Cruising with Playpen
Leg 2 - San Diego, CA to
Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
Leg 2 Installment 1
11/18/02 San Diego, CA, U.S.A. to 31 51.25N 116 37.48W 8 ¾ hr 64.7nm
At 0500 the sky was clear, the wind calm, and we prepared for an 0615 departure for more new Playpen territory. Weatherman Walt said our benign seas and favorable lack of wind would follow us for at least a week; so we were 2 happy cruisers. Playpen crossed into Mexico at 0745 under sunny skies. Then…just outside Ensenada we followed a school of porpoise into pea-soup fog. Our trusty radar guided us into the harbor, but there were too many indistinguishable signals in the small harbor to navigate safely. We had heard VHF transmissions from cruise ship entering Ensenada, but he wouldn’t reply to our radio queries. We found him, though, as we suddenly came upon him off our port. I could hear the wash from his props before I saw him looming above me. I yelled for Fred to turn to starboard which he did as he spied the ship. I am so grateful for my calm, experienced, very capable Capt. as he somehow kept us from running up on the rock breakwater to our right and colliding with the ship to our left. We found a buoy (un-numbered) and circled it until we got our wits back. Then we slowly picked our way past sea buoys, mooring buoys, and anchored boats to the Baja Naval Shipyard and Marina. That experience quickly moved onto the Top 10 Playpen Fright List.
Baja Naval is a very nice Marina with a good shipyard reputation. Roger, the efficient dockmaster, deftly helped us secure and check-in. He started our Mexican Paperwork Cha-
Cha for us and told us how to continue in the morning. We negotiated Pizza at the Mexican Pizza Hut and went to bed exhausted after some grateful prayers.
11/19/02-11/21/02 Ensenada to Turtle Bay 27 40.87N 114 53.17W 298.5nm
We missed the overnite meteor showers, but the sunrise evaporated the fog, and we could see the tight, busy harbor. We walked to "Migracion" and the Harbormaster with our papers from Roger and quickly accomplished the work. We had to wait until 1330 to pick up everything; so we wandered around town and bumped into an Early Childhood Revolution Day Parade. There were literally a few hundred adorable costumed 4 year-olds dancing down the street—my kinda place! Ensenada was a combination Mexican village, busy city, and tropical tourist center with friendly people who spoke some English and were willing to help us with our Spanish.
Having painlessly completed the Cha-Cha we took off at 1400, again with Walt’s blessings, and cruised in 2’ swells between the gorgeous sunset over the Pacific and full moon rise from behind the mountains. It was a perfect ride! We had done our homework and plotted our 232 nm course on paper, computer, and GPS; so we felt comfortable as dark approached. No need for stabilizers—Whew! I took the wheel at 2300 just as we entered the fog—so much for celestial nav and star-gazing. Again, at dawn, the sun burned off the fog, and we continued on in flat sun-sparkled seas with calm, warm air—heavenly! We spied Isla Cedros from 45nm out and spent the next 5 hrs. racing the sun to get to our anchorage at Isla San Benitos, 10 nm closer than Cedros. The sun won and at 1715 it was too dark to see the kelp line at the anchorage. The next anchorage, a good one, Turtle Bay, was 50nm away; so we slowed down to 950rpm, 4 knots, and ran another night. My watch was 2300-0500, and this time I had some stars and the full moon—no fog. I listened to an audio book which kept me awake for the uneventful, s-l-o-w, crossing. We arrived at Turtle Bay and were anchored by 0700. After breakfast on the fantail the Capt. fixed an air leak in the stabilizer hose, and I cleaned the inside (a little). It was hot and cloudless in the anchorage just off town. There were several sailboats and one other trawler, and the "boat boys" in their pongos went from boat to boat collecting trash and soliciting Cokes and "donations for needy children in a faraway town." The landscape of this part of Baja California was brown, brown, and red-brown with gully-marked hills, small cliffs at water’s edge, and a small dirt-roaded village in the valley. All was barren except for some cultivated trees near the village shacks. Our "friend", Miguel, helped us secure the whaler to the town dock and guided us through "town" to the bakery and a restaurante with outdoor dining with a dirt floor, on the dust road where we got a dusting
every time a vehicle went by. There was a beautiful view, though, and the food was ok. After lunch I was watching some kids playing and discovered that 2 little ones were hiding in a chest freezer, with an outside latch and no ventilation. Fred used sign language to communicate to the father that the boys could die. Then Fred took out his trusty leatherman and removed the latch. The father yelled at the boys and thanked us profusely. Back at the beach the cruisers from the anchorage had gathered for $.70 beers and chatting. Miguel, meanwhile, had to deliver 6 5-gallon jugs of water to an anchored catamaran and was trying to secure the jugs to his kayak. Fred offered to take him and the water out in the whaler, and Miguel was very grateful. Fred was a good amigo today! The sun set, and the almost-full moon rose over the mesas as we set our clocks forward 1 hour. We’re now on Mountain Time. The weather was perfect in the calm, quiet anchorage—a great chance to catch up on sleep.