Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta

December 2006 - February 2007

Bringing in the New Year on the beach in Mazatlan

First, let's play tour guide: Mazatlán is situated on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, almost directly across from the tip of the Baja peninsula. Because it was a city long before it became a beach resort, Mazatlán is less touristy than some of its neighbors on what the cruise industry calls the Mexican Riviera. Places like Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, which like Mazatlán are ports of call on the cruise ship circuit, were tailor-made as resort developments, while Mazatlán is Mexico’s largest port and has a bustling economy independent of the tourism industry.

The City is concentrated in two areas: In the north, there is the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) where the majority of hotels and restaurants are located. In the south there is El Centro (downtown) where the heart of the city is. These two centres are linked by the Malecón, which is a scenic beach-front avenue that bridges the gap between the two areas. The marinas are located north of the Zona Dorada. Anchoring out in the old harbor south of centro provides a cheaper cruiser option if you don’t mind the stench of the nearby sewage treatment plant.

Our first day in Mazatlán we got a marina slip, started the international check-in process and some other paperwork, got some laundry started, and took a bus downtown to have fantastic chicken mole and shrimp lunches with fresh-squeezed orange juice for a grand total of $6.00. The next day we connected with Erin's cousin Pete and his wife Cyndi, who were staying in their timeshare at a resort hotel. We began a budget-busting but extremely enjoyable round of happy hours and dinners out. To offset some of those expenses, all four of us attended a time share sales presentation. We had a magnificent buffet breakfast, then stared into space and nodded occasionally as the sales people vainly delivered their spiels. We left a few hours later with $150 for each couple--not the way you want to spend a morning in paradise, but it beats a morning in the cubicle!

There's an enormous community of ex-pat retirees in Mexico--we've read they number almost one million. This would explain why the average age of cruisers in Marina Mazatlán is around 70.

There were a few boat projects to attend to--apparently there will always be a "To Do" list, and it will always grow during a passage, but we got most of the stuff done that we needed to do. Paul enjoyed riding buses all over Mazatlán to "ferreterias" (hardware stores) looking for parts that he mostly didn't find (a common cruiser story in Mexico). We're not sure how it's possible to still need parts after working for months for a San Diego store that sells boat parts, but there you have it.

A group of young Mexican dancers put on a good show before Christmas, highlighting dances and costumes from different areas of the country. Christmas Eve dinner was spent with cruisers enjoying a good, if a bit strange, turkey dinner. Christmas Day we had a great meal with Pete and Cyndi--no turducken this year, or probably ever again...

For New Year's Eve, we went to yet another cruiser gathering organized by people in the marina, and the next day our neighbors had us over for mimosas and deviled eggs and the traditional 12 grapes for good luck every month of the New Year.

After all this feasting, we anchored out for six weeks and stopped spending money. We visited the towns of San Blas, Chacala, and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. We enjoy these smaller towns, where life is lived in a more traditional way than in the big resort cities. But a big marina is being constructed in La Cruz, so soon it will start to resemble Puerto Vallarta, with its over-development and over-pricing. We wonder if ten years from now the lady selling tamales out of her backyard or the panga fishermen selling their catch off the main square will still be there.

Erin's parents arrived the second week of February, and the feasting and drinking recommenced. Paul attended to the endless boat project list in a hot marina, while Erin helped a little, but mostly enjoyed hanging around with her parents at their deluxe resort. It was an all-inclusive place where a bracelet indicates you get as much food and alcohol as you can consume. Paul did get a full day and night there, since mom and dad booked their flight out a day too early. They gave us that last day, and we felt a heady sense of empowerment when an employee at the front desk transferred the bracelets to our wrists.

For Erin's birthday on the 11th, we attended yet another timeshare presentation. It was a wonderful present, since we came out with cash, a gourmet buffet breakfast, and job offers. The jobs seemed to be contingent on buying a timeshare (oops, "fractional ownership" they're now called), but it's good to know we could get work here if we get tired of living on a tight budget.

New Year's Eve firework and moon

We spent a lot of time on local buses. Here we're headed downtown with Erin's cousin Pete and wife Cyndi

Mooching off of Pete and Cyndi's resort Happy Hour on the beach

This couple was on a neighboring boat in the San Diego marina. We've seen each other again in Mazatlan and in Puerto Vallarta. Cruisers bump into each other the world over!

We caught a delicious baby dorado (mahi-mahi) just after leaving Mazatlan

Reproduction of a cannon at an old Spanish fort in San Blas

Huichol Indian father and son proudly display their artwork in San Blas

Cruising boats at anchor, including Romany Star in Chacala

Pelicans await a free breakfast from the fishing "pangueros"

A bathing suit is a good idea for a cockpit shower--one time a Mexican Navy ship passed by very close to us, all hands on deck

An iguana is evicted from its treetop home by a worker removing coconuts at a Puerto Vallarta resort (the iguana was fine)

Paul with an especially intriguing statue along the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta

More Malecon statues...

...and still more...

...and just one more

A full moon over the La Cruz anchorage
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