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A week in Ensenada, waiting for the weather window

Hola! – it’s been just over a week now that Beetle and I have been here in Ensenada, and currently the boating community, and most likely the town, are hunkering down as a powerful Low pressure system and associated cold front sweep through today and tonight.

Currently the wind is building from the South, the front is forecast to have winds of 30-35 knots building to 30-40 tonight.  The associated sea state is also going up, currently 10-13′ forecast to increase to 16-19′ by Saturday evening.  The front trails southwest from the Low that is currently driving into San Francisco and extends all the way out and south to Hawaii – and this means the front is drawing warm moist air from way south and carrying that water the 2,000 miles to us here on the west coast.  It’s supposed to be wet wet wet when the rain starts, with a forecast of 1.5″ in Ensenada, a bit more in San Diego.

The week here so far has been very pleasant, got the check-in completed, did a little shopping for fresh foods in the large local markets, bought a bit of beer, and met up with Jeanne (Nereida) as she arrived at the dock two slips over.  She knew Peter on Ahaluna, and I was invited to Peter’s boat for after-dinner drinks and general telling of stories.  Peter is an interesting character, a retired German/South African/Canadian cinematographer that spent 40 years in the business working primarily in television commercials – loads of stories about that business, and he’s also a HAM radio nut that runs the local morning cruiser’s net.  Super nice fellow.

One of the fun things to do is try and visit a particular restaurant I had found the previous time I was here.  That particular place is the taqueria next door to Hussong’s Cantina.  We’d found it in 2013, and unfortunately every time after the first time we went by – it was closed; never had a chance to get back inside and enjoy the excellent 20 peso Tacos al Pastore that they have.  So I went by and guest what – they were open!


That’s the red pork meat on the vertical metal shaft that slowly rotates in front of the fire; the fellow with the knife (which is a seriously sharp knife) strikes off bits of meat and builds a simple taco of flour tortilla and the meat; on the counter are kept lots of various things to add to the taco – cabbage, salsa, hot sauces, guacamole, all sort of things. The prices are super reasonable and the food is really good.

It also worked out that Kristen was able to visit and make a long weekend of it here.  We went out exploring the local town, and then hired a car for the day and drove out to the wine valley 15 minutes north of Ensenada and met some wonderful folks at the smaller wineries.  I spent some talking with Jorge of  Cava Maciel – turns out the fellow behind the tasting counter is the owner and he has 5 hectares of grapes at the east end of the valley, plus he purchases grapes from other vineyards and mixes them in interesting ways to make his own wines.  As I’m not much of a wine drinker I make a most excellent driver and we tooled around the valley visiting places Kristen thought might be interesting.


This winery has a large pond that the mud hens and ducks liked. The tasting is outdoors on the deck overlooking the pond, with vineyards stretching off into the distance.

For the most part stopping at wineries means standing around on concrete or stone floors sipping small amounts of three to five wine varieties and then, if you like something, purchasing one or two bottles to take with you.  By the end of the day you’re tired of standing on hard floors, that’s for sure.  However, we discovered, completely by accident, Vina de Frannes – up a wide agricultural equipment dirt road through the vines, navigating around the big mud puddles (it had rained that morning) and ruts, to find a fellow standing with a rope stretched across an entrance to a vineyard.  We asked if the vineyard to our right was open and he said no, then he asked if we wanted to go on up to Frannes as it was still open? and we said yes, so he lowered the rope and let us drive on through.  And Frannes was a wonderful find, a big open area, lots of seating and tables and sofas, a tasting room where you selected what you’d like to try and they would bring them out to you one at a time, and best of all a full-on kitchen that served dinner.  So we sat and enjoyed the sunset while listening to the guitarist playing in the corner, Kristen tested out some good wine, we ordered up some food – all the while overlooking the rolling hills filled with vineyards.  We were there for about two hours.  Very nice to find a place to relax and enjoy just being in the valley.

Also stopped in at the Baja Brewery micro-brew pub on the way back to town – seems that micro-brews are becoming of interest to the folks that live here.  It felt like being in Malibu – it was dark, out on the patio our pints are perched on a surfboard on a trestle set up as a table, with the waves directly below us landing on the rocky shore.


Cruiseport Marina is sort of in the center of the bowl that encompasses Ensenada. The hills surround the city, with lots of large upscale houses on the hillsides while the more ramshackle houses and industrial activities happen down in the bowl. When it rains, all that water runs through the bowl and it can get muddy!

