30 January 2010 | Yavarros/Topolobampo, Sonora/Sinaloa Mexico.
The strong southerlies I wrote about in the last post became more and more menacing in the forecasts. The closer to the "wind event" we came, the more apocalyptic the forecasts. What had been forecast as "strong southerlies in the 45 knot range for the far northern sea," started creeping south. Two days before the storm's arrival the forecast changed to "strongest winds along the Sonoran coast," I thought "Thats us, we're on the Sonoran coast!" I hate a rolly anchorage and when the wind gets up to 15 knots out of the south in San Carlos, the bahia becomes rolly as all get out. Kristina is less bothered by a rolly anchorage in general and was inclined to just ride it out in San Carlos.
As we vascilated, John and Janet from S.V. Wanderlust puttered by us in thier dinghy and informed us that they intended to leave the following day for the shelter of Las Playitas anchorage on the south side of Guaymas harbor. Last summer we sublet a slip in the marina from John and Janet on Wanderlust and Kristina came back from meeting them all beaming about how she had met some really cool people and her faith in cruisers had been renewed. I met with them before we took their slip and really liked them as well. Being stuck in San Carlos for nearly 10 months, we get the unexpected privilege of meeting people twice...they arrive, haul out for a season, and we're here to see them return to their boats. I agreed that their idea to move was a brilliant as the Guaymas harbor is very well protected from southerlies and a short trip to Las Playitas would see us anchored in shallow water in a heavy mud bottom with a large land mass between us and the strong southerlies.
Thanks to the nudge from Wanderlust we got the anchor up the following morning. Kristina was initially hesitant as the southerlies had started filling in and we had around 12 knots of southerly winds in our face. 12 knots of wind isn't so bad but the wind waves were 4-6 feet, steep, and annoying. The inner harbor at San Carlos was already getting a one foot rolling sea inside it but outside the chop drenched the boat and occasionally stuffed us into a wave so steep our speed would drop to next to nothing. Fortunately, as we got into deeper water, the waves flattened out enough that we could make decent headway we had a relatively uneventful trip to Guaymas.
Shortly after arriving in Las Playitas our friends on Kia Kaha motored into the anchorage. Evidently they had heard the bad news about the weather and had the same idea as Wanderlust. Mike wondered if Playitas would fill up with refuge seekers that day. I figured more people from Marina Singlar on the other side of the bay in Guaymas might come over and anchor in Playitas.
First time Estrella and Kia Kaha have shared an anchorage since October of 2007
New friends on Wanderlust entering the anchorage at Laz Playitas
The new marina Singlar in guaymas has no breakwater and the plastic and aluminum dock fingers are exposed to the south with easily a mile or more fetch (fetch is the distance waves travel unimpeded, the longer the distance of open water, the larger the waves) but I think some people are what I call "marina folk" and are more comfortable in marinas than on their anchors, even if the anchorage is better protected than the marina. Its all about that comfort zone.
The first day in Playitas was kind of a let down. We expected this big "wind event" and it never blew more than 15 knots all day. Around 10PM it became clear that the wind event had arrived. We discovered that our new wind instrument is capable of reading wind speeds in excess of 30 knots. We had sustained winds in the 30 knot ranges, with stronger gusts, when we attempted to go to bed.
We had complete faith in our ground tackle (ground tackle refers to anchoring gear) . In fact, when we had set the anchor upon arrival our new, seemingly more powerful, transmission really let its presence be known. I changed our snubber out for a fresh piece of rope (when anchoring we tie a 1/2" nylon rope to our anchor chain to absorb the loads and act as a bungee of sorts in big wind) and when we put the engine in reverse to set the anchor we got some speed up and the snubber went straight out, almost level with the horizon and the bow of the boat dipped down as the whole arrangement grabbed violently. I had Kris put the boat into full throttle reverse and wondered for a moment if something might break off the boat, it was so powerful.
