending the story of our first voyage of 2011.
Mazatlan to Mazatlan
01 March 2007 | The Mexican Riviera
This segment will cover most of our first season as "Real Cruisers" , as we moved from Mazatlan down the Mexican Riviera" as far south as Manzanillo, with stops coming and going in Puerto Vallarta, Camela, Barra de Navidad, and Tenacatita Bay. Check out the photos - a lot of the detail will be there.
Leaving Maztlan ("An overnighter alone")
After sticking in Mazatlan for most of a month, it was time to go see the world. But there's nothing for quite a ways south of Mazatlan.
• A very long night with lots of fishing boats; VERY unnerving
• We Skipped Isla Isabella on the way down and headed for San Blas - to anchor at Mantanchen Bay
• Visited the town of San Blas. This small city, now a eco-tourism center, was the center of Spanish rule of the west coast for over 300 years!!!!
San Blas was the most authentic Mexican town we had seen so far.
We also met Captain Norm Goldie, famous for his attempt to control cruisers in the area. And the bugs are really mean here. Not so much in Mantanchen Bay, but if you anchor in town they can get at you. But Mantanchen is an extremely friendly anchoring Bay. A very long slowly sloping bottom with very few obstructions.
Time to move on - Carolyn was sticking around for any more bug bites !!
We broke up the trip from San Blas to Puerto Vallarta by stopping in the small Bay of Chamela. This is widely recognized as a very charming bay with one of the prettiest little crescent-shaped beaches on the "jungle coast". And it was very nice; and the cruising "ambiance" did seem to be getting better as we went. But the bay tends to be rather rolly and most boats anchor bow and stern. We did as well, and were glad of it. We ran out of there after only one night, however, because we got the scare of another norther approaching, and we ran for Banderas Bay. We surfed on south with little wind, and after rounding the corner into Banderas Bay we skipped the popular Punta de Mita anchorage, being worried about the big surf curving around the corner. As we learned later, it was a good move. It did get pretty rough there that night. We motored on to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.
The town is great, but this anchorage is not our favorite, either, as it tends to be rolly every afternoon. Usually, however, it smooths out during the night and into the morning. Due to heavy construction - they are building a new marina - the landing is not real easy, either. We spent only one night in La Cruz, as we were very interested in finding a smooth (flat) anchorage for daughter Tasia's visit for Christmas / New Year.
But if you didn't get reservations in Puerto Vallarta 4 or more months ago you weren't getting in to a marina there.
Again, see the photos:
o Tasia visited for Christmas & New Years
o When we first arrived in the PV are, we anchored at La Cruz and had some good time visiting Philo's Bar, etc. After not too long we were able to get a tie-up in the dilapitaded Nuevo Vallarta Marina; tied to "the pilings". It turned out to be a fairly nice spot, as it ws easy to go to and from everything at the Vallarta Yacht Club and Paradise Village Marina by dinghy, and we were out in the breeze where it was a little cooler.
o Christmas dinner was a cruisers' pot luck at Philo's the day Tasia arrived. We had lovely plastic chairs [literally] in the street.o
o New Years eve was a party at the Vallarta Yacht Club (not a big deal - we should have gone back to Philo's)
o Before Tasia left, we took a tourist boat out to the village of Yelapa on the south side of Banderas Bay... a very nice day trip!
o We got in a little of the traditional tourist shopping in old town.
After Taisa left it was time to head south out of Puerto Vallartaa to the "Real Cruising Grounds" of the Mexican Riviera.
• The first step is to round Cabo Corrientes, often a rough go. But our luck held, and we had a smooth time of it, surfing down 6 footers in to the little anchorage of Ipala. It is rather a cramped place, and after a few boats arrived we decided it was to b only a one-night stay, and headed out for Camela the net day.
• Chamela is much more of a "cruisers' bay", large enough to accomodate quite a few boats. We didn't fully appreciate its merits at the time, though. With not too much walking, you can provision there, eat at the little beachside palapas, and even use a local hotel's internet station. Many cruisers don't care for it because it can get rolly if there is a swell from the south, and because without going too much farther south you'll reach the even more popular Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad.
• Continuing our explorations, we moved on to Tenacatita Bay. This is pretty much cruiser central for the upper Mexican Riviera. With the town and Lagoon of Barra de Navidad just over the hill, the area can accommodate 100 boats or so at one time. In the winter of 2007, we feel lucky to have been there in the era of "The Mayor of Tenacatita". For many years there had been a cruiser very informally elected as the "mayor" of the anchorage. The mayors really were just people who planned to anchor there for most of the season and who were willing to be a chief resource for all the other visiting boats. They also held the weekly Friday night "Mayors night out" dinghy raft-up for the swapping of stories, hors d'ouvres books, CD's, & boat cards, during which a good time was had by all.
