On September 9, we published a story about the effects COVID regulations and conditions are having on cruisers in Mexico. We know not everyone’s experience is going to be the same, but it’s always good to hear from people on the ground who can tell us what they’ve learned. Elinore Craig responded to our story with her thoughts on the cruising life in pandemic-affected Mexico, and we published her comments in this month’s ‘Letters’. In the meantime, Elinore sent us more information, so below is her original letter, plus the updates (and some fun pics).
“Here is a detailed description of life on the ground in the Bahia de Banderas, which straddles two states. We are living aboard s/v Nakamal in Marina La Cruz, which is north of Marina Vallarta and Paradise Village. We fly into Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco (where Marina Vallarta is), but our marina is in the state of Nayarit. Costco, Home Depot and the marine store, Zaragosa’s, are all in Jalisco. Consequently, since COVID became part of our daily lives, we have had to navigate the policies of two different Mexican states.
“As of late September, beaches are open in Jalisco, but not in Nayarit. In Jalisco you can go to a beach restaurant for a wonderful pescado zarandeado (fish taco) and launch your SUP from the beach. But the large family gatherings, beach volleyball, etc. are still not allowed. We are hopeful that more restrictions will be lifted in the next few weeks.
“Another local difference we’ve had to deal with is ley seca (dry laws) forbidding alcohol sales. The logic is that drinking leads to gatherings, gatherings lead to disease spread. Nayarit’s governor is more inclined to call ley seca around national holidays than Jalisco’s governor, so knowing when to stock up, or arranging a trip to the Costco in Jalisco, is part of the pandemic life we’ve learned to deal with. Note that usually the Nayarit government allows restaurants in the “tourist zone” to serve alcohol even during ley seca.
“Since the restart, we have been going to many different restaurants. Upscale eateries are following protocols to a “T”. You are likely to be greeted at the door, handed a facemask if you don’t have one, have your temperature scanned, then be asked to hold out your hands for a shot of sanitizer. More frequently, we find that the menus are provided via a QCR code and read on your phone. The same procedure is followed at the large, upscale shopping locales including grocery stores. Very few restaurants here are completely enclosed with air conditioning. We choose open-air seating whenever we can.
“At the less costly end, a visit to your local taqueria or street vendor requires no temp checks, and there is hand sanitizer available should you want it. Ditto local tiendas (neighborhood grocery stores).
“Tracking COVID numbers here is a crapshoot. For example, an expat couple I know were diagnosed based on symptoms and CAT scans, but never had a COVID test. They therefore aren’t in the official count (both recovered at home). Hospitals may report operating at 28% full, but that is based on total capacity — local COVID wards were reported as full a few weeks ago. So much like in the US, use the numbers to track trends, but be aware that the actual spread of the virus is much wider.
“COVID or no COVID, it’s good to have a plan for medical care — insurance coverage for the private care system. And if you are staying in one place for extended periods, ask around about clinics or doctors that people have used, BEFORE you need one. This advice is based on a non-COVID experience we had soon after arriving in Mexico, in 2015.
“Probably the biggest change in our summer lifestyle has been not taking the local buses. The combis/colectivos are a marvelous public transport system, but physical spacing is impossible on them. We have been walking, using taxis, sometimes Uber, and relying on the kindness of our car-owning friends. As the COVID numbers have been dropping lately, we’ve been taking buses for short trips as they are required to run with reduced capacity and open windows. The buses run so frequently that we can hop off and wait for another one if we feel uncomfortable.
“I just want to close by saying that life here is extremely manageable, if somewhat modified. The people continue to be friendly, welcoming, and grateful for our support. And it’s exciting to see preparations taking place waiting for YOU to arrive!”
Elinore and her partner John Ryan call Tucson, AZ, home, but in 2014 they decided to “sell everything and live on a boat.” They found their sailboat, a 1999 Island Packet 380, in San Diego. After a month or so of interstate-shuffling, they became full-time liveboards on Christmas Eve. The following October they sailed to Mexico with the 2015 Baja Ha-Ha. Elinore says they are now “La Cruz summertime liveaboards, and high-season Gold Coast cruisers” — they spend summers in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, then join the migration south to Tenacatita/Barra de Navidad for the winter high season, and north to Mazatlan/La Paz for spring high season.
“The reason we originally chose the Bay of Banderas area for our summer home is the natural hurricane protection that the bay and surrounding mountains offer. But after cruising to different areas, we have come to appreciate the variety of goods and services offered here, as well as the many options for first-rate healthcare,” Elinore added.