Mazatlan Sights

Mazatlan is beautiful.  It’s what I guess we envisioned Mexico to be like.  The vibrant colors, the rugged landscape, the friendly locals and palm trees….lots of palm trees.

For the holidays, the Plaza de la Republica, the town square in the middle of old town was all decked out for the season. Complete with nativity scene and live barn animals like goats and donkeys and chickens.

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North pole and Nativity fun in the Plaza de la Republica.  Brought to you by Coca-Cola…we think that’s why the donkey wanted Dave’s coke.

In the center of town is the Catedral Basilica Cathedral.  It’s beautiful, golden towers act as a great landmark when roaming around the mercado. 

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Just a few blocks away is a peaceful square called the Machado. It’s a park surrounded on all sides by sidewalk cafes.  It was so colorful and peaceful that I could have imagined myself sitting in that square every day with a book or a newspaper and just people watching and enjoying the serenity.

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A few blocks more from the Machado towards the ocean is the long Malacon called Olas Altas, lined with unique sculptures and beautiful views of the ocean.

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Everything is fairly close together in Mazatlan, although you can easily hop on a bus or hail a taxi to take you to and from various sights.  Dave and I had quite a trek one day, starting with a hike up to the lighthouse  (El Faro on Cerro del Creston), which has about 300 stairs…

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…which leads up to a panoramic view of Mazatlan.

From the lighthouse we hiked back down and started along the Olas Altas walk, then into the Merchado and THEN to the Mercado in the middle of old town.  Basically, we put ourselves on a forced march through Mazatlan to make sure we saw all the sights.  It was totally worth it.  I feel like we can leave here knowing we saw and did it all.

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This is Marley:

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Marley resides at the little beach where Pizza Benji’s is located.  He roams around all day, greeting the cruisers who land their dinghies on the calm beach, hikes up Isla los Chivos to bark at the infamous Mazatlan goats, chases the field chickens and rooster that surround Benji’s (never catches, just chases) and basically acts as mayor of this small cove.  Marley has a good life.

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View from Pizzas Benji’s.  The small beach is where all the cruisers leave their dinghies and Nic from Benji’s “watches” them.

The first time we met Marley, we thought it was pretty cool that he went on a walk with us.  He didn’t follow us, he just sort of led the way, like “here’s the water taxi stop….and up here is the other beach…oh and here’s a truck that shouldn’t be on my road…BARK BARK BARK!”

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Walking on Marley’s road.

We asked Nic from Benji’s what Marley’s story was.  From what we could make out in our Spanglish, Marley was a pup of an American dog that came to Mazatlan. Marley was left behind.  He stayed on his little beach until one day when a cruising couple fell for Marley and brought him back to their boat. After one day of Marley, they returned him to Benji’s.  Marley is a free spirit. We can’t imagine anyone being able to own him.

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Sunset with Marley in the lead.

We noticed on our walks with Marley that he would bark a lot at the locals.  Friends on s/v Deep Playa told us that they asked Nic and he said that Marley only likes Gringos.

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It’s probably because we give him coconuts.

Good dog Marley, good dog.

Mazatlan – Life on the Hook

After our fun New Years Eve anchored out at Deer Island, we pulled anchor and headed over to the old harbor and anchored at Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra).

This anchorage is much closer to Old Mazatlan, so it’s easier to get to the heart of Mazatlan and be around the locals than from the marina area we were docked in.  Leaving the boat, however, is always a process.  First we have to pack the backpacks with whatever we may need during the day, then load up into the dinghy and row to shore.  We land the dinghy at Pizzas Benji’s in a small, calm cove and then haul the dinghy a good twenty yards up the beach to be sure it won’t get swept away if the tide comes up.  For frequenting Benji’s, the waiter there will take our trash and “watch” our dinghy all day (I say “watch” because we’re not sure there’s much worry of anyone taking the dinghy, especially since we don’t put the engine on it if we can help it.  But it’s still nice to know someone knows who the dinghy belongs to). Benji’s will even arrange for you to get fresh water or ice if you need it.  It’s a great stop for cruisers.

From the beach landing we walk about a kilometer to the water taxi that will take you for 25 pesos each way from Stone Island across the shipping channel to the main side of Mazatlan. Poncho the ponga driver would help us practice our Spanish.  I’ve been working on my Rosetta Stone, so I was having fun saying thinks like, “We walk a lot today!” and “We walked to the lighthouse!” And Poncho would tell us things like his name and his age and that the water taxi stops running at 6pm (“Seis! No Mas!”).  (Cruiser Tip: Pay for the taxi at the yellow embarcadero building – not directly to the ponga driver)

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Water taxi stop from the playa side.

