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Pacifico's Return Voyage to Mexico
Back to the Baja
05/09/2011

Friday, May 6: Buenos dias from Caleta Partida, which is a little bay between the islands of Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. This is almost an isthmus, but there is a narrow, shallow channel between the two islands that we took the dinghy through to the other side so they are actually two separate islands. We are tucked up behind the bluffs on the south east end of this 'caleta' or 'little hiding place' and it's a good place to be because the "Coromuels" are blowing 15-20 tonight. In a nutshell Coromuels are a localized south-westerly wind in the La Paz area that typically blow at night in the spring and summer months as a result of the cooler Pacific air flowing across the low lands of the Baja peninsula towards the warmer water of the Sea of Cortez. Behind the shelter of these tall bluffs we only get the wind, no waves. The fetch across the bay from La Paz is about 20 miles and many of these calas, caletas and ensenadas on the west side of these islands get significant waves in these conditions. Two of the boats that are in here now were run out of another anchorage just around the corner a few nights ago with 20-25 knot winds accompanied by 5 foot seas, which would make for an uncomfortable night and dangerous conditions on a lea shore.

We have been in here for three nights after leaving Marina Palmira in La Paz on Wednesday 5/4. I'm going to back track from this point to get up to date. I think I left off at about the time we departed Mazatlan on Sunday, April 17. That seems like a long time ago! It was foggy that morning and the harbor was closed for several hours. We got stuck inside then in the fuel dock line up at El Cid Marina, but we were finally able to leave by about 1100 hrs. We made the 190 nm crossing of the lower Sea of Cortez with about 201 nm actual distance traveled and on a heading of about 274°m, motor sailing most of the way in modest winds from between 1-3 knots to as much as 11-12 knots. We added a few miles by taking some long tacks with the wind shifts, which was from the west or southwest. We anchored at Bahia de los Muertos on the East Cape of the Baja by 1730 hrs on the 18th. It felt good to be back on the Baja, having left Cabo San Lucas on November 28th, to make the crossing to Mazatlan before heading south to the "Mexican Riveria."

As much as we enjoyed the mainland this was what we were looking for; the water was warm, clear and emerald green with white sand beaches. We left Mazatlan a few hours behind Sirocco and So Inclined and were passed up by Blue Rodeo and Swift Current. Bahia de Los Muertos or Bay of the Dead is facing a make-over. There is an upscale hotel and home development on its southern end. They apparently thought Bay of the Dead was not a good marketing theme and have renamed it Bahia de Los Suenos or Bay of Dreams. True it is probably more appealing to some, but it will always be referred to simply as "Muertos" by locals and cruisers. There are remnants of an old wharf from the early 1900s at the north end of the bay left over from a pier that was constructed to service mining operations in the area. The stone work of the wharf makes a good dinghy landing and there is a restaurant/bar with wifi available. Not the kind of place we would frequent often at $40 pesos a beer and $20 for the wifi, but it was convenient and the only game in town. We had a good dinghy ride around the bay and then joined a "cruiser's potluck" on the beach the following afternoon. That was fun and we had the opportunity to meet folks from other boats; Taking Flight, Honcho, Scout, Endeavour and a few others along with the usual group. The next day we had lunch at the hotel's restaurant. The word was out that cruisers were welcome to use their pool as long as we were customers at the bar/restaurant; they must be hard up for business? We were forewarned that it would be expensive, and it was, but worth the effort. This facility, not the same one that is by the old wharf, is located at top of a low bluff above the beach. This small and upscale hotel and residential complex is very private and well guarded by security. The hotel starts at $350 US a night off season and the bar was priced accordingly. A private helicopter flew into a landing pad close by to deposit owners, but no matter, we've decided we don't have to own it to enjoy it. The food was great despite the heartburn at the cost and the facility was worth the visit, it even had a complete model railroad system upstairs completely around the foyer that rivaled any; with several different gauge systems that were fully operational complete with towns and switching yards.

After lunch and a tour of the facility we got in some snorkeling on the reef in front of the hotel, then back to the boats for siesta. After a couple of days of this routine and a few boat projects we moved around the East Cape through the Cerralvo Channel and into Bahia de La Paz, a 45nm passage to anchor in a beautiful little bay called Puerto Balandra, at 24°11.003' N, 110°18.236'W. This bay is uninhabited except by day boats bringing Mexican tourists from La Paz to the white sand beaches on the south side of the bay. This was Easter Week and a national holiday week here in Mexico. The beaches had started to fill up back in Muertos with 4 wheel drive buggies and campers, just like in the states except these folks are local Mexicans taking advantage of Spring Break week. At Muertos we were serenaded at night with their competing 'boom boxes'. At Balandra the tourists and day boats leave in the evening and we had the bay to ourselves.

Balandra is open to the northwest and we anchored in the southern part of the bay as close to the tall cliffs as we could to gain protection in what would be our first experience with the Coromuel. The afternoon's typical northerly breeze dies off and we are left with beautiful sunsets, flat calm water and starry nights followed by the beginning of the Coromuel wind. It starts slowly, swinging all the boats at anchor around bow towards its approach. The winds vary on different days. Our first night it stayed light, 10-15 until about midnight, then increased to 20-25 knots blowing constantly until sunlight. We were told the night before we arrived it blew 30-35, lucky us! With the cliffs above us we got the wind, but without any fetch only rivulets of waves impacted the boat. It was noisy, but not rolly or dangerous. I had heard a lot about these Coromuel winds, this was my first experience in them. The wind would die completely by late morning leaving it perfectly calm for a while before the afternoon northerly's set in, but they were moderate and kept the heat of the day at bay. That said this would not be a good anchorage in a strong northerly blow.

We enjoyed several days of snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, lounging and of course boat projects before making the 9 nm hop to Marina Palmira just on the outskirts of La Paz. Just before leaving we were 'inspected' again by a Mexican Navy crew that came into the anchorage in an aluminum boat that looked like a panga. As before, they were polite and asked for our ships papers, passports and crew list. Satisfied, they left quickly without going below and we were off. Once in the marina we were assigned a slip at the end of dock #3 with the long end tie next to us vacant. It was nice having the open space next to us and the fresh breeze, although while we were there a few of the very large cruising yachts did tie up for a few hours to load or unload the owners and clean up. I met one of the crew of one of these boats and we shared a couple of beers while taking a break from our respective chores. We chatted in broken English and Spanish as best we could and at the end he offered me fish! Not wanting to insult him of course I accepted. Truth is we had drug a line behind us several times and only caught a small bonita, which I gave back to the sea. Anyway, we were given a couple of nice filets of red snapper or 'huachinago' which we made 'a la Vera Cruz the next evening to share with Anne and Mark from Blue Rodeo.

