Honu's Travels

Sailing out under the Golden Gate, turning left, and whatever happens after that!

04 June 2021 | La Paz, Mexico, and San Diego, California
24 May 2021 | Sea of Cortez, Mexico
23 May 2021 | Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
22 May 2021 | Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
14 May 2021 | Banderas Bay, Nayarit, Central Mexican Coast
09 May 2021 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Central Mexican Coast
09 May 2021 | Banderas Bay, Nayarit, Central Mexican Coast
28 April 2021 | Banderas Bay, Nayarit, Central Mexican Coast
24 April 2021 | Puerto Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Mexico
21 April 2021 | Nuevo Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Mexico
08 April 2021 | Banderas Bay, Central Mexican Coast
03 April 2021 | Chacala, Central Mexican Coast
19 March 2021 | Matanchen Bay, Nayarit, Central Mexican Coast
19 March 2021 | Matanchen Bay, Nayarit, Central Mexican Coast
14 March 2021 | Central Mexican Coast
05 March 2021 | Isla Isabel, Nayarit, Mexico
04 March 2021 | Isla Isabel, Nayarit, Mexico
04 March 2021 | Isla Isabela, Nayarit, Mexico
04 March 2021 | Nayarit, Mexico
04 March 2021 | Central Mexican Coast

La Paz - and a Quick Trip to San Diego

04 June 2021 | La Paz, Mexico, and San Diego, California
Maeve Murphy | Hot/warm
4th-15th May
It had gotten really hot in Marina de la Paz since we were here in December. Quieter, too - most cruisers have either left by now for cooler regions out of the hurricane belt, are on their way to Central America or the South Pacific, or have closed up their boats or put them in dry dock for the summer. But a few folks were still around, and some hardcore cruisers would remain through the whole of the blisteringly hot summer.
We spent our time getting ready for the next leg north, and trying to keep the boat and ourselves cool. Daily temps were already in the mid-90s to 100, and by 2 or 3pm each day it was uncomfortably stuffy and warm in the cabin, even with our little electric fans running 24/7 (Honu's deck absorbs heat). The Dock Cafe at the marina became our afternoon escape. We'd park ourselves in its shady patio where the light breezes blew through just right, drink cold juices and frappucchinos and work on our laptops. In the mornings I joined the joggers and dog-walkers for a brisk walk along La Paz's beautiful malecon. I tried to finish my exertions before 9am when it became just too dang hot.
One very hot day we ventured out to the local municipal covered market to grab some lunch at a taco stand and some produce. I never carry an umbrella for shade but I did that day! The market had a fabulously colorful shrine to the Virgin Mary with a kind of desert theme. Mary is much revered in Mexico and her image is everywhere.
We'd been trying to figure out how to get our Covid vaccinations. Even more urgently, our Mexican visas were about to expire. So we hastily arranged a three-day trip across the border to San Diego. We flew Calafia Airlines from La Paz to Tijuana - a two-hour hop - then walked across the border and took an Uber the 30 minutes to a hostel in the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego. Hillcrest is a relaxed, LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood with lots of quirky little eateries (best cafe name: 'Breakfast Bitch'), good thrift-store shopping, and Bread and CIE, a quality French-style bakery with the most delicious pastries that got the stamp of approval even from very discerning Bernard. We'd lined up appointments for our shots at a nearby Walgreen's, and had a lunch date with my niece, who was on the home stretch to graduation from UCSD. We picked up some organic peanut butter with no added sugar in a glass jar (difficult or impossible to find in Mexico) for me, almond butter for Bernard, and some fair-trade organic chocolate (also hard to find south of the border) for those long nighttime watches at sea.
The border crossing is a strange experience; it's basically entering an airport-like building, going up an elevator, walking down long corridors, going down again, and making your way through customs and immigration (where we renewed our visas) until you land in the airport on the other side - and voilà, you're in Mexico. You only see the infamous border wall if you get very close to the windows along one corridor during the crossing and peer at a certain angle. It's a stout, ugly, forbidding wall, and you'd hardly know it was there if you didn't make an effort to see it. I played the song 'Why We Build the Wall' by Anaïs Mitchell - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBGUqMyyvnI - for Bernard on my phone, a that song just hit me between the eyes when I first heard it.
We had a bit of hassle going through security when they discovered the peanut and almond butters in our carry-on luggage. Apparently they're classified as 'liquids' (??), of which we were only allowed 100 mm per container. I wanted to yell half in frustration and half in jest, "I'm vegetarian and you're taking away my protein!" But it was back to the check-in counter to check the bag with the offending articles for transport in the plane's hold, where they could do no harm. Otherwise it had been a very smooth and easy trip back and forth for us.

