Prism's Blog

The Forgotten Coast: Guaymas to Mazatlan via the Mainland Side

Jan 1, 2016

Holy cow it is 2016!

Going back to last week…….

Well after weeks of hard work, we finished all the projects that needed to be done while we were on the hard. Launching the boat went with out a hiccup and we made our way back out into Guaymas Harbor. It was the perfect Christmas present for Jon and I, as we were back in the water on X-mas Eve. We anchored right out in front of the fonatur marina, screaming distance to our friends on the dock. We spend the next few days, getting Prism back to a living condition. We put all the tools away, while making a manifest as we packed in the deep storage. We sure do have A LOT of stuff on this 33 foot boat. We gave prism a much-needed bath, and were happy to see her off white color emerge out from under the brown thick dirt.

Back to the water she goes




Morning over look of Guaymas
Anchored out in front of the marina in Guaymas


The other cruisers had a X-mas eve party that we went to and  met a lot of new people. The following day Jon and I rowed over to Jess and Josh’s boat for a Christmas Feast! I made my families Spanish BBQ secret recipe, rosemary potatoes, a holiday cheese ball, fresh bread, while Jess and Josh made an AMAZING smoked chicken and a beat salad ( im sure there was more but I cant remember) We ate like kings!

Christmas night in Guaymas

We have also introduced mexican  train dominoes to our friends, now there has almost not been a night where we are not playing. SO fun!

We did our last provisioning runs, and got our boats ready to set sail. Our next destination is just over 100 nm south-east : Bahia Santa Barbara.



If you are ever in Guaymas, you HAVE to stop and see this man! BEST CHURRO’s EVER!


Jon and I brushed off the dust on our sailing capabilities as we sailed off the hook with just a slight breeze to get us out of the harbor. Jess and Josh were about an hour behind us. As we lost the protection of the mountains surrounding Guaymas we were met with the infamous Sea of Cortez “CHOP” and a nice stiff breeze. When we left the forecast was for up to 20 knts out of the north-west. Naturally we didn’t see anything like that. Nope instead we had a south-west wind, with swell coming from the south and some random mixed in there west swell. Lets just say it made for an entertaining ride.




because Jon and I had not been out for a sail in a long time and because we missed our boat so much, we took turns hand steering for the first 6 hours as we raced dolphins surfing down some of the larger swells. It was one heck of a way to test out our handy work done on the chain plates and bow sprit.

As nice as the NW winds would have been that were predicted, we were still very happy the wind was not coming out of the SE, and we really lucked out to having the wind switched kinda more west putting the wind on our beam! YES! we were averaging 6 knts, with gusts and surfing pushing us up to 8.9 knts. We had great wind through out the night, reducing sail to just a single reefed main, with the wind on our rear quarter. We could see Jess and Josh’s tri light  ( SV Oleada) behind us as we made our way out and around the shoaling shores that line this coast line.


As morning approached, the winds started to die, but the swell kept up, leaving us rocking and rolling, and giving our friends the chance to pass us in the lighter winds in their lighter boat. It wasnt long though till the wind returned and we got to raise the Jib once more and start heading into our anchorage.


Jess and Josh radioed us letting us know the anchorage is huge, calm, and perfect. Score! We pulled in after them about 45 min later and we all went down into our cabins to catch up on the sleep we missed from the night before. A few hours later, we all reemerged and laughed as we remembered it was NYE. We launched the dinghy and all made our way to the beach. Which by the way is AWESOME for finding shells! You can tell that most cruisers or anyone at all really come to this beach. As we walked the shell and trash covered beach we found a good amount of burn-able drift wood and decided to have a bonfire for NYE.


Prism and Oleada anchored in Bahia Santa Barbara


Jess and Josh from SV Oleada


Jess and I went back to the boats to get booze, food and fire starting items, while the boys prepped and made the fire ready to light.

We burned all the dry wood we could find, and all felt very tired with out even realizing what time it was, we all headed back to Prism for a game of dominoes and laughed at our selves as we were all yawning and fading quickly, thinking we must be close to midnight. Nope it was 10, and we all realized we were not going to make it for another 2 hours. What a bunch of old farts we are!

