Ensenada check-in completed

It’s Thursday morning here in Ensenada, a slightly chilly light air is coming in the from Pacific, the sun is up and it’s going to be a good day in this mid-size Baja Mexico city. Beetle arrived Monday just before dark outside the very tall breakwater, made the left turn around and into the large Port of Ensenada. I have a slip reserved at Marina Cruiseport, Octavio is up at the Harbor Master’s office and he has excellent English language skills (he also has family in Phoenix, Arizona and in Menlo Park, California – so he travels there a lot) and he’s set up Beetle for the slip and the marina staff will help with checking into the country.

Some of Ensenada on the way in to the bay. The port area is off to the right in the image, the place has been built-out more since I was here in 2016.

So made it in around the huge outside breakwater, found the marina (avoid the yellow buoys, they seem to mark underwater obstacles), run down the marina’s inner breakwater and there is a well maintained large marina with lots of different boats – some are here for the long term, many are short-term transients such as myself. And the slip even has sufficient depth to keep Beetle’s keel out of the mud.

I tied up, visited Octavio, then went to sleep. Plan is to meet back at the Harbor Master’rs office at 9:15 Tuesday morning to set up the paperwork and take the Marina’s shuttle over to the check-in building. The nice thing about entering Mexico is Ensenada is all the functions need to import a boat (Aduana Customs), go through Immigration, and formally arrive (Ensenada Port Captain) are all co-located in a single room. As you need to pay for the services, there’s also a (tiny) branch of the Mexican Military bank (Banjercito) also in the room. In most places these offices are scattered across town – which can turn gaining entry clearance into a day of walking back and forth the miles between functions; here, they are all together.

In the slip at Marina Cruiseport. The surge seems not be here now, perhaps due to the large breakwater extension that was constructed some years back.

Mexico loves their paperwork. The start is to make six (I believe, Octavio did this for me) copies of the crew list (just me), a medical declaration that I don’t have Covid, and a formal request for entry into Ensenada for Beetle. Off we go to the building, along with a couple from their power boat Off.Line that has also arrived at Marina Cruiseport. Our “guide” manages to park the large shuttle van in the tiny Port Captain parking lot, we walk in and he heads for Immigration so we follow along like ducks to stand in front of the glass window behind which the Immigration lady operates. Our guide extracts paperwork from his manila envelopes (one for each boat) and hands it through, time goes by, then suddenly you hear a whole series of loud THUMPS as the she stamps copies of the paperwork with the same stamp, she initials them, I initial them, then hand over my passport and she finds a blank page and stamps the VISA into it, and initials it, and writes in how long it is good for. Seems we’re no longer using FMM tourist cards and now just use the passport. What anyone does with all the copies of the same information is beyond me – would be simpler to host one paper on a database and then everyone could reference the same virtual piece of paper.

There are receipts for everything, one is printed as two side-by-side vertical receipts on a single sheet of paper. “Please write your name here, and sign your name just below it – on each side of the paper.” I do, Immigration takes the sheet back, she carefully aligns a metal ruler down the paper’s center and tears it in half – I am given back one side, she keeps the other. That receipt is in Beetle’s folio of paperwork…

Conveniently enough, I no longer have to then visit the bank to pay the immigration/entry fee – as there’s now a credit card reader on my side of the window. This saves the “trip” to Banjercito (there’s a long line for the bank just behind me and it’s not moving quickly). I’m done. Our guide walks the folks from Off.Line through the same process; I ask where we’re going next, he points to the Port Captain’s window to my right, so I go wait there. I didn’t realize this would be an hour and a half wait, but eventually got tired of standing and sat down on one of the half dozen chairs set around a big Christmas tree in the middle of the floor.

The Port Captain’s attention turned out to be the bottleneck for us today, particularly as there was one lady running the front window accompanied by a very official lady all in dark blue uniform and stern look as she examined all the paperwork – though she had a lovely smile when I later thanked her. The problem is that with just one person manning the window, I discovered there is a second window also being serviced, this second window is for the commercial shipping people that come through and the commercial folks have priority over the leisure cruising folks. Each time a new fellow walked in wearing bright orange or blue overalls and went to the second window our work stopped and she would go take care of their paperwork. The going rate is about ten minutes per paperwork. Time goes by.

As we three are sitting around the Christmas tree you start to look around at whom else is here, and yep there’s the guide from Baja Naval with his boat people, the lady from Marina Coral with her boat people, plus our guy from Marina Cruiseport – the guides are all friends and are used to spending lots of time shepherding boaters through this room, much joking and banter between them. The folks off the Friday Harbor boat wander in, we start talking, fairly soon we’re all talking to the other boaters, what are the plans, where’s everyone going and when, it turned into something of an unexpected social gathering at the government offices.

Eventually we are finished and three hours after departing we are returned to the marina in the van and the boats. Aboard Beetle I promptly hoisted my Mexican courtesy flag to the starboard lower spreader – Beetle has been formally entered into Mexico.

I’m here! The big port sign is actually a living sign, the green is different kinds of ivy growing on the wall. Rather an interesting way to have a sign.

I did some boat cleanup (as usual most mornings), and in doing the organizing found myself counting the number of spare zincs on board. I had five for the MaxProp and three for the prop shaft; I figured it would be nice to have five for eaches, and there’s a marine hardware store opposite the Port Captain’s office over by the big boat yard. Not too sure what zinc might be called in Spanish, I took one of my spares with me and walked across the malecon to the store, showed the fellow what I wanted and he went off and picked two more off the shelf – done! It’s fun to find things when you would like to.

