Kuat NV Bike Rack Review

Roads Less Traveled

This page is a review of the Küwat NV Bike Rack, a high quality and easy-to-use bike rack that mounts in a hitch receiver.

Nifty new Küwat NV Bike Rack.

This page is a review of the Kuat NV bike rack

The bike rack folds flat against the back of the truck.

A nifty new bike rack from Kuat is easy to use.

The bike rack is folded down and ready for bikes to be mounted.

Kuat

A strap is cinched over the rear

wheel to hold the bike in place on

the rack.

Strap cinching system for Kuat bike rack Kuat rack strap system

A lever arm folds up and down to hold each bike in place.

Lever arm hold bikes in place on Kuat bike rack

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.

The Kuat NV bike rack features a built-in bike lock.

One end of the lock inserts into the other.

Bike is mounted and locked to the rack.

The bikes are mounted and run no risk of dragging on the ground if the trailer bottoms out.

Two bikes mounted and locked.

An clever feature is the bike stand.

Insert the stand into this quick release

fitting...

A terrific feature of the Kuat NV bike rack is the built-in bike stand.

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

quick release.

A bike is mounted on the Kuat NV bike stand, ready for bike mechanic work.

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.

We highly recommend the Kuat bike rack

Two bottoming-out episodes and the round

knob was beginning to look square.

The Kuat NV bike rack is awesome

Jack of JM Welding comes to our rescue.

We get a custom-designed hitch extension made to raise the bikes another 8

He draws the design on the floor using parts he had

available that day.

Designing an extension for the Kuat rack

The pieces are laid out.

We fabricated an extension for our Kuat rack

The hitch extension is welded

and has gussets for added

strength.

Jack powder coats the whole thing.

"I think it's gonna work!"

Awesome hitch extension for the Kuat bike rack

Perfect - the bike rack is raised 8" or so off the

ground.

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.

With hitch extension on Kuat NV bike rack bike is well of the ground

Ahhh… the bike is well off the ground.

The bikes are up well off the ground and we are ready to roll!!

Two bikes mounted and ready for their next adventure.

Kuat 2 Bike NV Rack

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

release clamps.

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

perfect solution.

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 make purchases through our links. 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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Porta-bote Review

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.

10' Porta-bote with 6 hp Suzuki outboard.

10′ Porta-bote with 6 hp outboard.

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
The Porta-bote rows beautifully

The Porta-bote rows beautifully

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

www.porta-bote.com

PORTA-BOTE SPECIFICATIONS

The Porta-bote has lots of interior space

The Porta-bote has lots of interior space

Length: 10′
Beam: 5′
Weight: ~80 lbs (w/ seats but w/o outboard)
Weight: ~135 lbs (w/ seats & w/ outboard)

Component Parts:

1 Hull
3 Seats
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

10' porta-bote has lots of interior space

There’s enough room to take a snooze!

Following is a summary of what we have found to be Porta-bote’s best and worst qualities when used as a cruising dinghy:

Porta-bote Strengths

  • 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

Porta-bote Weaknesses

  • 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.”

The Porta-bote planes easily with two adults on board

The Porta-bote planes easily with two adults on board

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.

Porta-bote hull mounted on the lifelines of a sailboat

Porta-bote hull mounted on the lifelines of our sailboat

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.

Porta-bote rests on foredeck of a 44' Hunter 44DS sailboat

Porta-bote rests on foredeck of our 44′ Hunter 44DS sailboat

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.

2008 Hunter 44DS Sailboat Groovy in Tangolunda Bay Huatulco Mexico

Groovy in Tangolunda Bay (Huatulco, Mexico)
The porta-bote is snug in its perch on the starboard side.

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.

Porta-bote transom on foredeck of sailboat

Transom lies on the foredeck

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!

PORTA-BOTE ASSEMBLY

Porta-bote assembly on the deck of a sailboat

Step 1: The hull is opened

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:

    Center seat of porta-bote is installed

    Center seat is installed

    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!

    Eyebolt / wingnut / washer combo for attaching the seats to the Porta-bote hull

    Eyebolt / wingnut / washer combo for attaching the seats to the Porta-bote hull

    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.

