The northern approaches to the waterway to west Mexico actually begin anywhere along the Pacific Coast where there is a yachtsman with the time and the urge to sail to Acapulco. However, San Diego, as the most southerly U.S. port of any consequence, makes a good jumping-off place. Therefore, plan your trip from San Diego; plan it for the months between Oct. 15 and May 15, when the summer cyclones (locally called chubascos) and rainy season in west Mexico are over; and plan to be gone at least six weeks.
The best man to see about embarkation is Port Director John Bate, who has made the trip himself and will do anything reasonable to help visiting yachtsmen. Before you hurl yourself on Mr. Bate, however, you should get a vaccination certificate, without which you may get into Mexico but not back into the United States. Then go to the Mexican consulate or Government Tourist Bureau, bearing with you some proof of U.S. citizenship and pick up a Mexican tourist card. This costs $3 and is all you need to get yourself over the border. Then to get the boat and crew over the border, head out to the San Diego Yacht Club. On the way out, leave your sea bag at the Kona Kai Club on Shelter Island, easily the most pleasant place to stay ($10 to $35 per night for a cabana) along the San Diego waterfront, and only a few hundred yards from the yacht club basin. The people at the club will give you a sheaf of official-looking papers. These are your crew lists and ballast manifests, which you must fill out, noting that you are a yachtsman bent on pleasure, whose boat is traveling in ballast, i.e., not carrying cargo.
Give the ballast manifest and crew list to the Mexican consulate.
Now you are ready for the final taking on of stores, making certain you have everything you need (see page 46) before you shove off down a coast that has perhaps one completely equipped ship chandlery in the next 1,535 miles. If you would prefer to have someone else worry about all these details, call a customs broker like Miss Marguerite Capps at 772 State Street. Miss Capps, or her equivalent, will, for upward of $14, put you straight with the Mexican consulate, and load the boat as well. If it's your first trip, you might do well to call her; it's easier to profit from her knowledge than from your own mistakes.
This done, you should be ready to head out, planning at least five long days and nights to get around to La Paz. A slow auxiliary, particularly one with a family crew that doesn't care to be driven day and night, may want to take a couple of weeks, anchoring at night and navigating the tricky coastline only by daylight. Whichever way you do it, don't look for any bright lights and luxuries along the way. This is pure adventure in rough, primitive surroundings, unlike anything you have ever seen before—which, after all, is the best possible reason for going.
Now you are out of the United States. The food is different and the towns are different. Most particularly, the people have a different way of doing things, and you may as well get used to it. For example, after you have slid through the entrance channel into Guaymas Bay and dropped off the stone quay of the inner harbor, you must tell the various officials you have arrived. They already know this, of course, but they have to stamp your crew list and ballast manifest, and certify some more copies for the CAPTAIN OF THE PORT at your next stop. If you have arrived during official working hours, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., these services should cost you nothing. But after hours be prepared to shell out an overtime fee of from 35 to 70 pesos.
So pay the fee and don't squawk. Mexicans are proud, particularly of their official positions; and they are rarely in as big a hurry as Americans. If you start pounding desks, you will get nowhere.
Now you can start worrying about the boat. If there is anything wrong with it, move it around to Construcciones Navales, where they have a 70-ton and a 35-ton MARINE RAILWAY. If all you need is supplies, leave the boat where it is and go to Proveedora de Buques (a first-rate ship chandlery), Casa Murillo (for DRY GROCERIES like sugar, flour, coffee, etc.) and to the public market place for MEAT and FRESH VEGETABLES.
A word about food. In most of Mexico it is a good idea never to eat un-peeled fruit or unboiled vegetables. In a few towns—Guaymas is one of them—you can go ahead without worrying. But always ask someone, like an American or a responsible Mexican, first.
Water also should be regarded with deep suspicion. Drink only boiled water and, to save boiling it yourself, plan to buy three or four demijohns of pure water at each port. For dishwashing water, you may fill the ship's tanks from the hose on the dock. But when you do, be sure to throw in a few chlorine pills just to make sure in case you forget.
As in San Diego, you can save yourself all these worries about provisions, port captains and so on simply by going to a CUSTOMS BROKER. Best man in Guaymas is John Davidson (left a half block from the pierhead). He will be delighted to handle everything. Then go find yourself a taxi and proceed, with fishing tackle and some clean clothes in hand, to the Hotel Playa de Cortés, one of North America's really pleasant hotels.
The Cortés sits on the edge of a wide, sandy bay called Bocochibampo, a three-mile cab ride (maybe 15 pesos) from town. When you arrive, install yourself in one of the large, cool rooms ($10 to $16.25 American plan) that overlook the bay. If it is late afternoon, aim for the bar, where Mexican guitar music will be in progress and the bartender will be making a series of highly successful experiments with the inexpensive native rum.
If it is early morning, ask someone where Tommy Jamison or John Mills is. When you have found one of them, hand him $6.50 to $10 per hour, depending on the boat, for some of the best deep-sea fishing of your life. The quiet water outside the bay holds every conceivable kind of Pacific fish, including an apparently limitless supply of sailfish and marlin.