Also stopped by the Smart and Final grocery store to verify they are still there, and they are. Found Hussong’s Cantina and in particular the small taco restaurant next door – they have verygood Al Pastore tacos – but they were closed. Unfortunately they don’t post operating hours outside, all you see is a metal rollup door floor to ceiling – not even an indication it’s a restaurant. Did some more walking around town, and in general found the area to be clean, somewhat rundown with more than a few closed businesses, and pleasant.

Two blocks away from the harbor you’re out of the tourist area and this is what you find – wide streets, not a lot of traffic, and the mountains are right there in front of you. Smart and Final is the red sign upper left in the picture, a useful store for most durable foods and a large freezer section. For fresh meats and things like that there’s a mercado about 6 blocks away.

Wednesday it was up and at it, a giant cruise ship arrived and docked adjacent to Beetle on the other side of the roadway – they have tons of busses running around delivering passengers to different places. The arrival of cruise ship brings out all the malecon street hawkers – Need a picture taken? Sunglasses? – we have best! Lunch? Eat here! – makes it slower to walk along the waterfront. Despite the cruise ship tourists the area did not feel full or busy, and instead just about right. My guess is the economic downturn from the Covid shutdown was not kind to Ensenada.

The ships are huge when you’re this close to them, and are good at sneaking in quietly in to port. Funny to wake up and realize a hi-rise apartment building has appeared next door in the middle of the night.

The outboard motor has been having issues with not wanting to run smoothly when moving the throttle from idle through to middle to fast; at low-middle it wants to shut down. I’ve done some reading about that and found that a mostly-blocked fuel filter can be a cause, so swapped in a new fuel filter. Having done that I found I was down to three spare fuel filters and I have time to procure another couple since I’m in a bigger city – good lucking finding a filter in Turtle Bay or Mag Bay! Checking online I found there is a Mercury and Tohatsu dealer five blocks away, so I had a pleasant stroll over to the shop and while it is a larger leisure marine store the fellow didn’t have any filters so small and did not know where I might find one. Rats!

The tourist street in Ensenada last night. This is the safest street to walk along at night as it is slow traffic, well-lit, and the sidewalk is well maintained with few holes in it. The lights are important as you need to watch for holes in sidewalks, which are everywhere, and make it easy to turn your ankle.
An example of holes in the ground – three of the metal plates are missing from a service access cover – the hinges are simply broken off and no one bothers to repair them. If you don’t watch the ground while walking it’s likely you’ll put a foot wrong.

Today the plan is to re-visit the marine hardware store by the Port Captain, perhaps they have some? Also on the list is run the outboard to verify it works, pull the speedo sensor to keep it clean while in the marina, run a load of laundry, and do a quick shop at Smart and Final.

AT&T Internet APN Issues

A significant issue that is impossible to resolve ahead of time is whether or not my cellular telephone will continue to operate in Mexico; it would be convenient if it would work using my current AT&T service, and if it doesn’t I know the Mexican carrier TelCel (largest wireleses carrier in Mexico) has a store in town where I can purchase a SIM card and monthly pre-paid service. There are two functions I would like, one is making calls back to the States, the other is getting internet access.

In Oxnard I talked with AT&T International Support and was told that my plan covers North America, which means Canada, USA, and Mexico – so everything should work just fine and I don’t need to do or change anything. AT&T has a significant presence in Mexico and in theory they have roaming agreements in place with other carriers. When I arrived I found that the phone service works great but the internet connectivity is dead. After four hours of phone calls with six different AT&T people, nobody could figure out the problem. Note to self: write down the AT&T contact numbers *before* you need them, as once in Mexico I can’t look them up without internet service, and dialing 611 on the phone gets me to an AT&T robot speaking Spanish that I don’t understand and then it hangs up. Fortunately the marina has excellent WiFi and I was able to use that to find the AT&T phone numbers once I figured out how to bypass the auto-redirect AT&T uses that directs users in Mexico to the AT&T Spanish websites (which I don’t understand therefore is not useful to me).

Turns out the problem is with the APN (Access Point Name) settings on my phone and nothing to do with my account. The phone in the USA runs APN “nxtgenphone”, and here the APN is set to “nxtgenphone mx”. I asked AT&T about the APN as I’ve run into that before, and nobody had any suggestions or was even too sure what I was talking about. More digging online via WiFi lead to a couple of pages describing different APN settings to use in Mexico, so I tried them out and Voila! the Note 8 can access the local internet. The changed settings that worked for me, when creating the new APN are:

APN “nxtgenphone mx” (was “nxtgenphone”)

APN type “default,hipri” (was “default,suppl,mms,fota”)

Create the new APN, select it, nable cellular data, enable International roaming, enable LTE, enable 2G, then restart the phone. After verifying connectivity it’s also a good idea to check back with AT&T to make sure you’re not getting hit with high charges for using the phone in Mexio. So far I’m good to go.

It’s going to be a fine day, not too much I need to get done!

