Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanksgiving in Ensenada

My children, Mark & Carrie, joined us in Ensenada for Thanksgiving.  When we arrived in Ensenada it was sunny with a nice breeze, so we dumped the bags below and took off for a sail to Islas Todos Santos.  

Leaving Marina Coral



As we got closer to the islands the wind got lighter so we headed southeast and put up the chute.  We'd never been to the main Ensenada port, just 2 miles south of Marina Coral, so we motored in to tour the harbor.

The port is busy with container ships, dry dock, a large fishing fleet and yacht harbor.  Ensenada is also a stop on the cruise ship circuit.

We motored back in to Marina Coral just as the sun was setting & BBQ'd steaks for dinner.  A perfect end to the day.

Thanksgiving Day

Instead of a traditional Pilgrim dinner, we decided to explore in town to find the best of Ensenada's renowned Fish Taco's!  Our first stop was Tacos Don Zefe, and we were just in time for their lunch special - 2 tacos for 7 pesos.  That's right, we had 8 tacos for $2.00 US total!  They also have Shrimp, Squid and "Gobernador" tacos .  Also on the menu was a Mantaraya Quesadilla - shredded manta ray.  I tried Mantaraya on a later visit and it was delicious.

The Pescado is fried in a tempura batter and the diner selects from tomato salsa, pickled onions, shredded cabbage, radish, fresh limes and a variety of sauces add spice and flavor.  Kathryn has been trying to get me try more spicy foods, so I thought this would be a good place to try.  One of the sauces was in a small bowl and lighter in color, so I thought why not, it must be lighter in heat, too.

This is a photo of Kathryn before she swallowed a bite of the taco with the "lighter" sauce.

This is the photo showing her squeezing the tears out of her eyes after a bite with the "lighter sauce".  I drank half the can of Coke after my bite!

Rancho El Fenix was another favorite stop on our quest.

One of the local tourist attractions is "La Bufadora", a blow-hole on the Punta Banda peninsula about 35 kilometers south of Ensenada.  

To get to the blow-hole, you had to run the gauntlet of tourist stands, but despite a low tide, the blow-hole itself was pretty spectacular.

La Bufadora

We made one more stop before heading back to the boat.  Just north of Marina Coral is the Punta Morro resort, which I was told had an excellent restaurant with a great view.  After our fish taco experience we wanted more local food, so we stopped at Punta Morro on the way home.  

The bar at Punta Morro

Ceviche and Lobster Quesadilla

 Islas Todos Santos from Punta Morro resort

Mark had to be back at work in San Diego on Friday by 3:00pm, so we got a very early start to drive Mark & Carrie back to San Diego.  


Kathryn and I arrived back to the boat early in the afternoon.  The wind was blowing 15 - 20 knots so we decided to head out for a quick sail.  As we neared Islas Todos Santos I noticed some spray near the island that I hadn't seen before.  As we got closer, I noticed that the spray was moving in our direction and we saw the spouting plumes and tail fins of two whales.  In the next 15 minutes we saw the pair breach completely out of the water half a dozen times.  It was amazing!  We didn't get closer than a few hundred meters, so even if I'd had my wits about me to grab the camera, I don't know how well the photos would have turned out.  Gray whales typically migrate down the Baja coast in late December to breed, so we'll have another chance to get some pics over the Christmas holiday!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

America's Cup World Series - San Diego

AC Fleet in San Diego / ORACLE Racing (Coutts)

On my way back from Ensenada, I stopped at the America’s Cup Village in San Diego.  There was no racing on Monday or Tuesday, but that allowed me to get a up close view of the AC45’s and to be a tourist in the village. 

Aleph - France

Emirates Team New Zealand

A fun tourist activity is a 5 minute video of what its like to sail on an AC45.  Viewers sit on catamaran trapeze seats and when the action starts high power fans and splashes of water add a bit of realism to the video.

AC45 tourist video ... it was wet!

AC World Series racing has been very competitive and the two previous days of warm up races saw 6 of the 9 teams winning races.

Day 1 Racing

Today was the first day of the World Series and with a new skipper, French team Energy won the top spot and along with Emirates Team New Zealand and ORACLE Racing Spithill, they are seeded in the match racing semi finals.

GreenComm Racing - Spain

ORACLE Racing (Spithill)

Kathryn and I have been following the America’s Cup races on TV.  Racing the AC45’s looks crazy difficult.  A boat can be well ahead of the fleet and lose their position pretty quickly as mistakes are made or conditions change.  It is a good thing they have two years to practice before the main event in September 2013.

Wine Tasting in Mexico?

Guadalupe Valley

Kathryn attended a meeting in Albuquerque last weekend so I headed down to Ensenada to spend some time on Agave Azul.  After completing boat chores on Sunday morning, our slip neighbor, Bill and his wife Sandy and I went off in search of wine tasting in the Guadalupe Valley.  Kathryn and I enjoyed an excellent bottle of local wine, Monte Xanic, at a restaurant on our last trip so I was excited to visit the wine region.  Guadalupe Valley is just a few miles up the road from Ensenada and a complete drive through the region takes just a few hours.  

Wine tasting in Mexico is a bit of an adventure.  Although there are signs to La Ruta Del Vino there were few signs to individual wineries.  So we started at the easiest to find & largest winery in the region, L.A. Cetto.  We tasted some good wines, bought a few bottles and we got a wine area map that helped us find other wineries.  

