Ensenada, Mexico November 27, 2016
We have arrived in Mexico. It was a strange and beautiful trip down the coast over the past couple of days. Our second night we sailed within sight of Tijuana - a scattering of lights in an otherwise black landmass. The sliver of moon that rose over the hills was blood red and came up like the horns of a beast - first just two slim tips then the rest of moon rising slowly behind in a red sky. We had chaotic seas and strong winds our first day and most of the first night, which diminished for Thanksgiving. We had light winds and calm seas for the holiday. I had cooked up a few dishes in advance and baked up a batch of buttermilk biscuits to go with the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, roasted veggies and carrot, dried papaya salad (the closest we could come to what we really missed - cranberries!). I roasted an apple for dinner and was going to serve it with whipped cream but we had no appetite left the rest of the day. It was calm enough to open the table in the cockpit and dine like civilized folks.
The sail down from Ventura was divided by the weather of the first and second days. The first day we headed offshore to catch winds to sail by, and that caught us up in good winds but lumpy seas and put us at a contrary angle to comfort. There might be an index for that - your CAC rating for the day, ours would have been really high, or really low, depending on which system you use. For the 24 hours of the run, until we we well offshore of San Diego, we were being tossed around pretty regularly by the contrary wave train. I had a few moments of levitation out of my berth that night. The next morning we were far enough offshore to gybe over and set a clean course for Ensenada. That angle lined us up with the wind and waves and was much more comfortable, the winds also settled down from the mid-20kts, gusting up to the high 30s, down a much more manageable 15kts or so. Thanksgiving was pretty gorgeous sailing, well spaced swells that rolled along, and a steady breeze.
The strong winds on Wednesday had us flying down the coast and put us ahead of schedule so late Thursday we reduced sail so we could time our arrival into Ensenada in the morning. We could have made amazing time but instead drifted along under a reefed genoa and our tiny trys’l. Early Friday morning, around 2:30, the winds died off and we motored the rest of the way in, with the exception of a few minutes in Bahia Todos Santos, the bay in front of Ensenada, when we were fooled by some strong winds, hoisting our sails, only to have the winds die a few minutes after putting them up.
Another gorgeous sunrise coming into Bahia Todos Santos. The sun came up behind the foothills behind the town, the winds died over the bay and a large pod of dolphins passed our bow and then returned to frolic around us for ten minutes.
We have checked in through customs and completed all the paperwork needed to be in Mexico for the next six months. The marina has an employee who drove us to the offices of the harbor captain and helped us through the process. It all took around a half hour, and was efficient and hassle free. We had completed much of the paperwork in advance - the visas, the temporary import permit for Tumbleweed, etc. and that process was time consuming, but once we arrived at the offices of the immigration and port authority it all breezed by. High marks to the marina for offering the assistance.
Ensenada isn’t what either of us expected. Much bigger, sprawling, and touristy. Sailing in our last night we kept pace with two large cruise ships that docked an hour or so before us, next to our marina. They are massive ships and loom over the marina sending a few thousand tourists into town.
Our first slip assignment was a gorgeous, easy-to-dock-in slip. We drifted in, tied up and Douglas went to check us in. He returned with the news that the slip was expensive - we were being charged for the cost of the whole slip, not a cost based on our boat length, a more typical approach. We’d save a about $130usd to switch to a smaller slip on the other side of the marina. We set out from the massive fairway, easy to glide into slip across town to a narrow fairway lined with boat that were mostly too long for their berths - various bows, dinghies and assorted accessories poking out into the fairway. We didn’t have enough room to maneuver in the fairway and jiggled around back and forth, caught a side current that started to push us sideways into a space of no return. The docks were now filling up with people who wanted to lend a hand and also check out what sort of carnage might unfold. We managed to back into a slip across the fairway from our intended slip, fortunately available, with a remarkable lack of cursing or fist shaking. A friendly neighbor grabbed a line and soon we were home.
After checking in with customs, et al, we managed to gather enough energy to walk into town for lunch. We had gone over to the port captain’s office with another sailor who had visited Ensenada many times and recommended a great restaurant to us, La Guerrerense (http://laguerrerense.com) A woman started a taco cart here and ran it with acclaim. Anthony Bourdain had visited and declared it one of the world’s greatest street food joints. La Guerrerense is rumored to be part of Bourdain’s food market in NY. Now she has the cart and a nice restaurant serving all types of seafood tacos, ceviches, tostados, a line of house made beer and various salsas. The tacos - we each had a shrimp and fish taco, were amazing, as was the house beer and salsa. Tacos were $1 a piece, and perfect. Kind feels like a parallel universe. I was dazed after the sail in, and the trip to the various authorities, I spent some time rerunning the costs in my head, sure I was off by a factor of 2 or 3. The entire staff could not have been more friendly or genuine and indulged our slow Spanish before answering in english. We’ll be going back. It might delay our departure.
We’ve now been in Ensenada a couple days since I wrote the above notes and have really enjoyed the town. Our friends on SV Pino, “The Rabbits”, have been here about a month and we met up with them last night. We last saw each other in Berkeley and it was great to catch up and hear about their adventures. We met for beers at a cool craft beer joint, Wendlandt, that would not have been out of place in any hip neighborhood in Seattle, or Vancouver, BC. The crowd was mostly cool folks in their twenties, a mix of locals and ex-pats. They could have all strolled in from their jobs at Microsoft or Amazon, it was somewhat disorienting. And a reminder that our cultures in North America are incredibly intertwined.
Mexico has been such a focus for us over the past few years that it feels sort of unreal to actually be here. I guess that is a feeling we all have when we arrive anywhere, for vacation or work, etc that has been a place we have thought of for so long. In this situation, the passage south and the adventures we have had since leaving Port Townsend in May have really heightened that feeling. The days at sea, the ports where we worked on projects, the push ever southward, the research and paperwork. We have crossed over into a new chapter of our adventure and are enjoying the moment of being here. It all feels very of the present, the rest of our visit to Mexico opening up ahead, but slightly out of focus. A couple large marks on the map - La Paz at some point, Bandaras Bay in the spring, the Sea of Cortez as much as possible. But the rest is wonderfully vague.