Crossing the Sea of Cortez and Mazatlan

We finally broke free of Baja!!!! The weather was supposed to lighten up for three days before the next system came thundering down the coast and we would use this opening to make our 162nm trip across the Sea of Cortez. The trip was to take about 30 hours.

Like the last great exodus of Los Frailes, all the boats were up and moving bright and early. Shameless, Lutra, and Agape all had our anchors up and were underway within just a couple of minutes of each other. Agape would be heading east across the sea while the other two made their way north to La Paz, we kept in radio contact for as long as we could until the distance was two much for the VHF.

The wind was light but we were able to sail for most of the day, seeing more turtles than I thought even existed. We continually had to change course to not run into them, but after the 20th time we just held our heading and hoped that they would get out of the way. Almost all of them did, we did hear one little thump and a turtle surf the bow wake away from the boat. Don’t worry, under sail at 4 knots the turtle probably didn’t even notice it, or so we hope. We saw tons of seals and grey whales, even hooked up with a large marlin that jumped out of the water with impressive strength breaking the 100lb test hand line in less than a second!

With intermittent showers and a great sunset the rest of the trip across was pretty mellow and we made great time.

In the morning as we arrived in Mazatlan, Agape found herself surrounded by tons of whales coming closer than ever before! It was great to smell the lush green land coming into view after being in a desert for the last month.  We texted back and forth with our friends on S/V Ardea about where to anchor and how to ask permission in Spanish to enter the harbor. A couple of minutes later we were lowering our anchor behind the protection of the harbor’s breakwaters.

After our 30 hour crossing we were happy to finally step foot on mainland Mexico!!! Mazatlan is a large commercial port, as well as a tourist destination. We chose to go into Club Nautico first, a small cruiser friendly anchorage just inside of the commercial port. It’s a great little spot close to downtown with a good swimming beach and snorkeling nearby.

Sewage treatment plant upwind of the anchorage.

Club Nautico seems like the type of place that would have been packed thirty years ago when Mazatlan was seeing its first tourists. Now though, with the newer marinas just north and the larger sport fishing charters moving in, the club has been left to mostly fend for itself. Even thought the place is falling apart and has a reputation for being a little sketchy, it’s easily overlooked because of how friendly and inviting the locals are that work, play, and learn around the anchorage. The one thing that could not be over looked though was the smell! Every afternoon and throughout the evening, as the winds clocked around and built, they would carry the stench of the sewage treatment plant across the street and into the anchorage. Some nights it was pretty brutal! But it was free to anchor and only 50 pesos to tie the dingy up to the dock to use their wifi and freezing showers.

There were dozens of cats that would hang around the docks waiting for the fishermen to clean their days catch.

We enjoyed our time there getting to know the two other boats in the anchorage, S/V Ardea (back from Turtle Bay) and an awesome old salt named Rodger on S/V Tropic Tramp. 

Tropic Tramp and Ardea anchored nearby.
Roger and I hanging out on deck while Rachel climbed the rat lines.

Six days later we’d had our fill of the sights and smells of Old Town Mazatlan. With Rachel flying back to the states for twelve days of work, we decided to pull Agape into one of the harbors to the north, and after two weeks on anchor Agape needed a good bath. We choose El Cid Marina because of the ease of access to provisioning, good marine stores, and reputable fabricators…….

Grocery day at the local market.

OK, we really choose El Cid because of the hot tub! We heard they had two or three pools, a gym, hot tub, restaurant, and wifi on the docks.

After a simi-stressful entrance to the marina, past the dredge taking up half the already narrow fairway and over the bar we made our way to the dock. I don’t know if I am the only boater or not, but after not docking for a week or two I get nervous. Maybe I’ll always be nervous pulling into dock?!?!

The marina/hotel’s docks turned out to be a little different from I had originally though they’d be. I was really looking forward to hanging out with and absorbing knowledge from a marina full of other like-minded cruisers, but unfortunately there weren’t many other cruisers there at the time, so I ended up spending most of my time working on the boat or working out. One day I kayaked out to the islands just off the coast of Mazatlan and circumnavigated them both. I polished stainless, SUP’ed out for a 7 mile paddle of the estuary, waxed the floors, ran to the beach to do long run, swim, runs and worked on lots of little projects around the boat…. you get the idea I was just trying to pass time until Rachel got back.

Dirty fuel filters.

One of my projects was to change the fuel filters and inspect the fuel tanks. It got messy! We had some growth in the starboard tank and it took all day, as well as Rachel’s bottle brush, four Racor fuel filters and 9 hours of polishing the fuel to get the tank and our fuel clean.

Clean fuel is not something to be taken lightly. When I turn on Mr. Perkins, I want him to run and keep running till I say so and so far his only requests have been clean fuel and a boat load of oil!

After 11 days in the marina, I had racked up quite a bill and with Rachel and our friend Ashley coming down soon I headed out of the marina and back to the sweet-smelling anchorage of Club Nautico.

And who should be anchored there along with S/V Ardea and Tropic Tramp, but John and Becca from S/V Halcyon! Once again without my wife to care for me, I was wasting away. Starving, scared and alone I sought companionship on their boat and was cared for and fed for the next two days. I’d like to think that I’d be fine on my own for weeks at a time and find no large difference in my happiness, but it’s always nice to have community, and I took advantage of being back with familiar faces.

Group paddle.

After Rachel and Ashley arrived safely, team Agape was once again strolling the streets of Mazatlan exploring old churches, the town square and walking the malecon.

Mazatlan is defiantly worth a visit, it’s defiantly a tourist town but the history, art, and architecture of the older buildings warrant long walks around town to take in the sights.

We all enjoyed the time we had together, celebrating POTUS’s inauguration, potlucks, and late night discussions about future plans, knowing that when the weather was right Halcyon and Agape would be saying goodbye for now to the other two boats to continue on to Isla Isabel.


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