– rob/beetle

Mexico preparations completed in San Diego

Beetle had a most pleasant slip at the San Diego Harbor Police docks for a week, though there is no shower available here; as the Port of San Diego Maritime Department phrased it: “Sorry, Showers are no longer available.” This is somewhat comical in that the Port of San Diego website requests that boaters take showers at home to avoid having grey water flow through into the bay from on-board showers… Ah, such is life. San Diego is definitely trailing Turtle Bay as regards infrastructure: even in Turtle Bay (a dusty small fishing town located middle of Pacific-Baja) does have at least one shower that works, even if it is just a pipe jutting out from the wall – that pipe provides fresh water draining from a big black water tank on the roof containing luke-warm water. San Diego can’t figure how to make that work at the Police Docks.

Sunset at the San Diego Police docks, the small two-finger ‘U’ shaped set of docks that are maintained for transient boater use. Very nice to have a municipally-run (rather than private) arrangement for visiting boaters to use.

The run down from Avalon was non-eventful, usually a good thing, and I crossed the shallow water off Point Loma with daylight and got to play “crab pot float dodge” for several miles en-route to the dredged shipping channel that turns left into the harbor. I hate crab pots. I especially hate crab pots that have only a single float on the surface, which is then promptly dragged underwater by the current flow, the float occasionally popping up to announce its presence as I motor past. All crab pots should have *two* floats, as usually the second one manages to remain at the surface – those you can find. The semi-submersible type floats are not a happening idea.

The Police docks have been fun, the boats here are all being prepped to go somewhere else – all the boats except one are headed south to Mexico. Met Paige & Henry, they are from Oregon (he’s ex-US Coast Guard), and they’re busy working out all the details of how to enjoy Mexico. Sailing Tashi, if you’re into YouTube video channels, is three slips over. They are busy working some of the basic bugs out of their Island Packet 44 (which looks brand new), and over the last three days had a rigger on the boat installing a substantial Forespar whisker pole on the mast. When it was done and set the owner asked, “How does it work?” The rigger told him another fellow from the rig shop would come over in the morning and give him a “tutorial” on what to do with it. Makes me wonder some times, these people clearly have plenty of funds, enthusiasm… and are learning on the fly. Hopefully they have a super time making their way south!

Met up with two fellows on a Hans Christian from Friday Harbor, they are excited to be headed south shortly, as they’ve spent the last month at the A9 mooring/anchorage in San Diego Bay and needed to scrub the bottom of the RIB dinghy. Tim and Robin onboard the well appointed Catalina Nani Ola are having difficulty with a reluctant fuel line – after several false starts to Mexico ending with “stopped motor” syndrome, they were back a third time to pull and replace everything associated with fuel flow. Tim eventually found the problem – the main fuel tank, buried in the boat beneath the floor boards, had red RTV gunk floating around in it, and some of that red RTV had wedged itself up in a fuel line. There’s no way to clean out the tank so the recourse is to replace the hoses and possibly put a wire mesh screen between the tank and the hose. Hopefully they sort that out and get rolling.

The cockpit fresh water hose/shower nozzle is set inside the athwartship cockpit bin, this protects the control (white circular plate to the left) and the hose/nozzle from getting stepped on, plus I did not need to drill (and keep sealed) a large hole through the cockpit side-wall.

On board Beetle I worked through several projects: Beetle now sports a fancy hot/cold cockpit shower squirter nozzle handle (that seems to be the best way to describe it), an Italian Barka unit that works really well. Barka makes a series of water parts (sinks, taps, etc.) for small Italian homes – and they are extremely well made. Turns out that Barka has a single shower controller joystick that leans left(less)-right (more) for flow control and the same control can be rotated counter-clockwise (more cold) to clockwise (more hot) and with the one joystick Beetle can select a proper perfect warm fresh water rinsedown showers (and rinse the dive gear) in the cockpit. I now have one! Most fun. So I’ve been working on that install.

The mainsheelt bail removed from the boom, its held in place by a 3/8″ thru-bolt and can pivot to align with the load. It’s been in place for perhaps 20 years.

Henry stopped by to ask after a boom bail for use as a vang attachment point on his mast – and when I went to show him slightly the stronger bail designs (‘D’ vs ‘bowed’) mounted on the end of Beetle’s boom he pointed out that the mainsheet bail was cracked – egad! He was most correct! After he went back to his boat I hopped on the bicycle and rode over to Sailing Supply Downwind Marine and they had exactly the correct Ronstan fitting – it was also the only one remaining in the store, which I promptly procured. Now Beetle is no-longer one gybe away from breaking through the mainsheet bail.

And the crack in the bail that Henry spotted. The metal is torn about 1/3 of the way through. Good thing not to have on the boom!

One thing about heading to Mexico is one is leaving behind the idea of obtaining specific things via Amazon or anywhere else, at least for the next four months, as I won’t have a useful mailing address. There is a specific Lift-the-Dot canvas fastener I particularly require to finish the no-see-um screening I constructed in Avalon. West Marine wants $51 for them, roughly three times the cost of the same part via a fastener store that lists on Amazon… but where to receive parts arriving via US Postal Servie? Turns out that Silver Gate Yacht Club is down the drive from the San Diego Police docks and as I’m a member of Orcas Island YC the folks at Silver Gate YC were willing to let me use their address for receiving the fasteners. Worked out great – four minutes on my bike and I’m at Silver Gate’s front desk!

An interesting feature of being located just across the water from the USA Coronado Naval Air Station is the large number of aircraft whizzing around the area at all times of day and night. Lots of big helicopters go whomping by at low altitude, and then there are the fighter jets – they go ripping through the area also at low altitude and their runway is directly opposite Shelter Island. One evening I counted twelve jets take off over perhaps 20 minutes, so perhaps an entire air wing. These planes were incredibly loud as they lifted off the runway, so I walked up to the parking lot to have a look at what was going on. It was very impressive, they would come up with the afterburner on and in the dark you could see a long straight flame aimed at the sky with the little grey plane balanced on the end of it. The associated roar echoed off the surrounding hills and the long deep boom carried on as the echoes bounced back and forth.

