Thursday, February 6, 2014

Life is good in San Blas

Sighted land after 2 days heading south from Topolobampo -
Islas Marias (not accessible as one of the 3 islands has a prison)
After 9 days waiting out the weather in Topolobampo, our trip south was thankfully mild. I think I prayed hard enough for smooth sailing so we had calm seas and reasonable winds. We decided to bypass Mazatlan after our 2 aborted attempts to get there. Figured there was a sign there we shouldn't ignore!

After a couple of days and nights, we reached the 3 Islas Marias at sunset (great sunset as usual), then continued on for another 8-10 hours to Mantanchen Bay. We are doing 6 hour shifts (we take turns: 6:30p to 12:30a gets the sunset and star gazing, and 12:30a to 6:30a enjoys moon set and sunrise). Most people choose 3 or 4 hour shifts, but we prefer a bigger chunk of time to sleep when we're off shift. Of course, the moon cycle changes and on this journey, the waning moon provided Mike with light until 2:30a.

He woke me shortly before moon set as we approached the bay, as we're both on shift when time comes to anchor. So much for evening light to guide us - we arrived at the bay just after the amazing yellow moon sunk murkily into the black sea behind us and left us in total blackness. Thankfully, it's a large and shallow bay so we anchored for the night and waited until daylight to enter the often heard about, dangerous entrance into the narrow channel into San Blas.

The church at San Blas
Our selection of a place to drop anchor was dictated by the many panga / fishing boats tooling throughout the bay in the dark with no lights, and the huge shrimp trawlers that light the night sky and cast extensive nets. And we wanted to be far enough away from the entrance to the channel so we could catch a few winks before sunrise without getting zoomed by pangas.

Seriously, this guy made me shudder - check those teeth
In the early morning we started our approach to the San Blas channel. A nice guy in a fishing panga raced by and waved to us to signal the best approach to the entrance to channel, stay way to the R and avoid running amuck (literally). A welcome act of kindness! He was already at the fuel dock when we arrived to say our thanks. After refueling, we came to the Fonatur Marina and found the services to be better than expected, prices lower than last year, and the town of San Blas easily accessible via cobblestone streets. The city square bustles with vendors in the early morning, so fresh produce and bakery were a treat.

On our wanderings about town, and to find the (closed) Port Captain's Office, I tried my first - and last - tripe taco. We love to buy street tacos (the busier the place, the better) and this lady was swishing around stuff on the grill. I asked what it was and she smiled that it was 'tripa, muy deliciosa', and being a rather adventuresome eater, I thought I could try the 'very delicious tripe'. OK, now I am over that.

This estuary was filled with crocs of all sizes,
eyeballs and a few spines above the water line
Pura Vida blog
Cormorant drying his wings in the sun after a dive

We decided to do the crocodile tour and took a taxi to the dock. I chatted with our driver in Spanish (the best practice you can get) and he made a special stop at this estuary so we could see just how many crocs are in the area. The warning sign says to be careful and protect the natural area. We continued on, and as always, it's important to ask 'cuanto' before getting into a taxi so you know how much you'll be paying.

Turtle family lined up, sunning on the log
Removing the heads and peeling fresh
shrimp on the dock in San Blas
The Crocodile trip was on a fast panga that held 6 of us and the driver/tour guide. Turns out the lady in front of us is the dentist in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where our friend from Portland had work done 2 years ago. Small world! Crocs, heron, egrets, turtles and more entertained us along the fast ride up river to the place you can swim in a small pool, now penned off from the crocs. I guess that screen is a new addition, and one that I imagine is wise. We chose not to swim there. We took the small tour down river to learn about crocs and other local animals, including jaguars and javelinas. The guide rattled on - sometimes I just can't listen that fast - and I wasn't able to tell much of the story to Mike. He was OK with that. Sometimes the visuals are enough.

After that big adventure on our first day, we bought shrimp on the square and I gleefully cleaned it for our dinner. Life is good in San Blas and we hope to visit again one day. After 3 days, it was time to head further south.

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