Our sleep was not disturbed by a lack of faith on our gear. Our new snubber stretched loudly , creating a tense streeeeeeetch-SNAP type noise against the hull. It never broke and wasn't failing at all but it was loud enough to jar me from my sleep.
The following morning we found out that the boat yard roughly 100 yards away from us recorded a 58 knot gust. A shed evidently collapsed and landed on a car belonging to someone in the boat yard. Presumably both shed and car were a total loss. In San Carlos, nine boats chafed their moorings and went ashore. Friends who had stayed at anchor in San Carlos reported 4 to 6 ft. swells rolling into the bahia the peak of the storm. Those same friends reported that due to the chaos of the storm and the fear of being hit by a dragging boat, they spent the night with their engine running, manning the helm just to be ready to dodge any dragging boats. Southerly storms are a seriously rare event in the winter in this area.California and Arizona suffered much damage.
We spent the next couple of days hanging out with Kia Kaha and reading through Wanderlust's copy of the Raines guide to Mexico for stops along the mainland coast of the Sea of Cortez, between Guaymas and Mazatlan. After bidding adieu to Kia Kaha (they are bound for a lightening-fast crossing of the pacific to return their boat and new baby to their native New Zealand),we moved over to the north side of the Guaymas Harbor with Wanderlust. When we tried to get the anchor up we thought we might break something off of the boat. For the first time ever we had to motor the boat at almost full throttle to break the anchor out and the mud ball that came up with the Rocna was epic. The windlass strained under the weight of all of that mud.
Wanderlust took this picture of our Rocna mud wrecking ball after the storm.
The forecast had shifted to strong northerlies so it was the more protected option. As we hung out with Wanderlust and La Vita we soon discovered that all three us of were waiting for weather windows to head south.
The bright side of all of these most recent delays was that there was now no risk of missing out on the NFC and AFC Championship games. We took the opportunity to hop a bus back to San Carlos for the games and to meet Christy and Jason from S.V. Helloworld, who we had met only through emails. Jason, a java programmer whose career over the last 10 years has in many ways paralleled mine, and Christy were a lot of fun to hang out with. The NFC championship game was awesome and the Saints won it knocking out my least favorite former cheese-head in the process. Apart from totally failing to convince Jason and Christy to come south with the rest of the ppl that want to hang with them, the evening was a huge success.
By this point Kristina and I had tried to "leave" the San Carlos/Guaymas area four times so we decided to err on the side of a motoring weather window. Many sailors will say this is weakness and I am more than happy to admit that weakness. The Sea of Cortez creates awful waves. While technically small in height, I would take a 14-foot rolling North Pacific swell over the 6-foot vertical waves that are the sea of cortez chop. This way there would be no choppy seas and no sail balance issues to sort out. Also it would serve as an excuse to shake down the motor and newly rebuilt transmission.
On what we intended to be our last night in Guaymas, Wanderlust informed us that there was a free classical music/magic show at the Guaymas auditorio (auditorium) right off the malecon (waterfront) and they were gracious enough to invite us along. The auditorio was packed but we got there just in time for the dimming of the lights. We had all speculated as to the content of the show and it turned out to be a magician doing magic to classical music performed by an extraordinarily gifted string quintet. The show was wildly entertaining and we wish we had taken some photos of it. The magician was as affable as he was entertaining and the music was excellent. Certainly not what one expects to find for free when anchored in the noisy part of Guaymas harbor. I have to apologize to the "Mago," because he was very good but I still had "The Final Countdown" in my head the entire time thanks to Arrested Development.
The next day we awoke and started making preparations for departure straight away. Kris baked some passage making biscotti and I topped up our diesel tank, filled our disel jerrys, pickedu up our propane tank and returned the marina gate key. We ended up leaving about 30 minutes behind Wanderlust who announced that they would "See you guys in Mazatlan!" to which I replied "You might as well be talking about the moon.... See you guys on the Moon!" By then we had the dinghy on board and I started to pull up the anchor chain. I saw them make the turn into the main channel and noticed their mast was pitching back and forth quite a bit. I hailed them on the VHF to let them know that, if it was unbearably rolly out there, we would be going back in. Janet said they had pretty lumpy conditions but were going to sail out past the lighthouse and see if things improved in deeper water.
