Tag Archives: Sailing

Vuelvo a San Blas

Technicolor Sunset
Technicolor Sunset

I returned to the boat in Mazatlán not knowing if I would sail north, west, south, or leave it at El Cid. The circumstances of the wind and other elements made clear over the next days that I would go south to Bahía Chacala, one of my favorite spots in Mexico, a place I always seem to get pushed out of before I’m ready to leave.

I motored out of Marina El Cid on Saturday morning, turned left once clear of Isla Venado, hoisted the sails and shut off the motor. It was a beautiful day, pleasantly warm, just enough breeze to push me south at a comfortable speed. Just before sunset dolphins appeared and played around the boat. The sun set behind low clouds on the horizon and wasn’t visible. The show after sunset was spectacular, a technicolor panorama constantly changing, yellow, red, orange, violet. As the sky darkened Jupiter and Venus became visible just above the horizon to the west, shining more and more brightly as the darkness intensified.

Late at night with no moon the stars lit up the sky as they blazed, seeming close enough to reach up and touch. As I watched the water flow past the boat I noticed it light up with phosphorescence, a green glow in the boat’s wake. Then the dolphins were back, swimming alongside and ahead of the boat, and as they broke through the surface of the sea the phosphorescence would flow off of their backs, and it was as if I was sailing through the heavens, guided by dolphins with stars streaming off their backs as they led me to nirvana.

Dolphin on the Right
Dolphin on the Right

Sunday evening I was off San Blas and decided, since I was tired and it was still several hours sail to Chacala, to stop at the marina for the night. I’ve been in and out of San Blas several times and am familiar enough with the route up the river to be comfortable doing it in the dark. I docked at the marina late in the evening, there were several messages on my phone, I knew I would not be sailing farther south and would leave the boat in San Blas once again.

San Blas is perhaps the most miserable village I’ve been to during the past year in Mexico, and yet there is this beauty to it. It sits in the middle of World Heritage mangrove swamps that are teaming with life, and much of that life consists of things that want to eat you – crocodiles, mosquitoes, jejenes. The streets are either bone jarringly rough cobblestone or car swallowing mud pits. Half of the buildings are abandoned decaying relics. The best hotel in town sits next to a gutted shell of a hotel with trees growing through the roof. It’s so hot and humid in the summer that after the slightest exertion you have to jump in the pool to cool off.

Yet in a country known for friendly and helpful people, San Blas stands out for its hospitality. For some reason despite the terrible streets more people ride bikes than anywhere else I’ve been in North America. There is beauty in the dilapidation, the crumbling church with the leaning bell tower, the magnificent trees growing through the buildings and lifting the sidewalks, the constant growth and renewal. In Mexico practically every building has rebar sticking out the top because there is this optimism that someday another floor will be added. That optimism epitomizes the beauty of San Blas.


Wednesday morning I went to breakfast at Wala Wala. Pedro, the owner, who was sitting with an older gentleman, got up to take my order and then went into the kitchen. The gentleman he’d been sitting with came over and introduced himself as the local doctor and said, “Estoy triste, quiero tocar y cantar.” He picked up a guitar and started playing and singing, Besame Mucho and similar songs, and it was amazing, like something out of Buena Vista Social Club. He played and sang for about 30 minutes, and as he left I told him “La musica era mas hermosa, muchas gracias” and he replied “De nada, estoy feliz.” That is San Blas.

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo And Back To Puerto Vallarta


The terrestrial travels in southern México are complete. Tomorrow the pelagic travels resume. I am sitting in the shade near the water. A light breeze keeps me cool during this warmest part of the day. It is a tranquil Sunday afternoon. Frigate birds glide silently overhead, never flapping their wings. The water in the marina is calm, with just the hint of a ripple from the breeze. The palm trees sway ever so slightly. The jungle covered hills are dark green in the afternoon sun, the sky a light blue, the water a shade or two darker. In a few minutes I will walk to the beach, swim a mile or so straight out to sea, past the people playing in the surf, past the jet skis and parasail boats. Just a mile from shore it is a different world, quiet, calm, serene. I will float on my back out there for a few minutes, then swim back to the other world, refreshed. Tomorrow I will sail further out into the sea. Why? What is the reason, the purpose? I’m not going anywhere in particular. I’m not doing anything in particular. Or am I? Some of us swim, some of us sail, some of us play music, dance, farm, paint, cook, build, create, make, repair. Why? Because it’s what we do. It’s our part in the game, in the grand opera. Of course there are twists and turns in the plot; I’m not the same person I was yesterday, and I’ll be someone else tomorrow. What will I do then? In this moment I will swim.

