Part 1: Down Baja on Your Own? Tips for DIY Southbound Buddy Boaters

Sadly, the San Diego Yacht Club’s CUBAR powerboat rally down Baja that was founded in 2007 may have ended prematurely with its most recent November, 2022 event. So far, no other club or organization has stepped up to take the helm for future CUBAR voyages.

 

And 2024 is likely to see the last Baja Ha Ha sailboat cruise to Los Cabos by marking its 30th anniversary. The popular group cruise was founded in 1994 by San Francisco publisher Richard Spindler.

 

Together, these two supportive groups have over the years launched about 10,000 recreational boaters – mainly from the U.S. and Canada – into tropical cruising adventures, by first ushering them safely (usually) down the rugged outside of the Baja Peninsula, where yacht services are so scarce.

 

Both these U.S. groups’ voyages into Mexico have always enjoyed overflowing participant interest; waiting lists are already forming, just in case. The CUBAR and Ha Ha have generated lucrative sponsorships in both countries with local, national and international companies. Financially, they’ve both done surprisingly well even after exceeding their organizers’ charitable goals, such as a new boat for the Junior Sailors or an educational scholarship for a bright Mexican youth. They’ve had participants, sponsors and rewards.

 

WHAT’S MISSING?

 

Volunteers. Any club or company hoping to run an international group cruise like either the CUBAR or Ha Ha will need a dozen or two volunteers able to consistently provide a raft of valuable skills: teamwork, organizational leadership, communication skills, Spanish language, seamanship knowledge. Volunteers will be needed to fill every job from bookkeeping to booking reservations, from landing fish to landing sponsors, from stuffing goodie bags to presenting seminars, from taking minutes to just showing up with a smile where needed.

 

By now, the Class of ’23-’24 has mostly cruised up into the Sea of Cortez or crossed over to Puerto Vallarta and the mainland cruising grounds. Southbound sail boaters will benefit from next fall’s Grand Finale of the Baja Ha Ha, hopefully to guide them past the rocks and toward safe anchorages.

 

After this fall ‘24, I think we’ll all be voyaging south either individually or in small or large groups of “buddy boaters.”

 

D.I.Y. FOR SOUTHBOUND BUDDY BOATERS

 

During the rest of this Mexico Report column (Part 1) and the next Part 2 and Part 3, I’m offering up some local knowledge gleaned by myself and several other frequent volunteers or supporters of the CUBAR and Ha Ha southbound voyages. Special thanks to Ann Kinner, owner of Seabreeze Nautical Books and Charts; Dave Abrams, former CUBAR chairman. May our tips be useful to light your path and steady your hand on the helm.

 

Route & vessel limitations:  Lack of diesel docks is an issue for some smaller powerboats, because they must be able to carry enough diesel to make it not only 280 n.m. (plus 20% reserve) from Ensenada to Turtle Bay, but also 410 n.m. (plus 20% reserve) to run from Turtle Bay to Cabo San Lucas. Pacific Baja’s lack of reliable overnight anchorages often requires crews of slower boats to stand watch while traveling night and day until the next safe rest stop. Sailboats have an easier time running down Baja, but they can run out of wind and fuel too.

 

Official paperwork: Every person onboard (POB) must have their passport valid for at least 180 days, plus an FMM (formerly called Tourist Card) from https://www.gob.mx/inm good for 180 days, plus a fishing license from https://app.sportfishingbcs.gob.mx/ppd/system/permits/.

 

Boat owners must obtain a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for their vessels (main hull, also for dinghy with motor, other motorized vessels or vehicles like jet ski, etc.) from Banjercito https://www.banjercito.com.mx/registroVehiculos/ good for 10 years. Please renew your TIPs before they expire, and cancel your TIPs before selling your boat.

 

This Paperwork Cha Cha takes time, so start a couple months before you want to depart south.

 

All the marinas and boat yards require you to carry Mexican liability insurance, so get a policy prior to departure. Look for their ads in The Log. Also make sure that your existing U.S. policy will insure you in Mexico, sometimes referred to as a rider or endorsement.

 

Route planning: (All SM & MX charts are GPS accurate.)

SM 010: Overall Baja & Sea of Cortez.

SM 100 & SM 300: Coastal planning.

SM 110: San Diego to Ensenada.

SM 111.5: Ensenada & Todos Santos Bay.

MX 8080: Ensenada to Turtle Bay. Offshore hop.

SM 121.1: Isla San Martin & San Quintin.

SM 142.6: Turtle Bay.

NGA 21011: Turtle Bay to Mag Bay. Offshore hop.

SM 342: Mag Bay & Santa Maria Bay.

NGA 21014: Mag Bay to Los Cabos. Offshore hop.

SM 352: Los Cabos.

 

Stops and Hops: Yachts must officially clear into Mexico at Ensenada. Except for the three offshore hops noted in chart list above, southbound boaters generally travel at least 3 to 5 n.m. off all coastlines and points of land. Offshore hops are (1.) from Sacramento Reef  90 n.m. to Cedros Island North, (2.) from Bahia Asuncion 180 n.m. to Santa Maria Bay, (3.) from Punta Tosca 140 n.m. to Cabo San Lucas. Diesel is usually found at Ensenada, Turtle Bay*, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo. Good Anchorages in prevailing NW winds are usually found in Bahia San Quintin, Turtle Bay, Bahia Asuncion, Santa Maria Bay, Magdalena Bay, Cabo San Lucas.

 

*As we go to press, the fuel dock in Turtle Bay is closed, hopefully only temporarily. However, Bahia Asuncion 50 n.m. southeast of Turtle Bay usually has diesel and gasoline at the town’s Pemex station. For fuel assistance and cruiser services, call Shari Bondy +52 (615) 155-7197. www.Bahiaasuncion.com

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