Port Status Information Gulf of California during Coronavirus Pandemic

As I’ve previously mused on this blog, I’m often driven batty by needless wading through seas of poor information to get accurate, concise kernels of truth. This phenomenon is by no means exclusive to the cruising community, but I find it particularly at play. 

In that light, since I’ve recently resurfaced into connectivity, I’ve been making a lot of phone calls to understand the situation as it pertains to recreational marine traffic (sailboats and other yachts) here in the Gulf of California at this stage of the pandemic. Although this info is subject to change, all of it comes from my own conversations with primary sources (Port Captains, API offices, CONANP offices, Haul Yards), so there is no hearsay. I recognize (and lament) that this info is most pertinent to the very people who will be unable to come across this webpage due to lack of internet connectivity, but, hell, maybe it’ll help somebody. 

The primary, overarching reality is this: all recreational marine traffic has been suspended by government mandate. Direct transit between certain recognized Ports is still permitted but technically only direct passage; cruising activities (anchoring, harbor hopping, leisure sailing) are technically prohibited. This is obviously not being enforced, but all subsequent info below comes with this main caveat. This means if you are anchoring anywhere in the Gulf of California that is not a designated Municipal Port/Harbor, you are not in compliance. I’m not trying to preach here–after all, I too am in that group–I’m just trying not to mince words. Mexico’s message is very clear: go to a recognized Port and stay there.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, many Ports are no longer open for refuge. Current as of April 21, 2020 what follows are the respective statuses of most main harbors in the Gulf of California (South to North):

  • Mazatlán: (Capitanía: 669 982 8413 ) The port is closed for all entry and exit of recreational marine traffic.
  • La Paz:   La Paz Harbor (Capitanía: 612 122 2035 ) open for all incoming traffic, to Marinas or to anchor near Malecón/Mulegé like normal. Update April 24: port is closed to departures, excepting commercial fishing vessels with crews of 2 or less. All departures are to “destination ports” not leisure cruising. Talleres Bercovich (Abel’s direct line: 612 157 7572) has shut down all haulout/operations for the time being.
  • Islas Espíritu Santo or Partida: (La Paz CONANP office: 612 128 4171) Per the Port Captain of La Paz, no anchoring is permitted near either island. However, like in Loreto, enforcement falls under CONANP’s purview, who declines to do so at this at this time.
  • Altata: (Capitanía: 672 728 9015 ) The port is closed for all entry and exit of recreational vessels. However, if you/your vessel is in imminent danger, the Port Captain has stated he is willing to make exceptions.
  • Topolobampo: (Capitanía: 668 862 0128) The port is closed for all entry of recreational marine traffic. However, the Port Capitain has said that if you are in authorized transit, you may enter to purchase fuel, provided you leave immediately after finishing the transaction.
  • Agua Verde: (not an official port, but a safe weather anchorage) townspeople remain welcoming of cruisers. The tienda is open and stocked for provisioning (new deliveries typically Wednesdays). Residents ask that cruisers wear masks, carry sanitizer (if possible), and do not loiter in town or on beachfront
  • Marina Puerto Escondido: (office: 613 131 8097) You may use the fuel and water dock at your convenience (come and go as you please). They request that you do not leave the dock in person while tied up. In contrast, if you take a mooring ball or marina slip, you may only exit to a “destination port” not to come and go at anchorage. As of April 20, there remain a few spots available for haul out to their Marina Seca, and a handful of open mooring balls.
  • Parque Nacional Loreto (Islas Danzante, Carmen, Coronados, etc): The local CONANP office (613 135 0477) says that with regards to their purview, private marine traffic / anchoring at the islands (but not islotes) is permitted at sandy beach areas only (not rocky areas or reefs). Basically, business as usual as far as their particular enforcement goes.
  • Loreto: The port captain says all entry/anchoring requests should go through the local API office. The API office (613 135 0114) says that under no circumstances is anchoring and entry into the city permitted at this time. They direct all traffic to Marina Puerto Escondido for safe harbor and reprovisioning. ...For what it’s worth, one singlehander I recently spoke to revealed that she anchored just north of town and walked in undisturbed last week. So (as always) there is a gap between what can be done and what is officially allowed.
  • Guaymas: (Capitanía: 622 222 2525) The port is closed for all entry and exit of recreational marine traffic
  • Marina San Carlos; (marina office: 622 226 1061) The Port of San Carlos is closed, except for “essential activities”. This status permits entry to inbound recreational vessels if they are destined for the marina (in-water or marina seca). The marina remains open and operating.
  • Puerto Peñasco: The port is closed for all arrivals and departures. I spoke with Salvador Cabrales of Astilleros Cabrales Boat Yard ( direct line: 638 112 0204 ) who said he believes (this is conjecture) that it will open in May. Currently they can negotiate extenuating circumstances with the port to haul the occasional boat, provided a two week quarantine (in the water or in marina Seca) for those aboard. So, it sounds like there’s a little wiggle room even now.

When I last left port I carried the conviction that I was doing the right thing given the circumstances, a rare win-win of following social distancing while maintaining the perks of a cruiser’s lifestyle. However, I’m no longer so confident of that calculus. Even though I remain well distanced from society and therefore (I remain convinced) not contributing directly to the danger, my very presence in these waters would seem to be in defiance of sovereign rule here. As a citizen of another country, is that really my right to unilaterally assert? Hmm. I won’t dictate to any other cruisers what your answer to that should be, but I’ll just say that it’s weighing heavily on my own mind.

Whatever decisions you make, please stay safe and I hope this information has helped.

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