Roads Less Traveled
Nifty new Küwat NV Bike Rack.
The bike rack folds flat against the back of the truck.
The bike rack is folded down and ready for bikes to be mounted.
A strap is cinched over the rear
wheel to hold the bike in place on
A lever arm folds up and down to hold each bike in place.
The lever arm can extend and
retract with the press of a button.
The lever arm holds the bike in
place on the rack.
Mounted and ready to go.
There is a built-in, retractable bike lock.
The two ends pull out and can be
snaked through the bike(s) to lock them
to the rack.
This image shows the locked lock without a bike.
One end of the lock inserts into the other.
Bike is mounted and locked to the rack.
Two bikes mounted and locked.
An clever feature is the bike stand.
Insert the stand into this quick release
The bike rack is folded flush to the back
ot he truck/trailer, the bike stand is
inserted into it and clamped down with a
Magic!! A bike stand!! The bike's wheels and
pedals are free to spin and you can do
whatever bike mechanic work you need to do.
Two bottoming-out episodes and the round
knob was beginning to look square.
Jack of JM Welding comes to our rescue.
He draws the design on the floor using parts he had
available that day.
The pieces are laid out.
The hitch extension is welded
and has gussets for added
Jack powder coats the whole thing.
"I think it's gonna work!"
Perfect - the bike rack is raised 8" or so off the
We lock the bike rack to the hitch
extension. An internal bolt/nut
attaches the hitch extension to
the hitch receiver and would be
very difficult to undo.
Ahhh… the bike is well off the ground.
Two bikes mounted and ready for their next adventure.
This is a review of the Kuat NV Bike Rack, a high quality, extremely
easy-to-use bike rack that mounts on a trailer hitch.
For several years we lugged our bikes around on the back of our
trailer using a cheap Swagman bike rack that held 3 bikes. It held the
bikes by gripping the top tubes in metal jaws. To mount a bike on the
rack or to dismount it you had to screw or unscrew two long screws
that cinched the rack's jaws closed around the top tube. There were
several frustrating problems with this rack:
• It was time consuming to mount and dismount the bikes
• The rack's gripping jaws gouged the bikes' top tubes and
chipped off the paint
• The whole rack jiggled wildly in the hitch receiver as we drove,
especially on rough roads
• If the trailer bottomed out in a ditch, the bikes' tires dragged on the ground
• There was no way to lock the bikes onto the rack
• We had to use bungee cords to keep the wheels from spinning as we drove
At the 2011 Interbike bicycle trade show in Las Vegas Mark checked out every bike rack manufacturer for a better solution. He
finally settled on one made by Küwat, a small company out of Missouri. This is a slick bike rack. It is simple, easy to use and
solves almost all the problems we had with the Swagman (see note below).
RACK IS HELD TIGHT IN THE HITCH RECEIVER
The rack cinches into the trailer hitch using a clever expansion
mechanism you control with a round plastic knob at the back of the
rack. Set the rack into the hitch receiver, tighten the knob until very
tight (or use an allen wrench to get it super tight), and the inner
expansion mechanism holds the rack rock solid in the hitch receiver.
The rack doesn't move at all.
The rack can be folded flush against the back of the trailer (or car/
truck) when not in use.
Then fold it down when you are ready to load some bikes onto it.
EASY MOUNT / DISMOUNT
The rack holds two bikes that face in opposite
directions. Each bike's wheels rest on a tray. The front
wheel goes into a rounded tray that keeps it from
rolling. An adjustable strap loops over the rear wheel to
hold it in place. Then an adjustable lever-arm is
tightened onto the front wheel next to the fork to keep
the whole bike in place.
So to mount a bike there are three quick steps:
1. Place the bike's wheels on the rack's tray
2. Tighten the rear strap around the rear wheel.
3. Move the lever arm into place on the front tire in front
of the fork and apply pressure to cinch it down.
The bike(s) can be locked using
retractable built-in plastic shielded
cable wires. One wire comes out of
each end of the rack. Snake the two
wires through the wheels and frame(s)
of the bike(s), and insert one
connector into the other to lock the
bikes to the rack. Easy!
To dismount the bikes simply release the rear wheel strap,
press the thumb button on the front wheel lever arm to extend
it and lower it, and lift the bike off the rack.
KUAT NV BIKE RACK BECOMES A BIKE STAND!
As a bonus, the rack includes a built-in bike stand for working
on your bikes.
Simply fold the bike rack up so it is flush with the trailer (or
back of your car/truck). Insert the bike stand unit using a
quick release lever.
Mount the bike into the stand by its top tube using the quick
Now the pedals and wheels can spin freely and you can do
whatever maintenance your bike needs, from lubing the
chain to replacing the bottom bracket.
ONE PROBLEM - AND A GREAT FIX
Side note: Kuwat does not recommend putting their bike
racks on the backs of trailers due to the long distance
between the rack and the rear wheels of the trailer. That long
distance puts extra force on the bike rack as the trailer goes
over bumps in the road and makes it possible for the rack to
hit the ground when the trailer bottoms out going through dips
in the road.
The only problem we had with this rack -- one that was
easily remedied -- is that the rack sat quite low to the
ground because the hitch receiver on the back of our
fifth wheel is fairly low, and the rack sticks out quick far
from the back of the trailer. When the trailer bottomed
our (for instance, entering/exiting some gas stations),
the outer end of the rack dragged on the ground. We
had two episodes like this, one going in and out of a gas
station and the other doing a u-turn at a National Park
parking lot. These mishaps scraped the rubber right off
the rack's expansion knob in two places.
While driving through Blanding, Utah, we asked at the
Visitors Center if there was a good welder/fabricator in
town. We were sent to see Jack Montella of JM
Welding, and in a few hours he created the
He built an S (or Z) shaped hitch extension that
fits into our trailer hitch receiver and provides a
new higher receiver for the bike rack.
Things like this are available commercially, but when we
priced it out, the cost would have been similar and would
have required waiting for the part to be shipped. So Jack
made a custom one for us on the spot.
After drawing a picture of the hitch extension on the floor, he quickly cut the
pieces and welded it together. He put two gussets in the corners to provide
extra strength and powder coated it. Our only concern with the design was
that this new extension wouldn't fit tightly in the trailer's hitch receiver,
making both the rack and bikes jiggle as we drove.
Jack had a perfect
solution. He welded a
nut into the inside of the
new hitch extension
where the hitch pin goes through the hitch receiver and the
hitch extension. Then he fabricated a long bolt that would go
through both the trailer's hitch receiver and the hitch
extension. As the bolt was screwed into the nut on the inside
of the hitch extension, the hitch extension was cinched up
tightly against the inside of the trailer's hitch receiver. This
made a rock solid connection.
At the other end of the hitch extension, our bike rack fits into the hitch
extension receiver just as it did into the original trailer hitch receiver,
using Küwat's expansion mechanism inside its tubes.
This has raised the bike rack 8" further off the ground. Now when we
go through a deep dip in the road, the hitch cable rings (a part of the
hitch receive we don't use or care about) drag on the ground rather
than the bottom of the bike rack.
After we installed the bike rack on the new hitch extension I walked behind the trailer
as Mark drove it over a very rough dirt road. The rack and the bikes followed the motion of the trailer and nothing more
-- no jiggling whatsoever.
You can purchase the Kuat NV Bike Rack here.
If you have more than two bikes and are mounting the rack on a car or truck (not recommended for an RV),
you can purchase the Kuat NV bike rack extension here.
After a few years wiggles crept in and we started using Hitch Tighteners to make the rack even more stable
The Kuat NV Bike Rack is available at Amazon (left ad), and if you are putting this rack on a car (not an RV), you can add the extension (right ad).
We receive a 4-6% commission from Amazon (at no cost to you) if you use one of our links to get to Amazon, no matter what you buy or when you finalize the sale. This helps us cover our out-of-pocket costs for this site, but doesn’t pay us for our time writing reviews like this.
If you make an Amazon purchase here, please drop us a line to let us know so we can say thank you!
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This page is a review of the 10′ Porta-bote operated with a 6 hp Suzuki 4-stroke outboard. The Porta-bote’s overall design is terrific, and it worked very well for us as a cruising dinghy during our nearly 4 year cruise of Mexico’s Pacific coast aboard our Hunter 44DS sailboat named Groovy.
We initially posted this review in 2012 after we had owned and used the Porta-bote for a year.
Since that time, the Porta-bote design has been completely overhauled and revamped.
The new Alpha series models being sold today are much improved over the older models. Many of the problems we had with our Porta-Bote have been eliminated by the new design.
In the end, we used the Porta-bote as our cruising dinghy for nearly four years and we were very happy with it. This review has been updated to indicate the areas in which the new Alpha series Porta-botes outshine the older models like ours.
The most notable improvements are:
- The transom is an integral part of the hull and not a separate component
- The seats have been completely redesigned
- The plastic the seats are made of does not get super hot in the sun
- The plastic the rub-rail is made of does not leave marks on white fiberglass motherships
We learned, after the fact, that the design engineers read and used this Porta-bote review to pinpoint aspects of the design that needed improvement when they did the Alpha redesign. I am really thrilled that our notes proved useful to them and gave them some good ideas.
The things we loved most about the Porta-bote were:
- Easy and swift movement, whether rowing or motoring
- Enormous capacity for carrying groceries, laundry, scuba gear and propane tanks to and from shore in the cruising lifestyle
- Incredible ruggedness when dragging it up on shore or tying it to a pier covered with barnacles
- Imperviousness to tropical UV rays, even when left in the sun for years on end
- Excellent tracking in the water when towed behind a large cruising sailboat
We made a wonderful system for carrying the Porta-bote along our lifelines while on passage, and we found that the Porta-bote fit perfectly into our sailboat’s swim step.
We created a lightweight davit system to hoist it up out of the water every night.
The Porta-bote was light enough, even with the engine mounted on the transom, that I (an able bodied woman) could hoist it by hand to put it on our swimstep for the night without needing to winch it.
The notes below are offered for anyone considering using a Porta-bote as a cruising dinghy. It details how we used the boat and the custom modifications we made. Any criticisms we had of the boat that have been fixed in the new Alpha series are clearly noted in the review.
Would we consider a Porta-bote for a future tropical cruise? Absolutely!!
The official Porta-bote website is
Weight: ~80 lbs (w/ seats but w/o outboard)
Weight: ~135 lbs (w/ seats & w/ outboard)
1 Transom (transom is integral to the Alpha series hull)
3 pairs eyebolts/washers for seats
2 pairs wingnuts/washers for transom
1 pair aluminum collapsible oars
Following is a summary of what we have found to be Porta-bote’s best and worst qualities when used as a cruising dinghy:
- Lightweight enough to hoist in davits effortlessly, even with the outboard
- Lightweight enough to drag high onto the beach without dinghy wheels
- Tows easily, with or without the outboard mounted (best without)
- Rows beautifully — truly a pleasure to row
- Planes quickly with a 55 lb. 6 hp outboard and two adults
- Huge interior volume for hauling stuff
- No worries about running it up on rocks
- No need for a sunbrella cover to protect the hull from UV rays
- Half the price of a comparable RIB dinghy
- No built-in system to attach a bridle for lifting the boat in davits
- No “drain hole” in the hull to drain water when boat is out of the water **
- Seats take up storage space and the long middle & rear seats can be awkward to carry
** We did not know this at the time, but if you want a drain plug, Porta-bote recommends installing a Ronstan RF294 Drain Plug on the side of the boat just in front of the transom and above the black tube.
Issues with OLDER MODEL Porta-botes (NOT applicable to the new Alpha series)
- Some of the construction materials are not appropriate for tropical, salt water use
- Transom is heavy, awkward to carry and takes up a lot of storage space
- The flotation foam disintegrates in the sun and leaves black flecks on the floor
- Black plastic seats get untouchably hot in the tropical sun
- Black plastic seams along the length of the hull leave scuff marks on Groovy’s white gelcoat
Our overall assessment after nearly four years of using the Porta-bote in anchorages from San Diego to Zihuatanejo, Mexico is that it is a great little cruising dinghy, especially once a few modifications have been made.
Here are some details about its strengths and weaknesses along with descriptions of the upgrades we did to make it work better.
PORTA-BOTE STOWAGE LOCATIONS on a CRUISING SAILBOAT
The Porta-bote is not as compact a boat as you might think because it is not just a folding hull. It is a hull, three large seats and a big transom Note: in the Alpha series the transom is not a separate component as it was in the older Porta-botes.
The 8′ version is a hull, two seats and a transom, and is reportedly “just as difficult to set up” according to a singlehanding friend of ours who has cruised 10,000 miles, first with a 10′ Porta-bote and then, after he lost it, with an 8 footer. “I liked my 10 footer better,” he claimed. “Smaller doesn’t mean easier, and you lose all that interior space with the 8′ model.”
All the pieces of the Porta-bote are big and awkward to carry. For longer passages we disassemble the Porta-bote and store the hull in kayak-style racks outboard of Groovy’s starboard deck, so it is tucked out of the way without having to hang in davits off the back or lie upside down on the foredeck as most cruising dinghies do. Because of their length, we store the longest seat and the transom in the master stateroom (ugh!). We store the other two seats in our big cockpit locker, standing on end for easy retrieval.
For overnights at anchor we lift the dinghy in retractable davits that are built into our solar panel support arch. The Porta-bote fits perfectly into our sugar-scoop transom, resting neatly on the swim platform and held in place by the shape of Groovy’s hull.
We leave the outboard mounted on the Porta-bote. The boat and outboard are light enough that each of us can hoist the dinghy unassisted (our davit system has a simple 4-to-1 purchase and no winches). Splashing the boat in the morning is just a matter of lowering it a foot or so back into the water, which each of us can also do unassisted.
PORTA-BOTE SEATS and SEAT STOWAGE
The seats on the new Alpha series Porta-botes have been completely redesigned, and the transom is integral to the hull and not a separate component, so the following notes pertain strictly to older Porta-botes.
The three seats and transom are all large, heavy components made of plastic and metal. Each one has some swinging legs that hang off of it, making each piece quite a challenge to carry on a pitching boat. Each of the three seats has two (or three) metal U-shaped rods attached underneath that flip out and become the seat legs once the seat is installed in the Porta-bote. These metal loops are only loosely attached to the seats, relying on spring tension to keep them in place.
The first time I carried a seat forward on Groovy’s deck, one of the metal pieces detached itself from the seat and vanished over the side, never to be seen again. Fortunately Porta-bote replaced the piece free of charge. We now use duct tape to keep tension on the open part of the U-shaped rods so these crazy loops don’t fall off when we carry the seats to and from the foredeck. The metal loops fold back against the bottom of the seats.
Actually, they swing freely and independently of each other, flopping all over the place. However, with some coordination they can be held against the seat while carrying it, still leaving a hand free “for the boat.” Unfortunately the loops don’t fold flat to the seat and there are no clips to hold them in place, so they flop around until you get a grip on them as you carry the seat. Also, when folded, at least one of the loops on each seat sticks out an inch or two beyond the end of the seat. So in the stored position the seat becomes even longer due to this metal bracket sticking out the end.
The design of the seats and legs could be infinitely improved. The seats could be designed to fold in half, shortening them considerably for stowage. The legs could fold into the seats and clip into place so they don’t flop around.
There is a myriad of possibilities for designing solid functional seats that are easy to carry and store. However, the current seats are very awkward, and the black plastic will singe your hand when you touch it after the boat has been sitting in the tropical sun for a few minutes. Simply making the seats of white plastic would be an immeasurable improvement.
We use towels to cover the seats, or in very hot places rely on flotation cushions (which slide around under you). We have heard of cruisers making sunbrella seat covers for the seats too. In the hottest places a towel is not sufficient and you will still burn your backside while sitting on the seats.
The biggest problem with the seats, besides being so difficult to lug around on a rolling boat, is that they are too big to stow easily. Some cruisers lash them on deck, but we have neither found a good place on deck for them nor come up with a quick way to tie them down securely. Many cruisers simply tow their Porta-bote instead of hassling with assembly and disassembly.
We met a couple that towed theirs thousands of miles up and down the Mexican coast. I consider this risky if the seas get out of hand, and it also seems to defeat the purpose of the folding “portable” nature of the boat.
On our boat the transom and middle seat are too long to fit in a cockpit locker in a way that is easily accessible, so we store them alongside our bed.
The other two seats fit in our large aft cockpit locker standing on end. In order to get a grip on these big floppy seats, we use several large Navy-issue canvas bags, storing two seats to a bag and putting a second bag over the other end so the whole seat is covered (they are salty and dirty when removed from the boat, and who wants that next to their bed?).
A tidier solution would be to have custom canvas bags made to fit the seats with a large rugged handle on the side. It would be awesome if these bags came with the Porta-bote right from the factory!
PORTA-BOTE TRANSOM and TRANSOM STOWAGE
The transom on the new Alpha series Porta-botes has been completely redesigned and is integral to the hull rather than being a separate component
The transom is not only long, wide and heavy, it has a big flopping plastic piece that folds over the hull when the transom is installed in the Porta-bote to provide a support for the outboard to clamp onto. This heavy piece is held to the transom by a thin piece of plastic that acts as a hinge and looks very prone to tearing.
When we tow the Porta-bote, we remove the outboard, and then the plastic outboard support piece flaps as the Porta-bote goes over the waves, threatening to rip the hinge piece. To stop the flapping and wear and tear on that thin hinge, we use a large clamp to clamp the outboard support piece to the Porta-bote’s hull.
The transom also has two long metal L-brackets along each side. These are the supports that hold the transom in place: two pairs of wing nuts and washers secure the metal L-bracket to the side of the hull. These L-brackets are major ankle-biters and interior cabin wood-gougers when carrying the transom around.
Therefore, we load the transom and the longest seat into a canvas bag before lugging them anywhere — the flopping legs on the seat are held in place, the flopping outboard engine mounting piece is held in place, and the sharp metal edges of the L-brackets are somewhat protected by the heavy canvas.
Some clever engineers at Porta-bote could surely devise a way to secure the transom without requiring large metal L-brackets (or tiny wing nuts and washers, for that matter), and the outboard engine mount could definitely be designed to fold into the transom so it lies flush and is held in place with a clip system that keeps it from flopping around.
Please note that the new Alpha series Porta-botes have the transom integrated into the hull which eliminates the problems associated with carrying the transom around and attaching it to the hull!
We have tried several methods of assembling the Porta-bote on Groovy’s deck, and the best system we have found is described below. It takes us about 15 minutes, including retrieving the many parts from the cabin and the cockpit locker.
When the hull is in its stowed position, it is folded lengthwise twice: first the sides fold into the middle, then the (new) sides are folded in towards each other.
The end result looks like a small surfboard, 10′ long and about 4″ wide. Our first task is to remove the hull from its stowed position outboard of Groovy’s starboard side deck. Then:
1. Carry the hull to the foredeck and open it up. The plastic is rigid and you have to use a lot of force to get the sides to open.
Porta-bote provides a specially cut board to assist with this: you stand on one side of the hull and push against the other, wedging the board between the two. Eventually the board is positioned to hold the hull open.