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico is the state capital of B.C.S. and a city of about 500,000 people. This is not a tourist town, although it does have some components of that with several marinas serving the yachting community as well as a sizable 'gringo' community here, but no large hotel row. That said it is not at all like Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta and it has just about everything; Wal Mart, Sam's Club, Home Depot, as well as their own Soriana and other mega-markets. We found four marine supply stores and a variety of hardware stores as well as an assortment of really good restaurants to choose from too. This city caters to locals more than to tourists and the restaurants were not all located on a tourist strip, but sprinkled about the community as well as on the malecon. One of the restaurants we patronized was called "Buffalo" pronounced 'boof'a-lo' which was recommended by my daughter-in-law Andrea, her Mom and Stepfather having a home here, we got several other recommendations from them as well. Anyway, this was pretty over the top, very nice, but in a relaxed way and the food prepared was superb. We went with a group of eight and were treated with complimentary appetizer. The chef came out while we were eating and asked how we liked the appetizer? What could we say; it was different, really great! When asked what it was we were told it was toasted pita style bread topped with a cheese I can't pronounce and the little things on top were grasshoppers! Sure enough, looks like a leg to me! We can all now say we have eaten grasshoppers; and they were pretty good too, kind'a sweet and tastes like chicken. Although, we had a few among us that wouldn't take a second bite (Marisa). It's now Saturday, May 7 and we are still at Caleta Partida. We enjoyed our stay in La Paz and at Marina Palmira so much so that we extended our time there by several days. I was able to accomplish quite a few projects that had eluded me thus far before finally departing on day 10. This has been our longest stay in a marina, at least while we were actually aboard the boat and it was very affordable at about $20 US a day including utilities. We checked out of the marina on Wednesday, May 4 and headed straight for Caleta Partida. As much as we enjoyed La Paz, this is a wonderful place and absolutely quiet. The afternoon winds have died as predicted and yesterday we had a beautiful sunset across calm, flat water. It is late now, about 2130 hrs and the first hint of a Coromuel has just started. It's a light breeze from the southwest. They are projected to be light this evening; we hope so. This evening after dinner we watched the sunset into the hills and mountains across the sea into the mountains of the Baja. The water was so calm that we could see some of the elusive sea turtles we had seen intermittently about the bay poking their heads up for a breath before swimming back down. I was surprised at how many there are in this bay. A ray swam leisurely by, his wing tips rhythmically breaking the calm surface, an occasional fish boil and you can hear the wind whistle through the wings of the sea birds when they dive after fish. We will post a few photos when we get internet again and I hope that they portray the natural beauty of this place; the desert by the sea. Until then we will post our blogs via satellite phone.

We are enjoying this place and the slower pace, but tomorrow we will be off to Isla San Francisco about 20 miles further North into the Sea.

cruising
Copper Canyon Excursion
Dave
04/25/2011, Posada Barrancas

After our arrival at Marina Mazatlan on Friday, April 8, we got the boat cleaned up after a week out, then got a good night's rest. Saturday was a bus ride into Centro to revisit the market place and a little more of the downtown area. Despite the warnings of all the violence in that community we made it through the day unscathed and didn't even see one shoot out, just a lot of hard working people going about their daily routine; So disappointing!

We previously planned to take an off boat road trip to Mexico's Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) and to begin the trip from Mazatlan, which we did on Sunday, April 10. After much to-do about the details we decided to just "wing it." We did purchase our first leg of the trip aboard an "Elite" bus line's first class bus out of Mazatlan with an 0800 departure to Los Mochis along with Howard and Lynn from Swift Current and Mark and Anne from Blue Rodeo. It seemed like this was one of those events that fell together just about perfectly and better than we could have planned it. We all had dinner Saturday night with Mike and his friend Karen aboard So Inclined at the El Cid Resort Marina, which is a long walk or short taxi ride from our marina. We caught one of Mazatlan's "red trucks" to the El Cid and made arrangements with the driver to pick us up at 0620 the next morning for a ride to the bus station. As promised he was there and we got to the station just in time to catch the 0700 bus. We were an hour ahead of schedule.

The bus ride from Mazatlan to Los Mochis was interesting and uneventful. Our seats were quite comfortable, the bus was air conditioned and we were entertained with several movies dubbed in Spanish. Not understanding everything we missed a lot but it was fun to try to piece together between us and our limited Spanish what was going on. We went through one police check point wherein a Federal Police Officer entered the bus, looked around and then asked one fellow passenger for identification. Satisfied he exited the bus. We also encountered an agricultural inspection station. When the inspector came through the bus to our group, I told him, "no tenemos frutitas or verduras." He was satisfied with that and shortly we were on our way again. We had a brief stop at the Culican station where I bought some pretty tasty burritos from a vendor. The countryside we traveled through was initially very dry and desert like then transitioned into rich agricultural area under irrigation from a canal system. The scenery was for me at times reminiscent of either the Central Valley off old Highway 99 up near Bakersfield or the Palo Verde (Blythe) or Imperial Valley area with irrigated fields backed by rugged desert hills. We found Los Mochis to be a large working class community with neat roads and streets, residential areas and a large business district that looked much like Imperial or El Centro in the Imperial Valley.

We got off the Elite bus at Los Mochis with only the information that there is a second bus station that we would have to find to take another bus to El Fuerte, our hoped for final stop for the day. A clerk with super long fingernails at the bus station could only vaguely instruct us to walk four or five blocks up and two over. With that information we started off afoot, turning down several offers from cabs because it would require two for our group of six, and what the heck, it was only a few blocks! We arrived at the approximate intersection, but with no bus station in sight we tried asking a few locals for assistance. One fellow knew what we wanted, but couldn't adequately tell us so that we could understand where the station was located. He then indicated that we should follow him and he started off up the street then across the street with the six of us dutifully following. At mid-block he entered a pedestrian alley and we followed him in. We came out into a large bus lot and he led us right up to the bus for El Fuerte, which just happened to be leaving in about two minutes. No ticket, no problem, just buy it on the bus.

The bus to El Fuerte was not of the "first class" variety, but was comfortable enough for the two hour run. We were dropped off that afternoon in the center of town at kind of a bus pick-up and transfer location. We had been provided with the name of the "Rio Vista" hotel, "located right next to the old fort," and started shopping for rooms as we walked in search of that facility. Checking out a few places we continued our quest for lodging and soon came upon the old fort, which is a replica of the original Spanish fort on the hill overlooking the town and the El Fuerte River. Sure enough the Rio Vista was right next to the fort, built on the bluff and had a great view of the river and valley below. The proprietor, Nacho, led us to a group of three quaint, clean rooms with great river views. We took it.