Seems the Navy must like sending planes up in pairs, as if I heard one plane taking off it was fairly guaranteed that 30 seconds later an identical plane would take off as well. The other planes that are likely F-18 fighters were much quieter than the night time take-offs, makes me think the loud ones might be F-35 planes as I did not see two afterburner flames, only one.

Most of one day was spent tracking through the paperwork needed for Mexico. Found out that the CONAPESCA fishing license (required as Beetle has fishing gear on board) no longer requires a trip across town to obtain, instead it’s all done online. Mexico requires liability insurance issued through a company based in Mexico, I checked with Boat US and they partner with MexPro as a broker for such things, and an hour later I had purchased six months of liability insurance – that means a marina will allow Beetle to have a slip. The Temporary Import Permit (TIP) I have from 2013 is valid until 2023 – Mexico Customs issues a 10 year TIP for visiting yachts, which avoids paying an import tax based on the boat’s value. Mine is still good, I’ve saved it in the boat’s paperwork folio – good to get that out and dust it off. I will need to cancel the TIP when departing Mexico, as it appears that while Mexico Customs is good at issuing them – if you forget to cancel the TIP and merely let it lapse then all sorts of problems crop up when re-entering Mexico, as the lapsed TIP needs to be managed but their system doesn’t know how to “cancel” a lapsed TIP. Another go-figure moment. I talked with the credit card companies to let them to know expect charges from Mexico, talked with AT&T about phone service in Mexico and learned that my account has North America as its area. In theory this means any usage in Canada, USA, and Mexico is all part of the service and I shouldn’t need to do anything. We shall see if that turns out to be actually true – won’t know until trying things out in Ensenada.

The last time I was down here I had ported by way-way-old cell phone number over to Google Voice when I canceled by cell phone service (AT&T didn’t work well in Mexico at that time). Once I had a TelCel SIM card and phone number I could go to Google Voice and enter the TelCel number as the number to ring through when someone dialed the way-way-old phone number. That actually worked, at least most of the time. Looks like this time I may not have to go through those hoops.

Other things taken care of in San Diego included a run to Ralph’s to pick up fresh foods (not a lot, but nice to have for this evening as I can’t really go into town tonight as I won’t have my FMM tourist card until I check-in with Immigration tomorrow). Picked up a USB hub and SD card reader for the nav station laptop, as the laptop’s SD card reader seems to have died – an external card reader does the trick. Also visited Home Depot and picked up the ordered-in 2” wide Velcro and a bottle of contact cement – that will be needed to affix the forward hatch no-see-um screening into place. And I finally figured out how to keep Beetle’s music player in place, as it is heavy enough that straight Velcro (even contact-cemented in place) still let’s go; a small “L” bracket attached to the unit and fixed to an overhead shelf with tiny screws has done the job. I’ve been wondering about that fix for two years, finally occurred to me how it would go so that’s in and done.

The port secondary winch developed a sticky bearing, which means it’s time to strip and grease the winch. Three speed winches have a fair number of moving parts to keep track of, I’ve learned to keep the gear-stacks together and do them one at a time, otherwise it becomes a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle of reassembly.

Several dinghy trips were made with fuel jugs to the fuel dock in Shelter Island, that filled up the tanks and the jugs. Had an issue with the outboard motor not wanting to continue running as I went past idle (runs fine) to fast (runs fine), there’s a crossover point departing idle where the motor dies. I know the spark plugs are good, it might be the inline fuel filter so that’s the next thing to change out and see if that solves the problem. As it is I just have to be quick when crossing that point and usually the engine keeps going, but not always. I have plenty of outboard fuel filters so will look at that while in Ensenada.

At the dock following a return from the fuel dock. I find it easier to use the dinghy to mule diesel jerry jugs around than take the whole boat to the dock and back. Three pleasant dinghy runs past all the huge boats in the marinas and Beetle was loaded for bear as regards fuel.

And yesterday afternoon I dived the hull with the Remora Solo underwater brush tool and cleaned the hull. The tool is a 9” diameter slowly-rotating brush mounted on what looks like an oddly-shaped right angle battery-operated drill, it works really well on broad smooth surfaces and makes cleaning the bottom a quick operation. I spend more time setting up and breaking down the dive gear than it takes to actually do the work. Very happy to have that tool on board.

Passing the Coronado Islands on my way south from San Diego. Beetle is now in Mexican waters!

That brings us up to what’s happening at the moment, still trundling down the Baja coast, Ensenada is perhaps 38 miles out in front, it’s a lovely day of light air (5 knots from behind, still), dolphins are zipping about, it’s being a most pleasant morning.

– rob/beetle

Beetle is off to Ensenada, Mexico

Just a quick note that we are under way. I had a busy week in San Diego, more about activities when I get to Ensenada – but it was busy, good times, fun people, Beetle looks good as regards preparations for Mexico arrival and check-in to the country.

