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Old 02-05-2011, 13:37   #1
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Newbie - to Mexico, Baja from California

I am new to sailing and I have been and helping my boyfriend with his boat which we hope to take Mexico someday. I have some basic questions and I know everyone's experience is different. But in general I can not seem to get a clear idea of things like, how long it can take to go from California to where ever you have to clear in first in Mexico. I know there are a lot of variables that can affect the time frame. But just as an example, if you were going say, 10 knots on an average, are you looking at a few days, weeks? And do you "have to" clear in in Ensenada or can you do it somewhere else and what are the choices? I have heard Ensenada is busy and crowded and we want to visit quiet peaceful places. I have heard it's best to get there on a weekday to get the paperwork done but if you get there on the weekend or after business hours are you supposed to stay on the boat? Can you get off? Do you have to call marinas ahead of time or when you are coming in? I just want to get a very general picture of what a cruise to nice quiet beaches and anchorages along Baja might be like. I read about the Baja Ha Ha, but I still didn't really get it.

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Old 02-05-2011, 15:42   #2
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Re: Newbie-to Mexico, Baja from Calif?

You can check in in Ensenada, Puerto San Carlos, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz etc, etc. Get a copy of Charlie's Charts and look at Latitude 38 on line and go to there Mexico spot. Most of the info you need is there. You can check out our blog to see what we did, but some things I will do diffrent next time. Have fun looking and reading about Mexico, it keeps you going on all the hard work getting your boat ready.

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Old 02-05-2011, 16:00   #3
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Re: Newbie-to Mexico, Baja from Calif?

Welcome to the forum!

First thing your should read is the "First-timer's Mexico Cruising Guide" put together by the folks at Latitude 38: Sailing from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
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Old 04-05-2011, 15:15   #4
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Re: Newbie-to Mexico, Baja from Calif?

Thanks so much! The Oursweetdestiny blog is great and just the kind of insight I was looking for!
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Old 04-05-2011, 15:25   #5
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Re: Newbie-to Mexico, Baja from Calif?

Clear in Ensenada, its much easier than Cabo and its god decent provisions/chandlers. It is a smooth trip down, watch weather at Conception and Cabo. La Paz is the greatest place on earth. It will take about a week to Cabo, all dependent. Clear first thing, check the guides and call ahead.
Enjoy, its a great trip.
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Old 04-05-2011, 16:35   #6
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Re: Newbie - to Mexico, Baja from California ?

Has there been any improvements or changes to traveling from port to port in Mexico? When I traveled down the coast in '00, '01, I had to clear in and out with Customs and Immigration and the Port Captian at each stop. The offices were never close to each other and it always took hours to complete the paperwork.
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Old 04-05-2011, 17:11   #7
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Re: Newbie - to Mexico, Baja from California ?

10 knots, on average, is optimistic, even for a catamaran, I think. For my small monohull, I figure 5 knots x 8hrs, accepting that the morning I will almost definitely be motoring unless there is a storm system disrupting the usual wind cycle.

Figuring 8 hrs. let's me plan arrival in late afternoon, instead of pushing into an unknown anchorage at twilight or after dark, and plenty of "down time" after the hook is set to secure ship, go over systems, repair some small thing, relax, prepare dinner, review plans for the next day, read, listen to music, journal the day's events, etc.

So for me, that's about 50 nautical miles/day, give or take, when stretching out the chart on the kitchen table to rough out an itinerary. Going south along the west coast, your legs are likely to be longer; coming back, shorter.

I like to be there and relax instead of push and be anxious, so I plan conservatively. It's no threat to my manliness.

You have many questions to answer, but apparently are not in a hurry. That's a good place to be in.
s/y Eagle's Wings Catalina 30 MkII
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Old 04-05-2011, 17:23   #8
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Re: Newbie - to Mexico, Baja from California ?

still have to check in and out, but it isnt bad... no money to check put only to check in-- and need liability ins--mexican, before check in-- san diego to ensenada is 90 ish miles , will take ye around 16 hours. ye need to remain over 200 miles offshore. is a lee shore. there are things like rocks and such. i count on around 100 miles per day.
in sd, go to downwind marine and get their booklet on cruising mexico. is excellent. will tell ye everything ye need to know. need to have a mexican fishi8n glicense if you have ANY foshin ggear on board--that is obtainable at conapesca, 2550 fifth ave , sd. in person. every one on board needs one. is most important. i got mine for a yr. is only just under 50 dollars for a yr. you also receive a list of rules important to fishing in mexico.
welcome and good luck.
i leave ensenada tomorrow for mazatlan.....fair winds..
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Old 04-05-2011, 19:14   #9
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Re: Newbie - to Mexico, Baja from California ?

It's good to see you're planning ahead for your cruise to Mexico. That's a prudent first step. I'd agree with most everything that has been shared here. Do get the First Timers Guide to Cruising Mexico from Downwind Marine if you find yourself in San Diego. Also, have one or more good cruising guides and charts of the areas you intend to visit. While there are several places to duck in along the west coast of Baja, you'll want a good description of what to expect before making refuge, since some have rock hazards off the headlands that define the anchorages. Charlies Charts are good, as is the Mexico cruising guide put out by Pat Rains. For the west coast of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez, I'd recommend you looking at the two guides published by Heather Bansmer and Shawn Breeding; they're both excellent. The Mexican Navy has also just recently resurveyed the west coast of Mexico and has published new charts based on these surveys. Look into getting copies of these for your chart collection.

Depending on what type of boat you have, I suspect your average speed will be probably close to half of the 10 knots you expect (less if you plan to strictly sail and not motor). Diesel is readily available (no need of a taxi and jerry jugs) in Ensenada, Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay), Puerto San Carlos (Bahia Magdalena), Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and La Paz. I have a Cal 39 with a 30hp Yanmar diesel and a 45 gallon tank. For my trips south, I carry at least another 20 gallons of diesel on the rail. For the bash back north, I increase this to 40 gallons on the rail. Either way, I've always made the stop at Bahia Tortugas to top off, just to be prudent. This is about the half way point between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas and is a good protected harbor to spend a lay day or two if you feel you need it.

Check into the country may be made in Ensenada (convenient, since all the facilities are located in one place, close to the harbor), Cabo San Lucas (expensive to stay there, with the Port Captain and Immigration located far apart from each other) and La Paz (great town, with Immigration close to Marina de La Paz and the Port Captains office a bit further away). Once you clear into Mexico, checking in and out of ports will be different from place to place. If you stay in a marina, often they will help with the check in and out. Otherwise, ask to know what to expect, but always try to get your paperwork signed and stamped from the last port visited. When entering a new port, check in with the Port Captain (usually on channel 16) and see if they want you to personally visit the office or will accept the radio check in. It's easier than it sounds. A copy of "Spanish for Cruisers" would be a good investment for your cruising library unless you're already fluent in Spanish.

With respect to sailing down the west coast of Baja, I'd beg to respectfully differ from the advice suggested by zeehag. The peninsula falls away to the east as you head due south (I believe Cabo San Lucas is nearly on the same longitude as Salt Lake City) and the predominate winds during the Fall season, when most chose to go south, are from the north-northwest. The coast under these conditions does not qualify as a lee shore and there's no need to be 200nm offshore. Do, however, get a Mexican fishing license for each person on the boat.

Currently, we're in Puerto Escondido, just south of Loreto, BCS, MX. You'll find fellow cruisers generally to be some of the nicest and most helpful people you'll meet. You're sure to make some friendships for life...Good sailing!

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baja, california, Mexico

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