Hola Puerto Penasco!

We made it! That was three months ago.

Most of you already knew from our social media or blog posts.  But we will revisit it again because we have a lot to share after staying here two plus months. Our travel north from Puerto Refugio was good.  For 20 hours we listened to the finely turned humming of Dharma Girl’s motor.   You don’t realize how loud it is until it’s off/after you turn off the motor you realize how much you’ve tuned it out but really didn’t.

The common protocol when entering any harbor is to call the Port Captain on the VHF and announce your arrival.  They ask you a few questions: the name of your boat, where you came from, how many onboard, and sometimes how long do you plan to stay.  With the Covid-19/Pandemic, additional instructions had been added to the Puerto Penasco protocol.  We knew about these coming in but didn’t have the cell or radio range necessary to contact the Port Captain 10 days before arrival. We heard they would want to schedule a medical check and sanitize our boat before we were allowed clearance from La Capatania.  Before entering the harbor we contacted Salvador Cabrales, of Cabrales Boat Yard, for guidance and an extra dock hand as someone to catch a dock line.  

With this trip we didn’t time our arrival to the harbor with a high tide, like we typically do.  Our timing on this passage was largely driven by an available weather window.  We figured we would deal with the tide upon arrival.  And we did just that.  With a low tide of 7.5 feet, we had 1.5 feet of clearance under our keel – plenty of room!  Following Salvador’s suggestion, we hugged the south side of the channel into the small harbor.  

Small Harbor

To make things just a little more interesting, there’s no reservations for any of the dock slips. You find a spot and take it. The Fonator Marina is on our starboard (right) and looked too crowded for our preference.  Besides, the only available spot to dock is the fuel dock; that can’t be long term. We continued forward and made the Port (left) turn to the northern section of the small harbor.  We passed a very large fleet of shrimp boats to our starboard;  mainly fishing vessels (Mike, a boat neighbor, said he once counted 100 boats dry and wet).  On our port, a couple of small marinas host small personal watercraft and a few party boats.  The tall and long pirate ship, Rey del Mar I, takes the show with its large aft cabin and the crow’s nest on the forward mast.  

Safe Marina

The last marina on our starboard with all the slips filled is the marina Salvador suggested we dock at. There were only two slips remaining and they were end ties.  Originally, we were directed to take the west facing end tie.  That was crazy talk from our perspective of getting to it.  Then at the last minute, we were redirected to take the south facing end tie. No problem, just spin a quick 360 and Bob’s your Uncle.  That was a much more reasonable approach given the length of our boat.  With the help of a few extra hands to catch dock lines, we were docked.  Thank you Miguel and Salvador!   And SV Absolute took the short west facing end tie. Phew – now we wait.

Looking South: Shrimp boat fleet just 300 feet off our beam

Looking North: Cabrales Boatyard and a 16 foot low tide.

The Temporary Normal Protocol

The Red Cross needed to complete a Medical Check. Are we quarantined for 10 days? Hopefully not. Salvador to the rescue.  

The Medical team arrived about 30 minutes after we tied up. They had the poor guy all suited up in gloves, face shield, and a Tyvek smock in the 90 degree heat. The poor guy sweated all over his clipboard and paperwork. Poor soul. (Obviously we couldn’t take photos at this time)

We had some drama around a potential dockside quarantine period …. are we quarantined?  Please wait. Do not get off the boat. Wear a mask on the docks – it’s mandatory.  And we did. We wear them in town as well.  We stayed on the docks for five days completing some small preparations for hauling out; namely taking the sails and canvas down. Chris got a messenger line for a halyard stuck in masthead sheave. For non-sailors, that translates to a “Oooh…Oops, … crap!” and a trip up the mast to fix.

Hauling Out

Haul out with support of Tom and Katie on SV Absolute

For those who don’t understand, hauling out our boat requires that we drive the boat a designated slip at the end of the boatyard where a travel lift, with slings, lifts our boat out of the water, drives it to a long-term location on the hard (land), and uses jack-stands to hold our boat up. Puerto Penasco enjoys up to an 18 foot tidal swing, so haul outs are done on the high tide once a day, usually in the morning. The prep we had to do was moving all the food from the boat to the apartment we rented; along with clothes and such.  The interior is not conducive for any packaged food to sit for long term as the interior of the boat will often reach over 90 degrees. Our chocolate chip supply from the states is now four big chips; and the Trader Joe’s truffles we bought are now a softball-sized chunk of goodness.

Dharma Girl lives on stands for two months.

The Apartment for Two Months

We will be totally honest here.  Having the luxury of an apartment was amazing.  We had room to walk around, a full size kitchen we didn’t have to clean up before starting the next meal, continuous runny hot water and yes, showers every day; sometimes twice a day. A freshwater flush toilet!  No jockeying for foot room in the bed. The AC worked very well !!  Carrie likes it about 80, I like to see my breath and make doodles with my finger in the frost on the windows. The hosts had three small dogs that we befriended – Spike, Chloe, and er … El Gordito (our name, not his).  The neighbors had playful kittens to observe.  And many birds flew through all day long.  And the bonus was the remarkable hosts, Rita, Melissa, and Rafael, that we have befriend. 