I departed the San Diego Harbor Police public docks this morning at 6:30, wind is forecast to be light this morning (currently 5 knots from the NW), mild swell at 5 feet, we’re under power moving along with the aim to arrive at Marina Cruiseport by dark. I have a slip reserved there for Beetle, I’ve been in Cruiseport before so I have a clue what I’m walking in to – should be a fine day on the water and good arrival. Will be interesting to see if the AT&T phone service continues to work in Ensenada – the AT&T folk certainly said it would!

Enjoy the day – we’re off to explore.

– rob/beetle

Monday morning, en route to San Diego

Was up at 6AM to check the weather forecast, there’s a slip reserved for Beetle in San Diego, and I’ve been in Avalon for a week – time to visit San Diego if the weather looks good.

The earlier forecasts have been calling for a fairly strong 20-25 knot westerly to fill in to the coast on Monday, which made Tuesday look better for departing Avalon. As time went by the forecast changed and as of this morning Monday looks quite good with light air (6-8 knots) from the west and the filling breeze to hang well offshore until Tuesday morning. So off we go!

This morning it’s flat water and a riffling breeze wafting along. The clouds are up high and puffy white in the morning sun. Beetle is put together for the run with gear stowed, outboard motor put away on the stern rail perch, and the dinghy is up on the foredeck – I will stow it after a fresh water rinse in San Diego.

Off to see what’s out here today on the pond. It’s 65 miles to Point Loma, and then another 2 miles around to the entrance of San Diego. Right now it looks like there’s a back-eddy current that Beetle is pushing against, should be roughly a 10 hour run under power, which will put me at Pt. Loma slightly after dark.

– rob/beetle

Companionway insect screen finished

It’s now Sunday afternoon, weather looks conducive to roll onwards to San Diego tomorrow morning, and I wrapped up the companionway insect (or anti-insect) screen this morning. Outside it’s a beautiful mid-afternoon, Charles is showing the gang around his boat, I ran the dinghy to the pier in order to drop off the trash bag in the big bins on the pier and go for a short walk around the Casinio building.

The companionway screen consists of two elements/frames containing the screening material, then stitched together. The thinking is to hold the horizontal/top screen in place with four Lift-the-Dot stud fasteners, and the vertical/aft screen can drape as-is or be held down with a bungee cord or similar (something that can be installed from inside the boat).

The sewing project was fun to do, the inverter worked just fine for supplying power to the large sewing machine AC motor, and the parts were small enough that layout was too much of a problem. I’ve ordered up parts that will be shipped into San Diego, my next stop!

Yesterday I had worked on the screen, then gone for a walk in town, then decided I wasn’t interested in walking down the road to the quarry for dinner after reading about the restaurant – not something I needed to do and decided it would be nicer to have a quiet evening on Beetle, so that’s what I did. Made up some dinner, watched a fun movie, and hit the bunk late.

This morning I’ve checked the weather – looks good for San Diego tomorrow, talked with Marina Cruiseport in Ensenada (my AT&T phone plan provides for “North American” calling (not just USA calling – let’s hope the lady at AT&T Business Wireless was correct) which makes Mexico a no-additional-cost call) and Beetle has a one-month slip waiting in Ensenada, thanks to Octavio! In between Avalon and Ensenada Beetle is set up for a week in San Diego.

There are a couple of small parts I’d like to obtain while in San Diego (USB hub, USB-SD card reader, velcro, lif dot studs & clips, contact cement, 1/2″ hose) and most of those are available from a canvas fastener shop via Amazon at prices 1/3 of what West Marine charges – but I needed a proper mailing address to receive the parts. Turns out Silver Gate Yacht Club is willing to let me use their street adress to receive the package – and they are easily reached by my bicycle. I also talked with Downwind Marine and they have the box containing 50 feet of 1/2″ potable water hose – looks like the addition of a cockpit washdown/shower is going to get finished. The other parts are coming in via Amazon to a local Amazon locker, and Home Depot has the Velcro and contact cement – also easily reached by bicycle.

With the telephone & web-based run-around complete, sewing machine and materials stowed, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the afternoon in Avalon!

– rob/beetle

Saturday and enjoying Avalon

Good morning – Saturday is here, once again a warm sunny pleasurable day – there’s a lot to like about Southern California in the winter. I’ve been working on the insect screen for the companionway and it worked out to simplify construction if I turned it into two parts – a horizontal part stretching across the sliding hatch, and a vertical flap part that can hang down where the washboard would be – so that’s what I’m building.

The upper horizontal piece is now completed, I’ve been at it for several hours and now it’s complete. Next thing up is to cut some Sunbrella material for the aft flap, insert the screen material the same way as for placing Eising glass into a panel, and stitch the flap to the horizontal piece. I’d like to wrap that up tomorrow if I can.

The horizontal portion of the insect screen, completed on the sewing machine, in place for a final test-fit. It’s held down here with four dive weights, the idea is to use lift-the-dot fasteners at the forward edge (into the teak hatch surround, not the fiberglass deck) and possibly bungee cord in the side-flap Sunbrella, to hold it in place for real. Next up is making the vertical flappy flappy bit.

Yesterday was fun in town, Charles and I went for a walk to check out the hardware store (they had Velcro, I acquired some), then Von’s market – which is a full size regular supermarket only the prices reflect the cost of transport to Catalina. There’s a reason the boaters I know will run Over Town (to San Pedro) to shop there once a month. We didn’t walk so far as intended after I’d loaded up my big backpack with goodies from Vons. Out in the anchorage Archy (owner of Titania) stopped by in his dinghy and said he was hosting munchies & drinks again come evening, but without dinner, and we should consider ourselves invited. So I another pleasant evening of stories and boats with the gang, plus some new arrivals from Horizon YC that had made it over on their boats come the weekend. By the end of the evening a plan had been formed to try out the Buffalo Nickel for dinner, which is apparently a mile walk around to the south of Avalon, and see what that was like. Given it’s not in town it’s likely more of a locals’ place without too many tourists; our job will be to fix that this evening!

