Cruising  ~ The Cat’s Meow Style




OK, something different this time. Usually, you see where we have been and what we have been doing, how many times we eat and drink with friends, what we celebrate and how, photos of the anchorages and the boats……   Well, this time we are going to diverge from the “regular menu”. Instead of showing you those things we have been showing you over the years, we are going to attempt to let you in on some of the little tidbits of life here on The Cat’s Meow, and more broadly, in Mexico.


For instance:  during the months of the hotttt summer, when the daytime temperatures reach into the 90s and sometimes the lo 100s, and the humidity rises from a nice low saturation to a sometimes miserable, drippy 80% and more…… we sweat. A lot. A really really LOT. Fans and more fans, shade covers all over the outside of the boat, and very little clothing are daily requirements.  We drink gallons of water, each day. We spray ourselves off and stand in the breezeway of the boat to cool off. We jump in the water!!  We make little ice packs for our foreheads and our necks. We sit. Still. Nothing much gets done, unless is reeeellyyy important. It is difficult to work through any little project. Now we know why the Mexican people take siestas!!


One way to keep cool during the hottt summers


Aguamales: these are tiny, tiny, sometimes microscopic different types of jellyfish. Some you cannot see, some you can, and at least one variety, called the string of pearls, is long and recognizable in the water, if you are lucky enough to see it before running into it. A few varieties of these jellies do not sting – they just bounce off of you. There are also the typical round gelatinous jellyfish with the long tentacles that most people recognize. No one tells you, before you arrive in Mexico, that the little buggers, the aguamales, exist. It is a big surprise when someone jumps into the clear wonderful water of the Sea of Cortez and gets stung – sometimes only very mildly, sometimes quite strongly. When swimming or snorkeling or diving in the Sea, it is advisable to wear a “skin”, a lycra suit, that covers most of the body and keeps the little stingy things at bay.


 You can’t see ‘em but the aguamales just might be lurking about in the water


Chubasco:  basically, a chubasco is a storm cell that travels. In this area, most chubascos form over the mountains of the Mexican mainland. Often, during the hot summer months, they move northward, sometimes into Arizona or New Mexico, and sometimes toward the coastline of Mexico along the Sea of Cortez. They may move north or south, out into the Sea, and at times they cross the Sea, bouncing along, exhibiting great lightening shows and some of them dump rain, some have strong winds. During the chubasco months, we usually sleep on the top deck of The Cat’s Meow. Robin sleeps with one eye open, checking the skies periodically for encroaching storm clouds. There is usually little or no warning, until a little wind changes, and suddenly the chubasco is on top of us. There has been many a night when we barely have time to grab our bedding and get below before the wind and/or rain clobber the boat. A chubasco can bring us wind gusts of anywhere from 30 to 65 or more knots. The good news is that the storm cell usually moves quickly and only lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. When anchored at one of the islands or another location, it is truly very important to be mindfull of the chubasco threat. Since it is never a sure thing if there will be a chubasco, or about which direction the storm might come from, a cruiser should always be ready and able to move or to take other action to secure the vessel before and during the storm. We do know of a number of boats that have been damaged, and even lost, during these quick storms.


 Weather is usually calm and wonderful, but chubascos can hit hard during the hot months


Hurricanes:  Yes, we are in the hurricane zone. Every summer, starting in August, people in this part of the world begin to watch the weather developing from the south, seriously. For the eastern Pacific (that is where we are), storms get their start way down south, along the coastline of Mexico, often in the areas around Manzanillo or Acapulco. Since the storms that form there are so far away, we have literally days to watch and monitor their development and their tracks. Thankfully, there are a couple of  “weather gurus” that cruising folks listen to, or check their websites, during the hurricane season. We listen to the cruising nets on the single side band (SSB) radio morning and night during hurricane activity, and we get ourselves into a safe port; i.e., Puerto Escondido, a few days before the storm MIGHT come our way. If we work at getting TCM ready for a blow and it misses our location, well – that is OK, we would rather be ready and not have to worry. The summer of 2010 was the first summer season we did NOT have even a threat of a hurricane in the years we have been in Mexico. We liked that a lot!!!


The view from Kindred Spiri during hurricane Marty ’03 


Loreto National Park:  Pargue Nacional de Loreto is one of two marine parks in the country of Mexico. Mexico has developed a number of national parks all over the country, and these two are probably the latest ones to be enforced. This marine park surrounds the islands off of the village of Loreto and outward into the Sea of Cortez, just out our back door.



                      Enjoying one of the islands within the National Park                                                              Whales enjoy the waters of the Park, as well…..

                                (Photo by Sharon of Lucky Lady II)                                                                                                        (Photo by Colin Garland)


 There are strict rules regarding fishing, diving, and taking of the sea life in the park, and there are a few “no go” areas that are protected spawning locations. The Mexican government has been trying to rid this part of the Sea of shrimp boats and other large netting vessels that scrape the bottom and take everything in the water. Families who have depended for many generations on fishing for a living in this area are being hard-hit by the newly enforced regulations. There continue to be men who use tactics of subterfuge, at night, to spear hugely large numbers of fish – illegally – and some who continue to use illegal netting means, such as gill nets. The Sea of Cortez has been depleted, in terms of overall number of large pelagic fish, by overfishing and illegal capture of the sea life. Hopefully, the Park and the enforcement of regulations, along with education and re-training, will help to allow the “aquarium of the world” to replenish. Time will tell…………


Pangeros (fishermen with a panga) preparing for their daily work


Migracion:  Migracion (mee-graw-see-own) is immigration, and of course they oversee all legalization and movement of non-Mexican people in their country. When someone visits Mexico for up to six months, they usually get a visa. When someone decides to stay here or live here, for a longer period of time, one can obtain what is called an FM3 or the FM2, and/or eventually a higher level of residency. We have held our FM3s & FM2s for 12 years now….always thinking that we would be leaving the country for points south. Mexico has recently changed the way they handle the paperwork for each of these different residency levels. Now, we can enter the basic information online, receive a docket number online, and then take that number to the local Migracion office and complete the rest of the paperwork. Hopefully, this will cut down the amount of paper required and it will also circumvent some shady practices at some of the local offices. In the past, there have been some problems with gringos being charged illegal fees, etc. and even some instances of the paperwork never reaching Mexico City, remaining with the local officers, instead. In some areas, at least, this country is beginning to tighten-up the loopholes that have been used by some officials for gouging the non-Mexican residents.



Military stops: For a number of years, the United States has been giving Mexico monies ostensibly to “fight the drug war”. One of the ways this money is used, ostensibly, is for military stops along the one-and-only highway that transverses the Baja peninsula. Since the highway is only two lanes wide and often very windy and narrow, it is fairly easy to block the highway, which the Army does five times between the border to the north and Loreto. At first, these military stops can look purrrrty foreboding, with the Army guys carrying big guns and guns on turrets at either end of the passage through the stop. However, just as in all other cases when interacting with the Mexican populace, courtesy and a warm smile usually make things go smoothly. When heading south, most of the stops are truly “slow downs” and vehicles are waved through. Heading north, toward the border with the USA, vehicles are often required to go through an inspection, which usually is fairly cursory but at times the military does a fairly thorough search. RVs, trucks, and other larger vehicles are usually stopped and searched. The military folk are mostly young men, in the 18-24 year old range. And when they saw Toes, they loved to hear about his six digits!



Fuel:  Aaaahhhh yesss…….  Well, for powerboaters such as ourselves, this issue is truly getting to be a larger one. Mexico has ONE fuel company, Pemex. It is nationalized, and this was done after the fuel companies from the US and a few other countries were forced out of Mexico a couple of decades ago. Like many other entities in this country (and many other countries), it has been called corrupt ever since its existence. For a while, when the fuel prices in the US were going up, Mexico did hold their prices down. Now, however, prices for both gasoline and diesel have been rising steadily and quickly. When we were on the mainland side of Mexico a few years ago, diesel cost around $2US per gallon. Today, it is about $3US and rising. This makes it much more expensive for TCM to go cruising, but it is also affecting the fishermen, truck drivers, and others who need to purchase large amounts of fuel for their livelihoods. What can or will be done…???   Quien sabe?


Pemex station & fuel dock at PE



Mail: Every once in a while, someone in the States will ask us about how and when we get mail. We maintain two mail box locations, one in Nevada – where our legal residence is – and one in California. Most of our day-to-day mail goes to our box at Mailcall in San Diego, CA. Mailcall is a worldwide mail-forwarding center. Many other cruising folks we know also have their mailing address at Mailcall, since it is on the way to the border and into the Baja. People stop at Mailcall and pick-up mail, including packages, for other people at their destination; for instance, we stop at Mailcall and bring down the mail for others who are in the Pto. Escondido and Loreto areas, as well as some of the other stops along the way. Our mail may sit and wait for someone to bring it to us for months….and sometimes we receive our mail fairly often. Ya just never know.



Transportation:  We live on our boat, and we travel like turtles with our home “on our backs” on the water.  Otherwise, on land, we have a car; right now we have a Subaru Outback.  Up until recently, in order to go into Loreto, which is about 12 miles from Puerto Escondido, we had to depend on the generosity of friends who have cars. Now, we can offer rides to others who need them. Howsumever, the taxi drivers in Loreto have a VERY strong union and they do NOT like it if they think anyone is giving rides to anyone else. We have to be verrrry careful about that. There are busses that travel the highway of the Baja, and they are usually pretty nice, large, and have blaring TVs throughout. Loreto has an international airport, as does La Paz, and of course Cabo San Lucas. It is purrrty easy to get around.



