All of those of us cruising who own sailboats treat the wind as both a treasured ally and the enemy. It is a wonderful source of free energy. It is also fickle and can tear at your boat like a great beast.
The trick is judging the wind. Which is based on a weather sense. Which is kind of like a black magic!
But, as sure as God made little green apples, he made the wind fickle!
While we were working on the bowsprit, we set the boat up for up to 50 mph or so of wind. This includes a set of boom tents we use which we have experience of in winds up to 40-45 mph without problems.
We had a forecast of rain (should have read squalls) with only 15-20 mph winds. When the little bruhahah arrived it was in the form of a south to south south westerly squall. No problem, our boom tent doubles as a rain cloak for the boat.
We don’t even usually have to close the upper hatches.
The first clue that they forecast may be questionable is when we hear wind in the rigging. Not the halyard banging, although the frequency of the banging will give you approximate wind speed. No this was that moaning howl. That does not happen under about 35 mph.
Not a problem!
Go to hatch, listen to other boats. Their masts are singing or moaning too. Not good!
What about gusts. Go look at the Airport just South of us by 12 miles. Weather Underground reads its automated instruments. Hmmm … 30 minutes ago a gust of 45 knots sustained. uh-oh!
45 knots x 30 minutes …. equals. Equals time to take in the boom tent. Scramble for the stairs. Open the dodger flaps … raining cats and dogs (not kittens and puppies). Release one side of the tent. Gust of wind tears tent from rear boom stiffeners. RIP! Then boom tent whips up out of my hands and tear shoots across the boat. Second circus tent underneath the boom tens has stiffeners too.
Sun bleaching has weakened the threads. As I watch, Circus tens rips away at the stiffener pole. Threads only, so no material is ruined.
Grab a blue plastic tarp and cover air-conditioner. Because it is now raining too hard and blowing too hard to try to move it back and close hatch to galley.
Cost of the inattention to the wind change (and a truly mediocre weather forecast) $200 in repairs to the three boom tents. Differed maintenance was also an issue. We had all the stitching in the Circus Tent restitched as part of the repairs. Now, it is back to snuff.
Inattention can be costly!
Dry rot is not so dry.
One of the benefits/problems of cruising is that sometimes when you boat has a problem, it has to be fixed in a place where you lack parts, skilled workers with experience on sailing vessels, and the tools to make or modify a part.
We discovered on a routine boat inspection which I perform when ever we are taking the boat to sea, that the wood at the base of the bowsprit was on the verge of failure.
Spiritus is a ketch. It had a 4 meter piece of wood that forms the bowsprit. This is the piece of wood that sticks out of the front of the boat for those of you who do not know older sailing vessels. In the case of Spiritus, it adds 7-8 feet to the length of the boat.
It is a critical piece of the sailboats standing rigging. It provides the attachment points for the whisker stays, the Bob stay, and the front stay to the main mast. In simple language, it is the thing that keeps the main mast from falling backwards onto the boat.
It does this by acting as a compression post for all of the forces generated by the genoa, the furled sail in front of the main mast. It also bears the forces of the main and foresail when sailing into the wind. That is a lot of force.
The dry rot was not evident on a visual inspection. The original piece of wood that formed the bowsprit was 8 layers of 1×8 glued together. I am guessing from the age of the boat that the wood was probably Sitka spruce. The piece was then spun on a lathe to shape the end and a stainless steel cap was added to the end for attaching the rigging attachment points.
I noticed a crack in the epoxy paint that covered the wood. Seemed a minor problem until I stuck a pocket knife into the crack and it simply disappeared. When I then pushed it into the wood near the crack, the results repeated themselves. Then I took my fingertip and pushed and uh-oh I could dent the wood.
Can we spell problem.
From where we are in Barra de Navidad, the nearest ship yard with knowledgeable workers is La Crux or Puerto Vallarta. Both are two or three days sailing. The sailing involves rounding Cabo Corrientes, which can be very interesting even with a strong boat. It is not a trip one would take with a crippled boat.
But, I also remembered that this is the harbor from which the expeditions from Mexico to discover the Philippines were made in 1545. If I can’t get a boat fixed in one of the oldest ports in on the West Coast of the Americas, then I deserved to be stuck for being unimaginative.
Corrective actions. We work with what we have.
First, the problem with all this is that the main mast structure is compromised. Fix that first. Two years ago, we had the boat totally re-rigged. Part of that process was the removal of the stay sail rigging. I kept for parts.