– rob/beetle

Bouncy last night, most pleasant this morning in Avalon

This morning the sun popped up into super-clear air, the result of the Santa Ana winds that blew away all the suspended particulates over the San Pedro Channel. I can see the entire coastline, from Point Dume to the north, Palos Verdes looks like it’s next door, and then way off to the south. I can also see the yellow smog haze forming again over the Los Angeles basin, and eventually the coast will hide itself from view. Super nice day out here.

Yesterday afternoon Santa Ana winds were in the forecast, and the winds did show up, blowing hard in from the deserts east of Los Angeles. Avalon is open to the east, but conveniently the offshore pressure gradient pushed back on the winds and kept conditions to mostly calm to a couple of knots of wind in Avalon. The same can not be said of the wind waves generated to the east; the waves travel quite well and bunches bunches of them found their way into the little cove of Avalon. And if you look around the cove you’ll find that it’s mostly a circular rock and concrete sea wall – which is really good at reflecting waves back out. The result is that even with no wind the place turned into a washing machine yesterday evening with 2 foot waves ricocheting all over the place in random directions.

Dinghies in search of the dinghy dock this morning. Part of it is on the mooring two back from Beetle. It’s not easy to get ashore without the dock!

When conditions get that rough the Harbor Patrol removes the floating docks from the pier (this protects the pier from being bashed into by the heavy docks), and they did so some time last night. It was funny to wake up this morning and realize one of the big docks was now on a mooring directly behind Beetle, another dock was across the way, and the dinghy dock was missing! (towed across the harbor somewhere and moored somewhere out of view). Without the dinghy dock it’s not really possible to utilize the pier as a landing space, and sure enough come sunrise folks were milling about the pier in their dinghies wondering where the dinghy dock had gone. (It’s been returned to the pier now, the Harbor Patrol has been busy this morning re-setting the docks).

The other half of the dinghy dock is moored over at the fuel dock, near the circular Casino building. And the yellow semi-sub glass bottom tour boat shifted from its mooring to be way over the corner near the fuel dock as well.

Titania organized a splendid dinner on board the boat, something of a potluck and I discovered my neighbors are rather good cooks. I brought over Oreo cookies, some salad in a box, and nice sausages I had prepared on the grill. What I found was amazing ham with garnishes, gravy, turkey, fresh tossed salad, mashed potatoes, different types of pies – those fellows really know how to cook and entirely outclassed my four little sausages!

I also completed the forward hatch insect screen, today I’m building the same type of screen for the companionway entry – only this has an entirely different geometry than the flat hatch. The cutting and sewing went well, and this morning I’m working out how mitered corners in an ‘L’ shaped Sunbrella flange might work.

Other plan for the day is to visit the hardware store in town and see what they might have in the way of Velcro, and also walk over to the Vons supermarket. Big plans!

Enjoy the day, it’s quite nice here.

– rob/beetle

Turkey Day in Avalon

It’s a fine nice sunny morning in Avalon, the wind ocean breeze has gone calm which is in line with the weather forecast call for NE Santa Ana winds today – though the strongest winds are called for up in the Santa Paula Valley up at Oxnard. The call for this area is 15-18 knots max for a few hours, no one seems particularly excited about that. I’m thinking the push westward of wind coming in from the desert has blocked the incoming background sea breeze and we’re floating on the mooring here in the middle no-wind’s land. Makes for a pleasant weather window.

Yesterday I joined Sande, Jim, and their kids at a restaurant just off the pier for an early lunch and conversation. Interesting to hear about her business, which is casting background actors for film and television. Currently she has four projects happening in Hawaii and has been flying there a fair bit of late to work with the producers. Jim is great, he’s up in Big Bear Lake area and can fix most anything – a good person to have around when working on Sande’s boat! Lots of good stories were told.

This is what happens when one joins Sande for lunch – lots of margaritas, good guacamole & chips, nachos, and quesadillas. They are on their cruise ship and this morning should see them in Ensenada.

Charles appeared on his boat Magick Express and took up a mooring a couple of spots over. Turns out Charles has spent a lot of time at the island and seems to know a lot of people – after he arrived two dinghies swung by for a chat, then I went over to do the same thing and met up with a fourth dinghy alongside Magick Express. We decided to go for sundowners that rapidly evolved into “let’s all cook dinner” on Titania, a 62′ custom wood Lapworth design – an amazing boat in superb shape! A problem was found, in that the propane valve and stem for the stern rail barbecue had been carefully stowed below to prevent loss at sea, but nobody where it had been placed. One of the guys jumped in his dinghy and scooted off to his boat, retrieved the grill of his rail, and re-appeared with said cooking that was promptly attached to Titania’s rail and grilling commenced. Stories flowed well into the evening, then time for everyone to head back to their respective boats. Also interesting to note that Charles’ software code is flying on the Artemis spacecraft – he’s happy the flight is proceeding smoothly and is keenly watching the flight unfold while out at Catalina.

Magick Express anchored off White’s Landing, a couple of miles up the island from Avalon. I took the dinghy out for a morning run to stop by and say hello, but nobody was up on deck so I continued on with my exploring.

