The shores of Mazatlán were visible the second morning of our voyage crossing the Sea of Cortez. As we move closer, the threat of rain and strong winds had abandoned us. You could see the coconut-lined beaches scattered with hotels and tall condos. We have never been fans of a tall structure encroaching some pristine shores and I couldn’t help but wonder when and how long it will take before the beaches of Mazatlán would be dominated by these cement monsters, barely any open space to spare, barely any room to breathe. One can only hope that it will not become another Cabo San Lucas.
After two trying days at sea causing minor damage to Vento Dea, we knew our stop here will yet again be an extended one, this time with lots of work to be done. My husband, perhaps sensing that I was overwhelmed with what had transpired over the last 48 hours, made a point to promise some time to relax and rejuvenate in Mazatlán. After all, our marina is part of a resort hotel and supposedly all hotel amenities were available to marina guests, which unfortunately didn’t include breakfast.
Upon arrival we met some friendly neighbors on our dock, who kindly gave pointers on whom to talk to regarding a new window. We then finished up our business with the harbormaster, got our keys and wi-fi passwords, showered and took Gidget for a walk. The moment her paws hit land and she smelled the fresh scent of grass, her face relaxed and a big grin appeared from side to side. The poor girl finally did her business after two long and rough days at sea. She seemed to be taking this very well, I mean she has yet to refuse to go back onto the boat after everything that we have been through.
Soon darkness fell and dinner followed by sleep were the only two things in our mind. So starved and so tired we stopped at the first decent looking place, this was a mistake. It was by far the worst meal we have had so far. On our walk back from dinner, we entertained ourselves with the idea of abandoning the boat for the night and book ourselves a hotel room. The thought of a nice room with a big, comfortable and (most importantly) dry bed along with cable television was very tempting. For whatever reason, we chose instead to sleep in our boat, with a sleeping bag on the damp cushions.
Vento Dea was slowly put back in shape again. We took out and dried all the wet cushions and bed covers and washed the wet blankets. We opened every compartment and cleaned it, bleached the inside of the boat, re-organized the items thrown about during the crossing and hosed the boat down with fresh water. We cleaned, scraped and prepped the window frame before installing the new glass piece. Yet, forget we did not of that promise we had made to ourselves and relaxed we did.
Located in the state of Sinaloa, across from the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula, Mazatlán is another popular tourist destination. Unlike Cabo San Lucas however, one can still easily find the charming authenticity of this city outside the hotel resorts. Public transportation is abundant in the forms of buses, taxis and pulmonias (golf carts turned into taxi cabs). Our cruising guide informed us that the pulmonia is a cheap and fast alternative to a taxi; however, a 3-km ride and 60 pesos (~5US$) later, we decided that the authors’ standard of cheap is considerably more expensive than ours. From that point we opted to take the bus. From the marina, we took the Sabalo-Centro or “green bus” to the main attraction points in town. This route takes you along the Av. Camarón Sabalo and the Golden Zone, where most of the hotels are located, then along the Malecón all the way to the old Mazatlán or Centro Histórico. These buses, the one most of the tourists will take, are newer, equipped with AC and cost 10 pesos (about 80 cents).
Centro Histórico is the city’s historic district adorned with beautiful and colorful architecture, including the grand Catedral Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción, the Ángela Peralta Theater, several museums as well as monuments. Located in this district also is Plaza Machado, a town square surrounded by sidewalk cafes. One could see the French and Spanish influence on the buildings lining up the square. Supposedly this plaza is a busy square with arts and crafts vendors as well as street musicians entertaining the wine-and-dine crowd; however, we were out of luck since it was dead quite on both of our visits.
Another stop in this route is the Mercado Pino Suarez, or the central market, located just a couple blocks from the Cathedral. This is where the hustle and bustle happens (except when you go there on Sunday, in which case it is closed). The locals and tourists come to haggle for fresh meats and produce, snacks and souvenirs. Above the market you can find good, local food for an extraordinarily cheap price. When you eat here, you can also sit on the balcony outside, above the crowded streets and people-watch. While in the Mercado, we bought ourselves 5 beautiful and colorful Mexican blankets to decorate our cabin. We also got ourselves a delicious lunch and Coke for only 85 pesos (~7 US$), or the price of an appetizer in a main-street restaurant. We also walked along some of the Malecón, a 21-km-long beachwalk , where one can find beachside restaraunts, fishermen, cliff divers, numerous sidewalk cafes, art displays and jewelry vendors. One can easily spent hours sightseeing and walking along this waterfront avenue.
When we are too lazy to take the bus or walk anywhere, we took a short water taxi ride to the hotel’s private beach and play fetch with Gidget. Or we lounge poolside while reading a book accompanied by the many iguanas roaming around the area waiting for the hotel guests to feed them. If we had too much relaxation we went back to work on the boat. While it could get windy in the late afternoon or evening, for the most part our days here were warm and sunny. I couldn’t tell you how happy I was to no longer be in 5 layers of clothing.
After a week’s stay, Jerrad finally obtained the polycarbonate piece needed to replace our window. The plan was to cut and install it then leave the next day. Of course, it was never our luck so far to have things go according to plan. The piece broke into two while Jerrad was cutting it to fit the frame. To top it off, it happened on Saturday afternoon. Off he went to the supply store again, and they agreed to provide him with a ready piece of polycarbonate by the following Monday afternoon. That, as it turned out, also did not go as planned and it wouldn’t be available till Tuesday. As I sat in our beloved Vento Dea on Monday evening, still missing a window, the wind has picked up to a good 20-25 kts and the forecast warned of gale-force winds for the next few days. After what we went through in the Sea of Cortez, choosing to sail in these conditions was undeniably in the farthest stretch of our minds.
As our extended stay continued, I was torn with opposite feelings about Mazatlán. On one hand, it is not a bad place to be stuck, Mazatlán had its little charms that I will cherish. Not just the obvious town attractions described above, but all the other little things that happened in this place.
Here I saw Cesar Millan entering into our hotel as we were walking out of the lobby. It was quite unfortunate that I did not have my glasses on so I wasn’t certain at the time and missed the Kodak moment of Gidget with the Dog Whisperer himself (a water-taxi driver the next day confirmed that it was him staying in the resort).
Here we spoke with the Vietnamese owner of an out of place Pho and Boba restaurant who told us of his escape to Thailand some thirty years ago. Along with 30 other people, he spent 2 terrifying days at the sea on an a boat only 8 meters long. I was humbled listening to his story; my fear of death seemed so ridiculous by comparison.
Here we walked too many miles on 3 separate days in search of a supposedly very good coffeeshop that, according to Google maps, was merely a few kilometers away. We never found it. Instead, one day after walking for what seemed to be hours in the hot sun, Jerrad and I sat down in another coffeeshop ordering the sweetest breakfast items on the menu alongside the sweetest blended drinks available. They looked good when we first sat down, they definitely didn’t feel good after we devoured them.
Here I could relax by the poolside reading my book in the warm sun, or go in the hot tub at night; life is as laidback as it could be.
But on the other hand, I was getting anxious to leave. Whether I felt the need to move on because I wanted to stick to the “plan” as scheduled or because if you stay in a resort hotel long enough it begins to feel like a retirement home, I could not tell. Maybe I just felt guilty of not having a job this whole time and for the next months to come. Or maybe I just wanted a change of scenery. While I loved Mazatlán and enjoyed this place much more than Cabo, I still couldn’t escape that restlesness and weariness. It was time to move on to the next destination and, eventually, to our final destination.
More photos here