Sunday, October 14, 2012

En una localidad – La ciudad de Ensenada

This is Lupita, our Spanish tutor.

Tenamos dias buenos, aqui en Ensenada. We have thoroughly enjoyed the last 10 days here. The highlights have been Spanish lessons, fresh fish from the market next door, cooking with new ingredients, some Seattle style rain (yes, quite refreshing), a bike ride to the beach, fixes (or likely fixes) of the transmission cable and the outboard propeller, and starting to feel really comfortable exploring with our new life.

Lupita had a hard time with Lanham's name, so he became Lenin.

Monday morning we cleared into Mexico at the Capitania de Puerto – no problemo, though plenty confusing. Even finding the location took a couple tries, but Rogelio had seen that our papers were in order before we left the marina. He had explained that the last of the windows we would visit would be the customs window and we would be asked to push a button and “think green -- you want to push the green light, not the red,” he explained, emphatically. We assured him we understood, we would remember, g-r-e-e-n light! As we finished getting our tourist cards, papers copied, stamped, fees paid, etc. el Capitan Lanham was instructed to push the button on a stoplight. We lit up the GREEN! It turns out that if you get red, you are the random “winner” of a boat inspection. The customs officer will come to your boat and go through it personally, undoubtedly lengthening the process from the hour that it took us to a half day at least!

These are the sculptures in a park along the waterfront. I just really think they are fun!

This is "Ballena Hombre" or Whale Man,
 the only one with a title and info about the artist. I'm still working on translating it.
 We spent the rest of the morning shopping at the hardware stores and checking out a Yamaha dealer, then discussing the ordering of a cable from the boatyard here, learning that polite greetings and good drawings of what we were looking for got us pretty far.

Lanham got the bikes down from the radar arch, tires pumped and put together and we had a ride, maybe 3 miles out to the beach north of town. Seemed pretty safe, wide sidewalk riding. The beach was empty except for a couple of families and a couple of surfers. We imagined that it had been packed on the weekend.

On Tuesday morning, I went to the fish market, el Mercado Negro, early, to see what I could buy. I decided on CaZon, because it was the most common fish there. The vendor said, “Very good, no bones… good for tacos.” I chose the variety that was 60 pesos/kilo, rather than 50, even though he said they were the same quality… why not? (about $4.80 vs $4.) I asked for dos kilos. He weighed a huge hunk of fish and started to add on more!! OK, gracias, a kilo and a half would be enough (about 3 lbs). 

One of the seafood restaurants next door to the fish market.
The market is clean, friendly, and definitely used by the local residents and restaurateurs. People also sell fresh clams and oysters out of their trucks or street booths.

That night, we marinated and grilled all the Cazon and found it needed to cook 20-30 minutes, and was still moist, chewy, and kind of gelatinous. So we learned that cazon -- shark meat – has good flavor (very mild), and weird texture. You can’t really overcook it. We have been reheating it for fish tacos all week, added it to posole, and are pretty glad to have eaten the last of it for now.
Mmmm, we are eating warm corn tortillas with every meal.

This morning's haul by our neighbor.
The local fisherman with a boat next to ours at the marina, showed up Sunday morning about 9am with 5 large yellow fin tuna that he had caught before dawn (along with 3 more already given away). His secret? He said you have to go out a lot. “Ten times you get nothing, then one day you find a school and have the luck”. Like a lot of things in life? – You have to take a lot of shots to get a goal.

and a lesson in filleting from an expert.

 So, for those readers following the mechanical challenges of Solar Wind’s adventures, in short, Lanham decided it would work to have the old transmission cable welded back together, rather than the cost and wait of ordering a new one. Getting parts is not a problem here, in Ensenada, because the shops and boatyards send a delivery person to San Diego a couple times a week to pick up their orders. However, even so far north, delivery by mail does not sound possible, due to the import fees that customs will collect. We heard a story of customs wanting to charge the marina $6,ooo pesos to pick up a little gift that one of their American clients had sent to them. Even with pictures of what was inside and permission to open it, the marina had it sent back and drove to San Diego to pick it up. So, most deliveries are made in person, between cruisers. Thus, there is a communal pipeline within the marinas. Whenever anyone is going to the states, they ask what they can bring you.

The cable was welded here at the boatyard, Lanham spent 5 hours performing the miracle of threading it through an impossible path back into place, adjustments made and we are back in business. We had hoped the replacement would solve one of the idiosyncrasies of our transmission – it is very slow to drop into forward. But it still acts the same, so we will continue to be extra slow when maneuvering in tight spaces – not the easiest anyway. Melinda may forever stick to driving in big parking lots and on the open seas!
Lanham only spent a couple of days in here this week.

And… the outboard motor propeller… also not available to replace, but a new o-ring and washer seems to have done the trick… and the mysterious bubbling noise continues... time will tell…
The spinnaker pole apart...

Lanham’s little project today, while I write at the computer with a breeze blowing through the cabin salon, is to shorten the spinnaker pole. We knew that it was one heck of a pole, a real quality piece of rigging. But until we tried to use it several times to pole out the jib on a downwind light air day, we did not know that it is better sized for a 65 foot yacht. Lanham had to manhandle it to get it in and out of position and it is not only inconvenient, but could be dangerous because it weighs so much and is so much more pole than we could ever use on this boat. So again, he has every tool out and is spending Sunday afternoon fabricating a new pole from the old – just a new form of “home improvement.”

and back together, 5 feet shorter.

