The next leg of our journey was to tackle the rugged 700 nautical mile (nm) Pacific coast of the Mexican Baha Peninsula, then cross the Sea of Cortez, an additional 300 nm, to Puerto/Nuevo Vallarta in order to meet up with friends for Christmas.
|Welcome to Mexico|
12:37pm Monday, December 2, 2002 - Goodbye USA, Hello MexicoThe day after leaving San Diego and with s/v (sailing vessel) Atalanta a mile off on our starboard side, we ceremoniously raise our Mexican flag. Whenever you visit a foreign country, it is international courtesy to fly the hosting nation's flag on your starboard side. The flag should be approximately 1/2" long for every foot of boat length.
|Raising the Mexican flag|
12:15pm December 4, 2002 - Islas San Benitos - Our first Mexican LandfallThe first leg of our Mexican journey was a 3-night offshore leg from San Diego to Islas San Benitos, a group of three islands with a small fishing village on the west island. Once anchored, we approach the village in our dinghy and are very nervous. Our Spanish, except for ordering beer, is next to non-existent. But the fishermen smile and welcome us to their island with friendly gestures. Está bien - it's okay.
|Arriving at Isla San Benitos village|
We are deep into culture shock as we gingerly beach the dinghy. Two pretty little girls come down. Hola, we greet them. The fish boy shows us his catch with a big grin. We turn left and walk up into the dusty streets. More villagers greet us as we walk by. Elephantas? one woman queries as she gestures us to walk in a certain direction. Si, we reply and alter our course from one unknown to another (what, are there elephants on this island?). Soon we find what she is talking about ... elephant seals! Every year they come to the island group and breed. They have just started to arrive.
After we visit the elephant seals, we stroll around the small village then up to a cross high on a hill overlooking the harbor. Most of the villagers on this island are from nearby Cedros Island (distant background in the photo) and come for the fishing season. The houses are mostly shacks, but the village does have a generator so many shacks have a T.V. and satellite dish.
|Typical housing and harbor view.|
Colorful Panga (fishing boat) - Islas San BenitoThis is a typical Mexican fishing boat, called a panga. They are made of fiberglass, are deep hence very stable, and they have flat bottoms so that they can be beached easily. A motor in the range of 50hp or more will plane the craft at a good clip. Fishermen use these vessels for attending nets, lobster traps, and for diving operations.
7:37pm Friday, December 6, 2002 - Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay)Still tandem with s/v Atalanta, we make the short overnight passage from Islas San Benito to Turtle Bay, the best all-weather harbor on the Pacific Baha. We feel very welcome in their village. The spot in this photo was magical - a little cantina right on the beach serving ice cold cervezas. In no time, the kids have made friends and play soccer with the local kids and we are deep into relaxation with the locals.
|Cervazas on the beach at Turtle Bay|
Saturday, December 7, 2002 - Turtle Bay - View of the VillageToday is a walking-tour of Turtle Bay's sizable village with the crew of s/v Atalanta. The village soon reveals to our surprise a market, restaurants, fuel, grocers, cafes, bakeries, meat shops, tortillas and fresh-baked breads, banks, public telephones, ice, beer ... most anything you would need and extremely friendly people everywhere. Michael jokes, as he finds his favorite cereal sitting on a grocer's shelf, "Mexico's gonna' be all right after all!"
|Michael, Vienna, Rhiannon, Ginny, Joel, Gerrit & Sheila with village of Turtle Bay in background.|
11:45am Sunday, December 8, 2002 - Visitor kids from the VillageLocal kids Ricardo and Eric, with their mom's permission, visit with us on Tioga for a hour or so Sunday morning. Once onboard, their eyes are wide open as we show them about. Conversation is sparse as they know as much English as we do Spanish, so we suggest the card game "Uno." It is great fun as well as great Spanish practice with numbers and colors. A great memory!
|Ricardo & Eric with Tioga crew|
4:30pm Sunday, December 8, 2002 - Late afternoon on the beachYou can get a good appreciation of the landscape of the Baha from this photo. While it appears quite barren, it actually is! But it is unique in it's own way and the ocean is a magnificent blue teaming with marine life. We have a great afternoon on this secluded beach. But before we go, it's time to dispose of our garbage...
