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Baja Bound Beetle

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  • Baja Bound Beetle

    Rob MacFarlane, his lovely lady Kristen and crew have exited the hustle and bustle of city life aboard Tiger Beetle,
    a N/M 45 IOR two tonner circa 1983 which has been short hand sailed both offshore and near shore for its entire existence,
    we will tag along with Rob's South Bound adventure as long as he keeps up the blog!

    "Greetings from aboard good ship Beetle! - we are making super time down the coast headed for Santa Barbara
    (nice marina there complete with adjacent train station that John wants, as he likes trains and will use one to get himself back home).

    The trip so far has been uneventful, which is a good thing. We waited for a weather window it looks like we found it.
    Breeze has been up and down between 2 knots and 15 knots, mostly from behind, with a nice 6 foot NW swell to go
    with it and that is propelling us along very well. That and the motor, which is chugging along and keeping us moving in the 7 knot range."

    Oddly enough, we are within cellular tower range of the coast, which provided my first opportunity to actually pull up the
    NWS web site and click on the buoys to get their readings (you're not allowed to do this during races, so this is my first time doing this offshore - very slick!).

    "Dinner was a frozen lasagna that Jimmy heated up, John did most of the day watch and is now asleep until 10pm,
    Jimmy has gone on for his watch a couple of minutes ago (8-10pm), and I will be back on at midnight when John comes off watch.
    I'm actually hoping to be up sooner as we will be making the next big course change to run down to pt. Arguello when we pass Pt. Sur,
    which is currently 21 miles out in front of us.

    Very little traffic to speak of, though AIS shows a fair number of container ships and tankers and tugs and tows about 30 miles to the west -
    we are staying inshore of the shipping traffic and haven't really seen much yet.

    The moon-set was wonderful, there's a big planet up there as well (or it could have been Venus, and no, I did not try to raise
    Venus on the VHF radio this time having learned my lesson in the 1996 SSS TransPac race - that does not work and Venus does not respond)".

    "I hope everyone ashore is having a fine night tonight, we sure are out here. A bit rolly with the quartering swell, but making good time.
    And we have the third reef tucked into the mainsail to help steady the boat a bit."

    - rob/beetle
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Wednesday Wanderings

    "Good morning! It's a fantastically brilliant and calm day out here off Pt. Piedras Blancas, tooling along at 7 knots or so, wind has dropped off to zero, Jimmy and John are both asleep and it's my watch for another 40 minutes.

    About the only interesting/unusual thing from last night was hearing the USCG broadcast regarding an abandoned overturned yellow (red?) life boat located 20 miles south of Pt Sur. The problem was the Coast Guard couldn't be more specific than that, so when we motored by on our way 20 miles south of Pt. Sur we did a bit more peering forward past the bow light than usual.

    All is well on board, plenty of food and fuel and water, the swell has dropped from perhaps 6-7 feet earlier to negligible now, though an occasional 4 footer passes by and we roll a bit. There is a sailboat just ahead of us, likewise south-bound, I believe we are motoring along slightly faster than they are and will eventually cross paths with them.

    We are 66 n miles from Pt. Arguello, and hope to be there by nightfall; this would put us into Santa Barbara some time early Thursday morning, which is a pretty quick hop down the coast.
    I will take a picture with the iPad and see if that can make it through to the wordpress blog, or not!"

    - rob
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • #3
      Wednesday Night Thoughts

      "We are around Pt. Arguello and Pt. Conception, headed for Santa Barbara - breeze is light, seas have gone flat, the oil platforms are out in abundance, and the shipping channel off to starboard is corralling the big boats and keeping them out of the way.

      It's been a super day of tooling on across the ocean, we had a swimming shark go by (most likely a 5-6' blue shark), sun fish, a most excellent view of Vandenberg AFB (and safety zone 4 was closed today, we stayed outside of it). We should be in Santa Barbara around 2AM (6 hours from now), and will see about arranging a overnight transient berth, plus a visit to a laundromat, a shower, and the fuel dock.

      It's been interesting to see how communication equipment affects the way the trip has gone as regards news of the outside world, especially as we've been running down quite close to the coast and therefore are often within range of a cellular telephone tower. For instance, Jimmy was able to telephone his mom and let her know he was safely around Conception and that it was flat, Kristen has been able to track the boat via it's AIS transmission (we're running a Class B AIS transponder), as well as position from an InReach Iridium transponder. Armed with this information one can then make an educated guess as to when the boat might be within range and know when to telephone - so we've had a fair bit of phone conversation on board.

      Using the same cellular tower data transfers we've been able to pull up the national weather service web sites (Monterey and LA/Oxnard) to view the weather buoy data, read the marine forecasts, and look at current weather models via NOAA and Passage Weather. This is a huge change from 20 years ago when you didn't have any of the technology in place, and as a result I think we've made reasonable decisions on where we went and when during the 250 mile hop down from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara.

