Adios Chula Vista, Buenos Dias Mexico!

I’ve been hearing rumors of restlessness and potential mutiny in the Summer blog reader’s ranks. I have to apologize for taking so long to get another entry done. I don’t even remember how long it’s been. Now that we’re “underway” again, hopefully this will get more regular. You’d better get comfortable, this is going to be a long one.

What on earth have we been doing all this time?!? Go back to the last entry and read that paragraph of all the boat projects we had to do. That’s what we were doing, and then some!

Some highlights of our last weeks in Chula Vista (or, at least things I’m able to remember and have some photos for 😉 ):

We got our new rigging done – the job morphed from something huge and expensive to something far less involved and way cheaper. In the end we just beefed up our upper shrouds and replaced them with Sta-Lok hardware (easier to maintain & ourselves – although we had a great rigger who helped us do this and even taught us how – he was awesome, even if we did have to drive him around because he had no car…).

New Turnbuckles

Corroded BoomWe got our shade solution for the cockpit – that also morphed from hiring someone to design and make something that fit in with our existing dodger and sunbrella color and was extremely expensive – it turned in to “hey we found this manky, moldy canvas-y piece of stuff at Minney’s for $35 – let’s clean it up and put grommets in it and make it a boom-tent.

SunShade

We celebrated Jonny’s 40th birthday (with a flourless chocolate cake he requested, but I think I liked it more than he did). JC Makes JH CakeHalloween was potentially going to be a bust, but we pulled it off in the last hours. I had a penguin hat that Sandra, Kiyomi and Adin had given me and some black and white clothes, so I had a no-frills costume.

JC Halloween Penguin But what about the birthday boy?? We racked our brains and looked at costume ideas online. What goes with a penguin? A leopard seal was too complicated. I know! The JOKER!! Thanks to the many fine thrift stores in Chula Vista, we pulled it off. Some of my best makeup work to date.   We went out to The Galley restaurant and bar at the Marina. We were by far some of the youngest folks there. But the band was lively and we had a good night. I snuck Jonny into the women’s bathroom just after midnight to supervise the clean up.

JH Joker

I sold my car to a really nice fireman – who may even take her to Baja! I think Hondas know when you are going to sell them though – I remember my Accord’s sunroof and alarm system both stopped working the day after I put a for sale sign on it. Well, the CRV developed a cracked radiator for no reason at all, after a perfect track record for 3+ years. I couldn’t sell it as-is (given I was planning to ask above blue book, since it WAS such a great vehicle) – and I couldn’t not disclose the problem (I need all the good karma I can get!). So the day before it sold, I had it in the shop and got a new $300 radiator put in it. Ouch.

We did all our provisioning (I think I single-handedly responsible for some sales records at both Amazon.com and Vitacost.com) and re-organized all our stuff.  Somehow the boxes kept arriving, but yet we still seem to have plenty of space. All this stuff fits away and disappears somehow!! StuffReOrgWe secured a policy to cover Summer all the way to the tip of South America – it even covers hurricane damage or lightening strikes – the most probable things that could destroy stuff – and of course those things are covered at double the deductible. Insurance. Gah.

I managed to get 3 bookkeeping sessions in with a client in San Diego (who apparently didn’t replace me after I left, so we had some catch up to do). Not only did I love working for those guys, anyway – it was really nice to do some work that I not only knew how to do, but was actually good at (this boat stuff often seems bewildering).

I got a hair cut (thanks to a Groupon) and one last pedicure (thanks to Mom).

We had our final Thursday dinner with our Vietnamese friends at Pho Vinh. After thoroughly enjoying 9? 10? Thursdays in a row there, the Vietnamese woman giving me my pedicure informed me that place was “terrible”. She couldn’t believe I liked it (I didn’t bother to tell her how many times we’d been there – I didn’t get past “we went there last night”). Oh well, what do we gringos know??

