Monday, November 24, 2014


We have been in Ensenada Mexico for a few weeks now. We are really quite comfortable here. The weather couldn't be better (low to mid 70's during the day and low 60's at night). It did finally rain a couple of days ago for about 30 minutes. This is the first rain we have seen since we left Washington!

I think we are true cruisers now because our plans seem to change daily. The current plan is to stay in Ensenada for the winter and then head back to southern California for the spring and summer. We are hoping to have our grandkids come down and spend some time with us next summer and it will be so much easier if we are in the US. And that would be unlikely if we headed to the typical central/southern Mexico cruising grounds as the 750 nautical mile trip back north along the Baja peninsula would be very difficult. But more important, we are really enjoying Ensenada and want to take time to get to know the people here. Jan has met a couple of local ladies in the sauna and we are hoping to get to know them and their families.

Ensenada has a little of everything. It is a major stop for most of the cruise lines because it is a major port of entry into Mexico. So the cruise ships stop here and get everyone checked into Mexico and then head south to the gold coast. The cruise ship dock is downtown and not surprisingly the area around the dock is what I would call "Little Tijuana". If is full of little shops overflowing with tourist junk and high pressure salespeople. It brings the quote "for you, nearly free" to mind. If you show any interest in anything you can bet the someone will be on you immediately pushing you to buy it. And if you start to walk away, the price will start dropping. They will even chase you down the sidewalk lowing the price with every step you take. It is fun for a little while, but gets old pretty quick.

We are berthed in a marina called Marina Coral (pronounced Coraaaal, and they are not shy making sure you know that). The marina area is basically "San Diego south". Virtually everyone here speaks english (to some degree - some of them speak english about as good as my spanish). It is a very nice marina, except they might want to pressure wash the docks once in a while. The big downside to Marine Coral is the surge. The breakwater is very big and robust but there is only a single breakwater. If you plan to stop ocean swell you need a double breakwater. So when the swell is kicking up or coming from a direction that causes reflection to the marina entrance it can get pretty rough at the dock. So I am keeping a close eye on our dock lines and fenders. The other thing that makes this "San Diego south" is the "big box store" area. Just south of downtown is an area of a couple of blocks where you can find Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, McDonalds, etc... You can find virtually every chain store/restaurant that you know from the US.

We are really loving our bikes! Jan has a thing from her childhood about getting a "brand new" bike so she was really excited to get a "brand new" bike. In any case, we have really used them a lot here. The marina is about 5 miles north of town so we would be on the bus or a cab without them. There are only a few major folding bike companies and then several very small companies. Without question the biggest company is Dahon. One of their close competitors is Tern. Tern was actually started by the son of the man that built Dahon. So they are very similar bikes. Anyway, we bought Tern bikes.

Ready to ride

Folded and ready to go below
We have been doing a lot of fishing here. To my pleasant surprise Jan loves fishing. Right now we are just taking our dinghy out in the bay. It is a lot easier than taking Rapture out for a couple of hours. We have been doing really well. We have caught quite a few lingcod. They are about the ugliest fish you have ever seen, but they taste really good. The lingcod we have been catching have been fairly small (as lingcod go) because of where we have been fishing. But we plan to take Rapture out to Isla De Todo Santos (a couple of islands just under 10 miles out from Ensenada) looking for much bigger fish.

Mike with a lingcod
A few days ago we were out trolling around one of our favorite spots and I caught a Pacific Barracuda. I knew I had something good on when it hit because it was pulling hard. Then I got it up close to the boat where I could see it and knew I had a barracuda. We safely got it in the boat without it's teeth puncturing the dinghy or me! This was just a small barracuda.. boy, I can't wait to catch a big one! We really liked the barracuda. When I filleted it we got 2 long thick round chunks of firm white meat that tasted great!

Mike with the barracuda
It is very "interesting" to go out in the open ocean in a 9' inflatable rubber boat. The swell has been growing quite big lately because of all the storms going on up north. We were out a few days ago and I estimated the swell to be 8 to 10 feet. Swell generally comes in groups of  threes - if you get a big one you can bet there are 2 more big ones right behind it. When you encounter swell this big in a small boat right on the water all you can see is a wall of water coming at you when you are in the trough. Then at the crest you take a quick look around to get your bearing and make certain there isn't anything breaking coming at you. As always, as scary as huge swell looks, it is only dangerous if it breaks. On this particular day, the swell was so big you could hear/feel wind created as you climb the face and descend the back of the wave. Needless to say, we didn't stay out very long that day.

We went fishing yesterday and had a good day (well, *Jan* had a good day). We were trolling around one of our favorite spots and Jan about jumped out of her skin. I looked over and she was holding onto her rod with both hands for all she was worth. I asked if she had a fish on and she could only shake her head. So I killed the motor and got my line out of the water. It was all Jan could do to hold onto the rod so there was no way she was going to be able to crank the reel. Finally she said "the line is going the wrong way" (it was spooling off against the drag pretty fast). She said it was too much for her so I took the rod and the fight was on. I finally landed a bonito tuna after a good fight - it was major fun!

Jan and her tuna
Later that day, I made my catch of the day - a black sock size 9 to 11. That's right, a sock like you would wear on your feet. It was a bit more than embarrassing. And Jan took full advantage telling everyone of the day's catch.

The bottom line - the bikes and the dinghy were very expensive purchases before leaving the US, and were worth EVERY penny!

