Mazatlan, revisited

You’ll find these posts will have less and less text over time, no one seems to have time to read any more, anyways!

Just prior to our arrival to Marina Mazatlan, we spent the night before at the Stone Island anchorage, just south of downtown. The seas were a little rolly that night as you can see in the left hand photo above (observe the surf break just beyond one of the anchored boats).

We were buddy-boating since La Cruz de Huanacaxtle with our sister ship Firefly. For the first time on this trip, we had side-to-side (a little too narrow!) slips in a marina.

Pulmonia "monument" on the Mazatlan malecon.

During our second stay in Mazatlan we tried to do some different things from our first visit. We spent one evening downtown and rode on one of the “pulmonias,” which are a larger-version golfcart-looking open-air taxi.

We toured the historic and very lovely Peralta theatre in “old town.”

Some of the architecture in this district is quite beautiful.

After seeing the theatre complex, we enjoyed a rare upscale dinner at Pedro and Lola’s (yellowtail tuna and veal shanks), and enjoyed an evening open-air art show in the town square with live music to celebrate the conclusion of the Mazatlan Triathalon earlier that day.

Julie & Brenda enjoyed a shopping/sushi day (while the captains were boat waxing!) and happened upon a small parade (celebrating some folkloric dance performers) while downtown.


Wild Cats of Marina Mazatlan

This page is for those of our “cat people” friends. Marina Mazatlan has bunches and bunches of mostly feral cats. Quite a few have notched ears so hopefully many of them are “fixed.”

They live quite well at the marina with many thoughtful cruisers who put out food for them. Quite a few cruisers here have dogs/cats/birds, and quite a few more need a pet fix now and then.

There was one really friendly black cat “Slacker” who inhabited the dock we were tied to in December. He was a regular visitor at several boats including Voyager and our sister boat Camelot.

Good old cat chase, best show in town.

Plenty of things to do and see around the marina – wandering along the many sidewalk cafes looking for nibbles, exploring along the waters edge for fish (dead and alive), crabs, etc, chase an occasional iguana.


Now that we have your attention, these blue-footed and brown variety birds are quite entertaining, their acrobatic shows are spectacular. On several occasions we have had them follow along with the boat as they fly and dive for fish.

Great closeup of Blue-footed boobies on Isla Isabel by Dena. Two for takeoff.

They make you think of penguins (if they had wings), the way they glide into and out of the water so smoothly (as compared to the pelicans for example). They knife into the surface of the water from many angles, sometimes rapidly turning 180 degrees underwater to fly out in the opposite direction that they flew in. No video’s of them yet, sorry, they move so fast!

Dive bomber. Another take-off. Boobies nesting on Isabel by Dena.


One of the issues those of us “cruisers” who must suffer to travel and live aboard without a megayacht (we simply have no space to store/tote along a land-based vehicle, nor crane to move it on and off the boat, etc.), is what to do about ground transportation. Fortunately in Mexico, bus transportation is plentiful, cheap, safe and reasonably user-friendly for even us gringos who have yet to master the local language. It’s not always the quickest way to get around but it is much more entertaining than driving yourself!

First off, many of the buses indicate their major destinations (WalMart, other grocery, town center, marina name, etc.) right on the front window to help us get onto the right bus. Secondly, there’s lots to see and hear while traveling. The Puerto Vallarta area in particular has quite a few troubadors who board buses in search of a few coins from passengers. Most of them are pretty bad and cause you to wonder how they ever get by. We have thought several times about paying someone to get OFF the bus so we wouldn’t have to listen to them! The guy in the photo below was actually pretty decent, worth giving him a few coins. One day we sat across from a puppy in a box, and we got a kick out of seeing the little donkey in the trailer along the busy hotel zone in P.V.

Note puppy nose in lower left.

We tend to measure our day by getting one or two errands done rather than the 6, 8, 10 that one might do at home with a personal car. What we thought would be an easy trip to get a USB computer cable in Puerto Vallarta involved several different buses and stops at three different stores (finally Office Depot where we should have gone first!), taking at least three hours.

Mazatlan bus drivers seem to be the most decorative. The often have leather covers for their shifters, various decorations above the front window (often religious), and even one got creative with his coin organizer.