From the water taxi we walk about a mile into downtown to the Municipal Market (Mercado Central) or the Machado Plaza or wherever else we feel like going for the day.

Although it’s a long walk and a long day to go to the market and stock up on whatever we need, we felt like it was worth it to be able to see the sights and be around the locals.  We ate at a counter in the market one day and then happened upon one of the freshest and cheapest fruit stands.  We frequented this fruit stand every time we went into town and the proprietor (we never got his name) was always so happy to see us.  I’d ask “Que es esto??” and point to fruits and veggies I didn’t recognize and he’d tell me how to serve them.  He even threw in a bunch of peppers and tomatillos and instructions on how to prepare them the last time we came by and told me they were free for us.  In all, we usually came away from this stand with two backpacks full of fresh produce for the low price of $10 USD.

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The produce man in Mercado Central (L), our fresh loot (center) and our produce bill – $132 pesos, or about $10 USD (R). The most expensive item? Apples.  Because they’re shipped down from the U.S.!  The cheapest item – a head of of garlic (Ajo) for 5 pesos, or $0.38 USD.

After walking all day, we’ll head back to the water taxi, walk down the road and stop at Benji’s for a large pizza or a coconut.  They won’t except money for watching the dinghy, so we always felt like we needed to have at least a drink there before rowing home.

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Benji’s shrimper pizza (garlic, shrimp and ham) and Dave with a grande coco.

Once we’re back on the boat, we unload all the fresh produce or anything else we’ve got that day and take it out of any packaging and give a bleach/water dunk to kill off any possible roach eggs. Better safe than sorry!  We make sure any bags or cardboard boxes stay in the dinghy until we go ashore the next day and give to Nic to put in Benji’s dumpster. 

It’s always a long day, but also very satisfying.  It’s an adventure every day.

Mazatlan – Marina Life

Our stay in Mazatlan has been a whirlwind of activities.  We’re sitting out in the old harbor, Stone Island anchorage right now.  We had planned to leave to head south to Isla Isabella two days ago, but Friday night I started getting symptoms of a cold and slept all of yesterday away and still am not feeling 100% today, so we’ll attempt to leave tomorrow.  In the meantime, that gives me a chance to do a couple of Mazatlan posts. 🙂

We came into Mazatlan just a couple days before Christmas.  We knew we wanted to share the holiday with our friends on Navigo, but other than that, we had no immediate plans for our first mainland stop.  We knew we needed to reprovision the galley and that Dave had some projects that were a must do (change the engine oil, re-galvanize the anchor chain).

We ended up grabbing a slip in Marina Mazatlan on December 23rd.  They didn’t have the nicest facilities (as compared to the El Cid resort next door where Navigo was staying), but the rate was in our budget and it was nice to be able to plug into power and use the microwave on occasion.  For an eight day stay, we paid about $140 USD total.  Not too shabby.  We didn’t always have hot showers in the locker rooms, but we did take advantage of the launderia where we dropped off our sheets, towels and comforter for some good machine-washing for about $15 USD.  There was also a small super market within the marina, which we took advantage of for fresh bread, tortillas and veggies. 

Coming into the marina area of Mazatlan is quite a feat.  It has a very small entrance with large swells building up just outside the break walls and it’s very shallow, so there’s always a dredger machine in the harbor.  We had heard on the radio that the dredger was working in the harbor, but that you could still cross, so we figured we’d be fine. We didn’t realize what a sketchy operation this was going to be.  As we motored past the break water, a large swell picked us up and pushed us too close to the rocks for my liking, but Dave had the wheel and said we were fine.  Then we saw the dredger, and while we knew it was going to be a tight fit, we thought we had plenty of room.  We did, but what we didn’t realize, was that after the actually dredging machine was a long stretch of pipeline extending about 3/4s of the way into the harbor.  At this point, there was no turning around – literally – there was no way to turn the boat around, so we had to keep going and try to maneuver Camanoe through the tiniest space with metal pipeline to our left and sharp rocks to the right.  We cleared the pipeline with about a foot on the left and cleared the rocks by about a foot on the right.  Dave said he needed to change his shorts after we squeezed by.  I would have taken pictures of the scene, but I was too scared to leave the cockpit in case Dave needed me to fend us off the rocks. Not sure what I would have done, but I knew I couldn’t leave to get my camera.  So here are some photos of the dredger and the harbor at a different time. They’re not dredging here, but it gives you an idea of what it all looked like:

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The dredger machine.

