Mazatlan and San Blas

We set sail early one morning for the 200 some odd nautical mile run across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlán.  After weeks of lying at anchor in La Paz getting blasted by the afternoon winds, we were sure we would have a wonderful sail across without having to sue our engine.

We guessed wrong – we ended up sailing across almost exclusively using our engine.  No wind.  Our log didn’t work – I tried cleaning it but even after I thoroughly cleaned the little wheel that spins, we got nothing on our instruments.  That means, dear friends, that our bottom is thoroughly fouled and will need to be cleaned when we get to Mazatlán.  We also have an indication of just how fouled it is – our top speed even when running at 2000 rpm is just over 5 knots.  With a clean bottom, Capri does almost 7 knots at 2000 rpm. I know you have seen the pictures before, but here you have them again.

Midmorning we rounded the big breakwater and proceeded up the (very) narrow channel.  Our pilot book warned us that the channel we frequently being dredged and this could cause complications.   The dredging vessel was in operation, but off to one side so we had no issues passing it.  We had called ahead and reserved a slip in El Cid Marina, which lies just inside the breakwater.  Facilities sound great, swimming pool, restaurants etc.  Their fuel dock is right on the channel so we pulled straight in and started fueling.  While that was going on I walked over to the Port Captain to check in but he was closed for siesta.  Talked with the dock captain about which slip we should go to and he was not enthusiastic.  Seven-foot keel?  Hmmm.  I did tell them we had seven feet when I reserved.  Finally, he told me that we might? Be able to get a slip on the end of the pier but the boat there, which was supposed to leave had decided to stay.

Perhaps we should try Marina Mazatlán just a few hundred meters further in the channel.  Ok no problem, but when I came back to the boat, the tide was going out and Capri was standing hopelessly on the ground.  Nothing to do but wait until the tide turned and came back in.  As we sat there, the water level fell so far that most of Capris bottom was exposed.  In the channel, the tide was so fierce that there were 1-meter high standing waves (yes, I did write that and it is true).  Eventually, the tide came back in and we could get off the fuel dock and into Mazatlán Marina. 

One good thing did come out of lying aground at the fuel dock.  A deep sea fishing boat came in and the fellow had caught a couple of big marlins.  Since he was a tourist, he could only get a couple of steaks frozen and shipped home to the US.  He was kind enough to give us several kilos of fresh marlin.  That night we had marlin carpaccio with shredded coconut instead of parmesan cheese.  Yummy!  The rest we cut into steaks and froze.  Vinni will enjoy them later as sashimi with wasabi.

Five kilos of fresh caught marlin – Yummy!

This marina was quite nice.  There were several good restaurants including a pizzeria.  The one night we ate there, they had a strange custom.  Every time we ordered, a beer or a pizza, the waiter would take a coin out and flip it, saying “heads or tails?”.  If we guessed correctly, what we ordered was free. 

Large cold margaritas – just what the doctor ordered for a hot mexican evening

We guessed correctly about half the time and our final bill was very cheap.  We went back a few nights later, but that evening they didn’t bring out their coins.

The supermarkets and the Mercado were all downtown, about six miles away.  Too far to walk, but there is a bus.  This being Mexico, the bus was filled beyond capacity and the driver thought he was trying to win Le Mans.  Good thing we were standing up and unable to look out the windows and see how close we were to hitting the parked cars.

Mazatlán is a city of close to 500,000 and the Market is big.  We bought some smoked tuna, which turned out to be really good, but little else.  The smoked tuna was very good indeed and we ate it on Danish pumpernickel with mayonnaise, a cold beer and some aquavit.  We were a bit concerned about buying meat there.  It looked good but the refrigeration looked like it had seen better days.  There was Walmart within looong walking distance and we purchased out meat there.

We paid a local diver $40 to clean Capri’s bottom – check out the pictures.  She really needed it.

After almost 2 weeks in Mazatlán, we moved onward, sailing south 140 nm to a big bay just south of the town of San Blas.

The bay is huge and our pilot book says there are several beach restaurants here.  It neglects to say that the restaurants have hundreds of tables.  OK, we aren’t going to eat there anyway so it doesn’t matter.  We dropped the dinghy on the beach and walked up to the main road to catch a bus into town.

Our dinghy now has training wheels so it is easier to haul across the beach

Hmmm, the bus only goes twice per day.  Taxi.  How much?  25 pesos – that’s cheap.  Turns out, he neglected to say it was per person. On the way in, we stopped at the old Spanish fort, which has been partially restored.  It has a magnificent view out over the town and ocean.

