Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan

After checking out with Puerto Vallarta’s port captain on Wed 26 Nov, we were on our way. Dick expertly backed our 46 X 20-foot catamaran out of the slip while Arlete scampered about on deck with a fender in case we got too close to another boat or dock. Through the harbor, past 3 gigantic cruise ships, and into Banderas Bay, it was a beautiful day to be out on the water.

Mazatlan's old harbor. We would go 10 miles north to the newer marina area.

Our first day ended just 18 miles away anchored near Punta Mita and we promptly decided to take a rest day. We weren’t even aware that Thanksgiving had arrived until 2 kayakers, with their own sailboats at home, came by the next day and wished us a happy holiday

We rounded Punta Mita on Fri 28 Nov, put up the mainsail in light winds, and then the genoa. Arlete was at the helm and doing pretty good, it was like a roller coaster ride, except you can’t get off. A couple of hours later, the genoa came loose. The webbing at the top came apart where the halyard attaches. Dick hauled it in, analyzed the problem, and decided he could fix it, but he would have to climb the mast again to get the halyard.

The Problem and the solution.

A couple hours later, the dinghy came loose from the davits on the stern of the boat. Dick managed to secure it, although it was now hanging perpendicular to the stern. Through the afternoon and into the evening, the wind increased to 15 knots with gusts to 20 and the waves grew to 4-5 feet (Arlete: somewhat scared). When the sun went down, Arlete got seasick and had to lie down, which may have been a good thing. Dick helmed the boat all night while Arlete got up every hour to take our position and try to secure banging doors, clattering dishes, and various other objects that fell from not-so-secure locations. It was quite noisy and Dick couldn’t figure out how she was able to sleep at all. By dawn the wind had died so we motored to an anchorage in the lee of El Coral, a rock about one mile from the small resort town of Rincon de Guaybitos near La Penita de Jaltemba.

It was only one night on the water, but we were both exhausted and we spent the next 4 days resting and fixing things. It was impossible to re-sew the torn part of the genoa, so Dick used machine screws to solve the problem. The dinghy was moved onto the foredeck. One calm morning, Dick climbed the mast to get the halyard. It was time to take the dinghy across the one-mile span of water and explore the town. There was no dock so we had to try our first beach landing. We only got swamped a little bit as small waves came over the stern as we closed in to the beach and we both got a little wet.

Two views from our anchorage.

Downtown Rincon de Guaybitos

Leaving a few hours later gave everyone on the beach a good laugh as we attempted to dinghy away from the beach. It took two tries and we were both soaked to our chests. Our strategy was 1-pull the dinghy from the beach to knee-deep water, 2-Arlete gets in and starts the engine, 3-Arlete shifts to forward as Dick gets in, Arlete gives it good power, 4-away we go. In the first attempt, Arlete couldn’t get the engine started; meanwhile waves were swamping us especially after the dinghy turned sideways to the waves. Oops, the kill switch was on. Back to shallow water to try again. The engine started and Arlete began concentrating on which way to rotate the throttle, but didn’t steer or look where she was going (concentration = staring at the object, right?). Dick launched himself headfirst into the dinghy, barely getting in from now chest-deep water. He shouted, “Look where you’re going!” but Arlete didn’t listen (she was still concentrating on and staring at the throttle). He quickly reached over, grabbed the throttle to avoid hitting the anchored panga just 10 feet away and deftly steered around the floating yellow line in the water (quick thinker), and off we went. Simple, right? We laughed all the way back to the boat. Our brother-in-law, Mark, once told Dick, “A man is measured by the size of his dinghy.” Let it be known, this woman doesn’t want a bigger dinghy.

We left the next day for another overnight sail to Isla Isabella, a small island about 50 miles away and a sanctuary for frigate birds. We were escorted by a pod of dolphins for a short time, saw whales, and at dusk saw a large group of rays jumping straight up out of the water and twisting before slapping back down to the surface. This was a beautiful night at sea with cool temperatures and a sky filled with stars. We arrived around noon the next day and had a restful afternoon. We would head out again the next morning.

Approaching Isla Isabella

Isla Isabella is a frigate bird sanctuary.

December 7 brought us another night of challenge as we sailed toward Mazatlan. Arlete took the helm at 3:30 pm, but had trouble controlling the boat so Dick had to take over. The sea state continued to worsen over the next several hours, until there were 12-14 foot seas and 30-knot winds (Arlete: scared). We had to take down the jib due to heavy slapping and Dick didn’t want his repair job to come apart due to the stress. Only around 2 am did the seas settle to the point that Arlete could take over and Dick could get some sleep.

It still took 2 more days/nights to get to Mazatlan with many whale sightings, dolphin escorts, and flying fish antics. Distance, unfavorable wind direction, and an engine problem hindered our progress. The sea water pump on the diesel failed. Dick was ready to replace the impeller, but could not force the old one out. With lots of pondering, Dick realized that the impeller could be bypassed with no ill effects, and he “macgyvered” a solution. We were soon safely tucked into a slip at Marina Mazatlan and began a 5-week stay.

Roca Tortuga

Mazatlan's Old Harbor

Five weeks in Mazatlan was not our goal, but two events kept us here. We hired a local boat yard to rebuild the seawater pump but parts had to be ordered and the holiday season slowed down work schedules and the delivery of parts that had to come from Chicago. And Dick broke a molar. He found a wonderful English-speaking dentist and got a new crown for $4000 pesos ($297 USD). Meanwhile, we enjoyed exploring Mazatlan and marina life with its hot showers, computer access, nearby coffee cafés and restaurants. Bus service was excellent and cheap, so we visited various parts of the city, went to a couple of public markets, and enjoyed a few sidewalk restaurants. We also enjoyed dropping off our laundry at the “lavanderia” – and found it to be cheaper than doing it yourself. We also enjoyed the
cooler weather here – in the 80s during the day with an afternoon breeze, 60s at night.

The city of Mazatlan: Street musicians

The Public Market

The “pulmonia” (pneumonia) is a form of transportation unique to Mazatlan. It’s a golf cart with a VW engine and is cheaper than taking a taxi.

Along the Malecon.

One of many city plazas.

A life-size sand sculpture in the plaza.

A sidewalk restaurant near the plaza.

We are ready to move on. It will be another overnight passage (Arlete: eager to try it again).

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