We spent a week here at two different docks. Baja Naval is seriously bouncy in any kind of swell
so avoid it if you want to sleep. This is too bad, because it is in the heart of town. Cruise port is
literally a marina in the cruise ship terminal area and has little swell, but then there are the cruise
ships... Anyway the town is fine for a few days and easy to provision in with cheap taxis, etc.
From first glance you never left the states with English spoken most places and shops like wall
mart and costco. Still with the new rules this is going to be everyone's first stop now.
This is a nice stop for some rest and has a bit of hiking along the beach. Expect a bit of rolling
around in this anchorage. Currently there is a stripped catamaran on the rocks near the entrance
to remind you how important navigation is along baja. Mostly what you see ashore are piles of
shells from likely over harvesting of shellfish.
Islas San Benitos:
We got boarded by the mexican navy even before the anchor was set! They are nice and only
want to fill out their form and inspect your papers. Too bad they never clean their shoes and
leave lots of impossible to clean foot prints behind.
This is a great diving place with tons of fish and lobster. Don't even be tempted to come back with
lobsters or the local fisherman would not be happy. We came up from one dive and had a panga
right next to us to make sure we only had our cameras. This place is what southern california
looked like before over fishing. Imagine schools of 20 or 30 Sheepshead fish instead of the very
rare siting of one. The anchorage is a bit bouncy, but worth a couple of days if you like diving.
Bahia Santa Maria:
Still a nice place to stop with the dingy up the lagoon to the path over to the beach. Two ship
wrecks are still visible on the beach. Time your exit or you can go backwards like we did in the
surf trying to get out of the lagoon. It was impressive and luckily we did not flip.
There is not much going for this place. The anchorage off the old whaling station was now for a
temporary fishing village. The one off the town is fine for a bit, but not exciting at all. You can get
some fresh veggies (very limited) at the three tiny stores and fuel from the port captain if you need
it. We only stayed one night. Too bad the whales were running late this year or we might have
stayed a bit longer to see them.
Magical if you are a diver and don't mind a mere 300 mile trip and bouncy anchorages. Much of
the diving is in current or places you can't anchor so don't expect the full experience. We had a
great time and enjoyed seeing only a couple of other private boats and 5 live-aboard dive boats.
We saw mantas, tiger sharks (a bit too close for comfort), other types of sharks, lobsters, etc. I am
glad this place is a marine reserve, because the rest of the west coast of mexico is pretty over
This is a nice place to load up on fresh stuff after arriving from the socorros with nothing. The
town in managable and has a few gringo trailer parks for mostly canadians and french canadians.
I am glad we did not pull into Barra Navidad. That place was just catering to rich tourists. Melaque
was a bit more for mexicans. For sure you can't beat sitting at a beach bar sipping tasty
margaritas watching humpback whales putting on a show.
Some love it and some find it to be just short of hell... Some of the boats here spend all winter
every year at this anchorage. The "Mayor" organizes all kinds of activities that mostly involve
swimming from his boat to the beach at 1:30, mexican train dominos, bachi ball on the beach,
volleyball, etc. Don't forget the 5:00 friday dingy raft for two hours of who knows what. We dove
center rock instead and even found a couple of sea horses to photograph. We kept our sanity by
boogie boarding by the hotel, watching for baby turtles to be released by the hotel, etc. There is
also the lagoon tour up to what used to be a nice place to visit at the aquarium. Almost daily we
would see dolphins in the anchorage and a few times we spotted whales. If you dingy to the other
side of the bay (2 miles) you can see the big crocodiles at La Manzanilla and get some provisions.
As the song goes they paved over paradise and put up a parking lot or in this case some greedy
crook bribed the right folks and threw all the folks out of the fishing village and beach restaurants
and put up a fence so you can't get from the swamp to the beach anymore. You can still anchor
at the aquarium and walk on the beach only, but somehow folks are still able to drive in there and
use the beach so either they know the cops patrolling the place or pay some bribe to get in.
Really the snorkeling is not that great and we saw a panga drop a net across the whole cove
entrance for the night so there were even less fish the next day.