While there, Maradon arrived - Phil & Jane aboard. We'd met them in Mazatlan, and in cruiser fashion, we're now "old friends".
In 2007, the mayor was Chris Stockard of Legacy, accompanied by his wife Heather (who has now finished and published that cookbook she was working on.) During the day they exercised their Portuguese Water Dogs, so swimming was needed. On most days the "Swim to Shore" was organized by Rita of Overheated (who since bought a condo at Marina Mazatlan). Participants would gather (by swimming or dinghy) behind some designated boat, and paddle slowly to the beach. Once there, it was time for the beach walk to the Blue Bay and back to the palapa for Mexican train or volleyball of beach bocce, in all cases followed by "social hour" at the palapa.
Then the fun begins (depending upon the state of the bay).
Leaving the beach, if there is a surf running, is not always easy. You have to get a coordinated approach. Everyone does not do it the same way. Most people get one person on each side and wade in until the engine can be started - then push, jump, and engage the engine. Since Carolyn walks with a cane, she doesn't help me push it out. We go out the knee deep and she gets in the bow. Then I push, jump and engage the engine. When the first wave comes, it's sort of splash and leap and then goose the engine. On a mild day, that's it. Off you go "home". If the surf's up, there's a second wave that going to be worse than the first one if you don't leave very quickly. Probably our most dangerous departure was watched by the crew of Lost Soul one day as we hit wave number two and headed straight for the sky. Other than being soaked and having to stop a hundred feet farther out to pump the dinghy pool dry, I do not know how we avoided going right over backwards. We think it's because of our technique of having Carolyn in the bow.
We were not without our share of difficulties for first-year cruisers. While anchored in Tenacatita, Carolyn suffered a genuine panic attack, probably brought on mostly be David's growing anxiety about constant gear breakages and the time needed to reach Panama before hurricane season growing shorter and shorter. I might not mention this bit except for three things:
1. Assistance from other cruisers was awesome! This is not like being in a marina, where you call the paramedics to come over and help. If you're going to get help from outside your boat, it will have to be mostly from other sailing acquaintenances - and they came through in spades. John, an EMT on KISS was a very comforting influence.
2. Professional help was indeed available where it wasn't expected. Some of the cruisers (Hohn & Rita of Overheated, I believe) dinghied over to the Blue Bay Hotel and found the hotel doctor (there pretty much has to be one on staff at these remote coastal hotels - for guest issues). And they brought the doctor out to the boat by dinghy, crashing out through 3-foot surf!!! (I think the doc really enjoyed the excitement.) He sorted it all out and gave Carolyn a tranquilizer - and we went in to see him the next day.
3. The event made us stop and think about what we were doing. It was time for David to "get real" about cruising plans. So we decided to slow down and scratch plans for heading to Central America, or even to Zihuateneho (this trip).
So we kicked back in Tenacatita - about as nice and slow a place to kick back as any cruiser can get anywhere! What's to do here? In addition to the daily grind of the swim to shore described above, there's the "Jungle River Cruise".
Here's a note I wrote about the Mexican Gold Coast in February 2007:\
If you've ever wondered what the days are like during the winter on the 'Mexican Riviera', here's a sample... The boats they come; the boats they go. As I write, there are about 40 cruising boats here in Tenacatita Bay and 25 more in Barra de Navidad, and by the time you read this, we are not likely to be still in this place. Z-Fest is over, so some of them are on the way back North again. According to the folks on the SSB nets, it's pretty cold up in the Sea of Cortez now, so there are still more who are just now arriving from there, like snowbirds. And then there is the annual Tenacatita / Barra contingent, including the "Mayor of Tenacatita", Chris & Heather on Legacy. This is the time to leave for the Panama Canal, so Harmony (former Mayor) has left for points south after being part of the local scene for several seasons. Raptor Dance is resting in the Barra marina. Cuervo & White Star just returned from Manzanillo for a few days on the path North. Light Wave and Maradon jumping back to Barra for a few days. Chessie left the Barra Marina for Santiago Bay, and Main Squeeze will go soon. Warren Peace just dropped down from PV for a week. Topaz is in from Las Hadas. On February 13, the morning VHF net covering Tenacatita, Barra, and Malaque scored 44 check-ins, despite Barra's 'French Baker' "stepping all over" the local radio traffic.
Weather and the tides affecting the Jungle river cruise up through the mangroves (dinghy accessible) and Barra de Navidad lagoon entrances are always on the net info stream, as are the usual arrivals and departures and announcements. The 9:00 am VHF net usually takes about ½ hour, unless the stream of arrivals and departures is long. This is a good time for breakfast, or at least your coffee. If you join in on the 8:00 am SSB Amigo net or listen to Don Anderson's morning weather, by the time it's over you've had 1-1/2 hours of radio time and you're ready to do something more than sit in the cockpit! Today's pre-net radio included a Securite call alerting boats sailing between Tenacatita & Barra that the fishermen have their nets strung out across the mouth of the bay.
