Wednesday, April 20, 2016


April 9, 2016

We were planning to leave on Sunday, so Saturday was supposed to be provisioning day.  Don was
Wholesale Produce Market in La Cruz
busy with fueling the boat and checking out with the port captain, so asked that Kathy and I take care of the provisioning.  Kathy had gone up the coast to a timeshare for a few days and wasn’t due back until mid-afternoon.  I wanted to go to the produce market, but was afraid they might close early on Saturday.  I walked over there after breakfast and bought three big bags of produce for 226 pesos (<$14.)  I stopped at Jen and Greg’s on the way back to say goodbye.  Leaving La Cruz was always hard and I hated to just disappear, but tracking down everyone to say goodbye was difficult and I always left feeling I had missed someone important.

After dropping the veggies at the boat, I returned home to wait for Kathy.  I practiced the guitar and made some lunch.  About 15:00, Don called to tell me that he had decided to wait until Monday to leave, so we could provision on Sunday.  He and Kathy had run into their friends, Jake and Jackie on Hokule'a, who were just returning from a five year circumnavigation.  He and Jake had decided to buddy boat as far as La Paz.  We all agreed to meet later for dinner.

Octopus' Garden Restaurant
We got to the Octopus’ Garden about 18:30 and were the first ones there.  We had happy hour margaritas and then fajitas all around.  After an hour or so, a band started playing Mexican guitar music, which we all appreciated since classic rock is the normal fare in La Cruz.  The guitarists played a set and then an older Mexican lady sang karaoke for another set.  She was very animated and we enjoyed her performance. 
The Tropical Drink Cart

On our way back to the marina, we ran across the tropical drink cart which was open for business on the plaza.  Jake and Don got margaritas, but I just had to try a strawberry colada.  It was after 21:00 by the time I got back from dinner.

April 10, 2016

Since I had been given another day in La Cruz, I got up early and went for a run.  The Sunday market was setting up and I had to dodge the vendors preparing their stalls as I ran my two laps around the marina.  I ran into my friend, Blair, and we talked for a few minutes.  Then I had time to shower, dress, and eat breakfast before heading to the plaza to meet Kathy at 10:00 to go to Walmart.  I hated to shop at Walmart, but it was the only place to get the roach spray Don wanted.  We were starting to have trouble with roaches on the boat.
Another Fabulous Dawn in La Cruz

Kathy and I took a collectivo to Mezcales and then realized that it was going to Valle instead of Puerto Vallarta, so got off and switched to one heading in the right direction.  The authorities had strung a fence along the center divider of the highway to keep people from running across the road as we had in years past.  We had to get off the bus at the traffic light before Walmart and cross there, which was much safer, although a longer walk.

We were out of almost everything, so it took us some time to do our provisioning.  We had to run all over the store to track down roach spray and insect repellent.  The coffee filters were displayed with the coffee makers instead of the coffee, so that required another trip clear across the store.  We spent 2,700 pesos and then another 160 for a taxi ride back to the marina.  It was 13:30 by the time we got back to the boat.

None of the others had ever been to Sayulita and they wanted to go.  As getting there by bus without backtracking to Bucerias is slightly tricky, I offered to act as a guide.  Jake, Jackie, Don, Kathy, and I set off for Sayulita at 14:30.  We took a collectivo to where the road meets the highway and then got off and walked along a path between the onramp and the police station to the pedestrian overcrossing that took us to where the bus to Sayulita stops under the overpass.

Orange Cones as Light Fixtures
Sayulita Architecture
Church in Sayulita 
Kathy Observing Beer Cap Mosaic
 The bus ride to Sayulita took about half an hour.  The road wound through deciduous forest just beginning to leaf.  It was still pretty brown.  Eventually, the bus turned off the main highway onto the road to Sayulita and finally deposited us at the bus depot on the edge of town.  We walked towards the beach, stopping to look at shops and interesting architecture along the way.  Jake, Don and I got ice cream.  We passed a restaurant selling carnitas and vowed to return later.

Beach at Sayulita
Jake & Jackie in Sayulita
Beachfront Shops in Sayulita

Eventually, we worked our way to the beach and, after making another circuit of the downtown area, stopped in a beachfront restaurant for margaritas.  Then we went in search of the carnitas restaurant, but couldn’t find it.  After retracing our steps a couple of times, we finally located the building but they had closed up and pulled all their tables indoors.  I was very disappointed.  We had to settle for organic Italian food at Ina, which was good and did have the advantage of coming with Italian wine from Montepulciano.

