Mazatlan Old Harbor, a great spot for a frugal cruiser.
Coming off an overnight from Isla Isabel and knowing we were soon going to stare into the teeth of a howling Baja Norther, we made the decision to prioritize fuel and crew rest over another overnight run. Tulum’s no speedster and doesn’t go to wind all that well, so we’re pretty aware of what conditions will work or not. Coming into Mazatlan, we both agreed that all the marina’s down the coast were not the right option for us…we didn’t have a slip reserved, we didn’t want to time the tides so Tulum would stay afloat going through the “ditch” into the marina channel entrance, we wanted to be able to socially distance ourselves and we wanted to save our pennies by anchoring. Mazatlan has several anchorage areas that cruisers can pick from…two of which are pretty good in most weather. These are Stone Island and Old Harbor Anchorage on the south side of Mazatlan. We originally wanted to stay at the Stone Island Anchorage if we were just going to be in the area for one night, but since we were stuck longer due to weather…we wanted to be able to refuel and reprovision and Stone Island Anchorage doesn’t have access to those things without a lot of work. So we headed into the breakwater and put a hook down in 26 feet of dirty water over mud, just outside of Club Nautico. Despite what the guide books say…Club Nautico doesn’t have a Harbor Master and when we called the Port Captain on Channel 16 upon approach to the breakwater, they asked us a few questions and told us to have a great day. Anchoring is free inside the well protected harbor, which has little fetch but does have it’s share of wind that howls in from northerlys. This isn’t a big deal and didn’t really bother us. Club Nautico has seen it’s share of age and isn’t a boatyard, yacht club or repair yard. There’s no bar, restaurant, pool or showers. Have I sold this place yet? There is a safe dinghy dock where your dinghy’s are watched over by an always present Martin and about 20 cats. For 90 cents per garrafon, you can have water delivered right to the dinghy dock and you can take jerry jugs to the local Pemex for diesel…as there’s no diesel available that we found except to jerry jug it. There’s also a place for trash and always present cabs just outside the place to take you anywhere. Buuut…all of this means you’re sitting in a free anchorage right underneath El Faro lighthouse (2nd highest lighthouse in the world?) with multiple dining options within walking distance. There are also numerous venues for exercise…as the hike up El Faro is semi-challenging and there’s lots of hills with sidewalks to run on if you choose.
Here’s El Faro Light House with the trail up it clearly visible:
Here’s the hike down:
We used the open air cabs (and a truck) to reprovision and jerry jug fuel for Tulum (she’s a hungry beast) as we waited for a good window between northerlys. We did not avail ourselves to the rest of the wonderful scenery and culture in this older part of the city or the rest of the attractions in the newer part of the city due to our desire to self-isolate as much as we could.
A few things to note about Old Mazatlan Harbor:
-I think the bottom is mud. We anchored over about 26 feet and knew a northerly was coming through. We did put out another 25 feet of scope when the wind went over 25 knots, but we never encountered a holding problem.
-Old Mazatlan Harbor is off the shipping channel for the harbor and Mazatlan is a fairly busy shipping port. We saw at least two large ships per day coming or going. The Old Harbor is also home port to a number of large tourist catamarans giving tours of the beaches and local areas. They go right through the anchorage but never caused us a problem.
-There is a sewage treatment facility upwind of the anchorage that some folks may notice if you’re sensitive to smell. We noticed it a few times but it wasn’t really that bad.
-Club Nautico has a 50 peso per day fee that we gladly paid for a safe dinghy dock.
-Locals told us not to worry too much about crime in the anchorage, as they said the Old Harbor folks liked to stay on the DL, so crime was frowned upon here. You can take that for what it’s worth. However, despite all the traffic and fisherman in and out of the harbor….we never felt unsafe.
-Once you pay for the use of the dinghy dock, trash is free.
-There’s always a day or night watchman on the property, so if you go out at night, just let Tio or Martin know you’ll be back.
We came to avoid a norther and stayed a few extra days to find a weather window to get across the Sea of Cortez safely. We enjoyed the local flavor of the harbor and the fact it was a safe, protected spot to get ourselves together prior to jumping back across the Baja. If you come here, I highly encourage you to use the services offered at Club Nautico if you have need. The lack of tourism is already having a damaging impact on Mexico like you’d never believe…meaning businesses and services related to tourism are shutting down and unemployment is about to skyrocket. This will have an immediate effect on Mexico, where so many living wages depend on tourists and cruise ships.
Mazatlan Harbor looking southeast, from the top of El Faro (Tulum is the last sailboat out in the anchorage):
Mazatlan Harbor looking southwest:
We’re out here on our cruising sailboat where no one really cares if we’re self-isolating or not…but we are. The kids are doing great and we’re content to stay on the boat as it’s our floating adventure base anyways. More and more of you guys all over the world are self-isolating and stuck at home…wondering how you’re going to survive not working…as more and more services and industries shut down. One way is to FOLLOW various blogs (like ours)…get involved in the comments section and take an active part in the story of the world happening around you. Even if you’re a social person now stuck on your boat or your home…continue to be social..from a distance. We’re praying for the best while we continue to prepare to go to ground.
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