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2012 Year in Review–Cruising Mexico

Our First Family Holiday E-Letter
Christmas-New Years 2012

Pamela and I have spent a large amount of time in La Paz, Mexico as that is now the home base of our sailboat: Red Dolphin. We have many new friends in Mexico and enjoy living there on a part-time basis. Of course, the purpose of having a boat there in the first place is for us to cruise the Mexican waters, with a special emphasis on the Sea of Cortez.

By March we were cruising the waters of the Sea of Cortez and our first trip was to Mazatlan. Dr. Joe Ledbetter and Chris Powell crewed for the 2-1/2 day sailing adventure. Our autopilot broke, so we hand steered and used the wind vane steering system. We had a very pleasant trip with a short stay at Ballandra Bay. Entering the Mazatlan Marina harbor was easy and fun.

Pam met me there just a few days later and we sailed from Mazatlan to La Cruz, on Banderas Bay, several miles from Puerto Vallarta. On this trip we anchored at Stone Island, Matanchen Bay, near San Blas, and Chacala, a very pretty sea side village. Everyone we met was friendly, helpful, and pleasant.

La Cruz is a fairly sleepy Mexican village with a world-class marina. We stayed there a full week before sailing back to Mazatlan. Basically we reversed the trip running into some of the same people along the way. One really fun thing we did was to go to San Blas by bus and then tour the La Tovara. La Tovara is a nature park displaying both quite a few bird species and crocodiles. Yes, folks, we were boating in a small motorboat up a river surrounded by crocs. They are as fearsome as you think (and no, I am not confused, these were crocs, not alligators).

Once in Mazatlan we toured a bit. We have mastered the bus system in several of the cities and this is definitely the way to get around. We managed to complete the Copper Canyon train ride on the Chepe, a very famous tourist train from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. We also enjoyed our favorite Mazatlan restaurant, Fat Fish, several times. No joke, two people can have a full dinner (steak, ribs, or shrimp) for approximately $15.00. One of the nice things about Mexico is that most everything costs less than in America.

Our Mazatlan departure was exciting as the entrance to the harbor had large swells running. We got out fine anyway and sailed directly back to Bahia de Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) in about 2 days. After an overnight anchor we sailed up the Sea and around to Ensenada de La Paz and our marina slip: A very wonderful trip, indeed.

On the way back to California, our little Rabbit Diesel pickup destroyed its head. Way too bad and expensive. A very nice older man called a friend of his and we were towed to the city of Vincente Guerrero where Gabriel attempted repair. It turned out that head was destroyed so we took the ABC bus line to the U.S. border in Tijuana and crossed over on foot (legally). We spent the night at a border motel, took the Red Line to the San Diego airport and rented an Enterprise Rental Car and drove it to the Sacto. Airport. What an adventure that was. Once again, everyone was friendly and helpful. Eventually I got a new head to Gabriel, he fixed the car, and I took a bus to his small peninsula town and picked it up. For my troubles, the U.S. Border Patrol put me in detention and thoroughly checked my truck. It turns out they don’t like it when you leave your vehicle behind!

In June my nephew and I flew to Cabo San Lucas, rented a car and drove to La Paz. He and I sailed to the “islands” and had a great time hiking. We also got involved in a very nasty 2-1/2 day wind storm that kept us awake most of the time on anchor watch. Just the same he got to see some of the wonders of the world in the World’s Aquarium. (BTW—The islands are Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida). We also went scuba diving with our friend, mechanic, and divemaster, Luis Ochoa.

A quick drive back to the Cabo airport ended our two-week stay.

Pam had the pleasure of working with her granddaughter Emma for the summer. Emma is a bright 15-year old (not for long, her birthday is on Dec. 31). Chris took off for Utah for 3 months and Pam took over custodial care. They even went to Maui for a week, so we all have travel fever. Once Chris got back from Utah, Pam went there to work with her sister at Castle Creek Winery. She had a blast as her sister is fun along with her husband Ray, a retired Navy Veteran. I flew our plane out and picked her up, enjoying the stunning southwest scenery.

I stayed in our Silver Springs home and worked on writing projects for Prentice Hall and served as a flight instructor at Silver Springs Airport. I helped several pilots recertify and also was able to get Ted Elswick through his private pilot’s license. He is a proud private pilot now and enjoys flying his C-150 with his wife Debbie.

During this time my son James and his wife Sandy had their third daughter, Caroline Nova. She is gorgeous and they certainly are happy to a large, happy family. Between Pam and I we now have 5 grandchildren.