Using what I have, I climbed the mast and reattached the stay sail stay. It can support the main by itself if it has to. But the boat is still weakened.
Second, we arranged to have the bowsprit removed. We did this by hand because no one her owns a tool more powerful than a hammer, sledge, wedge, pry bar, and various screw drivers.
In other words, it has to be doable with hand tools only.
Three, before removing the bowsprit, we have to secure the main mast for an estimated 40-50 mile an hour winds. This involved taking the jib/genoa halyard and bringing it down to the cleats and tying off the mast on one side ob the bow. Then we took the main-sheet, reversed it thru the rollers at the top of the mast and secured it to the cleat on the other side of the bow. We left the bowsprit stainless pulpit attached to the bow and used it to tie the furler to so it would not bang around in the wind (if we had any).
Forth, satisfied that the mast is secure, we arranged to have the original bowsprit wood taken to a local furniture builder carpenter shop. The qualifier here was he had to be able to get good wood and he had to have a lathe capable of spinning the 12 foot piece for shaping the end of it.
Fifth, find the wood!
This was actually the most time consuming part of the process. We settled on using a single piece of primivera, which is also called Mexican White Mahogany. The piece had to be a piece of heart wood meaning the core of the tree.
The first piece we tried looked perfect until the very last planing when a center crack was revealed and it had to be discarded. Back to the drawing boards. Second piece was kiln dried, housed out of weather, dried again in his shop for two weeks as he worked it in his spare time.
Using the old piece, he made a duplicate. The original was painted but we decided to varnish the new one because it is a beautiful piece of wood on a beautiful old boat. Nuf said!
About four weeks total from the original start date, we finished and remounted the new nose. Spiritus now has a new beak!
Total cost other than our time. 4,000 pesos times two for the wood. 2,000 pesos for the wood working. 2,000 pesos for the unmounting, remounting, and refinishing with Epiphines varnish. This involved a skilled carpenter, and three and sometime four boat workers.
Oh, and two really long days in the sun taking out the old one and putting in the new one.
First: a disclaimer. I am not a meteorologist or weather forecaster. Neither are you.
So, with that in mind, after two and a half years of cruising Mexico’s West Coast, with a bit of research you can still manage to pick up some useful techniques for making decisions about crossings of the Sea of Cortez, weather along your route, and general weather along parts or all of Mexico’s West Coast and the Sea of Cortez.
I am going to suggest a set of links for weather, wind forecasting of strength, gusts and direction, wave height and direction, swell interval, and tide table locations so you can enter your favorite anchorage or harbor with the maximum amount of water under your keel.
I will outline a process we use for making decisions about a route or passage we are about to attempt. The tools I suggest are only a beginning, but they are very useful–especially if you have never been in Mexican waters before.
The most common way beginning cruisers get weather in Mexico is the morning SSB radio nets, like Amigo Net, Sonrisa Net, or Picante Net.
In addition, if you are setting in a major harbor with marinas, there is almost always a VHF (your Coast Guard Radio) net in the mornings that does a weather summary. They vary in quality depending on the dedication of the person doing the thankless job of collecting the weather for everyone else.
All start with the disclaimer, I gave you above. They are not meteorologists or weather forecasters, just sailors who want to help other sailors.
In addition, many who own Single Side Band radios, have added very expensive old-style Pactor modems that operate at a baud rate similar the first years of AOL (9600 to 14,400 baud) for a couple of thousand dollars and get GRIB files which are kind of line drawings of the weather. We do not use this method for several reasons mostly relating to its objectionable, antique, obsolescent technology, and exorbitant costs (for the equipment not the files).
Thus, most of what I will show you below is free and accessible thru your radios or the internet.
Internet in Mexico is an entirely separate topic but here is a short version: If you have a laptop get a TELCEL Banda Ancha modem. Anywhere there is a cell tower in reach, you will have internet access. If you have an IPAD or tablet that takes a phone chip … chip it with a TELCEL chip, and ditto, internet access along large parts of the coast and many anchorages.
SO, LET US TALK ABOUT MAKING YOUR OWN WEATHER DECISIONS RESPONSIBLY
First and foremost: It is your boat, your lives, and your RESPONSIBILITY to look at the weather and make an informed decision.
