You need some preparation if you plan to sail to Mexico. The quality
of your boat is crucial in your voyage. You must make sure that the
boat is designed, built and maintained for open-ocean sailing. Before
you set sail, check if the basic features, systems and emergency gear
of the boat are in good working order. If necessary, you can seek the
help of a surveyor to assess the condition of your hull, thru-hulls,
steering system and rudder, propulsion system, mast, rigging, sails
and other gear. The skipper should feel comfortable with night
sailing, heavy weather sailing, coastal and offshore navigation,
anchoring, and the fatigue that accompanies the first couple of days
An experienced mentor can be brought along for the run from San Diego to Cabo if the skipper lacks enough experience. It's usually safer and more enjoyable when sailing with a few companions. If possible, it is nice to take a radar and a combo SSB/Ham radio. Some bottles of cold beer and fresh water would be welcome if the costs of refrigeration are affordable. In short, before sailing everything must be in order, from machines to humans.
You have to consider two types of insurance - the first for your boat in the event that you lose the mast, get blown on the beach or get holed by a shrimper. Getting it is easy if your boat is in good condition. The other one is Mexican liability insurance. Although it is well-nigh impossible that you would do some damage to some other men or boats in Mexico, it is better to have either lots of cash on hand or Mexican liability insurance. Otherwise, you could well end up in a Mexican jail. Liability insurance for Mexico is cheap and can be bought in Mexico or in the US.
Sail to Mexico only with the following: Personal ID (passport,
or original birth certificate or driver's license if accompanied by a
notarized letter which verifies your identification),
Mexican Tourist Card, boat documents (every boat should carry vessel documentation proving ownership and port of registry), fishing licenses (keep them even if you have no plans for fishing), and radio licenses (Apart from an FCC ship's station license, Ham operators would do well to obtain a reciprocal Mexican license).
The finest times to cruise the Sea of Cortez are the spring and
fall. South of Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta, the air and water
temperatures stay pleasant throughout the year.
The Sea of Cortez may be hazardous from November to March as Northers howl down from the US on a semi-regular basis. The hurricane season in Mexico is usually from June 1 until October 31. It is sensible to leave San Diego immediately after the end of the hurricane season. In this way, one will avoid bad weather coming down the west coast of the US, avoid real bad weather off the coast of Baja, and have the longest cruising season.
An attractive six-month itinerary will be to hurry down the coast of
Baja, relax with a beer and a shower in Cabo, then hustle up to the
islands just north of La Paz. Once you are in this excellent cruising
area, return into cruising mode and enjoy the area for as long as the
water stays warm and the Northers don't pose a threat. In a typical
year, reach Mazatlan by early December and then to Z-town for
Christmas and New Year's. After spending a month to six weeks in the
Z-town / Acapulco region, work your way north, remembering that the
great Banderas Bay Regatta for cruisers takes place in late March. In
late March or early April, cross from Mazatlan to La Paz, as the Sea
of Cortez Sailing Week is usually held during that time. Keep on
enjoying the Sea of Cortez as far north as the water temperature and
your schedule allow. You can either head home via Cabo and the 'Baja
Bash', or sail to San Carlos and have the boat trucked back to the US.
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