A Few Last Days in the USA
November 4 - 11, 2015
We had a boisterous sail leaving Oceanside, with winds and seas on the beam moving us quickly and making us just a little queasy. The Mission Bay harbour entrance was lumpy and spray-filled but the sloppy waves quickly settled down to small ripples a short distance into the channel. By mid-afternoon we were anchored in Bonita Cove, a very well-protected harbour, in essence a lagoon, just north of San Diego. It was calm, shallow and surrounded by sandy beach, palm trees, a line of attractive houses (many vacation rentals) and a park. A 10 minute walk across a strip of land, past a roller coaster and some tourist shops, got you to the open ocean. Bjarne was disappointed in the small size of the waves on our beach day but Barb thought it was an improvement from the previous day. A wander around the town revealed numerous shops catering to water interests and small restaurants, many with Mexican-themed food.
It seems Internet cafes are going by the wayside, at least in the States. We resorted to a Starbuck's across from the roller coaster for our email and web fix. Neither of us are coffee fans, limiting the drink options quite a bit. Bjarne did discover that their banana bread was good and Barb was pleased to get her travel mug topped up with ice on departure – woo hoo, a cold happy-hour drink coming up!
But for the three day anchoring limit, we would have happily stayed longer in Mission Bay. After numerous rolly, bouncy places, there is a profound relief and pleasure in being on a boat that is not moving. This peaceful anchorage was conducive to getting a few boat tasks done, working on the website, and enjoying some good reading.
San Diego Bay was just a short downwind hop in comfortable winds. It all went very smoothly, even the sail through a half-mile wide kelp bed, until we reached the entrance channel. As we headed up into the wind we were reducing sail, wanting to ease our way into this unfamiliar channel. In fact, we even turned the engine on. Suddenly we were inundated by numerous sailboats, all whipping by at great rates. They had full canvas out, gunnels to the water, and all crew sitting on the windward railings (lets them have more sail up). A look behind us revealed countless more bearing down on us. We had unwittingly inserted ourselves into the last leg of a regatta and these folks were seriously focussed on the finish line. It was a bit unnerving - kind of how you might feel if you took a wrong turn in your station wagon and ended up in the Indy 500.
Although San Diego has a huge protected harbour, anchoring spaces are very limited and regulated. Naval vessels, marinas, docks, and mooring fields occupy much of the Bay. One resident told us there were only two anchorages the locals are allowed to use, and one of those is only open on weekends. Transient cruisers have one more option, as long as you are willing to go through the inspection and paperwork to apply for a permit. The areas allotted for anchoring are quite small and we felt rather shoe-horned into the edge of Glorietta Anchorage A-5 (for which we had made a reservation). We used up two of our maximum three nights there, then tried the Cruisers' Anchorage (A-9), which had easier access to downtown San Diego, and was closer to the harbour entrance for a quicker getaway. One is allowed to stay in A-9 up to three months during a year, but it seemed like a lot of paperwork for the mere two nights we wanted. This anchorage is right beside the airport; in addition to noise and the smell of jet fuel, the boats get covered with soot. On the other hand, unlike the docks and mooring balls, it was free. The skyline at night was kind of pretty too - this picture doesn't really do it justice.
Although we have some guidebooks, other cruisers are a valuable source of information, especially when some of our guidebooks are about 15 years old. In addition to some pointers about San Diego, we learned that anchoring is no longer permitted in Ensenada harbour, and about the very significant differences in docking fees between marinas. We tromped around much of downtown SD, some of it just taking in the scenery. We chatted at length with a friendly volunteer at the Maritime Museum, who provided much information about the historical ships on the dock. When he started to divert into politics and pipelines we held our tongues and made our escape. It seems a part of our cruising life is to make the most of each trip ashore - a bit tiring but efficient. Thus on one trip we visited a food court, customs and immigration, the library, a copy centre, a grocery store and the Mexican fishing license office. We are not particularly active nor skilled fishers but if you have any fishing equipment on the boat in Mexico then each person on board must have a license. The 46 USD each may motivate us to become better fishers. Stay tuned (or tuna'd?).
At 02h07 on Remembrance Day we motored carefully along the shipping channel, picking out and deciphering the navigation lights buried amongst the city lights. Only a smattering of vessels were out and about - a welcome difference from our arrival. About an hour later. when mostly clear of the channel (yep, it really is a big harbour), we caught some nice wind that propelled us into Mexican waters at 05h00. Bienvenidos! The remainder of the trip to Ensenada had variable winds, giving us a mix of sweet sailing, drifting and cursing (just a little), and motoring. We were passed by numerous powerboats all headed to Ensenada. As you can see on the AIS (Automated Identification System) picture, we were surrounded. We wondered what we had stumbled into this time. Turns out the CUBAR rally was on the move. The rally is basically a group of powerboaters all travelling south together; sailors have one called the Baja Ha Ha. I believe one gets companionship, administrative support and lots of good parties. At 16h23, a little before sunset, we were docked at Baja Naval Marina, underneath a gigantic Mexican flag. This gave us just enough time to check in with the marina and get the shower keys, but late enough we could put off dealing with customs and immigration until the next day. The harbour has quite an industrial look in the daylight, but lights of the cruise ship made an attractive view in the evening.