We arrived in Ensenada yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon; we have officially sailed to Mexico! It took us two tries to leave the San Diego Police Dock however. The first time we departed was at 0200, which would give us plenty of time to make the 65 miles to Ensenada, our first port in Mexico by afternoon. We had motored out the channel past Point Loma in the dark and about two miles out I noticed the cat was not in her, I mean Holly’s carseat where she usually rides when the engine is on. We searched all over the boat but quickly knew it was fruitless: she was not on the boat.
We did consider not turning around, but for want of a suitable explanation to the girls as to where their cat had gone we turned Wondertime around and motored back to the Police Dock, cursing once more at our difficult feline crew. We were still a hundred feet away from the dock when we heard the MREOWWWW! of our panicked cat and spotted her standing on the end of the last finger pier waiting for us. We nudged the bow toward the dock, Xena jumped aboard and we were finally off to Mexico.
The next 65 miles held a little of everything for us. Motoring in a glassy sea under a starry sky. Then as the sun rose a startling hot wind began to blow from shore and we had a romping sail for an hour or so in about 20 knots. Dust was blown out to sea, little bits from Mexico and it gave the morning sky a caramel hue like in a Coen Brothers movie. We could feel the grit in our eyes and in our teeth and it stuck to the salt spray on deck. It even brought with it the smell of Mexico: earthy, smoky and human.
Our fun was soon over though and we found ourselves motoring in calm seas once again. Then the southerlies started. Being no purists, or rather not wanting to arrive in Ensenada in the dark (a good thing since the Mexican charts are horrific; our path on our electronic chart travels right over the charted breakwater…) we motored on through light winds on our nose the rest of the day.
We arrived in Ensenada at 1530 and docked at Baja Naval, with employees catching two of our lines and a fellow cruiser catching the third. A lovely warm welcome! After securing the boat the four of us meandered up to the marina office through the spotless Baja Naval boatyard to check in. The super friendly manager completed our paperwork quickly. He mentioned that the CIS offices were closed early that day due to it being Dia de los Muertos so we wouldn’t be able to check-in with immigration, customs and the port captain until the next day. “Go have fun in town!” he said with a grin. “No one is going to come chasing you down!”
So we did. We wandered around until we found a restaurant that was a few blocks out of the tourist areas. Oh, how delightful it is to be back in Mexico! It’s such a messy, comfortable place, like going to someone’s home with toys and books everywhere and a fluffy couch with holes and a few stains and you are encouraged to put your feet up. You have to watch your step everywhere you walk because pieces of the sidewalk are bound to be missing. There are unfinished – or under demolition? – buildings scattered amongst hopping, thriving small businesses. Everything is painted in bright colors with bars on the windows. Chickens and dogs dart down alleyways. My favorite part is the people. Friends, couples, families: groups of people everywhere just walking around, sitting, talking, eating standing up around a crowded taco stand. Kissing. Loitering is expected here.
Back to our restaurant. We found a place with the menu in pesos, wooden tables, Mexican music blaring from overhead speakers and señoras busy making fresh tortillas in the open kitchen in the back. We sat down, ordered, and minutes later our waiter returns with delicious carne asada and piping hot corn tortillas. Paired with 27 peso (that’s less than $2USD!) bottles of Negra Modelo it was a celebratory feast we’d come a long way for. And for only $22USD for a family of four, a bargain.
Today we walked over to the Centro Integral de Servicios to check in with Migración, Capitánia de Puerto, and Aduana (customs). While all these offices, including the bank and copy centers, are all located in one building now (hurrah!) the process wasn’t exactly as smooth as promised. Maybe it was because the office was closed early the day before or the workers were a tad hung over from Dia de los Muertos but the lines were long and things got a little confusing at times as we shuffled back and forth from the immigration counter to the bank, back to immigration, to the port captain, etc. The woman helping us with our port captain papers up and went to lunch right in the middle of our turn at the counter. But the customs fellow loved the girls and let them each push the button for the red/green streetlight that indicates if your boat is going to be visited (red) or not (green). It was green both times. After nearly three hours of ping-ponging around the building, he took the customs forms from Michael, and not even looking at them, smiled with a hint of a wink and said “Muy bien!” We were done, officially checked into Mexico.
We gathered up all of our stamped papers and went back outside, blinking in the bright Mexico sun. Smiling, we walked back down the malecon, towards the waterfront playground to let the girls play after being cooped up all morning waiting patiently for all our paperwork to be completed. Some things stay the same.