Mexico 2010

Crossing to Mazatlan

04 December 2010 | Marina Mazatlan, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

When I last wrote, we had just arrived in San Jose del Cabo, a newish resort to the east of Cabo San Lucas. The moorage rates in that part of the world are breathtaking. For $44 a night, we got a slip. No electricity, no water. Bathroom and showers at least a mile away, along a dusty dirt track. If we had wanted (and been willing to pay for) electricity and water, plus be closer to the bathroom, we would have paid $110 per night. No thank you.

The San Jose del Cabo marina/resort has great ambitions. The marina manager describes an undeveloped island inside the marina as "the most expensive real estate on the west coast." The developed part of the marina (the $110/night part) has a road paved with fancy tiles and pavers, extensive landscaping, and a permanent weatherized art exhibit featuring works by and photographs of Leonora Carrington. Carrington is a British-born Mexican artist. Her paintings are surrealist, featuring ghosts and human-headed animals. There were also many three-dimensional metal works of art, not labeled as to artist, but having the same surrealist themes. I asked one of the security guys what he thought of the art, and he said it was "very strange."

The entire marina had just been elaborately landscaped with cactuses, bougainvilleas and little palm trees. Employment was provided for many laborers, watering the landscaping with watering cans. (Remember, our side of the marina, the $44 side, doesn't have water yet...)

We stayed in San Jose for several days, making excursions into the little town of San Jose del Cabo to find the "Mega" (grocery) store, go to a restaurant and take a nice walk. This was the last night that Skip was with us, and for his farewell dinner, we found a French bakery/restaurant with delicious food, and a terrace overlooking the busy street. After dinner, we spent time in the plaza, where there was a big fiesta celebrating Mexico's revolution (this is the centenary year). For the children there was a puppet show, featuring black and white cut-out prints of the revolutionary heroes' heads, mounted on sticks, engaging in Punch & Judy antics, accompanied by extensive narration by the puppeteer. The kids seemed to love it, and cheered on the various heroes.

We debated about trying to put together a Thanksgiving dinner with other cruisers at San Jose, but really didn't find any simpatico folks. Ultimately, we checked out of San Jose del Cabo, and sailed up the coast toward La Paz, anchoring that night at Bahia de los Frailes. We found to our delight that one of the boats anchored there was C'est si Bon, Norbert and Trudy, whom we last saw in New Zealand in 2004. They are Aussies who have been cruising continuously since we last saw them, spending time in Japan, Alaska, British Columbia and Washington State. We knew from other Aussie friends that we were on a parallel track, so it was delightful to finally get together. We invited them over for a Thanksgiving dinner the next day. (It's amazing how important it was to me to get together with other cruisers for Thanksgiving. I guess I was really missing our usual Thanksgiving gathering with relatives at home.)

Before we left our San Jose internet connection, I had found a recipe for turkey breast done in a pressure cooker. So that was a grand experiment. The other grand experiment was pumpkin pie baked in a rolly anchorage. The first challenge was that although I had brought a can of pumpkin, I had evidently forgotten a can of evaporated milk. With radio contact with the other cruisers, we found a can aboard Wendaway, which they gladly contributed to the effort. The next challenge was whether the pie would set, with the boat gently rocking like a cradle from side to side. The oven is gimbaled, but its motion keeping up with gravity isn't perfectly smooth. The answer is, yes it does work, the pie did set. However, it reflected the fact that on average, the boat lists a little bit to port. So did the pie. Never mind, it was delicious. Norbert and Trudy contributed an Aussie wine and a salad, and we had sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Yum! It was a great Thanksgiving, and a wonderful way to renew an old acquaintance.

We stayed another day in Bahia de los Frailes, waiting out a "norther." Northers are nasty winds that roll down the Sea of Cortez, creating a short steep chop which is to be avoided if at all possible. Our original intention was to head as far north as La Paz, before crossing over to the mainland part of Mexico. But the forecast predicted only one weather window: Saturday and Sunday. If we used that window to get to La Paz, we'd be there for at least the entire next week, waiting out the next norther. So we decided instead to head directly for Mazatlan.

This created complications. In San Diego we had agreed to carry replacement parts for two of our sister ships: Pu'aena in Mazatlan, and Mazu in La Paz. After a lot of head scratching and email communications, we decided to transfer the Mazu parts to Wendaway (the folks who had so kindly lent us the can of milk). Wendaway was for sure going to La Paz. The Mazu owners weren't too happy with us, and we felt bad about that. We just got word that they finally received the parts yesterday. As it turns out, of course, the forecast was wrong. We did get our Saturday-Sunday weather window - which we used to cross to Mazatlan - but the next norther was only two days, not the predicted five, and not as strong as predicted.

In any case, we've enjoyed our time in Mazatlan, and are departing tomorrow. Our friends John & Sherry aboard Pelagic have gone out of their way to be helpful. They have a car, and have spent winters here for a number of years. So they know the places to go to get groceries, boat parts, see art exhibits, or have metal bent up. They know the good restaurants and the places to see. Last night they took us to the "First Friday" art walk, and we saw some fabulous (and some not so fabulous) art. The buildings themselves are charming and delightful, with lots of permanent artwork installations. The historic old town (where most of the galleries are located) is full of interesting architecture, brightly painted walls, glimpses of interior courtyards, and run down (for sale) buildings with "lots of potential." We went to the top of the Freeman Hotel (the oldest high rise in Mazatlan, dating from the 40's) and had a drink on the rooftop terrace.

There's a very active cruiser community here. Every morning on the radio net, there is an exchange of information, weather forecasts, who's coming and going, gentle advertising by marine industries, items offered for trade (or "for coconuts") (it's illegal for cruisers to "sell" things over the radio). We have managed to acquire a set of used wheels for the dinghy, but it required some engineering, and a visit to a metal fabricator to duplicate some missing parts. Lots of entrepreneurs here: we bought veggies and fruits from a truck that comes to the marina some mornings; we were fitted for and purchased "jellyfish suits" from "Lycra Laura;" and we got our hair cut by "Luis" the barber. 60 pesos (about $5) apiece. He brings his equipment down onto the dock, and just needs your electricity, some sort of improvised barber's chair (in this case, an ice chest), and a cold "coca."
Many people seem to be stuck on the dock. Life is comfortable here, and they're happy enough to socialize with their friends, go out to a restaurant at night and listen to the music. We're anxious to move on, though, to secluded anchorages. We hope that our next stop will be at Isla Isabella, a bird sanctuary (blue-footed boobies), with good snorkeling on the reefs. After that, on to Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta.