sailing homepage : trip reports : 7: la paz to san diego : san diego
Previous: ensenada

Mar 24-27: Passage from Ensenada to San Diego, shaving the baja beard, dropping the Mexican courtesy flag, and finally arriving back in the United States!

Ensenada to San Diego is a long day-trip, and what a fantastic day-trip it was. At this point in our northerly passage, any non-overnight sail is by default fantastic, and although the weather was perfect, this day was special for another reason: we were leaving Mexico and returning to the United States!

The differences between the two countries and two cities are striking. San Diego is carefully manicured, almost completely paved or habited, and feels like a well-oiled capitalist machine. Hundreds of businesses, all open weekends and evenings, all working hard for your dollar. $15 burgers and $5 beers brought to you by someone with a $70 haircut.

Ensenada? Some paved roads, some dirt roads. Some people selling stuff, but not organized, no master plan, more of an unorganized and inconsistent frenzy. There's a wild-west feeling, an anything-goes kind of theme. You can drink a beer on the street, in a car, while driving a car. That beer costs 80 pesos - less than a buck. No one would pay $70 for a haircut.

We love Mexico. We love the lifestyle, but we were ready to get back to the good ole US of A. We left early.

Ensenada to San Diego
(600x400:67Kb)

 

Look at that skyline!
(600x450:64Kb)

The trip was easy and the trip was over before we knew it. Coming into San Diego on Saturday afternoon was a magical experience - everyone was out sailing, there must have been three or four different races going on. Big boats were doing spinny runs from west to east, little 20-footers were beating upwind towards the harbour, it was incredible.

Plotting our course
(600x800:102Kb)

 

Sailing into American waters
(600x800:96Kb)

The wind was agreeable, but we just wanted to get tied to a dock and get a burger made exactly how we want it: with blue cheese, carmelized onions, a half-pound hand-made patty, and a nice fresh sourdough bun. MMmmmm... oh, we were ready to be back.

Seriously, we spent the whole day talking about things we were looking forward to: cellphone service, knowing what time it is, English-language movies, free potable water everywhere, high-quality diesel, employees who care about customer service, and pompous people posing everywhere. We motorsailed through the fleet and caught a nice current pulling us into Shelter Island, where the customs dock and immigration people live.

We were a little nervous about legally entering the US - Duane's a Canadian citizen, no work visa; I'm a UK and Canadian citizen, green card; Sara's a US citizen. We had a TON of liquor, a freezer full of Mexican meat and dairy products, and no desire to give any of it up. We could have been at the customs dock for a while.

We tied up at the dock, called the customs guys, filled out the paperwork, showed our passports, and before we knew it we were in the country. It was sooo easy.

The guy didn't even come into the boat, he just sat outside in the cockpit. He asked "Do you have any meat and dairy products?", we handed over a small bag with some steaks and shrugged. He asked "Do you have more than $10,000 on board?", we laughed. He asked "Do you have anything to declare?", we said no. That was it!

I don't feel bad about not declaring the cheese and milk in the fridge, the booze in the locker, the illegals in the V-berth, or the kilo of hashish hidden in the bilge. I felt bad about the tattered and worn-out Mexican courtesy flag still flapping from our spreaders, but not about anything we were smuggling into the country. Is my moral compass broken?

We called around, found a slip for $52 a night, and kept calling. Are these people crazy? We've just come back from Mexico! Did you know we had a berth for $10/night in Puerto Vallarta?! No way we're paying $50/night! Another few minutes found us another for $28/night at Harbour Island West. Much better.

Celebrating with some Canadian Club
(600x400:73Kb)

 

Woohoo! We're finally here!
(600x400:92Kb)

It was good to arrive. We celebrated with a little Canadian Club. Both Duane and I gulped the whisky, shuddered, remembered Cabo, and abruptly put down the tupperware cups we were drinking from. Never again. Drinking is bad, mmmmm'kay?

Taking down the Mexican flag
(600x800:126Kb)

 

Enjoying a quiet moment
(600x900:74Kb)

Sara and I had a little flag-taking-down ceremony and I can't tell a lie, a few tears were shed. The flag was bleached and heavily worn, the stiching ripped, the material torn. It was well worn and had served us well, marking us as courteous visitors, and it was a sad reminder that our time in Mexico had come to pass.

Sunset over harbour island
(600x400:59Kb)

 

$15 burger; worth it
(600x400:73Kb)

We checked in, got the boat settled, and immediately left for the 20-minute walk to C-level, the restaurant we had eaten at with Sean and Briana on the way south. We knew. We knew their menu. We knew they had burgers, made however you want. We knew they had draft beer. Oh, we knew.

$5 beer; worth it
(600x900:102Kb)

 

Fire pit; priceless
(600x900:92Kb)

What a perfect evening. We were all in our happy places, satiated with beer and burgers, damn the cost.

The next day - after a morning shopping in the city - Sara and I met up with Amy and Carl for the evening while Duane chilled solo on the boat, preparing for his interviews later in the week.

Amy
(600x400:48Kb)

 

Carl
(600x400:71Kb)

Our two beautiful friends introduced us to La Jolla and showed us the house they were in the process of buying. What a house and what a view, just a few minutes from the beach and the slug-like seals who have taken over the local swimming hole.

La Jolla beachfront
(600x400:101Kb)

 

They look like slugs to me
(600x400:74Kb)

We had beers at my favourite Southern California brewery - Karl Strauss - and went back to their place for a fantastic meal. Man, it's good to be back.

Stuck on a rock
(600x400:97Kb)

 

Mmmm... seal and potatos!
(600x400:79Kb)

The next day, Monday March 26th, was originally planned to be our last in San Diego. The three of us went shopping and did our dinner tour.

Like a pub crawl, the dinner tour is a travel-oriented sampling of the best places in town. We start at a cool-looking place, order drinks and one entree, and then next go wherever the server recommends. We went to three restaurants, each excellent, and ended up drinking Saki bombs at Ka - a sushi place.

Drop the bomb...
(600x800:87Kb)

 

...chug!
(600x800:94Kb)

A little apprehensive
(600x450:73Kb)

 

No problem for me
(600x450:65Kb)

It was fantastic to be back. Have we written this too much? We got pleasantly tipsy, grabbed a cab, and headed back to the boat for the night.

We made it!
(600x400:63Kb)

We were originally planning on leaving and heading north on Tuesday, but the weather wasn't cooperating so we had another day to enjoy. We did pretty much the same thing: eat, drink, be merry. Duane left us Tuesday afternoon, we had one last dinner with friends, and prepared for the final leg of our trip: San Diego to San Francisco.


Previous: ensenada
Random 'best-of' trip reports:

Happy couple in paradise

 

Sean is content

 

Pelican takeoff