Friday, May 21, 2010

Nature Lovers' Paradise

This post was created several days ago but we were unable to post it until today:

We left La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area) about 10 days ago with our friend Sally Martin on board, and headed to San Blas, a stop on our way to Isla Isabela. We spent two nights anchored in Mantanchen Bay as the swell getting into the San Blas marina was too ominous and surely would have drenched our cockpit and who knows what else. Plus, if you click here you'll see a video of a boat that tried to get over the swell and lost a camera in the foray. As it turns out, Mantanchen Bay was a great anchorage and kept us far from the jejenes (no-see-ums) for which San Blas is known. On the other hand, a wasp swarm made its home in our sail bag and brought our Friday night dinner to an abrupt halt as we all ran inside the boat and sealed all the hatches. Thousands of wasps covered surfaces of our sail bag and bimini in such a way that you could no longer see the blue fabric. Another cruiser had told us to spray very concentrated dish-soapy water to get rid of them, and eventually it did the trick. Most departed that night and the remainder departed while we were en route to Isla Isabela. Many died after being sprayed with the soap water and we cleaned all the dead ones off the deck. Days later we are still finding dead ones on the boat.

While in the San Blas area, we took a jungle river 'cruise' where we saw many different types of birds - herons, egrets, eagles, etc. We were advised by another sailor to tell the panga driver that we were bird watchers so that he'd go slowly. clip_image001We brought our Birds of Mexico reference guide to show some semblance of credibility, but in truth it was pretty incredible.

We took the first panga up the river that day and as such, none of the birds were disturbed by other boats. We saw many turtles and crocodiles too, and also visited a Cocodrilia (crocodile farm). The piece de resistance was at the end of the tour when we swam in beautiful clean and clear crocodile-free river water (gated off from the rest of the river), with a rope swing and all. I, Barb, even swung off the rope swing into the water!

To get to the launching off point for the river cruise we got a lift in the back of a pickup truck. The kids loved it! Later that day, we visited the remains of the famous San Blas cathedral and fortress, with a spectacular view of the city.

Isla Isabela was another spectacular site, located 25 miles from mainland Mexico and about 85 miles south of Mazatlan. For the first couple of days, we were the only boat in the anchorage. We were, of course, surrounded by water, with only this small island in site - no other land - and with the sounds of birds and waves crashing, it was very peaceful. clip_image003The island is a bird sanctuary for blue footed boobies and frigates, and whether or not you are a bird watcher, you cannot be disappointed. We went on several hikes around the island, and often had to hike off the beaten path, so to speak, to avoid upsetting the nesting birds with their babes. clip_image002

Many hundreds of frigates were also nesting in the low citrus trees. What a site.




After four days at Isla Isabela we departed at 4 a.m. to make it into Mazatlan before dark.  When the sun rose, the seas were calm. Flat calm. On our way, we thought we saw many coconuts floating in the water, until we realized they were sea turtles. Dozens of sea turtles.


Next, we saw hundreds of dolphins. We'd come close to a pod, they'd start darting towards clip_image005us, and then swim in the wake of our bow for a few hundred yards, and then swim off. The sea was so calm and clear that we could see the dolphins diving deep down and rays swimming deep below the sea surface. I don't think we'll ever tire of seeing beautiful dolphins swim alongside us.

We coasted into Mazatlan before sunset, where we had a great few days exploring parts of the city we hadn't seen during our first go around back in December. We were anchored in the old harbor, which is walking distance to the old part of Mazatlan. We spent the first day with Sally's brother, Forrest, who is the doctor on the Carnival Splendor cruise ship which was anchored in Mazatlan that day - he knew the local hotspots and took us around. Later that day, we said goodbye to Sally who had to return to La Cruz to send her son off for his school's Washington DC trip (he attends the Collegio Americana in Puerto Vallarta).

clip_image006Over the next few days, we hiked El Faro, the lighthouse (kind of like the Dish, for those bay area folk familiar with it), which takes you up to the highest (or is it the second highest) lighthouse in the world. We also went to a local hangout where we had awesome pizza at Benji’s Pizza (Benji is the owner’s pet donkey) on Stone Island which is accessible only by boat/dinghy.

Monday morning we left our boat in one of the marinas and hopped a six hour bus ride to Los Mochis, where we began our Copper Canyon (Barranca de Cobre) trip yesterday morning at 7 a.m. - an 11 hour train ride into the mountains and a series of canyons, five of which are deeper than the Grand Canyon. The 400+ mile railroad trip goes over 36 bridges and through 87 tunnels as it winds its way up into cooler climates at an altitude of over 8,000 feet. We'll spend a few days hiking in the mountains before returning to the boat in Mazatlan. We will certainly blog about this trip when it's done.

Signing off from Creel in the Copper Canyon area, Chihuahua, Mexico



  1. Your trip sounds amazing. We saw blue footed boobies and frigates in the Galapagos. They are spectactular. Can't see that at the Dish.

    Thank you for your wonderful posts. I feel like I am there with you and Wendy wishes she were.

  2. What an amazing experience - nature at its best!
    Those swells at the San Blas Marina were something else - I'm sure glad you didn't try to make it over. I hope you were able to salvage some of your Shabbat dinner, or did the wasps take advantage of your escape?
    Your jungle "river" cruise, those exotic birds (which really got to Allan's gut as he's seriously gotten into photographing and studying birds), Isla Isabela with the nesting birds, the sea turtles, the dolphins, etc, all have us in awe of the life you are living...and the Copper Canyon train ride...aah! We googled some of the magnificent sites you are all witnessing - WOW!
    This has been a phenomenal excursion and we can't wait to read more about it...
    We (Deb, Moe, and their families) just spent a good Victoria Day weekend with my sister (Auntie) Roz, Carl, Jillie and kids, together with David and Lindsay (David's girlfriend - seems quite serious). We also spent some time with Mark, Anne Marie and girls. All are fine and ask about you.
    Love you and miss you all...