A small ray jumps from the water in the harbor; "Rush hour" in Tenacatita is 1:30 pm, when a crowd swims to shore with a dinghy/kayak escort for the beach walk and bocce ball, followed by the afternoon beer call (except for Tuesday when the palapa is closed... although today Les from Gemini did a watermaker seminar).
The Jungle River Trip:
If you could look at the bay from above, you could see that the high headland that blocks the inner cruisers' bay (where the Blue Bay Hotel is) from the outer Bay (where the tourist beach is), is almost an island. The back side is a serious mangrove swamp with a couple little rivers running through. Part of the swamp, on the back side of the beach between the Hotel and the palapa (where some of McHale's Navy was filmed), has been tamed for shrimp farming. There is a "river" passable to pangas and dinghies that is used to ferry hotel guests from the hotel to the restaurants and tourist beach. Anything to make a buck!
At this point I must make an admission that some of the following may not be my writing. Bob Bitchin, of Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine, published an article on his visit to Tenacatita, Barra, and Manzanillo in his boat, the Lost Soul (see photos). Since we were there at the same time in the same place, including his birthday party and around the pool at La Hadas, it is difficult for me to be sure which part I wrote or which pictures are his. Bob, I just say thanks for the bits that are yours....
At high tide it's pretty easy to enter the mouth of the swiftly flowing stream, but at low tide it can be a real workout, and you have to watch the bottom real close to keep from tearing the prop off the dinghy. Without high tide on your side, getting over the bar is kind of like a scene from African Queen. We have carried the dinghy up the beach about a hundred feet, and then tossed it back in, only to fight a six knot current in shallow (6") water for awhile.
This river has some wonderful open stretches where you can crank up your planing dinghy and feel like a boat racer, and some sections so overgrown that you twist and turn under a complete mangrove canopy past the little alligators, crabs, egrets, and termite mounds.
At the other end of the river, however, it's a different scene. There is a small landing with a full-on boat workshop set up - enclosed only be a thatched pole roof - where they repair damaged pangas. The smell of fresh fiberglass seems a bit out of place. You may or may not be asked for 10 or 20 pesos the watch your dinghy while you walk to lunch.
On the left as you walk out is - I'm sure you guessed this - an RV park!! Not real big, and a bit rustic, but a genuine gringo-version RV park. In addition to maybe 15 beach restaurants there is a small tienda, or store, where you can pick up some needed items - think of a sort of rural 7-11.
Other than running into pangas full of tourists that come up river full speed (that'll put the fear of God into you!) it's the same run backwards to the river mouth at the inner bay. After fighting the sand bar (watch out for the sting rays who like to sun themselves in the shallow entrance), it's again time to attack the surf again.
In the evenings the waters may be full of phosphorescence and if you're going visiting for cocktails or dinner, it is entertaining to watch the green splashes of light bounce off anything that moves in the water - oars, propellers, or people. These evenings, sitting and telling stories, watching the sun go down, and generally enjoying the lifestyle is what the cruising life is meant to be.
And then there's the dinghy ride to La Manzanilla, a small town on the other side of the bay. With a dinghy that planes, the trip is not very long - maybe 20 minutes. You might need to keep a close eye on the water and be ready to slow down.. we almost hit a lazy whale. And the surf landing here ... !!! Do this in late season after you've had practice, and be sure to take your dinghy bailing pump and put everything you have in dry bags! We put on a show for the tourists on the porches of the beach homes more than once - coming in and going out.
We also did a little snorkeling at Tenacatita, including spearing a little fish for dinner.
But after a while (since we didn't have a watermaker and can last only about 3 weeks at our - relatively wasteful - conservation rate), it was time to go see Barra de Navidad (so named because some Spanish explorer landed there on the sand bar at Christmas).
Barra de Navidad
I don't know why, but I haven't written much about Barra here .. maybe more in the 2008 visit... at any rate, here you enter the harbor area and, if you aren't going in to the Grand Bay Hotel Marina, continue straight through into "the lagoon".
After following a very narrow trench through the sand bars, there is a shallow anchorage that will old up to about 65 boats (we've seen that many in there). In 2007, the crowd was not that big.
This is less like the wilderness that is Tenacatita. You are almost surrounded by golf course and the towns of Barra and Colimilla. Although the breeze some afternoons picks up to 30, the water stays flat because you're inside a very protected harbor. A quick dinghy ride (or call a water taxi if you expect to be out after dark) gets you to the rough dinghy dock at the Sands Hotel, which is basically downtown. - a short walk to anything.
Here you'll find great restaurants, souvenirs, laundry facilities, bus stations, bars & beaches, and very importantly, the fuel / water docks.
