Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boat work and tacos

By Nicole

The paved lot of the Baja Naval boatyard has been home now for more than a week, and while we’re happy to be giving Bella Star a smooth new bottom, we’re more than ready to get back in the water.  Living on the hard is quite a challenge, considering we can’t let any water go down the drain, but we have it on good authority that we’ll be floating again by dinnertime tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!

We knew from the get-go that we needed to repaint the bottom with another coat or two of antifouling paint (this keeps the barnacles and other sea creatures from growing on the hull), but Bella Star’s bottom looked something like a topographical map of the Andes before we started.  Hunks of paint 6+ layers thick was cracking and falling off.  It really was quite unseemly. We got a great quote from the yard to sand off all the old paint and essentially start over, so that’s what we decided to do. 


Sanded down to the gelcoat (a huge, messy job):IMG_2633

Three coats of epoxy primer:IMG_2656

Almost done:IMG_2658

Pablo (on the right) did an awesome job of sanding, fairing and painting the bottom.

The crew of Estrellita kept us company for the first day or two.  We went out for 2-for-1 beers at a local bar (12 beers for $13.50!), got serenaded tableside with a rousing rendition of “La Bamba” (just say, “no, gracias”), had some tasty tacos at a tiny restaurant and played a cut-throat game of ping pong back on their boat.  Yes, ping pong. 

Oh, and for the record, if you’re ever dining in a small restaurant in Mexico and you ask for something they don’t have (beer, for instance), never fear.  They are happy to run across the street to the supermercado and get you some!  How’s that for service?

We say “cheese,” Aaron says “mmmm”

What happens to a simple game of ping pong after a few rum & Cokes… the eye patches come out!  Good times.

After Estrellita took off, we were forced to entertain ourselves.  We toured the old Playa Ensenada Hotel and Casino, which was built in 1929 by some of Hollywood’s elite and served to quench the thirst of people like Bing Crosby, Jack Dempsey and Rita Hayworth during the prohibition.  But the repeal of prohibition and the onset of the Depression led to a decline in patrons, and the glamorous hotel was forced to close.  The city refurbished the grounds in the late 1970s, and they’re now home to a community center and a couple small museums and galleries.

Curtseying around the dance floor

The Playa Ensenada Hotel and Casino (now known as the Riviera de Ensenada Cultural Center)

A trek to the Santo Tomas winery and tasting room ended in disappointment when we learned it was $13 each to taste 5 wines (that’s 13 dollars, not 13 pesos).  Um, no gracias.

But we’ve been eating and drinking well here – lots of fabulous fish tacos and Mexican beers.  I was expecting the fish to be grilled, but it’s deep fried.  Oh my, are those tacos ever good topped with cabbage, crema and an assortment of salsas (the place we like has a delicious cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro salsa that is fantastic).  And they’re only 10 pesos each -- that’s 77 cents!

I think we’ll do one more fish taco lunch tomorrow as we get ready to say goodbye to Ensenada.  Hopefully we’ll be on to our next stop soon!  And with that smooth new bottom providing less resistance, we just might get there a little bit faster. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Estamos en Ensenada, Mexico!

By Nicole

Lowering the yellow quarantine flag today and raising the Mexican flag in its place made it official – we’re in Mexico!  Well, the stamped paperwork from customs, immigration and the port captain is what probably made it official, but still…

Down comes the quarantine flag (the flag you must fly before you’re officially cleared into a foreign country)…

And up goes the green, white and red Mexican courtesy flag (with a colossal Mexican flag in the background).

The clearing in process was relatively painless, especially since all the offices we needed to visit – immigration, customs, the port captain and the bank – were under one roof.  This saved us from running from office to office (and back) all over town.  This was the basic flow, with stacks of papers being vigorously stamped all along the way:

  1. Immigration
  2. Bank
  3. Port Captain (es una capitana!)
  4. Back to immigration
  5. Copy center
  6. Back to the bank
  7. Customs

My limited Spanish came in quite helpful with the officials, and I even got a few chuckles (not at me, with me!), which is a little like getting a DMV employee to smile.  Overall, the whole process went better than I expected (taking an hour or so instead of all day).  Esta bien.