We followed suit and La Vita was on the roughly an hour behind us. We got into the channel and the lumpiness began. We were able to make headway into it but the wind and sea state were far from our ideal goal of glassy motorboat ride. The wind was blowing about 10 knots out of the south-southeast. We desired to sail that direction so, at best the wind would slow our motoring progress. We told Wanderlust that the conditions were not to our liking but that we'd try to catch up to them and get some pictures of them sailing before returning to Guaymas. They were beating upwind roughly due east when we caught up with them and snapped some pictures. We realized once they tacked that they were basically beating straight into the wind to go where we wanted to go.
John and Janet on Wanderlust beating to weather. Beautiful balanced sail trim.
More Wanderlust Beating
Those pangas are a serious hazard out there, you cant see them with the swell running and sometimes they anchor miles away from shore
Estrella aborting thanks to Wanderlust for the photo.
We turned around after another hour of discussion and tried to take some pictures of La Vita but they had accumulated such an offing as to make them to far to photograph effectively. What we could see, however was their mast pitching as they hobby-horsed under power straight into the wind and seas. We said "bah!" to all that and had a nice mellow sail back downwind into Guaymas where we promptly re-anchored in Las Playitas.
La Vita was too far to photograph effectively
We spent the night discussing weather windows and the following morning the forecast was more favorable for motoring to Yavarros or Punta Lobos.
According to every cruising guide that covers mexico there are no stops between San Carlos and Mazatlan, The Raines guide being the only notable exception. Consequently, most cruisers either cross the Sea of Cortez and work their way down the Baja before crossing back over from Los Muertos to Mazatlan. We usually guestimate an average of 4 knots sailing or under power for Estrella. consequently we assume that it will take us a full 24 hour day to cover 100 miles. If we had our druthers we'd prefer to sleep at night and make short day-hops to get where we want to go. Crossing the sea is an overnighter any way you slice it and so doing 2 of them so we can come back to the coast we started from doesn't appeal. Wanderlust showed us their Rains guide to Mexico and evidetly Pat Rains is the only cruising guide author who believes the mainland coast of the Sea of Cortez is worth exploring.
Wanderlust and La Vita had pretty much made up their minds to push on without stopping the full 400 miles to Mazatlan. La Vita moreso than Wanderlust as La Vita had made a slip reservation prior to even departing Guaymas so they had a schedule to keep. Wanderlust planned to anchor in the old harbor and therefore had more flexibility..
My feelings were conflicted. While getting in a 400 mile passage might be just what we needed to re acclimate ourselves to life under way, the prospect of a long miserable slog might also be just enough to cause us to set fire to Estrella and go find out what the rest of our kitty buys us in Thailand. Also, it would be a rare opportunity to go visit places that are very infrequently visited by cruising boats. Since a crossing of the pacific of indeed any cruising further afield than Mexico is highly unlikely at this point, this could be our last chance to see some unspoiled cruising grounds.
As I tried to bring up the Rocna I found it stuck in a way it has never been stuck before. When it finally surfaced it had an entire truck bumper hanging off of it. The struts that usually mount the bumper to the front of the truck were pointing down and prevented me from pushing the bumper off the blade of the Rocna. After many attempts to remove it using our deck brush we lost the deck brush overboard. We managed to recover it but it came off a 2nd time and the bumper was almost off. Once we got the bumper off the anchor we attempted to recover our deck brush but it was long gone. Sigh, guess its a good thing we rarely brush the deck.
After securing the anchor we departed under power with the intention of making the overnight trip to a small estuarine fishing port called Yavarros.
