Taste of Ensenada

Entering into the Bahia Todos Los Santos

After 36 hours at sea, we finally arrive in Ensenada, Baja California. As we enter into the bay I am flooded with memories from the year before when we sailed to Mexico during my Spring Break. It was comforting to be back in a place I had enjoyed so much. I went out onto the trampoline and did one of my Heartwood Path activities, knowing it was one of the last moments of peace and quiet at sea before arriving in the bustling down of Ensenada.

Doing a Heartwood Path Activity

I sat on the bow and appreciated the sunlight dancing on the ripples of the glassy ocean. I was mesmerized as it sparkled in such a spontaneous and fluid motion. It reminded me to not just live, but to dance, in the present moment. That was what I decided I would do along this journey of self-discovery.

Entering the Marina in Ensenada, which acts as a Cruise ship destination, the largest commercial fishing port in Baja, and many Cruiser’s first stop in Mexico
Checking Natural Mystic and crew into Mexico

When we arrive, first things first, we head to the seafood cocktales followed by heading back to my favorite fruit stand for a piña colada. Basically it was a mad dash to enjoy the tastiest array of food in all of Mexico. Yes, we had to go to the port captain office and do lots of paper work with visas and brush up on our spanglish. Sign all kinds of documents and receive papers I was told not to loose. Luckily Kyber is a pro at this and I just kinda signed random dotted lines on documents written in Spanish.

Seafood Cocktails – shrimp, clams, oysters, fish ceviche, octopus, scallops, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, ketchup, avocado, hot salsa, and lots of fresh lime
Super fresh piña colada from my favorite stand

Seafood cockatles, ceviche tostadas, pina coladas, tamales, fish tacos, churros, pacificos, repeat. And I mean, literally we would eat that everyday and just sit there savoring every single bite thinking how happy we are to be back in Ensenada and eat the food we have missed oh too very much.

Baja-Style Fish Tacos in the making
Tacos Fenix – the best in Ensenada

Finally, thank god, it is time to get my stuff organized on the boat. Kyber clears about 3/4 of a twin sized bed for my belongings. I struggled to figure out how I was going to keep all of my dresses (which is 90% of what I wear) wrinkle free. This was a girl’s nightmare. No closet, no bookshevles. I was in fact brought to tears realizing I had no idea how I was going to make this work without simply piling all of my stuff on top of each other and then having to refold it all everytime I got dressed.

This is what I was working with on our voyage

Eventually, we found some stick-on hooks and I hung my dresses behind the door. I was proud of my handy-woman work and pulled off hanging my dresses. Then a few minutes later, Kyber comes down with two giant storage containers and says that they have to go in that spot too. I had just gotten my stuff perfectly organized in the space he gave me and now he was taking 1/3 of the space back. He told me my clothes needed to be piled up higher on top of each other.

The storage containers that Kyber informed me needed to also fit in my space… after I had already organized it all.

Yes, I ended up crying. “Boo hoo, get over it your clothes are wrinkled,” I could hear the boys thinking. But it was a mixture of the fear of, when a fancy date night comes along and I have nothing worthy to wear, as well as the fear of, how am I going to survive living in such awkward corridors with all of my belongings shoved in hard to get it out places. It hit me, I brought too much stuff. Now I was going to have to deal with it.

Jam packed but making it work
My “closet”

I got the dresses hung on stick-on hooks behind a door. I was able to stack all of my clothes in neat piles. All of the little things like jewelry, toiletries, essential oils, camera supplies, and (yes I’m a hippy) crystals, I had organized into many little pretty bags that all went into one bigger bag. Made it possible to access each item individually without having to sort through it all. I am writing this part for both girls to relate and understand how to make it work, as well as for the boys to understand what girls are going through on your boat. And maybe it will help both boys and girls make this transition smoother than I did. Eventually I got all of my belongs perfectly organized and easy to access and finally felt at ease. Kyber let me hang 4 dresses (on 2 hangers) in his closet for date night and then it was smiles all around.

