Ending 2023 in Mexico

Christmas Day 2023.
While waiting for the Christmas dinner to cook in the oven, I thought it’s time to get started on a blog update. Apologies for such a long delay, but it’s been hectic. Things will slow down now and I will have more time to catch up on writing, reading and hopefully I can do some of the more pleasurable jobs on the boat.

October: The launch and problem solving.
The launch went well, sadly the primer hadn’t dried fully before. the antifoul was applied to the areas under the stands, so the antifoul was gooey, it seems to have settled now, but I also picked up a load of blue paint from the slings. Still, it was free paint, mustn’t grumble. The engine fired up, there were no leaks, and once the travel lift departed, I was able to re-attach the mast stays and the yard crew were ready to turn me around, however at that point the wind picked up, so I waited an hour, then in a lull the crew returned, we swung the boat around with some long warps and I motored off doing the 2 mile trip to the other side of the bay, and a slip in the government run marina there.

Launching at Gabriels yard into 8ft of water

Onno, who had launched a few days earlier, and who I had made friends with, was there and took my lines. Dwayne from ‘sipsi môr’ was also there, which was nice.  

Sister Midnight safely tied up at marina Fonatur in Guaymas (2nd from right)

Guaymas is still very run down, but I enjoyed my time there, the Day of the Dead events where just about to start and I saw a much more sombre version of things here than in La Paz last year. People refer to it as a festival or celebration, but really it’s closer to a remembrance service and not a party event, and definitely not an event put on for tourists. There are many days where different people are remembered and even a day for pets.

I had lots of work to do in Guaymas, one of the jobs was repairing the solar panel mounts, rewiring some of the battery systems for the new Lithium batteries. I also had a lot of cleaning to do. The boat needed to be smart, in time for the arrival of my son Isaac and his partner Holly in just a few weeks time.

Below is a GPS antena, it was ripped of its mount by the wind generator spinning around and the rope that normally calms it, got caught around the antenna and ripped it off. I had chucked out the Garmin chart plotter some time ago so I took the the cutters to this guy and freed up some space on the pushpit rail. A few days later I couldn’t figure out why the AIS couldnt get a gps fix, I also couldn’t figure out where its antenna was. Eventually it dawned on me that the Garmin I threw out had an internal GPS antenna and this guy was actual a spare I had used for the AIS. I had to make an inline coax repair to reinstate service. Another job to be done properly later.

After refuelling I said my farewells to the friends I had made and headed out into the sea. I had decided on a direct run over to the Coronados on the other side of the sea.

This was an overnight sail of around 120nm or 24 hours at 5 knots.
The boat performed well as you would expect with a perfectly clean hull and a polished propellor. I managed a day in the main bay at the Coronados swimming and snorkeling before the wind picked up from the north and I had to take shelter on the southern side of the island. Some of the nicest anchorages are only comfortable in certain wind directions and at this time of the year the wind becomes increasing stronger and from the North.
From the Coronados I headed south taking in Agua Verde next for a few nights, then San Evaristo for a night followed by a few nights on Isla Esperitu Santo in my favorite cove, Bahia Candeleros.

Not touched up, just dodgey iphone software I suspect

Super Yacht mentioned later

Now it was only a week until Isaac was due to fly into La Paz, so I scooted on down there and anchored off Marina La Paz in my usual spot. I took the dinghy into the Marina and asked in the office about a space, of course there was no space available, however the young ladies there seemed genuinely pleased to see me back and one of them even fished out an envelope with money in it for me, apparently I had left some deposit with them they hadn’t returned last year. It’s a great marina, but sadly some parts were damaged and La Paz as a whole took a battering from hurricane Norma. I believe around 40-50 boats were ripped from their mooring and ended up on the beach, most of which were unable to be recovered before either being damaged beyond repair, or as was more likely to happen, being stripped clean by thieves. Many boats sank in the other marinas and several docks were destroyed.

This boat has a wild story, SV Disperser.

