San Carlos on the mainland in the State of Sonora is a major mecca for cruisers wishing to leave their boats for the heat and hurricane risk of Mexico’s high summer. There are two marinas, two boatyards, and a nearly encapsulated anchorage, as well as a service that will truck your boat back to the States if you don’t choose to go by sea! This plus the fact that it is HOT was all we knew about San Carlos prior to our going there.
What nobody mentioned is that is beautiful! From fifteen miles out we could see the signature twin peaks of Cerro Tetakawi, often familiarly referred to as Goat-Teat Mountain, which is a pretty evocative name. A range of mountains, what I guess to be a spur of coastal foothills for the Sierra Madre Occidental, thrusts to the coast here, making for a steeply dramatic shoreline. None of my resources tell me for sure the height or name of these mountains, but Wow! Since we had somehow imagined the area to be more of the flat coastal plain we’d seen from Mazatlán to Los Mochis, the contrast was especially marked.
Lisa of Lady Galadriel managed to get reservations for Lady Galadriel, Ryokasha, and T2 (henceforth known as the Three Amigos) at Marina Real. There was a little last minute suspense about Tackless because another cruiser had told the office we were a 50’ boat! Slips, indeed even spaces in the yards, have been at a premium this summer with so many cruising boats in Mexico, and, since the marina builders didn’t anticipate the steady increase in size of the modern cruising yacht, slips for larger boats are all but impossible to come by. Fortunately, although we are a big 41 (the CSY44 is actually documented as 41 feet!), we are NOT a 50’ boat, and Marina Real did have a space for us after all, shoehorned in next to a Nordhavn 46 (Nordhavns are top-of-the-line power boats built like little ships.) Now that’s a big 47-foot boat!
By sea, Marina Real – on the west side of Goat Teat Mountain – is a long six miles around from the San Carlos harbor. By road, it is still several miles away, which, since there is no bus that runs, is a bit of a problem for those of us without a car. Since Don’s water maker project was on a boat in Marina San Carlos in town, it would not have been a disaster for T2 to have had to anchor out in the main harbor. But we were really counting on being able to plug in and run the air conditioner, so we were sure glad it worked out to get a slip. Click here for a beautiful panoramic view.
Marina Real is another one of those grand Mexican development projects that is forever in progress. It occupies the eastern end of a beautiful beach that fronts Bahia Algodones. The beach is named Catch 22 Beach for the movie that was filmed there, and at the far end of its mostly undeveloped stretch is a Club Med that is shut down. Along the beach seaward of the marina, is a string of very nice beach houses all snugged together in the Latin American taste, and at the head of the marina a three-story gray condo block stands alone looking rather out of place. . On the flanks of “Goat Teat Peak West” is an upscale trailer park and restaurant, and on the hills to the southwest, bulldozers are busy carving out lots for future development. All of these come with a million dollar view, which should make the whole project extremely marketable. But the marina itself, which was the first-built stage of the development is already suffering from the endemic Mexican disinterest in maintenance. Several of the floating finger piers are askew, few dock lights work, the electrical outlets are somewhat haphazard and the harbormaster despairs of getting the monies he needs.
But, baited by those views, the 2Cs did suffer our usual mini-flash of real estate hunger. We hiked around the beach houses and the hillside lots doing our usual fantasizing. Between the mountain range and the sea, are formations that look for all the world just like “The Sorting Hat” in the Harry Potter movies, of which “Goat Teat Mountain” is just a granddaddy version. These mountains have vertical rock cores around which the earth has slumped, giving them a cocked hat look. And, since the area has been experiencing lots of chubascos this year, the desert terrain was a bright, vivid green!
Speaking of chubascos, San Carlos gets its share. Maybe more than its share. We experienced about four while we were there, one of which brought fifty knot gusts, rain, and lightning, during which a boat down the dock yanked out a dock cleat and many biminis and awnings were crumpled. Tackless fared well, although her two captains were enough stressed to seriously beef up our docklines and their attachment points.
Unlike our two amigos, who packed up their boats and went back to the States for a month, the 2C’s main reason for being in San Carlos was for Don to help with a new watermaker installation. This obviously took Don’s tech rep status to a new level. But, being as we are in Mexico, not even Don’s super organization could make it happen quickly. First they had to haul the boat to put in a thru-hull, then they had to wait and wait for the fiberglass guy to make and install a shelf for the pump. And finally, since much of his work was down in lockers and in the bilges, Don sensibly decided he was only going to work mornings before the heat really got bad. Thanks to all these factors the 20-hour installation got strung out over two weeks.
Despite the lack of any bus between Marina Real and San Carlos, the commute did not turn out to be a problem. Don was able to hitch-hike in and back easily, which, as a bonus gave him some amusing contacts with locals. In particular, there was this one cute young gal who picked him up at least three times……
There is, however a 9 peso bus between San Carlos and Guaymas. Only 20 km southeast of San Carlos, Guaymas is Sonora’s main port city. Guaymas’ Ley supermarket (great produce section!) took care of all our provisioning needs (although there are a couple of small markets in San Carlos itself), and its various ferreterias and plomerias took care of all the hardware needs for Don’s installation (although never in one place!). Don and I got pretty adept at getting to and from our respective resources.
But other than that, we did not spend much time on social or tourist activities during our stay in San Carlos. Although the town is very oriented to norteamericano tourists, not many are there right now (although we are told this is the best time of year for scuba diving), and, although there are a gazillion boats clogging the slips and yards, most of the owners have flown the coop. The reason is simple, It is HOT. I mean really, REALLY, REALLY HOT! At 6:30am it was already 85, and by mid-afternoon it was 100-110. T2’s air-conditioner got a major workout, struggling to keep the salon at about 82 degrees, but compared to the outside temps, that was nirvana. In short, there was little incentive to stick our noses outside if we didn’t have to!
the installation was done. The new Spectra Catalina 300 with
its MPC3000 computer
control was up and running like a
top, the customer was happy, and we were suddenly free to bail
out. There’s only so much civilization…even with air
conditioning…these two captains can take! So at 6:30 in the
morning of August 20th, after a two-day delay for bad weather,
we pulled the plug on the power and backed out of the slip, keen
to pick up our Baja travels were we’d left off.