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Bienvenida a Mexico
Dec. 3, 2003: Up and out by 0700. We've been in San Diego for 3+ weeks and not one day of fog until this morning -- Murphy's Law! We crossed the Mexican border at 0839 and Jim raised the courtesy flag. We had a good day sea-wise to get our sea legs under us; no wind, but decent sized swells at 10 seconds. Saw one whale and had lots of dolphins play in our bow wake for a good 15 minutes. Jim and I spent the afternoon practicing our Spanish (heaven help us). We arrived Ensenada and hailed Juanito's for a mooring buoy. He quoted us US$15 per night with free dinghy dockage; we don't know if that's a good price but we went with it because the anchorage holding ground was reported to be poor. Half the mooring buoy was missing and it looked very tired, but we were very tired as well, so we'll just keep our fingers crossed. We'll do the officialdumb stuff tomorrow. As a side note, our skittish cat, Jerry, is not the cat he was 3 months ago. He used to hide whenever he heard strange voices on the boat, and would run and hide whenever Jim started the engine. Now he sits on the helm seat and allows people to pet him and even remains curled up on the settee with DC while we're underway. Unfortunately, he still likes to snuggle under the blankets with us when the boat gets cold (yes, we are still having to turn on our heater in the mornings).
Dec. 4, 2003: Went out at 0900 armed with 6 copies of everything. Went to Immigration first. They wanted 5 copies of the crew list to clear in -- no problemo. Then they wanted 5 more copies to clear out -- problemo! He sent us several blocks away to make copies; then back to Immigration. Next to the Port Captain, where we turned over 10 copies, plus our moorage receipt, copy of proof of Mexican insurance and boat documentation. They then sent us to the next window, where we were presented with a bill for $480 - our first YIKES! until we realized it was pesos, not US dollars. Then we went on a wild goose chase to Banco Banamex, perhaps 3/4 mile away. We got a bit lost since it was much further than the 3 blocks the gal told us. The bank has rows of chairs to sit in while you wait for your number to be called. Then back to the Port Captain, only to be told to come back in 2 hours because the Port Captain took an early lunch (or something). So we went back to the boat for lunch and headed back into town at 1215. We walked around looking for a specific shop, but didn't find it. We did, however, locate the supermercado (supermarket). Then we decided to try to find the Aduana (Customs). After several tries, we found it and went inside to request a Temporary Import Permit for the boat (in case we have to have any parts shipped south). The official clearly did not want to deal with us; he told us to go back to the marina and have them do it. So we walked back to Juanito's and told Juan what Aduana said and it was clear that he didn't want to do it either. He said it would take a week -- lots of paperwork -- and we should do it in LaPaz...okay...but we hadn't planned on visiting LaPaz on our way south. Finally, back to the Port Captain for our papers and then to Immigration to drop off one copy. We found the official at Immigration to be quite grumpy, although we stayed upbeat and positive. The folks at the Port Captain's were wonderful; they wanted to practice their English and we were trying our Spanish - a stalemate! Most everyone in Ensenada (that we dealt with) speaks some English and our little Spanish has been appreciated and they all like the name of our boat. But when they say 2 blocks, they really mean 5! After all that, we went back to the supermercado for leche (milk) and fresh fruits and veggies, stopped in a panaderia (bakery) for some bread, and (finally) found the sporting goods store Jim was looking for, only to have them on siesta for another hour. So we went back to the boat again, changed out of our good clothes and relaxed. Jim headed back into town at 1530 but I stayed at the boat because I had developed blisters on my foot. That's what I get for putting my walking shoes on! I found Ensenada to be very similar to the other Mexican cities we've been to, although it was definitely less zooey than Tijuana and not as much apparent poverty/begging as Puerto Vallerta, but still nothing here that would make me write "You've gotta see this place", or even want to return again, except it's where we'll clear out of the country next summer.
