Across the Gulf and on to Puerto Penasco

I’m back in Seattle now with Sheri, staying with our son Joe and his wife Audrey. Naturally, lots of news since the last posting from the WiFi at Marina Mazatlan. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my written log from the boat with me, so this post is missing much detail. I will add that  once I return to the boat in a few months.

Upon paying my bill in preparation for leaving Mazatlan, the resident Capitania de Puerto noticed that my ship’s documentation had expired. He couldn’t give me my clearance paper. While trying to update that online, I wondered if he was going to accept my status without the actual piece of paper in hand. I decided to slip out of Dodge without proper permission. As I motored out the long harbor entrance channel towards the open sea and freedom, I kept looking back to see if he was sending his launch to detain me. Thankfully not, but as I turned around the breakwater at the seaward end of the channel, what did I see but a Port Captain boat sitting a few hundred yards away! I decided to play it cool and just motored right past him, then raised sails and began the voyage across the sea. He paid me little attention.

The wind was a decent strength but from the direction of my destination (on the nose, as we say), so I began heading south of the Baja peninsula on a starboard tack. Once across (a few days later) it was great to see the stark Baja landscape again.


I got to practice my man overboard drill as I sailed up this coast. Sailing downwind with the spinnaker, I decided I needed to jibe. As I released tension on the port sheet and pulled the starboard sheet tight, everything felt fine. But when I looked up at the huge sail, there was a wrap in the center of it. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it out, so I lowered the sail on deck and removed the twist in it. Meanwhile, we had turned sideways to the wind, as we always do while drifting, so when I went to start raising the sail again, it went up over the starboard side of the boat. When I had it about halfway up, I noticed the white shape of the bow seat in the water under the forebeam! Somehow the sail had caught it enough to break it free from the 3 legs it had been glued to. So now I had to quickly decide whether to try to retrieve the seat or build a new one once I reached Puerto Penasco. I chose the former, as a rebuild would be quite time=consuming. So I dropped the spinnaker and raised the genoa then jibed back to try to spot the white seat amongst the white=capping waves, no easy task and definitely not a sure thing; in fact I gave it about a 50=50 chance. But there it was, about 50 yards downwind of my path. I jibed for it, but couldn’t quite reach it with my fishing net. Next I sailed a bit, tacked back, spotted the little devil again, and sailed for a spot upwind of it and lowered the genoa in order to drift down on it and net it. It was barely out of reach as I stood on the port stern, and then I spotted my 50’ safety line on deck near my feet. If I put the loop in the line over my shoulder and dove in for the seat, I could possibly get it back aboard. But I had to be sure this plan would be totally safe, as the alternative could be deadly. Epic drifts pretty fast with a good breeze. Thinking through the plan a second time, I decided it would be safe, so I went for it and several hard strokes later, got hold of the seat and pulled us back to the safety of the boat.

Three nights and days after leaving Mazatlan I had gotten just north of Isla Cerralvo at around 2100 when the current wind died. Frustrated because I just wanted to get  a bit farther to a beach for a long=awaited anchorage and rest, I waited for some new wind. Well, be careful what you wish for! A breeze came up and before I knew it, was blowing over 20 knots and starting to create a nasty chop. I had lowered the mainsail but was still moving at a very good clip with the Genoa. It kept building in strength so I headed for the lee side of Isla Espiritu Santo, which offered a lot of relief from both wind and sea. I even raised the main again, and debated lowering both sails to drift and get some rest, but had remembered seeing one of these windy events on an online forecasting tool. In that case it had been very localized, so I decided to sail on north and out from behind the islands, expecting far less action from the wind and sea. Wrong! Blowing just as hard as before, I lowered the mainsail again and was lucky to get the boat to sail unattended for an hour or so. Around 0500 the winds started to let up a little so I turned for Isla San Francisco, arriving at 0830 with about 10 knots of wind. The maximum wind I saw during this ordeal was 46.3 knots, a new record aboard Epic. I slept for a while, since the previous night only netted me 3 hours and this had been an all-nighter.

i left the next morning before sunrise, eventually reaching the Loreto area, where I was able to make phone calls. Just north of town I anchored along the south shore of Isla Coronados after dark, then took off at sunrise the next morning. Mostly drifting to the east shore of the island on a tidal current, as I caught wind and headed north again I could see clearly that this island is an old volcano.