My housekeeping chore of the weekend was defrosting the freezer – we are moving on without the spilled chipolte pepper sauce in the bottom of the fridge! And with plenty of room to keep the meats we have frozen. We will do some small provisioning of fresh produce, eggs and milk before leaving here, but will continue to eat what we brought from Seattle in the lower lowers! And we grew alfalfa sprouts (thank you nancie for the seeds and pointers!)

Petra, a new friend from the Nederlands

We have met a few neighbors here at Baja Naval. All with such different stories, timelines, and goals, but all heading south eventually – and all of whom we are likely to see again down the road. In eines kleines welt kind of way, we met Petra and Hans, a Dutch couple, with whom it was fun to practice our limited German. Petra grew up in Herleen where our sister and brother-in-law live! She was so excited to learn of them. They have owned their boat for 2 years and have come here to work on it each year. They are now starting a 3-year trip, and will likely go through the Panama Canal. 
Our  view of Petra and Hans' boat up "on the hard"
John, on Swagman – a very cool steel sailboat next to ours – will be joining the BaHaHa, then probably to Polynesia in the spring. He will pick up crew on the way. This weekend, we met Jessica and Conner, a young couple from LA, who plan to cruise to the Sea of Cortez on their catamaran for 5 months starting in January. They drive down to Ensenada on the weekends to work on the boat and get their German Shepard, Lina, used to using the astro-turf on the boat deck! (I don’t plan to profile everyone we meet along the way, but I do think it is interesting how many different ways there are to do this.) So far, I feel very happy with the idea of a year… and the land-based home at the end of it.

For me, by far the biggest highlight this week has been our intensive Spanish study!! We signed up for 3 days with a tutor and she kept us at it for 6 hours a day on Wed, Thurs, and Friday. I chose to continue with her on Saturday and will meet her again on Monday. It has really jump-started our ability to understand and converse (still not “pretty” but very useful! And fun!) I feel like my study in Seattle and my continual review has paid off. The vocabulary is coming and I can use some semblance of past and future tenses. I am starting to dream in Spanish, wake up thinking of Spanish phrases, and walk around town understanding much of what I read on signs. What will come much more slowly is the ear – to understand the folks on the street with their speed and idioms. But it is exciting to know that we have lots of time to continue our efforts!
The entrance to the Center of Culture and Art, where we have been having our Spanish class.

The courtyard
where dog training class was held on Saturday morning.

Our teacher’s name is Lupita. She grew up in Ensenada -- and remembers when there were no cars here, only bicycles and horses. She is maybe 52 and has 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and a dog named Lazy, “Flojo”.  We met her each morning at the Cultural Center and Art Museo (CEARTE) and worked the whole day at a table in the café lobby. Lots of individuals seem to use this location for studying or meeting groups. The museum itself had a terrific exhibit, a nice little café and an art bookstore (where of course I found a book to buy).

On Thursday, Lupita drove us to the Super Soriana (a large supermarket chain) and our lesson included practice with prices, ingredients and cooking instructions. We bought several different kinds of chilies that she recommended and some nopales (cactus). We have had fun following her directions for cooking and experimenting. We compared Lanham’s mom’s recipe for posole with Lupita’s and brought her some that we made for lunch the next day. 

Lupita made sure we didn't get any cacti
spines on our nopales.
Solar Wind's produce selection
after our shopping trip 

Posole, cacti and tortillas with homemade chili salsa...
hungry yet?

Lupita also recommended her favorite Mexican restaurant in our marina neighborhood – muy limpio (clean) y muy barato (cheap) y muy sabroso (tasty)! And it was! “Parian” is now our favorite place in Ensenada! We had a great dinner Friday night. About a 6 block walk from the marina, it was packed with families, lots of kids, and waitresses willing to let us practice Spanish. We ended up staying a while and watching a soccer match between Mexico and Guyana. We liked it so much we went back this morning for breakfast and took our boat neighbor John.

That’s a week – seems like longer. We are getting a good moorage rate here at Baja Naval because we are long-term after a10 day stay ($.46/foot). We will probably be ready to leave on Tuesday or Wednesday but are also watching a developing low-pressure weather system moving up the Baja Coast, and may stay longer, until we see that it passes. We feel like we have learned a lot about reading the weather faxes by checking them everyday. I will have a last day of class with Lupita on Monday and Lanham will go back to the Capitania de Puerto office to check us out of this port. We have yet to see how much checking in and out has to be done at future stops along the route.

Thanks so much to all of you who have left comments and sent notes. We get them on email and would love to respond to each one, but it would be too much! It’s great to know you are reading, and enjoying. Our notes home may get spottier as we travel south, at least until we hit the Mexican mainland coast again. Verizon is not really a viable cell plan in Mexico, no matter what they tell you. The iphone is winning over the android, but we will make do with internet connections at marinas and cafés. P.S. Martha y Lupe, Yo voy a escribir pronto a su en espanol. Yo practico, practico, practico!

I'll sign off with some photos of the ever-changing, often dramatic skies.


  1. Ahh, what a life! I can almost see, taste and feel it right with you! Thanks for the great descriptions and pictures! You certainly sound like you are making the most of it and Ensenada looks like a lovely town. As you travel on and time passes, all of this certainly seems to be taking on new hues as "real life" and not just a "trip." Keep on enjoying and keep on writing! Love you and miss you lots! Julia

  2. So nice! I really enjoyed this blog and mostly Posole, cacti and tortillas with homemade chili salsa my best choice food. Yamaha outboard propellers Yamaha propellers for sale. Buy your Yamaha propeller on-line today and Save. Prices are slashed up to 60% for Yamaha boat props.