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2011 Costs on Living on a Boat in Mexico

So, What are the Costs of living in Mexico on a Sailboat?

Well, some background.

We have two small children, ages 2 and 4. This will be our third season living in Mexico for the Winter. We typically will stay in the Sea of Cortez for 5 months before putting our boat on the hard in Guaymas. We might go out to eat once a week at a restaurant and visit a beach Palapa for a few frosty Cervesa’s once a week. Otherwise, we eat and drink on board our 1993 Gemini Catamaran.

Our boat is very simple. We have a 25hp Honda 4 stroke outboard (gas) and a 8hp Nissan 2 stroke powering our 10′ Portabote dinghy. We have a Dometic propane powered fridge that sips a 20lb BBQ propane tank every 3 weeks. Our Gemini has a 2 burner propane oven & stove that we use to cook. There is a instant propane water heater that we use to wash dishes and take the weekly showers. We switched out all the incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs and we have horse-swapped for a total of 4 solar panels at 96 watts, of which we currently only use 44 watts. We carry a 2kw Honda generator to power tools and as a back up but we will usually not use a gallon of gas per season in the generator.

On a final note, the peso is currently around 13.7-14 pesos to the US dollar.

OK, What does it really cost?

For starters there is the costs of the visas and car insurance to get across the border. A 6 month visa costs approximately $25 per person. Your required to have Mexican car insurance for your stay. We have a 2004 Dodge Sprinter Van that we built out as a camper and we opted for full coverage of $20,000. The car insurance cost $325 for the 6 month period.

Total costs for the Visa and Car Insurance for our Family of Four was $425.

Next is the cost to store our boat on the hard. We use Guaymas Seca (dry) for our boat storage. They have the reputation for being the cheapest storage facility with a travel lift in all of the sea of cortez. We were charged $100 to haul the boat out, $100 to haul the boat in the water, and $115 per month storage fees during hurricane season. They also charge $75 to raise the boat with the lift for bottom paint or repairs. If you want to work on your own boat they charge an additional $4 per day but you can live on the boat and have access to showers, sinks, power, and water. Because we stayed in our Dodge Sprinter we also had to pay an additional $1 per day (approx $20 more in total) for an ‘RV fee’.

This year, I brought down bottom paint, topside paint, and West System epoxy to make repairs and get the boat ready for the water versus hiring the boat yard. We spent about two weeks working on the boat but could have hustled and had the boat finished in about 10 days or less if we didn’t visit friends and generally have a good time.

We spent $387 on bottom paint, topside paint, epoxy, rollers, brushes, and other supplies. The yard fees totalled $1220 for 7 months of storage, haul in and out, raising the boat so I could work on a drop keel, and the additional costs of living and working on the boat ourselves.

The total maintenance and storage fees came to $1607 for the year. Next year it will be more. The rate to haul and haul out rose to $150 each way up from $100 and the storage rate rose to $150 per month up from $115. This is still significantly cheaper than other marinas with Travel Lifts. At the Marina Singlar across the bay in Guaymas our boat would be charged in the mid to high $200’s per month and the haul in and out fees would be similar.

Once in the water we generally bring the boat up to San Carlos Bay and rent a mooring for a month or more to de-stress and check out the boat to make miscellaneous repairs. The going rate for a mooring in most of Mexico seems to be $100 per month. You need to have your own mooring lines and shackles to attach to the mooring ball. We like catching a mooring versus throwing out the anchor in San Carlos for a few reasons. There is a large shale area in the bay and has bad holding. One night when we arrive late from a crossing from the Baja we ended up anchoring three times before we really dug in solid. The other big reason we like a mooring when available, the winds just howl from the venturi effects when coming from the North or NorthWest. Winds daily will tip 20kn and we’ve seen over 35kn without any weather systems. It’s no fun worrying about dragging anchor when you’re not on your boat or in the middle of the night.

So for $100 per month I sleep a lot better and can stay for an extra chope (draft beer) at the Captain’s Club.

Food and Booze costs range wildly. We are pretty tight with our spending. We like three places in San Carlos because of the great values. We will make a point of visiting the Captain’s Club once a week during happy hour from 4pm to 7pm to take advantage of the 12 peso (about 80 cents) chope (draft beer) specials. We get the kids a Limonada (fresh squeezed lime with sugar water) and we can each have 2 fish tacos (17 peso each) and a few beers and the total is still not more than $15 with a generous tip (10% is common). Many restaurants are very family oriented, so having the kid with us is not a problem.

There are some places we’ll visit because the food is so good. We like JJ’s taco stand because his fish tacos and condiment bar are a deal at 15 pesos a piece. The beer prices are higher at 30 pesos per beer, so we usually skip the brew and enjoy a fresh stacked fish taco in the sun. We almost never spend more than $10 (135 pesos approx.) for a big lunch. That’s for the whole family of four, by the way!

