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

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