It’s March 2nd and Indigo headed back north again on our way out of the hurricane zone. Already, you say? Well, yes, we didn’t go back to renew visas this year so we need to get out of dodge by the end of April. With the winds the way they’ve been (really windy from the north), we’d been a little (OK a lot) nervous about having enough time… time to be able inch Indigo farther north to San Carlos in between all these week-long northers… and, once we arrive, time to finish Brian’s thousand-item-checklist for putting the boat into dry storage. You wouldn’t think it would be soooo nerve-racking, having to be OUT by a certain date. But it is, and we feel the pressure already. So we cut our time short on the mainland in order to have lots of time to venture north. No one wants to feel rushed when cruising; makes for unhappy campers all the way around.
While Mazatlan has a stunning shopping mall, multiple movie theaters, the best Mega(grocery store), a quaint historic district with interesting colonial architecture, and a miles-long Malecon on a beautiful beach… it also has oodles of people, tons of tourists, too many time-share salespeople and walking trinket-vendors up the wazoo.
Despite our initial reaction to the whole touristy feel of Mazatlan and feeling like we’d seen all there was to see within a matter of a couple weeks, we stayed to experience Carnaval. Fortunately for us, our tour guide friends on S/V Cuba Libre showed us around their adopted home and within a couple more weeks they helped us discover some really cool stuff: the artwalk, street hot dog vendors, amazing tacos al pastor, a spectacular bullfight, yummy gorditas, the shrimp ladies, the gringo theater, Cuban food, the carnival fireworks…all things we never would have experienced without their local knowledge.
Soon we got used to riding the crowded buses, going in the claustrophobic market and navigating the hectic downtown sidewalks where I came within 6” of getting clipped by a bus. We began to ignore the steady stream of “salespeople” who inevitably come right up to your dining table, even INSIDE some restaurants, hawking everything from bracelets to banana bread to foot massages (if I only had a dollar for every time I had to say “no gracias”). We learned the trick of fending off timeshare salespeople (tell them you live on a boat - this indicates you have no money) and shooed away the persistent yet terrible street musicians who shouldn’t be allowed to touch an instrument let alone sing.
So for us, it took a bit for Mazatlan to sink in; we like it now. We understand why soooo many Canadians and some Americans move to this city permanently: a myriad of cultural activities, great shopping, awesome food, perfect weather, beautiful beaches, low cost-of-living. Still… Would I fly my mother down here? Probably not. I just don’t think it’s up her alley. Some people absolutely love this place, but it’s not for everyone. Now that we’ve spent enough time here though, we feel comfortable getting around and could certainly play tour guide a thousand times better than when we’d first arrived.
Back to La Paz
While we will miss Mazatlan, we were eager to get back to nature… back to the peace of La Paz, the beautiful anchorages and the stunning waters of the Sea of Cortez. So on Wed, March 2nd we left Marina Mazatlan (we moved there to get the varnish completed) at 7am and headed back to La Paz. This time we had no buddy boat and were on our own for the 2 day passage. But somehow, it wasn’t quite so daunting the second time around.
“YOU talkin’ to ME?”
A few miles outside the harbor entrance, we noticed a boat trailing behind us, but didn’t pay much attention. Then I heard a call over VHF, a little something like this: “Sailboat just out of Mazatlan Harbor headed to La Paz, this is Salish Sequel.” Normally, hearing a call like that always induces a quandary. Are they really talking to me? You just never know. Well Watson, we HAD to be the one she was hailing. Why? We were literally the ONLY other sailboat out there!
You see, a person can stand at the Mazatlan harbor entrance and tell exactly where a boat is going to; there are only two choices. If you turn south, you’re going to La Cruz or PV, an overnight passage; if you go northwest you’re headed back to La Paz. There’s just nowhere else to go. (Ok, there is Topolobampo due north, but it’s much farther so most people don’t.) We ended up chatting a couple times over VHF radio with Salish Sequel, loosely buddy-boating by sheer proximity for the first day; we then lost them after dark.
No Wind, Perfect Wind, or Too Much Wind
Brian wants SOME wind for a crossing (a perfect 10kts, on a close reach – good luck with that), so we can sail most of the way and not use up diesel. Sure, tell me something that every sailor doesn’t want. But I’m a realist. For a 2-day crossing, I want NO wind so we can just motor and get it over with and so there is no risk of lumpy, seasickness-inducing-seas. Neither of us wants TOO MUCH wind. At this time of year (well most of the time) the winds come from the northwest. Guess which direction we had to go? Northwest. Bashing into strong winds, to put it crudely, sucks. So we time our crossing via Sailflow and other weather-prediction sites for 3-4 days of super benign weather…and cross fingers.
That first day, we were able to sail for 5 hours (Brian is ecstatic). We then motored for 24 hours straight (Me=Yay!; Brian=frowny face). Then sailed for 2, then motored the rest of the way. Yup. I WIN! Oh, the seas were beautiful - like glass! I overheard this conversation over VHF: “You got any wind over there?” “Nope, it’s like a skating rink out here.” Only a Canadian would use a skating rink analogy, but he was right…it was so smooth you could drop a pin and the water would ripple for miles. Motoring at night, through pitch dark for several hours before the moon rose, was pure peace.
The second day, we had our first turtle sighting! I had gotten a bit jealous that everyone else had witnessed turtles in the Sea; we had been here for a season and a half… still no turtles. Lo and behold, we got our fill of them this day. We must have seen 20 or more throughout the day, never more than one at a time, never too close to the boat (they’d duck under if our paths intersected too close). We could spot their dark shells as much as a half mile out, floating at the surface, infringing upon the baby blue monotony of our flat skating rink. Their green/black hard-hat shells stuck above the water several inches, their little feet swimming along back to La Paz. If it took us two days to get there, how long would it take them? Quite the journey. We spotted a seagull standing atop one, catching a free ride. Not sure why the turtle let him; he could have just ducked under and sent him flying away, but he didn’t. Maybe he just needed a friend.
We landed at Playa Bonanza on Isla Ispiritu Santos 47 hours and 250 miles later. Just before sunrise, we anchored in this expansive bay in the dark. And who should arrive under the rising sun but Salish Sequel. They graciously invited us for delicious sangrias and snacks that evening to celebrate a good crossing.
For two days, we rested in the perfect white sand arms of Bonanza, and then made the final, easy leg to La Paz. We docked at Marina Palmira for one week, just enough time to grocery shop, do taxes (blah), finish my incredibly long bullfight blog (it took 4 hours sitting in the lounge just to upload the video – man, I miss El Cid internet) and do some boatwork (Brian climbed the mast 5 times in one day to polish all the mast steps and clean the rigging – what a feat!).
Heading North Once Again
On March 13th we began our 2nd northern trek to San Carlos. This signifies the beginning of the end of our second season in the Sea…hard to believe!