Topolobampo and the best beach I have ever visited

Fishermen I met on the way here

Wednesday 19th May 2021
I’m not really a beach person, but when I surveyed the horizon this morning for the first time in daylight, I was amazed at just how stunning this estuary is. It looked so relaxing that I decided to stay a day before heading into town. I tidied the boat up after the passage and restored some of the more fragile items to their normal place on tables or shelves.

From the sea side

Then after breakfast and my last banana I launched the Kayak and headed off towards the beach to explore. I had to use the chart plotter to determine how far away it was. The sand created an optical illusion such that meant I couldn’t tell if I was looking at some small sand dunes or a vast desert of sand. It turned out to be the former. I thought I could see a large building in the sand in the distance, the bottom hidden in a valley, later it turned out to be an upturned crate buried near the beach.

The estuary
Something the fishermen made
Sister Midnight and rapid deploy taxi
No need to visit the Sahara now

I kayaked around, a lot of the birds were quite shy, and I wondered if the dunes were protected and I shouldn’t be there. I was careful where I walked. I saw a few spots were fishermen had made camp, so I felt I was probably ok. I put a short clip on Youtube (Below)

Of course with this kind of unspoilt remote paradise there is always the bugs, that night they feasted on me, there is a mosquito who I think wants to be my partner, because she, I don’t think the males bite, seems to live in my bedroom and joins me every night for dinner (her dinner). I use DEET a lot, but I’m assuming it’s a pesticide, and the fact it has two of the letters of a famous pesticide DDT in its name worries me.

Thursday Morning
I haul anchor and head into town. It looks like a big commercial port, the main baja truck, car & passenger ferry from La Paz runs daily trips here, and there’s a big oil terminal. The guides recommend calling the harbour master to get permission to enter the narrow buoyed channel so I brush up on my “Puerto Capitanía, Solicito permiso para entrar al canal Por Favor” however he doesn’t respond, I’m deflated. I had phoned the marina and they answered but the girl went all shy on me when I tried my Spanish on her, she put me on hold, then let me time out. When I phoned back she wouldn’t answer. I actually think a lot of Mexicans are a bit shy when it comes to talking with gringos. So I had no idea if there would be a space for me when I arrived. Also the chart doesnt really show where I can anchor safely, the route to the marina is narrow and very shallow.
Still as I have said before, one’s fears rarely turn out to be justified, and I always prefer to take a punt. So off we went, it turned out that the channel was wide enough that I could skate along the outside of it, in 5 metres of water without issue, the secondary smaller channel was always 3-4 metres deep and as I approached the marina I called on the VHF and someone acknowledged me, but wouldnt have a conversation, presumably because they had walked down to the pontoons and were waving me into a big empty berth. £50 later, in the office, and I’m all sorted for 2 nights here. I now have enough Spanish to feel confident enough to start a basic conversation, which is nice. When the topic of where I come from pops up, Liverpool, football is often mentioned, Today I was able to explain, “Tengo dos hermanos, son fanáticos del fútbol, pero yo no.” (I have have two brothers who are football fanatics, but not me!).

Marina Palmera, Topolobampo

Into town for some shopping and to check things out, again I’m in a very poor town, it’s a bit like holyhead not far from my hometown, in that it’s a port for ferries and commercial traffic primarily, the road into town is full of trucks queued up waiting for their ship.

There’s also a big railway line right into the docks. This line goes to Mochis I think, the next proper big town, from where people start their trip up a classic old railway line into the copper canyon. Known as the El Chepe train. I would love to visit this, but it’s a bit complicated with Covid. Perhaps I will go with Kathy, it takes several days to do the round trip.
Yesterday the political leader of the state was murdered on the road into Mochis, assumed by the cartel, It’s election time here, and they take their canvassing pretty seriously. I was worrying about the state of democracy back home, but perhaps it’s not that bad. But slippery slope and all that!

Open top bus ride, hop on, got thrown off if it goes round a bend to fast
This is on the side of the cliff overlooking a gorgeous bay, worth millions if it was on the Med coast.

The town has a malecon, with the obligatory sign, several vendors and a few eateries.

Easy access to the sea from this part of the path

I find it to be a very pleasant place, nobody asks me to smuggle any mules into America, and the biggest upset is when I try to pay for 100 pesos worth of chocolate with a 20 peso note, having misheard the lady in the Oxxo. (For oxxo read 7-11) (for 7-11 read Spar)

I suspect both boats are in regular use.
The street market
Not on Saturdays
Not just one, but three huge outboards in the garden, as you do.
Seeing as you asked, I’m off to look at the outboards!


