August 2013: Marina Chiapas (Puerto Chiapas) is hauling yachts out of the water with the brand new 60-ton travel lift, both for repairs or dry storage (paved yard). This new boat yard capability is a huge advantage for cruisers wanting to summer over on the hard in southern Mexico, or needing repairs before or after crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec. FMI, contact Marina Chiapas, Enrique Laclette www.marinachiapas.com tel 9626956144 mobile, tel office (962) 6204038
“Joy of joys, I found Pat Rains’ ‘Cruising Ports; the Central American Route’ in the Chart Shop in Panama! It’s a wonderful guide book, so clear with understandable illustrations and feels so good to handle. Now I feel confident about our proposed move [from Shelter Bay Marina in Panama] up the Western Caribbean coast. …. We will have this brilliant book to guide us. Thank you, Pat!”
More praise form veteran cruisers:
“I haven’t seen the [6.5 edition] of Pat’s book, but we found the last version [6th edition] to be out “go to” book. Couldn’t have made the trip without it.” Joan of Panchita.
Cruising Pacific Mexico –Join Pat Rains for two Seven Seas Cruising Association webinars (online seminars) on Cruising Pacific Mexico
Tue . Sept 27 1900 Pacific Time “Cruising the Sea of Cortez: Upper and Lower“
Wed. Sept 28 1900 Pacific Time “Cruising Pacific Mexico – Ensenada to Puerto Chiapas“
Capt. Pat Rains, author of “Mexico Boating Guide,” will be live - covering WX and Routing, seasonal itineraries, port clearance, plus a speedy cruise into the anchorages, marinas, fuel docks, haul-out yards. Tuesday focus is on the upper and lower halves of the Sea of Cortez. Wednesday is similar but the geo- focus is all the rest of Pacific Mexico. Lots of new info, photos and GPS charts, plus 15 min for your live chat Q and A each night.
$30 for SSCA members. Non-members can use Pat’s discount code (below) to receive $10 off her webinars at registration, regularly $40. Price includes recording to keep. Yes, you can pass Pat’s discount to your friends. For details on how Seven Seas U webinars work, or to register, click here: Contact Seven Seas U for more info and to register
Discount Code: PatRains
(no space, capital P and capital R)
Darren Carey, manager of IGY Marina in Cabo San Lucas, gets asked this question frequently. IGY Marina is the largest boating facility in Cabo San Lucas, and that resort port at the tip of Baja has long been the center of the universe – at least the nautical tourist universe in Mexico.
“In light of drug-gang violence elsewhere in Mexico these days, are yacht tourists (yatistas) safe in Cabo San Lucas?” I asked Carey recently.
“The short answer is yes,” he said. “We have had no incidents of tourists being attacked,” he said, “no boat thefts, no yachts getting damaged by bad weather. The worst complaints we’ve had recently are that a panga driver charged a tourist too much to take him out to Lovers’ Beach and back, and a taxi driver in town didn’t make the correct change.”
The Mexican Secretariat of Tourism recorded 5.9 million Americans traveling to Mexico last year, an increase of almost 10% over the previous year. With that many gringos visiting Mexico, what do they need to do to stay safe?
“Tourists are not being targeted by drug gangs in Mexico,” he said.
“It’s no different than tourists visiting any country in Europe or the Americas. Tourists should avoid the few areas where problems are known to exist. They should not get mixed up in buying drugs or other criminal activities. Tourists in any country should pay attention to where they are, to protect themselves from pick pockets or random criminal acts.
“In Cabo San Lucas, if visitors are going to hire the smaller unlicensed pangas tour boats, then they should make an effort to learn the price in pesos. If you’re hiring a taxi, you should ask the price in advance, because taxi drivers often don’t have a lot of change.” This avoids being shocked by a high taxi fare at the end of your drive as well.
Carey, who took over as manager of IGY Marina Cabo San Lucas earlier this year, comes from the United Kingdom, where he was a member of Britain’s elite Royal Navy Lifeboat Institute (similar to the US Coast Guard). He specialized in both port security and rough-weather boat handling. His non military career includes working as the dockmaster and manager of several marinas in England and Europe.
He said the IGY Marina works closely with the Mexican Naval Command that is based in Cabo San Lucas. The navy’s mission includes protecting visitors, residents and businesses from crime in the ports and high seas.
As a marina operator, Corey was an invited guest of the admiral to go out with the Mexican Navy while they exercised some of their new patrol craft, including 47 medium light boats and RIBs, and several new long-range helicopters.
Corey said the Mexican Navy units that are based at Cabo San Lucas regularly patrol in a radius of at least 250 miles in all directions. That covers almost half way up Baja and in the other direction up to La Paz. Other Navy bases at Ensenada, Cedros Island, Turtle Bay, Mag Bay and La Paz, for example, patrol overlapping areas.
