Some cruising media regularly criticize Mexico’s Fonatur/Singlar marinas, several of which are located on Mexico’s Pacific mainland and in the Sea of Cortez. The pundits seem to complain that Singlar marinas are overpriced relative to the amenities they offer and that’s why they are empty when other marinas in the same area are full. So far we’ve stayed at two Singlar facilities (Puerto Escondido on the Baja side of the Sea and Guaymas on the mainland) and plan to have our next haulout at a third (Mazatlan). We’ve learned that the cruising media, like all the other media, mixes truth with fiction. So pull up a chair and read about our experience - you, too, may decide to visit Singlar marinas despite what certain cruising publications may say.
Here’s what we know or guess about how the Singlar marina facilities are structured. Fonatur is the government agency charged with promoting all kinds of tourism throughout Mexico. Singlar is a sort of subagency of Fonatur that develops, builds and maintains marinas and fuel docks in select locations under an ambitious plan that if all goes well may someday be used by boaters to travel all over Mexico, from Singlar marina to Singlar marina, from Ensenada down Pacific Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez and down the Pacific mainland, tra-la. I bet Fonatur is working on something similar along Mexico’s east coast. The plan is intriguing but as you might expect with a government agency trying to compete with private enterprises, there are some budget issues and operational approaches that seem…ermm…suboptimal. For example, Singlar facilities are already open for business in places like La Paz (http://www.latitudemexico.com/news/baja-sea-of-cortez/marina-de-la-paz-joins-emprhotur-2.html), Puerto Escondido, Santa Rosalia (http://www.bajainsider.com/baja-california-travel/baja-adventures/boating/santarosaliamarina.htm), Guaymas and Mazatlan, but few boaters know where they are and how to get to them -- because Singlar HQ decreed that none of their marinas shall be publicized until they are ALL up and running. Which of course has not happened yet. So because Singlar refuses to promote itself, and gets only negative publicity from the cruising publications, the Singlar marinas currently in operation remain mostly empty. Rumors that some Singlar facilities have been sold to private interests remain unconfirmed - the ones we stayed at were pure government all the way.
A second disadvantage of Singlar’s way of doing business, is that from what we’ve heard virtually all marina decisions - not just budgetary matters but even decisions as small as who gets to rent out a particular marina’s conference room - are made by Singlar HQ in Mexico City instead of each marina’s harbormaster. It’s unclear how much experience the bureaucrats in the national capitol actually have with each marina’s particular business environment (does Mexico City HQ even have people familiar with boats?), but if the US ran a network of federal marinas, I doubt a federal wage slave in, say, Washington DC would know (or care) how to create the best working relationships with local businesses near a marina in Brookings, Oregon. I’m just saying that certain marketing and income decisions are better off delegated to Singlar’s local harbormasters and dock masters, who are certainly familiar with their own neighborhood and the boats that use their facilities. Ah well - so goes the running of a private enterprise by a complex federal bureaucracy - but all is not lost. Never underestimate the Mexican individual entrepreneurial spirit.
Singlar’s two biggest advantages to the prospective cruising customer, are that each of them is generally located near all the boating action and onshore attractions; and incorporates the same design so that once you see one Singlar marina with its main multistory tower surrounded by lower buildings, all the same institutional-green color, you will be able to recognize and locate all the other Singlar marinas in any other port you happen to enter. If you do laundry at Marina Singlar in La Paz, you will know exactly where the laundry room is at Marina Singlar Santa Rosalia. You will know where to look for the harbormaster’s office, fuel dock, and onshore heads and showers. Handy. The Singlar docks are all fairly new and in good shape - nice reassurance in heavy weather. To the right is a view of the Singlar Guaymas facility with its green tower and whatnot, as seen from the fisherman's statue - that's how centrally located these marinas are. Some Singlar marinas have extra features - like rooftop spas and pools; or the 20-ton TraveLift crane at Singlar Guaymas. Some of these extras may already be operational (Guaymas’s spa, for example) while others are not (Puerto Escondido’s pool). But, give them time - Mexico’s private marinas experience similar technical difficulties - like the perennial water and power situation at Marina Mazatlan. So you can’t put the hate on Singlar just because everything is un-perfect.
The Singlar harbormasters and dock supervisors we’ve met stay as flexible as they can under their bureaucratic structure, and they all work with their guests to get things done, especially given that all the Singlar marinas are new, the staff relatively young, and some bugs still in need of working out. Some examples: at present Singlar marinas are, in fact, generally somewhat more expensive than their counterparts (where counterparts exist), but short stays at a Singlar facility will certainly not break the bank. Singlar facilities give weekly and monthly moorage discounts - a week’s stay for our 40-foot boat at Singlar Guaymas in May 2008 cost us about $125 - tax, shore power, garbage drop, and Internet service included. The Singlar facility at Puerto Escondido charged US $15 per day for a mooring buoy (onshore garbage drop & water at the marina dock were free) for a 40-foot boat in April 2008, but weekly and monthly discounts apply to the mooring rate. You just have to ask about them. We’ve heard that if you pay for moorage at a Singlar facility but leave before your time is up, the harbormaster might hold the unused days for you to use them at a future date when you return to the same Singlar marina. So, you might be able to pay for two weeks moorage at, say, Singlar Santa Rosalia, stay there only one week, and then ask the harbormaster to hold the unused week until you return to Santa Rosalia later in the season. The point is, ASK. Some Singlar marinas, like Mazatlan and Guaymas, have haulout facilities but their haul out fees vary. The cost for a haulout at Singlar Guaymas was US $450 in May which we hear is significantly more expensive than other providers - but a stay at Singlar Guaymas before using another yard for your actual haulout might be more attractive to your bottom line for other reasons; and/or the haulout pricing can change overnight. So check it out thoroughly and compare your alternatives for yourself. Because? None of the other boaters we met on the Singlar Guaymas docks was disappointed with being there.
Like the folks running Mexico’s private marinas, the Singlar employees we’ve met are qualified for their jobs, work hard 6 days a week and do what they can to help their guests get whatever they need - whether it is negotiating moorage fees, arranging Internet access, getting water delivered to the boat if none is otherwise available, or working out how to get your propane tanks filled. Here’s what’s most important: each Singlar marina tries to be a good neighbor in their community - for example, Singlar Puerto Escondido allows non-guest boaters to drop off their garbage and fill their water tanks for free from the Singlar docks, and offers non-guests access to their laundry, showers and Internet for the same prices as they charge their paying guests. Singlar Guaymas regularly drives into the Guaymas neighborhoods that have inadequate water capacity, and gives the residents fresh water from the marina’s cisterns - at no charge. That’s a nice touch I don’t mind supporting now and then by being in a Singlar slip for a week.
My advice? Make a Singlar marina one of YOUR cruising destinations!