Monday, December 31, 2012

Six Years On the Boat and Still Afloat

The last six years on the boat have been great for us. In 2006 we sold our house and sold, gave away and then stored what remained of our stuff and moved onto our boat which at the time was a 44 Defever. In the Fall of that year we fell in love with and purchased a 46 Nordhavn then moved aboard and put the Defever up for sale. Six years later we're still living on our Nordhavn, Discovery, and have cruised twice to Alaska and down the coast to Mexico where we've been for 4 years. Life has been good to us for a lot of reason.

  • In Mexico everyday has a touch of adventure to it. Just going to the grocery store can be an adventure.
  • Life can be so unexpected. When we started this we had no idea we would end up here in six years and we have no idea where we will be 2, 4, or 6 years from now.
  • We survived the worst economy and market crash since the great depression and we still have enough money to keep going. Not sure exactly how we did that but we're glad we did.
  • We enjoy the warm weather of Mexico and there is nothing more fun than jumping off the back of the boat into warm water and swimming around a quiet anchorage. We have lived most of the last 4 years in t-shirt, shorts, and sandals.
  • Riding a bus around a Mexican city is the best entertainment available.
  • Our boat has become a very comfortable home. We have not wanted for bigger or newer. It fits us perfectly.
  • After spending 6 years together in a small boat in calm and rough seas we're still talking to each other and still very much in love.
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Stuck in Ensenada Waiting for Good Weather

Wave height predictions for the northern Baja coast for Christmas week from


We're still in Ensenada, waiting for a weather window so we can head south. Our original plan was to leave December 8th, then there was a family health scare that turned out to be just a scare that put our plans on hold for a few days and then our ATM card was eaten by a bank machine in San Diego and it took a week to get replacement cards and then the weather turned bad, really bad. The winter storm season began up north and with one front after another coming down the coast with high winds and seas (10+ ft) that made it impossible to leave. As we wait it is quickly getting too late to get down the Mexican coast and to Central America this season so we work on a plan B, what do we do if we can't get out of here until mid January? Our Plan B is to cruise down Baja and the Mexico mainland to PV and then return to La Paz for the summer and leave next November to head south. As we sit and watch the weather forecasts every day we’ve started to like plan B, it gives us a good cruising season in MX this year and then we can leave early next season and take our time getting south. Now, if we get a break in the weather in the next week or two we'll need to decide once we get down the Baja coast, do we quickly head south or bag it for this year and wait for next season?

So we sit waiting, without our car which we took to Tucson and turned over to Linda's son when we thought we would be leaving in early December. And the cold winter temperatures are upon us. The low last night was 45 and the daytime highs barely reach 60. It's damn cold here and we want to get south!

Waiting for weather is difficult. The urge to leave is strong. We start looking for a small window of opportunity, a brief let up in the wind, hoping that the forecast is over estimating the wind speed or wave heights even though we know that's not likely. We try to convince ourselves to go ahead and leave even when the forecast is not so good. We're just going down the coast, it won't be dangerous, not in a Nordhavn we tell ourselves. But when we're out there being thrown around in large seas we swear 'never again' and yet the next time we think the same way.

So what’s good weather? Our rule is that the sea height needs to be under 5 feet with wave periods (the time between the wave peaks) of 10 seconds or greater. That gives us a comfortable ride. We need 4 days to get from Ensenada to the next protected anchorage, Turtle Bay. From there it's 4 days to Mag Bay and then 4 days to round Cabo Falso to the anchorage at los Frailes. So we need at least 4 days to get out of here. We can wait in Turtle Bay and Mag Bay for good weather but we won't leave without a forecast of 4 good days. And we don't like to leave in front of heavy weather. Better to leave just as a front moves through and have improving conditions as you progress rather than have deteriorating conditions as the front moves in on you. And better to have a good forecast than a marginal one because forecasts are often wrong and when they are the conditions are more often than not worse than predicted, not better.

So we sit and wait doing small boat projects and using up all our supplies. Soon we’ll need to make a run to Costco to re-provision. And did I mention we don’t have our car? And it’s cold!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

San Diego Trip Rant

Last Saturday we had to go to our mail box in San Diego to pick up some new credit cards that we needed. We had already dropped off our car in Tucson so we had to get up and back by taxi, bus, foot, and trolley. This is our story.
  1. 7 AM. Taxi ride from the marina to the ABC bus terminal in Ensenada
  2. Bus ride from Ensenada to the terminal in Tijuana near the border crossing
  3. Walk over the bridge spanning the traffic lanes at the border
  4. The line of people to cross the border on foot was daunting. Someone said there were 3000 people waiting in line and it would take over 4 hours.
  5. A taxi driver approached us and offered to take us to Otay Mesa where the line was shorter and we could get across in 20 minutes, or so he said. We took the taxi.
  6. At Otay Mesa there was a mere few hundred people in line so we stood in line for 2 hours before getting across. The reason it took so long is that there was only 2 and sometimes just one US border agent clearing people.
  7. Had a quick lunch at the Bambino coffee shop just across the border (good bagel, cheese, & sausage sandwich).
  8. Took a bus to the Iris trolley station in Chula Vista. We didn't have the required exact change for the bus fare so the driver let us ride for free. (thank you, thank you..)
  9. Bought an all day transit pass and got on the Blue line heading to downtown San Diego.
  10. Due to trolley maintenance the line was closed for a three mile section in National City so we had to get off of the trolley and take a bus across the closed area.
  11. Got back on the trolley at the 8th Ave station heading north to the 12th Ave station.
  12. Got off the Blue line trolley and bordered the Orange line to the Old Town station.
  13. Got off at Old Town, waited 20 min and got on the number 28 bus heading to Shelter Island.
  14. Got off the bus and walked half a block to the Postal Annex store.
The trip north took 7 1/2 hours from the marina in Ensenada to arriving at the Postal Annex store in Shelter Island. After picking up the one envelope with our two new credit cards we walked three blocks to Downwind Marine to buy a quart of varnish and then reversed our route to the border, walked across the border to the bus station in TJ, picked up a quick meal at McDonald's and rode the bus back to Ensenada arriving at the boat a little after 7 PM.

A few observations -

It seems that US Customs is trying to make crossing the border into the US as difficult and unpleasant as possible. They have few border agents and the lines are too frikin' long. Driving south we have seen times when US agents will close 3 lanes of traffic with cones for no other reason than to cause a traffic backup just before the border. It seems that they are making life as difficult as possible for people crossing the border just because they can. Welcome to the US.

There are thousands of people who cross the Mexican-US border everyday to work in the US. The trolleys and buses are packed with Mexicans commuting from MX to jobs in the US. The women are frequently dressed in uniforms from the hospitality industry while the men are wearing work clothes dirty from manual labor.

Although the buses and trolleys are packed full of people and the border crossing lines are long the people are well mannered and courteous. The people look tired and burdened, these are hard working people who get paid near minimum wage for their labor. They should be treated better at the border.

The mass transit system in San Diego is great. It moves thousands of people a day in clean and efficient trolleys and buses. Thank you SD for building such a system.

Never walk across the border north bound in TJ on a Saturday or any other day if possible.

This was an exhausting trip that we will not do again unless a life depends on it.