Making a Home in Mexico (Part II)

Three weeks had passed since my guy and I left behind a bedraggled bungalow in Baja. Right before Christmas, and New Year’s, and that little thing called our wedding, we decided to make one more trip down to Mexico with a handy friend and his pickup truck, toting along a few furnishings to outfit our…

Linda Ly
View from my home in Mexico

Three weeks had passed since my guy and I left behind a bedraggled bungalow in Baja. Right before Christmas, and New Year’s, and that little thing called our wedding, we decided to make one more trip down to Mexico with a handy friend and his pickup truck, toting along a few furnishings to outfit our new home with.

And by a few, I mean a lot.

All loaded up and ready to go

Piled high past the roof were memory foam mattresses and pillows, rolls of towels and blankets and sheets, enough power tools and batteries to run a whole village, a handful of hand-me-down cushions for our fire pit, a few plastic bins brimming with our mismatched collections of kitchenware, and a stack of salvaged lumber from neighbors and alleys, all destined for Mexico. And some surfboards, of course.

We headed south before the sun was even up. It was one of those nights where we stayed up until the wee hours — packing and inventorying and list-making — and got just a wink of sleep before the dreaded alarm went off. But six hours after we got on the road, our sleepiness finally wore off when we were greeted with this view… our own surf break, right in front of our surf shack.

Our own private surf break

Our pug thought it was wheelie cool too!

Our pug having a wheelie good time

Even though the west coast has had an uncommonly cold winter, this is really the best time of year to visit the beaches of Baja. Mornings start off with brilliant sunshine (as opposed to the marine layer we typically get in the summer) and evenings end with a sky full of stars (as opposed to the marine layer that moves in by the end of the day).

While we were gone, we hired a local contractor to tidy up our boat and do all the things we’d rather not do ourselves: the pressure washing, the sanding, the painting, the sealing, and even the replacing of one of our rotting walls. He worked wonders on our sad little structure… It was almost like coming back to a brand new boat!

The interior and exterior got a fresh coat (or two or ten) of white paint, which really brightened up the space.

Freshly painted exterior

Freshly painted sitting area

Freshly painted bedroom

The outdoor kitchen got a good wash and it was such a relief to finally have all those years of grime scrubbed off the counters.

Freshly painted kitchen

Before unpacking anything else, I decided to work on a more pressing project first… the hammock hanging!

First project of the day: hammock hanging!

Priorities, right?!

Then, we officially moved in! First matter at hand was fitting our new memory foam mattress — a significant splurge considering the egg crate foam that had been in the berth previously.

Our new memory foam mattress

Since our mattress was rectangular and the space was trapezoidal, I had to trim it down to fit our berth. You can faintly see the outline that I’d drawn on the mattress. I wish we’d taken a picture of me hacking away at it with a bread knife! Thank goodness no one will ever see what it looks like under the sheets… unless they change the sheets.

In the kitchen, Will and our friend set to work building out our storage area. (I’m sure our friend was crawling around under the counter at this point.)

Building out the storage area in the kitchen

We’ve only built storage on one side of the kitchen so far. We’ll keep making more shelves as we need them, especially as we accumulate more stuff. So far, Baja has been our “catch all” for things we ordinarily would’ve given away… Cooler with a missing wheel? Bring it down to Baja! Teak table in need of refinishing? Bring it down to Baja! Because down there, it’s all about reuse, not refuse… and you have all the time in the world to replace that wheel or refinish that table. I love that mentality.

After a couple of days of cleaning and constructing, we had our first taste of a real Mexican rainstorm. We woke up not to glorious sunny skies, but to a cloud-covered coast with an eerie beauty to it.

A winter downpour looming

By midday, it was pouring down on us by the bucketload. On the upside (is it?), we finally found all the leaks in our boat! (And were so relieved it hadn’t started raining the night before when we were sound asleep.)

Our first Mexican winter downpour

Our original plan to stay another day was cut short as we couldn’t really do any work outside (or inside, for that matter), so we packed it up and headed out on the road… except there was no longer a road, but a muddy, menacing, churning gorge, miles from a paved highway. We ended up taking an alternate “road” out, but I’m not sure it was any better.

The road out

It was raining so hard our windshield wipers could barely keep up…

A Mexican winter downpour

… And every mud puddle we charged through got us barreled in a brown wave!

Wiping mud off the windshield

Not to mention all the cows in the middle of the road. Have you ever done a running with the bulls? But in Baja? Because that’s what it felt like… and we could neither slow down nor stop, lest we wanted a cow hoof in our door or a truck stuck in the mud.

A running with the cows, Baja-style

After that chaotic off-road mission, we managed to make it it out nice and dry, with the truck in one piece and no animals harmed in the process.

But at dinner that night in Rosarito, before our final push across the border, I couldn’t help but think of all those cows earlier in the day…

Mmmm... meat


  1. Your description of “the road out” brought back memories. Many years ago I was driving back from a holiday in Victoria, back to NSW (Australia) with all the family. We went through quite a few miles of flooded road where the only guides I had were the white posts next to me and the white posts some 50 metres ahead, and a bow wave from the car that sometimes seemed a little too high – that was the only way I could judge how the road was turning (or not).
    I was shaking like a leaf when we finally got out to higher ground (it was 10 to 15 minutes overall, but seemed like longer) and I was ready to get out and kiss the asphalt. The news the next day reported some details about road closures and it was fairly obvious that we were about the last car to come through that section; there were certainly no headlights behind me so I figure I was the last lunatic to try it and make it.
    One of your photos shows a downwards look at the flooded road. No; I wouldn’t have attempted that one; I’d rather eat the asphalt that I only wanted to kiss.

    1. The roads in and out of the Boat Ranch are not paved, so we usually expect a little 4×4 action. Definitely makes for an interesting arrival or departure!

  2. You really needed an electric knife for the mattress foam cutting it cuts like butter. Seriously. Love your view.

  3. That was the same question I was getting ready to ask! What a cool place you have! Looks like a lot of work but fun as well. Cooking is done over a fire? Keep us informed of the progress, I have enjoyed your 2 posts thus far.

    1. Thanks! We cook a few different ways… Often it’s over a gas stove (we brought down a propane tank for our 2-burner stove), sometimes over a charcoal grill (we have two Webers), and sometimes over a fire (in our Dutch oven). We also pick up fresh fish from the Mercado Negro (Black Market) in Ensenada on our drive down, and will usually do a night of sushi and sashimi. So, food is never a problem around here! 😉

  4. Congratulations! You are really making progress. I’ve been wondering how you secure the shack when you are not there. Is someone at the boatyard full time? Thanks for the peek :).

    1. The entire property is fenced and locked when no one’s there, and we have an American neighbor who lives on the property next door and helps us keep an eye on things. But in general, this is a fairly quiet area inhabited by local fishermen, so we hardly get any “outside” traffic.

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