Posted on March 11, 2018
A list of clothing I wore on our passage from Mazatlan to Baja: Wool socks; Warm slippers; Wool underwear; Fleece pants; Foul-weather bibs; Tank top; Long-sleeved shirt; Fleece snap-T; Windbreaker; Additional fleece jacket with built-in windbreaker; Lifejacket, harness, tether; Foul-Weather jacket; Wool hat.
This is not what I’ve come to expect from Mexico! Not only was it super-cold (even with all the gear, I was hiding behind the dodger), it was windier than expected; more forward than expected (meaning, we couldn’t really sail—we had the main up, but the motor was working full-time); and the waves from the north did not play well with the swell from the south. In brief: not our best passage.
Possibly our last overnight, though, which I’m kind of enjoying. Michu likes the quiet of the night passage, but in a weird twist, I’ve become more anxious about them as time has gone on. Just about every horror story we’ve heard on this trip has involved something terrible In The Dark Of Night. You can’t see the wind gusts; you can’t see the waves (although we did have a pretty nice moon this time); you can’t see the unlit panga or longline. It can be amazing and peaceful, and you see things that you just can’t find in other places—phosphorescent dolphins and stars lit up in the absence of light pollution, coastal cities twinkling on shore and cruise ships like floating bonfires—but I still spend a lot of time talking myself down from my crazy place.
The boat came through better than the people. Michu was actively puking by midnight, an illness we ascribed to seasickness but turned into a four-day disaster we’re now blaming on some shrimp tacos. We’ve been recovering in Los Frailes, listening to the northers howl down the Gulf. It’s beautiful here, and we’re well-protected; so happy to finally be in Baja.
Posted on March 3, 2018
Our plan was to jump up the coast of Mexico north of La Cruz in a relaxed fashion, stopping at Chacala and spending a few days at Isla Isabel, before arriving at Mazatlan and awaiting a good window to push across the Sea of Cortez. Isla Isabel is a national park, and is consistently described as a highlight by cruisers along this stretch of coast. Unfortunately, the wind had other plans. We debated for a long time about whether or not we wanted to risk anchoring in the lee of the little island as a cold front blew in from the north, but ultimately we decided not to risk it. The holding at Isla Isabel is nowhere described as good, and the fear of dragging anchor outweighed our desire to sneak up on blue-footed boobies and snap photos. Instead, we pushed on to the north, arriving at the entrance to El Cid marina towards the end of an ebb tide and biting our nails as we saw 10 foot depths and fought a strong current to end up safely tied to the dock.
By Wednesday morning, we were pretty much all the way thrilled with our decision. Holy cow, was it windy out there! We’ve been freezing our butts off, as well; we don’t seem to have a thermometer anywhere on the boat, but it’s clearly in the low sixties, if not colder. Fortunately, there’s a huge jacuzzi at the marina, and all the hot water you could want flowing in the showers. We comforted ourselves with the thought of upcoming marine life in the Sea, let go our our disappointment in not seeing Isabel, and settled in to enjoy Mazatlan.
We spent a day downtown, walking around the old town, relaxing in the plazas and strolling the Malecon. I’ve been to Mazatlan once before, but all I remember from that trip was the resort hotel on the beach; we were pleasantly surprised to find the old streets being rejuvinated, with construction and restoration everywhere. According to our taxi drivers and waiters, Mazatlan is enjoying a new influx of capital, including a wave of expats; even more influentially, the locals claim that the cartels have been pushed out. Whatever is going on, we found the city to be a great mix of visitor-friendly amenities and real Mexico.
We checked out the cathedral; we ate lunch in a sidewalk cafe in Plazuela Machado; we visited the Museo de Arte. We stared out at the whitecaps on the water and were happy to be on land. We stocked up on fruits and veggies at the Mercado Central.
The marinas are located north of the city, and we were happy to be in an easy spot to prep for our next overnight. Our last-minute plan to head directly north from Chacala meant a long passage sustained by chips and granola bars; I didn’t have time to prep up on passage food, and the seas were pretty rough. This time around, there will be curry and poke bowls and muffins. Having good food at our fingertips makes a huge difference with our passage experience! We’ve got a full moon, and the winds look good; hopefully we’re all set for what might be our final overnight passage.
Posted on March 1, 2018
Boilerplate disclaimer: this is not what it will cost you to go cruising.
People’s constant advice, discussing cruising finances, always seems to be: It’ll cost what you have. We did not find this helpful in our planning, however true it may be. What we’re trying to show is the cost to us, more or less, for one month to go cruising. We’re going for monthly expenses, because they’re easier for us to track; so you won’t see the boat insurance amortized, you’ll just see that expense when we pay it. It won’t be what you’ll spend, but it was the kind of information that helped us out when we were trying to wrap our heads around that magical number for our cruising kitty.
Once upon a time, when we were planning our trip, we thought one of the advantages of ending up in Mexico would be how inexpensive it is, as we were coming to the end of our funds.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
While it’s certainly possible to live cheaply in Mexico, we haven’t been doing it. There have been a lot of tacos, yes; but we’ve also blown more than expected on marinas, and of course we chose to spend extra to get our bottom painted in a convenient place.
Our numbers for February:
Fuel: $282.38, diesel; $69.71, stove fuel
Ice Cream: $20.62
Boat Parts: $462.52
Bank Fees: $43.37
Boat Work: $1410
Grand Total: $4806.27
- Marina fees include the fee for hauling out and storage on land while the bottom was being painted; the “boat work” category was what we paid to Sea Tek for the actual work, plus supplies. Bottom paint isn’t cheap.
- Education was a pretty hearty category this month. It included the fees for the CPR course; some money we forced on Coqui for the tamale lesson; and an awesome graphic novel of the Black Panther in Spanish.