When we discussed going here with Wanderlust they indicated that the unmarked river bar was a bit daunting to them as they draw nearly six feet and feared that they might run aground. I indicated that in calm weather with a high tide any bar is a mill pond and we might just try it out. They quickly dubbed us the "river rats." Being from Portland, Oregon and Columbia River bar veterans, our river bar hubris earned us the title.
There was still a bit of a leftover sea from the previous day but it was quickly making its way behind us. We yawed back and forth off the faces of the waves but the autohelm steered true, never requiring a second glance. Had we not departed so late we might easily have made it into Punta Lobos and anchored out of the northerly swell for the night. In fact, considering that there were no offshore hazards and a radar guided night entry would be fairly easy, we actually discussed sleeping overnight there. But we were so happy making progress Southward that we decided to press on toward Yavarros. For some reason the transmission rebuild seems to have awakened a new beast within our undersized motor...we never throttled above 2000 RPMs and made more than 5.5 knots over ground all night long.
Fishing boat based out of Yavarros doing his thing 20 miles from the entrance
following seas created yawing action but the wheel pilot handled it with aplomb
Shortly after sunrise I put our hand line back in the water in hopes of snagging us a fish. Our purple feathered "Daverne" lure had caught us many Dorado and we loved it but this morning it caught us a Pelican. By the time we noticed the pelican on our lure it had drowned. I released the pelican and shortly after letting out the line another pelican dove on our lure snapping the hand line. No more Daverne lure for us. I reeled in what was left of the hand line and made the turn to enter the bay outside Yavarros estuary.
As we approached the bar entrance for Yavaros. We hadn't plugged the waypoints into our two chartplotters yet and Kris quickly did this as we and made our way toward the entrance from the north. This turned out to be a bit sketchy as there is a submerged former jetty between us and our waypoint and once the depth in the open water dropped to 9 feet we decided to head out to sea and make another approach from the correct southerly direction.
With the correct waypoints in the plotters we had an easy and uneventful bar crossing. The guide book says that if you call the Yavarros port capitan he will send a panga out to show you the way in. We didn't find it neccesary but in any unsettled weather or with breakers I would strongly advise taking full advantage of that service. As we entered the massive estuary we were greeted by what had to be a hundred thousand sea birds. Cormorants, Gulls, Egrets and Pelicans. A large pod of dolphins came to greet us inside the estuary. They displayed the odd behavior or surfacing so near one another that they would disrupt each other's path, they shoved each other around as they eagerly following alongside our odd boat.
"look ma, no hands!" kris shows us how easy entering an unmarked river bar can be.
As you can see here, our depth is more than adequate, the radar clearly shows the entrance and much to our amazement the overview chart on the chartplotter even seems to be correct!
Dolphins nudging each other.
Yavarros is teeming with dolphins
Can you ever have too many pictures of dolphins
Pangas were everywhere as were large shrimpers and one boatload of men in a panga cheered aloud when Kristina waved at them. It was very odd, I got the distinct impression that we were a novelty to these people. We anchored just off the end of the large fishing wharf and tucked in for the night. There was a stiff tidal current that made Estrella's riding sail useless. It reminded us of the famed "La Paz Waltz" where the tidal currents cause boats in La Paz to lie at odd angles to the wind and other boats. We had a breeze astern and our snubber and anchor chain were pinned underneath the bow. It was wierd but our anchor had set soundly, as usual, so we slept well.
The following morning I decided to do some routine maintenance to the engine. There had been some water in the clear bowl of our Racor primary fuel filter and it had been on my mind all night motoring so I wanted to drain it. It was easy to drain but when I tried to pump the fuel back in I could barely get it full. If you have any air in a diesel engine's fuel system, it will not start or run. I decided to run the engine and bleed the fuel return line, as I had often done before, by running the engine, backing off the banjo bolt until the air stops coming. This worked great but the banjo bolt wouldn't tighten back down and was now leaking diesel. I pulled the bolt and found that the threads were completely destroyed. I immediately regretting doing that bit of maintenance in a totally remote fishing village of less than 4000 people. At the same time I was confident that with a large shrimping fleet I should be able to find a "maquinero" (machinist) in town that could overdrill, retap the filter housing and make me a new larger banjo bolt.