||Bahia Colnett Anchorage
Dec. 5, 2003: A mixed bag day. Had a dozen Risso dolphins pass us and several common dolphins play in our bow wake. Jim and Eric (Abyssinia) made SSB contact at 0800. Sounds like horrible weather in Seattle :) At 1130, Jim rigged one fishing rod and at 1400 caught some kelp. Catch and release time! At 1415 he caught a 26" Mexican bonito - definitely catch and keep time! While we were trying to pose for a picture, Jim noticed we were headed in the wrong direction. Upon a quick investigation, he realized the upper steering cable broke again. I manually steered the boat while Jim cleaned the fish. Thank goodness we were only 1 1/2 hours away from Bahia Colnett. Once at anchor, we replaced the steering cable. Jim thinks he may have had the previous cable too tight so he made this one looser and we'll see how long it lasts. I went through my various fish recipes, but neither of us knew if bonito was a mild- or gamey-flavored fish. Finally decided on baking it with salsa. It was delicious (mild flavored) and we have enough for 2 meals. It yielded 2.6 lbs of dressed fish. After tallying up all the fish-related expenses (licenses, rods, reels, etc.), we figure this fish cost us approx. $230/lb. Jim made contact with Boja (Sowelu), who is in LaPaz. We went to bed early in preparation of an early start tomorrow.
||Approaching Punta Rompiente
Dec. 6-7, 2003: Up and out by 0515 with Bahia San Carlos as our destination, 95 miles away. The weather conditions were ideal for travelling so we decided to continue on to Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay), an additional 135 miles. We knew it would be a long day to Turtle Bay no matter how we did it because of the lack of anchorages. Doing it now shaved off 1 or 2 additional travel days. We began standing 3 hour watches as soon as we made the decision to continue south. As the sun was setting, we watched dolphins play in our bow wake and one jumped totally out of the water, silhouetted against an orangey-red sunset sky -- an image that is permanently engraved in my mind. The other steering cable broke on Jim's 0200-0500 watch, causing him to have to manually steer for 2 hours. When I came back on watch at 0500, we were just passing Isla Cedros. Jim took a short cat nap and at 0700 we decided to take a break, as we'd been underway for 26 hours. We snugged up to the island, shut off the engine (blessed peace), had breakfast, replaced the steering cable (we were still 6 hours from Turtle Bay), started the watermaker and headed out after 1.5 hours. We arrived Turtle Bay at 1430 with a full tank of water. Dodged mucho lobster pots and kelp mats -- we had been warned not to enter this anchorage at night. As we were in the process of anchoring, a young boy (8-9?) rowed up to the boat willing to take our basura (trash) for US$1 per bag. Jim countered with 5 pesos (about 50 cents) and he agreed. Unfortunately neither of us knew how to ask him to return in one hour and we both scrambled for different dictionaries, but somehow we got the message across! After 34 hours underway, we were very tired. I had lucked out with about 5 hours of sleep, but Jim had only had 3 because he was too wound up after the steering cable broke to sleep during his 0500-0800 off shift.
Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay)
Dec. 8, 2003: We slept 12(!) hours, but woke feeling refreshed. Jim talked to Eric (Abyssinia) and we learned later that Peter had listened in (hi Peter!). A local stopped by via kayak asking if we had any magazines or T-shirts from Seattle. Although we had been told to bring "trading fodder", we did not do so...packing everything we would need filled all of our 38' (but Jim said he's willing to trade a couple of cervezas fria (cold beers) for langostas (lobsters)). Jim tried to figure out what's going on with the auto pilot/steering cables; there's definitely a difference in bending flexibility between the stainless cable that was originally on the boat and the galvanized cable that Jim used to replace it. I did some hand laundry and general housework and then put most of the Christmas decorations up. It's hard to think it's Christmas time when we're sitting in an anchorage in 70 degree water, with the sun shining, and sea lions and dolphins swimming around the boat. Kevin (The Right Lane) rowed over in mid-afternoon to introduce himself. We had shared several anchorages in San Diego with him and had heard him on the morning "net" (a local VHF or SSB frequency where cruisers can check in and pass along weather or other information). He stayed for dinner and we ate the last bonito filet.
