Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ensenada in pictures

So post our early morning knockdown, recovery,and checking to be sure our vows were still valid (babe, you remember you said 'until death do us part'?  so we're still good right???) we did continue on under solid winds and big seas.  Once in Ensenada we had a group therapy session over our experiences and then the rest of the week had a good time hanging out, eating, drinking, and wine tasting.  Here's the evidence:

Our sailing track to Ensenada with a few jibes to make our way in

The accompanying stats, 12 hours, almost all under sail and of those almost all upright ;-)

Link to some footage from our sail down with some swell passing underneath us:

But we did make it and had our group therapy under the fire that first night

more group therapy night 2

SeaGlub and Badfish

SeaGlub in her first foreign port

Time to BBQ breakfast

Huh? what? someone say breakfast??

Yep, someone said MONKEYBREAD!  Great job sweetie!

Wine tasting day outside of Ensenada

Shenanigans group photo

just plain shenanigans

some were pooped from all the wine.....

.....while others were jazzed up!

Captain Tony of Badfish

Badfish on her way home, much smoother waters for the motor home

Badfish crew including Rocket

SeaGlub exiting the Coral Marina in Ensenada

A much happier Hesitant Half on the way home then coming down

Some sea critters, a small bonita but tasty sashimi!

and of course the one that got away

SeaGlub on her way home

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What doesn't kill The Hesitant Half

Per the wise advice of my sailing friends…I have decided to wait a few days until after our harrowing event to write my blog post.  If I hadn’t waited it probably would have sounded a little something like this:

Once again my husband has tried to kill me.  Despite attempts in the past, this was by far the closest he came to succeeding!  But once again, my stubbornness has won and here I still am. Hahaha, I have fouled his plan once more!!!

            I always said that I wanted to be completely honest with the people reading this blog, so I had to get that out of my system!  Okay now that I got my initial reaction out I feel better.  Here’s what really happened:

            A few weeks ago the crew of SeaGlub and our friends Tony, Tyler, Adam, Jessica, and Rocket decided we would take a little trip down to Ensenada, Mexico.  The idea was to get our boat out of the slip (we hadn’t moved the poor girl since we arrived in San Diego back in August) and have a trial run for checking into other countries with someone who had done it before.  Our friend Tony used to have his boat at an awesome marina called Hotel Coral & Marina down in Ensenada and we all thought it would be a great little vacation and the perfect place to practice.
            Plans were made: reservations acquired, documents double checked, weather windows watched, boat projects finished up, SeaGlub got waxed by Chris, pedicures completed, make-ahead meal cooked, provisioning of both boats finalized, lots of booze purchased, and early to bed the night before.  The morning came and our alarms went off at 2am.  We wanted to make sure to get down to the marina with some daylight, considering we had never been there before, and would feel more comfortable seeing where we were going.
            As Chris and I began to ready the boat we felt a stiff breeze and I was honestly a little surprised.  We had checked the weather window weeks, days, and the night before our scheduled departure and it said exactly what we were feeling.  Breezes out of the Northwest lending themselves to a hopeful SAIL down to Mexico.  But still, it’s San Diego…people always talk about the lack of wind and the usual motoring down south.  So, despite the multiple checks of weather and wind I was a bit surprised that there was actually wind at two o’clock in the morning.
            We continued to ready the boat; stow last minute items, check to make sure all the cupboards are closed tightly, run the jack lines, don lifejackets, all of the usual steps we take.  SeaGlub was ready and so was her crew!  We pulled out of our slip with no incident (we don’t need no stinking bow thruster!!!) and began heading out into San Diego Bay.  Tony, Tyler, Adam, Jessica, and Rocket were all up and ready to go on s/v Badfish and were making their final preparations for departure.  Our plan was to buddy-boat down to Mexico in case of any incidents where we needed each others help and just have more awesome people to party with.  SeaGlub motored out and BadFish soon caught up.  They realized they were having some issues with their compass and needed to do some circles to recalibrate.  Seeing as they are a Catalina 47 and aren’t even close to as heavy as our ol’ gal SeaGlub, we decided to continue motoring knowing that they would be hot on our tails in no time.
            Based on our previous trip through the channel I asked that we wait to hoist the sails until we knew what the wind was going to be doing out in the open ocean (insert Hesitant Half).  Chris was willing to compromise and indulged my insecurities as long as he could.  With the end of Point Loma lurking like a dark shadow in the pitch black of pre-dawn we started hoisting the sails.  It was windy and we were going to sail down to Mexico damn it!
            Out came the main and our 130 genoa sail.  Yeeeeehaaaaaaw!!!” Chris yelled into the night like a deranged cowboy pirate!  We were screaming along going over 8 knots!  At that rate we were going to be in Mexico with enough daylight to take a nap, drink some beers, and eat some tacos before we had to check into the country.  SeaGlub was heeling and we were hauling ass!!!!!!!...
            Which means I was uncomfortable (insert hesitant half…again).  It was 4 o’clock in the morning and everything was completely dark.  I could barely see the channel markers and my ‘house’ was leaning pretty far on her side.  I tried looking behind us to see where Badfish was and we didn’t see her.  Chris asked me to call Jessica and see where they were.  After a brief discussion about whether to reduce sail or call Jessica first, I reluctantly called Jess to check to make sure they were okay.  Badfish and her crew were fine and had fixed the compass and were motoring out the channel somewhere behind us.  Phew!  Everyone is fine and on their way.
            “Hey Chris.  What did the weather reports say the swell is supposed to be like?” I asked my skipper.  “Small,” was Chris’s reply.  “Small like your idea of small, or small like what I would think is small?” You know me with all the questions.  “I don’t know babe, they are predicted to be small.”  No sooner did I put my phone in my pocket that the VHF Channel 16 chimed in with a small craft advisory.  Hmmm….maybe we’d better reduce our sails sooner rather then later.  The end of Point Loma was in view and Chris and I were talking about which sail to bring in first.  And then IT happened!!!!!  The IT that all sailor fear!  The IT that they know will happen to them one day…it’s only a matter of time!  THE INFAMOUS KNOCKDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Dun dun duuuuuuuuuu
            Next thing I knew I was flying from one side of the cockpit to the other, our rail was in the water, the foot of our jib below the salty waters surface, and I saw my life flash before my eyes! (Not really, but it sure felt like it).  Pardon my language…but all I could do was say “Oh fuck! Oh my god! Oh fuuuuuuck!!!”  I didn’t know what to do.  I had never been in this situation before (thank goodness because once is enough).  I had remembered hearing about what to do when you get in these types of situations: find a way to spill some wind from the sails!  Chris was trying to manhandle the boat as I am hanging on for dear life trying to figure out what to do.  I got my bearings, put my legs straight out against the opposite side of the cockpit and made my way slowly back to the mainsheet, that Chris was working on releasing, to let the mainsail out.  Boom!  Instant relief but still not enough!  We were still healed over about 45 degrees and I had to get back up to release the jib before we could reduce sail.  Meanwhile rain is pelting us and felling like nettles are being thrown at us while cans of food were flying around below decks.  Finally I manage to crank in half of the jib and mainsail and we regained some sort of control.  Once we did a little damage control and made sure we were okay, the boat was okay, and so were our friends……I threw up.  A lot!!!
            Badfish hadn’t encountered any of the events that we had.  No 45mph wind, no rain, no squall.  Thank goodness!  Both boats were out in the open ocean now, and the seas were not ‘small.’ Our sail was going to be extremely rough with waves 8-10 feet with some sets a good 12-15 feet.  This was going to be a long and uncomfortable trip down to Mexico.  I debated asking Chris is we could turn back.  We had just knocked our boat on her side and I was already seasick.  Our voyage had only been going for 2 hours and I had at least 8 more to go.  Despite my better judgment I just sat in complete disbelief and astonishment of what we had just experienced.  I spent the next 10 hours either hurling over the side or curled up in a ball in the fetal position.  This was not the nice warm sail down to Mexico I had been dreaming of over the past few years.
            Upon arriving at our destination at The Hotel Coral Marina we relived our story with our friends on Badfish.  I’m sure I smelled ripe but they all hugged and reassured me anyways.  After all, we had made it to Mexico and it was time to party!

