Thursday, December 27, 2012


In Janet’s words, “I thought I was going to Disneyland, but ended up at a cheap beach side carnival”.  That pretty much summed up our visit here.  We did go ashore and take a stroll along the extremely crowded beach, but after a quick visit we went back to Talos IV and just hung out on the boat all afternoon.  It just wasn’t the scene we had experienced in Chalaca.

The highlight was that for the first time we set a stern anchor to keep the bow pointed into the swell.  It was a bit like doing a stern tie up in the Salish Sea, minus the cold rain and water.  The system works well with the boat staying into the swell, making for a much more comfortable anchorage.  We are a fair way off the beach, but only have about 5-6 feet under the keel.

We will stay here tonight and move on tomorrow morning.  We will most likely head for Punta Mita.  We were there several years ago when Paul was hosting a Toyota trip at the Four Seasons Resort.  I’m sure our stay this time around won’t be quite as plush, but in many ways much more relaxed and a whole lot more fun.

Paul on the beach at Jaltemba.
Jaltemba is known for its fish and shrimp skewers that they
sell right on the beach.  We didn't eat any because the
shrimpa wasn't peeled and we were just too lazy
to do it ourselves.
You could buy just about any type of beach toy
you wanted from the beach vendors.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


We arrived in Chacala mid afternoon after a 9 hour motor.  There was only a light wind from the NW on our starboard quarter so it wasn’t quite enough to sail and make the 55 mile passage before nightfall. 

Chacala is a beautiful bay with a crescent shaped beach lined with palapa restaurants on the north end.  We dropped our hook in about 12 feet of water just off from the north end of the beach.  We are close enough to the beach that we could swim ashore if we wanted.  The anchorage is very rolly (officially not a word, but very descriptive), with swell wrapping around the point from the NW, so it feels like we are underway even though we are comfortably at anchor.

Once settled, we got the dinghy in the water and went ashore to see what the place had to offer.  The small town has a population of about 280 people, but has a fair number of tourists, especially during the holiday period.  All of the streets are cobble stoned and the architecture is very colonial.  Flowers and palm trees are every where, suggesting that we are truly getting into the tropical areas of Mexico.

We met a couple of ladies (sisters) as we headed up from the dinghy landing who filled us in on the community.  Many of the ritzy homes that line the hillsides over looking the bay are apparently owned by gringos from the US and Canada.  One of the sisters has lived here for 30 years.

The port captain was not in so our check in would wait until later.  It was Christmas Eve, so we were unsure if he would even be working.  That said, later that day when we returned we found the captain just returning from his other duties and he was gracious enough to allow us to check in.  The check in process is simple, but necessary at each of the ports that we pass through.  The government uses this as a means of keeping track of all the boaters in their waters.

We found a coffee shop palapa on the beach with great wifi so we were able to upload some photos and post our blog from Isla Isabella.  We have taken advantage of the wifi on several occasions during our stay to get weather updates and to call friends and family on Skype.

Spending Christmas on the boat was a bit different.  For us, it was a quite evening on the boat, but on shore the Mexicans celebrated all evening with family gatherings, dinners and fireworks.  The noise kept us awake until the wee hours.  Louie was terrified of the noise and hid under the blanket all night.

On Christmas morning, we took the bus (15 pesos per person each way) into Las Varas, a small town about 9 km away.  It was quite a contrast from the beach, with dusty cobble stoned streets and buildings in need of a lot of attention.  I suppose this is more typical of many of the small rural Mexican towns.  Even though it was Christmas day, all of the businesses were open and there was a street market going on in the town center.

After a four night stay, we’ve decided it’s time to move on.  Our next destination is Jaltemba, another small beach community about 8 km further south.  From there, we will round Punta Mita into Banderas Bay.  We will likely be in the bay for several weeks, stopping at La Cruz and Puerta Vallarta among other anchorages.

The cobble stoned streets of Chacala.
Beautiful flowers lined the streets.
Janet about to enjoy some fresh shrimp tacos from one
the palaps along the beach.
Paul was all smiles after he ate his two tacos.
Talos IV at anchor in Chacala Bay.
Chacala Beach.
The ice cream man making his way along the maleconcito.
We had a beautiful sunset walk along the beach.
Talos IV is just over the top of Janet.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Isla Isabella (The Galapagos Island of Mexico)

The afternoon departure was delayed until the dredging crew dropped the cable which ran across the narrow harbor channel. We progressed slowly toward the dredge and as we approached the workers signaled us forward. The cable which was strung tight was dropped; we motored thru and were on our way south. Winds remained light at 10 – 19 kts until midnight. We decided to motor as the breeze of 3-5 kts was not helping to keep the sail full on the downwind. The rest of the night was uneventful without any traffic until we reached the northern end of Isla Isabel. There were a lot of pangas and fish trawlers working the area. Since snagging a long line inbound to Mazatlan we kept a wary eye out for floats as the sun came up.