OUTLINE OF WEATHER CHECK PROCESS
(1) look out the porthole (reality check)
(2) check the satellite pics of Mexico’s waters (global view)
(3) listen to on SSB net or pull down from internet Sonrisa.net weather forecasts (general passage info)
(4) check NOAA experimental offshore waters forecasts for Mexican waters (new is always better)
(5) check weather underground for your current location if in a port in Mexico (does it agree with #1?)
(6) check weather underground for location to which you are headed
NOW FOR MORE DETAILS
(7) check Passage Weather wind predictions (click thru) speed and direction
(8) check Passage Weather wave predictions (click thru) height and direction
(9) check Wind Finder for wave height and period for both ends of your passage
ALMOST KNOW ENOUGH
(10) Check tides at both ends of your passage. (high tides estimated time of departure and arrival)
(11) FINAL STEP … check the Earth Wind map. Winds and Waves models. (data three hours old)
IN DETAIL BELOW
Start with the basics, look out the freaking window (portal) of your boat. Is it sunny, cloudy, windy, or calm?
This lets you double check your attempts to forecast local weather. If you do what I suggest and your carefully researched prediction doesn’t match the weather outside your porthole, welcome to weather forecasting in Mexico. It is possible that you are either doing what I suggest wrongly, or you’re using the wrong online weather stations, or you have done everything right, and, the weather is being perverse in the extreme.
So how do you start?
Start with an online weather source for Mexico. I will supply you with three for cruisers. Use all three to get a detailed sense of the general weather for large parts of the West Coast of Mexico.
I like to look at the satellite view of Mexico’s waters first. It will tell you a thousand things very quickly.
Look at all the pretty pictures. I like the third down which is a time lapse satellite view of Mexico’s West Coast … it will give you a lot of info quick about the general state of the area weather. You can zoom in if you are on a IPad.
It also has GRIB style line drawings for you old school types at the bottom. It loads in an instant so great to grab some weather from.
Then we go to the online Sonrisa Net weather forecast. This is an online version of the presentation they do over the Single Side Band radio network. It is very trusted. And, I usually start with the Passage Forecasts because they give thumbnails of the most common passages you will use. The online site is here:
And, finally, we check the ‘NEW’ NOAA offshore waters for Mexico’s West Coast. This is an experimental forecast and very, very , very detailed and useful. It is currently machine generated, so no real forecaster looks at it. Use with caution, but use!
It is easiest to find here:
It is a text file. Be sure to check the time and date of the bulletin because sometimes the Vallarta Yacht Club forgets to update. Once you have it, you will have to decipher the names of the zones since NOAA decided to call the Sea of Cortez the less politically correct, in Mexico, ‘the gulf of California’. Once you get used to that, the rest is pretty intuitive.
They have only been doing this for about the last 10 months and it is wonderful. Looks to become permanent, unless, the Republican Congress can figure out a way to shut down the government again.
Once you have looked at these three sources, you have as much info as most of the people who are broadcasting forecasts on the radio.
A final check might be here, once you think you know what the weather is likely to be. Look at http://www.weather.soulmatesantiago.comwxdata/Sea%20of%20Cortez%20Southern%20Crossing%20Forecast.html
Now, how to know more. You need to know more. Repeat after me, “I need to know more!”
To really plan for a passage (coastal or crossing), you need more info.
You need local weather for where you leaving from and for where you are going too. We use Weather Underground for the ports we are headed to and from. It gives a very nice 7-10 day forecast with lots of details. And, you can adjust what station you are looking for precisely.
An example of when that is useful might be Mazatlan which used the International Airport as the default station. But, you can shift that to a station just north of the Cid marina which is then spot in for weather at the entrance to the marinas and at the breakwater.
Go here and pick a city: http://www.weatherunderground.com/weather-forecast/zmw:000.1.WMMMZ
This is for the City of Mazatlan. To see another, change cities. To change stations, click on nearby stations and a map will pop up … zoom in and click if you see a better location near your destination. Simple.
On our recent crossing attempt we checked Mazatlan (going from) and La Paz (going to) for the 7-10 day forecast. We needed a three day window of good weather on both sides.
It is not just about the weather generally. Because you are in a boat powered in part by the ‘weather’, you need more details. You need wind speed and direction.
So now look here for wind speed and direction:
Click on the zones, It will take two clicks, one for eastern Pacific and one for West Coast of Mexico and Baja.
What you see will look like this.
