Our first cruising season in Mexico has come to an end. While we will be spending the summer with our families in Europe, Fortitude X is staying behind: safe and sound at Cabrales Boat Yard in Puerto Penasco.
From the moment we reserved our spot on the hard a year ago, we felt like we were in good hands. Communication with Salvador Cabrales Jr. has been competent and prompt; the boatyard manual touches on all aspects of interest for cruisers, including general weather patterns in the northern Sea of Cortez, local services and amenities, FAQ’s and haul preparation.
The Cabrales WhatsApp group is another amazing resource: the cruising community is super helpful and always willing to share tips, information, and tools. You need a ride or parcel pick-up? Somebody will jump in to help out; it truly reminded me of the BCA culture, with the mantra of fostering seamanship and friendship.
And then there is the Cabrales family: in business for three generations since 1946, Salvador’s grandfather started out with a commercial yard, serving local fishermen like himself, mainly focused on harvesting shrimp shipped to the northern neighbours. The urgency to prevent a tiny Mexican porpoise from extinction changed everything. The number of Vaquita Marina Whales, only found in the Sea of Cortez, dropped to as few as 15, with most of them dying in illegal fishing nets (more info).
The US threat to boycott catches from the Sea of Cortez punished all local commercial fishermen and limited fishing activities in the area. With the impending US embargo affecting the entire industry, Salvador III started a website promoting the boat yard and its hurricane safe location to pleasure crafts from across the globe. What started with the first cruising vessel in June 2012, increased to a record number of more than 140 boats this season, with the majority (80%) of clients coming from the US and Canada, followed by European, Australians, and other countries.
Although several services are offered by Cabrales, it is fair to say that skilled labour is hard to find and Cabrales is more or less a “do-it-yourself” yard.
Having said that, father and son are a wealth of knowledge and will always refer you to specialty stores or experts to help with your boat projects and needs. They have recommendations for rental apartments in Puerto Penasco, and share their favourite restaurants if you ask. Being dual citizens, and frequent border crossers, the Cabrales are experts in all shuttle, customs, import and duty-free questions.
There has not been a day where we haven’t seen father or son, usually both of them, operating the lift, catching lines, or attending to customers in the yard. They are always around. When I mentioned this to Salvador Jr. he confessed that he adopted his ancestors’ motto “There is no substitution for being physically present”. And it pays off.
The yard is almost at capacity; future plans to include a marina and additional amenities will make this a true cruisers gem in the northern Sea of Cortez.
Cabrales is a true family business, with some of their employees having been with the team for more than 30 years – that tells me a lot about a company.
For more information, feel free to contact Salvador at this email.
Some might say it’s a long way up to Puerto Penasco but it is beautiful; some of our favourite anchorages along the way (Puerto Refugio on Isla Angel de la Guarda, Isla Tiburon, Bahia de las Animas, Isla Coronado) make this a terrific and memorable trip and a “Grand Finale” before concluding your cruising season.
Puerto Penasco is lively and offers a number of provisioning options. TNC’s such as Uber and Lyft haven’t arrived yet but it’s easy to hail a cab or rent a car in town.
And before I forget, you’ll find one of the best taco trucks right around the corner from the boat yard. Lucio from El Patron, serves a mean Quesadilla and is open every day, starting at 5pm – except on Taco Tuesdays.