2. Insert the middle seat. The ends of the seats are inserted into metal supports that are riveted on either side of the interior of the hull.
The seats don’t fit in the supports all that well. There is some wiggle room up and down and the angle of the supports is perpendicular to the hull, which is not ultimately in line with the seat’s horizontal orientation, because the hulls’ sides flair outward.
Note: The seats have been totally redesigned in the Alpha series!
3. Secure the middle seat with wing nuts and washers. The Porta-bote ships with long thin cotter pins that are tied to the seats with thin string so they don’t get lost.
The cotter pins are intended to hold the seats in place against the metal hull supports, however they fly all over the place when you are carrying the seats, and they don’t hold the seats securely.
Therefore, we replaced the cotter pins with long stainless steel eyebolts held in place with large stainless steel washers, both above and below the seat, and with a stainless steel lock washer underneath to keep everything tight despite the jiggling and jostling of the hull when the Porta-bote is driven over the waves.
The eyebolt is slid through a hole in the upper part of the metal support, then through a hole in the seat and then through a hole in the lower part of the metal support, and a wingnut is screwed on from underneath.
Note: The mechanism for attaching the seats to the hull has been upgraded in the Alpha series of Porta-botes, however we found the eyebolts useful…
The eyebolts also come in very handy for holding the dink in place behind Groovy’s swim platform. We have two lines rigged on either side of the swim platform with clips on the ends that clip into the Porta-bote’s eyebolts on the forward and aft seats. This keeps the Porta- bote parallel to Groovy’s transom and keeps it snug to the swim platform for easy boarding.
4. Install the transom. The outboard mounting flap goes over the hull, and the metal L-brackets are attached to holes in the hull using bolts, wing nuts and washers.
The Porta-bote ships with non-stainless bolts, nuts and washers, which are probably fine for the once-in-a-while lake fishing that the Porta-bote is built for. We replaced all these little pieces with stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers and added a lock washer to the set.
The sizes of these pieces that Porta-bote ships are non-standard (I searched high and low for stainless components that would match the originals). Instead, we simply used replacement bolts, washers and nuts that would fit the holes rather than trying to match the thread pitch, bolt length and width of the ones from the factory.
The lower wing nut / washer set on each side of the transom includes a rubber washer to keep that part of the boat watertight since that part sits below the waterline. The rubber washers last about 6 months in the salt water environment.
We keep several spare rubber washers to use as replacements each time they wear out. In addition, we have a complete duplicate set of all the eyebolts, straight bolts, wing nuts and washers that we use for the Porta-bote, as it is all too easy to drop one of these tiny pieces overboard while assembling or disassembling the Porta-bote on deck.
The worst aspect of the Porta-bote design for use as a cruising dinghy prior to the new Alpha series, is that you are fumbling with the very large pieces of a 10′ long hull, several wide seats that don’t fit into their supports very well, and a big heavy transom, all while screwing the whole thing together with tiny wing nuts.
The bottom of the boat is a black plastic “hinge” that acts as something of a keel, so the boat doesn’t sit flat on deck but pivots about on this round tube of plastic.
So when Groovy rolls in the swell, the porta-bote pivots on its keel, and you are hanging onto the boat in one hand with a fist full of wing nuts and washers in the other, all while trying to mate the threads of the wing nuts to the bolts.
5. Raise the Porta-bote up and over the lifelines and lower it into the water using the spare halyard.
We have an electric halyard winch that works really well but also works quite hard during this process (of course it would be a great upper body workout to winch it by hand).
When the boat rises up in the air, the outboard mounting bracket flops down unless we clip it in place with a large clip before raising the boat. Note: This has been remedied in the new Alpha transom design.
This part of the process can be tricky in a large swell or in high winds, as the boat is difficult for the guy on deck (Mark!) to control as it swings around on the halyard.
6. Move the boat to the swim platform, clip middle and rear seats’ eyebolts to two lines on Groovy’s transom to keep the Porta-bote parallel to Groovy’s swim platform for easy access, and install the other two seats.
7. Lower the outboard engine onto the mountain bracket on the transom (using one of the dinghy davits) and secure it in place.
TOWING the PORTA-BOTE
The Porta-bote tows beautifully, and we have towed it (without the engine mounted), for hundreds of miles, a few times in some rather large and lumpy seas.
We have towed it with the outboard mounted too, and that works just fine, but we wouldn’t want to go more than a few very sheltered miles towing it that way.
We tie the Porta-bote’s painter to two points on Groovy’s transom, making a bridle. We usually tie a second line to Groovy as well, just in case. There’s nothing like trying to find and retrieve a lost dinghy in big seas (been there, done that!).
We have tried towing the Porta-bote far behind Groovy, but have found it behaves much better when it is snugged up close behind.
We keep it about a foot or so off of Groovy’s transom. Sometimes when we are sailing slowly in lumpy, following seas it has a tendency to run into the back of Groovy.
HOISTING the PORTA-BOTE in DAVITS
We had a custom made stainless steel arch extension built for our boat to support our 555 watts of solar panels and to provide telescoping davits to hoist the Porta-bote.
We drilled two holes on the stern end of the Porta-bote just forward of the transom, one on each side of the hull. We had four stainless steel plates made to reinforce these holes, and those are bolted in place (with stainless bolts), one plate on the inside and one on the outside of each hole, sandwiching the plastic hull in between. To create a davit bridle, we simply run a line between those two holes in the hull’s stern and run another line between the two factory-installed holes in the bow of the boat to make a two-point hoisting system for our davits.
Because the lifting points are at the top of the hull, it is not possible to snug the Porta-bote tightly into the davits. Instead, it always swings a little, no matter how high you hoist it. If the lifting points were in the bottom of the boat, the top edges of the hull could be pulled flush to the davit arms. However, I am not sure how to install lifting points in the boat’s floor. So we don’t travel with the Porta-bote in the davit system.
The davits are ideal for getting the boat out of the water at night when we are at anchor, as the Porta-bote sits snugly on the swim platform and we secure it with lines tied to the seats’ eyebolts to keep it perfectly still.
Also, if it rains (which it doesn’t do in Mexico’s winter cruising season) or if there is a lot of dew, the boat doesn’t have a drain hole to release the water. Water also collects in the bottom of the boat when we drive it hard, as waves splash in and water jumps over the transom. So there is occasional light bailing to be done, but not more than a sponge or towel can handle.
One thing we discovered is that the Porta-bote’s black plastic seam tubes that run along the length of the hull are made of a plastic that leaves scuff marks on Groovy’s white fiberglass gelcoat.
When we hoist the dinghy in the davits, it invariably bumps along Groovy’s transom a bit, and over time it leaves a lot of marks. They come off with a little elbow grease and polish, but there are plastics out there that are non-marking, and if Porta-bote used that kind of plastic it would be a huge improvement.
Note: The black plastic seam tubes in the new Alpha series does not leave scuff marks
Just beneath the black plastic lip at the top of the Porta-bote hull there is a strip of foam rivited to the hull. This provides enough flotation to keep the boat afloat if it fills with water — as long as there is no outboard engine mounted on the boat. The foam material deteriorates in the sun and flakes off, constantly leaving little black flecks all over the Porta-bote’s floor. I have heard of cruisers covering this foam with Sunbrella to keep it intact and prevent its total disintegration. I haven’t gotten to that project yet… This foam provides a little flotation, but the Porta-bote will definitely sink if it is swamped while an outboard engine is mounted on its transom.
Note: The flotation material in the new Alpha series Porta-botes does not disintegrate in the sun
USING the PORTA-BOTE
A lot of this description so far includes many negatives and short-comings of the Porta-bote, simply because [the older models were] not designed to be a cruising dinghy and is rather carelessly engineered and cheaply manufactured. However, the great qualities of this dinghy show up once it has been assembled and is out on the water. We have found ways to work around its portability limitations, and feel that because of its good traits on the water it is an excellent choice as a cruising dinghy. We would buy it again, and here’s why:
The interior volume is enormous. We have packed it with a month’s worth of groceries (at the supermarket the provisions were mounded way above the top of the shopping cart) along with three weeks worth of laundry (in two huge laundry bags), plus ourselves, and we still had space leftover.
We have also loaded it with five adults and putted along at a good clip. I think six adults would be pushing it. There is plenty of space on the seats for six adults, but the boat would sink too low in the water. It is a fast boat that planes easily with both of us aboard using just a lightweight 6 hp 4-stroke outboard. We raced a traditional RIB dinghy driven by a 15 hp outboard and carrying two adults. They barely pulled away from us as we reached about the quarter mile mark.
I love rowing, and the Porta-bote is a lot of fun to row. It tracks well and moves nicely through the water. For the passionate rower the oars are totally inadequate and should be replaced.
The oarlocks in the hull also seem a little flimsy to me and I wonder how long they will hold up, as they flex ominously with every pull on the oars. The oars themselves are made for very light, occasional use. They are aluminum and they split into two halves for stowage, the handle half and the paddle half. The two halves are joined with a plastic pin-through-a-hole system, but the pin doesn’t actually go through the hole very well because the plastic spring mechanism is flimsy and weak.
So, the oars are prone to coming apart if you don’t keep an eye on them. Each oar has an aluminum pin that fits into the hole in the Porta-bote’s oarlock. The pin is held in place on the oar with a sleeve around the oar that is fastened with an aluminum bolt and wing nut.
On our fifth time out rowing, the bolt on one of our oars crumbled mid-stroke. We replaced the bolts and wing nuts on both oars with stainless steel, and they have been fine ever since. Over our four year cruise, we did not end up rowing the Porta-bote but used the outboard all the time instead.
Whether rowing or motoring, it takes a while to get used to the Porta-bote’s flexible floor. You can feel every wave and bump under your feet, and it is a very moveable platform, nothing like a hard dinghy or a RIB. However, the movement is just part of the package, and once you are accustomed to it, it’s kinda neat.
All-in-all we are very happy with the Porta-bote. No cruising dinghy is ideal, each type being a pain in the neck in at least a few ways. We like the lightweight nature of the Porta-bote and being able to get most of it off the deck and out of the davits and out of the way while on a long passage.
We like its good manners while towing, its speed under power and its voluminous interior space for provisioning runs. The compromises and required upgrades are okay with us in return for its many good qualities. If Porta-bote ever went back to the drawing board and studied its plans and re-engineered the boat for use as a cruising dinghy, they could create a truly superior dink that surpassed everything else on the market.
As noted above, Porta-bote did just that, and the result is the new Alpha series!
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Enjoying our kayak at St. George State Park, Florida.
Puerto Balandra, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
Puerto Balandra, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Redfish Lake outside Stanley, Idaho.
The kayak in its rolling case.
The other pieces that don't fit in the case: seats,
paddles, pedal/flippers, lifejackets.
Playa Cove, San Diego, California
Bahía Falsa, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
It's all gotta fit in this bag...
Valve for inflating/deflating.
Tight squeeze going into the fiver basement.
Once there it takes up a lot of space.
Getting ready to hoist the kayak.
In the Garhauer racks with the
A thermorest butt-saver cushion.
Our commuter vehicles.
Hobie kayak mold rocks back and forth to distribute
the molten plastic inside the mold.
Hobie Cat factory, Oceanside, California.
New kayaks ready to go.
Pedaling into the mountains at Redfish Lake, Idaho.
Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Hobie i14t Tandem Inflatable Kayak Review
One of the best additions to our RV and boat has been our Hobie
i14t inflatable kayak (manufacturer: http://www.hobiecat.com/
kayaks/mirage/i14t). It is easy to launch and is a very stable
platform with three inflatable chambers: two pontoons and a floor.
We've tried Hobie's identical hard-shell tandem kayak and found it
to be a lot more tippy. We can stand up in the inflatable kayak and
not lose our balance.
The kayak can be driven either by
traditional paddles or by Hobie's
Mirage Drive pedal system. These
are removable pedals/flippers where
with each pedal stroke the flippers flip
back and forth. Apparently the idea
for this system came to its inventor
one day while watching marine mammals on Discovery channel, and they are wonderfully
effective. The best part is that it makes kayaking a hands-free affair. The kayak is steered by the
person in the rear who has a small dial control connected to a rudder.
We now take only one paddle with us and
we use it only for quick steering situations
(the kayak has a very wide turning radius
otherwise). Being hands-free we can take
photos and use the binoculars with ease.
There are two kinds of pedals, the
standard ones which are slightly shorter,
and longer ones that
are harder to push
but make the boat
go faster. We have
the standard pedals.
There is also a sail
kit which we don't
This kayak does not fold
up to a small size. Once
packed away in its case it
stands almost chest high.
It is also about the same weight
as the comparable hard-shell
kayak. However it can be
packed away in a truck bed or in
the basement of a fifth wheel
trailer, unlike a hard-shell which
must be carried in some kind of
There are quite a few extra
pieces besides the hull: the two
Mirage pedal systems, two
seats, two break-apart paddles,
the pump and two life jackets
Assembly takes about 15 minutes and is very straight-
forward. First the kayak hull is laid out on the ground. Then
the three chambers are each inflated independently via
three valves at the back end of the kayak. They can be
inflated in any order, and its just a minute or so of easy hand
pumping for each chamber.
Then the seats are set in place
using clips and webbing straps.
The paddles are assembled
and stored in place on the sides
of the kayak. The life jackets
are slipped under the bungee
cord storage area in the back.
And off we go.
Putting the kayak
away is a little trickier, as it needs to fit back into its case. We lay the
case out on the ground and put the kayak on top of it with the stern
end at the cover-flap end of the case, and then we deflate the three
The kayak is folded up by first curling the bow in on itself and then
folding the boat in thirds. The bow section folds towards the pedal
opening in the stern of the kayak. Then the stern of the kayak is
folded up and over the top.
At this point we pull the sides of the case up
and around the kayak and pull the webbing
Then we fish out the top flap of the case from
underneath and fold it over the whole thing and
pull its webbing straps tight.
Now the case is ready to be rolled around. There is also a shoulder strap that can be attached so you can lug the kayak with
you as you walk.
Neither rolling nor carrying the case is easy. The kayak is quite heavy and it's a big awkward package. I have read of people
finding the case so flimsy that it ripped and had other problems when traveling as checked baggage. If I were to travel with it
that way a lot I would have a strong canvas carrier made for it. The wheel system is also rather delicate. On ours the axel bent
from the weight of the kayak and then the bag dragged on the ground. It could be bent back into shape, but it is a weak system
and not for long distance use (like through endless airport walkways). Rolling it a few steps from our disassembly spot in our
campsite to the trailer, or from a boat ramp to the truck is not a problem.
The big heavy kayak hull and its bag are just part of the total package. There are also those pesky seats, pedals, paddles,
pump and life jackets to contend with. All this is easy in a truck or trailer, but carrying all this on public transport by airplane or
bus would be a challenge.
The kayak neatly fits into our fifth wheel basement, but once it is in there it is just about all that
will fit. All the other favorite basement goodies like camp chairs, barbecue, buckets, tools and
generator, not to mention the seats, pedals, paddles and lifejackets etc. all have to fit around
this beast. However, the days on the lakes and rivers are well worth the hassle.
The kayak has brought us lots of fun times
on the boat. It has been useful as a
platform for waxing the hull, but far more
important, it has given us a little exercise
and a nice slow pace for exploring the
anchorages we have stayed in.
We always keep it inflated on the
boat and we use Garhauer kayak
racks to store it outside the
lifelines in when its not in use. We
rigged a simple bridle system
using the two pedal holes to hoist
it into the kayak racks using the spare
halyard. Once up, we leave the seats
in it and store the pedals, paddles and
life jackets in the cockpit lockers on the
boat. It takes less than five minutes to
rig up the bridle and either hoist or
lower the kayak.
We also bought two self-inflating thermarest seat
cushions. We slip these under the seats and it
really helps with overall butt fatigue and the
inevitable numb foot problem that creeps up if we
are out in the kayak for a long ride. The seats on
the hard-shell kayak are a little more comfortable
and less inclined to put your feet to sleep.
We visited the Hobie Cat factory in Oceanside California where the hard-shell kayaks are
made (the inflatables are made at another plant). Molten plastic is poured into moulds and
then swished around for a few hours to completely fill the mould. Then when the plastic
has cooled the mold is opened up and out pops a new kayak hull.
It was a lot of fun to see all the new gleaming kayaks lined up.
The inflatable kayak is definitely more delicate than its hard-shell sister, and most cruisers with Hobie Mirage tandem kayaks
carry a hard-shell instead of an inflatable. We have had to fix several leaks in the bow chamber and reattach many small pieces
to the hull using JB Weld (i.e., the anchors for the seats and for the bungie cord in the back). They fell off due to the relentless
heat in Mexico. I also sewed a Sunbrella kayak cover to protect it from the UV rays. For tropical cruisers spending more than
one season in the tropics, I would recommend taking a long look at a hard shell tandem Hobie rather then the inflatable.
However, it is such a fun little boat -- stable
and easy to clamber in and out of for snorkeling -- that we are happy with our choice, even if it means babying our baby a little
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Primary Mexico cruising landmarks.
More info on Mexico Maps.
Groovy's solar panels on their arch support.
A few of the watermaker parts, not including the
high pressure pump, 75' of 3 different kinds of
hoses & two 4' membranes.
Tips for Cruising Mexico - Part 1
(This guide was adapted by the Baja-Haha Cruiser's Rally for their First-Timer's Guide to Mexico)
This page is a guide for cruisers that contains a huge collection of tips for Mexico cruising in your own boat. These are things we
If you are planning a cruise to Mexico, I hope this page will inspire you with new ideas for your preparations. They include:
• Mexican Culture
Adapting to living in a very foreign country
• Learning Spanish
The best course you can take before you go
Related equipment and cruising guides
• Weather Prediction:
Methods and websites
• Tides and Lunar Calendar:
• Sailing in Mexico
Where the wind is -- and isn't -- and the best places to sail
• Boat Preparation:
Major upgrades for marina-based versus anchor-based living
Oddball items we have found very useful
All it takes is one provisioning run to realize that you're not in Kansas any more, and it can be quite a culture shock. Mexicans
are a wonderful, outgoing, friendly and exuberant people, and their warmth is infectious. But their traditions, ways of doing
things, history and ethnicity are very different than in the US and Canada.
We spent six months living on Groovy at Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada, and it was an awesome way to adapt to living
in Mexico while we still had wheels to drive back to San Diego. If you are planning to cruise to Mexico, I highly recommend
Ensenada is a terrific university town filled with activities and festivals of all kinds. From classical music concerts to art
things to do. The bay is fantastic for daysailing -- the wind comes up most afternoons -- and you will be the only boat out there.
Some people have the misconception that Ensenada is not a "real" Mexican town. In our experience it is as Mexican as any
other, but is more varied, less touristy and has fewer gringos than most of the other coastal cities.
If you can't spend a few months living in Ensenada, a long weekend can help give you a feel for what to expect. There is a bus
line, ABC Bus (Spanish language website, prices in pesos) which runs between the Tijuana border and downtown Ensenada.
Take the trolley from San Diego to the border, walk over the border and catch the ABC bus to Ensenada and a cab from the bus
depot to your hotel. For a high-end treat weekend getaway, stay at Hotel Coral and Marina.