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The harbor thoroughfare – dredger on the left was in the middle of the harbor when we came in. So imagine it much closer to those rocks on the right.

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Dredging pipes that we had to squeeeeeeze by.

We enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with Navigo and some of their cruising friends from the Blue Water Cruising Group at the restaurant at the El Cid resort.  We also spent Christmas Day having an all you can eat/drink buffet at the same restaurant where you could get anything from eggs and bacon to sushi until 2pm.  I think it was about $15/person USD.  Friends and fellow Ha-Ha-ers, Russ and Doreen from s/v August Moon joined us.

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Christmas Eve at El Cid Resort (L) with Bob and Camelia on Navigo (center) and our yummy reindeer cheese cake for dessert (R).

After the Christmas morning/afternoon brunch buffet, we went exploring via dinghy with Navigo to check out the outer areas of the harbor.  There were large, sprawling homes along the marina as well as dozens of birds flying about and a small island that was covered with iguanas.  Surprisingly, the fish in the marina kept jumping out of the water – we kept thinking that one was going to land right in the dinghy!  Of course, every time I tried to take a picture or a video of the fish jumping, they’d stop. 

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Pretty birds (L), lounging iguanas (center) and the sprawling estates (R) of the Mazatlan marina area.  Nice, sunny Christmas morning.

I spent the day after Christmas with Camelia and Doreen shopping in the gold zone (Zona Dorado).  We found some after-Christmas sales, and with Doreen’s bartering skills, we felt like we got some pretty good deals.  It was a nice day to wander around and I felt like my old self, shopping and having girlfriend time like I used to back in San Francisco.

Although we’re living on a small budget while cruising, it was nice to be docked in a marina for a few days.  We ran into many boats that we either met on the Ha-Ha or have heard talking on the radio.  Everyone on our dock was super friendly, and very helpful.  We actually docked right across from Joe on s/v Yancy who was Dave’s neighbor when he had the boat in Ventura, CA.  Joe helped us out quite a bit by offering to drive us and Bob from Navigo around to fill up our propane tanks and then stock up at WalMart and Sam’s Club.  Joe also let us borrow his empty diesel jerry cans so Dave would only have to make one trip to the gas station to fill up our tanks (instead of taking our two jerry cans, filling them, lugging them back, emptying them into the tanks and then taking the two cans back to the gas station to do it all over again). 

The residents of Dock 4 (where we were docked) held a cruiser’s potluck the day before New Year’s Eve with turkey and all the fixin’s.  It was a great time and a great way to end our stay at Marina Mazatlan before we headed out to anchor.

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Dock 4 potluck – the cake says Dock 4, not Dock U. 🙂

On December 31st, with the boat re-stocked with food, the anchor chain cleaned and put back and even a new coating of wax on the deck of the boat (that was my job), we were ready to untie the docklines and head back to life on the hook. 

Happy 2012!

The Capt’ and I decided to anchor out at Mazatlan’s Isla Venados (Deer Island) for New Years Eve.  We didn’t buy tickets to any of the big parties in town that the other cruisers were going to and we didn’t like the idea of roaming around Mazatlan when we’re still not completely comfortable with the city layout or have any idea of spots that would be good to celebrate the new year.  Plus, we were ready to leave the marina we were in and get back to a cheaper lifestyle of anchoring.

Isla Venados is quite small and is frequented mostly by tourists to Mazatlan that want to take a day trip over to the island for sunbathing.  There’s a nice beach, but other than that, there’s nothing there.  We went ashore and enjoyed the sunshine while throwing around a frisbee. Then we headed back to Camanoe for a yummy dinner of arranchera tacos (marinated steak) and watched some movies. 

Since cruisers’ midnight is usually around 9pm, staying up till midnight was a little difficult for us!

Come nightfall we could hear fireworks being set off here and there.  Practice ones we think.  About 10 minutes before midnight, the fireworks started going off more often.  We climbed up on deck and enjoyed the warm evening and had our own private countdown to the new year.  We must have timed it correctly, because as soon as we hit zero, the sky lit up with the official fireworks show from down in the tourist district of Zona Dorado.  It was a really wonderful evening.  In fact, we realized this was the first time Dave and I have spent the official New Years stroke of midnight together (both prior new years Dave has been away at work or on his way home from work and we’ve missed the official switchover from one year to the next).  We couldn’t have asked for a better place to celebrate our first official new years together.

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Feliz Anos Nuevo!

Crossing Sea of Cortez

Leading up to our “big crossing” from Baja to mainland Mexico was probably more nerve-wracking for me than the actual crossing.  This would be my first time doing an overnight crossing without crew.  Being just Dave and me I was worried that we wouldn’t sleep enough and we’d be tired and cranky, and most worrisome, that I’d be so overcome with seasickness that I wouldn’t be able to pull my weight leaving Dave to do a two day crossing on his own.  But it all went fairly smooth. 

We headed south from the islands and hit up Muertos again for a night.  We ate at the 1535 Restaurant (golf club restaurant that I couldn’t remember the name of before) to enjoy some fresh, non-canned food and did a few loads of laundry.  Just as we were calling it a day and putting the dinghy away for the next mornings’ sail, lo and behold, our friends from s/v Way She Goes came sailing into the anchorage!  We hadn’t seen them since San Diego.  It was worth waiting on hoisting the dinghy on deck to go over to their boat for a catch up and some fresh ceviche that Sheila had just made up.  We had a great time recalling our adventures over the last couple of months and we gave them some tips about exploring the islands as they were heading north.  We did try to convince them to just head south to Mazatlan with us and rejoin the Navigo, Camanoe, Way She Goes trifecta, but they had other plans that they wanted to stick to.    So south we went and north they went. 

From Muertos to Los Frailes the next day we caught our very first Mahi Mahi fish.  It made an absolute mess!  We still can’t get the blood out of our hatch cover.  Now we know; when we start reeling in a fish, I need to remove all the white covers on the back of the deck.  LOL.  It was oh so yummy having fresh, white flesh fish after all those dark red meat bonitos.

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Not the biggest dorado, but enough for us!

At 160 nautical miles across, Los Frailes is the shortest point from southern Baja to the mainland/Mazatlan.  We sailed out of the anchorage about 8am on December 20th with the wind in just the right position to set us in the direction of Mazatlan.  Dave took the first shift from 7am to 1pm and I took the next shift from 1pm to 7pm.  We were able to sail through most of the day, sticking around 4 or 5 knots, but towards the end of my shift, the winds died to nothing.  We attempted the spinnaker but that didn’t help any, so we gave in and started up the motor.  We motored through the night.  The drone kept me up during the time I was supposed to be sleeping and Dave didn’t get much sleep either with all the creaking from down below.  From up on deck I could see Dave getting up, turning on lights, banging on things and arranging things to keep the creaking and squeaking throughout the cabin down, laying back down and then a few minutes later getting up to do it all again.

Besides the insistent noise from the engine, my solo night watch wasn’t too bad.  I started to get pretty sleepy halfway through as I had been up for almost 24 hours, but my method of staying awake is the same on the boat as it was back home if I had a long car drive.  Just have a Stephanie Concert.  I turn on music I like to sing along to and just sing my little heart out.  The engine noise actually helped in this regard because Dave couldn’t hear me up on deck through the drone.

This was also the first time during all of our travels that I’d stayed up through the night and watched the sun rise from beginning to end.  It’s a humbling experience to be sitting in darkness and then all of a sudden have a glow of light in the distance.  The more it grew, the more beautiful the sky became. Just sky and clouds as far as I could see.

As we had predicted, by the time it was Dave’s watch again, the morning winds had picked up enough that we could bring out the headsail and turn off the engine.  AHHHH…PEACE AND QUIET FINALLY!  It didn’t take more than a minute for me to fall fast asleep after my long watch.

When I woke up around noon, we were still sailing along nicely, sometimes hitting 7 or 8 knots, and we could just make out land in the distance.  With about 30 miles left, we knew we were going to hit Mazatlan by dusk and hopefully get into the old harbor anchorage before it was too dark.

The Mazatlan skyline welcomed us about 5pm, just as the sun was setting and making the buildings on shore sparkle.

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Land Ho!  Mazatlan and a pretty sunset. (Click on photo for a larger view)

In all, we did the 160 NMs in about 30 hours.  Camanoe sailed with what she had and Dave and I were pretty proud of ourselves for a seamless crossing.  Oh, and no seasickness on my part. 🙂