Mexico Cruising – Ensenada to Bahia Santa Maria

This post is long in coming. I have very good reasons for not getting this out sooner. Bear with me as I tell our tale of the Cruise South in Mexico!

We think of you all and wish you a wonderful season of Holidays!

And now, our story!

We departed San Diego, on November 17th, with the sunrise. I can’t believe we were only in San Diego for one afternoon! I didn’t even get off the boat. Bruce went to do a couple last minute errands. Thanks to a wonderful boater lady, he got a ride, and the errands went quicker! Thanks!

And, yes, it was only an afternoon and evening, but we did manage to host Ray and Ray aboard for dinner. We had invited another guest, Kyle, and was disappointed he wasn’t able to join us. We will see them all again in the spring!   We had a nice time visiting with the Rays, former professional mates, catching up on each others lives.

But, early the next morning it was underway to Mexico! Immigration/customs closes at 2:00 daily. The process takes several hours, so upon arrival at Marina Coral, we refueled, checked into the marina, and hired them to prepare our Entry paperwork. We enjoyed a fine dinner at the hotel. The next morning, we met at the marina office along with three other boater crews and were driven to the Customs/Immigration office. The driver was our agent, and presented each boats papers at a time. In general, the individual boater needs to present information on the boat including engine serial numbers, and details of each passenger, including their passport. We had already purchased our Temporary Import Permit, which allows the boat to stay in Mexico for ten years. We were the only ones in the group that had been to Mexico, via water, previously. Our paperwork was extremely simple, though we didn’t realize it until everyone was done. We waited along with all the others, as the fellow would pull one captain out, take him to a window, etc, have him sign a credit card slip, then finally move on the next. He did speak with Bruce early on, but we just assumed ours was last; in fact it must have been first and was done! Its always a relief to finish clearing customs, regardless of the country. We dont have anything to fear, but, to me, it is nerve wracking.

Once we were all done, Bruce and I and Craig, a nice young Aussie, took off on foot to find la comida (lunch). We also hoped to purchase a Mexican Telcel data aircard. We had great success with la comida and none with the aircard. We did quite a bit of walking, first stop to the main store our agent suggested. They were out of stock until early evening – maybe. Though we were given a phone number to call, we were never able to connect, and we left Ensenada without an aircard. We heard it would work, giving us internet thus weather all down the Baja peninsula. The store representative confirmed this, but with no card, no joy. The hotel wifi was not working that night, but we were able to get weather downloaded as we left. We have a high frequency radio to hear the weather nets. There are two specific nets we could listen to – cruiser nets where cruisers come with news/problems/concerns and also hear the weather from the amateur Single Side Band broadcaster. We just have the receiver so can’t broadcast. That works fine for us. If we were headed offshore or going any further away from civilization we would invest in a full single side band radio. As it was, we managed to download the weather three days in a row from open wifi locations along the Baja coast. We have had no success with the cruiser net out of Ventura, CA. Generally Don is the guy we want to listen to for weather, but for unknown reasons we couldn’t pick up his broadcasts. Other cruisers mentioned problems, too. We did, however get the Baja Net, and it is very helpful. So, we managed to stay on top of weather.

We went overnight and most of the next day to arrive in Turtle Bay. The sunset, with the clouds was unusual. It was a great voyage with nice seas and wind all behind us! We couldn’t believe we finally got the wind and seas on our side, and we averaged over 9 knots for hours on end during the night.

We arrived in Turtle Bay in time to get refueled before the end of the day. Annabell’s Fuel Service has always been good to us, and we waited for them on arrival into the bay. There is a big fuel competition in Turtle Bay and both services rush to offer you their fuel the moment they see you entering the bay. Annabell’s hooked us up to their mooring buoy for the refueling and then let us stay on it for the night.

Shortly after retiring for the night, all snuggled into bed, very tired after our long voyage, Bruce woke with excruciating low back pain. Since he has never had low back pain it was a total surprise, and a very unpleasant one at that. The pain radiated into muscle spasms that overtook his upper body. Having never experienced these kind of muscle spasms he suffered greatly and feared some horrible disease or evil entity had overtaken his body. He finished the night in the recliner. Fortunately we had muscle relaxants on board, and by being very cautious of his motion and keeping both the relaxants and ibuprofen going he managed to function.

We decided to slow down and take our time. We were not in a hurry. At that point in time we had plenty of time to get to our destination by December 1. So, to give us a break and hopefully help Bruce get over these spasms, we hopped down the coast, doing very nice day voyages for two days. Our next stop was Asuncion. It looked very interesting and we would have loved going ashore but that was not an option with Bruce’s back.

The above is landscape north of Asuncion – very stark, powerful, and oppressive – to my thinking. But, look at the beautiful blue sky and the fluffy clouds. Sort of takes the sting out of the earth, you think? I know many people love and thrive in deserts, just not me.

The little towns/villages along the west coast of the Baja Peninsula are rustic to say the least. They seem to live a very stark life – dirt, sand, and very little scrub brush. I am not a desert fan. It looks very stark, barren, and brown and ominous. I am not feel comfortable in desert conditions. Throw in an oasis, palms, and a cold beverage and we will talk! The peninsula makes Wyoming look like the tropics, when in fact parts of my home state are very desert-like too – it made me wish for Wyoming. I know, though it looks deserted, that the desert is alive many kinds of life slinking along and roaming in the night. Still, it is not my favorite ..