Ina Restaurant

Buses back from Sayulita ran until 22:00, so we had no trouble getting home after dinner.  We got back to the marina just as the sun was setting.  I went back to my place to finish packing and prepare myself to depart the next day.

April 11, 2016

I woke up at 6:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep.  By 9:00, I was dressed and breakfasted and ready to start carrying my belongings to Comet.  I made one trip with my big duffel bag on my head, a second one for my day pack and guitar, and one last trek with what remained of my groceries.  We filled up the water tanks, stowed the dinghy, said goodbye to our friend on the dock, and pulled out before 11:00.
La Cruz in the Rear View Mirror

It was a short trip to Punta de Mita.  We were there by 12:15.  We dropped anchor near Jake and Jackie and spent the afternoon napping and lounging on the boat.  Late in the afternoon, Jake and Jackie came over for happy hour.  We visited until it started to get dark and then went our separate ways to make dinner.  Don grilled some excellent salmon and I made mango jicama salad and steamed broccoli.  We were all asleep before 22:00.
Sunset at Punta de Mita

April 12, 2016

The wind was predicted to grow strong by the late afternoon, so we wanted to get to Matanchen Bay as early as possible.  I got up at 6:00 and made coffee.  The others got up by 6:30 and we pulled up the hook and were underway by 7:00.  It was still quite dark when we left, but dawn was breaking as we rounded Punta de Mita.  Jake and Jackie on Hokule’a were right behind us.

Hokule'a against the Mist
We motored north all day.  The weather was overcast and relatively cool.  The mountains on shore were shrouded in mist and visibility was poor.  After being in sunny, colorful La Cruz, it seemed like the world was suddenly in black and white.  Even though I was looking forward to cruising in the Sea of Cortez, it still felt like we were heading home.  The forecast was for increasing wind, but the wind dropped from thirteen knots in the morning to seven knots by the afternoon.  The seas were flat and we made good time.  We dropped anchor in Matanchen Bay by 14:45.

Matanchen Bay

I made some guacamole and we had a celebratory beer.  Then we spent the rest of the day trying not to fall asleep.  Insects drove us inside by early evening.  There was a pretty sunset, but we couldn’t go outside to enjoy it for fear of being eaten alive by jejenes.  We hunkered down behind our screens.  When dinner time came, I made smoked pork chops and sweet potato home fries with salad.  By 21:30, I could no longer keep my eyes open and I gave in to sleep.
Sunset in Matachen Bay

April 13, 2016

Having fallen asleep so early the night before, I was awake quite early.  By 7:30, I just couldn’t lie in bed any longer.  I got up and tentatively poked my head outside.  The bugs weren’t too bad, so I dived in and swam seven laps around the boat.  The water was very calm and the mountains looked very odd from such a low angle.  I wished I could have taken a picture from that perspective. Gnat catchers were swooping all around me very close to the water.  We were all very fond of the cute little black and white birds that perched all around the boat, chirping sweetly, and devouring the evil insects.

The sea was quite warm, but the fresh water shower was bracing.  Still, it was nice to wash off all the sweat, sunscreen, and insect repellent.  By the time I had swum and showered, I felt awake and refreshed.  Kathy was awake when I came back below and I made coffee and lounged until Don got up around 9:00.  Jake came by while Don was drinking coffee and they reviewed the weather forecast, which had not changed.  We would be staying in Matanchen Bay another night before making the crossing to Muertos, saving a day by bypassing Los Frailes.

With a day to kill, we decided to explore San Blas.  We took the dinghies to a restaurant where Don
Barro's Restaurant
knew Barro, the owner, and left them for him to watch while we took a taxi to the Contaduria, the restored ruins of the old customs house on top of a hill above town.  It was a pretty spot with a great view of the surrounding area.  There were a ruined church and buildings surrounded by cannons where the Spanish once guarded their valuables.  During the 17th century, San Blas was the only shipyard on the west coast.  Father Junipero Serra departed from there to found the missions in California.
La Contaduria
Don in the Ruined Church

Church Interior
Church Exterior

Customs House at La Contaduria in San Blas
After visiting the ruins and attractively landscaped grounds, we walked a mile or so down the hill and into San Blas proper.  It was bigger than I had realized when I walked there from the marina two and a half years before. 
The Entrance to San Blas

We ate lunch at a very nice Mexican restaurant called Mc Donald’s.  The margaritas, pina coladas, and chile rellenos were excellent.  The Caesar salad was drowned in dressing and had never seen a speck of Parmesan cheese.  It was topped with very nice grilled chicken, however, and they did bring me the bottle of Costco dressing, just in case I could still see the lettuce.
Mc Donald's in San Blas

