Cruising thoughts on Puerto Penasco
25 September 2009 | how do we rate Puerto Penasco?
As I should start every blog post where I give advice, the following is only our opinion and is influenced by our cruising style and view of life. I'm in no way trying to sound like an authority on cruising or how others should cruise. All I know, and sometimes poorly, is what works for us and what we like. So with that said, maybe I can cut off the hand-full emails that I often get for expressing an opinion that may be against the standard cruiser itinerary or flow of thinking. (Na, who am I kidding, no one reads warning labels!)
From the moment we arrived in Puerto Penasco, we felt like we were missing something, like something wasn't right, but we just couldn't figure it out. The harbor entrance was easy and well marked with plenty of depth for our 4ft 6in draft, even larger boats would have no problem. There were five marinas's to choose from for moorage and we are paying $10.4/day US, which is dirt cheap for Mexico. Taxi service will take you anywhere in town for $1.75US. There is a Super Ley with a fabulous selection and prices of meats and veggies. Everyone we have met around the marina and town has been exceptionally nice and welcoming to us. A great ice cream shop is within easy walking distance down the Malacon from our marina. There is a haul out facility here for standard bottom painting and such, although it is a bit dirty and old.
So what's wrong? What are we missing? What doesn't feel right?
What's wrong is that we can't find anything wrong, nor anything missing; however, according to almost everything we heard about Puerto Penasco before getting here, something doesn't feel right because everything IS so right about this town!
We are frankly amazed that a great place like this to provision, and make a 4hr drive by rental car to the States, isn't a cruisers hot spot after seeing only small low selection tiendas since leaving La Paz. A constant complaint we have heard about the northern Sea of Cortez and the Bahia de Los Angeles (BLA) area is the lack of provisions, now we don't necessarily agree with that after finding everything except meats in BLA, but here we are in provisioning paradise only 100nm north of one of the best anchorages we have found to date (Refugio) in the BLA area. To us, this seems like a natural stop during a Sea of Cortez summer to reprovision before turning around and starting to work your way south again.
Sure there is a 23ft tidal movement here, but that just means the marina dock polls are taller when at low tide and maybe the walk up the marina ramp is more steep than typical. It's actually cool to see, rather than something that worries us. Along the lines of negatives we can think of, would be the lack of anchoring out, but with five marinas all wanting your business, it didn't take us long to have a bidding war going for where we would be keeping THIRD DAY. The water is shallow up here (we motored for 50 miles in 120ft of water) and that can cause some nasty chop if strong winds pop up, so that's a negative. And lastly, here is all there is. I mean, besides Puerto Penasco, you have San Felipe 67 miles to the SW and then the Puerto Refugio anchorage 100 miles to the south. Ok, that is a negative when you compare it to most of the Sea of Cortez where you can easily anchorage hop without the need for an overnight trip. But when you consider you are only 4hrs away form the States with a $40 rental car and have a Super Ley only a $1.75 taxi ride away form the harbor, I think the positives by far outweigh the negatives.
What about the tourist town nature of Penasco? Absolutely, this is a gringo tourist Condo town, no doubt about it and in that; Puerto Penasco has the same feel to us as La Paz. But the location of the harbor puts you on the outskirts of the touristy parts of town and I actually like the feel of Penasco better than that of La Paz. To not give a false comparison, La Paz by FAR blows away Penasco when it comes to availability and selection of marine gear and supplies. If you are not a rusty old shrimp boat then you most likely won't find anything here that isn't carried at the local Ace hardware.
Knowing what we now know about spending the summer in the Sea of Cortez, we would recommend a stop in Puerto Penasco for those going north for hurricane season. We looked for the monsters, we looked for the missing things and the negatives that seem to have kept most cruisers from coming this far north, but all we have came up with is another hole in the cruising conventional wisdom - again.