Forget the Fruits and Vegetables!

The Captain heard in Ensenada that there was a new CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) app that made entry into the US easier. Before Snug Harbor motored out of Ensenada cell phone range he downloaded the app and entered all the critical boat and passport info. It asked the usual questions, including “Do you have any fruits and vegetables aboard?”. As we did as part of our provisioning the captain answered “Yes” and hit the submit button. Shortly after that the captain thought what a dummy he had been, as the “Yes” will cause CBP to reject our submission. He figured he should have said “No” and simply chucked all the plant materials overboard before arriving in San Diego.

We went out of cell range and did not get CBP’s response to our submission until we neared San Diego and came back into range. Not surprisingly, our application was rejected and the Captain figured he would do the normal entry inspection process at the CBP dock in San Diego.

We arrived at the CBP dock at 0430 Wednesday morning. We tied up and went to sleep until 0600, at which time you can call customs at the airport to come inspect you.

The Captain called at 0600 and the first question was “Have you filled out your info on the App?” The Captain explained that he had, and had received a rejection, probably because of his positive reply to the fruits and vegetables question. The agent said he had to have an open request in the app before he could process us in. He told us to resubmit and answer “No” to the fruits and vegetables question.

About a half hour later Snug Harbor’s reentry was approved electronically – no inspection – no face to face with an agent – no need to toss the offending apples, oranges, limes, onions and lettuce into the drink before arrival.

The only new requirement was that you gotta have a smartphone to do the paperwork to get back in the country.

We proceded to the fuel dock, took on 118 gallons of diesel, got sandwiches from the deli at the fuel dock and departed San Diego at 0830 for Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard.

Snug Harbor Freeloader

Arrived Ensenada

The seas kicked up again and and we labored hard to make progress past Turtle Bay. If conditions stayed tough for too much longer, then even our Jugged Up fuel supply might not be enough to get us all the way to Ensenada. The Captain pondered whether he needed to detour into Turtle Bay to get some more insurance fuel from the dreaded Enrique. Armed with a four day old forecast that said conditions would lighten up soon, the Captain decided to carry on – if the weather stayed tough we could always back track to Turtle Bay for more fuel.

In a couple hours the wind lightened up, shifted to a westerly and the seas calmed over the next day. This allowed us to motorsail, which stabilized the motion of the boat, added speed, and reduced fuel consumption. The misery tuned to smiles as Snug Harbor began loping away the miles. By Monday we were even able to turn off the engine, sail and take showers. It rained, so Snug Harbor got a bath too.

On Sunday night we had an electric storm. Being the only boat on the sea, with a 65 foot metal mast, in an electric storm is not a comfortable feeling. We slowed down and prayed it would not come toward us. The storm was to the west and moved across our bow to the east. The Captain had visions of a lightning strike taking out all our electronics and being reduced to visual ID and dead reckoning as only means of finding our way north. We put our backup handheld GPS in the microwave (for you techies: this puts a “Faraday Box” around the handheld and supposedly protects it from an electro-magnetic blast). After a few hours of distant bolts and flashes the storm passed and the Captain relaxed.

We made landfall at the Marina Coral in Ensenada at 0830 on Tuesday morning after 6 days at sea. The friendly marina staff took us to the Port Captain and Immigration offices to process our passports and Snug Harbor out of Mexico. They even dropped us off at a nice restaurant where we feasted on civiche and whole broiled fish for lunch.

We ubered back to the hotel, picked up some fresh produce nearby, had bowls of ice cream in the hotel cafe, and shoved off for San Diego at 1600.

Face Plant!

Snug Harbor’s trip log just ticked over 415 miles and we have 315 miles left to Ensenada.

