All Aboard – Our First Year In Mexico

We celebrated New Year’s back in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, after returning from a lovely trip to Iowa where we visited family (sans snow) with temperatures in the 40’s over Christmas! Just a little bit of that Mexico heat that we secretly packed in our suitcase for our families to enjoy.

New Years Celebration - Happy Dance

New Years Celebration – Happy Dance

New Years Celebration - Happy Dance 4

Chinese Lantern Lighter

Back in La Cruz we started the new year with a small gathering of friends. We launched paper Chinese lanterns into the sky as we made our new years wishes. Then aimlessly wandered into a local establishment where we were adorned with hats, horns, and champagne to ring in the New Year with fellow Mexicans.

Bringing in a new year seems to be a good time to reflect back through the previous year. 2014 was our first year living and cruising in Mexico. Where did we go? What did we see? How many miles did we cover? What did we learn? Let’s find out.

MARINA HOPPERS

We spent our first year in Mexico and adopted La Paz, Baja California Sur, as our home base. With both of us working, we needed reliable Internet that could sometimes be found in Marinas.

Total Number of Marinas: 3

  1. Marina Cortez – La Paz
  2. Marina Costa Baja – La Paz
  3. Isla Mazatlán Marina  – Mazatlan

The cost for our marina stays for the entire year was $7,455 or about $621.25 per month. This included our water, electricity and Internet. The average cost for our marina stays was not much less than the slip fees we paid for in Ventura, California. It was however, much less than the rent and utilities we paid for an apartment living in Iowa, and by far, much less than the cost of our old mortgage payments.

Marina Costa Baja

Marina Costa Baja Sunset

Marina Cortez

Marina Cortez, La Paz

Working 9-5

Working in the cruisers lounge at Marina Palmira.

Marina Cortez

Marina Cortez – Lots of room for backing.

Work Zone

Work Zone

Costa Baja Slip

Marina Costa Baja Slip

Costa Baja Pool

Sometimes marinas come with more amenities than just free Wi-Fi.

Costa Baja Beach Club

Costa Baja Beach Club

Costa Baja Beach

Costa Baja Beach

TRAVELING THE SEA

Just because we spent a full year marina living, doesn’t mean we didn’t do our fair share traveling. In fact we adopted the three week rule that meant every three weeks we needed to leave the dock and go somewhere no matter what. Without the rule in place we were afraid we would get too comfortable with marina living, and never leave the dock. That’s really not fair to Maluhia or her owners.

Total days outside of the marina: 75
Total consecutive days outside of the marina: 30

It took us awhile to learn that Mexico has both 3G and 4G Internet that can be acquired outside of the Marina’s for a fee when you join up with TelCel. A small USB device called a Banda Ancha can be purchased for a flat fee, and on top of that data can also be purchased with or without a plan. $50 gets you 5 GB of data.

With an 18 or 24 month plan you can get much more data for the same cost. You can also buy a smartphone or bring a smartphone from another country. As long as it is unlocked you can insert one of TelCel’s chips and make your smartphone a hotspot, or buy a MiFi device and do the same thing. You can even put a TelCel chip into your iPad.

The whole point of knowing this is so you can use the Internet in Mexico outside of the marinas anywhere on the water or street, while you are within reach of a cell tower. In Baja, unless you are near La Paz, Puerto Escondido, or Loreto, you won’t find yourself near a lot of cell towers. On the mainland this has been a different story as most stops revolve around being centered near a town.

Sea of Cortez

Sea of Cortez

ON LOCATION

With La Paz being in such a central location to the beginning of the most visited islands in the Sea of Cortez we were able to cover our fair share of ground.

Total Miles Traveled by Boat:  1,378 nautical miles
Islands Set Foot On: 8

  1. Espíritu Santo
  2. Isla Partida
  3. San Francisco
  4. San Jose
  5. Isla Carmen
  6. Isla Monserate
  7. Isla Danzante
  8. Los Coronados
Red Rock Exploration

Red Rock Exploration

Isla Danzante

Isla Danzante

Anchorages visited: 45 - (some we visited more than once. We have our favorites.)