Green Pepper and Cheese Tamales “Reyes con relleno de queso”
Tasty churro dessert on our way back to the marina

We quickly get to work on preparing the boat for being out at sea. I hate that so many of the jobs I am unable to help with. It would take longer to explain to me how to do it than to just do it himself. However I was relieved when I heard we had many loads of laundry to do! Yay! A woman’s job (sorry feminism movement) but really, honestly. Dishes, vacuuming, and laundry. I decided I could easily be given those jobs on the boat.

Sigh… Laundry Day.

I’m sitting in Ensenada Cruiseport Village doing all of the laundry for the boat and it’s crew.  Feeling very grateful to have access to a clean laundry room! If only you could smell the detergent and hear the steady click clack of the rotating machines. I am also feeling grateful to have such an inspiring, uplifting, way to pass the time by doing my next Heartwood Path activity.

Reading the printed version of the Heartwood Path and filling out my journal

I sat outside the laundry room with my eyes on the machines. After appreciating the  storm clouds with the sun shining on them, the activity talked about what you want to see occur in the world and how you will have to be to evoke your improved image of a better world. Click “Continue Reading” below to hear what I came up with as the laundry machines spun round and round, helping us cross items off the to do list.

After doing this activity I saw many ways I could improve but did not feel overwhelmed. Each day, the Heartwood Path text and my impressions from the activities have lingered in my mind. I feel in tune with my emotions and wellness. I feel like my true self is unfolding, like it is there within and slowly, diligently, I am bringing it to the surface to share with the world.

Admiring the clouds as I do our laundry

I finished folding the laundry and pushed it in the dock cart all the way back to the boat. I was so grateful to have found a way to contribute to the work done on the boat. I am always searching for ways to help out and yes!!!! I found one! Clean clothes and towels for everyone!

? Soundtrack:

“Upside Down” – Jack Johnson

Continue reading “Taste of Ensenada”

Sunset Sensations and Salutations

After taking my last finals, ever, at UCSB I was in a mad dash to get ready for three months at sea. A nice couple was sub-leasing my apartment (furnished) for the months we would be away, which meant I had to clear all of my personal belongs out of my little one bedroom apartment and determine what made the cut to come along on the trip.

All of my “things” getting ready to be moved into a storage shed

It is amazing how heading out on a voyage of this type forces you to think, What do I really need? What is a luxury? How can I live sustainably? I found myself saying “Adios amigos” to many of my belongings. The boat life had begun. A mixture of gather what you need to survive as well as get rid of everything you possibly can!

Never leave home without my journal, old photo albums, and Magical Mermaid and Dolphins Oracle Cards..or my hand knit wash cloth from my Grandma

I knew after returning on this voyage, things would never be the same for me. I was no longer a student going to University of California, Santa Barbara. I knew that it was time to ask myself, “Who am I?” “What do I want to do?” and “Who do I want to do it with?” I knew that once I returned home to Santa Barbara, if that is in fact what we decide to do, my identity as a student would be long forgotten. The journey of self-discovery has begun.

A final sunset as a student at UCSB’s Campus Point

Luckily for me, I am actually developing a fun and transformative personal growth online course that my Father had written into a series of books. What better way to work on my career and learn about who I am and who I want to be, than to try out the personal growth course for myself. So that is what my intention is on this sailing journey. To try out the Heartwood Path step-by-step and understand the full experience so I can better support the future participants. I will also continue working day and night on my computer designing the next course and directly applying all of the entrepreneurship concepts taught in my Technology Management Program at UCSB.

Before heading home to St. Louis to visit my beloved family for Christmas, I had dropped everything off on Natural Mystic for the trip. That way I was ready to leave soon as I arrived in Santa Barbara. We had no minutes to spare. I arrived in LAX to find my flight to Santa Barbara cancelled. I went from a flight from Chicago > LAX, followed by a bus to Santa Barbara, followed by an Uber to get on a boat to sail to Mexico. After the quickest shower I could possibly manage in the Marina 3 bathrooms, I literally ran all the way down the docks to the end-tie, happy as can be, ready to see what’s to come.

Me and my beloved sister Jennifer, just a few Christmas’s ago

Within 10 minutes of me stepping on the boat, the engine was running. While I was back in St. Louis, Kyber had told me how he was getting everything organized for our trip, and me being quite naive thought that meant clearing room for my belongings. I was rudely awakened when I found out there was no place for my clothes much less my backpack. He said that when we arrived in Ensenada we would clear some space for my stuff. Here we go again, welcome to the boat life.