We spent a good potion of Friday night motoring into 18-22 knot head winds. This kicked up short steep 6 – 10 foot waves which were no fun to motor into. While Snug Harbor typically motors at 7 knots in calm seas, in these conditions that drops to 3 to 5 knots. Big swells are not a problem for Snug Harbor as she just motors over them, just like a bike on a hilly road. However, when the wind gets over 15 knots closely spaced wind waves quickly build up on top of the swell. Snug Harbor rides over the oncoming wind wave with its bow thrust up in air, tops the crest, and then noses down the back side of the wave. The problem last night was that the next wave was often so close that Snug Harbor did not have enough time to ride up the new wave and just stuck her nose in the back of the wave. After this happens a couple times Snug Harbor is down to 3 knots and the diesel is always working hard to get the boat back up to speed. Then we would get a bit of a lull and we would gradually speed back up to 5 knots. Just as the crew is feeling good about the speed again, then another set of waves come along, but this time on top of an ocean swell – everything is steeper and bigger – and Snug Harbor races down the back of the first wave and does a face plant into the back of the second wave – all accompanied by dramatic deceleration, lots of spray, noise and white water rolling back over the deck, all in the pitch black. Fortunately, the Captain’s fearless crew take this in their stride and dismiss the hairy conditions with a simple, “It will eventually pass.”

Conditions moderated this morning with head winds in the 10 – 15 knot range. We expect this for the next 100 miles and while not ideal, allows us to more comfortable and make better progress. For the last 200 miles to Ensenada the forecast is for westerly breezes which should allow us to motor sail and/or sail. The Captain now estimates arrival in Ensenada on Tuesday morning.

The Captain prepared his mom’s Spanish rice for the crew on Thursday night, which elicited encouraging smiles and burps. Stu, not to be outdone, made pineapple and salmon wraps for lunch Friday. The Captain parried with his famous Broccoli salad for dinner on Friday. Remembering the adage “Everything goes better with bacon.”, the Captain added bacon to further rev up his broccoli salad. But alas, the red onions the Captain used were so hot, the crew had to force a smile as they ate it. The Captain is wondering if the Mexicans spliced some hot pepper genes into their red onions.

One of our daily tasks has been to siphon fuel from our jerry jugs into Snug Harbor’s tanks. We have our siphoning system down and were very careful not to spill fuel in the process. Except…At the end of the process the Captain picked up the siphon hose without noticing that it still had some fuel in it and spilled it all over his pants. This raised a new dilemma…”What do you do with a diesel oil soaked item of clothing on a boat?” If you stow it below it stinks up the boat. There is not enough water aboard to wash and rinse them. Stu had a good ideal of tying them to a rope and dragging them over the side for a while. This failed so the jeans are now living under the dodger, soaking up the sun, hoping the odors will evaporate away.

Conversation is good and we are all enjoying each other’s company.

Close Call in Customs

Our third crew, George Bean, arrived at 1500 on Wednesday. He was delayed at customs when he “Pushed the Button” and got a red light rather than a green one. When you go thru Mexican customs you push a button. If you get a green light you are free to go. If you get a red light (supposedly randomly generated), then your luggage gets inspected. If the inspector finds something of interest that you did not declare, then you can be subject to fines, payment of steep import duties, or even arrest. George learned that compressed air cartridges are a matter of concern to the military who deem them a threat to national security. George had two of them as part of his inflatable life jacket that he brought along for the bash. George was shuffled off to a side room and threatened with various forms of financial and legal retribution. Fortunately, George talked his way out of trouble but had to leave his cartridges behind. I guess a drowned American is less threat to national security than a compressed air cartridge wielding terrorist.

We pushed off as soon as George arrived and have now covered 167 miles in 26 hours. We will be passing the entrance to Magdalena Bay (the delivery room and nursery for gazillions of grey whales). Conditions have been a bit bumpy, so we are hobby horsing some, but are still making good progress.

Stu displayed his culinary skills and delivered mouth watering sandwiches for lunch, NY strip steaks and salad for dinner and fresh baked orange cranberry muffins for breakfast. The Captain is on for dinner tonight and is stressing about living up to Stu’s standard.

If the weather stays favorable we hope to pull into Ensenada by Monday morning.

Jorge to the Rescue

Talk about blessed! Stu and Charley were doing final engine checks Wednesday morning and Stu noticed a bolt that was loose. It was the bolt that holds the bracket that holds the alternator. If it had fallen out the alternator have come loose, then the alternator belt gone slack, the cooling water pump attached to the belt would have stopped and the engine would have overheated. Provided we figured it out in time to turn off the engine before it self destructed, then we would have been disabled until we screwed the bolt back in. We were blessed to have caught it.