Several miles north along the coast I sailed past Punta Chivato, which also must be an old volcano. It has a pretty dramatic look to it.


I motored about 22 miles to reach the San Sebastián anchorage at the mouth of Bahia Concepcion just ahead of a wind event that lasted a few days. When you face wind and swell, the anchor chain and bridle lines collect a lot of sea grass, which becomes a mess to clean up when time comes to bring the anchor back aboard.


Earlier I posted a photo of my nighttime view, the compass and inclinometer making a devilish silhouette on the cabin wall. Well, here is my usual daytime view, my reflection and other stuff looking back at me from the salon window.


Farther north again I passed the southeast corner of Isla Angel de la Guarda. It has an off-lying island that would make for an interesting anchorage, in northerlies or southerlies, on some future passage.


After a strong breeze got me just north of the island and the Puerto Refugio area, I lowered sails to get some sleep. When I awoke around 0500 to wind, I got going until dawn on a port tack under Genoa alone, as it was blowing in the mid-teens and was dark. Then I raised the mainsail and went over to starboard tack to see if I could point any closer to Puerto Penasco; no luck. After an accidental tack to port, I noted that both tacks, given the sea state, had me below my destination by about 50 degrees, so I stayed on port tack out of laziness. An hour or so later, the wind had lifted me a few degrees, and over the course of the day it slowly shifted until I was headed right on target. Arriving around 0145, it was great to get the anchor down off the harbor entrance. A beautiful sunrise greeted me off the town that first morning.


I launched the dinghy and went to town, only to find that the boatyard was closed until Monday, so I took the time to do some resting up and cleaning in anticipation of hauling out.

Arrangements were made by phone Monday morning and Epic was settled on the hard by noon.


Able to get thing cleared up overnight for the yard to redo the top sides, I took the bus north to Phoenix the next morning.


North to Mazatlan

La Cruz was fun, as usual, with food being a highlight. On Sunday, Sheri caught a cab with friends of Striker, to the airport for her flight to Phoenix and a break from cruising. It was exactly a year ago that she did the same. I headed off to Wal-Mart for some provisioning and good food at their food court, of all places. Another fun spot was the street taco joint run by his mom and Gaby, who has gotten a haircut since we saw him last year.


So on Tuesday I set out for Punta de Mita. It was 4.5 hours of upwind sailing, with about 20 boats already anchored. Spent the next day cleaning the hulls, which were surprisingly clean already. Swam ashore for a beach run and was pleased by the fact that the Semana Santa revelers on the beach were quiet at night. Muskoka came in on their way from Paradise Village Marina to the South Pacific, and Striker followed in order to say their goodbyes.

On the 29th (happy birthday to Corky) I set sail at 0200, rounding the point from 0300 to 0400 in light winds. It was sloppy due to a northwest swell and wind on the nose which built as the day progressed. Saw porpoises a couple of times and finally approached Isla Isabel around 2200. Lots of anchored boats so I just lied ahull downwind for several hours of sound sleep. Took off around 0630 on the 30th and the wind filled in around 1100. The swell was slowly subsiding, so a nicer day of sailing. I ended up anchoring at 2200 in 85′ of water about 3 miles from shore and 42 miles from my destination.

Raised a lot of anchor line and chain at 0700 with a light offshore breeze. It died right away, but the northwesterly filled in pretty quickly. Not much swell left, so light winds made for a comfortable day. Even had a half hour of fog roll over me a bit south of the Mazatlan harbor entrance. Sailed on to anchor behind Isla Pajaros near the marina entrance at 2200 to the final sounds of Semana Santa festivities on shore. Called the marina the next morning (Easter) and motored in and got tied up (twice). Did several boat chores along with a little more provisioning, with visits to the private pool each day.


