December 11, 2018

Whale sharking in La Paz!

Temperatures have finally dropped in La Paz, Mexico. It is back to being pleasant...

Jessica and I invited her sister and brother in law to join us for a week of boating and snorkeling. La Paz did not disappoint. 

With a bit of effort, we climbed on board one of the whale shark guide boats. Luckily, the sharks were in town!

A 25 foot whale shark almost eats Kari. 
I love this photo... Kari swimming next to the whale shark truly show the size of this species.

The whale sharks are truly magnificent creatures. Fortunately, the local government is doing a great job managing this natural resource. All boats must have a permit to snorkel with this enormous fish.
Hopefully many more generations will get a chance to see them in action...

our dingy out on Espiritu Santo

We sailed out to Espiritu Santo and immediately met up with very strong winds. This was borderline unsafe and so we returned to safe harbor a few days before plan. A dive boat capsized in the same weather, so we are happy with our decision to be the prudent mariners.

rooftop dinner in La Paz
The foul weather meant we had more time to explore the many cantinas and food spots along the Malecon. La Paz is such a great town- here you can see a very nice sunset. No complaints here...

until next time Mexico!

November 2, 2018

Fishing the Yampa when its too hot to sail a boat in Mexico

Hello boating friends....

You have not heard much from me lately as the weather has been far too warm to venture down to Baja...

I am still living in San Diego but my boat is no longer tied up in Mission Bay.

My beloved sailboat remains tied up in La Paz, Mexico. The average day time high is in the mid-90s from about June to October. This heat also arrives with a fair amount of humidity.
So.. that is not pleasant.

After our final trip down in July, we decided not to return until the temps dropped into the 80s.

This is just starting to happen. We have our first post-summer trip planned out in about a week. Should be great.

So, what does a skipper do while not sailing?

Fishing of course!

fishing not sailing
A nice rainbow trout in Colorado
 My father and I got out on the beautiful Yampa River in northern Colorado and pulled some nice trout of the river.

fishing when not sailing
You can see the resemblance...

Truth be told, the Yampa is running a little low this year. We are all hoping that the snow pack increases into the Winter.... The fish could use some more water.

Until next time,
Captain Curran

June 4, 2018

Dropping anchor in a collapsed volcano

We recently sailed out to a gorgeous anchorage on the island of Espiritu Santu. After heading 25 nautical miles north of the La Paz, we reached a unique spot called Caleta Partida.

At one point this bay was actually a volcano. Then the volcano erupted and after that - the volcano collapsed.

When you drop anchor in Caleta Partida, you are sailing into the middle of a sunken volcano.

The Alize' in a collapsed volcano

From this photo, you can see the walls of the ancient volcano. Our boat in anchored here in about 15 feet of water, you can see the water turns to a light blue as you near the shore. This shoal area goes down to about 3 feet and is then exposed at low tide.

Green sea turtles are abundant in this bay. We tried to capture them in a photo, but that's like playing whack-a-mole....

Jess and I after taking the dingy ashore.

Winds can whip up to a gale without a moment's notice in this Baja anchorage. The high walls on the north do provide some protection from northerly winds, however west winds will rip right in...

Here is a blog post from some like-minded sailors, they also enjoyed their stay in the collapsed volcano.

April 9, 2018

The Origo 3000, my trusty marine alcohol stove

A review of the Origo 3000, the 2-burner stove in my boat's galley

marine alcohol stove
My girlfriend cleaning our Origo 3000
About 7 years ago, I ripped a compressed natural gas (CNG) oven and stove out of my galley. I was tired of walking around with empty high pressure gas cans looking for a place to fill them.

Also, I'm a low-tech guy. Whenever possible, I try to keep it simple. This means, if I can do something with less wiring and without a digital interface, then I opt for that.

When I start thinking about cooking dinner, the last thing I want to deal with is faulty wiring or a funky pressure regulator an empty gas tank. This line of thinking brought me to this very sturdy and effective alcohol stove.

This 2-burner stove is made of stainless steel and it burns pure alcohol. So, when I need more fuel, I go to home depot or my local hardware store and buy a 1 gallon jug of pure ethanol. This costs about 15$ per gallon. I live on board my ship and I cook often on board. I probably burn through a gallon of alcohol fuel in one month. This means, a few times a year, I go to the hardware store and buy 5-6 of these 1-gallon containers. I stash them in my dock box and pull one out when needed.

Getting fuel has never been a hassle. The stove itself costs about $360 - so it's a bit pricier than a Coleman classic propane stove.