The Captain got out his tools to screw the bolt back in and learned that the reason it came loose is that it was stripped. With no spare bolt, we would have ended up disabled somewhere of the Baja coast. So we are double blessed to have found it.

Now we need to find the exact size of metric replacement bolt to effect a repair before we can leave. Plus we need to figure it out ASAP as we need to leave as soon George arrives to catch our weather window. The Captain is now stressing….

While we are dealing with all this a 40 ft sport fishing boat pulls into the slip next to us. As we head out to find a new bolt, the fishing boat owner/operator sticks his head out and Stu asks him if he knows where we can get a replacement. Jorge says “No problem. I have a car and will take you to the store and help you buy the part.”

Jorge dropped everything, we did as he suggested, and we had a new bolt installed in time to make our provisioning run to Walmart before George arrived.

Triple blessed. Muchos Gracias, Jorge.

Jugged Up

The Captain and Stu Conway changed Snug Harbor’s oil and procurred 4 more 50 liter jerry jugs before shoving off Monday for the 1,350 mile bash back to San Francisco. On Monday they covered the 50 miles to Bahia Los Muertos, anchored and then departed a 4 am for the 75 mile trip to San Jose Del Cabo.

When Snug Harbor arrived at San Jose Del Cabo she bellied up to the fuel dock and took on 162 gallons of diesel, on top of the 60 gallons already in her tanks. This was achieved by filling Snug Harbor’s three permanent tanks, five 5 gallon jerry jugs, and six 13 gallon Mexican style jerry jugs. Snug Harbor is totally “Jugged Up”.

In the cockpit:

On the rail:

On top of that we have a couple 5 gal jerry jugs in the shower, a couple stashed in the bottom of the lazzerette and one tied to the rail. We are now trimming out low in the stern and high in bow.

All this fuel should allow us to make the 5 day 700 mile trip to Ensenada nonstop. It will also allow us to skip buying $11 per gallon dirty diesel from shyster Enrique in Turtle Bay.

We got our weather forecast from Commander’s Weather and are a go to leave as soon as George Bean joins Snug Harbor Wednesday afternoon. We are expecting favorable conditions for the first third, tougher headwinds mid Baja, and then a bit more favorable as we near Ensenada. Doable, with a bit of pain in the middle.

Good Bye La Paz

The Captain and the Admiral had the honor of introducing their good friends, Mark and Jayne Ferguson, to the pleasures of La Paz and Caleta Partida.

We had a grand time together, hiking around La Paz, savoring it’s cuisine, attending a local gringo church, two nights on the hook at Caleta Partida, and great meals provided by the Admiral.

Caleta Partida is the anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santos. It is the remains of a volcanic crater and surrounded by steep mountains on both sides. It provides good cover from the southeasterly breezes we got at night.

Mark and Jane took advantage of Snug Harbor’s kayaks and explored the adjacent reefs and beaches. It is a bit tricky getting into the kayaks from Snug Harbor and the Captain provides training and assistance crew to avert unplanned swims. Mark and Jane did famously and were off without problem on their first exploration. However, on the start of the second day’s kayak trip we all got a bit complacent and Mark got into the kayak and immediately did a 180 degree roll. Mark came up smiling but short a nice pair of sunglasses. The next boarding try was a success and Mark and Jane were off again.

By the end of their stay, Mark and Jane were sleeping in well past 8 am, a positive change for Mark who habitually gets up at 4. Perhaps this had something to do with the inability of cell phones to connect at Caleta Partida?

The Admiral, Jane and Mark headed home on Thursday morning.

The Captain is now making preparations for the 1,350 mile trip sail (actually motor) back to San Francisco.

The Captain’s strategy in the past has been to clear out of Mexico at Cabo San Lucas, motor 440 miles up the Baja coast to Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) to refuel, and then continue on to San Diego. A problem with this strategy is that Enrique, the fuel dealer in Turtle Bay, sells dirty fuel at about twice the going rate. When you are planning to take on 100 gals this becomes pretty pricey for fuel that plugs your filters. It is also irritating to have to do business with someone that so plainly takes advantage of you. The other problem is that you are stuck in Cabo San Lucas (not a favorite place of the Captain) pending a favorable weather window. Last time we waited there for a week.