It seems to get diesel I need to take my cans around the corner to the fuel dock at what looks like another marina, but is in fact a private yacht club with their own fuel pontoon. I suspect it also services the shrimp fleets. It’s very rough and ready, and I’m glad I’m not taking the boat there, for one its dock is 10 ft higher than my boat, and has giant ropes hanging over the concrete as fenders. I take 115 litres in 5 jerry cans.

I think the sunken shrimper boat would have looked like one of these.
How to top up the tank.
Marina Fona…

I have visited 4 fonatur marinas. These marinas were part of a plan by President Fox of Mexico in the 70’s. There were to be 22 roughly following the locations travelled by the early missionaries. The tourism ministry was given this task, the same government agency that took Cancun from a backwater to the delightful holiday retreat it has become today. Unfortunately these 22 marinas mostly failed, and in the case of this one pictured above in Topo, never got finished. They all have the same structure, I have been told it’s a French architects design, I have also been told the docking came from Ireland. The prices are very low, being government regulated, and where there are lots of yachties, they are full and you basically have to wait for someone to die, to move along the waiting list. (La Paz and here) In other places like Santa Rosalia, and Guaymas, the staff just keep them going but the original designs for swimming pools, captains lounges, modern facilities etc have gone by the way. The marina at Puerto Escondido, which is now run by a private consortium, with private prices, is stunning in comparison. I find the whole project of the Fonatur marinas to be fascinating and a possible insight into how business/politics/local economies work. I think once Fox lost the presidency, the will to make the project flourish left with him.

I always wondered where old video games went to die

Saturday 22nd May 2021

Into town to do some last minute shopping before I leave. The market that looked so colourful and interesting yesterday is not there today. I wonder why, on a Saturday of all days. I go to the Oxxo and stock up on chocolate bars and fizzy drinks. Then back to the boat to ready for the off. While downtown I notice a big ferry, different to the La Paz ship is loading up with big trucks. I don’t want to meet it in the Channel so when I’m back on Sister Midnight I try to work out when it is leaving. Sadly I can’t find any reference to it on the internet, but I do hear the captain call the port capitania and mention 13:15 which is in an hour. I figure I shall wait until then and follow him out. Looking on the AIS I can see the big tanker that was out at sea anchored is making its way in, so hopefully I will be clear of them both.
10 minutes later I hear the oil tanker calling “Sailboat in the channel, this is MV Star” over and over again. No reply from the sailboat, this irks me as it’s bad practice and dangerous. The Captain of the tanker won’t be able to take avoiding action if they wander into his way. In fact he won’t even be able to see them once he gets within a few ships lengths. The situation is even more poignant given that the bow of the shrimper is sticking vertical out of the Chanel from the collision a few weeks back.

Very sad.

13:15 comes and there’s no sign of the ferry leaving, no action on the VHF so I decide to head out. I can stay out of the channel anyway, and follow the path I took in. I’m also not going all the way out to the sea, but will hang a right and park the boat back by the lovely beach I was on. The wind needs another day to turn to be with me, not against me. As I leave the marina, the said yacht passes me, I politely wave while checking that they do have a VHF antenna sticking out their mast, I’m tempted to wave my handheld VHF at them to get them onto 16 so I can tell them they were being called, but I’m pretty sure they know that anyway. They are US flagged and a couple in their late 50’s The boat is called something like ‘Getting Away’ So I think I understand what’s going on, and keep schtum.

Halfway along the channel I turn to the North West and back to the beach I anchored off, but curiosity, and a little too much swell  pushes me another few miles along the estuary. And I anchor off a lovely mangrove beach. It’s so pleasant here. I have a swim but the water is a little too hot. Also it’s very shallow near the shore, and near the boat there are hundreds of jellyfish floating past. 

Sunday, I leave about 10 o’clock and make my way through the channel back into the Sea of Cortez.
The channel is wide and safe, but on either side of me the waves break ferociously, they would easily tip me upside down if I strayed into them. I set the course for Altata, a town inside a bay/lagoon halfway to Mazatlan. It’s a bit of a party town, loads of restaurants, a nice Malecón, and very safe and protected there. I can anchor off the main town and dinghy in to the pier. The wind builds and I find myself sailing well the whole way. These last few nights have been crazy for condensation, actual puddles of water appearing around the boat. I guess the humidity is high. I abandon sleeping/watch keeping in the cockpit, it’s just too soggy, so end up in the passage bunk.

My on watch night bunk

The gap is supposed to be through these waves, which look small but are gigantic in reality, honest!


The approach to Altata is complicated, it’s a small gap where the estuary / bay / lagoon empties out into the sea, there can be strong tidal flows and we are near the spring tides which exaggerates the flow. Also either side of the entrance the flowing water has deposited sand making for a long narrow winding route in, with very shallow sandbanks on each side. These banks move around every year so the charts cannot be relied on. They tried to mark it with buoys, but the hurricanes kept taking them away.