    Bolt-wingnut-washer combo for attaching the Porta-bote transom to the hull

    Bolt-wingnut-washer combo for attaching the transom to the hull

    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…

    Bolt/wingnut attaching Porta-bote transom's L-bracket to the hull

    Bolt/wingnut attaching transom’s L-bracket to the hull

    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.

    Attaching the Porta-bote transom to the hull with wingnuts

    Attaching the transom to the hull with wingnuts

    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.

    Porta-bote is hoisted on spare halyard

    Porta-bote is hoisted on spare halyard

    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.

    Porta-bote is lowered into the water

    Porta-bote is lowered into the water

    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.

Porta-bote is brought back to sailboat swim platform for the rest of the assembly

Porta-bote is brought back to the swim platform
for the rest of the assembly

Porta-bote front seat is installed

Front seat is installed

Porta-bote rear seat is ready for installation.

Rear seat is ready for installation.
Note the 3 u-shaped metal legs.

Porta-bote rear seat is attached using eyebolts and  washers.

Porta-bote is clipped to swim platform
to keep it parallel to Groovy.

Porta-bote Suzuki outboard is installed on transom

Outboard is installed on transom

TOWING the PORTA-BOTE

Porta-bote being towed by sailboat

Painter is tied at two points on Groovy’s transom to create a 3-point bridle. A second line is tied to Groovy’s transom “just in case.”

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.

Porta-bote sits on sailboat swim platform

We raise the Porta-bote out of the water onto the swim platform at night.

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.

Porta-bote in Mexico

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

FLOTATION

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:

Porta-bote beach Manzanillo Mexico

Our Porta-bote lines up with inflatable dinghies on wheels
in Santiago Bay, Manzanillo, Mexico

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.

The Porta-bote is lots of fun.

The Porta-bote is lots of fun.

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.

Porta-bote motoring away from sailboat

The Porta-bote is a great cruising dinghy.

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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FURTHER READING:

Check out our review of the Hobie i14t Tandem Inflatable Kayak and our Cruising Tips for Mexico.

Here is a summary of our cruise with links to all our sailing blog posts, as well as some anecdotes from the ex-pat cruising life, and a list of guide books we used for our cruise.

We sailed on a 2008 Hunter 44DS sailboat (more pics here) with a 60 gallon/hour watermaker and 555 watts of solar power.

For cruisers heading to Pacific Mexico, we’ve created a VIDEO SERIES.

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

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Hobie Mirage i14t Tandem Inflatable Kayak Review

This is a review of the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak after 3 years of use on rivers, lakes, Mexico's Pacific coast and the Sea of Cortez.

Enjoying our kayak at St. George State Park, Florida.

Mark demonstrates using the Mirage drive pedals for Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak

Mirage-drive pedal/fipper

system.

Our Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak in Puerto Balandra, Mexico

Puerto Balandra, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Our Hobie i14t kayak on a beach in the Sea of Cortez

Puerto Balandra, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Lake Havasu, Arizona - perfect for kayaking with a Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak

Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Our Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak at Redfish Lake, Idaho

Redfish Lake outside Stanley, Idaho.

The Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak in its folded and stored postion stands taller than expected.

The kayak in its rolling case.

Extra equipment needed for the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak: seats, paddles, pedals, pump, lifejackets

The other pieces that don't fit in the case: seats,

paddles, pedal/flippers, lifejackets.

Deflated Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak Pumping up a Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak Inflating a Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak Pedaling around San Diego Bay on a Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak

Playa Cove, San Diego, California

Sea of Cortez (Bahia Falsa) with our Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak

Bahía Falsa, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

The storgage back for the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak

It's all gotta fit in this bag...

Inflation/deflation valve for Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak

Valve for inflating/deflating.

Putting away the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - First fold the bow in on itself Putting away the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - fold it in thirds Putting away the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - fold the stern over everything Putting away the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - tighten the webbing straps. Putting away the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - finished package. Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak can be rolled around (if you're careful) Hauling the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak Carrying the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak with a shoulder strap. Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak  - seats Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - lifejackets pedals/fins Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - paddles The Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak fits into a fifth wheel basement

Tight squeeze going into the fiver basement.

Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak takes up most of the space in a fifth wheel basement

Once there it takes up a lot of space.

The kayak makes a good platform for waxing the hull. Hauling the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak up into the Garhauer racks

Getting ready to hoist the kayak.

Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak at rest in the Garhauer racks

In the Garhauer racks with the

bridle/halyard attached.

A butt saver for the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak - self-inflating seat.

A thermorest butt-saver cushion.

Our commuter vehicles.

Kayak moulds at the Hobie Cat factory in Oceanside, California

Hobie kayak mold rocks back and forth to distribute

the molten plastic inside the mold.

Kayak factory at Hobie Cat in Oceanside, Caliornia.

Hobie Cat factory, Oceanside, California.

New kayaks lined up ready to sell

New kayaks ready to go.

Pedaling the Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak in Redfish Lake, Idaho.

Pedaling into the mountains at Redfish Lake, Idaho.

Hobie i14t inflatable tandem kayak at Lake Havasu, Arizona

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

have.

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

roof rack.

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

(purchased separately).

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

chambers.

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

straps tight.

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

extra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tips for Cruising Mexico – Part 1 – Navigation, Weather, Gear & more

Mexico Cruising Guide: tips for a cruise of Mexico in a sailboat

Primary Mexico cruising landmarks.

More info on Mexico Maps.

Mexico Cruising and living on a sailboat

Groovy's solar panels on their arch support.

Mexico cruising in your own boat

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

wish we had known before we cast off the docklines.  See our Tips for Cruising Mexico - Part 2 and Mexico Maps too.

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

• Navigation:

Related equipment and cruising guides

• Weather Prediction:

Methods and websites

• Tides and Lunar Calendar:

Websites

• 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

• Goodies:

Oddball items we have found very useful

MEXICAN CULTURE

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

spending a few months in Ensenada as you outfit the boat, perhaps split your time between Hotel Coral and Cruiesport

Marina.  Boatyard Baja Naval does outstanding work, and you be over your culture shock before heading south.

Ensenada is a terrific university town filled with activities and festivals of all kinds.  From classical music concerts to art

exhibits to the Baja 500 and 1000 car and motorcycle races to the Newport-Ensenada sailboat race to tours of the

surrounding wine country to the Rosarito-Ensenada bike ride, to the very active running community, there are all kinds of

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.

LEARNING SPANISH

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

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

paint-by-numbers affair.

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.

WEATHER PREDICTION

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

to expect.

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

http://www.weather.solmatesantiago.com/wxdata/Mazatlan to Banderas Bay Forecast.html

- 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.

SSB Broadcasts

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

seriously.

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:

http://www.weather.com

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:

http://www.kwathabeng.co.za/travel/moon/full-moon-calendar.html

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.

BOAT PREPARATION

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

marina stop.

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!

GOODIES

These are some goodies we found extremely useful that are not usually on the list for outfitting cruising boats.

Shower Bags

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.

WiFi Booster

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.

GMRS Radios

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

anchorage.

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.

LED Lights

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

areas.

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.

 

Tips for Cruising Mexico – Part 2 – Costs, Provisioning & more

Here is a Cruising Guide with tips for getting prepared.

20 Peso Note

Cruising Guide for Mexico: A collection of tips for preparing yourself and your boat for the journey.

Mega Comercial Mexicana supermarket (La Paz).

Cruising Mexico aboard a boat

Produce at the Mega Comercial Mexicana

supermarket (La Paz).

Cruising Mexico insider tips and tricks

Chicken on a table at the Comercial

Mexicana supermarket in Ensenada.

Preparation guide and tips.

Frosted Flakes - Kellogg's cereals are everywhere.

special provisioning

Cocoa Krispies.

Cocoa Krispies

Produce at the Central Market in Zihuatanejo.

Mexico central market

Chicken in Zihuatanejo's Central Market.

Guide for sailors

Fish market in Ensenada.

rovisioning

A vendor at the fish market on the

beach in Zihuatanejo.

Getting ready for cruising

A typical corner "tienda" or "mini-super."

Loading up a sailboat

Inside a "mini-super" in La Manzanilla (in

Tenacatita Bay).

Buying food

One of two "tiendas" (small stores) in Agua Verde, a

remote village in the Sea of Cortez.

Mexican tiendas tiny stores

Inside the store in Agua Verde (by far the

smallest store we've seen).

a guide for sailors

Waldo's - the Dollar store.

