Sitting Out the Blow in San Francisco Bay

At Anchor, Bahia San Francisco

Well, that was quite a blow yesterday, but not nearly as bad as those we sat out in Bahia Santa Elena in Costa Rica or the Golfo de Fonseca in Nicaragua. The northwest wind built steadly from about noon, gusting over 25 knots throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The bottom here in the bay is great holding, and we were snug as a bug all day.

Hiking Trail at Isla San Francisco

Before the winds kicked up, Ole, Colin and Margy dinghied ashore to climb the southeastern hill, on which a trail is visible zig-zagging all the way up. Once they reached the top, they found the trail along the ridge to be a little narrow for comfort, being nothing more than a shelf with a sheer dropoff on the southern side.

Wildlife spotted included a couple of lizards…and various insects.

All of us opted to stay in last night, not wanting to venture out in the choppy bay with the dinghy. So it was dinner and a movie aboard Emma Jo, with the luxury of devil’s food cupcakes baked in the convection oven. I think I like this!

San Francisco Bay (No, not that one!)

At Anchor, Bahia San Francisco

Isla San Francisco

At 10:00 this morning, we took off for a 17-mile run north to tiny Isla San Francisco to sit out a norther. Apparently great minds think alike, because by the end of the day there were 16 boats in the anchorage, both motor and sail, all seeking a calm place for the 20-25 knot winds forecast for Tuesday.

San Francisco is another beautiful, wide bay on the island of the same name. The bay is almost a perfect half-circle, with steep hills on the northwest side, smaller hills on the southeast side, joined by a sandy strip. The bottom is white sand, meaning the water is gradated turquoise all the way in to the beach. And the water is so clear, we can see the anchor itself in 20 feet. There’s a small sea turtle that seems to call this bay home, as we’ve seen him bobbing up for air from time to time between the boats.

Snorkeling with Sea Lions at Los Islotes!

At Anchor, El Embudo

Los Islotes

From Bahia San Gabriel, it was a smooth run up to the north end of Isla Partida and a tiny anchorage in El Embudo, a v-shaped cove with barely swinging room for the two of us – but protected enough in the wind and swell for us to overnight.

It was a short dinghy ride out to Los Islotes, a dramatic rocky outcropping consisting of two islets connected by an exposed reef, and home to a rookery for California Sea Lions. The Mexican Park Service has mooring balls set just offshore for pangas and dinghies, so we tied up and Colin, Margy, and I jumped in and snorkeled toward the reef. [Read more…]

Bahia San Gabriel, Isla Espiritu Santo

At Anchor, Bahia San Gabriel
Sea of Cortez

Image Source: Moon Travel Guides

Yesterday we hooked up with Colin and Margy from Pacific Raven out of Victoria, a great couple we met in Manzanillo and again in Mazatlan. After a dinner out last night, we decided to join forces and go out for a week’s exploration of some of the neighboring islands.

First stop was Isla Espiritu Santo, and anchorage in Bahia San Gabriel, a large, beautiful bay lined with a picture-book white sand beach and a bottom the turquoise of a swimming pool. (It’s the big bay on the lower left-hand side). It was a beautiful spot and a quiet evening, with cocktails aboard Pacific Raven to watch the sun go down.

Ole and I opted to take a snorkeling trip out in the dinghy to Punta Prieta on the northwestern corner of the bay on Saturday, and discovered so-so snorkeling but a lovely little cave on the point in which someone had erected a shrine hidden among the rocks. The island was a base for a pearl fishery many years ago, and it might have been a tribute to a long-ago pearl fisherman.

Our New Home in La Paz

Marina de La Paz
La Paz, Baja California Sur

Given a favorable weather window, we decided to leave on Sunday the 25th to cross over to La Paz, with a rest stop in Ensenada de los Muertos. The crossing was another Emma Jo night of magic, with winds less than 5 knots and seas less than 2 feet, dropping off to nothing in the very early morning hours. Coupled with an almost-full moon, we were enchanted.

