Hola Mexico - Prairie SeaShell Sea Stories by Lynn & Don Campbell

 

San Diego Zoo
 San Diego Zoo

After spending the first few days in San Diego doing boat chores, stocking up on supplies and provisions and visiting with many other cruisers, we decided it was time to do the tourist things. We took three busses to get to the San Diego Zoo, spent the entire day there, and still didn’t see it all.  It’s a huge place with some animals that I’ve never even heard of.

The following day we went on a road trip on our bikes, probably the longest bike ride I’ve done in many, many  years.  It was a bit of a struggle to get up to the Pt Loma Lighthouse, but going back was easy…all downhill.

The Baja HaHa Race was starting today, and we watched the congestion of about 180 boats all leaving San Diego at the same time.

Point Loma lighthouse
 Pt. Loma lighthouse

We took the bus to town to a shopping center where there was supposed to be a Dive Shop. We were looking to get some new scuba tanks before we get to Mexico. However, no luck finding the shop. We stopped at a local taco shop on the way back for supper, and had the biggest burrito I’ve ever seen.  It easily made two meals for us and it cost all of $5.00.  We lucked out on the way back from the taco shop and stumbled on a Dive Shop who was selling off some used tanks, and they even delivered right to the boat.

As we biked back to the Prairie SeaShell, docked at Shelter Island, the only similarity I can find to the Shelter Island in Richmond is the name, and perhaps a little of the smell of paint. The yacht yards here are all behind 8-10 ft fences, the boats are all under white plastic covers and the street is very clean and well maintained.  This is where all the yacht brokers offices are located, and we were here about 15 years ago when we first started looking for a boat.

Our next adventure was to go to Tijuana to get our Mexican Tourist Visas. We took the $1.00 trolley into San Ysidro, CA and walked over the border into Mexico and got our visas right away – no problem. The SCT office was right next door to the Visa office, and we should have been able to get our Mexican HAM radio license there. Too good to be true, we had to take a taxi all over the town to try to find the right office, and when the taxi driver finally figured out where the office was, it was too late, they were closing early today for the holiday tomorrow – El Dia del Muerte.

However, the day was not lost, we found a dentist to replace the cap Don had lost about three weeks into our trip, and we both had our teeth cleaned.  The dental office was very modern, although small, all the same equipment as at home, but only a small fraction of the price.

We are ready to leave San Diego for Ensenada, provisioning is done, got our visas, got our Mexican Insurance, got the weather reports being e-mailed to us, but now we are told we have to have exit papers from the US. We understood all we had to do was to make a phone call to Homeland Security to check out, however, a few other cruisers are told we need to have exit papers from the US to give to the Mexican Immigration.

Spent the better part of the morning on the phone with various gov’t offices trying to locate someone to prepare these exit papers for us …. no luck!!  The girl at the marina office was also phoning around for us, she also had no luck, and since we had used up our allotted days here at the Police Dock, we had to move around to an anchorage about 7 miles away to wait until Monday until we could get the exit papers.

We went to the fuel dock before heading to the anchorage, and lo and behold here comes a Homeland Security Boat. I quickly headed over to them with all my papers in hand to ask them if they could do the exit papers for us. They also didn’t know what I was talking about, which had been the story at all the offices I had spoken to on the phone, however, they very nicely spent about 15 minutes on their cell phone, calling all over the place, and finally they hit the jackpot. There was another Homeland Security team heading to the Municipal Dock right now, and they will meet us on our boat and do the paper work. They arrived within a few minutes and papers were signed, sealed and delivered, and no charge … bonus !

It was now too late to leave for Ensenada, so we went around to the anchorage, which was right in front of the Coronado Island Golf Course. There were boats of every size and description sailing in the inner harbor today, taking advantage of the Santa Anna winds.

The trip to Ensenada was very peaceful, winds were right for a change, and we actually sailed for a good part of the day … without any assistance from Suzie. We dropped the US flag and raised the Mexican flag and sailed past the Bull ring at Tijuana around 1:00 and we reached the harbor earlier than expected, so we anchored at the mouth until daylight.

Raising the Mexican flag
 Raising the Mexican flag

We had no luck reaching the marina for a slip, but we noticed many of the boats we had seen in San Diego all  anchored in the bay, so we did likewise. This bay is called Bahia de Todos Santos, (All Saints Bay), but I think it should be called Pequeno Canada, (Little Canada) as there are at least 5 Canadian boats here right now, and I’m sure several more in the various marinas.

Now it’s off to the Port Captain’s office and Immigration to get cleared in to Mexico. Here’s how it goes …

Start at Window #1. That’s real quick because we already have our Tourist Visas from our trip to Tijuana.

Window #2, this is where all the information is collected for you to pay the Port Captain fee of about $16, give your 3 copies of crew list, boat registration and insurance then go to

Window #2b and wait to pay the $16.00 by cash or credit card. We’re not sure why, but we were able to skip Window #3 and proceeded to

Window #4, provide 2 more copies of crew list, copy of passport, copy of tourist visa, boat registration and serial numbers of boat and dingy motors.

Then over to Window #5 to pay, this time only US dollars or pesos, no credit cards. A long line up here, and another form, in triplicate, to fill in listing all the equipment on board. We have to go next door to make copies of this form from a white-out covered copy. Finally after parting with $49.50 US, we receive a fancy form allowing Prairie SeaShell into Mexico for up to 10 years.

Ensenada, Mexico
 Ensenada, Mexico

Now, take all this back to Window #4, fill in one more form, then press the button on the light standard beside you and receive your green light PASS! The US exit form that took us all day to get was never requested, and fortunately neither was the Mexican Ham radio license as we were never able to find a place to get that. At this point we thought we were done, so we were told you could also do a checkout at the same time that was good for 48 hours.

So back to Window #2, another copy of the crew list, insurance, boat registration and the receipt from the anchorage … problem, we hadn’t paid for the anchorage yet. Off to another building to pay the $5.00 per day anchorage, then back to Window #2 and we finally were also cleared to leave.

But first, need to stock up on groceries as this is the last stop that has any major services. When we returned to PSS, Gary & Li from Moloda stopped over to say hello. They built their 44' Roberts in Shilo, Manitoba over the course of the last 30 years. He is a commercial diver and they have sailed extensively in BC and Alaska. They still found Washington & Oregon Coasts to be a challenge.

Cruise ship in Ensenada, Mexico
 Cruise ship in Ensenada, Mexico

We left Ensenada the next morning after stopping for fuel. There was quite a line up at the fuel dock, so we didn’t get underway until almost 11:30. The wind was from the south again, but around 5:00 the swells started getting really big, the sky turned very black and the anchorage where we were going to stay had no shelter from the south winds.

Don made a quick decision to turn back, and good thing he did, as around 8:00 we heard noise from the prop again, hopefully the anode is not falling off again. Next morning he dove down to check the prop and when he surfaced, all I heard was “sh#@”. We must have picked up a crab trap again, this time, no trap, just the rope all wound around the prop. He went back down with a big knife and cut it loose, and fortunately, no harm done. We left Ensenada again, just as two tugs were getting in position to receive another cruise ship.


Next stop … Bahia de Tortuga!

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