      And right now I'm typing up this log/note on an iPad that is blue-toothed to an Apple keyboard, into the gmail application - in the expectation that it will be ready to send when the next cellular tower comes into clear view as we approach Santa Barbara. The iPad uses significantly less power than the laptop and is slightly more hardened from damage as it is in a rubber and lexan case. The external keyboard makes it easy to type (the onscreen iPad keyboard is not suited for real typing). Plus it is possible to include images with the cellular email, something not really feasible via sailmail (sailmail is the normal offshore email mechanism on board, and has a 10kb attachment limit - and given the low baud rate possible via HF radio you don't really want to send or receive an entire 10k attachment as it takes a long time to send over the radio and pactor modem.

      So it's been interesting to be kept up to date with Kristen's activities, discuss with Dad a marina to meet at in San Diego, research the Santa Barbara harbor patrol phone number and slip rates, and send out significantly more detailed logs than I would normally do on the laptop (low power consumption is a good thing).

      We've eaten well, had a killer salad from John this evening, motor has run well, used the mini-bilge pump to suck up some water that accumulated (most likely will need to repack the stuffing box), the moon has been magnificent this evening, and we're all quite excited to have this leg under our belts.
      - rob
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #4
        Looks like Rob is living right!


        • #5
          In Avalon, Catalina Island

          Approaching Avalon, Catalina Island to starboard.

          Beetle arrived in Avalon last night just after dark, met up with the small orange patrol boat with all the side lights, exchanged credit card information and now we have a mooring for the next three days. Actually finding the mooring in the dark was another story as the moorings are packed in here as fore-and-aft arrangements: you pick up the wand on the mooring ball at the bow, drop the hawser over the bow cleat, then quickly pull up and follow aft a weighted line that leads you to the stern hawser that you have to really pull on to get up to the stern cleat. In the morning daylight you can see that what you're really doing is lifting a rather large chain the stern hawser is attached to, and the catenary of the chain keeps the boats in alignment - everyone here is bow out into the prevailing very light swell as it creeps around through the port and starboard breakwaters.

          Yesterday was a pleasant trip over from Santa Barbara, we got underway at 2AM with Jimmy on board and motored out onto the Santa Barbara Channel in a darn near straight line to Avalon some 94 miles away. There is a north-bound current sweeping up the channel, as a result most of the day we were down one knot of speed over the ground. In the mid-morning a southeasterly wind filled in and we sailed for an hour until we got headed 50 degrees and the wind dropped off, so away went the sails and back on went the motor.

          The stuffing box flax needs replacing, it still leaks more than it should, and I will do another round of mini-bilge pumping this morning.

          After arrival last night we made up some mini-quiches and mini-pizza things in the stove, ate them, set up the dinghy and made a quick tour of the small town. It's actually rather nice, and the original Tuna Club is still standing - that's a bit of history for the place.

          Kristen is on the 8:30AM ferry coming over from Long Beach, so we are quite looking forward to her arrival. She just drove down from San Francisco, so I wager she will be somewhat tired upon arrival. But Avalon is not a bad place to wake up, sunny, warm (t-shirt weather).

          The Casino, now fixed up as a theater, movie house, and I believe there is still a museum in the ground floor.

          - rob

          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


          • #6
            Sunday Morning on the Mooring

            All the moorings that I am aware of (at least in Avalon) are privately owned, and the one we are on is no. 142 for boat La Vita Dura. And it's available for sale, according to the list maintained by the harbor patrol. For a mere $530,000. At a daily rate of $39, we worked it out would take 37 years of being here every single day to break even on the mooring. It must mean that the owner both has an incredible amount of money, and a great desire to never be told that there is no mooring available for him in Avalon! Upshot, we are quite happy to not own the mooring

            Went for a snorkel yesterday in front of the casino, lots of Garibaldi fish (the California State Marine Fish, no less) hanging out in the vertical kelp fronds. The water was a bit chilly at 62 degrees F, but the fish were fun and Kristen to go get wet. Afterwards we washed off in fresh water (nice to have a watermaker on board to make more fresh water as necessary) and it was nice to sit in the sun and warm up like a lizard on his hot rock.

            The three of us went ashore later in the evening in search of Luau Larry's (at the advie of friend Sylvia), and Kristen had a Wiki Wacker which comes complete with straw hat. Also some good food.

