sailing homepage : trip reports : 6: zihua to la paz : san blas & isabela
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Feb 19-22: Passage from Punta Mita to San Blas to Isla Isabela, perfect sailing weather with hundreds of turtles and dolphins, another birthday celebration, exploring San Blas and beautiful Isabela with Mari

[ written by Mari ]

After surviving my first night of rolling waves, I awoke to the rumble of Wanderlustís engine and climbed above deck. I was greeted by a beautiful morning (and a camera in my face-- thanks Will) and a view of the rapidly disappearing Punta Mita anchorage. Motoring on out to sea, we encountered a bit of wind from the north and raised the sails to help the boat along. Motor sailing it was, and we were soon gliding through the blue waters heading north towards San Blas.

Sunrise over Banderas Bay


Mari in the morning

We soon noticed we had some company in the water- a whale surfaced off in the distance off the starboard side, its enormous tail flipping up and back into the water before we could snap a picture. We learned our lesson and kept the camera at the ready from then on.

More Mari in the morning


Will gets the sails up

We settled into the rhythms of a nice sail on a warm, sunny day - Sara and I helped to trim the sails and then escaped to the bow to read and catch some sun while Will played DJ, blasting hip-hop for all sailors and sea creatures to enjoy.

Wenches working the winches


I'm going to get in trouble for that last caption

As we cruised through the waves on a bright sunny day, we soon saw another shape off in the distance. A closer look revealed a giant sea turtle floating on the surface. He must have been enjoying a good nap because he remained completely still as we approached. Just when we began to wonder if he was even alive, he abruptly woke up, noticed us (no doubt with some surprise), and dove down as fast and deep as his flippers would carry him.

Checking us out


Dive! Dive!

After the excitement died down we returned to our books, but only for a short time - soon we noticed a group of dolphins gleefully jumping and playing off to our right!

Chilling out


Holy crap!

Launching out of the water


What acrobats!

We were ready with the camera this time, and our new friends happily obliged us as we snapped pictures, coming so close to the boat we could almost reach out and touch them. They swam along right in front of the boat, apparently enjoying a nice ride thanks to the current.

Such clear water


Blowing bubbles!

Friendly too


Check out the air

The warm sunshine and calm seas must have made them playful; we watched groups of dolphins swimming and jumping near us for some time (one even did that walking on the hind flipper thing you see in the aquarium shows). It was the most amazing thing to see them up close!

Hauling in our catch


Check out that dorado!

It was also apparently a good day for fishing. We set out three lines and soon noticed a bite on one. It was a big shiny Dorado and he was putting up a good fight! We let him struggle a bit before pulling him in, and then Will made good use of the fish bonker and doused his gills with tequila (isnít that how youíd want to go?). Soon Will was turning his catch into fresh fish fillets for our dinner. Hmm, should we have fish tacos? Sushi? As we happily contemplated our options, we went back to working hard at sailing (which apparently entails a lot of reading and napping - a tough life) and watched the sea life around us hard at play.

We arrived at San Blas earlier than we had planned and anchored among the other boats just off the shore. As Will maneuvered around looking for the right spot, we noticed two other Gulf Stars lined up and took our place right between them. The crew of each boat was surprised to see three all in one place, since Gulf Stars are made all the way out in Florida and not too common in the Pacific. Sara worked the anchor as Will positioned the boat in the right spot, and soon we were getting purpeat ready for a visit to town.

Sara and Mari anchor


Will at the taco stand

We heard tell of the best tacos in town at the town plaza and prepared to go and hunt them down - all the sailing and napping and communing with nature had made us hungry. San Blas is a charming little fishing village with a small traditional plaza in the center of town. Locals and cruisers alike gathered there for dinner, good conversation, and people watching.

The tacos were as good as promised - so good that Will had four just for good measure. After dinner we strolled through the streets checking out the local tienditas (little stores) and sidewalk food stands, stopping to cheer on a group of arm wrestling boys, before dinghying back to the boat to watch more episodes of Entourage (someone was addicted, but Iím not naming names).

The next day, after some morning yoga on the bow of the boat, Sara and I headed into town for a day of exploring. Will stayed on the boat to relax and enjoy a good book, and maybe get a shave in, per Saraís request.

Will performs some well-needed personal grooming


Cute little town

The town market was bustling with all manner of vendors hawking everything from brightly colored fruit and flowers to freshly caught fish. Sara found a new pair of sunglasses at one of the stalls and I bought fresh-cut coconut and an iced horchata, a sweet rice milk drink. We ambled past two beautiful cathedrals on the plaza, one old and historic looking and the other new and brightly colored, as we headed up to the hill overlooking the city.

Mexico is beautiful in a different way


Mari at the fort

After a short hike we came upon the ruins of the old fort, which had been restored complete with canons and all. Sara had heard from another sailing couple about a local guitarist that performs at the fort, and we had been on the hill only a few minutes when he approached us to offer a song.

Guitar player






We sat and enjoyed his music and listened to his tales of shipwrecked local sailors as we rested and cooled off. Heading down the hill we came upon the ruins of an old church. A local woman took us on an impromptu tour, explaining that the Spanish and Indians had lived on this hill and attended church in this building before the French ran them off and took over the area.

Apparently the original town was entirely on top of the hill and later spread out to the land below. She pointed out the details of the architecture and the ruinsí modern day inhabitants - several large lizards sunning themselves high above.

