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Lower Sea of Cortez Options for Summering Over

Last issue we transited the tricky Gulf of Tehuantepec to reach safe summer harbors south of the hurricane-genesis zone.

This time, let’s explore some options for where to summering over in the lower Sea of Cortez. As prudent mariners, we incorporate local weather wisdom into our boating itineraries. And, hey, hurricane season is approaching. Check that your boat’s insurance covers it down here throughout hurricane season.


Good question. Before climate change became so obvious, we thought hurricane season always began on June 1 and ended on November 1. But we’re not in Kansas anymore. Warming oceans worldwide have boosted the strengths of many cyclonic storms. Tropical Depressions now sometimes bloom into Hurricanes earlier than June 1, or last beyond November 1.

The chilling effect of repeated La Nina cold-water up-wellings pushing north from near the Equator may have been shielding Mexico’s Pacific coast from early hurricanes, as boaters in previous years saw a couple Tropical Depressions (1006 mb) form off southern Mexico prior to May 15 – but then they peter out.

However, on April 13, Emily Becker of NOAA’s El Nino Tracking Office predicted for 2023: “There’s a 62% chance that El Nino (warm up-wellings) will develop during the May – June period, and more than 80% chance of El Nino by fall.”

The prudent mariner will make slip reservations early, because many of the so called “hurricane hole” marinas are already getting booked full. Ask for their discounted multi-month rate.


From south to north, here are some suggestions for where to berth your boat over summer in the lower Sea of Cortez and down to Barra. (We’ll investigate upper Sea of Cortez options next time.)

Barra de Navidad, Jalisco: Historically, boats berthed within the enclosed yacht basin of Marina Puerto de la Navidad (200 slips) have suffered no hurricane damage despite that coast taking direct hits from a couple hurricanes. Why? That basin was excavated into the backside of massive Punta Graham which shields it from storm wind and seas. However flash-flood runoff scoured the adjacent lagoons, so don’t try to hide there.

Puerto Vallarta, Nayarit-Jalisco: Counter-clockwise spinning hurricanes get blocked by the Sierra de Cuale above Banderas Bay’s south coast. Try for a slip in any of the three yacht harbors along Banderas Bay’s north shore. They are at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (Marina Riviera Nayarit, 300 slips), inside Nuevo Vallarta Inlet (Paradise Village Marina’s 200 slips, and Marina Nuevo Vallarta’s 90 slips), or inside Puerto Vallarta’s municipal harbor Marina Vallarta (350 slips).

Mazatlan, Sinaloa: The narrow entrance to the Marina District gets closed out by south wind and swells long before a hurricane arrives, so get inside here early. Marina Mazatlan (260 slips) and Marina Fonatur Mazatlan (21 slips) are farthest inside, so theoretically that matters. Although Marina El Cid (103 slips) is next to the entrance channel, in a pinch they sometimes have a couple side ties tucked inside a residential waterway farther inland.

La Paz, BCS: Reserve a secure slip in the La Paz area at either Marina CostaBaja (250 slips), Marina Palmira (180 slips), Marina de La Paz (120 slips), or Marina Fonatur La Paz (40 slips) off the south end of the La Paz Channel. Otherwise, look for beefy breakwater enclosures and recently reinforced dock structures.

Topolobampo, Sinaloa: Located 7.5 miles east of open water, Marina Palmira Topolobampo (20 slips) is shielded from storm seas by three angled channels. Safe temporary berthing may also be found next door at Marina Club (30 slips) if members haul out their own boats before an approaching storm.

Puerto Escondido, BCS: Historically, the enclosed Bahia Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port) has served as a hurricane refuge. Marina Puerto Escondido has about 100 slips in the main marina, and a dozen more in the back basin and island channel. Besides its land perimeter, Puerto Escondido is shielded by 3,000’ peaks of Sierra de la Giganta to the east.


If you expect to keep your boat in Mexico over the summer, discuss your plan with your insurance provider. Their coverage determination might depend on whether or not you or some responsible boater is to be living onboard (and presumably caretaking the vessel) throughout hurricane season. Your land-lubber nephew flying down with his pals for an occasional long weekend? No, that probably doesn’t count.

How about a mooring? Ask your insurance provider, because most won’t insure boats summering over on a mooring, “especially if the boat’s to be left unattended on a mooring,” said Craig Chamberlain of Novamar Insurance, a U.S. – Mexican company that covers hundreds of West Coast boats in Mexican waters.

Who’s responsible? Because summers are so dang hot down here, hundreds of avid boaters plan to fly home for all or part of hurricane season, leaving their vessels safely berthed in a marina. It’s not considered wimping out, merely a normal phase of Mexico cruising.

Most good Mexican marinas (all of those listed above) offer a menu of caretaking services. Those may range from visually inspecting fenders and dock lines for chafe, to a monthly topsides wash and wax, to a vetted skipper coming aboard daily to check the bilges and, if you wish, to run certain of the boat’s equipment every day or so. You determine what your boat needs and how often.

I suggest you and the marina walk through your boat and write down exactly what caretaking services the marina will provide in your absence, and how much each service will cost. Be sure they have all your contacts for future questions or in case of emergency.

Dry-storage yard? Some harbors have dry-storage or haul-out yards that might be a less expensive option for summering over during hurricane season. Look for their wind shelter, haul-out method, maximum width and tonnage of lift or trailer, type of jack stands, durability of yard surface, distance from sea conditions. Discuss this alternative with your insurance provider to decide if that yard is safe enough.

Here’s my yard list: In Banderas Bay, haul-out and dry-storage yards are La Cruz Boat Yard and Opequimar Marine Center. In Los Cabos there’s Cabo Yacht Center and Marine Group Boat Works. In Topolobampo, Marina Palmira hauls and stores boats on hydraulic trailers. In Mazatlan, see the SENI boat yard and Marina Fonatur Mazatlan. In La Paz, they are Bercovich Boat Works, Atalanta Marine, Abaroa’s Boat Yards, La Marina Palmar, and Astillero Fonatur La Paz. In Puerto Escondido, the dry-storage yard is part of Marina Puerto Escondido.

Next time, we’ll scan around the upper Sea of Cortez for summer marinas, moorings, dry-storage yards and a few so-called hurricane holes.

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