Saturday, November 13, 2010

Catalina to San Diego to Ensenada

It’s Saturday evening, the 13th of November and “Blue Rodeo” is tied safely to a marina dock in Ensenada, Mexico. The previous weeks have been filled with activity starting with a pre-dawn departure from Catalina’s Avalon Harbor. We spent 4 days there enjoying the quaint town, sampling a few eateries and taking long walks. One afternoon, Mark donned his shortie wet suit, mask, fins and new 50 foot hookah air hose and slipped into to clear water where we were moored. He took the opportunity to change the sacrificial zinc anodes on “Blue Rodeo’s” propeller, strut and prop shaft. The water is colder than normal this year and Mark was soon chilled to the bone and shaking like crazy as he attached the last of the zincs. He took comfort though in knowing that the next time he’ll do the job will be in 85 degree water.

The trip from Catalina to San Diego was pleasant with smooth seas but no wind so we motored through the darkness and later watched the first signs of light appear in the east, followed by a brilliant sunrise that bathed the horizon in shades of orange and gold.
We rounded Point Loma and entered San Diego Harbor in mid-afternoon amidst a flurry of navy ship activity including a submarine on the surface doing training exercises. As we motored through the string of buoys marking the ship channel, the sub decided to head our way and, although it was still a ways behind us, a Coast Guard escort boat was speeding around shooing boats in the area, including us, out of it’s path. Since 911, Homeland Security is requiring a clear zone around military ships and pleasure vessels must stay a significant distance away. We guess our 50 foot sail boat is quite the threat for an armed nuclear submarine.

Our first stop in San Diego was the Harbor Police dock where moorage is offered to transient boaters at a reasonable rate for up to 10 days. The docks there were bustling with activity and most spaces were taken by other cruising boats headed for Mexico. Before long, we had made a number of new friends and were exchanging stories about our trips down the coast and sharing our plans for the months ahead. Some had sailed to Mexico before and provided a wealth of information about the check-in paper work process and their favorite stops. Others, like us, were first timers who were anxiously looking forward to sailing south of the border.

While in San Diego, we were able to reconnect with Mark’s friends Paul and Jeanne and their son Robbie, first with a visit to the boat and dinner out, followed by an enjoyable dinner at their home a few days later. During the stay we rented a car and drove up to the Los Angeles area to visit Mark’s mom and family and retrieve some mail that had been delivered there for us. Several boxes of boat parts had arrived but unfortunately, a replacement refrigeration compressor we had ordered from Florida had not yet shown up. This meant a second 6 hour round trip drive just a few days later to pick it up.

We had hoped to have more time to relax and explore San Diego but the days were filled from dawn to dusk with numerous trips to the local chandleries for parts and back-breaking work on boat projects and repairs. Mark certainly felt the stress of our imminent departure for an area where boat parts would be difficult or impossible to find and did his best to stock up on spares and things needed to complete unfinished upgrades to “Blue Rodeo’s” systems. Anne continued her provisioning and spent hours on the internet downloading forms and documents needed for entry into Mexico.

Once our replacement refrigeration compressor arrived and the system serviced (a two day affair that involved rebuilding it’s mounts and a water cooling pump) we were finally ready to head to Ensenada. Planning for a mid-day arrival in order to clear customs, we chose to depart San Diego at 12:30AM and motored quietly away from the docks and into the dark channel leading to the open sea. We carefully followed our charts and strained our eyes looking for buoys, obstructions and other boat traffic. Before long, we were at sea and already seeing the lights of Tijuana ahead on our port side. We rejoiced to a warm breeze that blew from the land and, with our sails up and engine shut down, quickly began ticking-off the miles to our destination. When the moon set, our wake left a glowing, bioluminescent trail behind us that was augmented by the torpedo-like tracks of dolphins playfully tagging along. By about 11:00AM we dropped our sails and motored to a marina dock deep inside Ensenada’s busy harbor. We wasted no time tying up to the rickety docks, gathered our pack full of papers and documents and hurried off to find the offices of Immigration, Customs and the Port Captain. The paperwork shuffle and clearance procedure was a challenge to be sure and will be continued in our next blog installment.

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