We tend to grocery shop frequently as we can only transport as much as we can carry on the bus; backpacks sure are handy. Plus, with only about 10 cubic feet of refrigeration aboard, we need to reload fresh foods more often than at home with our big SubZero. We try to spread out the “load” with each trip. After bouncing around in the heat for a few hours, we are strongly motivated to return to the boat for a cold cerveza to recover.

Isla Isabel

Isla Isabel is 18 miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico about halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. We and Firefly spent two nights at this World Heritage site that is called the “Galapagos of Mexico.”

Island signage appropriately marked by the birds. Isleo Mona Menor anchorage at east side of Isabel. Frigates think about shooting hoops!

The island is known for its large breeding populations of frigate and booby birds (plus plenty of pelicans, other seabirds and iguanas). You can get quite close to the creatures as they are safe from predators here. (CHECK OUT THE VIDEO PAGE!)

Hiking up the trial to view the remains of a volcanic caldera. Frigates with juveniles.

In spite of its national park status, the island has a considerable encampment of fishermen who were setting nets morning and night in and around both the south and east anchorages when we were there. Fortunately we did not become entangled in any nets and the rocky bottom here did not catch on our anchor or chain.

Fishermen working their nets. Eastern anchorage view by Dena.

It’s a pretty desolate spot for humans. We could see a few (biologists?) camped out on the eastern side who had a couple of solar panels out on the beach to make power. The “facilities” are a row of outhouses. No cellular or broadband reception here as you might imagine. A large (concrete-built) research station was built there but is now pretty decrepit and virtually abandoned now (might be a place for the fishermen to hide out during a big storm).

Fish camp, Bahia Tiburones, southern cove.

It’s a Fish!

Well, we finally caught something (worth keeping)! Frankly, we don’t spend much time (or expense) on fishish, but we do have a “hand line” and a few different lures that we can use to troll behind the boat as we move along. Ocasionally we’ll throw out the line when the seas are calm (we don’t want to have to land a fish when we’re bouncing around).

Our tasty Jack on the transom of Voyager. La Cruz de Huanacaxtle fish market, beautiful tuna.

Finally we hooked a dinner-sized one, a Pacific Crevally Jack. He provided us with a couple pounds of rich dark meat (similar to Ahi) that we baked with tomatoes, peppers and onions and shared with seven fellow cruisers at the secluded anchorage in Ensenada Carrizal, north of Manzanillo. We prefer to patronize local fishermen, who bring in a beautiful variety of fish and seafood. We had a great dinner the other night aboard with Ted & Brenda of Firefly, baked red snapper, steamed lobster, and a scallop casserole.

Las Hadas/Manzanillo

We spent about two weeks in the Manzanillo area, all at various anchorages: Las Hadas, Santiago Bay, Ensenada Carrizal, and Cuastecomate. Including this leg of our five-week trip back and forth from Puerto Vallarta, we did not dock at a marina the entire time, and the boat performed wonderfully to make electricity and water as needed.

That's Voyager on the right

Las Hadas is a resort just north of the port town of Manzanillo. It’s the most Med-looking area we’ve been in so far, with many lovely buildings on cliffsides. The beautiful large hotel complex (among others) is nearly vacant due to factors including the bad American economy and seriously overblown news in the U.S. about crime down here. The good news is that this hotel, like others along the coast, is welcoming to cruisers and we were able to use their lovely pool facility and dinghy dock for a small daily fee. As the weather was warming up nicely, we spent several afternoons poolside following our morning shopping forays into town.

Aerial view of Las Hadas marina and anchorage at right; Manzanillo in the background. Pool at Las Hadas.

The anchorage at Las Hadas was very calm and protected from wind and waves. Some California friends of ours even left their boat moored there for two weeks while they traveled by bus to Zihuatenejo and the interior for sight-seeing.

Another angle at Las Hadas, Voyager's stern.

Tsunami (not) UPDATED

Early in the morning of March 11 we received a phone call from California (Brenda/Firefly) advising us of the Tsunami warning. We were moored in Las Hadas and hoisted the anchor about 11:30 am. Most of the other 10 or so boats next to us moved offshore as well, also the commercial ships from Manzanillo’s commercial harbor to the south. Throughout that time, the marine radio traffic was very active and we had good broadband internet accesss to monitor the situation locally and abroad. After floating around a mile or two from the coast for 3-4 hours and observing no tsunami conditions, we safely anchored off Miramar Beach, Bahia Santiago for the night.

