Ensenada: First Mexican port of call

We left the U.S. late Friday evening on November 11 with a 12 hour expected passage to Ensenada, arriving on Saturday morning (November 12).  While the passage itself was only 65 n.m’s, we wanted to be sure we left and arrived during daylight hours.
(Side note, we attempted to leave SD on Thursday Nov 10th, but having left the dock a tad after we wanted, we unexpectedly ran through some kelp which gummed up our engine water intake and our prop shaft, so we had to limp back , at 1 kt/hour back to the Police Docks to deal with these issues).

Our sail/motor down to Ensenada was, once again, quiet and uneventful, which after the previous evening’s adventures in kelp, we were quite grateful for.   Although it was sunset or a little after when we crossed into Mexican waters, Dakota’s crew celebrating with cookies and cheers—Woo hoo! We made it to Mexico!

Since the sun now sets so early, about 430 p.m. local time, the bulk of our passage was in the dark.  But we were treated to a sunset dolphin show which was stunning and the kids were absolutely enthralled.  No matter how many times we see dolphins, we all feel that each time they visit us, it’s like the first time.  It’s kind of like Christmas, in the same way that kids are overjoyed at each gift. Similarly, we are surprised, for some reason, each time they cross our bow and amazed at their speed, agility, grace and playfulness.  We have seen larger dolphins, smaller baby dolphins, and from what we can tell they appear to be both Bottlenose and the Common Dolphin (according to our field guides).  In any case, we pinch ourselves each time they visit because, indeed, this is the only way we want our kids to experience dolphins–free and without the constraints of captive life and we could ourselves lucky to experience them in their element.

Our fellow cruisers, Bloom, pulled into Ensenada a few days ahead of us, so we were excited to see them upon arriving at Baja Naval marina, right downtown.  We were also warned that it was a very surge-y mooring, and boy oh boy was that the truth!  Never have either of us experienced surge *at a dock* like that, it felt like we were at anchor. Indeed, the surge at Baja Naval was worse than being anchored in Avalon for a week.  We had to secure Dakota with 8 lines (EIGHT!) and she still wriggled and moved quite a bit.  Which meant, at least the first night, was a relatively sleepless one for Ryan (our resident worry-wart).  Admittedly, there were times when I heard Dakota groan and creak in ways that made me cringe and feel bad.  Like we were unnecessarily straining her and flexing her hull for the sake of our own comfort (which was neglible!).

Upon arriving Satuday, after securing Dakota, we set about getting cleared by Mexican authorities.  This first entailed visiting our marina and getting entrance papers (as well as inspection of Dakota’s papers), then walking over to the central immigration office, which housed both immigration and port captain offices.  Clearing here took the larger part of our afternoon and we celebrated by grabbing some fish tacos on the way home.

After settling in the first day/night, we set about doing some schoolwork, taking field trips, practicing our spanish and taking care of some necessary boat chores (laundry, groceries, cleaning).  We visited the Ensenada History Museum and learned a little about our locale, we also lucked out and found a local food/music festival on the grounds, and visited a bit there.

Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada

We also did some division to conquer the necessary chores (finding a lavanderia to do our laundy, find some grocery stores) and finish taking care of Dakota’s on-the-go projects in preparation for the trip down the isolated Baja Coast (install an anchor roller, pull out and mark all of our new anchor chain, etc).

Our time in Ensenada felt short, but due to the surge-y marina and the incoming predicted swells, we felt ready to move on.  We were bummed not to visit La Bufador or take a tour of the wine country … but both of these would entail signing up for a tour or renting a car since they weren’t walkable (and there appeared to be no public transport to La Bufadora).  Bummer!  But luckily Ensenada is the largest city on the Baja peninsula, so we found plenty to eat, see, do and visit while there.

I got to squeeze in a not-so-scenic run down the highway (the only road sans potholes for any substantive distance) and a visit to Costco with my new friend L.R. from Bloom.  We also ran into one of the Harbor Patrol men, Nick, upon arrival at our second marina in Ensenada (Cruiseport Village–we decided we needed to get out of Baja Naval before the surge got worse and our lines were irreparable)–and were reminded what an amazing and kind person he is!  As I was running up the dock to meet LR for an uber to Costco, I yelled out “Hey Nick! I’m going to Costco, would you like me to get you anything?”  And he responded, “Why don’t I just drive you?”  Aww, sweet!  And not only did he drive LR and I to Costco, but he stuck around and pushed our ever-filling cart around while us girls chatted up ahead.  He was so sweet to do that, and he never once complained or seemed put-upon.  He was happy to chat and follow us through Costco, chat about possible routes and strategies for getting down the Baja Coast, and give tips about how he’s been able to avoid critters (cockroaches, rodents) on board all of the years he’s done the Baja Coast.  Such a fun afternoon with fellow cruisers!  And the Costco here was second to none in the States. Greek yogurt? Got it! Kirkland Soy Milk? Score!  We got everythind we needed and more, and the best part is my bill was about half my normal Costco spend.  Wahoo!

We spent a total of 6 nights in Ensenada (4 at Baja Naval and 2 at Cruiseport Village–also really enjoyable if you ever find yourself in Ensenada! No surge at all and excellent wifi!) and then found the sweet spot in the weather to start making our way down the coast.

First up–Bahia San Quintin about 115 n.m south of Ensenada and a planned 20+ hour trip.  Again, we opted to leave during daylight hours and arrive during daylight (which we hope to do as much as possible–arriving at a new port in dark does not sound fun!) So we pushed off the dock at Cruiseport at 2pm Friday and arrived in San Quintin Saturday at 1130am.

After checking weather, we decided to do press on to Turtle Bay Sunday and hopefully stay ahead of the big swells we are seeing on our weather apps.  Turtle Bay is 190 nms away, our biggest leg yet, and we are forecasting a 28-30 hour passage and think we will arrive there at about 1130am Monday.

For now, we have fair seas and light winds (not enough to sail, although we tried earlier!).  We have a light drizzle following us around and cloudy skies – so it truly feels like fall.

More to come from Turtle Bay!


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