Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lights! Action!

Merry Christmas from Mazatlan!

Our big news on Pura Vida: we have new Christmas lights. This is a big deal for us as we replaced our original colored lights we installed exactly 5 years ago when we bought Pura Vida! It's about time. Five years of glorious boat ownership under our belts. Along with the transition to LEDs, there have been a few other transitions we've made and what a journey we're having

We left Guaymas on December 9th and arrived in Topolobampo 48 hours later (check out our prior blog post for that story). After checking the weather for our proposed southbound journey (staying on the mainland side and not crossing over to the Baja peninsula), the trip from Topolobampo to Mazatlan was slated to be 40+ hours. What the weather reports tell us, we follow, so apparently we were going to wait a few days to avoid big crapola (that’s the sailor term for “wait it out”). 

Most people pass by Topolobampo, but this is our 3rd visit. One good reason I like it – it’s got as many vowels as my home town of Oconomowoc! How many places can claim that? On a side note, Topolobampo appears to be a sleepy town but the waterfront area bustles with literally tons of freight that moves day and night in and out of Mexico. The freighters rule as you come through the 20+ buoys into the harbor. The town was created around 1902 under the great vision of a San Francisco architect to make Topo the next San Francisco with a huge port welcoming incoming ships from around the world. Owen's vision to create a second SFO style destination did not come to fruition but remains a bustling harbor and an interesting stop on the mainland coast. 

After settling in at the marina and doing some of our chores, what better way to spend a windy Wednesday than a bus trip to the bustling metropolis of Los Mochis from Topolobampo. Los Mochis is where it's happening. 

On the bus, a great value at 19 pesos ($1.12), your ride includes FULL blast music on recycled buses that are in pretty good condition. The 45 minute trip features wonderful vistas of the farming area that Sinaloa is famous for. Their license plates feature a tomato! The bus carries people going to and from work, hauling Christmas gifts from the ‘big city’ and other travelers with a million stories I’d loved to learn. 

While in Los Mochis, a very large city in the Sinaloa region, we traversed quite a few miles on foot exploring. We never saw another Caucasian the entire day so as always, lots of people stare at the tall visitors. We arrived mid-morning and wandered from the bus drop off area and happened upon the newly opened upscale Panama bakery where we enjoyed banana cream pie (Judy’s fave) and carrot cake (Mike’s fave). Justification: we’d need fortitude after a long bus ride and our intended wandering through the big town. Panama bakery is famous in Mazatlan and just opened in Los Mochis so is a known entity. We had at least 6 people waiting on us at the bakery (such is the life of the turista) as they all wanted to be sure we were happy. Javier was our designated English speaker. We asked Javier to direct us to a local “tourist office” for what to see in Los Mochis. Ironically, he was from Culiacan, the neighboring city, so he apologized that he had no idea. He came back with a full report and we were sent to a Hotel Santa Anita where they have a very nice tourist office for visitors going to the Copper Canyon. We scored a great city map – photocopied at least 100 times but somewhat legible. Off we went to find # 1- 9, discovering each by walking the city, a most enjoyable experience although dangerous for two reasons: traffic that is crazy and never-ending and sidewalks rival the walking treachery you find in La Paz. Watch every step. Look down, look up, look left, look right.
Tile mural featuring the petroglyphs of the Fuerte River region

Of the designated stops, the best were the Regional Museum of Sinaloa and the River Fuerte region – and the Botanical Garden. True treasures.
An amazing array of petroglyphs found througout the region

Wandering about for lunch, it’s not hard, per se, but it’s not easy to find the right place. So many choices of street vendors and interesting smells. We ended up at a tiny shed that featured seafood. We considered the “tostada embarazada” – pregnant tostada – but settled on a coctel de mariscos, a wonderful combination of marinated shrimp and octopus in a tomato broth featuring onion, tomato and cucumber. We were happy campers, adding the various hot sauces to make each bite sing.

Regional museum
Part of our mission was to find a plumbing store for a 4” elbow and a wood store for a small sheet of thin plywood for Mike’s new plan to add more LED ambient lighting on board. We were successful for those finds but not for small flashlight batteries (seriously, impossible!) nor a 2016 calendar. It’s only December 16th and none of the hardware stores have their free calendars yet (we’ve been searching the entire month). We rely on local calendars to report holidays as we get screwed by not knowing when stores are closed, parades are happening, traffic stops and when churches are busy.

Iguanas and turtles at the gardens

Botanical gardens

After a long day of walking and a return bus ride watching an amazing sunset and blasted out by a HUGE speaker directly above our heads at the back of the bus, we are sitting on Pura Vida in the quiet, enjoying our new Christmas lights and thankful for the day’s outing. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Guaymas - Topolobampbo - Mazatlan

Guaymas fuel dock - ready to head out
On Saturday December 12th, we made passage south from Guaymas, Sonora to the tomato state of Sinaloa. Backup plan was a stop in Topolobampo on the way to Mazatlan, depending on weather and winds. We traveled with our friends on Three Hour Tour which was enjoyable to keep in contact and compare conditions. As a catamaran, they sail differently than our monohull and the southerly winds carried us both along on our unique tack for the first 24 hours. No other sail traffic joined us on the mainland side so our goal was to avoid shrimpers and freighters that are regulars along the coastline.

On day two, after a nice quiet evening and beautiful red sunset, the winds switched from the south to a northerly late on the second day as we entered a 30MPH squall that took us by surprise. We tacked differently to adjust for the conditions. The seas were rougher and the waves higher once the squall hit, so as we approached Topolobampo, our group decision was to stop for a break midway to Mazatlan. Conditions were quite lousy when we arrived at the entrance to the huge bay that leads into Topo. Three Hour Tour made the decision to continue their journey on to Mazatlan and we decided the fun factor was enough and went in.

shallow entrance to the bay at Topolobampo

kayak covers ripped off
by the winds and rain

a welcome sight- the hillside town of Topo
It took four hours from the first set of buoys to arrival at the dock at Marina Palmira, Mike hand steering as the high, following seas caused us to turn off our autopilot and manually steering provided better control of our vessel against the seas. We dropped the mainsail as we entered the bay, watching a moving rainbow dancing across the rain squalls.

the salt removal process!
Not a thing in the boat wasn’t tossed, turned or shaken up and we discovered a leaking port, this one in the forward head. We've stayed 6 days in Topo, chilling, working on boat projects and venturing in to Los Mochis on the bus. This morning, we head south to Mazatlan, ready for 40 - 48 hours' journey. We waited a few more days than originally anticipated to avoid strong northerlies that would have made our trip bumpy. Let's hope our timing is better.

We learn from each passage, we take all of life lessons in stride and although we write stories of exhausting experiences, we appreciate the opportunity to be out on the water doing what we enjoy.