The first week in November finally saw us depart Guaymas and start heading south, zig zag fashion between the Baja and the mainland, first to La Paz, then down the Mexican Pacific Coast.
With buffed topsides, we were finally good to go. Our splash down was not without incident as the lifter driver (who uses a remote control pad) was not quite on the ball, and neither were we! The lifter arrived early at the boat and neither of us was paying much attention. Bad move! Horacio tried to drive the lifter through our inner forestay!! He was underneath the stern of the boat operating the lifter!! Horacio's second mistake was getting the lifter out of horozontal balance when we were almost near splash down, causing us ot slip in the slings! Peter always ties the forward and aft slings together, then the forward sling back to the primary winch. A little nerve wracking! Thanks to Oscar (who had re-rigged for us last year), we had the repair done in a week and have a new inner forestay. The down side is we are still trying to get a cheque for the damage!!
As we still had some credit left from the hardstand, we were able to spend a few nights tied to the fuel dock. So our first night in the water, no wind, I awoke to the sound of the lines groaning under pressure. Waking Peter up and complaining that something is just not right, we both went for a look and could not believe our eyes….a rustly, old, very large trawler resting on us!!! Luckily for us it was against the dinghy (but not enough to damage it). We pulled ourselves forward then decided to go around into a slip. Peter walked the security guard around to the fuel dock and pointed out that ‘’el barco no capitano”. Trawler had made its way out into the bay with the ebb tide. Strange that it got away in the first place. Maybe someone had set it free?????
Our crossing to Bahia Concepcion (back to the Baja) was a non event in calm conditions, as was the rest of our sail to La Paz. We sat out two northerlies comfortably in Bahia Concepcion and behind Coronados, near Puerto Escondido. Being wiser this time around, we anchored in the Waiting Room in Escondido, rather than going inside to pay for the moorings. The usual cost for the Waiting Room anchorage (an old Caladera) is only a dollar or so a day, if you can find the small shed behind the anchorage open.
Our stop in La Paz was to pick up another solar panel (Kyocera 135) which we ordered on line from Kyocera in Mexicali who then delivered the panel for us to a company called Tecnosol. All worked well; we found their office, organised payment and the delivery to the marina for us. On our sail down to La Paz it became evident that both 8D batteries (AC Delco) we had purchased in Guaymas had failed! Luckily the warranty was with the manufacturers and not the retailer. So using our limited Spanish, we conveyed our problem to the supplier in La Paz, and within 2 hours they had tested the batteries, removed and replaced them making our 2 days in the marina worthwhile.
With another big norther approaching, we decided that the La Paz anchorage was not the place to be; Bahia de Muertos, (Bay of the Dead) some 45 miles south is a fantastic bay offering good protection from west through to NE winds. We smoked out of La Paz on a Coromuel, sailing peacefully through the notorious Lorenzo Channel and arriving at Muertos mid afternoon, motoring the last 10 miles.
Muertos is a wonderful anchorage in 30 knots of breeze, except for the sand blasting we got with it! Most of it was because of the building that is going on. Developers are trying to change its name to Bahia de los Sueno…Bay of Dreams. The previous name referred to the old mooring buoys left in the bay after the salt mine closed. They have since been removed. The bay has a beautiful sandy beach with a great restaurant in one corner and the most amazing boutique resort hotel (Gran Sueno) in the other, with an 18 hole golf course behind the sand dunes.
Being isolated, the resort is popular with celebrities. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell were sitting in a golf cart about to depart when we walked by. Goldie’s voice in person is exactly how she sounds in her films! Later we had a few words with Kurt….remembering him from “Captain Ron”.
The owner of the resort is a very unassuming property developer from California, Steve, who must be ok as he welcomes ‘grotty yachties’ into the restaurant and allows us to wander around the resort. He has this fascinating train set, (an understatement) covering the whole upstairs floor of the restaurant. It is absolutely remarkable and worthy of a visit in itself.
We departed Muertos for Mazatlan on the mainland on the back of the norther, which although gave us a lumpy sea to start with, it enabled us to sail most of the 190 miles, covered in a little over 24 hours!! 15 to 20 knot NW winds saw us bounding along at 7 to 8 knots with the wind just abaft the beam! How could she not sail well being an Sparkman and Stephens?
An early morning approach to Mazatlan was well timed as we could see the fishing fleet out and easily avoided them. Mazatlan has a huge marina development in a western setting, but where is the fun in that? We anchored in the old harbour, along with a dozen or so other yachts. From here it is an easy bus ride into town. The major drawback is the smell from the sewage works if the wind is in the wrong direction (which it wasn’t). Some yachts avoid the port as they feel it is dirty, but compared to some of the Asian ports…no comparison. Mazatlan is an interesting town with the longest Malecon in Mexico adorned with yet more statues, interesting parks and many, many restaurants.
Strange skip in VHF was happening over the weeks we spent from our southern crossing to near Puerto Vallarta. We could hear and talk on VHF to other yachts in anchorages on the Baja, some 330 miles away! It was very confusing hearing all the VHF traffic on Ch 16 up and down the coast and even more amazing is how many yachties are awake at 0200 and calling other boats in marinas. We felt like telling them they should be in bed! We were allowed to be awake as we were on passage!!!