            Upshot is that Avalon is being a good place to pause on our way south. Ben Mewes (with Lucie and Charlie the Dog onboard Georgia) just telephoned to say they were around Point Conception and headed straight for San Diego. And Jeanne on Nereida is around these parts as well, it looks like we may all arrange a get-together in San Diego later in the week - that would be fun! Of course these are all Singlehanded TransPac folk, so it might be a mostly anti-social gathering, but at least we could all sit on the same boat and not talk to each other


            - rob/beetle

            " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

   Photo Gallery


            • #7
              Monday Morning In Avalon

              In this chapter we find that friends have arrived in Avalon and Beetle can stay two additional days:

              This morning the telephone rang and I woke up to answer it in hopes that it was the harbormaster from the Sheraton Marina in San Diego; turns out it was an even better caller: Ben and Lucie on their boat Georgia were ringing up to let us know they were just outside the harbor and coming in; much fun! And shortly afterwards Georgia came into the harbor and picked up the mooring next door.

              The harbor master stopped by to organize Ben's check in, and we discovered that there is a Veteran's Day special for the mooring rates: pay for 2 days, get 5 (continuous) days - a nice surprise! Upshot is Beetle, Jimmy, and I are going to hang two more days and Kristen is going to hop the ferry back to Long Beach this evening.

              Yesterday Kristen and I ran the dinghy up the coast a bit and found a nice spot in shallow water with kelp and sunlight and went for a snorkel. The water is a bit chilly but you can manage about 20 minutes before getting too cold. While doing this it occurred to me that we have the makings of a hookah rig on board: gas-powered generator, 3/4 hp air compressor, and the 60 foot hose and regulator that I normally use for cleaning the boat bottom. We decided to return (today) and try all this out from the dinghy.

              In preparation I charged the battery in the Olympus camera that has a dive housing, and cleaned up the CF card the camera writes to. All checked out ok so far. Here's a bit of what it looks like down in the kelp:

              On the way back from snorkeling we came across 5 or 6 Risso's Porpoise moving slowly back towards Avalon. We moved the dinghy up in front of them and shut off the motor, leaving us drifting quietly as the Risso's approached, then swam directly beneat the dinghy. These are large, slow moving animals, and it was amazing to see them so closely. We do see them periodically out near the Farallone Islands, I did not know they are also down south in the Channel Islands.

              And last night Jimmy cooked up a bang-up dinner of all sorts of things made up into a curry, and then we headed in to town to the Marlin Club, apparently it's the good dive bar in town and sports a small pool table. We met up a couple of other folks in from their boats and had a pleasant couple of games of doubles on the table.

              And now it's Monday morning, we've changed plans to stay here in Avalon until Wednesday morning - at which time Beetle will head for San Diego. Ben and Lucie have just come in from off the ocean (they departed San Francisco Friday afternoon, arriving here in Avalon this morning around 7:30AM). I made up a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and turkey bacon, Ben and Lucie and Charlie (their dog) brought coffee, and we sat around and swapped stories for a bit.

              Now it's off to the ferry building to see about getting Kristen a ticket on this evening's boat, and Ben would like to use the dinghy to get Charlie ashore.

              And Kristen is sometimes hard at work (literally - she's online doing work work using an external keyboard and her ipad working remotely from Avalon through Beetle's local MiFi unit)
              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

     Photo Gallery


              • #8
                Good on them! Looks like they are doing it right!


                • #9
                  Ben and Lucie are my heroes.


                  • #10
                    I didn't know Rob was keeping this going until now!! I'll be watching!


                    • #11
                      Leaving Avalon

                      "Tiger Beetle departed Avalon Wednesday morning and in very light air motored the 76 miles southwards to San Diego. We've been in Cabrillo Isle Marina for two nights now, and will be moving out to the available anchorages.

                      In Avalon we had a fun 'snorkel' dive with a cobbled-together hooka rig by taking the Honda generator, plugging in the small air compressor I use for cleaning the boat bottom, putting both into the dinghy along with the hose and regulator and the three of us ran out to the small kelp bed we'd snorkeled on the previous day. That worked out super, as the water was shallow and therefore relatively warm and hadn't lost too much light, and with the compressor running it meant a lot of bottom time (in perhaps 20 feet of water) to watch animals and take pictures. The reported downside was the noisy compressor, so next time bring ear plugs for the people staying topside in the dinghy."

                      "Kristen departed Monday evening on the ferry back to Long Beach, and Tuesday Jimmy was up Georgia's mast in an attempt to find out why the Lunasea masthead light refused to produce light, nothing obvious, so he brought down the unit and Ben & Lucie are sorting out what might be going on with it."

                      Departing avalon, no wind, sun is rising, nice quiet morning

                      "On board Beetle I got busy with labeling up the insect specimens from trips to Panamint Valley (CA) and Rackensack Canyon (AZ), as my Mom would be visiting Beetle when we were in San Diego and she could transport the field boxes back to the main collection in Arizona.

                      Wednesday morning we pushed off from Avalon at 6:30AM and found a pretty good north-bound current out around the island; I believe this is some sort of Catalina counter current, as it stayed with us consistently for 40 miles, eventually tapering away to neutral current about half way to San Diego."