The island offers two small anchorages, neither one completely protected. We motored around to evaluate both options and decided to drop the hook on the south side of the island. Our friends on S/V Zoe arrived soon after. Paul and I napped to recover from a short but tiring overnight passage. Paul decided to go ashore mid afternoon to explore the rookeries. I stayed with the boat as I was a little nervous to leave due to the anchorage.

The island is a world famous rookery for the blue footed boobies and the frigates. It is very similar to Heron Island on the Barrier Reef of Australia. The birds have no natural predator here and are approachable while nesting and raising their young. There are masses of them. The boobies nest along the cliffs and the frigates nest in the trees. The island is a blown out volcano caldera so the topography is ideally suited for both species. The abundance of fish allows the birds an unrestricted source of nutrition. There is a deserted field station for researchers which was built in the 70s. Currently there is a manned research station on the SE side of the island which is closest to the larger of the 2 booby rookeries. There is a campground (this is a national park) and a large fish camp as well.

On day two we both went ashore and hiked to the ridge to see the birds. The photos will not do it justice. The birds were everywhere. We hiked off the ridge and went to explore the caldera lake center island. We met some researchers who told us about the other rookery. We ended up hiking out to their research station. The whole morning was really great.

Back on the boat we took a swim to cool off and hunkered down inside to avoid the humidity. The inside cabin salon stays cool with a good breeze blowing thru. Water temps are upper 70s (I wish they were a little warmer…) and the humidity feels like 80 – 90% (Probably not, but it feels like it). Tomorrow we are planning to depart early and sail to Chacala. It will be about a 55 nm passage.

Las Monas (the Mannequins) lie just off shore from Isla Isabela.
Supposedly anchorage can be found on the south side, but
we just did not feel comfortable, so opted to drop our
hook in the southern bay of the island.
There is a small fishing village where you land the dinghy.
Notice all the flying birds, I think mostly frigates.
The frigates nest in the trees.  They are every where and
you have to be careful as you walk around that your
not a target.
Paul on the hike up to the booby  rookery.  Note
Talos IV in the background just above his left shoulder.
Frigates in the tree just above our heads as we walked
down the trail.  The one with the red is a male.
Blue footed boobys.  The spanish name is bobo.  I remember when
I was young that we called my grandmother bobo.  These guys were
every where and so so cute.  The females were sitting in nests with their eggs.
The rookery was full of boobys.
Female booby with her egg underneath her.  You can
just make it out.
The iguanas and lizirds had their day as well.  You had
to watch your step to avoid stepping on one.
Janet with las Monas.
Tia and birds just don't mix, so she stayed well protected
under the dodger during our stay at Isla Isabela.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas in Mazatlan

The preparations for Christmas are every where in the city.  Mazatlan is decorated and ready for the big event.  Shoppers are crowding into all of the malls and the street vendors are stock to the ceiling with toys and other gifts.  The crowds are a bit stifling at times.

Last night we went to a Christmas Bazaar with some of the other cruisers from the marina.  Before we head out to Isla Isabella, I thought I'd post a few photos of the event.

We hired a Nissan pickup with seats in the back to get
us to the Bazaar.
The Bazaar  was packed and decorated for the season.
Janet had a chance to visit with Santa.  Check out
those cool sunglasses.  Only in Mazatlan!
Janet got a big hug from the street mime.
And of course, one last dip in the pool before we
headed out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The fuel dock at El Cid Marina allowed me the opportunity to meet with most of the first mates and some skippers moored here while Paul was taking care of business with the marina office. One after another the local yachtistas stopped by to hand out tidbits of information which would prove useful during our stay at El Cid. By the time Paul returned to the boat I knew which bus to take to get into town, where to go to get groceries and what was going on socially during the next 3-4 days. It was a really nice way to start our visit.

The marina is part of a huge resort which is north of town. There are two wonderful swimming pools, a water taxi, full resort amenities and activities which are available to the boats within the marina.  There is a deep pool with cool water, waterfalls and slides. It has a warm shower to rinse after your swim. There is poolside food service and a great view of the entrance to the harbor. The pool closest to our dock is the warm pool with a cold shower. This is the pool we use most often as it is convenient to dip into after doing projects or returning from downtown adventures. The pool has a full day schedule of activities including water aerobics, water volleyball, poolside bingo (in Spanish), darts, yoga, poker games, poolside bistro service and nighttime movies shown on a sheet suspended between two trees. We tried the pool volleyball and found it to be without rules, harder than it looked and dominated by cruisers over the age of 55. I also tried water aerobics and if I had more time I would have probably made it a daily ritual.