The Captain’s alternate strategy this year is to wait for the weather window in a marina at San Jose Del Cabo. San Jose Del Cabo lies 20 miles east of Cabo San Lucas and is a much sleepier and more pleasant spot than Cabo.

The second change is that the Captain is going to carry an extra 100 gallons of diesel in jerry jugs as opposed to the extra 10 gallons taken last time. The key to this strategy is the ubiquitous 50 liter (13gallon) poly jerry jug used by Mexican fisherman.

With six of these jerry jugs, along with the five 5 gallon jugs already on board, the Captain has his extra 100 gallons. We will carry one of the big guys each tied to the port and starboard stanchions, one in each of the corner “catbird” cockpit seats and two side by side between the cockpit seats in front of the boarding ladder.

With the extra fuel we will bypass Turtle Bay and head from San Jose Del Cabo directly to Ensenada, a non stop trip of 700 miles. We then rest a day in Ensenada and clear out of Mexico for the 60 mile trip to San Diego.

However, the only problem with this plan is Easter, which the Mexicans take quite seriously. When the Captain trundled down to the Plasticos and Resinos store on Thursday to buy 4 more of the 50 liter jugs, it was closed. It turns out Maunday Thursday and Good Friday are statutory holidays in Mexico. He hoped he could get them on Saturday, but who in their right mind would go to work on a Saturday sandwiched between two holidays and Easter? So the plan now is to get them Monday morning before shoving off on the 50 mile trip to Bahia de Los Muertos (Bay of Death, but it is actually quite nice).

The Captain’s old friend, Stu Conway, will be joining Snug Harbor tonight for the delivery trip home. Stu is a life long sailor, who circumnavigated some years back on his sailboat and is as competent as crew get. He is also ever smiling and great fun to spend time with.

The Captain and Stu will leave for San Jose Del Cabo on Monday, where George Bean will rejoin the Snug Harbor crew on Wed.

The weather window currently looks good, and we are hoping to shove off as soon as George arrives. The Captain has engaged Commander’s Weather, a weather forecasting and ship routing service, to advise us on departure dates and routing. We will get a full briefing on Wednesday morning and then decide if leaving Wednesday still makes sense.

Stay tuned….

Family Cruise

The Captain and Admiral were joined by the Captain’s Sister, Ellen, and brother in law, Alan, on Thursday for a week.

Ellen and Alan live in Stowe, Vermont, so the sunny skies and warm LaPaz weather were a welcome change from mud season back home.

The first day, the Captain led a walking tour of his favorite sights in La Paz. The Admiral followed up with a provisioning run to a local supermercado, Chedraui. The Chedraui we go to is bigger than a stateside Safeway, but not as big as a Walmart (there is a Walmart in La Paz that we also frequent). We enjoy taking our guests to the supermercado so they can see what grocery shopping is like in Mexico. The main differences are in availability of types of produce and cuts of meat offered. You also need a spanish dictionary handy. The Captain uses the Google Translate App, which translates the text after you take a picture of the label.

On Saturday morning Snug Harbor departed Marina de La Paz for Isla Partida and the Ensenada Grande anchorage. Ellen and Al took the kayaks to beach for beachcombing and exploration. The Admiral and the Captain set out in the dinghy to Las Cuevitas to hunt for the elusive boobie rookery – alas, we had no more luck than than on a similar expedition a week earlier. It blew pretty hard in the anchorage all day and the Captain was concerned that the crew might have a bumpy night at anchor (The crew tends to quickly forget about the idyllic day spent island hopping when their bunk turns into a bucking bronco at night!). Fortunately, the wind died and all slept like babies.

Sunday morning we headed for Isla San Francisco, a 19 mile trip. We pulled out of our calm anchorage into a building northerly. The waves quickly built up to Baha Bash proportions and the crew got a taste of what it is like to motor into short steep waves. Snug Harbor slowed down as she kept poking her nose into waves and taking white water over the deck. The Captain gave the old girl more gas, the crew perserved, we made it to Isla San Francisco, and dropped the hook by 1330. We all went ashore for hiking and beachcombing.

