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Old 01-04-2016, 12:20   #1
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Buy/Refit in Mexico

Hello CF'ers,

Joined the forum 9/2014. Been reading posts ever since; this is my first post.

Been dreaming for a long time of sailing the South Pacific. Have sailing experience, but never an owner. Some formal training, namely American Red Cross course in early '80's and more recently some ASA courses as a refresher since I had stopped sailing for a period of time.

I believe I am ready to start down the road of searching, purchasing and refitting.

My interests lie in what is colloquially referred to as the "Coconut Milk Run" i.e. trades route.

My best friend is going to be my crew; no significant other, so it is going to be a dudes-only adventure, with possibly the occasional visitor.

I have a budget of US 65k for purchase and refit. Funds for other things like insurance, cruising kitty, maintenance, reserve, etc. are separate. Current plan is to cruise for two seasons then put the boat up for sale.

I have no interest in purchasing on the US east coast just to have to go through the canal to get to where I really want to be. My thought is to purchase and refit in Mexico and depart for the Marquesas in March/April 2017. I realize that is not much time and that there is a good chance it would stretch to 2018, but I would like to try for it. I realize a lot of it would have to do with the condition of the boat and the time to do the work. I would look to have a reputable yard do the work I am not yet able to do myself (e.g. replace standing rigging, overhaul auxiliary if needed, etc). We would reside in Mexico for most of the time once the boat is purchased until departing.

I have read of experiences of buying a boat in Mexico, but right now I have some basic questions about Mexico in general:

-What are considered the "boating centers" on the Mexican west coast? I realize that there are marinas/yards spread over far and wide, but are there a couple of areas to key in on where there are a number of yards to choose from (and hopefully more competition for my business)?

-Is 65k a realistic number for purchase and refit? A lot of those who have done this are fond of saying that it is common to spend 50-100% of the purchase price of the boat in refit costs. My requirements are for a boat large enough for two guys, each with their own separate berths (i.e. quarterberth) and enough tankage/storage for the longest passage (Mexico to Marquesas). Of course it would have to be an appropriate vessel for extended cruising. Based on my research so far, I'm thinking something in the range of 32-37 feet. I have factored in a 10k buffer, so could go to 75k, but would prefer to keep it under budget if possible.

-It seems to me that I can spend less on the purchase price for a boat that needs more things done to it to get it ready to cruise or spend more to buy a boat that has already been set up for cruising but needs some attention. Basically spend more for boat, less on refit or spend less on boat and more for refit. Which is advisable?

-Is it advisable to consider doing this in Mexico for a novice? I obviously have no personal experience in refitting a sailboat, but I have read several of the very good books out there written by experts like Nigel Calder and do know what is important and some of the things to look for.

Hopefully there is someone here who has done what I am thinking of doing in Mexico and can share their experience. My biggest concern is avoiding expensive mistakes. I'm only going to have one shot at this. Opinions, (good, bad, ugly) are encouraged

I am thankful for the existence of this forum and the many individuals who generously share their experiences and information. I hope to get to the point one day where I can start giving back.

Jeff
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Old 01-04-2016, 12:50   #2
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

I bought on the east coast of Mexico near Cancun and everything one expects to be available in a good sized city is available. I'm not familiar enough with the west coast to help there. In my experience you will be better off buying one that has all the equipment you need in good condition rather than buy a "fixer upper". I have way more in my boat than the purchase price of one in better shape to start with. I did however learn a lot during the refit and there is something to be said for hands on knowledge.

The refit will go easier if you are pretty fluent in Spanish. I'm very marginal and when in an auto parts store trying to buy a specific type of fluid the typical English/Spanish dictionary will help you order a hamburger but won't help much with what you really need. I wound up taking the top off several containers until I found the one I needed with my nose. (I probably killed some brain cells in the process. )
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Old 01-04-2016, 14:31   #3
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Boating centers of Mexico = San Carlos/Guaymas, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta/Banderas Bay, Mazatlan

You can do work in any of these places, labor is inexpensive in mexico, but importing stuff is expensive. You might consider buying in Southern California, loading up the boat with stuff to install, and then taking it south for installation and other things that are more labor related. Otherwise if you can base out of San Carlos/Guaymas you're in driving range of the border.

If you go to any of the major ports I listed, there is always a local cruiser community with plenty of people willing to help you with referrals.

