Back to Mexico

Hwy 58 out of Eugene

It was only fitting that we left Portland for the sunny south on a day of socked in pouring rain. Visibility on I-5 was bad to horrible and the discussion in the car was whether we stayed on I-5 because we know it’s pretty straight and therefore predictable in poor visibility or head off at Eugene on Hwy 58 toward Hwy 395. We opted for 395 and the weather began to clear. Hwy 58 is picturesque. Highway 395 was the correct choice. Ending up in Reno for the night, the option was a casino/resort hotel or a random find.

This was our random find in Reno. How could we resist, even though they did not give us a Kramer discount.
Bill in front of the motel sign with his coffee and donuts from the shop across the street.

Heading south the next day, we cut through the Sierras and discovered that summit gas prices were just over $6.00 per gallon. Ended up in Victorville, CA, on historic Route 66 at another funky little motel and before hitting the road for Tuscon. We took the Twentynine Palms Highway on the north side of Joshua Tree. The stay for the night was in Green Valley, just down the road from the Titan Missile Museum, which we didn’t see. We had to circle back to the motel an hour after leaving to retrieve Bill’s phone from where he’d left it in the loo. Made it over the border without any other problems, except that we overshot the place we needed to stop to get our tourist visas. It looked like a roadside stop selling Mexican insurance, which we already had. Solved that and headed toward San Carlos, in Sonora.

Mexican highways are interesting. The speed limit will change for no apparent reason. The road is straight, no change in elevation and the speed will drop from 110 kmh (about 65mph) down to 90 or 100 kmh. There weren’t really distance signs to upcoming towns on Hwy 15, but every couple of hundred meters there were a variety of other signs. They translated roughly to exhortations to don’t drive tired, seat belts save lives, don’t throw trash. We followed all the directives and arrived safely without any conversations with law enforcement, who were having a busy day conversing with other folks they’d pulled over. Our favorite sign just had a sillouette of a rabbit. 50 meters later there was a second rabbit sign. We never did see any rabbits.

We decided that rather that try to live on the boat in the work yard in the marina seca, we’d try an Airbnb. Bill found what looked like a nice studio apartment with a reasonable price. The view was incredible, the beds were not. We finally bailed a couple days early and slept on the boat in the yard anyway.

Osprey on a neighboring mast.

Thanksgiving, el Día de Acción de Gracias, was feliz, with shrimp and lobster we bought from a guy parked in front of the supermarket. It was a lovely meal while the wind whistled away through the marina.

One of our projects was putting our whisker pole back together with a new rope. We discovered that the line was six inches too short. Reminder to selves: install and then cut to length. Bill jury rigged a new line in place and fastened it with a zeppelin bend. The rope ends were later whipped.

We finished our projects in the slip. We got sails on and went out for day sail to see if we got the watermaker working okay so we could make some drinking water. The weather didn’t cooperate. It poured. The wind, when it blew, kept changing direction. Seas were big enough that we realized our sea legs were a bit wobbly. The watermaker worked beautifully until we put it in flush mode. It created a bit of a flood, but it was thankfully, easily solved and mopped up. We were now ready to head south.

San Carlos

A sign on the road on the hunt for the Catch-22 movie set. We didn’t see any donkeys, alive or upside down.

Bahía Algodones. The movie Catch-22 was filmed in the area. We watched the movie and set out the next day on foot to a vaguely noted location. We didn’t find it. Not surprising since the sources we found that mention it were not very specific as to location. One of them mentioned that the novel was by Kurt Vonnegut (really! Joseph Heller is the author) so we discounted that site’s accuracy. We ended up with a nice walk down the road to La Manga, a fishing village down the road, and back along the beach. There was an abandoned hotel on the way.

The anchorage started to get rolly and the bay started to fill with jetskis so we headed toward Marina San Carlos. We dropped anchor in the small bay outside of Marina San Carlos on the edge of the mooring field. Bill wasn’t comfortable with the anchorage, so we headed into the marina for a slip. We figured that a couple of weeks should give us plenty of time to get the boat prepped for haulout.