Yesterday I set up the sewing machine on the cabin table, wound bobbins, and layed out the Sunbrella frame material for the forward hatch insect screen. Today’s project is to complete that screen, remember how the material is trimmed at the corners to get it to lay flat, and put it together. I don’t have sufficient self-adhesive 1″ wide Velcro to install it, that will have to wait until San Diego, but the corner work will be helpful for screen no. 2: the companionway, which is going to be more complicated as it has bends and corners and things. So I’m doing the easy screen first.

Sewing activities progressing. The motor is a large AC motor, Beetle’s 110vAC inverter works just fine and producing enough wattage to operate the motor.

Have a happy Turkey Day, I believe the gang from last night is going to attempt another dinner later on today – we shall find out!

– rob/beetle

Getting small things done in Avalon

It’s a slightly chilly (53 degree F) morning out on the mooring in Avalon. There’s a light breeze coming in from the ocean and that’s enough to have people in sweatshirts and wool hats in the morning. The weather service calls for temperatures to reach 68 this afternoon and that will be nicer, especially as the land breeze reaches out to the island.

Yesterday was a fine day on Beetle, dinghy is launched, the cockpit cover/sun canopy is now complete, plus some other smaller projects were completed and tools now put away.

The Carnival Navigator of the Seas arriving off Avalon, with Jim and Sande on board. This ship anchored and *everyone* could hear the clanging as the chain exited the hawse pipe. And that’s the America off to the left, it’s a replica of the original racer the America’s Cup is named after (and the boat looks gorgeous!).

It’s been interesting to watch the cruise ships come and go, and today’s cruise ship features friends Sande and Jim, plus kids. Carnival has several very large cruise ships in the area, and they are operating a series of relatively inexpensive and short (3-4 day) runs on their boats. Presumably this appeals to folks that want to “try out” a cruise ship at sea, even if they aren’t too far out at sea. This particular ship, Carnival Navigator of the Seas, departed Long Beach yesterday and spent the night running slowly in a race-track pattern between Catalina and Ensenada while remaining inshore of San Clemente Island. This morning it appeared off Avalon around 7:30AM and dropped anchor, which is impressive at it’s quite deep where they are. Sande sent over a note last night that the stars were amazing and sounds like she’s having a great time! – we’re going to connect later on today over a fine ale in town.

Charles is also here on his boat Magick Express, they’re up the coast a few miles and planning to pop in to Avalon for the week as well. Using the mooring fields is significantly less expensive during winter months, which starts November 1. I’m paying $127, normally two days on a mooring, and in winter months if you stay for two nights you get an additional 5 nights included – which makes the moorings one half the cost of being at Channel Islands Harbor, as an example. With the dinghy launched I’m thinking to run up the coast to play “find Charles” and tour the couple of miles of island coastline between here and there. The wind waves are down to zero, the sun is up and Beetle is becoming nicely warmer – so why not go play?

Plans for today, other than visit with Sande/Jim & Charles, is to set up the sewing machine and move forward on the insect screen project. I previously made screens for the cabin hatches, but did not make up screening for the forward hatch (huge screen at 36″ across) and the companion way (complicated screen construction). I’ve got the Sunbrella material used as the frame for the screening cut and hemmed (did that while in Oxnard), now is a good time to fit/cut the screening and assemble everything to fit.

The small hatch in the main cabin has a screen I made up on the sewing machine, the screening material is small enough to keep out no-see-ums, with the screening held in place by a Sunbrella frame. The screen is fixed in place on Velcro glues to the overhead and sewn to the Sunbrella.
Detail of the frame corner – this is a difficult section to keep flat as there are six layers of Sunbrella in there. A fair bit of trimming with the hot knife is used to whittle away unneeded material.

So looking forward to a pleasant day, dinner on the barbecue, then an enjoyable movie for evening time. It gets dark early here (around 4:45PM on California time), this seems to compress the day and make one pack more into it than expected. Hopefully it will be warmer weather as one heads towards to the equator!

And Jim sent over a fun picture of Beetle on the mooring in Avalon, as seen through his phone from their rented golf cart up above Avalon. That’s the dinghy floating port-side. There *are* more boats here than it looks in the picture. 🙂

– rob/beetle

Beetle out on the Pacific Pond

Beetle is back out on the Pacific pond, yesterday Beetle and I departed Channel Islands Harbor with the goal of appearing at Avalon, Catalina Island by dark. On the way I was having breakfast while motoring along in the glassy calm waters off Malibu – and a Humpback whale popped up to join me, he/she was also having breakfast, hopefully the whale found good tasty krill while I enjoyed eggs. Dozens of dolphins joined along for a bow ride, they are wonderfully playful mammals. And off Catalina several pods of Risso’s Dolphin passed by – the Risso’s have a tall falcate dorsal fin and a darkish grey color with a body length two to three times that of the Pacific Whitesided Dolphin. The Risso’s also make a bigger splash when coming up for a breath – the head often clears the water and they smack their chin on the water as they complete their breathing. Fun to see them!

Dawn at Channel Islands Harbor, the moon is up above neighbor Mack’s stern arch, the sky is starting to light up. It’s late November and it’s going to be a good day. Perfect weather for rolling south.