Sara and I continued down the hill and turned back towards town, coming upon several outdoor restaurants serving fresh smoked fish. We couldnít pass it up and took a seat amongst the locals at a little place. We asked for one piece of fish to share and soon had a table covered in plates; our one piece of fish was huge and was accompanied by many fresh salsas, rice, and warm tortillas.



and yummy!

It was a feast for only a few dollars. We packed up most of it to bring back to Will and continued on through the town, stopping on the way back to the boat to cool off in a small Cuban bar. The owner came up to us right away and placed a shot glass on the table - it was a souvenir I (heart) NY glass that perfectly matched the I (heart) NY t-shirt Sara wore. But it was too early for tequila so we behaved ourselves and stuck with beer.

We returned to the boat to find Will knee deep in a big project, replacing the engine shut-off cable. Apparently he had had enough relaxing and decided to do some work. He finished up and Sara cooked up our dorado for dinner, complete with fresh vegetables, tortillas, and champagne. Let me just say that I highly recommend traveling with Will and Sara just for their cooking alone. Everything was amazingly good.

Awesome dorado dinner!


Purpeat in at the dock

After dinner we headed back into town to see if the Carnival celebration we had heard about had materialized. There was confetti all over the plaza and it turned out that we had missed the small local celebration. But it was still a beautiful warm night and we decided to go for margaritas at the outdoor restaurant on the plaza. Life was good.

The morning dawned bright and sunny once again and we raced to the docks in the dinghy in search of water for the boat - the tanks had run dry (I was careful, I swear, but they kept yelling "Mike!" at me for some reason..) and we had to get more before we did anything else. The fuel station didnít have it so we went into the still-sleepy town, where we saw horses actually wandering the streets. We bought giant bottles of water to lug back to Wanderlust. Sara and I each took a fourteen gallon bottle and Will took two.

I really thought my arms would break off before we made it even close to the dinghy, but somehow we got them to the boat and emptied them into the tank. After returning the bottles for the (quite hefty) deposit, we chatted with the store owner about his travels through Sara and Willís former hometown of Santa Rosa. He even mentioned Sebastopol and Healdsburg by name - what a small world. With the water tanks a little closer to full and the sun shining brightly, we raised the anchor and began the dayís sail to Isla Isabella.

Rusty junkers in San Blas


Dinghy beach in Isabela

The winds werenít very strong, but they were strong enough to raise the sails and soon we were motor sailing on out to sea again. It was another beautiful day and our sail was smooth and fairly uneventful. The big excitement of the day came when I was woken from a nap by Will yelling "whale!" as he scrambled to get pictures.

Fishing boat and birds


Whale on the horizon

The whale was pretty close and enormous. I couldnít believe what I was seeing right next to the boat. I looked in time to see itís huge side fin surface and then the tail fin followed with a splash. It was truly amazing to see that up close. I realized how small wanderlust seemed compared to the whale and suddenly felt how tiny we were in the middle of the vast ocean.

Our beautiful anchorage


Such clear water

We arrived in Isla Isabella in time to get the last good anchorage spot in a rocky cove framed by the islandís hills. It was still warm enough to snorkel and we quickly got our gear on and jumped in. The water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom about 25 feet below. We saw beautiful brightly colored schools of swimming everywhere below us. Some were in schools, others were swimming slowly around on their own, and all had gorgeous markings. Sara and Will pointed out several different types of fish and as we swam around and enjoyed taking it all in.

Sara happy at anchor


Will's happy too!

After a quick salt water shower (it actually works, really) Will cooked us a very tasty filet mignon dinner, complete with blue cheese and asparagus. Did I mention we ate very well on their boat? After dinner we settled in to another night of Entourage episodes and card games and spent some time enjoying the amazing night sky above us. I hadnít seen so many stars since, well, maybe ever. The sky was gorgeous and it was a good night.

Fishing huts on the shore


Gigantic lizard

The next day started with a plan for hiking followed by snorkeling. We took purpeat into shore by way of a few waves and got ready to explore. We had landed on a small beach on a beautiful cove full of aquamarine water. Right behind us stood a shelter used by the occasional researcher and the fishermen that lived and fished off the island.

Mari hiking the cliffside


Red breasted frigate bird

The most numerous inhabitants, by far were the thousands of birds all around us. As we hiked up to one of the islandís hills we passed nest after nest occupied by big, black frigget birds, eyeing us carefully but not minding that we came so close. As we came toward the top of the hill we were surrounded on all sides by the somewhat odd-looking boobies.

Blue-footed boobies are calm


The yellow-footed ones are nuts

Most of them were nesting and many were in pairs, with a brightly colored male and plain looking female guarding an egg. The males had brightly colored feet that were either green or blue. They were literally everywhere around us and we had to step over them to reach the cliffs at the top.

Sara found a coral frond on the beach


Will enjoys the view

We hiked down past the fishermanís houses and back up another hill to find the crater lake we had seen from the first hill. After some more hiking through trees filled with many nesting birds, we headed back to the beach and took purpeat back to the boat (after a bit of an adventure getting over the waves coming onto the shore). We were warm from hiking and jumped into our snorkeling gear right away.

Sara swimming


Sara and Mari deep in a game of russian patience

The water was a bit calmer than the previous day and soon we were enjoying beautiful views of all the brightly colored fish swimming just below us. This time we even saw trumpet fish, a sea urchin, and several star fish, in addition to all the pretty clown fish and angel fish. After warming up with some tea, we went back to my new favorite past-time (and addiction) - card games.

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