Puerto Vallarta to La Paz

March 2007


La Cruz anchorage

Spectacular sunset at Punta de Mita

Sea turtle--obviously a bird had been sitting on his back

Dorado for dinner

Birds on river


Crocodile on river

Iguana on river

River panga

San Blas church interior

San Blas church

Fort at San Blas

View of San Blas from the fort--the anchorage is in the background

San Blas anchorage

San Blas sunset

Shrimper outside
San Blas

Isla Isabella

El Cid pool

Hot pool in background

Climb to the lighthouse

Crossing to La Paz

Crossing to La Paz

Drue arrived in Puerto Vallarta around 1:30 p.m. on March 9, and it was obvious at the airport that many students were on spring break. She had flown out very early in the morning, so we just caught a bus back to La Cruz where we loaded up the dinghy with Drue and her luggage. Every afternoon the wind comes up so we had a very wet ride back to the boat. We all relaxed for awhile, and then we went ashore to Philo's for some pizza and beer. There is major construction being done on a new marina at La Cruz. You can see some of the construction machinery in the picture.

The next day we pulled the anchor and went for a day sail in Banderas Bay. This bay has consistent afternoon winds that range from 10 to 15 knots. We had an absolutely lovely sail across the bay. Drue was enjoying the sunshine and sunbathing on top of the dinghy on the foredeck, and there were whales in the bay that day. We tacked and headed back to Punta de Mita on the north shore. We pulled in around 4 in the afternoon and dropped the hook. Since it was Drue's 24th birthday, I made chicken tetrazini. I also baked a German chocolate cake, and Steve and I sang "Happy Birthday" to her. That evening we had a spectacular sunset, which made the day perfect.

The next morning we left around 6 a.m. to head north to San Blas. We had to motor since there was no wind, but we had a lovely trip and saw many, many turtles along the way. Steve caught a lovely Dorado for our dinner, but another larger Dorado got away. We pulled into the estuary around 3:30 that afternoon. There were breaking waves at the entrance of the estuary that caused us some concern, but the boat handled just fine, and we made it in without any problems.

Ron and Anita from Liberty Call II and Dick and Pam from Lady Pamela came by in their dinghy to say hello. They were leaving on a deep-sea fishing trip the next day and invited us to go, but we decided to just stay and enjoy San Blas. 

The next morning we left the boat early to take the river tour. We hired a panga to take us up the river. When we got into the panga, we were handed four beers, and then the driver took off. The morning was cool, and we saw so many birds. Steve and I have done this tour before, but on this one the birds were everywhere. We saw some crocodiles, most of which were small. At one point we were just idling along when all of a sudden a very large crocodile surfaced and snapped just a few feet from Steve's elbow. We all kept our arms inside the boat after that. We also saw an iguana and a large turtle.

After the river trip we took a taxi up to the church and the fort. The church was built 1788 and was the inspiration for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Bells of San Blas." Drue really enjoyed seeing these very old buildings. It also gave her an excellent view of the estuary, the sailboats, and the city of San Blas. We then went back to town to check in with the Port Captain. Next we went to the Plaza where we stopped at a wonderful taco stand, and we all agreed that they were the best tacos we had ever had. Steve and Drue then went shopping while I got my hair cut. After that it was back to the boat for a quick siesta. We had put up our bug screens since the bugs can be a problem in the estuary, and we didn't have too many bites, although Drue seemed to be the favorite.  That night we went back into town and enjoyed dinner at McDonald's--not that McDonald's--this McDonald's was a nice restaurant just off the Plaza. We then called it a day.

Next we were off to Isla Isabella. We left around 6 in the morning in order to make as many miles as we could before the wind came up. At this time of the year, it would be right on the nose. Steve had the fishing lines out, and a large fish took one of his lures, but we did not get one aboard. We arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon and decided to take a swim. The water was cool, and we had some waves, but it felt good to cool off. Unfortunately, the head plugged up so Steve had the wonderful job of clearing all the lines. When he was done, we enjoyed dinner and then decided to continue to Mazatlan since the anchorage was rolly. We left Isla Isabella around 6:30 p.m. and had to pound into waves for a few hours. After awhile things calmed down, and we had a much better passage. Oh, I forgot--Steve ended up having to take the head apart once more. The valve used to change from overboard to the holding tank was also plugged. This, of course, happened early in the morning when he was very tired.

