Saturday, February 28, 2009

San Diego Municipal Docks

Date: 2/28/2009
Location:San Diego Municipal  Dock, Shelter Island
Lat/Lon: 32 42.603 N 117 14.046 W
Weather:  75, winds breezy in the afternoon

We moved 11 km from Chula Vista to the municipal docks at the north end of SD bay. The municipal docks do not take reservations and charge $10.50 per day for the first 5 days and $21 for the next ten days for any size boat. After 10 days you must leave, you can only be at the dock for 10 days out of  every 40 days. In this way they eliminate boats living at the docks for months on end.  We called before we left to make sure that they had space and the docks were less than half occupied when we arrived. We were a little concerned about getting in because right next door at the Koni Kai resort they are having the Trawler Fest boat show and seminars at the same time and we were afraid that the municipal docks might be full of boats visiting the show.

Friday afternoon we went over to the boat show and walked around the boats. We spoke with the crew from Nordhavn, they had 4 boats on display, and we met Art Defever who was on his own 63' Defever that is for sale. 

The boat basin behind Shelter Is is home to 6000 boats, everything from mega yachts to run down sail boats that their owners hope have one more trip to La Paz left in them. It's an amazing place.  We walked around the basin and it seems like solid boats as far as you can see.

We were going to leave for Ensenada Saturday, today, but it looks like the wind is going to kick up on Tues-Wed so we'll have to spend most of the week in Ensenada waiting for calm seas so we decided to stay in SD one more day. 

The 62 Nordhavn on the right in the photo above is Patty M, formally Rover, that is on the way to Newport Beach from Ensenada. The Captain was kind enough to give use a tour, the boat is fantastic and for sale. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Road Trip- Tucson

Last weekend we drove our Jeep to Tucson and put it in storage at a place near Linda's son, Jeff. We spent 2 nights at Jeff's house and rented a car to drive back to San Diego. The car, from National, cost $148 including gas for the 7 hour drive. 2 oneway tickets on Southwest would have been $150 for a weekend departure, $98 if we left on Tues, Wed, or Thurs. The car was well worth it to avoid flying. The car we rented was a Nissan Vesa which was one of those cars where if you moved the seat forward enough to reach the steering wheel your legs were too close to the peddles, move the seat back so your legs are comfortable and you can't reach the wheel. Linda and I are 8" different in height and neither of us could find a comfortable position.  Other than that it was an ok cheap little car.  In San Diego we had to return it to the airport so we got up at 6 AM to get it back in the 24 hour rental period and then ran it down to the airport and then took the bus and then trolley back to the marina. 

The trip across highway I-8 from San Diego to Tucson is nice if you like flat desert terrain. The picture above is where the freeway gets right next to the Mexican boarder, that's the boarder fence just across the freeway. Customs and Boarder Patrol had the freeway blocked twice going east and 3 times west bound for vehicle inspections.  We got waved through at each stop but it's just the idea that anyone could be stopped and asked to show their papers that doesn't seem right. I guess the idea of 'probable cause' is rather passé. 

We're back on the boat for a couple of days getting ready to head into Mexico. Mid week we'll take the boat up to the public dock at the north end of San Diego bay and the weather looks good to head to Ensenada on Saturday or Sunday.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hi Tech Rabbit Ears

Not really. We were in Marina Del Rey on election night and we wanted to watch the election returns on TV so we walked over to Radio Shack and bought a cheap set of rabbit ears on the chance that we could get an over the air channel. To our surprise it worked! When we got to San Diego we moved the rabbit ears to the top of the pilothouse and we were able to get the 4 network channels and a couple of local stations all for free. The reception is good, not great, but good enough to watch. 

The downside is we can not receive digital TV signals without a conversion box and in San Diego 3 of the network channels have converted to digital on February 17th. We could buy a conversion box for $40 but we're going to be in Mexico in 10 days so we'll just have to get by with NBC and PBS until then. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We're Going

Date: 2/15/2009
Location: Chula Vista, CA
Lat/Lon: 32°37.406'N  117°06.101'W
Weather: Overcast, 65 °

"I am going because I would have no peace if I stayed" - Donald Crowhurst

It's off to Mexico by the end of February. We've given our notice at the marina, we're finishing our provisioning and this weekend we're taking our car to Tucson to put in storage and it's off we go.  We're storing the car in Tucson because 1) Linda's son lives there and 2) this summer when we're in San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez for a few months we can easily get to Tucson and take our car back with us. 