Maz to La Paz

24 May 2021 | Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Maeve Murphy | Clear, hot, variable winds
1st-4th April
We sailed out of Mazatlan on a northwest course towards La Paz, 238 nautical miles away on the Baja Peninsula. The south and southwest winds we’d been waiting for to help us on the crossing ended up having too much west in them. And we seemed to be making a fair amount of leeway, so we suspected the current wasn’t helping either. Our instruments indicated the current was strong and pushing us directly from behind, so it was strange that we were struggling most of that first day to stay off the mainland coast and anywhere near our plotted course. Eventually we fired up Mr. Perkins, and ended up motor-sailing that entire night while the wind gradually veered around to a more favorable direction. 
On leaving Mazatlan we noticed we weren’t getting a boat-speed reading. This usually means the transducer in the hull (which tracks speed through the water) had acquired a layer of fuzzy marine growth and needed a cleaning. As for that current, it was consistently reading 4 and 5 knots and directly from behind...weird. We finally realized the instruments were displaying boat speed where current speed is usually shown. Mr. Perkins’ tachometer was also misbehaving. None of this was serious; we just watched the speed-over-ground reading instead, and of course if all the electronics failed we could always use our paper chart to track speed. But some troubleshooting was in order at our next stop. 
At last, by late morning and halfway into the crossing, we were able to turn off the engine and settle onto a comfortable beam reach that lasted nearly the rest of the way. By now we were definitely in the Sea of Cortez.
Bernard had bought a coconut a few weeks back, and cracked it open. The water inside didn’t taste very appealing, but the fresh pulp was moist, rich and chewy, a substantial snack. That night the Southern Cross constellation off our port quarter looked bigger and clearer than I’d ever seen it before.
It was very early in the morning and still dark as we approached the entrance to the Cerralvo Channel between Baja and Isla de Cerralvo (a.k.a. Isla Jacques Cousteau). Honu started to struggle against the combination of rising wind, confused seas and strong current being funneled down through the Channel, and progress became laborious and uncomfortable. It was still more than 50 nautical miles to La Paz, and we were tired, so we gave up and decided to anchor in Ensenada de los Muertos, five miles from the entrance to the Channel. As we entered Los Muertos after dawn Bernard was treated to one of the famous natural sights of the Sea of Cortez: rays leaping high out of the water and landing with a splash. I re-dubbed the anchorage 'Leaping Ray Bay'. We’d rest for the day and attempt the Channel that night when conditions would probably be calmer. 
While at anchor Bernard dived down to the hull and cleaned the transducer, so we got our boat speed and current readings back. We left LRB at 3am. It was a beautiful calm starry night, the sea almost smooth as glass. We had to motor all the way to La Paz. In all our time in Mexico we’ve done a lot more motoring than we’d like, but by all accounts this is the typical cruisers' experience. Still, it was a relaxing, enjoyable passage through the Channel, around the point and into the beautiful Bay of La Paz.

El Cid Again

23 May 2021 | Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
Maeve Murphy | clear, breezy
28th-30th April
Our final stop in Mazatlan was El Cid, our favorite marina. The helpful informational signs around the marina charmingly refer to us cruisers as ‘yatistas’ - I haven’t seen that anywhere else.
It was three days till the next favorable weather window for the two-night crossing back over to the Baja Peninsula, and we got busy with the usual preparations. The highlight of each day was a long soak in the jacuzzi pool to ease our tired muscles, followed by a bracing dip in the cold pool next to it. A couple lounging poolside was eating hamburgers and french fries and had attracted several iguanas of various sizes. The reptiles normally keep their distance from people but it seemed the smell of the food was irresistible to them; between bites the couple had to keep shooing them away. I just can’t get over having these exotic, mini-dinosaur-like beasties so close, especially in such a groomed and artificially landscaped place; it was surreal.
After dark on the dock, night herons got busy on Honu and the boats around us. We’d watch them in the beam of our flashlight as they tightrope-walked on skinny yellow legs along bow pulpits, necks extended, intently eyeing the water for the movement of fish. From our beds in the v-berth we’d hear the beat of their wings and their feet landing on the deck. Of course, in the morning there was always the poop on the deck to clean up, giving new meaning to the term 'poop deck.'
By day, those tiny swallows - black-capped swallows, we think - we first saw in Matanchen Bay flitted about Honu’s deck and perched on the lifelines. While preparing the deck the day of our departure, Bernard made an unhappy discovery: a nest tucked in between the folds of our mainsail. Then he noticed the anxious-looking swallows perched close by. Thank goodness there were no eggs in the nest… How did we not notice this going on, so that we could have discouraged it earlier? Birds expend a huge amount of energy nest-building and now this pair would have to start all over again. Bernard apologized to the swallows as he removed the nest and placed in on the dock. Maybe they could at least use the same nest materials to rebuild elsewhere, and would hopefully have enough energy to do so. The marina's good-naturecd water-taxi driver passed close by in his panga and saw the nest in Bernard’s hands. He called out that he too had discovered a nest nearby and had had to move it, but it had an egg in it that had to be thrown away. “Poor birds,” he said, shaking his head with regret. We vowed to snug the mainsail cover up much tighter from now on, at least through spring. 

Back in Mazatlan

22 May 2021 | Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
Maeve Murphy | clear, breezy
25th-27th April
The Matanchen Bay to Mazatlan leg was 126 nautical miles and an overnight. When we broad-reached down this stretch of coast three months ago, whales were everywhere, but now we were seeing very few, as the main whale-watching season ended in April. In one short stretch of sea we passed several sea turtles basking at the surface, each with a bird perched on its back, a convenient pelagic resting spot. And a pod of dolphins joined Honu one night and perked up Bernard's otherwise uneventful watch.
It was after dark when we anchored at Isla de las Piedras at the south end of Mazatlan, but we were familiar with the spot so it was easy. The anchorage was rolly as ever, but it was just for one night and we were too tired to care.
The next morning we motored over to nearby Club Nautica, at my insistence. Bernard wasn't keen; he lobbied for heading straight to Marina El Cid where that lovely jacuzzi pool was calling to him. But I wanted to try out the older - and free - anchorage for just one day and night, to be just a short walk from the Centro, my favorite part of Mazatlan, and to save money, and he finally gave in.
Club Nautica's name sounds much nicer than the place turned out to be. It's just inside on the breakwater of Mazatlan's big commercial harbor and just next to the hill topped El Faro - the Lighthouse - a striking Mazatlan landmark. Once upon a time the Club was the place for cruisers stopping in Mazatlan. But since the bigger, modern marinas were built in the Sabala Estuary north of the city, with their piped-in water and electricity hookups at each slip, Club Nautica's popularity has waned, though our guidebook pointed out it's still a good option for budget-minded cruisers. And I'm the budget-minded one of this crew, Bernard the relative spendthrift.
Club Nautica's small anchorage was fine, and it was fun watching the huge fishing, cruise and ferry ships glide in and out through the narrow harbor entrance nearby. Rather than go to the trouble of launching our dinghy for just one night's stay, we inflated and paddled our kayaks ashore. We discovered the slow leak in my kayak had gotten worse. But it stayed sufficiently inflated just long enough for me to reach the dinghy dock, and we brought the pump with us so we could get back to the boat later. On shore there was a dinghy dock and showers available for a modest fee. I was expecting basic facilities, but was shocked at their condition...the place was a dump. We hurriedly showered with the doors wide open, touching as little as possible. Seeing my disgusted face Bernard couldn't resist an "I told you so" comment or two.
We shook off the experience and strolled to the Centro where spent a really pleasant day shopping, munching on pastries and coffee, and discovering interesting murals, shady courtyards and arty nooks and crannies we hadn't seen before. After repeated visits the Centro hasn't lost its enchantment for me; I could return again and again.