12/22/16 iMessage from Kyber.. 12/27/16 upon arrival, rudely awakened.

It was pitch black as we departed from the Santa Barbara Harbor and I was on the bow making sure we didn’t hit the lobster and crab trap buoys. I was using a giant flashlight that began to get heavy and found myself having to switch hands to hold it straight ahead. I was genuinely relieved when our fellow crew member Paul, took over the flashlight. Eventually I went down below to get some sleep. There is nothing I love more than to sleep out at sea in a warm fuzzy bed with too many pillows. I slept all night long.

Passing Catalina on our way to Ensenada
View From Descanso Beach Club in Avalon on Catalina Last Summer

I woke up to sunny blue skies which after a week in dreary rainy Midwest winter weather, this was exciting. The sun was warm and cheerful. We were passing Catalina and I thought back on this summer when we spent an amazingly relaxing 3 weeks there. I could not seem to get enough sleep and ended up taking a nap during the middle of the day. Later on the pink hues of the sunset shined through the cabin window. I felt a deep desire to get up from my nap and to see tonight’s show. Disco arrived in bed purring. By the time I was finished appreciating his loving affection, the pink hues were gone. Sunset Over. Or so I thought.

Disco enjoying the sunset with me after our long cuddle fest at sea

I went outside and to my surprise the other side of the boat, the starboard side, was shining bright as ever. Dramatic orange skies contrasting royal blue water. I sat there and just absorbed the rhythms of nature. I noticed that the sun was illuminating the rolling swells of the sea, something time of day would have remained unnoticed. These reflections on the rolling sea have soothed me. They encourage me to slow down and go with the flow. The swells building, providing a solid sense of exhilaration/anticipation for what is to come on this sailing journey.

Passing San Clemente Island on the way to Ensenada

I’m sure you know that feeling after watching a sunset where all is calm, all is appreciative. Gratitude fills the air. You have reflected upon your day and now feel refreshed to welcome in the night. A sense of closure, but of the good sort. You feel satisfied and happy. You also feel even closer to those you watched it with. I found myself daydreaming back on the many sunsets I shared with so many friends and family, and felt extremely grateful that everyday we have the opportunity to share something so romantic with the ones we love.


“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” -McFadden & Whitehead

Ensenada with a Bang

Arriving in Ensenada, we find, the food is excellent, weather a perfect sunny n’ 75, and mucho fun is to be had.! Yet, even in modern 2017 you still can’t drink the water or put it in your boat’s water tanks, unless you want to risk amoebaonic contamination. Transforming your boat’s fresh water system into a fountain dispensing endless bouts of Montezuma’s Revenge but, such inconveniences are easily overlooked. Especially with the current street exchange rate of 20 pesos to $1 US Dollar! Our greenbacks are going a very long way down here. The best fish tacos in all of Mexico are at the Fenix street taco stand, currently costing the equivalent of 50 cents! Might as well order 8 tasty tacos then and while you can get fish tacos most anywhere in Mexico, Ensenada wins hands down for the best Baja style (battered and fried) for sure!

Most times I’ve been to Ensenada with The LighterBro Boat, Isla Todos Santos is breaking, so we’re out there all day long surfing big waves and then sailing nine miles back to the harbor in the evening, to gorge on cheap street tacos n’ beers. But this year, in the dead of winter, when Killers should be killer! Its flat…

Killers on Isla Todos Santos from the air

Instead we all embrace the boat work I didn’t have time to finish before we shoved off from Santa Barbara and gang up to get her clean, organized and ship shape. Which is honestly a bit hard with all the crap you accumulate living on one boat for 10 years. Combined with having a girlfriend who needs to keep a decent, respectable wardrobe mind you, one bike per person and a Disco cat, with all his litter box accoutrements and it all has to be stowed securely somewhere, in not that large of a space which is our boat. At least Natty M is a catamaran, so we can leave lots of stuff on tables and counters under sail, unlike a monohull, which would just vomit anything you left laying out, directly onto the cabin sole in even a moderate sea state. We pull it of splendidly, all pitching in and Natty M is now as organized as is humanly possible for the amount of crap onboard and ready to voyage on.