We were not sure if we were going further than San Diego but as Crowhurst said, we'd have no peace if we stayed after doing all the preparations for the last 2 years and coming all this way. If we didn't go we would regret it for the rest of our lives. And what's to return to? We can't sell the boat in this market and there are no jobs to be had, so we might as well spend at least a year in Mexico and have some fun. 

By the way, Crowhurst did go on the around the world sailing race he was referring to and went insane and committed suicide before he finished, but that's another long story.  Read the book - The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst 

Being sick for January

The first night home from Ensenada I was up at 1 AM vomiting. I had a high fever, around 101° for 6 days. After the fever broke I started to get  chest and head congestion and a sore throat that kept me in bed for most of the next two weeks. It was 3 weeks before I had enough strength  to get up for more than 2 hours at a time and it was 4 weeks before I stopped coughing so much that I started sleeping in the main stateroom with Linda. In the third week Linda did insist that I go to a local clinic  where they gave me some anit-biotics and some spray for my throat that contained steroids. Neither med seemed to do much to improve my condition. I haven't been this sick for 20 years but I don't think it was caused by going to Ensenada. Somewhere I caught the flu bug and then a bad cold on top of that. I feel like I missed the entire month and Linda was such a sweetie taking care of me during that time. 

Road Trip - Ensenada

After Christmas we thought we would take the bus down to Ensenada and spend a couple of days. We made hotel reservations on the internet at the  San Nicholas hotel that looked good and in the area down by the marinas. We drove to the boarder and parked the car in a lot on the US side, walked across the boarder. Walking south the boarder is open with no check points, the Mexicans don't seem to care who enters their country or what they bring. The bus depot is just 3 blocks from the boarder, right next to the MacDonald's, and the bus to Ensenada runs every half an hour. US$42 for 2 people round trip. The bus is comfortable, clean, and mostly empty. The trip is about 90 minutes and we got off at the first stop in Ensenada which was a mistake, we should have stayed on until the bus depot and been a mile or so closer to our hotel. No harm done though, we got to see more of the town this way. After finding our way to the tourist section we stopped for lunch and to catch our breath and use the restrooms. Lunch was good and we continued our trek to the hotel which we found without much difficulty. The hazard with using the internet is that you may not be getting exactly what you think you're getting. The hotel was older than we thought and it was further from the waterfront and shopping area of town than we could have been if we had chosen a different hotel.

We spent the next two days playing tourist and walking all around the central area of town. On the evening of the third day I started to feel a little off,  like I was coming down with a cold, fever and aches and pains, but some aspirin seemed to overcome it and the next day we caught the bus back to Tijuana and returned home to the boat. Crossing the boarder on foot took less than an hour once we figured out  how to get from the bus depot to the boarder crossing. There are no signs for directions so we just walked in the general direction and then followed the crowds as we got near. The line was long but moved fast. The line for cars crossing into the US seemed to go for miles and did not seem to be moving, people were standing next to their cars and vendors were walking up and down the lines selling all sorts of goods. Tijuana is not the place to cross into the US in a car. 

Road Trip - Boise

Once we decided to stay in SD for a few months the next step was to get a car so we could get around. When we left Anacortes in the Spring we gave our Jeep to Linda's daughter, Susie,  in Boise with the idea that her son, Josh, would use the car when he got a license and could afford insurance. Well that hadn't happened yet and the Jeep was just sitting in Susie's driveway so we asked if could reclaim the Jeep if we came up and got it. On December 12th we flew to Boise just as a major winter storm was  crossing the area bringing snow and ice to much of the northern US. The plan was to stay 2 days in Boise, actually Susie lives in Nampa just outside of Boise, and leave before the storm got too bad and take I 84 West to Portland and hop on I-5 south and hopefully avoid most of the storm. Nice plan, too bad it didn't work out that way. 
We left Monday morning in light snow but the roads got progressively worse with heavier snow and ice as we went west into the mountains. When we got to Le Grande the roads had snow over ice and we decided to get off the highway at a truck stop along with maybe a hundred semi-trucks. We ate lunch and bought the last pair of chains at the local tire store. 