Though the land looks unfriendly the people are anything but. Most of the people that live along the coast do not speak English. But they are friendly and willing to work with a gringo that speaks a little Spanish- more than they speak English. And, in regard to us, that is not much. As we say when asked if we speak Spanish – muy poquito (very little)!  We try and they try and we generally have success. On arrival in Asuncion, we were hailed over the VHF radio by a local man who spoke some English. He offered to bring us groceries, take us ashore or anything we might need! We didn’t need anything at that point but a happy back, so we declined his offer, but it was a very nice gesture – of course for pay – but that didn’t matter.

By the next morning, November 23rd, Bruce was feeling somewhat better and we knew the short day cruise the day before helped. So, today was no difference. We did another day cruise and arrived in Bahia San Juanito mid-afternoon. The town ashore is San Juanico. Before we had the anchor totally set we were offered fresh caught shrimp from men on a panga (a tender boat that is about 18 feet, with a big Honda outboard). We bought 2 kilos of shrimp – about 4 pounds and paid a reasonable price. They asked if we would like lobster and we said, “Si, si”!!!. So they promised to come tomorrow with lobster. And, as promised, they came the next day with lobster. They were really nice ones, about five inches in size. We decided to take 4 lobsters. We asked how much for the lobsters and they shook their heads – no money – TRADE!   What did they want to trade for?  T-shirts, hats, and candy, CANDY!!  No problem!  You should have seen the men giggle in delight at the candy! Since I only carry chocolate – the good kind – it is no wonder!   There were three men on board and the two not holding the candy were not going to take their eyes off the guy in possession!  We all came out on top on that trade.   And, since it was my birthday we BBQ’d two for dinner. Bruce butterflied them and they cooked up perfect! He wasnt feeling that well, so I had to eat part of his lobster. And we still had a bit leftover.

Weather was coming in so we spent three days in San Juanico. The next day was Thanksgiving. We weren’t able to get internet on the boat and the reception on the high frequency radio was poor. We launched the dinghy and went ashore. I had huge reservations about doing this as Bruce was feeling marginally better and the last thing we needed was to re-injure or irritate the problem. He seemed to survive the trip, which was good, because I promised to clobber him if he hurt himself further! We did a little grocery shopping and had lunch at a little café that offered internet service. So. Thanksgiving dinner included fish tacos, bean burrito, and nachos with muy frio cervezas (very cold beer) and connection to the internet, where we got weather and tons of emails.

We chatted with other cruisers on sailboats at the café and as we walked around town. Lyle and Lark, on S/V ALEYDABETH , brought over some extra muscle relaxant pills, as we feared we would run out. We are very grateful for their generosity. Thanks, guys! We hope to see them again this winter, along with the crew off of S/V HEMISPHERE DANCER.

By the time we departed Bahia San Juanito the back seemed to be calming down but Bruce started having some respiratory issue. He seemed to have a hard time taking deep breaths. We had no choice but to forge on, happy that the back seemed to be settling down. Our next destination was Cabo San Lucas. We planned to bypass Bahia Santa Maria and go straight, with an overnight, to Cabo. It was the only way we could arrive in Cabo so that we could refuel in the middle of the day.  Cabo San Lucas is a huge sport fishing mecca these days.  Attempting to refuel early in the morning or late in the afternoon is not a good move.  These boats fill up the fuel dock coming and going to the fishing grounds.

Though we didn’t go into Bahia Santa Maria, we were running close to the shore, keeping the winds and seas on our stern.  Here are landscapes of the area. If you look close you can see a cut in the two hills that makes the entrance into the bay in the photo below.

We passed Bahia Santa Maria just before sundown and ahead of us was another long overnight. With Bruce’s back acting up, sleep was a challenge, to say the least. I started doing more and more of the watch. And it was okay. Subsequently, I saw a lot of sunrises and sunsets I had not seen before. I did my best to take photos, but my camera just does not do justice to the scene. We had sunrises and moon rises. In both situations, the rise starts with a tiny pinpoint of light on the horizon. It could be a star low on the horizon or a boat. But the pinpoint grows and grows and it is still sitting on the horizon. The moon was the most intriguing. It was late in the cycle, and rising after midnight. At one point it looked to be a rectangle fluorescent yellow box! And then it grows and grows and finally you see the entire orb. Though I never thought about how long it takes for the sun to set or the moon to rise generally, it seems those first and last moments are quick. Once the sun gets up or the moon, it seems to crawl across the sky, but right at the horizon it is fast. You have probably seen more sunsets, and you see the sun setting right on the horizon, then it starts melting away, and then its gone in a flash! We didn’t have Green Flash conditions, but the sets and rises were beautiful.

I wish you could have seen them! And, that is – Why We Go!

This saga is far from over.  And yes, it becomes a saga – so be sure to standby for the next post to M/V DESERT VENTURE!

5 thoughts on “Mexico Cruising – Ensenada to Bahia Santa Maria

  1. I really enjoyed this post . I found it looking for information on Bahia Santa Maria.

    Hope you are both well? We are headed down from San Diego to LaPaz , it will be the end or March. Would love to know if you are still there, and I would love to know the rest of this story !!

  2. What a worrisome and challenging portion of your trip. We’re hoping that Bruce’s back and respiratory issues self-cure immediately, and that you both stay healthy! Happy Holidays and carefree cruising!

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