After freshening up Nacho served us a few cold beverages with chips and salsa on the patio overlooking the river before we took a walk into town. This area of town is historically and architecturally interesting and has a nice city park in the town square. El Fuerte is located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains and was founded in 1564 by Spanish Conquistadores. It is also the birthplace of "Zorro" of later fame in Alta California. After walking about the old town area we found a great place for dinner. Back at our hotel we all got a good night's sleep, except for the geckos. I didn't know that geckos bark and chatter at night and it seems that each room had a pair of them. Who knew that such a small lizard could make so much noise! We've been told they eat the bugs, which could be, because we didn't see any in our room.

That morning we were treated to a great breakfast on the patio, again served by Nacho. Nacho's brother took us to the train station in the hotel's van and within about 10 minutes our train arrived. Once again, no ticket, no problem; buy it on the train. Our train or "ferrocarril" is operated by the Chihuahua Pacifico Railway, part of the National Railways of Mexico. The system runs from Los Mochis near the coast to Chihuahua, about 300 miles inland and traverses Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains crossing the Continental Divide. The rail cars were clean and comfortable with reclining seats, foot rests and plenty of leg room. There is a "head" in every car and large view windows for every pair of seats. The conductors wear a traditional conductor's uniform and long coat with hat. We found them to be helpful and courteous.

A little RR history: The railway was the idea of American engineer Albert Owens who came to Mexico's Topolobampo Bay in 1861 and considered it the best place to establish a Pacific port linked by railway to the American Midwest. Construction started on the railway, but because of wars and revolutions it was not finished until 1961 with the completion of the last segment of 160 miles between Creel and Chihuahua. A few interesting facts: There are 39 bridges the longest of which is the Agua Caliente Bridge at 1,637 ft long. The system has 87 tunnels, the longest being tunnel #86 at 5,980 feet in length. The railway climbs to an elevation of 8,071 feet at Ojitos and the travel time from Los Mochis to Chihuahua is 14 hours. I thought it was pretty interesting and thought I'd share those numbers with you. It is a pretty impressive system and fun to ride too!

We chose six seats together and shortly the conductor came through to collected fares, cash only, and to issue tickets. We spent a few hours in our car then moved to the lounge car. We were just about the only patrons in the car and stayed there for most of the trip, enjoying the views through the larger windows and with refreshments. We had a nice lunch in the dining car, which again was almost empty then completed our travel in the lounge car. Our trip to the Posada Barrancas Station took seven hours. Exiting the train at almost 8,000 feet elevation it was substantially cooler than the coast below. We had no real information on this stop, but again had been told it was a good place to stay while visiting the area. We got off and were surprised that there was basically nothing there, no town, taxis or hotels. We were a surprised at the remoteness of this location, but the train was gone so nothing to reconsider. Fortunately one other couple had exited the train with us and there was a hotel van and truck there to pick them up. The van driver, David, asked if we had reservations. He looked at us like we were nuts when we told him we didn't and invited us to ride with them to their hotel, no obligation. What could it hurt?

Again, what a pleasant surprise. We took rooms at the Posada Barrancas Mirador. This hotel is beautiful and is right on the rim of the canyon with our room's balconies literally built over the edge with fantastic canyon views. At $2,350 per night or just about $200 US it seemed high at first, but actually what a deal. Included were three gourmet meals per person daily, guided tours and entertainment in the lounge nightly all with great, friendly service. I would highly recommend this hotel.

After settling into our rooms we all gathered in the lobby for a hiking tour led by David. He took us down a trail into the canyon to a ledge that led past several "Tarahumara" Indian residences. We learned that there are about 70,000 "Tarahumara" living scattered about in their native land which is located within the vast expanse of the "Barrancas del Cobre" region. I'll take a quote from Mark and Anne's blog. "According to history, the "Tarahumara" retreated into the canyon when the Spaniards invaded Mexico and have been there ever since. The "Tarahumara" or as they call themselves "Raramuri", meaning "foot runner" dwell in caves or under rock ledges with wood or adobe houses attached to them. They are known as extraordinary long distance runners and for generations have used narrow footpaths in the canyon to travel swiftly between villages. Wearing only huarache sandals, the men have been known to beat ultra marathon runners in the States while even stopping to take a smoke during the event." Thanks guys, I liked what you had to say about these interesting people and didn't want to leave it out!

We saw quite a few of the women "Tarahumara" tending their children while selling their baskets at various locations to tourists and at their homes in the canyon, but we didn't see any men or adolescent boys, just girls. The women and girls dressed in their traditional clothing. I asked David, our guide, where the men were and he said most of them work at ranches, farms, in mining and even at the hotels, and that they don't dress in the traditional clothing except ceremonially.

On the second day of our stay we opted for a more adventuresome outing, or at least some of us did. There is a gondola or cable car (teleferico) that runs down into the canyon 1.74 miles and a "zip line" (tirolesa) ride that has seven stations with one run over 1 kilometer long. Mark, Anne and Howard opted for the "zip line" while Marisa, Lynn and I took the cable car then a short road trip to Divisadero with David. The train stop at Divisadero is the closest station to the rim of the canyon and is located at the overlook to Urique Canyon 4,1354 feet down. For more interesting commentary on this trip and especially about the "zip line" and photos of the "zip line" ride go to Mark and Anne's blog at: http://www.svbluerodeo.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday came and our time at Posada Barrancas Mirador was over. The desk clerk made a reservation for us at the Santa Anita Hotel in Los Mochis and we said good bye to all the wonderful staff that made our stay so comfortable and enjoyable. David took us back to the train platform at Posada Barrancas where we caught the 1330 train to Los Mochis. We opted to ride the train all the way this time and skip the El Fuerte. The train took us to the station where we were told by the staff at the Mirador we would be met by the driver for the Santa Anita Hotel. We didn't know what to expect, but when we walked out of the train station there was a large bus there that said, "Santa Anita Hotel", it doesn't get any easier. Our luck was holding as it seemed that about half the train's passengers were taking that bus. Regardless, off the hotel we went, and again it was a pleasant surprise. The hotel was in down town Los Mochis. It was modern, clean and quiet with very nice rooms all for about $80 us for a double. Much better than a Best Western.

The next morning we opted to walk to the Elite bus station, which we were told was about 10 blocks. We figured we'd get there early, get our tickets and then breakfast while we waited for our bus. Arriving about 0840 we found that we only had about 20 minutes before the next bus left, just enough time to get our tickets, then grab some take-out food from an OXOXO convenience market (similar to a 7-11) across the street and get on board our bus for the six hour run back to Mazatlan. It was a good thing too because the next bus didn't leave until 2100 that night! We had a comfortable bus ride, again with Spanish dubbed movies and all we needed now was to find a red truck for the return trip to our marina. Our good fortune held true to the end and Mark spotted a red truck right outside the terminal. In 20 minutes we were home.