There is a huge statue of Father Jose Maria Mercado, one of the great heroes of the Mexican revolution.  When the insurgency broke out in 1810, Mercado was quick to side with the rebels and together they took the fort overlooking San Blas.  He commanded the rebel forces and “liberated” several neighboring provinces.  When the main forces of the revolution were hard-pressed, he led a force of rebels that came to their assistance.  Upon returning to San Blas, he discovered that the fort had been taken over by loyalist forces.  To avoid capture, he jumped from the edge of the cliff and died. 

Father Jose Maria Mercado is a BIG hero of the revolution

Another attraction here is the old church.  The American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (he of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…) and Song of Hiawatha fame) wrote a poem about the Bells of San Blas.  The poem was to be his last as he died shortly thereafter.  Today only ruins stand here; the bells have been taken down and moved to the church in the town.  Curiously, a song has also been written about the Bells of San Blas, this one about the bells in the town.  Jack Hardy wrote and recorded it in 1984.

Ruins are all that remain of the famous old church

So it is quite a famous little town. 

The “new” church in the center of town – Vinni holds the bell tower rope – but did not ring the bells

Even more curious, my brother’s sister-in-law, Mary Sue got married in the church here many years ago.  We took some pictures of the inside and it was decorated for a weeding.  When we sent them, we told her they were waiting for a repeat performance from her. 

The church is all ready for a repeat performance by Mary Sue

She wrote back saying it had been a wild 4 day wedding while they tried in vain to drink the town dry of tequila (they were all much younger back then).

Back to the town.  San Blas has so many street restaurants that it seems impossible they can all make money.  I mean, how many people in this small town eat out every single day?  The restaurants all have grills out, some wood fired, some gas fired.  They proudly display smoked and grill fish and shrimp. 

Wood fired kitchen

Lunch menu on display

One restaurant calls itself El Jejenero, Spanish for no-no or no-see-ums, the tiny bug that haunts beaches and has a fearsome bite.  Our Pilot book says the beaches here are rife with them.  They generally don’t bother me, but Vinni must seems like a human three star meal – they eat her alive.  I’m not sure if I want to eat at a place that calls itself El Jejenero – it just doesn’t seem right.

El Jenjenero

Every day we practice our paddleboard – we still are not able to stand upright on two feet without falling over.  This requires a lot of practice.

San Blas was a charming place to anchor.  Not very rolly, the bay was well-protected against the Pacific swells.  Every evening we were treated to an extravaganza of a sunset. 

How can you ever tire of this?

We never tired of watching it, although it did add some pounds to our waistline as we had a sundowner every day while watching. 

Our new ice cube machine was working overtime to keep up with our ice needs

The lady of the house awaits a refill

The only negative was that every evening, while we were having our sundowner, the jet ski rentals used Capri for a rounding buoy.  We were the boat furthest out so they roared out and turned around us.

Oh well.

Of course, we could stay in San Blas forever.  Early one morning we weighed anchor and set sail, bound for Chacala.  Chacala is, according to our pilot book, the quintessential old Mexican beach town.  Life is always Manaña, nobody is in a hurry here.  The beach restaurants are small, the margaritas big and once you get there you have a hard time leaving.

Sounds like our kind of place and we were eager to drop the hook.  30 hours and 145nm of uneventful sailing, we dropped the hook and looked in towards shore. 

Hmmm.  Ok, the  anchorage is rolly, but the Pilot book warned us about that.  At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the first brass mariachi band started up.  Full blast and their loudspeakers were pointed right out into the bay.  We like mariachi music, although the volume was quite a bit higher than we like.  Ten minutes later the next band started up.  Ten minutes after that, the third band started.  There are only 3 restaurants on the beach so thankfully no more could start. 

Unfortunately, they were all playing different songs so it was a cacophony of unrelated noise.  The volume was incredible and the Vinni and I looked at each other.  We had planned on dinghying in and having dinner, but we really were not enthused about the music.  Ok, skip dinner ashore and we’ll just make something here on the boat.  After all the damned bands have to stop sometime.

The bands all took breaks but not at the same time.  At ten (!) o’clock in the evening, they were still going strong and sleep was more than difficult.  We decided to pull the hook early next morning and sail the remaining few miles into the huge bay housing Puerta Vallarta and La Cruz.  We are going to La Cruz, described as a charming little town.  But first, we’ll anchor just around the end of the peninsula at a little town called Punta Mita.

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