Finally, Pam and I left for La Paz in mid-October after giving a lecture to the Marina Bay Yacht Club on “Sailing in Mexico”. We had a pleasant drive. We always stay at the Cactus Motel in El Rosario and Motel Mulege, in Mulege. This time was different however as we arrived in Mulege just as Hurricane Paul was delivering just a little too much water to the hills of Baja. All hotel/motel rooms were out so we bought emergency food with the intention of sleeping on high ground in our truck. Fortunately, a religious family came by and persuaded us to come to their church. We ended up sleeping there in the pastor’s home with dozens of other refugees. What a time we had. Pamela even made tortillas with the family in the morning, and what interesting tortillas they were. Of course, we got to use our less than perfect Spanish!

We found a hostel for a reasonable price outside the town of Mulege and stayed there two more nights. Pam and I would take walks on Hiway One and clear rocks for entertainment. The length of Highway one was blown out by floods from Rosarito to La Paz. After being “refugees” for three days we were finally able to leave for La Paz and our boat.

After 5 days of preparing our boat we sailed north on the Sea. What a great trip we had. We met new people and were able to see old friends along the way.

Our stops along the way were Ensenada Grande, San Evaristo, Agua Verde, Puerto Escondido, Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante, Agua Verde (on the way back), Puerto Los Gatos (where we had a wonderful reunion with the pescadero Manuel. He dove for us and acquired four lobster for our dinner), San Evaristo, Ensenada Grande, and finally La Paz. In almost all of these places we were able to dive off of the boat and snorkel around corals and seemingly thousands of tropical fish in 80+ degree waters. This adventure lasted 22-days, and it was sad that it went so fast.

Our friend Joe Ledbetter keeps his boat in Mazatlan Marina. He had asked us for help in sailing it to Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta. As Pam and I have done this before we were only happy to help him pilot it around Punta de Mita (a very nasty point that looks like it could eat a boat for a snack). Of course, it is safe if you know what you are doing, and thousands of boats a year go through just fine. We ended up anchoring at Matanchen, Jatembla, and La Cruz anchorage, just outside of La Cruz Marina. These anchorage are all on what is called the Riviera Nayarit (a very gorgeous stretch of shoreline backed by thick Jungle). Of course we swam at each anchorage and just had a blast.

Pam and I flew back to La Paz and left our boat in the capable hands of Luis Cosio. He owns a great boat maintenance service that basically will do anything to keep your boat in great shape while you are away.

We jumped in our little truck and drove back (uneventfully) to our nice home in Colfax. Christmas is coming and we are looking forward to being with family.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and we will think of you all as we sail to Acapulco in March (someone has to do it).

One final note: The staff at Marina de La Paz is not just very efficient and capable they are a very fun group. Mary, Neil, Addy, Cyntia, and Yolanda are great to work with and very good friends indeed.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Jim and Pam Duvall

December 24, 2012   No Comments

2012 Season

Red Dolphin has been very active. We have been researching many ports of call throughout Pacific Mexico and enjoying the heck out of it at the same time. Starting in mid-February Chris  Powell and I drove down to Mazatlan. After  a quick refurbishment of the boat, Joe Ledbetter joined us. We then headed off for Mazatlan. We sailed to Ballandra Bay for an overnighter and then a two-day sail to Marina Mazatlan. After just a few days Joe and Chris took off for various destinations, while my wife Pamela flew in.

Pamela and I reprovisioned the boat and had the autopilot drive gears repaired by Rick Cummins, here at Marina Mazatlan. We left the marina for a one-month cruise to La Cruz Huanacaxtle (Marina Riviera Nayarit). What a great cruise. We visited Matanchen Bay and the town of Chacala, both on the way to La Cruz, and on the way back. We also anchored at Stone Island anchorage going and coming. Our only disappointment was in not being able to stop at Isla Isabel to see the Blue-footed Boobies. Way too bad, in both cases we passed close bye to the island, but were not able to stop due to high winds.

We found that rounding the point at Punta de Mita is quite treacherous. Good charts, both paper and electronic are essential. Waves break all around the point to about 3/4 of a mile out.

Once in Banderas Bay we were downwind to our new marina and our travel time to Marina Riviera Nayarit (the newest marina on the Pacific Coast) was only two hours from Punta de Mita.

We heard that the marina was expensive, but it is not as expensive as Marina Mazatlan, which still stands as the most expensive marina we have visited. The good news about either one is that they both have a full range of services.

We will leave Marina Mazatlan on May 8 and head back for La Paz and Marina de La Paz, the home of Red Dolphin. Once again we have truly enjoyed our stay in Mexico. The people here have been overwhelming in their help and friendship.

A couple of new books will be coming out. One will be a Cruiser’s Guide to La Paz, and the other will be book on sailing Mexico. While not comprehensive, it will have a large body of information, especially for the first-time visitor to Mexico.

More soon.

Jim Duvall




May 3, 2012   No Comments