This was a truly wonderful experience; sharing this adventure with two other couples that were great company and who shared an optimistic outlook not to mention a sense of humor and set out determined to make it happen. And it did! We are glad that we added this side trip to our Mexico travel experience, but we were all glad to get back to our boats to get ready for the next leg our journey: Back to the Baja. To be continued.

cruising
Back to Guyabitos and on to Mazatlan
Dave
04/15/2011, Marina Mazatlan

We left La Cruz marina on April 2, after several days of projects including paying a diver to clean the bottom, and what a difference that has made in performance and handling. The water down here is warmer than it gets in SoCal, even as cool as it is this year it is still warmer than our summer temps and the marine life grows quickly on the boat's bottom, prop and shaft with all kinds of 'stuff' that slows the boat and clogs intakes. I didn't want to do the job and for a buck a foot includiing zincs it was hardly worth doing it myself. The fellow really worked hard and did a good job. I dove the bottom at the conclusion of his work and it was spotless. I think he was surprised to see anyone get into the water and inspect his work, but I had no complaints and as a bonus the water was 74° with good visibility and lots of tropical fish, even here in the marina.

We had a great time in La Cruz, but it was time to start our trek north. The marina there was full with many boats like us transitioning back to the north following the season. I thought the weather was great, Marisa said it was getting too hot for her liking, much like in Zihatuanejo, which gave us our warmest temps of the season thus far. Anyway, we refueled and made an uneventful exit from Bandaras Bay on Saturday morning. We were treated to a mother humpback whale and calf swimming close by us as we left the bay. The little guy was flying out of the water, spinning and turning as he crashed back down repeatedly then spanking the water with his tail while mom just swam alongside and kept track of him and probably of us too. We didn't get to close, coming between a mother and her calf can be dangerous. On the down side I was coming down with a cold; yes the rhinovirus exists down here too.

We arrived at the anchorage off Rincon de Guyabitos at about 1500 and anchored in close proximity to So Inclined, Blue Rodeo and Swift Current. That evening we all took our dinghies ashore to have dinner at the place we had found while there in December. On that visit we were with Swift Current and had a great coconut shrimp dinner. The table next to us ordered what we thought was a "mocajete" that looked fabulous and we had decided there and then to come back and try that entre the next time. What luck, it was their 'special of the day' and everyone at the table ordered it, actually one per couple since it is large enough to split. I have to say it was good, but not great. It turned out to be 'fajitas' in disguise, hence the disappointment. After a short stroll about the town we made it back to the boats and settled in. The next morning my cold was worse and I felt it too. We took a day off and I laid low to take it easy and rest up while the rest of the fleet continued on to Mantanchen Bay. Marisa had not really wanted to go there anyway because of all the "jejenes" (no-seeums) we encountered there last time so nothing was lost. We didn't have any wifi here but at least our phones worked.

We departed Guyabitos on Monday, April 4 for Isla Isabel, about 60 nm to the N/W at about 315°m. It was an easy crossing, much like the run from Oceanside to Catalina's Two Harbors. It's about the same distance and the wind was right on the nose, so we made a night crossing, motoring into light breeze and flat seas. Isla Isabel is a bird sanctuary for frigates primarily, but there are also boobies and albatross. This island is an extinct volcano with several caldera or collapsed caldera. It is low lying and only about a quarter mile across. There are two small anchorages and both are rocky and notorious for snatching and holding anchors. We put a trip line on the head of our anchor in case it got snagged in the rocks. In that event you're supposed to be able to retrieve the trip line, which is attached to a float and pull the head of the anchor out so it can be retrieved. In addition this island and surrounding waters are rich with fish and there are several "co-op' fishing camps at the main beach. They run countless submerged nets around the island and think nothing of surrounding the anchorage with them as well. You end up anchored in a sea of floats; it's un-nerving and makes for very careful entry and exit. We were joined there by the rest of our fleet and while most of them went ashore to hike I stayed on the boat nursing my cold while Marisa worked on her special project, to be disclosed at a later time. Again we didn't have any wifi and out there no cell phone service either.

On Thursday April 7 at about 0630 we all made an early departure for Mazatlan, some 85 nm to the NN/W at about 330°m. We had some issues getting our anchor up, essentially the anchor chain got stuck in the rocks, not the anchor, and it took about half an hour of slowly going across it, pulling it up by hand, lowering it, backing off then going forward again, but we got it up and set out after our fleet carefully working our way out of the fishing net floats. We got to the Stone Island anchorage outside Mazatlan's old harbor at 2230 that night. It wasn't cold but very damp, it may as well have been raining it was so wet. It was a short night, rocking and rolling in a large swell that ran through the anchorage. The next morning we made the last ten miles to the entrance to Marina Mazatlan. We were the last of our boats to head in and were stopped by an official looking boat, maybe the port captain? Anyway, because of the large swell that was running they told us the harbor entrance was closed. We insisted that our friends had made it and while they were not happy said go ahead but to be very careful. This entrance is tricky, it's narrow, shallow and with a swell running from the SW the surge continued up the channel. Anyway, we made it in between the big sets and I saw 8.4 knots boat speed on the one swell we did surf in on. Pretty cool! We're here and we have wifi again!

We are in Marina Mazatlan and have gotten the boat cleaned up. We are getting ready for an off boat excursion to Mexico's Copper Canyon by bus and train. More on that in the next installment.

cruising
Back in Nuevo Vallarta and glad to be here!
Dave
03/31/2011

It's been a while since we posted anything because we weren't here! We flew to San Diego from Puerto Vallarta on March 16. It was an easy flight and only about 1/3 full. Our return flight, today 3/29 was even lighter! It really brings it home that I am fortunate to be able to do this. When we got back to the boat everything was as we left it. There was no real reason for concern, but you can't help but to be. Our dock is not heavily populated and mostly by Australians getting their boats ready to head across the Pacific on the "Puddle Jump." It seems that several of them all unassociated with each other have coincidentally purchased boats here in Mexico, brought them to this marina and are readying them for the crossing.

Our trip home was enjoyable but busy. We took what we could carry with us of the 'stuff' onboard that we have found we are not using then brought back at least as much new 'stuff' or even more! I had kept a "West Marine" list going over the months and was able to get just about everything we needed. Thanks again to Jack, Buddy and John at our Oceanside West Marine for your efforts. I had also ordered additional LED replacement bulbs online that they didn't carry. We had taken a few with us and they worked so well I am replacing all the old incandescent and halogen bulbs with these new "Sensibulbs" LED lights. If you have a boat and need low energy light that's the ticket. They are very bright yet cool and use 1/10 the power. I can't wait to get them installed and get to an anchorage were we can really utilize them. We had so much stuff from West Marine and Trader Joes
that we were concerned that we'd get zapped by Mexican Customs. Fortunately we got the 'green light' and walked right on through. I was a little nervous!

