The sail here (Ensenada) from San Diego was annoying. I didn't expect nature would pack in so many extreme wind shifts and changes in wind velocity into such a short passage. There were many 90 degree wind shifts, a couple of 180 degree shifts and many instances of being becalmed to have wind arrive again a short while later. The longest I sailed uninterrupted was one hour, and that was one sweet hour! 10 knots from the SE, so sailing upwind nicely. But I arrived having run the engine for 5.8 hours...not what I was hoping for. I wanted to arrive before 11am or so and was therefore sailing to a schedule. I suspected checking in would take a while and that the office hours I needed would likely be limited. I arrived at 10:30am, so I estimated that part pretty well - motoring when necessary to meet my goal. But still...there was a lot of engine noise on my 'sail trip.'
Entering the marina was a little interesting. I was arriving at just before low tide but had expected good depths throughout the bay. As I was approaching my assigned slip which was on the south side of the marina which is open to the bay the depth fell from 12 feet, to 10, 9, 8 when I started to do a 180 assessing where I was. The lowest depth I saw during the turn was 6.6 feet - which is close considering Luckness draws around 6 feet. Entering deeper water again I looked it over and tried once more hugging the marina slips closer - on the second approach the depth fell to 8 but then rose again slightly. That was a little nerve wracking.
I didn't intend to stay very long in Ensenada and it turns out that this time I'll be leaving when I first expected rather than doubling or tripling my initial estimate. Ensenada weather is similar to San Diego (being only 65nm south, you would expect that!) and I'm heading south searching for warmth.
I've enjoyed my first two days in Mexico. I won't pass along too many impressions as I would like to wait until I have more days in country before I do that. Having said that, the people here are super friendly, the food is good, the food is inexpensive, the super markets have everything you would expect with a slightly foreign flavor. The only super market I've been to so far had an outstanding bakery, super fresh produce with many items I've not seen before, lots of good meat, lots of brands you would recognize along with lots of things I didn't recognize and have me curious.
Excuse the remainder of the post. Part of why I write in this blog is for myself - my posts act as reminders to my future self about things I may have forgotten. I expect to be back this way sometime soon, so, future Craig - here is how checking into the country worked in Ensenada.
Before checking into the Baja Naval Marina, I was asked to bring along my passport, boat documentation, and ID. I had earlier downloaded a crew list which is referenced by the Downwind Marine online cruising guide which references the crew list template. I printed the form out and filled it in, using my 'Spanish for Cruisers' book for a few words in spanish. You probably don't need to worry about the spanish. Take the crew list along with everything else to the marina office. They check you into the marina as well as photocopy everything in the required quantities to give you two piles of forms. The first pile of forms goes to the Immigration office in the CIS building which houses Immigration, the Port Captain and Customs. CIS is a short walk from the marina. Having entered the building, approach the immigration window while looking helpless and presenting the pile of forms. They know what to do and will help along with a form you need to fill out there. Then they will give you a piece of paper which you present at a payment window behind you. Again, look helpless and present the form. They ask how you want to pay - in spanish, so expect that when the person speaks a longish sentence to you they are wondering how you want to pay and give them your Visa card. If you're wrong about what they just said to you, it'll still work out as handing them your visa card is a useful step anyway. When you have the receipt walk back to the Immigration window, present it and shortly you'll have your FMM card, your tourist visa. Congratulations, step one is done.