The official name of San Carlos is San Carlos Nuevo Guaymas. Up the road from Guaymas, it’s a town spread along the highway, built for gringos from the US and Canada. The marina is busy. There are at least thirty day charters that come and go multiple times a day (three hour tours, anyone?). The comings and goings were fun to watch, and the onboard karaoke was definitely worse on the way back in. But we were there to get Gypsy ready for the marina seca, the dry yard. The storage yard is down the highway maybe a kilometer from the marina and we walked down to take a look at it. There’s a work yard where you can work on your boat, and a huge secure dry yard behind that. Boats get hauled by a tractor down the road and it looked like a good place to store Gypsy while we were north for the summer.

As a gringo town, San Carlos is very car centered. The highway cuts through it and most of the stores are stretched along the highway. There are sidewalks, but it’s a long, hot walk to the supermercado, bank, or farmacia. There is a local bus, but we haven’t been riding buses this year due to Covid.

Gypsy flying her signal flags to welcome the Cuauhtemoc.

One of the highlights of our stay in San Carlos was the arrival of the Mexican navy tall ship the Cuauhtemoc. The Mexican navy is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year and the tall ship Cuauhtemoc was making stops in the Sea of Cortez. It came to San Carlos just after we arrived and we joined the local flotilla to welcome them. It was a beautiful day, about 50 boats milled about while she set sails and got underway. She’s a three masted square rigger, 295 feet long and 39.4 feet wide, with a crew of maybe 200.

Prep time got underway. San Carlos is hot, so the new shade came in handy. We covered the window foil on the big windows for a fancier look, and tried to cool Gypsy down. Most boats on the dock have air conditioners running constantly. The heat is not too bad when there is a wind blowing, but when it’s still, it’s a very buggy place. We started cleaning and washing lines. The box of aluminum foil came out and we wrapped anything with plastic parts or bearings to keep the grit out and the sun from frying it. We got everything done, found a hotel for a couple of days so that we wouldn’t have to camp out in a boat chockablock with gear. Air conditioning, nice showers. All set to haul out, we got a message that the hydraulic lift was broken and we wouldn’t be able to haul on Wednesday. We’d planned a couple of days on the hard to finish up a few jobs better done out of the water. Friday we’d take a bus to Tucson and fly out the following afternoon. Nope. The yard didn’t have a definite date that parts would arrive, they’d contact us (which meant we needed to contact them). First word was we’d be able to haul on Friday. No, parts had to come from the States, so probably the following Weds. Hotel rooms were all booked for the weekend, so we moved back aboard. We have enough space to sleep. We still had some food that we were going to give away, but it was pretty bare bones – a lot of tuna quesadillas. Dinners out. We did discover a restaurant nearby that has live bossa nova on Wednesday and Thursday nights, decent affordable Mediterranean style food. Meanwhile, we’re in limbo, in hurry up and wait mode, in a country that has perfected the art of mañana.

Twelve days after the bad news, we get hauled out. We are the first boat of five, which means there are going to be a lot of boats going down the highway. Sailboats get hauled with a hydraulic lift pulled by a tractor. The whole thing goes down the road a couple of kilometers to the marina seca, or the dry yard. We got parked in the work yard, so that we could have access to the boat to finish up a couple of projects. We got them done that afternoon, spent one last night on Gypsy, and got a ride from friends the next morning into Guaymas to catch the bus to Tucson. Nine hours, 4 dubbed movies, two stops with dog sniffers going through the bus, one military checkpoint, and the US border itself, we finally arrived at the Tufesa bus station in Tucson. The next day we boarded a very full plane for the flight to Portland, via Seattle, and made it home for the summer.

Cerro de Tetakawi, San Carlos’ iconic mountain from the ocean side of the bay.

Santa Rosalía and Bahia Concepcion

On the way to Santa Rosalía we stopped at Santo Domingo, an anchorage at the north end of Bahía Concepción. Santa Rosalía is a nice little town on Highway 1. We’d driven through it on the way down last fall but hadn’t stopped. It’s a mining town with a long section of the highway fronted by huge abandoned mine buildings. At the time, we thought there wasn’t much to stop for. It does have a marina, though. Santa Rosalía has a Fonatur marina. Fonatur was a big effort by the Mexican government in the early 1980s or thereabouts to build marinas and other tourist developments to bring in the gringo dollars. Their marinas are all built to the same plan. Puerto Escondido was originally a Fonatur marina, but it’s now privately owned and has much more of a resort look and feel. Santa Rosalía clearly hasn’t had any additional money invested in it. The docks can handle around 20 boats if they aren’t too big. The washing machines worked. The pool was primarily used by gulls. The showers were on the interesting spectrum. Because we used a lot of marina showers, we developed a loose rating scheme based on general ambiance, lighting, water flow and temperature. At Santa Rosalía, we added insect life to the list. There we saw our first cockroach in the shower (we think 5 centimeters is large). Santa Rosalía is on the ugh end of the list, but you do what you gotta do, and maybe not being able to see without glasses is not necessarily a bad thing.