The week the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED boat was in town, the Jamison-Mills fleet brought in six marlin and 75 sails, with 15 more sails released because of the two-a-boat per day limit. They also boated 120 dolphin and 3,220 pounds of smaller fish like sierra mackerel, grouper, yellowtail, pompano and red snapper.
As a matter of fact, the fishing here is so good that you should try it whether or not you have a yacht for the trip down the coast. To get here, you can come by car 267 miles down a good, paved road from Nogales on the Arizona border. From Ciudad Juàrez across the border from El Paso, Texas, you can fly in via Trans Mar de Cortés. From Los Angeles you can fly Compa√±ía Mexicana de Aviación to Hermosillo and then an 80-mile taxi ride to the hotel. Or from San Diego take a taxi across the border to Tijuana and a plane directly to Guaymas.
When you are ready to leave Guaymas, plan on a 83-mile run west across the Gulf of California to Mulegé. Fast boats can easily make it across in daylight. Slow boats would do well to head out at night, planning to make their landfall in the morning. There are two good reasons for doing your inshore work in the daytime. One is that the charts for the coast south to Acapulco are pre-1920 vintage; and although the Hydrographic Office has striven to update and amend the old charts, they haven't quite caught up to a few rocks and sand bars that could end your trip with a horrible crunch. The other reason is that most of the navigation lights sprinkled around the worst places frequently run out of juice and stay out for days at a time.
Incidentally, don't worry about the weather. In this country it rains maybe twice in 40 days. Storms almost never happen between November and April. But if you're the nervous type, keep an eye on the native fishermen. If they stay in, you stay in.
When you heave to off Mulegé, take special note of the wind. The bottom off Sombrerito Point at the mouth of the Mulegé lagoon is untenable in a northerly or northeasterly wind; so if it's blowing that way, keep going south into Concepción Bay, leaving Mulegé for another day. If the wind is offshore, approach just north of the point, thus avoiding the uncharted sand bar and submerged rock that stick out southeast of the mouth of the lagoon, and drop anchor in 3½ fathoms 150 yards offshore. Then break out the skin-diving equipment. Along the rocks just off Sombrerito the spear-fishing is so good that you should have enough for dinner inside of an hour.
When you're tired, take the dinghy ashore, walk around behind the point and ask the man who runs the half-cave, half-thatched-hut type of beer concession to get you a ride into town. He will disappear on a bicycle. Then a truck will appear. Get in it and go to the Club Mulegé, a back-cactus kind of sportsman's club with a rather pleasant bar, fresh-water showers and a small ice-making machine.
Shower up, have a quick lunch washed down by two or three cool drinks, buy a sackful of the local grapefruit, figs, dates, mangoes, and then ask the truck driver to take you up to the prison, where live some of the happiest murderers in the world. Every morning the prison gates open, and the prisoners, unguarded, go off to work on the local farms, visit with their wives, fish, or whatever. In the evening they all come back to jail unprodded. The only discipline is a sort of honor system, which works because the desert mountains around the Mulegé oasis are too unthinkably bleak to cross and because everybody is having a comparatively good time.
At the prison, if anyone is home, buy some of the beautiful tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl ornaments the prisoners carve in their spare time. Then go back to the boat and shove off for Concepción Bay.
Leave Mulegé no later than 3 in the afternoon to give yourself two or three hours to make Coyote Bay, an anchorage inside Concepción Bay, before dark. On the way into Concepción, the chart notes a half-mile sand bar sticking out from the west shore two miles below San Pedro Point. Make that a one-mile sand bar, and don't expect more than nine feet of water over the deep end at low tide.
Entering Coyote Bay, move toward the beach under soundings. When you get 150 yards offshore, drop anchor.
Before it gets absolutely dark, row ashore to visit with the family—ancient patriarch and squaw, two sons, one with squaw, and three little Indian babies—that lives on the beach. Give them some fruit juice for the kids, some .22 shells and fishhooks for the men and some sewing needles and soap powder for the old squaw. In return, they'll show you their private fishing ground, where they pick up some of the most beautiful conch shells you have ever seen. Now go back to the boat, watch the sunset and lie down to sleep under the stars.
In the morning, tow the old man and his sons down the bay to Ricason Island. Dive with them in the shallow water for the giant conchas, being careful to poke each one with your knife before you pick it up so that you don't make a fatal grab for an out-size, saw-toothed clam. Then sail back to Coyote and try this recipe for supper: into one large pot throw clams, shellfish, sierra mackerel, tomatoes, onions, salt, garlic, pepper, hot sauce, orégano, beer (about a bottle), some water and a baby octopus (plenty in the shallows around the bay). Cook all this for a couple of hours. Wash down with rum. If you're still hungry, round it off with more sierra rolled up inside a tortilla. If that doesn't satisfy you, eat a plateful of fríjoles (kidneylike-looking beans) and wash them down with a cup of coffee. It is now time, depending on how strong a man you are, either to sleep or shove off for Loreto.
Loreto is an overnight run (74 miles) from Concepción. The coast between is a bit tricky for nightime navigation, but the nonfunctioning light and the shallow (3 fathoms a third mile offshore) harbor at Loreto are even worse. So plan to arrive in the morning. When you get there, anchor¼ mile off the pier about¾ mile south of the church dome, and prepare to spend a couple of days hunting ashore under the auspices of the Flying Sportsmen Lodge, which is the cluster of yellow buildings back of the pier.
