What to Take Sailing to Mexico and Beyond
Before we left, our friends Eva and Milt on S/V Bellavia gave us a list of things to take cruising. It was extremely helpful to us, and Eva has happily given permission for us to post it. I’ve also added some things from our experience.
For your boat:
- Autopilot, windvane, and backups. Hand-steering is a bummer! Our tiny AutoHelm 3000 was a workhorse. I can’t imagine going without it!
- An anchor (or two!) you can trust. Look at what is recommended for your boat size, then get one that is bigger! For our 13-ton boat, we upgraded from a 44-lb Bruce to a 55-lb Delta- what a difference!
- SSB radio, to get weather reports.
- Solar panels. We had two 85 watt panels that produced more than enough for us!
- Shade: Dodger, bimini, etc.
Eva also recommends the following, although we felt we did fine without them:
- Water maker. (We carry about 160 gallons and could easily go 6 weeks on that. It also seemed that lots of people had trouble with their water makers.)
- Shaft shark (cuts weeds, line, debris from your propeller).
For your dinghy:
- Big dinghy wheels, for surf landings on the outside of the Baja and mainland Mexico.
- An outboard that is the right size for you and your dinghy. Consider weight, ease of stowing, and that larger horse-power engines are more likely to be stolen!
- An anchor for your dinghy.
- Something to bail with. We found these Stream Machine water guns were great!
Cleaning and Maintenance:
- Extra impellers, oil, filters, belts, zincs, pumps, rebuild kits, etc. Parts are expensive and hard to find in Mexico!
- Cleaning products (Eva likes FSR for fiberglass stains) and maintenance supplies (like Cetol and tape). Again, these are expensive in Mexico!
- Vinegar, the great all-purpose cleaner!
- Plastic scrapers (like a putty knife) for cleaning your hull. Don’t use a sponge!
- A hose. We had a collapsible one from West Marine, which was easy to store but a bit problematic to use- it constantly got kinked.
For the galley:
- Pressure cooker – saves propane
- Solar cooker – saves propane and keeps the cabin cool
- Water containers that fit in your fridge, if you have one
- Plastic egg cartons (camping equipment stores have them)- other than in big supermarkets, eggs are sold without containers
- Strong canvas bags, back packs for shopping
- Water filter setup from Downwind Marine. They sell a bag with the sediment and microbe filters, plus all the hardware.
- Broths and soups. In Mexico, most broths are chicken or beef-based, and most soup mixes have MSG. If that’s not ok for your diet, bring alternatives. I brought several boxes of veggie broth cubes, which I used for soups, rice and salad dressings.
- Favorite coffees and teas. Though grown there, it’s hard to find good quality coffees in Mexico, and even harder to find loose leaf black teas. Special coffee filters can be hard to find too.
- Peanut butter
- Dark chocolate
- Thanksgiving foods. You’re likely to be on the outer Baja for Thanksgiving, and there aren’t many places there to get typical Thanksgiving foods. Canned chicken can substitute for turkey, and packaged stuffings are easy to prepare.
- Anything you’re particular about, like a favorite olive oil. This goes for non-food items too (I’m thinking of face lotions, tampons, etc.).
- Boogie boards
- Noodles or other floating things
- Mask, snorkel, fins
- Shorty johns for snorkeling- the water may not be as warm as you’d like it to be!
Books, guides and charts:
- Charlie’s Charts, Rains guide, Jerry Cunningham, or the Cruiser’s Guidebook to the Sea of Cortez: Get at least two cruising guides and consult both before going anywhere!
- Shore-based guidebooks, such as Lonely Planet’s Pacific Mexico or Moon Guide to Baja. We liked having two smaller books (as opposed to one great big Mexico book) that focused on the area we were in.
- Yachtsman chart book or other charts. Though the charts of Mexico are not always as accurate as you’d like them to be, it’s important to consult them for submerged rocks, reefs, shoals etc that may not be mentioned in cruising guides.
- AAA or similar maps of Mexico, especially if you are doing a lot of land-based travel.
- Spanish phrasebooks (not just a dictionary) and Spanish for Cruisers.
- Fish, bird, and marine mammal identification books/field guides.
- Seasickness prevention. We found Stugeron invaluable! Use whatever works for you.
- Christmas or other holiday lights/decorations. West Marine had 12v lights, or get the battery-powered ones.
- Speaking of batteries, get good quality rechargables, and a 12v charger.
- Clothes pins for hanging laundry out on the life lines.
- Underwear that you don’t mind hanging out!
- Sunscreen and protective hats and clothing!
- Mexican Train Dominoes set. This is the official game of cruisers in Mexico, but dominoes are expensive and hard to find in Mexico.
- iPods with podcasts or Sirius radio, for entertainment on night watch.
- Boat cards (like a business card) with your contact info to exchange with people you meet. We used VistaPrint to make ours.
- Cash and ATM cards. We didn’t use traveler’s checks at all. Stash some US dollars on your boat, then just use your ATM card to get pesos.
- Lots of copies of all your boat paperwork and passports.
- US stamps. Other cruisers will carry mail back to the states and post it for you.
- A solar shower. We always showered on deck!
- Wet wipes, for when you’re on passage or can’t easily shower, for whatever reason.
- Get your TIP (temporary import permit) online before you go, to save time when you clear into the country.
- Small gifts from your hometown. You’ll come across locals and other cruisers who help you out, and it’s nice to have something to give as thank you gifts! Also consider carrying candy bars, t-shirts, and baseball caps, to give as gifts or to trade.