Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Out And About - Ensenada

I love the vibrant colors everywhere
 It has been a wonderful 5 days, a brilliant introduction to Mexico and a warm welcome into the cruising community, but we are now preparing to leave. Our plans have changed a few times as we listen to and learn from sailors with Mexico cruising experience; and, as one dock-mate put it, “Cruising plans must always be written in jello.”  So, we continue to cruise south at a snail’s pace without an itinerary. Just the goal of avoiding bad weather conditions while having a grand adventure on our way to the Sea of Cortez

Pelican in flight

At Los Globos, the daily open-air market

Ensenada Municipal Beach, a couple of miles from the marina

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Checking Into Mexico

 Yes, I know I said that I would post this yesterday, but really, did you think that I would spend my first full day in Mexico sitting at the computer?
Mexican courtesy flag flying on La Volante after check-in
 I guess the best advice I could offer for any cruiser coming to Mexico is: Don’t believe everything you read and don’t believe most of what you hear. The rules seem to change every day here. And not just the rules, but facilities (like fuel docks) seem to come and go, and navigation markers move or disappear altogether. Even a marina we were told about by other cruisers who had stayed there, has now been abandoned and is filled with sand. Make certain that your information is current and be prepared for the unexpected.
On the other hand, everything about our arrival went much more smoothly than we thought it would. 

There has been a new cruise ship every day of our stay

Experienced mariners told us not to attempt entering this harbor at night; good advice for entering any unfamiliar harbor, but apparently the lights of Ensenada are especially distracting and confusing. Also be aware that you are supposed to notify traffic control on VHF 14 when entering or exiting the port of Ensenada. The large cruise ships dock here and when they are moving the port is closed to other traffic.

Cruiseport Village Marina offices

There is no anchorage here but several marinas to choose from and each is very different from the other. We chose Cruiseport Village Marina. Enclosed by their own breakwater inside the port breakwater, they are the least subject to surges. They are priced mid-way between the others and have good access to town. It is clean, modern and secure but with no pump-out or fuel facilities.

 Our check-in with the Mexican authorities took just over 2 hours and was expedited by marina staff at no additional charge to us. Enrique began our paperwork in the marina office and then drove us to the government offices which are all located in one building. He stayed with us throughout the process, guiding us from window to window, and translating when necessary. All that we needed were: passports, vessel documentation and proof of insurance, and engine serial numbers including dinghy outboard. Oh, and money – American dollars, Mexican pesos, or credit card. Enrique made out our crew list which has to be presented to the authorities in Spanish. The inventory list for the Temporary Import Permit is provided as a check list and is not something that you have to compile in advance. After all of your other paperwork is complete, the last stop is Customs where Mike, as captain, had to push the button on a large “traffic light”. Fortunately he got a green light. In a random selection process, you could get a red light which means a trip back to your boat with Customs officials who take a photo of your boat and may or may not have a look around inside. With Enrique’s assistance it was a relatively quick and easy process and we were off exploring the city before lunchtime.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mexico At Last!

D Dock, Cruiseport Village Marina, Ensenada, Mexico
We need to be safely tucked up in the Sea of Cortez by June 1st, the beginning of Mexico’s hurricane season. Wanting to allow enough time to enjoy the journey, we knew we had to leave San Diego. Closely watching the weather forecasts we waited for a storm front to pass through and set Thursday, April 18 as our departure date.
We had accomplished everything that needed to be done before leaving the States. We secured good and reasonably priced insurance for the boat, obtained Mexican fishing licenses, and got a new safety switch for the dinghy’s outboard. We made all necessary repairs, improvements, and bought fishing gear for the great Baja fishing ahead of us. We finished our tax returns, set all of our bills to auto pay and notified family and friends of our imminent departure. We had run out of excuses to stay in San Diego.
After seven and a half weeks we had established a routine; we visited with friends at Downwind Marine every Wednesday morning over coffee and donuts and went to the Farmers’ Market for produce every Sunday. We had our favorite restaurants, favorite bookstore and tackle shop, even a favorite bus driver. We became experts on the transit system and explored every corner of the city.
It was easy to get comfortable there. Our friend and former Seattle dock-mate, Michael Pack, was a welcome face and helped us in many ways. We are deeply grateful for his kindnesses.  It was hard to leave. 

Wanting to ensure a daylight arrival at Ensenada, we pulled away from Kona Kai Marina at 2:30 am. The sea was dead calm and the wind was 2 kts from the west. It was nice to be out on the open water again under clear, star-filled skies. For most of the day we motor-sailed at 5.5 kts with 6 kts of air from the west.  Only when Ensenada was in sight did the wind pick up, a hot and dry 20+ knots that pushed us the last 8 or so miles.

 It was a comfortable and uneventful trip and we arrived at our destination after 12 hours at sea. As hard as it was to leave San Diego behind, we are happy and excited to finally be in Mexico and look forward to the adventures ahead.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Out and About - Shelter Island

For many blue water cruisers, the trip down the Pacific Coast is the shakedown cruise for both boat and crew. A San Diego layover is then the obvious opportunity to repair, upgrade, improve, re-provision, and  catch a little R&R prior to sailing to Mexico and beyond.  


 The Shelter Island/Point Loma area offers everything a cruiser could possibly need or desire. It’s like a shopping mall for mariners. There are boatyards, chandleries, marine insurance agencies, brokers, upholsterers, diesel mechanics, sail lofts, outboard mechanics, a book and chart store, custom fishing rod makers, bait shops, canvas works, electronics sales and repair, compass adjusters, riggers, divers, woodworkers and finishers, satellite phone sales and more, not to mention the ubiquitous West Marine.


There are also banks, bars, restaurants (a LOT of restaurants), live music venues, a small weekly farmers’ market, a pharmacy, hair and nail salons, and several liquor stores. For those so inclined there is a fortune teller who offers insight and advice “past, present and future” or, at the other end of the spiritual spectrum, a mega-church a short bus ride away.

The San Diego transit system is extensive and San Diego offers an astounding array of tourist attractions, shopping venues, and sightseeing opportunities. I highly recommend an extended stay if you can fit it into your cruising schedule.  I promise you won’t be bored.