In spite of the showers, we liked Santa Rosalía. The marina rates are inexpensive (perhaps one reason why the showers are interesting). The town is a short walk from the marina. Provisioning is easy. There are good restaurants. It feels like a safe, well-cared-for town. It’s a mining town rather than a tourist town. We got a big project started and finished there: shade curtains for the cabin and forepeak. We’d been hauling around a 50 foot roll of shade cloth since we drove down last fall. We used the floor by the marina pool to lay it out and cut it to size. Four days later, we did a test fit. There were a few minor adjustments, but the final version did a good job of cutting the heat in the boat. We repurposed the webbing from old jack lines and sail ties to make tiedown loops. We think they will also work well when Gypsy goes into the storage yard where it will get very hot.

The central part of town is a short walk from the marina. One day we walked by what we figured out was a miners’ meeting at the town plaza. They were hoping for a 6 percent increase in wages. We found out later that they didn’t get it. The mine, originally Belgian owned, is now owned by a Korean/Canadian concern. They are trying to get AMLO, the Mexican president, to give them more land so they can stay open. That is probably a gross over-simplification, but the end of decent jobs will have an impact on the town. The library was open and is named after Mahatma Gandhi. It has computers and a small collection of books. We talked to some of the library staff and met the director. We wandered some more and found a nice ice cream shop, a couple of good tortillerias. On our second try, we walked up to the cemetery on top of the hill south of town.

The quickest and most obvious way to get to the cemetery is to follow the path rimmed with white rocks. We’d tried walking up earlier through the neighborhood but didn’t go far enough, probably because it was getting hot and we really didn’t know quite where the road went. The cemetery is huge, and very different from American cemeteries. No lawn, for one thing. The sun, salt air and wind have all taken a toll on gravestones that aren’t that old. There doesn’t seem to be any predictable order to where graves are placed.

Next stop, back to Bahía Concepción, to see what it’s like south of Santo Domingo. We anchored at Posada Concepción for a night. Did some dinghy fishing with good results – a rooster fish that we released, and a nice sierra that we kept.

Playa El Burro was our next destination. On the way back to the dinghy, we bought a kilo of nice shrimp from a guy in the parking lot by the beach. We ran it to the fridge and headed back in for lunch at the sports bar on the beach. Berta’s had a foosball table, a pool table and one or two tables to sit at to eat, and five things on the menu. We had fish tacos. They were good.

Back at Gypsy, the decks started to get hot, so we put up our new shade, put foil covered bubblewrap in the windows and settled in to sweat it out in a slightly cooler cabin. The next day we walked down the highway to try to find a tienda and some wifi. Concepcion is beautiful but is a Telcel desert. At Berthas Pollo we bought some internet time and had some really good fish tacos, better than Berta’s on the beach.

We tried the hike that supposedly had petroglyphs. We didn’t see them but someone had marked a trail of sorts with rock cairns. We made it maybe a quarter of the way before being done in by the heat. More dinghy exploration of the little bays that make up Bahia Concepción. No luck fishing, but it’s a beautiful place.

Anchored the south side of Punta Chivato. The guide book talks about the hotel there. It’s now derelict, and the caretaker passed away last year, so we were able to just wander through it. In its prime it would have been a beautiful place to stay. One story we heard was that it was built or bought by an Italian mafioso who was using it to launder money.

Isla San Marcos is known for its gypsum mining. We stayed upwind from the mine in a nice little cove called Sweet Pea Cove. Lots of net floats in the water nearby. There’s an abandoned fish camp on shore. There are sea caves in the coves nearby. Dolphins swim by. And flies. Thankfully they aren’t the biting kind, but they are an infernal nuisance and we must have swatted dozens of them. We had bees looking for fresh water. Usually we ignore them and they go away. One climbed into the head faucet. Later Nina pumped some water to wash her hands, and out gushed eight bees.

