Cruising to Altata, Sinaloa, Mexico

Word is, the breakwater at the entrance to Altata can be hard to navigate.

Turns out, it’s true.

As cruisers will read in “the blue books” (also known as the sailing bibles written by Shawn & Heather and another by Rains), the channel is very shallow and can be tricky if you can’t spot the markers ahead of time.

We almost ran aground because of this. 

Running aground is such an odd feeling.

As the keel slips into the muddy seafloor, the boat lurches forward in slow motion, similar to the tension of stretching a rubber band, before gently springing back again.

Luckily, we didn’t get stuck this time. But it was close.

As we passed the breakwater, a pod of dolphins followed along, acting as a welcoming committee. Friendly fishermen waved and directed us toward the middle of the channel.

We later found out if you really need help, you can hail the port captain after 10 am and someone will tow you in.

On the hook: A downtown view from a portlight in the v-berth.

Word on the Street

Altata is quiet during the week yet the “malecon” or boardwalk hosts events 52 weekends of the year. (Yep, every weekend!) Some weekends are more rowdy than others.

Just ask Charlie. The owner of, “Mi Charlie,” a restaurant on the main strip near the Altata sign. His hospitality is never-ending and he speaks wonderful English. Literally anything you want or need can be solved within a 15-second conversation with this man. 

Mi Charlie Restaurant on the malecon. Here’s the owner, Charlie giving Chris the rundown on anything and everything. We’ve declared him the unofficial mayor of Altata. Need anything? Go ask Charlie!

The food at his restaurant is fresh and made to order. Even the corn tortillas.

The boiled broccoli and carrots were a treat as they were the only veggies we’ve had since leaving San Carlos two weeks prior – such is a life of a cruising couple without refrigeration!

Garlic-y mashed potatoes, grilled black marlin, tomato-based rice and, steamed carrots and broccoli at Mi Charlie’s. This meal cost around five bucks.

A few days later, Charlie gave us a tour of the north end of town. We passed many huge homes built on the edge of the sea with no occupants and wondered what was up.

Of course, Charlie gave us the breakdown…

He said that a hurricane hit the town four years ago (I believe it was Hurrican Sandra).

Before the storm, owners would only visit a few times a year. But afterward, the homes were left to rot.

“For Sale” signs showing two-bedroom townhomes lined the dirt road. Gated communities throughout the area had only a handful of people living in them or none at all. Charlie said home prices range from $70,000 – $105,000 U.S. and the properties include access to beautiful community pools and outdoor showers at each home. Each place has views of the ocean – even those furthest from shore by way of roof-top decks.

So, there’s that.

Slightly north of downtown Altata, Charlie showing Chris the damage from 2015’s Hurricane Sandra.

The Gringo Experience

Altata loves Gringos. Especially Gringos who sail. 

Rumor has it, we were only the third sailboat to come into port this year.

Which was evident when we became part of the local tours.

Tour boats full of people would creep near us to let customers peak in. So, to humor them, we’d pop on deck to smile and wave.

A little harmless fun.

Sunset over Altata. About 4 hours before the panga fishermen wanted to party.

Until one Saturday night when things got a little too friendly.

A boatload of drunk panga fishermen actually drifted into our boat, nudging us awake at 10pm.

But they didn’t mean harm. They just wanted to party.

“Tecate! Tecate!” they shouted in drunkin’ Spanish. 

But once they understood we were boring Gringos, they waved to us with apologetic slurs and drifted into the night.

(By the way, the term “molestar” means, “to bother” in Spanish. And to that word shouting from a panga outside your boat at 10 pm can be a little jarring if you know what I mean.)

I wasn’t too worried. This happened in Puerto Yavaros a few weeks prior.

Although I felt unthreatened, it didn’t stop me from laying quiet in the v-berth while figuring out an escape plan and what I could grab to kick someone’s ass if needed.

I am a woman, after all.

V.I.P. en la Marina

The next day, we decided to stay in the marina one night for a break, but mainly for the desperate need of a shower and laundry.

At that point, it had been about a week. #babywipes

A shot of Marina & Club de Yates Isla Cortés. Go the restaurant and order their bomb coffee (a cafe con leche caliente or coffee with hot milk). Bonus: the bathroom pumps loud dance music like da club. Whoop whoop!

Marina & Club de Yates Isla Cortés is SUPER nice. Probably one of the nicest we’ve visited in Mexico or America. 

I’d come back just for the coffee. 

A medium roast blend with a serving of steamed milk reminded me of a creamy delicious cup from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.

View from the marina. This was the moment we decided to return to here before crossing the Sea of Cortez to La Paz. The smaller mast on the left is our boat, Astrologer.

We took in beautiful marsh views while savoring scrambled eggs and Camarones Rancheros – a dish of sautéed shrimp with onions, peppers, salt, and fresh tomato gravy.

Raul, who manages the place, speaks perfect English and is super helpful just like Charlie. He was thrilled to have another boat in the marina and even offered to drive Chris to town for last minute supplies, which we happily accepted.

The bathroom was another experience.

Speakers pumped Spanish Top-40 dance music with bass and treble equal to any club and the large mirror was perfect to practice some moves.

Other Marina bonuses: Laundry is free, the showers are free (and pretty clean), and the water is free and potable on the dock. And the best part? Our 34’ boat cost $18 a night for a slip – including shore power. #winning

Leaving the marina the next day, we cruised past traditional Altata panga fishermen who use sails instead of motors to catch their lot.

This was the break we needed. One little pampered night before another overnighter.

Next stop: Mazatlan or Bust!

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