Here’s how google see things, blue is my planned route, the other colour is my track

It’s supposed to be safe in settled weather only, and it seems quite settled now, but as I approach I’m struggling to see the entrance. I edge closer, the massive waves that have appeared are right where I had hoped the channel was, and the calm bit seems to be where the sand bank is marked.

This is what Navionics has to say on the matter

I keep my distance from the waves, but the depth is dropping quickly and now I have big waves to port. Holding my calm I move forward. The chart says that dead ahead in about half a mile I will be in the lagoon. But everywhere ahead is just roaring breaking waves, maybe 20ft high, the type surfers love in California, and the type that would flip me over in a flash. I presume it’s an optical illusion and some closer waves are overlapping distant ones and there is a way through. Checking the chartplotter, and my google earth images, the way through is into the biggest of the waves, and so, whatever charms Altata has, they will have to wait. I swing the boat around and head back. Thinking I’m out of there, I’m a little bothered that I’m now battling big waves that must have crept up behind me without me realising, some of them are breaking just a couple of boat lengths to port. I navigate through them and into calmer water.

This is what I found

Next stop Mazatlan in 24 hours. 
Later Arturo tells me on WhatsApp that he believes Altata is where Hernan Cortes lost half his fleet on his first expedition to the Sea that got his name. So I saved 100% of my fleet. I feel a bit better now.

Turning SE again, Up with the sails and off with the engine. I’m only making 3-4 knots, the sea is calming which is great as I don’t want to get to Mazatlan too early. One of the worrying things is that the entrance to the marina lagoon in Mazatlan can be dangerous if there is swell racing in, or if you should meet a big party catamaran heading out with or without the benefit of a dredger being at work on the first bend. I got to know a couple in Escondido who lost their yacht in just this spot, they took avoiding action and hit the rocks at the side, losing their keel and sinking. Note to oneself, be careful on that bend 🙂

Tuesday 25th May 2021
Safely tied up in Marina Mazatlan where I intend to stay for a week or two. The entrance through the waves around the dangerous bend was exciting, but as I had it all to myself, basically quite safe. More on Mazatlan to follow.

Sayonara Sonora and Hola Sinaloa

Wednesday 19th May
Did you see what I did there…
Yes I said goodbye to Guaymas and the state of Sonora and sailed south to Topolobampo, on my way to Mazatlan. I’m now at anchor outside Topo, in the state of Sinaloa. Sinaloa could be famous for its crops, it’s amazing coastline, but I think it’s most famous for its world beating drug cartel. In particular, a certain Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán who is now serving a long sentence in a US prison. I’m hoping to avoid having to become a mule or any other awkward moments with the cartel, and I believe Mazatlan is one of the few places Americans are allowed to visit here if they follow their governments advice. I havent checked with mine.

Sunday 16th Guaymas Fonatur Marina
I cleared out with the marina ready for an early departure on Monday morning. If I want to get to Topolobampo before dark on Tuesday I needed to leave here around 5am on Monday. I prepared the boat, which mostly meant stowing stuff away, I poured 40 litres of fuel into the tanks from cans, then failed to get them topped up. Popped to the shops and after an extensive hunt, found some cheap non slip plastic material I could use to keep things from moving on passage.
While out shopping I checked the tides and found that at 5:30am on monday the tide would be very low so I made the decision to leave now and go to anchor locally so that wouldn’t be a worry. If I went back to the bird island I could also shave an hour off the next day’s journey, and sleep in an extra hour.
So back on the boat, it took 30 minutes of work and the lines were cast off and I headed out.

Spotted a Sea Shepherd boat on the way out

I was soon near the bird island, but decided to push on as I still had an hour of daylight left and headed for a small bay called Catalina, not to be confused with the californian island.

Bahia Catalina

The stench of fish factories was awful on the way, and after one big shrimper passed me I found myself motoring through some horrible sludge, dead fish, and lots of waste, which I presume had just been dumped by the ship. Its big business here and the normally picturesque coves that line the coast were full of big factories with steam/smoke rising from them. My destination was the last cove, and upwind from them, so it was a relief to pull into a calm bay, that smelt ok and drop the hook just as the sun went behind the mountains. Stienbeck wrote about this area back in the 20’s, nearly a hundred years ago, and described the huge fleets of shrimpers dragging their nets along the seabed destroying and killing everything in their path. He wondered how long it might go on for, well sadly I have to report, it’s still going on, probably to a lesser extent.
It looked like I was rather close to a big rock, but the chart had me 100 metres away so I had to trust in the anchor and science.