One of the best things I did to prepare for cruising in Mexico was to take some conversational Spanish classes at my local
community college. I took three semesters and have found it has not only made it easier to get around and find things, but it
has enriched my time in Mexico. I have gradually reached a point where I can listen to the thoughts of these fine people in their
own language. Although three semesters taught me almost all the verb tenses and lots of vocabulary, learning to actually hold
a meaningful conversation is still an ongoing process for me. However, the conversation in which the pizza store guy in Loreto
explained the Mexican presidential election process to me, the day the canvas lady in San Carlos told me all the ups and downs
she has faced as a professional boat service person in a man's industry, and the time the fuel dock guy in Manzanillo told me
about the keys to enjoying a long marriage all stand out as true highlights of this crazy cruising experience. If you won't be
starting your cruise for a few years, sign up for a Spanish course today, and keep taking it until the day you leave.
Ensenada and La Paz both have immersion Spanish schools where four weeks of four-hour-a-day classes gives you a
semester's worth of conversational Spanish. (Se Habla...La Paz) is one of the schools). I'm sure there are others in the
mainland coastal cities as well. Click here for our Spanish Learning Tools page
I have met many cruisers trying to learn Spanish from courses on CD like Rosetta Stone. I haven't met anyone who learned
Spanish this way. Get serious, make the time, invest the money, and take some classes!
To see the funny things that happen to gringos living on sailboats in Mexico, see: What's it like to cruise Mexico?
Navigation in Mexico with a modern electronic chartplotter and radar overlay is a cinch. All the cruising guides give GPS
waypoints for major obstacles and anchorages. Sean Breeding and Heather Bansmer, authors of the popular Sea of Cortez: A
Cruising Guide and Pacific Mexico: A Cruising Guide, include a table at the end of each book that lists the suggested waypoints
with logically named labels and descriptions. Entering these waypoints into your chart plotter turns Mexico cruising into an easy
The survey data used to create the chartplotter charts (Navionics and others) is something like a century or more old, and
although the contours are usually correct, the data is often offset from the real GPS coordinates by as much as a mile or so.
Whenever we approach an unknown anchorage we turn on the radar to see how accurate the chartplotter is. 50% of the time it
is right on. The rest of the time it is usually just offset to one side or the other and it is easy to see where you should go and
what to avoid.
Note: we receive a 4-6% commission -- at no cost to you --
for purchases made through our Amazon links.
This helps us pay our out-of-pocket costs for this site.
If you buy something, let us know so we can say thanks!
Before setting out, we purchased Pat Rains' Mexico Boating Guide and Charlie's Charts of Mexico by Charles and Margo Wood
as well as the two books by Bansmer/Breeding. All four were useful, and we were glad to have each one on board, as they offer
different perspectives. Charlie's Charts reflects an earlier age of cruising but is completely up to date. Pat Rains gives down-
and-dirty practical advice. Bansmer/Breeding paints a vivid picture of what you will find in each anchorage. We relied on Rains
and Wood for the San Diego to Cabo passage. We used Rains, Wood and Bansmer/Breeding on the Pacific coast and used
Rains and Bansmer/Breeding in the Sea of Cortez.
We have found the weather in Mexico to be generally benign and the bad weather predictable well in advance. The worst
weather we have experienced has been while we were at anchor.
Our preferred method for weather prediction is the internet. We have had internet access from the boat at most locations,
relying primarily on our USB modem from TelCel (more on acquiring one of at Mexico Tips (2)). On the trip south the only
place without internet via TelCel is Cedros Island. Once south, the only place where there is no internet access (and you really
could use it for weather forecasting) is from Islas Espiritu Santos north to just south of Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros) in
the Sea of Cortez and from north of Isla Coronado further north to Bahía Concepción also in the Sea of Cortez. These are both
long stretches of excellent cruising grounds, so after a few days at anchor when your downloaded weather data is out of date, it
becomes necessary to rely on SSB radio broadcast forecasts from amateur meteorologists (more about that below) or some
other method of obtaining weather information. If you can understand rapid-fire Spanish full of wave heights and wind speeds,
the port captains periodically broadcast weather forecasts on the VHF radio on channel 12 or 14 (they are announced first on
Channel 16 and come mid-morning and mid-afternoon).
The key to all the internet weather websites is to add 5 knots to the wind speeds and a few feet to the wave heights, especially
in the Sea of Cortez where predicted, pleasant sounding 15 knot winds may be 20 with gusts to 25, accompanied with short
steep waves -- not fun.
San Diego to Cabo San Lucas Passage Websites:
http://www.sailflow.com - Gives high resolution graphic images of the Pacific side of Baja that are are accurate if you
add 5 knots to the wind speed for good measure.
http://www.passageweather.com - There is a page for Baja California that shows the conditions on the Pacific side
of the Baja peninsula. The time is given in UTC (Greenwich Mean Time). Rather than worrying about time zones and
being exact, I simply subtract 6 hours to try to keep it simple and easy reading these charts, as the forecasts are given
for 3, 6, 9 and 12 am and pm. You really need to study each time-stamped chart carefully to figure out what conditions
http://www.wunderground.com/blog/Geary/show.html - From amateur SSB weather broadcaster Geary (see below),
this site gives 3-day forecasts for each major anchorage on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula. The posts are
not always up to date.
Mainland Mexico weather websites:
http://www.passageweather.com - There is a page for California to Mexico that offer wind and wave forecasts.
Subtract 6 hours from UTC to get approximate local time.
http://www.passageweather.com/download.htm - The California to Mexico forecasts are available for download
if you have a slow internet connection. These are also useful to download if you are going to lose internet
access in the next few days.
http://www.magicseaweed.com - Offers wind and swell forecasts similar to passageweather.com.
http://www.weather.solmatesantiago.com/wxdata/Solmate Santiago Weather.html - Posted by amateur meteorologist
Stan from Manzanillo Bay, there are separate links for each region of Mexico including the Tehuantepec. The posts are not
always up to date.
http://www.sailflow.com - Gives high resolution graphic images for the Sea of Cortez that are accurate if you
add 5 knots to the wind speed for good measure.
Sea of Cortez weather websites:
http://www.bajainsider.com/weather/baja-weather108.htm - This gives a nice synopsis, including sea
temperature (SST tab), and there is a ton of other information about Baja elsewhere on the website.
http://www.passageweather.com - There is a page for California to Mexico that offer wind and wave forecasts.
Subtract 6 hours from UTC to get approximate local time.
Sea of Cortez to Mainland Crossing Websites
- From Stan in Manzanillo Bay, forecast for crossing the Sea at different points.
http://www.wunderground.com/blog/Geary/show.html - From amateaur SSB weather broadcaster Geary (see below),
this site gives 3-day forecasts for the northern and southern crossings including the wind conditions on each side and in
the middle. The posts are not always up to date.
There are several amateur weather forecasters who give their predictions on various SSB radio nets. The two most popular
forecasters are Geary who is located in Bahía Concepción in the Sea of Cortez and broadcasts on the Sea of Cortez focused
Sonrisa Net, and Don Anderson who (used to) broadcast from Ventura California on the Mexico and Central America focused
Southbound Net and Amigo Net. Their volunteer work is extremely generous and they take their self-assigned jobs very
Geary's 3-day forecasts for the passages down the outside of the Baja peninsuala (San Diego to Cabo) and the two Sea of
Cortez crossings (north and south crossing) are all excellent. However, he does not offer a prediction beyond today for any of
the areas inside the Sea of Cortez.
He posts the broadcast on the internet as well (see above website listings). and he takes questions from listeners
about specific areas.
Due to time constraints on the air, there's necessarily a lot of generalizing, lumping many miles over many hours into a single
"15 knots NNW" kind of statement. When I have internet available, I find it much easier to look at pictures of the Sea of Cortez
or of Mainland Mexico showing wind speeds and directions in a graphical form to get an idea of what will be happening in my
particular little spot. Especially in the Sea of Cortez where the wind wraps around the towering mountains, changing its direction
and intensity with every mile it traverses, a single wind speed and direction forecast can't tell the whole story.
We also like to get a general weather prediction for the air temperature, humidity, sunshine and rain. We use:
Other websites that can be useful:
http://www.grib.us - a free downloadable application that allows you to manipulate GRIB files. Windows only.
http://www.bouyweather.com - a subscription-based marine weather predictor.
http://www.predictwind.com - a subscription-based marine weather predictor
http://www.wunderground.com - a general weather forecasting website
http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/data/us_comp/us_comp.html - Gives a radar overview of the most recent conditions
http://www.atmo.arizona.edu/products/wximagery/usir.html - Gives a radar overview of the most recent conditions
TIDES & LUNAR CALENDAR
Tides generally run less than 6 feet in most of Pacific Mexico except in the far northern Sea of Cortez where they can be a lot
more (few cruisers venture to that area).
http://www.tide-forecast.com - Has a good graphic layout that shows where in the tide sequence you are right now.
http://www.tides4fishing.com/mx - An alternative tide forecasting site that includes solar/lunar and other info too.
It is nice to know how much moon you will have on an overnight crossing. This website detects where you are from your IP
address and generates a lunar calendar for the month. It also lets you put a red pinpoint on any location in the world and then
create a lunar calendar for the month:
SAILING IN MEXICO
The best sailing in Mexico is north of Cabo Corrientes: in the Sea of Cortez, in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area), and in the
"crossing zone" between Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. South of Cabo Corrientes -- the Gold Coast
(Costa Alegre) and south to Zihuatanejo -- has very light wind and it tends to run parallel to the coast, making it either right on
the nose or dead astern as you sail between those anchorages. See our MAPS OF MEXICO page to get your bearings
We have sailed about half of the time that we have been in transit north of Cabo Corrientes and 10% of the time south of there.
This translates to somewhere around 5-10% of all the miles we have covered as the crow flies. In order to sail in Mexico you
have to be willing to tack, to sail dead downwind and to sail at 2 or 3 knots. Romping sailboat rides in 15 knot winds on flat seas
are not common, but they can be found. One of the best ways to do that kind of sailing is to daysail. Our favorite places for
daysailing have been Manzanillo Bay (south end of the Costa Alegre (Gold Coast)), Loreto Bay between Isla Carmen and the
Baja peninsula north of La Paz in the Sea of Cortez, Acapulco Bay, and the Bahías de Huatulco. Banderas Bay (Puerto
Vallarta) is reportedly another good spot. In any of these places you will likely be the only boat out daysailing.
Fishermen's "long lines," or nets, crop up in certain places. We have seen one in the Sea of Cortez, five or six in the Isla
Isabel / Mazatlan area, one south of the penal colony islands Islas Marias outside Banderas Bay, and one on the Gold Coast
south of Cabo Corrientes. They are marked by some kind of bouy at each end, and these end bouys are a few hundred yards
or a few miles apart. The two end bouys may have a flag on them and may have a second smaller bouy floating nearby.
Reports from people who have sailed into them are that you can cut them fairly easily with a knife.
The VHF radio is an experience unto itself in Mexican waters. The fishermen go crazy on channel 16, especially out at sea late
at night. They whoop and holler and whistle at each other. They hold the mic way too close and yell into it in very fast and
excited sounding Spanish. I asked a Bolivian cruiser what the heck they were saying, and he said he couldn't understand them
either and that they have their own jargon. Sometimes they hold the mic to their radio speakers and play songs on Channel 16.
Sometimes they make animal sounds and other weird noises. In between, the cruisers hail each other and the freighters and
cruise ships hail the port captains, all sounding very formal. The other day I heard a Mexican voice say in Spanish, "This
channel is for serious mariners, not animals." To which the reply was a loud chicken squawk and then silence. Channel 22 is
the channel cruisers use to hail each other when not underway, and many busy anchorages host morning nets on Channel 22.
If you are outfitting a boat for cruising, I hope this section offers some food for thought and sparks some ideas. We have found
that it is easy to get caught up in a mindset of never-ending boat projects to the point where the projects overshadow the
cruising. Starting north of the border with a slew of upgrades., it is really tempting to continue taking on huge boat upgrade
projects in Mexico. In addition, things break, and suddenly The Boat turns into a 50-hour-a-week job with no time left for
sightseeing and enjoying Mexico itself. Soon frustration sets in. "When do the boat projects end and the cruising begin?" one
friend asked in me in jest, but not really joking. Here are some thoughts I've had about some of the most popular upgrades:
Solar Power and Watermaker -- Marina-based Living
If you are going to be in Mexico for just a season or two, and you have the budget to spend 50% or more of your time in
marinas, you may be best off skipping the watermaker and solar panels. These are two huge, complicated, expensive projects
that will only help you when you are anchored out, and in reality, how many nights will that be? For a lot of people the time
spent anchoring out is just a few weeks in the Sea of Cortez, a few days here and there between La Paz, Mazatlan and Puerto
Vallarta, and a few weeks on the Gold Coast. The $10-15K outlay for a watermaker and solar power/arch setup might be much
better spent at the swank resort marinas and on trips inland to Mexico's famous landmarks. Doesn't sitting in a hot tub or
visiting the extensive but distant Mayan ruins and dramatic landscapes sound better than overseeing a worker installing your
upgrades, or worse, doing it yourself?
If you stay at a marina for a few weeks and are then in transit for a week or two before settling into the next marina, a Yamaha
or Honda 2000 generator will keep the batteries happy on days you don't use your engine, and a large alternator will top them
off when you motor between anchorages. If you have good sized water tanks you can manage with onboard water from the last
Some of the happiest cruisers we've met are people who didn't install these expensive items. The water at the marinas is good.
If in doubt, you can always filter the water at the dock with a 1 micron filter and a carbon filter in series, or you can add a carbon
filter at a sink onboard. If you are fussy about drinking water it is easy to stock up with bottled water in gallon containers, as it is
carried in even the tiniest one-room stores.
US camping stores sell collapsible water jugs in 2.5 and 5 gallon sizes. Grab a few of these before you set out and you can
increase your on-board water supply without having to store the bottles on deck when they're empty.
Solar Power and Watermaker - Living on the Hook! For more on solar visit our SOLAR POWER pages.
On the other hand, if you are going to anchor out most of the time or are planning a longer cruise to places beyond Mexico that
don't have so many marinas, solar power and a watermaker are two awesome upgrades. For us it made sense to get the
biggest ones we could.
Our DC fridge and freezer eat up about 100-120 amp hours every 24 hours. Our 555 watts of solar panels tied to a 60 amp
MPPT charge controller is just barely sufficient in the winter if we keep the freezer running. If we run just the fridge but
keep the freezer turned off, we can live on solar power indefinitely.
On good sunny days we get anywhere from 150 amps in December/January to 230 amps in June/July. We need to run the
engine (with its 100 amp alternator) for a few hours every third or fourth day in the wintertime. This works out fine because that
is generally about the time we are ready to move on anyways.
We have met a lot of boats in Mexico that found they did not installed enough solar power before starting out and decided to
add more in Mexico. This isn't easy to do. So if you are considering putting solar power on your boat before starting your
cruise, get at least 500 watts, and more if possible.
The panels need to be installed so they are not shadowed and they need to be
wired in parallel. Ours are aft of the boom, but they often get a little shade when
the sun is on the beam or foreword of the beam. Lashing the boom off to one
side often helps. Unfortunately, if as little as 5% of a solar panel is shaded, it
quits working all together. If the panels are wired in series this knocks out the
whole solar panel array. I have seen this on our fifth wheel where our 490 watts
of solar (wired in series) went from producing 10 amps on an early winter
morning to producing 0.1 amp when I used my body to shade a corner of just
one of the four panels. Placing panels near or under radomes, wind generators
or the boom will make it very easy for shadows to creep onto one of the panels
and severely impair the system. Of course while sailing they often end up tilted
away from the sun as well as shaded by the sails.
Our engine-driven water maker is rated to produce 38 gallons per hour, but it
actually makes as much as 60 gallons per hour. In our research we discovered
that most DC watermakers require running the engine to keep the batteries at a
high enough voltage for the watermaker to operate well, so getting an engine driven unit that produces five times more water
made sense to us. It was the same price as the more popular DC
watermakers that produce 6-12 gallons per hour.
In our fifth wheel we use only 8 gallons of water per day, because obtaining
water when boondocking can be tricky. On the boat we use much more.
The salty, grubby marine environment requires lots of fresh water to keep
things clean. Mark attaches a hose to the watermaker's sample tube so we
can wash the decks while making water (although the water pressure
is light). Snorkeling gear and kayaking gear needs rinsing after use, and it
is nice to rinse off salty feet and salty bodies after swimming. We also have
fresh water flush toilets. We use about 20 to 30 gallons of water a day.
Because we are used to keeping our drinking water in gallon bottles in the
trailer rather than drinking from our holding tanks, we always make the last
bit of water into gallon jugs. This allows us to add minerals to the water,
since desalinated water doesn't have any minerals in it.
Anchor & Rode
In Mexico we have been able to anchor in 15 to 25 feet of water almost everywhere, and we put out 120' of chain regardless of
the depth because there is usually plenty of swinging room. When a Sea of Cortez Norther or Corumuel or Westerly blows in
we let out more chain, often as much as 250'. We thought it was a little crazy when we followed the advice of seasoned cruisers
and installed 300' of chain, but we're sure glad we have it now, as we have never dragged. Snorkeling over our 60 lb. Ultra
anchor (and Ultra flip swivel) we have seen a case where the boat pulled the chain in a 360 degree circle around the anchor,
and the anchor neatly cork-screwed into the sand. The chain's pattern on the sand was very pretty. I wish I'd had an
underwater camera to capture it!
These are some goodies we found extremely useful that are not usually on the list for outfitting cruising boats.
Our hot water heater holds 11 gallons and relies on the engine to heat the water. After two days at anchor it's not hot any more.
If we run the engine to make water in the anchorage then the water gets heated up again and the batteries get topped off.
However, if we don't want to run the engine another option is to fill a camping solar shower bag with water, set it in the sun for a
few hours and then use it to take a shower. We tie the shower bag outside the bathroom window and run the nozzle through
the window to the shower. It's not quite as nice as the real shower nozzle, but it does the trick. The 2.5 gallon shower bags are
an easy size to deal with, and we can both get a shower from one bag. The 4 gallon bags are ungainly.
SSB Radio (portable)
The SSB radio is great for socializing on the SSB nets and, if your radio can transmit, the addition of a
Pactor modem also gives you email access while out of reach of Wifi or TelCel cell towers. However,
installing one is an expensive and complicated project, so we decided to forego it. Instead, we use a
portable, battery operated SSB receiver. Clipping a lead between the radio and a steel rod that comes
into the cabin from one of the inner shrouds is all we need to do to listen to the SSB cruiser nets. It took
us quite while to figure out which buttons to push to get the various frequencies, and the nets often change
frequencies slightly up or down if the official frequency is in use when the net is supposed to begin. SSB
broadcasts are full of beeps and blips and weird outerspace noises that make our fellow cruisers sound
like Martians. Ours is a Sangean ATS 909, but others are made by Grundig, Eton and Sony.