Their purpose is search and rescue, said Carey, but they handle all situations. He said he was impressed with how knowledgeable and well trained the marines are.
“We cruised around East Cape,” said Carey of his Mexican Navy excursion. “That cruise was very informative, very reassuring and, well, lovely!”
Do boaters need to be protected by the military or security guards at all times?
“It’s funny, because during the daylight hours, when the navy guys are wearing their dress white uniforms, all starched and pressed, the tourists are really happy to see them in the marinas and around town,” Carey related. “They like to try to get their pictures taken with them.”
“But at night, when the same navy patrols switch into their black uniforms, or wear camouflaged fatigues, then it’s a different story. We’ve had some tourists get upset. They get freaked out by those uniforms.”
“At the marina, we are focused on security 24 hours a day, seven days a week, of course,” Corey said. “Customer service includes customer security. … All our staffers – anybody who is out on the docks – they all are trained in security. So you won’t see separate security guards.”
Carey said the IGY Cabo San Lucas marina also has multiple CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras covering every square meter of the marina at all times, with five people monitoring the cameras day and night.
Marina Chiapas to Handle Yatista Paperwork
When Marina Chiapas is inaugurated in November, it will focus on providing easy international arrivals and exits.
Puerto Chiapas, formerly called Puerto Madero, is 14 miles north of the Mexico-Guatemala border, so this new full-service marina will be the southernmost recreational boating facility on Mexico’s Pacific coast and a nautical gateway between Mexico and the small countries of Central America.
Marina Chiapas, slated to open this fall, has roads and a concrete storage yard that don’t show in this March 2011 aerial photo. As the new recreational boating gateway between Mexico and Central America, this marina will provide streamlined paperwork for international arrivals and exits, plus a floating fuel dock and dry storage.
“We already have the dry storage yard and interior roads,” said Enrique Laclette, the project manager at Marina Chiapas. He said the new marina basin has been dredged to 15 feet at low tides, and the three large docks hold 63 full-service slips. Most of the slips are in the 40 and 60 foot ranges, but the marina has built eight slips to 70 feet, one for 90-footers and one 140-foot end tie.
Laclette formerly was the dockmaster at Marina Chahue in Huatulco, and he is well respected in the cruising community for his accurate weather forecasts that were broadcast specifically for yatistas awaiting a safe window to cross the blustery Gulf of Tehuantepec.
Puerto Chiapas lies at the southeast or opposite end of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, where Laclette was hired away from Huatulco to help build this new private Marina Chiapas.
“All the paperwork will be done on site,” said Laclette. “Boaters will tie up to the cleats in the marina and wait for the authorities to come to them” to handle the international arrival or exit.
Until this improvement is inaugurated this fall, yacht owners and their crew seeking Mexico entrance or exit will still have to begin the port clearance process in Puerto Chiapas, then travel 30 miles round trip by taxi or bus to the city of Tapachula, track down immigration authorities in an office at the Tapachula airport, then complete the process back in Puerto Chiapas.
Laclette said the new Marina Chiapas port clearance will be “the easiest paperwork ever.”
A new floating fuel dock for yachts is being built within the marina basin, and when it opens this fall, up to 2,000 gallons of diesel will be available by tank truck. This will eliminate the need for yachts to come alongside the port’s high commercial fuel dock, which is a rough concrete non-floating pier.
The marina’s concrete dry-storage yard should be handy for yachts summering over on the hard just south of the hurricane formation zones.
Laclette is planning a big inauguration party for Marina Chiapas this fall. The marina’s new website should be up and running this summer. Stay tuned to The Log for more details.
Pat Rains is a member of Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). She leads live online interactive seminars (webinars) on many topics about cruising Mexico and Central America, through Seven Seas University. Go to www.SevenSeasU.com for info about Pat Rains’ next classes. Use her discount code “PatRains” to get $10 off. See you there.
Fabled landfall for yachts, Isla Mujeres (Women Island) welcomes you to the Yucatan Channel.
Isla Mujeres lies 104 n.m. WSW of Cabo San Antonio, Cuba; about 330 n.m. SW of Key West, Florida; 490 n.m. SE of the Mississippi River mouth; or 650 n.m. ESE of the Rio Grande at the US border. This low island runs 4.2 n.m. long (NW to SE) and lies about 3 n.m off the mainland state of Quintana Roo, 6 n.m. NE of Cancun. Bahia Mujeres is the 5-mile wide somewhat sheltered pass W of Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres (pronounced “moo-HAIR-ayz”) is less touristy than Cancun, but it’s hoping to catch up. The harbor has ferry docks, Navy piers, at least 3 marinas, an anchorage and many docks. Laguna Makax in the middle of the island is a popular hurricane hole, reached by a narrow maintained channel (usually 8’ depth, 10’ after dredging), and this mangrove lined lagoon contains at least 3 marinas and spots to anchor.
