Isla Coronado is an old volcano which was surrounded by coral reef and in the past when water levels were much higher these reefs were hudge. Now these old reef can be seen above the beaches, they look like hills until you see where water has cut away channels – solid coral up to 20 feet thick. This is also why the beaches and anchoring ground is white coral sand on the bottom, beautiful beyond words. From the boat at anchor you see Manta Rays , fish of all colours and type swimming by – we were anchored in an aquarium. The second day we decided to climb to the top of the volcano which was a real scramble but well worth the views. Upon our return we were surprised to find our boat FULL of bees. They were massed any where water might have been and as the picture shows our damp dish rag was covered. Josh had to fish the rag out of the boat from above with his fishing gear and then we quickly pull up our anchor and headed north. Later we found that thirsty bees can be a problem so when you leave your boat have no water inside, some even put a tray outside on the deck as a diversion.
Puerto Escondito is a little unusual because a large part of the harbour is occupied by an unfinished Fonatur Marina and the outside anchoring area run by API is packed with boats at anchor. Some of these boats at anchor looked like they had not moved in years! After chatting up some of the locals we found out that the harbour was a major cruising hangout until Fonatur moved in and started charging to anchor, causing the crowd out in the “Waiting Room” as it was dubbed. Some of those we talked to had been their for 20 years or more!!!!! We opted to pay for a mooring and do laundry, internet … The highlight of our stay was the hike up Steinbeck canyon behind marina. The hike was stunningly beautiful, lots of bordering, fresh water creek, bird and bees. We meet a family who befriended us and we went with them into Loretto looking for burgers at the famous “ Saloon”, we had to settle for a restaurant on the water because the The Saloon was closed. We need groceries and after seeing they lay of the land we decided to stop at Lorreto on our way to Coronado Island to shop. This is an open roadstead anchorage so you have to be ready to leave if the wind comes up. Loretto is has one of the oldest Missions on the west coast and is a very clean pretty town with tree lined cobble stone street and a pleasant pace of life.
Aqua Verdi some 15 miles north was our next destination. A little norther was coming our way and this anchorage provided protection as well as a small community with a Tienda, and beach front palapa restaurant. The restaurant was run by a local women cooperative and the best fish tacos so far on this trip could be had there. The community also raise a lot of goats for milk and meat. The local fresh goat cheese was a treat not to mention all the very cute baby goats running everywhere. We got some great hikes in to the surrounding beaches with one to an old cave that had paintings We could not find any accurate info on how old they were except “ they were old”. The white sand bottom, clear (warm) water looked beautifully turquoise and even more so with the Baja brown, red and green back drop. Here we got into snorkelling some of the reefs sounding the bay which is always a treat. So many types of fish sin such small areas many painted in beautiful colour patterns. From here the plan was a stop at Chico Candeleros then to Puerto Escondido for a couple of days.
More boats were beginning to crowd into San Francisco so we hopped north Punta Salinas the site of an abandoned salt flat, though it looked like some of these VERY large ponds were still in production. These beaches were long with Josh spending hours looking for that conch shell for his collection, no luck this time. Our next jump was to a small anchorage behind Punta San Telmo. We are constantly amazed by the geography of this coastline. From a distance it has a familiar look but up close every few miles new amazing rock formations would show themselves. From sandstone shelves, limestone bands full of shells, conglomerates of all size and shapes we loved wandering the shoreline. We had out first Baja beach fire dinner with Josh doing an amazing job of gathering fire wood!
The trip across the Sea of Cortes with its prevailing NW winds can be challenging when you are trying to head North up the sea. At best you can catch a southerly which does happen from time to time and this is what we were attempting to do. Our crossing ended up being windless until the last 5 miles! The Sea of Cortes had this oily appearance which made it easy to pic out the many turtles that were drifting somewhere in the sea. All you could see were these bumps and occasionally as we would pass a head would pop up to see what was going by.
Josh managed to hook the largest Dorado of the trip which had his reel literally smoking! Took about an hour to land it, he was tired and happy, we were glad to stock the freezer again with on of our favourite fish. All that fishing meant we arrived in the dark with maybe 10 anchor lights to avoid!
The next morning was a little shocking, we left the tropical green of the mainland and arrived in the turquoise blue water and white coral sand of the Baja desert; the contrast was stunning. We were eager to hike the hills and get a big view of this new land. Unlike the mainland jungle, we could almost hike anywhere which excited Sue who loves a good hike! We also discovered that we were in the land of salt ponds – sea salt will not be something on the shopping list here. This was such a pretty spot we elected to spend a few days to acclimatize before moving north.
Mazatlan doesn’t have any good close anchorages except in the old harbour which has the sewage treatment plant in front of it, with predicable results. Most of the boats head for the Marina’s just north of town where a dredged harbour is home to numerous facilities. We stayed at the El Cid Hotel marina which gave us among other things swimming pools to play and lounge in. For 5 days we were in with the docker cruising set, who could always be caught drinking cocktails by the pool. Actually even though we did a little of that our boat needed a clean, re-provision and we had a mission to check out Mazatlan’s old town. Needless to say we were busy!!! Provisioning was easy because large stores were a quick bus ride away and here we found our favourite Mexican beer, Pacifico for 167 peso’s a flat (24 beers), this coverts to about 75 cents a beer Canadian, so we filled Josh’s closet!!
