Rock formation at Isla Isabel.
Sunset at sea after leaving Isla Isabel.
A scum line of foam stretches
between Groovy and our neighbor.
Dinks line up on the beach as the owners stop for
shrimp & garlic pizza.
A perfect beach for toddlers and dinghy landings.
A water taxi arrives to take us to
Unusual monuments along the
Exotic modern architecture.
Stately antique architecture.
Mazatlan's town square has an odd excess of
Renovated buildings brighten some spots.
Elaborate antique wrought iron gates remind us that
Mazatlan has battled crime for eons.
Renovations on one side of the street distract your
gaze away from...
...unrenovated buildings across the street.
Groovy's window dips face down into the
turquoise Sea of Cortez.
The kayak begs to go for a ride...
...and what a great ride it is.
Bleached coral twigs lie in the sand.
Mansions sprout along this quiet and remote bay.
Early April, 2011 - It is a 90 mile run from Isla Isabel to Mazatlan, but with the wind
directly on our nose the whole way, we knew we could easily cover as much as 140
miles tacking back and forth by the time we got there. So we left shortly after dawn,
anticipating 24 hours in transit. Sure enough, we sailed all but the last ten miles,
witnessing both a stunning sunset and a pretty sunrise before we arrived at the Stone
Island anchorage just outside of the entrance to Mazatlan harbor.
We had been warned about
fishing long-line nets ages
ago, but in our 2,200 miles of
sailing along the Mexican
coast for the past four
months we hadn't seen any
until we had approached Isla
Isabel a few days earlier.
They are poorly marked, usually with a small black buoy flying a black
triangular pennant a foot or two off the water. Generally, about 100
feet from the pennant buoy there will be a soda pop bottle or other
small buoy that marks the end of the long-line net. Somewhere out in
the distance, 1/4 mile or more away, there will be another pennant
buoy. If there is a plastic bottle bobbing near that one, then that
marks the other end of the long-line, and you need to go around the whole thing or get caught in the net. Sometimes the long-
lines can extend for several miles, with small black buoys placed every 200 feet or so along the entire length of the net.
As we approached Mazatlan we found ourselves in totally flat calm water in mid-
morning. Rather drowsy from sailing all night, we were shocked awake when a
pennant buoy slipped right by the boat. We barely missed the end of the long-line net.
Suddenly wide awake, we were astonished to find one long-line net after another
blocking our way for the entire 10 mile approach to the harbor. We had been tacking
all night long as we sailed, and now we found ourselves zig-zagging all over the sea
while under power to avoid these crazy nets.
We settled into the scenic Stone Island anchorage just outside the mouth of Mazatlan
harbor but were discouraged to find ourselves in a scum line that connected Groovy to
the next boat in the anchorage with a ragged film of foam. To keep our spirits up, we
reminded ourselves that the Huichol people believe all animal life springs from this
foam, as the foam is the Sun God's very fertile saliva.
There is a small beach
around the corner from the
anchorage where we
discovered the most delicious
shrimp and garlic pizza in a
casual beach palapa. This
pretty beach has the
sweetest and gentlest waves and is ideal for toddlers and dinghy
landings. Our kayak took its place on the shore alongside the other
dinghies from our neighboring cruisers.
The beach was serene and peaceful most days, seeming a
world apart from the very busy city that lay just beyond.
From Stone Island we
took a water taxi across
Mazatlan Harbor to the
edge of Old Town. This
made getting to and from
the city of Mazatlan a kayak-walk-water taxi affair, but it also placed us in a pretty
setting far from the urban challenges that make up Mazatlan.
A walk along the city's
malecon, or boardwalk,
revealed a waterfront that
could be very attractive.
There is a long beach,
some unusual homes
perched on impossible
cliffs, and some unique statues
However, Mazatlan is not a
friendly place. For the first
time in Mexico a bus driver
tried to cheat us when he made change,
giving us 25 pesos in change rather than the
40 he owed us. It took three refusals of his
token offers of small coins to get the total we
were due, and he offered no apology.
Similarly, where other Mexicans in other
places happily smile and wave when they
pass, here we found downcast eyes and
solemn expressions. It is not a happy city.