As for buying one and fixing it up vs. buying one in good shape, I would highly recommend a boat that is well maintained and used versus one that's been sitting. For every thing you identify that needs fixing there will be at least one you missed.

A lot of people sail down here to Mexico and then don't want to bash back, and don't like cruising, so they sell their boat. That's the boat you want to buy, one that somebody just fixed up to go cruising and then changed their mind. Cruising is not easy. Don't buy the one that hasn't left the marina in 3 years, despite how tricked out the galley is.
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Old 01-04-2016, 14:49   #4
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Friends of ours had us look at a boat in La Paz while we were down there. They ended up buying it for $40K, a Tayana 37. After many frustrating months trying to get rigging parts that got 'lost' in customs and some engine work they headed off to French Polynesia. Are now Malaysia.

Except for major grunt work labor items most jobs are cheaper to do and get done better in the US vs most 2nd or 3rd world place. Pacific Mex is pretty easy cruising and getting things done appears a lot easier than it is. That's because so many cruisers have been there for so many years that they have the system down. The first time you do something, like bring heavy items in from the US, you get lots of sometimes conflicting advice. Then pick one and learn by trial and error. So basically things take longer than expected and cost more than expected.

I don't think your rational for not buying on the east coast is all that valid if you found a boat that was in good shape. Easier and cheaper to refit there. The passage down to the Canal would be a good shake down before the long Pacific passage. The Canal passage is a great experience and not expensive in the scope of things.

Edit: I just noticed that you are in South Florida so you will blow a few grand traveling to Mex to find and purchase. Might be better to spend that money on the boat.
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Old 01-04-2016, 19:49   #5
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Here you go, I see several boats that would fit your budget and are capable of your plans.

Sailboat Listings | La Paz Yachts
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Old 01-04-2016, 21:03   #6
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

darylat8750,

Thanks for sharing your east cost Mexico experience and your suggestion of buying one that is equipped versus the alternative. I am leaning that way, notwithstanding the fact that it is possible to buy an "equipped" boat that is in reality is a basket case. Buyer (me) beware for sure. That is one of main reasons I am posting here in the first place. I speak "broken Spanish" but am working on improving it.

autumbreeze27,

Thanks for the list of boating centers...I will zero in on those next. With regards to the expense of importing parts...did not know about that and now will considered bringing a vehicle to Mexico.

For sure I am not going to be considering any boat that has been sitting. Appreciate the insight on your observations regarding those that cruise down to Mexico and subsequently change their plans. This is the kind of information that I am looking for.

Paul L,

I must say that the thing that most jumped out at me about your post was the following comment regarding buying on east coast:

"Easier and cheaper to refit there."

Admittedly, I just assumed that it would be cheaper to refit in Mexico given the well known difference in the labor rates. Are you saying that it is cheaper because eventually I'll end up paying more in Mexico due to the high risk of shoddy work that must subsequently be corrected?

SV THIRD DAY,

Thanks for the link. I have been somewhat fixated on yachtworld lately.
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Old 01-04-2016, 22:28   #7
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Berferd
I'm saying that purchasing equipment is cheaper in the US than anywhere. Don',t discount the costs of miscellaneous. Like when you get a good deal on a SSB and then start pricing wire and antenna, that kind of thing. Labor to sand your hull will be cheaper in 2nd/3rd world. If money is an issue, then the only economical way to refit a cruiser is to do almost all the work yourself. Having Defender online with UPS, the chandlery down the street and home depot near by makes for a lot quicker and cheaper refit.
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Old 01-04-2016, 22:46   #8
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico


"I have a budget of US 65k for purchase and refit. Funds for other things like insurance, cruising kitty, maintenance, reserve, etc. are separate. Current plan is to cruise for two seasons then put the boat up for sale.
$65K is more than enough. My neighbors in Guaymas just sold their Endurance 35 cutter for around $40K. Great offshore cutaway forefoot keel. In my opinion, just get liability Insurance.

I have no interest in purchasing on the US east coast just to have to go through the canal to get to where I really want to be. My thought is to purchase and refit in Mexico and depart for the Marquesas in March/April 2017. I realize that is not much time and that there is a good chance it would stretch to 2018, but I would like to try for it. I realize a lot of it would have to do with the condition of the boat and the time to do the work. I would look to have a reputable yard do the work I am not yet able to do myself (e.g. replace standing rigging, overhaul auxiliary if needed, etc). We would reside in Mexico for most of the time once the boat is purchased until departing.
I wouldn't be in a great hurry to leave Mexico so quick. There's a lot to see and great anchorages.Personally, I think it would be wise to do as much work on the boat as you are able. Unless it is grunt work, I wouldn't hire outside help. Quality can be rough. I just had numerous layers of bottom paint ground off and I'll have to go back over to smooth things out a little more.

