Monday, October 8, 2012

Bienvenido Mexico

Entering the Puerto de Ensenada. We are moored just off the plaza that
centers on this beautiful 92' x 164' flag.

We arrived in Ensenada on Friday about noon. Planning our arrival with plenty of time to check in to Mexico on a weekday turned out to be “oh so American.” Regelio, the dock master who helped catch our lines, said “Oh no, they close in two hours, no hurry, do it Monday, I’ll walk you through…” So we have had a full weekend here as illegal aliens… trying to fit in with the laid back, Mexico time table. We have all of our paperwork ready and will hit the office of immigration tomorrow morning.

I’d love to say we left San Diego and sailed in here without incident… but that would be so boring. We did leave San Diego about 11 am and did have a lovely sail to Los Islas Coronados. The southern of the two islands had a small bight on the eastern side that we thought would be a passable anchorage. Approaching our chosen spot we joined about a half dozen large fishing boats with big aqua-culture operations including floating cages that trailed out several hundred feet from each boat. We got a good anchor set, enjoyed an afternoon of reading under the shade canopy in the cockpit. Lanham put out his fishing pole, but we ended up with grilled steak, salad and potatoes for a great dinner. As we went to bed, our plan was to set the alarm for 5 and get an early start for the 40 or so miles left to Ensenada.
Isla Coronados del Sur

Just before sunset

Our anchorage turned out to be very rolly. Though I will take rolling and pitching over dragging anchor any night, we both were wide awake at 1, and 2, and by 3am we decided we might as well lift anchor and get going, since we were not sleeping. We planned to steer out and around the fishing boats, with me on the bow using our powerful flashlight as a head lamp, in case any of the nets or cages were not lit.

and sunrise, just as we are on our way again.

We use an old set of two-way radios for anchoring. It has been a great tool. There’s no yelling and there’s no ‘I can’t hear you’ – very civilized. The engine was running and the anchor came right up, and that’s when it got exciting. As I am using the electric windlass to pull the anchor up, Lanham suddenly says, with feeling – “Drop the anchor… all of it… now… right now…” I put out all the chain in the anchor locker, about 200 feet, and watched to see that we were stationary. What’s up? “I have no transmission,”  aid Lanham.

It turned out that as he shifted into forward, the gear shift lever at the steering station fell away in his hand. No cable connection. No transmission. We had an extra early start, so for a couple hours by flashlight we took apart the steering column and figured out that that the cable had simply and broken. If we have ever doubted the utility of the inside steering station and controls, never again. The redundancy of cables to the interior station meant that we simply had to steer from inside when shifting. We put it in forward and motored to Ensenada. 

We had a reservation here at Baja Naval. Regelio answered quickly on the radio, we greeted him in Spanish and immediately explained about our limited transmission, in English. He gave us a slip assignment and was there with a helper to meet us at the dock. Phew… a little trickier to know where the edges of the boat are from inside, but as with every single thing, it’s good practice.

So, we are here and not going anywhere right away. Lanham wrestled the cable out, we will order the part tomorrow and hopefully get it mid-week, then address the challenge of getting it back in, adjusted, etc. This is a great little marina, with very nice staff, a well-run boatyard, and so close to the center of town. I couldn’t be happier in any other place for the next week or so!

We have walked the Malecon and the central part of town, getting out of what the marina staff called “Gringo gulch – or gutter” as quickly as possible. We have not ventured into restaurants yet – but made our own fish tacos tonight with the last of the tuna Lanham caught and fresh tortillas from our walk. Saturday night we went in search of a famous cantina that we’d read about, but predictably found it a tourist trap, and sat outside at a wine tasting instead.  We don’t know why we were the only customers, but we got to know Marco, our server, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the world walk by.

 Families – lots of them, with infants, kids, teenagers, and grandparents, couples, mariachi players carting their guitars, accordions and double basses, street vendors (Lanham has a soft spot for those selling flores and bought me a bouquet of red roses), and all types of vehicles – a community bike ride went by, horse drawn carriages, and riding lawn mowers pulling passenger cars. While the town has clearly been shaped by tourism, there were a lot of residents out living, walking, working, and conversing everywhere we went. We have had several encounters where we may have known as much Spanish as the locals knew of English. At least they are very patient and willing to humor us.

Attractive benches along the Malecon

On Sunday afternoon, I saw 3 couples being cheered on as they showed off their salsa dancing skills to the piped music that was playing.

Salsa at the Flag Plaza on Sunday afternoon

 Baja Naval is along the Malecon where the townies were all out walking this weekend. It is just down from the central plaza where our landmark is the giant Mexican flag. We have decided that a flag on such a grand scale is really beautiful to watch – it’s a kinetic sculpture that the wind is constantly reshaping. We read that the flagpole is 338 feet tall, and the flag itself measures 164 x 92 feet. The fabric weighs about 265 lbs. At the base of the flag is a plaza where families hung out all weekend. 

Nice to see recycling taking hold
A free book give away along the Malecon --
promoting reading through a government sponsored public service program
El tren runs the Malecon full of Mexican families on the weekend

On the same walk, I found the Centro Social, Civico y Cultural, a beautifully refurbished building and grounds that originated as a fancy Hotel de Riviera and casino in the 1930’s. It was operated by Jack Dempsy, the boxer, and was visited by Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez, Lana Turner, and many more American’s of fame. The magical part was that it was wide open and I had it to myself to wander through and take pictures, imagining it in it’s glory days of old. Next, I wandered next door to the Art Museum and saw a great exhibit that Lanham and I will go back to see more of tomorrow. We are also very close to an amazing open-air pescado mercado (fish market), the cruise ship dock, and the local sea lion docks. It has been so much fun to walk and make discoveries, reading signs and making more and more sense of the language. We come back to the boat and tear into our dictionaries and practice books, hungry to speed up our learning.

Here are some visuals of Ensenada and Baja Naval. We’ll write again, when we have more news on the repair. In the meantime, we are here, living and learning.



  1. Another wonderful blog entry: so entertaining to read and see the photo's. Love, Weeze

  2. your entries are really amazing, you guys! nice job "sharing" your adventures with those of us land-locked and stationary. We are loving them.
    maret, ned and ella

  3. Hey guys! I have a good friend who is from Ensenada and she's sent along a couple of recommendations. One place is fairly typical but isn't a restaurant - they serve only ceviche. But she recommended "Cocedora de langosta, "Belios" and "Punta morro".
    BTW, she's the pastry chef of our restaurant in Mexico City! She also gave me the number for her parents for other recommendations and if you would like to visit the vineyards. I don't know if they speak English but if you are up to practicing your Spanish their names are Frederico and Mary : 646 1742410, 646 1742910.
    The cellphone number for Frederico is 6461121910. Her name is Arely.

  4. Sorry, the name of the ceviche place is called "La Guerrerense"
    I am really enjoying following your journey and have been keeping my parents updated on your whereabouts!
    A la proxima!

  5. Hi Melinda! I just got your blog from Gretchen (at PNAIS all schools). I read everything to catch up and I'm so thrilled for you. Thanks for writing everything down. Fun for us now, and a great record for you later. Buen viaje.

  6. Melinda and Lanham -- I am LOVING living vicariously! who would have thought you would make it out before me??? You are both old salts now, and I am so happy you are DOING IT! Think of you all the time, and read each blog with happy anticipation! The only thing I miss is that there isn't the back/forth of phone or email or talking in person. Keep writing -- I'm imagining myself there!
    xoxo, Ann