Step two is to go to the Port Captain. Take the papers Immigration has given you and walk over there. Again, do the 'look helpless' thing and present the papers. They will create a flurry of paper behind the desk which disappears into various piles back there and eventually ask you to pay a fee. When I was there, the payment mechanism in the office was broken and you are asked to walk to a bank about 6 blocks away and pay there. Walk to the bank. Walk into the bank, look helpless, a person will look at the form the Port Captain gave you and give you a number just like in well organized lines all over the world. I was given 621 and shortly afterward they called 530. Exercise patience. I stood in line with my number, as when in foreign surroundings if I see a line which approaches where I want to be, I'll stand in it. Eventually I appeared at the front of the line much before my number was to be called, which created internal confusion, but when the teller was free I walked up to her and gave her my out of order number and my piece of paper which she understood as a request from me to pay some money into the Port Captains account. She smiled which I took to understand as meaning that my number issue was OK. She spoke to me in a dazzling display of spanish, which sounded really nice, and I took it to be a request about how I would wish to pay. I proudly presented my Visa card (this having worked earlier.) She looked at it and seemed disappointed and spoke some more nice sounding words. I took this as indicating Visa was not welcome, so this being a bank, I presented my Bank card. Again, she replied with a sentence which seemed to have the word 'peso' in it. At this point I reverted to looking helpless, which I was. Luckily the person at the window beside me heard the whole exchange and feeling sorry for me started to translate, which was kind of him. This is where I learned you need cash peso's to pay. The teller asked me to visit the ATM and return to the head of the line. This was soon finished and I walked back to the CIS office. As I approached the office I saw a little door outside the building offering a photocopy service for photocopying the FMM forms, and I recollected something about this being needed so I had a photocopy made. Then you should return to the Port Captain's window with your bank receipt and hand it over. Shortly afterwards you'll be given some stamped forms followed by a gesture that I indicated as meaning: please go away, I'm done with you. I now proudly took my forms and walked over to the Customs window, where I was redirected to a different window in order to pay my boat import tax.
This is the window where you use the second stack of forms that Baja Naval made for you, the first being mainly consumed and scattered about the CIS building. There is a short list of requirements needed for the boat tax posted on the window which you are asked to read, and you'll notice you have what you need. (Oh, you'll need your engine's serial number, Baja Naval will remind you of this.) Fill in a form indicating how many of this and that you have on your boat (how many tools? many.) Fill in the form again as they need two. Now pay another fee and you'll be presented with a nice looking boat tax form which is valid for 10 years. Now you can walk over to customs. Its seems that the boat tax form represents your boat, and is how you describe to customs what it is you're declaring. The customs officer will ask you to push a button on what looks like a traffic light with only red and green lights. Push the button and one of the traffic lights turns on. If its green, you're good to go. If the red one comes on your boat needs to be inspected. Both I and the customs officer were relieved that the green light turned on when I pushed the button. Yay. Fill in a form that is similar to any customs form you have filled in on a plane traveling between countries, sign it, they will stamp some papers and with that you're finished. The customs officers last words to me were literally: go away. Now take some of those peso's you have burning a hole in your pocket from that ATM earlier and walk over to the fish market. Stop at the first taco stand you come to and start eating fish taco's - they are super good. Enjoy a beverage as well, you deserve it.
Before you leave you also need to check out with Immigration and the Port Captain letting them know where you're heading. I filled the form out saying I was heading for Mazatlan as I was advised to pick a port far south and that will cover all my intermediate ports. From what I understand, I need to check in with the Port Captains along my journey if I stay in a port which has one, but that my current papers won't need to be updated. Its a bit of an adventure not really knowing what you're doing... I think I could have checked in and out in one visit, saving this second step.
Just after sending this, I'll be heading south toward Cabo and then north again to La Paz. There are a number of places along the trip I can stop to break the journey up, or not. I'll make the call for what stops I use along the way. Its quite a distance to La Paz, over 700nm, so I'll be away for quite some time. The weather currently looks a little confusing. The GRIB files show decent wind (NW 10-15 knots) for the initial part of the trip south. The surface analysis out a few days shows widely spaced isobars which indicates little wind. Stan's weather report for outside baja looks decent in the north Baja but light further south. I'm leaving expecting light wind and maybe a day or more of bobbing around waiting for wind to arrive as I move south. So with that expectation, the downside is limited. The upside is that I might be able to sail each and every day in some manner. That would be sweet.
I may or may not blog on the way down. I'll try to update my position reports, which is something I've started doing now - see my blog for a link. Again, things happen on boats, electronics are prone to suddenly stop working. If I stop reporting in, nobody should panic.