NYE bonfire


Today Jan 1st, its cold, overcast and windy out. Jon is working on some small boat projects while I am trying to get up the nerve to go out side and do some work… it’s just so cold out there today!  I thought we were in Mexico where it is warm….

The next morning, we all took our coffee cups to the beach and did a morning walk. Uli loves that beach so much. As we made our way down the beach and around the point we looked out over the shoaling shore and we’re glad we were not out there. Along the beach we found what looked like a whale head ( the bones) so we started digging. Next thing you know and about 2 hours later, we had only uncovered some of the skull. This whale was huge! We all wished we knew what kind of whale it was. I really wanted to keep going at it, but soon our empty bellies told us it was time to go back. We were glad we went back when we did because the rising tide was making its way up to our dinghies.

It’s a WHALE


Jon, building a shelf in the ice box

We spent the next day and half, doing little projects and getting the boat ready to set sail again. Jon and I sailed off the hook on Saturday as the sun was going down. We waved good buy to our friends, who would also be leaving but later that night. ( they have a faster boat).

The wind and waves were both off our beam, as we made our way to Topolabampo. The wind and waves stayed with us all night, keeping our average speed in the 5 knot range. We made it to the first channel markers by mid morning. I kept a white knuckled grip on the wheel as we made our way through the channels with the breakers all around us.


As we passed through the long channel we took a breath of air as we came into the inner harbor. Following the buoys to the secondary channel. There is not a lot of information about the anchorages we are going to, as 95% or more of cruisers do not sail this coast line. We only have one guide-book to help us pick out an anchorage, as all of our charts on board do not show detailed anything about theses bays.



Jon and I were slowing sailing, making our way to the Club Nautico to drop our hook out front as our boat come to a lurching stop. Yep, I Shannon was heading to what I thought was the next set of channel markers, and ran aground. Quickly we saw that to our STBD ( covered by the large jib we had out) was in fact the true next set of markers. I laughed as we turned slightly back to STBD and sailed off the wall of the channel, thanking god that the bay was all soft mud. Jon how ever did not think it was that funny, and as soon as we anchored he was in the water checking on the keel for any damage. The water was cold and brown in color, leaving Jon almost zero visibility. When he came back up after a quick look, he satiated that I was going to have to clean that spot regularly, as our fresh new bottom paint was no longer there.


We were shocked to hear Jess and Josh on the radio saying that they were just coming in through the first markers. Jon and I looked at each other with a jaw open look. Holy cow they must have flown down the coast, the caught up to us fast!  So we told them it was easy to get to the anchorage, just stay between the buoys ;).

About an hour later, SV Oleada was anchored next to us with the sun setting in front of us.

The next day we all loaded into their dinghy (AKA our old dinghy we bought in washington) and motored to the marina and the dinghy dock. We walked into town and had a look around. It was Josh’s Birthday the following day, so we looked around for a cool restaurant to have dinner there. We were hollered at from a man with his head out of the kitchen door ” IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, YOU DON’T PAY” but in spanish. Jess laughed and we went to check out the menu. Happy with what it looked like we made reservations for the following night. We set off to walk the streets of this little big town.


The little restaurant where we had Josh’s Birthday Dinner


Every local we ran into was very nice, we even stopped to buy some local curios ( I think that is becoming a tradition) They were good, but they were no Don Churro from Guaymas, We made it back to our boats as the sun was going down, and made plans to head over to the other side of town to anchor in  Bahia  Ohuira. Which is a HUGE bay with good depth.

The next morning both boats hauled up their anchors and started to make their way around into the large bay. Prism led the way, not sure why as our charts were 100% off. We were in the secondary channel making our way back out towards the main channel, when Jon said ” It looks like you can hang a left up here after this red buoy, you should have plenty of water.”

