Closing the loop!

After two years, 3360 nautical miles sailing along the Pacific-West coast and in the Sea of Cortez, and 1180 terrestrial miles on its trailer (which is equivalent to 1025 nautical miles, or a third of the distance on water), Plume is back to San Francisco bay!

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Barrancas del Cobre

Before leaving Mexico, we decided to pay a visit to the Barrancas del Cobre and its Raramuri inhabitant. So we left Plume on its trailer for a week in San Carlos, drove to El Fuerte (6 hours away), and from there took the Chepe train to Posada Barrancas first, and Creel next. (We took the economic class to be with the locals and cut the price by 2,5). What a fabulous trip! Too bad it was only a week, we could easily spend a full year there… The scenery is outstanding and quite diverse, with vast canyons, rivers, lakes, amazing rock formations, to mention just a few. The people are quite interesting as well, with Mexican villages next to Indian territory. From what we understand (mostly from our readings), the Raramuri are among the rare Indians in the Americas who have been able to preserve their traditional life style. They live a simple and self-reliant life, being able to take from their environment their most basic and essential foods and tools. They are not interested in accumulating material goods. Instead, they invest in family and friends upon whom they can rely for help and companionship. This type of value have helped them resist the temptations of our modern industrial society so far. We wish they will be able to continue living like their ancestors for many more years to come!

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Guaymas to San Carlos

We spent a few days at the anchorage in Guaymas bay, close from the marina dinghy dock. From there, it is easy to reach downtown, the market, the bakery, and the crowded malecon. This weekend, Guaymas was celebrating “El Día de los Niños” with clowns, merry-go-round, and a musical and lighted water-fountain show. Fun, specially for our little guy!

Next we headed to Bahia Santa Catalina, our last Mexican anchorage of the season. Very scenic. Too bad the proximity of town and cargo-ships passing by make the seashore quite polluted with garbage and gluey sand…

Finally, we set sail for San Carlos, which marked the end of our sailing trip in Mexico… After an intense week at the marina cleaning, lowering the mast, and preparing the boat for the road, we hauled-out and position Plume on its brand new trailer. This first attempt was not too satisfying (the boat was not forward enough and thus there was not enough tongue weight) so we had to come back to the crane a few days later for some adjustments…. Plume’s trailing adventure is only starting but already promises to be quite interesting!

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From Topolobampo to Guaymas via Yavaros

The sail from Yavaros to Guyamas was among our best this season: 30 hours of non-stop sailing with 10 to 15 kts. southerly wind! This was a good change from the previous passage from Topolobampo to Yavaros, where we had to motor quite a bit. In addition we did catch a big Sierra just before entering Guaymas bay, which made for a good dinner at the anchorage that evening. Talking about fish, this year Sierras are what we catch the most. Even though we like Sierras, each time we have a fish at the end of the line, we hope for something else for a change… like the big Dorado we missed earlier this year… But in most cases we do catch Sierras!

Yavaros was an interesting stop. First of all, the water is very shallow, both inside the bay and up to 2 miles outside. You can actually see fishermen walking in the middle of the bay next to their boat! In addition of being shallow, the bay is extremely poorly marked and the guide books vague, or worse, confusing. So we had to rely on a few GPS points and on observing fishing boats moving around. This was not very effective, and we almost run aground a few times with our 4 ft draft boat!

Following fishing boats however, led us to a safe anchorage north of town, in front of a long dock used by an industrial fish factory (owned by Grupo Pando), and bordered by shipwrecks… Depending on the wind, the factory was sending us the interesting smell of fish oil. Worst of all, a few times a day the entire dock was shadowed by a dense cloud of black smoke. Thanks Grupo Pando for helping save our planet!!!!

Pollution from Grupo Pando fish factory at Yavaros

Not too crazy about the idea of anchoring in a polluted place that smelled sardine oil, we decided to investigate the south side of town, which is mentioned by the Rain guide book as a possible anchorage. Having seen the fishermen walking in the bay, we were fully aware of the risk of venturing there, but we decided to take a chance. Well… not for too long! A few minutes in the exploration, we did run aground! Nothing serious since it was under sand and mud and we were able to unstock the boat almost immediately by using our body weight on the boom the make the boat tilt on its side. We are actually happy that we did run aground only once… never before have we seen such shallow and badly marked waters! Retrospectively (had we known that the shoal extends 2nm out) Yavaros seems like a bad stop when going north: you hope to get southerlies for a good sail, but south wind will make the exit dangerous. We only had moderate waves from the channel entrance to 2 miles offshore, because the swell did not have time to build up yet, but it was already scary with depth less than 10ft (low tide)!

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Topolobampo Isla Santa Maria

We left Mazatlan knowing that we should have a light NW wind for our 2 nights passage to Topolobampo. We motored Wednesday morning on a flat sea. Just after noon the wind picked up and we started to sail on a nice tack, right on track. But soon the wind increased to ~12kt, turned right in our nose and lifted short waves. Courageous, we continued beating against the wind, waves and current until dark. We were doing 4.5kt on the water, which means about 2kts on the ground towards our goal…

We started the engine around 8pm and did not stop it until the following night: 32 hours non-stop pounding in the waves (a record for us). During all this time the wind continued to be right in the nose, and stronger than predicted. Finally, during the second night the wind slowed down a little bit and turned more westerly. So at 4am we raised all our sails and continued this way until inside the Topolobampo entrance, around 4pm on Friday. Again we had to tack against the wind from 11am until entering the channel, but we were not in a hurry to arrive because of the tide. This also allowed us to catch 3 sierras in these shallow waters (we did not put the line after the third one since it was already enough)!

After the first section of the channel (4.5nm), we turned left rather than right and went one more mile to the north to anchor behind Isla Santa Maria (the Rains guide gives a correct GPS point for this spot). We are alone here in this completely different setting than last time close to the town.

This morning we took a long walk in the incredible sand dunes composing Santa Maria. This is a really beautiful place and you feel very remote (you will have to wait that we get an internet connection to get pictures) although we are only 6nm from Topolobampo . There is some fishermen sheds on the beach and several donkeys: we are wondering where they find fresh water… We collected a lot of sand-dollars on the sea side and are ready to continue our progression north tomorrow.

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Chacala update

Today the 3 powerboats and the only sailboat left the anchorage. Maybe they felt it was too uncomfortable: we were the only boat putting a stern anchor for the night and it helped a lot. The 45ft powerboat next to us was exactly transverse to the swell and it was impressive to see it rocking 25 deg back and forth every 4s!

So it is definitely Easter vacation: here they last 2 weeks! However, the playa is full of Mexican people: we felt less annoyed than on beaches crowed with Frenches or Gringos 😉 Reminiscent from what you see in the city, the beach is patrolled by 3 heavily armed “Marina” army people… We are wondering what they are doing here. There is also a full staff of the Mexican red cross: not a bad idea with so many people and so much surf. In fact, Cecile has been “rescued” by a life guard who swim to her when she was just 30m beyond the breaker line. He advised her that it was forbidden to swim so far. To what she responded that it was less dangerous than the kids left alone in the breakers…

Well, when Chacala returns to its quiet time, it is certainly a little paradise with this great beach bordered by coconut trees. Currently everybody in the bay can enjoy the disco from 7pm to 2am!

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