  1. Bahia Falsa
  2. Coleta Lobos
  3. Bahia Balandra (5)
  4. Playa La Bonanza (3)
  5. Bahia San Gabriel
  6. Caleta Partida (4)
  7. Ensenada el Cardonal
  8. Ensenada Grande (4)
  9. Los Islotes
  10. Bahia Amortajada
  11. Isla San Franciso South (3)
  12. Isla San Franciso North
  13. Puerto los Gatos (2)
  14. Bahia Agua Verde (3)
  15. Bahia Agua Verde South
  16. Isla Monserrate North
  17. Bahia Marquer
  18. Bahia Candeleros (2)
  19. Candeleros Chico
  20. Honeymoon Cove
  21. Puerto Escondido Waiting Room
  22. Puerto Escondido Main Anchorage (2)
  23. Bahia Chuenque
  24. Loreto
  25. Caleta San Juanico
  26. Isla Pajaros
The old desert and the sea

The old desert and the sea

Balandra

One of our favorite anchorages – Balandra

Cockpit Sunset

Cockpit Sunset

Treasure Hunting

Hunting for treasure

Pelican or Peli-can't

Pelican or Peli-can’t

Bahia Agua Verde

Bahia Agua Verde

Anchor Watch

Anchor Watch

Beach Fires: 4

Beach Fire Prep

Beach Fire Prep

Beach Fire

Fire By The Sea

Cities Visited in Mexico: 8

  1. Cabo San Lucas
  2. San Jose Del Cabo
  3. Todos Santos
  4. La Paz
  5. Loreto
  6. Mazatlán
  7. La Cruz
  8. Puerto Vallarta
Loreto

The city of Loreto

States Visited in Mexico: 4

  1. Baja California Sur
  2. Sinaloa
  3. Nayarit
  4. Jalisco

Trips back to the United States: 2

  1. California
  2. Iowa

Fire Dancers: 1

Fire Dancer

Fire Dancer

It doesn't mean I'm weird.

It doesn’t mean I’m weird. It doesn’t mean I need therapy.

Canadians Seen: Too many to count! They’ve been traveling back and forth to Mexico since birth. Who is left in Canada this time of year?

FISH STORIES

Fish Caught: 1
Whale Sightings: 12
Biggest Fish Swam With: Whale Shark
Manta Rays: Too many to count between Agua Verde and Puerto Escondido
Dolphins: Our biggest pod was 15 and included some babies.
Sting Ray Bites: 0

Dolphin Friend

Dolphin Friend

Bonanza Dolphins

Bonanza Dolphins

Manta Raya

Manta Raya

Manta Ray Splash

Manta Ray Splash

Hermit Crab Friends

Hermit Crab Friends

Bird Watch

Bird Watch

Besides fish we’ve had our fair run in with the birds.

WEATHER PHENOMENONS

Hurricanes Survived: Odile  – (there were 9 major hurricanes (those of category 3 or greater) that occurred on the Pacific side of Mexico for 2014.)
Helicopter Scares: 1
Chubascos Encountered: 1

Rain Clouds

Raining On The Sea

Rain Rain Go Away

Maluhia never got wet.

Broken McDonald's Arches

McDonald’s golden arches are not hurricane proof.

BOAT MAINTENANCE

Things that broke and things we fixed: 4

  1. Auto Pilot
  2. Windlass Hawser Pipe
  3. The Head – (Toilet)
  4. Dinghy

Upgrades Made: 4

  1. GAM Split Lead Antenna – We can now use our Single Side Band radio without antennas breaking or getting halyards stuck at the top of our mast.
  2. Refrigeration – Switched our SeaFrost refrigeration unit to run off of our 12-volt batteries.
  3. Solar Panels – Added two 140 watt power solar panels so we could run the refrigerator off of our 12-volt batteries with the aid of the suns rays.
  4. Spreader Boots - No more torn sails.
Solar Panel Install

Solar Panel Install

Dancing in the rigging

Dancing in the rigging

Sewing on the boots

Sewing on the boots

LESSONS LEARNED

So, after a year of living and sailing in Mexico, what have we learned?

