Mazatlan to La Cruz

“Dawn comes early on a boat, ain’t that right Captain Ron?  
Yep, happens every morning, just about sunup.”

Travel from Stone Island, Mazatlan to Matachan 16-17 January

Stone Island anchorage provided us a fun place for short hikes, walks on the beach, and walking into Old Town.  We had a great time.  The weather has settled, so we departed Saturday at 1000, arriving January 17th at 0815.  The forecast called for wind but we had none.  We listened to the humming sound of our motor for 23.5 hours; not our favorite way to travel but there are worse things.  And boy, with the motor is running well and for that we are grateful. The silver lining for this leg of our trip were the many whales sightings on Saturday.  We witnessed humpback whales breaching off the starboard (right) side of Dharma Girl.  Chris witnessed a juvenile whale splash about 100 feet from the starboard stern.   Along with the tremendous whale appearances, late sunsets, and early sunrises, we agreed the travel was easy going.

When underway, we are typically 5-6 miles off the coast.  Out this far we can avoid most of the smaller fishing boats.  The large fishing boats, commonly referred to as the shrimpers, however, are out 5 plus miles off the coast.  When traveling at night, we use the radar for navigating.  It will pick up most small fishing boats. The larger boats move around more often than the smaller boats.    The four green blips are fishing boats. We do our best to stay clear of their work.  The red line is our rhumb line, aka the desired course.  The white is our actual path, aka heading.  

 Here, we are about 20-30 degrees off our desired course until we pass the last large fishing boat.

Ensenada de Mantachén  January 17-20

6:49 am Sunrise

History of Cerro de San Basilio, San Blas

Last year, we took a 15-minute bus ride to visit San Blas.  As we were exploring the streets, we climbed up a street and stumbled upon this fort, Cerro de San Basilio.  On this hilltop stands the original fort built-in 1770. The court was used to protect and route various ships to Mexico City or East Asia.  And just down the hill, as you walk up to the fort, is the church, Templo de la Virgen del Rosario built in 1769 and active till 1872.  This is a lovely spot for exploration and visit and only one mile from the town plaza.

Also popular about San Blas, by word of mouth, are jejenes. The jején insect is a little sand flea (aka no-see-em), the size of a black dot, and there are a lot of them and are brutal for many people.  They don’t come out if there is a breeze but are hungry in the mornings, late afternoons, and full moon. I don’t understand the latter.  About 1 in 4 people are allergic to the bites.  The allergic reaction at each bite is big red sores with liquid heads.  The sores hurt and itchy and take 3-5 weeks to completely heal.  Carrie has PTSD from last year from 177 plus jejenahs bites; we stopped counting at 177. It’s okay to laugh.

But the warmth of the locals is wonderful and often takes us by surprise but then again, we are not surprised with the ease of life. For example, a mom and two daughters visiting the beach for the day paddled their kayaks 1/3 miles to DG to say hello. The hello lead to getting to know each other a little better. It is a gift when the tone of measuring (comparing each other) is not included in the conversation.  The mom and I connected because of our teaching career, the daughters were just darling with their sweet questions about our lifestyle. We learned it was a school holiday in Guadalajara and going to the beach is a favorite of theirs.

Inauguration Day – Jan 20, 2021

Just a quick insert with how fortunate we felt to have witnessed the Inauguration.  And how cool was it with Joe Biden swearing on the 1893 ‘family bible’?  Very extraordinary cool. Our exciting sense of new hope was not dampened by the size of our view screen either.  We soaked it all in with our hearts very full.

Alright now, let us get back to our regular commentary of our travels. 

A popular activity that we have yet participated in is the La Tovara Jungle Tour, many call it the crocodile tour.  The jungle tour, located just past the ‘bus stop’ in Mantachén, have pangas that winds through the lush Rio Tovara. There are 300 species of birds, herons, and iguanas, turtles, and crocodiles.  There is a protective fresh water spring along the way that is inviting to swim.  And afterwards a restaurant to address your appetite and thirst.  This all sounds wonderful and our cruiser friends say it is a must see.  Maybe for us, when we head north for the Sea of Cortez.

Stone Point

At the northern end of the bay is Stoners Point.  It is a popular surf location when the swells come through.  Every so often, when the swell comes in the right direction and the tide is right, the longest wave in North America can be surfed to many locations in the bay.  The break holds a previous record holder for the world’s longest break in the “Guinness Book of World Records for a cool kilometer-long hang ten rides for any surfer.  You can view it here.  

