Voyage of Traveler / Blog

June 7, 2010

Traveler Postcard PV to La Paz

Traveler Postcard from Puerto Vallarta, Isla Marieta,
Isla Isabela, Mazatlan, Bahia de Los Muertos and La Paz
May 25 to June 7, 2010


Bahia Banderas (Bay of Flags), May 25.  After taking a pounding rounding Cabo Corrientes, it was smooth sailing on a broad reach with following seas into Bahia Banderas, which is the largest bay in Mexico and on the same latitude as Maui. The bay’s opening, from Cabo Corrientes north to Punta Mita, is 20 miles across, and 15 miles deep, with Puerto Vallarta at the eastern head of the bay.  On our way to PV, we stopped briefly at the charming, secluded cove of Yelapa. I wished we could have spent more time there, but my nephew Ryan was flying into PV in a couple of hours and we promised to meet him at the airport.  On the way to the marina, we hugged the shoreline to do some sightseeing from the water: Roca los Arcos, a dozen statues and a crowd of people strolling along the malecon, and the many high rise hotels along the beach.

Puerto Vallarta.  Brian and I took a berth at the upscale, huge Marina Vallarta for $1/foot/night.  We were docked next to the mega-yacht “Invader,” owned by Carlos Slim, the wealthiest man in the world. We quickly cabbed it to the nearby airport just in time to meet Ryan’s flight. He was just starting his summer break after his sophomore year at Loyola Marymount, so I told him that his next nine days on Traveler would be like a Cruising Summer Camp.  An avid saltwater fisherman, Ryan brought with him a couple of his own rods and reels and several lures, to add to our gear, in hopes of catching a billfish–and this is one of the best places in the world for that.  I rented a car (only $25/day with insurance and unlimited mileage!) and we toured the town.  PV is Mexico’s most popular Pacific resort, and we could see why.  Cobblestoned streets in a charming old town, with fun bars and restaurants, and beautiful hillside homes, all along a gorgeous bay.  For centuries, explorers and pirates (including Drake) stopped here to provision and relax–or pillage and plunder.  Through the 1950s, PV was just a sleepy, unknown hideaway.  Then, beginning in 1964 with the release of John Huston’s popular “Night of the Iguana” and with stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton living here, a boom in tourism changed everything. Now PV has 300,000 residents and 2 million visitors a year. The first night we found a nice beachfront restaurant serving an All-You-Can-Eat buffet.  We grabbed a table to watch a fabulous sunset and saw the illusive Green Flash!  Ryan, Brian and I stuffed ourselves then walked it off along the malecon.  The next day we drove an hour up the coast to spend a relaxing day at a surf village called Sayulita, which was great.  Except along the way I got stopped by a traffic cop for running a red light, he said.  I was sure I had not, and Brian (sitting in the front seat) was also sure I had not.  But the cop said he was going to write me a ticket, the fine would be 1200 pesos ($100 US) and he was going to hold my drivers license at the police station to make sure I paid the fine before leaving PV. I begged for a warning instead.  He said that I could, if I preferred, just pay him the 1200 pesos and be on my way.  Ah, the crooked cop, shaking down a tourist.  Now it was just a matter of negotiating the price.  After a minute of haggling, we settled on 600 pesos ($50 US), I paid the bribe and we were on the road again.  Later I read in a newspaper about dirty cops stopping tourists, claiming some traffic violation and soliciting bribes.  The article went on to say, unfortunately, the practice is widespread throughout Mexico’s resort towns.

Isla Marieta and Isla Isabela.  On our way up the coast to Mazatlan, we stopped at two offshore islands: first at Isla Marieta, just 15 miles west of PV, and then, Isla Isabela, 100 miles north from there.  Both islands are remote, uninhabited bird sanctuaries.  Marieta, at 20-41N, 105-36W, is a National Park and was a striking, delightful contrast from the developed marinas and high rise hotels of PV.  We snorkeled (fabulous!) and kayaked (one of the best rocky shorelines for kayaking I found the entire voyage!)  We also went ashore and hiked around the island, careful to step around dozens of blue-footed boobies nesting in the tall grass.  We also had fun exploring the islands’s natural limestone caves.  Marieta is an extraordinary natural wonder, comparable to the Galapagos Islands.  Back onboard Traveler, we had an early dinner then motor-sailed through the night to Isla Isabela, at 21-50N, 105-52W.  It is another stunningly beautiful island, with thousands of nesting birds and dramatic rocks, and once again great for snorkeling and kayaking.  Both Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic have done hour-long TV specials about this island calling it a “wonderland of unspoiled nature.”