Back to Santa Rosalía to wait for a weather window to cross to San Carlos on the mainland. The marina was full. The ongoing project on the breakwater now involves jackhammering. When we were there earlier, they were using a crane to remove old hurricane damaged pilings, a much quieter project. It was time to leave.

We left in the evening for San Carlos. It’s a 70 mile trip that will take us about 14 hours so it makes sense to arrive in daylight rather than at dark. It will be cooler than doing it in the daytime. Pangas will be harder to see, as they often fish without running lights, but there weren’t any to see. We managed to avoid a freighter by Isla Tortuga. The crossing was smooth until about 0100, just past Tortuga, when the chop kicked in with 3 foot or so waves at about 3 second intervals. It got bumpy. We dropped anchor the next morning in Bahía Algodones near San Carlos and discovered we were in a different time zone, an hour ahead, and really in need of a nap.

La Ramada and San Pulpito

Last season, the farthest north Gypsy got was San Juanico, or if you are a camper, San Basilio, which is the name of the point rather than the bay’s name. The wave and wind forecasts were sounding like we’d be in for a bouncy time if we anchored in San Juanico, so we headed around to the north side of the point and anchored in a little cove called La Ramada, where we’d be safe from anything out of the south. There were three boats anchored there. We knew one of the boats, Raven, from Rose City Yacht Club in Portland, and Interlude, whom we knew from the SSB nets but hadn’t actually met in person yet. It’s always nice to put faces to voices and we soon got to know each other. We played bocce on the beach with Interlude, Raven and a couple of campers from Stevenson, WA.

There’s a road that connects La Ramada to San Juanico, and we walked down it to the farm for fresh greens, eggs, and goat cheese. We discovered that fresh raw beets are very good with lime juice. Got some wind thru the night – low twenties. It got a little rolly, but nobody dragged. In the morning, Raven started back to Puerto Escondido to haul out, and we headed north to the south side of San Pulpito with Interlude. The scenery is gorgeous and the fishing was good! We caught a spotted sand bass on a lure that our friend Annie recommended.

Spotted Sand Bass on Annie’s lure. Tasty fish.

When it’s calm at San Pulpito, you can head out to the point to the sea cave. There’s a huge obsidian plug that you go past on the south side, that has curlicues at its edge. Different kinds of rocks, vertical, ropy, weathered into lacy patterns. When you think it can’t get any more amazing or varied, it does. We dinghied through the sea cave using our paddle. On the way back, we caught more two more sand bass. Interlude had invited us over for happy hour, but when we offered them a fish, we were invited to dinner. We brought fish to grill and brownies for dessert, and Laura made the rest of dinner. In the morning, Interlude headed to the north side of San Pulpito, we were off to Santo Domingo, at the top of Bahía Concepción. Later we heard that Interlude hit a rock and damaged their keel badly enough that they had to make a trip back to La Paz to get her hauled out and fixed.

San Pulpito. The black patch on the left is obsidian.

We realized that we needed to be thinking about haulout plans. Santo Domingo sort of had phone bars so we could call or email folks. We liked Puerto Escondido last year. It’s easy to get to by plane or car, the yard is concrete and the boatyard knows their stuff. When we phoned, we found out we’d waited too long. There were a number of boats there that never splashed, probably Canadians unable to travel due to Covid, and the yard was already full. Javier would see what he could do and we’d talk in a couple of days. Plan B, involved heading over to San Carlos, on the mainland. We contacted them. They had room. After talking with Javier again, it was looking like we’d be hauling out for the summer in San Carlos. At Santa Rosalía we would have better internet and Bill was able to work it out with the marina and yard in San Carlos.

A Brown Pelican at San Pulpito. Still one of Nina’s favorite birds.

Agua Verde to Isla Coronados

Goats in town, Agua Verde. One of our older guide books describes Agua Verde as overrun with goats. Not really true, but the cheese is very good.