The Flying Sportsmen Lodge exists primarily for the pleasure of California hunters and fishermen who fly down from Tijuana via Trans Mar de Cortés for the billfishing and mountain lion, deer, dove or quail shooting. But it is also at the disposal of visiting yachtsmen for standard prices.
Loreto is a PORT OF ENTRY, SO after you have been at the lodge for a few minutes, a stocky character named Juan Larrinaga will appear, asking in Spanish for your papers. Give them to him and your official business is over. If you need supplies, accept the offer (also in Spanish) from Pepe, the club manager, of a ride to town.
Just before you get to town there will be a large, beige-colored building on the left. This is the best store in town for GROCERIES, cigarets, pots, pans, coffee, etc. In town, just past the cathedral, is the TELEGRAPH office. For GAS, at about 50¢ per U.S. gallon, see the Pemex agent who operates behind the chicken coop at the northwest corner of the village square. There is no DIESEL fuel in town. The lodge has a MECHANIC, and even a 20-ton MARINE RAILWAY for shallow-draft motor cruisers. Their boat WATER is also drinkable and they'll make up some ICE for you at 40¢ per hundred pounds.
At Loreto, go hunting. Back in the hills, particularly down toward Puerto Escondido, the rocks are full of mountain lion. There are also a fair number of bighorn sheep. But here, as everywhere else in North America, the sheep are protected. Around the ranchos outside of town, the dove and quail shooting is as good as any you'll ever see. The lodge has .22s and 12-gauge shotguns for rent for $3 to $5 per day, and they can promote you a .30-30 for lions.
After two or three days of shooting, eat a big lunch at the lodge, where they grow all their own vegetables and chickens and cook a really good meal. Wave goodby to Pepe, who couldn't care less about the bill ("If you leave without paying, we don't chase after you. We just wave goodby, come back") and head for Puerto Escondido, 15 miles away.
There is no detailed harbor chart for Puerto Escondido, and certainly none with reliable soundings. Therefore, come up to the anchorage (see chart) slowly, anchoring about 80 yards off the rocky beach near the mouth of the lagoon. Don't try to go into the lagoon, which is silted to about one to four feet.
If you arrive during the late afternoon, go trolling in the lagoon. Then return to the boat with the fish you have caught and, realizing that this is Mexico, remote, primitive, back-country Mexico where the diet is limited, deep-fry the fish, shovel them down with tortillas and fríjoles, and flavor them with a glass of rum. Escondido, by the way, with its 2,000-foot cliffs jumping straight up from the scrub-covered coastal plain, is one of the most beautiful places in the world at sunset. Hence, sleep on deck. The sunrise is just as good.
When the sun is fairly up, give over the morning to skin-diving along the shore or at the mouth of the lagoon. Finish in time for an early lunch, then pull up the anchor and move on 22 miles south to Agua Verde.
It is hardly possible to overstate the primitive beauty of a place like Agua Verde, or Escondido to the north. On any other coast, Agua Verde is the sort of place yachtsmen would fight to get to, to be alone, swim lazily over the side, explore the hills, or comb the beach for conch shells or the fascinating skeletons of sharks and other marine life. But along this coast it is simply another pretty place. If you're pressed for time, skip it. Fast yachts can make the 120 miles from Puerto Escondido to La Paz in a long day.
Slow boats should aim for an anchorage in the San José Channel, 35 miles from Agua Verde. This is another prime spot for hunters. The basin behind the dune is always crisscrossed with lion tracks. If you're lucky, you may even see a bighorn.
Now you are ready for the 40-mile hop to La Paz. Important fact: you are coming to the end of the Gulf of Lower California and to the end of flat calms broken by intermittent winds no stronger than 15 mph. Off Mechudo at night, the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED crew, which had anchored in a flat calm at about 5 in the afternoon, was rattled out by a 25-30 knot norther that blew clear and strong for two days. These northers are standard procedure for the south end of the Gulf from November through March. They blow two to three days, then flatten out for three to five days. Actually, they aren't really storms, just a stiff blow that makes sleeping impossible in open water, but also makes for wonderful sailing.
If a norther is blowing as you come down from Cabeza de Mechudo, swing out to the east and ride into La Paz along the lee of the Espíritu Santo Island chain.
The channel into La Paz is as miserable, winding and shallow as they come. Do it slowly, do it right, and do it in the daytime. Once in, anchor anywhere in the main basin, favoring the town side. Once ashore, send your bags over to the Los Arcos Hotel ($8 single to $21), probably the best (roof garden, U.S. newspapers, airplane reservations in and out of town, fairly good food) public shelter in the town proper. Alternatives: El Misión, La Perla or Los Cocos, three miles out of town.
As your bags disappear down the palm-lined waterfront street, go half a block inland to an office on the right operated by Fernando Chacon, the best CUSTOMS BROKER in town. Ask Se√±or Chacon to enter and clear your boat. If you need to take on bulk diesel fuel, he'll help you with those arrangements, too. Now proceed a block inland and two to the left to order provisions from Ruffo's, a gigantic Mexican version of a general store.