Domestic port clearance can be done on Isla Mujeres, but international arrival requires a ride across Bahia Mujeres on one of the ferries to Puerto Juarez to handle the international part of your paperwork.
Approaches: The S end of Contoy Reef (mostly breaking) is 3.5 n.m. N of El Yunque (Anvil Rock Light), which stands about 400 yards off the N tip of Isla Mujeres. Between these lies a submerged reef (about 9’ to 14’ depth) that deep-draft craft must avoid.
Isla Mujeres is so low that when arriving from the NE, you first see large hotels on the N tip. The windward E side of the island is steep coral cliffs with no inlets. Garrafón and Manchones are reefs extending .75 n.m. S from the island’s SW end. The leeward W side is more hospitable, and the anchorage and lagoon entrance is found on the NW quadrant.
From the NE, our GPS approach waypoint (21°16.3’N, 86°45.1’W) is about .4 n.m. N of El Yunque (Anvil Rock Light). From there, turn to 190°M and head for the buoy marking the harbor entrance (min. 8’ depth), putting it on your starboard bow. Be careful of a brownish shoal on starboard, visible with high sun. Keeping the entrance buoy to starboard, turn to port while keeping the low white sandy point off your port side. Pass close along shore. You’ll pass another buoy on your starboard marking a shoal, so stay closer to shore to avoid it.
From the SE, pass between Roca La Bandera, also called Becket Rock (21°10’N, 86°44’W) and the S end of Isla Mujeres, heading to just W of Bajo Pepito buoy (21°12.5’N, 86°45.3’W). Manchones and Garrafón reefs lie between this buoy and the island, and a very strong current sets you toward the reefs. Round Pepito Shoal in 18’ of water, and you’ll see range lights marking the harbor entrance. Keep these off your starboard bow at about 2.2 n.m. until you see the channel buoys. Stay N of the channel buoys as you enter the harbor, to avoid a shoal.
La Caida or the chute is a narrow, twisting dinghy or panga passage (max 5’ depth) at the SW corner or the main harbor; heavy current, not dredged. A private home with dock stands on the S side of La Caida.
Anchorages: First, Isla Mujeres’ municipal anchorage (10’ over sand and mud) parallels the W side of the harbor channel, from lighted Roca La Carbonera (underwater sculpture) backed up along the inside of Chico and Tiburon islands, to a shoal opposite Paradise Marina at the S end of the harbor. This anchorage has grass patches, wakes, some petty theft from boats unattended after dark. Avoid the 3 ferry docks, Navy base and several commercial piers in the main harbor.
Second, at the S end of the harbor, mangroves and sea walls line the narrow 500-yard long Makax Channel (max. 10’ depth in center) into sheltered lagoon that spreads half a mile SE (S end shoals) filling the island’s SW interior. Visiting yates can usually anchor anywhere in Makax Lagoon not obstructing access to the marinas and private docks. Let the port captain know you’re anchored down here, so perhaps he will increase patrols against petty theft.
Hurricane Hole: Makax Lagoon is the best known hurricane hole in the NW Caribbean. Despite grass patches on the bottom, we’ve sat out hurricane outer bands in safety, as it’s surrounded in mangroves and raised limestone road beds. We sound 12’ in middle of N end, but the S end narrows, shoals & has coral chunks. If you’re too slow seeking refuge inside, it may be crammed full. Puerto Isla Mujeres docks are a reasonable alternative, but they also fill up – some are turned away.
Marinas: Looking to port upon entering the main harbor, Enrique Lima’s Marina is the first you reach, located between ferry docks (wakes), has Pemex fuel dock on seaward end; 22 full-service slips, walk to downtown, Enrique’s ship’s agency offered. FMI call (998) 877-0211.
El Milagro Marina: 25 stern-ties to about 40’ on 1 pier, 220-volt 50-amp shore power; dockmasters Hugo (in Spanish) and Jaime (in English) on VHF 16. FMI (998) 274-0129, or call on VHF 13. Milagro has a “penthouse” apartment you can rent to get off the boat for awhile. Family run marina also operates a pizza restaurant on the street level.
Paraiso Marina: 37 slips to 80’ on 2 piers, 220-volt 50-amp shore power; laundry, pool; cabins. Dockmaster Tomas Boylan or Miguel can help with your port clearance. (998) 877-0252. FMI: email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com The owners of this marina also own Paradise Marina in Puerto Yukalpeten near Progreso, Yucatan, and they offer to make yatistas a deal for rates if you visit both marinas in one season.
