November 29th – December 4th, 2019
With our bellies still full from Thanksgiving dinner we said goodbye to family one last time and headed for Atica to continue the voyage south. To avoid being stuck in California for another week or more we had to put superstitions aside and leave on a Friday. The weather had been changing for the worst and we had a small window to get out of SoCal. This wasn’t the endless summer we were expecting, it was downright cold! After getting the boat ready we motored out of the marina leaving snow covered foothills behind us. As we passed by a lady on her boat, she looked at us as if to say, where are you going? The look made a lot more sense when we turned to head out the breakwater and waves were crashing over the seawall. It was bumpy and confused as we left the marina but once we set sails the boat got in the groove and the ride was much more comfortable. It felt so good to be sailing, to be moving fast and in the right direction. At sunset the wind was still steady and we made the decision to sail on the outside of Catalina Island to try to keep with the wind. The wind only lasted for a few more hours and we turned on the motor heading back towards the main land. Our estimated arrival time had us at Ensenada in the dark so we thought about going into San Diego for a few hours. After some phone calls and learning about the complications of anchoring in San Diego we were glad for the sat phone message from our friends Morgan and Tree on Molotov Marin. They had arrived in Ensenada the evening before and confirmed that the bay and marina in Ensenada were well marked so we made the decision to continue on. The winds were light and we motored most of the way. On Elise’s night watch the wind came up a bit and she set the sails, we quickly outran the light wind and she put the sails away to continue on by motor. The last step was to plug in the tiller pilot, Nutmeg. As soon as the plug got close to the socket, she saw a flash and zap, nutmeg had blown the fuse. We replaced the fuse underway and Nutmeg still wouldn’t operate so we continued on hand steering. At 0200 we were relieved to see the cruise ship range markers that helped guide us into Ensenada harbor. The next happy sight was Molotov Marin tied to the dock in front of us, confirming we were at the right marina. We glided into the end slip, quickly tidied up the boat and fell right to sleep. We had made it to Mexico!
We woke up Sunday morning to mariachi music playing in the square next to Baja Naval where we had come in the night before. The unfamiliar sounds and smells made it clear we were in Mexico. Since it was Sunday and we couldn’t officially check into the country until the next day, we decided to just hang out on the boat and relax. We tried to nurse Nutmeg back to health but it looked to be a problem with one of the internal circuit boards, the injury was fatal. RIP Nutmeg. Elise baked a carrot apple cake and we lounged in the cockpit.
The next day we went into the Baja Naval office to meet with Victor who helped us prepare our paperwork for entering into Mexico. He was also helping another boat named Wild Rye with the same process. Its crew, Liam & Hillary, are a couple close to our age from Saltspring Is. British Columbia and also have their sights on New Zealand. We chatted with them on our way to the Migracion (Immigration), Aduana (Customs) and Capitania de Puerto (Port Captain) offices. Ensenada is well setup for cruisers and we were especially thankful to have Victors help getting us swiftly checked in and set up with our temporary import permit (TIP) that allows the boat to be in Mexican waters for up to 10 years. All in all, the check-in process went quickly and smoothly and for less than $200 we are cleared to be in Mexico for the next six months if we choose. We planned to make Ensenada a quick stop and keep heading South the next day. We were met with much concern from all the locals, who kept talking about “the storm” coming. In the Immigration office Victor got a call that a guy he had helped check in the week before had just lost his boat at sea and the Mexican Navy was dropping him off back in Ensenada. A few minutes later the man walked into the office with the few bags he was able to collect off his sinking boat and told us the story. Victor looked at us and said, “See that’s why you don’t leave in a storm”. This storm talk got to all of us, and sent the crews of Atica, Molotov Marin and Wild Rye scouring over the weather reports. Sure, we saw some wind from the South but we weren’t seeing “the storm” everyone was talking about. It seemed like it would still be okay to go but after hearing about the sinking ship the idea of hanging out in Ensenada and having margaritas with friends sounded like a better idea. So we told Victor we would all stay two more nights and wait it out. That night all six of us celebrated new friendships and our arrival to Mexico with margaritas aboard Atica.
The next day the weather was a bit grayer but we still were not seeing any signs of a storm. We filled our day with grocery shopping and exploring Ensenada. We had gone through quite a few fuses trying to revive Nutmeg so we thought it would be a good idea to get some more. Something as simple as a 10A fuse sent us on a wild goose chase from one side of Ensenada to the other visiting four stores and getting breadcrumbs of where we might find them. It was good to practice our Spanish/sign language and see more of the city than we would have if were not on a mission. We walked over a bridge of a dry riverbed that was full of garbage and Austin said, “Man I bet that gets nasty when it rains”. A flooded street made us divert from the directions we were given at stop number three and we stumbled into an electrical supply store that had the fuses we needed.
That evening we got a knock on the side of the hull. “We got stuff for cocktails, you guys got ice?” said Liam. We spent the next few hours hanging out and getting to know Hillary and Liam a bit better as the weather started to change. We couldn’t stop laughing as they told the story of their encounter with the trained Navy dolphins in San Diego that were being transported around on little tented skiffs. This was the cruising life we have been looking for, making fast friends in unique places. That night the rain started but the wind forecast looked good to leave the next day. By the next morning the water around Atica was brown from the river runoff and we quickly ran a few errands and got checked out of the Marina. Around noon Molotov Marin left and a few minutes later Wild Rye pulled out of her slip too. Elise was in the galley washing dishes and we just learned that the drinking water we had ordered looked like it wasn’t going to make it due to the flooding in town. Austin yelled down, “Its getting worse by the minute, we got to get out of here”. Elise was confused by the rush but when she came up on deck it made more since. All the garbage and debris we had seen in the riverbed a few days before was now rushing out of the river directly at the boat. Austin quickly untied and backed out of the slip, avoiding hitting a 6 ft log heading right for us. It all made sense now, this wasn’t a wind storm that would show up on our weather reports, this was a garbage storm!
We cautiously navigated out of the marina and headed down the bay to Marina Coral to get fuel. When we pulled into Marina Coral, we saw a familiar sailboat, RAN. RAN is a vessel that until recently was owned by a Swedish couple we have been following on YouTube. On our Iceland trip 3 years ago, we stumbled upon their videos on a long dark night and they lit the fire to make our sailing dream a reality. We were able to actually meet them in person when they sailed through Seattle last summer and it seemed special to see their old boat here in Mexico. After getting fuel we were ready to head south, out of the rain and into warmer weather.