The Disperser again. Many will be glad to see the end of this

Nov 11th: Isaac & Holly arrive
My son and his partner Holly arrived into La Paz airport and I took a cab out to meet them, they stayed in a boutique hotel in La Paz on their first night, I figured a night in a rolly anchorage might not be great after a long transatlantic flight. It was a really nice spot I wouldn’t mind staying in myself. The next day we headed out and got them kitted up with hats from the local market, and snorkeling kit from Ferre mar, the very reasonable chandlers here.

Supporting the local Sombrero industry
Enjoying a drink at one of our fave spots, Harkers bar

Later we dinghied out to their new home for the next two weeks. They settled in quickly. They had spent a week living on our baba 30 in Barcelona once, and Isaac had spent many summer holidays saling around Greece on our 28ft sloop ‘Oracle’. Spoilt kids or what, but then perhaps my dad thought we were spoilt having our own caravan on a farmers field in north wales back in the 60s.
The next day we headed back into town and did a big provisioning run to Chedraui as we wouldn’t be seeing ay more supermarkets on this trip.

The following morning we headed north back to Candeleros, on the way we passed a very large luxury super yacht that had sunk during hurricane Norma. I’m keen to know the story to this as I had heard the captain was holed by another boat colliding into him in Marina Costa Baja, (the posh one) and had motored out to let it sink in the bay.

We anchored in Candeleros and the fish immediately started to entertain, with one large fish snapping a smaller one in half leaving the fishes rear half flapping around while it munched on the head! Turtles, sea lions and other aquatic forms appeared and seemed to please my guests.

We did a bit of rock climbing in the valley at the back of the cove.

Candeleros beach had been somewhat reshaped by Norma and now their was quite a large lagoon now behind the beach.

From Candeleros we headed up to Isla San Francisco, now the northerly was picking up and I wasn’t sure we could get further north, but Isaac and Holly were keen to try, so after a short trip over to San Everisto, we headed north up the channel, it was a very boisterous ride, but to their credit they handled it well, the bow was bouncing from very high to going down to sea level. We pulled into Los Gatos and with the help of a stern anchor to keep us pointing into the swell, we had a very pleasent stop. Isaac loved the huge schools of fish there. They had both taken to snorkelling.

Los Gato

In the bay at Bahia El Gato we met up with a couple who were kayaking along the Baja coast, everything they needed, food & water, tent, cooking gear etc had to be stored on their kayaks, we let them use our Starlink so they could get weather and update their social media feeds. They were in touch with a guy I had met earlier who was paddle boarding the length of the sea. There’s no end of crazy people out there! but hats off to them for taking on a challenge like that.
The next day we left for Agua Verde, another rough sea, but we bashed on north. Agua Verde is a favourite for myself and many other cruisers here, it offers protection from every direction if you pick the right one of the three beaches. We did some fun snorkeling then took a walk out to the caves with the ancient hand painings, passing a small palm oasis.

The cave requires quite a climb but you are rewarded with great views of the sea. The hand paintings are quite small, and perhaps of dubious origin, but it was a fun trip.

Small handprints in the middle

More cacti

We spent a couple of days in Agua Verde before pushing on to Loreto. We tied to a mooring buoy in Puerto Escondido and hired a car to explore the area. I’m feeling a bit like a tour guide having done this three times now. We did some shopping in Loreto then had lunch there before driving up the mountains to visit the old Mission at San Javier.

Sea Lions in Loreto

A great restaurant in Loreto

San Javier Mission

The next day it was time to head back to La Paz, we drove there in the hire car, The ten day trip from La Paz to Loreto was completed in reverse in about 4 hours. We stopped halfway and found a back street eatery where I practised my Spanish and we had some lovely Huevos Rancheros for lunch.

I dropped Isaac and Holly off at the airport around 4 pm and with it being too late to drive back to the boat, I went online and booked a room in La Paz for the night. They call the roads here ‘free range’ because the animals, cows, horses etc roam freely over the roads at night and cars are often written off after colissions on the unlit stretches of road.

