Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bahia San Gabriel, Espiritu Santo - December 11 - 19

I’ve read that once you have passed through the Lorenzo Channel it is like walking through a doorway into a whole new world.  There is no doubt in my mind that it is a gateway to a different type of cruising lifestyle.  Once through, the weary Canadian sailor heaves a great sigh of relief as the entire passage out the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Neah Bay, past windy Cabo Blanco, Cape Mendicino and Point Conception, the entire desolate west coast of the Baja peninsula and the contrary East Cape, have been left behind.  They can now kick back and enjoy their cervasas in easily accessible clear water, white sand anchorages.  We certainly heaved that sigh, but unlike the majority of cruisers making this passage, instead of turning left and embracing the city lights of La Paz, we turned right, unfurled our headsail, and tacked up to Bahia San Gabriel at the south west corner of Espiritu Santo.

The sandy shores of Bahia San Gabriel - Ka'sala to the far left, Witte Raaf closer - Doug and Jan in the dinghy.
We had spent a glorious week in San Gabriel when we were travelling with Steve, aboard Silas Crosby, on our last voyage to this area.  The shallow bay was glassy calm, the water was 25 degrees and the sun shone down upon us.  We spent our time hiking, kayaking, beach combing, swimming and hanging out in the cockpit.  We were keen to repeat the experience.  The wide bay has a shallow anchorage at the northern end and a deeper pool with a narrow entrance at the south end.  We chose the latter as it was closer to the ruins of the old pearl farm - which we wished to explore again - as well as easier access to the beach.  As with any desire to revisit the past, the present is never the same, and this adage is especially true when it comes to the weather!

Bahia San Gabriel courtesy of Google - you can see by the colour of the water the deeper anchorage.  The old pearl farm is to the right.  The hike to the other side begins at the upper right corner of the bay.  Yes, it really is this colour!!!

We anchored in calm conditions and enjoyed a lazy afternoon.  About sunset the wind picked up to 25 knots from the southwest and we found ourselves in a lee shore with a steep three foot wind chop pounding our bow and causing poor Ka’sala to hobby horse around.  We were very uncomfortable, but fortunately we had plenty of chain on the bottom and we weathered the night, anchor alarm set, without incident. Although our first night was the only time we endured winds from this direction, over the course of the seven days and nights we stayed there, 5 were breezy with the winds swinging primarily from the northeast to the northwest.  Luckily, although we swung around and the rigging whistled, from this direction the seas remained relatively flat and our bow pointed to shore.  We unleashed our wind generator and for the first time we actually made more power than we used! You can believe that the three calm afternoons we experienced, we enjoyed to the fullest!

Rosy cliffs bordering the south shore of the anchorage
Though windier than we would have liked, there are few places we have experienced that compare to the beauty of Bahia San Gabriel and that hadn’t changed.  Rosy cliffs, spectrums of vermillion colour threaded through the craggy landscape which faded and glowed with the passage of the sun, contrasted with a blindingly white powder beach stretching at least a mile.  The water close to the beach was sea glass aquamarine which gradually deepened to an emerald green where we were anchored.  The sky, for the most part, was an astonishing blue, riddled with hundreds of juvenile frigate birds who had made their home in the mangrove lagoon surrounding the old pearl farm.  Over the course of our time there, we were visited by a curious sea turtle, a leaping manta ray, a scavenging sea lion, a school of well named skip jack, as well as tiny duck- like creatures singly and in groups.  The longer we stayed, the more we saw.

Leaping manta ray
On our fourth day we were joined by our good friends Jan and Joanneke aboard Witte Raaf.  We first met Jan in Puerto Vallarta five years ago, just before we made the passage to Hawaii.  He and Joanneke soon followed and we spent some time together in Hilo, then Honolulu.  Their travels eventually brought them to Comox several times and we have kept in touch over the years.  When we last saw them we promised them we would join them in 2015 for Christmas in La Paz.  Be careful what you wish for, because here we are together again!  It was an amazing feeling to see Witte Raaf sailing into Bahia San Gabriel, as we had been anticipating the event for several years, and we knew we would have many happy hours catching up with this inspirational Dutch couple.

