The northern approaches to the waterway to west Mexico actually begin anywhere along the Pacific Coast where there is a yachtsman with the time and the urge to sail to Acapulco. However, San Diego, as the most southerly U.S. port of any consequence, makes a good jumping-off place. Therefore, plan your trip from San Diego; plan it for the months between Oct. 15 and May 15, when the summer cyclones (locally called chubascos) and rainy season in west Mexico are over; and plan to be gone at least six weeks.
The best man to see about embarkation is Port Director John Bate, who has made the trip himself and will do anything reasonable to help visiting yachtsmen. Before you hurl yourself on Mr. Bate, however, you should get a vaccination certificate, without which you may get into Mexico but not back into the United States. Then go to the Mexican consulate or Government Tourist Bureau, bearing with you some proof of U.S. citizenship and pick up a Mexican tourist card. This costs $3 and is all you need to get yourself over the border. Then to get the boat and crew over the border, head out to the San Diego Yacht Club. On the way out, leave your sea bag at the Kona Kai Club on Shelter Island, easily the most pleasant place to stay ($10 to $35 per night for a cabana) along the San Diego waterfront, and only a few hundred yards from the yacht club basin. The people at the club will give you a sheaf of official-looking papers. These are your crew lists and ballast manifests, which you must fill out, noting that you are a yachtsman bent on pleasure, whose boat is traveling in ballast, i.e., not carrying cargo.
Give the ballast manifest and crew list to the Mexican consulate.
Now you are ready for the final taking on of stores, making certain you have everything you need (see page 46) before you shove off down a coast that has perhaps one completely equipped ship chandlery in the next 1,535 miles. If you would prefer to have someone else worry about all these details, call a customs broker like Miss Marguerite Capps at 772 State Street. Miss Capps, or her equivalent, will, for upward of $14, put you straight with the Mexican consulate, and load the boat as well. If it's your first trip, you might do well to call her; it's easier to profit from her knowledge than from your own mistakes.
This done, you should be ready to head out, planning at least five long days and nights to get around to La Paz. A slow auxiliary, particularly one with a family crew that doesn't care to be driven day and night, may want to take a couple of weeks, anchoring at night and navigating the tricky coastline only by daylight. Whichever way you do it, don't look for any bright lights and luxuries along the way. This is pure adventure in rough, primitive surroundings, unlike anything you have ever seen before—which, after all, is the best possible reason for going.
Now you are out of the United States. The food is different and the towns are different. Most particularly, the people have a different way of doing things, and you may as well get used to it. For example, after you have slid through the entrance channel into Guaymas Bay and dropped off the stone quay of the inner harbor, you must tell the various officials you have arrived. They already know this, of course, but they have to stamp your crew list and ballast manifest, and certify some more copies for the CAPTAIN OF THE PORT at your next stop. If you have arrived during official working hours, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., these services should cost you nothing. But after hours be prepared to shell out an overtime fee of from 35 to 70 pesos.
So pay the fee and don't squawk. Mexicans are proud, particularly of their official positions; and they are rarely in as big a hurry as Americans. If you start pounding desks, you will get nowhere.
Now you can start worrying about the boat. If there is anything wrong with it, move it around to Construcciones Navales, where they have a 70-ton and a 35-ton MARINE RAILWAY. If all you need is supplies, leave the boat where it is and go to Proveedora de Buques (a first-rate ship chandlery), Casa Murillo (for DRY GROCERIES like sugar, flour, coffee, etc.) and to the public market place for MEAT and FRESH VEGETABLES.