Ensenada might be a dusty comerical port city, but the sunsets are still beautiful!

Since the surf is flat, and Ensenada is a dusty, container unloading port city, with cruise ships spewing nonstop sooty fumes when in port, covering your boat in a daily coating of brown dust at the minimum or actual oily carbon particles at the filthy max. Myself, the captain makes the call. We’re hanging out through New Years, reveling like only drunken sailors can, provisioning at the local fruit market, when businesses reopen the day after the holiday, hitting the ultra convenient to the marina, gringo Smart & Final supermarket on our team of bikes to easily stock up on supplies. Then fuel up and split the next day.

Courtney enjoying the new bridge over the trash filled slough leading to the Malecon

We purvey the Malecon which now, finally, connects directly to the Cruise Port Marina Village over the trash strewn slough by a brand new bridge, that only took five short years to build down here. But, the bridge is finished and it’s sensational, as every time you desire a fish taco or churro you no longer have to walk by sad eyed young children, who’s parents put them out to beg for change or sell Chiclets gum to throngs of cruise ship tourists on their way into town. All while the parent sits pathetically further ahead on the filthy broken sidewalk, clutching their infants, while looking hopeless as possible and when the tourists pass, they excitedly regroup to splurge on junk food and soda at the corner liquor store.

Who want chili on their coco and mango at a Malecon fruit stand?

The new bridge leads you straight into a semi-authentic Mexican marina/fishing town that has mostly not sold it’s soul to gringo tourism.

Just erect some fancy walls infront of the local flea market to spruce it up

Yet, still makes sure to have ubiquitous Mexican tchotchke markets, unique Mexican architecture and novelty products.

Spoom Boom is what all the kids are into these days!

Such as Spoom Boom, that probably would not be marketed to children under 13 using that name in the United States, for fear of protests from the Christian right.

I just Spoom Boomed all over the sidewalk!

Ensenada’s fish market is filled to the brim with all the freshest local catches from up and down Baja on both side of the Baja peninsula and even without the beneficial exchange rate, everything is priced extremely affordably.

Lots of tasty choices at the Ensenada Fish Market!

Exactly the opposite of an American fish market, where the King Salmon is supposedly on special for $29.99 a pound, normally $34.99/lb. and so you go buy the other heart healthy option of chicken.

The shrimp display, where jumbo shrimp cost an afforadable $6 per pound

Ensenada, benefits from its geographical location, as the city with the best access to the largest variety of fresh seafood produced by Mexico and her bountiful waters of both, the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez on the other side of the Baja Peninsula and the wide variety of seafood is sight to behold.

Chocolate Clams, Tasty Muscles, and Baja Oysters are just a few of the tasty shell fish sold at the market

New Years is my favorite time of year in Ensenada! Starting about three days before New Year’s eve Mexicans will just start throwing firecrackers into the streets at random, scaring the shit out of the uninitiated. “Firecrackers” is really a huge understatement, as most MEDs (Mexican Explosive Device) are more akin to hand grenades and much larger then the M-80’s of your childhood troublemaking. You will be sitting having the most delicious dinner at a street corner taco stand, just about to take your first tasty bite when, BOOOOM! And instantly your face, lap and the side of your neighbor is now covered in salsa coated shrapnel of your Baja fish taco, that you just couldn’t maintain control of during the blast.

A LighterBro MultiTool always helps to light the M-500 waterproof firecrackers

This isn’t my first New Years’ rodeo in Ensenada, and so I’m mostly immune from these random explosions, unlike Courtney who has been transformed into a blonde Mexican jumping bean, startled and screaming with every unexpected detonation, which only encourages the Mexicans to increase their rate of fire. Conveniently enough, a giant fireworks stand is located right at the entrance to the Marina every New Year’s and I always take advantage, buying a few bags of the waterproof M-500s to celebrate the annual occasion and maybe a couple of bottle rockets too.

What other marina has it’s own firework stand?

But speaking of Rodeos, Ensenada has some cool attractions at this festive time of year for all to enjoy and I highly recommend attending the dangerous electric animal rodeo. Where you can actually ride lions, tigers, jaguars and bears along with all the local kids, as you zoom around the circular arena vibing to Christmas tunes interspersed with ten-year-old rap music. But you need to stay sharp on these wild animals or the innocent smiling young girl will cut you off, sending you careening slow-motion into the boards, while their parents look at you with disdain, like we’re the animals.

Taming my rhino & passing on the inside

A very stormy and rainy New Years’ Eve is upon us and its the kind of bad weather that makes you thankful, as a penny pinching vagabond sailor that you are tied up safe and secure in an expensive marina. Our good friends Tina and Tracy of the wooden masterpiece of a boat Marjorie have just sailed in, with their good friend CF on board and we all toast warming cocktails by the heat of their coveted below decks diesel fireplace, while we wait for the rain to let up, hopefully heading into Ensenada’s tourist street with bars a plenty for some merriment. Shortly the downpour abates and we make a break for it. Mindlessly without any rain or foul weather gear at all, something only drunk sailors would do and of course, soon as we are too far from the boat to retreat, it starts coming down in torrents. Dusty streets, are now running muddy rivers and without choice we duck into the first hotel bar we happen upon.

Even Disco visited Marjorie & enjoyed the warm disel fireplace, visable in the back right

Lucky for us it happens to be a Karaoke New Years’ Eve and somehow after a drink or two I’m talked into singing “Super Freak” by Rick James in front of the all Mexican audience. I take the mic, as a gold sequined Courtney and CF join me onstage and we try our best. CF must not have drunk enough and is frozen by the limelight only swaying side to side, while Courtney and I can’t seem to share the one mic. When all of a sudden a crack pipe smoky orange haze drifts across the stage and I feel Rick’s spirt invade me, as I start getting super freaky hitting the high notes, while Courtney gyrates next to me in her gold sequined dress, singing the backup vocals in perfect key (ok maybe not exactly perfect). I depart the stage to an enthusiastic round of applause, whistles and much laughter (at me not with me) and with the feeling of not totally bombing, adrenaline now coursing through my body and Rick James’s forever party vibes still invading my soul, I motivate the troops to hit the flooding streets for the next hot spot.

Lighting firecrackers on the stree is totally acceptabe behavior on New Years’ Eve in Mexico

Light rain is now falling as we head for the world famous, original Hussongs Cantina and as luck would have it all the MEDs I brought along happen to be waterproof. Lighting them with my trusty LighterBro Multitool, I toss them into the street to be swept away by the rivers of gutter water, exploding somewhere down stream and hopefully not under a car’s gas tank. Mexicans all give me approving looks, as the tourist street is rocked by explosions. Its like I’m the only gringo who understands this is the kind of shit you do in Mexico on New Years’ Eve and why I will want to keep coming back to Mexico on New Years’ forever. While lawyers and the many, catering to the finger blowing off stupidity of the few, have robbed the USA of such good old fashioned fun, the Mexicans have yet to give into this hysteria and still revel today like only generations of older Americans remember. All while they drink beer legally walking down the street, with only smiles, friendly greetings and well wishes for the Añuo Nuevo to everyone they pass. I conclude the average Mexican walking down the street really is happier and friendlier than the average gringo back home and I believe its because their lives are still a bit older fashioned then ours and they haven’t caved to the lowest common denominator of society and let their stupidity ruin a good time for everyone else. Its as simple as, not everyone is meant to go through life with all their fingers and that is just the way it is. So get over it, smile and stop worrying about other stooped people and live your life. More Americans need to come visit Mexico to see what we have lost in our “safe” society of the twenty teens.

Cheersing at Hussongs!

Hussongs Cantina on New Year’s eve is revelment at its best! Patrons are packed in shoulder to shoulder, at what I’m sure is well over official maximum capacity, all enthusiastically singing along together with the multiple mariachi bands in the various rooms. Everyone is beyond happy, cheersing drinks nonstop and you can’t help but be overcome by the sheer joy and warmth you feel surrounded by and it makes absolutely no difference that we are the only gringos in the entire cantina. I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend New Years’ Eve, than with the girl I love, in this sea of celebration. Except you can’t light giant bottle rockets inside Hussongs, so we make a beeline for the boats just before midnight, where we shoot four-foot-tall, high explosive rockets off at the stoke of midnight and blow ourselves silly into 2017.

