Baja Cruising Guide
The Mexican government
requires the following: A Crew List; Documentation showing the vessels
ownership; Tourist Permits, obtained from the Mexican Consulate
here in San Diego; Fishing Licenses for each person on board the
boat. (Obtained from an tackle shop in San Diego. This applies even
if you just have a fishing hook on board!); Mexican Insurance (that's
When you arrive at your first port of entry, take 5 copies of the
crew list and the tourist to immigration. They will sign/stamp them
and keep one copy. You then take the crew list to the port captain.
He will sign/stamp and give you back 3 copies. One of these copies
you will take back to the immigration office. You will leave this
office with 2 copies. Reverse this procedure for checking out. And
be aware that these procedures change often. Try to avoid overtime
charges, by arriving and departing Monday to Friday between 8 and
3 pm. Don't forget to clear in and out of each port to avoid a lot
of heartache later on!
PORTS OF ENTRY
Ensendada, Cedros, San
Carlos, Cabo, la Paz, Loreto, Santa Rosalia, Guaymas, Topolobampo,
Matzatlan, San Blas, Chacala, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Zihuatanejo,
Acapulco, Puerto Angel and Salina Cruz.
Nomal cruising season
is from mid October to April. By November you shouldn't have any
problems with hurricanes or insurance coverage. The weather is getting
cooler and the water temperature is dropping,
I would suggest that you go as far south as quickly as possible.
My preference is non-stop from San Diego to Acapulco. From Point
Loma (San Diego) go due south until 100 miles offshore, then turn
southeast for Acapulco. This way you are outside of the shipping
lanes and not trying to dodge the unlit native fishing boats found
closer to shore. The sailing is great, much like being in the trades
but with cooler temperatures. I like this route because winter in
Baja is cooler than most people think, and the coast can be cold,
foggy and windy and not that much fun from November to March. So
save the west coast of Baja for the summer trip back home!
Once in Acapulco you'll find year round warm weather and a fun spot
to recuperate from you 10 to 14 day passage. After relaxing here
for awhile, it's time to work your way up north. You can almost
day sail up the coast stopping at Punta De Papanoa, Zihuatanejo,
Ixtapa and many other ports until you reach Manzanillo. In Manzanillo,
it's time to decide- do you cross over to Cabo or do you continue
north along the west coast of mainland Mexico to Guaymas and San
Carlos. (This is my favorite route)
Between Manzanillo to PV are many sun kissed exotic spots only a
day's sail away: places like Nativadad, Tentacatita, Chamela, Carreyes,
Ipala and Yelapa. These remote pristine anchorages are what cruising
is all about.
On the way to Mazatlan from PV is historic San Blas. North of Mazatlan
there are few decent anchorages for over 350 miles.
After cruising the Sea of Cortez, it's time to return home. If you
depart Cabo for San Diego around the end of June, you will once
again miss the hurricane season. Now you can almost day's sail all
the way North to home between all the great little anchorages mentioned
in the rest of this guide.
Baja is rugged and
isolated, with few navigation aids. It's GPS, Celestial or nothing!
Good coastal navigation and dead reckoning procedures are a must.
Night travel should be avoided unless well out to sea, as lights
and aids are not dependable. If you are going all the way to Acapulco,
have the following DMA charts on board: 502, 503, 21140, 21160,
21180, 21180, 21200, 21120, 21017, 21020, 21008, 21014.
Most anchorages have
good sand bottoms and are in depths of 3 to 6 fathoms, only a few
are deeper than 12 fathoms. I suggest 3 sets of anchors and gear,
as many times you will need a fore and aft and a storm anchor.
ENGINES AND FUEL
Always carry the spare
parts you think you will need- filters, impellers and lubricants.
Eliminate problems-buy a Baja Filter (West Marine, etc) with a water
separator and never fill your fuel tanks without it.
Good batteries are
hard to come by in Mexico. Also make sure you have a digital volt
meter and a hydrometer.
Any good dinghy will
do. I like the hard dinghy because it's easier to row and control.
Better yet, a sailing dinghy so you don't have to row at all! Also
the hard dinghy does not have to be patched every time you run up
on a rocky shore.
FOOD AND WATER
To trade or barter
with the fishermen, bring canned food, coffee, drill bits, vice
grips, flashlights, batteries and t-shirts.
You can purchase canned and fresh items in all of the major ports.
The smaller villages will only have tortillas, bread and beans.
Don't forget to take some cheap , unscented, Chlorine. (Clorox)
It can be used in many ways from water purification to disinfecting
everything from laundry to fruits. When you soak fruits and vegetables
in a solution of 1/8 cup per 1/2 gallon of water, they will keep
twice as long and you won't bring any bugs on board. Buy several
collapsible water containers as most of the time you will be filling
your water tanks from these. And if you can afford it, buy a watermaker.
Bring the following!
Sun block, Avon's Skin So Soft (for the No See Ums), BBQ fuel, Lycra
dive suit; suit, fins, snorkel and mask; kitchen timer; thermos;
Mosquito coils; Joy dishwashing soap; extra oars; folding shopping
cart; folding jugs; lots of shock cord; dingy anchor. Toilet paper
and other paper products are sometimes hard to get in Mexico. Long
pants and dresses for visits to Port Captains offices.
Do NOT take firearms or ammunition.
The Mexican flag should be flown from your starboard spreader and
it should be the same size as your national flag. the Q- quarantine-
flag is not normally used in Mexico.
I have fished from
both sail and power boats so my gear is adapted to both. I found
the lip latch type of rig the most effective. The rig consist of
two single hooks connected several inches apart by wire with each
hook at an angle to the other with one hook near the head and the
other trailing in the tail. When choosing a hook the general rule
is that the distance of the "bite of the hook" should just fit over
the head of the lure.
As for leaders I prefer the mono to wire because it trails better
and is less likely to kink. Game fish can really chew up a leader
so I lean to the heavy stuff.
TROLLING- SLOW SPEED
When I go cruising
I always carry several primary color. I like catching the smaller
game fish to the big marlin because of my limited refrigeration.
For tuna, Wahoo and dorado, I take the smaller feathers like Mean
Joe Green, purple/black, red/white, zucchini color and red/yellow/green.
When I do get the urge to catch a big on (marlin), I use green/black,
mackerel pattern, dorado pattern and a bright or neon pink/white/red
combo, in addition to Doorknob lures. As a rule I run the darker
colors in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening or
in overcast conditions. When it's brighter out, I use the brighter
colors. I use the same colors only with lighter (smaller) lures
for my spinning gear when in the dingy or at anchor when we need
OUTBOARD FIRST AID
After your outboard
gets dunked, begin by washing it down with large quantities of fresh
water. Next, remove the cowling, the air filter and the plugs. Drain
all the water out of the engine and carburetor. Use the pull cord
to turn the engine over to make sure there is no water left in the
cylinders. Now, squirt about 15 to 20 seconds of WD-40 into each
cylinder and the carburetor. Hopefully, you have a solid state ignition
and a quick dunking should not effect it.
If you have an older model with points and a condenser remove and
replace them. Re-assemble the engine, using a new spark plug. Start
the engine and run it for 30 minutes while squirting WD-40 in the
carburetor intake every few minutes. This should coat the internal
parts and prevent further damage. Then go for a ride around the
harbor. This should flush out all the salts from the engine.
If you can not work on your engine immediately after the dunking,
it's important to keep it immersed, in fresh water, until you can
work on it or get it to a mechanic.