Off-Grid in Mexico / Outdoor Adventures / Surfing

Making a Home in Mexico (Part III)

Making a home in Mexico

There’s always a lot going on in spring. Not only is it a busy time in the garden, but it’s also the start of whitewater season, a great window for local surf (before the northwest swells stop rolling through), and a beautiful time of year for road trips up north (for snowboarding, hiking, climbing, camping, mountain biking… and whatever other gear we can fit on our roof). All this basically means we haven’t seen our bungalow since January.

I was feening for a Baja fix. And our garage was starting to look like an American Pickers dream: mismatched chairs stacked to the ceiling, side tables scored from curbsides, vintage odds and ends collected from places we couldn’t remember. That pile of “stuff,” as Mike Wolfe would say, was destined for the Boat Ranch and we had to get it out before we ended up on Hoarders too.

We decided to make a trip south for my birthday, and were fired up to find we were the only ones at the Ranch that weekend.

Ahh, home sweet home.

The Boat Ranch

Offshore winds all day long and shoulder-high waves with no one on them. Except the two of us.

Offshore winds and shoulder-high waves

Surfing by ourselves

So, what’s changed since last time?

Well, I can tell you what hasn’t changed… and that’s this glorious view every time we throw open the doors to greet the day.

View from the bungalow

But what did change was the palapa you see, which we finally refurbished with fresh palm fronds.

Fresh palm fronds on the palapa

I spent a good part of the afternoon doing a bit of “yard work” around the Ranch, sawing off palm fronds for our palapa and decorating the fence that divides our property from the one next door. Something about palms just makes me feel at home.

Trimming palm fronds

Fence decorated with palm fronds

Outside, we added a few personal touches around the boat that make me smile every time I see them.

Tealight lantern

Potted cactus

Ship sculpture

Potted succulents

For the last few trips, we’d been afraid to open the garage next to our boat. The garage belonged to whoever lived in our boat before us, but like the boat, it was abandoned years ago and became a catch-all for anything and everything that moved in and out of the Ranch. Generations of relics resided in that garage… some good, most bad.

Will spent the entire day peeking under the dusty tarps and pulling everything out from under the cobwebs. It was at once fascinating and scary. To our amazement, we found some perfectly working oil lamps… a set of charcoal Weber grills (three of them?!)… a glass table… a bamboo loveseat that just needed a good pair of cushions… and random pieces of plywood and planks that we saved for future projects.


Emptying the garage

Generations of relics from the garage

Remnants from the garage

Cleaning out the garage

After inspecting the Webers, we found them to be in decent shape and decided to keep the red one as our cooking grill. On the other two, we removed the legs and will be turning them into our fire pits — one for a small bonfire and one for our Dutch oven.

Old charcoal Weber grills

Dismantling old Weber grills

Future fire pits

Future fire pits

We found a battered longboard and windsurfing board that looked like bygones from the 80s, and used them to flank the ends of our surfboard rack (which needs just a few finishing touches on our next trip).

Surfboard rack in progress

Inside the boat, our bedroom is beginning to look like a real bedroom — warm and cozy. Some of my best nights of sleep were spent in that bed… If it weren’t for the beach right outside the door, I’d probably never get up. It’s like being on vacation in your own home.

A cozier bedroom

Will built some shelves beside the bed, and by the next couple of trips, we’ll have curtains sewn, wood repainted, and pictures hung.


New bedroom shelving

In the sitting room, we added a pair of rugs (isn’t it great how a rug can instantly transform a space?) and a newly built bench (soon to be painted and outfitted with cushions).

New rugs and a bench

We also hung some shelves and hooks and cannot wait to put things in their place. (It’s looking a bit chaotic here while we figure out how to organize.)

New hanging shelves

Pretty hook

So, progress is moving along. We’re loving every moment of turning this house (er, boat?) into a home. It’s far from perfect but we adore everything about it, even the cracked and peeling interior and the little leaks we’ve yet to find. We adore the comfort it brings and the promise of adventure every time we’re here. I’m excited to head back down next month!

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »