A week in San Diego


Beetle is stern-in to the police guest docks, this keeps the little wavelets from slapping up against the underside of the transom and making a loud ‘boip boip boip’ noise. I re-learned this lesson the hard way while at Marina del Rey!

Beetle has been happily enjoying the San Diego Harbor Police guest docks here at the seaward tip of Shelter Island.  The ‘island’ itself started life as a mud bank, and then turned into something more substantial when the entry channel through San Diego harbor was dredged – the dredge spoils are what all the buildings out here on sitting on top of.  It’s a bit of walk to the stores from here, about a mile along the road and then turn left and walk up a couple of blocks.  Unfortunately there isn’t a bus that comes out this way, and there isn’t a public dinghy dock on my side of the harbor – the other side (America’s Cup harbor) does have a public dinghy dock.


Two tankers rafted up is an odd sight out in mid-ocean. There’s a rather large (though it looks tiny) support boat up forwards of the pair. They were simply drifting around out there, no idea what they were up to.

When I arrived in San Diego it was dark, and I spent a while tooling along, watching ships and stars and helicopters zooming about the waters north of Point Loma (the entry to San Diego).  Interestingly enough I went by two oil tankers that were tied alongside each other as they drifted about the ocean; that’s something I haven’t seen before.

I had an interesting, though brief, conversation with a 414′ USCG Cutter Stratton that was out on the water in the dark with me.  They were making mad dashes all over the place, then stopping, then turning and charging off again.  Eventually they came up on a collision course with me, at least according the AIS unit, so about a mile out I rang them up on the VHF to see what was what.  The radio operator informed me they were doing navigation practice, and would avoid me – which they did.  Those boats go fast, one moment they were doing 4 knots and shortly afterwards are running at 21 knots.

As it was seriously dark when the sun disappeared leaving behind no moon, and not all boats run AIS and/or lighting, I went and turned on the radar just in case there was something drifting around out here with me.  I would periodically check the AIS and see the ships I expected (including the Stratton), and then would look at the radar – and Dang! there’s two perfect circle spots suddenly two miles in front of me.  I peer around the dodger and not a running light in sight.  I can see the amber flashing lights on the helicopters up there in black sky, these guys were buzzing around in pairs all over the place.  I watched the radar blips and realized they were going by incredibly fast… and it dawned on me that when the helicopters fly low enough my radar is picking them up and I would have spots racing around on the radar for a minute or two before they disappeared.


Lots of these guys flying around in the dark off Coronado Island. They have bright flashing lights and make a ton of noise.

All this military hardware is coming out of US Naval Base Coronado, an enormous military operation happening literally across the channel from all us boaters, downtown San Diego, and all the folks with picture window views overlooking the base.  The noise coming from the base is fairly continuous and relatively low-level: chopper motors and rotor slap any old time, big turbo prop supply planes flying in and out, the odd large commercial looking jet, and so on.  The really loud guys are the fighter jets that launch up in the sky – those are noticeably louder than anything else going on.


That’s a lot of flight gear on the hard beyond the sailboat. And that’s just one tiny corner of Naval Base Coronado.

Here inside the curve of narrow Shelter Island, my neighbor has been My Girl, the large 164′ Westport motor yacht moored to the side-tie at adjacent Kona Kai Resort and Marina.  And yesterday the 84′ Delta Yacht Tatu pulled up and docked on the other side of My Girl.  An 84′ boat is big – the only way to make it look small is set it alongside My Girl, and suddenly you realize the bow of My Girl is taller than the bridge-deck of Tatu.  And if you wanted to top that, invite Attessa IV over here – My Girl is just half the size of Attessa.  From my end, I’m quite happy to have my little 45′ sailboat Beetle.


My Girl is a Westport 164 from 2007 – and the boat looks immaculate. I especially like the gigantic satellite dish antennae on the antenna mast.

While here in San Diego I’ve done a couple things, mostly having to do with paperwork for Mexico – lots of time spent on the telephone to sort out:

get my USCG Documentation, which was received from USCG by my parents, forwarded via FedEx to the local FedEx so I could pick it up – only to discover the USCG had screwed up and changed my ‘Owners Address’.  Fortunately, after several lengthy telephone calls the USCG National Vessel Documentation Center figured out how to not require me to go through the hassle of re-mail, re-FedEx to re-acquire the correct paperwork (answer: they ‘disappear’ the erroneous second Certificate of Documentation and annotate the boat’s paperwork history, I go with the good Certificate in hand and discard the bad one).

obtain ACE Seguros Mexico Watercraft Liability Insurance.  This is a requirement of bringing your boat into Mexico, you must have liability insurance to cover any damage you do to their country, and that insurance must be underwritten by a Mexican insurance company.