FinalPhoVin

My on-going and quite baffling search for ice cream in Chula Vista finally ended at the nearby mall. I could barely contain my excitement as we made our way into the shop I had discovered on the internet. Unfortunately, the ice cream was terrible! CV Ice creamHow is that even possible?? I think no one ever goes there and the ice cream was stale. The ‘crunch’ in my whatever-it-was crunch, was merely a squish. Defeated for the last time, I finally broke down and bought a box of ice cream sandwiches that I knew I loved. Unfortunately, not having a freezer meant that we had to devour all 6 bars in one sitting. I have no regrets.6IceCreamBars

I got to have another visit with Mindy (my dear friend of, what? 20 years??), Paolo, Jake and Sammy. They generously shared their San Diego Zoo passes with us and we got to spend the day catching up and marveling at exotic animals. It was almost a tearful farewell, but then adorable 4 year old Sammy wrapped his arms around my legs, looked up and said, quite earnestly “I hope someday I can sleep with you!”. Apparently he’s big into snuggling. I hope he’s not emotionally scarred by how hard I laughed at that.

Norm and Barbara made the trek down to see us from Vista. They were our ‘bosses’ when we managed Surfside Apartments a few years back and we’ve always adored them. We had been hoping to get together with them since we arrived. Norm is 98 and Barbara 92, and they were both battling some health issues –but that didn’t stop them from coming to meet Summer and taking us to a wonderful lunch. We were so grateful we got to spend the afternoon with them the day before we planned to set sail!NormBarbSummerJC NormBarbDolphins

We planned to take off on Friday and sail out just outside San Diego Bay and anchor for the night, so I could get my ‘sea legs’ (or, stomach, as the case may be) before the long trip to Ensenada. I had a bunch of last minute running around to do (including getting an ATM card at our mailbox, and then shutting it down -talk about cutting it close!) and it just got too late to comfortably get out of the bay and be anchored before dark. So we decided to leave Saturday morning instead. We were READY, though! So there wasn’t much to do for the afternoon – this was a first! We actually chatted with our neighbors Gary and Hugh. It felt so leisurely! And I realized how bummed I was not to have had more time to shoot the breeze with all the great folks we’d met in Chula Vista. We were always running from one project to the next. Gary was our next-slip neighbor from AZ, so we only got to meet a couple times – super friendly guy and so excited about our trip that it reminded me to get excited about it. Hugh was a few boats up and was often there enjoying his music and cigars. I’m thinking of taking up cigars again, apparently they can create interesting opportunities. Due to a cigar-smoking friendship, Hugh had the opportunity to teach on a Coast Guard training vessel for 4 months – and making some stopovers in Australia and Antarctica. He was leaving Saturday as well. I asked him to get me a penguin. I was sad I didn’t get to say goodbye to Buffalo Bill (he’s from Buffalo, his name is Bill, how could I not?). He bought a big powerboat down our dock and it took him several weeks before he shared the news with his wife.   He’s such a nice, guy and we really enjoyed it every time he stopped to chat on the way to his boat. We even met his wife (who didn’t divorce him after she learned of the boat – but she is ordering some new home improvements without feeling the need for his permission!) and 2 of the 3 sons. And I just realized he was going to bring us citrus from his yard – now I guess we are going to die of scurvy. Damn. Anyway, now that the go-go-go / work-work-work is over, I think we shall have very fond memories of our time in Chula Vista.CV Rainbow

Since we were now leaving on a Saturday, I gave Erika [my friend of 32 years – wait after 32 years of friendship, you’re really just family at that point, right?] a heads up in the event she wanted to drive all the way down there to see us off. She’s a good sport – and she showed up bright and early. We had a little time to chat and then we shoved off. Of course she made me cry… but we pulled it together and away we went! I’m sure she’ll visit us in Mexico or some other country soon.

ErikaJc LeavingCV

One last sail through San Diego Bay and one last time past the warships, the Coronado Bridge, the ferry boats and all the folks going back and forth in their rental sailboats. To be honest, I think that was probably all I needed of San Diego Bay. It’s a lovely city, as cities go, but bay sailing makes me feel a little claustrophobic. There’s no place to GO. I was ready for the real ocean again.

