Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

Transition to the tropics

As we were pulling in to Ensenada de Matanchen bay, some 125 miles south of Mazatlan, the heavy smell of dusk in the tropics reached out over the purple water. It was too late to go ashore that night, but I imagined that the twinkling palapa restaurants along the beach were wrapping themselves in the savory smoke of dried coconut husks to ward off twilight insects. The bay was calm and warm—only a few fathoms deep out several miles—and we slept as though drugged in its still, 12-foot waters, nestled beneath the soft mountain ridges.

Was it only just over a week ago that we were surrounded by the piercing blue water and chalky landscape of Baja? We’ve had a gentle ride into an entirely different world since then. Warm breaths of air pushed us across the Sea of Cortez in the middle of the night to Mazatlan, where we were received with orange and blue butterflies 10 miles offshore and iridescent feathers floating by in the blood-red water. Staying at the marina in Mazatlan was like drinking a liqueur of luxury after having lived in the Baja dust and Pacific salt for so long—we spent days laying in the resort’s cobalt blue pool, watching the frigate birds and gulls hang like a slow gyrating mobile in the sky, sipping cool drinks from the springlike hottub, exploring the labyrinth of waterfalls and greeting occasional lime green iguana in Marina El Cid’s pools.

Mazatlan hit me with a pastiche of color. Whereas Cabo had been bright with artificiality, the mainland’s hues were ingrained and unstoppable. Rich, palm-fringed coastline dotted with moody looking islands, bursting tropical flowers, large and chatty birds, and a city drenched in the movement of daily life. We took the bus for $9 pesos in to Old Town to re-provision at the enormous two-story central market, and here the rainbow was intensified and laid out on wooden shelves for easy sampling with the sweep of an eye. We filled our bags with pineapple, mango, avocados, tomatoes coconut granola, and carrots so big that one of them could constitute a meal. We sampled all the queso frescos and settled on a variety of three. We bought plenty of fresh flaky tortillas, a bunch of fragrant cilantro, and a stack of little limes. We were transported home by way of a fringe-topped golf cart with no doors—and after spending a good month moving at no faster than 5mph, it was an exhilarating joyride at 35mph to say the least.

At 9:30 am it was steamy enough in Matanchen Bay yesterday that I asked Prescott if it was too early for a Pacifico from the fridge. He said yes, it probably was. So instead we put up all the canvas and awnings, making a shady paradise out of our cockpit, and spent the rest of the morning reading. Later, we surfed the dinghy to shore to sample the cervezas the civilized way (in hammock-hung palapas on the beach), making a detour first to the tiny town of San Blas. We accomplished next to nothing in town, since there was next to nothing to do, except have cold “real cane sugar” Cokes from glass bottles in the square. Then, we had a mouthwatering meal of marlin and chicken tacos for under $10 total.

I feel that we owe the world a complete album of photographs from this leg of the trip, because all we do all day is sense things—the changing colorful climate is endlessly captivating. But for now, all I can do is upload a couple due to the internet connection here, which is undeniably slow. Because that’s the way the tropics wants things to be.



  Jacqueline Newbold wrote @

Sounds wonderful! What beautiful, colorful photos too. Mark Dec. 21st on your calendar because not only is it the shortest day of the year, but there will be a full lunar eclipse! Maybe you will see it!

  ogm wrote @

Makes LA sound further and further away! Enjoy!

  Sara wrote @

Meghan, I love Mexico for all of the vibrance of life and culture. Hope that you and Prescott can make it inland to see some of the ruins and history of the place as well.

ps don’t forget to wear sunscreen! As I think of Mexico, I can’t help remembering my severe sunburn and heat stroke too.


  Brook wrote @

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness….am I too going to live in paradise for a week? It would be paradise just to be with my loved ones, but what you describe seems almost unimaginable after months of gray skies and cold. Soon, very soon….

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