The next morning I headed back, after a delightful stop in a little hotel where my room had a nice kitchen and I cooked my dinner and made a nice packed lunch. I hit some kind of horsey event on the way back and was stuck in a very slow queue for an hour or so.

Nov 25th Back to Escondido and sailing to Maz
Back on the boat I headed to the fuel dock, Refueled and I filled both water tanks with some of the most drinkable water available on the Baja, it comes from a spring nearby, that I believe was actually mentioned in Steinbeck’s book chronicling his trip around the sea here (The log from the Sea of Cortez).
For those of you who follow sailing blogs, you will probably know of Tally Ho, but maybe not a similar build ‘Salt & Tar’ who I have followed over the years from tree to ship. Well I took these snaps of her moored just across from me in the bay. They had gone back to California, but it was great seeing the boat here, I also met up with another blogger couple here, ‘Sailing Sitka‘ who I got to know as they were hauled out next to me in Guaymas, funnily enough, they have just dropped anchor next to me here in La Cruz. Finally I bumped into Nelson and Terey here who I had met a year earlier in Topolobampo just as the trouble kicked off with the arrest of the son of El Chapo Guzman.

Salt & Tar

Striking sunsets

We are getting more days of cloud and strong northerly winds now, winter is here, but the water was still good for swimming and temperatures still close to 30c.

29th November 2023
So as November came to a close I slipped the mooring ball and headed directly to Mazatlan, where I would be leaving the boat before heading to the capital at Mexico City to meet Kathy.

The trip was great, it was around 310 nautical mile (nm) or 64 hours, so I had two nights at sea. I have become very comfortable with setting the alarm clock for 15 minute snaps, I wake up, check the engine gauges, if it’s running, check the sail trim and wind direction, check our course track against the desired route and then scan the horizon for objects that might bump into us. I can do all of this in under 2 minutes, then I’m back asleep again. by sunrise I’m ready for a full day awake without feeling tired.

Some Dolphins who came to visit

I sailed into the old harbour at Mazatlan, dropped anchor and had a chilled time for a couple of days.
I went ashore and took advantage of the fantastic mercado, I especially liked the Atun Ahumado (Smoked Tuna) they sell. I also bought a lot of boat bits from a great chandler they have here up by the tuna factory. One of the jobs I did here was to replace the main hose feeding the holding tank. I won’t dwell on it, but it was an awful job to have to do, I’m glad it’s over.

Sailing towards Mazatlan with the Yankee polled out
Waiting for the cruise ship to clear the channel before I can enter
I was sure this was in my home town.

For Sale, So tempting
They are very proud of their engineering here, I suspect a marine crankshaft
Nautical/Marine college
Unloading Salt
I bought some shrimps here, fresh and very tasty

You don’t normally have to wait this long for a taxi.

Nelson dropped anchor next to me, he had followed me down from Escondido a few days later, and we had many good chats about boating and Mexico, He speaks the language fluently and has been visiting here for a very long time.
After a week or so in the old harbour I motored around to the fancy marina at El Cid so I could get fuel, clean the boat with fresh dock water and get her ready for Kathy’s arrival. I also felt safer leaving the boat on a slip while I flew to Mexico City. We have had two very bad experiences grounding on the way into El Cid, but this time I went at high water with a calm sea and it was a doddle.
Things have been so rushed and the three months of leaving the boat n the dessert means that the varnish is stuffed, I slapped a coat down on the port cap rail, but it’s all going to have to come off and I need to go back to bare wood and start again. So not having time for that, I focused on the stainless, and at least got the boat sparkling in the bright sun.

