Friday, January 25, 2013

Going Loco with Tostilocos!

There is a food booth on the Malecon that always has lines of people waiting their turn to purchase something called Tostilocos. There was only one way to satisfy my curiosity so I got in line. I walked away with one of the craziest things I've ever eaten.

Tostilocos Recipe
Tostitos chips - slit bag open horizontally
Add any or all of the following in this order:
Diced cucumber
Diced cueritos (pickled pork skin, think gummi pork and you are on the right track)
Japanese peanuts
Rielitos (chewy nubs of tamarind candy)
Diced clams
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Clamato juice
Chamoy sauce
Valentina hot sauce
Tajín chile powder (chili, lime and salt)

Mix well and crunch up a bit. Result: something like a cold gazpacho tortilla soup salt bomb with a bunch of weird stuff in it. Apparently every town or every corner has its own version of Tostilocos.

Tostilocos are Tostitos that have gone crazy (loco) because of everything that is piled onto them. That's kind of like how our Ensenada experience has been so far. The city is not only a destination in itself but also a crossroads for all kinds of workers, travelers, tourists and anything else that comes to mind. In Ensenada you can seek out entertainment, or you can sit in one place and wait for the entertainment to come to you.

Mom is behind with the remote control.
On a sunny weekend day you will see many families arrive in their SUVs with an elaborate mini vehicle tied to the roof. Shortly they will pass by with the tiniest child in a mini-car/Jeep/Hummer/Harley/whatever, and the older kids dashing around on bicycles.

Last Sunday in the sportsbar (Yay Niners!!) we sat at the corner of the bar and met a cruiser named Ray who arrived in July 2012 and hasn't gotten around to leaving yet, a woman named Claire who manages the organic farm at a very high-end Winery/B&B/Restaurant in the Valle de Guadalupe, a young man named Matthew from Louisiana who travels the world working on big boat transmissions (i.e. room-sized gear boxes!), and a trio of doggies all dressed up for their Sunday stroll.

The other night we were snug in our plastic cocoon when all of  a sudden we could hear music, much honking and great rumblings out on the boulevard. We scampered down the ladder, ran across the boatyard and out the gate just in time to catch the end of the "Desfile de Camiones" or Truck Parade.

These are the trucks that will pull the floats in the upcoming Carnaval. What a scene it was!

In the boat work update, Cinnabar has received her first coat of paint. We decided to go with gray. Do you like it?


Psych! Here she is after the first round of Awlgrip Vivid Red.

Cinnabar is cinnabar again.

Today it's raining so the next round of painting is delayed. It's a good day to catch up on emails and sort through photographs.

Tostilocos gallery here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Frosty to Toasty in One Week

Back in December, before leaving our house for the last time, I checked the Ensenada weather and grabbed my Emilia Beanie* just in case. Good gosh darn thing as the temperature plummeted to 39 degrees f. last Saturday night. Brrrrr! We went to the sports bar La Taberna to watch the 'Niners beat Green Bay, the only problem being that the whole front of the bar is open to the elements. At Tom's request the chef whipped up some extra-spicy green salsa to help keep our blood warm. Our waiter "Buki" said he used three types of chiles, a little onion, a bit of vinegar, lime juice and olive oil.
Saved by my stylish knitted cap and spicy salsa.
Luckily, the next day things started warming up.

In the past week we have discovered:
1) Ensenada doesn't shut down on Sundays after all. Sunny days = lots of families on the malecon and downtown. I strolled through town last Sunday and saw people trying to make a few quick pesos by playing music, dancing, juggling, hawking wares, and I even saw a guy doing one-armed handstands in the crosswalk until a policeman made him stop.
2) La Riviera de Ensenada - used to be a deluxe resort and casino during prohibition and Hollywood's heyday, then it went into ruin, then was refurbished and is now a social and cultural center. I met a nice woman and her two daughters who were practicing their inline skating. They invited me to meet them there next weekend; who knows, maybe I will.
La Riviera del Pacifico today

