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Sailing with Thor
Still in Mazatlan
04/14/2011, Mazatlan, Sinaloa

Ah, life in the marina. I mentioned in my previous blog that we were anchored in the old harbor here in Mazatlan. I should say that we were anchored...after spending a week on the hook we decided to go into Marina Mazatlan located about 6 miles north of the old harbor. There was really nothing wrong with where we were...the location was good, bus service was often, and after all it was free! But we decided that the boat needed a good wash and we were looking for a change of scenery anyway so hence the move. The marina, here, is fairly new and modern...there is actually hot water in the showers, something we have not seen very much of, and we have an internet connection, again something that we haven't had for a while. We'll most likely be here for about a week before looking for a weather window to make the crossing of the Sea of Cortez back to the La Paz area. Oh by the way, I had also mentioned several blogs ago that we had made a change of plans. We have decided not to make the crossing to the South Pacific and that is why we are making our way back north to the Sea of Cortez. The boats that are making the crossing to the South Pacific, the "puddle jumpers" have been leaving a few each week since the middle of March and our original plan would have been to have left on that voyage by now as well. Our plans are now set...we will be shipping the boat back to the northwest via a shipping company. Yep, we are putting the boat on a ship in La Paz and it will make its way all the way to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where it will arrive some time at the end of May. We will fly there to meet the ship and offload the boat at Nanaimo. Then our plan is to sail the coast of British Columbia for the summer. This puts us right in our own backyard for the summer and we will be home at the end of the summer. Some may be asking why not just sail the boat home. Sailing the boat north up the coast is very difficult since we would be going against the prevailing winds and swell. We calculated that the cost of shipping more than made up for the cost of fuel, the wear and tear on the boat and on the crew, and the time factor involved. We would rather be cruising in British Columbia this summer than taking the entire summer to bash our way back up the coast. So there it is...a new chapter will begin next month.

Anchored in Mazatlan
04/09/2011, Mazatlan, Sinaloa

We are currently anchored in the old harbor at Mazatlan. It's a little nostalgic for us because this is precisely where we anchored 27 years ago when we were here. There are only three other cruising boats in the harbor with us...that's because that there is a new and modern marina about 10 miles north of here that is the main draw for most of the cruising boats visiting Mazatlan. For good reason, too. The water in the old harbor is dirty, there are really no facilities for cruisers (although we do have a safe place to tie up the dinghy on shore) and the sewage treatment plant is close by and there are some foul odors on the breeze from time to time. However, there is regular bus service to downtown and in fact it's actually close enough to walk and besides, we wanted to have the experience of once again anchoring in the harbor. After all, you can tie up your boat in a marina almost anywhere these days, but there is only one Mazatlan harbor where you can say you anchored. We arrived here after an overnight 18 hour passage from Isla Isabel.

After visiting the Port Captain's office and checking in, we hopped on the bus to the central plaza. Lots of traffic here! The city streets are crawling with locals and visitors alike going about their business. The streets around the central plaza is especially crowed with street vendors and people visiting. There are also quite a few shoe-shine stands that I found kind of odd since most people where sandals. But they seemed to be busy. On the north side of the plaza is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This immense and ornate building was constructed from 1875 to 1899. Quoting from the plaque, "Generally speaking, this church is eclectic in style with a predominance of Neo-Gothic elements." It's absolutely the most incredible building both inside and out that we have visited. The rest of the area around the square consisted of several banks, the post office, the city hall building, and several businesses. And all of the busses that run, stop near the central market building one block farther to the north creating a bedlam of noise and congestion. But it all seems to work in the end.

Speaking of the Mercado...we visited here as well, spending several hours wandering the "halls" and stalls of the merchants. The sights and smells are wonderful to experience at the market...produce, meat, groceries, clothing, shoes, electronics, pottery, touristy gifts and jewelry are all available. Of course, we did not leave empty handed! After the market we walked through the historical district that has seen quite a bit of renovation in recent years. Many of the old buildings have been turned into businesses and residents and the location is only a few blocks from the central plaza. We decided to walk back to the boat along the Malecon and on the way, met Manny who had a small tourist stand. We had a pleasant conversation with him...he speaks very good English and worked on a cruise ship for 7 years. His job was in the kitchen and we started talking about Mexican cooking. Manny has a passion for cooking and proceeded to tell us how to make chicken mole, a dish that we have yet to try in the galley on the boat. He also gave us a couple of recommendations for good places to eat, (where the locals visit) away from the general tourist places. Real Mexico is what we like. We plan to check them out.