Mazatlan.  We arrived here on a quiet Sunday morning, May 30, and took a berth at the El Cid Hotel and Marina, a five star resort.  My brother Drew (Ryan’s dad) owns Pacific Coast Sportfishing Magazine and arranged for us to go out on a charter boat, one of his advertisers, for the day to find billfish.  Unfortunately, they weren’t biting and we got skunked. But we later had a fun time walking around the old town and enjoyed a nice dinner at El Shrimp Bucket.  Because the marina is owned by the hotel, included in the price for the berth were hotel privileges, so we spent some quality time just hanging around the pool, with its waterfalls, covered grotto and water slide, munching on nachos and sipping cervezas.

Sea of Cortez.  Brian, Ryan and I departed Mazatlan on June 2 to cross the Sea of Cortez (also correctly called the Gulf of California), headed for La Paz.  The wind angle, oddly out of the south, and wind speed provided some great sailing.  This was the first time Ryan had been sailing on a boat this size in blue water, out of sight of land; as a bonus, it was also an overnight sail on a warm night under a full moon.  The conditions were perfect.  On the down side, we trolled the whole way across the gulf, but still nada.

Bahia de Los Muertos.  We made landfall on Baja California Sur between the East Cape and La Paz at the Bahia de Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) at 23-59N, 109-49W. A few years ago a developer bought the entire bay, put in a golf course resort and home sites, and changed the name to Bahia de Suenos (Bay of Dreams).  But the old name is hard to change.  Cortes gave the bay that name in 1539 when he landed here to find several graves with odd (to him) headstones.  A local fisherman told Cortez that many years earlier a Chinese ship anchored here, and many of the crew died and were buried ashore.  We dinghied ashore to a restaurant called “1539″ for nachos and cervezas, met up with some other yachties anchored here, and watched the Lakers beat the Celtics in Game One of the NBA Finals.

La Paz.  The next morning we sailed north with, again, a rare southerly breeze, past Isla Cerralvo (whose name was recently changed to Isla Cousteau.) Ryan caught two bonitas along the way, keeping one and releasing the other.  We stopped for lunch at the uninhabited Isla Espiritu Santo, a National Park.  While Brian napped on Traveler, Ryan and I went ashore.  But the bugs were bitting, big time, so we didn’t stay long.  What a gorgeous place, though. Another natural wonder.  We weighed anchor and sailed into Bahia La Paz, towing the dinghy.  The late afternoon sun gave some great lighting and I realized I had very few photos, if any, of Traveler under sail.  So I hopped into the dinghy and got some great shots of Traveler underway, with Baja’s desert-like mountains in the background.  We anchored in La Paz Harbor and had a Captain’s Dinner for Ryan to celebrate his last night with us.  For an appetizer, we ate fresh ceviche made with scallops, lime juice, jalapeno peppers and coconut milk.  Then for the main course we had surf and turf with the fish Ryan caught and fillet mignon, with a side of ravioli.  We finished off the meal with a shot of Kahlua.  Salud!

Getting Close To Home.  After dropping Ryan off at the bus station, as Brian and I dinghied back out to Traveler, we noticed a new boat anchored next to us.  It not only had a US flag (very common down here) but also a home port of Newport Beach.  Then we saw it also had a Balboa Yacht Club burgee!  We went aboard “Escapade,” a Regal 42, and visited with Jim and Anita Collings from the BYC and their friend Debbie St. Louis, catching up on what’s new at the club.  The next night we all got together again to go out for a fabulous dinner at the Buffalo BBQ, one of La Paz’s most popular restaurants.

It is now June 7, and just 12 more days until Barbara re-joins Traveler and, together with Brian, we begin the final passage of the voyage, up the Baja Coast. After sailing more than 30,000 miles, we now have less than 800 miles to go.

We are still planning to complete the circumnavigation and celebrate with a Traveler Homecoming and Crew Reunion on Saturday, July 3 at 2pm at the BYC, and you all are invited.

Hasta temprano,

1 Comment »

  1. Ahhh, Michael! Such great reading. We know Yelapa and Sayulita well. Fun to read your impressions! I have told our John Eckternoch (sp?) story a number of times since meeting you in December.
    Writing you now from Bequia…on anchor and visiting with local friends, Rosi/owner of Rock-Side Cafe, Kearton’s Bay, St Vincent and Hutch/originally from Boulder, CO, he’s lived aboard his sloop in the Windwards for past 20 years. We feel at home here in many ways but watch the depressions and tropical waves that are now filling the Atlantic, moving our way. We’ll slide south to Grenada soon, paint bottom then sail west to Curacao this summer.
    Wish we could be part of your BYC return home in July.
    Fondly, til next,

    Comment by Ellen Birrell — June 15, 2010 @ 6:37 am

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