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Mexico: Ensenada - Puerto Vallarta 15.11. - 4.12.2004

15.11.   23.11.   30.11.  4.12.  


Mexico has 100 million inhabitants.
The capital, Ciudad de México with a population of 20 million, is world's densiest populated and largest town.
Mexico is a federal state (the official name is  Estados Unidos Mexicanos). There are 31 states and one federal district.
Official languages are Spanish and several indigenous languages such as Nahuatl  (Aztec) and Maya.

Baja California is 1200 km long (700 nautical miles). From Bahia de Tortugas we sailed to Puerto Vallarta, 700 nm. Between P. Vallarta and Manzanillo we visited some anchorages before heading 200 nm to Zihuatanejo. From there it's 100 nm to Acapulco

15.11.2004 Ensenada, Mexico
Five days in Mexico and so far we have enjoyed a lot! It's good to get out of the western culture time to time. Our first impression of Mexico: relaxed atmosphere, friendly people, tasty food.
We arrived to the harbour of Ensenada during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. We anchored among ten other cruising boats. The passage from San Diego was good, NW wind round 15 knots, boat speed 5-6 knots. The last few hours we had to motor since the wind died. 
Ensenada is located in the Bay of Todos Santos. We were in the middle of the bay, when we saw in the radar someone coming close to us. It was a boat without lights. It passed very close. Soon the spot in the radar started to approach us again. We saw also with the binoculars that a boat was surging towards us. It stopped just behind and lighted us with very powerful spotlight. Nothing had been said in VHF. Then the light went off and the boat turned. Everything happened so quickly that we didn't even have time to be scared. Probabaly they were looking for drugs or something.
In the morning we went to clear in. A Canadian sailor, Greg, was frindly to show us all the offices - immigration, port captain and a bank. In the port captain's office they asked for an insurance, how nice it was to show the document! So we didn't waste our money (see the previous update). On the other hand, we don't know what would have happened, if we hadn't had insurance. Formalities were done in an hour (583 pesos which is about 50 US dollars) and we were free to explore the town. Our first real Mexican burritos tasted delicious and the price wasn't bad, about 3 US dollars. From the street stalls you can get really inexpensive meals.


Marina Baja Naval. Behind it is the anchorage. 
Cruising ships visit Ensenada regularly.

We spent three nights in anchor, then we moved in to marina Baja Naval, because the price different between anchoring + dinghy dock, and a marina slip wasn't great. In addition, we have bikes again, thanks to Sylvie and Jean, who gave us their bikes in San Diego. Transporting the bicycles with the dinghy every day would have been troublesome.
It costs 5 dollar per day to anchor in the harbor. To tie the dinghy, you choose one of the many small docks/marinas. The cheapest is 3 dollars, the most expensive is 11 (actually 5.50 per person), but for that price you can use shower. You can pay either in US dollars or Mexican pesos.
On Saturday we bicycled to fleemarket outside the citycentre. We found a backpack to replace Auli's 20 years old, well served one. They also sold fruits and vegetables at the market. We bought a couple of papayas (1.40 US) and an agave leaf. It should be good to high bloodpressure. If I understood correctly the Spanish explanation, you cut the agave and eat it with salt and lime, for instance with bread. We tried with avocado, it has very mild taste. On the fish market we were not so lucky. Not knowing the local fish or their names (except tuna, barracuda, mahi-mahi) we ended up buying something which wasn't so tasty. Well, we have to try another kind next time.


The men scratched the spines off before selling the agave.

On Saturday evening we went to town and it turned out to be the right moment: the oldest bar in Ensenada was celebrating its 140th birthday. The party was going on outside at the street because all didn't fit inside. And it probably went on early into next morning, but the generous tequila shots were too much for beginners, and we left at ten.

On Wednesday we'll leave Ensenada and spend a few weeks outside the towns. The next town will be Mazatlan, since we will most likely skip Cabo San Lucas.

23.11.2004 Bahia de Tortugas, Mexico
The 300-mile passage to Bahia de Tortugas, Turtle Bay, went with conditions from calm to good wind. First we had one totally calm day, then one day with perfect wind, and the third day between these two. On the second day we hoisted mizzen and mizzen staysail and made 7 knots. But still we saw a sail in the horizon coming gradually closer, which woke up our racing instincts. That didn't last long, the staysail broke and we lost one knot of our speed. However, the defeat turned out to victory (and to a big amazement) when the boat was passing: it was motoring! The beautifully shaped sailing vessel had genoa up, but the main was reefed and tightened in the middle. The boat was motoring in 15 knots beam wind. Well, well.
We stopped on the tiny island of San Martin, which is inhabited by the sea lions - until their death. The beach was full of sea lion bones and sculls. A longer expedition inland was prevented by thick wall of spiny vegetation. It's ingredible how many different kind of plants survive in the dry soil.

First time during our three and half years trip - or more precisely, during the whole existence of Kristiina - the engine cooling system got blocked. The reason was kelp, which is floating plentiful on the sea surface. We tried to open the pipe with air pressure (dinghy pump, ineffective), then with an iron stick (too thin). Finally a railing wire opened the block. The plumbing work took about half an hour. After a while the engine started to warm up again and water didn't run properly, but this time cleaning the filter from the kelp was enough.