Josie and her hijas
3) The movie theatre only a couple of blocks away which costs about $3.50 per ticket. Most movies are in English with Spanish subtitles. Popcorn comes in regular, caramel, and enchiladas (spicy). Tom puts the ticket girls into fits of giggles when he tries to get us a senior discount (no such thing).
4) Antojitos Mexicanos Maribel for terrific breakfasts and lunch. Tom discovered machaca (dried beef in a tasty melange with vegetables and sometimes eggs) and I had one of the best chili rellenos I've ever had. Maribel's soups (caldo de res y caldo de pollo) looked amazing so we'll have to try one of those next time. They also make fresh fruit juices. We were the only gringos in a place packed with locals; a good sign.
Maribel stirs her caldo de res (beef stew)
5) The world famous La Guerrerense taco cart. Tom had tuna ceviche and shrimp ceviche tostadas. I was brave and tried the award-winning sea snail tostada, delicious! Kind of like abalone but tastier.

Sea snal tostada coming up!
I also ordered a fresh raw pismo clam, cleaned, sliced and in the shell. One half was like a clam cocktail with avocado and the other half was simply in lime and salsa. I told the owner I was afraid to try the erizo (sea urchin) tostada. A few minutes later she brought over a small piece of tostada layered with the warm, briny sea urchin, slices of raw clam and topped with avocado. It was heavenly! She has a plethora of homemade salsas, my favorite being one of whole peanuts and "chilis from the garden".  I put some VERY HOT cucumber salsa on my clam, stupid of me since it was clearly labeled Pepino Endiablado (Devilish, but I prefer to say, Hellified Cucumber) . When one of her sons saw us suffering from the heat he quickly made us a piece of tostada with creamy crab salad on it to cool off our mouths. Phew!
5) Local buses - after a slightly shaky start we are now experts on getting to the big box stores via bus, only 10 pesos. Nothing will keep the Ensenada buses from their schedule; I even saw one continuing its route with a flat tire, although more slowly than normal.
6) The Mercado Negro, Ensenada's famous fish market.
Like my big squid?
Since we're on the hard we have no refrigeration. Such a pity when we are so close to all that fresh seafood. But I did get some smoked marlin (2# for $6.50!) which should be OK for a week or so staying cool on ice.


Boat work last week included, but was not limited to, Tom retrieving our non-functioning anomometer (wind gauge) from the top of the mast (80' in the air!), me starting to service all the winches, and the yard beginning the grand masking and swaddling in plastic to prepare Cinnabar for her first coat of primer.

Tom, you look tiny up there.
More pictures of Week 2 can be found here in our Picasa gallery.

*Beanie made by Emilia.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hauling Out and Hanging Out

For two days we were tied off the the seal-free end tie, tingling our toes on the electric wire and trying to prevent the incessant swell from grinding us into the dock. We figured out the reason for all those big mooring balls outside the docks when one of the yard guys rowed one of our lines out to tie off to a ball to try to hold us off the dock.

We slept eleven hours the first night, met with Mario our project manager, and sorted out some of the haul-out details. We would be hauled at 10:00 the next morning.

Tom, Bruce and I went over to La Inmigración to get our tourist visas, which was a snap, then to the Capitanía de Puerto to pay our boat entry fee. For a glorious moment I thought we were going to get all our business done in one visit. Silly me. Unfortunately the Port Captain's computer was broken and she requested we come back the next day. No problema! As we strolled through town, carefully avoiding all the ankle-breaker holes in the sidewalk and keeping an eye out for the fire hydrant that attacked our friend Torben in 2010,  we literally stumbled across Ensenada's only brew pub. We all enjoyed beer samplers and a gigantic "Crown of Baja" wood-fired pizza.

That night we slept a brief 9 hours and awoke refreshed and ready to haul the boat. The 10:00 haul-out turned into 11:00, then 12:00 because it was the highest tide, and finally around 12:30 we were able to leave the end tie and move Cinnabar into position.
Tom unties us from the mooring ball.
Then there was some discussion about having to remove either the forestay or the radar tower so we could fit into the 50 ton Travelift. Then Tom had to motor out and reverse back into the dock when it was decided we would fold the tower down.

She's up!

Darn, the boss says we have to lower it some more.

The Travelift goes from the boatyard, across the public jetty (malecón) to the dock. After Tom and Bruce entertained the gathering crowd of spectators by repositioning the radar tower with their high-tech solution of a boat hook braced with cushions, the Travelift eventually got Cinnabar out of the water with just a few inches to spare under her keel.