Look carefully below the images and you will see player controls like for music, advance forward, reverse, play. These controls let you advance by hourly of half day intervals to see upcoming weather and wave set directions. Play with it for the days you are thinking of doing your passage … cool, huh!
You still need more info on the waters you will cross. You know direction and some idea of height. You need more. What you need is interval or period. The time between waves. For example three foot waves from the front of your boat at 20 second intervals is not all that bad. But three foot waves at a five second interval from the front will pound you to death, shake everything in the boat loose from its cabinet, and more importantly slow you to a crawl. It will also shake up you fuel tanks causing everything from air bubbles in the fuul lines, to stuff from the bottom of the tank being mixed up with the diesel again and pumped to the engine.
Surfers love waves, unlike sailors, so, you can predict interval by using surfing sites like this: http://www.windfinder.com/forecast/la_paz_airport
The six lines you want to look at are wind direction, wind speed (kts), wind gusts (kts), wave direction, wave height (m), wave period (sometimes called interval).
You will already have some notion of the winds from your first three sites or the radio nets. The wave information will let you know what to expect on the hull of the boat. Short intervals or periods are choppy and hard to make headway in. They are what is classically called bashing if you are headed into them. Abeam, they make the boat rock madly back and forth like a drunken sailor. From behind you hobby horse. But, long interval wave sets are gentler (depends on height) and the boat makes good progress. Easier to handle abeam (from the side) and what is classically called following seas, if from behind. For us, short interval/period is anything under 10 seconds and long interval/period is anything over 15 seconds. You will adopt a range that suits your sailing style and experience after you have some of either.
Look at the port you are leaving from and the port you are going to for the nest few days of your anticipated crossing.
LOOK AT THE TIDES
This is not obvious.
You will know how long you think it will take you to make your passage. You need to know the local tides for where you are leaving from and where you are going to. This may seem like too much detail, but it is not. You do not need to arrive in your big 30 hp sailboat that does 7 knots only to find that the tide is out and the depth of the entrance to the bay or harbor is 6 inches less than your boat draws. You do not need to arrive and find 6 knots of outgoing tide and a head wind. So, look at your predicted arrival and see when the days high and low tides are …
Go here and choose a port or nearby port for your destination: http://www.tide-forecast.com/locations/Mazatlan-Sinaloa-Mexico/tides/latest
THE BIG PICTURE
I have saved the best for last. This bit of trivia will make up for not having studied weather wind and sea patterns for years. Meaning, you are new at sailing and want to learn fast.
Go here: earth.nullschool.net
This is the earth wind map.
It is beautiful, hypnotic, calming, frightening at times and more to the point, it shows the actual winds on the planet about three hours old real time. Repeat that and listen … actual winds… three hours old … real time.
If you are careless or not paying attention, it also has a setting that will show you the planetary wave action, three hours old, real time.
Find these settings and play with it …. there used to be (and still are) entire books that contained the anecdotal and statistical info contained on this map. Based on Google Earth, you can zoom in on sections of it to get more detail.
Again, I am not a meteorologist. I am a sailor. If you sail then you already know that weather, wind and waves, in particular are extremely fickle. Once you are at sea, and under way, never ever let your forecasts interfere with good judgement based on what you are actually experiencing. The place you are making passage to will always be there next week, next month, or next year. Know when to say … this is not what I expected! Know when to turn around.
Most of these require some ability to get the internet. You can use a phone, IPhone, modem, sat phone, Banda Ancha USB stick modem, wi-fi cafe, wi-fi extender antenna but you have to get on the net. If you want weather gribs, you need a modem.
The ones that do not require and internet connection, require some form of radio be it VHF or Single Side Band.
The process described here works well for Baja and the West Coast of Mexico as far south as Manzanillo, perhaps even Zihuatenejo or Acapulco. It is not the method for looking at weather in the far south of Mexico (namely the Tehuantepec crossing). Other methods are needed there.
FEEDBACK REQUESTED TO MAKE THIS INFO MORE USEFUL TO YOU
I thought I would share this because I have not seen good info for new cruisers on how to predict (0r at least get) weather along Mexico’s West Coast. I hope you enjoy and use. You do not have to learn it all at once. If you have suggestions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message here on the blog.
Hey, when you sail the mainland of Mexico you encounter a few small problems with moisture.
While re rigging the boat, one of the riggers noted that we had the beginnings of mildew on our sails. These are three year old sails and I do not want to replace them because I was inattentive.
