05/09/2012, Los Muertos
April 17 - 18, 2012: We cleared the breakwater about 8 am facing about a 30 hour passage across the Sea of Cortez to the Baja, destination - Los Muertos. I was happy the entrance to the estuary was calm and the dredge was sitting idle. Also, the skies were clear with no fog in sight. It was good omen except for the lack of wind.
The day passed rather quickly. Eventually, the wind filled in but where else but right on our nose. Why, why, why does it never come from the correct direction? There was one highlight of the journey ... seeing the green flash when the sun set. That was spectacular! Finally the conditions were just right with clear skies and good visibility. The night skies were just as awesome ... so many bright stars along with the milky way. Some of those bright stars kept moving; lots of ship traffic including a ferry and a couple large fishing vessels. Bob also saw a green flash as the sun rose; I can't verify that story since I was happily sleeping.
The morning of the second day found us with flat calm seas and no wind. The remaining 50 miles was a piece of cake. The harbor master at Los Muertos was rather an imposing figure. He came up next to the boat blew, promptly dived but wiggled his tail as if to say hello. Nothing like being greeted by a humpback whale as we entered the anchorage. It's hot and dry over here with the water an incredible blue to aqua in color and very clear.
We had zipped in our dodger windows for this crossing. It was a good idea after getting soaked on our passage from Chamela to LaCruz. Again we encountered salt spray but also very cool temperatures at night. We actually wore long pants and fleece jackets; a first in a very long time. After a bit of food, it was nap time. I wish I was 20 again ... this cruising would be a lot easier.
April 12 - 16, 2012: The water is nesting our boat now and it sure feels good ... now it's time wash off all the yard dust once our hired hand completes the buffing and waxing the cabin top and cockpit. It's amazing the transformation from dull to a shiny spiffed up boat - Ponderosa is looking good.
Bob applied a couple more coats of Armada to the toe rail which polished off our varnish supply that we carried aboard. Hummmm, too bad we can't do any brightwork for awhile. I did the usual shopping, laundry and cleaning down below along with napping and visiting neighbors; a woman's work is never done.
Just when I thought peace and quiet would settle on Mazatlan after Holy Week, the motorcyclists arrived by the thousands. Apparently in years past, about 7,000 bikers would converge here in town. This year's estimate was only 4,000 but it sounded like 7,000. Lots of Harleys along with other well known bike makers were driven by people of all ages; mostly Mexicans but there was evidence of gringos joining in the fun. I'm not sure where or what all the activities entailed but it looked like everyone was having a good time.
Well it's time to go ... all the chores are done, the freezer full and the weather looks good for a crossing to the Baja. Adios Mazatlan!
April 2 - 11, 2012: Living eight days on the hard is beyond the call of duty ...thank goodness for the cruiser lounge next to the yard. The bottom paint was in good shape but we wanted a couple more coats before heading back north. It is cheaper labor and materials but most of all we have been very pleased with the work. Another hull polish and wax job along with an adjustment to the prop were added to chore list. But what really excited me was having the crew buff and polish the cockpit area and sides of the cabin top. I needed sunglasses to look at the boat due to the shine!
While the crew was doing all the hard work, Bob & I journeyed to the Golden Zone (tourist area) to snoop about. We needed to pay for one more month on the Banda Ancha (internet access), get cash and trade-in large bills for smaller ones and search for an eye doctor's office that was recommended. Only in Mexico can you walk into a doc's office and get an immediate appointment. For $300 pesos each or $22.50 USD we got an eye exam. For $275 pesos, Bob got new lenses in his existing frames. Seeing the dentist while we are here is one more "to do" thing although I am dragging my feet on this appointment.
Semano Santos or Holy Week was in full swing. Mexicans treat Easter as a full fledge party time, flocking to beach for sun, beer and eye candy. Nowhere did we see any religious celebrations or solemn observances. On Good Friday, we hopped the air conditioned bus with Ed & Connie from Serena and rode it the entire way along the malecon. What a phenomenal sight of a sea of humanity lining the beachfront, colorful umbrellas, skimpy bikinis, coolers overflowing with beer and traffic jams. Our bus took us down to El Centro or old town where the place was vacant. It was really enjoyable to walk along the historic area and not be bugged to buy something. Then we strolled down to the southern tip of the beach area admiring the huge statues and lovely views from the sea wall. We stopped at one beachfront restaurant for dinner where one of the waiters would stop and sing to the crowd. Gosh, he had a great voice and it was fun to watch everyone while he was singing.
Our biggest decisions this past week were where to eat. I am now ready to go back to cooking thanks to a nasty bout of stomach cramps and diarrhea. You would think that after a 1 ½ years here that our intestines could handle this food but no such luck. Thanks to drugs and yogurt I am back on the mend.