What I learned:
            In the hours that I spent wishing the trip would be over, I had a lot of time to think and reflect on the events of the day.  First of all, thank goodness we had our harnesses on!  I can’t say what would have happened had we not been wearing them, but I am almost certain I would have ended up in the dark water amongst the 10 foot swells.  The next thing I learned is that our boat is one tough bitch!  Nothing happened to her!  Nothing broke, nothing stretched, nothing leaked!!!  SeaGlub was the boat we were hoping she would be for us in a situation like this.  I learned that Chris can be one cool cucumber.  Not once did he panic or yell or loose complete control.  He held it together and got us all the way down to Mexico pretty much on his own despite feeling a little seasick himself.

            What did I learn about myself?  Well…I think I learned that I am a pretty tough bitch too!  I didn’t make my husband turn around.  Despite the projectile vomit and bile that I occasionally didn’t make over the side, I was fine.  I even rallied and managed to drink a beer in our celebratory toast for us all surviving our crazy and uncomfortable trip south.  Some people might have taken a bus home and vowed to never get on a boat again.  But there I was, with this boat that I have learned to love bringing her home 5 days later back to beautiful San Diego.  Lastly, thank goodness for wine!  This is not a new revelation…but I’m sure all that extra weight below decks and in our keel helped keep us from going completely over. 

I guess the old saying is true…What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!

Ensenada Logbook

Ensenada Logbook - San Diego, Ca to Ensenada, Mexico (and back)

  • Port of Departure: San Diego, Ca
  • Departure Date and Time: Tuesday, November 10, 0300 PDT
  • Stops in Between: None
  • Port of Arrival:  Ensenada, Mexico - Hotel Coral Marina
  • Arrival Date and Time: Tuesday, November 10, 1500 PDT
  • Total Travel Time:  12 hours
  • Miles Traveled: 70 nm
    • Sails a' soaring: 65 nm
    • Engine a' roaring: 5 nm
  • Engine Hours:  1.9
  • Return Trip
    • Port of Departure: Ensenada, Mexico - Hotel Coral Marina
    • Departure Date and Time: Saturday, November 14, 0700 PDT
    • Stops in Between: None
    • Port of Arrival:  San Diego, Ca
    • Arrival Date and Time: Saturday, November 14, 1700 PDT
    • Total Travel Time:  10 hours
    • Miles Traveled: 65 nm
      • Sails a' soaring: 0 nm
      • Engine a' roaring: 65 nm
    • Engine Hours: 10
  • Nights spent at:
    • Sea - 0
    • Anchor - 0
    • Mooring ball - 0
    • Slip - 4
  • Forecast:  forecasts showed a high pressure system pushing out the low pressure system which brought off and on Monday evening into Tuesday morning.  Winds were to be modestly strong from the NW at 18-20kts overnight and during our morning departure with building winds to 25kts by Tuesday afternoon.  Seas were mixed and predicted to be in the 3-5' range
  • Navigation Notes:  While the weather was correct, amazingly accurate, what we didn't account for was a legitimate squall blowing through at 430am shortly after we had raised sails.  It's been a rule of ours to always be reefed at night because you can't see what's coming, but we didn't have enough experience to have that rule properly and consistently implemented
  • Maintenance Notes:  Nothing of note besides cabinets below flinging canned food everywhere
  • Personal notes:
    • Chris:  Always reef at night.  When we raised sails all was fine, good wind 15-18kts on the stern quarter, pushing us along at 7kts.  Coming around Point Loma at 430am though we caught winds up to 44kts, got knocked down, then rounded up, then got absolutely drenched by sideways rain coming in so hard it felt like hail when it hit your skin.  Very proud of how we handled the situation overall, nothing broken and only loss was some floormats on the deck.  But you can be assured the reef at night rule will now be consistently implrmented!
    • Monica: see Monica's blog post here What doesn't kill The Hesitant Half

Monday, November 16, 2015

The TIP Pendulum in Mexico

"Yet what business had I with hope?  It was, as I say, a half formed thought - man has many such which are never completed."