We drove down some flooded dirt roads (big storm on Saturday) in search of a recommended winery, but couldn’t find it.  Bill speaks Spanish so he stopped to ask a winery worker for directions.  The winery worker turned out to be a plastic surgeon who owns his own winery.  His winery tour appointment was a no-show so we stopped to taste his Vinedos Lafarga wines.  He told us about the history of wine growing in the valley and how his family got started in the winemaking business.  His passion for winemaking made it a great visit.

Dr. Lafarga 

Vinedos Lafarga Vineyard

The big find was Adobe Guadalupe, a winery recommended by a local sailor who raced in the San Diego to Ensenada race.  The region has conditions similar to those in southern France so Bordeaux blends and Rhone varietals are popular.  The Adobe Guadalupe wines were excellent.  Mexico is definitely on its way to becoming a top wine producer.  

Adobe Guadalupe Winery

It's a comfortable B&B, too

Tasting Room

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Islas de Todos Santos Race

We were anxious to get back sailing on Agave Azul.  We drove from San Francisco to Ensenada since we had a bunch of gear to put aboard and we wanted a convenient way to visit the local sites and stores around Ensenada.  It was a quick trip, including a side trip to pick up boat shoes for Kathryn at West Marine in San Diego.  The San Diego store is huge - it must be their flagship store.  I planned to come back for a longer window-shopping trip on the way home.

West Marine in San Diego

Sale today - boat shoes for $18.00!

On the drive to Ensenada

Islas de Todos Santos in the background

Welcome to Ensenada

Coral Marina

VI Regata Internacional Todos Santos
Our visit coincided with a local sailing race around Islas de Todos Santos, 8 miles off Ensenada.  We decided to enter to see how Agave Azul would do.  

23 boats entered the 6th annual race; half were from Ensenada and the other half were participants in the San Diego to Ensenada Race that ended the previous day.  The winds started light at 5 – 10 knots, but picked up and held steady at 15 – 20 knots.  It was the fastest Todos Santos race to date.  The course was a beat out, a short downwind leg passing the islands and a beam reach back.

Our start was OK, but our shakedown sail from San Francisco was all down wind, so it took a while to figure out how to make the boat go fast upwind.  When we got our trim sorted out we were able to point 10 degrees higher and started passing a few boats.  

Kathryn at the helm

Tango - 5th place

Sly McFly - 3rd place

Mad Hatter  - 4th place

North island light

Good crew work on Sly McFly ...
They broached a few times, but kept the chute up all the way to the finish

When we rounded the islands I went forward to put up the chute.  I tried something new setting the spinnaker, which didn’t work, and by the time we were ready to gybe back to Ensenada, it was time to douse the chute.  It was probably a good idea, since the final leg had the most wind.  Flying the chute doublehanded with 20 knots on the beam would have been a bit edgy.  Many of the boats that rounded the islands with their spinnakers soon took them down.  We’ll wait until we have more experience sailing Agave Azul.

We had a lot of fun out there and Agave Azul handled herself well.  When we saw the prize list at the awards dinner, we were really hoping for 5th place – dinner for 2 at Sanos, one of the top local restaurants.  We were 5th to cross the line, but we correct out to 7th place, 1 minute 24 seconds behind Tango.  Oh well, next time!

Single Side Band Radio Seminar
We drove back up to San Diego for a pair of seminars to learn more about our SSB radio and using SailMail email and weather download software.  We learned a lot, but still need more hands-on time to get the most out of our system.  Kathryn went back to San Francisco to work and I headed back down to Ensenada to do boat projects.

Driving in Tijuana!
On my return trip to San Diego I learned about the rumored shakedowns by the Tijuana police.  It was a quiet traffic morning and I was driving carefully to be sure I made all the correct turns on my way through Tijuana.  About a mile from the border I was pulled over by a motorcycle policeman.  He explained that I had been speeding and asked me 3 times if I had ever had a ticket in Mexico.  When I said no he explained that I would have to go to the police station in Tijuana to pay the fine.  I asked if I could pay with a check or credit card or by mail, but nope – cash only.  The fine was $140 US – I checked my wallet and only had $60 cash.  OK, can we stop at an ATM first?  The answer was no, I had to see a judge and complete a form to pay by mail … or … I could give the officer the $60 in my wallet right now to pay for the ticket - just fold the bills between your registration please and hand it to me!  Let’s see – I can miss my flight back to San Francisco or pay the half the fine in cash right now.  It seems there is only one thing to do.

Did I break the traffic laws in Ensenada?  Probably, but I’ll be sure to drive even more conservatively the next time!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marina Coral – Ensenada, Mexico

Our brief time at Marina Coral has been great ... the facilities are top notch, all the staff are very friendly and helpful and we have already met many of our neighbors.  Today we're taking a tour of Ensenada with a couple from Washington and one of the long term residents is giving us a ride to San Diego in a few days.  

Today is Mexico's Independence Day and the marina residents are celebrating with a BBQ this afternoon.  We're looking forward to meeting more of our neighbors.

Agave Azul in our new slip at Marina Coral

Rules are Rules ... 

We topped off our tanks and went for a daysail on Bahia de Todos Santos with neighbors from the marina, also from San Francisco ... Mike on the helm.

Mike & Lynda

We're excited to be in Mexico.