A bottle rocket shoots into the New Years’ night

Lighting M-80 after M-80 until I feel I’ve regressed to well below the 6th grade level of amusement. The port security guards chase us down after a bit, as we are in a secure cruise ship port after all, but we are easily found, as Courtney forgot to turn off our mobile music player belting out the dance hits, at it’s distorted top volume when we made our escape. As security surrounds Marjorie, captain Tracy does his best it wasn’t me, while I hide inside with our few remaining fireworks and let the heat blow over. Afterwards we all laugh heartedly, as dealing with the Mexican security felt more like getting caught by our parents than the police and I just get that feeling. 2017 is going to be a great year!

Ensenada’s farmers market streeet has everyting you can imagine!

When voyaging by sea fresh produce is hard to come by the longer you’re away from land and one of the best ways to ensure fresh veggies for a long time is to not buy them at a grocery store. In modern supermarkets fruits and veggies are nearly all refrigerated and when brought onboard, need to be kept refrigerated to stay fresh (on a boat there is not enough refrigeration space to do this) or they will rapidly spoil. Instead head for the local farmer’s market or fruit market street, where noting is refrigerated and for example. Cabbage is sold with all it’s floppy outer leaves intact and that natural, whole cabbage will last nearly a month when left unrefrigerated and stored in a cool dark corner of the boat.

A tasty truck full of honey!

Ensenada’s farmer’s market street is unbelievably great! With any fruit, vegetable, egg, meat, cheese, dairy, bee product available and all dirt cheap. We stock up on heavy bag after bag of fresh produce and in the end spend amazingly only $30 on all the fresh deliciousness, which in the states would have been the cost of just the avocados alone.

Delicious Mexican cheeses at the Ensenada farmers market

The trip to the market is made easy by the comradery of cruisers. Bill, a fellow friendly cruiser who as been based in Ensenada for way too long now as evidenced by his car, is more than happy to give us a ride with his dog Shotsy who sits on my lap both ways, since I stole his seat after all. And once again, this more old fashioned cursing lifestyle, where people love to help people, has made me smile at the pure generosity of the characters who live it and I just want this lifestyle to continue on forever.

Riding shotgun with Shotsy

With the LighterBro Boat now well provisioned with both fresh and dry stores, and fuel tanks topped up at the last gas dock we will see until Cabo San Lucas 800 miles south. We say goodbyes to our friends both new and old in Ensenada and late in the afternoon of Jan 3, under an ideal 12 knot sea breeze, we hoist full main and genoa sails, instantly making a good 8 knots. Once outside of Ensenada Bay, actually called Bahia Todos Santos and clear of the dangerous rocky headland of Punta Banda, which marks the southern end of the bay, we set our course close to dead South as possible with the straight N wind that’s blowing and sail silently, on a deep broad reach. The weather is overcast grey, the fresh breeze cold and I vow, we will keep sailing south in search of summer.

Sailing from Ensenad in search of summer with the deadly rocks of Punta Banda in the background

LighterBro Boat Sails For Mexico

It is Christmas time and I’m getting the LighterBro boat ready for months of voyaging rapidly approaching all by myself. Everyone else who is coming along for the adventure is visiting family. It might seem a bit lonely of a thing to do at Christmas, but Natural Mystic is more than just a boat, she’s a life preserving friend who’s had my back through many brutal storms at sea and I’m alive today, because of her well built construction and sailing prowess. However, just like your best friend or lover you still get into spats, and just as I’m hard charging into the huge punch list of tasks to complete before we can shove off, the water heater goes out. Now I have to spend hours every day for nearly a week, upside down to fix it. Inverted, with my head wedged in a tight spot, hardly wide enough for a LighterBro, let alone my thick skull to get the job done, so hopefully we can have warm water after surfing, diving, and spearfishing in the cooler La Niña influenced Pacific Ocean this year.

Cutting the stuck water heater hose off with the razor sharp LighterBro Knife in the same spot my head is buried in.

Even without the water heater breakdown, the tasks seem endless, engine work (she’s a catamaran with two motors, meaning four different engine/tranny oils to change), sail repair (the jib needed to partly be resewn, thanks Ullman Sails Ventura), line maintenance, provisioning and most importantly, getting my new surfing foil board set up. This new kind of surfboard fin, which is shaped like airplane to fly underwater, will hopefully let me surf above the waves, free from the drag and chop of the ocean surface.