After being here for a couple weeks we discovered in a casual conversation (hadn't bothered to look at the charts at all, being too comfortable) - that there is another popular cruising destination just a short day-sail south - Manzanillo! Two destinations, actually: Santiago Bay and Las Hadas Hotel. So shortly thereafter we left to see more of the world.
Manzanillo: Arrived - Las Hadas
The very tucked-in little anchorage behind the Las Hades Hotel, in addition to the little marina that the hotel owns, can hold quite a number of boats. Access to the hotel (and thereby to town via taxi) is by landing at the dinghy docks right by the great big swimming pool. As with most hotels by the beach, you are basically welcome as long as you behave and buy drinks. Las Hadas has been hosting cruising sailors for so many years that it has become a popular meeting place, and sitting by the pool will keep you meeting cruisers who showed up the day before, and saying good-by to cruisers who were leaving.
Lori Warner Visit
Manzanillo is a good place to wait for visitors. The airport is north of town, and so reasonably accessible to either Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad. The day after her arrival, the word went out to cruisers that there was to be a birthday party for Bob Bitchin, editor of Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine. Y'all come!
Bob said (printed): "The people who showed up were all cruisers. Some had been out for years. One couple was on the end of a 24 year circumnavigation (!) and some others were new to cruising. One couple had just bought their 27 footer in Puerto Vallarta and it was their first real cruise. But it didn't matter. Everyone there felt like family, and it was a great night. "
With Lori aboard, we decided to check out Santiago Bay, just round the headland to the north... another great place to stop, and somewhere in between Tenacatita and Barra in terms of facilities. On one hand, it's just an anchorage - no marina around. But there are quite a few beach restaurants, several semi-permanent tourist beach shops, and even a very nice hotel restaurant just across the stream at the end. Access to tow via taxi is also extremely easy. Even a large American-like Mega grocery store is not too far off. Some cruisers spend most of the season right here.
Lori was only to be there for a week, so after just a couple days is was off to the north again. We sailed back to Barra de Navidad for a couple days. Lori likes this place!
On the Pacific Coast of Mexico, St. Patrick's Day is the signal for folks to start moving. For those heading south, they want to be down to Panama by May so they can sit out hurricane season in places like the San Blas Islands, Bocas del Torro or the Rio Dulce.
Just outside of Barra is the town of Melaque. (Or "rocky melaky" as cruisers may call it because it is not a quiet anchorge) . For those heading north, it's the time to be heading for either the Sea of Cortez or Cabo San Lucas to do the bash back up the coast of Baja California. In either case, there I a mass exodus right after St. Patrick's Day.
But St. Patrick's Day itself is a great holiday in the Melaque area, as St.Patrick is the patron Saint of the area. Because of this there are fireworks, carnivals and all kinds of celebrations going on on the Gold Coast. We took Aztec out of the lagoon and anchored there for the night, which turned out to be a longer event than expected, as the combination of surf and David's enjoyment of the margaritas caused us to stay the night in a hotel.
Then we continued north back to Tenacatita to spend the remainder of Lori's visit here.
This proves to be a very good agenda for visitors on a schedule. It's one of a very few places where you can get in a little sailing and visit 3 or 4 anchorages in a single week!
One of our most unfortunate dinghy experiences happened on the way to shore with Lori and her suitcases. We had a wave-wash landing that filled the dinghy half full of water. She left with a dripping suitcase. At least we were able to get her a taxi right down to the palapa.
End of Season:
Each day, more and more cruisers showed up. It was March, and the season on the Mexican Riviera was winding down. Cruisers were starting to head north, to put their boats in the marinas in PV and Mazatlan, or to move into the Sea of Cortez for the off season, and as they came up from Zihuatanejo, Tenacatita is a favored stopover.
After Lori left we still had to repeat the Jungle River trip. It's such a great ride that we just had to do it again.
A scribble from 3/18/07:
Tenacatita continues to drain boats out. After Legacy and we leave tomorrow there will be 4 sailboats remaining (unless they also go - I don't know their plans). One was Lost Soul , the 54 ft Formosa ketch belonging to Bob Bitchin.
We should be up to Banderas Bay by Wednesday unless the weather doesn't cooperate.
Today, Saturday, we are still in Tenacatita Bay. Lori leaves today. Then we will be picking up stuff all over the boat and re-stowing things in her cabin for a potentially rougher trip than we have had in months to go north to P.V.
Finally, time to call it a season - Heading Back North:
Tenacatita To Puerto Vallarta
We stood out from Tenacatita Bay along with the season's "Mayor", Chris on Legacy, heading for Chamela on Monday, 3/19/07. Going around the point (Cabo Corrientes, always depends upon weather (which is supposed to be just fine), I think was supposed to hold at a light 7-10 knots at Cabo Corrientes thru Tuesday. On Tuesday we expected to go north from Ipala into Banderas Bay if the seas were calm. Our "plan" was to anchor at La Cruz (N of PV), partly because it's free and partly because we never got much chance to look around there, and then maybe, depending on availability & price, spend a couple days in Paradise Village Marina, because we haven't been in any such luxury since we left PV in January (well, except that it was really nice down south, not counting the lack of power or water).