Heading Back Northwest

14 May 2021 | Banderas Bay, Nayarit, Central Mexican Coast
Maeve Murphy | Warm, breezy
22nd April
After more than 2,065 nautical miles, 18 degrees of longitude and 17 degrees of latitude southeasting - mostly with the prevailing winds and currents behind us - it was time to turn around and head back 'up' in the opposite direction.
It was a relief to sail out of hot and sweaty Marina Vallarta into the breezes of Banderas Bay, towards Punta de Mita at the northwestern end of the Bay. We were initially able to make good progress towards the point. But we were already sailing close-hauled, and over the course of the day the wind veered, and that combined with an adverse current gradually pushed us further off our course. About halfway to the point we started having to make long, not-very-productive tacks - Banderas Bay's clipper route? (ha ha). By 6pm and with the breeze dropping, we ended up motoring the last five miles to the point.
After settling at anchor at 7pm, the first thing we did was drop the swim ladder and slip into the lovely cool water...it never felt so good!
We rested at the point for two nights. Our next major destination is La Paz, on Baja California Sur, and we planned to cross back over the bottom of the Sea of Cortez from Mazatlan. But the next stop would be Matanchen Bay, where the humpbacks and jejenes play, 50 nautical miles to the north.
Anticipating the dreaded jejenes at Matanchen, we anchored a further half-mile out - 1.5 miles - from shore than last time we were here, and dug out the DEET. DEET's not our first choice, as it's a strong chemical, but those little bastards are hardcore, and called for a hardcore repellent. On anchoring, we were immediately visited by tiny, black and white swallow-like birds that flew through our rigging, rested on our lifelines and tweeted out lovely peals of song. We hoped they were gobbling up jejenes! We took a cooling dip by the boat and the water was surprisingly warm - the temperature gauge read 88 degrees, a bit warmer than the average swimming pool. But no wonder, as the sun was hot and the bay very wide and shallow.
Leaving Matanchen the next day we found ourselves scratching just a few bites. But over the following days new red welts erupted on our bodies. I was not impressed with the DEET. (To be fair, you're supposed to reapply the stuff regularly, but who's going to get up in the middle of the night to do that?) Were these delayed reactions to bites inflicted in Matanchen? Or had jejenes stowed away on Honu and were snacking on us at their leisure? Because jejenes are pretty much invisible, almost making you wonder if they exist at all, or are just a maddening figment of your imagination - except that you have the welts to prove it! - we would never know. So much for outwitting them...

Marina Vallarta

09 May 2021 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Central Mexican Coast
Maeve Murphy | Hot
16th-22nd April
The lovely calm conditions we had for our stay in Yelapa's bay continued and there was no wind at all for the 16-nautical-mile crossing east to Puerto Vallarta. So it was motoring all the way - noisy, but easy and relaxing. On the glasslike water's surface Bernard spotted a sea snake: this time it was unmistakable, with its black upper body and yellow belly, and flat, black-and-white-striped tail. Later I googled 'sea snakes in Banderas Bay' and came across these fun facts: "They are able to swim both forward and backwards at sea. They have an interesting ability to tie themselves into a knot and then move the knot from one end of the body to the other removing foreign items such as algae, barnacles and miscellaneous growths acquired at sea." Wow, respect!!
Marina Vallarta is in the middle of Puerto Vallarta near the airport, a Mexican naval station, the cruise ship harbor and the Hotel Zone. It's huge, with shopping galleries, restaurants and condos on all sides. And in the middle of this very urban environment, seemingly incongruous signs around the marina warning of crocodiles! It's popular mainly with power boats, and not our favorite marina, but a good place to take on fuel and provisions before starting our voyage back to the Sea of Cortez. And Honu's bottom had by now acquired a dense community of small barnacles and little stringy beards of growth, so a good cleaning was in order.
It was a half-mile walk from our slip to the marina restrooms and showers, which on the plus side forced us to walk more for exercise, despite the heat. And the heat and humidity were starting to be intense...trying to keep the boat and ourselves cool became a daily effort. I'd hose the decks down and lay wet mats on top of them, then wet them again a couple of hours later, and pegged large towels and a tablecloth around the cockpit and along the lifelines to create some shade. We had the fans in the cabin running constantly and I hosed my head with water several times daily. Thankfully, our slip reservation entitled us to use of the nearby Hotel Flamingo's paddling pool. In the late afternoon after a day of chores we'd sit up to our necks in the pool and rest on lounge chairs in the shade sipping two-for-one cocktails. We did laundry, got haircuts, and Bernard hired a diver to clean Honu's hull and replace some worn zincs near the propeller. We finally completed our dentist visits, and received quality treatment for significantly less than what it would've cost in the US.
And we started to plan our voyage back northwest-ward. The start of Mexico's rainy season is approaching and we need to get Honu into the far north of the Sea of Cortez out of the hurricane belt. We're aiming for Puerto Peñasco, just six miles of the US border. It's a long way up there, so we have to get moving. At this time of year there should be some westerly and southwesterly winds to help us along our way, but we're likely to have north and northwest winds on our nose at least part of the time, and the south-setting currents from the Pacific and then the Sea maybe all of the time, so it won't necessarily be an easy voyage. First stop: Punta de Mita at the northwestern end of Banderas Bay, to rest before re-entering the open Pacific.
Vessel Name: Honu
Vessel Make/Model: Tayana 37
Hailing Port: Sausalito
Crew: Bernard and Maeve
About:
We've been planning an open-ended cruise on our own boat almost since the day we met. [...]
Extra: 'Honu' means green sea turtle in Hawaiian. Bernard likes to think of his boat as the house on his back, like a turtle's shell, as he explores the world.
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