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Spanish for the Gringo Boater

Updated on July 27, 2018

Fishing Mexico

Sailing Mexico

At the end of this year I am pointing my boat south to the warm waters of Mexico and beyond just like so many other mariners before me. Have traveled extensively I know how much easier things are if you know the local language so I asked my wife, who is Mexican to teach me some words and phrases that I thought I might need checking into Mexico. What quickly became apparent was that she didn't know any of those words. Neither did her parents. Nor her sister who teaches Spanish to high school students. Why? because none of them know anything about boats (don't get me started).

So I took the next logical step and started looking for a Spanish phrasebook for cruisers. For those not in the know, 'cruiser' is the term given to a sailor or sailors who live aboard their boat and sail to new destinations. Here's what I found.

Spanish Phrasebook for Boaters

Spanish for Cruisers: The Boater's Complete Language Guide for Spanish-speaking Destinations, 2nd Edition
Spanish for Cruisers: The Boater's Complete Language Guide for Spanish-speaking Destinations, 2nd Edition

This second edition of the popular Spanish for Cruisers has been greatly expanded so that it now covers ALL the language and vocabulary necessary to cruise the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean, Central and South America and Europe. There is no other source that provides boaters and marine interests with the practical, specialized phrases they need to communicate with port captains, dock attendants, marina and boatyard staff, mechanics, marine technicians, rescuers, fishermen and divers. Spanish for Cruisers is just as useful ashore for food provisioning, shopping, dining, medical care, banking, phone, internet, transportation and directions. Completely indexed in English and Spanish, with easy-to-use pronunciation for every word, plus illustrations and diagrams of systems and boat parts, Spanish for Cruisers will be the boater's essential companion throughout their stay in Spanish-speaking countries.

Kathy Parsons Spanish for Cruisers is the perfect gringo reference for hanging about in Latin American countries! You know how it goes - ya got a smattering of Spanish that'll get you from point A to point B, get the right bus, buy fuel, locate the bathroom, get a drink, maybe tell a señorita she's got pretty eyes but when it comes to "what capacity compressor would you recommend" or "I need a knife to pry loose a thru hull" or "can you repair the clew on my staysail?" What do ya do?

Well, before Spanish for Cruisers it was a vaudeville act of Spanglish and pantomime. Am I right? You know what I'm talking about! Everything works out somehow but it takes about three times as long as it should have! I don't remember Mrs. Flanglehorn mentioning chain plates once in Conversational Spanish! We were too busy borrowing pencils from the library! A clear oversight if you ask me (I've never had to borrow a pencil in Latin America)

Spanish for Cruisers is well organized for easy reference. The terminology is broken down by system (refrigeration, fiberglass, electrical, plumbing, etc.) and by situation (marina, navigation, clearance, provisioning, etc.), with clear sentence starters (I want, I need, do you have, is it necessary, etc.).

Google Translate has its place but Spanish for Cruisers will quickly become your most favored companion when cruising Latin America!

KUDOS Kathy Parsons


Travel Mexico

This Spanish phase book by Kathy Parsons seems to be the definitive word for all cruisers, boaters and fishermen traveling in Mexican waters. If you're going to be spending an extended amount of time south of the border then I recommend getting a copy.

There is also another book by the same author that deals more specifically with Spanish terms for boat repairs. Since many sailors, especially those in southern California waters, duck into Mexico to get some discount vessel repairs conducted, this book would also be of some real value. it goes without saying that any sailor having an extended stay in Mexico should also own a copy of this book.

Spanish Boat Repairs

Spanish for Cruisers: Boat Repairs and Maintenance Phrase Book
Spanish for Cruisers: Boat Repairs and Maintenance Phrase Book

This practical, easy-to-use guide provides all the hard-to-find vocabulary you will need to repair and maintain your boat while you cruise the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas and Caribbean. You will learn all the Spanish you need to: buy parts and hardware; place orders, confirm prices and schedule repairs; find mechanics, repairmen and canvas makers; describe your problems and the repairs you need; haul, paint or store your boat; call for help at sea and get the assistance you need; communicate with almost everyone

"The language barrier can be one of the most intimidating aspects of cruising abroad...[This book]will take out some of that uncertainty..." -- Sailing<br /><br />It should be in the library of every cruiser setting off to do 'Boat Maintenance in Exotic Places'. -- Santana

Spanish for Cruisers is already one of the most talked-about books in Caribbean cruising circles... buy this book! -- Caribbean Compass

Spanish for Cruisers...the perfect book for sailors headed to Cuba (or any other Spanish-speaking country). -- Southwinds

With the beautifully done book, youll have all the vocabulary you need...She knows her stuff! --Latitude 38

About the author, Kathy Parsons -

Kathy Parsons is an author, sailor, world traveler and speaker. Her books SPANISH FOR CRUISERS and FRENCH FOR CRUISERS have become standard equipment aboard cruising vessels throughout the world.

She has lived aboard a sailboat since 1989 and has sailed extensively throughout the Caribbean and Americas. She served in the Peace Corps in Central America and worked on development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Her wide-ranging teaching experience includes organizing adult literacy classes, teaching English to Nicaraguan high school students, and providing computer training to businesses and government agencies including NASA. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Both SPANISH FOR CRUISERS and FRENCH FOR CRUISERS benefit from her extensive experience making complex topics easy to understand and apply, as well as her first-hand knowledge of the language needs of world voyagers.