Taking on Fuel
Dec. 9, 2003: Washed more laundry and worked on the auto pilot. Jim did some maintenance in the engine room. Kevin stopped by and gave us a picture he'd taken of Mañana in LaPlaya at sun rise. We decided to take on more fuel, although it probably wasn't 100% necessary. Jorge came out with his fuel boat and topped us off. Afterwards, Jim dove on the prop and removed a huge chuck of kelp -- no wonder we'd been down 1/2 knot on our speed. After all the chores were done, we took Ruthie to the fuel dock and very carefully climbed the "steps" to the dock. The steps were 2 ladders wired together, with no handrails until you got to the top. We walked into town, meeting locals on our way. Everyone was friendly and said "hola" to us. We stopped into the panaderia and bought 2 red "things" for dessert. They were the consistency of a cake donut, cut in half with guava jam spread in the middle and totally coated with a red sugar. Quite good, but a massive sugar buzz afterwards! While we were paying for the dessert, a girl brought out a tray of buns that had just come out of the oven; the clerk took one off the tray saying "comer" (eat). It was excellent so we bought 2 of them as well. We then went into one of the mercados and picked up some mole sauce, a couple small cans of refried beans and a can of what we believe to be a "shake & use" whipped cream (friends from Canada introduced us to it in Sausalito. They don't sell it in the States.) I made meatloaf for dinner and we went to bed early in preparation of our next long cruise.
Dec. 10-11, 2003: Left Bahia Tortugas at 0700 - no kelp and no lobster traps to avoid this morning. The wind picked up as the day wore on. We stood 2-hour watches during the day and went to 3 hours at 1800. Jim set 2 fishing lines and immediately caught a bonito, which he lost before he got it on board. He set the line again and got another immediate hit - another bonito, which he lost because he was too anxious to get it on board and didn't wait for me to come underneath him with the net. The third time, another immediate hit, he managed to land a 24" bonito, which weighed in with 2 3/4 lbs. of dressed filets. Just what I wasn't ready for -- more fish! We had a school of dolphins perform acrobatic jumps for us. They leapt straight out of the water, sometimes twisting and landing on their sides or bellies and slapping the water with their tails, creating a large splash. At one point, three dolphins jumped simultaneously three times. Jim and I giggled like children and clapped our hands in appreciation of Mother Nature's gift. We had our own private Sea World performance, but this was the real thing! Jim was on watch when a turtle went swimming by. We arrived in Bahia Santa Maria at 1530, very, very tired. There were quite a few familiar boats in the anchorage. As I was straightening the boat, John (Encanto) stopped by briefly. After that, we baked the bonito with salsa again, but this time being careful of the oven temperature. It came out much better, but I've asked Jim to try for Wahoo or tuna. We fell into bed at 1900 but were awakened at 2345 by a panga with 4 drunk fishermen who wanted to trade tequila for lobsters. Jim got out of bed and told them we had no tequila on board; I was extremely scared. I also climbed out of bed and put on some clothes in case I needed to go on deck with a frying pan. The fishermen weren't shy -- they were hanging onto our boat rails so Jim turned the deck lights on and at that point they moved on to Encanto.
Dec. 12, 2003: Jim was up early to listen to the weather on the net -- it's blowing 25 - 30 kts. and is supposed to be like this for several days. Fortunately we have an empty holding tank and plenty of water on board. The boats in the anchorage all have their VHF radios set to channel 79 and we learned that Encanto's generator had been stolen by the fishermen. John said he heard them yelling, but was afraid to go on deck (understandably). So the talk of the anchorage net was what to do in the future (blow the horn to alert other boats), and a book exchange/wine tasting party will take place once the winds finally die down enough for folks to safely go out in their dinghies. I suspect it will be a mass exodus when that day comes! Paul (Carmelita) stopped by with a 1" thick wahoo steak. He caught a 5' wahoo just outside the bay and gave everyone in the anchorage a steak.