Monday morning we pulled the sails up and headed for Caleta Partida. CP is a large anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. It is deep in the middle so you anchor around the edges. Huge mountains surround you on both sides. If you think this sounds like the old crater of a volcano, then you hit the jackpot. There are also some white sandy beaches with varying shades of turquoise water to top it off.

Ellen and Allan set off again in the kayaks and paddled through the cut to the east side of CP and checked the Sea of Cortez side. The Captain and the Admiral set off in the dinghy for El Cardoncito, a V-shaped bay just around the corner from Caleta Partida. When they got to the head of the bay they saw a large dark area in the water, which the Captain assumed were rocks to be avoided. However, some pelicans were very interested in the dark area so we investigated and saw that the large dark area (say the size of half a football field) was really a huge ball of swarming fish. We drove into it and there were a gazillion fish swimming like crazy, all trying to get to the center of the “ball”, to put distance between them, predator fish and pelicans.

On Tuesday morning, Al announced that he was going to climb the very steep hillside next to Snug Harbor so that he could see the view from the top. We all thought Al a bit nuts, but he said he would be extra carefull and off he went. We watched Al make the climb with binoculars from Snug Harbor – kind of like watching Swiss mountain climbers from the deck of an alpine hotel. Al made the ascent, and descent, witout a misstep. Not bad for 73.

The hill Al climbed

Al’s view from the top. Snug Harbor is the boat closest to Al.

We all returned to El Cardoncito on Tuesday afternoon by kayak and dinghy for some snorkling.

Ellen and Al entering El Cardoncito

Ellen at El Cardoncito

The “bait ball” was still there. We had all planned to go snorkling but after wading out in the water found there was no need for snorkle gear – all you had to do was just stand there and watch the fish swim up to you.

On the trip back to Snug Harbor the dinghy’s outboard acted up and would not go any faster than an idle. The Captain prayed it would get him and the Admiral back to Snug Harbor – otherwise it would have been a long row back. The outboard made it and the Captain will have to put on his outboard mechanic hat when he gets back to port.

Tuesday night the wind picked up from the south west, and gave us typical coromel conditions. The Captain had been told that the Caleta Partida anchorage, even though exposed to the southwest, had the right shap to minimizethe the effects from coromels. That turned out to be true and we had a windy night, but not much in the way of waves.

Wednesday morning we motorsailed in 10 knot southerly breezes back to La Paz. There was not a cloud in the sky and the weather was settled. At noon, we were within two hours of our marina berth, came into cell phone range, and got an updated weather forecast. The new forecast said that the winds would abruptly change from 10 from the south to 20+ from the north at 1400, just the time the Captain expected to arrive! Snug Harbor’s slip is difficult to get into with strong northerly winds so the Captain floored the old girl to try and get to the dock and get tied up before the big blow hit…….

When we got to Marina de La Paz the winds were only up to 10 knots from the north and we docked easily. About 30 minutes later the wind grew to 20-30 knots, a steep chop kicked up, and chaos reigned in the anchorage just outside our marina. Boats started dragging their anchors and one boat went up on the beach. Cruisers jumped to each others aid and dealt with problems as best they could.

Sometimes it just pays to be lucky.

Ellen and Al reported that highlights of their trip included great eating in La Paz, fabulous scenery in all the anchorages we visited, meals prepared by Mitzie on board Snug Harbor, and the kayaking, hiking and beachcombing.

Puerto Los Gatos to La Paz

George and Matthew surveying the anchorage at Puerto Los Gatos:

Puerto Los Gatos Anchorage:

As you can see in the above picture, Puerto Los Gatos is known for it’s surrounding red cliffs. The cliffs are all part of the dramatic mountain vistas that you see as you pull away from the harbor:

We left Puerto Los Gatos first thing Wednesday morning and headed back to San Evaristo. We skipped Isla San Francisco as we thought forecast Southerly breezes could have led to an uncomfortable night at anchor there.