Dec 11th: Off to Mexico to get Kathy
With Kathy’s flight arriving late in CDMX, it meant a hotel for the night, rather than paying over $100 for a hotel room at the airport, I opted for an apartment (Airbnb style) 5 minutes from the airport for $50, this was great, it was near a supermarket, so we also saved on food as I cooked dinner and breakfast for Kathy. What I hadn’t banked on was the apartment being on one of the main routes to the Basilica of the virgin of Guadalupe and that day being the festival of the virgin, where literally hundreds of thousands , if not a million people walk to the church on a Pilgrimage. The crowds were amazing, many had paintings of the virgin on their back, some even had life size statues strapped to their back. Many were bringing large quantities of food to offer up.
The main problem for me was taxis couldn’t get near the apartment, we managed in the end. I met a very frazzled Kathy at the airport around 11pm she had had a rough flight with Air France, which had done nothing to help Anglo-French relations. Then she had to endure long queues at baggage and immigration . Still she relaxed back at the apartment, and it was great to have her back. She also brought me loads of boat goodies.
The next afternoon we flew back to Mazatlan, took a taxi to the boat and proceeded to start the next leg of our pacific voyages.

Lot’s of these guys at the El Cid hotel/marina
Kathy adjusting to the slightly better weather here.
Mazatlan old town centre

After a few days of chilling and provisioning at the local Walmart, we moved the boat back to the old port. from there we made a few trips into the old town and had a nice vegan dinner with our new friends Terry and Nelson who were still there waiting engine and steering parts.
I repaired two shrouds, these are the wires that hold the mast up. They should last for at least ten years, but two had cracks as shown below, and they are only 7 years old. The type of crack indicates it could be crevice corrosion, which can be very serious, in fact the whole fitting could be just rust underneath the shiny steel and could fail any minute. I used fittings called Sta-Lok to repair them, these are re-usable and I had been very nervous about fitting them, worried I might not get it right and risk losing the mast. As it turned out it was very easy and the second one I did in 5 minutes.

The small crack
Preparing the Sta-Lok fitting

21st Dec: Off to La Cruz for Christmas
We left early on the 21st for La Cruz, an overnighter, there was no wind so we motored the whole way. I managed to snag a fishing line on the way and found myself towing two large marker buoys. I saw them the same time as a panga appeared with the fishermen owners. They managed to extract the line from my bobstay where it had snagged and no damage was done, so we waved goodbye and sailed on, just ten miles further on I spotted a line just as we ran over it. No harm done, but this is the first time we ever actually snagged a line in many years of sailing the seas in Sister Midnight. (I’m excluding reversing over my own lines)
We arrived the next afternoon into La Cruz, dropped anchor and rested. I had now developed a cold and Kathy wasnt feeling 100%, so we took it easy. The next day we went off to get the final ingredients Kathy needed for the Christmas dinner she was looking forward to cooking. We went to a ‘La comer’ which is a bit like a UK Waitrose, very posh. Spent a small fortune, but got some great items hard to find elsewhere, like Kathy’s plant based butter, vegan sausages etc.

Lovely old ketch in the anchorage in La Cruz.
La Cruz, Sunday Market.

Now we have finished our Christmas meal and feel suitable bloated, ready for more eating and resting before we sail south, Barra de Navidad is next and possibly we will return to Zihuatanejo as we liked it so much earlier this year

28th December: Barra De Navidad.
We have just arrived in Barra De Navada, Jalisco State and I’m able to finish the blog. Our departure was delayed due to having a flat engine starter battery, I had to be ingenious in finding a way to charge it, but we managed it after an hour. However on our trip down, the DC-DC charger stopped working, so that’s a new job. Also I noticed the raw water pump is dripping, so that will have to be repaired or replaced. It never stops. Still we had a fast overnight passage here with quite a lot of decent sailing. Some big swell is predicted for La Cruz tomorrow so we decided to do a runner. It’s lovely and calm here in the lagoon and we will stop here for at least a week.

Paul Collister

One thought on “Ending 2023 in Mexico”

  1. Great to hear what you have been up too!! Really interesting! Glad Holly and issac had a nice time and sad seeing all the damaged boats!!

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