If your boat has developed any of the submarine ailments that boats are likely to get in tropical waters, particularly where the rocks and sand bars are poorly charted, move it down-harbor to the shipyard called Abaroa. Then tell Ruffo your troubles, and if you do it right, he'll detach one of his mechanics, who are probably better than Abaroa's, to help out.
If you plan to stay in town, you can ask Ruffo, or any of the hotel managers, to set you up for a day's marlin and sailfishing, which costs $45 to $60 and is just about as good here as it is in Guaymas. The marlin fishing may even be a little better.
And, if you do stay in town, hire a secretary. This will be a fast-talking character who knows more about the town than anybody, including the police, and who is all yours, with automobile, for $1.50 per hour (good price) or $2 per hour (Gringo price). The smartest secretary in town is Ray Alvarado, available through Los Arcos or El Misión. Ray also has a countrywide reputation as a HUNTING guide.
Anyone with four or five days to spare at this point should forget about staying in town. Instead, having wired well ahead for reservations, head for the airport, where you will be met by a plane owned and/or flown by one Abelardo Rodríguez, owner of two plush, nearly perfect watering places south of La Paz.
The closest, only an eight-minute flight over to the southeast coast, is called Rancho de Las Cruces, an old Spanish rancho made over by Abelardo into a luxurious guest ranch, complete with swimming pool, delicious food and marlin fishing for $50 to $60 per day. Also on the premises there are other airplanes in which Abelardo will take you south to Buena Vista (10 minutes) for dove shooting, La Rivera (25 minutes) for ducks or to San José del Cabo (40 minutes) where, from the balconies of Abelardo's other hotel, you can enjoy what is, in this writer's opinion, the finest marine view in the world for $20 a night.
Any or all of the above places, plus the harbor and beach at Los Frailes, are reachable by boat to a yachtsman taking the slow way around the Cape to La Paz. So you may want to visit them in the leisurely, yachting fashion, rather than hopping down by plane.
A last word about airplanes. Trans Mar de Cortés flies out of Tijuana and Ciudad Juàrez to La Paz, thus opening both the fishing and Abelardo's hotels to nonyachtsmen. Aeronaves de México also flies from Tijuana.
A good way to cross the mouth of the Gulf is to leave La Paz in the early morning, have lunch at Rancho de Las Cruces, and spend the night anchored at either Isla Cerralvo (east winds) or Bahia de Los Muertos (west winds). Both have good beaches, with enough skin-diving to occupy the afternoon.
Then shove off in the morning for the 180-mile voyage across, navigating for a 2° southerly drift for the current at 5 to 6 knots. Strive above all to make Mazatlàn, with its rockbound harbor entrance, by afternoon of the next day. If you are lucky you may see something along the way like the sight that struck the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED crew the afternoon of the second day out, when a school of at least 300 marlin, stretching from our port quarter diagonally out of sight toward the horizon, thrashed the water with sudden projectile jumps in an hour-long orgy of feeding and playing.
If, by some unhappy chance, you should arrive off Mazatlàn in the dark, try not to be confused by the dozens of yellow lights that will be flickering low to the water all around the mouth of the channel. These are the torches of mullet fishermen who stay out all night, diving from their small rowboats by torchlight. When you have muddled past the mullet fishermen, move into the channel about a half mile and drop your anchor firmly into the mud bottom just off the line of four sport-fishing docks on the port hand. If you have a Danforth anchor, use it, since there is a three-knot tide in the harbor, with plenty of fishing boats to bang into if your old anchor trips.
Give over any entering, clearing or replenishing problems you have to Bill Heimpel, a slim, pale young man who runs the fishing dock on the right as you face the land. Then charter one of Bill's boats ($50 to $60) for some top-notch marlin fishing. The boats of the other three charterboatmen are at least as good as Bill's, and their prices are the same. But Bill, who is tied up somehow with local tourist promotion, can save you the unreasonably steep ($50) CUSTOMS BROKER fees for getting your yacht in and out of town. And, in case there is something wrong with your engine, his buddies in the shrimp plants are the best mechanics in town. So why pass all this up just to go fishing with somebody else?
With the boat business attended to, you may want to head uptown to rest after the two-day crossing. If so, aim for either the Belmar ($2.50 to $7.50 European, good food, dancing Sundays and holidays to an ancient, cornet-tooting Mexican band) in the middle of town, or the Playa (70 to 85 pesos) one mile out the beach road. The Belmar, incidentally, is also a good starting point from which to track down Captain Adriàn Valadez Lejarza, Valadez to you, the best HUNTING guide in town. For $40 to $50 a day, Valadez will take you out for some dove, duck, deer, or jaguar shooting the latter especially worthwhile if you've never done it before.
From Mazatlàn, head south to Isabel Island, a little lump of rock and bush that rises from the sea about 84 miles to the south. Just off the rugged south shore, tank divers will find a limitless supply of red snapper from three pounds up past 40. Less accomplished skin-divers will find plenty of small fry in the tiny lagoon between the two headlands. Nonswimmers can have fun walking the rocks, coming right up to the fluffy-headed, green-footed baby birds that perch around the rocks, unafraid of people since they have no previous experience with them.