3/21/07 Arrived safe Puerto Vallarta.
The best sail yet! The move to Chamela (the next bay north of Tenacatita) was a great motor-sail / sail on relatively smooth water; first offshore and then onshore breeze to about 11 knots of wind. We stayed one night and left in the morning for Ipala, just outside Banderas Bay. As it came out, we did better than anyone else on our timing - Jacaranda (Chuck & Linda) kept going rather than stop at Chamela, to do an overnighter around Cabo Corrientes. They got beat up by a stiff chop and 20 knots on the nose all night, going 2 knots. Legacy (Chris & Heather) and others who waited to leave Chamela and do an overnight around Cabo got the same thing the next night. We and 2 other boats who left Chamela at 7:00 am had the onshore / offshore assist all day, motor-sailing at 6-plus all the way, and at 3:30 we were off Ipala. But everything was so nice (10 or so knots wind close-hauled and 2-3 ft swell with just a little lumpiness (it didn't stop Carolyn from cooking, although she was uncomfortable), we rounded Cabo Corrientes by 4:00 motor-sailing at 7+ (as high as 8.4 after turning the revs down just above idle), pulled the big jib out farther and swooshed up to La Cruz on a flat Banderas Bay, dropping the hook by 8:00 p.m. Dolphins, leaping rays (Carolyn didn't see them), lotsa birds.. A two-day trip squashed into a 13-hour run!!!! Everyone's jealous of our story!
We are delayed here in PV because Sheira of Moonshadow has gone to the US and will bring a few parts back for me.
In the meantime, it's time for the Banderas Bay Regatta. Richard Spindler was in; watched him dock Profligate from the Vallarta YC deck whilst having margaritas. David crewed on Starfire, a 49 ft Peterson. We had not actually met the captain beforehand, but we sailed alongside him and their buddyboat "Shamwari" from Barra to Manzanillo a few weeks before, so I didn't have to give him any sailing resume. They were anchored close to us in La Cruz and called for crew on the radio. Real class act people, all 4 of them. Also had "Sea Tub" Tony and Jack of "Casa Jamur". Jack is an 86 year old crazy old sailor, who was indeed useful crew, as he has sailed the world with the best of them, and done this regatta a number of years running. He lives high on the hill in LaCruz and knows EVERYBODY. We had cocktails in his house overlooking the entire bay. The whole thing was great fun, down to the wrap-up party at the club the last night with Philo & his band playing. We didn't win. Chris, the skipper, declared "non spinnaker" for the race, as he had no idea who he'd get for crew and expected 16-knot winds for the race - like we've had most afternoons. So we placed on the 3rd of 3 races because we got the wind, but the other 2 days we did poorly.
So now it's time to fix the autopilot that quit right at Cabo Corrientes, the running lights (only 1 bulb burning now), the dinghy wheel strut that broke when we landed here in LaCruz, the dinghy engine that's giving me a red low oil pressure light, and maybe finally check the wind generator cable continuity; and I should change the oil. Reality is not as fun as appearances.
Leaving Puerto Vallarta
We are sailing along with Boomer, an acquaintance from the last trip through. He's finally leaving Puerto Vallarta for points north (asked to leave?). He will go with us to Mazatlan and then pick up the former owner of his boat and go on to La Paz. Boomer actually sails well, but his waterline is not very long; has a good engine to increase the speed, though.
A rather intense fellow to sail with, but hasn't gone badly.
We sailed day 1 from PV to Punta Mita; spend 1 nite at anchor there. Day 2 from there to Mantanchen Bay (San Blas); spent 1 nite there. The afternoon sail between Punta Mita and Mantanchen was the nicest sailing we have ever had on this boat. 3 hours of beam reach. In order to stay (slower) with Boomer, we had up only the big genoa and were going over 6 knots (for 3 hours, as I said, on one tack).
Before the breeze came up we were motoring and I didn't like the white smoke coming out of the engine exhaust, and there wasn't as much water coming out as there should be. I tried the 3 things that were most likely the problem. The sea strainer was clear. The sea water impeller in the engine was ok (after I spent a while trying to find the replacement) - so the only thing left was a plugged intake. I pulled the hose off the inside of the through-hull, and water just dribbled out when I opened the valve (It should have squirted out like it was trying to sink the boat).
I scrubbled a screwdriver around in there and it didn't seem to make any difference, so the only thing left was to jump into the ocean to see if the blockage was there. Sailing friends had been talking about barnacles getting so thick that they had clogged lines. So I jumped in. Boomer offered to go on shark watch, but there didn't seem to be any; just a lot of little jellyfish. What clear water!!! Much cleaner than anything in the anchorages, even the clearer ones!
