We sailed out of Banderas Bay on Thursday, March 3 for the trip northwest up to Mazatlan, with provisions for three nights without access to land. After a forty nautical mile sail, mostly motoring except about four hours of wind in the afternoon, the first night we anchored in Chamela, one of our favorite small villages on a perfect crescent beach. However, because we were spending only one night there, we chose not to inflate our dinghy, and the shore looked too far to swim to comfortably, so we just enjoyed a night on the hook without access to land. We sat on the bow and had a margarita while watching the sun set over the Pacific. That is one of the nice things about being on anchor, is that you can often see the western horizon over the ocean. Marinas, by intention, are sheltered from the swells of the sea and therefore don’t usually provide a Pacific Ocean sunset from the boat. Rick cooked up his Camerones al Diablo and we had a lovely night’s rest.
The next day we mostly sailed with just a little motoring, another 20 miles or so, to San Blas. I prepared fajitas so that we could eat them the following night at sea, and we enjoyed the short, warm sailing day. As we entered the bay, on our stereo we played “Los Muelles de San Blas,” (the docks of San Blas), a melodic, romantic ballad sung by a Mexican rock band called Mana. It put us in the mood for seeing the town of San Blas again, which we enjoyed so much the first time. We originally had thought we would anchor, but then at the last minute we decided to enter into the estuary and dock at the Fonatur marina so we could walk into town and eat at a restaurant we fondly remembered from our last visit, called La Isla.
The Fonatur marina looks like every other Fonatur marina throughout the country. They are government owned, under some attempt or another to bring more boaters to Mexico by adding marinas. But there are only 20 slips here, and most of the other Fonaturs also have few slips. The buildings look pre-fabricated in their modern but square blue metal and glass design, lacking any charm whatsoever. And nothing works very well – we didn’t have electricity or running water at our slip, the showers didn’t have hot water, and the shower stalls didn’t drain properly so water was everywhere on the bathroom floor. The sink faucets were installed too far back from the bowl and were too short for the bowl so you couldn’t get your hands underneath the faucet to wash them. A dog had made his home in the men’s bathroom. Although we arrived at 4 and they were supposed to be open till 5, the office staff had already gone home for the day. That was fine. When we explained to the security guard that we would be gone in the morning before the office opened, he accepted one hundred pesos from us (less than $6 US) for the night’s payment. That is a great price, even if we didn’t have power or water.
It was also a challenge getting through the estuary to the marina. The entrance had such big swells that a surfer was along side us, enjoying some of the longest rides available in San Blas. We knew it was shallow in parts so I thought I was being smart in just following the exact track we had laid the last time we we here, which I had displayed on our chartplotter. But apparently the sands and depths had shifted from last summer’s storms; at one point I only had about 3 feet under our keel. I steered over towards where the Mexican lanchas were frequenting and voila! More depth!
With my limited walking range, we took a cab to La Isla restaurant. Somehow it just didn’t seem as magical this time, but that happens sometimes; you can’t always repeat a memory, and it was still a nice dinner. However, note to self: when you are not in a tourist town accustomed to serving gringos, don’t order a margarita. The ingratiating woman server/owner of La Isla tried her darnedest to make us one but she did so by squeezing lime juice over ice and adding tequila – no sweetener or syrup or sweet liqueur added whatsoever. It tasted like unsweetened lemonade – both Rick and I puckered up and squinted uncontrollably at the first sip! He refused to drink the rest of his but after adding several tablespoons of sugar, I managed to get one down.
We then walked over to the gringo bar in town, the San Blas Social Club on the Zocolo. It is owned by an older Jewish man from New York who is a constant fixture at the bar when it is open, which is only for the winter months. There are always a few characters at the bar to entertain you, and we were not disappointed. They did know how to make margaritas there, but after a full day on the water, I could manage only one before I was ready to go back to the boat and sleep.
The next day we set out early for the 120 nm voyage northwest to Mazatlan. We had to motor most of the way because the seas were completely calm and there was very little wind, although we did manage to sail for a few hours here and there in the afternoon when the thermals from the heat on land kicked up some offshore breezes.