Origo 3000 fits on top of a mini-fridge

As you can see in the photo below, I place my Origo stove on top of my mini-fridge. To keep it from flying off the fridge, I put a bit of velcro tape in between the stove and fridge, this keeps things in order when I'm heeled over at Sea.

origo 3000
My Origo 3000 now sits on my mini-fridge.

You can see on the close-up photo below, that there's a knob for each burner. If you want more heat, you turn to the right, this removes a steel cap and allows for a larger flame.

origo stove review

For the past 7 years, I have (accidentally) beaten the hell out of this stove, and it still works perfectly. I love sailing in heavy weather. Before I began attaching the stove to the fridge with velcro tape, I often knocked this thing over and it crashed onto the floor. This happened a lot. There's no damage at all on this thing. Simple and strong design.

I bought mine on Amazon. Here's a link to the Origo 3000 stove page on Amazon. You can check - but I believe they will ship it for free.

marine galley stove
Jess still at it, working up to a shiny stove.

Don't ask me how I got Jess to clean the stove (usually that's my job.)

boat stove

I know there are some people who complain that it's tough to get a pan really hot with this alcohol stove. This hasn't been a problem for me. A pot of water comes to a boil fairly quickly. I suppose there are some things that wouldn't work. Stir fry in a wok probably wouldn't work with this thing. Not sure, I never tried.

Hope this is informative for those thinking about an alcohol stove!

Captain Curran

If you're looking for more thoughts and opinions on stoves, this forum includes many other sailor's opinions on all sorts of boat galley stoves.

Fair winds!

February 2, 2018

Happy Jessica on the Baja peninsula run

The run from San Diego to La Paz was about 1100 miles in total. Our boat travels at about 5 mph...

So, there were many long days.

Jess stayed positive the whole time...very impressive.

Jess seeing land after a 2 day crossing..time to sleep.

If we could do it again, we would spend a few more days on Cedros Island. This island is about half way down the coast. It was Baja heaven...Here we are anchored out on the northeastern corner of the island.

Jess paddleboarding with a herd of dolphins and sea lions on Cedros.

January 14, 2018

Securing our Mexican boat permit (TIP) in Ensenada

Jessica and I departed from San Diego at 5 am. We would spend the next 20 days slowly sailing our Newport 30 down the Baja peninsula and into La Paz harbor.

dropping the dock lines in Mission Bay before sunrise

The run from San Diego to Ensenada is about 75 nm.
Around noon, we passed between Tijuana Beach and Las Islas Coronados and then slowly dropped south into Ensenada around 6 pm. 

The approach from outer Ensenada bay into the inner harbor takes a long time and is a bit stressful in the dark. It’s a bit challenging to discern between lights from land and boat lights. 

We had made reservations at Baja Naval. I highly recommend this marina. They are primarily a dry dock shipyard but they maintain 2 slips and it seems to be a favorite for cruising sailors. 

They charged 35$/daily, but make sure to make a reservation in advance. The final approach into the Baja Naval docks is a bit sketchy at night. Depth goes down to 9-11 feet and shoals out at 4-5 feet in some sections in front of the docks. We did not find the navigation lights very helpful in this process. I would say, just monitor your GPS and depth-finder and advance slowly.

The Alize resting after Day 1 in Baja Naval, Ensenada. 

The harbormaster at Baja Naval is a good guy and speaks English. 

Carmina is an incredibly sweet and helpful women at the front desk of Baja Naval. She will help you prepare your papers before you approach the Port Captain and Customs officials in Ensenada. This is immensely helpful. She will prepare photocopies of important documents and will arrange them exactly how the officials like to see them. She will also identify problems for you before you walk over to the officials. If you own an old boat, make sure the previous owner never acquired a TIP for that boat. Apparently, that can screw up your chances of getting your own TIP for the boat. 

In theory, you can apply for your TIP online. I tried this and was rejected. I have no idea why I was rejected. In fact, I was never even notified I was rejected. So, I prepared all my papers to acquire my TIP when I arrived in Ensenada.

The process of acquiring a TIP boat permit is not fun or easy. 

However, you need a TIP permit if you plan to keep your boat in Mexico. Even if you only want your boat in Mexico for a few days, you technically need a TIP. There are well documented stories of US boats being impounded from marinas after it was determined that the boat didn't have a TIP

We had all our papers in order but still found the process stressful. But, if you have all your ducks in a row, you should be done with this business in a few hours. It helps if you speak Spanish as only half of the officials we transacted with spoke English. Bring lots of pesos in small denominations as each official wants some small amount of cash for some paper or transaction. All in, I think I paid about 100$ (US) for the TIP permit and other related fees.