But, OMG …… spots!
The cure. Wash the sails. Well, maybe not quite that simple but you raise the sails… and go after the mildew. Fold-by-fold-by-fold of the sail. Turns out, that the sail covers had gotten wet in the last big storm before we left Barra de Navidad. We had already dealt with problems of mildew inside the boat, so we were not totally surprised.
Pick a sunny day. With no wind!
Supplies: Soft brush, hard brush, Oxyclean (or the Mexican equivalent), a spray bottle of Green, a healthy supply of white vinegar. The vinegar is the key.
Wet sail, spray with oxyclean, scrub, rinse, brush hard with vinegar, rinse. Dry.
“OUT, OUT, damned spot(s)!” paraphrasing Lady Macbeth.
Spots about 80% gone. Easy process–just a bit of work!
Now in the real world of sailing, raise the sails and the wind comes up … but only if you are at a dock. If you are on the water and raise the sails, the wind dies.
Scrub and rinse. Unless, of course, that is the day that the marina looses all water pressure. Get a bucket and a soft brush and scrub rinse with water from the boat’s stores. Adds two more hours, but hey, it has to be done. And, of course, as soon as you are finished and go to put the useless hose up …. Tada!!! … the water pressure is back! Now you can rinse the sail again. 15 minutes to repeat your two hours of work.
Wet sail … dry it. Raise … wind comes up. Lower … it stays wet.
We will dry it tomorrow. Tomorrow, of course, it rains for the first time since we have been here. Wet sails again … what makes mildew …oh, yeah … wet sails. Leave uncovered maybe?
I am sunburned, tired, cranky, and arthritic after all the washing … and, of course, we are leaving in the morning for Mazatlan. Oh, and it is raining on us as we get ready for bed.
Don’t you just love sailing/cruising?
WHIIIIIIIINE! Or as Carolyn says ….”Drama Mine!”
This page of info is for those who already have a Residencia Temporal Card … and who need to renew an existing card. The process for applying for the original card is located in an earlier post … here …
Now that we have been temporary residents for a year, it was time to renew. We were only allowed a single year the first time in La Paz with the initial application. I believe, in retrospect, that this is so Americans don’t apply and then decide that they aren’t staying. In any case, if you wish to keep staying, you have to go thru a renewal process.
We just completed that process. I have to admit it was a breeze. So let me describe it here for those nearing this deadline.
Change of Address (Cambio Domicillio)
First a warning for cruisers. You must renew your Residencia Temporal Card in the state and jurisdiction that you reside!!! You have to list a domicile when you apply for the initial Residencia Temporal; but, as a cruiser, you may be a thousand miles away in another part of Mexico when the renewal comes due. The literal rule is that you have to ‘notify’ INM when you move … or change where you are domiciled or living. Interesting words for people who move around a lot.
It gets a little trickier for cruisers, because we are constantly staying at a marina or an anchorage for months, or weeks, or a few days. Which moves do you have to report? Short version: If you intend to stay where you are– at the time your renewal comes due– (and it is not the state in which you first received your Residencia Temporal card) you must notify INM and make a change of address within 90 days of your decision to reside in a different state. “Intending to stay” is my language, but it captures the questions we went thru with the renewal.
Here was our situation. We were listed as living in La Paz. We were sailing southwards for Chiapas till May when we stopped at Barra de Navidad. We liked it and stayed on for the summer. No further intentions. Thought we would either go back north, finish trip south in fall, or maybe stay part of a year here. Time passed and we had stayed nearly 5 months.
Mistakenly, we had thought that we could renew our Residencia Temporal at any INM office. Our Bad!
Suddenly realized that we might not make it back to La Paz by the time we expired. Went to the local (we thought) INM office, which had just opened in Melaque, only to find out that the Marina in Barra de Navidad is in the state of Colima and not the state of Jalisco as is the rest of the town. We are across the bay and across the state line. So, suddenly, we needed to go to Manzanillo (40 miles south).
This was early September. The INM agents also told us we had to be domiciled where we were renewing the cards … Uh-ohhh! We needed to change addresses. Oops, did not know that. Now we did. Can we do that in Melaque? …. big smile …. No! Ok. How do we do it?
(1) Go online at the INM site and fill out a request for a change of domicile.
