from Mazatlan to Isla Isabela

On Thursday, December 6th, we decided that we had had enough of Mazatlan. Marina El Cid, though very nice, was located on an estuary, and after nine days I was getting tired of the bugs and the same scenery. So we informed the office that we would be checking out, filled Rhapsody up with fuel, and made our way out of the marina channel at about 1:00 pm, bound for Isla Isabela.

We made one of the cardinal mistakes on the way out. We had cleaned the engine raw water strainer and had forgotten to open the thru hull when we were done! After about 30 minutes of running, we noticed the engine temperature was very hot, so I rushed down and opened the thru-hull. Fortunately we caught it in time to avoid any real damage to the engine, and after a few minutes the temperature returned to normal ranges.

Shortly thereafter the wind came up nicely and we shut the motor off anyways and began sailing on a nearly perfect beam reach. At 9 to 11 knots of wind, we were making a good 6-7 knots over ground, and we just sailed quietly along until well after dark. Right after we put the sails up, just outside of Venados Island, I put a line in the water with what we call our "mexican feather lure", due to it's red and green colors, and a few minutes later got a massive hit from a very large fish.

The line ran out so fast that it was singing, and I burned my hands on it trying to slow it down as I picked up the pole. The fish took about 200 yards of line out in what seemed like 15 seconds or less and by the time I got the reel drag set, he was already 300 yards behind the boat! I could tell he was the biggest fish I have ever hooked because the pole was bent at nearly a right angle, and the 50lb test was as tight as a violin string. I could not get an inch on him and it was every thing I could do just to hold onto the pole. I was afraid the line was going to break as I saw him jump clearly into the air. It looked to be a 20-25 lb Dorado, and, unlike the Skipjack and Ahi I had caught before, who more or less resisted but came to the boat, this fish was really putting up a fight, spinning and jumping, trying to spit the lure out.

Since we were under sail there wasn't much I could do to slow the boat down. I probably should have had spilled the mainsail, but I didn't think of it in all the excitement, and after about 15 minutes of trying to do something with the fish I had still only pulled in about 10 yards of line. Then suddenly I felt it go slack. Shit, I had lost him!

I reeled the line back in and the lure was still there at the end, so I guess he must have split a lip and given it up. I'll tell you, the thought of that big fish stayed with me the rest of the afternoon and thru the night. I kept having this impulse to turn the boat around and go back and get him! And even though we kept a line in the water, we didn't get another hit all day long :-(

So, we just sailed on until about 8:00 pm when the wind came down and we were only making 3 knots, and then we started the motor. We continued motoring, without incident, throughout the night with me on the 9 to 12. Thus I had the 3am to 6am watch when the sun rose and Isla Isabela came into view.

After the "big one" got away, I was still anxious to get a fish, and so while the crew was still sleeping, at 5:30 am, I put a line in the water about 2 miles off of Isabela. Sure nuff, within 10 minutes I had landed a nice 6lb Skipjack (no fight, just a steady pull to the boat). Right then, a couple of large grey whales broke the surface about 100 yards from the boat. I turned the boat around and backed up my course to where I had got the skipjack and got another hit in the exact same spot. This time I landed a 8lb "Sierra", which was supposed to be, and in fact turned out to be, excellent eating. Doubling back one more time to our original course, I got yet another 4lb Skipjack. Most of the fishermen throw the Skipjack back, but we like to eat em just fine, so I was not unhappy with the morning's result of catching three fish in just over 30 minutes!

We stayed a couple miles off the island while I cleaned the fish and when they were all bagged and in the freezer, we turned the boat in to check out one of the two anchorages on the island. We had heard that the anchorage at "Los Monas" was the preferred anchorage, but when we checked it out, there was no one else there, it seemed awfully exposed and rolly, so we opted to anchor in the south cove with three or four other boats.

More images of approach to Isla Isabela