||Huge Sand Dollars
Dec. 13, 2003: The wind calmed down so we took Ruthie for a tour of "the jungle." A panga passed us and we watched how they crossed the wave break and followed him across. We followed one branch of the mangrove lined channel, but it closed in on us so we turned around and took another branch, which took us past several fish camps. The channels were very shallow and extremely clear; we could see the fish swimming under us. In addition, there were several species of birds that looked similar to herons or egrets. The fish camps were very sobering. The houses were nothing more than barely sided shacks and there was one church. However, the folks who were about waved to us as we passed by and we saw children playing. We beached Ruthie on the back side of the beach and walked along picking up sand and shells for Colleen. The sand dollars were the size of tea cup saucers. When we returned to Mañana at 1100, a panga with four fishermen stopped by holding up a lobster. They were primarily interested in Coca Cola, which we don't have on board. We offered money, but they "settled" for two cold Tecates. Jim immediately got a pot of boiling water going, and when they were done, I made a lobster salad for lunch (not too shabby). After lunch, another panga stopped by requesting fresh water. We gave them our 10 gallons emergency supply. At 1500 we went to Jay & Janice's boat (Ceilidh) for wine, appies and a book swap. Although the entire anchorage was invited, it was only the four of us (six boats left this morning). Returned to our boat at 1730 for a steak and noodles supper.
Cabo San Lucas
Dec. 14-15, 2003: DC got sick at 0230, waking us up. After Jim cleaned things up, he suggested we leave for Cabo, as the wind was down to 3 knots. We had a pleasant cruise until the steering cable broke (this has gotten VERY old). We replaced the steering cable rather than hand steer for the next 20 hours. We attempted to make water, but at some point, the generator stopped running. What's up with that? At 1730 Jim turned on the Bluewater Net and heard Encanto check in and report his engine had died and although he was under sail, there was no wind and they were doing 2 kts. John hailed us and asked if we could possibly give them a tow. At that point, we were 45 miles north of them. At 0200 (12/15/03) we caught up with them, rigged a towing bridle and towed them into Cabo's anchorage, arriving at dawn. We then attempted to bring them alongside us so we could help them anchor. Somehow, the towing line fell back into the water and wrapped itself around our prop. Now we were two dead boats rafted off one another drifting into a Mexican naval vessel! No stress here!! Jim quickly dove on the prop (80 degree water) to cut the line. Thankfully there appears to be no damage to either the prop or transmission. We were able to help Encanto set their anchor but we decided to stay rafted off them, in case they need to move their boat. Judy made fresh baked scones so we had a light breakfast on Encanto after we were settled, and then went to bed at 0930. After lunch, Jim tried to help John diagnose his engine problem, and John tried to help Jim diagnose our generator problem. At this point, it's not looking good for either of us! We have decided to stay with them until their engine is working; if they have enough wind, we may follow them north to La Paz, stopping in various anchorages each night. We'll have to see what our search for diesel mechanics turns up tomorrow in Cabo. We hit the sack early.
|Cabo San Lucas Marina
Dec. 16, 2003: Cabo's anchorage is horribly rolly and no one had a good night's sleep because of the jerking motion of the boats in the swells. At 0830 we discovered that the stern line was 95% frayed (although Jim had let out some slack during the night) and we discovered some damage to our starboard bulwarks. We decided it was time to separate the boats. Since it appears we're going to be here a few days because of a storm in the Sea of Cortez, Jim and I figured we'd better go do the officialdumb paperwork. Back in San Diego, we were told if we filled out the crew list "this way", it would save us time and money in Mexico. So we went to the port captain prepared to show our Ensenada exit documentation, thinking that would be all that was needed. WRONG!! He told us we needed a new crew list, then we had to go to API (port office), then to Migration, and to the banco, and back to him. Oh, by the way, the port captain's office closes at 1430 and it was 1130. However, he was very friendly and helpful. Their