Sunday, December 30, 2012

Feliz Navidad!

Coca-Cola guy, Santa and me in La Paz.
Merry Christmas from La Paz, Mexico!  While most of you are gathering around a fireplace, indoors, and warm, Richard and I are sitting in the cockpit of the boat celebrating the holidays Mexican style.  The sun is out, the temperature is in the upper 70s and we are in shorts and t-shirts.  Not too bad for a couple of guys from Seattle where it is likely raining, cold and somewhat miserable.  But we won’t rub in too much. 

Merry Christmas!
Our Christmas tree is beautiful and our time in La Paz represents the first of several we will be spending apart from friends and family.  It sure is weird not flying to North Carolina to spend Christmas with Richard’s family.  I’ve been doing that for the past decade or so and traditions are hard to break when you comfortably settle into them.   Merry Christmas to our friends and family in North Carolina, New Hampshire and Washington.

Skeleton Santa and Richard.
So now is the time for Richard and me to start making our own Christmas traditions as this will be the norm for the next few years.  Maybe wake up and take a swim in the ocean, followed by a stroll on the beach and a trek to a little café for early Christmas morning pastries, followed by gathering around the “tree” to exchange small gifts, and then getting together with other cruisers for a Christmas dinner.  After that, back at our boat, we could sit in the cockpit and watch the sun go down in a glorious sunset all the while appreciating the warmth of both the climate and the time we get to spend together.  Sounds good to me.

Our Christmas tree.
On Christmas morning, Richard and I exchanged our presents and then just hung out in the sunshine.  We made plans to go to s/v Charra to have Christmas dinner with Bob, Joyce and their daughter Kate and we didn't have to meet Joyce until late afternoon at the historic church in the center of town where we would take the shuttle up to their marina.  We met Joyce and rode back with her and our first impression of their marina was WOW! Costa Baja is very nice; the only issue is that it is quite a ways out of town. But no problem since they do have a shuttle that goes to town often enough to make the city accessible.

We sat in Charra's cockpit and had drinks and right before dinner, Joyce asked Kate if she would sing a Christmas song for us.  First off, back in San Diego, Joyce and Bob had talked about how their daughter Kate sang in high school, was in musicals, etc. and went on about how good she was.  I immediately thought, "Oh, that's just proud parents, singing their daughter's praises."  I could not have been more wrong!  Kate got up from the cockpit, walked to the back of the boat and on a warm La Paz evening, sang "O Holy Night".  I must admit that it brought tears to my eyes that I quickly wiped away.  I was stunned.  Her voice, floating above the marina was heavenly.  I imagined other boaters hearing this a capella rendition of the song venturing out of their boats to find the speakers from which this song was coming, only to see Kate standing on Charra's stern singing her heart out.  When she finished, I just sat there in awe.  Joyce nudged my arm to wake me from my reverie and simply said, "I told you she was good." Understatement if ever there was one. Kate not only sang in high school, and I think before that as well, but she also has sang opera with a group in Hawai'i and in New Mexico she performed in numerous musicals.  

We all sat down for a delicious dinner and after dinner we were treated to a couple more songs from Kate, including a rendition of "Ave Maria" that could have brought the toughest of us to tears (it worked on me).  She also sang an Italian song from an opera (sorry, I don't remember the specific song) and again, once she was done, I imagined the other boaters wondering where this beautiful voice and song was coming from on a warm, Christmas evening in La Paz, Mexico.  I feel so fortunate that Kate shared her gift with us that evening and to the Sarff's, thank you so much for sharing your Christmas and Kate's beautiful voice with Richard and me.

Things We Take For Granted

Pangas and Palapas on the playa in La Paz.
I’m sitting in a café in La Paz, Mexico and trying to connect to the internet and it's not happening.  This is definitely something that we take for granted in the States…secure, fast, reliable internet connections.  But what can you do?  You can’t make a place outside of the US get better internet servers.  So you have to deal with it the best you can.  And the best that I can is by trying to let go of my expectations that are based on my experiences in the United States; easier said than done when I’ve been trained to expect secure, fast, reliable internet connections.  But this gives me time to sit back and take in the scenery; absorb the culture and relax.  Sure, it would be great to have an internet connection, but that isn’t always going to be the case.  I have to accept that and move on. 