Even had time to visit the mall for a Blizzard.


On Wednesday the 4th the plan is to set sail for the islands north of La Paz and enjoy their beauty as I continue north to Puerto Penasco.

Barra, then on north to La Cruz

Spent 6 fun-filled days in Barra, lounging by the pools, playing water volleyball, doing aerobics, etc. Hit Simona’s German restaurant, street tacos, rooftop sunset drinks, and the French baker (who delivers baked goodies right to your boat in the marina or lagoon anchorage each morning).

Set sail for Perula town in Chamela Bay on the 12th with decent wind, but it died away and headed us, so we back-tracked to Tenacatita Bay for the night. Next morning the southwesterly came up around 0900 so off we went. A beautiful day as we were often accompanied by porpoises and a few whales in Bahia Chamela as we arrived around 1530. A bit lumpy in the bay but the breeze was cooling. On Pi day we went ashore for lunch, cleaned a hull, and lounged on the trampoline. Ides of March saw us messing with the SSB to no avail, cleaning the second hull, playing Mexican Train, and having pasta for dinner. Finally left Perula on the 20th with light southerlies. They didn’t really build, in fact clocked around and hit 25 knots from the northwest. We had to tack several times and reached the safety of Punta Ipala just after midnight. This is night sailing, the eerie view of the compass and it’s shadow as lit by a Lucy Light.


Next day around 1400, with a 10-knot northwesterly blowing, we sailed off the anchor. The breeze went light so we added the mainsail to our genoa repertoire and slowly got lifted around Cabo Corrientes as night fell. We tacked several times as we watched the cruise ships come and go out of Banderas Bay. All of the marinas were full so we anchored off La Cruz. The following morning we took a double-slip near Striker and Profligate of Latitude38 fame.


Many boats are participating in the Banderas Bay Regatta for the next few days here, so a bit of added excitement.

North to Barra de Navidad

we had lots of fun this season in Z-town before heading north again. One highlight was sailing up to Isla Grande near Ixtapa for a couple of nights with several cruiser-boat friends, hanging out on the beach with Juan of Paraiso Escondido telling local pirate stories while the cocoanut bonfires burned on. Seems the Spanish would send their galleons full of New World gold and silver from Acapulco towards the Philippines to trade for spices and other exotic goods. Pirates were said to hide out behind Isla Grande to attempt to intercept them. Juan is on the right in the photo.


Favorite Zihuatenejo restaurants were Cevicheria La Gamba for me and Las Braseros (shrimp tacos) for Sheri. After getting a new SSB cable (rat chewed through the old one) via Ryan on Waponi Woo, the sound didn’t work. Testing indicated a bad speaker, so I retired that cord and we now have sound but very weak transmission; the fun never ends. A coffee get-together on Fantasia and co-ed Sip & Swim rounded out our fun in town, but Sheri hit the road to view the butterflies with 3 other cruiser gals for a couple of days. News was that the roads were fine and the Monarchs were truly amazing.

We finally checked out with the Port Captain on February 27th and sailed back up to Isla Grande. After another great shore get-together amongst the cruisers, we got some sleep before sensing wind around 0330, so set sail for Caleta de Campos. Striker accompanied us at our pace while Aldabra and Wainui took off for Barra about an hour later, passing by quickly as we had little wind. A frustrating 24 hours got us to Caleta de Campos where we anchored near Striker, who had arrived at 2230. We had Eileen and David over for dinner, then after a decent night’s sleep, they took off for Maruata at 0500, reporting some wind outside. We got under way pretty fast, then the day was spent searching for breezes. We arrived at 1815, Striker having anchored at 1600. They had scored lobster and oysters from local fishermen, so had us over for dinner! Opening the oysters was interesting with limited tools and less knowledge or experience. We spent a lay day in Maruata, playing in the surf and snorkeling a cool cave.

