Monday, December 30, 2013

Arriving and Checking into Ensenada for First Timers

 Hello all! The following is as much information as I can give about our experience arriving in and checking into Ensenada. Might not be too thrilling for all of my land lubber readers this week, but for those of you out there that are thinking of cruising or might be heading into Mexico by boat for the first time I hope that this helps! If you find it helpful please share it with other boaters! Thanks!!


There are three marinas to choose from (no anchorages) here in Ensenada. Marina Coral is associated with a resort hotel and has the most amenities. It is located north of the actual Ensenada harbor and north of downtown. Our boat would have cost $70USD/night for berthing. MC offers assistance with the customs check in procedure. They will send an agent with you for not extra charge and will drive you to the centralized check-in office, which is good because it is NOT within walking distance of this marina.

The second option is in Ensenada Cruiseport Village. It will run you about $55.86 USD per night for a 36' boat. They also offer check-in assistance. This marina is located inside of the primary port of Ensenada and is within walking distance to downtown, the customs office and just about anything you need.

Final option is Baja Naval. We got a slip here for $30.88USD per night. It is also a boat yard and can help with just about anything from bottom cleaning to a haul out. Showers, wifi, good security, power at the docks. All good. The only negative about this marina is that there is quite a lot of wave action. It does not have a separate breakwater like the other marinas do, so your boat moves around quite a bit. Hasn't caused us to lose any sleep and otherwise we've been very pleased. GREAT staff and nice, hot showers! Plus, they have a phone to make free phone calls to the states. Rogelio is the dockmaster and he got us all of our copies and made us a packet to take to customs which is a service that he offers for free to anyone. We also really liked the location of this marina. It is on the main boulevard along the waterfront. We walked everywhere we needed to with no problem.

Getting into and out of Ensenada harbor is really a piece of cake. Well marked channel. Might have to dodge a few cruise ships, but visibility is good and we had no problem finding where we were going.

One last note on marinas! Although we're here in the winter and it is not too busy as the moment it is crucial to make a reservation before you come!! If you arrive on a race weekend or during the busy summer months it would be pretty terrible to not have a place to pull in as there is no anchorage and the nearest place to clear customs is another 600 miles down the coast.

BEFORE You Arrive

There are a couple of things you need to get BEFORE leaving the US.

1. Conapesca: Fishing Licenses. You CAN get these in Ensenada, but it is easy to get them in San Diego and I wouldn't want to be caught in Mexican waters without one. Everyone on your boat needs one and they are $46.40USD a piece. When you go to the Conapesca office all you'll need is your passport and some $$. They are CASH ONLY.

2. Mexico Boating Insurance: In order to import your boat once you arrive in Mexico (this will allow you to leave your boat in the country for up to 10 years) you must have insurance. It is a basic liability policy. Ours was less than $250.00USD for the whole year. We shop thru Twin Rivers Insurance in NorCal, but it should be pretty simple to find a place that will help you with this.

3. Copies: Before you head to the customs office in Ensenada you will need a few things. The marina office will help you with these, or you can gather them ahead of time.
     - Documentation of Vessel - 3 copies
     - Passports - 2 copies
     - Proof of insurance - 1 copy
     - Write down your engine's serial #

CIS and Checking In

The place to get your tourist visas, port clearance, customs and boat importation have all been consolidated into one building known as the CIS ( Centro Integral de Servicio). It looks like this.

The offices are open Monday thru Friday from 9am to 2:30pm. I've heard rumors that sometimes they are open until 4pm, but I wouldn't count on it. It took us almost 3 hours to get everything done, but a friend of ours went later in the day and was done in 15 minutes so I'd say plan 2 hours just to be safe. Communication is EASY. All but one person working here spoke perfect ENGLISH! This office is within walking distance of both Cruiseport Village Marina and Baja Naval Marina. Marina Coral will drive you here. 

When you arrive to Ensenada you have 48 hours to check in, so no worries if you arrive on a weekend or on a holiday. 

Before you head out to the CIS have the person at your marina check over your paperwork to make sure you have everything you need. This is a service that is free and very useful!

Okay, you are here! Let's get this done!

  When you first enter you want to go to the INM. This is where you will be issued your 6 month tourist visa. It looks like this.

You'll present your passports, crew list and vessel documentation. You will be given a tourist card to fill our with basic information. Once this piece of paper is filled out you take that paper, turn around and go to...

 STOP #2
...the bank (Banjercito). It looks like this!

Give the teller your tourist visa paperwork and then pay her for the visa. It is $295 pesos or around $24.00USD per visa. Cash or credit card is okay. Take the receipt that shows you've paid and turn back around to...