Living in Mexico - a guide for sailors

Boxed milk. We prefer

Alpura products.

provisioning dairy products

Alpura plain yogurt

("sin azucar")

Living in Mexico aboard a boat

Excellent refried

beans.

Mexico on a sailboat

Mayonnaise in a nifty

container.

A boat blog from a sailboat in Mexico

Yakult

Happy tummy

Living on a boat

Microdyn

Vegetable Wash

Afloat on a boat

A typical hardware store, or "ferreteria."

ailboat in Mexico

Another hardware store ("ferreteria").

Mexican lifestyle and boat blog

Lopez Marine, the best stocked chandlery we have seen in Mexico.

boat blog notes - few chandleries in mexico

Vallarta Chandlery in La Cruz (on right).

Living in Mexico and cruising a sailboat

Getting a haircut in La Cruz.

our boat blog about cruising in a sailboat

Typical laundromat, or "lavenderia."

laundromat in la paz

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

• Money:

Currency exchange and credit cards

• Provisioning:

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!!

• Laundry:

Where to do it and what it costs

• Clothes

What kinds of clothes - and how much - to bring

• Hair Care

Getting your hair done can be a cultural experience

• Bugs:

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.

• Costs:

Approximate costs of cruising in Mexico

• Hurricane Season

Some things we learned after leaving our boat in San Carlos

CHECKING IN

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

market.

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

completed.

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.

MONEY

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

21 pesos.

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

Warehouse Stores

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.

Supermarkets

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

counter.

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.

Public Markets

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.

Dollar Stores

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

wholeheartedly.

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.

BOAT PARTS

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

challenge.

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

up faster.

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.

LAUNDRY

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.

CLOTHES

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.

HAIR CARE

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

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.

COSTS

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.

Food

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.

Restaurants

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

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).

Marinas

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.

Boat Services

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).

Boat Insurance

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).

San Carlos is a popular option for people from Arizona. The bus line Tufesa (this is the link for Bus Schedules) leaves from

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

buses.

MORE INFO

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.

 

Provo Canyon & Alpine Loop Scenic Byways in Utah

Cows greet us in the morning in Thistle, Utah.

Cows greet us in the morning in

Thistle, Utah.

The Wood Hollow Fire creats an amazing sunset.

The Wood Hollow Fire

creates an amazing sunset.

Wood Hollow Fire Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Bridal Veil Falls, Provo

Canyon, Utah.

Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah. South Fork Park, Provo Canyon, Utah. Provo Canyon is a great spot for cycling.

Provo Canyon is a great spot for cycling.

Heber Valley Railroad at Vivian Park.

Heber Valley Railroad.

Heber Valley Railroad at Vivian Park.

They said they like their jobs!

Provo River Parkway, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Provo River Parkway.

Provo River Parkway, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Provo River Parkway.

Cool bike rack.

Cool bike rack.

Waterlilies, Provo Canyon, Utah.

Waterlilies

Water play.

Alpine Loop Scenic Bywa, Utah.

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.

Chair lifts at Sundance Resort, Utah.

Chair lifts at Sundance.

Downhillers & their bikes get a ride up at Sundance Resort, Utah.

Downhillers & their bikes get a ride up.

Wildflowers, Sundance Resort, Utah. Flowers, Sundance Resort, Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. On break from shoot-em-up birthday entertainment at Sundance Resort, Utah.

On break from shoot-em-up birthday

entertainment.

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah.

Another wildfire.

Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Cascade Spring on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah.

Cascade Spring on the Alpine Loop

Scenic Byway.

Ahhh….!

Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah. Wildflowers on the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (American Fork), Utah.

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

between towering

cliffs.  It is beautifully

constructed with three lanes,

allowing for two directions of

bike traffic and one lane of

foot traffic.

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.  Another

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

summertime fun.

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

steep!

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

"Bob" either.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canyon de Chelly, AZ – A Canyon of Indian Cliff Dwellings

RV blog post - We took the scenic route through Arizona's Navajo Nation to Window Rock and saw the stunning vistas and cliff dwellings of Canyon de Chelly.

Window Rock City Park.

Window Rock, Arizona.

The Window.

The Navajo Tribal Band practices for Oklahoma's Red Earth festival at Window Rock.

The Navajo Tribal Band practices

for Oklahoma's Red Earth festival.

