Saturday, December 28, 2013


Shrimpers & Humpbacks - The 150 mile sail from Mazatlan to Chacala was our second double-handed overnight. There was very little traffic when we crossed the Sea of Cortez, but the route from Mazatlan south from 5 to 15 miles offshore was the territory of commercial shrimp boats. Several times during the night we saw their lights in the distance and later their images on radar. We made our best guess at their direction and made obvious moves to keep out of their way. At one point there were 10 shrimpers within a few miles of us.  

We saw whales, too; spouting, breaching, tail slapping and sometimes doing an aggressive maneuver where they seemed intent on creating the biggest possible splash. Possible reasons for that behavior include fending off a challenging male, females agitated with an escort, or a whale not comfortable with a boat's presence. We kept our distance when they were aggressive, but what an amazing display.

Humpback breaching

Chacala - We had several stopover options for our sail to Puerto Vallarta. Chacala sounded best and we weren't disappointed. This is a fair weather anchorage for just 5 or 6 boats … the weather was fair and there were just 5 boats anchored here. The anchorage is well known in the cruising community, but Chacala is not yet a major tourist stop, a bonus for us.

Chacala's restaurant row

Anchored just off the beach

Cobblestone streets and the minisuper

Kathryn shopping for her nieces 

Best pancakes I've had in Mexico!

Chacala beach

Chacala was beautiful and a very relaxing destination.  We'll be back!

Monday, December 23, 2013


Crossing to MazatlanAfter sailing 2,000 miles in the past 3 months, Kathryn and I had yet to complete an overnight passage by ourselves. The 175 mile trip from the coast of Baja across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan was our first. We downloaded our weather data, practiced what we learned in our weather courses, and came up with a good forecast for our crossing. We sailed with our buddy boat (Bill & Sandy on Wavelength) and the trip was just about perfect. We had 12 - 17 knot winds and moderate waves on the beam that made for a very quick and pleasant trip.

Sunrise on the overnight crossing to Mazatlan

Our buddy  boat, Wavelength

I'm always a bit anxious entering a new port for the first time and the charts for the area weren't the best. The entrance channel was narrow, but plenty deep with minimal current, so no problema. The marina gave us good slips and we had access to all the facilities at El Cid resort. El Cid marina was an excellent place for our two week stay in Mazatlan.

El Cid breakwater

El Cid marina - Agave Azul & Wavelength

We spent several days exploring and especially enjoyed the older historic French and Spanish architecture. Near where the photo below was taken is Plaza Machado, known as the cultural center of Mazatlan. While we were in town, Teatro Angela Peralta hosted two performances and we had our choice of Dvorak's New World Symphony or a Flamenco dance company.  The New World Symphony was always a favorite when I was in band & orchestra in high school, but the Flamenco dancers won out, and it was excellent.

Restaurant research

Cathedral in old town

Kathryn did some research to find a Mexican restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner and the one she found was great. Below our waiter at Topolo's preparing the best salsa I've ever tasted; roasted roma and tomatillo tomatoes, roasted serrano chile, juice from the roasted tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper … yum!

Freshly made salsa

Thanksgiving at Topolo's

We walked almost the entire malecon.  Well not the entire malecon since it runs along the beach for for 21 kilometers, the longest in the world.  We'd heard about the cliff divers and eventually we found them.  If you pay, they will jump!  It wasn't mucho dinero and it was impressive.  It was so windy that day the diver was getting blown around just standing on the railing getting ready.

Mazatlan cliff diver

We see pangas everywhere we go in Mexico and they come in all shapes and sizes.  This photo was taken on a Sunday and they were all parked on the beach, but the smell of fish was strong as we walked by.

Pangas on Bahia Puerto Viejo

Not much graffiti in Mazatlan, just art painted on the walls

We decided to venture out from Mazatlan for a day with our friends on Wavelength so we rented a car and headed for three small towns in the foothills; Concordia, Copala and El Rosario.  The center of all the towns we visited was dominated by a church and all were 300 - 400 years old and beautiful.

San Sebastian church, Concordia

These towns were not serious tourist destinations, so we walked the length of town looking for breakfast. It was Monday, so the few restaurants in town were closed. We finally found a house that also served meals.  The family was eating their breakfast on one side of the room and we were on the other - cool.

Breakfast with Bill & Sandy

Our favorite stop was Copala. Both Concordia and Copala were silver mining towns that thrived until the mines stopped producing in the 1800s. The cobblestone street town was tiny, just one square next to the church with a population of just a few hundred.