We are staying in Mazatlan another week to finish up a few more boat chores before crossing to the Baja side. The never ending chore list continues ...
March 26 - April 2, 2012: Gosh, it is hard to break the bounds of La Cruz - easy living, good music, restaurants and great friends. After a trip to the fuel dock, we motored out to Punta Mita, set anchor and promptly took a nap. Hey, we were up until midnight watching all the performances at the "Mexican Tourist Expo" so we were tired. I can't say much about the delegates to this Expo but all the cruisers around the marina sure enjoyed the activities. We were very impressed by the talent of the performers and the effort made to enhance tourism here.
Punta Mita was very rolly so I was glad to leave Tuesday morning for Matanchen Bay. Which for me is really hard to say ... last year at this place I got eaten alive by the damn no see em's. But I am going in prepared - coated in bug repellent, screens firmly in place and a burning candle of citronella. We sailed a portion of the way, always a plus especially since the wind is usually right on our nose.
This anchorage is just south of San Blas, a community noted for its high percentage of dengue fever and cruisers being ripped off of their outboard motors. This is just a one night stop for us since I have no desired to place our health or equipment at risk. There is a real gooball that has lived here for quite some time that believes he is God's gift to the cruisers with his wealth of "knowledge" and "experience" and by the way he has "saved hundreds of lives". His wife is a close second on being a screwball. But their offering of help is very courteous and one should not discount it. But I draw the line on the lecturing and the "chicken little - sky is falling" chapter and verse about weather. It had mostly to do with potential large swells hitting the coastline of mainland Mexico thanks to the high winds on the outside of the Baja. Yes, there were 20-25 kt high winds with 12-15 ft seas predicted but that was 24-48 hrs away from us. Our local weather reports indicted less than 5 kts of wind.
We left the next day to find ourselves with flat calm water (like a placid lake) and no wind. Finally we got some land and sea breezes enough to sail but right on our nose again. Didn't matter, we had plenty of time to tack back and forth dodging fish nets strung out in our path north. At least the Alaska and BC fisherman have brightly colored floats you can see and a method to their madness for stringing them, not so down here. How about trying to spot a black flag on a float at one end ... and an empty clear or white plastic jug at the other end?
We had a cruiser friend run over one net but the second net they encountered got wrapped up in their prop. He was diving on the boat at 3 am with a flashlight and knife to free them. This was not a good ... especially what he discovered as the "float" - a coconut palm frond tied together with plastic bottles. Fortunately we dodged all the nets and our overnight passage was uneventful to the anchorage at Stone Island just immediately south of the old harbor entrance to Mazatlan.
It's now Friday and time to enter into the estuary where the four marinas reside. The sea state was flat but the swells were huge. Waves curved around the northern edge of the anchorage and these were whoppers ... about 10-12 ft. Surfers were out in force enjoying the curling waves while Bob & I stared in awe. Thankfully we were in the middle of the bay but it was frightening to watch the water move thru to shore.
Okay, we now moved north 10 miles and had been listening to other boaters assessing the breaking waves to enter the harbor. Timing was critical ... but we watched the entrance, then the waves coming behind us and timed it perfectly. And the other piece of important information was no dredging activity was occurring. That safe entry deserved a grin from both of us. So much drama - a nap was in order once we tied to the dock.
Saturday and Sunday were simply days of lounging around. Since we are staying at the Fonatur Marina this time, I did my laundry for the first time since last summer. Have to admit it was rather pleasant for a change. The boat got cleansed of salt only to get pooped on by a pelican. If it is not one thing it is another. Tomorrow is haul-out day and life on the hard for about a week. Yuck! However, it does mean the galley is closed, the silver lining.
03/25/2012, La Cruz
March 12 - 25, 2012: We are pooped! It is taking longer and longer to recover from these long sailing days. Remember how we could party until 2 am and then go to work the next day. Well those days have sure gone to the wayside. Now we do one boat chore and spend the rest of the day recovering. This was especially true on Monday while we spent hours cleaning the boat of salt spray and your standard Mexican dust.
These past two weeks have been filled with a variety of activities ... aside from all the social dinners out and about, a trip to PV, oiling teak, Costco and grocery runs, we managed to fit a trip to a natural hotsprings on the Muskota river not far from here. The locals fabricated three pools to lounge in just below the outflow of the hot water. This would be great fun if the temperature outside was about 50 degrees but when it is 80-85 degrees - well who needs hot water to sit in? I dangled my feet in the least hot pool, found no comfort and promptly slithered into the river to cool off. First time in the past 16 months I felt cool ... lying in70-75 degree water up to my neck. Life was finally good!
The La Cruz/PV area has been a hubbub of activity with the world class sailboat racing, Banderas Bay regatta, Puddle Jump boats preparing to depart and a tourism conference promoting Mexico. Everytime you turned around a pavilion was going up or coming down depending on the event. Music of all kinds filters thru the marina to all hours of the night. The best sleeping time is between 4 am to 8 am - silence, peaceful enjoyable silence.
