Balance sailed out of the anchorage at Isla Isabela about 11am on March 31st, Easter Sunday, and arrived in Mazatlan Monday morning about 7:30am, 99 miles total, even though Mazatlan is only about 85 miles away in a direct line. Nikk tried to sail, so had to set a course which was some degrees off the direct heading to Mazatlan to try to use the fickle winds. Most of the time we once again motorsailed, with the ocean being so calm in the middle of the night that we could see waves of phosphoresence coming off the bow.
From the first light we kept looking for Mazatlan, a city of over half a million people which should have been very visible, with nothing in sight. We finally realized that we were heading for a fog bank, very eerie, since we didn’t expect fog with a temperature over 70 degrees. The city slowly revealed itself.
Mazatlan is an Aztec word which means “place of the deer”. Since Aztecs rarely ventured anywhere near Mazatlan, historians have to speculate that conquistador Nuno de Guzman may have had an Aztec interpreter when he burned his way through the present state of Sinaloa in 1531. Beautiful Mazatlan has three islands offshore, Isla Pajaros (island of birds), Isla Venados (island of deer), and Isla Chivos (island of rams)/Isla Lobos (wolves) I’m not sure if any deer, rams or wolves remain. The beaches of golden sand stretch for miles, with estuaries running far inshore, and giant tourist hotels lining the beach. Mazatlan became a prime tourist destination in the 60’s and 70’s, and is also an important manufacturing area.
We got a slip at Marina El Cid, a large hotel/condo complex with a small marina located about six miles from the Centro (old city). With our docking fee of $31 US/day we get use of the three swimming pools, spa pool, showers and grounds, with slight additional charges for electricity and internet. Here’s the view from the marina restaurant:
There are many Mexican families vacationing here, and a few gringos. It was probably really crazy during Semana Santa, which is also the Spring Break for Mexican college students, but that ended Sunday. There’s still live music at the pool in the afternoon, and sometimes zumba and bingo (not at the same time, now that would be interesting). Nikk and I paddled up the estuary past a protected area with birds and a lot of large green iguanas, then over through another marina, Marina Mazatlan, and back past the large dredge that keeps the channels open.
On another day we got a little open taxi (a Volkswagon golf cart made in Mazatlan), one of dozens that go back and forth transporting tourists, and went to the old town, with its narrow streets and old wood and plaster buildings. Our first stop was the Mercado Central, a covered market with perhaps a hundred stalls selling food, drink, clothing and crafts. We wandered for at least an hour, and bought sandals from Alfredo.
The archeological museum was closed, to our disappointment, so we meandered over to the malecon at the beach, then uphill for a view of the city, then back along the malecon heading north for several miles. Huge bronze statues on pedestals celebrate nature and perhaps the Woman of Mazatlan rising from the sea.
My favorite was the dolphins leaping inside jets of water. At night there are colored lights in the fountain, but we unfortunately didn’t stay until nightfall. Pirates used Mazatlan’s natural hiding places for their ships, which led to observation towers on the hills to watch for pirates, and later for Mexicans to watch for French ships during their war of 1862-64. We didn’t see any divers at the famous cliff area, only lots of stalls selling clothing and trinkets, and another strange set of bathrooms. In the front a woman takes five pesos and gives you toilet paper. She also sells candy, and watches telenovelas (Mexican soap operas) on a little TV. It seems a little strange to be selling food right outside a bathroom.
These four days were mostly filled with tasks, though. Laundry, showers, fueling up the boat, filling the water tanks, shopping at the Mega Store, cleaning the anchor, tightening the fan belt, and hosing off the boat. Since Nikk had to do many of these tasks, I had time to write two blogs!
The winds may be favorable for sailing, or maybe too light, but we’re leaving to head across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz, where the temperature today was in the 90’s. Mazatlan’s perfect temperatures of high 70’s have been so enjoyable. But high temperatures means warm waters for snorkeling and diving when we get to the desert islands. Our journey continues on the Tropic of Cancer.