LighterBro Pro cutting away & loosening the shackle to resew her original jib.

This involves many calls to friends about guesses on technical fin placement measurements or the much less technical. Like hearing Kai Lenny said “put the back of the box at 9”-14” from the tail.” Which is all over the damn place, so I tell Santa Barbara’s best Ding Repair guy Max McDonald, the man installing the foil’s fin box into a thick Channel Islands, 5’10” Biscuit surfboard I bought off the rack, to just whack it in at my lucky number of 13” and let’s pray it works. All while focusing on LighterBro business, the crazy holiday shopping season and for LighterBro LLC, the very busy shipping season. But, the daily punch list on the yellow legal pad grows shorter and less severe the harder I work. And quickly the date approaches when Courtney is flying in from visiting her family and my good buddy Paul who has done so much sailing on Natty M are meeting me at the LighterBro boat, to jump on and then quickly shove off for Mexico.

So, with hugs to Mom and Dad who drop me off at Santa Barbara Harbor and a couple of enthusiastic high-fives from good friends and Marina 3 residents, Pasci and Margo, I walk down the dock for the last time. Finally, we are ready to leave for Ensenada, Mexico in the dead of night. Paul probably road his circusesque folding bike to the boat, which has it’s own cabin by the way and Courtney’s flight connection to SBA out of LAX was canceled, so she had to bus it up to SB. But all slumming aside, she still had time for a cleansing hot shower, before we load up on some Santa Barbara Yacht Club ice and shove off for Mexico at 10 PM on a very dark and moonless night.

Right away its all hands on deck! Courtney is on the bow with our powerful spotlight helping pick our way through the maze of numerous lobster trap buoys that want to snag our boat’s underwater appendages and then in deeper water the double or triple buoyed crab trap lines, that endanger our passage all the way to the oil rigs 4.5 miles offshore. Its tense, as we alter course over half a dozen times to avoid the floating sea mines. We head southeast inside Anacapa Island, as the direct course from SB to Ensenada passes right through Catalina Island. Semi-strong offshore E winds are forecast, so I decide on the inside Channel Islands route to take advantage of them when they kick up.

We clear the oil rigs and drop the crustacean trap buoy state of alert. The bottom is now too deep for trap fishing, but I’m jazzed on the adrenaline of finally getting to do what I have been working and dreaming of for so long, so I take first watch and everyone else heads down to bed, below decks.

Under one motor at conservative 2400 RPM, we are getting close to the Ventura oil derricks and Natty M starts to hit a short E chop, slightly pounding at the bow with still no wind on the water. I take this as a sign of E winds blowing across the Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo valley and I start to ready the mainsail halyard, just as the first light gust of E wind hits me. No need to wake anyone, after 10 years of sailing this boat, I can raise the sails by myself, no problem, in the dark of night without using a flashlight. With the lazyjack bag unzipped and the mainsail’s Wichard bow shackle once again attached to the headboard and the autopilot keeping her steady, with the wind just blowing the mainsail to starboard and out of the way of the boom lift. I hoist away on the winch with maximum effort. Two thirds of the way up the mast is the best I can manage and I grind the main halyard the rest of the way up, quickly bear off, release the boom lift and the giant mainsail fills and bellows to life. In ten minutes it took to raise the mainsail, the E wind has now quickly built to 15 knots and the boat shoots form doing 6.5 under one engine to 8 under main alone. Engine shut down, running backstay on, headsail unfurled and BAM! Ten to eleven knots of boat speed is happening sailing hard upwind and right on rhumbline, as Natty M now powers strongly and comfortably through the building short E chop.

Somehow in all the commotion of spinning winches, halyards and lines no one has woken up and I revel in the majestic nighttime solo sailing. Millions of stars dot my watery road and I smile, as they remind me of my friends alive and past, and while I might be out on the sea currently alone, everyone is along for the ride in my heart and I take comfort in their twinkling wishes of a safe and fun passage.