Mexico has been a pleasant surprise to us in terms of a neighboring country that has such immense beauty, beaches, sand, dessert, mountains, warmth, history, and culture. To think that we almost wrote this country off our list for sailing is crazy. We thank our friends M&M in Ventura for convincing us otherwise.

Mexico is not the scary place we hear about on the news. Mexico has its own issues. At the same time Mexico is also huge. It is the 15th largest country with 122.3 million (estimated) people, and 31 states. To say you wouldn’t come to Mexico because it is dangerous is like saying you wouldn’t visit the United States because of how dangerous it is in Memphis,Tennessee where you have a 1 in 12 chance of being a victim of a violent crime.

The Mexican people are extremely friendly, and willing to help. This is especially true when you ask for directions. Very rarely will someone say they do not know the answer to your question. In some cases we’ve even been offered free rides to the destination. One time our acceptance of a ride ended up with us getting stuck in the sand, while during another we had over extended our time at a local restaurant and there were no more taxis, so the chef gave us a ride.

Knowing Spanish is helpful but not completely necessary. Many Mexican’s know a little English but are very shy about speaking it. The reverse is true of many who study Spanish as a second language. Often you feel too embarrassed if you open your mouth and if what comes out isn’t quite right, or you are not sure if the funny sounding words you utter actually mean what you’ve been told. Sometimes our lips and tongues just get in the way. I’m telling you it’s time to take a deep breath and conquer your fears. Studies show that learning a second language at any age can slow cognitive decline in the aging brain.

Both of our Spanish has greatly improved through immersion. Having friends that know the language to help give you little tips about pronunciation and vocabulary along the way, helps as well. I have found my Spanish major has paid off immensely by opening doors to conversations with strangers who treat you like long lost friends, gaining local knowledge about a topic, or just plain old answering our questions in a timely manner. With each new situation, learning new vocabulary above and beyond textbook is a constant ongoing process.

People that we travel with and meet help make the journey that much more enjoyable and interesting. In the last year we’ve met and interacted with people from 15 different countries, such as Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Ireland, France, Germany, Romania, Thailand, Sweden, Poland, Canada, United States, Mexico, and England. We’ve learned about their countries, their languages, and listened to their stories.

Having a boat has taught us to care more about the relationships we develop with people rather than the relationships we develop with material things. Having less space to store things has its advantages because things brought on and off the boat have to be scrutinized. We are forced to use shoes and clothes to the point of replacement. Between the two of us we blew out 3 pairs of flip flops over the last year. We have found that less things equals less stress, and more money to purchase the necessities of street tacos, food for Maluhia’s dinosaur (engine) and of course more flip flops!

Living on a boat can be a life lead more simply. It can also be more complex. The space is small but very adaptable. We spend more time with each other than we could have ever dreamed, but still find ways to give each other space. We are forced to see how our spouse reacts and lives under a microscope in many different situations and some times we don’t like what we see until we can understand why, forgive and move on.

On the other hand we lack modern conveniences like the ability to do laundry on our boat or wash dishes with that fancy thing you put dishes into, press a button and have them come out clean and dry. Instead we do dishes by hand, and spent $15 a month to take our laundry to town and have the local lavanderia, wash, dry and fold them. Oh, and what’s that thing you drive around in to get you from point A to point B? A car?

Laundry Bags

This is how we do our monthly laundry.

Shopping for groceries is a half a day excursion often done with friends. Sometimes this includes carrying multiple backpacks for packing, and splitting a cab, or taking the bus back with all of our purchases. I’ve actually walked 2 miles with a full backpack, and 4 well stocked bags of groceries. On the other hand, grocery shopping with friends can be so much fun because we compare carts, split supplies, and swap recipes!

Perhaps the biggest thing of all that living on a boat has done is remind us to value life and the gift of time. Live life by being present, don’t take it for granted. Learn from one another, but also teach. Find ways to give back without seeking praise. Never grow tired of the beauty of nature that surrounds us every day (it never ceases to amaze us), and continue to give thanks for all of life’s little blessings.

Categories: Amigos, Boat projects, Buddy boating, Community, Cruising, Culture, Dolphins, Galley, Living aboard, Mexico, Moving, Passage Making, Sailing, The islands, Weather | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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