Our next stop was Agua Verde with SV Jo. We anchored in the northwest part of the bay, and they settled into the central part, nearer town. We met up to eat at the restaurants in town. On our first night in, we tried one of the restaurants on the beach, Faro San Marcial, that had a couple of young men sitting at the other table. The waitress took our order and soon after, the young men took off. They came back shortly with a grocery bag that looked like it contained our dinner ingredients. They were doing the grocery run. The next day we all went for tacos on the beach at the other restaurant. The fish tacos at Brisa del Mar will now be on our list as a must do every time we’re in the area.

The welcome to Agua Verde sign. The big sign tells what’s available in town, but not necessarily where they are located. We eventually found the tiendas, tiny grocery stores, but we did have to ask for local help to locate one of them.

From where Gypsy was anchored, you can dinghy into town, or walk up the road that goes around the cove. We hiked the road into town. It was definitely not a road you could walk in flipflops and the maximum driving speed on most of it would be 5 mph, assuming you had the ground clearance to actually be able to drive it. There were some campers on the beach that actually made it down. The walk in had spectacular scenery with many of the plants in bloom. When we got into town, we hit two of the three small tiendas in hopes of goat cheese. No luck. We were told it was dry season, probably because there were baby goats.

We also walked to the small cemetery over the hill mentioned in the guidebook. It was a small family plot, located seemingly in the middle of nowhere. At a fork in the path you could wander through a palm grove that had big, curving palms on the ground.

Looking down on the cemetery. It turned out to be a a small, family cemetery that was showing signs of neglect and how harsh the climate here can be.`

The next day, we headed on to Puerto Escondido, while Jo’s destination was Candeleros to check out golfing options at the resort there.

Fishing on the way to Puerto Escondido. Nina refers to this as catch and release salad. It was the only thing she caught.

PE has changed since we left. Rates have increased. There are more large motor yachts. And there is construction on the seawall entering the harbor for a cruise ship dock. The channel and the Elipse are getting dredged. The restaurant is now run by the marina, and the prices there have gone up, too. We spent a couple of nights on a mooring ball and headed back out. Before we left, we caught up on laundry, showers, reliable internet, and with friends.

The south side of Isla Coronados was lovely and we had it to ourselves. We saw dolphins while we were out in the dinghy and were joined by a glass-bottomed tour boat that kept driving through the pod and a panga that stayed back from the pod. The other boats left, and we got some more dolphins! And bees looking for fresh water.

Punta San Telmo

Dolphins swimming by Gypsy as we left San Telmo.

When we stopped at San Telmo last year, we anchored on the south side. This time, because wind and swells were still coming from the southwest, we stayed on the north side. We’d thought about stopping at Los Gatos, another small bay with south west protection, but there was a couple of boats in there already. San Telmo is an incredible bay with lots of hiking, good kayaking or paddle boarding, and the landscape is jawdropping, like most of the Baja coast. While we don’t know much about Baja geology, the hills, cliffs and rock formations are amazing, nonetheless.

During the couple of days we stayed here we kayaked in to walk up the arroyo with Jo. The greenery starts with palm trees to the left of a hill and there is an easy sandy path we followed for about 30 minutes before heading back. We had dolphins and a humpback in the afternoon. We ended the day with a beach fire and potluck with Rocinante and Jo. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful day with new friends. The next day, we got in the dinghy to take pictures, Nina driving and Bill shooting over 400 photos of the bay. You get the highlights. You can click on a photo within a set to get a larger view.

Sierra de la Gigante Mountains behind the beach.

Thick-Leaf Drymary, Ensenada el Cardonal, that we forgot to put in the last post.

Isla Partida

A cardón in bloom. They are also called Elephant Cactus. When the bloom fades and the flower falls off, the seed pods are very soft, and feathery, not at all prickly like a cactus. A forest of cardóns is a cardonal, thus the name of the ensenada.

From Pichilingue, Gypsy and Dharma Girl buddy boated up to Isla Partida, the northern island of Espiritu Santo. On the way, big rays were jumping instead of whales. We dropped anchor Ensenada el Cardonal, where we had been foiled by a grassy bottom earlier in the year. We wanted to go back to Cardoncito but another boat beat us to it and it’s too small a cove for three boats. Cardonal is a lovely, bigger bay with room for more boats, and it does have a nice hike to the other side of the island.