We are getting the boat cleaned up with more varnish, some buffing and a cleaning of the bottom. It has been too easy to find services as most of the cruisers here have been here for a while and know the best resources.  We were able to order new shade cloth which was custom made here in Mazatlan. The service and quality was great.

Each day we’ve tried to have what we call a grand adventure (adventura grande). This usually means taking a bus to a neighborhood in town to explore the sites, eating with the locals and finding hidden treasures. So far we have enjoyed the monthly art walk which takes place on the first Friday of each month in the art/historic district around Plaza Machado. It is very colonial and wonderfully restored. There are numerous sidewalk bistros, galleries and specialty services. The night of the art walk we went into town with Barbara and David from sv Zoe. We explored several galleries, had lots of appetizers at various sites, enjoyed beers, basil ice cream (ultra rich creamery) and dinner on the malecon. We rode home in a golf cart taxi called a Pulmonia. The driver gave us several suggestions on places to eat as he took us back to the marina. We’ve enjoyed live jazz at  Isla Marina on a Sunday afternoon. Our neighbor at the dock told us about this event and gave us a ride over in his car.

Mazatlan has the second highest “manned” lighthouse in the world. It’s not a tall structure but is located at the top of a hill, so it still counts. We went out by bus and proceeded to hike up the hill to El Faro. It was a good climb and well worth the effort.

Our neighbor Ron also told us about the organic market on Saturdays. This is a certified market and we were told there was a pie lady that made killer pies. It sounded too good, so this was another adventure. By the time we got to the market the pies were sold out. We were told she was going to be at another event mid week, so we marked our calendar and ordered two chicken pot pies!

Meanwhile we met some expats from the NW that had started a coffee roasting business here in town. We bought some coffee and decided this would be another adventure to visit their shop in Cerritos.

Well I’m sure you can see how all this works. One thing leads to another and pretty soon you are completely busy going to all these places, trying new things and meeting people again and again. The midweek event that featured our chicken pot pies was very successful. Paul took Barbara and me to the bar and we had some beers while we waited for the holiday boutique to open. We scored a couple of wonderful chicken pies, a fruit pie, homemade cinnamon rolls, breakfast sausage (specialty sausage which is so common in Seattle is not available here), and spices. Barbara and I came back to the docks very happy with our loot.

There is a man that pulls up to the employee entrance at the resort every Saturday morning around 9:30. He sells homemade tamales which his wife prepares. Last week we bought two. This week we bought four and I brought Barbara with me so she could stock her freezer. They are stuffed with beef, carrots, potatoes and chiles and are totally delicious.

There is a carneceria across the street from El Cid. I went over a few days ago and picked up 3 beautiful new york boneless steaks, 4 large bone in pork chops cut to order and a 4# whole chicken. The cost was about $16.00 US. The quality so far has been great. I’m finding that a whole chicken can be cooked in the pressure cooker. I get 3-4 meals from the meat by making enchiladas and tacos with some of the meat and tortilla soup with the rest. The chicken stock from these birds seems much richer than what I have been used to in the states.

There is a street in the centro area which we call the shrimp lady street. The city block is lined with ladies and tubs of ice housing shrimp arranged by size. We have bought shrimp for the BBQ and been really happy with the outcome. There is also an employee here at the resort that has shelled/cleaned camerones on a weekly basis. Barbara and I split a kilo of his shrimp a week or so ago and found them absolutely delicious.

The grocery shopping has been pretty easy with the bus system and 3 major super market chains close by. My favorite so far is the MEGA store which is very big and sells just about everything I could need. They have a nice selection of produce and prices are reasonable. We explored the Mercado Centro which is the historic old style market in the town center. It is a great place to go for the experience of traditional market style, but I prefer the sanitary standards in the modern super markets when buying our food.

One of our latest adventures was going to the movies. Super exciting to find “007 Skyfall” the new James Bond movie in English with Spanish subtitles. Barbara and David joined us on this adventure. The Cineplex housed 14 screens, all stadium seating. The tickets are sold with reserve seating. You choose your seat at the time of your ticket purchase. The concession service presents your drinks and snacks on a special tray which attaches to your assigned seat when you enter the theatre. The space between rows is wide enough to allow someone to move thru the aisle without bumping or upsetting your food tray. It is all very nice and very clean. The best part is the cost….$3.28 US for the movie ticket. The popcorn and two drinks was maybe another $3.00.