I splashed the dinghy and went looking for a suitable place to land. I saw a panguero working on his shrimp nets tied to a town wall and asked him if that was an okay place to leave my dinghy... he said "just the dinghy or the motor too?" and I said "If I leave the motor will it still be here when I get back?" he said "Probably not, but the dinghy alone should be safe." I realized that there were hundreds of pangas in the estuary fishing and shrimping and some of them were being pushed along by a single oar along the shallow bottom. Many people there had no outboards for their working pangas. I stll dont believe those people would steal from me. I think being a poor worker does not make you a thief, being a thief makes you a theif. That said, this man made it clear to me that the thieves would love to have my motor and I dont take local knowledge like that lightly so I turned the pram around to motor back to Estrella to deposit the outboard back on it's bracket.
I had barely hit full throttle on the outboard when I was suddenly sprayed in the face with water. My brain had trouble processing the realization that there was a dolphin blowing its hole right next to the dinghy. I then realized that there were several dolphins nudging and bumping the pram. They surfaced all around and bumped the dinghy. They were huge bottlenosed dolphins and their powerful 14' long bodies seemed to dwarf my little 7' fiberglass pram. I could see some outboard scars on their backs, they clearly enjoyed this behavior regardless of the consequences. I grabbed the handheld VHF and told Kristina she needed to get on deck quickly with a camera and she popped out to find me looking like some kind of tropical Santa in my little white sleigh seemingly being pulled by a pod of dolphins. She actually described it as "Poseidon commanding his dolphins.". If I darted to the right they would turn their heads to look at me and then dart along the same direction. Their backs occasionally pushing the bottom of the dinghy upward with a slight thump. After Kris took her pictures I switched off the motor to see if they'd hang out and they left immediately. I fired up the motor to return to the boat and they were back as quickly as they had gone. It was hard to stop playing with the dolphins but there was a broken fuel filter housing in my pocket that needed my urgent attention.
Dolphins were really eager to pull the pram.
Wild bottlenosed dolphins might never have seen a pram before.
I deposited the outboard and rowed ashore. A panguero tried to sell me shrimp and I told him I had no time for shrimp but needed to find a machinist and he said he would take me to one. 10 minutes later Martin the panguero, and I were sitting in the shade waiting for the part to be fixed. I bought half a bag (2lbs) of shrimp from Martin and tipped him for his help by paying slightly more than he was asking for the shrimp. Martin echoed the warning about the outboard and asked me if I left somebody onboard the sailboat because he said "they'll just take it off your sailboat if its unattended." He agreed with me that the "poor," doesn't equal "thief," but warned me that there "No hay vigilencia." (don't have harbor patrol) so there isn't really anything to dissuade the thieves from having my motor. Half an hour later the dinghy was back on deck and the engine repaired and running. We decided to have dinner aboard since leaving the boat unattended seemed unwise with the two warnings we had recieved. We would maek for Topolobampo the following morning.
Kristina cleaned the shrimp and boiled them to perfection so that we could bust out our rare smuggled American cocktail sauce and have an American style shrimp cocktail on the way to Topolobampo the following day. For the record, "Cocktele de Camarones" is a bit of a disappointment if you're looking forward to dipping shrimp into horseradishy cocktail sauce. Its more like a glass full of Shrimp and Salsa. Still delicious, but not the same.
Pr@wn Pr0n! Yes, Please!
We awoke to a nice flat calm anchorage and brought up the anchor, along with about 60lbs of gelatinous thick bay mud, and began to motor out of the estuary. We had seen the fuel dock there but since we made such good time at 2000 rpms we had barely used any fuel so we dumped a couple jerry cans into the tank and made our way back out to sea.