The malécon in La Paz.
So here I sit, at a beachside café, typing away this blog entry, watching people stroll along the malécon (beachside boardwalk), watching the waves lap the shore on a sunny, Sunday afternoon in La Paz, Mexico.  It’s the Sunday before Christmas and I’m trying to wrap my head around where the time has gone.  Just over three months ago Richard and I left Seattle on this journey and because of the warm climates we’ve been in, it’s hard to remember that Christmas is just a few days away.  I have to remember to go to the playa before I head back to the boat and get some beach sand to secure my little “Christmas tree” that I’m going to decorate tonight.  By “Christmas tree” I actually mean a little twig I picked up while hiking at Bahia Los Frailes.  I’ll put it in a cup, pour in the sand to secure it, string my battery-operated lights on its branches, hang the few ornaments I brought along with some that I will make and hope that the spirit of Charlie Brown’s little Christmas tree can radiate from my attempts and get me in the mood for the holidays,  It’ll be different, that’s for sure.  Then again, every day is what you make of it, right?

Bahia Los Frailes & Ensenada de Los Muertos

Sunset at Bahia Los Frailes.
The passage from San José del Cabos was a complete bash, meaning that the wind was on our nose and the tides seem to be conspiring against us to make the passage long and tiring.  But hey, we got nothing but time so we sucked it up and enjoyed the ride.  At times we were moving very slowly as the tide seemed to build and then subside randomly.  We finally pulled into Bahia Los Frailes in the late afternoon, dropped the hook and settled in for the night.

The hill at Bahia Los Frailes that we wanted to climb.
Bahia Los Frailes is a large open bay backed by sand dunes, a hill and an expanse of cacti just waiting to get you. Everything about the area behind the sand dunes screamed "Keep out or I'll prick you!"  Did that stop us from hiking though?  Hell no. The guide book we were using (Sea of Cortez by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer; highly recommended) told us that the views from the top of the hill at Bahia Los Frailes offered expansive vistas of both the bay and the mountain range that backed the beach.  At first it was hard to find the trail and we spent quite a bit of time hiking, at times crawling, through an immense field of various prickly cacti, not without the occasional whiplash of a branch covered in thorns.  We finally decided that the route we were so earnestly pursuing was not worth it and decided to backtrack and head straight up the hill.

Success!  Silly hats and all!
This proved to be more difficult that at first appeared as the "direct" route had us climbing hand over foot over boulders, around cacti and looking down pretty steep inclines.  But with a lot of perseverance we finally reached the lower of the two summits in view.  And the views were definitely worth the effort.  But wait...what's that right over there just a few feet away?  Why, I think it's a trail marker.  You got to be kidding me?!  Yes folks, we spent the better part of a couple of hours scrambling over boulders, loose gravel, around cacti, etc., only to find a trail that would have led us easily up to the top in no time.  Live and learn.

Snorkeling the reef at Bahia Los Frailes.
We spent a couple of days in Bahia Los Frailes.  I took the dinghy to shore each day and did some snorkeling on the reef off of the point at the base of the hill we climbed.  The reef was teeming with all kinds of fish that I am still trying to identify (I recently purchased a new fish identification book that includes tropical fish).  I met a couple of guys on different boats that told me about the "End of the World" party that was going to be held on the beach in a few days but Richard and I decided to get out of town before that happened...just in case.

Trying to keep on schedule, we left Bahia Los Frailes and headed to Ensenada de Los Muertos or Cove of the Dead.  Sounds nice, eh?  Well, we got there pretty late and it was already dark so we dropped the anchor and tucked in for the night.  While we didn't get to explore Ensenada de Los Muertos, we plan to come back on our way to the mainland so we'll see if it fits its name and report on that later.

More pictures from the hike and snorkeling.  PS...underwater cameras rock!

View on the hike.
View coming up for air.
Crazy polka dot fish.
Wrasses on coral head.
Moorish Idol.
Blue Parrotfish.
Sea Urchin.
Unidentified Surgeonfish.
Lots of cool fish.

Two Very Different Cabos…Cabo San Lucas & San José del Cabo

Approaching Cabo San Lucas with Los Arcos
and Land's End in the background.
It may sound weird, but it was good to leave Cabo San Lucas.  The marina we were staying at was right smack dab in the middle of the tourist district and the traffic, noise, and constant presence of souvenir hawkers was a bit much to take.  The bars and restaurants that line the marina basin blasted music until late at night, and at the risk of sounding “old”, it was a bit much, even for me.