Forty miles southwest Isabel, or overnight from Mazatlàn, are the Tres Marías, lovely rolling hills that look like a cluster of Berkshire Hills which somehow got dropped into the Pacific. On the biggest, María Madre, is another of these fascinating Mexican penal colonies where nobody seems to be really in jail. Each day the men work in the lumber mill, salt pit, sisal plant (which makes usable spare line for your boat), the BOATYARD or the MACHINE SHOP. When they are through, they go hunting, play baseball, walk through the mountains, play checkers or do ornate carving in silver, tortoise shell or in the rare jungle woods which flourish on the islands.
Buy some of their carvings. The wood is beautiful. The tortoise-shell necklaces, if they could be had in the States, would cost well over $25 apiece. Local prices: $4 to $6.
If your boat draws nine feet or less, you can back it up to the pierhead for WATER (good to drink), excellent pork from the prison slaughterhouse or even a little GAS or DIESEL if you're short and the commandant happens to be long. There is also a TELEGRAPH office just to the left from the pierhead.
Give María Madre a full day; more if you want to explore back in the mountains. Then move south past the middle island, swinging at least a mile to the east to avoid the ugly reef at the north end of Cleopha. Once past the reef, turn west to make your anchorage (see chart) in the narrow harbor between the two bluffs. This is perhaps the most unpromising-looking anchorage you have ever seen—surf breaking on rocks not 80 yards away on both sides; but the bottom is good, so relax.
Cleopha is a real jewel, like something out of the south Pacific. Actually, from here on down, the whole coast is remarkably like the south Pacific—just as beautiful, and in some places just as wild. In any event, Cleopha is a good place to spend a couple of days lying on the beach, swimming, skin-diving or trolling. For a break in the diet, take a gun ashore and shoot an iguana, a ghastly-looking sort of miniature dinosaur that tastes fine in a stew—unless he happens to have an orange-tinted underside, in which case local legend says he's poisonous.
The next jump is 68 miles back to the mainland, to Puerto Vallarta. This leg, if you prefer, can be started at dawn instead of in the evening, because the anchorage off Puerto Vallarta is one of the simplest of all nautical problems. The town is at the apex of Banderas Bay, a great curving horseshoe some 20 miles deep and 15 miles across the mouth, with no trouble anywhere except at the opening, where the Marietta Islands can be very much in the way if you aren't looking out for them. Or, if you'd rather, come over slowly at night, troll for sierra mackerel, dolphin and needlefish around the islands at dawn, then head for the beach. If the wind is at all strong out of the westerly quadrant, anchor behind the sand spit at Tomates estuary, then sail over to town when the bay quiets down. If you anchor off the town, do it bow and stern so you don't roll with the swell.
Now look around you at the bay, at the surrounding mountains rising to 9,000 feet, covered by jungle and deeply cleft by canyons. The town is small and quiet, truly Mexican still in spite of the air service that began (CMA from Los Angeles or Mexico City) only a few years ago. There is no road of any kind into Puerto Vallarta from the outside, and no steamship service either. A small river, with giant palms on the delta, empties at the southern end of town. From there on, around four miles to the Tomates estuary, there is an unbroken line of beach. The town itself, white and clean-looking, spills down a steep, low hill toward the water; and the streets, when the people are not relaxing in the shade, are filled with an assortment of burros; fat, brown, naked little babies; thin, hairy pigs with long noses; local men in sandals made from truck tires; local women balancing laundry and jugs of something on their heads; and Mexican cowboys who look as though they are dressed for a corny Western but actually are dressed for the day's work.
To get ashore from the boat, you ride in dugout canoes, which the native men maneuver through the surf far more successfully than the average sailor can handle a dinghy (also with far less damage to stores or personnel that may be in the boat). Put yourself in their hands, therefore, and head in, taking a change of clothes with you for an overnight stay at the Rosita Hotel (18 to 40 pesos), the big building just off the beach. The Rosita is as primitive as they come (bathtub is a round, galvanized washtub, no hot water ever, and lights only from 7 to 11 p.m. if the generator is working). Nonetheless, it has its good points, namely a small dining patio and a bunch of hammocks slung from palm trees facing the water.
A visit to the local PORT CAPTAIN, name of Antonio Moll Gil, will be particularly rewarding here since he is the brother-in-law of Se√±or Gil, who owns the Super Mercado, the best all-round source of GROCERIES, FRUIT, VEGETABLES, MEAT and GENERAL SUPPLIES in town. An alternate source is Gabriel Nu√±o Vicencio (known as Nu√±o), who is the mayor, one of two CUSTOMS BROKERS and a leading dry goods merchant and GROCER. There are also a couple of MECHANICS in town.
A good thing to load up on here is ICE, since the plant near the Rosita sells purified ice that can be put in drinks. All other ice, unless specifically identified as pure, should be left in the freezer. The FISHING around the bay is quite good, and the HUNTING back in the mountains for jaguar is superb if you can brave the ticks and thorn scrub. Jorge Guillaumin at the Océano will provide you with horses, guide, blankets, food, gun and ammunition for the ridiculously low price of $12 a day. One last word about Puerto Vallarta. You are now in malaria country, so if you arrive in the early fall, just after the rainy season, pick up a box of anti-malaria pills.