Anchored at Isla Isabela
04/06/2011, Isla Isabela

As I write this, there are hundreds of birds circling overhead and many, many more on the rocks and in the small trees ashore. Isla Isabela is an island about 85 miles southeast of Mazatlan, about 20 miles offshore. It is a bird sanctuary and home to thousands of gulls, frigates and boobies. They call Isabela home and nest here year round. Our passage from San Blas was uneventful and we arrived about 2 in the afternoon. The local fishermen set nets in and around the anchorage, but they are located deep under the water and what we have to watch out for are the plastic bouys marking the trip lines to the anchors on each end of the net. Nevertheless, there are dozens of bouys in the water and a sharp lookout is necessary. The water is clear and we were able to see the sand patches among the rocky areas on the bottom in which to drop the anchor.

We dinghied ashore around the point into the south bay where the fish camp is located. There are about a dozen huts in the fish camp and we counted 15 pangas, some on the beach and others working at sea.. There are perhaps 30 pescadors living here. The camp is very rustic, but they have the basics...shelter, food and water and modern composting pit toilets located a ways out behind the huts. We also heard music playing. The beach was covered with nets, floats, anchors and lines.

After pulling the dinghy up to the high water mark on the beach and setting the anchor, we walked inland a little ways to see the old building that used to house a "warden" and various facilities for bird studies. The building is completely deserted and in various states of disrepair. Oddly enough, there is also a sport court of sorts that has basketball goals and there was a volleyball net set up across the court. I guess the fisherman get in a little basketball or volleyball during their off time.

This is a truly wild island...there are birds everywhere in the trees and on the ground. Frigate birds nest in the small trees and there could be as many as a dozen nests in a tree not taller than 15 feet. The blue- and yellow- footed boobies nest on the cliffs and near the shore and terns and gulls live in the crevices on the cliffs. There were many birds sitting on nests (eggs) and many of the nests had immature baby birds in them. Most of the birds were not afraid of our presence and we could get very close to them for picture opportunities but we tried to stay as far away as possible so as not to disturb them on the nest or the babies.

I should say that the island is also covered with iguanas and lizards. While hiking, many of the smaller lizards would scurry away as we passed by but many of the larger iguanas (some as long as 3 feet!) would ignore us and we would have to detour around them or step over them. In one case, an iguana must not have liked Lorrie because it hissed at her. We took a hike up to a promontory, that dead ended at a very steep cliff marking the edge of an ancient caldera with a view to the ocean below and the surf crashing heavily on the shore below us. Many yellow-footed boobies and gulls were nesting on the edge of the cliff. We also hiked inland to the old crater, aptly named Crater Lake since it was filled with water. Another hike took us to a rocky beach on the east side of the island and home to a bunch of nesting blue-footed boobies.

Later in the afternoon, I went snorkeling in the clear water under the boat (lots of coral, and colorful fish and eels!) and also took the opportunity to clean the scum from the waterline that we had picked up while moored at the Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. I was also surprised to see the prop partially covered with barnacles since I had just cleaned the prop not more than a few weeks before.

The day ended with an invite to a potluck on Swift Current. The crews from Blue Rodeo, So Inclined and Pacifico were also there making 10 in all. We plan to depart the next afternoon for the 85 mile over night run to Mazatlan.

Hangin' Out in San Blas
04/03/2011, San Blas, Nayarit

San Blas is a really nice Mexican town of about 15,000. We spent our first day, here, exploring and getting the lay of the land. The center of town is a very short walk from the marina, only about 4 blocks. There are no large supermarkets, only small tiendas, (almost one on every block it seems), a very old cathedral, of course the town plaza and many, many restaurants to choose from. There is one bank and one gas station. There are several hardware stores and many other small stores that specialize in cutting hair, electronics, jewelry, clothing and repair shops for cars and bicycles. Like many of the other towns we have visited, the streets are all cobbled, actually round stones about the size of large grapefruit sunk in the ground and quite a bit of dust. It's still the dry season and it hasn't rained in several months so everything is coated in dust. San Blas is a very busy town...the downtown area is always hopping...people are everywhere, taking care of their daily business. This town also has a larger number of people on bicycles and motorcycles than we have seen in other towns this size.