At the end of the bay we stopped for a final fueling (and told this fuel attendant guy he was going to be famous).FinalFueling

We had some good wind and headed out for some real sailing. SO many boat out! Such a big change from Moss Landing in Monterey bay, where you seldom see many boats out, even on the most gorgeous of weekends (and when you do, it’s always the same 4). There was a regatta or something going on. There were a million sailboats out. We wanted to get a bit of a sail in, get the feel for it again, before dropping anchor in Zunigas, just outside the bay. People were zipping all around us – in their fancy sailboats with Kevlar sails and matching shirts. We tried waving at them all, but many of them literally turned their noses up at us. I guess cruisers (which we clearly are, with our solar panels, jerry cans, slow boat and non-matching shirts…) are just scum of the earth to the “real” sailors out there. It was really funny by the end, we were cracking up as we waved more and more enthusiastically at each boat as they passed by closely as possible in an obvious effort to be super efficient. I guess I’m glad all those hundreds of boats weren’t cruisers all headed in the same direction as us!! They all made a run for the mouth of the bay to squeeze back in there and tie up safely as the sun started waning.

Outside SD Bay LeavingCoronadoBridge

We finally anchored just before dark. It took some doing, as it was our first time with all-chain rode and a new snubber system. We made some final phone calls – since once we were in Mexico our phone plans were getting axed. It started to get cold, dark and realllly rolly. We purposely anchored way outside and I think it was even rollier there. I had been feeling great all day, thinking maybe the whole seasick thing just wasn’t going to happen this time, maybe I was ‘cured’ ? But as the cold set in I started feeling worse and worse. The thought of getting up at 2:00am to sail off to Mexico seemed an impossibility. All I wanted to do was crawl under a blanket and sleep forever. Hugh told me that one earplug was the answer to alleviating seasickness. I tried it. Now I was seasick AND annoyed that I could only hear out of one ear – so I took it out after about ½ hour. On the upside, I didn’t actually lose my lunch. I made split pea soup for dinner (with carrots and bacon) and it stayed where it belonged. I was more than ready to sleep shortly after that. We set our alarms for 2:00am – since I realized the only thing worse than getting up and leaving while feeling sick was spending another entire day feeling sick at that rolly anchorage.

***[This is probably a good time to go make yourself a sandwich]***

At 2:00 am I actually felt pretty good when I got up. It was cold and (surprise) very dark. We pulled anchor and motored off in the direction our chartplotter told us to. We skirted by a huge fishing boat and an even huger warship. Did I mention it was cold? I started feeling gross again. Shortly after we crossed the border (such a non-event when going by boat!) I cocooned myself under blankets and had a snooze.

I started to feel pretty good as the day warmed up and we were getting some sailing in. The wind and waves were all going in the right direction and we actually got to shut off the motor for a while.

It took us just about 12 hours to reach our destination. We approached Ensenada and found our marina (I had booked a slip in advance at Baja Naval marina) and docked Summer without incident. Well, OK, there was this container ship that wanted to enter the harbor at the same time as us. We learned this one in Long Beach – container ship wins. We backed off and followed them in. A nice Canadian fellow helped us as we were docking. Very strange slips with this crazy tidal action – the boats were all moving in and out quite a lot. It actually looked as if everyone was backing out of their slips as we entered the docks. We put 6 fenders on the dockside of Summer as she constantly was moving back and forth a great distance (I think some of them got a little crushed- but they sure look nice, thanks to the fender covers Mom made us!). You had to time your exits from the boat onto the dock so you could actually reach it.

