In San Blas we had done some running repairs to Jabula (remember the tear in the genny?) and I had also installed the water maker. So it was with a feeling of purpose that on Wednesday, February 6th, we started our motor and made our way slowly out of the San Blas estuary. Slowly, because our prop was fouled and I hadn't wanted to dive on it in the dirty water of the estuary. With purpose, because this was going to be the first real test of the water maker.
It was a warm and calm morning and little wind was expected, but because it helps to run the motor when one is running the WM, I was uncharacteristically happy about the lack of wind. It would allow us to motor all of the way to Chacala (only about 7 hours away) and fill our tanks with the purest of water from the sea!! What a terrific invention, and we would recommend it to anyone planning on voyaging any serious distances from civilisation. Not that it is essential, but it's bloody wonderful!
Our quiet motor-sail was enlivened when, WHIZZZZZZZ.... FISH ON!! Always an exciting event especially when one is in the middle of a shower as was Jeannie! So up she rushes to help with the fish, wearing nothing but soap suds, complaining bitterly of the fish's lack of consideration!
It all ended successfully even though it only turned out to be a skipjack tuna. Though it was a good size, its flesh is dark red and one cannot use it for much other than fishcakes and (after boiling and flaking) a type of tuna mayonnaise. But Jeannie made her magic and we feasted later of King Neptune's bounteous treasure.
We arrived at Chacala at just after 1500 hrs and discovered it was a very attractive little bay with a lovely beach. We had to put out a stern anchor to keep us bow on to the swell, and having done that found it to be a very comfortable anchorage. The Port Captain was very helpful and spoke good English. And the coconuts...oh, the drinking coconuts! How delicious. We found a little palapa selling ice-cold drinking coconuts (coco frio), topped them up with a wee rum and... yum, yum!
The water was relatively clear and warm and I dived on the prop and gave it a good scrub. Also cleaned off the impellers for the logs so that we could again note our speed through the water. The three week stay in San Blas had given us substantial growth on everything not painted with antifouling paint.
Everywhere we've sailed to where there has been a small town, we have been able to stock up with fresh fruit, vegies and other basics. Of course beer is universally available, but Campari is a different story completely, so Jeannie has joined the ranks of sailors of old and developed a love for grog! (Keeps the scurvy at bay don'cha know! AAAAARGH!)
So on Monday, February 11th at 0740 hrs we motored quite quickly out of Chacala, bound for Punta Mita...making water!
It was Wednesday, January 16th when we weighed anchor at Isla Isabella, bound for San Blas. Little to no wind at 0700 hrs, so we motored. At 0930 we spotted some pop bottles bobbing oddly in the sea which also appeared to be spaced equally apart in roughly a straight line...from horizon to horizon! They were attached by a fairly thick polly line which we could see when we got closer. We had to alter course and ran parallel to it for an hour and a half before we found the end! It must have been 10 miles long!!! Along the way we spotted a booby bird that had got itself wrapped up in the long-line so we tried to release it. Unfortunately its one wing was broken and was also hooked very badly through it's stomach - so I had to do the most humane thing.
The wind had come up a bit so we set the main and spinnaker and had a wonderful sail all the rest of the way to San Blas.
Our arrival was marked by a welcoming committee of one, in the form of Norm Goldie. He is the self-proclaimed guardian of San Blas and it's boating tourists. He gave me what has to be the most strange, but accurate anchoring directions I have ever had. The directions were based on the Charlie's Charts diagram of the estuary showing amongst other things where the shrimp boats were positioned. I was to anchor "between the 'I' and 'M' of 'shrimp'!" You have to understand that there are no charts (that I have seen) pertaining to this area of Mexico that should be used for detailed navigation like anchoring. Most of the places we have anchored here have been on land (according to the charts) or we had to cross a large portion of shoreline to get there! So local knowledge and/or a good cruising guide are essential.
The Hotel Flamingo
San Blas is a beautiful little Mexican town complete with cobblestone roads, open-air markets (selling everything from crafts to chillies), sun, dust and more dust. And don't forget the bugs! It has a reputation for no-see-ums and mosquitos, but while we were there we didn't find it so terrible provided you took resonable precautions. San Blas was the Mexico we were looking for, and I guess the bugs (and lack of marinas) are the reasons it has remained protected from the onslaught of US and Canadian "RB'ers" (Recreational Boaters). Being unspoiled by the above, it has retained its Mexican flavour and culture.
Boats in the estuary
The local indians (known as the Huichol), make beautiful beaded crafts and stunning artwork made from brilliantly coloured yarn stuck onto board with a mixture of wax and resin. These they create while under the influence of peyote (an hallucinogenic drug), and many of the well known artists are actually shamans. The beaded work ranges from jewellery to masks and plates. The work is very detailed and delicate with amazing colours and patterns.
Here we made friends with Bill and Trish aboard Kwinhagak (try saying THAT after a margarita or two!), and Mark aboard Myah as well a number of other "yachties". We also met a number of very friendly local folk, but I'm afraid that our lack of Spanish precluded us from communicating with them in any meaningful way.
Bill and Trish talked us into staying for "San Blas Days" - a local celebration glorifying their very own Saint Blaise. All the local fishermen (and their families, friends and others) stream out from the harbour in fishing trawlers, pangas and whatever else will float, following the boat at the head of the procession that carries the statue of St. Blaise and the bishop of the town.
It floats with the grace of God and the bishop
This procession of boats filled to overflowing ploughs its way through the breakers into the pacific and makes its way to La Blanca de Tierra Rock on which stands a statue of the Virgin Mary. Here, under the watchful eye of the VM the lead boat stops and ALL the other boats jockey for position and then (with only the occasional clash) file passed the blessed boat to have holy water thrown at them and get blessed by the bishop. Thereafter it's a mad dash back through the surf into the harbour where a massive water fight commences. The finale is a wonderful (if somewhat dangerous) fireworks display in the plaza in downtown San Blas!
Up the estuary at Paraje del Rey
Then it was time to go.