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Sunday, May 06, 2018

May 1, 2018-Altata


wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Morning Fog

No matter how many photos you see or how much you read in a guide book you never really know what a place will be like until you get there.

From what we had read about the town of Altata it was going to be a sleepy little Mexican beach town with a few stores and restaurants and a bunch of pangas pulled up on the sand.

Instead Altata is a very nice Mexican tourist town undergoing a total refurbishment. It has a wide and beautiful malecon, nicely paved (decorative bricks) roads, many restaurants, and very few stores. It also has no gringos, no tourist hotels, and basically no bars. You cannot find a margarita here, or even tequila, in a bar (but they are in the stores).

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Some mornings Altata it is quiet, but in the afternoons and on weekends it is packed with Mexican families and the scene often goes on all night. It seems like the Mexican tourists expect to hear music, loud music, all the time. Anyhow there is music, recorded and live, played at top volume, everywhere, all of the time.

Maybe it is worth it to describe the sources of the music here. First, some of the sidewalk stalls, of which there are dozens, have huge speakers set up, blaring Mexican music. Second, some of the open air restaurants, of which there are also several dozen, (in fact, this town seems like it is nothing but restaurants) have speakers set up with music playing. Then there are the panga tour boats which ply the bay taking tourists for boat rides. They ALL have loud music systems playing a variety of music at top volume. If you want to learn about loud music systems for a boat, come to Altata and check out the pangas. And finally, there are really wonderful sidewalk brass bands. They always have a tuba, trombone, a couple of trumpets and clarinets, and two drums. When they play, which is often, there is no melody or rhythm; they just pick up their instruments and wail away, blaring as loudly as they can, in total cacophony. It goes on for hours. It’s really all a very wonderful racket.

From our boat, while we were anchored off the town of Altata, we could hear it all, plus, it seems the voices of every person walking, talking, and laughing, on the malecon. And traffic noise, there were motor bikes and ATV’s cruising up and down the street every evening.

There are 6 or more cell towers in town and strong 4G cell signals, but only one puny church and no plaza and no taxis. This is one weird Mexican town.

Despite all of this noise and weirdness we loved Altata. Maybe we’d have liked it better if it was a sleepy little Mexican beach village, but we rather liked it the way it was. It has been one of our favorite stops. We liked strolling the malecon and watching the Mexicans relax and we liked going to the outdoor workout center in the park.

There is a marina, a small one, but it is way out of town, up a mangrove slough, and to us, there was no reason to go there and nothing to see or do. We visited by car.

Two other boats from La Cruz came here while we were here. They didn't stay in the town. They motored in, stayed one night in the marina, and motored back out.

We stayed 8 days.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Water Fun

Why is Altata so busy, and undergoing all of this development? It has become a main ocean and recreational access for the large city of Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa. There is apparently a lot of money in Culiacan, mostly agribusiness I think, although I’ve heard illegal drugs contributes some, For miles up and down the shoreline on either side of Altata there are holiday homes of rich Mexicans from Culiacan, which they use for weekends and vacations. Like I said, there is apparently some money around here. The Sinaloan government has decided to develop Altata and they are pouring funds into the town.

Altata Estuary

We sailed out the estuary from the town of Altata today and anchored inside the mouth in the middle of nowhere. It is 10 miles from town.

It was a wonderful sail inside the estuary, like a beautiful blue lake, with nice breezes and flat water. The breeze lifted us to the course we needed to follow and we did only two tacks all the way. It’s really a lovely place to sail. The thing is, there are no sailboats here, and no cruisers visit, and if they did, they wouldn’t be sailing, they’d motor.

Out here it’s pretty and it is quiet, a relief from noisy Altata, but it feels remote. We know we are alone. The shoreline here is a mile or more away from us. Where the two arms of this estuary extend a dozen or more miles up and down the mainland coast and out the mouth of the estuary to the ocean no shoreline is visible, just a blue horizon.

The entrance to Altata is daunting. It is marked, but it’s easy to get confused about the actual channel. We missed it on the first try and had to go back out when we got into shallow water with breakers nearby. Once we found the actual channel it was easy, but it required vigilance.The othe two boats reported the same problem with the entrance.

Tomorrow we move on.

So that is the report from Altata.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Altata

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