Joanneke Backer and Jan Buurma
One afternoon Doug and I launched the kayaks and circumnavigated the bay.  We were pleased that our little Costco specials could handle the windier conditions.  We were able to explore the remains of the pearl farm by entering a break in the lagoon wall. 

Doug checks out the frigates
Mangroves had woven their roots into the old masonary channels and were filled with frigate birds of all ages and sizes.  Pelicans fished from the shore and elegant white egrets nervously glided along the waterline.  

Old walls in the lagoon 

Pelicans, cormorants and frigates line the ruined walls of the pearl farm
A cacophony of ticks, shrills and cries filled the air as the frigates played, groomed, ate, courted and slept while keeping a cautious eye upon us.  We were able to repeat this tour when Witte Raaf joined us.

Juvenile frigate bird in the mangroves

On another day we took the dinghy ashore and hiked over to Bahia Bonanza on, the other side of the island.  The four of us threaded our way through the cactus, thorny bushes and arid arroyos, enjoying each other’s company, the heat of the day and the spectacular scenery.  

Doug and Joanneke

Jan and Doug 
When we got to the other side we were surprised to see a large group gathered on the beach and a small cruise ship anchored in the bay.  It was quite a windy day and the group did not look particularly happy to be there and they did not respond to our friendly waves.  They trudged away back the way we had come.

Jan and Doug traversing an arroyo

Parched earth makes interesting patterns along the trail
We assume that because the weather was so windy, we were not joined by many other boats, though we did discover it is a favourite anchorage of Signor Slim, owner of the Mexican TelCel network and one of the richest men in the world.  He didn’t seem to mind sharing it with humble sailors. 

Signor Slim's yacht - the sailbot behind is about 40 feet long
It was with some regret that we raised our anchor on Saturday, December 19 to head into La Paz.  However, it was time to join civilization again.  We had been without internet or cell coverage for almost 10 days and we needed to get caught up with family and friends.  Christmas was just around the corner and we hadn’t even begun to plan for it.  We had Michael, a friend from the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey joining us and there were preparations to be made – not to mention over a month’s worth of laundry to be done, fresh provisions to be found, and a thorough bath for the salt encrusted Ka’sala.

Hundreds of frigates circle over Witte Raaf

Good friends on Bahia Bonanza

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ensenada to La Paz

We left Ensenada after breakfast on Saturday, November 28.  We were hardly past the dock when Doug noticed something wrong with the propeller so we turned back.  There was a diver on the docks servicing another boat and we thought our luck was with us, but it turned out to be a double edged sword.  For $100.00USD the diver took less than five minutes to ascertain there was a ball of line wrapped around the propeller and remove it.  Although we were grateful to be on our way again within the hour, and that Doug did not have to enter the dubious water, we still felt a little like we had been ripped off.

As I mentioned in my daily posts en route, we had a variety of sailing conditions on our way to Turtle Bay.  From motoring in relatively calm conditions, to galloping along in 25+ winds we were kept busy managing the boat throughout our day and night watches.  We continued to have the .5 to 1 knot current against us and this current, combined with tides and wind, kicked up a very uncomfortable sea in the passage between Cedros Island and Turtle Bay.  We passed the San Benitos Islands in a rosy dawn remembering from our previous trip how extraordinary a place it is. 

Isla San Bonitos in the dawn
We were making better time on this passage than we had expected and, as we neared our destination, we believed we would arrive just at dusk.  However, we were about to learn that bad luck happens in 3s, and there are silver linings.  About two hours before dark we were sailing along at 6 knots when we picked up a trap line which tangled itself in our rudder.  After heaving to we used our extended boat hook to get most of it off, but were left with about 8 feet of line flowing behind, making it next to impossible to back up without wrapping it around our propeller.  (We usually back up to set the anchor.)  With all the fussing about freeing ourselves we lost valuable visual time and realized we would now be anchoring in the dark, dragging the line.  Luckily, Turtle Bay is an enormous anchorage without too many hazards.  However, when I went to drop the anchor, the windlass down switch did not respond – it had broken.  However, after consultation, Doug was able to drop the anchor from the cockpit switch while I stayed to the side watching for the 10 meter marks on the chain with my headlamp.  In the end, we dropped way more chain than we could ever have needed, right smack in the middle of the bay, far from where the other boats had come to rest.