...the INM, again. Give the helpful gentleman behind the counter your receipt from the bank and your completed tourist visa paperwork. He will stamp your visas and your crew list and return these items to you. Okay, you are now legally allowed to stay in Mexico for 6 months! Woot!

On to the port captain! Capitania de Puerto! First, take a number!! 

When they call your number you will present your crew list (stamped at the INM), and your documentation. You have to check into and out of the port, but if you are here for only a few days they will actually do the check in and the check out all at the same time. Once they have these processed they will give you a piece of paper to take to...

...the bank! Show the teller that paper you just received and pay your port taxes. 

We had to pay cash here, but I'm pretty sure we were just in the wrong line as you are supposed to be able to pay with credit card too! It was $227 pesos or around $19 USD. Get your receipt and then back to...

....Capitania de Puerto!

No need to get a number this time, just slide your receipt in to someone and they will stamp your crew lists/check in/out papers and give them back to you.

At this point you need to step outside of the building (thru the front door) and look directly right. There is a window that says copies are offered. Get a copy of your stamped tourist card and your stamped arrival crew list. Go back inside to...

 STOP #8
...the bank! (You know what it looks like by now!!) This is where you are going to get an import license for your vessel. These are good for 10 years. It allows you to import parts for your boat duty free and it allows you to leave your vessel in the country even if you are not with it!

Let the teller know you need an import for your boat and give her the two copies you just made, a copy and the original of your boat's documentation, a copy of your passport and a copy of the boat insurance. Plus, provide the engine's serial number. You will be given a few papers to fill out asking what sort of things you have on the boat: air conditioners, televisions, dvd players, etc. When this is completed pay the import fee of $559.34 pesos or $45.00USD. 

You will be given a packet and then you go to your last window!

Aduana Mexico!

Present the packet you were just given at the bank. Fill out a customs form. At this point they will ask you to hit a button and when you do you will be given either a red light or a green light. If you get the green light then you are DONE! If you get the red light it means that customs is going to come and inspect your vessel. Lucky you! You have to wait for an agent to arrive, then they will go with you to the boat for the inspection. We did not experience this, but we were told that all they do is come down and make sure that the vessel's serial number and the engine's serial number match the paperwork that you provided. Might I recommend that you make sure it does BEFORE getting to this point!
This is the last step! After you clear customs they will stamp and return the packet of papers for your boat's import and you are all done. Ready to go onto...

STOP # 10
Tacos de pescados y cerveza!

Monday, December 23, 2013


I'll beg forgiveness straight away with this post as I am already half asleep, but wanted to let everyone know that we have arrived! In Mexico, that is!

After another week of changing the oil, maintaining the engine and then waiting for three days for weather to pass we finally left San Diego and had a great trip south to Ensenada.

The highlight of our last week in SD was definitely washing our hair. Yep, we are easy to entertain! Without access to showers we've been doing well keeping the rest of ourselves clean in the sink, but hair can be a challenge. We read about soaking your head in a baking soda and warm water solution then rinsing. Shockingly, I think it actually worked better than regular shampoo!

We had a pod of eight dolphins swim our bow for about 20 minutes this afternoon and that was really spectacular to see, but it was not the most memorable moment of today's trip. That award goes to our first attempt at fishing. Let's just say it's important to make sure the you know where the end of your line is because we dropped it and our brand new cedar lure and our heavy gage line all went straight into the deep blue. Oh well! Lesson learned.

Upon arriving to Ensenada we just decided to take a walk and grab some fish tacos prepared by someone else! A pretty tasty arrival to our Mexico experience!

Finally, Merry Christmas to everyone!! Thanks for following our adventures and for sending your comments. It really means a lot to both of us!
Love, Amanda and Keegan

Hair washing

Keep is classy San Diego

YAY! Mexico courtesy flag

Ensenada puppy parade!


Monday, December 16, 2013

Busy Week in San Diego

After a rainy, cold, unproductive week in San Diego last week we were pleased to see the sun return and the temperatures begin to rise this week! We have had a great week in SD doing some sight seeing, visiting with friends and getting all (almost) of the To Do list completed!

We spent a great day visiting the Maritime Museum! They have a replica of the HMS Surprise which some of you will know from the movie Master and Commander. 

They also had two submarines, one of which had a unique entrance to make sure that you wouldn't get stuck when you actually climbed into the sub. 

This museum is also where the replica of the s/v America lives. This was the first sail boat to participate in and win the America's Cup. Also, it's the boat that this sailing prize was named after. 

The Star of India is a sailing vessel celebrating its 150th birthday this year. This ship was impressive! And even more impressive that it can still sail after all of these years!

We generally geeked out at the museum and learned a lot from the very friendly docents. 

Keegan found the children's ship model and claimed it for himself. 