machine that prints the receipts for the banco was broken, so he told us we could pay him when we returned. Of course, none of these places are close to one another, except the banco is across the calle (street) from Migracion. So off we went to pay 55 pesos to API. Good, one down, one to go. Since we'd both developed blisters, we thought we'd take a taxi to Migracion, but we were told it was US$15 -- forget it! A bicycle taxi asked if we needed a ride, so we asked how much. He said US$5 for the 2 of us. Bueno. He took us to Migracion and suddenly it was US$5 each. We weren't surprised because the kid had quoted us the price before he knew where Migracion was. We countered back to him but ended up paying him 100 pesos. It was still cheaper than the taxi and faster than if we had walked. By now it was 1215 and we figured we had it made until we walked into Migracion and saw a room full of people. They were on #81, our number was #95. Ah, yes, we're in mañana land. There was a failure of the number machine and any sort of efficiency went down the drain quickly. Jim got in line with another lady and were talking. Jim mentioned that he needed to get back to the Port Captain's office by 1430 (it was now 1345). She very nicely stepped up to one of the officials, told him of Jim's plight, and he took Jim next. We couldn't thank either of them enough. Back to the Port Captain at a very brisk walk (to hell with the blisters). We arrived at 1410 -- whew! We gave him our papers and he told us we had to go to the banco. We reminded him that the machine was broken earlier and he'd told us we could pay him. Thankfully he kept his promise. At 1425 we walked out the door, 635 pesos poorer, but legal in the eyes of the Mexicans. Now if I haven't said it before, or you haven't caught my snide remarks about it, for the record I HATE THIS OFFICIALDUMB BULLSH**! Although I had packed a small container of lemonade and some saltines in our backpack, we were both very hungry, so we stopped at Lolita's Restaurant, which had been recommended to us. Lolita's is definitely not a Gringo restaurant. It is not quite an open air restaurant -- it had half height walls and a roof. Lolita cooked all the food on iron grates over a wood burning fire. Jim had huevos rancheros and a cold beer and I had a cheese quesadilla with freshly squeezed OJ. This is authentic Mexican cooking at its best. The tortillas are fabulous -- nothing like you get in any Mexican restaurant in the States. And the OJ was to die for (I'd been having a craving). Our bill, including tip, was 120 pesos (about $12). Next stop was to a farmacia (Pharmacy) for bandaids and to a grocery store. On our way back to the boat, I realized that I'd forgotten a plastic baggie to collect sand for Colleen. So I grabbed a baggie and we headed to the beach. Now riding a dinghy through breaking surf is tricky. We know the basics, but our timing was off on this landing and Ruthie went sideways to the wave and the wave crashed over her side and into the boat and us. Thankfully we didn't flip. We both hopped out of the boat, Jim doing his best to hold Ruthie so waves wouldn't crash over her stern and me running to shovel several handfuls of sand into the baggie. I don't think it took 30 seconds, but Jim's "get in -- quick" had me moving in high gear! We headed back to the boat, with 3" of water and lots of sand in the bottom. We enjoyed a gin and tonic, some homemade soup that Judy had given us the night before, bread from the panaderia and went to bed at 2030. The word of us towing Encanto has spread over both nets. We had several boats thank us for doing that, as well as folks we've never met thanking us via the net.
Dec. 17, 2003: Jim replaced the steering cable with the stainless cable we have on board. Hopefully it won't break again! I spent a few hours updating the web site and after lunch, we took Ruthie to town and went to an internet cafe. We ran a few errands afterwards -- the chandleries are not well stocked. Returned to the boat, had a ham steak and cabbage salad and climbed into bed at 2030.
Dec. 18, 2003: Jim, John and Kevin (The Right Lane) headed into town. Kevin had to check in and John needed to return a generator he bought yesterday. I spent the day sewing small pillows to give as Christmas gifts. Jim returned at 1530. He installed bronze strips along the aft bulwarks in preparation of tomorrow's possible towing of Encanto. We had a terrific salad with dinner, thanks to Judy (Encanto) giving us two heads of lettuce (California lettuce -- no washing/bleaching necessary).