Avalon is not a large hop as hops go, certainly less than the 3100 mile run to the Marquesas, but the most difficult thing to do when going cruising is getting the boat off the dock and out of the marina. Telling the marina management that you’re leaving is a bit like throwing your hat over the fence, but you still have to climb over the fence yourself. Well, that was yesterday – up and out at 6:30AM and onto the ocean.

Had time while motoring along to clean the fenders, they now look all fancy shiny lined up along the starboard rail.
Arrival off Avalon just at sunset. The 62 meter yacht Anawa is at anchor outside the harbor, they are too big to fit inside!

It’s difficult to believe that it has been three years and four days since Beetle appeared at Channel Islands Harbor for a six week layover; in that time Covid happened and shut down countries clear across the Pacific, Ukraine (with much help) is battling the Russians, and Beetle has been hanging out with wonderful folk in Oxnard. While I was untying the dock lines Roger and dog Betsy popped up to say Bon Voyage and I got a good paw-shake from Betsy; Mack was up to say So Long!, and the weather cooperated. It’s been a longer-than-expected and most-pleasant stay at Bahia Marina in Channel Islands Harbor.

A fair bit has happened with Beetle over the past three years. My plan had been to do a boat refit in New Zealand, and that plan became transferred Oxnard once I realized how long the Covid shutdown was likely to be. While in Oxnard I got to explore the mountains above Ojai and found the Pygmy Mole crickets alongside a gravel stream bed, worked on the boat, explored Painted Cave at Santa Cruz Island… and many other fun things.

On the boat perspective there’s an entire laundry list of updates/changes/maintenance that transpired over the last 36 months. A bit of the work as a list – it takes some effort to keep a boat up and running:

halyards and running rigging replaced

beautiful new Hood mainsail ordered and arrived (8 months later)

head hoses all replaced, holding tank pulled and cleaned

entirely new B&G H5000 instrumentation, autopilot, plotters, radar installed

bow re-gelcoated to cover old injury

stern repainted to restore a 10 year old paint

stereo control head rebuilt as a Raspberry Pi computer

scuba diving camera & lights brought on board

cockpit sun canopy constructed on the sewing machine

flares, harnesses, tethers replaced/updated

Hurth transmission replaced

haulout and new bottom paint

stainless rubstrakes added to protect deck edge from anchor snubber wear

buckets, fuel jerry rugs replaced as needed

replaced 110vAC inverter when old one failed

repaired & repainted port/starboard deck at no. 4 jib tracks

replaced plexiglass windows in the dodger (American Plastics matched everything)

engine raw water pump replaced, old one rebuilt and now carried as a spare

4x 6v golf cart house battery bank replaced

aluminum folding mast steps replaced

AlpenGlow cabin lights rebuilt/updated to use LED lighting

hulll/mast/radio lightning ground designed, built, installed

compass binnacle created, welded, and installed to fit nicely behind wheel

hydraulic cylinders serviced/rebuilt – backstay, vang, outhaul

flopper stopper added to boat, it works well

propane tanks tested/inspected and stamped for service use

EPIRB replaced (now a GPS EPIRB)

new pot on the SeaSwing stove (now a titanium pot)

replaced aft bunk foam, cleaned/washed all other cushion foam and covers

split/damaged aft bunk bedding/pillows replaced

medical kit updated/replacement prescription antibiotics acquired

lots of documented vaccinations for rob – rabies, yellow fever, etc. courtesy of UCLA Dept. of Tropical Infectious Diseases; I think my left arm is still sore.

updated/new CMap and Navionics charts for Mexico to Australia and South Pacific

restitched Sunbrella mainsail and liferaft covers

replaced watermaker raw water feed pump

in short – a lot of stuff happened, which took time and exploring as I did not know the Southern California marine industry. I ended up using companies from Santa Barbara to San Diego to supply material and/or perform some work. Many thanks to Mack for suggesting starting points on the search for parts. It’s been nine years since departing San Francisco and with the updates Beetle should be good to go.

Avalon in the morning – that’s the Tuna Club on the water’s edge. Found out yesterday that dock neighbor Sande & Jim are going out on a Carnival Lines cruise ship tomorrow, their first stop is Avalon – we’re hoping to meet on shore in the afternoon.

My general plan is to visit Avalon for a week to hang out and relax, San Diego to handle last minute provisioning (and pick up a 50 foot roll of ½” hose for the pressure water system), and then on to Mexico. Ensenada is a good place to check-in to the country, visit the Pacific Baja (in particular Mag Bay for a bit), then down to Acapulco. The idea is to explore the Pacific Mexico “Gold Coast” (as the cruiser’s call it) from Acapulco north to Puerto Vallarta. There is supposed to be good diving along the coast, and I’m keen to see what can be found. There’s also the possibility of visiting San Benedicto Island in the Revillagigedo Islands some 250 miles SW of Cabo San Lucas – that is a world class dive site for pelagics but a difficult anchorage due to San Benedicto being a dormant volcano that left vertical pillars of rock on the bottom during the most recent 1953 eruption – the pillars like to wrap up anchor chains and from what I read there are more than a few anchors still there. I would prefer not to add Beetle’s to the collection.

By mid-March the goal is to be in La Cruz and use that as a base to re-provision Beetle, makes any needed boat repairs, and set up for a mid-April hop to Nuku Hiva (Marquesas, French Polynesia).

It’s great to be back out on the water!

The view looking back at Channel Islands Harbor – the big Army Corps of Engineers dredge is back at work keeping the channel clear for traffic. The masts of the sailboats are there, where Beetle was for quite a while!

– rob/beetle