Pazzo’s Mexican Adventure: From Coyotes to Seabirds
After several months on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, we were happy to wake up on February first in Bahia San Pedro, about 20 miles north of San Carlos / Guaymas. The large crescent bay offered nice walks along the beautiful sandy beach, a cross-isthmus trail to a lovely neighboring beach, an opportunity for a sunset beach fire (complete with wine and chicken dinner cooked in the fire), and a real treat: a coyote wandering the beach near the boat! We tried to chase him in the dink for closer pics, but he caught our scent and quickly disappeared over the sand dunes. We had to settle for the call of coyotes singing us to sleep. We’ve now anchored in the company of Grizzly Bears in Alaska, Black Bears in Canada, and now a coyote in Mexico.
From San Pedro we ran south to visit the tourist town of San Carlos (Superbowl Sunday) and its industrial neighbor Guaymas. We hauled the boat in the small but very clean Guaymas Fonatur boatyard for a couple of weeks while Cindy flew home for some time with sister, Julie. Willy took care of a few underwater projects on the boat. An uneventful stay on the hard except for one stormy day with winds gusting over 40K. Fortunately, the boat remained solid on her stands.
On Cindy’s return, (a multi-day ordeal clouded by a bout with food-poisoning, including a visit to the ER, and a couple of extra nights in a hotel at the Phoenix airport), we launched the boat and headed south to Topolobampa, a friendly and quiet fishing town with a fun name near Los Mochis. Our visit to Topo coincided with the annual Carnival celebration at the end of February. Topo takes Carnival quite seriously.
We secured the boat in the Palmyra Marina for a week or so while we explored the Copper Canyon region of Mexico on “El Chepe,” an impressive 1976 railroad that snakes its way from the coast to the crest of the Sierra Madre mountains and the alpine town of Creel. From Creel, we took day tours to visit assorted rock formations, an indigenous Tarahumara family and village, local arts and crafts , and the majestic Copper Canyon itself. The Tarahumara people are said to be the poorest in all of Mexico, but they seem happy in their simple life farming and selling intricate woven baskets and beaded jewelry. Of course, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to ride the longest zip line in the world (over 2km) from the canyon rim to a large center-canyon pinnacle rock formation. Exhilarating! As a late Valentine’s Day celebration, we spent a night in a charming hotel with a room perched literally on the precipice of the Canyon. An inspiring view to start or end any day!
We returned to the boat in time to take in the final day of Carnival – a gala event with a grand parade , plenty of very loud music, and yummy street food.
On March 1, we took leave of Topolobampa for a quick dash (30 hours) down to Mazatlan with lively Northwest winds and fair current. We caught a “Torofish” fish on the way into the Stone Anchorage on the outside of Old Mazatlan harbor. Locals say it’s good-eatin’ but we later learned that its called a Cravalle Jack and is a red-meat fish much like a skipjack (Bonito) tuna. Not a big hit with Team Pazzo.
We spent a few days enjoying the old town section of Mazatlan, including the bustling market and pretty boardwalk where we found local artisan, “Chewy” who taught us how to feed frigate birds by holding a pencil-like stick vertically (with eraser in our mouths and head tilted back) with a morsel of fish skewered on the point. The magnificent flyers deftly swooped in and plucked the juicy nugget from the pencil tip. Impressive! We both took turns feeding the well-behaved Frigates.
Shortly after midnight on March 5, we hoisted anchor and quietly slipped out of Mazatlan harbor. By late afternoon, we were securely anchored in the south bay of Isla Isabel, an untainted wildlife refuge often called Mexico’s “Mini Galapagos.” Here, we found iguanas wandering the fishing encampment, scores of frigate birds perched in the trees only a few feet above our heads, and several colonies of blue-footed and masked boobies, many of which were sitting on eggs or nursing newborns. We enjoyed the boobie mating dance wherein the male proudly shows off his blue feet as a proposal to his selected mate, while the mate looks bored with the ritual. To our delight, we encountered an albino frigate soaring amongst its countless black brethren.
After a few days taking in the magic of Isla Isabel, we enjoyed a quick day-sail eastward to the town of San Blas where we relaxed and dodged mosquitos anchored well offshore in Bahia Matanchen. From this anchorage, we joined a morning “jungle tour” that took us by panga (open Mexican fishing boat) thru a mangrove maze with prolific birdlife and crocodiles basking on the muddy shores. A crocodile sanctuary and breeding operation was a highlight of the tour. We are unsure why a Jaguar family was unkindly caged and on display at the croc-shop.
From San Blas, our route took us just a few hours south to the small fishing village of Chacala where we stumbled upon the annual Chacala music festival featuring native dancing, local bands, and local arts and crafts.
Chacala was a relaxing stop, but the NW swells wrapping around the point made for a rolly anchorage so we were content to push on southward to Puerto Vallarta where we’d meet Kyra, Chloe, and Zach for our next leg south to Zihuataneo.