As part of having the car I was able to run over to the Pemex station that has diesel (not the two stations closest to the Cruiseport Marina, instead you have to go four more blocks to find the Pemex that has both gasolina and diesel) the next morning.  This was done shortly before I needed to return the rental car, and then Jeanne wanted to fill her diesel jugs as well so Kristen and I and Jeanne hopped in the car and did another run-around for diesel (now I knew which Pemex to go to it was quicker), then drove over to the bus station to get a ticket for Kristen so she could get back to the border and on to the San Diego Airport (Ensenada, for all its size, doesn’t have an airport that can get you to the States, therefore the bus service is heavily utilized for that purpose).


The fish boat cooperative operates a rail slipway to haul out the bigger fishing boats, essentially one at a time (though two boats will fit in the ways, one stacked in front of the other). This is done right on the malecon (boardwalk). Lots of metal grinding and welding and work happening on this boat.

My initial plan was to head south from Ensenada Monday morning (as in earlier this week), and I’d been watching the long range weather forecasts; the North Pacific ocean is filled with Low pressure systems right now and all of those can generate big seas as they steam east from Japan and (usually) make landfall somewhere north of San Francisco, in fact often in Seattle or Vancouver.  The weather conditions in Ensenada were bright sun, light air, perfect for a leisurely sail south.  However, the forecasts and weather models were calling for a Low to sail in to San Francisco and the associated front was going to be a strong one and would in fact push the High out of the way, arriving with powerful winds and rain just about the time I could get to Bahia Santa Maria 510 miles to the south.  Bahia Santa Maria is a terrible place to be in a strong Southerly, which leaves Turtle Bay as a possible stopping point, only I didn’t particularly want to go there and then I found an article about a group of boats (the FUBAR motor yacht fleet) that spent a night chasing back and forth in the dark in Turtle Bay as they dealt with wind switches from South to North as a strong Low passed just north of their position and it wasn’t fun at all, especially the part about avoiding all the loosely laid shrimp and crab pot buoys set in the south end of the bay.

Upshot is the new plan is to leave this coming Monday.

And here comes the front:


Wunderground makes it easy to find the National Weather Service doppler radar imagery, which are tuned to show precipitation. The yellow are denotes the hard rain that is just west of Ensenada and coming in as the front travels West to East.

It’s going to be wet tonight, I suspect!

– rob

Checked in to Mexico, at the dock in Ensenada

I am officially checked in to Mexico; Enrique (of Marina Cruiseport) drove myself and another boat’s folks over to the CIS (Centro Integral de Servicios) building and he accompanied us through the check-in with Immigration and the Port Captain.  As Tiger Beetle already has a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) I did not need to visit Aduana (Customs).  Boom – start at 8:30AM, at 10:30AM we’re done.  I have lots of stamped documents, paid $25 USD cash to Banjercito (Mexico military bank – about as official as it gets) for the FMM immigration form, and I have an official form from the Ensenada Puerto Capitan for the crew list and authorization of arrival, dispatch, and mooring.    Plus they stamped my passport, which is kinda fun!

So I’m here.


Beetle in the slip at Marina Cruiseport. The slips have 30 amp USA power (proper frequency and voltage) so we just plug in and are good to go. The marina also has WiFi available on the docks, and basura collection right on the docks.

It turns out that Marina Cruiseport has raised their berth rates, and it has now become less expensive to sign up for a month-long stay in the marina as compared to a 7 day stay.  So I’ve signed up for a month; go figure.  I have no intention of being here a month, but it is nice to know that if weather becomes an issue for departure next week (I’m heading south) at least they won’t kick me out of the slip.

The marina has nice showers, WiFi is available, Enrique’s time and expertise was gratis as part of the marina’s welcoming us into Mexico – all of that makes the unexpected expense of being here easy to rationalize and not get too upset about.


The neighborhood is pretty nice, given we’re all a lot of vagabonds out seeing things from the aquatic perspective. A Nordhavn 46 is opposite me, and a really big power boat is the end tie. The docks are the same concrete structures as found at Grand Marina in Alameda (though the cleats are substantially bigger here than in Alameda).

In the morning there is the Ensenada Cruiser’s VHF radio net on VHF 69.  Turn your radio on, set it to high power, and there are a fair number of folks here willing to help out, answer questions, provide rides if need be, take flat stamped mail back to the US for posting, that sort of thing.  This morning’s net was 10 minutes long, beginning to end.  I suspect if this were in the early part of the Mexico cruising season (November) it would be a much bigger crowd than the 15-20 boats here now in February.

