It is hard to know what to expect when cruising in Mexico before you get here. Many supplies and provisions that you thought would be plentiful are not available and many items that you never thought you would see again are readily available and cheaper in Mexico. We intend to provide some insight into preparation for an extended cruise in Mexican waters. We have only been to Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Mazatlan so our perspective is not complete but it should still be helpful for those who have not cruised in Mexico. We will assume that you will depart from San Diego.
Planning your trip down can be easy or hard. We went the easy route and came down in the Baja HaHa. A discussion on our choice is in the Ports of Call section under Baja HaHa.
Charts for Mexico are not very good. The US DMA charts are about the best but many are still based on surveys from last century. We found that they were off by over half a mile around Isla San Francisco near La Paz. Buying them on CD or chart chip doesn't help as they are still lifted from the DMA charts. You may take from this that you don't need current charts but current charts will still be updated for reported hazards so the newer the better. We haven't found better charts in Mexico and DMA charts are hard to come by here so you should get your charts in the US before you leave.
Boat spares and maintenance supplies are hard to come by in Mexico. Basic stuff like varnish and sand paper can be found but unless it is produced in Mexico it will be more expensive. Anything specific to sailboats will be very difficult to find. We use Cetol and we are glad we brought plenty because cruisers are often begging for it on the VHF nets. We have had to scramble for replacement blocks and track cars trading with other cruisers and we now have a good spare inventory. These things are not available through retail outlets here and you can't just have them mailed down for fear of them disappearing or being slapped with a 50% tax. Downwind Marine in San Diego will place items with people sailing or driving down but it may take from a week to a month to arrive and anything expensive takes longer because most people don't want to risk taking it over the border. Plan ahead and bring the spares and maintenance items you might need.
We use Chevron Delo 400 oil for our diesel and it was available in La Paz but we can't find it in Mazatlan. We also can't find a source for Yanmar parts. Many commercial diesel manufacturers have representatives in Mazatlan. There are good diesel mechanics and shops that can fabricate most metal parts you need to stock plenty of filters, biocide with lubricant, impellers, special belts etc.
As amazing as this sounds you can't get good fishing tackle in Mazatlan or in La Paz. Cabo was well stocked but expensive. From experience and asking around the things that work best are:
You should also get steel leader, heavy swivels, weights from 4 oz. to 1 lb. and 2 dozen each of single, double and triple hooks about 1 1/2 inches long. You need to fish with very strong gear because you can't stop when you catch a fish. I personally heard of the loss of thousands of dollars of fishing gear just in the Baja Haha. We contributed to the total.
Mexico offers a wide variety and good selection of food. Most items you will need are available in here and if you have no plans to continue then you don't need to carry a lot of canned goods or "Only in the US" items.
Items that are widely available in Mexico include:
Items available if you shop around:
Items we haven't found yet: