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Mexico Report: It’s Decision Time in Mexican Waters

Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific (yes, that’s us) is officially “ON” and off to a lethal start with Category 2 Agatha making landfall on May 30 at Puerto Angel, a nice little cruising stop.

All boaters presently cruising, fishing, or diving in Mexico’s Pacific waters need to pay close attention to whatever tropical weather next spins up from the south.

It’s decision time.

Where exactly are you and your boat planning to hang out during hurricane season 2022? Let’s look at some choices.


Ensenada is a good choice.

You’ll be very safe from hurricane winds and seas, if you hang out all summer in and around Ensenada’s three full-service marinas: Hotel Coral and Marina, Baja Naval, and Cruiseport Village Marina. Ensenada has lots of yacht services and easy access to the U.S. just 70 miles north. Half a dozen getaway anchorages are nearby for fishing and diving. Almost a thousand gringo boaters “summer over” in Ensenada annually, because it’s not hot and muggy, and statistically, it’s safely north of the hurricane belt.

But, if you’re presently down in southern Mexico or up in the Sea of Cortez, you’ll want to get underway pronto, whether your boat is sail or power. Give yourself time to round Los Cabos and “make enough northing” up the Baja coast, well past Turtle Bay.

Getting stuck on the outside of Baja with the eye of a hurricane climbing up your stern is a bad situation, because this coast offers no safe place to hide from a direct hit.

If you’re overtaken by the outer bands, 35-knot headwinds and building seas can slow or block your escape. Turtle Bay anchorage might give emergency shelter from the lighter outer band of a hurricane, but historically, direct hits here have scoured everything on this bay into a pile of debris on shore.


Upper Sea of Cortez

Mexico’s best “hurricane hole” is Puerto Penasco’s well enclosed harbor. Because it’s about as far north in the Sea of Cortez as you can get, only remnants of tropical depressions have reached here. The harbor has a huge tidal range and only limited anchoring room. But you’ll find Marina Fonatur Penasco, two other small marinas, and the Cabrales Boat Works. Cabrales yard specialize in hauling out yachts that opt to summer over safely on dry land. Puerto Penasco is a pleasant town only 65 miles from the U.S. border crossing at Sonoyta, Sonora.

Second best choice is Puerto Don Juan, an uninhabited natural bay near Bahia de Los Angeles on the Baja side. Thanks to Don Juan’s narrow 300-yard-wide dog-leg entrance channel, big seas can’t enter this enclosed half-mile square basin, and it’s surrounded by steep desert hills that shield it from winds in all directions. Up to a dozen cruising boats might headquarter here from June onward, but if a September storm threatens, it can fill up. This region has dozens of sweet island spots to anchor, and the town has ample supplies available.

Third best, the enclosed marinas and boat yards of San Carlos and Guaymas. They can get booked full of boats just summering over as their owners fly north. Check out Marina Real, Marina San Carlos, Marina Guaymas, Marina Fonatur Guaymas.

Full blown hurricanes don’t often reach this far north in the Sea of Cortez. The exceptions are when they’re powerful enough, like a Category 2 or 3; have enough forward movement (like 15 knots) to actually leap over the narrower sections of the Baja California peninsula; or when super warm water temperatures ,80 degrees and up, in the upper Sea of Cortez lure them in.


Lower Sea of Cortez

Marina Puerto Escondido near Loreto, BCS, is the safest choice in this region. Its docks and well enclosed bay are protected by 908-foot-tall peaks of the Sierra La Giganta that historically have shredded rare hurricanes crossing the peninsula from the Pacific. This full-service marina has a village worth of amenities and a concrete boat yard for hauling out.

In La Paz, three full-service marinas are each enclosed in big, strong breakwaters: Marina CostaBaja, Marina Palmira, and Marina Fonatur La Paz. The small city is pleasant and provides ample provisions and entertainments. But these popular marinas can get booked full before summer. Dozens of boats merely anchored in La Paz harbor have been totaled during a direct hit.


Mainland Mexico

In Mazatlan, Sinaloa, the large interior yacht basin contains four full-service marinas and might be considered as safe a hurricane hole as some others. Except, when we look at the Pilot Charts, too many of those late-season hurricanes – the ones that typically curve sharply eastward – track smack into Mazatlan, because its southwest flank is wide open to the Pacific. That’s the luck of the draw.

Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay offer four well enclosed marinas, good choices all for summering over in safety. Banderas Bay south side is shielded by Cabo Corrientes and the Sierra del Cuale, and its east-west axis prevents the entrance of the eye of counter-clockwise rotating storms. Thunderstorms, yes, but no full-blown hurricane hits. Check out Marina Riviera de Nayarit, Paradise Village Marina, Marina Nuevo Vallarta, and Marina Vallarta.

Barra de Navidad, Nayarit, in my opinion, is the southernmost possibility for summering over in relative safety. Shielded by an outer lagoon, the docks of Marina Puerto de la Navidad are tucked way inside their own private basin, which is further shielded by the Punta Graham headland. Again, heavy thunderstorms from direct hits have produced flooding inland and massive runoff that has scoured out the outer lagoon, but these docks have remained untouched.

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One thought on “Mexico Report: It’s Decision Time in Mexican Waters

  • This digital edition didn’t include my chart showing locations of these hurricane holes, nor four more photos like Marina Puerto Escondido, Marina Coral, Marina San Carlos, etc. Sorry, guess you have to see the magazine edition.



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