One of the highlights at Cardonal was getting to see Beethoven again, friends we met in Puerto Escondido and buddy boated with for awhile. They stopped by for the night before leaving for Hawaii in the morning. We all got together for a potluck and had a lovely time. We waved them off the next morning at dawn. Twenty two days later they anchored in Hilo Bay.

On to Ensenada Grande, a larger bay at the north end of Isla Partida. We were hoping that by now, the mega-yachts and Semana Santa party charters would be heading back to whence they came. Of the four other boats anchored, we were easily the smallest boat in the bay.

After a rolly night, it was time to move on. Winds were good for heading north. We got the spinnaker up for a little while. Fishing was catch and release seaweed. At one point, Nina looked back at Ensenada Grande through the binoculars and noticed a Princess cruise ship with what looked like a bunch of tenders in the water stopped outside the bay. We had counted five cruise ships parked outside of La Paz as we were on our way to Isla Partida. Forty-five minutes later they were on their way. We caught part of a news story later that there were protests in La Paz over the cruise ships staying in the bay.

We dropped anchor in San Evaristo that afternoon. Another rolly night, so we moved to a different part of the bay the next morning. Everyone else had the same idea, and by the afternoon we were surrounded by big charter cats. We are guessing that the anchoring instructions they receive are: find an anchored monohull; blast in and pull up really close to their bow; drop anchor with maybe a three to one rode, and call it good. The rode ratio is how much anchor chain/rope you put out in relation the the water depth. We generally tend to put out four or five to one, so things could get interesting. Bill did ask one to please move farther away as he was uncomfortable with how close to us they were, and they nicely complied. But then two more dropped anchor practically on top of us. A forty to fifty foot catamaran has a lot of mass and is not something that we’d want to drag or crash onto us in a blow.

Coffee in the morning with Dharma Girl and Jo. Dharma Girl needs to head back to La Paz for work on their transmission. We’ll be heading up to San Telmo with Jo, and with Rocinante, a boat we just met.

Not our seaweed catch and release, but a green skipjack we caught on the way across from Mazatlán. It was pretty good. We’re getting better at the messy bits.

Mazatlán

Malecón, Mazatlán. A couple of questionable gringos.

Our stay in Mazatlán began at Stone Island, just the other side of the breakwater into the old harbor. It’s a beautiful anchorage off a long, sand beach. It was Semana Santa, the two weeks of Easter holidays, when all of Mexico turns into a massive beach party. The restaurants at the beach were open, competing bands and sound systems blared out, but the crowds were not huge. There must have been some kind of curfew because by nightfall the beach was empty and quiet.

After a quiet night, the swells started building to an uncomfortable level, so we headed for the old harbor. It has excellent protection against swells. It also has constant tour boats and fishing charters blasting by, and is sometimes downwind from the sewage processing plant. It is not a harbor you want to swim in, but once you dinghy into Club Nautico, it’s a short walk to the old part of Mazatlán. The harbor area was crawling with people, most thankfully, masked up. They were either going on a harbor cruise or climbing up to the top of the lighthouse hill. Past the crowds, there’s EuroBakery, a cheese shop, and closer in is an amazing fabric/quilt shop.

By Easter weekend, there were at least four boats in the harbor that we knew. Dharma Girl and Susimi put together a happy hour at Club Nautico. The Club’s hayday was probably fifty years ago. It’s a little dilapidated but we found a place we could meet up outside and we were able to renew acquaintances and make some new friends as well. On Easter Sunday, we had a ladies hike to the top of Cerro del Creston, where the lighthouse is. The crowd wasn’t big at all. The line to hike it had snaked down the street earlier in the week as it’s a popular thing to do for the locals.

The Monday after Easter a small flotilla set off across the Sea of Cortez for Baja. Gypsy and Dharma Girl were heading to Pichilingue, a bay outside of La Paz. The others were aiming for La Ventana, south of Pichilingue. We tried to sail as much as we could and we dropped anchor 48 hours later near Dharma Girl. The next day headed into La Paz for banking, internet, Allende Books for a plant guide to Baja, some fresh vegetables from the Mercado Bravo, ice cream cones, and then back out to Pichilingue. That evening, Susimi joined us at the anchorage.

Brown Booby. They will circle the boat while it’s underway and dive for fish. They are fun to watch.

