Once you hit the Pacific, turn right
The Pacific coast of the Americas is fast becoming an interconnected web of superyacht infrastructure and cruising grounds …
I remember the excitement of passing through The Panama Canal into the wide expanse of the Pacific for the first time ... along with the inescapable feeling of separation and isolation. The West Coast is evolving, SuperyachtNews speaks with some of the stakeholders in the region about how my memories of insecurity may actually be a dated misconception. As a part of our lead up to The Superyacht Forum line - Pacific Tour 2022, we re-examine the region, with the first part of the journey moving north after the Panama Canal on our way to Victoria, British Columbia, and beyond.
The heading that takes you the majority of the way through the Panama Canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific is roughly southeast. The counter-intuitive notion that one must travel further east to complete the passage from East to West is the first of the many adjustments that operating in this part of the Pacific forces you to make.
The idea of breaking away after years of operating on the more conventional yachting routes and heading West is exciting and a little daunting. However, there has always been infrastructure with a strong maritime heritage on the Pacific West Coast. The network of expertise and facilities stretching from Panama to the northern cruising grounds is evolving to support the influx of superyachts that may not have ventured this far before but are tentatively doing so now.
Golfito Bay is a sheltered corner of the Golfo Dulce, itself protected from the temperament of the Pacific, making this the ideal place to clear in and out of Costa Rica. Fittingly, it has long been a popular destination for yachts of every size. With significant investment in the marina facilities continuing to develop, the sheltered bay is ideal for 100m finger docks, an 80m fuel dock and pump-out capabilities. Bruce Blevins, founder of BB Seas Maritime Services, has watched the evolution of the Golfito Marina, and the mindset of those visiting, change over the past 25 years.
“Years ago, you felt like you were pioneering over here because you really had to be self-sufficient. There are many more facilities to pull into that can accommodate larger yachts now, and it makes it a lot more user-friendly for superyachts to be able to rotate guests and crew and keep the cruising comfortable.” Says Belvins
‘Keeping the cruising comfortable’ involves an increasingly complex list of services beyond just the personnel. There is a Pacific reticence that, perhaps somewhat reductively, can be thought of as a form of ‘Med separation anxiety’. In this increasingly connected part of the world, there is an understanding of this and a willingness to find the solutions needed, as Blevins explains:
“Firstly, it is a short flight from Fort Lauderdale if you need to bring in specific parts. Specific technicians can be brought in to get things up and running and keep things in motion for the season. We bring technicians down for specific systems, from Seakeepers to electronics … the MTU teams, as well as the Caterpillar teams, can come down fairly easily as well as outboard technicians for tenders. Our local canvas is of very high quality. There are a lot of services that can be accomplished that you wouldn't necessarily associate with Golfito, even a few years ago.”
This model of local skill and imported niche experience is replicated throughout the Latin American West Coast. The close ties to the United States are represented by the ever-present fleets of sportfishers. The continued development of the Mexican coast to meet the demands of the increased numbers of superyachts, combined with the expertise pathways pioneered by the existing smaller marinas, underpins the capacity for the repair and refit work that is so vital to operating in this region.
Oliver Edwards, from MHL Services, based out of Ensenada, has been transporting vessels along the coast for 17 years and is very well placed to comment on the trend in the movement of vessels along with market trends more generally within the Americas. “For very large haul-outs up to 2,500t, there is, of course, Gran Peninsula Yacht Center in Ensenada. We've also seen the developments along the coast for all-sized superyachts; things are certainly progressing. La Paz and Mexico now are really starting to boom. For example, Marina Costa Baja, they've got a huge yard, and the cruising conditions are fantastic. The focus has shifted.”
Edwards also further reinforced the West Coast system of utilising the US flight pathways for bringing in what is needed for the superyachts along this coast. “There’s a wide range of facilities all the way down the coast of Mexico that is oriented around the marine industry and supported by US clients. They bring in expertise and the equipment they need for any sized vessel,” he explains.
The next stop on the journey north is the central hub of the Pacific West Coast. There is probably no other US city as universally beloved as San Diego and it makes for a welcome destination after a long crossing North. San Diego has also continued to develop its position as a marina and refit hub for the increasing number of vessels staying in the region year-round. In the next instalment of our journey north, we explore this region and the growing infrastructure developments that support it.
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