12th August 2023.
I’m writing this on a Pendolino train from Liverpool to London Euston. I’m off hoping to see some Perseid meteors with my good friend Dominic and other friends I haven’t seen in a while. We will be outside of London in the Oxfordshire countryside, but right now it’s looking very cloudy.
I left the boat hauled out in Guaymas at the end of June and flew home. It’s always a bit of a worry leaving the boat alone for a few months. I think this is the longest I have been away in the seven years since I bought her. The trip up to Guaymas from Zihuatanejo was just shy of 1000 nautical miles, so a decent solo passage for me, and by the time I hauled out and secured the boat on land, both the boat and myself were quite tired.
I have detailed the trip in a bit more detail below.
24th May 2023, Arrive in Mazatlan
The passage to the old harbour at Mazatlan was good, and this time I felt confident enough with my Spanish to call the port traffic control station on the VHF radio. They usually talk in Spanish and are very busy with the tourist boats that constantly ply their way from the harbour to the nearby islands. No response, disappointing, but at least I refreshed my Spanish.
This harbour is great, I planned to do some shopping for boat bits I will need for the relaunch which are best purchased in the big city, however I managed to strain some back muscles and was basically crippled for a week. I couldn’t get ashore and just moving around the boat was difficult, so I just rested for a few days.
Eventually I ventured ashore, I was still in a lot of pain, but was hoping some exercise might free things up, which it sort of did, along with a lot of soreness.
I found a few great chandleries not far from the harbour, and a plumbers merchant where I could buy 25 metres of clear plastic hose to redo the fresh water lines. I also picked up the correct shackles for the Spade anchor. I restocked at the supermarkets and bought a stack of smoked tuna from the main market known as ‘Pino Suarez’. As good as La Boqueria on the Ramblas in Barcelona, but half the price, and fewer tourists like me.
I found that everyone was selling ciruela, it must be the season, but I didn’t know what a ciruela was, so avoided them, however a local had made me try one in La Cruz and they tasted great. I now realise they are very similar to plums, something I had never been fond of, although like many of my childhood food hates, I may never have tried one, but rejected it as a child because of its colour. Anyway they tasted great and I bought loads here in Mazatlan from street stalls.
Leaving the old port of Mazatlan I saw several of the tour boats that were constantly moving in and out of the harbour, actually taking their guests around the big rock islands that are scattered throughout the main Mazatlan bay.
I move the boat to the El Cid marina for a few days for some fuel and to get the hull scraped. A local diver and his father come out in a panga to the marina and cleaned the prop and the hull. The boat really needed it.
El Cid has the harbour entrance that made me swear and Kathy get frightened for her life the last time we visited. The entrance is very shallow and has sunken lumps of sharp concrete that will pierce the hull should the waves push you off the exact centre. Big party catamarans coming out can make navigation a challenge. I was careful not to try it at low water again. This time the tide was high, but there was also a fair amount of current flowing. I approached the entrance with trepidation, here big rollers travelling across the Pacific build up into waves that could ruin your day, however it didn’t look too bad. As I approached the entrance a huge wave arrived out of nowhere and would have been a problem if that had caught me. I backed off and started counting the seconds between the waves so I could time the entrance. I thought I was ready when a voice came over the radio ‘Sailboat at the entrance, come in now, it’s safe’. I assumed this was one of the staff of the El Cid resort, who has a good view from the breakwater. So I throttled up and managed to get into the channel and over the shallow bar just before a big wave broke. Feeling like an accomplished hardened sailor I then motored to the fuel dock where I made a complete arse of myself by trying to go alongside the fuel dock with 3 knots of current pushing me off. A fellow sailor came to my rescue and on my second approach to an adjacent dock, I managed to tie up. From the fuel dock to my berth I managed to screw up again and completely got the turn into the slip wrong and had to reverse out and do a 180 degree turn, head out the marina and return for attempt two, which was textbook and gave me a little bit of cred when I explained to the onlookers what freak tides we were having 😉
I have refuelled here several times before, but I was assured the hotel/resort was great, and it was not expensive. They have a stack of pools and eateries so I decided to chill for a few days at the pool while I prepared for the last part of the season’s sailing.
Walking along the Malecon, I came across this group of Banda musicians messing around after a day’s work on the beach, they played some great music, and I felt privileged to hear them. No one I have played the music to agrees with me, but I still think it was great.
8th June. Leave to El Cid marina for Topolobampo
I had planned to stop at Altata on the way north, but the high swell that was building put me off, so off to Topolobampo with two nights at sea before I would arrive. There were a few big fishing boats on the way, but nothing very eventful.
11th June Arrive at Isla Maria Sand Dunes
To get to Topolobampo you have to follow a channel that extends out into the Sea of Cortez for several miles. It’s very shallow either side of the channel and for large parts of the route you can see and hear thousands of birds on the sandbanks. I usually travel just outside of the buoys that mark the channel, as I don’t want to have to deal with the harbour master who controls the channel. Once I pass the first headland that juts out from port, I turn, right next to the sunken shrimper and two miles to the north I anchor in 10ft of clear beautiful water. I catch up on my sleep here before heading into the Marina right in town.
There, like everywhere else, things are quiet, with a definite out of season feel. I provision for the next leg and enjoy a fish meal on the Malecon.
One of the reasons for coming here was to refuel, however I have managed to sail so much that I don’t really need any, and after a couple of days I leave for the last leg north to Guaymas
I visited the museum at Topolobampo as it was open. Their main exhibit is this biplane, along with many photos from when the plane was operational.