The form is online here: http://www.inm.gob.mx/index.php/page/Solicitud_de_Estancia
This actually turned out to be easy. Just two lines of a pull-down menu then enter the new address. I don’t usually suggest getting local help but on the address change I suggest going to the Marina office or harbor master’s or somewhere they work with addresses. Because, the political divisions you have to get correctly are not obvious to us as Norte Americanos. As an example, looking at Google Maps, I still think we are in Jalisco. I am wrong, but so is Google (according to the United Mexican States).
Turns out that the Wyndham Grand Isla Navidad Hotel and Marina has its own zip code and is its own ‘town’ — not a part of Barra, not a part of Colimilla. The Grand Wyndham actually has its own streets for addresses. It helped to have the marina staff (Harbor Master office) tell us how to fill in the right local address. Now this is in spite of getting mail correctly here, UPS correctly here, and Fed Ex packages. So short version … make sure the address correction is correct.
(2) Go to the appropriate office of INM. Manzanillo, Colima for us. What to take? (a) passports, (b) current Residencia Temporal Cards, (c) a printout of the online form you filled out at the INM website asking for the address change or change of domicile (d) color copies of our passports, and (e) most important, a letter in Spanish detailing your request and saying when and why you decided to ‘move’ to the new domicile, (f) we carried rent receipts and (f) utility receipts ‘just in case’, but we did not need them.
I will pause at (e) and talk to cruisers in boats regarding the letter requesting the address change. The date you arrived is not as important as the date and reasons you decided to stay. If you have not reported a change of address in the required time frame there is a fine. Read that “FINE” for not doing so. You have to report your request for a change of domicile within 90 days of deciding to stay. We had been in Barra for 5 months but only found out when we decided to stay and went to the office in Melaque that we needed an address change. For practical purposes, we used the date we went to the Melaque office for INM as the date we decided to stay. Remember no more than 90 days.
End result, we took a one hour bus ride to the office in Manzanillo. Took a couple of hours to process. Only touchy point was when we decided to stay in Barra de Navidad. We left there with a new form specifying our new domicile. No cost, No hassle. Whew!
We also found out the time table for renewing the Residencia Temporal Cards. You can come in to renew 28 days out. No more than that.
Renewing the Residencia Temporal (10/03/2014)
Went online and visited the INM site. Filled out the same form as the change of address but this time asked with pull down bars for a renewal of the residencia temporal status. Only had to change two pull down two pull down boxes and we were done. Once it was accepted, printed a pdf copy out to take with us.
(1) Go online and fill out the firm at the INM website using the pull down menu for Expendition de Trajeta de Residente por Renovacion. (Renewal of Temporary Resident Status)
The form is located online here: The form is online here: http://www.inm.gob.mx/index.php/page/Solicitud_de_Estancia
(2) Called INM local office in Manzanillo and asked ‘ what do we need to renew?’ Answer : (a) passports, (b) old now-expiring Residencia Temporal Cards, (c) go online and fill out a new request form (the one we had already done), (d) new pictures (two front and one side) (already had from a Melaque visit), (e) rent receipts, (f) we took electric receipts (utilities) but did not need them, and most importantly a letter in Spanish for the file stating why you want to extend the residencia temporal status, and finally (g) enough pesos to pay the fees at a bank.
(3) Go to appropriate local INM office.
We go up the next morning and took the early bus to get there by 9 but it did not come, so we took the next bus and ended up arriving at about 10 am in Manzanillo. Sign in at door, state your business, sit, and wait.
Took about two and a half hours. Then a trip by taxi to a bank to make the fee payment. About $4950 in pesos each for two more years. We could have done three years but we did not have enough pesos with us. Then back to the INM office with the official receipts from the bank.
Ended with much paperwork and new fingerprint forms. As a footnote: We did not need the rent receipts, even though they were requested. We were finished by 1 pm and on our way back to Barra de Navidad.
Remembering the four months it took to get our initial cards in La Paz, we asked ‘how long’ and were told come back on Monday … much confusion here with wife outside office, till she finally went back in and asked again …. “Next Monday?” (this is Friday at noon) … “Si, Senora!”
We called back on the following Tuesday, October 7 and they were done. Picked them up along with another official conformation form on Wednesday the 8th of October. Turn-around time really was two to three days. exactly as they had told us.
End product. Two shiny new Temporary Resident Cards, each good for two years, and official change of domicile. Looks like we now live in Barra de Navidad.
All done in Spanish, though they did have English speakers available if necessary.