By that night, the three days in a row of sailing were starting to take a toll on my sore hip and thigh – it hurt just to move. Rick and I tried to reduce my movements, but when the floor beneath you is moving, you have to move just to stand still! At one point while I was sitting in the cockpit, I did a little experiment – instead of allowing my muscles to make the constant small corrections necessary to just sit still, I deliberately let go of all control and just let my body move with the movement of the boat, as if I were a rag doll. I found myself rolling around the cockpit, getting bumped up out of my seat and rolled gently down to the floor, and sideways to both sides. No wonder my hip and leg hurt – I had been using them constantly without being aware of it, just to stay in one place. Anyway, I stood my early evening watch, but when Rick took over at 11 pm, I just couldn’t get comfortable in my bunk – my thigh was cramping and twitching uncontrollably. So when he saw I had finally gotten to sleep about the time it was the end of his shift, he just let me sleep. When I woke up an hour later, I offered to take over but he said he was ok continuing to watch. The poor guy stayed up all night while I had a restless sleep. That wouldn’t be a good policy on a long voyage because the lack of sleep would eventually catch up with him, but with my current leg/hip problem, it was wonderful. It turned out to be a quiet night at sea, with little moon and lots of stars, so I think he enjoyed it. And fortunately, this entire trip, we had moderate night weather, needing only a light jacket at most.
Now that we are at the El CID Resort and Marina in Mazatlan, we find ourselves once again lured by the joys of being in a town we like, and the comforts of free towels and two pools and a large hot tub to stave off the chill of a windy afternoon, movie night and all that stuff! We arrived last Sunday and as I write this, it is 8 days later and we are still here. In all fairness, there was a big storm last week and we deliberately stayed out of harm’s way by remaining in the marina. We also took advantage of the time here to explore the possibility of having some work done on Cool Change at the yard here later in the season, and to explore where we might stay in comfort while the boat is being worked on.
We do plan on leaving to sail 40 hours or so to La Paz via Los Muertos tomorrow. We have been closely eyeing the weather and it looks like it will be a safe time to do a passage, with low winds and short, long-period swells. However, it is almost inevitable that a Sea of Cortez crossing will meet with opposing seas and winds, so it can be a bumpy ride. And in this direction, our nose will probably be right into the wind so we will either have to vary our course off the rhumb line by about 55 degrees if we can sail and therefore lengthen the time of our trip accordingly, or motor the whole way. And while the winds and seas are predicted to be light, the first day is forecasted to be cloudy, and the weather will only be in the low 70’s – almost chilly by Mexican standards.
The end of the rainbow on the other side of the Sea, however, is a succession of beautiful islands heading north along the eastern coast of the Baja Peninsula, with warm aqua waters, plenty of snorkeling, and very few people. Cruisers who have sailed the world have been known to say that of everywhere they have cruised, the islands in the Sea of Cortez off the Baja California coast were the best cruising grounds anywhere. After a short stop in La Paz to provision, we intend to take a few weeks at least, to visit some of those islands before we have to be back in the US sometime around the end of April to start medical consultations.
So, off we go tomorrow. We will post from La Paz if time allows.
Oh, and P.S. While in La Cruz, sitting in our cockpit at cocktail hour and minding our own business, a power boat flubbed his docking efforts and came dangerously close to hitting Cool Change. Both Rick and I jumped out of Cool Change, tossing aside what we were doing, to fend the power boat off. When the commotion was over, I stepped back into the cockpit and reached for my iPhone in the cockpit. It wasn’t there. Rick called it and it went straight to voicemail. In all the confusion, I had tossed my iPhone in its Lifeproof case onto the combing of Cool Change, and at some point, it slid into the salt water and dove about 16 feet to the ocean floor under our boat. A diver retrieved it but it was for too long at too great a depth to be revived. There went not only my phone but also my camera. I have since replaced it temporarily with a cheaper Android phone but the camera on it sucks. Thus, we have fewer pictures than usual. Stand by for my return to the States where I hope to regain the use of an iPhone once again.