I have read of experiences of buying a boat in Mexico, but right now I have some basic questions about Mexico in general:

-What are considered the "boating centers" on the Mexican west coast? I realize that there are marinas/yards spread over far and wide, but are there a couple of areas to key in on where there are a number of yards to choose from (and hopefully more competition for my business)?
The ones mentioned earlier are good for the west coast. But I would restrict myself to the Mazatlan Marine center which owns the 3 largest (if you can call them that) brokerages West coast Mexico. There are others and a whole lot more responsive. So Yacht World will show you the others too if you choose the criteria (Mexico) on there website.

-Is 65k a realistic number for purchase and refit? A lot of those who have done this are fond of saying that it is common to spend 50-100% of the purchase price of the boat in refit costs. My requirements are for a boat large enough for two guys, each with their own separate berths (i.e. quarterberth) and enough tankage/storage for the longest passage (Mexico to Marquesas). Of course it would have to be an appropriate vessel for extended cruising. Based on my research so far, I'm thinking something in the range of 32-37 feet. I have factored in a 10k buffer, so could go to 75k, but would prefer to keep it under budget if possible.
Don't get all caught up with deluding yourself what you might spend or the what if's. Just look around andf if you can, have a survey done.

-It seems to me that I can spend less on the purchase price for a boat that needs more things done to it to get it ready to cruise or spend more to buy a boat that has already been set up for cruising but needs some attention. Basically spend more for boat, less on refit or spend less on boat and more for refit. Which is advisable?
Trust me...it's a balance between the two. Sellers get pretty motivated if their boat has been on the market longer than 6 months.

-Is it advisable to consider doing this in Mexico for a novice? I obviously have no personal experience in refitting a sailboat, but I have read several of the very good books out there written by experts like Nigel Calder and do know what is important and some of the things to look for.
Refitting a boat is not that had if you know how to use your hands, your head and ask questions. Where ever you buy a boat on the West coast of Mexico, there will be lots of advise given...wanted or not. I was saddened to see La Paz Yachts sell a really young couple a wooden boat because it was a "good deal". The boat needed tons of work and I could see they were getting discouraged after a few months.
Hopefully there is someone here who has done what I am thinking of doing in Mexico and can share their experience. My biggest concern is avoiding expensive mistakes. I'm only going to have one shot at this. Opinions, (good, bad, ugly) are encouraged "
I bought my Hallberg Rassy 35 for 1/3 the market value in Alameda Ca. and spent 2 years rebuilding the engine, complete rewire ect ect ect...to the tune of $17K. But now she is in Mexico and in great shape. It can be done but takes a lot of commitment.
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Old 01-04-2016, 23:22   #9
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

You can take $300 worth of parts into Mexico each trip without paying 30% duty. They X-ray all luggage and look at anything that looks like it might be expensive. I always had a neatly typed up list of recites with the arithmetic done for them with the original receipts paper clipped together. Still when they saw the mixing elbow for the Lehman on the X-ray they wanted to see the receipt for that item. I dug it out and they didn't believe it was only $120. The young ladies called over a guy that questioned me about where I bought it and I showed him the receipt from American Diesel . He obviously thought that it should be more but accepted my paper work and I was on my way. I went back and forth often during the project and never had a problem. My friend had a Fortress anchor that he bent because it got caught under a rock. When he brought the shank into Mexico they charged him because they said he was importing it. His position during the discussion was that it was a warranty replacement and they went back and forth for a while. The official kept wanting to see a receipt with a cost on it while John kept showing the paper that said "No Charge" eventually they backed down but for a while he thought they might confiscate it. It is less expensive to by golf cart batteries that are made in Mex. in the U.S. than in Mex.
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Old 02-04-2016, 02:34   #10
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Here are some folks who went from living ashore to heading off cruising within a few months. https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/03...what-it-takes/
--> If Naught Else, their Philosophy is worth Pondering on Heavily...