Yesterday’s arrival in Ensenada went very smoothly, what breeze there was died away as I got closer to Ensenada, there was no fog, and by 4:30PM Beetle was backed into the slip and Steve next door hopped over from his Cal 2-46 to help tie up the lines (plus he didn’t want to get bonked by Beetle – the slips are missing the dock that would normally separate the boats, so we’re all side-tied and share a slip with the adjacent boat).

This morning I visited the marina office, we went through formalities, Enrique helped with the Mexico check-in, and it was back to Beetle.


Who says there can’t be fog in Ensenada? This fellow arrived this morning in pea-soup fog, I doubt the bridge could even see the water as we had 50′ visibility on the docks. This is one of the Carnival cruise ships tied up alongside one half of the exterior pier at Cruiseport – there’s a reason this place is called Cruiseport…

I decided to go find Pacifico Beer – that would be my job for the day.  Seemed like a simple task, go to the super market and get some.  Turned out not to be so easy.  It seems that there are two major breweries in Mexico: Grupo Modelo (Negra Modelo, Pacifico, and many others) and FEMSA (Tecate and many others).  It’s somewhat like Pepsi and Coca Cola – the two do not play well together, to the point that the shops advertising Tecate will have NO Pacifico, and the Modelo-rama shops have NO Tecate.  Unfortunately for me, I decided I would enjoy a Pacifico this evening… only to find that all the shops in town (including 7-11 and look-alike OXXO are Tecate shops).  Not so good.  I visited Calimax, the large supermarket, and it was Tecate.  I then walked about, checked several OXXO and 7-11 shops, all Tecate.  Rats!  After striking out for a Modelo-rama show on Google Maps as being four blocks away only to discover that structure is now a small ice cream shop, I decided to try Soriana Super (the locals’ big supermarket) and on the way found a Smart & Final.  I went in.  They have Tecate AND Pacifico – holy cow!  And Pacifico is sold in 8-pack cans, which is somewhat different than what I am used to, but now I have some.


When in Ensenada it’s important to shop at the Mexican shoppes! – at least these guys had the particular brew I was in search of.

Now it is 4:40PM, the folks next door have invited me to join them in the 2 for 1 fish tacos at the fish market – I suspect I’ve been there previously with Ben and Lucie while Beetle was hauled out in 2013 at Baja Naval, rather good tacos – and Jeanne on Nereida has just pulled in to the dock two slips over, so she has arrived.  Also met up with the catamaran Rum Doxy, they were at the San Diego police docks and are now here.  Also Dan’s Out Island 51 Hope that he was working on at Grand Marina in Alameda is here, though Dan is not (he’s at home overseas, apparently due back in April).

All is good, the fog is in, temperatures have cooled off.  Time to enjoy the evening!

– rob


Southbound forEnsenada!

Good morning – it’s 7AM local time, the sun is climbing up into the sky and it’s going to be a super day out here on the water. The ocean has a low rolling swell coming in from starboard and the wind is pretty darn light – perhaps 3 to 4 knots from the NE. Beetle and I are tooling along at 1850 rpm, the goal being to arrive at the Cruiseport marina before it’s particularly dark.

The charts I have are from 2007 and are old enough that the marina doesn’t even appear on them. I knew this and went over to the Navionics web site and looked at their current charts for the area, and was able to screen-shot their bit of chart that shows the marina located inside the big breakwater that protects Ensenada. The marina is therefore fairly new, has concrete docks, and is super-well protected by the surrounding giant cruise ship docks/wharf/terminals. I have been in the marina before when Kristen and I took the dinghy and went exploring in the port of Ensenada – the Cruiseport facility rivals any USA marina.

The plan is to be at the marina tonight, I have a slip reserved through Michelle at Cruisport, and she sent me a map of the marina layout so I know where I’m going – always a nice thing to have in advance. The total distance run is 66 miles today, significantly shorter than the 108 mile run from Marina del Rey to San Diego. Tomorrorw I should be able to check in to Mexico by walking up to the small office that contains the bank, immigration, customs, port captain, and conapesca fishing people all in one little space – no running across town to visit all the different offices as the Mexicans have kindly coalesced them into one convenient place.