Anchorage at Turtle Bay - village along the shoreline
In the early morning light, Doug donned his mask, jumped into the 22 degree clear water, and was able to hold his breath long enough under the boat to cut us free from our unwanted tail.  After a hot breakfast he was in the anchor locker replacing the switch circuit, soldering wire while Ka’sala pitched up and down in a 20 knot breeze and two foot wind chop. 

Not too impressed
By lunch time we were ready to move into the main anchorage where there were about 7 other sailboats waiting to make passage north and south.  One of them remarked as we came in that we had won the prize for the most cautious entrance!  That afternoon we launched the dinghy and headed to the fuel dock with our three jerry cans which we filled with very expensive diesel ($5.00 US pg) and returned to Ka’sala without ever going ashore. 

Fuel dock - well, fuel pier - we brought the jerry cans up this ladder.

The next morning we left after breakfast for Bahia Santa Maria with gusty 25 knot winds howling through the harbour 

Dusk at Turtle Bay
Once we were around the corner and on our way south again, the winds settled down and we had a spectacular sail for the 49 hours it took us to reach Bahia Santa Maria.  The days continued sunny and warm and the nights starry and clear.  The water temperature inched up by degrees.  We dressed in shorts and T shirts, wearing only light sweaters when the sun went down.  In the late afternoon on the second day we were crossing a large bay with clouds overhead and no land in sight, coasting along in flat seas at four knots on a beam reach.  When the sun set, there was such an explosion of colour that I felt we were in the heart of an enormous natural prism.  To the west thin layers of gradual colour in the yellow to red spectrum were revealed and to the east the light undulated intense to pale blue, rose, purple, and green while the dome of the sky reflected a light white and the sea mirrored it all.   As these vibrant colours faded, a brilliant quarter moon arose among an indescribable number of stars and shining planets.  All night we watched the constellations move from east to west across the glossy sky. I find it hard to express the emotion I felt as I sat alone in the cockpit, but it was like a religious experience, a revelation that cannot be put in words and certainly cannot be captured in a photograph.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this passage, though I expected we might see a lot of whales as we were transitting their great birthing place.  The three large lagoons on the bay are where the grey whales migrate to in the fall.  From mid December until the end of February they bear their young and nurture them, court and conceive, before returning north for the summer.  We saw a few spouts in the distance, but that was about it.  

On the morning of the second day, we did have a tiny visitor – a small bird of some sort – 5 inches long, predominantly yellow in colour with some black and white striping through it.  Its little beak curled like a budgie’s.  After giving us a frank and curious look, It hopped from the dodger, to the rigging, to the lifelines and finally settled at the base of the mast where it rode along with us for a few hours before disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived.  We were about 20 miles off shore, so it was a long flight!  

That same morning we saw our first frigate birds circling in the sky.  These elegant flyers, with enormous black wings and a long, trailing tail, were a clear indication that we were now in a different climate zone.

Magnificent frigates

We rounded the spectacular break off Point Hughes at Bahia Santa Maria about noon on the second day and dropped the hook in translucent, 26 degree, green water in about 8 meters.  We could clearly see the bottom.

Approaching Bahia Santa Maria - Point Hughes to the right
To put the landscape in perspective - can you see the lighthouse on the left?  Look for the tiny white speck. 
Once Ka’sala was squared away we had a marvellous swim around the boat – so different from the last time we were here, at the same time of year five years ago, when we were dressed in our woollies.  Nothing feels quite so wonderful as a fresh water shower in the cockpit in skin temperature air.