The anchorage at the two islands is great, but the diving is boring. We learned the hard way that
this is the most fished out area of the west coast and I sure believe it. It is not enough to net or
hook the fish they now have hookas so they can go down with spear guns to get the rest or strip
all the shellfish. It is a sad place to dive. The trails on the islands are mostly not maintained and
were taken out in a past hurricane we were told by another cruiser. You can get close to a few
boobies, vultures, and frigates on isla passavera. The trail on isla coronado is scary. Imagine a
lovely cove with a nice sandy beach on the SW side that day boats go to as well a some folks that
camp there. Then imagine no toilets... Now imagine any trail from this beach having toilet paper
and other things left all along the side of it and that is how your hike starts. There are a couple of
nice views if you brave the smell. I guess the birds are not the only animals on the island. The
nearby town of Perula has a nice anchorage and very minimal provisions. The beach huts close
at 6 so at night there are few places to eat. Funny how we had burgers and margaritas at a jazz
cafe run by a french guy and it was pretty good. For sure the margaritas were dang strong.
Bandaras Bay (Puerto Vallarta area):
Well we arrived mid morning after a night passage motoring into light winds. Once again things
have changed. We anchored off the nice quiet islands out in the middle of the bay and launched
the dingy to head ashore and look at the birds. First we had to swim in through the surf (too much
for a dingy landing) only to be told by a panga that we are not allowed off the beach! Heck 8
years ago we hiked all over the islands, but not they are protected as a bird reserve. I can't
complain about that so back to the boat. Meanwhile the invasion started as in tons of day boats
with tons of tourists invaded! Imagine over a hundred folks on a beach about 100 feet long then
boats bringing out folks to try stand up paddle boarding (where the heck did this "sport" come
from?), which was a bit funny to watch at least. Then came the big power tri with speakers blasting
music for miles so we said so long and went to La Cruz to anchor. We saw lots of whales while
enjoying a lovely spinnaker run, but the tour boats would crowd the whales and drive them away.
So much for those posters saying keep so far from the whales. They seem to make a game of
how close they can get to them. Anyway we anchored for happy hour only to have a big day cat
drag folks in some sort of cargo net off the back around the anchorage to loud music... Paradise
So the games begin. First the dry-dock in La Cruz who told me by email no problem hauling the
boat and doing my own work now says no I can't do my own work! Next we run to puerto vallarta
on the bus and they claim they can haul up to 23 feet wide if they put towels down for fenders.
Ack. We email mazatlan and get no responses. Finally we go back to PV and measure the
slipway ourselves only to find the entrance is 23 feet, but the middle is more like 22ft11.5 inches! I
l have grown fond of my rub rails (widest part of the boat) and decided not to haul there, since I
am exactly 23 feet. Finally we bite the bullet and agree for the yard to do the bottom and I supply
the paint and materials. So then the day we haul it turns out they booked two cats for the same
time and we just got plain lucky to be the first one by 2 minutes! The other cat had to wait nearly
2 hours more to get hauled.
So yes the yard guys work fast and if you are there 100% of the time to watch them and correct
any shortcuts or mistakes it sort of works out. Now when they leave 2 gallons out of 5 in the
bucket saying they already did 2 coats and an extra one at the waterline I said hold on. They were
going to just leave it and that stuff is just about liquid gold these days given the price of copper! I
demanded that get put on as well.
I then made the mistake of having them touch up some gelcoat repairs that were done wrong in
australia and were peeling off. That led to a bigger than expected job and of course more money
and time. They promised we could splash on friday (hauled monday) and come friday they say
more like monday... So what the heck more nights to pay for a really bad hotel (yes the yard won't
even let you stay nights on the boat). I do love the noisy hotel with cobble stone streets (cars are
really loud on these), dogs barking all night, 2 AM deliveries to the local quickie mart, roosters
from 4AM, and of course the idiot with the loud harley at 6AM... Oh and maid service is not
included nor is anything else, but it is the only hotel in town!
Life around here seems to be days of researching and tracking down places to buy on specific
thing only to find they don't have it or it needs to come in from the states for major shipping costs
or you just can't even get it here. A couple of marine stores have one of the two part glue to
repair a hypalon dingy, but nobody has the second part! It turns out it is banned in mexico,
because it can be used to make drugs or something like that, but folks still try to sell you half of
the glue for some reason. Anytime you order anything expect it to take at least a couple more
days than you expect or even longer. If you are in La Cruz also expect nobody takes credit cards
and if you are having yard work done have tons of cash or hit the ATM daily for weeks. Heck you
can't even find a place to eat around here that takes plastic so don't run low on pesos.
Hopefully in a week or two we can blow this place and head back to the Socorro islands then on to