Bahia de Tortugas, a village of 4000 inhabitants on the mid-Baja California, is a popular stop among cruisers for three reasons: there is no port captain i.e. no paper hassle; it provides an all-weather anchorage; and you can get fuel. The first eager diesel seller came to us before we even had anchor down, in the darkness of 10 pm. We didn't need fuel, but the 2-3 vendors have been busy with coming and going boats. The village seems to get a good deal of its livelihood from the visiting vessels. A sardine cannery was closed 8 years ago, leaving most of the people unemployed. There are only two fishing vessels in the bay, so it's not a fishing village. There are about 20 cruisers anchored in the bay, the daily change is about 5 vessels. The village has several small stores and an internet. You can have an expensive shower in the hotel (50 pesos!).


It's all desert outside the village. 


A bakery.  Auli got break from baking.

The village is covered with dust. Only some brightly painted walls distinct from the overall colour of dust, greyish-brown. It probably rains very seldom. The only green spots are planted trees and bushes, in addition many have pot plants. Every house has a fenche - and you should see the materials! Pieces of wood, plywood, tin sheets, tyres, bricks. We even saw a fence-embankment made of used fridges. Every yard has a barking dog or two, some have chickens. Children are shy and smiling, shouting 'hola gringo' when we pass. There are houses of every sort, from large, painted stone residences to plywood huts that look more like kids' playhouses than real homes.


Kids have school trousers...


...and big backbags.

The most peculiar buildings, however, were found on the cemetery (we were taking an evening walk without camera, so you have to be content with a written description). Instead of gravestones and crosses there we small houses. Though some we bigger than the plywood homes nearby. All the gravehouses were very well kept, tidy, painted and decorated. There were wooden doors with carvings and golden knobs, different shapes of glasswindows, glasspaintings, brick decorations, statues, and of course crosses and pictures of the Holy Madonna. Inside the house - those we could see in - was the grave tomb and a lot of flowers and decorations. Most of the Mexicans are Roman Catholic. Maybe this is a normal way, but for us it was new and most special graveyard since the Tongan sand piles.


There is a shortage of building material, 
so anything goes.

Our plan has changed a bit: we are going to sail directly from here to the mainland, to Puerto Vallarta, about 700 miles away. But let's see where we find us next. Hasta proxima!

30.11.2004 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
It took exactly six days for the 710 mile passage from Bahia de Tortugas to Puerto Vallarta, which makes 118 miles per day. The wind was most of the time light, only on the last 24-hours it was blowing 25-30 knots.
Fish stories havn't been told lately. We have got good value for the 1400 pesos (130 dollars) fishing license we bought in Ensenada. We have got so many mackerells, that we have also released them. The biggest were two kilos (4.4 pounds). Mackerell is ok fish, a bit dry though. After Bahia de Tortugas we got tuna. First one 3,5 kg (7.7 lb), then a 5,5 kg (12 lb) yellow fin. This amount of fish led to creative cooking and experimental spices to get variation to dinners. In addition Hannu dried tuna and Auli made cheviche of mackerell. Last time we got tropical fish was on the passage from Hawaii to Alaska.

Hannu's soya tuna 
- cut tuna filé in thin slices
- drop the slices in soya and then roll in flour
- fry in a hot pan with oil

Auli's curry tuna
- cut tuna in pieces
- heat oil in a wokpan and add a generous tablespoon of curry
- fry fish with onion, zucchini or other vegetables
- add a couple of tblspoons of natural youghurt or light sour cream and let it cook under a lid for about 10 min. 


The weather was perfect for drying fish: thin slices are soaked
in soya and hanged to a rope

One morning, just after the sun rise, a minke whale was visiting us. About ten metres long, slim baleen whale was rounding Kristiina for an hour. It came close, turned sideways so that we saw the whitish belly, swam a bit away and came up to breathe. This was repeated several times. Every time the whale came a bit closer and turned sideways when it was next to the boat. To see us? Probably whales are able to see above the surface as they are able to see under water. Some times the whale was behind us, some times on either side. Then it dived under the boat, sideways. The strong and musculous tail was pedaling slowly. The whale came up to the surface and departed.


A curious minke whale was following us for an hour.


The baleen whales eat small creatures like this,
which we saw plentiful close to Baja California.



The mizzen staysail has been up a lot. It increases the speed with one knot.
 Also the spinnaker was used a few times on the passage
 Bahia de Tortugas - Puerto Vallarta.

 

4.12.2004 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
We are leaving Puerto Vallarta today, so here is just a few words and several photos. The town is very touristic: hotels, souvenier shops, restaurants and street-sellers. Marina Vallarta is located a few kilometres out of city centre. It's surrounded by hotels and condominiums, restaurants and shops. An artificial place, not very nice.
We bicycled twice to the city centre, which wasn't easy: traffic is grazy, fast and unpolite. Totally different than in Ensenada. Here it is not possible to clear in and out by yourself, instead you have to take an agent, and pay them 440 pesos, which is more than the clearance fees, 326 pesos. Marina costs 37 dollars per night, there is no anchorage. Very expensive place.

The pink bridge joins two houses, that belonged to Richard Burton and Elisabeth Taylor. Burton bought the houses when he was making the movie The nights of iguana. And there are some iguanas here:


These iguanas live on dry land, not in the sea 
as their cousins on Galápagos Islands.


Pelicans stay close to the fish market in town.

 


Colourful craftswork of the Huichol indians.

 

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