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Sailing with Thor
Anchored at Muertos
04/22/2011, Bahia de Los Muertos

We are currently anchored at Bahia de los Muertos on the east cape of the Baja peninsula. We arrived here last night about 6 pm after our crossing from Mazatlan. The passage went well with light winds, no higher than 12 knots, but unfortunately right on the bow. In fact, the entire second day produced virtually no wind at all and very calm seas. Thus, it was a motorboat ride all the way across. We saw many turtles on this trip their wet shells glistening in the sunshine. They are floating on the surface, for what reason we have not determined. But when we get close to them, some are swimming and some are just floating, some will lift their heads out of the water for a look-sea, but very few will dive under the water when we approach. It was comical to see that some of them had birds sitting on them. We also had a fantastic encounter with porpoises. It had been awhile since we had seen any as they were very scarce on the mainland side. These were large, in the eight foot range and we had as many as a dozen swimming in the bow wave at one time. The water is so crystal clear that we had no trouble seeing them around and under the boat. Coming into the anchorage we also spotted a whale, but it only surfaced once before sounding and we didn't see it again.

This is our third time anchored at Muertos. This time does not compare to the previous visits. On our previous stops, the beach was deserted and not so this time. Being Easter week, hundreds of people, mostly families are camped on the beach. There are dozens of tents and shelters. It is a holiday vacation scene as kids frolic in the surf and people are out in pangas, fishing. There are one or two jet skis buzzing around, a few kayaks, a couple on stand-up paddleboards, and a few kids paddling around a small inflatable. On the beach, there are people kicking around a soccer ball and several riding ATV's. There is also plenty of music and a few campfires going at night. Quite a scene of activity! We opted to stay on the boat today and do a few chores and rest. I went for a swim this afternoon and cleaned the waterline of the boat and changed the prop zinc. It is still a mystery to me as to why the zincs are going so fast. I've heard several reasons; that it's the warmer water (maybe it changes the chemistry?), the zincs are inferior, they wear out more quickly because the boat is moving more, and anytime we are in a marina, other boats are causing it. Some other boats are experiencing the same thing and some are not, so it's hard to nail down a reason.

More Mazatlan
04/19/2011, Mazatlan, Sinaloa

We have been busy while here in Marina Mazatlan. We spent a half a day cleaning the boat and another half a day doing minor maintenance. We serviced the batteries, changed the fuel filter, cleaned the raw water strainer, polished the stainless steel and put a coat of Semco on the exterior teak. In between chores, we have taken a bus into downtown Mazatlan to explore different areas of the city. We've spent parts of a couple of days exploring the Mercado...it's such a fascinating place to see. And at the recommendation of a local vendor, we found a small neighborhood restaurant that caters mainly to the local residents in the area. We were the only gringos in the place. We had a wonderful late lunch, trying a dish that we have not had before. It's called pozole and is similar to tortilla soup except that it has shredded pork and hominy and it's quite good although we decided that we like tortilla soup better. On another day, we made a big goof getting on the wrong bus. But as I've said before, riding busses in Mexico is an adventure and we made the most of it by getting a tour of areas of the city that we had not seen before. So getting on the wrong bus is not that bad...we just wait until we come back to where we started, get off and look for the correct bus. Yesterday, we spent most of the day doing some provisioning for the boat. We visited a couple of different stores, doing our grocery shopping and getting everything back to the boat and stowed.

Today we made our way (by bus) to the Immigration office to pick up our new FM3 cards, our extended tourist visa that now allows us to stay in Mexico for up to a year. Also found another "local's restaurant"....actually a Loncheria stall near another small Mercado (no T-shirts, no blankets, no jewelry, mostly produce and meat) more frequented by locals than tourists. In fact we saw no other gringos while we were there. In one stall, four guys were busy cutting up a beef carcass into smaller pieces and parts. For lunch, we had a whole baked fish, very tasty and bistek ranchera with rice and beans. Fresh, very good and inexpensive local fare!

Many cruisers use Marina Mazatlan as their home base and keep their boats here in the off season. The rest of the "fleet" are like us and are heading north, some to spend time in the Sea of Cortez and some to prep for heading back to the states. Boats are leaving every day but on Sunday there was a mass exodus as 14 boats left. Most were delayed leaving by fog as the port captain closed the port for awhile in the morning, although some chose to ignore the red flag that was posted, left anyway and risked a $5000 fine.

We've had a nice visit in Mazatlan but our time here is coming to an end. We plan on leaving in the morning for the 200 mile passage across the Sea of Cortez back to the Baja side. The trip will take 34-40 hours depending on wind and sea conditions.

To the top!
04/14/2011, Mazatlan, Sinaloa

My last bog started with "Ah, life in the marina"...but I didn't really elaborate. Yesterday, we hauled up the anchor from the bottom of the old harbor, washed all the gooky mud off the chain and anchor and made our way to the Marina Mazatlan. There are about a 100 boats here give or take and like us all from somewhere else although many will call this marina "home" and stay here for the summer. It's a nice place...close to the bus line, as I mentioned has hot showers and internet and we don't have to put the dinghy in the water every time we want to go ashore. We have water available to wash the boat...the grime that has built up on every surface in such an unbelievable short period of time is an eyesore. We think that we were downwind of the city in the old harbor and we took the brunt of good old city pollution in the air and sticking on everything. This marina is built into an estuary...there are lots of birds around and the swallows and the cooing doves are especially pleasant to look at and listen too.

The other day we did a hike to the top of Isla Creston where el faro (the lighthouse) is located. This hike is a steep one and from sea level we ascended to the top at 515 feet which we are told is the second highest lighthouse in the world. Although I checked Google and there are some differences there, but in any case it is really high and provides a fantastic view of the city and the waterfront.

We also spent part of one day doing the paper work for an extension of our tourist visas. When you visit Mexico, you are allowed to stay for a period of up to six months. Then you have to leave the country or apply for an extension for a longer period of time. We realized that our visas will be expiring the first of next month and in order to stay "legal" we either had to leave the country (and then fly back in obtaining a new visa for a new six month period) or apply for an extension. The extension is called and FM3 and is good for one year. It is not an easy process to complete. We first had to go to the bank and pay the fees, pretty hefty in this case, about $300 for the two of us. Then we went to an office where (for a fee of course) a guy helped us fill out all the paper work, which was entirely in Spanish. There were two forms each to fill out, plus they wanted a "personal letter" stating why we wanted to stay longer in Mexico, and copies of our passports and a copy of a recent bank statement, and finally five pictures of each of us from the front and the side. All this took well over an hour to complete. The forms then had to be submitted to the Immigration office...we waited for 45 minutes for our number to be called. It takes a week for them to process the forms and they told us to pick up the new visas on Tuesday. We could have forgone getting the visa extensions but we would have risked getting a fine (or worse) and possibly not being granted entry to the country in the future. It was a hassle to complete and somewhat expensive but it was something that was required and we complied. At least we will stay in the good graces of Mexico and not be black listed in a computer system somewhere. Is it easier or more difficult for someone to visit the US and for how long I wonder?

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

4/9/2011
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.

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