Day 2 in San Blas saw us head out early to take advantage of the popular jungle tour up the San Cristobal river. We had heard that early in the morning would provide us with more opportunities to view wildlife. We walked into town and found a taxi to take us to the tour operator, about 10 minutes away by taxi. When we arrived, we could tell we were the first customers of the day...and the only customers at the time so we had an entire panga to ourselves for the tour and we were guided by our driver, Alex. Alex is 21 years old and has been taking people up the river for a year. The ride up the river was really interesting...Alex pointed out many species of birds and reptiles, including several crocodiles, large and small. We also saw turtles as well. At the "end of the river" there is a fresh water spring, La Tovara that has been fenced off so that a pool has been formed to allow customers to take a swim if they want. It was a little too early for me and Lorrie did not fancy getting into the water in which she had just seen crocodiles anyway. There is also a restaurant there, too. During the busy season of December and January, bus loads of tour groups are ferried up the river and each of the pangas is filled with as many as 20 people. I was glad that we had the whole place to ourselves, but just as we were leaving for the ride back, another panga arrived with a Mexican family. The ride back was quicker, but we did see the largest crocodile of the day. This one was swimming in the water and Alex brought the boat right up along side. The croc didn't seem to mind at all that we were next to him and taking pictures. We made sure we kept our hands out of the water! After we arrived back at the tour start, we took a walk out to Matenchen Bay where we anchored 27 years ago. At that time, there was nothing but a very long and beautiful beach. Now the beach is completely lined with palapa restaurants. Progress, I guess. There were two boats anchored in the bay. We walked back to the main road to wait for a bus or to flag down a taxi if one came by. Over the course of the 30 minutes that we waited, no less than 5 taxis went by going the other way (with passengers)...they all saw us wave and we thought that at least one of them would be back to pick us up after dropping off their passengers. No taxis were going our way but the bus showed up and we caught a ride back into town.

On Day 3, we took a hike (about 14 blocks) to the old fort up on the hill. Cerro de la Contaduria was built on a very high promitory above the town and has a commanding view over the town and out to the ocean. The Spaniards would have been able to see any ships coming form a long way out. There is also the ruins of an old church on the grounds and it was fun to walk around and think about what it was like back in the 18th century when these structures were built. After we arrived back in town, we had dinner at a nice seafood place just off the plaza. After dinner, we took a walk around the plaza and did some people watching. Being Saturday night, everyone was out having a good time and the plaza was crowded with people having dinner, enjoying some ice cream and meeting with friends. We plan to leave in the morning for a moderate length passage to Isla Isabel, about 45 miles north of here and about 20 miles off shore.

04/03/2011 | Jim and Connie SV SoundEffect
glad you enjoyed San Blas we did all the same things but also got San Blas day on Feb 3 which is a big fiesta.
So when do you reveal your plans for going home?
Arrival in San Blas
03/30/2011, San Blas, Nayarit

We arrived in San Blas, yesterday after a 6 hour run from Chacala. Right away, we knew that we would be having some fun here, when we approached the entrance to the breakwater at near low tide and saw some swells rolling through the entrance and breaking. San Blas is located on the estuary El Pozo and entry to the estuary is between the breakwaters. Fortunately, today was a calm day and we felt confident about crossing the bar and cruising up the estuary. As we neared the entrance, we stayed as far to starboard as we could but still to port of the red bouys. The far left side of the entrance channel showed small braking waves indicating a shoal area. We proceeded slowly, at about 3.5 knots against the ebbing current in about 12 feet of water. Suddenly the depth sounder dropped to about 7 feet (we draw a little over 5 feet) and we started to sweat a little, but just as quickly the depth increased back to 12 - 14 feet over the rest of the distance as we motored about a mile up the estuary. We soon came to some smaller red and green bouys indicating the way to the small marina. The water depth significantly decreased to about 9 feet in this area. We had intended to anchor in the estuary off the marina, but not having a clear idea of where there shoal areas were, we opted to tie up to the dock at the Singlar Marina. There were only two other cruising boats at the dock, here and and none at anchor. We knew that we were visiting toward the end of the season and were not at all surprised of the lack of other boats.

Once a major center of Spanish domination for the west coast of the Americas, it was here that the Spaniards built the vessels used for exploring the western coast of North America. The overgrown ruins of a large fort, the Customs House and the ancient cathedral attest to its colorful and historic past. In 1882. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his last poem, The Bells of San Blas. In October of 2002, Hurricane Kenna severely damaged the town.

Anchored at Chacala
03/29/2011, Chacala, Nayarite

We had a nice run from Punta de Mita to Chacala yesterday in light winds from the north and mototsailing all the way. We have anchored in a pretty little bay off the small village of Chacala. When we anchored here during our first trip to Mexico 27 years ago, there was nothing here but a coconut plantation and a coupe of palapas. There is now a thriving little community, here, catering mostly to ex-pats that have moved here and eco-tourism. We have heard that there has been a moritorium of sorts along the beaches preventing any more development for the time being and several beach areas are actually fenced off and have posted guards. We went ashore and checked in with the port captain and as we were rowing into shore heard a loud hail of "Thor!" from the beach and later found fellow cruisers Jeff and Jane from their boat Adagio (out of Portland) having a refreshment in one of the restaurants on the beach. We had first met them in La Paz and have shared several anchorages with them since. They are also on their way up the coast and plan to cross back over to La Paz. We spent the afternoon walking around town, exploring. Our next port of call will be San Blas, a short 25 miles to the north.

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Who: Marc and Lorrie Cascio
Port: Bellingham, WA
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