There are a half dozen lagoons around Banderas Bay, each with a cluster of native huts, a beach backed by a freshwater lake, and a stream feeding down from the mountains. If you have time, go to all of them. If you don't have time, go to Ylapo, 10 miles from Puerto Vallarta. When you get there drop your anchor as indicated on the chart and get into one of the dugouts that will be alongside before the anchor hits the bottom. If it is early morning, ask one of the small boys to go duck hunting with you in the lagoon. This is especially sportif if you do it with a pistol, still-hunting on the bank or stalking through the bushes at the water's edge as did the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter. If you want some ducks, however, be conventional. Take a shotgun.
After you have worked up a good sweat in the chase, walk back through town, wave your arms at somebody and say, "Langosta, por favor," which means, "Please get me some lobsters." If you know the Spanish word for bananas, ask for them, too. Then head back up into the mountains along the path that more or less follows the brook splitting the town. After a quarter of a mile you will suddenly come upon a jungle pool, ringed with sand and dark rocks and fed by a cascade of pure, sweet water that spills 60 feet down the face of a black rock into the pool. All around there is jungle, and overhead guacamayo birds crisscross the sky above the clearing, the sun glinting yellow, blue and green on their feathers. The only thing lacking is Dorothy Lamour.
Withdrawing from this romantic moment because the water in the pool is too cold to swim in for long, go back to town and pick up your lobsters. Ride out to the boat, cook the lobsters and eat them with mayonnaise and lime juice, washing them down with rum or beer. Then take a siesta. At dusk, wake up. Eat more lobster, drink more beer and go to sleep thinking, quite correctly, that there is nothing like this anywhere else in the world.
Going around the corner into the ocean from Ylapo, you have another series of choices. You can try Corrales, only 16 miles away, or go 16 miles farther to Ypala (see chart). Or you can bite off 88 miles in a single overnighter to get to Chamela, possibly the best idea of all. Give Chamela a morning for swimming or trolling, then move on around to Tenacatita which rates as one of the best noncivilized stops on the trip.
At the left-hand end of Tenacatita Bay a salt lagoon empties out between a sand beach and a rocky point. Anchor no closer than 180 yards offshore in three fathoms on fine sand. Send a party ashore in the dinghy, bearing with them skin-diving gear, shotguns and a spinning rod. The skin diver should debark as soon as you hit the beach. The fisherman should walk up to where the lagoon makes a sharp right-hand bend, the fusiliers should take the dinghy around the bend into the back reaches of the salt lake.
After a morning of sport, regroup on the beach for a cool drink of coconut milk gleaned from the fruit-bearing palms all around.
Then meander down the beach to consider one of the great financial fliers of our time, the Hotel Playa Los Angeles. The Los Angeles is a string of coconut-thatched rooms under a common roof and with a common veranda, conceived and built one sad day by Se√±or Rodolfo Paz Dizcaino, who envisioned Tenacatita as the next Acapulco. At present it is not likely to become even the one after the next. In the meantime the Los Angeles is manned only by a sleek black dog with pale brown eyes, a couple of lethargic natives and the plump, bright, but somewhat defeated Senora Dizcaino. The only remaining monuments to Se√±or Dizcaino's dreams are an aerial photograph of Tenacatita on which are marked the missing airport, the phantom town hall, the national forest and the other wonders that were to flower and grow with the hotel, and a few wooden signs hanging around that say things like NO HUNTING, THIS IS AN URBAN ZONE, NO OBSCENE LANGUAGE, and SHOW EDUCATION AND TAKE OFF YOUR HAT.
At the other end of the bay there is a far more prosperous little compound owned and operated for his own pleasure by an American whose name came through in Spanish from an old se√±ora and her pretty daughter as "Ernie Ro11a." Mr. Rolla flies down from time to time to occupy one of the three buildings in the cove and benefit from both the solitude and the old lady's cooking.
The trip from Tenacatita to Manzanillo is about 34 miles. Between the two harbors there is a town called Navidad, where you can anchor off the mouth of the lagoon at the right-hand corner of the bay and row ashore to pick up things like tortillas, eggs or a few canned vegetables. And if you are low on fish, a virtual impossibility after Tenacatita, just troll around the lagoon for about half an hour.
The best thing to do at Navidad, however, is keep moving to Manzanillo, the first big town since Mazatlàn and the last one before Acapulco.
When you enter Manzanillo, keep going past the main concrete bulkheads and anchor off the pilothouse, thus insuring that you will not be disturbed by the clash of heavy (railroad) machinery that begins about 6 o'clock just behind the main dock. There is one trouble with entering at night. In this town the PORT CAPTAIN is very sticky about overtime charges. You have to find him and pay up no matter what time it is, rather than check in when he shows up in the morning. Strive, therefore, to enter before 2 p.m.
If there is any shopping to be done, go to the market place, a four-or five-block complex just to the right and inland from the town square. You can buy anything you need there.