After burgers with Striker on Epic, we got to bed early as it was our turn to lead the way north, this time at 0615. A bit of wind brought Striker out after us after they walked Jack ashore. A short day got us to Punta Cabeza Negra, where we anchored on the north side of the point for a change. It was now March 4th, and a cat named Bula headed north first, radioing back that they had wind, so we took off at 0900. Striker followed a few hours later. We sailed through the night, never seeing winds over 15 knots until just before anchoring near Malaque, where we rested, made some water, and waited for daylight. A little after 0900 we headed into the marina and settled into slip C-14 near Mark and Stephanie on Wainui. Time to get showers, play in the pool, get started on taxes, visit town, and make new cruiser friends.


Sailfest 2018

Sam and Tawnie arrived on the 29th bearing lots of boat goodies, a couple of wonderful pack mules. The next day I mounted and wired our new solar smart charger/regulator, and even though that day and the next were cloudier than usual, we could see improvement. By the end of that week we were well-charged up with no intervention needed, a great birthday present indeed!

We took 4 folks out on Wednesday to truly show the kids what Sailfest was all about, and to see the Blue Moon, but it was too cloudy. Anyway, our guests (Jim, Ronnie, Ron, and Dorothy) invited us to their apartment/condo near Ixtapa the next day, where we swam in the infinity pool, had a few drinks, and ate a wonderful lunch with several of their other friends. Another of those experiences where we have to ask, who are we and what are we doing?


After Sam and Tawnie (sadly) left for the cold Northwest, we got back into Sailfest mode with a deck top party at the Red House of Tim and Donna, then took Tim’s younger sister Angela and some friends up to Isla Grande for snorkeling and lunch. Sailed about half way back, spotted some whales, and had way more fun than all those people that watched the Super Bowl.

Tuesday had Sheri doing the Ladies Sip & Dip while I got a Shot & a Shave with the guys. Striker David crewed for me as we took a couple out for a Sailfest Sunset Cruise.


That morning our new dinghy engine had been delivered, Wednesday morning I fired it up. What a little gem, 5 horsepower of 4-stroke, one-cylinder Mercury magic. Thursday had us rallying/racing with our friends from Minnesota. A poor start as usual had us behind the other 4 catamarans, but we finished a strong second and passed many of the others in the fleet of about 25.


Dinner with the crew was at Casa Bahia, above the bay with great food, drinks, and friends once again.


Saturday the 10th was Parade Day. We were behind only Picante, Patricia Belle, Aldabra, and Fantasia. The sail back with our 4 guests was very nice, and we paused in the outer bay for a swim before calling it a day.


Monday was the post-Sailfest Margaritaville party at Gloria’s condo south of town. All I can say was that the infinity pool was fantastic and the margaritas way too strong. The rest was a blur! Next day I crewed with David and Eileen on Striker, and that was the last event for Sailfest 2018. It was a blast once again, due to the great people we did things with and those that we got to take out sailing.

South to Zihuatenejo

Finally left the fun of Nuevo Vallarta’s Paradise Village Marina, after an impromptu appearance by Frankie, Old Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board, singing New York, New York, after almost 34 years since his last stage performance. Blurry, but yes, that is me.


Port Captain and Harbormaster were cleared by 0900 on the 17th. We had to motor most of the way out of Banderas Bay, but finally caught some wind so used white sails then the spinnaker to get close to Punta Ipala, which was entered just after dark. It is fairly small and there were already 3 or 4 boats anchored, so we didn’t get the best spot, but sleep is sleep. The next morning we left Ipala around 0830 and motored for 2.5 hours, then caught a little wind and sailed on into Chamela Bay at 2030. Yeah for anchor lights and electronic navigation! Morning found us in a perfect anchoring spot among the rest of the cruisers.