Coincidentally Mike from So Inclined and Lee and Cathy on Sirocco and ourselves had all booked our off boat travels with overlapping days at home. This was a good time to travel, after the Bandaras Bay Race Week and just in time for taxes! Reality sucks. Needless to say we all got together up at OYC on the Friday night we were all in town and Carleen took that picture of us all up at the bar. Gee, just like in Mexico! It was fun to be together at the club and to see many of our friends there together. Mike had the shortest trip with just one week, we stayed two and Lee and Cathy will be away three weeks with other side travel.

As I said it was busy; with family and friends to visit, specific items to be located and purchased, taxes, a dead battery in the car, which it also needed a smog check and registration that reality came rushing back! It was a strange feeling knowing that we were there only for a short time and would be returning to the boat to begin the final leg of this journey. As my friend Tim said to me: once you get home it feels like you never left. He was right. We were back into the same routine and motion, but it was a strange feeling after living aboard these past four months. We were in a very familiar yet different environment, and now that we are home, back on the boat, it seems like we never left! We both commented that it felt odd to be flying from San Diego to go home vs. to San Diego. You get the picture.

We are on the boat after finishing some projects this afternoon and a walk out of the marina area to find a new place for dinner since we have not yet been to the store. It was nice to work on the boat again, especially in nice, warm, weather! Tomorrow we hope to finish up some of our projects and pull out of here to go up to La Cruz for a few days; just in time for Tacos on the Street! We will do our provisioning up there before heading out on our next leg. That should be up to Bahia Jaltemba, then Chacala and hopefully out to Isla Isabel on the way to Mazatlan, but we shall see since as we know, these things are subject to change!

cruising
04/01/2011 | Chip Prather
Welcome back Dave! We're in Mazatlan getting ready to cross over to the Baja. Probably go on Sunday if the forecast holds. Hope to see you soon. Chip and Kt
04/07/2011 | Cindy Roush
too funny! We took the same picture of the banos sliding into the river. Bill put it in the TWIXT this month.
04/13/2011 | Thor Bergman
You need to get a little solar battery tender for your car if its gona sit. Just plugs in your cigarette lighter, works really well.
Bandaras Bay Race Week and the tsunami of 2011
03/13/2011

The Bandaras Bay Race week is a yearly event sponsored by the Vallarta Yacht Club at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. Paradise Village is also referred to as the Marina del Rey of the south, which is why we prefer to be in La Cruz, but for this event we will make an exception. We got a slip at neighboring Nuevo Vallarta Marina because Paradise was full. Both marinas share the same entrance channel into this dredged estuary/mangrove swamp that has little channels running for miles back into the river bottom and yes, it's posted for crocodiles too!

Oceanside crew regulars Mike Cobas, Patty Mangles and James Connor flew down for the event. Lee and Cathy provided Siroccos's own race HQ by renting one of the condos adjacent to the Vallarta YC where our extra crew stayed and we could store some of the excess gear removed from Sirocco to lighten her load for the race as well as some of our own equipment. We had nightly 'debriefings' there, fixed crew dinner and we had access to the washer and dryer at the condo, which was a bonus! Our marina is close enough for us use our dinghies for transportation between the two locations, no taxis involved. Thanks to Lee and Cathy for going above and beyond to do all that, it really made it nice.

Race Week events started on Wednesday with a practice race primarily geared towards the cruising boats in the fleet that don't do much if any racing. To be sure there were quite a few die hard racers with race oriented boats in the fleet and the fleet was divided into different classes mostly determined by ratings. We were in a tough class with some serious competition. The practice day gave us a chance to re-orient ourselves to racing and to being on Sirocco again. Thursday, March 10 was the first race. Sirocco got off to a clean start and held the lead almost to the first windward mark over some faster competitors. We sailed a clean race with good execution of all our maneuvers, error free to take a second behind Cirque, a Beneteau 42s7 out of the San Francisco area and ahead of Blue, a J160 from Puerta Vallarta. For the race results you can check their site at: http://www.vallartayachtclub.org/race/bbr2011.html. Regardless, with about 60 boats in the race it was pretty exciting and quite a site to see.

That night I was working late on the internet trying to catch up on Blog Posts since we have wifi in this marina. As a side note life without instant access to the internet is different. It's something we didn't grow up with, yet it is now like cell phones it's something that we (some of us anyway) can't seem to live without. I kind of find it refreshing. When I know I can't get on the internet anyway I tend to not even open the computer, which gives me time for other things and there's lots to do here just to keep up. Before shutting down the computer I checked email one last time and had received a note from old Riverside friend Steve Evans. He sent me a notice on the terrible earthquake that had just struck Japan and the resulting tsunami warning. There was not much else on that until I woke up in the morning and the VHF and SSB nets were swarming with it as well as the internet.

Within a few hours it was determined that there would be a tsunami effect on the Bandaras Bay region and the race was cancelled for Friday. With the possibility of damaging surges and currents affecting the marinas just about everyone got on their boats and went out to sea to deep water, the safest place to be in such an event. As it turned out it was a great day on the bay for a day sail and I doubt there has never been that many boats on the bay at one time, literally hundreds, but it is a big bay and congestion was not an issue. It turned out that there was substantial surge and while no boats were damaged the La Cruz marina did suffer some dock damage. They reported up to 14 knots running into and then out the channel here at Nuevo Vallarta. The entrances to all the marinas were closed after it hit and the entire fleet was forced to anchor out overnight. We spent the night anchored in the La Cruz/Busarias area where we noticed varying tidal flows, but had no issues.

All the boats returned to our marinas Saturday and while there was still some weird periodic tidal flooding it was minor and the race went on as scheduled. It was windier Saturday and there was more chop, but still a good day for racing. Today was not our best and we made a few minor errors, nothing serious, but with tough competition enough to take a sixth. We were happy to have had the opportunity to get to participate in this event; a fine regatta with a lot of participation and great team efforts. Because race two was cancelled the final results were an average of the two races. We were happy to learn that Sirocco took a very respectable 3rd overall. Kudos to Lee and Cathy for their efforts!

Today is Sunday, March 13 and there is an after race event sponsored by a local retreat inland from Bucarias called "Arroyo Verde." They are also sailors and own a big catamaran named "Moon and Stars" and were also in the regatta. We are not sure what the protocol is for the party, but they have a pool, food and beverages will be served. I hope we get to see most of the crews from our competition; it would be fun to get their take on the race.