SummerEnsenada

I went up to the gates, which required magnetic key cards to enter and exit. I called to a security guard and then panicked…I don’t speak Spanish! Or do I? A little. I was maybe a little delirious. I pointed down to Summer and said, in French, “Arriver” and then I remembered how to say “keys” in Spanish – llaves? Por favor? He got it, and trotted off to bring me an envelope with my name and a key card. We secured Summer and relaxed a little bit. We were too tired to do much, but we had a little walk around the immediate area and after sufficiently convinced it was too touristy for us, we settled on a very nice, touristy restaurant for dinner. It was a wonderful meal, although my margarita cost more than my entrée (but it was real mango!).   We had crepes with dulce de leche and ice cream for dessert. That was our celebration for making it to Mexico! We went back to crash early.

This was my view upon waking the next morning.  That is the biggest flag I’ve ever seen!

Ensenada Morning

The next morning was to be our “Check In” process. Everything we heard and read about checking into Mexico with a boat seemed arduous, confusing and very time consuming. We were apprehensive about the whole thing. I had collected as much information as possible, along with many multiple copies of forms we may need, our passports, engine serial numbers, boat documentation, etc. The nice folks at Baja Naval helped us put all those papers in order, making separate piles for each of the offices we’d need to visit: Immigration, Port Captain, Customs, etc. All in all the whole process took only 2 ½ hours and cost $126 – it wasn’t nearly as bad as all the hype. The nice thing about Ensenada is that all the offices are in the same building, actually the same room. You just go from window to window – and with each fee we had to pay you have to go to the bank window, pay it, get a receipt and go back to the other window to complete that process. We heard some stories of other countries where each of the offices and the place to make payments can be miles apart, close for lunch, etc. etc. I’m sure we’ll run into that someday, but this time we lucked out.

This was outside one of the many farmacias we saw, catering to poor Americans who can’t afford drugs (primarily Viagra, I guess!):

FarmaciaStick

We spent the next few hours trying to talk to someone at a TelCel office to see if a phone plan was feasible (it wasn’t, so far) and trying to change some dollars into pesos. I then spent the afternoon preparing for our upcoming 3 day journey to Turtle Bay. I baked a lasagna which would provide 3 meals, I made us some ‘breakfast jars’ (Thanks to the FoodBabe) – which are great to grab on the go – oat groats, oats, raisins, cinnamon, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, goji berries, hemp seeds, all soaked overnight in pistachio milk (can’t be bothered with dairy milk these days- so glad I brought my blender). Really hearty!BreakfastJars I also baked some yummy chocolate chip almond flour muffins and hard boiled some eggs. Not knowing what the conditions would be, I wanted to have plenty of easy-access foods to keep us going.

Tuesday morning we leisurely prepared for our 72+ hour trek down to Turtle Bay. I had my last shower until who-knows-when in the lovely pink marble showers at Baja Naval.

Ensenada Shower

Leaving our slip proved as near-disastrous as Jonny thought it might be. I saw a very easy way to get out and I wasn’t worried – there was a huge, wide open pair of slips diagonally behind us. I was sure I could easily back into that (prop walk would drag us right there) and then just go forward and out. Easy peasy! But Jonny thought backing up down the entire fairway to the harbor made more sense. Although I was quite confident my way was better, I started to worry about the consequences if I was wrong. I was terrified to back all the way out, as Summer does not back up well. But I tried it. Instead of the wind keeping the bow straight, as suggested, prop walk kept pulling the boat to port and in no time we were backing in sideways to an empty slip three down and on the same side we started. Not sure how many of the other boats heard me swearing, but it was probably all of them. I ended up having to do a back-and-fill in the middle of the fairway (for non boaters – this is like a 3 point turn in a tight spot with a car, only with wind, current and no brakes to spin around an 18,000 lb. tub containing everything you own…). Somehow I pulled it off without hitting any other boats but we do have a little new scrape from one of the docks. And I have a renewed vow to try to trust myself more and not be afraid of being wrong. I’d rather learn from my own mistakes – seems like a better way to build experience and confidence, no? (and why has it taken me so long to get this?!).

