Boy, it feels good to be here. We had a great time and learned a great deal coming down the coast of the US, but this – this is what we are all about. (We subconsciously reinforced this by taking almost no photos in southern california.)
Our send off from the States was as swanky as the come. First, a few days anchored in Newport Beach, an enormous bay bursting with million dollar yachts, multi-million dollar mansions, party barges and trump parades.
We met up with a friend of a friend who showed us the ropes, took us on a hike and to dinner, even got us a discount at the local fishing store. We had our fuel tanks stolen out of our dinghy (thank you, thief, wherever you might be, for taking the tanks instead of the entire dinghy and motor, keeping it down to a reasonable “lesson-learned” $50 loss instead of a “trip-altering” $2,000 one) and made the most expensive provisioning run of the trip.
From Newport Beach, we motored overnight to San Diego. We lucked out here, as we had a connection with the Commodore of the San Diego Yacht Club. We were treated like royalty, with a free slip, unlimited hot showers (!), a pool and hot tub, wonderful dinners, a discount at West Marine and a personal tour guide. A shout out to the so very hospitable Richard and Bea, and to Scott and my Dad for arranging the meetup. It was so very hard to pull away from that dock, 3 days could have easily slipped into 3 weeks. But Mexico calls!
Another overnight motor (notice the trend here? The trend of no wind) set us down in Ensenada just as the business day began on Friday. After tying and cross-tying and re-tying the boat to the dock to mitigate the jolting and snapping caused by a ceaseless surge entering the bay, we headed first to the dockmaster then to the immigration office to clear into the country. It was a completely pain-free 3-hour process. (For those of you looking to enter Mexico for the first time, I’ve included a description of what we did and what we learned below.)
To celebrate our successful entry into Mexico, we went straight to the food stalls for $0.75 tacos and $1.60 Pacificos. Beer never tasted so good. We did two rounds of provisioning in Ensenada, anticipating very little in the way of fresh food for the next 2 weeks as we chug down the Baja coast. Our fruit hammock is overladen with avocados, limes, pineapples, bananas, tomatoes, fresh tortillas and sweet breads.
One more overnight motor to San Quintin, a peaceful bay behind a very shallow entrance. The guidebook warns against entry, regaling the tale of boats that have been stuck in the bay for years waiting for a storm event of some kind to come through and clear the shoal (a build up of sand and silt that extends and shifts all the time) so they can exit. I do wonder where they got that information.
We contemplated entrance only because a buddy boater (one of the 5 we met on that fateful night in Crescent City) was already here and could pacify our fears. He talked us in over VHF – between the breakers, over the shoals and along the shore. We inched our way through with no problem. Our plan is to be here a few days before heading on down the coast. But if you don’t hear from us in a month or two, perhaps that guidebook was right…
On clearing into Mexico
I primarily used two online guides as I did the research and started the process from the states. The first is the Baja Haha’s First Timer’s Guide to Mexico. The second is the 2015 San Diego to Ensenada Race Packet. Both are available as PDF’s online.
There is no anchorage in Ensenada, so you’ll need a slip. It is well worth it though because the marinas help you with the immigration paperwork, make all the copies you need, and ensure you have everything in order before sending you down to the immigration office (with step by step directions on a very detailed map).
There is a lot of hubbub about the TIP – the temporary import permit for your boat. It is definitely important that there is not an open TIP on the boat already – if you or a previous owner took the boat to Mexico in the past, find that TIP!
There is a form available online to complete ahead of time, but once in Mexico, some authorities want the original permit, which if you fill out the form online, they mail to your mailing address. This may be a bother if you’re on the move. I used the online form and had the permit shipped to our mailing address in Seattle where the amazing Dockside Solutions opened and scanned it to me. That was plenty to get into the country, but they advised me to collect the original when I can.
So my advice? Wait on the TIP until you arrive in Ensenada. It is no trouble to fill it out at the office, and you’ll get your original permit on the spot.
- Liability Insurance
Yes, it’s true – in addition to your regular hull insurance, you need Mexican Liability Insurance from a Mexican company. It is not hard or expensive (ours was about $200 for the year and took 15 minutes to receive online).
This is the tourist card that each person coming into Mexico will need. I completed this online with all of us on one application. I completed the crew list, using the downloaded excel sample. Then emailed the FMM receipt and the crew list to Mexico (BC_pescadeportiva@inami.gob.mx). They responded with a confirmation they had received it. Once we arrived, they translated this receipt into our 3 tourist cards.
It was easy, though it seems equally easy to complete them upon arrival.
- Fishing Licenses
If you have any fishing gear on the boat, you need a fishing license for every passenger. While we have not been requested to show them, we’ve heard this is an easy way to get a fine. It is very easy to do online and cost about $35 per person for the year.
- Letter of arrival/departure
We stayed at Baja Naval, and can certainly recommend it. It was about $1/foot/night with incredibly friendly and helpful staff. When we first arrived (after getting the boat thoroughly tied down against the surge), we headed to the marina office. They looked through all my paperwork and answered any questions we had about immigration. They are incredibly knowledgeable about the process. We filled out the clearing in and clearing out paperwork for the local dockmaster and they gave us a letter stating something to do with our arrival or departure, I didn’t look that closely to be honest. I only mention it because they asked for it at the immigration office and another cruiser staying at the same marina didn’t receive one. They had to go back and get it from the marina and return to the immigration office later.
- Tacos and Beer!
You did it! Now head straight to the street for tacos and beer. We actually really loved Ensenada. There is a great grocery store (Calimax) within walking distance of the marina, along with tortillarias, churro stands, and all sorts of vendors selling delicious things along the way. The city recently added a fountain display in the main square (you have a great view of it from the marina) where they have nightly light/music/water shows that will drop your jaw. Unexpected and a wonderful family affair.