Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leaving Mazatlan

Today we leave Mazatlan.  Yesterday we celebrated our departure by taking the bus to Cerritos to have a seafood dinner on the beach before walking back to Ka'sala. 

Beach at Cerritos looking south to El Cid and the marina breakwater

View from the restaurant - we will pass these islands on our way south this afternoon

We enjoyed the slower pace in Mazatlan which allowed us to catch our breath, slow down, enjoy this beautiful city, visit with friends, and get some boatwork done.

I hoist Doug up the mast with the main halyard winch so he can lubricate the sail slots.

The last of the Cetol comes off the companionway doors and Schooner varnish goes on.

We were also fortunate to be in Mazatlan at the same time as family friends, Sid and Angie. They were staying at El Cid and on several occasions I was able to spend some time with them. They have been coming to Mazatlan annually for many years and did not waste any time showing us many of their favourite spots and introducing us to some of their favourite people. One night they treated us to an excellent Italian dinner. Thank you, Sid and Angie!

We've loved our time here and, although we are looking forward to continuing the adventure, we will surely miss this wonderful place.  I know we will be back someday.  Even after a month there is so much more to do and see, let alone enjoy the climate for rest and relaxation.

We are heading to Isla Isabel - an island made famous by Jacques Cousteau many years ago.  Known as Mexico's Galapagos, it is home to thousands of nesting birds - specifically frigates and boobies.  The anchorage is supposed to be rocky and a little exposed - people only go in calm conditions.  The weather looks like it might cooperate and I'm looking forward to some photo opportunities.

From there, the plan is to head toward San Blas and stay in the bay at Matanchen and, when conditions are right, enter the estuary to stay at the municipal docks in the town.  San Blas is a small Mexican town with some interesting things to see and do - primarily a panga trip through the estuaries, into the jungle to some freshwater springs and a crocodile preserve.  Unfortunately, San Blas is also famous for its noseeums.  Well - no pun intended - we'll see.  We have screens and bug dope, so hopefully we will survive.

The adventure continues.......

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mazatlan - Part 4: Bambeleiro

One day in Mazatlan we looked up from the cockpit to see Carl and Cristina from Bambeleiro calling to us from the shore. They had sailed across the Sea of Cortez from Los Frailes in some very windy conditions, but had made it to the coast with no problem aboard their beautiful Ranger 33, which they had completely refitted. We were delighted to see them and immediately planned to do some things together. Initially they had anchored in the harbor, so we met them by the old Club Nautico and walked to the top of Isla Creston to see El Faro, one of the highest standing lighthouses in the world (515 feet).

View of Mazatlan harbour from the lighthouse - Stone Island anchorage in the background

Bambeleiro is just behind the ketch in the anchorage.  Note the 3 cruise ships in the background.  (Due to the recent shooting of one foreigner in Mazatlan, the cruise ships have since stopped coming here - imagine the economic impact of that!  Would cruise ships stop coming to Vancouver if one foreign tourist was shot?)

Carl and Cristina

Malecon in the background

El Farro

Later, Carl and Cristina moved Bambeleiro around to the Singlar dock beside Marina Mazatlan, so we were able to have dinner together on several occasions.  We even having another rousing hand of Escoba!  One night Cristina made us a  wonderful authentic “Catalan” paella chock full of shrimp and so rich and tasty it was impossible to even converse as we ate it.  It just melted in our mouths – along with our favourite Mexican red wine from the Baja. What a treat!

Although this isn't the exact dish Cristina prepared, it is similar.  Once again, I was so overwhelmed by the food, company and amibience, I forgot to take a picture.

Over dinner that night, I confessed my night watch strategy – dancing to Shakira in the cockpit. Cristina said: “You like Latin music?” I said: “Yes! You can’t sit still – it compels you have to dance – you have no choice!” A few days later, this intrepid and thoughtful cruising couple dropped off a CD absolutely PACKED with up tempo Latin music – enough to keep me dancing all the way to Hawaii! Yahoo!