We celebrated with a lunch of homemade quesadillas, a few cervezas and a nice, long nap. 

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the largest flags in the world. It’s gigantic! Note the size of the palm trees.  Viva Mexico!

To cruisers coming to Ensenada: anchoring* is no longer allowed in the bay (as our friends on Estrellita found out today).  We’d highly recommend Baja Naval Marina (that’s nah-VAHL, not NAY-vul).  The staff here is extremely helpful and friendly – ask for Roger.

*Overnight anchoring is not allowed.  There is a two-hour limit. (Thanks for the clarification, Livia!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

San Diego

By Aaron

We made a 24-hour passage from Oxnard to San Diego and it was a beautiful day and night.

IMG_2560Seems amazing to me to be down to a single fleece layer offshore.

We’ve had dolphins visit us pretty much every time we’re offshore in the last few legs.  But last time was amazing; there must have been hundreds of them!  They were jumping in the air all around the boat as far as we could see.  Hearing them talking to each other was awesome, and if you listen carefully on the video the camera was able to pick up their squeaking just barely.

Bow wake freeloaders

I tried to be productive during the passage down by polishing some stainless. 

IMG_2511Both the winch drums needed some work. But it’s hard and I got bored of it, so only did the port side.

DSC_0829We had a nice sunset over Santa Catalina as we passed it to starboard

IMG_2512We got hailed underway by SV Estrellita who happened to be on their way to San Diego as well.

DSC_0833We arrived in Mariners Basin and dropped the hook.  Then we took  a nap.

The last time we saw Estrellita was in Tofino, and I stated then that the next time we’d see them it’d be about 35 degrees warmer.  Turns out we were right!

DSC_0835These yahoos are enjoying the warmer weather as much as we are!

We split a cab ride and went to Costco for provisions.  Also Nicole had an appointment there to get a typhoid vaccination. 

IMG_2578If you’re in the South Pacific and need some canned chicken these are the people to talk to

We had a fun evening and polished off a ginormous Costco bottle of sake. 

Today we walked around Mission Beach and got a couple 3mm wetsuits for swimming in the Sea of Cortez.  Not sure what we’ll be doing tomorrow, but it’s looking pretty nice.


DSC_0834There’s probably going to be a little more of this action going on!

On Friday we’ll head over to San Diego Harbor and do some socializing.  We’ll probably head down to Ensenada on Monday. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Next stop, San Diego

As the saying goes, a rolling stone collects no moss.  And judging by the fringe of green seaweed growing on Bella Star’s belly, it’s time to get rolling!

If all goes as planned, we’ll be in San Diego tomorrow morning.  The city’s harbors and marinas will be filling up with boats for the Baja Ha-Ha cruisers rally, and although we aren’t participating, it’ll still be exciting to see so many cruising boats in one place and feel the buzz as people gear up to head to the land of cervezas y sol.  Viva Mexico!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pit Stop in Oxnard

By Aaron

We’ve been in Oxnard at Channel Islands Harbor Marina for about a week now.  Kind of a long stop for us but the weather has been fantastic and it’s a good location to work on boat projects. 

IMG_2475 (Large)There’s been a definite change in the flora compared to only a few months ago

The project list and status looks something like this:

Oil change – done (At our old marina in Seattle you just take your old oil and dump it in the recycling tank.  Similar here, except that it’s witnessed by a harbor patrol officer who also logs the amount of oil, boat name, hailing port, etc.)

Fuel filters change – done (the inept mechanic that changed them last time actually put the Racor housing back together without putting a new filter in!  Fortunately the secondary filter was in and still relatively clean, but I changed them both.  Oh, and the inept mechanic was me.)