Hesitantly  I slowed down the boat, and made our left turn after the maker. 10 Seconds later, we were stopped, not going anywhere, the depth sounder still read 15 feet, but then another 10 seconds later, it said 3 feet. Yep, in less than 48 hours Prism has run around, but unlike the last time, there was no getting off this time. Ha. Luckily SV Oleada was at our rescue. I jumped into the dinghy to row out a line and we were pulled back into the channel by our beloved friends.

Shannon making her way back to the boat once we were floating again


I laughed at realizing that Jon’s definition of “Plenty of water” and mine were very different. I asked him how deep the chart said it was where we turned left, and when he said 6.5 feet, i almost fell to the ground with a huge smile on my face.  Super glad we have a stiff full keel boat, I asked him to think of “plenty of water” as at least 15 feet. Our friends told us that their charts ( a newer version of our CMaps) we very detailed and they would lead they way. We gladly followed knowing they draft more than us.

It was only a matter of time before Jon and I experienced our first grounding. These were our firsts, we hope they will be our lasts, but the truth is… it will most likely happen again. Lets just hope it is always in/on soft mud.

As we made our way into the bay we were escorted by huge bottle nose dolphins, and if you didn’t know it, dolphins make everything better. They stuck with us even after we dropped our hook. The sun was shining, the tide was going out and the wind was low, so we all launched the paddle boards and away we went. We were  on our way back to the boats, being carried by the tide and the wind that was picking up, barley having to paddle, we laughed as we though we should have brought a cooler and some drinks. It was after all Josh’s birthday.



Later, Josh came by and picked up Jon as they went out into the bay on a mini fishing trip, as Jess and I were busy on our boats making birthday cakes.

Jess and Josh picked us up that night, and we motored across the bay to med moor the dinghy to the rock wall.  We were lucky enough to land right in front of the restaurant. We enjoyed a very good  meal sitting on the back balcony overlooking the bay and our boats.

We sat there looking at our 2 matching very bright LED anchor lights in the distance, saying “it doesn’t get much better than this!”


I was under the impression we were going to stay in Topolabampo for another few days, as I wanted to go to the store to pick up some fresh veggies… That is not how it happened.  We spend a day doing almost nothing, and it was wonderful, I was getting ready to head to town the following day. That was till Jon came back after a quick visit with Jess and Josh. We were setting sail the next morning. We had a 2 day weather window before they next set of northerlies started to blow, along with it a cold front.

Ok, well that changes things. We brought over some food and made dinner aboard Oleada, going over the entrance to get to Altata. Once again referring to the only guide that has anything about this coast, we read that if you time the entrance wrong you can be fighting a nasty tide , and at times 15 foot standing waves. Yikes.


The whole reason we went non stop down the west coast from Washington to San Fran was because I did not want to go over any bars. And yet here we are, anchored in Topolabampo, a bay that we had to go over a bar to get into. We all thought about it long and hard, and decides that it would take about 20 hours to get to the entrance, and we needed to get there at high slack. The forecast sounded good to help us in and over the bar s well. We read that if there is south swell or wind, it can make for a nasty ride and should not be attempted. We all agreed that if it did no look favorable then we would simply proceed on and make way for Mazatlan.

We returned back to Prism to ready her for the 120nm sail, and prayed the weather would stay as it was forecasted.

The next morning we were anchors up and making our way out of the bay and inner harbor by 8 am, once again being escorted by dolphins. As we made it back out to the outer sea buoy, telling us it was now safe to turn south and avoid the shoals, we were happy as we looked back and made it out of the channel before we had to share it with a large tanker.

SV Oleada
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Sailing wing on wing with Oleada leading the way

It was smooth wing on wing sailing as we made our way down the coast, it wasn’t long till Sv Oleada pulled away in the lighter air and left us about a mile in the dust. The wind and waves were cooperating so well in fact, that we were making too good of time. Normally that is not a problem, however it would put us at the entrance at max flood and before day light. We reduced sail to just the main, still making about 5 knots. The sunset was one to remember, turning the whole sky a deep red.  Soon after the sun was gone we were shocked to see how man fishing boats were lined up on the horizon coming our way with their bright lights and large nets in tow behind them. At one point we had over 18 boats all around us. I am not quite sure why it always happens this way, but it seems like the fisherman just love to get nice and close making us sailors just a little uncomfortable, and just when we are about to change our corse, they give way and go on about their business. Yes this happens more than you would want.


As the night progressed the winds died and so did the swell, now making us “late”, so on went the diesel.. We had to make our waypoint by 5 am or we would have to wait for the next tide or just skip Altata all together.

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The midnight shift went quick for me, we had passed the line of fishing boats. And the only thing in front of us was Sv Oleada’s white light from their tri mast light. I let Jon sleep a little longer and I was in deep into a book I was reading. Around 4 am I woke Jon for his shift. He said his shift was not has calm as mine, as he encountered a new line of fishing boats, but this time they did not give way making Jon really work during his shift. He must have jibed back and forth dodging the large boats and their nets at least 4 times.

That is a very bright star, and anyone who knows why or what it was.. please let us know


You can imagine that by the time I was up again just at sun rise, he was a bit flustered and we were just reaching the sea buoy that marked the entrance to the long-awaited bar. Jess and Josh were about a mile a head of us, and told us the channel was simple and the breakers to the port looked uninviting, but it was transverse-able.

Of corse as we turned into the channel the wind picked up right from the direction we needed Togo, and with not enough room to tack back and forth, we had to motor, hoping that the wind chop would not grow as Prism can. It motor into heavy winds with heavy chop.

Lucky for us, and once again another white knuckled entrance, we were in. Of corse once we were past the hard part, the wind calmed and became a slight breeze on our beam to push us back up the 15 miles to the anchorage and town.

Thank goodness for Jess and Josh and their new charts, that had a detailed survey for this bay, they led the way through the shallows in the non marked channel, till once again we found deeper water and channel markers.

We dropped the hook right in front of town, and were welcomed will what felt like open arms. Jess told us that everyone she talked to so far was over joyed by the fact we decided to come here.

We later found out that only 2 to 3 sail boats come here a year. I understand why, the bar is less than ideal and scares most people away, but the little town totally makes up for it. Once we anchored we watched as the local shrimp fisherman started at the top of the bay, casts their nets, then raised their little spinnaker and slowly drifted backwards dragging their nets. Every ponga had a different color and design spinnaker, it was so beautiful to see all the sails coming our way.

We went to shore, stopping by the port captains office to see if we needed to check in, they looked at us with a confused look on their faces and said ” nope your good”. Ok… On we went, walking up and down the brand new malecon. We could tell that this place was going to get busy during the weekend. It was Friday afternoon and we stopped by Mi Charlie’s restaurant to have a late lunch.

Charlie told us that people start to show up for the weekends around 4-5 pm on Friday, and the streets here are kind of like New Orleans. People get to walk the malecon with their beers, listening to music and choosing where they want to eat, staying up late into the night. Charlie also told us that there is no internet in Altata, only cell service. So once again we are waiting to upload our videos and new blogs.




After hearing Charlie saying it was going to be a loud night, we looked at our boats, anchored nicely about 100-200 ish feet off the malecon. We all decided to move over to the other side of the bay, in hopes of a quiets nights sleep.

The move to the other side paid off nicely, as we did not hear any of the loud parting from the other side. Both Oleada and us did not do much on Saturday, I think we were all still a little tired from the bar entrance. ( I mean we really worked our selves up over that). Jon did little projects here and there on prism, and I rested and read, all together it was a very relaxing day. Not to mention the northerly that we pulled in here for caught up with us, and it’s kinda gusty out.

Yesterday (Sunday) we made our way to the small beach/ mangroves, our mission to walk through the marsh to view the other side. We were first met with 35373836 mosquitos, so we slathered our bodies with deet, put our shoes on and started to bush whack our way through. Lets just say we got about 100yards in before we had to turn around. The mosquitos got thicker, and the sand-burrs got the best of not only us humans, but poor Uli could not even walk anymore. We would have to stop about every 10 feet to pick the sharp balls of death out of his paws. Once we were back at the beach we, Josh did a quick search on the map and saw that about a mile up there was a clear path/ road to the other side.

We went back to our boats, Jon got right on making our “new to Prism” but old outboard running ( just needed new gas and a little love). We thought about motoring up to the marina, and go out to eat, but we made a pit stop at the beach for Uli. As we walked the sandy and mud beach we started to notice all the calms! So many clams!  Once we decided that the wind was a little to strong, and the marina a little far for our little dinghys, we started making our way inland toward the road Josh saw earlier.

It seemed like a good long walk to the other side, as we made out way on the road that at times was under knee-deep of brackish water.  We tried to walk though it with our sandals on, but found our feet were sticking into the soft mud, or we were slipping. Jess made it without taking her shoes off, Ike the rest if us braved our bare toes against the slime and the crabs hiding in the water.


Once we saw what looked like the main road, it seemed like it was only minutes before we were on the beach. Uli ran with joy as he sprinted across the soft sand, while we were in aw about the  houses on the beach. Some so close that they have added rock break walls in front to help stop the erosion, others were not so lucky.  We came across a house that looks like the sand just washed out from under it, before it was even finished. Crazy.

We made it to the beach that guards the little town of Altata
The main road leading out to the beach
Yikes, the house didn’t make it.


Today, Monday January 11th, has been another relaxing day. The wind is blowing good, making our boat dance on her anchor. Last night we feasted on fresh clams, bread and home-made soup, and played more dominoes. We were going to go out fishing today, a local has offered to take us on a trip to watch as they fish for the jumbo shrimp with the brightly colored spinnakers. It looks like that will have to wait for another day, as the wind is simply to strong to be fishing in.

We are going to be here for another 3 or more days as we wait for the winds to die down. Tomorrow I think we are going to anchor in a different place and do some more exploring.

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Wed. January 13. Nope we didn’t move, but we did go out shrimp fishing with Alfonzo. We spent 2 hours listening and learning about his life, and how to fish for shrimp. We had a great time and bought the 30 shrimp we caught in the 2 passes we did with him. What an incredible experience.






Most cruisers bypass this amazing friendly town, thinking its to hard to get into. We fund the entrance very simple, we will see how our exit goes tomorrow, but I would come back here 100% if we ever sail this coast again.

Tomorrow we are heading for Mazatlán! It will be yet another over night passage, but it sounds like the weather will be good for the passage. So hopefully we will get to upload this blog and some new videos in the next few days!!

The exit from Altata was a breeze, we timed high slack perfectly and made it out with no problems. Our Sail down to Mazatlan was a simple one, we had some wind to push us along, that was till we were about 20 miles away and the wind died. We motored sail the last 5 hours and anchored behind Isla Venados.  This morning we came into Marine El Cid Resort to get a much needed slip and use their internet.



The entrance though the breakwater was, yet again another blood rushing event. The swell picked up this morning, so we timed the swell and almost surfed our way in. Jess and Josh said that we disappeared a few times as the swell engulfed us. Bah! The tight entrance and shallow/ narrow channel were just toppers on top as we made our way to the fuel dock.  I really did not need the coffee this morning and the adrenalin was pumping through me as we filled out the forms for the marina.

Josh came over after we got out slips and we all headed up for the Sunday Brunch. We spoiled our selves. So now that we have a buzz, and ample fresh water it is time to get to work on SV PRISM.

We will be in Mazatlan for about a week, maybe more? And we are using the internet to our full advantage!


Sunday Brunch at Marina El Cid Resort
Sunday Brunch at Marina El Cid Resort
Starting to look like the tropics!!
abandoned beach resort


Cheers everyone , and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Be sure to check out  Sailing for Climate to see what SV Oleada is up to!

2 thoughts on “The Forgotten Coast: Guaymas to Mazatlan via the Mainland Side

  1. Regarding the bright celestial object you asked about, it is likely one of the five planets visible to the naked eye in Jan 2015.

    I cant tell what time of night, and what direction you are looking at from the picture, but my guess from the relative brightness that the object in question is Jupiter.

    More on the 5 planets visible in January 2016 here:


    PS, I think we have some friends in common from the Cambria, CA area.

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