Lay of the Land –  Puerto Penasco is a city developed on top of sand. The main roads are well paved with most of the side roads being packed sand.  It is a sandy city.  Every three blocks you’ll find an OXXO tienda that is like a 7-11 but with liquor, consumables, and sometimes fruits and veggies. The each neighborhood has a Fruitaria, Tienda, Farmacia, and funny as it may sound, a Dentist.  So technically, one would not need to drive anywhere for the basics. There is a large Ley’s Market and Bodega (Mexico’s Walmart) and a couple of department stores.  The city is equipped for the folks but not so much for a cruiser looking for parts or materials. It is very easy to drive around town. And most businesses are on Google Maps.  

Arizona Trip –  We rented a minivan for the drive to the north – one of our big ticket items as a load of barrier coat and bottom paint, and about a thousand items from Amazon.; easy drive to Chino Valley; a grand stay in the Williams abode; massive go crazy buy anything you can shopping at CostCo, TraderJoes, and the like; unpack 42+ Amazon boxes of boat and consumable supplies; dinner and lunch with Chris’ parents; walks around the neighborhood; long hot showers; returning with very full van to the south-low rider in the rear; a eery view of ‘the wall’ along the horizon and up close; we contribute having rented a Mexican care made re-entry to Mexico a breeze; Chris gets a rapid Covid-19 text b/c we were in one of the Covid-19 hotspot areas – Phoenix; return to Puerto Penasco to unload the weight off the van springs.

Boat Projects

How did we organize our boat projects? We used a system Chris used at his previous job. It’s known as a Kanban board. You’ve probably seen something like this around town; post-it notes covering windows of business buildings. We used three columns labeled

The Big Project

We painted the hull in succession of 5 easy hot days. But do remember, even though it was frigg’n hot, we had AC and showers to retreat to at the end of the day. Carrie didn’t have any crubby clothes to contribute to this messy project so Chris gave her a pair of his runny shorts and his long sleeve. The shorts looked like a skirt. Painting in fashion.

When it is hot & dusty – when we had the van – we drove everywhere! We cranked the AC and soak it up (or dry off in some cases).  It was luxury and we knew it.  After AZ, we returned the van and it was walking  – walking 15 minutes each way, hot and drenched clothes.  We observed the locals and they walk at a slow easy pace – not like us crazy Americans quickly getting to our destination only to be dredged in sweat upon arrival, we slowly adapt. Have we mentioned about our luxury of two showers a day?

But here in Mexico, when the sky is brown and the sun is orange, we think of our loved ones north of us, the folks working hard to contain the fires, and the various organizations working double on top of the pandemic. Our day is simple compared to their days. So we drink our gallon of water each day and masked up and don’t complain about the the heat.

Our Weekends – Played tourist and drove around town. We highly recommend breakfast at Kaffeehaus, a german restaurant. Best waffles I’ve had in a long time. Then a romantic dinner at La Casa del Captain. Great outdoor seating with ocean sunset news. And a drive to the popular Sandy Beach area. Wow, can we say condos condos condos. When we hear dune buggies screaming down the street behind the boat yard,we are reminded it is the weekend. And Sunday is truly a rest day in Mexico and we tried to adopt it to our own schedule.  

What did we learn while living as a local? 

Shopping on Tuesday is da bomb for picking up fresh fruits and vegetables. Not all farmacias are the same. Tip your bagger. The stop signs really mean STOP.  The  locals are kind and gracious folks.  Not so much from tourist and it is  easy to tell the two apart. Dust storms really hurt your skin. The Americans that visit and have property in Puerto Penasco forget they are in Mexico and so is the property they purchased in Mexico.  They make a huge deal about ‘their rights’ (mostly American flavored rights) but leave a lot of trash.  Mexican cheese is not the same as cheese from the United States.  But when you find the good Mexican cheese – holy moly!  It is delicioso.  The delicious and refreshing Paloma drink (we omit the syrup and use grapefruit sparkling water) is the country’s signature drink, not the margarita. Surprised? Maybe not when you learn the American’s think it’s the margarita but it’s not. Just like many Americans think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day.  It is an American holiday and this is where we consume said margaritas.  FYI: September 16th is Mexican Independence Day.  And again, the nationals truly take Sunday as a rest day.  Many businesses are closed and the streets are quiet.

Returning Dharma Girl to the Water – the ride on the boat while in the travel lift slings (do we have a photo?), DG returns to the same end tie (photo); musica and it is loud, tour boats, sunset tour boats, and the awesome Del Ray II pirate boat with fireworks every evening. We putter around the boat putting items back to their spots, tucking and shoving items into spaces much to small but you manage to get it in their, and DG is looking like home again.  We bent the sails, washer her down, wiped away all the sand collected in the interior in two months, and are finding we work a little in the morning and can relax the second half of the day. 

Remember when we mentioned no food or drink would survive living inside the boat when it’s 92 plus?  We found a bottle of red wine in back of liquor cabinet.  Oops, somehow we missed that.  Anyhoo, we emptied it to see the contents and it was darkish brown in color, but didn’t smell as awful as you’d expect.  So there you have it.


Random photos we couldn’t fit in with the words but wanted to have for keepsake and possibly for your enjoyment too.

2 thoughts on “Hola Puerto Penasco!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s