by Carlos Fiesta

      FONATUR, that fiesty group of Mexican Government officials hell-bent on attracting more tourist dollars to Baja, is at it again. After a moderately successful run at putting Loreto on the map, and a spectacular success at developing Cancun and the Los Cabos area, Fonatur is now planning it's next move geared towards promoting the rest of the Baja Peninsula.

      After the turn of the century the Mexican government developed plans for a program in Baja called the "Nautical Route Project - Sea of Cortez" (Escalera Nautica" in Spanish). Nicknamed the "Nautical Ladder" this massive plan was being designed to promote nautical tourism to Baja's 2,200 miles of coastline, as well as another 1,000 miles of coastline on Mexico's northwest mainland coast. The concept was to build new marinas and upgrade existing marinas along Baja's coastline to provide 22 marine facilities (docking, fuel, and provisioning) and tourism opportunities spaced approximately 140 miles apart along the Baja and mainland coast. They hoped to increase the current number of Baja boaters from approximately 8,000 boats per year today to approximately 76,000 boats in 20 years.

      In addition to the marinas Fonatur was planning a 70 mile 'land bridge' from Santa Rosalia (on the Pacific Ocean side) to Bahia de los Angeles (on the Sea of Cortez side) to facilitate yacht delivery (up to 55 feet in length) into the calm waters of Baja's eastern side.

      If this grand scheme comes to life it will meet Mexico's two main goals of bringing additional tourism to Baja, as well as providing thousands of jobs for the local people. The Ministry of Finance has allocated $222 million dollars for to get this project going, and more money is proposed in the years ahead. Mexico's previous President Fox gave his endorsement to the plan, which has been brought forward and then dropped under two previous presidential administrations. The governors of the four Mexican states affected by the project have also given the project two thumbs up.

      Existing ports for the project included Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Guaymas and Mazatlan. Ports to be expanded include San Carlos, Loreto, Mulege, Santa Rosalia, Puerto Pensaco and Topolobampo. Ports to be built from scratch include Cabo Colonet, Puerto Canoa, Santa Rosalilitta, Bahia de Tortuga, Punta Abreojos, San Juanico, Bahia de los Angeles and Bahia San Luis Gonzaga on the Baja Peninsula, Bahia Kino in the state of Sonora and Altata in the state of Sinaloa.

      The plan looses more momentum every year and some say it is dead. How would this plan affect the Baja as we know it? If fully implemented (and the way Baja and Mexico works that is a h-u-g-e "if") this could have a two-fold effect for Americans headed to Mexico. It would provide easier and safer access to Baja's unspoiled coastline for thousands of boaters (mostly from California). However, it will be one more step away from the remote and desolate peninsula that so many tourist visit Baja to find.

      Like most developments in Baja time tends to pass rather slowly. So don't expect any big changes in the near future. However this is one more sign that Baja is "growing up" and her evolution will be interesting to watch.

      For more information on the Nautical Ladder Plan visit the web site of PROPENINSULA.ORG.

      For more information on cruising Baja's spectacular coastline check out Carlos Fiesta's solo 2,200 mile BAJA CIRCUMNAVIGATION!

      This BAJA FROM SPACE photo will give you a better perspective of the proposed area.




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