Depart for Mazatlan
We left port this morning about 6:30 am bound for Mazatlan. We decided to take a route that allowed us to pass through the Channel de Cerralvo, which separates the Baja from Isla Cerralvo, and protected us from the stronger swells of the sea for as long as possible. Windsurfers from around the world come to this channel to enjoy their sport, as winds are constant and favorable during certain times of the year. This morning winds were light, but the swells out at sea were moderate and potentially uncomfortable. We were hoping that the channel would provide some shelter from the north wind, which prevails in these parts. As we turned into the channel we took waves of about 6 feet on our starboard quarter, but as we progressed, the seas improved. The sun was blazing in the sky, and the view of the land from the sea during a sunrise was spectacular. After about four hours underway, we made the Sea of Cortez and began our first solo overnight open sea cruise. For the first few hours we continued taking moderate seas, but as evening approached the sea calmed and the night was clear and beautiful. Rebecca and I decided to split the night into two six-hour watches. I took a nap from 3 to 6 pm, and then we had dinner. I stood watch from 8 pm to 2 am while Rebecca slept. She took the night watch from 2 am to 6 am or so. It was a great trip. We reached Mazatlan around 9 am.
In Port at Mazatlan
Solana (Peter and Mary-Rose) led the way into MarinaMazatlan harbor. (All of the places we travel can be viewed on Google Earth or Google Maps.) The entry to the harbor was very intimidating. First it could hardly be seen from the approach, and second, the surf was braking on the rocks at the entrance. It was really frightening! Peter radioed that we should give the entrance a wide birth, but as we made our turn we found only 3 ft of water under our keel. Too late to make a change now: we moved on into the channel but were buffeted by waves that pushed our stern as we tried to remain in the center of the channel. No sooner did I have the boat properly positioned than a 90-degree turn was required. A large whirlpool to starboard became visible and it seemed that there were rocks everywhere. My rudder was not very effective as the tide was incoming. That’s when I put my thrusters to work and all was well.
That afternoon we hopped a cab for downtown to see the beginnings of the Carnival, reputed to be the third largest in the world following Rio and New Orleans. The streets of the old center were filled with celebrants, street vendors selling food and drink much like the Ann Arbor Art Fair minus the art. The main street of Mazatlan runs along the coast for about 20 miles. The northern third is primarily devoted to tourist hotels and condos. The center third comprises the interesting and beautiful historic center, and the southern third is primarily devoted to business and industry. We were there just in time to see the opening parade.
I was thinking of a New Orleans type affair with the addition of a priest and altar boys carrying a statue of Jesus or the Virgin above the crowd. Instead, we got a parade that started off with a half dozen beer trucks adorned with young beauties in tight white pants or shorts and skimpy tops. Rebecca tells me they dispensed with their undergarments in order to enhance the effect, which wasn’t what I would call subliminal. Next came the Coke trucks, with young ladies fully attired and wholesome, then the bread company trucks, etc. That’s when we gave up and started for home. On the way we encountered a fellow who made his living diving off a cliff into an incredibly dangerous ocean inlet. It was really something to see. I put a copy of the picture on the web site. We found a little taxi, sort of a golf cart sort of thing. The driver maneuvered through the streets like a mad man, but came to an abrupt halt as people streamed from the carnival in what appeared to be in a state of hysteria. Apparently they thought that gunshots were fired. It turned out to be firecrackers, but you can’t be too careful!
In Port at Mazatlan
We met Lee, who hails from West Virginia and got along famously with Rebecca…a sort of “old home week”. Lee had been in Mazatlan for about nine years, where he met his wife. Apparently he courted her for eight months before popping the question, and during that time was not left alone with her once. There was always an aunt or someone to chaperon them. Anyway, Lee showed us around town, including the cathedral, opera house, Main Square, and the second tallest lighthouse in the world. Peter wanted a picture of the sunset from its heights, so up we went. Peter sprinted to the top, the two ladies walked, and after the sun went down I finally made it. It was truly a grueling experience, and if you are ever in Mazatlan, forget this attraction.
Mazatlan is one of the largest tourist centers in Mexico. The economy is struggling because it was the epicenter of the Swine Flue outbreak. Restaurants were closed and quarantined for the last year or more. Apparently the city was basically closed to tourists. Although tourist activities have reopened, the US economic downturn has added an additional burden.
Underway for Barra de Navidad
The weather systems hitting California and creating wind and waves in the Sea of Cortez finally subsided and we prepared to depart for Barra de Navidad. We left about 10 am and hopped to make it to Barra in about 36 hours. We timed our departure in consideration of tides (it’s best to arrive during slack tides), to take advantage of a weather window, and to minimize the nighttime hours at sea. Two systems, one coming across the Pacific and stirring things up in the south, and northern winds from California were making a mess of things. We enjoyed a lovely cruise along the Mexican coast during a bright sunny day. Riddley Turtles were sunning themselves on surface. Sometimes a bird would perch on their backs. The night was equally beautiful, with a gentle warm breeze and starlit sky to make our overnight watch very pleasant. However, about midnight, Peter called on the radio to discuss the fact that we were going slower than we had projected due to adverse currents, and that we would be unlikely to make Barra in time to forestall another overnight at sea. In addition, our weather forecast indicated that sea conditions were likely to deteriorate in the region of Barra de Navidad. So we decided to slow our speed and turn to Puerto Vallarta and await better conditions.
Arrive Puerto Vallarta
We arrived at dawn and proceed into Banderis Bay(Bay of Flags). The bay is about 20 miles wide at its mouth and about 10 miles deep. It is one of the largest bays in Mexico, and is a true geological treasure; full of whales, tuna, Dorado and other sea life. The bay in certain places is about 5,000 deep. At the end of the bay is Puerto Vallarta. The bay is ringed by one development after another, and overall it is a nice place to visit. We stayed at Marina Riviera at the tiny town of La Cruz, about twenty miles from Puerto Vallarta.