We had planned to stop at Isla Isabel to look at the birds, but having many yachts huddled in the rocky anchorage and only one spot left near the rocky shore, we opted to pass on by and sail the rest of the day to the beautiful Mantanchen Bay, near the old town of San Blas.
Although we did not hear the Bells of San Blas, we did see them. Henry Wordsworth Longfellow wrote a poem The Bells of San Blas.
Before the newer towns of Puerto Vallarta to the south and Mazatlan to the north, San Blas was THE town and gateway port up until the 1930’s, supporting over 30,000 people. From 1530, it became a Spanish occupation, with the occasional pirate ship seeking refuge in Mantanchen Bay. In 1768 New Spain developed San Blas as their Pacific Naval Port, with its estuary used for ship building and resupplying.
The Contaduria, built overlooking the ocean, served as both a fort and the accounting office for San Blas. Today, it’s a much smaller town with not a lot to show of its former glory.
How on earth did this Thai fishing boat make it all the way over to here??? We well remember these chaps!
Tourism is not a possibility here as there are many no seeums (Jejenes hay-hay-nas) that bite!! We took a panga up the Rio Tovara on a little jungle tour…….lots of baby crocodiles, iguanas that were well camouflaged, a small Boa Constrictor and turtles all sunning themselves.
Humpback whales are migrating south and congregate along the mainland bays. Every day we have seen these majestic animals breeching, fin slapping or just going quietly by. There have been a few that have been much larger than Stolen Kiss! Turtles surround us at sea and pods of dolphins come and play with us on the bow. Apparently dolphins guard the entrance to Banderas Bay as babies are born there all year round. Whales give birth in the bay as well. On our entrance and exit into the bay, we had some very large, ‘spotty’ dolphins check us out and escort us both in and out. In the stunning Tenacatita Bay further south near Bahia de Navidad, there are resident dolphins, one called Chippy (has a chip out of his fin) that likes to rub himself on your anchor chain. He greeted our arrival in this manner and gave Peter a bit of a fright as our chain started to rattle and shake as soon as our anchor hit the bottom!
Banderas Bay, with the towns of La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta is indeed a worthy stop and it was unfortunate we could not stop for a longer period. We opted to anchor off the older town of La Cruz, rather than go into the huge marina developments of Puerto Vallarta. In times of light northerlies, this worked for us. Apparently the anchorage can become very rolly!
La Cruz has a laid back ambience, with galleries focusing on the local Huichol Indian artifacts and some wonderful restaurants all along narrow cobbled streets that are so typical of the older Mexican towns. The Sunday Morning Market is a real must and the food is to die for! Generally food on the mainland, is cheaper and higher quality than the Baja. Busses run past La Cruz and the very helpful drivers drop you off at the appropriate stops to catch another bus to the required destination. A little surf town on the north side of the point, Sayulito is so worth a visit.
Sunday December 12 was a big day out for us (in company with the Buena Vistas) as we first went to the morning market in La Cruz then caught the bus into the very cosmopolitan Puerto Vallarta. It was the last day of celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The great mass of humanity filled the streets celebrating and all had to pass through the Cathedral. One Mexican gentleman explained to us non Catholics that a church celebrates Christ and a Cathedral the Virgin Mary, which explains the difference between the two.
Nearly every second shop offered Tequila tasting – free of course, to sucker you into Time Share properties. One could do a lot of damage to oneself in a few hours, not only with the Time share but with the Tequila!!
We found a great restaurant in the old town for lunch and just moseyed on through the crowd enjoying the festivities. The malecon was, as usual, the most entertaining area with amazing sand sculptures with artistic flare representing yet another way to making a living.
Catching the bus into town of course is a lot easier than finding the right one out, but many locals were always around to point us in the right direction.
Arrival back in La Cruz ensured time to listen to a great rock band in Ana Banana’s and just watch some old timers really enjoy their passion.
Around La Cruz there are many large Huanacaxtle Trees which gives La Cruz Huanacaxtle its proper name.
As strange things happen at sea, a Compass 47 happened to come and anchor next to us. Peter recognised its name as it was on our short list when we were looking for boats. Not in the same league as a Hylas of course, but designed by Lavronos (who was designing boats in the early days with Sparkman and Stephens, she had good lines and is well built. She was purchased in Grenada and needs a lot more work than what we have done with our new Stolen Kiss. She was some what cheaper though, so you get what you pay for.
Peter had installed a Smart Regulator whilst we were moving about, which initially did not work. After much thought over 3 weeks and re-reading of the manual, he swapped a wire and hey presto, it works. Now our 90 amp alternator will charge the batteries at 80 amps and drop off accordingly as they charge. Magic!
It is most likely that we will leave Stolen Kiss there for the summer, up a river. El Salvador has really bounced into marinas and looking after yachties, chasing the big money from the Super Yachts. Good security is provided and we can leave sails, dinghy etc in a locked shed. Local currency is USD, which works for us! We will do a lot of land travel around Central America from there. On our return at the end of 2011, we will make our way down to Panama, perhaps Ecuador, then Galapagos and beyond!