Looks too close to me.
Fishermen had laid a net across the bay while I slept, but were bringing it in as I left

Monday 17th
Up at 5:15 for a 5:30 departure, a last minute call to Kathy, but she’s out so up comes the anchor and were off, it’s 185 nm which at 5 knots average speed will take me 37 hours , or 24+13, which means now +13 hours tomorrow, or 18:30 arrival. The light is good until around 20:00, so we have a little bit of time to play with. I motor out into the open sea, and a bit of wind has started, I get the mainsail up and as we clear the land the wind picks up. I unroll the heasail and we are soon racing along at 6 knots. what a great start.

The wind is on the beam (Side on) which is the best for speed, but in a big open sea like this, that also means you can have big rollers hitting the side of the boat, which we have, so we are rolling a lot as well. This time the monkey has been tamed, and that’s not a euphemism, it’s just everything is stowed properly now. As the hours pas I’m pleased to be not using any fuel, if it carries on like this I won’t need anymore before Mazatlan. sadly as the sun sets, the wind goes and the engine comes on and stays on until I’m almost at Topo. Except that after about twenty minutes of running the engine I notice the oil pressure and engine temperature are not normal. You see the temp needle intersects the P of Penta on the display just before the stem meets the round bit of the letter, it’s been like that for 5 years now. and the oil pressure is bang on the vertical number, 60 maybe?, anyway the temp is now just slightly lower, maybe 2% and the oil pressure is just slightly lower. I ponder what on earth this could mean. The engine is working and sounding just fine, the readings are only slightly out, but why are they out at all. I don’t like mysteries. So I stop the engine, I want to be on top of things before it gets dark.

Sunset as I wonder what’s going on with the engine

I take the engine covers off and check the oil level, it’s a little low, but still within the normal range. I examine the engine for leaks, nothing found, so I top up the oil, start the engine and examine for leaks with it running flat out. Nothing, covers back on, and back in the cockpit the dials are back to where they belong. I don’t understand what that was all about, but watch this space, I’m sure all will be revealed at some point soon. Losing the engine is not likely to be a big safety issue, I have sails, it’s more of a costly thing that can take a long time to solve. Generally they seem to get old and smokey and inefficient, or just stop dead in their tracks. The latter seems to just happen sometimes, people talk about piston failures, con rods breaking etc. How or why they break is beyond me, and how to prevent it seems a mystery. For now I will keep changing the oil and hoping for the best.
The motor runs great for the next 24 hours, devouring half my tank of fuel. I sleep for 30 minutes then the alarm wakes me up. I check the engine gauges, the course, the AIS display and once my eyes are adjusted to the dark I have a good look around. Then the alarm is set for 30 minutes, and I go back to sleep. There’s sod all out here and I see no traffic at all. I do however gaze at the amazing stars out, and the water is very luminescent tonight with the prop making a silver trail in our wake.
Tuesday 5:00 AM
I watch the sun rise, have a few more 30 minute naps then I get up around 8 and start the day. Checking around I see I’m just sailing into a small fleet of fishing boats, crikey, where did they spring from,

I quickly grab the binoculars to work out how they are fishing. I’m worried there might be nets stretched out that I need to steer around. I soon spot the fishermans arms flying in rapid jerking movements, that tells me they are hand line fishing, and they attract the fish to their bait/hook with rapid movements by jerking the line. I have watched tuna being caught this way, but I don’t know what they are after. We are in 75 metres of water here. I’m quite a long way offshore, so it’s a little boring, I can’t see much of the land, but I do see some amazing groups of jellyfish, in strings maybe 6 abreast, with glowing fluorescent centres, a little ‘finding nemo’ ish.
I see a group of sea lions lying down, in a circle, with their fins sticking up, it looks most odd, and later I see a great display of jumping mobula rays. About 3 hours before I should arrive the wind pickups and I kill the engine and get the headsail back out. The wind is behind and it takes a while to get the sails to set, especially given how much we are rolling. The speed drops to to an average of 3 knots, putting my arrival time into the dark, but I’m so happy to have the engine off I don’t care.

The autohelm and windvane steering working away. Answers on a postcard to …
Mainsail destroying itself on the shrouds
Bloody hitchhikers

As the day is reaching its end I can see my destination. Topolobampo is a port some way inshore, from the channel entrance marker buoy to the docks is about 8 miles, and for a few miles from the land it’s all just a few feet deep. A long channel leads in, dredged to 20 metres, but stray just a bit to the side of the channel and your doomed.

For those in Europe, note the silly arrangement of the red and greens (Red right returning)

As I come level with the chanel I haul in the headsail and start the engine. I’m able to reach down the channel, but the engine helps push us along. I’m a little startled when I see huge breaking waves maybe ten feet high just a few boat lengths to starboard, it was probably more, just felt that close. It could be very dangerous here in bad weather. I had checked the tides and we are near high water so that’s good.
I can’t make the town in daylight, and hadn’t planned to anyway, halfway up the channel I hang a left into a lagoon area and drop the hook. As I turn into the lagoon I spot something in the water, at first I think it’s a big buoy, but as I get closer my heart sinks, it’s the bow of a big boat, and it’s almost vertical in the water.

You can see the bow/anchor roller on the right, someone has stuck a light on a stick in it. Going left is the stem, then it turns down to the keel. As I write this I remember hearing of a shrimper that sank here just a week ago, after a near miss with the ferry, that must be it, it was right next to the ferry route. It also explains why it is vertical, and not on the charts. How very sad. News Article

The light is going fast now, but I’m aware I’m in a very beautiful place, and the wildlife is making itself known. There must be thousands of birds here. Plus no shortage of smaller flying creatures that seem happy to have a new visitor arrive for dinner, that is to be their dinner.

Finally time to drop the anchor.

All in all nothing exciting on this voyage, just some good sailing, and I’m happy that I can do a 40 hour passage solo without any problems.
I will soon head into Topolobampo properly and get some provisions, I think I have another good window to head south for the final mainland leg of this trip on Sunday, so I should be in Mazatlan Monday evening, or maybe Tuesday morning

Paul Collister

Guaymas (pronounced WhyMass)

Monday 3rd May 2021
I went to bed last night only to find I had left the portlight slightly open on the bash up here from San Carlos and the bed was soaking wet. I grabbed a blanket and headed for the sofa, but remembered that was home to the Aircon unit now, the passage bunk was full of stuff, so feeling around I found a dry patch at the edge and far end of my bed, crawled into that and quickly fell asleep.

Up at 6:30 due to the Port Capitania hailing a motor tanker on ch16, every 5 minutes, at first I assumed the ships radio officer/officer on watch was rubbish in not responding, it was only an hour later it became clear that the ship was a long way off and he couldn’t hear the capitania.
After a call to Kathy I hauled the anchor, it came up with a load of mud, and a plastic water bottle lodged inside the mud. Not sure how that could happen, unless maybe the bottle was there before the major movement of the tectonic plates five and a half million years ago that caused the Baja to form. That would be interesting.

My route from bird island to the marina at Guaymas

This bay is quite big and home to a Pemex Oil terminal, a large grain terminal, other commercial docks, several large fishing fleets and it’s a navy base with a naval repair yard. It’s also very shallow with several channels marked out with buoys. I was a little bit concerned about the route, I tend to stay out of the main channels in commercial ports and edge along the outside, but with it being so shallow I wasnt sure if this would work, I didnt want to go aground. I also didnt want to meet any big ships on the way. A large navy patrol boat was heading in as I was preparing to leave. Also not knowing if there was a place in the marina was a worry, or if the anchorages were still available outside. Plan B was to just return to where I was on Pajares island. I also knew at the back of my head that these things nearly always turn out just fine.

The other night on the passage over from the peninsula, I messed up the settings on the depth gauge, these navman displays allow you to turn on the backlight for all the units by just pressing one. I normally press the Log unit light button, and hold it in for a couple of seconds, and all the navman displays light up, except that doesn’t work all the time anymore, so I had to press and hold the button on the depth sounder display, this didn’t work either and I ended up putting the unit into program mode where you can change the settings. Without being able to see the display, the random pressing of buttons I embarked on, created a most unusual sequence of beeps, but didn’t get the light on. When I did get to see the display with a torch, I had put it into setting the low water alarm mode, and who knows what else I had changed.

Now as I was sailing past the commercial port and the depth was showing as 2.2 metres, I was wondering if I had changed the offset, for or against me. The offset can make the water seem deeper or shallower on the display. I really need 2 metres to float.

Once past the navy pier I could see the marina and it had a lot of spaces, I called them up on the phone and they answered and gave me a choice of 3 berths, they had more. I went to the first one they said, but the boat in the opposite part of the berth had strung lines right across blocking my entrance, so I went to the one further down, which was a little small. The manager came down, and took my lines and suggested I move to one that he had reserved for someone else, and he would move them when they arrived, so out I went again, and back in on the other side. The neighbours complimented me on my docking skills, but really there was no current or wind, and I had a bow thruster at the ready, more for confidence than actual manoeuvering.
Once tied up, I visited the office and paid the grand sum of £55 for a week. (Water & Electricity may add another £5 to that)

The Marina pool could do with a drop of water
The Restaurant / Bar area

The marina is one of a group all designed by the same guy and pretty much identical, except the one in Escondido is run by a private company and looks a lot better. It does seem that when you put the government in charge of a marina, it tends to fall apart, we saw the same in Malaysia. I can see the staff here try hard, but I suspect they don’t have the ability to raise the cash needed to make it work.