There are a lot of places in Mexico where you can get a free wifi signal on the boat, but you need a booster. We have a
Bitstorm BadBoy wifi antenna which has an RJ45 ethernet jack at the end that goes to the computer. This makes the wifi
signal onshore available to one computer on the boat. The manufacturer, Bitstorm, also sells their Unleashed product, a small
antenna which connects to this ethernet jack and then broadcasts wifi within the boat. This effectively makes the external wifi
signal onshore available to multiple computers on board via local wifi. When you turn on the BadBoy antenna it turns on the
Unleashed antenna at the same time, and all of it runs off DC power so there is no need to turn on an inverter.
One of the best things on our boat is two little GMRS walkie-talkie radios. These are rated for 36 miles, but they require line of
sight to achieve that distance. We have found they work over several miles with buildings in between. For instance, from West
Marine's parking lot on Shelter Island Drive all the way down to the Police Dock. We use them when anchoring, which makes
the whole process much less stressful and a lot more polite as we can discuss what's going on while Mark scopes out the
anchorage at the bow and I stand at the wheel. Hand signals are great but you can't really converse about whether this or that
spot might be better and why.
They are also very handy when one person goes to shore and the other stays on the boat. Most cruisers use a handheld VHF
for that purpose, but all VHF radio conversations are public, and I prefer our conversations not to be broadcast all over the
Shade Screen & Fans
If you will be cruising in the Sea of Cortez between May and October you will need a lot of shade in the
cockpit. There are many fancy ways to create shade screens, and lots of people use a mesh that keeps
out 75% to 90% of the UV rays. We chose screens that keep out 90% of the rays, and that was not
enough from June to early October. You need true shade at those times. A fancy solution is a sunbrella
flap that can connects to the bimini and comes down past the lifelines. A cheaper option is just to buy
some bedsheets and use clamps to clamp them onto the bimini and lifelines. These are easy to fold out of
the way and to wash. The biggest problem with shade screens is that the boat rotates, so you need
coverage around the entire cockpit or you will go nuts constantly moving the shade screens from one
place to another.
Some portable DC fans that can be taken into the cockpit or pointed at yourself wherever you are sitting really help too.
Caframo makes high quality DC fans, and they have a small 2-blade model that rotates. Perfect.
Super Siphon Hose
These plastic hoses have a check valve at one end, and they are ideal for transferring diesel or water from
jerry jugs into the boat's tanks. You put the open end of the hose into the tank and put the check valve
end into the jerry jug. Shake the check valve end of the hose up and down to coax the water into the
hose. Once the siphon starts, keep the open end of the hose at the bottom of the jug until it is empty. We
have one Super Siphon hose for water and another for diesel.
Electronic Spanish-English Dictionary
A small book dictionary will work too. The idea is to have something small that you can whip out at the
grocery store when you are staring at a label and have no idea what is inside the container -- is it whole
wheat or oats? Is it whole milk or skim? Is that price for the carrots or the zucchini? Etc., etc. Also, it is
handy for deciphering signs, billboards and newspaper headlines.
Swimmer's Towels (and boat cleaning towels)
These are highly absorbent towels that you rinse out after use and store damp in a plastic container. We
found swimmer's towels online, but they seem no different than the similar towels sold in auto parts stores and
the Walmart auto parts department for wiping down cars and boats. We have a few of each. We use the
swimmer's towels after swimming or after showering in the cockpit. This significantly reduces the number of
salty, wet terry cloth towels we have lying around. The boat cleaning towels are perfect for giving the boat a
sponge bath wipedown on dewey mornings.
Battery Operated LED Candles
We got four 3" candles at Bed Bath and Beyond, and they make the cabin very homey, especially since our
cabin lighting is fluorescent and LED. On overnight passages they make the cabin feel warm and secure.
We replaced all of our incandescent lamp bulbs with LED bulbs, and we replaced two overhead halogen
bulbs with LED bulbs. A good inexpensive source for LED bulbs is http://www.superbrightleds.com.
We got extra bulbs and we got a few in red so that on overnight passages we can switch a few of our lights
to red (although we don't generally bother to do that). Our overhead cockpit light has a red LED bulb, and
this is very handy for identifying our boat in a crowded anchorage when we come back to it in the dark.
We replaced our anchor and running lights with LED bulbs too, but those are specialty items we got
through the traditional marine stores.
We also installed two LED reading lights that have turned out to be really great. They cast a nice light that
is excellent for reading, and they don't have the harsh glare of most LED interior lights. We also put
several $4 battery operated stick-on LED lights in hanging lockers, under the sinks and in other poorly lit
Dive Tank Handles
Getting dive tanks refilled usually involves at least a long walk if not a dinghy ride, and the easiest way to haul around the
ungainly tanks is with a webbing and velcro strap handle. We found these simple handles make all the difference in the world.
Just make sure the dive shop knows the handles belong to you, or remove them before you leave the tanks if you have to leave
the tanks for a few hours or overnight, just so they don't disappear while at the shop.
This Tips for Mexico Cruisers guide is continued here: Tips for Cruising Mexico - Part 2
To help you plan your cruise and get you inspired, we created the video series, "Cruising Mexico Off the Beaten Path - Volumes 1-3," shown below. This is a fun-to-watch and easy-to-digest introduction to Mexico from a cruiser's perspective, giving you lots of valuable information that isn't covered by the cruising guides. Each video is available individually at Amazon, either as a DVD or as a download. For discount package pricing on the whole series, visit our page Cruising Mexico Video Series.
Volume 1 (left) reviews the geography, weather and seasons in Mexico and shows you what the best anchorages between Ensenada and Manzanillo are like.
Volume 2 (middle) gives detailed info that can't be found in any of the guidebooks about the glorious cruising ground between Manzanillo and the Guatemala border.
Volume 3 (right) provides all the info you need to get off the boat for an adventure-filled trip to Oaxaca.Our Gear Store also has a boatload of ideas for your cruise!
Curious about the price or specs for something similar to an item mentioned on this page? You might find it here:
New to this site? Visit our Home Page to learn more about us, and see our Intro for Cruisers to find out where we keep all the good stuff, including tips for planning your cruise to Mexico, our Solar Power pages, and our ideas for outfitting your boat.
20 Peso Note
Mega Comercial Mexicana supermarket (La Paz).
Produce at the Mega Comercial Mexicana
supermarket (La Paz).
Chicken on a table at the Comercial
Mexicana supermarket in Ensenada.
Frosted Flakes - Kellogg's cereals are everywhere.
Produce at the Central Market in Zihuatanejo.
Chicken in Zihuatanejo's Central Market.
Fish market in Ensenada.
A vendor at the fish market on the
beach in Zihuatanejo.
A typical corner "tienda" or "mini-super."
Inside a "mini-super" in La Manzanilla (in
One of two "tiendas" (small stores) in Agua Verde, a
remote village in the Sea of Cortez.
Inside the store in Agua Verde (by far the
smallest store we've seen).
Waldo's - the Dollar store.
Boxed milk. We prefer
Alpura plain yogurt
Mayonnaise in a nifty
A typical hardware store, or "ferreteria."
Another hardware store ("ferreteria").
Lopez Marine, the best stocked chandlery we have seen in Mexico.
Vallarta Chandlery in La Cruz (on right).
Getting a haircut in La Cruz.
Typical laundromat, or "lavenderia."
Wendy, the French coffee guru,
grinds his delicious French Roast
in La Cruz.
Tips for Cruising Mexico - Part 2
(This guide was adapted by the Baja-Haha Cruiser's Rally for their First-Timer's Guide to Mexico)
This is Page 2 of our collection of tips for cruising Mexico in your own boat (see Tips for Cruising Mexico - Part 1
and Mexico Maps for more info). These are things we learned en-route and wish we had known before we left. If you are
planning a cruise to Mexico, I hope this special page from our boat blog helps paint the picture of what you might find there.
• Checking In Procedures:
What you might experience during the check-in process
Currency exchange and credit cards
Stores and foods
• Boat Parts:
What to expect - it's nothing like the US or Canada
• Internet Access:
UPDATE from 08/25/2016 - See INTERNET info at bottom of page!!
Where to do it and what it costs
What kinds of clothes - and how much - to bring
• Hair Care
Getting your hair done can be a cultural experience
There aren't many, but here are the few we've seen
• Dinghy/outboard Theft
Crime against tourists is rare, but dinghy/outboard theft is a known problem in two areas.
Approximate costs of cruising in Mexico
• Hurricane Season
Some things we learned after leaving our boat in San Carlos
This procedure changes so much it is almost silly to put anything in here, as it is probably out of date already. But this will give
you an idea of what might take place, as it is what we went through in February 2010 and October 2010…
We checked into Mexico in Ensenada. This is a great place to do it, as everything is in one room. In 2010 the Ensenada
marinas charged $60 to have a staff person take you to the port captain and walk you through the process, although we have a
friend who was not charged a centavo. Having a guide makes it a no brainer to check in, and you know everything is done right.
If you decide to do it yourself you will still need the marina to write up a crew list for you. The port captain in Ensenada wants to
see the letterhead of one of the three local marinas on the crew list. I tried to write one myself upon our second entry into
Mexico after we had left for the summer and they wouldn't accept it. The port is encouraging all boats not to anchor out, so this
may be part of their method for controlling that.
Your marina may write up a crew list for free, at least Baja Naval did for us when we checked into Mexico the second time.
They will also ask you to give them a copy of the paperwork when you get back from the port captain's office. It is a tightly
controlled port and the marinas are required to keep copies of the check-in paperwork for boats that stay with them. All
together you will need:
• Crew List
• Passports for all on board
• US Coast Guard boat documentation
• Boat insurance declaration page (I think…)
• Serial numbers of your boat's main engine and dinghy outboard
The port captain's office is on the north side of the big fish market at the north end of the malecón. It is down a side road,
opposite the chandlery Agencia Arjona, and is clearly marked "Capitania de Puerto." Ask for directions when you get to the fish
Walk inside and tell the first person you see that you want to check in. There are several windows with officials sitting behind
them, and you will be pointed to the right one for starting the process.
You will be obtaining a 10-year Temporary Import Permit ("TIP") for your boat and a 6-month tourist visa for each person on the
boat. For each of these documents you will have to pay first at one window (the Banjercito) and then take your receipt to
another window to obtain the paperwork. You may go back and forth between the windows twice to get these documents
The TIP is a document that includes an addendum page that lists everything you have on your boat, including watermaker,
electronics, cooking appliances, etc. This is where the serial numbers of the engines comes in. We knew we would be adding
solar and a watermaker within a few months, so we listed the boat as having those already.
At the end of the whole process you will have three documents in your hand: 10-year TIP, Tourist visa(s), and stamped Crew
List. In addition you will have the two receipts from the Banjercito (TIP and tourist visa(s)). The process could take an hour or
could take two, as it did for us because we walked in right after a megayacht that had 10 New Zealanders on board.
Then you will be asked to press a magic button that is connected to a large street light. If it lights up green you are good to go.
If it lights up red and sirens go off, you will be mortified and everyone in the room will stare at you. This means you have been
arbitrarily selected for a boat inspection. A few uniformed people with clipboards will accompany you back to the boat and will
have a look around. They checked out our boat but didn't verify line-by-line what was on the TIP as I would have expected. It
was just a general, friendly inspection, much like the many Mexican Navy boardings that have taken place since then.
There are lots of places to get the current exchange rate between the Mexican peso and US or Canadian dollar. One site with a
historical perspective and current rate is: http://www.x-rates.com/d/MXN/USD/graph120.html. Although in the past two years
the exchange rate has hovered between 11 and 13 pesos to 1 USD, most people use a 10-to-1 exchange rate in their heads
when trying to figure out prices on the fly.
The best place to change money is with your debit card at ATM machines located
within bank buildings. By using a bank's ATM machine you have someone to go to if
the machine doesn't give you your money (three different friends have told me a
free-standing Mexican ATM machine shorted them their money or gave them nothing
at all, and they had little recourse). You can't exchange money with a bank teller
unless you have an account at the bank, and the money changers on the streets
don't give great rates.
You will be charged a fee by the bank that changes your money, usually about 19-27
pesos, and unless you bank has a relationship with the Mexican bank, your bank will likely charge a $2-$3 fee too. So we prefer
to change as much money as possible whenever we do it (6,000 to 8,000 pesos seems typical with most cruisers I've talked to),
and the final exchange rate after the two sets of fees works out to about a few tenths of a peso less than the advertised rate.
The receipts never show the exchange rate you were given, so we find out what rate we got when we look at our bank account
online after the fact.
HSBC, Bancomer, Banamex, Santander and Scotiabank are in most cities. I haven't studied the comparative exchange rates,
but I do know in La Paz HSBC gives the best rate. One interesting note: I walked into a Santander bank and the first ATM
machine I walked up to wanted to charge 31 pesos to change money, while the second one, further from the door, charged only
Credit card fraud is rampant in Mexico. In one year we had five cases of fraud on three different credit cards. I guess it took us
a while to learn our lesson. So bottom line: don't use your credit card. Our last fraud was either at an Ensenada marina or at
the main TelCel office in Ensenada, so even if you are dealing with an established, above-the-board big business, your card
may get compromised. Look up "ATM skimmers" or "credit card skimmers" online to learn more about some of the ways credit
card fraud is accomplished, both at US bank ATM machines and abroad.
All that being said, it can still be helpful to have a credit card available for emergencies or for purchases where you trust the
merchant. Most credit cards charge a fee for changing the currency from pesos to US dollars. However, Capital One credit
cards are terrific for all international travel because they do not charge any kind of a fee for changing money.
You will need lots of smaller bills when you are in smaller towns -- 20, 50 and 100 peso notes. We have found some places are
challenged to make change when you hand them a 200 peso note. Lots of 2, 5 and 10 peso coins are also handy for tipping. If
the ATM machine gives you a wad of 500 peso notes, go inside the bank and get some small ones.
FOOD & PROVISIONING
There are some warehouse stores on the Mexican coast. Sams Club is more prevalent in the coastal port towns than Costco.
The only coastal Costcos are in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. The one in PV is very difficult to get to,
especially if you are staying in La Cruz, as there is no bus to it. The cab ride back to La Cruz from that Costco is about 100
pesos ($7.50). Sam's Club is much more common in coastal Mexico (Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and La Paz) and is
relatively easy to reach in every town. Before buying or renewing your club card, check the Mexican locations online, as new
Costcos and Sams Clubs will continue to pop up.
There are lots of big supermarkets in the major cities (Ensenada, La Paz, Loreto, San Carlos,
Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Zihuatanejo). The Mexican chains are Soriana,
Comercial Mexicana (which has a line of mammoth supermarkets called "MEGA") and Ley.
Walmart is in most of those cities too. If you need to do a big provisioning run, take the bus
there and a cab back. Most cab rides are around 30 to 50 pesos ($2.30-$3.80). Negotiate the
fare before you hop in.
The selection and prices are all over the map, both in the warehouse stores and in the major
supermarkets. American packaged products are often more expensive than in the US due to
import taxes. Some brands have a big presence in Mexico and some are non-existent. For
instance, Kelloggs cereals are everywhere, some General Mills products are re-branded Nestle,
a handful of Quaker cereals can be found and Post cereals don't exist at all. If you have certain
products you can't live without, stock up before leaving the US. If you are willing to take the time
in the bigger cities, you can find just about everything if you check each of the big supermarkets.
Soriana and Comercial Mexicana (Mega) both have
club cards for frequent shoppers. It is easy to sign up
for a card and you will accumulate points. Every so
often it pays off. I've never fully grasped the subtleties
of these cards, but a few times we've had a hundred or
so pesos deducted from our grocery bill at the checkout
It is customary to tip the bagger a few pesos for bagging your groceries. I have
heard rumors that they are not paid by the stores, but I don't know if this is really
true. Also, we purchased two big insulated "cold bags" and keep some cold packs
in our freezer. This helps keep the refrigerated items cold during the long trek
back to the boat.
Many bigger towns have a Mercado Publico -- a central public
market. These usually take up nearly a city block and are enclosed
with lots of booths for different vendors. The meat, fish, poultry and
produce is brought in from the outlying farms. Prices aren't posted,
so it's a great time to practice your Spanish numbers as you ask
what different items cost. You bag what you want and pay the
person near the booth's register. Often lots of other things are for
sale -- there might be a hat booth, a straw basket booth, a hardware
booth, a broom booth, a DVD booth, etc. For us gringos, it can feel like a
very third world experience, but is also very colorful and exciting.
Small Grocery Stores
In smaller towns, villages and on the back streets of the cities you'll find corner "tiendas" or
"abarrotes." These are small convenience stores and grocery stores that carry essentials.
These little one-room shops usually have a few vegetables (onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and
maybe a few others), lots of canned goods, bread, boxed milk, soaps, cold drinks, bottled water,
beer and other basics. They are often called a "mini-super."
There are US-style convenience store chains as well. Oxxo is the most common convenience
store chain. Similar to 7-11 or Circle K, it can be found on many city street corners. The beer
breweries also have chains of convenience stores that sell their beer and other basics. Modelo,
Pacifico and Tecate all have convenience stores. For Corona fans: Modelo makes Corona.
There are dollar stores in Mexico. The most common are Waldo's ("Todo a un precio" - "Everything at one
price") and Solo Un Precio. Just like dollar stores in the US, they sell all kinds of cheap goodies. This is one of
the few places we have found pretzels, although they are not quite as tasty as pretzels you buy in the US. We
also found huge jars of peanut-butter and relatively inexpensive peanuts.
Provisioning before leaving the US
Specialty items, from favorite toiletries to spices, sauces and condiments, may or may not available in Mexico, so stock up on
those before you leave. Kikkoman soy sauce is easy to find, but Neutrogena facial products aren't. It's impossible to list all that
is available and not available. This is where living in Ensenada for a few months first (or at least driving or taking the bus down
for a weekend to check out the shopping situation) is really helpful
Don't bring any canned vegetables with you except what you are going to consume right away. Canned vegetables can be
found in even the tiniest "tienda" in the most remote Sea of Cortez village, so unless you eat a lot of canned vegetables, there is
no need to bring any with you from the US. Other canned goods like Dinty Moore Beef Stew, Chef Boyardi products, Bush's
Baked Beans and Hormel Chili are not easy to find. Canned tuna and canned chicken are reported to taste different in Mexico.
I can't verify that as I am still working on the enormous stash we bought at Costco before we left the US.
Paper products in Mexico are not the quality we are used to in the US. If you use a lot of paper towels and like them to be
strong enough not to disintegrate at first touch, take as many rolls as you can fit. We have friends who now use blue Shop
Towels as paper towels (available at auto parts stores in Mexico) -- an expensive way to go, but they couldn't stand the flimsy
Mexican paper towels. Likewise with toilet paper. Good quality brands of these products can be found at the warehouse stores,
but not necessarily at the supermarkets.
We found we longed for American snack foods, and were glad to have a stash of favorites. Ritz crackers,
potato chips and Oreos are readily available at supermarkets in Mexico, but Wheat Thins, Cheezits,
Triscuits, and Chips Ahoy are nearly impossible to find. Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Pretzels and Nuts
of any kind are rare and expensive.