The marina at Cabo San Lucas.
The marina basin is filled with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, upscale shopping centers and souvenir shops and things get going pretty early.  We were docked a bit away from the “front edge” of the basin so we at least had that in our favor; though in reality, like I said previously, it was like our boat backed right up to the tequila stands/discos.  I know, many of you are thinking that this would be awesome.  Well, let me tell you succinctly: It isn’t!  This part of Mexico, Cabo San Lucas specifically, is actually like being in America.  There were as many American chain restaurants in the marina area as there were Mexican restaurants and all the restaurants listed prices first in US dollars then in Mexican pesos.

Beautiful beaches in Cabo San Lucas.
Not to be disenchanted, Richard and I did some research and discovered if you walk a few blocks out of the tourist area, you can actually find some relatively authentic Mexican restaurants; places where English isn’t a requirement and prices are listed in pesos.  We ventured out each night we were in Cabo in search of these places, taking the adventure along with the dining experience as part of our time in Mexico.

Flying the asymmetrical on our way to San José del Cabo.
After a few days in Cabo, we decided to head to Puerto Los Cabos Marina in San José del Cabo for the night in order to shorten our passage down to Bahia Los Frailes.  The marina at Puerto Los Cabos is fairly new and rather large; large in terms of getting from our slip to the office and showers.  But the walk is along the edge of the bay so it is pleasant.  As soon as we tied up, I headed out in search of the playa as it had been a long, hot day on the water.  By the time I reached the playa, the sun had gone down and the air temperature was rather chilly.  I had passed a small, boutique-ish looking hotel that had an open-air restaurant and decided to stop in to check things out.  As it was Monday, the special of the day was bbq pork ribs so I quickly went back to the boat and informed Richard of where I wanted to have dinner.  We were not disappointed.

San José del Cabo.
The next day, Richard decided to join me on my morning walk and we walked from the marina to the small town of San José del Cabo.  It was very charming and not in a touristy kind of way.  The center of town had a large plaza that was lined by small shops, restaurants, a church and boutique hotels along a tree-lined boulevard.  We walked around the arts districts and then decided to have breakfast at a small hotel restaurant.  It was really pleasant to be sitting outside for breakfast watching the small town start to come alive on a regular weekday morning.  Had we known that San José del Cabo was going to be this nice, we probably wouldn’t have spent so much time in Cabo San Lucas, and would have enjoyed this part of Baja California Sur more.

Incidentally, Richard was the one who suggested that we walk to town, claiming that it looked like it was only about a mile away.  In reality, it was much further than that, and the “mile” Richard sort of remembered…that was the length of the bridge we had to cross to get to town, and then cross again on our way back to the marina.  Oh well, it was definitely worth it.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fish On!

On December 14th (I know, my posts are not very chronological or timely, but give me a break, I'm on "cruiser's time") it was a quiet afternoon watch with not much happening.  I had rigged a cedar plug with a vibrant yellow squiggly jig and added a piece of the skipjack I had caught a few days back for added measure.  The skipjack had a very strong taste and Richard and I decided that it would make better bait than meals for us.  I had tried making fish tacos one day for lunch with a bit of the fish but the fish was too strong flavored and not necessarily in a good way so into the bait box it went.  When I was cutting a strip off of the fillet to add to the hook, Richard commented on how nasty it smelled and reminded me that I was fishing and not trying to catch crabs (I frequently use rotting fish refuse as bait for crabs, Dungeness crabs love that stuff).

One for the Bournival Fishing Album.
About two hours later as I was sitting under a cloudy sky listening to my iPod at the helm with Richard below on his off-watch, I noticed the line start to peel out of my reel.  “Richard, I think I got something on my rod!” I yelled down below to rouse Richard.  I put the boat on autopilot and got the rod out of the rod holder on the aft-port rail.  I immediately felt something fighting back and knew that I had something a little more substantial than the puny little skipjack I had hooked into the other day.  As I reeled the line in, and subsequently the fish peeled more out, I told Richard that if the fish was too big for the net, we might have to use the gaff hook so Richard went below to get it, just in case.

A 37 inch, 22+ pound Wahoo.
The closer the fish got to the boat the better I was able to see what was on the business end of my line.  It looked huge!  It wasn’t until I had the fish alongside the boat that I realized what I had hooked into…a wahoo!  It took us a bit of time to actually get the fish into the cockpit; the net proved to be pretty much useless as the boat kept bouncing up and down in the swell and the gaff hook has too short of a handle.  In a final effort to get this fish in the boat, I lifted the rod and the fish out of the water (I know, Gregg, a major no-no!) and Richard grabbed the line, lifted and swung the monster into the cockpit.  As he stood there holding the line allowing the fish to hang its full length, I got my first glimpse of what a real fish looked like.  Long and slender, with beautiful blue-green stripes; it was the most aerodynamic fish I think I’ve ever seen.

