02/12/2013, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
Tempting as it was to stay in Mazatlan for the famous Carnival, we were keen to continue our jouney south. "Never start a voyage on a Friday" is the sailor's warning; however, this was the first weather window in some time, so we headed out for the overnight passage to Isla Isabella on Friday, Feb 1st. Friends waved goodbye to us from the point, as we squeaked past the dredge again. Ted didn't mention to me that the chartplotter was again doing its best rendition of a 1950's TV screen - ie. scrolling black lines to totally blank screen - until we were out of the harbour (hmm.. not an auspicious start). There didn't seem much point in going back to Mazatlan, however, as we knew that Raymarine's solution was to ship the unit to them in the USA. We just hoped the chartplotter would fix itself, as on the trip south from Ensenada. We hung out at Isla Venados (Deer Island) until mid-afternoon, so our timing would be right to arrive at Isla Isabella in the daylight. People had warned us that we would encounter a number of fishing lines in the area all down the coast and it is common for them to have little or no markings. The last thing we wanted was fishing line tied around our prop or rudder. With the later departure, we lucked out with winds up to 17kts and had a beautiful sail through the night under glorious stars and a nearly full moon. At dawn, just as we approached Isabella, the chartplotter became fully functional again (hurray!). Sea and bird life abounds here and we were treated to whales, turtles, frigate birds, pellicans and boobies as we neared the island. Many people have lost anchors here as the bottom is full of big lava boulders. We dropped anchor near Free Spirit, and hoped that we might hit a patch of sand; but when Ted dove on the anchor, both the anchor and trip line were hooked under a big boulder (... that Friday curse again?). Oh well, we would deal with it in the morning - now we needed to launch our kayaks and head to the island to visit the blue-footed boobies. As we paddled in, the air was filled with frigate birds, several types of boobies, gulls and pellicans. Every available perch had a bird of some type on it; and, as we approached the downwind side of the island, the smell of guano filled the air. We left the kayaks at a fishing camp and picked our way carefully through the long grass - the boobie nests with eggs can be anywhere and we looked pretty funny as we picked our way through the nesting area. It was fascinating watching the interactions of the birds, both in the air and on the ground. The wind was calm next morning, so we took the opportunity to try to retrieve our anchor. Luckily, knowing which direction we had to pull, after a couple of tugs the anchor released from under the rock (Yeah!). The morning was glorious, so we just floated on a flat sea and watched the whales put on a spectacular display all around us - breaching, lob tailing and generally enjoying themselves - while we ate breakfast on deck. Next stop was Matanchen Bay (near San Blas) - a lovely bay, but unfortunately a recent boarding incident has caused cruisers to be pretty wary and many are avoiding it altogether. Next day, we took an interesting boat trip up the Rio Tovara to see the bird life and crocodiles; and then a brief tour of the town of San Blas. San Blas was the base for Spanish fleet in the 1700's, so there is lots of history there. We were intrigued with the connection to Canada - the early Spanish exploration of the West Coast was made in boats built in San Blas (one painting showed Saturna Island with Mt Baker in the background!). Additionally, several Gulf islands bear the captains' names - Quadra, Galiano and Valdes. Our next stop was Chacala, a picturesque Mexican seaside town with little tourist development. Reunited with our friends on Traveller, Evergleam and Free Spirit, we spent a lazy few days there. Then on to our current location in La Cruz in Banderas Bay, which offers good restaurants, lots of live music, a nice marina and close proximity to Puerto Vallarta. We anchored out for 3 nights, but the big swells made sleeping pretty uncomfortable, so we moved into the Marina on Monday. Our plan is to do some land trips and shopping here and then head further south in about a week.
We have arrived in La Cruz, just north of Puerto Vallarta in Banderas Bay, and as I have internet again, I can now add some few details about our stay in Mazatlan.
Mazatlan is the first place where we stopped long enough to learn our way around the city and come to appreciate what it has to offer. Our conclusion is that we could live here (perhaps at some future time). We awake each morning to the call of the Cruisers Net on Ch 22VHF - to find out what is happening around town, get advice on almost any topic, find out who has arrived or is departing, etc. It has been fun getting to know an ever widening circle of cruisers, many of whom we hope to continue to see on our travels south over the next few years. They are an interesting group of people - each with a story to tell. We have the common bond of stepping out of the mainstream of life ashore and share a sense of adventure. Some of our activities ashore this past month included enjoying some excellent Mexican meals, music performances, visiting markets, exploring Old Mazatlan and shopping for boat parts and hair cuts. Ted got to experience Mexican dentistry first-hand when he broke a molar; which required a root canal, pin and crown to repair. Mazatlan has some excellent dentists and the cost of the entire procedure with two specialists totaled $500US, about one-fifth of the cost in Canada! We attended a wonderful classical music performance at the famous restored Angela Perralta Theatre. Two young artists (ages 16 & 17) from Mexico City were the soloists - the brother played cello and the sister violin - they were amazing and the venue was a treat to experience. The Theatre has quite the history - built in 1874, it has been the home to opera, boxing, circus, vaudeville and burlesque shows before closing for 30 years. It was restored and re-opened in 1992 - photos show trees growing up through the orchestra and balcony seating which makes you appreciate how extensive the restoration process was. A group of us took a trip out to the Sunday market in Juarez, where everything imaginable was for sale. My friend Maureen even talked me into participating in a Yoga class 3 times a week on a patio overlooking the ocean with the surf coming in - how perfect! My one regret was that we didn't take conversational Spanish classes while we were here; but we hadn't planned to be in Mazatlan for so long. Sadly our Spanish practice has fallen aside, as the Mexicans want to practice their English with us! As there is a very good shipyard here, Ted decided to haul the boat and replace the 3 remaining original through-hulls. Once Roundabout was out of the water, we realized that the anti-fouling paint had never been stripped back to the gelcoat and the multiple layers were starting to fall off in clumps, so we decided to do that job too. This meant being on the hard for about 12 days. As the Eileen Quinn song says "Life on the hard is "hard"," because you can't run water, or use your sinks and toilets. Fortunately, our friends Chuck and Karen asked us to stay in their condo at El Cid for a week and then we moved on to the Tatems boat for the last few days - big thanks to both couples. As our time in Mazatlan neared the end, I decided that it was time for a "Pot Luck" - amazingly we managed 17 people on Roundabout for a sit down BBQ supper, not bad for a 40 ft boat! A great time was had by all.
As much fun as Mazatlan was, the sea was calling and it was time to head further south...
02/01/2013, Marina Mazatlan
Well it's Feb 1st and Carnival starts this weekend in Mazatlan (the second largest in the world we are told), but it is long past time to get back out to sea. We have enjoyed our stay in Mazatlan - getting to know the city, meeting lots of new friends, and spending some quality time with old friends. Several things have kept us here longer than planned including some emergency dental work for Ted, getting the bottom completely re-done on the boat and some through-hulls replaced, a series of big "Northers" blowing through and Ted caught a case of the Mazatlan 'crud'- cold and cough. We are sitting at anchor off Venados Island waiting for the timing to set off for Isla Isabella, home to hundreds of blue-footed boobies and other seabirds. We are told that it is a magical place and we are keen to see it. Our biggest challenge will be avoiding the mile long fishing lines that are set out all down the coast.
I will fill in some more details of our stay once I have wi-fi again; but we wanted our friends and family know we had not fallen off the face of the earth and are once again on track to head south to Puerto Vallarta, etc.
Pam and Ted
12/31/2012, Marina Mazatlan
It's New Year's Eve and I am finally getting around to updating our blog - late as usual.