Now I scrubbled the screwdriver in the hole from the outside, and I didn't find much of anything in the way of barnacles. There was one little sort of spongy plant living at the outer edge, and I knocked him off, but that was all. Since there was nothing else to try, we started the engine again. Problem solved! I guess that little spongy guy just flopped into the hole when it started sucking in water!
Crash at Sea 4/7/200
This was really stupid on both our parts (although Boomer doesn't admit to such things)
About 4 miles off the Mexican coast between Punta Mita and San Blas). Northbound. 10:30 am.
I am embarrassed to describe the situation. Aztec was struck in the rear Starboard quarter (actually not the hull, just the stern/radar arch and outboard engine hanging on the stern rail) by the vessel "Boomer", with whom we were sailing in company. No alcohol, no sleepiness, no racing. No sails were even up. No wind, so were motoring. 2 people on board Aztec; 1 person on board Boomer.
During the windless, quiet morning we were motoring north toward San Blas. Unfortunately, although I felt we were too close, I had not yet done anything about it. Boomer was on autopilot (although he had made some comments about being unsure of it's dependability) and I was hand steering because our autopilot was out of order (again). Both of us are guilty of insufficient watchkeeping for the proximity of our boats, as described below. Boomer went below for a snack (so noone on watch for a few minutes). I was at the wheel, but took a few moments to study my chartplotter and course (at the binnacle). I apparently allowed Aztec to turn to starboard across the bow of Boomer while distracted. Did I take/ have time to check the course? No. I assume Aztec turned. We yelled at Boomer (very close and coming right at us), who forced his wheel over against the autopilot, but I don't think he thought to throttle down). We almost cleared, but not entirely.
Damage was a bent stern arch and rail on Aztec, with one broken rail foot and one foot ripped out of the wood taffrail, and one smashed outboard engine (the same 9.9HP Mercury I have had all along). Boomer's bow pulpit rail was seriously bent. No other damage to bowsprit, furler, etc.
Anchored at Mantanchen for one night (without contacting the local ruler, "Jama"), with no incident.
So on we went to Isla Isabella April 9, 2007
After San Blas, we sailed on Easter for Isla Isabella, a very small bird sanctuary island about 40 miles off the coast of Mexico between San Blas and Mazatlan. No phone coverage there!! Should be in Mazatlan on Wednesday.
On the way out we were talking to another boat headed for Mazatlan who had been there 2 years ago and told us about "whale sharks" in the area, so we kept a close eye out.... and we saw a group of 3!! They are shaped sort of like sharks, except that the mouths are wide and flat (think vacuum cleaner, because that's just about what they are). They have big vertical dorsal and tail fins and swim lazily along the surface straining up krill and other tiny sea thingies. We circled them slowly and took pictures; I wrote a letter to Latitude 38 about the sighting, and they published the following article in Lectronic Latitude:
"World's Largest - and Maybe Slowest - Fish Species at Isla Isabella
May 25 - Isla Isabella, Mexico
Mexico's Isla Isabella, between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, is best known for being a bird reserve, primarily for frigates and boobies. But while on their way there a short time ago, David and Carolyn Cammack of the San Francisco-based Cape North 43 Aztec were told by some other cruisers to be on the lookout for whale sharks. Sure enough, they spotted three of them, including this one, near the island. They believe it was a juvenile, as it was only about 20 feet long.
© 2007 David & Carolyn Cammack
You don't have to worry about whale sharks biting you, because even though their mouths can be up to five feet wide and have 325 rows of tiny teeth, they are actually filter feeders. They aren't very fast, either, with some species maxing out at a mere 3 miles an hours. Experts say that divers and snorkelers can swim with whale sharks without any danger. One of the things that make whale sharks easy to distinguish from tiger sharks, which you don't want to swim with, are their checkerboard of pale yellow spots and stripes. - latitude / rs Published in Lectronic Latitude
Arrived Isla Isabella:
Isla Isabela is a marine life sanctuary, mostly about birds - there are hundreds of frigate birds sitting in the low scrubby trees. We dinghed ashore, landing at the fish camp on the south side (you'll see my photo of the fish camp in Latitude as well), and walked around to see the old volcano crater and the birds & such. Frigate birds nesting; frigate chicks everywhere!! Not afraid of us at all. Really wierd & different.
The water was as clear as we had seen in Mexico so far; so the snorkeling would have been good except for the westerly swell that increased while we were there. David did snorkel a while with intentions of spearing dinner, but the swell did not allow him to stay in one spot long enough to keep a fish. The anchor was visible on the bottom in 30 feet of water!
We stayed two nights and left at about 4:00 a.m. in hopes in raising Mazatlan before dark. There is no place to stop in between.
We have arrived Mazatlan, but could not enter the marina harbor because of high ocean swell crashing into the entrance. Stayed in the Old Harbor ("Stinky Harbor") for 2 nights. We expected to move over there in the evening at high tide.
