Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Boats of Mazatlán

The views from the top of El Faro lighthouse the other day reveal just how many barcos (boats) sail in and out of Mazatlán’s large harbor.  On any given day, there are literally hundreds of vessels calling on the “Pearl of the Pacific”, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

My favorite is the humble fishing lancha consisting of nothing more than a small fishing boat with an outboard motor, 2 or 3 fishermen, and their fishing net.  I see this crew almost every morning on my sunrise walks along the beach.


Incredible to imagine that the Salvadoran fisherman recently discovered in the Marshall Islands (after drifting across the Pacific for the past year), began his harrowing journey from these western shores of Mexico in a boat barely any bigger than one of these!

A kissing cousin to the lancha is the lovable and functional panga water taxi that takes us back and forth across the harbor from the Isla to Mazatlán.  I sure will miss riding these fun little taxis!


A few visiting sailboats occasionally take refuge in the Isla’s small cove, while the majority of them (that call Mazatlán home) reside north of the city’s main harbor in the Marina area.  The most memorable sailboat seen here this winter was, by far, the huge Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship that docked here for a few days last month.


Mazatlán is much more a “working” port, though, and is dominated by a huge fleet of shrimp and tuna boats that call her home (we got to see quite a few of these during our Jungle Tour a few weeks ago).  Where ever there are fishing boats, pelicans are never far behind!



Mazatlán also gets a few freight cargo ships into port every week.  Hard to tell exactly what they’re loading and unloading, but with Sinaloa being one of the top agricultural states in Mexico, they are likely picking up lots of corn and grain in addition to other goods.


Perhaps most intriguing of all the boats that visit Mazatlán is the Baja Ferry that stops here a couple times each week.  Incredible to think that 16 hours after boarding here in Mazatlán, you’d be driving onto the dock in La Paz, Baja Sur—a trip that, by land, would take 5 long days and over 1,800 miles to drive!


But the biggest of all ships to call on the port of Mazatlán are, without a doubt, the passenger cruise ships.  A half dozen have visited so far this winter, with a half dozen more planning to visit in March.

One morning, Millie and I walked up the beach to watch the Norwegian Star arrive into port.  With over 2,200 passengers, it’s the largest cruise ship currently stopping in Mazatlán and quite amazing to see up close!  Millie and I arrived at the beach panga dock to get a good look.


Soon, the panga arrived (thinking we needed taxi service!).  When he saw we were just “ship gawking”, the panga driver decided to go do some gawking himself!  Quite a contrast between these two passenger boats!


The ship dwarfed every other vessel in the harbor—even the large cargo ships were a fraction of its size!  Note it’s fake (but life-sized) palm trees on it’s top deck!


The Mexican Navy has a few ships that guard the port at all times.  One of it’s smaller boats did the honors of escorting the Norwegian Star into port.


The cruise ships usually arrive early in the morning just after sunrise, let passengers explore the city for the day, and then leave port as the sun is setting.


The smallest cruise ship currently calling on Mazatlán is the Azamara Quest.  Only 700 passengers, but it’s ship still looks pretty big!


My all-time favorite cruise ship visit, though, was the New Year’s Eve visit of Holland America’s Veendam, a well-proportioned ship of just under 1,400 passengers.  The clouds lifted and sun came out just as it arrived to port.



Upon it’s departure, rain clouds were beginning to build out at sea, so it left port with it’s lights on. The combination with the setting sun was simply breathtaking!



  1. Your photos are breathtaking! I love the glow of the sunset on the small fishing boats. Mexican people work SO hard to make a living! What an extraordinary story of the Mexican fisherman--I saw a news article this morning in which he is pleading to be left alone. It's hard to imagine just how overwhelmed he must feel. What a brave & resourceful man! Take good care. Loved this post!

  2. Lovely photos, as always. You 2 are having so much fun, will it be hard to leave?

  3. Considering I love the sea even more than I love the road, this was one of my very favorite posts you have done from the Isla (though I have loved them all!) Your golden photos make me want to acquaint myself with sunrise....almost. ;-)

  4. Great photos - I especially like the cruise ship pictures.

  5. Beautiful photos! I wish I were there, too!

  6. No argument here, the photos are VERY good! And you best be taking plenty pictures of the water for YOU KNOW WHO. She's going to need to see LOTS of them set up on a looping slide show once yall leave!

  7. Lynne, yet another great post. I just love seeing the Isla from your perspective.


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