We stayed in Bahia Santa Maria for three days.  Several sailboats and powerboats came and went while we were there - the huge bay is a major staging point in the journey up and down the Pacific Baja.  There are a couple of rustic Mexican fish camps behind the break in the lagoon at the head of the bay.  Each day the pangas zoomed in and out to tend their traps and go fishing.  Twice while we were off the boat we saw a panga stop to sell us some fish, and were chagrined at not being able to make a purchase. 

Ka'sala at anchor in Bahia Santa Maria
We launched the kayaks to explore the bay, something we had been wanting to do since our last visit. 

Doug wanted to go into the lagoon, but when we approached the break and fast current I lost my nerve.  

Doug views the breaks at the entrance to the lagoon

Fishing panga entering the lagoon
Instead, we followed the shoreline and reefs almost out to the point.  There were some pretty big swells coming in and our Costco kayaks rolled up and down them.  We observed birds, hovered over lobster traps and picked out potential landing points for the walk we would do next day.

Pelicans and cormorants on the reef nearby
Next morning, armed with backpacks, sunscreen, a packed lunch, multiple bottles of water and camera we headed ashore.  It is a lot easier to draw kayaks up on the beach than a dinghy, so we were on our way without fuss.  We walked along the ridge, past the breaks and by the little fish camps in the lagoon.  
Fish camp in the lagoon - note huge area of dunes in the background - the beach was on the other side of them

It was a Sunday morning, so things were quiet, though we did see some men working on their nets and traps, a shy woman waved hello from one of the shacks and we could see evidence of children by some of the toys scattered around, but did not actually meet one.  

Looking toward the anchorage over the mangroves in the lagoon

By the mangroves on the dusty path
We continued on the access road, which is little more than a sandy track, to the enormous beach on the other side.  When we visited it five years before we found partially decomposed whales, this time, other than the last remains of a sea lion carcass we only found the white washed bones of long dead animals, as well as the sad remains of a wrecked sailboat and freighter.

Sad end to a sailboat - we think this is the remains of the boat that initially went aground during the 2010 Baja Ha Ha.
It was hot and the sun pounded down on us.  We were partway along the beach when we heard the noise of an engine and looked up to see a full sized 80’s Ford Bronco barrelling down the beach toward us.  I must admit I was first a little frightened when I saw it coming, filled with Mexican men.  We were pretty isolated out here.  But they turned out to be very friendly and well spoken.  One of them spoke English very well and said that when they saw us that they were concerned we may be in trouble – hurt, or without water.  When they realized we were fine, they suggested we check out a sea lion rookery further back and were on their way.  I expect it might have been shift change at the fish camp!  After our picnic we trudged back to the boat.  Even though we had brought four bottles of water with us, we were still dehydrated when we got back.  However, after a cooling swim, a warm cockpit shower and an ice cold beer, we were felt fine.

Salting fish indigenous style
We were feeling the tug to move on and the weather forecast continued to be favourable.  We lifted anchor, after listening to the weather on the Sonrisa Net, and headed for Cabo San Lucas at the very tip of the Baja peninsula.  Thankfully, this was an unremarkable passage – half we sailed, half we motored – rounding Land’s End just after sunset on Tuesday, December 8.

Cruise ship passing us in the early morning - this beomouth would later crowd up the bay at Cabo

Approaching Cabo Falso

Approaching Land's End

Resorts, condos and mega homes line the Cape
Cabo is such a shock to the senses after travelling 700 miles of isolated Baja – extensive housing and resort developments, lights, noise, boats everywhere.  We came into the bay to see an enormous cruise ship obscuring the anchorage.  By the time we were ready to drop the hook it was dark and it took a bit of work to pick out a free space as there were about a dozen boats in – some with lights, some without.  The tourist havens along the beach were pumping out music full blast and boats floating past flashed coloured lights while writhing figures danced to 70’s disco tunes on their foredecks.  Surreal!

Anchorage at Cabo
Right after breakfast the next morning we launched the dinghy and headed into the marina.  We left it at a dock under security for $3 USD. 

Marina area at Cabo San Lucas
We walked along pristine streets, so unlike Ensenada, and headed to the outskirts - looking for a large grocery store where we could provision in one stop.  We found a new MEGA and were delighted to discover it had even more North American products than it had five years before.  The other pleasant surprise was to see that the prices were also a lot more reasonable than they had been in the  U.S.A.  Perhaps our budget would stretch a little farther here?  Loaded with groceries, we caught a local bus for 13 pesos back to the marina.  Once everything was tidied away we went for a swim in 27 degree sapphire blue water – almost too warm to be refreshing!  After an early dinner we went straight to our bunks after setting the alarm for a midnight departure.

Traversing the East Cape of the Baja presents its own special series of problems and sailors must be mindful of them in order to have a comfortable passage to La Paz.  Contrary currents, tides and winds, combine to make very uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous sea conditions.  The prevailing winds are right on the nose and can accelerate as the day progresses, whipping up waves like brick walls.  We had a 2 day forecast of winds under 15 knots, so we decided to make a run for it and get as far as we could.  We left Cabo just after midnight and motorbeat our way along, passing the Los Frailes anchorage just after dawn and continuing on to Los Meurtes to arrive late afternoon.

We were in the company of ½ a dozen other boats making the same decision.  All of us spent a quiet evening in Los Meurtes.  We were up again at 2am, this time with the idea we would push all the way up the Cerravelo and Lorenzo Channels to Bahia San Gabriel on Espiritu Santo.  The plan worked flawlessly, and as we entered the bay of La Paz, we heaved a big sigh of relief, shut down the engine, unfurled the headsail and enjoyed an hour of quiet, easy sailing before picking our way into the deep anchorage at the southern corner of Bahia San Gabriel.  What an enormous sense of relief to have arrived at the destination we had envisaged when leaving Comox six months before.  It was Wednesday, December 11 and we had travelled almost 1000 challenging miles in under two weeks.  Yes, I guess we deserve a rest!

Ispiritu Santo - San Gabriel is the large bay at the lower right

Ariel view of Bahia San Gabriel - yes - the colour is just like that!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bahia San Gabriel near La Paz

We arrived at this lovely bay about noon today and have the whole place to ourselves. We are in a deep lagoon in the far corner, a stones throw away from a century old pearl farm which has been overtaken by mangroves, pelicans, frigates and boobies. A mile long white sand beach stretches across the bay, the water is a light emerald colour, 24 degrees and crystal clear. We had a lovely lunch in the cockpit, in our bathing suits, to celebrate all the hard work that went in to getting us here. What a magical feeling to be back in a place we imagined we would return to after our first visit in 2010. No internet, no cell coverage, we think we will stay a week!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

In Bahia Los Meurtes

We arrived in Bahia Los Meurtes from Cabo San Lucas about an hour ago after a 16 hour, 90 nautical mile moto-beat. For the most part, the weather was cooperative with winds over 15 knots only a few times and manageable, though bumpy, close set seas. This passage is notorious for high winds on the nose and short, sharp seas making it almost impassable in a boat our size. With good planning, we managed to avoid the worst of it. Tomorrow we are up at 2am to catch the tide to make it through the Cerralvo Channel and then transit the Lorenzo Channel before the afternoon winds pick up. We are heading for Bahia San Gabriel on Islas Ispiritu Santos for a few days of some serious R&R.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In Cabo San Lucas

We dropped the hook in Cabo about an hour ago ...all is well aboard Ka'sala.  After provisioning in the morning we will continue around the Cape to the LA Paz area while the weather prognosis is favourable.  Stay tuned....

Monday, December 7, 2015

On the way to Cabo San Lucas

24.17 N
111.46 W
Monday, December 7 @ 5pm

We left beautiful Bahia Santa Maria at 8:30 this morning. We motored for the first few hours in very light winds and now are gliding along in 15 knots of wind, wing on wing, at 5.5 knots. These conditions are supposed to remain constant throughout our passage, though they will likely shift direction a bit. We expect to arrive at Cabo San Luca sometime tomorrow night. In the meantime we are enjoying 85 degrees, sunshine and sapphire blue seas. Life is good and we are thankful.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

In Bahia Santa Maria

24.46.211 N
112.15.46 W

We arrived at Bahia Santa Maria just on time for a cold anti pasta plate and iced wine after a quiet night of sailing and motoring in smooth seas.  Does life get any better than 30 degrees in the sunshine with a water temperature of 26 degrees?  We watched a small pod of whales welcome us into the Bay with exuberant slapping of tails.  Saw our first frigate circling above and the pelicans are lining the reef beside us watching for their dinner.  We are anchored in 8 metres and I can clearly see the bottom through translucent emerald green water.  A slight breeze whispers across the water.  Paradise?  I think I will go for a swim!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thursday December 3 - on the way to Bahia Santa Maria

24.43.306 N
113.14.005 W

5:30pm PST

We've had a great 24 hours sailing and covered some good distance. In an area forecast to have 5 - 15 knot winds, we have experienced 15 - 25, just going to show you can't always rely on weather updates. We listened to one of the Baja Ham nets this morning broadcasting the winds were 10 knots in the very area we were sailing in 25 knots, with the accompanying large seas! What I can say is that the wind hasn't been steady, nor always from the same direction, so we have had to do quite a bit of reefing, course monitoring, sail changes - in other words - sailing!

The water has got steadily warmer and is over 25 degrees celcius where we are at the moment. The colour is an amazing fathomless turquoise blue. Today we had a tiny little bird come visit us for a few hours. It popped its head over the dodger to say hello. I have no idea what kind of bird it is, but it was the size of a canary, yellow with black stripes and a small hooked beak. It sat up in the rigging and rode along with us before flying away again. We had a couple of dolphins playing in our bow wake and in the distance we could see whales spouting, but they came nowhere near the boat. The California grey whale migrates down from Alaska to lagoons off the enormous bay we are crossing, to have their babies and make more. We are surprised we haven't seen more as this is the time of year they begin to arrive.

We expect to arrive in Bahia Santa Maria tomorrow morning where we intend to stay for a few days exploring.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday November 2

27:16.29 N
114:37.708 W

We are on our way to Bahai Santa Maria and should arrive sometime during the day on Friday all going well. We were able to catch up on sleep, top up on our fuel and get some miscellaneous boat work done while in Turtle Bay. It is a very remote place and very few people live there. We had a lot of wind in the anchorage and I was a little nervous about leaving but once we were out of the bay things calmed down. We are currently sailing along on a close reach at 5 knots watching the sky over the chiseled peaks turn from green to blue to pink. We are fortunate to see it!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Turtle Bay

27:40.58 N
114:53.10 W

We dropped the anchor in Turtle Bay at 6:30 this evening - an hour after sunset, so doing it all in the dark added an exciting component! We are safe and sound after a good night of sailing in 25 knot winds and choppy seas. We will stay here a couple nights. Tomorrow we will top up our fuel and Wednesday morning, weather permitting we will make our next jump to Bahia Santa Maria, 240 nautical miles south and another two day passage.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday, November 29 @ 5:30pm PST

28:29.090 N
115:02.482 W

The last 24 hours have gone swiftly, but it seems like we are crawling along. We were able to sail until just after midnight, then the wind died and we motored until just after noon today. Right now we are going along at 6+ knots wing on wing with 20 knots dead behind us. Hopefully it will last a little longer tonight, but today has been a carbon copy of yesterday. We have had up to a knot against us all day which has also slowed us down.

All is well aboard. I even made pizza today! Yum!

Today we saw a sailboat going the same way as us far off in the distance. We saw another one and a power boat going north last night on our AIS. Otherwise, it seems we are alone.