Some of the cruisers have said Mazatlan is a “suck hole” or a “vortex”. I can understand this now that we have been here almost 2 weeks. It is too easy. The weather is good, the community has a lot to offer and people are friendly. That said, however, we are planning our departure for Thursday.  We only have two more days to enjoy it all, but plan to return in the spring on our way north when we head back to the Sea of Cortez.  Our first destination will be Isla Isabella, the Galapagos Island of Mexico and then on to Banderas Bay.

The Old Mercado in Old Town Mazatlan.

We went to the aquarium and saw the sea lion

Janet and Barbara trying to decide which vendor to
visit first.

El Faro, the second tallest lighthouse in the world.  We
climed up the trail to take a closer look.

Janet at the base of El Faro.

The view from the top, Mazatlan and the comercial
shipping channel.

El Faro itself.  Not too impressive.

Inside the Angela Peralta Teatro.  We paid 15 pesos each to
go on a self guided tour.

Paul at Plazuela Machado.

The Hotel Machado facing the plaza.

Marina El Cid, our home for the last 2 weeks.

Janet enjoying a stroll along the walkway at the marina.

We had use of the resort amenities, including their
two pools.

Janet enjoying a dip in the pool.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crossing the Sea of Cortez

It's about 230 miles across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan.  At 5 knots, the speed we use for planning our passages, it would take just shy of 48 hours.  Not wanting to arrive at night, we planned our departure from Ensenada Grande at about 8:30 AM.  We would have two full days and nights of sailing and if all worked out, we would arrive in Mazatlan in the morning.

It was a fairly uneventful crossing, with winds on our beam at about 10 - 15 knots and seas less than 1 - 2 feet. We sailed most of the way across, with the exception of a few times when the wind dropped off.  Air temperatures were in the low 80's during the day and low 70's at night, so shorts and t-shirts were the uniform of the day and night.  There were a few whale sightings early on, but other than a small squid that we found on deck on our second morning and a few boobies that tried to land on the mast, it was just us and the sea.

The biggest problem we had, was that we were going way to fast and if we didn't slow down, we would arrive at our destination in the middle of the night.  The solution was to furl in the head sail and reef the main.  That slowed us to about 4.5 knots and averaged with our speed on day one, would put us there about on schedule.

The only other issue was just before arriving in Mazatlan we over ran a fishing line.  Janet was at the helm and immediately reduced power and went to neutral.  No harm was done and the fix was to cut the line, walk it back to the stern, re-tie it and toss it back in.  We talked to another boat who said they got a line wrapped around their prop shaft and they had to dive in to cut it off.  I think we were pretty lucky.

We arrived at Marina El Cid in Mazatlan at about 9 AM.  A quick call to the marina of VHF 16 scored a slip were we will stay for a yet undecided length of time.  Life is good.

Ensenada Grande

Ensenada Grande was the highlight of our visit to the islands.  A definite repeat for when we return in the spring.  There are three lobes to the anchorage and we choose the one on the south side as it was close to the trail leading up the arroyo to the other side of the island.

The hike up and across was a welcome reprieve from being on the boat and as it turned out a fair amount of exercise as well.  Our friends David and Barbara from sv Zoe, as well as Ray and Chikala from sv Sea Note joined us for the hike.  We took the dinghies over to shore, made sure they were secure and headed out.  The trail went right up the middle of the dry creek, so we had to climb up and over the sometimes large rocks and boulders that had tumbled down from the cliffs overhead.  We couldn't help but wonder if some of these had been dislodged during the recent heavy rains from hurricane Paul.

It was hot and humid, so there were many stops along the way to rest in shady spots under the large boulders.  Our reward at the end was an expansive view of the east side of the island where the land dropped off with cliffs about 400-500 feet straight down to the ocean.

The following day, Janet and I decided it was time to make the crossing to Mazatlan.  The weather report was calling for light to moderate winds and rather calm seas.  David and Barbara on sv Zoe decided they were going to head a bit further north to Isla San Francisco for a few more days before heading across, so we would be on our own for the 48 hour passage.

Paul putting his shoes on in preparation for the hike up
the arroyo.
David and Barbara making ready to land their dingy.
Heading up the arroyo.
Their were many wild flowers and greenery, courtesy of
the rains from hurricane Paul.
A look back toward our dinghy landing.
The group pausing for a quick break.
Paul and Janet before tackling the next let of the hike.
Paul at the cliffs on the east side of Isla Partida.
The view was spectacular.
Janet enjoying a moment before we headed back down the trail.