                      Underway and getting labels completed on some insect specimens

                      "And now we're at Cabrillo Isle Marina, the marina was going to leave a key for us in the dock box as we were arriving after marina office closing hours; unfortunately we couldn't find the key and that meant no showers that night (Rats!). Fortunately, a neighbor offered his key and showers were back on the table. A shower felt great, instant new person!

                      We've been exploring the docks here, lots of very nice beautifully maintained power boats, sport fishing boats, and a 1965 North Sea fishing boat (Varnebank) that has been refit as a world cruising trawler - very impressive. And super nice people on the dock. I've also been to West Marina (boat parts including fuel filters and stuffing flax) and Vons (heavy groceries) courtesy of Mom's car.

                      Today it's chilly, with a grey overcast as the area settles in for what is forecast to be two days of south breeze from a low pressure system, possible drizzle, and cooler temperatures. The humidity has remained high, resulting in impressive fog when the temperature drops below the dew point.

                      I'm also attempting to move images files to zenfolio utilizing the marina's wifi network (and avoid consuming metered data movement on the Sierra Wireless cellular modem), and that's not working so well. I may need to look for a better way to do that, we shall see."

                      Beetle in a rather nice marina in San Diego

                      ~ Rob~
                      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

             Photo Gallery


                      • #12
                        On The Hook Off The San Diego Yacht Club

                        "It's a little bizarre, but Beetle & I are sitting here at anchor inside the Shelter Island breakwater, a stone's throw from the San Diego YC and Southwestern YC - Anchorage A1 as it is known to the SD Harbor Police. You're allowed to be here a couple of days at a time provided it's a weekend, which it turns out to be.

                        Had a wonderful visit from Mom, have lots of cookies as a result, and the insect field boxes are back in Arizona at the main collection.

                        It's convenient to walk from here to West Marine (procured a replacement dinghy outboard motor lock as the Masterlock bar lock was no longer useful after the Masterlock 'marine' key lock failed after 30 days, plus 2 deceased mackerel fish for use as bait tomorrow), Ben & Lucie & Charlie the Dachsund are over at Southwestern YC at the moment, and I will be visiting them for a shower this evening (at the YC).

                        There are quite a few gigantic boats nearby, including 3 sail boats with 5 spreader rigs that have spreader lights that point UP the mast, which are quite spectacular when turned on at night. There's also Lady Lola, a 200'+ power yacht at the police docks or nearby that I have met the owners of when they were in town in San Francisco - super people, not to mention the Nordhaven 92 tied up directly in front of San Diego YC. That Nordhaven is quite the vessel, including a pair of stainless steel hose nozzles that point straight at the bottom of the anchor roller sheaves - I imagine one turns on the gigantic deck/chain washing pump and the goo is blasted off the chain as it is raised."

                        "Tiger Beetle was purchased by me in 1996, just before Christmas, from Yachtfinder/Windseeker here at Shelter Island, and I strolled over to their storefront this afternoon, it's interesting to see where the Beetle was at that time, and where Beetle is now - it's been a long road and lot of learning and a lot of fun!

                        Elsewise all is good, the mackerel are in the base of the fridge (wrapped up in their plastic bags so as to reduce fishy smell amongst all the food), and life is fine! Plan for tomorrow is to spend an afternoon floating about off San Diego and float the mackerel at the end of the fishing line to see if anything decides to bite. Perhaps something will!"


                        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

               Photo Gallery


                        • #13
                          Beetle Invades Ensenada

                          San Diego and Pt. Loma is now behind Beetle as we trundle down the coast (under power again - no wind!) towards Ensenada, which is currently something like 44 miles away (less than one SSS Farallones race - we are moving along rather quickly today). The goal is to arrive in Ensenada with some daylight remaining as I am told the harbor chart is way wrong and the city lights in the background make it difficult to navigate the harbor in the dark as you can't pick out the bouy lights against the background clutter of city lights. It's 9:40 in the morning, I should be there around 4pm which leaves about an hour of daylight to find Baja Naval Shipyard.

                          San Diego was a good place to visit, spent a fair bit of time with Ben and Lucie (Georgia) helping with the masthead Lunasea tricolor/anchor/flashing light fixture. Fortunately for Ben the third light that Lunasea gave him as a replacement finally worked, including after we pulled the wiring down out of the mast and inspected it completely before plugging in the new light. There was some corrosion in one half of the very new quick-disconnect coupler that Lunasea uses, so we bypassed that coupler and the light stayed on. My suspicion is internally the coupler was shorting out and blowing the light's circuit board. The new light at Georgia's masthead is hard-wired directly to the wires, no more coupler in the mix.