Neatly packaged, labeled, and ready for freezing...
couldn't be easier!
I got the mallet out and quickly gave the fish a couple of blows to the head to knock him out as he was thrashing about the cockpit spewing blood and whatnot everywhere.  Once he was quieted, Richard took pictures and I began the task of filleting this guy as quickly as I could.  It didn’t take too long before I had eight nice-sized wahoo steaks cut out and two tail fillets.  I then began looking at the scraps I had produced and decided that I could carve out some nice fish chunks that might make a great fish fry or some awesome wahoo tacos.  The cleanup done, I returned to the helm and finished my watch plus took an hour of Richard’s watch as he had taken over for me as I brought the fish in and filleted it.  All in all, not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Overnight Passages and Bahia Magdalena

Pacific sunset after leaving Bahia Tortugas.
We left Bahia Tortugas a little after 2:00 pm for another overnight passage on our way to Bahia Magdalena.  The winds varied throughout the afternoon and into the night allowing us to sail at times while other times it was necessary to motor in order to put some miles under the keel.  I had made a chicken stew which basically consisted of opening the refrigerator and cutting up everything in sight and adding it to a pot with some cut up chicken.  I hate to let anything go to waste on the boat, especially fresh vegetables since they can oftentimes be hard to find.  I have been in the habit of making a large pot of something right before we leave on overnight passages as it is far easier to heat up something pre-made than to try and cook a meal while at sea. 

Night watches can be very dark.

For those of you who are interested, when Richard and I are on multi-day, overnight passages, we adhere to a watch schedule of three hours on and three hours off.  I take the midnight to 3:00 am, 6:00 am to 9:00 am, noon to 3:00 pm, and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm watches and Richard takes the watches in between.  This schedule worked for us when we sailed to and from Hawai'i back in the summer of 2010 so we decided to stick with it on this trip.  That doesn’t mean that if it doesn’t seem to work at some point that we won’t change it, but at this point in time, it seems to work pretty well for us.

A welcomed sunrise off the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
I am a total grazer when we are on long passages.  I will have my breakfast, usually oatmeal (instant is sooo much easier than stovetop) or cereal at the beginning of my 6:00 am to 9:00 am watch, along with a small glass of juice, to wash down the vitamins, and black tea.  Then, when Richard relieves me at 9:00 am, he usually heats up some banana bread (or whatever breakfast bread we have on board…Richard is a great baker!) and I eat that before doing my off-watch chores.  I usually make lunch right before my noon to 3:00 pm watch and lunches are usually sandwiches, chips, fruit, if we have it, and cookies.  Right before my watch ends, I usually eat an apple or some nuts/trail mix (I love wasabi peas and cashews!).  Dinner is heated up and served before it gets dark, so usually around 5:30 pm right now.  My watch starts at 6:00 pm and I usually allow myself one piece of chocolate per hour of watch on this watch and my midnight to 3:00 am watch.  Currently we are indulging in a selection of Seattle Chocolates and Godiva Gems, provided to us by our friends Matt and Julia…thanks guys!, along with some Dove Dark Chocolate.  At sunrise when my 6:00 am to 9:00 am watch starts, I just repeat the whole thing over again.  Oddly enough, actually, luckily, I haven’t gained any weight despite Richard insisting that I am eating way too much chocolate (ask my mother, eating too much chocolate is IMPOSSIBLE when it’s good chocolate, and life is too short to eat anything but good chocolate).

