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Altata - Sail boat Stories by Lynn & Don Campbell

Electronic charts of Altata
It would appear from this photo of our electronics charts that we were anchored on land, however the waypoints we were given by previous cruisers were very accurate, and we never even touched bottom.
We sailed (and/or motor-sailed) non-stop for two days and two nights and were thinking about trying to go another day and night to reach Mazatlan.
However, as we approached the entrance to Altata, the seas were calm, the moon was bright, it seemed like a logical option to pull in and do a little sightseeing in the morning, after a good nights sleep.

Altata is a quaint little beach town about 15 miles up an estuary and at one time had been a thriving port right next to the rail station.

We crossed the bar, turned the corner, and when the depth sounder read 8.8ft, we decided it was time to drop anchor and call it a night. We would be at a high tide in the morning so it would be much easier to navigate the very shallow channel.

We awoke the next morning to a spectacular sight, a sea full of small fishing boats [Photo Album below], flying the most beautiful colored sails. They were shrimp fishermen who would drop their nets off one side of the skiff, and the huge drifter sails would slowly drag them along sideways. It was quite a sight to behold.

We made our way up the channel and anchored in front of La Perla Restaurant. We dingyed over to the edge of town with our paperwork in hand to check in with the Port Captain.

La Perla restaurant
After we checked in with the Port Captain, we stopped here for lunch.  Before we even had our drinks served to us, Gustavo, the owner, brought his lunch over and joined us. He brought with him a huge photo album with pictures and notes from the cruisers who have visited his restaurant since 2000.
We're not quite sure why there is still a port captain there as the channel is now far to shallow for any large boats to enter. The Port Captain was more than happy to have us visiting, told us we could stay as long as we liked ... forever even!

He was not at all interested in our "official documents", however he was very curious to know how we got into the channel, and asked if he could send someone out to our boat to get a copy of the waypoints we had used.

Time to say goodbye to the peace and tranquility here, it was kind of like being anchored in a lake, and now we must make our way back out of the channel.

First we weaved our way through the fishermen, waving goodbye as we went, then we were treated to an awesome visit by a couple of huge dolphins, (bottlenose, I think) [See Photo Album below]. Very curious creatures, swam right beside the cockpit, so close that I could see the many scars on their dorsal fins.

Unfortunately, because the channel is so narrow, and the wind was picking up considerably as we approached the mouth, we couldn't focus all our attention on them, however, I did manage to get the camera out and caught a glimpse of them on film.

Gustavo and daughter
Although Gustavo speaks no english, he told us all about his family, (one of his daughters here with us) and gave us a video to watch of his grand daughters singing and dancing at the restaurant. He was very pleased that we were able to make him an extra copy of his video.
Altata bus
We really enjoyed the tranquility of this little place and decided to stay for a couple of days. We took a bus into the neighbouring city of Culiacan. It seemed very strange to us to hail a huge big Mercedes Benz bus as it was barrelling down the sand main street of Altata blasting it's horn to announce it's arrival.
Crossing back across the bar here is not something that I particularly care to repeat. Because of the direction of the wind, the sails couldn't help us get up any speed to get thru the waves and the swells, which were probably only about 6 ft or so, but seemed much bigger to us as we were surfing over them, knowing that the water depth was down to about 12 ft.

That said, the captain kept his cool (which is more than I can say for the 1st mate, I just wanted to close my eyes until we were out) and saw us safely out into the blue and once again on our way to Mazatlan.

Lynn sewing bug screens
 Lynn sewing bug screens
The rest of the trip was rather uneventful, (the way I like it), in fact it was so calm, even under full sail, that I was able to get the sewing machine out and start making the bug screens for the hatches.

We arrived in Mazatlan early in the morning, but before going into the Marina, we anchored out at a close by island. Don wanted to get into the water and check the repair job that he had done on the keel in San Carlos, and the water in the marina tends to get rather unappealing.

All was well, we listened to the local morning cruisers net then headed into the marina. As we approached the dock, I realized I was really out of practice. I got the dock lines all ready, on both sides since we were not sure which side we would need, but I forgot to put out any fenders. Don got his practice backing up in tight spaces while I got fenders out. Thank goodness for Auto Prop.

We have been here over three weeks now, the weather has been quite pleasant, we have re-acquainted ourselves with friends from last season, met many new cruisers and have been keeping ourselves busy. Looks like we might call this home until after Christmas.

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