The folks on the docks at the San Diego Harbor police are an interesting lot; there are definitely two classes of boaters there – the cruisers that are passing through have the bigger well-cared-for boats, and the local anchor-out liveaboards are also there periodically (for water, showers, boat fixes) and these are the boats covered in blue tarps to keep the rain out, and lots of stuff stacked on deck that makes the boats difficult to sail. A lot of time is spent by the latter group clustered around each other’s transoms as they work on resurrecting balky outboard motors. An enormous amount of energy is expended on tinkering on old outboards in the hope that the device will suddenly start working again. I wonder what it is about outboard motors that makes them so finicky? I know I have spent enough time arguing with mine that I’m always happy when it starts.

So we’re off into the clear morning, temperature is forecast to be up around 70 here and 79 in Ensenada, and Coastal Explorer (the nav software) thinks I might be at Cruiseport shortly before 5pm.

Not too much to do today on board, simply hang out in the sun and watch as we head down the coast. Yesterday I made the last set of telephone calls to manage international stuff, namely to let the credit card folks know to expect charges coming in from Mexico, obtain direct-dial phone numbers for them (800 numbers into the USA don’t work from Mexico and are thoroughly unhelpful), and I’m all set there.

Enjoy the day!

– rob

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




On the road to San Diego

The storms have departed Southern California, and today dawned clear and crisp. The high swell has diminished, thunderstorms have vanished with the clouds, leaving behind a smooth rolling ocean and light air – time to head south from Marina del Rey and visit San Diego. I’m bypassing Avalon, on Catalina Island, as there’s no need to hang out in Southern California and I can instead move forward with traveling southwards towards, eventually, Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta).

The wind is essentially zero to 5 knots from mostly east-ish and the mainsail is up so it can dry out. The rains we had in Los Angeles were record-setting, at least at the Long Beach Airport: 3.97″ in 24 hours, as well as Los Angeles Airport (right next door to where I was in Marina del Rey) where they had 2.78″. It was definitely a good time to hunker down and keep warm with the heater running. Hey, it’s January – got to expect some cold, eh?

Currently I’m off Long Beach Harbor, which is a huge busy place, lots of cargo ships and traffic. I’m cutting diagonally across the shipping lanes and had a brief conversation with inbound cargo ship Mariner to verify that they were in fact going to follow the lane and turn in towards the harbor while I kept going (across their bow) headed for San Diego. The captain confirmed that they were going to come left to 270 and would pass to my stern. I don’t like cutting across the front of big ships, so it is nice to know what they are planning to do.

There are some mats of kelp out here floating about, some traffic to Avalon (primarily ferry boats, plus one helicopter), and various groups of porpoise moving around, plus groups of birds diving on bait fish in the water where something has driven the baitfish to the surface. Haven’t seen any whales yet; I sort of think I’m in between whale migrations as the Grey Whales should already be in Mexico and thinking about heading north, while the humpback whales are probably out in Hawaii or down in Baja having fun and being warm.

Plan is to arrive in San Diego late tonight, they have guest slips available. The newly-requested USCG Documentation paperwork should be waiting at the FedEx location in Pt. Loma. The USCG used to issue vessel documentation that was good forever, then they started charging $26/year and made all the certificates expire on March 31 of each year. This is annoying as it becomes a problem to get the actual piece of paper in your hands; not necessarily so simple if you don’t have a fixed mailing address for USCG to send it to you. And apparently a scanned and emailed copy is insufficient, as most folks would like to see the original document. So my original document will be waiting for me at Pt. Loma and I should be good for another year. I do not want a repeat of what happened the last time I checked out of Mexico: I did so on March 31, without thinking about the expiration date on the Certificate of Documentation. The Mexico folks pointed this out and said it was a good thing it was doing this today and not the next one.

So all is good here, the Kindle is charging and I’m going to do some reading while Beetle moves south.

– rob

A week in Marina del Rey

Beetle and I are hiding out in Marina del Rey as a series of significant storm systems move through the area.  This time last week Kristen and I were moving around Pt Arguello and it was nice and sunny; this morning’s buoy report has SSE wind at 37 gusting 45 and the swell is up 15′ at 16 second interval – that’s big chop.  And at the east end of the Santa Barbara channel wind is up to E at 25 gusting 33 and the ocean swell is making it in that far at 10′ at 7 seconds – that’s even worse chop.  Upshot is I am pleased to be down the coast from San Francisco with the weather window we had last week.


The track to Marina del Rey – the big curve is us sailing on starboard tack and getting lifted right up to the marina entrance. That was a fun lift!

