Groovy catches a nice breeze.
Pelicans watch us go by.
A groovy day on the water.
Friends followed us tack for tack around the bay.
Mark hides out in the
The walking path to town.
Stairs near the university.
Waves carve their signature in
Punta Morro Resort Restaurant.
Landscaping at the RV park
next to the marina.
An RV park tenant loves doing
...he has created a lush garden behind the waterfront row
Horses and buggies line up for passengers.
Spring Break is ON !!
Late March / Early April, 2010 - Since our border crossings,
the days having been passing too quickly. Each day we
wake up to a myriad of possibilities of things to do. Try as
we might, they never all seem to get done. We have found
that Bahía Todos Santos, the bay in which Ensenada is
perched, is a beautiful place for day sailing. So we have
taken the boat out for a sail once or twice a week since we
got here. The bay is a very large basin that is about 7 miles
by 10 miles or so. It is defined by a large hook in the land,
and some islands in the distance fringe the outer edge.
There are rarely any boats out on the water. During most
day sails we see a powerboat or two, usually sport
fishermen. So far we have seen only a handful of sailboats
all together, and generally we are the only one. Yet the bay
sports a delightful wind most days and the wildlife is plentiful. One day, while sailing, a
huge whale surfaced just a few feet from the boat, making us both jump. On another
day we came across a clump of harbor seals floating and snoozing together, flippers,
tails and heads intertwined as they drifted on the waves. From a distance we thought it
might be the remains of a bush or a tree, but on closer inspection those things sticking
up in the air were the seals' fins. Their deep, satisfied breathing gave them away.
Besides being a fantastic place to
sail, we wanted to use these months
in Ensenada to learn as much about
the boat as possible. Hunter, the
manufacturer of the boat, kindly put a
little sticker near the stairs going into the cabin advising us to read the
owner's manual before operating the boat. Very cute.
On two occasions
we have sailed
boat. On one
day in particular
we shared the
bay with a Hunter
49, a big sister to
our boat. It was
the ideal sailing day with
modest winds, no waves
whatsoever, and bright
sunshine all day. For five
hours we tacked back and
forth, zig-zagging out
towards the islands. Then
we both slipped home with
the wind lightly pushing us
from behind. We were so
free and happy, soaring on
the air in a light dance upon
These energetic days haven't been
getting their start with a Wheaties
breakfast, however. Mark discovered
that the Mexican equivalent of one of his favorites, Coco
Krispies, can be found with Melvin on the front under the
label "Choco Kripis." It's reassuring to start the day with
something familiar, even if it comes with a slight Mexican
But all that sugar can send you back to bed for a nap.
Where better than in the cockpit, even if you have to pile
on the blankets to keep warm?
The winter of 2009/2010 has turned out to be an El Niño
winter. El Niño refers to the boy child, or more specifically
the Christ child, whom Peruvian farmers always thanked,
long ago, when this unusual weather effect would bless their fields with lots of rain.
Apparently difficult to predict but easy to
identify once it has arrived, this odd El
Niño weather pattern robs Montana of all moisture and totally soaks the
coasts of Southern California and Northern Baja Mexico. El Niño has
other far-reaching impacts around the globe, generally reversing the
usual weather and delivering the exact opposite.
While the Peruvian farmers may have been elated this year, El Niño
hasn't left our rancher friends in Montana or us very happy. The
Montanans don't mind the cold and desperately need the rain, and we
would have liked a nice warm dry season here. However, Mother
Nature has her own, wise agenda, and the southwestern desert hasn't
been this green and lush in ages.
Our weeks get scheduled around which
day looks like it will be best for sailing, as far as temperature and wind strength are concerned.
Of course, weather prediction here has proven to be quite a challenge. We check several
different websites, listen to Duck Breath's lengthy forecast on the VHF radio cruiser's net each
morning, and stand in the cockpit and scratch our heads.
One day that was predicted to have 9 knots of wind turned out to have 25-30 knots once we
got out into the bay, and another series of days that were supposed to inflict a torrent of
storms turned out to be balmy and pleasant. We missed one of the most dramatic natural
events of the season during the week we drove to Phoenix. A large earthquake in Chile
suddenly threatened to unleash a tsunami all the way up the Pacific coast to southern
California. In anticipation, some folks took their boats out to sea, others doubled up their dock
lines and moved to higher ground, and all nervously stared out to sea and waited.
At the appointed hour the wave
arrived. Fortunately it was far smaller
than expected. The floating docks in
the marina rose and fell four feet in 10 minutes, but there was no
damage. Up in San Diego, where the entrance to the bay is much
narrower and the surge is more forceful, there was some damage to
various shoreline structures.