Playa Zihuatanejo
Playa Ixtapa at Sunset
The Reason I Won’t Be Cleaning The Bottom Of My Boat At Marina Vallarta

Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta

Eclipse of the Moon

I departed Marina El Cid in Mazatlán on the morning of Sunday 20 January 2019 headed towards Bahía Banderas. Sunday was a beautiful day of sailing with light winds, calm seas, and warm sunshine. That evening as the sun set in the west the full moon rose in the east, and a phenomenal show began. As I sailed along the full moon lit up the sea, reflecting off the calm waters. Then the earth began to eclipse the moon. At full eclipse the orange moon looked close enough to reach out and touch, and in the darkness the stars became bright and began to twinkle, flashing in the sky. Shooting stars blazed across the heavens. I listened to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald as I watched the show, then as the eclipse came to an end the wind died and I fell asleep.

And that was the last of the wind until early Tuesday morning. I drifted generally south, sometimes catching a whisper of a breeze. When the breeze picked up for a few hours Tuesday morning I was able to sail to the harbor entrance at San Blas, then I motored up the river when the wind died again and docked at Marina San Blas for 3 days.

After enjoying village life in San Blas and meeting an interesting group of sailors, I left on Friday 25 January for a short sail to Bahía Chacala, arriving there late in the afternoon. I anchored in the bay and not wanting to inflate my kayak I decided to swim to shore for dinner. Things look closer from a boat than they actually are. I know this, but I was still surprised at how far from shore I actually was. It was a long swim, and the swim back to the boat with a full stomach and darkness closing in was even longer. In the morning I still didn’t feel like inflating the kayak so I swam in again for breakfast.

Bahía Chacala is beautiful with volcanic cliffs covered in jungle dropping to the sea and palm tree lined beaches. Unfortunately the anchorage can get uncomfortable in certain conditions, and that started to happen Saturday night. So Sunday morning I hauled up the anchor and sailed to Bahía Banderas, arriving late in the afternoon at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful sail to finish my journey south. When the winds change I will be sailing north.

Barchetta Veloce Anchored in Bahía Chacala
Playa Chacala
A Thing
Puerto Vallarta Street

San Blas

Iglesia Antigua, San Blas
What say the Bells of San Blas
To the ships that southward pass
From the harbor of Mazatlan?
To them it is nothing more
Than the sound of surf on the shore,—
Nothing more to master or man.
But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
To whom what is and what seems
Are often one and the same,—
The Bells of San Blas to me
Have a strange, wild melody,
And are something more than a name. – excerpt from The Bells of San Blas, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I have stopped in San Blas as I pass southward from the harbor of Mazatlan.

San Jose del Cabo to Mazatlán

Mar de Cortez Sunset

If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, Quaint little villages here and there… At the River, Groove Armada

I motored out of Marina Los Cabos on Saturday morning, 12 January 2019. The sky was blue, the weather warm with a hint of a breeze. Once clear of the marina breakwater I raised the sails, shut off the outboard, and sailed for Mazatlán.

I’d had a wonderful time in San Jose del Cabo. It has a relaxed coastal California atmosphere, beautiful weather, a charming old town with art galleries and great restaurants. But I was at the end of California and could not go north until the winds change in the spring.

The 180 nm passage to Mazatlán was expected to take about 45 hours – a nice, slow, and comfortable beam reach. I’d selected a weather window with moderate winds from the north as I didn’t want to be rolling around in in steep wind waves on the beam. At just 4000 pounds Barchetta Veloce can get a little uncomfortable in disturbed seas.

Barchetta Veloce is also a fast little boat. Saturday afternoon and night the conditions were fantastic, pure Zephyr whistling on a wine dark sea. We sped over the swells, all through the night till dawn sailing on, and by morning we were two thirds of the way to Mazatlán and had raced through the carefully selected weather window. The wind increased, the swells became breaking wind waves, and Barchetta Veloce raced on, unable to slow down now, even with just a scrap of sail raised. We surfed down the waves, accelerating to exhilarating speeds, then crashing into the wave ahead, sending water cascading over the little boat.

All morning and afternoon we surfed on, and at sunset we were at the breakwater to Marina El Cid. I started the outboard, furled the sails, and motored into the marina, the little boat covered in salt and squid. The little boat and I were both beaten up and bruised, but after a good cleaning and some rest we are ready to get back out there.

There Is a Beautiful Beach Down There
El Centro Viejo

Bahia Santa Maria to San Jose del Cabo

Barchetta Veloce Amongst the Super Yachts at Marina Los Cabos

I sailed out of Bahia Santa Maria at 9am on Sunday 9 December 2018 and arrived at Marina Los Cabos before noon on Tuesday 11 December, exactly two months after leaving Alameda.