And the parent site for the article has some tips & key questions that you need to ask of yourself/consider https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/03...ut-you-4-tips/

Also, here's the blog that they created, after they headed out cruising/voyaging (on under $15K/yr - Sustained) Not all who wander....are lost
With included links to the blogs of many other people who've done the same, like Annie Hill of Voyaging On A Small Income (book) fame.

Keep in mind too, that how much prep time you "need", is dictated mostly by your choice of boat. Her state of readiness, her complexity. How much technology you decide that you "have" to have aboard. What kind of lifestyle you choose to live, including what, onboard, you can easily fix/maintain/modify along the way - mostly via you own hands & ingenuity.

All of the above is something which I try to keep reminding myself. Albeit, it's not the easiest thing to do, given the driving force(s) behind our culture.
That said, Annie Hill's book is DEFINITELY worth buying, & reading. If not taking to heart.

Plus, if you make a checklist of what's really necessary to take off & go sailing, it's fairly short. Assuming that going cruising is more important than "stuff" to you, & that you're adaptable as well.

Also, don't rule out buying a boat somewhere besides Mexico, and; having her sailed there by pro's, having her shipped there, or starting your voyage from elsewhere.
Especially if you decide to find a fully outfitted boat (particularly one on the cheap), like via Craig's list, on here, via word of mouth, etc.
And such boats are fairly readily available, just not typically via Yachtworld.com Though I've certainly seen a fair number on there too.

You can either pick a locale, to watch & search for boats like hawks in. Or, be willing to pack up your kit, & travel to where you find a great deal on a boat which will work.

Hope that that helps, & Good Luck!

PS: If you're already of the mindset that you're sure that you can purchase, & then refit a boat in Mexico, then, knock on wood, you can do it most anywhere.
And too, look at what some of both the solo long distance sailors, & also racers, can fix; underway/enroute, or in middle of nowhere landfalls. A 'la McGuyver. Especially 20, or 50 years ago.
Which, you'll be doing once you head out cruising too, regardless of how much you "prepare".
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Old 02-04-2016, 03:14   #11
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Jeff.
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Old 04-04-2016, 12:57   #12
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Thanks for all the replies and suggestions.

The more I think about it the more I am becoming inclined to purchase a boat that has already been fit out, cruised and maintained well by its current owner. I reason I would continue to maintain it well and perform normal maintenance and not have to spend more time getting it ready (yes, I realize that every boat will need some things done; I'm talking relative degrees). It would most likely cost more up front, but it would save time. Time is the biggest factor for me. I'm not retiring; I'm taking a sabbatical. While I realize that I won't get back what I put into it later, I am looking at boats that have well-recognized reputations and would not be difficult to sell later on.

Paul L, thanks for the clarification.

Celestialsailor,

If this works out, I plan to sail as much as I can in Mexico...how soon I would leave will depend on how things go and how many challenges I encounter and how long it takes to work through them.

I'd love to be able to spend 2 years rebuilding a Hallberg Rassy 35 as you did (not being sarcastic; it would mean I have more time to devote!) but my situation does not allow for a project boat.

I don't have a lot of experience maintaining a boat, but I am decent with my hands (I wrench on old motorcycle engines for fun), and prefer to fix things myself rather than pay others to do it. But I try to be good at recognizing when a certain task is best left to a professional (e.g. rebuilding the fuel injector pump on a diesel engine).

darylat8750,

Thanks, I didn't know that bringing parts into Mexico is such a hassle. Wonder what happens when a single part is more than $300. Must be annoying for someone doing major work.

UNCIVILIZED,

Thanks for the links..there's nothing like reading of others' experiences to give you perspective. I am convinced that it would take me much longer to get ready to do this 30 years ago...before the age of instant information. I already have Annie Hill's book..in fact I have a whole freaking library of boat-related books I've acquired over the last couple of years. The more I read, the more boat books I keep buying...it's a sickness really.

Thanks also for your suggestion of buying elsewhere and having delivered.

GordMay, thanks for the welcome.

No matter what I end up doing, I know the old saying about the best-laid plans, etc and that **** happens (and it will probably happen to me). I just don't want to be one of those people whose dream ends up rotting in a boatyard somewhere because they didn't do enough planning.
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Old 28-04-2016, 21:03   #13
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Re: Buy/Refit in Mexico

Update: I got lucky quickly and found a great boat in the La Paz area. Sea trial and haulout/survey has been scheduled. Had to stretch the budget a bit, but she has been well cared for buy her current owners. Will post pictures when the deal has been done. Thanks.
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