                          Lucie and I went out to the San Diego zoo yesterday, and that is a great place to visit. We saw the pandas getting their dinner, a giant jet black jaguar protecting a large hunk of meat, the lions were out, we found almost all the snakes in the reptile house (and one lizard was also hiding, didn't find him either), and the hyenas came over to the fence to check us out - very interesting to be four feet away from these animals and at eye level with them as they study you. Perhaps the most interesting thing we ran into there was at the gorilla enclosure, where there is a large thick glass wall that the gorillas like to sit close to, and the people are on the other side. The younger gorilla was leaning up against the glass and watching intently a video that was playing on a fellow's iPhone. The gorilla understand that you could make it do things by pushing your finger across it, and he/she repeatedly tried to do this. The gorilla watched until the video stopped, then she made push motions until the fellow made it play again, and she sat down to watch some more. Pretty amazing to watch an animal that powerful looking at the device so thoughtfully.

                          On the boat front, Jimmy left Beetle yesterday to make his own way into Mexico (I believe he is planning to be in Ensenada), and I stayed at the police dock again yesterday/last night after dropping him off in downtown San Diego at the fish boat docks. If all goes well, he will hook up again with Beetle when I depart Ensenada.

                          Beetle has stayed fairly clean and organized, no major boat projects so far, the stuffing box flax was changed out and has stopped leaking, which makes for a dryer bilge and less time spent pumping out seawater with the mini-bilge pump. It's always exciting to back off the stuffing box nut and watch the water squirt into the boat at a rate that makes the bilge pumps work to keep up with.

                          I also have a new stainless steel outboard motor lock from West Marine, and this one came with all the parts (unlike the first one that was missing several of the rattle-dampening foam inserts). That was a bit of a run-around to sort out, but all is good on that front. The lock key lives on the monkey's fist floating key ring that Erica gave to Beetle, which makes it easy to find the dinghy lock key.

                          This morning I left the police dock at 6:30AM headed southbound, there's a small rolling swell that causes the boat to roll fairly heavily at times, so all the little bits and pieces that get left on flat surfaces while at anchor have been put away - cutlery, glasses, computer mice, AA batteries (they roll into difficult-to-get-to places and are the worst when they fall on the cabin sole), and the tool boxes are strapped down again.

                          The plan is to spend tonight at Baja Naval, organize the haul out for tomorrow, and Guillermo at Baja Naval will help me do the immigration/entry paperwork for myself and the boat in to Mexico - should be fun!

                          This note is going out over SSB/sailmail, so no pictures attached. I will update with pictures when I sort out internet connectivity and telephone details in Ensenada.

                          It's a good day out here just off the coast of Baja, and now back to reading my book and keeping an eye on the course!

                          - rob
                          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

                 Photo Gallery


                          • #14
                            Ensenda Arrival

                            Beetle pulled into Ensenada just after 4pm, with some breeze filling in from behind as we arrived, just in time to make docking just that little bit more interesting. Breast lines are a good thing, far more useful than fore & aft dock lines.

                            The harbor is roughly rectangular and there is a gigantic national flag of Mexico flying over the harbor, with Baja Naval's docks and boat yard just to the north of the flag - which makes actually finding Baja Naval rather simple as all you do is aim for the giant flag.

                            The harbor has a variety of bouys, some red, some green, some yellow... and apparently the yellow ones mark underwater obstructions. I didn't find out, as I stayed away from the yellow ones.

                            A fellow from another boat at the dock came out and helped me tie to the dock, I did not know that Baja Naval uses VHF 77 (and does not monitor VHF 16) so I just went for the open end tie and was on the dock, the fellow walked me up to the marina and yard office using his key to open the doors as we went (you have to card-key in and out of everything), and the yard manager was still there. We're all set for the haulout tomorrow, the place is immaculate, and I hope all goes well. And it was helpful to arrive with daylight to see what was going on, it would not be so much fun in the dark. By the time I was all set up with the yard office it actually was dark, so I did not go explore the town much, but rather went back to Beetle and made up a quick dinner.

                            Now to keep working on the book, be ready for hauling out in the morning, and check in to the country. Hopefully all goes well! It will be nice to get the bottom paint that I've been hauling around over to the yard, as that will clear up some useful space that has so far been occupied by paint tins and thinner!

                            This note is going out over Baja Naval's marina wifi, which is a bit sketchy for large stuff (I have not yet pulled out the big WiFi antenna); I hope to get pictures going tomorrow.

                            - rob

                            It's been a reasonably busy day today, and a fair bit has been accomplished.

                            First off I was up at 6AM re-reading the details of what I need for Immigration, Port Captain, Customs, and Conapesca (Mexico equivalent to US Fish and Wildlife). Seems I need serial numbers of practically everything in the boat; I start. There are a lot of serial numbers on a lot of things on board.