Ships going out to sea at Manzanillo. Marker bouy washed ashore. Sailboats leaving Las Hadas anchorage.

The Puerto Vallarta area saw some significant surges, as reported by Tom & Lori who were there on our sister ship Camelot: “The first of four waves hit land. The largest from low to high was about 6 feet, which caused a huge surge in all the marinas. At the marina mouth, the Harbor Master estimated the water was running at 12 knots at both La Cruz and Nuevo Vallarta. Marina La Cruz lost a dock to the surge, but no other damage was reported. The last reported surge occurred at 1845 last night, which caused the Port Captain to close La Cruz Marina for the evening. Nuevo Vallarta and Old Harbor opened about 1900. We spent the night on the hook and will be moving back into the Marina in a couple of hours.”

In addition to the surge and dock damage in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a green marker bouy broke loose and washed ashore a considerable distance from the marina!

Barra de Navidad v.1

Barra de Navidad (First Stay)

We spent ten days in February anchored in the lagoon at Barra de Navidad. Our neighbors varied from 35-55 sailboats at any given time. Barra is a great stop-off point loved by cruisers for its sheltered (except for high wind conditions) “parking” area and several easy-to-access towns for eating, drinking, touristing and provisioning. We had a few days to catch up with both Firefly and Double Dharma whom we had not seen in a month or more.

Sunrise over the Barra lagoon.

One of the highlights of the lagoon is Emeric, the French Baker who visits the anchorage (and the nearby marina) each morning to deliver fresh croissants, quiches, pies, baguettes and more. We must admit that he was a regular visitor to Voyager, plus we stocked up on some frozen, ready-to-bake croissants when we departed Barra.

Adjacent to the marina in Barra is a spectacular luxury hotel, Grand Bay Resort. This facility is very yachtie-friendly and welcomes cruisers to enjoy their beautiful pools (as long as we do some occasional shopping at their restaurants/bars). Julie, Patty (Neener, Neener, Neener – yes REALLY!), and Dena (Double Dharma) spent a great girls-only afternoon enjoying the water, sun, and tasty margaritas.

Julie and Patty have a nice soak. Bill chills. Dena gives Dale a hand, Craig watches.

The town of Barra de Navidad is very cruiser-friendly as well. Water taxi service runs nearly 24/7 between the anchorage and town (about a mile away) for about $2.25 per person round trip. The local nail salon gave a great manicure/pedicure for less than half of Bay Area prices, his and hers hair cuts were in the $4-5 range, three loads of laundry got dropped off and done in less than 24 hours for about $12. We had several wonderful and inexpensive meals onshore at street-side cafes and oceanfront restaurants including a lovely portobello-roquefort filet-mignon with salad for under $13 at a place on the water called Bananas. A few whales passed by the window while we were there.

The men of Neener3 pick up the girls after a day at the pool. Water taxi hitch hiker. Jim from Leibling gets a trim.

The Happy Coast

Costalegre (The Happy Coast)

Our friend Phil traveled with us from Nuevo Vallarta as far as Barra de Navidad. We spent six days in transit. Our first stop was the anchorage at Ipala south of Cabo Corientes. We did not go ashore to the small village there as the anchorage was rather rolly.

We continued on to Bahia Chamela, spending two nights there. We had a great cocktail/snack party with Craig and Sue aboard fellow Ha-Ha boat Sea Silk with lots of scuba diving stories being shared. We launched the dingy and toured Isla Cocinas which has quite a few pelican nests, the “babies” at that point were adult-sized but almost white in color.

One day Bill got out the hookah rig (air compressor) and he and Phil spent a good three hours cleaning extensive growth (barnacles and plant life) off of Voyager’s bottom (especially verdant after our 40 days staying in P.V. marinas). We were also hoping to snorkel here but the water temp (low 70s) and visibility were not conducive to a fun adventure so we substituted barbecuing and sunset-watching instead.

Craig and Sue kayaking with Sea Silk in background, Bahia Chamela

Our final stop on this run to Barra was Bahia Tenacatita, another very relaxing spot surrounded by beautiful white beaches (as are many of the anchorages we’ve visited).