Chacala 20-21 January

Rolly!  That’s the take away from this visit.  This small anchorage was pretty much full. Okay, it was technically full.  But we arrived at 5pm and the next anchorage was 8 hours away-arriving at 1am.  Last year we successfully anchored with about three boats.  This quintessential palm trees white sandy beach bay is a favorite by many boaters, but small, so there is only room for a handful of boats.  The small point protected point the anchorage is open to the Pacific and subjected to swells.  

This year, with six boats anchored, we made three attempts to drop the bow and stern anchors between the other boats. The swells were strong and often, making it challenging to set the stern anchor directly behind our boat.  All three attempts resulted in DG perpendicular to the other boats.  So frustrating when now it’s becoming dark … so we decided to anchor out on the southern edge of the main anchorage and mentally prepare ourselves for a rolly evening.  At first light, we weighed anchor and headed outta there.  

Beautiful yet on the small side so we released the fish.

Our fishing technique, one could say, is improving. We are catching more fish but many are still young. Many cruisers say Mexico is ‘fished out’. It could be. There is also the option to buy fish directly from the fishermen.

Punta Mita January 21-23

Did we sail to Punta de Mita?  My logbook states nothing about sailing to the anchorage.  We motored, the 36 nm from Chacala.  And again, we have been graced with nature when we are a little bummed about not sailing.  In this leg, we observed whales breaching, dolphins chasing us, and Mobulas jumping.  To our surprise, there were big and long waves on the point. Oh, the waves were tall and ran long distances.  How tall were you wondering? Well, they were so tall that day, first-floor buildings were disappearing.  Yeah, eye-popping, amazingly high.  And we were not missing a thing being a mile from these natural creations.

We spent a few nights in the anchorage at Punta de Mita, most of it watching surfers catching waves where we thought we could land the dinghy. The panga anchorage close to shore had its own entrance, and we watched the pangueros (pangas) time their entrances and exits. Most of the time we’d lose sight of the boat behind the incoming swell. The surfers came out around morning coffee, so we’d watch them with binoculars from the cockpit. Alas, we never made it into town from shore; even though they offered surf lessons on the beach.

Though we didn’t go to shore we can share a little of this location.  At the northern entrance to Banderas Bay is a rocky point where Punta de Mita is located.  Once an isolated fishing community now is a developed vacation location with high-end accommodations and a golf course.  What also is attractive is the lovely artist town of Sayulita, just 9 miles north, which makes for a great day excursion.  

Another attraction is taking a day trip to the national park islands, Las Tres Marietas, for some reputable snorkeling off the extensive reefs.  The islands are 6 nm west of Punta de Mita.   We are interested in doing the when we head north and layover in La Cruz.  After you view this ‘site‘ of the islands, you’ll see why so many hanker to go.

La Cruz Anchorage January 23-28

Just 9 nm East of Punta de Mita, is the ever-popular La Cruz anchorage.  This large bay provides decent protection from the north winds and experiences periodic swells from the north and west; resulting in a rolly boat.  We have seen this anchorage hold 40 boats. There are 25 boats out here now and there is plenty of room to pretend we are isolated.

We choose to live on the hook as much as possible.  The benefits of being anchored are living on the hook is cheap, and typically free. Your boat neighbors are 300+ feet away.  The water is typically clean water and right out your back door.  You can fish off your boat in most places. You have a nice dinghy to the marina to visit the coastal towns. Some anchorages and most marinas charge a dock fee while in other locations you beach your tender (dinghy). And in our experience so far, there is a marina that allows you access to the facilities, like a swimming pool, showers, and bathrooms. In other marinas, you are required to pay for a boat slip which can run between $35-50/night for our boat.  And you lose some privacy.  Regardless of what we choose, we have access to cafes and tiendas, we can enjoy the towns, and have access to the beaches.

That is the splashing from the baby humpback frolicking in the bay.

The winds were strong when we arrived and continued for two days.  On the third day, the winds settled down and the swells where noticeable and increasing. On the 27th, while we were watching a movie on the boat, we were bracing ourselves to avoid from falling off our respective settees.  The 28th, we headed to the Marina.  We planned to head in on the 30th but during the movie, we decided enough was enough and we had almost made it a week in the anchorage.

We wake up on Thursday excited to be moving out of the frigg’n rolling and bucking swells. Carrie drives Dharma Girl into the marina, makes a u-turn and pulls up to the fuel dock and we top off the fuel tank, then makes another u-turn and then hands the helm to Chris to head us to our favorite dock, Muelle Cuatro.  We were excited to be back on the dock where a few of the friends we met last March and April were there.

It feels good to be ‘home’.

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