We are still not sure if we will stop at the San Bonitas Islands, but will likely stop in Turtle Bay for more fuel and a rest. It all depends on how far we get tonight!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday, November 28 @ 6:30 PST

31:12.580 South
116:38.766 West

We left Ensenada at 10am this morning in the sunshine. Actually, we left at 9am the first time, but had to return to the marina because our propeller didn't seem to be working right. Luckily there was a diver working on another boat and he was able to check ours out. We had a big ball of rope/twine wrapped around the shaft and prop. The diver was able to remove it and we were on our way again.

It has been a sunny day with winds 15 - 20 knots on our aft quarter out of the Northwest. The sea state approximately 2 meters and we are rolling along at 5 - 6 knots. Happy, happy! Dolphins leaped past our bow on the way out of the bay and later in the afternoon a whale surfaced, blew, slapped his tail about a bit, then disappeared. Since then, we have only had a few birds to keep us company.

We are both looking forward to moonrise in an hour or so!

Friday, November 27, 2015


We arrived in Ensenada just after first light on Tuesday, November 24, after a spectacular night cruise.  The moon was almost full, the seas were flat, and although we did not sail, we purred along at four knots.  Why so slow?  We only had to cover 65 miles but couldn’t make this distance during the day, and because we left San Diego harbour about 4pm, we needed to cut back on our speed in order to arrive after dawn. 

Good bye San Diego
If I could, I would do this passage over and over again.  As we passed Point Loma, we were treated to the most amazing, long lasting sunset I think I have ever seen.  To the west, the sun blazed every shade of red/orange and yellow as it sunk into the ocean and the after effects highlighted the sky like a tropical aurora borealis.  The seas were so flat the colours were reflected to such a degree it seemed as if the water were on fire.  

Sunset by Point Loma - photos cannot do this evening justice
To the east, a contrasting rainbow was occurring all across the sky as the light faded it flashed rose to purple to green and finally a deepening blue.  If that wasn’t enough, the almost-full moon was rising through the haze of the mountains, pearl white and glossy.  

San Diego in the distance
As the sky darkened completely, the moon lit up the landscape in a pale luminescent glow and the stars began to appear, one by one, until the most magnificent dome blanketed the sky.  We watched the transit of the moon during our night watches as the lights of Tijuana and Rosarita twinkled by.  I was lucky enough to see the moon set, around 4am, which was almost as dramatic as the sunset.  The orb had turned a butterscotch hue and was magnified a hundred fold as it disappeared slowly over the horizon.  

Moon set
The stars seemed to increase their intensity and the morning star began to rise in the east, the harbinger of the coming dawn.  We approached the inner breakwater of Ensenada just as the sun was ascending for another gorgeous day.  I was sorry it was over.

Raising the quarentine flag at dawn (a flash would have helped!)
Arriving in Ensenada after San Diego is like turning a switch.  The moment your feet touch the dock you know you are in a very different place.  It took a few hours to adjust to cracked sidewalks, grime and litter after the sterile, immaculate San Diego.  I don’t mean to be judgemental in this observation, as both these places have their fine points.  I really enjoyed the bicycle paths, the orderliness, the accessibility and apparent safety of California cities, but Ensenada seems more liberating and sensual.  For example, the showers in our marina here are made of gorgeous marble and the hot water is plentiful and crashes against your skin , but the ceilings are falling down and the smelly drains don’t work so well.  We’ve seen the opposite in California.  You can’t walk down the sidewalk in Ensenada without keeping an eye on where you place your feet, or what is hanging off the walls of buildings.  We’ve almost been blindsided by awnings at eye level, and access holes in the sidewalk, small enough that you don’t immediately see them, but large enough to entrap a foot and break a leg.  (And it is very hard to pay attention to your feet when you are immersed in all the amazing sights and sounds of this fascinating place.)

Busy tourist district
We checked into Mexico after we sorted out Ka’sala.  Because this was our second time clearing into Mexico with a boat, we were able to do most of the preparations in advance.   However, we were also greatly assisted by Jose, the English speaking receptionist at Baja Naval Marina.  