The Navajo Tribal Band practices for Oklahoma's Red Earth festival at Window Rock. Navajo Code Talker statue at Window Rock, Arizona.

Navajo Code Talker.

Show of patriotism at a cemetery outside Window Rock on Indian Route 12, Arizona. Views along Indian Route 12, Arizona.

Scenic Indian Route 12.

Exotic rock formations and colors along Indian Route 12, Arizona.

Two toned rock formations.

Brilliant rock formations along Indian Route 12, Arizona.

A homeowner with a flair for color.

All kinds of colors in the rocks along Indian Route 12, Arizona.

The land was painted pink too!

Cliff views at Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona..

Looking down Canyon del Muerto.

Looking down Canyon del Muerto at Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona..

Sheer cliffs and lush valleys.

"Where two fell off."

Massacre Cave at Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona..

Massacre Cave.

Cave dwelling at Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona..

The little cave to the left.

Cliff dwelling at Canyon de Chelly National Park, Arizona.

There's a structure inside!

Expansive views at Chelly National Park, Arizona.

The immensity is hard to capture.

Looking across the canyon at Mummy Cave, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Tim & Mary Lynn look across at Mummy Cave.

Mummy Cave, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Mummy Cave housed a small community

in the shadows.

Building inside Mummy Cave, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

The structure inside Mummy Cave.

Navajo Fortress between Canyon del Muerto and Black Rock Canyon, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

The confluence of Canyon del Muerto

and Black Rock Canyon.

Antelope House, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Antelope House is tucked into the

bottom of this massive cliff.

Close-up of Antelope House, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Close-up of Antelope House ruins.

Hiking down to White House Ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Beginning our descent

into Canyon de Chelly.

We hike to White House Ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Looking down on the lush valley floor.

We hike past crazy swirling rock patterns on our way to White House Ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Crazy swirling rock patterns.

Rock swirls dwarf the trees on our hike to White House Ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

The swirls dwarf the trees in the middle of the pattern.

Pause in our hike to White House ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

We take a breather from hiking.

The lush valley floor of Canyon del Chelly.

The bottom of the canyon is flat and wide.

White House Ruin, two levels of dwellings, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

White House ruin has two levels:

a ground-level building & a cave dwelling above.

Dramatic pink and orange stripes decorate the front of White House Ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

No architect today could design a

more dramatic front entrance!

Awe-inspiring drippy stripes on the cliffs surround White House Ruin, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

The drippy stripes down the walls

fascinated us.

Wildflowers, Chelly National Park, Arizona.

Flower or origamy?

Wildflowers, Chelly National Park, Arizona. Pictographs, Chelly National Park, Arizona: a person and a roadrunner.

Rock Art:  Roadrunner.

Pictographs at Chelly National Park, Arizona: a scorpion.

Rock Art:  Scorpion.

A hogan stands agains a dramatic backdrop of cliff walls on the lush valley floor of Chelly National Park, Arizona.

A Navajo hogan backed by dramatic cliff walls.

We hike through a tunnel on the White House Ruin hike in Chelly National Park, Arizona.

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,

Windtalkers.

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

back yard

In one place the

sandstone even had a

pink hue.  It was a

beautiful drive.

Our destination was

Canyon de Chelly

National Park

(pronounced "d'Shay").

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

Chinley").

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

years later.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Lake Utah – Wildlife and Aspen Groves

In mid-June we visited Fish Lake, Utah, and drove the pretty Fish Lake Scenic Byway where we saw lots of wildlife and later learned the story behind Five Wives Vodka. RV boondocking is all about spectacular views and space to spread out.

It was a tight squeeze to get here…but oh, was it worth it!

Sometimes driving the fifh wheel down dirt roads breaks stuff in the trailer.

Mark fixes a light fixture.

Mother duck and ducklings on Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

Mama duck & ducklings.

Seagulls fishing on Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

Seagulls fished every afternoon.

A hummingbird sits on my bike's derailleur cable.

A hummingbird guards "his" feeder.

Pelicans floating on Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

Little white pelican boats float past.

One way to walk your dog.

The easy way to walk your dog...

Dog bounding through tall grasses at Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

…the dog's gotta run to keep up!

Bunny relaxing in the shade.

Relaxing in the shade of the trailer...

Cows watch our every move.

Cows stop what they're doing to study us as we ride past.

RV boondocking offers stunning views and privacy.

