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….