14 November 2010 | Off the Coast of Baja California
When we are on passage, we have no access to the internet. Yet we have a desire to stay in touch, honed no doubt by our years of addiction to daily-hourly-minute-by-minute access. Now that I've joined (and paid money to) "Sailblogs" I have the as-yet-untested ability to do remote posts to the Sequoia blog, using our ham radio email capabilities. If you're reading this, I've succeeded!
Our time in San Diego was packed to the gills with boat projects. We were very fortunate to have a friend there who lent us a car. We were able to make it to a selection of grocery stores, Target, Costco, Willy's Electronics, the Laundromat, West Marine, and a whole variety of other marine suppliers. Then it was just a question of fitting all that stuff into available places on the boat - not a trivial matter!
Skip Schippers, our crew for this segment of the trip, arrived on Wednesday, so we were all set to go on Thursday, Veterans Day. We left San Diego at 6 am on Veterans Day. Everyone was telling us to keep our eyes peeled for that 5000 passenger Carnival cruise ship that had an engine fire somewhere off of Mexico and was being towed to San Diego or Ensenada by two tugs, assisted by a vast flotilla of other boats, including - at one point - an aircraft carrier. As we left the harbor, we heard a Coast Guard "pan pan" announcement, warning that civilian traffic must stay 500 yards away from the disabled cruise ship. That was the first indication it was anywhere close by. The latest information we had is that it would be coming into San Diego in the afternoon. But as it happened, we saw the ship in the distance, as soon as we were in the main channel of the San Diego harbor. There were coast guard boats of every size everwhere. To stay 500 yards away from the ship, it was necessary to get out of the main channel. A little coast guard gunboat (identical to the one that escorted us past the Port Chicago Weapons Depot on the Sacramento River a few weeks ago) came alongside us, machine gun at the ready, to make sure we weren't going to do anything evil. The ship had a wisp of smoke coming out of its stack (I think it was reported they had one generator working), and was being pulled by - it appeared - only one tug. There were a number of other tugs alongside, presumably to nudge it into the correct alignment. Numerous other boats, all appearing to be Coast Guard, patrolled the area. We were one of the few civilian boats that happened to be in the vicinity. Well that was exciting!
The rest of the day was boring by comparison. Initially we had little wind, and had to motor. As the day progressed, however, the wind came up, and we eventually shortened sail. The wind and seas were the most rough as we rounded the point just before Ensenada. That point is called "Salsipuedes," which means, in Spanish, "leave if you can!" Some explorer had a real sense of humor. Must be the same one who named a point further down the coast, "Abreojos." In Spanish: "open your eyes!"
We entered Ensenada, and tied up at Baja Naval. The marina is an adjunct to the very nicely run boatyard, and has some desirable facilities - nice showers, wi-fi access, a phone with free 10 minute calls to the States, etc. etc. They told us that we have 48 hours to check in with the immigration authorities, so we took off into the streets of Ensenada and found a nice restaurant that was practically empty, but with excellent food. Many, many souvenir shops, liquor stores and farmacias. Apparently these are primarily targeted at the cruise ships which come into town periodically. When we arrived, there was no cruise ship, so everything was fairly quiet. Just before we departed on Saturday morning, a cruise ship docked, so it was a good time to be leaving.
Friday morning was devoted to immigration, customs and the port captain. They have all these offices in one building (a relatively recent innovation). You stand in immigration line, fill out a form, stand in the same line again, then go stand in the line for the bank, then back to the immigration line again. Then it's the Port Captain line, then the cashier for the Port Captain. Slight delay there, while the clerk checked on the status of the telenovela (soap opera) playing on the TV in the corner. Then outside, to photocopy some of the forms, then back to the bank where they issue a "temporary import permit" for the boat. Each time you stand in the bank line, you of course pay money. There seemed to be some sort of computer hang-up that delayed forms being printed out . While waiting for the printer, the clerk inspected her fingernails, looked bored, and did anything to avoid eye contact. Then the customs line, where you fill out more forms, then you are invited to hit the button below a red-or-green traffic light. If red, they inspect your boat. If green, you're free to go. Fortunately we got "green." There were, of course, other pleasure boat travelers doing this with us. One was an old fellow from Alaska who was extremely hard of hearing and didn't speak any Spanish. A group of 7 adults and kids turned out to be a family on a boat from Australia that has been cruising since 1991. For immigration, they had 7 forms to fill out and pay for. There was also a group of people there connected with a Baja dune buggy and car race which will occur next weekend. They were pretty casual about the whole thing, and many didn't have passports. Best of luck to them - they were still working through the lines when we left.
We are currently working our way south, headed toward Turtle Bay, which is not quite half way down the length of Baja California. Last night, in the middle of the night, our electronics went wonky, and headed us 45 degrees out to sea for several hours. We've put quite a bit of energy today into trying to understand what happened, and how we might have spotted the problem sooner. Everything seems fine now, but we're on the alert.
Best wishes to all our friends and family!
Craig & Barbara Johnston