La Cruz

Out sailing and spotting a Humpback Whale. This one wasn’t very dramatic, but we have seen a few skyhopping away on the horizon, too small to photograph, but with dramatic splashes when them come down. The visibility of the town in the background is about average. There’s a lot of haze.

There a a number of things we like about La Cruz. We spent about a month or so here last year and we’ll probably end up spending about a month here this year. The marina is a good place for boat projects. The Sunday Market is back in a new location, the fish market is still amazing, the vegan ice cream shop still has twofer Tuesdays and we’ve been able to pick up on Spanish language lessons with Ana.

Bill and Malu from Tribu MensWear. She makes and sells our favorite Mexican shirts. Bill is showing off his new one.

We’ve had a pretty mellow stay here. The schedule, such as it is pretty open. Sunday market. Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to Spanish classes. This year we’re sitting in on both the intermediate and the beginner and are slowly improving. Wednesdays we take Gypsy out into the anchorage do run the Amigo net. There are fewer masts out there to interfere with our radio signal propagation. Then we go sailing and run the water maker. On Thursdays we head out so Bill can be the net controller for the Sonrisa Ham net, and head back into the marina to get to Spanish class on time. The rest of the week is spent on boat projects, walking into town for groceries, doing laundry.

Life raft demonstration. Holding the tether is Mike from PV Sailing/North Sails.

Banderas Bay is a big jumping off spot for sailors heading to the South Pacific, Panama or Hawaii. Especially in January and February, there are free lectures and classes that Mike and his partner Cat coordinate or lead. The life raft demo was one of them. This was one of those sessions that had useful, practical info that we hope we never have to use.

Back in the Bay

One of the things we’ve found amusing and different in Mexico is food labeling. Usually there might be one or two of the black octagons up in the corner warning you about a particular food, but this one had four! We haven’t bought this variety pack, but it has everything bad for you in it: excess calories; excess sugar; excess saturated fats; and excess salt. Clearly attributes to avoid when provisioning.

The sail from Isla Isabel to Banderas Bay was slow. We had light winds, never above 10 knots, so we ended up motoring the last three or so hours of the trip. Even then, we arrived at the Punta Mita anchorage after dark. It became an exercise in anchoring by radar. The bay is surrounded by a glare of lights. Not all the anchored boats have their anchor lights on so they are difficult to impossible to see in the dark. We were tired from a long day of light wind sailing. We finally anchored safely and slept soundly.

The next morning we thought we’d head to shore to see what the town of Punta Mita is like. There isn’t really a good place to land a dinghy. The surf was breaking on the beach with bigger waves than we like to land in. We tried going into the panga basin, where the fishermen tie up, but it was full. On the way out of the narrow entrance, we hit a sequence of four to six foot breaking waves about six seconds apart. No backing out. The dinghy went through breaking surf just fine, but now that we know that, we aren’t anxious to try it again. Back to Gypsy to weigh anchor and head for the La Cruz anchorage. We hit town to load the phone, get some internet, and some fresh vegetables. We stayed for a couple of nights, took the dinghy apart and put it back on the foredeck and then meandered over to Paradise Village.

The marina at Paradise Village is in Nuevo Vallarta and is part of a huge resort complex complete with a mall, a hospital, more hotels and condos than can be easily counted, and live bengal tigers. It’s also the only marina in Banderas Bay that has potable water at the docks.

To get to the port captain’s office from the harbor master’s office you have to take a water taxi. It wasn’t working that morning so we put the dinghy back together. Since it was together, we took it up the estuary to see if we would see any cocodrilos. It was low tide and what we saw instead: lots of herons and iguanas, and a dredge that made us nostalgic for Rose City Yacht Club in Portland.

Paradise Village is nice, but it’s isolated in its own part of the bay. We rented a car one day to hit La Comer and Mega (grocery stores), Home Depot for peat moss for the composting toilet, and Costco. Bill discovered that driving in Mexico is still an adventure, and he had a conversation with a nice motorcycle cop about a signal that had gone red while he was in the intersection. Nina had just remarked that “you ran a red!” when he saw flashing lights. Thankfully, there was no mention of la grua, and he was able to pay his fine and get on our way.

Back to the big city. On the way to Puerto Vallarta to hit the big stores.