Philo's, a local cruiser hangout, promoted a charity event for helping the senior center here in La Cruz. It was quite fun for $200 pesos each (about $15 USD) to pig out (so to speak) on BBQ ribs, beans and cole slaw while listening to a fantastic Mariachi band, watching authentic Mexican dancers, cowboys doing lariat tricks and dancing to Philo's band. It was a fun night in the neighborhood.
It won't be long before all this fun ends and the marina clears out of boats. The little community of La Cruz will settle into a quiet summer mode with numerous restaurants and businesses closing for the season. Folks disappear to the cooler temps of the mountains or points further north. It's too hot and humid on mainland Mexico for most gringos.
We too are leaving on Monday for Mazatlan. One more boat haul-out is scheduled for bottom paint, hull polish and an adjustment to our prop. Last chance for reasonable labor prices before going back to the states. Hopefully by mid-April we will back on the Baja side enjoying less humidity and no ocean swells at anchor.
03/15/2012, La Cruz
March 1 - 11, 2012: The flea market was in town today, Thursday the 1st , so one must peruse the junk piles for potential treasures. We found baskets made out of ponderosa pine needles. What a fitting buy for the "Ponderosa" herself. Besides stocking up on fresh strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, my next greatest find at the local pharmacy was the high blood pressure medicine I take. Buy one box of 20 tablets and you get a 2nd box free. So for $2.75 USD I get 40 tablets ... of which I cut in half since I only need 50 mg a day. Not bad at $0.034 per pill - just goes to show you how overpriced drugs are in the U.S.A.
We moved on to Cuastecomate, a lovely anchorage 5 miles away from Barra de Navidad. Nice place but a little on the rolly side. One night was enough, so we continued another 12 miles north to Tenacatita. We are tucked around a bit of a point so it cuts the swell down substantially; add a jungle cruise adventure and plenty of anchoring room for lots of boats, make this a very popular site. The calendar was filling rapidly with social events and gatherings.
Add in a bit of excitement of boat anchors dragging towards shore and you have another typical day in paradise. The first boat was less than a couple of minutes from crashing onto the shore and into rocks. The winds were about 20 kts and their CQR let loose without the crew being aboard. Thanks to watchful eyes of neighboring boats and a radio call for help the boat was rescued and the secondary (a bigger heavier Bruce) anchor set. A couple of lessons were learned by its owners ... 1) leave your windlass activated 2) lay out enough scope and 3) set an appropriately sized anchor.
The second boat that dragged was a 70 ft motor yacht with captain and crew. The dumb ass had to anchor right in the middle of all the sailboats ... and they too failed to lay out enough chain or back down on their anchor. They started off ahead and between two boats and by the next morning they were moving backwards and at least 2 boat lengths behind their original position and moving towards shore. We couldn't take it any longer. We jumped in the dinghy and notified the captain he was dragging. Of course, we probably shamed him in front of the guests (although we were diplomatic - Mexican boat) but who cares! The yacht was heading to shore and I can guarantee you no one was interested in assisting this boat since the evening before they played loud music to all hours of the night. Well he finally decided to move and reset anchor. Sure enough he went right back to the same spot squeezing into the middle of the fleet ... but started drifting again. On our next visit to the yacht, we point blank told the captain and the lady who spoke English that their boat was jeopardizing other vessels around them and suggested moving further out. They left the area instead!
Goodness, it was time to leave. The next destination was Chamela to stage ourselves to make the rounding of Cabo Corrientes and get back to La Cruz. This cape can be rather nasty and timing the weather is very important. What the weather reports says and what the weather does was like night and day. Per report 10-14 knots northwest winds with 1-2 ft southerly swell ... per conditions 15-20 knots of wind building to 25-30 knots with seas 6-8 ft with the occasional 12 ft wave out of the north and lasting 24 hours. It was an ugly ride! I lost count on how many waves crashed over the bow sending green water clear back to the cockpit. Both Bob and I were soaked with spray from breaking waves - we were covered in salt. I hand steered for about 6 hours to work the boat thru the steep and close together waves. Numerous times the waves broke under us and the boat crashed downward like a breaching whale.
There were 8 boats traveling together on this passage all motor sailing to make forward progress. Normally a 95 nautical mile passage would take us about 14 hours at 6.5 knots of speed. It took 18 hours of sheer will and determination to stick it out. And no ... I did not get sea sick. Yahoo!
Thankfully, Paul on Grace, who was tied at the dock in La Cruz, arranged a slip for us. We cruised on in at midnight dead tired and ready for flat calm water. I can truly say we honed our northwest boating skills on this passage and it gave us a taste of the potential bashing in store for us as we head back up the coast to the states. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!