Five days or so into the virus, the police in La Cruz closed all the restaurants. Mexico had seemed pretty normal until then. This was the day we left to head north. Our first stop was Punta de Mita, about ten miles away and the northernmost anchorage in Banderas Bay. Here we checked out our new anchor marking. While we were in at the marina at La Cruz we end for ended the anchor chain and rode and marked it all of in 25′ intervals, the chain with paint and the rope part with thread. Bill went to a pinteria and they specially mixed a cup full of paint for him. We baked it well for a couple of days in the sun and then stowed it in the anchor locker. At Punta de Mita we dropped the anchor and watched the new anchor paint start to flake off as the anchor chain hit the water. The next day we set off for Ensenada de Matanchén. Weather and waves were good so we kept on going to Mazatlán, skipping Isla Isabel as well.
At Mazatlán we anchored off Isla Cardones to catch up on sleep. Our passage from Punta de Mita to Mazatlán took us from 0700 Weds to 1015 Thursday, 27 hours. We saw dolphins and sea turtles on the way, but caught no fish. During the 0300-0600 watch Nina got a phosphorescent show that wasn’t just our wake lighting up, but many flashes off the side of the boat that were coconut sized to a couple of feet long that went on for quite a while. They’d light up and disappear. It was an amazing diversion until the moon rose.
At Isla Cardones we inventoried our food. Not being sure of how things would shut down between here and Puerto Peñasco, some 750+ miles away, we thought we’d see how much we actually had on board. Tiendas in smaller towns usually have fresh limes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and a few other fresh fruits and vegetables, but they’re stocked for the locals, not for cruisiers coming in and stocking up. We could make it through mid April with what we had on board. But we were still going to head for El Cid Marina in Mazatlán, and see if we could get into town and hit a big grocery store for some fresh fruits and vegetables.
Meanwhile, the news on the morning radio net was that many of the South Pacific islands had closed their borders. Mazatlán was starting to shut down, but the restaurant at El Cid was still open. More importantly, there was a laundromat at the marina! No bucket laundry! We caught a bus into town. Unlike the first time we were in Mazatlán, when the streets were jostling with people, the city was pretty empty. We stopped for an afternoon glass of wine at a restaurant in the old town and were the only people out in the plaza other than restaurant staff, and the people setting up their booths for the evening. Beaches were empty. The port was closed in the morning, but it turned out to be for wind, not the virus. There is a tricky bar/channel to get into the marina. Tricky enough that there was a trimaran on the rocks when we came in, and when we left, it was half submerged in the tide.
We made it out safely. Since things weren’t totally shut down yet, and they are sort of on the way to Puerto Peñasco, we still wanted to see the islands north of La Paz. Once we were up past Bahía de los Angeles, then we’d head back over to the mainland side. Our first Baja stop was Ensenada de los Muertos, a big bay on the way to La Paz. We’d skipped Muertos when we first headed up to La Paz back in November because we hadn’t officially checked into the country yet. It’s a big bay, white sand beaches, a couple of small resorts and a restaurant on one end and another restaurant on the other end. We were also one of a dozen or so boats anchored in the bay, enough of us that a morning net was begun. Morning nets let you know who else is there, where folks are coming from or going to and if anyone needs help or can offer it. They also can be a source of news. The news was that Mazatlán was still open to cruise ships and La Paz was still open. The next morning, March 30, it was announced that all ports were closing for commercial pleasure craft. No more party boats, fishing or whale watching trips. Ports were still open to cruisers, though.
After almost a week at Muertos, the wind was right and we left as part of a fleet. We were the sixth boat to leave to head for La Paz. On the way out of the bay, we saw a group of about a dozen mantas leaping out of the water and splashing down. Eleven hours later we dropped anchor in El Magote, in La Paz. Social distancing was in effect. The beach was closed. Only one person could be out and about. Wear a mask. We improvised the masks. La Paz was empty. We got groceries and caught a combi back, and were the only people on it. The malecón was shut down, to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic. That night it was all lit up and looked like a ghost town. Police and navy have both been patrolling the road and harbor, blasting messages in Spanish. The gist seemed to be stay at home. Hotels, timeshares, and airbnbs are being closed. All visitors needed to be gone by April 5. Semana Santa was coming up, when Mexicans traditionally flock to the beaches, and the government was doing everything it could to keep people from congregating. All beaches, everywhere, were closed.
We got an appointment at the fuel dock in La Paz and topped up. We were there with a couple of boats we had met during the HaHa or while cruising in Mexico. One was pulling out in La Paz, and trying to figure out if it was safe to drive back to California. The other boat was a Puddle Jump boat that would be staying in the Sea instead of going to the South Pacific.
After El Mezteño, our next stop was Isla San Francisco, where we were one of twenty-two boats anchored there. Luckily, social distancing is pretty easy on a sailboat at anchor. We are all at least 100 feet apart. We left the next morning as part of a mini fleet. Gypsy was heading for San Evaristo. When we dropped anchor, there were a couple of boats there, by the end of the day another three boats arrived. There is a small village with a tienda. Bill headed ashore wearing a mask. Most folks heading ashore weren’t wearing masks and were going ashore in groups. A couple of days after we left for Agua Verde, pangas went out and asked cruisers to please leave San Evaristo.
Agua Verde is another small cove with a good anchorage. There are goats and they sell goat cheese at the small tienda. We had to get some. But, please, no more that three people in the store at a time, wear a mask. We spent the night there and in the morning motored on to Puerto Escondido. The scenery on the way up is gorgeous, mountains meet the sea.
We picked up a mooring ball in Puerto Escondido. Surrounded by hills, we were not picking up any Telcel signal so we headed to the marina for wifi and cell bars. We follow the Facebook page for Cabrelles Yard in Puerto Peñasco so we can stay abreast of the news. Peñasco is where we had planned to store Gypsy for the summer. The news was the governor of Sonora might close the port in the next couple of weeks. The yard was closed for Semana Santa (Holy Week), and they weren’t sure if they would have all the workers back at the end of that two week period. If you do get hauled there, you need to leave the country within 24 hours, with a police escort. With smaller towns closing to cruisers, we felt that was a lot of uncertainty to go for a 350 mile trip with no marinas or larger towns in that stretch. Our decision was to haul out in Puerto Escondido. They have room on the hard. It doesn’t get at hot here as Peñasco does in the summer. We booked a haul out date. The reality had hit us, things were not normal. We had been making time heading north as it became apparent to us that ports and towns would stop being open to cruisers. We also wanted to be responsible and not do more wandering around than necessary. The decision to change our plans was not easy, but it has proved itself over time.