Off to town and I’m impressed, this town seems to have everything I could need. It’s quite run down, but has several charming bits, the market was lovely. I picked some provisions up in Ley, still no decent bread. There are definitely some things they do better in Baja California, Pan Bolillo being one of them.

On the 13 July 1854 the town defended itself against a French attack. For this success it was awarded the honour of being known as ‘Heroic Guaymas’. I heard that later in the revolution of 1910-1920 that the town found itself on the wrong side and most wealthy people left for the USA, and the town never recovered. I think there’s got to be more to it than that. I also heard that the Chinese are expanding the port as part of their ‘Belt and Road’ policy and plan to import goods to the USA through here.

The old churches I was hoping to see have long gone, they were out of town some distance and one has had a new church built on the site. Below is the San Fernando Church, I think this is early 19th C, but I will research more.

Woolworths Mexico
As I remember it back home

The Malecon runs along the waterfront in the centre of town, it seems rather unloved, but maybe it’s just that it’s monday morning, perhaps it comes to life at the weekends, we will have to see.

However I think this is definitely a trip hazard

Not quite as smart as La Paz or Loreto
Muy Interesante
The malecon could do with some work in places
A small marina, but in a lovely setting
Still looking for their plane?

On May the 5th I had a walk around town, there were many street venders out. Cinco de Mayo, as it is known, is a state holiday here, it commemorates the first Battle of Puebla where the Mexican army defeated the French during the U.S. Civil War on May 5, 1862, but only government offices close, everything else is quite normal.

The Navy dress their ships for Cinco de Mayo

Friday 7th May.
I start the day with a conference call with my customer in the UK, they want quite a few additions to the software I created for them last month. It’s going to take a few days, they realised that what they asked for wasn’t quite what they needed, and rather than leave them with software they can’t use I agree to fix it up. It’s going to take a few days to do, and I may lose my weather window to head south, so Im not very happy about it all. I agree that they must find someone to take over my role asap as I want to retire properly. Still the money is always useful.
After the call I head off by Uber to visit a pearl farm, the first modern one in the Sea of Cortez, using unique techniques to create and grow the pearls.

The oysters are in nets/cages under the buoys

I can see the farm out in the bay, below you can see the workers cleaning todays batch of oysters, they are brought in on a regular basis and growth on the shells is removed. Come october the older ones will be harvested

Cleaning the Oysters

After the farm I walk a mile or so along the coast to an old hotel from the 1930’s

It’s a very grand affair and I expect many celebs visited back in the day. They claim to have invented the mariachi band uniform here when the owners wife made the band dress up smartly in clothes she bought for them. This is supposed to have become the outfit worn these days.

I had been told to look at the wooden carvings that are known as the ‘Rape of Cadiz’ the adorn the bar room and are interesting,

The grounds had some serious cacti

I couldn’t raise an uber so walked back to the boat, it took me a couple or hours, but was great exercise and I took a few snaps along the way.

Mothers Day here is a little different

From the Mexican english news “The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) delivered Mother’s Day gifts to communities in Guanajuato, Jalisco and Michoacán on Monday in the name of leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, known as “El Mencho.”
Cartel members arrived in communities in pickup trucks with banners declaring “Mr. Mencho and the CJNG wish all mothers a happy day” with a photo of the gang leader alongside.
With their faces covered, CJNG members handed out household appliances like blenders, microwaves, stoves and irons, according to videos and images on social media.
Some of the women recipients stayed in the area to show their appreciation and pose for the camera, while others headed home to put their new appliances to use.”

Here in Guaymas central, mothers paraded with posters/pictures of their loved ones, husbands, children, family who have disappeared, mostly down to the cartels. Some of the women form search parties and dig up areas out of town looking for mass graves. Very few of the ‘disappeared’ ever re-appear.
Yesterday a young graduate of 23 who had just left university with a Masters in chemistry and pharmacology was killed because he refused to work for a cartel in their drugs lab. Not sure a new microwave will cut it with his mum.

A section of the protest
Desaparecido. guerreras buscadoras de sonora = Disappeared. Seeker warriors from Sonora

Palacio Municipal
Painting pottery on the malecon.

Some important blokes

Tuesday 11th May
I have been working on this damm software for 3 days now and have at least one or two more days to go. I extended my stay here, but hope to leave by the weekend, weather permitting and head south. I plan to go to Mazatlan next, which is a few days slog, 400 nm . From there I think I will skip Puerto Vallarta (PV) and instead head back to La Paz. I can do PV with Kathy when she returns.

