Although it was an unintentional stop, we made the best of our four days in Ensenada (October 31 – November 3). Sure, we had to spend a lot of time talking to the boatyard about our missing propeller, calling our insurance agent, and getting our paperwork in order, but we also spent some time exploring the town, eating tacos, and practicing our Spanish at the local hardware store. Crew morale was high, all things considered. We especially enjoyed the parts of town that felt less touristy and the public art and music.
In order to clear into Mexico, we had to visit three offices: Immigration (where you get your tourist card), Harbor Master (the Capitanía de Puerto, where your boat clears in through the arrival process), and Banjercito (where you get your Temporary Import Permit, or TIP, valid for up to 6 months). We had heard from other cruisers that the process can be unclear, with different offices and different staff members requesting different pieces of documentation. Ensenada is actually a great place to clear in, since all of the offices are located in one convenient building. Our boatyard, Baja Naval, made the process even easier for us. First of all, when you arrive they send Carlos to greet you. Carlos, with his dark complexion, muscular build, and flowing hair, is the dreamiest boatyard employee we’d ever seen. Philippe couldn’t stop talking about him. Second of all, the Baja Naval staff took all of our required documents (registration, insurance, and crew list), made the appropriate number of photocopies, and paper clipped together the items we needed to hand through the window at each office. They also provided us with a step-by-step list that we could follow to complete all of the required processes. We did have a laugh when Philippe was asked to review forms for accuracy and would point out a discrepancy (a spelling error in “Spencer” or the wrong middle initial for Philippe’s name, for example), but then would be told “no hay problema”. Furthermore, I had read all about the Mexico pet import laws, and ensured that Yuki’s paperwork was in order. We have signed copies of his two rabies vaccines, plus he had a special vet appointment in San Diego, where the vet completed a health certificate that needed to be signed within the 10 days prior to crossing the border. When I asked what paperwork we would need for Yuki, the woman helping us gave me a quizzical look, made a quick phone call, and told us to keep him on a leash. Easy enough.
Cruisers net + brownies = speedy departure
Ports like Ensenada often have a “cruisers net”, a specified time and VHF channel where boats passing through can connect each morning. The net facilitator will take a roll call and offer prompts, such as “who is offering or requesting a ride around town”, “who is looking for crew or seeking a crew position”, “who needs or has recommendations for local services”, or “who would like to share an event invitation”. Baja Naval told us that they had a machinist that would make a custom prop nut for us, but Philippe joined the net and put out a request for an appropriately sized nut just in case. We received a response from Steve on S/V Loch Fyne, who said that he’d stop over and see if he had something that fit. When he stopped by an hour later, we learned that his spare nut did not fit, but he was kind enough to drive us to the nearby marine store, where we easily found one. We brought back two nuts, which had to be slightly altered to work correctly, but all in all greatly sped up the repair process. I also baked a tray of brownies for the boatyard employees, and they were incredibly well received. There was one mechanic, in particular, who refused to acknowledge us for the first few days. Post-brownie he would wave and smile each time he saw us. I can’t say for certain that the brownies helped us depart sooner, but they definitely put us in the good graces of the boatyard team. Woohoo!
Exploring the town
Now for the fun stuff! We didn’t stray too far from Baja Naval, but we enjoyed walking along the waterfront path and eating at a few good restaurants. The locals were all friendly, but since cruise ships do pass through this port there are occasionally some pushy restaurateurs and shop owners. Lucky for us, the cruise ship showed up on our last day in town and hadn’t unloaded guests yet, so we didn’t have to fight the sea of tourists. The first thing we did once we cleared in through immigration was get tacos (fish, shrimp, and carne asada) and micheladas, made with Tacate, lime juice, and Clamato. Yum.
We went out for cervesas both nights we were in town. The first night, we hung out at a bar and watched game 7 of the World Series, a pleasant surprise for Preston, who assumed that by signing up for this trip he would miss it. Our second pleasant surprise was that we were in town for Day of the Dead. Although Día de los Meurtos is a much bigger celebration in other parts of the country, Ensenada did have a number of women in beautiful, elaborate costumes and face paint. As we were walking home from our evening meal, we also stumbled upon the Día de los Meurtos Carrera, a 3K run/walk. We figured we would spectate, but a very nice gentleman approached Philippe and frantically told us that there were still numbers – follow him! Philippe, despite his knee surgery, can never turn down some impromptu fun, so all four of us rushed to the table and were the last people to be given race numbers. My purse and flip-flops hindered my race position (we also wound up walking a fair bit of the course), but we can say we participated nonetheless.
Cell phone connectivity – I had no problem sending or receiving text messages or phone calls with my Verizon plan. My Verizon data plan also worked pretty well. I had decent luck getting 4G in most places, and saw a clear increase in bars when I used the Wi-Fi booster. In some areas I was stuck with a slower connection, which meant that my hotspot didn’t always work very well. Philippe wasn’t getting any cell or data connection whatsoever on his sprint plan, so he took a trip to TelCel, where he purchased a SIM card that gives him data and talk/text.
Wi-Fi – Baja Naval claimed to have free Wi-Fi, but it was spotty at best. We never got the connection at the docks to work (and other boats confirmed the same), but we had some success connecting to the main Wi-Fi access point in the library and main office. I never tried it out, but there was a public access point in the park across the street, and many local restaurants did have good Wi-Fi connections that we were able to use.
Restaurants – Our restaurant stops were limited, but of the four restaurants we visited our favorite was Mr. & Mrs. Waffle. While not exactly your traditional Mexican fare, Philippe and I did opt for a Poblano Waffle, which had chicken, poblano peppers, corn, and poblano sauce. It was delicious! All of the waffles we tried (Poblano, Hawaiian, Benedicte, and Reeses) were awesome. The interior is also really nicely decorated.
Coffee – Alameda coffee! Not only did this place share the name of our home base, it was also just the cutest roadside coffee stand. The shop had four simple stools and limited standing space, but was packed with over a dozen beautiful succulents. Both my Americano and Philippe’s Cappuccino were delicious, and the barista was super friendly.
Sights – My favorite sight was the interactive fountain on the boardwalk. There’s a big open space with a concert stage, a giant flagpole, and the interactive fountain along the waterfront between the cruise ship port and Baja Naval. At night, the fountain is lit up with LEDs so that each ray of water is a laser beam of color. The water jumps to the rhythm of the music, which was a fun mix of music covers.