We stayed at various anchorages in the San Carlos area for about ten days, having crossed from Santa Rosalia - a 80 mile trip almost directly east across the sea. We came over here a bit earlier than planned and anchored out in what's left of the Bahia San Carlos anchorage because our toilet busted. Not to the point that it was desperation, but the head was six years old and was beginning to break down. I had replaced the inside parts way too many times, and the base appeared to be broken.
After much agony and soul searching we replaced it with a Groco model HF - cost us $379 - only about $150 more than the cheapest place in the states - which is pretty good for Mexico - the miracle is that we were able to get it in less than two weeks after ordering. A big thanks to Marine Mart in San Carlos.
But the head is not what this post is about - here in San Carlos - it’s the end of the season for a whole lot of boats. San Carlos has Marina Seca - the largest dry storage marina in Mexico. For a mere $150 per month - Marina San Carlos will haul your boat out into the middle of the desert and set it up on jackstands. There it will wait until you return - when they will haul it back and put it in the water for you.
San Carlos is about the hottest place in Mexico - it can get up to 140 degrees out in Marina Seca - they have a whole list of things you must do to protect your boat from the heat - it’s a pretty long list.
We heard on the cruisers’ net one morning some guy asking about service for his watermaker - Spectra - the main pump had failed - this was after two years in Marina Seca - he probably forgot to take the pump out of the system, lubricate all of the seals and bearings, and store it some place cool - that’s a $1000 dollar lesson for him - there can be added costs to keeping your boat in Marina Seca.
We had originally thought about putting our boat here when it looked like MS would need surgery on her back - but that’s not the case now - the MX boating life seems to agree with her and she is a bit more spry than last year - so no need for renting a house. We are off to Mazatlan to spend summer in El Cid. But this is not the case for many other boaters.
It seems everybody we know, with a couple of exceptions, has someplace else to go this summer. They have houses, campers, RV’s, parent’s houses, or friends to stay with - nobody is staying in Mexico. We ran into one nice lady in a fifty foot aluminum boat going back to Canada - she characterized her house as a “little cruiser’s house” - well two of them, not very big people, cruise on a fifty foot boat - I would like to see the size of their ”little house”.
A lot of this exodus is because the Canadians have to spend six months back in BC to keep their medical insurance. Also, summer on the coast here can get pretty brutal - hot and muggy - many of these folks already spent last summer here and don’t want to do that again.
What surprises me is that so many of the cruisers here have kept one foot on land - kept a place to retreat to. We thought everybody who sailed to MX was gong to be like us - getting rid of that junk back home, casting free from the burdens of urban society, setting forth on a new journey of discovery - living the dream - blah, blah, blah - the reality is that most have kept all of that stuff back home, with the attendant costs - and have just come down here for a long vacation.
For some, it seems like they just got here and now they have to go home. We have so much money, time and energy devoted to getting down here to Mexico I can’t imagine wanting to go back to the States and sit around for five months - what would you do? There is so much to see and do in Mexico - our time here will be short - that I would not want to give up any of it for the dubious pleasures of the urban American scene - as much as I miss good chocolate and fine British Gin.
For a lot of these folks this is just a migratory pattern. They spend the four good months cruising around the sea, then the next eight home - wherever that is. Come back the next year and do it all again - the same anchorages over and over again - the same routes, same towns, same people. Others have been here for a year or so - making one pass around the sea - and are preparing to go across the Pacific with the next season. In any case, this place has the atmosphere of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk reaching late autumn, right before winter sets in. To try and make some sort of sense of this - I have constructed a typology of cruisers in the Sea of Cortez.
Denizens - one step above a non-boater - these folks live on boats but never travel further than 20 miles. They have a car, permanent relationships in a community, and tend to be a bit older - they may have been world cruisers in the past, but have swallowed the anchor in some ungodly place not fit for man. These folks invented the cruiser festivals that are everywhere - since it keeps them in touch with their more seagoing brethren. If you think that welding old mexican car wheels together with abandoned rebar you found in a field to use as a mooring is a good idea, then you are a denizen.
Migratory Landlubbers/permacruisers - these folks cruise four months on, eight months off, have houses and cars and lots of money. Their boats are configured for inland cruising, and carry more junk than a Conestoga wagon crossing the prairie. They usually have at least 10 jerry cans on board, and their boats are at least 20 years old - usually not very well maintained, since their owners do not have world cruising aspirations. We call them permacruisers - since they really are never leaving the Sea - but may migrate down to Puerto Vallarta sometime once in a five year period. You can always tell a permacruiser becasue they wil insist that all of the places gringo cruisers love to go - San Carlos - La Paz, La Cruz - are the very best places, and the places the Mexicans go - Guaymas, Santa Rosala - are not interesting.
Distance-Cruiser Wannabes - these folks, us included, have come down the coast from up north in the last year, and have ambitions for sailing further on, but have not made the jump yet. We may or may not be putting our boats on the hard. Most do not maintain houses, since they are world cruising wannabes, and part of that is getting rid of the house and minimizing possessions. We tend to be a bit younger - early 50’s, have well-found, ocean capable yachts with things like wind vanes, keep less junk on deck since ocean waves can sweep it off, and we talk a lot about weather, sea state, routes, and other sailing related matters.
World Cruisers - these folks sweep though Baja on world class yachts distaining any break in their agenda for crossing vast oceans - they sail Baja in winter and move on quickly, writing articles in magazines about the pathetic bunch of us beginners left behind at anchor in late December moaning about having no Christmas lights. There are not many of these, but you will know them when you meet them because they will come over to cheer you up and fix whatever is broken on your boat.
In any case - San Carlos in late May is a little bit of a sad place - since we have made a lot of friends and don’t know if we will see any of them again - they might be in the Sea next year, and so might we - but then - we may go on down to Central America and they may cross the Pacific to the Marquesas - who knows. What’s really true is that San Carlos is the end of the trip for many and more than a few cruising dreams will be shattered on the hard of Marina Seca, and many of these boats will be finding new owners with newer dreams next year.