It’s getting hot now, most days are in the high 20s and will soon be in the 30s. Nights are hot and a little humid. I love it, but wish I was out there on the coast so I could jump overboard to cool down once in a while.

Paul Collister

Crossing the Sea to San Carlos

Monday 26th April 2021

San Carlos is a beachfront subdivision within the port city of Guaymas, in the northern state of Sonora in Mexico. It is noted for the exceptional clarity and warmth of the ocean water in its shallow bays. It lies on the Sea of Cortez.
Copyright Wikipedia.

The trip from Santa Rosalia on the Baja peninsula over to San Carlos on the mainland, is a 75 Nautical Mile passage across the sea of Cortez heading roughly North East. As I usually try to average around 5 knots, this journey would take 15 hours. The question always is, do you want to arrive in the dark, and as it’s a new place for me, plus it has a rock near the entrance I had been warned about, I decided a daylight approach was best, as the sun sets around 7pm, subtracting 15, plus a couple more for good measure, means a start time of 2AM, given that the moon rose as the sun set, and vice a versa, then the passage should be well lit, and without issue.
Checking the weather suggested everything would be ok, so Monday night/Tuesday early hours was set as the start time. Marina bills were paid, and the boat prepared. It’s been a long time since I did a night passage on my own, so I had to make sure I was well prepared, a good stock of Milky Way chocolate bars was essential, mars bars can be a substitute. Checking the weather again in the morning showed a change and that strong winds from the north were expected on Tuesday so I made the decision to leave early, and worked back from an arrival time of Tuesday morning to give me a departure time of 7PM Monday. A quick trip to the supermarket, and a farewell ice cream in town with Dirk & Sylvia and then I was ready. I left at 7 as the sun was about to disappear behind the mountains, and headed into a flat gentle sea. The plan was for the wind to be behind me, in calm seas for most of the way. I hoisted the mainsail and the staysail headsail and pointed to boat to San Carlos. It soon cooled and the breeze stiffened, so I put on my oilies and lifejacket and rigged up the safety harness.

Within an hour the skies were very clouded, the wind picked up quickly and the autohelm gave up as the big waves that seemed to come from nowhere overwhelmed the system. I had considered putting a reef into the mainsail, something I usually do when night sailing alone, it can be very difficult doing anything when the wind and waves are trying to throw the boat around, and the autohelm won’t work. You have to stay at the wheel, and stop the boat getting into a bad position. It was surprising how quickly things were escalating, so I turned the boat towards the wind, motor back on, and the autohelm was able to steer a course close hauled into the waves and wind while I rushed to the mast and quickly dropped the mainsail. One thing about lazy jacks, a system of ropes that run up along the side of the sail from the boom to the top of the mast, is that you can drop the sail very quickly and not worry about the wind blowing it into the sea, as used to happen on Lady Stardust. With the main down, I tried to furl up some of the staysail, but the forces were too strong, and I gave up after getting about 10% in. That was going to have to do, turning the boat back on course, the autohelm performed better, but was struggling. The waves were still building all the time, and although the wind was on the quarter, almost behind, the waves were arriving mostly from the side. I could hear things flying around below, looking down into the cabin I could see the floor littered with books and things.

Fortunately I had fitted the rudder and vane to the wind vane steering and after 5 minutes of attaching ropes, it was connected and steering the boat well. The engine was off and we were flying along, above 7 knots, touching 8.5 at times, and rolling like crazy. Time to go below and do some better stowing.

On the chart you can see the blue straight line which was the planned route and the curved red (possibly green) line, which was the actual track recorded, The sweep to the north at the start was to keep the wind away from being directly behind, with the hope that as the wind went more to the north I could correct this later easily, that mostly turned out ok, but I think the tides may have been involved as well.

Once I had stowed a few things, I set the alarm clock to wake me up in 30 minutes and went to sleep. It didn’t take long before a big crash, water on my head and the anti gravity force lifted me from my dreams, and the sofa. Big waves were crashing onto the boat. The portlights (windows) were all shut, but the one above me wasn’t dogged down 100%, so a big wave must have hit it and water squeezed through. I went above and the sea was quite wild, big rollers crashing into the boat, but the course was good so back to bed for another 30 minutes. This went on until sunrise, when we were almost there. It was quite a relief to turn the corner behind the rock face at Punta Doble and make my way into the very protected bay of San Carlos. Anchoring was easy, then 30 minutes of tidying up, breakfast then bed.