We will be flying home Wednesday from Puerto Vallarta for two weeks for personal business. Pacifico will remain here in Nuevo Vallarta Marina as opposed to our intention to take her to La Cruz. We are thinking should there be any further major earthquake events in Japan and resulting tidal waves this looks like a safer place to keep the boat. That's the plan for now anyway, but things are always subject to change!

cruising
03/13/2011 | Mark R
Glad to hear you are all OK and that there were no major problems from the tsunami.
03/17/2011 | Howard and Lynn
We were wondering what you had decided to do with the boat. Good choice. We are in La Cruz. The water is off here and therefore no showers or bathrooms. We get our boat out on Monday to have the bottom done. We are staying on Blue rodeo as they are now in Idaho until the end of the month. Hope all is going well for you.
Howard and Lynn
La Cruz and a road trip to Sayulita
Dave
03/13/2011, Marina Nuevo Vallarta

Back in Bandaras Bay we anchored out at La Cruz for a week, until March 5, when we moved into the marina at Nuevo Vallarta to be close to "race central" that is the Vallarta Yacht Club and more importantly Sirocco and the condo that Lee and Cathy rented in the condos next door to the yacht club. But, before we go there we have to take you back to the week at La Cruz.

The La Cruz anchorage is just outside the marina and has good access by dinghy to all the amenities of marina life. At the top of that list would be long and sometimes hot showers, laundry service, markets (abarrotes) and restaurants, but without the cost of the slip. It's especially nice when you have friends inside! We enjoy life in the anchorage or "on the hook" even though it can get a little rolly. This week was one of the "rollier" ones, but we spent so much time off the boat that we only had to deal with it at night. Fortunately the wind we were getting was the typical diurnal's, that is land and sea breezes, which typically die at sundown so that by bed time most of the rolly chop is gone. We treated ourselves to a couple of nights at "Tacos on the Street" which we have previously reported on as well as a few other local spots. Sunday is Street Fair in La Cruz and we did some shopping and purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, candied nuts, Mexican coffee, fresh baked goods and a few trinkets to bring home. We found a young lady selling tamales in plantain leaves. Yummy! That's her picture above. It was time to move to the marina in Nuevo Vallarta and a good thing too, the winds were projected to be 20 knots on the 5th.

Marisa, Cathy and Anne (Blue Rodeo) took a cooking class taught by Amanda and held at the La Cruz Marina. There they learned to make "sopes" and Marisa has posted a few photos of that event in our album. On Thursday we joined up with Mike, Lee and Cathy and caught a bus to Sayulita, a small artist retreat and surfing community about 25 miles north of here that is not accessible by boat because there is no suitable anchorage. The bus ride there was interesting in that it took us through some of the areas damaged by last summer's disastrous rains. These hills received about 19 feet, that's right feet, of rain in a month resulting in serious run off that took out most of the highway bridges and seriously damaged many of these communities infrastructure. Sayulita is picturesque, has a beautiful beach with a good surf break and plenty of places to rent a board, take surf lessons or ride a horse on the beach, but without the big hotel scene. Of course we found a great place for lunch, SFT or Sayulita Fish Tacos.

The bus ride to Sayulita in itself was an 'adventure'. Perhaps by our standards this will seem strange, but they have a way to make things work. An example is their bus system. We have been taking buses everywhere down here for these past four months. The bus that goes to Sayulita can't be caught from La Cruz directly, but by catching the bus from La Cruz to Busarias, the next town several miles south of here. You get off the bus there and cross the street to catch the Sayulita bus which passes by the exit to La Cruz, La Cruz being on a spur road. We told the driver in Sayulita we were going to La Cruz and he said sure, get in. We were on the main highway when we got to the spur that exited to La Cruz. The driver stopped on the 'freeway', opened the door and said this is your exit! We found ourselves walking off the highway and down the off ramp onto the La Cruz road where we could flag down the La Cruz bus! Simple, but can you imagine a bus stopping on a freeway in the States and dropping you off to walk off the roadway? Even funnier was when we were walking down the off ramp we saw a Federal Transit Police car coming with his red and blue lights on. He crossed the road and drove the wrong way up the off ramp we had just walked down. It seems the police office is located under the highway overpass up that off ramp and there is no exit for it from this side. To get there they simply drive up the off ramp and cross over the curb to get into their yard. Amazing how that well it works and far cheaper than building another off ramp!

I'm working on getting caught up now that we have wifi again; Bandaras Bay Race Week next time.

cruising
North from Barra and boarded by the Mexican Navy
Dave
03/10/2011, Nuevo Vallarta

20° 44.858'N, 105° 22.373'W


Greetings from Nuevo Vallarta, but more on that later. I'm way late on posting anything and this one will be on the trip up from Barra to PV. We had very little wifi in La Cruz and the Sail Blog system crashed for a few days, all of which put me way out of sinc on reporting in!

On this leg, we, primarily Mike on So Inclined and I, poured over daily weather forecasts for the 150 NM run up from Barra to and around Cabo Corrientes into Bandaras Bay for several days. We had some pretty dire weather predictions and were waiting for our best opportunity to make it north to participate in the Bandaras Bay Race week with Sirocco. Mike is single handing and we were going to "buddy boat" with him and wanted to make it in three short legs rather than one or two long ones.

We picked the morning of Thursday, 2/24 to make the 40 NM hop up to Chamela. We left at about 0700 hrs and were safely tucked up behind the point and anchored by 1450 hrs. A pretty easy run and we were off the open water before we saw anymore than 15 knots apparent wind speed. It was an easy night with dinner together on Pacifico and no shore trips this time in a quiet anchorage. We were off again before dawn following our electronic track back out to be sure to avoid any issues in the darkness and headed up the coast to Ipala about 50 NM distant. The wind started in a little earlier and before we were in we were seeing steady 20-25 knots apparent along with confused seas. The swell was running from the SW with the wind from the NW and a counter current running up the coast in a NNW direction. It got a bit bouncy and we had some decent sized swells that we pounded into the last couple of hours. Practice for the Baja Bash! I took some video of Mike that he has posted on his March 1 Blog. If you'd like to see it go to Mike's Sail Blog at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/soinclined/ or click on the link at the bottom of our blog page and click on the You Tube video Mike posted for that date.

We arrived at Ipala and were anchored by 1600 hrs in the hook behind the point. This anchorage is small and there were already several boats there seeking shelter when we got in. It took some time to get a spot that I was comfortable with squeeze in between our neighbors, the fish pens and submerged rocks. It's pretty rolly in here too, but we put up with it for the evening and settled in. I went over to So Inclined since it was my turn to put the dinghy down and we checked weather together one last time before the final leg up to Cabo Corrientes the next day.

While I was aboard So Inclined we heard a steady heavy diesel engine approaching and looked out to find a Mexican Navy patrol boat dropping anchor nearby. I borrowed Mike's camera and got a few photos of their boat. In short order they were launching their large RIB (ridged inflatable boat) and started making the rounds among the boats at anchor. I scooted back to Pacifico and got ready for our turn.