I decided the children's ship was small potatoes so I claimed the Star of India for our old sailing club back in San Francisco, Tradewinds Sailing School and Club. Sorry guys, no delivery so you'll have to come pick her up yourselves. :-)

We also had a special guest this week! Brenda Eells came down for an overnight and some hang out time. We had a wonderful visit and a great lunch in SD. They had blankets! 

We love having guests because it gives us an excuse to eat something other than oatmeal for breakfast! A little food art for breakfast on s/v Malabar.

We were most surprised this week when we returned from being on shore all day long to see the s/v Shakedown anchored right in front of us! Hal and Nancy, Shakedown's owners, left shortly after we did from Marina Bay in San Francisco. It was so exciting to see friends!

A lot of this week's productivity was thanks to our new friends Josh and Sachi (doggy) of s/v La Gitana. Josh had a car here in SD and drove us all over to re-provision and buy supplies. Luckily, he was also getting his boat ready for departure. It was an unbelievable blessing that he was so willing to let us tag along! Plus, Sachi is adorable, so that was pretty great too!

Happily, I was able to help Josh with a canvas project as well! My little Kenmore sewing machine performed admirably!

Some of this week's projects included making our dinghy and outboard less desirable to robbers and purchasing a better dinghy lock. Plus, we purchased wet suits and snorkel gear and fins so we are all ready for exploring underwater! Even better, we got all of these items used from out of the back of a guys truck. Bargains!

We only have a couple of 'crucial' items left to check off the list, like going to see The Hobbit while it's still available to us in English, and changing the oil. With any luck we'll be making our way to Ensenada before mid week! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

San Diego and a lot of sunrises

Upon departure from Catalina Harbor we made the 54 mile passage to Dana Point for the night. After a week of near seclusion from people it was a shock to the senses to see all of the people and boat traffic at Dana Point. We pumped out the head, filled up the diesel and water tanks and tucked into a very full anchorage for the night.

After anchoring another boat came in and anchored a little too close for comfort, but we managed to make it thru the night without hitting. Unfortunately, at 5am when we were trying to leave that boat was positing over our anchor, so we got our first chance of trying to maneuver around a power boat and pull up the anchor all without hitting. A little stressful, but ultimately successful.

The trip down to San Diego was beautiful and we made great time! Two hours less than we had anticipated. We pulled into the public guest dock for them night and were thrilled to see Josh of s/v La Gitana already at the docks. We met Josh all the way back in Ventura when we were docked with one of the yacht clubs. It is always  nice to see a smiling face when you land in a new place.

We are now anchored at the cruisers anchorage next to the Coast Guard Station. So far it is a pretty decent anchorage and if nothing else you just can't beat the unobstructed view of downtown. Feels almost too good to be true. Lots more to come on San Diego as we will be here for a bit doing repairs and re-provisioning, but for now enjoy some pictures of awesome things we've seen already!

Pretty Sunrise leaving Catalina

Keegan not really taking his job seriously

Beautiful sunrise leaving Dana Point

Canadian ship in SD harbor

View from my back porch

Sunset in SD anchorage

How 'bout that view?

Hey, that's the USS Carl Vincent!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Catalina Harbor and Thanksgiving!

Aftern a great week at Avalon Harbor we sailed around to the other side of the island to the secluded, protected Catalina Harbor. We arrived on Saturday and anxiously anticipated the arrival of our friends the Eells Family on s/v Valhalla Sunday afternoon!

They arrived on time and in high spirits after their journey from Ventura, CA. We had a great time over the next few days exploring this end of the island and the tiny town of Two Harbors. We found some great tree swings, went on hikes and played on the beach. We are all now expert beachcombers!

Unfortunately, some technical difficulties caused the s/v Valhalla and it's crew to have to depart for home earlier than anticipated. We got a knock on the boat at 4:40am on Wed morning and found Jonathan, the dad, outside our boat with this sad news and a bag filled with Thanksgiving fixings. We were so sad to see them go!!

I funneled my sadness into baking, lucky Keegan, and declared that we would be celebrating Thanksgiving a day early. As luck would have it, Mark and Andrea, the couple we met while in Avalon Harbor had also made their way to Catalina Harbor and were able to come over and join in our feast. It made the holiday a little cheerier, even though it was not exactly the way we had expected the holiday to go.

All in all, we highly recommend this harbor and had a wonderful time! Next, San Diego here we come!!
Beautiful rock coloration

This is Keegan's new invention. Spam Hash...totally good!

Mmmm...Cranberry Bread!

Thanksgiving! Yes, that is whipped cream...don't judge.

Keegan carrying the laundry to town.

The road home.

Silliness on the beach.

Eells children being crazy!

Marshmallow roasting!