SAGARPA (seems like Food & Agriculture) has an office outside of Mexico… right there in San Diego. Convenient for those folks visiting San Diego that want to fish Mexican waters.

purchase a Mexico fishing license from Conapesca.  This is actually super-easy to do, as Conapesca (which appears to be the Mexican equivalent of US Fish & Wildlife, perhaps) maintains an office in San Diego for purposes of managing licensing for all the sport fishing tourists that head out of San Diego and into Mexican waters.  Just remember to bring $46.40 USD exact change to the Conapesca office.


A well-done list of whales and mammals found in the water of Mexico. They even have Sperm Whales, which I found interesting – didn’t know that.

get some shoes from Dicks Sporting Goods – and discovered how Uber works in the process.  I don’t like the concept of Uber as I believe this undercuts the existing professional taxi cab folks, allowing the folks have been going way beyond the initial concept of ‘drive your own car and make a few bucks when you have nothing else to do’ – this has transformed into ‘lease 20 cars from us, find drivers, and you have yourself an Uber-based business despite the fact that you’ve put 20 new taxis on the road that are simply driving around adding congestion to the roads’.  That said, it was difficult to get a taxi to come out to get me on the tip of Shelter Island, the couple on SV Stingray I had met in Marina del Rey said Uber worked for them, so I tried it out.  Uber has a brilliant interface, you can see where the cars on a map, the drivers don’t have to know the streets as Google Maps literally shows them every turn to take from where you are to where you want to go, payment is simple and seamless (done online to a previously-arranged credit card), and the cost is low.  I do not know how Uber folks make a living given the low rates Uber charges me, the end customer.  So I met up with quite a few retired folks driving around in their minivan, and got from Shelter Island to Conapesca to Dicks Sporting Goods to FedEx to Shelter Island; it worked out well.

arranged telephone and data coverage in Mexico through AT&T – I simply get to roam onto whichever network is available to me in Mexico thru my AT&T account; this includes TelCel.  AT&T had purchased Iusacell and Nextel wireless providers in Mexico, and the integration into Mexico works great for me.

arranged a guest slip at Ensenada Marina Cruiseport, for use when checking in to Mexico.  The hard part here is to get Cruiseport to call you back, mostly as their USA-toll free land line telephone didn’t work at all (lots of static is all I got on the line).  Fortunately, they eventually replied to an email saying they had room – most excellent!

troubleshot a problem with the Iridium GO external marine antenna; parts were shipped in from Atlantic Radio Telephone in Florida, and I went over some details with the good people at Satellite Phone Store in San Diego – upshot is I have a better idea of what to expect from aging Iridium satellites, local radio interference, and how to manage the hardware I have.

Kristen popped into town over the weekend and we went and visited Coronado Beach and the big hotel there – anyone that saw The Stuntman will well-know the roofs of the hotel.  Also did ‘The Shop’ and acquired a month’s worth of food to be used on the run from Ensenada to Banderas Bay.  As far as I can tell I can’t bring in fresh meats other than fish (no poultry, pork, beef – though don’t quote me on that).  My plan is to purchase fresh foods in Ensenada, not San Diego.


Jeann’s boat Nereida – this boat has already been around the world once, non-stop, singlehanded. She was on her way again, only got stopped due to equipment failure, and I found that she’s right nearby Shelter Island.

And lastly had an opportunity to visit with Jeanne Socrates onboard her Najad 38 Nereida.  She’s lots of fun, and is moored just down the way from me whilst waiting for her generator to be overhauled, rebuilt, and reinstalled.  When that’s done (perhaps next week) she’s planning to head down Mexico-way and I may be bumping into her as we both progress at our own various speeds and stopping places.  We have some mutual friends down south, and it will be fun to meet up with everyone at some point in the future.\

I’ll have to track down the pictures Kristen has of the three of us having dinner onboard…

– rob





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