In short order we were hailed and advised that we were going to be boarded and inspected. Two young officers and two well armed sailors came aboard while their RIB stood off. We were asked a series of standard questions by the officer who completed his form while one sailor took a position on the bow and the second remained in the cockpit with us. At the conclusion of the questions I was asked to come below with the officer while he checked a few lockers and looked at our ships papers. Finding everything in order they departed after assuring us that in an emergency we could call upon the Mexican Navy for assistance. They were very polite and business like and asked if we were in anyway offended by their conduct, which we were not. That was it, but I thought it prudent not to take any more pictures!


The next morning we got another early start and headed up to Cabo Corrientes. It was a pretty pleasant sail up and the rounding was easy. We stayed inside, about a mile off the beach all the way to the point and slipped into Bandaras Bay where we got a nice shift and pretty soon we were sailing on a direct line to the anchorage at La Cruz. By the time we got in we were broad reaching, seeing 20-25 knots again and it was rolly in the anchorage, but we are always happy to be back at La Cruz, one of our favorite places!

It's a strange feeling knowing that we are retracing our route and headed eventually towards home in Oceanside. We have been out almost four months now and have had a great time down south. Who knows; maybe someday we will see it again?

cruising
Passage Notes from Pacifico
02/20/2011

We are back in the Barra Lagoon waiting on a weather window to continue our voyage north to and around Cabo Corrientes into Bandaras Bay. We have been here before and spoken much about this place as well as Santiago where we spent two nights after the run up from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo so I'll talk about something else. We stopped overnight at Melaque's anchorage (just down the beach from Barra) before coming into the lagoon in the morning on the high tide. I have not dwelt on the sailing part of this voyage very much, mostly the land side so I'll try to fill in the gaps for some of the non-sailors out there with some of my thoughts and observations.

The passage up from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo was mostly sailing with decent sailing breezes most of the time from the various points of the compass we could use, E, S/E, S, S/W and later some W. We used the motor about 17 hours on a 39 hour passage of 195 N.M. That time included from starting at the dock in Ixtapa, getting fuel and motoring out of the marina and the bay to get out to the wind, motoring through the light spots and lastly motoring while getting into the anchorage at Santiago then dropping and setting the hook (anchor). The leg from Santiago up to Barra was about 25 N.M. We left at sundown and after the wind died so that was pretty much motor sailing and motoring straight through.

The winds are not consistent out there and we saw sailing speeds from 3.2 knots to over 6.7, which perhaps made for a longer passage than motor sailing the rhumb line between points on the passage from Ixtapa to Santiago, but it's worth it to turn off the engine and hear the 'quiet' for a while. We averaged 5 knots of speed for this leg, which isn't bad for this boat. I like to stay closer to 6 for these longer passages, but that requires either more favorable wind speed and direction or motoring when we drop below or close to 4 knots boat speed over ground. Also while sailing you don't necessarily stay on the rhumb line, but have to sail off at whatever angel gives us the best boat speed, unless it's going backwards, that I refuse to do, which is why there is a motor on this boat! That said, we used the sail inventory we have aboard as best we could; we carry a main, gennoa and an asymmetrical spinnaker. At various times we sailed DDW (dead downwind) with the gennoa polled out "wing and wing", ran with spinnaker up and at times we were close hauled sailing up wind. Anyway it all worked and we saved a lot of fuel in the process. One additional advantage of motor sailing (that is sailing with main and or gennoa while running the engine) which is usually when heading into or close to the wind, is that you still get some lift from the sails and can reduce engine RPM. Our little Beta has a burn rate of about ½ GPH at 2700 RPM, which we never reached on this leg. Our fuel consumption for this leg was about 7 gallons. Not bad considering we have to run for charging and water making anyway.

What do we do on these 24 hour day passages? First of all on this entire trip we have only left sight of land a few times so there is almost always the shore over there to keep your interest and maintaining watch for that, other boats, ships, off shore fishing apparatus in the water or other possible navigation hazards. Preparing meals, eating and sleeping are big ones along with reading or working on "stuff." A big attraction is observing the sea life around us. We were entertained by whales jumping out of the water, not quite as close as they did in Zihuatanejo (See photo album from Sailfest), none the less they were breaching out of the water and it is always a front row ticket. We had dolphin swim with us, we passed by a migration of sea turtles (darn things, think you can ever get a picture of one of them?) and rays flying out of the water. There were things out of the water too, flying fish and birds. Yes birds. In one instance this "boobie" kept flying around us and I knew he wanted to land on the boat, which I passively try to discourage; where they land they often also poop! Anyway, he was determined and came in for a one pointer on the solar panel above our bimini on the aft end of the boat. I guess he figured that was safe because he could not see us, but didn't count on the glass surface. Anyway, because the panels are slanted aft he slid down to the bottom edge before getting a grip and his tail feathers and one wing tip were hanging over the panel and below the bimini, right by my head. We tried yelling, clapping, and pulling his feather (gently of course) all to no avail, he was not ready to leave. Finally Marisa took one of the whistles on a life jacket and blew it, which did the trick and off he went.

For those of you who boat and are familiar with "Bird Rock" off Catalina Island's Two Harbors area or for that matter there are "Bird Rocks" all over the worlds water ways. Close to shore these human uninhabited "rocks" seem to be a haven for various sea birds and are white in color having collected years and years and tons and tons of bird excretion or "poop" which in my experience always makes them white. Anyway, there is this big rock of an island called "Piedra Blanca" or (White Rock). It's above Punta Carrizal on the way up from Santiago to Barra. This rock lies about a mile off shore and we were treated with seeing large flights of boobies and other sea birds rounding the point at sunset making for this rock. Flying close to the water they were quite a sight in the sunset against the rugged cliffs of the point. We have posted a few photos to try to share this with you as well as a few of their destination, Piedra Blanca. This rock is so large it makes "Bird Rock" look miniscule by comparison. I have a few photos of that as well and if you look closely you can see what is a large sport fishing boat, probably 50' just to the left of this island for comparison. All that white stuff is not snow.

At Melaque we were anchored off an abandoned hotel. We had seen it before on our land trip to Melaque (See Cuastecomate) and in doing a little reading I learned that this hotel was damaged in an earthquake in 1995 and finished off by the resulting tidal waves! Yikes! Too close for comfort. The local net fishermen were out in the morning and close enough for us to get a few photos of them in action. I have not been able to get a good photo of the fellows out in the lagoon here in Barra. A couple of them are real traditionalists, working alone in a small boat that they row all around the lagoon. I'll keep trying.

We have reconnected with Mike from So Inclined here in Barra and all went into town for dinner and a little of the night life Barra has to offer last night. This morning Mike came over to Pacifico where we had breakfast together, huevos con machaca complete with mimosas! We will be heading into the Sands Hotel this evening for a cruisers "pot luck." Marisa has been putting together a pasta salad and Mike will be bringing a key lime pie. It all sounds good.

