Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mazatlan (2011)

We left La Paz on February 18th, headed towards Mazatlan.  We were planning on hanging out in La Paz for a little while longer, but the forecast showed that another strong norther was going to blow in a few days.  We decided to weigh anchor and leave before it hit.  We estimated the trip would take us about 48 hours, so we left first thing in the morning.  If we were to leave in the afternoon and had any delays, we could arrive after nightfall and have to wait in front of the harbor for the sun to come up and make a safe entrance.    
As we left, we dropped our fishing lines in the water and caught a sierra mackerel within half an hour, just big enough for a fish taco dinner that night.  The winds were NW 10 knots, so we had nice sailing until the winds died around 5 pm that night.  We motored the rest of the trip, with very calm seas, no winds and a full moon to light our way.  The night watches went by fast as we were able to read the whole time without worrying about getting seasick.  Andrew spent the first night reading The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, and put together some new lures for the next day.   As soon as the sun came up, the lines were in the water again.  About ten minutes later, Di was woken up as the drag on the reel was screaming.  She grabbed the gaff hook and ran outside to steer the boat as Andrew reeled in our first dorado (mahi mahi).  This was our biggest catch yet, and he certainly put up a fight.   We enjoyed dorado for many meals over the following days.
passage from La Paz to Mazatlan
We arrived in the old Mazatlan harbor around 10 am on Sunday, February 20th, and hailed the Capitan de Puerto on the VHF to get permission to enter the harbor.  We then anchored at Club Nautico, which is the only anchorage inside the old harbor and located a few miles from the heart of old Mazatlan.  There were quite a few boats in the anchorage, so we had to anchor further from shore in deeper water and with less scope than we would have liked.  We also heard that the bottom here was soft, so it seemed this would be a good time to practice setting two anchors on one rode, which proved to be a lot of work but quite effective.
Mazatlan is a beautiful city with miles of white sand beaches.  The city has three distinct zones: New Mazatlan, the Golden Zone, and Old Mazatlan.  New Mazatlan is north and has lots of condos and resorts.  The Golden Zone is between New and Old Mazatlan, and has most of the tourist attractions and shopping.  Old Mazatlan is the older section of the city where the commercial harbor is located, as well as more shopping.  The cruise ship docks enter the commercial harbor, and are a short walk from the center of Old Mazatlan.  Since we were anchored near old town, we took some time exploring that area.  We really enjoyed walking around the downtown area, especially the charming Plazuela Machado.  Plazuela Machado is a small square with lots of restaurants and trees – it is lit up at night and has live music on the weekends.
Old Mazatlan
After four nights in the old harbor, we moved north to the marina district, as we had visitors coming soon.  Marina Fonatur was our home base for our remaining time in Mazatlan.  There we met Ed, a fellow cruiser from Idaho.  He has been spending the winter in Mazatlan on his boat for the past seven years, and was a wealth of information.  He has a car and offered to take us to the grocery store, which we were happy to accept.  The trip to the grocery store turned into a trip around the city.  First stop was a small produce stand, and then on to Soriana, a larger grocery store.  Then we made our way through the Golden Zone and toward downtown.  We stopped to see the “shrimp ladies”, who were selling the catch from the local fisherman.  It was quite an impressive display of bucket after bucket of shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab meat, etc. for sale.  We bought a half kilo of jumbo shrimp.  Mazatlan is known for their shrimp, and we can certainly see why.
After the shrimp stop, it was time for lunch, and we stopped at a seafood restaurant on the waterfront.  It was a beautiful sunny day to dine alfresco looking out over the Pacific Ocean.  Then we stopped a few blocks over at a coffee shop to stock up on coffee beans, and then to the butcher shop.  All in all, it was a very successful day of provisioning, and we ate well for the next week.
Our friend Eric came down from Seattle on March 2nd, and we had a nice dinner on the beach and did some catching up.  He came by himself for a few days before the rest of the family came down, and we spent the next few days exploring the city.  We did the hike up to El Faro (The Lighthouse) on Isla Creston, just south of Old Mazatlan.  It is one of the highest standing lighthouses in the world at 515 feet high, and the views of the city and the Pacific Ocean are stunning.
We also ventured into Old Mazatlan one evening to check out the Carnaval festivities.  There were a dozen stages set up along the waterfront near Playa Olas Altas (High Waves Beach), and the music was LOUD.  Lots of people were out enjoying the music and dancing in the street.  We had a great time watching all the people.
The following day Cristi, Jadyn, Logan, and Kim arrived.  They rented a beautiful condo on the beach, with a balcony overlooking the ocean.  The next few days were spent lounging around the pool or building sand castles on the beach.  It felt like a vacation from our vacation.  Jadyn and Logan kept us all on our toes and quite entertained.  They are both excellent swimmers and could not get enough pool time.  Cristi and Kim are both great cooks, so we ate very well while they were here.   It was a perfect spot to spend time with great friends.
The last afternoon we went to see the return parade on the last day of Carnaval.  It was fun to see all the families and kids gathered, and the floats were elaborate and imaginative.
Carnaval parade
And just like that, the visit was over.  It was so much fun to see our friends again, and it’s always sad to say goodbye.  We are really hoping for another visit down the road.
hanging out with the Arthurs
Our last week in Mazatlan was spent walking around and seeing the sites.  Our favorite area was Old Mazatlan.  We checked out the art walk, which is held on the first Friday of each month.  We enjoyed looking at the local art and walking the streets with all the colorful homes. 

A few days before we left Mazatlan, we heard on the morning nets that there was a devastating earthquake the previous night in Japan, and a tsunami was working its way east.  Some people were saying there was going to be a big wave coming, and others were saying that nothing would happen.  The marina played it safe and had everybody evacuate their boats.  Fortunately the only thing that happened in the marina was strong currents that switched directions about every 15 minutes.   This lasted for a couple days.  Most of the navigation buoys in the marina were swept away with the strong current, but that was about it. 
We really enjoyed Mazatlan, but it was time to get moving again.  We left on March 14th headed for Puerto Vallarta, with a few stops in between.