If you have a freezer, stock up on meats, chicken and your favorite cheese before leaving the US. The
Mexican counterparts are okay, but they are different, and it is really nice after a few months to bite into a
steak from your favorite hometown grocer.
Get some long-life veggie bags. Debbie Meyer's Green Bags or the Brawny pink ones. Both keep veggies
longer than if they are in regular plastic bags. You can wash and re-use the bags. We had beautiful fresh
broccoli 3 weeks after we bought it in San Diego. Carrots, potatoes and onions last well in brown paper
bags out of the fridge.
Provisioning in Mexico
Many big city supermarkets have a gringo section, and that is often stocked with Kirkland
(Costco) brand items, although the prices are more than in the US. Breton crackers, fancy
mustards and olives can often be found on these shelves. I've even seen peanut-butter pretzels.
Mexican dairy products are not the same as in the US. For some reason the fresh milk goes
sour a lot faster -- is it inferior processing, or does the US use more potent chemicals? Who
knows. Mark stopped eating cold cereal all together and I use boxed milk for my coffee. I don't
taste a difference. To me the boxed milk is just like fresh milk, but Mark disagrees
If you like yogurt, the best yogurt we have found is from the dairy Alpura. This brand is sold
primarily on the mainland, but sometimes you can get lucky in Baja. All plain yogurt by other companies
has sugar in it ("azúcar" in the ingredients list). Alpura is the only dairy that sells true plain yogurt. Their
flavored yogurt is also the most similar to US yogurt. Even though Yoplait and Dannon sell yogurt in
Mexico, it is nothing like the US versions of the products.
If you want fat free products, that is "sin grasa," and sugar free is "sin azúcar." Many people confuse
yogurt and sour cream because the containers look the same. If the container says "Crema" it is sour
cream. If it says something that looks like the word "yogurt" (spellings vary) then it is yogurt.
There is one major Mexican cheese sold everywhere: Manchego cheese. It has a Spanish origin where
it is made from goat milk. In Mexico it is a different recipe using cow's milk/cream. It is a white cheese
that is good with crackers or in quesadillas or tortillas. However, many Americans eventually long for their
familiar orange cheddar cheese which Mexicans don't eat. Most supermarkets carry one brand of cheddar cheese: Joseph's
Farm from California. Stock up when you see it, if you like that kind of cheese, as other gringos will be stocking up too, and a lot
of times the supermarkets are sold out. Most big city supermarkets sell Gouda cheese and many have Brie and other soft
European cheeses as well.
Also in the dairy section you can always find Yakult, a terrific little sweet dairy drink packed with
probiotics, the perfect antidote to any kind of gastric distress caused by Montezuma or anything else.
We have never gotten sick from water or food -- only from swallowing red tide by accident. Most
digestive complaints from cruisers seem to come after a meal out.
The biggest supermarkets have good selections of fresh produce. However, the quality is not as high
as the US. Examine everything carefully, because blemishes are common. Most big supermarkets
sell small bottles of Microdyn or other antibacterial wash products. Pour a cap-full in a sink of water
and let all the veggies float in it for a while. Then rinse them well.
Eggs are often sold unrefrigerated. They can be kept unrefrigerated if you turn the box over every 24
hours. I had never in my life seen a rotten egg before living in Mexico. I cracked my first one not long
ago. The yolk and white were completely black and putrid. Now I understand the childhood taunt,
"Last one home is a rotten egg."
Meats and chicken take a little getting used to, as the quality is often only so-so. The chicken is very yellow. We have asked
lots of people why, and we've gotten several odd answers. There is an old wive's tale that it is from feeding the chickens
marigolds. Well, Mexican chickens are raised in factory farms, so that is doubtful. Some say they are dipped in iodine. I've also
heard they are fed corn, but US chicken is fed corn too. Who knows. It is very yellow and it can have a potent smell when
cooked if you don't remove the skin and fat.
Lunch meat is available in one variety: turkey ("pavo") that has been made to look like ham ("jamón"). The most common
brand is "Fud." It resembles the worst quality lunch meat available in US stores, and even that brand name "Fud" is
unappetizing. If you like good quality lunch meat, buy a bunch in the US, freeze it and bring it south with you.
Fresh fish is often a better bet. The Spanish names are different. Fish we have enjoyed immensely are Cabrilla (bass) and
Sierra (Spanish Mackerel), as well as dorado (mahi-mahi).
Pollo Asado is grilled chicken sold at outdoor stands. This chicken is delicious. Choose a stand that has a crowd of Mexicans
around it, and it will be tasty and safe to eat. A whole chicken is usually around 100 pesos ($7.50) and you can also buy half
and quarter chickens. They are often split along the sternum and laid out flat on the grill so they look like roadkill. They are sold
with corn tortillas and often with delicious flavored rice. This is a terrific thing to buy prior to a long passage. You can nibble the
chicken plain, make chicken salad or sandwiches, turn it into a stir-fry, or wrap it in a tortilla with cheese and heat it up.
Tacos on the street are also a great way to go for cheap eats. A good price is about 8 to 20 pesos per taco (around $0.60 to
$1.50). Two makes a meal and three stuff you. They are served open so you can fill them with toppings and then roll them up
yourself. Always choose places that are crowded with Mexicans. They know where the good food is. Carne, chicken and fish
tacos are available from Puerto Vallarta and to the north. The best are on the Baja peninsula (at Rancho Viejo in La Paz and
Las Brisas in Ensenada).
South of Cabo Corrientes corn tortillas begin to dominate and flour tortillas disappear along with the familiar style of beef,
chicken and fish tacos found up north. It is not nearly as easy in this area to find good beef taco stands. In Manzanillo we
walked all over town in search of fish tacos and finally asked at the visitors center where to find them. They sent us to a back
street where a vendor had a vat of fish stew he ladled into corn tortillas -- not at all the fish tacos we were used to in northern
Mexico and southern California and Arizona.
You can easily make fish tacos from any kind of cooked fish by dicing up tomatoes and cold crunchy veggies (cucumber, celery,
cabbage, etc.). Heat up the fish on a tortilla in a skillet or microwave, then sprinkle on the veggies and add a little mayo and hot
sauce and roll it up. Yum.
The best flour tortillas are on the Baja peninsula, and are found in tortillerias that make them there on the spot. They are
typically about a peso apiece, sold by the kilo (about 28 tortillas). Separate them before refrigerating or they will stick together
and rip. If you freeze them they may stick together when thawed, so separate first and make sure they are dry before freezing.
South of Cabo Corrientes there is only one brand of commercial flour tortillas, "Tortillinas," and they aren't nearly as good as the
homemade ones, but they are sold even in the smallest tiendas. Tortillerias in this southern coastal part of Mexico make and
sell only corn tortillas.
Totopos are a fried corn tortilla chip snack food that were probably the original ancestor of Doritos and Fritos (we discovered
that the famous Frito Bandito song from the old commercials is actually a take off on a famous Mariachi song here in Mexico).
They are available primarily on the mainland. You can buy them freshly made at tortillerias and in the bakery section of the big
city supermarkets, or you can buy them prepackaged at little corner tiendas. They are tasty as a snack served plain or with a
guacamole, bean, cheese or other dip.
We have found awesome refried beans under the brand "Isadora" that come in soft
plastic packaging. These are fantastic for a quickie bean burrito on the boat (tortilla,
beans, cheese, hot sauce - heat and roll up).
Mayonnaise also comes in this kind of soft packaging which is perfect for jamming
into a packed fridge…
It is hard to find good quality coffee in the northern part of Mexico. However, the
best coffee I have ever had can be found at The Octopus's Garden / Galeria Huichol in
La Cruz (Puerto Vallarta/Banderas Bay). The proprietor, a Frenchman named Wendy,
roasts his own beans to create a French Roast that is to die for and is about half the
price of Starbucks coffee in the US. He also sells his coffee at the weekly Farmer's
Market in La Cruz and is located in the last booth that sells coffee (so don't get hasty
and buy the wrong stuff!). Further south in Zihuatanejo you can get locally grown
Mexican coffee, and it is very good.
There are lots of products I have been told can't be found in Mexico, but they can be if you are patient. They just
aren't easy to find and may not be in the city where you want them to be. But keep prowling around and eventually
you will locate them. Among these are brown sugar, pickle relish and high quality packaged bread.
While all Mexicans eat and there is an abundance of food to be had, even if it isn't quite what you're used to at home, not that
many Mexicans own cruising boats. Finding parts for the boat is a challenge. Even finding simple tools and hardware is a
The best chandlery we've seen is Lopez Marine in La Paz. It is about ⅓ the size
of West Marine in San Diego. If they don't have it on the shelf they can order it
for you from the US. Prices are 10% to 30% higher than in the US. All the other
chandleries we visited in Mexico were fishing oriented and had few, if any,
sailboat-specific parts. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw a snap
shackle at Lopez Marine -- it was the first I had seen since West Marine in San
Diego 6 months earlier, and we had been all over the Mexican coast at that point.
The rule in Mexico for buying anything is: if you see and think you might want it
someday, buy it, because you won't see it again. That goes for the humongous
jar of Skippy peanut-butter and it goes for the gizmo-widget that looks like it might
come in handy in a crisis at sea.
Most hardware stores ("ferreterias") are small one- or two-room shops that
carry a variety of general purpose tools and parts. The selection is often
minimal and sometimes a bit weird. They may have 100 screws of one
length and pitch, six of another, and none of any others. When you ask for
an item they might hand you a dusty, opened box with something similar to
what you want inside. You have to rely on your own ingenuity and creativity
to make the best out of what you find in these little places. That's what the
Mexicans do, and they are extremely good at it.
Some hardware stores have specialties -- the
nuts-and-bolts-and-screws store, the tool store,
etc. Little is available in stainless steel. Home
Depot has a few stores in Mexico, and they are much the same as the stores in the US, but they
don't sell things the Mexicans don't buy. Appliances are smaller; the selection of things like faucets
is minimal. The major US auto parts stores like Napa Auto Parts are also common in Mexico. Again,
patience, lots of walking, and creativity are key. Most store clerks will point you to another store if
they don't have what you are looking for. You will get in lots of miles on foot.
In many ways we have had some of our best days getting to know the Mexicans and their culture
when we wandered the back streets of different towns looking for a particular part. We might not
have found the part, but we had a chance to practice our Spanish and experience a little of life in a
culture that is very differently than our own.
Major replacement parts can be
brought into Mexico, but it is a
complicated process that is heavily taxed. Some cities like
La Paz have an enterprising person that will drive to the US
and carry packages over the border for you for a fee (they
avoid the import tax for you by not declaring the part at the
border crossing). Otherwise, if the parts are shipped by a
commercial shipper they have to go through customs in a
major inland city (Mexico City or Guadalajara) and an import
duty is imposed. We have not done either of these things,
so I won't mislead you any further.
INTERNET - THIS SECTION IS OBSOLETE. SEE "INTERNET" AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
For internet access from the boat we found the TelCel USB modem to be very valuable. It uses the TelCel cell phone towers to
operate, and there are cell towers wherever there is a good sized town. It is a small stick that plugs into the computer's USB
port. The first time you plug it in it will download some application software onto your computer. You run that software to make
the USB modem connect to a cell tower.
TelCel (pronounced "Tell SELL") is owned by the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, but it is not a particularly easy device to buy
or renew. The best way to get one is to go to a main "TelCel - Atención A Clientes" office building. These are huge buildings in
major cities (Ensenada, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, PV, Manzanillo, Ixtapa). Inside (often upstairs) there is a row of 20
or so clerk windows, like you find at a huge bank or at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Don't bother with any of the small
TelCel shops on the street. They are cell phone oriented and don't have what you need.
The big TelCel offices are run something like the Department of Motor Vehicles too: you tell the receptionist what product you
are there for and she gives you a number. Then you stand in line for as much as an hour until a window opens up. Like the
check-in process for entering Mexico, this whole process is ever evolving, but I will explain here what we have gone through to
purchase and renew our TelCel Banda Ancha. It is just a guideline...
The product you want is the Banda Ancha Amigo Alto 3G. The 3G is pronounced "trays jeega," but the important thing is to
get a clerk that speaks English. If the one you walk up to doesn't speak English, wait for one that does.
Once at the clerk's window, it will take a while for the paperwork to be processed. You will then be sent to a line to pay for it.
Your purchase should include both the USB modem and the first month's 399 pesos of upload/download. After you have paid (it
might be handled in two transactions) you return to your clerk's window with the receipt and they give you the USB modem stick.
Before leaving the building, take out your laptop, plug in the stick and verify that it works. Look for the word
"Idioma" (Language) in the software (it may be in the "Herramientas" (Tools) menu). By clicking "Idioma" you can set the
language to English. If you can't get it working, ask for help and stick around until it does. Make a note of the cell phone
number that has been assigned to your USB modem.
We got a Huawei modem stick and it works great. Other cruisers like their Huawei stick too. Our first stick was a Nokia and the
Macintosh implementation of its software couldn't go through the steps necessary to renew the account at the end of the month.
A real headache.
The stick lights up blue if it is a 3G connection and green otherwise. Much of the time it is green. The fastest connection I've
seen is in La Paz and has a download speed of just under 2.5 Mbps and an upload speed of around 0.15 Mbps. To compare
this to your current internet connection, go to http://www.speedtest.net and do the speed test. In most anchorages the
download speed is more like 0.5 Mbps and upload is around 0.07 Mbps. Pretty pitiful, but it sure is better than nothing and it
teaches you patience, a critical skill for cruising. Sitting in the cockpit, aiming the stick towards the cell tower and even holding
the laptop overhead can all make a difference in the speed (I held our laptop overhead off and on for 45 minutes while we left
Tenacatita during the March 2011 tsunami so we could get the latest news reports on how the waves were affecting the
California coast. We had connectivity--of sorts--for six miles out).
The cost is 399 pesos (~$32) per 3GB of uploads/downloads or 30 days, whichever comes first, and the USB
modem stick is a few hundred pesos. Oddly, access is sold in increments of 500 pesos. You can buy more
than one 3GB packet of access, but they are distinct purchases and you should get a separate receipt for each.
I found it best to stick to one 500 peso advance purchase at a time, activated when needed..
The 3GB of access is enough to send and receive email, surf the web, watch some YouTube and news videos and access
social media websites. If you spend a lot of time on YouTube or watching news videos or downloading large files you will use it
You can see your approximate usage in the Statistics tab in the TelCel software. For a more accurate accounting, especially if
you access TelCel from more than one computer, you need to set up an account online. To do this go to http://
www.mitelcel.com and create a NIP (password) to go along with the cell number of your modem. Once you have logged
in you can go to "Internet TelCel" and click on "Consulta" see the exact amount you have used so far. On the right hand side
bar under "Mi Cuenta" you can go to "Consulta tu Saldo" to see the balance of pesos in your account.
Whether or not you use all your 3GB, your account will expire after 30 days at a specific hour, minute and second (given in your
online account). The communication between you and TelCel is handled through text messages in the software, and you will be
notified when it expires. All the text messages are in Spanish, so a Spanish-English dictionary really helps. Or, you can copy
the text from the message into the Google Translator (http://translate.google.com/) to get it translated into English.
In order to renew your service, you need to put more money in your account and then inform TelCel to apply it to another month
of Amigo 3G access. This is a two step process. You can put more money in your account any time by going to a chain market
(Soriana, Comercial Mexicana (MEGA), Chedraui, Walmart, Oxxo) and asking the checkout person to put 500 pesos on your
USB modem's cell phone number. Just show them the phone number and ask for 500 pesos to be put on your account.
Once the money is in your account you will get a text message in your TelCel software telling you it has been received. Activate
it after the current packet has expired, not before. There is a grace period of a few days where you get free access.
To activate it, open the TelCel application on your computer and go to the TEXT tab (for Text Messages). In the "Send
message to:" field put: 5050. In the body of the message write: bat30 You will get a text message reply stating that the
service has been restarted. It will also tell you the date and time the service expires. Or do it through your http://
www.mitelcel.com account. You can also purchase air time with a credit card through www.mitelcel.com, but when I last tried it
was not a secure credit card transaction. (Recently the text msg renewal deducted 500 pesos whereas the online one deducted 399).
Of course all this will probably change, so this is just an approximation of what to expect.
Patience is key, but the reward is internet access from the boat. A lot of times the speed is not great. Sometimes the servers
are down (and if so it will likely take until the next business day for them to be brought up again). However, something is better
than nothing, and it's all part of the cultural experience of living in a foreign country.
There are lots of laundromats in Mexico, usually within an easy walk. Most marinas have them onsite. The cost per load is is
somewhere around 30 to 60 pesos to wash and dry, or about $2.30 to $4.60 per load. For another 10 pesos or so per load you
can have your laundry done for you and returned to you folded and smelling good. The pricing is
frequently based on weight rather than load, and it is typically about 15 to 20 pesos per kilo to have your
laundry done for you (or about $1.15 to $1.50 per kilo). A load is usually two to three kilos. As with
everything, prices are cheaper further south.
We often go 2-3 weeks between laundry runs, so we have a second set of sheets and towels. We also
wash some lighter and smaller items by hand, like running shorts, bathing suits and tank tops. Washing
out a few things every day makes it an easy job.
Generally the commercial washing machines and dryers are far from new and unfortunately it is rather
common to get your clothes back with small rust stains on them, usually placed front and center on your
brand new souvenir t-shirt or dress. Occasionally you may find an article of someone else's clothing in
your bag when you get it back, or you might discover an item is missing. This is just because things get
stuck in the crevices of the washers and show up in the next load.
Almost everyone takes too many clothes to Mexico. Living on a boat, especially at anchor, is a grubby business. It is amazing
how many times you will wear a piece of clothing because you know you won't be near a laundromat for a while. Several
changes of clothes may be sufficient to start -- that way you can get some souvenir t-shirts and beach cover-up dresses without
overloading your lockers. I loaded up on bathing suits before leaving the US, and then couldn't justify buying any of the really
cute bathing suits for sale in the Mexican tourist shops. Mark made the same mistake with t-shirts. So before you overstuff
your lockers, keep in mind that a lot of our clothes north of the border are made in Mexico, and they are cheaper down there!
You will need cold weather clothing for the trip to Cabo. If you spend the winter in La Paz, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta, you may
still need a light jacket, long sleeves and long pants as well as shorts. If you stay south of Cabo Corrientes for the winter you will
be living in shorts and t-shirts. If you spend the coldest part of the winter in Z-town or south of there, you will be in a bathing
suit, lightweight shorts and tank tops.
Some of the best haircuts I've gotten have been in Mexico, and I've never paid more
than 80 pesos (about $6). Just as we discovered in our trailer in the US, sometimes
you learn a lot about a community from the hair stylists. I felt I had really reached a
high point when I was able to talk to the lady that cut our hair in Loreto for an hour in
Spanish. If you want true styling and not just a cut, the prices are more typically 200
pesos (about $15).
