Archive for October, 2009

Tony’s Take on Ensenada Trip

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Tony’s Take on the trip to, and arrival in Ensenada:


We are in Ensenada, Mexico. The trip down was good, autopilot worked really well. On the first day we anchored at Halfmoon Bay, 20mls south of the Golden Gate bridge, and about 40mls from our starting point…left sort of late in the am and had to get fuel on the way.. A good first stop. The second night we anchored at Santa Cruz about 60 mls south of Halfmoon Bay. The next day we headed south having tried and liked the autopilot. We motorsailed 3 days and nights, taking 3hour watches and arrived at Santa Catalina island at about midday on the third day out from Santa Cruz. Bloody awful place - jam packed moorings at about six foot clearance between boats all moored for and aft. The next day we arrived in San Diego . Met some wonderful people….we had the keys to a new Lexus 30mins after arrival! No mooring to be had, you need a permit to anchor, everything is very expensive. The people are great, the place has lots of drawbacks. Stayed a week and then left for Mexico. So here we are. We are enjoying ourselves - an interesting place. The country is on the verge of political collapse due to the Narco wars, but the rest of society just careers merrily on in an insane but lovable chaos. We have started Spanish lessons with a very sweet couple - retired professionals. The boat projects continue….deck houses to be painted and new nonskid to be applied. There are some excellent tradesmen to be found here - we are having some stainless work done  - beautiful shop, superb welding, and the price in this case is very reasonable. We have heard horror stories but you can’t just freeze so….work goes on. The land outside the town is desolate looking rocky hill country just like you see in spaghetti westerns. There are soldiers all over the place with machine guns and all the rest of it - last week the Cartel captured 27 soldiers and shot them in the head! But it seems if you are not involved in their business they ignore you - it is quite surreal. Mexican ice cream shops are to die for. The food is great and the people we have met are a delight. The day of our arrival was an amazing introduction to the way things are done in Mexico. We were informed that clearing in to Mexico here was easy with a “one stop shopping” Captiaine de Puerto/Immigracionne/Customs/Bank/Copy shop etc. This was so in theory, but as it happened……..We first had to get our Visas, this was accomplished with all sorts of help from the officer who spoke about as much English as we did Spanish. We got through almost all the steps, but when he sent us to the next counter to pay the fee “So sorry Señor the bank machine is broken” ” No problem just go to the bank downtown….here followed many directions in Spanish. After walking about 20mins we arrive at the bank…”So sorry Señor the machine is broken….here followed many directions in Spanish. After 10 minutes walk we arrive at the other bank and get in line ….. many people behind wickets having long conversations ignore us for 10 mins “So sorry Señor y Señora, we need a form (which you don’t have) from the port Capitaine’s office. Back 30mins to the port Capitane’s office. Here follows much broken Spanish and English to the effect that….”You don’t need that form but here take it anyway and go to a different bank it’s closer!” We pay the fee and go back to the Port Capitaine’s office. Good! Now go to that wicket and clear in with the port Capitaine himself….Ok Señor we can only take cash but the machine which prints receipts is broken! (Yikes!) But here is your clearance… stamped…Come back tomorrow and get the receipt…hmmmm! Oh well its only 400 Pesos! Good now go to the Guy at the wicket whose machine doesn’t work and get your boat import permit..its ok we can take your money for THAT transaction….. Now Señora we need two copies of this form we have just issued… no problem just go outside the front door there is a kiosk…. No Problem! “Perdonne Señor necessito….” “Its ok Señor I speak Ingleese…” “Oh great …..” “So sorrry Señor the copy machine is broken”  Jesus they said there would be days like this but…..!  Patsy works her charm and the Port Capitaine takes pity. HIS copy machine does work! No problem Señora two copies? No problem! Come back tomorrow for your other receipt! The following morning, having been relieved of more cash than we have ever paid for one night’s mooring we arrive back at the office of the Capitaine de Puerto only to find the Capitaine does not work today. In his place are 4 very beautiful women each at a different wicket and determined not to make eye contact with anyone in line as they are engaged in an extremely lengthy and animated conversation which seemed - with even my limited comprehension - to be totally personal and domestic in content. Breathe! Read your book! Don’t be an uptight Gringo! “Oh no Señor No Ingleese”…..uh…Reciebo…..uh how do I say yesterday….Now at least all four of the beautiful women are concentrating on ME….maybe… uh oh! all the rest of the guys in the line are not so pleased with ME…. “Señor so sorry the machine is broken!” Uh Señorita es possible …uh ….. can’t you just use the receipt stamp on my clearance and WRITE the the amount on it? Christ how do I say that? “Can I help Señor I speak Ingleese …..” Oh thank you Muchas Gracias!” “She says that is a very good Idea Señor!”…. Stamp….write….”Perdonne Señor,” …heartfelt apologies in spangleese…. BUENOS DIAS SENOR!”…. “MUCHAS GRACIAS SENHORITA! ” Why on earth didn’t I think of that yesterday!

    How do you say that in Spanish?