From La Paz, we headed to Isla Espiritu Santo for a couple of days, dropping anchor in Ensenada Candelaria. As evening fell, the hundreds of fish swimming around our boat created an amazing luminescence in the dark water. The sky was filled with stars, as was the water; it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. Pure magic! Strong north winds were predicted for the next few days and we had snuggled under the cliffs for protection; it was not too bad until around 2am, when the boat started bucking like the rodeo - the wind was coming from the west and there was no protection whatsoever! Ted decided to stand anchor watch, but our Rocna held solid and after a few hours it died down - had we just experienced a coromuel? The next day we decided to kayak only, as the norther was blowing strong and it was a bit too cool to snorkle. We had not planned to go ashore, except perhaps to walk on the beach; but true to form, we found a trail which led up from the beach to a well, and it appeared to continue on up the valley. The trail quickly faded and faltered and we ended up scrambling over rocks and cacti (sound familiar - there is a theme here). It was perhaps a bit more rugged than my flipflops were designed for! The next day, we tried all morning to get a weather report, but Ocens had "updated" their system and lost everything in the process. We waited until noon, when the winds and waves appeared to be subsiding (25 kts and 2m). We had an exciting ride south and then east across the Sea of Cortez until the norther finally blew out late afternoon the next day. We arrived in Mazatlan on Dec 19th after a 48 hr passage. The narrow entrance into the El Cid and Marina Mazatlan marinas deserves a mention. We had been warned about the narrowness, the currents and surge, and the possibility of a dredge working. Marina Mazatlan had confirmed that indeed the dredge was working near the entrance, but that we should be able to get through. As we came around the corner through the breakwater, sure enough there was the dreaded dredge and what seemed like an impossibly narrow gap betweeen it and the rocky shore; however, we were committed with no room to turn back. Holding our breath, we squeezed past the dredge with all its pipes and sharp bits on one side and the rocks on the other. What a thrill to see our friend, Maureen Tatem from Okotoks (Tarry-a-Bit) standing on the dock at El Cid, cheering and waving as we passed into the inner harbor. After the dredge experience, we thought we were safe; however, we failed to notice how strong our tail wind was. When we arrived at Marina Mazatlan, the marina staff were waving us into a very narrow slip. We didn't think we would fit and in hesitating lost steerage and ended up broadside with the wind pushing us down the line of moored boats. Yikes! Options... (while Ted is at the helm valiantly trying to regain steerage and get the boat turned around for another attempt)...I'm switching all the lines over to the other side so we can try for the next available slip (opposite tie)...realize there are many open slips further down (same tie) so switch the lines back...people running up and down the dock to try to help us... fending off other boats, dinghys, windvanes, etc...aaarrrggghhh...throwing lines...finally safe in a slip all to ourselves - what a way to meet your new neighbours! The only saving grace is that we have all been there. In the classic words of Dave Broadfoot (Air Farce)..."when I regained consciousness"...there were introductions all round, checking that no damage had been done and a huge sighs of relief. Tarry-a-Bit called - "hurry up we are going to the Old Town for the Christmas Fair" - so we rushed to get the dinghy off the deck, put the motor on, changed out of our passage clothes and off we went. At El Cid, we met another group of cruisers and were introduced to "red truck" group transportation. The evening was spent wandering through the Christmas Fair, having our faces painted, touring the fascinating area around Plazuela Machado, enjoying a delicious Mexican dinner at La Tramoya, and then another red truck ride back to El Cid. After a 48 hr passage, one might think that was enough fun; but when we got back to the boat we heard wonderful guitar music and singing drifting across the marina, so we followed the sound and ended up at Gus y Gus for a drink and dancing with several groups of locals and cruisers before finally heading to bed. It's a hard life, but someone has to do it! The next day we went shopping in preparation for Meghan arriving and found our way around Mazatlan with the help of the Tatems. Meg arrived safely with a bag full of presents, including Christmas decorations from Merry Jill (a brilliant idea). Meg and I spent the next day decorating the boat and it looked very festive. Christmas Eve we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Topolo in the Old Town with the Tatem family. It was great fun opening all the wonderful presents and cards from friends and family on Christmas morning - thank you all for thinking of us as we spend our first Christmas on the boat. Christmas week was spent touring Mazatlan, kayaking and a day of sailing (yes, out past the dreaded dredge, which this time had a cable attached to the shore which also had to be negotiated!). The week's holiday sped by far too fast and the boat seems very quiet now that Meg has gone home. Boat projects and planning for some inland touring will keep us busy for now. The night Meg left, Debbie took the gang to see the Santa Village and it was quite the experience - Casas de Santa of all sorts (my personal favourite was "Sushi de Santa"), antique rides all beautifully decorated, a train ride through the park, a nativity scene with live animals, photos with the "Three Wise Men" and an ice-skating rink! We were sorry Meg missed this.
Just a quick addendum to the Blog - New Year's Eve was spent in the company of cruisers and dirt dwellers alike, dining and dancing barefoot on the beach until the early hours - what fun!! Happy New Year to all our friends and relatives - may 2013 be a great year for you. Love Pam & Ted
12/15/2012, La Paz, Costa Baja Marina
I'm finally getting to the blog, just as we are about to leave - situation normal!