We will get back to you as we continue our trek north to meet with Cathy and Lee on Sirocco in Puerta Vallarta for the annual Bandaras Bay Regatta. They have entered Sirocco and the three of us along with several friends from Oceanside will be racing Sirocco just like we do at home! More on that as it unfolds, sounds like fun!

cruising
02/26/2011 | Fred Coleman
Jeanette and I are in Teacapan, MX (70 mi. so. of MZT) until 3/24. Are you guys going to be anywhere near MZT before then?

If so, we'll try to meet up w/ you and buy you a margarita.
Have fun.
Fred & Jeanette
"Marsha Dee"
Happy Valentine's Day!
by Marisa
02/14/2011, Ixtapa

Do you like my bouquet?

cruising
03/11/2011 | Mike Brown
Marisa, I like your bouquet!

I also have a new netbook and new email address to avoid spam. So far it is clean (for months now). I will not use it on web sites because that is how you start getting spam. Anybody can see it. I'll send it to you privately.

Hope to see you later this year.

Mike
03/14/2011 | Marisa
Dave bought me a bouquet of cilantro rather than flowers, the cilantro is more useful and doesn't bother my allergies. :-)
Hola from Ixtapa!
Dave
02/11/2011

Before we take you there we will catch you up on the final days at Zihuatanejo. On Super Bowl Sunday we went to the awards party for Sailfest on the beach then watched the game at a palapa bar on the beach, feet in the sand type with a "big screen TV". There were plenty of other places to watch the game with real TVs but this was the best setting. They had a projection set and played it on an old movie screen. The sun was setting behind the screen and back-lightening it for the first quarter so it was difficult to see, however, they had a smaller set on the side that filled in just fine until the lighting was better. Hey, it worked and this is Mexico you know! After the game we hit the street fair here in Centro and I had the corn with mayonnaise, cheese and roja sauce as described in our last blog. I wasn't going to do it, but hey, this is Mexico you know! After that it was burgers on the street at this famous cart that everyone raves about parked across from the plaza here in Centro. These two guys make hamburgers and hot dogs by the gross and it's fantastic. I can only refer you to the photos that Marisa has posted and assure you that were are as good as they look. I'm not a big fan of cart food, but this stuff is fresh, the cart is spotlessly clean and these fellows work like a well oiled machine. For $35 pesos it's a great deal. The next day we did some shopping, found the parts to modify our shower situation thanks to a great idea from Mike and Julie on Slacker. For our last meal in Zihuatanejo we pondered the question: should we try something new or go back to one of our favorites? Tamale Any's it was for the plantain wrapped tamales, one chicken and one pork. We got back to the dinghy and Alfonso helped us off for the last time. We said adios to Zihuatanejo for the time being anyway. Great place!

The next day was boat chores day and before leaving we said good-by to Henry and Janice (a great couple from England) on Cloudy Bay, a Nordhavn 55 that we had been shadowing since before Ensenada, but did not meet until La Cruz. They are heading south to the canal then on to the East Coast of the US before going home. Henry is responsible for the great photos of the whales that we also saw on race day as well as a couple of photos of Pacifico flying her asymmetrical spinnaker wing and wing trying to cut the corner to catch up. He was out in his dinghy and took these fantastic photos, which were exactly what we were watching, but didn't get any photos of, so kudos to Henry and we hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as we enjoyed seeing the whales.

We moved the six n.m. over to the Ixtapa marina on Tuesday, 2/8 and onto F dock, or muelle. I hate to say it but it's nice to be on a dock again: power, water and it does not rock n' roll! We spent 43 days on the hook this time, our most yet and while it was all good, it is nice to have a real shower close by. This is a nice marina and it's priced that way too so we won't be staying long. This is our southern most destination on this voyage and it is a strange feeling. When we leave here we will be backtracking up the coast, visiting some of the places we bypassed and revisiting a few favorites, but our goal is to be in Puerta Vallarta by about March 4, for the Bandaras Bay Race Week.

That said, the Ixtapa Marina is noted for crocodiles. Swimming or diving your boat are not allowed. We hired a diver at our last anchorage off La Ropa Beach there in Bahia Zihuatanejo to clean the boat and change out our zincs, or sacrificial anodes that are designed to dissolve instead of your engine and other metal parts in this salt water environment. Anyway, I don't have a hooka or other dive gear so having done this before the $400 pesos was worth it. I did work in the water with the diver because he didn't know how to change the zincs and I like to be down there to see that it's going right so I got my workout as well. We were in the water a couple of hours or longer and he did a great job. This young man is a fisherman, not a diver, but with all the boats here this week they are doing anything and everything they can to make money while it is here. The old rope pull start motor that drove his compressor for his huka rig was ancient, but it got the job done. Once that was done I changed my oil and did my engine checks and the next day we departed for the marina at Ixtapa, about six miles north.

The entrance to this marina is a narrow cut or really a widening of the channel into an estuary that was dredged to create this marina. It is shallow and like most we have found I had one foot under the keel at the low point on entry. Once inside it is nice, modern and clean; they also have crocodiles in these former swamps as you will see from the photos Marisa posted. When we hit the dock we were swarmed by the young fellows that clean boats here. They take your lines for you and you can't get off the boat before they are offering to clean it for you. OK, I'm not lazy, but it was hot and these kids need the work. I liken it to contributing to the local economy. Anyway, we left the boat to have lunch and four of them descended upon Pacifico for a couple of hours and she was al shiny and desalted when we got back.

We have walked the beach here and explored the marina area, but have not ventured further than that. Other than a small shopping area, there is not much here except the big hotels along the beach and a couple of golf courses. All major shopping and stores that serve this area are located in Zihuatanejo. Most of our time has been here on the boat working on a few repairs, major laundry and visiting with some of our dock neighbors, most of whom were anchored in the bay with us, but for the most part we didn't meet. I had only heard the boat names and had not actually met the people involved so that has been nice.

Tonight during cocktail hour we were treated with a marauding crocodile wandering in and out of the slips. Actually he looked pretty old and while still dangerous I think he was looking for a hand-out, or maybe a hand that was out? He swam down the fairway behind out boat then came up to the transom where I took a photo of him over the stern's port quarter. You can see me in the reflection looking down at the guy as well as the "Ericson" logo decal on the boat. He swam forward alongside then dove under the boat and resurfaced two boats down. Everyone came out to watch and take photos and Barrit from Serendipity (San Diego-there are two of them here) measured the guy with a tape along the dock beside him and pronounced him a 10 footer! A second croc surfaced briefly then disappeared. There is a legitimate reason they don't dive your boat in this place!

That's about it from Ixtapa. Tomorrow morning while it is still cool we are going to take the bus to Zihuatanejo for some last item shopping and for parts to be able to depart on Saturday and start our northward journey. That's the plan anyway!

cruising

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