Our fuel tank has always been somewhat of an enigma. We've always assumed the tank's transparent sight glass represented our total fuel capacity. Consequently, we have always assumed that our tank only held 20 gallons. The first time we filled it to a level greater than the top of the glass it began to leak out of the open top valve so we thought that meant it was full. Recently however, while topping off at the fuel dock in San Carlos I inadvertently squeezed the diesel filler pump fully not realizing that it was designed to fill massive sport-fishers. I had only done so for 30 seconds when I asked the station operator to read me how much I had pumped so far. "17 gallons," he said. I was only half an inch from the top of the glass when I had started so clearly our tank holds much more than we thought. I went ahead and put in another 3 gallons carefully checking the fuel tank vent for any overflow, so now we think our tank has more like 35-40 gallons capacity.
As we were motoring out of Yavarros at high tide my hubris took hold and I decided that since we were in the 20' deep channel I would set the autopilot and hoist the main. I was almost directly on top of our entrance track so I felt confident that we had plenty of water under the keel. Kristina was busy stowing the cabin for sea. Once I got the main up I checked the depth sounder and saw that it read 27 feet. Our depth sounder isnt quite calibrated but we know that we come close to running aground when it reads 3.2ft. The main problem with this is that the difference between 32 feet and 3.2ft is one tiny decimal point. I now suspect the sounder actually read 2.7ft. The reason I suspect this is that I hit the throttle and the boat started lurching. I was confused about what was causing this and soon realized we were bouncing along the bottom . But we were soon in 20 feet of water so this soft grounding was a total non-event.
Once out of the entrance we were treated to exceedingly placid waters. The glassy motorboat ride we had sought was finally ours. It was so flat, I made a german pancake in the oven while under way. We had a totally uneventful passage toward Topolobampo. The goal had been to make a night entry into Topo's well lit entrance around 1-2AM. There is an anchorage in Bahia San Ignacio, just outside Topolobampo, but there hardly seems any point in stopping just to save us two hours, when we could arrive at our destination. I jokingly said to Kristina "If we left early enough we could make it the 65 miles to San Ignacio in daylight, we'd just have to average 6.5 knots." Kris laughed out loud and I laughed with her. Our boat is a 4 or 5knot boat at best.
Made this under way... it was THAT calm.
Ironically, it became evident that something weird and wonderful is happening to our motor because we were actually averaging 6.5 knots of boat speed. We were only running the motor at 2000 RPM, which, pre-rebuild, would barely drive us 4 knots. We left Yavarros around noon and suddenly were looking at the prospect of possibly reaching the anchorage in San Ignacio around 10PM. Well the difference between 10PM and 2AM is a full night of sleep so we changed our plan and made an easy radar guided night entry into Bahia San Ignacio around 10PM. The anchor was down and set off a beach with light surf breaking on it by 10:30 PM. We were pleasantly surprised to have had a passage where the only surprises were our excessive speed and comfort. Things were really looking up. We slept soundly until around dawn when we pulled up the hook to head into Topolobampo.
Kristina took some pictures of the anchorage at sunrise with our SLR and slipped on a step heading back into the cabin and broke her fall with the kit lens and her right tricep. She got a big honkin bruise on her arm and our kit lens no longer auto-focuses. This event was a bit of a psychological epiphany for Kristina. She realized that once upon a time she would have become furious for having broken an expensive piece of equipment but that now she just accepts that things in boats break and there is no point in getting angry about it.
Testing out the manual focus on the smashed kit lens reminded me how much we adore this thing.
We followed some very interesting looking fishing boats down the "runway" into Topolobampo. Taking Estrella down the marked channel into Topolobampo analogous to landing a Cessna on the space shuttle runway. The channel can and does regularly support oil tanker traffic and, compared to an oil tanker, we're tiny. I tried to take some pictures of the fishing boats but had some timing issues with the camera card but I did get one of a very colorful shrimper that was covered in birds.