Old and New Churches on San Blas Plaza
After lunch, we walked around the main plaza and checked out the old church featured in Longfellow’s poem, The Bells of San Blas.  The church had been replaced with a newer one, which was quite attractive on the inside, despite being barricaded with ugly steel security doors.  We especially enjoyed wandering through the beautiful old Hacienda Flamingos, a great old hotel surrounding a lush courtyard.  It would be the place to stay if one were visiting San Blas without a boat.
Patio in Hacienda Flamingos

We took a taxi back to Barro’s place and then Jake, Jackie, Kathy, and I drank beer and munched on fried plantains with condensed milk and shrimp cocktail while Don took a couple of jerry cans back into town for more diesel.  Barro was burning buckets of coconut hulls to keep down the mosquitoes and we bathed in several kinds of insect repellent and zipped the legs back on our pants, but nothing deterred the jejenes.  My wrists and ankles got badly bitten.

Back at the boat, we were too full to want dinner and couldn’t sit outside.  We read and napped through the dinner hour and then I got up to write, knowing that it might be difficult during the crossing.

April 14, 2016

We pulled out of Matanchen Bay at 6:15, very glad to be leaving the jejenes behind.  Off, Cutters, and Fly Off didn’t deter them at all.  The only one of us who wasn’t bitten to death was Don, who had been using a repellent called Repel that he got at Big 5.  I would be stocking up when I went home.

Piedra Blanca de Tierra off San Blas
There wasn’t much wind and what there was was on the nose, so we didn’t even bother to put up the mainsail, but just motored straight for Muertos on the Baja peninsula.  Seas were calm and we were making nearly seven knots.  We followed Hokule’a who soon pulled ahead.  We decided not to follow a watch schedule during the day, since we would mostly be up, anyway.  This was not my normal practice, as I like to be able to lounge on my off hours without guilt, but it worked okay on the first day.  We took turns napping and sitting in the cockpit reading or staring at the water.  It was cool and overcast and didn’t feel at all like we were headed for a desert.
Don and Kathy Relaxing on the Crossing

As the cook, I drew the 17:00 to 20:00 watch.  I made hot wings with broccoli, roasted potatoes, and salad.  We ate dinner in the cockpit and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.  My watch ended just after sunset and I drank a beer and went to bed, hoping the alcohol would help me go to sleep at that early hour.  I woke several times, but mostly managed to sleep until my next watch began at 2:00.

April 15, 2016

I had the 2:00 to 5:00 watch, which passed uneventfully.  The moon set and then it was very dark. I could see a glow in the distance that must have been Mazatlan.   Hokule’a was eleven miles ahead of us by this point and we could no longer see them.  We were very much alone.  Winds stayed light and on the nose, but the seas had built a bit, slowing us to around 5.5 knots.  Kathy relieved me at 5:00 and I went back to bed and slept quite soundly until 9:00.

Don was at the helm when I arose.  It was still very cool and humid and everything felt damp.  Kathy and I were itching from jejene bites.  She was cold and miserable and stayed in bed all day.  I spent the entire day in the cockpit with my jacket on, feeling for all the world like I was returning to reality against my will.  Eventually, the wind picked up and went southwest.  By 15:00, we were able to sail.  It was nice to shut off the noisy motor.
Sailing at Last

I made steak fajitas with guacamole for dinner.  Seas were rough and I was staggering all over the galley, trying to secure flying objects.  When the dish rack came unmoored, I finally had to ask Don to stand the boat up a bit.  We were doing six to seven knots.  After dinner, we reefed the main, but still maintained our speed.  Once again, my watch ended with a spectacular sunset.

Sunset on the Second Night of Our Crossing

Despite having consumed a beer before bedding down, I was unable to sleep a wink.  We were tossed to and fro and the sails made quite a racket, especially when Don reefed the jib.  Still, we kept plowing right along.  At one point during Don’s watch, we hit eight knots.

April 16, 2106

It was a relief to get up at 2:00 and stop my futile effort to sleep.  We were still sailing, although the wind was dying and we were down to just over five knots.  The moon was bright.  By 3:00, the wind had nearly died completely, so I rolled up the jib, hauled in the main, and started the engine.  Seas were very flat and we made close to seven knots.

Kathy couldn’t sleep, either, so she joined me on deck about 3:30.  The moon set, but a planet that I assumed was Jupiter shone so brightly that it reflected on the water like moonlight.  When the moon set, we could tell there was land in the distance and soon we saw a glow that must have been Cabo San Lucas behind us.  Soon, we spotted the Punta Arena light.  I was happy to crawl into my bunk at 5:00.  The calm seas and drone of the engine lulled me to sleep almost immediately.