Marina El Sol: Smallest and cheapest marina in the main harbor, it has 10 to 12 slips, located at the SE end of the outer lagoon, below the Navy’s antenna array. We found 8’ of water at the outer slips with power, but some shallower multi-hull slips without power are less expensive. FMI (998) 888-0929, or email MarinaDelSol_im@hotmail.com
Puerto Isla Mujeres Marina, largest on the island, lies inside the NE corner of Makax Lagoon. Dockmaster Federico Cortino records same 10’ depths as Makax Channel, has 64 full-service slips to 80’ and 10 slips to 175’, pool, laundry service, in secure resort hotel compound. Zama Beach across the lagoon has a dock for 80’ LOA. This resort’s fuel dock and boat yard (see local services) are on the E side of the channel. FMI, call Puerto Isla Mujeres (998) 287-3340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marina del Sol is farther down the mangrove filled E side of Laguna Makax, with about 15 berths on 2 piers. Office is atop stairway, monitors VHF 16 and 13. FMI call (998) 888-0929 or 888-0125, cell 044-998-128-6393. Fax (998) 888-0929, or email email@example.com
Marina Varadero de Oscar (aka Oscar’s Marina) is farther SE in the lagoon, has about 10 shallow spots on 2 docks. No phone but a surfboard sign and 2 cantinas mark the marina office on Rueda Medina.
Private dockage: Besides PIM’s Zama Beach, at least 6 more private docks line Makax Lagoon, most are nice or in construction, others run down and presently clogged with wrecks or projects. You must look in person by dinghy before deciding to inquire about renting space or dinghy landing and negotiating a price for however long you want to be here.
Port Clearance: The Capitanía (VHF 16) is on Rueda Medina, the malecon, just S of the ferry docks. This is a Port of Entry; Migración and Aduana are side by side about 3 blocks up the street. When you check in on VHF, don’t hesitate to ask the Port Capitanía or Navy for directions or for a local guide to lead you safely into the harbor.
The Port Captain and Marines close this port when hurricanes threaten during the summer and fall. That means boats already here cannot depart, due to unsafe conditions over the shoals or dangerously heavy seas as you enter the Gulf Stream. Of course, if you make it here, you can come in.
Local Services: Fuel docks: (1.) Enrique’s Marina fuel dock is in N end of the harbor; boats to 50’ Med-moor and hang over while fueling, and the Pemex station is nearby. (2.) Larger yachts use the 200’ side tie at Puerto Isla Mujeres on the E side of Makax Channel (max 10’ depth).
Puerto Isla Mujeres shipyard (150-ton Travelift, to 29’ beam) is on the E side of Makax Channel (10’) into the lagoon, just past the fuel dock. Their marina seca or dry storage space is limited; call (998) 287-3340. (La Amada Marina has the other haulout yard in this region, and Meridiano 87 dry dock is in construction at Cozumel, so check our UPDATES.)
Isla Mujeres street maps handed out free, showing local services. Isla Mujeres Centro and the main plaza fill the island’s N end, and locals live in the S end.
Ultra Mar fast ferry takes only 20 minutes to reach Puerto Juarez (CIS office, Hacienda del Mar Marina). Slower people ferry goes to Tortuga Dock near Cancun Bridge. Car and people ferry goes to Punta Sam near La Amada Marina.
Provisions: Super Express is the best grocery store for everything, then Super Benito. The Mercado Municipal (open 0600) is at the N end of Matamoros; best produce on ferry days. Or, take the ferry to Cancun and taxi to Soriana’s, Costco, Sam’s or WalMart. Ferries go to 2 different docks in Puerto Juarez, and the car ferry goes to Punta Sam.
Visit the Mayan observatory on the S tip of Isla Mujeres, or the pink flamingo ponds along the SE flank. Garrafón Reef is sadly picked over.
Emergency medical: English-speaking Dr. Antonio Salas (monitors VHF 68) runs a 24/7 medical clinic at #18 Hidalgo Street, middle of Isla Mujeres downtown N end. Phone Salas (998) 877-0477 or 0021 or 845-2370.
History & Culture: The Isle of Women was named by Hernán Córdoba in 1517, when he visited the uninhabited island and the ancient Mayan temple on its S end. Inside were many statues of their fertility goddess Ixchel and her female court; hence the name Isla Mujeres. Ixchel and her Mayan mujeres slept in tranquility for centuries. Today, tiny Isla Mujeres is still a Caribbean beauty, but she has WIFI, street drugs and is working hard to catch up to her glitzy sister, Cancun.