Covered with birds
huge buoys marking the "space shuttle landing strip"
Krissy keeping an eye on the runway
Once inside there was some disagreement between Kris and I about whether we were in the right part of the harbor or not. I decided to go explore the panga channel and see if there were more Topolobampo hiding from us but once we got our nose into the shanty village our depth suddently dropped to 6 feet so we threw Estrella into reverse and anchored off the new marina.
I was shocked to see one other sailboat in the new marina. A Hans Christian 38 named Oblivion. Nobody was aboard so we quickly assumed they had all gone ashore to take the famed train to the Copper Canyon. We splashed the dinghy and I went ashore to inquire about the facilities, dinghy dock fees and local amenities.
Shortly after tying the dinghy to the brand new dock I ran into Alberto. Alberto is awesome, he is a one man Topolobampo ministry or tourism. Alberto took me to his office and informed me that the marina was 7 months old and pointed out that they are still literally driving piles and adding docks. He told me the showers only had cold water so far but that the owners of the marina also own the hotel in town and that as marina guests we are entitled to use the hotel facilities for hot showers. He pulled out a tourism guide to the state of Sinaloa and showed me several colonial Spanish villages that were only a short 16 peso city bus ride away. He then pointed out that on the same 16 peso city bus we could go catch the Copper Canyon train from Los Mochis.
Alberto informed me that a slip with water and power was only 150 pesos a night and came with 24X7 security and the hotel facilities. I asked him about using the dock for the dinghy and he said 100 pesos a day. Basiclaly Alberto really wanted us to stay in the marina. He said "I'm not trying to scare you or anything but since you're the only sailboat in the panga channel you might end up exposing yourself to opportunistic thieves. If there were 2 or 3 sailboats out there, I'd say you have nothing to worry about, but being alone out there might not be safe for your stuff."
Anyway, we hate marinas but at 150 pesos a day we figured why not. So we pulled Estrella in and she saw her first marina slip since Hurricane Jimena. We went for a walk through We went for a walk through Topolobampo and found it to be a bit on the economically depressed and dirty side. However, we discovered the best "pasteleria" bakery right next to the bus mall. We took a 10 peso bus to Playa Maviri, on the other side of the bay, to get some late lunch since there were a dearth of places to eat in Topolobampo. We were told to eat at the hotel but they were closed on Mondays.
The bus ride to Playa Maviri was awesome. A pimped out Blue Bird school bus picked us up at the corner and the driver blared ranchero music as he bombed along this tiny road over land bridges between what would be estuarine islands. When we arrived we found ourselves at a Cabo San Lucas quality beach. This beach, however, was not covered with condos and timeshares. It was quiet despite the fact that it was a Mexican holiday. There were a smattering of Mexicans around, a few of them selling wares, and a chain of palapa restaurants along the beach. We enjoyed a slightly pricey but delicious seafood lunch at the Restaurante El Maviri while listening to a live 12 piece Sinaloan brass band. Things were really starting to look up for the crew of Estrella.
That night we relaxed on the boat and watched the weather. We discussed the prospects of taking the train to Copper Canyon. The Copper Canyon (or Barranca Cobre) is evidently a system of canyons larger and in places deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States. It is considered a "don't miss" spot in Mexico. We had more urgent issues to consider though.
The previous week the Saints and Colts both earned the chance to battle each other for the Lombardi trophy. Fortunately for us, there is a 2-week break between the championship games and the Superbowl. We had already consumed one of those weeks getting to Topolobampo. Mazatlan lay 200 miles down the coast from Topolobampo and therefore required 2 days of travel. Since we didn't know our way around Mazatlan I wanted to get there at least a day early so we could find a bar that would have the game, in English and be focused on showing us the game. So if we left on Wednesday we would arrive Friday. This didn't leave much time for Copper Canyon trips, which was okay because the budget doesn't allow for expensive inland trips right now. We did, however agree that if the weather kept us there we would splurge on the trip.