Pulling into Muertos
Much too soon, I was awakened with the news that we were only a mile offshore.  I came on deck and was greeted by the sight of barren hills surrounding Ensenada de los Muertos.  The sun was shining and, though the breeze was cool, it was dry.  My spirits lifted immediately.  Hokule’a was the only boat in the bay.  We anchored near shore in twenty feet of water.  The water was so clear we could see the bottom in detail.  Eager to catch up on sleep, Kathy and I replaced the sail cover and bimini extension and helped Don launch the dinghy.  We hit the hay by 9:00.

I got up at 13:00 and took a swim and a shower.  The water was much colder than it had been in Matanchen Bay, but wasn’t bad once I got used to it.  I managed to swim eight laps around the boat without freezing.  It felt heavenly to finally wash my hair.  Don had already been to shore and had breakfast and a bloody Mary, which dashed my visions of making a bacon, spinach, and cheese omelet.  I learned that we had plans to go ashore for drinks and dinner with Jake and Jackie at 16:30, so made do with a snack of pear and cheese.  Then I settled down to write until it was time to go.

We went ashore to the Los Suenos Beach Club restaurant which had a nice open air dining room overlooking the bay.  Muertos, which means, “the dead,” was named after the deadman anchors made from old train axels that were in use when the area was first inhabited.  Modern developers shy away from this name and are in the process of renaming the place, “Bahia de los Suenos,” or ,”Bay of Dreams.”  The restaurant was large and modern and the food was good except that the chicken kebobs were undercooked.  Food prices were reasonable, but the drinks were expensive.  Still, we sat there, celebrating Jake and Jackie’s completed circumnavigation, until dusk.  It was good to be back on shore after our crossing.

Ensenada de los Muertos

Jake & Jackie Coming Ashore in Their Dinghy

Jake & Jackie Completing Their Circumnavigation
Don at Los Suenos Beach Club
Back at the boat, we struggled to stay awake, refusing to go to bed at 20:00.  Kathy and I folded first, retiring to our bunks to read, but both sound asleep by 22:00.

April 17, 2016
Leaving Muertos at Dawn
We got up at 6:00 and started pulling up the anchor at 6:30 because we wanted to be through the Cerralvo Channel before the wind came up and the tide turned against us.  An additional ten boats had joined us in Muertos before we left, but we were the only ones stirring.  Our anchor chain had wrapped around a large rock and it took some maneuvering to get it free, but we managed and steamed out of the bay only a few minutes behind schedule. 

We motored out of the bay and then made a left and followed the coast around Punta Arena de la Ventana and through the channel between Baja and Isla Cerralvo.  Guidebooks warned of possible strong currents and winds in the channel, but we had timed our passage well.  It was calm enough during our transit that I went below and made bacon, spinach, and cream cheese omelets for Don and myself.  Kathy was so sound asleep that even the smell of bacon didn’t rouse her.
Hokule'a in the Cerralvo Channel

Approaching Punta Coyote

The territory was barren, but the rock formations were interesting.  Hokule’a (happy star in Hawaiian) saw whales.  We saw a pod of large dolphins and a couple of sea lions.  The sea was dotted with patches of yellow green weed.  Conditions were excellent and we seldom dropped below six knots.  Even the wind was far enough off the nose to be helpful.  We continued along the coast, past Punta Gorda and eventually around Punta Coyote and through the San Lorenzo Channel between Baja and Isla Expiritu Santo.  The island was banded with multicolored stone and we could see large cactus.  The seas were somewhat boisterous towards the end of the passage and the wind was chilly.  Kathy and I were dressed in long pants and light jackets despite the very tropical looking turquoise water in the shallows.

El Merito Anchorage
Once through the channel, we turned around the point and passed the anchorages of Balandra and El Merito, crowded with cruisers and fancy power boats full of Mexicans out for the day from La Paz.  We could see the light on Roca Lobos in the distance.  We had made such good time that we arrived at our intended anchorage of Caleta Lobos before 14:00.  It was a beautiful cove tucked behind Isla Lobos with crystal clear turquoise waters on three sides.    We had intended to stop there but were concerned there would be no internet because Kathy needed to get online to make a plane reservation.  However, Don got a signal just as we rounded the corner, so we were able to stop instead of pushing on to La Paz.  None of us were ready for the hustle bustle of a big city marina when we could spend one more night in such a spectacular setting.
Roca Lobos & Isla Espiritu Santo

The anchorage was already crowded with sailboats on the shore side.  We elected to anchor on the island side between two large power boats that we correctly predicted would leave before nightfall.  We anchored in 20 feet of swimming pool blue water that tempted me to swim even though the wind was chill and the water temperature nippy.  We hung out for a few hours and then got in the dinghy and headed over to Hokule’a for happy hour.  On the way, I realized that the handsome blue hulled boat that Don was admiring was none other than Wings, a Petersen 43 belonging to my friends Fred and Judy from La Cruz. 