Bugs are generally not an issue at all in Mexico. The only bugs we have come across have been:
Bees - In the Sea of Cortez there are a lot of thirsty bees looking for fresh water. In 2011 they were particularly pesky on the
islands around the Loreto area and at Puerto Los Gatos slightly south of there. However, I suspect that they move, as
anchorages reported to be bee-filled had few when we got there, and anchorages that were supposed to be bee-free were
inundated when we arrived. The best way to deal with them is to have a few good fly swatters on board and to get aggressive.
They move fairly slowly and are easy to kill. They send a scout first, and then they come in pairs and threes. If you can prevent
the scouts from returning to the hive you are winning. Another trick is to make sure you have no fresh water puddles from your
cockpit shower. I found that dousing the transom near the shower with seawater can really help discourage them. They can
detect fresh water in a sealed plastic water bottle…
Bobos - These are tiny mangrove-loving flies that don't bite but bug the heck out of you anyways by landing repeatedly all over
you. They can't get through screens.
Jejenes (pronounced "hayhaynays") - These are virtually invisible no-see-ums that bite like the dickens. You'll feel this zing and
then study your arm or leg and see nothing unless you get a magnifying glass. You can kill them by smearing your finger
across them. Screens don't keep them out. We found them in Amatorjada Bay on Isla San Jose in the Sea of Cortez, and they
seemed to stay with us on the boat for a week after that.
DINGHY & OUTBOARD THEFT
In most places in Mexico you can leave the dinghy in the water overnight without any concern. However, two areas on the
mainland have had rashes of outboard theft in recent years.
Barra de Navidad experienced nine dinghy/outboard thefts in the winter of 2009-10. Once cruisers started raising their dinks
there at night in 2010-11, the number dropped to just a few (which were in the water). So be sure to lift the dinghy out of the
water and lock the outboard to the dinghy transom while in Barra.
Mantanchen Bay outside San Blas (near Mazatlan) had a rash of 5 or 6 outboards/dinghies stolen in the winter of 2010-11.
While we were staying there friends of ours had their outboard stolen off the dinghy even though it was raised high in the davits
(it was not locked to the dinghy). They were on board and asleep when it happened. So the best defense is to remove the
outboard from the dink and lock it securely to your boat's transom.
In the fall of 2011 a saiboat anchored in the San Blas estuary outside of the Fonatur/Singlar marina experienced an attempted
robbery while the owners were ashore. So if you are staying there, it might be wise to stay in the marina rather than anchor out.
Everyone has a different budget, and everyone spends what they have. So it is impossible to say "it costs xyz to cruise in
Mexico." However, I'll give a very rough idea of what some of the costs are that we have seen.
For us, keeping a boat in Mexico, living on it and sailing it 6 months a year, maintaining it, flying back and forth to it, insuring it
and storing it when we're not there costs around $13,000-$14,000 per year. If we were on it full-time and didn't fly back and
forth or store it, our annual cost would be around $21,000-$24,000.
Getting our boat ready to cruise - anchor system upgrade, watermaker installation, solar installation, dinghy & outboard,
downwind sailing gear, safety gear, interior comfort stuff and small goodies cost about 20% of the purchase price.
On average we found our food bill is about 90% of what it is in the US, slightly higher than that in the northern parts of Mexico
and slightly lower in the southern parts. Beer is typically anywhere from 55 pesos a sixpack ($4.25) for Pacifico/Modelo to 72
pesos a sixpack ($5.50) for Bohemia Oscura (a darker more premium beer). Many grocery items are taxed 15%. American
branded items seem expensive. For instance Listerine is 42 pesos ($3.25) for a 16 oz bottle. Colgate toothpaste is 35 pesos
but for the same size tube the Mexican brand called Fresca is 6 pesos. So it is all in how you shop.
We don't eat out much, but simple street food is cheap: 100 pesos ($7.50) can buy each of us a meal and a drink. At the beach
palapa bars (sitting under an umbrella on a plastic chair in the sand) a beer is typically 12 pesos ($0.95) in the far south and 25
pesos ($1.95) further north. Fine dining in the high end resorts is similar in price to comparable US restaurants.
Fuel pricing is government controlled so it can't swing up and down by huge amounts, and there is a tax on it. In addition,
marinas charge a service fee for using their docks and that fee can be anywhere from 10% to 20%. So in the end our fuel costs
in 2013 have averaged around $3.50 to $3.80 per gallon. You can't avoid the dock service fee by showing up with jerry jugs --
the fee applies no matter how the fuel is delivered. Still it's not a bad deal, as diesel in California is running over $4.00 per
gallon now in the fall of 2013.
We use about half as much fuel per month while cruising as we do while RVing. This may sound surprising, but we drive our
truck in the US less than some people might expect and we motor our sailboat in Mexico more than we ever expected. On the
boat we burn about 2/3 to 3/4 of a gallon of fuel per hour, and we traveled from San Diego down to Zihuatanejo up to San
Carlos and back down to Puerto Vallarta in a year. Our monthly fuel cost during that time was somewhere around $250 (2011).
Marina costs are typically $30-$60 per night and $600-$1,000 per month for a 45' slip. Some marinas discount the price slightly
after 3 days or a week. Most offer a monthly rate, although both the popular Marina Riviera Nayarit (La Cruz in Banderas Bay)
and swank Paradise Village (Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay) charge around $30 per day in winter no matter how many days
you stay ($0.60 to $0.65 per foot per day plus tax).
Rates drop in the summer. We paid $565/month for a slip in Marina San Carlos for the summer of 2011, $200/month
in Marina Chiapas in 2012 and $565/month in Paradise Village in 2013. The Fonatur/Singlar government run marinas
used to be less than the private marinas, but they raised their rates and are now comparable to the private marinas.
If you wanted to spend half your cruising time in marinas and had a 40-45' monohull, a comfortable budget figure
would be around $400 per month. This would allow for some shorter stays and some month-long stays. Most boats
spend significant time in marinas (they're nice!) and very few boats are at anchor more than 95% of the time like we were.
Having the bottom cleaned by a diver generally costs about $1 per foot. Having the boat washed is the same. We got the hull
waxed in San Carlos for 700 pesos ($53). If you use dive tanks to clean the bottom yourself and don't have a compressor, it
generally costs about 100 pesos ($7.50) to have one tank refilled at a dive shop (and you have to lug it there).
Insurance varies a lot by boat age, sailing experience, where you keep your boat during hurricane season and whether you go
south of Acapulco. Keeping our boat in San Carlos during hurricane season, staying north of Acapulco the whole season, and
having plenty of sailling experience, insuring our newer boat costs $1,600 per year with Pantaenius.
WHAT TO DO DURING HURRICANE SEASON
Starting in February people begin discussing their summer plans. The marinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La Paz and San
Carlos are popular, as is dry storage in La Paz, Loreto and San Carlos/Guymas, and other spots as well. Some marinas offer
significant summer discounts, especially when pre-paid. We left our boat in San Carlos in the water for 3 months and were
shocked to return and find that everything was just as we left it. A quick boat wash and bottom cleaning and the boat was ready
to sail away. Some people who left their boats for six months in dry storage in Loreto and San Carlos reported having to clean a
lot of dust off the deck (and some inside).
Guaymas and goes to 27th Ave. and McDowell in Phoenix. The "Especial" bus trip from San Carlos to Phoenix is $61 per person
and takes 10-11 hours if you take the regular day-time bus. It stops in 4 or 5 towns in Mexico plus the military checkpoint, the
border crossing and again in Tucson. The buses are regular Greyhound style buses used for 2-4 hour trips in the US.
The "Ejecutivo" overnight bus is $81 and takes just 8-9 hours and is a much better option. It stops in 2 towns in Mexico plus the
military checkpoint, border crossing and again in Tucson. The buses are very luxurious. There are only 3 seats per row, 2 on
one side and 1 on the other. I found them wide enough to curl up in and try to sleep. Bring layers because the buses can be
heavily air-conditioned. Our driver in the US was kind enough to turn off the a/c (we were two of three people on the bus). Our
driver in Mexico had an attitude and refused to turn it off (even though the driver's cab is separate and has its own
thermostat...). The buses are theoretically equipped with wifi and electrcity. On the US side the driver turned on the electricity
so we could run the laptop from its charger cable. On the Mexican side the driver refused to (!). The wifi never worked on
either side. But it was still a very cool bus ride.
The bus depot in Phoenix is in an unsafe area. If you are there at night stay close to the terminal. Taxi cabs come to meet the
These are some of the things we've done and found useful and would have liked to have known about cruising Mexico in
advance. Hopefully some of these goodies in our boat blog will make it easier when you're cruising Mexico too!!
If you haven't seen it yet, check out Page 1 of this guide: Tips for Mexico Cruisers - Part 1
INTERNET ACCESS IN MEXICO
In August 2016, Verizon began offering new talk/text/data packages that allow you to access the internet from Canada and Mexico free of charge on your Verizon data plan. You must have at least 16 GB of data on your plan. You don’t have to have a cell phone (we don’t).
We use a Verizon MiFi Jetpack in our RV travels now and it worked like magic in Canada in the summer of 2016. We have more info about the Verizon MiFi Jetpacks and the new talk/text/data packages at this link: Mobile Internet Access
To help you plan your cruise and get you inspired, we created the video series, "Cruising Mexico Off the Beaten Path - Volumes 1-3," shown below. This is a fun-to-watch and easy-to-digest introduction to Mexico from a cruiser's perspective, giving you lots of valuable information that isn't covered by the cruising guides. Each video is available individually at Amazon, either as a DVD or as a download. For discount package pricing on the whole series, visit our page Cruising Mexico Video Series.
Volume 1 (left) reviews the geography, weather and seasons in Mexico and shows you what the best anchorages between Ensenada and Manzanillo are like.
Volume 2 (middle) gives detailed info that can't be found in any of the guidebooks about the glorious cruising ground between Manzanillo and the Guatemala border.
Volume 3 (right) provides all the info you need to get off the boat for an adventure-filled trip to Oaxaca.Our Gear Store also has a boatload of ideas for your cruise!
New to this site? Visit our Home Page to learn more about us, and see our Intro for Cruisers to find out where we keep all the good stuff, including tips for planning your cruise to Mexico, our Solar Power pages, and our ideas for outfitting your boat.
Cows greet us in the morning in
The Wood Hollow Fire
creates an amazing sunset.
Bridal Veil Falls, Provo
Bridal Veil Falls.
Provo Canyon is a great spot for cycling.
Heber Valley Railroad.
They said they like their jobs!
Provo River Parkway.
Provo River Parkway.
Cool bike rack.
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.
Chair lifts at Sundance.
Downhillers & their bikes get a ride up.
On break from shoot-em-up birthday
Cascade Spring on the Alpine Loop
Provo Canyon Scenic Byway & Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah
Late June, 2012 - We continued our travels north from Fish Lake, Utah with "scenic byways"
on our minds. We had enjoyed many officially designated "scenic roads" in our travels this
season, and were ready for more -- and the Utah map seemed to be filled with them. Little did
we know that the "Energy Loop" up Eccles Canyon from Fairview starts with an 8% climb for 8
non-stop miles on a skinny winding road with a steep drop off and no guardrail.
Oops!! The truck struggled mightily, Mark's
knuckles turned white, and I nervously
glanced at the map wondering when the
road would flatten out. It never did.
At the 6 mile mark we finally spotted
a large pullout and we stopped to let
the truck catch its breath. Another
truck towing a horse trailer stopped
with us for the same reason, and
the driver assured us there was
great boondocking up top, after just
a few more miles of 8% climbing. It
sounded tempting, but before I
knew it Mark had headed the buggy straight downhill off
that mountain. So much for that scenic drive!
At tiny Thistle, Utah, we got a visit at our trailer from a herd of
friendly cows the next morning. By late afternoon a wildfire had
started in the distant mountains. It made for a spectacular
sunset, but soon became a devastating blaze. Within the next
few days it consumed nearly 75 square miles, killed a man, and
destroyed 52 homes. We later learned it was caused by arcing
power lines that had been laid bare by a thief who stole the
protective copper wire from the poles, although officials said the
power surge was likely too great for even those protections, had
they been in place.
Moving north, we thought the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway looked
promising and ventured that way. The road was under
construction, but the heavy traffic didn't detract one bit from lovely
Bridal Veil Falls. Kids played in the pools at the bottom of the falls
while lovers embraced and posed for cameras part way up. It looked
like a great spot to get engaged and start planning
for that wedding dress and bridal veil.
As we drove we noticed a paved bike path was
accompanying us, and the next day we took a
bike ride along the Provo River Parkway. It starts
at Vivian Park, and just as we got onto the bike
trail the Heber Valley Railroad train showed up (check out the gorgeous photos at http://
hebervalleyrr.org). It was on its daily excursion from Heber City, bringing tourists past the mountain/
lake views across Duck Creek Reservoir and through glacier carved Provo Canyon to Vivian Park.
The bike path winds
alongside Provo River
cliffs. It is beautifully
constructed with three lanes,
allowing for two directions of
bike traffic and one lane of
Despite being mid-week the
trail was quite busy all the
way to town. When we got
into Provo we noticed a
clever bike-shaped bike
rack standing outside one
business had beautiful
landscaping with a huge
lilly pond right out front. It
was filled with blooming
waterlilies of all colors.
Getting further into the city we
found the entire toddler set from
town was cooling off in the
fountains at the mall. It was perfect
As I mentioned, this area is ripe with scenic
drives, and our map highlighted the Alpine
Loop Scenic Byway forking off from Provo
Canyon. This time we went without the trailer
in tow, and that was the right way to go. The
road climbed and snaked towards snow-
capped peaks, passing by Robert Redford's
famous ski retreat, Sundance Resort.
What a thrill to see snow-capped mountains!
The snow wasn't thick like last year, we
were told, because of light snows over the
winter, but it was very pretty. Families
packed themselves into the wide chair lifts
to the tops of the mountains, while downhill
bikers sent their bikes up ahead of them
and followed a few chairs behind. Those
guys have guts -- the mountains were very
Wildflowers and landscaped flowers were
in bloom all over the place, and we
entertained ourselves for quite some time
taking photos of their smiling faces.
We hunted around for
"Bob" but he wasn't at his
resort that day. However, one lucky fellow was celebrating his 70th
birthday by hosting his entire extended family for a long weekend of
fun and entertainment at Sundance. We met up with two actors who
were on break between the birthday boy's afternoon and
evening entertainment shows. They were dressed to the
nines for a cowboy shoot-em-up. Stepping out of character
for a few minutes, they told us they had lived and worked
around the resort for ages and had never gotten a glimpse of
Continuing on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, we
wound up and down on curvy roads through heavy
forests and out onto mountain ridges with wonderful
views. Wildfires were engulfing all of the west, it
seemed, and another one burned in the distance.
A spur road took us to Cascade Springs where
thickets of wildflowers grew in clumps along the
peaceful banks of a brook.
The water was just too cool and clear to resist, and at
the end of our sweaty hike Mark commented that he
was going to get a bath in the stream. Mid-laugh I
realized he wasn't joking as I watched him throwing cold
water over his head.
We had gotten a delicious taste of Utah's
alpine forests and snow-capped peaks.
Our next scenic drive along the
Mirror Lake Scenic Byway would take us to
Utah's alpine lakes.
Window Rock City Park.
The Navajo Tribal Band practices
for Oklahoma's Red Earth festival.
Navajo Code Talker.
Scenic Indian Route 12.
Two toned rock formations.
A homeowner with a flair for color.
The land was painted pink too!
Looking down Canyon del Muerto.
Sheer cliffs and lush valleys.
"Where two fell off."
The little cave to the left.
There's a structure inside!
The immensity is hard to capture.
Tim & Mary Lynn look across at Mummy Cave.
Mummy Cave housed a small community
in the shadows.
The structure inside Mummy Cave.
The confluence of Canyon del Muerto
and Black Rock Canyon.
Antelope House is tucked into the
bottom of this massive cliff.
Close-up of Antelope House ruins.
Beginning our descent
into Canyon de Chelly.
Looking down on the lush valley floor.
Crazy swirling rock patterns.
The swirls dwarf the trees in the middle of the pattern.
We take a breather from hiking.
The bottom of the canyon is flat and wide.
White House ruin has two levels:
a ground-level building & a cave dwelling above.
No architect today could design a
more dramatic front entrance!
The drippy stripes down the walls
Flower or origamy?
Rock Art: Roadrunner.
Rock Art: Scorpion.
A Navajo hogan backed by dramatic cliff walls.
Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona
Early June, 2012 -- Leaving the Petrified Forest, we decided to head north by
Indian Route 12 which, to our surprise, was noted on our tourist map as a
scenic route. As one-time Arizona residents we had no idea there was a
scenic road through the Navajo Nation way over in the northeastern corner of
the state. We also wanted to see Window Rock, which lies on that road. This
town is the Navajo tribal headquarters, and it always turns up in the Phoenix
TV weather forecasts with very cool temps.
We arrived on a warm day, however, and
were immediately drawn to the city park in
front of the big window in the rock.
The tribal band was practicing in
the park, and we watched and
listened for a while. Chatting with
the band leader during a break,
we found out the band was
headed to Oklahoma City in a
few days for the big Red Earth
arts festival there. Apparently
this is one of the largest
gatherings of Indian artists and
performers in the country, and
the group was very excited.
The park also features a large
sculpture of a WWII "code talker" in action on his radio. A nearby plaque
explains how the US Military was struggling to find a way to keep the
Japanese from deciphering their communications in the South Pacific
Theater, and that 29 Navajo marines were recruited to devise a new
code using their native language. By war's end there were over 400
Navajo Marines serving as code talkers, and the Marine Corps
commanders credited them with saving countless American lives.
Maj. Howard Conner, Signal Officer on Iwo Jima, is quoted as saying,
"Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would not have taken Iwo Jima."
This impressive history is also the subject of a fictional 2002 movie,
Back on Route 12 we saw more patriotism in a cemetery festively filled
with American flags.
The scenery on our route became very dramatic as we drove north of
Window Rock. Huge red rock cliffs lined the sides of the road.
Suddenly it seemed that God switched paints on his easel, and large
rock formations began to cover the landscape in shades of green as
well as red.
Someone with an artistic eye painted their house a vivid blue,
making a wonderful contrast to the green and red rocks in their
In one place the
sandstone even had a
pink hue. It was a
Our destination was
Canyon de Chelly
This park is at the confluence of three
snaking canyons that are like three fingers of
a hand spreading eastward from where they
all join in the town of Chinle ("pronounced
The stunning thing about Canyon de Chelly
is the immensity of the canyons. Standing on
cliffs that are 1,000' above the canyon floor,
the walls are very sheer and the views curve
past narrow walls of stone. At the bottom of
the canyon is a lush, fertile valley floor where
the Navajo developed corn fields and peach
orchards in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the movies, landscapes like this are always accompanied by the piercing call of a
falcon echoing off the canyon walls. But here the silence was so noticeable that our ears
hurt. Scanning the horizon many miles distant, and looking deep into the valley below
us, the only sound was our own breathing. Even the wind stood still.
In 1805 the Spanish tried to conquer the Navajos. At the point where I was standing a woman
tried to fend off a Spanish soldier, and in their struggle the two fell off the cliff to their deaths. In
the distance we could see "Massacre Cave" where the Navajos had hidden out. In the end, the
Spanish claimed to have killed 90 men and 25 women and children, but the Navajo remember it
differently, saying that all the younger men were out hunting that day and the deaths were strictly
women, children and old men.
Either way, the cave looked tiny in
the distance. Inside were some
structures that the Navajo hid in.
To the left of the main cave was a
much smaller one and, using the
long camera lens, we could see
another small structure inside there
as well. It is hard to imagine living
on the edge of a cliff like that for any period of time,
especially with the Spanish after you.
At each viewpoint you get a slightly different view of these
lush canyons, and it was hard to capture the enormity of
the place in a little photograph. Pan out or zoom in? How
do you show it all??
At the Mummy Cave overlook we came across a
couple sitting behind a tripod. They were waiting
patiently for the afternoon light to provide its best
illumination of the cave ruins far below. Waiting
for good light sounded like a great idea, so we hung out and
started chatting with them. It turned out that they had spent the
last three years traveling the western states in their camper van, living
a lot like we do by boondocking on public lands.
Our eyebrows shot up when they told us they had just come back
from a sailboat charter in the Grenadines in the Caribbean ten days
earlier and were contemplating taking their travels to the sea. What's
more, we found out Tim's mountain bike on the back of their van was
the same exact model as Mark's on the back of our trailer. To top it
off, Mary Lynn enjoyed web design too. What a crazy coincidence!!
Like us, too, they were using a Nikon camera to try to capture this cliff
dwelling in just the right light!
The good light never came, but we managed a few shots
anyways and hoped we'd run into these guys again somewhere.
Meanwhile, the mystery of the cliff dwellings lured us on. The ancients built their homes in caves on these sheer
canyon cliffs between 700 and 1300 AD. So these homes were first going up right after the peak of Mayan
remodeling down in Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. They may not be as majestic in terms of size or human
construction and engineering skills, but they are incredible for making fantastic use of the landscape. What a
place to build a house!
Over at Antelope House we looked out across the canyon
at a beautifully striped, back-sloping wall. Nestled at its
base was a small town made up of crumbling walls,
windows and towers. You need binoculars or a long
telephoto lens to make out the tiny structures so far
below. Even then they look like little toy buildings for wee
dolls. They can't possibly be real.
Archaeologists call these ancient people the Anasazi,
which is derived from the Navajo language and is
variously translated as "Ancient Ones" and "Enemy
Ancestors," due to the subtle word "Zazi" which means
"Non-Navajo" or "enemy." Also known as the Ancient Puebloans,
from the Spanish word for "townspeople," these long ago people
farmed the valley floor and disappeared around 1300, probably due
to drought. The Navajo didn't arrive in this area until 1600, and by
then the ruins were long abandoned.
The Navajo flourished here for a while, but in 1864 US Col. Kit
Carson entered the canyon with a group of soldiers and
eventually cornered the Navajo at one end. Few survived, and
those that did were forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Sumner in
New Mexico and stand trial. They were allowed to return five
The most famous of the
ruins is "White House
Ruin," and we decided to
hike down into the
canyon to see it up close.
We hiked along with our
new RVing/sailing friends
who had ended up
camping alongside us overnight. As with every overlook in the entire
park, the views from the top were so gorgeous I found myself running
and jumping over the rocks trying to get the best angles and trying to
fit it all into the camera frame. Sigh. Not possible!
The contours of the rocks are
wavy and rippled, swirling in
enormous and wild patterns.
You can almost feel the power of
the water that etched out its
course along these canyon walls
over the millennia, carving its
path ever deeper into the stone.
After snaking down the edge of the rock face,
we finally arrived at the canyon floor, crossed a
small foot bridge, and arrived face-to-face with
White House Ruin.
Two levels of dwellings were built into the base of the cliff -- one
on the ground level and another one up about 40' off the ground in
a cave. An orange rainbow of stripes rains down the cliff wall,
painted by a divinely inspired hand -- or the result of a spilled paint
can way up on the top of the canyon.
At our feet we discovered unusual
flowers. A young Navajo boy showed us
a lovely painting he was working on
featuring the White House ruin and some
of the rock art that we could barely make
out along the rock wall.
In no time at all we climbed back to the top, passing through a wonderful
tunnel on the way. We would have stayed to see a few more of the
sights this mysterious canyon has to offer, but a massive heatwave was
spreading across the west and we wanted to get to higher, cooler
ground. We seemed to be on an ancient ruin kick, something we had
started with the Zapotecs and Mayans in southern Mexico several
months back. So we made our way to Mesa Verde National Park in
Colorado, possibly the best collection of cliff dwellings in the US.
It was a tight squeeze to get here…but oh, was it worth it!
Mark fixes a light fixture.
Mama duck & ducklings.
Seagulls fished every afternoon.
A hummingbird guards "his" feeder.
Little white pelican boats float past.
The easy way to walk your dog...
…the dog's gotta run to keep up!
Relaxing in the shade of the trailer...
Cows stop what they're doing to study us as we ride past.
An idyllic setting.
Red rock mountains encircle green farmland.
Happy rural living.
The Grass Valley Mercantile Company.
Inside the Mercantile.
These guys were 93 miles into a 250-mile daytrip.
Fish Lake Scenic Byway.
Fish Lake through the aspens.
A bike trail runs alongside the lake.
The deck of Fish Lake Lodge overlooks the lake.
A creative bannister on the deck stairs.
"Ooh - fish guts - Yuck!!"
The Old Spanish Trail...memorialized.
Fish Lake Scenic Byway.
Butterflies and moths were everywhere.
The Mormon Temple in Manti.
Liquor is sold only in special places.
Free the Five Wives!!
Koosharem and the Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah
Mid-June, 2012 - Searing heat chased us out of the brilliant red rocks of Capitol Reef National
Park, Utah, and we were glad to see the landscape cool to soft green rolling hills as we traveled
north. Searching for a scenic place to put the fifth wheel, we wriggled down a narrow dirt road,
squeezed the big rig between some very thick bushes, and finally emerged onto a perfect
shoreside spot on the edge of the Koosharem Reservoir. What a view!
Of course, taking a 52' long rig down a rutted dirt
road can wreak havoc inside
the trailer, and Mark had to JB
Weld one of the light fixtures
back together again.
What a beautiful contrast the
blues and greens of this place
were to the rugged red rock
cliffs of Capitol Reef just 50
miles south of us. Wildlife was
everywhere. Raucous seagulls
went fishing right outside our door
every morning and evening, and a
mother duck cruised by every sunset with her
brood in tow.
Hummingbirds discovered our feeder minutes
after we put it out, and one took up residence
on the derailleur cable of my bike, jealously
guarding the feeder from a distance.
Life was very relaxed on this little lake.
Cormorants would surface from fishing
underwater every so often, and in the late
afternoons the pelicans would float by like
little white boats.
Just as regularly, a neighboring RVer
would zoom past on his motorbike while
his dog bounded eagerly behind.
One afternoon we found a rabbit lounging in the trailer's shadow looking very much
like he owned the place.
The lake was surrounded by pastures filled
with cattle and sheep. When we rode our
bikes around the lake the cows all stopped
what they were doing and stared at us
intently as if they had never seen a bike
There was a peaceful serenity here.
One morning we headed over the hills to the towns of
Richfield and Koosharem. Red rocks revealed
themselves once again on our drive, and the valley
stretched like a vast green sea of farmland between the
We had been visiting national parks for the last month,
going from one tourist destination to the next. But this
was down home farm country. When we parked at the
supermarket it was quite a change to slide in between
two trailers, one carrying irrigation equipment and the
other one filled with sheep.
the slats of the
sheep trailer I
spotted a face that was fluffy and white with dark eyes but was definitely not a sheep.
"That's a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog," the farmer said as he walked over to me.
"He lives with the sheep all the time and guards them." Sure enough, he looked very
contented in the trailer with all his sheep buddies surrounding him.
We got another
reminder of the rural
nature of this area
when we scanned
the magazine rack in
the supermarket and
front and center. It featured
an article on how best to
catch and hold a hen. All the
outdoorsy joys of rural living
were highlighted on this
magazine rack: right behind
Chickens were Hunting
Backwoodsman, Rifle's Varmint Magazine, Trophy Hunter, Bow & Arrow, Fly Rod & Reel,
Illustrated Horse Magazine and The New Pioneer.
Over in the tiny town of Koosharem, the Grass Valley Mercantile Company has been the local
variety store for eons. The mural on the outside of the building advertised "Never Rip
Overalls" by Scowcroft, a brand of pants we learned later were made in Utah in the early part
of the last century. They were known for their ruggedness right up until the last pair was
produced in 1937. There was a comforting air of antiquity here.
On our way into town
we had followed several
groups of cyclists,
including a pair on
recumbent bikes. We
caught up with
Katherine of the Salt
Lake Randonneurs at
Between gulps of V8
juice she explained that
she and her companion
were 93 miles into a 250 mile bike
ride that day. The kicker was that the
group of cyclists was doing all those
miles in just one day and night. Yikes!
Another day we drove the Fish Lake
Scenic Byway, one of Utah's many
beautiful highways and byways that are
officially (and rightfully) designated as
"scenic." This road weaves and curves
through pine tree studded hills and into
thick aspen groves.
A bike trail runs alongside the lake and
we found ourselves jumping on and off
our bikes to take in the views and check out the
Fish Lake Lodge is the centerpiece of the
Fish Lake community. It is a wonderful old
building made of logs and filled inside with
trophy heads, a cozy fireplace and a large
dining room that looks out over the lake.
We were there in summertime, but the fireplace looked like it
would be perfect for snowy winter evenings too.
Of course the main activity at
Fish Lake is fishing, and it
seemed everyone we saw was
carrying a fishing pole or a
A large family huddled around
one of the fish cleaning
stations near the Lodge, and
two men busily carved up the
day's catch. The kids watched
in fascination as one of the
men sliced open the belly of a
fish and then explained it was
a female as he pulled out a
fistful of eggs.
The Fish Lake Scenic Drive lived up to its billing and was very pretty. People have
traveled through this area for a long time. It was first inhabited by mammoth hunters
some 9,000 years ago, and part of the Old Spanish Trail, used by Utes and cowboys
alike, wanders along the western side of the lake. Out of the corner of our eyes we
both thought we spotted a train of horseback riders, but on second glance we saw it
was a memorial sculpture in the middle of a field commemorating the Utes and settlers
who traversed the Old Spanish Trail.
Notes from Kit Carson in
1848 described the shallow
streams in the area as
"swarming with fish." Using
just "an old bayonet
fastened to a stick" he
caught five dozen fish at sunrise in the icy water.
We didn't see quite such plentiful fish, but we found
the flower-strewn banks of the lake and streams
teeming with butterflies.
The rolling hills around Fish Lake got us thinking
about the bigger mountains up north, and we soon
packed up the rig and journeyed a little further down
the road. Utah is home to many devout Mormons,
and the temple in the small town of Manti was
quite a sight to see out the truck window.
The flip side of such piousness is that liquor is
rather hard to find. The small towns we
passed through didn't sell beer at the grocery
stores. To satisfy that kind of wayward vice
you had to go down to the gas station or to a
liquor outlet store.
We felt quite sinful when we ducked into one of these small outlets on the edge of
town, and we guiltily glanced over our shoulders to see if anyone was watching us as
we slipped through the door.
Another unusual side to the Mormons' straight-laced style of Christianity is the dubious
history these fine people have with polygamy. The practice was abandoned long ago
by mainstream Mormons, but the idea of it still raises eyebrows among non-Mormons
today. So it was with a slight smirk that we heard the story behind a t-shirt hanging on
the wall which showed five jailed women in vintage garb above the words. "Free the
Apparently a Utah distillery recently created a delicious new vodka which they named
"Five Wives Vodka." Its popularity soared when the distributors over in Idaho refused
to carry it because they found the name insulting to the faithful. This ban resulted in
an outcry among vodka lovers on both sides of the border. T-shirts demanding that
the Five Wives be let out of jail were printed up and they sold like mad. Naturally we
had to pick up a bottle of the stuff, as we have both really enjoyed the Wasatch
Brewing Company's beer called "Polygamy Porter" which, ironically, has always been
sold freely and never been banned anywhere!
Happily toasting Utah's incredible beauty, we left Koosharem in pursuit of the pretty
scenery and great bike rides found along the Scenic Byways of Provo Canyon and its Alpine Loop.
Vivid colors come to life.
Mark disappears in the vast landscape.
Late afternoon shadow-play at Sunset Point.
Twisted trees resemble driftwood on
an inlad vermillion sea.
We were way too excited to sit down!
A wildfire puffs smoke in the distance.
Views along the park's "Scenic Drive"
An antique plough sits out in a field.
Capitol Gorge Wash then...
It must have been exciting to
Hiking to the Pioneer Register.
Pioneer names from September
M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888
Wildflowers soften the canyon walls.
Looking down from our hike to
the Golden Throne
Gnarled trees on the Golden
End of Trail. And there's the Golden Throne.
Views from the park's "Scenic Drive"
The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks.
Gifford Homestead Barn
Not a bad spot to graze.
Admiring the view.
Capitol Reef National Park & Fruita, Utah
Mid-June, 2012 - After our energetic hikes in Natural Bridges National
Monument and our awe-inspiring drive along the Bicentennial Highway
(Route 95), we were geared up to for more immersion in Utah's red rocks.
We found exactly that at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.
On our first afternoon
in the area we visited
Sunset Point, a perfect
spot to watch the sun
fall lower and lower in
the sky. The vivid
colors came to life in
the late afternoon.
It is a dramatic
setting - a
to get a photo of a
loved one with a
There were clouds
in the sky, and
they wafted past
and playing with
the sunlight as
Dead tree stumps were twisted into exotic shapes here and
there, looking a bit like driftwood that had been washed ashore
somehow in this burnt orange desert land.
Park benches invited us to take
a load off, but we were way too
busy running up and down the
hiking trails -- trying to see
everything at once -- to even
think about sitting down.
Off in the distance a
new wildfire smoldered. A nearby plaque stated that this part
of Utah boasts some of the cleanest air in the continental US,
but the smattering of wildfires that were burning at the time
weren't helping that claim.
We wandered among the red rocks until the disappearing
sun had quietly stolen all their colors away.
Capitol Reef National Park is a
long skinny park (~5 miles wide
by ~50 miles long) that runs on a
north-south axis along the
Waterpocket Fold which is a
huge buckle in the earth's crust.
There are loads of backcountry
roads and trails leading to wild
and remote places, but on this
visit we stuck to the easy-to-
The tiny community of Fruita is at the heart of this area, and Mormons settled there in the late
1800's. By 1917 they had a bustling village filled with orchards. Cherries, apricots, peaches,
pears and apples are still grown here, but we were just a little too early to take advantage of any of the harvests.
Remnants of Fruita's past still remain
along the edges of the scenic drive
through the park. An old plow and a
pioneer schoolhouse were reminders of
a bygone era.
This area was extremely difficult to
reach for those pioneers, due to the
rugged terrain of the Waterpocket Fold,
but a route coming in did exist along the
bottom of a wash through Capitol
Gorge. Between 1871 and the early
1940's Mormons arrived via this route,
first by horse and buggy and then by
car. Looking at my photos afterwards I
noticed that Mark had been standing
pretty close to the spot where a photo
from the National Park Service showed
an antique car going through.
It took a group of men eight days to move all the boulders out of a 3.5 mile
stretch of the Capitol Gorge wash so it could be traversed by vehicles. Then two
cars could just barely pass side by side. Today the wash is regaining its natural
state and there are boulders and thickets of plants growing where it once must
have been smooth enough for a car to make it through.
As the arriving pioneers passed the towering cliffs, a lot of them stopped to
carve their names in the flat parts of the stone walls. Today it's called the
Pioneer Register, and we saw names and dates from the late 1800's all the way
to 1942. It is hard to imagine what those determined, rugged and travel-weary
people must have felt as they passed through this gorge to a new life. Little kids
with grubby hands must have peered out the windows of the cars, while
flustered moms tried to keep all their kids in tow. I can't imagine the exhaustion
and exhilaration they must have felt. Yet the town where they were arriving
didn't even have the paved campground loops, the gift shop full of coffee table
books or the flush toilets that it does today.
In my excitement of spotting
a list of names high up on
one wall, I hastily took a
photo without looking
closely enough at what I
was shooting. I managed
to get all the names in the
list but cut off the date -- it
was September 24th 1910.
Still mulling over the
immense changes that
have taken place in the
world since the last signatures from the 1940's were pecked out on these
walls, we started up the initial ascents of the Golden
Throne hike. This hike took us to the tops of the rock
cliffs where we had magnificent views looking down on
the road far below.
Gnarled trees greeted us as we climbed higher and
higher, until finally -- and rather abruptly -- we came to a
sign that said "End of trail." Behind it was the trail's
namesake Golden Throne, a huge round yellow rock.
Making our way back along the park's
simply named "Scenic Drive," the late
afternoon light was playing with the
rocks again, a game of hide-and-seek
that involved brights and shadows
on the burgundy rocks.
A lone barn belonging to the historic
Gifford Homestead and a horse
munching the grass in the pasture
across the street spoke of the
immense peace of this place. The
trees rustle so softly and the birds
chirp so quietly. The bustle of the
campground and the arriving cars of
tourists seemed to suddenly hush,
as if everyone knew to act as if the
were in a library in honor of the calm
that resides here.
If the pioneers had a tortuous trip getting
here, once they arrived and got settled they
must have paused for a moment on many a
luscious afternoon and murmured "This is
God's country," because it is, even today.
We fell under the area's spell and decided to do one more hike
before moving on down the road. Hickman Bridge is a rock
bridge that is a cousin to the three bridges we had seen at
Natural Bridges National Monument. It is an easy hike in to see
it, but once there we found it hard to get it lined up in such a way
as to prove that it was indeed a bridge. The other rocks and cliffs
all crowd around it, like a city swarming around a man-made
bridge, and only when you get
underneath can you get it
framed against the sky.
Mark gave up trying to capture
it on camera and simply sat
across the way admiring it, legs
folded and very content.
As has been the theme for us
this season, the heat of summer
began to catch up with us and soon we were pushed a little further
north in Utah to Koosharem Reservoir and Fish Lake where the
fiery red rocks gave way to cool green mountains and seagulls
flying over the water.
Florida in the upper left, Venezuela along the bottom.
Southern Mexico & Northern Central America
Our Travel Route: May 2007 - June 2012
Starting in May, 2007, our travels have taken us to these places:
2007 - RV: New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona
2008 - RV: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Kansas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona
2009 - RV: California, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Arizona, California
RV: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona
Airplane/hotel: SE Caribbean
2010 - Sailboat: California, Mexico's Baja Pacific Coast
2011 - Sailboat: Mexico's Mainland Pacific Coast, Sea of Cortez
RV: Arizona, Utah, Arizona
Sailboat: Sea of Cortez, Mexico's Pacific Coast
2012 - Sailboat: Mexico's Pacific Coast + inland trips by bus
RV: Arizona, Colorado, Utah
A complete chronological listing of all our travels (with links) follows:
FIRST YEAR TRAVELS - Western
Loop and Southern Loop
In May, 2007, we left our just-leased home in
Phoenix, Arizona and picked up our new Lynx
travel trailer in Kemp, Texas outside of Dallas.
