05/03/2012, Common Q & A on the issue
Since we just spent a budget staggering (for us anyway) $425 for 132.6 gallons of diesel and 7.2 gallons of gas, it seems like a good opportunity to try and demystify the Mexico Diesel and Gas situation and talk a little about two things every cruiser needs: Gas and Diesel.
A common question new cruisers have as they get ready to head South of the Boarder is about fuel: Diesel and Gas. Since the cost of diesel and gas in most West Coast US Marina's is oftentimes $0.75 to a full $1.00 above the prices you see at car and truck stations, the question of fuel costs in Mexico is an important cruising budget issue. There is also considerable confusion about just what the going rate for fuel in Mexico actually is on a per gallon basis since the confusion of selling gas and diesel in Liters rather than gallons is compounded by the varying fees added onto the purchase price at the pump and the dollar Peso exchange rate. The varying fees often lead to the standard "Cruise Rumor" of the local fuel dock "over charging" or trying to "take advantage" of the gringo cruisers. While it is true that certain fuel stations are known to "over meter" the fuel they sell, how else would 6.5 gallons of gas fit in a 5 gallon fuel can, it's not the norm, but still something to keep an eye out for.
All fuel prices for Gas and Diesel are set by the Mexican Government through their State owned Gas Company known as Pemex; however, different areas (or zones) of the Country have different fuel prices. Fuel in zones near the US border is priced higher for example.
If the Government sets the price for a liter of gas and diesel at the pump, then why do pay different prices from dock to dock? That is where the "Fees" come into play. Fuel docks add on a percentage of anywhere form 6% t0 20% depending on where they are and just how "captive" they have you when you need fuel. Now this is where it can get confusing. If you carry your fuel jugs to the floating dock, then you won't have to pay the extra "docking fee" but if you come and land at the dock in your dingy or with your boat...bingo...your fuel just got up to 20% more expensive.
This is where the beauty of San Blas, comes into play, because several hundred feet away from the Marina fuel dock is the concrete municipal dock that also fills cars and trucks. There is NO "docking fee" at the municipal dock so why would I go to the Marina fuel dock and pay 10% extra? That's taco money baby!
So to talk prices. Listed on the diesel and gas pump are:
$10.45P per Liter for Diesel
$10.09P per Liter for Gas
Or translated into US Dollars and gallons at a 13-1 exchange rate:
$3.05/Gallon for Diesel
$2.94/Gallon for Gas
THIRD DAY is "said to carry" 350 gallons of diesel, so in taking on 132 gallons we theoretically still had 218 gallons in our tanks. But here's the problem and why I say "said to carry". We have no diesel tank fuel gauge (most boats don't by the way) and we haven't ran the boat completely out of diesel to then be able to top it back off and actually verify this 350 number! Yes I know, we can keep track of engine hours and RPMs and then estimate how our 1/2 fill level by running out either the port or starboard fuel tank, but running a boats fuel tank dry is never high on anyone's "to do list", so the actual fuel tankage of the boat will continue to remain something of a little mystery. As long as we can motor from La Paz to Turtle Bay to fill up before going back to San Diego this July, then I'll be happy. Because at $3.05/gallon, you can bet we will be leaving Mexico with full fuel tanks before entering the States!
What about dirty fuel?
We have always filled our tanks using a Baja filter that separates out water and particulates. We have NEVER seen water in our fuel but have occasionally seen come particles and scum in the strainer and in the fuel can bottoms. So just to keep the fuel system happy (and to keep the engine from dying when we need it most) we always add a diesel fuel additive to kill bacteria each time we put diesel into the fuel tank. The type that actually dissolves their dead bodies is better than the kind that just kills them, because a dead bacteria body will clog a fuel filter just as well as a live bacteria body! Our approach still has us using our original fuel prefilters form when we brought this boat down to Mexico in August of 2010 after making the boat swap, so something must be working or we are lucky. But I've often said, I'd rather be lucky than good.
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03/23/2012, A Rate "Must Have" from Mr Go Simple
My "go now and go simple" attitude to cruising doesn't come with a long list of "must have" items and cruising gear. But I have to admit, the new electronic charts just released by the authors of my two favorite cruising guides get added to my "must have" list.
The subject of electronic charts being "off" for many places in Mexico always comes up when your GPS shows you anchored in the middle of an island or 500ft inland on the La Paz Malacon. We have been using the two Mexico cruising guides by Sean and Heather for years and love them and tell anyone planning a cruise to Mexico to buy the two guide books, even if you have to cut out a few tacos, they are that valuable!
We are excited that they now have the data and way points listed in their books available on a downloadable program that you can load on your Ipad, Iphone, or computer that overlays their charts and data with Google earth and other charting programs. These new electronic charts from them are a great option for those looking for a cheap and accurate charting solution for their time cruising Mexico. It's also a bonus that they are fellow cruisers and great people themselves, which can make you feel good about buying their products and supporting their cruising kitty!
You can check out the New Electronic Charts as well as their books at their website here BlueLatitudepress.com
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01/04/2012, A Detailed Review of Every Dollar Spent
If you ask the cruise dreamers what the No 1 thing keeping them from turning the cruise dream into reality, most would say money. While it's true that even cheap cruising costs money and boats are not free, we managed to cruise quite comfortably on an average of $1,435 per month for a yearly total of $17,225. The US Poverty level for a family of four is $22,314, so I guess we are officially living in poverty according to the Government statistics.
You can review the details at the Link to the 2011 Cost of Cruising Summary.
Looking over the numbers and their percentage breakdown, it's easy to see where the money goes: Tacos and Gas for 34%! Food, in the form of groceries and restaurants, account for 24% of our spending with fuel (propane, diesel, and gas) making up 10%. The other large category was routine and unexpected boat maintenance at 30%. 60% of our spending was on the boat or on food.
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