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Mexico: The Fruit of Our Labors

We made it- finally!

Despite the endlees list of things to do and other mindless paperwork that is getting backed up, we headed south to San Carlos with an overstuffed Suburban not knowing quite what to expect.  We bought the boat in late June and to that point had not even spent one night aboard!

In the meantime San Carlos was hit by a tropical storm that dumped 26 inches of rain in 24 hours on the small town in September.  Then heavy winds hit San Carlos in late December bringing 65kn winds that drove 8 boats off their moorings and onto shore.  That was actually worse than the tropical storm.

We didn’t know what to expect.  Would the boat be damaged?  Water logged?  Scavenged?  We didn’t even speak of the worst possibility- sunk!

In a perfect world it is a 5 hour drive to San Carlos.  You have to stop for the tourist visa and purchase Mexican car insurance once you arrive and that can take some time.  You can get a 7 days tourist visa for free.  If you want to stay longer a visa will cost you about $20 US per person and it’s the same price if you stay 8 days or 6 months.  We opted for the 6 months visa.  We also went ahead and sprang for 3 months worth of car insurance.  The car insurance may cost you $35 for 3 days or $280 for the whole year. Depending on your frequency of travel across the border there is a definite break point on just buying a longer policy.  The whole process took about an hour but it means that we can avoid this stop on the following trips.

We arrived at dusk in San Carlos.  No chance of getting our little dinghy off the boat and making the dozen or so trips back and forth to the boat- much less finding the boat in the dark.  We stayed at the Best Western across from Charley’s Rock that we enjoyed on our last trip out during the blazing heat of summer.

We did take a quick reconnoiter of the bay and we found our boat quietly floating in the bay (on a different mooring than the one we left it in July) just as it was when we left.  No worries, things work differently in Mexico and you just need a little faith that things will work out.

We opted to hire a panga (work boat) to haul us and the truck load of goods to the boat instead of a dozen trips back and forth.  On the boat, it was shockingly in good shape!  Despite the storms, the rain, the beating sun, and god knows what else, our little floating oasis was, yes, still floating and looked to be in the same condition as when we left so long ago.

The following five days were in exercise in shuffling.  You know that little plastic game with 8 little squares that you shuffle around the box grid to put all the pieces in the correct order- that’s what we did.  We moved everything from one side of the boat, cleaned, sorted, discarded, then repacked everything.  The the other side, then the head, then the master berth, then the galley- for a small boat there’s a lot of spaces to clean!

By the end of day 5, I could see poop encrusted cockpit.  Another day of scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing and we actually had a fairly functional home.

I managed to get most of the systems working.  I had to port water for dishwashing and bathing from the marina in 5 gallon containers to the boat, but the pump worked fine.  Suprisingly, the instant on propane hot water heater worked after some cleanup.  The head worked fine, which is surprising given the notoriety of marine heads.  The propane system works but I don’t trust it enough to leave the gas on all the time.  We turn the main gas off at the tank after were finished cooking.

I replaced the starting battery and house battery with two marine 110 amp hour deep cycle batteries.  The 15 amp charger doesn’t appear to work but we had the 2kw Honda generator which has a built-in 8amp battery charger.

The electrical system suffers from corrosion.  Half the lights need the connections cleaned off to get them to work reliably.  It’s a slow process but not a terribly difficult one.

The only appliance we couldn’t get to work was the Dometic electric/propane fridge.  Back in Tucson, I’m reading up on the unit to take another stab at it when we go back but otherwise we’ll just save up for a new compressor down the road.  We had a cooler for the cold food and buying ice was no problem.

The pace of life slows down, especially with the two little ones.  We end up juggling kids.  One of us can be productive while the other wrangles children.  Never the less, each day was full from dawn to dusk.

The kids quickly adjusted to the sunrise/sunset schedule.  Emma for the first time started regularly conking out between seven and eight pm.  Charley also started sleeping longer and longer during the night to Hil’s delight.