We had heard mixed reviews of Mazatlan
before we arrived, with most people saying
they hadn't liked it. However a few were very
enthusiastic about the Old Town architecture.
The cathedral was impressive.
More impressive to us, however, was that the
town square was filled with shoe-shiners. On
each of the four sidewalks surrounding
the square we found two or three shoe-
shine people, for a total of 10 or 12
around the square. They laughed when
we pointed at our Keene sandals -- no
sales there -- but we had never seen
such a high density of people shining
shoes for a living.
At one time Mazatlan was prosperous,
and quite a few ornate buildings have
been renovated. There is a tiny half-
block sized park that is surrounded by
brightly painted renovated buildings. A
few three- and four-table restaurants
catering to gringo tourists spill out onto
the sidewalk. Another
cobbled street sports a brief row of antique buildings whose imposing
wrought iron gates over the doors and windows are reminders that
even in wealthier times this city was gripped by crime. Unfortunately,
renovation is only skin deep. Across the street from one architectural
make-over was another building begging for repair.
We heard rumors that an American tourist in Mazatlan had
recently been caught in the cross-fire of drug-related gang
violence and killed, leading the cruise ships to reroute their
cruises away from this city.
The many busted up buildings, the endless graffiti all over town and the
truckload of soldiers patrolling the supermarket parking lot where we
went shopping all seemed to support the sad story that there is a very
dark side to this city.
It didn't help when a taxi driver told us to be sure never to walk through
the neighborhood next to where he dropped us off, as it was the worst of
the drug and gang infested neighborhoods.
Waking up to dense pea soup fog three days in a row did nothing to
lighten our mood, and on the fourth morning we left well before dawn to
make our trek across the Sea of Cortez to the southeastern tip of the
Mazatlan to Bahia Los Muertos is a 190 mile journey, and for us it was
largely upwind. We motored along overnight. Just like four months
earlier, we listened to the nutty fishermen calling each other all night long on the VHF radio. Paying no attention to the
international regulations regarding the strict use of Channel 16 as a hailing channel only, these guys held long conversations
with each other, broadcast favorite songs, whistled at each other, yelled, and teased each other all night long. It makes for a
strange moonless night at sea when invisible waves noisily lick the hull while crazy Mexican fishermen cat-call each other on
the radio at the top of their lungs between playing snippets of Tina Turner and Mexican mariachi music.
All night long we impatiently watched the wind gauge, waiting for the wind to slide off our nose just enough so we could sail.
The moment finally came on our second morning as the sun was rising, and we got in 7 hours of sprightly sailing.
What a joy it was, as the boat heeled over in the brilliant sparkling
morning seas, suddenly to see bright turquoise water. Due to all
the red tide and estuary run-off this year, the ocean along the
Mexican Pacific coast had ranged from grey-green to brown to
burgundy. I was so thrilled by the color of the water streaming by
our hull as we approached the Los Muertos anchorage that I
quickly got some photos of our cabin window submerged in the
beautiful water, even though having the window face down in the
water meant it was well past the time to reef the sails and stop
heeling so much!
Not only was the water at Los Muertos a spectacular color, but the
anchorage was calm. We jumped in the kayak as soon as the
anchor was down. Calm, clear, pretty water surrounded us, and
we were like two happy kids paddling around.
There were lots of dark patches in the water, and we soon
discovered these were coral heads. What a surprise. On the
beach there were lots of little branches of bleached coral resting in
Los Muertos is a large bay with little development, but the waterfront
mansions are on their way. A growing development at one end has
beautiful condos and a few fantastic homes. The guidebook's
mention of an RV park is long outdated, as not one of the people we
met on shore had ever known of RVs coming this way.
A little more research on our part and we discovered that at
one time this area was a boondocker's paradise. RVs would
line up right along the shore where the golf course now
Times change, but after leaving Mazatlan and making our
second Sea of Cortez crossing, Mark had no doubt about
where we were standing: Paradise.
After a few days of resting in this relaxing bay, we sailed
around the corner of the Baja peninsula into the bustling
town of La Paz.
Find Mazatlan and Los Muertos on Mexico Maps