Another 0830 departure, but this time the wind arrived after only an hour on the engine, so we reached the inner bay of Tenacatita at 1700, greeted by the resident porpoises as usual. There were about 35 boats at anchor, but I just don’t see the draw since there is only 1 hotel/restaurant there, and they play loud music until midnight. On the 20th we left Tenacatita at 0900 and found a light breeze off shore after a half hour. Nancy of Aldabra was in Santiago Bay near Manzanillo according to AIS so we headed in there, but just as we got close, she was heading out. Although we were anchored by 1630, which made for a pleasant day, we slept poorly so we’re under way the next morning by 0700. Off the Manzanillo entrance we watched a pretty sunrise, then started motoring as the wind died and a large (is there any other kind?) freighter came near. Catamarans El Gato and Catatude followed us out on their way to Sailfest. The wind finally returned and a combination of white sails, spinnaker, and motor got us behind Punta Cabeza Negra at 1930. A long day, but only about 30 miles planned for tomorrow.

In the meantime we had heard from our son Sam that he and Tawnie were coming for a visit from Monday through Friday of the week before Sailfest, so we were pretty stoked for that!

Sailed off the anchor at 0800 then lost the wind and motored from 0925 to 1055. Light breezes came from ahead, so we again began motoring for Maruata with the port engine. It ran out of gas about 20 minutes from the anchorage, and the other tank also appears almost empty. The next morning, in attempting to dinghy ashore for more gas, the recoil mechanism on the engine broke. A panga ride later and I brought back 40 liters of green Pemex gas. Not what I want in these engines, but it would have to do if necessary.

Around 0200 I awoke to a light breeze so woke Sheri and off we went. Winds were OK but coming up the coast, so we were slowly forced offshore some 27 miles. We had a lightening show as Sheri napped below, then when things calmed down, we switched places. After 2 hours of sleep, at 0400, Sheri gave me the helm as the thunder had arrived and a rain storm began. We had a heavy downpour for about a half hour. As dawn finally came, we dodged the NYK Laura


and headed into the bay at Z-town, coming to rest in our old spot in front of the Hotel Irma at 1030 on the 25th. That day we cleared in at the Port Captain, ordered red gas and water, inquired about engine repairs, then took naps, got cleaned up, and had dinner ashore with about 11 other cruisers at Banditos.

Non-stop south to Mazatlan, then on to Puerto Vallarta with crew

After a week living in the empty cruiser lounge at the boatyard, being a pest to the workers so they would hurry my project along, and being a tourist, the boat finally got splashed the day after Christmas. The port engine wouldn’t start so I got towed to the Fonatur docks. Once I had made walking trips for gas and the rest of my stuff from the lounge, and found that I could pull-start the recalcitrant engine, I left the harbor at 12:30.


At first the voyage south was pretty slow, so there was a good deal of motoring involved.


Once past Isla Angel de la Guarda, then the next set of islands (Tiburon, etc), I turned straight for Mazatlan 400 or so miles away. I was falling behind on my plan to reach port on Wednesday when Sheri, Joe, and Audrey would be flying in, when the wind kicked in. It was marvelous, upper teens most of the time, and the spinnaker carried me along most of the way. I entered the entrance channel at 8:15 Wednesday morning, beating the crew by several hours. Used one engine at a time for 15:45 out of the 8-day trip. Several days were overcast, which surprised me since we had so many sunny days last year. Made it hard to get the batteries charged up with the new solar panels.

In Mazatlan we enjoyed rooms at the El Cid resort for 4 days, where I took care of several repairs, some caused by the sloppy painters back in PP. The engine problem was due to the wiring that keeps it from starting while in gear, which had to be discovered with the help of a mechanic; the painters had taped that wiring. Another serious problem was that the painters kept leaving access stairs right behind the boat and a rat had gotten aboard. What a mess, and we didn’t trap him until one night between Isla Isabel and Puerto Vallarta.

Anyway, we had a great time in Mazatlan, then set out on the 7th for Isla Isabel. An overnight sail got us in around daybreak, so we napped then dropped the dinghy in and went ashore. Lots of Frigate birds and iguanas later, we set off for Puerto Vallarta in a light breeze with the spinnaker pulling us along. Sailed in behind Punta de Mita early the next morning and anchored for what was left of the night. Pretty impressive, sailing all of the way.

On the 10th they were ready for us at Paradise Village Marina, so we motored on in and tied up for a week, during which Joe and Audrey will be flying home. I think the enjoyed their time on the happy side of the wall.