Cinnabar crosses the malecón

Boat sweet boat.

Cinnabar finally got settled into the boatyard which freed us up to re-visit the Port Captain. It took us about 5 minutes to pay our entry fee and because Cinnabar already has a Mexico permit the customs officer wanted nothing to do with us. It didn't hurt that he was just sitting down to his lunch and clearly didn't wish to be bothered.

We celebrated by enjoying an amazing fresh seafood lunch at a small restaurant on the waterfront, Muelle Tres, tortilla espanola, sashimi, ceviche, shrimp quesadillas, and grilled yellowtail. I sipped, (OK, gulped), a glass of local white wine (OK, three glasses) and the guys enjoyed a local Ensenada brew, Agua Mala.

Bruce got his tourist visa just in time for him to return back home again, so the next day we put him on the bus for Tijuana and consoled ourselves by walking over to TNT, the friendly neighborhood bicycle shop. Tom rented a bicycle, spied a poster for a mountain bike poker run the next day and I'm sure you can guess the rest.

The next morning (Sunday) Tom was up bright and early and headed off up the canyon to sign up for the rally.

All smiles and all ready.
I followed on foot for a bracing hike uphill and hooked up with him an hour later. It was pretty cool to walk from the dockyards, through the high end shopping area, then through the neighborhoods, and finally into the foothills. I arrived to find nearly 300 cyclists of all ages and sizes and loud music with enough bass to vibrate my intestines. What a scene! We even ran into Pati from the bicycle shop; we already know people in town! The route was a loop that came through the starting line 4 times so the riders could get their poker cards. It was pretty casual with people getting tired and dropping out, or resting and visiting with friends, or blatantly taking shortcuts to get in front of others. What a hoot. In fact, a father and son registered and started the rally after everyone else had completed one lap! A precocious child befriended me, no doubt thinking that with my limited Spanish I was in dire need of assistance, but with her missing front tooth and rapid-fire speech I could barely understand her. I regret not taking a picture of the adorable Mariana.

Don't even go there!

The lovely Pati from TNT Biycle shop.

After the Poker Run, riding the bicycle back through town was a strange experience as Ensenada really shuts down on Sundays.

We rode all the way down the canyon.

The usually frenetic downtown area was quiet and nearly vacant. During the week the big cruise ships stop in Ensenada, regurgitating their patrons into the city streets, and the place comes alive with portable stands and people loudly hawking their wares, food and drink to these transient tourists. There is even a small amusement park that seems able to spring up at a moment's notice. And all this is in addition to the permanent stores and shops along "Gringo Gulch" that cater to these voyagers. Even though the downtown was dead we found a sportsbar where we could grab some lunch and a beer. We noted that it would be open for the 'Niners game this Saturday, so we might have to re-visit.

For now we are living on the hard along with all the other boatyard campers, all of us perched high on our eyries. We access the boat via a tall ladder and it's up and down about 5-6 times a day.

The hood
The boat yard works six days a week. The staff is punctual, they start early, and they work hard all day. It seems odd to me that they listen to a radio station that plays U.S.A. pop hits from the 80's all day long. Apparently they forego their lunch and volleyball hour on Saturday so they can go home early.

Dionicio hard at work.
Some of the sailors here are fascinating. The couple next to us is in their homebuilt sailboat, "Ahaluna", on which they have lived and cruised for 35 years! I imagine they have figured a few things out. Across the yard is a steel ketch "Kotik" that a French couple had built for them in Brazil 23 years ago so they could cruise Antarctica, which they have done regularly. It has a lifting centerboard and a folding rudder so they can sail up onto the ice and not get crushed. Today I noticed there was a short article about Kotik in Latitude 38's December issue. Quite the coincidence.


Add to that our own boat chores and all the amazingly nice and interesting locals that we have met, you can imagine that we have not had one dull moment since we arrived. Our album from week #1 is here.

The locals are great at jury-rigging. You wouldn't believe some of the things we've seen.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Feliz Año Nuevo!

It was a memorable New Year, ringing in the new year while motor-sailing along the Southern california coastline, the occasional firework on land in the distance, with a bright moon and clear, cold sky helping to light our way. But we're getting ahead of ourselves so let's back up...