Fuel costs are slightly cheaper than in the US. Diesel is running about 10 pesos per liter. That’s approx 38 pesos per US gallon or just slightly under $3 per gallon. Right now in Tucson diesel is running on the low side $3.80 per gallon. The fuel is dirtier than in the US and you’ll have to plan on adding a fuel filter change to your budget at the season but it’s fine otherwise. Gas comes in two flavors, regular or premium. The price between the two is slight and, in general, the premium is always suggested. Costs are comparable to the diesel prices.

We filled up the Van once when we arrived and after a month we still had over a 1/4 tank after all the trips back and forth between San Carlos and Guaymas (about 15 miles overall each way). If we go sailing our fuel costs are less than is we hang around San Carlos. Last season we used a total of about 25 gallons of gas for the dink and mothership. Including fuel for the diesel I would estimate our fuel costs this year will be closer to $100 per month on the high end. The longer we stay in San Carlos, the higher our fuel costs tend to be because we drive around more often. We will spend more filling up the Sprinter once than we tend to use for the whole season in the Gemini.

What about maintenance and upgrades? I’m cheap/broke. Right now we are just waiting for the Marine toilet to die so we can switch it out for a composting head. The toilet seat hinges are being held together with zip ties, the hand pump plunger is hose clamped to a bolt. We trade/swap/barter/haggle for upgrades. Unlike in the US, time is on my side in Mexico. You can’t just order stuff on Amazon.com and have it shipped to you like in the States. It costs a small fortune and may never arrive.

How about groceries? We try to load up on canned goods while in the states. This can include UHT milk which does not need to be refrigerated. We might load up $400-500 worth of rice, canned beans, canned carrots, canned green beans, canned corn, and as much meat as we can freeze in the Dometic fridge. Why? It’s just easier with the kids. Once we run out of meat we generally don’t restock. We become temporary veggies. If sailing, we fish and clam. We enjoy a variety of tacos when we go out as well. Otherwise, it is not a terrible hardship not eating meat on a daily basis.

While in San Carlos we like to visit Tony’s Place for fresh fruit and vegetables. Once a week we stop by and pick up 4 apples, 4 tangelo’s, 1.5kg of key limes, a bunch of cilantro, a bunch of green onions, 2 yellow onions, 2 avocado, about 1/2 qt of Salsa Fresca (yum), two bags of tortilla chips, two packs of flour tortillas, a flat of eggs (about 2 dozen), and two liter boxes of UHT milk. This averages about 170 pesos or $12.60 per week.

What about Alcohol?

Wine can be expensive (comparatively) and frankly not very good. The new Sam’s Club in Guaymas has opened up a lot of variety for a decent price. Many times you can buy a very drinkable red wine for around 60 pesos ($4.44) at Sam’s. We like to bring a few of big box wines down with us from Tucson. When that’s gone, we move on to Tequila. There are many great Tequila’s that you find around 100 pesos per 950ml bottle. One of the best deals we’ve found is ‘El Compadre’ at Walmart in Guaymas for 46 pesos (about $3.33) per 750 ml bottle. Another favorite is ‘100 Anos’. Limes are so cheap and abundant we squeeze a few limes add Tequila and presto!

Beer is a national staple. The average six pack runs about 60 pesos ($4.44). However the best deal is the larger Ballenon (Whale) bottles which are about 1.2L in size. You have to pay a refundable deposit of 5 pesos plus another 21 pesos per bottle. When we have guests over we pick up two or three Ballenon of Victoria, Leon, Pacifico, or Dos Equiis. Each large bottle provides us 4-5 glasses of beer. We keep the bottles for next time and it costs us about $1.80 per bottle. We try to keep the beer consumption down to special events or outings in an effort to maintain our waistline.

What do our children eat and drink?

When we go out they drink Limonada made of fresh squeezed limes. My oldest likes cheese quesadilla’s and my youngest will eat almost anything. They both eat eggs, soup, fruit and veggies, UHT milk, powdered fruit drinks like tang, and they LOVE the confections from the local Mexican bakeries.

So what’s the damage for a winters season in Mexico? We budget $600 per month for living expenses and then add the costs of getting into Mexico and getting the boat in the water. This year that budget is $5600. We can actually do better than that once we are on the water. We can get closer to $400 per month for living expenses if we head off sailing. That puts our total expenses around $733 to $933 per month total.

You know an ICE COLD draft beer in Mexico is a very affordable price of approximately $1.25! Click Here to Buy Us a Beer.

3 comments to 2011 Costs on Living on a Boat in Mexico

  • a friend

    Hey every one keep a good look out for a lady that goes by Seattle Heather. also know as Heather Morris. Both her and her boyfriend are con people and plan to use there ill gotten gains by going and trying to live in mexico on there boat. They got there boat by stolen money and I am one of the people they stole money from. $100.000.00 stay far away from these two

  • I can afford that! Of course I can’t afford to leave work for six months, but if I could I would. This is a good article. It keeps me optimistic about leaving the grind at some point.

  • That’s really inspiring. I think I can afford this too. How a kids taking days in the space as small as a boat? It’s hard for me to keep my boys occupied in decent size house… Can’t imagine them on a boat for that long!