In port at Puerto Vallarta/La Cruz
R & R
In port at Puerto Vallarta/La Cruz
After resting most of the previous day, we headed out for a little exploring. We took the local bus to town (20 pesos or about $1.50), which was a 45 minute jostle, and ended up in the charming historic section of the city on the beach know as The Malacon. It is a lovely historic area with a beautiful church, shops, Central Square and garden, and a walkway on the beach adorned with bronze sculptures. It was very nice, especially after a few Margaritas at one of the seafront cafes. However, we had had enough of the bus and took a cab back, which cost $40.
In port at Puerto Vallarta/ La Cruz
We rented a car and proceeded to town in search of fishing gear. As it turns out, we crossed a long-line (a commercial fishing line which can be miles long and strung with baited hooks every yard or so) on our trip from Mazatlan, and it became snagged on our stabilizer fins. Luckily, we had a long enough boat hook to pull it up and I cut it with my pocket knife, but in the process of backing up to prevent damage to our boat, our fishing line got caught in the propeller. It unwound around it as fast as you could say Jiminy Cricket; hence I needed some new line. On the way to the local fishing shop I made an illegal turn and was stopped by the MX Federallies. I was issued a ticket, and they confiscated my driver’s license until the ticket was paid. You wouldn’t believe the hassle involved. I begged, I pleaded; I tried everything except getting Rebecca to cry. Finally the officer said that if I didn’t need a receipt, we could pay the ticket right there and then ($40 USD) and I could keep my license. However, I insisted on justice and fair play and I certainly wasn’t going to be a party to any sort of corruption. So, … (just kidding).
That afternoon we went to the little beach town of Bucerius for drinks on the beach and walk thorough a craft area. The town was interesting, but the surf and sand was spectacular in the afternoon sun. Later we drove about ten miles out to Punta Mita, the point at the south end of the bay for a look at a spectacular resort area, the Four Seasons and the St Regis. After a through screening by the gate guards, we made it to the hotel just in time for sunset. The ocean crashes on the rocks at a point in perfect view of the hotel’s cocktail lounge. The gardens were magnificent, and the infinity pool added to the overall effect. Margaritas here were about $18, as compared to $2 in downtown PV.
In port at Puerto Vallarta/ La Cruz
Today was a major touring day. We drove about three hours deep into the Sierra Madre Mountains. This is hacienda and Agave Azul country – the source of Tequila. Our destination was Talpa de Allende, a destination of pilgrims from all over Mexico who come to pay homage to the Virgin of Rosario de Talpa. People walk on their knees from the town gate to the church, especially during important religious festivals. The church was splendid, and the square was surrounded with shops making and selling guava candy. It is very similar to fudge, and hence it reminded us of Mackinaw Island fudge shops. The town is also the center of chicle production. Chicle is used to make chewing gum, e.g. Chiclets (travel is enlightening, isn’t it). The town itself was a traditional Mexican village, and the church was very beautiful. Pictures are on the website. Mexican villages and small towns have streets made of stone, with speed bumps every few hundred yards. It seems impossible to speed, let alone keep a car in one piece. (I am glad ours was a rental car.) While in Talpa we looked for a luncheon restaurant, but here wasn’t one that we felt we could eat at successfully in the long run, so to speak. So back to PV we went, four of us crammed into the smallest little car. It was a real ordeal (particularly for the shorter people in the back seat), however the scenery was spectacular. I have posted pictures on the site. On the way back we found a nice roadside restaurant. When we went in look around, a schoolgirl spoke to us English. She grew up in Southern California and her Grandmother who was cooking in the back room was from Chicago. Small world. Her nine-year-old brother came out and showed us his lariat tricks while we had lunch. A little further down the road we came upon a tequila distillery. We couldn’t pass that up. I always wondered how they made tequila, and now I know. I also have some, as you might have guessed.
In port at Puerto Vallarta/La Cruz
Today we prepared for the overnight cruise to Barra de Navidad. This was estimated to be an 18-hour passage, and we all needed a good night’s sleep after the grueling road trip of the previous day. Before returning the rental car we drove to the nearest supermarket (as good as anything we have at home) to stock up on perishables. On the way back I stopped at the panga area in our boat marina to see if any of the fishermen had caught a nice fish. A very nice man helped me with Spanish interpretation and told me what he had ordered, so asked for the same. Tuna. A fisherman just caught a 100lb plus tuna and the fishmonger brought it out for filleting. What a marvel! A beautiful beast: too bad it had to perish. Rebecca and I bought 5 lbs for $15, cut right out of the side of the fish just for us! Wow, a little oil and some fresh oregano purchased in Talpa the day before…out of this world!
At sea bound for Barra de Navidad
We crossed Banderis Bay and made our way out passed Cabo Corrientes. The waves were 5-7 ft on our starboard beam. The stabilizers worked well, but this type of sea motion makes one feel a little punkey. After about four hours we made our turn south and now the waves were on our stern, and were much more comfortable. We picked up a current that added about a knot or more to our speed. Because of timing issues related to when we wanted to enter Barra, we reduced engine RPMs and speed. The result was that we were burning about 4 gallons of fuel per hour to make 6 knots. That’s considered to be extremely economical. The night was warm with a full m moon. The sea was bathed in a silvery glow. It was beautiful.
Every hour or two the watch person goes into the engine room and inspects all the equipment, looking for leaks or over heated components using and infra red heat sensing gun. Unfortunately, at around midnight I found that our starboard engine had developed a very small leak in its cooling system. We watched it very closely all night, but no serious problems have yet developed.
Arrival in Barra de Navidad
Wow, what a beautiful place. More info next week.