Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The good life in Mazatlan.

The good life continues in Mazatlan. We've added a location map to the top of the blog that will have our current (and past) locations as we travel around. Thanks to Eric & Sherrel at for the code snips.

We use a Dell mini desktop computer for our navigation computer and purchased a mini-keyboard to use with it 3 years ago when we upgraded Discovery's electronics. Well the keyboard has started to cause 'wild mouse' syndrome on the computer where the mouse just mysteriously starts randomly moving and clicking. Not good when you're using the navigation software and the mouse closes the nav software and opens file manager, 5 times over. Smacking the keyboard with your hand seemed to solve the problem for awhile but that didn't seem like a good long term solution so we went looking for a new keyboard. At Office Depot we found what we thought was the perfect keyboard. It's a flexible type that's water proof, not too big, and cheap (around $12 USD). So we bought it. When we got it back on the boat and took a closer look at it we thought we should have taken a closer look at the store before we bought it. It has some strange characters and no Home, End, Page Up or Down, or Delete keys. And other oddities like the keys marked + and - don't really enter those characters but the keys above them do. Other than that it's great and we're going to keep it. Anyhow if we tried to take it back I'm not sure how to explain to the clerk in the store that we didn't notice all the strange and missing keys before we bought it. It works fine for the nav software, although a Home key would be nice to center on the boat on the chart but there's a way of doing that with the mouse which has now stopped it's random movements and clicking. Click on the pic to see a larger image of the keyboard.

We bought fuel in Maz today. We have 4 fuel tanks on Discovery and we only run off of one tank and only put fuel in that tank that has been cleaned (polished) by running through a fuel filter to remove particles and water. When we fuel up we keep the new fuel isolated until it can be polished then it is moved to tanks that may have fuel in them to balance the boat out. That is what is causing the list (listo in Spanish) in the pic below. We bought fuel in the morning and polished the fuel in one tank for 6 hours before it was shifted to a tank on the other side of the boat to level things out.

We discovered a site for those that like reading boat blogs. It's Take a look, it even has our site on it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day. We hope everyone had a safe and happy celebration and we're sorry we're a couple of days late but Mexico does not honor Groundhog day so we missed it.

We arrived in Mazatlan after a long, 38 hour passage from Topo. Because of the weather we decided to leave Topo in the late afternoon and travel 2 nights and a day arriving in Maz at 7 AM. 38 hours over 2 nights and a day seems so much longer than done over 2 days and a night but sometimes you just have to go when the weather says to go. Right now the weather is saying, very loudly, to stay put. It's blowing 50-60 kts in the northern Sea of Cortez and 20-30 kts in the southern portion with seas over 10'. Here in Maz we're having winds of 25-30 kts and it's cold, overnight temps are in the low 40's with highs in the upper 60's.

Today we had to put on long pants for the first time since we left Ensenada. Everywhere in Mexico has been cold and windy this winter, ok not has much as up north, and we are looking forward to Spring.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


We visited Topolobampo in late January crossing from the south end of Isla San Jose on Baja, an easy 95 NM passage. Topo is located inside a large bay that is mostly less than 10' deep although there is a dredged channel leading up to the town that is used by large ferries and cargo ships. When we first arrived we anchored just inside the bay behind the barrier island at the way point in Captn Rains' Mexico Boating guide. The next day we traveled up the channel and into the yacht basin and docked at Palmira Marina. We went to Topo and Palmira Marina based on a write up by Pat Rains on her web site and we were looking forward to staying at a new marina facility similar to Palmira's marina in La Paz. What we found was disappointing.

The marina is still under construction although the first stage of docks are done and mostly occupied by sport fishing boats. The marina is continuing to install more pilings and docks. The shore side facilities are still under construction. The restaurant is not open, the parking area is still dirt, there is only one uni-sex shower, and no laundry. There is a small tienda at the marina office selling basic food supplies (bread, soft drinks, candy, etc.) and some boat supplies that cost at least twice what they sell for in the US. The staff does not speak English and they would not answer the VHF radio although they were pleasant in person.

The town of Topo is very impoverished, dirty and lacks basic shops other than one medium sized grocery and a few small tiendas and Modelorama. We did not find a hardware store and only one restaurant which is located at an hotel and opens at 5 PM. All the streets are dirty and lined with trash. We saw a dead rat on the side of the road. The locals are not the friendly and quick to smile people that we are used to meeting in Mexico. They seem to be downtrodden by the poverty. Even the residence of Turtle Bay which is one of most impoverished towns we have visited are more friendly than the people of Topo. We would not recommend this town to other cruisers although the anchorage inside the barrier island is a good place to stop for a nights rest if needed.

Here's an overview of what we found in Topo -

30 & 50 amp power on docks – the 50 amp plug on our dock was broken
Water on dock NOT potable – storage tanks are bad
WiFi only near office, not on docks
No laundry
One unisex shower
No restaurant – might (!) open in a month
Slow expansion of docks – working on some pilings – still 50 slips mostly taken by sport fishers and permanent yachts
No one in the office speaks any English, but Eduardo on the dock speaks a little
They do not answer VHF radio hails
Very small tienda in office
Inexpensive moorage
You must walk across the main road into/out of town to get to town - this road is 100 yards from marina with MANY large trucks and train all day and night
There is a smallish grocery store in town but they only take pesos
One restaurant in town – it was closed the day we walked by
Buoys marked on charts for estuary entrance are WRONG, but there are buoys

Out of La Paz

We finally broke the grip that La Paz had on us and escaped to the islands. It's easy to settle into life in La Paz, the great restaurants, interesting shops, nice people, and new friends but after a month we were eager to get back on the water.

The search for the ultimate fish taco continues. We found an excellent contender at Lucy's right next to Lopez Marine, highly recommended.

After provisioning (a fancy word for buying everything in the grocery store) we had a good weather window and headed out.

First stop was only 18 miles away, San Gabriel bay on isla Espiritu Santos. This is a large bay opened to weather from the west or south but the forecast was for calm winds so we took a chance and set the anchor and except for an afternoon breeze we were rewarded with a pleasant stay. One surprise was Frigatebirds mating on the south end of the bay on an outcrop of rocks left by a long abandoned pearl farm. The male Frigatebirds has an orange throat patch that becomes bright red when inflated in courtship display. There were hundreds of Frigatebirds with dozens of males displaying their red throat at any one time. We took our dinghy near the birds but not too close as to disturb them. Click on picture below to see detail.

While in La Paz we applied for international health insurance that was recommended by other cruisers. The first hurdle to over come is that we needed to both get physical exams so we called an excellent doctor in La Paz that we had both seen before for minor issues, Dr. Touchman or Dr T as he is know in the cruiser community. We both passed our exams with no problems so we sent them off and waited. After we left La Paz we received via SailMail a form that we needed to sign and return but we didn't have internet connection where we were and we couldn't download the attached form with SailMail so we needed to go back toward La Paz until we were close enough to get a cell signal and connect to the internet. We spent a day cruising south for 2 hours, watching the bars on the cell phone until we could connect to the internet and then downloaded email, printed and signed the form, scanned the signed copy and emailed it back and then found a location to anchor for the night. All in a days work for people cruising on a boat. Cruising has many challenges that city bound people just can't appreciate and we wouldn't change lives with anyone.