The crossing to Mazatlan – in painstaking detail

As I previously wrote, it was time to move on from La Paz. We knew we wanted to head south, for more than one reason. Don’t laugh (or hate) but we were getting cold. Sure, low 70s isn’t that bad, but with some strong winds cooling things down we were starting to wear long pants and long sleeved shirts, especially in the evening. And while I’m sure there is more to explore we had kind of settled into a rut of the same taco stands with the occasional night at The Shack. All along our plan had been to head further south for the winter, so when we finally perceived a weather window we just kind of suddenly decided to pull up the anchor and head out, probably with less planning than some of our previous passages.

Sailing into the sunrise.

So off we went on Thursday, leaving with enough light to get out the long channel leading into La Paz, and back up a stretch of water we had previously transited in some unpleasant conditions. This time went much smoother, until Jenn turned on the stove to heat some water. No propane in our tank, that we had filled a few weeks previously and did not expect to be empty this soon. I took a frantic look for an adapter we have, and upon finding it we decided to chance the trip with what was left in our green, one pound barbecue tank, plus one full spare we had. It turned out to easily be enough for the crossing, although now we need to find a source to replenish our barbecue tanks.
Our last time through the Cerralvo Channel was a beautiful night time sail. his was a rather slow 3 knot ghost, being carried in part by tide assisting some light winds. After exiting the channel, we turned due east and started across the sea. A couple hours into the trip, Jenn expressed some concerns about weather and timing, so we turned around and sailed back to the Muertos anchorage, dropped anchor and relaxed on the boat. I’m finding one of the annoyances of dinghies is the work involved in deploying and stowing it on the front deck, where we carry ours. I may have to experiment with towing it, although I have some slight concerns about it staying attached to the boat if some rough weather caught us unexpected. The point being, it just seemed like a lot of work to flip the dinghy, hoist it over the life lines, get the engine attached, drop it in the water, and then reverse the whole process, all for an afternoon. See, I’m tired just typing out a description of all that work! So we just hung out on the boat and kept reading. Both of us have been in a bit of reading mode lately, Jenn racing through the Game of Thrones series, and I’ve been reading a stack of pulpy paperbacks I’ve saved over the years in preparation for this trip (and before they invented e-readers – if anyone has a used Kindle they want to get rid of, let me know).

One Manta Ray a Leaping (hey, it is almost Christmas)

We tried again on Saturday morning, and which much better results this time. A one night wait rewarded us with some amazing sailing, a broad reach in almost flat seas. Other than some sail trim to try and balance the boat so the windvane would steer us, I barely touched anything. We’ve talked to some other boats that saw a variety of wildlife we missed, turtles, a bay hammerhead shark. We did have a few dolphins swim by, and as we approached Mazatlan we saw rays jumping far out of the water and splashing down. They are very difficult to photograph in mid air, but Jenn managed to catch one in mid air. We’ll try again next time we see them, but it would certainly help out if they would let you know where and when they plan on leaping out of the water. Our other wildlife encounter was catching a bird when our fishing lured fooled it, and it dove in the water and tried to eat our cedar plug fish. I managed to pull the bird up to the boat, and it remained pretty calm while I worked the hook out of it’s neck. It appeared to be a pretty superficial wound, and the bird was rambunctious enough to give me a pretty good nip on the finger when I got the hook out. I let it go with a toss skyward and it flew off – I’m hoping to a full recovery. We’ll have to keep a little closer eye on the sky when dragging fishing lures behind the boat.

Not the preferred method of measuring your prop shaft.

Around midnight our second night into the trip, the wind shut off on us. There was a bit of breeze and we continued on at around two knots, but I suspect we were getting more of a current push than sailing. We kept the engine off, as motoring the last 30 miles or so would have put at the entrance to a harbor in the dark, something we’ve had enough experience with and don’t need to do again if we can avoid it. So we just worked the wind and current, until it timed out to motor towards the entrance. A bit after dawn, I glanced to starboard and noticed we were pulling a yellow polyester line with periodic half gallon (two liter?) milk jugs strung periodically along its length. Not good. I immediately put the engine in neutral along with an unmentionable word or two. Jenn fetched the boat hook and I began to try to push the line under the rudder, hoping that would free it. This wasn’t working out the way I hoped, and to make matters worse a panga started heading our way. Amazingly, the fishermen did not appear upset at us. They pulled on the line for a couple moments, and since they weren’t succeeding, they cut the line before I could stop them. The tied the two ends together, and although communication was limited, they did hang out while I grabbed a swimsuit, mask and knife. I was about to just take the leap, but decided to just dip a toe in case I was in for more of a shock then expected. Luckily it wasn’t bad, so in I went, and a quick inspection revealed it was pretty bad. Not only was the line wrapped around the prop

Also not the preferred way to get new toys for Minion.

more times then I could count, we had picked up a fish hook in the tangle with a bit of a small thin metal cable. I gamely started diving and sawing away, and around the third dive felt two sharp stings on my arm and back. That got me out of the water, zipped into a wet suit, and back in. I lost count of the dives, and many of them felt like they accomplished nothing, but I kept ducking under the surface and sawing with a steak knife that gave it’s life for the cause. Every so often a huge chunk of line would come off, motivating me to keep cutting away. About halfway through I got the fish hook out, a big relief since I could quit worrying about impaling myself (although maybe that would have been karma for the bird…). Finally the last piece had come free, after taking a break as a ferry went by and I decided it would be prudent to be on the surface, not under the boat if the wake started bouncing the hull up and down. I can do just fine without a knock on the head from a multi thousand pound boat.

Ahh, the joys of cruising.

I climbed out and dried off while the fisherman, who had gone over, I think, to steer the ferry around their line and returned, gave Jenn some routing information. I was somewhat surprised they made no effort to collect money from us for the damage to their line. The engine started right up, and off we went. There was a bit of a funny noise a minute or so later, but after taking the boat back out of gear and easing back in, the noise disappeared. Maybe the last bits of line working their way out – I hope! We’ve motored several hours since with no issues.

Our cozy little anchorage, with our stern just visible. Where's Ventured?

The entrance into the marina basin was a bit tricky – narrow and with rocks on the side I wanted to veer over to so I could line up my approach. Instead I took a close rounding to the jetty, with no ill effects. We motored on past the El Cid marina, and back into area where a round island is ringed with mostly empty slips and much of the shore is lined with half finished gray cement buildings, almost resembling a bombed out cityscape. Around the island we found a small marina we had a slip reserved at thanks to Merrick on Spica, a fellow Puget Sound sailor I know from our mutual West Marine employment. Although I was a bit nervous about my first dock landing in over a month, it went as smoothly as could be imagined. It does help to have people on the dock to catch your lines, I won’t lie, but I think Jenn and I would have managed it fine on our own if we had to. Of course, Rob on Wings on Dawn arrived the next day, and backed his 52′ Hans Christian Christina into a slip while everyone watched. Oh – singlehanded. Nothing like being upstaged!

We are settling into Mazatlan for a few days or so, there are boat projects and provisioning, then hopefully some exploring and new friends, old friends and taco stands!

Minion looks into the mirror - kind of.

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