Monday, November 10, 2014

San Diego

We sadly left Newport Beach and headed for San Diego. This was to be the jump off point for the Baja Ha-ha (silly name, I know). This is a rally that leaves San Diego and races to Cabo San Lucas. We had signed up for the "ha-ah" and were planning on participating. But the more we thought about it, the less we liked the idea. There were several draw backs as far as we were concerned:

  • 170 boats were registered. All of the boats were scheduled to leave San Diego in a parade around noon and head off shore toward Cabo. You would get about 6 hours before dark and then you would have 170 boats sailing around you in the dark - does not sound like fun to me! Furthermore, the sad thing is that we figure at least 50% of people operating boats are really not qualified to do so. So 170 boats off shore, at night, with 50% of them being somewhat less than capable... I think not.
  • The rally was in 3 legs. The first leg was 3 days and nights. The second leg was 2 days and nights. And the third leg was about 30 hours. Jan and I figured we "could" do it on our own, but we would be exhausted by the time it was over. Don't forget, this is suppose to be "fun". The other thing is Jan and I have decided that we prefer to not sail at night if possible. We have seen a lot of stuff floating in the water and all of that stuff is still out there at night - you just can't see it. I know, I know, a lot of people do multi-day passages, but Jan and I prefer to sail during the day if possible. As a note - one of our friends did do the ha-ha and ran over a crab pot buoy at night wrapping the line around their prop shaft. They were lucky enough to be able to cut it off without going in the water and get back underway. But then had to dive the boat the next day and get the rest of the line off the shaft.
  • The ha-ha races down the Baja peninsula missing a lot of fun spots and we didn't want to go blowing by any of them.
Long story short - we decided not to do the ha-ha so had to say goodbye to the friends we had made on the way down from Washington.

We had a great sail from Newport Beach to San Diego. We had about 20 knots of wind from the stern. We had our genoa polled out and enjoyed a wonderful downhill ride. Here is a picture of Abby Normal (the name came from the movie Young Frankenstein - if you haven't seen it, you should check it out). Brad and Gay say the name is fitting of both them and their boat :-).

Abby Normal under spinaker
 You will notice Abby Normal trying to keep up with Rapture, as usual :-) Abby Normal left with the ha-ha and we are going to miss them very much.

I have been bit by the fishing bug! I have caught several tuna and a mackerel while in Mexico. The tuna are not only great eating fish, but they are more fun to catch than any fish I have ever caught! When you get a good sized tuna on the line, you know you are hooked up. I was coming up the companionway when the fish in the picture hit. The rod bent almost in half immediately and the reel was singing loud spooling line off at a high rate. It took me over 20 minutes to land this guy. I have been doing some research and am going to be heading to the spot where they are catching 80lb tuna soon. Holy moly! I can only imagine.

Mike with a tuna
Favorite tuna rigs
The birds down here are amazing. Of course we love the pelicans, but the heron and egret are really cool as well. They either stand at the edge of the water of on a dock and wait for small fish to come by. Then they stab their long beaks in the water with lightning speed and come out with a fish for lunch.


We spent a little over a month in San Diego. Our original plan was to spend a month there going through all of the boat systems after the trip down from Washington and before we left for Mexico. We did all of the maintenance but then stayed another week after deciding not to leave with the ha-ha. While in San Diego they had a halloween party that we attended. It can be a bit difficult to put a costume together while living on a boat, but here is what we did. One thing to note - this is and will be the ONLY time Jan is allowed to put mascara on me!



Mike and Jan taken by Richard from Sarita
We really had a great time at the party!!!

While in San Diego we came to a realization which lead to 2 purchases - transportation away from our boat is a really big deal! It was a long way to get to any services/stores from where our boat was moored (Harbor Island West Marina). If you took the dinghy across the bay you were in walking distance to one grocery store and a few marine stores. But walking anywhere from the marina was just not feasible. I did walk around the harbor 1 day shortly after we got there. I calculated it was a 15 mile walk in the hot sun - really not something I want to do every day.

So we got our dinghy that we rarely used in Washington out and quickly realized it had a very big short coming - a soft flexible bottom. In Washington it was not a problem because we rarely used it. If we wanted to leave the boat at anchor we would use our kayak. But going across the bay to get groceries was not really practical with the kayak. And the soft bottom of the dinghy was quite obviously not going to last very long being drug up on gravel beaches in Mexico. So we bought a RIB (rigid bottom inflatable boat). It has an aluminum bottom and inflatable sides. The upside is that it will last a long time. The downside is that we cannot roll it up and store it down below - it has to be carried on our foredeck. Oh well, the life of a cruiser.

The other thing we realized is that even with a good dinghy we would still have to travel some long distances for certain things from time to time. So we purchased folding bicycles. We are really happy with our bikes!!! They make long distances a breeze. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the new dinghy or bikes right now, but I will have them for the next blog entry.

The purchase of the new dinghy and bikes delayed our departure from San Diego a week beyond when we wanted to leave, but they were really important items to get before we left the US. Now we are off to Mexico - first stop, Encenada!

Jan and I really had a very hard time in San Diego. We have talked a lot about it and are not exactly sure why. This trip has been one huge boost to our faith and we have grown much closer to our Lord. But we came under attack from the moment we arrived in San Diego. We are not sure if it is because Satan has a strong foothold in San Diego or if we came under direct attack because of our recent growth. But one thing we are absolutely sure about is we are glad we are no longer in San Diego! Neither of us have any desire to go back there anytime soon.