What is Del-Cake-Uhia? It’s three boats (Delphinia, Cake, and Maluhia) traveling as buddy boats “together” (a loose term) towards a specific destination. It’s important you know that none of us were racing. We were simply making our boats move as best as we know how, to get to the next destination as agreed by our group. Boats in front look out for boats in the back by calling out long line sightings an any other potential navigational hazards, like whales and shrimping boats.
Our destination was Chacala, roughly 148 miles South of Mazatlán. To get there would require one over night of sailing. Were there other spots to stop along the way? Sure, but Maluhia deliberately skipped them for various reasons.
- San Blas – We’ve mainly heard horror stories about this place being extremely infested with bugs. With Grant having a natural affinity for attracting bites of all kinds, we crossed this place off our list.
- Isla Isabela – It hasn’t been completely written off our list, after all it is nicknamed the Galapagos of Mexico. Before you start thinking about giant tortoises, remember we’re in Mexico not Ecuador. Think birds (blue footed boobies) and poop. At least that is what we were thinking this time, along with sketchy anchoring, and dodging fishing lines in the dark.
That left Chacala, and then La Cruz. After Mazatlán La Cruz happened to be our ultimate destination, located just North of Puerto Vallarta. We had plane tickets out of Puerto Vallarta that would be flying us back to Iowa for Christmas! We gave ourselves plenty of lead time to get there, and the weather happened to cooperate.
The build up of sedimentation in front of the harbor entrance to Mazatlán appears to be an ongoing problem. Waves can break right at the entrance on bad days, and current flowing in and out of the entrance acts like a small river. Recent boats entering and exiting Mazatlán reported the depths at the North side of the entrance being as low as 6 feet.
Cake left the marina first, followed by Maluhia and then Delphinia. The current was running wild. Maluhia was being sucked sideways and swiftly towards the narrow entrance to the harbor. The tide was going out. We had no problems clearing the entrance, and were soon in deeper water where the waves were more consistent. We paused, engaged AutoHelm and and put up our main sail.
Up next to exit the harbor were our friends Steve, Debbie and Libby on Delphinia. We met Delphinia pre-Libby in La Paz before they headed up to San Carlos for the summer. Libby is their newest crew member, a cute little rescue puppy that they adopted in Loreto. Delphinia hit a small speed bump of sand in front of the entrance but powered through it.
Long lines, an absolute nightmare to regular boaters remain in use by local fishing pangeros. We didn’t see this practice much in Baja, but had been warned by many friends about avoiding these obstacles on the mainland side of Mexico. Long lines are nets that can be from a few yards, up to a mile or more wide and 2 to three feet tall. They are used for fishing and found near shore and offshore.
The pangeros use incredibly confusing bouys and markers that range from a few cheap empty pop bottles, to a black flag on one end of the line, and white rounded floats on the opposite end. Weights are placed at different intervals across the bottom of the nets which are kept afloat by placing the floats along the top. All of the long lines we’ve seen so far have been monitored by a pangero.
Delphinia unfortunately got tangled in a long line right in front of us outside of Mazatlán. A pangero came rushing towards us and told us to slow down, then pointed towards the bouy. Delphina called us on the radio and told us not to follow them because they were tangled. Instead we sat Maluhia in neutral bobbing, while we made sure our friends were ok. The pangeros cut the net vertically, and Steve jumped in the water to get net bits off Delphinia’s rudder.
This trip had an amazing amount of obstacles to avoid from long longs to shrimping boats and even whales! We saw a total of 8 whales during our journey South, and were delighted by a morning visit by some very frisky dolphins playing in our bow wake.
We even fished and actually caught something. It was just a skip jack (tuna) but I was delighted to know that our lure was actually working. Grant was “occupied” at the time so I slipped on the gloves, pulled in the fish and on the third try had enough courage to touch it and actually remove the hook. I threw him back.
Closing in on Chacala there were even more long lines including the longest long line I’ve ever seen. We saw a panga, then used the binoculars to sweep the horizon from left to right looking for markers. We saw the markers but they happened to be everywhere! We were so confused we turned Maluhia around 180 degrees, then observed the panga. I decided to stop messing around and drive Maluhia at a respectable speed right to the panga. The two gentleman on the panga were nice enough to show us the way through their lines.
In Chacala we stayed on the boat and observed the beach scene from there. A cute little anchorage, surrounded by brightly colored buildings, a horseshoe sand beach, graced with palm trees and palapas. The surf hitting the beach in the morning was impressive, but we wanted to keep moving. It was just another day sail and we would be at the infamous La Cruz!
La Cruz, so many people had told us they loved it there, and we were excited to check it out. We started doing a small survey amongst cruisers asking them which they liked better Mazatlán or La Cruz. Some people knew right away what their favorite destination was, while other people had an affinity to both, stating that they are completely different but lovely in their own ways. We had to find out for ourselves.
We entered Banderas Bay the following afternoon and found a wonderful breeze that allowed us to sail practically the entire length of the bay into La Cruz, where we tucked Maluhia into a slip at the marina. We arrived on Saturday on purpose so we could get a taste of the La Cruz Sunday Market.
Many people flocked to the area the next morning, sampling culinary delights presented by vendors and exploring the hand crafts. It was here that we were able to see it for ourselves. The fish market! When friends told us about the fresh fish that is caught daily and sold at the fish stand they weren’t kidding. Large fish, small fish, parrot fish, red snapper, wahoo, mahi mahi, crabs, lobsters, yes you can pretty much name it! You can buy it here.
Just wait, it gets better. . . the fish market happens every day! That’s 365 days of amazing fish dinners! Ok, even we don’t eat fish that much, but it’s nice to know that quality fresh fish is available at your doorstep. Especially for us, since we seem to struggle with catching any fish on our own that happen to be good enough to eat. Don’t worry we won’t stop trying. There is always mañana.