Kathy spends most of the year aboard her sailboat Hale Kai but makes time each year to speak at selected boat shows and gatherings. Together with friends Pam Wall, Gwen Hamlin and Beth Leonard, Kathy conducts "Women and Cruising" seminars at boat shows, answering questions that women have about the cruising life. Kathy is the founder of the Women and Cruising web site ( which provides advice, inspiration and resources for women cruisers.


Some Spanish Phrases for Boaters

If you're a casual visitor to Mexican waters and don't spend a lot of time there then here are some basic nautical and fishing terms just in case you need them. These phrases are courtesy of a very handy free booklet that San Diego's own Downwind Marine publishes.

Fishing Terms

Turtle......La aguama

Shrimp......El camaron

Lobster......La langosta

Whale......La balena

Shark......El tiburon

Marlin......El marlin

Sailfish......La pez vela

Dolphin......El dorodo

Yellowtail......El Jurel

Porpoise......La tonina

Grouper......La garropa

Rock Bass......La cabrilla

Skipjack......El bonito

Carp......El cangrejo

Rod......La cana

Reel......El carrete

Line......La piola (linea)

More Drag......Mas freno

Leader......El empate

Swivel......El destorcador

Hook......El anzuelo

Gaff......El gancho

Bait......La camada

Fishing Chair......La silla de pesca


Fish Following......La pezviene

Strike......Esta jalando

Birds Working......Pajaros trabajando


A Jump......El salto


Coming Up......El sube

Bad Hookup......Mal anzueliado

Too Bad......Que lastimal

Spanish Engine Terms

Spark Plug......La bujia

Belt......El cinturon

Hose......La manguera

Pump......La bomba

Starter......El arranquedor

Points......Los platos

More to Come

Check back regularly as I will be updating this list of useful terms and phrases. Good boating!

Spanish for Dummies

Spanish For Dummies
Spanish For Dummies

Learn Latin American Spanish quickly and painlessly

The job market for those who are bilingual is expandingrapidly. Businesses and government agencies are hiringtranslators; retailers and advertisers are concentrating more energy in targeting the Spanish-speaking ; and hospitals andagencies are seeking to overcome language barriers.

Whether you’re a student studying Spanish, a travelergearing up for a trip to a Spanish-speaking country and need tolearn the basics, or a upwardly mobile looking to get ahead of thepack in your career by learning a second language, Spanish ForDummies, 2nd edition is your hands-on guide to quicklyand painlessly learn Latin American Spanish that includes:


Expanded coverage of grammar, verb conjugations, andpronunciations


A refreshed and expanded mini-dictionary complete with evenmore essential vocabulary, exercises, and more


A revamped and expanded bonus CD-ROM that includes real-lifedialogue to aid in your learning

Whether you’re looking to learn Spanish for use in thehome, class, at the office, or on the go, Spanish For Dummies,2nd edition has you covered!



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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      8 months ago

      Good information.

    • GetitScene profile imageAUTHOR

      Dale Anderson 

      8 months ago from The High Seas

      Sure do! Spanish is the most common here in the Unted STates though as there is a regular traffic of boaters that head down to Mexican waters,

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      8 months ago

      Do they have other foreign phrase books for other languages?

    • GetitScene profile imageAUTHOR

      Dale Anderson 

      8 months ago from The High Seas

      I keep trying to get my wife to make a youtube channel about Mexican language for gringo boaters (like me). She is skeptical that anyone will want to hear her pronounce the words but I am sure that she is wrong.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 months ago from Houston, Texas

      It makes perfect sense to have books like these on hand if boating in countries where the language is not known. It also makes sense that the normal Spanish / English translation books might not include nautical terminology just like they would probably not go into depth with medical terminology or other specialized areas.

      Hope you enjoyed those warm Mexican waters and your experiences of boating there.

    • GetitScene profile imageAUTHOR

      Dale Anderson 

      5 years ago from The High Seas

      Well shes officially from Juarez, but she was actually born in Mission Hills California. A question I got wrong during the citizenship test but the guy said Married over a decade and doesn't know where wife was born,....sounds about right!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      GetitScene, In particular, I had a fit of the giggles over "bad hookup", and I was puzzled by "working birds".

      What part of Mexico is your wife from?

      Respectfully, and with many thanks, Derdriu

    • Insightful Tiger profile image

      Insightful Tiger 

      6 years ago

      Sounds like a lovely time!

    • Karen Banes profile image

      Karen Banes 

      6 years ago from Canada

      This winter I'm actually in Europe (long story). Have a great time sailing the pacific coast though. I hear The Sea of Cortez is amazing. Jealous!

    • GetitScene profile imageAUTHOR

      Dale Anderson 

      6 years ago from The High Seas

      Looking forward to getting my own boat down to the Sea of Cortez towards the end of this year, actually. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Great information. My brother has a Cal 36 in San Carlos. I've sailed with him there several times. The Sea of Cortez is a treasure for sailors and fishermen.

    • GetitScene profile imageAUTHOR

      Dale Anderson 

      6 years ago from The High Seas

      Ahoy Karen! Thanks for sailing by. I'm planning on heading down south permanently at the end of this year. Are you on the Pacificcoast by chance?

    • Karen Banes profile image

      Karen Banes 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Love it. I've done quite a lot of boating in Spain so learned 'nautical spanish' before I learned basic everyday conversation. Love the idea of living on a boat. hope you're enjoying Hubpages.


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