Monday, March 14, 2016

Mazatlan to Topolobampo 2-29-16

Weather was good for our trip north with Salacia for the next few days.  Both crews were up and ready to go at 7AM for 27 hour journey.  Neil (Salacia) had started his engine and I was about to unplug WORKNOT shore power when he noticed lower than expected voltage on his main house battery set.  A few minutes of quick trouble shooting did not reveal anything so we scrubbed the trip and started to diagnose in earnest.   House voltage was only low about half a volt but we all get a feel for our boats idiosyncrasies.

Multiple 8D (150# each) batteries are common on cruising boats to provide 120V house power without running a generator via an inverter.   Most are sized to support the vessel on anchor with only a few hours of generator time each day.  This means lots of high current connections.  After a good cleaning of a dozen or more connections the voltage stabilized as expected.  It was now near lunch time and too late to leave and reach Topolobampo (TOPO) in daylight the next day. 

They say a schedule is the most dangerous thing on-board and we are blessed not have one.  Delaying a day vs. arriving in a “new to us”  anchorage at dark was an easy decision.
Both boats left on time the next day for Topo.  Although the harbor had been closed twice while we were in Mazatlan due to high surf our departure was easy.  The dredge we dodged on the way in was not working as we left and the depth in the channel was much deeper the entire way out.  (never lesss than 14’)
Salacia leads the way out to sea

Seas were very calm and winds were less than 15 kts almost the entire trip.  We even had a little bit of fog.  Fished the entire way but no joy. 

Topo is a large deep water port chosen by us because its the closet port to the Copper Canyon.  A passenger train runs from Los Mochis (20 miles inland from Topo) to Chihuahua. This takes it to the heart of the Copper Canyon, said to be larger and deeper than the US Grand Canyon.

On WORKNOT we have charts derived from multiple sources.  The expectation is no matter what the source the charts will have the same data.   Garmin, Chartworld and Navionics charts all showed different locations for the buoys at Topo.  Neil has C-Map charts and they were slightly different as well   One of my charts showed an entrance channel that has been abandoned and replaced by a deep water channel that crosses an area shown as only 8’ on the current chart.  To help sort this out the marina sent us an email with the latest chart information.  Another reason not to enter a strange harbor in the dark.

The correct chart information from Garmin-
Two additional charts views with out of date information on the entrance-

Entering Topo was actually easy.  Proceeding to the offshore safe water buoy a well marked entrance channel was clearly visible on radar  and at least one chart set.  The entrance is used by freighters and ferry boats.  Over 10 miles long the entrance had breaking waves on both sides reminiscent  of the bars along the west coast of Oregon. 
Just before the harbor is a very private yacht club with a dozen or more nice yachts, a pool and lush grounds.  We inquired and were quickly sent to the commercial marina and told there were no visitors allowed at the yacht club-ever. 

Very Private Yacht Club

A large collection of fishing boats also line the inner harbor. 

The dock at Topo is owned by the same folks who own Marina Palmyria in La Paz.  Small with about 25-30 slips we were the only visiting boats in the harbor.  Docks were clean, in good condition and inexpensive.  Very little English spoken by the marina staff or anyone in Topo.  Omar, security guy for the marina, was extremely helpful and well versed in Google Translate.  He made our stay easy helping get laundry service, cabs and directions to the limited amenities in Topo. 


Sunset at Topo-

We found a friendly restaurant near the harbor and enjoyed several simple but good meals there for very few pesos.   Run by 4 women, lunch was whatever was on the stove that day.  Generally the town is poor and it shows.  Hard working people making  way in a tough agricultural economy.  

The malecon is about a mile long and was all but deserted.  Millions of $ spent there to make it impressive but looks like the development just quit. 

Dozens of exercise machines idle along the malecon.01cd8b44049cdad03b614127bc0008263259f92b34

Topo is near Los Mochis, a town of nearly 300,000 people complete with Starbucks and the regular big city amenities.  Took the local bus there for $17 pesos (just under $1 US).  Lots of buildings and other construction activity in the city.  It’s surrounded by massive agricultural areas and serves as a major hub for the area. 
01a3ca2041665d041eed84841cebed625f81e8d43f The driver spoke no english but figured we were “yatistas” and diverted the bus to take us right to the harbor entrance.
Snug in the harbor we left for the Copper Canyon with Keela in the care of Salacia….