Update # 18 – Fubar-ing in Ensenada Mexico

Greetings All!

I am pleased to announce that the Fubar Rally has successfully arrived in Ensenada.

Our morning began early, at 5:15am. I felt bad waking everyone up, but I was impatient to get moving, and I couldn’t sleep. I’m not sure what was keeping me awake, as neither the boat nor the weather are a concern. I think it is nothing more than that I’ve been thinking about the Fubar for a long time and was anxious to get rolling.

Jeff, who was sleeping in the pilot house berth, mentioned having been awakened at 4am by another of the Fubar attendees departing. It was Cadenza, a Nordhavn 76 that is the group’s “advance boat” headed south to Ensenada to help make sure everything was smooth for our arrival.

We were underway by 6:15, as were many other boats. I don’t know if it was the entire fleet or not, but there was a steady stream of boats in front and in back of us. Everyone seemed to be using the same set of waypoints, which had us in almost literally a straight line which stretched for miles.

Our run today was very short, only 65 miles, and it actually felt shorter. The water couldn’t have been calmer. I never felt a need to look at the wind gauge, so I can’t tell you what the wind speed was, or from what direction it came. We also seemed to have a current pushing us, as our speed was great. It felt good to be at sea, and I was in no hurry for arrival, so we dropped back to 1,300 rpm, but were making around 10 knots anyhow.

I wanted to try to get some running shots of the other boats, and had at least one other boat in site at all times, but we had haze throughout the entire run. There was never fog. I’d guess it was about 2 mile visibility, cool, probably in the high sixties, but everything was a dull grey. I expected it to burn off, and consistently had my camera ready to snap pictures, but never saw a picture worth taking.

Surprisingly our route had us in fairly shallow water the entire route. We were consistently in water that was only about 100 feet deep. This gave me an opportunity to play with the Sonar. I’ve never had Sonar on a boat before, and believe it can be an effective tool, but one that requires some time to learn to use. To make a long story short, it was a perfect run. Smooth water, and time to have fun tinkering with the electronics.

The only memorable items on the run were:

– We passed through a school of dolphins. I’ve been through schools of dolphins before, but nothing like this. The water looked like it was boiling with dolphins (or are they porpoises?). There were hundreds literally surrounding the boat. I shouted down the stairs from the pilothouse so the others could see, but by the time I could get their attention the moment had passed.

– I was surprised by a small fishing panga shooting across my bow at high speed. I never saw it until it was about 50 yards in front of me. It came out of nowhere, and I do not believe it ever appeared on either of my radars. I was never in danger of hitting it, but the fact that I couldn’t see it on radar concerned me. I quickly adjusted the gain on the radar, trying to pick it up, but couldn’t get it to appear. Many of you may remember the story of “Earthrace” a boat that struck a panga last year off Guatemala. The panga was floating, unlit, 50 miles offshore with three fisherman sleeping. One of the fisherman died in the collision, and Earthrace limped to shore saving the lives of the other two fisherman. I remember wondering how Earthrace could have missed the fisherman on the radar. We had two well tuned radars on flat seas, and the panga snuck past me anyhow. There was never any danger for the panga, or for us, but it was a good reminder of how important it is to always maintain a vigilant watch.

Having a long stream of boats arrive virtually simultaneously made for a busy day at the Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada. After initially being assigned to the Cruiseport Marina, we were reassigned space at the nearby “Ensenada Marina.” However, no one seemed to know how I could contact the Ensenada marina, so the idea was that I would contact Cruiseport where the bulk of our group had slips, to get directions to our new marina. Unfortunately, our contact at Cruiseport was on the docks, and not responding to phone calls. This left us a bit to fend for ourselves. Ensenada is a busy harbor with a variety of small marinas, any one of which could have been the marina we were seeking. We researched in several cruising guides, and had hints as to what we were seeking, but no clear indication as to which marina we wanted. None of the marinas we thought might be our destination had signs.

As we were cruising along, we suddenly found two different sets of Mexicans, on two different adjacent docks, each shouting at us, and waving us in to great looking moorage. On our left was an end side-tie, easily accessible, and on our right was a 120’ long end cap. Both looked perfect, but which was ours? And, why, given all the trouble I normally have finding moorage, were two different groups competing for our business? I made a decision and went for the end cap on our right. It was a good guess. The dock attendant confirmed that this was indeed the Ensenada Marina and welcomed us to the dock.

All was not perfect. There is a strong swell in the marina. We were being slammed into, and then off of, the dock. We noticed an empty slip deeper into the marina and lobbied the dock attendant to give it to us. He said yes (in Spanish) and I starting thinking about how to get into the slip. Jeff was convinced I could do it, and I sort of thought I could do it, so between us, we made it happen. The scariest part was that the bow thruster was slinging mud. Clearly depth was an issue. Jeff speaks some Spanish, and the dock attendant was saying not to worry, that far larger boats had made it in without problem. We did get into the slip, but what the dock attendant was saying, and what my eyes were telling me, were not in sync. The swell (somewhat like waves) in our new slip was not as calm as I had hoped. We were still being moved around more than I liked. This was solved via lots of extra fenders and six lines to stabilize the boat.

I had been told that the dock would not have shorepower, but could see pedestals with 50 amp service, so we attached to the power, and waited as nothing happened. No power. I got out a volt meter, and measured 71 volts of ac current. This was the first time I had seen voltage so low, and was not surprised that the boat’s electrical system had decided it would pass.