On Hokule’a, I got the tour of their lovely Liberty 46 and then we sat sipping limoncello and eating crackers with cream cheese and salsa.  Just before dusk, we looked up to see a fleet of charter boats approaching the anchorage.  We felt like we were being besieged by catamarans.  Somehow, six more boats shoehorned their way into the already crowded anchorage.  Fortunately, none of them anchored on the island side, where we were blissfully alone.
Caleta Lobos

We were sitting there, watching the spectacle of the new arrival’s anchoring attempts, when we realized that all the boats were crowded with women.  It was none other than Holly Scott’s Women Who Sail flotilla that Kathy had originally hoped to meet in La Paz.  We got in the dinghy and went from boat to boat, looking for her friend, Heidi.  We never did find her, but we had fun chatting with women from all over the USA who were clearly thrilled to be sailing in Mexico.  They were a very different group from the jaded cruisers who frequented the Women Who Sail gatherings in La Cruz.
Wings in Caleta Lobos

It was dark when we returned to Comet.  I made chicken in green mole over rice with onions and peppers and a side dish of sautéed spinach.  We stayed up late enjoying the starry night and listening to music by Pink Martini.

April 18, 2016

It was only a couple of hours to La Paz from Caleta Lobos, so spent a leisurely morning at anchor, watching the boats depart, one by one, until only Wings and Comet remained in the anchorage.  By 11:00, we waved goodbye and departed, ourselves.

Morning in Caleta Lobos
Once out of Caleta Lobos, we skirted around Pichilingue and then picked up the La Paz Channel near Marina Costa Baja.  The channel was well marked by numerous large, lighted buoys.  This was welcome because the water was shallow and the channel circuitous.  We passed the development at Costa Baja and some new waterfront homes and then continued along past a defunct water park to Marina Palmira. 

Boats that had fallen off their stands during Hurricane Odile in 2014 were still lying where they had fallen, which was a dispiriting sight.  Still, the day was warm, winds mild, and water swimming pool blue, so we didn’t stay sad for long.  Soon we were parallelling the malecon, passing the ferry dock, and threading our way between the boats anchored near the shore and the larger contingent anchored out by El Mogote, a huge sand spit that wraps around the bay and protects La Paz Harbor.

Boats Anchored Near El Mogote
We arrived at Marina La Paz about 13:00.  We put the boat away and checked in and then Kathy and I took showers while Don hosed down the boat.  Don and I had our traditional beer to celebrate arrival at a new destination.  We relaxed a bit and then Don went to the bank while Kathy packed, since she was leaving the following day.  We had agreed to reconvene near the office when Don got back and go for an early dinner.  Don texted me about 17:00 and we prepared to leave the boat.  As Kathy was stepping onto the dock, her camera, which was looped around her wrist, somehow slipped off her hand and plunged straight into the water between two fenders, disappearing immediately.
Hokule'a in Marina La Paz

Kathy was beside herself, not because she had lost the camera, but because it had contained all her pictures from her transit of the Panama Canal.  She approached two young men working on a boat and asked if they knew a diver who could come right away.  They offered to dive for the camera and tried to do so, but were unable to reach the bottom as the water was about twenty feet deep.  They tried for a while but then we had to leave because Don, Jake, and Jackie were waiting for us up at the office.

We walked up the hill to a restaurant called something like Viejo Rancho featuring roasted meats.  The restaurant must be a favorite with cruisers, because the friends I had visited in La Paz in 2007 took me to the same place.  We sat outside, enjoying the lack of humidity, drinking margaritas, and eating tacos, enfrijoladas, and the most massive chile rellenos I had ever seen, which came in sets of two.  Kathy was still disturbed by the loss of her camera, but we had an otherwise pleasant dinner.  After eating, we took a walk a mile and a half down the malecon, burning off some of that food and enjoying the beautiful scene and weather.  Don, Jake, and I couldn’t resist stopping for ice cream.  Traffic police stopped the cars so we could cross the busy road by shining a strobe light at the crosswalk.  We returned to the boats feeling that our evening had been quite satisfying.

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