Las ruedas de los autobuses van vueltas y vueltas . . . !
Like the words of the children’s song, the wheels on the buses do, indeed, go round and round all through the day in Mexico.
We have not had or used a car personally since we left the US. It was a conscious decision to sell both our vehicles along with the house, dogs, cats, and sundry personal items.
The good news is that, in Mexico, you don’t need a car for almost anything. The other appropriate title for this article might have been “The Buses of Barra”. If you have read the blog entries from La Paz last year, you have probably noted my discussions of the buses there.
The system in Barra or the mainland is both different and the same. Town life and especially life for cruisers (those staying thru the hurricane season) here revolves around the bus station. We need it for trips to Melaque, where we bank. We need it for trips to Manzanillo, where we get boat parts, see medical specialists or have diagnostic testing done, and to work on immigration matters with INM.
The trips start from anywhere in town that you see the bus pass by, because they will stop for you anywhere–if the trip is local. Or, you can just go to the station. You have to go to the station for the bigger buses for the longer trips.
This is our local (writ small) bus station in Barra. Three separate long distance buses serve it at about 45 minute intervals. The local short-haul buses come by about every 15 minutes.
They vary in comfort and detail. Some are very rudimentary with molded steel and fiberglass seats. Some have nice cushioned seats with high backs. There is no rhyme or reason as to when or where each type will be. You can tell–once you are familiar which is which by the bus number. One route goes straight to Melaque. Others go through Obregon and El Ranchito ‘suberbs’ or subdivisions. And sometimes, they just turn off the road and head out into the jungle-like coconut/banana plantation near Barra then return to the road and the route. Kind of like the crazy bus ride to Cartagena, Colombia in the film “Romancing the Stone”. Each trip can be an adventure of a different kind.
Sometimes after a rain, in the dirt streets of Obregon on the way to Melaque, you will feel like you are out four-wheeling in a bus and fully expect to either disappear into a pothole or need a kidney transplant before the end of your trip. Sometimes, you simply cruise (not counting the speed-control bumps) serenely in high-backed comfort down the direct route to the station in Melaque. It’s always a toss-up.
So much for the local bus. We use them at least one day per week–sometimes more. No one here speaks English, so knowing basic Spanish makes it much easier to get around. A quick “Bajan!” and the bus stops almost anywhere to let you off. The route repeats so you can just come back to where you got off,if you get lost, and ride the circular route back to where you started. Costs to Melaque or ‘adventure’? Just 7 pesos ( 60 cents US) one-way.
For longer trips like Guadalajara, Manzanillo, Cihuatlan, or Santiago, you must go into the station, purchase a ticket, and catch a larger more comfortable bus. Our longest trip–one we do rather frequently– is our once-a-month visit to Manzanillo. We have been there to shop because they have Home Depot, Sorianos, Walmart, Block Buster, and medical diagnostic facilities. They also have Burger King, movies, a chandelry, and the local version of a Mega store. It is also where the immigration office we have to deal with down here is located.
These buses are larger and more comfortable. Some have restrooms in the back. All are air-conditioned. All show movies while you ride. The ride is about an hour and fifteen minutes … so short movies, generally of the family entertainment variety.
These buses are very useful for re-provisioning the boat (large purchases) because the first stop in Manzanillo is at the Walmart which is across from and near to Sorianos, Block Buster, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and others. So one stop and you are right where most Americans want to be. Cost 42 pesos (almost $3.50 US) one-way.
When you are done for the day with your shopping for all the things you cannot find in Barra or Melaque, you head out to the Central de AutoBus (the bus station). We were wowed by the station. Mexico has a great public transit system and this is a wonderful local asset. It reminds you of an air terminal and also reminds you that Greyhound may just not be the only bus company in the world. It is just seems like one of the best only if you don’t have anything to compare it to.
The funny thing is that the ride to the bus station by taxi will cost you almost as much (50 pesos) as the ride back home to Barra de Navidad (54 pesos). The bus drops you off exactly where you started the day’s adventuring–right back at the bus station in Barra.
Once there, it is a quick ride by water taxi back to the marina on the other side of the channel.
In all trips to Barra, the day starts and ends with a ride in the taxi-aquatico (20 pesos soon to be 30). They drop you back at the dock in the marina or right at your boat. The speedy pangas are radio-controlled and operate 24 hours a day on channel 23.
This is our ‘driver’ or captain for the day, Manuel. After a short time, you get to know them all.