Heading back out on I-84 the road stayed icy and we put the chains on and off 3 times before getting to better conditions near Portland around 6 PM 
where we stopped for the day at a Comfort Inn (excellent bed at a reasonable cost!). The next day it was up early and down I-5 in light snow but we made good time most of the day. There was heavier snow in the Sisku's but we made it to Red Bluff in northern California by early evening. 

The next day we figured we would have a clear shot down I-5 to San Diego and should be back on the boat that night. After all we were in California and the storm was well behind us up north. The trip started well making good time through Chico, Sacramento, Stockton, and then the farm lands of central California. As we approached the mountains north of LA there were signs to listen to a road advisory on the radio but our radio was not working so we couldn't hear what was coming up. Oregon has a toll free phone number, 511,  you can call to get road conditions which we used  but CA does not so we blindly continued on. Then the traffic came to a stop, I 5 was closed in Grapevine at the foot of the hills, the CA Highway Patrol had closed the freeway due to heavy snow in the mountains and was turning everyone around in Grapevine. What a mess, traffic was backed up for miles and the CHP had barricaded the freeway and routed everyone onto an off ramp and into Grapevine. There was no sign of the CHP so everyone was on their own to find their way through town and back onto I 5 north.  Once through that mess we thought we would take a small highway east and try to connect to highway 58 and get around the east side of the mountains. Once on 84 we started to climb into the hills and it started to snow again and the further we went the heavier it snowed. The area seemed very beautiful but we were focused on the deteriorating road conditions. As we approached the junction of highways 58 & 395 traffic came to a crawl and then a stop. We pulled into a truck stop and learned that both highways were closed ahead and everyone, there must have been a hundred cars and semi-trucks, was just waiting for the roads to open. It was now around 6 PM so we went into the Roadhouse Restaurant, found a booth and ordered some food.  We were not alone, the place was full of stranded people including a couple of dozen young people off of a bus who had occupied a banquet room in the back. The restaurant was ok with us staying the night so we switched to a large booth when some people left and settled in for the duration. It's hard to sleep in a booth when all the lights are on and people are talking and coming and going all around you but we tried. At 3 AM trucks and cars started to leave and the word was passed around that highway 395 was opened to Victorville so off we went following the caravan south into the night. It was good going until we got near Victorville and everything came to a halt. What had happened was some trucks had got hopelessly stuck up ahead and it was going to take a tow truck to move them out of the way. After waiting for 3 hours we decided to put on the chains and to turn around and try to make our way back up the line of cars and trucks and try a different route. Once we worked our way back up the line we got onto a side road and made our way into Victorville and stopped at the first hotel we could find,  a LaQuinta. They didn't have any clean rooms, it was only 8 AM, but if we wanted to wait they would clean us a room. Highway 15 was closed going East to Las Vegas and West to LA so we waited, grateful to find any available warm room. We showered and then slept most of the day and then went out to get a pizza which we ate in the room before turning in early.

The next day highway 15 was opened so we stopped at Starbucks and headed home. Three hours later we were at the boat, glad to be home and out of the snow.

San Diego & Chula Vista

After 2 days in Chula Vista we decided to stay there for a couple of months and that we might just end our trip south here.  The marina in Chula Vista is in a beautiful park setting with a lovely waterfront and RV park as part of the complex. California does know how to build beautiful marinas and parks and they spare no money in doing so but their marina fees reflect that. The only problem with this marina is that there is no shopping within easy walking distance so if we were going to stay here for any length of time we were going to need a car. 

San Diego bay has to  be one of the most regulated and controlled boating areas we have been at. Within the bay all anchorages are controlled by the San Diego harbor patrol and you must get a permit to do any anchoring. Much of the bay is developed with high rise resort hotels and marinas and while impressive it's kind of sterile and artificial, somewhat like a shopping mall where everything is designed and well organized.  The areas within the bay that are not marinas or tourist attractions are Navy facilities, lots and lots of Navy facilities. 

From our location at the south end of the bay you can see the hills of Tijuana Mexico about 5 miles south and because of the nearness of the boarder there are government helicopters in the air around the clock patrolling the boarder and the waters just off of the coast. It's hard to tell from a distance if the helicopters are Coast Guard, Border Patrol, DEA,  Navy, or a mix but they are in the air all the time. I know they need to keep a watch for illegals trying to get across the boarder but it's like the 'federales' are constantly watching over you, a little too Orwellian for me.