                            8AM Rojallio appears with two of his folks, I move Beetle over to the travel lift ways, they start shuffling the boat around for the haulout. They work to solve issues of clearance vs. underbody configuration on their 75 ton travel lift (way bigger than what I'm accustomed to at Svendsens in Alameda) and we get the boat up and out and run across the boardwalk and blocked.

                            Jimmy arrives and picks up his remaining gear and clothes and heads north; he has decided to not join up for traveling further south, especially as it's too expensive for him to hang about Ensenada. It was fun to travel down the coast with him, hopefully he will continue to have good adventures on his own.

                            the giant fold-up door at the yard, once open a really big boat will easily run in and out (as will the entire travel lift.

                            Back at the yard office I get instructions from Rojallio regarding how to check into the country and import the boat. You want to import your boat into Mexico if you want to leave the country while the boat is left behind, and also for bringing in parts from the USA as you won't be paying duty on parts - so something pretty much everybody does this. I head off to the CIS office/building, which is actually a smallish single floor single room that houses Immigration, Customs, the Port Captain, a bank, plus a bathroom and Conapesca. Everyone speaks English quite well, and there's lots of Brownian motion back and forth across the room as there are several other folks here doing what I'm doing.

                            Example: The fellow behind the glass labeled 'Immigration' examines the passport, stamps crew list, sets up tourist visa (after he tells me how to fill it out as I can't particularly read it given the Spanish I do not know), then stops and says, 'OK, now you go to the bank and pay the Mexico entry fee, then come straight back to me' and he points at the glass-covered counter directly behind me. I turn around and walk 4 steps and I'm at the bank. Two people examine the paperwork, all is in order, I pay them, they stamp things (lots of official stamping is going on) and xerox things and say to me, 'You are paid. Go back to Immmigration' and point behind me. I turn around and 4 steps later I'm back at Immigration. I am first in line as no one else in the room is at Immigration at the moment. The Immigration fellow reviews the stamped receipt from the bank, he stamps my tourist visa. He stops. I ask him what to do next? He says, 'Ah - you have a boat, you need to visit the Port Captaion' and points to the glass-covered counter next to him. I take 2 steps sideways and I'm at the Port Captain's office, and take a number from the cardboard box of printed numbers (I am number 9, though that doesn't seem to matter as numbers 1-8 had already been helped and had moved back to the bank or on to Customs, but the Port Captain wanted me to have a number anyway, so I did). Other people are now doing the same slow dance across the room, flitting from fishing licenses to importing their boat, to the bank to pay for things, to getting their passports stamps, and the port captain is examining insurance paperwork and the crew lists. All quite fun, really, as everyone is working together, and it is very well organized.

                            Upshot: I have a lot of official-looking documents with many many ink stamps on them, and even have my first stamp in my passport, which is fun! I've been to Canada and Mexico on the passport, and while it gets looked at nobody bothers to stamp it, at least not until today.

                            It has also been raining much of the day, a drizzly wet rain that is somewhat warm, and the rain kept most of the people off the streets. They also have really tall curbs here, and the waiters or owners of the restaurants like to stand out on the sidewalk and wave their menus at the people passing in their cars. I don't know if that technique works, but there does seem to be a lot of parking around so I imagine if you desperately felt the need for a fish taco breakfast and the fellow waived at you suggesting he had some, you might be tempted to pull over on the spot!

                            Later on I sorted out the cellular telephone details and elected to go the simple route: switch from AT&T US plan to AT&T Viva Mexico plan, which means the telephone number doesn't change, the service continues uninterrupted (unlimited minutes starting at 7PM). That took an hour of conversation with AT&T International Customer Service, who then passed me along to AT&T not-International Customer Service to handle the billing details. So now my phone works just fine, the USA is a local call, as is all of Mexico. Pretty cool and the cost was $10 more per month than I was paying before; Telcel would be less expensive, but not when factoring in any calls back to the USA.

                            the view alongide the yard, the office is on the left, a rather nice one. the concrete is very clean, especially for a boat yard. there are four trash barrels at most boats (on a pallet), one each for regular trash, solvents, sanding dust, and paint.

                            And then I fiddled with the propeller a bit, pulled the MaxProp zinc that was looking a bit eaten up, located the replacement zinc in the spare bits box (had to drill out the holes in the zinc that had flashing left in them), and will order up two more boxes of zincs from PYI in Washington state.

                            And now it's evening and dark, I now reside in a tall tree house of sorts in the boat yard, and several other cruiser folk in similar circumstance have stopped by to say Hi and let me know there is a regular Ensenada Cruiser's dinner tomorrow night at TJ's. 4pm computer discussion starts, and 5pm everyone else shows up - something I might do tomorrow evening.