Arrived Marina El Cid on Thursday, April 12, 2006
Here in Mazatlan we met Ralph & Joanna Felton (EnSueno of Stockton Sailing Club). With them we made a trip to the "Shrimp Ladies" downtown, bought a kilo of big shrimp & walked down the block to Dunias Cantina. This place will cook your shrimp (or scallops or fish or whatever you buy from the shrimp ladies) for a setup fee.
We also had the opportunity to attend a performance of the Mazatlan civic Orchestra at the Angela Peralta Theater downtown with Rick.
Life pretty much settled down to being marina liveaboards (in a resort). We learned about the city buses, "pulmonia" taxis, provisioning via Wal-Mart & Sam's Club, Sorainna, Gigante & Mega grocery stores, where to find the Home Depot, Office Depot, dentist, etc. We were there from mid April to the end of July, waiting for repairs to the bent stern arch by Mazatlan Marine Services (Rick Cummings) and generally enjoying life at the pool and around the city. There were cruisers get-togethers at Marina Mazatlan as people packed there boats for the season and went hoe for the summer.
And there was the famous Roy Orbishark Show, put on by the cruiser Anne Marie.
And walks all the way down the beach to meet cruisers for brunch at the Bruja restaurant (where the crowd from Marina Mazatlan went on their "Bike to Brunch" trips).
Many good times were had with Bruce & Pascale of Calou, and Janet of Aquarius, David attended Spanish lessons with Evilyn of the trimaran Myriah, and we ended the season by moving Aztec to Marina Mazatlan (no surge there) and flying home on July 26, 2007
After the Ha-Ha
10 November 2006 | Cabo to La Paz & Mazatlan
Cabo San Lucas to La Paz Mid November, 2006
With the auto-pilot (Hector) still in the emergency room, Carolyn and I hand-steered to La Paz. With hurricane Sergio threatening down South and the marina fees threatening the budget, something had to give.
We weren't even sure where we were going to go, but after a few phone calls from Cabo San Lucas, we couldn't affirm that sailmakers were available in Mazatlan (they aren't, really. That's about the only repair thing missing in Maz). But The logical destination from here was Los Freiles because it's on the way to La Paz and / or it's the shortest departure point for Mazatlan.
We wanted to see La Paz after all we'd heard about it, the former owners of our boat now live there, and it seemed a good idea to repair the ripped main before heading off on a 200-mile crossing, so the decision was made to head for La Paz.
We picked a day. The right day! Yohela had started off the day before, but returned because they were making 2 knots headway per gallon of diesel (and these guys sailed from Seattle to Alaska before joining the Ha-Ha). But today was flat, and we motored (there's that engine thing again) East and North to the little bay called Los Frailes.
Some fellow Ha-Ha-ers were anchored at Los Frailes - right on the Tropic on Capricorn just north of Cabo San Lucas - and as we were passing, called us in. For us, this was the very first of real cruising - not moving with the herd. We could take at least a few minutes to think - with no schedule - mostly about what to do next or where to get the next beer, but pause at least. Hot sun, warm breeze, and the water's 84 degrees (isn't this early November?)! This is still the only stop where we've enjoyed a big beach bonfire dinner with other cruisers.
We did the typical hops from Cabo to Las Frailes to Ensenda de Los Muertos to La Paz. The swell from dying storm Sergio did not reach that far north in the 2 nights we stayed at Frailes, nor did it get to Los Muertos the next night. Los Muertos was a truly beautiful stop, with water clear enough to see the anchor 35 feet down, and even a restaurant (a branch of the Giggling Marlin in Cabo) on the beach. Unfortunately, the prices were big-city as well, because this little bay is redefiing itself as the "Bay of Dreams", with very large homes covering the surrounding hills, and it's just an hour's drive over the hills from La Paz. For Baja dwellers, that's a "destination"!
Our navigation through the Canal de San Lorenzo left a little to be desired, as we saw only 14 feet of water under the boat at one point. The mentality of a delta sailor helps in such situations, but we were glad there were no significant waves with troughs to lower that to 4 or 5 feet!! Arriving in La Paz, we found the marinas full, and so ended up on the hook in the "Virtual Marina" for a couple nights. Yes, I could see the Applebees and Burger King signs from the water. The combination of wind and tides makes the boats swing in strange directions, and not all at the same time, giving anchored boats the "La Paz Waltz". We were asked to move by one of the long-term liveaboards after the first night.
Then Marina de La Paz decided to open up some space for several of the Ha-Ha-ers, and we spent several days in that relaxed place. La Paz has a very slow small-town feel, as well as an active cruiser group. Just about anything boaters need is available in town, and can usually be found with the assistance of the morning VHF net among the 3 marinas.