So, we set off in a rush of adrenaline. There was a giant cruise ship in port – biggest thing I ever saw. I think we were about 50 ft from it as I noticed the sign on it that said “Keep 50 yards away”. Oops. We headed around the cruise ship to the next marina up which supposedly had a fuel dock. I basically parallel parked between a ginormous power boat and a huge catarmaran, and that went well. But alas, it was not actually the fuel dock, as this marina had no fuel dock. We were misinformed. The only fuel in all of Ensenada was clear across the far end of the harbor – back past where we came from.   We’d used about 1/8 of a tank on the trip down and we still had 2 jerry cans…so we decided to just hit the big blue watery road and hope for wind. Neither of us is much for backtracking.

Cruise Ship

As we left Ensenada and kept looking back, all we could see was the cruise ship. I am pretty sure cruise ships are visible from outer space.LeavingEnsenada

I was feeling a bit iffy, and it was chilly, but I was trying to pretend I felt fine. I got a craving for popcorn, so I made a batch with butter and nutritional yeast and ate way too much. I learned that you do not want to tighten the lid on the pressure cooker –it won’t pop!

JCPopcorn

We watched sunset and made our turn south-er. So. Many. Stars. Really gorgeous. But still, waaaay too cold. Night watch required all our foul weather gear. It took me a full 4 hours under blankets until I warmed up after my first watch. We did a combination of sailing and motoring. We daringly set up our whisker pole (for like, the 3rd time ever) in the dark on the first night. Kind of crazy, but we were dead downwind and the wind was way too light. Eventually we had to take it down and just motor. I started to get plenty of reading in again. I started “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” – and no, there isn’t a punch line.   Turns out a number of Jews escaped the Spanish Inquisition by pretending to be Christian and making it big in the New World. I had no idea that Jamaica was actually pretty much owned by the Jews. Still, no punch line.   I got a couple of other books going as well. I love my Kindle!

It warmed up in the day and everything was calm and pleasant. A little too calm. We had to motor some. 2nd night was also very cold, but not as. We did our shifts, kind of however made sense rather than sticking to a real schedule. It seemed to work out. Jonny tried out some of his new fishing gear. The strangest looking lure caught us a small yellow fin tuna within 5 minutes!

Yellowfintuna Jonny managed to bonk it to death with a baseball bat – something that was a bit traumatic for me to watch. I apologized to the fish several times. He tied it by the tail and we dragged it for a bit to let it bleed out. Then came the filleting. The freshest ahi I’ve ever seen! Holding a piece of freshly cut fillet in your hand, you can feel it twitching still. That was pretty creepy. TunaFilletsWe both noted how happy we were to have our fish cleaning table in lieu of the BBQ we started off with. No blood in the cockpit! I seared the ahi in sesame oil with garlic and ginger for dinner that night – and for lunch the next day – it was delicious.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was a very nice day and not a drop of wind. After watching the knotmeter register 0.0 far too many times, we decided to just drop the sails and drift for a couple of hours – just to give ourselves a break. The water temp was 70 degrees and we decided to jump in for a little clean refreshment. I’d never swam in water over a mile deep before!! It seemed much colder than 70, so it was a really quick dip.   Our new swim ladder worked great – so glad to have that now.

TDayFeast

I made sauce from cranberries I had stashed in the fridge – but since I had no orange to put in it, I threw in a couple pieces of dried pineapple – yummy! I roasted a pumpkin to make pie. Or custard I guess, since I didn’t make a crust – I just baked it in a pie plate.  I was a little worried it would slop over the pie plate, since it was a bit rolly and our stove doesn’t gimbal well. But it solidified in time – it was just a bit thicker on one side. It was gorgeous weather and the wind picked up for a nice, quiet sail. I prepared the rest of our holiday feast before dark. I had some sliced turkey that I steam heated in the oven so we could pretend it was just sliced, made mashed potatoes, green beans and a box o’ gravy. Aside from the glaring and heartbreaking absence of stuffing, it ended up looking like a real Thanksgiving dinner! We didn’t get disgustingly stuffed though, which was good because there was no place for a walk.   We enjoyed our custard right out of the pie plate and managed to stop ourselves at eating half of it.