Los Arcos, Cabo
Dec. 19, 2003: Encanto was able to raise her own anchor. We attached the tow line and joined five sailboats out of Cabo. Four other sailboats left Cabo 1-1/2 hours after we did. We kept the tow going until sea conditions deteriorated to where we thought we might damage our boat. The winds had picked up to 15-20 kts. and the seas were 3' and steep. We had been towing them at 5 kts. but after we dropped them, we lowered our speed to 2.5 - 3 kts (I guess you can hardly call that "speed") because the seas had built to 4-6 feet from the North and we were plowing into them -- not a pleasant trip whatsoever! Jim had not adequately secured the garage and several boxes fell onto the floor. In addition, I could hear the bottles in the cabinet clinking together. I just kept praying that the bottles wouldn't break and the lids would stay tight. Jim offered to turn back to Cabo, but I wouldn't allow him. We were 3.5 miles from Los Frailes at that point. I told him if he turned back, I would get off the boat and not get back on. Back to Encanto....about 45 min. after Encanto left us, Judy hailed us saying their jib had torn. We could see it flapping around. We were now in a real dilemma -- we could not safely go back to get them and they could not sail adequately with just their main sail. They hanked on their storm sail and tried their best. In the end, they decided to heave to, and we said we would try to return to them in the morning. We arrived at Los Frailes at 1700, 10 hours later. It turned out to be a very crowded anchorage, but was a lot less rolly than Cabo. I still hate getting from Point A to Point B. I wish I could get into the groove of it.
Dec. 20, 2003: We laid in bed listening
to the wind howl and knew we couldn't get Encanto. John and Jim talked at 0400
and John said conditions were 20-25 kts. of wind so he wasn't surprised. At
0700 Jerry (Manu Wai) and Jim talked and Jerry stopped by with his spare jib,
in case we could get it to Encanto. We touched base every 2 hours and Encanto
was losing ground and heading SE instead of N. The weather started subsiding
after lunch and we were hopeful that we'd be able to get them, but an hour later,
the wind was back to 15+ kts. in the anchorage and we could see white caps outside.
John was crushed when we told him. We were feeling absolutely frustrated; we
knew we were their only chance of getting to La Paz. The wind started dying
down again around dinner time. We talked to John at 2000 and he'd made impressive
progress north and was only 9 miles from us (at one point he was over 20 miles
away). Other friends told us the sea conditions were flattening, so at 2030,
we upped anchor and headed south to pick up Encanto. We met them at 2200, very
happy to see one another. Their boat looked pitiful with their ripped jib flapping.
It took a couple of tries to get the tow lines rigged, but 30 minutes later,
we were underway. The winds and seas continued to diminish as we headed north.
Towing a Tattered
Dec. 21, 2003: Originally our planned destination was Bahia de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead), but the conditions were ideal so we decided to continue on an additional 50 miles to Puerto Balandra, which is only 10 miles outside of La Paz. The tow line was rigged with 300' of line, a 25 lb. anchor and another 300' of line. The weight of the anchor caused a sag in the line, which acted as a shock absorber between the two boats. All was going well until we got to the shoals in the San Lorenzo Channel. Three things factored in here: (1) There is nothing more dangerous than cruisers trying to reason when they are way behind in sleep; (2) There is also nothing more dangerous than believing the Mexican charts; and (3) The southern channel marker was wiped out by Hurricane Marty and hasn't been replaced. According to our charts, we had to stay off the south shoal by at least 1 mile, which Jim did. However, we watched as the depth went down, and down, and down. It wouldn't have been dangerous for us, but we had a 60' sailboat behind us. Jim slowed Mañana and turned her sharply to starboard to deeper water (although our charts said we should be in 45' of water where we were). In doing so, the tension in the tow line lessened, the anchor dropped down and wham! we were anchored! NO!!!! I made a frantic call to John and he confirmed he had a couple feet of water under his keel. With me at the helm, Jim directed me so he was able to pull in 300' of line and the anchor. We then pulled Encanto out to deeper water -- whew!! that was close! When we got closer to the anchorage, we put Encanto on our side and dropped our anchor. There were three other boats in the anchorage; we knew one of them. Christian and Poki (Irie) stopped by to say hi; Judy invited everyone for a Thanksgiving dinner. I told her not to celebrate yet -- we're still not in La Paz! We thought if tomorrow's weather is nice, we'll stay put and play for a day.
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