Another evening, just at dusk, Carl and Cristina paddled to Ka'sala with a different type of present - a whole skip jack tuna!  This required some research and the watching of several how-to YouTube videos ( - to give you an idea), but after a great deal of discussion and preparation Doug was able to clean and filet this little treat into two dinners - one on the BBQ and another on my nifty cast iron grill.  Although it wasn't as succulent as the albacore we had enjoyed in Coos Bay, it was succulent. 

Skip Jack Tuna

After a week together, Bambeleiro departed for points further south.  Hopefully we will see Carl and Cristina again soon - I have a few dance moves to show them!  Thank you both!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mazatlan - Part 3: New Taste Sensations

Mexico is a place of culinary delights and adventures. In my last entry I wrote about our fabulous mesquite grilled fish dinner at the beach side palapa along Mazatlan’s malecon.  Now I’d like to highlight some other wonderful food experiences.


Tamales are the perfect food – tasty, healthy, covers all the food groups, visually appealing and eco friendly. When my “garden” man recommended them to me one morning I was buying bananas at his truck, I was eager to give them a try. He keeps them hot in a yellow cooler on the tailgate and offers: Chicken or Beef?

Note the scarf!  It is chilly early in the morning.

Wrapped in corn husks and tied neatly, they are cut open to reveal a stuffing of meat, tender/crisp vegetables such as carrots, jicama, potatoes, green and/or red pepper, surrounded with corn meal that has the consistency of polenta.

Beef Tamale

The whole packet is steamed and the end result is such a succulent, smoky morsel that you are already thinking of when you will have your next one. They leave you feeling comfortably full with lots of energy for the day. Doug loves hot sauce on his, though I love the subtle unspiced flavor.


I hate pumpkin and feel lukewarm about zucchini, but when my garden man suggested I try and empanada I didn’t hesitate. This tasty, turnover-type bun is filled with a sweetened squash paste that defies description. The bread surrounding it is neither sweet nor salty, but a perfect covering for the stuffing inside. We warm them in the oven, then eat them with the fresh fruit of the day – often cantaloupe, green grapes, and oranges, also recommended by my garden man.

Chiles Rellanos

I convinced Laura, from Chirpy, that the garden man was the best bet for ultra fresh produce. One morning she joined me at his truck and her eyes lit up when she saw the poblanos peppers.

“Have you ever had Chiles Rellanos?” she asked, with a twinkle in her eye.

I had to admit that I knew what they were, but had never indulged. I had always considered them too gross looking and probably very fattening. Boy, was I wrong!

Laura and Paul invited us over to Chirpy one night and she made this fantastic dish. It was as light as air, tasty, but not overly spicy, a light crust of whipped egg white on the outside, surrounding a crunchy mild pepper stuffed with queso fresco. She had created this gorgeous dish in a frying pan to the perfect temperature allowing all the textures to exhibit their finest qualities and have the cheese soft inside.

This is not the dish Laura served, but gives you an idea of what the finished product looks like.  I was so excited to eat her chiles I forgot to take a picture.

Alongside the chiles she served a piquant salsa that complimented the mildness of the dish. Of course, all of this was served up on the most colourful hand painted Mexican plates – a perfect compliment to the meal.

A sampling of colourful Mexican plates

Oh!  Did I forget the Roija?

Thank you, Paul and Laura, for such a memorable evening!


All around markets, on street corners, by the beach, you will find a little stand selling churros. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what these strange looking things were. Long skinny pastry-like things, were they sweet or savoury?

Finally I got up my courage and bought a few from a street side vendor in Durango. He gave me a great toothless grin and popped an extra one in for the grand total of about 50 cents for 4. Delicious hardly describes them. They are, indeed, the Mexican doughnut, but not so sweet you feel like your teeth will melt (like one at Tim Horton’s), but just right. Later on that day we passed a little shop that had a churro machine and I could see how they were made. I don’t see a lot of churros in my future, but they sure are good for a treat!

Churro Street Vendor


As soon as our eyes open in the morning Doug and I think: coffee! We like it dark and strong and smooth. Over the years we have developed a house blend that began with Vienna Blend from the Pot of Gold Roasting Company on Thetis Island.

When that became too expensive, we experimented until we found that mixing a bag of Costco’s Kirkland Brand Starbucks Expresso beans with their House Blend, we were able to create a reasonable facsimile of our Pot of Gold favourite. For this trip we stocked up in Canada and then again in San Diego. Now we are almost out, so began an exploration for a Mexican replacement.