Sunrise as I approach the mainland
Turning into San Carlos Bay

The only casualty was an old mug used to hold pens, the coconut monkey head had smashed into the treasure box that had slid along and decapitated the mug.
I quite enjoyed the trip, it never felt unsafe, and I’m pleased I can still handle the solo night passages in my old age.

Not a lot happened on Tuesday, I just tidied the boat a little, and rested. I planned to go ashore on Wednesday, but the wind was blowing strong, the boat was sailing around on its anchor, caused by the gusts coming into the bay switching direction every few minutes. I didn’t want to be too far from the boat, just in case the anchor might slip out.

Sunset from the boat

On Thursday morning the wind had dropped so I headed ashore, there is a lovely marina here, tucked into the corner of the bay, very popular, and I parked up at the dinghy dock and went to the office. There I paid the $2 for the use of the dock, and also checked into the port.

The nicest pontoon security gates I have seen to date
There’s a little bird on top of the cactus. Wouldn’t be my first choice for a seat.

Once officially registered with the authorities I headed off into town. It’s about a 20 minute walk, but when I got there I found a main road with a lot of luxury holiday homes to the side, plenty of eateries and a big Ley Supermarket. Soulless!

Soon to be a lot of condos I expect

I popped into the ley supermarket and bought a few goodies, mostly fresh bread, that turned out to be stale, then headed back to the boat. I took a side road leading towards the beach, but ended up at a dead end, having walked a long way parallel to the beach, but with no way to access it. I could see through the lovely homes right out to the sea. They had a great location, but didn’t want to share the view, or access with anyone else. Still I have a great view, and easy access from the boat if I want.

Just before the Marina there’s a lovely square and classic looking church. Catch 22 was filmed in San Carlos, one of my favorite books and films.

Pelican having a nap on the fish gutting table

Back on the boat I fixed the port navigation light, on the pulpit. The wire connection had corroded and was an easy fix. I use that light when motoring at night, and the tricolour light on the top of the mast when sailing. The red green and white lights let other boats know which direction you’re travelling in.

Sitting down I put the fan on to cool down, but it didnt want to turn. A little investigation revealed the switch had broken, fortunately I carry a spare, as I expect most of us do. Unfortunately, despite being a perfect fit, it was black, not white. Well I will just have to live with that.

There’s not a lot inside considering some chandlers charge $100 for these.
Up and running, and a lot cleaner now.

Saturday and I head ashore to get some food, I’m leaving for Guaymas in the morning.

The bloom is out, looking wonderful
A travelling band, possibly Mariarchi hanging around street corners waiting for work.

Back at the marina, the place is full of tourists waiting for boats to take them for a whiz around the bay. There are many nooks and crannies here. I’m not sure I approve of outsiders just turning up and expecting to have a good time on the water 😉

Tourists waiting for a boat
Tourists just returning

I return to the boat and spend the afternoon doing a bit of planning, my flight home is in July, so I divide up the weeks between now and then and assign ports to them. Right now it goes, Guaymas, Topolobampo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, then La Paz. There will be lots of little stops along the way. I do some Spanish and marvel at the number of pleasure boats streaming in and out of the harbour. I’ve never seen so many in all my travels. For such a small port and bay, they sure pack them in.

Later a loud band kicks off in the marina, so loud I have to go below deck to be able to read. Then fireworks, in the marina, but also around town.

Sunday morning, I decide to skip church (again) and head out to sea. The forecast is for light winds, a calming sea and generally a pleasant 3 hour passage to an island near Guaymas. Nearly 5 hours later, a little beaten up, I arrive at the island. It was a hard passage, and often only making 2 knots against the 15 knot wind with huge steep waves on the bow. I’m going to have to improve my weather forecasting. The boat was thrown around quite violently at times, but nothing broke. The monkey went after the mug this time. I should have left him wrapped inside the towel.

From marine traffic, I like their graphics

I’m anchored in the lee of an island called Isla Pajaros, which means ‘Birds Island’, there’s a lot of them around, mostly pelicans. Yesterday I saw a duck surface with a fish in its beak that was massive. It flipped it up into the air and caught the end of it in its mouth and proceeded to swallow the whole thing. Very impressive, but I felt bad for the poor fish. A bit like a James bond kind of death!

From here I’m able to see the industrial end of town, I think the bright lights are in the main dock, and oil terminal. Tomorrow, Monday, I will head over and try to get a berth in the marina, which could well be full. If so I will anchor near the town and try to find a way ashore. It’s a very industrial town, and may not be as safe as most of the places I have been to, so I need to find a safe place for the dinghy. Petty theft is more likely here, but shopping and exploring the centre should be fine during the day. I want to visit some churches which I think date back to the conquistadors time.


Paul Collister