Many friends wished us a good trip with the hope of dolphins and whales escorting us out of San Francisco. Yeah right, I thought, how often does THAT happen? We left Point Richmond on Dec 30, 08:45. "We" included not only Tom and me,  but our friends Brian and Bruce. Our first Pacific Cup race was on Brian's boat and he recently completed the Singlehanded Transpac from SF to Kauai with much success. Oh, and he sailed home solo as well. Bruce is an accomplished racer and world sailor with God only knows how many ocean miles under his salt-patinaed sea boots.

 As we motored past Corinthian Yacht Club we were met by a pod of Harbor Porpoises feeding in the transitioning currents at the point of Belvedere Island. OK then, there were our dolphins!

We motor-sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and were met by two more pods of dolphins. As we exclaimed over them we suddenly spied a whale spout nearby! A young gray whale swam by, rolled over and eyeballed us on his way toward the the gate. Unbelievable! So much for pooh-poohing the idea of dolphins and whales.

About to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge

Brian spies the whale!

We rounded the first of Central California's two "big" points, Point Sur, later that night. The sea was well-lit by the super bright, nearly full moon. From time to time a plane would fly overhead leaving a bright silver contrail across the sky. It was COLD and hard to warm up during the off-watch. Our hot water thermos was working full time keeping our mugs full of hot water, cider, cocoa and tea.

The next day was similar to the first, clear sky, light wind and the helping swell. We sailed around the second significant feature, Point Conception, that afternoon. The seas were so calm that we were within two miles of the point.

All Conception roundings should be this pleasant.

That night we celebrated the New Year by opening a bottle of that is. Tom brought out his vintage bottle of Firestone 14th Anniversary Ale. That, and the chocolates provided by Synthia, made for a perfect Happy New Year treat.

Bruce, Tom and Brian ring in the New Year sailor-style.

The next morning, as we navigated between the coast and the Channel Islands, we were joined by several pods of different kinds of dolphins. At one point some unusually tall, black fins passed by and several Killer Whales broke the surface. This was the first time I had ever seen Orcas in the wild! I definitely hyperventilated. There were also numerous pods of escaped, inflated balloons floating all over the ocean; no doubt residual from the festivities of the night before.

That night we had to stop in San Diego for two reasons: one, to refuel; and two, to eject Brian, proud owner of an expired passport. Unfortunately he would not continue with us south of the border.

We refueled, had a short dinner, bade farewell to Brian and carefully navigated through the numerous, annoying crab pots that littered the water just outside Mission Bay harbor.

Welcome to Mexico Gringos, now prepare to get your butts kicked:  Later that night I was woken from my off-watch by the sound of all hell breaking loose. A strong offshore breeze had kicked up and brought with it some nasty wind chop. Apparently Tom was on deck alone, doing his best impression of the Vendee Globe. All I can say is sometimes it's hard for a racer to throttle back and not careen through the waves like a bat out of hell. Well I was going to have none of that so I suited up, joined him, and convinced him to reduce sail area. We furled the jib most of the way just as the wind piped up to 29 knots. We waited for a lull and were extremely proud of ourselves for putting a second reef in the mainsail during such a long lull. Well, said lull went from 16 knots, to 8 knots, to 4 knots, to 0 knots and stayed there! The wind gods continued to torture us in this manner throughout the night. One minute the seas were calm and there was NO wind, the next minute the wind would come howling off the land, whipping the ocean into a frenzy.

All good things come to an end however, and at dawn the winds and seas had calmed down. The big bay outside Ensenada was filled with whales and we calmly entered the harbor, found our way to Baja Naval and tied up at the dock.
Finally made it!!

Luckily the Anti Seal (as in marine mammal) Devices were turned on which helped perk us up a little everytime we happened to step on the live wires.

Thanks to the skilled assistance from Brian and Bruce, Cinnabar had completed another successful trip from San Francisco to Ensenada.

We did manage to find Ensenada's brewpub on our first stroll through town, but more about Ensenada in another post.

Cinnabar and Ensenada's famous bandera.

STATS: 620 miles (including our diversion into San Diego), 74 hours from dock to dock, and only 4.5 hours of motor-off sailing! Except for all that motoring I think we picked the perfect weather window for our trip down the coast.

A few more pictures of the trip can be found here.