|Sand castles on the Mexican Baha.|
In a number of rural areas, garbage is a problem, and it often ends up on the streets if you're not careful. Instead of handing over our garbage to villagers to handle for a few pesos, we implement the following strategy. Food waste goes overboard, as do cans and glass. Light plastics and papers/wrappers are saved until we can burn them (this photo) and heavy plastics are cut up and saved for proper disposal. Salt water and immense underwater pressure will decompose the food scrapes and cans that go overboard in no time and the glass makes safe underwater habitats for various sea creatures.
|Garbage burning day.|
A number of days have passed and we have worked our way further down the coast. We are trying to avoid large ocean swells that a massive storm system in the Pacific northwest is creating. As reported by weather fax and on the SSB radio by boats to the north of us, ocean swell is reaching 20' in inshore and 40' in offshore waters and will reach well into Mexico. We are already finding it impossible to go to shore - the breaking surf will easily upset our dinghy. Even the local fisherman are struggling with the surf line.
Friday, December 13, 2002 - Rafting with s/v Atalanta in Bahia Santa Maria
|Atalanta and Tioga rafted together.|
The really large swells are expected in our present location within 48 hours. And while Bahia Santa Maria and nearby Bahia Magadalena are supposed to be great places to visit, we can't and won't be able to make it ashore. Further, if the storm's effects are given time to catch and strand us, we will jeopardize our ability to make it to Puerto Vallarta (PV) by Christmas. So we spend an enjoyable and last evening rafted with our friends on s/v Atalanta. The next morning we will start the last 470 nm (4-day) offshore passage to PV, which will take us around the southern tip of the Baha (Cabo San Lucas) and across the Sea of Cortez. S/v Atalanta will round Cabo, but then head north enroute to La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. The buddy-boat experience is has been so much more than we ever expected. We will miss the crew of s/v Atalanta.
|Gerrit, Rhiannon, Joel & Vienna say their "see ya laters".|
9:10am Monday, December 16, 2002 - Flyingfish on deck, 50 miles southeast of Cabo San LucasWe'd read about it, but this was a first for us. This "ribbon halfbeak" flyingfish had his last flight sometime during the night and landed on our deck (with a big "drat!" I'm sure). These fishes scull violently with their tails, taxiing to attain flight speed. They then spread their pectoral fins, soar high for a few seconds, then splash back to the sea... except in our case. These fish can actually seriously injure people with their spiked bill. Reportedly, they also taste good for breakfast.
|The last flight of a flyingfish...|
7:23am Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - Mahi MahiSheila had just gone off watch and Chris on, when one of the fishing lines we troll stretched out it's shock chord. Chris started to pull it in and to our delight we had hooked a sizable Mahi Mahi (a.k.a. Dolphinfish and Dorado). It took a fair amount of time and effort to tire the fish out before bringing it on board. It is gorgeous when caught, with iridescent shades of purplish-bluish gold, sea green and emerald. It's also a great tasting fish.
|Welcome hook for a Mahi Mahi.|
12:51pm Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - Sushi for lunchChris spent a couple of hours cleaning and packaging the 4' Mahi Mahi. Then it was sushi time. It doesn't get fresher than this! With only a day left in our passage to PV and beautiful skies and warm temperatures, we were really enjoying this passage. The only thing missing was a bit more wind.
|Mahi mahi's the guest of honor at our fresh sushi lunch!|
Wednesday, December 18, 2002 - Banderas Bay ArrivalFinally we arrive in Banderas Bay, home to Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta. The large ocean swell finally catches up to us and we have to wait a day in the La Cruz anchorage before we can get into the Paradise Village Marina, where the massive surf is breaking on the breakwater entrance. It's far too dangerous to attempt coming in. On Thursday, we get the call from the marina manager to come quickly while the swell is down, and we dash in and tie up. And hey, there's the kids from s/v Evolution! Voyage complete and Paradise Village looks great (in fact we highly recommend it)!
Coming up in Log 7 we spend some special time with friends over the Christmas season and really enjoy the break from sailing.