October 26, 2010

Cross-Border Shopping—What do Mexico-based Cruisers Buy in the US?

 We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to get almost everything you need in Mexico. There’s so much more available now than 14-years-ago--especially in the the bigger cities with their Costcos and Walmarts. The stuff that’s still hard to get are the specialty items—brand name shoes, marine electronics, good chocolate, affordable wine... That’s the stuff you need to bring down with you—or do without.

Like just about every other sailboat we know, we keep a running list of ‘stuff we want’. The idea is that whenever someone is coming down (or someone from down here is doing a trip up) we can put in an order and stock back up.

This time it’s us doing the border run. I’m off to Arizona for a work conference and Maia and Evan will be picking me up. So for the past two weeks we’ve been ordering up a storm. First on the list is a VHF radio with an AIS receiver. An Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a tracking system that identifies big ships and gives their course and speed. We have a black box AIS receiver we never hooked up thorough our computer—but the simple VHF version has been getting such rave reviews (and it takes a few levels of complexity out of the process) that we’ve decided to go with one.

Next on our list are a couple of spare high power adapters for amplifying shore-based wi-fi signals. We’re not sure if we’re simply really hard on the little adapters (they’re not marinized and the components tend to rust despite having sealed the unit in a watertight box) but we’ve gone through two in the past year. So we’re ordering two more.

We’re also getting a new prop for our outboard engine. Although the goal is to avoid whacking the prop, we’ve clearly hit bottom with it one too many times. We had it welded and pounded back into shape in La Paz—but the distorted prop is taking its toll on our speed and fuel consumption.

While we’re up there we’re also going to stock up on other items where quality is an issue: sunscreen (US sunscreen has better active ingredients than Mexican versions of the same brands), shoes for Evan and Maia, chocolate (of course…), vitamins (because we drink RO water our diet is lacking in trace minerals so vitamins are important) and favourite food items. We’re also planning to pick-up loose-leaf paper and three-ring binders for Maia—for whatever both are nearly impossible to find here.

The key though is that list. It’s all too easy in the land of consuming to get a bit carried away. Purchases that seem perfectly reasonable in the store end up eating up our cruising budget and sinking our water line…

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