An idyllic setting.

Road to Richfield Utah goes over red rock mountains.

Red rock mountains encircle green farmland.

Richfield Utah is green farmland tucked between red rock mountains. Magazine rack in Richfield Utah.

Happy rural living.

Scowcroft Never Rip Overalls mural on the wall of Grass Valley Mercantile Company in Koosharem Utah.

The Grass Valley Mercantile Company.

Inside the Grass Valley Mercantile Co. Koosharem, Utah.

Inside the Mercantile.

Salt Lake Randonneurs on a 250-mile one-day bike ride

These guys were 93 miles into a 250-mile daytrip.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway.

Fish Lake seen through aspens, Utah.

Fish Lake through the aspens.

Aspen grove and bike path, Fish Lake, Utah.

A bike trail runs alongside the lake.

Wildflowers in Fish Lake, Utah.

Wildflowers!

Fish Lake Lodge, Utah.

The deck of Fish Lake Lodge overlooks the lake.

Elk head on the wall of Fish Lake Lodge, Utah. Cozy fireplace and log rocking chairs at Fish Lake Lodge, Utah.

The fireplace.

Cool staircase outside Fish Lake Lodge, Utah.

A creative bannister on the deck stairs.

Critter. Carving up the day's catch at Fish Lake - ugh!

"Ooh - fish guts - Yuck!!"

Carving up the day's catch at Fish Lake - cool!

"Cool, dad!!"

Old Spanish Trail, Fish Lake, Utah.

The Old Spanish Trail...memorialized.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway.

Butterfly.

Butterflies and moths were everywhere.

The Mormon Temple in Manti, Utah.

The Mormon Temple in Manti.

Liquor outlet store, Utah.

Liquor is sold only in special places.

Free the Five Wives t-shirt.

Free the Five Wives!!

Five Wives vodka bottle.

The culprit.

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

before.

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

mountains.

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.

Peering through

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

saw "Chickens

Magazine" standing

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

Illustrated, The

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

the Mercantile.

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

wildflowers.

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

tackle box.

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

Five Wives."

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capitol Reef National Park Utah – Awe-inspiring!

Capitol Reef National Park captivated us with its natural afternoon light show at Sunset Point, its Mormon history at the Pioneer Register and the natural rock Hickman Bridge. Capitol Reef National Park: Sunset Point. Vivid colors come to life at Capitol Reef National Park: Sunset Point.

Vivid colors come to life.

Capitol Reef's Sunset Point is a romantic spot for taking photos. Sunset Point at Capitol Reef National Park.

Mark disappears in the vast landscape.

Evening shadows at Sunset Point Trail, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument.

Late afternoon shadow-play at Sunset Point.

Evening shadows at Sunset Point Trail, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument. Twisted trees resemble driftwood on an inlad vermillion sea.

Twisted trees resemble driftwood on

an inlad vermillion sea.

We were way too excited to sit down!

Utah wildfire smolders int the distance.

A wildfire puffs smoke in the distance.

Spectacular views along Capitol Reef's

Views along the park's "Scenic Drive"

An antique plough sits out in a field.

An antique plough sits out in a field.

Pioneer Schoolhouse at Capitol Reef.

Pioneer Schoolhouse

The Capitol Gorge wash where pioneers arrived by car.

...and now.

Capitol Gorge Wash then...

It must have been exciting to

arrive here.

Pioneer Register, Capitol Reef National Park.

Hiking to the Pioneer Register.

Pioneer Register, Capitol Reef National Park.

Pioneer names from September

24th, 1910.

M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888

M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888

Wildflowers soften the canyon walls.

Views from the Golden Throne Hike at Capitol Reef Nat'l Park

Looking down from our hike to

the Golden Throne

Gnarled trees on the Golden Throne hike.

Gnarled trees on the Golden

Throne hike.

End of Trail.  And there's the Golden Throne.

End of Trail.  And there's the Golden Throne.

Views from Capitol Reef's

Views from the park's "Scenic Drive"

The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks at Capitol Reef, Utah.

The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks.

Gifford Homestead Barn, Fruita, Utah.

Gifford Homestead Barn

Horse grazing at Gifford Homestead.

Not a bad spot to graze.

Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef NP

Hickman Bridge

Mark admires the view of Hickman Bridge.