The Fubar rally did something amazing prior to entering Mexico. On last Saturday, a representative of the marina visited the group in San Diego to handle the bulk of the immigration paperwork for our arrival today. Unfortunately, I arrived in San Diego late, on Monday, and missed out on this. Instead, I had to deal with immigration “the hard way.” Roberta, my wife, speaks Spanish. I speak French. Although we have owned a home in mexico for 10 years, I speak virtually no Spanish. I have struggled with learning French and trying to learn two somewhat similar languages simultaneously wasn’t working. So with that background to what follows, with passports and documentation in hand, I visited the harbormaster’s office.

Happily, the harbor master here at the Ensenada Marina speaks decent English. He informed me that I would need to walk the 1 mile to the Cruiseport marina where I could get my paperwork handled. Do you remember my saying that they were having a busy day at Cruiseport? After a wait for the person I needed to see to appear, and another wait for him to get to me, he searched his files, and I didn’t exist. Nothing had been done with my paperwork. I needed to do the “full process,” which meant going to the Port Captain’s office, a cab ride away.

The Port Captain’s office is actually very well laid out. There are four distinct booths, each of which serves a different function. Which booth I wanted, or what those functions were, I had no idea, so I picked one and handed over my carefully organized paperwork. I had prepared and prepared and prepared our paperwork. I had six copies of everything, each set of documents individually paper clipped and collated. I doubt they have ever seen a neater presentation. The lady at the first window didn’t know what to make of my documents, and she didn’t seem to know what to do with me, so she gave up and pointed at the next window.

This new window was labeled as” Immigration.” The immigration officer looked at my stack of papers and said “Clearance.” That was it. One word, and nothing more. I shrugged and said “Clearance?” He pointed back to the lady at the first window. I returned to her and said (yes – you guessed it) “Clearance?” The lady looked at me blankly and said something in spanish that I couldn’t interpret, so I returned to the immigration officer. Fortunately, I was alone in the Port Captain’s office. I don’t know what would have happened had there been a line. It certainly would have been less fun.

Back at the immigration window, I pointed at the lady at the next booth. I said “Elle no tiene Clearance. Elle no comprende mi”. Whether or not that said anything helpful or not, I do not know. But, it did get the immigration guy to go with me back to the original lady, where they had a long discussion about me. We returned to the immigration window, where the immigration officer returned with another immigration officer who spoke some English. When I say “some” I mean that his English, and my Spanish, were somewhat equal. He offered to help me, and I accepted enthusiastically. He started filling out forms, and handed me blank tourist cards to start filling out. I was very happy.

He then indicated I should take the tourist cards to a new window, and pay a new lady. This window was labeled “Banercito” or something like that. I presented my newly acquired tourist cards to the pretty young Mexican girl, who told me in very good English, that she had enjoyed watching me try to speak spanish. I smiled and said “how much?” I owed her $150. I paid here, and then watched as she started the long process of entering information from the tourist cards and passports into a computer.

Meanwhile, another lady appeared, this one from the Fubar Organizing Committee. They had sent someone to help me! Ita was her name, and she was bilingual, and she offered to help. I explained to her that all was under control, and that I was almost done. She confirmed this with my new friend, the immigration officer, and left.

However, I wasn’t as close to completion as I thought. The immigration officer now suggested I return to the very first lady, with a new form he had completed and pay her. The bank lady was still typing, so I returned to where I started. I now understood that this was the window where I would get the “entrada” permit for getting the boat into the port. I figured why not ask for an “exit” permit and save time later. This caused some confusion, but after discussion became possible. Another form later, and I was given a new word to learn “Salida” for getting out. With an Entrada and a Salida, and another $180 (US dollars), I was finished with this particular counter. She pointed towards “Aduana”. The last of the windows.

Good news! Prior to the trip, I had received a “Temporary Import Permit” for my boat. This form saved me from having to spend time with the Aduana officer, and I was able to return to the lady at the bank. She gave me tourist cards I had been hoping for from the beginning, and I was back to the immigration window for goodbyes. After “thanking” them for their assistance, I was on my way.

Ita, from the Fubar, called to apologize for the problems, and I told her it actually wasn’t as bad as I had feared, and in any event it was a problem of my own making. Had I followed the proper Fubar procedure, I wouldn’t have been “Fubar” in the first place. Overall, I was fairly proud of myself, and the people I had met were friendly, helpful, and best of all there had been no lines. I had consumed over three hours, but the vast majority of that was spent working my way to the port captain’s office.

Earlier I had told our boat I wanted dinner in town, but I was starting to wear out, and a barbecue on the boat was sounding better. We had an amazing meal, and as we were cleaning up, Bruce Kessler, our rally chairman, called to give the good news that they had found space for me at the Cruiseport marina after all. I said I was tired, and had a blog to write, and actually, it’s quite nice here. We may move tomorrow, but maybe not. Overall, life is good. We’re rolling a bit, but not that bad…. I did ask Bruce how the refueling had gone, and he said that it went very well. Everyone had been fueled, via a fuel truck, and all is well.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow I’ll explore the town, and then there is a Fubar event tomorrow evening. On Friday morning we leave for what I believe is our longest run; 280 miles to Turtle Bay. I can’t wait!

Thank you, Ken Williams Sans Souci, Nordhavn 68

PS I was chatting with the guy that pulled into the slip next to us. He said that he had decided to run to Guatemala, and came back when he got his “butt kicked” (his words) by the high waves and rough weather. He hadn’t made it very far (he turned back after going only a few hundred miles). I was somewhat surprised given our calm seas today that the weather gods had treated him so differently. This picture of his boat is kind of interesting. He had loaded huge tanks in the back of the boat to hold extra fuel. I can only wonder how this extra weight would have affected his boat handling. I don’t think I’d want to be a hundred miles offshore, in a 30’ boat, with all that fuel sloshing around. I’m thinking he made the right call to turn back.


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