Given that I had some downtime while waiting out the weather, and I’ve got good network access, I spent several days sorting through available weather products for Mexico, crossing to the Marquesas, and French Polynesia.  I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s available, how to obtain it, and how to interpet it.  The other activity I put some time into was getting the communications gear up and running.   I haven’t used the SSB all that much while up in the  Pacific Northwest, and was a little rusty on using the equipment.  Now I have the latest radio net frequencies and times written out, the SSB is receiving SITOR text weather bulletins, with the SSB & Pactor modem I can bring in the WFax broadcasts.  I’ve also get the onboard radio email connections working through SSB/Pactor as well as through the Iridium GO – to both SailMail and Winlink.  It’s super convenient to send a single email from the boat through Iridium, it hits the Saildocs server (operated by SailMail), and 30 minutes later I can download to the nav station computer a complete weather picture of what’s going on.  Pretty amazing!


Beetle at Burton Chace Park, the guest docks at the municipal part of the marina. Most of Marina del Rey is operated by various private marinas that may (or usually may not) maintain open berthing for visiting boats. This set of slips is set aside solely for visiting boats, which is a nice thing.

Marina del Rey has been very pleasant to be in, the place is filled with intrepid rowing folks from UCLA as the 8 man teams shoot back and forth, usually trailed by someone coaching them from a small dinghy shouting suggestions through a megaphone.  Someone I would have though sculling would be a quiet activity, but it certainly isn’t for those practicing for races.


A couple of large visitors at the fuel dock. The fuel dock makes two side ties available as guest docks when the really big boats show up. And there are boats so large they can’t even fit through the turn at the Marina del Rey entrance.

The two giant yachts here are, it turns out, somewhat unusual.  The really big one is Attessa IV, owned by Dennis Washington of Montana – it’s a 328′ remodel of a custom 300′ yacht built for the chairman of the Evergreen Shipping Line (big container ship company in Taiwan).  He has the Attessa IV down here in Southern California on a visit from the Pacific Northwest.

The other big boat, also blue, is the 183′  Perini Navi ketch Asahi, that apparently just arrived from Hawaii.  It’s huge!

Both boats are guest-tied on the long fuel docks at Del Rey Fuel, probably the longest docks available in the marina.  Yesterday morning I motored over to the fuel docks to top up Beetle, and it’s quite impressive to be sandwiched in between the two boats.  The fenders they use are enormous!  Giant long black sausages that float in the water horizontally, and they make a fair bit of noise as the boat presses up against them.


Got to love helicopters on boats. This one is right down the dock from me, and the helicopter looks like it barely fits on the aft helipad. The boat is very swoopy looking, too – like something out of a James Bond movie.

On my end of the marina it’s been quiet.  I did walk over to Marine Communications on Washington Street to have the RogueWave WiFi radio serviced, and they found that the power plug had broken inside and were able to take it apart, repair it, and test the unit out – it’s all  back up and running again.  Very convenient to find that the RogueWave had a distributor right here in the marina.  Other longish walk was over to Home Depot to get some Shoe Goo glue; the heel of my tennis shoe separated from the sole, which was annoying.  Shoe Goo is a great glue for fixing that sort of problem.

One interesting factoid I’ve found is that even with the amazing weather forecasts the National Weather Service produces for the US waters, people don’t necessarily look at them.  Two cases in point, from my adjacent neighbors on the guest dock.  The first boat is a Formosa 50 preparing to head to Ensenada to check in to Mexico.  The owner asked if I was heading there on Thursday (as in several days ago) and I said no, I was staying put as there was a significant storm coming in Thursday morning.  This happened on Wednesday, when it looked all clear and nice here – so how could tomorrow be nasty?  Turns out he wasn’t looking at the NWS marine forecasts… when I showed him how to find the forecast on his computer he was surprised!  So they elected to wait out the bad weather.

Other case in point was yesterday (Saturday).  The fellow and his wife traveling north from Panama, headed to San Francisco, were wondering if next day would be a g ood day to run up to the Channel Islands Harbor, the next stop north from Marina del Rey.  He showed me the GFS grib model forecast on passageweather and thought it looked great.  I showed him the NWS forecast, not so great, suggested the NAM model might be better for near-shore waters (showed a bit more wind), and then we looked real data: the buoy report.  It showed 15 foot seas at 11 second intervals.  He decided that was terrible!  And added NWS Oxnard to his list of weather data to check.  I would have thought anyone moving around in a boat would use all the available weather data to make decisions – hopefully those two boats will do a little more digging next time they contemplate a longer ocean run, and can make good decisions based on the information available.