For MECHANICS, a MARINE SHOP or a MARINE RAILWAY, ride one half mile down the waterfront road to the left, where you will find something called the varadero, which means "shipyard," and nobody knows any other name for it. The varadero has two or three marine railways, but they can only handle power cruisers. Within half a block there are two MECHANICS named Manuel Cordera and Augustín Abaroa, both with good MACHINE SHOPS. Also within half a block, you will find one brand new YACHT CLUB, the only one between San Diego and Acapulco. Some of the club facilities are still being built, but when finished they will have a pier with two fathoms of water at the head, GAS, DIESEL, SHOWER, beer, liquor, PURE ICE, PURE WATER and a French-Mexican restaurant open 7 a.m. till after midnight.
Incidentally, you can take on bulk diesel fuel in Manzanillo from the Pemex pier at the right-hand extremity of the concrete bulkhead.
In Manzanillo, the smart thing to do is leave the arrangements to a CUSTOMS BROKER, either Careaga Hitos or Agendas Marítimas del Pacífico. Therefore, turn your affairs over to one of them, first moving the boat over to the concrete bulkhead to make his loading problems easier. Then do one of two things. Either take a taxi out to the Playa de Santiago, where you check into the Hotel Playa de Santiago (attractive cottages for $6.50 to $12 American plan) or the Hotel Santa Anita (all rooms 55 pesos with meals). Then go lie on the beach for a couple of days. Or, since you have been sailing for a good month now, try something different. Get on a bus or a rattling old steam train 50 miles inland to Colima, and take a pack trip up the twin volcanoes of Colima. Some say you can rent a car in Manzanillo, but this is a question of finding the car and bargaining. The twin volcanoes rise from the low farmland to a height of 12,700 and 14,000 feet. Around their base the foliage thickens into jungle that is filled with wild orchids, and the view from the top is everything you would expect from the tallest mountains within at least 100 miles.
The next stop after Manzanillo, if you are in a hurry, is Ixtapa, also called Isla Grande. The distance is 180 miles, so start in the early morning, sail all day, all night and all day again. Then anchor about 120 yards off the biggest of its beaches, facing the line of palm trees along the mainland.
There will probably be a couple of natives with dugout canoes on the beach. Go through the arm-waving bit again, saying "langosta" from time to time. Also say "percebe," the latter being an evil-looking mollusk with wavy fingers and scaly tips like a dragon's hand. Boiled, they make excellent hors d'oeuvres; but eat them as soon as they have cooled off. An old percebe is about as nourishing as a toadstool.
Next morning, flop over the side for some skin-diving or just middle-aged swimming off the beach, stuff yourself with lobster, enjoy the sunset and leave the following day for Zihuatanejo, the last stop before Acapulco.
Now, if you were not in a hurry to come down from Manzanillo, the best thing would have been to stop at Black Head and Buffadero (see charts), thus breaking the trip into three jumps of about 60 miles each. This is a much pleasanter way to do it.
Ten miles below Ixtapa is Zihuatanejo, with probably the most pleasant PORT CAPTAIN along the entire route. His name, appropriately, is Jorge Gusto, and he doesn't care what time of day you arrive because he considers the paperwork involved in collecting overtime definitely not worth the money. Therefore, go ashore any time within reason and send a TELEGRAM to Acapulco confirming your hotel reservations. Go to the hotel Casa Eugenia over to the left along the beach for a shower, a meal and any DRY GROCERIES that may be running short. If you need ICE or PURE WATER, ask one of the dugout canoe boys who ferried you ashore to pick it up. Eat another lobster if you can never get enough, and then leave about dusk for the final 104 miles to Acapulco.
The trip is over. Enter Acapulco harbor through Boca Chica and keep making a gradual left until you see an outsized brown-thatched building with a lot of handsome boats tethered to a pier out front. This is the Acapulco Yacht Club. If there is room, come in and tie up at the end of the pier (three fathoms), where you can take on fresh water and plug into 110-and 220-volt electricity outlets. If there isn't any room, find a hole among the moorings and drop anchor.
The club extends full privileges—shower, soda fountain, bar, restaurant (three meals in January, February and March, snacks all year), TELEPHONE, TELEGRAMS sent and delivered, MAIL SERVICE, LAUNDRY, ICE, NEWSPAPERS, and GAS and DIESEL in drum quantities loaded at the pierhead. Next door to the club there is a MARINE RAILWAY that can handle anything up to 100 feet, and a fair bunch of MECHANICS.
There is no sense wasting time with boating chores in a place like Acapulco, particularly if you face the mountainous problem of refitting for the trip back to San Diego. Therefore, go to Agendas Marítimas del Pacífico, the best CUSTOMS BROKER in town, and let him handle it all. Then go to the El Mirador, the best expensive HOTEL in town (180 to 500 pesos, American plan), or to either the Las Palmas ($5, American plan and only a five-minute walk from the club) or the Riviera ($8 to $12 and only three minutes from the club) for pleasant budget accommodations.