We have spent the last week in the wonderful Costa Baja 5 Star Resort and Marina in La Paz - everything is beautifully landscaped, multiple excellent restaurants, laundry, showers and a bar with an infinity pool for those sunset Margaritas - it doesn't get better than that. The anchorage is very well protected and allowed under our insurance, so we have decided to leave the boat here over the summer.
Our trip up from Cabo started out sunny and calm - perfect sunbathing on the deck weather, but as we rounded the corner and headed up to Los Frailes (the Friars), the winds came up 5-10 kt more than predicted and a nasty square short period sea was coming straight at the bow. We were glad to pull into the protection of the bay after sunset - our first time anchoring in the dark, but once we separated anchored boats from shore lights and were safely on the hook, we had a celebratory glass of wine and a can of chili (too tired to cook much else). Next morning we were awakened by loud slapping on the water - beavers, eh??? To our surprise, there were small rays (we think Eagle Rays) flying out of the water all over the place - quite amazing to see. They continued to put on shows several times a day, migrating across the harbour so everyone had a good view. Confirmed hikers that we are, the 750 ft hill of Los Frailes beckoned and we hiked and scrambled up the granite boulders and through cacti to reach the top. The view of the surrounding hills and the Pulmo reef to the north was spectacular and well worth the hike. An impromptu pot luck followed that evening with the crews of Friendship (we met in Port Angeles), Bullwinkle and Marlena (solo sailor from Hawaii,) as Friendship had caught a 50" Wahoo on their way up from Cabo. The following day, we took the dinghy around to the reef, which is a National Park, and enjoyed some good snorkeling. It is one of only 3 hard rock reefs in North America. We wanted to get to La Paz, so decided to forego the pleasures of Bahia Los Muertos (now called Bay of Dreams) and did a 24 hour sail up to La Paz. We have now spent a week here, exploring La Paz and enjoying the company of Bullwinkle, Marlena and new Canadian friends on Exit Strategy and L'Ange. The latter two kept their boats here and were very pleased with the care taken, so they convinced us to leave our boat here in April for the summer. As we now only have time to go to Isla Espiritu Santo and then cross to Mazatlan to pick-up our daughter, Meg, for her Christmas vacation; we will not see much of the Sea of Cortez now. We may come north again after Christmas, but it is more likely to be next fall when we return to the boat. Exploring the Sea of Cortez looks too interesting to miss - I plan to obtain a couple of Steinbeck's novels on the area to read!
We hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas - you will be in our thoughts.
12/04/2012, Cabo San Lucas
Well we've crossed the Tropic of Cancer and arrived in Baja on Dec 2nd. The sudden change in temperature was incredible. Night watches normally require several layers of fleece, toques, ski socks and soft shell pants, even with our great cockpit enclosure; then 3 nights out of Cabo, the hat, socks and one layer of fleece came off and by the next night only shorts and T-shirt were needed! We opted to sail non-stop to Cabo to maximize our time in the Sea of Cortez before heading to Mazatlan to meet our daughter there on Dec 21st. The trip took just under 7 days, sailing mostly 40-60 miles offshore as the best winds were out there. Sailboats are always testing you and this time it was the chart-plotter - as we passed the large communication towers exiting Ensenada, the screen suddenly started looking like and old 50's TV screen with scrolling lines - radio interference??...turn back or go on???...well we are still close to San Diego and easier to get parts than Turtle Bay...better turn back... but when we reached the location where the problem started, it cleared up completely...good, must be just radio interference...turn around and head back out into the sunset. Sadly, it was not the radio towers but perhaps a case of the 96 hour flu, anyway it cleared up as suddenly as it had begun and continues to work perfectly (touch wood). Fortunately, under all the lines, the functions still seemed to be working correctly and we could make out some details and radar - another good reason for keeping offshore! Thank goodness for Ted's redundancy plans - the iPad worked perfectly using the INavX and I had just bought Ted a waterproof case in San Diego that allowed you to view the screen and run all the functions. We had to slow down considerably through Saturday night or our arrival would have been at 0300 hrs Sunday morning. It was worth waiting for dawn - what a great feeling coming round the corner into a beautiful sunrise with pods of dolphins coming out to meet us - each one trying to outdo the others in acrobatic prowess - pure magic!! We've enjoyed Cabo - it's a very beautiful location and the water for swimming is great, but the Sea of Cortez calls and tomorrow we head north for Los Frailes and then on to La Paz.