We’re on our way south after quick visits to La Paz and Mazatlan. As winter arrives in the Sea of Cortez the northerly winds blow harder and the water gets cooler, so people head south to the mainland side where the air and water are still tropical. It being our first year of cruising, who are we to question this conventional wisdom? In the spring we’ll head back north again, making our way deep into the Sea of Cortez before hurricane season hits the southern region.
The trip to La Paz was nice, and that’s where we spent Thanksgiving with 200 other cruisers at a turkey dinner potluck. The cruising club in La Paz provided the turkeys and we all brought the side dishes. La Paz is a great little town that’s not a cruise ship destination, so it still feels like Mexico (unlike Cabo San Lucas, which is just Newport Beach south). There is a paved 3 mile walk along the beach that extends from one end of town to the other, and I found a friend who liked to get up early like I do and walk for exercise before the sun gets too hot.
Crossing the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Mazatlan requires an overnight passage, and some strong northerly winds were coming into the Sea, so we decided to head south and then across. Unfortunately we ended up between weather fronts, only had 5 knots of wind, and had to motor across. But I think it may have been better than 25 knots with the seas on our beam, which is what happened the day after we got to Mazatlan.
Mazatlan is a pretty town with lots of different personalities. There is an old town district with buildings dating back to the 1800’s, and a tourist district with modern high rise hotels on beautiful white sandy beaches. The cruise ships do stop there (we saw three in port when we arrived), but the town is large and the passengers get absorbed into it without overwhelming it. There is a municipal harbor where you can anchor for free, but it’s downwind of the sewage treatment plant, and we decided after one stinky night that paying for the marina wouldn’t be so bad afterall! When we got to the marina we found boats we had met on the Haha and had lots of fun with some new friends. We also ran into the folks who owned the boat yard in Port Townsend where we had hauled our boat last year, which was quite a nice surprise.
Our next planned stop was Isla Isabella, which is a small island 17 miles off the coast of mainland Mexico and 90 miles south of Mazatlan. We left Mazatlan late in the afternoon, making an overnight passage so we could arrive at the island in daylight. The weather forecast on buoyweather.com called for winds of 0-0, meaning it would be a motor boat trip. Imagine our surprise when we got out of the harbor and found 25 knots of wind. We thought it was just an afternoon seabreeze, but after listening to the weather forecast on our SSB (single sideband, the ham radio), we found out it was going to persist through the night and all the next day. Good for the passage, but not good for the anchorage, since Isla Isabella does not have a protected harbor for a good blow.
By morning the wind had died and we turned the motor on. The seas were high and the passage had been very rolly, making the boat an incredibly noisy place to try and sleep while you’re off watch. As we motored past Isabella in the morning there was only 3 knots of wind. The anchorage looked very very tempting, and there were two other boats already there. The island is a National Wildlife Preserve, with over 500 nests for frigate birds and blue footed boobies. Definitely a must see on our list. But not today. We still maintain a pretty conservative approach to cruising, and didn’t want to get caught in a bad anchorage when the wind came back up in the afternoon. So we pushed on and figured we could stop on our way back north.
The bay we were anchored in yesterday is a lovely little fishing village with some palapas (restaurants) on a beach that’s lined with palm trees, some RVs and a couple of small hotels. We had a stern anchor set to keep us bow into the ocean rollers, and there were 5 other sailboats in there with us.
Now we’re north of Puerto Vallarta but we’ll only stop for a day or two in an anchorage on the north side of Banderas Bay, not in the city marinas. The coast between PV and Zihuatanejo has lots of beautiful stops and we’re anxious to be done with the big towns and spend time in small harbors. And we have only 19 days to get the last 350 miles to Zihuat before my sister shows up.
Tonight on Yohelah we’re going to enjoy a dinner of fresh wahoo caught this afternoon enroute to La Cruz………..