Vamos a México

Jan 13, 2009| 0 Comment

Sunday, January 4th – The Captain arrives on Avante hitting the deck with both feet running.

Tuesday, January 6th – The First Mate arrives on Avante, and they go out to dinner.

Even though Avante was in the marina for 3 months, which would seem like a long enough time to get all the to-do items done on her, The Captain has found a back log of items not finished and is scrambling around getting people to complete their jobs before our departure at the end of the week. Every service person is good at getting his task 90% complete. A common excuse one hears is, “I just have to come back one more time with the item that I forgot the last time.” Another good excuse is, “but you’re not leaving for 2 days.” Thus, it is the last 10% that tries the patience of even the most saintly. As Sainthood has never been an honor this Captain has sought, the days leading up to any departure are tense.

The First Mate has learned to lay low, out of the way and quietly attend to her list of to-do items. This list includes her most important and looked forward to task of stowing securely the new set of pottery dishes she bought for Avante. Scratched, old plastic plates and bowls have now been consigned to passages only. When not on passages, we will be dining elegantly, and The First Mate is delighted. The Captain is still somewhat perplexed as to how it ever happened that he allowed this addition to occur. To his way of thinking, these dishes rank right up there with the Tommy Bahama blue, tan and white striped cushions The First Mate had commissioned for the cockpit. These, too, delight The First Mate no end, and, yes, she did find a place to stow everything ignoring The Captain’s protests that she would not.


Thursday, January 8th – First crew member, son David, arrives.


Friday, January 9th – Second crew member, Al Adams, arrives. Al was with us on the passage from Canada to San Francisco last fall.


Our crew has arrived, and 99.9% of the maintenance tasks are completed. We are almost set to go, but as often happens, we have one last minute issue that will delay our weekend departure. We need the original for the boat’s documentation, and we only have a copy. When The Captain realized this, he ordered a new original to be sent to us. It was supposed to arrive by Fed Ex today. Of course, it did not. So, we must wait until Monday, hoping that the government official really did do what he said he would do. This original document is required when traveling to Mexico, and there is no way around it.


Saturday, January 10th – We conduct a test sail to check that all systems are go. We cruise the harbor for a bit and then head out to raise sail. Everything works perfectly. We are relieved and delighted. It proves a great sail, and we give David a lot of time at the helm to familiarize himself with the feel of Avante after a 2-year hiatus.


We spot several whales heading south and consider that a good omen. Sailing back into the harbor in the early evening, we watch a gorgeous, huge full moon rise above the city. Beautiful it is, and it also means that we will have a full moon on passage – a sailor’s dream!


Preparing dinner on board tonight, The First Mate discovers that the main burner on the stove will not stay lit when the oven is on. This is a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs for the cook and must be attended to before departing.

Frankly, this delay waiting for the boat documentation is a blessing in disguise, for it offers us a breather (“us” really meaning The Captain). He has spent the last week running around getting everything completed, and now the only thing he can do is relax, enjoy being with family and friends, and wait until Monday. Mañana –– Not even in Mexico yet, we are beginning to learn the true meaning of the word.

Sunday, January 11th – We decide to do another sail today and raise the new spinnaker. That’s a wonderful exercise for the crew, and one in which The First Mate is and always will be unenthusiastic.

Our J/160 boat systems and maintenance expert, Eric, arrives in the morning to attend to a last few nitty little things. He has no idea what is wrong with the stove. David insists that it is just a cleaning issue and proceeds to take apart and clean the thing. By the time Eric is finished with his list and David successfully has the stove back together and running, it is 1400. Relaxed and totally ready for a departure tomorrow, it is decided that we will not sail today. There is no wind anyway, but we will head over to the fuel dock to fill both the tanks and the extra jugs we plan to carry heading south to Cabo San Lucas.

1430 – The engine is purring nicely. Lines are untied. The First Mate adds power. The engine revs up, but we don’t budge an inch. Something must be wrong with the propeller? Back to neutral. We’ll try this again. Engine revs up, prop is churning up water, but we go nowhere. The Captain had not bothered to turn on the instruments because we were just going around the corner to the fuel dock. We know this harbor as we have sailed up and down it many times. There are no obstacles out there so we can safely navigate the short distance to the fuel dock without the chart plotter and other instruments. Engine is running, prop is turning, whatever is the matter? Then, The Captain remembers that huge full moon last night. Big full moons often bring low, low tides. He turns on the instruments. Sure enough, our depth reads 8.4 feet which means that Avante’s 9-foot keel is securely in the mud. We are not going anywhere for a while. The phrase often quoted by sailing friend, Bob Trenary, “off like a herd of turtles” runs through The First Mate’s mind, but she decides now is not the time to utter it. Instead she says, “No problem. Mañana, on the way out, we will fuel!” The Captain agrees and puts crew to work polishing topside. The First Mate vanishes below, as polishing out in the hot sun is not one of her job descriptions.


Monday, January 12th – A new original copy of Avante‘s documentation arrives by 1000 in the morning. Fantastic! The First Mate is at the laundromat making sure we are all clean and sweet smelling for the trip. The Captain returns the rental car. Crew makes final calls to loved ones. We are ready.


At 1400, well ahead of low tide, lines are dropped and we motor to the fuel dock. We fuel, and as we are passing by our slip on the way out of the harbor, The First Mate notices the depth meter drop to 12 feet. Right in front of that one slip, there is a build-up of sludge, for the rest of the harbor is well into the teens and deeper.

It is 70nm to Ensenada where we will clear customs into Mexico. The paperwork requirements for sailing in Mexico are not trivial, and Coral Marina in Ensenada has a man who specializes in helping yachts to clear in. Our plans are to make an overnight passage so that we will arrive early in the morning giving us the full day to get all the paperwork done. Winds are light, though enough to put up the sails. With our newly acquired Mañana mentality, this is just fine. We have all the rest of the day and night to get there. Mañana will do. The full moon rises as we sit down to dinner on deck – plastic dishes, though. This is a passage!

The Captain sets up a 2-hour watch schedule which works great for all of us. We slowly sail on through the night, though we find that the autopilot is having to work so hard to keep up with the light, erratic winds that most watches are stood at the helm steering. On through the night, we ghost along quietly.


Tuesday, January 13th  – By 0900, we are outside the breakwater entrance to Marina Coral in Ensenada, and by 1000, we are tied up to our slip. It is sunny and warm. México, we are here! What will this country hold for us? What will the cruising be like? So much awaits us, and we are eager.

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