The sailing is incredible, the wind builds to 18 knots, I’m seeing boat speeds of 12 to 13 upwind and apparent wind of 28 knots, but still not wanting to reef the mainsail. The seas build and we bash rapidly through them, but Natty M powered up is a beast and charges relentlessly forward, with her bow up under the power of a full mainsail. Then, as we pass Pt. Magu, where the land comes out towards the sea with the Mountains of Malibu and Point Doom up ahead, the wind and sea both subside. The wind shifts further aft in direction, but the sailing is still good, making 6 to 8 knots and I give the watch to Paul.

LA’s snow covered San Gabriel mountains poking up over a layer of smog

Four hours of semi-restfull sleep go by and I’m up with the just risen sun. The sailing has been OK for Paul, not the rowdy pre-teens of my early morning foray, but still nice and getting the job done making 4-8 knots. I sail on in the dawn of a new morning, with Catalina Island up ahead and the wind lightening up the closer we get. Our two fishing lines we’re trolling have been unproductive and I don’t expect anything, as the water is too cold even for the fish, and evidenced by LA’s snow covered mountains seen above the smog from 20 miles out to sea. Soon I’m making 3 knots, then 2, then 1.5 and its time to take the sails down, turn on the Yanmar diesel engine and keep on fishing.

We don’t let a small thing like a chart marked with Explosives Explosives alter our course

Alone once again, I drop the sails, stow them, and get us going under one engine. Once again making 6.5 knots towards the border, across apparently dangerous areas of the sea marked “Explosives” on the charts.

Dolphins love to play between Natty M’s bows and always bring smiles!

The sea is now sheet glass, there is not another boat in sight and our friends the dolphins show up to offer me some solace for having to motor once again. I revel in their sheer joy of surfing between Natty M’s bows and hangout with them until they tire or maybe see some fish and have to bail for more important tasks.

Disco sleeping the passage away and taking up the whole couch.

A day under motor comes and goes and never does the clicker of the fishing reel sound. Paul and I settle into our 4 hour on/off watch routine, while Courtney exhausted from cross country air travel sleeps most all the way to Ensenada along with Disco.

Disco checking out this new home in Ensenada Marina Cruise Port Village

We never do see the wind again. Glassy with just a little N swell to help push our Yanmar along and 36 hours later we slide into Ensenada Bay, as the sun is rising and nicely illuminating the many hazardous fishing vessels, both big steel and small ponga that tirelessly traverse the bay day and night. Leaving Isla Todos Santos to port, we head for the main Ensenada Harbor. Disco the ship cat is by my side at the helm, as we both smell Mexico at the same time. Mexico is in the air, as the foreign smells and sounds of this commercial port city invade our senses. A gigantic container ship is docked and noisily unloading, with the coded whistles of the Mexican dock workers blowing in the air. Two cruise ships are tied up, spewing black exhaust and some of the best seafood in the entire world is just a short walk form our boat, which we easily make fast and secure at good ol’ Marina Cruise Port Village in the heart of Ensenada.

After 36 blissful hours at sea, we’re off the boat and heading to get some epic Ensenada Seafood!

A little clean up on Natty M and we excitedly head off to talk about checking into Mexico, which can wait, because first and foremost we need to get some Mixtos Seafood Cocktail, which is the best seafood dish anywhere in the world! A cornucopia seafood ceviche with shrimp, oysters, multiple kinds of clams, octopus, scallops, scallop roe, lime, cucumber, chili, tomatoes, and of course avocado on the top!

Two of the best dishes in Ensenada, Mixtos Seafood Cocktail and Fish Ceviche Tostada! Look at all those fresh clams, oysters and muscles!

We wash down the seafood cocktail with some fish ceviche tostadas and Courtney and I are now contentedly full. Only with burning mouths, from all the fresh spicy salsa and excitedly looking forward to exploring Ensenada over this New Year’s holiday.

After 10 years of sailing all over the world, Mixtos Seafood Cocktail is the best seafood dish I have ever tasted!

Reflecting back on the passage we covered 240 nautical miles in 36 hours, sailed only for about 8 hours, motored the rest under 1 engine at a time, using a moderate 25 gallons of diesel fuel and had zero breakdowns or failures. Overall a perfect passage that just lacked a bit of wind, which is very typical of sailing this time of year in Southern California.