                            All is good, the boat yard is immaculately clean, I have good WiFi connectivity, there are no unexpected issues with the underbody of the boat or the haul out, and it's time for a cerveza!


                            the McDonald's in town, it is used as a 'major landmark' when providing directions to the grocery store.

                            A bit of Ensenada
                            by rob macfarlane

                            I was out and about yesterday in the town, primarily to get to the Banamex bank to get pesos from the ATM machine at the bank (it is strongly recommended to only use an ATM at a real bank, as opposed to, say, using the ATM at an OXXO store (equivalent to USA 7-11). Also to TelCel to sort of the cellular data modem, and find the grocery store.

                            The streets are darn dangerous to walk on as the sidewalks are full of holes, tripping hazards, have abrupt elevation changes, and generally would not be safe to walk on at night if for no other reason than to not break an ankle. Also explains why so many people here walk around with lit flashlights at night.

                            The people themselves are nice and courteous, everyone stops at the ALTO (stop) signs, and some of the roads actually have street signs (though most cross streets seem to not have signage, which makes knowing latitude simple - read the sign - the knowing longitude is darn near impossible - is this 1st street or 2nd street? I don't know.

                            Banamex went fine, it's odd to pull out $2000 until you realize it is in pesos, and $2000 doesn't go that far at the Calimex grocery store.

                            TelCel Centro (main TelCel company store, not a mom & pop 'authorized distributor') was an interesting lesson in frustration at not knowing the language, and it does appear that I was charged for services that I did not need or want; this morning I will telephone the English help desk line for the Amigo plan and we'll sort out what the transactions were. If there's an issue or duplicate charge then I can walk over to the store and sort it out there. At least I will then know exactly what I'm supposed to be asking for! Nice people at the store, the first lady (technical representative) indicated my AT&T (GSM) Sierra Wireless aircard would not work on TelCel network, the second lady (in a suit, behind the customer service counter, not technical) said it would all work fine and she was correct. But I do not know what I purchased for $200p twice, nor do I know why a $399p data plan cost $649p... (p=pesos)

                            The haulout continues, albeit slowly as there's not much for me to do. Perhaps I will do some cleaning on the hull, as otherwise the yard is just doing a sand/couple of blisters repair/apply new paint and we're done.

                            The yard is located essentially at town center for Ensenada, and I took a couple of pictures yesterday while walking the couple of blocks to/from Calimex, Sears (no tools there), TelCel, and Banamex.

                            the main courtyard/plaza in town, large gold painted heads of important people. i've not seen anyone in the plaza yet except for the cruise ship passengers as they walk through on their way to First Street and the curio shops that abound there. I haven't been into any of the shops as there is nothing here I wish to purchase. perhaps i will go into some when kristen arrives later today.

                            Should be a nice day weather-wise here today, the sun is out, is is somewhat chilly. Ben and Lucie are here from San Diego, as is the beautifully built catamaran from Canada that I met at the San Diego police docks.

                            " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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                            • #15
                              Beetle Back In The Water

                              It is Thursday evening (Turkey Day) and Beetle is back in the water at Ensenada, currently on a side-tie to the docks owned by Baja Naval. There is a fair surge running here, which means the boats are pulling back and forth on the dock lines as the wrap-around from the swell outside the breakwater moves through the harbor in a fairly subtle way. There are no waves in the harbor, yet we bounce around rather than stay nicely still in the center of a slip. It's also funny to here the crackling of the shrimp through the hull, and you can sometimes catch someone up by telling them they are hearing the fiberglass mites working on the outside of their boat hull...

                              Today was launch day for Beetle, Guillermo had his guys put two new egg zincs onto the prop shaft (good Reliance zincs from Canada), I installed a new Maxprop zinc on the propeller, greased the prop, checked that the thru-hull valves operate (mostly to make sure no bottom paint had entered the works), and all looked good. The travel lift rolled up, hoisted the boat just enough to clear the keel and the guys ran on a coat of Tropikote bottom paint on the underside of the keel (a place that is normally not accessible during your average haulout).

                              An hour later the gates were open, the tide was up, and Beetle was plunked into the water. And then there was a pause while the youngest guy on the team hopped below to check for leaks and he promptly came back on deck to point his arm into the air, and Beetle quickly rose from the water... hmmm... not so good. I was able to get on board and find that the stuffing box nut was not as tight as it needed to be and the fellow did not like the amount of water coming into the boat. Never mind that I had the whole thing apart not too long ago and we had lots and lots of water coming onboard. We tightened the nut down, went back in, undid a bunch of lines, cleared the travel lift, and powered out of the ways and over to the dock. And now Beetle is side-by-side with Georgia (Ben & Lucie).