With the television out of sight and out of mind, Emma and I took regular excursions in our little dinghy, “Rock Hopper” to shore or the pebble beach nearby to let her stretch her legs and explore.  A short boat ride and an hour on the beach and Emma could barely make it through dinner before falling asleep.

The Mexican people are kind and loving people- especially towards children.  The younger the better it seems!  We had Mommasitas of all ages come right over and pluck the children out of our arms regardless of the language barrier.

As we started packing up to return to Tucson to work a weekend festival, we decided that we would much rather enjoy the time on the boat as much as we could this season instead of packing in a bunch of shows in Arizona.  Despite the ever dwindling cash, we feel fulfilled and rejuvenated on the boat.  We’ve found you can work as much and as hard as you want but the one thing you never get back is time.

Besides what are we working for?  We’re working to spend time with our kids on our boat.  So why miss that by working more?

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.

7 comments to Mexico: The Fruit of Our Labors

  • Tom H

    Congratulations on a successful trip south. Thanks for sharing your experiences. BTW, I read “Simple Prosperity”. (Thank you San Diego County Library.) Good book. I’ve always been a big fan of Thoreau’s, “On Walden Pond.” “Simple Prosperity” is the same perspective applied to the 21st Century. Now I’m looking to find “The Best Life Money Can’t Buy” by Andy Deering. A fella needs all the inspiration he can get. 8-D

    Keep up the good work!

    Tom H
    El Cajon, CA

  • BrokeNotBroken

    Congratulations on making it back to Mexico and the boat. I’m sure that the family will enjoy the respite. It is very good for one’s morale to make headway towards one’s goals. There is nothing more frustrating than beating into the wind and having zero velocity made good. For us, we have FINALLY become debt free and saved up enough to purchase our first boat. She is small, and cheap, but we hope she will be the first step towards a life more fulfilling. By this, I don’t mean that the boat will be the panacea, but rather we hope that she will transport us away from those things that distract us from what we hold as most important–spending time as a family.

    BTW, I just reread, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.

  • Hi JC,

    So happy to see that you guys finally got to spend more time on the cat. Can’t believe it has been since last summer! I’m looking forward to more pretty sailboat and water pictures!

    Happy for you guys.

  • Tom H-
    I’m reading “The Best Life Money Can’t Buy” now, I got it on Amazon. Deering is a pretty good writer, and he uses stories from his own life to drive home his points of living for yourself and not being a slave to money, rather making the money work for you.

  • big cheese

    Hi Tom H-

    I read Deerings book. It was actually sent to me by another reader of the blog! I think there’s a lot that can be learned from Deering but every course is slightly different. With the Kiddos, some form of health care is important for us. Otherwise, we’re pretty much on the same page. Timing is also another issue. Andy’s route started early in life. A lot of us changed course later in life and we can’t catch up in time. We’ll need to come up with a slightly abbreviated plan than Andy’s.

    All that being said, a little over a year since we cast off the bowline from a more traditional life and our lives now look vaguely similar to what Andy discusses in his book.

    At this time in our economy, I do agree with Deering about real estate- more of an anchor than an investment.

  • Hi JC-

    I just read the chapter last night about real estate as an anchor. We are experiencing that right now. We would have left the area and jobs we have if not for owning our house. Fortunately we bought a “fixer-upper” and have finished the lion’s share of the work, so we’ll have some equity when it comes time to sell it later this spring. Knowing that the work we have done will let us get out from under the weight of ownership is a relief. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be under water like so many homeowners now are. I can understand why so many of them are walking away from their houses, realizing that foreclosure is a better option than trying to make the payments. That kind of gets to another of Deering’s points, where you factor in the cost in time, as time is the one resource you can’t get back.

  • big cheese

    It’s sad but true. Valuation is still too high for real estate to be a good investment (for me) at this time. You can’t make enough appreciation or rental income on a piece of property to overcome the maintenance, mortgage, taxes, and insurance costs that escalate every year wiping out the appreciation. People also forget that when it comes time to sell a piece of real estate you might only realize 90% of the max value. The other 10% is paid out in fees or negotiations.

    Besides, true to real estate, it is an immovable object that requires a lot of attention- i.e. a real anchor.