Another Day in Ensenada #1

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Another Day in Ensenada #1


There is no way to write about a typical day for a cruiser here in Ensenada. So here is one example:

            Up at 7 for a quick breakfast of cereal and fruit. Met Ron and Susana (Gold Eagle) and Stephan (O Dadis) on the Malecon (seaside walkway) at 8 am. Ron drove us about 30 miles north to check out another Marina (Marina Salinas). Salinas is more isolated from Ensenada than the other Marinas. We had hoped the price might be lower and the surge less of a problem. Turns out the price is not that great, and the distance and isolation would be problematic for us. The subjective analysis: we don’t like the feel of it. But it was good to check it out, and lots of fun in the car with good company. On the way back, we stopped at a store that sells only coffee, mainly to commercial enterprises. It’s a tiny store and it specializes also in the mixes that are used to make frappe-those frozen ice drinks that are so popular here.

            Back to the boat about 10 am. Tony and I had a snack and then walked over to the end of the bay where the fisherman congregate. We were looking for a certain haul-out place we had been told about. We walked and asked and asked and walked, and didn’t seem to be able to get an understanding or an answer from the locals. (In the Spanish for Cruisers book, the word “travel-lift” is the same (trah-veh-leeft), but it didn’t seem to ring any bells with anyone. Just as we were about to give up, and talking about asking Gary (Sparkle) for more specific direction, we looked up, and there was Gary! He took us to the right place. The person we needed to talk to was not there, so we left our info. with the pleasant (English speaking) office lady and headed back to the boat. Tony did some more dockside consultation while I put together a quick lunch of Vietnamese salad rolls (the last of the rice wrappers and some homemade bean sprouts). A short siesta and reading spree, and suddenly it was 3 pm. Off to the Marine store to try to find stainless steel nuts and bolts. We were most impressed with the materials available just a few minutes walk from our marina. The price was excellent-cheaper than the US or Canada (about $20 US for 4 large bolts with nuts and washers), and the service was perfect.

            Back to the boat, and I went walking with our hand cart to buy water. The water refill store is just a couple of blocks away, and it’s so much fun to greet and chat with the locals along the way—the young man who paints the sidewalks brick red- oh-so-proud of his latest job, young families with spinning tops, the young women who clean the outdoor telephone booths, wiping the buttons and receivers with disinfectant, the mariachis gathering for the evening’s work.

            Two five-litre water bottles were filled for 4 pesos (about 40 cents). That includes filling, drying the bottles and loading them into my bags.

            3 pm, back at the boat, Tony is about to head out with Gary and his son, Spike (yes—named after Spike Africa). They are going to look at the space Spike has offered for the building of the bowsprit. Spike mentions that there is a great supermarket right next to his house, so I tag along.

            Spike and Gary have been living in Mexcio for years and both speak fluent Spanish. It would take a whole big book to tell the story of these two amazing sailors.

            Spike’s house is at the other end of Ensenada, so we get a great tour of the town, in places we haven’t seen yet—an area of 2nd hand stores and markets, and a view of the surrounding hills. Spike’s place is tiny, but a magical and wonderful little hide-away. Hours pass and we have only begun to comprehend the depth ad breadth of this young man’s imagination, skill, knowledge and ability.

            Hung all around on the ceiling are model airplanes—but model airplanes to surpass any inventor’s wildest dreams. Spike has been developing these planes and using them for aerial photography at a very sophisticated level. Tony was in heaven talking with Gary and Spike about aerodynamics and inventions and all of the aspects of sailing and flying that interest all three of them. We heard some of the amazing stories of the family adventures in Mexico. We shared lots of laughs about mistakes you can make when you are learning a new language and culture (eg embarrassoso means embarrassed, while embarassado means pregnant—perhaps sometimes meaning the same thing, but not always!).  I took a trip to the grocery store and returned to find that the conversationcontinued at a lively rate. Spike offered us a shower (much appreciated-hot water with great water pressure—better than the fancy hotel) and there was some talk about the building of the bowsprit. Suddenly, it was 9 pm. Time to get back to the Marina. On the way home, we stopped at a little Mexican Restaurant for some food. A tutorial on the difference between flautas and tacos and empenadas, all food, while empanas are pawn shops (There are more pawn shops here than I understood—good to get that cleared up). Some rice milk, beer and limone. More laughs and more philosophy. 

            It had been an action-filled day, and once again, our brains were full with new information, new words in Spanish, and a greater understanding of the culture here. And our hearts were full of appreciation for the folks we are meeting in this cruising life. You have to feel more positive about life and the world, when you continue to meet people like Gary and Spike!

October 10, 2009 - Quick Update from Ensenada

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Sitting in ‘Mi Kaza’, a local restaurant a few minutes away from Marina Ensenada. This has become a hangout for us. We met the owner, Les, a wonderfully personable American. He has offered us the use of his freezer for making ice. And there is Wi-Fi here. They offer a great comida (set lunch available daily), so we are here eating too much and watching the Soccer game. Everyone in the restaurant is cheering as Mexico has just scored the second goal (First one was scored by the other team against itself).

In the project department, the stove is almost working-gas line has been run, as well as electricity for the sniffers and solenoid. The tanks have been relocated, and the bottom half of the gas box will become a paint locker. The engine for the electric windlass has been refurbished ($80). The wood for the new bowsprit will be here soon.

More details about daily life will be posted soon.  In the meantime, Happy October  and Happy Thanksgiving to all our Canadian friends and family. P&T