                              Yesterday was wine country day. Ben and Kristen were keen to see the wineries in the area, of which there are a surprising number - who would have thought? I rented a small car from the Fiesta car folks which run their local operation from a desk in the lobby of the nearby Hotel Corona. Armed with a map we headed north-east from Ensenada and drove the Ruta del Vino in what I believe is the Guadalupe Valley, stopping at several wineries of varying sizes (ranging from gigantic to tiny) and Ben and Kristen acquired several bottles of wine. The wineries also produce olive oil, so some of oil was picked up as well.

                              An interesting winery was Bibayoff, founded by one of 104 families that emigrated from Czarist Russia and fetched up in the valley. One room of their winery tasting room featured pictures and artifacts from the time, and I found it quite surprising that folks would have wandered so far from home and all appeared here. The old parcel maps under museum glass had lots of Russian last names throughout the area. And a newspaper clipping from 1956 indicated that 22 of the families were still in the area, 50 years after arriving. Another 50 years have passed since that article was written, I wonder how many families continue to remain?

                              We had a super lunch at an outdoor restaurant/campsite - which didn't sound like much when the people at a winery told us about it, but when you get there you realize this is an upscale beef-oriented grill with beef and pheasant (and bone marrow was on the menu, that was an interesting one) plus a goodly variety of wine to choose from. As I was designated driver I had a coca cola in a glass bottle and the food was good. They also had a pig in a small pen, the lid was open, and Kristen and I were able to reach in and give the pig ear scritches, he (or she) seemed to like that.

                              Overall it was nice to get away from the city of Ensenada, which is reasonably densely populated, there is a constant background noise from the traffic, and I would call it not a particularly nice place to spend a lot of time. By contrast, 20 minutes out of town by car one finds a large valley with greenery and lots of boulders containing a couple of small villages and lots of open space, some filled with vineyards and olive tree orchards. The valley was quiet, perfect temperature as in not too warm and not too cold, and just enough breeze flowing to be really pleasant. I'm glad we rented the car as otherwise there would be no sense of anything like that in the surrounding area.

                              On the people front, one does meet quite a few characters while in the boat yard. The Canadian gentleman is having his Tayana 37 repaired after it was run into by a chartered Beneteau 45, leaving a large hole in the starboard side and the nav station was reduced to match sticks. He has been hauled out for a month now and has pretty well sorted out the town, and has another month or so to go - he thinks. There is Fred on his new-to-him Nordic 44 sailboat, he's trying to figure out how much solar power he needs; he went back in the water day before yesterday. And we met Troy, a younger captain of a 60' or so sportfishing twin 12 cylinder engines power boat that cruises at 10 knots and burns 17 gallons per hour doing it (at 22 knots they are burning 71 gallons per hour, he said). On the way out of the yard the other night Kristen and I bumped into him and I asked if he played pool, he said yes. So we went off in search of a Mexican pool hall. Troy is in the yard as the 300 gallon center fuel tank failed during their run south to Cabo San Lucas and they pulled in here. Turns out that is the one fuel tank that cannot be isolated from the engines (in fact all the fuel burned is pulled through that tank) so when it began to leak it was a big problem, and it's going to be another 3-5 weeks before the new tank is constructed and installed. So he's stuck in Ensenada, and joined us for to search for a pool hall.

                              The first place we went into was one of the many many dingy dark bars that has 'Billares' painted on the exterior wall. Entering, you are faced with a dusty black thick curtain, and pulling it aside to step in brought us to the bar, lined with 4 or 5 locals and the bar keep lady. The locals all stopped and stared (gringos in their bar!), we waived and walked past to inspect the four forlorn bar-size tables. The bar keep lady came around and suggested we wanted to play pool there, but the torn felt and wonky tables suggested otherwise. Back out on the street we went looking for the next pool hall (earlier Kristen and I had seen two places that were nothing but pool halls, wide spaces filled with 20 or more tables and well-lit), and we were directed to one of them by a fellow Troy had met at another bar a couple of days previously. A great find! Lots of real billiards tables (all rails, no pockets) and a half-dozen regulation size pool tables with pockets that were level, good slate, good rails. So for 18 pesos we played pool for an hour or so and had a super time. In the background the locals were playing cards around a small table in the back, and another couple were mixing it up at dominos, along with the occasional crack! as we broke the rack open on a new game.

                              Tonight everyone is tired, Kristen is already asleep, and I will be so soon as well. The weather forecast is calling for warmer days through the weekend, and there's not too much to do. Tomorrow is fuel day, Arturo from Baja Naval has brought down a 55 gallon drum of filtered diesel for Beetle (he also brought down two other drums for other boats), and it turns out there is no fuel dock suitable for small boats in Ensenada; nearest fuel dock is 2.5 miles up the coast at Marina Coral, which we now do not need to go to. For gas we get to roll our gas cans over to the Pemex station up the street, Ragellio said we could use one of the yard's dock carts for that run.

                              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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