You want to arrive early at the Immigration/Port Captain’s office. Everything is done in the same building. They open at 9 AM and close at 1PM. We only saw 1 other gringo getting a TIP and there were only small lines at each window. The whole crew should join the Captain on this adventure. It doesn’t work if only the Captain shows up for this process.

You need to:
  • show (or buy) your FMM tourist visa
  • show your boat ownership papers (title)
  • show current registration (US boat reg.)
  • show insurance policy in Mexican waters
  • present passport

Also be prepared to report your Hull number and the number on your engine. You will be asked to pay a peso amount based on the tonnage of your vessel. My boat is 8,000 pounds. When I told them this info, they then wrote 8 tons on the paper and asked for about 25$ equivalent in pesos. If my math is correct, 8,000 pounds is about 4 tons but I didn’t complain. I have since learned that 8 tons is the minimum amount to report.

There are about 4 different windows in the Port Captain’s building that you move through in a series of steps. Carmina at Baja Naval mapped out my movement through these windows for me ahead of time. While you are moving through this series of windows/transactions you are also submitting your crew list papers and your arrival and departure from Ensenada papers. Yes, you need the Port Captain’s formal permission to depart from Ensenada. This is ridiculous, but it’s how things are done.
There is a little office outside the building where a friendly guy named Jonathon makes photocopies for you. Getting all your stamped papers photocopied is part of the process. Make sure you bring many peso coins to give Jonathon for these photocopies. We went nuts and made lots of photocopies of everything. Jonathon was easily the coolest and nicest guy in the entire building. Plus, he is a handsome devil, so my girlfriend enjoyed lingering in his office.

Anyway, about 2 hours later, if everything goes well…then you pass to the TIP window. Here, a very surly woman begrudgingly presented us with our TIP. She was mostly focused on watching a reality TV show. She turned up the volume on the TV while simultaneously asking us for papers. But, we have nothing but love for this women, because she gave us the shiny TIP permit that is now hanging in my port window. If I choose, I can now keep my boat in Mexico for 10 years. We handed her about 65$ (US) for the permit.
My TIP permit

At this point, we thought we were finished…but nope – we were then sent to the Customs window (aduana). This was easy. We filled out a document saying that we did not bring infectious material into Mexico and then an older man stamped some papers and that was it.

Then, we thought were done again, but we were told to return in 2 hours because some other Port Captain officials needed to sign off on our departure papers. They needed a few hours to stamp and approve a stack of papers. When we returned, they looked at us like we were crazy. They had no idea what had happened to our departure papers. They assumed we had done something wrong and implied that we could not depart the following day. After a confusing conversation, we just sort of said ‘Okay, well….bye.’ In our minds, we already had the TIP permit so this long, awkward bureaucracy dance was over, regardless of the stamped departure papers. Then, as we were walking away - a women ran up and said she had forgotten to pass the papers over to someone else and actually everything was fine with our departure. We laughed and said thanks and then went straight to Hussong’s Cantina and drank many margaritas.

Other resources for acquiring a temporary import permit for your boat in Mexico.

If you are preparing to get a TIP at some port in Mexico, I would consult multiple resources before you head south. The Baja Ha-Ha website always has updated info on this process. Baja Insider is also a good resource. Or you can go directly to the Banjercito page (they handle this transaction). Also, if you are looking for advice on historical food from Mexico, I recommend this page, it shows what the Aztecs once ate.

Hussongs, the oldest and best bar in Ensenada

Those were some strong margaritas.

The following day we sailed south to anchor at Punta Santa Tomas.

No diesel fuel dock in Ensenada Harbor

It should be noted that, as of December 2017 – there is no diesel fuel dock in the main harbor of Ensenada. 
Strange…but true. 
You need to stop at Coral Marina to fuel up. Coral is 4 miles north of Ensenada harbor. So, on the morning of our departure, instead of backtracking to Coral, we took a cab to a BP station that sells diesel. We topped off our 5 gallon jerry cans and carried them from the trunk of the cab back to the Baja Naval dock. Yes, this is a hassle. Also – keep in mind, not every gas station in Ensenada sells diesel. So, you need to ask around to make sure you cab it to the right gas station. Also, Uber worked well for us in Ensenada. When I say cab, I mean we hailed an Uber ride. This was more efficient time-wise then waiting for a cab.

The TIP sticker hangs in your window. This way officials can verify you are legitimate in your absence.