Here in Mazatlan we were lucky to find The Looney Bean. (   This little coffee company has the only coffee roaster we have found to date in our travels here and produces two dark bean products – a house blend we found rich, but slightly bitter and another smoother product called Chiapas.

Heavenly mornings!

We were so enamoured we tracked down the shop that has the roaster (in Cerritos) and bought 10 pounds that had just been roasted for a grand total of 850 pesos, or approximately $70.00.

Looney Bean Shop in Cerritos

When was the last time you paid $7.00 a pound for freshly roasted beans from a boutique coffee shop? We are more than relieved to know we will continue to enjoy our morning buzz!

Mazatlan Mercato

Most large towns we have been in have a mercato of some sort – a place for locals to sell their wares. These public markets have everything from soup to nuts, fish mongers and butchers have stalls side to side with candy sellers, clothing shops and food stands.

A different kind of candy store!

It’s always a colourful experience, though a little stressful as all the sellers are competing with each other for your pesos.

Colour and motion everywhere!

Architecturally, Mazatlan’s mercato is special. It was designed by the Eiffel brothers – the same guys who designed the famous tower in Paris – and you can see evidence of their art nouveau style throughout.

 Upstairs are more food stalls and one day we enjoyed a very inexpensive seafood lunch there with Carl and Cristina from Bambeleiro.

Carl and Cristina - note the cathedral spires in the background - the mercato is just a few blocks away from the historical district

Truly, we have delighted in all the new food we have encountered along the way and look forward to many more culinary adventures in wonderful Mexico.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mazatlan – Part Two: Mariscos Palapas & the Artwalk

There are many things to see and do in Mazatlan and we haven't wasted any time exploring.

Mariscos Palapas off the main Malecon - on the beach

After we said our goodbyes to Meredith on our first day here, we walked most of the way back to the marina from the La Paz ferry. On the malecon we noticed palapas along the beach – all were advertising seafood. Neither Doug nor I are great white fish eaters but, when we smelt the heavenly aroma of whole fish grilling over a mesquite wood fire, we started to salivate. We vowed we would be back to sample the wares and we have – once to celebrate our anniversary and another time with Paul and Laura from Chirpy  (and we may go again before we leave Mazatlan!). Both times we went to Mariscos Puerto Azul and the following pictures will give you an idea of just how wonderful these fish dinners were – at a cost of approximately $18. Including ice cold beer!

Red Snapper over wood fire, piled with onion, green pepper and tomato

The finished product served with vegetable rice & salsa!  According to the chef - marinate in soya, garlic, salt & pepper

Is this man happy, or what?

Paul and Laura from Chirpy are in for a treat!

Artwalk in the Historical Distict of Mazatlan

On the first Friday of every month, the Historical District of Mazatlan hosts an Artwalk. (  After the positive experience we had in San Jose Del Cabo we were very interested in attending.  A couple days before, as we were enjoying our coffee in the cockpit, we looked up to see Mystic pulling into a slip a couple docks down. This was the couple we met at San Gabriel who invited us to a delightful dinner aboard their well appointed motor yacht and who gave me my treasured Joy of Cooking.  I figured Betsy and David would be interested in the Artwalk and convinced them to join us, along with another couple who had been travelling with them.

We met downtown late in the afternoon and strolled into the very elegant historical district. 

Typical street in Historico Centro - D.H. Lawrence spent some time in this district in the 1920's caring for his tuberculosis and writing prolifically.  One of my favourite poems of his, Snake, was written here. (

We had this map to follow as we wandered through many studios to view gorgeous paintings, sculpture, jewellry, and many other artforms depicting the artists' experiences of Mexico.

Many of the studios could be found in the sidestreets leading from the Plazuela Machado, a gorgeous park with a central pavilion surrounded by restaurants and cafes, as well as small hotels.

Plazuela Machado - at sunset the streets surrounding the plaza were closed to traffic, making it easy to stroll from studio to studio

The building in the background houses "Il Mosto" - a Mediterranean restaurant owned by a Mexican Greek and where we had a delicious dinner after the walk

Although the artwork was lovely, I was most impressed by the architecture of the buildings.