This picture was taken from under the enormous flagpole - you can just see Ka'sala (with Canadian flag) three from the end of the dock
We headed over to the Centro Integral de Servicios – one of only a few in Mexico – where all the check in offices are in one spot. (customs, immigration, the government bank, port captain, and fishing licenses.)  We knew we had to get our tourist cards (FMM) first as we needed copies of them to do the rest of the check in process.  All went well until we went to pay for them.  The clerk told us that the government bank would not accept credit card payment from sailing vessels – cash only, USD or pesos.  We ended up having to interrupt the process to try to find a regular bank, which took some time to find one that would allow us to access our Canadian account.  (We were successful at the Scotiabank).  Back at the Centro we were able to complete the rest of the formalities without problem.  By lunchtime we were sitting in the Mercado Negro munching on the famous fish tacos and pulling on ice cold Pacificos.

Yum!  All for a very affordable price!

Ka'sala at berth - the Carnival Imagination cruise ship in the background
After wandering the streets of Ensenada in the afternoon and deflecting the increasingly persistent touts and peddlers selling everything from wine tours to the Valle to Guadalupe, to your name on a grain of rice, from sombreros and Day of the Dead paraphernalia, to tacos on the street and cheap drinks in darkened bars, we stumbled back to Ka’sala.  It was an early night.

The next day we decided to broaden our perspective on this busy little city.  The day before we had done our cultural duty by visiting the architecturally beautiful Historical Museum where we traced the history of the native inhabitants, through early Spanish exploration, the mission period, mining and settlement.  Most of the labels were in English which was very helpful.

Historical Museum of Ensenada
We donned our walking shoes and sun hats and headed up to the Mercado Los Globos.  This market is a couple miles from the harbour and is far away from the tourist area.  Besides immersing ourselves in the sights and remembering our way around Mexican cities from our last sojourn, we were able to update our fresh provisions.  For the equivalent of ten Canadian dollars I purchased, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, limes, romaine lettuce, two types of tomatoes, bananas, red onion, olives, and four bolillos (a small loaf of white bread, something like a fat French baguette). 

Fresh Bolillos
To put it into perspective – I paid over a US dollar a pound for all of these things in California.  Wow!  If it continues like this, I think our budget might stretch in Mexico!

Lovely fresh produce at Mercado Los Globos
Our plan had been to spend two nights in Ensenada before continuing down the Baja.  However, the third late season hurricane (Sandra) has been brewing south of Cabo San Lucas and we have been watching its progress carefully.  Although it appeared that the winds will not affect a passage to Turtle Bay, the seas would, as a southern swell is predicted to conflict with the strong prevailing northwest winds and swell around Cedros Island, making for a potentially very uncomfortable passage. So we decided to remain in Ensenada another two days while the weather farther south sorts itself out. 
Hurricane Sandra
The outlook for leaving here tomorrow (Saturday) looks very good with 15 to 20 knot winds predicted in 2 meter seas pretty much all the way to Turtle Bay and beyond.  

Forecast for 2 days after we leave Ensenada
We would like to get to La Paz as quickly as we can and so, if the weather is good and we aren’t too tired, we may even bypass Turtle Bay and continue to Bahia Santa Maria.  We are getting great weather reports off the internet and by listening in to the Baja and Chubasco HAM nets in the mornings.  We will likely not have cell phone coverage, so I will be posting our progress on the blog by HAM radio through our Pactor Modum.

Raising the Mexican flag
There aren’t a lot of other cruisers around at the moment – most transited through here in early November – but there are a few, several sporting Canadian flags.  There will probably be several of us who leave tomorrow.  In the meantime, the local weather has been cool with temperatures in the late teens and we have had rain the last two mornings.  However, the sun has come out in the afternoons and the cool nights make for great for sleeping!

Harbour of Ensenada - yes, the Mexican flag is really this big.  We are in the back line of sailboats on the bottom left