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