We arrived at Marshall's RV with everything we
needed for our new lifestyle packed into the back
of our truck. After staying near the dealership for
ten days, just to make sure all the systems
worked okay, we headed west. We traveled
between I-10 and I-40 on small country roads
through west Texas and New Mexico. We
arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona, and installed a solar
panel and finished some personal odds and ends,
wrapping up our old life in Phoenix.
We left Flagstaff in June, 2007 and went to
Mammoth Lakes, California where we enjoyed
snow-capped mountains and crystal clear lakes.
From there we went to Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass on the eastern side, and then took the tiny roads out of the
mountains to the west, skirting Sacramento and landing at the California coast at Fort Bragg, 150 miles north of San Francisco. We
wandered north along the Oregon Coast in July, 2007, awestruck by the rugged beauty of the craggy cliffs and crashing surf. At the
Washington, where we visited Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier.
In August, 2007 we took a ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Vancouver Island and spent most of the month on the southern
half of the island. At the end of our visit we spent several days in Victoria, BC, before boarding a ferry for Anacortes, Washington.
in northeastern Wyoming.
At the end of September, 2007, we reached our turnaround point at Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota in the
southwest corner of the state. We could feel the chill of fall in the air. We headed west through Wyoming along I-80 and dropped
down into northern Utah, wandering from Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area over to Park City outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Caught in an early snow storm we quickly dropped south again to Green River, Utah, and the San Rafael Swell where we were awed
by the easy access to ancient petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks. We dipped down from there, in October, 2007, to Goblin Valley,
Utah. Chased by cold weather, we went south to the outskirts of Las Vegas, Nevada, where we found the stunning Valley of Fire
State Park. Here we saw sunrises that looked like sunsets and cycled on an exquisite road through geological formations of every
shape and color. As the nights grew cold in November, 2007, we sought warmth at Death Valley National Park in California and
then cruised into southern Arizona in early December, 2007, where we made our first visit to Quartzsite, Arizona.
We had completed a loop tour of the western states, and we were pooped! We recovered completely during Christmas, 2007, visiting
with family in Phoenix before returning to Quartzsite, Arizona in January, 2008 for their big RV show. While freezing in howling
winds under grey skies, we kept looking at the weather map on the back page of USA Today and seeing that Florida was toasty
warm. It was time to leave. We made our way east through Texas the long way, skimming the Rio Grande and the Gulf Coast,
dashing across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on I-10 and arriving in Florida in February, 2008. We spent three months in
Spring Break. Then we cruised along the southern and western coasts of Florida, swimming at beaches near Miami and
Sarasota as we looped around to the Florida panhandle.
At the end of April, 2007 we visited the Gulf coast town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, amazed at this town's enthusiastic revival
following Katrina. From there we traveled north to Natchez, Mississippi where the great river was cresting higher than it had since
the 1930's and the historic mansions told stories of a different culture in a different era. We drove along the Natchez Trace Parkway
north to Jackson, Mississippi, exploring ancient Indian mounds and cycling this unique commercial-traffic free road.
SECOND YEAR TRAVELS - Southwestern Loop, Florida Dash & Heartland Detour Back West
In May, 2008, we arrived in Chanute, Kansas, putting our sightseeing on hold for a month as we immersed ourselves in learning all
we could about NuWa fifth wheel trailers. After a lot of thought, we decided to take the plunge. We made a deal at the factory with
local dealer H&K Camper Sales to buy a new Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer. We moved into the new trailer on May 20, 2008, the exact
same day that we had left Phoenix to begin this new fulltime RV lifestyle a year ago. Thrilled with our new purchase, we needed to
get it set up for solar battery charging, so we returned to Flagstaff, Arizona where we upgraded the solar system we had had on the
Lynx. We felt a little like we were repeating history--but with greater knowledge and sophistication: we stayed in the same
campground and had a similar (though more complex) solar installation project as we had had during the same time period one year
before. We had learned something important during this year of travel, however: to slow down. Taking a break from our solar
installation work on the buggy, we cycled and hiked through the sights of Sunset Crater National Monument.
In late June, 2008, we left Flagstaff, Arizona and went all the way around the Grand Canyon to its North Rim. We stayed for three
weeks in an idyllic setting about 18 miles from the Rim. From there we wandered north through Kanab, Utah and discovered one of
Canyon where we spent a month in a bucolic setting. In a past visit in our former lives, we had squeezed the North Rim and Bryce
into a few days. We were really learning to sloooow waaaay down.
At the end of August, 2008, we wandering among the small communities that dot the mountainous and red rock strewn terrain of
southern Utah. We basked in the small town comfort of Kanab and Alton, meandering along their pretty streets on brilliant blue-sky
filled days. And we enjoyed the hometown fun of a three-day Labor Day county fair in Parowan, Utah. During September we
stopped in at Pioche, Nevada, a once bustling mining town might have been the wildest frontier town in the heyday of the wild west.
From there we revisited our former lives with a stopover at Interbike, the annual bicycle industry trade-show in Las Vegas. We
caught up on the latest bike gear and saw Lance Armstrong in a night-time cyclo-cross race (but forgot to bring our cameras, so
there's no proof!).
Sweltering in the 100 degree Vegas heat, we dashed across the California desert (hot hot hot!) to San Diego's Shelter Island and
Mission Bay where the cool breezes, bright sunshine and salt air seduced us into staying for the entire month of October, 2008.
Heading inland, we spent November in Yuma, Arizona, where we enjoyed the last warm days of 2008 before the start of winter.
freezing winter storm hit. This kept us warm through the holidays in Phoenix, til we hit the San Diego waterfront once again to attend
the sailboat show in January. We were reluctant to leave the unusually warm, sunny coast, but great friends, good times and the RV
show awaited us back in Quartzsite.
Ready for a change of pace, we made a mad dash across country, and spent six weeks on the quiet rivers and sugar-white sand
beaches that fringe the Florida Panhandle's emerald waters. State parks and seaside villages highlighted our visit and made our
followed by a long slog back along I-40 to Arizona.
We stopped at Roosevelt Lake in Arizona and had two blissful weeks of cycling, kayaking and photography. Spurred by a desire to
expand our travels onto the seven seas, we went boat shopping around San Francisco & Los Angeles.
THIRD YEAR TRAVELS - IN AND OUT OF THE TRAILER:
Midwest (by car/hotel), West (in trailer), SE Caribbean (by hotel) & Mexico (by sailboat)
An accident in May, 2009 put us in Michigan for seven weeks with friends and family but without our trailer. We looped around Lake
stopping in the charming waterfront town of South Haven. Continuing north, we traveled along the scenic coastal roads of Lake
Michigan (with a detour through Detroit) to hit Saugatuck, Higgins Lake and Traverse City, alternating between seeing new sights
and having Mark take me on nostalgic trips down memory lane. We continued north along the Lake Michigan coast, visiting the
harborfront villages of Charlevoix and Harbor Springs and driving under the unique green limbed canopy of the Tunnel of Trees.
In late June we crossed the Macinaw Bridge into the Upper Peninsula and visited the towns of St. Ignace and Hessel, making a brief
stop at the Great Lakes Boat Building School. A trip to the Soo Locks revealed both north and southbound freighters in the locks
simultaneously, one going up and one going down. We ended our Michigan visit with a trip down the Lake Huron shoreline,
marveling at lighthouses, shipwrecks and hydroplane boat races, and finally wrapping it all up with a stroll through the German
immigrant town of Frankenmuth.
We flew back to California and moved back into our trailer just in time for San Diego's 4th of July bash. Taking the long route north
and east, we traveled to Ketchum, Idaho, where we unwound in bliss and rediscovered our inner joy for a month. We worked our
way down much of the Visitors Center's 50 Fun Free Things To Do in Ketchum/Sun Valley list. There was the symphony's free
summer concert series, the Sun Valley Lodge itself, and winter sports memorabilia all over Sun Valley, ID. A little further north we
stopped in Stanley, ID, enjoying several blissful kayak rides in the crystal clear lakes among the mountains. We got a lesson in
salmon lifecycles too. As August, 2009 ended, our lessons shifted from fish biology to cattle ranching in Stevensville, MT (just south
of Missoula) at our good friends' neighbor's ranch. They took us to the annual Labor Day Weekend Hemville Rodeo to see how
ranchers unwind on the weekend. This event was so much fun we had to create a second Rodeo page.
In September, 2009, we hustled south along I-15, stopping several times between Logan and Cedar City, Utah to take in the sights
and drive the scenic roads through the mountains. A stint in Las Vegas, Nevada split us up between the glitzy annual Interbike
bicycle industry trade show and the soaring peaks at Red Rock Canyon. A brief detour along I-15 finally landed us at Valley of Fire
State Park for a second visit (first was in 2007). Red rocks, petroglyphs, jaw-dropping drives and exhilerating bike rides. A little
further down the Colorado River, we stopped at Laughlin, Nevada where the RV snowbirds were flocking on their flight south. By
the end of October we were back in Arizona for a free stay at Havasu Springs Resort in exchange for listening to an RV
membership program presentation. We returned to our home front, Phoenix, Arizona in November, 2009, and visited two Phoenix
Looking for new excitement and warmer climes, we jetted to Grenada in the southeastern Caribbean to begin a 10-week tropical
adventure. Going aboard a 75' wooden yacht that Frank Sinatra used to sail on was one of many highlights as we stayed on
Vincent & The Grenadines where Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations were in colorful full swing. Next day, a 15 minute
flight landed us on the island of Bequia, at one time a charming oasis of peace and tranquility where we planned to spend a month.
Accosted by scam artists at the airport and finding the locals both sullen and mean, we searched hard to find the pretty side of this
Meanwhile, an online search had turned up our dream boat for sale at a rock bottom price in San Diego. We submitted an online bid
as a lark and suddenly found ourselves thrust into the boat buying process once again. A wild 33 hour walk/ferry/taxi/jet ride to San
Diego put us face to face with Groovy, our new home. After two weeks of non-stop preparations, on January 31, 2010 we left San
Diego and went south to Ensenada, Mexico via ports at Puerto La Salina and Hotel Coral & Marina. We lived on our new boat
Groovy at Hotel Coral & Marina in Ensenada, Mexico for the next six months.
Getting out and about in Ensenada, we found small thrills in the markets and in "Gringo Gulch," the tourist zone. Over Valentine's
weekend we got downtown to witness the amazing spectacle of the Carnaval Parade. Returning to the US a few times we learned a
little about the border and were grateful at last to return home to the boat in Ensenada. Despite an El Nino year, a tsunami and an
and the Newport-Ensenada sailboat race. Settling back into our routine, we continued to prepare the boat for cruising and
discovered some colorful neighborhoods in Ensenada.
FOURTH YEAR TRAVELS - Ensenada Mexico, San Diego & Mexican coastline (by sailboat)
As May, 2010 ended, we continued exploring the area around Ensenada, Mexico, including La Bufadora, the famed blow hole. In
back-to-back contrasting adventures, we experienced both the genteel and the raucous at the Riviera Cultural Center and Baja 500
beyond our skill set, and said farewell to Ensenada.
Towards the end of August, 2010, we sailed up to San Diego and enjoyed the free anchorages that are available to cruisers there,
learning how to boondock on the water. In September we continued visiting the various anchorages around the bay as our many
projects to prepare the boat for cruising kept us in the San Diego.
In addition to the above map, there is more geographical detail on coastal Mexico here: Mexico Maps.
Harbor hopping a little and doing a few overnight trips, we continued along the Baja coast further until dawn of November 19th when
we motored past the gorgeous cliffside properties on approach to Cabo San Lucas. Following a brief stay there, we tackled 330
miles of open ocean to cross the Sea of Cortez to Chamela Bay on Mexico's mainland Pacific coast, called the "Costa Algre" ("Happy
Coast") for Thanksgiving. 55 miles further south, we were charmed by Manzanillo. "THIS is why we went cruising," we agreed,
remaining anchored off Manzanillo's Las Hadas Resort for 10 days. New friends persuaded us to keep moving south another 180
miles, taking us first to mini island paradise Isla Ixtapa where we swam and snorkeled and enjoyed the tropical air, and then on to
charming Zihuatanejo for Christmas and New Year's.
We stayed in Zihuatanejo for most of January, 2011, finding ever more enchantments in its nooks and crannies. At last we hauled
anchor and motored 200 miles back north to Manzanillo where we met my mom and took her to visit lovely Santiago Bay. We
hovered between Santiago and neighboring Las Hadas resort for a few weeks, enjoying a wide variety of scenery and activities.
Wandering just a little north for Valentine's Day, we discovered the unique charm of Barra de Navidad, an enclosed, serene lagoon
anchorage. From Cuastecomate to Tenacatita, once considered paradise, we experienced the human and ecological challenges
facing this area. A tsunami caused by a record earthquake in Japan sent us out to sea and up the coast where we discovered a
hidden island paradise among the islands in Chamela Bay.
At the end of March, 2011, we left the "gold coast" anchorages of the Costa Alegre, rounded Cabo Corrientes to the north, and found
ourselves immersed in the sailing and gringo oriented town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle outside Puerto Vallarta. Further north we
visited the famed bells of San Blas and Isla Isabel's frigate bird colony and blue footed boobies. An overnight passage took us to
Mazatlan where we found a city in turmoil. So we quickly hustled across the Sea of Cortez on another overnight passage to the
bottom of the Baja peninsula. La Paz & Puerto Balandra were total delights in mid-April where we got caught up with provisioning
and learned firsthand about the potentially horrifying springtime Coromuel winds that haunt the area.
At the end of April, 2011, we started heading north into the Sea of Cortez, stopping at Isla Partida's Ensenada Grande and Isla San
Just a few miles up the coast we witnessed both the natural side and the resort side of the Sea of Cortez at Isla Coronado and
Ensenada Blanca, set against the backdrop of reading Steinbeck's Log of the Sea of Cortez.
FIFTH YEAR TRAVELS - Sea of Cortez (boat), US Southwest (RV), Sea of Cortez again (boat),
Mexico's Pacific Mainland (boat) and inland (bus/hotel)
On May 22, 2011, we toasted the end of our fourth year of travel and beginning of our fifth while anchored off Loreto, a pretty, laid
back town. We stayed in the Loreto area for several weeks, enjoying the civilized pleasures of Puerto Escondido as well as Loreto,
and then we ventured north to San Juanico and Bahía Concepción where we immersed ourselves in nature and hung out with the
local ex-pats. At the end of June, 2011, we left the boat in San Carlos Marina in Mexico and went to Phoenix to catch up on a long
list of chores and re-lease our townhouse.
In August, 2011 we jumped in the fifth wheel and went to Bonito Campground / Wupatki Nat'l Monument in Flagstaff, Arizona. We
explored caves, marveled at 2,000 year old pine trees and hiked red rock canyons in Dixie National Forest, Utah. Seeking more
red rock vistas, we did two hikes at another hidden jewel, Cedar Breaks National Monument where we were surprised by the
abundance of colorful wildflowers. Still not saturated with red rocks, we hiked all over Red Canyon and visited nearby Panguitch and
Tropic for some Mormon pioneer history lessons. We ended our RVing season with a county fair in Parowan, Utah, the Interbike
bicycle trade show in Las Vegas and some Route 66 nostalgia and discovery of Sycamore Canyon in Williams, Arizona.
We returned to Groovy in San Carlos, Mexico in early October, 2011. After crossing to the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, we
stopped in at Punta Chivato and Bahía Concepción, where we found a cool wilderness school and met Geary the Cruisers'
Weatherman. Continuing south to the Loreto area, we swam and snorkeled in pretty La Ramada Cove and Isla Coronado before
seeing civilization again at Loreto and Puerto Escondido. Further south, the island anchorages near La Paz reveal a tiny
community, a long distance avian traveler, surprise treasure under water, and tropical beauty. The La Paz area gave us great tacos
and the La Paz Waltz, while nearby Playa Bonanza and Bahía Falsa soothed our souls. At the beginning of December, 2011 we
crossed the Sea of Cortez to La Cruz and then Paradise Village Resort Marina in Puerto Vallarta where we luxuriated in the
gorgeous resort surroundings. Swinging through Manzanillo Bay we were entertained by a whale, reconnected with old
acquaintances and made some incredible new ones. Christmas on Las Gatas beach followed by a tour of the could-be haunted
"Parthenon" of Arturo Durazo in Zihuatanejo wrapped up a fantastic 2011.
We started 2012 in the beautiful, warm and friendly Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa area. Heading south, we found high end yacht races,
soaring cliff divers, a fancy yacht club and several pretty anchorages in Acapulco. After the frightening discovery of a corpse at sea,
towns we met some young Zapotecs and out of town we explored an Eco-Archaeology Park. Taking a bus over the mountains in
were thrilled to witness a wedding in the Cathedral. Just outside town we discovered Zapotec pyramid ruins at Monte Alban and
wonderful relics at Oaxaca's Cultural Center. We took a daytrip tour to see the world's widest tree, learn traditional weaving
techniques, admire petrified waterfalls, marvel at ancient ruins at Mitla and taste some mezcals.
In late February, 2012, we crossed the Gulf of Tehantepec and stopped at the brand new Marina Chiapas next to the Guatemala
border. Taking the bus to Antigua, Guatemala we found a tourism-driven city that has an pretty veneer but a bullied soul. After a
few days back in Puerto Chiapas, we drove inland through the Mexican state of Chiapas on another unforgettable 200 mile bus ride.
In early March we took intensive Spanish classes in San Cristóbal and walked the pretty colonial streets. Five hours up the road on
a gorgeous mountain bus ride we stopped in Palenque where we saw amazing Mayan ruins and heard scary jungle sounds.
Narrow, bumpy roads and a boat ride up a river took us to the exotic, inspiring ruins of Yaxchilán & Bonampak. We said goodbye to
the Mayan world by visiting the gorgeous waterfalls of Misol-Ha & Agua Azul and celebrating the Spring Equinox at the Tenem
Puente ruins. In April, 2012 we left Groovy in Marina Chiapas for the summer and flew hurriedly to Michigan to see Mark's suddenly
SIXTH YEAR TRAVELS - US Southwest (RV)
In May, 2012, we began our summer RVing travels with visits to Arizona's Mogollon Rim & Petrified Forest National Park.
Heading into Indian Country we visited Window Rock and stunning Canyon de Chelly National Park. Seeking a little more ancient
Indian exploration, we visited Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and followed that up with some special encounters with the
locals in nearby Blanding, Utah. Following Utah's spectacular Bicentennial Highway, we visited Natural Bridges National
vistas and pioneer history. Leaving red rocks for green rolling hills, Fish Lake, UT took us into the rural Utah countryside where we
heard the funny story behind Five Wives Vodka. With scenic drives as our theme, we continued north along the Provo Canyon
Scenic Byway and Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, home of Sundance Resort.