Sunday market: A traveling market moves around the villages day-to-day, bringing fresh produce, meats, taco-stand style restaurants, and a variety of goods to the area. The Loreto market day is Sunday, so most Sundays we drive or boat into town for a shopping day. There are usually four or five stands selling fresh vegetables and fruits, and the price is significantly lower than in the tiendas (stores) for most items. We can have an almost-free lunch of birria or barbacoa or ribs that is quite yummy, and a cold, cold drink of jamaica or one of the other “aguas” (juices). It makes for a relaxing, fun day, sometimes including a few stops at the tiendas as well. 



                    Open air stands sell very good produce and other goodies                                   YUM! Doesn’t this just make ya wanna bite into a chicharrone??


Morning net:  Most mornings on the boat, we listen to the morning, or local, “net” on the VHF radio. Locations where cruisers gather, such as La Paz, Mazatlan, etc. conduct these nets in order to share information and assistance.  Boaters “check in” (sort of a roll call), introduce themselves if they have just arrived or say “adios” if they are leaving the area, offer to carry mail north or let people know if they have brought mail down, ask for assistance with anything from where to find a widget to how to build the widget, announcements of activities and sharing of other types of information, and the whole thing usually ends up with a joke or two.


And the classic: “Whatdya do out there all day long?”  That question is asked of people who choose to cruise in Mexico quite often. Well, what we don’t do is get in the car and drive 3 blocks to get anything, we don’t garden, we truly don’t drink margaritas and eat chips and salsa very often at all, we don’t drive to work in the morning, and here in Pto. Escondido, we don’t have newspapers, TV, or a mall…..and lots of other things that most other folks would find to be normal. When we need to buy groceries, it often takes up the largest part of the day, because we have to drive the half hour to Loreto, and then visit some 4 or 5 or 6 tiendas to find what we want, then drive back to the boat, and then carry the bags to the dinghy, dinghy out to the boat, put the bags on the boat and carry them into the galley.

Boat projects take up a goodly amount of time on just about any cruising boat. At least on TCM, just about every day includes doing some sort of work ~ Martin is installing or fixing or building something, Robin is sanding or painting or cleaning something. At the time of this writing, we have just finished putting new fiberglass on the top deck, and all the decks now need new non-skid paint.


                                    Just another day on TCM 


When we get out to the islands, we do of course do more of the things we enjoy doing in and around the water, like snorkeling, fishing, diving, visiting friends on their boats. But, we often still do boat projects while “out there”. Every night we get into bed and wonder “where did that day go?” We always seem busy. To take a siesta, or to read a book during the afternoon, seems almost sinful.


Puerto Escondido:  If you have read our other stories, you have seen photos of the area where we live, Puerto Escondido. The name of this small port means “hidden port”. That is because when on the water, heading north or south, it is all but impossible to see the circle of water surrounded by mountains and smaller hills. For many years, in fact until just the last few years, boats were able to anchor in the harbor for free. It is almost all about 40 feet deep, with sticky, dark volcanic mud for a floor; great holding for boats.


             Puerto Escondido with the Sierra Gigantes in the background


Until just a few years ago, there were NO buildings, NO business’ here. Fonatur, an agency of the Mexican government, has built a one-dock marina and a few buildings, which include an office plus storefronts. We now have one very nice restaurant, Porto Bello, one mini-mart, a diver, a charter company, and a small fishing tackle store, plus the yacht club (Hidden Port YC) on the premises. There is also a small pool, on the second story of the building for those of us who pay Fonatur to keep our boats inside the harbor. There are, at this time, two smaller areas outside of the harbor where boats anchor ~ they are operated by another agency, API. About 2/3 of a mile down the one road that leads out of the harbor, there is a small hotel (Hotel Tripui) which has a restaurant and a pool, a very small RV park, and one tienda. There is also a group of “palapa”-style homes at Tripui, almost all of which are owned by US or Canadian residents who stay here during the winter months.


Fonatur buildings at PE  The only buildings around, at least for now.


Other than that…….there are no houses, no other stores, no cell phone access (altho’ that may be changing some time in the sort-of-near-future). Quiet. Very quiet. This IS prime, beautiful country, and there are developers who would love to build all sorts of condos and homes in the area……but, so far, it has not happened. So far. The one road out of the harbor leads to the two-lane “highway”, Mx Rte 1, which is the only main road from one end of the Baja peninsula to the other end. It is not known for its kindness’ ~ it is narrow and windy with sheer drop-offs in many places, altho’ it is better maintained and wider in some parts than in earlier years. One NEVER drives at night, due to cows, horses, and drunk drivers on the road.


We have left Pto. Escondido and the Baja three times, forever. Three times we have said “adios!!” to all our friends here and we have intended to take The Cat’s Meow to the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the east coast of the USofA…… but ya know what?? Each time we have turned around and returned to THIS part of the world, just because we like it so much!! We finally figured out that we live here.





So, there ya have it - - some tidbits of information about life south of the border on a boat. It ain’t for everybody, but so far, both of us are enjoying this “vida loca”. Do join us again to find out how and what we are doin’, ‘cause ya never know…Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style…….