We heard that the dredge was not working in the channel into Nuevo Mazatlan, so at 12:30 when we arrived, we were able go through the breakwaters. Again, there was a west swell, so we had breaking waves at the entrance. Steve was able to go fast enough to stay ahead of the wave behind us, and we got through just fine. We pulled in at the fuel dock to get diesel and check on a slip. We have never been able to stay at Marina El Cid, but this time everything worked out just great. A few hours later we were tied at the end of the dock (the best place to be as it is much easier to get in and out), and we headed straight for the pool. There are two pools--a larger one for kids and a smaller one with a hot pool for adults. It was a bit cool with the breeze coming through the breakwater, but it felt great to just relax.

The next day Drue and I went shopping in the Gold Zone, which is where a lot of the hotels are. As Drue and I were walking down the street, she saw a guy that she knew from Colorado State. What a small world! We found some fun souvenirs, and Drue found a beautiful metal piece of art of the sun and the moon. We took her to the historical district for dinner, and the next morning we hiked up to the lighthouse. After the hike, we went to the mercado to do some more shopping. We discovered that the top floor of the mercado was filled with restaurants so we enjoyed a delicious lunch of fried fish and enchiladas.

Drue left on the 17th to fly back to North Carolina, but we stayed for another five days so that we could provision and get some small projects done. I think the real reason we stayed was to enjoy the pool for awhile.

On March 21 we decided to cross the Sea of Cortez and head for La Paz. The forecast called for some stronger winds, but the wind would be from the south, which would give us a very nice sail. Also, if we didn't leave then, we might get stuck for another 10 days. Our daughter Brie and her husband Tim were flying into La Paz on April 2, so we decided that we should go.

Steve wrote the following about our crossing:

"We are now back across the Sea of Cortez at an anchorage called Caleta Partida which is on Isla Espiritu just north of La Paz. We left Mazatlan on Wednesday morning and arrived here yesterday (Thursday) around noon. After we left the marina in Mazatlan, we anchored just outside the breakwater so that I could clean the propeller and bottom. After that, we got underway. The first 10 hours or so were great sailing with winds 10-15 knots and flat seas. Around midnight the winds began to build out of the south, a very unusual but very good direction for a passage to the northwest. Around 0200 Linda woke me because the wind and waves had gotten large so we put the second reef in the main, shortened the jib, and we were fine. By morning, the winds were now up to 25 knots steady and during the day, they increased some more. At one point during the day, I measured 37 knots on the deck so the wind at the top of the mast was probably 40+ knots. Obviously the sea state built too and by 2:00 in the afternoon, we had steady waves of 10 feet with an occasional 15 footer, and many of them were breaking. We both agreed that the waves were the biggest we have sailed in anywhere. Since we were sailing with the wind and waves on the beam, every 10 minutes a big wave would break with us on the top of the wave, and we would get laid over 45 degrees. Several waves broke on the rear quarter flooding the back of the boat. Needless to say, we were a very wet boat. Finally, by late afternoon the winds and waves lessened, and we thought we were done. By 10:00 p.m. the winds had built again to > 30 knots but this time out of the west, right on the bow. At some point in the middle of the night I saw that we were 10 miles from rounding the top of Ceravalos Island, and we were moving at 0.7 knots--only 13 more hours! We did make some course changes to allow some lift from the main sail, and finally by noon we were anchored. It was a long but successful trip and one in which we ran the motor less than 1/2 the time. Also, the wind was from a very unusual direction. We found out during the trip that a low pressure system had moved across the southern Sea of Cortez, but it was hard to see from surface charts and satellite photos because it was under the "pineapple express," a long band of clouds that extends from the inter-tropical convergence zone (near the equator) up across the Baja. You may be thinking, "Seems they have had a lot of bad weather" and that would be true. It has been much heavier weather this year and most sailors here blame it on the El Nino that formed late last year. Every El Nino year brings strange and more severe weather to the Pacific coast, and we have been here to "weather it" so to speak!"

I have included pictures of our crossing, but pictures never do justice to the conditions we experience.