I spent a couple of hours replacing the port side interior light buss bar.  The original bar had corroded and was dropping voltage to the lights, and I thought I had a spare buss bar on board, and I found it!  A bit of wire terminal clean up of the wiring with the dremel tool and the new buss bar is in and the lights are seeing good voltage again.


Out with the bad, in with the new!


A little light, some tools, and the Dremel. In a short while the connections are all back bright and shiny.

Today should be mostly stay-on-board as it’s wet, rainy, and likely to be windy.  This front is due to spin through by tomorrow morning.  NWS buoy 46025 offshore from Santa Monica is reading ESE 19 gusting 27 with 9′ at 16 second swells, and while there’s no swell activity in the marina there is definitely a surge that shifts the boats back and forth in their slips – that would explain the cyclic squidging noises that Attessa’s fenders are making as the boat shifts fore and aft along the fuel dock.

Stay dry today!  Hopefully Beetle will be headed for San Diego Wednesday morning.

– rob


Beetle in Marina del Rey

And now Beetle is happily in Marina del Rey, very nice to be here.

The harbor is a man-made (as in dug out of the ground by people), and as a result is extremely square-sided, enormous, deep, and generally perfect – something one doesn’t find in your average small boat cove. The giant breakwater at the entrance makes this place very similar to the marina in San Jose del Cabo, only on a much larger scale.

The wealth here is amazing; the first thing you see on the way in is an enormous power boat side-tied to the fuel dock, complete with helicopter on the aft helipad. And that’s not the only boat here with a helicopter on it, we went by another powerboat with a (somewhat smaller) helicopter on it’s transom. If one thinks that keeping up with the neighbors means replacing the jib sheets once in a while, imagine what it must be like when your neighbor gets the latest and greatest helicopter and yours is no longer the belle of the ball; time to upgrade.

The sail in from outside Santa Monica bay was super nice. NWS changed the original forecast of E winds at 5-10 and ramped it up to East 10-20 added a small craft warning on top, then said the highest winds would be in the outer waters and towards Catalina Island. As this is precisely where Beetle was sailing towards, I elected to tack towards shore and see what was happening inside – particularly as the anemometer readings on shore were significantly less than what we were seeing 15 miles out.

Turns out there is a big lift on starboard tack when sailing towards Marina del Rey from outside – the breeze must make a turn around Palos Verdes as it comes up from the east. We started sailing in pointing towards 36 degrees true, then got lifted, and lifted, and lifted, until we were close-reaching towards the Marina del Rey breakwater at 80 degrees and we never had to tack again. Breeze lightened up as we got in closer and then suddenly POP we are inside and sailing down the center channel of the main fairway (powering boats to left and right, center channel is reserved for sailing boats).

We also saw the 24 meter Foggy out sailing, they were heading towards Point Dume with a gigantic square-top mainsail and the masthead asymmetric spinnaker flying along at 11.4 knots (according to their AIS signal). The boat looks like one of those 80′ flat-decked sleds (no cabin house at all), much like one of those Wally boats from Italy. And then come evening we found Foggy docked a couple of slips over from where we were, and indeed, it is a flat-decked, giant cockpit, wood & epoxy & carbon cold-molded enormously tall carbon mast day sailor. I sure hope it has some basic amenities, such as a toilet, though not all day sailing yachts do. A very impressive boat, that’s for sure. And it’s in immaculate condition – quite beautiful to watch on the water.

I checked in at the Burton Chace Park people, Kristen and I hopped a cab over to a fun Mexican restaurant on Washington Avenue right in front of the Venice Beach and had some great food whilst watching the football game on the televisions that were everywhere in this place… literally screens lined up along the wall, impossible to not get a good view of the game from any vantage point possible. And lots of lots of beautiful people hanging out there, definitely the happening place last night.

Today has been lots of sleep, Kristen made her plane flight back north, and I’ve been figuring out the nuances of how GMail labels work as regards the Sailmail’s ShadowMail system – hopefully this will let me keep tabs on my shoreside email address remotely thru SailMail, while only bring tiny amounts of data over the radio. So far this looks quite promising.

So we’re off the water, in a slip in the marina, and relaxing with warmer weather, calm breezes, and lots and lots of scullers zooming around in the form the UCLA rowing squads.

– rob