La Paz has a complex and fascinating rapid transit system. You can get most places in the city for a fee of 10 pesos. This is about 90 cents US.
Most American visitors miss this opportunity. It is both enjoyable, entertaining at times, educational, and a not-to-be-missed part of an experience of the culture of Baja California Sur.
The buses of La Paz come in three main varieties and many colors. The smaller bus style– transporte colectivos–run all over town on routes. There are slightly bigger school bus style buses called the transporte urbano. And finally, there is Eco Baja Tour buses which, contrary to their names, are actually buses for both single destinations or charters for tours.
I want to talk here about the smaller school bus type of ‘transporte colectivo’ and the Eco Baja Tours.
Eco Baja Tours is easy. They are used primarily for two things. (1) To get to the San Jose del Cabo international Airport or the towns along the way like Los Barilles, Todo Santos, and Cabo San Lucas. And, (2) to get to Bahia Balandra (a great beach), Pichilingue (Customs and Importation), and Tecolote (fishing and beer).
They have a bus station on the Malecon facing the beach which is a terminal and ticket office. You cannot schedule them online so be ready to go to the station a week ahead to get tickets. Or you can just show up and take your chances.
They have almost hourly buses to the airport in San Jose del Cabo. it is 420 pesos approximately, one way.
There are about 5 buses a day (10am, 12am, 1pm, 3pm, return 7pm) that go to Tecolote and Pichilingue and Bahia Balandra which are on the way there. It is 40 pesos approximately one way so be prepared to pay the driver when you want to comeback as there is not ticket office at the other end of the route.
Now as to the ‘transporte colectivo’. There is no true schedule (as far as experience will tell) and availability can vary based on the number of drivers on duty.
It is important that you understand, this is not a demand driven system with peak demand scheduling. It is more like a collective of bus operators, all of whom are their own bosses. So, for example, if it is a holiday, there may not be many drivers or buses. This seems counter-intuitive. But, the drivers also take the holiday off, it seems.
But not to worry, there always seem to be buses, you just have to adjust your expectations to a longer wait than normal.
On the front of each bus is a placard over the front window listing its stops and the ‘name’ of the bus or ‘route’.
So, if you want to go to Chedruai which is a grocery store, you would look for the bus that lists among other things ‘Chedraui’. This is also the No. 8 bus. I know from experience that it goes to Chedraui and back to the center of town about every half hour. Cost 10 pesos one way, with no transfer tickets. Each bus is 10 pesos.
If I want to go to Walmart, I look for the bus that has ‘Walmart’ on its placard. Or, I might know it is the “Batallion 35: Route 39 bus”. Cost 10 pesos.
Each ride is a surprise. If you are new, you don’t quite get the routing right and you see parts of the city you did not intend. Carolyn and I call these adventures–our definition of adventure being that no one got killed and we didn’t have anything else better to do anyway. HOWEVER, have no fear and absolutely do not despair if you happen to take the wrong bus (unless you have a box of ice cream in your groceries) because the route always repeats itself. So, you can just get back off where you got on and try again. Or, alternately, most routes end up in Centro which is near the marinas, the Malecon, the beach side hotels, the night life, and the taxi stations. And, if all else fails … take a taxi back! We will discuss the fine points of taxi usage in another post. (The Taxi Cabs of La Paz)
There are four golden rules of the ‘transporte colectivo’. (1) No bus should have shock absorbers, (2) all buses eventually return to Centro de Cuidad as part of the route, look for the word ‘Centro’, and (3) the word ‘bajan’, pronounced ba-hahn will bring the bus to a halt so you can get off. “Bajan, senor!” works even better. In fact, these words should be among your first Spanish words, and, (4) routes are circular so you always can get off where you got on and be no worse off than to be back where you began.
Try again with another bus! Walk! Or face defeat and hail or call a taxi.
In La Paz, one of the first relationships you may make before you discover the ‘colectivo’ is a friendly dependable taxi driver … get to know one at least by name and cab number and phone number. Having someone who will come get you wherever you are is very comforting. and, they will help you to learn Spanish and bargaining.
There is a bus station for the ‘transporte colectivo’ but I cannot figure out its purpose. There are, to my knowledge, after a year of using them, no schedules printed and no maps of the routes to help you out. The drivers do not usually speak English.
But somehow, none of this makes it less fun to learn they system. You are in Mexico, learn the culture … or walk!