San Jose church, Copala

Local transportation for the tourists

Even in the smallest towns, most of the children wear uniforms to school, and the kids don't seem to be too traumatized by their inability to express their clothing individuality.  This enterprising youngster approached us and laughingly asked us for some pesos.  Bill asked him why, and he just laughed again when he couldn't come up with an answer.  So Bill asked him to sing a song for his pesos … and after lots of encouragement from us and his two schoolmates, he did!

Sing for your pesos

Friday, December 20, 2013

La Paz

La Paz - We've asked other cruisers about the best location to berth Agave Azul during hurricane season, and La Paz was always highly recommended. So before sailing across the Sea of Cortez to the Mexico mainland, we wanted to check out La Paz, 135 miles up the Baja coast from San Jose del Cabo.  

This was our first long trip by ourselves and we enjoyed a beautiful 2 day sail with a stop at Ensenada de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead), also known by developers as Bahia de los SueƱos (Bay of Dreams). We arrived just after sunset and didn't see any development. It was a remote peaceful stop.

Dorado on the line

We left early the next morning, sailing between the Baja coast and the islands of Cerralvo and Espiritu Santo. We wanted to stop, but we knew we would be back to spend more time visiting the islands in the spring.  We saw lots of dolphin on the trip up and even caught a small dorado on the way. But with a freezer full of fresh fish, we let this one go.

Marina Palmira was the most recommended, although our plan for the week here was to check out all the marinas in La Paz.

Marina Palmira

We called the marina for a slip assignment and headed toward our dock. It was a tight fit to get into our slip however, as a dredge was actively working just a few feet away. Dredges are necessary to maintain enough depth for boats such as ours, but they are really noisy! So we requested another slip and moved halfway down the dock the next morning.

Dredge at work next to our slip

Although we were now 150 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, the long arms of the Baja Ha-Ha reached to La Paz for a party, and it was a well attended event. Too well attended in fact, since there were twice as many Ha-Ha'ers as there were meals! We stayed long enough to sample the margaritas, then headed to the best burger joint in La Paz with long time cruisers Bill & Julie Martinelli, who also have a Catalina 470. Their boat and cruising recommendations have been great, and their burger recommendation was too.  

Baja Ha-Ha party in La Paz

Kathryn with Mike & Linda, Wavelength crew

La Paz has sculptures all along the malecon and throughout town. We'll include more sculpture photos when we return here next year, but here are a few we enjoyed.

Sculpture on the malecon ...

… in a small square … 

… this one was appropriate since the Weber's are known for prominent noses!

We did accomplish our objective to explore all the marinas in La Paz and decided we will have Marina Palmira as our home base when we return to explore the Sea of Cortez in the spring. La Paz is the 4th largest municipality in Mexico with a population of over 200,000, so there are plenty of services available, especially for cruisers. But it has a very relaxed, small town feel, and we look forward to spending more time here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

San Jose Del Cabo

Visiting neighbors in San Jose del Cabo - When we started planning our sail to Mexico, our neighbors in Redwood City told us we should visit them since they were building a house near Cabo San Lucas. So our first stop after Cabo was in San Jose del Cabo, just 20 miles up the coast.  As you can see in the marina photo below, it's a beautiful spot.

Puerto Los Cabos

Onagh & Bill were welcoming and generous hosts, not only to us, but to some of the other Ha-Ha cruisers. Onagh spends her time working at a two foundations that support children in the local community.

Katie, Bill & Onagh

They call their home Casa Kokomo. I asked why and they said when they were first married they enjoyed the Beach Boys song and hoped one day to have their own Kokomo … "We'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow, that's where we wanna go, way down in Kokomo."

Relaxing at Casa Kokomo

Bill took us on a ride up the coast to Punta Gorda to see the sights. He really enjoys driving "Wild Willy" - his dune buggy, on the sand as fast as it will go. We only got stuck in the soft sand once.

Wild ride to Punta Gorda

There were a few houses on the beach, but it was mostly deserted and beautiful as we rode up the coast.

Crowded beach

The cape and the east coast of Baja are known for excellent sport fishing, so Bill and I went out for a day to try our luck.  Here Bill is bringing in a large dorado that Kathryn and I enjoyed for 3 dinners onboard.

Bill reeling in a dorado

I've been fishing since I was 5 years old with my grandfather and my dad. In recent years it has been using ultralight tackle for trout on backpacking trips. Catch fish or not, its always fun just being out there. So I was shocked to see a marlin doing a series of leaps behind our boat. Bill said, "you're up" and wow, what an amazing experience!  I never thought I would catch a billfish and this striped marlin was pretty big, especially for a first-timer.  It was quite an exciting day for me. Unfortunately, we weren't able to revive and release it, but the skipper and mate were able to feed their families quite a few meals.

Robin's striped marlin on No Big Deal