We were blissfully unaware of any of this until the day after it
happened. Casually reading the newspaper headlines in a Phoenix
coffee shop, my heart jumped when I saw the words "tsunami" and
"Baja Mexico" in one sentence. But I quickly realized that the wave
had already come and gone 24 hours earlier.
The event we did not miss was the earthquake that struck just 100 miles inland in
Mexicali, California. We didn't get sloshed around in the hotel's hot tub or get a good
shake-up in their restaurant like so many others here. Instead, we were quietly sitting
below decks listening to the snap, crackle and pop that goes on under our hull all the
time. We have been listening to this noise since we moved aboard, and we had heard it
years ago during sailing lessons in San Diego bay. We had asked other cruisers about it
and been variously told it was marine creatures eating the scum off the bottom of our
hull, it was electrical activity in the water, it was the new-boat fiberglass settling in, or it
was the bottom paint flaking off into the water.
None of these explanations seemed right, but with so many other exciting things going on
in our lives, who had time to research a noise that all the other cruisers seemed to accept
without concern? Not us. Not us, that is, until the earthquake hit.
There we were, quietly relaxing, when suddenly the volume of the snap, crackle, pop
increased to 4-5 times its usual volume. Mark sat bolt upright and looked at me wide-
eyed. We both shot out of the boat and looked around to see what might be causing the
popping to get so loud. Mark thought maybe someone was spraying our hull with a hose,
and I thought maybe something had sent a huge electrical surge through the water. But
everything out in the marina looked just the way it always does.
So we ducked back down in the cabin where the noise soon subsided
and resumed its familiar peaceful crackling. I didn't think anything
more of it until we walked up to the hotel later in the day and learned
about the earthquake. What pandemonium. People had leapt out of
the hot tubs and pools like greased lightning, screaming as they ran
off. The earthquake had hit right about the time our boat was
engulfed in crackling. Suddenly I put two and two together: the noise
must be caused by creatures who were unnerved by the quake.
I had heard the likely noise-creating
marine creature was "krill" eating the
stuff that grows on the bottom of the
boat. But why would the appetite of
krill, a small crustacean, suddenly
increase during an earthquake? Not to mention, how can the tearing of soft, scummy tissues
off the bottom of a boat make such a sharp, popping noise (like bacon frying) that resonates
throughout the hull? Furthermore, why didn't the noise abate for a few days after a diver had
scrubbed the bottom of the boat clean? The crackling was always present, regardless of how
little marine growth our boat seemed to have. Lastly, no diver had ever seen any creatures
munching on our boat's (or any other boat's) bottom.
A little more research and I finally discovered
who our creatures were: "snapping" shrimp, or
"pistol" shrimp, from the family Alpheidae and
genus Alpheus of which there are some 250
members. These little guys sport a large
asymmetrical claw that they cock and then snap
shut to stun and kill their prey. But this is no ordinary claw snap. These guys
aim the claw between the eyes of their prey and snap it shut at such lightning
speed that an air bubble is emitted and bursts with a huge POW. This releases
a blast of light and heat that is equivalent to that found on the surface of the sun.
The noise of these pistol shots ranks these little half inch shrimp among the
noisiest of the sea's creatures, right up there with sperm and beluga whales.
These crazy, noisy
feasting on the
underside of our
boat. Instead, they live in the nooks and crannies of the seabed
floor below us, and they snap their way through life,
communicating with each other via snap language and killing their
dinner as it crawls by. They form male/female pair bonds, sharing
a home and food, and some species even take up communal
residence in sponges, behaving much like bees in a hive.
Sound a little unlikely? I discovered a wonderful website of a
biologist who has studied these fellows in depth. We had a
delightful, lively exchange of email messages about these shrimp.
She explained that they live among the rocks below us in little
burrows they build for themselves, but their noise is so loud, even
15 feet below us, that we hear it as if it were right outside. During the earthquake, she explained, they not only felt the earth
move, but they probably saw their burrows crumbling all around them. No wonder they started snapping like mad. They were
reacting just like the folks did in the pools and restaurant up at the hotel.
The website pointed me to two terrific YouTube links where you can see what these guys are all about: A Brief (cute) BBC
Before all the excitement surrounding the earthquake, Holy
Week brought lots of Mexican Spring Breakers to Ensenada
and the area's beaches. Easter Sunday the town was hopping
and the horses and carriages were lined up to take tourists to
see the sights.
We went downtown to see just how Spring Break was progressing.
The energy was high and the mood was a party. Several young
boys were break-dancing and doing crazy gymnastics moves
outside a street-side bar. It's an unusual kind of grace, but their
strength and coordination were impressive.
On two subsequent April weekends we
watched another kind of strength, agility and
sportiness in action during two long-running
Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.