Tuesday, November 22, 2016


[Kyle]It was the day after the US Presidential election. I could go on, but this is a travel blog, so I won’t... apart from saying that sailing to a new country for the first time in years had the added sense of feeling like a cause. We hoped the Mexicans wouldn’t be too sore at us.

The forecast had been for light and variable winds, so our plan was to sail when we could and motor through the calms when we couldn't. By the time we left the breakwater astern, it was blowing 17 knots - MUCH more than expected.

We hoisted the main and unrolled the jib, leaving a reef in just in case the wind picked up even more. It did, and soon we were pulling the mainsail down to the first reef as well as Begonia pitched over the building chop.

To complicate matters, the US Navy was busy conducting live fire exercises in the very patch of ocean we wanted to use. Not only that, but they were moving around a lot, so they were using a pretty big area.

We altered course to sail as close to the wind as we could. That had us just skirting the area under the watchful eye of the patrol boats. We passed by one of them close enough that we were expecting them to zoom over and run us off, but they let us pass.

We beat upwind for a few more miles before we crossed the line into Mexican waters, which the Navy seemed to be leaving alone. We turned downwind to pass on the outside of the Coronado islands, which made things calm down a bit. The Navy fell behind and we were instead joined by a thin parade of big sport fishing vessels headed between San Diego and the fertile waters off Mexico.

We sailed into the lee of the islands and the wind stopped, which left us bobbing around in an uncomfortable swell for an hour or so until we crawled our way out of the shadow. When we did, the wind came back and then some. We shortly had two reefs in each sail. This made us safe for the conditions, but we were still spending a good portion of our time wishing the wind would just die down already. Light and variable indeed...

We had already passed the halfway point before it was even dark. It was becoming quickly apparent that our initial 30 hour estimate for a really slow sail was going to be way less than 24. Our ETA was hovering right around midnight. If we arrived then, we had a choice of lingering outside the harbor until morning in order to be sure we could see our way in, or enter when we got there.

I conducted a good study of the harbor chart and decided that it looked like a pretty well marked and lit entrance. Ensenada has a fair amount of heavy shipping, so it seemed like it should be pretty easy to follow a deep water route in. We decided to give it a go, with the proviso that we could always abort and head into open water until morning if there was anything we didn't like.

Our actual arrival time was about 2am. All of the buoys were in place at their charted location and all were lit with bright new LED lights. There was also a bright range to help keep us in the center of the channel, which was an easy, straight shot from the safe water buoy.

We gently pulled up alongside the open end dock, where we got our first taste of the harbor’s surge, which in our case was technically sway. We were holding about a meter off when we rose slightly and then moved about a meter sideways, squishing the fenders with a slight lurch. We tried to get a line around a cleat, but we were back out of reach at a meter again, repeat. Hmmmm…

We were in the middle of a little Laurel and Hardy routine of running exactly the opposite way than we needed to be every time Begonia changed direction, when we were saved by the night watchman. Well, saved might be a bit of an overstatement. He got a line cleated to the dock, but that only changed the dynamics of the problem. Now only one end of the boat was swinging in and out while the other alternately bounced off the fenders and jerked to a stop at the end of the line in exactly the opposite direction. At least we could reach the dock. We got the other lines ashore and with a lot of pulling and only a little tripping over each other, we we finally got everything tight enough so that Begonia stayed put. Whew! Welcome to México.

Mexico - our new home!

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