- And speaking of the Black Panther…that $6.86 under Entertainment was what it cost the entire family to see The Black Panther in the theater.
- Holy cow, is diesel expensive in Mexico! And we used a lot of it bashing north to Mazatlan. Hopefully, we’ll do more sailing as we cross to Baja.
- We did not do an awesome job with the bank fees this month. Our money shuffling was in overdrive, as we’ve been organizing a house rental for our return to Madison and pulling out weirdly large amounts of cash to pay for the bottom paint job (netting us an 18% discount, so—worth it).
- We have friends visiting us in March in La Paz, so we’ve dropped a bit more on boat parts to have some things hand-delivered. Just getting our girl into shape before we sell her.
- We had to renew the boat registration, and Michu renewed his nursing license.
- Hey, look! We spent money on stove fuel! We’d hoped to find some from Dr. Shukan, who helps out with organizing first aid seminars for cruisers in La Cruz (including how to suture); when he didn’t have anything above 70% alcohol for us, he went on a mission to find what we needed. Finally, a homeopathic doctor he knows came up with the source he uses for tinctures–a tiny storefront in downtown Puerto Vallarta. We asked the store owner what people used the alcohol for–medicine? Cleaning? Yes, she said–but also limoncello, various fruit alcohols…so it’s hootch. We’re burning straight-up hootch. Seems to be working great, though!
Posted on February 24, 2018
La Cruz is sticky! As in, we’re having a hard time making our exit. We’ve met so many lovely families; the town is very cruiser-friendly, with great services and food; and we’re just out of travel mode. Banderas Bay has us in her grip. We did manage an almost-exit: a day trip to the town of Yelapa.
We’d planned on stopping in this bay on our way north, but of course we were running late and skipped right over it. We’d heard too much about this community to let it go entirely, though, so we planned a trip with our friends from s/v Nomi. A quick motorsail across the bay in the early morning hours, and we grabbed a mooring ball; the deep water extends almost to shore, so dropping an anchor is not an easy proposition.
Yelapa is an indigenous community that’s never been connected to the mainland by modern roads. Horses are big around here, and the phones have only been up for about a decade. We wouldn’t call them cut off, though; ferries from Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta arrive daily, and the beach is crowded with palapa restaurants and small hotels.
Our main goal, after a little fish taco break, was to find a waterfall. There are two notable ones in Yelapa; one that’s an easy hike through town, and one down a longer path that’s much better for swimming. Always up for a challenge, we went for the long hike—which ended up being a bit longer when we took a wrong turn! Eventually, we found nirvana: a warm cascade with a deep swimming hole at the bottom.
Our dusty return to the boat was marked with a little drama, as we arrived too late to catch our scheduled panga back to the boat. Fortunately, we managed to flag down a water taxi before they quit for the night, and stumbled back to the boat for some dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Or not. The swell coming into the anchorage flung the boat around so much, that at about 8:30 pm we decided we were done. Time for a quick night sail across the bay, with Nomi in our wake. Despite our familiarity with the anchorage, picking a path at night with distracting shore lights is always a challenge, and there are plenty of unlit boats around here to provide an extra jolt of excitement. We managed to anchor safely on the outside of everyone, and slept like rocks.
Now it’s several days later, and our tired legs have regained their strength. We’ve provisioned up, found a source for stove fuel, and are prepping the boat for our final push north. From here, we plan to head to Isla Isabella and Mazatlan, before jumping across the Gulf of California and towards La Paz. It’s been a while since we’ve planned any kind of passage, and we’re excited to get going. This may be our last big push; onward!
Posted on February 15, 2018
We’d planned to pull our boat out of the water in Chiapas. That would have been a year and four months in the water without checking out the bottom, and we knew the paint was wearing away; but tsunamis wreck stuff, and despite hanging out at the marina for almost two months, the travel lift wasn’t working in time for us. The cheapest option after that would have been to do the work much further north in the Sea of Cortez, but we didn’t want to sacrifice any time during our last few months of cruising to yard work if we could avoid it. Things are still a bit chilly and blustery in the Sea, so we decided to haul out at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact of viewing our boat as a boat. When we’re living aboard, our boat is our home, and I see it the same way I usually saw our house: sheesh, I need to do those dishes, who left their hat in the cockpit, we need to wash the windows, why can’t I find a pen? But pulling her out of the water reminded me that she’s a boat, just like all those other boats we see on the hard; and I couldn’t stop feeling proud of how strong and capable she is. We have put so many miles under her, and if anything, she looks better than she did when we left. Apart from a tiny spot of baldness on the leading bottom edge of the keel, she’s no worse for wear, despite being stuck in the mud more than once. Did we find blisters on the hull? We did not. All the prep Michu did to the boat before we left has really paid off, and she looks fabulous.
By the time she goes back in the water, she’ll look even better. Two new coats of paint; two new zincs on the prop shaft; an epoxy touch-up to the afore-mentioned spot on the keel (which showed almost no rust, despite the fact that our keel is iron instead of lead); a raised waterline to better accommodate a loaded-down cruising boat (three coats of paint on the new stuff, just to make sure); and a pretty buff and wax. Yeah, we plan on selling the boat in a few months, but we’re happy to take good care of the boat that’s taken such good care of us.
As far as spending a little extra money to haul in La Cruz, we’ve got no regrets. It’s a lovely town, and F and T have been enjoying some serious kid time. Peter Vargas and his team have been doing an awesome job, coming in ahead of schedule and under budget, if you can believe it–how often does that happen? And once again, a little time on land has made us eager to be back on the hook, away from the noise and heat, dust and bugs, costly cold beers and creaky hotel beds of land life.