Edgar Allen Poe - The Pit and the Pendulum

So it's 2015.  A couple of years, plus or minus, from the fiasco that was the Mexican boat import mess.  Latitude 38 did a great job of keeping everyone as up to date as possible, for me it was just educational, for others it was life changing. Scroll to the bottom of this link [Latitude 38] for just one example.  When the Mexican government had a case of severe miscommunication between departments and several hundred boats were seized, not necessarily taken away from their owners as I understand, but some were locked up and all were told they couldn't leave until they had completed the paperwork necessary to be properly registered.  The paperwork they had already filled out.

You can all kinds of research on your own on this topic, and unfortunately the reputation damage may live on for way too long, but I want to take this chance to start setting a new record of events for checking into Mexico while it's still very fresh.

Last week we headed to Mexico for a 5 day trip to Ensenada, just because.  We hadn't sailed SeaGlub since making our passage from San Francisco to San Diego in July and a group of friends had come up with the idea that we ought head down for a week or so.... call it a Baja HaHa hangover from all the parties we attended here in San Diego, we were craving more.

But first SeaGlub and crew had to get legal, and after all the stories from 2013 I was apprehensive to say the least to get started with this project.  Low and behold, I'm here to tell a story of success, one of a large governing body recognizing a problem and ameliorating it.  Our experience the last 4 weeks, applying for and receiving our TIP, our visas, and physically checking in and out of Mexico was streamlined and effective, actually making sense through the whole process.

Here's our story:

We were going to Ensenada for 5 days, a month before we were to leave I logged on to Banjercito main website to begin the process of getting my TIP.  I was given the direct link but it wouldn't work, maybe it will for you,, but it didn't at the time for me, so from the main page I clicked on the link in the picture below, the only part of the page which was in English so was easy to find.

From there it takes me to the web page, which looks like this:

From here it's just basic process of entering your personal information, hull number, registration number, engine number if you can find it (see my picture below, was on top of my Yanmar) and then pay the fee at the end.

It was fairly straight forward, the one item I missed was at the bottom of Step Four it asks are you bringing any Recreational Vehicles.  I said no but on second look I could've said yes for my dinghy as one of the options in the drop down menu is: Boat Less than 4.5 Meters.  However, when I cleared in at CIS and asked if this was a problem they said no.  I was basically offering to pay more and they said no.....

Immigration Center

Inside where you get all your paperwork taken care of.  The windows are numbered so just start at window 1

Next up, it's necessary to send them copies of your registration and passport.  It says so in Step One.  As thorough as I was trying to be, I missed that part, but don't worry, Mexico didn't.  The very next morning, at 645am my time, I received an email informing me that my form from 12 hours ago hadn't been fully completed because I hadn't sent the copies.  I simply replied to the email with pictures from my phone of each and 24 hours later received an email that I would receive my TIP in 2 days via DHL.

WHAT?!  FOR REAL?!  I'M DONE?!  That just seemed too easy, but sure enough two days later I had my TIP.  The pendulum has swung!

Pretty awesome, now this TIP process is almost too easy.  So many government agencies could take a lesson from this.  They had a problem, major one for many people, and bad enough to likely scare away hundreds of others, they addressed the problem, and... and... and actually fixed it!

The one caveat I have to mention, which was unbeknownst to us, was a Port Fee.  Hadn't heard of this but we had to pay $385 pesos upon arrival and departure, a Mexico port fee.  The schedule was listed on Window 2 and looked to be there a while so maybe it's not new but it was news to me.  Take note though, if you arrive / show up to check in or out on the weekend the fee is double, so plan accordingly.  Also, the day you plan to check out, you must be there before 1230pm and I would advise being there much earlier.  If you're not checked out by 1230pm you have to come back the next day.

One last item, apparently there's a fee checking back into the USA as well, $27.50 and they take cash only at the San Diego port.  Below is an explanation of the fee and how to pay it, but when I log on there's no link for the decal.  If you figure it out let me know.  It's only good for one year, and only the calendar year, so wait until January to purchase it.

Overall the experience was extremely efficient and I say Kudos Mexico!  I look forward to our next visit, and to a much longer stay in the years to come.