A beautiful B&B close to the plaza - the inside was full of artwork, fountains, arches, little alcoves - a gorgeous place to stay

A shady park in front of the Art Museum and across the street from the B&B pictured above.

Two blocks from the Machado is the cathedral.  The square in front of it was filled with food vendors and shoe shine boys.

After dinner at Il Mosto we headed back into the plaza.  Hundreds of people were there enjoying live music and there was a definite festive feel to the place.  Because the traffic had been blocked off, the cafes had set up their tables in the streets and many people were out enjoying themselves, though there was a definite shortage of Mexicans.  We stayed for a bit, then hailed another unique form of Mazatlan transportation for an exhilerating ride home to the marina.

Yahoo!  Do these puppies ever go!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mazatlan - Part One

A vacation from our vacation. That’s what Doug calls it. We’ve been in Mazatlan for a little over two weeks now and we are loving it. The weather is perfect. Each day the temperature rises to the late 20s, then cools off in the night. Perfect for sun-tanning, perfect for sleeping. Although there have been strong winds outside the marina, we have only experienced gentle breezes in the afternoons on most days.  The rest of the time it is calm.  No rocking and rolling, no fetch, no hobby horsing. It is very pleasant.  It is very secure. It is very unstressful.  Life is good.

We are tied to the dock at Marina Mazatlan. ( Through a small opening on the beach, past the El Cid resort, down a narrow passage and into a lagoon there is an island surrounded by docks. On the far side is our 260 slip marina encircled by a tiled walkway, restaurants, cafes and other small businesses.

Marina Mazatlan is in the forground. Our slip is on the second dock to the right. El Cid Resort is at the entrance to the lagoon in the upper left corner.

We have power, water, access to unlimited hot showers, and inexpensive laundry services. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday a produce truck arrives with the most incredibly luscious array of fruit and vegetables, eggs, fresh bolillos and tamales. Beside him is a fish monger who brings three sizes of shrimp, all for under $10 a pound and any other kind of fish we ask for the next time he comes. Close by is a little tienda that sells beer, liquor and wine. Almost every night there is live music from one of the restaurants or bars. On Monday and Tuesday we can hear the haunting notes of a solo saxophonist floating through the docks. Wednesday is a modern day version of Jose Filiciano, a man who’s haunting tenor voice sends chills up your spine as he sings, of all things, “Phantom of the Opera”. We enjoy listening to him as we are curled up under a blanket in the cockpit. The weekends are a bit more rock and roll as the disco down the boulevard cranks up and the bass latino beats reverberate around the area. Good thing I like Shakira!

Ka'sala at the dock - island in the background

Sidewalk looking to marina office

Security gate leading to our dock

These aren’t the only sounds. Because this marina complex has been built in an estuary, which is surrounded by lagoons, the place is full of birds. Every morning I am awakened by the soft cooing of a mourning dove, followed by the familiar kwiss, kwiss of some kind of jay. In the evening swoops of swallows divebomb in the sunset and frigates and pelicans are ever present. I’m not a birdwatcher, but based on all I have seen and heard, I think this may be a paradise for them.

Our cockpit is south facing and the sun is perfectly placed for a warm breakfast in the cockpit. Later in the day I can sit in my bathing suit and work on my tan. If we stay for a week it costs $30 a day. If we stay for 2 weeks it costs $20 a day. If we stay for a month, $15 a day – all retroactive and amounting to a little more than we pay to keep Ka'sala on her slip in Comox. Now I know why this marina is nicknamed “Hotel California” from the song’s famous line: “you can sign out any time you want, but you can never leave”! It would be very easy to forget about everything in the world and fritter away your life on good books and margueritas. Hmmmmmm………

However, we have not spent the last two weeks in the cockpit. Instead, we have been exploring this fascinating city and catching up on boat work. We have been doing a lot of reading and planning and really giving some thought to the meaning of life we have been hoping to find on this journey. More on this later….

The day after we arrived in Mazatlan we were delighted to hear from Meredith. She had spent the Christmas holidays with her mother and sister in Sayulita and was here to catch the ferry back to La Paz to rejoin Silas Crosby. We shared the morning with her, catching up with her news, before we accompanied her to the ferry – a 60 cent, 30 minute bus ride across the city. Her mother had given her a trick ukulele for Christmas and she entertained us with a few songs.

Ukulele Lady

We tried to convince her to stay longer and visit with us, but if she didn’t catch the ferry that day, she would have had to wait another 4 days and she was keen to return to her own sailing adventure.

We'll miss you, Meredith!

Meredith paid about $90 to catch the overnight ferry. This price entitled her to dinner and breakfast aboard, as well as a first come, first served reclining chair. The ferries are large and carry vehicles as well as people. From the looks of the freight trucks lined up it is a central route for delivering goods.

Chihuahua Star

The terminal was bustling with all kinds of people. Mexican families of many generations and backgrounds, mothers with their children, young men, workers, and the occasional gringo backpacker milled around, getting tickets and checking luggage. The terminal is a secured place with a guarded entryway and security patrolling the premises.

When Meredith had everything in order, we made our way down into the central market area to find lunch before her departure. Near the cathedral, we found a little Mexican restaurant and had “gorditas”. Gorditas are basically two tortillas with a hot stuffing in the middle, pressed together. They look a little like an enclosed stuffed pita. We had the choice of about 10 different fillings and I chose marlin and a type of pulled, spiced beef (I can’t remember the name of it), but there was also shrimp, chicken, cheese, bean stuffings as well.

Beef Gorditas

 These little rounds were our second adventure in Mexican food that day. Earlier I had bought chicken tamales from the produce man which we devoured for breakfast. Tamales are little packets of food wrapped in corn husks.


Inside are vegetables such as carrots, onions, tomato, peppers and jicama. The meat is seasoned and then the whole thing has a cornmeal mixture around it that, when cooked, has the texture of polenta.

Inside a beef tamale

They can be served warm or cold and, we discovered later, can be stuffed with a variety of meat and fish. They are truly the perfect food. They cover all the food groups, are incredibly delicious, low fat and totally organic.

Oh, and when served with a Pacifico with lime!   Mmmmmmm.    Move over lamb stew and Guinness!

After lunch we parted company with Meredith and continued our exploration. We headed out to see what the harbor looked like and to see if we could find Club Nautico – where cruisers anchored in Mazatlan before the marina district was built. We didn’t find the Club, but we did find the harbor with several boats at anchor, though only a couple of them were cruisers.

Looking east,  the anchorage in Mazatlan Harbour - moorings close to shore, cruisers outside.  Note the Baja ferry middle ground and 3 (yes 3!) cruise ships in the background.

We continued our walk along the water front. First we climbed a hilly area crowned with luxurious villas with spectacular views, where we were able to get a better perspective of the harbour.

Looking south, you can see the anchorage and harbour entrance.  Club Nautico should be one of the buildings midway along the landbridge.  To the left is the road we are walking on.

Looking west, Don Carbon is pensive

We then descended into a quaint little beach area called Olas Altas (High Waves).

On the malecon at Olas Altas

We could see by the age of the buildings that we were near the original centre of town but, after fortified by a Pacifico :) on the waterfront, we continued over another rocky hill and down onto one of the largest malecons I have ever seen, extending miles around a deep, sandy bay.

Fishermen's Pangas line the southern end of the beach.  The malecon stretches out into the distance.

We couldn’t resist. We kept on walking through the afternoon and arrived at the other end just as the sun fell into the ocean and the sky lit up with hues of red, orange and purple. We found ourselves in the Gold Zone which reminded us a lot of Cabo San Lucas – expensive hotels, overpriced souvenirs, touts, Burger Kings and many, many gringos paying four times the price of a beer on the Mexican side of town.

Our walk this day began at the ferry to La Paz, around the point, through Playa Olas Altas, and along the beach to the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) - a distance of about 8 miles. 

We were pretty tired by then and, rather than becoming cranky, we jumped into a pulmonia, (a funky open air taxi halfway between a golf cart and a volkswagon) after fiercely negotiating a fare of $5, to whisk us back to the marina.

These chariots rocket around town and are quite a thrilling way to end your day.