Fix wiring problem with %#!$&*# starter (Again.  I’m going to have to run a new, heavier gauge wire and it will be a pain)

Install fresh water foot pump (This, like many boat projects, involves making a big hole in a perfectly good piece of teak so I’m procrastinating)

Fix problem with autopilot hydraulic arm connection to rudder post radial  - done (Third time’s the charm I hope)

Wire up NEMA 0183 connection from plotter to autopilot (Currently only steers a compass course and we’d like it to steer through a series of waypoints – so we can just go to bed on our next overnight passage.  The GPS is so accurate we’ll just wake up in a new slip the next day.)

Connect this:

IMG_2497Itty bitty screws to hold down two little wires, so far so good.

To this:

IMG_2491This is the NMEA 0183 wiring bundle coming from the chartplotter.  You can see part of our NMEA 2000 network in the background where you just connect the T pieces together.  I much prefer  the Tinker Toy like NMEA 2k installation. 

It was my first time doing any NMEA 0183 wiring and In the end connecting up the plotter to our old autopilot turned out to be simple to do.  I wish we had done this a long time ago!

Replace masthead anemometer – done (Warranty exchange with Garmin – the old one was giving temperature readings high enough to put it squarely in Hell and could not be corrected with an offset)

Replace SPOT messenger – done (Warranty exchange with SPOT – old one starting randomly sending HELP messages all by itself)

Get our mail forwarded – done

Varnish – done (We didn’t get as many coats on as we would have liked, but with rain in the forecast we’ll have to take what we can get)

Replace jib halyard shackle – done (had a snap shackle on there before and we weren’t quite getting a full hoist on the sail)

The projects are going well and we should be getting out of here in a few days.  One thing I like about Oxnard is there’s a donut shop on practically every block.  And I’ve got a thing for donuts.

IMG_2474Boat projects are hard work.  Cruiser TIp: To burn calories you gotta eat ‘em first!

Nicole pretty much does all the varnishing on the boat, and she does a really nice job.  Last year we removed the Cetol and took it down to bare wood.  We built it back up with Epifanes Wood Finish Gloss.  We’ve been very happy with that and used it again for our maintenance coats.

DSC_0779Putting on Bella Star’s makeup

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An anniversary in Santa Barbara

By Nicole

IMG_2421The sunny coastal town of Santa Barbara, with its gorgeous Spanish architecture and palm tree-lined streets, was one of our favorite stops.  Maybe the sun had something to do with it, or maybe we were just giddy to be celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary (wow, 7 amazing years already!).

We found the city to be enchanting, not only for the beautiful buildings (the Santa Barbara courthouse is lovely), but also for the sandy beaches, the brightly colored bougainvillea vines that seemed to drape over every surface and the lively downtown area that was full of great shopping, interesting restaurants, noisy sidewalk bars and at least three theaters. My only disappointment was our cruiser’s budget! 

Since it was our anniversary and all, we treated ourselves to beers at the local brewery (of course we did), took in a movie at one of the theaters and enjoyed a delicious dinner at an Italian place just off the main strip. 

We also toured the lovely Spanish-style Santa Barbara courthouse:
The Santa Barbara courthouse

A view from the beautifully landscaped garden

An intricate spiral staircase

Apparently the grounds of the courthouse are used for community events.  When we were there, there was a bunny and guinea pig convention going on.  Yes, bunnies and guinea pigs.  They had booths set up for adoption, booths selling outfits and other accessories and booths for bunny salon treatments and acupuncture.  Aaron had a couple guinea pigs (named Red Stripe and Scratchafratchet) before I knew him, so needless to say, he was pretty enthralled with the whole event.

IMG_2429  We stumbled into a bunny and guinea pig fair… yep, that’s a bunny on a leash (one of MANY).

Although we had a great time in Santa Barbara, we could’ve been anywhere celebrating our anniversary and had fun. I feel so very fortunate to have such an amazing husband – and to be on this journey with him.  Each day we’re out here together is a gift, and there is absolutely nowhere else I’d rather be than right by his side. The port to his starboard, always.