Sunday, November 28, 2010

What We Did Last Summer

We've been in Ensenada for nearly 6 months without posting any blog updates so it's time for a quick overview of what we've been up to before we leave and head south.

To start with, it was nice to be in one place for longer than a week. We got our car out of storage in Tucson and started living somewhat like 'regular people'. Going to the grocery store, renting movies, going out to dinner, etc....

We did many trips to San Diego to buy stuff and to just get back to the US. It takes about 3 hours to get to SD going through Tecate, where the boarder wait time is always under 30 min., while going north through TJ can take hours in line. No thanks. We went north via Tecate and south via TJ. Most of our trips were one day, up and back by dinner time. We spent a lot of $ but had fun doing it. If you're in SD and need a clean, inexpensive room for the night look up the Dolphin Inn in Point Loma. Nice place in a great area for $55. Every time we came back south across the boarder we were glad to be back home. Once you've been out of the States for awhile it's strange to return and it seems to be getting stranger all the time.

Boat Projects. 2 new heads (Tecma), new paravane rigging, boom winch cables, SSB radio upgrades (more later), haul out for bottom paint and cosmetic touch ups, having the rugs cleaned, cleaned and reversed the anchor chain, and many more too numerous to mention.

Discovery drawing a crowd during her haul out.

We both got our Mexican Residence Visas known as a FM-3. This is a long term Visa that gives you some additional rights in Mexico, but it's main advantage over the Tourist visa is that you don't have to leave the country every 6 months to renew it. You can hire an agent to do all the paperwork and standing in line for you but we did it ourselves. It's not that difficult and it gave us some first hand knowledge on how the Mexican government works. Linda compiled a list of all the steps, forms, and documents (including the number of copies of each) required to get the visa and passed it on to the local cruiser community. It's not difficult and certainly something that a gringo can do on their own without using an agent.

We traveled a lot around Ensenada and northern Baja. Having a car, we drove all over town. Sometimes looking for some parts for the boat, sometimes just for fun. Linda wanted to check out every large grocery store in town looking for those elusive items you can't normally find in Mexico. We also took day trips to the north, east, and south. It's amazing how much construction is underway on the highways trying to keep things in shape. Northern Baja is very hilly with a cool marine environment so there's a lot of wine and olive groves in the area to visit.

Ensenada is a working class town trying to become a tourist center but still rooted in it's working class base. It's not the prettiest town in Mexico but like all of the places we've been in Mexico the people are very friendly and helpful and we always felt safe wherever we went. Ensenada has all the shopping you could ask for; Costco, Home Depot, Walmart, Starbucks, and all the major Mexican grocery chains so you don't want for anything and there is the best fish taco stand in all of Mexico at the corner of Floresta & Juarez.

We stayed at Cruise Port Marina while in Ensenada. We liked the proximity to down town and it was cheaper than the other marinas. The staff at Cruise Port could not be more helpful. Jonathan and Vanessa will do anything to insure you have a great stay here. The marina is extremely well maintained by a full time crew and we never had problems with the infrastructure here and the bathrooms were always very clean.

The downside of staying in Cruise Port is it is in a very dirty area, the dock water is almost salt water, and there is no WiFi. The cruise ships tie up right next to the marina and run their engines and generators continually covering the boats in the marina with a fine coating of gray dust. The commercial port is also upwind and adds to the dust and dirt cloud. You need to wash your boat weekly or it will start to stain the gel coat. The interior of the boat also gets coated with dust and needs constant cleaning. Which brings us to the dock water. Cruise Port has it's own well and it seems they didn't dig it deep enough to get to a clean water table. The water has a ppm (parts per million of solids) of over 700, anything over 500 ppm is not potable according to the World Health Organization. We tried running the water through multiple filters but could not get the ppm below 600. For drinking water we started running the dock water through our water maker at 200 psi and that produced clear water with a 50 ppm. Washing the boat with dock water is like using sea water. All the stainless fittings start to rust and everything is streaked unless you immediately wipe it down. The boat never seemed very clean after it was washed and within a few days you could start to see the dirt build up from the dust cloud surrounding the marina.

When we first arrived at Cruise Port in June they had a commercial WiFi service that cost $35 a month. The marina then went to a new "free" service that never did work right. The service seemed to only support 2 or 3 connections at a time and even those were painfully slow. Complaints didn't help, it seems the new service was ordered by higher ups and the local management didn't have any control over it. We ended up getting a Telcel Banda Ancha WiFi USB card.

That about covers how we spent our summer. We had a good time in Ensenada but will we come back next summer? No. It's a long distance from the Sea and it's cold up here, even in the summer. By Thanksgiving we were running our diesel furnace every night. This was the first time we ran the furnace while in Mexico. I guess we've grown use to the heat and we're eager to get back south.