This skipjack tuna wasn't very tasty,
but made pretty good bait.
So you might be wondering what we do when we are off-watch?  Well, every time you get off of a watch, you have to log specific information into an off-shore log book that we put together.  A lot of the information contained on the log is really reminders to check the various systems to ensure that things that should be off are off (like the gas for the stove, water pressure, inverters, etc.), water isn’t building up in the bilge, and to record certain weather conditions (wind speed/direction, barometric pressure, and cloud cover), as well as trip information (course, speed, total miles during period, etc.).  Oh yea, and after all that is done, you usually try to sleep.  Sleep comes in less than three hour blocks; each watch equals three hours so your sleep time equals three hours minus the amount of time needed to complete all of your off-watch chores.  You also have to find time to bathe, brush your teeth, change clothes every now and then, fish, blog, clean the cabin, repair stuff…the list goes on and on.  On the small overnight passages, meaning about two to three overnights in the passage, this can result in significant fatigue as your body needs some time to get used to this new circadian rhythm.  But on the longer passages, after four or more overnights, your body gets used to the schedule and as a result you tend to feel less tired.  Then again, everyone is different when it comes to adjusting to these kinds of schedules, this is just how I have experienced it.

View of mast with deployed headsail on left.
We arrived at Bahia Magdalena late afternoon on December 11th.  We were tired from the overnights we had just finished so we pretty much just stayed on the boat and tried to decompress.  A panga came by and asked if we had any trash (basura) that we wanted toted off of the boat and we informed him that we didn’t have any today but perhaps mañana.  The panga driver then wanted to know if we had any t-shirts for him.  This becomes awkward, more for us than for the one asking.  Here we are in an expensive yacht, flying the American flag, with digital cameras, cell phones, iPods, laptops, and oodles of other stuff that just reek of conspicuous consumption.  And here’s this guy in a panga in rural Mexico, who comparatively has very little.  It’s a situation that every cruiser must face at one point in his/her travels and how you handle these types of situations is very personal.  As a cruiser, I can’t be expected to clothe the world or give something to every person who asks for something.  It’s just not feasible.  On the other hand, I understand that I am very fortunate and that comparatively I do have more than my fair share.  So what do you do?  My solution is to know who and how I want to help.  I will always pay some nominal amount of money to someone who approaches my boat in his/her dinghy and who wants to offload my trash for me.

Fishing village in Bahia Magdalena.
Generally speaking, I will pay for any services that I need; and I’m not talking about regular services like you get at a store or mechanic, I’m talking about unsolicited services; those services that you weren’t thinking about until someone cruised on over and asked “Hey, can I take your garbage to shore for you?”  I have also decided that the way that I want to help out in the world as I travel about in it is to supply school supplies (pencils, erasers, pens, small notebooks for students and spiral bound notebooks for teachers, etc.) in those areas that most need these types of supplies.  In addition, Richard and I have decided to stock our boat with toothbrushes and small tubes of toothpaste to distribute, again in rural areas that are possibly dependent on supply ships that have long periods of time between visits.  I am also carrying balloons for kids, and Richard stocked up on razors for men, and I have “hotel toiletries” to distribute to the women, in addition to monofilament and fishing hooks for the men.  You do what you can and have to understand that you can’t help everyone and that this is not the purpose of your trip.  If the opportunity arises, I will help build a school, clinic, library or other such long-lasting infrastructure that goes way beyond supplying any one individual with a t-shirt.  Not that the panga guy who asked for a t-shirt was wrong in asking; he wasn’t and he should ask if he needs a t-shirt.  Someone will supply that t-shirt; karma works that way.

Sunset in Bahia Magdalena.
We ended up spending three nights in Bahia Magdalena.  On the day after we arrived, Richard and I took the dinghy to shore and proceeded to report to the harbor master’s office as it is required that all cruisers who enter a port that has a harbor master must report their arrival.  When we got to his office, he wasn’t there so Richard took out his Spanish/English dictionary and a piece of paper and documented our arrival.  After we had dispatched with the formalities, we walked around the town of Puerto Magdalena.  At the time we did not know that it was an “optional” holiday in Mexico being the Feast of Guadalupe.  That night, as we sat on the boat having dinner, we heard traditional Mexican singing coming from shore.  We surmised that the town must be celebrating the holiday and doing so in song.  It was really cool to sit on the boat and listen to this music float over to us from shore.  With a better command of Spanish, we might have attempted to join in on the celebration, but with our limited comprehension of the language it might have just seemed intrusive so we enjoyed it from afar and it was wonderful just the same.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bahia Tortugas and My Spanish is Broken (at best)

Heading south from Ensenada, Mexico.
With the plan of spending Christmas in La Paz, Richard and I soon realized that we would have to get moving if we wanted to make it there in time.  This was what motivated us to plan for several overnight passages down the Baja California coast with minimal stopovers in order to round Cabo San Lucas as soon as possible and then head north into the Sea of Cortez on our way to La Paz.  