Get rid of your luggage as quickly as possible and head out on the town. If you want some snappy, subtropical clothes to live it up in, try Peggy Pena or the Quebrada Shop (both for women) or Jaime's (for men). Water skiing is excellent in the harbor near the yacht club. If you're still feeling athletic, hire a sailfishing charterboat ($27 to $48) at the docks halfway between the yacht club and town. If this still isn't enough exercise, take a taxi to Caleta Beach, then a two-peso outboard taxi to the little island just offshore. There, go spearfishing, and ask the chef at the restaurant on the beach to cook whatever you spear.
Consider, now, the fact that you have been leading a pretty vigorous life for the past seven weeks, and sunbathe, swim or just watch (see next four pages) on one of the 26 beaches around town. When the sun starts to go down, move over to the La Perla cocktail patio at El Mirador, drink slowly and wait for the cliff-divers (SI, Dec. 12, 1955). Then order some dinner and dance on the little patio cantilevered out over the cliffs. And much later, if the party is still going on, try to get everybody to go dancing barefoot on the beach at the Kalua Club. If nobody feels like it, go home and go to bed. There will be another party somewhere the next night—and just over the mountains is Mexico City with the highest night life (7,400 feet) on the continent, and the brave bulls as well.
Sand and Coral Beach
Anchor Bow and Stern
7 Fathoms Sand
GULF OF CALIFORNIA
NORTHEN APPROACHES TO MEXICAN CRUISING GROUND
Major seaport, all marine supplies and facilites, U.S. Port of Embarkation
Fast Boat Alternate
Stop for Slow Boat
Stop for Fast Boat
Port of entry, good Anchorage, gas, diesel, excellent lobsters at Todos Santos
San Martin I. Hassler's Cove
Cabo San Quintin
Sacramento Reef: 2 miles in diameter, sunken and exposed roak, unmarked
Punta San Carlos
Cedros I: small village, cannery, good water, lobsters, diesel, sometimes gas
Bad currents, submerged roak
Big protected anchorage, diesel, gas, good water fish cannery
village, good anchorage
bad reefs 3 to 4 miles offshore, lighthouse 5 miles inland
Bahia de Ballenas
good anchorage sand bottom
Port of entry, village, anchorage 30 miles across
Cabo San Lazaro
Bahia de la Magdalena
Port of entry, good water, gas, diesel, marine supplies
Bahia de Los Muertos
Port of entry, fish cannery, anchorage bad in southerly winds, shallow sand spit west of San Lucas, shelving water
Cabo San Lucas
WHAT TO TAKE ON A MEXICAN CRUISE
FOR THE MEN
2 pairs Top-Siders
1 pair loafers
2 pairs wool socks
2 pairs short shorts
1 pair Bermuda shorts
1 pair khaki work pants
1 pair clean khakis
3 pairs underpants
4 T shirts
2 polo or sport shirts
1 light (cotton) sweater
1 heavy wool sweater
1 set foul-weather gear
2 bandannas (holding shells, sun protection, etc.)
2 peaked caps
2 pairs Polaroid glasses
1 belt holder for glasses Extra spectacles if you wear them
1 pair pajamas (mostly for day wear)
1 nylon rope belt (for skin-diving)
1 cork-handled sheath knife
1 pair high-topped hiking boots
1 tough, long-sleeved shirt
2 pairs swim trunks
1 sea bag
1 toilet kit
FOR THE WOMEN
1 pair Top-Siders
1 pair loafers
1 pair sandals (no heels)
3 pairs light wool socks
2 pairs short shorts
1 pair Bermuda shorts
2 pairs slacks (one cotton, one wool)
2 cotton skirts
3 cotton shirtwaists
1 light sweater
1 medium wool sweater
1 sweat shirt
1 beach jacket Underwear of choice
2 pairs cotton pajamas
1 peaked cap
2 pairs Polaroid glasses
2 sticks lipstick, if fussy
Barest minimum jewelry, perfume
2 bathing suits
1 bathing cap
1 set foul-weather gear (light and cool)
1 small sea bag
1 small vanity case
FOR THE BOAT
Skin-diving gear for all hands
2 trolling rods, 1 spinning rod
2 shotguns (shot sizes 7½, 2, 4, buck)
1 .22 pistol or rifle
Demijohns for drinking water
Sleeping bags, air mattresses for all hands
Lubricating oil for one engine change
Two weeks' gas for the outboard
Extra shackles, blocks, line, marlin
1 200-yard-minimum beam light
4 (minimum) waterproof flashlights
Spare fuses, bulbs, for boat lights
1 cockpit awning
10 days' supply whisky, cigarets, film, etc.
Chlorine tablets for boat water
2 dozen plastic bags for pistol, reels, etc.
1 lobster hook (size 7/0 or 9/0 fishhook lashed to broom handle)
Supply suntan lotion
1 small hand pump for air mats
U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office Charts
Nos.: 1006, 5195, 1149, 1193, 1192, 1310, 1204, 1268, 1294, 1493, 0621, 1667, 2103, 2193, 1024, 1664, 0620, 0850, 0849, 0640, 0619, 0622, 0938, 0933, 0915, 0872
1 copy Sailing Directions for the West Coasts of Mexico and Central America, Ninth Edition 1951, H.O. Pub. No. 84, including Corrections 1, 2 and 3