We hit the old market which was a hub of activity and then wandered around this very beautiful old city. Lots of the old building was now being restored as homes and small businesses. The other amazing thing about Mazatlan is the size of their malecon was many miles long. It ran from the Golden Zone all the way to the lighthouse at the harbour entrance call El Faro. We were tourists for a few days hiking around town to get a feel of this older tourist destination, ate some of the best gourmet tacos we have ever had, climbed El Faro and …. With our window for crossing the Sea narrowing we headed out thinking that a little more time in that city would have been great, but the call of the Baja peninsula lured us away.
Time had come for us to head up into the Sea of Cortes, we were looking forward to venturing to new cruising ground. The trip north we divided into three steps; the first two were shorter, day trips, the last would take us over night. The prevailing wind is from the NW but a southerly would mean a sail, which is what we hoped for, but alas is was maybe a 30% sail. We left Punta Mita with Josh looking longingly at his favourite surf zone leaving all the great times we had in Banderas Bay behind. Chacala was the first stop which is a lovely coastal town with an open roadstead anchorage, that meant stern anchors were absolutely necessary! We loved the town and surrounding country side, hiked up to the top of a nearby volcano who’s caldera was intact and the surrounding slopes were all cultivated in Guaba plants, had beer on the beach and took in beautiful sunsets.
Jack and Monica on Bellavia were our traveling companions to Chacala and our next stop Isla Isabella.
Isla Isabella is part of the Mexican Park reserve system and is a breeding ground for Bobbies and Frigate birds as well as others I’m sure. The island was not exactly a “protected anchorage” but well worth the stop and the conditions were very kind to us. I have never been so close to wild birds before in my life and all those baby birds were a joy to see. Isla Isabella is also a volcano and the short hike to the caldera was amazing. It was time for our good friends to part ways, they heading to San Carlos via the islands north of La Paz to store their boat until the following year; we headed north to Mazatlan.
A convenient southerly wind carried us on a 16 hour, overnight passage from Tenacatita, around Cabo Corrientes and into Banderas Bay where we would rendezvous with sister Wendy and her husband Wayne. We dropped anchor around 9 am in Yelapa (on the far southwest side of Banderas Bay). Yelapa is fairly open to swell so it quite a rolly polly anchorage. Though we were tired from being up all night, it was evident that we were not likely to be sleeping much, so we decided we might as well go on a big hike up to the waterfall. We waited for Mark and Dee on Speakeasy, fellow Canadian cruising friends, to pull into the anchorage so we could share the waterfall experience with them. Yelapa is wonderful! There is no road access so local transportation on land is primarily by mule and horse along cobble and dirt trails that are lined with beautiful flowers and foilage. To get to the waterfall you walk partway through town, then cross the river and hike along the river through jungle for about an hour until you get to a spectacular swimming hole and waterfall. We enjoyed the experience so much that we quickly put it on our list as a ‘must do’ with Wendy and Wayne (which we did about a week later).
While in Banderas Bay we stayed in Marina Vallarta for 3 nights in order to make for easy accessible visiting with Wendy and Wayne who were staying in an all-inclusive in the hotel zone. We enjoyed the location even though marinas in general are not our favourite. Ted is always great at making the most of marina experiences: boat cleaning, boat projects, boat refit shopping….It was a great place to be to enjoy lots of fun experiences with Wendy and Wayne as well as Dave and Consuelo (Waynes cousin and his lovely Mexican wife) who shared with us some wonderful Mexican experiences we never otherwise would have had: a home-cooked Pollo Mole, snuggling with Mexican rescue dogs on the couch, local oysters, enjoying the beach mexican style (just bring lotsa cervezas in a 5 gallon bucket of ice and hang out in the shade, swim in the surf, sit on the beach, repeat!), local market shopping, and in general wonderful friendly laid back energy!
Other Banderas Bay highlights included: La Cruz Sunday market, prawns from the fish market, Taco’s on the Street, joining in the Banderas Bay Regatta on Iolani, surfing and beach walks at Punta Mita, potlucks and visits with fellow cruisers we rejoined since Tenacatita….and eventually goodbyes to Wendy and Wayne and dear cruising friends as we all dispersed into our varied directions and journeys.
Barry and Syliva have raced Iolani constantly in the San Francisco Bay and were loving the chance to take a break from cruising to race in the Banderas Bay Regatta. This is supposed to be a “cruisers” regatta but we all know what that really means “no holds barred” racing. We joined the crew as deck slaves and what a great time we had and yes Iolani won her class!!! I was part of the forced crew and josh was part of the genoa trim team – this means lots of grinding on winches. I must say the crew did have a lot of experience, and we were all motivated by Barry’s polite (not) reminders whenever anything went wrong! Like all famous captains our reward was beer and food! Actually the real reward was the racing which was so much fun for me a Josh!
We had a mic failure on the way to San Francisco which was sending out Distress signals causing the US Coast Guard to contact us wondering what was going on. This was solved by unplugging the mic and replacing it. In Banderas Bay how ever our EPIRB decided that we were in imminent danger and was turning on, then off, then on …. This engaged the full Canadian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre which manages rescues of Canadian Vessels world wide. Lucky our Winlink map on our website had us pegged at anchor in Punta Mita which would be an odd place to set off an EPIRB – we could swim ashore if we had too – so the the Mexican Navy was put on stand-by while they contacted us and we figured out what was going on. Josh sitting in companionway saw the errant EPIRB go off, flashing lights again, so with screw driver in had we took the unit apart to unplug it. The whole event was a little stressful but it is good to know that if we were really in danger, the rescue network really works! Mark and Dee from the catamaran, Speakeasy, were traveling back to Victoria so they offered to return the faulty unit. Kannad the manufacturer decided to replace the unit in time for the Speakeasy crew to bring us the new unit, so all will end well!