TdayCustard

One more night of stilted sleep and fighting to stay awake at all the wrong hours. It was warmer still, though and I was grateful for that. I got my StarWalk app working and started learning my constellations again. The Southern Cross is still not visible yet. We had great wind for most of the night, and didn’t need to motor. It was very slow going, but at least it was consistent for a long time and quite comfortable and pleasant.

Friday, as we were passing Isla Cedros the wind finally pooped out. We motor sailed again as we made our approach to Turtle Bay. Lots of fishing boats and buoys to look out for. It definitely felt like we were about to be somewhere.

We watched the water temperature slowly rise to 80 degrees as we got closer and closer. I had to put shorts on. Things were really looking up!

Turtle Bay is a huge bay and a small village. From the land-based perspective, Turtle Bay is really hard to get out to – it’s pretty remote.   We saw 5 other sailboats anchored as we made our way in. We anchored far out from everyone. I was nearly blinded by exhaustion as we were coming in, but somehow once we anchored, I got a second wind. We covered up the mainsail and then I cleaned the entire boat inside. I couldn’t put the foul weather gear away fast enough! We had a ridiculous amount of dishes – from thanksgiving, a breakfast and a lunch. I cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed and I even cleaned the inside of my oven. The best part about living on a boat is you can do such a thorough cleaning in well under an hour. Everything was tidy and ready for whatever it was we were doing next.

TurtleBayLandView

We jumped in the water and had a wash. It was refreshing, just this side of being too cold.   We watched other boats coming and going and had a nice steak dinner. We were fast asleep before 8pm. It’s a really pleasant anchorage – not very rolly, but you don’t forget you’re on a boat.

We had a very lazy morning yesterday. Poor Jonny is struggling to catch up (he may have gotten less sleep than me on this trip, then again I’m pretty experienced at functioning on sleep deprivation). He napped in the morning and I got everything out to put our dinghy together. I was feeling pretty good! We got the dinghy launched and ready for a trip ashore.

We landed the dinghy and pulled it up on shore with our new dinghy wheels. dinghylanded wheelsOn the beach we met a gringa lounging with her dogs. She came just to visit for a few months and learn Spanish. That was over a year ago and she still can’t speak any Spanish. Although it appears she learned how to purchase ballenas easily enough (giant beers) and she had a couple of fine looking dogs (golden retriever-ish- I ‘ve always had a soft spot for them). She shared a little local knowledge with us before we headed off to explore.

TBGrafitti  TB Beachbay

We had a walkabout in the ‘town’. It’s just a lot of dusty, dirt roads, random little arbarrotes (groceries) shops, among homes, trash and scraggly dogs. We found what is supposed to be the biggest grocery store, it seemed to have some essentials. But we are still well stocked for the most part, so I didn’t get anything. TurtleBayView fromTownTB TownAt the other end of town we visited the church and then up to check out a restaurant that had wifi. There we met Adrian – born and raised in Turtle Bay, and the brother of the restaurant owner. He had been working in La Paz taking tourists diving – so his English is excellent. We learned a lot about Turtle Bay and it’s history. The woman and her dogs wandered up and after meeting Adrian it appears they may have a plan to help each other with Spanish/English. It was getting late in the day and we wanted a swim before it got too cold. So we said our adios’ and agreed to come back in the morning for breakfast. I’m hoping I can get this blog posted with the wifi there, as well… {wasn’t opened for breakfast as hoped – but made it here for lunch and got to chat with a lovely Australian couple who have been cruising for 8 years. Great stories!}

It’s still too cold for us here. We need to forge ahead South. I’m wearing sweatshirts and uggs at night still. Our rough plans from now are to leave here tomorrow for Asuncion Bay – which is rumored to have surf. There are a couple more spots we will stop before Magdelena Bay. From Mag Bay? Who knows, probably make a quick stop in Cabo for supplies (and possibly a very expensive night in a marina?) and head over to mainland. Stay tuned!!!

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