The final 3 days and 2 nights of my journey south were amongst the finest sailing days I’ve ever had – a warm gentle breeze wafting me along on a run or reach over smooth azure seas.

Sunrise Rounding Cabo Falso
Cabo San Lucas

What a finish to a sensational voyage! For 2 months most of my power has come from the sun and wind. I’ve met the most interesting people from around the world. I’ve sailed the coast of California from San Francisco to its southern terminus at Cabo San Lucas. I’ve anchored in nearly deserted bays and docked at luxurious marinas. I’ve visited beautiful villages with the friendliest people you can imagine. I’ve sailed my little boat alone for hundreds of miles.

A few weeks ago another sailor was asking me what I had on my boat – a watermaker, refrigeration, radar, AIS, a liferaft – and I answered no to everything. They said well, you must have a dinghy to get to shore. I said no, but I have an inflatable kayak, and they said wow, you really are a minimalist. I replied no, if I was a minimalist I would swim to shore.

There is a theory of design that perfection is reached not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. In many ways this trip has proven that theory. With next to nothing I’ve had a wonderful time. Barchetta Veloce has nothing extraneous, but sails phenomenally well. I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life.

I’m taking a break for about a month.


Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria

Red Sky at Night…

I pulled up the anchor at 10am on Monday 3 December 2018 and sailed out of Bahia Tortugas under jib alone on a moderate breeze from the north. Around noon I raises the mainsail as the wind speed dropped. By morning I had passed Punta Abreojos, 100 miles south of Bahia Tortugas. The weather was warm, the sea calm and a beautiful azure.

The nights were moonless and with no other lights in sight the stars were brilliant, lighting the cosmos and reflecting from the sea. Sailing before a light breeze, far offshore, at night, listening to Waters of March is an unforgettable experience.

On this leg of my journey I was accompanied by a plethora of sea life – whales, dolphins, marlin, tuna, many species of birds. For a short time I was taking waves over the boat, and afterwards there were a dozen squid stuck to the deck. Thirty miles offshore from Bahia Santa Maria a sea lion followed me for an hour, probably debating if she should come aboard for a rest or not.

I dropped anchor in Bahia Santa Maria at 4pm on Wednesday 5 December. It is gorgeous. There are a dozen fishing shacks on shore, but other than that it is undeveloped. There are mangroves along the north shore that are teeming with life. I’ve been swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking most of each day. Several boats I’ve met in various places before are here. They all check on me and make sure I make to each anchorage.

I plan to leave Sunday for San Jose del Cabo, where I will take a break for about a month.

Orange Sunset
Red Sky at Night…
Dolphins Marching Through the Sea
Dusk at Bahia Santa Maria
Bahia Santa Maria

Ensenada to Bahia Totugas


I departed Ensenada on the morning of Saturday 24 November under overcast skies. It was dead calm so I motored across Bahia Todos Santos. As I passed between Punta Banda and Islas de Todos Santos the wind picked up and I raised the sails. From there there it was a beautiful downwind sail along the coast then outside of Isla Cedros and into Bahia Tortugas. I dropped the anchor just off the village on Tuesday morning, 27 November and slept all day.

I’ve had a wonderful time here. There have been 6 other boats here in the past week, today just one other boat and me. Thursday night we went to a fiesta for the new priest. We naively thought it would end by 9pm. Dinner was served at 10pm, and music and dancing were still going when we left at 1am.

Other boats here have been from the Bay Area, Victoria BC, the Yukon, Coeur d’ Alene, and Ventura. I went to high school with the aunt of one person I met here.

The locals are incredibly friendly and generous. On Tuesday night I was wandering around town with a couple from another boat, looking for an atm, a market, and a restaurant. We asked a policeman for directions and he drove us all over town showing us where things were, waited while we bought some groceries, then drove us back to the dock.

Tomorrow morning I will sail to Bahia Magdalena.

Approaching Bahia Tortugas at sunrise
Bahia Totugas from the deck at Maria’s Restaurant

Marina Coral, Ensenada

Marina Coral

Athena called a favorable wind, pure Zephyr whistling on wine-dark sea. Telemachus commanded his companions to seize the rigging; so they did, and raised the pine-wood mast inside the rounded block, and bound it down with forestays round about, and raised the bright white sails with leather ropes. Wind blew the middle sail; the purple wave was splashing loudly round the moving keel. The goddess rode the waves and smoothed the way. The quick black ship held steady, so they fastened the tackle down, and filled their cups with wine. They poured libations to the deathless gods, especially to the bright-eyed child of Zeus. All through the night till dawn the ship sailed on.

– The Odyssey, Book 2

I’m leaving. I’ll be in La Paz in about 2 weeks.