With this in mind, we left Ensenada on December 6th around 8:30 am heading towards Bahia Tortugas.  By 1:30 pm that same day we had turned off the engine and were sailing nicely downwind in a brisk 15-20 knots of wind from the northwest.  The swells were manageable as they were spaced rather far apart at about 10-15 seconds.  We sailed through the night with consistent winds and a moonless sky.  During one of Richard’s watches, he woke me to watch the dolphins chasing their prey in the heavily phosphorescent water; it was truly spectacular to see the glowing jets as the dolphins rounded up the fish and the intricate paths of the smaller prey as they tried to escape.

Dawn on our way to Bahia Tortugas.
At daylight on the 7th, we found ourselves 6 nautical miles east of the northern tip of Isla Cedros.  The early Spanish explorers mistook the indigenous trees for cedars and despite this misnomer, the name has stuck.  We continued on our way down the length of Isla Cedros and passed Punta Eugenia on the mainland and the southern tip of Isla Cedros.  Soon after this, and still sailing, we found the entrance to Bahia Tortugas, sailed in and dropped anchor.  By this time it had been a long 30+ hours of passage making and we were both tired.  I put together dinner, we both showered and it was an early night for both of us.

The palapa at Bahia Tortugas.
The next morning after breakfast, we discussed the possibility of leaving in the afternoon rather than staying a day longer in order to make some headway south.  I offered to row to show and see if I could entice “Enrique Jr.”, the owner of the panga fuel service in the bay, to come out to Osprey and fill up her tank.  It was great exercise rowing to the dinghy dock which also serves as the filling station for Enrique Jr.’s thriving fuel service.  Once at the dinghy dock I attempted to ask the woman standing there if I could tie up my dinghy.  She indicated that it was okay to tie up and then introduced herself as Dolores.  It took me a while to figure out that she was not asking for dólars but was simply introducing herself as Dolores.  

View of the playa at Bahia Tortugas.
After informing Dolores “no habla español”, I was actually able to tell her my name and managed to get out, “Donde esta la tienda?”, which was the closest I was going to get to asking where the nearest store could be found.  Dolores told me to walk to the end of the pier, turn left onto the playa (beach), head towards the palapa (thatched-roofed beach-front restaurant), turn right up the path and the tienda would be on my right.  How I was able to understand this is beyond me and proof that years of playing charades coupled with a decent Spanish/English dictionary and my compulsion to be understood would always win out in the end.  

At the tienda, I was able to purchase some good looking vegetables, including a white onion, poblano pepper, cilantro and a tomato.  After paying for these items (which by the way totaled a mere 18 pesos or $1.44 USD), I asked about restaurants in town.  My limited Spanish was aided by using the words for open and closed in Spanish (abierto and cerrado) which I spied on the sign on the door when I entered the tienda, and pointing to my watch and uttering “¿Qué hora?”  I am convinced that with a little effort understandable communication will happen!  We didn’t end up eating at any of the restaurants in Bahia Tortugas but I am glad that I had the opportunity to engage in “conversation” with the locals and work on my Spang-Lish.

Enrique Jr.'s fuel panga.
Back at the dock I found Enrique Jr., sporting some snazzy bright red pants.  I quickly called Richard on my TelCel (newly purchased Mexican cell phone) and asked how much diesel we needed.  With this information in hand, and Enrique Jr. patiently waiting for me to look up a few words in my Spanish/English dictionary, I told Enrique Jr. that we probably needed about 80 liters of diesel and asked how much the diesel costs per liter.  Enrique Jr, whipped out his calculator and showed me the cost in both US dollars and Mexican pesos.  I rowed back to the boat while Enrique Jr. and his co-worker got the fuel panga ready to come out to our boat.  They pulled up to our boat and off-loaded 74 liters of diesel.  Enrique Jr.’s co-worker noted that the pump was quite slow and seemed content to simply wait for the pump to finish by lounging in the back of the panga.  Richard paid for our fuel, we had lunch and then readied the boat for our afternoon departure from Bahia Tortugas.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Adiós San Diego...Hola Ensenada, México!

Early morning cruising to Mexico.
A little after 5:00 am on Sunday, we quietly untied our docklines and slipped out of Sun Harbor Marina in San Diego, our home for the past month, and made our way south to Mexico.  Despite the darkness, the fog, and the forecasted lack of wind, we were excited to be heading to Mexico.  As the sun finally broke through the fog we got our first glimpses of Mexico as we passed east of Los Coronados, a group of small islands just south of Point Loma.  The ocean swells from the northwest were in the range of 8-10 feet but the period between them was about 15 seconds and because they were following us (coming from behind the boat) they were quite manageable.  About halfway through our trip, Richard raised the sails as we were getting a building wind from behind us which allowed us to downwind sail with the headsail deployed.

