Altata is not a well known port. The well hidden and poorly charted entrance lies about 115 miles north of Mazatlan. The 15 mile long bay is hidden behind a sand dune peninsula. As we sailed north toward the pass of Altata our nerves were a bit rattled with the fact that the entrance buoy the only buoy left was bobbing around in 8 foot breaking waves. Our gps position showed that we should have been lined up for the entrance but the reality is that the sand bar had shifted and all but one lonely buoy remained after a hurricane went through there a few years ago. We bobbed around outside the entrance with our friends on Eyoni until finally a fishing panga directed us to the other side of the sandbar and led us safely through the pass.
The bay of Altata was raw and beautiful, hidden by the stark sand dunes that lined the Pacific side and mangroves, on the interior of what we called an estuary, but were later told by the locals it is a bay. We made our way slowly up the channel dodging the shoals and anchored off the town in about ten feet of water. The town was bustling with the local weekend crowd, large trucks filled with local families, mariachi music competing with the ever present boom boxes belting out some Spanish version of an American top hit, colorful inflatable’s and the dozen or more seafood restaurants selling a slightly different version of the food next door.
After a quick check in with the Port Captain, we learned that we were only the 4th boat this year to enter the pass and make it up the channel. We decided to head into a more substantioal town by bus to provision and get a feel for the area. We headed into Novalato, where quickly we felt out of place. In all the years in Mexico we have never felt so isolated. Granted Novalato is not going to make any list of top place to visit in Mexico. It actually falls under the places to NOT visit. We later learned we were in an area known for their exportation of agriculture, and it was not corn or bananas. The looks we received were probably out of disbelief that we would choose to visit a town that just had a violent shooting in broad daylight. Oops! We probably won’t be revisiting this area.
We returned back to Altata and had a great seafood lunch while watching the kids jump from the pier. We spent a few days exploring the beaches, clamming and shelling. We decided to leave at the next weather window. The weather played tricks on us and the 21 hour passage was the worst we have had in 13 years of owning Meshach. Yucky seas, winds on the nose and a cold wet wind made for a not so fun time. We were looking forward to a calm anchorage and a good night’s sleep.