Bob & Ginne Towle, the former owners of Aztec, have built a very beautiful desert home (Casa Azteca) and now reside permanently at the southern end of the La Paz Bay. I also got a little instruction on a few boat items when he visited his old home - like the care & feeding of the Aries wind vane.
La Paz to Mazatlan November 25-27, 2006
The sail outbound was similar to the trip up, except that we found the right path through the Canal de San Lorenzo. This time it we saw no less than 40 feet. It helps to follow the freighters, and a few tips on how to operate your own chartplotter don't hurt. So far, the GPS has been dead on. Wind on the nose again, this time going south. Just like SF Bay, when the tides going out and the wind' coming in, the chop gets really annoying. We totaly salted the boat on this full day trip down to Los Muertos. The little bay wasn't so nice this time because the wind stayed in the 14 knot range
from the Southeast; and the bay is open to the South.
The wind dropped way down after dark when Greg and Carol from Detante dinghied over for dinner, but at about 2:00 a.m it piped up into the low 20's from the East. At least an East wind lined the fleet up along the beach rather then creating a lee shore situation. We had decided to buddy boat across with Detante, and as soon as we got weather news that the wind was just a local "Corumel" rather than a rising Norther, the 2 of us rode that breeze west toward the big city. An hour later it had dropped to around 10 knots, and an hour after that we raised the iron mizzen. Two additional boats saw us run out of the Ensenada and followed. Southwind 3 and the catamaran Java joined our flotilla. This all made good company for 2-our radio checks all night long. The night was a bit long, but lucky for David, Carolyn was somewhat wired and did more than her share of the night driving.
Now picture this, all you delta sailors: A 193 nautical mile run on a single tack (sure, we changed sail trim a few times, and the engine went on and off). The ¼ moon helped provide light and a long reflecting pool on the starboard side for dinner, and the stars lit the port side. At 73 degrees or so, with the engine ticking over slowly and quietly to maintain a nice 6-plus knots, we ate fresh fish, potatoes & green beans while it snowed in Kansas. The bad news is that a crew of 2 who are hand-steering because the auto pilot is dead has to eat in shifts. Oh, well. We all have our troubles. The moon set and the millions of stars dripped in showers down to the horizon in all directions. A hundred miles from land, with no cloud cover, there is no light pollution from a nearby city. There are so many stars it is difficult to pick out even the brightest of constellations like Orion; the water became so flat that they even reflected back up from below! Shipping traffic was minimal. Although Mazatlan is supposed to be the busiest port between Panama and San Diego, there's not much reason for ships to go North into the Sea of Cortez. The morning's rising light revealed a huge cloud bank over Mazatlan, and we worried that the Norther had reached there before we did. The sun rose. The clouds slowly dissipated. A very slight breeze aroze that was only good for keeping us a little cooler. We slowed to hang with Détente, who sprung a leak in her engine exhaust riser just after dawn. They made a repair with electrical tape and a hose clamp that held almost the rest of the way, although they did have to "refresh" it once. The main stayed up, but not for any good reason. We had maybe ½ hour when the breeze added to the speed before arriving at the Mazatlan marina entrance just before dark on the second day. Again, the GPS points were right on!
We are now in Marina Mazatlan, enjoying the cruiser scene here and starting to explore one of Mexico's bigger cities. This place has everything from the tourist traps at the beach to Sam's club, Home Depot, and Office Max (not to mention Burger King and the taco stands). To make it all sound even more decadent, we had set up a timeshare for expected visitors, but never had any takers - so we have had a week's vacation from vacation. It turns out that the place is just a short bus ride down the street. We have so far spent about every other night there, enjoying the pool & showers, but we had to turn the air conditioning off! We can't really even complain about the heat here, anyway. Mornings have been cool, if not actually chilly - probably high 60's. That will be good for the big Mazatlan Marathon which is to run tomorrow morning (December 3) - right past the door of the marina.
For $20 US, a very good English-speaking doctor is working with Carolyn to determine which of her medi-cations are available here. Several will probably not require prescriptions and cost much less than "back home". The telephone works fine, but cost us 59 cents per minute. I need to get set up on "Skype" to talk through our computer for 2 cent a minute from the boat!!!
The electronics reps came yesterday and took away both the autopilot and the SSB for repairs. It was comforting to see them arrive wearing the standard ICOM polo shirts to check my ICOM radio. This company, Electro-Mar is run by an older gent from Norway who wandered here years ago and operated in the marine controls business. Although he still does marine repairs, his bigger business is in radios for police & fire & other fleet vehicles.
The big deal is that he also repaired the autopilot.
We also met a few other boats, like TICA and MARADON. And we came to learn of the Mazatlan rather cruiser-based music scene that sort of revolves around Kanuck's restaurant downtown. We shared dinner aboard Maradon, a 60-year old wood ketch built by the owner's uncle (Owner Phil Middleton, owner also of Little Darcy Island on the US-Canada border).