Cruisport Village Marina, Ensenada, Mexico.
The entrance to Ensenada via Bahia Todos Los Santos saw continued brisk wind and a slight increase in the waves crossing the bay.  Richard had prepared a Spanish radio communication to announce our arrival to the port captain. After hailing the port captain and reading his prepared script, the port captain asked a question which was not part of Richard's prepared script. Richard quickly got his Spanish dictionary and attempted to translate both the question and a response.  After a brief moment, we heard the port captain hail English!  We both laughed and decided "no worries" as we had successfully announced our arrival and were now free to transit to our slip in the Cruiseport Village Marina.  We would have to wait until Monday morning to meet up with the marina manager who was going to help us get our paperwork together in order to facilitate our official arrival in Mexico.  Besides, we were tired from a 12 hour trip down from San Diego and just wanted to eat and call it a night.

Many windows involved in checking into Mexico.
Luckily, everything is located in one central location.
The next morning, Richard and I got our passports and other documents together and headed up to the marina office to meet up with Jonathan who was going to help us get everything in order.  Once all the copies were made and everything looked good, Jonathan told us that Enrique was going to drive us to the immigration office downtown and walk us through the customs process. After going from window to window, presenting passports, getting bank receipts, returning to other windows, back to the bank window, etc., we were finally cleared in and the only thing left to do was PRESS THE BUTTON. 

At the final window is what looks like a traffic light with just the red and green lights and a button right below.  The boat captain approaches the button, says a little prayer (in Spanish, hopefully!) presses the button and hopes for a green light which means essentially "You passed, Bienvenidos a Mexico!"  If you get the red light (accompanied by a very loud signal that sounds like every "wrong" buzzer sound in the world) then a customs official must accompany you to your boat and do a full inspection.  According to our friends on Rhythm, who did get the red light, all that happened was the customs official accompanied them to their boat and verified that the engine serial number presented to the customs officials matched the serial number on the actual engine. But our green light meant we we free to walk around and enjoy Mexico.  Felices tiempo!

The next thing on our to do list was to purchase a banda ancha which is the equivalent of a device that allows you to access the internet via cell signals.  Our first attempt to secure this device resulted in us being told to come back later as they had the sticks but not the SIM cards.  When we returned, it seems they didn't have either items and we were asked to come back tomorrow morning.  Okay...we'll come back tomorrow.

This flag is CRAZY big!
We walked around Ensenada and pretty much saw most of what there is to see in the city proper.  We did see the ridiculously enormous bandera (flag) flying from the zona touristica which is goofy but does provide a great reference point when walking around the city.  One of our guide books says that this flag can probably be seen from space and given its size, I don't doubt it!

We ate a a local comida and about halfway through our meal, Richard asked if we should be eating the ensalada (salad). There are suspicions that eating raw fruits and vegetables that are "washed" with Mexican water can lead to gastro-intestinal problems (read: Montezuma's Revenge). We decided that if we slowly build up our tolerance, by only eating a little salad at a time and gradually increasing our ensalada intake, we should be able to effectively build a tolerance to anything that might try to take us down. That's our plan anyway, and we'll stick to it until one or both of us can't be more than a few feet from the toilet without worrying.

So we returned to the banda ancha store only to be told that we need to come back later in the day.  Okay...I guess we'll come back later.

Meanwhile, Joyce and Bob from Charra arrived and are docked a few slips away from us and have plans to leave Ensenada on Wednesday.  Richard and I think that we will be here until Thursday morning as we still need to get out banda ancha and Mexican cell phones (these will basically be used like walkie-talkies so that Richard and I can stay in touch while on separate adventures throughout Mexico).  I like to get up early and take a walk to get some exercise in and other times Richard needs to run about town looking for marine parts so the phones will allow us to keep in touch and not have to guess where the other one is at any given time.

Today I changed the oil in the outboard engine.  Painless.

After we leave Ensenada, we will be doing a couple of long hauls requiring overnight passages and anchoring in more rural locations.  We are actually excited about the opportunity to anchor out as we have spent more time in marinas these past three months than we usually do when sailing.