Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mazatlán, Mexico

Sunrise over Mazatlán 
We picked up the anchor and left Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida on January 10th for the two-night crossing to Mazatlán. The passage started off with no wind which gradually built...and built and built!  Our boat speed was a constant 6 to 6.5 knots so we actually ended up furling the headsail in order to reduce sail and slow the boat down; we didn't want to reach Mazatlán in the dark.  By the time we reached the entrance to Marina Mazatlán (right at dawn) we were seeing winds in the high 20's with 2 meter seas on the stern quarter.  It was howling!  I was a little concerned when we dropped the sails and Richard told me, "Just don't hit the rocks!" It's a narrow-ish breakwater entrance to get to the marinas and with the waves pounding on the breakwater and the presence of a channel dredger in the channel, well, you can imagine my trepidation of trying to navigate Osprey through the channel.  Anyway, we got into the channel and the water was very calm so the motor to Mazatlán Marina ended up being calm.

Marina Mazatlán.
Richard had called ahead and we were assigned a slip so we just motored to the marina and tied up. Our slip assignment put us right next to s/v Code Blue, a boat from Seattle that we had shared a marina with way back in San Diego. Steve and Judy were not on their boat when we arrived which was just as well as Richard and I were exhausted from the two-night passage across the Sea of Cortez.  We worked on getting the boat ready for staying in a marina (taking down lee cloths, snapping on canvas covers outside, etc.) and went out to get a lay of the land in the marina.  Marina Mazatlán is a decent marina, not new, but adequate.  It has a promenade that circles the marina and is lined with restaurants, condos and the marina office. There's even a decent-sized supermercado (grocery store) located in the bottom of one of the condo buildings located right at the marina.  The marina is located a few miles from the center of town but there is a bus stop conveniently located right outside of the marina compound.  The bus into the city is cheap and convenient.  Only $10 pesos (about 80 cents) one way and you don't even have to be standing at a bus stop; just flag a bus down when you see one and hop on...try that in Seattle!

Typical street in Mazatlá street signs.
My first adventure into the city involved trying to find a watch repair shop.  While hiking on Isla Partida, I lost my footing and slid a bit and somehow I must have hit my watch on the ground and the pin that holds the watch band on popped out. With only an address in hand and no working Spanish, I hoped on the bus, paid my $10 pesos and hoped for the best. 

The bus went through the center of the zona dorada (golden zone, which is the term used to describe the tourist zone), parts of Old Mazatlán, and then out to the ferry and cruise ship terminal. Hmm?  I was told that this was the end of the line and that I had to get off of the bus.  Luckily, there was another bus driver who spoke some English so I handed him the slip of paper with the address written down on it and he instructed me to get on another bus and then he told that bus driver where to have me get off of the bus. Success!  I now found myself on the right street...but where was this shop?  Mexico has an unwritten rule that outlaws the use of street signs (or so it appears to me).  And as a sub-section of that same rule are two other rules that go as follows: (1) streets should change names every few blocks or so, and (2) street numbers do not necessarily have to be in numeric order.  To a sleep deprived sailor, these did not instill confidence in my already shaky confidence of finding the shop.  In the end, I found the shop (located down a maze of alleys and looking more like a "curiosity" shop than a watch repair place) and could now tell time again in Mexico.

We have been going into the city each day and doing the tourist stuff which is one way of saying that there are not many boat projects that need to be attended to, while at the same time, there are boat projects that need to be attended to (there always are!).  The water from the dock is not potable so we had to order water to be delivered to our boat. We also had to "pickle" our water maker as we wouldn't be using it for some time to come and didn't want all of the filters to be overgrown with algae and other organic crud.

View from El Faro (the lighthouse).
But back to the tourists stuff. Richard and I hiked to the top of El Faro (the lighthouse), which is listed as the second highest lighthouse in the world (right after the one in Gibraltar). The views from the top of the lighthouse were spectacular and gave you a sense of the lay of the land.  Gazing westward was the expanse of the Pacific Ocean for thousands of miles.  Truly awe-inspiring when I contemplated that in a few months we would be bridging that expanse with a trip to the South Pacific in search of other tropical locations.

We also walked through the central mercado a few times (who can get enough of seeing pig heads in the meat cases?  I can't!) and checked out the cathedral in the center of the Old Town and ventured into Plazuela Machado, a tree lined park fringed by small restaurants and cafes.  With all the ironwork on the restored buildings, Plazuela Machado almost feels like a quiet square in New Orleans.  Almost.

Plazuela Machado.
Next to Plazuela Machado are a couple of museums that we took in while strolling around the Old Town.  It's hard not to take in these cultural experiences as the admissions prices are far lower than what one would expect to pay for a similar museum in the States. 

After our museum hopping, we ambled back to Plazuela Machado and sat at an outdoor cafe having tea in the early afternoon watching workers decorate the palm trees and the gazebo for the upcoming Carnivale festival that was just around the corner.  Mazatlán boasts the largest Carnivale event in all of Mexico and in addition to decorating the plazuela, workers were also busy stringing lights in all of the little alleyways and erecting statues along the malécon.  It looks like there is going to be a big party here in a few weeks.

Marina Mazatlán.
On our last night in Mazatlán, we had dinner with Carolyn ("CJ") from s/v Shannon.  CJ and her partner, Kat are from Vancouver Island and sailed down to mainland Mexico to escape the Pacific Northwest winter. CJ is a great storyteller and the three of us enjoyed a very relaxing dinner in the marina before heading back to our boats.

In the morning, we said goodbye to Judy and Steve on s/v Code Blue and CJ on s/v Shannon, untied our lines and headed out of the marina for points further south.  Our tentative plan in to stop in Chacala and Punta de Mita before heading into Banderas Bay and Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle ("La Cruz").

Bonus pictures from our time in Mazatlán...

Plazuela Machado.
The cathedral.
El Faro.
Richard contemplates a sidewalk in Mexico.
Happy Hogs in the central market.
Inside the central market.
Statues erected for Carnivale.
Sadly, no brewery tours.

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