I think the plane is famous for the ‘Battle of Topolobampo’ which was the first naval-air skirmish in history.
14th June Dept for Guaymas.
I leave the marina and again return to the sandbanks to anchor overnight. This allows me an easy and early start from the anchorage.
The wind blows perfectly and I make a great passage to Guaymas. I had expected to arrive late, probably in the dark and had decided to anchor out at one of the many bays a few miles from the town. However, as I approached I realised I could make it into the town with plenty of daylight left, so I phoned the Marina manager and checked if they had a berth, which they did, so I motored straight down and into the slip. Job Done.
16th June Marina Fonatur
This Marina is downtown and walking distance from the shops. It’s also directly across the bay (10 minutes cruising) from the shipyard I am hauling out in. In a few days I will cross over to Gabriels boatyard and motor into their travel lift slings and that will be that for this season. But first I must get all the sails off the mast and furling systems. Everything needs to be prepared for the possibility of a hurricane. The hurricane season has started and at this point there are many views on what will happen. It’s a El Niño year (The Boy) and this causes a vast belt of hot water and air to spread across from the Panama area extending far out into the Pacific. Often this heating will cause hurricanes to form easily, however this year, for reasons not fully understood, the water north of the Baja and off the Californian coast is much colder than normal. I think this causes a lot of wind shear, and wind shear kills hurricanes. So far the hurricanes haven’t been up to much, mostly heading west off towards Hawaii, however August/September is the time to really worry.
This boatyard doesn’t have to worry about the sea, but it does suffer from flooding and I believe a recent hurricane caused so much water to flow through the boatyard that several boats were toppled.
20th June Haul Out at Gabriel’s boatyard
Crossing the bay to the haul out was fun. I didn’t have the location of the travel lift, but I did know I had to approach it at right angles to the shore, and line it up straight from some distance out. Much of the bay is only a few feet deep and a narrow channel allows access to the lift. I had some tracks left on Navionics from other boaters, which proved useful. Once I was close, I couldn’t see the travel lift, and my expected destination looked like a deserted bit of coastline. However with the binoculars I saw a couple of Mexican marina staff standing at the end of the dock waving at me. A few minutes later I was tied up organising the slings for the lift.
I had been warned that the lift was quite small and that I would need to remove the forestay to fit in the slings. This is a pain, but I have done this before, however here they wanted the next sail stay, the inner forestay (Staysail) removed. I haven’t had this off for seven years and I knew it would be a struggle with the corroded screws. Anyway I eventually got it free and we were in the slings and chortelling along to our new home in the storage yard. Here you cannot stay onboard overnight so when it is time to return and launch the boat, I will be moved to a ‘working yard’ where I can clean/paint etc.
I spent the rest of the day packing and putting the boat to bed, and the following day I grabbed a taxi to the bus station and took a bus to Hermosillo, the nearest airport I can fly to Mexico City from.
I wonder why I left that fender out? will it still be there in October?
As you can see from the picture above it was getting really hot. In the boatyard away from the water it was very hot, this year hotter than normal and the yard workers were complaining. Fortunately I had plenty of water bottles on board and handed them out to the workers who really seemed to appreciate them.
I had hoped to spend a few nights on the boat putting it to bed for the next 3-4 months, however with the heat and the management keen for me not to stay on the boat, I quickly closed her up and grabbed a taxi into town to the coach station to get my bus to Hermosillo.
21st June. Bus to Hermosillo.
I think there’s an airport at Guaymas, but it doesn’t seem to have any airlines operating there, so I had to take a coach to Hermosillo, quite a large town a couple of hours to the north.
I had two days to kill in Hermosillo so I took in some of the highlights.
This imposing building below is basically the town hall, and has amazing murals inside, as do most town halls
23rd June 2023:
Time to head home, I left the hotel around 7am and had a crazy taxi driver take me to the airport. He was cursing at screaming at every other motorist, but amused me no end with his taxi driver talk, aimed against the Mexican government, the council, the police etc. A bit like an angry London cabbie on speed.
I flew home via Mexico City, Paris Charles De Gaulle then Manchester. All went very well, flying AeroMexico right up till Paris.
Great to see Kathy again, who was waiting for me at the Lime St train station. The next day was not so great as I head down to the Apple Store and pay £750 to an Apple genius to get the cracked screen on my MacBook Pro replaced. Genius is the right word I suppose, getting people to pay that much for a $75 part is genius.
One important task on this trip home is to head to the USA embassy in London and get new visas for us both. We need these to enter the USA with the boat.
While in London we visited friends and also saw Isaac’s (my son) workplace. He works for a very hi tech company with offices in the centre of Soho. They have so many goodies for their staff we were quite amazed. Things like a bar, games room, pool tables, cinema and all the food and drink you can consume.
Visa applications were processed and soon we were back in Liverpool. I took advantage of the various tests that our health service provide for free, Aorta, bloods etc. Seems I might live a little longer.
Our visa arrives which is great. Soon I’m back off to london to hook up with lots of friends and family I haven’t seen in ages.
Back in Liverpool I settle down to various chores that have been waiting. I have some programming to do, and I start ordering lots of bits for the boat I plan to fit when I return.
Just six weeks until I return to the boat now. There’s going to be a lot to do on my return. My son and partner will be visiting for a few weeks, then in December Kathy will join me and we will sail down to the Barra area for Christmas. Later in the year I’m hoping to host more friends and meet up with old sailing buddies before next Spring when I think we will be sailing back north. Nothing is finalised yet, but instead of heading into the South Pacific, we may be heading back to Canada and onto Alaska.