Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Puerto Escondido: a strange, sad place

We had read much about Puerto Escondido; much of it not very positive. However, another boat's recent post (Cadenza's PE report)] put PE's negatives and positives in perspective, so we decided to give it a try.

First, the good things:
- a well-protected harbour (from all wind/wave directions)
- availability of fuel
- availability of water
- availability (limited/pricey) of provisions
- a decent (albeit not cheap) restaurant (Portobello)
- borderline cell service (only at north end of mooring field, near the "windows")

We arrived to find the outer basin ("the Waiting Room"... more on this below) and middle basin ("The Ellipse") filled with boats on moorings. Turns out most of these are live-aboards. We had read that the waiting room bottom was filled with junk so were were going to give it a pass (even though it is only $1/day to moor). We headed into the main/inner basin. To our surprise, it was almost empty. Moreover, we had expected it to be filled with mooring buoys, but most were missing.

Inner basin: Looking south towards marina
Rules for the inner basin stipulate that one has to pay the same rate whether one takes a buoy or anchors. Previous reports had indicated that the mooring buoys were suspect, although the new (2013) edition of Rain's "Boating Mexico" suggested they had all been redone. This was clearly NOT the case. Most of the buoys did not have pendants (one is not supposed to tie to the ring on top of the buoys) and the numbers on most buoys were barely or not readable. We tied up to a buoy with a pendant (#40), and pulled back hard on it (it didn't move), and then dinghied in to the Fonatur office. (Later, we were told we should move to "better" -- ?? -- buoys #62-64; which we did, putting us at the far north end.)

The staff in the office were friendly. The charge for a 40-ft boat was 177 pesos/night (~$15/night). So, what do you get for this? The bathrooms, although perhaps once quite nice, but no longer: the showers had partially working doors, the faucets wobbly, cockroaches, and only cold water. Some toilets did not flush and there was no toilet paper. [While we were paying for our mooring buoy, land-based tourists came into the office because the guard at the gate would not let them drive out without proof they had paid (10 MXN each) for using the toilets. They complained about the sad state of the facilities and bargained it down to one person per car.] As with other Fonatur marinas, there was a small lap pool and (cold) "hot" tub. These pools were pretty dicey as the tiles were all coming off with lots of sharp edges -- we didn't want to test them out.

Oddly, behind the marina there are wide boulevard-like streets in wonderful condition (with painted lines, sidewalks etc), but nothing else -- guess this is another one of those non-realized housing developments. There is also a new marina ("Marina Puerto Escondido") with several side ties just past Fonatur -- it didn't seem too active, no obvious office/building, and its website indicate prices were a whopping $2/foot/night.

The "waiting room"? Well, it turns out the gringo liveaboards get upset whenever any cruiser tries to anchor there, and they try to chase them out -- we heard from two different boats who had this happen to them over the past week. So, the "Hidden Port Yacht Club" is not a very friendly place. The morning net (VHF 22, 8am) sounded friendly, but when we called in asking for information (e.g., what about the bus into Loreto?), we got only unhelpful replies. [FYI: One CAN flag down inexpensive La Paz-to-Loreto busses out at the highway, about 2 miles away. The schedule is in the Fonatur office; the first bus goes by ~12:30pm, and often after that. Taxis, when available, are said to be 500 MXN each way -- a rip off for the 15 mile journey!]

We did have a good meal in Portabello's restaurant (excellent margs, albeit pricey) and the internet for the marina worked while in the marina (not out on the buoys). Fuel and water (water: 1 MXN per 10 litres) was available at the fuel dock. The marina had a reasonably stocked tienda; 1.5 miles away at a nearby hotel was an even better store. Both, however, were quite pricey.

Overall, we found Puerto Escondido to be a very strange, sad place. Good harbour and a decent place to fillup with fuel and/or water. But a place for an extended stay? Not for us!

* Update: just heard that Pedro is closing Portobello's Restaurant and the Tienda for the Summer season 

* Update 2015/2016: apparently,  ownership (or,  at least,  management)  of the marina is no longer by FONATUR.  Big,  hopefully positive,  changes are coming to PE.

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