Ensenada de Muertos

The sea was like glass, the ocean swell disappeared about halfway across the Sea of Cortez (sheltered from the swell by the Baja Peninsula), and the water shone like a mirror. We dropped anchor in Los Muertos about 10:30 a.m., had our first anchor dram (the Emma Jo tradition upon our safe arrival) from a bottle of Norwegian Akavit called, oddly, Anker Dramm. [Read more…]

Ole’s Birthday and Thanksgiving in Mazatlan

Marina Mazatlan

Topolo Restaurant

We passed Ole’s 60th birthday quietly last night, with dinner out at Topolo, a fine Mexican restaurant near Plaza Machado. The building is an old hacienda, and the tables are spread among the open interior courtyard and garden. The waiter was hysterical, cracking jokes in both English and Spanish…the food was superb…and the wandering sax player lent great background. It’s such a treat to eat outdoors on a balmy evening in such an “old world” atmosphere. [Read more…]

A Night at the Opera

Marina Mazatlan

Another great evening at the Angela Perralta Theater – this time for a performance of La Boheme, featuring the Sinaloa Symphony, the Theater Chorus, the Mazatlan Children’s Choir, a brass band for the “tattoo,” and great sets and lighting. The singers, all local, were superb – fully as professional and up to Puccini as anyone I’ve heard.

And opera, being opera, the story is, well, an “opera.” Starving artists squeaking by in a Parisian garrett, boy meets girl, girl gets TB and dies. All set to music. Corny as it is, that Puccini knows how to evoke emotion in music, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Mimi coughed her last! [Read more…]

Elvis Impersonator in Mazatlan?

Marina Mazatlan

With more and more cruisers coming “home” to their boats here in Mazatlan, the dock is jumping. Little did we know that just astern of our boat at slip 6-28 is the site of the nightly cocktail party, beginning at 4 pm. It’s hard to be a hermit with all the laughing, talking, and drinking just off my swimstep!

BJ and Merry off the sailboat Willow and I went down to Plaza Machado this past week for an Elvis tribute show. All I can say is wow – with a full brass section and 5-voice backup choir from Mexico City, the entire Sinaloa Chamber Orchestra, and his own 5-piece band, “Elvis” rocked the house with the whole Phil Specter “wall of sound” Vegas show. I continue to be impressed with the level of culture here in Mazatlan, with the Angela Perralta Theater, one of the finest modern dance schools in Latin America, and a full-on music conservatory with practice rooms open to the square. It’s quite a treat.

Also got bottom braces this week, just in time for my 61st birthday on the 11th and Ole’s return on the 18th. Que romantic!

Day of the Dead in Mazatlan

Marina Mazatlan

Well, a few of the regular cruisers are straggling back…and heard through the grapevine that Mazatlan has a great Halloween tradition. So a few of us went downtown to Plaza Machado to check it out.

Beer Cart Photo courtesy of Dianne Hofner Saphia at

Instead of the traditional visit to the cemetery for All Saints Day, Mazatlan has more of a community costume party and parade…featuring the Catarin and Catarina characters…and four festive burro-drawn wagons with huge kegs that pass out free beer until it’s gone. So I joined Margy and Colin and their friends from Victoria, along with Rick from Magic Places, for a ringside seat and dinner at one of the restaurants – then a stroll around to meet the donkeys who were working so hard.

On My Own in Mazatlan…Again

Marina Mazatlan

Ole was contacted at the last minute to switch to the Azamara Quest for this contract…long story…but as usual everything worked out for him to join the ship in Barcelona.

It’s pretty empty here at the dock, with Rick and Goldene from Magic Places and Rick on Cape Star the only folks on the dock. The good news is that I do have company whether I want it or not – there’s a black cat on the dock who’s lived here on his own for nearly 11 years, scrounging and ingratiating himself with whoever strolls down the dock to feed him. In terms of feral cats, “Slacker” has it made. It’s clearly HIS dock…none of the other 40 feral cats venture down here except a timid little tabby named “Debbie” who Slacker seems to tolerate. [Read more…]