The following day our dock neighbors showed up and we met some great people. Thane, Brenda, Nancy and Jeff turned out to be a lot of fun to hang out with, and hang out we did. We made a return trip via taxi cab to Maviri beach and had a big group dinner at the restaurante.
Kris plus Oblivionistas (from left:Kris, Jeff, Nancy, Thane, Brenda)
Jeff and Nancy frolic in the sunset on Maviri Beach.
Nancy taking a picture of me, taking a picture of Nancy, taking a picture of me.
Kristina and I went to the market in Los Mochis and got a big bag of Shrimp at the open air fish market as well as a ton of super cheap local produce that came from small farms in the neighboring Spanish colonial towns. Our impression of Los Mochis was not great. It was a large dirty city that I would not have been terribly comfortable running around at night. Keeping in mind that we have never felt safer anywhere than we have in Mexico, just saying Los Mochis wasn't an appealing place, despite having awesome tacos, produce, and meats at great prices.
The weather turned foul for much of the remaining week and we got what looked like a break in the weather on Thursday. If we didn't escape on Thursday we would have to stay and brave a night in Los Mochis to see the game. I started referring to Los Mochis as "The Moch," much the same way the rangers in Blackhawk Down referred to Mogadishu as "The Mog," Mochis is not by any stretch of the imagination Mogadishu but I guess my brain went there.
The weather cleared up and it looked as though we might have a window to depart on Thursday. We told Alberto that we would likely be leaving on Thursday to head to Mazatlan but that if the weather turned out to be less than ideal, we would be right back. He said if we choose not to go, for any reason, he would drive us to Los Mochis for the game. In fact he said he would take us to an excellent sports bar he knows, stay with us and watch the game before driving us back to the marina. Alberto also offered us the use of his truck several times during our stay. I assume this is not a service offered by the marina but just Alberto being awesome to us.
Thursday morning we awoke to calmer winds and I took our two empty jerries to the pemex filling station a block away from the marina. There is an excellent pemex fuel dock but at the time it was full of shrimpers. Thane from Oblivion came with me and helped me cart the two jerries back from the gas station. I poured the two jerries in and dug our two remaining reserve jerry jugs out of the lazzarette and poured them into the tank. I had assumed up to this point that if I ever overfilled the tank diesel would come overflowing from the tank vent in the cockpit. As I poured the last jerry into the tank I was shocked to see the last of it come barreling up the deck fill hose. Fortunately it stopped about 18 inches from the top and I felt confident for the first time since we bought Estrella that the tank was full.
Concerned that there might be an issue with the tank vent being blocked by the fullness of the tank, I decided to run the engine at the dock for awhile to avoid an unexpected sudden engine failure later. While I was running the engine I asked Alberto if he wouldn't mind taking my four jerries and I to the filling station. Its hard to move 4 jerries simultaneously on foot and he was more than happy to oblige. When we returned Alberto insisted on helping carry the jugs to Estrella and while I got them stowed Alberto asked if he could see our cat. When we arrived I had confided in Alberto that part of the reason we don't like marinas is that our cat escapes when we tie up to them. When I told him this he burst into laughter. Alberto laughs easily and his laughter can be infectious. I dug Olivia out and he laughed again when he saw her. He said "Que gatita muy linda, pero yo nunca imagine que usted tenia una gata negra!" ("What an adorable cat, but I never imagined you had a black cat!" )
Just then we noticed that Oblivion's engine was running and they were removing sail covers. Alberto and one of the dock helpers ran over to help them shove off and Kristina and I joined them. We said our goodbyes to Oblivion and made plans to chat on the VHF in an hour or so to get a sea state report from them. Just then the whole gang on Oblivion motored backwards out of the slip. Alberto threw them the dock lines and leaned over to me and said. "Que mala negocio, me estima estos clientes y se vayan." ("What a terrible business, I grow to love these clients and then they leave." )
As he threw us our dock lines I couldn't help but feel the same way about Alberto.
Alberto waves farewell as he casts off the Oblivionistas. (Photo Courtesy Oblivion)