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

wonderful place

to get a photo of a

loved one with a

soaring backdrop.

There were clouds

in the sky, and

they wafted past

us overhead,

casting shadows

and playing with

the sunlight as

they passed.

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-

reach hikes.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Travel Route: 2007-2012

This page contains links to all the places we have visited since we started traveling full-time by RV and sailboat in 2007. Our travels have taken us to the Caribbean.

Florida in the upper left, Venezuela along the bottom.

We spent time traveling in the Grenadines. We have cruised our sailboat Groovy along the entire Mexican coast (except the northern Sea of Cortez). Cruising Southern Pacific Mexico and Northern Central America is quite different than along the northern coasts of Mexico.

Southern Mexico & Northern Central America

Our Travel Route: May 2007 - June 2012

SUMMARY

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

Car/hotel: Michigan

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

top of Oregon we turned inland, following the Columbia River along the northern part of Oregon.  Next, we ventured into southern

Washington, exploring the often-foggy coast and the steaming cauldron of Mt. St. Helens.  Then we made our way up to northern

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.

From there we traveled east along the North Cascades in Washington to northern Idaho.  In September, 2007 we traveled further

east to visit Glacier National Park in Montana.  Then we dropped south to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming where we

enjoyed both the tamed wild animals and the hot springs and geysers.  Just a little south of Yellowstone we spent a day touring the

incomparable mountain and lake scenery of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and then made our way east to Devil's Tower

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 and then to Zion National Park and Kodachrome Basin, all along the unbelievably scenic Route 12 which zig-zags across

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

Florida, criss-crossing northern Florida several times.  We visited Daytona just in time to see the Daytona 200 motorcycle race and

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

Utah's great animal sanctuaries.  After hugging and petting many non-human friends, we continued north to Ruby's Inn and Bryce

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.

We stayed in the Arizona Desert for most of December and January.  In Quartzsite we installed a vent-free heater just as the first

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

photo journal spill onto two pages (Florida Panhandle 2).  Heading north, we visited the Natchez Trace in Mississippi a second time

and made some enjoyable stops in central and northern Arkansas.  Warranty work on our trailer took us to Chanute, Kansas next,

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

St. Clair, which borders both Detroit and Canada, and then dropped down to N. Ohio & Elkhart, Indiana where we visited the RV/MH

Hall of Fame and toured Amish Country and the Heartland RV factory.  Later in June, we traveled up Michigan's west coast,

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

area parks.

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

Grenada's main island.  Paradise Beach on Carriacou Island captivated us, and we enjoyed several walking adventures.  We spent

many days in total relaxation and pure joy in Carriacou, Grenada, and eventually took the ferry to Union Island in the country of St.

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

island.

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

earthquake, life in Ensenada was very sweet.  In April, 2010, we watched two races back to back: the Rosarito-Ensenada bike race

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

off-road race.  Sticking to the genteel, we took a daytrip a few miles inland to experience the flavor and beauty of Ensenada's wine

country.  Back at Marina Coral we met many interesting travelers passing through Ensenada, and we discovered a vibrant running

and racing scene in town.  In early August, 2010, we moved Groovy to Ensenada's Baja Naval boatyard for a few projects that were

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.

Finishing our major outfitting projects on Groovy in October, 2010, we started sailing down the Baja coast on November 2nd.

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

Francisco.  A late season (May) Norther packed a wallop, but we emerged unscathed in the gorgeous, friendly bay of Agua Verde.

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,

we arrived in the lovely Bahías de Huatulco at the end of January ready to soak up their natural beauty.  In Huatulco's two little

towns we met some young Zapotecs and out of town we explored an Eco-Archaeology Park.  Taking a bus over the mountains in

mid-February, we fell in love with the cool colonial city of Oaxaca.  We found all kinds of color and action at Oaxaca's Zócalo and

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

ailing parents.

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

Monument.  Turning west on Scenic Route 12 we arrived at Capitol Reef National Park where we immersed ourselves in red rock

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following posts came after our transition to WordPress in the summer of 2012:

To see a listing of all travel our blog posts since July 2012, visit this link:
Our RVing and Sailing Blog Posts, July 2012 to the present

To see a summary of all our travels from 2007 to the present, visit this link:
Synopsis of RV and Sailing Travels from 2007 to the present

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