Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is truly a frontier — exotic, rugged and remote. Yet it’s right next door, so Baja’s picturesque shores, teeming waters and sweeping vistas are within striking distance for trailer boaters in the West.
Today, however, Mexico has a bad reputation for violence. News reports of drug cartels and bandits now have many American boaters reluctant to risk towing their rigs across the border.
Not everyone is fearful.
“We feel safer down in Baja than in the downtown areas of many California cities,” says Gloria Jones, who co-owns Vagabundos del Mar (vagabundos.com) with her husband, Fred. The 45-year-old club organizes trailer-boating caravans to Mexico.
To see for ourselves, we decided to join a Vagabundos caravan last fall.
The caravan was two weeks into a monthlong sojourn when we intercepted it near the dusty town of Ciudad Insurgentes, about 790 miles below the border.
Joe McGinnis, 68, greeted us. Tall, broad-shouldered and affable, McGinnis towed his Sea Ray 270 Amberjack into Baja from his home in Simi Valley, California, along with three other West Coast trailer boaters.
With five Baja trailer-boat trips to his credit, including three as volunteer jefe (boss), McGinnis quickly related one big advantage of a group.
A few days earlier, members had been fishing the Pacific side of Baja out of Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos when one of the boats — a Skipjack 26 flybridge owned by Ron Reinhardt, 73, of Escondido, California — broke down 70 miles from the launch site.
With no commercial towing services in this part of the world, fellow Vagabundo David Hill, 68, of Bakersfield, California, towed Reinhardt’s boat back to port with his Skipjack 28 Express. It was a 10-hour ordeal.
“Down here, there are few marine or road services,” McGinnis said, “and so the group is an important support and safety system.”
Well-maintained tow vehicles and trailers are also important. “I recommend at least a ¾-ton pickup, particularly for the size of boats we tow down here,” McGinnis said as we departed Insurgentes for Loreto, a shore town on the gulf side of Baja. McGinnis tows with a Dodge 2500 diesel crew cab and a triple-axle galvanized trailer.
“A multiaxle trailer is a must in Baja,” he said. “It lends greater stability when there are high winds or you’re blasted by a gust as a commercial truck blows by you.
“Also, if you have a flat tire, it allows you to limp to the nearest turnout, which might be miles away.”
When it comes to spare trailer tires for Baja, McGinnis has a simple rule. “You can’t have too many,” he said. “Two is minimum. Three is better.”