We lazed around on the boat before leaving Thursday morning for Ensenada Grande anchorage on Isla Partida. After anchoring and lunch George, Matthew and the Captain took the dinghy to Las Cuevitas, a cove just around the corner from Ensenada Grande. The Captain’s cruising guide says that Las Cuevitas is a rookery for blue footed boobies.

Unfortunately, the only boobies we found were from the above picture in the cruising guide. We found a boat anchored in Las Cuevitas and asked them if they had seen any boobies. They said they had been anchored there many times over the years, and had never seen any. Where have all the boobies gone? Perhaps they migrated to the US and took up politics??

On the dinghy ride back to Snug Harbor we checked out the cliffs surrounding the anchorage:

What is really interesting about these cliffs is that there are sheets of rock that appear to have grown over the upper edge of the cliff and then hang down over the edge of the cliff. All we could figure was that there must be a stalactite type process that deposits minerals when rains run off the edge of the cliff. Any readers have a better theory?

On Friday the Captain and Matthew decided to give the famous Ensenada Grande hike (er, boulder climb) another try. We got an early start before it got too hot, took lots of water and….we made it!

The hike took us to the tall cliffs that define the eastern side of Isla Partida. The view from there was a sweet reward for the challenging hike:

It was just as tough going down. Tired legs led to mis-steps and eventually the Captain tripped and got friendly with a thorn covered bush. Fortunately, the blood did not attract vicious wild animals.

On Saturday we left Ensenada Grande for La Paz. We had a good breeze and were able to sail most of the way.

On Sunday we hiked around town and one if our stops was the birds and stones park. This is a magical place and deeply affected George, Kim and Matthew:

Once we returned to our senses, George and Matthew eyed the chess board and could not resist. They had a hard fought game, with the advantage switching back and forth a few times, but George eventually won the day.

After a grand week together, George, Kim and Matthew debarked Snug Harbor for their trips back home on Monday morning.

The Captain is now solo in La Paz until Thursday, when the Admiral and the Captain’s sister, Ellen, and brother in law, Al, join Snug Harbor.

Puerto Escondido to Puerto Los Gatos

Snug Harbor dropped her mooring in Puerto Escondido at 0800 Monday and headed for the fuel dock. The old girl took on 60 gal of diesel and topped off her water tanks. George went to the office to return our dock keys and rental car key. While the Captain was waiting for George to return a vocal and obnoxious American (I will call him “Dick”) came up in his fishing boat for fuel and immediately started complaining to the Captain that Snug Harbor was in his way and was big problem. The Captain bit his lip, smiled, and moved Snug Harbor ahead a bit to make room. As the fuel dock attendant was filling Dick’s boat, Dick delivered a steady stream of invective to him on the inconvenience that Snug Harbor’s incompetent captain was subjecting him too. The attendant said nothing, but looked over at the Captain and gave him a big smile. We Americans could learn something from our hosts, the ever gracious Mexicans.

We motored about 20 miles to Bahia Agua Verde. We drove through the biggest pack of dolphins the Captain has ever seen. Usually a half dozen break off to play in Snug Harbor’s bow wave, but this time we had 20-30.

Aqua Verde is a small anchorage and we squeezed in next to the Ocean Echo, a Halberg Rassey 45. After falling back, and seeing how Snug Harbor was laying, we decided we were too close to Ocean Echo. It is bad form too anchor too close to another boat so we pulled the chain and anchor up, moved over a bit, and reanchored. This time it looked good. A bit later, the owner of Ocean Echo, Helmut, rowed over to Snug Harbor to personally thank us for making the effort to reposition away from Ocean Echo. It turned out we had met Helmut in Chula Vista last fall. Helmut was single handing so we asked him over for cocktail hour. We had a nice visit and learned that he was spending a year in Mexico before heading for the South Pacific.

Tues morning we upped anchor and headed for Puerto Los Gatos. Along the way we saw a couple of whales. When we got to Puerto Los Gatos there was only one boat in the anchorage so we settled in without any trouble. A number of boats came after us, even a chinese junk, and by late afternoon the anchorage was packed. The water temperature was up to 74 degrees so George, Matthew and the Captain went for a long swim.

Tomorrow we head for either Isla San Francisco or San Evaristo. The choice will be based on the weather forecast and which anchorage provides the best shelter from night time waves.