Well we made it out of Banderas Bay and north to Mazatlan. We did an overnighter and went straight through. Upon reaching Mazatlan we stayed at the El Cid Resort and Marina again. The plan was a 6-night stay while we wait for good weather to cross over to the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez.
As is the norm right now, this started out as usual, but quickly became something else. Just two days into our stay they shut down the resort and moved the few remaining hotel guests to another El Cid property down the road. We were basically staying in a ghost town with a skeleton staff, no hotel guests, no bars, no restaurants, eventually even the pool side chairs and tables were removed. The pools were technically closed but the staff let us hang out there. There were only about a dozen people left on a handful of boats that remained in the marina.
Outside the resort, Mazatlan was under a “suggested” shelter in place order. Most of the restaurants were closed. Most of the stores were closed. Walking down the main street you were unlikely to encounter anything resembling a crowd. A once busy city was very quiet.
We continue to get all kinds of information. The trick is trying to determine what is real, what is rumor and what is just plain false. We have had several reports of the Mexican government closing the ports. Apart from one report, all of these turn out to be false. The one report that was factual was amended within 12 hours to specifically exclude foreign pleasure craft (that’s us) or boats in transit. That first notice did, however, provide 12 hours of serious questions and discussions as to where you were going to be stuck and what you were going to do about it.
Even without the port closures we are constantly questioning our decisions. For example, if we stay in Mazatlan it’s a major center and therefore its more likely, we’ll have contact with the virus. Mazatlan has been hit by hurricanes in the past so we would have to prepare the boat for that. On the flip side as a major center, provisions are easier to get, medical care, if needed, is easier to come by and the resort had a pool (if we were allowed to continue using it).
In the end we decided to carry on. We had an uneventful and nearly boring motor across the Sea of Cortez. Nearly flat calm seas, barely any wind and 190 miles of motoring in a straight line with only two course changes. How can it be that in the middle of the sea and the middle of the night, you could time it just right and end up on a collision course with two different freighters? Yeah, so we altered the course a bit and went around each of them.
Our second stop on the Baja side was Puerto Balandra. A nice bay with beautiful beaches. Shortly after arriving the Mexican Navy came through the bay with loudspeakers blasting out a message in Spanish. They motioned to several people on the beach and sent them back to their boats. It turns out that the Government has now closed all beaches. We are permitted to remain in the bays but are “confined” to our boats. Just another new development. Some are speculating that these restrictions will free up after Semana Santa Easter weekend. The government is trying to tame down these celebrations in the hopes of flattening the curve as it seems Covid-19 is just starting to take off in Mexico. Time will tell. We all expect things to change almost daily now.
We continue to work our way up the east coast of the Baja Peninsula and the out lying islands and while the weather is nice, and the boating has been good it has been very strange. All the once busy anchorages are now virtually vacant. Boats at anchor rarely go to shore, beaches once loaded with people are now empty.
We anchored in San Evaristo Bay on Friday afternoon to wait out some upcoming weather. There were eight other boats doing the same. Late in the afternoon we were all approached by nine men in a panga. They had told the first couple of boats that we all had to leave immediately. The third boat had someone on board that spoke Spanish and advised them that we were all waiting on weather that should be cleared up by Sunday. They gave us until Sunday morning at 7 to leave their bay. We also noted that the road into the village had been blocked by two vehicles. We spoke to another boat that was anchored just north of us in Nopolo, they were attacked by 3 men in a panga at 3:30 in the morning. The men threw several large rocks at the boat. A window was broken, and some damage was done to the decks. It appears in some places the villagers are taking matters into their own hands.
There are a few VHF and SSB (Ham) Radio Nets that have been our best sources of information. They are on at specific times every day. They are managed by a small group of dedicated volunteers. The nets run vessel check in’s, weather reports and announcements. It’s during the announcements that we can get firsthand experience and information from boaters currently in the areas we are headed to.
Via one of these nets we have just discovered that our planned final destination for the season, Puerto Penasco, has just closed the port to all inbound and outbound traffic until May 30th. While our plan was not to be there until the first week of June, we now have some more decisions to make. Most notably how far north do we go before the end of May? Penasco, at the northern most end of the Sea of Cortez, is 345 miles from Loretto, our current location. Although not our preferred locations, there are two marina facilities within a hundred miles of Loretto we could haul out for the season at. So, it looks like we have about 6 weeks to spend in and around the Loretto area. If the port in Penasco does not open there is no sense in having gone the extra 250 miles only to turn around and come back to one of the other marinas. That’s assuming that there will be space available in those places if and when the time comes. It also assumes that we will be able to get back to Vancouver somehow from any of these locations. Hurry up and wait seems to be the game these days.
The Loretto area is a good place to be. Lots of islands and bays to anchor in, good cell coverage and most services are available, however, Loretto has just implemented rules for boaters as well. As a boat in transit we are permitted to “short term” anchor off of the town and send one person in the dinghy into the Port Captain’s dock. The Port Captain will check your paperwork to ensure you are a boat in transit and not a local boat out for pleasure. Pleasure boating by residents has been restricted. They are not permitted to leave port. The person coming ashore must wear a mask and eye protection and will be allowed to shop for food, fuel and medicine, return to their boat and then leave the anchorage.
Everyday brings a new set of rules for the game, mysteries to solve and challenges to face. We have food, (if we had to rely on my fishing skills, we would have died months ago) and we can make our own water. We are missing many of our friends that have gone home, the happy hours, restaurants and exploring the towns but we are still able to social distance from our dinghies, swim, kayak and enjoy the Sea of Cortez. It’s really not a bad place to be stuck. Stay safe everyone.